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General Convention of the New Jerusalem in the United States of America

General Convention of the New Jerusalem in the United States of America

The ecclesiastical organization that grew out of the response to the writings of seer Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). It began in the United States in 1792 when members of the New Church migrated from England to Baltimore, Maryland, and formed the first society. Over the next 25 years, 17 societies formed in cities along the East Coast and as far west as Madison Town, Indiana. These were brought together for a convention in 1817 following a call from the society in Philadelphia. At that time delegates regularized the ordination of ministers and strategized on spreading their message west of the Allegheny Mountains. The church spread across the eastern half of the United States through the 1800s, but it was severely weakened by a schism in 1890 which led to the founding of the General Church of the New Jerusalem.

The organization is a Christian one, but it interprets the Bible and Christian doctrine according to Swedenborg's basic perspective. Swedenborg believed the Bible to have two levels of meaning, the material and the spiritual. He learned the true spiritual meaning of the Bible from his conversations with the angels, the results of which fill numerous volumes. Swedenborg compiled a condensed statement of his belief in a small booklet, The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine, which serves as a doctrinal statement for the convention.

The convention believes in a divine Trinity, not of persons, but of principle. Salvation is open to all who cooperate with God by faith and obedience. When people die, they immediately pass to judgment and enter either heaven or hell, their fate depending on the spiritual character they acquired on earth. Worship is liturgical, and both the Lord's Supper and baptism are administered.

The church is organized with a modified episcopacy. Local societies manage their own affairs. The convention meets annually and elects a president and other national officers. A board of missions oversees work in Europe, Japan, and Guyana. In 1999 there were 1,686 members and 32 societies in the United States and 401 members and 7 societies in Canada. The convention is headquartered at 11 Highland Ave., Newtonville, Massachusetts 02460.

Sources:

Zacharias, Paul. Insights into the Beyond. New York: Sweden-borg Publishing Association, n.d.

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