A Sampler of Statements and Quotes Through the Years 1620–2004

Christian Unitarian Universalism In the United States


"The Lord has more truth and light yet to break forth out of his Holy Word." Pilgrim Pastor John Robinson to those who began First Parish, Plymouth, Mass.

“We, the Lord’s free people, join ourselves by a covenant of the Lord into a church estate in the fellowship of the Gospel, to walk in all his ways, made known, or to be made known to us, according to our best endeavors.” (Pilgrim Covenant, 1620)

1629 Covenant of First Church, Salem, Massachusetts

"We Covenant with the Lord and one with another; and doe bynd our selves in the presence of God, to walke together in all his waies, according as he is pleased to reveale himselfe unto us in his Blessed word of truth.”

1790 Universalist Avowal at Philadelphia

Under a deep sense of the unchangeable and universal love of God to mankind in a Redeemer, and in humble thankfulness to his kind providence in permitting us to assemble and deliberate, agreeably to the dictates of our consciences, without fear of civil or ecclesiastical power; WE, the representatives of sundry Societies in the United States, believing in the Salvation of all Men, convened on the twenty-fifth of May, 1790, in the city of Philadelphia, by an invitation from the brethren in said city, holding the same doctrine, and having implored the direction and blessing of God upon our endeavours to extend the knowledge of his Name, have adopted the following Articles, and Plan of Church Government

Chapter I.

Section 1. OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES We believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to contain a revelation of the perfections and will of God, and the rule of faith and practice.

Section 2. OF THE SUPREME BEING We believe in One God, infinite in all his perfections; and that these perfections are all modifications of infinite, adorable, incomprehensible and unchangeable Love.

Section 3. OF THE MEDIATOR We believe that there is One Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; who, by giving himself a ransom for all, hath redeemed them to God by his blood; and who, by the merit of his death, and the efficacy of his Spirit, will finally restore the whole human race to happiness.

Section 4. OF THE HOLY GHOST We believe in the Holy Ghost, whose office it is to make known to sinners the truth of their [this] salvation, through the medium of the Holy Scriptures, and to reconcile the hearts of the children of men to God, and thereby dispose them to genuine holiness.

Section 5. OF GOOD WORK We believe in the obligation of the moral law, as to the rule of life; and we hold that the love of God manifest to man in a Redeemer, is the best means of producing obedience to that law, and promoting a holy, active and useful life.

1803 Winchester Profession of Belief, and Plan of the General Association of the Universal Churches and Societies of the New England States

The Churches and Societies of Universalists of the New England States, assembled in General Convention, holden at Winchester, in New Hampshire, on the 21st and 22nd of September, A. D. 1803.

To the individuals of the several Churches and Societies, and to all persons whom it may concern, Greeting.

Brethren and Friends, Whereas the diversities of capacity and of opportunity for obtaining information, together with many attendant circumstances, have occasioned among the sincere professions of the Abrahamic faith some diversities of opinion concerning points of doctrine and modes of practice, we, therefore, think it expedient, in order to prevent confusion and misunderstanding, and to promote the edifying and building up of the Church together in love, to record and publish that Profession of Belief which we agree in as essential, and that plan of ecclesiastical fellowship and general subordination which we as a Christian Association conceive we ought to maintain. 

Article I. We believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament contain a revelation of the character of God, and of the duty, interest and final destination of mankind.

Article II. We believe that there is one God, whose nature is Love, revealed in one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of Grace, who will finally restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness.

Article III. We believe that holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected, and that believers ought to be careful to maintain order and practice good works; for these things are good and profitable unto men. 

As we believe these to be truths which deeply concern the honor of the Divine character and the interests of man, we do hereby declare that we continue to consider ourselves, and our societies in fellowship, a Denomination of Christians, distinct and separate from those who do not approve the whole of this Profession of Belief, as expressed in the three above Articles.

And as a distinct denomination, we continue to claim the authority of exercising among ourselves that order for the glory of God in the good of the church, which Christianity requires.

And we continue to claim the external privileges, which, according to the free Constitution of our country, every denomination is entitled to enjoy.

Yet while we, as an Association, adopt a general Profession of Belief and Plan of Church Government, we leave it to the several Churches ad Societies, or to smaller associations of churches, if such should be formed, within the limits of our General Association, to continue or adopt within themselves, such more particular articles of faith, or modes of discipline, as may appear to them best under their particular circumstances, provided they do not disagree with our general Profession and Plan.

And while we consider that every Church possesses within itself all the powers of self-government, we earnestly and affectionately recommend to every Church, Society, or particular Association, to exercise the spirit of Christian meekness and charity towards those who have different modes of faith or practice, that where the brethren cannot see alike, they may agree to differ; and let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.

1825 American Unitarian Association purpose

"to diffuse the knowledge and promote the interests of pure Christianity throughout our country."

