HISTORY and TIMES of THE KINGDOM

Home
VPA letters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

Era of the Baby Boomer  1948 - present       July 2007

The following is a rewrite of the former Boomer page and brings with it the result of more research. The trigger for doing this work now was precipitated by a member of Kingdom Christian Ministries who claimed inaccuracies in the first version. As explained in more detail at the end of the article, he was correct on some points. As far as we know, everything here is factual and it should be obvious where we have entered our own opinions and interpretations. We know that much more could be written here, but we have tried to stick with the important nuggets. Many of you would write this story with a different emphasis. We would encourage you to write your own story about these events. To any of you reading this who are new Christians, we would encourage you to join a church where you do not need to do surgery with the church’s belief system in order for it to make sense.





It was a cold and snowy day on March 6, 1948, when the body of Frank Sandford was carried up the hill and down through the woods west of his home in Hobart, New York. He had made this his home since “the Scattering” in 1920. Sandford had died two days earlier and Frank Murray, his biographer, remembered the trek to the little cemetery hidden in the woods as “nothing but glory”. In a way his reaction was curious, but it was typical of the way tragedy was faced in the Kingdom. Put the best face possible on terrible reversals, move on, never question, and do not look back. Sandford passed away in this house tucked away in a remote corner of the Catskills with only a small group of the faithful present. They included the sects’ three most prominent young leaders, Victor Abram, Frank Murray, and Herman Anderson. These men and others would carry the torch after Sandford’s passing.

There are three events that happened just prior to Sandford’s death that bear mentioning, before moving on, for they give a glimpse into the thought process behind the rationalizing Sandford’s successors went through to maintain focus on and belief in his extraordinary claims, and further help to explain the future as it unfolded. These are all mentioned briefly in Frank Murray’s book Sublimity of Faith.

Two years earlier in 1946 when Sandford was 84, a major overhaul of the Kingdom’s yacht, Coronet was ordered with the installation of engines and a deck- house. Why would they do all this work when Coronet had rarely been sailed on the open seas since 1911? The answer was tied up in Sandford and his prophesies. One of the most important prophesies that Sandford made was that he and one of his followers, Charles Holland, were the two witnesses spoken of in Revelation and that they would fulfill a Revelation prophesy by traveling to Jerusalem and dying there. Never mind that Holland, who Sandford had earlier prophesied to be Moses, had already died of natural causes. One was not to question such irregularities of prophesy. At any rate, Sandford’s followers knew he was elderly and they felt they needed to help the prophesy along by finding a way to get him to Jerusalem. Apparently, a steamship with the comforts of staterooms and speed never entered into their picture. A martyr could only travel on a historic holy vessel to get to his meeting with destiny. For them the only reasonable way to get him to Jerusalem was to send him on Coronet and Coronet needed a deckhouse and engines to make it suitable for the elderly Sandford to make the trip. Whether or not Sandford ordered the work done on Coronet is not clear, but we know he did not move to stop it. This event is important to note because it shows how important Sandford’s prophetic role still was to his followers even at this late date in his life. When he died in New York instead of on the streets of Jerusalem his claims to prophet-hood should have evaporated in the minds of his followers, but in this case, those who were left were hardcore followers and the event seems not to have precipitated any massive departure. We have seen this same scenario played out in other organizations whose leaders have prophesied the date of Christ’s return only to find out that it did not happen as prophesied. Some leave in disillusionment while many loyal followers stay even though the proof of false teaching is staring them in the face.

The second event, minor in one way yet indicative of the pretzel logic so rampant in Kingdom policy, occurred in 1947 when Sandford returned to Maine for, as Murray wrote, “a sentimental journey”. One would think that Sandford would first visit Shiloh, which he had not seen in many years and which represented his greatest successes, but he bypassed Shiloh and visited earlier haunts. During this journey, the location of his baptism in Denham Brook in Bowdoinham was of great significance to him. Why was this event significant? Well, certainly it had a lot to do with the importance of baptism in his life. What did not seem to be significant to him was that he was baptized by a Free Baptist minister and not by one of his own followers. Normally this would not be a problem, except that He preached that if a person was not baptized under his baptism that person would not be accepted in heaven and in addition, no baptism before his “restored” version was acceptable, except in the time of the apostles. That same teaching carried on into the 1990's and was the cause of much conflict within the Kingdom. Proposed new members of the church were required to be re-baptized before they were fully accepted into fellowship. It is curious that Murray and the leaders who followed did not see this inconsistency, but Sandford was not known for his logic and Murray especially was not known for wondering why things did not add up. The desire by Sandford’s followers to believe, and the fear of God’s wrath for questioning were formidable.

The third event happened only a few days before Sandford died. A rock solid tenet of the Kingdom from the start was the belief in faith-healing, and a negative view of doctors and medicine of any kind. The use of doctors or medicine was considered a sign of incomplete faith for healing and nothing but total faith would do the job. For many years after Sandford’s death even aspirin for a headache was not allowed. In February 1948, it was obvious to those present that Sandford was declining rapidly and those around him started considering the possibility of getting a doctor. This was strange because as Murray says in Sublimity of Faith, “God alone had been his (Sandford’s) physician and had seen him victoriously through the long years of retirement. Now, however, the situation was approaching an emergency; some doctor must observe this patient before he grew any worse.” Huh? Because Sandford was failing rapidly God was not able to heal and he needed the help of a physician? How easily we forget about all the people in his organization who had been in a similar condition through the years and never had the opportunity for a doctor to look at them because of Sandford’s teachings against doctors and medicine. At any rate, Sandford got his doctor and his medicine and the doctor got Sandford’s blessing. Over and over the standards for acceptable living or what might be called legalisms in the Kingdom, which caused so much mental anguish to the rank and file, evaporated when the leaders decided the standards were hitting too close to home.

What ties the three events together and relates them to the logic of perpetuating Sandfordism after his passing? The answer is inconsistency. The inconsistency and illogic of sending a dying man to Jerusalem to fulfill a prophecy, the inconsistency and illogic of taking a sentimental journey to your baptism site that according to your own teachings was not acceptable, and the inconsistency and illogic of procuring a doctor for a dying man who denied his followers the same luxury. How about the inconsistency and illogic of seeing “nothing but glory” burying a prophet none of who’s prophecies ever came to fruition?

Nationally, change was in the air in religious circles. Sandford rose from the holiness movement, which was widespread in the late 1800s. Pentacostalism and other smaller sects also came out of that same stirring. Now the crusade style of evangelism was breaking out. Billy Graham suddenly rose to prominence at an evangelistic campaign in Los Angeles in 1949. His campaigns became crusades and mainline churches wanted to be part of the action. Books and radio and the dominance of television also starting in the 1950s filled an obvious need by the populace. What was Sandford’s church to make of this? In two words, not much. Sandford’s church and the new open way of evangelism was like oil and water. The two movements were not compatible.

