Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Growing and Global Spread of UUism: Leaders from Africa and Other Continents at General Assembly

We had a large and lively delegation of foreign UU leaders at the 2009 UUA General Assembly.

We welcomed the newly elected bishop of the Unitarian Church of Transylvania (Erdhely, in Hungarian), an ethnic Hungarian province in Romania where the first Unitarian churches emerged in the 1560’s.  Also in attendance was the young male minister (and his wife) who had spent the past school year as a Balazs Scholar at Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley.

We welcomed the new, young General Secretary of the Unitarian Union of Northeast India (from the Khasi Hills, in Meghalaya state).  His name is Helpme Mohrmen and he leads 60 congregations in a remote region; several of them have schools attached.  See a YouTube video of the area!

I was happy to meet three leaders from UU churches in Africa, here in the US for the first time (and what a place for your first visit–the city of Mormon headquarters!).

The UU church in Uganda is fairly new and reportedly the only gay-friendly church in the country; I sat next to Mark, its minister, at a luncheon.  He told me that the church sponsors a school for 400 children who are AIDS orphans, being brought up by grandparents, other relatives or neighbors.  About 30 of the children have HIV themselves, and they live at the church’s orphanage so they can take their medications on schedule and receive other care.

I also met the Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana, the leader of the UU church in Burundi, and Mr. Olufemi Matimoju, the leader of the UU church in Nigeria, which has existed since about 1918, when an Anglican clergyman converted because the Anglican church was not quite inclusive enough for his Yoruba cultural and faith tradition.  Former UUA President Bill Sinkford made a pilgrimage to Africa in 2008, along with the Rev. Eric Cherry, director of International Programs at the UUA (and a seminary friend of mine).  Click to see and hear some of the African church leaders at  General Assembly.

(Bill and Eric also visited UUs in the Republic of South Africa and learned about the post-Apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  My personal note:  I used to think Apartheid was a continuation of a centuries-old practice, like Jim Crow in the US.  Then I learned that it was legislated into existence in the late 1940’s!)

There is an article about the unique African expressions of our liberal faith in the recent UU World magazine.

Many UU churches in the US and Canada have a Partner Church relationship in Transylvania, Northeast India, the Philippines, Hungary, Poland and other lands.  Check out the UU Partner Church Council to read more about the purpose of these international relationships.

(Most foreign UU groups are part of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists.  Only the UU Church of the Philippines is an actual member of our UUA denomination.)


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