Article on webChurch of Bible Understanding Box 841 Radio City Sta. New York, NY 10019-0841
The Church of Bible Understanding was founded in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1971 by Canadian-born Stewart Traill (b. 1936). An atheist at the time of his marriage in 1959, Traill turned to the study of religion after the birth of several children, and decided that Christianity was the true faith. He began attending an independent Pentecostal church in Allentown in 1970, held Bible meetings in the church's gymnasium, and frequented a coffee-house sponsored by a Presbyterian congregation. Eventually, both the church and coffeehouse evicted Traill, citing his creation of doctrinal dissension. With a few followers, he began to hold meetings in several locations in Allentown. The group organized as the Forever Family. While never associating with the larger Jesus People Movement which had come to the East Coast from California, the Forever Family adopted many of his characteristics.
The Forever Family grew quickly throughout the East, Midwest, and even into Canada. At its peak it was reported to have as many as 10,000 adherents and 110 communal fellowships scattered as widely as Montreal, Charleston, and eastern Michigan. However, in the mid-1970s the group began to be attacked by the media as a cult, and several members were deprogrammed. At this time the church adopted its present name. Internal dissension grew when in the fall of 1976 Traill divorced and remarried within a few weeks.
Traill's teachings, which follow a conservative evangelical theology on most points, have two emphases which set it apart from other Christian bodies. First, Traill teaches that the Bible is a figurative book. He developed a simplified method of Bible interpretation called the "Colored Bible Method," as it breaks down the light of understanding into ten important subject areas. This method uses the Bible's own method of true interpretation, "the only real one!" Secondly, members of the group are aggressive in their evangelism and separatist in their lifestyle. The church is seen as a flock called together under Jesus the Good Shepherd. Members are His sheep. New members are generally referred to as lambs. Organizationally, the church has adopted a communal lifestyle built around individual fellowships which live together in single residences. Each fellowship is headed by a male leader. All fellowships in a single area are grouped into "centers" over which a leader responsible to Traill is placed. The group has developed a number of businesses to support its fellowships and ministry.
Membership: It was estimated that by 1980 the church had approximately 700 members in 13 fellowships.
Periodicals: Lamb Ledger. Send orders to 607 W. 51 St., New York, NY 10019.Sources:
Duffy, Joseph. "The Church of Bible Understanding, A Critical Expose." Alternatives (New York) 4, no. 6 (April/May 1977). Traill, Stewart. The Gospel of John in Colors. Worcester, MA: Church of Bible Understanding, 1976.