The Life & Ministry of William Irvine
1914 - 1919
Revised July 17, 2014
The Founder is Rejected - The Scandal
1914 - Stepping Down
The Living Witness Doctrine
Ed Cooney's Renunciation
The Workers Regroup
The Impossible Questions
Who Would Take Irvine's Place?
The Workers Take Charge
Hiding the Founder -The Cover-Up
Ask a Worker: Who Was Wm. Irvine?
World War I officially began in August, 1914 and ended November 11, 1918.
WM. IRVINE’S GROWING DISCONTENT: Wm. Irvine told Alfred Magowan in 1938 regarding the ministry and church he started that “It was a great EXPERIMENT.” The first sentence in the following quote from a letter by Wm. Irvine to the owners of a California convention ground confirms that the 2x2 system was merely an Experiment, which some considered successful.
"The very success of the Testimony never gave me any satisfaction, while to others it seemed to give them the very desire of their heart and many of the most enthusiastic were only a weariness to my heart, and then I could not always understand myself. I felt for long that The Testimony was not my home or rest...During these past years, whether I have smoked or worked with my hands, gone to a picture show or whatever I have been doing, it has only been to deaden the pain and relieve the suffering because of the conflict within, and when I go to bed and get up in the morning it’s only with the confidence that it’s a day or a sleep nearer hand, the consummation of that grand and glorious day when the desire of His heart and ours shall be accomplished. Here is the patience of the saints in their faith. I have often looked at the smug satisfaction of many in The Testimony and the religious world as they seemed satisfied with meetings, experiences, and blessings and truth and all the rest of it, while in my heart was a same hungering and thirsting that nothing could take away or satisfy. It’s like the unsatisfying craving for He whom our soul desires, the desires of a childless mother, the longing of the widowed heart or that of the orphan or the pilgrim in the foreign land. This makes it easy for me to be anywhere under any condition, receiving any sort of treatment.” (October 10, 1920 Letter to Ritzmans)
“I had no doubt for a good many years, that most work and Workers had very little of God working, and the deadness and formality of meetings and conventions was a great load that I tried to carry.” (September 3, 1922 Letter to Bob Skerritt)
First Voice: "There are a thousand people in the tent and not one of them dare resist his will. The men on the platform nod to everything he says, whether they like it or not, and when he turns to them for approval, they draw their faces into the appearance of a smile, knowing that their lives as preachers depend on his favor."
Second Voice: "How did he get this power over them?"
First Voice: "He is a strong man by nature, and used to be a mine boss, and never allowed his will to be resisted. He brought the same spirit into this work, and uses the same methods in dealing with these people."
Second Voice: "Do you think they will ever rebel, and throw off his yoke?"
First Voice: "They are inwardly rebelling now, especially those who sit on the platform with him, but at the present time they can do nothing, because he is master of the situation in every way. He has something to say, and a way of saying it that appeals to the people. The others are only poor echoes of his voice, and in his presence are not able to throw off the incubus of fear that almost paralyzes them."
Second Voice: "I wonder how so strange a movement will end?"
First Voice: "It will go the way of all that has been before it. Prosperity and Establishment change the views of men, and many have set out to break idols, who have ended up worshippers of Baal or Moloch."
Second Voice: "Do you think this work would end if this man should die?"
First Voice: "Not likely. Where people have been taught obedience and to look upon their own Will and Desire as evil, and where they have given up All to do the Will of God, as these have done, the death of a man would not mean the death of the movement. They might follow Peter's example and go fishing, but not for long. The thing is too real to them to be given up completely. It is their very life."
Goodhand Pattison wrote: "And the workers now in fellowship with William Irvine went on and increased in numbers, and perhaps I may add, increased in their attachment to and respect for their chief's leadership, possibly more so than was good for him or them, for just here I beg leave to say the best of men are but men at best, and when deference, loyalty, obedience to leadership, etc., goes beyond a certain point, it is very apt to become either 'popery' with its blind yieldedness to a supposed infallibility, or slavery with its helpless subservience to the will of another, who has the power to enforce it, or it may be sort of mixture of both; but in any case it is bad for both sides making the leader a sort of demigod, filling him with notions of his own indispensability and importance and making of the led ones mere tools and chattels, without the independence of character which is always becoming to a man, or recognizing responsibility to the highest of all authorities which is becoming to a child of God." (Acounts of the Early Days by G. Pattison)
From South Australia, 1910: "...some sensed there was something amiss
with brother Irvine. Even Wilson McClung hung his head when William spoke.
This impression was further confirmed the following year at the 1911 convention
which William Irvine again attended." (Bethel Mission in
Reportedly at the Warrandyte Convention in Victoria, Australia, Wm Irvine sent the entire congregation home, accusing them of having a bad spirit. Bill Carroll gave him his fare and sent him back to the U.K.
Apparently, Wm. Irvine was aware of the discomfort his presence caused his workers:
"If you take away all that God taught both workers and saints through my lips and life, there is not much left. My presence used to make most of them very small, because they knew, and I knew, they were only repeating what they had heard with little evidence of God in them or with them.” (August 17, 1921 letter to Fred Hanowell)“I'm very sure they would feel very uncomfortable, if I was going to any of their conventions, even if I never opened my mouth. For they always knew, I knew their Godlessness better than any other; and I never was much deceived in most of them, though I always held out some hope for all of them, and often wondered why they were so long, and so far from having the seal of God.” (November 4, 1922 Letter to Skerritts)
"I often enjoy the times I went out of the way, because they were afraid to speak in my presence. Their moon did not shine very bright till I got out of sight and they were always best when they knew I would not come on the scene and I can imagine what my presence would be in any of their conventions today.” (September 12, 1923 Letter to Dunbars)
"Gloominess on men's faces. Expressions between doubt and incredulity. Looks and whispers. Signs of a storm among the Overseers. Innocence on the part of the people. W.I. himself--not himself! The old lordliness gone, or going. The note of authority has become husky. Looks a little like Napoleon after Waterloo. Still some signs of the old devotion on the part of some of his old Marshals. But he seems to know the game is up, and St. Helena is being made ready for him. No desire to preach, but wants to work at machinery, or wells, or anything--to escape from Something! Certain Overseers are drawn or driven together. They go for walks in pairs. Their looks are troubled as if they had come to a Time and Place of Decision, and fear takes hold of them."
