By Rev. Lester Kinsolving
Examiner Religion Writer
[Third of four parts which were never published]
SAN FRANCISCO , September, 1972 — One of Northern California’s leading black clergy has confirmed reports that the Rev. Jim Jones, prophet pastor of the People’s Temple Christian (Disciples) Church of Redwood Valley, has accused him of sexually propositioning two of the Temple’s young girls.
“I welcome the fact that this thing can be settled in the courts – for I have an eyewitness to what he said,” noted the Rev. George L. Bedford, Pastor of the 1500-member Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church on Sutter Street and President for the past decade of the influential Baptist Ministers Alliance.
During a lengthy interview in his attractive home near Mt. Davidson, in the company of his assistant pastor the Rev. William Sterling Jones and Deacon Butler Thomas (who said that he had heard Prophet Jones make the accusation), the venerable pastor told The Examiner:
“Our people opened their homes to Jones and 40 of his parishioners when they came to visit out church. My wife and I welcomed six of them – including one elderly couple – into our home. This is the setting in which this man has contended that I propositioned two young girls!”
Was the Rev. Mr. Jones among these house guests?
“No, he stayed at the San Francisco Hilton,” replied Dr. Bedford, “I know he stayed there because our Church picked up his bill.”
Dr. Bedford is a member of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, to which post he was appointed by the former Mayor John Shelley. He is also Treasurer of the California Baptist State Convention and delivered the keynote address this year at the national convention of the 6.3 million-member National Baptist Convention in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Rev. Mr. Jones was not available for comment in Redwood Valley. But he made precisely this same accusation on Sunday Sept. 17 before more than 1,000 of his flock at People’s Temple services in the auditorium of Benjamin Franklin Junior High School on Geary Blvd. He did not mention Dr. Bedford’s name, however.
Dr. Bedford said that his first encounter with the charismatic part-Cherokee Disciple of Christ pastor came shortly after the death of Martin Luther King, when he wrote an article suggesting that racial tensions could be eased if black and white congregations would on occasion worship together.
“The following Sunday, Jones was in our church with 18 of his members, three of them black,” recalled Dr. Bedford. “He asked if he could come again next week along with more of his congregation. He asked if they could bring sleeping bags and sleep in our parish hall. But our insurance doesn’t permit this and so we opened our homes,” recalled the Macedonia Church pastor.
Dr. Bedford went on to recall that Jones urged him to make reciprocal visits to the People’s temple in Redwood Valley, which his congregation did, twice, with six rented buses and some 40 private cars.
Following these visits, Dr. Bedford said that he was surprised to learn that the Rev. Mr. Jones had begun to hold meetings in the nearby Regina Beauty College – owned by the clerk of the Macedonia Church, Mrs. Virdella [Verdella] Duncan.
The pastor was infinitely more surprised, he recalled, when one of his Deacons, David Garrison, subsequently approached him with an offer to buy the Macedonia Church – for the Prophet Jones.
Dr. Bedford declined this offer – and forthwith learned that the Prophet Jones had more than 40 of his parishioners attending regular services in Redwood Valley, along with Church Clerk Duncan and Deacon Garrison (who remain members of the People’s Temple.)
He soon learned that the handsome and virile Jones had come on to the black community like an ecclesiastical pied piper – for he learned that other pastors have reported substantial losses in parishioners to the People’s Temple.
The Rev. L.S. Rubin, Pastor of Olivet Baptist Church on Ellis Street, told the Examiner:
“I can recall some 40 of our people who were attracted enough to start attending up there, but I am happy to say that they have returned. This man Jones is what is known in ministerial circles as a classic “sheep stealer.”
Dr. Bedford said that he had learned that both the Friendship Institutional Baptist Church as well as the Third Baptist (oldest black church West of the Mississippi) had also lost members.
“But I think we took the heaviest loss, because we opened the arms of fellowship to a stranger – and found that we had embraced something of a Geronimo!” declared Dr. Bedford.
He added that he had heard reports that the Prophet Jones had predicted he would not survive through 1971. “But I have managed to survive, and five of our parishioners have returned – while I have recently buried three more, who became involved with Jones and the People’s Temple.”