Saturday, January 21, 2006

Fixing UUism: Merge UUism with another liberal faith

by Jeff

Unitarian-Universalism was born from the combination of two historic traditions. Together they forged something new and unprecedented: other church mergers were re-unions of previously divided denominations (Northern and Southern Presbyterians, etc), but the marriage of Channing and Murray's churches was the making of two disparate bodies into one flesh. The result has been a one-of-a-kind denomination, pushing the boundaries of American religion and regularly redefining the possibilities of such hoary concepts as church, faith, tradition, and even religion.

What is needed at this moment in history is a new merger. Best candidate: the United Church of Christ. We are already close kin, all descendants of the original American religious experiment and leaders of the liberal tradition. We share similar polity, church culture, religious orientations, social concerns, ordination requirements, and even geographic distribution. Our combined strengths would spawn a new chapter in American religion that could revitalize the ailing religious left.

Runner-up alternative partners: Society of Friends, Reform Judaism, Community of Christ, [Your choice here]

11 comments:

Freespirit said...

I don't think this is the answer (with all due respect). All examples of "Federated" churches that I have seen (in which UU's are a part) show the "Christo-centric" emphasis dominates--the number of members in those congregations who identify themselves as UU's appears to always be a small minority.

What we have is unique and needs to be treated accordingly. We're unique in our uncompromising commitment to a "communion of the free"--to a faith which deliberately embraces diversity within an "ethic of catholicity" (of ultimate unity and inclusion"). No other religion is committed to offering that, and it seems to me that any attempt to combine us with any avowedly Christocentric denomination would be a departure from that special legacy and mission.

Jeff Wilson said...

Good comments, Freespirit. Here's a couple of follow-ups:

1) if the Federated churches you have seen are rather Christian, are you sure that you've seen an accurate view of such churches overall, or just a certain slice of them? Would federation of the entire denomination decrease the likelihood of abnormal Christan dominance?

2) if attempts to combine with avowedly Christocentric denominations are untrue to the "uncompromising commitment" which you perceive, howabout non-Christian ones? I've already listed a Jewish denomination and a Mormon one, can think of candidate Humanist, Buddhist, and Neo-Pagan ones, and [Your choice here] is wide open. The Unitarians and Universalists merged successfully; is there something about UUism now that makes future merger impossible? If so, is this a gain or a loss?

Joel Monka said...

I agree. Despite my support of more "God talk" and language of reverence, and calls for more respect for deists and other believers, I would NOT support linking to another Christocentric church. Believeing in a divinity and believeing in Jesus as God are NOT the same thing.

boyinthebands said...

I think the idea is an impossibility, but because other denominations would want nothing to do (organically) with the UUA. If Friends General Conference ever had a theological split, its less-Christian part might be a good fit, but cultural and polity issues would get in the way. Plus, even a 50-50 split would add a scant 20K adults to the mix.

Nineteenth- and twentieth-century merger proposals (when the Unitarians and Universalists were proportionally more Christian) went nowhere, precisely because the Us and Us were too radical. The closest was the 1920s Universalist-Congregationalist proposal, and there the issue was the Universalists being eaten by the larger Congos.

The Universalist and Unitarian consolidation looks, by contrast, like a dance -- the 50s and 60s were hot hot hot for denominational mergers -- with two lonely liberals looking for a partner.

Back to my blog-rest

The Emerson Avenger said...

Um. . . What other "liberal faith" would even want to merge with UUism anyway?

Jamie Goodwin said...

I don't know how it is in other parts of the country but here in the Akron, Ohio area we already work pretty closely with other Liberal Religious groups like Reform Jews, UCC, and Friends(Quakers).

The problem I see with a merger with these groups is that they specific to their religious views. Reform Jews still worship as Jews, UCC and MCC churches are still distinctly Christian - even if many of the individual congregations are pushing a more Progressive Christian viewpoint.

I have no problem with a formal partnership on specific issues and concerns (see OWL) but cannot envision a merger with any one of these groups that would satisfy both sides of the table.

Will Shetterly said...

Instead of a federation, why not a confederacy of liberal faith? UUs could offer to be the initial hosts, rather like the US giving the UN a place to grow. But, unlike the UN, the liberal faith confederacy could seek independent headquarters within, say, five years, ideally in a convenient location in the midwest. A confederacy would give great autonomy to individual churches while letting them share news and resources.

Yes, "confederacy" would make some people wince. So call it an association, but point out that it's a loose one. It could even be loose enough to let current UUA churches identify as UU, Unitarian, or Universalist, as they wished.

The Emerson Avenger said...

Um Will. . .

The UUA already is called an U*Uociation (ass it were. . .) The problem is that the UUA, and now even the CUC, seemingly want to make a melting pot out of UUism rather than preserving and even reviving UUism as a genuine *association* of independent Unitarian and Universalist congregations. I actually have quite a good idea for a way that the UUA and the CUC can get back to being genuine *associations* of Unitarian and Universalist congregations that could promote significant growth of the U*U religious community world-wide, but if U*Us think that I will just hand my proposal over to U*Us on a platter after the *crap* that I have endured from stunningly hypocritical and even outright hostile and abusive U*Us, who quite regularly go out of their way to *piss on* me and my religious beliefs and practices, they are just *shit* out of luck. . .

Will Shetterly said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Emerson Avenger said...

Self-censorship Will?

Patrick McLaughlin said...

UCC is Christian. There's a gap there in that they identify themselves -- in part -- by not being Unitarians (the joke goes that UCC means Unitarians Considering Christ).

I suspect that a better fit in some ways are Liberal Quakers.

Only there's a vast cultural problem. Silence v Constant Conversation.

I don't see a real candidate for a merger at this time. The Unitarians and Universalists moved together organically, with significant ministers and lay folk finding that they were not just one, but both.