The material in this PART is presented separately since it is not basically an integral part of the Manual. It is condensation of the plan of functional merger prepared for the Commission some months ago. Presentation of the plan is preceded by a discussion of the problems to be involved in making and adopting such a plan.


It will be recalled from the introduction of this Manual that the purpose of the Commission in having a functional plan for merュger prepared for its consideration was to gain a vantage point from which perspective could be obtained and knowledge about the many problems to be encountered might be enhanced. In so doing, the Commission does not endorse this or any other plan nor should churュches and fellowships conclude from the presence of this material in the Manual, that the Commission has taken a position. The mandate of the Commission states that it shall prepare a plan for merger or an alternative to merger after the churches have had an opporュtunity to study the whole matter and make recommendations to the Commission concerning their wishes. If, for example, the churches indicate a preference for merger and for a particular pattern of merger, the Commission will develop such a plan in full detail and submit it to the churches for further review, particularly for the benefit of their delegates to forthcoming denominational business meetings. Precisely the same process will be followed if the churches indicate a preference for not merging, coupled with the desired pattern of future relationships between the two denominaュtions.







Making major changes which affect two democratic denominations, such as the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America, means a careful consideration of involvements and ramifications.  Without regard to merger, normal annual or biennial national business meetings are always characterized by wide discussion and often intense debate.  Action upon some form of merger will precipitate a great volume of discussion, particularly in connection with problems involved in making changes.  Their degree of seriousness will vary from person to person.  The viewpoints of laymen and clergy are likely to differ because of their differing experience.  This chapter is concerned with a review of the various kinds of problems involved in a functional plan of merger.  These have been touched upon in preceding pages, but are brought together here in somewhat amplified form. 


Choosing a New Name


There are many arguments surrounding any change in name, with some persons feeling that much would be lost if the name of either denomination is dropped.  This applies with special force for some people in both denominations.  On the other hand, there are leaders in both denominations who feel that changing a name is not important, if liberal religion will be the gainer in the long run. 


As has been stated previously, if there is some form of merger between the two denominations, it may be that some form of hyphenated name involving Unitarian and Universalist might be used.  However, whatever name is adopted, it should be based on principles.  Some of these include: the nature of the proposed organization or the structure of the denomination, the basic nature of the units which are being brought together, and, the central idea or principal characteristic of the new body.  If the new body is to be an association, or council, or church, the name should correspond.  In view of the wide-spread orthodox usage of church in denominational title, and of the common characteristics of both Unitarians and Universalists which were previously recited, it seems clear that the words, church, council and association do not enjoy equal value in the judgments for selection and adoption of a name.  Merely for purposes of illustration, the following names are listed without rank or preference:



United Liberal Church

Free Church of America

American Independent Church

Liberal Church of America



Council of Independent Churches

Council of American Liberal Churches

Council of Free Churches

Independent Church Council

Liberal Church Council of America



Association of Independent Churches

Liberal Church Association of America

Association of Free Churches

American Association of Liberal Churches

United Liberal Fellowship


Undoubtedly, many other possible names could be developed by interested persons.  It will be noted that illustrations of possible hyphenated names are not listed since they are so obvious.


The State of Incorporation


The problem of where to incorporate a new body is not an easy one.  With the A.U.A. incorporated in Massachusetts and the U.C.A. in New York, an obvious problem exists if any consideration involving some form of merger is given, particularly if any new body is to have any serious amounts of assets.  Moreover, the state of incorporation has much to do with where annual meetings may be held: witness the current problem of the A.U.A. in this connection.  However, if the Massachusetts law by special legislation can be ameliorated in favor of allowing religious body corporate meetings to be held anywhere, then the problem with incorporating in Massachusetts disappears.  In any event, even though a new body should be incorporated in Massachusetts, the problem of getting approval by the States of New York and of Massachusetts to form the new consolidated corporation and to transfer assets would involve considerable further legal exploration, particularly of funds. 




Careful comparison will reveal that significant differences exist between present A.U.A. and U.C.A. by様aws.  On the other hand, many persons may likely feel it will be best not to have some form of jousting over whose articles and sections shall be included, but to begin anew and make a fresh start.  In any event, consideration will need to be given to what any set of by様aws should include.  It should be remembered that by様aws are very important since they constitute the main framework on which all else rests, hence they have top priority.


