Is “The Unitarian Church” Christian?
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Someone here asserted that “the Unitarian Church” is Christian. I did not respond then, but I want to respond now. I hope he or she reads this.
The background to that assertion is my comment here that the NBC journalist who interviewed Douglas Wilson (of Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho) made a mistake by mainly interviewing a Unitarian minister—about Wilson and his “plan” to make Moscow a “Christian city.” I averred that she should have interviewed a Christian pastor, perhaps even an evangelical one, who disagrees with Wilson. She sort of shot herself in the foot, figuratively speaking, by giving so much time to the Unitarian pastor because she pastors a church that is not even Christian. Interviewing an avowedly Christian pastor of an openly Christian, even evangelical, church would have carried more weight with Christian and non-Christian viewers who might otherwise think Wilson speaks for all conservative Christians.
So a commenter here simply asserted that “the Unitarian Church” is a Christian church. I disagree.
First, there is no such thing as “THE Unitarian Church.” There are Unitarian churches and there is the Unitarian Universalist Association (of churches). The Association is not “a church” but a collective of churches.
Second, I am the editor-author of The Handbook of Denominations in the United States (14th edition) published by Abingdon Press. I did a lot of research about Unitarianism in the U.S. and included the Association in the Handbook because it has Christian roots.
The Association is not a member of the World Council of Churches or of the National Council of Churches. A careful examination of its web site reveals no mention of Jesus Christ. It only says that Unitarians embrace values from many religious traditions including Christianity. I have personally known of Unitarian churches (members of the Association) pastored by Buddhists and have heard of Unitarian churches that include Wiccans as full members.
I perused the web site of the Unitarian church in Moscow, Idaho and it is similar to the web site of the Association (of which it is a member) in terms of embracing inter-religious and humanist beliefs and values.
Of course a member or even a minister of a Unitarian church can call himself or herself “Christian.” I once lived a few blocks from one of the Association’s largest and most influential churches that considered itself Christian—in a very liberal sense. But, like original Unitarians and Universalists, it did not embrace the deity of Jesus Christ or the Trinity.
Third, because it is a controversial assertion, “the Unitarian Church is Christian” needs to be explained and supported and not merely asserted and that rule of thumb here applies to all controversial assertions. Most Christians in America (and I assume elsewhere) do not consider Unitarians Christians. To say that the Unitarian Church is Christian is at best counter-intuitive. Yes, it has Christian roots and embraces some Christian values, but so do many non-Christian cults, sects, and religions. (I am not calling the Association a cult!)
Fourth, speaking only for myself, speaking on the basis of informed and considered opinion, I consider the Unitarian Universalist Association and its member churches a collective of spiritual-humanist people with Christian roots that is now inter-religious but not Christian.
Why does this matter? Because someone who reads that “the Unitarian church is Christian” may be misled to attend a Unitarian church, thinking it is Christian. They might not have enough discernment to realize they are not visiting a Christian church—at first. It’s possible such a person would become involved in the non-Christian church and be led astray. I had a shirt-tail relative like that. Eventually, however, she found her way out of Unitarianism and is now an evangelical Christian.
Now, if you doubt me, go to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s web site and examine it. Where do you find Jesus there? Go to the web site of the Universalist church in Moscow, Idaho and examine it. Where do you find Jesus there? I have no doubt that Unitarians admire Jesus and value some of what Jesus taught, but, generally speaking, they do not place him on a pedestal above Buddha or Krishna or Mohammed or other great religious founders and wise men and women. (I acknowledge there may be individual Unitarian churches that do.)
There is at least one newish offshoot of the UUA that wants Unitarian churches to return to their Christian roots. Even they, however, would not consider Jesus Christ “God and Savior” and therefore would not count as Christian in my book or that of the World Council of Churches.