A.U.A Letter – Apr 23, 1908 To Unitarian Church of Atlanta (Unite or Die)

A.U.A. Letterhead
American Unitarian Association
Rev. Samuel A. Eliot, D.D…………………President
Rev. Lewis G. Wilson……………………….Secretary
Mr. Francis H. Lincoln………………………Treasurer

April 23, 1908

Dear Bowser,

I have your letter of April 14th and regret to hear of the action of the congregation laying the merger proposition on the table for the present. This action makes the situation somewhat serious. I cannot help believing that further consideration will convince all the people of our Society that the only hope for the continued usefulness of the church in Atlanta is in the fulfillment of the union proposition.

This seems to me a question of “unite or die”. Union means a distinct and important forward step in the real vitalizing the liberal cause in Atlanta, the establishment of a permanent, influential, and self-supporting liberal church. Non-union apparently means the disintegration and ultimate disappearance of the Unitarian church. The members of our church who favor union obviously cannot be depended upon to retain their allegiance to our Society in its present weak and unprogressive condition. Their withdrawal will practically necessitate the closing of the enterprise. There is nothing to encourage the northern friends of the cause to believe that an influential and self-supporting church can be upbuilt in Atlanta, except in cooperation with our friends of the Universalist fellowship. Further expenditure of money for the support of a Unitarian church in Atlanta does not appear to be justified unless the proposed union proves to be impractical from the Universalist side. If it is defeated by the action of the Unitarians, the Unitarians thereby put themselves in a position where they can hardly expect to receive further financial support from their Association.

I cannot but believe that when this issue is clearly understood by our people they will act harmoniously and progressively.

There is presented to them a perfectly clear issue. Shall we go forward into efficiency, influence, and self-support, or shall we go out of existence?

I commend to you a sermon on a good text from Deuteronomy: “Behold! I have set before you life and death; therefore choose life!”

Faithfully yours,

<signed Samuel Eliot>

Archivist Note: Rev. Eliot had recently travel to Atlanta and met with both the Unitarian and Universalist congregations.  Eliot’s response to the Unitarian church decision to defer merger with the Universalists appears to be based on first hand knowledge of the situation in Atlanta Unitarian church from his recent trip to the South.

Physical Archive: UUCA   Box: 25   Folder: 06   Book: 01  Page: 335
Citation: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Atlanta Records, RG 026, Archives and Manuscripts Dept., Pitts Theology Library, Emory University, Atlanta GA