After Sandford’s death the leadership of the Kingdom fell to Victor Abram. Frank Murray was already President of the Corporation, which covered legal and financial matters, and apparently there was some speculation that he would take over the top spiritual position as well. It is not clear if there was any battle between Murray and Abram over the top job, but certainly we know there was not enough conflict present to rise to the level of a public battle. In any case, for whatever reason, Sandford appointed no one to succeed him and Abram took charge at 39 years of age. At this juncture, the Kingdom owned property at Shiloh and the Wolfe Place retirement home in Maine, the Chestnut Hill farm, known also in Kingdom speak as “Oak Hill” in New Hampshire, Elim in Boston, the Hills in New York, and the farm called Goshen in Pennsylvannia. Small groups of Kingdom families met in various homes around the country and in Canada, but those homes were not under Kingdom ownership. It was typical for Kingdom leaders to make the rounds to all of these small gatherings of people at least once a year. In probably all cases, the people in these outlying areas paid ten percent of their earnings (tithes) into the Kingdom treasury whether there was a local Kingdom church to attend or not. Most of these people, or at least the men, would make their way to the Kingdom headquarters for at least one of the Kingdom feasts or gatherings each year to fulfill the obligation in the Old Testament for the men to appear at the feasts. The most important feast to attend was the feast of Harvest in the fall that always ended on Sandford’s birthday. Summer get-togethers for children became an annual event subsequent to Sandford’s death. A small Bible school had been maintained at Chestnut Hill since Sandford’s son David had acquired the property. The Bible School was mainly for the children of members who had completed High School and it would become an important influence on these young idealistic minds. It was probably the single biggest reason that the church was able to maintain itself and keep as many loyal members as it did for so many years. This school is ongoing under the auspices of Kingdom Christian Ministries.

From 1902 until 1949, any new candidate for baptism wishing to become a member of the Kingdom was interviewed and asked whether they accepted Frank Sandford’s claims as the Restorer, the prophet Elijah of Malachi 4:5. An answer in the affirmative would determine whether the baptism would take place or not. This practice continued until July 3, 1949. Mr. Floyd Hastings, attending a young peoples retreat at that time, was also slated to be baptized. Floyd’s father was a long time loyal member and believer in the Prophet. His mother, however, had held a seriously opposing opinion, and because of this had been disenfranchised and labeled a backslider. As a result, she lived separately from her husband and son. In those days, in order to attend the young peoples retreat one had to be a baptized member of the Kingdom. In front of the assembled youth convention, Victor Abram asked Floyd, “Do you believe Frank W. Sandford was Elijah the Prophet?” Quoting from Mr. Hastings memoirs,

“When I think now of the answer I gave—it surely was impetuous of me, to say the least! I said that I didn’t know what to believe altogether, but that I had my own ideas about it all! In other words, I had heard the pros and cons and was inclined to keep my own counsel. So the idea seemed to be, at least as far as Mr. Abram was concerned, that as long as I liked what he had to say and approved of him, then that would carry the day just fine. In fact, I remember him saying, “You believe in me, don’t you?” I said that I did (whatever that meant). I’m sure my meaning was that I believed that he was a very sincere and caring person and that he had conveyed those qualities to me personally. I am not sure that older church members would have thought that was enough – but perhaps. A few years ago, one of the Kingdom ministers (who, by the way, was there as a 12 or13 year old) said that my baptism was a watershed. In other words, it was a dividing line between the days when baptismal candidates who had to voice their belief that Mr. Sandford was Elijah, and now, when I was not required to say I believed “in Mr. Sandford”. Beginning with my baptism and continuing to this day, a vocal assent to the belief in Mr. Sandford as ‘Elijah the Prophet’ is no longer required in order for a person to receive baptism in the movement known as the ‘Kingdom”.

Lately the argument has been put forth that in his last days, Mr. Sandford had mellowed and many of his former attitudes and opinions were mollified. From the above it can be deduced that, at the least, at the time of his death in 1948, one year prior to Hasting’s baptism, candidates were still required to declare their allegiance to the Prophet.

As it moved into the 1950's, the Kingdom settled into a quiet routine. Membership roles were if kept were never published, so only a guess can be made as to numbers. The unofficial number has ranged from 500 to 1500, but using church income figures as a guide, the adult population is estimated to have been between 500 and 600. It is also likely that the membership stayed fairly constant from 1900 to the split in 1998. There was no exponential church growth as would be expected from normal member family birth rates. Many if not most children of member families left the organization as they became adults, and it is no wonder. Many left with a desire to see what the world had to offer outside the walls of the Kingdom. Those families that left concerned that their children were not having sufficient contact with other Christian children in Sunday School or in youth activities, would be branded as a quitter, one who had not caught “the vision” of Sandford as the prophet Elijah and his role as the one who had come to restore the Christian world before Christ’s return. A quitter’s degree of fear of Sandford’s vision and how displeased God would be with them pretty much decided their fate as to whether or not they would stay. Those who decided to stay had always to be careful not to question, not to analyze and to keep their curiosity from what might be behind the proverbial “Wizard of Oz curtain”

Church activity during these years revolved around the so-called “Centers” or church communes (called local churches in this review) where church workers lived and were supported. Members who did not live in those centers supplied the needed money to run them, through tithes. The members who supplied the bulk of the income essentially had no say in how the church finances were spent. Financial decisions were made by a small group of men, the Directors, most of whom lived in the Centers. If it was decided to build in a certain area of the country because church membership had grown, a house was built for a center worker to live in. A church might come later, but in the mean time, members were expected to meet in the church home.

Behind the scenes, Abram in particular was at work sanitizing some of Sandford’s writings. There was some interest by the members to see some of Sandford’s old papers republished for the sake of the children of current members who had not known Sandford. This was part of an effort to make sure the memory of Sandford did not die out. As Abram prepared these papers, in particular “The Art of War” and “Seven Years With God”, he began to delete portions that “people might not understand”. An examination of Sandford’s writings reveals a strange dichotomy between his highly spiritual and worshipful description of everything Godly and then the injection of himself into that same scene. It was also clear that he felt that anyone who did not agree with his teachings was in trouble with God. Abram went about trying to soften this harshness together with Sandford’s focus on himself without denying his claims.

By the middle 1950's, at least three of the leaders in ministry were rumored to be involved in some kind of affair outside of marriage, among these it would later be revealed was the affair concerning Victor Abram, and would become a pivotal catalyst after his death in 1977. Was Abram’s philandering a learned behavior? It was remarkable that the affairs of three men in leadership were kept bottled up for as long as they were. In some ways these affairs are understandable where so many people lived so close together in the Centers and where male leaders took such a dominating position over the women. Single women living in the Centers were called Whither-so-evers and did the cleaning, cooking, and nursing of the elderly, and were dispatched from Center to Center depending on need. Since the male leaders made all the staffing decisions, it presented a situation ripe for abuse. And all the while these policies were in practice, many sermon topics focused like a laser beam on sexual purity in action and thought. During the 80’s and throughout the 90’s as the sexual wanderings of the leaders, in particular Abram, became known, it affected many women the hardest, after having to deal with not only the control issues already described, but with further excessive restrictions regarding dress, appearance, and restricted activities. All these policies, or “Standards” as they were known within the Kingdom, were most heavy handed toward the women, again because the rules were decided on and handed down almost exclusively by men. So, it is not a surprise that when it was found out that these men had been preaching one life while living another, the women of the church had the strongest negative reaction.

