Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Are Unitarian Universalists Christian? Part 2

This religious tradition is a result of heretical disagreements about the nature and identity of Jesus of Nazareth.

In the early years of the Protestant Reformation, the late 1500s, the first Unitarians were liberal Christians in Poland and Transylvania. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the first Universalists and the first Unitarians in the United States were liberal Christians. Self-taught preachers or Harvard grads, these heretical Americans knew their Bible.

Our forbears in faith had to defend themselves against charges that they were not Christian. Nowadays, I’d say a majority (but not all) of Unitarian Universalists would agree with that charge, even as we sing “Silent Night” by candle light or get up early for an Easter Sunrise Service.

Many historic UU congregations used to have names that reflected this heritage. The Fourth Universalist Society of New York City has had its name only since 1967. Originally that old Universalist church was called the Church of the Divine Paternity. In Lancaster, Massachusetts, you can still find the First Church of Christ, Unitarian. I’m not sure if you’ll find many people in it, however. In Providence, Rhode Island, there’s an old one called the Church of the Mediator; this refers to Jesus’ special role as a messenger of God, a human teacher of Divine love. The name Church of the Mediator used to be more common for Unitarian churches but now I find mostly Episcopal churches so named.

The Community Church of New York has always been Unitarian, but was founded with the name Church of the Messiah. Likewise the churches in Syracuse, Montreal, and Portland, Maine: Messiah, Messiah, Messiah!  Philadelphia and Newark lost their Universalist churches of the Messiah in the 20th century. The grand Gothic Unitarian Church of the Messiah in St. Louis, Missouri, is no more; there’s a parking lot on its spot.
How about the name All Souls Church? It still works! In Tulsa, Oklahoma, New York City and Washington, DC, congregations with this name are flagships in our denomination. All their church members love the inclusive implication of that name–All Souls–except of course during the Pledge Drive or Sunday School teacher recruitment season.

If you would like to find out more about the ways that Christian spirituality, scholarship, ethical teaching and preaching continue to thrive in our UU movement, check out the UU Christian Fellowship.  

If you would like to learn about the historic (and enduring) Unitarian Church in Translyvania and Hungary, or the Universalist Church of the Philippines, or the Unitarian Union of North East India (way up in the Khasi Hills), visit the UU Partner Church Council or the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists.


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