Hi Friends -
It was in April 1921 that Charles Fillmore made the daring decision to publish a Unity Statement of Faith. He did so “in response to many requests for our attitude toward certain tenets of the Christian religion.” To counter misperceptions about Unity, Charles Fillmore’s 32 statements of faith declared that “we do believe all that is taught by the church” and that “we believe all the doctrines of the Christian church, spiritually interpreted.”
What is important here is that Charles Fillmore recognized the threat of being misperceived and therefore he took bold steps to address the ambiguity about Unity’s beliefs. His Statement of Faith placed Unity squarely in the Christian camp and unambiguously explained Unity’s unique interpretation of the tenants of the Christian faith.
It was 1984 when Unity ceased publication of the Statement of Faith. It is fair to say that since then the growth of Unity has stalled and that the influence and prestige of Unity ministers has fallen.
I am not saying that the cause is directly tied to Unity not having a clear doctrine. But I do know that two problems were clearly expressed this past week in Houston at the Unity Worldwide Ministries Annual Summit: Unity has a difficult time explaining itself to the broader public and that Unity churches need help in boosting attendance.
There is another subtle correlation that I want to make explicit. It just may be that the ambiguity of Unity’s teachings not only hinders the growth of Unity churches. It may be that the same ambiguity hinders the authority and prestige of Unity ministers. Can ministers and their ministries be successful without having a definitive and distinguishing statement of faith?
Many people are concerned about appearing dogmatic. So was Charles Fillmore, who wrote “We have considered the restrictions that will follow a formulated platform, and are hereby giving warning that we shall not be bound by this tentative statement of what Unity believes.”
Let me say that doctrines are not dogma. Dogma is fixed and unchangeable. Doctrines, as Charles Fillmore says, are “the best we have to offer at this writing.” He famously said “We may change our minds tomorrow on some of the points, and if we do, we shall feel free to make a new statement of faith in harmony with the new viewpoint.”
That’s risky. Rev. Dianne Tober recently shared with me, “If our founders worried about how the more traditional Christian based groups of their time would accept and embrace and ‘approve’ of their new ways of expressing their ‘God-ness’, our principles would not have been formulated... Where would we be? While Unity, as we know it, had and has it’s roots in the Christian tradition and it’s Truth Teachings, Universal Truth is more!”
So I ask, is it not possible that Unity leadership in 1984 chose to abandon the Statement of Faith because they worried how the general public would accept and embrace our definitive and distinguishing interpretation of the Christian faith?
Rev. Dianne concludes “As Charles Fillmore said: ‘I reserve the right to change my mind!’ I think it was more like expand my mind... All IS and ALWAYS was well. More WILL be revealed! Fear not!”
So let’s not change our mind about having a definitive and distinguishing statement of faith. Let’s root our teachings in what we have received from the Fillmores and then expand our mind with an updated version, formulated in a democratic fashion for today’s culture and language.
Which brings us to the decline in authority and prestige of Unity ministers.
Last week I endorsed the idea of “institutional pluralism” in Unity—that the Unity movement would be well-served by having “several organizations, functioning independently yet co-operatively within the great family of the Unity field activity.”
To be more specific this week, I am proposing that if there were “institutional pluralism” in Unity it would naturally fall into a leadership of three legs: Unity World Headquarters, Unity Worldwide Ministries and some form of a “Unity Minister’s Association.” The Unity Minister’s Association, or UMA, is exactly what existed prior to the launch of what is now Unity Worldwide Ministries.
I’ve written before that the needs of the congregations are not perfectly aligned with the needs of ministers as professionals. Ministers need their own voice. They need to have responsibility to train themselves, to credential themselves and to discipline themselves. But that’s not the main reason there needs to be a UMA.
Unity needs a UMA because it does not have adequate spiritual leadership. Far too many people sense that Unity—both UWH and UWM—have drifted away from its core teachings.
A Unity Ministers Association is necessary to provide the for the sacred role of spiritual leadership—keeping the flame and holding the high watch. They can begin by assembling to formulate an updated, definitive and distinguishing Statement of Faith.
Sunday, February 10, 2019