By and large though, these early years after Sandford’s death were quiet, with a desire by the leaders to continue on in the Sandford mode. Since Sandford’s retirement in 1920, little emphasis had been placed on outreach evangelism. Instead there was a desire to keep the Centers going, depending in large part on the various Center’s farming activities and tending out on scattered families with historic roots in the Kingdom. Evangelism in the classic sense had ceased with the tent meetings and state campaigns in the early 1900s. During the period of years between 1894 and 1902 the evangelism focus shifted from the local tent meetings to regional crusades to worldwide influence through acquisitions in England and Israel, attempting ostensibly on a global scale to preach the gospel. This came to a halt largely at the time of Sandford’s incarceration, and was not refocused until Sandford’s son John carried out his own personal evangelistic crusades from the 20's through the 50's. Little was done on a church wide basis again along these lines until the mid-sixties, when a van (dubbed appropriately “the gospel van”) was purchased for outreach use and received church-wide support. A small group traveled around the country to local Kingdom churches giving support to them and conducting outreach services in those local areas. Even this did not involve the general church membership in a way that matched the early work. To explain this seeming lack to carry out the Great Commission, the Kingdom would rationalize it by saying it was a praying church. This stemmed from Sandford’s belief born out of his first trip around the world in 1892 as a Baptist minister, that bringing the gospel of Christ to the world was too big a job for missionaries alone. Only prayer in the spiritual realm would do the job, and later demonstrated by the 1907 circumnavigation of “the forty” on the Coronet, where prayer was the primary tool of “outreach” rather than personal contact ministry. Some could see this concept of non-contact evangelism as a cop-out, but whether it was or not, it resulted in a very low-key level of evangelistic activity from 1911 on. No doubt, Sandford’s incarceration and the retirement paranoia that followed further fed this rationale. As a result of not reaching out to the local communities and not sending out missionaries, the focus was turned inward to the spiritual development of the individual and the movement.

Abram’s years from 1948 on were characterized by maintaining strong control over the members and a slow but steady construction program. Sandford had pretty much gone underground in 1920 with little growth in buildings. Abram spread out with property purchases in New Hampshire (Fairwood), Florida, Massachusetts, and California and new buildings were constructed in these areas. These buildings were built primarily with money raised from campaigns where members were expected to give over and above their normal 10% tithing. Labor came from men and boys living within the church communal network and from volunteers within the membership. New buildings and property gave at least the appearance that something progressive was happening, in spite of minimal if any increase in church population. However, new property ended up being located out of the way, partly because property was cheaper there than in developed areas, but it also kept the movement out of the public eye. The primary motivation to build on these properties was to serve current members in those areas. Outreach to non-Kingdom people in those areas was always preached as important, but the reality of keeping separate from the world in the minds of both leaders and members typically outweighed the focus of the great commission. The primary exception would be the establishing of a Kingdom church property in Essex, Massachusetts through the drive and efforts of Frank S. Murray. It is safe to say, though, that holding the current fellowship together was the primary motive for new church development.

At Abram’s death in 1977, a vacuum occurred in the leadership. Joseph Wakeman, Abram’s son-in-law, became the overall leader in the minds of most of the congregation, but he called himself and thought of himself as more of a caretaker. Wakeman had been in charge of the convention center at Fairwood for a number of years leading up to Abram’s death and Abram came to depend on him more and more as his health failed. Abram did not technically give Wakeman the mantle of overall leader, but it was clear to the rest of the leadership and the congregation as a whole that it was to be Wakeman’s job. Wakeman did not seem to enjoy the kind of attention that the Abram style encouraged. Abram’s highly controlling style of leadership, carrying with it the aura of special Divine Authority was contrary to Wakeman’s personality. In addition, Wakeman wanted to connect with the rest of the conservative evangelical Christian world. As time went on, Wakeman began to use the phrase, “not to question and not to be bound” to express his view of how this change in focus could be done. In other words, he felt there was nothing to be gained nor was anyone capable of figuring out the history of Sandford and his actions, nor should the church be locked in to Sandford’s teachings for determining every action taken by the church in the future. So, instead of dropping much of the Sandford baggage or doctrine and making a clean break, he chose to try to move ahead with the baggage in tow. To those in the leadership who wanted to hold rigidly to the Sandford doctrine, Wakeman was not fully trusted. Wakeman’s preferred role as a more democratic chairman became a weakness that the Sandford fundamentalists would exploit. The next twenty-one years would turn out to be a hard grind for Wakeman.

The year 1978 was significant because it was the start of the “book” years. Up until this time, the only publications put forth by the Kingdom were Sandford’s. There were pamphlets and small papers such as The Standard written and edited by members, but nothing that could be called a book. In 1978, William Hiss wrote a relatively comprehensive history of The Kingdom for his doctoral dissertation titled “Shiloh: Frank W. Sandford and the Kingdom: 1893-1948”. While he was not a member of The Kingdom and the dissertation was not published by The Kingdom, it received a behind the scenes stamp of approval. Frank Murray supplied Hiss with much of the material used in the writing of the book, and on the whole, Murray seems to have been satisfied with it. In the beginning, there were only a few copies of it that were circulated amongst the leaders and some who were considered “safe”. For those who did read it and were not previously familiar with early Kingdom history, it filled in a great deal of blank space. Also, the treatise began to get the label that it was balanced and mostly accurate. If this was the case, why was it kept mostly under wraps? For one, the leadership did not have total control over the contents of it, and the work revealed a different history than the carefully crafted history most of the membership was familiar with. Knowledge fuels questions and the leadership hated questions. On occasion in the early days, members were told to “cut off your head” which meant not to question what you are told. With questions, manipulation by the leadership became more difficult. Since Hiss’s work only had minimal circulation amongst the membership, it is not clear that it had much affect on what was to come, until later.

The second major work to arrive on the scene was The Almighty and Us written by Arnold White in 1979. This was a self-published book that received less circulation amongst the members than Hiss’s work. The primary reason was that White was a former member who grew up in the Shiloh commune in the early part of the century but later left the Kingdom. Because White had, with time, become an atheist, his opinions and insights were not readily accepted or approved. A branded man by the faithful, his book was a no holds barred story of the early years with an interesting perspective from the vantage point of someone who grew up in it.

Concurrent with the two works above mentioned, Frank Murray had been at work on his own book, Sublimity of Faith, for over 20 years, which was finally published by The Kingdom in 1981. This book carried the full stamp of approval by the leadership. While many people embraced and loved it, others thought it dripped with a little too much goo. Murray was unabashedly a head-over-heals Sandford man, so in a way he could not help himself if it came out too one-sided. But, because of this, a great deal of information was left out that would have painted a different picture of Sandford while much of what was in the book was heavily slanted to make Sandford look good. Murray was clearly aware that how the history of Sandford was presented was extremely important to keeping the church going. He was also well aware of all the disturbing things Sandford did and said and how those things would affect the average reader. He himself had had doubts about Sandford early on. Murray struggled with them, felt God gave him direction to believe in Sandford, then did not look back. What he failed to understand was the fact that each generation needs to do their own struggling without those who came before rigging the history.

The fourth book to come out that had the most impact for change in The Kingdom was Fair Clear and Terrible by Shirley Nelson. Nelson’s book was published in 1989 by British American Publishing and received national circulation. Because her father was Arnold White, Nelson was in possession of a great number of historical documents. Nelson pulled no punches and wrote the book as she saw it without influence from the leadership to tone it down. In The Kingdom, there was an understanding that this book should not be read, (her father’s reputation preceded her) but the fact that it could be easily purchased meant that it would be. It provided a sort of “the rest of the story” look at the history of The Kingdom that had been so carefully hidden for at least 40 years. For the Sandford faithful it was a biased slam at Sandford and The Kingdom, but for others it was a revelation, filling in many of the spaces that Murray had skipped or glossed over, and a feeling that the membership had been duped. Needless to say, it was an awakening for many.

