The head of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), of which cult leader Jim Jones was a minister in good standing, has issued a statement saying the denomination will consider initiating procedures for removing errant congregations from fellowship.
The Rev. Kenneth L. Teegarden explained that under the denomination's form of government, in which each local congregation is autonomous, "it is neither possible nor has it been desirable to conduct investigations of the activities or ministries of local congregations."
"We have stood firmly for a variety of styles and approaches to Christian missions and ministries. However, because of the awesome tragedy, we will initiate at the earliest possible moment a proposal to determine whether this denomination, which has prided itself on an openness to congregations as well as individuals, wants to develop a procedure, which it does not now have, for removing congregations from fellowship," he said.
He said the denomination had a "bare knowledge that People's Temple of Redwood Valley, Calif., had a Guyana colony and no appreciation of the fanaticism that could have led to the human destruction that took place.
"We are deeply anguished by this mammoth tragedy and express sympathy to the families in the U.S. that lost loved ones," Teegarden said. "We also express a sincere pastoral concern for the innocent persons of People's Temple in California who may have been victimized in their religious zeal."
In a pamphlet distributed to outsiders, Jones had written that his "People's Temple is an extensive ministry based on the practical teachings of Jesus as literally set forth in Matthew 25, in which He admonishes us to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and minister to the sick and imprisoned." Jones stressed in the pamphlet that he was "an officially ordained minister of the 1.4-million-member Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination."
The denomination's 1978 Yearbook and Directory lists Jones as an ordained minister "with recognized standing," connected with the People's Temple Christian Church.
Regional officials of the denomination in California said a review was made when local authorities began investigating Jones' movement last year, but no action was taken.