Spiritual Israel Church and Its Army
The beginnings of the Spiritual Israel Church and Its Army,
a prominent spiritual church within the African American community
of the United States, are somewhat obscure. It seems to
have begun with the absorption of black Jewish ideas by Derk
Field, a black Alabama man who founded the Church of God
in David. Along the way he met a man named W. D. Dickson,
who eventually succeeded him as head of the church. Dickson
took the title ‘‘King of All Israel.’’ According to the Spiritual Israelites,
Field and Dickson restored the teachings of the ancient
Israelites. They believe that ‘‘Ethiopian’’ is the national
name of black people, and ‘‘Israel’’ is their spiritual name.
The Spiritual Israelites are like other Spiritualist churches
in that they value contact with the spirit world and the work of
mediums who serve as the pastors of their temples. They believe
that they belong to the one true spiritual church, but that
the Spirit dwells in all people. They believe in life after death
but think that traditional ideas of heaven and hell are mere
projections of the limited human mind.
The Spiritual Israelites have adopted a version of the black
Jewish myth. They maintain that black people were the first
people, humanity having originated in Africa. All of the biblical
patriarchs and prophets were black people, but at the time of
Jacob and Esau, the sons of Isaac, a division occurred. Jacob is
the progenitor of the Ethiopian people and Esau of the Caucasian.
Modern Jews are the product of intermarriage between
the children of Jacob and Esau.
By the 1980s, the Spiritual Israelites had some 40 temples
and missions. There were also several schismatic groups, all of
whom carried the word Israel in their title. A number of the
congregations are located in the greater Detroit area.
Current address unavailable.
Sources
Baer, Hans A. ‘‘Black Spiritual Israelites in a Small Southern
City.’’ Southern Quarterly 23, no. 3 (1985) 103–24.
———. The Black Spiritual Movement A Religious Response to
Racism. Knoxville University of Tennessee Press, 1984.
Murphy, Larry G., J. Gordon Melton, and Gary L. Ward. Encyclopedia
of African American Religions. New York Garland Publishing,
1993.