One of the great challenges of our UU faith has been bringing diversity to our professional ministry. In the last generation women ministers have become the majority. In the last decade the number of BGLTQ ministers has risen dramatically. Yet the number of African American, Latino and other ministers of color has remained low. This has been especially true of parish ministry settlements. And it is heartbreaking that a number of ministers of color have experienced painful separations from their congregations.
While we are far from where we need to be, I am happy to report significant progress in the last few years.
In a few days I will preach at the installation of the Rev. Wendy Pantoja in Miami. In the past two years I have also preached at the installations of my friends John Crestwell in Annapolis and Lilia Cuervo in Cambridge. Later this spring I will preach in Honolulu, where Jonipher Kwong is in his first year.
In each of the last two years our congregations have settled seven ministers of color. That is about 13 percent, or one out of every eight settlements. Ten years ago a typical year saw us settle only two or three.
Just as important, the number of seminarians of color has increased greatly. Ten years ago I remember there being about 30 ministers and seminarians of color at an annual gathering. Now there are about twice that many.
It is way too early to declare anything like victory. Yet I cannot help but be thrilled to see the progress we have made and the prospects for the future.
Today it’s no big deal for a congregation to call a woman. It isn’t even noteworthy. In many congregations it is no big deal to call a gay or lesbian minister. Not only are the numbers increasing, but gay and lesbian ministers are increasingly serving some of our larger congregations. (The case is still very different for transgender ministers, unfortunately.)
I pray that the day is coming soon when we can say that it’s no big deal for a congregation to call a minister who is a person of color.