On the thirtieth anniversary of the Jonestown tragedy, DisciplesWorld explores what happened on November 18, 1978, in the Guyana jungle, and asks the toughest question of all: Could it happen again?

In the November 2008 issue of DisciplesWorld, eyewitnesses and others reflect on Jim Jones, his ministry, his decline, and his relationship to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ):

•    California pastor and writer Katherine Willis Pershey considers how Jim Jones managed to lead more than 900 people to their deaths while his church was still listed in the Disciples’ Yearbook and Directory. Pershey explains that what happened in 1978 doesn’t reflect what the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is really about. Yet, the Disciples’ ability to tolerate theological diversity and its commitment to congregational autonomy enabled Jones to lead the Peoples Temple Christian Church to its unfathomable end.

•    Among the victims of the mass murder–suicide in Jonestown was Sharon Kislingbury, 22, of Burlingame, Calif. Four of her letters, written from Jonestown, will be reprinted in DisciplesWorld, along with a story by her brother, journalist Graham Kislingbury, entitled, “Remembering Sharon: A brother reflects on Jonestown.”

•    Hear from survivors themselves in interviews with DisciplesWorld managing editor Sherri Wood Emmons. Explore with her who the people of Jonestown were and what really happened on that terrible day in November. Thirty years later, even some who were there can’t answer that question completely.

•    Imagine being the public relations officer for the church when one of your ministers murders more than 900 people. For more than a month in 1978, DisciplesWorld editor emeritus Robert Friedly did nothing but answer phone calls from Disciples, the media, and the FBI. Read his account of how the church handled the storm of controversy.

Subscribe to DisciplesWorld by October 6 online to receive this special November 2008 issue on Jonestown.

DisciplesWorld is a journal of news, opinion, and mission for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). By design it is not supported by Disciples Mission Fund, but is a recognized organization serving the whole church.

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