Lecture on Cooneyites ~ Examines their Foundation
NOTE: This is the original newspaper article that appeared on September 4, 1997, in The Impartial Reporter and Farmers Journal, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland
Following it are numerous replies to Letters to the Editor
Among the various churches and religious groups in Fermanagh, there is probably only one that actually originates in the county. The Cooneyites, sometimes known as the Dippers, date back to the turn of the century when a former faith mission preacher by the name of William Irvine moved to Fermanagh from Scotland. One of his leading followers and the group’s chief exponent and evangelist, Edward Cooney, gave his name to the group.
While Fermanagh is not included in a province-wide series of lectures on the Cooneyites, Welsh authority on churches and religious groups, Dr. Eryl Davies, is to include Stonepark Baptist Church, near Fivemiletown, on his itinerary.
Author of a number of books on the subject of religion, Dr. Davies is principal of the Evangelical Theological College in Wales and is editor of the British Evangelical Church’s theological journal ‘Foundations’.
According to organiser of the lectures, Mr. Cecil Andrews, the purpose of Dr. Davies’ lectures is to inform Christians of the nature of a group about which little is known.
According to Mr. Andrews, a ‘watchman’ minister based in Belfast, the Cooneyites believe themselves to be the true descendants of the apostles and claim to trace their existence back to the time of Christ.
“It’s a group that have been neglected in terms of examining their teachings in public and how it differs from the teaching of biblical Christianity. The average Christian is fairly ignorant of what they believe. We would also hope that some Cooneyites would come along to hear what Dr. Davies has to say,” said Mr. Andrews.
The Cooneyites continue to have a special attachment to Co. Fermanagh, which, according to Mr. Andrews, is seen as its spiritual birthplace. Even up until the 1940s and 1950s large conventions were held in the county, and the group still hold non-denominational gospel meetings at Orange Halls and other venues across Ireland.
The Fermanagh man who gave his name to the group, Edward Cooney, travelled widely and to this day there are pockets of Cooneyites all over Ireland, the United States and Canada.
While the Cooneyites themselves are said to shun any formal title, they are also known as the ‘Two by Twos’, a reference to their practice of evangelising in pairs, in accordance with scriptural reference to Christ sending his disciples out ‘two by two’.
The series of lectures to be given by Dr. Davies, titled ‘Christ and the Cooneyites’ gets underway at 8 pm next Monday evening (September 8) at Stonepark Baptist Church and goes on to Dunamanagh Baptist Church, Co. Tyrone, on Tuesday evening.
Letters to the Editor (replies to above)
September 11, 1997
In the September 4th Issue of your paper I read a rather startling announcement on page 11 that a series of lectures entitled “Christ and the Cooneyites” is to be given by a certain Dr. Eryl Davies styled as ‘Welsh authority on churches and religious groups.’ These lectures it said are organised by Mr. Cecil Andrew; a so-called ‘watchman’ minister. The purpose of the lectures, says Mr. Andrews, is to inform Christians of the nature of a group about which little Is known and about whose beliefs the average Christian is fairly ignorant. ‘These lectures claim to show how Cooneyites differ from Biblical Christianity.
It is obvious from Mr. Andrews’ own statements in the above mentioned announcement in your paper that he, too, knows little about the “Cooneyites.” Surely a little learning is a dangerous thing. Presumably, Dr. Davies holds the same views as does Mr. Andrews In which case the accuracy of his knowledge on this subject is also questionable to say the least. These men should be careful not to revile something they do not understand.
There is no secret about what the Cooneyites believe and practice. Edward Cooney, who died in 1960 had a housetop message as he preached in the open air throughout the English-speaking world for more than 60 years. He did not hide his light under a bushel. His was a life of faith without salary or appeals for financial assistance. But relying solely on the promise of God that as he sought his Kingdom first the natural needs of food and raiment would be added. This promise he proved to be true during his long ministry. Here was something unusual in the 20th century. For he was not among those who “Say and do not.” He practiced what he preached.
The audacity of people to under take a series of lectures on a subject they do not adequately know or understand will not enlighten anyone but only cause confusion. For “If the blind lead the blind they shall both fall into the ditch.”
