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The Battle of Syracuse By Edward T. Atkinson

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“The Battle of Syracuse”

by Edward T. Atkinson

in The Unitarian Christian, Vol. 20, no. 1

February, 1965

Ed Atkinson has been a UU minister since 1964, settled in 1969 at Cohasset, Massachusetts.

The full article deals with the recognition of Christianity in our by-laws. The excerpts here relate to the tension over a denominational creed.

The “Battle of Syracuse” raises the large issue of whether freedom of religion precludes any definitive statement of purpose, as more than vague declaration.

How the issue was ultimately “solved” in terms of denominational schisms was the liberty clause first adopted in 1868 and then later considerably widened in 1882.

How is the issue handled today is so that no UU congregation can be removed for heresy, and yet there are strong denominational policies which claim to be based on our purposes.

In the early 1990’s the issue takes such forms as: shall exclusively pagan groups be admitted to the UUA? Should churches be forced to consider a gay or lesbian minister? Should a certain number of seats on the UUA board be “reserved” for people of color?

The tension between freedom of belief and organizational power to implement policy is a continuing issue in UUism.

The question might even be raised, “should it be solved?” In any case, what principles can each side bring to the continuing discussion?


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