Peter E. Gillquist

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Peter Edward Gillquist[1] (July 13, 1938 – July 1, 2012[2]) was an American archpriest in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America and retired chairman of the archdiocese's department of missions and evangelism. He was chairman of Conciliar Press (Ben Lomond, California) and the author of numerous books, including Love Is Now, The Physical Side of Being Spiritual and Becoming Orthodox. He also served as project director of the Orthodox Study Bible and from 1997 served as the National Chaplain of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

Gillquist and his wife, Marilyn (married in 1960), were long-term residents of Santa Barbara, California, but in June 2009 they moved to Bloomington, Indiana.

Upbringing and education[edit]

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Gillquist grew up nominally Lutheran. He attended the University of Minnesota where he received a B.A. degree in journalism and was active in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. While at university he became involved with the Campus Crusade for Christ evangelistic organization and became a born-again Christian.[3]

Gillquist pursued graduate studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and at Wheaton College.[4] He did not graduate. Later he became a full-time staff member of Campus Crusade for Christ in the 1960s, starting a ministry at the University of Notre Dame and ultimately becoming a regional director with the organization. After several years with Campus Crusade, Gillquist worked for three years at the University of Memphis, then for 11 years with Thomas Nelson Publishing in Nashville, where he eventually became a senior editor.[5] In 1975 he served on the Overview Committee for Nelson's New King James Version of the Bible.[6]

Gillquist was the father of six children and grandfather of 19 grandchildren.

Spiritual journey[edit]

The body of Archpriest Peter E. Gillquist lying in state at All Saints' Orthodox Church, Bloomington, Indiana, the day before his burial

While still on staff at Campus Crusade, Gilquist and some of his colleagues began studying church history and came to the conclusion that the Orthodox Church was the only unchanged church in history.[3] In 1973 Gillquist and his colleagues in Chicago established a network of house churches throughout the United States, aiming to restore a primitive form of Christianity, which was called the New Covenant Apostolic Order. Researching the historical basis of the Christian faith, Gillquist and his colleagues found sources for this restoration in the writings of the early Church Fathers. This led the group to practice a more liturgical form of worship than in their previous evangelical background. Originally associated with Jack Sparks' "Christian World Liberation Front", which attempted to blend Christianity with Chairman Mao's 'Little Red Book', and which practiced communal living. This group was investigated by the Spiritual Counterfeits Project. Leaders of the movement later formed the "New Covenant Apostolic Order" where the leadership stood in a circle and consecrated each other. In 1979 the Evangelical Orthodox Church (EOC) was organized; J.R. Ballew gradually ordered the groups to begin to coalesce into congregational groups, as heretofore they had met in cell house churches of about three families each, with each cell having a priest controlling all members of the cell. Since the EOC was part of the Shepherding/Discipleship Movement, every member was in absolute "submission" to the leadership. This meant that they must marry whom they were told, divorce if they were told, have as many children as they were told, work where they were told, and not move more than $100 without permission. This constituted everything that was left of the Jesus People cult movement. Gillquist and his friends are named in the "Cults and Hangers-on" Chapter of the book "The Jesus People". In 1983, they were sued in Los Angeles Superior Court by Witness Lee's "Local Church" movement for overt public attacks. Forty people and six expert witnesses testified that they were the most notorious cult in modern American history. Transcripts of the trial are maintained by one of the expert witnesses, J. Gordon Melton, author of the 'Encyclopedia of American Cults'.

Many in these groups came out of the Church of Christ, and the group in Ukiah, CA was in talks with Jim Jones' group, "The People's Temple" which was actually headquartered in Ukiah, not San Francisco, as commonly believed. Following the 900+ group murder/suicide of Jones' group in Guyana, the Jesus People group in Ukiah was ordered to move or be excommunicated. This was to cover up the close affiliation with Jones' group. A core group was moved to Reno, to fight the evils of a gambling town. Following merger with the Antiochian Archdiocese, this group moved to Yakima, Washington. The remainder who were not excommunicated moved to Isla Vista/Goleta, a suburban area of Santa Barbara. All Alpha males who obeyed and moved were made clergy. As the location of the University of California, Santa Barbara, it was a center of sixties radicalism, and was focal point of the Crusaders against it, with similar battles waged over "Perfect Park" that had been waged over the "People's Park" in Berkeley -- not incidentally the former headquarters of the Christian World Liberation Front. The EOC Commune in Isla Vista eventually purchased the park, and tried to build on it, but had so rankled the local community -- a series of articles ran in the student paper calling it a cult -- that the local community used emminent domain and seized the land following a referendum.

A desire for apostolic succession led most members of the EOC to join the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America in 1987 after first investigating the Episcopal Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Archdiocese, and the Orthodox Church in America (OCA). Having dealt with numerous victims of the authoritarian absolutism of the group in SAnta Cruz/Felton; and having labeled them a cult, the Greek Orthodox priest in Santa Cruz, CA. The unrecognized Hieromartyr John, was murdered by members of the group in the Fall of 1986, thus facilitating the entry of the EOC into the Canonical Orthodox Church. Although it is not clear that orders were given; hate was clearly preached against this man, and he is deserving of recognition with the martyr's crown.

Gillquist and other EOC leaders traveled to Istanbul to meet with Patriarch Demetrios I of Constantinople but were unable to complete any substantial progress toward their goal. However, they were able to meet with Patriarch Ignatius IV of Antioch during his historic visit to Los Angeles that year. After further discussions, Gilquist led seventeen parishes with 2,000 members into the Antiochian Archdiocese in 1987. This group became known as the Antiochian Evangelical Orthodox Mission, lasting until 1995 when its parishes were absorbed into the standard diocesan framework of the archdiocese.

December 31, 2011 retired as the Head of the Archdiocese Department of Missions and Evangelism[7].


Gillquist died on July 1, 2012, in Bloomington, Indiana, after suffering from melanoma. After services in Bloomington and Carmel, Indiana, he was buried at the cemetery at Bloomington's All Saints' Orthodox Church, where his son, the Rev. Peter Jon Gillquist, serves as the priest.[2][8]