The Branham Tabernacle was Bro. William Branham’s home church. Bro. Branham began his church in 1933, at first holding meetings in a tent. The same year he laid the cornerstone of the church and placed in it copy of a prophecy he made that year as a sort of time capsule.
Bro. Branham often said, “If you don’t believe what I am saying, go dig up the cornerstone.” This is exactly what the unbelievers did, and the cornerstone was jack hammered open on the day of Bro. Branham’s funeral. Unfortunately, the tin can in which Bro. Branham had placed his papers was not sealed and moisture and breached it. The contents where were nearly completely decayed and unreadable. This event was witnessed by multiple members of the Tabernacle, including Banks Woods and James Allen.
The Tabernacle was completely flooded in the 1937 Ohio River Flood. It has been completely renovated multiple times. Air conditioning was installed in 1964.
Attendees of the Tabernacle in the 1930s and 1940s report that Bro. Branham had a rebellious deacon board who frequently challenged him and the direction he desired to take the church. They generally opposed the use of musical instruments and were heavily influenced by the Church of Christ which many of them had came from. After Bro. Branham began his healing campaigns, he appointed Graham Snelling as pastor. Snelling served as pastor until immorality was found in him life. Orman Neville became pastor following that. Neville likewise had to contend with a rebellious deacon board. The makeup of the congregation had shifted dramatically during the 1950s and many out-of-towners began moving to Jeffersonville to be closer to Bro. Branham. These newcomers were often quite fanatical and many were disliked by the existing members.
The Tabernacle was not a peaceful church. It was riven with many personal disputes, doctrinal disputes, and fanaticism. This played a significant role in Bro. Branham deciding to move to Arizona.
Church Order, a set of rules Bro. Branham established in 1963, was done primarily at the urging of the deacon board. The deacon board opposed the open manifestations of the gifts of the spirit, unless Bro. Branham was the operator of the gift. The rules were used by the deacons primarily as a tool to prevent church members from speaking in tongues or prophesying. Willard Collins took the rules to a new level, banning candy, speaking in church, and even shutting off the water fountain and locking the bathrooms at times. This in a church without air conditioning in hot summer weather.
The deacon board and most of the out-of-towners, including the McGuires, the Simpsons, and led by Fred Sothmann, had largely accepted the false idea that Bro. Branham was God during the early 1960s. Bro. Branham rebuked them all for their idolatry, but the belief persisted. Willard Collins, Charlie Cox, and other leading members continue to privately practice and share the belief throughout their life.
After Bro. Branham’s death, there was a large exodus from the Tabernacle. The majority of attendees left for other message churches. Those who left included long-time deacons like Glenn Funk, and multiple other long-time members who refused to accept the idolatry that was being established as orthodoxy by the deacon board. Bro. Neville attempted to resist the push by the deacon board, but was unsuccessful in changing their minds. They took down the picture of Jesus Christ that hung over the altar and replaced it with a picture of William Branham. Preaching by ministers gave way to listening to tapes. In December 1966, the church board of Tabernacle overthrew Bro. Neville and installed Billy Paul as pastor for a period of time. Willard Collins eventually became pastor because Billy Paul refused to continue in the position.
Today, regular church services are no longer held at the Tabernacle and it is primarily a museum. Collins and the deacon board resigned in 2015, and nearly the entire congregation abandoned the Tabernacle. Their actions were a reaction to Billy Paul Branham actions. Financial irregularities were discovered by the deacon board after Billy Paul, who served as church treasurer, refused to provide from the church treasury funds to help members in the church who had fallen on hard times. As the situation escalated, Billy Paul through legal maneuverings, had the deed to the church and all it’s assets transferred into his sole control. This was the final straw which led to the abandonment of the Tabernacle by it’s congregation.
Prayer services are still occasionally held at the Tabernacle on Wednesday nights. We advise you not to attend, they are quite spooky. There are multiple other message Churches in the Jeffersonville area. If you should visit the Tabernacle, remember to not speak in the building or you will be ejected. Silent prayer to William Branham is permitted though.