Universalist Church of America


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Universalist Church of America,

Protestant denomination originating in the 18th cent. and represented almost entirely in the United States. Universalism is the belief that it is God's purpose to save every individual from sin through divine grace revealed in Jesus. The doctrine is old, but no organized body of believers took it as a distinctive feature of their church until modern times. The Universalist denomination in the United States originated with John MurrayMurray, John,
1741–1815, founder of the Universalist denomination in America, b. England. He was excommunicated by the Methodists after he had openly accepted Universalism as taught by James Relly (see Universalist Church of America).
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, a convert to Universalism as taught by James Relly in England. Murray arrived in New Jersey in 1770. After preaching there and in New York and New England, he settled in Gloucester, Mass., where in 1779 he became pastor of the first Universalist church in the United States. The movement spread; in 1790 a convention in Philadelphia decided upon a congregational polity and drew up a profession of faith. Until the middle of the 19th cent. little thought was given to organization, as attention was chiefly devoted to settling points of doctrine and disseminating the belief. Murray's Universalism was of the Calvinistic type; under Hosea BallouBallou, Hosea,
1771–1852, American clergyman, foremost among expositors of Universalism in the United States, b. Cheshire co., N.H. From 1818 until his death he was pastor of the Second Universalist Society in Boston.
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, the most influential force in the denomination from c.1796 to 1852, the movement was separated from its Calvinistic associations. Ballou's doctrine of "Christ's subordination to the Father" gave Universalism a position very similar to that of UnitarianismUnitarianism,
in general, the form of Christianity that denies the doctrine of the Trinity, believing that God exists only in one person. While there were previous antitrinitarian movements in the early Christian Church, like Arianism and Monarchianism, modern Unitarianism
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. The doctrinal position of the church, called the Winchester Profession, was adopted in 1803 by the General Convention. In 1899 a briefer statement of essential principles was accepted. Later, in 1935, the Washington Avowal of Faith was taken as the official statement of principles of American Universalism. These principles are the universal fatherhood of God; the spiritual authority and leadership of Jesus, his son; the trustworthiness of the Bible as containing a revelation from God; the certainty of just retribution for sin; and the final harmony of all souls with God. Organizationally, the individual church or parish is considered an independent unit. The church established Tufts Univ. (1852) and Tufts Divinity School (1861). The name Universalist General Convention (adopted 1866) was changed (1942) to the Universalist Church of America. In 1961 it merged with the American Unitarian Association to form the Unitarian Universalist AssociationUnitarian Universalist Association,
Protestant church in the United States formed in 1961 by the merger of the American Unitarian Association (see Unitarianism) and the Universalist Church of America.
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.

Bibliography

See R. Eddy, Universalism in America (2 vol., 1884–86); J. H. Allen and R. Eddy, A History of the Unitarians and the Universalists in the United States ("American Church History" series, Vol. X, 1894); H. H. Cheetham, Unitarianism and Universalism (1962); E. A. Robinson, Story of American Universalism (1970); E. Cassara, Universalism in America (1971); S. Ahlstrom and J. S. Carey, ed., An American Reformation: A Documentary History of Unitarian Christianity (1984).

References in periodicals archive ?
In a sermon at an Oregon church, Henderson quoted from a joint resolution in the early 20th century by the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America: "National security is guarded more through freedom and constructive criticism than through the silence of conformity and fear."
Among them was the Universalist Church of America, founded by John Murray, a convert from Methodism who came to America from England in 1770.