An Address by the Right Rev. Willard D. Pendleton

Delivered to the General Faculty of the Academy of the New Church and the Faculty of the Bryn Athyn Elementary School, January 6, 1969.


An Address by the Right Rev. Willard D. Pendleton

To understand the relation of the Academy to the General Church we must go back more than a hundred years to the time when a group known as The Harmony existed within the General Convention. The name had reference to their harmony of view in regard to church government. In this they differed from the prevailing view which was supported by the dominant group in the General Convention. There were also other, and even more important, differences centering around the nature and authority of the Writings, but it cannot be said that in this, all the original members of The Harmony were in agreement. Nevertheless, it was from among the more determined members of the original Harmony that the Academy later derived its membership.

It is quite apparent from the record that the primary concern of The Harmony arose out of their deep dissatisfaction with the instruction that was being given in the Convention Theological School. Unable to effect the reforms which they sought, they finally decided to establish a separate theological school, to be known as the Academy, in which young men would be prepared for the ministry of the New Church in keeping with the views held by The Harmony. For a full account of what actually took place during those critical years (1857-1876), I refer you to the Fiftieth Anniversary Publication of the Academy of the New Church, 1926, pp. 17-43.

In order to understand the relation between the Academy and the General Church at this day, however, two things should be noted here. First, that the strength of the early Academy movement was centered in the Pennsylvania Association of the General Convention under the leadership of the Rev. William Henry Benade who, in 1873, became an ordaining minister of the General Convention and the presiding officer of the Pennsylvania Association. Second, that at the time of the formation of the Academy in 1876 there was no intention on the part of those who subscribed to the Academy of separating from the General Conventions. Concerning this, Bishop W. F. Pendleton later said:

There was no thought in the minds of the men who organized the Academy, or wish, to separate from the existing bodies of the Church. The one thought and desire was to work with them for the upbuilding of the New Church in the world. The thought of separation came later under the stress of a necessity not foreseen, For the early members of the Academy cherished the hope and expectation of being able to continue to work with the bodies of the Church then existing, We were convinced that we had a mission to perform and a message to give, a message which we believed the majority of New Churchmen would receive when rationally presented. We had come to see something new in the Writings but little realized before--a glad message which would be gladly received. There was a sincere belief that members of the New Church in America, in England, and in the world at large, would be able to see what we saw in the Writings, namely, that the Lord Himself appears in them in His Second Coming, speaking to the New Church and teaching that those Writings are the very Divine truth itself, the very Word of God (Academy of the New Church, 50th Anniversary Publication, 1926, p. 13).


Relationship of the Academy to the General Church p. 2 For fourteen years, that is, from 1876 to 1890, the Academy, although a separate legal corporation, functioned within the framework of the General Convention; first in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Association, and later in conjunction with the General Church of Pennsylvania which was organized in 1883. This requires some explanation.

By 1883 the Rev. William Henry Benade and those who subscribe to his leadership had grown restless under the order and organization of the General Convention, and they sought an order of government which would permit greater freedom in the implementation of their doctrinal views. By agreement with the General Convention that each association should be free to organize its own key, Benade and his followers reorganized the Pennsylvania Association under the name of the General Church of Pennsylvania, and in so doing openly proclaimed the authority of the Writings in all matters of church government and established a trinal order of the priesthood with Benade as Chief Priest, or Bishop (New Church Life 1883, pp. 62, 65, 66). What we find here, therefore, is the forerunner of the General Church as we know it today.

