Submitted by Ellen Campbell of the Canadian Unitarian Council
April 1997

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The Unitarian religion has its origins in the reformation in the 16th century. In Transylvania, now a part of Romania, Francis David, a leading theologian, declared his belief in God as one, not accepting the concept of Trinity, and seeing Jesus as a human prophet. In 1568 King Sigismund of Transylvania proclaimed freedom of religion and conscience, a statement unparalleled up to that time in Europe. Unitarianism also emerged in Great Britain as part of the dissenting movement against the Church of England, and developed out of Puritanism in the United States.

Present-day Unitarianism also grew out of the Universalist movement, made up mostly of farmers and poor people in North America who rejected the belief in original sin and a punishing God. Universalists believed that a loving God would not condemn people to everlasting punishment. Some of our congregations call themselves Unitarian Universalist and the denomination in the United States is known as Unitarian Universalism.

No assent to any creed or statement of belief is required by a person joining a Unitarian congregation. Members accept the obligation to seek out truth for themselves and to follow that truth wherever it may lead. Unitarians affirm the worth and dignity of all human beings. They trust people's ability to build their own faith and believe people should be encouraged to think for themselves.

Unitarians recognize that people will differ in their opinions and lifestyles. They hold that these differences should be not only accepted but genuinely supported, for each of us needs freedom to grow in ways that will encourage a similar freedom for all others to reach their own highest potential. Committed to justice, equity and compassion in human relations, Unitarians are actively engaged in social change.

There have been Unitarian and Universalist churches in Canada since the 1840s. While Canadian Unitarians have been strongly influenced by both the American and British groups, one indigenous group of churches developed in Manitoba of Icelandic immigrants, who found Unitarianism more congenial than North American Lutheranism, which was more conservative than that found in Iceland.

Today there are 44 Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist congregations in Canada and about eight newly developing groups. We have a membership of approximately 5,000 people. Two-thirds of our congregations have ministers or other professional leadership; the rest are lay-led.

Our congregations are legally autonomous, and are governed by democratic principles. They work together through the Canadian Unitarian Council to provide services to congregations, represent Unitarians in other bodies, and carry out the policies developed by delegates through our Annual Meeting.

There are Unitarian congregations in 18 countries around the world.

For more information write to the Canadian Unitarian Council, 188 Eglinton Ave. E, Suite 706, Toronto, ON, M4P 2X7. Ph: (416) 489-4121;

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