What is the UAC?
The UAC is best understood as a group of diverse ministries that have come together to form a new kind of Church. Most of our ministries are not parish ministries but include clergy and laity who serve as chaplains, retreat leaders, wedding celebrants, street ministers, ministers to the homeless, healing practitioners, spiritual teachers, preachers, spirituality group leaders, para church ministries, and (of course) parish priests and deacons. We are structured according to the historic three-fold ministry of bishop, priest, and deacon. We are bound together by a code of Canon Law, but each ministry has nearly total autonomy. We partner with other organizations with a similar ethos through the Network of Independent, Inclusive American Churches and Congregations. We were formed in August, 2003 and are an IRS recognized 501(c)3. You contributions are welcomed and are tax deductible.
The shield at the top of this column is the official symbol of the UAC. The Jerusalem Cross (immediately to the left of this text) is the official cross of the UAC, the four crosslets often being understood to represent poverty, chastity, obedience, and prayer. Clergy are not required to wear any particular cross, and so a wide variety are worn including the ankh (to the right of this text). In the early years of Christianity it was thought disrespectful to wear the instrument of the Savior’s death, and so in the northern and eastern Mediterranean the fish was the symbol of the Christian movement. In African Christianity the preferred symbol was the ankh. The ankh is the official cross of the UAC’s Christ Enlight movement.
What’s So Bad About Institutional Religion?
The problem with Institutional Religion (a term we alternate with “Religion”) is the problem with any institution. After a time, an institution becomes entrenched and loses sight of its initial reason for existence. From that point forward, it exists to perpetuate itself. In Religion, that means the focus shifts from the truth, from God, and from what it best for people to what is best for the institution – what will keep the denomination (or non-denominational network) alive. The primary goal for Religion then becomes keeping the pews full, keeping the members dependent on the institution so they keep contributing, and protecting the image of the institution.
An example of this is the massive cover up by the Roman Catholic Church of the pervasive sexual abuse scandal. The best thing for the people, the way to tell the truth, the path that Christian spirituality teaches would have been to warn the people and isolate and remove the perpetrators. The institution believed that doing the right thing would make them look bad and (worse yet in their minds) endanger the power of the hierarchy, and so they covered it up and reassigned abusive priests to give them access to more victims.
There are examples of this kind of behavior throughout the history of the Christian Religion. The only way to avoid these kinds of things is to insist on absolute transparency. Since the nature of institutions is that they won’t tolerate absolute transparency, we believe the only responsible way to move forward in to focus on spirituality, not Religion.
Aren’t You Another Institutional Religion?
The short answer is, no. Although we have an organizational structure, all ministries enjoy nearly complete autonomy* in how they conduct their ministry. All bishops are required to have an active, verifiable ministry other than their episcopal duties. All ministries are independently established by their founders, operate under their own by-laws, and make their own decisions about their structure and day-to-day operations. The clergy receive educational support; professional support, training, and guidance; pastoral care and collegiality; and accountability and other networking opportunities from the UAC. There are also other advantages and (non-financial) benefits to being a member of the clergy of the UAC, but the final decisions on the affairs of each ministry rest with the ministry alone. We are confident that this structure will keep us from becoming an institution.
*All clergy and ministries are required to be radically inclusive and to operate with the legal and ethical standards of ordained clergy. Attendance at the annual General Assembly of the UAC is required.
WE ARE THE UAC!
Women and men; young, old, and somewhere in between; of all socio-economic backgrounds; from the country, the city, and the suburbs; black, white, brown, yellow, and occasionally green; of every sexual orientation; employed, unemployed, self-employed, retired; blue-collar, white-collar, dog collar, and no collar at all; married, engaged, single, living together, domestic partners, divorced, widowed, and some combination of the above; grandparent, great grandparent, parent, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew, and child; and so much more, all sharing the life transforming, exciting journey of being followers of Jesus.