Amana Church Society (Community of True Inspiration)
Amana Church Society (Community of True Inspiration)
1112 26th Ave., PO Box 103, Middle Amana, IA 52307
The Amana Church Society, also known as the Community of True Inspiration, originated in Germany in 1714 among the Pietists who rejected Lutheran state-church polity and ritualism, as well as state laws on military service and oath taking. Their leaders were Eberhard Ludwig Gruber (1665–1728) and Johann Friedrick Rock (1678–1749). These men gathered a following attracted to the notion that the divine revelation and prophecy were as operative in their day as in biblical days. All the sayings of the spiritual leaders were recorded and circulated among the faithful.
In Europe, the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were times of persecution of nonconformists, so in 1842 Christian Metz (1794–1867) was placed in charge of a Committee of Four tasked with finding a new home for the group in the United States. An initial tract of land was purchased in New York and the Ebenezer Society organized. In 1845 a communal system of property ownership was established. After 12 years, the society had outgrown its land. In 1855 a move to Iowa began, and Amana was first settled. Then, five other villages—West Amana, South Amana, High Amana, East Amana, and Middle Amana—were established on a 26,000-acre tract. A new constitution, similar to the Ebenezer Constitution, was adopted in 1859. In 1861 the land of the whole community of Homestead was purchased, in order for the society to have a community on the railroad line.
In addition to its complete faith in the holy scriptures, the Amana Society has various beliefs summarized in the Twenty-Four Rules Forming the Basis of the Faith, a short document channeled through J. A. Gruber. Subsequent revelations, particularly those of Metz and his later contemporary, Barbara Heinemann (1795–1883), also have been published. Except for the orientation on the “Instruments” of revelation, the Amana Church Society’s beliefs closely resemble those of the German Brethren. The Twenty-Four Rules deal with strict observance of the holy life and the Christian community ethic.
In 1932 the Amana Society went through a thorough reorganization that separated the church from its temporal enterprises. The communal system was abandoned, and each member of the community was given a share in the business enterprises, a very successful appliance corporation, and farming. The community assets were distributed to members of the society in the form of stock certificates, in proportion to years of service. A community representative system of church government was adopted and power was invested in a 13-member board of directors elected by the members.
The Amana Church Society continues as a church consisting of the members who live in the seven Amana communities. Economic communalism has been replaced by a wage system and private enterprise. Church services are conducted in both English and German, and simplicity remains a hallmark of Amana worship.
In 2008 the society reported more than 400 members in one congregation. There were 12 elders.
Amana Church Society Newsletter.
Amana Church Society. amanachurch.org.
The Amana Church Hymnal. Amana, IA: Amana Church Society, 1992. 238 pp.
Barthel, Diane L. Amana: From Pietist Sect to American Community. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984.
Rettig, Lawrence. Amana Today. South Amana, IA: Author, 1975.
Scheuner, Gottlieb. Inspirations–Histories. 2 vols. Trans. Janet W. Zuber. Amana, IA: Amana Church Society, 1976–1977.
Shambaugh, Bertha M. H. Amana That Was and Amana That Is. Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa, 1932.
Zuber, Janet W., trans. Barbara Heineman Landmann Biography/E. L. Gruber’s Teaching on Divine Inspiration and Other Essays. Lake Mills, IA: Graphic Publishing Co., 1981.
Woodcrest, 2032 Rte. 213, Rifton, NY 12471
Church Communities International (formerly known as the Bruderhof Communities in New York, Inc., the Hutterian Brethren of New York, Inc., and the Society of Brothers) has its roots in post–World War I Germany, where it formed under the leadership of Eberhard Arnold (1883–1935). Arnold, whose background was in the Christian Socialist Movement and the Student Christian Movement, preached a radical form of Christianity based on the demands of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7). In 1920 he rented Sannerz Villa, where work on both publishing and gardening began and where the writings of the Anabaptists and Hutterian Brethren were studied. Upon learning of the continued existence of the Hutterian Brethren in the United States and Canada, the small group around Arnold instituted a fellowship with them that led in 1930 to a merger. This union continued until 1956.
In 1935 Arnold died and a collective leadership emerged. Arnold’s death was followed by moves on the part of the group to England (1936), Paraguay (1940), and the United States (1954). The group’s initial move from Germany was forced by the Gestapo, who would not allow the Bruderhof to sustain either its pacifist stance or communal way of life. Both the break with the Hutterian Brethren and the move to the United States spurred changes. Some Hutterite forms were abandoned. At this time the Bruderhof consisted of 1,717 residents in nine communes in the United States, Paraguay, Uruguay, Germany, and England.
The first settlement in the United States was on a 100-acre site near Rifton, New York, named Woodcrest. The group was joined almost immediately by half of the members of another already existing commune, Macedonia, who brought with them a light industry, Community Playthings. This soon became the major source of income for the Bruderhof. In 1955, the Forest River, North Dakota, colony of the Hutterite Brethren–Schmiedeleut decided to join the Bruderhof. A third colony was begun at Oak Lake near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1958 Evergreen was established near Norfolk, Connecticut.
