Separatist by faith

Church of Israel's patriarch rebuts claims of racism

The Joplin Globe/January 2001
By Max McCoy



The Church of Israel, picturesque enough to make a postcard, is located in northeastern Vernon County, near the rural community of Schell City.

Schell City, Mo. -- Dan Gayman was 7 years old - traditionally, the age of reason - when, in July of 1945, he witnessed a bolt of lightning strike his father dead.

"It was the middle of the afternoon, and a thunderstorm had appeared in the southwest," Gayman recalls more than half a century later. "He was driving a steel-wheeled tractor and I was with him, and we saw this big, black cloud forming. He said, 'It's too dangerous to be on this tractor so I want you to get off, and I've just got one more round to make. Then I'll be running home, too.'

Gayman pauses.

"It wasn't five minutes before lightning killed him."

Dan Gayman is now 63, a father himself several times over, and the pastor of a church that is just a stone's throw from the field where his father died. But there are no storm clouds this afternoon, and although it is December, the sun is bright and the weather is mild. Beneath the vault of the incredibly blue sky over the church colony, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of geese have queued up in V-shaped waves, descending on the nearby Schell-Osage Wildlife Area.

Folks across Vernon County are friendly and talkative in a small-town way, but start asking about the Church of Israel and they clam up in a hurry.

At the Quick Dine on Business 71 in the county seat of Nevada, for example, just about everyone has heard of the rural church, but no one is willing to comment for the record. "They leave us alone and we leave them alone - live and let live," a regular named Billy says, but refuses to give his last name.

At the courthouse, county officials say church leaders are prompt and civil when taking care of business, but the officials urge the curious to be careful. "They might not really be dangerous," says one cautiously, "but people have gotten hurt out there. Please don't use my name."

Others, like the white couples brought here on church sponsorships after apartheid ended in South Africa, have an insider's view and still ask not to be quoted. One South African woman said her family members lived in a trailer at the church colony when they came here years ago, but they left because of the constant bickering. Now, nearly all of the dozen or so South African families that originally were sponsored are no longer with the church.

Some, like Gayman's 36-year-old estranged son and daughter-in-law, say the church is a dangerous cult and a breeding ground of hate.

Eric Rudolph, the fugitive accused of the 1996 Olympic Park bombing, learned to hate under Dan Gayman's wing, they claim; others have been taught to shun birth certificates, Social Security numbers and marriage licenses. The doctrine of paranoia, Tim and Sarah Gayman claim, even includes a taboo on antibiotics.

The Church of Israel, picturesque enough to make a postcard, is located on a county road that dead-ends at the Osage River in northeastern Vernon County, near the tiny community of Schell City. Visitors consistently recall the droves of mosquitoes during the summer and the stench of the water, which smells like rotten eggs year-round.

There's an unusual archaeological site on a bluff overlooking the river, and it may key into the church's unorthodox views on pre-Columbian white settlements in America. The area is largely flood plain and state-owned wetlands, but most of the 1,400 acres owned by the church and associated ministries sit on a wooded peninsula that becomes an island when the water is high.


Christian Identity

It's an apt metaphor for a church that seeks to isolate itself, both spiritually and geographically, from the modern world. And, for the past 25 years, the church has consistently been labeled by watch groups as one of the most racist in America.

Services are by invitation only. Church membership is exclusively white. Homosexuality and mixed marriages are condemned. Members of the congregation are taught that they are the true chosen people of the Bible, as descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, and that both Adam and Jesus Christ were white. They go to church on Saturday, don't celebrate Christmas or Easter because they consider them pagan festivals, and observe feast days based on the traditional Jewish lunar calendar.

Since 1976, the church has been intimately associated with a radical and sometimes violent right-wing movement known as Christian Identity. Although Gayman protests the label, the Church of Israel is one of the oldest and most influential institutions in the movement, and Gayman is widely regarded as a spiritual leader.

As described by Michael Barkun, a professor of political science at Syracuse University, Christian Identity holds three key beliefs:


  • Whites are the descendants of the biblical tribes of Israel.


  • The world is on the verge of an apocalyptic struggle between good and evil, in which whites must do battle with the worldwide Jewish conspiracy.


  • Jews and non-whites are the biological children of Satan, through a sexual union between Satan and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This last belief is bolstered by Gayman's "two seedline doctrine," which he says came to him while reading Milton's "Paradise Lost." While others had long suggested a sexual metaphor for Satan's corruption of Eve, Gayman offered a literal interpretation - and one that underscored the need for a woman to submit to the authority of her husband. But Gayman denies being a racist.

The two seedline doctrine is just a small part of his theology, he says, and while he believes the children of Satan walk the Earth today, he doesn't really know who they are. The Church of Israel, he says, is simply trying to fulfill the vision that his father and a handful of other disaffected Mormons had when they came here in the early 1940s.

Gayman says he harbors no hatred for blacks and other non-whites, but that he and his congregation should have the right to live separately. Their beliefs, he says, are largely what most rural Americans believed in the 1950s. Why, he asks, is it now considered appropriate for blacks to talk proudly of their heritage, but racist for whites to do so?

The Church of Israel is the target of severe religious persecution, Gayman claims. He also is adamant that none of the 150 members of the church has ever been convicted of a felony, yet the church is consistently cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the media, as being a violent, right-wing extremist group. Although the church doesn't allow firearms on its grounds, rumors about armed guards, stockpiles of weapons and even armored vehicles continue to circulate in Vernon County. Why, asks Gayman, can't the Church of Israel be treated like any other church?


Far-right connections

The answer, of course, is that it's not like any other church. In many ways, the church is a religious anachronism, a remnant of the 19th century passion for religious utopias. In 1858, for example, there were at least 130 utopian settlements in America, ranging from Oneida in New York to Nauvoo, Ill. The church also is museum-like in its preservation of 19th century conspiracy theories and social mores. And, its tenets are undeniably attractive to the radical right.

When Gayman won control of the church after an acrimonious split in the 1970s and began leading the congregation deeper into Identity (and racist) practices, the church began to find favor with the far right. One of the church's officers during the '70s was Thomas Robb, now of Harrison, Ark., and a leader of the Ku Klux Klan. The church served as the spiritual inspiration for the Covenant, the Sword and Arm of the Lord, an organization that ended in the mid-1980s with a raid by federal authorities and when its leader was convicted of bombing and arson. And, for a short time, the compound was the boyhood home of Eric Robert Rudolph, currently wanted by the FBI for the 1996 Olympic Park bombing and other fatal blasts.

And although the Church of Israel itself may teach a nonviolent message, as Gayman claims, it is firmly entrenched in the subculture of the far right - a subculture where "deviant religion, spurious scholarship, and radical politics intersect," according to Barkun, the Syracuse professor.

It's a subculture where rumors of concentration camps for American citizens and attempts to clone Jesus Christ from blood found on religious relics are taken seriously; where the United Nations represents the military arm of a satanic New World Order that is expected to occupy the country at any moment; and where the ownership of a gun capable of killing a federal agent in body armor is touted as the responsibility of every Christian family. Such "patriots" keep in touch via shortwave radio; converts are recruited at gun shows; and the most virulent rhetoric is reserved for those who break ranks.

But despite the pressure the Church of Israel has experienced in years past because of its associations with outside elements of the far right subculture, the most recent challenge has come from within.


Internal crisis

Last month, the church faced a crisis: A junior pastor who wanted the church to take a more aggressive public stance was paid $20,000 in cash, and the deed to his house, in exchange for his silence about church business. Publicly, the package was called severance pay, and the pastor, the congregation was told, was leaving with Gayman's blessing to start other churches in America's "hinterland."

But the secret deal fell apart when church leaders accused the departing pastor, Scott Stinson, of "felony theft" of church documents. The church's leading patron, a vocal Texas millionaire who isn't shy about his racist beliefs, sided with Stinson, and posted details of the secret meeting and other documents on the World Wide Web.

The crisis allowed a glimpse into the finances of the church, which have remained largely private since it gave up its not-for-profit status years ago. The millionaire, Jerry Gentry, says he gave the church a $500,000 donation to buy land and build houses. Gentry was able to count the donation as tax-exempt because it was funneled through a nonprofit foundation using a strategy called "donor-advised funds."

The land purchase was part of an ongoing homestead project the church offers to young white families with children. Gentry, who believes that blacks and Asians are a "primate race" created before Adam, and that Jews are the biological offspring of Satan, says he bankrolled the church because he was sympathetic to its beliefs.

One of the houses built with Gentry's money was the parsonage the junior pastor, Stinson, was to receive as part of the severance package. Church leaders, however, have asked for the money and the house back; Gayman, they say, was blackmailed into handing Stinson the cash and signing over the deed.

The incident is typical of the cycle of controversy and denial that has dogged the Church of Israel in the last quarter of a century.

Although Gayman quickly disavowed Gentry by calling him the "fly in the ointment" and saying his racist views don't represent those of the church, he is hard pressed to explain why the church accepted $600,000 from him in the course of a decade.

In much the same way, Gayman denies ever meeting James Ellison, the leader of the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord but Ellison's former second in command, Kerry Noble, clearly remembers spending three days at the church in 1979, after Ellison was introduced to Christian Identity by Gayman. And, when asked about a shooting incident years ago for which his son-in-law was convicted of second-degree felony assault (which prosecutors described as an attempt to protect the perimeter of the church grounds from an intruder), Gayman tells a reporter it was a hunting accident that resulted in a misdemeanor conviction for the "imprudent handling of a firearm."

The question is increasingly one of accountability, and with the latest split some of the cries are coming from within the church as well. Some of the records that were burned during the secret meeting which secured Stinson's silence, according to Gentry, were records of church minutes that would reveal the sale price of much of the 1,400 acres owned by the church that had passed through the Gayman family.

While other files from a quarter of a century ago have long since been reduced to microfilm, the thick, blue-jacketed file labeled the Church of Christ at Zion's Retreat v. Dan Gayman and the Church of Christ at Halley's Bluff, No. 32872 is available in mostly original form at the Vernon County Courthouse in Nevada.

Vickie Erwin, the clerk of the circuit court, says she keeps the file handy because there are one or two requests each year from reporters or scholars for it. Although parts of the file are missing, it still contains most of the several hundred pages of evidence and arguments accumulated since the original suit was filed in September 1972.

It would drag on, in various forms, until 1979.

