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A Look at the History of Unity Worldwide Ministries

A Look at the History of Unity Worldwide Ministries graphic

Are We a Denomination? / Are We Christian?

Hi Friends -

This video, released in February 2024 by the Board of Unity Worldwide Ministries, explicitly asks “Is Unity a denomination?” It is an important video, at least from a learning perspective. So I've segmented it into 21 clips and inserted each clip into a transcript. Scroll down to watch the entire video or further down to see each segment.

It is important for two reasons. First, it explains why we have two institutions in Unity and why we need more. Here is my take on The Rise of Institutional Pluralism in Unity, published in September 2015.

The second reason is that the context for this video is the 2023 controversy which had many people objecting to Christian identity in Unity. Let me explain how these two questions—"Are We a Denomination?/Are We Christian?"—are related in an unexpected and perverse way.

In its first 25 years Unity had no denominational structure whatsover, exactly as Charles Fillmore wished. But by 1916 unbridled, free-spirited teachers in the field were teaching so much non-Unity that the Fillmores felt compelled to address the problem. They established a Field Department in 1919, developed a Statement of Faith in 1921, formed a “Unity Church Universal” in 1924, gathered ministers to summer training conferences in 1925 and began selectively ordaining ministers in 1931.

Ordinations were restored in 1931 so that Myrtle Fillmore could explicitly identify those who were true to the teachings. Charles was ambivalent, but went along with Myrtle. The formation of UWM in 1966 was initiated by Charles R Fillmore so that the Fillmore teachings of Unity school were insulated from the universalist teachings in the field ministries.

The unexpected insight is that it was Myrtle, not Charles, who was most disturbed by the eclectic array of non-Unity teaching. And it was Myrtle who put her foot down.

The perverse insight is that those who insist on using Unity as a platform to promote their own agenda are those most likely to object to denominational structures. Freedom isn't free. Freedom requires discipline.

Mark Hicks
Saturday, February 24, 2024

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01. Introduction

Welcome to a look at the history of Unity Worldwide Ministries. This is presented as an opportunity to review how the organization came to be, why it was created, and the intention of its founding members. Some of this will be familiar to you, but much of it may not, and the intention is that all of it will help UWM clarify its identity going forward.

02. The Journey Begins in 1889

This journey began in 1889 when Myrtle and Charles Fillmore created their first publication and started gathering others to share the healing teachings that they had discovered. From the 1939 Dissertation on Unity, we read “During that first year, Mrs. Fillmore was enthusiastically active in trying to perfect a Christian Science organization in Kansas City. She immediately called for a room large enough to seat 200, which might be used as a meeting place” (p.44). Here we see the initial seed for Unity Worldwide Ministries planted: the gathering of people in a large space akin to the ministry of a Modern Unity Church or Unity Center. It would be two years later when the Fillmores received clarity that the name of their work should be called Unity. This would soon be followed by requests for clarity around Unity’s identity. The 1895 edition of Unity Magazine reads,

“We are frequently asked, is this doctrine you promulgate through your publications, Christian science, divine science, mental science, or what to such inquiries? We reply, we are not attached to any school and our teaching is not formulated. We are guided by the spirit of truth. We have readers among all the schools of thought and we find good in them all. Yet we cannot say that we are an exponent of any. If our doctrine were nameable, we should prefer to call it practical Christianity” (Torch-Bearer To the Way p.229).

03. Unity Society of Practical Christianity (1903)

Now with the name Unity, they also have what is referred to as a doctrine of practical Christianity. In 1903, their identity as practical Christianity would be further solidified with the naming of their first organization, Unity Society of Practical Christianity. In the bylaws of Unity Society of Practical Christianity, we see another seed planted for what would become Unity Worldwide Ministries: “right to license properly qualified persons to perform all the privileges of a minister of the gospel” (1939 Dissertation p.51).

These bylaws set the stage for the ability to ordained ministers, which would later become one of the functions of Unity Worldwide Ministries. Although the actual ordaining of ministers would not happen until 1906 with Charles and Myrtle themselves being among the first group to receive a Unity ordination, there wouldn’t be another ordination until 1918, after which ordinations would go dormant 15 more years.

