Swedenborgian Church

From Ohio History Central

Swedenborgians, also known as members of the Church of the New Jerusalem, are followers of eighteenth-century Swedish scientist and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg. The first religious societies based on Swedenborg's teachings began to emerge in the late 1780s in England, and the first church in the United States was organized in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1792. The Swedenborgians expanded into Ohio in the first half of the nineteenth century and founded Urbana University in 1850. Probably the most famous Swedenborgian in Ohio was John Chapman. Also known as Johnny Appleseed, Chapman traveled throughout the Midwest planting apple orchards.

Swedenborg began his life as a Lutheran. As a result of a religious experience in 1743, he began to teach ideas that were sometimes contrary to those of the Lutheran Church. Swedenborg claimed that he had direct access to the spiritual world and was able to converse with angels and other spiritual beings. He argued against the traditional belief in the trinity and contended that God was able to manifest himself in three forms but was still one being. Swedenborgians believe that a person obtains salvation by believing in Jesus Christ's victory over evil. They teach that the spiritual world is evident within all aspects of the physical world. Although the Church of the New Jerusalem utilizes the Bible and practices baptism and communion like other Christian churches, it also places emphasis on Swedenborg's writings. Today, this religious denomination has approximately 3,900 members in the United State and Canada.

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