"The lawsuit was filed by my brother in an effort to place me under censure and actually have me and the congregation removed from the premises," Dan Gayman said.

But most of the congregation's 15 families sided with him, Gayman said, on three main points: church management, doctrinal differences, and whether the church should observe the traditional Jewish feast days.

What Gayman doesn't say now, but which is evident in the court record, is that much of the rift was over control of church money.

From 1954 to 1969, according to court records, no audit was made of church assets. The church was under the control of Gerald Hall, one of the two surviving members of the original 1945 charitable trust. At one point, Dan Gayman's lawyer wrote a letter to the Missouri attorney general urging an investigation into Hall's stewardship of the trust, and he accused Hall of using church money for automobiles and other personal purchases.

In 1972, the new group incorporated as a Missouri not-for-profit organization, the Church of Christ at Halley's Bluff, named for the archaeological site on church property. The church's first board of directors included Dan Gayman, two of his brothers and Thomas Robb. Robb, of Harrison, Ark., is no longer associated with the church, but he is the leader of the largest Ku Klux Klan faction operating today.

In 1973, the court agreed to a stipulation favoring Duane Gayman and the original congregation. The opposition families were given only 20 of the original 511 acres, and they regrouped in two small buildings on the land the court had given them. The court also ordered that the name of the rival church be changed to avoid confusion with the original congregation, so the new group was reorganized as the Church of Our Christian Heritage.



Things continued in this fashion until 1976, when the rift boiled over so dramatically that it made national headlines.

On the night of April 2, Dan Gayman was host for an interstate "youth conference." At 7:30 p.m., according to court records, Gayman and about 35 members of the splinter church and some out-of-state guests walked across the road to the former church building and attempted a takeover.

After locking the doors, they unfurled banners urging "The National Emancipation of Our White Seed" and placed racist literature on the bulletin board. Earlier, alleges one account, members of the splinter church had accosted Duane Gayman on his way to work, and called him a "white nigger" and a "Jew lover."

The takeover ended at midnight, when sheriff's deputies and highway patrolmen arrested the rebels after a brief but well-publicized scuffle. Nine people, including Dan Gayman, were charged with trespass. Two others were charged with assaulting an officer.

Gayman says things were blown out of proportion. There was no takeover, he says.

"We're in that tiny little building up there and we're having a youth conference, and we could not adequately take care of our congregation," Gayman said. "We assumed we had the verbal approval of my brother Duane to use the big building. We had used it on the previous night and there had been no problem, so we were totally relaxed when all at once we were visited with an entourage of state troopers and sheriff's deputies. In fact, the road in, all the way up to 71 Highway, was lined with police. And there were several attorneys who came as well, and they even had their own professional photographer from Nevada."

The only violence, Gayman said, was on the part of law enforcement, which the photographs showed.

"In the case of Dale Gordon (one of the men charged with assault)," he said, "the photos showed him standing motionless with his hands cuffed, and it showed a Missouri Highway Patrol officer bringing a billy club down on his head and blood squirting out and running down his clothes and onto the wooden floor."

Neither Gordon nor any of the others resisted arrest, Gayman said.

"There was absolutely no physical activity (on his group's part) that evening," he said. "Not a single person had any kind of an arm on them, not even a pocketknife. There wasn't a single person that offered any type of resistance. There was absolutely no fight."

But former Vernon County Sheriff Mickey Mason, who was one of the two state troopers on the scene that night, recalls it differently. The demonstrators violently resisted attempts to remove them from the church, he said, and the use of force was necessary.

Later, Mason was one of dozens of officers and county officials named in a federal lawsuit filed by Gayman that sought millions of dollars for alleged civil rights violations stemming from the participants' arrest and brief stay in the Vernon County Jail.

The federal lawsuit eventually was dismissed, as were the trespass charges against the nine arrested the night of the incident. Of the pair charged with assault, only one, Ronald Dean Sheets, was convicted. But the episode only resulted in energizing the civil suit that was filed in 1972.

"You have to remember that when this happened, I was still an employee of the Walker public high school," Gayman said, "and there were these incessant headlines in the Nevada Daily Mail that made it appear as if we were a real notorious bunch of wild-eyed racists of the worst kind."

In a letter to the director of the Missouri Bar Association, Gayman asked for free legal counsel and posed the following question: "I wonder, Mr. Baker, if I were not (1) fighting Regional Government (2) Standing for the White Race (3) An outspoken Patriot on all issues now before the American people, would you refuse to provide me legal counsel?"

Gayman was desperate. He had left the Walker school, and the bills were mounting. He was the victim, he said time and again, of religious persecution that authorities would not have tolerated had his skin been any color but white.

In a request to the court to appoint counsel, Gayman said he was the unemployed father of five children and that his wife, Deloris, had been unable to work because of illness. The slanderous publicity surrounding the case made it impossible, he said, for him to find another teaching job. He owed Farmers Bank of Walker $1,800, Montgomery Ward $400, and additional amounts to Nevada City Hospital and several doctors.

"The defendant owns furniture that was purchased in 1967 and is in very shabby condition," the request continues. "One living room easy chair was purchased in 1961 and is ready to be junked. Both the refrigerator and deep freeze are several years old and in poor condition. In addition, the defendant owns a 1966 Oldsmobile with 125,000 miles and a mechanical problem in the transmission, a 1964 Ford pickup with 103,000 miles, bed rusted out and using oil badly. The defendant owns one milk cow that produces milk in three quarters and is going dry."

