BISHOP WILLIAM FREDERIC PENDLETON
THE ACADEMY BOOK ROOM
BRYN ATHYN, PENNSYLVANIA
At the Third General Assembly of the General Church of the New Jerusalem, held in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario, Canada, on June 30th, 1899, Bishop W. F. Pendleton delivered an address entitled The Principles of the Academy which was published as a pamphlet in 1909.
The body known as The Academy of the New Church had been organized in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on June 19th, 1876, for the purpose of propagating certain principles based on the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. Although these principles were not generally recognized by the existing bodies of the New Church, they were seen by those who formed the Academy to be indispensable to the permanent establishment of the church. That they might become more widely known they were set forth at length in a serial publication called Words for the New Church, in New Church Life, a monthly magazine, and by other means that gained for them an increasing number of adherents, who were members of the General Church of Pennsylvania and its successor, the General Church of the Advent of the Lord.
The Academy was incorporated in the year 1877 for the purpose of propagating the Heavenly Doctrines of the New Jerusalem and establishing the New Church signified in the Apocalypse by the New Jerusalem, promoting education in all its various forms, educating young men for the ministry, publishing books, pamphlets and other printed matter, and establishing a library. At that time it was a reform movement within the body known as The General Convention of the New Jerusalem; but in 1890 it became a separate and independent body of the New Church, with its own priesthood and government, its own theological school, and a steadily developing system of New Church education for all grades.
In 1897, however, both the General Church of the Advent and the Academy as an ecclesiastical body were dissolved, and they were succeeded by The General Church of the New Jerusalem. The change was not a matter of substance, but merely of form and governmental policy. The new body espoused all the principles on which the Academy had been founded, and while the Academy ceased to be a church it remained as an educational institution, and by mutual agreement became the educational arm of the General Church.
The distinctive principles of the Academy had been widely discussed and expounded in the publications of the Academy, but they never had been gathered together and formulated in brief. This is what Bishop W. F. Pendleton did in his address to the Berlin Assembly, and his formulation met with unanimous acceptance by the members of the General Church. It still reflects the doctrinal position of that body, although it has been restated in a somewhat different form from time to time. It should be clearly understood, however, that at no time was there any intention of setting forth these principles as a dogmatic statement of faith, binding upon the conscience of the church. They always have been regarded as an expression of opinion generally held at the time, but open to modification as the church may progress in the understanding of the Heavenly Doctrine. In the General Church the Writings themselves are acknowledged as the only final authority in matters of religious faith. Indeed, this acknowledgment is what gave rise to the Academy movement, and it was because they were seen to be in accord with the plain teaching of the Writings that the principles of the Academy were accepted.
It is important that these principles be known and kept in mind by those who are responsible for making informative statements of the doctrinal beliefs of the church in the future; and it is with this in view that Bishop Pendletons address is being republished at this time.
GEORGE DE CHARMS
Bishop of the General Church of the New Jerusalem
May 1, 1958