Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Faith Like a River: A Program on Unitarian Universalist History for Adults

Handout 5: Things Most Commonly Believed Today Among Us (1887) and Unitarians Face A New Age (1936)

Things Most Commonly Believed Today Among Us

A Statement of Faith written by William Channing Gannett for the 1887 meeting of the Western Unitarian Conference in Chicago, adopted by a vote of 59 to 13.

  • We believe that to love the Good and to live the Good is the supreme thing in religion;
  • We hold reason and conscience to be final authorities in matters of religious belief;
  • We honor the Bible and all inspiring scripture, old and new;
  • We revere Jesus, and all holy souls that have taught men truth and righteousness and love, as prophets of religion;
  • We believe in the growing nobility of Man; We trust the unfolding Universe as beautiful, beneficent, unchanging Order; to know this order is truth; to obey it is right and liberty and stronger life;
  • We believe that good and evil invariably carry their own recompense, no good thing being failure and no evil thing success; that heaven and hell are states of being; that no evil can befall the good man in either life or death; that all things work together for the victory of the Good;
  • We believe that we ought to join hands and work to make the good things better and the worst good, counting nothing good for self that is not good for all;
  • We believe that this self-forgetting, loyal life awakes in man the sense of union here and now with things eternal—the sense of deathlessness; and this sense is to us an earnest of the life to come;
  • We worship One-in-All — that life whence suns and stars derive their orbits and the soul of man its Ought, — that Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world, giving us power to become the sons of God, — that Love with which our souls commune.

Unitarians Face a New Age Statement of Doctrinal Agreements and Tensions

A summary of the conclusions drawn from the Study of Values by the 1936 Unitarian Commission of Appraisal. Published in Unitarians Face a New Age, the commission's report.

Unitarians Agree

  • In affirming the primacy of the free exercise of intelligence in religion, believing that in the long run the safest guide to truth is human intelligence.
  • In affirming the paramount importance for the individual of his own moral convictions and purpose.
  • In affirming that the social implications of religion are indispensable to its vitality and validity, as expressed in terms of concern for social conditions and the struggle to create a just social order.
  • In affirming the importance of the church as the organized expression of religion.
  • In affirming the necessity for worship as a deliberate effort to strengthen the individual's grasp of the highest spiritual values of which he is aware.
  • In affirming the rational nature of the universe.

Unitarians Disagree

  • As to the expediency of using the traditional vocabulary of religion, within a fellowship which includes many who have rejected the ideas commonly associated with such words as "God", "prayer", "communion", "salvation", "immortality".
  • As to the wisdom of maintaining the definitely Christian tradition, and the traditional forms of Christian worship.
  • As to the religious values of a purely naturalistic philosophy.
  • As to the adequacy and competency of man to solve his own problems, both individual and social.
  • As to the advisability of direct action by churches in the field of social and political problems.