The International Community of Christ has had a presence in Northern Nevada since its founder, Douglas Eugene “Gene” Savoy—an American explorer of pre-Columbian cultures, theologian, and author—established its permanent North American headquarters in Reno in 1972. The church was organized in 1959 in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, but shortly thereafter moved to Peru, where Savoy had centered his historical, archaeological, and religious career. The military takeover of the Peruvian government in 1968 ultimately forced Savoy to operate the church out of Mexico City (1970–71) prior to relocating to Reno.
Known as the “Church of the Second Advent,” the International Community of Christ maintains that the second coming of Christ is presently occurring. Church doctrine states that Christ has come again as prophesied, not in human form, but as a universal mediating cosmic force available to all humankind. This spiritual Christ energy, generating out of a non-physical dimension beyond matter, space, and time, manifests in the physical universe by means of visible light, which is the “carrier” of an intelligence potential originating with God.
The basis of what the church calls a “living theology” is the spiritual discipline, or system, known as “Cosolargy.” The aim of Cosolargy is to advance the practitioner’s spiritual cognition and reality through the use of transformed sunlight. The church teaches that such a system was at the core of ancient high religious traditions, including those of ancient America, now lost, in whole or in part, to modern society. For church believers, an important doctrine is that Jesus taught a similar system of light as a means for the human being to be “reborn” in spirit and return to God.
The International Community of Christ also teaches that Jesus prophesied the future coming of Christ as the “Sun of Righteousness.” According to the church, the cosmic phenomenon of the messianic sun began in 1962 as revealed by Jamil (1959–1962), a child prodigy who lived in the Andes of Peru. This occurrence ushers in a new epoch in which God’s presence manifests for an eventual transformation of all things physical into light—the original state before matter came into existence. It is this tenet of the new advent, or appearance, of God’s presence and the non-denominational character of Cosolargy that allows the Church of the Second Advent to claim its teaching to be truly ecumenical and universal, for it is not restricted to Christianity alone.
In the Reno area, the church maintains chapels for communion, marriage, baptism, and other familiar rites. At its 1200 acre desert sanctuary north of Reno there are numerous open-air churches for the practice of its outdoor liturgy. The church also runs a geothermal healing center at historic Steamboat Hot Springs south of Reno. The church’s main office and administrative center for its teaching arm, the Jamilian University of the Ordained, has been located in downtown Reno since 1972 and at its current location on Ralston Street since 1980. In addition to the church’s teaching ministry, it provides pastoral services to its members and the general public and is active in the ecumenical and interfaith community through its leadership in the Nevada Clergy Association and the Advocates for Religious Rights and Freedoms. Although the church has a global membership, its world center is in Reno. A branch of the church and school was established in Japan in 2008.
Worldwide membership ranges from nearly 2,000 students to more than 100 ordained ministers with varying vows and duties, half of whom reside in the Reno area. The overseeing official and president of the global church community is a head bishop. Following the death of Gene Savoy, Sr., in 2007, the leadership of the church passed to his eldest son, Douglas Eugene Savoy, Jr.