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.

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.

Triumph

From our service on March 7, 2021, a sermon by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch video below.


Many Christians believe that all we need to do to get to heaven is to say the magic words that “Jesus is Lord.” You know the type: the Christian who focuses more on professing beliefs about Jesus than living the faith of Jesus. Such believers are especially common in Evangelical churches, where Christianity is seen as something of a tribal identity group to which we must belong if we wish to be saved from damnation — and within which, we can rest easy in the knowledge that confessing Christ with our lips will cover a life of habitual sin.

But as easy as it is to criticize Evangelicals nowadays, a loose and largely meaningless view of salvation is also increasingly common among liberal Christians. As the teaching of universal salvation has grown more popular in recent years, and as liberal churches struggle to fill the pews in an increasingly irreligious age, there is a tendency to shy away from challenging our brothers and sisters in Christ to aspire to high standards of religious discipline, spiritual growth, and a life of extraordinary sacrifice for the cause of God. If God loves everyone as they are, why do we need to do anything?

March 7, 2021 Service: “Triumph”

The Apostle Paul used the metaphor of athletic training and competition to inspire us to live a disciplined life of the spirit, striving to win the eternal crown of glory with Christ. The world of sports offers profound lessons for our spiritual quest.

In this week’s service, we focus on the Triumph of the soul that is possible when we understand salvation as more than just believing in Jesus. We also remember Eric Liddell, an Olympic athlete and missionary whose deep religious principles propelled him to a truly triumphant victory.

Commitment

From our service on February 21, 2021, a sermon by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch video below.


Today is the first Sunday of Lent, a 40-day season of sacrifice leading up to Easter in the Christian liturgical calendar. Lent commemorates the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the wilderness of the desert before beginning his mission, according to the Gospels [e.g. Matt. 4:1-2].

To fast for 40 days is a big commitment. This year, for Lent, I’d like to ask all who are watching or reading this sermon to make a much smaller, but very important commitment: to wear a mask whenever you’re around other people. In fact, I’d like to ask you all to wear two — a surgical mask on the inside, and a cloth mask on the outside. According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, double-masking in this way increases protection from the Covid-19 virus from under 50% with just one mask to a remarkable 90% or greater rate of protection with two masks.

February 21, 2021 Service: “Commitment”

During Lent, many followers of Jesus make conscious sacrifices or commitments to become more righteous in the path of Christ. In our service this week, we focus on the theme of Commitment — an essential virtue for spiritual progress, or for any kind of success in life. We also honor Richard Allen, a former slave who was so committed to the cause of equality that he founded a new Christian denomination.

Thoughts on Founding the Universal Church of the Restoration

About a year ago, I began reflecting on the growing need for a new type of church — a community of faith that brings people together in a coherent understanding of who we are as beloved children of God, and which, while being open-minded and inclusive, inspires people to live a devoutly religious life. The combination of progressive faith and a strong commitment to organized religion is hard to find, but for many years I have believed it to be the answer to many of humanity’s problems. This elusive synthesis can facilitate the greatest moral progress and spiritual maturity both for the individual and society.