Friday 22 July 2011

Why it's hard to be a Unitarian

Ponsonby's distinctive Unitarian church
The Unitarian faith seems the ideal fit for a post-Christian world. Inclusive to a fault; no creeds, no dogma, no barriers to participation.

And yet they're in decline, losing 85% their young people.

In the US the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) turns 50 this year, though the separate strands that led to the merger in 1961 go back hundreds of years.

Unitarians were once a much greater force in New Zealand too, being one of the founding members of the (now defunct) National Council of Churches in 1941.  (Alan Brash, a high profile Presbyterian minister and father of current Act Party leader Don Brash, served as General Secretary of the NCC for seventeen years.)  Today most New Zealanders would know nothing about Unitarians. The only church left in the country is an old wooden structure in the well-heeled Auckland suburb of Ponsonby, now oversize for its small congregation.  Small fellowship groups still meet in rented rooms in three other centres.

An article by Daniel Burke on RNS offers some observations on why this most liberal of faiths is failing to retain traction in these most liberal of times, and asks if they'll still be around in another fifty years.

1 comment:

  1. I'd only known one person from a Unitarian church up until about ten years ago.

    Then, someone on a forum mentioned that UU had been his personal solution to the Armstrong problem, and I investigated a bit.

    This particular gentleman was quite right in his opinion that his new church was very tolerant and understanding. Unlike many mainstream Christian churches, apparently UU welcomes Wiccans, practicing homosexuals, and others who have been portrayed as being flagrant sinners in the Bible. Seems they also teach that all human paths ultimately lead back to God.

    An optimistic Christian might see UU as being a "gateway" church, with the best case scenario being ultimate transformation for sinners seeking God. It is well known that some people or groups are better equipped to reach certain specific types of people. Who knows?