Although Wm. Irvine was back from his tour around the world for that year, he did not attend the annual convention. This was quite unusual, since he was usually one of the chief speakers there. The local newspaper reported: “Mr. Wm. Irvine is in County Meath. His health is stated not to be as good as usual…Edward Cooney and Robert Humphries, two Fermanagh men, were the leaders of this convention.” (Impartial Reporter, July 9, 1914 p 8).
THE SCANDAL: Reportedly, Wm. Irvine was
accused of immorality when "one of the sister preachers exposed his
sex corruption..." In his early letters, Wm. Irvine openly and often referred to some unspecified
“sin(s),” “scandal” and “sins of the flesh”
for which he was condemned by the other workers: “…that's
why I am sure that every tongue, hand or back that turned against me for my sin
these past 7 years must repent and find mercy - or perish to be tormented by the
memory of their evil words…” (March 2, 1921 Letter to
Willie Abercrombie, a worker on the 1905 list). Irvine wrote about how The
Scandal began in this letter:
“I am the one God used altogether--NOT MOST. NO WILLIAM, NO TESTIMONY. The mountains echo and re-echo the human voice, and so The Testimony was the echo and re-echo of the Voice of God through my lips, though I knew it not then, as I do today. For the Prophets and Apostles only got to know who they were when they found themselves the victims of the iniquity and Scandal of those who were called the Church, or seal of their Anointing.” (March 2, 1923 Letter to Ed Cooney)
"I cannot take it in. But for years there have been signs. I have doubted the sight of my own eyes. There were many things I wondered at. He was hard on others and easy on himself....he used to preach against the Flesh and make us all tremble...I think he is now like King Uzziah when the Leprosy rose in his forehead. He will be only too ready to go out of the Temple and seek the Shelter of a Separate House." (Source: play titled: Outline Of The History of a Peculiar People From 1900-1931 by Alfred Magowan)
The following is from a poem Alfred Magowan wrote upon hearing a (false) report that Wm. Irvine had died:
And I shall not look on his face again.
The friends of former years had whispered ‘sin';
But I prefer to think God had him where
He could his heart and spirit discipline,
That he the crown of life at length might wear."
(Testimony of Witness for the Defence, p. 11)
Ed Cooney said Irvine "was like Sampson, who was a strong man of war, until Delilah influenced him so that he put her before God." Irvine Weir said, "Irvine's fall was similar to David's, who fell into the temptation of adultery with Bathsheba when he didn't go to battle himself, but instead sent his armies out." (Source: The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker, pp. 61-62). Rupert McHenry wrote "...his manner of life backfired on him when he made a pass at Isabel Norris." (Letter to Geo. Walker dated 11/10/80) Ms. Norris is listed on the 1922 and 1926 Workers List in the USA, as being in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.
According to Patricia Roberts: “Irvine, it seems, was attractive to women, for whom he had a weakness. This proved to be his Achilles’ heel; for when some of the other senior workers (most of whom had been his converts) became aware of this, they told him he could no longer occupy a position of leadership within the fellowship. He would have to accept a humble position among the rank and file if he wished to remain in fellowship. Irvine refused these conditions and so withdrew.” (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney by Patricia Roberts, p 114)
John Hardie had evidently written a letter in reference to Wm. Irvine’s alleged sins of the flesh, to which Irvine defended himself:.
"Jesus came to Earth in seeking those who had spent years as ‘slaves to brutal passions.’ I spent twenty years, took many long wearisome journeys, did much hard work in the same quest and succeeded as few have done by personal word and work… but the fact remains, that not one soul ever moved pen or finger, far less foot to help me, but have persistently, for 6 years, fed themselves on the sins of the man who made it possible for them to be what and where they are…For twenty years I excelled all of you in expounding the Book The blood that covers your sins, so few, also covers mine, which are many and big. When you refuse to minister the value of the blood to my sins, it does not hinder me, but it hinders you, and leaves you to be measured by the standard that you set up for me. Judge NOT means your brother by his sins, which may be many, for who knows the purpose of them for him or others; When we fail to see this, a beam is in our own eye. If you can understand Luke 17, it will clear matters up and make you glad you are one of the least, rather than one of the greatest. Suppose you met Jesus and told Him all about my sins; which would grieve Him most? My sins, or your wickedness? Would He not say over again, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish?” … I venture to say there has been more sin of the flesh in the past 6 years, than previous twenty. A harlot heart does not lead to greater purity of life, but to a more successful way of covering it up, through accusing and condemning others." (August 28, 1920 Letter to John Hardie)
It's possible the chief workers were looking for an excuse to demote Wm. Irvine.
IF the details of his sin were so heinous, would Irvine have challenged
Jack Carroll: "Jack, this thing is too big for you; but get 10 men
of your own choice and have them come together and you take 3 hours and tell
them all about my sins...and I'll promise not interrupt, but give me one hour,
and if those 10 men do not confess that God is in me and with me, and that I
have God's Message, I'll give in, that I have had a chance." (W. Edward's
Letter to Caseys 12/20/42)
1913 NEW ZEALAND WORKERS LIST: Notice there are no sister workers listed on the 1913 Workers List, whereas the 1912 workers list included 10 sister workers. After Wm. Irvine attended the NZ convention in 1912, rumor has it that all the sisters were sent away until it could be determined if any of them were pregnant. The following year, 1914, there were 6 sisters on the workers list to fill the spot that 10 had previously filled. The "official" reason given for the sister workers disappearance was that there was some concern about whether or not sister workers were scriptural, so they decided to try it without them. The brothers had no "fruit" that year so they decided to call the sisters back.