Shortly after the appearance of Fair Clear and Terrible, the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) decided to make a documentary of Sandford and The Kingdom, and aired it for the first time in late 1991. Needless to say, not all the leadership was happy about this, due to their uninterrupted distrust of the press and media. Not only could it portray the church in a distasteful light, at the very least it would bring them into the limelight once more. There was disagreement among the Kingdom leaders as to how best to cooperate with the producers during the filming throughout the first half of the year. Due largely to the efforts of the younger leaders born after Sandford’s passing, the paranoia of the past gave way, and several, including Frank Murray and Tad Sandford, agreed to cooperate and even contribute interviews to the effort. The documentary focused on Shiloh and The Kingdom’s colorful past, as did most news organizations through the years when some news event erupted that involved a cult aspect similar to Shiloh’s history. The film was completed and ran on PBS stations in Maine. While there was no apparent upheaval in the local community as a result of the show, it opened up the past and raised questions to many within the Shiloh membership. A crack was developing, and the story described next shook many to the core.

Simmering in the background during this same period, was the story that surfaced in 1978 that Victor Abram, the successor to Sandford, had been involved in extramarital affairs starting back in the 1950s. Those in ministry leadership were notified of the allegations, with disbelief by some and acceptance by others. A number of church members had seen things that were inappropriate through the years, but their indoctrination to avoid analysis would allow them to trust Abram in spite of what they saw. Abram was, after all, the leader with Divine Authority, and had a “hot-line” to heaven that exempted him from the problems of ordinary people, or so many thought. To the leaders, it was a hot potato item. In the beginning the leaders reacted in a very human, natural way as they were served with the terrible truth; they attacked the messengers of the news. After psychologically beating up the messengers and doing their own limited investigating, it finally sunk in that something terrible had happened. But instead of acting in an open and honest manner with the fellowship, they instead chose to selectively hide the story and in so doing, made a fatal mistake. Instead of explaining what had happened to the entire membership, they decided to only tell selected members, apparently thinking that would be the end of it. But they also knew that a vibrant underground gossip system was well entrenched in the church, and had been for years, so that this information would slowly leak out over time. What was amazing was that it took so long to reach some members. As it turned out, a number of members, particularly younger couples with children, did not hear about it until the early 1990s and when they did they felt betrayed by the fact that the leaders had tried to keep it a secret. On December 5, 1993 the leaders were forced to publicly announce the news of Abram’s indiscretions. The shiny Divine Authority of the leadership was looking very tarnished indeed. For many, this was a huge crack in the carefully laid out and protected frame work that was The Kingdom. Shirley Nelson’s book opened up doubt in the historical underpinnings of The Kingdom, but the unfaithfulness of the top leader and the subsequent cover-up by the remaining leaders got many people thinking the unthinkable. While the younger members who never knew Sandford were willing to accept the possibility that Sandford was the prophet Elijah, but did not feel like they knew enough or felt a need to take a stand on the subject, many were now entertaining the thought that Sandford was not Elijah at all and the leaders were at best just ordinary people with no more wisdom or authority than anyone else. Once Pandora’s box was opened, the possible avenues of questioning were endless. Eventually, many members came to the conclusion that they needed more input on how things were run if there was ever a chance of regaining trust in their church. It was no longer acceptable to sit back and let these so called leaders run things any way they pleased, under the guise of being led by the Spirit.

Differences of opinion on church policy within the pastors and ministers that began to occur shortly after Wakeman took over from Abram continued and were amplified by the recent embarrassing discoveries. It is probable that the divisions were always there even under Abram, however, Abram’s autocratic style of leadership tended to suppress any tendencies for division, whereas, Wakeman’s more democratic lean toward leadership meant that the divisions could surface without a reprimand. Wakeman continued on with primarily spiritual pick me up type pastoral letters to the membership. These letters also carried directions for proper spiritual living, as decided on by the Board of Ministers, to the members. These directions were usually interpretations of some legalistic doctrine known as “standards” originally set up by Sandford.. These legalisms were the cause of a great deal of stress for some people, in particular families with young children. For instance, what children, mainly girls, could wear to school or what sports they could play, ie. no sports on the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday was a source of much heartache in young households. Society changed after the second world war and more so in the 70s and 80s by becoming more open, and as such it became harder and harder to adhere to the Standards. Because these Standards came directly from Sandford’s teachings it was very difficult for the strict fundamentalists in the leadership to allow them to change. The first major change came in 1988 when the ministers approved the use of health insurance by church members. The second came in 1993 when women were allowed to wear pants. In both these cases, church members had already started making the changes before the official policy came out, so the ministers were essentially playing catch up by giving approval to something that many members were already doing.

The next three years found The Kingdom and its leaders in turmoil. In February 1993 in an effort to calm the seas, Wakeman wrote two pastoral letters to the membership on behalf of the leadership that those on both sides of the issue of Sandford’s claims should try to be tolerant of each other. In Wakeman’s letter of Feb 2, he affirms Sandford did receive God’s call and did fulfill the role God had planned for him as the prophet of the restoration. He further states he is aware that there are those in the fellowship who feel that an inappropriate application of scripture has resulted in the formation of policies that are not clearly prescribed by the Bible, and attitudes and perspectives that may have fostered spiritual pride and contributed to confusion and oppression. Also, these applications did not fully reflect Christ’s compassion and unconditional love. He identifies the greatest source of problems in the ministry as the incorrect use of Spiritual Authority. Wakeman expressed “both regret and repentance for actions or attitudes or policies which have not fully represented the heart or God.” He further assures the reader, “we are in the process of seeking to be fully adjusted to God’s intentions for us….and I do have confidence that the good Spirit of God will take us into and through the process of adjustment that will build for the future.” It is interesting that even at this time Wakeman did not seem to be connecting Sandford with the “lack of accountability in leadership” issue.

In his letter of February 21, 1993 Wakeman approached the thorny issue of appropriate women’s apparel. Wakeman attempted to ease the fellowship into a more relaxed policy, stating that women can in good conscience now wear pants, “where appropriate”. These concessions toward those who favored a more relevant Kingdom ministry undoubtedly aggravated the Murray fundamentalist faction. Wakeman stood in the middle of the road on a collision course with traffic coming at him from both directions. The following month Wakeman’s pastoral letter recapped the recent Feast of Passover. At the end of the letter, Wakeman returned to the previous subjects of leadership and direction,

“…pressing on with the call to teach and live scriptural, godly, holy lives counting on the power of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to make us exactly what we ought to be in God’s estimation. Along with that we continue to honor the Spirit of God to guide and empower us to fulfill the mission that he has for us in the light of the special call to Mr. Frank W. Sandford, the founder of this movement. … Living out the Restoration through the conduct of our lives and the exercise of our faith is both a challenge and a privilege.”

By 1994 uneasiness had settled over the church. Questions over church structure, finances, and vision were coming from many directions now including the leadership itself. The leadership sent out a questionnaire to members asking them to list their concerns and a meeting was held where members explained their concerns to the leaders. The leadership gave no feedback to the members regarding these concerns, but it was a sign the leaders knew something was awry and it could not be ignored. At this point, the leaders had not been able to face the possibility that they might have to consider giving up their up to now total control of the church and as a result they appeared to be paralyzed by indecision. In some ways, it can be understood by looking at the way things had been run starting from Sandford’s death in 1948. With only minor variations, church structure was driven by the model developed by Sandford. The post 1977 Board of Ministers operating with a more open leader was different, but only in a minor way. Sandford and the way he did things was always part of the thinking. Flexibility had never been good and rigidity had always been best but the unrest of the mid-nineties was a new dog with no prior Sandford management precedent to fall back on.

