What is Universalist Orthodoxy ?
We are true Orthodoxy, that is affirming and inclusive to all of God's children. We follow Christ's Gospel of Love God & Love Your Neighbor, the two Greatest Commandments. We are proud to be Universalist Orthodox Christians that serves all, by anyone. As Universalist we offer full inclusion of all people in every aspect of Church life; socially, structurally and sacramentally.
As for the inclusion of Universalist in our jurisdiction's name, it has to do with several factors. First, and foremost with the fact that Orthodoxy has always taken a stance on salvation that is more akin to what many in the West would dub as "Universalism", that God wills the salvation of all, and that boundless love for all means precisely that. There is a lot more to dig into theologically on that point, but on one level, it's a way to indicate that we are incredibly open to all people, precisely as they are, and that condemnation of any sort is not going to be the feeling or essence of what they are met with when they come into the doors. We aren't augmenting Orthodox theology by taking on the title Universalist, just perhaps placing a certain strain of theological thought a bit more prominently in our approach, which many other saints have done in the past as well.
Being an Eastern Orthodox faith, liturgy is very important to us. Despite our views being "modern" we do not shy away from traditional ways to express worship. Beautiful methods of expressing worship are not for the conservative believers alone. This heritage is all of ours to partake in. We look, feel, worship, and live an Orthodox life as a community and parish, but we are not bound by policies, dogma, or traditions that restrict the dignity of every human being. While keeping with the traditional titles of the Church, we are open and affirming to all of God’s children in faith, love and calling.
We draw from traditional church teachings, but are not bound by them. We are Universalists. We believe all people are inherently good and need not fear condemnation, or an "Angry God." We affirm God's perfect love, a love which does not discriminate. This informs how we interpret scripture and every aspect of our beliefs.
Our Theology and Approach
Before beginning to write in too much detail about Theology it is best to stress once again that we are not a doctrine driven church. We do not stand in direct opposition to the creeds that were compiled and codified by the ecumenical councils or any other councils, but one cannot ignore their restrictive nature, and the history of oppression linked to them. It is vital to understand that the creeds and the councils that created them are a complicated subject for us, and indeed for all Christians. When Constantine legalized Christianity in the Edict of Milan, he did not just let the religion exist as it had up to that point, he had not only legalized it but made it the official religion of the Roman Empire. In one fell swoop, Christianity went from being persecuted by the state, to being endorsed by it, and eventually coerced into supporting the state which used to oppress it. This was a messy merger of Church and State, the consequences of which we live with to this day. The creeds that we have currently were created at Constantine’s request. He wanted something simplified and easy for people to read, understand, and follow. He wanted the new official religion of his empire to be legalistic in the same way the laws of the empire were, the statements in the creeds indeed were to become laws of the empire. It is taught that the creeds were statements reached by a council of Saintly people through the grace of the Holy Spirit. In truth, any who voiced dissension were met with violence. Not the actions of Saintly people, and despite holy tradition and the high regards for our theologians of old, we must realize a handful of factors.
First, ancient theologians, liturgists, hymnographers, Saints or otherwise, inspired by the Holy Spirit, The Virgin Mary, The Angels or not, were all human beings with the same nature and faculties as we humans do currently. Our faith is not static, and not only determined by ancient sages. This is a living tradition, whose direction has often been decided by at times Saintly and at times corrupt human beings. We have no less of a right to determine our direction and theology as those who came before us. Theologians and liturgists of old have claimed they were inspired or directed by various Holy beings, in many cases this is an easy way to make your claims or beliefs unassailable. We have no interest in making such claims, our theology and expressions are not beyond scrutiny, this church is not beyond scrutiny, and no teaching or ancient practice is beyond scrutiny. We are entirely capable of having living, evolving theologies, and holding services that express those theologies while retaining the ancient essence of our holy church heritage. The two are not mutually exclusive, and the belief that they must be is shrouded in fear and power mongering.
