A Christian theological movement emphasizing spiritual rebirth and the inner meaning of the Scriptures, based on the visions of Emanuel Swedenborg.

Religion: Christianity
Founder: Emanuel Swedenborg
Founded: 18th century
Location: Global (with significant presence in the United States)
Other Names: The New Church, Church of the New Jerusalem

Swedenborgianism, also known as the New Church or the Church of the New Jerusalem, is a religious movement based on the teachings and theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Born in Stockholm, Sweden, on January 29, 1688, Swedenborg was a prolific scientist, Christian mystic, philosopher, and theologian. His extensive contributions to interpreting the Scriptures were recognized as the immediate word of God by his followers, who formed Swedenborgian societies dedicated to studying his thoughts. These societies eventually constituted the nucleus of what is today known as the New Church or the Swedenborgians​​.

The genesis of the Swedenborgian movement traces back to the late 18th century, specifically the 1780s, in Sweden, France, and England. The first Swedenborgian church was established in England in 1787, with notable individuals such as the artist William Blake among its members. Swedenborgianism spread significantly through the efforts of many, including John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed, who is renowned for spreading Swedenborg’s theological writings across the Midwest of the United States. The movement espouses beliefs in the oneness of God, the afterlife, a deeper meaning to the Bible, and the importance of living a virtuous life​​.

Swedenborg’s entry into theology was marked by a divine vision and call, leading him to assert that his spiritual senses were opened to be in the spiritual world as consciously as in the material world. From 1749 to 1771, he dedicated himself to the interpretation of the Bible, producing some 30 volumes of work, all written in Latin​​.

In July 1787, a small group led by Robert Hindmarsh took decisive steps to form what would become the New Church, holding ceremonies to celebrate the sacraments of baptism and the holy supper, marking the official establishment of the church based on Swedenborg’s teachings. Following this, the first general conference of the New Church was held in 1789 in London, attended by about eighty men and women, including William Blake. The conference was aimed at establishing common beliefs, principles of association, and forms of worship based on Swedenborg’s revelations​​.

The Swedenborgian Church of North America was founded later, in May 1817, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the General Convention of the Church of the New Jerusalem. This organization aimed to oversee the needs of existing congregations, assist in the development of new ones, regularize ordination, and support missionary efforts. Its congregational form of government was a natural choice, reflecting the democratic spirit of early America. The General Convention emphasizes the knowledge of the Lord in His Divine Humanity and promotes the practice of divine teachings of charity, good works, and love for each other​​.

Swedenborgianism’s impact extended far beyond its numerical size, influencing cultural thought, literature, and various social movements throughout the 19th century. Its teachings on life after death, the Christian Trinity, regeneration, and the inner sense of the Bible were particularly influential​​. Emanuel Swedenborg’s contributions to theology, science, and philosophy also continue to resonate, with his ideas forming the foundation of the Swedenborgian Church’s beliefs and practices. His legacy is preserved and promoted through various Swedenborgian societies and organizations worldwide, reflecting the enduring appeal and relevance of his visionary insights​​.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *