A controversial religious movement led by Brother Stair, known for its expansive shortwave radio outreach and apocalyptic predictions.
Overcomer Ministry, founded and led by Ralph Gordon Stair, also known as Brother Stair, was a Christian religious group characterized by its expansive use of shortwave radio for preaching. The group was based in Walterboro, South Carolina, and was active primarily through its radio outreach and website streaming.
History and Development
Ralph Gordon Stair, born on May 3, 1933, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, founded the Overcomer Ministry. The Ministry gained significant attention through its extensive use of international satellite, shortwave, and internet streaming broadcasts. In the 1990s, Brother Stair’s programs were aired on 120 terrestrial AM and FM radio stations across the United States. This number reduced to about 25 stations by 2007 but saw a dramatic increase in 2016 due to a large donation that allowed for the purchase of extensive broadcasting time, creating one of the most widespread shortwave broadcasts in history. The broadcast expenditures, amounting to approximately $1.5 million, were primarily funded by donations from listeners.
Stair’s teachings predominantly focused on millennial predictions of world-changing events resulting from divine judgment. Notable among these were his predictions of a nuclear confrontation in 1988 and the claim that Ronald Reagan would not complete his term as President of the United States. In 1999, he predicted significant changes at the dawn of the third millennium, declaring that if a major divine move did not occur before the year 2000, he would renounce his faith.
Beliefs and Practices
Overcomer Ministry’s doctrine revolved around apocalyptic and end-time prophecies. The Ministry proclaimed that Jesus Christ’s return was imminent within the lifetime of its followers, declaring the current generation as the last. This sense of urgency in the face of an approaching apocalypse was a central theme in Stair’s teachings.
Controversies and Legal Issues
Brother Stair’s tenure as the leader of the Overcomer Ministry was marred by several legal controversies. In 2002, at the age of 69, Stair was arrested on charges of criminal sexual conduct with two young women associated with the Ministry. He pleaded guilty to assault and battery in 2004 and served 77 days in custody. This conviction caused division within the community, but approximately 70 residents remained loyal to him, with two small branch communities continuing as part of his ministry.
In December 2017, Stair was arrested again on multiple counts including first-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, and burglary. He reportedly claimed that the alleged sexual acts were “God’s will.” Released on a $750,000 bond in January 2018, Stair resumed broadcasting radio shows shortly after.
Death of Brother Stair
Brother Stair passed away due to heart failure at the age of 87 on April 3, 2021, in Canadys, South Carolina. Despite his death, the Ministry continues to broadcast his old recordings on shortwave radio and through their website.