The Inner and Universal Aquarian Epochal Chancellate, usually known as IUAEC or the Chancellate, and formerly called the Church of the Americas, is a new age religious community and is the guardian of the Epochalist movement, defining all doctrine of the movement. It today consists of 17 million members, 225 temples, and 69,000 missionaries engaging in work throughout the world. It is the largest movement within Epochalism.
Epochalism is a pandeistic New Age religious movement and philosophy formed in the early 21st century. The movement was founded by Ryan Hite, who is seen as the founding prophet of the movement through the publication and inspiration of his book Through Minds’ Eyes, which was released in 2013. The largest body relating to this movement is the Inner and Universal Aquarian Epochal Chancellate, which was also founded by Hite. The tradition revolves around the idea of the journey as said through the words of the prophets and the teachings and examples of the Christs, along with the personal connection to the spirit, the divine, and through angelic messengers. Twenty-Six angelic messengers form the basis of many core beliefs of the movement.
Adherents, often referred to as Epochalists, view faith in the path to the light as fundamental principles of their religion. Epochalist theology includes the doctrine of salvation only through the path of the Christs, though doctrines regarding the nature of God and the potential of mankind differ significantly from mainstream religions of the world. The chancellate has an open canon which includes four scriptural texts: the primary (Through Minds’ Eyes), secondary (Through Minds’ Eyes 2), tertiary, and quaternary (Epochal Doctrine and Covenants) canons.
Under the doctrine of continuing revelation, Epochalists believe that the president is a modern-day "prophet, seer, and revelator" and that the seat consists of the same powers. Individual members of the chancel believe that they can also receive personal revelation from God in conducting their lives. The president heads a hierarchical structure with various levels reaching down to local congregations. Bishops lead local congregations. Individuals may be ordained to the priesthood, provided they are living the standards of the chancel and go through many years of seminary.
Both men and women may serve as missionaries and the chancel maintains a large missionary program that proselytizes and conducts humanitarian services worldwide. Faithful members adhere to covenant laws of sexual purity, health, fasting, and observance, and contribute to their income in tithing. Members are also expected to go through various rites in their continuance to go down the path to the light.
The Chancellate was originally founded in 2012 as the Church of the Americas Foundation after Hite recieved revelation to combine the Mormon and Roman Catholic Churches. It went through many iterations before being finalized in 2017 as the Inner and Universal Aquarian Epochal Chancellate and the philosophy as being Epochalism. Efforts have been made in recent years to make sure that the name sticks.
The word Epochalism comes from the geologic term of the same name. Members believe that it is also indicative of life, which happens between distinct periods of time. An Epoch in a geological sense is the idea of a time between two major periods of time. The spiritual Epoch is a little more flexible, but the idea of this time remains the same. Before the establishment of the name of the philosophy, there was not a name that the movement could get behind. These, along with other fundamental parts of the philosophy, is a commonality among all of the parts of the movement.
Hite founded Epochalism in the early years of the 2010’s through the influence and theological understandings of four visions and a few dozen of Angelic messengers. As a result of his interactions with these people and the experiences he had with them, a philosophy based on the nature of life itself began to develop. Through Minds Eyes and its companion series began to be developed at this time and it is combined with the collective wisdom of the world to result in Epochalism, where anyone can find the meaning of life in the life they are living.
The theology of the Chancellate consists of a combination of books divided into canons with modern revelations and other commentary by leaders. The most authoritative sources of theology are the faith's four levels of texts, called canons, based on their relative importance to the philosophy. The primary and secondary canon consist of the canon of Through Minds’ Eyes, which is the complete commentary of religion and philosophy by Hite between 2012 and 2015. The primary canon consists 38 books as a result of the acceptance of the primary canon. The secondary canon consists of the books that were not included in the primary canon. The primary and secondary canons define the journey and connect the people to their perspectives and cultures.
Unique among religion and philosophy is the acceptance of many holy texts in the tertiary canon. They are considered authoritative according to the individual and it will differ from person to person and from area to area. Leaders are in the process of providing an interpretation for these texts. As a general rule, the canons are meant to be interpreted allegorically.
Another source of authoritative doctrine is the pronouncements of the current school of the prophets and other leaders. Some of the revelations are a part of the quaternary canon, which is known as the Epochal Doctrine and Covenants. The leadership on the local and international level are elected to their positions every five years.
Several doctrines and practices of IUAEC are unique among religions and philosophies that it is compared to. For example, the cosmology and plan of salvation include the doctrines of a pre-mortal life, two natures of humanity, and exaltation. According to these doctrines, every human is born of a spirit and is combined into the body at birth, and each has the potential to continue to learn, grow, and progress in the eternities, eventually achieving eternal life, which is to become one with divinity in the same way that the Christs achieved on earth, thus allowing us to take on divine attributes or to be like God. This view on the doctrine of theosis is also referred to as becoming a joint heir. This process is achieved by going down the path to the light and to get to the city of the light in the wilderness. A part of this journey consists of personal renewal and being a good example. Another aspect is going through various ceremonies called sacraments to remind us of the covenant that we are under as humans. These ceremonies take place in Chancel buildings and in temples.
