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6 octobre 2011 4 06 /10 /octobre /2011 11:35

Lors de notre culte du dimanche 7 août 2011, Sam nous a fait part de la prière de Roger Parmentier, pasteur (en retraite) de l’Eglise réformée de France (ERF) (lien)

Esprit qui inspire toute la terre / contre toutes les forces de destruction et de mensonge / et tout être humain, / Toi qui inspires surtout les sages et les prophètes / viens à notre aide pour que nous sachions les écouter ; / Que la proposition de Jésus de renverser sans violence / tout ce qui fait souffrir et mourir/ soit accueillie et mise en pratique partout. / Fais surgir un monde où tout humain pourra gagner son pain / et nourrir tous ceux qui sont dans le besoin ; / Fais-nous prendre conscience des détresses et des menaces / et intervenir avec intelligence et responsabilité ; / car c’est par toi que surgissent / toute générosité et toute beauté.

Elle l’a traduite en anglais, ce qui nous permet de la proposer à nos visiteurs anglophones  ; en illustration, la croix huguenote.

croix-huguenote--en-bronze.jpgSpirit who inspire the whole earth
against all forces of destruction and lies,
You who inspire every human being
and sages and prophets in particular,
come to our help that we may listen to them ;
May everyone receive and put in practice
the recommendation of Jesus

to overthrow, without violence,
everything that causes suffering and death.
Give rise to a world where every human being
may earn their bread and feed the needy ;
Make us aware of distresses and threats
that we may intervene wisely and responsibly ;
for all generosity
and all beauty rise from you.

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24 octobre 2010 7 24 /10 /octobre /2010 04:27

szaboarpad-picture-2008.jpgEn souvenir du révérend Arpad Szabo, les unitariens français ont apporté deux témoignages : celui d’Albert Blanchard-Gaillard : « Le révérend Arpad Szabo était à Montpellier en 1986 », publié le 4 octobre 2010 sur le site des chrétiens unitariens (lien) et celui de Jean-Claude Barbier, publié le 2 octobre 2010 dans les Actualités unitariennes : « Les unitariens sont en deuil de l'ancien évêque de Transylvanie, Arpad Szabo » (lien). Pour nos visiteurs anglo-saxons, nous avons traduit en anglais ces deux textes, lesquels ont été mis en ligne sur le site de l’International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) (lien) à l’article « In memoriam Rev. Dr. Árpád Szabó » qui comporte un « Tribute Website » où diverses personnes et congrégations ont apporté leurs témoignages et condoléances

In remembering the Reverend Arpad Szabo, Unitarians in France bring two testimonies that of Albert Blanchard-Gaillard : “The reverend Arpad Szabo was at Montpellier in 1986”, published on October 4, 2010 on the site of the Unitarian Christians and that of Jean-Claude Barbier, published on October 2, 2010 in the Unitarian Current events : “The Unitarian ones are in mourning of the former bishop of Transylvania, Arpad Szabo”.

1 - The testimony of Albert Blanchard-Gaillard,

Albert Blanchard-Gaillard, project superintendent of Unitarianism in France and current honorary president of the Fraternal Assembly of the Unitarian Christians (AFCU), now 78 years old : I remember very well the presence of the reverend Arpad Szabo to the world conference of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) which was held at the Free Faculty of Protestant theology of Montpellier in July 7, 1986. He had come with another Transylvanian reverend, the historian Janos Erdö. Both were collaborators of the bishop Lajos Kovacs, which had not been able to attend; Janos Erdô will succeed besides the latter in 1994 (for 2 years reign 1994-1996), then it will be Arpad Szabo which will take over as from 1996.
There was also the Bishop Jozsef Ferencz of the Unitarian Church of Hungary (of which the seat is at Budapest). The latter speaking well French, it is with him that Albert Blanchard-Gaillard had the most contact and he was charged besides to be used to him as guide.
It is precisely this bishop who, a few months later, will devote like Pasteur the American Lucienne Kirk, on December 7, 1986, in unitarian church of Cluj-Napoca (the unitarian bishop of Transylvania, whose seat is Cluj-Napoca, was then Dr. Lajos Kovacs, above-mentioned and who was bishop of 1972 to 1994). After this ordination, Lucienne Kirk will exert substitutions within the Reformed Church of France (ERF), in particular in a parish of the Cevennes at Vialas; then she returned to the United States in 1990 and militated within Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship (UUCF).
Following the death of the reverend Arpad Szabo, this Thursday September 30, the unitarian Christians of France and nearby French-speaking countries send their condolences to the family of late and ensure the Unitarian Church of Transylvania of all their fraternity.