Through the spring of 1995 the Board of Ministers struggled to put forth a Vision Statement of sorts, and finally broke their impasse in the May pastoral letter. Wakeman writes,

“We want you to know that the Kingdom ministers do affirm together that the Bible alone, as interpreted and applied by the Holy Spirit, is the basis for our Christian teaching and for any church policy advocated or applied in our respective pastoral ministries. No other oral or written material shall hold weight or position equal to that of Scripture. If there is any question of difference of opinion on church doctrine that arises among us, the Bible shall be the final determining factor on any such matters.”

Although at first glance this would seem to quell the hub-bub, the phrase , “as interpreted and applied by the Holy Spirit,” did not appear in earlier drafts. That phrase is the definitive element separating the Kingdom from other more mainstream denominations. Instead of relying on proven accepted scriptural interpretation, Sandford taught and subsequent leadership endorsed the personal interpretation of scripture based on the leadings of the Holy Spirit. But what if your leadings are different than mine? Needless to say, this affirmation did not settle anything.

On June 3, 1995, the Kingdom turned over the yacht Coronet to the International Yacht Restoration School, in Newport, Rhode Island. The school’s goal is to ultimately restore it and bring it back to original condition.

Also in 1995, the leadership tackled one of the biggest “standards” that affected the church as a whole. That was Special or Prophet Restored baptism. The “Restored Baptism” had stood the test of time in The Kingdom since Sandford introduced it in the early part of the century. While it was a fairly standard total immersion style baptism, what set it apart was the necessity to have it done only by a Kingdom pastor or minister. Any other baptism would just not do. In usual pretzel logic (deriving convoluted rationales to justify what you wanted to do in the first place), the leaders explained that it did not mean that someone else’s baptism was no good in the eyes of God, the leaders just did not think it was their place to make the decision as to whether or not someone’s earlier baptism “took”. Therefore, anyone who joined The Kingdom had to be re-baptized by a Kingdom pastor or minister even if they had already been baptized by someone else. As a practical matter, it meant that many people who were wishing to join the church refused when they understood that they had to be re-baptized after having what they felt was a Biblical Christian baptism. It also made church members pause when it came to encouraging people they came in contact with to join their church. Certainly pressure by members as well as some pastors contributed to a rethinking of the baptism policy. A new twist was put forth by the leadership that the Prophetic Restoration of true baptism instituted by Sandford had taken hold around the world providing a covering of acceptability for other baptisms. A few Sandford fundamentalists were able to stomach the change by believing this theological kabuki dance. Additionally, since the baptism policy was directly tied to the communion policy, the change meant that people who were not baptized in The Kingdom were now full members and could now take communion. But not all the fundamentalists could tolerate the policy change, even with the pretzel logic proviso described above. A little footnote to the policy appeared in early 1996 allowing people who were not comfortable with the new policy to take part in a separate communion thereby holding true to Sandford. Just as in the “100-fold” life arrangement instituted a hundred years earlier, a two tier holiness arrangement was made which ultimately could only produce disunity. (The “100-fold” life in the early part of the century meant that only those living a “life of faith” in the centers were “100-fold” or living on the highest and holiest level God had for them, and those working for a living supplying the finances for the “100 folders” were on a lower level. Of course it could be debated whether or not the person working for a living needed more faith to survive than the one living in a center. The term “100-fold” derives from Matthew 13:23 among other places in the New Testament where the story of the seed planted in the good soil produced crops yielding 100, 60, or 30 times what was sown.)

A change in how the Kingdom was presented to the public had been going on for years. There had been a slow decrease in the mention of Sandford and his claims during public services and thus an increase in the emphasis on Christ. As the number of people who actually knew Sandford passed on, it was natural that this would happen. As the 90s opened up, the new books were read, the revelations of Abram hit the member’s consciousness, and a restlessness for change was in the air. Added to this was greater openness in society and the numerous ways the clichés were not so readily accepted by the members as they had been before. The word Restoration slowly moved to the forefront as a way to identify the Kingdom. Without using the name of Sandford with Restoration, it seemed to be more acceptable. Those who had belonged to the organization for years knew that it was synonymous with Sandford because they had been taught that Sandford was the Restorer. An uninformed public, however, would not readily pick up on it. Sandford as the Restorer comes from Acts 3:21 where it says, “He (meaning Jesus) shall remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets”. Sandford as the prophet Elijah claimed that he was the one who would restore everything, thus he was the Restorer. Others believe that verse refers to Jesus as the Restorer. In any case, those who used the term Restoration in the Kingdom thought Sandford was the one referred to in Acts. So, the feasts became the Restored feasts, and baptism became the Restored baptism, and the Sabbath became the Restored Sabbath.

During this period it became evident to the Board of Ministers that their ability to make decisions was becoming more and more difficult. The Sandford side was continuing to run most decisions through the Sandford screen to see if it would pass muster and those who wanted to move on chafed at this. To attempt to break the logjam, the Board of Ministers set up an Executive Committee consisting of three ministers who would make final decisions if the Board could not. It was assumed that three people could come to a conclusion easier than the more numerous Board. This would prove to be true, however, the decisions of the Executive Committee would come to be colored by the predisposition of the majority of the Committee in their commitment to the Sandford baggage.

By 1996, Shiloh Chapel, Sandford’s first permanent church and the one with the largest membership of all the Kingdom churches, was in the middle of serious introspection. There was a growing dissatisfaction with the central leadership in regard to accountability and a growing feeling that the baggage of Sandford was keeping the church from presenting the pure gospel. On July 29, 1996, Shiloh had a “Direction” meeting to begin the process of coming to terms with what the problems were and the best solutions to deal with those problems. As far as we know, this had never been done in Kingdom history before. And as general church history shows, such an action leads to a branding from which there can be no turning back. This proved to be true. There was at this same time a move by the central leadership to write a doctrinal or “Vision Statement” that would form a basis for the Kingdom on which members could rally around. While no one had any problem with a statement that was strictly Scripture based, a growing number of people did not want the Sandford baggage as part of it, and a majority of Shiloh members were part of that number. It became clear from this Shiloh meeting that Shiloh wanted more independence.

By the time of the Meeting of Kingdom Ministers and Pastors on September 5 and 6, 1996, the matter of decentralization was front and center. Decentralization meant allowing the different church centers to be more on their own in financial and spiritual matters. This discussion inevitably led to where the church stood in regard to Sandford and his authority. This prompted statements by some of those present that those who did not believe in Sandford as “Elijah” should leave the movement (church). Also, various versions of a doctrinal covenant or charter were discussed. Wakeman also passed out a paper on Sandford’s life at this meeting. Before the meeting ended, the Board endorsed a six page document entitled, “Statement Regarding the Life and Work of Frank Weston Sandford”. The Reader’s Digest version of Sandford’s life was condensed onto the first page and a half. The rest attempted to wrestle with what do we do with him today. The document summarizes as follows:

“Let us emphasize again that the purpose in this writing is to clarify where we as leaders stand in regard to our relationship to the heritage of this movement. Not everyone sees everything exactly the same. But we do need a general sense of overall direction that we can rally to and promote. We all are called upon to do some yielding of our own ideas and conclusions and join heart and soul in the work of spreading the gospel and extending the Kingdom of Christ. We live in a different world from that of 100 years ago and changes and adjustments are necessary in order to keep pace with God’s Spirit and be fruitful. With a good measure of humility and faith we can find ourselves in God’s will and fulfilling His call.”

This paper was a first because it questioned some claims made by Sandford during his ministry and suggested that Sandford did not get everything right. While it would seem logical to say that no one gets everything right, no one in a leadership role had up to that time ever pointed to specific things that Sandford got wrong. Frank Murray shared some of his thoughts during the meeting, one of which was a warning that we should not accept or join in any negative reviews of the life and work of Sandford. The lines were becoming clearer between those who wanted to embrace Sandford and those who wanted to move on.

