General Assembly and Church of the First Born

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The General Assembly and Church of the First Born (often shortened to just “Church of the First Born”) is a fundamental faith healing sect with no affiliation with the various Mormon fundamentalist groups with similar names.

Other names[edit]

The group has been known as the "Followers of Christ", "True Vine" or "Viners", "Peculiar People", "McDonaldites" and "Kissers". Older newspapers refer to them as "Faith preachers" or "Christian Faith".[1]

History[edit]

The Followers of Christ in the U.S. originated from the English provinces of Canada. Jacob McDonald (1811–91) was born there and was baptized as a young man and ordained to preach the gospel there by Elias Brewer. He claimed the divine gifts of healing, being reported as having even raised the dead.[2] He preached the northern states ending up in New York about 1838, finding just enough time to marry into a well established "Dutch Reformed" family, and having three known children. He, with a small following of friends and family, moved into the Mormon stronghold of Burlington, Wisconsin around 1846. He was reported to have visited Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa during this time as well.

During the 1850s he converted John L. Bartholf (1786–1867), an ex-Mormon elder, who after Joseph Smith's demise had attached himself to James Strang and then fallen away even from Strang when the latter had espoused polygamy[citation needed]. Bartholf was later to reaffirm himself into the leadership of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints[citation needed], but not until McDonald had married his daughter Jane in 1853, his first wife having died the year before(Ancestry). The McDonald family relocated to Ravanna, Missouri.

As early as 1872, McDonald had made it as far as Nebraska having encountered Marion Reece and baptizing him. Over the next decade churches were established in Nebraska and Kansas with a great revival happening about 1876 in Arkansas City, Kansas.[3] This town later became the "port of entry" for those readying themselves for the Oklahoma land rush. By 1880, several hundred members existed in the state of Kansas,[4] though they always met in homes or school houses.[5][6] McDonald again relocated the remnant of his family, first to Chanute, then to Smith County, Kansas where he died in February 1891 as reported in a Wisconsin newspaper.

Marion Reece (1844–1917), of Chanute, continued establishing churches after 1891 all through the state of Oklahoma, with around 30 churches existing to this day stemming from their activities[citation needed]. There was a migration after his death of many to Idaho(Ancestry), where they, although now split into several different sects, still hold to the name Followers of Christ.

Nathan Parisho (1847–1919) and his brother Tommy (1854–1937) were also well known[7] preachers of the faith, establishing many bodies of brethren,[8] including the churches at Indianapolis in 1896[9][10]). Jim Hays (1854–1916) was another minister of note who is said to have baptized over 1,000 souls in his life from Kansas to Washington and back into Canada. In 1895 he assisted in the ordination of elders for the Parkland/Stillwater assemblies[citation needed]. He evangelized and established churches in the Rocky and Fay communities( about 1902 with the help of ministers such as Con Smith (1852–1937), Farish Howard (1869–1939), and Will Nation (b. 1873). By 1905 he had left Oklahoma for the Northern territories being found in Canada the same year.

Military exemption[edit]

The elders of the Homestead church, Alonzo McCoy (1871–1955), John F. Keltch (1852–1929), and Con's brother Tom Smith (1855–1921), with other churches such as the one in Indianapolis, sent to Washington D.C. a request, dated 14 September 1918, for national recognition as a church for the purposes of claiming religious exemptions for military services. The document titled "Articles of Faith of the Church of the Firstborn known as the Followers of Christ" incorporates both names by which the group was known. By the next world war the name "General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn" was recognized by all except the Idaho/Oregon group and a small California community and the Enid Oklahoma group. All still retain the same standards of belief and share blood ties.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Arkansas City Traveler, May 17, 1876. (Arkansas City, Kansas)
  2. ^ Arkansas City Traveler, May 17, 1876. (Arkansas City, Kansas)
  3. ^ Hamner, Violet "Legacy of Faith, Indiana Church of the Firstborn History" 1982
  4. ^ Hamner, Violet "Legacy of Faith, Indiana Church of the Firstborn History" 1982
  5. ^ Hamner, Violet "Legacy of Faith, Indiana Church of the Firstborn History" 1982
  6. ^ Arkansas City Traveler, May 17, 1876. (Arkansas City, Kansas)
  7. ^ Hamner, Violet "Legacy of Faith, Indiana Church of the Firstborn History" 1982
  8. ^ Hamner, Violet "Legacy of Faith, Indiana Church of the Firstborn History" 1982
  9. ^ Hamner, Violet "Legacy of Faith, Indiana Church of the Firstborn History" 1982
  10. ^ 2006 General Assembly and Church of the First Born Directory of Churches