chalice with rainbow flame
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Essex County


compiled by Gregory Giacobe
April 2011
[click here to download MS Word version]

This timeline recounts many of the important dates in the establishment and development of Unitarian Universalism. It also serves as a relational tree between Unitarian Universalism, its antecedents, and other religious traditions through the ages. It is culled from a number of popular and recent histories of both movements, but is not exhaustive. Out of necessity and available documentation, the focus of this timeline concentrates on events in Europe and North America, but is not intended to ignore developments of Unitarian Universalism and its antecedents in other parts of the world. Also, for the sake of continuity, the timeline follows the development of each antecedent of Unitarian Universalism separately up to "consolidation"in the United States in 1961, as well as developments since then.


Unitarianism before 1500 CE

14th Cen. BCE Pharaoh Akhenaton (r. 1353-36 BCE) established the cult of Aton, the Sun Disc, in Egypt. The earliest recorded instance of a cult devoted to one, unified godhead. Egypt reverted back to its traditional pantheon after his death.
6th Cen. BCE The Hebrew prophets increasingly expounded the idea that the God of Abraham is the only true God.
c. 100 CE The Ebionites, an early Jewish Christian sect believed to be directly descended from the Jerusalem Church, flourish in Judea and surrounding areas. They emphasized the oneness of God and the humanity of Jesus who by virtue of his righteousness, was chosen by God to be the Messiah. They also rejected Jesus’ pre-existence, atoning death, and physical resurrection. After the Second Jewish War (132-35 CE), their influence waned, and eventually disappear in the 4th Cen. CE.
c. 200 CE The "Monarchian Controversy" first erupted during the papacy of Victor I (189-99 CE) as a reaction to the theology put forth by Justin Martyr (c. 100-165) who spoke of Jesus of Nazareth as a second god. Many proto-Arian and proto-Socinian ideas, not fully formed, were first propounded.
318 Arius (c. 250-336), a church elder from Alexandria, taught that Jesus of Nazareth was more than human, but was not equal or co-existent with God (the Father). This view was declared "heretical"and "anathema"at the Ecumenical Council of Nicea (325) but continued to spread in the succeeding centuries. The Arian missionary Ulfilas (310 – 383) spread the theology to the Germanic tribes, and it remained dominant for some centuries among several in western Europe, especially the Goths, the Lombards and, significantly for the late Roman Empire, the Vandals.
610-32 Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah (c.570-632), the founding prophet of Islam, proclaimed, "lâ ilâha illallâh"("There is no God, but God"). This doctrine of tawhid ("oneness") is fundamental to the faith and asserts the existence of a single and absolute truth that transcends the world; a unique, independent and indivisible being, who is both immanent and transcendent.
794 "Adoptionism", a form of Monarchianism, that stated Jesus was born human but became divine later in life, was propounded by Elipandus (c. 716-c.805), Archbishop of Toledo. It was condemned as heretical by the Council of Frankfurt, convened by Charlemagne (742-814), King of the Franks and the first Holy Roman Emperor.
c. 1090 The Nominalists, a philosophical school founded by Roscelin, Canon of Compiègne (1040-1120), argued that reality exists in concrete and specific things, rather than in abstract ideas. They suggested that a common substance shared by the three Persons of the Trinity was unreal, thus irrational and not provable. Therefore, it must be accepted on the basis of faith.
1140 Peter Abelard (1079 –1142), philosopher and theologian who championed the use of reason in matters of faith, was ordered to silence by the Papal Court.
1327 Adam Duff O'Toole was burned at the stake in Dublin for denying the Trinity. The earliest recorded instance of such an action in the British Isles.
1401 William Sawtrey of Lynn, a priest and follower of John Wycliffe (d. 1384), was burned at the stake for denying the Trinity. This was the first recorded instance of such an action in England. He was also the first martyr of the Lollards.

Unitarianism in Europe between 1500 and 1800

31 October 1517Martin Luther (1483-1546), an Augustinian monk, nailed his 95 Theses (officially, The Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences) to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral, starting the Protestant Reformation.
1531 Michael Servetus (Miguel Serveto y Conesa, 1511-53) published De Trinitatis Erreribus (On The Errors of the Trinity ) where he stated the doctrine of the Trinity has no basis in scripture and was thus a later invention.
1550 The Council of Venice, representing Anabaptist Protestants in northeast Italy and Switzerland, adopted a 10 point statement of faith stating - among other things - that Jesus was human only. This movement was crushed a few years later by the Roman Inquisition.
1553 For his work Christianismi Restitutio (The Restoration of Christianity), Servetus was condemned and sentenced to death in absentia by the Roman Inquisition. However, while traveling through Geneva, Switzerland, he was discovered, tried by a Protestant church council, led by John Calvin (1509-64), and burned at the stake along with his writings on 27 October.

Socinianism in Poland, 1550-1660

1551 Laelius Socinus (Lelio Sozzini, 1525-62) made his first visit to Poland and found support for the radical anti-Trinitarian ideas of Servetus and others among the Polish Protestant community.
1555 The Polish Diet decreed freedom of religion for both commoners and nobles.
1564 Liberals within the Reformed movement form the Minor Reformed Church of Poland, otherwise known as the “Polish Brethren”
1569 The community and seminary of Rakow was established. In 1602, a press was established that would publish a steady stream of Socinian and Unitarian literature and make the community the leading center of Unitarianism.
1580 Faustus Socinus (Fausto Sozzini, 1539-1604), nephew of Laelius, assumed leadership of the Polish Brethren.
1605 The Racovian Catechism was published in Poland. It set forth the positions of the Polish Brethren in a form that could be used for teaching.
1638 The Polish Diet closed the seminary at Rakow and abolished its press.
1648 The Rakow community was destroyed by the Cossacks.
1660 Polish king Jan II Casimir (1609-72) ordered the removal of all Socinians from Poland. The Polish Brethren flee to neighboring areas of Prussia, Bohemia and Transylvania, and as far as the Rhine Palatinate, Holstein, Brandenburg and Holland.