The early 1960s were years of crisis for the Bruderhof. Realization came that the movement had wandered far from its enthusiastic beginnings in Germany and there was a great wish to rediscover these early radical Christian roots. In the process, many left (though over the following years, many of these returned to the renewed brotherhoods.) From the nine hofs (centers) that existed in 1956, only four remained. Membership was consolidated in the United States and the lone British colony. About this same time, Eberhard Arnold’s son, Heini Arnold (d. 1982), was unanimously appointed elder of all four communities. He remained in that position for the next two decades as the Bruderhof movement experienced an increasing return to the spirit in which it was founded. During this time Darvell Bruderhof in East Sussex, England, was established (1971) and the Eastern colonies were reunited with the Western Hutterian movement (1974) through mutual reconciliation. This newly unified movement took on once more much of the dress and customs of the older movement, and there was much interchange between the formerly separate colonies, including many intermarriages and mutual aid. In the 1980s and 1990s communities were started in New York, Pennsylvania, and Germany.
The Bruderhof remains in the Anabaptist theological tradition of the Hutterites, taking a strong stand on community of goods, nonviolence and nonresistance, faithfulness in marriage, and sexual purity. The common life, which the Bruderhof believe is ordained of God and has him as its center, is demonstrated in work, learning, play, and worship.
Worship is centered in the Gemeindestunde (a “brotherhood gathering,” very much like a prayer meeting), which is held most evenings. It includes a talk by a servant of the Word, silent prayer waiting in the Spirit (resembling a Quaker meeting), and a closing prayer by the servant. For the Bruderhof, the nature of religious experience is joy, expressed in singing and the closeness of life together.
The Bruderhof is governed by a chief servant or Vorsteher, the elders or servants of the Word (usually three in each colony), and the stewards, witness brothers, and house mothers. Great emphasis is placed, however, on the consensus of the community in decision-making.
The differing workloads that sustain the community are distributed to the different hofs. Community Playthings and Rifton Equipment for the Handicapped are located in sections at all bruderhofs and supply the basic financial support for the community. Plough Publishing House is located in Rifton, New York. While it has ceased publishing books in hard copy, many of its volumes are available in electronic form via its Web site.
In 1997 there were approximately 2,500 residents of the five Bruderhof communities, of whom 250 live at the two centers in England. Membership as of 2008 was unknown, but Church Communities International says communities exist in Germany and Australia as well as in the United States and England.
In 2005 the Bruderhof communities abruptly shut down their Web sites and became more reclusive following allegations by former members of child abuse, molestation, and cult-like coercion. Child custody disputes had become common by the early 2000s, some leading to bitter court battles, as many of those who had left the group voluntarily or had been expelled found themselves prevented from seeing children still living with the group. Former members have also claimed that the group’s leaders fail to live as simply as they demand of members, and refuse to return donated assets to those who have left the group. In 2007 the Bruderhofs reorganized under the name Church Communities International and reestablished their online presence, maintaining on their new Web site that they are a vibrant and open community that welcomes visitors.
Church Communities International. www.churchcommunities.org.
Arnold, Eberhard. Foundation and Orders of Sannerz and the Rhoen Bruderhof. Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing, 1976.
–. Why We Live Communally. Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing, 1976.
Arnold, Eberhard, and Emmy Arnold. Seeking for the Kingdom of God. Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing, 1974.
Arnold, Emmy. Torches Together. Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing, 1971.
Eggers, Ulrich. Community for Life. Scottsdale, PA: Herald Press, 1988.
Hutterian Society of Brothers, and John Howard Yoder, eds. God’s Revolution. New York: Paulist Press, 1984.
Mow, Merrill. Torches Rekindled: The Bruderhof’s Struggle for Renewal. Ulster Park, NY: Plough Publishing, 1989.
Zablocki, Benjamin. The Joyful Community. Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1971.
Current address not obtained for this edition.
The Church of the Brotherhood is a Hutterite-like body that no longer professes any formal or ethnic ties with the Hutterite Brethren. The two groups hold in common the fundamental doctrines: adult confession and baptism, reliance on Scripture rather than theology or doctrine, pacifism, and the effort to duplicate the communal Apostolic church. The Church of the Brotherhood differs from the Hutterites in its belief that communities must maintain their apartness while living in the world and transacting business with nonbelievers, all the while giving witness to the gospel. Members believe it is idolatrous to adopt any practice that makes symbols, not life, the means of giving and maintaining identity. Thus they speak a contemporary language and wear no special clothing. Full members live in complete discipline, and dedicate all work and wealth to the community. Confessional members devote a minimum of a tithe of goods and wealth and a full day of work in service projects.
Ministers work in secular pursuits and are not salaried. No separate worship houses are built. Love feasts, washing of feet, and baptism are ordinances. The group operates four centers for emotionally disturbed children and has created more than fifty centers for poor families and migrants, which operate as autonomous facilities.
4750 N Sheridan Rd., Chicago, IL 60640
Institute of Cultural Affairs International Secretariat, 555 RenéLévesque Blvd. Wt, Ste. 500, Montréal, QC H2Z 1B1, Canada.