2 - the testimony of Jean-Claude Barbier :

The reverend Arpad Szabo is deceased this Thursday September 30, 2010. He was the 30th bishop of the Unitarian Church of Transylvania (Church founded in 1568 by the Hungarian Ferenc David) from 1996 to December 2008, date on which Ferenc Balint Bencedi succeeded to him.
Very active within International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU), he was the first vice-president in 1995 at the time of the installation of this authority. By the presence even of his Church within this world network, it was the faith as a God who was thus maintained within contemporary Unitarianism. Liberal protestant Pasteur André Gounelle reported to me that one day, in London, at the time of a meeting of International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF), exceeded by the humanistic wave which refused any trace of theism, it exclaimed, exceeded, “nevertheless Allow me to speak about God ! ”. I specify that, since, this wave somewhat fells down and any more its tyranny does not exert; spirituality was in particular given to the honor within Anglo-Saxon Unitarianism, as from 2003, following the speech of the reverend William G. Sinkford, president of Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregation (UUA).
I had happiness to meet him on two occasions. The first time during the days of the European and Middle Eastern branch of IARF - within the framework of which took place a pre-conference of the network of European liberal protestant network (ELPN) to which I had taken part. Then, at the time of the meeting of the ICUU at Oberwesel, in the Rhineland, in November 2007; and it is in his presence that I read this stanza evoking his Church:
« Our roots, as you know well, can be found in the forests of Transylvania. They were, these forests, urbanised by opening spaces and cities, by the German / from the Saxon area we call Germany today, till the area of Lorraine which became part of France. Poets of hungarian origin sang about these forests. / They gave birth, by the voice of Ferenc David, to the cry for truth, / which became the last Protestant reformation, the youngest girl, our own tradition. » (circumstantial poem that I had entitled “Come from the whole world”).
Our article of December 6, 2008 in the Unitarian Current events reporting the episcopal succession in Transylvania was precisely entitled “the Unitarian Christians have a new bishop”. It was to say that, more precisely for the Unitarian ones of Christian faith, dispersed all over the world, the bishop of the Unitarian Church of Transylvania is “our” bishop, this one of our historical Church to which we are voluntarily attached, with complete freedom, by the heart, without statutory obligation. He does not order us, but he is for us at the head of our Church, that to which we refer. The Proclamation of Avignon of August 2006, signed by unitarian Christian associations of Europe and Black Africa, precisely mentions this bond which is not allegiance, but about the affection order :
The Unitarian Christians affirm their solidarity with respect to their historical Churches which maintained this faith. They have in particular greatest reverence with respect to the hungarian speaking Churches which, for them, are first in the order of the consideration to the direction where heard, in connection with the Jews, Paul in his epistle with the Romans (chap. I, 16) and Johann at Patmos in the Apocalypse (chap. VII, 4-9). This deep respect compared to their seniority is voluntary and filially; it is by no means a subordination nor a duty of obedience; these historical Churches not giving any order besides. ”.
In contact with Arpad Szabo, I learned the difference that there was between the unitarian bishops and the catholic bishops. The first are elected within the framework of synod and their authority remains collegial, registered in a episcopal council where the decisions are made in a collective way. Sobriety is of rigour, including at the time of the worships where the bishop takes a simple dress of Pasteur. Although chief of the Church, it remains among his equal and does not dissociate himself any. With his retirement of Pasteur, the synod elects another successor. His role is comparable with the lutheran bishops and the intendants of the calvinist Churches, also with the Anglican bishops except the liturgical pump that those preserved of their catholic past. It goes without saying, under these conditions, the name of “Monseigneur” is not appropriate. The English-speaking said “Bishop Arpad Szabo”; me I said “my bishop” and I testified my reverence to him. He spoke a little French, but it is especially via his administrative secretary, the reverend Gyero David which we communicate. I preserve to him a badge preciously carrying the blazon of his Church, that it gave me in Oberwesel.
By his imposing presence with the beautiful silver plated hair and his benevolent personality, he represented his Church well. He is a friend who left us and who remains present in our hearts and our memories.

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10 juin 2010 4 10 /06 /juin /2010 09:19

Each time I see a flower, I think of you
Each time I see a flower, I think of us
For we gather flowers, do we not?
So that they may bloom into a fan-shaped rainbow
and make up lovely bouquets
Making up the Church
They say there are so many of them
in your native Bohemia,
so beautiful and lively
That they run and dance in the fields
Celebrating life in a frolick of freedom

coquelicotsChaque fois que je vois une fleur, je pense à toi,
Chaque fois que je vois une fleur, je pense à nous,
Car nous assemblons les fleurs, n’est-ce pas ?
Pour qu’elles forment un éventail arc-en-ciel
Pour qu’elles fassent bouquets
Pour qu’elles fassent Eglise.
On dit que, dans ta Bohème natale,
Elles sont si nombreuses au printemps
tant belles et mutines
Qu’elles courent et dansent dans les prés
Célébrant la vie en farandole de liberté


poème de Jean-Claude Barbier (France), traduit en anglais par Noëlle Colle et en portuguais par Jean Monod

