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.
While many mainline Churches of Christ still struggle with legalism at some level, it is important not to paint them all with this brush. This is a particularly divisive and militant sect, more like a cult, given their leadership style of control, fear and intimidation.
This blog is purely about this small network of churches started by Merie Weiss in Spring Valley, California that largely exists off the radar of mainline Churches of Christ. 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 cult? (And I don't use that term loosely--trust me, this is a cult in every sense of the word.) 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."
- 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, some people 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.
- 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.
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 don't call out individuals here, because I'm not interested in making personal attacks, just reasoned Bible studies. Feel free to respond via comments or correspond with me privately if you disagree.
The truth doesn't need to be afraid of a lie, so no one should be afraid of reading the truth of the church's teachings. I have no desire to post anything here that is untrue in any way, and I take seriously my commitment to correct any factual errors I may have inadvertently made on this site.