Letters to and from Jim Vail
Letter from Howard Mooney (worker) to Jim Vail:
June 6, 1988
My dear Jim (Vail),
The copy of your letter to Opal Collins was waiting for me when I picked up my mail the other day. Needless to say, Jim, I was very sorry to see your state of distress. We hate to see any of the Lord’s people worried when they could be enjoying the peace of God in their hearts.
Personally, I have never been taken up with genealogies, or other things that Paul warned against in First Timothy 1:3-4. My satisfaction is in the fact that the Lord has given to me all that he has promised.
I am just completing my 60th year in this great Work. They have been 60 wonderful years, assuring me that I have made the greatest investment with my life that a person could possibly make. And, you may be sure that if there was any sign of deterioration taking place in the fellowship, I would be the first one to sense it, as I would not want to see my life’s investment going for naught.
You were wondering about us referring to our fellowship as the ‘truth’. I know that there are many movements in the world that refer to themselves as the truth, but we refer to ours as Paul did, in Ephesians 4:21: “As the Truth is in Jesus”. It embodies all that Jesus lived and taught, and it produces the promise that is made in Isaiah 32:17.
A wonderful convention will take place Parma in another week. A good number of workers are coming from other countries and states to help us. We pray that your own heart will be touched, Jim, and that your faith will be renewed by the things that you see and hear there. Our prayers are with you.
Yours in His care,
Jim Vail replied with the following letter:
Dear Howard (Mooney),
I couldn’t agree more wholeheartedly with your position towards natural genealogies and other endeavors mentioned in 1 st Timothy which are counterproductive and wasteful to the preservation and growth of our fellowship and love for Truth.
However, when we preach that our lineage harkens from the beginning and has been shaped by the sure and sovereign will of God; and when we preach that out of humanity in general, God has been sifting and molding a particular and peculiar people who would embody and embrace His plan with whom he would give His special revelation and dispensation, then our genealogy must be set forth with meticulous detail and accuracy, as has been done by not only the Old Testament authors, but also Matthew and Luke.
Apparently, God felt the lineage of Christ was important enough to document it in exactitude and occupy the first 17 verses of Matthew in which the Jewish descent to Abraham was traced. Luke was divinely inspired to trace the genealogy of Jesus to Adam which represents a direct connection with not only the Jews but all mankind. I believe, therefore, that it is incumbent upon us if we are preaching the sectarian doctrine of apostolic succession, either explicitly or implicitly, we must substantiate this factually as God moved Matthew and Luke to do. If indeed, we can’t prove beyond all doubt that we have an unbroken connection with first-century Christianity, then obviously, it should not be preached as an indisputable fact.
Conversely, if we lay no claim to unbroken succession, then we are in effect admitting to an earthly organizer, a person who in our particular instance began this movement and resurrected what he felt to be primitive Christianity through emphasis upon select and specific scriptural reference for this purpose.
If this is so, let us honestly admit to is and remove the questions and cloak of secrecy which have intentionally or unintentionally shrouded the origins of this way. If the early foundation of our fellowship be based upon anything less than a full disclosure of the pure and honest truth, then the entire structure, no matter how closely it may be aligned with specific scriptures, is in error and in grave jeopardy as an instrument through which God would desire to work. “
Your Brother in Christ,
Comments by Jim Vail about the reactions of sister worker Opal Collins to a letter Jim wrote her.
April 5, 1990
Dear — (a married couple of ex-2x2s)
At the risk of boring you to tears, I’m enclosing some letters, articles, etc., which I’ve accumulated over the years. I’ve learned to keep copies of letters written and it also helps to send a copy to a third party so (in the words of my brother: “they know that you know that they know”, if you get his drift.)
My first letter to Opal Collins basically stated our family’s appreciation for her helpful words (unusual in itself and certainly meriting a letter!) in Sunday AM mtg along with the delicately phrased “enclosed” offering. Her reply is on the top of the stack and it goes (escalates, more appropriately) from there.
She called me immediately upon receiving the letter and intimated suicide, mental breakdowns, and that all sorts of woes (probably even pimples) were in store for me and my family if I didn’t reconsider. She also stoutly denied ever preaching apostolic succession, which is, in essence, admitting to an earthly originator, and proceeded to give me a great example of her undaunting faith when she went far away to Guam “without a guarantee” of any material sustenance. I told her she knew good and well that she’d be taken well care of by the company as long as she toed the line and preached company policy. Where, I asked, did faith enter in to this particular mission?
She could see at that point that I was “losing out” rapidly and abandoned that line of example, as obviously I had lost “the spirit” and was well on my way to hell and damnation!
May 15, 1988
Dear Opal (Collins),
Since receiving your gracious reply to my short note and enclosed offering sent your way in January. I feel a letter is long overdue. I want to first extend my sincere apologies to you as it seems my enclosed had apparently made you uncomfortable. You stated that “(seemingly) we are unable to be of any help to you in the way of gospel meetings and special meetings, etc.” Evidently, then, my offering is only considered worthy and acceptable dependent upon our attendance at these specific meetings.
I feel this to be a conditional type of acceptance and do not think it to be scriptural as Jesus Himself unconditionally accepted sustenance from the Samaritan woman and also the ministrations of a known sinner (aren’t we all) in Luke 7. The point of my note of gratitude, however, was that you were a great help to our family in that particular fellowship meeting and the genuine intent of it was to express our appreciation for your timely words of encouragement, cheer, and comfort in all that we enjoy through the sacrifice of God’s Son.
Our family has valued our Christ-ordained Sunday fellowship very deeply over the years and any time there are positive words of exhortation from our brethren, it inspires us to be an encouraging influence also.
As you mentioned, we have not been attending meetings other than the Sunday fellowship meeting. Our reason for this is that we have increasingly encountered in the past few years a lack of love, joy, gentleness, and spirit of forgiveness at those gatherings other than Sunday fellowship.
The spiritual fruit seems to have withered and been replaced by an increasing intolerance for anyone not in this way, a ministerial elitism, and a subtle emphasis on conformity in outward appearance, which amounts to nothing more than teaching for doctrine the commandments of men. We have gone to these man-ordained gatherings desperately wanting our innermost self to be filled and have come away empty time and again.
Last year I had, as you’ve noted, a discussion with Lowell concerning some unanswered questions our family had regarding what had been taught to us pertaining to the earthly origin of our particular way. My thoughts to him were that we are all a little upset to find out through a documented researched investigation that we in effect do not enjoy the security of unique apostolic succession as was taught to us both explicitly and implicitly by various workers throughout not only our lives, but also the lives of our parents.
I implored Lowell to refute this document through factual research and/or bring this problem to the attention of Howard (Mooney), although I felt at the time it would be handled much the same way as the David Jennings’ problem was dealt with a few years ago, and with each passing month, this particular assumption is being verified.
Opal, I will certainly respect your wishes and burden you no more with that which causes you discomfort. And yes, I appreciated your reference to the “doubts and problems which have been plaguing me and my dear family”…would that every precious soul in this way could be led by the Spirit to actively investigate our beliefs and those traditions, customs and teachings which we have held inviolate and accepted with blind trust, nay, even faith before we knew the true meaning of faith in our lives. My heartfelt prayer would be that the facts, as such we have, would either be refuted in a documented manner or made public to all people presently professing or those contemplating this step; after all, a common name for this way is “the truth”.
Consider the statistics that estimate there are today in excess of 22,000 Christian sects and denominations who basically claim Jesus as their founder, but the vast majority admit to (as the Jehovah Witness state Charles Taze Russell to be) a “general organizer” here on earth. Should we not be at least as honest and truthful as these people and admit to our “general organizer,” rather than shrouding our apparent present-day earthly origin in misrepresentation and less than full disclosure concerning our past?
As I discussed with Lowell and John, I entertain no illusions that the voice of one small family in Boise, Idaho will alter the course of this movement or touch in any way the lives of the thousands of precious souls who adhere without question to the commonly accepted tenants of doctrine which have become to them unassailable “truths”; our family loves those whom we have fellowship with very much and have known most of them our entire lives, but a person must live with their own conscience and do what they honestly and prayerfully believe is the right thing to do.
Thank you for your concern and prayers on our behalf; I too am concerned and praying that God will move those in charge to honestly address this problem. Our faith in God has never been stronger, although our trust in man has decidedly decreased through this and the David Jennings’ experience. We are and continue to be grateful for those who first brought to our attention the absolute necessity of Christ in our lives and rest assured that anyone who brings the pure gospel of love and salvation through Him to our door will receive a warm welcome at any time. May we all be able to echo the words of Jesus as he stood before his accusers as recorded in John 18:20 and said, “…I spake openly to the world; ….and in secret have I said nothing.”
