Faithful International Partnering – Proceeding Carefully and Intentionally

Here’s an important reminder as the new ‘church year’ begins for many of our congregations.

International engagement is important ministry, and more transformative when its collaborative.  Our organizations look forward to supporting your hopes and dreams.  And, we urge you to be thoughtful and careful even in the midst of exciting opportunities.

A Memo: Connecting with Unitarians and UU’s Around the World, CAREFULLY

To: UUA Ministers and Religious Leaders

From:  Eric Cherry, UUA International Office
Cathy Cordes, UU Partner Church Council
Jill McAllister and Steve Dick, International Council of Unitarians and Universalists

Date: September 14, 2012

Dear Friends,

It is so exciting to see the many ways that our UU faith is connecting around the world – so many congregations and ministers are now making a variety of international connections! We are thrilled that UUA churches and individuals are looking beyond their own doors and even beyond their own geographic communities and connecting. The UUA, ICUU, the UUPCC and other organizations stand ready to support your outreach in a variety of ways. We invite you to contact us at any point where we can be helpful. We are writing today to offer some advice based on our joint experience working with UUs here and in other countries.

Much of this new activity is aided with new communication tools that make contact easier and keeping in touch possible. Social media programs such as Skype and Facebook make it easy to learn of possibilities and to meet people over the internet.

Our UU global community is growing both bigger and smaller! Bigger in the sense that people around the world continue to discover our liberal tradition and establish it in their own countries and regions, and smaller in the sense that it is so easy to connect with each other around the world. This gives us reason to both celebrate and pay close attention, for there are good ways to connect, not-so-good ways to connect, and ways to connect which can cause huge problems.

BE VERY CAREFUL when making connections via Facebook and other social media. Before you respond to a Facebook request from someone claiming to be a UU, or a UU minister, contact one of the offices or organizations listed below which specializes in international UU connections, to get more information! Social media enables one to present information in ways that may not be false but also may not be a complete description of reality. (Anyone can take a picture of themselves with a stole on, or lighting a chalice.) Be careful not to assume that you’ve been contacted because you are special, or especially knowledgeable or gifted or whatever. In general, this kind of “Facebooking” is a process of “blanketing” a target audience, or of fishing, hoping to get someone to bite. Do not consider the list of other colleagues who may be listed as friends as references for or as an endorsement of the person. Many of us respond casually to friend requests without verifying or confirming information about a prospective friend.

FIRST, FIND OUT MORE before you proceed. Definitely consult with one of the following:
The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU)
The UUA International Resources Office
The UU Partner Church Council

BE ESPECIALLY CAREFUL ABOUT MONEY Don’t send money unless you have some history of relationship and interactions. We suggest not sending money to any individual, group or organization that is not part of some kind of judicatory or governance structure. You can find this out from one of the organizations listed above. Unless you are working with a group or organization in which there is some kind of shared leadership and decision-making, your support and gifts are almost certainly going to lead to triangulating folks in these countries, and may even stimulate real conflict. (This has happened more than once.) It may be possible to send funds through one of the UU international organizations or to help support existing or new projects sponsored by these organizations. Contact us for information about such possibilities.

LEARN MORE! International relations among U-U’s around the world are more than 100 years old. The UUA, ICUU, and UUPCC have been specifically working in this area together for more than 20 years, and many lessons have been learned along the way. We are only just beginning to understand how much cultural differences affect all of us, and truly, we have done our share of “connecting” which has not only been problematic, but which has been both damaging and destructive. We have also established and been part of many beautiful new relationships which are beneficial all around. It takes time and experience to know the difference.

THERE ARE GREAT OPPORTUNITIES We have much to learn, and it is very exciting. You and your congregation can be enlightened and invigorated through international connections. There are significant differences among Unitarians and UU’s around the world – everyone is not in the UUA, nor is Unitarianism the same as our UUA traditions, all around the world. Many newly emerging U-U groups have very different religious histories and very different social and cultural realities. For some of them, daily survival is a huge challenge.

THERE ARE VIABLE AND SUSTAINABLE WAYS TO CONNECT Some of the groups most in need of support and cooperation may not be reaching out via Facebook – you may never hear about some of these places where you can make the most difference if you don’t ask. There are opportunities to meet international UU’s at conferences and events – this is a great first step. You can be work with and help support emerging UU groups around the world as part of a team or coalition, without needing to manage a relationship wholly on your own.

DO SOME HOMEWORK FIRST The Joint Working Group of the UUA International Office, the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, and the UU Partner Church Council can help you learn about good ways to connect. Together, we are aiming toward global connections which achieve and model the ideals of our faith community. Please join us in aiming for these ideals and practices, by contacting us before you go forward with new international connections. Begin by reading the aims we have agreed to, listed below.

“Five Guiding Principles of UU International Engagement”

I. Our international engagement must emerge from a place of deep humility and intentionally seek relationships based on equality and mutuality.

Do: Risk for the sake of shared goals that have been established carefully.
Don’t: Assume that you or your partner have all the answers or can predict the future.

II. Our international engagement is most effective when it comprehends the abundance and variety of resources our congregations and international partners already have.

Do: Look within and without your congregation and its partners for resources that are present but perhaps not obvious.
Don’t: Establish a relationship that relies on or creates unhealthy dependency for yourself or your partner.

III. Our international engagement is most transformative when it is grounded in faithful reflection, including understanding the history of our international engagement.

Do: Explore the theological grounding of international relationship and engagement.
Don’t: Repeat common mistakes.

IV. Our international engagement is truest to our highest values when it responds with wisdom and passion to institutional oppression and injustice.

