A Note From a Friend

Dear Friends,

As in those heady days of Unity’s Unfinished Business (some of you still remember), the familiar voice of Bernard Dozier reached out this morning via email from Florida with his insightful comments which appear below mine.  He raises some questions that inspire me to want to clarify an important point: I did not affiliate with Unity for the organization. I knew little or nothing about this aspect. I signed up for the teachings. So it’s probably true, as Bernard points out, that the organization began drifting away from emphasis on the individual awakening to the more bureaucratically driven mentality long before I arrived.

I do believe, however, that under the current and former CEOs of Unity Worldwide Ministries, the drift became a wave — at least within the organization. The world as a whole doesn’t seem to be paying much attention. The hope has been that the Unity field movement would become a significant catalyst for change, not so much within the individual as in the social inequalities of world. In the guise of spirituality, it has taken on a distinct political voice advocating a myriad of left-leaning social causes. And believe me, I would say the same thing if they were right-leaning. Though I’m told the Fillmores were staunch Republicans, there is not even a hint of their political preferences in their writings, or any writings that represent the early Unity message. They appeal to all political classes.

Because it has become politicized, I believe Unity (UWM) has completely alienated the Truth seeker who holds conservative values, which is at least half the nation. The Unity I signed up for spoke to all Americans … all people around the globe, regardless of their political, social or cultural interests. It not only helped the Methodist become a better Methodist, it helped the Democrat and Republican become a better Democrat and Republican.

The spiritual message that is geared to the awakening of the individual does not ask for political preferences. It transcends them. Yes of course, render under to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But first render unto God what is God’s. In my simple way of thinking, Unity’s only function is to teach people how to render unto God what is God’s. As this occurs, the issues around Caesar’s part of the deal are resolved with much greater clarity.  JDB

Now for Bernard:

***
Ocala, Florida
July 29, 2019
Good morning, Friends in Unity,
I’m assuming you read Doug Bottorff’s excellent little, but power-packed, sermon last night (The You That You Are).  And I hope it stimulates your thinking as it has mine.  For those of you who may not get Doug’s blog, I’m pasting it below my comments…and you’ll want to read it first.
It seems to me that we need to determine where/when/how/why Unity shifted from thinking power was centered in individuals to thinking it came from organization and groupness.  BUT, I’m just getting my toe wet in this subject and feel somewhat at a loss to explain it.  I don’t know if there was a single moment in which the shift occurred or if it took place, subtly, over a number of years or even decades.
As I begin to wonder, I’m wondering…did it start when Charles Fillmore, whose consciousness had kept Unity centered, passed in 1948?  At that point Unity would have moved from a single, charismatic leader to a consensus, “Board of Directors,” leadership…Leadership By Committee.  When I arrived at Unity Village in 1959 for what turned out to be a five-year residence, I got the feeling that the focus was more on preservation than innovation…a “mothballed battleship” is the analogy that came to mind back then.
Then, in the mid-60s Unity School divested itself of its field ministry, resulting in the formation of another corporation, each administered by a Board of Directors, and establishing a trend in the Movement in which leadership became the province of Boards and Committees.
Later, around 1990, the Association of Unity Churches, which had been created to represent ministers and to serve them, became more focused on representing churches and on exerting unchallenged and unchallengable power over ministers.  I remember writing about this in the early 90s when I was trying to get a minister’s journal started.
About that same time, if I’m remembering rightly, activists began calling attention to sexism, political correctness, and hate speech.  The result has been a mixed bag.  Awareness has been raised of the need to treat women fairly and affirmatively, but that has gotten mixed up with the notion that “equalness is sameness,” which is leading to the absurdity(if not criminality) of children being subjected to chemical treatment that renders them neither male or female.
Political correctness has made us more aware that language shouldn’t prize maleness over femaleness, but it has had an inhibitory, censorious effect on communication, comedy, and creativity, with super-sensitive people taking offense at the slightest perception of “incorrectness” and bringing suit against those who have a different viewpoint.  This, I suspect, is part of the “groupthink” phenomena in which correctness is granted greater importance than substance, forcing parrticipants to confine their remarks within the “acceptable” range.  To stiffle communication is to stiffle creativity…and to promote
conformity and mediocrity.  People focused on avoiding “offense” are hamstrung, and tend to play it safe.  If you’re worried about whether to say “he” or “she” or “it,” you might just keep your mouth shut.  I know when I’m writing with creative fervor I’m not at all concerned with grammatical niceness or correctness.  After I finish I go back and clean up the poor grammar, misspellings, syntax errors, etc., etc..
Creativity requires somebody going out on a limb…somebody daring to be different…somebody challenging the status quo.  This produces strong–and strong-willed individuals…Leaders…Charismatic Leaders…Leaders whom people want to hear and to align themselves with.
Decades ago Unity had leaders, other than Charles Fillmore–ministers and authors–both male and female–who were always eagerly welcomed on speaking tours.  They were regarded highly.  They were respected.  They projected a Unity stature and authority that has vanished from the Movement.  We have focused on “re-branding,” on organizational unity, on diversity, on grandiose schemes, and have downplayed (trashed) tradition including Silent Unity, the Fillmore heritage, and Metaphysics.  NONE of this has any meaning to the people who come seeking at Unity Churches every Sunday.  We, the Movement, have simply ended up less creative, less energetic, and less empowered than before. (I have recently received word that, under new leadership, Unity School seems to be moving in positive directions.  That’s good to hear, and I hope it’s true.)
That’s the way I see this having unfolded.  Maybe my thoughts will prompt additional and better ones in your mind.   I encourage you to add your thoughts to the pool that Doug dug for us.  Once we get our feet on some solid causality, we can begin to correct the course of a Movement and make it great again. Oops.  Did I use that phrase? (How super-careful we have to be with language these days.)  Are we stuck with leadership by committee?  Are we afraid of having a single person be The Leader of Unity?  Who could fill those two shoes?  Is there anyone whose stature we respect enough to be our Leader and Global Spokesperson?  Is there anyone whose judgment we respect enough to want him or her to represent us…and Unity?  It’s tough to appoint or anoint leaders when we haven’t groomed leaders for decades.  If it were left up to you to select A single Leader–a person with integrity, honesty, vision, diplomacy, and charisma– for the Unity Movement, who would you select?
Feel free to forward this (the entire document) to your friends who may be Unity ministers, and who might have good thoughts to share on this issue.
Blessings, Bernard Dozier

