Dear (meeting elder),
I’m sorry for not being able to say this in person, but I believe you only get one shot at this kind of thing, and I wanted to make sure the words came out right. Writing it down seems to be the only guarantee it will. (sentence omitted).
I had a very nice visit with you this past weekend, but there was an elephant in the room and I think it’s time I discuss it with you both. I understand why _____ might ask if I was having a crisis of faith because I’ve never explained to you why I haven’t been going to meeting. There was once a time when I too measured a person’s faith in Jesus by their faith in the “Truth”. I assure you that my faith in Jesus is stronger now than it has ever been, and that is precisely why I intend to never go to meeting again.
The email you sent about Jack Carroll points out one of the main reasons why I don’t go to meetings anymore. There is just too much focus on meeting in a home and little to no mention of the saving grace that God gave us in his son Jesus Christ. Ask yourself this question; what saves us? Is it our faith in Jesus as our interceder or because we meet in a home? Are we saved because of the gift God gave us in his son’s death on the cross, or by the method on which we heard the Gospel?
Incidentally, Jack claims that we must meet in a home and he asserts on more than one occasion that the “Truth” is the only true church of Jesus. Well, that’s simply not true, and he actually knew that when he said it. (Jack said a lot of things in his day that ended up not being true.)
Thankfully, it’s not up to me to decide if this fellowship we call the “Truth” is really the true church of Jesus Christ. There are facts that prove a man named William Irvine (who was also Jack Carroll’s mentor) started our fellowship a little over 100 years ago in Ireland. The only choice you have now is to ignore the facts or accept them.
Now, if you accept the facts, you can’t accept just some of the facts; you have to accept them all. That includes accepting that this way is not a continuation of the church established by Jesus 2000+ years ago; it is William Irvine’s church. You also have to accept that there have not been meetings in homes since the time of Jesus; the first Sunday meeting was in 1908. You also have to accept that William Irvine not only started this way, he went on to prove that he was a false prophet and he was eventually excommunicated by the very workers he trained when he tried to end the “Truth”. The argument that the “Truth” is a continuation of the same ministry that Jesus started begins to quickly unravel.
I for one am not willing to accept anything short of perfect from a group claiming to be the one true church of Jesus. I will spare you the details on everything I have learned over the past three years, only to say that the “Truth” is anything but perfect. I’ve chronicled the life and times of William Irvine, Edward Cooney, Jack Carroll, and George Walker just to name a few. They all had one thing in common; they were all flawed men just like the rest of us.
Jack Carroll in particular had a lot of bad things to say about “worldly” churches and I’ll be the first to admit that the churches I’ve looked at so far leave a lot to be desired. But I would be lying to myself if I said the “Truth” gave me everything I needed. I needed some answers to some obvious contradictions between the “Truth” and the teachings of Jesus. I never got the same answer from the workers to these questions, and most weren’t willing to answer them at all. They would raise questions about my spirit, and question why I felt the need to raise such questions. If I’ve learned one thing in life, it is that misdirection is the favored tool of the swindler.
It wasn’t until my first visit to ____ in 2006 that I got the answer I was looking for. It turns out in ____, they don’t hide the origins of the “Truth” and they don’t pretend the church is anything but a 100-year-old church started in Ireland. I guess covering up the past is purely an American tradition. Anyway, I’ve spent the greater part of three years researching the “Truth”, and a good part of the past year coming up with a way to share it with the world.
I’ve primarily kept my mouth shut for this long because I’ve also learned that some elders have been punished when _____ stop attending meetings. I would never want to be the cause for having meetings removed from your home. To that end, I’ve conducted my research using an alias and I’ve kept my true identity from those workers whom I’ve contacted hidden. It’s not impossible, but I doubt the workers have any idea the one asking questions is ____.
In truth, I’m hoping that you’ll eventually stop having meetings in your home and start a renewed search for Jesus. But I want it to be by your own choosing and not because I angered some zealous worker with my research. I hope that you will respect that I am not trying to get you to subscribe to another church doctrine, and you’ll notice I’m still giving you a chance to hide your head in the sand. Trust me, what I’ve told you so far is nothing compared to what I’ve uncovered. I will understand if you wish to never learn about the dark history of the “Truth” and I promise I will not judge you if you continue to go to meetings. I believe you can be in the “Truth” and still go to heaven.
If you would like to discuss what I have learned, I will be happy to share my research with you. I’ll leave it to you to ask the question. But I’ll warn you up front; it was not easy for me to accept the truth at first. I’m embarrassed to say that I did not handle learning the truth very well at all. For I had originally set out to prove the “Truth” was the true church of God, and I didn’t want to accept that God was showing me that I was wrong. I believe I was punished because I hid my head in the sand at first. It wasn’t until I let go of my pride and I accepted the difficult truth that my relationship with God became stronger.
