Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It's Great to be a Follower (if you're a man)

How can siblings grow up experiencing life so differently? I have four older siblings, but two of them (brothers, both) claim that my memories and attitude towards our childhood are off-balance. They remain loyal to the Followers, though they have been out of the church more than ten years.

So, I’d like to know what it is that I get so wrong. Like some of my anonymous critics, they have no examples. It’s more of a feeling. One of my brothers says, “It was a great way to grow up. We were safe and protected. There are a lot of good things about that church.”

Yep, there are a lot of good things about the Followers. Of course there are. And there are mostly well meaning people in that church body.  But my experiences were much different than my brothers’.

What if two young men were born in a palace, one a prince and the other a servant? Would these two men have different experiences, memories, and feelings about their childhoods? I say yes. We were raised in an incredibly sexist environment, where it was much easier and better to be male. Men/boys have more worth, their opinions mean more, and they can get away with much more. They do all the asking (for dates and marriage), they make all the decisions.

That’s not really the point – not the whole point. I also feel loyalty towards the Followers. I feel a sense of responsibility to them, to come out and tell the truth. Just get it out there and let insiders and outsiders make their own conclusions.

It's dangerous to take Bible verses out of context. The Bible consists of 66 books and you can bend it to mean anything you choose by taking a few words out of context of the entire work. I believe the legalism to which Follower men are so concerned about when they question other churches who may/may not have women praying in church comes from a letter to the Corinthians 1:Cor 11:13. This specific group was arguing over the old (Jewish) tradition of women wearing hats in church and the gentiles who did not. Paul concluded that women should have long hair as a covering when they pray - certainly not that women shouldn't pray. 

Here's something to consider (there are many more examples I can provide to you about the roles women played in churches. Ever heard of Phoebe? A woman minister, whom Paul commends [Rom 16:1]):

"And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams" - Acts 2:17

To cut women out of participation in spiritual matters is only a good idea if you want your women to conclude that, "if religion doesn't include me, it must not apply to me."

Guest Blogger: Darren Russell

Guest Blogger, Darren Russell, is from Tulare, California and is related to Marion Reese, Charles Calvin Smith, and the Morris family. He currently lives and works near Phoenix, AZ, where he assembles in a house meeting of believers with a few other families.

I would like to clarify some of the very early history of the Church in question. In the 1930s there were thousands, yes literally thousands of brethren, scores of ministers and prophets who were following the picking seasons.

Those were hard times and many of the groups from Oklahoma, Idaho, and Colorado were coalescing in a western migration to alleviate their poverty. They were a very evangelistic bunch who for years lived a gypsy type of existence up and down the west coast from Southern California up into Canada.

When the Oregon City church took off it was not Walter White's Church, it was a group of believers that followed Christ, of which he was one. As brethren began to settle themselves in areas many stayed on in that area, Bro. Walter even opening up a store. The truth is the Church existed in that part of Oregon for over 50 years prior to Walter White moving there.

When Walter White left Idaho, he had been taken in by a doctrine that was present at Jerome since about 1900 that the "fullness of the gentiles" was upon us. He also debated with other leaders about such matters as divorce and women cutting hair. He went to Oregon City where there were already people who would accept him, he having made several trips through the years into that body.

He was accepted as an apostle by many, and gradually usurped the authority of many elders who had been there prior. After a few years most of his opposition left and his faithful remained, the rest is a matter of history, of which I believe Suzanne is doing a wonderful job of expounding upon.

For those who do not appreciate the ramifications of the "fulfilling of times of the gentiles", that is when the amount of people who will be saved is completed and afterwards comes the Judgment. Once all those that will be saved have been, there is no longer a point to baptism. Your only hope is to be numbered among Israel. There are of course variations on this theme, but they all have the same consequence, a spiritually dead church results.

You have to understand, there was no thought for the future, because the eternal future was expected around the corner. There were no baptisms, no ordinations, and no one expected to live long enough to produce offspring that would make it to adulthood. Children were always grandfathered into salvation until the reached the age of personal accountability, when they were expected to be baptized. At the time of Walter White's death few of his congregation seriously contemplated that the world would last long enough for baptisms to be necessary.

I must add that these aberrations in doctrine are not indicative of the Followers of Christ in general. There has been through the years and in different areas other splinter groups who have led similar doctrines. One related group in Cortez, CO are very similar to the Oregon City group in everything except their last days doctrine, at least they have maintained their baptisms. Their leader, a man named Carver, as long as he was living was also supposed to be the only man who could baptize. After his death there were appointed leaders from his family who could baptize, but their sermons were simply reiterations of previous Carver sermons, they were reported to sometimes listen to tape recorded sermons of their late pastor in lieu of church. Their doctrines were not so much different from the rest of the groups as much as their claim to be the exclusive inheritors and founts of the truth. 

Then there was the True Followers of Antlers, Oklahoma whose leader Old Joab Morris sewed his bible shut and would not allow another one on his mountain or any gentiles to step foot upon it without a curse. He believed he would live forever, and never see death as long as he remained at that place. They also expected Christ to return at any moment. He was never able to put that belief to the ultimate test as he was evicted by the state authorities and those who possessed the deed to his property, which he held by a revelation from God. Seems God neglected to file this revelation at the local courthouse. They had a few more peculiarities but of course the one predominant in Prophet led flocks, they were the ONLY ones who were going to heaven!

