New UUA trustee, a minister in Arizona, sees unique role for Unitarian Universalism.
Today the minister of Valley UU Congregation in Chandler, Ariz., Burnette broke from Christian fundamentalism when his first child was born. “My image was of God as parent, and I asked myself what would it take to punish this little guy forever—it was impossible,” he said.
Burnette first learned about Unitarian Universalism on the Internet. In 2007, he became a UU minister and was hired by the UU Community Church of Hendricks County in Danville, Ind., which subsequently called him to a settled ministry.
“It was a wonderful experience. They helped me grow so much and shaped me as a minister,” he remembered.
Called to Valley UU in 2012, he moved to the Phoenix area with wife Heather, a labor and delivery nurse, and children Marcus, 12, and Josie, 6. “Phoenix is more progressive than people think it is, but there’s still a lot of work to do here. Immigration is a big issue,” he said.
Burnette, 38, ran for the UUA board because “it was a really dark-night-of-the-soul experience losing that sense of the God of my childhood, and UUism gave me room to do that and to maintain my ministry. I want to give back.”
He serves on the board’s Emerging Congregations Working Group and soon will be convener of the Governance Working Group. “Unitarian Universalism has a unique role in the religious world that is really important right now, and I want to help us foster growth at the leading edge,” he said.
Though his parents initially had a hard time with his spiritual transformation, “My dad said at one point, ‘Love is more important than theology.’ That was huge. I think in some ways our relationship is deeper now than ever.”
Photograph (above): The Rev. Andy Burnette, UUA trustee, June 2014 (© Nancy Pierce/UUA).
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Elaine McArdle is a UU World senior editor and a member of First Unitarian Church in Portland, Oregon. An award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she has also written for the Boston Globe, Harvard Law Bulletin, and others.