Founder of the Bible Christians Church, William Cowherd, joined the Swedenborgian New Jerusalem Church in Manchester in 1793 and embraced the politics of Christian spiritualism, pacificism, and meatless dietetics.
January 1, 1793
The Vegetarian Crusade
The Bible Christians migrating to Philadelphia did so with the full support of the movement’s founder, William Cowherd, who preached that it was only possible to live an authentic religious life in an agricultural society.
In 1793, Cowherd, tired of the sectarian quibbles and professional jealousies that seemed to pervade Anglicanism, left his pulpit and became the spiritual leader of the Swedenborgian New Jerusalem Church in Manchester. He embraced the radical politics of the movement, including its Christian spiritualism, pacifi st worldview, and meatless dietetics. Cowherd quickly realized, however, that even the Swedenborgians were affl icted by interpersonal conflict and power plays. Infl uenced by the radical politics of Thomas Paine and William Godwin, Cowherd decided to start his own movement. At the heart of the Bible Christian Church were three guiding principles: temperance, pacifism, and a meatless diet. In the early years of the nineteenth century, Cowherd’s church grew, primarily drawing members of Manchester’s working class with the promise of salvation for their souls and free vegetable soup for their stomachs.