But although the General Convention had agreed in principle to the autonomy of its various associations in matters of doctrine and government, whet they bid not anticipate was the extent to which the newly formed General Church of Pennsylvania would go in the exercise of its virtual independence. Not only did the General Church of Pennsylvania establish a new form of government within the body of the General Convention, but they also invited to membership all who shared their views regardless of geographical location. This was not, as it seemed to many at the time, an act of open defiance, for in 1883 the General Convention had by resolution allowed for the freedom of any society to choose, from doctrinal or other internal considerations, to affiliate itself with any association with which it can conveniently act (No. 49 of the Journal of the Sixty Third Annual Session of the General Convention, Boston, 1883). But when the General Church of Pennsylvania accepted to membership the Immanuel Church in Chicago, and groups located in Florida, Greenford, Ohio, Brooklyn, N. Y. and in Concordia, Kansas, the inevitable reaction took place (New Church Life 1886, pp. 6, 29, 59, 188). As one writer observed when apprized of the action taken by the Immanuel Church in Chicago, This ceasing to assist the Association in its own State and joining one which meets hundreds of miles away seems an anomaly, and does not seem to proceed from any considerations of use (New Church Life 1886, p, 29).

For seven more years, therefore, the Academy group, as members of the General Church of Pennsylvania, maintained an uneasy affiliation with the General Convention; but by the end of 1890 the tensions between the two bodies were so intense that a separation became inevitable. What precipitated the break was the ordination of the Rev. William F. Pendleton into the third degree of the priesthood of the Academy of the New Church (New Church Life 1899, p, 101). Here is clear evidence that by this time Bishop Benade had come to regard the Academy as an internal church, and he defended his action on the grounds that the Academy, as distinguished from the General Church of Pennsylvania, was in no way responsible to the General Convention. In dealing with the matter, the General Convention did not take what they called judicial action, but they did officially rebuke Bishop Benade, stating that Mr. Benade in this act was not acting under the authority of Convention, and that ... this action was hostile to the unity of the ministry ... and was disloyal to the Convention (New Church Life 1890, p. 128). This was the end. In November of 1890 the General Church of Pennsylvania withdrew from the General Convention and reorganized in 1891 under the name of the General Church of the Advent of the Lord. In this connection it is interesting to note that the first meeting of the two councils of this body was held on the site of Cairnwood in Huntingdon Valley, Pa. (New Church Life 1891, pp. 149, 150).

It would be difficult to describe the spirit of enthusiasm and the sense of unity which characterized this new beginning; but as an organization it was not destined to survive more than a few years. To understand the reason for this we must know that at this time Bishop Benade was seventy-five years of age. Several years earlier he had suffered a stroke, and although not incapacitated, he never fully recovered his health.

In June of 1893 Bishop Benade left the United States and took up residence in England for a period of eighteen months. During this time the leadership of the newly formed church fell to others who, although loyal to Benade, did net fully subscribe to his concept of an external and internal church. Upon his return Benade was warmly greeted by his followers, but time and failing health had taken its toll. Insisting on the authority of his office in all matters pertaining to the government of the church, Benade became increasingly impatient with others, and in virtually abolishing the function of council he gradually alienated the membership of the church. By 1897 the situation became a crisis, and with a few exceptions, the membership resigned from under Bishop Benade and sought the leadership of Bishop W. F. Pendleton, who accepted the responsibility of the reorganization which led to the formation of the General Church of the New Jerusalem.

We come then to that point in the history of the church with which we all are reasonably familiar. For the past seventy-three years the General Church has enjoyed a stable structure, and in close association with the Academy has continued to perform those uses for which it was organized. In reflecting on this stable and fruitful period of growth and development it is useful to ask ourselves what the General Church would be today had it not been for the Academy,

It is the Academy which has educated the priesthood of the General Church.

It is the Academy which has educated the teachers who staff our elementary schools.

It is the Academy which has provided a New Church education on the secondary and college level for the young people of the General Church.

It is the Academy which has unified the work of the General Church by bringing these young people from scattered societies and groups all over the world, and created a mutual bond of affection among them for the uses of the church.

It is the Academy which has served as a center of learning and scholarship for the General Church.

It is the Academy which, until recently, has served both as a book center and a publishing house for the General Church.

It is the Academy which has provided both the facilities and the means for many other uses of the General Church.

On the other hand, we must also ask ourselves what the Academy would be today had it not been for the General Church. In answer to this question bear in mind that:

It is from among the membership of the General Church that the Academy derives its staff.

