Followers of Christ

A Christian sect known for its avoidance of modern medical treatment, resulting in the preventable deaths of children.


Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Pentecostalism
Location: United States


The Followers of Christ is a religious group that has garnered attention and controversy primarily for its steadfast commitment to faith healing, often resulting in the preventable deaths of children within the community. This small Christian denomination is based in the U.S. states of Oklahoma, Oregon, Idaho, and was originally founded in Chanute, Kansas. Its origins trace back to the Holiness and Pentecostal movements of the late 1800s and early 1900s, with its formative years marked by a series of migrations and leadership transitions. By the 1940s, a significant branch had been established in Oregon City, Oregon, by Walter White, a figure who, until his death in 1969, commanded a messianic reverence from his followers​​.

Walter White, regarded as a prophet by his congregation, was known for his charismatic yet tyrannical leadership style. He would publicly rebuke members for their misdeeds and claimed to be the sole intermediary between them and God. This control extended to the point where ex-members recall being taught that salvation was only achievable through baptism by Walter White, and, after his death, no new members could join the church. This exclusivity fostered a deeply insulated community, wary of outsiders and resistant to external influences, especially medical intervention​​.

The Followers of Christ’s strict adherence to faith healing has led to significant legal and social scrutiny, since members who seek medical care or utilize medicines face the risk of being shunned by the community. Investigations and reports have highlighted the high incidence of child mortality within the community, with many deaths attributed to conditions easily treatable by modern medicine. For instance, a series by The Oregonian newspaper revealed that over a 35-year period, a substantial number of minors buried in the church’s cemetery could have survived with medical intervention.

The church’s services are simple, consisting primarily of hymn singing without any spiritual teaching or Bible readings. The Oregon City congregation, which is the most well-known, owns a church building and a cemetery in Carus, where deceased members are routinely buried. Despite the controversies surrounding its practices, the Followers of Christ Church remains a tightly-knit community, driven by a profound belief in divine will and the power of prayer over medical treatment.

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