There was a Great Reformation of Unitarian Universalism beginning in the early 1970's. In my previous post, I ascribed this to the empowerment of women as both professional religious leaders and in lay leadership in congregations. I think that my view would be widely supported.
I want to complicate the question from three directions.
One is to ask about the relationship between that development and the Black Empowerment Controversy that preceded it in time.
Looking back to this history through the lens of intersectionality, we should not so easily separate the black rebellion against white racism in the UUA from the women's rebellion against patriarchy in the UUA. These may look like two different movements but they were struggling against a single entity, a white supremacist patriarchy, the generations of white men who owned and controlled the institutions of liberal religion. Who were the black women in those struggles and how did they see the UUA at the time? How would our…
Unitarian Universalism backed into a type of moral reasoning based on principles when we adopted the Seven Principles.
A "principle" is a formalized abstraction. "The inherent worth and dignity of every person." The moral reasoning that follows the promotion of a principle is discerning what they principle means and how to apply it to real life situations. Because we have seven principles, we have to also reason through how this principle relates to others. (Should the first principle be first, or should the last be first.?) And finally, because principles are generalizations, they can be tested by trying to find the boundaries and the exceptions, which leads to a lot of discussions about Hitler. Did Hitler still have worth and dignity?
"Virtues", in contrast, are character traits, habitual behaviors, and a mixtures of emotions and rational thought. A virtue is a way of being human. I have my list of the virtues of liberal religion: self-possession, hon…
“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”
The Eighth Principle brings to the level of our Principles the commitment to anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multiculturalism that we first declared in a Resolution of Immediate Witness in 1994, and further as a Business Resolution in 1997.
The Principles are the statement of our common theology, which, by our many previous commitments, is necessarily a public theology. (As soon as the UU's began to say "Deeds, not Creeds" to describe our theological approach, we withdrew, as a body, from a common approach to the categories of traditional systematic theology.) Unitarian Universalist hold many diverse theological perspectives…
Women. Women remade Unitarian Universalism from the early 70's on. That process is still going on. I can't recount that history; I just want to more accurately frame it. The transformation has been so big, so comprehensive, that it is hard to see. Like the weather and climate: people see the blizzards, the drought and the storms, but can't see the magnitude of the ongoing change.
Women were marginalized in Unitarian Universalism before the 70's. They contributed most of the volunteer labor that sustained the congregations, and all the denominational structures. UUism was no different, in that regard, from most religious denominations. But women were not the ministers, and not at the highest level of denominational leadership. But in process that took decades, women rose to leadership. Not just in the professional ministry, but in lay leadership of local congregations.
Unitarian Universalist theology, liturgy and hymnody were radically changed:
Whereas the main themes of …
I was honored to be invited by Rev. George Kimmich Beach to respond to his lecture at the 16th Annual conference of the James Luther Adams Foundation. His topic was "What is Past is Prologue: James Luther Adams and Unitarian Universalism." Dr. Michael Hogue, of Meadville-Lombard Theological School also responded to his essay. I understand that all of these works will be gathered up and published at some point. But in the meantime, here is my response, not as it was given, and not as it was planned, but as I now would have liked to have delivered it.
If there is anything that I take
from James Luther Adams, it is the necessity of a lively historical
awareness. Not only the knowledge
of previous history, but also an awareness of this present moment as the
product of that history. And more,
this present moment is also a valve moment; a moment through which the past enters into the future. How do we, standing here, tonight,
understand the historical currents that have bro…