Bob Fabre is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron and on the Board of the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship. Used with Permission.
At the recent General Assembly of Unitarian Universalists (UU), the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship (UUCF), and many other religious-oriented groups, was denied independent affiliate status. In a response to an inquiry as to the ramifications of this decision, Pacific Southwest District Board member Tom Laughrey said, among other things: "the UUA is an association of congregations and that affiliations must serve congregational needs" and "Independant Affiliattion status gave [these groups] nothing to begin with [and] there was nothing to take away". UUCF Board member Peg Bartel then wrote the following letter to the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations Board. While the sentiments expressed therein are her own, many UUCF members feel the same, yours included.- Bob Fabre
I am writing in regard to the recent decision to deny the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship independent affiliate status with the UUA...While I am not surprised, I am disappointed. From a practical point of view it will have little obvious impact on the UUCF. We will continue our activities. Any financial impact will be offset by members such as myself, who now find themselves a member of two faith families instead of one and will adjust my pledge to my local congregation accordingly. But this is not a practical issue—it is a matter of the heart, of how a faith community defines itself and what it sees as central to its faith. In that regard, I have been a little dismayed to read some of the responses made by some trustees in response to inquiries—pointing out that affiliation with the UUA meant nothing in practical terms except perhaps slots at GA. Of course this perspective misses the issue entirely. It is not about benefits, it is about being part of a larger whole—of belonging.
I understand that the UUA wants to focus on congregations. But what is the religious life of a congregation, if not the religious life of its members and friends? The roots of Unitarian Universalism draw deeply from many religious traditions. To have groups lose their status because they are following a particular path is indeed disheartening. These groups, not just the UCCF, are comprised of people who are deeply involved in their faith tradition as expressed in and through Unitarian Universalism. They are the stimulus in their congregations for small study groups, religious education and other activities that feed the religious life of the congregation.
I will always be a Unitarian Universalist. It is my preferred faith. A faith that dares to be free of doctrine and creed and yet remain faithful to the life of the spirit is powerful indeed. But this recent decision by the UUA reminds me of the luke-warmness of much of the UUA. The fear to be religious. The focus on tolerating each other as a goal rather than the glorious celebration of our differences. The mush of commonality rather than the beauty of the mosaic. No—this decision by the UUA has no practical implication for the UUCF, but it reveals a great deal about how the leadership of the UUA views the religious life of the congregations and their members. That is what is truly disheartening.