To Whom it May Concern,
I wrote several months ago that by speaking up boldly, we would either right the ship, or we would help people to the lifeboats.
The last seven months have produced much rearranging of the deck chairs, but the ship remains bound for the rocks, coming apart at the seams. It’s going down. Bold claim, I know, but I will get to that momentarily.
I have held out as long as I can. We are boarding the lifeboats ourselves. We are abandoning ship.
We will remain active on Advocates for the Truth (AFTT), Concerned and Connected Friends (CCF), and other platforms – we’re absolutely still in the fight against abuse no matter how long it takes.
No, the only change is that I publicly renounce my affiliation and participation with anything controlled by the Overseers. Many of them have committed apostasy so severe that I honestly do not know if it is still possible for them to be saved – see Hebrews 10 to puzzle over that one with me. I retain hope that some others might yet be saved, but only if they are freed from the bondage of their title and position. There are many others in the church and ministry who I love and respect as real Christians, but their faith (like mine was) is in spite of the system not because of it. I hope they know it.
The survivors have gone to the Overseers hundreds of times, and they have not repented. The survivors have called us as their witnesses and gone again to the Overseers, and they have not repented. The survivors finally got the attention of the whole Church and went yet again to the Overseers, who after seven months have still not repented. It’s time for the final step. The Overseers of this church are as heathens and publicans to me. They are not rejecting me, I am rejecting them in accordance with the words of Jesus. I have held fast the profession of my faith. It is they who have not.
What evidence do I have that the ship is going down? (TW – scripture to follow)
The entire 2×2 ideology traces back to a single premise: that the workers are the True Ministry. We have some really easy tests to determine whether the workers are the True Ministry, questions like “Who is Jesus” and “Should child molesters be given access to children”, but let’s instead take a look at their own favorite passages: Matthew 10 and Luke 10. According to the notes from countless Gospel Meeting messages ever since William Irvine in 1897, the True Ministry is the one that follows Matthew 10 and Luke 10. So let’s see what we have.
Jesus called the 12 and gave them authority to drive out unclean spirits and to heal sickness and disease. Hmm. The 2×2 system definitely has more than 12 workers, they seem to be unable to drive out unclean persons much less unclean spirits, and they teach that healing isn’t a thing anymore.
Jesus said not to go to the Gentiles or Samaritans, only Israel, but the 2×2 ministry preaches almost entirely to Gentiles. When God sent Peter first, then others, to the Gentiles, the apostles themselves were going out differently than they had gone in Matthew/Luke 10. (Were the apostles no longer true ministers??)
Jesus sent them to say “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” They were to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. The 2×2 messages do not at all stick to this single talking point, and the 2×2 ministry does not perform any of these works. Jesus did not give the 12 authority at this time to start churches, appoint elders, baptize, or even to proclaim his identity as the Christ and the Son of God. They did all those things later, but not in Matthew 10 or Luke 10.
Jesus told them not to bring any gold, silver, or copper money. It’s technically true that Jesus didn’t say not to bring any envelopes stuffed with $100 bills, but had US currency been available at the time, I have no doubt he would have included it in the otherwise thorough prohibition on carrying money. Many of the junior workers really are penniless, but the senior workers calling the shots keep getting caught with mind-boggling sums of cash.
No bag for the journey, no extra shirt, no sandals, no staff. All the workers have a bag, a second shirt, and extra shoes. I do have to admit I’ve never seen a worker with a staff. That would be kinda cool. I don’t resent the workers for having a suitcase and a spare change of clothes, but if Matthew 10 is really the mark of the True Ministry we do have to count it as another disqualification.
Jesus said they were earning their keep, and that in each town they would look for ONE home that was worthy, and they were to stay there until they left that town. They were to greet the dwelling, and their peace would rest on it if it was deserving. Jesus specifically tells them NOT to move from house to house. I have yet to see a worker greet a house, and this whole tradition of moving from place to place every other night is very contrary to the instructions given here.
