American Unitarian Conference

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President's Letter 6/2003


Dear American Unitarian:

We pride ourselves on being a creedless, tolerant and free faith where individuals are free to follow their own path and their own consciences. May it ever be so. This aspect of our faith is often expressed as “Unitarians don’t tell people what to believe” or “Unitarians can believe what they want.” This mode of expression is, I think, an unsatisfactory and inaccurate way of conveying the freedom and tolerance that is so central to our tradition. 

We do, as a group, hold strong opinions about what is right and what is wrong. We have very definite opinions, based on experience and reason, introspection and reflection. The parameters may be broad but there are definite limits. Some of these beliefs are expressed in the AUC Statement of Religious Principles. God exists and there is only one God, for example. Others are not expressed formally in these principles, even though they are widely held and based on our religious understanding. For example, I think it is fair to say that no American Unitarian regards the Bible in the same way as the Revs. Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson. American Unitarians would universally regard as wrong a prohibition on interracial dating or marriage. American Unitarians would reject the atheism and polytheism so common in UUA circles. And so on.

Early American Unitarians such as William Ellery Channing and James Freeman Clarke understood this well. They did, of course, criticize Calvinism and Roman Catholicism, but they spent much of their time developing a constructive, positive program for American Unitarianism. They emphasized the importance of reason and science. But they also emphasized the importance of self-culture and love and trying to improve the world we live in.

The exploration of this “constructive” side of American Unitarianism has spontaneously begun on our internet forum and AUC Chat. But given its practical importance in terms of helping all of us think about how best to lead our lives and showing others the essence of the American Unitarian understanding of the human condition, we will try to more systematically explore these issues in this journal and on the web site.

May God’s peace be with you.

Yours in faith, freedom and reason,

David R. Burton

President, American Unitarian Conference

© 2003 American Unitarian Conference