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Unitarian Universalists

 

Written and compiled by George Knowles. 

 

The Unitarian Universalist Association is a liberal religious denomination formed in 1961 by a merger of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America.  By the mid-19th century the Unitarians and Universalists held to a similar but separate set of principles, each with a strong emphasis on congregational independence and humanitarian concerns.  During the early half of the 1900’s, each began to promote closer cooperation and in 1953 the Council of Liberal Churches was formed bringing together their publishing and educational programs.  After a plebiscite in 1959 showed that members in both groups were in favor of complete union, separate denominational meetings ratified a common charter in 1960 and the merger was completed the following year.

The Association has no official statement of faith and does not require its ministers or members to subscribe to any particular religion, indeed congregations may include many widely different beliefs and practices.  Their headquarters are located in Boston, from where they coordinate ministers' associations, women's federations, service committees and religious education throughout 23 administrative districts across the U.S.A. and Canada.  There are currently some 950 churches with about 172,000 members in the U.S.A., and about 48 churches and some 6200 members in Canada.  The organization holds an annual general assembly and is associated with the International Association for Liberal Christianity and Religious Freedom. 

 

While the Unitarian Universalist Association is relatively new, its two separate halves have a long history and because of their similarities it is interesting to look back at history to see how each evolved and eventually became united.  History shows that belief in Unitarianism has been around since ancient times, while Universalism as a separate belief began in the 1750’s.   

 

In the early development of the Christian church, believers were able to choose from a variety of tenets about Jesus.  Among these was a belief that Jesus was an entity sent by God on a divine mission.  As such the word ‘Unitarian’ evolved describing the belief in the oneness of God, or a person who rejected the doctrine of Trinity, and believed that God was a single being.  Another religious choice was universal salvation.  This was the belief that God could not condemn a person to eternal damnation.  Thus a Universalist believed that all people could be saved.   

 

Briefly then, Unitarianism is a religious movement that affirms the undivided unity of God, as opposed to the Christian Trinity (the unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead), and the humanity of Jesus as a person rather than his divinity. Their religion emphasizes personal responsibility and reliance on conscience and reason rather than on doctrine or external authority.  Universalism on the other hand is a religious faith incorporating many Christian tenets.  Its members believe in universal salvation, or, as it is now generally stated, in the eternal progress of all souls.  Universalists claim that this doctrine is contained in the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus, and conforms to the laws of nature as taught by science and sanctioned by reason and philosophy. 

 

In 325 CE (Common Era), Christianity lost its element of choice when the Nicene Creed established the Trinity as dogma.  For centuries thereafter, people who professed Unitarian or Universalist beliefs were persecuted. 

 

The Unitarians 

 

The early philosophy of the Unitarian movement goes back to very ancient times and was spread by various heretical sects and cults including such people as:  Origen, Pelagius and Nestorius. 

 

Origen - Origenists 

 

Origen was born in Alexandria, Egypt, were according to standard church histories, he was a student of Clement of Alexandria.  Origen taught in the city for about 28 years, instructing Christians and pagans.  He composed his major dogmatic treatises there and began his many critical works.  Visiting Palestine in 216, Origen who was essentially a layperson, was invited by the bishop of Jerusalem and the bishop of Caesarea to lecture in their churches about the Scriptures. 

 

In around 230, the same bishops ordained him a presbyter without consulting Origen's own bishop, Demetrius of Alexandria.  Demetrius objected and two synods were held at Alexandria, the first forbidding Origen to teach there, and the second depriving him of his priesthood.  Origen then settled at Caesarea and founded a school of literature, philosophy and theology, his follows became known as Origenists.  During the persecutions of the Christians in 250 under Emperor Decius, Origen was imprisoned and tortured.  Released in 251, but weakened by injuries, he died about 254, probably in Tyre. 

 

Origen may well have been the most accomplished biblical scholar of the early church.  His accomplishments as an interpreter and student of the texts of the Old Testament were outstanding.  He was a prolific writer whose works include letters, treatises on dogma and practical theology, apologetics and the interpretation of textual criticism.  His ‘Contra Celsum’ (Against Celsus) is a closely reasoned long apologetic work refuting arguments advanced by the philosopher Celsus, an influential 2nd-century Platonist of Alexandria and perhaps the first serious critic of Christianity. 

