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Featured Books
Creating an Orange Utopia: Eliza Lovell Tibbets and the Birth of California's Citrus Industry

Eliza’s story of faith and idealism will appeal to anyone who is curious about US history, women’s rights, abolitionism, Spiritualism, and California’s early pioneer days.

Reflections on Heaven and Hell

Rev. Frank S. Rose helps us picture life in heaven and life in hell, and he shows how we are continually building a spiritual home and lifestyle inside of us.

Searching For Mary Magdalene: Her Story of Awareness, Acceptance, and Action

For centuries, Mary Magdalene has been the focus of multiple stories and legends. Her name has been used both to control others and to inspire. How can one pilgrim find the essential Mary Magdalene, the one who was privileged to be first witness to the risen Lord?


The Church Today

Responding to Today's World

The Church in the Present Tense

Trends in Local Centers

The Swedenborgian Church is an ever-evolving organization. Currently, traditional activities such as worship services, Sunday School programs, doctrinal discussion groups, and lectures are retained and in some programs remain the central focus. There is also, however, an increasing emphasis on the variety of religious experiences, and Swedenborgians are actively pursuing avenues of spiritual development outside the traditional framework of religious worship.

In a symbolic way, this trend toward innovation in inner spiritual growth methods is expressed in several new outward expressions of Swedenborgian architecture. During the rapid growth of the Swedenborgian Church in the middle and late nineteenth-century, large traditional church sanctuaries were built in the major cities of the United States, from Boston and New York to San Francisco and San Diego. Many of the oversized structures of the past have now been sold and more functional facilities acquired. Where the style of choice for Swedenborgian churches in the 1800's was Gothic and Renaissance, in the twentieth century fresh expressions of contemporary places of worship have been built. The best known of Swedenborgian churches is the Wayfarers Chapel, on the Palos Verdes peninsula in southern California. This unique building of redwood and glass, designed by Lloyd Wright, overlooks the Pacific, enabling the many thousands of visitors and regular worshipers to commune with the natural beauty beyond the transparent enclosures. Other structures extensively utilizing the medium of glass were erected in the suburbs of Seattle, St. Louis, and Chicago.

In the two decades beginning in the 1950s, more than a dozen experiments in new forms of church programming were undertaken by newly-forming congregations. Most of these were part of a community-centered concept of ministry and were highly experimental in nature. Virtually all enjoyed early success, but as neighborhoods changed and national trends in religious expression shifted, most of these experiments have continued to evolve and change, while a few of the projects have been simply abandoned.

In the decades of the eighties and nineties, change continued to be the hallmark of the Swedenborgian Church. In many churches, traditional worship was happily reinvigorated. Yet, that trend has not slowed the interest among lay people and ministers in alternative forms of ministry and spiritual development. Training in psychotherapy from a spiritual perspective has been the focus of a large percentage of the clergy in this decade. New ventures in Swedenborgian publishing and scholarship have begun to stimulate dialogue between Swedenborgians and many other spiritual groups, churches, and associations. Interest in meditation, music, healing prayer, and other direct experiences of spirit has consistently flourished up to the present time. And perhaps the most prominent trend is the development of retreat and renewal centers where the setting is conducive to intensive focus on spiritual development.

Educational Institutions

The Swedenborgian House of Studies, affiliated with Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, offers training for faith-based leadership in the world from a uniquely Swedenborgian perspective. While the mission of the House is to prepare qualified men and women for ministry in the General Convention of the Swedenborgian Church, its goals are also to serve as a center of spiritual growth and Swedenborgian scholarship, and to make resources for ministry available to the wider Church and community. The paths to ministry in the Swedenborgian Church are many and varied, and include possibilities for parish ministry, pastoral counseling, chaplaincy, scholarship and teaching, youth ministry, spiritual growth ministries, and many more.

Urbana University, founded in 1850, is a fully accredited four-year liberal arts institution begun by and affiliated with the Swedenborgian Church. Located in the Midwestern heartland, Urbana is a small college affording each student individual attention and a flexibility of curriculum. Personal growth and the atmosphere of academic inquiry are united in a variety of relevant and creative programs encouraging the student's exploration of the self.

Retreat And Renewal Centers

Human development and self and social awareness are fundamental values of the Swedenborgian Church, and those values find continued and committed expression in all of the educational programs and institutes supported by it. The Swedenborgian Church has a tradition of summer retreats going back nearly a century. Recently, three of the summer retreat centers (in rural Michigan, rural Ohio, and on Cape Cod) and two newly-developed centers (one 30 miles west of Philadelphia and one in suburban Seattle) have begun year-round programming with full-time staff for the spiritual needs of modern people. In these settings, the Swedenborgian Church is able to pursue a highly focused goal of interfacing with the finest offerings from other traditions while at the same time developing and sharing innovative spirituality from the Swedenborgian perspective.

An International Church

Today, there are some forty-five Swedenborgian churches in North America, totaling about 2,600 members. The international membership stands at 50,000. The denomination directly maintains churches in the United States and Canada, with a more indirect and collegial association with Swedenborgian churches in a number of countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa, as well as in New Zealand and Australia. The General Church of the New Jerusalem,with headquarters in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, and the General Conference of the New Church in Great Britain, are international Swedenborgian organizations not formally affiliated with the Swedenborgian Church.

Administrative and Governing Structure

Holding that the principle of spiritual freedom is inviolable, the Swedenborgian Church operates through a structure of government known as "congregational"--one that gives full autonomy to local churches and groups in the governance of their spiritual life. Individual churches and societies belong to regional associations of Swedenborgian churches. The delegates to the national convention have electoral power of decision in concerns such as the election of national officers and committee members, and the adoption of resolutions and constitutional amendments. Both ministers and laypeople are eligible for all offices. Elections and resolutions concerning the business of Convention are frequently lively. Just as Swedenborgians have always involved themselves with the social concerns of the nation, so also have they been involved with internal matters of policy and organization.

A thorough reorganization of the denomination in the 1980s absorbed much of the creative energy normally given to internal political matters. The new church structure offers more flexibility and even less hierarchy, with a strong emphasis on keeping theology and life in dialogue with each other. Ratified at the convention of 1986, the following statement of purpose for the Swedenborgian Church now reads:

The Swedenborgian Church exists to help people be open to the Lord's presence and leading, especially by fostering personal and ordained ministries which facilitate the spiritual well-being of people, and which have in common a working for the Lord in bringing in the New Age, the descent of the Holy City, New Jerusalem. The light in which we seek to walk shines from the Lord Jesus Christ in His second coming, available to us through the divine presence in our hearts and minds, and through revelation in the Holy Scripture and in the life and teaching of the Lord's servant, Emanuel Swedenborg.

The following provides a thumbnail sketch of the administrative and governing structure of the Swedenborgian Church:

  • The General Council is the governing body.
  • Support Units foster, administer, supervise, and support programs that cohere around a central focus (e.g. education, communications, growth and outreach, etc.)
  • The Cabinet consists of the Chair of each Support Unit and the President of the Swedenborgian Church. Its task is to coordinate and prioritize the projects and activities under the auspices of the Support Units.
  • The Council of Ministers consists of all ordained ministers and meets as a total body once a year. The Council oversees the pastoral and theological dimensions of the life of the church.
  • The President has traditionally been a member of the clergy, whose responsibilities include an ex officio participation in all aspects of the Swedenborgian Church. The president addresses each session of the Convention, setting forth the State of the Church.
  • The Central Office functions as the primary center, coordinating information and support services for all areas of the Swedenborgian Church.