If, however, any one is interested In the authentic story of Edward Cooney and the so-called “Cooneyites,” two books on the subject are available. These are: The Life and Ministry of Edward Cooney 1867-1960 by Patricia Roberts; and Selected Letters, Hymns & Poems of Edward Cooney, edited by Patricia Roberts.
A careful study of these books by any honest person In the light of Scripture and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit will show that It Is NOT from Biblical Christianity that the life, ministry and teaching of Edward Cooney differs but rather from false religion. ‘If that light that be In you be darkness, how great Is that darkness.’
September 8, 1997
I found your recent article about the “Cooneyites” most interesting. Many of the older surviving Enniskillen residents would recall Edward Cooney and the term “dippers.”
His father was a very wealthy man with a number of drapery shops in Enniskillen. Edward Cooney had the almost unique distinction of incurring the wrath of both the Roman Catholic church and the Orange Order, he was denounced from the pulpit of St. Michael’s Church, Enniskillen, whilst a Newtownards outdoor meeting he was addressing was disrupted by an Orange mob led by an Orange Band.
Cooney preached to the poor in the working-class area of Enniskillen affectionately known as “The Streets,” and also held public meetings on the “Diamond.”
He subsequently preached in the UK, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand. He died on the 20 June 1960 in Mildura, Australia at the ripe old age of 93.
September 25, 1997
The criticism levelled at Dr. Eryl Davies and myself by Dr. Patricia Roberts, based upon a short newspaper announcement and obviously in advance of the series of lectures having been delivered is surprising for several reasons which I would like to outline.
The lectures did not concentrate solely upon the grouping which still retains links to the teachings of Edward Cooney but also gave information about the larger grouping from which he separated in 1928 and which today is incorrectly referred to by some people as ‘Cooneyites’ and this aspect was explained at each meeting.
The lectures were delivered with two objectives in mind –
1. ‘Educational” – Dr. Davies gave an outline of the history of the movement(s) and In his research he was much helped by the book written by Dr. Roberts on the life of Edward Cooney.
2. ‘Evangelical” – Dr. Davies quoted various statements made by members of the groups and then showed how these were in error when compared to the teachings of the Bible. A number of the erroneous statements quoted were actually contained in lengthy correspondence which passed between Dr. Roberts and myself in 1994. In particular, Dr. Roberts rejected what are known as ‘Penal Substitution’ and ‘Imputed Righteousness’ and her views strike at the very heart of the good news of Christ (our righteousness – Philippians 3:8-9) and Him crucified for redemption – Galatians 3:13).
It is true that Edward Cooney turned his back on the secular world to pursue the proclamation of his message but history has shown that there have been and are many devoted servants of Christ with no links to ‘the Cooneyites’ who have taken similar action to proclaim the true gospel of Christ.
“Take Heed” Ministries,
September 25, 1997
AIMING FOR ACCURACY
Allow me to reply briefly to the criticisms made of me by Patricia Roberts recently in your newspaper.
First of all, as an academic I have researched the subject of the Cooneyites thoroughly. Yes, I have also read her own two helpful books on Edward Cooney.
Secondly, I have met a number of people from her group and also from the larger group. On the Internet too, I have unlimited international access both to members and ex-members of these two groups.
I assure Patricia Roberts that my aim is accuracy and fairness; I bear no malice whatsoever. My longing is for many more people, including the Cooneyites, to enjoy the marvellous, free grace of God in Christ. And such grace, grounded in the substitutionary sacrifices of Jesus Christ, can be appropriated only by faith in the Saviour. This is the essential message of the Christian gospel which both groups have distorted. That fact distresses me.
Dr. D. E. Davies, Principal,
Bryntirion Evangelical Theological College of Wales
October 2, 1997
I read with some interest Mr. Cecil Andrews’ letter to the September 25th issue of your paper in reply to mine of September 11th, regarding a lecture given by D. E. Davies on ‘Christ and the Cooneyites.’ Mr. Andrews states that “Dr. Davies quoted various statements made by members of the groups and then showed how these were in error when compared with the teachings of the Bible.” He goes on to say that a number of erroneous statements quoted were actually contained in a lengthy correspondence between himself and me in 1994. From this correspondence, he concludes that I reject In particular the ‘penal substitution’ theory and ‘imputed righteousness.’ I do reject the ‘penal substitution’ theory but I do not reject ‘imputed righteousness’ although I reject Mr. Andrews’ interpretation of it.
