Bleg: old Universalist rules of fellowship

For the uninitiated, a bleg is a blog beg. And so I’m begging.

I’m on the look out for Universalist church rules of fellowship and other organic governing documents, roughly for the period from 1910 to 1959. Documents from the immediate post-WWII era are especially desirable. Hard as the devil — so to speak — to find.

An earlier version of the kind of thing I mean can be seen here.


By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. I believe that Unitarian Universalism would be better served by a presbyterian polity like the one that the old Universalists used. Ministers need to be recognized and ordained by the districts. Keeping congregational ordination just prevents congregations from thinking beyond their often limited needs instead of thinking of ministry in broader terms. The way we ordain creates a mindset that the local church is at the center of the universe and that limits its ministry.

    Another issue is that the local congregation is really not accountable to the larger movement under our version of congregational polity. This is not a plea for theological conformity but one for a forum for discussion of a congregation’s issues. Some congregations burn out or eat up ministers every three years and our movement would be better served were we able to say to those congregations that they could no longer use the denominational search process. “No, we will not send you names of ministers until you have handled the behaviors that make ministering to you impossible.”

    Currently, the UUA can punish ministers in many ways for anything. No avenue exists though for censuring congregations. This polity would at least open up dialogue between those on the outside and those on the inside of the congregation. Congregations need to be held accountable for their actions of inactions. For example, if the local unit decides not to send the district even a small sum like ten dollars, the district cannot do anything.

    Thanks for posting, Scott!

  2. To be fair, Universalists identified their policy as congregationalist. It can be a continuum, particularly when some congregationalists — including some of the Unitarian stripe — really function as independent churches.

  3. Robert Cumming’s “Parish Practice in Universalist Churches”(1946) is 159 pages. Chapters include
    Religion, The Local Church – How It Functions, The Minister- His Task, The Local Church, Board of Trustees, Organizations Within The Church, The Planning Council, Leadership Educations, Goals, Church Office and Records, The Small Church,Federated Churches, General Plan of Denominational Organization.

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