"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 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