Universalist churches unseen

2014-02-05 update: A new link to replace the one within the blog post: http://www.christianuniversalist.org/ministries-and-ordination/churches/

Sometimes I lament the loss of nearly all the Universalist Christian churches to the winds of history, fortune, theological fights, and mergers (with Unitarians and others.) There were days I would Google in new and different ways to try and find the “lost tribes” of Universalists I thought must be out there under a different guise. I’ve stopped looking but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t little bands of those who believe in the world’s full and final restoration to God.
Eric Stetson at Christian-Universalism.org (whom I first mentioned last July) is compiling a list of churches that are Universalist Christian, whatever their denomination. Perhaps I should put Universalist in lower case, but if John Murray could start in Independency, I’m not going to deny others the name (or require the use it.) Not that these would be confused with the Unitarian Fellowship on the corner.

About Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 45, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

37 thoughts on “Universalist churches unseen

  1. yeah, ive been reading Eric’s yahoogroup list – and interestingly enough, just subscribed to his newsletter (ie: made a small donation), Of the 4 universalist Churches listed in the Carolinas, I’ve met the pastor and some of the folks in one, the Church in Wagner SC, . Nice folks, not sure if i understand some of their theology – and I wont bother to explain it, as I am sure to have it wrong….
    … but it was nice talking to folks who appear to be standard conservative style Christians, and get those wonderful universalist and Universalist sentiments!
    and of course, i being the kind of guy I am, wonder of the connection between them and the Universalist Church that was in their still rural neigborhood a ‘mere” 160 years ago…….

  2. Scott, thanks for informing your blog about my new list of churches. In regard to the geographical issue: In my search so far for Christian churches teaching a universalist view of salvation, I have noticed that many of them seem to be in the South and the Midwest — especially the Bible Belt areas, believe it or not. There are also some in other areas, and I’m sure there are a lot of them up North in groups like the UCC that I haven’t even looked for yet. But in terms of independent nondenominational churches that teach universalism, a lot of them are Southern and have ministers who came out of a fundamentalist, evangelical, or pentecostal background, who became disgusted with the teaching of eternal damnation and the narrow dogmatic attitude of most Christian churches in their area. So far, though, I have only had time to find about 65 churches so it’s not as though I’m working with a huge sample, but I am seeing some trends already. I suspect in the course of further searching I will find some independent universalist churches that do have historical connections to the Universalist Church pre-merger, but as of yet, most of what I’m finding is small churches founded within the past few decades and pastored by ex-fundamentalists. It’s very interesting. Here’s a theory to chew on: Perhaps in the Bible Belt, Christians are unwilling to consider UU as a viable alternative to the fundie churches because it is too liberal for them or has a reputation as being very liberal, so if they believe in universalism they have no choice but to start small independent churches or else remain theologically in the closet.

  3. Could also be the coffeehouse effect. Coffeehouses breed coffeehouses, even if they are of different kinds (and not all Starbucks.) The South and Midwest “do” church, even Universalist ones.

  4. Oh, and did anyone else catch Eric’s “about 65 churches” comment. It’s enough to make me weep for joy. I doubt I’d need both hands to count the churches in the UUA where universal salvation is a wide concern.

  5. Scott, is it really that few? I have heard that about 13% of people in UU churches consider themselves Christian. Presumably these folks would consider universal salvation to be quite important in their faith. However, perhaps this statistic that I read is inflated, or perhaps even if a lot of the members are Christians the ministers might not be. There are about 1000 congregations total in the UUA, right? So if only one percent of them are Christian Universalist, then that would be 10 churches. I would hope it’s at least that many, and maybe even 20 or 30. But, you would know much better than I because you are very active in UUA whereas I have never been, so is it really true from your knowledge and experience that only a handful of UU churches teach Christ, life after death, and universal salvation?

  6. And Scot, dont forget the small denomination: Primitive Baptist Universalists – they teach Universal Salvation.

    And for the church location I’ve mentioned before, I forgot that D. B. Clayton had a preaching station there a mere 100+ years ago (he mentions the location in his book – unless i am mistaken- as a place where due to floods he was 3 hours late, and the meeting site was still packed). Therefore it is possible there were seeds planted in good topsoil…..
    — although as someone else said “wise thoughts can be thought by more than one person”…..

    Interesting question on the number of Universalist Chirstian Churches in the UUA . While Im sure Scott would be better versed than I — thinking that the churches that host the Universalist Convocation definately be considered Universalist – ten would be a good starting place….. and I would really expect a little more —
    … as for the UU Christian Churches teaching Universal Salvation, I’m afraid that it’s mostly like what had been said of the German Baptists in the early 1800s, they believe it, they just dont say it out loud.

  7. I read a couple of your posts via my blog search on Christian Universalism. Yes, we are out here and I believe growing in numbers. Sadly many of us are labeled heretics because we believe Christ’s work accomplished it’s purpose. God’s Love will never end and his grace will redeem his creation.

