SWC: What’s in a name?

I just wish the association that calls itself the ‘Unitarian Universalist association’ would realize that its name no longer describes the beliefs of the majority of its members and would change its name.

~ Rev. Dr. Don Fielding, “Why I am Not a Unitarian Universalist

This is not an uncommon sentiment. In a traditional sense, we have very few Universalists, and even fewer Unitarians in our midst. At the same time, there is no one label that does apply to the majority of UUs. The name has a lot of history, which is worth remembering, but it is complicated an unrepresentative of who we are today.

The question we want to ask is: Would you change the name, what to, and why?

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6 Responses to SWC: What’s in a name?

  1. Claire (C.C.) April 26, 2014 at 1:47 pm #

    I am a unitarian universalist as well as a UU: I am christologically unitarian – that is, I don’t reckon Jesus of Nazareth was any more God than I am – and soteriologically universalist: I believe that whatever ‘salvation’ means, it is available to all humanity and that God, if there is one, does not pick favorites. I think these historical words are useful in describing UU’s relationship to the Christian tradition and in that limited sense, still pretty accurate.

    For me the question is how to identify ourselves in ways that acknowledge that our collective relationship to the Christian tradition is a (sometimes insignificantly) small part of our identity.


  2. David Pollard April 26, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    I have to say I’m not particularly impressed with it. After all, how many Quakers “quake”?

  3. Cindy Bidwell Glaze April 26, 2014 at 4:40 pm #

    I am a Universalist. I go to a UU church. I believe that everyone is Saved in the end and that God, by Her many names is Good and is Love beyond our knowing. I am also a Humanist Pagan. What would you name a church that welcomes me? I have no problems with the name Unitarian Universalist.

  4. poetleslie April 26, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    First of all, I think it’s fairly ridiculous to change the name. I am a Unitarian Universalist. I was raised in this church. I believe in one God and universal salvation. Though my beliefs are more spiritual and less Christian than the original Unitarian and Universalist churches, who cares? Religions can morph over time, but that does not mean they need to change their names. I’m still pissed off that UU churches have, more and more over my lifetime, been dropping the word “church” from their name and the word “God” from their services and hymns. It’s a religion. If you don’t like that it’s a church, you don’t have to go. But that’s another argument for another day. I am UU. Change the name and I will still call myself UU.

    Second, the Quakers did and do not always call themselves Quakers. It was originally an insult. When George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends, was charged with blasphemy in England, one of the magistrates used the word ” because I bade them tremble at the word of the Lord,” Fox said in his autobiography.

    There’s always a history and a reason for the name of a religion. I see no reason to just flush our history down the toilet to tack on some new moniker.

  5. Bill Kennedy April 26, 2014 at 10:52 pm #

    I don’t have a big problem with our name. I do think Unitarian Universalist is a bit dated and does not really define our 21st century religion very well, but it is probably better than anything else we could come up with. However, in response to poetleslie I, I differ with a couple of points he made. The first point concerns God. While God is important to many UUs, God is not an integral part of our faith. Theistic UU congregations will place more emphasis on God than Humanist congregations will
    Every congregation will find its own path in that regard, using the fifth UU principal (the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations). Notice that I use the word congregation rather than church. This is the other point of disagreement with poetleslie. I prefer the former over the latter because I came to UU from a different faith tradition. I do not hate the word church, but I would prefer a different word. Congregation, Fellowship, and Society are all fine with me. Again, this would be where our fifth UU principal comes into play. In the end, it doesn’t matter what name we go by, or how much emphasis we place on God. What matters is how well we live our faith and our principals. Some religions believe that their purpose is to make us more Holy and get is into Heaven; I don’t think that is what UU is all about. I think that the purpose of our UU faith is to make us more whole, and to lead us toward making life on Earth more like Heaven.

  6. C.C. April 27, 2014 at 7:54 am #

    The reflection by Rev. Dr. Don Fielding resonates with me. While I do not reject the name Unitarian Universalism, I do not think it is particularly descriptive of who we are as a community. I would be happy if the name were changed to something more relevant to our current collective principles and purposes. (And no, I do not believe that evolving in that way is akin to “flushing our history down the toilet”.) I would be much more proud to “evangelize” a “faith” that did not have as its label such a “religious” designation. But I must humble myself to remember that – as much as it puts me off personally to be so – we are, indeed, a religion.
    The more God and “church” language there is in services, the less I feel at home. (This is my own, personal issue, I am aware.) I do think that minimizing these elements is actually welcoming to a greater number of individuals. There has been much discussion lately of the “nones” and how to attract them to UUism. It is my belief that a change of the name would also be more welcoming to those who have heretofore chosen to disassociate themselves with any “religion”. (Not that that should necessarily be the goal…) If I wanted God and “church”, I would go to a Godly church. My view of UUism (in spite of the name) is that it offers something more to a broader community of spiritual people.

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