Unity School of Christianity
(AKA: Unity or “New Thought”- Not to be confused with Unitarian-Universalism
or the Unification Church)
By Tal Davis
Organizations and Ministries associated with the Unity School of
Association of Unity Churches International
The Association for Global New Thought
International New Thought Alliance
UnityFM Online Radio
Silent Unity (24 hour prayer ministry)
Key Figures in History:
Charles Fillmore (1854- 1948) and Myrtle Fillmore (1845- 1931)
James Dillet Freeman (1912-2003)
Unity Village, Lee’s Summit, Missouri
About 1,000 churches and groups worldwide (Source: www.unity.org)
Charlotte Shelton–President and CEO
Unity Board of Directors:
Charles Rickert Fillmore
Rev. Howard Caesar
Rev. Ellen Debenport
Rev. Gregory Guice
Rev. Duke Tufty, Board Chair
Rev. Sylvia Sumter
North Star Family Matters Magazine
Lessons in Truth (1894) by H. Emilie Cady
Jesus Christ Heals (1936) by Charles Fillmore
Prosperity (1940) by Charles Fillmore
Dynamics for Living by Charles Fillmore
Teach Us to Pray (1942) by Charles Fillmore
Metaphysical Bible Dictionary (1931) by Charles Fillmore
The Twelve Powers of Man (1930) by Charles Fillmore
Christian Healing (1920) by Charles Fillmore
Atom-Smashing Power of Mind by Charles Fillmore
Short History of Unity
Charles Fillmore was a railroad worker and business man from Minnesota. Myrtle
Page was a chronically sick school teacher from Ohio. In 1876, they met in
Denison, Texas, where they were both living at the time. Though Myrtle was nine
years older than Charles, they married in 1881. Soon afterward, with Myrtle ill
with tuberculosis, they moved to Kansas City, Missouri. Desperate for help for
her, in 1886 the two of them attended a class led by Eugene B. Weeks, an
advocate of metaphysical healing from the Illinois Metaphysical College in
Chicago. Hearing Weeks’ message, Myrtle was convinced she could beat her
illness through prayer and meditation based on the principle, “I am a child of
God, and therefore I do not inherit sickness.”
According to their story, over the next couple of years Myrtle’s health greatly
improved so she and her husband Charles began to study and write about the
spiritual truths and practices they had discovered. In 1889 they began
publishing a monthly magazine titled Modern Thought (later renamed simply
Unity). The next year they formed the Society for Silent Help, a prayer
ministry based on their philosophy of New Thought. They generically named their
movement “Unity” and changed the name of their organization to the Society for
In 1903 they established the Unity Society of Practical Christianity as the
first Unity church. In 1914 they created an umbrella publishing organization
called the Unity School of Christianity. The organization purchased 58 acres of
land near Lee’s Summit, Missouri, in 1919, and began construction of Unity
Farm. Later it became Unity Village, the world headquarters of the Unity
movement and location of its publishing house.
In 1922 they began a radio ministry on WOQ in Kansas City. Also, about that
time, they began publication of a devotional magazine title Unity Daily Word,
which was renamed Daily Word in 1939. Today it remains as the movement’s most
widely circulated publication.
Myrtle Fillmore, the “Mother of Unity“, died in 1931 at the age of 86. Her
metaphysical beliefs are still the foundation of the movement to this day. Two
years later Charles Fillmore retired as pastor of the Unity Society of
Practical Christianity but continued as president of the Unity School of
Christianity. That same year he married his second wife, Cora Dedrick. Together
they traveled the country spreading the message of Unity and helping start new
Unity congregations. Fillmore died in 1948 at age 94. He was succeeded as
president by his son Lowell Fillmore (1882-1975).
Another of Unity’s most prominent personalities was James Dillet Freeman. A
native of Delaware and of Cherokee and Choctaw descendant, Freeman joined the
Unity staff on a permanent basis in 1933. Starting in the Unity School's prayer
ministry, he later formed Unity’s ministerial training program and served in
various other leadership positions. Oddly, Freeman never claimed actually to be
a member of Unity. He was, nonetheless, known as the movement’s “Poet Laureate”
having dozens of his poems published in numerous magazines, journals, and books
until his death in 2003 at age 91.
In 1953, Unity expanded its media work with a television program titled The
Daily Word featuring the Fillmore’s granddaughter, Rosemary Rhea. In later
years Unity sponsored short TV devotions by celebrities titled The Word for
In 1964, Charles and Myrtle’s grandson, Charles Rickert Fillmore, was named
president and CEO of Unity until his retirement in 1987. He now is designated
as Chairman of the Board, Emeritus.
