Church of the New Jerusalem, The

Church of the New Jerusalem, The

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The Church of the New Jerusalem was inspired by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772). Swedenborg neither preached nor founded a church, but he gave a new interpretation of Scripture. The New Jerusalem Church was founded by a few disciples of his in 1784, including two Anglican clergymen who were especially instrumental in forming the church. They were Thomas Hartley (d. 1784), rector of Winwick, and John Clowes (1743–1831), vicar of St. John’s, Manchester, England. Five prominent preachers adopted his teachings and, in spite of disagreements with Hartley and Clowes, this led to the formal organization of the New Jerusalem Church on May 7, 1787. It remains small but even today has branches all over the world.

In 1782, a society was formed in Manchester, for publishing Swedenborg’s writings. In 1786, C. F. Nordenskiold formed the Philanthropic Xegetic Society in Sweden, with the purpose of collecting and publishing Swedenborg’s writings. In 1875, the society of “Confessors of the New Church” was founded in Stockholm. In 1784, James Glen delivered lectures and circulated Swedenborg’s works in Boston, Massachusetts and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Over the following decade a number of prominent men gave support to the teachings. The first society for worship was formed in Baltimore, Maryland in 1792. Other churches were established in Boston, Cincinnati, New York, and Philadelphia.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was very critical of the Church of the New Jerusalem, saying that it tried to separate Swedenborg from Spiritualism and thereby showed “a complete misapprehension of his gifts, and their true place in the general scheme of Nature.”

Sources:

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The History of Spiritualism. New York: Doran, 1926
Encyclopedia Britannica. Chicago: William Benton, 1964 The New Church: http://www.newchurch.org
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