1838 Ralph Waldo Emerson Divinity School Address

"Jesus Christ belonged to the true race of prophets. He saw with open eye the mystery of the soul. Drawn by its severe harmony, ravished with its beauty, he lived in it, and had his being there. Alone in all history he estimated the greatness of man."

1841 Theodore Parker on Jesus in Transient and Permanent in Christianity

"so much of Divinity was in him [Jesus]. His words solve the questions of the present age. In him the Godlike and the Human met and embraced, and a divine Life was born."

1853 American Unitarian Association Statement

We desire openly to declare our belief as a denomination, so far as it can be officially represented by the American Unitarian Association, that God, moved by his own love, did raise up Jesus to aid in our redemption from sin, did by him pour a fresh flood of purifying life through the withered veins of humanity and along the corrupted channels of the world, and is, by his religion, forever sweeping the nations with regenerating gales from heaven, and visiting the hearts of men with celestial solicitations. We receive the teachings of Christ, separated from all foreign admixtures and later accretions, as infallible truth from God!

WE BELIEVE in one God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Father of spirits, the righteous Governor and Judge of the world.

WE BELIEVE in Jesus Christ, the everlasting Son of God, the express image of the Father, in whom dwelt all the fullness of the God-head bodily, and who to us is the Way and the Truth and the Life.

WE BELIEVE in the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, the teacher, renewer, and guide of mankind.

WE BELIEVE in the Holy Catholic Church as the body and form of the Holy Spirit, and the presence of Christ in all ages.

WE BELIEVE in the Regeneration of the human heart, which, being created upright, but corrupted by sin, is renewed and restored by the power of Christian truth.

WE BELIEVE in the constant Atonement whereby God in Christ is reconciling the world to himself.

WE BELIEVE in the Resurrection from mortal to immortality, in a future judgment and Eternal Life.

WE BELIEVE in the coming of the Kingdom of God, and the final triumph of Christian Truth.

1865 National Conference of Unitarian Churches Statement of Purpose

"Whereas, the great opportunities and demands for Christian labor and consecration at this time increase our sense of the obligations of all disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to prove their faith by self-denial and by the devotion of their lives and possessions to the service of God and the building up of the Kingdom of his Son, therefore, the Christian churches of the Unitarian faith here assembled unite themselves in a common body…to the end of reorganizing and stimulating the denomination with which they are connected to the largest exertions in the cause of Christian faith and work."

1886 James Freeman Clarke's Five Points of Unitarian Faith

"the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, the Leadership of Jesus, Salvation by Character, the continuity of human development in all worlds, or the progress of mankind onward and upward forever."

1894 National Unitarian Statement of Purpose excerpt

"these churches accept the religion of Jesus, holding, in accordance with his teaching, that practical religion is summed up in love to God and love to man."

1899 Boston Declaration, Universalist

WE BELIEVE IN The Universal Fatherhood of God; The Spiritual Authority and Leadership of His Son, Jesus Christ; The Trustworthiness of the Bible as containing a Revelation from God; The Certainty of Just Retribution for Sin; And the final Harmony of all Souls with God.

1935 Universalist Washington Avowal

"The bond of fellowship in this Convention shall be a common purpose to do the will of God as Jesus revealed it and to co-operate in establishing the kingdom for which he lived and died. To that end, we avow our faith in God as Eternal and All-conquering Love, in the spiritual leadership of Jesus, in the supreme worth of every human personality, in the authority of truth known or to be known, and in the power of men of goodwill and sacrificial spirit to overcome evil and progressively establish the Kingdom of God."

1947 An Affirmation of Faith in the Power of Liberal Christianity co-written by Frederick May Eliot, president of the AUA

"We affirm that liberal Christianity, as held and practiced by the people of our respective churches, is a religious faith of the kind our time requires. We affirm that the spirit of Jesus, long misrepresented by theological orthodoxies and repressed by ecclesiastical controls, must be set free to work its beneficient will in the hearts of men everywhere, liberating their minds, challenging their restricted loyalties, and deepening their hold upon external realities. Such is the faith that is centered in the God who made of one blood, and of one spirit, all the nations of men on all the face of the earth."

1947 A. Powell Davies sermon All Souls Washington, D.C.

"I believe with Jesus that God is Spirit, and that truth never binds our minds but sets them free. I believe that by their fruits ye shall know them. I believe that Jesus was one of the world’s great religious geniuses—so far as my own knowledge goes, the greatest—but that he would have been appalled at the notion of calling him God."

1959 Unitarian Rev. Carl Scovel in A Unitarian Understanding of Christ

"We call Jesus the Christ because in him we see the ideal relationship between God and man. He redefined the word by his very life. He translated a utopian hope for a future deliverer into a present concern about one’s right relationship with God…In this relationship the reality of God became real."

1959 Unitarian theologian James Luther Adams in Neither Mere Morality Nor Mere God

"The liberal Christian outlook is directed to a Power that is living, that is active in a love seeking concrete manifestation, and that finds decisive response in the living posture and gesture of Jesus of Nazareth."

