8-The Wilcrest Apartments


I first met Ralph and Karen on my second day back in Seattle when there had been a tragic death in Karen’s family. The couple had come by the apartment for comfort and prayer and, as I recall, Karen's mom had died suddenly, the loss had devastated her and she was beside herself with grief. My father and Yvonne were meeting with them in the hallway to pray and I had come out of my room to see what was going on. This was my first introduction to the practice of head coverings. This had never been a practice at any church we had ever attended so this concept was very foreign to me.

This practice of head coverings for women has remained consistent, but regularly challenged, in the Assembly of the Body of Christ (ABC) ever since those first days. It is  based on Paul's admonishment to the Corinthians that women should have a covering on their head whenever they pray.  Of note, there is only one mention of this practice found in the entire Bible and Paul, at the end of his discourse on the subject, says if the practice is contended there really is no such practice in the church. It states it is best just to move on to more important matters. One must remember, the books labeled First and Second Corinthians were originally letters sent to the people in just one geographic area, not books printed for wide distribution around the entire globe. I am certain Paul did not understand his words would some day become concrete law for the masses, rather than just some friendly advice based on a local situation.  In the ABC this subject has always been a hotly debated one, just not usually out in the open. It is legalistic and is a subject filled with contention and quiet discord among both men and women. It is in conflict with Paul's later statement to the Galatians there is no male or female in Christ Jesus. This admonishment was just a solution to  a local issue in Corinth.

Men are told they are not to have a hat on when they pray and this has led to many debates on whether a person working, for example, in a hard hat, on a construction job, is prohibited from praying without removing the protection. For women there has been discussion on whether the roof of a car is a covering. Some have contended hair is a covering and the doily is unnecessary. There have been many other contentions around head coverings and if a woman chose not to adopt this practice she was soon labeled “rebellious”.  

I was unsure, until recently, how this practice started in the ABC. There is really no indication any other fellowship in the Bible had such a practice in the early church, other than those at Corinth. My recent research shows this modern carryover of Paul's words descended straight from the Sharon Orphanage and is still practiced in their assembly today. This is evidenced by this report from the Sharon Star; a publication of the Sharon Orphanage in Canada.

The first meeting I attended in Seattle; the following Saturday; was at Ralph and Karen's house and was a simple prayer meeting. The following Thursday was a teaching meeting at the Wilcrest apartments, coupled with a full potluck meal. Ralph and Karen were in attendance at this meeting, along with Greta; sister of Gilbert Larson, the current apostle of the ABC. There was also a man named Earl and a few others of whom I do not remember their names. Most of that night is a blur to me and Greta is the only one who really spoke to me much. We became good friends that night because Greta had a wonderful sense of humor that matched my own.

It was 1969 and the Jesus People movement was just beginning in Seattle under the leadership of a woman named Linda Meissner. Teens, and college students, confused over the massive political and racial tensions in society, were looking for answers and finding them in unusual places. You might say that, at least in Seattle, a Jesus revolution was about to take off.  Meissner formed several ragtag groups of teens and young adults into a congealed group called the "Jesus People Army". It was clear she was looking to make a big splash in Seattle so she could then carry the movement into other locations. It would not happen.

The ABC was a very informal group then with no name. For several years it would just be called "the group" and there was no intent to ever seek a name, or become formalized as an incorporated church. The tithe, it was taught, should not be listed on a tax return as a deduction because, to do so, would be a sin and tantamount to "robbing God".  Every member of this fledgling group, except for my father and Yvonne, were young. Most were college age and still had connections to other Christian organizations, or groups, and this allowed word of this new Bible study to spread quickly among college age kids yearning for more knowledge. This new movement of studying Greek words was appealing to one seeking an intellectual pursuit.  Attendance at the meetings began to rapidly fill the small apartment living room and
frequently it became necessary to open the sliding glass doors allowing some to sit outside on the patio. My father preached up front from a portable podium on a card table and usually wore a bright yellow turtleneck.

