I am excited about this year’s General Assembly. Not just because it’s our 50th Anniversary of the consolidation of the Universalist Church in America and the American Unitarian Association. Although that’s pretty cool.
What excites me is a recovery and reaffirmation of our Universalist theology. Unitarian theology may be the gate through which many disaffected by orthodoxy enter our congregations in search of a reasoned and genuine religious alternative. But once you are through that gate, the debate over how many parts God does or doesn’t have — 1, 3, none! — is not interesting nor life shaping for very long.
It is our faith conviction in the worth of all souls that keeps us going. We have a proud heritage of standing on the side of both love and human dignity. Our faith has called us many a time to stand with those marginalized by the larger society — dismantling slavery, legitimating women’s voices for society, bringing an end to segregation, affirming the humanity of gay and lesbian people and, increasingly, walking our talk vis a vis immigration and the rights of migrants. How good to know we can be counted on to show up and resist injustice whenever and wherever it appears. “Standing on the Side of Love” is not just a new popular hymn. It is an affirmation of our core values.
I see a resurgence of Universalist teaching as our UUA turns 50. Recall, our ancestors asserted that, whatever else the it was/is, the holy is found in loving action. Hence, we were known as the “no hell” church and the “love church,” in part because we could not believe a true god would create us frail and then sentence us to eternal torment for our failings. Salvation had to be for all! Today, that translates to a faith that never gives up on anyone. It is one that calls us to know and live the truth: each and all are loved, lovable, and able to love. (We’ll save for another time discussing just how hard that can be.)
At the time of the consolidation there was a justified fear the more numerous Unitarians would swallow up the Universalists. Too often, we have short-handed our name to Unitarian, reflecting that bias. Yet, the truly inspiring teaching among us is the call to affirm and to promote human dignity for all souls. The Free Church (oh, had we renamed ourselves that!) is vital and our future is bright as we become known once again and live more fully what it means to be “the love church.”
May love bless you and keep you. And may you give it, always in all ways. Rev. Kenn
PS: Scholar Karen Armstrong delivers the Ware Lecture at GA this year. Check out her “Charter for Compassion” (www.charterforcompassion.org) for a modern version of pure Universalist teaching.
PPS: If you cannot attend GA, be sure to check out the UUA website for live streaming, podcasts, and daily reports on the Assembly.