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28 mars 2010 7 28 /03 /mars /2010 08:28
http://img.over-blog.com/360x480/0/50/96/12//Ottawa-First-unitarian-congregation-P5180533.jpgFirst Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa : the chalice and the tree (photo Jean-Claude Barbier)


Unitarianism, which appeared at the time of the Protestant Reformation in 16th century Europe, developed initially in Hungarian speaking (Transylvania in Rumania, Hungary) and English speaking (United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, the United States) countries, then spread, in the 20th century, to Central and Northern Europe and finally, now at the beginning of the 21st century is spreading to other countries in Asia, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Western Europe.


It follows that contemporary Unitarianism contains both a wide variety of spiritual and religious perspectives stemming from numerous trends developed over the centuries (the historic Unitarian churches, Unitarian congregations, Universalists and Unitarian Universalists, Christian Unitarian associations, etc.) and divers cultural and linguistic elements.


Our international body, the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU), by awarding emerging group status to new Unitarian communities, is guiding and fostering the expansion of our faith along the principles set out in the preamble of its constitution: "identify and nurture emerging groups around the world; for mutual inspiration, development and growth". It has helped train leaders in workshops for Latin America (San Nicolás de los Arroyos, near Buenos Aires in Argentina, January 20-25, 2005) and for Sub-Saharan Africa (Nairobi, Kenya, February 7-12, 2008).


We also commend the Canadian Unitarian Council’s inclusion of French activities in its annual gathering to be held in Ottawa, May 16 to 19, 2008. We hope the Ottawa example will encourage the development of multilingualism at all levels in contemporary Unitarianism: in the meetings and worship services of our congregations; in the pages of the ICUU web site (in French, Spanish, German, Esperanto, etc.) and any national web sites when necessary; in workshops and worship services during gatherings; in our publications ; etc.


We invite all Unitarian francophones and their friends to participate enthusiastically in their local congregations, to praise God or Life in their own language and through their own culture, to gather in groups or associations to deepen their faith, to network and share information, to know one another better, to help each other, etc.


In this way, francophone Unitarians from Western Europe (France, Wallonia and the French community of Brussels, Switzerland), from Canada (Montréal and Ottawa congregations, etc.) and from Sub-Saharan Africa (Burundi, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasha, Togo, etc.) hope to further develop their fraternal ties along the lines of the cooperation accord signed by the Regroupement francophone unitarien universaliste (RFUU) and Christian Unitarian associations (AFCU, ACUB, ACUC) in July 2006.


Jean-Claude Barbier, Assemblée fraternelle des chrétiens unitariens (AFCU)

Fulgence Ndagijimana, Assemblée des chrétiens unitariens du Burundi (ACUB)

Alain Patrice Yengué, Assemblée des chrétiens unitariens du Congo (ACUC)

Grégoire Bokungu, Lisanga ya bandimi na nzambe (République démocratique du Congo, Kinshasa)

Lucie-Marie Castonguay-Bower, Regroupement francophone unitarien universaliste (RFUU)


translated from the french by Maurice Cabana-Proulx

document publié le jeudi 29 mai 2008 sur le site de l'AFCU et transféré ici

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23 décembre 2009 3 23 /12 /décembre /2009 05:31

Is French Unitarianism specific ?

by Jean-Claude Barbier *, translate by Kelly Kilmer Hall **

* founder in 2002 of the French-speaking network "unitarian Correspondence", General Secretary of the Fraternal Assembly of the Unitarian Christians (AFCU) of 2004 to 2009, then permanent administrative member of this association, founder in 2008 of the French-speaking Unitarian Church, editors of several sites and the copy-books Michel Servet

Degree in journalism and writer, seminarian at Meadville Lombard Theological School (Chicago) for a Master Divinity, member and assistant to First Unitarian Church of Rochester (New-York State)

An internationalized Christian movement

From the anti-trinitarian Churches of European Protestantism of the 16th century, which developed in Central and Eastern Europe, Poland (1565-1658) and Transylvania (since 1568), and thanks to the publication of works of the Italian theologist Faust Socin by Remonstrants of Holland (the "Library of the Polish Brothers" published in Amsterdam in 1665), Unitarian Christianity developed in Great Britain during 17th and 18th with Arians, Socinians, then Unitarians, while being based then on the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment, then in the20th century in the United States within the congregationalism (which was from Calvinist theology) of New England.