AUTHOR's COMMENTS: The author finds it unlikely that the Scandal concerned Irvine's illegitimate son, Archibald (Archie) Grassam Irvine. Archie was born in 1886 when William was 23, and long before Irvine professed in 1893 at age 30. The 1891 Census for the household of John and Elizabeth Irvine, parents of Wm. Irvine, lists a 4 year old grandson named Archibald Irvine, born in Maryhill, Lanarkshire, (Glasgow area) Scotland as a resident. Archie was 9 years old when Wm. Irvine went to work with Faith Mission in 1895; and would have been around 13-15 years old when Wm. Irvine left the Faith Mission. Archie left his home in Scotland when he was 14 years old and ventured to New Zealand with Irvine's brother James and wife, who immigrated there.
1913 or 1914? STEPPING DOWN: The date cannot be ascertained with certainty. It would seem that in 1913, the senior workers banded together and decided they would no longer allow Wm. Irvine to be their leader, and refused to submit to him any longer. Irvine wrote Wm. (Bill) Carroll, “The Jesus Way was stolen, confiscated, misappropriated. I remember seeing and hearing you take it over in my presence.” (June 29, 1920 Letter to Wm. Carroll).
Confirming Irvine's expulsion, Jack Carroll wrote: “It is just 4-1/2 years ago since the older workers in (the) Old Country told William Irvine that they could no longer recognize him as leader, or again as being in the ministry, unless there was a complete change in his manner of life” (April 16, 1919 Letter by Jack Carroll to “My dear Brother or Sister” from Santa Barbara, CA). This would date back to September or October, 1914.
If Bill Carroll was the one who personally delivered the message to Irvine, then the year was probably 1913, since Bill and his wife Maggie sailed from London England to Australia on October 24, 1913, aboard the ship Orsova. They are shown in photographs at the 1913 Crocknacrieve convention. Bill became Overseer of Victoria/Tasmania from 1913 to his death in 1953. It may ahve been in April, 1913 that Bill Carroll
informed Irvine of their decision.
Wm. Irvine provides two different months in 1914 when he was put out. He wrote that he was “rejected by the Testimony in September, 1914…and crossed to U.S.A. on September 5th, the same day and from the same port I had left in 1903 on September 5th, eleven years earlier.” (October 13, 1920 Letter to Dunbars). In another letter, Irvine reported that his rejection took place in April, 1914:
“Six years ago in April, I was rejected and cast out to die according to prophecy, my birthright divided amongst my children and enemies (and I was willing); but the Anointing God gave me remained with me…" (June 29, 1920 Letter to Wm/Bill Carroll)
“Last month and this (in 1914) were the 2 months I was fighting my Waterloo, in getting away from the affairs of the world and all its enticing, ensnaring, alluring entanglements. It was like Moses leaving Egypt, tho I knew it not. And the most bitter part of it was from the best natural and spiritual friends I had.” (October 3, 1930 Letter to Percy Abbott) This calculates to September and October.
Irvine wrote: “The last time I spoke in convention was from Isaiah 53” (March 28, 1930 Letter to Grims). It is not known where the convention was. It would seem that the workers agreed among themselves not to allow Irvine to speak at any further conventions.
He was cast out and experienced intense pain and suffering from rejection by his best friends. Willie Edwards wrote that "The Testimony said Wm. Irvine used to be God's anointed, but not now--a castaway." (May 4, 1939 Letter by Minnie Skerritt to Lovell Baker, Denver, CO). Not surprisingly, Wm. Irvine felt he had been robbed of his kingdom by the other workers, and suffered the pain of betrayal by his closest friends, who he compared to thieves:“You and Co. [the other workers] stole all God and His Anointed produced, but you did not steal the root nor the power which made my mustard seed.” (March 2, 1921 Letter to Willie Abercrombie)
“…while The Testimony claim I was only ONE of the twelve apostles, and my place was entirely one with them; and God surely has given them all their recompense in attempting to steal what God gave me. They put crowns on their own heads and shone by the reflections of what they got from me…” (September 12, 1923 Letter to Dunbars)
“The dragon with seven heads is those who sat themselves up as Leaders of The Testimony and use their Horns of Authority to hurt others and are claimed by men as Leaders…deliver you from the power of the greatest set of robbers in the world history, who thought they could rob ME and those of what God had given them." (August 17, 1921 Letter to Fred Hanowell)
"...I planted the Vineyard, and it has fallen into the hands of wicked husbandmen. And I am the Servant sent to find the fruit; and those who mistreat the Servant are the same as the killers of the Son and Heir...whose end is destruction." (March 2, 1923 Letter to Eddie Cooney)
It is doubtful that any public or private declaration was made to the saints in The Testimony that Wm. Irvine, the founder of The Testimony, was no longer their chief leader. So most members would not have been aware of the changes in the government and worker hierarchy.
THE LIVING WITNESS DOCTRINE: Ed Cooney blamed the Living Witness Doctrine for Irvine's downfall, and viewed the fall of their founder as proof that the the Living Witness Doctrine was false. The LWD had set Wm. Irvine up as a demi-god and made him the "All in All." Cooney saw the LWD as the root of Irvine's defeat. "In 1914, God showed me that the pre-eminence William (Irvine) got through this error led, together with other things, to his ceasing to be the humble brother among brethren that he was in the beginning." (May, 1930). Although Irvine had been removed from the oversight, the real problem, the Living Witness Doctrine, was still with them.
