Warren Kreml—Diversity In Unity

Masthead from Dec 1965 UMA Newslette
Warren Kreml—December 1965 UMA Newsletter
Warren Kreml—December 1965 UMA Newsletter

Hi Friends -

“Perhaps this is not the time to begin to form the different types of associations with the Unity field work, but, at least, we can now agree that we will work toward diversity in Unity. We can agree that Unity is large enough to have a place for all of us in it. We can agree when we write for the Voice of the UMA and when we come back together for the meeting of the Council of Committees in January that we will work together for the good of all with a secure place for each person who is sincerely trying to follow the guidance of his indwelling Lord and serve the spiritual needs of mankind as he feels directed.”—Warren Kreml, December 1965

This quote from Warren Kreml was written in December 1965 for the Unity Minister’s Association Newsletter and, as it says, it was written in anticipation of the “Council of Committees in January.” Here is why Kreml wrote it.

Unity had launched an ambitious 25-year plan for the educational expansion of youth called “The Great Vision” and would soon launch a “creative expriment” of adult human potential called The Omega Center with Warren Kreml as the director. Both programs were focused on developing a spirituality much broader than Unity’s traditional teachings, they were met with great resistance in Unity and were eventually rejected.

Kreml’s article in the December 1965 UMA Newsletter is an appeal for the tolerance of diversity within Unity. Although the immediate issues were not the educational programs, Kreml was addressing a mindset in Unity that led to intolerance of diversity. Kreml was convinced that the broader spirituality taught by these programs were “in complete agreement with the ideas of Charles Fillmore” and that they would be “in tune with the times.”1 The problem for Kreml and the progressives was that power was held by Charles R Fillmore and the board of trustees of Unity School, who, at that time, envisioned a far more conservative future for the Unity movement.

What is important is the way that Kreml appeals for tolerance and diversity. He writes “Let us plan for diversity within Unity. The Unity idea is big enough to contain us all. Let us plan to include all of us, even with our many and divergent interests and preferences. Let us create several organizations, functioning independently yet co-operatively within the great family of the Unity field activity.“ Kreml devotes about half of his three page article describing his idea of what I have called “institutional pluralism” in Unity. The quote at the top of this post was preceded by:

“The approach outlined briefly above would not split Unity. There would not have to be rejection, hurt feelings, or barriers that would exclude communication and good will. We could maintain respect for one another, a spirit of oneness, and actually give help and encouragement to one another even though we are following slightly different paths. The Unity idea has potential for infinite expansion. Let us allow it to expand into all the exciting possibilities it contains.”

Why is this important today?

The “Council of Committees” in Kreml’s article has evolved into what was known as the “Winter Meetings” and now is known as the “Annual Summit.” The Unity Worldwide Ministries’ 2019 Annual Summit begins this week in Houston. It is billed as a “gathering for inspiration, information idea sharing and connection” and this year’s conversation is “The Changing Face of Church,” a discussion that includes the present exploration of the Unity movement: “2030 Focusing Forward and One Unity.”

It is important because, fifty-eight years later, we are facing the same problems and we continue to ask “How do we focus forward and establish one Unity?”

Kreml’s argument is that “We have problems that have been with us for years for which we have not worked out constructive, workable, permanent solutions.”

Kreml’s observation is that “There is no need for all this continued disagreement, or for the paralysis of indecision. We should not have to waste our energies in argument, or mistrust or fear each other... Practically speaking, though, we have made one decision and reaffirmed it over and over again. We have decided that there should be diversity in Unity; that Unity ministers should be free to follow their own inner guidance. This is our decision; this is our consistent consensus.”

And Kreml’s solution is to ask “Then why not accept the decision, carry it to its logical conclusion, implement it with appropriate action and organization?” He answers the question, as quoted, by suggesting that Unity “create several organizations, functioning independently yet co-operatively within the great family of the Unity field activity.”

Here’s my point.

My sense is that progressive advocates of a broader spirituality in Unity favor “focusing forward” and evolving our organizational structure to “One Unity.” I believe they will resist “creating several organizations, functioning independently yet co-operatively within the great family of the Unity field activity.”

I only wish to say that stronger collaboration as One Unity may be beneficial in terms of operational efficiency and organizational control, but, as Kreml says, there will be a price to pay in terms of diversity and tolerance. Advocates of a broader spirituality in Unity may not see the problem because power no longer rests with Charles R Fillmore and Unity's more conservative wing. But tolerance is tolerance and diversity is diversity.