The lawsuit eventually was settled out of court and voluntarily dismissed on Nov. 15, 1979. Whether the combatants reached an amicable agreement, or simply grew tired and agreed to disagree, is impossible to discern from the aging court file. Duane Gayman now is pastor of the Living Hope Fellowship, housed in the old Thriftway building at the county seat of Nevada, about 20 miles southwest of Schell City. He declined comment for this story.

What is clear is that the new church had emerged from this period of tribulation intact, with Dan Gayman at the helm. It already had adopted the beliefs that would guide the church for the next quarter of a century, even if some of those beliefs put it at odds with mainstream America. But in Vernon County, church members were unlikely to have personal contact with anyone who might be offended; in 1980, Vernon County, a former Confederate enclave that had been decimated during the Civil War, was virtually all white. By 1990, according to the U.S. Census, minorities would account for less than 2 percent of the county's 18,700 residents.


'No guns allowed'

Already, however, the church had a growing reputation as an armed compound. Those rumors were fueled by news reports in 1980 that a man wanted for questioning in the shooting of civil rights leader Vernon Jordan at Fort Wayne, Ind., was connected to the colony. Gayman denied the connection. The man, who had been arrested with Gayman on the trespass charges in 1976, was never considered a leading suspect, the FBI said at the time, and another man eventually was charged.

Jordan, a friend and adviser of President Clinton's, was wounded when he returned about 2 a.m. to his motel room with a white woman. Eighteen years later, in 1998, convicted serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin confessed to the shooting. Franklin earlier had been tried in the case, but acquitted.

Franklin, 47, was serving four life sentences at the federal maximum-security prison in Marion, Ill., when he confessed to the Jordan shooting. Franklin also admitted to the 1978 shooting of Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and his attorney, both of whom survived. Franklin, who targeted mostly Jews, blacks and interracial couples, is believed to have killed 17 people. He currently faces the death penalty in Missouri for shooting to death Gerald C. Gordon as he left a bar mitzvah at a St. Louis synagogue in 1977.

Dan Gayman recalls that while he was still the principal of the Walker school, Susan Ford, an aspiring photojournalist and daughter of President Ford, came to Vernon County on a student assignment.

"They scattered these students all over the United States to do special feature photography," Gayman said. "She had been told by the country club set in Nevada that this would be an interesting place because there might be tanks and all kinds of military hardware up here. So I invited Susan Ford up, told nobody about it, and she found just what you're finding today - nothing."

Critics fail to note, Gayman says, that the church doesn't even allow guns on its property. A sign at the entrance to the church complex warns against weapons, and prohibits alcohol and profanity as well. In fact, the church is so sensitive on the weapons issue that it advises participants in its National Youth Conference, held each June for the past 13 years, that no "firecrackers, explosives or firearms" will be allowed.


Violent hate groups

During the 1980s, the Church of Israel also was associated with two of the country's most violent right-wing hate groups: The Order, and the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord.

Bob Mathews, leader of The Order, sought to create a tightly knit group to overthrow the "Zionist Occupation Government" and financed the effort with a $3.8 million armored car heist in California in 1984. Large donations went to right-wing causes, including $10,000 to the Church of Israel. Mathews was killed in a shootout with federal agents. Gayman turned the money over to authorities, denounced The Order, and later testified against right-wing figures at a federal sedition trial in 1987.

The CSA started out as a survivalist community on the Missouri-Arkansas border, but soon became a militarized Christian Identity compound. The camp fell after a federal raid and standoff in 1985.

The CSA's former second in command, Kerry Noble, recalls that leader James Ellison was introduced to Christian Identity by Dan Gayman. Ellison came to the Schell City area in 1979 to work under contract on some of the nuclear missile silos that dotted the landscape before SALT II, and he later sent Noble to the Church of Israel to share in the racist message.

"The aspect of Identity that we really got a hold of was the seedline teaching," Noble said recently in a telephone interview from his Texas home. "I had his books, such as 'Genesis 3:15,' and there was no question that the children of Satan were the Jews. In those days, there were only two leaders of the movement: Gayman and Sheldon Emory. Gayman was the stronger of the two, as far as charisma and leadership capabilities and followers."

Noble, however, says that Gayman was opposed to violence and the stockpiling of weapons. Also, Noble found the services were boring compared to those at the CSA's Zarephath-Horeb compound.

"I didn't like the area," Noble said, "because they had that horrible sulfur water. We spent three days there. I didn't see how anybody could live in the area."

Noble said his heart began to turn against Christian Identity in 1983, after the polygamy issue had split the CSA compound. "We were doing a Bible study," he said, "and we were on Matthew 24."

The passage, Noble said, warned of "wars and rumors of war," and that many would be led astray in Christ's name.

"It sort of hit me that my understanding of what the latter days was going to be like was wrong. If that was true, then everything that we were doing was based on false theology."

Noble was sentenced to five years in prison for his participation in the CSA, and is the author of a memoir called "Tabernacle of Hate." The book is described by the publisher as the only account written by a former cult leader who has abandoned Christian Identity.

