I put together a distillation of my experience in 16 points that I felt it would be my Christian duty to tell to anyone in this situation. These points could perhaps be borne in mind by anyone who wishes to justify their exit from it.
1. The sect was founded by an unlettered but charismatic man in 1897 who felt appointed by God to demolish all other Christian churches in existence and replace their teachings with his own as being the only true way to salvation.
2. In the present continuation of this man’s ‘experiment’ therefore, no adherence to true and essential Biblical doctrine on Christian Salvation is felt necessary or even desirable, and much of what is actually taught and practised is in fact directly contrary to Biblical Christianity.
3. The sect does not publish, nor has it ever published, any statement of faith or any printed doctrinal literature.
4. There is no Biblical authority for the sect’s insistence on “the church in the home and the preacher without a home” or any other of its sacred customs, habits, rituals, mandates, prohibitions, lifestyle adopted by their preachers or methods of preaching, which are nevertheless all held by the sect as being absolutely essential to salvation.
5. Many of the sect’s sacred customs, mandates and prohibitions nevertheless have been altered over time (diachronic inconsistency) or vary from country to country at any given time (synchronic inconsistency).
6. The customs, laws and regulations of the sect are usually verbally transmitted and never written down, except possibly informally between members, and are therefore difficult if not impossible to clarify or pin down.
7. There is no honesty or openness in the sect’s methods of outreach to those they consider ‘unsaved.’
8. There is no honesty or openness internally within the sect as regards such matters as organisation, power structures, financial accounting and in its dealing with members who are breakers and abusers of the laws of the land.
9. There is no honesty or openness or consistency in the sect’s dealing with members who are perceived to have broken the unwritten laws of the sect.
10. While the sect employs the well-known sect technique of ‘love-bombing’ potential new candidates, love and acceptance after membership is always conditional upon obedience and adherence to its strict yet unwritten laws, customs and regulations.
11. Before a person’s membership can be accepted by the sect’s leaders, that person must renounce all other Christian Churches that they may have attended and Christian beliefs that they may have held before they can be re-baptised into the sect.
12. Once a person becomes a baptised member of the sect, he or she is strongly advised to minimise and even to cut any ties with friends or kin who are not members of the sect and are therefore ‘unsaved sinners.’
13. Once a person becomes a baptised member of the sect they are forbidden, on pain of excommunication, to marry anyone who is not also a member of the sect.
14. The new member must hold his or her home in readiness at all times for pairs of preachers either male or female to come and stay in without warning for visits which may last from one day up to three months or more. The member will also be expected to provide these preachers with board and lodging, pocket money and the use of their car, all of which expenses he or she cannot claim back for tax purposes as no receipts are given.
15. The new member must hold his or her home in readiness at all times for any or all of the thrice-weekly home meetings should he or she be deemed ‘worthy’ of this honour.
16. Even after having fulfilled all of these conditions to the letter and attended every meeting and every convention, the member’s heavenly salvation is not assured until he or she has breathed his or her last breath. After which all the sect members will turn out in force from miles around to the funeral and give the now-saved member a really wonderful send-off.
By Helen MacLean (deceased)