Dear Family and Friends: You may have heard that I have not been attending meetings for some time. This is true. It was the result of a very careful and deliberate investigation after years of questions for which I could find no answers. So that you will know the truth of this matter first-hand from me, I would like to tell you what led up to my decision.
At one point this year I felt like a child who has just found out there is no Santa Claus. I determined for certain that the “truth” was started by a man named William Irvine in 1897. This was most astonishing news to me. I had believed all my life that the “truth” was God’s only true way, and that it was the literal continuation of the apostles’ ministry. Finding this was UNTRUE was quite a shock to me! Adding further to this shock, was finding out that the majority of the workers are aware of the founder and that this information has been intentionally hidden from the friends in America.
I took considerable pains and time to prove whether or not this information was true through several independent reliable sources, including workers, who have been privy to this information for quite some time. My information came from well-researched, documented historical data, accounts and credible eye-witnesses*. My brother, Galen Berry, was made aware of these facts when he was in the work. To my amazement, several workers outright denied these facts to one person, while admitting them to another. Most workers try hard to EVADE answering any questions about the beginning of this way. How can it be that the “only way” that is supposedly the “same yesterday today and forever” has so many contradictory accounts concerning its origination?
William Irvine started what he termed an “experiment” after resigning as a minister from the Faith Mission. He was a dynamic speaker, and rapidly gained many followers, both for his ministry and congregation. The basis for his ministry was Matthew 10. From reading a history of the Faith Mission, it is obvious he copied numerous customs of the Faith Mission, making the “truth” a spin-off of the Faith Mission.
George Walker witnessed Irvine’s resignation from the Faith Mission. George Walker verified that the truth began around the turn of the century in his letter in 1942 to the Selective Service System, a part of which stated:
“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 purpose taught and carried out by Christ and His first disciples. This conviction 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…”
Around 1905, Irvine declared that the way he started was God’s ONLY TRUE WAY, and that no one before or after could be saved except through his ministers, (even though Irvine claimed he was saved through a Presbyterian evangelist). Those who did not agree were excommunicated. The workers began to preach this doctrine.
Irvine became radical and tyrannical, had some strange prophetic beliefs, and was probably mentally unbalanced. He believed and told others that he would be one of the two prophets in Rev. 11, who would be killed during the tribulation period, and lie dead in the streets 3-1/2 days, and rise again. So he prophesied future events that never came to pass. He was the father of an illegitimate son whom he supported. He became an embarrassment to the other workers, and in 1914, they excommunicated him from the very way he originated. He retired to Jerusalem to await the Lord’s return, and died there in 1947 of cancer of the throat, without his prophecies ever coming true.
Was Irvine a prophet with a special revelation? God gave a test so his people would know if a prophet was truly sent by Him. Deuteronomy 18:22 says, “when a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously”. Since his prophecies DID NOT COME TRUE, it becomes clear that Irvine met the qualifications for a false prophet. Jude 3 says that this body of truth was the “faith…once delivered to the saints.” The Greek word for “once” (“apax”) translated “once for all” in some versions, refers to something that has been done for all time; something that never needs repeating. It was a unique and final event. The Greek word for “delivered” indicates an act that was completed in the past with no continuing element. There would be no new or supplemental “faith” or body of truth “delivered” later in new “revelations”. The delivering of the faith was a once-for-all event of the past. Revelations ended with Revelations 21.
Another theory is that “the way” was “restored” through Irvine. The Bible says Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life–so how can one who is eternally existent be restored? What happened to all the people who lived in the years between the time the New Testament church went underground and Irvine started his “way”? Did they all go to a lost eternity?
These verses make it clear that there definitely were people saved in every generation, and certainly before Irvine started his “way”. Ps. 90:1 says, “Thou hast been our dwelling place in ALL generations.” Thy faith-fullness is unto ALL generations Ps 119:90. Matt 16:18 “…I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The Psalmist says “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts in Ps 145:4. “For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee Heb. 13:5. See also Ps. 37:28. These verses bear witness that the earth has never been without His “way”.