Unitarianism in Hungary and Transylvania, 1545-1780

1544 Giorgio Biandrata (1515-88), a leader of the Polish Brethern, is sent to Transylvania by Queen Bona of Poland (1494-1557) to advise her daughter, the Dowiger Queen Isabella (1519-59) of Hungary and her young son, King John Sigismund (1540-71).
1557 Queen Isabella decreed religious toleration in Transylvania.
1564 Francis David (David Ferencz, 1510-79) was appointed superintendent (later bishop) of the Reformed Church in Transylvania and, as a result of Biandrata’s influence, was named Court Preacher to John Sigismund.
1567 Biandrata and David published False and True Knowledge of God that sets forth the basic beliefs of the Transylvanian Unitarians.
13 January 1568 John Sigismund issued the Edict of Torda, also known as the Patent of Toleration, the earliest known legal guarantee of religious freedom in Europe. Although it helped foster toleration as a notion beyond mere political expedience, and helped pave the way for later tolerant regimes, it was not an attempt to legislate individual religious freedom. It legally applied only to the four well-connected groups of the time: Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Unitarians. Other groups without political representation - Jews, Muslims, and especially Eastern Orthodox - were "tolerated" but not granted legal guarantees.
14 January 1571 John Sigismund and the Transylvanian Diet recognized the four “received” religions: Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Calvinism and Unitarianism.
15 November 1579 David, arrested on charges of defying the king, died in prison at Deva. Prince Demetrius Hunyadi (d. 1592) succeeded David as Unitarian Bishop.
25 October 1600 The term “Unitarian” first appeared as “unitaria religio” in a document of the Diet of Lécfalva, Transylvania, though the term was not widely used in Transylvania till 1638, when the formal recepta Unitaria Religio was published.
1618-38 A period of repression against the Unitarians in Transylvania. In 1638, the Agreement of Dees put forth a new creed for Unitarians that called for the worship of Christ, though not as God; the re-institution of infant baptism; and the observance of the Lord’s Supper. This would remain the official standard of the Unitarian Church in Transylvania to the present day.
1657-1705 Under Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, Unitarian schools and endowments were confiscated, but Unitarian bishops were permitted to supervise their churches and press.
1740-80 Queen Maria Theresa of Austria, now overlord of Transylvania and Hungary, through a series of decrees, created a fund to convert Unitarian children to Roman Catholicism; decreed that no non-Unitarian may marry a Unitarian; prohibited the public discussion of Unitarianism; forbade the conversions to Unitarianism; closed Unitarian schools; and refused to permit any new Unitarian churches to be built or any existing church to be repaired.

Holland, 1578-1668

1578 Prince William of Orange (1533-84) concluded the Peace of Antwerp, which stated that each person should be free in the practice of religion. This becomes the unofficial stance of the Dutch Republic when it is established in 1581.
1598 The first Socinian works appeared in Holland.
The Remonstrants, a liberal wing of the Reformed Church in Holland, came under the influence of Socinianism and call for religious toleration. Jacob Arminius (Jakob Harmenszoon, 1560-1609) rejects the doctrine of predestination and insists individuals can influence their own salvation. His theology was a precursor to John Wesley and Methodism, as well as the Mennonites and other Protestant denominations.
1614 Servetus’ On The Errors of the Trinity was translated and published in Dutch.
1619 At The Synod of Dort, conservative Calvinists succeeded in exiling religious liberals, including the Remonstrants, from Holland. However, in 1630, these religious exiles were allowed to return to Holland and establish schools and churches. The Remontrants open a seminary in 1635.
1665-68 Major Socinian works, The Racovian Catechism and the Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum (The Library of the Polish Brethren) were translated and published in Holland, making them available to Western Europe for the first time.

Unitarianism in England, 1548-1928

1548 Laelius Socinus arrived in England at the invitation of Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), the Archbishop of Canterbury. Socinus stayed in England until the ascension of Queen Mary in 1553.

The first Church of the Strangers was established in London under the Italian reformer Bernardino Ochino (1487-1564). Although set up for the Italian community in London, it welcomed reformed Protestants of other nationalities as well.
1551 Jan Laski (1499- 1560), a Pole with Socinian leadings, became the superintendent of the Church of the Strangers. The church went underground upon the ascension of Queen Mary and was re-established in 1559.
1580 Robert Browne (c.1550–1633), a clergyman and leader of a group of early separatists popularly known as the Brownists, conceived of the idea of a church as a self-governing local body of experiential believers. Criticizing the prevalent structure and practices of the state and the Church of England, he was persecuted and finally fled with his followers to Holland in 1581. There he published several treatises that are generally regarded as the first expression of the principles of Congregationalism. Imprisoned upon his return to England, he was later reconciled. His views became influential in the burgeoning Puritan and later Non-Conformist movements in England and throughout Britain.
1614 The English edition of the Racovian Catechism was published with a dedication to King James I (r. 1603-25). It is later publicly burned.

