2021-03-05

UU Minute #30

Our Socinian Roots



Four and a half centuries ago, in 1579, Fausto Sozzini – in Latin, Faustus Socinus – migrated to Poland. He was a 40-year-old Italian of mild manner, saintly and scholarly. He became a friend, but not a member, of the antitrinitarian Minor Reformed Church there. In writings and public debates, he became the Minor Reformed Church of Poland’s principal defender and the chief explicator of its theology. After his death, the Minor Reformed Church – also called the Polish Brethren -- maintained publication of his prolific writings, and thus the church came to be called Socinian.

It is to the Socinian church that we trace the origin of the Unitarian half of our institutional history. Michael Servetus did nothing to found or develop a church. And Unitarianism in Transylvania was isolated, not spreading beyond the Carpathian mountains. But Socinianism spread – both its ideas and its congregations – from Poland to Holland. From there the ideas spread to England. From England to America. To us.

In the face of the many schisms that rivened Christendom – the Polish Minor Reformed Church embraced toleration of difference. They would even have tolerated trinitarianism, except that the Trinitarians wouldn’t tolerate them.

The Polish Brethren also emphasized that religion must be lived. Theology is ultimately subordinate to ethics. Not that theology isn’t important -- but theology takes its meaning from the ethical life to which it is connected. By a theology’s fruits ye shall know it. And that’s an essential part of the Unitarian Universalist good news that continues to be preached today in the some 1,000 Unitarian Universalist congregations in North America.


NEXT: Sozzini and the Minor Reformed Church

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