"Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a
part." The final of seven principles which congregations affiliated with the
U.SA. Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations affirm and
Environmental concerns among Unitarians outside North America:
Unitarianism is a liberal religious movement
with a significant presence in Australia, Canada, many European countries,
Hungary, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the U.K., and the USA.
Ecology does not appear to be high on the list
of priorities of groups outside of North America.
As of 2006:
|| Ecology was not included in:|
The recent book on "Unitarian
Perspectives on Contemporary Religious Thought," edited by George D. Chryssides 1
The Miles Howarth's keynote address
given to the Foy Society seminar in 1997, entitled 'What is the
Unitarian Message?' 2
The paper ' given at the First
Unitarian Congregation in Budapest, Hungary 3
Ecology Is not a popular subject in
Unitarian periodicals, such as Counterpoint, Faith and Freedom, the
Inquirer, or the Unitarian.|
||Ray Walder of the Blackpool Unitarian
Church, in Blackpool, England included the following comments in his
"I am in total agreement with Bill Darlison (of the Dublin Unitarian Church) when he said in his sermon of
1998-NOV-29 that a movement which occupies itself with ecology will eventually
cease to have any specifically religious identity whatsoever"
"As to those things which Revd. Darlison
rightly accuses Unitarianism of becoming preoccupied with, I have no great
interest in ecology beyond the essentially spiritual aim to live in harmony with
Ecology is not listed among the Religious Principles of the American Unitarian Conference™.
6 The AUC is a conservative reform group within Unitarian
Universalism in the U.S. that promotes Christianity and theism.
On a positive note:
Some ecological views were
expressed in the 1994 publication of the Information Department of the Unitarian
Headquarters in London, UK, titled "Unitarian Views of Earth and Nature."
It presents the personal reflections of six Unitarians concerning their relation
to the natural world. However, they do not suggest that their views should be
followed or that some action regarding ecology should be taken.
Prior to the Copenhagen climate conference of 2009-DEC, Derek McAuley, Chief Officer of the British General Assembly of Unitarian
and Free Christian Churches, said,
"Unitarians and Free Christians have consistently argued that the principle of
environmental sustainability should be the basis for economic and social policy
and that the present patterns of trade and consumption are detrimental to the
interests of the world's poorest countries. World leaders at the
Copenhagen inter-governmental summit must take a lead in helping emerging
countries cut carbon emissions as well as introducing measures to reduce their
We have urged our own members and friends to do a personal and collective carbon
footprint and then work out ways to reduce it. This means changes to our own,
often comfortable, lifestyles. 11
Environmental concerns among Unitarian Universalists in the U.S.:
In marked contrast, ecology plays a key role in the teaching of the Unitarian
Universalist Association (UUA) in the U.S. This religious group was formed by consolidation of the
former American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church
of America in the 1960s.
The seventh principle of the UUA affirms and
promotes "the respect for
the interdependent web of all existence of which we are part." The UUA's
widespread "Green Sanctuary program" was based in this seventh principle. It
builds awareness of societal environmental issues, generates commitment for
personal lifestyle changes, promotes community actions on environmental issues,
links spiritual practices and environmental consciousness, and builds awareness
of and rectifying environmental injustices. 8 The program guides
participating UU churches through a greening process to help them integrate the
seventh principle into all levels of church life, including worship. 9
Since 2008-JUL-01, this program has been given a higher profile by
becoming a part of the Congregational Stewardship Services office of the UUA. Individual
congregations can earn the designation of"Green Sanctuary" by fulfilling at
least 12 activities or projects spread over four focus areas''worship,
environmental justice, religious education, and sustainable living.
Unitarian Universalists do not consider their political task separate from
their religious task. They are called by their faith to define the religious and
spiritual dimensions of the ecological crisis confronting the world and to
preach the gospel of a world where everyone is sacred, and every place is holy
Over the past forty years, the UUA has issued a
number of resolutions and other comments concerning the environment. Some were:
||Awareness precedes attitude change, which
precedes behavior change.
||Humanity is not the center of creation
because there is no center.
||Extinction is the price we are likely to
pay if we continue to devastate the earth.
||There is growing awareness that
environmental degradation presents moral issues requiring religious
||No longer can a few dedicated volunteers
speak for all of us.
"In spite of the American transcendentalist
tradition (notably Emerson, Thoreau, and Muir) we, the UUA, are not in the
forefront of the current ecospirituality movement. We have much to learn
from the National Council of Churches (which has an Eco-Justice Working
Group), the American Jewish Congress, the Episcopal Environmental Network,
the evangelical environmental network, and from the Thai Buddhists (whose
monks ordain trees to protect them from the chainsaw)."