The “Latitudinarian Movement” called for a national church that would be as broadly inclusive as possible.
1644 John Biddle (1615-62) completed Twelve Arguments in which he sets out to refute the doctrine of the Trinity.
1645 Paul Best (1590-1657), a member of Parliament, was charged before the House of Commons with denying the Trinity and the deity of Christ. He was found guilty and condemned to be hanged, but was eventually released.
1662 The "Great Ejection", where about two thousand Puritan ministers were forced to resign from their positions as Church of England clergy, followed the passage of the Act of Uniformity. Persecution of all Puritans then occurred sporadically under the terms of what later became known as The Clarendon Code.
1682 The term “Unitarian” was first used to describe those who believe in the essential indivisibility of a Divine Being.
1687 Thomas Firman (1632-97) began funding the publication of various Socinian and Unitarian tracts. The impact of this was to widen the latitude of beliefs within the Anglican Church.
1689 The Act of Toleration passed, granting freedom of worship to Nonconforming Protestant groups who dissent from the Church of England, but not to Catholics. Nonconformists were allowed their own places of worship and their own teachers and preachers, subject to acceptance of certain oaths of allegiance. It deliberately did not apply to Catholics and non-Trinitarians and continued the existing social and political disabilities for dissenters, including their exclusion from political office and also from universities.
1702 Thomas Emlyn (1663-1741), a dissenting Presbyterian minister, was tried and found guilty of blasphemy for publishing An Humble Inquiry. He was the last person jailed for the denial of the Trinity in Great Britain.
1712 Samuel Clarke (1675-1729), Chaplain to Queen Anne (r. 1702-14), published the Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity, where he deduced that any eternal, immutable, independent being be, among other properties, a unity.
1719 The Salter’s Hall Conference of Presbyterians, Independents and Baptists of Exeter resulted in the formation of “subscribing” and “non-subscribing” churches to the final statement of faith on the doctrine of the Trinity. This was to lead dissenting congregations to determine their own orthodoxy.
1749 A Free And Candid Disquisition is published anonymously and inaugurates a twenty year discussion centering on the creeds and practices of the Anglican Church.
1773 Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) was called to serve as minister of the New Meeting in Birmingham. Later he wrote Corruptions of Christianity which established him as the premiere spokesman for the Unitarian cause in England. In 1791, due to his outspoken support for the French Revolution, a mob attacked and burned Priestley’s church, library and laboratory. He fled first to London, then, in 1794, sailed for America where he helped the burgeoning Unitarian movement there.
17 April 1774 Theophilus Lindsey (1723-1808) began preaching at the Essex Street Chapel in London. This was the first established Unitarian congregation in England. Lindsey served as its minister until 1805.
1791 Thomas Belsham (1750-1829) organized the Unitarian Book Society. He later succeeded Lindsey as minister at the Essex Street Chapel.
1808 The Unitarian Tract Society was organized.
1813 Parliament passed The Unitarian Relief Act, otherwise known as The Trinity Act, which guaranteed civil liberties to those who profess Unitarianism.
25 May 1825 Most professing Unitarian congregations joined together to organize the British and Foreign Unitarian Association (BFUA). Robert Aspland (1782-1845) served as its first secretary.
1844 Unitarian ministers withdrew from the London Dissenting Ministers Association, severing the movement’s last link with Christian orthodoxy.
1854 The Unitarian Home Missionary College was founded in Manchester.
1881 BFUA initiated the National Conference of Unitarians, Liberal Christian and Other Non-Subscribing and Kindred Congregations to bring together representatives of all churches in Great Britain and Ireland that stand for freedom in matters of faith.
1928 BFUA and the National Conference were re-organized to form the General Assembly of British Unitarian and Free Christian Churches.