  8. I have talked to several Christians that believe, or at least want to believe, In Universalism.
    We just have to go to our churches of choice and agree to disagree with the mainline theology. I reside in Oklahoma and believe it or not there is one very prominant minister from Tulsa that teaches universalism without fear, Carlton Pearson

  9. Hi Chris, From my research so far, Oklahoma seems to be the #1 state for independent Christian Universalist churches and fellowships. In addition to Bishop Pearson’s church, I have found several other less prominent groups in that state, and there are even more I haven’t yet made contact with but that I have heard believe in Universal Reconciliation. Interestingly, Oklahoma is often described as “the buckle of the Bible Belt.” I’ve visited there a couple times and it did seem to be a hotbed of conservative Christianity. But as one independent Christian Universalist minister told me recently, “The Lord is unbuckling the pants now.” Seems like you live in the right state for a believer in U.R.

  10. Primitive Baptist Universalists are the subject of a book-length monograph, “In the Hand of a Happy God” by Howard Dorgan. Dorgan suspects a theological connection to Hosea Ballou but ultimately is unable to prove it.

    Another group of Universalist Christian churches would be the programmed Friends (Quaker) meetings in Indiana Yearly Meeting and beyond who have allied themselves with Gulley and Mulholland, the two Quaker pastors who wrote “If God Is Love” and “If Grace Is True.”

    – just a few Universalist churches that have been documented in widely published sources.

  11. there is one more book on Primitive Baptist Universalists, a biography of an elder (if i had the book where I could find it, I would be able to say the correct name of this Out-of-print book,) “Here, I am again, Lord.” It makes a good suppliment to the Dorgan book. Having recently re-read the Dorgan book, it was a PBU who suggested the Ballou connection – but Dorgan couldnt prove it,

    As folks look at Quakers for Universalists, they need to be carefull about “Quaker Universalist Friends” which is not what Eric and Scott (or Dan) are talking about.

    And speaking of Oklahoma , there is at least one more Christian Universalist Church there, run by the current head of the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship, Rev Ron Robinson. THE LIVING ROOM in Turley Ok. http://www.epiphanyspirit.org
    So here’s an admitted UU Chirstian Universalist Church for the record.

  12. Dan, Do you know if there is an official organization of Quaker Universalists, perhaps something started by Gulley and Mulholland or associated with them, or do I have to just contact all Quaker groups in existence to find the ones that support Universalism? You said Indiana has a lot of them? I would appreciate any further info you could provide.

    Steven, Thanks for mentioning Rev. Robinson’s church in Turley, Oklahoma. I had not yet heard of this group. I will be sure to check them out.

  13. Eric,

    There is a “Universalist Quaker” group, but it is non necessarily christo-centric. However, most historic Quakers would be universalists (per Barclay’s Apology). The Quaker sub-group, Conservative Friends, mostly are christo-centric universalists following the historic understanding of the universality of the Light and the ultimate reconciliation of all souls with God. I would recommend Friend Lloyd Lee Wilson’s books (www.quakerbooks.org) who is a univeralist Conservative Quaker Friend.

    Peace,
    Craig

  14. Sirs
    We, my wife and I are thinking of retiring in SC and was wondering if there are any Universalist Primitive Baptist in the State ? Any and all information would be appericated.
    I have been a Primitive Baptist Universalist Elder for over 30 years and my wife a member for 20 years…Thanks and May God Bless and Keep us in The Way.
    PS
    We are out of a cluster of Primitive Baptist in the WV, VA , TN, KY mountians.

  15. Just another remark or two: We are out of the folks Prof. Dorgan wrote of in his “In the Hands of a Happy God”…We are pleased to have kept him overnight in our home and was ask and did review his work for doctrinal correctness. Again Thanks Eld/frb

  16. Elder Beavers,

    There is a church I know about in South Carolina that may be similar to Primitive Baptist Universalist. A full description of it is on my website at this address:
    http://www.christian-universalism.com/churches/usa/south-carolina/leesville.html

    This church is independent nondenominational, but in terms of worship style and philosophy they seem to be more on the traditional end of the spectrum. You might want to contact the minister and talk to him in more detail. Contact info is listed at the link above.

    If you could share with me any information you know about the cluster of Primitive Baptist Universalist churches in the mountains of WV, VA, TN and KY that you said you are part of, please contact me by private email at info[at]christian-universalism.com . (Replace the word “at” with the @ symbol.) I would like to talk with as many ministers as possible and see if they would like their churches to be listed in my directory. Thanks!

    Eric

  17. Very Interesting Blog,
    When I was standing for ordination in the UCC in November of 1971, I surprisingly found myself challenged from what I considered the “right.” I had expected to be challenged by the “left” since I was joining a “liberal” denomination from “conservative” Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA. What set folk off was my universalism. I affirmed that I could not square eternal damnation with a loving God.
    After all these years of ministry in the UCC, I believe that the mainline protestant church and the UUs are so very someber dour and serious is becuase, like the early Puritans they are seeking some external sign that they are among the “elect” (saved). How good do we have to be, how much do we have to do in order to feel secure in our relationship with the Divine?
    If we really believed in the “gospel” of unversal salvation, worship would be a natural flowing of gratitude and joy. Sermons would not ever be a hectoring of the congregation encouraging greater efforts to change the world as if it all depended on us.
    As I approach retirement, I look forward to nurturing deeper relationships with other Christian Universalists throughout the world

  18. I have never heard the word Universalist used in connection with the Primitive Baptist churches, and am a little unsure if it has a little different twise from what I am used to as a Primitive Baptist. If Universalist means: all the elect are saved by the finished work of the Lamb, that all which the Father gave to Jesus, He has lost not one; then I guess the label Universalist applies.