The ‘penal substitution’ theory is a doctrine that was formulated by 17th century theologians who took some of their ideas from Luther and Calvin but they selected only those passages which deal with the penal aspects of the atonement in the thought of Luther and Calvin, much of which was based on that of Acquinas. The result is called ‘Protestant Scholasticism.’ This doctrine claims, in short, that God inflicted on Jesus, as a substitute, the punishment that sinful humans deserved when he suffered death on the cross, thus freeing them from the guilt and penalty of sin. I believe this is a misinterpretation of Scripture. It is theological speculation and not revelation; and is at best a half-truth.
Within the limits of the space of this letter, it is not possible to treat this subject In the depth it requires. However, I shall attempt to briefly state my understanding of this important matter. I do not believe Christ’s sufferings were inflicted by God. But God knew that his life lived in and through Jesus, who was God manifest in the flesh, would cause him to be rejected, to suffer and finally be crucified as a malefactor by a fallen humanity who did not recognise the God who was revealed in Christ.
What God required of Jesus was obedience and his answer was always: “Thy will not mine be done.” Paul writes: “For by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Rom. 519). Thus God revealed to Jesus that the sufferings of the cross were to be endured by him fully and by his disciples to the extent they followed him. When man had done his worst by killing the Prince of life, God stepped in and raised him from the dead.
Peter said: “The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.” Jesus, therefore, by confronting all the forces of evil (“This is your hour and the power of darkness”) conquered them as he, the sinless one, alone could. It Is by the sin offering, I.e. the sacrificial life of Christ poured out unto death even death on the cross in perfect obedience to the will of God, that we are reconciled to God, that is “to as many as receive him.” Thus his death frees us from the guilt and penalty of sin and his resurrection life in us (imputed righteousness), to the extent that we obey him, frees us from the power and dominion of sin.
Imputed righteousness: I concluded from Mr. Andrews’ correspondence with me that his interpretation of ‘imputed righteousness’ is that those who accept the ‘penal substitution’ doctrine are clothed in Christ’s righteousness and indwell by the Holy Spirit. This, I believe, is pure self-deception. Jesus said: “Blessed are those who do hunger and thirst after righteousness.” (i.e. the righteousness of God in Christ). Those who believe themselves to be already clothed in Christ’s righteousness would seem not to need to do this! I And it says the Holy Spirit is given to them that obey him. (Acts 5:32).
The best example of ‘imputed righteousness’ is that which Paul experienced. He could say: I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me, And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
(Gal. 2:20). Paul could say this with confidence for he obeyed the words of Jesus who said: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34). This was the tangible evidence of Paul’s faith in Christ. And because Christ lived in him and through him he knew what it was to share in Christ’s sufferings. “For those who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” The righteousness of Christ in Paul cost him a great deal for the ‘pearl of great price’ is costly. But the ‘imputed righteousness’ that Mr. Andrews believes in is a cheap grace for it costs those who adhere to it nothing.
Dr. Patricia Roberts
October 2, 1997
I read with interest, the letter under the above title in your issue of 11 September, 1997. The writer (Dr. Patricia Roberts) raised a number of points concerning the beliefs and practices of this sect, on which 1 would like to comment.
Dr. Roberts criticises Mr. Cecil Andrews for knowing little about the ‘Cooneyites’ and goes on to declare, that ‘there is no secret about what the Cooneyites believe and practise’; I’m afraid I would have to disagree; I believe the vast majority of adherents to the mainstream Christian denominations know very, very little of the beliefs of this sect. I’m sure this is due in no small measure to the sect’s unwillingness to put into print, a formal statement of their beliefs, including where they stand on the divinity of Jesus Christ, how salvation is attained, etc. If they were to make their views public, then we could all judge for ourselves how they compare with Biblical Christianity,
Secondly, Dr. Roberts states that Edward Cooney relied on the promise of God, seeking his kingdom first and looking to God to provide the natural needs of food and raiment, and I have to say this was very commendable. However, the general public may not be aware that Mr. Cooney and the other co-founder of the sect, Mr. William Irvine, were cast out of the movement. Mr. Irvine first in 1914 and Mr. Cooney subsequently in 1928. As a result of Mr. Cooney’s expulsion, I understand it Is more correct to refer to the bulk of present-day adherents as ‘Reidites’, so named after Mr. Wilson Reid.
