The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Being muzzled by orthodox Churches, what to do?


I became a evangelical univeralist (EU) in 2008. It all started for me after being challenged by my then 5 year old daughter on whether I believed babies went to hell.

Anyway I was a member at a Reformed Baptist church in the UK and felt I needed to resign from membership as part of the churches statement of belief was:
<<The resurrection of the body; the judgement of the world by the Lord Jesus Christ; the eternal blessedness of the righteous, and the eternal punishment of the wicked.>>

I had several meetings with the pastor on the issue.

When my resignation was formalized the leadership of the church insisted that I couldn’t talk to anyone in the church about why I had decided to resign or anything about EU. Nor could I attend any church meetings (except the Sunday meetings).

With these restrictions I felt I had to leave and then moved to a more relaxed Baptist church. And was there for a year.

Then for my work I moved to Sydney. I was saved in the Anglican church when I was a teenager and so started attending a conservative Anglican church in the Sydney area. The church has great home bible studies. I mentioned when I first attended to the leader I believed in EU.

In a recent study on Genesis 1&2 I said I didn’t agree with something one of the leaders said about man not being ‘worthy’ of God’s love. I said Man is worthy because he is made in God’s image and precious to God. Would any Father really think his child is not worthy of his love? It got onto hell and I mentioned I was a universalist.

The next week my leader took me aside and said I he didn’t want me to talk about these things in the bible study as it was too disruptive, and that my beliefs we’re very confusing to others.

I am really struggling with this. I feel I am being muzzled again and am not able to say what I believe. Is this a common experience. I’m not sure what to do?

Do others attend conservative churches that impose such restrictions. Should I just be a closet universalist or do I need to put my family through all the stress of moving churches again, and how do I know it won’t happen again in some other church?

Thanks for you help.

Hi Scottmuz
I really feel for you. Everything you’ve said sounds all too familiar. My circumstances were slightly different and I have no answers to an awful predicament. I wonder if your Sydney church was Jensons?
There are some good folk on this forum who see universalism as a secondary doctrine but is clear that many traditional churches do not.
By ‘conservative evangelical’ can I infer that they are Calvinistic?
I think there may be a stark difference between reactions from calvinistic churches and some arminian churches.
For me, there is a stark difference in how these churches view God and that may be the kernel of the problem.
Arminians and universalists both serve a God who loves ALL his creatures. The only difference is that the Arminian God is more limited in power.
However, the Calvinistic god is completely different in nature to the point where IMO you are worshiping a completely different God to the one worshiped in those churches (I think those leaders understood that). If so, would it be right to be a closet worshiper of a different God?

Hi Scott,

It’s a tricky situation that you’re in. I’ll remember you in my prayers. Here’s a little background on myself, which hopefully will be an encouragement or might spark some ideas.

The local Presbyterian church I attend has fairly close ties to the Sydney Anglicans (e.g. we get the Jensen’s to talk at our conferences and send a lot of our young men/women to Moore College). Anyway, about 10 years ago I started looking into universalism (before the term EU existed) and after unsuccessfully debating it with the leaders for awhile, felt I had no option but to say, “given what I have, (i.e. a few philosophical ideas about love and only the NIV bible) I feel I can’t be confident enough of universalism to hold the position” :frowning:

After backing down, I pretty much gave up on the idea, until my cousin (Luke on this forum) invited me to watch the movie “Collision” (a debate between Christopher Hitchens & Douglas Wilson). I picked up on some side point Douglas made about some passages being fulfilled by the fall of Jerusalem. I asked Luke what that view was, and he explained optimistic postmillennialism to me. That position seemed way better than what I thought I had to believe (premillennialism) and so I decided I would hold it. Over the next month or so, the more I thought about God achieving much more than we could imagine, the hope of universalism rekindled. My dad pointed me to Keith DeRose’s article on universalism, which pointed me to Talbott & Parry’s books. Once I read Talbott’s book, I started in earnest to debate it with Luke on his blog and after I finished reading Parry’s book I was convinced! By God’s grace, one of the opponent’s of universalism on his blog, accidentally pointed this forum out to me :smiley:

