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in general, the form of Christianity that denies the doctrine of the TrinityTrinity
[Lat.,=threefoldness], fundamental doctrine in Christianity, by which God is considered as existing in three persons. While the doctrine is not explicitly taught in the New Testament, early Christian communities testified to a perception that Jesus was God in the flesh;
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, believing that God exists only in one person. While there were previous antitrinitarian movements in the early Christian Church, like Arianism and Monarchianism, modern Unitarianism originated in the period of the Protestant Reformation. In Geneva, Michael ServetusServetus, Michael
, 1511–53, Spanish theologian and physician. His name in Spanish was Miguel Serveto. In his early years he came in contact with some of the leading reformers in Germany and Switzerland—Johannes Oecolampadius, Martin Bucer, Wolfgang Fabricius Capito,
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 was burned at the stake (1553) for his antitrinitarian views. Under Faustus SocinusSocinus, Faustus
or Fausto Sozzini
, 1539–1604, Italian religious reformer, founder of Socinianism. Socinus left the Roman Catholic Church when, influenced by the writings of his uncle, Laelius Socinus, he came to deny the Trinity and other traditional doctrines.
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 a strong center of Unitarian belief developed in Poland. In Transylvania, Francis Dávid laid the foundation (c.1560) for the Unitarian Church there. In the 17th and 18th cent. Socinian ideas took root in England, especially under the influence of John BiddleBiddle, John,
1615–62, founder of English Unitarianism. From his examination of the Scriptures he lost belief in the doctrine of the Trinity and stated his conclusions in Twelve Arguments Drawn Out of Scripture.
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, called the father of English Unitarianism. The development of a separate Unitarian body came about gradually through the efforts of such men as Joseph Priestley and Thomas Belsham. Originally a scripturally oriented movement, in the mid-19th cent. Unitarianism became a religion of reason under the leadership of James Martineau in England and Ralph Waldo Emerson and Theodore Parker in the United States. Reason and conscience were considered the only guides to religious truth; complete religious toleration, innate human goodness, and universal salvation were preached. Unitarianism took hold in the liberal wing of the Congregational churches of New England. At King's Chapel, Boston, in 1785, trinitarian doctrines were removed from the liturgy. In 1796, Priestley, who had fled to America to escape persecution, established a Unitarian church in Philadelphia. Liberal Congregationalists in New England gradually formed themselves into a new denomination, to which the name Unitarian was given (c.1815) by their conservative opponents. The final separation from Congregationalism was hastened by the choice of Henry WareWare, Henry,
1764–1845, American clergyman, instrumental in the founding of Unitarianism in the United States, b. Sherborn, Mass., grad. Harvard, 1785. As pastor (1787–1805) of the First Church, Hingham, Mass., he became known for his liberal inclinations.
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 (1764–1845), a liberal, as Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard in 1805 and by the ordination sermon defending the liberals preached (1819) by William Ellery ChanningChanning, William Ellery,
1780–1842, American Unitarian minister and author, b. Newport, R.I. At 23 he was ordained minister of the Federal St. Congregational Church in Boston, where he served until his death.
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 in Baltimore. Channing's statement of Unitarian beliefs became the platform of the denomination. The American Unitarian Association was formed in 1825, and in 1865 a national conference was organized. A congregational form of government prevails in the Unitarian churches, each congregation having control of its own affairs. Neither ministers nor members are required to make profession of any particular doctrine, and no creed has been adopted by the church. The covenant in general use is simply, "In the love of truth, and in the spirit of Jesus, we unite for worship of God and the service of man." In 1961 the Universalist Church of America merged with the American Unitarian Association to form the Unitarian Universalist AssociationUnitarian Universalist Association,
Protestant church in the United States formed in 1961 by the merger of the American Unitarian Association (see Unitarianism) and the Universalist Church of America.
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See J. F. Clarke, Manual of Unitarian Belief (20th ed. rev. 1924); D. W. Howe, The Unitarian Conscience (1970); S. E. Almstrom and J. S. Carey, ed., An American Reformation: A Documentary History of Unitarian Christianity (1984); D. Robinson, The Unitarians and the Universalists (1985).

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