Unitarianism in North America, 1648-1960

1648 Representatives from Puritan churches in Massachusetts colony met in Cambridge to decide polity (governance) issues. The result was the Cambridge Platform that established congregational polity as the norm.
1691 Massachusetts became a crown colony, ruled directly by the king in London, with the Puritans losing political control. More liberal and radical religious ideas began to flow into the colony from this time on.
1734 The First Great Awakening, a religious revival movement, began, arousing new interest in religion, stirring religious enthusiasm, nourishing fanatical religious fervor and encouraging reactionary dogmatism. The long-term effect was to begin to divide more liberally minded church-goers and ministers from conservative. One of the most prominent opponents was Charles Chauncy (1705–1787), a New England clergyman and intellectual. In 1743, he published Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in New England where he decried emotionalism and opposed revivalist preaching.
1748 Jonathan Mayhew (1720 – 1766), noted American minister from Boston, delivered his Seven Sermons (published 1750), in which he argued that every person has the right to make private judgments in religious matters and the duty to do so. Later, he began teaching the strict unity of God and critiqued the Calvinist views of predestination, justification by faith alone, and original sin.
1756 Thomas Emlyn’s A Humble Inquiry was reprinted in America.
1759 Ebenezer Gay (1696 -1787) delivered the Dudleian Lecture at Harvard College on Natural Religion as Distinguished from Revealed, where he set out arguments for a religion derived from human reason and the evidences of nature. This religion was also commensurate with human moral capacity. Gay was an important exponent of “supernatural rationalism," a theology that insisted that the revealed religion of the Bible and the natural religion of rational speculation and scientific observation were in no sense incompatible. Along with Chauncy and Jonathan Mayhew, Gay helped lay the ground work for the religious liberalism of William Ellery Channing and his associates a century later. Gay was also leader of a group of ministers in southern Massachusetts who committed themselves to the fight for freedom from bondage to unreasonable doctrines.
1779 Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826) first introduces his Statute of Religious Freedom into the Virginia House of Delegates. Passed by Virginia in1786, it sets the example for the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the US Constitution in 1787, enshrining freedom of conscience as a basic right of US citizens. Raised as an Anglican and always maintained some affiliation with the Anglican Church, and never formally joining a Unitarian congregation, Jefferson held many attributes in high regard that would become definitively Unitarian.
1785 King’s Chapel in Boston, an Anglican congregation established in 1686, revised its Book of Common Prayer to remove all references to Jesus as God. This was heavily influenced by the liturgy of Theophilus Lindsey of the Essex Street Chapel in London. Thus, it became the first continuously operating Unitarian congregation in the US.
1794 Joseph Priestley migrated from England and established two Unitarian congregations in Pennsylvania – one in Philadelphia in 1797.
1803 Controversy erupted between liberals and conservatives within the Standing Order of Congregations of Massachusetts over the candidates for dean of Harvard Divinity College. Harvard’s Board of Overseers eventually selects Henry Ware (1764–1845), the liberal candidate, in 1805. This marked the final and definitive moment in the schism that would result in separate Unitarian and Congregationalist denominations.
1819 At the ordination of Jared Sparks at the First Independent Church of Baltimore, William Ellery Channing (1780-1841) delivered his sermon, “Unitarian Christianity”, where using reason and conscience, he defined and defended a Unitarian stance.
26 May 1825 The American Unitarian Association is formed as a support organization for liberal ministers.
1836 The Transcendental Club, a group devoted to discussing new developments in philosophy, began meeting at the home of a former Unitarian minister, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882). Beginning as a protest against the general state of culture and society, Transcendentalism's core belief was an ideal spiritual state that "transcends" the physical and empirical, and is realized only through the individual's intuition, rather than through the doctrines of established religions. It would have a lasting influence in literature, religion, culture, and philosophy, especially the movement of "Mental Sciences" of the mid 1800s, which would later become known as the New Thought movement.
15 July 1838 Emerson delivered his “Divinity School Address” to the Harvard graduating class. He urged Unitarians and other religious liberals to abandon the traditional focus on testimony of the past as sources of religious truth, and instead focus on their own lives and experiences of the sacred.
19 May 1841 Theodore Parker (1810-60) delivered his sermon, “The Transient and The Permanent In Christianity” at the ordination of Charles Shackford at the Hawes Place Church in south Boston. Parker argued that in order for Christianity to be true, it must be axiomatic and self-evident.
1842 The first continuing Unitarian congregation in Canada was organized in Montreal. Rev. John Cordner (1816-94) serves as its first minister.
1844 Meadville Theological School was established in Meadville, PA
1852 The Western Unitarian Conference was organized in Cincinnati, OH to create and serve new congregations west of the Mississippi. Conference headquarters was later moved to Chicago.
1855-65 Supported by Parker and other prominent Unitarian ministers, an unknown number of Unitarians participated in the clandestine transportation and aid of escaped slaves from the southern US to Canada, known as the Underground Railroad.
1865 The National Conference of Unitarian Churches was organized to supplement the mission of the AUA by serving congregations and individual Unitarians.
Union with the Universalists was first proposed.
1884 The AUA was re-organized as an association of congregations with the National Conference folded into the AUA.
1886 At its annual meeting, the Western Unitarian Conference refused to impose any dogmatic tests on its ministerial fellowship. It not only refused to define itself as “Christian”, it refused to make any form of theism a requirement for ministerial fellowship. Though still using Christian terminology, this sets the stage for more “non-Christian” and questioning adherents to enter the denomination.
1887 Unitarian mission to Japan established under Rev. Arthur M. Knapp.
1896 The Young People’s Religious Union (YPRU), the youth and young adult wing of the Unitarian movement, was established. Later known as the American Unitarian Youth, it would be one of the predecessor organizations to the Liberal Religious Youth.
1904 The Pacific Unitarian School for the Ministry was opened primarily to train leaders to serve the particular needs of congregations west of the Mississippi River. In 1941, the school’s name was changed to honor Thomas Starr King (1824-64).
1917 John Haynes Holmes (1879–1964), minister of the Church of the Messiah in New York City (later the Community Church of New York), refused to support the US entry into World War I. This sparks controversy over freedom of expression within Unitarianism and outside of it.
1921 At the meeting of the National Conference, John Dietrich (1878-1957), minister of the Unitarian congregation in Minneapolis, MN, became the leading spokesman for religious humanism within the denomination. Adherents of humanism began entering the denomination in larger numbers.
1933 The Humanist Manifesto, an attempt to define the values and convictions of humanists in a clear and concise manner, is signed by a number of Unitarian ministers and one Universalist minister.
1934 AUA Commission of Appraisal, chaired by Frederick May Eliot (1889-1958), was appointed to evaluate the association and the broad Unitarian movement. Its final report called for a number of structural changes, including a strengthened presidency. Eliot would become AUA President in 1937.
1939 AUA created a special mission to help refugees in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia escape oppression. Later operating out of Paris, France, this mission was re-organized as the Unitarian Service Committee in 1940.
1942 A. Powell Davies (1902- 57), while serving as minister at the Unitarian Church of Summit, NJ, propounded five principles of modern Unitarianism, which neither mentions God, Jesus or Christianity. These would serve as the basis for the later UUA Principles and Purposes.
1944 The Church of the Larger Fellowship was founded as an extension effort by the AUA. In time, the CLF would become an independent congregation serving not only isolated UU’s but people who are not mobile or feel comfortable in nearby congregations.
1947 The Fellowship Movement, a program to organize lay-led congregations, was established. The movement both expanded the number and the form of Unitarian congregations.
10 Nov 1952 Caroline Veatch (1870 -1953) bequeathed half of the entirety of all income from stock holdings in North Sea oil and gas fields to the North Shore Unitarian Society (later the UU Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhassett, NY). This would eventually become the Veatch Program that would fund many UU projects to the tune of millions of dollars in the decades ahead.

