John Purcell makes a further reply to “Worker” post

Reply from a ‘Worker’ to the post, “Two by Twos” by someone who grew up and out of the movement.

If I look at the quotes here and the worker’s response, on the whole the quotes more reflect my own experience (from thirty years ago in the UK, and as far as I can tell not very much has changed since then). Mentioning the origin of the group is a big no-no; members here as far as I know are still generally unaware of it. I was always told “the meetings” have no Earthly founder, unlike other sects and denominations. People are discouraged somewhat from associating with outsiders (although I have never been shunned by my relatives in the “Truth”).

There is, it seems to me, pressure on teenagers to “profess”. I think the worker is right (in this region) in saying that people are if anything encouraged to tell people about the “Truth”, but people are not given any kind of full explanation of the Truth’s beliefs, and are expected to absorb it gradually from attending gospel meetings (where pairs of workers speak).

The problems really with “the Truth” stem from (in my experience and in my area of the UK at least) the history and hierarchy of the sect being basically covered up, and their beliefs not published — but nevertheless rigorously enforced. People are told they are the only true Christians and (enforced through fear of shame) cannot then make their own choices about their clothing, whether or not they watch TV, whether or not workers stay in their houses, etc.

They have to be very careful not to be seen to have a “wrong spirit”, which could result in a lot of psychological pressure being put on them, or even in them being, in effect, excommunicated (even though the group does not use this word).

It’s not like the Church of England, where members decide for themselves how to act in accordance with their religion, and everything is published and made clear at the outset to anyone who asks or searches the Internet. Workers do not like detailed questions from outsiders or new members, an lie about their founder (or do not know themselves).

The normal checks and balances that other religions, denominations and sects, and even commercial companies, are obliged to put in place in order to safeguard members as much as possible, are (again, in my experience) quite deliberately ignored and denied in the Truth, and this leads to a lot of real problems for a lot of real people.

The church DOES have a doctrine (which differs somewhat from place to place, it seems, as the Internet reveals) and definitely has a hierarchy. It has many rules, which are not written down but are nevertheless enforced. Members can be put under a lot of pressure or expelled for not following these rules. This does not seem right to me.

You cannot get these rules from the Bible. In this day and age, the Truth needs to ensure that all members in all regions are able to obtain information about the founding, hierarchy and rules of the sect without being subject to disapproval from members — because at the same time that they are told “judge not lest ye be judged” (which personally I agree with), they are actually judged by workers and by each other to a greater extent than any other Christian group I have encountered.

There are many good aspects to the “Truth”; although I left as a teenager, I absorbed some good precepts from it, and many members are lovely and sincere people. Other aspects, however, are troubling — principally the secrecy. People who join do not know what they are getting into and many longstanding members do not know anything of the group’s history and little or nothing of its hierarchical structure.

The “workers” are often good and sincere people, but they often are fully provided for — so “worker” seems a bit of a misnomer, at least in some cases. Members seem to feel obliged to let the workers stay in their homes and to provide them with meals, transport and so on. It may well vary, but to me the life of at least some workers seems particularly easy. They claim essentially to be humble mouthpieces of God, but it’s not hard to find workers who really are astonishingly arrogant.

I remember hearing often from workers in “gospel meetings” about how scientists are arrogant and people who don’t accept “the Truth” are arrogant. But then I met many scientists and found them generally somewhat more humble than the average person, if anything, and certainly more humble than many workers.

Workers, on the other hand, claim to speak for God and claim to be the only people who speak for God.

The “Truth” needs more transparency and toleration, and members deserve to know when the movement was founded (1897) and by whom, even if they regard this founding as merely a return to what they consider to be the correct interpretation of the teachings of Jesus. Member deserve to know who is deciding what and that the overseers exist. I think things are improving, but only slowly.

Their invitations to used to say “non denominational Christian fellowship meetings”, but to an “outsider”, this is simply a falsehood. They are the very opposite to “non-denominational”. It is not right to have a very particular set of beliefs (women having to wear hair in buns and to wear skirts, no televisions or radios or popular music, etc), a clear hierarchy, a definite founder (William Irvine) and yet to avoid identifying themselves with any particular name to outsiders and avoid mentioning most of this at the outset.

Rules even extend to things like pianos being approved of (for playing hymns, mainly), but guitars being disapproved of, even if solely hymns are played on guitars. But these rules are not written down, and yet they are enforced through people being made to feel uncomfortable or ashamed if they break them.

Every movement has its bad apples, and there is a record now of various workers being convicted of child abuse. Yet members often seem more concerned about protecting the sect than exposing wrongdoing. They are also afraid to say anything against the workers and often do not feel they can refuse to let workers stay in their houses. This is why published rules and safeguards are needed, as in any other religious movements.

2 Responses

  1. It may well be that things are just a lot clearer and more straightforward in North America. From what I’ve read, that does sound like it’s the case. But here in the UK, the situation seems very different and very troubling. A “friend” in the “Truth” who decides to buy a TV, or a female “friend” who wears jeans at home or has long hair not in a bun, as far as I can see, will be made to feel ashamed and might be asked to stop speaking at the “meetings”, or possibly even told to stop attending the Sunday meetings.

    Some would feel that is right and proper, but others appear to feel under pressure and do not seem to feel able to freely make their own decisions without being negatively judged, especially by the workers. Some of the workers and elders are very decent people, while others appear unsettling.

    I very much hope that this is only true in the UK, or of some areas of the UK, or is a less serious problem that it appears to me to be.

    I would be very interested to hear the views of others in the UK — either “professing friends” or of people who have left the Truth.

    I do understand that any group of people who meet together to worship with a similar set of beliefs are going to feel ill at ease with someone who appears to have, or to develop, rather different beliefs among them, but as far as I can see, anyone even mentioning Irvine here would be in hot water. I can’t help but feel that the line between mutual fellowship and psychological pressure and deceit is distinctly crossed.

    If this is not the case in North America, I hope that spreads to the UK as soon as possible, or that I have just by chance encountered the most unsettling bits of the whole mission. There are, I think, at least thousands of people in the Truth here in the UK, so it’s no small matter if things here are as they appear to me to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi John,

    Here’s some updating to your observations. The description of the unwritten rules you mention which are enforced has some merit going back in the past, but are hardly relevant in 2017. “Enforcement” these days apply to very little, with issues like remarriage and active homosexual lifestyles being exceptions. Otherwise “friends” are pretty free in their lifestyle choices and at worst you are going to find that there may be some social pressure to conform to local norms, but no direct “enforcement” as such. Workers are extremely reluctant to enforce lifestyles and other than in rogue worker situations, will never initiate such actions. It usually comes from one or more misguided friends putting pressure on the worker(s) to take some sort of action.

    As far as your suggestion that there are rules about guitars, hymns, buns, skirts, whatever, you could be commenting on a limited geographical area as it is far from the truth among the areas in North America where the greatest numbers of the friends reside.

    As far as the history goes, pretty much anyone who cares has a decent and relatively accurate understanding of the history today. They will still claim no founder and going back to the beginning because the early workers such as Cooney and Irvine based the structure and methodology on “Primitive Christianity” ie, as directly as possible from the missions and principles they found in the Gospels, and avoided subsequent doctrines and theologies developed post-bible and largely extracted from Pauline thought. They were a restoration movement, trying to model the ministry on Matt10 and the church on what they saw as a house church system of the 1st century. It’s little wonder the beginnings of the 1890’s got all muddled up and yes, it was rather painful to get it straightened out.

    Liked by 1 person

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