Unitarian Universalist Association


Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) is a liberal religious association of Unitarian Universalist congregations. It was formed in 1961 by the consolidation of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America[4] Christian denominations with Unitarian and Universalist doctrines, respectively.[5] However, modern Unitarian Universalists see themselves as a separate religion with its own beliefs and affinities. They define themselves as non-creedal, and draw wisdom from various religions and philosophies, including humanism, pantheism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Judaism, Islam, and Earth-centered spirituality.[6][7][8] Thus, the UUA is a syncretistic religious group with liberal leanings.

Unitarian Universalist Association
Official logo of the UUA, based upon the flaming chalice motif.
ClassificationUnitarian Universalism
PresidentSofía Betancourt
AssociationsInternational Council of Unitarians and Universalists
RegionNorth America
Headquarters24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
OriginMay 15, 1961; 63 years ago (1961-05-15)
Merger ofAmerican Unitarian Association and Universalist Church of America
Members152,921 members (2020)[2]
PublicationsUU World[3]
Official websitewww.uua.org

In the United States, Unitarian Universalism grew by 15.8% between 2000 and 2010 to include 211,000 adherents nationwide.[9]

Congregations edit

Sign on a UU church in Rochester, Minnesota, United States.

Most of the member congregations of the UUA are in the United States and Canada, but the UUA has also admitted congregations from Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Pakistan. In recent times, UUA policy is for new congregations from outside the USA to form their own national bodies and having these bodies join the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists[10] or, after the ICUU dissolution in 2021, its successor organization. Until 2002, almost all member congregations of the Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC) were also members of the UUA and most services to CUC member congregations were provided by the UUA. However, after an agreement between the UUA and the CUC, since 2002 most services have been provided by the CUC to its own member congregations, with the UUA continuing to provide ministerial settlement services. Since 2002, some Canadian congregations have continued to be members of both the UUA and CUC while others are members of only the CUC.

The Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF) is a member church of the Unitarian Universalist Association providing denominational services to persons unable to attend a physical congregation because of distance or mobility, or who wish to belong to a congregation other than their local congregation. Many of these are Unitarian Universalists in other countries, members of the military, prisoners or non-mobile elderly.

Organization edit

Old UUA logo

The Unitarian Universalist Association is headquartered at 24 Farnsworth Street, within Boston, Massachusetts. This serves as the historical center of Unitarianism in the U.S. As of 2009, the UUA comprised 19 Districts, 1,041 congregations with 164,656 certified members and 61,795 church school enrollees served by 1,623 ministers.[11] However, as of 2011 the UUA had 162,796 certified members and 54,671 church school enrollees. This shows a decline of 1,860 members and 7,124 enrollees in church school since 2008. The UUA has, for the first time, also reported decline in average weekly attendance to 100,693 people. This is a drop of 1.5% on the 2010 reported figure.[12] Many atheists and humanists are also a part of the various congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association.[13]

Corporate status edit

The UUA was given corporate status in May 1961 under special acts of legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the State of New York. See Chapter 148 of the acts of 1960 of the Massachusetts legislature and Chapter 827 of the Acts of 1960 of the New York legislature. Copies of said acts are attached to the minutes of the organizing meeting of the association held in Boston, Massachusetts, in May 1961 and also are printed in the 1961–62 directory of the association.

Decentralized association edit

The UUA is not a denomination in the traditional sense; the UUA is an association of congregations with no one organization able to speak authoritatively for the whole. It is the congregations that have authority over the larger body, through the annual General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Since the general public understands denomination much more readily than association of congregations, the distinction is generally omitted in conversation. Because of this relationship between the congregations and the association, Unitarian Universalist congregations have a congregationalist polity of governance. However, day-to-day decisions are made by the president, the moderator, and the board of trustees.

In its role as a national organization representing the congregations, the UUA is a member of various organizations, both religious and secular.

Principles and purposes edit

The UUA does not have a central creed in which members are required to believe, and has found it useful to articulate its common values in what has become known as the Principles and Purposes statement. The first version of the principles was adopted in 1960, and the modern form was adopted in 1984 (including the 7th principle). They were amended once again in 1995 to include the 6th source. Both of these were added to explicitly include members with Neopagan, Native American, and other natural theist spiritualities.[14] Because Unitarian Universalism is a living tradition, always open to re-imagining, there is currently a reevaluation study process occurring that could see these principles and sources shift.

The principles and purposes are accompanied by a list of sources, and statements of inclusion and freedom of belief.[15]

Principles edit

"We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part."

Sources edit

"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 an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  • Words and deeds of prophetic people 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.

Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support."

Purposes edit

"The Unitarian Universalist Association shall devote its resources to and exercise its corporate powers for religious, educational and humanitarian purposes. The primary purpose of the Association is to serve the needs of its member congregations, organize new congregations, extend and strengthen Unitarian Universalist institutions and implement its principles."

