The Emerson Avenger

The Emerson Avenger is a "memory hole" free blog where censorship is scorned. This blog will "guard the right to know" about any injustices and abuses that corrupt Unitarian Universalism. Posters may speak and argue freely, according to conscience, about any injustices and abuses, or indeed hypocrisy, that they may know about so that the Avenger, in the form of justice and redress, may come surely and swiftly. . . "Slowly, slowly the Avenger comes, but comes surely." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

In 1992 I underwent a profound revelatory experience of God which revealed that the total solar eclipse "Eye of God" is a "Sign in the Heavens" that symbolizes God's divine omniscience. You may read about what Rev. Ray Drennan of the Unitarian Church of Montreal contemptuously dismissed as my "psychotic experience" here: - This revelatory religious experience inspired me to propose an inter-religious celebration of Creation that would take place whenever a total solar eclipse took place over our planet. You may read about what Rev. Ray Drennan and other leading members of the Unitarian Church of Montreal falsely and maliciously labeled as a "cult" here: - I am now an excommunicated Unitarian whose "alternative spiritual practice" includes publicly exposing and denouncing Unitarian*Universalist injustices, abuses, and hypocrisy. The Emerson Avenger blog will serve that purpose for me and hopefully others will share their concerns here. Dee Miller's term DIM Thinking is used frequently and appropriately on this blog. You may read more about what DIM Thinking is here -

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Unitarian Universalist Association Of Congregations Lost How Many UUA Congregations In The Last Two Years?

In a brand spanking new UU World article misleadingly titled 'Emerging, alternative groups at UUA's growing edge' UU World propagandist Donald E. Skinner begins by saying,

"It's not a secret that the Unitarian Universalist Association is NOT* growing."

This article is sub-titled 'Total membership falls 1.2 percent; UUA counts 51 emerging groups, handful of experimental communities.'

The second paragraph makes the following claim -

"The UUA's latest membership figures count 154,707 members in 1,024 congregations in the United States, a decline of 1.2 percent from last year. Another 3,479 members belong to 23 congregations in other countries, for a total of 158,186 members in 1,047 congregations worldwide. Children's religious education enrollment dropped 4.6 percent last year in the U.S., to 49,191."

So the UU World magazine is claiming that, at present in late March of 2014, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations has 1,024 congregations in the USA, however that claimed number of congregations is open to some good old Unitarian question in that the official number of certified UUA congregations is currently listed as only 990 UU congregations on the UUA's own Data Services web pages, and that total figure includes 9 International District congregations that are obviously not USA congregations. Ergo, according to the most recent UUA Data Services statistics, there are only 981 UUA congregations in the USA that are officially certified as UUA congregations. There is a discrepancy of no less than 43 UUA congregations between these two total figures for UUA congregations in the USA.

UUA Data Services currently lists 57 Unitarian Universalist Association congregations as "not certified". That total figure includes 14 International District congregations, leaving 43 USA congregations listed as being "not certified" as UUA congregations. If one adds these 43 currently "not certified" USA congregations to the 981 certified USA congregations, one arrives at the total of 1,024 USA congregations that the UU World is claiming that the UUA has, so it would seem to me that the UU World magazine, if not the UUA itself, is treating the currently "non certified" USA congregations as if they are actually certified. What if some of these currently "non certified" decide not to certify their membership in the UUA and drop out of it? Is the UU World being truthful and honest in publicly claiming that the UUA has 1,024 congregations in the USA when the UUA Data Services web page currently lists only 981 USA congregations as being certified UUA congregations?

The UU World magazine's claim that "the UUA's latest membership figures count 154,707 members in 1,024 congregations in the United States, a decline of 1.2 percent from last year" is apparently dependent upon including the individual adult membership statistics of ALL of the UUA's 43 USA congregations that have not yet (re)certified their membership in the UUA according to the Data Services web page. Surely the Data Services information, which has been updated fairly regularly since the February 3rd deadline for certification, represents "the UUA's latest membership figures". If so, the membership figure cited by the UU World magazine, which claims that the UUA has 154,707 adult members, is inaccurate and inflated by the number of adult members of the 43 non certified congregations. Likewise, the UU World's claim to the effect that "another 3,479 members belong to 23 congregations in other countries, for a total of 158,186 members in 1,047 congregations worldwide" is inflated by the 14 International District congregations that have not yet certified their membership in the UUA.