Reading from The Story of Unity, we find it was with great reluctance that Charles and Myrtle Fillmore set up a fixed procedure for becoming a teacher of Unity. “The doors of Unity,” they said, “swing in for all who want to come and study and they out just as readily for those who want to go forth and teach” (p.185). The initial intention might have been for anyone to be able to learn and teach Unity, but their movement was rapidly growing. In 1914, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore in incorporate as Unity School of Christianity, which would often be referred to as Unity Headquarters.

04. Unity Needs a Doctrine (1916)

In the book, The Unity Movement we read, “While Unity headquarters expected Unity centers to combine their teaching to those of Unity, not all centers complied with these wishes. By 1916, the Fillmores recognized that this matter needed to be addressed” (p.321). The initial intent of allowing anyone to learn and teach Unity was now running up against the reality that not everyone fully understood what Unity was or how to teach it. Charles Fillmore tried to address this issue and in The Unity Movement we read him saying, “Coming to us from various quarters, our letters telling of Unity centers that are not teaching the Unity doctrine. These letters ask how we can endorse these centers which take our name when they depart so radically from what is set forth in our literature. We do not endorse them. We do not endorse anybody’s teaching. It is all we can do to endorse our own, let alone hold up the standards set by many teachers now so profusely scattered throughout the country” (p.321).

Here again, we recognize the use of the word doctrine as it relates to Unity teachings and a growing concern that Unity centers in the field are not following it. Reading from The Unity Movement, we find “Charles responds to a Unity student who thinks headquarters should take more responsibility for what was being taught in the centers” (p.322). [Charles said:]

“One must know the peculiar needs of the people to whom he is ministering and to be able to decide just how to reach and aid them. Neither could we set forth any creed or dogma for others to follow... Charles concluded that Unity should not take responsibility for the operation of Unity centers because both Unity and the centers needed to be free to follow their own inner guidance. Charles, however, did not want to be associated with those centers that use the Unity name but diluted the teaching” (p.323).

Perhaps Unity teachers in these centers were confused. On one hand they hear that there is no creed or dogma to follow, and what they teach is up to them. On the other, they hear that they will no longer be endorsed by the founders if they don’t follow Unity doctrine and what is set forth in the literature. In The Story of Unity, it speaks directly to this polarity:

“Nevertheless, the Fillmores found that at last they had to place limitations on what could be taught in the name of Unity. All over the country, little groups of students who were studying the Unity literature began to meet together and start classes in Unity teachings. Often those who led these groups knew very little of the teachings of the fillmores. They held seances, cast horoscopes, told fortunes, read palms and practiced numerology. The Fillmores themselves spoke out against them in their magazine. Still, they were reluctant to tell other teachers what to teach even when the teachings were put out under the name of Unity” (p.186).

05. Unity Field Department (1919)

Finally, in 1919 there was decisive action taken to address this growing situation with the introduction of the Unity Field Department. This department was created within Unity School of Christianity and had this as their mission and purpose. “Mission: Assisting in organizing study classes and centers among groups of students who are interested in applying the Jesus Christ principles in their lives and in their affairs. Purpose: To encourage cooperation, harmony and constructive methods in the advancement of truth.” (The Unity Movement p.315).

Perhaps this would help clarify that it is the Jesus Christ principles that should be taught out in the field ministries and that by encouraging cooperation in harmony, they would create a more symbiotic relationship between the field leaders and Unity School of Christianity.

Reverend Ernest C. Wilson would later confirm this position in 1978 when he reflected back on that time, he said, “The field department formed a link between the school and the many groups in this country and abroad. The field department was an effort to establish some guidelines so that what was offered in the centers would reflect what the Fillmores taught at headquarters.” (TruthUnity, Profile of “Inge” by Ernest C. Wilson, 1978)

06. Unity's Statement of Faith (1921)

It is important to remember that there was still just one primary Unity organization at this time with various departments working to support all the expansion in Unity. As things improved, some things remain the same, such as the questions for clarity about Unity’s teachings and identity.