In 1966 the Association of Unity Churches was organized in order to support
Unity ministers and congregations in the United States, Puerto Rico, and
Canada. By 1989, when Unity celebrated its centennial year, the movement had
spread worldwide. The first Unity World Conference was held in Birmingham,
England in 1995. A second world conference was held in Mexico in 1998.
In the early 2000s Unity underwent several organizational structural changes.
In 2005, an online program, called dailyword.com, was initiated. The next year,
Dr. Charlotte Shelton, a Missouri college professor and business management
consultant, was appointed by the Unity Board of Directors as the current
president and CEO.
(Source: All quoted sections are from www.unity.org, 2008)
Unity: A Path for Spiritual Living
“Unity is a positive, practical, progressive approach to Christianity based on
the teachings of Jesus and the power of prayer. Unity honors the
“God is Spirit, the loving source of all that is. God is the one power, all
good, everywhere present, all wisdom. God is divine energy, continually
creating, expressing and sustaining all creation. In God, we live and move and
have our being. In Unity, some other ways we speak of God are Life, Light,
Love, Substance, Principle, Law, and Universal Mind.”
Biblical Response—God is the Eternal, Infinite Creator of all
that exists (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10; 44:6-8). He is a personal being who exists
eternally in Three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt.
28:19; I Cor. 8:6; 12 4-6; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:2). The Unity
concept of deity is basically a form of impersonal pantheism that is similar in
many ways to that taught in Hinduism and other metaphysical groups such as
Christian Science and Religious Science.
“Yes, Unity teaches that
the spirit of God lived in Jesus, just as it lives in every person. Every
person has the potential to express the perfection of Christ as Jesus did, by
being more Christlike in everyday life”
“We believe that Jesus expressed his divine potential and sought to show
humankind how to express ours as well. We see Jesus as a master teacher of
universal truths and as our Way-Shower. In Unity, we use the term ‘Christ’ to
mean the divinity in humankind. Jesus is the great example of the Christ in
Biblical Response—There is no distinction that can be made
between Jesus the man and Christ, His divine office (Messiah). He did not
receive his Messiahship, but rather claimed that title from eternity past (see
Isa. 9:6; Matt. 1:16-18; 2:4; Luke 2:11). He was the unique, “One and Only Son
from the Father”, the Second Person of the Eternal Trinity (see John 1:1-14;
5:17-18; 8:56-59; 10:30-33; Col. 1:15-20; 2:9). He was not just an example or
“Way-Shower”, but was Himself “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6)
and the only one who can offer salvation (Acts 4:12). Jesus died on the cross
as the atonement for humanity's sin and rose again physically to claim God's
victory over death (see Luke 24:36-43; John 2:18-22; 1 Cor. 15:1-8).
The Nature of Humankind
“We are each individual, eternal expressions of God. Our essential nature is
divine and therefore inherently good. Our purpose is to express our divine
potential as realized and demonstrated by Jesus and other master teachers. The
more we awaken to our divine nature, the more fully God expresses in and
through our lives.”
Biblical Response—Though all people are created in the image of God (morally
responsible, reasonable, and self-aware- see Gen. 1: 26-27), they are not
“individual, eternal expressions of God”. All people (except Christ) are
sinners by nature (see Matt. 15: 18-19; Mark 7: 21-23; Rom. 3:23; 5:12; 6:23).
It is a result of humanity's willful disobedience to God and His will. Sin
alienates people from God and produces suffering, disease, and death (see Gen.
3; Rom. 5:12-23).
“Unity co-founders, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, studied the Bible as history
and allegory, and interpreted it as a metaphysical representation of
humankind's evolutionary journey toward spiritual awakening. In addition, Unity
recognizes that the Bible is a complex collection of writings compiled over
many centuries. We honor the writings as reflecting the understanding and
inspiration of the writers at the time they were written. The Bible continues
to be a valuable spiritual resource for us.”
Biblical Response—The Bible (Old and New Testaments) is the unique, revealed,
and inspired Word of God. It is the sole authority for faith and practice for
Christians (see 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21). Unity’s position basically is
a denial of the uniquely inspired nature of the Bible. The Fillmore’s
allegorical and metaphysical interpretations violate the basic principles for
sound biblical interpretation.
