Unitarian Universalist Association


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Unitarian Universalist Association,

Protestant church in the United States formed in 1961 by the merger of the American Unitarian Association (see UnitarianismUnitarianism,
in general, the form of Christianity that denies the doctrine of the Trinity, 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
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) and the Universalist Church of AmericaUniversalist Church of America,
Protestant denomination originating in the 18th cent. and represented almost entirely in the United States. Universalism is the belief that it is God's purpose to save every individual from sin through divine grace revealed in Jesus.
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. Having largely shared common concerns and positions throughout the 19th and 20th cent., the two churches formed a Council of Liberal Churches in 1953 as a preliminary step to merger. The convention in May, 1961, at which the merger was approved by delegates from both churches, adopted a constitution for the merged church and elected Dana McLean Greeley, formerly Unitarian president, the first president of the new association. The principal purpose of the merger was to link the churches' headquarters organizations and to enable them to speak as one on social and political questions. The church has about 151,000 members (1997).

Bibliography

See D. Robinson, The Unitarians and Universalists (1985).

Unitarian Universalist Association

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In 1776 a spirit of independence that had been growing in the American colonies broke forth into the light of day. A century later, President Abraham Lincoln would claim it resulted in the birth of "a new nation, conceived in liberty." Every aspect of life in the colonies was affected, including religion. A lot of colonists saw their struggle as a God-inspired holy war.

But what kind of God? The new nation was proof of human progress. A rationalist ideology began to define "God" in terms of Providence—a force of nature that gave direction to human life and social evolution. The human race was "going" somewhere. It had a trajectory. Our destiny was in our hands. God was behind it, of course, and would help, perhaps, if our hearts were righteous and our motivations pure. It was the beginning of the politician's cliché that ended every speech, "With God's help, we shall prevail. God Bless America!"

This new way of thinking had a profound affect on the way people talked about God. A subtle line had been crossed. God was now seen to be "on our side," but as a helper behind the scenes. God and Truth were weapons in the fight for liberty and freedom, but humans were on the front lines, doing the real work. To read some of the speeches and published sermons of the day, one almost gets the idea that the writers of such works pictured God cringing in heaven, wringing his hands and fretting over whether or not George Washington would safely cross the Delaware on that fateful Christmas eve.

It wasn't long before religious attitudes began to change—some say for the better, others for the worse. Traditional Christianity, though not specifically identified with Britain, became part of the "yoke of tyranny" cast off after the writing of the Declaration of Independence. The feeling among many colonists was that they held their lives in their own hands. God was welcome to come along for the ride, but no bishop, no hierarchy, no priest, and certainly no pope was going to tell them what to do.

Not everyone felt this way. Bill after bill was submitted to Congress, trying to make the new nation a specifically Christian one. But the founding fathers resisted them all. Church and state were kept separate.

So, except for being a figurehead, God was kept out of politics. But the profound change that had occurred in the public mind cannot be ignored. People thought differently about religion after 1776, just as they thought differently about politics. Even in this, the twenth-first century, we still don't know where the revolution/evolution of religious thought is going to take us. Those tumultuous, heady days of freedom still cast a long shadow. We still don't know how to completely separate church and state. We forbid teacher-led prayer in public schools but open each congressional day with an appeal to the Almighty. We champion the atheist's cause with tax dollars bearing the motto, "In God we trust." We go to war only after assuring the nation that the "God of peace" is on our side.

It is necessary to paint this church/state picture in order to fully grasp the culture from which Unitarianism, and shortly after, Universalism, sprang. Both were movements originating directly from this period of history.

Unitarianism (see Congregationalism) is a theological system that pictures God as a unity rather than a trinity. Universalism is the belief that, in the end, all will be saved.

But that doesn't really explain these two movements. From the beginning, Unitarianism was considered a liberal Christian ideology subscribed to by Congregationalists and Anglicans who didn't intellectually accept "orthodox" views. Universalism was introduced shortly before the Revolution by people from the Methodist tradition. Independent churches following both ideologies formed after independence, but the two movements soon merged. They simply had too many points of common agreement between them to stay separated for long.

In the midst of this new association, the philosophical movement called transcendentalism began to flourish. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau wrote eloquent essays that powerfully combined rationalism with romanticism, "natural" religion with the science of nature. Self-knowledge was the new means by which people could begin to understand the universe.

To this day the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) affirms the principles championed during this turbulent, exciting time of American history. They "believe strongly in the inherent worth and dignity of every person" and seek "justice, equity and compassion in human relationships." They seek "acceptance of one another and the encouragement to spiritual growth in [their] congregations" along with "a free and responsible search for truth and meaning."

The above quotations, and what follows, are taken from the covenant, or promise, that binds UUA congregations within their association. They reveal the emphasis on pluralism and openness that has been a hallmark of both traditions from their inception:

The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:

Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and openness to the forces which create and uphold life;

Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;

Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;

Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;

Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;

Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

A contemporary UUA worship service typically includes many faith traditions. On any given Sunday morning a Buddhist might give a lecture about meditation, an environmentalist might talk about a pressing need for community involvement in the restoration of a local wetlands, or a priest might talk about meditation in the Franciscan tradition. Those sitting next to you might describe themselves as liberal Christian, agnostic, atheist, or any number of traditional religious labels. What you will most certainly not find is the recitation of a historic creed or "accepted" statement of faith. The individual is encouraged to question, to seek his or her own way, in the company of others on a similar journey.

References in periodicals archive ?
org Web site for the Unitarian Universalist Association that lists congregations nationwide and association news and views.
The largest number of organized humanists belong to Unitarian Universalist churches, which make up the Unitarian Universalist Association that counts more than 200,000 members in over 1,000 congregations in the U.
Now an unresolved dispute over $77,000 in an invested trust with the Unitarian Universalist Association could bring an end to the tradition, which honors the sacrifice Swift River Valley families made when their land was taken in the 1930s for the Quabbin Reservoir.
HUMANISM WITHIN the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) has been on the decline for years.
63% of the churches in the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) hold "Welcoming Congregation" status.
In addition to Americans United, groups that signed the brief are: the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, Women of Reform Judaism, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, the National Council of Jewish Women, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
According to Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA) website: "Although Hinduism and Islam have not historically been part of our tradition, growing interest in these faiths is evident in recent courses, sermons, and writings on the subjects.
WILLIAM SINKFORD, president of the nation's most liberal denomination has touched off a theological firestorm by suggesting that the Unitarian Universalist Association needs to reclaim a "vocabulary of reverence" by not being afraid to talk about God.
The Unitarian Universalist Association issued a Statement of Conscience years ago expressing our support for gay civil rights and pledging to make our congregations supportive places for gays and lesbians seeking a spiritual home.
WESTBORO -- The Unitarian Universalist Congregational Society of Westborough will be presenting a comprehensive sexuality education program called Our Whole Lives, a program created jointly by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ.

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