Anyway, that was all at the end of last year. As time went one, especially as sermons dealt with UR passages (i.e. most of the Bible it seems :wink: ) I felt more and more uncomfortable with just toeing the line, when in my head I was disagreeing with them, it felt dishonest. One of the members at the house church (which had been meeting at my house), decided to blog about reasons to leave a church and reasons to be kicked out :open_mouth: . It seemed the perfect opportunity to “test the waters”, so I anonymously asked what he thought of EU… After a bit of intense anonymous debate where he condemned it, I felt I couldn’t just go to church that Sunday and sit in the same lounge room and keep a straight face. So I told him when I saw him at a evangelistic rally during the week. It was such a relief!! What’s more he laughed and gave me a hug so I knew I wasn’t rejected. Feeling elated, I went and told pretty much everyone I came across that evening, including my ministers and the Moderator General of the Presbyterian church of Australia, who happened to be at the event. Amazingly he didn’t call down fire :wink: but actually listened to me, whilst telling me he didn’t think it was biblical :unamused: .

So I thought it was all good… however, later that week (or the next?) I got a call from my ministers and they said some people had complained about me and were getting upset :frowning: Anyway we had a 1.5h meeting in which I roughly explained EU and they agree to meet up with me and talk me through my crisis of faith (that’s the way I perceive they see it, but I might be wrong). I gave them both copies of Parry’s book, which they agreed to read. However, they asked me not to talk to anyone at church (except the ministers & my family) about it or on Twitter or on FaceBook :neutral_face: The only places I was allowed to discuss it was this forum, and on my cousin’s blog. To keep the peace and out of respect for their authority, I agreed.

A few weeks passed and I thought things were going ok. But one day at work, I was told over the phone that the minister wanted to come visit me that evening and that I was going to have to move church (within the same parent church, just to another house church)!! That was full-on, especially for my wife who was about 8 months pregnant. During the meeting it came out that the other members of my house church weren’t comfortable with me being there (although I had never said anything about EU during any meeting or study) as they felt it was lurking behind the scenes :frowning: Anyway, I pointed out that that wasn’t sufficient grounds for discipline and that technically the Presbyterian church hasn’t outlawed EU anywhere (it’s only been around for a few years and we move slowly :slight_smile: ). Again to keep the peace, we said we would voluntarily move to another house church (although my wife wasn’t sure she even wanted to stay with the parent church!).

The new house church is going well, although I still feel like an outsider, not because they aren’t friendly, but because I feel I can’t say what I believe and speak about what’s important to me. Also when they say things like “isn’t God loving” or “isn’t He full of grace”, it grinds, as I know they are Calvinists and therefore are limiting God so much.

Some FB friends have been bagging out Bell, and I felt I could let that go (after standing up for Bell but feeling a little guilty I was being disobedient) so fortunately I got permission to defend (although not proclaim) EU on FB at least :slight_smile:

I also debate via email with my ministers whenever they look at a EU passages in a sermon.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. The ministers have both read the book, and we met up for about 4 hours total now, discussing EU & related topics. I’m trying hard to be patient. I don’t know what they will do once they establish that I’m not just going through a crisis of faith and refuse to embrace ECT ever again!

Typing all that has given me some time to think about your situation :slight_smile: If you’re able, work with the leaders and try to convince them that it’s at least not heretical (i.e it might be mistaken but that’s not a reason for excommunication!). Ask them to at least read Parry’s book and understand/consider the view properly. Personally, for the sake of other EUs, I’m nervously considering (if put under pressure to leave) taking the matter to the General Assembly. i.e. I don’t think they have solid biblical grounds to reject EU.

I quietly spread the word here and there, and don’t make a fuss. When people talk of hell, I say relatively innocuous things like, “I believe the grace of God will catch everyone in the end. He’s not finished with us yet.” If challenged, I’m reluctant to engage in argument. I say I have a high view of God’s ability to save us little people, and that my theology is thoroughly Christian, very ancient, very venerable, and very optimistic. I might suggest they read St Gregory of Nyssa or St George of MacDonald.

When people are scared, they go back to tried and true ideas and become very suspicious of anything that smells fishy. We see this move to fundamentalism in Islam, Hinduism, Calvinism, Catholicism, atheism and so on. And people are scared. Global warming, overpopulation, natural disasters, financial and nuclear meltdowns, Chinese power, militant Islam, the failure of multiculturalism… Things are changing faster than anyone can really deal with, and many have a deep foreboding.

