Rivera was a central figure in the UUA’s 2017 hiring controversy and an organizer of the White Supremacy Teach-in; UUA co-moderators denounce hateful letters Rivera and her family received.
UUA Trustee Christina Rivera, shown here with fellow Trustee Kathy Burek at a board meeting in New Orleans in 2017, is resigning from the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Board of Trustees at the end of December. (© Nancy Pierce/UUA)
Christina Rivera has resigned as a trustee on the Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees, effective December 31, 2018, the board announced on December 11.
In her resignation letter, Rivera, who was elected to the board in 2014 and currently serves as UUA Secretary, wrote that “it is with deep sadness that I tender my resignation.” In a statement about Rivera’s resignation, UUA Co-Moderators Elandria Williams and Mr. Barb Greve wrote, “We are saddened by the resignation of UUA Secretary and Trustee Christina Rivera. She will be sorely missed.”
The co-moderators’ statement honors Rivera as one of the first religious educators and the first Boricua Chicana religious professional (of Puerto Rican–Mexican heritage) to serve on the UUA board. An outspoken advocate of racial justice in her community and in the UUA, Rivera was at the center of the spring 2017 controversy over UUA hiring practices that led to the resignation of UUA President Peter Morales and other top leaders. In the wake of that controversy, Rivera and two other religious educators, Aisha Hauser and Kenny Wiley, organized a White Supremacy Teach-In, in which more than two-thirds of UU congregations participated.
Announcing Rivera’s resignation, the co-moderators said: “We are angered and frustrated by the white supremacy culture within UUism that has some believing letters of hate and threats are acceptable forms of expression—this is not reflective of the faith either of us have been taught from childhood and it must cease immediately!”
Their announcement alludes to two incidents UU World has previously reported on. In March 2018, an anonymous racist message targeting Rivera was left, presumably by a parishioner, at Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church Unitarian Universalist in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Rivera works as director of administration and finance. The UUA cited that as one of several incidents of increased conflict faced by religious professionals of color in UU congregations in the year after the teach-ins.
In October, during the UUA board meeting in Boston, the UUA received anonymous hate mail targeting Rivera’s son, a Youth Caucus volunteer leader who was in Boston that weekend for a Youth Caucus meeting. UUA President Susan Frederick-Gray condemned the letter, affirmed the importance of the UUA’s commitment to dismantling white supremacy, and described efforts to ensure greater safety for people of color and others with marginalized identities.
Rivera did not mention the hateful letters in her resignation letter nor during discussion of her resignation, which was announced at the board’s teleconference meeting on December 10. However, in their statement the next day, Williams and Greve challenged UUs about such behavior: “There is no room within our theology to tolerate such behavior. It is not permissible to threaten people, whether anonymously, directly, or through their children! Never in our lives did we imagine we would need to address this type of behavior, and it breaks our hearts that we do.”
On December 12, DRUUMM (Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries) called for a restorative justice process to address the harassment of Rivera and her family.
In her resignation letter, which she posted to Facebook, Rivera wrote, “Some of my proudest moments as a UU are intertwined with my Board service, such as the fulfillment of a broken promise decades in the making with the funding of Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism. Also modeling for the Association what shared leadership could look like by appointing the Co-Presidents and later the Co-Moderators. The shifting of Board culture to be intentionally multicultural, the bylaw amendments restoring Youth Trustees to the Board and expanding delegate status to religious educators were three of my priorities when assuming Board service and I’m gratified to have been able to see them to fruition.”
She continued, “I urge the Board to fill my and the other currently open Trustee position with people of faith who will speak truth to power even at their own expense, knowing that other Trustees will support them. I hope they will carry with them an understanding of multiple marginalized identities AND deep experience with antiracism training and facilitation.”
At the board’s December 10 meeting, at which Rivera’s resignation was announced, a number of trustees thanked Rivera for her service. Trustee Denise Rimes said, “Thank you so very much for all you’ve done and all that you’ve given of yourself and your family to this faith, in this capacity and other capacities. Your presence and your wisdom . . . will be missed.”
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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.
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