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Book of Faiths

Unitarian Universalism
by Pastor Marcus Hamilton-Smythe

The word Unitarian means, one god, and Unitarians deny the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus. Universalism is the belief that all people will go to Heaven when they die.

The Unitarian Movement is just about as old as Christianity itself. Before the Church Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. the movement was called Arianism. There was also another movement, which was somewhat similar, and they were called the Ebionites. Constantine the Great wanted to unify the Roman Empire and he thought he would be able to achieve this if everyone had the same religious beliefs. So he imposed the Nicene Creed on the Church. Anyone who could not go along with the Creed was called a heretic and was liable for punishment. Consequently the two movements eventually died out.

The Reformation caused a huge upheaval in the Church and people began to question the Doctrine of the Trinity. This led to a number of movements, the main one being the Socinians in Poland. (Transylvania had a separate Unitarian Movement.) The Catholic Church in the mid-17th century gave the Socinians an ultimatum, become Catholics or go into exile. Many people chose exile and went to other countries, where they collaborated with other Unitarian thinkers.

Unitarian thought was tolerated in England after an act of toleration in 1689, but they were not allowed to have their own churches. The first separate Unitarian congregation in England was Essex Chapel, opened in London in 1774 but it was not until another act of toleration was passed in 1813, that Unitarian was legalized.

In America, the latter half of the 18th century, saw Arian views expand. A number of churches became Unitarian and King’s Chapel in Boston officially left the Episcopal Church and became Unitarian in 1796.

In 1961, the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America amalgamated and formed what is now the Unitarian Universalist Association.

The Unitarian Movement as a whole, including the UUA, is a very diverse movement. It includes Christians, Buddhists, Pagans, Deists, Theists, Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics. Each church is congregational in structure and there isn’t any one church the same. As a general statement, the Unitarian Movement is humanist/secular in thought. There doesn’t appear to be a very deep spirituality pervading the churches. Many people think that when the church turned humanist/secular the “baby was thrown out with the bath water.” So hence, the Unitarian Christian Movement was formed to bring back some form of spirituality and to follow the teachings of Jesus.

The three tenets of the Unitarian Movement are Freedom, Reason and Tolerance. This is because the Movement holds that God is a God of Diversity and that diversity is good.

The word Unitarian means, one god, and Unitarians deny the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus. Universalism is the belief that all people will go to Heaven when they die.

The Unitarian Movement is just about as old as Christianity itself. Before the Church Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. the movement was called Arianism. There was also another movement, which was somewhat similar, and they were called the Ebionites. Constantine the Great wanted to unify the Roman Empire and he thought he would be able to achieve this if everyone had the same religious beliefs. So he imposed the Nicene Creed on the Church. Anyone who could not go along with the Creed was called a heretic and was liable for punishment. Consequently the two movements eventually died out.

The Reformation caused a huge upheaval in the Church and people began to question the Doctrine of the Trinity. This led to a number of movements, the main one being the Socinians in Poland. (Transylvania had a separate Unitarian Movement.) The Catholic Church in the mid-17th century gave the Socinians an ultimatum, become Catholics or go into exile. Many people chose exile and went to other countries, where they collaborated with other Unitarian thinkers.

Unitarian thought was tolerated in England after an act of toleration in 1689, but they were not allowed to have their own churches. The first separate Unitarian congregation in England was Essex Chapel, opened in London in 1774 but it was not until another act of toleration was passed in 1813, that Unitarian was legalized.

In America, the latter half of the 18th century, saw Arian views expand. A number of churches became Unitarian and King’s Chapel in Boston officially left the Episcopal Church and became Unitarian in 1796.

In 1961, the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America amalgamated and formed what is now the Unitarian Universalist Association.

The Unitarian Movement as a whole, including the UUA, is a very diverse movement. It includes Christians, Buddhists, Pagans, Deists, Theists, Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics. Each church is congregational in structure and there isn’t any one church the same. As a general statement, the Unitarian Movement is humanist/secular in thought. There doesn’t appear to be a very deep spirituality pervading the churches. Many people think that when the church turned humanist/secular the “baby was thrown out with the bath water.” So hence, the Unitarian Christian Movement was formed to bring back some form of spirituality and to follow the teachings of Jesus.

The three tenets of the Unitarian Movement are Freedom, Reason and Tolerance. This is because the Movement holds that God is a God of Diversity and that diversity is good.


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