I am a minister in the newly-established Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ. We have approved the re-establishment of Peoples Temple in the Great River region in Arkansas, and other regions are interested as well in establishing a Temple within their region. When the original Peoples Temple was dissolved, it was still in good standing with the denomination, and we have taken the appropriate steps for re-establishment.
We chose the name Peoples Temple because it describes in totality the mission of Christ, to reach the lost and the destitute, to call sinners to repentance, and to teach others about the Kingdom of God. There is a lot about the previous Temple that appealed to us, such as helping the poor, clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, offering free medical care to those in need and even giving them free medications, supplying jobs to the unemployed, running soup kitchens that would feed anyone who walked through the door, offering free legal aid, even providing housing to those who had nowhere to go. This is something that we find to be respectable about the original Peoples Temple and something that we are going to leave intact.
However, there were areas where Rev. Jim Jones went wrong with the Temple. One of those areas was requiring people to rid themselves of all worldly possessions in order to join the Temple. Another was the public beatings. In fact, as people familiar with the Temple story know, there were many other things that ultimately caused the church to implode. We are going to strip these out.
In the newly re-constructed Temple, there will be changes which will bring it into conformity with traditional Christianity and benefit the communities in which we live. We also have a system in the interim that will allow members’ houses to serve as meeting houses. There will be people who will receive ordination in the new Temple as pastors and who will then be able to conduct services out of their own homes, until we can get enough financial stability to start planting Temples all across the country. Most importantly, there will be a special board of advisors who will monitor the activities of the newly-constructed Temple to ensure that the past does not repeat itself. There will be life in the services such as is seen in the Pentecostal movement. This will be a thing of beauty.
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We hold in memory those who lost their lives at Jonestown and are deeply saddened that it occurred. Our first service upon launch will be a memorial service for all those who lost their lives in Guyana in 1978.
We understand and appreciate that at the beginning of his ministry, Rev. Jones was very sincere. He eventually garnered the respect of tens of thousands across the country, and was considered to be one of America’s top clergymen, along with such personages as Oral Roberts.
However, Rev. Jones took upon himself too much responsibility at one time, and it led to him having a complete emotional collapse. I’m not sure if many people outside of the Disciples of Christ realize this, but he did have a genuine care for the people of his congregation. This caring led to his deep depression during the last three years of his ministry, and a feeling that he could never do enough to provide for his parishioners.
It was during this period that he started to use barbiturates and amphetamines in order to function, and the drug abuse eventually caught up to him. By the time Congressman Leo Ryan arrived at Jonestown, Rev. Jones had deteriorated so far that he thought Mr. Ryan was a CIA hitman sent in to scope out the situation in the camp and then call in helicopters to kill all the residents. This in turn led to Rev. Jones ordering the deaths by mixing potassium cyanide and tranquilizers with grape Flavor-Aid. But before he approved it, he asked the nursing staff if the deaths would be quick and painless. He was assured they would be. In his mind, it was the only option, other that letting the government come in and kill all of them.
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The newly-established Peoples Temple has learned from the mistakes of the previous Temple and we are making sure that nothing like this ever happens again. Right now, we have a small congregation, but we realize too that it takes time for churches to grow, and we welcome anyone who wants to be a part of our services.
We desire that all people, everywhere, come unto Christ as they are, and in turn, cultivate a relationship with Him that will lead them to heaven and give them peace and comfort in the here and now.
(For more information about the newly-established Peoples Temple, please feel free to contact Rev. Cupid Osburn at firstname.lastname@example.org).