Why 66-year-old Irvine plans a doctorate on ‘the greedy TV evangelists’
Published on Thursday 21 February 2013 13:00
AT the mature age of 66, Irvine Grey concedes that he may have lived life in reverse! He has just graduated with his third university degree – including two Masters – within the past eight years.
And right now, he’s negotiating to begin a PhD – in Kenya of all places.
The Bleary man, who ran Medimoneycare in High Street in Lurgan for almost 30 years, landed his third degree a few weeks ago. His Master of Philosophy Degree (Queen’s University, Belfast) was awarded for his research thesis into the history, sociology and theology of a religious movement started in Tipperary by William Irvine and Edward Cooney in 1897.
Said Irvine, “They refused to have a label, although they are known as ‘Two-by-Two’, based on Jesus having told his disciples to go out and preach ‘two by two’. They are also known as “The Cooneyites” after Edward Cooney, whom Irvine actually met in 1959, when Cooney was 90. There are about 4,000 followers throughout Ireland, with Lurgan, Portadown and Richhill among the most ardent areas.”
Cooney had a fateful visit to Lurgan in 1928 when he was excommunicated by fellow members at a meeting in the home of Andrew Knox at Cornakinnegar.
Irvine’s other two degrees are Bachelor of Theology studies through Queen’s (2004-08) and Masters in Missions (Manchester University 2008-12) after which he embarked on the Master of Philosophy. And now, thanks to travelling out to Kenya on a teaching project with his sons David and Simon (both students at the Irish Baptist College), his next aspiration is a doctorate in a rather unusual – and controversial – subject. “It’s on the dangers of the so-called health, wealth and prosperity gospel preachers,” said Irvine. “People will know them better as the shyster preachers on American television – many untrained but with the gift of the gab – who gull the viewers into sending generous donations, promising them unknown prosperity if they give to these dubious TV missions.”
He added, “It’s bad enough in America. But they follow their evil work in Kenya, where you have to see the poverty to believe it. Yet, these so-called evangelists live in