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Boston, Mass. (June 26, 2023) – Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt was elected to serve as President of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) with the support of more than 2300 Unitarian Universalist (UU) delegates at the denomination’s annual General Assembly (GA) from June 21st to June 25th. Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt was appointed interim co-president of the UUA in 2017, and was the UUA’s first woman president. Now she will be both the first out queer individual and the first woman of color elected to the role. She succeeds the Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray and will begin her tenure on July 10th.
“Unitarian Universalism has a vital, liberating message for our time. Our nation and denomination are experiencing challenges in a time of significant division, change and radicalization,” said Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt. “But together, I know we can serve one another, organize for justice, widen the circle of concern, collectively imagine new ways forward in community, and grow spiritually. I am looking forward to the continued work of radical inclusion, faithful witness, and the embrace of a wide range of voices and leaders for our faith.”
The Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt has served Unitarian Universalism for more than twenty years as a religious educator, minister, scholar, member of the UUA national staff and of many volunteer committees at regional and denominational levels, and as interim co-president of the UUA in the spring of 2017. She holds a Ph.D. in Religious Ethics and African American Studies from Yale University as well as an M.Div. from Starr King School for the Ministry. She is the author of Ecowomanism at the Panamá Canal: Black Women, Labor, and Environmental Ethics (2022). Rev. Dr. Betancourt, who identifies as queer, currently lives in the Washington DC area. Please see the Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt’s full biography below.
The annual gathering of UUs is where the UUA conducts business, gathers in community, explores the theological underpinnings of the UU faith, and emphasizes the Association’s mission, values, and Principles. For the second year in a row, the UUA elected to make the annual assembly a fully multiplatform event, with both in-person and online opportunities. GA offered online attendance with robust programming and enhanced discussion tools for delegates from UU congregations across the country.
Additionally, UU delegates from all 50 states and Washington, DC traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for in-person participation. All in-person attendees were required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and to wear masks indoors. In total, 2593 delegates from 715 congregations participated in voting democratically on denominational business.
In addition to electing the new president for a six-year term, delegates contemplated new proposed bylaws for the association. Article II of the Unitarian Universalist Association Bylaws - “Principles and Purposes” - is the foundation for all of the work of the UUA, and its member congregations and covenanted communities. The process for examining and revising this core religious language reflects the faithful practice of Unitarian Universalism. It also reflects UUs understanding of their faith as a Living Tradition, rooted in democratic practice and engagement. Delegates voted to advance recommended changes to Article II, which last underwent a wholesale revision in 1987. A final vote on the revised Article II will take place at General Assembly in 2024. More information on the Article II process is available online.
Voting on Actions of Immediate Witness was also among the business conducted during GA 2023. UU delegates overwhelmingly voted for social justice resolutions that support health equity (PDF 2 pages), ending the planned “Cop City” training center (PDF 3 pages) in Atlanta, Georgia, and protecting the rights of Dreamers (PDF 2 pages), those who have received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) status. Additionally, Side With Love, the UUA’s organizing initiative, held a rally during the assembly that highlighted the work that UU congregations across the country are doing to support the UUA’s four justice priorities - combatting criminalization, supporting democracy, promoting climate justice and advancing LGBTQIA+ equity.
Delegates and others also had the opportunity to celebrate the successful tenure of outgoing president, Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray, who in 2017 was the first woman elected to lead the denomination. In her six-year tenure, Rev. Dr. Frederick-Gray became an established voice for progressive people of faith, strengthened the UUA’s Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (JEDI) practices, led the Association through the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, and launched the UU the Vote initiative to defend and expand democracy and democratic participation in our country, among other accomplishments.
“I am grateful for the ways Unitarian Universalists continue to show up courageously on the front lines for justice with BIPOC communities, the LGBTQIA+ community, and people living with disabilities. And I am so proud of the work we have done to advance racial equity, strengthen our diverse UUA staff, and invest in affinity groups throughout UUism,” said Rev. Dr. Susan Frederick-Gray. “I am hopeful for the future of Unitarian Universalism, and I am excited about the incoming leadership of the Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt.”
In addition to denominational business and spiritual gatherings, UU participants attended both in-person and online workshops and other events focused on UU social justice priorities. These included gatherings focused on building inclusive communities, promoting racial justice, examining the impacts of contemporary colonialism, building nonviolent democracy movements, empowering young leaders, and more. More details on the General Assembly public agenda are available online.
The UUA will hold its 2024 General Assembly from Thursday, June 20th through Sunday, June 23rd, 2024. The 2024 GA will be a return to an all-online event. Learn more about GA 2024.
Biography of Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt
The Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt is a minister, educator, scholar, vocalist, poet, fiber artist, and change-maker. Her work in the world and her practice of Unitarian Universalism are informed by the belief that building mutual, accountable relationships with one another allows us to live our values more fully every day. Raised in New York City as the child of immigrants from Panamá and Chile, and the grandchild of a seventh-generation Unitarian, she knows the strength that comes from building lasting community at the meeting point of difference. She is an unabashed Universalist. The teachings of unearned grace, an all-embracing love, relational accountability, and dignity that surpasses all violent forms of oppression lie at the core of her understanding of life, living, and service in faithful community.
The Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt has served Unitarian Universalism for more than twenty years as a religious educator, minister, scholar, member of the UUA national staff and many volunteer committees at regional and denominational levels, and as interim co-president of the UUA in the spring of 2017. She holds a Ph.D. in Religious Ethics and African American Studies from Yale University as well as an M.Div. from Starr King School for the Ministry.
Betancourt has served congregations in Stockton, California; Norwich, Connecticut; Storrs, Connecticut; and Fresno, California; and has served on the faculty of Starr King School for the Ministry. She most recently served as Resident Scholar and Special Advisor on Justice and Equity at our Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. She is the author of Ecowomanism at the Panamá Canal: Black Women, Labor, and Environmental Ethics (2022).
About the UUA
The UUA is the central organization for the Unitarian Universalist (UU) religious movement in the United States. Our faith is diverse and inclusive and the UUA’s 1000+ member congregations are committed to principles and values that hold closely the worth and dignity of each person as sacred, the need for justice and compassion, the right of conscience, and respect for the interdependent nature of all existence.