Ralph Gordon Stair
May 3, 1933
|Died||April 3, 2021 (aged 87)|
|Other names||"Brother R.G. Stair"|
|Employer(s)||Faith Cathedral Fellowship, Inc.|
Ralph Gordon Stair (May 3, 1933 – April 3, 2021), also known as Brother R. G. Stair, or simply known as Brother Stair, was an American minister and evangelist. He broadcast his preaching on digital and shortwave radio. In the 1990s, at the peak of his radio ministry, Stair was heard on 120 stations.
Stair founded Overcomer Ministry in 1978, declaring himself a prophet. He lived in a community with his followers at a compound in Walterboro, South Carolina. Over the years, Stair was involved in a number of controversies, including convictions for sexual abuse, allegations that he caused infant deaths, and allegations that his ministry is a cult.
Stair was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He was ordained as a Methodist minister, but he later left organized religion, stating "I just call myself a Christian." He moved to the Southern United States in the 1950s, saying that God told him to move there because it would be "the safest place for Christians in the end time."
Stair led the Overcomer Ministry, officially incorporated as the Faith Cathedral Fellowship, a conservative Pentecostal Christian organization which 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 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. Members primarily rely on bicycles for transportation within the community.
Stair objected to medical intervention, and taught avoidance of doctors. Commune members typically followed Stair's teaching, and in the 1980s and 1990s, local authorities conducted investigations after three infants died at the community either during or shortly after birth.
Evangelism was the primary focus of Stair's ministry. He broadcast from a solar-powered radio studio which is based in the community, often for hours at a time. As of 2014, Stair leased airtime globally on five free-to-air satellites (Galaxy 19, Hot Bird 8, Optus D2, Thaicom 5, and Eutelsat 25B) and on seven international shortwave radio stations (WHRI, WWRB, WTWW, WWCR, WBCQ, WRMI, and Media Broadcast GmbH) to convey his message to listeners in the United States as well as listeners in locations as far-flung as South America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Israel, Russia, and India.
In addition to international satellite and shortwave, Stair broadcast worldwide via internet streaming from his ministry's web site. He also leased time on terrestrial AM and FM radio stations throughout the United States, some of which are large-coverage stations. In the 1990s, Brother Stair was heard on 120 such stations, though by 2007 and continuing through 2014, that total had been reduced to approximately 25.
In 2016, however, the broadcast was dramatically increased due to a large contribution which allowed Brother Stair to purchase hundreds of hours per day of broadcasting time to create one of the most extensive shortwave broadcasts in history. Broadcast expenditures of about $1.5 million are funded by donations from listeners. In 1993 and 1994 Stair and his ministry were partners in a failed ship-based radio project due to authorities raiding and confiscating both the ship and its equipment before it could set sail to international waters.
Stair's teachings place a strong emphasis on millennial predictions of world-changing events which will result 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 prophecies, including a nuclear confrontation prophesied for 1988, and that Ronald Reagan would not complete his term as president.
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 Brother Stair, ages 17 and 20, alleged that he coerced them by "enforcing his religious/personal beliefs" on them. In 2004, Stair pleaded guilty to the charge of assault and battery 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.
On December 18, 2017, Stair was arrested on eight counts, which include three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and single counts of assault with the intent to commit criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, second-degree assault, first-degree burglary, and third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor. Stair came to the attention of authorities because of YouTube videos showing him touching a 12-year-old girl’s breast during service and then saying, “I’m gonna touch them things till nobody else can touch them.”
Another video showed a 16-year-old girl accusing him of sexual assaulting her over a five-month period. Four women described assaults including groping and rape. Stair reportedly told the women that the acts were “God’s will”. He was released on a $750,000 bond a month later on condition he not leave the property and was electronically monitored.
On January 1, 2018, the Overcomer Ministry ceased broadcasting its show on radio stations as a result of what it called 'legal difficulties.' Currently, the Overcomer Ministry continues to stream its show on its website, and it also continues to broadcast its show on satellite radio stations. As of November 2020, the station can also be heard on the 7.49 MHz shortwave station WBCQ.
- The Overcomer Ministry (Main Webpage), Retrieved Apr. 5, 2020.
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- "Overcomer Ministry AM affiliates list". Overcomerministry.org. Retrieved October 11, 2014.[permanent dead link]
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- Andrew Gumbel (January 3, 2000). "Cheer Up, End of the World May Still Be Nigh". The Independent (London).
- Update | Arrest of Brother Ralph Stair confirmed on multiple charges | News | The Press and Standard Archived December 22, 2017, at the Wayback Machine Walterboro Live, December 18, 2017
- Smith, Fleming. "Colleton County pastor accused of sexually assaulting women, children dies in hospice care". Post and Courier. Archived from the original on April 4, 2021. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
- Overcomer Ministry to halt radio broadcasting in 2018 The SWL Post, December 28, 2017
- WBCQ The Overcomer Ministry Frequencies and Sites Currently On-Air WBCQ, April 17, 2021
- "Colleton County pastor Ralph Stair dies". WCSC. April 4, 2021. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
- "Brother Stair of Overcomer Ministry has passed away". SWLing Post. April 4, 2021. Retrieved April 17, 2021.