The Fifth Principle Project is extending its support to Dick Burkhart in his election bid by petition to become a member of the UUA Nominating Committee. This committee identifies candidates for UUA leadership positions, except Moderator or President.
The Nominating Committee exerts significant influence on who represents UUs at the national level. Due to a provision in the UUA bylaws, the Nominating Committee can effectively select our national leadership. That bylaw provision reads, in part,
Voting shall be by ballot, except that if only one person has been validly nominated for an elective position at large the persons so nominated shall be declared elected and no voting shall be required. (Article IX Nominations and Elections, Section 9.10, subsection (a).)
The Nominating Committee is under no obligation to present more than one candidate for an elected position, which means that the Nominating Committee is essentially selecting people who may serve on the UUA Board of Trustees. There is only an election if a UU submits a petition to have their name placed on the ballot. The bylaws further prohibit write-in candidates.
We applaud Dick’s petition effort and willingness to serve the Association.
Candidate Statement for the Nominating Committee
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. Whatever 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.
Dick Burkhart – petition candidate for the Nominating Committee (3-year term ending at GA 2026)
Dick is a life-long UU, Ph.D. mathematician, scientist, and citizen activist. He has served the Saltwater UU Church near Seattle, and later the Rainier Valley UU Congregation, in numerous capacities, such as Chair of Social Responsibility, Canvass, and Board. He lives in Seattle and took early retirement in 2002 from Boeing, where he had worked in applied mathematics and scientific computing. His second career became “UU advocate for justice.” He is a long-time board member of UUs for a Just Economic Community, a professional critic of economic theory and practice, and has participated in 20 General Assemblies.
He led the 2014 Congregational Study Action Issue on “Escalating Inequality” and the 2019 Action of Immediate Witness on the “Green New Deal.” He was on the board of Washington UU Voices for Justice for many years and earlier helped lead the PNWD Adult RE Committee.
Dick and his wife, Mona Lee, promoted the Earth Charter on their “Bike for Global Democracy” on months-long tandem tours in India, Brazil, Europe, and North America from 2003 to 2006, organizing events at world social forums and other venues. This led to his leadership of the “Coalition for a World Parliament and Global Democracy,” now a non-profit called “Democracy Works.” Since then, he has worked with numerous local groups to advocate for limits-to-growth, peace and justice, tax equity, public transit, transit-oriented development, and affordable housing – especially for the homeless.
Dick’s first marriage was Thai-American – from 2 years teaching in Laos. His African friendships include leaders from both Kenya and Somalia. Now he is a community activist in a splendidly multicultural zip code, coming from a family that played a key role in promoting racial justice in nearby Tacoma.
Recently Dick has been reading widely, learning how cultural wars and identity politics have become divide and conquer tactics, disrupting our efforts to engage the existential earth crises of climate, ecosystems, natural resources, governance, and equity.
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