In the 1980’s, Unitarian Universalists congregations across North America met in focus groups to consider a set of Principles we could all mostly agree with and a set of Sources from which we draw our inspiration.
This process took three years of discussion, from 1981 to 1984, and then the fine points of language were struggled with and agreed upon with a final vote at the 1985 General Assembly. Another source was added in 1995.
We are clear that these Principles and Sources will change as our collective understanding changes. Following are the Principles and Sources in the words that are written into our Association’s bylaws.
We, the Member Congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, Covenant to Affirm and Promote:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person,
- Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations,
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations,
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning,
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large,
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all,
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
The Living Tradition We Share Draws from Many Sources:
- 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 that create and uphold life,
- Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love,
- Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life,
- Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves,
- 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,
- Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
“Grateful for the religious pluralism that enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into the covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and respect.”
Brief Introduction to Unitarian Universalist History and Current Thinking
We are both an old and a new religion.
The unitarian and universalist ideas go as far back as the Nicea Council in 326 when one theological position was unitarian (the wholeness of God via Arius, the presbyter) and the other position was trinitarian (God as three-in-one via Athanasius, a bishop). Universal salvation was also held by many early church fathers.
Following the decision to adopt the Apostle’s Creed, these ideas were heretical and people were killed for espousing them. Following the Reformation in the sixteenth century, people who held these ideas eventually formed liberal religious organizations in Europe and later in eighteenth and nineteenth century America.
In the twentieth century, the Unitarians and the Universalists found they had more similarities than differences and so they merged in 1961. As our congregations struggled with the questions of traditional Christianity, they recognized that their religious response to the world was deeply inspired by Judeo-Christian teachings and many other teachings.
Following is a quote from the Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide, page x of the Preface:
“To be human is to be religious. To be religious is to make connections. The word religio in Latin means to reconnect. To lead a meaningful life among the many competing forces of the twenty-first century, each of us needs support in making meaningful reconnections to the best in our global heritage, the best in others, and the best in ourselves.”