Protestant Sects
‘The Body’ Loses Its Earthly Head

Sam Fife, founder of the small “Body of Christ” sect, often traveled in his own airplane throughout the Western Hemisphere to visit groups of his estimated 10,000 adherents. On one such trip, April 26, Fife, 54, and three followers died. The Piper Commander that Fife was piloting crashed in bad weather into a Guatemalan hillside 120 miles west of Guatemala City. The victims were on a visit to the group’s Quiche Theological Institute and one of two dozen “wilderness” farms scattered across Canada, the United States, and Latin America.

Despite Fife’s death, the group itself, which also has been called “The End Times Ministry,” “The Movement,” and simply “The Body,” is expected to live.

“The local groups are autonomous,” explained an elder of a rural Greentown, Ohio, Body of Christ unit, organized after Fife conducted Bible studies in the north Canton area in the late 1960s. The elder told Akron Beacon Journal religious newsman Peter Geiger that the church would survive because “we don’t follow a man.… We follow Sam Fife only as he follows Christ.” Fife reportedly taught dependence on the Bible as a guide for life and on his teaching as an apostle of the group. The Body of Christ affirms a belief in continuing revelation, as spoken through the leaders, or apostles, of its various local units.

Little is known about the group, mostly because members shun publicity and live in remote areas. Several cult-watching groups, such as Spiritual Counterfeits Project in Berkeley, California, keep files on the Body—indicating that it is regarded as cultic by some. In certain respects, the Body of Christ resembles Pentecostalism, the Miami Herald noted, since members practice faith healing and ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: