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.


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