Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Good for the Quakers

The Quakers have been nominated for the most gay friendly organisation in Britain. Good for them. I just pray that one day us Unitarians might be considered in the same category.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What is dying?

British Unitarianism came from many different sources. The source of much Unitarianism was the old Presbyterian churches dating back to the Great Ejection in 1662, over the years these churches became increasinly liberal until they became Unitarian. Although Presbyterianism was the dominant strand, other movements did come into the Unitarian community. Unitarians came from Anglicanism (Lindsey), Methodist Unitarianism and the General Baptists. But these remained a minority that were absorbed into the majority.

Well what's that all got to do with anything? Well it means that the style (but not the polity) of Unitarianism is dominantly Presbyterian. And what can we say about Presbyterianism in the last few decades in the West? It's in decline. It's in a nose dive. The United Reform Church has halved it's membership since 1972. The Presbyterian Church USA is losing 50,000 members a year.

Liberal-moderate Protestantism is dying. I think this is largely about worship. I think hymns and sermons are just boring and aren't holistic enough for people today. Anglican-Catholic-Orthodox churches have the richness of the ritual which provides something people can plug into spiritually. Evangelical-Pentecostal-Charismatic churches have powerful preaching with a clear message, modern, uplifting songs and an emphasis on direct experience of the Holy Spirit. Quakers have a meditative spirituality that is appealing to many. Liberal-moderate protestantism cannot compete.

Which is fine. It's going, it's on the way out. But if Unitarianism can come from different sources in the early nineteenth century, maybe it can come from different sources again. Maybe Presbyterian Unitarianism is dead. But if Unitarianism can emerge within the Baptist tradition 200 years ago, maybe it can come from somewhere else today. Maybe Post-Evangelicals will come to a Unitarian understanding. Maybe alternative worship movements will become Unitarian. Maybe a coherent movement will arise out of the Progressive Christianity Network or even the 'new spirituality.'

I never much liked Presbyterian Unitarianism in any case. It will die. What's exciting is what will happen after that. It will happen in my lifetime. It's going to be a fun ride.

PS Happy Thanksgiving to Americans. Even though I couldn't see much point in it myself. It's just Christmas without presents.