American Unitarian Conference™
Promoting the American Unitarian Tradition
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President's Letter 9/2003
Unitarians are notorious for their lack of interest or unwillingness to proselytize. It is, undoubtedly, one of the reasons that the faith has not grown. By proselytizing I mean witnessing about the American Unitarian faith, bringing it to the attention of those who are unfamiliar with it and persuasively explaining it with conviction to newcomers or those that may have misconceptions about our faith.
am not entirely sure why American Unitarians have proved such poor
promoters of the faith for so long. Perhaps they felt that surely their
fellow Americans would come to see the truth and find their way to
Unitarian Churches in the fullness of time. Perhaps, it was a
misunderstanding of what a tolerant and inclusive faith is about—it is
not about indifference or lack of principle. Less charitably, they may
have felt they were too good to engage in the dirty business of
salesmanship or they may have lacked the courage of their convictions.
It may have been some other reason.
is clear is that we need to change our ways. Over a century of
experience has made it manifestly clear that American Unitarians need to
change their attitude and religious demeanor. We need to become more
evangelical. If we do not, American Unitarianism will continue to shrink
relative to the population and will continue to decline in absolute
terms. This decline has already progressed so far that the resources to
do many of the things a faith should simply are not available, and many
American Unitarians find it difficult to find a place to worship.
American Unitarian Conference was created to reverse this decline and
we, its members, are the key to reversing the decline. There is no one
else. If we do not promote our faith, then our faith will not be living
faith for many of our own members and the good news of our faith will
not be there for our children or our fellow Americans.
Each and every one of us needs to witness about our faith. We need to
let our friends and neighbors—whether orthodox Christian, UU or
unchurched—know about our faith and why it means so much to us. Many
will be pleasantly surprised, including no doubt some UUs unfamiliar
with the American Unitarian tradition, to learn about a rational
God-centered religious tradition such as ours that may be a more fully
developed and coherent version of convictions they already hold. Others
may be persuaded that our views represent the truth and change their
religious convictions accordingly. One thing is sure. Unless we few
witness our faith, American Unitarianism will never grow, and we will
not bring more Americans into the American Unitarian fold. I can also
say this. My experience is that there is little that has a more positive
impact on your own faith and your understanding of our faith than
explaining the faith in detail to others.
God’s love be with you always.
in faith, freedom, and reason,
David R. Burton
© 2003 American Unitarian Conference™