Later, Unitarianism continued its international development, initially within the Anglo-Saxon geographic area (in the 19th century in Canada, in South Africa, in Australia, and in India, with appearances in Denmark and in Norway, etc.), then in Central Europe with Czechoslovakia and Germany in the 20th century, finally, at the beginning of this century, within other geographic areas : French-speaking people in Western Europe (1) and Africa (2), Hispanics in Spain, Latin America and in Cuba ; Portuguese-speaking in Portugal and Brazil ; Italy ; countries of Far East like Japan and the Philippines, etc.  The creation in 1995 of an international network, the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU), devoted to this global growth.

(1) France, Wallonia and French-speaking community of Brussels, French-speaking Switzerland, and the Andorra and principality of Monaco (2) Burundi, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo RDC, Togo

… and opened with all the religious and philosophical traditions

Meanwhile, from US American transcendentalism starting in 1830, US American congregations at the end of the 19th century implemented liberal Christianity (acceptance in their faith agnostics and non believers who practice moral virtues) ; then straightforwardly, especially in the year 1960 (3), became "interfaith" in their communities by accepting all religious and philosophical beliefs. Unitarianism thus diversified well beyond its historical Christian roots. Chritian Churches remained in Transylvania, Hungary, Norway and in Boston (King's Chapel).

What today we call "contemporary Unitarianism" (4) is a large range including the Unitarian sensitivities around Unitarians Christian, Universalists (within the meaning of the Christian doctrines of the universality of the faith) (5), Unitarians with beliefs in reference to revealed monotheists (6) or to theism (7), Unitarians-Universalists, and Universalists without more traditional reference (8)

(3) in 1961, the American Unitarian Association (AUA) merged with the American Universalist Church to create the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) of Congregations

(4) to see our article of August 28, 2008, published by the French-speaking Unitarian Church (EUfr), in its rubric "The Pillars of the Church": "A theology for the use of Contemporary Unitarianism" http://eglise.unitarienne.francophone.over-blog.fr/categorie-10451416.html  
translated into English: "Theology Adaptable to Present Day Unitarianism ",


(5) which was that of the Universalist Church, mainly developed in the United States, but also in its missions in the Far East (Filipino and Japan)

(6) case of the Unitarian community of Nancy in France, http://www.unitariens.org  

(7) case of the Unitarian communities of the Kashi country in India of the North-East,

(8) case of Unitarian German of Deutsche Unitarier Religionsgemeinschaft (DUR) http://labesacedesunitariens.over-blog.com/article-cu-97-novembre-09-manifeste-des-unitariens-allemands-en-1995-38796090.html  


Owing to the fact that contemporary Unitarianism accepts this broad diversity in its faith, and also that the Protestant heritage wants that each community is a local Church, and more particularly of the congregationalist tradition which affirms full sovereignty with each one of these local Churches, one can wonder whether there is a global specificity of Unitarianism, according to the countries, geography, linguistic areas, etc.

We will answer here with regard to France.

Although France was the residence country, from 1531 to 1553, for the Spanish anti-trinitarian Michel Servet, Unitarianism is very recent here. It was in July 1986, at the time of a European meeting of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF, attended by the Free Faculty of Protestant theology of Montpellier), that a French Unitarian Association (AUF) was formed by ten people.

Until now, only one local Church (in Nancy)

We do not have in France and French-speaking countries a history of Unitarian churches. Our American friends are often surprised, because they expect to find many Unitarian churches in France. Admittedly, there were tests to constitute local communities which, in the American vocabulary could have been "fellowships" as much : in Paris, Marseille, Digne-les-bains, Bordeaux, Nantes. Only a small community of ten people constituted Nancy, since 1990, within the framework of an association law 1905, Unitarian Fraternity. This association was entitled in vain as from 1997, Unitarian Church of France/Unitarian Fraternity, it remained only in Nancy except some external members.

It should be noted that the Unitarian english-speaking stay in France, founded in the years 1980 (recognized juridicially in 1986 like association law 1901) a community in Paris, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Paris (UUFP) (9), which is a member of the European Unitarian Universalists (EUU),a federation which gathers the english-speaking who are the same in stay in the principal capitals of Western Europe (Paris, Geneva, Frankfurt, Brussels and Amsterdam). A monthly worship is practised in a place of rented worship (at present, the protestant temple of Pentemont-Luxembourg). The ministers of religion come from Great Britain and United States.

