In the first of two emergency meetings of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Board of Trustees this week, trustees discussed plans for filling the three-month vacancy created when the Rev. Peter Morales stepped down as president April 1. Morales, whose eight-year term would have ended June 24 with the election of a new UUA president, announced he would step aside after comments he made about charges that UUA hiring practices reflect white supremacy intensified criticism of the UUA.
On the evening of April 3, the board met by teleconference to begin discussing a plan for replacing Morales, as well as a plan for conducting an “audit, investigation, assessment, call it what you will” of employment opportunities for people of color within the Unitarian Universalist Association, as Vice Moderator Denise Rimes put it. Trustees will continue the discussion on Thursday, April 6, at 8:00 p.m. EDT.
During the board’s thirty-minute public conversation—which approximately eighty-five observers logged on to watch, maxing out the service’s 100-person limit—trustees also voted unanimously to endorse a “UU White Supremacy Teach In” sponsored by Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism.
Rimes, who chaired the April 3 meeting because Moderator Jim Key was ill, explained that the board’s executive committee met the night before to ask whether it was more important to fill the vacancy first or to create a charge for the appointee about expectations that would help the board identify candidates. Secretary Rob Eller-Isaacs and trustee Christina Rivera, who will become UUA Secretary on June 24, drafted a charge for the trustees to discuss. Rivera said, “We’d like to define what the what is before we define the who.”
Rimes seemed to hint at the possibility that the interim role could be filled by more than one person. She referred early in the meeting to “the charge to whoever—or whoevers—should happen to fill the position.”
The draft charge, posted on the board’s section of UUA.org and on its Facebook page, describes five expectations of the interim:
- “Ensure and direct pastoral and professional support to the UUA staff members of color and the Leadership Council as well as professionals of color serving in the larger association.”
- “Call upon Unitarian Universalism to redeem its history by planning for and taking the steps toward living into an antiracist, multicultural future.” The interim president should “center the conversation with professionals of color in the interest of ensuring non-racist recruitment and employment” and “create and submit for Board approval, a process by which to analyze structural racism and white supremacy within the UUA.”
- “Be in communication with congregations and donors to help restore both confidence and vision.”
- Chair a board-appointed commission to design and begin implementing the analysis of structural racism in the UUA. That analysis, the board says, should include the following recommendations: “Determine the necessary measures to make concrete progress toward expanding the number of professional people of color . . . [especially] measurable emphasis on senior staff positions including the Executive and First Management level of the UUA”; “Analyze past practices, structures and patterns that foster racism, oppression and white supremacy”; and “Provide the incoming president with a framework and guidelines that help to guarantee that anti-racist efforts will be central to the work of her administration.” The board will require quarterly progress reports from the president-elect.
- Finally, “Ensure an adequate transition plan is in place for the incoming president.”
Thursday evening’s board teleconference will be open to observers, and the cap that limited participation to 100 people on April 3 has been raised to 500. Login information is available here. The board will also meet in person at UUA headquarters in Boston April 21–23.