Roanoke Times
                 Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: SUNDAY, January 17, 1993                   TAG: 9301170144
SECTION: VIRGINIA                    PAGE: A-1   EDITION: METRO 
DATELINE: MARTINSVILLE                                LENGTH: Long


AUTHORITIES SAY they have stopped pursuing bigamy charges against Martinsville-area minister Elwood Gallimore. But Gallimore says he has two wives, one 16 years old, and pretty soon the three of them might live together.

Elwood Gallimore and his two wives don't yet live together.

But the minister, his wife of 26 years, and the 16-year-old Floyd County girl he "married" last month have spent a few nights under the same roof.

"Everybody says, `Well, they're all sleeping together,'" Gallimore said of his critics during an interview Friday. "But Sabrina [the teen-ager] goes to one bedroom, Janice goes to another, and whichever one I want to sleep with, I sleep with."

Gallimore's preachings and practices have been under scrutiny since it was revealed Tuesday that authorities were investigating him for - among other things - bigamy.

Bigamy is a felony in Virginia. Henry County prosecutor Bob Bushnell says Gallimore and Sabrina Simpkins may be married "in the eyes of God," as Gallimore says, but they're not married in the eyes of Virginia law.

Authorities will not pursue a bigamy charge, Bushnell said.

"If you're talking about a declaration of riding up the road and saying, `We're married,'" Bushnell said, "I don't consider that a marriage, and I don't think any court would."

Sabrina Hope Simpkins is a Floyd County High School student. Her parents began taking her to Gallimore's services when she was an infant.

Gallimore preaches that to marry a woman, a man merely has to ask the question. If she consents, the couple is married "in God's eyes."

One night in December, while Gallimore was driving Simpkins back to Floyd County, Gallimore asked. Simpkins said "yes."

When Gallimore's father, Daniel, died five years ago, Gallimore took over the ministry at the Evangelistic Tabernacle in Henry County.

Since then, claiming to follow the teachings of William Marrion Branham, Gallimore has been preaching that the Bible sanctions polygamy.

Branham was a modern-day minister, based in Jeffersonville, Ind. Branham's followers believe he was a prophet. He died in 1965, but his sons - Billy Paul and Joseph Marrion Branham - carry on his ministry.

Billy Paul Branham, contacted Friday by telephone, was stunned to learn Gallimore was preaching polygamy and justifying it with his father's teachings.

"Two living wives? At the same time?" Branham asked. "That's what we call polygamy. We absolutely do not believe in that."

Branham went on to say that Gallimore's interpretation of his father's preachings was "totally the opposite" of his father's intent. In fact, Branham said his father's followers are taught that they can remarry only if a spouse dies.

Willard Collins is the pastor of Jeffersonville's Branham Tabernacle, which was founded by William Marrion Branham. Collins said Branham was "one of the cleanest-living men" and would never have sanctioned multiple marriages.

Branham, Collins confirmed, even refused to marry a divorced person whose former spouse was still alive. Collins had never heard of a wedding like the Gallimore-Simpkins event.

"That just seems so ridiculous to me," he said. "Is there anything we can do to stop it? I tell you, it's ridiculous, especially connecting himself to Brother Branham."

Gallimore admits that other followers of Branham have a different interpretation of their prophet's teachings.

But more than 100 parishioners frequently squeeze into the Evangelistic Tabernacle four nights a week to hear Gallimore's spin on the religion.

A five-piece band - including a drummer and a man on the electric guitar - provide the music. It's a charismatic service, with lots of "amens" from the parishioners.

In addition to allowing men to have more than one wife, the church believes people can speak in tongues. Gallimore says he can't speak in tongues, but from time to time a church member does.

Though some have left the church since Gallimore took over, he appears to have a loyal following. That includes Sabrina Simpkins' mother.

"We strictly follow God's word from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelations," Brenda Simpkins said. "That's all we're trying to do. This is our belief. The way I see it, it's nobody else's business."

On a Wednesday night in December, Gallimore told his parishioners that he had married Sabrina Simpkins. Though he had been preaching polygamy all along, Gallimore said the announcement was met with "a few big eyes across the audience."

After the sermon, however, he said most of the church members congratulated him and many of the women told Sabrina "how lucky she was."

Despite his frankness, Gallimore said he waited a few days after his marriage to Sabrina to tell his wife, and only after she brought the subject up.

"I said, `Yeah, we are married,' and that kind of hit her in the face pretty hard." Janice Gallimore declined to be interviewed for this story.

Gallimore says he has nothing to hide. Since authorities seized 426 videotapes last Friday from a house on church property, he has maintained he did nothing illegal.

The videotapes are nothing more than recordings of five years of his sermons, he says. A search warrant indicated that authorities suspected him of conducting marriages without a license.

Gallimore admits he's not a licensed minister. But he says he also knows Virginia law; he didn't conduct any wedding ceremonies.

Floyd County prosecutor Gino Williams said he will decide Tuesday whether to charge Gallimore with anything.

As confident as Gallimore is about his status with the law, he is perhaps more confident about his standing with women.

He is 6 feet 3 inches tall, weighs 210 pounds, and works out regularly. Women have been showing interest in him for years, he says. His marriage to Sabrina Simpkins has nothing to do with sex or his ego.

To the criticism that he "robbed the cradle," Gallimore frankly states that a minister who takes a second wife has to marry a virgin. With society the way it is today, he says, most virgins are under 20 years old.

With all the commotion caused by his marriage to Simpkins, Gallimore says he'll give it some thought before marrying again.

Not that he won't have the opportunity.

"A lot of young girls, since I've married this one, have said, `I wish he'd have asked me,' " he said.

"I'm not asking another girl to marry me. I may change my mind in 10 or 15 years, but right now I wouldn't have another one."

by Bhavesh Jinadra by CNB