What I’m trying to say is that I’ll understand if you reject what I’m saying. It’s not easy, but I do ask is that you think about the questions I asked at the beginning of this letter. What saves you? Are you saved through the grace of God, or is it through your works? Can your works earn the grace of God or is it a gift freely given to all who seek it? While you think about that, read what Paul said in Romans 11: ‘And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work’.
With that in mind, ask yourself how Jack’s requirement that a meeting be in the home fits into the gospel of Jesus Christ? Where does the outward conformity to the workers’ interpretation of a godly lifestyle fit into the saving grace of God? Will your works ever be good enough to win you a place in Heaven? I believe Paul is quite clear in Romans, Galatians, and Corinthians that no man shall ever enter into the kingdom of Heaven through works.
You see, I fully expect the workers to spread lies about me as they do all of those who threaten to expose the truth. I’ve spoken to hundreds of people who have been the target of worker attacks, so I know what’s coming up next. Once the workers figure out who I am, they’ll try to convince you that I’m evil and they will try to get you to shut me out of your life. I know you’ll do the right thing, but if you need help deciding what that is, just remember that I’m _____. I’m still the same _____ you’ve known for 30 years, I’m just not under the workers’ control anymore. I’m still the same Christian who has faith in Jesus; I just don’t have faith in the workers or their methods. I still worship the same God as you; I just won’t be setting foot in another meeting again. Trust me; if you knew what I know, you never would either.
Well, that was an interesting letter. We need to discuss the content sometime, but for now some general observations:
Finding out what really happened as opposed to what people thought happened has been something I have been interested in ever since I was an undergraduate student _____ . As a _____ and writer of history, I have always thought it good to question and to try to find out the truth. The truth it turns out, is usually somewhere in the middle. Things are rarely as bad as the critics claim, and usually not as good as the proponents claim.
I don’t know why otherwise rational people believe irrational and clearly inaccurate things – like all of the people I know who believe that President Obama is secretly a Muslim and a socalist, but I try to not let other people’s irrational beliefs affect my objectivity.
The fact that William Irving was clearly delusional at the end of his life (some of his last sermons, Alpha and Omega Theology, trip to Jerusalem, etc.) does not necessarily mean everything he did and said earlier in life are invalid. It is similar to the question that all Christians should have about the validity of the Bible since the Bible as we know it today was created in the 4th century by the Catholic Church. Later in the middle ages and Renaissance the church clearly became corrupt (see Pope Alexander VI 1492-1505 as an example). Does the later corruption invalidate everything in the Bible?
Anti-______, anti-Obama, anti-church without a name, etc. websites have one thing in common they were created by people with an ax to grind. They claim to be presenting facts in the same way Fox News claims to be “fair and balanced”, and often have valid points, and contain some truth, but their bias distorts the facts.
I have researched the early days of this way as part of my _____ research. After all my grandmother’s family – the _____were among the early converts in ______. Some of those early converts to this way came up with the idea that it was a continuation of the first-century church rather than simply patterned after the New Testament Church. Allowing this idea to continue, grow and become a core belief by some was a huge mistake made by early workers in America who clearly knew better. George Walker wrote to the Selective Service the following in 1942:
“During the closing years of the last century and the first years of this century, a number of people in the British Isles and in America were exercised in heart and mind, through their study of the Scriptures, in regard to the methods of preaching and worship in the several churches of which they were then members. They were deeply concerned about spiritual things, and became fully convinced that there should be a return to the methods and purposes taught and carried out by Christ and His first disciples. This conviction led to frequent earnest conversations and studies on the subject, which in turn led to religious meetings, and in due time a number of these people went forth to devote their lives to the preaching of the Gospel according to the teaching and example of Christ as given in the New Testament, i.e., ‘two by two’ and without salary or making appeals for financial assistance, putting implicit trust in God and His promise that as they ‘sought first the Kingdom of God’ their natural needs of food and raiment ‘would be added to them’. As a result of this step, many people expressed their desire to be in fellowship with such preachers and this led to regular gatherings together of small assemblies in homes for worship and study of God’s word.”
______ and I both respect your right to make your own mind up as to what is right. We have confronted many of these issues ourselves and arrived at our own conclusions. There is much that is open for discussion.
By H.A.S., Spring, 2009
COMMENTS by H.A.S.:
I’ve removed anything that can identify either my meeting elder or me. (If you’re still able to discover who I am or my old meeting elder is from these letters, please keep this discovery to yourself)
I’m posting these letters because I think the response given is an excellent way for an elder to respond to an exit letter.
I also hope sharing his response here will give courage to anyone who has thought about breaking away from the church but is afraid of the reaction they will receive from their friends and loved ones they’ve known their whole lives.
Since these letters were written, I’ve continued to get along with this meeting elder, had dinner, and even discussed religious topics with him. The one thing that has changed is I’m no longer asked about coming to meeting. Gone are the looks of disappointment I used to get; replaced now by looks of understanding and respect.