Harold Camping, octogenarian founder and head of Family Stations Inc., is now roiling churches by saying that Christians are in the Great Tribulation and should depart from their congregations.
"No longer are you to be under the spiritual rulership of the church," Camping wrote in a 2001 tract, "Has the Era of the Church Age Come to an End?" He cites the injunction of Jesus for believers to flee a "Jerusalem" that has been "compassed with armies." Camping has stimulated controversy in the past. In 1992 he published a book saying that the second coming of Christ would likely occur in 1994.
In cities such as New York, where for more than 30 years Family Radio outlet WFME has been a gospel beacon, ministers are reporting defections as members heed Camping's call. Family Radio, founded in 1958 and based in Oakland, California, has 40 licensed stations, along with dozens of repeater stations.
Peter LaRuffa, associate pastor of North Shore Baptist Church in Bayside, Queens, says his congregation lost "three to five families" due to Camping's teaching on his daily Open Forum program. "It's sad that a ministry that has helped us so much in the past is hurting us now," LaRuffa says.
William Shishko of the Franklin Square (N.Y.) Orthodox Presbyterian Church reports a related 10 percent decrease in membership. "One of the Camping followers who has left our church was a deacon," Shishko says. "He came to the point that he refused to submit to two of the church elders here. This man and his family left the church, as did several members of his extended family and two other families."
According to apologist James White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries in Phoenix, Camping allegorizes Scripture almost beyond recognition: "If you divorce ...