To Ed Cooney, Irvine's defeat was a sign that God was calling, not only Irvine, but the whole fellowship to repentance. Cooney urged the other workers: "Let's return to the Lord, and He will return unto us." He wanted the group to turn from certain harmful ways and methods. He proposed that the entire group of workers should repent and right their wrongs at this time. Cooney was for going back to the way he and Wm. Irvine had preached for the first four years, before the Living Witness Doctrine was introduced to their group. Cooney urged the other workers to get back to the true gospel they had preached in the beginning, when they had recognized one leader (Jesus) and allowed the Holy Spirit to control them. He pushed for them to throw off their methods of organization which created hierarchy and classes. He attempted to show the chief workers that they were setting themselves up over the friends in the very same way as Irvine had done. Cooney disapproved of organized religion, and believed "God has His children everywhere." Cooney made a valiant effort at this time to turn the leading workers from the errors of their ways and man-made methods/doctrine they had infused into The Testimony--but they would not.
As long as their founder was exceptional, the Living Witness Doctrine seemed to work for them. When Irvine was removed for immorality, however, the LWD was called into question. Would God have given such a man a revelation of His Only True Way? Perhaps Irvine wasn't a true prophet after all, and perhaps his method wasn't God's ONLY way.
Edward Cooney had been considered the co-leader, Second in Command to Wm. Irvine. What effect did the departure of Wm. Irvine have on Edward Cooney? Doug Parker wrote: “Unlike some of his early fellow workers who gave up preaching, Edward Cooney did not believe that the whole mission was a mistake, for after reflection he did not alter his opinion that Irvine’s original demand to follow Matthew 10 was a revelation:
“Undoubtedly God called us and separated us to be his people at the beginning, and most prominent and most used in this calling out a people for God's name was Wm. Irvine, who, at the time of his being sent forth to be a prophet saw more clearly than any of us the revelation of the Father to each individual child of His is the Rock on which Jesus Christ alone would build His Church, and that the gates of Hades should not prevail against it...Our only hope is to get back to the simplicity and childlikeness of the beginning, especially those of us who have the oversight.” (The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker from Cooney's Letter to A Sister, May, 1930)Patricia Roberts, Ed Cooney’s biographer, wrote:
“Irvine’s overthrow was for Cooney a sign that God was calling
not only Irvine, but the whole fellowship, himself included, to repentance.
He saw that they had been mixing flesh and blood revelation with God’s
revelation. They should, therefore, return to God as Jeremiah was exhorted
to do...So he (Edward Cooney) claimed the liberty to be controlled by the Spirit
as he and his 'brethren' had done in the beginning. This eventually caused his
'brethren' to accuse him of walking disorderly…Although a pioneer of the
movement and an overseer himself, Cooney claimed no 'field' to rule over as
the other chief workers did, and he recognized no boundaries. For, led by the
Spirit, he saw the world as his field and himself as one who serves and not
as one who rules. Thus while his 'brethren' were securely established as settled
rulers over their respective territories, he was on the move with no certain
dwelling place.” (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney
by Patricia Roberts, p 118)
“The Living Witness Doctrine he (Ed Cooney) saw as the root cause of Irvine’s defeat. For much more serious than his moral transgression was his spiritual transgression, i.e. that spirit of dominion which set him above his fellows. This spirit, Cooney believed resulted directly from the Living Witness heresy. For although God had removed Irvine from the oversight, Cooney saw that the problem was still with them For the Living Witness heresy had already divided this hitherto equal brotherhood into two classes, workers and saints or priests and laity…thus investing the workers with a power that was ungodly…So Cooney’s call to his brethren was, ‘let us return unto the Lord, and he will return unto us.’” (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney by Patricia Roberts, p 116)
COONEY'S RENUNCIATION: Edward Cooney was not successful in persuading the other workers to jettison the LWD. So in 1914, he chose to do something that had been troubling him for some time. He openly renounced The Living Witness Doctrine for himself. He made it known that both he and Wm. Irvine made decisions for Christ BEFORE the inception of this movement. Cooney reclaimed his original conversion to Christ at age 17 in 1884, before he ever met Wm. Irvine. Years later, the workers would pinpoint the date that Cooney first got "out of step with his brethren" to this choice he made. He would eventually be put out of the fellowship in 1928. (Details in Chapter 14) Cooney wrote:
"The only remedy was to return to God and cease mixing God's
with that which proceeded from flesh and blood. This the writer
sought to do with profit. William had been partially persuaded by Joe
to accept the heresy that no one could be born again without meeting a
witness. Others held that that witness must be a sent preacher
had heard William or some preacher who had heard him. The writer
to see this flesh and blood revelation to be vile and gave it up in
returning to the true gospel preached by himself and William for four
after they met, which recognized John 20:30 to be true, and Paul's
in Romans 10:14-18 answered by Psalm 19, where it shows God speaking
nature as he did to the magi through the law (which is perfect
the soul), and finally through the preacher, the words of whose mouth
meditation of whose heart is acceptable in God’s sight."
"At this time we believed that all who were born anew, including ourselves, in the denominations were children of God, needing to become continuing disciples. Then two heresies arose amongst us, started largely by Joseph Kerr, who said no one could be saved who had not met William Irvine or some of those in fellowship with him. Others held that only through sister or brother workers could any be saved, and that these workers must be William Irvine's associates. In 1914, I declared that I had returned to the true gospel William Irvine and I with others preached for some four years before these heresies were introduced." Ed Cooney's Letter to Alice Flett)
For a period in my life as a preacher, William Irvine was a channel through which God gave me revelation; but I am sorry to say that some of the professed revelation that came through William was only flesh and blood revelation. When God removed him from the oversight in 1914, I began to separate between the wheat that came from God through him and the chaff that was only flesh and blood revelation savouring not of God but of man. My brethren and fellow workers began to form gradually a power against me because of this and now declare I went wrong then.’" (December 14, 1930 Letter to Jack Owens, Selected Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney 1867-1960 by Patricia Roberts, p. 26).
