The CUA: Building a Unique and Historic Spiritual Movement

The Christian Universalist Association is the first Christian organization in history that brings together Pentecostals, Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Unitarian Universalist Christians, and non-denominational Christians, under one umbrella to build a cohesive new spiritual movement. Unlike most denominations and sects, which limit themselves to one very detailed and often rigid viewpoint and tradition; and unlike most inter-denominational, ecumenical, or interfaith organizations which are usually created for the purpose of dialogue rather than the promotion of a unified vision of spiritual truth; the CUA seeks to bring together a wide spectrum of Christian Universalists coming from a variety of different theological backgrounds and religious traditions, united in several substantive beliefs and values as well as a philosophy of inclusiveness and progressive discovery of truth. This is a revolutionary development.

Something similar has happened two times before in the history of Christianity. The first time was in the first three centuries of the Christian Era, when Messianic Jews and Greek philosophers came together to develop and articulate a new spiritual vision combining some of the best insights from the Hebraic and the Hellenistic traditions. The result was Alexandrian Christianity, a boldly Universalist Gospel that was taught by early saints and church fathers such as Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, and Macrina the Younger. This view of the Christian message was in fact the greatest, most widely accepted and respected form of Christianity in the ancient world, until the takeover of the church by Rome under the influence of Augustine’s theology. The teachings of this school of thought centered on two basic principles: apokatastasis (universal salvation and restoration of all things) and theosis (divinization of human souls in the image of Christ). This was a serious, deeply spiritual and intellectually progressive Christian Universalism, articulated many centuries ago.

The second time something like this happened was in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the Universalist Church of America was formed and grew to become the seventh largest denomination in the United States at its peak. This new church developed out of a diverse mixture of people who fled religious persecution in Europe, such as Anabaptists, Quakers, Moravians, and other Pietists including some Anglicans and Methodists — many of whom rejected the traditional doctrine of eternal hell which had been taught for many centuries by the Roman Catholic Church and by most Protestant churches. Progressive ministers and evangelists from these varied groups eventually coalesced around their radical belief in the salvation of all, creating a new religious movement. Some of the more noteworthy Universalist ministers of this era include George de Benneville, John Murray, and Elhanan Winchester. Many early American leaders were believers or had sympathies with this spiritual philosophy, including more than one of the founding fathers of the United States as well as President Abraham Lincoln.

Sadly, the Universalist Church of America declined in the 1900s with the rise of scientific materialism and secular humanism. It merged with the American Unitarian Association in 1961 to form the Unitarian Universalist Association, and the Christian Universalist emphasis was largely lost in most churches that belong to the UUA — though it is still being faithfully promoted by the UU Christian Fellowship, Universalist Convocations, and some individuals within the UUA. In the case of the Alexandrian school of Christianity, it was suppressed and eventually defeated by Rome; and in the case of the Universalist Church of America, it dwindled of its own accord, succumbing to the pressures of new intellectual philosophies in society and finally losing much of its identity in the merger with the Unitarians.

But Universalism can never die. It is the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, and a great spiritual message and tradition that is capable of reaching hearts, minds, and souls around the world from a wide variety of cultures and religious backgrounds. During the latter half of the 20th century, Universalist thought was percolating under the surface, largely unseen by the general public, in various Christian churches, movements, and the writings of theologians and philosophers scattered across America, in Canada, Great Britain, and elsewhere. All of this would eventually have to turn into something significant, something like the Alexandrian school or the Universalist Church of America. The Holy Spirit would make sure of it.

Now it has. Today, thanks to the rise of the internet which enables people from widely separated geographical locations and religious communities to find each other and come together in dialogue and fellowship, the Christian Universalist Association is born. The specific combination of ideas, traditions, and diverse denominational heritage of the founding leaders of this new organization is unique and unprecedented. The only other times in history that a similar thing has happened is in the early Christian church and in early America. We hope and pray that the CUA will succeed in having as much influence and effect on people’s lives and on society as these two great spiritual movements that we regard as our antecedents, from which we derive much of our inspiration.

Living in this generation, you have an opportunity to witness religious history in the making, and to be an active part of it! Help us to fulfill our vision of the Christian Universalist Association so that once again, Christian Universalism will be known to the world as a major faith tradition and will be able to reach millions of people today and in the future with this uplifting Gospel — the good news that by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, we are all loved, all welcome, all saved, and no one is left behind. Be part of a Second Reformation of Christianity and help us raise human spirituality to the next level — to a place where all souls on earth know that they were created in the image of an all-loving God and are destined for salvation.