June 13-15 — Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Theme: “All God’s Children, No One Left Behind”
The Christian Universalist Association (CUA) successfully held its first annual conference, with about 30 people attending the entire event. Up to 100 attended a sermon by Bishop Carlton Pearson, and a similar number heard Rev. Kalen Fristad’s Sunday sermon at the host church. Celebration 2008 was an exciting and diverse ecumenical gathering of Christians from across North America, coming together to celebrate the uplifting message that all people are God’s children and no one will be left behind!
The Christian Universalist Celebration 2008 took place at two locations within 5 miles of each other in downtown Oklahoma City. On Friday, June 13, events were held at the Character Training Institute conference center (pictured above right). That part of our schedule was co-sponsored with Restoration Nation, a ministry run by CUA Board member Rick Spencer, who has organized large conferences promoting Christian Universalism during the past few years. On Saturday and Sunday, June 14-15, Celebration 2008 moved to the Church of the Open Arms United Church of Christ (pictured at right).
FOOD & LODGING:
The following meals were provided on-site to all guests at the conference free of charge (covered by $50 registration fee):
- Friday dinner
- Saturday lunch
- Saturday dinner
- Refreshments on Friday afternoon, Saturday, and Sunday morning
People attending Celebration 2008 were responsible for their own lodging expenses. We recommended staying in one of several hotels in the area.
Friday, June 13 (joint events at Restoration Nation conference facilities):
- 1:00 to 2:00 p.m.: Sign-in, informal fellowship and refreshments
- 2:00: “Uniting People and Churches in the True Good News” — speech and interactive discussion with Rev. Eric Stetson
- 3:00: “Knowing the Heart of Our Heavenly Father” — speech and interactive discussion with Charles Slagle
- 4:00 to 5:00: Sign-in, informal fellowship and refreshments
- 5:00: Dinner
- 6:30: Praise & Worship
- 7:15: Sermon by Bishop Carlton Pearson
Saturday, June 14 (at Church of the Open Arms UCC):
8:30 a.m.: Sign-in, informal fellowship and refreshments
- 9:00: Praise & Worship — led by Rev. Lillie Henley, Rev. Felicia Urbanski, and Charles Slagle
- 9:45: “The Second Reformation: Reclaiming the Universalist Spirit of Christianity” — speech by Rev. Eric Stetson
- 10:45: Intermission and refreshments
- 11:00: Meet the Board of Directors of the CUA (panel discussion with Q&A session)
Lunch (12:00 to 1:30 p.m.)
- 1:30: “The History of Christian Universalism from the 1st to 21st Century” — presentation by Rev. Eric Stetson and Rev. Kalen Fristad
- 2:30: “From Hell-Based Religion to the Love-Based Gospel: A Personal Journey” — testimony by Charles Slagle
- 3:15: Intermission and refreshments
- 3:30: Workshops (choose to attend either of the following): “Pastoral Care and Christian Universalism” with Chaplain G. A. Roach and Rev. Lillie Henley, OR “Church Planting and Growth” with Rev. Ron Robinson
- 4:30: Open Mic (time for several people from the audience to share thoughts, testimonies, etc.)
Dinner (5:30 to 7:30)
- 7:30: “When All Is Said and Done” — speech by Rev. Rich Koster
- 8:15: “The Victory of the Gospel” — speech by Rhett Ellis
- 8:45: Candle-Lighting Ceremony
Sunday, June 15 (at Church of the Open Arms UCC):
- 8:30 a.m: Informal fellowship and refreshments
- 9:00: “Universal Salvation in the Bible” — Adult Sunday School class led by Chaplain G. A. Roach
- 10:15: Closing Circle (hymns, prayers, and testimonies) — facilitated by Rev. Felicia Urbanski
- 10:45: Worship service with sermon by Rev. Kalen Fristad, “Rescue or Flush?”
- 12:00 to 12:30 p.m.: Informal fellowship and refreshments
Note: Bios of the speakers listed here were current as of the time of the conference. Details about their career, religious affiliation, etc. may have changed since then.