Now I don't tell about these groups to insinuate that all FOC churches are the same, I'd say far from it, the FOC churches as a whole are evangelical in outlook, and take Christ's commissions seriously. I would like to point out that throughout the entire history of the Church, since even the days of the original apostles, there has been group peculiarities and even heresies. Once a group has turned inward on itself and neglected their duty, their candlestick is removed and they are no longer a light to any.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Church History

The first baptizing done by Walter was in Silvercreek at Pickabo, Idaho on February 3, 1928.

The Oregon City Church was established on December 12, 1933. The first meeting was held in the home of Lawrence Webb on Mt. View Street. The baptizing took place in the Molalla River by Charlie Smith. Two days later, on December 14, Walter baptized three more believers.

The church outgrew the homes in a short time and held meetings in the small Community building on Molalla Avenue. In 1945, the old Claremont School was purchased. This burned on May 20, 1946.

The next building was started at noon July 10, 1946, and held the first meeting September 8, 1945. This building was added onto and the baptismal tank was installed in 1954.

The last baptizing in the Clackamas River was by Walter, April 4, 1954.

The first baptizing in the tank was by Walter, June 13, 1954. Twenty-two believers were baptized that day.

On February 19, 1960, a Box Social was held to raise the money for a new building. At this first Box Social, the church honored Sister Eva on her 80th birthday by selling her basket for $50. There were 205 boxes sold that night.

The second Box Social was held on Sunday, June 26, 1960. On November 30th, the Walker and Green Construction Company bid was accepted and the present building was started on December 4, 1960.

On Sunday, June 25, 1961, the first meeting was held in the new building.

In the Spring of 1968, Walter White decided that he would perform his last baptisms. Between March 17, 1968 and May 5, 1968, Walter baptized 56 people.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Do People Hate the Followers?

I’ve been struggling with the idea for this post for the past few days, since a reader made the following comment on the blog entry titled “The Evils of Education:”

“Everyone just seemed to be deciding for them [the members of the FOC] how they should be living out their faith, when other than being wrong, they didn't do anything to bring this level of hate on themselves.

My first response is that I don’t hate anyone in this group, nor do I encourage others to do so. But, on reflection, I think this person is referring to the comments made by readers on news sites, such as OregonLive, KATU, and other media sources reporting on the Followers’ practices of faith healing.  Outsiders are outraged at what they see as the preventable loss of innocent lives.
Before I go any further with my line of thinking, I want to come out and say that I never forget the true fact that it could be me. A few choices in another direction and I could’ve been there. I could’ve married my high school sweetheart (who sadly died long before his time) and I could’ve had children in that church. When I was still entrenched in these ideas, I wouldn’t have considered calling a doctor when someone was sick. Even a child. It wouldn't have crossed my mind.
I have written a chapter in my book about discovering that someone I was close to had gone to a hospital – had chosen to go to the emergency room – rather than die at home with dignity. I was livid. I believed completely that God would heal those whom He chose to heal and call home those He chose. I did not believe that a mere mortal – a doctor – could do any good at all. The stories I grew up with convinced me that seeking medical care would backfire at best, most likely summoning an earlier death than if we’d put our trust in God where it belonged.
But for the grace of God go I. I mourn for the families who absolutely loved the children and young adults who have died and believed they were doing the right thing.
I have been away from that church. And I’ve read the Bible. I no longer believe it is a sin to seek medical care. The Bible doesn’t say that it’s a sin. Saint Luke was a doctor, for heaven’s sake!
I hear from people on the inside. More than you would think, but I will NEVER tell who has contacted me or the details of their struggles. I know things have become distorted. Things are changing. Ideas and beliefs are changing, for better or worse. And, like some astute reader recently pointed out, those who were around when the church was still “alive” are the elderly minority. The adults who are making decisions are living on the second- and third-hand lore. It is watered down and the meaning is no longer clear.
Followers are getting medical care. Well, we always had medical care for our eyes and teeth. Oral surgery, as I mentioned previously. Now, Followers are getting Lasik surgery. Adults are taking medications for chronic diseases. Men who are injured at work go to the ER so they won’t lose their jobs or earning potential. The siblings of those children who died are taken for regular check-ups so that Child Protective Services will not intervene and remove them from their homes.
So, what was it all for?
What makes a Follower a Follower? Now it seems the most important qualifications are blood-line (descendants of those who were baptized by a prophet) and loyalty to the church.
And, what have they done to bring this “level of hate” upon themselves? I do not hate them. Any of them. I do not think I’m smarter or better than any of them. I do not think God loves me more. I do not think I would’ve made better choices had I been in the shoes of the parents who have lost their beloved children.
But for the grace of God go I.

This isn't where I considered going with this. I can't bring myself to write what I've been thinking about because I don't want to hurt those who are already hurting. I may write it later, but not now.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Why I Write

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.