It is from among the families of the General Church that the Academy derives the large majority of its students.

It is the societies of the General Church which provide those elementary schools which are the basis of our educational system.

It is the pastors, parents and teachers of the General Church who prepare our children to receive the benefits of an Academy education.

Finally, it is the membership of the General Church who, both financially and otherwise, support and sustain the work of the Academy.


Relationship of the Academy to the General Church p. 3        Were it not for the General Church, the Academy, at least as we have known it, would not exist at this day.

In considering this relationship which exists between the Academy and the General Church, however, it is important that it be understood that the General Church is the primary body. For what the Academy is actually doing is performing those uses which, were it not for the Academy, the General Church would have to perform for itself. In other words, the Academy is performing uses which, in effect, are proper to the General Church.

In this connection I have frequently been asked why it is that the Academy exists as a separate institution? If it is performing uses which are proper to the General Church why is it not incorporated into the General Church? One reason, of course, is historical. The Academy was organized in 1876 and was in existence for twenty-one years at the time of the formation of the General Church. As Bishop W. F. Pendleton said: At the time of the initial organization in 1876, the Academy decided not to place itself under the control of any body of the church, and no report was made of what it had done (Academy of the New Church, 50th Anniversary Publication, 1926, p. 15). From the beginning, however, the Academy, although not under the direct control of a body of the church, has faithfully performed its responsibilities to those church organizations with which it has been affiliated; namely, the Pennsylvania Association, the General Church of Pennsylvania, the General Church of the Advent of the Lord, and the General Church of the New Jerusalem. Because of the internal bond which existed between these successive organizations of the church and the Academy there has been no need to secure the relationship by external means.

We all are mindful, however, of the history of so-called church related institutions in the United States. With the exception of Catholic schools, which at least until recently have come under the control of the priesthood, few have survived the process of secularization. By this I mean that few still adhere to their charter purposes. It is this which concerns some of the Academys strongest supporters at this day. Having witnessed the gradual erosion of the original purposes and principles of so many religious institutions of learning, can we say with confidence that this will not happen to the Academy? As long as the internal bond which has existed between the Academy and the General Church continues to exist it cannot happen; and it was to strengthen this bond in a meaningful way that the Board of Directors of the Academy has, since 1902, selected the Bishop of the General Church to serve as President of the Academy (New Church Life 1902, p, 273).

It is quite apparent to all of us, however, that it has been a long time since the Bishop of the General Church has actually served as the executive administrator of the Academy. It was in recognition of this that in 1944 the Board of Directors created the post of Executive Vice President. Since that time most of the administrative responsibilities normally performed by the President of an educational institution have been invested in the office of the Executive Vice President. Yet it is to be observed that in all matters relating to the basic educational policies of the Academy, the President has retained control. In other words, whenever questions of basic policy arise they are referred to the President who, depending upon the nature of the referral, acts in conjunction with the Presidents Council and/or the Board of Directors. This, I believe to be vital.

I was, therefore, very much interested in a relatively recent communication which was published in New Church Life (April 1968, p. 204). It is entitled, A Matter of Principle? It reads:

I have just finished reading the Minutes of the Joint Council Meeting of 1960 as published in New Church Life, April 1960. One aspect of the discussion recorded there bothers me. Great emphasis was placed on what was several times called the principle that the offices of Executive Bishop and President of the Academy be vested in one man, I object to that policy being called a principle.

I agree that the organizations of the church should not become two-headed, but would vesting the executive offices of the two organizations in two different men produce this effect? After all, they are two separate organizations. If we are a living church, and if the Academy is a living body, then the Lord is the head of each.

I also agree that for the present it is good policy to vest these offices in one man, but it will not always be. We already have a British Academy and a Midwest Academy as well as the Academy Bryn Athyn. Some day there will be a Pacific Academy, a Southern Academy, a Japanese Academy, an outer Mongolian Academy--you name it! The New Church is to fill the earth. Is the Executive Bishop of the General Church to be the president of all these academies? And if so, could this be anything more than a titular office? What would be the use of such an arrangement? Each such organization would require effective local control, executive control. The highest practical level would be diocesan.