Inclusion edit

"The Association declares and affirms its special responsibility, and that of its member societies and organizations, to promote the full participation of persons in all of its and their activities and in the full range of human endeavor without regard to race, color, sex, disability, affectional or sexual orientation, age, or national origin and without requiring adherence to any particular interpretation of religion or to any particular religious belief or creed."

Freedom of belief edit

"Nothing herein shall be deemed to infringe upon the individual freedom of belief which is inherent in the Universalist and Unitarian heritages or to conflict with any statement of purpose, covenant, or bond of union used by any society unless such is used as a creedal test."

General Assembly edit

General Assembly (GA) is held every year in June in a different city in the USA. Member congregations (and three associate member organizations) send delegates and conventioneers to participate in the plenary sessions, workshops, district gatherings, and worship services.

Finances and membership fees edit

The UUA requests annual contributions from its member congregations. The requested contribution, known as Fair Share, is calculated for each congregation by multiplying an annually determined membership fee times the number of registered members of that congregation. The UUA also has alternative modes of raising funds. In order for congregations to participate in certain programming, they will pay a nominal fee. Some funds are earned through charitable gifts or estate planning. Additionally, the UUA pools together investment funds from congregations or other constituents and manages them for a small percentage.

Alternate growth strategies edit

UUA leaders concerned with membership numbers fluctuating from barely perceptible growth to slight decline, are working with a variety of experimental UU communities that represent alternative models of congregational formation—or that may point to new forms of affiliation.[16]

Related organizations edit

Two non-congregational organizations belong to the UUA as Associate Member organizations. Associate Member organizations are esteemed as inherently integral to the work of the UUA and its member congregations, and are accorded two voting delegates each to the annual General Assembly. The Associate Member organizations are the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), which is active in social change actions, and the Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation, which provides education and advocacy on women's issues. The Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office, which is a center of information and action at the United Nations, was an Associate Member organization until it became an office within the UUA in 2011.[17]

The UUA also recognizes many organizations as Independent Affiliate organizations. These organizations are created by Unitarian Universalists as needed to meet the special needs of the diversity within Unitarian Universalism. These groups may provide specialized spiritual support, work for specific social justice issues, provide support for religious professionals, etc.

The UUA owns Beacon Press, a nationally known publisher of both fiction and non-fiction books. Skinner House Books publishes books primarily of interest to Unitarian Universalists.

The UUA also participates in interfaith organizations such as the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

Governance edit

The UUA is governed by delegates elected to the annual General Assembly. GA delegates elect the president, the moderator, and members of the board of trustees.[18]

From when the association was established in 1961 until 2010, the president and moderator were each elected to four-year terms by delegates at General Assembly. An individual could not be elected to more than two successive terms. Candidates ran by petition. The 2010 General Assembly adopted a bylaw amendment, to take effect in stages beginning in 2013, making changes in the composition of the board of trustees and in the terms and election procedures for president and moderator.[19][20] Under the new system, the president and moderator are each limited to a single term of six years. A Presidential Search Committee[21] nominates candidates for president. The board of trustees nominates candidates for moderator. Individuals who are not nominated by the committee or the board may run by petition. The 2010 amendment also reduced the size of the board of trustees and changed the election process so that all trustees are elected by General Assembly. (The prior board consisted of one trustee elected by each UUA district and several at-large trustees elected by General Assembly.)

President edit

The president of the UUA is its CEO and the religious leader of Unitarian Universalism in the United States. A former UUA president is Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, who was elected at the 2017 UUA General Assembly in New Orleans, Louisiana; she was expected to be the first president to serve a single six-year term, per a 2010 bylaw change.[22] Frederick-Gray was the first woman to be elected as president of the UUA.[23] As of October 2023, the president is Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt.[24] She is the first woman of color and openly queer person to be elected to the office.[24]

Name Elected
Rev. Dana McLean Greeley 1961
Rev. Robert West 1969
Rev. Paul Carnes 1977
Rev. O. Eugene Pickett 1979[a]
Rev. William Schulz 1985
Rev. John A. Buehrens 1993
Rev. William G. Sinkford 2001
Rev. Peter Morales 2009
Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt, Dr. Leon Spencer, Rev. William G. Sinkford (interim co-presidents) 2017[b]
Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray 2017
Rev. Dr. Sofía Betancourt 2023
  1. ^ Rev. Pickett was elected president by the Board of Trustees upon the death of Rev. Paul Carnes. He was subsequently elected to a four-year term by the General Assembly.
  2. ^ Following Rev. Peter Morales' resignation on April 1, 2017, the Board of Trustees appointed three co-presidents to serve as a transition team[25] until Rev. Frederick-Gray's election on June 24, 2017.[26][27]

Moderator and Co-Moderators edit

The moderator of the UUA is the chair of the Board of Trustees and is the presiding officer at General Assembly. The moderator is the highest UUA position traditionally held by laity.