The October 7, 1996 pastoral letter notified the membership that the Directors and Board of Ministers were working on a concept to allow local churches to legally organize independently. The Board of Ministers were also working on a covenant to be subscribed to by the local churches if they decided to change their financial structure. However, things were quickly spinning out of central control. The following pastoral letter of October 22, 1996 was accompanied with the statement regarding Sandford’s possible shortcomings mentioned above and attempted to clarify some aspects of Sandford’s past ministry. There is no record of a universal outcry regarding this statement except it is safe to say that those who believed in all of Sandford’s claims were upset. During the November 12 and 13, 1996, minister’s meeting, it was decided that a single covenant could not be agreed on by all ministers and the individual centers should come up with their own covenant. It was also decided that the Board of Ministers would no longer have the same regulatory role over the individual pastor’s ministry as it had in the past. Even then, apparently, some ministers still had hope that a universally accepted covenant could be approved. It also became apparent at this meeting that Frank Murray and some others did not want to be part of the group approving the “Statement Regarding the Life and Work of Frank W. Sandford” and expressed as much in a general letter to the church members. It was clear that the pro Sandford faction would not be able to compromise as suggested in Wakeman’s pastoral letter of September.

At a corporation meeting on March 16, 1997, the members voted on a number of radical by-law changes and motions centering on the realization that things were coming apart. One by-law change dealt with the “dissolution of the Corporation”. One motion authorized the Directors to disclose the total tithe income generated by a local church to the local church. For those involved in mainline churches this seems like a no-brainer, however, it came by means of a long fought battle. Giving up control is hard. Another motion encouraged the Directors to consult with a representative from the local church before determining how much tithes to take from the local church. Up until this time, local control of finances and even knowledge of where and how the finances were spent was minimal. These motions were the result of growing distrust of the central leadership. Also, at this meeting, it was moved to create a committee to come up with a five year plan to make the local churches and other entities self-supporting. As it turned out, five years was not needed.

Just as Sandford had not been able to pass on the role of leader to anyone when he died, Victor Abram failed as well. Wakeman assumed control without the authoritarian type leadership wielded by Sandford and Abram. Partly for this reason, Wakeman could not control what was now happening. In a letter from the Board of Ministers on March 26, 1997 to the members of the church, there was an attempt to clarify Wakeman’s position. In this letter the Board of Ministers supported Wakeman as the overseer of the spiritual affairs of the Kingdom and authorized the minister’s Executive Committee to support him with the understanding that Wakeman was to make final decisions where necessary. This support would prove to be short-lived. At their meeting during May 6 & 7, 1997, the ministers and pastors showed Wakeman they had no idea of continuing the support they had given him in March. At this meeting, they established that no Kingdom policy change could be made without the change submitted in writing to the board at least 10 days prior to a scheduled meeting. If church policy was spiritual, and Wakeman was the overseer, where did this leave Wakeman? At this same meeting, Wakeman made his first shot across the bow. He made a proposal to stop the policy of separate communions. This was certainly spiritual policy and the policy was divisive, but the board tabled Wakeman’s proposal meaning, for all practical purposes, that it was dead. So what was Wakeman to make of this? As the meeting went on, further discussion was made regarding church decentralization with the weak conclusion that they had been successful in turning the minds of church members away from a move toward more autonomy. This conclusion we assume can only be attributed to their belief in their persuasive power over the people. Nothing else comes to mind.

But, Wakeman was not done with the proposal he made regarding separate communions. Wakeman wrote a letter to Kingdom leaders on May 14, 1997 questioning their decision regarding his proposal to drop the separate communion policy. In that letter he questioned the leader’s ability to accept his position as spiritual overseer they gave him less than two months earlier. He said that God is calling them to unite by supporting him and he would like a response from them regarding this. For Wakeman this attempt to rally the leadership around him at this late date proves to be too little, too late. One could argue that he should have taken this position of authority when he took over from Abram. It might have resulted in a different direction for the church if the leaders had been able to accept him then as the spiritual leader, but that will never be known now. Clearly, the minister’s earlier support of Wakeman was merely for show to the members.

The June 16, 1997 minister’s meeting was chaotic as they debated Wakeman’s role and the direction of the church. Some felt that the distinctives of Restoration ministry should be emphasized and others felt there was plenty to work with from the Bible without pointedly including aspects of The Restoration. The question was whether or not it was appropriate to teach things that were part of the heritage, such as Restoration, that might not be relevant today. At this meeting the words “hopeless” and “break-up” appeared for the first time. It was also announced that tithe income was down and the financial situation was of considerable concern. It was obvious that members were dissatisfied and were withholding their support and some members were leaving. Since the members had little input into the workings of the organization, their only sure way to register their displeasure at the way things were being run was financial. Another aspect that was troubling to at least some church members was the seeming lack of understanding by the leaders that the members were not completely in the dark about what was going on between the ministers and pastors. News was leaking out about the minister’s and pastor’s meetings and how they were in great disagreement and yet the ministers and pastors continued to tell the members that they found “great unity” amongst themselves. The members were not buying that and found it to be dishonest and outrageous.

June 28 - 29, 1997 saw a Centennial celebration at Shiloh that was attended by many in the community that were interested in the history of the church. It is rather ironic that shortly the church at Shiloh would become independent of the Sandford culture and move on into the mainstream of Christianity. It is remarkable that the ties with Sandford lasted as long as they did considering how far Sandford wandered outside of mainstream Christianity and the fact that he had been dead for almost 50 years. In spite of the actions of the leadership, Shiloh was moving swiftly toward making the break.

On July 14, 1997 Rev. Frank Murray wrote a cover letter and included it with an article he drafted during the last of May sending both to 50 selected members of the fellowship, detailing Murray’s intimate knowledge of and anecdotal events about his mentor Frank Sandford. He wrote in that cover letter,

“My sole purpose in this writing is to pass on, to those who care about it, my experience with a modern prophet, and my conviction that his work is still very much up to date. I am content to leave the rest with the Holy Spirit who always used to be looked to as the Director of this movement.”

He ended his 23 page manifesto with this heartwarming statement,

“Finally, let me again remind the reader that our attitude toward God is invariably measured by our attitude toward those sent by God. All who have had access to the Elijah ministry are on trial.”

A small group in Maine that had attended the church at Shiloh, but was unhappy with the direction Shiloh was headed in, beat the Shiloh task force to the punch by making a request to the Kingdom ministers for approval to meet as a separate group and receive support from the Kingdom. The Kingdom Executive Committee discussed their request at the committee’s August 21, 1997 meeting. The ministers decided not to endorse the group, but did decide to send ministerial support to them, which essentially was a defacto endorsement of the group. This small group was not happy with the move by Shiloh to drop Sandfordism from their ministry.

The Kingdom leader’s meetings of August 26 and 27, 1997 again took up the topic of church direction with the result that they found that their divisions were strong and deep. They could all agree on the standard themes of Christianity, but the involvement of Sandford’s teachings interwoven in those themes created the stumbling block. Some wanted to take Sandford’s part out and some wanted it in. Those were the two visions. Wakeman wrote in their report, “…we must get beyond accommodating a scenario that continually widens the gulf between two or more visions in serious conflict if we are to function as we ought to function as a healthy part of the Body of Christ”.

