What Do We Call Ourselves? Forum

Missed the “What Do We Call Ourselves?” Oct. 20th Forum?

Read All About it.

If you missed the October 20th Forum on “What Do We Call Ourselves?” (WDWCO?) you can find the agenda and presentations below. Twenty-three people attended. Pasted below are the WDWCO? (draft) Terms of Reference.

1.WELCOME (Sheila Resels)

“Welcome to the “What do we call ourselves?” Task Force Forum.

So who are we?  My name is Sheila Resels.  I am one of co-chairs of the Task Force, along with my co-chair Eva Allan.  Members include Leonie Armstrong, (past chairperson), Jeannie Corsi, John Smith, Fouad Hafiz and advisors Mary Bennett, Steven Epperson, Keith Wilkinson and Tamiko Suzuki.

What is this Task Force?

The Task Force was approved by the Board 2 years. ago.  It was originally called the “Name Change Task Force”. 

Our goals are to provide unbiased information about the pros and cons of changing our name; to elicit input from members/friends of UCV and to democratically decide whether or not to change our name.

We met about 1.5 yrs. ago to begin this process.

We led a Forum on Sept. 16th, 2018 (which some of you may have attended) to discuss a potential name change (or not).

There has been a hiatus of 1 yr. since this last Forum.

We resurrected ourselves and met on August 25th, 2019 (which is when we changed our name to the “What Do We Call Ourselves?” Task Force.

A meeting took place with Steven Epperson on August 29th.



We are a progressive religious community and have a history of examining and evaluating our principles and our image. Recent examples are:

  1. in 2004 after much discussion with congregates, the stylized Hand replaced the stylized Chalice.
  2. in 2004 the Board decided to identify us as Vancouver Unitarians on our website, logo, and banner. Our official title of Church became reduced in prominence. Like us, several Canadian Unitarian congregations have also done so.
  3. in 2017 our Vision Statement was updated.

We are a vibrant spiritual community, and we cherish what we are and how we function.  Our covenant is our faith in our shared values and respect for diverse beliefs.  It is quite an achievement that Christians, liberal Jews, liberal Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, Earth-based Faith members, Humanists and Atheists find common ground to worship and work together.  Our foundation is Christian but our membership is much broader and our name as a Church creates discomfort for a significant number of us who do not identify as Christian.

We hear from people who value who we are and what we do but will not attend or join us because we are called a Church. This is troubling as we examine our future long-term financial sustainability and attractiveness to potential new members.  Rev. Epperson has noted that The National Trust of Canada estimates that one-third of Canada’s churches will close over the next ten years.  Our congregation is considering The Campus Redevelopment Project, and the UCV Financial Sustainability Task Force is exploring what would attract new members.

What we call ourselves, what’s in a name needs to be part of our decisions about our identity and sustainability.  Our name is important and should represent all of us and be attractive to potential new members who identify as spiritual but not religious (SBNR). This usually means spiritual but not Christian. We need to consider whether we want to keep the name church or use a more comprehensive descriptor of our spiritual community.


In Canada, our Unitarian communities consist of 13 churches, 13 congregations, 15 fellowships, 2 ‘Someplace’ Unitarians and 1 spiritual centre.

This past September the Task Force posted on the CUC leaders Google forum a query whether other congregations were also exploring whether their membership, and values and principles are best represented by being known as a church.  This was a hot topic for 25 leaders that resulted in 45 email responses.  It’s available on our Vancouver Unitarians website. We are not alone in our concerns about attracting new members and wanting to be inclusive to members’ diverse beliefs.  “The nature of the faith keeps adapting to the changing sensibilities of the faithful.” (Keith Wilkinson).  Many 21stcentury spiritual seekers want community, an uplifting spiritual experience and less dogma.

The leaders who wanted to move past being known as a church to something more generic like congregation acknowledged that they did have members who wanted to remain a church and resisted a name change.


Some of the worries we have heard in informal discussions and at the initial forum held last year about a potential name change from church to something more generic were:

  • “Without church where will we anchor ourselves?”
  • “But we are a church.”
  • “We can rebrand church.”
  • “People wanted to be married in a church.”
  • “I worry about a slippery slope.  If we change our name what will remain of our historical roots? Will we also be changing what we call the Minister and the structure of the service?”


Over the past 500 years virtually all of our congregations have been named churches, but Canada also has some 13 Unitarian Communities that are named Congregations.  For our members who have said in informal discussions that they wish to rebrand as a Congregation (or Community or Centre) instead of a Church no one mentioned a wish to cut us off from our historic roots.  The wish we heard is for a name that embraces all members with their diverse beliefs and is attractive to twenty-first century spiritual seekers searching for a religious community to join.”


“This is an information session.  Personal preferences will not be shared.  The January 19th Discussion Circle/Forum will provide participants with an opportunity to share their perspectives.  Rob Dainow will take notes and send out a report.

We will focus today on UCV history re considering a name change.

We will provide legal, cost implications and other ‘practical’ concerns

Name Change Cost Estimate, September, 2019

BC Registry costs

Name change search                       $100

Correct/Amend Bylaws                    $  50

Correct constitution                          $  50

CRA Charitable name change               0

(requires a letter from the head

body (CUC or UUA?) for approval

of name change on letterhead

New Company seal                         $     75

Letterhead/1000 sheets                  *$   600

Business cards 5 staff                     *$ 1000

1 day board costs/banking             **$1000

Legal cost estimate                           $1500

(regarding leases, bequests,

Funds, investments, etc.)

Insurance                                                  0

Website/domain                                $  500




*$1600 could be gradually spent as supplies run out thus reducing immediate cost to $3275

**We may be able to defer banking costs too and further reduce costs to $2275.

Signage is not included in above costs as it is already budgeted for at $1200 which would cover all costs.

4. WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?: (Sheila Resels)

First, as Jeannie mentioned, there will be a second Discussion Circle/Forum on January 19th.  It will be modeled after the Circle of Concerns gathering and will be an opportunity for all of us to express our point of view (in a non-judgemental, open, accepting manner).  Rob Dainow will be taking notes on the easel, taping them to walls, and sending out a report afterwards.

Second, a survey will be sent out (on-line and included in the OOS). John Smith will take the lead on the survey with input from the Task Force.

And third, a general meeting (possibly at the June EGM) will be held to determine if a name change is desired and if so, to which name? It will require a certain % (which is still TBD) agreement in order for a change to occur.

Our goal is for a vote to have taken place by August 2020 (before Steven Epperson leaves UCV).”

5. QUESTION/ANSWER (Jeannie Corsi)

The following questions (Q), answers (A) or comments (C) were made:

Q:        What is a Fellowship?

A:        There were various replies. To be clarified at a future date.

Q:        Has anyone changed from a “church” to another name in the US?”

A:        John Boyle will look into the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bethesda Maryland.

C:        Looking on the internet I see that there are many Christian churches who have moved away from calling themselves churches.

Q:        What is the criteria for considering a name change?

A:        It will reflect who we think we are…choose a name that everybody can identify with…

Q:        Why do we want to change our name?  Is it just for financial reasons?

A:        No, it is to try to find a name that everyone is comfortable with.

C:       We could rebrand “Church”.


(Draft) Task Force – What Do We Call Ourselves?

Terms of Reference

03 Oct. 2019


There is discomfort among some members and friends or adherents of the Unitarian Church of Vancouver with having the word “Church” in our name.  They feel that it indicates an organization that is too restrictive and indicates that we are a Christian organization that adheres to Christian dogma.

In reality, we draw insight from all religions and non-religious sources as is indicated in our Mission and Vision, which reads: We are a community of diverse beliefs and shared values.  In fellowship with one another, we seek spiritual growth, social justice, and environmental sustainability through worship, ethical action, education and artistic expression.  Our Six Sources (appendix 2) also imply that we do not place Christian ideas above those of other religious and secular sources.  There is no Christian reference in our Seven Principles (appendix 1).

In view of the above concerns of some members, a task force was created by the Board to consider the idea of changing our name to something more inclusive and provide a venue to discuss what we want to call ourselves and to eventually survey the congregation to determine if the majority would like a name change or not.

  B.      GOALS

  1. To provide unbiased information to the congregation about the pros and cons of changing our name.
  2. To provide and manage discussions about this topic and elicit input from as many members and friends or adherents as possible
  3. To implement a referendum to:
    1. democratically decide whether or not to change our name, and
    2. if we decide in the affirmative, to choose a new name.

  C.      PROCESS

  1. Hold a Forum in October 2019 to outline and get input to a process for discussing our name and the implications of a name change.At this Forum, background information will be available.
  2. Regularly communicate with the congregation on the pros and cons of changing our name through our monthly newsletter, website and other appropriate media.
  3. Hold at a Forum January 19th, 2020 (as well as perhaps an additional one in 2020) to allow detailed discussions.
  4. Encourage members to write short articles for the above publications or elsewhere as appropriate.
  5. Hold a referendum to determine the wishes of the congregation concerning changing our name, and if the answer is yes, what name do we choose?
  6. If the answer is yes,hold a vote at an annual general meeting or an extraordinary general meeting on which name to choose.


  1. Keep the process unbiased by allowing all points of view both pro and con to be heard.
  2. To communicate and advertise as widely as possible.


  1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person
  2. Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations
  3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
  4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
  5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
  6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
  7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part


  1. Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  2. Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  3. Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  4. Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbours as ourselves;
  5. Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  6. Spiritual teachings of Earth-centred traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.



Community • Governance