Environmental concerns among Unitarians in Canada:
1999-MAY: At the Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Unitarian
Council in 1999, delegates passed a resolution written by Bill Paterson
and Norm Hoye, of the Environment Committee of the Unitarian
Church of Vancouver, BC.
It referred to a 1992 statement by the Union
of Concerned Scientists who wrote:
"Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human
activities inflict harsh and irreversible damage to the environment and on
critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious
risk the future that we wish for human society, and the plant and animal
kingdoms that we know. Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the
collision our present course will bring about."
The resolution discussed Canada's increased greenhouse gas emissions, failed
promises by the federal government, the introduction of a possible carbon tax, and new fuel economy
standards for vehicles. 16
2009-MAY: Seven months prior to the Copenhagen climate control meeting of 2009-DEC,
delegates at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Canadian Unitarian Council,
noted that since passing the 1999 resolution:
"... the CUC has endorsed the Earth Charter, submitted letters to our Federal
Government leaders requesting action on meeting our Kyoto Greenhouse Gas (GHG)
emission targets and issued a statement regarding genetic engineering of food.
Many congregations across Canada have incorporated environmental education into
their religious education curricula and formed environmental justice committees;
several congregations have received or are working toward Green Sanctuary
Accreditation through the UUA Ministry for Earth. This is still just a start."
The AGM passed a motion on environmental policy that affirmed the eight ethics
contained in the document: "Environmental Principles and Values of Canadian
Unitarian Universalists." 17
The AGM also issued a press release that:
"... called upon all Canada?s federal political parties to support and
endorse the passage of Bill C-311, An Act to ensure Canada assumes its
responsibilities in preventing dangerous climate change."
"The legislation is intended to ensure that Canada reduces greenhouse gas
emissions in order to prevent
dangerous climate change, in accordance with the scientific evidence on the
impacts of increased levels
of global average surface temperature and the corresponding levels of
atmospheric concentrations of
"Kalvin Drake, President of the Canadian Unitarian Council, pointed to the
urgency of this legislation,
stating that 'the overwhelming scientific evidence points to certain global
disaster should immediate
action not be taken. By passing Bill C-311, the Canadian Government can
demonstrate global leadership
on this important issue.' The Bill, introduced to Parliament by Bruce Hyer, MP
for Thunder Bay
Superior North, ensures that Canada assumes its responsibilities in preventing
Bill C-311 was a private-members bill and had little chance in Parliament. It
did not proceed. 13, 14, 15
A search of the Amazon.com data base shows the following books on Unitarian responses to the environment:
At least, it should. Sometimes Amazon returns the strangest selections.
If you see a generic Amazon ad below, please click on your browser's refresh key.
The following information sources were used to
prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still
- George D. Chryssides, "Unitarian Perspectives on Contemporary Religious
Thought," The Lindsey Press, (1999).
Miles Howarth, "What is the Unitarian Message?" at:
Lewis Loflin, "Unitarians and Deistic Christians," at:
Ray Walder, "Sermon of 2005-MAY-08," at:
Ray Walder, "Address of 2004-JUL-18," at:
American Unitarian Conference, at:
Matthew Smith, Ed, "Unitarian Views of Earth and Nature," Information
Department, Unitarian Headquarters, (1994).
Sean McDonagh, "The Death of Life: The Horror of Extinction," Columba
Press, (2004). Overview at:
George Monbiot, "Sleeping to Extinction," The Guardian, 2003-AUG-12.
Donald Skinner, "UUA to administer Green Sanctuary program UUA to take
over environmental program from UU Ministry for Earth," UUWorld,
Derek McAuley, "Remember world's poorest in climate change decisions,"
General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, 3009?, at:
"Our Principles," Unitarian Universalist Associations of Congregations, at:
Bill C-311, House of Commons, ENVI Committee, at:
Kalvin Drake, "Unitarians strongly support climate change bill," Canadian
Unitarian Council, 2009-MAY-17, at:
This is a PDF file.
"Updating the CUC 1999 environment resolution," Canadian Unitarian Council,
http://www.cuc.ca/ This is a PDF file.
"Kevin," "Unitarian Church of Vancouver supports a Carbon Tax," Facebook,
The eight principles contained in the "Environmental Principles and
Values of Canadian Unitarian Universalists" were repeated in the
Site navigation (partial list):
Copyright © 2006
to 2010 by Vladimir Tomek
Original publishing date: 2006-AUG-16
Latest update on: 2010-JAN-02
Author. Vladimir Tomek, with a few additions by B.A. Robinson