The following is a letter I wrote Harry Brownlee a week after the last meeting I attended. At this time, I had not yet announced that I would not be returning to meetings.
June 8, 1990
Dear Harry (Brownlee):
Your two visits have left us somewhat mystified, and I thought perhaps it would be better to give you an idea of the things we are concerned about. You see, what you have said on your visits has not addressed the things that concern us at all. You seem to have a misconception of what our “problems” are.
Yes, we have both read The Secret Sect and The Church Without a Name by David Stone. The scandals do not bother us. I never expected perfection of the workers or friends, so their failures do not upset me unnecessarily. As I stated to you earlier, having grown up on a convention grounds, I never thought of workers as anything but human beings. The other side of that is, however, that I do not believe that every word that proceeds from a worker’s mouth is a divine revelation of God. I have seen too much that came from them in way of advice, instruction or correction that was simply their own human opinion, or feelings.
What does bother us concerning the books is the fact that a man started this way, and decided at one point to say it was God’s only true way to salvation, and began to perpetuate that belief. We know Jesus is the Way. We know in Jer.31:33-34, the new covenant promised that the law would be written in the hearts, and not be a “way” as the old law was.
Everyone who wanted to know about it, and asked, would receive it in their hearts through belief. Then enter William Irvine who narrowed down Jesus’ Way so that one had to be in the way to the way, before they could hope for salvation, even though it plainly says there is no mediator between God and man after Jesus’ resurrection. The deception that was allowed to be made, inferred or preached also makes for resentment. We understand Garrett Hughes is confirming from the platform that the way was founded by a man at the turn of the century at several conventions, but we’ve not heard of any others coming out with it openly.
We have heard various theories attempting to prove the Truth is Jesus’ only true way, but have not found any that satisfies. They seem to be inventions of assumptions to explain an earlier failed assumption (that the truth is the only true way of God). Instead of concluding that this belief may be incorrect, one revises his assumptions so that he can still maintain that they are true–and that the original set of assumptions was at fault (that truth started with apostles and has continued throughout history, being the Truth as we know it today).
Revising original assumptions is OK, and sometimes necessary–up to a point. A revision is certainly called for when one discovers that a basic foundation has a great fault in it, and that’s just what we are trying to do. However, if you have to use theories with no scriptural basis to revise your original beliefs, in order to discredit evidence that would prove the assumption false (that this is God’s only true way), it is only reasonable to suspect that one is simply refusing to acknowledge the contrary evidence, in order to believe what he wants to believe. Here is a natural example that I think parallels these theories:
A lie-detector expert announced the theory that plants react to the thoughts of human beings in their vicinity. She claimed that these reactions can be registered on a device similar to a lie detector and attached to the plants. She also claimed that she had conducted many tests that confirmed this theory. However, when the tests were repeated for a well-known plant physiologist, no such responses were observed.
The lie-detector expert explained that nothing registered because the plants had “fainted”, fearing that the plant physiologist might harm them. She pointed out that the plant physiologist was known to dissect and incinerate plants when doing experimental work.
It is a rescue attempt for the lie detector expert to be able to keep her original theory–even though it was proven false. You can see how the threatened lie detector expert is valiantly holding onto her theory–even though it has been proven false. Are we not doing the same thing–in continuing to maintain that this is God’s only true way–when a man, not God, declared it to be so?
The best theory seems to us to be that God raised up a Prophet in William Irvine. But, consider the end of that man. His prophecies did not come to pass. He did not pass the test of a true prophet stated in Deut. 18:22. How can one reconcile that? Did any of the other prophets go crazy in the end?
They are just that–theories. To our way of thinking, it is a way (started by a man) among other ways (also started by men) on earth. Jesus plainly states the way one will know his people is by Love. He does not mention how one will know his “Way”, but his people (disciples).
You continue to preach about Jesus’ true way, as if there is only one way, while saying in the next breath that people ask you if you think this is the only way, and you tell them that you cannot say “yes” to that, because Jesus is the Way. What you want is for the listener to come to the belief that it IS the true and ONLY way, without your saying so. No wonder the man (you mentioned once) said he couldn’t figure out what the message was when he sat in gospel meetings…that other churches laid it on the line. You must have accepted some theory you believe correct in order to continue preaching this.
From the things you have said the two times you have been at our home, it would seem you are attempting to persuade us that because the ministry “works”, that it is the true way, (money is provided; that you were gone to the Laymans when the man threatened to kill you that night, etc.) Harry, all we want are scriptures for proof. Experiences do not prove anything to us. I have drilled into my children, “Don’t believe anything people tell you about God, Bible, etc., unless you can find it in the Bible. If you are to believe it, it can be found in the Bible.” We, of course, follow the same rule.