Universalism in Europe and England before 1800

8th – 4th Cen. BCE Commentaries on the Rig Veda and the Upanishads claimed that all religions are true and therefore worthy of toleration and respect. This began a current in Hinduism that lasts to the present. Ananda Marga, a recent branch of Hinduism founded in the mid 19th Cen., promulgates the idea that energy and matter are evolved from cosmic consciousness. Thus, all created beings are of one universal family. This current influenced the development of Buddhism & Sikhism.
6th – 2nd Cen. BCE Jewish compilers & commentators of the Torah & Talmud developed the idea of the “Righteous Gentile”, based on the “Noahide Code”, a binding set of laws for all humankind.
c. 300 BCE Zeno of Citium (334-262 BCE), the founder of the Stoic school of philosophy, taught a principle of universal restoration of humankind with nature and the gods, called “apokatastasis”.
100-150 CE “Clement”, the author of The Apocalypse of Peter, explained that God will save all sinners from their plight in Hell due to the prayers of those in Heaven. Similarly, the unknown author(s) of The Sibylline Oracles distinctly avowed a belief in universal salvation.
215 Origen of Alexandria (185-254) expressed the idea that in the fullness of time all of creation would be restored to harmony with God. He was the successor of Pantaenus (d. c. 200), a saint in the Coptic and Oriental Churches, and founder of Catechetical School of Alexandria (also known as the Didascalium), the first & most influential of the early Christian theological schools, & thoroughly universalist in its theology.
394 Supporters of Augustine of Hippo (354-430) rioted with the supporters of Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-394?), a follower of Origen, over whether the tenet of ultimate salvation applies to the Devil. Over the next few decades, local ecclesiastical councils condemn the Origenist position. Finally, Origen’s doctrine of Universal Salvation was declared heretical at the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 553. This provided the final break between Roman & Eastern Orthodox Churches with Coptic, Assyrian & Oriental Orthodox (Nestorian) Christians.
620-711 Various verses of the Quran extol that the message of Mohammad is for all humankind, and recognize prophets before him as legitimate. It also attributes the name “ar-Rahim” (the Merciful) to Allah, meaning that Allah is all forgiving. By conquest, Islam reaches as far as Mesopotamia and Spain. In time it will reach India and Indonesia.
855 The Provencial Council of Valence in France condemned the teachings of John Scotus Eriugena (815-77), an Irish-born theologian and philosopher. Eriugena believed all beings (even animals) reflect attributes of the Creator and are capable of progressing toward harmony with God, to which all things ultimately must return. Eriugena’s beliefs were later systematized in his work De Divisione Naturae (The Division of Nature), also called Periphyseon.
1204 The teachings of the theologian Amalric of Bena (d. 1207) were condemned by the University of Paris. Amalric’s followers became known as Amalricians who were condemned as heretics at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215. They were pantheistic in theology, believing that "all things are One, because whatever is, is God." The Amalricians were the forerunners of the late Medieval religious movement known as The Brethren of the Free Spirit.
1222 Soloman, Bishop of Bassorah, in present-day Iraq, proclaimed salvation for all humanity, basing his opinion on the writings of Theodorus of Mopsuetia (c. 350 - 428) and Diodorus of Tarsus (d. c. 390).
1340-61 Johannes Tauler (c. 1300 – 1361), a German mystic theologian from Strasbourg, and a student of Meister Eckhart (c. 1260 – c. 1327), taught that "All beings exist through the same birth as the Son, and therefore shall they all come again to their original, that is, God the Father."
1393 Julian of Norwich (1342-1416), an English mystic & anchoress, wrote Revelations of Divine Love where she detailed personal visions with theological commentary on their meaning. Regarded as the first book written by a woman in English, it revealed Julian’s joyful and compassionate view of a God of love who cares deeply about all beings and promises to save everyone.
c.1410 The Homines Intelligentiae (Men of Understanding), a sect doctrinally related with the earlier Brethren of the Free Spirit, taught the eventual salvation of all human beings, & even of demons, maintained that the soul of man cannot be defiled by bodily sin, and believed in a mystical state of illumination & union with God so perfect that it was exempted from all subjection to moral and ecclesiastical laws and was an infallible pledge of salvation. It was influential primarily in the Low Countries and the German Rhineland and was mentioned in the annals of the Inquisition of Brussels.
1524 Hans Denck (1495-1527), a German theologian and Anabaptist leader, promoted a version of universal salvation while serving as headmaster of St. Sebald’s school in Nuremburg. After being involved in a heresy trial of two artists, he was expelled from the city. He was opposed by Martin Luther. The Anabaptist movement spread throughout parts of Germany, Bohemia, Switzerland & the Low Countries, before reaching England. In time, Anabaptist ideals would form the basis for the Quakers and the German Pietist movement.
1694 Jane Ward Leade (1624–1704), an English mystic, started the group that later became known as the Philadelphian Society For The Advancement Of Piety And Divine Philosophy (Philadelphians). She believed that punishment after death was purgative, not punitive. She and the Philadelpians would have a profound effect on Radical German Pietism, German Romanticism, and in the works of Emanuel Swedenborg, William Blake and William Law. Law, in turn, would directly influence the development of Methodism under John Wesley (1703 –1791)
c.1700 Radical Pietists such as Johann Wilhelm Peterson (1649 - 1727) and Ernst Christoph Hochmann (1670 - 1721), under the influence of the teaching of Jakob Böhme (1575 –1624), developed the idea of the “final restoration”, which became one of the most distinguishing characteristics of radical Pietist theology. The concept would spread to radical and independent religious groups in England, and lead to the spread in America of Mennonite & Moravian churches, such as the Quakers, Hutterites & Amish. Pietists emphasized individual piety and zeal and a "religion of the heart."
1759 James Relly (1722-78), a former Methodist preacher, establishes an independent congregation on Addle Street in London and teaches “common salvation”. One of his later followers was another former Methodist preacher, John Murray.