Which brings us to 1921, a very pivotal moment in Unity history. When the founders set out to clarify Unity’s beliefs as it relates to Christianity. In total, they came up with 32 of what they called statements of faith. These statements brought detail and clarity to exactly what Unity believed on a variety of Christian subjects including Jesus, Christ, God, baptism, holy Spirit, mind, the divine feminine, the disciples, the treatment of animals, diet and human sexual relations. Along with these statements came some words of clarification:

“The foregoing statement of faith is condensed from Unity literature. It covers nearly all the points of doctrine that have been formulated up to date. 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. 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 a new viewpoint. However, we are assured that there will be no change in fundamentals. The form of words may be clarified and the inner and outer meaning of the truth may be more clearly set forth” (Unity, April 1921, Unity's Statement of Faith).

As much as these were clarifications and guidance around what was still being referred to as Unity’s doctrine, they left room for the beliefs to change and grow. In the clarification they go on to say,

“However, the foregoing is the best we have to offer this writing and it is made in response to many requests for our attitude towards certain tenets of the Christian religion. It has often been claimed that we do not believe in Christ, the atonement and several other of the sacred doctrines of Christianity. A careful perusal of the foregoing will convince anyone that we do believe all that is taught by the church and also that our faith is bulwarked by an understanding of the underlying spiritual laws upon which the church bases its doctrines.”

07. Unity Church Universal (1924)

These statements may have brought clarity to what Unity believed, but the questions about Unity’s identity still lingered. In some way, the next big announcement may have been an attempt to finally answer that question. Charles announces Unity to be “Unity Church Universal” after pressure to form a closer relationship with Protestant Christian churches. Surely this new direction would need further clarification and Mr. Fillmore shares it in this way:

“The time is ripe for the expression in the world of the church of Christ, which has always been recognized as existing eternally in the heavens or realms of spiritual ideals. Unity people the world over are asking for a closer relation and a more definite fellowship with the foundation church to meet this need, it has been decided to form a Unity Church Universal for Unity people everywhere. The setting up of this church of Christ in the earth will not mean the organizing of another sect, but a universal recognition of the true Christian principles in all sects.” (TruthUnity, “What We Are”)

Here we recognize the continued use of the words church, Christ and Christian to describe the organization, but also further clarification that this is not to be considered an effort to create another Christian sect. It would seem this new organization would be the umbrella for all other Unity organizations and perhaps even the umbrella for all other Christian sects and denominations. Mr. Fillmore continues in his announcement about Unity Church Universal:

“All Christians could join such a church without breaking their present religious affiliations. Unity and spirit and practice is the ideal Christian Church Universal and it offers to people everywhere. A spiritual church membership in which Christ will demonstrate his power to save His people here and now. From the ills of mind, body and affairs. Members of the Unity Church Universal will be prepared to show that the Bible teaches both involution and evolution from Genesis to Revelation, thus unifying the fundamentalists and the modernists of the church.” (“What We Are”)

This was a bold new direction for all of Unity, but also a short-lived one and the general ambiguity around Unity’s identity seemed to continue.

08. Unity Annual Conference (1925)

Unity leaders in the field began to organize together as they sought more clarity and support. In 1925, in working with Unity School’s Field Department, they created the Unity Annual Conference. This annual conference would be there for having “yearly meetings of the ‘recognized Unity leaders’; creating constitution and bylaws, ethics and ground rules for conducting business;” [creating a] ‘purpose to cooperate with Unity School and promoting the annual conference of ministers, leaders and teachers in the application of practical Christianity’” (The Unity Movement pp.339-340).

Creation of the Unity Annual Conference was a step toward Unity leaders beginning to govern themselves, which is also a seed planted for the future of Unity Worldwide Ministries. This conference put into place guidelines and clarifications for field ministries and Unity leaders to follow as members of the conference, some of which are:

  • “Members shall consist of all ministers, leaders, teachers, and members of churches and centers who are working in cooperation with the field department of the Unity School.
  • A recognized Unity center shall be one that teaches the principles of practical Christianity using the textbooks and literature published by Unity School and following the course of teaching prescribed by that school.
  • In order to be accepted as a recognized Unity center that all textbooks and teaching which do not conform to the Christ standard as recognized by the Unity School be eliminated. This does not exclude any books or lessons by other authors which conform to the standard.” (The Unity Movement, p340)

In contrast to the previous reluctance to set guidelines and standards for the Unity message out in the field, we see that the Unity Annual Conference starts setting it for themselves. At this time, we still had the primary organization of Unity School of Christianity with its field ministry department, which began working with an independent organization called the Unity Annual Conference.

