General Assembly 2002

2029 Presentation of Skinner Award-Winning Social Justice Sermon
Faith in Action Dept, UUA

"Neither do I condemn you. Go your way and sin no more."
Presentation of Skinner Award-Wining Social Justice Sermon
Rev. Edmund Robinson

Rev. Edmund RobinsonThe Rev. Edmund Robinson presented his sermon, "The Law of Love," this year's winner of Skinner Sermon Award. Robinson is minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Wakefield, MA and also is a practicing attorney. He is a member of the boards of the New Massachusetts Universalist Convention and the North of Boston Chapter of Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty. He also sat on the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union. Robinson practiced law for 20 years in Charleston, SC before attending Harvard Divinity School as a direct result of his experiences defending John Arnold, a convicted murderer. Rev. Robinson became convinced that no matter how heinous the crime, and Arnold's was particularly vicious, nothing is achieved by killing the killer.

This is Rev. Robinson's spiritual journey: learning that even the lives of killers have worth, and that the worth of their victims is not diminished by not executing their killers. The key for Robinson was as the Universalist minister Quillen Shinn wrote, "A church having for its foundation the law of love, which returns good for evil, will not have discharged its full duty until the death penalty is abolished."

The Skinner Sermon Award is presented annually to the preacher of the sermon best expressing Unitarian Universalism's social principles. It is named in honor of the late dean of the Tufts College School of Religion in Medford, MA. Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1881, Clarence Skinner was a major voice of prophetic religious liberalism. As Professor of Applied Christianity at Tufts College (now Tufts University) from 1914 to 1945, he introduced generations of Tufts students to the social, economic and political realities that shape religion and are, in turn, shaped by it. His Manifesto, "The Social Implications of Universalism," published in 1915, gave American Universalism an ethical platform by stating the religious underpinnings of such reforms as anti-slavery, women's liberation and the humane treatment of prisoners.

In 1920, in cooperation with Mrs. Skinner, Mrs. Gertrude Winslow and the Rev. John Haynes Holmes of New York, Skinner established the Community Church in Boston. He served as its spiritual leader for sixteen years. Along with its namesake, Community Church of New York, the Boston congregation symbolized the congruence of religion and democracy by welcoming many points of view to its pulpit.

In 1933, Skinner was appointed Dean of the School of Religion. During his twelve-year incumbency, he produced a number of substantial works, including Liberalism Faces the Future and A Religion for Greatness. His book length essay, "Worship and the Well-Ordered Life" appeared in 1955, six years after his death at the age of 68.

The Rev. Dr. Meg Riley, director of the UUA's Washington Office for Faith in Action, serves as the UUA staff liaison to the Skinner Sermon Selection Committee, introduced the session. Music was provided by Jacqueline Schwab, an improvisational pianist who is best known for her work on the soundtracks of Ken Burns' PBS documentaries such as The Civil War, Baseball, Lewis and Clark and Mark Twain.

"The Law of Love" Sermon by the Rev. Edmund Robinson

Reporter Bob Hurst, Editor Lisa Presley; Web Designer Anna Belle Leiserson

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