Should we form universalist congregations?


#61

Thanks Cindy for your comments! It is great to be here and reading you all. This forum has wonderful folks and I like it’s inclusive accepting ways, while still maintaining a gracious atmosphere of mutual respect. I know I touched on sensitive ground with some of my comments. I have seen the dark side of religion and at times I can be rather uncharitable with it. I know the States is different from here, not because I have been there but because I have worked with American missionaries for my whole life. I guess my concern is how to reach Europe, where I live, and where traditional religion has almost disappeared. The pervading idea is that humanistic philosophies have corrupted the continent and that it is now beyond hope. I disagree with that. Humanistic, atheistic philosophies would have had no power of themselves but were simply a byproduct of Christianity gone wrong. If you look at the major atheistic thinkers and philosophers of the last two centuries, you’ll find that a good many of them came from religious schools and families and were desperately trying to figure out what had gone wrong. They might have wrongly tossed out God, but were all too right about the religion they had known. The fact is that Europeans have not rejected God but congregational religion. I love to attend church when there is an opportunity and I find some spiritual solace in a Catholic church, as well as amongst the Mormons, though I prefer ecumenical gatherings, which are few and far between. That is as far as my personal need for fellowship but I am well aware that no church or ecumenical gathering is equipped to effectively reach Europeans. There is too much history beyond each congregation and Europeans known it all too well. There are too many things that distort Christianity and make it undesirable. Hypocrisy is one of them, then there is a judgmental exclusivistic attitude, the question of hell and differentiation on the basis of salvation, political compromises for gain, the condescending pretense of being God’s representatives, an all this make it so that people don’t want it and therefore don’t whant it’s god either. Universalism sheds those aspects of traditional Christianity that served as a platform for scare tactics, spiritual terrorism, political domination, racism and all. Universalism has, in my view, the potential to be the renewed Christianity that Europe does not know and which it might be able to embrace. It is the good news without the bad. It is what they need to hear but it must come in a different package. I don’t think it should concern itself with establishing new congregation, but with simply putting out it’s message. If the message is right God will bless it and cause it to bear fruit. How that fruit organizes itself is something that we should leave in God’s hands, but I would rather see universalism take a different road than traditional congregations. For me the message is more important than social Christian structures.

By the way what’s the link to your blog? I have a couple as well but they are in Italian.


#62

I started going to different churches and telling the pastor that I’m looking for a church.

I have given a number of pastors a copy of this jesus-wept.net/ibelieve.htm and have asked them if someone with my beliefs are welcome in their church.

Most do not even have the courtesy to reply.

What am I supposed to do, express my views behind their backs? If I did that they wouldn’t appreciate it. Should I just listen to their rubbish and pretend it does not matter?

So yes, I wish there was an evangelical universalist church in my city. It would be nice to enjoy fellowship again.


#63

Daniele very well put, and I think your comments about europeans could apply to americans now or very soon in regards to accepting God within denominations. I feel the time is at hand for the organic church to break out (along with organic living in general). Like Cindy said there are many wonderful aspects of the institutional church (mainly being the loving people that make them up). I just think the mark is missed a little bit, and that little bit is the difference between stagnation, infighting, separation, boundaries… and unity, boundless growth at the personal level and corporate level (all of creation set free).


#64

I don’t think it’s either/or, but both/and. I believe that God is inspiring people differently. Some He inspires to stay in traditional infernalist churches and patiently share their faith in Jesus for the salvation of all. Others He inspires to start new fellowships that are traditional in structure but affirming UR as their distinctive message. And yet others He inspires to follow the home-fellowship (organic) model that has existed since the earliest believers gathered and is being revived today.

Personally, I’d love to see a fellowship that is based on home-fellowships where we experience God-Most-Nigh that gather most regularly (weekly or more), and larger gatherings of multiple home-fellowships where we experience God-Most-High that gather less regularly (maybe monthly or quarterly). And this fellowship would not be exclusively UR, but would be a transdenominational/transdoctrinal fellowship where individuals and groups are free to follow their own convictions, and where there would be open discussions, even debates, about differing issues, a fellowship where how one treats one’s brother is more important than what one professes to believe! Some day I hope to be part of a fellowship like this! To me it would be a little, well, a lot of heaven-on-earth!

btw, Daniele, welcome to the EU forum. I appreciated what you shared and trust that God will move in and through your life wonderfully.
Blessings upon you and yours.
Sherman


#65

I think that would be wonderful.


#66

Great points, Sherman! It does sound wonderful. :smiley:

Daniele,

You might find something by searching “organic church eu” (or Italy, or whatever you think of). Also simple church, house church, and so on. That’s how I found the group (which didn’t really exist yet) that we meet with now. It isn’t an EU group, like I said, but that’s okay. We love the Lord and one another, and that’s what matters. :slight_smile:

Oh, and my blog is linked below my signature . . . journeyintotheson.com Thanks for asking. Too bad I’m an American and therefore only speak one language (which isn’t Italian!) :laughing: I used to speak a bit of Spanish, but that was long ago – nowhere to practice it for many decades now.

Love and blessings,
Cindy

Oh yes . . . it would be great if you’d post in the intro section (or maybe you have already – I’ll look) and tell us a little about yourself.


#67

Thanks to all of you! It’s great to have your comments and I particularly enjoyed reading your vision Sherman. How great that would be. There was an inkling of that it on some of the ecumenical gathering I have attended to, though it was partly like walking on ice and an exercise of utmost diplomacy. The time will come when there will be less fear and more love. I will check on the “organic” church. You blog is great Cindy. Love to all


#68

Hello, this is a good post. We need churches in America that believe in UR. I am a new member and I am trying to get a hold of Dr. Robin Parry, please contact me at bayack71@hotmail.com I have a message from Bradley to relay to you.