The Ecumenical Institute, formed in 1957, grew out of a World Council of Churches meeting in Evanston, Illinois, in 1954, which called for the formation of regional institutes modeled on the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, Switzerland. In 1957 an American regional institute was formed in Evanston, with Walter Leibrecht as its director. It existed as a center for continuing ecumenical discussion. At about the same time, the Christian Faith and Life Community, was formed as a lay institute in Austin, Texas, its founders having been inspired by visiting many such institutes in Europe. Joseph Wesley Mathews, brother of Bishop James K. Mathews of the United Methodist Church, was its dean of studies from 1956 to 1962.
In 1962 the Joseph Mathews family and seven other families were called by the Church Federation of Greater Chicago to become the staff of the Ecumenical Institute in Evanston. Within a year, the work that had been previously focused on curriculum for local church clergy and laity had taken on the task of community development in a ghetto neighborhood on the west side of Chicago, Illinois, where the staff relocated. The staff discovered that there was a group of people, many of whom were in the church, committed to being a leading force in the “movement to create the future.” The institute defined its task as providing structure, training, and models of possibility in order to bring about needed changes in a most practical manner.
The staff reorganized itself to operate as a family religious order, with a common economic, political, and cultural life, and with a common understanding of embodying the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. A unique theology for the twentieth century was developed by integrating major themes from the teachings of leading modern Protestant theologians Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Reinhold Niebuhr, Rudolf Bultmann, Paul Tillich, and Karl Barth, and the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. The programs were designed to be applicable to any person regardless of race, religion, or nationality, and a variety of people found them effective in making a difference in their local situations.
Beginning in 1968, institute staff members were deployed outside of Chicago, starting with Australia and Malaysia. The Institute of Cultural Affairs, a program division of the institute, was separately incorporated in 1973 to work more effectively in non-Christian settings. Between 1975 and 1978, human development projects were established around the globe with a central emphasis on the “human factor in world development.” These projects were celebrated as demonstrations of comprehensive, integrated human development in 1984 at the International Exposition of Rural Development in New Dehli, India. This exposition, which brought together the wisdom of local developments in some 50 nations, was sponsored by the Institute of Cultural Affairs and included the co-sponsorship of the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations International Children’s Education Fund, the World Health Organization, and the International Council of Women.
Work in each nation is incorporated separately and is headed by a national board of directors and a national board of advisors. These national groups are part of the Institute of Cultural Affairs International.
In 1972 the Ecumenical Institute separately incorporated in Illinois as the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). Through this new corporation the institute could work with local communities in rural villages and urban neighborhoods in non-Christian countries. The work was focused on comprehensive economic and social development, including local commerce and industry, community identity and organization, education of all ages, and both preventative and curative health. As this work developed in the 1970s, it was found that the basic methods could also be applied and adapted for work with organizations such as corporations, hospitals, schools, government agencies, and other not-for-profit organizations.
In 2008 the ICA International reported a network of member organizations in the United States and 29 countries worldwide.
Edges (ICA Canada) • Network Exchange (internal newsletter of ICA International).
ICA: The Institute of Cultural Affairs USA. www.ica-usa.org/about-us.htm/.
Institute of Cultural Affairs International. www.ica-international.org/.
Cryer, Newman. “Laboratory for Tomorrow’s Church.” Together 10, no. 3 (March 1966).
PO Box 37, Applegate, CA 95703
The Esoteric Fratenity was founded in 1887 in Boston, Massachusetts, by Hiram Erastus Butler (d. 1916). Butler, after losing several fingers in a saw-mill accident, became a hermit in a New England forest for 14 years and began to receive revelations from God. In the late 1880s, he began to share these revelations with others, gathering around him a dozen followers, all single men and women. They pooled their resources, moved to Applegate, California, and established a monastic-like community. The basic idea of the fraternity was that to believe in God one must live the life of a celibate. When man gives up the sex act, the kingdom of God will be established on earth. This belief has necessarily kept the group small. At its height, around the beginning of the twentieth century, there were only forty members. In 1981 there were three reported members.
The Esoteric Fraternity teaches Esoteric Christianity. Members believe in reincarnation and that the population of the world remains constant, as old souls are constantly reborn. They believe that the fraternity consists of the chosen ones, the Order of Melchizedek as prophesied in the Book of Revelation. They will grow to be 144,000 in number and then the kingdom of God will begin. They would be rulers of the earth for eternity.
Following Butler’s death, Enoch Penn, a prolific writer (as was Butler), succeeded him. Penn was editor of the Esoteric Christian, the popular periodical of the fraternity that ceased publication when Penn died in 1943. The next leaders were Lena Crow (d. 1953), William Corecco (d. 1972), and Fred Peterson. Peterson, a former Mormon, had converted to the group in the 1950s. Butler’s and Penn’s books continue to be sold.
In August 1973 one elderly male member of the fraternity was murdered. His killer was not apprehended.
Butler, Hiram E. The Goal of Life. Applegate, CA: Esoteric Publishing Company, 1908.
———. The Narrow Way of Attainment. Applegate, CA: Esoteric Publishing Company, 1901.
———. The Seven Creative Principles. Applegate, CA: Esoteric Publishing Company, 1950.
———. Special Instructions for Women. Applegate, CA: Esoteric Fraternity, 1942.
Penn, Enoch. The Order of Melchisedek. Applegate, CA: Esoteric Fraternity, 1961.
Surprise Creek Colony, Stanford, MT 59479
The Dariusleut was the second group of Hutterites to settle in the United States, on a section of land near Olivet, South Dakota, north of the original Hutterite colony, in 1875. (For the early history of the Hutterites, see separate entry on Hutterian Brethren-Schmiedeleut.) There the leut established the Wolf Creek Colony. Under the leadership of Darius Walter (1835–1903), this second colony and those that sprang from it took his name. They established seven colonies in South Dakota, two in Montana, and one in Manitoba, Canada, by the beginning of World War I. They then abandoned all of their colonies and moved to new ones in Alberta, Canada. Not until 1935 did they reestablish a colony in the United States, in Montana.
The Dariusleut became the most geographically scattered of the leuts, having colonies in Washington State and Montana as well as Alberta, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia in Canada. There is also an affiliated colony in Japan. The Dariusleut was affiliated with the Society of Brothers from 1931 to 1950. It is the most loosely affiliated leut, as indicated by the ability of new colonies to be founded without prior consent.
Practices followed by the Dariusleut include the requirement of modest dress and designating the minister as the first to enter the worship service.
In 2006 the Hutterian Brethren Schmiedeleut Conference reported 149 Dariusleut colonies in the United States and Canada.
Allard, William Albert. “The Hutterites, Plain People of the West.” National Geographic 138, no. 1 (July 1970): 98–125.
Flint, David. The Hutterites. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1975.
Gross, Paul S. The Hutterite Way. Saskatoon, SK: Freeman Publishing, 1965.
Holzach, Michael. “The Christian Communists of Canada.” Geo 1 (November 1979): 126–154.
New Elm Spring Colony, Wolf Creek, MT 59648
The Lehrerleut dates to 1877, when the third group of Hutterites to migrate to America in the 1870s settled near Parkston, South Dakota. (For the early history of the Hutterites, see separate entry on Hutterian Brethren-Schmiedeleut.) Upon arrival in the United States, the group decided to live communally under the leadership of Jacob Wipf, an accomplished teacher (lehrer). The group derived its name from his ability. Slow to expand, the group had only four colonies at the beginning of World War I. Like the other leuts, however, it abandoned the American colonies and migrated to Alberta. Only after World War II was a new American colony established, in Montana. Present-day colonies are scattered across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Montana.
The Lehrerleut is the most liberal of the Hutterite leuts. From their founder’s formal education, members have inherited a preference for high German, in which they are thoroughly schooled. Like other leuts, the Lehrerleut requires conservative dress, but unlike ministers of other leuts, the Lehrerleut minister is the last to enter worship services.
In 2006 the Hutterian Brethren Schmiedeleut Conference reported 135 Lehrerleut colonies in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Montana.
Horst, John. The Hutterian Brethren, 1528–1931. Cayley, AB: Macmillan Colony, 1977.
The Hutterian Brethren of Montana. Augusta, MT: Privately printed, 1965.
Kraybill, Donald B., and Carl F. Bowman. On the Backroad to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
c/o David D. Decker, Tachetter Colony, Olivet, SD 57052
The Hutterian Brethren was founded in 1528 among a group of Anabaptists fleeing from persecution in Austria to settle in Moravia. Anabaptists viewed the church as a society of adult believers gathered together freely; they thus opposed infant baptism and protested the state church of any area in which they resided. The Hutterian Brethren is the only surviving group that adopted communal living in response to the Anabaptist vision of establishing a Christian community in which private property would be abolished.
The Hutterites were named for Jacob Hutter, an early group leader and organizer who was burned at the stake in 1536. For the early Hutterites, the introduction of “community of goods” was at the time a religiously sanctioned necessity. The first colony, or Bruderhof (common household), was founded in Austerlitz in Moravia. A pattern of persecution took shape over several centuries: At first Hutterites were tolerated, became successful, and grew in numbers. They then became objects of jealousy, sparking persecution because of their success and their pacifism. This pattern repeated itself in Moravia, Slovakia, Wallachia, and the Ukraine.
In the nineteenth century, living in close proximity to the Mennonites (founded by Menno Simons, an Anabaptist) in Russia, the Hutterites’ideal was temporarily lost. But in the 1850s a renewal of communal living developed around the person and ministry of Michael Waldner, a visionary noted for his trances and psychic experiences. In a vision, an angel told him to reinstitute the Gemeinschaft of the Holy Spirit after the pattern of Jesus and the apostles. The term Gemeinschaft, though it has no exact English equivalent, can be translated as “community.” The renewal took place in Hutterdorf, a Hutterite village in the Crimea. Two communal groups were established, one at each end of the village, and they became the basis of the division of the Hutterites into leuts (people) or colonies. The renewal of communal living among the Hutterites ran up against the rise of nationalism in Russia. In 1871, when universal compulsory military service was introduced, the Hutterites’ requests for exemption were ignored. In 1874 the Hutterites began to migrate to the United States and Canada.
