Minister of Phoenix, Arizona, congregation wins three-way race to become UUA’s ninth elected president and the first woman elected to the office.
The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray steps to the podium as the newly elected president of the Unitarian Universalist Association. (© Nancy Pierce)
This story was updated 6/28/17.
The Unitarian Universalist Association elected the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray as its ninth president on June 24. Frederick-Gray is the first woman elected to lead the liberal religious movement, which includes approximately 1,000 congregations with 200,000 adults and children in the United States.
But as she spoke to the UUA’s General Assembly after being named winner in the three-way race, Frederick-Gray said, “I want to be clear, right up front. I am not the first female president of the UUA.” As UUs cheered, she turned to applaud and then embrace the Rev. Sofía Betancourt, one of the three co-presidents appointed by the Board of Trustees to complete the term of President Peter Morales, who resigned April 1. “But I am honored to follow her!”
“This is a defining moment, and the stakes are very high,” Frederick-Gray told the assembly, which is meeting in New Orleans June 21–25. “We have deep work to do within our association and our tradition, and critical work to do beyond the association.”
Throughout her campaign, which she launched in March 2016, Frederick-Gray championed the UUA as “a voice for love and justice.” She promoted a three-point vision of a “spiritually vital” movement “grounded in relationships” and “organized for impact.”
“We have much work to do,” she told the assembly. “I believe we are up to it. I look forward to working with you on this transformative path ahead.”
Frederick-Gray has served as lead minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, Arizona, since 2008. She will be installed as UUA president on Sunday afternoon, June 25.
In the first UUA presidential election conducted electronically, 21 percent of ballots were cast between the start of voting June 1 and the start of General Assembly June 21; 56 percent were cast on June 24, the final day of voting.
In the instant run-off election, in which 3,252 delegates cast ballots, Frederick-Gray received 40 percent of the vote in the first round to 32 percent for the Rev. Jeanne Pupke and 28 percent for the Rev. Alison Miller. By the rules of the instant run-off, Miller was eliminated as the third-place finisher. When second-place votes were apportioned, Frederick-Gray finished with 56 percent to Pupke’s 42 percent*.
Updated 6/28/17: Detail time! The complete election results show that Frederick-Gray received 1,290 first place votes (39.68 percent) to 1,052 for Pupke (32.36 percent) and 909 for Miller (27.96 percent). Of the 909 ballots that chose Miller as the first place candidate, 532 picked Frederick-Gray as second choice (58.53 percent); 324 picked Pupke (35.64 percent). Those second choice votes were added to the totals of the first round, giving Frederick-Gray 1,882 votes (56.04 percent) and Pupke 1,376 votes (42.32 percent). Fifty-three of the ballots cast for Miller did not indicate either Frederick-Gray or Pupke for second choice, accounting for the final 1.63 percent of the vote.
This year was the first time the UUA voted entirely electronically, with voting open between June 1 and June 24. According to data provided by UUA systems analyst Larry Stritof, 79 percent of presidential votes were cast during GA, with 1,835 or 56 percent cast on June 24.
UUA Secretary Rob Eller-Isaacs told the Board of Trustees on June 20 that only five delegates requested paper ballots by the June 1 deadline, and four properly completed paper ballots were counted. Stritof said fifteen provisional ballots were cast, but are not included in the final tally because they would not have affected the outcome.
The total number of delegates who voted this year, 3,252, represents 66.23 percent of eligible voters.
Video on YouTube
Watch Interim Co-President William G. Sinkford and UUA Secretary Rob Eller-Isaacs introduce the winner of the 2017 UUA presidential election, June 24, 2017.
Announcement of presidential election results
An earlier version of this story miscalculated slightly the percent of the first place votes Jeanne Pupke received and the percent of the final vote Susan Frederick-Gray and Pupke each received. Pupke received 32 percent of first place votes, not 33 percent. The final vote was 56 percent for Frederick-Gray (not 57 percent), and 42 percent for Pupke (not 43 percent). Click here to return to the corrected paragraph.
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Christopher L. Walton was the editor of UU World and director of the UUA’s Periodicals staff group until June 2021. He holds degrees from Harvard Divinity School and the University of Utah.
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