Name : Church of the New Jerusalem (Swedenborgian) Generally called the "New Church" by its members.
Founder : Emanuel Swedenborg
Date of Birth and Death: January 29th 1688- March 29th 1772.
Birth Place : Stockholm, Sweden
Year Founded : Swedenborg experienced the spiritual world for the first time in 1743. He published his first theological work anonymously in 1749. The church was established in London, England in1787 when eleven individuals, men and women, received the holy supper, and five men were baptized into the faith of the New Church based upon Swedenborg's religious writings.
Sacred or Revered Texts : The Bible remains the foundational text for the New Church writings, and is referred to as the Word. Swedenborg wrote a number of books drawing on his visionary experience which are now commonly known by New Church members as the "Writings." Swedenborg did not call his theological books the "Writings;" it is the name given them in the church to distinguish them from the other books he wrote.
The primary theological works written by Swedenborg are:
Arcana Coelestia (sometimes translated as Heavenly Secrets) 1747-1756. An extensive verse by verse explanation of the deeper levels of meaning of Genesis and Exodus describing the spiritual development of a human being and the nature of the Divine. (Published in 12 volumes.) Spiritual Diary (sometimes called Spiritual Experiences) 1747-1763 The personal notebooks kept by Swedenborg of his experiences in the Spiritual World and reflections upon them. They were unpublished until the mid 1800s.
Heaven and Hell 1758. A description of the structure and phenomena of the Spiritual World.
Earths in the Universe 1758. Conversations Swedenborg had with people in the Spiritual World who said they were from other planets in the universe.
The Last Judgement 1758. Description of events in the Spiritual World preparing the way for the establishment of the New Church.
The White Horse 1758. A brief explanation of the meaning of the white horse with its rider from the Book of Revelation chapter 19 as the Divine truth of the Lord's Word.
The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine 1758. A brief summary of the fundamental doctrines of the New Church with extensive references to the Arcana Coelestia for further reading.
The Doctrine of the Lord 1763. A brief work summarizing the teachings about God -- His Divinity and Humanity - with extensive references to the Old and New Testaments.
The Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 1763. A brief work summarizing the teachings on the nature of revelation.
The Doctrine of Life 1763. A brief work describing the qualities, which comprise a life of good, which leads to heaven.
The Doctrine of Faith 1763. A brief work explaining the nature of faith and its role in the life of regeneration.
A Continuation Concerning the Last Judgement 1763. A continuation describing various erroneous beliefs about the Divine and the path of spiritual development.
Divine Love and Wisdom 1763 A philosophic treatment of creation -- how the Divine finited Himself to produce the natural world and the human race.
Divine Providence 1764. A thorough explanation of how the Lord leads people in freedom to become angels in heaven; also, why He allows evils to occur.
Apocalypse Revealed 1766. Two volumes.
Conjugial Love (or Marriage Love ) 1768. An explanation of the sources of love in marriage and a practical guide for husbands and wives.
A Brief Exposition of the Doctrine of the New Church 1769. A point by point comparison of fundamental Catholic and Protestant doctrines with the teachings of the New Church.
Inter-relationship of the Soul and Body 1769. A brief description of the relationship and interaction between the spiritual and natural realms.
True Christian Religion 1771. A comprehensive overview of the fundamental doctrines of the New Church, including the Lord, the Ten Commandments, Faith, Charity, Repentance, Reformation, Regeneration, Holy Supper, Baptism, and the Second Coming.
Cult or Sect: Negative sentiments are typically implied when the concepts "cult" and "sect" are employed in popular discourse. Since the Religious Movements Homepage seeks to promote religious tolerance and appreciation of the positive benefits of pluralism and religious diversity in human cultures, we encourage the use of alternative concepts that do not carry implicit negative stereotypes. For a more detailed discussion of both scholarly and popular usage of the concepts "cult" and "sect," please visit our Conceptualizing "Cult" and "Sect" page, where you will find additional links to related issues.