Please overlook my poor typing and share this letter with our beloved sister Anita, whose thoughtfulness and uplifting spirit we value and appreciate.
With love made possible only through Jesus,
The Vail Family
cc: Howard Mooney
No date given, but would be prior to Jan. 21, 1983 which was the date of Jim’s reply to this letter.
(Typed from handwriting – and some words appear to be left out.)
From Everett Blair (a brother worker)
Dear Jim (Vail),
I’ll not enclose a form letter as it may [not?] mean much. So better get down to the issue involved.
Must say I appreciated you in sending a copy. I’m not a “writer” anymore since my illness. I used to write “articles” but my mind can’t be trusted.
Your research didn’t go far enough for your satisfaction and for my information.
Ask if they have any inf. of Wm. Irvine left the Pilgrim Faith to take over present ministry and church?
How long was he and others were leaders?
Amongst us alone all of his excommunication was recorded and where and circumstances of his death.
After you can find out more or not able to acquire further inf. – want to drop it. I’ll gladly furnish a picture of a copy of 125 from 1900 to July 1905. This is the N.T. ministry. Church was restored after 1200 years underground. More later on this.
Willie Gill also any information on him. I heard a Canadian* researched this faith and found it first in Gill’s home in England. Will work on what our critic…One statement made I couldn’t agree with more. That Jesus is the Way, Truth and the Life. I believe To Believe is to live by, obey New Testament Christianity.
Heard from two different ones you asked meetings to be taken out of home. Sad when one reduces oneself as a Heathen, with no NT church affiliation as much as to say it’s polluted. Sorry to put people in that terrible list Rev 21:8. Guess I’m getting tough and rough being a 1904 model. Jim, this shouldn’t be over with yet. I love you all. This shouldn’t hinder our human relations.
PS Thanks for the gift. If for my health OK; otherwise not for the ministry. Still wheelchair and walker. All OK good.
Rev 21:8 – But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
NOTE: *The “Canadian” was probably Dr. Cornelius Jaenen, a Canadian historian of 2×2 history.
Jim Vail’s reply to the above letter from Everett Blair
December 8, 1988
Thank you so much for your informative reply to my letter of September 15, 1988. It means very much to me to see and feel the interest you’ve shown in not only our subject of discussion but also in me as a person. I have long admired your dedication to research and obvious love for things of an eternal nature and feel privileged to correspond with you.
You are absolutely correct in stating that my research has not gone far enough as the more I look into this subject the less I realize I know and I am grateful for any objective documented source that can shed more light on an area which has been glossed over for some time.
I have on your advice dispatched a letter to the Faith Mission requesting the information you desired concerning William Irvine and Willie Gill. While we’re waiting for their answer, I’ll share with you what I’ve uncovered which is, I’m sure, common knowledge to you as you’ve researched this area much more intensively and thoroughly than I have:
According to my sources, William Irvine, who had become part of the Faith Mission in 1895, “was working a mission in the North of Ireland amongst some very well-to-do farmers when he came in contact with several young Irish men who were attracted to his preaching. This mission was held at Rathmolyon, Ireland, which is several miles from Dublin and included amongst these young men were William Carroll, William Gill, George Walker, Irvine Weir and several others. In October 1899 Irvine asked these young men if they would accompany him on a bicycle tour of Scotland, during which time they would visit Faith Mission people and meetings.
Prior to this, several others were attracted to his preaching and work, and as he was still a pilgrim with the Faith Mission he advised them to join themselves to the Irish Workers Christian Union which was conducted by an R.R. Todd. As his ideas progressed, so they were promulgated amongst all of these young men and women he had touched in his various missions, with the result that when the proper time came, and he had developed to the extent of having workers associated with himself, then the others who had joined Todd’s work came along with him also. Included in these that had joined Todd’s work were John Hardie, Jack Jackson and Tom Turner.
This belief can be dated back to exactly 1899 when these first workers gathered around William Irvine. The names of these men were: Willie Gill, John Long, George Walker, Irvine Weir, and Albert Quinn. Then in 1900, the list was added to by Matt Wilson, Sam Boyd, Willie Clelland, James Patrick.
It was 12 months before John Hardie, Jack Jackson and Tom Turner broke away from the Irish Workers Christian Union and came along with William Irvine, and in 1902 Edward Cooney was added to their number.” This is information from an article written by Parker in the early 1950s.