Most faiths have some sort or trinity. Unlike other faiths, the trinity consists of three different states of being, which are the spirit, the human, and the divine. The doctrine states that we are born as spirit and we attain human qualities upon our birth. We live our lives with this dual nature, which corresponds with the nature of the world. Upon our death, we will attain a state of divinity depending on our intentions in life and the decisions that we make. The goal of salvation is to attain the third state while our two states are in constant battle.
Salvation in the movement has been central to the development of the philosophy and the life of the individual. The doctrine of salvation states that all individuals are saved when they attain the light, which is universal at death. Those who see the light before death are called the Christs and are the path by which we strive to live for. Free Will is required for the individual to choose to attain the light.
Epochalist believe that all religions are right and wrong at the same time. All religions have merit in their philosophies and collecting some of the combined wisdom of the world. At the same time, there are a lot of theological and philosophical shortcomings with most religions. Epochalism believes in the idea that revelation continues to the people today and that we are constantly learning more about the world around us. Revelation comes to people according to the level of responsibility they have. These principles are a part of the ongoing education of members and are encouraged to be sought out for non-members as well.
The foundation of the covenant that we are under is called the Ten Aquarian Commandments. The Ten Aquarian Commandments are essential to Epochalist thought. They, along with the creed, are shared by app in the movement, although their interpretations may vary widely. The Ten Aquarian Commandments are found in two chapters of Through Minds’ Eyes and they are also found in many other books in commentary with their true teachings. The central tenet of the philosophy is that, in order to bring happiness to one’s life, one must focus on their journey within the context of the life that they are in and the people that are around them. One way to make a good comparison is the focus on the life and teachings of the Christs and the prophets in the hopes that one will apply and learn these things. The movement, in general, tends to focus on the life and teachings of Hite and the ongoing spiritual journey that he is undergoing as an important example. As a result, the angels that he has coming and going through this journey are also of great importance. Thus far, twenty three major ones and forty two minor ones have been named. Angels are seen as having great importance because they tend to be the instruments of the dissemination of wisdom to advance the doctrinal development of the spiritual movement.
The Cosmology of the movement is not seen as important to Epochalists as life itself is. Epochalists do not claim to know where we, as humans, came from or where we will end up. There are ideas that we started out as spirits and gained a body in order to advance our lives in the trinity. We are on this earth in a constant state of conflict between the spiritual and the animal life. When we die, we have the potential to have an opportunity at the divinity, thus completing the trinity. Those who do not see the light while in life will see it in death. Those who do not even see it at death are believed to be the sources of the paranormal. Life, in essence, is seen as a constant progression between the spirit to the divine through the experiences and the balances that we need as humans.
The Christs, Prophets, and Angels play a central role in this plan. The prophets are seen as those who disseminate new philosophical information to the people of the world. The angels are seen as messengers between those on the earth and those in the heavens. The life and teachings of the Christs are seen as our example by which we should follow and it allows us an avenue by which we can learn to take on that divinity.
Epochalists believe that we simply need to follow in the path to the light to obtain this divinity while on earth. No partiality is considered when it comes to following in a specific religion or philosophy. The Chancellate practices similar sacraments, but they are not required for any salvation. Most of the sacraments are educational, rather than ceremonial, in nature. These sacraments can be and are often done in the Chancel and at the Temples on a daily basis.
Purification is both a process and a ceremonial act among adherents. Many believe that, in order to be a member, one must be purified in both senses before one is to go through any of the other sacraments are to be performed. The process and ceremony are almost universal, with considerable controversy surrounding the authority by which one is conferring the ceremony.
Worship within the movement is based on the experiential aspects of spirituality. The faith encourages people to practice what they preach in everyday life and to come together spiritually for major life events. As such, there are regular worship services and ceremonies commemorating major life events. Weekly services take place on a Sunday. The nature of these events are largely set by the local congregations, although the wording and purpose of these ceremonies are standard. These services are supplemented by continuing education and other classes.
A major doctrine is that the world is divided into two natures and it is up to the individual to decide what path they want to go down in life. Although the focus of the philosophy is not on the end of the world, it is referred to many times in terms of understanding history and astrology. The general belief is that the end of the age has come and that the world is in a transition between the old age and the new age. It is a source of research by Ryan Hite along with studies in comparative religion.
