American Univeralist History. American Universalist History. John Murray, Father of Univeralism. “Give them not hell but hope”
John Murray, Father of Univeralism
“Give them not hell but hope”
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. Murray emigrated to America in 1770 where, after traveling as a Universalist preacher for four years in New Jersey, New York, and New England, he settled in Gloucester, Mass. He continued his preaching there and in nearby centers. In 1775, General Washington announced Murray's appointment as chaplain to the Rhode Island troops. He served as pastor of the newly organized Independent Church of Christ (1779) at Gloucester until he was called to the pastorate of the Universalist Society of Boston in 1793.
Theology of John Murray
From his activity in disseminating his opinions he is styled the "father of Universalism in America," but his doctrines differed essentially from those that are now recognized by that denomination. He accepted the doctrine of the Trinity, and believed in God as one "indivisible first cause," in a personal devil, and orders of angels. His fundamental doctrine as a Universalist was that Christ literally put away the sin of the whole world, but he distinguished between universal salvation and universal redemption by fixing degrees of punishment that were to be inflicted before the final judgment, after which all the world, he believed, would be saved.
Judith Sargent Murray
Judith Sargent Murray was remarkable woman, socially ambitious yet at the same time an ardent advocate of women’s rights. She was a prolific writer of poetry, drama, and essays, some of the written under pseudonyms to allow her greater freedom of expression. Her essays on the equality of the sexes anticipated most of the arguments put forth by the nascent women’s movement half century later. She would be pleased to know that she was to find her place in history as America’s first leading feminist.
Other Early Universalist Leaders
Liberal New England Congregationalists:
The Winchester Profession, 1803
Yet while we … adopt a general Profession of Belief … we leave it to the several Churches and Societies, or to smaller associations of churches … to continue or adopt within themselves, such more particular articles of faith … as may appear to them best under their particular circumstances, provide they do not disagree with our general Profession ….
The last statement was know as the Liberty Clause.
Hosea Ballou, theologian of Universalism
The Treatise on Atonement
The Treatise on Atonement (continued)
Women Begin Preaching
Women Become Ordained Ministers
In 1863, Olympia Brown was the first woman minister in America to ordained with full denominational authority. Olympia Brown dedicated her life to opening doors for women. Among only a handful of women to graduate from college, she received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Antioch in 1860 and three years later became the first woman graduate of a regularly established theological school at St. Lawrence University. She was ordained a Universalist minister, the first woman to achieve full ministerial standing recognized by a denomination. As a young minister, she took an active role in the women's suffrage movement and was one of the few original suffragists who lived to vote in the 1920 presidential election.
Entering divinity school in 1861, she completed her course of study in 1863. She had to convince those opposed to women in the ministry that they could complete the required course of study as commendably as she had. Then she had to convince the reluctant ministers to ordain her and allow her to be called to the parish ministry. Despite considerable opposition, Brown prevailed in both goals. This determination characterized her throughout her long and fruitful life.
Women Become Ordained Ministers
Augusta Jane Chapin, Universalist minister and educator, was one of the earliest women to be ordained in ministry. She was the first woman to sit on the Council of the General Convention of Universalists. She was also a groundbreaker for women seeking higher education and advanced degrees.
In 1859 Chapin preached her first sermon at Portland, Michigan. She preached for three years instead of the customary one year before applying for a Letter of Fellowship. This was granted in 1862 by the Michigan Convention of Universalists. In December 1863 she was ordained to the Universalist ministry at Lansing, Michigan. She joined a very small group of American women in ministry which included Lucretia Mott (Quaker), Antoinette Brown (Congregational, later Unitarian), Lydia Jenkins (Universalist) and Olympia Brown (Universalist, ordained earlier that year).
In 1868 Lombard University (later College) of Galesburg, Illinois, a co-educational Universalist school, granted Chapin an honorary Master of Arts degree. She served Lombard as non-resident lecturer in English literature, 1885-97, and as non-resident lecturer on art, 1892-1897. In 1893 Lombard conferred on her the first Doctor of Divinity degree ever awarded to a woman in America.
Augusta Jane Chapin
Joseph Jordan, the first African American to be ordained as a minister by the Universalist denomination, founded the First Universalist Church of Norfolk, Virginia in 1887 and initiated an educational effort for African American children in Norfolk and vicinity. The missions and schools that were his legacy served thousands of children and families in eastern Virginia over the period of a century.
Jordan several times changed occupations—becoming a laborer, a grocer, and finally a carpenter. As a carpenter he earned enough money to buy or build several houses in the Norfolk suburb of Huntersville. He was then able to live off the rent. Literate, skilled, and a property owner, Jordan was among the elite of his race and poised to become a leader in his community.
He established the Suffolk (VA) mission and stayed there until his death. After his death, the church ceased to function, but the school continued under the leadership of his daughter Annie B. Willis.
Education: Graduated from the theological school, St. Lawrence University, 1870. In 1891 he took upon himself the role of independent Universalist missionary, raising his own financial support as he went until designated general missionary by the Universalist Convention in 1895. Shinn was remarkable in his ability to sow the seeds of Universalist congregations. He traveled twenty-five thousand to thirty thousand miles a year and preached in every state, reporting that by 1895 he had started :1 "about fifty" churches and the same number of Sunday schools. He would typically come to a town where there were few or no Universalists, hire a hall, leaflet the town, and begin to preach, encouraging each of his hearers to bring others the next day. He tried to leave the town with some organization -- a church, youth group, Sunday school, or Ladies' Aid Society. Although some of these groups were short-lived, others were not, and Shinn's efforts helped to spread Universalism beyond its New England roots
Shinn loved his difficult and strenuous work, and it could indeed be said that he took the whole nation for his parish.
Clarence R. Skinner (1881-1949), minister, teacher, writer and social activist, is widely regarded as the most influential Universalist of the first half of the twentieth century. He was born in Brooklyn into a thoroughly Universalist family-his parents and brothers were Universalists; a grandfather, great grandfather and great uncle were Universalist ministers. He attended St. Lawrence, a Universalist university, where he met and later married a Universalist classmate and fellow Phi Beta Kappa, Clara Louise Ayres.
Skinner became Dean of Tufts University’s Crane Theological School and co-founder of the non-denominational Community Church of Boston. Services throughout Skinner's leadership were held in a series of rented halls, with attendance rising to over 1,200. The church was deeply involved in many social causes, aid to the Republican government of Spain, and the right of Margaret Sanger to publicly advocate birth control. Clarence Russell Skinner was a prophet of the social gospel.