6 thoughts on “A Note From a Friend

  1. Sad to say, but some years back, when it became apparent that our Unity church was an organization that was ‘in control’ and there was a lot of undercurrent to ‘fit in’ and not necessarily be an individual, I felt the need to move away from the church. I am on a spiritual path, I was raising my son to be as well and I don’t feel that interest is served by tight organization. I love open discovery and treasure the personal guidance from within, can’t get that through an organization- albeit guided by well meaning souls instructing you even on ‘how’ to say things. We all go through everyday life and I believe, should be ‘feeling’ our way along… It just takes you right back where you started on the quest, second guessing if this is correct or that is correct.There IS no ‘correct’, there is only Spirit and expression.

    1. I think the best case scenario is that the organization simply presents the ideas. Those who are drawn to them will come and partake. Those who are not drawn to them will not come. I would not attend a church that told me how to think, and I certainly wouldn’t lead one. Nor would I attend a church that openly favors and even advocates specific social changes. The ones I know that do this assume everyone has adopted their worldview, and all are in agreement that their worldview is the best. We see this mentality in mainstream religion. It’s the wide gate that many enter. The narrow gate, I believe, is focused on the individual awakening. With the possible exception of Hinduism, every major spiritual movement has at its core an awakened individual.

      Thank you for your input. I always appreciate another voice.

  2. Doug and Bernard, in my humble opinion, I think this whole business of “branding” has come about because the leadership at the Village suffers from a lack of recognition of Unity as a “real” denomination of the Christian religion. And where it is known at all, it is seen by many people as some sort of cult, or that organization that publishes “The Daily Word.” Liberal-leaning, definitely. They want to appeal to the younger generation, who are into environmentalism, vegetarianism. equality, etc.
    But it is true that the people running our churches must be good business people, too, in order to survive, and they have to attract people to fill the seats–and keep them wanting to attend. Yes, the membership must feel that their spiritual needs are being attended to, and the ministers must feel that they are being supported. A good balance is needed. We need beliefs that work. Isn’t that why we are sometimes known as Unity Church of Practical Christianity? (Of course, many of us are not being called “churches” anymore, but “spiritual centers.” I don’t know what to think of that. Does the IRS recognize it?)
    Thanks for expressing some opinioins that may be shared by many more than you think.

    1. Thank you for taking time to respond. There appears to be a lessening interest in the church model across the nation. The reaction among many seems to be to find out what people want and try to address that. I don’t think attempting to adapt to the pop culture is the answer. Perhaps through this era of great change, a spiritual movement will emerge whose single purpose is to bear witness to the Truth. Let’s hold this vision.

  3. Doug, For some mysterious reason I couldn’t sign in to leave a comment on your recent post.

    This past winter I wrote something which might be considered a comment on your post. I am attaching it herewith. This was an assignment in one of my doctoral courses in Transforming Social Change.

    Blessings,Eileen Rev.  (Verna) Eileen Douglas …and so it is!

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