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The New Massachusetts Universalist Convention


Frequently Asked Questions

1.  Shouldn't there be other religious symbols, and not just the cross, in the circle of Universalism?

The trouble is, other religious symbols are just as problematic for people brought up in close contact with those traditions as the cross can be for Jews and former Christians.

The Taoist symbol, for example, will evoke--for someone from China--not the ancient, philosophical Taoism popular among UUs, but the magical, religious Taoism of modern China.

Besides, do we want symbols on our walls that we don't really understand?   Most of us have heard a sermon or two on Taoism, and have perhaps read an article, but actually know relatively little about it.

The off-center cross, while expressing an openness to insights from other world religions, also acknowledges that Universalism has grown out of Christianity.

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2.  If Universalism is such a great approach to UU religion, how did it come to be forgotten for so long?

When the Unitarians and Universalists combined, there was a difference in numbers and a difference in confidence. The Unitarians outnumbered the Universalists five to one. The Unitarians, as a group, were also better-educated than the Universalists, were more prosperous than the Universalists, and had seen their denomination grow in recent years while the Universalist denomination had shrunk. Universalists, as a group, were correspondingly discouraged. The Unitarians were confident that nothing distinctively Universalist could be of much value, and so they made little effort to learn about Universalism. Since the Unitarians were in the driver’s seat because of their numbers, Universalism was forgotten.

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3.  Does the UUA approve of your organization?

We hope so. But the question presumes a hierarchy that the UU movement doesn’t have. The UUA is a service organization created by independent UU congregations. It is their creature. And each UU congregation is directed by its individual members, so the UUA is indirectly answerable to individual UUs, and certainly is not their boss. If Universalism has a rebirth among individual UUs, this will affect the congregations to which they belong and ultimately, the UUA.

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4.  What you say is interesting, but I can't become a Universalist. My home church is Unitarian.

Both heritages are available to all of us. And most of us have become Unitarian Universalists since 1961, when the denominations combined. If we can say "I’m a humanist,"  "I’m a Christian," or "I'm a pagan" to convey our theological orientation, we can certainly say "I’m a Universalist."

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5.  Wasn't Universalism a much more diverse movement than you describe? I thought a lot of Universalists were humanists.

The tent staked out by the off-center cross and the Universalist Declaration of Faith is big enough to shelter people from a wide variety of theological orientations. Yes, a lot of Universalists were humanists, and that’s still true today. Universalism is a very inclusive religion. In fact, Universalism could be said to include all of UUism! But Universalism also includes things left out of UUism, or under-emphasized, and these are the things that we in the New Massachusetts Universalist Convention stress, out of our desire to make the UU movement stronger.

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6.  How can you call yourselves "Universalists"? The Massachusetts Universalist Convention dissolved itself in 1962.

This is the question of legitimacy. Though we have named ourselves after the original Massachusetts Universalist Convention, we are not continuous with it. And we are not an organization of Universalist-heritage churches, as it was, but of individual UUs. By what right can we call ourselves Universalists?

We call ourselves "Universalists" because we base our self-description on what was the Universalist movement’s self-description at the culmination of its independent existence: the off-center cross and the Universalist Declaration of Faith.

We hope to live up to our name.

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This page was last updated on 09/02/2013.
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