AN INFORMATION MANUAL
For the use of
Unitarian and Universalist Churches, Societies and Fellowships
The Question of Merger
Alternatives To Merger
Prepared Under the Auspices
THE JOINT COMMISSION ON MERGER
AMERICAN UNITARIAN ASSOCIATION AND THE UNIVERSALIST CHURCH OF AMERICA
309 Washington Street
Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts
AMERICAN UNITARIAN ASSOCIATION UNIVERSALIST CHURCH OF AMERICA
JOINT MERGER COMMISSION
309 WASHINGTON STREET
WELLESLEY HILLS 81
William B. Rice, Chairman
Raymond B. Hopkins
Max A. Kapp
Lloyd S. Luther
Robert E. McLaughlin
William B. Norris
Wilcon C. Piper
Harry B. Scholefeild
Carl J. Westman
October 13, 1958
To the Churches, Fellowships and Organizations
of the Universalist Church of America and the
American Unitarian Association:
We submit herewith a document of historical import and great current concern. For generations our two national bodies have been considering the possibility of uniting in their common cause for liberal religion. Following affirmative but rather general votes at conferences and conventions, various committees have worked at the problem of providing some reasonable structure which would preserve all the precious uniqueness of our individual churches while strengthening and enhancing their combined effort in this continent. The result has been an ever closer cooperation and recently, in some areas of our work, some joint effort, to wit, the Council of Liberal Churches.
Your Joint Commission was appointed to consider plans for a real merger and other alternatives. After months of consideration and the wise and competent assistance of Institutional Consulting Associates, we have prepared this study of the resources of our two bodies and the best thought we have as to a preliminary plan for merger and the alternatives. We are well aware of the fact that our study must be limited but the essential material is here, presented as fairly and accurately as possible.
Now the responsibility is yours. What develops from the study you must pursue and the votes you must take in your parishes and in your legal denominational meetings can have great influence on our future. All authority, all power, all the potential growth rests, in our kind of democratic structure, at the parish level. Therefore, we beg of you, give this matter your best sober thought.
We still believe that democracy can operate effectively and provide the greatest freedom and opportunity for development, and in all the plans we are submitting we have borne this in mind. We are well aware of the fact that the liberal churches include parishes and individuals with various and often widely different approaches to religious faith, and we would guard this uniqueness and take no position which would limit our precious heritage of freedom.
Bear in mind that liberalism is not ours. We inherited its opportunities and we bear the responsibility of sharing it with all who seek it and especially those who would be one with liberalism in the future. Let us endeavor to build wisely today for a great future.
William B. Rice
Dr. William B. Rice, Chairman
A.U. A. - U. C. A. Joint Merger Commission
313 Washington St.,
Wellesley Hills 82, Mass.
After the review by the Commission of the "INFORMATION MANUAL” and the “DISCUSSION GUIDE”, I asked to be allowed to qualify my approval of them by a word or two to be included with your introductory letter.
What troubles me is the general tendency in them to indulge in pre-judgements in favor of merger. Since a great majority of the Commission was in favor of merger, perhaps this was a natural consequence.
The other thing that gives me some concern is the fact that it seems to me so much is left unsaid. Here again, the character of the Commission, composed as it was of both Unitarians and Universalists, made this inevitable.
In view of these things, I believe that a full, open, and critical discussion of the issues in the churches before the plebiscite is of the first importance.
With kindest personal regards,
Lloyd S. Luther
1018 - 18th. St., N. W.,
Washington 6, D. C.