    I have a directory of Primitive Baptist Churches that can be obtained from Bro. Lassarre Bradly of the Cincinnati Primitive Baptist Church which lists about 9 churches in SC. He has a web site(www.BaptistBibleHour.org) with an archive of broadcasts to listen to as he is also on several radio stations across the US and a few international radio stations. I hope this helps Bro. Beavers.

  19. The Primitive Baptist Universalist is a subset of PBs, -much like PB is a subset of Baptists and Missionary Baptists are a subset of Baptists, but PBs and Missionary arent the same thing at all. Found mostly in the mountains of Kentucky – west virginia.
    best known would be the music performer: Ralph Stanley.
    They are sorta like regular PBs with a theological twist of all will be the elect. That God is that strong.

  20. Would you happen to know of any Primitive Baptist churches or pastors in SouthWest Georgia area that beleive the Universalist doctrine. If No PB’s, do you know of any other denomination in the South Georgia / North West Panhandle of Florida area who understands this precious doctrine?

  21. I actually spoke at a conference — at least 10 years ago — on Universal Salvation in Americus, Georgia, hosted by Koinonia Partners, so there might be someone there who believes, though I have no reason to think this is one of their distinctive doctrines. Universalism was strong in that corner of the state in the antebellum period, coincidentally, and the Disciples of Christ church building there was the last Universalist outpost I know of. It died around 1930.

    As far as I know, the Primitive Baptist Universalists are Appalachian, so wouldn’t be seen that far south. That said, there might be a new ministry, to which I’ll defer to the list at http://www.christianuniversalist.org/community.html which doesn’t have anything for you, I’m afraid.

  22. I’m a Universalist Primitive Baptist and was told many years ago that this Doctrine (God’s Doctrine is Love)
    of God really does Love us all…came to us by His Grace via NC ??? Of course the gates of hell shall not prevail again’st Her…amen
    PS Hell is a special condition as is the Kingdom of Heaven…witness the day of Pente Cost !!! and Jonah road to obedience via hell…and Jesus, the Scriptures tell us “although He was a Son, learned obedience by the things that He suffered…
    Have any or all read Prof. Howard Dorgan’s Book “In the Hands of a Happy God” TN press 1997

  23. @Elder Farley, I would suspect several of us have the book, and some may have “Here I am Again, Lord” ( the story of Landon Colley) – which has a nice listing of PBU Churches in the back. By ” via NC” – do you mean from North Carolina? There were indeed Universalists in the mountains of North Carolina and Tennesee in the mid to late 1800s (I have a book owned by a Universalist minister in the late 1800s from Johnson City / Boone Creek TN area). God does indeed love all.

  24. I`am pbu minister of the hurricane creek church also in keokee va. The pbu of the group dorgan wrote we were also members. There is a group in Akron Oh. & Gatlinburg Tn. I have fellowship. Interested in any 1 in these area`s as well N.C. who desire fellowship,or discussion. I live in Ky. the Hurricane fellowship is also. Reece

  25. What was the article that the PBU elders shared? I would like to read it. I would also like to know if there is a list of PBU churches that I could reffer to when I travel through the country so I may be able to fellowship. Thanks

  26. Scott, you’re going to have to explain about the article, as I suspect that he’s referring to the above quote from 25 September 2010, and if so, I’m sure you could explain that much better than I.
    As far as lists of PBU Churches – the only one that I know of is in the back of “Here I am Again Lord” the biography of Landon Colley from 1997. I’m not sure it’s appropriate for non-PBU members, such as I, to try to compile a list without permission and guidance; but if I lived near the Appalachians, I would get the two books that are out (from inter-library loan), and I would see how things were 15 years ago. Then I might pick up the phone as well. If one is predestined to go, then one will.

  27. yes I can help w/pbu in oh.wva.va.ky.tn. if you would like to talk let me know. As in all things it depends on the direction your going or want to go(led I hope). My life IS the SPIRIT of the WORD this causes some to alter at the gate straight is the WAY. CHRIST(SPIRIT=WISDOM of GOD is the WAY & LIFE. The twain double minded is unstable in all OUR way`s. Christ&Adam(man) when were in the flesh(carnal) we can not please GOD in CHRIST SON(1)but are led. Reece

  28. Thank you, Reece Magard. Please let me know how I can contact you to get more information. I am one of the few, if not the only one Evangelical Universalist in Puerto Rico and I am seeking fellowship with other like minded Christians in the Continental US by any means. Thank you for your help.

  29. I would like to get in touch with anyone who is a Primitive Baptist Univerlist.
    I would like to visit and attend their meetings. Is there any body in Virginia or east Tennessee who has this information, location of churches and time of meetings. My Phone: 615-646-2003 Address: 4433 Hannah Ford Rd. Pegram, Tn. 37143

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>