Moderator Jim Key was elected for a six-year term at General Assembly in 2013.[28] Due to "significant health concerns", Key resigned from office on May 13, 2017, less than a month before his death.[29][30] Because of the amount of work needed for the moderator position, in 2017, the position was split into two co-moderator positions. In August 2017, Mr. Barb Greve and Elandria Williams were appointed to serve as Interim Co-Moderators until a special election for Moderator can be held at the 2018 General Assembly, where they were elected as co-moderators.[31] In 2020, Rev. Meg Riley was elected as co-moderator, the first minister to serve as moderator of the UUA.

Name Elected
Marshall E. Dimock 1961
Joseph L. Fisher 1964[i]
Sandra M. Caron 1977
Natalie Gulbrandsen 1985
Denise Davidoff 1993
Diane Olson 2001
Gini Courter 2003[ii]
Jim Key 2013[iii]
Denise Rimes (interim moderator) 2017[iii]
Mr. Barb Greve and Elandria Williams 2017 (as interim co-moderators); 2018 (as co-moderators)[iii]
Rev. Meg Riley and Charles Du Mond 2020
  1. ^ Fisher was elected moderator by the Board of Trustees upon the resignations of his predecessor and subsequently elected by General Assembly to a full four-year term.
  2. ^ Courter was elected moderator by the Board of Trustees upon the resignations of her predecessor and subsequently elected by General Assembly to a full four-year term.
  3. ^ a b c Citing "significant health concerns", Jim Key resigned from office on May 13, 2017, less than a month before his death. Vice-Moderator Denise Rimes led the Board of Trustees as interim moderator from May to August 2017.[29][30] In August 2017, Mr. Barb Greve and Elandria Williams were appointed to serve as Interim Co-Moderators until a special election for Moderator can be held at the 2018 General Assembly, where they were elected co-moderators.[31]

Boy Scouts of America controversy edit

The Religion in Life religious emblems program of UUA were once unrecognized by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). The UUA published statements opposing the BSA's policies on homosexuals, atheists, and agnostics in 1992; and in 1993, the UUA updated Religion in Life to include criticism of these BSA policies.[32] In 1998, the BSA withdrew recognition of Religion in Life, stating that such information was incompatible with BSA programs. The UUA removed the material from their curriculum and the BSA renewed their recognition of the program. When the BSA found that the UUA was issuing supplemental material with the Religion in Life workbooks that included statements critical of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or personal religious viewpoint, the BSA again withdrew recognition.[33]

The Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization (UUSO) created the Living Your Religion program in 2004 as a parallel award for Unitarian Universalist youth.[34] The program was approved by the BSA Religious Relationships committee in 2005 and was promoted at the 2005 National Scout Jamboree as well as at the following jamborees in 2010 and 2013.[35][36][37][38] The UUA stated that the UUSO was not recognized as an affiliate organization[39][40] despite the stated UUSO goal to create a set of awards that are recognized by the UUA and BSA.[34] In 2013, BSA opened membership to gay youth, followed by opening membership to gay adults in 2015; this policy change resolved the main UUA objection to supporting BSA and by December 2015, the UUSO had self-dissolved and the UUA religious emblems programs were again recognized by BSA.

Alternative UU-friendly scouting organizations edit

In the wake of this controversy, a number of SpiralScouts International circles and dozens of Navigators USA Chapters have formed within congregations of the UUA, despite having no official affiliation with the UUA.[41]

Navigators USA,[41] was founded by volunteers of All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City after terminating its charter with Boy Scout Troop 103 because of the BSA policies. Its founders describe as "...committed to providing a quality scouting experience that is inclusive and available to all children and families regardless of gender, race, religion, economic status, sexual orientation and social background."[42] There are currently 120 chapters in the United States, plus a number in the UK, France, and Kenya.[43]

In addition to SpiralScouts and Navigators USA, the UUA website also suggests Camp Fire as an alternative scout-like organization that comports with UU principles.

