VIDEO: Moving Forward with Our Shared Work

Hi. My name is Alison Miller, and I’m a candidate for our next UUA President. I’m reaching out to open a conversation with you about the work we have to do together around dismantling white supremacy, embodying shared leadership, and supporting avenues for healthy conflict.

We find ourselves at a potent crossroads in our faith. People of color have asked us time and again to address the distance that exists between our stated goals of anti-racism and anti-oppression and what we practice. The road of gradualism has led to slow progress and some backsliding, and people have grown tired of waiting and skeptical about the commitment of leaders at the center of our faith. A recent hire – representative of a pattern of privileging white people – led to a tipping point around patience. Being patient hasn’t moved us in the direction of our call to build the beloved community, or towards concrete actions that represent the change we seek.

If I am elected President, I am conscious that one of the concrete ways that I will be empowered as head of staff is in implementing policy around hiring. It is a priority of mine to support, promote, and center the leadership of people of color on the staff. This will require addressing both hiring and retention issues. I’m committed to stepping up the recruitment and hiring timetables so that our vision and our practice move into alignment. I’m also committed to examining our track record around supporting existing and former employees of color – ordained and lay – and their advancement in the system at headquarters, in the regions, and in our congregations. What do the results of an exploration like this tell us about what we need to change? This is part of the Commission on Institutional Change work that Sofia Betancourt is charged with as one of our co-Presidents that will likely last 18 months. This brings me to another point: I am ready to support the findings of our three co-presidents – Sofia Betancourt, Bill Sinkford, and Leon Spencer – and to carry forward with their insights and recommendations.

I am grateful to our co-Presidents and to the Board of Trustees for experimenting with a higher degree of shared leadership in this time of transition. I see shared leadership as a critical component for the UUA of the future. We need to create new models of shared leadership that empower people across the system to influence and implement decisions. I am someone who has worked over the decades in many different positions around the staff table in our congregations and at the UUA. I am a leader who values bringing to light the perspectives that come from sitting in different spaces at the table and from varying life experiences. A deep sense of shared ministry is an outgrowth of where I come from, and it’s how I lead. As a head of staff, I know that I get nowhere alone. It is ‘we’ who accomplish, learn, and grow together.

I am committed to adding voices from the margins to the central leadership council and to multiply centers of leadership to move our priorities forward.

Religious Educators are an example of leaders in our faith whose wisdom has too often been sidelined to our detriment. Like hundreds of others, my congregation has said “Yes!” to participating in the UU White Supremacy Teach Ins to look out how we can dismantle a culture of white supremacy in the ways we do things in our spiritual home. This movement moment is an opportunity that’s been set before us by three religious educators of color – Aisha Hauser, Christina Rivera, and Kenny Wiley.

I have been observing our UUA throughout the campaign season so far, and what I’ve witnessed is a conflict avoidant system that didn’t address the creative tensions that arise or the ways that we human beings fall short. Thank you, Aisha, Christina, and Kenny for helping all of us – at the UUA, in the regions, and in our local covenanted communities – to use this hiring controversy that is evidence of a longstanding conflict, to surface where similar conflicts exist all across the association. It isn’t about pointing fingers at one person or group of people for having fallen short. Rather, this is an opportunity for all of us to grow and learn, to admit mistakes and missteps, and to find the courage and creativity to build a new way. I’m committed to a UUA that encourages us to do more of this – to provide tools that help us to face the conflicts that arise in our faith – so that we may experiment and adapt, learn and grow. Let us live into a culture of embracing the changes that love demands.