It’s ironic. I would have thought the doctrine that God is good, wise, powerful, and profoundly on our side would be a great comfort to people in times of uncertainty. But what actually happens is this: we revert to tribal mode, surrounding ourselves with people who talk and look like us, people we feel we can trust. Outsiders become suspect. A push and a shove later, they become our enemies, and enemies are best destroyed.

Humanity at its primate best. :frowning:

Hi Scott,

I feel for you!

I’m one of those who would say that UR is a secondary doctrine – only because all doctrines are secondary to that of practicing the teachings of Christ.

Here’s the options as I see them:

You could stay in your church as salt and light, knowing you’re going to face conflict and opposition, and using that opposition as opportunity to demonstrate Christlikeness.

Or you could find somewhere more accepting–which might be easier on your family. In that case, I’d meet personally with pastors, explaining your church dilemma and your UR views directly and openly and thoroughly find out who’s sympathetic and willing and glad to have you a part of his ministry.

Or you could start your own fellowship.

How does your wife feel about the situation?


as one familiar with being an outsider, or at least someone hiding a few things from people that wouldn’t get it (or might be harmed by it in my case), i sympathise…

but it also humbles me by reminding me how comparatively small my little sufferings were, as they were over very minor things (like my taste in music and books etc) indeed in comparison to a doctrine that teaches God’s love and power over all.

i think Alvin Plantinga’s ascertion that he’s not a universalist personally, but that every Christian should HOPE for UR at the very least is perhaps a good starting point. you’ve taken it beyond hope and turned it into faith and trust…
if nothing else of the Christian life is sacrificed to the idea that all will be saved, where’s the harm in it? if you’re still witnessing, still showing love, still trying to be holy, then why is it wrong to trust that when God says all, He means all?
granted, i’m still working on my own acceptance of this, but i can see the value, and i can see no reason to condemn someone for it.
Love hopes all things and believes all things…what could be more Christian than that?
hope that gives you a bit of a defense, and maybe encouragement.

I’ve found that one just should not pour new wine into old wine skins. If one does, the wine skin will burst and the new wine will be lost. Most existing churches just cannot handle the vitality and life that comes through having faith in Christ for the salvation of all humanity. They are old wine skins, and simply not able to change and grow. They are happy where they are at, with what they believe and they have not desire to consider anything different. Institutions can change, but they change very slowly. If you look through church history, most reformers are initially cast out, excluded. Then another denomination forms. And then then mother church slowly makes some changes to rectify the issue that is causing them to loose members. One can see this in the Reformation, and the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, and the Eccumenical movement.

We URs, as a movement, are in the initial “exclusion” phase. But we can take heart in that God is showing this to more and more people. Though we can also expect it to take a while before UR is seen as somewhat of an “acceptable” branch of Christianity. I believe that God will likely birth a couple of UR denominations, as well as call some UR believers to remain steadfastly and quietly in their current denominations. God works from within and without to accomplish His will.

Back a few weeks ago the Lord asked me if I was willing to be excluded, to be cast outside of the camp for His name’s sake. I said yes, but it sure is cold and lonely out here away from the fire of fellowship, common love and acceptance.

UR is such a powerful revelation, such an empowering revelation, that we should expect both Satan and the establishment to oppose it as much as they can. Both use the power of fear to control and manipulate people, to destroy lives, relationships, and families. So to remove the fear of Hell and give people faith in God for their salvation and the salvation of their loved ones would be something we could expect to be oppossed by evil.

Anyhow, if you’re going to attend established churches, you can expect to be muzzled. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if you find that you are not able to regularly attend and participate in the fellowship of an established local church even if you keep quiet about your faith in Christ for the salvation of all humanity.

Hi Scott,

I totally relate to your situation and know what it feels like to be ostracized for expressing the hope of UR. I’ll tell you some of my story and hope it helps you not feel so alone.