The Present Merger Commission and Its Work 2
History and Results of Previous Merger Efforts 4
The Why and What of Merger 7
Liberal Religion in North America 8
PART ONE— THE DEVELOPMENT AND STATUS OF UNITARIANISM
by Rev. Harry B. Scholefield
by Dr. Max A. Kapp
Size of Church and Size of Community 21
Federated Churches 23
Location of Churches 25
Trend Patterns 26
Collective Membership 27
Number and Source of Ministers 29
Degrees Received and Institutions Attended 30
Education of Individual Ministers 32
Present Occupations of Ministers 33
Operation of the Departments 34
Benefits for Ministers 35
The Council of Liberal Churches 38
Liberal Religious Youth 41
Other United Programs 42
PART TWO— DENOMINATIONAL ORGANIZATION AND FUNCTIONS
The American Unitarian Association 44
Universalist Church of America 45
Headquarters Organizations 46
Headquarters Personnel 48
Departments of the Ministry 50
Departments of Extension 50
The Service Committees 52
Fund Raising 55
Comparative Assets 59
Assets Not at Headquarters 60
Annual Income and Expense 61
Funds at Headquarters 62
Origin and Number 63
Unitarian Laymen’s League 67
National Association of Universalist Men 68
The General Alliance 68
Association of Universalist Women 69
Ministers’ Associations 70
PART THREE - WHAT IS INVOLVED IN CONSIDERING MERGER OR ALTERNATIVES
Advantages and Disadvantages of Merger 74
Plan 1 — Complete Functional Merger 79
Plan 2 — Broadening and Enlarging the Council
of Liberal Churches 82
Alternative 1 — Maintaining the Status—Quo 86
Alternative 2 — Withdrawal 87
Alternative 3 — Association of Liberal
Religious Denominations 88
Alternative 4 — Council or Committee on Liberal
PART FOUR-HOW ONE PLAN APPEARS
Choosing a New Name 94
Frequency of Meetings 95
Plan of Organization 96
Titles of Principal Officers 96
Internal vs. External Top Level Functions 96
Financing and Funds 97
Ministerial Matters 97
Headquarters Personnel 98
Regions and State Conventions 98
Basic Assumptions 99
Possible Name 99
State of Incorporation 100
Representative Body 100
Board of Trustees 100
Headquarters Organization 101
Regions and State Conventions 103
1 Number of Churches and Size of Church Membership
of the Universalist and Unitarian Churches According
to the U.S. Census of Religious Bodies for
1890, 1896, 1916 and 1926 (Page 20)
2 Number of Universalist and Unitarian Active,
Inactive and Summer Churches in 1935, 1945, 1958 (Page 21)
3 Distribution of Active Universalist Churches by
Membership Size — Groups and Size — Groups of
Communities, 1958 (Page 22)
4 Distribution of Active Unitarian Churches by
Membership Size — Groups and Size of Communities,
1958 (Page 22)
5 Distribution of Federated Churches by Size of
Membership and Size by Place of Location, 1958 (Page 23)
6 Unitarian and Universalist Fellowships According
to Size of Membership and Size of Place of Location, 1958 (Page 24)
7 Comparison by Number of the Various Types of Active
Local Units of the Unitarian and Universalist Denominations, 1958
8 Legal Memberships in Universalist and Unitarian
Churches, 1935, 1945 and 1957 (Page 26)
9 Number of Unitarian and Universalist Church Schools
and Members, 1905 to 1955 (Page 26)
10 Total Membership of Churches, Fellowships and Church
of the Larger Fellowship in the Unitarian and Universalist
Denominations, 1958 (Page 27)
11 Total Number of Local Units and Membership of Unitarian
and Universalist Denominations (Page 27)
12 Number of Ministers in A.U.A. and in U.C.A. (Page 30)
13 How A.U.A. and U.C.A. Ministers Attained Fellowship (Page 30)
14 Principal Institutions Granting Graduate Degrees
to 373 Unitarian Ministers in Active Church Service (Page 31)
15 Principal Institutions Granting Graduate Degrees
to 177 Universalist Ministers in Active Church
Service (Page 31)
16 Distribution of Unitarian Ministers in Various
Categories by the Amounts of their Education (Page 32)
17 Distribution of Universalist Ministers In Various
Categories by the Amounts of their Education (Page 32)
18 Current Occupations of Ministers (Page 33)
List of Tables and Charts (continued)
19 Distribution of Salaries of Pastors of Unitarian
and Universalist Churches by Thousand Dollar
Groups, June, 1958 (Page 36)
20 Assets at Respective Headquarters Plus Those of
the Beacon Press, Unitarian Service Committee and
the Universalist Publishing House (Page 59)
21 Summary of Respective Assets of the Two Headquarters,
and of the Beacon Press, Unitarian Service
Committee, the Universalist Publishing House,
Regions and State Conventions (Page 59)
22 The Assets of Unitarian Regions and Universalist
State Conventions together with Annual Expenses (Page 60)
23 A Comparison of Funds Held at Unitarian and
Universalist Headquarters According to Nature and
Purpose (Page 62)