Universalism in the United States, 1741-1961

1741 George de Benneville (1703-93), a son of religious refugees from France, arrived in Reading, PA among the Germen Brethren (the Mennonites) to preach a pious mystical form of universal salvation. Later missionaries undertook journeys to neighboring areas to spread de Benneville’s message.
30 September 1770 John Murray (1741-1815), a former Methodist minister, was shipwrecked off Point Good Luck, NJ on Barnegat Bay, and met local resident Thomas Potter (1689-1777), most likely a follower of de Benneville’s teachings. Potter convinced the despondent minister to preach a sermon at his self-built meeting house.
1774 Murray accepted an invitation of a small group of followers in Gloucester, MA to become their minister.
1781 Elhanan Winchester (1751-97), a former Baptist minister, founded a Universalist congregation in Philadelphia. It was not only important in seeding other Universalist churches, but was helpful in Joseph Priestley’s effort to found nearby Unitarian congregations.
14 September 1785 Universalist churches of Massachusetts held their first convention in Oxford, MA.
1786 Universalists in Massachusetts won the right to have their taxes used to support their own church.
1788 Elhanan Winchester published Dialogues on the Universal Restoration, a compelling argument in favor of the “restorationist” position
25 May 1790 Universalist congregations in Philadelphia and surrounding areas met and adopted the Philadelphia “Articles of Faith”, the first profession of Universalist faith.
1793 The New England Convention of Universalists was organized. It would serve as the precursor to the national General Convention of Universalists, later the Universalist Church of America.
22 September 1803 At their convention at Winchester, NH, the New England Universalists adopted a document describing the tenants of their faith, later called “The Winchester Profession”. Included in the Profession was a clause that allowed local congregations to express these tenets in their own way. This later became known as “the Liberty Clause”, and was applied not only to congregations but to individual Universalists.
1805 Hosea Ballou (1771-1852) published A Treatise On Atonement in which he argued that religion should be approached through scripture as interpreted by reason. The work became a hallmark of the Universalist faith and was very popular. Among his arguments was a systematic attack upon the doctrine of the Trinity. In essence, Ballou took a theologically Unitarian position.
1817 The “Restorationist Controversy” began between Ballou and a fellow Universalist minister, Edward Turner (1776-1853). It revolved around whether there is a period of punishment for a person’s soul before they are restored to harmony with God. (Turner argued yes, Ballou no.) Fierce at times, in one instance, the controversy lead to a split in the New England Convention. By 1841, those who had split off had joined other denominations, most notably the Unitarians.
1819 The Universalist Magazine began publication. Ballou served as its first editor.
1832 The America Almanac listed Universalism as the sixth largest denomination in the nation with 500,000 adherents. By 1840, Universalists were credited with making up 3% of the population, around 700,000. Most modern historians think these figures were inflated, but may reflect the standing of the denomination at the time.
1863 Olympia Brown (1835-1926) and Augusta J. Chapin (1836-1905), both Universalists, became the first women ordained as ministers by any denomination in the US.
1869 The second Universalist seminary is opened as the Tufts College Divinity School at Tufts University (the first being The Theological School of St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY, founded in 1856). In 1906, it was renamed Crane Theological School upon a gift by Albert in honor of his father, Thomas Crane.
September 1870 At its centennial convention at Gloucester, MA, the Universalists updated the “Winchester Profession” within their constitution by removing the “Liberty Clause”. Coincidently, for the next several decades, the popularity of the Universalists declined.

Under the direction of Caroline Augusta White Soule (1824-1903), the Women's Centenary Aid Association, was organize as part of the Universalist centennial celebration. A year later, a permanent organization called the Women's Centenary Association was formed. Later called the Association of Universalist Women, it had proven to be one of the most successful American Universalist organizations.
1874 Universalist mission to Scotland established under the Women’s Centenary Association, led by Caroline A. W. Soule. Due to her missionary work, Soule becomes, in 1880, the first woman to be ordained as a minister in the United Kingdom. Scottish Universalist Convention lasted until 1910 when it merged with the Scottish Unitarian Association, part of the BFUA.
1881 A third Universalist seminary is open as the Ryder School of Divinity at Lombard College in Chicago.
1889 The Young People’s Christian Union (YPCU), the youth and young adult wing of the Universalist movement, was established. Later known as the Universalist Youth Fellowship, it was one of the predecessor organizations to the Liberal Religious Youth.
1890 Universalist mission to Japan was established under Rev. George L. Perin (1854-1921). The mission continued until the beginning of World War 2 at which point it became independent as the Universalist Church of Japan. In 1954, UCJ joined the Japan Free Religious Association.
1891 Rev. Quillen Hamilton Shinn (1845-1907) began mission work throughout the Mid-Atlantic, South and Midwest US. He has been credited with starting at least 40 churches and inspiring nearly 30 persons to enter the ministry. Though conservative theologically, he played a crucial role in keeping Universalism alive and relevant.

Joseph Jordan (1842-1901), the first African American Universalist minister, established missions in Norfolk, VA. One of these later becomes the Jordan Neighborhood House, now the Jordan Community Center, served thousands of children and families in eastern Virginia over a period of a century.
1894 Rev. George Perin established the “Every Day Church” as an outgrowth of the Shawmut Avenue Church in Boston to better serve community needs.
1899 At their Boston convention, the Universalists adopted “The Five Principles of Faith”, reinserting the Liberty Clause into their constitution.
1914 Clarence Russell Skinner (1881-1949) publishes The Social Implications of Universalism which set out a new mission of Universalism that encompassed a global view unlimited by traditional Christian categories. This work would later influence a group of young Universalist ministerial students known as “The Humiliati”.
1925 At this year’s convention, now called “General Assemblies”, the Universalists received separate plans to merge with the Congregationalists and the Unitarians. Although relations with the Unitarians had been longer and more in-depth, there was a play-off between the three parties. Eventually, the Universalists passed on closer ties with the Congregationalist, and continued to maintain friendly relations with the Unitarians.
1931 Discussion of merger with the Unitarians was resumed with the appointment of a joint merger commission. This resulted in the establishment of the Free Church Fellowship (FCF) in 1933.
1935 A new “Bond of Fellowship and Statement of Faith” was passed by the Universalist at their Washington, DC General Assembly, called “The Washington Avowal of Faith”. This resulted in subtle but profound changes in the essence of modern Universalism that reflected a broader understanding of its mission and its relation to its Christian roots. This changed Universalism from a Christian based sect to a genuine universal religious movement.
1942 Under the direction of Robert Cummins (1897-1982), the name of the denomination was changed from the General Convention of Universalists to the Universalist Church of America (UCA).
1945 AUW and Universalist Service Committee helped the Universalist Church of Japan establish the Koishikawa Universalist Center in Tokyo on the site of the old Blackmer home.
1946 A group of young ministers and ministerial students, beginning at Crane Theological School at Tufts University in Boston, formed an affinity group with the purpose of “universalizing Universalism”. Called “The Humiliati” (The Humble Ones), they would have a profound influence on the character of Universalism before, and in the years immediately after, “consolidation” with the Unitarians.
1949 Seeking to serve liberal religious seekers in the downtown Boston area, the Massachusetts Universalist Convention re-opened the historic Charles Street Meeting House, near UCA headquarters in the Beacon Hill district. Under Rev. Kenneth Patten (1911-94), it became controversial for its outspoken humanism and natural theology. Though never large in membership, it became influential in expanding the modes of worship styles for Universalists, Unitarians and other liberal religious groups. It continued until the early 1970s.
1955 A new joint commission with the Unitarians was formed to explore how a merger could be undertaken.
1959 The joint commission handed in its plan for “consolidation” of the two denominations. In a special congregational vote, Universalist congregations voted 79% to support consolidation of the UCA with AUA.
May 1960 At a special General Assembly in Boston, held at the same time as the Unitarians, 365 delegates (out of 430) voted to finally approve consolidation. A special evening service of the two denominations was held to commemorate the event.
1 May 1961 The Universalist Church of America and the American Unitarian Association were formally consolidated to form the Unitarian Universalist Association. Canadian congregations were organized into the Canadian Unitarian Council, a subsidiary organization.

