Were there Christians at GA?

Last year, I wondered out loud where the reportage of Christian events at General Assembly was? I pressed a UU staffer and was stonewalled.

This year, though there are a number of other-than-Christian theological events reported, it seems clear that there’s no Christian coverage planned for GA ’05. No, Elaine Pagels does not count, unless she became Unitarian Universalist and didn’t tell anyone: Christians shouldn’t have to be represented by proxy. Or euphemism, or apology (in the common sense of the word.)

This is unbalanced coverage, and I smell bias.

By Scott Wells

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


  1. Other than the communion service, what did you see in the program that fit the bill? One event composed entirely (and unfortunately) of UU Christians was the Conservative Forum “Blue Church in a Red State Nation” workshop, which was covered.

  2. I went to the communion service and the web staff was there to cover it. The other major UUCF event was at a nearby church off site. There was also web staff covering the New Mass Universalist Convention presentation (some folks from National Memorial had kind words to say about you btw).

    I decided that I wanted to go out of my way and make sure to attend at least one of the UU Christian events. The service was a little lackluster, although the preaching was good. I thought the minister probably gave a better sermon at the antideathpenalty rally the day before. It was fun to take communion for the first time since I was a kid. A couple Starr King School classmates were also there. Other than that the attendance was a little small and mainly seniors.

  3. This is unbalanced coverage, and I smell bias…….

    and this is why so many Christians with Unitarianism in both the USA and UK have decided to go elsewhere. For some time I felt it was worth trying to preserve the Christian voice within Unitarianism but I came to the conclusion recently that the debate / struggle / movement etc is now over.

    Unitarianism in Western societies is so dominated by pseudo-liberals that Christians cannot even really exist as a legitimate strand of thought within Unitarianism. In one article for The Herald (UCA – Autumn 2004), Dawn Buckle – the outgoing president of the UK’s GA commented that Unitarianism wrote that:

    “I am fond of using the metaphor of a river to express who we are. A river which has many streams joining it at various stages making it richer, wider and stronger as it makes its way to the sea of spiritual awareness. The river cannot reject any particular stream because they are all needed.”

    But in the same article she also states that she does not call herself a Christian and that this term is not even worth keeping because of its ‘unacceptable baggage’.

    This I think demonstrates perfectly the inconsistencies within the ‘Post-Christian Revisionist Unitarianism’ that the likes of Buckle and her GA (UK) allies wish to put forward as the official view. They cry total tolerance and freedom of belief from the rooftops of their headquarters but this is in fact rendered totally and utterly meaningless by their persistent stonewalling of anything Christian – unless it in their interests to play the ‘Christian card’.

    In a recent TV show hosted by Paul Travis – a Unitarian Christian minister – there was a gathering of faiths in Liverpool Anglican Cathedral for world peace and unity. There was a Jew, Sikh and Muslim guest… oh and our dear friend the GA president acting as the ‘Christian guest’ reading out Christian scripture in one of the largest Christian cathedrals in Europe in a traditionall very Christian city…

    So what we see is a subtle campaign to erase the Christian root except when they judge it to be good for their own organisational success.

  4. I did a word search for “Christian” in the GA catalog. Nothing was found. Hard to blame the coverage as biased if there was nothing to actually cover. Need to get the light out from under the bushel folks.

  5. Well, one would think the UUCF would be a good option, and, yes, the Communion Service. Especially if reporters were sighted there. I can’t think of anything — shy of a baptism — that depicts Christian faith better.

    My point is that the relations between the various theological groups (and I include the “don’t call me hyphenated” group, who only deny they share a theology that others don’t; but I’ve written about that before) is never easy and there need to be tokens of good will to show that none of these nervous groups are excluded. If any group was represented — and several were — then the exception of Unitarian and Universalist Christian voices casts a bad light.

    In the bad ol’ days, the Christians would be resentful, moap, and complain to each other. That didn’t work. (Wrote about that, too.) So let’s try complaining out loud.

  6. The other major Universalist workshop that I really hoped to see coverage of was on the anniversary of the Treatise on Atonment. I chose to go to a workshop on Hartshorne and process theology instead, but I was hoping to find out more about the Hosea Ballou workshop.

  7. The UUCF communion service on Sunday is covered on UUA.org GA site. Granted, a short write up but it is there. 4046 UU Christian Worship Service, including Communion

  8. Nice to hear — have’t seen it yet — that the Communion Service get notice. I was worried seeing as it wasn’t “on the budget” at GA’s end.

    Jason: I take it you’ll be rallying on your blog?

  9. I overheard a conversation between two people seated behind the UUCF table at GA last week. One noted that in years past, he and other Christians often felt unwelcome, but this year, that wasn’t the case at all.

    I can certainly concur. To answer your question, Scott, “Were there Christians at GA?” Yes, most definitely we were there, and unlike in years past, being a Christian there felt comfortable. I wore my Universalist cross pin* the entire week–no one freaked out, and several people admired it vocally. It was easily the most theistic UU gathering, with the most positive God-talk and least avoidance of (or apologizing for) traditional religious language and practices, I’ve ever attended (except for UUCF events). Rob Hardies with his fine Sunday morning sermon, and Burton Carley who gave a phenomenal Berry Street Essay–both of whom wore their God-consciousnesses on their sleeves as they spoke–were widely well-received.

    If there is a strong anti-Christian bias–which I seriously doubt at this point–it is not institutional, but held only by a small handful in charge of reporting the events. I think a number of events that may not have had the word “Christian” in the title, easily showed in their content an affirmation of UUism’s Christian heritage, foundations, and witness. James Luther Adams and the Transformation of Liberalism is a case in point. I attended that lecture by Kim Beach, w/ responses from Buehrens and Dr. Lovin (former dean of Perkins)–a pretty Christian-friendly bunch, I dare say–and I can attest the Christian threads running through Adams’ thought were made clear. I notice, though, that little mention of these threads was made on the website description of this event.

    It wasn’t covered by the web team, but those of us on the ground in Fort Worth could definitely feel the agape. Intentional omissions, or just negligent oversights? Hard to say, but as a UUCFer myself, I felt good about being there.

  10. *I forgot to add the obligitory footnote: I do realize that the “Universalist cross pin” I wore was, in fact, the Humiliati symbol. Granted, the Humiliati had a clear non-Christian bias they wished to communicate with their logo. But most GA goers, not knowing that history, just saw a cross, and most of them thought it was cool I was wearing a cross. There may have been many who disliked it and said nothing, but I saw no ugly looks directed my way.

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