The solution, as Kreml argues, is carrying Unity’s decision for tolerance and diversity to its logical conclusion by “creating several organizations, functioning independently yet co-operatively within the great family of the Unity field activity.”  This is what I have called The Rise of Institutional Pluralism in Unity. Here is my conclusion:

Successful religious movements shift from monolithic structures to institutional pluralism. They replace a Vatican-style form of organization and governance with multiple, independent and free organizations that seem to be out of control. But they aren’t out of control at all. They are free and the their freedom is the ability to compete in a religious marketplace based on the Principle of Giving and Receiving. No one is privileged, no one is protected. Everyone serves and if one organization fails then it doesn’t bring down the entire movement.

Here is Kreml’s way forward:

“To achieve diversity within the Unity family we are going to have to think, feel, and act with maturity. We are like a child growing up in a family. The child comes to the time of independence when he realizes that his needs and his interests are leading him to stand free from his parents. If this child is growing toward maturity he is able to do this and still maintain love, respect, and good communication.“—Warren Kreml, December 1965

In 1966 Charles R. Fillmore recognized that the field ministries of Unity would be best served by allowing them to form their own organization to tend to their own needs and aspirations. That was the first step toward institutional pluralism in Unity.

Charles R Fillmore's decision grew out of increased frustration in creative people like Warren Kreml who wished to explore innovative pathways in Unity. Charles R Fillmore recognized that multiple, independent and free organizations, collaborating but not privileged, are the best expression of Unity’s foundational value of freedom, tolerance and diversity. I believe that is Unity’s best expression of “focusing forward as One Unity.”

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Sunday, February 3, 2019

  1. The Unity Movement—Its Evolution and Spiritual Teachings, Neal Vahle.

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DIVERSITY IN UNITY

by Warren J. Kreml

Source: Contact Newsletter December 1965 p.8 Archives: 2430-01-01

There is a need for us to think constructively. To be channels for the ideas of Infinite Mind we must be able to think maturely, constructively, and without personal prejudice and animosity. While it is good for us to speak out frankly and attempt to state clearly what it is that we as UMA members object to, sometime, somewhere, someone has to start proposing a definite, constructive idea as a solution to the problems that confront us as Unity ministers.

We have problems that have been with us for years for which we have not worked out constructive, workable, permanent solutions. Years ago we had vigorous, heated debates on the floor of our conference meetings about whether we are a school or a church. After that, we went through a period of avoiding discussion of the question. We heard comments like these: “The church vs. school debate is no longer relevant,” “We have passed beyond that stage,” or “The question has been resolved in our minds.”

But it has not been resolved, merely avoided. We have actually increased the problem by building millions of dollars’ worth of buildings with divided chancels, choir lofts, central altars, stained glass windows, and huge crosses. At the same time we have built other buildings carefully designed to exclude any hint of church accouter ments. We have added to the complexity and rigidity of our problem by wearing clerical garb or by taking a stand against it, by developing rituals accepted by thousands of persons as characteristic of Unity or by convincing thousands of others that ritual has no place in Unity. We have not worked through our difficulties to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution. We have simply invested millions of dollars in factional views and drawn thousands of persons to “our side.”

Now we are at a new stage of the disagreement. We have subtly taken the argument to the public in pamphlets, periodicals, books, and lectures. Our disagreement and mutual distrust is so deep that some ministers have removed from sales counters the pamphlets and books written by fellow Unity ministers.

Is there a further step to this growing division? Do we want to come to the place of splitting the Unity field? Must factions contest for control of the Unity ministry in the field? Do we have to live in fear of being rejected and ousted from the movement by the action of fellow ministers?

There is no need for all this continued disagreement, or for the paralysis of indecision. We should not have to waste our energies in argument, or mistrust or fear each other. Let us seek a constructive solution. We can give our energies and the power of our thought to help and support one another. Then we can release our energies into a more vital service to all mankind.

I should like to offer an idea to consider as a possible solution to the church-school, clerical garb-business suit disagreement. Over the years we have avoided a definite resolution of this problem. Practically speaking, though, we have made one decision and reaffirmed it over and over again. We have decided that there should be diversity in Unity; that Unity ministers should be free to follow their own inner guidance. This is our decision; this is our consistent consensus. Then why not accept the decision, carry it to its logical conclusion, implement it with appropriate action and organization?

Let us plan for diversity within Unity. The Unity idea is big enough to contain us all. Let us plan to include all of us, even with our many and divergent interests and preferences. Let us create several organizations, functioning independently yet co-operatively within the great family of the Unity field activity.