For anyone interested, a very interesting little book entitled “The Secret Sect’ is available, written by Doug and Helen Parker, ex-members of the sect from Australia. I believe these people can speak with authority about the sect’s origins, beliefs and practices, having travelled over to Enniskillen and researched old issues of the Impartial Reporter, etc. in compiling the book. If I may just quote a few snippets from the book to whet your readers’ appetites, they are as follows:
Page 34: William Irvine the founder and supreme authority of what is known as Cooneyism is a Scotsman.
Page 76: Edward Cooney was first banned from preaching in 1922 and finally east out from the fellowship in 1928.
Page 92/93. In 1972 Fred and Ruth Miller wrote: ‘… three years ago, we began to notice that there was but scant reference in the preaching or testimonies to the blood of Christ …’
Page 100: A former worker wrote in 1981: “When we expressed our belief that there were others in the world who also ‘knew the Lord’, and would be ‘saved’ … we were immediately excommunicated from them”.
Page 101/102: From the sources available, it appears that Christ is seen as having been neither perfect man or perfect God, but as the pattern preacher.
Page 104: An “open letter” written by a former member stated “you deny the atonement made by our Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross … your denial of this classes you with every anti-christian sect … I know that you teach that we are saved by the life of Christ, quoting Romans 5, 10; … but no thoughtful reader of scripture could take that clause to mean Christ’s life on earth before His cross.
Contender for the Faith
October 9, 1997
The Cooneyites/Reidites. I refer to your issue of 2 October 1997 and the letter of reply from Dr. Roberts.
I must say at the outset that one thing is very clear; if Dr. Roberts is right concerning the two matters discussed in her letter, the ALL evangelical Christian denominations are wrong! Of course, that isn’t right, but it comes as no surprise to me I have to say: I am aware that the Cooneyites/Reidites don’t just believe that they are right in their interpretation of the Bible about knowing God, the way of Salvation, etc, but they believe they ALONE are right!!
Born-again, evangelical Christians who belong to the mainstream Protestant denominations should be aware of the above, and the deceptive nature of those who hold ‘gospel meetings’ and try to convey the impression that they too are another evangelical protestant witness, when in fact their beliefs are far removed from those held by mainstream evangelical protestants.
If I may again quote from the book entitled The Secret Sect, at page 102 it reads, “There is a noticeable pattern of rejection of members who raised the subject of redemption or voiced the idea that people outside their fellowship may have been saved. The doctrine of justification through faith alone in Jesus Christ as divine redeemer is contrary to the dogma of the nameless sect, although the contra position between the two beliefs is not made known publicly now, as it was in the early years when Wm Irvine openly derided ‘Calvary ranters’.”
Again on page 105, one of the sect’s overseers William Carroll stated, (speaking on his sect), “they were God’s interpreters and the devil deludes people into talking about being saved by the blood of Jesus the wide world over, when they have no right to even mention his name”.
Finally, if I may quote from former members of the sect as quoted on page 108 of the book, Fred and Ruth Miller wrote: “on exactly what specific grounds does a man become reconciled to God; just exactly what is the Gospel. They, (referring to the Cooneyite/Reidite preachers), really don’t want to come right 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 Saviour’, but of ‘seeing (through their workers’ preaching) 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 realise this, as it’s very subtle”.
Another former member Alfred Magowan is also quoted on page 108 and he wrote, “It was an error to believe in a ‘one true way’ which was in the power of men. We ought to have known better than to think God would limit Himself that way, or put our salvation at the will or in the power of men no matter how wise and even saintly they might be. There is ONE TRUE WAY, but that WAY is a PERSON; ‘No man cometh unto the Father but by me.’ The preachers are neither ashamed nor afraid to commend themselves as the only true servants God has on earth in our time!”