This is why I am writing you mainly–so when you come to spend a few days, that you will have scriptures you can show us to prove your points, not experiences, or opinions. Because something “works” is not necessarily proof–so do the other denominations, or they would not still exist today; so do satanic cults “work”. The Bible is our point of reference, and we would like to discuss it on those terms next time.
You will probably ask, “Well, do you know of something better?” No, we do not presently. But all we do know about other denominations has been gleaned solely from the workers’ and other friends’ very slanted opinions. I find I can no longer depend on others’ opinions concerning salvation but must see for myself. So the workers go out 2 x 2 like Jesus sent his disciples–he never told them to continue doing that for all times; so we meet in the home like they did in Paul’s day–that was not a commandment either. It works, and works well, I’ll grant. But I cannot see that it was made a necessity for salvation, or that it makes others who meet in buildings ineligible for salvation. There were no commandments on these issues.
We have no intention of putting you on the spot with our questions–a simple “I do not know” is a respectable answer to us, or a promise to look into a question further. We appreciate it that you do not consider “questioning” wrong; and that you will not stoop to an appeal to shame like “if you had the right spirit, you would not even ask/question that”, as some have. We must come to terms with our questions concerning our faith, and, we will with or without your help. We are sure you have insight that we have not considered, and that would be helpful.
If we have seemed reticent about asking questions, it is because you simply do not give us the opportunity, and we do not like to butt in. Simply say, “Now, how can I help you?” or “What is it that is bothering you?” Find out from us directly what those “problems” are—don’t assume you know everything, and come in with the talk that leaves us bewildered, and wondering what on earth someone said was our “problems”!
Scorning other denominations, their beliefs (washing each others’ feet, for example), and the people who frequent them and who are doing the best they know how to do, does not prove anything to us–in fact, scorn turns us off. Constantly I caution my children against scorning. I feel it is a form of judgment and pride. It’s putting another down so that one can elevate oneself. Is not the labeling of another church “false” a form of self-righteous judgment, especially under the circumstances of how the truth originated?
It also bothers us because we know we are not to judge others, (and truly no man can–only his own master can); but that when one is a part of a way that believes it is the only true way, automatically, one is judging those who are not a part of that way. This is contrary to Jesus’ teachings, it seems to us.
You mentioned you had not come to use authority and tell us what to do or not do; and that you felt one was to follow one’s own convictions. However, I do not think you realize just how far apart our thoughts are on women’s appearance. If I were to follow my convictions and continue to take part in meetings, it would cause problems, and I am not a trouble-maker. My convictions, in a nutshell, are that neither Jesus nor Paul ever intended for the women in the Truth to be any different whatsoever in appearance from any other respectable woman in the world (just like the men in the Truth do not look any different from other respectable men).
Being the kind of person I am, naturally, I have scripture, not opinion or experiences, to back up my convictions. So, even though you gave me permission to follow my convictions on my appearance, I would rather discuss them with you first, because we seem to be poles apart.
You seem to be so aware, as some are not, of the need for the workers to dress nicely, use good grammar, etc., or, to appear respectable by men’s standards, so as not to turn off listeners (cut off their ears?) But you appear ONE-sided in your viewpoint. It only includes the men. Your statement that the women are just lazy is why they do not look better, just made me want to cry. You just do not understand at all. You resent the wind in Oklahoma because it “messes up your hair”—you are saying it is trouble for you to comb your little bit of short hair—and calling women lazy in the same breath who have to somehow deal every day with hair they’ve let grow as long as it will grow because they have been told that is what God wants. I’m sorry if that sound rude. I do wish men could have to put up with long hair for a while, so they could understand. I’ve noticed that when wives become unable, because of health reasons, to care for their hair, that their husbands–usually encourage and have them cut it off, rather than fool with it themselves. When the shoe is on the other foot, they can’t stand the trouble it requires.
Previously, you stated in meeting that there exists “no inconsistency in doctrine and a whale of a lot of inconsistency in opinions”. Yet, since Dale Spencer disagrees with you that long hair is NOT doctrine, we DO have an inconsistency in the Truth in what is even considered to be doctrine! I realize Jesus never INTENDED there to be any doctrinal inconsistencies.
Since there exists a whale of a lot of inconsistency in belief concerning hair (whether to trim or let grow to full natural length, whether or not to color, roll, perm, cut partially, wear up or down, etc.), it would seem this would have to be regarded as a matter of opinion–IF your statement is true. This would seem to be born out further in I Cor. 11:1 and 16, where Paul discusses various “traditions” (Greek for ordinances) and “customs”. However, I realize I rather put you on the spot, and did not give you time to reflect when I asked you whether you considered long hair doctrine or opinion.
If we take I Cor. 11:12-16 literally to mean “long hair” for women, and not as addressing the problem of the wives’ lack of subjection to their husbands (a problem of their spirit), do we not miss the whole point and intent of the passage? There is no other scripture that confirms this is a teaching that is to be taught literally and universally. There is no teaching of Jesus that recommends it be taken literally. There IS backup teaching of Jesus concerning the attitude of husbands and wives. Paul even states it is not the custom of the other churches–yet the workers give this passage the interpretation of it being binding on all women today in the way. If it was so important for all women believers to have long hair for all times, wouldn’t Jesus have taught this necessity?
Have you ever noticed that the one English word “covering” found in I Cor. 11:1-16 is used to translate THREE different Greek words, each of which have an entirely different meaning each time they are used in this passage–yet all three meanings were translated as the same word in the King James Version? And that “shorn” is the past participle of “shear” in Greek–and does not mean “to cut”, but to shear to the scalp. The Greek language only has one word for wives and women–not two separate words, as the English language does (likewise for men/husbands) The translators of the KJV decided by context where to use word “women” and “wives”. This entire passage could possibly be referring to only husbands and wives. It certainly limits the necessity of head coverings to a certain time–while praying or prophesying, and was not an ultimatum for all the time.
The words “Doth not even” in verse 14 is a translation of ONE Greek word “oude”, which means “neither, nor, not even”, which means that verse could just have accurately been translated “NEITHER does nature teach you…” or “Even nature DOES NOT teach you…”, which is the exact opposite of what we take it to mean. The actual translation of “FOR her hair is given her FOR a covering” in verse 15 is “BECAUSE her hair is given her INSTEAD of a covering”, in which case, hair and covering are definitely two DIFFERENT items, and not one and the same as we presently interpret.
This passage surely contains more than meets the eye, and is one of the most hard to understand in the New Testament. There is no way to know for sure what the reference to angels meant in verse 10. Yet, with all its complexities, the workers stick to an adamant translation of this passage that women are to have long hair, and some even that it should not EVER be cut. Truth can bear scrutiny–yet the more we scrutinize this text, the more confused we get. The portion of this letter related to I Cor. 11:1-16-only covers a fraction of this subject. I have much more research I could review with you.
The record for the longest hair is held by a man in the Guinness Book of World Records, proving man’s hair will grow quite naturally as long or longer than a woman’s will. “Nature” doesn’t prove what is shameful–shame is relevant to one’s culture and traditions.
Has God ever been interested in literal things only? Was he only interested in the Law being performed to the letter? Of course not. He has always been interested in the heart condition of people. Yet women everywhere wear this “symbol” (long hair) and even though following workers’ instructions, most have not the faintest idea what it all stands for, and have no heartfelt feeling when they fix it or care for it. What are we supposed to remember each time we care for it–that we are subject to our husbands? Of what value is a symbol if it has no meaning for the wearer? We have an idea what we are to be thinking about when the emblems (symbols) are passed around, and what baptism is symbolic of. But no one, least of all the women who wear it, knows the significance of the symbol they wear. Of what value is a symbol that no one recognizes? Has not the wedding ring in our culture taken the place of the long hair of the Corinthian culture? (IF it was meant to be recognized as a token of subjection to one’s husband?)
We cannot overlook the importance of rightly interpreting figures of speech, and mannerisms of expressions either. If someone were to read some of our printed material two thousand years from now, they might be throwing salt into their mouth ever so often, as we sometimes use the phrase “Take that with a grain of salt”. Without taking these figures of speech into consideration, the difference between the almost right meaning, and the right meaning could be as far apart as the lightning bug and lightning!
Paul said in I Peter 3:3: “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting of the hair, and of wearing of gold or of putting on of apparel, But let it be the hidden man of the heart…”
I believe this is an example of a case where the workers have maximized what Paul intended to minimize, through a lack of understanding of a common Hebrew idiom. An “idiom” is a manner of speaking distinctive of a certain people or language. In this case, the idiom was a manner of speaking which would minimize the first clause in order to emphasize a second clause.
We must take into account the idioms of Oriental speech…the ‘not’ means, as often elsewhere in Scripture, ‘not only…but also’ or ‘not so much…as’. An example of this is Luke-14:12 and I Timothy 2:9.
