UUA president names new acting chief operating officer

UUA president names new acting chief operating officer

President Susan Frederick-Gray names outreach director Carey McDonald to one-year term as acting chief operating officer.

UUA Acting Chief Operating Officer Carey McDonald

Carey McDonald becomes acting chief operating officer of the Unitarian Universalist Association on August 1. (© Christopher L. Walton)

© Christopher L. Walton


UUA President Susan Frederick-Gray today announced that she has appointed Carey McDonald, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s outreach director, to serve as acting chief operating officer for one year starting August 1.

McDonald will replace the Rev. Sarah Lammert, who has served as acting chief operating officer since the Rev. Harlan Limpert resigned as COO in April. Lammert will return to her position as director of Ministries and Faith Development.

Frederick-Gray, who was elected UUA president on June 24, said, “There are significant strategic questions alive at the UUA about how to best organize ourselves for impact. I look forward to the creative and strategic leadership that Carey will bring to the position of COO and the work we can do to nurture the vitality, health, and mission-focus of the UUA for years to come.”

The position is “acting” rather than permanent, Frederick-Gray explained, “so that we may use this time to think flexibly and creatively about how to build collaborative anti-oppressive leadership and practices into the UUA.”

UUA President Peter Morales introduced the chief operating officer role alongside another executive position, the program and strategy officer, in 2013 after Executive Vice President Kay Montgomery retired. Limpert served as COO from 2013 until he resigned April 20 amid controversy over UUA hiring practices. The Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley served as program and strategy officer from 2013 until she stepped down in January 2016; her position was left vacant. Tim Brennan is continuing as treasurer and chief financial officer.

This spring critics accused Morales’s administration of failing to address systemic patterns that privileged white ministers for senior staff positions. After Morales resigned April 1, three months before the end of his term, the Board of Trustees appointed three people of color as interim co-presidents, charged them with launching a Commission on Institutional Change to look at patterns of white supremacy within the progressive but predominantly white religious movement, and called for a racism audit of the UUA. (Read all UU World coverage of the hiring practices controversy.)

McDonald, who identifies as biracial, joined the UUA Leadership Council in April at the invitation of the interim co-presidents, who announced a hiring freeze while they prepared new hiring diversity policies. In June, the co-presidents set a goal of 40 percent people of color for UUA staff in professional and management positions, only 15 percent of whom are people of color now, and 30 percent people of color for the staff overall; just under 20 percent of UUA employees are people of color. President Frederick-Gray endorsed the hiring goals.

The co-presidents appointed another person of color in a senior staff role, Jessica York, director of Faith Development, to the Leadership Council in her role as acting director of Ministries and Faith Development. Frederick-Gray said that York will remain on the Leadership Council.

McDonald, 31, joined the UUA staff in 2011 as director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. He became outreach director in 2014.

He is a member of First Parish in Malden, Massachusetts, and First UU Church of Columbus, Ohio, where he was a youth leader in the Ohio Meadville District. He has served on the Ministerial Fellowship Committee, DRUUMM (Diverse Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries), and the editorial board of Skinner House Books. He studied economics at Pomona College and earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Wheelock College.