Monday, July 13, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the UU Principles Vote

As a delegate to the 2009 UU General Assembly, I became engaged in the discussion and vote to amend the UU Principles. The proposed amendments spoke to UU identity and to competencies for UU ministry.

Before GA, I was aware of, but not deeply engaged in, the Commission on Appraisal review of the Principles. The editing of the Principles was minor. The changes to the Sources provoked some concern, but my attention was elsewhere.

The funny thing that happened on the way to the vote were my multiple visits to the HUUmanists booth in the exhibition hall. They had a petition to reject the changes, and I fell into discussion regarding their objections.

I'm not a religious humanist (or at least not exclusively a religious humanist); I'm a mystical nondualist. The HUUmanists objected to the changes in the Sources because they no longer sufficiently acknowledged "Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit." I objected to the deletion of "Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life" as our first source.

I also objected to the new opening to the Sources:
Unitarian Universalism is rooted in two religious heritages. Both are grounded on thousands of years of Jewish and Christian teachings, traditions, and experiences.
The "rooted" imagery gives the impression that UUism still draws its primary nourishment from Judaism and Christianity.

For many of us, the history of Unitarianism is a newly 200-year movement away from Christianity. We draw our spiritual nourishment from other sources. However, the current list of Competencies for UU Ministry, with their privileging of Christian Church history and Jewish and Christian scriptures, does not seem to adequately recognize that change nor the diversity within UUism.

Someone once told me that hymnals often lag behind changes in theology that are appear elsewhere in worship. Is our list of ministerial competencies also lagging behind? Or are we turning back to Christianity, disappointed with humanism and mysticism?


  1. Actually, I read the "two roots" as a specific reference to Unitarianism and Universalism, rather than to Christianity and Judaism per se. Humanism and Mysticism are also a couple of nice roots, both of which are well represented in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and specifically within it's Unitarian and Universalist manifestations. And we could go round and round in circles on this for a long time. Something old, something new, something borrowed....Freedom of Conscience and Salvation by Character basically mean that there are going to be as many "Unitarian Universalisms" as there are individual UUs...and who knows where they've been to pick up their beliefs?

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  4. Thanks for the comment.

    Yes, I read the "two roots" the same way.

    There were many other roots, and the soil was much richer than a loam limited to our Judeo-Christian heritage. An unintended consequence of the metaphor is the image of our "movement" immobilized its heritage.

    Many mystics have been hobbled and some have even by executed by the faith communities from which they sprang. May ours continue to be welcomed and recognized by our free faith.

  5. "Many mystics have been hobbled and some have even by executed by the faith communities from which they sprang. May ours continue to be welcomed and recognized by our free faith."

    Well I can be properly described as a mystic and I was "welcomed" by having my revelatory mystical experience contemptuously dismissed as "your psychotic experience", having my monotheistic religious beliefs that were informed by that mystical experience belittled and maligned as being nothing but "silliness and fantasy", and having the inter-religious celebration of Creation that was inspired by that mystical experience being falsely and maliciously labeled as a "cult" by a bigoted "fundamentalist atheist" Humanist U*U minister. As if that wasn't enough the Unitarian*Universalist Associations' very aptly named Ministerial *Fellowship* Committee is on record as pretending that this intolerant and abusive, insulting and defamatory, "welcoming" of my claimed mystical experience etc. was "within the appropriate guidelines of ministerial leadership". . .