Tuesday 27 September 2011

The Other Unitarianism

I'd like to highlight a different approach to Unitarianism on another blog (I've only seen thanks to comment here) - a chap who gravitates, in the end, to neither the GA nor UMI. There is a comment over there from a UMI person who is also within the GA approach.

Just a mention about what I call Central European Unitarianism, that of ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania. This is different from the Anglo-American evolving Unitarianism - Unitarianism being not of a theology, but a collection of liberal-democratic chapels that change over time. The more fixed, theological, Central European version consists of almost all born Unitarians, many in rural villages, of about five per cent of these ethnic Hungarians or 60,000 people.

Under the Communists, and towards the end, these villages faced devastation and new housing on some lunatic socialistic model of living. Fortunately all that went, but now capitalism is raging and causing depopulation. As a result some 10,000 Unitarians have migrated away and been lost to the movement by dispersion.

But then there is a further change. The village children are getting confirmed into the faith, so that they can particpate in the four times a year Communion of the Lord's Supper, and yet the membership certificate is turning into a leaving ticket. This is a phenomenon well known in Western Europe, and I showed it in my own research about a Methodist church and an evangelical Anglican church.

The young people find the bald and simple approach to religion within these chapels as uninteresting and are going elsewhere for their entertainment. They move off and stay off, perhaps to return for rites of passage. One wonders whether the Sunday School movement will undergo the same collapse as in much of Western Europe, thus removing Christianity as a common memory.

The Transylvanian Unitarians have about one minister per two churches, but a means to tackle the challenge is more ministers and urban variety in religion. It has a bishop and deputy bishop, really Superintendent ministers and not observing apostolic succession.

Originally the catechism was an ice cube to freeze a faith for its preservation against attack. It was unable to evolve further. It's leader, who did change, Francis David, had died in gaol. Polish Socinianism was ethnically cleansed and Unitarianism out west in Austria-Hungary was closed down. But of course now the frozen can evolve again, and some of the more progressive and creative ministers realise that there is a need for more lights, art and action in the new expression of this approach to religion because otherwise the environmental culture will have moved on.

Thanks for much of this to Jim Corrigall and The Inquirer on 9 July.

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