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ "Congregation Search Results". uua.org. 14 February 2018.
  2. ^ "UUA Membership Statistics, 1961–2020". uua.org. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  3. ^ "About 'UU World' Magazine". uuworld.org. 12 January 2015.
  4. ^ Reproductive Politics. Oup USA. 9 May 2013. ISBN 978-0-19-981141-0.
  5. ^ Harvard Divinity School: Timeline of Significant Events in the Merger of the Unitarian and Universalist Churches During the 1900s
  6. ^ YouTube: You're a Uni-What?
  7. ^ YouTube: Unitarian Universalism - Open Source Faith
  8. ^ Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Los Gatos: – Our Minister
  9. ^ Smietana, Bob. "Unitarian faith growing nationwide". usatoday.com. USA Today. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
  10. ^ "Welcome to Our Global Faith" (PDF). Uua.org. Retrieved July 28, 2022.
  11. ^ "Unitarian Universalist Association: About the UUA". Archived from the original on June 3, 2004. Retrieved May 10, 2004.
  12. ^ "UUA membership declines again". uuworld.org. 23 May 2011.
  13. ^ Kennedy, Dan. "Are You with the Atheists?". UU World. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  14. ^ "How the UU Principles and Purposes were adopted". uuworld.org. 1 May 2006.
  15. ^ "UUA Bylaws and rules as amended through October 18, 2019" (PDF). uua.org.
  16. ^ Skinner, Donald E. (March 24, 2014). "Emerging, alternative groups at UUA's growing edge". UU World Magazine. Unitarian Universalist Association. Archived from the original on 2014-07-05. Total membership falls 1.2 percent; UUA counts 51 emerging groups, handful of experimental communities.
  17. ^ Greer, Jane (14 February 2011). "UU United Nations Office to rejoin UUA". UUWorld.org. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  18. ^ "Bylaws and Rules". UUA.org. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  19. ^ Greer, Jane (5 July 2010). "General Assembly focuses UUA on immigration". UUWorld.org. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  20. ^ "Minutes of the Forty-Ninth General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association" (PDF). UUA. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  21. ^ "Presidential Search Committee". UUA. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  22. ^ Walton, Christopher (30 March 2017). "UUA President Peter Morales resigns amid controversy over hiring practices". UU World. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  23. ^ Ulbrich, Holley (March 26, 2017). "UUA President: Year of the Woman". Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Franklin, NC. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  24. ^ a b Post, Kathryn (2023-06-25). "Unitarian Universalists elect first woman of color, openly queer president". Religion News Service. Retrieved 2023-06-26.
  25. ^ Gjelten, Tom (June 24, 2017). "Unitarian Universalists Denounce White Supremacy, Make Leadership Changes". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  26. ^ UUA Board of Trustees (April 10, 2017). "April 10, 2017 Letter from the UUA Board of Trustees" (Press release). UUA.org. Retrieved 2017-04-11.
  27. ^ Walton, Christopher (24 June 2017). "Susan Frederick-Gray elected UUA president". UU World. Retrieved August 4, 2017.
  28. ^ Deakin, Michelle Bates (24 June 2013). "Jim Key wins moderator election in close contest". UU World. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  29. ^ a b Mcardle, Elaine (13 May 2017). "Citing significant health concerns UUA Moderator Jim Key resigns". UU World. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  30. ^ a b Walton, Christopher L. (2 June 2017). "News Brief: Former UUA Moderator Jim Key Has Died". UU World. Retrieved 5 August 2017.
  31. ^ a b "UUA Board of Trustees Appoints Co-Moderators". uua.org. 9 August 2017.
  32. ^ Gustav Niebuhr (1999-05-22). "The Boy Scouts, a Battle and the Meaning of Faith". New York Times. Archived from the original on December 12, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-09.
  33. ^ Isaacson, Eric Alan (2007). "Traditional Values, or a New Tradition of Prejudice? The Boy Scouts of America vs. the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations". George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal. 17 (1). Retrieved 2015-06-14.
  34. ^ a b "Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization". March 5, 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-11.
  35. ^ "P.R.A.Y. Boy Scout News Bulletin". 2005. Retrieved 2007-07-08.
  36. ^ "Unitarian Universalist Worship Service" (PDF). Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization. 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2007-07-07.
  37. ^ "2006 UUSO Membership Brochure" (PDF). Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization. March 5, 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2007-07-08.
  38. ^ "Living Your Religion: A Unitarian Universalist Religious Award Program for Boy Scouts and Venturers" (PDF). Unitarian Universalist Scouters Organization. February 1, 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-07-08.
  39. ^ "UUA and the Scouts: Statement from the Unitarian Universalist Association". Unitarian Universalist Association. March 16, 2005. Archived from the original on October 31, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-08.
  40. ^ "Religious Emblems Programs Available to Members of the Boy Scouts of America". Boy Scouts of America. Archived from the original on 2007-07-17. Retrieved 2007-07-08.
  41. ^ a b "Scouting alternatives draw UU youth". Uuworld.org. 21 September 2007.
  42. ^ "Navigators USA - Alternative Youth Scouting". Navigatorsusa.org.
  43. ^ "START-A-CHAPTER - Navigators USA". Archived from the original on 11 December 2011. Retrieved 28 July 2022.

External links edit

  • Official website
  • List of member churches
  • Association of Religion Data Archives profile
  • UU World Magazine