09. Myrtle Adamant About Integrity of the Teaching (1931)

Even as this happened, we see that Mr. Fillmore himself was a bit reluctant to get on board. “Although Charles Fillmore told them at first, ‘I can’t see why you would want to bind yourselves with a lot of rules and regulations; leave yourselves’ free, he could see presently that the step they had taken was a necessary one” (The Story of Unity p.186).

Although it was Charles Fillmore who often spoke out on such topics, Myrtle Fillmore found herself struggling with the issue as well in Torch Bearer To Light The Way we read,

“Commitment to maintaining the integrity of the teaching was an essential part of the center leader’s job. Myrtle had little patience with center leaders who were devotees of the occult, taught spiritualism or palmistry, consulted mediums or psychics, practiced astrology or dipped into spiritual teachings, which failed to meet the standard of Christianity rightly interpreted. Myrtle was adamant on the subject” (p. 158).

In 1931, she clarified her opinion by saying,

“We have found by experience how necessary it is to insist upon all Unity representatives conforming to our standard of the Jesus Christ teaching.” She continued: “All our teachers and healers must be consistent students, the people who expect to benefit in material ways through the Jesus Christ teaching should put forth every effort to understand and to practice the principles set forth by the master and not dissipate their substance through dabbling in every teaching that comes along” (p.158).

“Center leaders who chose to disregard these requirements should no longer present themselves to the public at large under the banner of Unity, she backed up the official position of the school and the subject stating, ‘Our field department says that so long as a Truth center used the name Unity, there is only one stand for the Unity Center to take that stand is to recognize and cooperate with headquarters, otherwise drop the name Unity and find a different headquarters that more nearly stands for the mixed ideas they want to present’” (p.158).

Perhaps her feeling on this was part of the impetus to begin formally [ordaining] Unity ministers again in 1933, which would continue steadily from then on. This group of 11 women was only the third group of individuals to be ordained since Unity’s founding and the last group to be ordained during Myrtle Fillmore’s lifetime.

It would be later that same year, October 6th, 1931 that she would make her transition from the physical experience.

10. Charles Fillmore Rejects Sectarianism

A new era was beginning to unfold for Unity now that it was formally ordaining ministers and increasingly taking on the characteristics of what some would consider a sect or denomination. This was pointed out by James W Teener and his 1939 doctoral dissertation on Unity. “Unity School of Christianity must now be classed as a Christian sect not yet come to have denominational status as an institution. It has developed all the functions that belong to the organized church” (p.106).

Regardless of how it may appear to others. Charles Fillmore stayed firm in his stance as documented by The Unity Movement, which states, “Charles Fillmore maintained throughout his lifetime that Unity was nondenominational. He never changed his mind or came to view Unity as a religious sect or a church” (p.322). Mr. Fillmore himself would go on to say,

“The Lord came to me in a dream and outlined the ideas for this work. I was told not to form a church but a school that would teach all people regardless of their religion. I was given the name Unity and told plainly that Unity was not a sect nor a church, and that if we wanted to teach persons we must not allow it to become sectarian. These were the principles taught by Jesus Christ” (p.322).

11. Unity Ministers Seek Membership in Federal Council of Churches (1945)

Looking at the stance he continued to take and the direction Unity leaders themselves were headed in, it would appear that there were two distinct paths unfolding in Unity. One that was clearly not a church, sect, denomination or religion, and another that was taking on more of those characteristics. Up to this point, these leaders gathered under the name of the Unity Annual Conference, but in 1945, they decided to change that name to the Unity Minister’s Association.

The difference between the vision and direction of the Unity leaders and Unity School of Christianity was made even more apparent in 1945. As we read this from The Unity Movement, “Unity ministers submit a proposal requesting that Unity School seek membership and the Federal Council of Churches. The proposal is rejected” (p.357). Seemingly acceptance into the Federal Council of Churches would have brought recognition to Unity as a Christian organization and secured its place in the Christian family, but it appears that was not in alignment with Unity School’s vision or direction at that time.

In terms of the structure of Unity as an organization, it still remains largely the same as 20 years before. The only difference now being the name change from Unity Annual Conference to Unity Minister’s Association for the independent organization.