Patricia Roberts explained the situation: “At the baptism in Ballycassidy River in 1904, Edward Cooney preached about his own conversion in 1884 when at the age of 17 he yielded his life to Christ as a result of God’s revelation directly to his own heart. At the same baptism, John West told of his rebirth in 1894. He pointed out that this was not through any human agency but by God speaking to his own heart. In both cases this was many years before coming into contact with Irvine or any of his associates. And a great many workers and saints had similar testimonies. Thus if they in the beginning had admitted to having experienced the new birth before coming out of Babylon, it was reasonable to conclude that God had his children there still. Edward therefore maintained that while all religious systems and organizations were unscriptural and for that reason wrong, yet there were people in them who were born again. “God has his children everywhere”, he said, “even among the heathen.” (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney by Patricia Roberts, pp 124-5)
THE WORKERS RE-GROUP: When a leader leaves or is removed, the group usually takes stock of itself. They reevaluate and make new determinations. What will stay the same? What should be changed? Doctrine? Methods? Who will be the next leader? Questions such as these would have been uppermost in the minds of many of the workers. After Wm. Irvine stepped down, there were many decisions to be made concerning how The Testimony would continue.
This was the perfect opportunity and time for the chief workers to renounce the LWD that was added in 1905, and to get back to basics of restoring the New Testament church and ministry. But, they chose to hold fast to the LWD theory that the workers continue to preach even this very day (that one cannot get to Heaven unless they hear and receive the gospel through the lips of a worker). "For just as Irvine had gloried in the false doctrine which asserted that he was the only channel, either directly or derivatively, through which any could be saved, so they now claimed this pre-eminence for themselves." (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney by Patricia Roberts, p. 117). The Living Witness Doctrine made the Workers out to be “the Way.” Yet Jesus said: "I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life."
Why didn't the workers renounce the Living Witness Doctrine? Probably because the LWD was the workers' most powerful tool in persuading others to come be a part of their group...without it, persuading others to follow their very demanding method and way of life would be very difficult. Perhaps, they just didn't trust God to add to their numbers without it. Maybe self-interest played a large part in the head workers' decision to take over the Testimony, since once they eliminated Irvine, they were answerable to nobody, and that is the way they have kept things ever since. It was pretty convincing for the workers to be able to offer their prospective converts only two options: salvation via their method or hell, with no alternatives. If individuals could be saved outside of their preaching and method, then the workers lost their main thrust. So while Irvine had been removed, his influence had not. The workers still accepted what he started and taught before his fall. Was it consistent to kick out the man they believed God gave a special revelation to--and yet to continue to regard his "revelation" as the only means to salvation? "Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can a fig tree bear olive berries?" [James 3:12]. "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." [Matt. 7:18]
What did the workers stand to GAIN by covering up the part Wm. Irvine played? It protected their investment (celibacy, hardships endured, sacrifices). It retained their elevated status they enjoyed above the saints. It saved face for them--they wouldn't have to admit they had been wrong, fooled, hoodwinked or perhaps taken in by a false prophet.
What did workers stand to LOSE if they had not covered up Wm. Irvine's role? All their sacrifice, hardships, celibacy would be for nothing; their status would be lost; they would lose face in admitting they were wrong; their investment would go down the tubes, and they would have to start over in life.
The Living Witness Doctrine was a theory that ONLY those who professed through William Irvine or one of his associates were truly "saved." When the workers decided to adopt this narrow view with regard to their method, they were aware that Irvine had professed through Rev. John McNeill, who was not one of them, and never became one of their group. This meant that the Living Witness Doctrine broke down when applied to the source of Wm. Irvine’spiritual regeneration. Who was before Wm. Irvine? If the LWD theory was true, and spiritual life begets life, how did Irvine get HIS spiritual life? How could this discrepancy be resolved? How could Wm. Irvine profess through Rev. John McNeill in 1893, and truly be saved? Rev. McNeill was a Presbyterian minister, the pastor of Christ Church Westminster Bridge Road in London, and he NEVER became a 2x2 worker or follower of the 2x2 sect. Wm. Irvine had made no secret of the details of his conversion:
"72 years ago I was born into a Presbyterian family; 42 years ago I was born
into the family of which Jesus is the head, as Adam is of the human family.
A Presbyterian preacher was the means. He told me the right
thing--to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."
(January 8, 1934 Letter
to Mr. Billett)
However, when Irvine's imperfections were serious enough for his associates to put him out of the group he created, it left a gaping hole in their claim to be God's only true ministry and church. They could no longer point to the one through whom they professed as being an exceptional preacher chosen by God and a moral giant. Assuming that God raised up Irvine to restore His one true church upon the earth, God was either a very poor judge of character, or the workers were "false apostles," and the whole group was now under the control of Satan. Since their leader had feet of clay, how could the method he started be any better than any other method started by men? No longer could their method be held up as superior.
Assuming Wm. Irvine had truly been given a divine revelation to restore God's Only True Way, how did the other workers dare to kick him out?? Those in Numbers 16 who thought they were right and spoke against the “Lord’s Anointed” (Moses and Aaron) were swallowed up by the earth, along with their families and all that pertained to them and 250 other men perished by fire! There were disastrous results! Even David, chosen and anointed by God, did not dare to harm Saul, the Lord’s Anointed King. How could the workers?? IF Wm. Irvine was truly God's anointed--there would be no reason good enough to excuse the workers in putting him out. Shades of Judas! On the other hand, if Wm. Irvine wasn’t a true prophet and wasn’t given a divine revelation, THEN how could the 2x2 church and ministry he started be God’s Only Right Way on earth today??
