Wednesday, May 30, 2012

C.C. Smith: A Letter of Condolence

This letter was written to Brother Ralph and Sister Minnie Young when their house burned.

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Gerber, California

October 31, 1935

My Dear Brother and Sister in Christ Jesus our Lord,

I wish to extend to you my heartfelt sympathy in your bereavement in the terrible loss of your children.

Remember they will come again and inherit their own border and again God has said to weep not as those who have no hope. David said, I cannot call him back but I can go to him.

Let us be patient in our tribulations. Let us say as Paul in days of old, I am persuaded that neither heights nor depths nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come shall be able to separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

May God’s richest blessings ever be with you and yours is my earnest prayer that God will preserve you unto his heavenly kingdom.


Your brother till death,

C.C. Smith

Sunday, May 27, 2012

C.C. Smith: Divorce

The issue of divorce is tricky in the Christian belief system. There are certain rules in which a person may be released from marriage - if their spouse cheats, if the marriage was never consummated, or if a spouse denounces God (or in this case, the specific Oregon City FOC church) and leaves of their own accord. The problem with this is that the OC Group only allows men to be released from a cheating spouse. Also, the only people who know what really goes on behind closed doors are the husband, wife, and God. Another problem in this system is that, in order to be free, the spouses must prove themselves   innocent by trashing their spouse - who is, in most cases, the mother or father of their children. Who suffers most from this? The children. Does God hate divorce? The bible tells us that He does. God hates all sin. And we have all sinned.

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

James 2:10

Please read these two letters from the preacher C.C. Smith on the subject of divorce.

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Gerber, California

March 11, 1933


I read Brother George’s letter and was surprised that he would teach as he did. I think he needs a little teaching himself. Let us turn to the Sermon on the Mount: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth and taught them saying. This is very plain that where man and wife are both in the faith there is but two reasons for them to marry again, namely fornication or death of one or the other.

Now let us see what Paul was talking about 1st Cor. 7-15, he was talking to one that was in the faith which had an unbelieving companion in other words unequally yoked together. Now Paul says if the unbelieving depart let them depart: a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases. And he didn’t say if the other has committed fornication.

First Cor. 5-5. This speaks of the spirit that was in the man when he was born into the world. The flesh would return to the earth as it was and the spirit return to God that gave it. If there is any in that body who wants to turn someone over to Satan., tell them to be sure there is not a beam in their own eye.

I believe it would do those good who are always contentious if they would read all of the sermon on the mount. Matt 5-6, in the prayer he taught his disciples to pray: and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

I was glad to hear that Brother Walter had been preaching. I trust God will reward him. And now I charge you that this epistle be read among all the holy brethren.

May God bless you and yours, my earnest prayer.

Pray for us.

C.C. Smith

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The following letter was undated, but also addressed questions about the circumstances in which divorce is permitted in the church. Smith also exhorts the church not to remove members from their body, a practice the Oregon City group has taken up in recent years, by means of shunning and pressuring others to shun.

Dear Brother and Sister in Christ Jesus,

I just received your letter asking for information concerning certain scriptures. You did not mention any names. I have guessed that you refer to old sister Rogers as we used to call her.

Now Mr. Rogers left her. Answer: if the unbelieving depart, let them depart, a brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases. If she was not under bondage she was free to marry.

Then she married an old soldier who seemed to me to be faithful. This brother died, she was no longer his wife but his widow. If her husband be dead she is at liberty to marry who she will only in the Lord. First Cor. 7-39.

The last man did not marry his father’s wife but his father’s widow, and one that was free because of his death.

As far as putting one out of the church is a Pharisee error. If our names are on the Lamb’s Book of Life, no man can take it off. Each one can take his own name off by evil conduct or disobedience. Remember the wheat and the tares must grow together until the harvest and God’s angels will separate them.

I charge that this epistle be read to all the Holy Brethren.

May the richest blessings from on high reside and abide with you all. Amen.

Pray for us,

C.C. Smith

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

C.C. Smith: Deacons, Elders, and Bishops

On Sunday, I posted a letter from Charles Calvin Smith, written in 1910. The letter posted below was written in 1932 in response to a question about the callings and roles of Deacons, Elders, and Bishops.

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Gerber, California

January 28, 1932

My dear brother and sister in Christ Jesus Our Lord. I was truly glad to get a letter from you this morning. And inquiry concerning a Deacon and his duties. I have always looked out for Deacons and ordained them where I deamed them of use to the body. Simply ordaining a man does not make a Deacon, neither does ordaining a man make an Elder.

