Those who are truly enlightened, who see religion as neither a prison nor a sword, but a home to encourage rather than impede freedom of thought, need to unite as much as possible to take a stand together against those who have the opposite view, who make religion destructive.
The American Unitarian Association (AUA) was a religious denomination in the United States and Canada, formed by associated Unitarian congregations in 1825. In 1961, it merged with the Universalist Church of America to form the Unitarian Universalist Association.
The Universalist Church of America was a Christian Universalist religious denomination in the United States (plus affiliated Churches in other parts of the world). Known from 1866 as the Universalist General Convention, the name was changed to the Universalist Church of America in 1942. In 1961, it merged with the American Unitarian Association to form the Unitarian Universalist Association.
Unitarian Universalism (UUism) is a theologically liberal religion characterized by its support for a “free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” Unitarian Universalists do not share a creed; rather, they are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth. Unitarian Universalists draw on many different theological sources and have a wide range of beliefs and practices.
Both Unitarianism and Universalism trace their origins to Christian Protestantism and thus Unitarian Universalism has its historical roots in the Christian faith. By the time they decided to combine their efforts at the continental level, the theological significance of these terms had expanded beyond the traditional Christian understanding. Today’s UUs appreciate and value aspects of other religions ranging from Judaism to Buddhism. Although Unitarian Universalist congregations and fellowships tend to retain some Christian traditions, such as Sunday worship with a sermon and the singing of hymns, they do not necessarily identify themselves as Christians, nor do they necessarily subscribe to Christian beliefs. The extent to which the elements of any particular faith tradition are incorporated into one’s personal spiritual practices is a matter of personal choice in keeping with Unitarian Universalism’s creedless, non-dogmatic approach to spirituality and faith development.
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), founded in 1961 as a consolidation of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church in America, is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, and serves churches mostly in the United States. The Canadian Unitarian Council became an independent body in 2002. The UUA represents more than 1,000 member congregations that collectively include more than 217,000 members. According to the United States Census Bureau 629,000 individuals identified themselves as Unitarian/Universalist in 2001. A more recent survey (2007) performed by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that 0.3% of U.S. adults or approximately 340,000 individuals identified themselves as Unitarian Universalist. Unitarian Universalists follow a congregational model of church governance, in which power resides at the local level; individual congregations call ministers and make other decisions involving worship, theology and day-to-day church management. The denominational headquarters in Boston in turn provides services for congregations that can more effectively be handled through joint efforts.
A separate organization from the UUA is the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU), founded in 1995, which coordinates national Unitarian and Universalist associations of churches throughout the world.
The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) is a world council bringing together Unitarians, Universalists and Unitarian Universalists. The original initiative for its establishment was contained in a resolution of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches of the United Kingdom in 1987. This led to the establishment of the “Advocates for the Establishment of an International Organization of Unitarians” (AEIOU), which worked towards the establishment of the council. The Rev. David Usher, a British Unitarian minister of Australian origin, proposed the 1987 resolution. However, the General Assembly resolution provided no funding.
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) became particularly interested in the establishment of a council when it had to deal with an increasing number of applications for membership from congregations outside North America. It had already granted membership to congregations in Adelaide, Auckland, the Philippines and Pakistan, and congregations in Sydney, Russia and Spain had applied for membership. Rather than admit congregations from all over the world, the UUA hoped that they would join a world council instead. The UUA thus became willing to provide funding for the council’s establishment.
As a result, the council was finally established at a meeting in Essex, Massachusetts on March 23–26, 1995. Rev. David Usher became the ICUU’s first President.
The size of the member organizations varies widely. Some member groups have only a few hundred members; while the largest, the Unitarian Universalist Association, has over 200,000 members and is larger than all the other member groups put together.
How much further can we go? How about……
The Religious Society of Friends is a religious movement, whose members are known as Friends or Quakers. The roots of this movement are with some 17th century Christian English dissenters, but today the movement has branched out into many independent national and regional organizations, called Yearly Meetings, which, while sharing the same historical origins, have a variety of names, beliefs and practices. It is therefore very difficult to accurately describe beliefs and practices of the Religious Society of Friends generally, as these differ considerably between different Yearly Meetings. Most groups of Friends meet for regular worship, but the form this takes differs considerably between different Yearly Meetings and traditions, ranging from silent meetings with no leader and no fixed plan of what will happen, through to services led by a pastor with readings and hymns (similar to conventional church services). The theological beliefs of the different Yearly Meetings also vary, from some holding very strong evangelical Christian beliefs through the spectrum to some holding predominantly universalist or Christian universalist beliefs.
In the public eye, Quakers are known for their social activism, having been instrumental in the campaign against the transatlantic slave trade, as well as campaigning for the rights of groups such as women, prisoners or gay people. A number of leading charities today were founded with participation from Quakers, such as Oxfam and Amnesty International.
Although all Quakers in previous centuries, and most today, recognize Quakerism as a Christian movement, a few Friends (principally in some Liberal Meetings in the United States and the United Kingdom) now consider themselves universalist, agnostic, atheist, secular humanist, postchristian, or Nontheist Friend, or do not accept any religious label. Calls for Quakerism to include non-Christians go back at least as far as 1870, but this phenomenon has become increasingly evident during the latter half of the 20th century and the opening years of the 21st century, and is still controversial among Friends. An especially notable example of this is that of Friends who actively identify as members of a faith other than Christianity, such as Islam or Buddhism.
So it seems the next logical step is to formally unite the Unitarian Universalists with the more liberal Quakers.