When Linda Meissner learned of "the group" she paid us a visit. I remember her visit only vaguely but I do remember her as a very intense person. She wanted "the group" to join forces with her "Jesus People Army".  It was her style to infiltrate other groups, bring them into her fold, and by doing so grow her movement very quickly. My high school yearbook from 1971 has a large picture of the Jesus People Army meeting in the middle of campus singing songs. None within "the group" had any intent of joining her mission however so "the group" remained separate. Linda Meissner eventually joined her group to "The Children of God" then lost all control of the "Jesus People Army". The Jesus People, and the spur and affiliated groups were a large movement that exploded on the scene but then just a few years later mostly vanished into the shadows. Some, like "The Children of God" still exist in the shadows. 

Several years after this encounter, a separate faction broke off of "the group" and formed into quasi-children of God communal movement, complete with the inherent sexual promiscuity and wife swapping that pervaded the "Children of God" movement. They patterned this faction after not just "The Children of God" but also the Discipleship / Shepherding movement emulated by the "Florida Five" . The Florida Five included Derek Prince among its members but he later renounced the movement completely after seeing the outcome. 

About this time, Bob Mumford paid a visit to Seattle and my father and a few others attended his meeting. This one meeting with Mumford is what created the heavy discipline environment to pervade the ABC, caused a massive loss of love for one another, and also created extreme intolerance. It would end up having a dramatic effect on my life many times in the years to come and I will cover this topic in a later post. It has a large influence on the doctrines of the ABC to this day.

The age range of "the group" expanded greatly when Greta introduced her mother, Agatha.  Agatha was baptized by my father, then made a trip to California to visit her son, Gilbert LarsonGilbert is currently considered "the apostle"
of the ABC but seems to have taken a lesser role since the passing of his spouse Caralee. 

When Agatha arrived at Gilbert's home in California, she commanded Gilbert to be baptized by my father. Gilbert, not sure if it was the right thing to do, made a trip to Seattle the very next day, spoke with my father, was baptized, and soon thereafter moved to Grants Pass, Oregon. Regular meetings began in Grants Pass soon after and I will cover that Grants Pass era in more detail later.

"The group" grew weekly and soon outgrew the apartment so plans were made to move our family to the suburbs so my father could find more space to grow his church. He found a home in Mountlake Terrace, which became affectionately known as "the sewer house" because of its faulty plumbing. On very hot days sewer gasses would back up into the pipes and the smell inside the house would became unbearable. Not to mention the potential for a methane explosion and the sewer swamp that enveloped the front yard. We lived in this house for just a short period before moving to a much larger home nearby.

In my next post I will cover those "sewer house" days since it explains how "the group" began meeting in many homes instead of just one. It is also where the five-fold ministry doctrine was solidified and fully established. I will explain why my father declared himself to be an "apostle" and detail the first big tumult that nearly divided "the group" permanently into two factions. This tumult ended with the first great leaving.


7-How it all got started


Since I give a bit of personal family history it becomes necessary to reveal things about persons, living and dead, ordinarily kept under wraps. I have tried to limit these things to just those parts having a principal effect on the founding of the Assembly of the Body of Christ, but many things I relate are painful and I put them in print only to reveal the truth of the origins of the ABC. My sole intent is to dispel some of the myths developed since the founding.

From my perspective there are no levels of sin or transgression. We often gasp at one type of sin or transgression, then turn a blind eye to another, as though one is worse and one is better.  The evidence would show all sin, or transgression, is something to be forgiven. We're human, we mess up, end of story. I have no intent of laying a judgment on any one person through my writings. This account is simply a historic retelling of the facts that brought about the creation of the Assembly of the Body of Christ. As humans, we wrap our emotions around hurt then carry it with us. When we do we weigh down our life but, in reality, some things are difficult to shed.

The founder of the Assembly of the Body of Christ (ABC) was my father, Ramon A Haas. Understanding how the events in his life brought about the founding of a new denomination is important to the narrative and when you understand the man who set it all in motion, you understand a great deal about the organization itself. The founders philosophies guide the formation and form it into what it is, and will become. The philosophies of the founder are the substance the structure is created from, especially when you have an individual, like my father, who has now been nearly deified by some.

Without a doubt my father was a great man in some ways. I say that sincerely, and without hesitation, but I refer only to his participation in military service, not to his involvement in the forming of the ABC or in his raising of a family. 

