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A Church Grows in Charlotte

Alan H. Cousin


He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?  --  Micah 6:8

With this verse from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Rev. Brian Waldrop, D.D., announced the formation of a new Unitarian church in the Charlotte, N.C. area in late 2001--a Unitarian church unlike any other in the area and, indeed, unique among Unitarian churches in general.

For this fellowship, Dr. Waldrop proposed the unusual and intriguing name of Saint Anthony's Church.  It was so unexpected to see a Unitarian church named for a Catholic saint, that one couldn't help asking why. It helps to understand that Dr. Waldrop is an ordained Anglican priest, and has no intention of severing his Anglican ties.  But his theology is what he calls "classical Unitarian."  That will be the theological spirit of Saint Anthony's, while its liturgy will be largely Anglican, adapted from that of King's Chapel in Boston. The name itself hearkens back to the eponymous early Church father's own, possibly proto-Unitarian, theology.  Dr. Waldrop says Catholic and Anglican churches gloss this over, but he believes it is by no means clear that Anthony accepted the doctrine of the Trinity or of Jesus' divinity. Dr. Waldrop also believes that Anthony provides a role model for the new fellowship.  Anthony "took it upon himself to help the poor, to do social ministry with the downtrodden."  Dr. Waldrop hopes Saint Anthony's Church will do likewise.  He envisions a soup kitchen, a job service for the unemployed, and perhaps a shelter for the homeless. The point about social ministry begs the question, "Will Saint Anthony's be involved in politics?" Dr. Waldrop says he can't rule that out, but that isn't his intention; his intention is to do something to help the poor, not to agitate for legislation or regulation.

Saint Anthony's is still in the earliest formative stage. Estimating conservatively, Dr. Waldrop believes Saint Anthony's could have 30 to 35 members by the end of 2002.

Dr. Waldrop says Saint Anthony's growth potential is "explosive at best and steady at worst." He believes the church should attract a lot of theologically more conservative Unitarians frustrated by the non-theistic local Unitarian-Universalist churches, and other Christians "burned by fundamentalism." He reminded me that his area is "the flat of the buckle of the Bible belt," so he thinks an openly Christian Unitarian church is best suited to serve the population there; and that is what he intends Saint Anthony's to be.

About the author: Alan H. Cousin is Director of Communications for the American Unitarian Conference. He lives in Quincy, Mass.

2002 American Unitarian Conference