Gayman, however, says he never had any contact with anyone from the CSA.

"Now, those people tried to make contact with us," Gayman said, "but we knew they were a wild, off-the-wall bunch from the get-go. We knew that just from what we were hearing that they were not our kind of people. They tried to entice me to come down to talk to them, but I never would go."

Gayman also claims he has never met Ellison.

"What's surprising to me after all of this negative publicity is that the people of Nevada love to do business with the people in this church, because we pay our bills and we pay them on time," Gayman said. "In fact, when one of our boys back in 1986 accidentally shot another individual in a hunting accident, there were businesses in Nevada that contributed to his defense." His $20,000 defense bill was essentially paid for by Vernon County people who felt like the church was being singled out for special prosecution."

John H. Coleman, Gayman's son-in-law, was charged with assault after he shot Jerry Epperson of Independence, who was bow hunting for deer and apparently strayed on or near church property. Epperson survived, but Gayman blames articles in The Kansas City Star for encouraging authorities to file felony charges and to allege that Coleman was attempting to protect the church boundary from intruders.

Gayman claims Coleman was turkey hunting and mistook Epperson for a bird in the dim early morning light. The charges were reduced, Gayman said, and Coleman eventually was found guilty of a misdemeanor, "imprudent handling of a firearm."

But the circuit clerk's office at the Polk County Courthouse in Bolivar, where the trial was held in December 1987 on a change of venue, has a different version of events. Coleman was convicted of second-degree assault, a Class D felony, according to court records. Although Coleman was sentenced to no jail time, he was fined $500.

In a four-page advertisement placed in the Nevada News shortly after the shooting, the Church of Israel said it was the victim of attempted genocide at the hands of the news media. It also suggested there was a conspiracy to destroy the church, and that church members had been made to live like "goldfish in a bowl, under the constant eyes of newspaper reporters, television cameras and 'national watchdog' groups."

The scrutiny, however, was far from over.

Bo Gritz, leader of the Christian Patriot movement, poses with Scott Stinson, a former pastor of the church of Israel, Gritz was in Schell City last year when he spoke to the church's Boy Scout troop.

Patricia Rudolph arrived at the Church of Israel one afternoon in late November 1984, in a broken-down station wagon with two sons in tow and her husband's death certificate in her hand. She came at the suggestion of Nord Davis, the longtime anti-government and Christian Identity director of the 130-acre North Point Team compound in Tipton, N.C.

Davis thought the Schell City church might be in a position to offer the widow some assistance, and she carried the death certificate as proof of her need.

"Since we knew Nord casually, we didn't turn them away," Gayman said. "But we wouldn't have turned any widow away. In fact, if she would have been colored, we would have helped her."

Rudolph, a craft artist who sold her work at flea markets, said she needed money to continue her journey. Gayman said the church had no money to give, but it did put the family up in a mobile home not far from the church offices, and it took up a food collection. Rudolph and her children were welcome to stay until they sold enough crafts to resume their journey, Gayman said. "I asked if she wanted to enroll those two boys in school, and she said no, she was home-schooling them," he said.

The boys were Eric Robert Rudolph, then 18, and his younger brother, Jamie. Their father, an airline pilot and prison minister, had died of cancer five years before. Since then, their Christian Identity mother had led them through a maze of southern trailer parks and right-wing subculture (although the family was ostensibly Catholic) and she consistently refused to provide their Social Security numbers to the schools where they were briefly enrolled.

"They stayed very much to themselves while they were here," Gayman recalls. "When they did attend services, they attended very sporadically and sat on the very far back pew and hardly talked to anybody."

The boys shunned invitations by the other young people of the church to join in activities, he said, and only one family, whom Gayman did not identify, "took them under their wing" and became more than casually acquainted with them.

"They arrived here in late November of 1984," Gayman said. "It was after Thanksgiving, and they stayed until about the last of February or early March of the next year." When they left here, Mrs. Rudolph said they were headed to Florida to their daughter's place, and that's the last we heard of them until""

Gayman searches for the words to describe the news that would come 13 years later. He settles on "those horrendous events" in the southeastern United States, and muses: "Little did we know the awesome consequences that would come out of what we perceived as a Christian duty."


Bombings and manhunt

On Oct. 14, 1998, Eric Robert Rudolph was charged with the fatal bombing two years earlier at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park. He also was charged with the double bombings of an Atlanta area health clinic and a nightclub in 1997. Later, he was accused of the 1998 bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic that claimed the life of a police officer.

The Olympic Park bombing, on July 27, 1996, injured more than 100 people who had gathering to watch the ninth day of the Summer Olympics, according to the FBI, and killed Atlanta mother Alice Hawthorne. The bomb was placed near the main stage in the park.

At the Sandy Springs Professional Building in January 1997, a bomb exploded at Northside Family Planning Service. A second exploded in the parking lot an hour later, as authorities attempted to evacuate people from the building. No one was killed, but shrapnel injured four people.

A month later, a similar bombing occurred at the Otherside Lounge, a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta. Five people were injured in the initial blast, and authorities discovered a second device before it exploded.

In January 1998, the New Woman All Women Health Care Clinic in Birmingham was bombed. The bomb killed Birmingham police officer Robert Sanderson, who was moonlighting as a guard at the clinic, and severely injured the clinic's head nurse, Emily Lyons.

