A Deacon's Small Voice - Resignation from the Branham Tabernacle:
Recently the pastor, song leader, entire staff of deacons, and others at the Branham Tabernacle resigned from their posts amidst a scandal involving what the deacons claimed to be surrounding the property of the church. According to the deacons' resignations, Voice of God Recordings was allegedly stealing property from the people of the Branham Tabernacle, people that had willingly contributed to the church for years -- thinking that their money was being used for the support of the church and the spreading of cult doctrine. Closer examination, however, begs the question: were the Branhams using church funds to better themselves?
Within these resignations, one can get a personal glimpse into the hearts and minds of these men who suffered great turmoil when they realized that they were in the midst of a scandal. Some letters describe how they wanted to help the poor, and for quite some time there was "no money" available. These men, having collected a 10% tithing from the church members, realize that millions of dollars should have filled church bank accounts for decades. One asked, "Where does all the money go?"
But even the must humble, gentle, letter gives you insight into these men. One deacon, after having served the church for 37 years, offered a short simple resignation without any mention of the scandal that had ripped his life apart.
The letter of resignation:
Branham Tabernacle of Jeffersonvile Indiana,
Dear Brother [pastor], I have been blessed by serving as a deacon at the Branham Tabernacle for the past 37 years. I'm writing to informly submit an resignation effective Monday, August 17th, 2015.
Your brother in Christ, your brother, [deacon]
The congregation sat silently as these resignations were read, many of them unphased. Were the people so spellbound by the Branham family that they could not see what was happening? Or do they simply no longer care for truth and justice?
We often work with other groups that expose religious cults, as well as agencies created to prevent other cult groups from turning violent. Last year, we were asked to write a newsletter for the Jonestown Institute, a group dedicated to preventing another "Jonestown Massacre," an historical event in which Jim Jones slaughtered men, women, and children after his cult imploded. Jones, whose ministry was kick-started by William Branham, also amassed large fortunes according to government documents.
But often, in some of the religious groups we work with to expose the similarities between this and other Pentecostal-style cults -- even with some of the ex-message groups we work with -- we find huge error and lack of compassion. After tying cult doctrines to pagan mythologies, Gnosticism, heretical teachings and more, Christian apologists realize that William Branham's "message" appears to be described in 1 Timothy 4:1:
"Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons"
But in grave error, some groups we work with have lost the compassion needed to work with cult members and have turned their ministries towards the "letter of the law" rather than the abundance of Grace. Some consider those trapped in religious cults such as the Branham movement to be "servants of Satan," or worse, mistakenly binding the innocent soul to the deceitful ministries. They begin to believe that each pillar holding up the cult's invisible walls are hell-bent on destruction -- especially the elders of the cult churches.
This resignation is a humble reminder that these are real, living, breathing people trapped inside a religious cult. These are people who believe they are doing right, believe their understanding of Christ is correct, and believe that the cult doctrine is required for salvation. These are people programmed to read the Scriptures through the filter of the cult leader, who do not understand the passages written by the Apostles in their full context.
But after reading this humble resignation -- by a man who knew much more about the church scandal than the common people -- one can see between the lines the goodness of his heart and desire to serve Christ. Even if that "Christ" is a different "jesus" taught by William Branham, this deacon wants to serve God as best he can. Is that not what we are all called to do?
"'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."