General Assembly 2023 Contested Election Information about Candidates for 3-Year Terms on the Nominating Committee

Polls for the 2023 election for Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) Boards, Committees, and Commissions will be open throughout June, and the results will be announced at General Assembly (GA) 2023. Please take a moment to read through our helpful information sheet (PDF) on what you need to know about voting this year.

May 31, 2023 Candidates Forum

The UUA Election Campaign Practices Committee (ECPC) sponsored a Candidates' Forum on Wednesday, May 31, 2023, at 5:30pm ET / 4:30pm CT / 3:30pm MT / 2:30pm PT, featuring the four nominated candidates for a 3-year term on the Nominating Committee—Ben Gabel, Carrie Stewart, the Rev. Zackrie Vinczen, and the Rev. Viola Abbitt, and the petition candidate for a 3-year term on the Nominating Committee—Dick Burkhart.

Members of the ECPC moderated, and attendees submitted questions for the candidates in advance of the forum by emailing

Candidates Running for a 3-Year Term on the Nominating Committee

a person with brown skin, eyeglasses, wearing a black shirt and a paisley wrap, in front of a blue screen smiles at the camera

Rev. Viola Abbitt

This candidate was nominated by the Nominating Committee.

Candidate's Statement

Unitarian Universalism is important to me. Being a Unitarian Universalist is a large part of my identity, and not simply because I am an ordained minister in the faith. As such, I want to be of service to the organization that has made a profound difference in my life. I believe Unitarian Universalism holds great promise, not just for the people who already consider themselves among its ranks, but for the world. One of the ways to make sure that our religion continues to be forward-facing, life-changing, and welcoming to the many people who have and still need to hear our message, is to engage in the development of leadership that embraces the values identified by the careful research of the Article II Study Commission. Serving on the Nominating Committee is one way that I can help in this work.

Ben Gabel

This candidate was nominated by the Nominating Committee.

Candidate's Statement

This candidate's statement will be posted soon.

A smiling white woman with glasses and dark blonde hair wars a colorful green top.

Carrie Stewart

This candidate was nominated by the Nominating Committee.

Candidate's Statement

In 2020, when I was nominated and elected to the Nominating Committee for my first term along with 2 others, the committee was struggling. First, there were only two out of nine members remaining on the committee. Second, since this was during the COVID lockdown, it was not possible to continue the former in-person process of soliciting applications, vetting candidates, and compiling a slate for election. Consequently, there were no procedures and no covenant formulated under which to operate. I then led the effort at establishing procedures and co-creating a covenant for our committee’s work and was subsequently drafted as Co-chair, then Chair in my second year. In my 3-year term on the committee, despite the challenges of working during the pandemic, and the existence of a leadership development gap, we have re-established a successful foundation for working together. With these changes in place, I’m proud to say this year, the committee presented the first full slate of diverse candidates for election at General Assembly in several years. This achievement means we have matched leadership opportunities for national service for 27 Unitarian Universalists, with a wide variety of experiences, backgrounds, and skills resulting in the full capacity for our elected committees of the UUA.

Continuing to build on the foundation we’ve laid over the past 3 years in finding skilled and diverse candidates for UUA committees, and in so developing future leaders is my main, but not only, motivation for continuing to serve on the UUA Nominating Committee. I also experience denominational service as not only an opportunity to contribute but as a source of my own spiritual development. This I want to extend to my companion Unitarian Universalists.

Rev. Zackrie Vinczen

This candidate was nominated by the Nominating Committee.

Candidate's Statement

My name is the Rev. Zackrie Vinczen (he/him), and I am excited to announce my candidacy for the Nominating Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Currently, I serve as the minister of Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church in Washington State and hold a Master of Divinity from Starr King School for the Ministry and a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from Western Washington University.

I have had the privilege of serving on the Nominating Committee since July 2020 and am running for a second term on the committee. Serving on the NomCom has brought me immense joy and purpose, and I am eager to continue connecting individuals with opportunities to serve our larger faith community.

In addition to my ministry and NomCom work, I enjoy pursuing creative endeavors such as improv classes, shape note singing, and writing poetry. I also love spending time with my two dogs, Skagit and Henry, and tending to my garden. I live in Suquamish, Washington with my husband, Elliott.

I am committed to fostering an inclusive and equitable Unitarian Universalist community, and I believe that serving on the Nominating Committee is an important way to further that goal. Thank you for your consideration.

Smiling man with gray hair and dark glasses, wearing a dark blue jacket

Dick Burkhart

This candidate was nominated by petition.

Candidate's Statement

After 6 years, controversies continue to erode trust in the UUA, signaling failures of leadership, but also spurring new champions for our 7 principles. Congregations across the continent have fractured, with hard feelings, major losses of membership, and ministers resigned. And it’s not just poor training to handle conflict, or the lack of due process, or that the controversies over identity politics in the larger society have disrupted many congregations.

It’s actually worse: Some leaders and staff are being taught that it’s OK to display highly ideological positions on certain issues, such as race or gender. Even principled criticism may be deemed “harmful” - to be censored or punished, with accusations substituting for dialogue. What ever happened to our 4th principle, “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning?” Or the “democratic process” of our 5th principle?

As a member of the Nominating Committee, I will seek candidates who understand effective conflict resolution and are passionately committed to the ethics of our 7 principles. This leadership must seek practical, not ideological, guidance and training of staff, grounded in mutuality and evidence - to turn conflict into opportunity. It must accommodate diversity of thought and viewpoint, independent of identity, and heed legal due process.

Already books and podcasts are detailing how our “liberal religion” is acting in an increasingly “illiberal,” or authoritarian manner. Why not go back to our roots and become a “liberal beacon” for a fractured society? Organizations like “Braver Angels” are showing how to conduct open and honest discussion across partisan divides, finding both common ground and mutual respect.

We too can bridge those divides: Multiple crises are calling us to cooperate on unprecedented scales, guided both by science and expanded visions “for the interdependent web” of life on planet earth.

Review the full slate of candidates for election at GA 2023.