Ordination Service of Jim Jones into Disciples of Christ

Jim Jones began his ministry as a Methodist, accepting a position as student pastor at Somerset Methodist Church in Indianapolis in June 1952. He remained in that denomination four years, even as he participated in the services of the Laurel Street Tabernacle – a Pentecostal Church – and eventually founded the church that would become Peoples Temple. In 1956, he became an ordained minister in the Independent Assemblies of God.

In 1960, Ross Case, a young minister in the Disciples of Christ denomination, heard about Jim Jones and attended one of his services. According to Tim Reiterman in Raven, Ross was “impressed” by Jones, and his meeting afterwards with the Temple leader and his three assistants – Archie Ijames, Jack Beam, and Russell Winberg – made him “ecstatic.”

The admiration was mutual, and Jones and his assistants wanted Case to join their church. The Disciples of Christ minister agreed to do so after he completed his obligation to the church he had in Mason City, Illinois. In the meantime, he encouraged the Temple’s nascent idea of becoming part of the Disciples of Christ. The church applied and was accepted into the denomination by the end of the year.

As Reiterman writes:

Jones had first become interested in Disciples of Christ when Ijames showed him newspaper articles indicating that the Indianapolis-based Disciples of Christ would tolerate all political views – and that the denomination respected local autonomy.… Benefits of affiliation would show themselves over the years. Chief among them was the mantle of legitimacy afforded by membership in a 1.5 million- to 2 million-member denomination, and, on the material side, an umbrella tax exemption. Membership would also provide a curtain over the Temple’s political drift. (p. 67)

It was another four years before Jones became a Disciples of Christ minister, though.  The service of ordination was held February 16, 1964 in Peoples Temple. While Ross Case did not participate in the service, numerous other people who were or would become important in the Temple movement did. Loretta Cordell, who died in Jonestown, played the organ. Archie Ijames, a member of the Ordination Council, participated in the Laying-On-Of-Hands Ceremony and offered the ordination prayer. Other members of the Ordination Council included Harold Cordell, Jr., who left Jonestown with Rep. Leo Ryan’s party, and Walter Baldwin, Marceline Jones’ father, who visited Jonestown early in November 1978. Rev. Edward Malmin, who eventually left the Temple, was the presiding minister for the service; like Ijames, he was a member of the Ordination Council and participated in the Laying-On-Of-Hands Ceremony.

The high point of the evening was the presentation of the certificate of ordination.

Service of Ordination of Jim Jones into Disciples of Christ, RYMUR 89-4286-X-3-e-37a – X-3-e-37d