First of all, welcome to my blog, and welcome to the new site for those who’ve already been following me! I’m excited to work with Patheos – they host several of my favourite blogs (e.g. Jesus Creed, The Deacon’s Bench, The Bible and Culture), and I look forward to getting involved in the conversations that happen at this site.
In getting this blog set up, I’ve run into a conundrum that I’ve faced several times before – how do I refer to myself in terms of my religion? The tagline of this blog is “Reflections of a New Church (Swedenborgian) Minister.” Why not just say a New Church minister? Because people could easily read that as the blog of a church minister who is newly ordained – i.e. a new church-minister (which, incidentally, I am). Why not just “Swedenborgian”? Ah – there’s where it gets a little interesting.
Swedenborg was adamant that the revelation he wrote down did not come from himself. He himself didn’t like the term Swedenborgianism – but his solution provides a few problems of its own. In a letter to his friend Dr. Beyer, he wrote, “This doctrine they there call ‘Swedenborgianism’; but for my part I call it Genuine Christianity.” Problem solved! I’ll call myself a Genuine Christian! That should clear up any confusion…
I don’t think I even have to go into the problems that would cause. And using New Church as an adjective actually works fine most of the time where the capitalization is noticeable (e.g. New Church doctrine, New Church cathedral, New Church minister). The problem is when we go to refer to ourselves – the noun form. In the old days, New Church adherents used to call themselves “New Churchmen” and, less frequently, “New Churchwomen.” But in the old days you could also refer to Chinese as “Chinamen” without being offensive. These ain’t the old days. Calling ourselves Swedenborgians works better, but I’d rather not, for the reasons I mentioned above. New Christians isn’t bad, but our religion is called the New Church, and rarely The New Christian Church (although it is called that occasionally). So, until we come up with something better, I’ll unhappily vacillate between the clunky “New Church people” and the less-than-ideal “Swedenborgians.”
Incidentally, this may be only a problem for those of us in the more conservative branch of the New Church, the General Church of the New Jerusalem. The other major North American branch, which used to be known as the General Convention of the New Jerusalem, changed its name years ago to the Swedenborgian Church of North America.