Jesus spends the rest of the chapter talking about how they will be persecuted, they would stand trial in the courts of men, they would be beaten in the synagogues, but that they were not to be afraid. What Jesus said in the dark, they would proclaim in the light. What Jesus whispered in their ear, they would shout from the rooftops. Their words would not bring peace to the world, but a sword that turned families against each other. Only those who took up their cross and laid down their lives would be worthy of him.
At present, we see the leaders of the 2×2 ministry lamenting a well-substantiated criminal investigation as unjust persecution; we see them hiring lawyers to avoid standing trial in the courts of men or facing just punishment; we see them lying through their teeth in fear; we see them attempting to hide the truth in the dark; we see them slandering those of us who are shouting from the rooftops the evil threats they have whispered in our brothers’ and sisters’ ears; we see them claiming that family ‘unity’ is more important than justice. They will gladly require the survivors they have crucified now lay down their lives for “the Truth”, but they will not bear the cross themselves or give up their own lives for anything. A few junior workers are willing to suffer for Christ, but not the ones that call the shots.
Luke 10 expands the number to 72, and specifies that they were sent in pairs, but otherwise is a shorter summary of exactly the same instructions.
So to recap, in case anyone got lost, out of all the supposed marks of the True Ministry in these chapters, the 2×2 system strikes out on ALL of them except two: going in pairs, and not carrying a staff. Mormon missionaries also preach in pairs and don’t carry a staff. It’s a pretty low bar.
If the workers claim that the True Ministry goes out the way Jesus sent them in Matthew 10 and Luke 10, but then the workers don’t go out the way Jesus sent the 12 and the 72 in Matthew 10 and Luke 10, they bear witness against themselves that they are not the True Ministry. For the purposes of this letter, we will accept their own witness against themselves—though if anyone wants a similar breakdown of how the rules of the 2×2 ministry fail to meet other scriptural descriptions I will certainly oblige.
(To be clear, despite the fundamental and systemic problems there are a number of individual workers who I regard as real Christians and beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. If God calls them to continue following in the unnecessary 2×2 tradition in order to reach the people they are supposed to reach, I support them in fulfilling their calling. If God calls them to minister to Him in ways that break some or all of the 2×2 rules (marriage, house, side job, etc) I support them in that calling too.)
If the 2×2 ministry is not the True Ministry, then they lack the authority to do EVERYTHING they have done. They lack the authority to accept people into the ministry, or reject people from the ministry. They lack the authority to appoint Elders or establish meetings, or to remove Elders and remove meetings. They lack the authority to baptize or excommunicate. They lack authority over the beliefs and personal business of the sheep. They lack the authority to add new traditions like Conventions and Special Meetings.
When we break bread and pass the cup, with whom are we becoming one body? With whom are we declaring communion? If an Overseer in an invalid ministry, or worse yet if a prolific pedophile, has power to decide who can and can’t partake of the bread and the cup, how can I believe any longer that they represent unity with Christ? Paul warns us “You cannot drink of the Lord’s cup and the cup of devils,” and again, “If any man say unto you ‘This was offered to an idol’, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake.”
If they lack the authority to do nearly everything we do, then what are we doing? Play-acting Christianity in our self-inflicted exile while the real battle between good and evil rages all around us? We were sold a bill of goods. Thanks to the grace and goodness of God, many of us, friends and workers alike, really do have a relationship with Jesus. But it’s not because of an invalid form created by unauthorized “ministers”. It’s because Jesus is merciful. God came to His people in Egypt – so He could bring them out. God came to His people in Babylon – so He could bring them out. According to many interpretations, Jesus even came to the souls of the Old Testament saints in Hades – so he could bring them out. Jesus met many of us here in the meetings – so he could bring us out. He is the sweetness and love that we have enjoyed, and if we want to keep it we’ve got to go with him.
Why not try to reform it with an actually scriptural ministry? Believe me, I wanted to 7 months ago. To an extent, I still wanted to as recently as last week. But at this point I don’t see anything being left by the time we’re done cleaning. When we all got talking months ago, we found out that we didn’t have unity or clarity on such fundamental doctrines as:
Who Jesus is,
How Jesus saves us,
What Jesus saves us from,
How we enter into that salvation,
Whether or not ‘we’ are the only ones saved (to say nothing of figuring out who ‘we’ are),
When to get baptized,
What the bread and cup mean…you get the drift.