24 Distribution of Active Unitarian Churches by Regions
and Active Universalist Churches by Conventions,
Excluding Summer, Occasional and Dormant Churches,
February, 1957 (Page 64)
25 Distribution of Unitarians and Universalist Units
by the Same Regional Areas, February, 1957 (Page 64)
1 Number of A.U.A. Active Churches, Number of Uni—
Uni Churches and Number of Fellowships, April, 1957 (Page 25)
2 Number of U.C.A. Active Churches, Number of Uni—
Uni Churches and Number of Fellowships as shown
in the U.C.A. Directory, January, 1957 (Page 25)
3 The American Unitarian Association Plan of
Organization, June, 1958 (Page 46)
4 Universalist Church of America Plan of Organization,
June, 1958 (Page 48)
5 A Possible Long Range Plan of Headquarters Organization
for a Functional Merger of the American
Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church
of America (Page 101)
6 Proposed Regions Showing Present Numbers of Active
Churches and Fellowships, A.U.A. and U.C.A.
Combined, Together with Combined Estimates of Likely
Number of Churches and Fellowships in 1967 (Page 102)
Whether to merge or not is an important, but complicated question which has been allowed to go undecided by several generations of Unitarians and Universalists. The reason for this long delay and indecision is that on its surface, merging seems simple, logical and perhaps inevitable, but actually it is not an easy step and involves many complicated problems even though over the years the two groups have moved closer and closer together in philosophy and program.
Those who look carefully into the necessary changes involved in merger recognize that both the possibilities and problems are immense. There are advantages and disadvantages for each of the proposed partners, all of which should be known and studied carefully if constructive plans for the future are to result.
The Commission’s aims in preparing this Manual are:
1. To furnish the members of the churches of both denominations with facts about the two organizations and information they need when considering merger.
2. To present in some detail the alternative organizational patterns which are open, giving the
implications of each.
The Commission has looked upon its task as a trust given it by the people of both denominations. It has sought to be as democratic as possible, being solicituous to obtain all viewpoints represented by its members and many others in both denominations. Care has been exercised to obtain and consider with earnestness and deliberation all possible facts pertinent to the question. The Commission has felt from the beginning that its task is to be as impartial as possible and to present all sides of the question in such manner that the people of the churches in both denominations may make their decisions as objectively as possible. Accordingly, the Commission has not taken a vote for or against merger but leaves the whole question to be settled in the two plebiscites and in the national meetings of both denominations.
Since the Commission was charged to present a plan of merger and because the details and implications of merger are obvious, more space must necessarily be given to the consideration of merger than to other alternatives. This must not, however be interpreted as expressing preference for merger on the part of the Commission.
This Manual represents a comprehensive effort to bring together in one place many salient facts about each denomination. Facts can only go so far, however, in making it possible to understand a denomination. There is no way of measuring the spirit, the degree of unity, the amount of aggressiveness, and the level of actual daily implementation of a liberal faith in the lives of the members of a denomination. Care needs to be exercised in making final decisions based on facts alone. They are useful, however, in correcting misinformation, minimizing prejudices and rumors, and making it possible to discern the approximate size and resources of each denomination.
The Merger Commission urgently recommends that each church and fellowship conduct a series of discussions, involving as many of its members as possible during the October—February period, 1958-59. This Manual and the accompanying Discussion Guide have been prepared to facilitate this discussion program. Ministers, members of official boards, heads of various church activities and those appointed to conduct discussion sessions should find much useful material herein. Group criticisms and differing ideas about proposals and plans will be welcomed by the Commission.
The end we all seek is careful decisions on how best to strengthen the program and impact of liberal religion for the future. With the help of our 200,000 Unitarians and Universalists the right answers can surely be found.