By様aws include many items, the number depending upon the wishes of the groups the framers represent.  Illustrations of such items are:


Name of organization

Purposes of organization

Time and place of meeting

Officers, their manner of appointment or election and duties

Governing Board (such as A.U.A. Directors or U.C.A. Trustees), size, composition, manner of selection, duties and responsibilities

Representative body (delegates from composing units), manner of selection, certification, rights, privileges, duties and responsibilities

Representative body (delegates from composing units), manner of selection, certification, rights privileges, duties and responsibilities

Manner of conducting meetings in re resolutions, elections, special business, by様aws changes, etc.


While some may feel that by様aws are the business of specialists to create and interpret, whatever by様aws are considered will have profound effect and influence on all members laity and clergy.  This problem is cited, therefore to draw attention to its importance, and to urge all interested persons to consider the elements they would like to see if a new set of by様aws becomes necessary.


Frequency of Meetings


Consideration needs to be given to frequency of national meetings.  One denomination is used to annual meetings while the other meets biennially.  It is not a matter of whose practice is better, but involves what would be best for the new denomination or association.  Therefore, the purpose of a national meeting, the kinds of business activities which need attention at what probable time intervals, the cost of meetings, interruption of administrative work at various levels, and the like all need consideration and review before it can be decided whether to have national meetings annually, biennially, triennially or quadrennially.


The Plan of Organization


What plan of organization to adopt is always a problem.  The nature of the new denomination or whatever has great influence upon form of organization, particularly as to centralization and decentralization balance.  In general, a good principle is to have organization as simple and uncomplicated as possible.  There is a considerable difference between the present plans of top organization of the A.U.A. and U.C.A., respectively.  Any new plan of organization considered should be based upon that form which will get the job done best with the least amount of personnel and which offers little if no chance for confused responsibilities and duties.  Moreover, it should offer opportunities for non-staff participation at as many points as possible through advisory committees, advisory councils, etc.  Neither denomination separately or combined would be large enough to justify strong separate functional area boards such as many of the large orthodox denominations use.  Organization is only a means to an end, it should not become all important, yet giving it too little attention sooner or later leads to problems and difficulties.  The plan of organization suggested in Chapter XIV contains the application of good organization principles to institutional needs.  The members of the churches have a right to expect a good plan of organization and should take some part in making suggestions as to what they want.


Titles of Principal Officers


Liberal religious organizations face a dilemma concerning what to call their principal officers. On the one hand, they like the titular head idea, but at the same time do not wish such a person to be all powerful.  Hence the selection of a proper title for the titular head and other officials bears considerable importance.  Both denominations use the title, President, for their respective titular heads, but their meanings are very different.  In the A.U.A., the President is the titular head and also administers all headquarters functions.  In the U.C.A. the President is titular head only, although usually he is also chosen as chairman of the Board of Trustees.  Except giving one official entirely too heavy a load, as is the case in the A.U.A., the use of President in the title of the titular head has few, if any, objections.


A real problem appears, however, if the plan of organization for any new body calls for a separation of the titular head functions and the administrative functions, as would be the case in the A.U.A. It is difficult to know precisely what to title a chief executive or administrator who is not also the titular head.  While many of the orthodox denominations use the terms: General Secretary, Secretary, Executive Secretary, and so on, such terms appear to be largely permissive and fail to connote comprehensive responsibility.  The liberal religious denomination needs a title at this point that will not connote excessive power and authoritarianism, but on the other hand must not be too weak in its impact on denominational members.  While some merely illustrative titles are suggested in the Proposed Plan appearing in the final chapter, they are not conclusive.  Here again is a problem for people to discuss and make suggestions.


Internal versus External Top Level Functions


Liberal religious denominations are noteworthy for the application of democratic principles, for expressions of individualism and for considerable independence of views and action.  Any casual scrutiny of either the A.U.A. or the U.C.A. shows these characteristics at work.  This is particularly true of the habit of showing independence by what appears to be nearly a plethora of independent organizations.  Every once in a while, rumor brings hints of even more thoughts of creating additional independent bodies.  A serious question to be faced is simply what functions should the headquarters of any new denomination have?


The problem under this topic revolves around the functions of service and also of publications.  Should either be internal or should both be external?  Can a denomination succeed if any of its principal functions is a separate independent body?  There is no hard and fast answer to this question.  However, it appears only logical to think there should not be two denominational journals for one denomination.  Also, it appears reasonable that a substantial function like service (somewhat akin to missionary work except that conversion and new members are not part of the goal) belongs rather closely administratively and operationally to other major headquarters functions such as extension and ministry.  However, these are problems for the people of the churches to think about and also for the members of the governing boards of independent bodies such as service and publications to consider.  Whatever the merits and achievements of independent bodies, and they are considerable, the main question is simply what will be best for a united liberal church in the long run?


