Last year, a study group in which I participate each fall chose African theology as its topic for 2016. We will meet in November to discuss our findings. I was asked to research the state of Unitarian Universalism in Africa. Did you know we have Unitarian Universalist congregations in Africa?
There aren’t many, but there is an emerging interest and enthusiasm for our faith. Perhaps it is our liberating theology that affirms that all are loved. Perhaps it is our inclusive culture of acceptance. Whatever the case, these churches are interested in being in partnership with the North American UU community. It is time we get to know them as well as they know us.
Perhaps not surprisingly, historically the strongest cluster of Unitarian churches is in South Africa, with congregations in Cape Town, Duban, Somerset, and Johannesburg. It’s also not surprising that the congregation in Cape Town was actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement, and its previous minister, Rev. Gordon Oliver, had been the mayor of Cape Town in the final days of apartheid. Two days after Oliver was sworn in, police killed dozens of peaceful Black protesters, and Oliver responded by attending the memorial service and pledging to join Archbishop Desmond Tutu on a banned protest march. Oliver was often a liaison between the African National Congress and the national government of South Africa.
Emerging clusters of Unitarian Universalist churches are springing up in other parts of Africa. In East Africa, there are 12 groups of Unitarian Universalists: nine in Kenya; two in Uganda, and one in Burundi. In West Africa, there is a strong congregation in Lagos, Nigeria, with roots going back almost 100 years.
My exploration will reach out to the ministers and organizers of these diverse congregations, and I will be sharing some of the results of my research, and the fruits of what African Unitarian Universalists bring to our larger movement, during the service on August 21.