The Hutterites’beliefs arise from the Anabaptist tradition and in general follow the Schleitheim Confession (the Swiss Anabaptist declaration of belief). Like the Amish, the Hutterites adopted plain dress. Some of them at one time used hooks and eyes instead of buttons, a tradition symbolizing their rejection of the soldiers, their persecutors, whose military uniforms bore large buttons. The Hutterites use electricity, drive cars, and have powered farm equipment and telephones. However, they have no televisions, and dancing, smoking, and playing musical instruments are forbidden. They are pacifists and follow the radical Anabaptist theology. Although there is a similarity among all Hutterites, the three leuts show marked distinctions in dress and discipline, and they do not intermarry (see separate entries).
Approximately 800 Hutterites migrated to the United States between 1874 and 1876. About half of these homesteaded family farms eventually became affiliated with Mennonite churches and ceased to be part of the Hutterite community. The remainder settled in three colonies in South Dakota. These three colonies gave rise to the three leuts, each named for its founder. Each leut developed its own peculiarities and each serves as an organizing unit for fellowship, discipline, and administering the religious life of the colonies.
The Schmiedeleut, the oldest of the leuts, dates to the original renewal under Michael Waldner. Its name derives from his profession, schmied, or blacksmith. Upon arrival in the United States, Waldner’s people settled the Bon Homme County in South Dakota in 1874. Waldner’s visions remained a major motivating force in the communal patterns. By 1918 the Schmiedeleut had founded nine colonies. With the coming of World War I, the Hutterites’ German background combined with their pacifism led to heightened tension. One by one they abandoned their colonies and relocated in Manitoba, Canada. Only in 1934 did a group settle a new American colony (Rockport, near Alexandria, South Dakota).
Among the Hutterites, the Schmiedeleut is considered the most conservative. During worship, the minister is the first to enter the gathering place. Colonies are tied closely together, and the consent of all is required before a new one can be created.
In 2006 the Hutterian Brethren Schmiedeleut Conference reported 176 Schmiedeleut colonies in Manitoba, Alberta, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. It reported a total of 45,000 Hutterites in North America.
Cobb, Douglas S. “The Jamesville Bruderhof: A Hutterian Agricultural Colony.” Journal of the West 9, no. 1 (1970): 60–77.
Kraybill, Donald B., and Carl F. Bowman. On the Backroad to Heaven: Old Order Hutterites, Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.
Peters, Victor. All Things Common. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.
Rte. 1, Crescent City, FL 32012
Mount Zion Overcoming Body of Christ–The True Bride was founded in 1944 in New York City by Mother Essie M. MacDonald. The founding of the group was directly connected to McDonald’s recovery from a near fatal illness. Once recovered, she began to dress in white and refused to wear either a coat or cape. She carried a dive, the symbol of the Holy Spirit. For a time, she was affiliated with the Church of God in Christ (the largest of several predominantly black Pentecostal denominations), but the church eventually rejected her unconventional dress code.
She eventually moved to Florida, her original home, where her mother gave her a tract of land. Here she opened a mission house in a 100-room “ark” to which she invited the aged, the infirm, the homeless, and any others simply in need of help. Some, attracted by her work, moved to the ark to become resident members of the church.
The church is Pentecostal in emphasis. Members believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues. They also have a strong belief in healing and invite the sick to receive the ministrations of Mother MacDonald. Worship is conducted daily, though Saturday is designated the Sabbath. The church is organized communally. The resident chambers, separate for men and women, are designated by names associated with the bride’s chamber. Mother MacDonald is viewed as the “Bride of Christ” and in that role wears a white gown with a Star of David on its skirt. She teaches what is termed the “Female Principle,” a belief in the important role of females on the earth. As part of communal life, members grow their own food. Members wear white clothes and no shoes.
The group does not consider itself a denomination or organization, but rather a house of prayer for all people.
DuPree, Sherry Sherrod. African-American Holiness Pentecostal Movement: An Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992.
c/o the Woodmont Estate, 1622 Spring Mill Rd., Gladwyne, PA 19035-1021
The Peace Mission Movement was founded as an organization in the early twentieth century by the Rev. Major J. Divine (c. 1877–1965), better known as Father Divine. He was one of the most colorful and controversial leaders of a new religious movement in American history. By his own choosing, and in accord with his own religious conviction, Father Divine’s life and activity are veiled in obscurity until just prior to 1919 in Brooklyn, New York, where he was known to be preaching about Jesus Christ and the coming of the kingdom of God.