#69

CK, I’ll try tagging [tag]Gregory MacDonald[/tag] and see if his email is set up to alert him.

But his email address is, or was, robin.parry at yahoo.co.uk. So you can try that.


#70

To speak of an “evangelical universalist church” suggests that the main focus of such a church is universalism. In my opinion, this should not be the main focus of a church.


#71

Can you elaborate on that?


#72

Well, I could but, let me first ask, “Is the evangelical universalist message tantamount to the gospel message?”

I am with a church that is part of a group of churches that exist throughout the world. In fact there are fewer of them in United States and Canada, than there are in the rest of the world. The reconciliation of all people to God is almost universally believed by those who are part of our churches. Yet, I have never heard the message of universal reconciliation proclaimed in any of our churches or at camp meetings since I began meeting with our local church around 1978 (although on about 3 or 4 occasions more recently, I heard it referred to by one particular leading brother.)

Indeed, I was with the church for several years before I discovered that it was generally believed. Here’s how I discovered it. One year at a camp meeting, I overheard one of the leading brethren remarking to another over the dinner table, “I never could believe in an everlasting hell.” I was shocked! I thought, “What have I gotten myself into? I’ve gotten myself into a cult!” I walked around those camp grounds deeply disturbed. Then it seemed as if God was impressing upon my mind, “Don’t worry about this. All will become clear.” So I let go of my adverse feelings and enjoyed the rest of the camp. When I got home, to my amazement, I found that whenever I read the Bible, I seemed to encounter passages that taught universal reconciliation! As a consequence, I came to believe in it myself.


#73

So why are you thinking all these folks here on this site are somehow not getting the gospel message? :blush:


#74

No, I don’t think that “all these folks here on this site are somehow not getting the gospel message.” But when someone asks the question, “Should we form universalist congregations?” this seems to suggest that the main thrust of such congregations would be to promote universalism. That should not be the main thrust of any Christian congregation.

It’s like asking, “Should we form infallible scripture congregations?” or “Should we form Preterist congregations?” or “Should we form Dispensationalist Congregations?” or “Should we form penal substitution congregations?” or “Should we form enabling grace congregations?” or “Should we form total depravity congregations?” etc., etc., etc.

It doesn’t matter what the theological issue is, or whether the issue is true or false. The point is that such questions suggest that a particular issue would be the main thrust of a congregation, whereas no single theological issue should be the main thrust of a Christian congregation.


#75

The problem I find with a universalist congregation, is that it can be focused on the far future. But what do we do, in the here and now? If the church is preaching the gospel, involved in charitable endeavors, helping those in need, etc., it’s focused on the here and now.

But what format should the church service have?

Should it have a focus on the Eucharist - like Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran and Anglican?
Should it focus on gifts of the spirit - like the Pentecostals?
Should it focus on peace - like the Mennonites and Quakers?
etc.

Now I like some fringe elements. I like the health and prosperity message of Joel Osteen. But I can’t bring myself to join his church - even if I lived close to it. I just can’t take it as the main church focus.

I refer to this statement from Rupertus Meldenius:

A good but brief discussion (i.e. from Dr. Mark E. Ross - associate dean and associate professor of systematic theology at the Columbia campus of Erskine Theological Seminary in South Carolina) is found at Rupertus Meldenius.


#76

Paidion said:

Well, first of all, is this not how denominations are formed? Paidion and Randy, you both make well taken points but from my standpoint, worship is the reason for congregation. And what more of a reason to worship than the realization of a Father/God who loves us in a way we could probably never envision, (and I use the term reconciliation verses universalism, though I think that for many here, they may well be interchangeable) that he gave a son to change the world.

I would say a group of people who believe that Christ has (or for some of you will at some point do) done everything that He said he would do would be kind of cool. :smiley:
IMHO :exclamation:


#77

As a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, I do not have to worry about hearing nonsense about never-ending damnation during church services. (The one “exception”, if it can be called that, would be if some particularly clueless priest started off on it in his homily. I personally don’t have to worry about that, though, because the homily is when I take my bathroom break–a break which always coincidentally ends when the homily does.)

That said, if I were a non-liturgical Protestant (such as the titular “Evangelical” in the name of this message board), I would much prefer a congregation in which I didn’t have to deal with nonsense about damnation either in Sunday school or in the sermon. Some congregations that I’ve experienced at least touch upon never-ending hell pretty much every Sunday. I remember this one Southern Baptist congregation in which nearly every Sunday morning at the altar call the preacher would calmly lay-out your options: “If you’re not saved, then you’re going to Hell. If you’re saved, then you’re going to Heaven. So why don’t you come up here and ask Jesus into your heart?” I’m not even saying that the congregation would have to teach universalism (since it is clearly taught in scripture anyway). All I would ask on this score would be a congregation in which there was at least a gentlemen’s agreement to never mention everlasting Hell.


#78

I

Then you would be comfortable in one of the churches in our circle of fellowship. I have never heard universal reconciliation taught from the pulpit (although I have heard it referred to by one particular brother, two or three times). Yet the vast majority of persons who attend the churches of this circle do believe in universal reconciliation.

I certainly have never heard “everlasting Hell” mentioned from the pulpit.


#79

What church are you referring to , Paidion?


#80

Good question :exclamation: :smiley: