The Midland Union was founded in 1866, from an amalgamation of the Unitarian Book and Trust Society with the Birmingham District Unitarian Association. But many of the member congregations are considerably older, the earliest, Warwick, dating back to 1635.
Most of the early congregations were founded by some of the 2,000 former Church of England Ministers who were ejected from their livings following the passing of the Act of Uniformity in 1662, because they refused to accede to the Thirty Nine Articles in the new prayer book. Many members of their Congregations joined them to set up Dissenting Congregations despite the risk of fines or imprisonment if they were caught worshipping in what were regarded as illegal gatherings. These churches were still Trinitarian in belief and their situation was eased slightly by the Act of Toleration 1689, but it was not until 1813, that Unitarian worship became lawful.
During those early years, the Dissenters belief in civil and religious liberty, their advocacy of greater social justice, and their opposition to slavery, alienated the Government as much as the Church of England, both of whom encouraged mobs to attack the Dissenting Churches. So it was that, during the 18th century, no less than 40% of the Midland Union Churches were attacked and set on fire, sometimes during a service.
The other significant development during this period was the gradual acceptance of belief in a single God, which led to the name ‘Unitarian’. At our AGM in 2009, we decided to change our name to Midland Unitarian Association.
Read about some famous Unitarians here.