Monday 31 March 2008

Unitarian GA

I do look at what has been going on. The Unitarian General Assembly has been going on and student and minister to be at Bank Street, Bolton (a traditional Unitarian congregation) has been there and blogged on its three days. Liberal Christian Stephen Lingwood's blog is called ReIgnite: he claims to deliver a Radical Emergent Unitarian Blog. Humm. First of all I don't know him. From just reading I find it all rather restrained, and I have to say that no matter how he dresses for services his theology is rather mainstream related. This theology in a typical chapel won't make much difference whether he wears suits or jeans. It is hardly relevant. On the other hand he sees the issues and would try some solutions (but it all depends on the committee and the trustees - where power resides).

Anyway, he likes the new hymn book (Unitarians do do good hymn books - the words tend to be more sensible with the pluralistic hymns); the Hibbert Trust has paid to create a 'liberal alternative to the Alpha course' called A Course in Practical Spirituality which would seem not to be specifically Unitarian and have wider appeal (he regrets it is not specifically Unitarian); most business resolutions were dull; Art Lester preached that Unitarianism had lost its soul and there should be more prayer; Stephen Lingwood thinks that if Unitarians knew how to grow they would be and found sessions on growth limited; and a Transylvanian had a hypnotic way of preaching.

The NUF (National Unitarian Fellowship) Forum has more responses to the GA.

Earlier on Stephen summarises his attempt at a Unitarian theology of the cross, which again is too locked in to the mainstream to be anything particularly distinctive - it rather falls between two stools. I seem to ignore such stuff now and move on from what he is still considering. When I did this within the Unitarians I received short shrift in his part of the world, and it is why I am with the broader Anglican community where there is a stronger spirituality across a whole range of theologies, and my kind of theology I push to and probably beyond the Anglican limit.


I appreciate the comment here and mine in response has a quick summary of my theological outlook.


Robin Edgar said...

Well perhaps this would be a good place to tell us more about your theology and how it differs from other Unitarian and Anglican theologies.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I thought I had been! I have no doubt that my theology is not unique, and that it is likely more to be found in United States Unitarian Universalist and even Episcopalian circles than in either the UK Unitarian or Church of England circles.

The core of it is us as knowingly conscious human beings who are sensuous, speak and are also tribal. So it is not simply a matter of individualism, though this is where ultimately decisions and conscience resides. What seems to happen is that religion is relational and tribal, and its rituals are about binding the tribe closer together, usually done by the passing of a gift down a chain of individuals and groups. Exchange that creates a surplus is a fundamental: talk becomes conversation, sex becomes love, economy becomes profit, material gift becomes spiritual gift. The ritual and religious aspect then becomes filled with content, and that content is a critical use of traditions, and that is (in my case) the eschatological dynamic of Jesus. The ritual is eucharistic: it performs the token exchange very well. The whole salvation thing though is more Buddhist, in that we have to become critics of the tribe and liberated from the negative side of all of this: that means liberated from attachment.

I just think that Unitarianism fights old battles, and Anglicanism cannot see beyond its own religious and ritualistic structures. These are not done for their own sakes, but for liberation of the individual and the group.

My view is entirely non-supernatural and although it looks to be structuralist (that is to say it seems like a have a deep structuralism to which are attached forms; this co-incides with deep grammar and all that) it is more post-structuralist because it sees it for what it is and ultimately turns on it as part of the non-attachment.

Erika Baker said...

Having read your comment it leaves me with the question: what is your faith ultimately aimed at? You speak of theology, of the supernatural, of individualism... of a lot of philosophical questions, as though Religion were just a branch of philosophy and it was important to ascribe different beliefs rationally to different religions. As though you were a mere observer of phenomena that can be intellectually deconstructed.

It is that too. But is that all it is?
Is there an actual reality underneath it all, one that it is possible to connect with and that can change you?

What is it all for?

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

It is about personal and group orientation, engaging with the world and its people. That's it, really.

Erika Baker said...

Personal and group orientation happens in all human contexts.
If that's all it is, why religion in the first place?

What distinguishes you from humanists, atheists, agnostics?

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Something like this. What religion does, like the supported priest, is have a detached overview space which can be for others. Whilst there is again an arena of exchange, this exchange has no particular functional task. This is in the world and not of the world. Whilst there is indeed ritual in everything, this ritual is also other than, and so the exchange becomes more about a gift and less about a surplus. In that space, with those people, and the people that make time to come to it, is the meditating, contemplating, considering of these overall questions of direction - that how should I respond, or how should I initiate.

It doesn't trouble me that an agnostic or atheist can do this, and indeed there are surrogate activities that are religious. The bird watcher is, for example, engaging in something of a specific task, but for many it is a substitute for a general outlook about life itself. So these ritualistic activities - rules and decorum - become important not simply for the task but also for the general outlook. There are many such substitutes, some less obvious that others.