Today, in order to express the thought contained in this type of idiom, we would place the word “only” in the first clause, and “also or “rather” in the second clause, as: “Let not a woman’s adoring be (only) that of outward things–such as fixing her hair, wearing gold or pearls, or apparel—but (also/rather) let it be the inward adorning of a meek and quiet spirit. In the use of this idiom, the emphasis is on the second clause, BUT IT DOES NOT FORBID THE FIRST CLAUSE. It is in addition to it. The emphasis is on the inward adorning, but the outward adorning is not eliminated.
The same type idiom was used by John when he said: Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed” I John 3:18. The context speaks about a brother in need. If we have this world’s goods and do not help him, we do not really have love. We can tell him we love him–we can love in word–but this is not enough. Thus the instructions: “Let us not love in word (only), but (also/rather) in deed” If we take I Peter 3:3 and I Tim 2:9 to mean we are NOT to wear jewelry, do we not also have not wear apparel, and to take John’s meaning to be that we are not to tell our brother we love him?
Another example is John 4:21-23. Jesus said that the hour was coming, and then was, that true worshippers would not worship at Jerusalem or in Samaria–that God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. But after this men DID worship God at Jerusalem (Luke 24:52, 53, Acts 2, etc.) Recognizing the idiom, we realize that people would not worship at Jerusalem (only), but (rather) in spirit and in truth– regardless of location. We have to take this literally to mean no true believer can ever possibly worship in the physical city of Jerusalem to be consistent with our interpretation of I Tim 2:9 and I Peter 3:3.
In Luke 14:12-14, we read: “When thou makest a dinner…call not thy friends, nor thy brethren…but call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind…” The idiom makes the first part into a strong negative in order to emphasize the second part. The meaning is “Call-not (only) your friends, but (also) the poor, blind, etc. If this was simply a command not to call friends to supper, why did Jesus accept invitations to eat with his friends? And why do we today invite our friends and relatives to eat with us?
If these two verses (I Tim 2:9 and I Peter 3:3) are NOT expressing an idiom, but are actually forbidding the use of jewelry–then they are contrary to all the rest of the Bible on this subject. “For after this manner in the old time the old women…adorned themselves, I Peter 3:5-6. There is no denying that women in the old days wore jewelry. See Gen. 24:22, 47, 53; Ex 35:22, Numbers 31:50; Is 3:21; Ex 32;2-3; Is 3:16-23; Song/Solomon 1:10; Prov. 25:12; Jer 2:23; Is 61:10; There are many other references to men wearing jewelry.
In Ezekiel 16:11, 12, the Lord took a cast away newborn baby and cared for her. As a woman, he clothed her with ornaments…bracelets…a chain…jewelry…earrings. If these things were sinful, would the Lord have given them, even in this parallel of the origin and history of Jerusalem? If these things were sinful, how could they possibly make the point that was intended in this passage–that of jewelry symbolizing his blessings upon Jerusalem? If jewelry was a sinful thing, why would a pure and undefiled bride be described as adorning herself with jewels. A bad thing does not symbolize a good thing. The holy city is described as having gates of pearl in Rev. 21:21. If pearls were unholy, what place could they have in describing the holy city?
If we interpret I Timothy 2:9 to mean that any wearing of pearls is wrong, we have a problem with the usual interpretation found in Matt. 7:6 where we are told not to cast our pearls before swine. Pearls here would represent things which are good, in contrast to swine–representing those who are unholy, unclean, evil. If wearing pearls was a sin in the sight of God, there would be no contrast or point in this saying of Jesus.
So far as scripture tells us, Jesus said nothing against wearing jewelry, gold or pearls. If we take this passage literally and as applying from then until now–what principles of Christ are we using to enforce it? Why do we not examine and accept the exceptions to this statement, as we do for “women shall not teach”? To be consistent, do we not also have to literally always require men to lift up holy hands when praying, as instructed in the previous verse in I Tim 2:8? If we’re going to take these things literally, to be consistent, do we not have to take everything literally. Just like Paul told the Galatians–if you are going to follow the Law–you must follow the WHOLE law.
What was the REAL intent of the passages? Could he not have said it this way: Gold and pearls and fine hairdos are not valuable spiritually as adornment; make sure you are adorned spiritually. Or like I Tim. 4:7-8 “Adorn yourself with godliness, for gold, pearls and fine hairdos profiteth little.”
You mentioned the black stocking issue…sad we didn’t learn from that unfortunate experience. We have two more “black stocking issues” in our midst: that of insisting women not wear cosmetics or slacks. At one time these things may have been worn by undesirable types of ladies–but that is no longer the case. I won’t elaborate on these things now, except to say there isn’t a scrap of New Testament scripture to enforce these “absolute” unwritten rules.
