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Environmental concerns

Unitarian responses

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Quotation:

bullet"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 promote. 12

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:

bullet Ecology was not included in:
bulletThe recent book on "Unitarian Perspectives on Contemporary Religious Thought," edited by George D. Chryssides 1
bulletThe Miles Howarth's keynote address given to the Foy Society seminar in 1997, entitled 'What is the Unitarian Message?' 2
bulletThe paper ' given at the First Unitarian Congregation in Budapest, Hungary 3
 
bulletEcology Is not a popular subject in Unitarian periodicals, such as Counterpoint, Faith and Freedom, the Inquirer, or the Unitarian.
 
bulletRay Walder of the Blackpool Unitarian Church, in Blackpool, England included the following comments in his sermons:

"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" 4, and

"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 nature." 5

bulletEcology 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:

bulletSome 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." 7 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.
 
bulletPrior 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 own emissions."

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. 10

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 ground.

Over the past forty years, the UUA has issued a number of resolutions and other comments concerning the environment. Some were:

bulletAwareness precedes attitude change, which precedes behavior change.
 
bulletHumanity is not the center of creation because there is no center.
 
bulletExtinction is the price we are likely to pay if we continue to devastate the earth.
 
bulletThere is growing awareness that environmental degradation presents moral issues requiring religious responses.
 
bulletNo longer can a few dedicated volunteers speak for all of us.
 
bullet"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:

bullet1999-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
 

bullet2009-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
greenhouse gases."

"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 dangerous climate
change."

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.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. George D. Chryssides, "Unitarian Perspectives on Contemporary Religious Thought," The Lindsey Press, (1999).
  2. Miles Howarth, "What is the Unitarian Message?" at: http://www.theopenmind.org.uk/
  3. Lewis Loflin, "Unitarians and Deistic Christians," at: http://www.sullivan-county.com/
  4. Ray Walder, "Sermon of 2005-MAY-08," at: http://www.blackpool-unitarians.org.uk/
  5. Ray Walder, "Address of 2004-JUL-18," at: http://www.blackpool-unitarians.org.uk/
  6. American Unitarian Conference, at: http://www.americanunitarian.org/
  7. Matthew Smith, Ed, "Unitarian Views of Earth and Nature," Information Department, Unitarian Headquarters, (1994).
  8. Sean McDonagh, "The Death of Life: The Horror of Extinction," Columba Press, (2004). Overview at: http://www.christian-ecology.org.uk/
  9. George Monbiot, "Sleeping to Extinction," The Guardian, 2003-AUG-12.
  10. Donald Skinner, "UUA to administer Green Sanctuary program UUA to take over environmental program from UU Ministry for Earth," UUWorld, 2008-JUN-02, at: http://www.uuworld.org/
  11. Derek McAuley, "Remember world's poorest in climate change decisions," General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, 3009?, at: http://unitarian.org.uk/
  12. "Our Principles," Unitarian Universalist Associations of Congregations, at: http://www.uua.org/
  13. Bill C-311, House of Commons, ENVI Committee, at: http://www2.parl.gc.ca/
  14. Kalvin Drake, "Unitarians strongly support climate change bill," Canadian Unitarian Council, 2009-MAY-17, at: http://www.cuc.ca/  This is a PDF file.
  15. "Updating the CUC 1999 environment resolution," Canadian Unitarian Council, 2009-MAY, at: http://www.cuc.ca/ This is a PDF file.
  16. "Kevin," "Unitarian Church of Vancouver supports a Carbon Tax," Facebook, 2007-NOV-26, at: http://www.facebook.com/
  17. The eight principles contained in the "Environmental Principles and Values of Canadian Unitarian Universalists" were repeated in the resolution.

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Home > Environment > Religion > Non-Christian > here

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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

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