(9) http://prolib.net/pierre_bailleux/unit/cu034.epstein.htm  

… but a French Church online

It is finally a Church on the Web ("Church online") and on the level of the linguistic area of the Francophonie (thus it is not only French), the French-speaking Unitarian Church (EUfr), which was born in June 2008 with my initiative (10). It obtained since the institutions worthy of any Church : an executive council (of 7 members for the moment) (11), a titular minister of religion for the chair (reverend Maria Pap, Minister for the Unitarian Church of Transylvania) (12), a space of prayer and meditation (13), a monthly worship (14), a spiritual accompaniment of particular cases (15), the beginnings of a choral society (16), a library (17), humanitarian activities (18), without counting a framework of formation to the pastoral ministry (19), etc

(10) http://eglise.unitarienne.francophone.over-blog.fr

(11) http://eglise.unitarienne.francophone.over-blog.fr/categorie-10814425.html  

(12) http://eglise.unitarienne.francophone.over-blog.fr/categorie-10746634.html  

(13) http://eglise.unitarienne.francophone.over-blog.fr/categorie-10451492.html  

(14) http://eglise.unitarienne.francophone.over-blog.fr/categorie-10948853.html  

(15) http://eglise.unitarienne.francophone.over-blog.fr/categorie-10805895.html  

(16) http://eglise.unitarienne.francophone.over-blog.fr/categorie-10777339.html  

(17) http://eglise.unitarienne.francophone.over-blog.fr/categorie-10728015.html  

(18) http://eglise.unitarienne.francophone.over-blog.fr/categorie-10834592.html  

(19) http://eglise.unitarienne.francophone.over-blog.fr/categorie-10814419.html  

It is an innovation since it is the first Unitarian Church which functions thus, entirely online. It takes again the experiment, with the means which the Internet places today at our disposal, of the Churches by American correspondence (Unitarian Church off All Souls in 1903 and, since 1944, Church of Larger Fellowship (CLF) (20), charged to connect isolated, except local congregation, in the United States then in the whole world.

(20) to see our article "a Church by correspondence in the United States" in the bulletin n° 37 of November 2004 of the Unitarian Correspondence. http://prolib.net/pierre_bailleux/unit/cu037.info.htm#document  

The affirmation of a Christian component

The first president was Mrs. Lucienne Kirk who, after been student at Manchester College in Oxford, came to make a report with the Free Faculty of Protestant theology of Montpellier under the direction of professor André Gounelle about the Christian American theologist was James Luther Adams (1901-1994) (21). She was ordered minister of religion in December 1986, with the Unitarian Church of Kolozsvar (Cluj-Napoca), in Transylvania. She served a parish of the Reformed Church of France (ERF) in the Cevennes. On its return to the United States, in 1990, she is invested within Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship (UUCF), an national association launched in 1938 to defend and maintain the Christian version of the American Unitarianism (22) which was then threatened by a humanistic wave (see humanistic Proclamation of 1933).

(21) http://labesacedesunitariens.over-blog.com/categorie-10427785.html  

(22) http://www.uuchristian.org  

The scientist naturalist Theodore Monod (1902-2000) brought his sponsorship to this new association. He was a liberal Protestant, member of the Reformed Church (ERF) of the Oratory of Louvre, and he liked to say himself "Christian preceding-nicean", i.e. of before the first council which, in 325, ratified the Trinitarian dogma.

The mainstay of French Unitarianism was Albert Blanchard-Gaillard, teaching in history at Marseilles, as a Christian freemason. He was general secretary of the AUF to his foundation, then president in 1990 at the time of the departure of Lucienne Kirk. Whereas the first statutes of the AUF envisaged an association only mainly Christian, it made register in the statutes, in 1992, the reference to God and the teaching and the person of Jesus. Then, when a circumstantial majority, at the time of the general assembly of 1996, wanted to give up this explicitly Christian reference to allow a broader reference to God alone, it merged, with the other cofounders of the AUF and always with the patronage of Theodore Monod, a new association, this time under Christian articles, the Fraternal Assembly of the Unitarian Christians (AFCU). He is the honorary president of this association. See its bibliography (23).

(23) http://labesacedesunitariens.over-blog.com/categorie-1131169.html  

Contrary to American Unitarianism-Universalism, then European (for example in Great Britain as from the years 1950), French Unitarianism affirms its full and total legitimacy in the Christian sphere. By its Christian component, the AFCU, it is in trade-guild with the liberal Protestants (association and the Evangile and Freedom review, liberal Protestant Unions UPL of Strasbourg and Geneva, association and Théolib review) and with emergent liberal catholic mobility since the end of the 20th century (basic Christian communities CCB, Friends of Marcel Légaut, the Federation of the networks of the parvis, association and review Christian freethinking based in Brussels, etc). Since 2002, the French Unitarian Christians are in contact with this liberal catholic place and, in May 2006, the AFCU was accepted as member by the Federation of the networks of the parvis (24).

(24) http://afcu.over-blog.org/categorie-10162759.html  

At the European level, the French Unitarian Christians are in contact with European Liberal Protestant Network (ELPN), a network of the IARF, where one finds, in addition to the liberal Protestants (of which Remonstrants in the Netherlands and Non-Subscribing Irish), our historical Churches in Transylvania and Romania and the General Assembly of Unitarians and Free Christian Churches. (25)

(25) http://afcu.over-blog.org/categorie-10136976.html 

It is precisely this role of the Churches or Unitarian Christian associations, which exist in several European countries (Great Britain, France, Italy, Norway) and Africa, to maintain this Unitarian presence for a non-creedal and liberal Christianity, which was reaffirmed at the time of the meeting of Avignon in August 2007 by a proclamation which was translated into several languages (26)

(26) http://afcu.over-blog.org/categorie-10148421.html  

A pluralist democracy based on the identities

Is it possible to put all the Unitarians in the same association or the same Church ?

