We need to reorganize to create the capacity for evangelism and public theology in UnitarianUniversalism. We exist mostly as congregations, which are culture-bound, inward looking and largely absent from all the spaces where cultural ferment, exploration and networking are going on.
The present division of labor in Unitarian Universalism is that the local congregation does everything of substance and content. The denomination is authorized to speak only on those political and social issues that have been approved by the General Assembly. They may also develop services to serve existing congregations. Not surprisingly, the denominational structure is criticized persistently for being too political and too inward-looking.
The difference between public theology and public witness is that witness speaks, in theory, on behalf of the people to the powers that be. We want Congress to pass Immigration Reform. We want states to end the denial of marriage rights to LGBTQ people. Witness demands, lobbies and protests. Public theology is a conversation with the people about essential reality and the moral/ethical choices that each of us have to make. Public Theology asks whose lives are we indifferent to. Public theology asks how we should live when the civilization we are part of is unsustainable and heading toward the death and suffering of billions of the world's people. Public theology challenges the tendency to go it alone and avoid community in daily life. Liberal public theology challenges the dominant discourse of demonization, and is a voice for humanizing our culture. (Discussion question: how is "standing on the side of love" a demand on government and how is it an ethical demand on ourselves, and on others?)
Again, we are not doing public theology well now, and we are not doing it relationally. We are not finding the people who share our views and developing relationships with them. This is the work of evangelism. We need to reorganize to create the capacity to have that conversation out in the public networks where the people are.