A group organized in London in 1787 by followers of the theological teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg.* The organization and growth of the church is peculiar because the movement was started by books without the influence of any personal leadership. Swedenborg never preached a sermon and made no effort to gather followers about him, but he left his Latin works in twenty volumes to ministers and university librarians. These were translated and won disciples who were organized by Robert Hindmarsh, a Methodist. Ministers were ordained, other groups were started, and by 1789 the first general conference was held at their chapel in Great Eastcheap, London. By 1792 a Swedenborgian church was established in Baltimore, Maryland, and in 1817 the General Convention of the New Jerusalem met in Philadelphia. A division of the church (1897) resulted in a branch, the General Church of the New Jerusalem, with headquarters at Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. The emphasis in their worship is liturgical, concentrating on Jesus Christ with preaching based on the “inspired” parts of the Bible, twenty-nine books of the OT and five in the NT.
Baptism and the Lord's Supper are observed, and in addition to the usual Christian holidays, New Church Day (June 19) is observed. Worldwide membership is about 40,000 with 4,500 in Britain and 5,800 in the General Convention in America. The General Church has about 2,000 members and concentrates its activity at Byrn Athyn, where it supports an academy and a theological seminary. The General Convention seminaries are at Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Islington, London. The New Churches maintain an active missionary program and have had very successful work in Africa. There is a foundation in New York that distributes Swedenborg's writings, and the churches publish the monthly New Church Messenger and Journal of the General Convention.
W. Wunsch, An Outline of New Church Teaching (1926); M. Block, The New Church in the New World (1932); H. Keller, My Religion (1964).