From his own writings and the testimonies of those who knew him, it is believed that Father Divine left Brooklyn and went south just after the Jim Crow laws were passed in Grover Cleveland’s (1837–1908) administration. While in the South, he was in the hands of 32 lynch mobs because of his stand for brotherhood, eternal life, and salvation being free and without the payment of money. The first Mother Divine and others were witnesses of his treatment in the hands of lynch mobs. In the name of the Rev. Major J. Divine, he married Mother Peninniah Divine (d. 1943) around the year 1915.
Father Divine appeared as an itinerant preacher on the east coast of the United States and found fellowship with others who were preaching that the Christ could be manifested as God in man. Samuel Morris (known also as Father Jehovah) and John Hickerson (known by his followers as Bishop St. John the Divine) were two religious leaders of which he came into contact who shared similar outlooks. Because of jealous rivalry, it is believed, Hickerson fabricated the story that Father Divine’s name was really George Baker. Hickerson also is responsible for other biographical misinformation.
To remove himself from the turmoil, Father Divine went into seclusion in the small Long Island fishing village of Sayville, New York. It was here that his residence became known as “the rescue home for the poor only.” He attracted those in need of food, clothing, shelter, and employment, as well as those who were drawn by the demonstration at the Sayville residence of supernatural abundance in the midst of seeming scarcity. Father Divine’s work commanded more and more attention, and ever greater numbers flocked to Sayville to banquet with him, listen to his sermons, and receive healings of mind, body, and spirit, all gratis to everyone who came.
The influx of numbers of people into the town disturbed the residents. Their hostility led to a court case against Father Divine in 1931, the events of which created worldwide publicity. Although the local county court convicted Father Divine, fined him, and sent him to jail for 30 days, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York later condemned the proceedings as erroneous and prejudicial.
The vindication notwithstanding, Father Divine chose to move his headquarters to Harlem, New York, in 1933, where he could direct his activity to the masses, especially the African Americans who had gathered there after World War I (1914–1918). While gaining a large following from the Harlem public, he experienced continual harassment from the authorities, so that in 1942 he moved again, this time to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Peace Mission Movement is primarily of a religious nature, but its tenets have strong social, economic, and patriotic ramifications. Its members believe in the principles of Americanism, brotherhood, Christianity, democracy, and Judaism, and that all true religions are synonymous. Members believe that Father Divine fulfills the scriptural promise of the Second Coming of Christ, is the personification of God in a bodily form, and that heaven is a state of consciousness. This state is being materialized, in as much as the members believe that America is the birthplace of the kingdom of God on earth, which will be realized when everyone lives the life of Christ.
Father Divine founded the churches under the Peace Mission Movement; they were established in 1940 and 1941. Mother Divine, with the recognition of Father Divine’s ever-presence, became the spiritual head in 1965. There are no ministers and no prescribed ritual in the church services. Those in attendance are free to testify, sing, read Scripture or the words of Father Divine or Mother Divine, or offer praise to God as they are led to do from any inner prompting. Services feature congregational singing. The only sacrament is Holy Communion, served daily as a full-course meal to which all are welcome. There are also two holidays: April 29, which is the celebration of Father Divine’s marriage with Mother Divine to bring about the universal brotherhood of man and the propagation of virtue, honesty, and truth; and September 10 through September 12, which is the consecration and dedication of Woodmont to universalize the Woodmont Estate as a symbol of the highest spiritual state of consciousness.
The mission stands for the absolute fatherhood and motherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. Its members believe that a person is a person—not a specified race, color, nationality, or religion—and they live integrated together as brothers and sisters in the family of God and as members only of the human race. They avoid all reference to color or race.
Members of the mission live communally in the churches and affiliated sorority and fraternity houses. They are strictly celibate men and women living in separate houses and on separate floors of the larger facilities. Completely independent and self-supporting, they observe Father Divine’s International Modest Code: no smoking or drinking; no use of obscenity, vulgarity, or profanity; no undue mixing of the sexes; and no receiving gifts, presents, tips, or bribes. They pay cash for all purchases, buying nothing on credit or on installment plans, and do not insure their lives, the lives of others, or their possessions. They do not imbibe intoxicating liquors or drugs.
The Peace Mission Movement was most active in the post-Depression era when Father Divine preached peace, health, happiness, and abundance, and demonstrated that his teachings were practical as he provided food and shelter for all those in need at no cost. To others in dire circumstances, but who had a poverty-level income or less, Father Divine offered 15¢ meals and $1-per-week shelter, so that they could hold up their heads with a sense of individual worth and independence, because they were able to pay for their sustenance. The same abundance was manifested in the churches and extensions in various countries as well as those in the United States, where elaborate banquets are the custom.
After Father Divine’s passing, his wife Sweet Angel (b. 1924), known to members as Mother Divine, assumed leadership of the movement. She had married Father Divine in 1946, and currently resides at Woodmont. The movement has a long history of being integrated, as was the marriage. Woodmont was designated a national historic landmark in 1998. The mission also operates a radio ministry.
In 2008 the movement reported five incorporated churches. In addition, churches have been formed in Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Australia, Guyana, Panama, and Nigeria. No membership statistic are kept; names are recorded only when necessary for business purposes
The New Day. • Enlightenment, twice per year.
