Dear Mr. [Doug] Parker
Earlier this month just the day before we found ourselves leaving what we once called the church (and now call the C.C. group in accordance with their officially registered name “Christian Conventions”), we received your newspaper, A Spiritual Fraud Exposed, from Mr. Fred Hanowell in Germany. It was an astounding exposure of the group and clinched the issue for us most effectively. We are very grateful for your considerable efforts.
We are a forty-year-old couple who have been wholehearted in this group for twenty and fifteen years respectively. I was in good standing in the work for six years here in Washington prior to our marriage thirteen years ago and for the past seven years have been the elder in one of the local assemblies.
Whether we have “left” or been “put out” is academic. We could not stay and they would not allow us to remain. However, they have not wanted to be in a position where it could be definitely said that they had “put us out”. Perhaps your exposure of many being put out has made them more cautious in the practice of their methods. Although we had unanswered questions about the origin and history of the movement and had long been puzzled over the evasive response to our questions on that score, we had tried to push that situation aside in our minds, not having seen concrete evidence of anything being wrong, and having nothing substantial to go on.
However, three years ago we began to notice that there was but scant reference either in the preaching or testimonies to the blood of Christ – scant reference to Christ as our Saviour and none whatsoever to him us our Redeemer and Sin Bearer; much attention to his earthly life and ministry, none to His atoning death – only a heavy emphasis on Him as our Example,9 especially as demonstrated to us by the workers which emphasis we know was not that of the N.T. Gospel. (If following an example of God’s righteousness could save, then the law could have saved. Scripture says it didn’t. Rom. 3:20ff; Gal. 2:16, 21). Also, we noted a heavy emphasis on works and scant reference to faith, a heavy emphasis on effort and less on rejoicing. Whereupon we began to wonder whether we had long been reading our own evangelical beliefs into the preaching and perhaps those beliefs were not actually held by the workers, albeit not denied.
Tactful enquiries kindly made were turned aside and the workers became suspicious of us. We continued to study tile Scripture and to compare it with what we heard in the meetings – it seemed a1most certainly different. So nearly two years ago we began carefully to speak of these neglected crucial doctrines in our own testimonies each week, at first simply to test the reaction to it. Later we began to recognize it as an opportunity from God to try to speak as clearly us possible of trusting the saving work of Christ to these who were so unaware of such Good News even though they were so pitiably earnest toward what they believed to be things of God. And the friends listened and some enjoyed it, but in time became puzzled.
The workers’ response was different and we were put under immediate surveillance. They resisted our testimonies and tried every way possible to counteract them without having to oppose Scripture openly. We found they refused to be pinned down as to just what they believed, much less as to just what the gospel consisted of. We could see they didn’t agree with us at all, but would not openly admit it. At every encounter (and there were a number of them) they tried to sidestep the doctrinal issue, even though they tried to counteract it in their preaching. In conversation they would only accuse us with: “There is something there in your testimonies which is not ‘of us’, not the ‘same spirit.’” And they eventually resorted to branding us with a “bad spirit” (an easy dodge), although we had been most careful on that score, and the charge was completely without foundation. The workers’ clever control of the friends was incredible – a brief word or look was sufficient, always inferring, never proving. Although we had enjoyed the respect and confidence of the friends for years, it meant nothing. It became clear the friends had learned to uphold the workers without question, but had learned nothing of upholding the Gospel of the grace of God.
As we this winter gradually learned more and more of the history of the church by letter from Mr. Hanowell, we were not actually too surprised. We resolved to say nothing of these things at the time, however, for we knew many would simply put their heads in the sand and say, “Forget the past; enjoy what we have today.” Many must have long since taken that very course, for we now see that most of this information was liberally distributed to workers and elders here in the Northwest in the fifties. Although I was in the work at that time, my older companion prevented my reading the literature and told me nothing of it.) Anyway, it was our hope to demonstrate that they didn’t have a saving gospel today, that they were trusting a church (the “perfect Way”), a set of ministers, their own imperfect faithfulness, their own efforts and “willingness to follow” a set of vague, ill-spelled out conditions; that they were not trusting the Saviour, nor relying on his atonement to reconcile them to God. And having learned something of the subtle power of inference, we always kept a positive approach in our testimonies, simply assuming that, of course, they shared our faith and confidence in the reconciling work of Christ, our thankfulness that we did not need to depend on the feeble above-mentioned substitutes, our praise to Him for meeting our need for a Saviour.
