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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 Christianity

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)

Headquarters:

Unity Village, Lee’s Summit, Missouri

Churches:

About 1,000 churches and groups worldwide (Source: www.unity.org)

Current Leader:

Charlotte Shelton–President and CEO

Unity Board of Directors:

Charles Rickert Fillmore
Rev. Howard Caesar
Rev. Ellen Debenport
Rev. Gregory Guice
Doug Harris
Jean Styles
Rev. Duke Tufty, Board Chair
Ron Bonar
Neal Vahle
Griselda Hale
Rev. Sylvia Sumter

Key Publications:

Daily Word
Unity Magazine
North Star Family Matters Magazine

Books:

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 Silent Unity.

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 Today.

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.

Unity Beliefs

(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

“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.

Jesus

“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 expression.”

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).

The Bible

“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 lives.”
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

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 mind.

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 meditation.

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, judgment“ HCSB).
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. 2:9).
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 churches.
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 http://www.4truth.net/site/c.hiKXLbPNLrF/b.786347/k.BD6D/Bible.htm).
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 distinctives.
7. Clearly share the biblical way of salvation and seek to lead your friend to a personal relationship with Christ.