Unitarian Universalism in North America, 1800- Present

1805 In his work A Treatise On Atonement, Universalist minister Hosea Ballou made a systematic attack on the doctrine of the Trinity, thereby taking an essentially Unitarian position. However, due to social and theological dynamics between the two denominations, closer relations would not take place for another sixty years.
1866 The National Conference of Unitarian Churches approached the General Convention of Universalists about closer cooperation. Both decided to remain separate for the time being.
1878 First local merger occurred between Unitarians and Universalists in Mukwonago, WI.
September 1893 Both the Unitarians and the Universalists participated in the First World Congress of Religions held at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago (The Chicago World’s Fair). An outgrowth of this was the formation of the American Congress of Liberal Religious Societies which functioned for a time with congregations in the Chicago area.
1899 The AUA suggested to the General Convention of Universalists the formation of a committee to consider how closer cooperation between the two denominations might best be achieved. This joint committee expressed its goals as “cooperation, not consolidation; unity, not union”. It would continue meeting until 1907 with no further development.
1905 Both denominations joined and cooperated through the International Congress of Religious Liberals, the forerunner of the International Association of Religious Freedom (IARF), another outgrowth of the World Congress.
1920 Universalist minister Clarence Russell Skinner (1881-1949) and Unitarian minister John Haynes Holmes (1879-1964) established the Community Church of Boston, patterned after the non-denominational liberal religious community church structure that Holmes pioneered with the Church of the Messiah in New York, now the Community Church of New York.
1925 The Universalists were approached by both the Unitarians and the Congregationalists about separate merger plans. The General Convention appointed a special commission to respond to both proposals. It produced a highly publicized joint statement with the Congregationalists that was accepted by the General Convention in 1927. No further developments occurred thereafter. Dialogue with the Unitarians, however, continued.
1926 The Meadville Theological School was moved to Chicago and became affiliated with the University of Chicago. With the failure of Ryder Divinity School and Lombard College in 1930, the Lombard charter moved to Meadville Theological, and the institution became known as the Meadville Lombard Theological School.
1931 A new joint commission between the GCU and the AUA was established to outline alternatives. This would result in the formation of the Free Church Fellowship (FCF) in 1933. However, lack of interest from other liberal religious organizations lead to the dissolution of the FCF in 1937.
1941 The “Flaming Chalice”, designed by Hans Deutsch, an Austrian exile in Portugal, was adopted as the seal of the Unitarian Service Committee. Later, combined with the Universalist “off-center cross” symbol of the Humiliati, it became the symbol of the Unitarian Universalist Association in the 1970’s and thereafter the emblem of the UU movement worldwide.
1949 A new effort to explore merger between the two denominations lead to the formation of the Council of Liberal Churches (CLC) in 1953. Like the FCF, it soon foundered with organizations outside the Unitarians and Universalists due to lack of interest. However, it did provide the springboard for the consolidation of services between the two denominations.
1953 One outgrowth of the CLC was the merger of the Universalist Youth Fellowship and the American Unitarian Youth to form the Liberal Religious Youth (LRY), the precursor to the Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU).
1955 A Joint Interim Committee reported to both denominations that the structure of the CLC was unworkable and recommended the formation of a Joint Merger Commission charged with preparing plans for consolidation between the two organizations.
1959 The first of two congregational plebiscites were held among Unitarian and Universalist congregations. In both, a decisive majority voted in favor of consolidation. Plans for structuring the new organization were presented at concurrent assemblies of the UCA and the AUA meeting in Syracuse, NY.
May 1960 At concurrent assemblies in Boston, both denominations gave final approval to consolidation. A special evening service of the two denominations was held at Boston’s Symphony Hall to commemorate the event.
1 May 1961 The Universalist Church of America and the American Unitarian Association formally consolidated to form the Unitarian Universalist Association.

The Church of the Larger Fellowship was consolidated, and the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association is formed.
1963 The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) was formed from each former denomination’s respective organization.

The Unitarian Women’s Alliance and the Association of Universalist Women combined to form the UU Women’s Federation (UUWF).
March 1965 Rev. James Reeb (1927-65), formerly Assistant Minister at All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington, D.C, responding to a special appeal from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. for a march to support civil rights, was killed by attackers in Selma, AL.

Viola Gregg Liuzzo (1925-65), a UU from Detroit, also responding to Rev. King’s call, was also killed by segregationist outside of Selma in a separate attack.
October 1967 In response to recent riots, the UUA Commission on Religion and Race convened an “emergency conference” at the Biltmore Hotel in New York to address race relations both inside and outside the denomination. This began the “Black Affairs” Controversy that would erupt at the 1969 General Assembly in Boston. The Black Affairs Council (BAC) was formed and funded.