 

Origen was regarded as the father of the allegorical method of scriptural interpretation.  He taught the principle of the threefold sense, corresponding to the threefold division of the person into body, spirit and soul, which was then a common concept.  As a Platonist and advocate of the teachings of Plato (427 – 347 BC), he endeavoured to combine Greek philosophy with the Christian religion.  He developed the idea of Christ as the Logos, or Incarnate Word, who was with the Father from eternity, but he also taught that the Son was subordinate to the Father in power and dignity.  This latter doctrine and others, such as that of the pre-existence of the soul, were severely criticized by many of Origen's contemporaries and subsequent writers.  Theories that were developed from his doctrines became the subject of considerable theological controversy during the middle ages. 

 

Pelagius - Pelagianism 

 

Pelagianism in Christian theology was a rationalistic and naturalistic heretical doctrine concerning grace and morals, it emphasized human free will as the decisive element in human perfectibility and minimized or denied the need for divine grace and redemption.  The Romano-British monk Pelagius, a man of considerable learning and austere moral character, formulated the doctrine.  In about 390 he went to Rome, where he was appalled by the lax of morals exhibited by the Roman Christians, so he began to preach Christian asceticism and soon recruited many followers.  His strict moral teaching gained particular success in southern Italy and Sicily, were it was preached openly until the death (circa 455) of his foremost disciple, Julian of Eclanum. 

 

Pelagius denied the existence of original sin and the need for infant baptism.  He argued that the corruption of the human race was not inborn, but was due to bad example and habit, and that the natural faculties of humanity were not adversely affected by Adam's fall.  Human beings could lead lives of righteousness and therefore merit heaven by their own efforts.  He asserted that true grace lies in the natural gifts of humanity, including free will, reason and conscience.  He also recognized what he called external graces, including the Mosaic Law (of Moses i.e. the Ten Commandments) and the teachings and example of Christ, which stimulate the will from the outside but have no indwelling divine power.  For Pelagius, faith and dogma hardly mattered because the essence of religion is moral action.  His belief in the moral perfectibility of humanity was evidently derived from Stoicism (a Greek school of philosophy founded about 300 BC by Zeno of Citium). 

 

Pelagius settled in Palestine in about 412, and enjoyed the support of John the bishop of Jerusalem.  His views were popular in the East, especially among the Origenists.  Later Pelagius’ disciples Celestius and Julian were welcomed in Constantinople by the patriarch Nestorius, who sympathized with their integrity and independence of will.  It was about this time in 412, that St. Augustine of Hippo (one of the early Christian leaders and writers known as the Fathers of the Church) wrote a series of works in which he attacked Pelagius and others for their doctrine of human moral autonomy.  Instead he maintained the orthodox Christian doctrine of original sin and the necessity of divine grace.  As a result of Augustine's criticisms, Pelagius was accused of heresy, but was acquitted at synods in Jerusalem and Diospolis.  Later in 418, a council at Carthage condemned Pelagius and his followers, and soon afterwards Pope Zosimus banished him from Rome. 

 

Nestorius - Nestorianism 

 

Nestorius was the archbishop of Constantinople from 428 to 431, and preached a variant of the orthodox doctrine concerning the nature of Jesus Christ.  The orthodox doctrine is that Christ has two natures, one divine and one human, which although distinct are joined in one person and substance; Nestorius claimed that in Christ a divine and a human person acted as one, but did not join to compose the unity of a single individual.  Also, according to Nestorius, the Virgin Mary could not be called Mother of God (as she was deemed by more orthodox Christians), because her son Jesus was born as a man, his divine nature being derived not from her but from the Father who begot him. 

 

Nestorius’ theories spread throughout the Byzantine Empire during the early 5th century and caused much argument.  In 431 the Council of Ephesus declared the Nestorian beliefs to be a heresy and drove him out of the empire, they also persecuted his followers.  The Nestorians sought refuge in Persia, India, China and Mongolia where in early medieval times the Nestorian church became quite powerful, although it was greatly reduced by later persecutions. 

