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.
Zacharias, Paul. Insights into the Beyond. New York Swedenborg
Publishing Association, n.d.

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