More to the point, how would the workers justify their actions and be able to persuade others to believe their method was God's Only True Way? The reasons that are sometimes given are merely excuses used to persuade others that to expell Irvine was the only course of action open to them under the circumstances; in other words, the workers "were compelled" to excommunicate him. The actions of the workers definitely raised questions. With regard to William Irvine, the workers were not proud of THEIR actions in casting out the "Lord’s Anointed," AND they were not proud of Wm. Irvine’s actions while in the role of the "Lord’s Anointed." Little did the workers know at the time that they and their successors would be plagued by their decision to cast out Wm. Irvine for the life of the group.
"These men were overcome by their authority, position and place, but their one constant worry was their past. The fear that someone would ask their foundation, their beginning, their Spiritual Father, their genealogy, and oh, what a past. He had made them what they were, and except for him, they may be what and where they were when he discovered them. How would they explain to the young converts? And so started a great sifting. Those that knew too much were gradually done away with, frozen out, persecuted until they went out. People were forbidden to visit friends, and some had been ex-communicated on that miserable ground. Letters were being intercepted and destroyed, and the persons to whom they were addressed, never saw them. Pressure had been brought to bear on struggling souls to compel them to deny the truth that was in them, even bodily violence had been done, that through pressure or pain they may be brought under their will." (Spiritual Fraud by Doug Parker)
THE IMPOSSIBLE QUESTIONS: Possibly the workers feared the questions that might be asked if they continued to openly acknowledge Wm. Irvine as their “spiritual father,” as they did in the beginning. Their ability to "sell" their method/way was seriously compromised. What would they tell prospective converts who were sure to ask them questions like: "When did this way start? Who was your founder? Where is Wm. Irvine now? What became of him? Why? How can this way be 'God’s Only Right Way' if the one who was given the original revelation went wrong? There simply were no satisfactory answers to questions that would show the workers in a good light. Wm. Irvine was a BIG fly in their ointment. For a sect to have a founder that was removed for being immoral, a heretic, or a mental case was not consistent with the sect the founder started being "God's Only True Way." This left the workers with a dilemma.
Most of the time the source of information is not a big issue. Truth is truth, regardless of the source. However, the character or integrity of a source or originator can be very significant and have a bearing on truth:
(1) when the source has been denied, covered up, omitted or lied about
(2) when a particular source has exceptional circumstances or claims
(3) when the character of the source is intrinsic to the issue at hand
The character of a Founder is intrinsic to an issue; therefore, the Founder's integrity is a legitimate concern. For instance, evidence that John Doe has been convicted for embezzling would be a legitimate concern, if he were applying for employment as an accountant. Evidence that Jane Doe had been arrested for pedophilia or child abuse would be significant, if she were seeking employment as a teacher, nurse or child care worker. Undesirable actions and character on the part of a church Founder who was given a special message by God IS fundamental to whether or not the method and ministry the Founder created is God's only right way.
Some point out that Irvine, a man, some men or "2-3 men going wrong" does not prove the fellowship they started is "not right." That a person(s) wrong actions do not adversely affect a system or group to which the person(s) is connected. That who leaves or who stays in a particular group or system does not determine whether or not that group or system is right or wrong, good or evil, or true or false. This is true. However, the fact that one of those "2-3 men who went wrong" just happened to be the creator, originator, source and founder of the 2x2 fellowship is intrinsic to the subject. When circumstances are exceptional, what is true in general may or may not be true universally and without qualification. Applying a general rule to a particular case with exceptional circumstances is faulty reasoning. A Founder's character and actions DO have a major effect over a system he created, when it is claimed to be God's Only Right Way. When the character of the Founder Wm. Irvine (or lack of) and his actions fall in the category of exceptional, rather than general, they should be judged accordingly.
The workers naturally wanted to head off any questions concerning Wm Irvine's removal that had the potential to cast them in a bad light. Two choices that could be effective were:
(1) they could change their doctrine and eliminate the LWD (so the sect was no longer God's Only True Way and people could be saved outside of their group and there was no need for Irvine to be exceptional--so then the workers putting Irvine out wouldn't be dastardly, base, dishonorable or shameful);The workers chose the easiest way. It was far easier to pretend that Wm. Irvine never existed, and their group had no known founder or history, than to answer the hard questions that were sure to come up if they didn't enagage in a massive cover-up. The cover-up was and is today intentional. Some justify the deceit with the verse, "Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves." By hiding the history, it would be easier to acquire more converts and more workers. Possibly, it was when they started the cover-up that the group began avoiding publicity and maintaining a very low profile, in order to avoid investigation.
(2) they could continue the LWD and conceal the history (hide Wm. Irvine's involvement in the movement; change their story about the beginning of the group).