 

By the time of the Reformation in the 16th century, theologians all over Europe began again to question the doctrine of the Trinity.  However Unitarian belief was only tolerated in Poland and the principality of Transylvania.  Unitarian refugees, primarily from Italy, found a sanctuary in Poland and from 1548 to 1574 they were strong enough to form a separate church and flourished until the mid-17th century.  In Transylvania, the Unitarians persisted separately from the Reformation. 

 

In England, in 1548, a priest named John Ashton was accused of Arianism, by denying the equal divinity of the three persons of the Trinity.  Ashton only escaped persecution by recanting his belief, but during the next half century a number of others suffered martyrdom on similar charges.  During the reign of James I, King of England (1603-25), Socinianism, named for the Italian-Polish Unitarian leader Faustus Socinus, held considerable influence in England.  However, the English reformer John Biddle (1615-1662) is generally regarded as the founder of Unitarianism in England.  Biddle was prosecuted and imprisoned for a time in 1645, having written and published a denial of the doctrine of the Trinity.  Published statements of his denial were then burned in 1647 by order of Parliament.  Later publications of his views were also suppressed, and only the intervention of Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of England, prevented Biddle from being executed as a heretic.  Later, he was prosecuted again and unrepentant, died for his views in prison. 

 

After the death of Biddle, the Unitarian society in England failed to survive without him, and had no further organized existence for another 25 plus years.  In 1689, after the passing of the Toleration Act, people in England were again allowed to adopt Unitarian opinions. 

 

In America after 1740, Arian views in reaction to the Calvinism of American Protestantism were widely diffused among the New England clergy.  In 1796 King's Chapel in Boston officially adopted Unitarianism and left the Episcopal Church.  By imperceptible degrees many of the New England churches became Unitarian, but not until 1815 was the name openly used and some 120 Congregational churches in New England adopted Unitarian principles.  By 1825, The American Unitarian Association was formed and a national conference was added in 1865.  Local churches retained their independence in accordance with Congregational polity.  In 1961 the association then joined with the Universalist Church of America to form the Unitarian Universalist Association, with headquarters in Boston. 

 

Basic Doctrine 

 

Unitarians are generally agreed in rejecting the entire orthodox outlook. They deny the doctrines of the Trinity, the vicarious atonement, the deity of Jesus Christ, original sin, and everlasting punishment, regarding them as both unscriptural and irrational. They celebrate the Eucharist, not as a sacrament, but as a commemoration of Jesus' death and as an expression of spiritual communion with him. They adhere to the rite of infant baptism, although a few Unitarian Baptist churches restrict baptism to adults. 

 

The Universalists 

 

In about 1750 an organization calling itself the Universalists was created in London.  Before that time believers in universal salvation were affiliated with sects bearing various names, among them the Origenists and Merciful Doctors.  In the United States, the most important early leader was a British opponent of Calvinism, John Murray, who began preaching in New Jersey in 1770.

 

John Murray (1741-1815) 

 

John Murray was originally a Methodist clergyman, born in Alton, Hampshire, England, but he was excommunicated from the Whitefield's Tabernacle in London, after accepting Universalist principles.  He later became known as the father of American Universalism.  In 1770 he immigrated to America and began to preach the doctrine of universal salvation throughout New England.  During the American Revolution he served as chaplain in the Continental Army, and later established a Universalist society at Gloucester, Massachusetts.  In 1779 he formed the first organized Universalist Church in America, the Independent Christian Church of Gloucester, Massachusetts. 

 

Another influential leader was Hosea Ballou, a New England schoolteacher and clergyman.

 

Hosea Ballou (1771-1852) 

 

Hosea Ballou was an American Universalist clergyman and liberal religious thinker influential in the dissemination of Universalism in America.  Ordained a minister of the Universalist Church in 1794, Ballou stressed the use of reason in religious thinking.  He held that it is impossible to defend the doctrines of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, or eternal punishment.  A benevolent deity he maintained will ultimately save all of humankind.  Ballou was a prolific author; his writings include some 10,000 sermons, numerous essays, pamphlets, poems, letters and hymns.  He was also the founder and editor of The Universalist Magazine (1819) and The Universalist Expositor (1830). 