THE PRESENT MERGER COMMISSION AND ITS WORK
The Joint Commission on Merger was established by the votes of delegates at the Joint Biennial Session (A.U.A. and U.C.A.) in Detroit in 1955, and the A.U.A. May, 1956 meetings at Boston.
The resolution passed at the above meetings is the mandate under which the Commission operates, and its exact wording taken from denominational reports, is as follows:
1. This Merger Commission (of and responsible to the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America) shall prepare one or more outline plans for merger.
2. These plans, with other possible alternatives, shall be submitted to the member churches and other local groups of both denominations in an open plebiscite conducted by the Commission.
3. A detailed plan or plans taking into consideration information received in the plebiscite shall be prepared by the Merger Commission.
4. Such plan or plans will be submitted for study to the member churches and local groups well in advance of the next Joint Biennial following its preparation. Delegates to the Biennial, after discussion, will approve a definitive plan (or reject all plans).
5. Any approved definitive plan shall thereafter be referred by the same Commission in a final plebiscite to the churches and other local groups.
6. The Merger Commission will report such final plans with results of the final plebiscite to the next available business meetings of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America for adoption.
The Merger Commission, via resolution of the Unitarian May Meetings of 1956, was also requested to consider:
(a) As an alternative to inclusion of the Council of Liberal Churches in any proposal for merger, the re-organization of the C.L.C. so that it may become a service organization to liberal religions, operating for them the three services of Education, Publications and Public Relations under a membership plan permitting admission of churches or groups of churches desiring to use its services and to contribute to its expenses;
(b) The necessity of preserving freedom of decision on all proposals for merger of the A.U.A. and the U.C.A. until the members, churches and fellowships of both denominations are in possession of the full facts concerning the organizations to participate in such merger; and
(c) The advisability and feasibility of obtaining the services of a competent independent research firm to make a survey of the business and administrative operations of all organizations to participate in such merger, and distribution of a full report of such survey to all members, Churches and Fellowships of both denominations for study by them in advance of any plebiscite, conference, annual meeting or other occasion upon which a vote may he taken on such merger proposal.
Membership of Commission
Commission members were appointed by the Boards of the A.U.A. and the U.C .A. and began to meet in the Fall of 1956. There have been some changes in membership since that date, and some members living at a great. distance, have been unable to attend every meeting, but have been kept fully informed of deliberations.
The present membership of thie Commission is:
Dr. William B. Rice, Mass., Chairman
Rev. Raymond C. Hopkins, Mass. Secretary *
Dr. Max A. Kapp, New York
Dr. Robert Killam, Ohio
Mr. Lloyd Luther, Washington, D.C.
Mrs. Virginia McGill, New Jersey
Mr. Robert McLaughlin, Washington, D.C . **
Mr. William B. Norris, Ohio #
Mr. Wilson C. Piper, Mass. Treasurer
Mr. Alan F. Sawyer, Mass.
Rev. Harry B. Scholefield, Calif.
Rev. Carl Westman, Ohio
* Replaced Rev. Robert S. Wolley, October 1, 1957, who resigned due to being appointed Director of Extension at U.C.A. headquarters.
** Replaced Rev. Carleton M. Fisher, November, 1957, who resigned when he was elected President of the U.C .A.
# Replaced Mr. Kenneth McDougall, September 8, 1958, who died August 14, 1958. Mr. McDougall had replaced Mr. Charles S. Bolster in February, 1957, when he resigned to become a Judge of the Superior Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Structure of the Commission
Most of the work of the Commission is done by the committee of the whole method. However, in selected areas, three sub-committees looked into pension plans, legal feasibility and problems, and finance, respectively. Early in its existence the Commission selected an Executive Committee which acts between meetings.
Shortly after its initial meeting, in accordance with its mandate, the Commission selected and appointed Institutional Consulting Associates of Englewood, New Jersey to serve as its research arm and general counsel except in legal matters. This firm had just completed a survey of Universalist headquarters.
