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Crisis and Change

My Years as President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, 1969-1977

Robert Nelson West

"If I were to choose only one word to characterize everything that happened during my presidency, it would be change, institutional change from the way things had been for the first eight years of the UUA’s existence. I believe the years covered by the book put our denomination on track for what it would be over the next several decades."
—from the Preface

A compelling account of West’s historic tenure as the second president of the Unitarian Universalist Association. In 1969, West’s presidency opened with an inherited financial crisis, quickly followed by the divisive black empowerment controversy, the Pentagon Papers, the pioneering sex- education curriculum About Your Sexuality and much more. Looking back thirty years later, West addresses the cataclysmic denominational events that occurred at the same time as the Vietnam War, the struggle for racial equality, abortion rights and civil liberties, and explores how these historical events shaped not only his presidency but our liberal religious institutions as well.

Prior to his election as president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Robert Nelson West was minister of congregations in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Rochester, New York. A leader in the civil rights movement and Knoxville sit-ins, he was also a prominent community activist in Rochester. West worked as a senior consultant at Arthur D. Little and as executive director at two major Boston law firms from 1977 until he retired in 1993.

Praise for Crisis and Change:

"Robert Nelson West served as UUA president during, arguably, the most tumultuous times in the young life of the association. I am so happy that he has given us the story of his leadership in his own words. I hope that, some years from now, I will be as willing to tell the story of my own service. All of my living predecessors, including Robert, have told me that serving as UUA president marks you. I now know that to be true. The gift of this book is to appreciate how Robert’s leadership marked this faith that we love. It is a blessing.”
─William Sinkford, UUA President, 2001-2009

“In the eight years he led the UUA, Robert Nelson West faced many challenges: financial crisis, institutional immaturity, unproductive polarization, anti-institutionalism among members and even governmental harassment in time of war. His conduct under fire was often heroic, but largely thankless. Now he has given us a narrative of those troubled times aimed at helping us to learn from the past, that we might yet fulfill the true promise of our faith. Unitarian Universalists owe him a great debt─one we can start to repay just by reading.”
─John A. Buehrens, UUA President, 1993-2001

Crisis and Change is filled with drama and suspense and is a must-read for every professional religious leader; indeed, for anyone seeking to understand who Unitarian Universalists are and what we stand for. It will certainly make for exciting adult education classes and new member programs.”
−Christine M. Wetzel, minister emeritus, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, Long Island, New York

“The UUA may not have survived without the presidency of Robert Nelson West. Here is the story of how disaster was averted. We owe it to him and to ourselves to understand and to remember this pivotal point in our history.”
─Alan G. Deale, minister emeritus, First Unitarian Church, Portland, Oregon

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This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Tuesday, March 30, 2010.

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