Throughout history our churches in their adherence to ancient creeds and ancient canons has indeed created a structure that is incredibly exclusive and has not only scarred, but oppressed hundreds of generations, and yet, somehow mysteriously offered haven to many oppressed people as well. Despite the extreme corruption expressed by the hierarchy of various churches, the Spirit of God has still found itself dwelling with people. The love of God, the warmth of the Saints, the Heavenly Peace is absolutely boundless, and cannot be destroyed by corrupt and harmful teachers and teachings, which is the greatest promise and assurance there is. However, we have a duty to do better than those who came before. We, who endeavor to be true emissaries of the Church, true emulators of Christ, are obligated to do what we can to make our churches and communities reflections of Christ as well. This includes doing our utmost to dismantle harmful theology, to make our spaces truly inclusive, and to engage the world from this frame of mind as well. To be clear: God hates no one, no person or groups of people, to promulgate that notion openly or subtly is an aberration. However, it may be safe to say God is not at all fond of oppression of any kind. Time and time again in the scriptures, God and The Christ are found to be on the side of the oppressed. To further oppression is to further the works of corruption in this world. There is no spiritual benefit in it. We are called to eschew oppression of any and every kind, whether we understand it or not. Our understanding is not requisite for our action. If harm is done against any of God’s creation out of hatred and fear, it is expressly against God. God’s love is boundless, if God loves all, then God desires justice and perfect equality for all. There are drastic and subtle ways to make the world a place of love and peace, and we all have our own ways of doing it. No one way is better than another, no role exceeds another, so long as it is done with a luminous heart, burning, brimming with love and justice.
It is vital that when we read scripture or teachings of the church we are capable of separating culture from religion. Sadly, culture has permeated religious writings to the extent that trivial biases have been recorded and later understood as from God. We completely reject this. The ancient cultures surrounding the Torah/Old Testament were heavily patriarchal, heavily rooted in the gender binary, heavily ethnocentric, and overly concerned with the what constituted proper conduct for us to act according to "nature," plainly, sexuality. These biases worked their way into religious law, and there you have it. We get the whole package, a masculine God, a society that idealizes masculinity itself, relegates not only femininity but every other expression of gender to the sidelines, and binds them to their roles and repression with notions of what is spiritually clean or unclean, what is a natural or unnatural for people to do. Not to mention creating a sense of who "God's people" are, and that any other race or nation that doesn't adhere to your customs and cultural norms must indeed be unclean, ungodly, and worth exterminating. These things have been in the works for well over five thousand years, and have informed nearly every form of elitism and bigotry that can be found in our Judeo-Christian dominate nations. We can and must do better, perfect love cannot exist along side of this deplorable level of hatred. We have a sacred duty to rid ourselves of limiting and harmful notions.
Repeatedly, Jesus called to us, telling us that heaven dwells within us and among us. Telling us all to be bold and enter into an intimate relationship with God, one that goes beyond the rigidity of the law, teaching us of a God who does not reject people based on their difficulties. Repeatedly, we were shown that while people called Jesus by innumerable honorifics, Jesus was challenging us, saying that if we lived through the same heart and with the same faith, we could do all that Jesus did as well. Jesus is indeed Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One, but this Christhood is not for Jesus alone. The baptismal hymn reminds us, “As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.” The sacrament of the Eucharist is one of unity with each other, and unity into the body of Christ. We as a whole, and individually can and do exist in a state of Christhood. Veneration of Jesus Christ is admirable, but not good enough, we are actually called to emulate more than anything else, and to enter into a spiritual manner of living. This is the central role of Church, to bring people closer to each other, and to bring people more to the root of their Christhood. Christianity should be more than just legalism, more than just worship God and don’t do “sinful” things. This faith was instituted as a spiritual path for greater union with all people, union with Christ, living through Christ, as Christ, and union with God. This cannot be done from a place of shame, from a place of guilt, but rather a warm open heart, and the willingness to uproot any callousness one finds in themselves and in the world around them.