Do: Support partners as they seek to find fish for a day, fishing poles for tomorrow, and establish access to the pond for a lifetime.
Don’t: Ignore long-term justice strategies because they seem harder to achieve than short-term charitable ideas.

V. The Unitarian Universalist universe of international programs is incredibly diverse and highly decentralized. Our international engagement is most comprehensive when we understand and utilize partner organizations well.

Do: Contact an institutional UU partner organization for consultation before agreeing to a project with an international partner, especially if the international partner is UU.
Don’t: Assume a request you receive from an international partner is endorsed by the UUA, ICUU, UUPCC or other UU organization.

We look forward to working with you.
Jill, Cathy, Steve and Eric

International Council of Unitarians and Universalists:
Rev. Jill McAllister, Program Coordinator –;
Rev. Steve Dick, Executive Secretary –

UU Partner Church Council:
Cathy Cordes, Executive Director –

UUA International Office:
Rev. Eric Cherry, Director –

Giving, Receiving, Sharing: God Particles


Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 8.51.32 AMThe Remonstrant church in the Netherlands – a century-long liberal religious partner of the UUA – is embarking on an innovative ministry called ‘Goddeeltjes’ (God particles).  They will be publishing 6 small spiritual booklets by church leaders about finding parts of God through Giving, Receiving and Sharing.  After approaching Dutch Television producers about this idea, they produced a short movie (7 minutes, includes English subtitles) to introduce the idea.  Isn’t it beautiful?

May it be a blessing.

The Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge



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Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu, who became the icon of forgiveness as the Chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and his daughter, the Reverend Mpho Tutu, are issuing a Global Forgiveness Challenge to coincide with the release of their long-anticipated book, The Book of Forgiving.

The Tutus have spent their lives working with victims and perpetrators of wrongs, from the unspeakable to the everyday, and this deep experience has shown them that choosing the act of forgiveness can profoundly transform individuals and our world. They believe so strongly in the importance of forgiveness that they have developed this free, 30-Day online campaign based on the Fourfold Path of forgiving offered in their book.

The Challenge is designed for everyone, regardless of belief or background. Each day participants will receive an inspirational email from the Archbishop and Mpho with a link to log in to an online forgiveness community. There they will be guided through practical exercises on how to forgive, have opportunities to join discussions, share their own stories and view resources like interviews with forgiveness experts, heroes, celebrities, and leaders, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Sir Richard Branson, Stanford forgiveness researcher Fred Luskin, musician Alanis Morissette and media maven Arianna Huffington

Register anytime, and begin the Global Forgiveness Challenge with the online community on May 4, 2014.

Sharing Global Faith – September Reflections

Sharing Global Faith gathers Unitarian and Universalist voices from around the world in a unique devotional e-resource.

Reflecting on various aspects of faith life, participants share spiritual insight into the stories and thoughts that fuel their ministerial call.

Distributed monthly from April until September 2009, the publication seeks to deepen international connections and nourish the individual spirit.

In this sixth edition, four global U/U leaders explore the meaning of HOPE to our faith tradition, reflecting on Alicia Carpenter’s “A Promise Through the Ages Rings”:

We are honored to include contributions from:

  • Rev. Adeyenke Matimoju – is the minister of the First Unitarian Church of Lagos, Nigeria.

  • Rev. Iva Fišerová – has been an ordained minister of the Religious Society of Czech Unitarians for two years. She obtained her masters at Meadville Lombard Theological School. She also graduated from Institute for Spiritual Leadership. She grew up in a Unitarian family and after the Czech Republic broke with the communist regime in 1989 she put her heart and action into various church activities, which eventually resulted into her ordained ministry.
  • Rev. Fred Muir – is currently the UUA Ambassador to the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines and has served the UU Church of Annapolis since 1984. He is the author of three books: A Reason for Hope: Liberation Theology Confronts a Liberal Faith; Heretics’ Faith: A Vocabulary for Religious Liberals; and Maglipay Universalist: The Unitarian Universalist Church of the Philippines.

  • Rev. Janne Eller-Isaacs – along with her husband Rob, as been the co-minister at Unity Church- Unitarian in St. Paul, MN since September, 2000. Janne has held many positions of leadership throughout the Unitarian Universalist movement, and is currently a member of the UUA President’s International Advisory Council.

Continue to read this month’s edition!

Sharing Global Faith – August Reflections

Sharing Global Faith gathers Unitarian and Universalist voices from around the world in a unique devotional e-resource.

Reflecting on various aspects of faith life, participants share spiritual insight into the stories and thoughts that fuel their ministerial call.

Distributed monthly from April until September 2009, the publication seeks to deepen international connections and nourish the individual spirit.

In this fifth edition, three global U/U leaders explore the meaning of FAITH to our faith tradition, reflecting on the well-known admonition “Stand by This Faith” by Rev. Olympia Brown:

We are honored to include contributions from:

  • Bishop Ferenc Bálint Benczédi – was installed as Bishop of the Transylvanian Unitarian Church in March 2009 . Previously, he served as minister of First Unitarian Church of Kolozsvar and has worked in Unitarian ministry for over thirty years.

  • Rev. Fulgence Ndagijimana – is a former Dominican brother who left the Roman Catholic Church to become a Unitarian. He is now the president of the Assembly of Christian Unitarians of Burundi. A father of a boy, he is active in the local civil society and works for an International organization in Burundi.

  • Rev. John Buehrens – has served as the Minister of the First Parish in Needham since 2002. From 1993 to 2001 he was the President of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Long a leader in interfaith cooperation for peace and justice, he currently serves as national co-chair for Freedom to Marry, as Senior Advisor to the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, as a member of the Needham Human Rights Committee, as President of the Needham Clergy Association, and as President of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association for the Mass Bay District.

Continue to read this month’s edition!