In conclusion, may I say that Dr Roberts is quite wrong to state that ‘penal substitution’ and ‘imputed righteousness’ represent a ‘misinterpretation of scripture’ and ‘pure self-deception’, respectively. Christ dying as our substitute e.g. Isaiah 53: 5 & 6, Mark 10: 45, 1 Peter 2: 24, Gal. 1: 4, 3: 13 and many, many more. Imputed righteousness is also clearly taught in scripture e.g. Romans Chapter 4 and again Paul speaking in Galatians 3 v6 “Even as Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness”. God’s grace cannot be accounted ‘cheap’ just because there is nothing we can do to earn it!
Contender for the Faith
October 9, 1997
I believe that the recent letters on the topic of the Cooneyites may lead to some confusion on sects which comprise this group. The group currently consists of three sects which have common origins in the religious movement that was started by William Irvine, Edward Cooney, George Walker, and others around the year 1900.
In 1914, Irvine was expelled from the group, when he adopted new teachings which he called his Omega message. A small number of the followers left with him and recently, via the Internet, present-day adherents of this Omega message have been located. This group appears mainly to reside in the western USA. They call themselves the Message People, and claim to number about 2000.
In 1928, a group of senior preachers (Wilson Reid, George Walker, Jack Carroll, etc.) expelled Edward Cooney, together with a number of his followers. Present-day followers of Edward Cooney in Northern Ireland number 70-100.
The majority of the original group remained loyal to these senior preachers. Their followers claim to take no name, but are often mistakenly called Cooneyites. Indeed, members of this group will generally strongly deny any connection with the Cooneyites. Within this group, the members refer to their sect as The Way or The Testimony, and they refer to themselves as The Friends or The Saints. In the USA, they are often referred to as the Two-by-Twos or 2x2s. This group has a worldwide membership which may number in excess of 100,000.
In his letter, Dr. Davies mentioned that information on the 2x2s was available on the Internet. The addresses for the websites are:
——- site links removed as they are no longer good links —–
The ‘Secret Sect’ book referred to by ‘Contender for the Faith’, may be obtained from the Faith Mission Bookshop in Belfast. Additional books on the 2x2s may be obtained from: Research & Information Services (RIS) of Bend, Oregon USA.
October 9, 1997
In reply (and in conclusion) to Dr. Robert’s letter of 2nd October, I would comment that ‘Penal Substitution’ was not formulated by 17th century theologians but is clearly taught in the Word of God. Speaking prophetically of the sufferings Christ would endure on the cross Isaiah wrote in chapter 53 “smitten of God and afflicted” (v4) “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (v6) and “it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief” (v10). The fire of God’s wrath fell upon Christ at Calvary where he “offered himself without spot to God” (Heb.9 v14) just as surely as the wrath of God fell upon the sacrifice offered by Elijah on Mount Carmel – “Then, the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice” (1st Kings 18v38).
In relation to ‘Imputed Righteousness,’ Paul realised that all his religious activity and human qualities counted for nothing when it came to being accepted by God (Phil.3 v4-8) and he required the righteousness of another “not having mine own (self) righteousness.. but…the righteousness which is of God by Faith” (v9). The righteousness with which God has clothed me and all those truly born again (pictured by the wedding garment of Matthew 22 v1-14) is not a product of ‘cheap grace’ as Dr Roberts described it but is a product of the love of God’s Son of whom Paul says on behalf of all grateful believers “ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich yet for your sakes he became poor that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2nd Cor. 8 v9).
Righteous living should be the mark of those truly saved but those relying on it and not “Jesus Christ (our righteousness) and him crucified (our redemption) (1st Cor. 2 v2) for admission to heaven will be as disappointed as the guest dressed in his own clothes (self-righteousness) was in Matthew 22 v 11-13.
“Take Heed” Ministries
November 13, 1997
FOLLOWER OF WILLIAM IRVINE [By Barbara James]
I am writing in regards to your recent series of letters regarding the ‘Two By Two Church and The Cooneyite Sect, of which Mr. William Irvine was a founder.