Paul told Titus to ordain Elders. He did not say ordain men and make Elders out of them. If a man was not an Elder before he was ordained he would not be afterward. Ordain simply means to set apart. That is the reason Paul said to ordain Elders. He told him just how he would know an elder. The same way he told just what qualifications a deacon should have and in Luke’s writing the Acts of the Apostles, he tells you in Acts 6 just what a deacon’s work is.

A bishop is not ordained as a Bishop but when an Elder is called into the ministry after being an Elder it makes him a bishop. Prove all things. Hold fast to that which is good.

Brother Earnest Paul was called after he was an Elder, and the Spirit said, “Thou are a Bishop chosen of God. Preach the word while you live in the world and you shall wear a crown of everlasting life.”

I was never satisfied what a bishop was until I heard Brother Earnest’s calling. Now I trust that by reading the scripture you will be able to understand just what these three offices are and just what their work is.

We have a wonderful little body here of 22 with but little discord. All seem to try to live the faith. As it is easy to see, the fullness of Christ and the prophets words fulfilled. Jer 46-40. Hab 1-8. Fly as an eagle that hasteth to eat. Then we see the Automobile in Nahum 2-3.

I exhort you never give up the race for we shall reap if we faint not. Amen.

Pray for us.

C.C. Smith

I charge you that this epistle be read among all the holy brethren.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Letter from C. C. Smith

I have come accross several hand-written letters from the preacher Charles Calvin Smith. I thought they would add to the historical record of the FOC. One thing I noticed about this letter is his allusion to predestination.

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November 22, 1910

My Dear Brother Johnie & Family,

Love to all
I suppose I owe you an apology for not writing sooner but you know how it is when one is trying to get settled on a new place. I moved down in the valley this Fall and have had to get ready for winter. It is starting to show today about half snow and half rain which makes it sloshy under foot. I just got back from preaching a sermon over at Canby. I had a very good crowd but it rained and made the roads so sloshy that they won’t come out so I came home. It seems like the people in general want anything else but the truth. A lie suits them fine when the preacher charges them for lying. I get discouraged but I suppose God will draw the ones that are ordained to Eternal Life.
Do you ever think any more of selling out and coming over or have the “Mexico Brethren” got you going South? I see by the paper that the Spaniards are making some trouble for the settlers. I don’t think I want any of it in mind. I had rather have a biscuit with quietness than both hands full with strife. Godliness with contentment is great gain.
I heard that Brother Oliver Eels was coming over here with his new bride. Well tell them we will all be glad to see them and we all wish them a long and happy life in this world and in the world to come. Life everlasting.
Brother Robert Conley did not seem very well satisfied until they was offered their money back for their place after they got the crop gathered since that I don’t hear any complaints. Some of the brethren in Oklahoma is talking of coming out here.
I am well pleased with the brethren that are here. They all seem to want to worship God in spirit and in truth. Well Brother John don’t wait as long as I did to write. I would love to hear from you. I love to read your letters.
Pray for me and mine with best wishes. I desire to remain your brother till death.
May God bless you all
C.C. Smith

Sunday, May 13, 2012

No Mother's Day

It was the mid-1980s when the Followers lost their first laboring mother. For so many generations, the maternal mortality rate was zero. Then it happened again. In some families more than one young lady died in this way. We were told that it was a noble way to die. A sure way to heaven. Many young women were terrified of giving birth.

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Have you heard about former super model Christy Turlington's call to boycot Mother's Day this year?

Here is a blurb from her organization's website (

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Whether you are a mother or you just love one, you can educate people about this issue and help prevent it. Here are some important facts about maternal health around the world.
  1. Approximately 358,000 women die each year due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth. That's one woman every 90 seconds.
  2. For every woman who dies each year in childbirth, 20-30 more suffer from lifelong debilitating disabilities.
  3. Pregnancy is the number one cause of death in women, ages 15-19, in the developing world. Nearly 70,000 young women die every year because their bodies are not ready for parenthood.
  4. Over 200 million women who would like to choose when they get pregnant don’t have access to family planning.
  5. The United States ranks 50th globally in maternal mortality, even though it spends more on health care per capita than any other nation in the world. African American women are four times more likely to die in childbirth than Caucasian women.
Almost all of these deaths are preventable.
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How do you remember those mothers who have died in labor and delivery? Do you have a story to telll? Please join the conversation below.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Prophesies of Walter White

December 7, 1947
“Ye are the sons and daughters of the most high God. Be faithful! Be faithful!”

