Charter Day

From Rev. Jeremy Simons, Cathedral Chaplain
October 8, 2018

This weekend is Charter Day weekend and people from all over will visit Bryn Athyn to mark the date. Last year we celebrated the 140th anniversary of the granting of the charter. In 1927, Randolph Childs wrote:

Almost 50 years ago there was signed a decree incorporating the Academy of the New Church. The event from a legal standpoint was without significance. It is not likely that any of the 12 founders was present in the courtroom when their attorney in a routine way answered the call of the motion calendar. Doubtless a weary clerk droned out the phrase, “Re Academy of the New Church,” and the attorney for the incorporators stepped to the bar of the court. The judge may have asked some perfunctory question as to whether the application for the charter had been advertised, and upon receiving an affirmative answer, and glancing over the charter, taken up his pen. The judge’s face was expressionless as his pen moved over the paper. The lawyers, with their litigated causes, involving matters of money and of property, waited impatiently for this tedious bit of routine to be disposed of. What amazement would have seized the learned judge, the restive counsel and the listless clerks, had they known that this new charter was to have a greater influence upon the destinies of men than the Magna Charta, which the English barons forced King John to sign at Runnymede! (New Church Life 1927)

Fifty years later, Rev. Mark Carlson said, at the Charter Day Cathedral service:

“The Academy was not founded to be an elitist, eastern-seaboard prep school and college. Because of its location, external appearance, small student body, and limited-enrollment policy, the Academy may give this impression to some. But such is not its intent. The Academy, in fact, was not founded to be just a New Church school. (New Church Life 1977) 

If you read the charter purposes, the Academy was not intended to be primarily a school. Article II of the Charter reads:

“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 signified in the Apocalypse by the New Jerusalem, promoting Education in all of its various forms, Educating Young Men for the Ministry, publishing Books, Pamphlets, and other printed matter, and establishing a Library.”

Education was definitely an important part of it from the beginning, but the Academy was first and foremost a reform movement within the New Church as it then existed. Its goal was to promote the New Church by focusing on the principle that the Writings are the Word of God.


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