Christian Universalism is the belief that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ all persons will eventually be reconciled with God and exist in a state of salvation for eternity. While not considered a tenet of traditional or mainline Christianity, the roots of Christian Universalism reach back into the first centuries of the Christian movement. From time to time, the concept of universal reconciliation has appeared as either a central tenet for an organized Christian denomination or as a belief that is espoused by persons in a wide range of Christian expressions.
Proponents of Christian Universalism trace the origin of the belief back to the canon of the New Testament and the writings of some of the early church fathers. The typical Christian Universalist can identify a number of passages within the scriptural canon that indicate the broad application of the principle of grace to all humankind, due to the work of Christ Jesus. In addition, the believer in Christian Universalism will also point to writings by such early church figures as Origen and Clemens of Alexandria as evidence of the antiquity of the concept of Universalism within the Christian faith.
The first appearance of Christian Universalism as a defining belief for a group of Christian believers took place in the 18th century. England proved to be a fertile ground for this exciting approach to Christianity, as it stood in direct opposition to the salvation of the elect teachings of John Calvin. The belief was first introduced into the American colonies of the British Empire by Dr. George De Benneville in 1741. However, it was not until the Universalist preacher John Murray reached the colonies in 1770 that the doctrine of universal salvation gained a firm hold in the New World.
By 1785, the first organized group of Christian Universalists appeared with the formation of the General Convention of Universalists of the United States. This organization would later organize into the Universalist Church of America, which grew to be one of the ten most prominent Christian faiths in the USA during the 19th century.
After a period of prosperity, the Universalist Church began to lose members during the 20th Century. As a result, the church chose to unite with the American Unitarian Association in 1961 to form the Unitarian Universalist Association. While some traditional Christian Universalists hold membership in the UUA today, this non-creedal denomination does not promote Christian Universalism as an essential tenet.
In recent years, a move to promote Christian Universalism within existing denominations has emerged. During 2007, the Christian Universalist Association was formed as a communication and support network to allow both laypersons and clergy who believe in Christian Universalism to interact with one another. With no plans to form a new denomination, the Association functions as a means of supplying printed material relevant to Christian Universalism, holding worship conferences centered around the doctrine, and assisting pastors and others who wish to explore the belief in more detail.