The push comes because many churches abroad are requesting partnership with an American congregation, said Cathy Cordes, executive director of the UU Partner Church Council, the group that encouraged Sinkford to send the letter.
It is also an endorsement of the UUA’s vision that international church partnerships are a good and transformative thing, said the Rev. Eric Cherry, director of the UUA’s international resources office. “All UU congregations are called by the sixth principle [the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all] into international engagement.”
The UU Partner Church Council was formed in 1993 because of concern about Transylvanian Unitarian churches in Romania needing assistance after the fall of communism. Since its establishment, more than 190 relationships have been formed between U.S. churches and congregations largely in Romania, India, and the Philippines, with a smaller number in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary.
“We need to get more American congregations to participate,” said Cordes. “We have 15 churches in India and 15 in the Philippines that have requested partnerships. We also have more churches in Transylvania looking for partners, and we are exploring potential partnerships in a number of other countries.”
In the past few years, the UUA has been examining the way it has traditionally done international work, encouraging more congregations to become engaged with churches or groups abroad, said Cherry. He added that a recent survey shows that UU congregations are involved in a great variety of international ministries aside from UUPCC partnerships. Some of these include microfinancing projects and support for orphanages, schools, and hospitals.
Cherry’s job, he said, is to provide congregations with the resources they need to engage in effective international relationships.
The UUA maintains relationships with international Unitarian groups in many parts of the world including the United Kingdom, Romania, India, and the Philippines, as well as with internationally engaged UU organizations such as Project Harvest Hope, the UU Service Committee, the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists, and the Partner Church Council. In addition, the UUA is a member of international interfaith organizations such as the International Association for Religious Freedom and the World Conference of Religions for Peace.
A new UUA international advisory council has been formed that will provide advice and serve as a sounding board for UUA international priorities. Members include the Rev. John Buehrens (chair), the Rev. Janne Eller-Isaacs, the Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Mark McPeak, Barbara Beach, the Rev. Fred Muir, and Kathy Sreedhar.
- Unitarian Universalist Partner Church Council. Supports relationships between American UU congregations and congregations abroad. (uupcc.org)
- International Council of Unitarians and Universalists. Network of Unitarian, Universalist, and UU organizations in 23 countries. (icuu.net)
- Re-envisioning International Relations. Report from 2007 UUA General Assembly workshop. (UUA.org)