|Ralph Gordon Stair|
|Born||May 3, 1933
|Residence||Walterboro, South Carolina|
|Other names||"Brother R.G. Stair"
|Employer||Faith Cathedral Fellowship, Inc.
Stair was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He was ordained as a Methodist minister, but left organized religion, stating "I just call myself a Christian." He moved to the South in the 1950s, saying that God had told him to move there because it would be "the safest place for Christians in the end time."
Stair leads Overcomer Ministry, a conservative Pentecostal Christian organization that runs a widely heard radio-based ministry. Stair purchased a motel in Walterboro, South Carolina in 1978, and encouraged followers to move to the community, sell all their possessions, take a vow of poverty, and donate all that they owned to Overcomer Ministry. The multi-racial, multi-generational community of about 70 strives for self-sufficiency and simplicity, growing their own food and making their own clothes. Community members live in mobile homes and handmade houses, eating communal meals and gathering for Saturday worship in the Tabernacle. They dress conservatively; women wear long skirts and men wear long pants and shirts with collars. Typically, work is divided along traditional gender lines, with men performing farm/manual labor and women doing domestic chores.
Stair broadcasts from a solar-powered radio studio based in the community, often for hours at a time. He leases airtime on large coverage AM radio stations (particularly in the nighttime hours) and uses shortwave radio to convey his message to the US, Europe and Israel. In the 1990s, Brother Stair was heard on 120 stations, though by 2007 this had been reduced to 25. Broadcast expenditures of about $1 million are funded by donations from listeners. While gifts can reach about $100,000 a month, in recent years the ministry has failed to break even. In 1993 and 1994 Stair and his ministry were partners in a failed ship-based pirate radio project.
Stair's teachings place a strong emphasis on millennial predictions of world-changing events resulting from divine judgment. In the year 1999, he said that there would be such changes at the dawn of the third millennium. "If the Lord God Almighty does not make a major move before the year 2000," he said, "I'll tell God to go to Hell." Stair also has received publicity over the years for several of his missed predictions, including a nuclear war prophesied for 1988, and that Reagan would not complete his term as president. Over the years, Stair has been involved in a number of controversies, including allegations of sexual abuse, of infant deaths, and that his ministry is a cult. Stair objects to medical intervention, and teaches avoidance of doctors. Commune members typically follow Stair's teaching, and in the 1980s and 1990s, local authorities investigated after three infants died during or shortly after birth at the compound. In 1988, relatives were concerned when a couple sold their home and moved to the community in the wake of prophecies of nuclear war, and raised concerns that the group was a cult, whose members could not leave because Stair controlled their money. The Philadelphia chapter of the Chicago based Cult Awareness Group was quoted as comparing the organization to a cult and Stair to Jim Jones. A business colleague described the group as "bizarre", and that they "walk around like zombies. He's a David Koresh waiting to happen." Stair denied the allegations, stating that he had no power to compel people to any action, and an investigation by local law enforcement officials found no evidence of wrongdoing.
In 2002, Stair, then aged 69, was arrested in Walterboro on two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree. Two women associated with the compound, ages 18 and 20, alleged that he coerced them by "enforcing his religious/personal beliefs" on them. In 2004, Stair pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of assault and battery by fondling the two former residents, and was sentenced to time served, a total of 77 days in custody. During his incarceration, recorded programs continued to be broadcast. Stair's conviction caused division in the community. However, about 70 residents remained loyal to him and there are two small branch communities, which are part of his ministry One former member began his own shortwave program after leaving the community.
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