Even if we take these questionable, and apparently somewhat inflated, UUA membership statistics as being up-to-date and accurate, the fact remains that the UUA has 7 fewer congregations than it had two years ago in 2012 when it claimed to have 1,052 congregations. The UUA has lost more than 3,000 adult members in two years, in that it claimed to have 161,502 adult members in 2012. Even worse for the future of what UUA President Peter Morales himself has described as "a tiny, declining, fringe religion" is the report that "children's religious education enrollment dropped 4.6 percent last year in the U.S., to 49,191". This represents a loss of well over 4,000 RE enrollments within a two year period in that the UUA claimed that it had 53,776 children enrolled in UUA RE programs in 2012. The UUA currently has at least 12,000 fewer RE enrollments than it had a decade ago in 2004 when it claimed to have 61,722 RE enrollments.

The fact remains however that what the UU World claims are "the UUA's latest membership figures" appear not to be accurate, especially if one accepts that the membership figures posted publicly on the UUA's own Data Services web site are the real "latest membership figures". If we accept that the number of certified UUA congregations listed on this Data Services web page is reasonably up-to-date and accurate, the UUA has only 981 certified congregations in the USA and only 9 certified International District congregations, for a not so grand total of 990 UUA congregations as of March 24, 2014. This is no less than 64 certified UUA congregations fewer than the UUA claimed to have in 2012. No doubt some of the as yet "non certified" UUA congregations will eventually get around to re-certifying their membership in the UUA, but I have reasonable grounds to believe that some of the currently non certified UUA congregations will chose the fate of remaining non-certified and will either drop out of the UUA or shut down completely.

I take note of the fact that the UU World magazine article explicitly states that,

"A congregation must have 30 members to become a UUA-certified congregation."

yet well over 10% of currently certified UUA congregations have fewer than 30 adult members according to the Data Services information for 2014. Needless to say these congregations fell below 30 adult members after previously being certified as UUA congregations, but if they were disqualified as certified UUA congregations due to falling below 30 members the UUA would no longer be able to claim to have over 1000 congregations in the USA. In fact, as it currently stands according to publicly available Data Services UUA membership statistics, the UUA has fewer than 1000 certified congregations in the USA even with those congregations that have fewer than 30 adult members included in the total. If these congregations were subtracted from the current statistics the UUA would have fewer than 900 congregations at present.

Wasn't UUA President Peter Morales' election platform all about growth, and about how he was the UUA presidential candidate who would transform Unitarian Universalism from "a tiny, declining, fringe religion" into "the religion for our time"?

Just asking. . .

* My emphasis ;-)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, once again, the inevitable slide to obscurity is presented. In a few short years, the % drop will start to accelerate as the failure to retain both youth and new comers plus the aging of the current membership will rapidly decrease totals year after year. I say this every year at this time. If there is no "there there" they will not stand a chance to retain or grow. All of their statements seem to address everything but the real issues. The small, fringe groups will never be enough to make up for the losses. But, as long as there is a trust fund to pay leadership they will continue to spout platitudes to the tiny membership left.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 12:31:00 am  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

No doubt a major rationale behind the sale of 25 Beacon Street and other UUA Beacon Hill properties was to bolster the UUA's depleted trust funds. It seems that they sold for considerably less than the higher end of what they estimated they could get, in fact it seems that the UUA settled for somewhat less than the lower end of the estimated market value which was $30 million if I am not mistaken. Of course they have one other property as yet unsold, but I doubt it will fetch $7 million.

When I read articles about the sale of the UUA's Beacon Hill properties I laugh at how UUA leaders spin everything to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. The UUA is not only going downhill in in a figurative sense, but it is quite literally going downhill. i.e Downhill from Boston's prestigious Beacon Hill district to the so-called Innovation District which lies in Boston's flood plain BTW. Doh!

What I find interesting about this rather questionable UU World article is how it is claiming that the UUA has 1,024 USA congregations according to its most recent UUA membership statistics when the publicly available Data Services web pages clearly show that the UUA has only 981 certified congregations in the USA as of March 24, 2013. That is a discrepancy of over 40 congregations. I was actually surprised that the UU World reported about membership levels at this time. I expected the UUA to wait until it had clawed back as many as yet uncertified congregations as possible before reporting the number of congregations and related individual membership levels. As it stands now, it looks like the UUA may be outright lying about how many congregations it actually has at the moment. I doubt that the regularly updated Data Services web pages would significantly under-represent the actual number UUA congregations. One of the reasons that the UUA is trying to move away from being an "Association of Congregations" towards a more "movementarian" organization is that UUA leaders know very well that, barring some unforeseen miracle, the number of UUA congregations will soon drop below the 1000 congregations level, if it has not yet actually done so. . .