My father was a decorated war veteran in World War II, piloting landing craft filled with Marines to multiple beaches in the Pacific theater under heavy enemy fire for part of the war.  He was commended in his military records for his bravery under fire and, you might say, he was part of “The Greatest Generation” written about by Tom Brokaw.  There is evidence in my dad's military records the strain of battle was intense and he was sent to a hospital in New Zealand for battle fatigue (PTSD), following a long and intense battle sequence in one of the Pacific Islands held by the Japanese.  The documents I gained list only “battle fatigue” as the reason, but he did suffer flashbacks from these incidents for quite a few years after returning. I am not sure exactly when these flashbacks ended, but it was long after I was born in 1955. I remember him having these flashback episodes in Ballard Washington, when I was ten, which would make it some time after 1965.

When my father came back from the war in the Pacific he was, like many from that generation, intent on changing the world and making a difference.  My father’s goal, for as long as I can remember, was to start or head up a church. It was the pervasive theme of our household from as far back as I can remember. Most of my memories of my father are of him hunched over a desk reading, studying and writing. When he was not reading or studying, he was off ministering somewhere in one form or another. In the car, it was Christian radio all the time. Rarely was he home for long as his ambitions drove him to "make a difference" by "bringing souls to Christ". It is unfortunate that in pursuing this goal he also brought great pain to his own family, then to many others.

I have always been fascinated with the Second World War era and have researched my dad’s involvement in that war. I have the bulk of his military records and am proud of the bravery he exhibited during the war, even if I cannot be proud of what followed. My dad left military service just prior to my birth in 1955 and before I was born he  brought two additional siblings into this world; one two years older,  the other seven.  My first true recollection of life was in the little hamlet of  Noti, Oregon. We lived in, and around, the Noti / Elmira / Veneta area from the time I was barely two until I was just shy of turning nine. During this time we connected with several churches, but mostly attended the Noti Pentecostal Church, and we spent many hours at the church, or at the home of pastor Don McGregor. This was a friendship my dad kept long after we left Noti. The Pentecostal church we attended would be considered a "holy roller" church, with groups of people speaking in tongues all at once, being "slain in the Spirit", passing out onto the floor and being covered with purple blankets. These were loud and very raucous church meetings.

We were dirt poor in Noti, living mostly hand to mouth on what we could grow, or get from government commodities, and the homes we lived in were mostly "shack like" structures. For a time we had no running water, no indoor facilities and used an outhouse. Jobs were not plentiful in the mid to late fifties so my dad floated from job to job, making money in any way he could. In 1963 he finally landed a great job with American Sterilizer Company, in Seattle Washington, repairing hospital equipment. This is when we left our status as poor.  At this job my dad had a good salary, a company car and full benefits. He was initially assigned the Eugene to Florence Oregon territory, while the company made preparations for him to enter the Seattle market, but it was not long before that happened and we left Noti for good. 

**Leaving Noti was a mix of sadness and joy for me. I can still remember the day the Mayflower van showed up to box all our belongings and move them to our new home in Mountlake Terrace Washington. I had to say goodbye to the life I loved in Noti. I have fond memories of those days. I have returned several times and it is always a mildly emotional experience for me to return. It has not changed much since the fifties except that the highway now bypasses it and the politics of the area has certainly altered. I often wonder how different life would have been had we never moved to the Seattle area because this is when our family life began to get very ugly.

We moved to Mountlake Terrace just before school was to start in 1964. For church we attended Ballinger Terrace Assembly of God. This church, at this time, had no established pastor and was in the process of selecting a new one. For the first few Sundays there were different petitioners for this position and each would give a sermon so the congregation could decide if they were right for their church.  When all the applicants had preached, the congregation voted for a man named Finch who had preached a powerful sermon and impressed many but after just a few weeks it was clear he was not the best choice. Membership began to dwindle rapidly, and it was not long before our family left as well. 

It was at Ballinger Terrace AG my parents first met a couple, about a decade younger, named John and Esther (Yvonne) VanDeKamp. They lived not far away with their two adopted children named Jon and LaVonne. My parents quickly became close friends and we began to do many things together...including summer vacations. My brother and I regularly babysat Jon and Lavonne while our parents went out ministering with the VandeKamps.