Bishop Carlton Pearson is a former Pentecostal bishop and the current pastor of New Dimensions Worship Center, United Church of Christ, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was excommunicated by the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops in 2004 because be began openly teaching universal salvation instead of the doctrine of eternal hell. He is the author of a 2007 book, The Gospel of Inclusion, and has appeared in numerous major media interviews.
Rev. Kalen Fristad has been a United Methodist minister for over 30 years and currently leads three churches in Iowa. He is the author of a 2003 book, Destined for Salvation: God’s Promise to Save Everyone. He spent three years traveling across America full-time, speaking at numerous churches to share the message of God’s plan of salvation for all people, and continues to do speaking tours part-time. Rev. Fristad is the Chair of the Christian Universalist Association.
Rev. Eric Stetson is the author of a new book called Christian Universalism: God’s Good News for All People (published March 2008). He started the Christian Universalist Connection newsletter in 2006 and is the editor-in-chief of that publication. He also teaches adult Sunday School classes at Universalist National Memorial Church in Washington D.C., and considers himself a non-denominational Christian. Rev. Stetson is the Executive Director of the Christian Universalist Association.
Charles Slagle is an evangelist and former prison minister who comes from a Pentecostal background. He is the author of two devotional books: From the Father’s Heart: A Glimpse of God’s Nature and Ways, and Power to Soar. In his most recent book, Absolute Assurance in Jesus Christ, he shares his testimony of how the miraculous revelation of God’s unconditionally committed love freed him from decades of wrestling with addictive behavior and manic depression. Charles Slagle is a member of the Board of Directors of the Christian Universalist Association.
Chaplain G. A. Roach is a full-time hospital chaplain. He is also the pastor of an independent evangelical church in Amarillo, Texas, which openly teaches universal salvation and is experiencing significant growth. His background was in the Southern Baptist tradition, and he holds M.Div. and D.Min. degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Roach is a member of the Board of Directors of the Christian Universalist Association.
Rev. Lillie Henley is the pastor of Universalist National Memorial Church in Washington, D.C. This historic church was built in the early 1900’s as the national cathedral for the Universalist Church of America, a major Christian denomination, and it remains a Christian Universalist congregation today. Rev. Henley pastored three other churches before coming to UNMC, and has a strong record of building growth in the communities she has served, including city-center urban settings. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Christian Universalist Association.
Rev. Rich Koster is a semi-retired minister and activist living in Winterset, Iowa. A former teacher, chaplain, and truck driver, he is also the editor of the Universalist Herald magazine and a member of Universalist Convocations. He has been a pastor or interim minister for nine churches, both Presbyterian and Disciples of Christ. He received B.D. and Th.M. degrees from Union Theological Seminary in Virginia.
Rhett Ellis is a former pastor who served Baptist churches for 14 years in the Mobile, Alabama area. He is the author of five spiritual-themed books and owns his own publishing company, Sparkling Bay Books. He has also served as a Christian youth minister, taught at a junior college, and worked as a newspaper reporter. Rhett Ellis is a member of the Board of Directors of the Christian Universalist Association.
Rev. Ron Robinson is the Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship (UUCF), a national organization for Christians who identify with the Unitarian Universalist tradition. He is the founder and pastor of a liberal Christian Universalist church near Tulsa, Oklahoma, and he writes a blog about progressive church planting.
Rev. Felicia Urbanski has been a Unitarian Universalist parish minister since 2002, serving churches in Oklahoma and in Ontario, Canada. She received her M.Div. from the University of Winnipeg. She has served on the Board of the UU Christian Fellowship since 1998. Felicia Urbanski’s prior career was as a symphony violinist and music teacher. She emigrated to Canada in 1988, and currently serves as Interim Minister with the First Unitarian Congregation of Waterloo. She served on the Board of Directors of the Christian Universalist Association from its founding to June 2008.
Brad Edwards (Master of Ceremonies) is a television meteorologist in Des Moines, Iowa, who has written extensively about Christian Universalism and spiritual issues on his website, SaviorOfTheWorld.net. He comes from a Catholic background and considers himself a non-denominational Christian. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Christian Universalist Association.