Maurice McArdle Johnson (November 28, 1893 – December 12, 1979) was a Christian Evangelist, Pastor, and Teacher, predominantly in the Southern California area who, early in his career, went through a process of separating from organized religion. He was instrumental in establishing Christian assemblies across the United States which are mostly still in existence.
Their doctrinal distinction is that they are (1) Dispensational, on the basis of a transition in the New Testament Book of Acts, depicting the transition from an all Jewish church with some characteristics of the Jewish Law, to the inclusion of Gentiles with all believers being under Grace, (2) all Christians belonging to the one true Church and not incorporating with denominational names, (3) the doctrine that there are no ordinances, such as water baptism and Holy Communion, nor holy days for Gentiles under the doctrine of Grace, (4) ministers being lay ministers cultivated in the local assemblies, staying away from seminaries. There is some teaching regarding staying away from sectarian religious institutions.
In the early 1920s Maurice Johnson was a soloist, choir director and director of young peoples work at Trinity Methodist Church in Los Angeles. In the fall of 1923 he resigned these positions and was appointed one of the Conference Evangelists at the Annual Methodist Conference.
The first meeting he held, preaching and singing with his wife Florence assisting at the piano, was in the Southern Methodist Church building in Sacramento, Ca. He was disappointed by the lack of response from the congregation. Another meeting followed sponsored by the young people of the Central Methodist Church in Phoenix, Ariz. The young people were enthusiastic, but the pastor soon revealed himself as a modernist. A third meeting in San Diego was likewise a disappointment. He found the pastor and his wife were commendable, but the Sunday School literature was almost completely modernistic in content. He left that meeting convicted that he could not with a good conscience continue to help add to the membership of such a congregation.
The next nine months were spent in Chicago as choir director and assistant pastor to J. C. O'Hair at the North Shore Congregational Church; but he had a burden to have his own pastorate. So he went back to California to the annual Methodist Conference in November and was assigned to the pastorate of the Broadway Methodist Church in Glendale, Ca. During the year he doubled the membership of the local church and many of the new members were admitted on profession of faith in Christ.
At the end of the conference year Maurice Johnson was put out of the Methodist ministry on the grounds of general unacceptability, mainly because we had refused to use the official Sunday School literature and was teaching the Bible in all the Sunday School classes. Over seventy five people came out of the Methodist denomination with him and straightway organized a fundamentalist church, Maranatha Tabernacle. A little over a year later he dissolved the corporation after having met Nels Thompson briefly, who convinced him that what he was doing at Maranatha Tabernacle was just as sectarian as the Methodist Church. In 1926, a small handful of folks which had stood with him also came out, declaring themselves free from all sectarian ties, and many of their descendents continue to gather together today.
Maurice Johnson and the assembly of those who came out of organized religion with him, met in rented facilities in the Los Angeles area. It was by design that the assemblies not purchase property but rent facilities. He had a radio broadcast locally and in other States. He traveled the country – California, Arizona, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Virginia, making contacts which developed into assemblies in those areas which grew over many years. The assemblies share close ties and folks travel to each other’s camp meeting, resulting in inter-marriage and deeper ties.
Johnson’s work has been documented to some extent, and preserved on the basis of what he taught that is not commonly taught among the denominations. His associates, in the wider ministry, have also made significant contribution in their ministries.
There were two court cases presented during his ministry by members of the Los Angeles area assembly, with support of the ministry and the assembly. Morey vs. Riddell was with regard to claiming IRS tax reduction for monetary contribution to the ministry when the assembly is not formally incorporated. The court ruled that the unincorporated assemblies were a viable representation of the Christian church. The Kenneth Yott Case was against North American Rockwell with regard to mandatory union membership in order for Mr. Yott to keep his job, whereas it was in violation of his Christian conscience to join any kind of an organization. The court did not decide in his favor.
In November of 1969, he and his wife moved permanently from the Los Angeles area to Orangevale, California. He turned the radio broadcasts over to Berl Chism, Jack Langford and James Cox. He had hoped to continue in public ministry in the Orangevale area, but he had major surgery in 1970 and a stroke in 1971 that left him with a severe form of aphasia---a condition which you know what you want to say, but the right words do not come out.
Maurice Johnson Archives - Our Doctrinal Distinction, June 2, 2012 Maurice Johnson Archives - Biographical/Retirement, June 2, 2012
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