With this information, my faith came tumbling down with regard to the “truth” being the only way in which one could be saved. The rug had been pulled out from under me. I felt ripped off, swindled, gypped, betrayed, tricked, and cheated. I had been deliberately deceived, and I am not alone! The foundation upon which my faith rested in this fellowship was not even true: It is NOT Jesus’ only true way which continued from the apostles to this day! The agony of deceit!
That lead me to wonder what else might have been misrepresented or misinterpreted in this fellowship? I could no longer trust any person to lead me unerringly, no matter how godly he/she might appear. NO MAN is infallible. The only real safety is to base our faith in the inerrant Word of God, the Scriptures. I started with the question, “What does the Bible say?”
Claiming Jesus’ promise that all those who seek, ask and knock will find Him, I began to earnestly and intensely study my Bible with an open mind and spirit. I also prayed fervently that God would not allow me to be deceived as I re-evaluated my entire belief system. I spent countless hours this year seeking the answer and getting better acquainted with the Word of God. I pursued, investigated, measured, evaluated and eventually either accepted or rejected the beliefs I held because I found sufficient or insufficient evidence in the Scripture to support them.
God does NOT condemn anyone who questions or examines doctrine. Truth will bear scrutiny. He tells us to “try the spirits” (1 John 4:1) and the Bereans were commended because they “searched the scriptures (to see) whether these things were so”, Acts 17:11. In order to be aware of false doctrine, we must know what constitutes true doctrine. The Word of God, which the Holy Spirit inspired and authored, can only be illuminated by the Spirit. He is the resident teacher of truth in each believer, John 16:13.
I found the Bible does not say that those who “believe on Him” must believe through a certain ministry. John 3:16 says, “WHOSOEVER believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Is it not ADDING to the word of God when it is claimed that believing is not enough? After all, the word “belief” involves the intellect, the emotions and a commitment. See also John 6:28-29; John 6:37-40.
I found no scripture where salvation was limited to ONE particular method or way by Jesus. John 14:6, “I am the Way…Truth…Life…No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” According to this verse, the ONE way is Jesus Himself–not a particular method of fellowship; and the “truth” is a person (Jesus), not a way, or the “truth”. Jesus provided the ONLY way men could ever have eternal life, by dying on the cross, and rising again–that is the “way” the Bible speaks of. See also I Tim 2:5.
Then I questioned: “What saves us?” I found we cannot merit or earn salvation by our works–we are saved through faith, according to His mercy and grace, Titus 3:5. “For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast,” Ephesians 2:7-10.
“Grace” means “gift of God”. A gift is free, is not earned or merited. So this verse is saying that we are saved by grace (the gift of God) THROUGH faith and not by anything we do ourselves and could boast of. Salvation is not dependent on what we do, but on who Jesus is and what He has done for us. It is His free GIFT to us–our gift through belief in Him. See also Rom. 11:6; Rom. 3:24-26; II Corinthians 9:15; Rom 4:4. I never found the Bible indicates salvation is limited just to those who profess through a particular ministry and meet in homes for worship; but rather that salvation is the result of submitting to a personal relationship with Jesus, who opened and provided the Way by his death.
I found that salvation came to this earth by atonement (Jesus’ blood and sacrifice), not by men’s attainment. To preach salvation by human performance implies Jesus’ work was not finished–John 19:30, John 17:4. Most of the friends believe they can’t know if they are saved until their death, and are fearful they haven’t done enough to merit salvation. Harry Brownlee is the only worker I’ve ever heard who preaches salvation by grace. He quite often states that he isn’t one bit more saved today than he was the first day he professed.
Our best will never be good enough–we will never be worthy. Only Jesus’ blood sacrifice could perfectly atone for the sin of mankind. When we believe in Jesus and totally RELY on his sacrifice, our gratitude will naturally produce “works”, but these works cannot EARN salvation–they earn reward: I Cor. 3:9-15.
It is emphasized in this fellowship that salvation comes from Jesus’ sacrifice PLUS the ministry PLUS meetings in the home, PLUS obedience to certain external unwritten rules and traditions. This is Salvation PLUS PLUS PLUS. He finished the work of salvation! Jesus didn’t say to believe in a 2×2 minister and be saved or that all those who don’t follow a 2×2 minister are lost. The Way (method) is NOT the Savior–the Savior is the Way. Many do not believe Jesus’ blood is effective UNLESS they walk in a particular method (“the truth”).