 

The Universalist Church at various times became subdivided, chiefly by the breakaway of the Restorationists in 1831, a group that dissolved a decade later.  They maintained that the wicked would pass through a temporary state of punishment after death, whereas the original Universalists maintained that for sin there is no punishment, except the consequences in this life. 

 

Statements of Universalists principles have been formulated at various times, as at Philadelphia in 1790, in the Winchester Profession of 1805, at Boston in 1899 and at Washington, D.C., in 1935.  In general, these statements agreed on a refusal to adopt any specific creed.  A final statement was made in the 1942 charter of the Universalists Church of America, in which the group adopted the principle of promoting “harmony among adherents of all religious faiths.”  Their work is largely humanitarian among underprivileged groups in the U.S. and elsewhere.  They joined with the American Unitarian Association in 1961 to form the Unitarian Universalists Association. 

 

In Europe very few churches took the Universalist name, but the doctrine of Universalism found favor, and in some instances open advocacy in churches of various names.  Today many Unitarians in Europe and America are avowed Universalists, just as the Universalists are generally Unitarians, and so they joined forces.

 

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)

 

The UUA is a liberal religious denomination formed in 1961 by a merger of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America.  By the mid-19th century the Unitarians and Universalists held to a similar but separate set of principles, each with a strong emphasis on congregational independence and humanitarian concerns.  During the early half of the 1900’s, each began to promote closer cooperation and in 1953 the Council of Liberal Churches was formed bringing together their publishing and educational programs.  After a plebiscite in 1959 showed that members in both groups were in favor of complete union, separate denominational meetings ratified a common charter in 1960 and the merger was completed the following year.

The UUA has no official statement of faith and does not require its Ministers or members to subscribe to any particular religion, indeed congregations may include many widely different beliefs and practices.  Their headquarters are located in Boston, from where they coordinate Ministers’ Associations, Women’s Federations, Service Committees and Religious Education throughout 23 administrative districts across the U.S.A. and Canada.  There are currently some 950 UU Churches with about 172,000 members in the U.S.A., and about 48 Churches and some 6200 members in Canada.  The organization holds an annual General Assembly and is associated with the International Association for Liberal Christianity and Religious Freedom.

The Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) is an independent affiliate of the UUA, and was chartered by them as a liturgical and theological community in 1987, making it the first Pagan organization to be formally accepted into a “mainstream” religion.  Membership of CUUPS is open to all UU members and those in sympathy with UU beliefs, purposes and principles.  One of the beliefs of the UUA is:  “The spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred Circle of Life and instructs us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature”.

 

End.

 

 

Best wishes and Blessed Be

 

 

Site Contents - Links to all Pages

 

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Wicca & Witchcraft

 

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Traditional Writings:

 

 Wiccan RedeCharge of the GoddessCharge of the God  /  The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) /  The Witches ChantThe Witches CreedDescent of the GoddessDrawing Down the MoonThe Great Rite InvocationInvocation of the Horned GodThe 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief /  The Witches Rede of ChivalryA Pledge to Pagan Spirituality

 

Correspondence Tables:

 

IncenseCandlesColoursMagickal DaysStones and GemsElements and Elementals

 

Traditions:

 

Traditions Part 1  -  Alexandrian Wicca /  Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) /  Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) /  Blue Star Wicca /  British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) /  Celtic Wicca /  Ceremonial Magic /  Chaos Magic /  Church and School of Wicca /  Circle Sanctuary /  Covenant of the Goddess (COG) /  Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) /  Cyber Wicca /  Dianic Wicca /  Eclectic Wicca /  Feri Wicca /

 

Traditions Part 2 Gardnerian Wicca /  Georgian Tradition /  Henge of Keltria /  Hereditary Witchcraft /  Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) /  Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) /  Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition /  Nordic Paganism /  Pagan Federation /  Pectic-Wita /  Seax-Wica /  Shamanism /  Solitary /  Strega /  Sylvan Tradition /  Vodoun or Voodoo /  Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /

