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.

Rebooting this Ministry: New Book Coming Soon and Future Plans

In many ways, 2022 through the spring of 2023 has been a time of transition in my life and my spiritual journey. I haven’t been blogging as much because I’ve been focused on completing two books that will be published later this year.

Eric Stetson
Eric Stetson, founder of Universal Restoration Ministries

One of my new books, which should be out at the end of May, is about religion. The Long Road to Zion: A Journey of Faith Beyond Religious Deconstruction is my spiritual testimony and an in-depth argument for Christianity, especially the theology associated with radical Restorationist traditions such as Latter Rain Pentecostalism and the Latter-day Saint movement. If you’d like to be notified as soon as it’s published, please contact me and I’ll be in touch.

When The Long Road to Zion is published, Universal Restoration Ministries will focus on spreading the word about the book and its ideas. We will also launch an online book club for people who would like to read and discuss it together.

This ministry will not be relaunching an online church. Instead, we are shifting into promoting specific ideas and teachings within Christianity in general. Much of our work will be aimed at expanding awareness of the concept of a “Restoration” of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by highlighting important truths that were mostly lost from mainstream versions of the religion but can be vigorously defended using the Bible.

Overcoming Evil: How to Heal and Break Free

From our service on December 5, 2021, a sermon by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch video below.


Evil is one of the most important topics addressed by religion. Although it’s not pleasant to talk about, it’s very important that we do, because evil is a pervasive part of our world. So if we aspire to live a good life, we need to learn how to recognize evil and resist it.

In our previous two sermons, we talked about the reality of evil and the mechanism of evil — what evil is, and how it works. To summarize the main points, evil is the rebellion against God’s plan of harmony among all beings, by seeking excessive individual advantage and subjugating or destroying others. Evil gains power over our minds, our lives and society by deceiving us about the meaning of life, distracting us from our true spiritual purpose, getting us addicted to fruitless drama and conflict, and corrupting our good intentions with the idea that the ends justify the means, even if that means doing evil in the hope that it will ultimately lead to a more virtuous or ideal outcome.

In this, the third and final part of our series on evil, we’ll talk about how to overcome it. What does overcoming evil really mean? In a world filled with evil, how can we heal from its damaging influence and break free of the misguided attitudes and addictive behaviors that give evil its seemingly relentless power?

December 5, 2021 Service: “Overcoming Evil: How to Heal and Break Free”

Today, we conclude a three-part series on evil. How can we heal and break free from its harmful and addictive deception? By accepting the value of human freedom, and by looking to the example of Christ on the cross, we can choose what is good and inspire others. In this service, we also tell the inspiring story of Emil Kapaun, an army chaplain who was captured in the Korean War and ministered to fellow POWs as well as his captors.

The Mystical Body of Christ

From our service on June 6, 2021, a sermon by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch video below.


Last Thursday, June 3, many Christians celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi, an annual remembrance of the presence of the body and blood of Christ in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. Different types of Christians have different opinions about whether Christ is literally present in the elements of communion, or whether it’s a symbolic ritual through which we can focus our minds upon our connection with Christ and what he has given us by sacrificing his life for the salvation of humanity.

I hold to the symbolic view of communion — and I believe there are many ways that we can connect with Christ, through prayer, meditation, ritual acts, as well as acts of service to our fellow human beings.

No matter what we do to seek connection with the Divine Human who was embodied in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is essential that we do so, for it is through such connection that we discover and come to manifest our truest selves. For when we receive him, in the words of John the Apostle, we “become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” [John 1:12-13].

June 6, 2021 Service: “The Mystical Body of Christ”

When Christians take communion, the bread and wine of the Eucharist represent the body and blood of Christ. This sacramental ritual helps us become one with Christ, together with each other in the church. Beyond rituals, how can we feel connected with Christ so that we can grow in his divine image? In this service, we explore the theme of the church itself as the mystical body of Christ, in which we should be united in helping each other become our best selves.

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.

Two-Minute Message: Triumph

This week’s short message by Pastor Eric Stetson. Watch the video or read text below.

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?