Meet a Trustee: Michael Tino

Meet a Trustee: Michael Tino

Antiracism, antioppression guide New York trustee’s work
Donald E. Skinner


This article is fifth in a series of profiles of UUA trustees.

Michael Tino was a graduate student at Duke University when Unitarian Universalism came into his life.

“I’d made a group of close friends. We had dinner weekly, and we’d gradually gotten into some deep conversations. It was essentially like small group ministry,” he said. “One week we shared our theological beliefs. One person said, ‘You sound like a Unitarian Universalist,’ and invited me to his church. I was wary, but I went and was really astounded at the community I found.”

While Tino completed his PhD in cell biology, he continued attending that church, the Eno River UU Fellowship in Durham, N.C., where he was a leader in young adult ministry. He was also coordinator of shared ministry for the fellowship, a position he held for three years.

Tino joined the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association in June 2011. In his work as a trustee, he draws from a wide range of experience with the denomination, starting with that volunteer work early in his UU life. Tino went on to work for the association, and he trained to become a parish minister, with a particular emphasis on antiracism work.

After his early grounding at the Durham church, Tino accepted a job with the UUA as director of Young Adult and Campus Ministry, serving from 2001 to 2007. He also attended Meadville Lombard Theological School, earning his MDiv in 2007. That year the Rev. Dr. Tino was also called as the settled minister of the UU Fellowship of Northern Westchester in Mount Kisco, N.Y.

That was a coming home for Tino, who was born in Brooklyn and reared in Armonk, N.Y., and has extended family in the area. Tino and his partner, Eric Dyer, became engaged June 24, 2011, within minutes of the approval of same-sex marriage in New York State. They plan to be married in December 2012.

Tino, 39, is co-author with the Rev. Sarah Gibb Millspaugh and Laura Anne Stuart of the curriculum Our Whole Lives: Sexuality Education for Young Adults, and he is working on a book exploring a UU “theology of diversity and how we can share our cultural heritage in deep and meaningful ways,” he says.

Tino describes himself as a “naturalistic theist.” He finds meaning in a concept of God and believes that God is wholly part of nature rather than being external to it. He is inspired by process theology, believing “good comes from being in relationship with others and being open to the change that comes from those relationships.”

He is passionate about antiracism work. Tino is president of UU Allies for Racial Equity, an organization dedicated to confronting racism in ways that are accountable to communities of color and that create opportunities for white UUs to understand white privilege.

He is also a trainer with the Beyond Categorical Thinking program, which helps congregations open themselves to the possibility of calling a minister who is a person of color, a Latino/Latina/Hispanic, someone with disabilities, or who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. He is an active participant in the Southeast Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute (SUUSI).

It is his commitment to antiracism work that drew Tino onto the UUA board last June. “I had learned there was a particular need on the board for people with strong backgrounds in antiracism work. So much is changing right now with the board size shrinking and the board reenvisioning its role with the transition to policy governance.”

He is chair of the board’s Right Relationship Monitoring Committee and is involved through that committee in helping develop plans for General Assembly 2012 in June. “Our committee is expected to help other board members deepen their understanding of antiracist, antioppressive, multicultural behavior.” He is also a member of the board’s Coordinating Council, which assists the moderator in planning board meeting agendas.

“It’s very intense and sometimes exhausting work,” Tino said. “There are a lot of big questions to grapple with—the board’s relationship to districts and regions, questions about our UUA property in Boston, leadership transitions. That said, I’m really enjoying being on the board. I have a great deal of respect for the work my board colleagues are doing, and to their dedication to governance and governing well.”

He added, “I’m especially excited about the work we’ll be doing around the Doctrine of Discovery and with the opportunity to work with the Rev. Clyde Grubbs on that issue.” Grubbs, another board member, serves as co-president of Diverse & Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM). The Doctrine of Discovery is an ancient principle of law used by Europeans to justify colonizing the world. Tino said organizations that the UUA is partnering with in Arizona have asked that GA 2012 delegates be given an opportunity to repudiate the doctrine, which has been consistently used to oppress people of color.

Tino said that one of his interests is how the board communicates with congregations. “We’re making efforts to move into the 21st century with blogging, Facebook, and Twitter. At the same time we need congregations to designate people to receive that information. We can put out all the blog posts and articles we want, but if they’re just sort of randomly read, then no one gets the full picture.”

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