A year ago, I started the Universal Church of the Restoration. With the help of my friend and fellow liberal Christian, Colin Mills, we began weekly video services and online small group meetings last January. We continued this for six months, then cut back to once per month. In total, during the year 2021, we produced 28 video services with sermons and stories of spiritual heroes, and we held a similar number of online meetings for prayer, fellowship, and discussion.
Starting a nondenominational church is not easy, even when the leaders do a good job of creating inspiring and meaningful content. Colin and I believe we have done that to the best of our ability. Despite our best efforts, however, the UCR has not attracted an audience as large as we hoped it would during the first year of its existence, and there are few signs of growth or increasing engagement with our church and its message.
After much thought and prayer, we have decided to stop producing videos, which we have learned is an inefficient way to spread our ideas. We have also discontinued the small group meetings for now. We will be continuing the ministry as a blog about religious teachings and issues from the perspective of Restorationist Christian Universalism.
As part of this evangelistic mission, we plan to publish material from some of my sermons and articles in the form of a book, later this year. When the book is published, we will start holding book club meetings to discuss it. The focus will be on systematic theology, consistent with our church’s original intention to promote a different interpretation of Christianity based on God’s plan to save and perfect all souls in the image of Jesus Christ.
I believe this message needs to be heard. It is, essentially, the theology of Origen of Alexandria, one of the greatest early Christian thinkers. Today, only a small subset of Christians — a subset of the subset who are Christian Universalists — are aware of and hold to this understanding of the gospel. But if this understanding of Christianity were to spread and gain influence, I believe it would revitalize the church in general and attract many souls who no longer consider themselves Christian to take the faith of Christ more seriously.
Many people today have left Christianity because they disagree with its prevailing message of limited salvation based on cheap grace. Instead, more and more people are coming to believe that God loves everyone as His (and Her) children, and that salvation is never cut off from any soul, but that our souls are meant to grow and develop closer and closer to God through many lifetimes or ages of time. Salvation is not based on professing doctrinal belief in a person, a religion, or a church, but instead is based on developing our moral and spiritual character, following in the example of Jesus Christ and other heroes of faith.
Christianity abandoned this way of thinking in the first few centuries after Christ, and there is no Christian denomination today that teaches this. Instead, most churches teach some version of “Confess that Jesus is Lord to be instantaneously saved, or don’t confess Christ and be eternally condemned.” The more liberal churches are uncomfortable with, but don’t actually repudiate and replace, this toxic theology, instead merely concealing it under progressive social activism. As a result, most people who believe in the original Christian gospel no longer identify as “Christian,” but instead are “New Age” or “spiritual but not religious.”
The mission of the Universal Church of the Restoration was to create a church home within Christianity for people who agree with the ancient Christian Universalist theology that is now mostly considered post-Christian and New Age. After a year of trying, however, we have struggled to make this vision resonate and to find the people who want to be an active part in it.
Despite the struggle to gain attention and engagement, we are not giving up on promoting our message. I believe it’s important for Christians to recenter ourselves on the core principles of the gospel that are timeless and transcendent — principles which in many cases have been lost or obscured by mistaken orthodoxy and tribalistic competition between politicized factions of the faith. There is much that needs to be reexamined about Christianity, its worldview and lessons for human souls in a rapidly changing world. Therefore, we continue to believe there is a necessary purpose for our project as a teaching ministry. That’s what it will be, for the foreseeable future.
We would like to thank everyone who has supported the UCR with your time, donations, engagement and participation. This is not the end, but a new beginning. Sometimes, to obey the signs we receive from God, we have to pivot and shift to new ways of doing things, to increase the chance of having a positive impact.
I look forward to blogging about Christian Universalist theology and religious issues on universalrestoration.org in the year ahead. Others involved may be blogging as well, adding to the inspirational and thought-provoking content. I hope you’ll read, engage with, and share our blog posts with people you know who may be interested. We’ll let you know when my new book is in print.
Many Blessings and Happy New Year!
— Eric Stetson