Piepkorn (1971) notes: ” He (Irvine) declared his independence of the Faith Mission and together with a nucleus of his own converts began to branch out on his own.”
John Govan writes in August 1901, ” When in Ireland, I came into closer contact with a movement that has been going on for the past year or two. A number of young people are going out on quite independent lines…while there may be much that is good in the devotion and earnestness of those who thus leave all…a number of the features of this movement do not commend themselves to us…as some have mistaken them for pilgrims, we find it necessary to say that the Faith Mission is not responsible for this movement.”
Recent correspondence with Mr. Peckham of the Faith Mission adds, “As Mr. Irvine spent a little time in the Faith Mission before leaving it, and, at a later date formed the Two-by-Twos, there is no possibility that this occurred before 1886 for it was in 1886 that John George Govan began the Faith Mission”.
Parker reports, “On the 18th of December, 1913, in the Kings Bench Division, London, Mr. Justice Darling in cross- examination of Mr. Edward Cooney: ‘Were you the founder of this sect?’ Mr. Edward Cooney: ‘No. William Irvine was the first about 16 years ago.’
“According to Parker and Faith Mission records, William Irvine resigned officially from the Faith Mission in 1901 with George Walker and Matthew Wilson witnessing the formal resignation. I have written the Faith Mission for confirmation of this.
A letter dated April 16, 1919, from Jack Carrol states “It is just 4 1/2 years ago since the older workers in old country told William Irvine that they could no longer recognize him as leader, or again in the ministry unless there was a complete change in his manner of life.” It appears, then, that William Irvine was “excommunicated” around1914 on the grounds of “his second adventist and strange prophetic beliefs.” He died at the Almazi Hotel on March 3rd, 1947, after suffering cancer of the throat.
Edward Cooney, another early leader with Irvine since 1901 was “excommunicated” on October 12, 1928, at Andrew Knox’s home in Lurgan, Ireland, seemingly due to his penchant for “teaching things on his own, without consulting any of the older brothers.” Edward Cooney died at the age of 93 in Mildura on June 20, 1961, and, according to Parker, followed his calling as an itinerant preacher almost to the last.
Everett, I apologize for repeating information which I’m sure you’ve access to but I feel in light of the questions you posed there had to be a certain amount of groundwork laid before a meaningful discussion could take place.
I appreciated your comment on “believing”– I’ve enjoyed the Greek “pisteos” which translated means “to cling, adhere to, or trust in” along with “to have faith in, rely upon or depend upon”. These definitions certainly imply a very intimate, close and personal relationship with Christ– I’m thankful that through His sacrifice this relationship is open to all who proclaim as those of old when baptized that “Jesus is Lord.”
I find it interesting that there are at least eight differing accounts which I’ve encountered among members of this fellowship regarding its origins and I would imagine that there are probably as many diverse opinions as there are workers and people in this way who care to think for themselves.
George Walker in his letter to the Selective Service System in 1942 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 frequent earnest conversations and studies on the subject, which in turn 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…”
My personal conversation with a friend whose Grandmother knew George Walker in Minnesota was curious to the effect insofar that he would not admit to professing through anyone (this is in itself unusual as virtually everyone in this fellowship can proudly point to their lineage and recall explicitly who they professed through) but remarked privately to another worker that he found salvation through a revelation experienced with a “farmer in a field.”
In April of 1919, Jack Carroll in a letter referred to W.I. (I would assume William Irvine) as “…a man once honored by God as no other”. This indeed seems a strange statement concerning one worker about another, unless Jack Carroll considered William Irvine God’s mouthpiece and chosen vessel to reinstate the New Testament Ministry upon the face of the earth again?
In 1983 Walter Pollock is quoted as saying in The Spokane Spokesman-Review that “We know that it began with a group of men in the British Isles around the turn of the century. That’s as far as we’ve been able to trace it.”
Also in 1983, Richard Wulf is quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, “Near the turn of the century God raised up godly men in Ireland and Scotland…we respect them and what they established but we don’t hold to that history and line of succession.”
Again in 1984 in The Coeur d’Alene Press, Walter Pollock states, “The church was formed at the turn of the century in Great Britain. A number of people in England, Scotland and Ireland discovered they were missing something spiritually…the Lord brought them together and they found they saw eye to eye on the ministry.”
Harry Brownlee is quoted in a newspaper as saying, “We’re simply a continuation of the author of truth.” This statement would give the impression that Harry Brownlee favors apostolic succession in one form or the other? This, of course, is in agreement of what Harry has stated several times in his gospel meetings: “If you can trace this way back to a man or group of men, then I’ve preached my last sermon. “As far as I know, Harry is still preaching.
Finally, we have the Greek workers’ viewpoint which totally denies any British Isle origins whatsoever. I would assume (please correct me if I’m mistaken) that they too would endorse an apostolic succession viewpoint.
The foregoing opinions are obviously somewhat diverse and certainly not in agreement, even at times with the same person; I feel, therefore, that you can appreciate the resultant confusion among the friends and why some of us have felt moved to investigate the matter for our own satisfaction and peace of mind. I’m grateful that it’s “not unto men we labor” but are privileged to have a personal relationship with the One who fails not, unhindered by the conflicting thoughts of man.
Everett, I am sorry that you felt compelled to attach a “heathen” label to me and place me in the company of those mentioned in Rev. 21:8 simply because I am honestly expressing some doubts as to what has been taught us concerning the origin of our fellowship, and have, as you state, “no New Testament church affiliation,” but obviously that is your privilege and I certainly bear you no malice.
Our family (my wife and three children) continue to gather in Jesus’ name each Sunday morning in our home and have sweet fellowship together unhindered by man’s rules, regulations and a creedal doctrine. I feel Jesus came to earth to do away with the very thing churches are preaching today–tradition, dogma and custom. He came to reform hearts and show mankind the Kingdom of God and churches were the unfortunate outcome.
For myself, I am grateful that God alone knows the heart of man and we won’t be judged or labeled by any man on that great day which all of us will face. Lately, it has been a pleasure to be free to meet people and not feel obliged to look for some “label” in order to know how to view them. I’ve always been bothered by the great emphasis in this fellowship placed upon outward appearance, particularly with the women.
You know your Bible so much better than I could ever hope to and I think you’ll agree that this is one thing which was extremely repugnant to our Lord during His ministry upon this earth. Peter mentions in Acts that “God is no respecter of persons…but in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is accepted with Him”.
Your comment referring to the “underground church” was very interesting, and I hope you will further clarify that concept. I believe that down through the ages there have always been those who have served God in spirit and truth and who may or may not have belonged to an organization per se but still enjoyed a Christian fellowship with their fellow man. To be a “faithful witness” for me means to obey the commandments which superseded all others, namely that found in Luke 10:27 and Matthew 22:36-40.
In studying the Landmark Baptist faith I ran across a similar sentiment regarding the underground church concept expressed by Charles Spurgeon, their champion of the mid-1800s: “If I see a white horse in a pasture, and he disappears for a time in the woods, then I see a white horse coming out from the woods on the other side, I can be fairly sure it is the same white horse, even though I could not see him while he was in the forest!”
It seems that any church which asserts that they are “from the beginning” such as Baptist, Pentecostal Assemblies, Disciples of Christ, Waldenses, and Episcopalians among others wrestles to produce a line of succession which will withstand historical scrutiny. Going underground (or into the woods if you happen to be a Baptist!) seems to satisfy that particular church’s criteria of continuation as it cannot be proved or disproved as there is no evidence of its existence during the time in question.
Everett, the enclosed is for your health and I trust you will accept it as a gift from a friend to (I hope!) a friend. Personally, I see very little difference in passing an envelope or passing a plate or giving to any person in time of need. Christ was the greatest giver of all time, sharing all that He had including His very life’s blood with all mankind. He gave and accepted freely from all classes of people and was not concerned with checking their “label” when giving or receiving. Please pardon my candor but as a struggling 1945 model who is endeavoring through the grace of God to find honesty and truth on the face of the earth today and who is “working out (my) own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure”, I feel I can be upfront and unpretentious with a tough, rough and exceedingly lovable 1904 model.
Our entire family loves you and appreciates you and prays for your days to be filled with an eager anticipation of the reward for those who remain faithful in spirit until the end. Whenever I read Micah 6:8 I am reminded of you as I feel this verse has been very much in evidence in your life.
