Op-Ed: Proposal For ICUU Individual Membership and Recognition

Some Background on the ICUU Proposal

John Eichrodt has long believed an At-large chapter of the ICUU would help to light individual UU candles in countries where we have not yet had an impact. He was encouraged at the ICUU meeting in Kathmandu to come forward with a proposal. I worked together with John to develop the wording of the proposal, which was approved by the UU Basel board. We are grateful for the EUU’s consideration, as an ICUU member, in putting this forward to the ICUU for consideration at their next general meeting in 2020.

Op-Ed: Proposal For ICUU Individual Membership and Recognition
A plea in favor of its adoption by EUU

Contributed by John Eichrodt

On May 6th, UU Basel approved a proposal for ICUU Individual Membership and Recognition and forwarded it to the EUU Coordinating Council for approval. So, the CC discussed the proposal the last CC meeting and decided that it needed more time to fully understand the issues and implications. This is natural, in my opinion, since the proposal matters immensely for UUs around the world, and our decision is important.

The proposal was discussed with many people at the ICUU meeting in Kathmandu and received favorable support. The many comments and suggestions were used to revise and improve the original.  The revised proposal that was sent to our CC is set out in the footnote below.*

A few words on my own UU history may explain why I support this proposal.

When I go back to my own life in France in the 70’s and 80’s, I remember how much I missed—for myself, family and children—the presence of a UU community that could help give reality and presence to our faith. There was not much then anywhere in France besides the English speaking fellowship in Paris, 500 km away. If asked what my religion was, I would reply Unitarian Universalist, which triggered a blank stare from my friends, colleagues and members of our large family.

In 1975, when my children were very young,  George Marshall came to my rescue and invited me and my family to join the Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF). This gave me recognition as a UU; it gave our family a church (without walls) and a real faith to help me raise my family.

George Marshall started the CLF just after WWII, with just pen, paper, a desk and a blessing from the UUA. There were many CLF members in Europe. So, in the late 7O’s, he helped the EUU get started. This gave our UU faith a real living presence in Europe. I eagerly took my wife and children to the EUU retreats, where they discovered that Unitarianism Universalism was not a fiction and that it could be one of the real faith traditions in our family (along with Protestantism).  Partly as result of those retreats, CLF’s educational program, and the lively interfaith discussions in our home, one of my children, Hélène, decided to study Theology, and is now a minister of a Reform church in Stuttgart.

EUU welcomed not only fellowships, but also individuals like myself as at-large members. Over the last 20 years, at-large members have been as active as fellowships have. They have brought energy, creativity, competence and leadership to EUU. Some of us became active on the board; some became presidents; others formed fellowships; several were very active in supporting the ICUU.

The ICUU was founded in 1995 after many years of struggle. A full, rich history of the ICUU is given in Mark Morrison-Reed’s book, A Ménage à Trois. I recommend its reading as an exemplary case study of how institutions like the ICUU get born, why they matter so much, and the heroic energy spent by so many UU leaders to make it viable.

EUU is a founding member of ICUU and, as such, is recognized as a legitimate pan European UU member group. That recognition implies that we are more than just an organization of UU expats in Europe, and that we represent – like others in Europe—UU’s everywhere in Europe.

This means that EUU has an important voice in ICUU’s development and that the position we will take on the proposal for individual membership may be decisive. Until now, ICUU has been a network of UU organizations from around the world. And its main mission has been to bring UU’s organizations together, to support their development, and to help start new groups, so as to empower our worldwide faith.

The ICUU has now ‘grown up’ and is entirely capable of honoring the right of individuals to be recognized as Unitarian Universalists, and to establish an At-Large Chapter for individual Membership.

In my own opinion, the need for this next step is an obvious and natural need for many reasons. First, it would encourage greater reciprocity and ‘full faith and credit’ for UUs around the world. Second, the creation of an at-large chapter of ICUU would give standing to individual UUs to participate in the policies, programs, activities, and life of the ICUU, as well as to create the basis for an eventual international UU fellowship. Third, it would better align our international UU Council with one of the main pillars of our theology: the person and his or her inherent worth and dignity. Fourth, it could encourage more worldwide common content in our UU faith and provide a broader base from which to pursue our common spiritual center. And last, but not least, over time, it would substantially increase the number of emerging groups.

My own deep conviction, partly from my own experience, is that this proposal would help to secure ICUU’s future, its legitimacy as a lighthouse for UUs everywhere, and provide a home for isolated UUs, especially those who live in countries where a national organization does not exist.

This is an exceptional opportunity for EUU to continue to support the development of ICUU, to give it an extra boost in energy and creativity, and above all to help it accomplish its inherent duty of enabling persons everywhere to live their UU faith.

In faith,

John Eichrodt,
Member EUU and UU Basel


Proposal For ICUU Individual Membership And Recognition

Draft Proposal in two parts:

  1. Declaration of The Right Of Individuals To Be Recognised as Unitarian and Universalists
  2. The Establishment of an at-large Chapter for Individual Membership

Because the ICUU is the international body that represents the Unitarian and Universalist community around the world.

Because the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 18) affirms ‘’… the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion either …. alone or in community with others,…’’


  1. The ICUU, meeting in _________ on __________ affirms that persons everywhere in the world have the right to be recognised as Unitarian and Universalists in accordance with article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

And that consequently, the ICUU affirms its duty to recognise each person’s right to be a Unitarian and Universalist in accordance with the person’s right of conscience and the international standards established by the ICUU under the preamble of its Constitution.

  1. And that the ICUU establishes an at-large chapter for membership of its individual participants who are in sympathy with its Constitution and wish to be active in ICUU.