The Van de Kamps; unsatisfied with Ballinger Terrace Assembly of God; left in search of a new church and discovered Broadway Tabernacle in Seattle, pastored by James A Watt. They brought word back to my dad they were leaving Ballinger Terrace AG to join this new church led by Watt and encouraged him to follow. Our family remained at Ballinger Terrace AG for perhaps one or two more weeks, then began attending Broadway Tabernacle with the Van de Kamps.

My dad rose quickly in this new church and was soon sitting up on the platform. The Van de Kamps lived in Edmonds at the time and we soon moved to Edmonds to be near them. About a year later they moved from Edmonds to Ballard and we moved to a home in Ballard to be near them. Our families were quite close.

In the summer of 1967, the Van DeKamps planned a vacation to a resort on San Juan Island. San Juan Island lies in the middle of the Puget Sound and is accessible only by ferry. We followed them to this resort for vacation that year and, during this vacation, a tremendous fight broke out between my parents. The feuding was practically non-stop. I did not understand the dynamics then, as a twelve-year-old child, but the marriages on both sides were crumbling rapidly and it was on this vacation it became clear my dad and Yvonne were romantically involved and had been for quite some time. The tension of this situation rapidly tore both marriages apart. There had always been knockdown drag-out fights in our house, sometimes lasting well into the early hours of morning, with things becoming broken, but on this vacation the fighting escalated.

My dad was teaching a class at Philadelphia Bible College along with James A Watt at this time. When my dad and Yvonne’s romantic involvement became common knowledge they asked him to leave the college. This caused a huge rift to develop between my dad and Watt as well and we soon left Broadway Tabernacle.  My dad then moved us all to San Juan Island and began his own church in a rented historic church building right by the cemetery.

Church on San Juan Island

When we first arrived on the island all of us lived in a fifteen foot travel trailer on the property of a commercial fisherman my dad had befriended. We then moved to a one-bedroom cabin on a cliff above the Strait then eventually into a large house, mid-island, rented from Seattle City Light.  As kids, we knew nothing about the reasons for these moves, we just knew the island was a great place to live, there were plenty of woods to roam in and some great places to fish. We were once again out of the city and I felt right at home there. I loved the island as much as I loved Noti.

On January 14, 1968, the day of the second Superbowl, only one elderly woman showed up for church in the rented building by the cemetery. Someone determined that morning it would be senseless for my dad to preach to just one person in the church building so we moved the meeting to our house that day, intending to have just a prayer meeting. For several months after, we continued home meetings and my dad gave up the church building altogether. This was the event that led him on the path of holding meetings in homes only and this was adopted as a doctrine of the ABC.

The meetings on the island rarely exceeded one or two people. My dad continued working for American Sterilizer in Seattle, and continued to live in our home in Ballard. He would come up to the island on Saturday afternoon, spend the night, preach on Sunday then return to Seattle on Sunday afternoon so he could be ready for work Monday morning. This continued through that first summer of 1968 then into the fall.

Thanksgiving of 1968 we had a family trip planned to Victoria so we were all in great anticipation of dad showing up to take us to Canada. When he arrived that Thanksgiving week he came only to take his things. I was in the barn that day and returned to the house when he arrived to see what was up. When I approached the door I heard shouting, screaming, crying and fighting like I had never heard before. My mom and dad often had horrendous fights, but this one was different. My dad was not violent, per se, but he would often throw things or beat on a table when he became angry. This day was no exception. My mom informed me when I walked in the door my dad was leaving us on the island, taking all the money, and did not plan to ever return. He took his things, took the checkbook, all the money then just leftpermanently.  After that he never wrote, called or attempted to visit.  My brother, ill at the time with pleurisy, ended up in Seattle for medical treatment shortly after. As a result, he ended up living with my dad instead of with my mom. In the divorce settlement they awarded my dad custody of my brother Robin and my dad signed over custody of me to my mom. He was ordered to pay child support, which he never paid.

My mom found a few odd jobs and we remained on the island for a short time. My mom had never worked a day in her life, having always been a "housewife" and now found herself on an island with no way off and a thirteen-year-old to care for. She had no money and very little way to earn money since she had no job skills. She tried working at a senior center as a nurses aide but that lasted only a few weeks. She began going on long walks many evenings during this period. I found out many years later, she was trying to work up the nerve to commit suicide but could only get as far as putting her toes on the edge of the cliff and could not bring herself to jump. I only knew when she was gone for these long periods she would return in a highly agitated state and would scream, cry and shout statements at me like "What am I going to do with you! How am I supposed to take care of you! Maybe I should I just kill you!"  I don't think she meant those things exactly, but it was still a full plate for a thirteen-year-old to carry. Each day she became increasingly unstable emotionally and I would often run to the barn, or out into the woods, to hide until she calmed down. To this day, she has never fully recovered from the days we were abandoned. She carries deep personal scars from this time of her life. In our family, we all do, even if we try not to admit it.