At the Corporation meeting on September 28, 2007, the Directors presented directions for the local churches to work towards more financial independence. The Directors required each local church to agree to a Directors’ Covenant that mandated 25% of the local revenues be sent to the central church. They also suggested ways to move local church properties into local church ownership, however, the Directors’ Covenant made it clear that all real assets are the property of The Kingdom. The Directors were being pushed in this direction primarily by the members at Shiloh who by now wanted to go independent but still maintain some connection to the central church. The Corporation at this meeting also authorized the Directors to take emergency measures to fix the financial shortfall.

By this time in 1997 it was clear to everyone that two basic visions for The Kingdom were challenging the fabric of the organization. A Special Assembly was organized to be held at Fairwood on November 22, 1997 to address these disparities of outlook. The focus of the assembly was the presentation of visions for the church by four of the most vocal proponents of the different sides. Unofficially, Joseph Wakeman and Ronald Parker represented the vision of moving ahead without focusing on Sandford and Neil Sandford and Timothy Murray represented the Sandford side. Parker in his presentation talked about being troubled by Sandford’s teachings that did not line up with Scripture and he was bothered by the exclusivity brought about by the continued following of those teachings. He said, “Salvation is a work of grace, period”. Wakeman said, “ …since Mr. Abram’s death the issue of endorsement of Mr. Sandford as Elijah has not been fully laid to rest”. Wakeman also talked about not being bound by the way Sandford operated. Murray was clearly on the other side of the issue. Murray placed great emphasis on Restoration and Sandford’s role as Elijah and the Restorer. While Murray gave some opening to being led by the Spirit in the present he then went on to emphasize that Sandford never changed the basic teachings about his own mission. Neil Sandford joined Murray in emphasizing Restoration and Frank Sandford as the Restorer. Neil asserted that the present-day work of the Restorer (Frank Sandford) defines where Restoration is most complete (in other words The Kingdom). As the following months show, nothing was gained by this exercise except a better understanding by the members why their church did finally split.

It is not clear and probably not fair to pick out one event that was a tipping point in the final breakup particularly where it seems obvious that things played out over a number of years. However, some events seem key, and this is one. At the January 13 and 14, 1998 Kingdom pastor’s meeting, the Sandford stalwarts finally took control. They provided seven of the 10 men present. Mr. Steve Demme attacked Pastor Ron Parker’s presentation at the Special Assembly in November to the point where Parker declared that he would not be attending further Kingdom leader’s meetings. When Wakeman asked for discussion on what they thought of his stand on spiritual direction, the responses were negative enough to cause him to tender his resignation from any special role in Kingdom leadership. Finally, a committee was formed to prepare a new Vision Statement confirming a belief in restoration principles. On the committee were Neil Sandford, Steve Demme, and David Murray with help from Joe Brown, Jr. and David Holscher. All were Restoration believers so there was no pretense of compromise with other ideas. It is clear that Demme was a catalyst for this by virtue of his verbosity and intensity, but there was a clear majority who were ready to follow his lead. And so the slide toward break up was in place.

On January 19, 1998 Wakeman penned his final pastoral letter and announced to the membership that he was relinquishing the leadership role he had held since Abram’s death. Also, he announced the development of the Vision Statement and the intent that the present and future ministry of The Kingdom be fully compatible with it. Since it was directed that the statement be prepared with Restoration principles in mind, it meant that confrontation with the rest of the membership who wanted to move away from the Restoration track would be inevitable. It seemed obvious at the time that this would happen, but we do not know if the Restoration leaders expected it, wanted it, or were just plain in La La Land about it. The February 10 pastoral letter, written by David Murray, stated,

“On behalf of the whole Kingdom fellowship, we give our heartfelt thanks to Joseph and Elinor Wakeman for all that they have done for us all. They have carried a tremendous load for the Lord for which we owe them a debt of great love. As Mr. Wakeman conveyed in the last pastoral letter, he did not feel it appropriate to continue in an overall position of leadership since his approach and thinking was not uniformly adopted by the other ministers and pastors, but he is continuing to serve as an active pastor and member of the executive committee.”

This too would change in the very near future.

The new Vision Statement was sent to the membership on March 5, 1998. It was like a bomb dropping on those who had hoped to move on without the Sandford baggage because that is what it had plenty of - Sandford baggage. At this stage, the ministers were presenting it without unanimous approval, in fact the Executive Committee of Wakeman, David Murray, and Ralph Maxwell, Jr. were not unanimous in their approval either. But, because the statement got a majority vote from the executive committee, it moved forward. A formal presentation to the membership was planned for March 20, 1998 and in the meantime there was a great deal of discussion amongst the membership through conversation and email. The presentation on March 20 was a chaotic meeting. Neil Sandford in a letter to the Fairwood Church later called this the earthquake of March 20. The next day on March 21, a Saturday, the ministers met again and after debate voted not to approve the Vision Statement. Over night the restoration group spent time maneuvering and convinced two of the three members of the Executive Committee to vote in favor of the Vision Statement. The next morning at the beginning of the church service, and without prior knowledge of the rest of the Kingdom ministers group, David Murray stood and announced to the members present that the Executive Committee had voted to approve the Vision Statement. In essence, David Murray and Ralph Maxwell, Jr. had overturned a vote of the ministers creating a stunning turn of events. The Restoration group had won, but at what cost. Many of the Kingdom fellowship not already disgusted by the infighting and disunity within the leadership found the final reason to look elsewhere for spiritual guidance and fellowship. Any shred of Divine Authority that the leaders once purported to have and use for controlling the members was now gone.

It is safe to say that in hind sight, many who left the Kingdom that day think back on those events that spurred them and their families to join with other solid vibrant healthy community churches and fellowships around the country as a good thing. It provided as good an incentive to make a change as anyone could get.

On April 5, 1998, the Kingdom Board of Directors approved the shift of full financial responsibility of the Shiloh fellowship to the newly formed Shiloh Chapel Incorporated. As part of the agreement, Shiloh would send 10 percent of its revenue to the central church. Shiloh still did not own its property and that would prove to be a difficult battle. None of the other local churches had started down the road to independence so Shiloh was plowing new ground.

The ministers continued to debate the Vision Statement in spite of the decision by the Executive Committee and in the April 10, 1998 pastoral letter the ministers announced that they could not come to agreement on an overall guiding document. Local pastors and congregations must decide on their own direction. The ministers were not suggesting that a dispersal of the Kingdom church should occur, but clearly the Kingdom ministers and pastors had lost control and in the sense of spiritual leadership, the boat was rudderless. The Kingdom Board of Directors still maintained control of all the assets and property. The Board of Ministers, though, was still not done with Pastor Ron Parker as we will see below.

The May 4 and 5, 1998 Kingdom ministry leaders’ meeting might best be described as a changing of the guard. There was a growing awareness that the Board of Ministers was for all intents and purposes dissolved. Those ministers who held to Sandford Restoration Theology were quick to fill in the void by taking charge of the meeting and getting a framework approved that would establish them as the ones in charge. Ron Parker was one of the minister/pastors with the most vocal opposition to the Restoration cause and the Restoration camp evidently felt they needed to kick him one last time to show him who was now in control. Ron was scheduled to conduct the evening service at the Pentecost Feast (The Sandford restored feast held each May). There was so much opposition to Ron conducting that service that Ron withdrew and left after the meeting was done. Wakeman was not sure he was eligible either, but he agreed to follow through on his assignment at the feast. Paul Brown put forth a number of proposals that were approved at this meeting. The strongest one was, “Recognize that a group of pastors and their churches who supported the Vision Statement (as indicated by the meeting in Rhode Island) constituted the continuing entity of The Kingdom as an incorporated organization.”