Progress of the Commission
All that the Commission has done up to now has been in preparation for the participation of the churches and fellowships of the two denominations. This Manual and its accompanying Discussion Guide represent to date the culmination of the work of the Commission, its sub-committees and its consultants. In addition to the very helpful work of the sub-committees in the areas mentioned previously, the consultants made several studies for the Commission’s consideration. These included the following:
1. The Comparative Resources of and Operations at the Two Headquarters
2. The Opinions of Selected Unitarians and Universalists Regarding Merger
3. A Plan for Functional Merger of the Two Denominations
In addition to the foregoing studies, the consultants, at the Commission’s suggestion, prepared a number of memoranda and a comprehensive statement on the advantages and disadvantages of merger.
HISTORY AND RESULTS OF PREVIOUS MERGER EFFORTS
Unitarians and Universalists have been increasingly conscious of each other during the past 100 years. Numerous cooperative ventures at the national and other levels have given witness to areas and problems of mutual concern. A number of efforts have been made to bring the two denominations close together. These efforts have taken three forms: higher councils, leaving the denominational bodies intact; increased cooperation; and organic union. The brief historical recital which follows indicates the various efforts toward closer relationships and what became of each of them.
1865 Resolution offered in the American Unitarian Association calling for union with the Universalists. This was defeated.
1865 Resolution offered in the American Unitarian Association to establish a higher council consisting of denomination bodies and other members. Christians, Universalists, Methodists and Congregationalists were approached. Nothing came of this effort.
1867 The Free Religious Association was formed, with at least six different religious groups represented; about half were Unitarian Ministers. Very few Universalists affiliated. This association apparently lasted about 25 years. Its chief product was a liberalizing influence, principally on Unitarianism.
1899 Resolution offered in the American Unitarian Association, to appoint five persons from each denomination to form a committee “which shall consider plans of closer cooperation, devise ways and means for more efficient usefulness . .“ This resolution was approved by business meetings of the Unitarians and the Universalists. The report of this Committee was adopted by both denominations. The report recommended closer cooperation and avoidance of duplication of effort, suggesting collaboration in extension, tracts, and occasional joint meetings of local churches. A permanent Conference Committee was also recommended. The guiding principle of this whole effort was: “We seek coordination not consolidation; unity, not union”. No major results appeared to arise from this effort, although it did bring the two fellowships closer together.
1908 The National Federation of Religious Liberals was formed. Its membership included the Unitarians, Universalists, Religious Society of Friends, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. The organization ceased its existence with the advent of the Free Church in the 1930’s and was of minor significance in Unitarian—Universalist relations.
1923 Universalists received overtures from the National Convention of Congregational Churches. Each body established a Committee on Comity and Unity. In 1927, the Universalist Committee met with an interested group of Unitarians with the thought of establishing a Congregational—Universalist—Unitarian structure but the whole move was defeated by Universalists who felt that the best course would be Universalist—Unitarian.
1931 Motion passed at the A.U.A. May Meetings ... “to look into the practicality of uniting these two communions”. This was approved by the Universalist General Convention. A Joint Commission was formed and began meeting in 1931 but early came to the conclusion that: the churches and ministers are not ready; business and administrative details of the two denominations are not similar; and a mere merger would be narrow in not including other liberals. This Commission in its report in May, 1932, recommended the formation of a higher body, similar to the Federal Council of Churches, which resulted in the forming of the Free Church of America, incorporated in Massachusetts in 1933. The total number ever affiliated with the Free Church included:
57 Unitarian churches
28 Universalist churches
5 Uni—Uni churches
1 Methodist church,
1 Independent church
3 Community churches
The Free Church movement was unable to attract any sizeable proportions of the Unitarian or the Universalist denominations, it failed to interest other denominations or liberal wings thereof, it could not raise money to establish either a staff or a program.
The last annual meeting of the Free Church was held in February, 1938.
1935 Unitarian youth (Y.P.R.U.) at 1935 May Meetings
approve idea of organic union of A.U.A. and U.C.A.
youth groups, but move was defeated by Universalist
1947 A.U.A. General Conference — motion passed to
explore possibility of church union (AUA and UCA)
which was also approved by the U.C.A. business
meeting. A Joint Commission was appointed and
its report in 1949 laid the groundwork for Federal
Union. After a favorable plebiscite, a Joint
Commission on Union was appointed.