My intent is not to debate or dispute doctrine. It is only to make people aware that after Mr. Irvine’s separation from, what was then known as the Testimony (also known as the Truth) in 1914, he went on with his work.
My name is Barbara James. I’m a present-day follower of William Irvine. In 1897, William Irvine founded the scriptural doctrine of the Testimony based on what Jesus gave in the New Testament — Jesus as the Way, Truth and Life. It was Mr. Irvine’s work as the Alpha Prophet for the beginning of the Last Days, spoken of in Deut. 18:18 and 19; the Man like unto Moses, a human man of the people; a spiritual Jew, chosen by God. In the early years, Mr. Irvine, George Walker, Eddie Cooney, Jack Carroll and Irvine Weir were close friends and together they formed the beginnings of the “church” that, by order of succession, evolved into the Two by Two Church.
In later years, Mr. Cooney separated from the Testimony and founded a splinter group. Virtually nothing of Mr. Irvine’s teachings remain in the doctrines or practices of either sect today.
Mr. Irvine began in the early years giving Matthew 10, then Matthew 23, condemning paid preachers, ministers, priests, etc., because Jesus spoke the words in Matthew 23 to the most scriptural, religious people of His day, who were the Jews. Matt 23 heralded the end of the Apostolic Age (Two by Two — New Testament witness) and was the Precursor of the Omega Message which would explain or “signify” the Book of Revelation that William received between 1914 and 1928.
Differences of opinion on doctrine and methodology began to rumble between William and the others as the Omega truth began to be revealed to him. In 1914, Jesus took the Throne, as in Revelation 4; World War I being the seal of God on this event. At that time, Mr. Irvine was given understanding of the Book of Jonah as it related to the Testimony, and his “excommunication” from the Testimony in 1914 was the final proof to him that he was, indeed, the Prophet of Acts 3:20-23 fulfilling the Omega part of Moses prophecy for the End of Days. The “split” came because Mr. Walker, Mr. Cooney, Mr. Carroll, Mr. Weir and others were unwilling to accept Mr. Irvine as prophet for the Last Days, and were unwilling to give up apostolic practices, place, power, and livelihood as they would have had to do if they followed William into Omega. They repeated Korah, Dathan and Abiram’s words and stance as in Numbers 16.
In 1918, Mr. Irvine went to Jerusalem and from there, he wrote approximately half a million letters by hand, with fountain pen, to those whom he had witnessed the Omega to in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Eastern and Western Canada, Eastern and Western USA and South Africa. These letters explain the Book of Revelation in detail; show it as a non-sequential outline; show how the Old and New Testaments provide the detail; and how the old Books remain historic, yet are prophetic for today.
Some people followed Mr. Irvine out of “the Testimony” and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of some of them, and their subsequent “spiritual children” (those they witnessed to) are still following William’s teachings today. I — and allow me to emphasize the “I” part, for I speak only for myself — I call us “Message People”. William called us either “Little Ones” or his “friends”. (not The Friends). In all of his later letters, however, William always referred to the Testimony people who never had a chance to hear the Omega Message, and those who passed on before Revelation opened, as “The Saints”.
An apostolic age requires a Gospel or Good News. Gospel ceased when Judgment began in 1914; in other words, the heavens were closed. No more Gospel, no more “going out’. Revelation 1:3, “Blessed is he that readeth (one reader-prophet) and they that hear.” The Alpha Message, Jesus giving love, mercy and forgiveness to the whole world was no longer. The Omega Message is Alpha to “they that hear” and Wrath to all who refuse.
The absence of a gospel also meant no going out two by two, for in Omega Days, there is no “going out”; every Witness is on his own. It’s one on one — witnessing to Wrath as opportunity to do so comes into one’s daily life. George Walker, Eddie Cooney, Jack Carroll, and all but a scant handful of The Testimony’s general population would not have it. They thought William was “wrong in the head”, or “had wrong spirit”. But so did the Hebrew Children think of Moses. It was too far a stretch for them to believe a God would speak to one “Man like unto Moses”. After all, in Moses’ day, He spoke to the whole “holy” congregation.
