Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote Eight Principles, which we hold as strong values and moral guides.
We live out these Principles within a “living tradition” of wisdom and spirituality, drawn from sources as diverse as science, poetry, scripture, and personal experience.
As Rev. Barbara Wells ten Hove explains, “The Principles are not dogma or doctrine, but rather a guide for those of us who choose to join and participate in Unitarian Universalist religious communities.” One of our core beliefs is that we need not think alike to love alike. We are people of many beliefs and backgrounds: people with a religious background, people with none, people who believe in a God, people who don’t, and people who let the mystery be.
In Unitarian Universalism, you can bring your whole self: your full identity, your questioning mind, your expansive heart. By creating meaningful communities that draw from many wisdom traditions, and more, we are embodying a vision “beyond belief:” a vision of peace, love, and understanding.
1st Principle: The Inherent Worth and Dignity of Every Person
“Reverence and respect for human nature is at the core of Unitarian Universalist (UU) faith. We believe that all the dimensions of our being carry the potential to do good. We celebrate the gifts of being human: our intelligence and capacity for observation and reason, our senses and ability to appreciate beauty, our creativity, our feelings and emotions. We cherish our bodies as well as our souls. We can use our gifts to offer love, to work for justice, to heal injury, to create pleasure for ourselves and others.
“‘Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy,’ the great twentieth-century Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote. Unitarian Universalists affirm the inherent worth and dignity of each person as a given of faith— an unshakeable conviction calling us to self-respect and respect for others.”
– Rev. Dr. Rebecca Ann Parker, minister, theologian, and author.
2nd Principle: Justice, Equity and Compassion in Human Relations
“Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations points us toward something beyond inherent worth and dignity. It points us to the larger community. It gets at collective responsibility. It reminds us that treating people as human beings is not simply something we do one-on-one, but something that has systemic implications and can inform our entire cultural way of being.
“Compassion is something that we can easily act on individually. We can demonstrate openness, give people respect, and treat people with kindness on our own. But we need one another to achieve equity and justice.
“Justice, equity, and compassion are all part of the same package. Just as the second Principle overlaps with the first, so it is related to the seventh Principle — the interdependent web of all existence.”
— Rev. Emily Gage, Unity Temple, Chicago, IL
3rd Principle: Acceptance of One Another And Encouragement to Spiritual Growth in Our Congregations
“Spiritual growth isn’t about a vertical ascent to heaven but about growth in every dimension at once. It’s spirituality in 3-D. Growth in spirit doesn’t measure one’s proximity to a God above, but rather the spaciousness of one’s own soul—its volume, its capacity, its size.
“We need souls that can take in the world in all its complexity and diversity, yet still maintain our integrity. And we need souls that can love and be in relationship with all of this complexity. Instead of fight or flight, we need a spiritual posture of embrace.”
— Rev. Rob Hardies, All Souls Church Unitarian, Washington, D.C.
4th Principle: A Free and Responsible Search for Truth and Meaning
“As responsible religious seekers, we recognize that we are privileged to be free, to have resources to pursue life beyond mere survival, to continually search for truth and meaning, to exist beyond bonds of dogma and oppression, and to wrestle freely with truth and meaning as they evolve.
“This privilege calls us not to be isolated and self-centered, believing that our single perspective trumps all others, but rather to be humble, to be open to the great mysteries of truth and meaning that life offers. And those mysteries may speak to us through our own intuition and experience—but also through tradition, community, conflict, nature, and relationships.
“As a faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism makes sacred the right and responsibility to engage in this free and responsible quest as an act of religious devotion. Institutionally, we have left open the questions of what truth and meaning are, acknowledging that mindful people will, in every age, discover new insights.”
— Rev. Paige Getty, UU Congregation of Columbia, Maryland
5th Principle: The Right of Conscience and the Use of the Democratic Process Within Our Congregations and in Society at Large
“In our religious lives, the democratic process requires trust in the development of each individual conscience—a belief that such development is possible for each of us, as well as a commitment to cultivate our own conscience. We could call it a commitment to the value of each person. In the words of Theodore Parker, ‘Democracy means not “I am as good as you are,” but “You are as good as I am.”’ My connection with the sacred is only as precious as my willingness to acknowledge the same connection in others.”
— Rev. Parisa Parsa, executive director of the Public Conversations Project.
6th Principle: The Goal of World Community with Peace, Liberty, and Justice For All
“The sixth Principle seems extravagant in its hopefulness and improbable in its prospects. Can we continue to say we want ‘world community’? ‘Peace, liberty, and justice for all’? The world is full of genocide, abuse, terror, and war. What have we gotten ourselves into?
“As naïve or impossible as the sixth Principle may seem, I’m not willing to give up on it. In the face of our culture’s apathy and fear, I want to imagine and help create a powerful vision of peace by peaceful means, liberty by liberatory means, justice by just means. I want us to believe—and to live as if we believe—that a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all is possible. There is no guarantee that we will succeed, but I can assure you that we will improve ourselves and improve the world by trying.”
— Rev. Sean Parker Dennison, Tree of Life Congregation, McHenry, IL.
7th Principle: Respect for the Interdependent Web of all Existence of Which We Are a Part
“Our seventh Principle, respect for the interdependent web of all existence, is a glorious statement. Yet we make a profound mistake when we limit it to merely an environmental idea. It is so much more. It is our response to the great dangers of both individualism and oppression. It is our solution to the seeming conflict between the individual and the group.
“Our seventh Principle may be our Unitarian Universalist way of coming to fully embrace something greater than ourselves. The interdependent web—expressed as the spirit of life, the ground of all being, the oneness of all existence, the community-forming power, the process of life, the creative force, even God—can help us develop that social understanding of ourselves that we and our culture so desperately need. It is a source of meaning to which we can dedicate our lives.”
— Rev. Forrest Gilmore, Executive Director of Shalom Community Center, Bloomington, IN.
8th UU Principle: To Affirm and Promote: Individual and communal action that accountably dismantles racism and systemic barriers to full inclusion in ourselves and our institutions.
On Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 at a Special Meeting, Canadian Unitarian Universalists voted to approve adding an 8th Principle to the seven principles.
:“We, the member congregations of the Canadian Unitarian Council, covenant to affirm and promote:Individual and communal action that accountably dismantles racism and systemic barriers to full inclusion in ourselves and our institutions.”
Rev. Shana Lynngood, Minister Observer to the CUC Board, said some of us have been committed to the work of dismantling racism for many decades, and for others, it has been a lifetime process. She quoted Dr. Martin Luther King from his book ‘Why We Can’t Wait’: “We need a powerful sense of determination to banish the ugly blemish of racism. We can, of course, try to temporize, negotiate small, inadequate changes and prolong the timetable of freedom in the hope that the narcotics of delay will dull the pain of progress. We can try, but we shall certainly fail. The shape of the world will not permit us the luxury of gradualism and procrastination.”
The work of dismantling racism and systemic barriers to full inclusion continues with this endorsement from congregations. Recommendations from the CUC’s Dismantling Racism Study Group are being implemented, which include adopting an 8th Principle, a willed commitment to anti-racism work demonstrated by an investment of resources at the national and congregational level, and creating/assembling anti-racism material for education and worship for congregations.
Access the video message from Rev. Anne Barker, President of the UU Ministers of Canada, after the vote.