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Jesus People USA

Jesus People USA
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Jesus People USA (JPUSA) is a Christian intentional community of 400 people [1] in Uptown, on the North Side of Chicago, Illinois. It was founded in 1972,[2] coming out of Jesus People Milwaukee in the Jesus Movement, and is the largest of the few remaining communes from that movement. In 1989, JPUSA joined the Evangelical Covenant Church[3] as a member congregation, and currently has eight pastors credentialed with the ECC. The community organizes the former annual Cornerstone Festival.[4]


Cornerstone magazine and the Christian rock band the Resurrection Band are part of the JPUSA community. In recent years, Resurrection Band disbanded, but Glenn Kaiser continues touring and playing, both solo and with the blues-based GKB (Glenn Kaiser Band). JPUSA also has its own recording company, Grrr Records. JPUSA was once the home of film producer/art promoter Anthony Cox (who was formerly the husband of Yoko Ono) and their daughter Kyoko, singer/songwriter Daniel Smith as well as bass player/vocalist Christian Wargo.

JPUSA runs an extensive program for Chicago-area homeless women and children, Cornerstone Community Outreach. Some of the ministries involved with CCO are Sylvia Center (interim housing for families), Naomi's Place (an overnight women's drop-in shelter) and Brothas & Sistas United (an alternative youth program). A more complete list of CCO programs is here.[5]

Today Jesus People USA is "one of the largest single-site communes in the United States"[6] and is certainly one of the few communes with such an eclectic cultural mix of hippies, punks, "crusties" and others from various subcultures.


Enroth controversy

In 1993 JPUSA elders learned that Dr. Ronald Enroth was researching a sequel to his book Churches That Abuse, which was said to mention issues of abuse within JPUSA. Despite efforts of elders to convince Enroth to edit JPUSA out of the book, it was published in 1994 and included a full chapter of accounts of alleged abuse within the group. The release of the book set off a "firestorm of debate among religious scholars." JPUSA elders referred to the book as "poison in the well." Ruth Tucker, a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, defended the movement, saying Enroth was "sadly misdirected and his research methods seriously flawed." Paul R. Martin, the director of Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center, one of the few residential treatment centers in the world for former members of "abusive groups," supported Enroth's findings, saying that his facility had seen a flood of requests for help from former members and that JPUSA "displays virtually every sign that I watch for in overly authoritarian and totalistic groups."[7] Ronald Enroth himself responded to JPUSA in the book, in part, with:

"There has been much correspondence between leaders of the Covenant Church and JPUSA and me since I began to do the research for this book. They have questioned the integrity of my reports, the reliability of my respondents, and my sociological methodology, but I have conducted more than seventy hours of in-depth interviews and telephone conversations with more than forty former members of JPUSA. They have also largely discounted the reports of abusive conditions past and present in the JPUSA community. ... Unwilling to admit serious deficiencies and insensitivity in their pastoral style, the leaders of JPUSA have instead sought to discredit the former members who have cooperated with my research efforts."[8]

According to a later newspaper article, as a result of the book's mention of JPUSA, "scores" of members decided to leave the group.[9]

Chicago Tribune criticism

In 2001, the Chicago Tribune published a two-part article primarily critical of the movement, with quotes from several ex-members accusing the group of authoritarian practices.[7][9] One of the JPUSA activities criticized in the article includes "adult spankings," employed after charismatic leader Jack Winters introduced it as a means to heal the "inner child." The practice, which lasted approximately four years in the mid 1970s, was abandoned by the group, with leaders citing it as reflective of how "spiritually immature" the group was at the time.[7]

JPUSA issued a response to the two-part article, found on their website, which accuses the article of "anti-religious bias and cultural intolerance."[10]

Looking at the long term: JPUSA's social significance

The group's long-term existence and historic roots in the 1960s make it, according to sociologist Shawn Young, one of the most contemporary significant groups from the Jesus movement era:

Founded in 1972, this community is one of the most significant surviving expressions of the original Jesus Movement of the sixties and seventies and represents a radical expression of contemporary countercultural evangelicalism. JPUSA’s blend of Christian Socialism, theological orthodoxy, postmodern theory and ethos of edgy artistic expression (as demonstrated at their annual music festival) prove what some scholars have longed suspected: evangelicalism is a diverse, complex movement, which simply does not yield to any attempt at categorization. [11]

No Place To Call Home

In 2009, filmmaker and former JPUSA resident JM Prater began work on a documentary film called No Place to Call Home.[12] The film featured allegations of widespread sexual abuse at JPUSA.[13] Many of the instances were allegedly not reported by JPUSA's leadership. Prater sent inquires to former JPUSA members and reported that:

"There were allegedly multiple adults, male and female, preying upon the kids at Jpusa. Statistically, in terms of kids who grew up contacted. Of the 70 (out of 140) who responded, 50 PERCENT were molested by an adult living in the commune."[14]

Lawsuits against JPUSA and the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) have been filed in Cook County Circuit Court.[15]


  • Young, Shawn David, M.A., Hippies, Jesus Freaks, and Music (Ann Arbor: Xanedu/Copley Original Works, 2005). ISBN 1-59399-201-7


  1. ^ "Call of God Can Go in Unexpected Directions". Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  2. ^ "ABOUT US | Jesus People USAJesus People USA". April 28, 2011. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ "Cornerstone Festival 2012 :: Home". June 30, 2011. Retrieved January 28, 2013. 
  5. ^ [2][dead link]
  6. ^ Timothy Miller (1999). "The Sixties Communes: Hippies and Beyond". Syracuse University Press. 
  7. ^ a b c Kirsten Scharnberg (April 1, 2001). "Commune's iron grip tests faith of converts: First of two parts". Chicago Tribune. 
  8. ^ Enroth, Ronald (1994). Recovering From Churches That Abuse. Zondervan Publishing House. ISBN 0-310-39870-3. 
  9. ^ a b Kirsten Scharnberg (April 2, 2001). "Exodus from commune ignites battle for souls: Second of two parts". Chicago Tribune. 
  10. ^ [3][dead link]
  11. ^ Young, Shawn David (Summer 2010). "From Hippies to Jesus Freaks: Christian Radicalism in Chicago's Inner-City". Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 22 (2). 
  12. ^ "noplacetocallhome". noplacetocallhome. Retrieved 2014-06-24. 
  13. ^ "Midwest Christian Outreach Inc. Blog — Jesus People Conflict: The Next Generation". Retrieved 2014-06-24. 
  14. ^ "An Interview With Jaime Prater, Filmmaker Raised At JPUSA, Alleged Sexual Abuse Within". Uptown Update. 2013-06-04. Retrieved 2014-06-24. 
  15. ^ "Dozens of Children Abused at Evangelical Commune, Adult Survivors Allege | Gleanings". 2014-02-28. Retrieved 2014-06-24. 

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