Prayer and Meditation
“Affirmative prayer is the highest form of creative thought. It includes the
release of counterproductive, negative thoughts as well as holding in mind
statements of spiritual truth. Through meditation, we experience the presence
of God. Prayer and meditation heighten our awareness and thereby transform our
Biblical Response—The Bible teaches that prayer is not just affirmative
meditation but is the actual verbal communication with the Living God. Jesus
prayed often to His Father in Heaven and taught His disciples to do so also, as
did Paul, James, and other early church leaders (see Matt. 6:5-13; 14: 23; Luke
6: 11:1-4; John 17; 1 Thess. 5:17; James 5:13-16).
Salvation in Unity is expressed in the “5 Basic Unity Principles”:
"1.There is only one Presence and one Power active as the universe and as my
life, God the Good.
2. Our essence is of God; therefore, we are inherently good. This God essence,
called the Christ, was fully expressed in Jesus.
3. We are co-creators with God, creating reality through thoughts held in
4. Through prayer and meditation, we align our heart-mind with God. Denials and
affirmations are tools we use.
5. Through thoughts, words and actions, we live the Truth we know."
Thus, Unity teaches that people are not essentially sinful and thus are not in
need of a sacrificial atonement for sin. For them salvation is really to
realize, as did Jesus and other enlightened spiritual teachers, a person’s
innate deity and the potential he or she has for attaining “atonement” (or
“at-one-ment”) with the divine. This realization comes through affirmation and
Biblical Response—The Bible teaches that Jesus death was a
sacrifice for our sin. Salvation comes by first confessing and repenting of
(turning from) our sins (see Rom 3:23; 6:23; Acts 3:19) We then receive God’s
grace through putting one’s faith in the unique person of Jesus Christ as
Savior and Lord and in what He did by his atoning death and resurrection (see
John 1:12; Rom. 4:4-5; Eph. 2:8-10; Titus 3:5).
Life After Death
Unity apparently has no official position on life after death, saying only that
the dead have “transitioned” to the next state of being. Heaven and hell are
described as only positive or negative states of mind in this life.
Nonetheless, the Fillmores, as do many Unity adherents today, believed in a
vague form of reincarnation. They usually assert that a person will be
reincarnated numerous times so they can advance further in their spiritual
evolution toward oneness with the divine.
Biblical Response—Reincarnation has no basis in biblical
teaching but clearly states that we have only one life then judgment (Heb.
9:27: “And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this,
The Bible teaches that at death all true believers in Christ will experience a
conscious relationship with Him while awaiting the bodily resurrection from the
dead when Jesus returns and usher in the Kingdom of God. (see Matt. 16: 24-27;
22:32; Mark 13; Luke 16:22-23; 23:43; John 5:28-29; 11:26; 14:2,3 ; Acts 1:11;
1 Cor. 5:8; 12: 2-4; Phil. 1:23-24; 1 Thess. 4: 14- 5:10; 5:1-11; 2 Pet.
All people will ultimately face the final judgment of God. Righteous people,
saved by their faith in Jesus Christ, will enjoy eternal life in heaven, but
the wicked lost will suffer eternal punishment in hell (see Matt. 18:8-9;
25:31-46; Mark 9:43-48; 2 Thess. 1:9).
Witnessing to People in Unity
1. Have a clear understanding of the essentials of biblical Christianity.
Especially important are the following doctrines: the nature of God (the
Trinity); the person, nature and work of Jesus Christ; the way of salvation;
and life after death.
2. Learn the basic teachings of Unity and understand how they differ from those
of biblical Christianity.
3. Build personal relationships with those involved the Unity movement or those
who study Unity materials. Determine their level of personal involvement. Many
people who are not formally members of Unity churches read and study Unity
literature especially Daily Word. Some are even members of mainline Christian
4. Affirm the inspiration and reliability of the Bible as your only source of
spiritual authority. Tell your Unity friend that you cannot recognize other
religious texts or teachers as equal to the Bible, and that any spiritual
teaching must conform to it. If they do not recognize the authority of the
Bible you may need to show evidence why you believe it is true (see
5. Define all terms carefully. Unity uses many biblical terms but often have
non-literal allegorical or metaphysical meanings for them. Be ready to explain
to your Unity friend why you believe the Bible should be interpreted literally
except in those cases where it obviously uses allegory or symbolism.
6. Focus on the essential issues of God, Christ, salvation, and life after
death. Do not get sidetracked discussing secondary issues or denominational
7. Clearly share the biblical way of salvation and seek to lead your friend to
a personal relationship with Christ.