With love in Christ,
January 21, 1989
Thank you for the note, workers list through 1905, and picture taken in 1899 which I received last Wed. I am sending the picture back as you requested; as I, fortunately, have the same picture but Jack Douglas and Warren Hasting were not identified in my photograph. Your note that the picture was taken “before (we) were in the work” agrees with my sources as to when the work “officially” started, around 1899-1900.
This group in the picture had been invited by Irvine to accompany him on a bicycle tour of Scotland, during which time they would visit Faith Mission people and meetings. I feel various members of this group pictured were those referred to by George Walker in his letter to the Selective Service Board in 1942 as “…in regards to the methods of preaching and worship in the several churches of which they were then members…they were 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.”
This is noted by Parker as the start of William Irvine’s work outside the Faith Mission. I noticed that Pilgrim Irvine and Pilgrim Kelly have no date listed after their name as to when they started in the work although they head the list–is this an oversight or for some particular reason? I have sent a copy of the list to Scotland ‘to determine which names are listed on the official Faith Mission roster, as evidently quite accurate records were kept by Mr. Govan as to whom was laboring where at any particular time.
Mr. Eberstein was kind enough to answer the questions I posed him which you had requested that I ask This gentleman is 87 years old and spent his first 3 years for the Faith Mission from 1923 to 1928 in the West Irish District where his superintendent (overseer) was a certain Mr. J.S. Gillespie who gave many years of service to the Mission (1893-1945) when he retired, dying 4, years later. He knew Wm. Irvine well and told Mr. Eberstein that Irvine had gone to Jerusalem to wait for the Lord’s return. This confirms information from other sources concerning Irvine’s ultimate and final destiny as far as his days upon this earth were concerned.
The first question I asked Mr. Eberstein was “Did Wm. Irvine leave the Faith Mission to take over an already existing ministry and church?” The answer was “most definitely NOT” (emphasis Mr. Eberstein).
The second question concerning Willie Gill was replied thusly: “There is no record whatever of anyone of the name of Willie Gill in our list of workers—which are fairly accurate–I would think he was very probably one of the young people who were attracted to Irvine and joined up with him. There is a reference in what we called ‘Location of Pilgrims’ to a mission in Rathmolyn beginning in October 10, 1897, by Wm. Irvine, following which he went to Roscrea in Co. Tipperary.”
Parker in his research mentions “…seventy of Irvine’s converts met at William Gill’s farm at Rathmolyon late in 1903 for a convention that lasted three weeks.” Incidentally, this is the same convention that George Beattie (1902) mentions that Irvine avoided contact with any of the other workers in the barn where they gathered for meetings and when he completed his addresses, he did not walk down the aisle to the door but climbed out through the window. Beattie commented, “We thought it seemed a little strange, but reckoned that he didn’t want to contaminate himself with us.
“William Gill seemed to merit Irvine’s special favour as in 1908 Irvine denounced… the work carried on by almost every one of the workers, with the exception of one or two, including William Gill, whose work, he said, was the only work that would stand the test, all the others having given away too much to fleshly influences, with the ”result that many of those who had joined the testimony during the year were merely acting the hypocrite.”
Your reference to an “underground church” leaves me somewhat puzzled. Any movement such as the catacomb church of the first century or the various anti-Roman Catholic churches such as the Waldenses or Lollards from 800 to 1500 or even our own American “Underground Railway” which was in operation during the Civil War assume an underground posture because of persecution from a larger, more powerful group. Immediately prior to the late 1300s – early 1900s there was no need to be underground with any particular religious movement, as this was a time of religious expression and freedom which began in a large part with John Nelson Darby and Fundamentalism in 1820.
Kenneth Scott Latourette, the dean of American church historians, calls the 1800’s the Great Century. To him the growing repudiation of religion caused by Marxism, the intellectual revolt, and increasing secularism is more than matched by abounding vitality and unprecedented expansion. Many new sects and denominations had come into existence during the 1800s, among them Plymouth and Yorker Brethren (1840’s), Christadelphians (1844), Disciples of Christ (1832), Mormons (1820), Seventh-Day Adventists (1840), Jehovah Witness (1872), Christian Science (1879), and many more minor sects including the Faith Mission in 1886. In fact, it was through the preaching of an unknown American evangelist, D.L. Moody, (who, incidentally, had no ecclesiastical credentials) that John George Govan was moved to begin his Faith Mission in Scotland.
