Unitarian Universalists have an outsided fear of creeds. Outsized because the expressed fear, for example,Â doesn’t match the reality of how throughly the “Principles and Purposes” of the Association have become the theological touchstone of the movement, and how theological eclectism, reinforced by middle-class tastes, has become the defacto majority theological view.
I know I’m a theological minority in Unitarian Universalist circles. I’m a Christian, a Universalist and a trinitarian to boot. But this is my home. I am as much an heir to this tradition as those who find themselves more comfortably placed in its mainline. And I think, plainly, that my end of the tradition — far from being dead or antiquarian — has more to offer the next generation than the last, and that its constellation of ethos, charisma (spiritual gifts), customs and theology can be healing, appealing and faithful to Christ and his gospel. (I have similar thoughts about Unitarian ‘biblical humanism’ or ‘lyrical theism’ but am not in a position to work on it. Perhaps someone else can.)
My concern, in plain words, is that Second Universalist would not be allowed to join the UUA. The traditional Universalist way would be to have a member assent to the Winchester Profession, pledge to the financial welfare of the congregation and be bound by a compact or covenant (synonymous here). Member assent is to the Winchester Profession in general, and a congregation could come up with an alternative that, in a sense,Â embedsÂ the meaning of the Winchester Profession. Some did, say the Rhode Island Catechism and the 1903 Creed, perhaps to make them more liturgically useful. (Indeed, the later “Five Principles” and Washington Avowal should be read this way.)
When I read church bylaws that require “sympathy” to the UUA Principles and Purposes, I see a parallel development which justifies rather thanÂ supersedesÂ my reading of Universalist polity. And if a new church cannot do this (that is, gather in the traditional Universalist way)Â then what does it say about current Unitarian Universalist claims to continuity with its Universalist past? What does it say to the remaining Universalist Christian churches? That you’re good enough to stay, but not good enough to have heirs?
And, perhaps more importantly, would the powers-that-be agree with this read, or use it to keep Second Universalist out?