 

Other things of interest:

 

Gods and Goddesses (Greek Mythology)Esbats & Full MoonsLinks to Personal Friends & ResourcesWicca/Witchcraft ResourcesWhat's a spell?Circle Casting and Sacred Space /  Pentagram - PentacleMarks of a WitchThe Witches PowerThe Witches HatAn esoteric guide to visiting LondonSatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  /  Part 2 Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection) /  The History of ThanksgivingI have a Dream, the 1963 speach by civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King /  Auras by Graham Furnell - Part 1 and Part 2 /

 

Sabbats and Rituals:

 

Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)

 

Rituals contributed by Crone:  Samhain / YuleImbolcOstara /  BeltaneLithaLammasMabon

 

Tools:

 

Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron MagickMirror Gazing

 

Animals:

 

Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) /  AntelopeBatsCrowFoxFrog and ToadsGoat / HoneybeeKangarooLionOwlPhoenixRabbits and HaresRavenRobin RedbreastSheep SpiderSquirrelSwansWild Boar /  Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat

 

Trees:

 

In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar.  For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following:  Birch /  Rowan / Ash /  Alder /  Willow /  Hawthorn /  Oak /  Holly /  Hazel /  Vine /  Ivy /  Reed /  ElderAlso see:  The Willow Tree (Folk Music)

 

Sacred Sites:

 

Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /

 

Rocks and Stones:

 

Stones - History, Myths and Lore

 

 Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:   / Apophyllite  / Amber AmethystAquamarineAragoniteAventurineBlack TourmalineBloodstoneCalciteCarnelianCelestiteCitrineChrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / FluoriteGarnet /  Hematite Herkimer DiamondLabradoriteLapis LazuliMalachiteMoonstoneObsidianOpalPyriteQuartz (Rock Crystal)Rose QuartzRubySeleniteSeraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodaliteSunstoneThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble

 

Wisdom:

 

Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakeningThe Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods

 

Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:

 

Murder by WitchcraftThe Fairy Witch of ClonmelA Battleship, U-boat, and a WitchThe Troll-Tear (A story for Children)Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife /  The Story of Jack-O-LanternThe Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) /  The Two Brothers - Light and Dark

 

Old Masters of Academia:

 

Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras

 

Biographies

 

Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)

 

Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)

 

Abramelin the MageAgrippaAidan A. KellyAlbertus Magnus “Albert the Great”Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” Alison HarlowAmber KAnna Franklin /  Anodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey  / Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite Austin Osman SpareBiddy EarlyBridget ClearyCarl Llewellyn WeschckeCecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey LelandCharles Walton /  Christina Oakley Harrington /  Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) /   Dion FortuneDolores Aschroft-NowickiDorothy MorrisonDoreen ValienteEdward FitchEleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” /  Dr. John Dee and Edward KellyDr. Leo Louis Martello /  Eliphas LeviErnest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry /  Fiona Horne /  Friedrich von SpeeFrancis Barrett /  Gerald B. GardnerGavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gwydion PendderwenHans Holzer /  Helen DuncanHerman Slater "Horrible Herman" /  Israel RegardieJames "Cunning" MurrellJanet Farrar & Gavin BoneJessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne John George Hohman /  John GerardJohn Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) /  John Michael Greer /  John ScoreJohannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von EckartshausenLaurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis Spence /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMarie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMatthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General”Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata /  Monique Wilson the “Queen of the WitchesMontague SummersNicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellersMrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-RavenheartOld Dorothy ClutterbuckOld George Pickingill /   Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsusPatricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPhilip Emmons Isaac Bonewits Philip HeseltonRaymond BucklandReginald ScotRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /  Rudolf Steiner /  Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & DruidsSabrina - The Ink WitchScott CunninghamSelena FoxSilver Ravenwolf /  Sir Francis DashwoodSir James George FrazerS.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  StarhawkStewart FarrarSybil LeekTed AndrewsThe Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather /  Thomas AdyVera Chapman /  Victor Henry AndersonVivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest

 

 

Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)

 

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