On Wednesday, April 5, two more members of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Leadership Council resigned in continuing fallout from controversy over the association’s hiring practices and its nearly all-white leadership. UUA President Peter Morales resigned less than a week earlier.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Rev. Harlan Limpert, chief operating officer, resigned effective April 20. In an email to UUA staff, he thanked the staff, especially “staff colleagues of color,” saying he could not imagine “how difficult these last weeks have been for you” and thanking them for “steadfastness in your work.” Limpert has been leading the UUA since Morales announced on March 30 that he was resigning effective April 1. In his email, Limpert said he submitted his resignation to UUA Moderator Jim Key, and that he expects a new COO to be appointed within a week.
Limpert offered no specific reasons for his resignation but wrote, “Serving in various roles on UUA staff these past fifteen years has been a privilege beyond anything I could have imagined when I was a long-haired student at Starr King School for the Ministry in the late ’70s. I have been blessed beyond words.”
Morales named Limpert chief operating officer in July 2013 upon the retirement of Executive Vice President Kay Montgomery. Morales had appointed Limpert to a new position, vice president of Ministries and Congregational Support, shortly after taking office in 2009. Limpert had previously served as director of Congregational Life.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Rev. Scott Tayler, director of Congregational Life, announced he would step down June 30. Tayler has been at the center of the controversy, which erupted after he hired a white man, the Rev. Andy Burnette, to replace another white man as leader of the UUA’s Southern Region, when a woman of color, religious educator and church administrator Christina Rivera, applied for but did not receive the job. All five regional leads are white. Burnette and Rivera were both UUA trustees when they applied for the position.
In an email to UUA staff, Tayler wrote that he was “clear” his resignation was the right decision for himself, his family, and the UUA, and was certain that the best way to support the association was “making room” for “new leadership and space that will allow the focus to be on the work ahead.”
Tayler added that he wanted to “especially thank the UUA colleagues among us who are calling us to lead with both a prophetic voice and a pastor’s heart. As they have pointed out, the voices of anger, pain and exhaustion are asking us to be accountable and empathic: listening to the frustration and hurt of years, honoring it with self-reflection and then inviting those who have and continue to be on the margins into partnership to continue dismantling our structures of institutional racism. I deeply regret my role in not achieving those institutional changes sooner.”
Before Morales hired Tayler as director of Congregational Life in 2013, Tayler served as senior co-minister of First Unitarian Church of Rochester, New York. He succeeded the Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley as head of Congregational Life when Morales named her chief strategy officer. Cooley resigned in January 2016 and her position was left unfilled.
The Board of Trustees meets via teleconference on April 6 to continue work on the charge it will deliver to whomever it appoints interim president. The board gathers in Boston for its quarterly meeting April 21–23, where it will set the final agenda for the General Assembly, approve the next UUA budget, and perhaps appoint a short-term president.