In other words, salvation is though a method, or methodism. If man could be saved by being in a certain fellowship and working to be good enough, then Christ died in vain. If we can work our way to heaven, why did Christ die? According to Revelations, it is a very serious offense in God’s viewpoint to add requirements to the finished work of Christ.
This way has long been described as being the closest way to the apostolic ministry and New Testament church. I never found where Jesus, Paul or any other apostle ever gave any instructions directing the method of assembling for worship. In fact, Jesus only mentioned the word “church” twice. The church in the home was mentioned only in Scriptural narratives and was not a part of Jesus’ “good news”. Rather than Jesus being considered THE WAY, the “way” has come to be regarded as the ministry and the church meetings in the home, which were originated by Irvine.
I never found where the Bible directs ministers to continue going 2 and 2 after that one particular mission Jesus sent them out on to the Jews only. The instructions to go 2 and 2 are found two times in the NT. This instruction was given ONLY to “THEM”, meaning the apostles, Matt. 10:1 & 5. These two things formed the main tenets of Irvine’s movement, as well as being the chief theme of most gospel meetings. It has come to the point where the method is given first place, and Jesus is diminished to second place. This is obvious from the number of testimonies where references are made to being thankful for the workers and of the time “this way came across my pathway” which far outnumber the recognition or appreciation given to Jesus for coming into one’s life.
William Irvine took certain scriptural examples, comments and instructions made to specific people for specific situations and set them up to be absolute doctrine for all true believers. Many things Irvine emphasized were never COMMANDED by Jesus or mentioned in the Scriptures, to the exclusion of everything else. DESCRIPTIONS of the history of the first-century church and DESCRIPTIONS of the way Jesus sent out his disciples are NOT absolute commands or divine norms for all believers for all time. While the New Testament church met in homes, there are no scriptures prohibiting meetings in other places. There is no Scripture to indicate Jesus intended for the disciples to continue until the end of time to go out in the same form and method as He sent them to preach “The Kingdom is at hand” to the Jewish nation (Matt. 10).
From relying on Christ’s blood and perfect life, Irvine switched the reliance to the worker’s sacrifice and meetings in the home. He stressed selected scriptures, overlooking others. He took scripture out of context and misinterpreted scripture to support his preconceived ideas. The ministry and meeting in the home were elevated to the status they became essential for the salvation of men. Irvine’s way and God’s Way were all rolled into one way; thus, the only way to Heaven was to be a part of Irvine’s way. This is preached as fact, when it is actually the workers’ and Irvine’s opinion, and it not backed up by the Scripture.
In Mat. 10:5– Jesus sent the apostles on a temporary specific mission to the Jews only with the message “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. This journey was so rushed that they were to take no provisions with them. The Law provided for hospitality to strangers. Luke 22:35-36 lifted these restrictions. When the GREAT Commission in Mat 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:46-49 was given to ALL nations (not Jews only), going 2×2, without money, shoes, staves, change of clothes was NOT mentioned.
I discovered in Jesus teachings, there are no “thou shalt or thou shalt not”. Obedience is a choice. Jesus always says things like, “IF ye love me, keep my commandments” John 14:15; “IF ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” John 8:31; “IF any man serve me, let him follow me” John 12:26; “IF ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love John 15:10. Serving Him is completely voluntary. No aspect of it is forced, enforced, or driven. Jesus does not make us DO anything we are not willing to do, or do not understand, but it is often required.
I wondered: What commends us to God? “That ye love one another as I have loved you. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples; by your love one for another.” John 13:34-35. The key to serving God is and always was love, from the heart. Matt. 22:37-39 gives the two greatest commandments: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…and the second is …Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang ALL the law and the prophets.” I had thought submission was the virtue God most prizes, but it’s LOVE. Our obedience is proof of our love, like works are proof of faith. “If a man love me, he will keep my words”, John 14:23.
I have personally seen the spirit of Christ in many “outsiders”, so I am sensitive to the put-downs and scorn we often hear the friends use when referring to sincere “outsiders”. If they are saved, are they not my brothers in Christ, and aren’t we supposed to love them and treat them as brothers-I John 3:20? To call other churches “false”, other believers “lost” and their ministers “false prophets” is to judge. It is humanly impossible to discern the full extent of the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is a God-ordained whole that cannot be altered by human divisions. I no longer believe there is one “right way”, but that there are “right people” in various ways.