Unitarian French knew to learn the lessons from the failure of their first association, the French Unitarian Association (AUF), founded in 1986, become "French-speaking" (French-speaking Unitarian Association) in 1992 and which was dissolved in January 2006. The conflicts of orientation and people were there indeed very numerous. In spite of a "unified" start in November 2006 with the foundation of A Fraternal Unitarian whose attempt was to join together liberal Protestants members of Théolib (a twenty people), the Unitarian ones of the community of Nancy and the Unitarian Christians of the AFCU, but which finally failed as of the following year, it is the pluralism which was concretized little by little with the installation of networks (Unitarian Correspondence since October 2002, the participation of French in the French-speaking Unitarian Universalist Regrouping RFUU), the opening of forums (French-speaking Unitarians   since April 2005, on the initiative of the Unitarian Christians, and The Family of U which functioned in 2006-2007), the launching of individual websites, the foundation of associations of which, in November 2009, a French-speaking Unitarian Universalist Association (AUUF).

The "address book" the French-speaking Unitarian Church (EUfr) testifies to this wealth of initiatives of the French Unitarian landscape (27). It corresponds, in the United States, with the flowering of Unitarian-Universalist associations at the national level.

(27) http://eglise.unitarienne.francophone.over-blog.fr/categorie-10451415.html  

Except for the community of Nancy which practises isolationism compared to the others, the majority of French Unitarians are in relation and good agreement: they contribute to the network of the Unitarian Correspondence and with the drafting of its bulletin (many authors, 250 recipients), exchange within the Yahoo group "French-speaking Unitarians " (more than 100 members, more than 800 messages per month), are registered on the website, take part in the monthly worship of the French-speaking Unitarian Church, etc. Unitarian French can be evaluated, starting from their participation in these various activities, with nearly 200 people.

They are represented by a national instance which was installated in March 2008, the Council of Unitarians and Universalists French (CUUF) (28). It is this one which represents them at the ICUU and it intends to develop the various initiatives in France by her website (29). It is only a relational institution and not some federation. Associations, groups or persons in charge of websites and forums send each a delegate (30), but remain completely free and independent to it in their activities. Generally, the activities of the ones are opened to all the others for text-editing, forums, occasional meetings, meetings, worships, etc.

(28) It was installation on the initiative of the Unitarian Christians of the AFCU in order to take over their association which had been accepted like emergent groups by the ICUU in April 2006

(29) http://unitariens.francais.over-blog.fr  

(30) for the moment, the Fraternal Assembly of the Unitarian Christians (AFCU), French-speaking Unitarian-Universalist Association (AUUF), the network of the Unitarian Correspondence, the forum French-speaking Unitarian, and soon the Islamo-Unitarian Friendships.

This same catch in consideration of the identities exists on the level of our linguistic Church. The faithful ones are invited to be expressed there with their own culture and tradition, without any reserve nor taboo. The Christians can there speak about their attachment to the person of Jesus, practise the sharing of the bread and the wine, give the baptism and the confirmation to faithful which wish it ; believers to address itself directly to God, without euphemism ; the unbelievers speech of their convictions, etc. It is not a question to round the angles in order not to obstruct the others, even less folklore the religious times in a insipid interfaith and made general stereotypes, if not images of Epinal, but to affirm high and strong our own spiritual convictions and our precise engagements and to propose them in sharing by releasing some the universal values.

The community is not then established in any common denominator or a soft consensus, but in the expression, the listening of the others, the sharing of spiritualities and ritual, osmosis and not fusion, the liberal practice of the religion being of course at the base of such an operation. The particular religions thus are fully accepted since they can share. In that our Church is not only "Unitarian Christian" (because it practises the interfaith), but it is not either only "unitarian-universalist" because it admits that each one can live the universal values within the religious corpus of his choice.

A critical reflection on religious heritages

It is precisely with liberal mobilities that we can practise interfaith relations and not with all the Christians or Christianity in general, and the same for all the religions. French Unitarian has relation only with the other liberals and the non dogmatic ones. It is not a religion which is important, but the way in which one practises it. That is accompanied by a necessary critical spirit with respect to the religious movements whatever they are and, from there, by a selection in our foreign relations.

