A few days ago, the first public meeting of a newish (they were founded in September 2013) Unitarian group, the Fellowship of Non-Subscribing Christians, was announced. The meeting will be held at Stalybridge Unitarian Church in a couple of weeks' time.
Some Unitarians (sadly) have rushed to condemn this new group, fearing that its influence on our General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches will be divisive. This knee-jerk reaction, condemning the new group 'sight unseen', worries me. It does not seem very Unitarian to me, that we should not be more like the Quakers "open to new Light, from whatever source it may come." Surely it is this openness to new ideas that is the hallmark of our much-vaunted Unitarian tolerance?
Or it should be. As I have written elsewhere: " This openness to a process of continuous and continuing revelation is what has kept Unitarianism green and growing down the centuries."
In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, when Frodo first learns that through Gollum, Sauron has discovered that the Ring is now in the Shire, he exclaims: "What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature when he had a chance!" Gandalf responds: "Pity? It was Pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need." Frodo retorts that he does not feel any pity for Gollum, and Gandalf again advocates a more compassionate view: "Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends."
There is so much truth and wisdom in this advice. He is saying that we shouldn't judge new things too quickly, because they might just turn out to be a force for good. So I agree with a colleague who is counselling a more charitable, open, considered approach, and who suggests that we simply wait and see what happens.