Unity Church Overview

Overview of the Association of Unity Churches and Unity School of Christianity

Unity School of Christianity
Unity School of Christianity Historic District. cameragirl

The Unity Church calls itself "a positive, practical, progressive approach to Christianity based on the teachings of Jesus and the power of prayer. Unity honors the universal truths in all religions and respects each individual's right to choose a spiritual path."

Unity School of Christianity and the Association of Unity Churches

Unity, the parent group, is comprised of two sister organizations, Unity School of Christianity and the Association of Unity Churches International.

Together they oversee the daily operations. Unity considers the churches a denomination but says Unity itself is nondenominational or interdenominational.

Unity is known for its magazines, Daily Word and Unity Magazine. It operates Unity Institute on its campus, and has a prayer ministry called Silent Unity.

Neither Unity nor its churches should be confused with the Unitarian Universalist Church or Unification Church, which are unrelated organizations.

Number of Unity Church Members

Unity claims a membership and mailing list of 1 million people worldwide.

History and Founding of the Unity Church

The Unity movement was founded in 1889 in Kansas City, Missouri by husband and wife Charles and Myrtle Fillmore. At the time, the New Thought movement was sweeping the United States.

New Thought was an eclectic mixture of pantheism, mysticism, spiritism, inclusivim, affirmations, Christianity, and the idea that the mind can be used to influence matter.

Many of those same beliefs have found their way into the current New Age movement.

New Thought was started by Phineas P. Quimby (1802-1866), a Maine clockmaker who studied the power of the mind in healing and started using hypnotism to try to heal people.

Quimby, in turn, influenced Mary Baker Eddy, who later founded Christian Science.

The connection to Unity came from Emma Curtis Hopkins (1849-1925), a student of Eddy's, who broke away to found her own school of metaphysics.

Dr. Eugene B. Weeks was a student of that Chicago school. When he was giving a class in Kansas City, Missouri in 1886, two of his students were Charles and Myrtle Fillmore.

At the time, Myrtle Fillmore was suffering from tuberculosis. Eventually she was healed, and she attributed that cure to prayer and positive thought.

Publishing Spreads the Unity Message

Both Fillmores began intensive studies of New Thought, eastern religions, science, and philosophy. They launched their magazine, Modern Thought, in 1889. Charles dubbed the movement Unity in 1891 and they renamed the magazine Unity in 1894.

In 1893, Myrtle started Wee Wisdom, a magazine for children, which was published until 1991.

Unity published its first book in 1894, Lessons in Truth, by H. Emilie Cady. Since that time it has been translated into 11 languages, been published in braille, and has sold more than 1.6 million copies. The book continues to be a mainstay in Unity teachings.

In 1922, Charles Fillmore began delivering radio messages over station WOQ in Kansas City. In 1924, Unity started publishing Unity Daily Word magazine, today known as Daily Word, with a circulation of over 1 million.

About that time, Unity began buying land 15 miles outside Kansas City, on a site which would later become the 1,400 acre Unity Village campus. The site was incorporated as a municipality in 1953.

Unity History After the Fillmores

Myrtle Fillmore died in 1931 at the age of 86. In 1933, at the age of 79, Charles married his second wife, Cora Dedrick. Retired from the pulpit of Unity Society of Practical Christianity, Charles spent the next 10 years traveling and lecturing.

In 1948, Charles Fillmore died at the age of 94. His son Lowell became Unity School's president. The next year, Unity School moved from downtown Kansas City to Unity Farm, which would eventually become Unity Village.

Unity moved into television in 1953 with the program The Daily Word, started by Rosemary Fillmore Rhea, granddaughter of Charles and Myrtle Fillmore.

By 1966, Unity had gone global, with the Department of World Unity. That body supports Unity ministries in foreign countries. Also that year, the Association of Unity Churches was organized.

Unity Village continued to grow over the years, as the organization's publishing and other ministries expanded.

Fillmore descendants continued to serve in the organization. In 2001 Connie Fillmore Bazzy resigned as president and CEO. She took over as chairperson of the board from Charles R. Fillmore, who became chairperson emeritus. The next year the board was restructured to include only members not employed by Unity.

Unity History of Prayer and Education

Silent Unity, the organization's prayer ministry, was started by the Fillmores in 1890. In the coming year, this 24/7 prayer request service will take more than 2 million calls.

While Unity's primary mode of education has been its books, magazines, CDs and DVDs, it also conducts classes and retreats for adults at its Unity Village campus and trains 60 Unity ministers every two years.

Charles Fillmore was always quick to adopt new technology for the organization, and added a telephone system in 1907. Today Unity makes full use of the Internet, with a newly revised website and interactive online courses through its Distance Learning program.

Geography

Unity's publications reach audiences in the United States, England, Australia and New Zealand, Africa, Central and South America, and Europe. Nearly 1,000 Unity churches and study groups exist in those same areas. Unity's headquarters is at Unity Village, Missouri, 15 miles outside Kansas City.

Unity Church Governing Body

Individual Unity churches are governed by a volunteer board of trustees elected by the members. Responsibility for Unity's International Ministries was transferred from Unity to the Association of Unity Churches in 2001. The next year, Unity's board of directors was restructured to consist solely of members not employed by Unity. Charlotte Shelton is President and CEO of Unity, and James Trapp is president and CEO of the Association of Unity Churches.

Sacred or Distinguishing Text

Unity calls the Bible its "spiritual textbook" but interprets it as "a metaphysical representation of humankind's evolutionary journey toward spiritual awakening." In addition to the writings of the Fillmores, Unity produces a constant flow of books, magazines, and CDs from its own writers.

Unity Church Beliefs and Practices

Unity does not affirm any Christian creeds. Unity holds five basic beliefs:

  1. "God is the source and creator of all. There is no other enduring power.
  2. God is good and present everywhere.
  3. We are spiritual beings, created in God's image. The spirit of God lives within each person; therefore, all people are inherently good.
  4. We create our life experiences through our way of thinking. There is power in affirmative prayer, which we believe increases our connection to God.
  5. Knowledge of these spiritual principles is not enough. We must live them."

Baptism and communion are practiced as symbolic acts.

Many Unity members are vegetarians.

To learn more about what the Unity Church teaches, visit Unity Beliefs and Practices.

(Sources: Unity.org, Unity of Phoenix, CARM.org, and gotquestions.org, and ReligionFacts.com.)