Replacing or Supplementing the UUA?

The new Pew study shows that 76% of Unitarian-Universalists are not affiliated with the Unitarian-Universalist Association.  In recent years, the UUA has taken an increasingly narrow definition of its purpose and constituency: it serves UU congregations, not individual UUs, not para-church UU organizations, not UU theological sub-groups, etc.  In fact, the full name of the UUA is actually “Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.”

It seems to make little sense, when you think about it, that so many UUs look to the UUA as the “mothership,” the “denominational headquarters,” or “the authority” in UUism.  The famous seven principles of the UUA are not a creed for Unitarian-Universalism.  The UUA is a minority voice in UUism that is representative of less than 1/4 of American UUs, albeit an extremely important voice.  No one is denying that, as Chutney pointed out, UU congregations form the backbone of the Unitarian-Universalist movement in America.  Yet they are still a statistically small part of the story, and no matter how we fidget with the numbers, we can’t deny this.

The UUA was never intended as the Unitarian-Universalist Vatican.   And it is becoming increasingly clear that the UUA does not intend to overstep its mandate.  Therefore, the natural question to ask is whether the UUA should be replaced by a more representative body, or, probably better still, augmented by a second, larger national/international organization designed to serve either those other 76% of America UUs or perhaps all 100%, be they congregation members or otherwise.  This is not meant to denigrate the work of the UUA, but to look at what the options potentially are.

In previous times, the Unitarians and the Universalists had all sorts of corporate bodies, ranging from large autonomous district organizations to national groups composed of individuals to associations of congregations.  The UUA is not destiny or the end of the story, nor is it at all fully representative of who we have been and who we may become.  Rather, it is a product of a particular time and a particular way of thinking about denominational organization.  It is good that the UUA is going through serious consideration of its mission and purpose; all UUs, if possible, should likewise be considering the present and future and wondering if things can’t be done better, perhaps with new organizations to supplement the important work of the UUA.  What would other models of affiliation/association look like?  How would they be run?  Who would they include?  What services would they provide?  What would there functions be?  It seems reasonable to imagine that the UUA could be supplemented with not only one national body, but multiple ones.

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7 Comments

Filed under Unitarian-Universalism

7 responses to “Replacing or Supplementing the UUA?

  1. I wonder if it would be helpful to look at how the many different Baptist conferences work. And how parachurch organizations typically work. No reason to reinvent the wheel, right?

  2. Thanks so much for the information you’ve provided! I would like to know what percentage of other religious people are unaffiliated with a particular church, synagogue, mosque or other house of worship. I know an Episcopal who never attends church, not even for Christmas or Easter. Perhaps this sort of thing is common in other faiths?

    Or maybe not. There are so few UU congregations in the United States that a number of UUs don’t have one in their area. A few members of my congregation drive an hour or more in order to attend. I don’t think I would do that. I’d probably listen to an occasional web-streamed worship service and leave it at that.

  3. crazyredhead

    Do you count those of us who are members of Church of the Larger Fellowship as “unaffiliated”?

  4. Jeff, I find myself mind-boggled at your comment.
    You really think that UUs (including folks reading this blog) would pay lots of money to have someone tell us what to do?

  5. Jeff

    Steve, your comment was too short, I’m not sure what you’re referring to. I certainly don’t intend to have someone tell UUs what to do, whether they’re paying for it or not.

    Crazyredhead, the Church of the Larger Fellowship is a member “congregation” of the UUA, so its members are included in the tally of the affiliated.

  6. Pingback: Round-up of Pew Research on UUs, Americans’ Religious Liberalism « Transient and Permanent

  7. Pingback: Philocrites on UU Demographics | Monkey Mind

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