To say that the Bishop sets the educational policy of the church is one thing, but to say it is a principle that he should be the president of the educational institutions seems to me to overstate the case, The principle involved is that the Academy (ies) be under priestly direction, but not necessarily under the Executive Bishop.


As I understand it, the practice to which Mr. David refers is not in itself a principle, but an implementation of the principle that educational policy should be under the supervision of the church (New Church Life 1943, pp. 337, 340). In selecting the Bishop of the General Church to serve as President of the Academy, the Board of Directors has sought the roost effective means to this end. For my own part I believe it has been a sound practice, but the question that is raised by Mr. David is, how long can this practice be regarded as practical? I, even more than the writer, am aware of the many and constantly increasing responsibilities of the Bishop of the General Church, and I hope they will not diminish with the passing years. All these things are signs of growth and development, and in time they will become too great for one man. It may be that the time is here. Yet whether it is or not, the time has come when we must begin to give serious consideration to the responsibilities which are invested in the office of the Executive Bishop. In other words, Mr. David makes a point that cannot be taken lightly.

While on the subject, however, I would take exception to one aspect of Mr. Davids thesis. He assumes, and I think incorrectly, that we can liken the Academy of the New Church to the Midwest Academy, the British Academy, and to future academies in various Parts of the world. I grant that the day may come when his reasoning will apply, but not in the foreseeable future. For the present, and for some time to come, there is, and will continue to be, an essential difference between the Academy of the New Church and any existing or proposed academies. The difference is that the Academy of the New Church is responsible for the education of the priests and teachers of the General Church, and in my frank opinion these are uses which must come directly under the purview of the Bishop of the General Church. Only in the event that the General Church were to take over these two uses now performed by the Academy, could I agree with Mr. Davids comparison.

What I am presenting to you today, however, is not so much a matter of how, in the face of changing conditions, the Academy should be structured; but how we can continue to preserve the relationship which has existed between the Academy and the General Church. While on the one hand this involves priestly leadership in the development of doctrine and educational concepts, it also involves the full recognition that the uses which the Academy is performing are ecclesiastical uses; that is to say, they are uses of the church, If the Academy is to continue to be what it has been it must not become a church related institution. It must remain, as it has been in the past, a church motivated institution. As stated in the Charter: The Academy of the New Church shall be for the purpose of propagating the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Jerusalem and establishing the New Church. We do not admit, therefore, to any other purpose except in so far as it may serve as the means whereby our primary purpose may be accomplished.

I do not hold that it is essential that the Bishop of the General Church be President of the Academy, but I do hold that it is essential to our purpose that he be placed in a position to give direct and effective leadership to the institution. How this can be effected apart from the office of the presidency I do not know, but I do know that the time has come when we must begin to give thought to the matter. In this connection it is interesting to note that there was a period of five years in which the presidency of the Academy was held by a layman. From 1897 to 1902 the office was held by Mr. Robert M. Glenn. He was not, however, a president as we think of the office. He was the President of the Corporation. During those years the ecclesiastical and educational affairs of the institution were under the direction of the Bishop of the General Church, who held the title of Superintendent of Schools (New Church Life 1902, p. 173). This, however, has no direct bearing upon our problem today, which is the result of the constantly increasing demands that are being made upon the Executive Bishop. Our problem is how to provide for the continuation of the leadership of the Academy under the priesthood, and at the same time to provide that the President, assuming that he will be a priest, will be responsible not only to the Board of Directors but also to the Bishop of the General Church, and through him to those uses of the General Church which the Academy serves.

I have presented this matter to you today, not because I believe it is urgent, but because I believe that it is useful to reflect upon the relation of the Academy to the General Church so that when the time comes when we must face up to this problem we will be in a position to act wisely. Whatever we do we must keep in mind the real purpose of the Academy, and seek to provide the most affective means possible for the perpetuation of the relationship which has existed to this day between these two organizations.