Unitarian Universalists elect first woman president

The Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray steps to the podium as the newly elected president of the Unitarian Universalist Association during the 2017 General Assembly on June 24, 2017, in New Orleans. Photo courtesy of UU World/Nancy Pierce

(RNS) An Arizona pastor and immigrant advocate has been elected as the first woman president of the Unitarian Universalist Association.

The election of the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray on Saturday (June 24) follows the resignation of the Rev. Peter Morales, who left office in April three months short of the end of his second term amid controversy about diversity in the UUA.

The Rev. Sofía Betancourt was appointed as one of three co-presidents to complete Morales’ term.

“I am honored to follow her!” said Frederick-Gray, 41,  after her election, according to UU World, the association’s magazine.

All three of the candidates for president were women; Betancourt was not on the ballot.

Morales, the first Latino president of the liberal and mostly white association, said someone else needed to address the religious movement’s diversity problems after criticism mounted over hiring practices.

Delegates to the General Assembly in New Orleans, attended by 4,100 people from some of the UUA’s more than 1,000 congregations, adopted a statement on “Escalating Inequality,” citing racism, poor health and low literacy among major factors.

“As Unitarian Universalists our faith invites us to counter fear with courage and manifest a collective vision of a more just, equitable, and compassionate society,’’ the statement concludes.

Two days after her election, Frederick-Gray, who led the Unitarian Universalist opposition to Arizona’s strict immigration law that passed in 2010, issued a statement expressing disappointment in the Supreme Court’s decision to allow portions of President Trump’s travel ban to be enforced while the legal battle over it continues.

“We believe that these restrictions are examples of religious discrimination because they target travelers from Muslim-majority countries,” she said. “Our country should welcome people regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof.”

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.


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  • Woooo Hoooo! Let’s hear it for the first woman president of the UU social club! (crickets)

  • That’s like asking in a church is a “church for men”. Yes, UU’s are not all Christians (most aren’t), but Christians are among their members as well.

  • It depends on what you mean by “they”, Sandi. Many Unitarian Universalists are Christians, many are not. But it is true that the community as a whole doesn’t have a creed, Christian or otherwise. The closest thing to a creed that we do have is our Seven Principles, none of which require or proscribe any Christian beliefs.

    These Principles are: (1) The inherent worth and dignity of every person; (2) justice, equity and compassion in human relations; (3) acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; (4) a free and responsible search for truth and meaning; (5) the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; (6) the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; and (7) respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

    Hope that helped, Thomas.

  • There is a small percentage of U*Us who self-identify as Christian U*Us, but in my experience they are quite hypocritical both in terms of being U*Us and self-professed Christians. A significant percentage of U*Us are Atheists, and a subset of Atheist U*Us are quite anti-religious Atheists who go out of their way to make many so-called “Welcoming Congregations” anything but welcome to God believing people in general, and Christians in particular.

  • Glad to see Rev. Frederick-Gray is already speaking out on social justice issues. Now is a time that UU’s need to speak up and share our values. I believe Susan will represent us well.

  • This is a large, and needlessly unpleasant generalization, that you can’t have the data to prove. Why not edit your comment to make it your opinion?

  • Not surprising the only candidates running were all women. Good for her I wish her well, she has done good things in Arizona I understand. But the UU doesn’t have a “activist” problem in has a “spiritual” problem and hopefully she recognizes that.

  • ““As Unitarian Universalists our faith invites us to counter fear with courage and manifest a collective vision of a more just, equitable, and compassionate society,’’ the statement concludes.”

    Bravo to the UU’s for electing a female Latina as their president!

    I’m all for their focus, to “counter fear with courage and manifest a collective vision of a more just, equitable, and compassionate society,’ It would be great if they came to recognize Jesus Christ as the author of that focus!

    Perhaps–as the new president breaks this “glass ceiling” for women and Latinas,’ she’ll lead the UU’s to another break-through: that of preaching and living the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

  • Thanks, Tom.

    These seven are very fine principles, very succinctly stated. They’re principes that every contemporary religion should be willing to embrace. They are definitely compatible with a belief and faith in Jesus Christ! (See my posting elsewhere)

  • Robin, you think that the UU’s are “quite hypocritical?”

    Since when do they have a corner on the market of hypocrisy among today’s Christians? It’s practically a membership requirement among some really fundamentalist evangelical sects, particularly in terms of race and gender relations!

    (BTW: the definition of “fundamentalist:” NO fun, ALL damn, and PRECIOUS LITTLE mental!!)

  • It IS my opinion Lew, and my opinion, which is in fact based on both direct personal experience of quite egregious anti-religious intolerance and bigotry on the part of Atheist U*Us, and observation of other U*U anti-religious intolerance and bigotry that I did not personally experience myself, is in fact supported by various forms of data. I’m not editing my comment. People can practice U*Uism’s 4th Principle, which calls for “a free and responsible search for Truth and meaning”, by responsibly engaging in a free and responsible search for the Truth and meaning of what I said. They will find plenty of evidence supporting my claims about U*U anti-religious intolerance etc.

  • I never said or suggested that Unitarian*Universalists aka U*Us “have a corner on the market of hypocrisy among today’s Christians”, especially since I made it clear that most U*Us are not Christians at all. That does not change the fact that the few U*Us I know who do self-identify as “Christian” U*Us are stunningly hypocritical, both in terms of disregarding and violating the claimed principles and purposes of U*Uism, and the ideals of Christianity. That’s what my comment says.

  • So Robin, do you think “Christian” U*Us are stunningly hypocritical . . . ?” Well, I grew up in one of those fundamentalist evangelical sects–through no fault of my own, I hasten to add! They are indeed “stunningly hypocritical!”

    I know whereof I’ve spoken!

  • robin edgar, The Bible makes a definite distinction between “god-fearing men” (&women) and Christian ones. Don’t be fooled by their “good works.” (Acts 10:22 and its following verses are a good illustration of the fact that God can use either kind of person, even when it comes to over-turning centuries’ old dietary rules.)

  • I know whereof I speak when I say the self-described “Christian” U*Us I know, such as Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, Rev. Scott Wells, and Rev. Ron Robinson to name three such “Christian” U*Us, are indeed stunningly hypocritical. The fact that the members and religious leaders of certain “fundamentalist evangelical
    sects” may be “stunningly hypocritical!” as well is somewhat beside the point.

  • Sabelotodo2, The root problem I see with acceding to the 7 principles is that they don’t lead to the “you MUST be born again” experience. All church leaders (at least) should have it.

  • Indeed it is not the least bit surprising that the only candidates running for President of the UUA in the UUA’s 2017 presidential “election” were all women. Two of them were carefully pre-selected by a UUA presidential nominating committee, which seemingly wanted to ensure that the successor to Rev. Dr. Peter Morales would be the first female President of the UUA.

  • I certainly hope that new UUA President Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray will represent Unitarian Universalists well in the very near future by officially withdrawing the Rev. Dr. Peter “Beyond Belief” Morales’ led UUA’s immoral, UNethical, and indeed borderline criminal “blasphemous libel” accusation against me, ensure that the UUA publicly apologizes for its shameful attempted misuse of Canada’s blasphemy law in clergy sex abuse cover-up and denial legal bullying, and also ensures that the UUA publicly discloses exactly how many of its “less than perfect” ministers have actually engaged in what the UUA’s Canadian attorney quite aptly described as “such despicable crimes as pedophilia and rape” in the arrogant and aggressive cease and desist demand letter he had me served with in June of 2012.

  • I’m not the least bit fooled by the “good works” of U*Us Tom. Au contraire, I am very openly and publicly critical of the immoral, UNethical, borderline criminal and, on occasion, actually criminal, works of U*Us. . . Just Google my name along with “blasphemous libel”.

  • We preach his actions, not his deity. We follow him as a prophet not a god. We try to live his humility and respect for the poor and lesser people, that they may be included in loving community with the rest of us. When we fail, we try to correct ourselves.

  • We also are Universalists. We have a list of principles and sources from which we draw our faith. The principles were listed above. Here are the sources:
    These are the six sources our congregations affirm and promote:

    Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
    Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
    Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
    Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
    Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
    Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

  • In my experience and observation most U*Us have very little humility, and rather too much hubris. . . Few (if any) of the U*Us I know follow Jesus as a prophet; even those who call themselves Christian U*Us. When the U*Us I know FAIL, and I include U*U clergy and top level UUA leadership in that. . . they obstinately refuse to correct their “mistakes”. I’ve been waiting over 5 years for the UUA to formally withdraw its immoral, UNethical, and borderline criminal “blasphemous libel” accusation against me. I know of no other group of people who are SO stubbornly resistant to confessing to their “sins” and correcting their behavior than Unitarian Universalists.

  • Mardys,What do you do with passages like John 10, in which Jesus
    describes Himself as “the gate”? Spritualize them beyond recognition? Excise them? Something in between?

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