Spiritualist Episcopal Church
One of the most important Spiritualist churches in the United
States in the mid-twentieth century, the Spiritualist Episcopal
Church was founded in 1941 out of the turmoil that had
plagued Camp Chesterfield, a central gathering point for Spiritualists
in the midwestern United States. The founders included
Revs. Clifford Bias and John Bunker of the Independent
Spiritualist Association and Robert Chaney of the National
Spiritualist Association of Churches. Each of these had experienced
some degree of alienation over traditional Spiritualism’s
emphasis on the phenomena believed to constantly demonstrate
and prove the existence of life after death. They
wanted to emphasize the teachings and philosophy coming
through their channeling activity. This new emphasis was welcomed
by some, and for many years the church conducted a
summer seminary at Camp Chesterfield using the materials
produced by Rev. Ivy Hooper.
The church prospered through the mid-1950s, though
Chaney departed in 1951 to found Astara. However, in 1956,
a morals charge was brought against a prominent leader in the
church who was a candidate for a church office. The leadership
was split by the candidate’s supporters and detractors. The tension
affected the church’s position at Camp Chesterfield, where
the church had its headquarters. Hoping to calm the anger,
prevent the divisiveness at the camp from spreading through
the whole church, and to dissuade the medium from seeking
office, church president Rev. Dorothy Graff Flexer moved the
headquarters to Lansing, Michigan. Despite the move, the
church split, and Clifford Bias founded the Universal Spiritualist
Association. The Spiritualist Episcopal Church’s mediums
were denied access to Camp Chesterfield. Flexer left the
church in 1958 and founded the Church of Metaphysical Christianity.
Formally, the Spiritual Episcopal Church has beliefs very
similar to those of the National Spiritualist Association of
Churches. Reincarnation is denied. However, inspiration is
drawn from all of the world’s religions and the influence of
Buddhism, Rosicrucianism, and Theosophy is evident in the
lessons produced for the summer seminary. The present status
of the church is unknown.
Sources
Chaney, Robert G. ‘‘Hear My Prayer.’’ Eaton Rapids, Mich.
Library, Spiritualist Episcopal Church, 1942.
Development of Mediumship. Dimondale, Mich. Spiritual
Episcopal Church, n.d