As we study the scriptures together, we’re gradually developing some unity on many of those topics, but what we’re finding is generally pulling us away from 2×2 tradition, not towards it.
What’s left that sets us apart? Basically, the Sunday Morning Meeting format is what’s left. I know people in other home churches who have generally compatible beliefs to what we’re discussing on CCF. Once the 2×2 ministry is out of the picture, the only differences between us and the other home-based Bible churches are the circular arrangement of chairs around the bread and cup, and our practice of each speaking a short message instead of one or a few speaking a longer message. There’s some symbolism in Sunday Morning Meeting that I really appreciate, but that seems like a really, really, really weak hill to die on. Imagine that as a doctrinal statement:
“We believe in the circular arrangement of folding chairs in a living room. We will not suffer ourselves to mingle with those who worship facing in the same direction, nor with those who build for themselves a dedicated sanctuary in which to worship, for their ways are an abomination to us.”
Uh, no. I don’t buy it as the mark of the One True Church, or even the Best Church…or even a Better Church for that matter.
Although there are some verses in the New Testament that vaguely resemble Sunday Morning Meeting, all of the available historical and archeological evidence indicates that the earliest Christians placed the altar table bearing the bread and the cup on one end of the room, usually the eastern end, in a manner imitating the placement of the Ark of the Covenant within the Tabernacle. As they worshiped, they stood in the remainder of the room, representing the sanctuary of the Tabernacle, facing toward the bread and cup.
Folks, I appreciate the Sunday Morning Meeting symbology of having Christ in our midst, but the First-Century Christians laid out their meetings to incorporate the symbology of THE ENTIRE OLD COVENANT BEING FULFILLED BY CHRIST! This is mind-blowingly cool! Every single week, they walked INTO the building which symbolized the priesthood of all believers, who now have the right to enter into the sanctuary where only priests can go. They stood in the sanctuary gazing past the (imaginary) torn veil and into the Most Holy Place, where the bread and wine, the broken Body and shed Blood of Christ, the only perfect offering, waited for them to come boldly before the Throne of Grace and partake of Christ who sits upon that throne. Wow. WOW. So much rich theology just packed into the floor plan! Yes, the early church met in homes, but they did it so much better.
So what am I left with? Jesus. I know Jesus better now than I ever have in my life. I’ve actually had to walk the walk for once. I’ve preached for him, I’ve talked to survivors in the middle of the night for him, I’ve grieved over survivor story after survivor story with him, I’ve felt burning anger and longing compassion beside him. I’ve prayed for his help and trusted in his grace. I’ve buckled on the armor he provides and fought beside him in his battles. I truly feel that there are dozens of peculiar experiences and lessons he put me through in the past to prepare me to serve him in this specific struggle for truth and justice.
Where will we go for fellowship? It’s too soon to know for sure if Jesus has a long-term place in mind for us, but for now we will meet with the many people we know who are serving God the best they know how, and we will mutually encourage each other to seek, to learn, to ask, to grow. And we will search for those who feel a need in their hearts, and we will share our hope in Christ with them.
I know that becoming ‘out’ of meetings may change what some of you think of us, and I accept that. I am completely willing to continue participating in doctrinal and scriptural conversations, but I also recognize that what used to be ‘our’ church and ‘our’ conversation is yours now and no longer mine. I am your guest if you so choose.
We will continue to help with the Advocates for the Truth Facebook page, no longer as the ‘innie moderators’ but still as a Christian voice for survivors.
Remember back in June when I said the bit about gold going through the fire?
Our fellowship is on fire.
But gold does not fear the fire.
Whatever is of God is purified in the fire, not destroyed.
Whatever is of Man is reduced to ashes.
I had some beliefs, some habits, some traditions that burned to ashes. It was brutal. It was liberating. I know now that everything I have left is gold. Clean, shiny gold. And I’m going to get me some more of it, and I’m going to build again, praise God.
Michael and Lilly Ford
November 4, 2023
Just to clarify, while this letter expresses both our feelings and conclusions from months of prayer and discussion, Michael is the primary author and “I” referred to in the letter.