Unitarian Universalists from throughout the United States, meeting in Salt Lake City for their annual general assembly, elected a Colorado pastor to be their eighth president.
The Rev. Peter Morales, senior minister at Jefferson Unitarian Church in Golden, Colo., defeated the Rev. Laurel Hallman, minister at large of the First Unitarian Church in Dallas. The vote was 2,061 to 1,481, said spokeswoman Janet Hayes.
About 3,500 Unitarian Universalists are attending the general assembly, which ends Sunday evening at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
Morales is to be installed Sunday to replace Bill Sinkford, the association's first black president, who had served the maximum two terms of four years each.
In his campaign, Morales said the faith had not responded to the longing among Americans for liberal spiritual community. Unitarian Universalists, he said, should be "more than the tiny, fringe religion that it is today."
On Saturday, after winning the election, Morales' Web site said that as president, he will be passionately engaged in the "great moral issues of our time: economic justice, peace and human rights."
"We are only beginning our growth, not just in numbers but in spirit, vitality and diversity," Morales told UUA members.
The Colorado church where Morales serves is one of the UUA's largest and fastest growing congregations.
Before serving there, he spent two years as the director of district services for UUA at church headquarters in Boston, according to a news release from the association.
He has also served on the UUA Board of Trustees, as trustee from the Mountain Desert District, and on the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association Executive Committee. On that committee, he was particularly involved in anti-racism, anti-oppression and multicultural issues.
Morales is a native of San Antonio and was raised in the city's west side "barrio." Before entering the ministry, he worked for the state of California and as a newspaper editor and publisher in Oregon. He also was a Fulbright lecturer in Spain and a Knight International Press Fellow in Peru.
He has been married to Phyllis Windrem Morales for 41 years. They have two grown children.