Suggestions for Reform of the Christian Universalist Association: A Message by the Founder

In 2007, I founded the Christian Universalist Association (CUA), with the help of a diverse team of twelve other ministers and evangelists. I had spent the previous two years building a ministry to connect a wide diversity of people throughout the United States and around the world who believed in Christian universalism. During that process, I identified religious leaders from across the denominational spectrum — especially Pentecostals, Evangelicals, and Unitarian Universalist Christians — who believed in the importance of coming together to teach that God’s judgment upon sinners is limited and that all will be saved in the end.

Christian Universalist Association logo

The Christian Universalist Association was intended to be a broadly ecumenical umbrella organization for people with that belief, including both liberals and conservatives and a wide range of Christians of various denominations. Our focus was the Biblical teaching of the ultimate reconciliation of all souls and the temporary and reformative nature of hell or divine judgment (e.g., see Luke 15:4, 2 Cor. 5:19, 1 Tim. 4:10, Phil. 2:10-11, 1 Cor. 15:22-25, 3:12-15, Mark 9:49) — an interpretation of Christian eschatology called “restorationist universalism.” The CUA also emphasized the Biblical teaching that humans are children of God, called to grow up into greater perfection in Christ (e.g., see Gen. 1:27, John 10:34-36, Acts 17:28, Rom. 8:16-17, Heb. 2:10-11, 12:5-11, Luke 6:40) — a vision of salvation that goes beyond mere faith in Jesus as Lord to the higher callings of discipleship, sanctification and theosis, or being made more divine in God’s image.

From the beginning, the CUA was inclusive of marginalized people and rejected a spirit of hatred or harsh judgment toward anyone. However, our organization did not take positions on controversial social, cultural, political, or moral issues. We did not see ourselves as a specifically liberal or progressive religious organization, and in fact, many of the CUA’s founding leaders were Baptist, Evangelical, or Charismatic Christians and had generally conservative views. I, myself, was an ordained minister in the Pentecostal Latter Rain movement at the time — a version of Pentecostalism in which many people had come to believe in restorationist universalism and theosis, but still held a high view of scripture and accepted most of the teachings of orthodox Christianity.

The Story of Christian Faith: Summary and Key Verses of the Bible

The Bible is a long and complicated book with many different authors, literary styles, stories and ideas. For many people, reading the Bible from cover to cover may seem daunting, and as a result, they never do. This is unfortunate, because to have a good understanding of the message of Christianity one must have a broad knowledge of the contents and themes of the Old and New Testaments, which comprise the Judeo-Christian scriptures commonly known as “the Bible.”

Psalm 136 in the Old Testament

People who grow up in a church may absorb many Biblical teachings through sermons and Sunday school lessons. But what about the many people who come from a non-religious family and have never decided to read the Bible on their own? And what about the huge percentage of the world’s population who belong to a different religion and are unfamiliar with the scriptures of the Christian faith? For such people, a simple distillation of the Bible could be very helpful — and even for those who grew up with it or are already familiar with it, this could be a useful refresher and study tool.

Below, I have compiled a list of what I see as the most important themes of the Bible, with links to verses that present these stories and teachings. Every student of the Bible will have their own idea about what would be worth including in such a list. This list comes from my own spiritual perspective, which could be described as Restorationist Christian Universalism. Therefore, I tend to emphasize Biblical messages that are hopeful and inclusive. To sum it up, my view of the Christian Gospel — and the overall story of the Bible in general — is of a God who has created and loves human beings with a parental love, and who leads us on a journey from our fall into sin to our redemption and exaltation through the awesome, all-encompassing power of our divine-human brother and perfect exemplar, Jesus Christ.

With that introduction, here is what I would encourage all people to take from the Bible as a starting point, to learn the things that matter most in this great book of Christian teachings.

New Beginnings: The Future of Christianity and Our Church

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.

Come, Holy Spirit!

From our service on May 23, 2021, a sermon by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch video below.


Today is Pentecost, the holy day in the Christian liturgical calendar commemorating the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ, fifty days after Easter. The term Pentecost means “fiftieth” in Greek, and was used by Greek-speaking Jews to refer to the Jewish harvest festival called the Feast of Weeks, which was celebrated on the fiftieth day after the offering of the first fruits of the harvest to God.

Metaphorically speaking, Jesus can be considered as the first fruits of the resurrection of humanity from corruption and death to eternal life in heaven. Fifty days after the tomb was found empty on Easter Sunday, another celebration of the amazing work of God took place, as the harvest of human souls to be gathered into God’s Kingdom was bountifully expanded. As recorded in the Book of Acts,

William Seymour

From our service on May 23, 2021, a story of the inspiring life of William Seymour, as recounted by Colin Mills.

May 23, 2021 Service: “Come, Holy Spirit!”

Today is Pentecost, the day each year when Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. In the early church, many people believed in ongoing revelations from God. For much of Christian history, this belief was suppressed, but it reemerged with the Pentecostal movement in the early 20th century. In this service we discuss the openness to the gifts of the Spirit that has brought controversy and confusion and the potential for positive change. We also tell the story of William Seymour, an African American minister who was a founding leader in the rise of Pentecostalism.

Ascension

From our service on May 16, 2021, a sermon by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch video below.


Last Thursday, May 13, was the Feast of the Ascension, the holy day in the Christian liturgical calendar commemorating the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven, forty days after his resurrection from the dead on Easter. The first chapter of the Book of Acts describes how the resurrected Jesus ministered to his disciples and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God, and then, at the end of the forty days, he rose into heaven and has never publicly returned to the earth again.

As we call to remembrance the departure of Jesus, in his glorified and exalted state of immortal perfection, from this imperfect world to the eternal world beyond, it is an appropriate time to consider what it means for any human soul to ascend from the earthly plane to heaven. Going to heaven to live forever with God — salvation, as Christians call it — has been characterized in various ways. Some believe we go to heaven if we have the correct religious beliefs. Others believe we must live a Christlike life of love and service to our fellow human beings if we wish to attain the heavenly state of salvation. Still others believe everyone will go to heaven no matter what, even if they had the wrong beliefs and lived a life of sin.

May 16, 2021 Service: “Ascension”

What is the meaning of salvation? Some say that people are saved if they have the right beliefs. Others say we must live a good life, following the example of Christ. And some believe that in the end, everyone will go to heaven. But how do we really ascend from the sinful world of the flesh to the heavenly world of the Spirit and attain to eternal life with God? In this week’s service we explore these important questions. We also tell the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a 20th century minister and martyr who taught that true faith can be costly.

Heavenly Mother

From our service on May 9, 2021, a sermon by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch video below.


Today is Mother’s Day, a day when people in many countries around the world honor the mothers of their family and celebrate the loving bond between a mother and her children. On this day, we should also consider the spiritual dimensions of motherhood. To be a mother is to be like God, for God not only is our Father in heaven, but also our heavenly Mother.

May 9, 2021 Service: “Heavenly Mother”

The Bible is full of examples of the Divine Feminine, but most people think only of the male attributes of God, our Father, or the proverbial “Man Upstairs.” Without seeing God as our Heavenly Mother, mainstream Christians are missing an important part of the story. Today we celebrate Mother’s Day — and not only do we honor our human mothers, we give thanks and praise to our Mother in Heaven. We also tell the story of Pandita Ramabai, a Hindu woman who worked for equal rights for women and girls in India, and later became a Christian.