traditional / creedal
Trustee: “something has changed…I know there are those with more 'traditional' UU values (secular humanists?) who are uncomfortable; seeing UU becoming, or seeming to become, closer in 'spirit' to creedal theologies with which they had previously parted company.”
The “spiritual” values toward which our UUA, and our congregation in specific, seem to be moving are actually more “traditional” than is secular humanism. Our Unitarian ancestors that helped *invent* humanism, including several signers of the original Humanist Manifesto, virtually all believed in something larger than themselves. We would likely call them “religious humanists” today. After several generations of religious humanism, much of our U.S. culture adopted a scientific materialism. The Fellowship Movement proved the perfect soil for such secular humanism; and it flourished for a few generations. Now the pendulum is swinging back, to the “original” religious humanism.
That said, there is a deeper emotional truth here: some secular humanists are feeling abandoned. Regardless of which theology came first, their lived experience is that their secular humanist home is crumbling. We ought not allow this to happen. Perhaps we can offer a lecture series, some philosophical discussions—perhaps, given an expanded building, we could even offer “alternative programming” on Sunday mornings. We cannot be “all things to all people,” but we might be able to provide secular humanist offerings to our older/longer-term members who have helped to create and maintain our congregation.
Finally, another short rant, about the adjective “creedal.” I have a feeling that this word is used out of the same emotional truth as is “traditional secular humanism” above. So, I affirm the experience of those who use it, *and* I wish to offer my understanding of the word. A creedal church is one that requires a person to publicly state a certain set of beliefs, in order to join. There are noncreedal Christian churches and creedal non-Christian churches. We require no such public assertions; we are noncreedal. It might be that some believe our Congregational Vision is a creed—however, it mentions only actions (creating, nurturing, expanding, providing, working), not beliefs. People with very different beliefs can still act together. As our spiritual ancestor, Francis David, said, “we need not think alike, to love alike.”
I hope we can use our language more precisely—and I hope we can provide some kind of programming that nourishes our secular humanists, so that they no longer feel the need to (mis)use words like “traditional” and “creedal.” :-)