More on the IA Mystery --Going a Little Deeper

Unitarian Universalism is an organizationally anxious denomination.

  • We know that we are not growing fast enough to keep up with the population.
  • It is hard for us to articulate what we feel are our shared message, mission and goals.
  • We feel weak in the overall religious environment of the country.
  • We are diverse in our understanding of what we are and are doing, enough so that when we look around at other UU's, we often feel that we are not sure that we belong. It is easy to imagine that the whole thing could go in a direction where we would no longer feel comfortable.

In sum, most of us want Unitarian Universalism to be stronger, more organized, more powerful and more united, and more capable. At the same time, we see other UU's as potential threats and rivals and obstacles.

I would love it if Unitarian Universalism grew more bigger and more powerful and more organized, IF it still includes me, and the kind of church I serve. If on the other hand, it grows more powerful and strong, but is composed of congregations, theologies and social stances that don't include me, then I am a bit more skeptical.

The Independent Affiliates are the "identified patient" in this anxious system right now.

For a start, the IA's include almost every kind of group.

  • When person X says that they think that the IA's need to be culled, they are thinking "Good, let's get rid of those theological caucuses like CUUPS and the UUCF and the UUBF, who are preventing us from uniting theologically."
  • Person Y is in complete agreement with culling the herd, but is thinking "Great, let's get rid of the weird cause groups: the Polyamorists, the Ethical Animal Crowd, and everybody who creeps me out and stands between me and the bookstore in the exhibition hall."
  • Person Z is thinking, "Get rid of them all, they are distorting GA and keeping it from being a representative body of congregational leaders."
We should understand that no one is stopping us from doing what we need to do, and that culling the herd of Independent Affiliates is not going to strengthen our congregational role in association decision making, nor bring about the discussion that creates greater theological clarity among us, nor strengthen our sense of mission. The IA's are at worst a small distraction to those tasks, if we let ourselves be distracted, but could be important assets in that work.


  1. This is an extremely astute post, applicable not only to the denomination as a whole but to local church politics. (I want my church to grow and be strong and I know that that means a unified message and that's ok as long at that unified message clearly includes me, my beliefs, my style, and my crowd.)


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