Father Divine: His Work and Mission. www.fdipmm.libertynet.org
Burnham, Kenneth. God Comes to America: Father Divine and the Peace Mission. Boston, MA: Lambeth Press, 1979.
Divine, M. J. The Peace Mission Movement. Philadelphia, PA: Imperial Press, 1982.
Harris, Sara. Father Divine. New York: Collier Books, 1971.
Hoshor, John. God in a Rolls Royce: The Rise of Father Divine: Madman, Menace, or Messiah. New York: Hillman-Curl, 1936.
Watts, Jill. God, Harlem U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.
366 Cove Creek Rd., McMinnville, TN 37110-9512
The People of the Living God was formed in 1932 by Harry Miller (a former minister in the Assemblies of God) and his father-in-law (a former minister in the Presbyterian church). They saw their action as a stand against sectarianism, and they opened a Bible-training school in Los Angeles to prepare “nonsectarian” missionaries. During the next four years (1937–1941), some members of the group lived in Kentucky operating a free school in a bankrupt county and then moved into the mountains of Tennessee. The group finally settled in New Orleans, where it remained for many years.
Sectarianism is defined by the group as basing admission to fellowship on doctrinal agreement. To keep free from this, the group maintains an open pulpit, from which laymen and ministers who wish to contest doctrinal beliefs can speak. Conduct, not opinion, is the rule in matters of fellowship (Acts 15:28–29). The doctrinal consensus of the group is close to the beliefs of the Assemblies of God. Members are Trinitarian Pentecostals and practice two ordinances—baptism by immersion and the Lord’s Supper (which is open to all). They believe that speaking in tongues is a sign of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The group considers itself amillennialist, meaning it does not believe in the “secret rapture,” the time when Jesus returns in secret to the church and the kingdom of God is realized on earth. Rather, People of the Living God believe Jesus already reigns over God’s kingdom.
The fellowship remains small. Headquarters moved from New Orleans to rural Tennessee in 1982. Members work inside the group, with a common treasury. All buying is done by a purchasing agent. Members receive no personal allowance. They run a free Christian school, which any child may attend. The simple lifestyle allows a large percentage of money to be put into literature and into the support of nonsectarian missionaries overseas. The group publishes a series of booklets, mostly of a controversial nature, which is sent throughout the world.
In 1997 there were two centers and approximately 75 resident members. There are affiliated members in the Philippines.
The Testimony of Truth. Available from Rte. 2, Box 423, McMinnville, TN 37110.
People of the Living God. www.people-livinggod.org.
Miller, Harry R. Community: A Way of Life. New Orleans, LA: People of the Living God, n.d.
———. Enchantments. New Orleans, LA: People of the Living God, n.d.
———. A Man of Like Passions. New Orleans, LA: People of the Living God, n.d.
309 Griffin Ave., Sulphur Springs, AR 72768
The Rev. Eugene Crosby Monroe (1880–1961) was a businessman who in 1923 was ordained in the Apostolic Church, a British-based Pentecostal body. Monroe served as a pastor of the Apostolic Church in Philadelphia until ill health forced his retirement from both his pastoral duties and his business career. He settled on a farm near Sherman, New York, to which young men and women came to continue under his ministry. Out of this evolved, in 1942, Shiloh Trust, a self-supporting Pentecostal community also known as the Church of Shiloh. A large-scale organic food business was established, through which baked goods, cheese, and other foods were distributed to retail outlets.
Monroe died in 1961, by which time Shiloh Trust had grown into a successful operation. He was succeeded by his son, who was later killed in a plane crash. James Janisch is the current trustee. By 1963 the wholesale distribution of health foods to retail stores had begun to dominate the group’s business interests. In 1968 headquarters were moved to Sulphur Springs, Arkansas. Members of the community gather daily for meetings. Beliefs are similar to those of the Apostolic Church. In addition to their natural foods business, the group operates the Shiloh Christian Conference and Retreat Center.
c/o Dr. Richard Hoffman, 152 Tucker, Bentleigh, Australia
The Temple Society, known earlier as the Friends of Jerusalem, was founded by Christoph Hoffman (1815–1885) in 1861 in Württemberg, Germany. Hoffmann had attacked the established churches for not having succeeded in bringing about the improved society envisaged by the prophets of Israel. Hoffman sought to motivate people to strive in their daily life to achieve those conditions that would create “the kingdom of God” on earth described by Jesus. He, with others, gathered likeminded followers and prepared them for settlement in the Holy Land, where reformation of Christian life was most likely to be noticed and become an example for Christianity to follow.
