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24/03/2012

The Liberal Christian Herald

Just a quick blog tonight as I'm pretty tired having spent the day cycling from South Manchester up to Glossop via the Transpennine Trail (a lot longer than the crow's flight path!) in the glorious spring sun.
Yesterday I received my copy of the quarterly journal of the Unitarian Christian Association and was surprised to find that it had become The Liberal Christian Herald (it was previously known formally as The Unitarian Christian Herald, and more commonly as the Herald).

At first glance I didn't  know what to make of it to be honest. I suppose the first question I posed was, "what's in a name change?" Although it saddens me a little that 'Unitarian' has been 'ditched', I do think this word has become somewhat fuzzy and devalued because of the anti-Christian revisionism within some parts of the Unitarian & Free Christian community over the past few decades. I think, for the UCA to reach a wider Christian audience and speak with credibility, there is an argument that the brand name needed changing. In thinking this over I did initially wonder if I would have preferred The Free Christian Herald, but that would perhaps be as equally ambiguous and niche - and given we pay for the publication, may even be unlawful under the Trade Descriptions Act! On further reflection, it seemed - aside from using 'Progressive' which would inadvertently tie them in with PCN Britain - 'Liberal' was the most logical choice.

I'm guessing (and just guessing) this name change could well also represent a gradual, deeper shift in the UCA from the seeking to simply preserve the Christianity of the Hungarian-Transylvanian Unitarian type to becoming a voice (maybe even The Voice, to steal a talent show title!) and centre for Liberal Christianity in the UK. The reason I guess this is because the Autumn 2011 edition announced that The Christian Compass archives, a defunct magazine focusing on Free Christianity, had been gifted to the UCA and that the group would actively seek to continue this cause. It's also worth noting that within the pages of this most recent edition, there is an article making a case for 'soft trinitarianism'.

If all this means the UCA is become more overtly Martineauesque, if it means the UCA is setting about moving its light from under the bushel, I welcome and support that.

4 comments:

Scott Wells said...

I got mine a day later -- in the United States! That's fast mail.

Joseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joseph said...

I received my copy and was also unsure about the name change. Clearly the word 'Unitarian' in the 'Unitarian Christian Association' is not a statement about Unitarian theology but simply indicates that this Christian association belongs to the wider UK Unitarian movement. I think that we Unitarian/Free/Liberal Christians are small in number and hence there is a need for us all to work together and to share our thoughts and publications and to that end I do welcome the name change of (what I will always call) The Herald. However I feel sadness that the specific voice of Unitarian Christianity (understandable to our 20th, 19th and 18th century predecessors yet fully modern and future orientated) is so quiet and unrepresented in the UK. Still I live with hope.

Matt said...

I fully hear where you are coming from Joseph - I have certainly felt the same in the past, that 'Unitarian Christianity' in soul - and name - should not be lost to history.

However, I think it was Jabez T. Sunderland's article, 'A Rational Faith' which changed my mind (albeit slowly). - http://www.americanunitarian.org/sunderlandrationalfaith.htm

"Not that our name, Unitarian, is something that must necessarily always last. I am disposed to think that it will not always last. For, really, that name is not adequate—it is too narrow properly to designate the great movement and principles that we stand for. Correct so far as it goes: it does not go far enough; it is not broad enough, has too much of a sectarian look. That is the reason why we so often designate ourselves by that other somewhat broader name, Liberal Christians. The name which I myself prefer, because I think it describes us better than any other, is the name Rational Christians. However, names amount to very little in this world. The thing is what we want. And the thing which the name Unitarian, or Universalist, or Liberal Christian, or Rational Christian, or whatever other name may be employed means, the thing will not pass away; that, as knowledge increases, and science gets larger dominion, and civilization advances, and reason comes to be more and more the guide of men's lives, must become the inheritor of the future."

It seems to me that movements come and go, but the Spirit remains - we can get ourselves tied up focusing on names and notions of things, or we can try get ourselves tied up in the Spirit-centred ideals of Jesus!