This site is a history of a small group of churches I call the Stanton Churches of Christ after the congregation started in my hometown of Stanton, CA. The sect originated as a church split led by Merie Weiss from Spring Valley in the 1960’s. The commentary here is probably not applicable to most mainline CoC or even ICoC churches. I pray this information helps someone understand and discover or recover faith in a loving God.
The history of what we sometimes refer to here on this blog as the SCOC starts with Merie. She was “withdrawn from” by East San Diego Church of Christ in 1958 for “sowing seeds of discord” and “causing division.” She became very good at that throughout the rest of her life.
While her home church eventually became Spring Valley Church of Christ on Grand Avenue, very few churches that have “Church of Christ” on the
door are affiliated with this sect. I call it the “Stanton Church of Christ” only because the Stanton congregation is where I grew up. It was the first “church plant” of Spring Valley, started about the time I was born shortly after my dad’s job was transferred by American Airlines from San Diego to LAX.
While many mainline Churches of Christ still struggle with legalism at some level, it is important not to paint them all with this brush. Stanton is a particularly divisive and militant sect, some would say a cult, given their leadership style of using fear and intimidation to control people.
This blog is purely about this small network of churches that largely exists off the radar of mainline Churches of Christ and Christendom in general. The Stanton church still exists today (although I hear they meet in Westminster, California now), but my reference to the “Stanton Churches of Christ” is used broadly to include all 30 or so affiliated churches.
So how do you know if you or a family member are part of this particular group? Here are some identifying characteristics:
- They don’t advertise,
purchase buildings or put up conspicuous signs. As far as I know, only Spring Valley (the mother ship) owns their own building. The rest rent space and rarely use signage of any sort.
- They don’t invite the public to their Sunday “worship services” because that is considered “for the saints” only.
- The way they recruit is through an organized campaign of knocking on doors (what they call “The Work” or “Personal Work”).
- The first invitation to learn about the group is to what they call a “Non-Member’s Class.” Back when I was growing up, they actually called it the “Alien Sinner’s Class!” By educating new members through this channel, they are not scared away by some of the more strange practices of the group, like public confession on Sunday mornings.
- They have a period of public confession on Sunday morning where members stand up and ask forgiveness for sins they think they committed in the previous week. These sins range from legitimate offenses to outrageously benign things like a woman not wearing nylons on Sunday, or a woman visibly shaking her head to pass on the Lord’s Supper.
- They won’t take the Lord’s supper if they believe they haven’t “taken care of” a particular sin.
- They regularly refer to a select few “Teachers” as authoritative, but they won’t admit they have any authority. They simply defer to whatever “counsel” and “judgment” these “Teachers” have to offer for any particular question they are approached with.
- Last I heard, there were two Evangelists shared by the network (“brotherhood”) of churches: Gary Preman and Tom Cornforth. Gary dates back as far as I can remember in the sect. Tom also goes back a long time, but I never knew him personally, so I can’t say how long he’s been around.
- The most prominent Teacher in the group has for many years been Kim Smith, a convert of Merie Weiss.
How do you know the church’s claims are wrong? Fortunately, they make that easy by claiming to be the One True Church. When you make that claim, you better have pretty sound doctrine to back it up. You just need one error to bring down the house of cards.
I have no intention of bashing members, teachers, or evangelists associated with the church. I simply want to provide a historical record of this church and a reasoned exposition of its many extra-Biblical rules. You’ll notice that I rarely call out individuals here, because I’m not interested in making personal attacks; only reasoned Bible studies. Feel free to engage in the vibrant community of readers here via the comment section, or correspond with me privately if you wish.
The truth doesn’t need to be afraid of a lie, so no one should be afraid of reading the truth of this group’s teachings. Unfortunately, they prefer to be very secretive about their true beliefs and practices, which is why you find no members in good standing, leaders or otherwise, coming onto these pages to discuss, reason, or defend. They typically hide behind anonymity, and try to assassinate my character or the character of those commenting about their experiences in the sect.
However, as much as we might disagree on theology and doctrine, I have no desire to post anything here that is untrue in any way. I take seriously my commitment to correct any factual errors I may have inadvertently made on this site. If you feel something I’ve written is factually incorrect, please contact me to point out why you think so.