Unity School of Christianity/ Association of Unity Churches

Unity School of Christianity/ Association of Unity Churches
   Unity, the most outwardly Christian of the several New Thought groups, began in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1889, when its cofounders, Myrtle (1845-1931) and Charles Fillmore (1854-1948), created an organization to embody what they called "practical Christianity." Several years earlier, Myrtle had been healed from tuberculosis after attending a lecture on mental healing in 1886. The couple had accepted ordination in 1891 from Emma Curtis Hopkins, head of the Christian Science Theological Seminary in Chicago.
   The Fillmores launched their new movement with a periodical, Modern Thought (later Unity), and a prayer ministry, the Society for Silent Help (later Silent Unity), whose round-the-clock prayer ministry has been well known far beyond New Thought circles. in 1903, they incorporated the Unity Society of Practical Christianity (later the Unity School of Christianity). Its extensive output of periodicals, books, and pamphlets attracted metaphysical teachers, and congregations began to emerge. The various centers and congregations were organized in 1966 into the Association of Unity Churches (AUC), which cooperates with the Unity School. The association ordains and supervises ministers, sanctions churches, and coordinates the movement's expansion. As of 2001, there were nearly 1,000 ministries and 57 affiliated study groups in 64 countries. Unity has a strong presence in Africa, with some 50 groups in Nigeria. Unity School remains the heart of the movement from facilities near Kansas City, Missouri. its daily devotional guide, The Daily Word, has 1.3 million subscribers.
   Unity uses the Bible as a primary text, with a Christian Science-like allegorical interpretation. Charles Fillmore authored a New Thought classic, the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary (1931). His writings and H. Emilie Cady's Lessons In Truth (1894) set the basic perspective for the movement.
   Unity affirms that the basis of reality is mental (not material) and that mental states determine material conditions. Characteristic of New Thought as a whole, Unity affirms God as Mind. Though formerly describing itself as nondoctri-nal, a number of foundational teachings consistently reappear in its literature: (1) the absolute goodness of God and the unreality of evil; (2) the innate divinity of humanity; (3) the omnipotently causative nature of consciousness; and (4) the freedom of individuals in matters of belief. Unity's recasting of Christian doctrine as an idealistic philosophy has made it unacceptable to most Protestants, though it has had some influence on popular American Christianity, especially in the positive thinking espoused by Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993) and Robert Schuller (b. 1926), both ministers and former presidents of the Reformed Church in America.
   Unity School is headed by a self-perpetuating board of directors and its current president, Connie Fillmore Bazzy, the founders' great-granddaughter.
   Further reading:
   ■ Marcus Bach, The Unity Way (Unity Village, Mo.: Unity Books, 1982)
   ■ Charles Braden, Spirits in Rebellion: The Rise and Development of New Thought (Dallas, Tex.: SMU Press, 1963)
   ■ H. Emilie Cady, Lessons in Truth (Unity Village, Mo.: Unity Books, 1975)
   ■ James Dillet Freeman, The Story of Unity (Unity Village, Mo.: Unity Books, 1978)
   ■ Neal Vahle, The Unity Movement: Its Evolution and Spiritual Teachings (Philadelphia: Templeton Foundation Press, 2002).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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