There could he within the family of Unity field activity a federation of Unity Churches of the World. Each church could he headed by an ordained minister who would conduct a worship service at 11 a.m. on Sundays. The ministers could set up any standards they mutually accepted regarding clerical garb, stained-glass windows, crosses, and other Christian forms of worship. They would conduct funerals, marriages, baptisms, and so forth. Their main goal could be to present the teachings of Jesus Christ to those who prefer a church setting as a place of study, fellowship, and worship. They could frankly admit that they were a church and be the best kind of church they could be. They may wish to emphasize to the world that they are a new kind of church, a teaching church, emphasizing the teachings of a practical Christianity for everyday living.

Then there could be another group, a separate, independent organization that might be called the Unity Spiritual Centers. Our cities have Community Centers, Recreation Centers, Cultural Centers, why not a Spiritual Center? This could be an open forum for men and women of all religious backgrounds, even for scientists and philosophers with an interest in spiritual ideas, to present and discuss their spiritual concepts. The leader could be a “director” instead of a minister. There would not have to be 11 a.m. services but lectures at perhaps 3 o’clock Sunday afternoons and on weekdays and week evenings when they would not conflict with the church services of the community. There would be no need for weddings or funerals or baptisms; these things could be left to the churches of the city according to the individual preference of all the persons who make use of the spiritual center. The center could really develop an open-end approach to religion; without affiliation with any particular church it could truly welcome people of all churches.

Then there could be another organization: an association of the Unity Universities of Life. The universities could have professors and deans, catalogues and curricula, graduations and degrees. Here the challenge would be to teach Truth in an atmosphere of academic excellence with an integration of all the religious streams that are contributing to our organization would have its own function to perform and be free to develop its own tools and methods, yet all could share a common purpose and spiritual interest. To insure good communication between the different associations and maintain a spirit of oneness, we could have interlocking boards of directors wherein officials of the different field associations and Unity School serve several of the policy-making boards. In addition to each association’s having its own organization and conferences, we could all meet in a convention annually, or perhaps biennially or triennially, to share ideas and give encouragement to one another. Then as the churches grew in numbers and in ways of making the church relevant to today’s challenges, we could all applaud their growth and not resent it or try to control it. As the spiritual centers developed new lecture and discussion programs on psychic research, yoga, and scientific developments, we could all be proud of their advance and not feel they were contaminating our part of the Unity movement. As the universities raised academic standards we could praise their efforts without feeling that all of Unity was becoming intellectual.

As time goes by we may want to develop other associations: The Association of Unity Counselors, from personnel departments in industry, medical centers, and counseling centers; the Association of Unity Retreat Directors from retreat grounds and church camps from all over the world; or the Association of Unity Campus Houses, directors of campus spiritual activities from colleges and universities everywhere.

The approach outlined briefly above would not split Unity. There would not have to be rejection, hurt feelings, or barriers that would exclude communication and good will. We could maintain respect for one another, a spirit of oneness, and actually give help and encourage ment to one another even though we are following slightly different paths. The Unity idea has potential for infinite expansion. Let us allow it to expand into all the exciting possibilities it contains.

Perhaps this is not the time to begin to form the different types of associations with the Unity field work, but, at least, we can now agree that we will work toward diversity in Unity. We can agree that Unity is large enough to have a place for all of us in it. We can agree when we write for the Voice of the UMA and when we come back together for the meeting of the Council of Committees in January that we will work together for the good of all with a secure place for each person who is sincerely trying to follow the guidance of his indwelling Lord and serve the spiritual needs of mankind as he feels directed.

To achieve diversity within the Unity family we are going to have to think, feel, and act with maturity. We are like a child growing up in a family. The child comes to the time of independence when he realizes that his needs and his interests are leading him to stand free from his parents. If this child is growing toward maturity he is able to do this and still maintain love, respect, and good communication. This is our relationship to Unity School now. We are ready to stand as an independent organization fulfilling our own destiny to the best of our ability, yet maintaining respect and effective communication between the people of Unity School and the people in the field.

The different associations within the Unity field ministry are like brothers and sisters growing up in a family. While we have had our childish arguments, we have grown through them into having a more mature respect for the unique good that each one is developing in his own consciousness.

Reaching maturity is difficult, and we are in its growing pains right now. But we are spiritual leaders and teachers who are capable of constructive thought, tolerance for one another, having a feeling of oneness and unity in spite of surface differences, and united action in the face of challenge. The gaining of maturity is worth the effort, for in the maturity that accepts diversity we shall find the release of our deeper energies, the harmony and the united effort that have been our ideals through the years.