Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Oops! Sinkford not first black president of white church.
Lately I've been covering the UU blogosphere for uuworld.org — visit "The Interdependent Web" or subscribe to its feed to keep up with me there — and this past week I stumbled onto something I'm surprised and embarrassed I had not heard before. In a post examining the absence of any discussion of sexism in the UUA presidential race, Suzie at Echidne of the Snakes wrote:
Many UUs were proud to elect their first African-American president. The United Church of Christ was the first major, predominatly white denomination to elect a black president in 1976. But some media, including this interview with Sinkford by Bill Maxwell, a well-known columnist who also is a UU, attributed that first to the UUA.
It's true: In 1976 Joseph H. Evans, the UCC's national secretary and an African American, was elected president of the United Church of Christ upon the death of President Robert Moss and served in that role for one year. (Here's more about Evans.)
Many media outlets appear to have overstated the significance of Sinkford's election, however. A June 2001 Associated Press article about Sinkford's election, for example, said: "Sinkford is not only the first black UUA president, but he also is the first African-American to head any predominately white religious denomination." More to the point, and more embarrassing, I wrote in my UU World coverage of Sinkford's election that he was "the first African American elected to lead a historically white denomination in the United States." Oops!
I wonder why no one pointed Evans out to us Unitarian Universalists before. Certainly UUA news junkies complained when news coverage of the UCC's decision to endorse same-sex marriage in 2005 treated the denomination's decision as a "first," since the UUA had claimed that distinction in 1996. (Of course, most of the news coverage accurately explained that the UCC was the first "mainline Christian denomination" to support gay marriage; the UUA no longer describes itself as a "Christian" denomination.) But with all the UCC-UUA interaction, I'm surprised it didn't come up. Perhaps it did, and I missed it.
At any rate, almost eight years later, I'm setting the record straight. Thanks, Suzie!
Copyright © 2008 by Philocrites | Posted 25 November 2008 at 10:41 PM