We lived on the island perhaps another month and left when my grandmother sent us money to move to Bellingham Washington. We left everything behind except what we could fit into our 62" Ford Falcon Wagon, which wasn’t much. We lived at first in a storage closet in the basement of the Bellingham Hotel on folding beds. This was Christmas time and we spent that Christmas in the basement of the hotel. My grandmother lived, and worked, at this hotel and the manager let us eat free at the cafeteria for lunch. We ate dry cereal for breakfast in our basement closet then most nights my grandmother bought us dinner at the hotel restaurant when she got off work. During the day we would go places, or just sit in my grandmother's small room. We were  not allowed to hang around the hotel except to sleep. We eventually got on welfare and could buy some of our own food, but times were still pretty lean and this caused some problems at school because the free lunch tickets were bright red instead of blue making one a target outside of class.

After about six weeks of sleeping in the basement closet, my great uncle, who owned a large house on Lake Whatcom, invited us to stay at his house until my mom could find a better living situation. He  also allowed us to buy groceries on his account at a local store so we began to eat much better. He, and my great aunt, intended to be in Europe for several months so we more or less house-sat while they were away.  Food, and the use of their house and car, was payment for our “services”. We had distant semi-relatives that also lived at the lake so I had other kids there I already knew to associate with.

After a few months of living at the lake, my grandmother bought a small house, and we then moved in with her. My mom started  technical school and found a part-time job with a military recruiter to supplement the welfare we received. Her emotional state did not improve much at home but, honestly, who could blame her.  I began high school as a freshman and it was them that my health began to deteriorate rapidly due to the family stress. My brother Robin came to Bellingham to visit me during this time, was shocked to see my physical condition and pledged to help me. I was under weekly medical care, was passing out in school regularly, had kidney stones, hypoglycemia and was having a difficult time walking.  This resulted from an exacerbation of  congenital hip dysplasia, coupled with malnutrition and  the ongoing stress of the whole family thing.

At the end of this visit my brother gave me money and told me to run away from Bellingham to Seattle so we could be together again. It was obvious my mom could not care for me properly and he did what he could to help me out. My mom dropped me at school the morning after he left and I went straight through the school, out the other side, walked the few blocks to the Greyhound station and took a bus to Seattle. My brother told my grandmother I was coming, but had failed to tell my dad. She met me at the Greyhound station and we took the city bus back to her house. She called my dad, told him I was in Seattle and he was not happy with the news at all. When my dad arrived that evening there was no hug, no hello, nothing. He was steaming mad I had come to Seattle. I was treated with total silence in the car all the way to his home at the Wilcrest Apartments.

When I arrived at his home, I discovered his extra-marital affair with Yvonne  had now led to his marriage to Yvonne (previously VandeKamp and McMurray) and I learned I now had Jon and Lavonne as “brothers and sisters”. I was given direct orders that same night that if I was to live at their house, I must tell no one Yvonne was not my real mother. I was under threat of severe punishment if I ever did. I was happy to be with my brother again  so planned to do whatever I needed to stay. I slipped up one time, in a meeting, mentioning Yvonne was my step-mother and was subjected to a severe chewing out that evening then confined to my room after school for a few days.

My Dad and Yvonne were still attending an Assembly of God church at this time. This is where they met another couple named Ralph and Karen. My dad, Yvonne and Ralph and Karen began a rotating prayer meeting as an adjunct to church and this is what would soon turn into a small bible study at the Wilcrest apartments. 


It would eventually become the incorporated  "Assembly of the Body of Christ" denomination, with meetings in several Western states. 

In my next post I will tell more about the beginnings of the church and describe the introduction of Gilbert Larson, the individual who took up the roles as "Apostle" when my father died. I will also discuss how it came to be that only one home was, for a time, used for the meetings.