Financing and Funds


Whatever plan is adopted, money will have considerable bearing not only upon decision making, but upon implementation of the decision.  Involved here are such questions as do both denominations have enough income to operate an effective merged denomination, what about funds each holds, and what about fund raising?  Data presented in Chapter VIII showed the respective financial resources and operating budgets, and the suggested Plan in Chapter XIV discusses over-all financing.  The first question can be answered in the affirmative.  The question of funds is a very involved and complicated one which will require considerable legal attention and which no one can adequately answer until such a study is made.  The only real problem involved is whether a major part of all funds presently held can be transferred and either used for or held in trust by any new organization.  The offhand probabilities are that in the long run, the fund situation can be met satisfactorily and does not need to be answered before the question of whether or not to merge is decided by the churches.


Fund raising is another problem.  As has been related, it is an internal function at the U.C.A. and an external function at the A.U.A.  In both instances the respective plans appear to work reasonably well.  The question arises, however, as to whether all fund raising should be either internal or external.  It would not be difficult to put the A.U.A. and the U.C.A. fund raising efforts together in one function, whether inside or out.  At the present time, the main principle involved in both efforts, is to have one drive and not many annual efforts.  Seventeen agencies now depend upon the U.U.A. and there is no easy quick answer to meeting the needs of these agencies if the function became an internal one acting solely on behalf of the new organization.  While it could become internal and campaign for all organizations, this would have involvements that would not be too satisfactory for all concerned.  It has been suggested that the fund raising function remain external for a time until many more relationships are worked out such that unless they find income from some central source will be forced to devise ways of securing their own funds which may mean additional campaigns, and the like. 


Ministerial Matters


Although there have been expressions of somewhat wide-spread concern regarding the status and welfare of ministers in any new organization, these in general appear to be largely groundless, if the long run pull is considered and not the immediate.  It has been shown that pensions constitute no really serious obstacle.  Although respective fellowshipping rules are not identical in concept or in practice, there are no insurmountable problems.  As in every denomination, there are some church pulpits which are eagerly sought after, so there are some in both present denominations.  It is reasonable to assume that if something better than either denomination is achieved, the problem of competition for the better positions will resolve itself on the basis of merit.  Undoubtedly there would be some disappointment in both ranks of ministers, but in general this is a minor factor compared to having an opportunity to make a real advance.  The people of the churches will undoubtedly think on these things at great length and based upon all facts obtainable, decide these kinds of problems in their own ways and on their own terms.


Headquarters Personnel 


If there is some form of merger, attention would need to be given to the problem of proper staffing of the headquarters functions.  A problem arises as to whether all present Unitarian and all present Universalist headquarters personnel can expect to be appointed to positions in a new organization.  If an adequate set of job descriptions is prepared setting forth the requirements for all positions, any screening group would certainly make selections on the basis of merit, experience, training, personality, fitness, etc.  While it is reasonable to assume that this process would mean the appointment of some present personnel, it does not mean that all staff members would be Universalists or would all be Unitarians.  This problem is recited not because it is one which the churches will decide in detail but is one about which thought needs to be given.  Any move toward some form of merger means a different headquarters than either denomination now has.


 Regions and State Conventions


One of the real problems involved in any plan for merger or of cooperation, involves Regions and State Conventions.  Both denominations recognize the need for keeping intermediate organization patterns as effective as possible.  Even assuming that Universalists might accept a regional in place of a state plan, as evidenced by two factors:  the Midwest Convention, and the growing attitude favorable to a regional plan, consideration must be given to the number of local units to be comprised, to the ability of a regional officer to serve that many units, to adequate budgets, and finally to the whole question of funds held by State Conventions.  All but the last problem are relatively easy to solve, assuming willingness on the part of the Unitarians and Universalists to have them solved or to solve them.  The fund question is parallel to the national headquarters fund question.  Once again, legal study and interpretations would be necessary.  However, it is believed that this question should not deter making a decision whether to move towards merger or away from it. 


Some persons hold that some or all of the foregoing problems make any move towards merger wholly inadvisable.  Others feel that these problems are not insoluble and should not be made a basis of having no merger or postponing action on the question.  In addition to the inherent problems, there are some other questions which concern some persons in both denominations such as sectarian advance; possible differences in the two ministries; the large number of small churches, particularly in the U.C.A.; a few differences in theology, and so on.  These are not treated in this chapter as problems, but some attention to them occurs in the Discussion Guide. 








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