1951 Joint Commission on Union presented its plan which
called for federal union of religious education,
publications and public relations and gradually
a complete merger. The report was accepted by
both denominations. Following a favorable
plebiscite, ratification occurred at national business
meetings and the Council of Liberal Churches was
created. A Joint Interim Commission was then
appointed to draft a constitution and by-laws.
The Council of Liberal Churches was established
1953 Unitarian and Universalist youth, in joint
convention, vote to dissolve their respective
denominational youth organizations in favor of
establishment of a merged youth movement. This
resulted in the Liberal Religious Youth organization.
1953 Another Joint Interim Commission was appointed to
review the operations of the C.L.C. and to consider
other departmental mergers. This Commission
reported in 1955, recommending that although the
merging of religious education efforts had been
successful, no further mergers of departmental
functions should take place principally on the
grounds of high administrative costs. The
Commission also recommended that delegates to the
next biennial meetings should vote on whether or
not the two denominations should sooner or later
1955 By resolution, the A.U.A. and the U.C.A. voted
to establish the present Joint Merger Commission.
One of the facts revealed by the foregoing historical recital is that four distinct attempts brave been made to bring about a union of all religious liberals, and while two of them resulted in more or less paper organizations which lasted from 20 to 25 years, all ultimately failed. The principle reason for these failures appears to be that there have never been enough liberal religious denominations or liberal wings of other denominations to constitute a higher body large enough to operate even if they could be “coordinated". Furthermore, strong sectarian interests among the few affiliated members of these experiments have shown competition to be stronger than collaboration.
THE WHY AND WHAT OF MERGER
Why is all of the present attention being paid to merger? Is it as significant and important as it is made out to be? What does merger mean? Is merger a clear yes or no question? These questions need answers as preliminaries to the main consideration.
The first and basic why has already become clear. It is no accident that for one hundred years various rapprochements between the two denominations have been made. There is an affinity between them of which there is a growing awareness. The differences which separate become of decreasing importance, the likenesses of point of view, purpose, organization and operation increase in significance. Such feelings have become so strong and have been accentuated by merger activities and especially the creation and operation of the Council of Liberal Churches to an extent that some individuals and churches have already taken it for granted that merger has been accomplished.
A second why is to be found in the strong tendency toward merger in all possible areas of current American life. It has been found by experience that the competition of many small units frustrates the attainment of goals, is costly, duplicates unnecessarily organization, equipment and personnel, and consequently is less efficient and effective. The ecclesiastical realm cannot escape the influence of this current thinking. While there are also serious problems in bigness, liberal religion is still far off from this type of problem. One of the dangers in the present situation is that many may vote for the merger of Unitarian and Universalist denominations because they believe in the principle of merger and that it is a good thing in itself, without giving careful consideration to the specific issues and problems which are involved.
A third reason is common to all national organizations and is especially pressing in those made up of independent and self-sufficient local units. It is the constant questioning of the economy, efficiency and function of the national organization. There is a serious obligation on the part of such organizations to find all ways possible to operate on an increasingly efficient basis with all possible economy. This adds to the importance of considering what would be the best method for efficiency of the current permit.
There is a fourth, reason of which many deeply religions and serious minded people are increasingly sensitive. In a world demanding considerable social and religious conformity within several large patterns of orthodoxy, it is obvious, that by their very natures, religious beliefs and professions, Unitarians and Universalists would be very aware of the existence of each other as individuals, churches and national movements and would gravitate towards each other in one or more respects. No one has cared to term such activities as merger, but probably from many viewpoints, a kind of merger or approach-to-merger has been occurring albeit without national institutional sanctions and blessings. There is evidence that each national office has been having a problem in maintaining strict denominational-sectarian lines in the face of this “coming-togetherness” at lower levels. Questions and problems arising from this situation are likely to increase rather than otherwise. Moreover, every step that can be taken to unite the religious forces of the world brings them nearer to a position from which the fulfillment of their mission in the modern world is possible.
A fifth reason is closely related to the fourth. Much time and effort have hitherto, as well as currently, gone into wrestling with the question of Unitarian—Universalist relations. In general, it is quite clear that both denominations wish to dispose of the question, one way or another as there is much to be done. Today liberal religion appears to be on the threshold of a new era, a new life where it seems imperative that the sooner this question is resolved the better.
These are the principal whys that are behind the work of the Joint Commission on Merger and its present activities. But what is merger?
What is Merger
The word merger does not have the same meaning for everyone. To some, it means a form of federal union of the two denominations, to others it means a complete, functional merger resulting in a new denomination. To still others it means the continuance of one of the denominations with the other dropping all its denominational apparatus and its churches simply becoming members of the continuing denomination. Some people think that merger would be in effect if a higher form of cooperation could be achieved while at the same time each denomination remained intact. The American College Dictionary says that merger is any combination of two or more enterprises into a single enterprise. The recommendations of the Joint Interim Commission which were approved by the Unitarian General Conference in August, 1955, included the following:
We conceive merger to mean the establishment of one corporation which will perform for Universalists, Unitarians (and possibly others) all the functions now performed for them by the Universalist Church of America, the American Unitarian Association and the Council of Liberal Churches.
As in all past efforts, ideas about what to do were never unanimous. Some persons think that functional merger into a single, new denomination would not be for the best for either denomination. However, they do feel that close cooperation should be continued and therefore favor some form of alternative to outright merger. This Manual will bring out the prospects and implications of these plans as well as merger.
LIBERAL RELIGION IN NORTH AMERICA
The future of liberal religion may be in ‘the lap of the Gods’, but it could rest in the decision of the members of the Unitarian and Universalist churches in the coming plebiscite. Certainly this decision will have an important bearing on the future.
Liberalism as a way of thinking and behaving throughout the ages has been closely related to the dynamics of all societies. Pressures are always towards conformity and the acceptance and preservation of the status-quo. It is the insight, understanding and faith of liberals which form the growing edges of any society and bring about the renaissances and reformations, and generate the enlightenment of any period in history, thus playing a great role and making a very significant contribution on in freeing men 's minds No better illustration exists than that of the United States, where liberalism from its very beginnings have played a monumental role in all the important avenues of life and activity. Liberal religionists have long pointed with pride to the forward - looking leaders in American history who have been related to the liberal churches. There is no denying the fact that throughout their history, the Unitarian and Universalist Churches have had a considerable role in inspiring and sustaining the liberal currents of thought and action so basically important in American society.
The United States has recently been in an extended reactionary period manifested by the resurgence of traditional orthodoxy, the astounding growth of a variety of literalist religious sects, the federal investigations into a very narrowly defined ‘loyalty’, witch hunting, the widespread growth of suspicion and thinking in terms of guilt by association, the reemphasis on absolutism in ethics and authoritarianism to the point where freedom has been in jeopardy and liberalism has taken cover. Pendulums swing and as the current swing is away from reaction, a virile, aggressive influence is needed to generate a resurgent liberalism and keep strong the basic attitudes of freedom.
If liberalism is to continue as a powerful factor in the life of America, there is no doubt that the Unitarian and Universalist denominations will continue to be one of its major sources of strength. These are estimated to have a constituency of approximately 250,000 persons. Other important organized groups: Quakers, members of Ethical Societies, Reformed Jews, together with an unknown number of religious liberals who have maintained their connection with the orthodox denominations and the many like thinkers who are unattached might well bring the total number to at least 2,000,000.
In recent years, sparked by the Report of the Commission on Appraisal issued in 1936, the Unitarians have made very significant strides, which reversed a downward trend of some previous years. The Universalists, concerned over downward trends, had a stock taking of considerable magnitude in 1956 and are giving evidence of a resurgence of some promise, featured by a Four Year Advance Program.
As the problems of a highly industrialized atomic society become more complex and compounded, there will he greater need for a religion that stresses the worth of the individual, full democratic procedures, an unceasing search for truth and freedom of worship. Coming decisions will have a far-reaching effect upon the future of liberal religion as a movement.