International Peace Mission Movement

A movement led by the charismatic Father Divine, advocating racial equality and communal living.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Peace Mission Movement
Founder: Father Divine (George Baker)
Founded: 1919
Location: United States
Other Names: Peace Mission, International Peace Mission, Peace Mission Movement Church, Father Divine’s Peace Mission

The International Peace Mission Movement is a religious and social movement founded in the early 20th century by Father Divine, a charismatic African American leader. The movement is known for its commitment to racial equality, economic self-sufficiency, and communal living, along with its unique religious teachings.

Founder and Early Development

Father Divine, born George Baker Jr., emerged as a spiritual leader in the 1910s and 1920s. He claimed to be God incarnate and preached a message of racial equality, economic independence, and strict moralism. His teachings attracted a diverse following, particularly during the Great Depression, as he provided economic and social support to those in need.

Beliefs and Teachings

The core beliefs of the International Peace Mission Movement centered around the divinity of Father Divine. He preached that heaven could be achieved on earth through righteousness, hard work, and racial harmony. The movement rejected traditional Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ, instead focusing on Father Divine as a divine figure.

Key teachings included:

  • Racial equality and integration: The movement was a forerunner in advocating for racial integration and equality.
  • Economic self-sufficiency: Followers were encouraged to live communally and pool their resources.
  • Moral living: Adherents were to adhere to strict moral codes, including celibacy (even within marriage), temperance, and honesty.

Communal Living and Economic Enterprises

The International Peace Mission Movement established numerous communal residences, known as “Heavens,” where members lived together and shared resources. The movement also operated various businesses, including restaurants and hotels, which were staffed by members and open to the public. These enterprises were known for their fair practices and were integral to the movement’s self-sufficiency.

Social and Political Impact

Father Divine’s movement was significant in its early advocacy for civil rights and racial integration. The Peace Mission’s practices of racial equality and integration were radical for their time and contributed to the broader civil rights movement.

Decline and Legacy

The movement’s influence began to wane following Father Divine’s death in 1965. While some followers continued to believe in his teachings, the movement largely declined in membership and visibility.