1966 Unitarian Rev. Wallace Robbins in Creeds are the Enemy of Christ

"There is nothing unusual in a Unitarian saying that he follows as his Master, as his Leader, as his Lord, Jesus Christ. I have no problem with this. However, I serve a church in which it is possible for people to be in a very great disagreement with me about this subject or any other. The point is we Unitarians do not have a creed; we have no confessional position which we are required to defend; we have a position of Christian liberty, of conscience to uphold."

1977 Rev. Prescott Wintersteen in Christology in American Unitarianism

"[D]eclarations of man's sufficiency are not enough. Bold assertions that God is dead, and a denial that Jesus Christ is either fitting or essential to a contemporary man's religion, only mock those who make them. Salvation lies now not in mind alone, nor in materialism, but in spirituality, in a sense of the Holy. It lies not in the laws of nature as sciences define them, but in an awareness of and a reliance upon that which is above physical nature. It is not an intellectual affirmation of the validity of Jesus which now is our way out, but an emotional espousal of his way of life, an unabashed reliance upon him as intermediary between us and God, and as intermediary between us and our stumbling world. He is at once our staff, on whom to lean, and our light upon the way. Indeed, he is the way, the truth, and the life, and the composite Jesus Christ of American Unitarianism created thus far in this nation' history is the instruction book for our understanding of him and the guide to our involvement with him. The resurrection of Jesus Christ to an effective place in American Unitarianism is not a sure thing, but it is a possibility."

1978 Unitarian Universalist Rev. David Rankin

"It is now possible to be a Christian on Sunday and a bigot on Monday. Would Jesus greet the orthodox Christians of today with a Holy Kiss? Or would he shout, ‘thieves, robbers, hypocrites!’ Yet, strangely, for me at least, there is still the Easter hope and the Easter blessing. That some will call it not orthodox, I know. That some will call it not Christian, I surmise. That some will call it not Unitarian Universalism, I expect. But it is my reality…My reality is the Original Gospel: The will of God as hunger and thirst and food and drink; the love of the perfect through pain and darkness and joy and light; the supremacy of the soul above churches that will cast me out; the leaving of nothing that is good to insignificance; the watchful eye for human suffering; and the courageous voice against the wrong. In my weakness, I need that faith."

1982 Unitarian Universalist Rev. Sue Spencer in Why I Am a Feminist Christian

"These stories, regardless of their literal truth, suggest that Jesus was operating on a completely different set of assumptions about people from the people around him. They suggest that he was proposing an entirely new set of relationships—a set of relationships that might turn the world upside down if anyone listened to him. He spoke with women—was even friends with them—at a time when most holy men considered it beneath their dignity even to speak with a woman. By not being afraid of the bleeding woman, he broke an ancient taboo. And he proclaimed his teachings open to men and women alike, at a time when everyone else assumed that teaching women was a complete waste of time. One biblical scholar, analyzing these and other stories, has concluded 'rightly I think' that Jesus was a feminist."

1983 Rev. Thomas Wintle in Seeing Ourselves: A UU Christian Perspective

"I propose that Unitarianism, at its best, has been and its most useful function within the Church Universal is to serve as a protest against all idolatrizing tendencies within the Church. The very doctrine which gives us our name is, regardless of your own Christology, a reminder and warning against the kind of Christocentrism that might rob Jesus of his humanity and the one God of sovereignty, on the one hand, and on the other hand might encourage within the Church the kind of triumphalism and imperialism that has so often marred Christian relationships with other world religions. Regardless of his high, a Unitarians’ Christology might be, he must always give primacy to the Father, and that reminds us that we dare not try to constrain God’s ability to reveal herself in other cultures, other tongues."

1998 Rev. Elizabeth Ellis in Claiming Our Place in a World That Needs Us

"While our history is valuable, a historical religion is not the goal of most UU Christians. We are involved in the world today. UU Christians need to be louder and clearer in social witness. We have in common that man from Nazareth, who embodied the way of life for us who follow him. We are called to embody that ourselves as disciples and, like Jesus, to be a compassionate voice and an active presence in the world. And like Jesus, our concern must be for the oppressed. We can’t allow our Christianity to become separated from public social life. With different styles and different ways we have to live our discipleship."

2004 Unitarian Universalist Rev. Parisa Parsa
UUCF General Assembly Communion Sermon

"We don’t serve our faith or our spiritual selves by making our religion smaller. We are not the world’s only religious liberals. We are not even Christianity’s only religious liberals. And we have much to gain by engaging the particulars of our faith in relationship with those interpreting it in light of their own. Whether it is liberal Methodists in the United States or liberal Shiâ’is in Iran, if we are to do justice to the memory of a great prophet, teacher and guide who lived bringing unlikely people together in order to forge a new story of God’ love for us all, we need to be willing to live past our illusions of smallness and isolation and reach out to the other members of the Body of Christ for whom liberal religion is a life-saving gift."