June 21, 1951
“Yea, yea, yea. These words are truth. Take heed! Take heed! Beware! I come in the clouds with power and glory.”

April 17, 1952
“Oh, my brethren, my brethren. Hear these words. They will judge you in the last day, when I come!”

June 6, 1953
“Ye are the sons and daughters of the most High God. Be faithful, be faithful and you will live again.”

March 7, 1954
“Yea, yea, yea my brethren, my brethren. Pay heed unto these words.”

February 6, 1955
“My children, my children! Be faithful be faithful until I come and you will live forever and ever!”

July 25, 1955
“My children, my children! Be faithful, be faithful in my word until I come again and you will live forever and ever!”

November 27, 1955
“Ye are the children of the most High God. Be faithful ‘till I come and you will live forever and ever.”

August 5, 1956
“Yea, my children, my children! Be faithful, be faithful and you will live forever and ever!”

October 7, 1956
“Yea, my brethren! Be faithful to the word of God (or to these words) and you will live forever and ever!”

November 4, 1956
“My children my children! Awake to righteousness!”

February 14, 1957
“Yea, my brethren, be faithful to the word and you shall live forever and ever!”

June 16, 1957
“Yea, my people, my people. Be faithful till I come and you will live forever and ever!”

September 5, 1957
“Yea, my brethren. Be faithful, be faithful and you will live forever and ever!”

June 26, 1958
“I am Jesus of Nazareth. Behold I come! Be careful to maintain good works!”
March 19, 1959
“Behold, I come quickly and my reward is with me to give every man according as his work shall be!”

May 10, 1959
“Yeah, my brethren. Be faithful, be faithful! In my father’s house are many mansions!”

January 10, 1960
“I am Jesus, the light of the world. Be faithful to my word and you will wear a crown of everlasting life!”

November 13, 1960
“I am Jesus. I am Jesus! Be faithful to my word and you will live forever.”

March 19, 1961
“Yea. I am Jesus and I walk in the midst of the churches. Be faithful to my word and you will live forever.”

April 2, 1961
“Yea. I am Jesus of Nazareth. Be faithful to my word and you will live forever and ever!”

July 16, 1961
“My children, my children. Be faithful to my word and you will live forever and ever!”

February 8, 1962
“Yea, my brethren. Be faithful, be faithful until I come and you will live forever and ever!”

June 9, 1963
“Behold, I come quickly! Be faithful, be faithful and live forever and ever.”

April 11, 1965
“Behold, I come quickly! Be faithful, be faithful until I come.”

March 26, 1967
“Behold! Behold! Behold! I come in the clouds and every eye shall behold me and they that pierced me shall wail because of me!”

July 21, 1968
“Behold, I come in the clouds! Be faithful, be faithful until I come!”

Sunday, May 6, 2012

We Are Going to Hell

I have spent my life fearing hell. You have to be baptized to avoid hell, we were told. You cannot be baptized because there is no preacher here.

So here is the story the elders and older folks told us so we wouldn’t live our lives in a panic: your parents were baptized, so you were “born holy.” Now all you must do is earn your way into Heaven. Avoid fornication by getting married in your teens. Avoid divorce, no matter how bad things are in your marriage. The rules in the bible do not release you from marriage if your husband abuses you or molests your children or other people’s children.

The only way out of marriage, for a woman, is the death of her husband. If her husband sleeps with other women, tsk tsk, she must not be putting out.

But for a man, it’s not so difficult to throw out a wife you don’t want. Just make her life miserable. She’ll leave. You can tell your children that their mother is going to hell (this has happened before – poor children). Now that you have been abandoned by a “non-believing” wife, choose a new victim – er wife.To be free, to start over, you have to convince the church of your innocence. Make the woman the villain. It was all her fault. She is guilty; you are innocent.

I understand the unforgivable sin to be blaspheming the Holy Spirit. But I always believed that divorce was the real unforgivable sin – for women.  A man can go on with his life if his wife cheats, she is cast out. He is still in. Just one of hundreds of double standards and biblical misinterpretations.

There was a young lady who committed a different “unforgivable sin.” Please forgive me for not having perfect recall about this incident. If I get something wrong, I am not lying, I am writing about something the way I remember it. If I get some details wrong, please be gracious in correcting me. I will change them. So this young woman, she was a few years older than me. Glenford was still alive, so our church had a form of leadership, but no real hope. No one to “save” us through baptism.