"The fatal bombing in Atlanta was a terrorist attack aimed at thousands of innocent persons gathered at the Olympic Park," said FBI Director Louis Freeh at the time. "Within the FBI's Domestic Terrorism Program, there is no higher priority than the capture of Eric Rudolph."

One of the biggest manhunts in federal history ensued for the 32-year-old Rudolph, who had been living in Murphy, N.C. The day the hunt began, Rudolph had been seen in Murphy, where he bought 75 pounds of food and rented a video. By the time federal agents reached his trailer in the mountains, the door was open and Rudolph was gone. The VCR was still playing the video he had rented, a B-grade sword and sorcery adventure titled "Kull the Conqueror."

Three years and $25 million later, Rudolph remains at large - or dead, perhaps, of accident or starvation or disease, his body rotting in the rugged North Carolina mountains where hundreds of federal agents with the latest high-tech gadgetry have failed to find him. The FBI has since called Rudolph a "lone wolf" who acted on his own, but has upped the reward for information leading to his capture to $1 million.

Also, Gayman's portrayal of the Rudolph family as loners who stayed on the fringes of church activities has been called into question by a couple who should know: Dan Gayman's son and daughter-in-law.

Tim and Sarah Gayman constituted the family that took the Rudolphs under their wing, under orders from the elder Gayman, they said recently.

The couple left the church in 1991, estranged themselves from the Gayman family, and are now in hiding in the western United States. They consider the Church of Israel a cult, and charge that Dan Gayman is lying about his relationship with Eric Rudolph.

"I promise you that the Rudolphs were invited," Sarah Gayman said. "After living in the trailer for a while, they moved into our house. We went on double dates together. Eric was dating Tim's sister, and Dan Gayman was grooming him as a son-in-law."

Eric Rudolph, they said, always seemed to be in a great deal of pain because of his father's death and the family's loss of the American dream. Eric Rudolph idolized Dan Gayman, Sarah Gayman said, and soon came to regard the charismatic minister as a foster father.

"Regardless of what he says now," Sarah Gayman said, "I'll bet that Dan Gayman was jumping up and down with joy when he heard about the bombing."

After Eric Rudolph was charged, the eldest Rudolph sibling, Daniel, then a carpenter living in South Carolina, made news with a gruesome and bizarre protest: He videotaped himself lopping off his right hand. He sent the tape to the FBI and went to a local hospital, where the hand was reattached.

Nord Davis, the right-wing activist who sent Patricia Rudolph to Schell City, was designated by Populist Party candidate Bo Gritz in 1992 as his choice for "secretary of defense." Davis died of colon cancer in 1997.

Jamie Rudolph, the younger brother who accompanied Eric Rudolph and their mother to the Church of Israel complex in the winter of 1984, is now a recording artist living in Manhattan. He's also gay.

In an interview last year with Salon magazine, Jamie Rudolph said Eric had visited him shortly before going into hiding in 1998. He said his brother appeared comfortable with his homosexuality, and that he gave no indication that he was about to make the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list, other than renting a movie for them to watch about Irish terrorists.

Also, Jamie Rudolph said his brother had formulated his political philosophy during the time he spent at the Church of Israel.

Wherever Eric Robert Rudolph is today, alive or dead, the legacy of having once served as host to the Rudolph family remains with the Church of Israel. Although Eric Rudolph has become a folk hero to the extreme right - the Posse Comitatus Web site has a page devoted to Rudolph titled "True American Hero" - merely mentioning the fugitive's name is enough to cause Dan Gayman to bristle.

"You know, the church has been here since 1941, and there has never been in our history a person arrested from this congregation on a racial incident," he said. "There has never been anyone who has actually been prosecuted and found guilty, convicted and sent to prison on a felony charge."

As Gayman was saying this, however, a letter from the church's attorney had recently been delivered to Scott Stinson, one of the church's junior pastors.

The letter accused him of "felony theft."

On the morning of Nov. 13, 2000, Gayman and Jerry Gentry, the Texas millionaire who had given the church a total of $600,000 in the past decade, went together to the Wilderness Sanctuary on church property. On the spot where the first rough-hewn church had been erected by the colony in the 1940s, the patriarch of the church and its most generous patron knelt to pray.

"I thanked him for his blessings and prayers," recalls the 57-year-old Gentry, "then told him that I needed to discuss something with him privately. He obliged, at which time I explained that Pastor Scott Stinson wished to make a separation, and had asked me to represent him."

Stinson, Gentry said, wanted three things: $20,000 in severance pay, a clear deed to his house, and the blessing of Dan Gayman, bishop of the Diocese of Manesseh of the Church of Israel.

Stinson had considered Gayman a spiritual mentor and came to Church of Israel as a pastor in 1993, after receiving degrees from the University of South Florida and Regents University at Virginia Beach, Va. Stinson was the author of a privately published Christian Identity book called "The Exodus to Come." He and his wife, Lori, eventually would have seven children, and in 1995 they moved into one of the two parsonages built with money donated by Gentry.

Gentry was able to control the donation, and take it as a tax write-off as well, because he funneled it through a nonprofit organization called the National Foundation, using a strategy called "donor-advised funds." The Church of Israel, however, hadn't been a nonprofit group since 1982.

