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A Brief Statement on Universalism
Revised March, 19, 2001
|The founders of the AUC have been asked many times
about universalist theology and its role in our association. Much of
this questioning stems from the fact that Unitarianism and Universalism
have been assumed linked for many years, most notably linked in name by
the existence of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
First and foremost, the use of the name American Unitarian Conference is by no means intended to signal a rejection of Universalist theology. It was primarily a practical matter to not use both Unitarian and Universalist in the name.
When the American Unitarian Conference was formed in 2000, we of course had many options for our name. Out of legal necessity the founders of the AUC rejected any name with the phrase "Unitarian Universalist" in its title since this precise phrase is Trademarked by the Unitarian Universalist Association. Variations on that phrase, such as "Universalist Unitarian Association" or any other name using both of those words would only be confusing as well. Also, the sheer length of any name using both words along with any other descriptors becomes unwieldy in length. American Unitarian Conference is long enough.
An equally important issue was the theological statement the name makes. The name Unitarian Universalist implies that one is a Universalist of a Unitarian sort. However, not all Unitarians hold a Universalist theology, nor do all Universalists hold a Unitarian theology. The founders of the AUC are decidedly Unitarian in our beliefs, and choose to follow the American Unitarian tradition in our religious journey. As American Unitarians, we believe in the traditional American Unitarian belief that there is a God, there is but one God, and that that God is known to us in a myriad of ways. That is the first principle of the AUC for good reason, it is central to our faith tradition. Nothing in our principles closes the door to Universalist theology. The theological framework of the AUC is fully consistent with the belief in universal salvation as held by many Unitarians, yet that theological framework also leaves room for those that do not believe in universal salvation. The AUC has an open door for all believers and seekers of God, Universalist or not.
It seems that many who have asked the question of why we didn't include Universalist in the name have made the assumption that Unitarianism and Universalism were somehow inextricably linked because the old AUA and the UCA merged in 1961. It seems a bit arrogant to assume that because two associations merged and formed a new association that the preceding theologies would cease to exist as valid theologies by themselves. To this day their are Trinitarian Universalists and non-universalist Unitarians. These theologies are perfectly valid and stand on their own, we should respect those chosen paths, not assume that they are somehow outmoded because of the merger of two corporate bodies decades ago.
As one of the founders of the AUC, I personally believe in salvation as a state of mind, the salve that makes us spiritually whole, and that we strive to achieve that salvation here on earth for ourselves and for others. I do not know if there is salvation in the after life, and I do not believe that I can truly know if it exists, it is a mystery that I can only ponder. Therefore, since I can not say that all members of the human race have achieved salvation by becoming spiritually whole during their lifetime, and I can not say that all will achieve salvation in the after life, I personally do not believe in a literal universal salvation. But that is only how I know God. Others within the AUC will know God in other ways, and many of them will believe in universal salvation. There is room for that in the AUC, room to hold our myriad of views on salvation, and opportunity to share our views on salvation with each other.
One further thought that I have on salvation is this - it isn't important whether or not I believe that salvation exists, what is important is that I live my life as though it does.
The following statement is a well known Universalist statement known as the Williams Covenant, written by Universalist minister Griswald Williams:
"Love is the doctrine of this church, the quest of truth is its sacrament and service is its prayer. To dwell together in peace, to seek knowledge in freedom, to serve mankind in fellowship, to the end that all souls shall grow into harmony with the divine, thus do we covenant with each other and with God."
For further information on Universalism, subscribe to the Universalist Herald, the oldest continuously published liberal religious periodical in North America.
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