Compared to the Anglo-Saxon tradition which accepts in a way with laxity all the religious movements in the name of the freedom of conscience and tolerates the communautarisms, we think that the religious actors are subject to the rules which govern our modern and laic societies and must conform to them as well as all the other actors of the civil society.

Just as Unitarian Christianity did not cease to think of the religious corpus which ithad inherited, in the same way, we invite all the other religions to make in the same way in order to release what has universal value for everyone. It is this effort, demanding, which we can call "the unitarian work" and which must be the engine of our interfaith.

Gandhi heard it thus which required of each one to live his own religion with excellence or Theodore Monod who perceived each one walking according to his own route towards the same top of mountain. There is a call, not for a simplification or a secularization of the religious, nor for a universalist syncretism, but with the deepening of each way in order to allow a sharing which, is carrying for its universality. In other words, that each one keeps his faith but can from now on share it, inviting the others with the communion of the word and the rites, to celebrate God and/or Life with several voices.

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26 janvier 2009 1 26 /01 /janvier /2009 15:55

EUFr for French-speaking Unitarian Church

Online church for Unitarians, isolated sympathizers,

and existing Unitarian communities in the French-speaking world

traduit par Béatrice Schohn (Obenheim, Alsace)

It was founded in June 2008 on the initiative of the network for Unitarian Correspondence , based in Bordeaux, France. It spread quickly and offers various services.

EUFr is an internet link with already 60 articles posted as of January 23rd,2009, including :

- the EUFr library, information spot offering summaries of recent books

- a prayer space where visitors can find help inspiration for spiritual meditation and worship with French translation of monthly prayers sent to all Unitarians by the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists

- coming soon : a space where worshippers can share their personal experience of home services carried out on their own, with their family, friends, neighbours or with a community

- a new Unitarian site for Portugal.

It is also a real church with

- a 7-member board

- a chair-holding minister (check link to minister's chair)

- an applicant to the pastoral ministry in a 1-year training

- soon a spiritual group with members volunteering for a monthly worship, in their homes or in a community near them

- also soon social actions for the benefit of African countries

- and so on …

EUFr is also a congregation of approximately 1300 Unitarians

-    50 in France, Switzerland, Belgium (over 200 sympathizers)
-    50 in Quebec

-   100 in Burundi

-    50 in Congo Brazzaville

- 1000 in the Republic Democratic of Congo (RDC)

-    50 in Togo

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28 août 2008 4 28 /08 /août /2008 17:31

traduction en anglais par Christian Phéline et John Kemp, de l’article de Jean-Claude Barbier, secrétaire général de l’Assemblée fraternelle des chrétiens unitariens, paru à la Une de la Correspondance unitarienne, n° 83, septembre 2008, " Une théologie à l’usage de l’unitarisme contemporain "

In view of the variety of creeds that exist among present day Unitarians, is it still possible to speak of a single Unitarian Theology? What have in common the historical Unitarian Church, whose credo dates back to the 16th-17th centuries, where God is providence, and universalist unitarianism, whose aim is to create a new religion?

Within the limits of this universalism, the congregations have to cope with an heterogeneity that includes not only believers but also agnostics and atheists. Tolerance and respect for others naturally have to be observed, even to the extent that the pronunciation of certain words, such as the name of God, is to be avoided, or to dilute the original rituals in a phraseologiy and gestures : the main aim of this is universality, though this may lead to banality.

Lastly, are there different theologies, or even is there for certain individuals any theology?

Although the root of the word "theology" is the Greek word "
theos” (θεος), which means god, the discipline refers to a much broader field since it means “a study of religious matters relying upon sacred texts, dogmas, and traditions” (Petit Robert); “The systematic study of the existence and nature of the divine and its relationship to and influence upon other beings" (Collins English Dictionary); "the organised body of knowledge dealing with the nature, attributes, and governance of God" (New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, vol. 2, N-Z). Furthermore, monotheisms do not possess a monopoly since the customary, so-called pagan religions also offer a meditation upon our connections to the gods and other supranatural beings, and they possess well-defined religious corpuses comprising myths, prayers, rituals, practices, creeds and moral values.

la Théologie, porte de la cathédrale de Sens (France), XI-XVI° siècles, dessinée par Eugène Viollet-le-duc en 1856 (le visage de la statue a été vandalisée sous la Révolution française)

So, bearing anthropology in mind, it is clear that the field of theology is much wider than that of the usual circle of religious confessions to which it is restricted. It thus becomes open to criticism, and the old concept of an anthropomorphic, patriarchal god, specific to an ethnic group (the Jews), or providing safety to a chosen community of believers such as Christians or Muslims, seems no longer acceptable.