I was an elder in a Baptist church when I became convinced of UR, and for me the realization was a total rebirth experience and changed the way I saw almost everything. Being so excited about this new found good news I began to talk to the other elders (one of which was head pastor) about it and got quite a negative – hostile actually – reaction. Over a 3 month period they allowed me to present my views and we reasoned together but ultimately at the end everyone’s positions actually seemed to become more entrenched.

The head pastor made a comment at one point that I had raised some good arguments and that if he were to “go there” he would need to notify the church and resign his position. Up to that point I had no idea that UR is the lynch-pin it is. I was under the impression we were all on a journey together free to pursue God and truth wherever it lead. Anyway at that point I felt it was incumbent upon me to resign if my beliefs were putting the other gentlemen in a bad spot. So, after working through it we agreed that I would resign but that I didn’t need to leave the church but should be respectful in sharing my hope.

Several months later the head pastor preached about the 3 options: Calvinism, Arminianism, and UR. To my shock and amazement he didn’t dismiss UR but instead showed some of the key UR scriptures and said there are some good arguments to support the UR viewpoint. After church he talked with me and said in the previous months he had wrestled with a feeling that he needed to “discipline” me by asking me to leave the church. So, he called a few of his most trusted advisors – who are real big shots in evangelical academic circles – and they told him there is very good scriptural support for UR and they saw no reason to “break faith” over the issue. They also told him he would have a hard time explaining why he was asking someone to leave the church in light of the many scriptures that support the hope of UR. Again I was shocked at this and actually felt very hopeful that if some of the big shots were thinking this way then maybe the tide was changing.

UR is very difficult for many people to even consider mainly because they are afraid I think. For some their leadership positions and livelihoods are at stake. Someone had the courage to take a risk and share UR with me. I brushed it off at first but then after a while it finally all clicked. I’ve shared with many people over the years; a few have received it well but mostly not.

So, I guess to encourage you and others on this board that are carrying this hope within…

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Col 4:6

Wow - that’s amazing David! an I ask you what country we’re talking about? (I hope it’s the UK)

This is in the Seattle, Washington area. The advisors I mentioned are or were profs / teachers in a few western half of the US colleges or seminaries.


It’s good to see some reasonable openness being expressed, and acknowledgment of the scriptural basis for UR.

That’s very encouraging!

Hi All,

Thanks for people’s responses. It is comforting to know my situation is not unique.

The first church I had to leave was definitely Calvinistic. And I think the leaders in my current Anglican church would also be Calvinist, most conservative Anglicans tend on that side of the fence.

Most of you seem to be taking the ‘closet’ universalist approach. Perhaps that is the direction I need to go. I just find that EU affects my thoughts on so many issues that I find it hard to not talk about lots of issues without UR being mentioned.

My wife was brought up in the first Church I mentioned above. She in her own words tends to ‘trust those who are in authority and spend lots of time studying the bible’. So she doesn’t find it easy when I rock the boat and found it very difficult to leave her home church. So I am loath to make our family move church again.

I need to pray it through.

love in Christ Scott

So interesting to read everyone’s experiences. I’ve had a few too. I shared EU with a lady in my church. She started avoiding me. So, I decided I’d better not say so much. Then, when I went to the women’s bible study she and another lady led they seemed really uncomfortable with me, like I was going to say something inappropriate at any moment. And I hadn’t even said anything! Then, when they’d asked, in the study, about the meaning of a particular verse in a passage we were reading I referred to a verse a few lines down and was told I wasn’t allowed to bring up other verses, of all things!!! The pastor of our Baptist church has said he couldn’t finish reading “The Inescapeable Love of God” etc. because he was becoming too convinced and he’d loose his job. He’s very sympathetic and continues to let my dad teach SS. My dad doesn’t teach it outright, but we do go verse by verse and by golly it’s all over Hosea!!! Our class is only a handful of people, but I sometimes wonder what is going through their heads. Some of the church elders caught wind of my dad’s heresy and so it’s been brought up in their meetings what to do with him. The pastor must have done a good job throwing him off our scent because they haven’t pursued addressing him directly. Maybe they know they’ll have a challenge on their hands? After all, my dad is their former pastor and not unknowledgeable about these things. Some in the group were complaining about things I’d posted on fb. I’ve been able to be open with people, but my contact is limited. I think if I were in a regular bible study, where my dad was not the leader, and there was much participation it’d be torture to keep quiet. Gene and I have contemplated going to another church, but feel like we’re probably already in the most accepting place there is, being we haven’t been kicked out yet. I’d be hesitant to think other churches would be more receptive of your participation, but you can best gauge that. Maybe some are able to keep quiet, operate under the radar like AllanS, while some of us it’s more unbearable to keep quiet and it just feels very wrong? Blessings to you!