Due to financial problems, the UUA pulled its support from the Crane Theological School at Tufts University. The school closed later in the year. This was the second UU seminary to close since consolidation, St Lawrence being first in 1965, both originally Universalist schools.
1970 Due to financial constraints, full funding for BAC was curtailed at the Seattle General Assembly. The next year, under accusations of misuse of funds, BAC leadership splits and ceased to function. Many black UUs leave the denomination as a result.
1971 Gobin Stair, director of the Beacon Press, along with UUA President Rev. Robert West, approved the publication of The Pentagon Papers. This prompted an investigation of UUA finances by the FBI, leading to a subpoena of UUA accounts.
1985 Initiated by the passage at the 1977 General Assembly of the “Women and Religion Resolution “, the General Assembly meeting in Atlanta, GA adopted a new set of seven principles with five sources as part of the UUA constitution and bylaws. In the years that follow, the number of women ministerial students and ministers would rise dramatically.
1993 At the General Assembly meeting in Charlotte, NC, a sixth source was added to the “Principles and Purposes” section of the UUA charter which emphasizes environmental concerns and interconnectedness.
2000 Feeling that modern UUism had moved too far from its theological roots, a group of congregations and individuals disaffiliated from the UUA to form the American Unitarian Conference. Professing an attachment to the Christian element of Unitarianism, the AUC is open to non-Christian Unitarians, being particularly popular with non-Christian theists and deists. The AUC has four congregations in the USA.
1 July 2002 Canadian Unitarian Council became the main association and service provider for Unitarians and Universalists in Canada, providing all services except for ministry, youth, and young adults.

Unitarianism and Universalism outside of North America and Britain, 1750 to Present

1793 The last congregation of the Polish Brethren in exile closed in Cluj (Kolozsvar) Hungary.
1818 English Unitarians established contact with Transylvanian Unitarians.
1845 Unitarische Freie Religiongemeinde (Unitarian Free Religious Community), formerly called the “German Catholics”, was founded in Frankfurt-am-Main.
1871 Klas Pontus Arnoldson (1844-1916) founded the Sanningssokarma (The Truth Seekers) in Gothenburg, Sweden. One of its offshoots, the Religion and Culture Association, established The Free Church of Sweden at Malmo in 1974. In 1999, this group changed its name to Unitoriska Kyrkani i Sverige (The Unitarian Church of Sweden).
1876 Religiongemeinschaft Freier Protestanten (Religious Community of Free Protestants) was formed in the Rhinehessen region of Germany. In 1950, the Free Protestants changed their name to Deutscher Unitarier Religiongemeinschaft (German Unitarian Religious Community). It is a founding member of the ICUU.
18 September 1887 Hajjom Kissor Singh (1865-1923) led the first church service at his home in Jowai, Assam, India. Singh’s spiritual search began years before when Methodist missionaries visited the Khasi Hills region of northeast India. Eventually, through his contact with American Unitarian missionary Rev. Charles Henry Appleton Dall (1816-86), Singh sought out Unitarian support in Britain and America for organizing congregations in the provinces of Meghalaya and Assam. Today, more than 35 congregations and fellowships serve 9000 members. The Khasi Hills Unitarians, along with The Unitarian Christian Church of Chennai (formerly Madras) form the Indian Council of Unitarian Churches, founded in 1987 during the Centenary Celebration of the Unitarian Union NE India, and is a founding member of the ICUU.
1895 The Church of the Brotherhood (later the Unitarian Society) is founded in Oslo, Norway. This group functioned until 1937. In 1986, a new Unitarian group started in Oslo. In 2005 this group is renamed Bet David Unitarian Association/Norwegian Unitarian Church. In 2006 it became an associate member of the ICUU.
1900 Det fri Kirkesamfund (The Free Congregation) was founded in Copenhagen, Denmark as an outgrowth of the Norwegian Unitarians. It celebrated its centenary in 2000, and is a founding member of the ICUU.
1922 Rev. Dr. Norbert Capek (1870-1942) established the Religious Liberal Fellowship in Prague, Czechoslovakia, a free church which quickly grew in size and popularity. The organization changed its name to The Czechoslovak Unitarian Association in 1930, and later the Czech Unitarian Association. A writer, lecturer, and composer of Unitarian hymns, Capek created the Flower Communion in 1923, a service that is carried out in Unitarian churches the world over. Arrested by the Gestapo for listening to foreign broadcasts and for "high treason", he was sent to Dachau concentration camp where he was killed in 1942. Currently, there are 4 Unitarian churches and fellowships in the Czech Republic. The Czech Unitarian Association is one of the founding organizations of the ICUU.
1954 Rev. Toribio S. Quimada (1917-88) founded the Universalist Church of the Philippines and began his evangelizing work on the island of Negros with help from the Universalist Service Committee. Renamed the Unitarian Universalist Church in 1985, the church became a member congregation of the UUA in 1988. Increasingly active in a justice-making ministry to the poor farmers of his communities, Quimada was murdered in 1988. Today the UUCP consists of 2000 members and twenty-five congregations, and is one of the founding organizations of the ICUU.
1974 Unitarian and Universalist congregations in Australia and New Zealand organized The Australia and New Zealand Unitarian Association (ANZUA). Beginning in the 1850s with three Unitarian churches (in Adelaide, Sydney, and Melbourne), another was founded in Auckland, New Zealand in 1897. It is a founding member of the ICUU. In 2008, it changed its named to ANZUUA.
March 1995 The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) was founded at Essex, MA by representatives of Unitarian, Universalist, and UU organizations from around the world. With about 500,000 Unitarians and Universalists in the world today, the ICUU is a representative body and a partnership of member groups in more than 20 countries.
2000 La Sociedad religiosa Unitaria Universalista de Espana (SUUE, the Unitarian Universalist Religious Society of Spain) was founded in Barcelona. It traced its origins directly to the liberal Spanish writer and former priest Jose Maria Blanco-White (1775-1841). It joined the ICUU in 2005.