 On the other hand, adopting the atheistic point of view, science cannot progress beyond the Big Bang. The universe is better known, but the mystery of its origin remains intact. There is thus a convergence between the views of believers who no longer debate the nature of God (is He a person, an energy, a spiritual presence?) and those of atheists who acknowledge a dimension that defies human reason. They both avoid fanaticism, reclusion in undemonstrable creeds, and vain disputes. In contemporary unitarianism, a consensus has been reached concerning the mystery of Life and its spiritual dimension.

With respect to the vocabulary of reverence, the speech of the president of the Unitarian Universalist Association congregation, the Rev William G. Sinkford, in May 2003 (Corresp.unitarienne, n° 22, August 2003.), brings to an end the humanist ascendancy in Unitarian universalism, which could lead believers to adopt borderline positions.

Unitarian worship sessions have the potential to develop an emotional devotion through talks, songs and new rituals. Addressing the participants personally, these sessions become the place for expressing one’s faith. They have moved away from the Anglo-Saxon Protestant formula, which is still marked by Puritan or Calvinist sobriety, with an added rational coolness. In brief, during these sessions people mingle in an atmosphere of mutual acceptance, listening and encouragement; coffee and pastries gather the faithful around a table after the service, and the meaning of such originally pagan festivities is rediscovered. Even if no mention is made of God the transcendent Creator, Life in all its manifestations, not only human but also animal and vegetable, is magnified in a consciously ecological context.

From all these proceedings a single unitarian theology emerges that goes beyond differences between believers and non believers, taking the following forms:

1. Belief in the mystery of Life. Life has a spiritual dimension. If God exists, He must be regarded as a Creator God, the origin of our universe, giver of life. Further, if he can be conceived of as transcendent (as a Creator), He is also and above all present in the depth of his creation and of all living creatures. This has been asserted by all the Pantheists, and Pantheism offers such a synthesis. Following such a direction, but more dynamically, Process Theology asserts that God is in perpetual relation with his creatures. He does not act by himself but through us; our history, initially human, is the presence of God with Us, sharing our vicissitudes and endeavours; a stream of creative energy, always at work, internal, like that of which Teilhard de Chardin had an intuition. At all events we are situated apart from a static creationism, a linear Holy Story or a naive evolutionism.

2. This belief does not imply a predefinited cult – no credos, no acceptance of dogmas – instead it allows each to express his or her faith, convictions, in their own way. Worship may take any form of expression and is not limited to words alone – drawing, dance, music, exhibitions, expressive rituals are all valid. The language of reverence is everybody’s – no prohibition and no coding.

The mode of expression may take many different forms, but cohesion is maintained through the "rules of the game" which require everyone to speak for themselves, without attempting to engage the community, and require the community to listen without being obliged to acquiesce or disapprove – worship is liberalized.

3. If they have critically examined the body of their initial religious beliefs believers should feel at ease. The rituals proposed are somewhat different from those of the usual confessions, but the reason they are proposed is their universal value of sharing. Are they then becoming confused, aseptic, truncated, folklorised? Not if care is taken to explain their historical and religious background and its signification, which enabled their formulation.

For instance, in such a context, a Christian may break bread and share wine remembering Jesus. As Jesus is not God this ritual is performed as a fraternal act between people who value the message of the Gospel, and each is allowed to go further according to his or her personal belief in a Jesus who may have been resuscitated (Pentecostal version), or whose spirit is still alive and active (Quaker version).

Obviously, the redeeming interpretation which was understandable in the Messianic context of 1st century Judaism lacks a universal value. The traditional formulation "This is my body, given for thee", is liable to offend many, the sense of the Holy Communion is better expressed by the Didachee (60-90 AD) which refers to the fruits of the earth and of men’s work.

Other religious rituals may also be proposed, as long as as they have been considered and adapted to our modern world and they make sense to others. The value of a ritual lies not so much in the theatralisation of a gesture (amplified to an extreme in Roman Catholic, Oriental or other esoteric pomps) as in the virtue of sharing between participants, that is to say, its value as a universal sign, even though an explanation might seem necessary.

4. Unitarian religion is a spiritual accompaniment both for individuals and for groups. Its intention is neither to convert nor to keep people within the congregation but to help them go their own way and progress as individuals, even though this could lead them to other choices, away from Unitarianism. There is no spiritual guide, so sympathizers and believers enjoy the same consideration in our assemblies. The doors of the churches are now wide open, baptism and the profession of faith has been replaced by a relational ethic.

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  • : Eglise unitarienne francophone
  • : Le courant unitarien est né au XVI° siècle et a été la "benjamine" des Réformes protestantes. Il se caractérise par une approche libérale, non dogmatique, du christianisme en particulier et des religions en général. Les unitariens sont près d'un million dans le monde entier. En pays francophones (en Europe occidentale : la France et ses oays d'Outre-Mer, la Wallonie, la communauté francophone de Bruxelles, la Suisse romane, Monaco et Andorre ; au Canada : le Québec ; et en Afrique noire), il s'e
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