The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations is not the Movement of Unitarian Universalism, rather a service organization for a part of that Movement… congregations.
For years I used to correct people when they referred to the UUA as “our denomination”, and I finally quit trying, for two reasons. One, it seemed to demoralize people when I tried to explain what the UUA was actually intended to be, and second because, it seemed to me that the UUA was in many ways acting as a “denomination”.
Now, that trend is changing. First, the UUA became the UUAoC (Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, a change that went largely under-discussed). Second, it developed new and distinct iconography for use by the Association and member congregations, to separate the corporate identity of the UUAoC from that of the larger movement of Unitarian Universalism. Third, the UUAoC began altering or ending its official relationship with organizations that were not closely related to its organizational mission of serving the needs of congregations. Fourth, the UUAoC pressured the two UU seminaries into merger talks, and when those failed has since announced its intention to cease or curtail direct funding for those seminaries. Most recently, we have seen this trend in how the UUA is re-thinking if and how it will fund national and international young adult leadership.
I am not passing judgment on any of this. In truth, all of this is probably a good thing, even if it is painful for some groups right now. The UUAoC is clarifying its mission. It is saying to the Movement of Unitarian Universalism “This is what we are called to do and to be.” It is up to the Movement of Unitarian Universalism to either change the mission of the UUAoC, or to find other ways to support those aspects of the Movement that the UUAoC is no longer supporting.
And, most importantly, the changes by the UUAoC are highlighting a very important lesson… the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations is not the Movement of Unitarian Universalism. The Movement of our Liberal Faith is much larger than 25 Beacon Street. At least I hope it is… because if it is not then we are even smaller and more marginalized than our worst critics claim we are.
If it is not the mission of the UUAoC to fund Young Adult Leadership positions… then fine. Lets talk about how we, as a Movement, can make that happen. If it is not the mission of the UUAoC to help fund our two Unitarian Universalist seminaries, then fine. Let’s talk about how we, as a Movement, can not only fund but expand both of our seminaries (because we desperately need more than one). If the UUAoC is not interested in non-congregational ways of spreading the Gospel (Good News) of Unitarian Universalism, then fine. Let’s talk about how we, as a Movement, can fund, train, and support missionaries of our faith, both at home and abroad.
This might be forming a new organization… it might be forming many. Our Movement has a strong tradition not of large umbrella denominationalism, but of task-focused organizations of the Movement. The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee is an example of such a task-focused organization… so is the Unitarian Universalist Minister’s Association. Both are independent of the UUAoC, but both cooperate closely with them. I hold memberships in both. There are other examples… the UU United Nations Office, the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, The Society for Community Ministries, etc.
The key to this is that the UUAoC is not responsible for the health and vitality of the Movement of Unitarian Universalism and Liberal Faith… we are. The UUAoC is responsible for serving the needs of our congregations, and to a limited extent it may be responsible for serving as a “senior partner” among the many organizations that do and should make up the institutional part of Movement of Unitarian Universalism.
This is, I believe, deeply in tune with our theological base as a faith tradition. Rather than being centered around a doctrine or creed, the Movement of Unitarian Universalism and Liberal Faith is centered around a continuing discussion between individuals and organizations that have committed to be in Right Relationship with one another, each serving different parts of a much larger movement. Because of that center on the discussion, that center is always moving… hence we are a Movement. Not an Association.
I would love to see our Movement of Unitarian Universalism create, fund, staff, and support a Unitarian Universalist Mission Board, whose purpose is to facilitate efforts to spread the “Good News” of our faith beyond the efforts that individual congregations make to grow. Some of this will be in founding emergent congregations, others efforts will be to spread the basic message of our faith in areas and groups likely to develop ways of practicing our faith outside of the congregational dynamic. Supporting Young Adult ministries might be something that would be supported.
Let us create, fund, and support an independent organization to provide national and international leadership for Young Adult Ministries.
Let us create, fund, and support an independent organization to support and facilitate some of those organizations that have recently come out from under the UUAoC’s umbrella and mission…
But, most importantly, let us, as the Movement of Unitarian Universalism, realize that the responsibility for our Movement lies in our hands… and not try to hand that responsibility off to the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
To continue this discussion, check out these articles…
Yours in Faith,