12. Eric Butterworth and Ernest Wilson Differ

Just three years later on July 5th, 1948, Charles Fillmore made his transition from the physical experience now leaving the Fillmore children in charge.

Continuing on with the transition in leadership with the questions about Unity’s identity. From The Unity Movement, we read, “The debate within Unity as to whether the movement was denominational continued after Charles’s death. In the 1950s, two of Unity’s most articulate and successful ministers, Eric Butterworth and Ernest Wilson took opposing sides on the question. Butterworth defended the position of Charles Fillmore. The positions that Reverend Butterworth and Reverend Wilson took are clear examples of the two distinct paths unfolding in Unity at that time. [Eric Butterworth said,]

“Unity as a religious movement has a distinct role to play since it is not an offshoot of any church organization or world order, it owes no allegiance to establish doctrines, rituals, or observances. Unlike the traditional church which stresses the practice of sacred rights, Unity is concerned essentially with the therapeutic use of spiritual principles by every individual. Unity is not primarily a church in the usual sense of the word. Why should the Unity leader and center that he conducts strain and strive for community and recognition as a church? Actually if successful in achieving the recognition, we restrict our more universal mission” (p.359).

Although Reverend Eric Butterworth referred to Unity as a religious movement, he clearly distanced himself from what he considered to be the restrictive words often associated with the word religion. Reverend Wilson had a different perspective on it:

“Unity Centers perform nearly all the functions of the average church. Unity centers or churches provide places of worship and instruction for thousands of persons who cannot accept the dogmas of other religious groups but seek nevertheless, an acceptable form of worship and instruction. If we in Unity do not want to be called a church, I believe we should ‘give up the game.’ This expression means that we should just have classes of instruction present Sunday School on a weekday schedule, classes at times that do not compete with denominational churches, stop ordaining ministers and leave marriages, christenings and funerals to denominations. If we do all the essential things that churches do, why balk at the name?” (p.360)

13. Unity School Makes a Study (1964)

In the proceeding years, the Unity School Board of Trustees assembled a field department study committee to look at what was unfolding and they reported back in 1964. From the Association of Unity Churches International, we see these important excerpts out of that report.

“We recommend that Unity School through its field department build a new image that more adequately communicates its sincere feelings of interest in respect for and appreciation of the leaders and Unity centers in the field... We agreed that the field department is not, or at least no longer can be simply a department at Unity School. It is an activity that is closely involved with every Unity group center or church in the field... It is our purpose in these considerations to help expand its vision, to update its programs and to implement its effective outreach... It was also agreed that in the future it seems logical that the UMA, Unity Ministers Association, become part of the new structure of the field department as an integral department.” (Association of Unity Churches International pp.4-5)

In short, there is a recommendation to expand the duties, capabilities, and autonomy of the field department, as well as to recognize and include the Unity Minister’s Association as an integral part of it.

14. Charles R Fillmore Sets Unity Field Ministries Free (1965)

Just one year later, there is an official response from the Unity School of Practical Christianity Board of Trustees reported as Unity School Bulletin 4 by executive Vice President Charles R Fillmore. It acknowledges the validity of the points made in the initial report and goes on to clarify:

“Each year, the field ministry department has demonstrated its growing capacity to assume increased responsibility for the administration of its own affairs. The Unity Minister’s Association itself consistently has taken effective steps in this direction through the expansions of its executive board and the assuming of a number of administrative functions.

During the growth of the Field Ministry Department, the Unity School has wholly or in part perform many functions, which by their very nature can be handled more efficiently by the field itself.

These functions include licensing ministers and teachers, ordaining ministers, placing ministers, obtaining and keeping personnel and center records, matters of field discipline and ethics. Administering the Sunday School and Youth of Unity International activities and many others. The Field ministry now has both a capacity and the need to take over the administrative functions.” (Association of Unity Churches International p.12-15)

These administrative functions, as they are referred to, are the same functions that were being recognized as those of a religious denomination.

15. Association of Unity Churches Formed (1966)

With this new clarity from Unity School of Christianity, the wheels were set in motion for a new organization to take on those functions. In 1966, the Unity Minister’s Association and the Field Department branch off and merge to form their own independent organization called the Association of Unity Churches Incorporated.