Epochalists consider life and death to be the central doctrine of the movement. According to adherents and theologians, life begins with the merging of the spiritual and the human aspects of life, which is reflected in the battle between the heavens and the earth. This dual nature is a part of what makes free will possible, with adherents having to make a choice as to what life to take on. In the end, adherents believe that all people will attain the light at death, with some attaining the light beforehand. The allegorical nature of the movement sees the Christs deaths and resurrection events not to be literal, but an allegory of the process that we all go through in life on the process of attaining the light.
Meditation is often pushed in the religious movement, with classes and many interpretations on how one should perform the act. Although prayers and chants are said, many of the membership do not believe that the prayers have the same kind of intercessory power that many of the classical religious groups have. This is in line with some major new age and new thought movements of the past.
Faithful donate a fee, known as a tithe, from their annual income, for the operations of the chancel, including construction of temples, meetinghouses, and other buildings, and other uses. Local stakes are locally owned, so the amount and fees ary based on their funding from voluntary donations and other assets. At the local level, the leadership consists of members of the priesthood and other volunteers and employees. Like all members, they are asked to donate a tithe to the chancel.
All people who are living the standards of the chancel are generally considered for the priesthood and are ordained to the priesthood after many years of study. Ordination occurs by a ceremony where hands are laid on the head of the one ordained. There are two levels of the priesthood consisting of five offices at each level. The third level, which consists of three branches, can be elected to these positions from any level.
Under the leadership of the priesthood hierarchy there are five different offices in which one can specialise in; The Bishopric, The Priesthood, the Deaconhood, the Teachinghood, and the Missionhood. The Chancellate operates in this system through three levels, which are the Chancellate, the Templar, and the Worldwide Government, which operates in three branches, which are the Judicary, the Executive, and the Legislature. There are twenty five offices in the Executive Branch and two houses in the Legislature, which are the Counsel and the Senate.
The Chancellate operates educational programs under the direction of Ryan Hite University (RHU), which offers secular programs in study along with a seminary. There are branches throughout the world as well as a comprehensive online program. Students of all ages can take part in classes of various types and at various levels through local Chancels. A welfare progam is also a part of the yearly donations of members of the Chancel and are used for various local, regional, and international programs along with participation with a variety of charities and through special disaster relief programs.
Other programs and departments are largely held in conjunction with the participation with existing resources. The Chancellate offers support to various programs to strengthen its impact in the community. A thorough vetting process is in place to make sure that the charities that are being donated to are compliant with standards. Members are often encouraged to donate time or resources to charities of their choosing. The Chancellate also offers support to youth organizations and to family history work.
The Chancellate and all of the stakes release financial statements on a yearly basis. The majority of funding comes through voluntary donations and through fees, along with other specific sources as requested. Even though the Chancellate has sectors that are for-profit, the donations and fees of the Chancellate are not used to fund these ventures. The Chancellate also devotes resources to for-profit ventures in real estate and through the sale of books among other things.
Missionary work is expected to be performed by all members through the use of example. It is believed that all members should devote free time and excess resources to the betterment of those who are not as well off or to causes that will help many people in the long run. Missionaries in the field are full time employees of the stake and are tasked with coordinating with their assigned areas in these avenues. Very little time is devoted to proselytizing. The Chancellate also uses missionaries to help in disaster relief and in other functions of the Chancellate as needed. None of the work replaces those who are in full time positions.
The Chancellate has many similarities with other branches of the New Age Movement. They include the doctrine of unity, the universe, and shares other traditions with Eastern and Western philosophies. It is, however, a distinct philosophy. Many of the practices are shared with other New Age movements with some minor differences and histories. The Chancellate does recognize traditions and philosophies of other religions. Other religions do not recognize the Chancellate purification ceremonies as valid. There are a lot of similarities between Epochalism and many other religious traditions. It is often said that Epochalism is the most syncretized religious tradition and philosophy in the world. With this syncretism comes a lot of challenges that often confuse people.
The Chancellate, along with Epochalism as a whole, does have the potential to be ideologically divided, which can include the mainstream under the guardianship of the Chancellate, the conservative branches, the universal movement, the capitalist movement, and the primitivist movement. These movements have the potential to have their own splits and movements. However, at the preset time, the guardian of the movement has had the flexibility to maintain unity. Adherents to Epochalism are often a part of another religious movement and stakes can differ based on the dominant religion or ethnic group. These differences make it hard to denote the exact population of Epochalist believers.
Chancellate congregations are organized geographically. Members are generally expected to attend the congregation with their area and religious or ethnic preferences; however, some geographical areas also provide separate congregations for young single adults or for speakers of alternate languages. For services, the church is grouped into either larger congregations known as wards, or smaller congregations known as branches. Although the building may sometimes be referred to as a Chancel, the room used as a chapel for religious services is only one component of the standard Chancel. Regional organizations, encompassing multiple congregations, include stakes, missions, districts, areas, and regions.