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 7:38:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good thing they don't have the power to tax because they would be raising taxes on those "who deserve them" to support the congregations "in need" and to support the "necessary and important leadership" efforts. All would be expected to smile and say "thank you sir, may we have more!" ...all in the spirit of progressive income distribution and justice.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 11:10:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Certainly if we compare these loses to those of other denominations like our nearest confessional cousin the UUs do far better as we have fallen just short of maintaining our over all numbers have had far fewer church closures and though our R.E. numbers are down they are probably more realistic than in some past year's reports and there also these drops are nothing like the veritable hemorrhaging of Sunday school attendance throughout the American mainline.

Of course that is when comparing percentages which poses a problem since the size difference between UUs and any other faith group or denomination is so drastically different. The relatively small size of UUism is such that we can hardly boast much from our slight dip in the past couple years or from our years of minimal growth at a time when other churches where in early free fall.

The reality for much of our history so far and it would seem for the seable futures is that we are a small movement. I don't think a dip even where it to grow in R.E. numbers is reason to think this predicts future decreases in overall membership only because a peculiarity of frequent discussion and much frustration since our early days has been that so great a percentage of our members have been made up people who have come to UUism from some other church or faith and a fair number of those will move on to yet another community of faith within their lifetime (this last form of drift may only be true of earlier generations I am unsure if it is still true). But my point is that we have never had a membership that drew heavily on its own young people for the main portion of its current total membership.

All of this and the points you raised help to show that it is a bit pitiful for this people to imagine a great burst of growth in the near future nor I think do we benefit much from approaching any number of peculiarities when compared to how we think a church should develop and be constituted rather we should seek to understand those peculiarities and even embrace them so for example accept that yes we are and have been over the years a place that many have come to tarry a short while on their spiritual journey. I would even say we need not feel so much anxiety for the future as we tend to have maintained our official numbers for several decades while also achieving the additional vitality such as it is from the several hundred thousand in addition to our official number who in the census self identified as one of ours.

I focus on the value we offer to those who would join our communities and the positive contributions we offer the larger society. The most dramatic in my estimation is the impact we have had on advancing Gay rights not necessarily through political advocacy so much as in the work of establishing in our churches model experiments of community where same sex relationships and families where welcomed not just in the pews but in all levels of leadership well before many in our society where even starting to find a secondary place of acceptance for same sex couples or open homosexualos in teaching roles and serving as elected community leaders.

Thursday, February 04, 2016 8:07:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And while I am quite prepared to accept a future of continued diminutive over all size I feel great regret about those instances when we have failed miserably to embody the positive benefit to the world I have hear suggested.

I think in particular of those dedicated leaders who have pursued or entered ordained ministry, or other form of professional ministry and been bullied and maligned weather by a faction of a congregation an abusive colleague with entrenched authority among his or her peers or as a tragic victim of the all too common procedural shortcomings of church judicatory bodies that approach all conflict as if it will be resolved through a win win mediation process failing to have methods of taking on matters in which there is abuse that must be addressed.

Likewise i grieve when volunteers, members or any involved in our life as church who also get chewed up in a similar manner being expected to share responsibility for this or that mediated set of slights and wished for improvements when it is utterly inappropriate to start the "we all have some responsibility for the current challenges" if that is taken up before first recognizing when an initial assault or abuse or grievous wrong has been committed and so must attract our full attention and be repented and the victim or target allowed to be have justice restored and heal up so as to regain a sense of normalcy. Only then is right and appropriate to look and see what problems may still exist at which point if there are ongoing issues we can start to mediate and talk of how we all have done things we shouldn't have and things we have to take ownership for. In failing to understand the dynamics of abuse ad bullying we subject some to often traumatic abuse that how ever infrequent and however common to other churches are an embarrassment and we should refuse to tolerate of ourselves.

Thursday, February 04, 2016 8:09:00 am  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Thsnks for your comments. Has it not occurred to you that one of the reasons that UUism is such a "tiny, declining, fringe religion" is precisely because U*Us tolerate and condone all manner of abusive behaviors in ordained U*U clergy and U*U lay leaders?

BTW The UUA continues to lose congregations and is still in obvious decline. Right now the UUA has only 968 certified congregations, with 71 congregations remaining uncertified.

Even if all 71 currently uncertified congregations do what is necessary to become certified UUA congregations, something that is exceedingly unlikely to actually occur... the UUA will have a maximum of 1039 member congregations, which is 4 fewer than its official claim for 2015.

Thursday, February 04, 2016 8:57:00 am  

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