The Two-by-Twos (this term designated and adopted by ex-members) are a worldwide, highly regulated religious organisation, despite specifically claiming NOT be an organisation, and NOT to have a name. They are, in fact, registered and incorporated under a number of names across the world, but hide this fact from their own members.
Why? They claim to be – exclusively – The Way (the only way to God), with the workers being God’s only true servants on earth. They claim to operate almost miraculously, without the trappings of other “earthly” organisations.
Friends/Professing: lay members
Elders: lay members with authority over member gatherings
Workers: members of the clergy
Head Workers: Older members of the clergy, responsible over younger workers
Overseers: Workers responsible for States/Countries
Their modus operandi has the following implications:
Two by Two Worker Claims
Reality / Moral and Ethical Implications
We are not an organisation. They claim to be not organised (as other churches), but “led by the spirit”. There is no peak body to appeal to, or sue in the case of dispute by members. They are also not subject to laws such as child safety legislation or vulnerable persons protection laws.
We have no registered members. Membership is recognised and regulated through a term known as “professing”, a status which can be withdrawn at any time, without appeal, and with no paper trail.
Workers are not ordained clergy. Workers are accepted into full-time, unpaid ministry after formal acceptance of their offer to “serve in the work”. They may not be otherwise employed, must give away all possessions, may not marry, and now come under the full authority of an Overseer. All members are informed of this new status of anyone who becomes a worker. In general, and in countries/states where mandatory reporting exists for clergy, they deny being clergy. Again, no paper trail. (This was tested in the United States, with worker Jerome Frandle going to prison for failure to comply with mandatory reporting as a minister of religion).
We take no offerings. This claim is stressed publicly. However, the organisation takes a lot of money from its members, both regularly throughout the year, and especially from deceased estates (they provide instructions on how to do this, if asked). Bank accounts are often held in the names of trustworthy elders within the group, and no financial transparency of any kind is provided to lay members.
We have no name. In public they claim they have no need – they are it, the real McCoy, the only true church on earth. Privately, affiliated/registered names are hidden from members to perpetuate the idea that the group is a miracle – operating differently from all other churches.
We are God’s Only True Servants. Workers choose how to operate their organisation with no transparency, no scrutiny, and feel subject to the law only as far as their loyalty to the group allows.
CSA Issues within the Two-by-Twos
The following culture is known to exist within the group. A picture of this culture can be gained through reading personal stories on WINGS, and speaking to those who have been subject to abuse by Workers or other spiritual authorities within the group (eg. Elders).
· Members are generally very reluctant to report CSA, either to Workers or to the police.
· Workers are often very poor at responding to claims of CSA, having no training in this area, and not being given any guidance on how to respond.
· Both Workers and Members want to avoid tainting The Way at all costs. Members will be extremely reluctant to talk to police if they get even a hint of Worker disappointment /disapproval at this action.
· Where CSA accusations are kept “in house”, accused Workers are often simply moved to a different town or state or country, where they are free to re-offend among other trusting and unsuspecting families.
· Workers who have committed CSA are generally not put out of the ministry unless there is adverse publicity (ie. a court conviction and media attention). Some offenders are therefore able to spend a lifetime habitually re-offending, especially as they are moved to a new town each year, and live in the homes of members.
· Members, cumulatively, will often feel anger towards victims who have pursued conviction for CSA claims, blaming them for bringing The Way into disrepute.
· Victims’ families will not want to jeopardise their own status as professing members by “making a fuss” about CSA.
· Workers are seen as God’s agents on earth and hold extraordinary authority within the group. Going against the Establishment holds a similar fear for Members that one of the Mob would feel in testifying against the Mafia.
· There is strong evidence that Worker paedophiles have their lawyers paid for by The Way (without the knowledge of members).
· No support or financial compensation is provided to victims.
It has been alleged that the former Overseer of NSW forbade victims of a worker paedophile to testify in court. Police had at least 12 victims identified, but none could be compelled to testify except one (conviction of Ernie Barry, NSW).
In recent years it is alleged that Head Workers/Overseers have made vague statements (mostly to ex-members when confronted about the issue), that professing members are “free to go to the police with any accusations they have”. This is completely unsatisfactory. Members have always been free to go to the police, but they will not, knowing the repercussions outlined above. The culture will not change unless it is mandated by those who hold the spiritual authority in the group.
The organisation desperately needs:
· Basic training and guidance for workers in issues pertaining to CSA, and what they are to do if approached by any family/victim.
· A non-worker advocate within each region, independent of the workers, to whom victims can go for support and advice, especially if they are unhappy with how Workers are handling their complaints.
· Mandatory reporting to authorities, for a proper investigation to be undertaken by external means.
· Zero tolerance on sexual misconduct, publicly cited to all members, who should be encouraged to report any offences.
· Offending Workers must be stood down pending charges, and removed from the Ministry if convicted. If families do not wish to testify, serious consideration still gives to be given to the future of the Worker in the ministry. They cannot simply be relocated to re-offend, and continue to be put into the homes of more innocent families.
· Support for victims and their families – both personally and publicly. Those affected have to know that they will be supported, and action taken.
· A fund for victim compensation where appropriate, and transparency to members on fees paid to lawyers of Workers facing CSA charges.
· An acknowledgement that a ministry claiming to represent God needs the highest possible level of self-regulation for the protection of its members, not the lowest.
My public question to the Two-by-Twos:
Do you honestly think that God is pleased with your service to him if that service includes protecting paedophiles and vilifying or ignoring their victims? This is the God who defends the cause of the fatherless, and hates injustice. Are you pleasing him while you allow the shepherds to devour the lambs?
By Elizabeth Coleman