We wanted to know whether we were misinformed or not, so we contacted Foursquare. In an e-mail reply from Foursquare, they confirmed the information in Bill Tubbs’ letter was true in part; Wayman Mitchell rebelled against Foursquare to start Christian Fellowship Ministries. However, the information regarding John Metzler may not be correct.
Did Wayman Mitchell found Christian Fellowship Ministries?
In 1961, one year after Wayman Mitchell, John Metzler graduated from LIFE Bible college. John left Foursquare before Wayman did in 1975. After John died in a car crash in 1978, his church voted to join Foursquare again. Wayman Mitchell remained a Foursquare licensed (but not ordained) pastor well into the 1980’s. The earliest use of the term “Arizona Fellowship”, as Foursquare called Christian Fellowship Ministries, is from 1981. No documents were found indicating Wayman had anything to do with John’s leaving at all.
Did Wayman Mitchell leave Foursquare? Or was he kicked out?
One other major separation of branches happened in Arizona. The relational straw that “broke the camel’s back” of fellowship with a number of pastors from that area was precipitated in a confrontation during the 1983 International Foursquare Convention in Glorieta, New Mexico. To understand the evolving alienation, however, it is necessary to begin the story in 1969. During the 1960s the “hippie” counter-culture started among the youth in the San Francisco area, impacting the whole American society. Tens of thousands, in a spirit of antiestablishment, dropped out of the conventional society and relocated in wilderness areas or inner-city communes. One favorite area was the mountainous desert around the city of Prescott, Arizona. In 1969 Rev. and Mrs. Wayman Mitchell asked for and received appointment to the Prescott, Arizona, Foursquare Church. Rev. Mitchell had grown up in the Prescott area and felt a concerned interest in the counter-culture youth of the area. He began winning many to Christ. By 1972 the church was almost filled with young people in overalls and faded jeans.
Because Rev. Mitchell constantly urged personal witnessing, the church was soon filled to overflowing. The more mature workers among the converts began to look beyond Prescott to other harvest fields. Coming from an antiestablishment mindset, the workers preferred to call their branches “The Door.” Before long, “Doors” were springing up all over Arizona, even expanding into New Mexico, Colorado, and a couple of countries overseas. There was much to admire and to learn from “The Door.” What marvelous results would be accomplished if all our churches would embrace the same zeal for outreach and witness.
Unfortunately, however, Rev. Mitchell had certain negative experiences during his Bible college training and, therefore, discouraged and even criticized formal Bible college education. Consequently the young men he disciple in Prescott received no Foursquare Bible college training but began to pioneer new churches. They received a regional district license rather than full ordination. In addition, only a certain style of primitive and militant evangelism was considered acceptable by the group. Anyone participating in an alternative or a more reserved approach to ministry was scorned. When the group attended conferences and conventions, they generally sat together, avoiding fellowship with the other ministers. At times, they would rise and “walk out on” a conference session, should the message not conform to their approved style. It must be admitted that some visiting ministers and leaders, unaware of the Prescott phenomenon, did unwittingly make occasional statements that appeared to be demeaning toward the unordained men and their unconventional dress. Therefore the “Arizona group” felt forced to take a defensive posture.
Yet, to be equally fair to the facts, Rev. Wayman Mitchell did nothing to mend the fences and progressively encouraged his group in the separation of their churches. Though he was the state superintendent of all the Foursquare churches in Arizona, he would make organizational charts or maps of Arizona that excluded all other congregations. Many prophesied that Rev. Mitchell was preparing to start another organization. And as time passed, the “other” Foursquare congregations in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado began to resent the Prescott movement, which they felt had pointedly opposed or rejected them.
One very antagonized Foursquare congregation withdrew because they felt the ICFG officials were being too tolerant. During the executive council meeting at the 1983 convention in Glorieta, New Mexico, a large representation of Foursquare pastors rose to object to the tactics, methods, and attitudes of the Prescott group. Rev. Mitchell made no attempt to answer the questions being raised. It was clear that he interpreted the questioning to be a sign of prejudiced disfavor. He left the convention with his followers. The board of directors was asked to seek a solution during the ensuing year and report back to the convention body. After much prayer, hoping to explore every possible ground on which to establish understanding and continue fellowship, the board of directors invited Rev. Wayman Mitchell to attend a special meeting. The meeting was held, but no solution to the problem was found. Rev Mitchell, within a few weeks, commenced withdrawing the churches he had pioneered. When the separation was final, no properties or assets had been lost by the organization. However, some very fine workers and congregations were now working under another banner and in other fields. The “Doors” continued to minister successfully to “difficult-to-reach” cultures. The thirty-five Foursquare churches in Arizona are, in many ways, stronger than ever. Though it was a very painful experience, the elimination of the tension brought healing. Several fine independent Arizona churches have since united with the ICFG. Some of those who had originally separated themselves from the ICFG to follow Rev. Mitchell have now returned to the denomination with Christ-like attitudes and a precious spirit of repentance and forgiveness.
It needs to be said that throughout this troublesome time, which included the tenures of Southwest District supervisors Nathaniel Van Cleave and John Holland; general supervisors Howard P. Courtney Sr., Merrill Nicholls, and Roy Hicks Sr.; as well as ICFG president Rolf K. McPherson and many Foursquare pastors, the fullest respect and every reasonable consideration, including financial support for new churches, were given to the Arizona group. Wayman Mitchell’s vision and attitude were so individualistic, it would seem difficult for him to fit his group into any organizational mold aside from their own. With few exceptions, the workers had come from the counter-culture movement and perhaps had given up any hope of cooperation with the society that surrounded them. When they became Christians, they gave up their sinful ways; many were delivered from drugs and the rock culture. But they did not shed their aversion to the establishment. To them the established culture belonged to the society from which they had rebelled. When conflicting attitudes clashed in the executive council, any remedy for the affliction vanished. The leadership of the ICFG continues to hold a great love for these dear brothers and sisters in the Lord and feels no malice toward Rev. Mitchell or any of those who separated from the denomination.
One blessing of the New Jerusalem will be that all believers will know one another as they are known. There will never be misinterpretation of motives, for crystal-clear truth and divine love fully shed abroad will make it possible for all to exist together in brotherhood. There will be no dissension. All have work assignments and domain to rule, but nothing will ever separate them into diverse groups.