The Omega Message begins with Revelation 3:20, Jesus’ friendly invitation, inviting all people on the Earth to hear the Omega Message. He knocks at the door of your hearts, to tell you that He is on the Throne, judging the Earth. And that as war, famine, pestilence, plagues, drought, natural disasters, racialism, class war, economic failure occurs, and society as a whole decays, personal judgment will increase, that all that is happening on the Earth today is God and Jesus’ answer to what Satan and his have done to Him and His family, and everyone God and Jesus ever sent. Revelation is a warning, yes; but it is also meant to show a means of escape of all that is coming on the Earth.
Jesus’ Message to all peoples on the Earth today is in Revelation 17 and 18, Babylon and her ministry. In Rev. 18:4, Jesus tells us to “Come out of her, My People, that ye be not par takers of her sins”, showing that He does not consider all people His. In Verse 13, Jesus shows that the big business described in this chapter “Trades in the souls of men” which only organized religion does. Isaiah 55 shows that He gave us a Witness, leader and Commander, that our thoughts are not His thoughts; nor our ways His ways. The message given there, is Hear and your soul shall live; refuse and perish.
Thanks for your attention,
FOLLOWER OF WILLIAM IRVINE
Sacramento, California U.S.A.
December 11, 1997
Dear Impartial Reporter:
We see in your recent printing of Cooneyite letters that our experience of leaving the mainstream Two-by-Two’s in America in 1972 was referred to. Later on, we had a number of extended visits with some elderly Irish Cooneyites. We would like now to report a significant difference we noted (related to truth in advertising) that we believe the public should be aware of.
The “message” and general practice of both groups were similar. But while the Cooneyites seemed quite knowledgeable and open about their doctrine and their 1890s origin, the Two-by-Two’s had little awareness in either area and were careful to evasively disguise what little they did know.
Without having to say so, they wanted to appear to be from the days of Jesus without interruption, a concept necessitated by their veiled claim that spiritual life could only come through the directly spoken words of one of their itinerant ministers. And they wanted to appear to be doctrinally orthodox without actually committing themselves clearly. They didn’t really want to discuss either doctrine or history.
The Two-by-Two ministers could appear to agree warmly with views they didn’t actually hold and which they would later disparage. They commonly led prospects to believe they held orthodox views, and also pretended the same to any of their own members who made specific inquiry on doctrinal essentials. But usually, evasion and silence disposed of such questions, whether of doctrine or of history.
Had we been dealing originally with the Cooneyites instead of the mainstream Two-by-Two’s, we could have learned much more readily the serious ways in which these groups differ from orthodoxy:
* that their “gospel” was simply a method of preaching and meeting, and that it rejected the biblical message of God’s grace in providing a Savior.
* that they were relying on their own flawed faithfulness and placed no reliance on what Christ did for them when He kept the precept and penalty of the Law in their stead.
* that they did not believe God to be a trinity, nor Christ to be God,
* that they believed themselves to be the only Christians, etc.
Oh, yes, they “believed” in the blood of Christ, in His death, in His righteous, obedient life, but what they believed about these things was deliberately unclear, and the admission that they didn’t rely on any of them for acceptance with God was very slow in coming.
But eventually, it did come through. They simply expected God to be “reasonable” (as they called it) in accepting their best efforts, expecting that He could bend the strictness of His Law for them, that imperfect compliance with it could be accepted, though it cost Him His integrity as a Judge. Since they didn’t see the price of heaven to be out of their personal reach, they didn’t need a Savior, much less a Substitute – only an Example.
So let the public beware. And let those members who are privately “reading into” the teachings of the group truths which are not there re-examine and challenge what they are hearing. Doing this will not be easy. Even the Loizeaux Publishing House was, for awhile, completely, fooled into defending the Two-by-Two’s as an orthodox Christian group. And the particular circumstances of Loizeaux’s encounter with the Two-by-Twos gave them far more chance to get to the truth about the group than any Two-by-Two convert ever has. It may help to remember that straightforwardness and consistency cannot be expected from Two-by-Two workers, even when they believe they are being honest. “Be wise as serpents, seem harmless as doves” is their oft-repeated motto.
Kennewick, Washington U.S.A.