In “The Reaper”, a Scottish periodical of the day, it is stated in the November issue, “We are greatly pleased to hear from our friend, Mr. John George Govan, that he has originated a “Faith Mission” for sending out preachers to the villages and small towns of Scotland. The preachers are not to be guaranteed any salary nor are subscriptions to be asked, as it is believed ‘the Lord will provide'”.
In the December 1885 issue it says, “Only men and women ‘full of faith’ and of the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:5) are wanted for this work, who will trust their Father to fulfill His promises.by supplying them with food, clothing and all the necessaries; who are willing to lose their lives for Christ’s sake and the Gospel’s, and who, laying aside earthly ambitions and ‘seeking not their own’ are willing to become ‘Pilgrims on the earth’ and trust God with their future as well as the present…” The Faith Mission went ahead entirely on faith lines, and to this day it goes on in the same way. “We appeal directly to God”, said Mr. Govan, “we go on with the work, and God has never failed us.”
Everett, does any of this sound familiar? Could not have these passages quoted above have been uttered by any of our workers 90 years ago or even today? Does it not seem strongly coincidental that the emergence of two very similar religious doctrines, methods, terminology and mode of preaching in the very same geographical region should emerge within a fifteen-year span of each other?
Does it not seem unique that there is a common denominator listed on both the Faith Mission worker’s, records and the workers list you supplied me by the name of William Irvine and that it is readily admitted that he officially resigned from the Faith Mission to head the list of our religion and that this man is claimed by neither faith because of his tyranical personalty and strange prophetic beliefs?
Quite frankly, I am impressed by the Faith Mission because they have the courage and the honesty to admit to an earthly, human originator, instead of stating as Tharold Sylvester did in The Bellingham Herald in August of 1983, “Jesus Himself set us up.” This is a deliberately misleading statement designed to give this faith the unique position of unbroken apostolic succession (or underground church status) and all the abuses of power wielded by those in charge that come from such a philosophy.
As I have stated in previous letters to Howard and yourself, the Faith Mission emphasized the Message of Salvation and not the lifestyle of the messenger even though their style of preaching and basic terminology is virtually identical with our own.
With your admonishment to me to “drop my investigation” in mind, I’ll close this letter with a short quote from “The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?” by F.F. Bruce: “The earliest propagators of Christianity welcomed the fullest examination of the credentials of their message. The events which they proclaimed were, as Paul said to King Agrippa, not done in a corner, and were well able to bear all the light that could be thrown on them. The spirit of these early Christians ought to animate their modern descendants. For by an acquaintance with the relevant evidence they will not only be able to give to everyone who asks them a reason for the hope that is in them, but they themselves, like Theophilus, will thus know more accurately how secure is the basis for the faith which they have been taught.”
Everett, again my prayer is that those in charge would be moved by the Holy Spirit to make a full disclosure of the facts as we have them, admit there has been some misrepresentation of our origin and go forth in honesty and frankness and proclaim the Gospel story without any form or manner of subterfuge or distortion of our beginnings… my continued prayers are with you, that your days may be profitable and full of the fruit of the spirit.
Love in Christ,
Comments by Jim Vail:
The letter from Everett Blair is very hard to interpret in his longhand, so I won’t include it, but a brief synopsis stated “Drop your investigation.”
Ironically, this is the very same advice given to my brother, Scott, when he was in the work and questioning the “origin of the species”. Well, he did and I didn’t and look at us now!
Everett stoutly maintained and fostered the underground church theory which magically materialized out of nowhere…maybe out of George Walker’s field? but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Betty Draper called me after Everett’s funeral and told me that his last words were reportedly “I’ve served my time”…sounds more like a prison term rather than a life filled with the peace God wants us to have, but I don’t want to be judgemental of his situation, having never been there.
Everett, as you know, was always sort of a rebel and I think those in charge made it a little tough on him when he tried to express his opinions, so maybe his last statement was quite accurate. I’m certainly not ashamed to say that I shed tears when I heard of his death, as I loved him very much and he was a part of my young life and I always liked being around him and listening to his expositions on Revelation and other arcane scriptures.
As you can see from reading the letters, our attitudes as a family have evolved over time. Actually, I felt very strongly that Howard has known all along about the deception but I was being as discreet and tactful as possible in my letters to him.
The 12 Similarities are by no means even a start, but it was something I had to prove to myself as I became very suspicious of the oft-repeated litany that we are unique with regard to ministry, home meetings, etc.
Boise, Idaho US