Three co-presidents to lead UUA until General Assembly 2017

Three co-presidents to lead UUA until General Assembly 2017

Board of Trustees appoints the Rev. Sofía Betancourt, the Rev. William G. Sinkford, and Leon Spencer to lead Association after President Peter Morales’s resignation.

Elaine McArdle
Interim co-presidents of the UUA: Sofía Betancourt, William G. Sinkford, Leon Spencer

The UUA Board of Trustees has named the Rev. Sofía Betancourt, the Rev. William G. Sinkford, and Leon Spencer co-presidents until the election of a new president on June 24. (© Nancy Pierce)

© Nancy Pierce


In a special meeting Monday night, April 10, the Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees appointed three people to serve as interim co-presidents of the UUA until a president is elected June 24 by the General Assembly.

UUA President Peter Morales resigned on April 1, three months before the end of his tenure, in the face of a controversy over UUA hiring practices, which critics say systematically favor white UU ministers. The Rev. Harlan Limpert, chief operating officer, and the Rev. Scott Tayler, director of Congregational Life, announced they would also step down. (See our updated guide to this evolving story.)

In an announcement released at 11 p.m. Monday, the board said it had appointed the Rev. Sofía Betancourt, the Rev. William G. Sinkford, and Leon Spencer to serve as co-presidents. The board made its decision in a closed meeting, or executive session, before releasing the letter.

“In making this appointment the Board intends to recognize the significant opportunity before us, to recognize the time constraints involved, and to model a profoundly collaborative approach to shared leadership,” the board said, in a letter published on the UUA website and on the board’s Facebook page. It noted that at its special meeting the previous Thursday, April 6, the board unanimously approved a UUA Presidential Transition Plan to “frame the brief tenure of the transition team and help to shape Unitarian Universalism into the future.”

Betancourt, who is assistant professor of theology and ethics at Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California, will serve as interim co-president for the Commission for Institutional Change. “Her work as a religious educator, parish minister, and seminary professor provide well-honed leadership qualities [that] will surely enrich the team,” the board said.

Sinkford, who is senior minister of First Unitarian Church of Portland, Oregon, and who served as UUA president from 2001 to 2009, will serve as interim co-president “for the roles of president as outlined in the UUA bylaws.”

Spencer is professor emeritus in Leadership, Technology, and Human Development at Georgia Southern University. He will serve as interim co-president for Constituent Outreach, according to the board. “He is a person of broad experience and the 2007 recipient of the UUA’s annual Distinguished Service Award who has been a longtime leader in our journey toward becoming an antiracist and multicultural faith,” the board announced. Spencer formerly served on the UUA Board of Trustees, chaired the Nominating Committee, and held many district leadership roles, the board said.

In an open meeting before entering executive session, Tim Brennan, UUA treasurer and chief financial officer, said the transition would be “costly” for the UUA due to severance packages for those leaving and due to compensation, presumably for the co-presidents. But he said that an unexpected gift from a donor would “help to offset these additional expenses we are incurring.” Brennan said he will have a full accounting for the board at its meeting in Boston, April 21–23.


4/14/17: Earlier versions of this story misidentified Leon Spencer’s academic affiliation, based on incorrect information in the Board of Trustees announcement.