The president of the Unitarian Universalist Association urged more than 3,000 followers to remember their goals in battling the prevailing political climate of today.
“Since we last met, there has been bloodshed in our families,” said the Rev. John Buehrens, in a Thursday night sermon to a packed Spokane Opera House. “We have to act, not from ideology but from deep within the soul.”
Unitarian Universalists were killed in attacks on abortion clinics in Pensacola, Fla. and Brookline, Mass. Two Unitarians were among the dead in the Oklahoma City bombing of April 19.
Buehrens blamed the rhetoric of conservatives for all three acts of violence.
“Groups on the radical religious right often claim concern for the souls of children and the souls of family,” he said. “And then their actions and arguments divide us all.”
Thursday night’s worship service in the Opera House was the opening of the six-day General Assembly for the Unitarian Universalist Association. Delegates from most of the 1,000 churches throughout the United States and Canada will debate future policy and politics of the liberal church.
With more than 200,000 members nationwide, the Unitarian Church is well-known for its liberal politics and social activism. The church is strong in metropolitan areas like Minneapolis and San Diego, but the majority of the delegates come from mediumsized and smaller cities.
Unitarian Universalism is a creedless denomination, trusting that individuals will develop their own theology, with the help of the community.
The elected president of the association, Buehrens said he has been increasingly frightened by the meanspirited bent of conservative politics throughout the country.
In trying to legislate school prayer, many conservatives seek to keep nonChristian prayers out of schools, he said. Those who reject a United Nations resolution on children’s rights would deny children the most basic human rights in favor of parental control, he said.
Fiscal conservatives seek to cut funding for creative arts and welfare, “all the while they seek an increase in funding for their sectarian schools,” he said.
Still, Unitarians must focus within if they want the change the rest of the world, he said. And that’s the main purpose of the annual convention.
Like many more mainstream churches, Unitarians are struggling with the loss of their youth. Children who are raised in the church, leave home and never return.
Many of the people who come to the Unitarian Church are spiritual wanderers who have broken away from their traditional churches. In doing so, many adults have inadvertently taught their children breaking away is part of becoming a whole person.
One day of the conference is devoted to issues of teens and young adults. Buehrens said he hopes church leaders will leave the conference more attentive to the spiritual needs and insights and young adults.
“Imaginative compassion, I hope and pray, will be a part of we cultivate,” he said.
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