The Chancellate reports a worldwide membership of 16 million; This is the Chanel’s own accounting, based on membership records. The definition of "membership" includes all persons who were ever purified, or whose parents were members while the person was under the age of purified, who have neither been excommunicated nor asked to have their names removed from records with approximately 8.3 million residing outside the United States. According to these statistics it is the fourth largest religious body in the United States. The membership report includes all baptized members and their children. Although it does not release attendance figures to the public, researchers estimate that actual attendance at weekly services globally is around 4 million. Members living in the U.S. and Canada constitute 46% percent of membership, Latin America 38 percent, and members in the rest of the world 16 percent. It continues to seek recognition in areas where it has had little to no influence.
The Chancellate is organized in a hierarchical priesthood structure. The Chancellate is led by the president and two counselors. The viceory and two counselors are also at the head of the legislature. The president and the viceroy are elected to the position every five years in a democratic process. The worldwide congregation consists of three branches, which are the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Major changes are announced at events that happen in various areas of the world on a monthly basis. The most significant of these events are the Worldwide Conferences that happen in October and April of each year.
The Chancellate has been subject to criticism and sometimes discrimination since its early years. Academic critics have questioned the legitimacy of Hite and his visions as well as the authenticity and purpose of the publications and doctrines. However, the Chancellate does not have nor does it plan on countering those points. The Chancellate does not believe that there is a point to countering arguments as long as authenticity is present on the organization’s end. The Chancellate has taken many steps to be transparent and to present its history in the truest sense. The Chancellate does not take many political positions and does not need to change their position on issues very often. It is very adaptable based on the open nature of the philosophy and the doctrines of continuing revelation.
Meetings and outreach programs are held regularly and have become part of Epochalist culture.
The culture has created substantial business opportunities for independent media. Such communities include cinema, fiction, websites, and graphical art such as photography and paintings. The chancel owns a chain of bookstores, which provide a channel through which publications are sold. The chancel also produces six pageants annually depicting various events. There are also TV channels syndicated around the world owned by the Chancel. The family, according to the Chancel, is the foundation of a strong society. Many publications have been published to support those ideals. The Chancel also emphasizes the attendance and participation in service projects and non-profit groups.
Additional meetings are also frequently held at the meetinghouse. Officers may conduct leadership meetings or host training sessions and classes. The ward or branch community may schedule social activities at the meetinghouse, including dances, dinners, holiday parties and musical presentations. The Chancel’s youth organizations meet at the meetinghouse once a week, where the youth participate in activities. Other popular activities are basketball, family history conferences, youth and singles conferences, dances, and various personal improvement classes. Members may also reserve meetinghouses at no cost for weddings, receptions, and funerals. Other events, sacraments, and retreats happen throughout the year at the Chancel and the Temple level.
The Chancel takes no partisan role in politics, stating that it will not "endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms; allow its buildings, membership lists or other resources to be used for partisan political purposes; attempt to direct its members as to which candidate or party they should give their votes to ... or attempt to direct or dictate to a government leader.” While the Chancel takes an apolitical approach to candidates, it encourages its members to play an active role as responsible citizens in their communities, including becoming informed about issues and voting in elections. The chancel also attempts to avoid taking stances on what other religions deem as social issues.
The chancel stresses the importance of worldwide humanitarian service. The welfare and humanitarian efforts are coordinated by IUAECP, a department under the direction of the same cabinet position. Welfare efforts, originally initiated during the Great Depression, provide aid for the poor, financed by donations from church members. IUAECP is also responsible for philanthropic donations to the Chancel and other affiliated charities, such as the History Library, the Educational System, the Major Choir, and efforts dedicated to providing funds for IUAEC missionaries and temple construction. Donations are also used to operate storehouses, which package and store food for the poor at low cost. Distribution of funds and food is administered by local bishops. These storehouses distribute commodities to the needy as requested by local bishops on a specified form. The storehouses also provide service opportunities for those receiving assistance and for those desiring to serve missions or to volunteer in the welfare program.
The chancel also distributes money through its Humanitarian Services division to natural disaster victims worldwide. The Humanitarian Center prepares emergency relief supplies for worldwide shipment to disaster victims, works to establish a global sense of self-reliance, and offers service opportunities to both members and non-members. The emergency relief supplies that the church donates typically include clothing, personal care kits, and medical supplies. According to the Humanitarian Center website, it ships about 12 million pounds of shoes and clothing, one million hygiene kits, and one million pounds of medical supplies per year, to relieve suffering in more than 100 countries. When a disaster strikes, the Chancel works with local government officials and other organizations to determine the immediate needs, and sends the necessary supplies and food to the affected area within hours. Missionaries are then sent to help alleviate other long-term damages by assisting injured persons and reconstructing damaged buildings. The Chancel carries out these efforts without regard to the nationality or religion of the recipients, and 100 percent of the financial contributions donated to the Chancel by members and non-members are used for humanitarian purposes.