Followers of Christ

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This article is about a particular church. For an article about the original followers of Christ, see Apostle (Christian).

The Followers of Christ is a small Christian denomination based in the U.S. states of Oklahoma and Oregon.

With membership of less than 2,000, the church has attracted controversy for its practices of faith healing and the alleged shunning of members who violate church doctrine, including those who seek medical care.Church members and at least one politician (Idaho state Senator Lee Heider[1]) have argued that parents should have the right to select whatever methods of healing they deem appropriate for their children and that public policy, which requires use of conventional medicine over faith healing, constitutes a violation of freedom of religion.


The Followers of Christ church was founded in Chanute, Kansas by Marion Reece (sometimes spelled Riess[2]), rooted in Holiness and Pentecostal traditions. The church moved to Ringwood, Oklahoma in the 1890s, where leadership passed to Elder John Marshall Morris, who was the father of Marion Morris.[2] Marion Morris led the Ringwood, Oklahoma branch of the Church until his death in 1988.[3]

During the 1920s, Charlie Smith (the founder's brother-in-law) and George White began missions in California. George White's nephew Walter White became a minister in the church. Walter moved to Oregon City, Oregon in the 1940s, after a dispute with other ministers.[4][5][6] White and his congregation built a house of worship on Molalla Avenue in Oregon City, then a largely rural timber and farming community, now a suburb of Portland. He was a fiery speaker and maintained tight control over his congregation.[5] White died in 1969, and the church has functioned without a minister since that time.[7] The elders associated with White had also died by the early 1990s, and the leaderless Oregon community became more isolated and inward-focused, and ceased recruitment of new members.[4] Only children of existing followers are admitted to join their worship services. Members who were deemed too worldly were expelled and shunned, as were those who disagreed with their interpretation of scriptures.[5]

Estimates of the Oregon church's membership in 2008 ranged from 1,200[7] to 1,500.[8][9] The Followers of Christ also have congregations in Oklahoma[5] and California,[10] and local communities operate independently of Followers of Christ churches in other areas.[5]

The Oregon City congregation owns a church building, as well as a cemetery in Carus, where deceased church members are routinely buried.[11]


  1. ^ Gettys, Travis (2015). ‘Pro-life’ Idaho Republican thinks parents have a religious right to let kids die from treatable illness,, 08 March 2016, accessed 08 March 2016
  2. ^ a b Melton, J. Gordon (2003). Encyclopedia of American Religions (Seventh edition). Farmington Hills, Michigan: The Gale Group, Inc. p. 1137. ISBN 0-7876-6384-0. 
  3. ^ "Joseph Marion Morris (1910 - 1988) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 2017-02-13. 
  4. ^ a b Justin Bishop (1998-08-31). "Holy Orders". University of Oregon. Retrieved 2008-03-24.  Check date values in: |year= / |date= mismatch (help)
  5. ^ a b c d e Peters, Shawn Francis (2008). When Prayer Fails: Faith Healing, Children, and the Law. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 186–188. ISBN 978-0-19-530635-4. 
  6. ^ David van Biema (1998-08-31). "Faith Or Healing? Why the law can't do a thing about the infant-mortality rate of an Oregon sect". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  7. ^ a b Mark Larabee (1998-06-28). "Doubt, secrecy circle Followers of Christ". The Oregonian. 
  8. ^ Jessica Bruder and Dana Tims (2008-03-22). "Child's death may put faith law to test". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2008-03-24. 
  9. ^ Mark Larabee and Peter D. Sleeth (1998-07-06). "Followers' roots reveal numerous splinters". The Oregonian. 
  10. ^ Linnard-Palmer, Luanne (2006). When Parents Say No: Religious and Cultural Influences on Pediatric Healthcare Treatment. Indianapolis, Indiana: Sigma Theta Tau International. p. 83. ISBN 978-1-930538-30-6. 
  11. ^ Bruder, Jessica; Dana Tims (April 5, 2008). "Parents Plead Not Guilty in Death". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-01-04. 

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