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Encyclopedia > Unitarian Church

Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), in full the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations in North America, is a liberal religious denomination formed by the merger in 1961 of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church in America. Both of these predecessor organizations were Christian Unitarian and Universalist denominations; but the UUA is a pluralistic group that includes Christians, Humanists, Buddhists and Pagans, among others.



Most of the member congregations of the UUA are in the United States and Canada, but it has also admitted congregations from Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Pakistan (although UUA policy appears at present to be against admitting any new congregations from outside North America, instead having them form their own national bodies and having these bodies join the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists). Canadian congregations are all members of both the UUA and the Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC). Until 2001, most services to Canadian congregations were provided by the UUA; however the UUA and CUC have now agreed that most services will henceforth be delivered to Canadian congregations by the CUC, although the UUA will retain responsibilities in relation to the management of ministers.


The UUA is headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, the historical center of Unitarian Christianity in America. As of 2003, the UUA comprised 1,042 congregations with 157,920 certified members and 61,795 church school enrollees served by 1,623 ministers.[1] (http://www.uua.org/aboutuua/statistics.html)

Association, not denomination

The UUA isn't a denomination in the traditional sense. Denominations have authority over their member congregations. Instead, the UUA is an association of congregations. It is the congregations that have authority over the larger body. This relationship is effected by the General Assembly of Unitarian Universalists. Because the general public understands denomination much more readily than association of congregations, the distinction is generally elided in conversation. Because of this relationship between the congregations and the association, Unitarian Universalist congregations have a congregational polity of governance. Other denominations with congregational polity include most Baptists, the Church of Christ, the Disciples of Christ, and the United Church of Christ.

In its role as a national organization representing the congregations, The UUA is a member of various liberal organizations, both religious and secular, such as the International Association for Religious Freedom and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

General Assembly

General Assembly (GA) is held every year in June in a different city in North America. Member congregations (and a few other member organizations) send delegates and conventioneers to participate in the plenary sessions, workshops, District gatherings, and worship services.

Related organizations

Three non-congregational organizations belong to the UUA as Associate Member organizations. Associate Member organizations are esteemed as inherently integral to the work of the UUA and its member congregations, and are accorded two voting delegates each to the annual General Assembly. One of the Associate Member organizations is the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC), which is active in social change actions.

The UUA also recognizes many organizations as Independent Affiliate organizations. These organizations are created by Unitarian Universalists as needed to meet the special needs of the diversity within Unitarian Universalism. These groups provide specialized spiritual support, work for specific social justice issues, provide support for religious professionals, etc.

The UUA owns Beacon Press, a nationally-known publisher of both fiction and non-fiction books. Skinner House Books publishes books primarily of interest to Unitarian Universalists.

Related articles

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