Unitarianism and Universalism in Georgia
Historically, Unitarians disagreed with the formulation of the Trinity found in the Nicene Creed of A.D. 325. Universalists, on the other hand, disagreed with the concept of eternal damnation, and the movement's name refers to the adherents' belief in universal salvation. The two denominations also had different constituencies. In the United States, Unitarians have generally been
The merger of Unitarians and Universalists in 1961 resulted in an eclectic religious community. Contemporary Unitarian Universalism is a noncreedal religion, and members draw inspiration from a variety of religious and secular sources. While some consider themselves to be Christian, many do not, and Unitarian Universalists are bound together by an agreement on how to act rather than on what to believe. Currently, all Unitarian Universalist congregations covenant to uphold thirteen "Principles and Purposes," including:
—The inherent dignity and worth of every person;
—Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations;
—Acceptance of one another and encouragement of spiritual growth in our congregations;
—A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
—The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.
As these principles and purposes suggest, Unitarian Universalists often continue to be on the forefront of struggles for social justice.
Before the Civil War (1861-65) the only Unitarian church in Georgia was located in Augusta. Following disagreements with the national association of Unitarians over the abolition of slavery, the church closed in the 1840s. Similarly, southern Universalists often differed with their northern counterparts about abolition.
The founder of the original Unitarian church in Atlanta, George Leonard Chaney, established the Church of Our Father (later the United Liberal Church) in 1883. He was active in the cause for the education of freed slaves and helped start several African American universities, including the Atlanta University Center. He also opened the first free lending library for blacks and for white women in the church building. The former church property is currently the location of the Central Branch of the Atlanta–Fulton County Public Library.
John A. Buehrens and F. Forrester Church, Our Chosen Faith: An Introduction to Unitarian Universalism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989).
Charles A. Howe, "'Cousins Twice Removed': Unitarians and Universalists in the South," in Unitarian Universalism: Selected Essays 1996 (Boston: Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association, 1996).
Mark D. Morrison-Reed, Black Pioneers in a White Denomination (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984).
David Robinson, The Unitarians and the Universalists (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1985).
David S. Williams, From Mounds to Megachurches: Georgia’s Religious Heritage (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008).
Jennie Sykes Knight, Emory University
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.