I guess prayer and conscience are the guide. But I’m afraid of being “ashamed of Christ”. As revealed to me, this relentless, omnivorous, unstoppable, sovereign holy parental love is God. Three letters don’t describe “GOD”, his character is what we seek, what we crave, and what all of us, Christian and non-Christian, need. Period.

I would never lie when asked, that’s for sure. Though in many instances I can see it could be a distraction, and we should demur. But if I thought people were putting honey in their own ears, then I couldn’t be silent either. We are called to speak the Truth in love, and my experience with EU has become (fortunately or unfortunately) increasingly central and “fundamental” to my faith. We may be called to be men and women without a country, like earlier bearers of the “burden of light” (His yoke is easy, and His burden is Light -get it?) And that will be a suffering that we count as gain.

Personally, I hate the awkward feeling that comes around when the preacher at a church I attend likes to preach about people falling for ‘false doctrines’ and spreading them, teaching Heaven but not Hell, etc, etc. I can’t help but feel a little bit ‘surrounded’ at times. Its even worse when its a smallish church, my face is recognised, and I am almost convinced that I’m going to show up somehow in media or something and that just wouldn’t be comfortable for anyone involved. :laughing:

It really is a very awkward position, being the only Universalist in the entire congregation (that I know of).

A funny story about that, when I was a few months into studying all of this; I talked to the pastor about “Aion” and all of that, and the next Sunday, or maybe the one after that; the message was a message against Universalism, and false doctrines… :confused:

Sufficed to say, I was very, very, very angry because I felt like I was being “called out from the Pulpit”. Talked to him about it that coming Wednesday, and he said that he wasn’t calling me out from the Pulpit but another older gentleman who was talking about Universalism as well. Which to me that said one of two things; either God is trying to do something in this church that involves Universalism, as that would be now two people in this small church talking about it…or this pastor just bold faced lied to me and he really was calling me out from the pulpit, and didn’t think I’d catch on so quick and thought to cover his tracks.

But, that’s been my experience with my beliefs in the church. I too feel muzzled, or at least very uncomfortable, and slightly alienated. It is like I have to hide my beliefs in order to actually be salt and light in the places where I try to minister to people. If I just waltzed around saying “I’m this and that” people wouldn’t listen to me, let alone let me minister to them. :frowning:

I actually struggled with even admitting it to myself, much less anyone else. I had studied UR for several months and had come to believe UR deep down inside, but when sharing with others would only say, “I’m studying… and finding… I wouldn’t say I believe UR but it sure is interesting.”

And then one Sunday morning during worship, the Lord spoke very clearly to me and said, “Stop Lying!” And that’s all He said, but I understood exactly what He meant. (He’s good like that you know.) He meant: Stop lying to yourself and admit to yourself that you believe UR, right or wrong this is what you believe. And stop lying to others; no longer say you are just studying UR, but be open with others that this is what you’ve come to believe.

Note that He did not say or indicate that UR was right or wrong; I wish He had! He just indicated that I needed to be open and honest about my beliefs, right or wrong. I knew that from that moment on I would have to be open and honest about my beliefs, regardless of what it cost me. And it has cost me dearly, not blood, but plenty of tears and straigned and broken relationships.

A few weeks ago, during another worship service, the Lord asked if I’d be willing to be cast outside the camp, to be shut out of fellowship with others. To which I replied, hesitantly and with a deep sadness, yes. And well, that’s where I’m at. I trust the Lord though, and I pray for His will to be done in our lives, mine and my family especially.