Size of Group : The New Church exists in larger and smaller groups throughout the world. There about 30 000 members currently around the world. The current sizes of the four groups are:
General Conference (Great Britain) : 1,412. These are individuals who have signed the roll book in local societies. They are labeled in the Year Book as "present number."
General Convention (USA) : 2,096. Membership is defined at the society level. To be a member one must belong to a society first. One may be affiliated with a society and not be a full member.
General Church of the New Jerusalem : 4,667. This figure includes those who have been baptized and who have applied to the Bishop for membership as adults (18 or older).
The Lord's New Church : (Nova Hierosolyma 250-300 USA & Europe, 1,500-2,000 Southern Africa). These approximate figures include both members and friends or affiliates. Statistical information not available from this group. This approximation was reported in an interview. The most recent membership figures for the Four Church Organizations 2000:
General Conference (Great Britain): 1,314 General Convention (USA): 2,029 General Church of the New Jerusalem: 5,563 The Lord's New Church: 1,000
The four different New Church organizations have their own mission statements and their own visions for the future. The Convention and the Conference are Congregational, and majoritarian, whereas the Lord's New Church and the General Church are Episcopal, hierarchical with counsel or house of National Bishops.
The Conference has yet to develop their own mission statement. But the Convention's mission is to help people to be open to the Lord's presence and leading. The General Church's mission is to cooperate with the Lord in building the New Church in the hearts and minds of all people through fostering first the belief that the Old and New Testaments and the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg are the Lord's Words, and second, a love for and obedience to that Word. The Lord's New Church's mission is to promote ideas that the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg are the Third Testament of the Word of the Lord. They believe that the Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture must be applied to all three Testaments alike.
In the General Convention the vision is very local and often very community focussed. Each congregation has its own perspective and vision. In the General Convention their vision is to support formation and growth of groups who support each other in understanding, loving and living the life that leads to heaven, and commitment to growth in the number of active members.
In the General Church their vision is to announce the teachings of Swedenborg more widely to the world than before and to nurture and develop congregations of the New Church to foster the worship of the Lord.
In the Lord's New Church their vision is to improve the New Church in Southern Africa -- to overcome the injustices of the past.
Emanuel Swedenborg, the son of a clergyman and professor of theology, grew up in a household filled with moral, political, intellectual and philosophical dialogue. After his formal education at Uppsala University, at the age of twenty-two, Swedenborg began to travel. While in England and Holland he immersed himself in studying many subjects, including: physics, astronomy, mathematics, anatomy, physiology, economics, metallurgy, mineralogy, geology, chemistry, watchmaking, bookbinding, and lens grinding.
Following this period of travel and study, Swedenborg began his career of public service. In 1716, the King of Sweden appointed him Assessor in the Royal College of Mines. Then, in 1719, he took a seat in the House of Nobles (a part of the Swedish legislature), in which he served the Swedish government for some fifty years. Also, the King of Sweden, impressed with Swedenborg's contributions as editor of Daedalus (a periodical dedicated to the discussion of natural sciences), asked Swedenborg to serve as his engineering advisor. In that capacity, Swedenborg devised numerous feats of engineering to aid the military and industry.
Swedenborg published many books on a vast number of subjects. Two subjects that he made particular advances in were metallurgy and biology. Especially impressive is the work he did in connection with the nervous system; he is generally credited with being the first to accurately understand the significance of the cerebral cortex and the respiratory movement of the brain tissues.
Despite all these accomplishments, Swedenborg was not satisfied with a purely physical approach to studying humanity and the universe. In particular, he wanted to comprehend more fully the nature of the soul and to develop a new, more accurate cosmology than had ever before been proposed.
Based upon his conviction that underlying all matter in the universe was the divine force, he wrote of the relationships between matter and energy, between the finite and the Infinite, and between God and humanity. Among the books he wrote on these topics were: The Economy of the Animate Kingdom , The Brain , The Senses , and Rational Psychology . The last three he left in unpublished manuscripts.