It is interesting to see how easy it is to take over an organization that is controlled by a few people at the top and much harder when key votes need to come from the rank and file. As we read these leaders’ reports which were kept secret from the rank and file members and see the decisions that were made without the consent of the body of members, the need for accountability between the leaders and the members of a church may be seen as crucial for a church to remain healthy. Mainstream churches, put down for years by The Kingdom, know and practice this. This May 4 and 5 meeting ended with a sensing that the Kingdom fellowship was probably not recoverable.

David Murray in the May 26, 1998 pastoral letter announced a remaking process under way. While he laid out the choices for people regarding how their local church could or could not maintain an affiliation with The Kingdom, he failed to mention that the leaders had already voted to allow only those churches who voted to adopt the Vision Statement be affiliated with The Kingdom. Perhaps he felt that was obvious.

In mid-July, 1998 Neil Sandford indicated he had received light from God and along with his ministry team, joined Fairwood with four other local churches, all supporters of the Vision Statement. This decision making process was in the typical Frank Sandford mode, i.e., the Leader feels he gets light or a sensing from God, then expects his subordinates around him to get on board, and the general church population dutifully follows along.

On August 14, 1998 in an open letter, Neil Sandford wrote, “I had indicated that because the Vision Statement is so misunderstood that it is no longer a litmus test for joining or affiliating”. Within three months, the Restoration group who had battled so hard for control of the content of a Vision Statement and in the process had torn the church apart, did an about-face and tossed out the Vision Statement as being any kind of guiding document. This was an interesting turn of events, at the very least.

Is it fair to ask if the Vision Statement ultimately meant so little to them, why did the Vision Statement group dig their heels in so hard? We believe the most obvious answer is control. While the Vision Statement was dismissed as a “litmus test” for the general membership, its main function evidently was to provide a winnowing of the chaff from the new ministerial leadership group. But by saying that the Vision Statement was no longer a litmus test for joining or affiliating, they put themselves in apparent contradiction to the vote of the Kingdom leadership in May that said that only those churches supporting the Vision Statement could constitute The Kingdom. Pretzel logic at its best. In any case, these five churches were feeling in control even if that control was not quite accurate. The Frank Sandford Restoration camp now clearly in control would soon re-incorporate The Kingdom as Kingdom Christian Ministries

In the mean time, Shiloh Chapel was moving toward ownership of the property the church sat on, despite their opposition to the Vision Statement, but transfer of ownership needed a positive vote by the Kingdom Corporation and Directors. There were those still in The Kingdom membership who did not want Shiloh to get all the property, but on September 27, 1998 Shiloh did finally receive approval for a transfer of all the real assets in Durham, Maine with the exception of the cemetery which was transferred later. The financial support issue of the Fairwood church was also rendered moot. Shiloh Chapel in Maine became totally independent, dropping the Sandford baggage by relying on accepted scripture rather than spiritual revelation. Other Kingdom church centers proceeded to follow Shiloh’s lead over the next several years.

So what is now left of Frank Weston Sandford’s, “The Kingdom”? The core group now incorporated as Kingdom Christian Ministries continued to redefine itself. In 2002 a booklet was published and released entitled “Thy Kingdom Come”, defining themselves and including their Statement of Faith, Articles of Faith, and Church Ordinances. The 124 page document, not counting the above, or its one page introduction, describes in detail the tenets of their faith, with a multitude of scriptural footnotes for each. The only mention of their founders existence is a brief description given as an introduction to their statement of faith. Now one could argue that if Sandford is finally relegated to obscurity, what’s the problem?

What is present in this document from cover to cover is Restoration Theology. The legalistic practices of Frank W. Sandford are alive and well in the form of Kingdom Christian Ministries. What legalism’s one might ask? Well for starters…

Sabbath keeping
Women’s apparel and jewelry
Daily Bible Reading
“Scriptural” Baptism
Holy Communion worthiness
White Garments
Prophetic Prayer
Divine Healing
The Restored Feasts
Millennial Entity

All of these precepts, and in particular their application and interpretations from the scripture, with dozens more not listed, are all rooted in Frank Sandford Restoration Theology. The Kingdom Christian Ministries website states in their Frequently Asked Questions* page, that KCM is not a fan club for Frank Sandford, but an organization of sincere Christians, attempting to reach the world for Christ. They say that Sandford’s claims are not what matters to their present ministry. They have evidently re-invented themselves, attempting to drop (bury) the Sandford baggage without denying or repudiating any of it. By the end of 1998 they successfully shed themselves of Sandford dissenters by force feeding a Vision Statement the dissenters could not agree to, which left themselves in the position of control. They subsequently ditched the Vision Statement and at the same time, and ironically, sanitized the record from Sandford references.

Dr. Phil McGraw is fond of telling those seeking his advice that you cannot change what you do not acknowledge. It seems that KCM is now acknowledging they cannot be effective in their Christian mission by associating themselves openly with Frank Sandford. So they will dissociate themselves from his name but carry on with his theology and management style under a different moniker. A rose by any other name, my friend, is a rose.

During the winter of 2006-2007, Mr. Neil Sandford made contact with us and queried why we would persist with this website. The re-write and update of this Baby Boomer page, the first since 2002, is in part a response to his input, where he suggested certain factual errors had been made. Indeed, as first reported here, we had confused events of the March Feast of Passover with the May Feast of Pentecost 1998, and we had cited Joseph Wakeman’s departure from leadership as the spring of 98 rather than the winter of 97-98. We apologize for the oversight. We believe dates are important. But we also believe that facts are important, and truth. The response to his input was given in a three page letter, a portion of which is re-produced below.


You ask why there are no positive uplifting segments on the web site. The Kingdom’s spiritual high points are not the focus of the problems the Kingdom experienced, and it’s why they are not the focus of the web site, nor should they be. Inspirational stories, testimonies and events in the Kingdom’s past are common threads with all who have found Christ at work in their lives, no matter what their denomination. Christ was and is the source of the positive, not Frank W. Sandford. My hope was and still is that our website warn the uninitiated that power given to a few, or the one, without oversight is dangerous to all who are lured into its pseudo-security. That same message is also apt for those who wish to lead others in spiritual learning but are ignorant to the pitfalls of power and wish to remain so. Leadership guided solely by believed revelatory insight rather than reliance on accepted scripture is a model that history reveals again and again as unacceptable. Not everybody gets burned or hurt, but too many fall by the wayside while the preservation of the institution’s image and its leadership become paramount. For me, the message here is not to place your soul’s future in the hands of a man or an institution, nor to lend reverence to where it doesn’t belong.

As you state, it was and still is my desire, and believe it to be yours as well, to have people come to know the love of Christ in their lives. It is my understanding that the function of a church is to facilitate that goal. You are either part of Tim’s “embryonic millennial entity” or a church. You cannot be both without bumping into the inevitable frustrations that plagued you before and will plague you again, if not already. There was no equivocating with Tim’s vision, and I remain unconvinced that there isn’t still some schizophrenia of identity still floating around in the minds of Kingdom leaders. My wish for you and what remains of the Kingdom under whatever name, is that the fellowship understand the necessity to learn from its past, to honestly and openly discuss the problems that existed in both those times and our times, how those problems could still affect your organization, and, with the help of heaven, put in place those measures necessary to insure they are never repeated. You cannot change what you do not acknowledge.



The Editors

*See http://www.kingdomchristianministries.org/churches/FAQ.htm

Go to Top of Page