And today, the workers may claim to be ignorant of the past; to say that the past does not matter or hold any interest for them; that they are concerned only with their present relationship with God; that they have faith to believe it is God's Only True Way; that genealogies are not profitable, etc. to avoid hard questions concerning the founder of their sect. Doug Parker wrote:
"Irvine's role in the movement was to be ignored; young workers were told not to mention it, and so the facts of the origin and development of the nameless house church began to fall into obscurity. The true sources of preachers' authority, Wm. Irvine and the Living Witness Doctrine, were kept secret from incoming members, and a subtle emphasis on the teaching that their church was 'from the beginning' helped workers overcome the difficulty of explaining its origin. After the crisis of 1914, Irvine's fellow preachers weighed the consequences of maintaining their position within the movement against the possibility of excommunication if they were to profess loyalty for Irvine or fail to repress their knowledge of the sect's origin. Certain that they were in the 'true way,' many accepted the overseers' decision to exclude Irvine and avoided mention of his role as founder." (The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker, p. 70)
WHO WOULD TAKE IRVINE'S PLACE? When someone is impeached or overthrown, it is natural thing to be curious as to who will be the next leader? Who will take his place? Wear his shoes? One wonders what discussions took place regarding this subject among the workers. Did they offer his place to Ed Cooney? Or to Willie Gill? These two were probably the oldest long-time workers. Were some others nominated? Was a vote taken? Were they unable to come to an agreement? Or did many agree to one person as the new leader, while a few held out? Did some or all reject the idea of submitting to a single head? Or did the decision not to have a single head come out of a disagreement as to who would be the head? Did the George Walker and Jack Carroll feud possibly arise out of this event?
There is no evidence to substantiate that Bill Carroll took over, even though Irvine wrote him, “The Jesus Way was stolen, confiscated, misappropriated. I remember seeing and hearing you take it over in my presence.” (June 29, 1920 Letter to Wm. Carroll). This statement probably had reference to Bill Carroll being the one who advised Irvine they would no longer submit to his leadership.
From the following quote, it seems that Wm. Irvine THOUGHT that Edward Cooney assumed the worldwide leadership of the group in 1914: "The last time I slept with him, [Ed Cooney] he read a letter to me written by a dog outside The Testimony not very serious; but on this he slew his brother and proceeded to take the place and authority which had been mine. I pitied him when I saw where he was in heart, but he was the leader of the whole Testimony into the condition it’s found today…” (August 9, 1924 Letter to Loitz)
Patricia Roberts, official biographer of Ed Cooney, does not record in her book that Cooney actually assumed worldwide leadership. Since Cooney became quite vocal during this time regarding his opposition to organization, territories and authorities, it seems probable that he would turn down the position of worldwide leader of the group were it offered to him.
Irvine remarked: “…and nobody seems to get my mantle though many may have tried my shoes, sat in my seat, slept in my bed, ate my meals, and have enjoyed the rise to power and prominence. What seemed wrong in me seemed right in others.” (June 29, 1920 Letter to Wm/Bill Carroll).
THE WORKERS TAKE CHARGE: With Wm. Irvine out of the picture, the way was open for his chief workers to take full control of the leadership in the geographical areas (called “fields”) over which they had been in charge. The Kingdom was divided into smaller kingdoms, and the chief workers moved up the ladder to become overseers in their own right. Thereafter, when an overseer passed away, he may have been replaced by a single overseer or his territory may have been divided up among a few overseers. The overseer of the entire Eastern USA, George Walker, passed his overseership to Andrew Abernethy, who passed it to Taylor Wood who passed it to Barry Barkley, where it is currently in the year 2012.
After the death of Jack Carroll in 1957, who was overseer of the Western USA, Tharold Sylvester took his place. After which that territory was divided. Eldon Tenniswood assumed the overseership in California until he died and passed it to Richard (Dick) Middleton after which it was assigned to Dale Schultz. The Washington state Overseership was assumed by Tharold Sylvester and passed to Sydney Holt to Mark Huddle. The Oregon state Overseership was assumed by Howard Mooney and passed to Harold Bennett. [If the author is advised of what happened in Australia and New Zealand and other countries upon the deaths of their overseers, this information will be added here.] Patricia Roberts wrote:
“After Irvine's fall in 1914, his heirs set themselves up as
overseers in their respective 'fields.' George Walker claimed the oversight
in the eastern part of the United States and Jack Carroll in the western part.
John Hardy and Bill Carroll held sway in Australia, Wilson McClung in New Zealand,
and so on throughout the world. These larger territories were in turn subdivided
into smaller areas under the leadership of deputy overseers. The 'pope' in the
person of Irvine had been cast down, but now we see a church run by 'bishops'
and 'archbishops' so to speak, who exercise authority in the same manner and
spirit as he had done. With so much human control then, what had happened, one
might ask, to the control of the Spirit in this fellowship? One is reminded
of Paul's letter to the Galatians when he wrote: '0 foolish Galatians! Who has
bewitched you that ye should not obey the truth... Are you so foolish? Having
begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?” (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney
by Patricia Roberts, p 118)
"Afterwards, dominion began to appear, and God’s answer was the
casting of it down in the person of William Irvine. That ought
been the end of it, but it was not taken to heart by those who exulted
under him. And the same spirit that had set him above his
began to be seen in them, so that in a little while they had divided
earth among themselves as rulers over little kingdoms, exercising
after the way and according to the spirit of Rome, and doing violence
the consciences of men in the name of the ‘Truth' or the 'Testimony.'
the anointing ceased, authority took its place, and then cruelty had to
be resorted to in keeping people under control. It has always
so, as in the case of Saul toward David; but it always works out in the
triumph of the anointing, and martyrs have been made in that conflict...
"Now, if the things that we have heard here and elsewhere are required by
those among us who are looked upon as leaders, then I say we have ceased to
be disciples of Jesus and have joined the ranks of his enemies. People are forbidden
to visit friends, and some have been excommunicated on that miserable ground.
Letters have been intercepted and sent to others or destroyed and the person
to whom they were addressed never saw them. Pressure has been brought
to bear on struggling souls to compel them to deny the truth that was in them.