In 1743, Swedenborg experienced a revelation in which he was able to view the spirit world unhindered by physical perception. He writes it was, "... in the year 1743, when he opened my sight into the spiritual world, and enabled me to converse with spirits and angels...." Then, in 1744, he had unusual dreams and visions. Not knowing what to make of these odd experiences, he revealed them nowhere but in his personal journals. Moved partially by the need to understand his own recent experiences, and partially by the direction his studies in cosmology and the human soul were taking, he began a meticulous study of the Bible.
In the month of April 1745, Swedenborg says the Lord appeared to him and told him that a human person was needed to serve as the means by which God would further reveal Himself to humanity, somewhat in the manner of the Biblical visions of the Old Testament.
So began Swedenborg's life as a spiritual revelator. For the remainder of his life, Swedenborg continued to visit the other world and published books revealing the truths he believed God had summoned him to write. (His spiritual writings are listed above under "Sacred or Revered Texts.")
He also maintained an active life in this world, taking part in political discussions in the House of Nobles, of which he was a member, and writing on such diverse topics as Sweden's monetary policy and how to inlay tables. Then, on Sunday, March 29th, 1772 at five o'clock in the afternoon, Emanuel Swedenborg entered into the Spiritual World for the final time, never to return again (incidentally, he died exactly when he had predicted he would). Since then, his Writings have affected hundreds of thousands of people, both directly and indirectly. The universal theology put forth in his works has contributed to the development of religion throughout the world.
As early as 1784, James Glen began giving speeches in America about Swedenborg's ideas. In 1787, Robert Hindmarsh in London founded the first New Church organization. Currently there are four major internationally known New Church organizations and a variety of local, unaffiliated ones. These four are: The General Conference of the New Church founded in London, England in 1787; The General Convention of the New Jerusalem Church founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1817, (today known as The Swedeborgian Church of North America); The General Church of the New Jerusalem founded in 1897 in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania; and The Lord's New Church which is Nova Hierosolyma founded in 1937 in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania.
The New Church believes that God is Love Itself, and that Love is revealed in the personage of the Lord Jesus Christ, a Divinely Human God reaching out to all. Their idea of God is one of three manifestations: God who is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This also shows that they who are three in the sense of the letter are one in the internal sense; as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, are not three gods, but one. That the Trinity is complete in the Lord; namely, that in Him is the Father, and that from Him emmanates the Holy Spirit. The New Church also believes that:
The Bible is the Word of God and can be read on many different levels. There is a deeper symbolic meaning to the stories in the Bible, which teaches individuals about their own spiritual lives. Swedenborg calls this deeper meaning the internal sense, among other things.
Life after death is real, and the details about that life have been explained in the teaching of Emanuel Swedenborg's book Heaven and Hell. All people who die wake up safe in the afterlife. Those who have made their life heavenly in this world find themselves in a heavenly way of life in the next. Those who have chosen to make their life a hell in this world find this reality waiting for them in the next. People freely choose their eternal destiny.
The love in marriage is a special gift from the Lord. When spiritual principles are applied not only to one's spiritual growth, but also to the marriage relationship, troubled times can be overcome, and that marriage will grow in friendship, mutual support, and happiness. Genuine marriage does not end with death, but continues to eternity.
The Second Coming of Christ does not mean the destruction of all of creation and a fierce judgment on humankind. The second coming is taking place right now, in a new understanding of Jesus Christ, as revealed in the teachings of the New Church, and brought to being in our individual and collective lives. This coming of the Lord is the dawn of a new age of genuine Christianity.
Within the four Swedenborgian organizations (The General Conference, The General Convention, The General Church, and The Lord's New Church) these common beliefs stand:
Beliefs in One God the Lord Jesus Christ Beliefs that the religious writings of Emanuel Swedenborg announce the Second Coming Belief that all human beings have free will in spiritual things Belief that a spiritual equilibrium is provided in this world so everyone may choose his or her own spiritual destiny.