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Reverend G. Willard Collins - 1926-2017

Seek The Truth Blog

Reverend G. Willard Collins - 1926-2017:

I just got news that my grandfather passed away. Reverend G. Willard Collins, who pastored William Branham's "Branham Tabernacle" for almost fifty years, died from a battle with cancer.

Many in Branham's "Message" cult do not know my grandfather, though he was mentioned on recorded sermons over a hundred times. As one of the "founding fathers" of the "Message", my grandfather was partially responsible for the indoctrination of between 2 and 4 million people worldwide. He was a close friend and associate pastor for William Branham from 1955 until Branham's death in 1965, and then continued leading the Branham Tabernacle until 2015.

Those who had the chance to meet my grandfather in person were always surprised to encounter his humble, gentle personality. He was no stranger to conflict, and was often recognized for his stern tones and firm stance on the more controversial issues. Within the "Message", many were not in favor of his doctrine. While other cult ministers avoided preaching about Branham's prophecies that failed after Branham's death in 1965, my grandfather did not. My grandfather taught that William Branham would rise from the grave to fulfill the "tent prophecy" that is so fundamental to "salvation" in the "Message". Grandpa realized that if William Branham did not give his faithful followers their "new heavenly bodies" in a 1950's style revival tent as Branham prophesied, the prophecy failed. Though other cult ministers viewed this theology as unscriptural and avoided Branham's "prophetic" claim, my grandfather did not avoid it. He chose to side with William Branham.

My grandfather was not afraid of criticism, and often faced it head-on. He was faithful to William Branham's every statement, big or small. Even at his own church, many criticized my grandfather for preaching from the Bible, as William Branham often instructed. A large number of people did not want to hear my grandfather talk about the Bible; they instead wanted to hear recorded sermons of William Branham. Others criticized my grandfather for his willingness to forgive and draw people in. My grandfather took it to heart when William Branham said, "if they draw you out of their circle, draw a bigger circle and bring them back in." My grandfather showed great love and kindness to any who did not question William Branham's claims or theology.

Grandpa was unbending with concern of William Branham's cult rules. Unlike cult ministers who have gradually started to permit many freedoms that non-cult members enjoyed when William Branham was alive, my grandfather chose to continue the same set of rules William Branham required of his church. He preached harshly against movies, television and radio, and more. He shamed female members who entered church wearing split skirts, even if the split did not pass the ankle. He preached harshly against dyed hair, permed hair, and even specific hair styles from the 1950's and 1960's that William Branham scorned. He preached a very unpopular doctrine to visiting cult members; he continued the same level of bondage created by William Branham when most cult churches around the world did not. As a result, he started losing popularity among the people who had experienced these freedoms in other cult churches.

My grandfather was the first "founding" minister of the "Message" to publicly accuse Joseph and Billy Paul Branham of misusing their power to get wealthy. After the deacons of the Branham Tabernacle began investigating what they claimed to be theft of church property, they uncovered some disturbing facts. As they resigned, they demanded that the Branham brothers tell them "Where is the money" that they claimed was "stolen". In his resignation, my grandfather continued his humble, gentle tone. Rather than display his anger against the alleged "thieves", he was more concerned with helping the people of his church. He warned them, "If you get to the young people, eventually you get the parents. And if you get the parents, eventually you get their money." He never even mentioned those responsible by name. This gentle yet firm stance against the organization sent a shockwave through the entire cult, from coast to coast and sea to sea. Men and women in developing nations have denounced my grandfather in public forums and social networks, not knowing who he was, what he stood for, or why he did what he did.

Many people may not understand why I feel compelled to pay tribute to my grandfather, after all that has happened in the last six years. When I started this journey, many were given a false impression of my opinion of my relationship with Grandpa. Shortly after began, Joseph Branham published a letter with false claims as to my relationship with Grandpa, attempting to distract cult followers from the issues in the "Message" that had been raised. Though Joseph Branham convinced many that my examination of Branham's failed prophecies and unscriptural doctrine was the result of a feud between my grandfather and myself, some knew better. My grandfather was a good man, though a victim of William Branham's cult. While he strayed far from Biblical Christianity, he had many character traits that should be respected. Many of those same traits I share and hold dear.

My grandfather was not always the cult leader that placed himself at the center of criticism to defend William Branham. He was a normal, fun-loving man with big dreams. He was the star of his basketball team in high school, the loving father of five children, and a man with a heart much too big for his chest. He loved to cut up, poke fun, and enjoy life. He loved to help people — no matter who they are or what they have done. So long as they did not question the cult or its leader.

I was with grandpa on numerous occasions where he fed the homeless. I can remember being with him late one night outside of Jerry's Diner in Jeffersonville, with his arm around a homeless man bringing him into the diner to buy his meal. I remember laughing a bit at the way others in the restaurant looked at us — the man was so dirty that the owners of the restaurant probably should have asked us to leave. But they were used to it. It was not the first time my grandfather had helped others in the city.

Grandpa loved his farm. He'd spend hours in the field, tending to cattle, crops, and more. His barn looked more like a mechanic shop than a farmer's shelter, only because there wasn't a mechanical device that he could not fix, replace, or invent. He held patents for designs of farm equipment, tools he designed to help save farmers time and money. Though some tried to take advantage of him, his heart was genuine.

When I left the cult, my connection to my grandfather was severed. Not only was my family ex-communicated from church, we were severed from all family functions. We were no longer welcome in the homes of my grandfather, his children, or most of his grandchildren that remain in the cult. I have not seen my grandfather since 2011, but the man I remember is not the man who severed ties with his own flesh and blood. I prefer to remember the kind, gentle man who fed the hungry. Like all who are indoctrinated with the destructive cult theology and mindset, the good man my grandfather once was had been altered. As many have now experienced, my departure from the cult unleashed something hidden deep inside my grandfather, something produced by the destructive cult. This evil that surfaced was planted by William Branham, not the result of Christianity, and certainly not my grandfather.

Since my awakening, I have encountered many others who were also exposed to this side of my grandfather. Some are family, and some are new friends that I had never met before. Though William Branham offered his "prophetic" claim to my grandfather, "All your children and your grandchildren shall be saved", I am not the only family member that left the cult. There are others, good Christian people, who were able to awaken. This tribute is by no means denying their individual testimonies, and not intended to lessen the pain my grandfather has caused so many good people. My blog and my website has continued these past few years as a result of a handful of former cult members who were also ex-communicated from the Branham Tabernacle, their family, and their friends. This is not a tribute to the man my grandfather had become, but is given in honor of the man who fell victim to the cult's indoctrination.

For the past six years, I have worked very hard to rescue those who have been affected by this religious cult my grandfather helped spread. Though I knew there was little chance in rescuing founding fathers such as my grandfather, there was always a glimmer of hope that someday, somehow, they would awaken. I wish this were a tribute to a living, breathing man who was now able to give his testimony of how he survived and escaped from a destructive religious cult. I wish that he were standing beside me, helping others to freedom. He died from one of the primary diseases that the "divine healing cult" promised to cure. Now that he has passed, the best I can do is honor his memory by giving an historical account of his life. I can describe the good, loving man who had big dreams and big ambitions. I can describe his passion for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others before being recruited into the "Message" cult. I can explain how he was recruited, how he was appointed cult leader, and some of the trials he faced along the way.

My grandfather had many secrets, some of which I wish that I did not know. He had a public face that he used in front of cult members, and a private face only the family and a handful of people knew. This is not the man I want to remember. I want to remember the good man who was recruited by and affected by a destructive cult. I have forgiven my grandfather, and am at peace with his passing. Hopefully, God above knows my grandfather's heart. Hopefully, He sees deep inside his soul, and understands what the "Message" cult has done to him. Hopefully He has removed the parasite that has caused so much pain to so many people. Hopefully God has also forgiven him.

God alone knows my grandfather's final destination.

Here is my tribute:

- John Collins