This girl was maybe fourteen (maybe?) and she had grown up like me, being told that salvation comes through a human who can bestow sanctification through full immersion baptism. Her father was a controversial man – a friend to Tom Nichols – and someone who had his own ideas – gasp! Her father had been entertaining a man who claimed to be a “called apostle.” The church didn’t accept the man – he wasn’t from Oregon City, so how could his claim be authentic?

Well this young lady listened to the man who was spending time with her family. She asked him to baptize her. And he did. When the church discovered that she had been baptized by this “false prophet” she was done for. Going to Hell for sure. Her fate was sealed.

She continued attending the church services, but the girls her age were told by their parents to shun her. Better not speak to a damned child, it might rub off. What was she to do? She was part of our church. This was her life. This was all she knew. Except that she had done the unthinkable.

After hearing all her life that she needed baptism for salvation, she had done it. She had done was she was told she needed to do. And in doing so, she had committed an unforgivable sin. She would be damned if she did, and damned if she didn’t. Only by doing so, she was to endure hell within the church. Shunned.

She wasn’t my age, but she started sitting by the girls my age because she couldn’t endure the shunning her former friends were enacting against her. I asked my mom what to do and she told me that I could say hello to her at church.  I was glad for that. I always said hello. But I didn’t say anything else. “Hello” was all that was authorized. I wasn’t much of a conversationalist anyway.

Of course, the young lady didn’t last too long. I don’t remember when or how she left. Maybe she just sat with her parents at church after a while. Of course she left. She had been condemned. There is no living through that. There would be no period of shunning followed by reincorporation. She had committed the unforgivable.

There is no such thing as being “born holy” unless you’re Jesus. And even Jesus was baptized. But don’t fool yourself into thinking baptism is what saves you. We all deserve hell. Every mortal person deserves it. That is why Jesus died.

This analogy is not my own. I have heard it from others. I’m sorry I do not know where it originated, but it has helped me to comprehend the good news of Jesus Christ. Imagine that you are standing before a judge (God). You are being accused by the district attorney (Satan) for your crimes / sins. Jesus is your attorney. For every sin that Satan accuses you of, Jesus responds by saying, “I have paid.”

We all deserve to die. We cannot save ourselves. Only the blood of Jesus can pay for our sins. Without Jesus, we are damned. What will you choose? To try and defend yourself for crimes you are guilty of or accept the free gift of Jesus? I have made my choice. I deserve Hell, I have deserved it since I was in second grade or so, but I’m not going. Thank you, Jesus, for paying the price.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God

Romans 3:23-25

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pandyce McCluer: The Widowed Church

Pandyce (at 18)
Pandyce McCluer was a longtime resident of Oregon City who grew up with neighbors and classmates who were members of the Followers of Christ church. She and her alumni have been puzzled since adolescence by former friends who systematically withdrew from all relationships with anyone who wasn't an FOC church member, and have been very grateful for the edification and insight provided by this blog, which has helped to explain and dispel some of the myths and mysteries that have surrounded this particular group for years, and has set to rest questions which have haunted her generation for four to five decades. She can be reached at:

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Most of my memories of friends and schoolmates that grew up in the FOC church are pleasant and positive ones; they all seemed to be willing to do the right thing when called upon to do so and were almost entirely cheerful and without guile or ill intent. There are a couple of notable exceptions, but the problem wasn't that they were FOC, but that they were boys, plain and simple.

The person I missed the most was beautiful, intelligent and funny, and so far as I know she married at 16 or so and had children by the time the rest of us graduated. Her family was very protective of her, and she made it clear before she disappeared entirely that this was a future she had chosen, and to be honest I rather envied her - her life was certain and strongly encouraged and supported by her family, while my family viewed me with a sink-or-swim attitude and my future was largely dream and guesswork to say the least. :)

I am willing to accept and believe that the people who comprise the body of the FOC were motivated with best intentions because of my association with their children, however briefly, and because a lifetime of exposure to churched people has made me conscious of the fact that no one seeks the will of God without a certain degree of hope and optimal intent on some level; that a few people whose motives may beg scrutiny inevitably struggle for control while most of the congregation are as sheep - the flock.

This church can best be described as having been widowed, since Walter White died rather than having left. However, the church's not refilling the pulpit offers two possible interpretations - one is of a faithful wife who will accept no other husband, the other of a wife who has had her fill of forced (rather than inspired) subservience and is glad for the breathing room.

