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Commission on Appraisal – Unitarians Face a New Age: “Findings and Recommendations”

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Unitarians Face a New Age

“Findings and Recommendations”

Commission of Appraisal to the
American Unitarian Association – 1936

pp. 3-31

The Commission of Appraisal, chaired by Frederick Eliot, was an overt attempt to use modern sociology to look a the Unitarian movement. The report was deemed critical of the administration of Louis Cornish (AUA President 1927-37). Without question the Commission became Eliot’s platform as he ran for President in 1937. He was first opposed by Charles Joy, who was identified with the Cornish administration, but Eliot’s election was assured when Joy withdrew. Eliot was to serve over 20 years until his sudden death in 1958, when the process of merger with the Universalists was already well underway.

  1. The Commission begins by asking if “Unitarianism has any real function to perform in the modern world.” What leads to that question? (page 10)
  2. The Commission suggests (page 7) that ministry not “be permitted to crystallize in any particular form” and that the test of ministry was “its ability to inspire a wide variety of lay leaders.” Are these remarks rhetoric or are they driving at something?
  3. The Larger Liberal Fellowship (chapter I) sets an agenda, largely unrealized over 50 years later. Does this suggest that the agenda was unrealistic or mistaken?
  4. Chapter II on organization makes a strong plea for decentralization (pp, 22ff). If anything, the UUA is today far more centralized. Was the COA unrealistic in its views?
  5. Leadership (chapter III) calls for selecting minister, who would have “concern for churches as institutions.” Is that still a problem and how would theological education help address the matter.

The text of the Commission on Appraisal Unitarians Face a New Age “Findings and Recommendations” can be found here.