In addition to the parsonages, which cost $100,000 each, a music and video production operation was added to the church annex.

Gentry, of Big Sandy, Texas, had made his fortune through publishing craft and needlepoint books. He once was the largest contributor to Herbert W. Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God before being "disfellowshipped" in the early 1980s. A part-time preacher himself, Gentry became enthusiastic about Gayman's work and considered himself a "seedliner" after reading "The Two Seedlines of Genesis 3:15." He began attending the Schell City church after it switched to Saturday worship in 1987, a move that Gayman considered a natural progression in restoring the authentic nature of the church.

"The transfer from Sunday to the biblical Sabbath has been one of the most important spiritual events in the life of the church," Gayman told a Sabbatarian meeting in 1998. "It has wrought powerful transformation in the lives of all the church members. The church has doubled in size and increased its evangelistic outreach to every state in the United States."

By the late 1990s, Gentry had become an insider in the church. Not only was he the church's most generous patron, according to his own account, but he had become one of Dan Gayman's most trusted advisers and friends. When Gayman was fretting about the heat the Church of Israel was taking from the news media after the Eric Rudolph story broke in 1998, for example, Gentry, a former newspaper reporter, aspiring screenwriter and Web master, advised Gayman to speak openly with the media.

Gayman tried, but he considered the results to be the same libelous trash that had been broadcast about the church for years. Later, Gayman would tell the Globe that reporters were often well-meaning, but that a negative "spin" was always placed on the stories by editors and owners. Now, Gayman won't even permit cameras on church property.

"There's never yet been one favorable expose of the church," he said. "It has resulted in people losing their jobs, and life is hard enough in this austere economic environment."


Patriarch vs. benefactor

By 1999, things had begun to sour between Gayman and Gentry. There were squabbles over doctrine, and Gentry was "disinvited" from services for a few months. Gentry also urged the church to take a more aggressive stance on doctrinal matters of race, conspiracy and sexual orientation, but Gayman balked. The lower the profile the church kept, Gentry recalls, the better Gayman felt.

Meanwhile, the Stinsons were discovering that life inside the Church of Israel was not quite what they had expected. Gayman kept secret "dirt files" on his junior pastors to keep them in line, according to Lori Stinson.

"In how many churches will the ministerial staff plot and scheme against their own to set them up for public slander and disgrace?" she asked in an open letter to Gayman, posted later on the Internet by Gentry. "How many churches practice and support hatred to the extent that the destruction of one's life and their family is the goal? Scott has been the recipient of that kind of hatred. The emotional pressure and spiritual duress that you have inflicted upon and allowed against Scott and our family is beyond words to describe."

Gayman was unhappy with the time Scott Stinson was spending with the church's scouting group (Boys Scouts of America Troop 777, called "God's troop" in church literature) and had become increasingly uncomfortable with Stinson's relationship with Bo Gritz, a former Army special forces officer who is now considered the leader of the Christian Patriot movement. Chief among Gritz's beliefs are that America is on the verge of an apocalyptic battle between good and evil, and that every American family should own a .50-caliber Barrett or Maadi-Griffin rifle, the only legal weapons capable of penetrating the body armor of a federal agent.

Gritz attended Passover at the church last April, uninvited, Gayman says, but he was allowed in because his wife, Judy, was well-known at the church colony. Gritz was attracted to the church because of its observance of traditional feast days, according to an article intended for his newsletter, and because of the Confederate flag in the upper left corner of the church standard. It was identical, Gritz said, to his great-grandfather Ethma Cauthen's square battle flag, in which the St. Andrews cross divided the blue field into four equal parts, representing the tribes of Judah, Reuben, Ephraim and Dan.

A former Scoutmaster, Gritz planned to help start an adventure program at the church, and made plans to return with his twin-engine Cessna and help the troop qualify for aviation merit badges. He was preparing for the return flight, according to Gritz, when a friend told him that the FBI had visited the church to interview Gayman.

Soon after, he received a fax "disinviting" him.

"The ministry and general life vision which God has called you to and that which He has called this Church to are not compatible," the fax said. "The (militant) program you are essentially calling for was one which the Church here endeavored to follow through the '70s and '80s." The church, however, had adopted a nonviolent stance in 1986, the fax pointed out.

A second fax likened Gritz's paramilitary Fellowship of Eternal Warriors to the defunct white supremacist group The Order. Gayman, according to Gritz, had been badly frightened by his association with the anti-government group.

The Church of Israel, Gayman pleaded, was too vulnerable to scrutiny by federal authorities and the news media to continue a relationship with Gritz.

"Reconsider making a marriage between what is commonly called 'Identity' and your ministry of 'Protection and Preparedness,' Gayman asked. "It is absolutely unrealistic to try and mix guns and Identity. Moreover you will bring nothing but reproach upon the gospel of the kingdom as you seek to mix the Maadi-Griffin or the Barrett with the words of Jesus Christ and His apostles."

Gritz bristled. His response:

"Gayman would do well to consider my response before the U.S. Senate Judiciary in answering Chairman Arlen Spector's question: 'In 25 words or less, what is wrong in America and what does the patriot movement want?' My obedient answer was: 'Fair treatment with everyone equal under the law and no one above the law, not even those wearing badges and carrying guns.' I have chosen Christ and our Constitution. My right to own firearms, including large-bore scoped weapons does not mean I advocate their illegal use."