At the Six-State Workers Meeting in November 1991 held in Albuquerque, Carson Cowan said that they “should not preach things they cannot prove”. It was also reported that Charles Steffin said that “it is not honest to continue to preach this is the only way.” Isn’t the converse of that, “It has been dishonest to preach that this is the only way?” Will they openly confess their mistake to the friends and clear up the deception?
I feel like the child who discovered Daddy is Santa Claus. The workers definitely do not recommend friends teach their children there is a Santa Claus because it is not true. They wisely realize that when a child finds out that Daddy is actually Santa Claus, they are often devastated, hurt and their trust is damaged in their parents who perpetuated this lie. It is only natural for a child to then wonder if they can trust any and everything else their parent has told them. This is exactly the way I feel.
The workers deliberately perpetuated the wonderful, but untrue (Santa Claus) story that this fellowship of which they are ministers began with the apostles, and continued down through the ages to us via 2×2 workers, without break. When the friends discover that it isn’t true that the way is of apostolic succession–that there is no Santa Claus—-they are just like the children, devastated, stunned and shocked! When William Irvine is discovered to be the one who founded this fellowship (Daddy is found to be Santa Claus), their trust is naturally and quite justifiably damaged in the workers’ credibility.
If the workers told us this false story, can we trust the rest of what they have taught us? (Child: If they lied to me about Santa Claus, can I believe other things my parents say?) And so quite naturally, questioning begins of ALL the teachings we’ve heard all our lives, to see for ourselves if these things are true and reliable. The workers caution parents NOT to teach their children false stories or about Santa Claus–yet they have done EXACTLY the same thing to the friends–taught them false stories. The resulting feelings are just the same for the adults as for the children when a trusted one tells them an untruth: hurt, withdrawal of trust, a feeling of betrayal. HOW COULD THEY–and all in the name of “TRUTH”??!!
Just like the parent tries to pacify the outraged child, the workers have various different tales none of which hold any water that they use to placate, mollify and soothe the outraged friends. I’ve carefully examined several. This has been the road I’ve travelled this year–I encourage you to prove the things you’ve been taught; to make your faith your own. Don’t take anyone else’s word for something so important and precious as your eternal salvation–know it for yourself. “If ye KNOW these things, happy are ye if ye do them.” John 4:42; I John 2:26-27; I Tim. 4:7, Matt 22:29.
I believe Jesus Christ is the Way to heaven. The Way to heaven is through belief and trust in Jesus Christ; in what He did for us in living a sinless life and on the cross as atoning sacrifice. It isn’t enough to just say we believe, but we must repent of our sins and have a living relationship with Him through the Holy Spirit. The church is composed of everyone who does that. It isn’t a method or a system or a group of people who meet in a particular way. Everyone who believes in Jesus as our Savior is our brother in Christ and we are to love them. I have not lost my faith in God; but I have utterly lost all faith in the “truth” and in those who have intentionally deceived us regarding the origins of this fellowship. We still profess to be children of God. We look ONLY to the Bible as our guide for living. Presently, I attend a weekly inter-denominational Bible Study, and I have been visiting churches in our area.
If you have any questions or can show me any scripture I may have overlooked that would prove my conclusions to be in error, I would very much like to hear from you. I want, above all, to believe what is true and correct. There is a saying that there are two kinds of people: Some in whom their belief is more precious than truth; others to whom truth is more precious than belief. Truth is most precious to me.
I DO NOT think that you are “lost” or in a “wrong” way. What I am saying is that I believe many others outside of this way (in other ways) are ALSO saved. I feel sorry for each of you as you read this letter, because I know this news will considerably disturb your peace. See Gal. 4:16, Prov. 19:27, Gal. 5:1, John 8:32. Please feel free to call me if I can answer any questions.
Love in Christ,
Cherie (Berry) Kropp
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma USA
- The above facts concerning the history of the “truth” are found in the book The Secret Sect by Doug and Helen Parker.
Click Here to read Cherie Kropp’s life story