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What Is Unitarian Universalism?

The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations is based in Boston, Massachusetts.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2014
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Unitarian Universalism is a non-creedal faith that is open to persons from a wide range of faith and philosophical backgrounds. Unlike many religious or spiritual approaches, Unitarian Universalism tends to lean more toward openness to finding truth from a variety of different sources. In general, the faith urges a combination of seeking to discover truths through organized religion, science, the arts, and all types of personal and corporate experience.

The main proponent of Unitarian Universalism is the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, based in Boston, Massachusetts. The UUA was formed in 1961 by a merger between the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America. For a number of years, these two liberal Christian denominations had become increasingly close in their philosophies regarding social issues and had often entered joint projects for community service and worship materials.

During the latter part of the 20th century, Unitarian Universalism came to be thought of as a truly liberal faith. Understanding itself as being a covenental faith rather than a creed based faith, Unitarian Universalism was able to attract persons from a wide range of religious backgrounds. Today, the faith includes persons from Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, Buddhist, and other religious backgrounds. Agnostics and atheists are also welcome within Unitarian Universalist congregations, since the unifying principles of the faith have to do with outward action and not with promoting a personal or corporate belief system that can serve as a test of fellowship.

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In congregational polity, Unitarian Universalism places a great deal of autonomy with the local church or fellowship. The local body may choose to employ a minister or function as a lay-led group. Individual congregations tend to have their own unique feel, based on the collective beliefs held by the persons who attend.

As a denomination, Unitarian Universalism is organized with a central headquarters that functions as a means of centralizing the efforts to promote the faith and provide resources to the local congregation. Field organization includes the use of districts, which are essentially collections of congregations within a given geographical area. The organization holds an annual General Assembly, which provides a forum for adherents to gather and discuss issues of common interest, worship together in a variety of different traditions, and prepare statements that represent the public stance for the faith. However, it should be noted that the statements issued by the General Assembly are not considered binding on any congregation or individual member of the faith.

With no creed or statement of faith to act as a unifying statement, Unitarian Universalism relies on statements that outline the general understandings that Unitarian Universalist members tend to hold. Currently, this is expressed in what is known as the Seven Principles. The contents of this document promote the responsible search for understanding, knowledge, and enlightenment, as well as promoting the Unitarian Universalist understanding of the inherent worth of all people.

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