Yes, it is possible that she sees her fallen pastor as irreplaceable. It's possible that since some or many see genetic descent as the only route to heaven besides baptism by a prophet, that moving on without leadership is the essence of living on faith. But is it also possible that deep down, some of the staunchest defenders of this stance don't pray for a new preacher lest their beliefs be found wrong, that they would have to admit that at some point they had to have been mistaken, misinformed, or perhaps even (gasp!) lied to. That would shake the faith of anyone, if not totally disrupt their whole view of life, both here and in heaven.

The fact that the church's doctrine isolated its members from other churches suggests a scenario ripe for exploitation. I don't know if you are aware of the psychological ramifications of this, but all potential abusers isolate their victims before beginning an emotional, mental and/or physical assault.

I think all churches do this to some degree, whether intentionally or not. It is the nature of humans to set forth the truth as they know it in proper order, and then to distort rules and stretch boundaries forever thereafter.

However, the one conclusive measure of any church family is the health of the people within it. One definition of "dysfunctional family" that I find particularly useful is 'one in which the people and dynamics fail to provide each member with the resources, tools and skills necessary to function in the real world'. As such, I can see where the church, acting as the Bride of Christ, might refuse another preacher who brings the threat of a doctrine that fails to provide for true needs, both her own and of the children from her former union. In certain cases, I have seen it be just an end to strife, to shame, to abuse, neglect, abandonment, ridicule, chastisement, etc, or just to end the damaging cycles brought about by an ineffective, inappropriate or ill-equipped pastor. Or husband, as the case may be.

Whatever the cause, there is a reason why the FOC church has not simply failed to pray for and seek a preacher, but has consistently refused to do so. That the pulpit remains in place and unchanged is testament to this, I think; a visual reminder of "where we stand on this issue" that goes beyond a widow's keeping a beloved husband's photo beside her bed; rather, in addition, she keeps setting a place for him at the table each meal, and no one sits at the head of the table. A bride
(theoretically) would have only her father's counsel (the bible) and her husband's memory to go on. A bride seeking solace and peace and healing from a longstanding history of troubled relationships would avoid both.

Something that this blog hasn’t clearly addressed, and that I don't imagine you have access to inside information on, is whether or not there is a ruling body of acting elders and deacons in the church now. If so I would love to be a fly on the wall at one of their meetings and see if the topics discussed are relevant to the real world, or if it's mostly domestic "housekeeping" issues that ignore the wolf at the door.

I recently got together with two former OCHS classmates, one of whom I haven't seen in 27 years. We reminisced about people we haven't seen or heard from since our youth, and when the conversation turned to former friends who disappeared into the workings of the FOC church, we all became somber and reflective and recalled them with wistful affection, and then discussed what we now know about the FOC church (most of which came from this blog) and what we have been able to learn of their fates and so were able to lay to rest their memories, but also at the same time to continue to hold them dear. We can accept that we may never see or speak to them again, and that they did what they felt they had to do. As outsiders, that's all we can hope for, but you have given us at least some ease of heart, and I know we aren't the only ones.

One more thing - I have lived for what is getting to be a rather long time, and in the span of my life I have seen people pick up and read a bible and then do some really crazy things as a result of what they've read. The most common is taking up the belief of being "chosen", and I've learned not to judge anyone acting on their convictions. If we are all eligible for inclusion in the Book of Life, then we all have some tentative and hopeful claim to being chosen, and therefore may well
become subject to actions compelled by that belief or knowledge. I also know that the gospels say that we are made strong in our weakness, so even if it's a wrongful self-assessment we have taken upon ourselves, we are given the promise of righteousness being forged from our errors. We are all no more than sow's ears bearing the hope of becoming silk purses.

So if the FOC church is stumbling blindly and in error, rest assured that as a Bride of Christ, she will not forever be forgotten, but that a time will come when she sees clearly, walks straight and sure, and is confused and mistaken no longer. We all cling to that promise. We all cling to the same cross. We all wait for the Bridegroom to return and to wipe away our tears - to make all wrongs right, even our own.

Your Sister in Christ,

P.S. Thank you for letting me vent and share with you. I wanted to offer to you sustenance and encouragement, since final and full closure may not come for decades, if at all. The loss of friends has been born by my generation for decades, and without any sense of reason or any manner of explanation, but your involvement and investment makes these issues all the more deep and painful.

Remember that the sins of youth are only condemnable if having passed from childhood into adulthood you choose to remain faithful to what does not prove true. Forgive yourself, so that you can forgive others, and so that all may be forgiven as is in keeping with the family of the one true living and loving God.