As with you, Nottirbd, UR has become increasingly foundational to my faith. And I long for a fellowship of believers where I can share my faith in Christ for the salvation of others openly without resulting in strife. I’d actually love a fellowship of believers where the foundation was a simple love for God and love for one another. This love and respect then determines how we treat eachother. And one aspect of that love, respect, and humility is being open to worshipping and studying scripture together though we understand scripture differently, radically differently. I’m talking, trinitarians, oneness, binitarians, charismatics, cessationists, catholics, baptists, pentecostals, heathen, - transethnic, transdenominational, transgenerational, from all different kinds of backgrounds - gathered together to worship God, Father of us all! But such would take a miracle from God. Unless maybe it would be a fellowship of smaller affinity groups that meets occassionally primarily to worship together.

Well, anyhow, maybe a seed must fall to the ground and die before it can grow into something vibrant and alive. I just hope there is ressurection for it seems that I buried pretty deep right now and things (relationships) are dying all around me.

***“As with you, Nottirbd, UR has become increasingly foundational to my faith. And I long for a fellowship of believers where I can share my faith in Christ for the salvation of others openly without resulting in strife.”

"I guess prayer and conscience are the guide. But I’m afraid of being “ashamed of Christ”***

I think a key element here is wisdom. Sharing the gospel of Christ isn’t always about saying as much as you can as fast as possible. It is often like a dance. You may meet with a person several times before you even say anything. Then, when an opportunity is ripe, you say something, but maybe not everything…perhaps just a morsel. You use wisdom and the leading of the Holy Spirit to say the right things at the right time. In some instances that may be all in one shot, while in others it may take a long time. I remember a long time ago, when I was first married, we had these new neighbors who were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Something inside me told me to say nothing. For 6 months I got to know this young man who was witnessing to me, giving me books and literature. I really studied the literature intensely. Then, after he had gotten to know me. After he already liked me and respected me, I gradually revealed myself by asking him questions, "Hey Hermin, remember when you said that the Old Testament saints don’t get to be in heaven? What do you think the bible meant in Hebrews 11 when he said that Abraham was looking for a “heavenly” country?

**13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
14For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own.
15And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return.
16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. **

The conversation we had that day left him completely stumped. He wasn’t able to see me as a typical so called Christian from Christendom and write me off because he already thought a lot of me and my wife. He is no longer a JW all these years later, but If I came out with my guns a blazin’ I think it would have turned out differently. With UR, you can speak out, but do so with wisdom, sensitivity, and maturity. Be smart about it. I"m not saying that you will not have any trouble this way. I’m just saying that you don’t need to create extra trouble for yourself simply because you need to let it all hang out. Just a few thoughts. I’m sure you are both careful about it anyway.

I think most Universalist can relate to this muzzling one way or another. Once you no longer believe in Eternal Punishment, you are pretty much shunned from mainstream Christianity. They are just not going to allow you to teach this message in their churches.

The Lord told me to come out of organized religion around the same time he showed me the truth of all men being saved, this was a few years ago. I was sick and tired of church anyway to be honest, and had been a few years before I shown the light. It did not take anything for me to believe it either. I think deep down I never totally believed in hell anyway and I was getting more and more uncomfortable with the idea of it as time went on. I was sick of hearing anybody mention it, my skin would literally crawl when I heard, “They are going to hell” UGH!!! :unamused:

Personally, I never felt like I fit into the orthodox church world anyway. I never could figure out why I did not fit in at the time, I just knew I NEVER did from the day I started going to church on a somewhat regular basis.

God did use church to minister to me and help me in my early years and it is a beautiful thing for those who God uses it for. The Lord totally pulled me out of the Orthodox church world, and I just do not go to any church at all anymore. I am at peace and totally content allowing the Lord to teach me himself.

Once you tap into this realm of believing, honestly there is not much you have in common with the Orthodox churches anymore. Well, in my case I don’t anyway. I am not going to sit and listen to baby milk messages and eternal hell threats from people who have yet to receive the revelation of the Grace of God.

Pray and let the Holy Spirit lead you for your life. It is definitely different for all of us and only God knows the way you are to go.

Davidbo; Those bigshots need to come and have a conversation with my pastor. (Portland, Oregon).

I think the problem with understanding UR is that we can’t see others from God’s point of view – our nature tends to want revenge as a form of justice. Even as a person who can read UR in the Bible, it’s hard for me to want to apply it to Hitler or Osama Bin Laden. As in everything with God, UR may be one of those insights we can only see through God’s grace.