One of our aims was to make the workers openly admit and demonstrate their opposition to salvation by grace by putting us out on that ground alone. However, they did their best to remain slippery on that point, not wanting to tangle openly with any of the Scripture which we used. Finally, in April the week after your newspaper arrived, the workers formally forbade us the emblems before eight called witnesses on the ground that we were reported to have mentioned privately a few days earlier church splits in Australia and the church’s a having taken a name.
Still trying to dodge the issue; On exactly what specific grounds does a man become reconciled to God; just exactly what is the Gospel. They really don’t want to come rig]it out and admit: “WE will reconcile you to God. WE are the Good News.” It just wouldn’t sound good, but it’s what they actually mean. They constantly infer such and then wait for the attending outsider to absorb it. When he does, he is said to be “seeing it” and has now become “one of us”, “able to see the Way” and “willing to follow in the Way” “with us – the people of God”. The Saviour as such doesn’t come into it. Actually, they don’t talk about “trusting Christ as their Savior,” but of “seeing (through their workers’ teaching) that this is the WAY and being willing to walk in it.” It is the Way that is upheld, not the Saviour. It took us a long time to realize this, as it’s very subtle.
Well, to continue: It is of interest that when we countered their charge by asking them whether they expected us to praise the church for splits and name-taking, they replied that they would not answer that question. When we used our opportunity to turn to the doctrinal issue, they retreated with some reference to revelation as opposed to a reasoned examination of the Scripture. Incidentally, they did not deny us freedom to attend or to speak in fellowship meetings (we feel they would rather not have that on their record), but we feel their groundwork has been such that our usefulness in that capacity is at an end.
Four months earlier I was relieved of the eldership and offered a variety of back-handed insults by a committee of workers, led by the overseer of this state, Tharold Sylvester. Since that time an older worker has attended our every meeting, weighing our words and paralyzing the friends. Quite torturous months they have been and, although we were grateful for our opportunity to speak, we’re glad they are over. Opportunities are open to us now which we could not use earlier, and we hope to do all we can to get the facts into wider circulation.
And so, our foremost reason for contacting you just now: Do you have additional copies of your newspaper* which we could obtain for distribution? We would be happy to reimburse you for them. The one copy we received is too worn to try to duplicate and had been so trimmed to fit its envelope that a number of lines of the text are missing on both pages, front and back. (Mr. Hanowell’s sight is quite dim.) In spite of the workers’ controlling tabu here, we feel certain that at least 15 of the 55 families here will read and attempt to fairly consider such a piece. And, of course, we feel the responsibility of many contacts in other cities and states developed over the years. *The newspaper would have been A Spiritual Fraud, published in 1954 by Doug Parker.
Also, have you ever put out a fuller report? We would be most interested. (Curiously enough, just a few months before receiving our newspaper, we had been wondering what a trip to Ireland might possibly uncover. But we didn’t dream the extent of it. We had supposed that it began away from public view, since it operates that way today. Again, thank you so much for your efforts.) By the way, a visiting Australian reported to us this winter that someone whom she thought was from England had visited her Australian convention last season in order to take pictures and gather information for a book he was writing on the group. He was put off the grounds, but managed to retain his camera, which the workers would like to have confiscated. We wonder if you have knowledge of such an effort and we would surely wish to obtain a copy of any available or forthcoming publication.
We were interested to hear that you had returned to the Church of England, although we are not familiar enough with it to know just what that means. One of the evils of the C.C. group is that it closes the door to fellowship with other believers even after individuals have left it and are supposedly free of it. We fear that some who have left the group may simply aspire to be the makings of something similar and are in danger of limiting the grace of God to themselves, recognizing no fellowship with other evangelical Christian groups and seeing no common Christian heritage with them. While we know, of course, that much of present-day Christendom has succumbed to liberalism on the one hand or sensationalism on the other, we know also, that there are still some conservative, evangelical congregations – plagued by imperfections, of course, but nonetheless preaching the Scriptures.
We would appreciate as early a reply as possible, for we know it is important to contact folks before our blackened name has had opportunity to precede our efforts. We surely feel concerned about the plight of the people in this church. They are blind, putting their trust in the church and its methods instead of in Christ. And we feel for those who are under the “stress” of making a “choice” to go into the group. When my wife professed as a young woman the stress was such that in a matter of weeks she lost ten pounds and her auburn hair turned dark brown.
Do you know anything of John Kelley? See the second name on the enclosed list. We suspect some here will try to say he was an older worker through whom Irvine professed.
Sincerely yours in His Name,
Fred E. Miller & Ruth D. Miller
April 30, 1972
6120 W. Umatilla St.
Kennewick, Wash 99336
NOTE: Fred and Ruth Miller left meetings April 1972.