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Vern Bennom Grimsley

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Vern Bennom Grimsley
Succeeded by??
Vern Bennom Grimsley

(1940-12-07)December 7, 1940
DiedJanuary 1, 2011(2011-01-01) (aged 70)
ReligionChristianity (evangelical Protestantism)
Nancy L. Smithe
(m. 1960; died 2011)
Senior posting

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Vern Bennom Grimsley (December 22, 1940-January 1, 2011) was a campus preacher[1] in the San Francisco Bay Area, most famous for his intellectual engagement with students at University of California, Berkeley of the emerging, unfolding modern scientific worldview, and how one finds faith in a living God in that intellectual development, from which he recorded most (but not all) of his daily religious radio broadcasts. His theology was Christian theistic unitarian (small 'u'). He emphasized the centrality of personal religious experience, though in a nontrinitarian theology. Sometime in the 1970s{cn}}, he discovered the Urantia Book and began preaching about Urantia, and his Urantia popularity grew considerably, despite its distinct contrasts from the theological framework of his previous message.[2] He retired in 2004 because of personal illness but continued to write and speak, completing a book of his sermons in 2010. Vern Bennom Grimsley died only a few months later on January 1, 2011[3][4], at the age of 71, in the town of Oakhurst, California, where he and his wife Nancy had lived for 25 years, and from which he ran the Spiritual Renaissance® Institute, which he founded.


Vern Grimsley was born December 22, 1940, in Garden City, Kansas, to parents who were Congregationalists with strong religious interests. In his youth, Vern also functioned as the interim preacher at his local church for a few months while the church found and hired the official minister. He would write and deliver the sermons but not be involved in the other official church activities.

In 1955, his parents sent him to a private preparatory boarding school in Culver, Indiana for three years.[5] In 1958, as an alumnus of Culver Military Academy, Vern later returned to Kansas to become one of the youngest radio newscasters and DJs in the nation while still finishing high school. His station - KNCO (AM) (830 AM) in Grass Valley, California - reached several states, including Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, and Oklahoma. Vern won the Kansas State Chamber of Commerce speaking and essay contest, meriting a trip to Washington, D.C. where fellow Kansan Dwight D Eisenhower personally congratulated Vern in the Oval Office. While studying (for three years - 1955–1958) in Culver, he came into contact with Rev. Dr. Meredith Justin Sprunger, who was pastor of the Grace United Church of Christ.[6] Sprunger was not hesitant to introduce The Urantia Papers to anyone who might exhibit a slight interest, and had introduced some of his parishioners to the Papers. One of those parishioners told Grimsley of the Papers, who then sought out Sprunger to learn more.

In 1963, he was graduated from the University of Kansas with the bachelor's degree; he had been involved with the Phi Beta Kappa Society and the Sigma Chi Fraternity during his years there, where he shared with his fraternity brothers his interest in The Urantia Book.[7] In 1964, almost immediately after his college graduation, he began the Spiritual Renaissance Broadcast[8] over KFAX in San Francisco. By the late 1970s, his Worldwide Broadcasting Network was reaching all 50 states, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and China and the Pacific Rim nations.

In 1981, Grimsley received the Prince of Peace Award "For extraordinary and continuous contribution in bringing hope, peace and the gospel of Christ to Jerusalem and all the peoples of the Middle East" from the Otis Star of Hope Foundation.[citation needed] Vern spoke to civic audiences from coast to coast, and lectured for the American Management Association. His On Campus broadcasts were aired on American Forces Radio Network, and Radio Free Europe ran his special on Youth and Religion behind the Iron Curtain in several languages. Vern was interviewed three times by George McManus for his Peabody Award-winning series on the CBS Network titled Man and his Religion.[citation needed] At the height of his broadcast career, annual worldwide listenership to Vern's Spiritual Renaissance and On Campus programs was estimated at over 284 million per year.[9][citation needed]


In 2004 following an illness, Vern retired, and he and his wife, Nancy, lived more flexibly in Oakhurst in the California mountains. Vern continued to write and broadcast, and his book, Fragments of Philosophy, was completed in 2010. Mr. Grimsley enjoyed playing the guitar and performed at many Oakhurst events. Mr. Grimsley served as chairman for the Eastern Madera County Emergency Preparedness Committee, and was nominated as Oakhurst's Volunteer of the Year.[citation needed]

Vern Bennom Grimsley died Jan. 1, 2011, at the age of 71.[10] A memorial service was held at 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 6 at Palm Memorial Sierra Chapel in Oakhurst, California, and burial was at Oakhill Cemetery, also in Oakhurst. He was survived by wife Nancy Smithe Grimsley of Oakhurst, California; his sister Mona Marie Grimsley (Mona Marie Hett, Mona Marie Hubert) of Topeka, Kansas; his niece Monica Marie Hubert Miller of Oakhurst, California; and three children Veronica, Cameron, and Vanessa.