Scott Stinson, who had had his photo taken in front of a Church of Israel flag with Gritz the previous April, refused to sign the fax.


'Dirt' files and records

It was the last straw for Gayman.

Stinson was chairman of the board of trustees, and on the board of the Christian Heritage Academy, which ran the 35-student private school on church property, but Gayman apparently found his support of Gritz dangerous. Also, Stinson had gained the favor of Gentry, the millionaire patron, for delivering a couple of sermons that accused the church leadership of hypocrisy.

And also, according to Gentry, Stinson had become uncomfortable with the way in which Gayman ran the church as if it were a family business. To protect himself, Gentry says, Stinson took some of the "dirt" files from the church office, the minutes from board meetings during which real-estate purchases were approved, and copies of real-estate deeds.

When Gentry met with Gayman at the Wilderness Sanctuary and delivered the terms of Stinson's separation from the church, the terms included the return of the records in Stinson's possession. The principals then met in the church office with Reed Benson, Gayman's son-in-law and replacement on the board of trustees, and Gray Clark, an assistant pastor.

A confidential agreement was drawn up: Stinson would receive the deed to the parsonage, and $20,000 in cash, and would announce to the congregation that he was leaving with Gayman's blessing to raise up a church in the American "hinterland." He also would remain an ordained minister. In return, Stinson would turn over all board minutes, business papers, church records and associated material and agree not to "discuss or disclose any incriminating information about the Church of Israel."

Gayman would have a one-year exclusive contract to sell the parsonage on Stinson's behalf; the true ownership of the home would be kept secret; and Gayman was to personally receive a $20,000 commission from the sale. Gayman would refrain from speaking negatively about Stinson and would write a one-page article in the church magazine "praising Scott Stinson's contributions to the Church of Israel from past and present and projecting his future success in the ministry."

"Dan Gayman will get the peace of mind that comes from knowing that he has finally gotten rid of Scott Stinson and his family without having a major crisis," the agreement said. Curiously, it also noted that Gayman had successfully "avoided one of the biggest internal conflicts that could ever threaten the Church of Israel."

When the cash had been paid out of a church safe containing more than $40,000, Gentry returned from his vehicle with a locked box containing the church documents. Gentry spread the documents out on a table, and Gayman inspected them while Clark went to type up the deed. After a mistake in the dimensions of the property was corrected, a notary was called in and the exchange was officially witnessed.

Gentry also was given $1,000 as a down payment on the work he had done as Web master of the Church of Israel's Web site. Gayman promised to deliver an additional $19,000 during the course of a year, at which point Gentry would surrender the Web site.

"I then learned there were additional files Scott wanted to have preserved in a lock box in the hands of two (other) parties," Gentry says. "He felt he needed those documents preserved outside his own immediate control, as an 'insurance policy' to hold Pastor Dan and those around him to their signed agreement, which he feared they would break."

Shortly after this, Stinson and Gentry received letters from the church's attorney, Kendall Vickers of Nevada, accusing them of blackmailing church leaders into the separation agreement. The letter accused Stinson of misappropriating church records, said the Nov. 13 agreement was coerced, and said their actions amounted to "felony theft." Neither Gayman nor the two members of the board of trustees had the authority, without the full board, to agree to the terms of the separation agreement, Vickers argued.

Although Stinson refused to comment on the split, on Dec. 17 Gentry posted a Web site ( where he made public most of the documents cited here. Church leaders were given the opportunity to respond, but said the letter from their attorney says everything they have to say.

Gentry claims he persuaded Stinson to destroy the remaining documents in his possession in a "burn barrel" just a few days after the November meeting. Gayman, Gentry said, had already carted boxes of church documents to the burn barrel for several night previously.

Gentry said last month that he was prepared to contact IRS officials with tax information the church would consider sensitive if the original agreement was not honored. Now, he says he would reveal such information only "if subpoenaed."

But the Gayman Web site, Gentry says, will remain up until the church agrees to follow the original Nov. 13 agreement.

As the weeks pass, a prolific amount of church documents have accumulated on the World Wide Web; on Jan. 13, for example, Gentry posted minutes of an April 1999 meeting during which trustees discussed the "danger" of having a for-profit business located on exempt church property. The business, which is owned by church member Bob Burney and produces a water purification device called Aqua Rain, was a major contributor to the church treasury.

Other documents reported the disappearance of $9,700 in church money; the perceived sexual misconduct of some younger church members; and oblique references to a lie detector test failed by an accused child molester within the congregation. The letter alleging the child molestation was written by Stinson, but the accused was not named.

Also, the National Heritage Foundation, the Falls Church, Va., nonprofit organization that now administers the Gentry fund, has dropped the Church of Israel as a designated charity. The group, which acquired the Gentry fund from a predecessor called the National Foundation, feared that keeping the church would anger the foundation's Jewish charities. And, according to federal regulations, nonprofit groups that contribute to organizations that practice racial discrimination are at risk of losing their tax-exempt status.

The foundation came under fire earlier from more traditional charities who accused the nonprofit group of exploiting "donor-advised funds" to help clients help themselves to tax breaks.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.