During preparation for migration to Palestine, the rundown property of Kirschenhardthof became a settlement for 12 families. This settlement served as a prototype for the New Jerusalem that was to be established in the Holy Land. Georg David Hardegg, whose faith incorporated a more literal belief in the various gifts of the spirit, was active in achieving the practical steps necessary for settling in Palestine. Hoffman’s view of Christianity was based on what he considered to be the actual teachings of Jesus, as distinct from what people wrote about the person of Jesus. In his most important work, Sendschreiben über den Tempel und die Sakramente: Das Dogma von der Dreieinigkeit und von der Gottheit Christi, sowie ueber die Versohnung der Menschen mit Gott, he argued that the Trinity and the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit were conceived by people long after the death of Jesus. The incarnation may be viewed as the expression of God’s creative thought in the mind and body of Jesus. Through belief in the resurrection, Christ became a “man-made God.” Jesus showed the possibilities of human nature and changed humanity’s attitude toward God, and thus established the notion of God’s kingdom as a better mental and social relationship among people. Sin is a disorder; faith is obedience to Jesus Christ and the courage to improve the world despite many obstacles. A state in which people live for the values taught by Jesus is the goal. Other than as symbols, the sacraments are not necessary. The true sacrament is manifested when a society decides to dedicate all its resources (time, talents, and material goods) to spreading Christ’s kingdom.
Between 1869 and the outbreak of World War II, six Temple Society settlements flourished in Palestine. Their official end came in 1948, when the state of Israel was founded. More than 300 Templers were sent to Australia for internment during World War II. Along with Templer migrants from elsewhere (mainly Germany), they founded the Temple Society of Australia in 1950. This group is now the largest Templer group in the world. During the 1860s, German immigrants to Russia also founded Templer communities. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, individual descendants of these Templers are finding their way back to the Templer community that has existed around Stuttgart, Germany, since 1861. German immigrants to the United States also founded communities, and formal organization in North America occurred as early as 1866. By 1890 there were four U.S. congregations. This number had dwindled by 1916 to two congregations, which survived into the 1970s. Earlier, American Templers had been formally advised to join the Unitarians, as World War II made communications among Germans difficult. Today, there are only individual, and not necessarily native-born, Templers left in the United States.
In 2002 the society reported more than 1,500 members, of whom approximately 450 are in Germany. As of 2008, Australia had the largest and most active group of Templers.
Temple Society. www.templers.org.
Current address not obtained for this edition.
Mother Ann Lee (1736–1787) was a psychic-visionary who gathered a group of followers around her while still in her native England. Included in her teaching was a deep sense of the sinfulness of humanity. After the deaths of her four children in infancy, she began to proclaim the indecency of the act of sexual union. In Manchester, England, in 1747 Lee met the preacher James Wardley and his wife, who also were considered visionaries. Out of this relationship grew a following, which adopted the name United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, but are more popularly called Shakers.
In the 1750s Mother Ann Lee became associated with and gradually assumed leadership of a group of Quakers who had been influenced by the visionary French Prophets. Her leadership led to the group’s acceptance of celibacy as a sign of following Christ. Members of the group were known to experience religious ecstasy in the form of ritualized communal dance. Observers at the time derisively referred to them as “shaking Quakers,” from which the name Shakers derives. Due to persecution in England, the group sailed for the English colonies in America in 1774. But because of their pacifism, the Shakers became the object of scorn during the American Revolutionary War. The group’s beliefs in racial and gender equality and their assertion that God possessed both masculine and feminine traits also earned them brutal persecution in the colonies and landed Lee in jail on several occasions.
After the Revolution, the Shakers began to prosper, especially under the leadership of Joseph Meacham (1742–1796), who came to power in 1787 following Ann’s death in 1784. The Shakers established communities across the newly formed United States. At the height of their development around 1830, they had 19 communities stretching from southern Kentucky to Maine, with 6,000 resident members. Their books were widely circulated. Eventually, they earned a reputation for producing finely wrought crafts, furniture, and architecture, which are still widely admired today. Although the Shakers often are associated in the public mind with the Amish, they are not opposed on principle to modern technology.
Shaker theology centers on the belief that in the coming of Ann Lee, Christ appeared. They accept the common millennialist use of the 2,300-days prophecy (Daniel 8:14), which they date to 533 b.c.e.; by adding 2,300 years to 533 b.c.e., they arrive at 1747, the year Ann Lee first met Wardley.
The United Society has become an important aspect of American history, and one of its abandoned communities, at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, is being reconstructed. Museums exist in Shaker churches in South Union, Kentucky, and Old Chatham, New York. The community at New Lebanon, New York, was sold to the Sufi Order headed by Pir Vilayat Khan.
In June 1988, Gertrude Soule, one of the eight remaining members of the United Society of Believers, died at the age of 93. In 1990 Bertha Lindsay, the last of the Shaker eldresses, died. As of 2006, four members remained at Sabbathday Lake, Maine. In 2001 the group reached an agreement with the nonprofit Trust for Public Land to ensure that the Shaker land in Maine can never be bought and used for commercial purposes.
Andrews, Edward Deming. The Gift to Be Simple. New York: Dover, 1962.
Barker, R. Mildred. Poems and Prayers. Sabbathday Lake, ME: Shaker Press, 1983.
———. The Sabbathday Lake Shaker. Sabbathday Lake, ME: Shaker Press, 1978.
Chase, Stacey. “The Last Ones Standing.” Boston.com, July 23, 2006.
Desroche, Henri. The American Shakers. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1971.
Faber, Doris. The Perfect Life. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1974.