This is a turning point for Unity as it now shifts from having one primary organization handling all aspects of the Unity movement, to now having two organizations that share the duties and can focus on their specific areas of excellence. Speaking on this turning point in Unity, The Unity Movement says:

“Unity School’s nondenominational stance was strengthened in 1966 when it disbanded its field department and turned over support responsibility for churches and centers to the AUC. Its nondenominational position was further enhanced when in 1969, the association assumed full responsibility for the training of Unity ministers. During the 1970s, Unity School could, for the first time since it was incorporated in 1914, legitimately claim that its spiritual work in the areas of its primary focus—publications, prayer, healing, education—was nondenominational” (p.161).

By creating the Association of Unity Churches and handing over the denominational functions to it, it freed up Unity School of Christianity to stay true to the founder’s intent of not being a religion, sect or denomination. Now, the association would take on those ministry support functions and carry on this part of the Unity work. In The Unity Movement, we continue to read,

“While Unity School viewed itself as a nonsectarian spiritual organization, the AUC, which was founded in 1964, always considered itself a religious denomination. A review of its activities indicates that it qualified as such. Over 1000 ministries belong to the association, most of them Unity churches. The association is directly involved in church management, including the licensing of ministers and teachers and in-service training. In addition, the association is committed to a specific teaching or doctrine—one of the primary criteria for determining whether an organization is denominational. ‘all teaching conducted in the center ministry shall follow the principle of practical Christianity as taught by Unity School and approved by the board of trustees of the AUC.’” (p.361)

16. How It Looked to Ed Rabel (1982)

For some, having two organizations finally answered the long unanswered questions about Unity’s identity, they could now see that one organization was a denomination and one was not, but not everyone saw it this way, nor was there a unified effort to present it this way. So the questions about Unity’s identity would continue on.

Well-known Unity minister, Reverend Ed Rabel was interviewed about this in 1982. Interviewer Claudette Farone asked him, “Do you think the movement is getting in any way Denominationalized?” Reverend Ed Rabel responded, “I think it is. It has become a denomination. It couldn’t escape it. You can’t teach doctrines. You can’t have standards. You can’t have ethics or requirements for ordination and not become a denomination, but the word denomination is not a bad word. Unity is a denomination in so far as it is a distinctive religious teaching. But what kind of denomination is it? I would say it is the kind with the highest form of esoteric Christianity and practicality. Then denomination becomes a very high compliment” (TruthUnity, Ed Rabel interview).

Not everyone agreed with Reverend Rebel’s perspective and the organizations themselves were still working out their independent roles and identities. From The Unity Movement we read, “Unity School moved toward denominational status again in the 1980s when it assumed responsibility for establishing and supporting Unity centers and churches in Europe, Africa, and parts of South America. Its return to church work was furthered in 1983 when it again took on the task of educating Unity ministers” (p.362).

Now, Unity School of Christianity was back in the position of ordaining ministers and overseeing ministries which may have blurred the lines of each organization’s role in identity.

17. Connie Fillmore Makes a Declaration (2000)

Another monumental step toward clarity would come in 1989 with the introduction of the Five Basic Unity principles from Connie Fillmore Bazzy, President of Unity School of Christianity. This could be seen as the most concise, unifying clarification of the Unity teachings to date as it was so widely embraced and adopted by Unity leaders and field ministries throughout the movement.

With such a great success in this area, would she be the one to clarify Unity’s identity? From The Unity Movement we read, “In the early years of Connie Fillmore Bazzy’s tenure as Unity School, COO, she did not address the issue of Unity’s denominational status.

Bazzy addressed the issue of Unity’s denominational status in early 2000, departing from the positions taken by former presidents of Unity School (p.362). As the founder’s granddaughter and last of the Fillmore family to serve in Unity leadership, she decided to weigh in on the topic. The Unity Movement has this to share.

“In an article in Contact magazine in April, 2000, Buzzy acknowledged that given the existence of many Unity churches in the United States and other countries, ‘Unity currently fits the definition of a denomination.’ She was quick to point out that it would be inaccurate to view Unity as nothing more than a denomination. She noted that Unity encompasses many nondenominational components that are directly related to its mission. One of Unity’s greatest strengths, she believes, is that it is ‘both denominational and non-denominational.’ With a position stated by Bazzy, the issue of Unity’s denominational status appears to have been resolved. Along with being a movement devoted to prayer, healing, teaching, and publishing, Unity is also a religious denomination” (p.362).

As clear as it was, perhaps Connie Fillmore’s statement could have acknowledged that Unity is two organizations working together and further clarified that Unity is both denominational through the Association of Unity Churches and nondenominational through Unity School of Christianity.

18. UWM Adopts an Identity Statement (2007)

The more it was recognized that each organization was serving different functions within the whole, more clarity each organization had. In 2001, the Association of Unity Churches assumed responsibility for all international ministry support from Unity School of Christianity and created the Unity Worldwide Service Department. This now brought all field ministries, domestic and international under the home of the association.

Moving forward to 2007, we saw the Association of Unity Churches further clarifying its identity by presenting and adopting the new Unity identity statement to their membership. It reads,

“Unity is a positive, practical, progressive approach to Christianity based on the teachings of Jesus and the power of prayer. Unity honors the universal truths in all religions and respects each individual’s right to choose a spiritual path.”

19. UWM and UWH Adopt Joint Branding (2010)

The following three years brought about the Joint branding initiative were both organizations hired an outside company to facilitate clarifying their joint brand identity. Out of this came individual branding maps unique to each organization, as well as clarification around Unity’s primary demographics of: cultural creatives, dissatisfied Christians, ministry leaders. Unity also received the new Unity logo and tagline: “Unity is a positive path for spiritual living.”

In 2010, both organizations adopted the new branding along with a name change for each organization, the Association of Unity Churches established the DBA name, Unity Worldwide Ministries. Unity School of Christianity established the DBA name Unity World Headquarters.

20. One Unity (2016) and Better Together (2022)

In 2016, we saw the transfer of the education program from Unity World headquarters back to Unity Worldwide Ministries. For some, this move reestablished the identity of each organization with UWM as a denomination and UWH as non-denominational. Happening concurrently was a push for “One Unity,” which was an effort to dissolve the independent identities of each organization through a sort of merger that would return Unity back to one organization. As they approached the year 2020, the One Unity negotiations between the two organizations came to a definitive end allowing for a new direction to unfold.

In 2022, UWM and UWH came together to create the Better Together initiative. This new effort recognized that the organizations can work better together by acknowledging the unique identities, demographics, and marketing strategies that each organization naturally aligns with. A formal Better Together presentation was presented at the UWM Annual Summit in 2023 by both CEOs to publicly communicate this new understanding and direction to organizations with unique identities working together toward the betterment of the whole.

21. Where We Are Today (2024)

So what are these identities? Unity World Headquarters recently released a video clarifying their identity, and now Unity Worldwide Ministries is beginning to clarify its identity through this video, the goal being familiarization of its history and clarification on how it came to be, why it was created, and the intention of its founding members.

The current bylaws for Unity Worldwide Ministries begins with a foundation statement, which includes elements from the original preamble of the Constitution of the Unity Annual Conference created back in 1936. The 2023 UWM Bylaws Foundation statement is as follows:

“Inspired by the spirit of wisdom and built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone, the many Unity Centers, churches, association of Unity Churches incorporated, temples, societies, fellowships, ministries, chaplaincies, and other bodies through which Unity serves the spiritual needs of humankind, hereinafter referred to as Unity Ministries of the Unity Movement have formed The Association of Unity Churches Incorporated, as outlined in its bylaws, is not the end of Unity’s program. It is but a unity of substance and effort and a fellowship of ministers and students that is a means toward the end of spreading the Truth. In all church meetings and in the association conventions, we seek to re-consecrate and rededicate ourselves to the Jesus Christ consciousness and to acknowledge Christ in each of us as our leader and teacher. We have faith that his inspiration gives original divine and orderly ideas and a continuity of divine order and guidance in all our affairs. As we recognize and follow the divine within ourselves, all of us shall be raised to his glory.” (Association (UWM) Bylaws 2023)

With this as the foundation statement for all of Unity Worldwide Ministries, what does it say about its identity? Today, Unity Worldwide Ministries has an opportunity to answer some big questions, some foundational questions, clarifying its identity so it can step forward with a newfound focus and direction. On behalf of Unity Worldwide Ministries, thank you for joining us on this journey.