  • 1982, Vern Bennom Grimsley Affair[11][12]:
May 2 -- Death of Emma Christensen, the last living contact commissioner: The death of Emma Christensen precipitated a power struggle between Martin Myers and Vern Grimsley for influence amongst the readership. Vern used his charismatic appeal to the readership as his primary tool. Martin used his knowledge of the legal system. The end result was a disaster. Vern's organization was completely destroyed in the process, and the credibility of Martin's Urantia Foundation was seriously damaged -- perhaps permanently. Each of these dedicated men was reduced to the status of pariah amongst most of the established readership. At that time, the remaining two of the original four "Christy's Boys", Richard Keeler and Hoite Caston, took over the effort to control the development of the rapidly emerging readership as well as the attempted salvage of Urantia Foundation.


Other than personal and organizational controversies, criticisms of Grimsley's thematic messages are found throughout the history of Christendom, and his udnerlying thematic messages have already emerged throughout those two millennia. Grimsley was originally operating from within what became the United Church of Christ denomination, a highly visible denomination that at intermittent times was deemed nearly as liberal as the Unitarian Universalist Association = but not quite. It may be curious to have the appearance of "religious reformers" operating from within a "historic denomination" where many thought only "religious dropping out" would occur. The sudden interest in Urantia may have put that public expectation of "religious reform" or "a prophet" in jeopardy. But the inherent juxtaposition of "religiosu reality" and "dead letter" of text may have seemed like someone very earnest who was publicly and privately seeking for "religious space" where others pressed more for "defintion" than what Karl Jaspers and perhaps also Patrick Masterson called a "cipher of transcendence".[13]

We think that, although he was a popular 'street preacher' in the SF Bay Area around the time of the Jesus Movement, he was NOT mentioning Urantia in the early 1970s, so somehow his 'discovery' was life changing to him (he was interested in the 'category of reality' for religious experiences and thought that Bible as a record of religious revelatory experiences pointed toward that category.


Speeches and broadcasts[edit]

See also[edit]

External references[edit]

Additional reading[edit]


  1. Grimsley's outdoor campus sermons
  2. Urantia and Other Esoteric Writings, May 12, 2011 at 10:42 PM
  3. Charland, G.G., and Glass, D. In Memoriam—Vern Bennom Grimsley, Tidings from Associations around Urantia № 53, January-April 2012, page 8
  4. Obituary: Vern Bennom Grimsley, Sierra Star, January 5, 2012
  5. Chapter 29, Destiny Turns
  6. Obituary for Rev. Dr. Meredith Justin Sprunger, MTh (Princeton), PhD, at 97
  7. Photograph of the five fraternity brothers, including former Urantia trustees Hoite Caston and Martin Myers, trustee Richard Keeler, David Gray, and Vern Grimsley, serenading 'Colntact' Emma Christensen at Family of God Foundation headquarters with an old fraternity song, May 1980
  8. Spiritual Renaissance Broadcast broadcast
  9. Grimsley, N. Spiritual Renaissance Conference, Family of God Diary, Spring 1979, #45, Family of God Foundation
  10. A condolences message about Francis Carter Newsom was signed as Vern & Nancy Grimsley on April 16, 2011
  11. The Vern Grimsley Affair: The possibility of a U.S. intelligence/security community conspiracy being responsible for voices heard by Urantia movement leader, Vern Grimsley, in 1982-83, in Urantiagate: the Conspiracy Hypothesis
  12. Kendall, T.A., Kendall, C.B. Response to Urantia Foundation's Special Report to Readers of The Urantia Book and Comments on Other Related Subjects, June 21. 1990
  13. Book ordering page for Ciphers of Transcendence: Essays in Philosophy of Religion in Honour of Patrick Masterson, by Fran O’Rourke (Editor), Irish Academic Press | Merrion Press
  14. Grimsley, N. Spiritual Renaissance Conference, Family of God Diary, Spring 1979, #45, Family of God Foundation
  15. Grimsley's outdoor campus sermons
  16. Grimsley, N. Spiritual Renaissance Conference, Family of God Diary, Spring 1979, #45, Family of God Foundation
  17. Grimsley's outdoor campus sermons

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