Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Two strong candidates

We have two strong candidates for UUA president, with very different styles. I have met and talked with both. Laurel Hallman is generally perceived to be the more "managerial" of the two, which is meant as a compliment by those who have used the term, referring to her proven ability to run a large organization. She calls for finding more depth in our spiritual lives and has written a new book Reaching Deeper. Peter Morales can be a charismatic leader who calls overtly for change, and says "growing our faith is a moral imperative". He is a known for his "repelling fewer visitors" audio and presentations.

The grapevine has it that Laurel is supported by most of the senior church ministers, who generally serve our larger congregations, through her 26 years of relationships built in the course of parish ministry. This appears to be borne out by the long list of endorsements by well known ministers on her website, though Peter claims some as well. It is interesting that Peter's endorsements include some of our better known "rabble rousers", such as Mike Durall (author and consultant) and Davidson Loehr (senior minister at First UU Church of Austin).

There were three direct opportunities to observe these candidates side by side - two workshops and the candidate forum. I did not attend either workshop, though feedback was consistent that both candidates appeared subdued. That was also my reaction to the Forum, though you can watch the video to see for yourself - it is only at the end that Peter's characteristic energy shows up. Feedback from the Youth Caucus expressed concern about both = apparently Peter's perceived lack of enthusiasm about Youth and Laurel's comment about our Youth serving in our nurseries were not taken well.

At this point I am choosing not to endorse. I would hope each of us take into account what we see and observe first hand more so than the recommendations of others. You will no doubt have the opportunity in the next year to hear both - in the meantime, check out their very different approaches on their websites.

And if you have not done so already, read the following blog. UUA presidential elections are one of the few things that allow absentee ballots, so every congregation will have its "full measure" of delegate votes. If you have a preference for who becomes president, are you content to let your delegates "vote their conscience"? If not, what will you do between now and next summer to insure that delegates represent their congregations?


moreover said...

I'm glad you're ticking off this discussion. The candidate debate at GA was indeed the very first opportunity most people got to experience both candidates (or even hear that there would be a contest!).

The UUA has been unhelpful in fostering a comparison of the candidates. Morales and Hallman had to fight until days before the event to get it webcast, and were initially asked to pay for the webcast themselves, until finally officials agreed to broadcast it, and eat the cost. Ask the candidates, they will both confirm this.
After seeing that kind of dubious attitude from the officials I took it upon myself to take that footage, transcribe it verbatim, segment the video and place it all side by side on a new blog site dedicated to being a neutral playground for a civil discussion about the presidency.

Myself being close to the Morales camp (I'm a member of his congregation) I invited a well known blogger Aaron Sawyer of http://DiscoverUU.com with a reputation for evenhandedness and leanings toward Hallman on as co-moderator with full editorial rights. We're even seeking an ombudsman where people can bring grievances about perceived unfairness. That site is:


and it's currently running all segments of the debate, inviting comments. The candidates responses at the GA environmental forum (Beyond Darwin and Lincoln) is coming up soon.

I'd encourage you to take part in that discussion. While the actual posts simply juxtapose the candidates in their own words in a neutral frame, the comments are open to anybody's opinions.

Those two candidates are not one like the other, as you'll find out.

I very much hope that in 2009 we'll base our decisions on an educated evaluation of their positions, their ability to identify crises in the making, their track records, their skills as leader and spokesperson, and their vision. That's what my site aims to instigate.

Martin Voelker, Golden, Colorado

PS: Let me add both candidate websites for your readers' convenience:

Language Lover said...

Thanks so much, Linda, and to you too, Martin. I do have a preference at the moment, but I recognize that it's based on somewhat limited information and I welcome the links to get to know the candidates more.

I didn't get around to commenting on the last post before this one popped up, but I too am interested in what it means to be a delegate and how one goes about ensuring that congregations are represented. My congregation is generally not denominationally active, and except on rare occasions, we have few enough people going to GA that there's no real choice on who will be the delegates. For the CSAIs and other issues the delegates have traditionally just voted their personal conscience with no input from the congregation. I'd like to see this changed, but it would require significant work among the members of the congregation to educate themselves on the issues (and next year, the candidates) and I'm not sure how to make that happen in our current culture.

Mission Peak UUC, Fremont, CA

Anonymous said...

Our wise Dist. Trustee Linda wrote:
>> Laurel Hallman is generally perceived to be the
>> more "managerial" of the two, which is meant
>> as a compliment by those who have used the
>> term, referring to her proven ability to run a
>> large organization.
>> Peter Morales can be a charismatic leader who
>> calls overtly for change, and says "growing our
>> faith is a moral imperative".

Thank you Linda for bringing us to this topic earlier rather than later. Thanks to those who help to cause the powers that be to webcast the debate. It means that UUs like me who don’t do Florida wet heat in the Summer time can catch-up on the candidates thoughts and plans and see how they are in a debate among friends because our Association’s President often speaks for us among those who resist our friendship. I, too haven’t finished reviewing and digesting your last post on what it means to be a delegate representing your congregation. Next June GA will roll back west to Salt Lake City, so I plan to attend whether or not I am a delegate. Let me say also that I am not leaning one way or the other at this moment in time.

I must confess that I do not know Rev. Hallman at all, which is all more the reason I will be watching the captured webcast soon. During my 2 terms on the PCD Board of Trustees I did have the opportunity to meet and work with Rev. Morales in his role at the UUA in whichever office works with Districts when new staff are hired. He lead us through 2 of the 3 “start-ups” that happened in those 4 years. While I would agree with Linda’s assessment that he can charismatic, I do want to point out that he brought an awful lot of “managerial” skills to those sessions. So I found it a bit odd that someone else was described as “more managerial”.

Another Karin,
41 miles north of Mission Peak, 2 miles west
of UUCB in Kensington, CA; PCD Challis Lighter,
“institutional” church member, occasional UU
circuit rider and plain old nice gal approaching 50

jUUggernaut said...

Responding to the 'anonymous' Karin from Kensington, CA: When you get to hear the debate, and especially Peter's closing comments (which I'll upload on my blog early next week) you'll see/read that he doesn't think that management is key, but leadership. Meaning he wants to focus on the key issues, find talent that can tackle them, but otherwise urge and inspire congregations to recognize the urgency of the problems that are on the horizon and equip themselves - with strategic help of UUA field staff if desired. At least that's how I read him.

Cilla said...

I join those who are welcoming every vehicle for getting to know the candidates and making thoughtful decisions, and I'm THRILLED to announce that the Pacific Central District will be welcoming BOTH CANDIDATES (we asked really early) to our District Assembly, May 1-3, giving our Keynote and Featured Presentations! This will be a great chance to get to know them in a more intimate environment, and get all your questions answered. Please get the dates on your calendars now, and contact me for more info.
Cilla at pcd-uua dot org