Universalist Avowals: Four Documents
The following four documents, the Philadelphia Articles of Faith of 1790, the Winchester Profession of 1803, the “Five Priniciples” of 1899, and the Washington Declaration of 1935 constituted the public witness of faith of the Universalists before their consolidation with the Unitarians in 1961. They remain in use in some individual congregations to this day, and are presented to our readers for personal reflection and meditation.
Of these, the Winchester Profession of 1803 is paramount. It succeeded the 1790 document, and the 1899 and 1935 documents were technically “interpretations” of the Winchester Profession, not replacements. It should be noted that, except for a brief time in the 1890s, the professions included a liberty clause from 1803 to 1961.
More information about these avowals, including the reports which suggested the avowals for their ratification, may be found at UniversalistChurch.net.
The Philadephia Articles of Faith of 1790
Section 1. OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES We believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to contain a revelation of the perfections and will of God, and the rule of faith and practice.
Section 2. OF THE SUPREME BEING We believe in One God, infinite in all his perfections; and that these perfections are all modifications of infinite, adorable, incomprehensible and unchangeable Love.
Section 3. OF THE MEDIATOR We believe that there is One Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; who, by giving himself a ransom for all, hath redeemed them to God by his blood; and who, by the merit of his death, and the efficacy of his Spirit, will finally restore the whole human race to happiness.
Section 4. OF THE HOLY GHOST We believe in the Holy Ghost, whose office it is to make known to sinners the truth of their [this] salvation, through the medium of the Holy Scriptures, and to reconcile the hearts of the chilren of men to God, and thereby dispose them to genuine holiness.
Section 5. OF GOOD WORK We believe in the obligation of the moral law, as to the rule of life; and we hold that the love of God manifest to man in a Redeemer, is the best means of producing obedience to that law, and promoting a holy, active and useful life.
Winchester Profession of 1803
Article I. We believe that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament contain a revelation of the character of God, and of the duty, interest and final destination of mankind.
Article II. We believe that there is one God, whose nature is Love, revealed in one Lord Jesus Christ, by one Holy Spirit of Grace, who will finally restore the whole family of mankind to holiness and happiness.
Article III. We believe that holiness and true happiness are inseparably connected, and that believers ought to be careful to maintain order and practice good works; for these things are good and profitable unto men.
The “Five Principles” of 1899
. . . the essential principles of the Universalist faith, to wit:
The Universal Fatherhood of God;
the spiritual authority and leadership of His Son Jesus Christ;
the trustworthiness of the Bible as containing a revelation from God;
the certainty of just retribution for sin;
the final harmony of all souls with God.
The Winchester Profession is commended as containing these principles, but neither this, nor any other precise form of words, is required as a condition of fellowship, provided always the principles as stated above be professed.
The Washington Declaration of 1935
The bond of fellowship in this Convention (church) shall be a common purpose to do the will of God as Jesus revealed it and to co-operate in establishing the kingdom for which he lived and died.
To that end, we avow our faith in God as Eternal and All-conquering Love, in the spiritual leadership of Jesus, in the supreme worth of every human personality, in the authority of truth known or to be known, and in the power of men of good-will and sacrificial spirit to overcome evil and progressively stablish the Kingdom of God.
Neither this nor any other statement shall be imposed as a creedal test, provided that the faith thus indicated be professed.