Unitarian and Universalist history timeline

This timeline focuses on North America. It has been developed for use by Sunday school teachers at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, so there’s something of an emphasis on Bay area events.

1741 George DeBenneville preaching Universalism in Pennsylvania
1750s Charles Chauncy, Ebenezer Gay, and other ministers in Massachusetts Standing Order churches moving towards a liberal theology
1770 John Murray arrives in North America
1774 Caleb Rich called to a Universalist congregations
1775 – 1783 Unitarian ministers such as William Emerson (Ralph Waldo’s grandfather) and Universalist ministers such as Caleb Rich serve in War for American Independence (a.k.a. American Revolution)
1785 Samuel West’s church in Dartmouth (later Unitarian) admits African Americans as members in full communion
1785 King’s Chapel rewrites prayer book to remove references to trinity
1790 Philadelphia Convention of Universalists meets
1792 New England Convention of Universalists meets, creates ongoing organization
1794 Joseph Priestley arrives in Philadelphia
1796 First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia founded with Priestley’s help
1803 Universalists write Winchester Profession of faith
1805 Hosea Ballou publishes Treatise on Atonement
1819 William Ellery Channing preaches sermon on “Unitarian Christianity” in Baltimore
1825 American Unitarian Association founded, in large part to publish tracts; individuals may be members
1833 General Convention of Universalists is organized
1838 Ralph Waldo Emerson gives “Divinity School Address”
1841 Theodore Parker preaches “Transient and Permanent in Christianity”
1852 Western Unitarian Conference is organized
1860 William Jackson, ordained African American minister, declares himself a Unitarian, but is ignored
—— Thomas Starr King arrives in San Francisco
1863 Olympia Brown is ordained by Universalist convention, 1st woman ordained by a denominational body
1867 Free Religious Association organized; it is a home for post-Christians such as John Weiss
1885 “Flower Service” liturgy published by Western Unitarian Conference
1890 Universalists start mission in Japan
1896 Eliza Tupper Wilkes is first Unitarian minister to preach in Palo Alto (she is based in the Oakland church)
1898 Isaac Atwood becomes first general superintendent of Universalist General Convention
1900 Samuel A. Eliot becomes president and CEO of American Unitarian Association
1905 The Unitarian Church of Palo Alto is organized; soon moves into Bernard Maybeck-designed building
1906 Pacific School of Religion founded (later Starr King School for Ministry)
1920s John Dietrich preaching humanism in Spokane and Minnesota
1923 Norbert and Maja Capek create first “Flower Celebration” in Prague Unitarian church
1929 Great Depression begins; over the next decade, many Unitarian and Universalist churches dissolve
1933 Humanist Manifesto signed by many Unitarian, and one Universalist, ministers; some humanist Unitarian ministers refuse to sign a humanist “creed”
1936 In response to declining membership, Unitarians Face a New Age is published
1937 Unitarians and Universalists publish a hymnal together, Hymns of the Spirit; also begin producing “New Beacon Series” religious education materials under editorship of Sophia Fahs
1939 Unitarian Service Committee founded, soon creates flaming chalice logo to identify itself European relief work
1940 Maya Capek flees Europe, receives support from American Unitarian Association; she brings Flower Celebration to Cambridge, Mass., Unitarian church
1946 Universalist “Humiliati” create off-center cross symbol
c. 1946 Unitarian “Fellowship Movement” begins
late 1940s First Unitarian Chicago moves towards becoming interracial
1950s Kenneth Patton begins worship services at Charles St. Meeting House (Universalist) by lighting a “lamp” that closely resembles early flaming chalices used in worship
1953 Universalist Youth Fellowship and American Unitarian Youth merge to become Liberal Religious Youth (LRY)
1961 Universalist Church of America and American Unitarian Association consolidate to become Unitarian Universalist Association
1960s A few UU ministers quietly officiate at same sex weddings (religious, not legal weddings)
1964 UU principles and purposes has six principles
—— Universalist Betty King is first to draw two interlocked circles around flaming chalice image to represent union of Universalist and Unitarians
1965 James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo, both white, are murdered by white supremacists while participating in Civil Rights Movement in South
1967-1969 UUA engulfed in Black Empowerment Controversy: African American UU leaders seek greater influence and power in UUA
1970 Ground-breaking About Your Sexuality (AYS) curriculum published, eventually leading to lawsuits for obscenity
—— Black Affairs Council disaffiliates from UUA; many African American UUs begin drifting away
1971 Beacon Press publishes Pentagon Papers and is investigated (harassed?) by FBI
—— William R. Jones, African American humanist UU theologian, publishes Is God a White Racist? and is excoriated by other theologians
1973 UUA Office for Gay Affairs created
1977 Women and Religion resolution passed unanimously by General Assembly
c. 1980 Nearly two decades of membership decline end with very modest growth; growth continues at about 1% per year through present
1990 Rebecca Parker becomes president of Starr King, and first American woman to be president of a theological school
1993 UUA publishes Singing the Living Tradition, a degenderized, multicultural hymnal that causes some controversy
2002 Canadian Unitarian Council withdraws from the UUA
2008 UUA officials visit emerging African UU congregations

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