What Do Unitarian Universalists Believe? 

Many of us have been asked that question at some point. Perhaps by a colleague where we work, or by another student in our school or at a march for justice. Those yellow “Standing on the Side of Love” shirts have prompted a lot of those questions. 

What do Unitarian Universalists believe? When I served as denominational President, I often urged folks to develop their “elevator speeches,” what you say when you get asked that question in an elevator and there is only the time between the 5th and the 1st floor to answer. It is more challenging than you might think. 

Since 1985, almost four decades, many of us have relied on the Seven Principles for our answer. “Unitarian Universalism is not based on a creed of belief.” We might get as far as talking about the “inherent worth and dignity” of every person. Or pull out one of the laminated cards with all the Principles and Sources that some of us keep in our wallets just for that question. 

Our religious community is deeply committed to individualism. The inherent worth has been easy for all of us to affirm. What binds us together is harder to name.  

Few can disagreed with the Principles, but more than a few of us have asked whether they are enough. Don’t we need at least some traditional religious language, as well as general principles? Are non-Christian and especially earth centered traditions reflected enough to justify our Universalist name. And in recent years, do the 7 Principles reflect our foundational commitment to counter oppression and the aspiration of Beloved community? All Souls was an early adopter of the 8th Principle. 

Today, the Unitarian Universalist Association is considering a significant revision to this most important shared language, the Principles and Sources. That language is contained in Article II of the UUA By-Laws. A proposal is being brought forward by the Study Commission that has been at work on this for more than a year.  Article II Study Report to the Board of Trustees (uua.org)

Long-time All Souls lay leader and the primary mover behind the 8th Principle, Paula Cole Jones, serves on that Commission. 

I encourage you to read their report and proposal. I plan to preach on some of these questions this spring. The new language will come before the annual General Assembly this June. If approved there, the new language would come back the following year for a final approval. 

The new approach centers love. All Souls just added the word “Beloved” to our congregational statement of mission last year: “Diverse, spirit-growing, justice-seeking Beloved Community.” 

I am certain that there will be many different responses to the proposal. A sense of loss will be felt by more than a few of us.  

Our faith believes in change. “Revelation is not sealed,” is an article of faith for us. But the flip side, and the necessary corollary of a belief in change, is the question of what abides. What can we rely on? What can we have faith in? 

This morning, reflecting again about the Principles and the new proposal, the words of Alice Walker resonate in my spirit: 

Love, if it is love, never goes away. 

 It is embedded in us, 

Like seams of gold in the earth, 

Waiting for light, 

Waiting to be struck. 


Rev. Bill 

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    I will attend the 2023 GA this year and am happy to know of this important business to be considered.

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