You stated you thought it funny that the authors of the books could think that they could thwart God’s true way, or something close to that statement. Harry, they want to HELP the truth! Their entire purpose for writing the books was to make others see that the truth is in need of the same thing the Pharisees needed when John the Baptist came: “Make his paths straight!” Their sole desire is for the truth to align itself with Jesus’ teachings, so the people will depend on Jesus’ blood and resurrection for salvation, and not their own works.
Harry, I know for a fact that there are more books about the truth being printed and written right now, which will be released in the not too distant future. They all have the same intent: to expose what is in the truth that is not in line with Jesus’ teachings. Criticism can be taken two different way–one as help, and the other offense. Can not the workers take the truth in these books and use it for constructive changes in the truth that are much needed? “Make his way straight”?
We realize you preach the gospel somewhat differently from many in that you acknowledge it is only the blood of Christ that saves one–not works; but, unless there has been a recent change, many others do not teach that, and are opposed to that teaching. There were murmurs against your preaching in that vein at Texarkana when you were last there for convention. Perhaps this is your way of doing what you can to align the truth with Jesus’ teachings. But others things need to be addressed. It would be so much better if they were addressed BEFORE the friends get a hold of them. You know, most of us have no idea what our doctrine is. Isn’t that shocking? But nevertheless, true. If we were asked, as I have been, we would be totally at a loss. I know, because I was, and have asked others, and found this to be the absolute truth. This would be an excellent theme for a series of gospel meetings. But we have a problem in that what is doctrine differs from state to state, worker to worker, etc.
The things that bothered me a lot were the discrepancies I found in “the perfect way”, “the way is the same”, “the unity” and the “love among us”. If the way was perfect, it would not have all these things that didn’t line up; it was supposed to be the same from Jesus’ day, and yet it is different from state to state, worker to worker, friend to friend; there isn’t unity of doctrine, but differences, and not always unity among friends either; and the love that is to characterize his disciples was sometimes nonexistent among the friends. It all made sense, though, when I found this was a way started by a man–not God. You see, we expect so much more if this was truly God’s way. I truly believe He could create a Perfect way, and thought that this was His way–but could not understand for the life of me how all these things could be imperfect about it, and it still be His perfect true only way! The Secret Sect answered that question that has bothered me since I was 13 years old.
I know many of these thoughts are quite foreign to you, and that you will probably think we are WAY off track. Don’t blame the books–the books were not really the start of our problem. The problem stemmed from the differences we could see in what the truth was purported to be versus what it actually was. Sounds like the Pharisees, doesn’t it? Perhaps we are the modern-day Pharisees. Perhaps we need a letter like Paul wrote the Galatians–maybe we’ve fallen into the same trap, of adding works to grace.
I am simply no longer willing to have men’s will and traditions forced upon me, without explanation. I, along with many others, would just like to be able to live my life as my convictions guide me. Why does it have to be lived within the framework of rules, although not actually specified, which are as hardfast as though engraved in stone tablets? The Sabbath existed for men, not men for the Sabbath, Jesus said. Should not also the way exist for men, not men for the way? Is the Way going to be saved, or the people in it? Is the way supporting believers, or believers supporting the way. The Way is not going to heaven–only the relationship between a believer and Christ will count in the end. The spirit is all that will return.
Communism, we learned as a child was when the people existed for the government; democracy, when the government exists for the people. The truth is run like a dictatorship…the people have no say; they must obey, or be put out. Yet the New Covenant said the spirit would be in every man’s heart and would guide him. In a dictatorship like is found in the truth, there is no trusting the spirit–no room for the spirit to guide. We are all like dough, cut by the same cookie-cutter, forced to come out identical. If one doesn’t comply, one lost his place in “the only true way to heaven”. But now, after people are aware of the real beginning of the way, people do not have to put up with that kind of rulership, inconsistencies, invalid reasonings, and with no explanations. They can decide whether or not this way is as good/or worse than another way. Why can’t we trust the Spirit to guide? Do we not want to be sure that we err on the side of compassion on uncertain things?
Did you ever stop to think that everyone with questions may be troubled with them because the things they question go against the rule of the spirit in their lives? Are you not finding more and more people asking questions concerning appearance issues for women? No one understands them, and the workers are unable to explain them. Parents don’t expect a baby to obey things it cannot understand and do not punish it for same. Why are women forced to obey/do things they do not understand? Will not the Heavenly Father also have mercy, as a parent, if understanding is not present?
We believe it would be in the best interest of all if you come by yourself, without a companion, when you visit us on your return.
David & Cherie Kropp
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma