American Unitarian Conference

Promoting the American Unitarian Tradition

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President's Letter 9/2003


Dear American Unitarian:

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.

I 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. 

 What 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.

 The 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.

May God’s love be with you always.

Yours in faith, freedom, and reason,

David R. Burton


American Unitarian Conference

© 2003 American Unitarian Conference