Even bodily violence has been done, that through fear of pain they might be
brought back to the 'church.' If Rome did that in these days
the world would be horrified, and we would raise our voices in loud protest
against the spirit of antichrist. But for some strange reason, when the
same spirit is revealed among ourselves we justify it because the welfare of
what we call the 'Testimony' is at stake. Now I want it to be known that
we are against that spirit wherever it shows itself, and that we will devote
all the power that God gives us to withstand it. No godly end justifies
cruel means, and persecution is always wrong no matter how 'holy' the cause
may seem to be in which it is used as a weapon. If the work of God seems
to require dominion and cruelty so that a 'Testimony' may be preserved, then
the sooner it is dissolved the better." (January 21, 1931 Letter
to Wilson McClung)
Doug Parker's description of the situation was: "This was the result of an enterprise in Christianity, and no doubt should have been a warning to those who divided his Kingdom between them; but instead they were soon to be found fighting amongst themselves, arguing about territories, and areas; fighting for position and power, ex-communicating and mentally torturing all who should come into their disfavour." (Spiritual Fraud by Doug Parker)
Without a single head over them to enforce unity and conformity, each overseer became autonomous or independent and self-governing. Without a single head, the divided kingdom paved the way for differences to exist and grow within the way. With so many sovereign head workers holding ultimate power over their own kingdoms, it naturally followed that the outward customs and traditions of the group differed from worker to worker and place to place. In truth, the customs enforced upon the friends depended on the whims, likes, dislikes, preferences, idiosyncrasies, ideas, convictions and "revelations," of the worker in charge in THAT area—without regard to the customs being followed in other places under other overseers. In spite of these differences, however, the workers have made a big point of emphasizing that their fellowship was/is “the same the world over." Their proof text is Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today and forever.” (Jesus does not equate to their 2x2 method.)
HIDING THE FOUNDER--THE COVER-UP: During the time that Wm. Irvine was considered to be the “Lord's Anointed," the workers proudly pointed to him as being their spiritual father. But after Irvine’s fall, this changed and some of the workers no longer cared to admit to the role he had filled in the group’s creation. It would seem that the decision to conceal Irvine's role in their group was made AFTER he was put out, rather than before. George Walker was no exception. Rather than admit he professed through Wm. Irvine, it was rumored that George Walker "...would not admit to professing through anyone, but remarked privately to another worker that he found salvation through a revelation experienced with a ‘farmer in a field.' "
On the other hand, both Patricia Roberts and Goodhand Pattison stated that George Walker professed through William Irvine in April, 1898 (Accounts of the Early Days by G. Pattison; Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney, p. 21). Cooney wrote: "I travelled for my father's business and preached...as occasion offered...and whilst doing so, met William Irvine, through whom George Walker, Jack Carroll, William Carroll, Willie Gill and a number of the present leaders professed, including James Jardine." (Ed Cooney's Letter to Alice Flett)
George Walker told Willie Edwards how he would phase out Wm. Irvine:
"They were so delighted to think he [William Irvine] was gone,
so they might get the Vineyard. How well I remember G. W. [George
Walker] telling me of their plans. Everything was going
to be different. They would not even sing the old songs. Nothing
that would bring back old memories, and he says 'in two years, his name [the
name of Wm. Irvine] will be forgotten and new people will never know that
such a man lived.'” (Willie Edwards Letter to Fountains 10/1/36)
"... how hard the Testimony have tried to blot it out [Wm. Irvine's
name], they said, 'Don't even mention his name, and we will do away with the
old songs, etc., so there will be nothing to bring his name into remembrance.'"
(May 4, 1939
Letter by Minnie Skerritt to Lovell Baker)
What did George Walker mean by "They would not even sing the old songs"? A check shows that they didn't reprint the hymnbook and leave out certain hymns. The first music edition of Hymns Old & New was printed in 1913-14. Irvine was disfellowshipped in September, 1914. This hymnbook was printed again in 1922; however, the only difference was the addition of 27 hymns--no hymns were left out. A hymnal was printed in Australia in 1913 or 1918 (date not legible). Perhaps, George Walker meant they would not SELECT some of the old songs in meetings--for whatever reason?
Cooney knew about and disapproved of the workers not including Wm. Irvine in their group's history. He wrote: “An attempt has been made to give an account of God's dealings with us, ignoring William Irvine. This is not honest. William Irvine was born again when a Presbyterian, through hearing John McNeill preach the gospel in Motherwell Town Hall, and I have in my possession a letter from him to me, claiming this to be so, written from Jerusalem before he died. He afterwards joined the Faith Mission denomination and was Pilgrim Irvine when I first met him in Bonnosokane, Co. Tipperary, Eire.” (Edward Cooney’s Testimony from Selected Letters Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney 1867-1960, edited by Patricia Roberts, pp. 43-46).
ASK A WORKER: "WHO WAS WILLIAM IRVINE?" Today, most workers would prefer not to discuss William Irvine at all. If and when Irvine's name comes up, he is often identified as "Just a Worker." Sometimes they may add "who got off on the wrong track." (Notes on Geo. Walker's Early Days in America) .
There are many old documents, letters, statements at funerals, testimonies, etc. by the early workers that give details about the history of the group. The speakers or writers freely refer to many of the workers by name who were a part of the early history of the group. However, it is EXTREMELY RARE for Wm. Irvine to be mentioned by name. They will refer to Wm. Irvine as "a man," or "another worker," or "a worker who had worked in a coal mine," etc, but not by his name. When someone brings up Wm. Irvine's name to a worker today, often they will give one of the following explanations for his excommunication from the work:
1. He was a womanizer; or had committed gross immorality
(then others will agree they HAD to get rid of him; couldn't allow that!)
2. He became mentally unbalanced and unfit to remain in charge
(then others will agree they made the right choice to remove him.)
3. He became too proud
(then he deserved to be put out.)
4. He was preaching false doctrine
(then others would agree he should be silenced.)
No real evidence has turned up to confirm the report that Irvine became mentally unbalanced, or was ever committed to psychiatric care. Up until the last few months before his death, Irvine was able to live by himself. He was supported by odd jobs and voluntary funds which were supplied by his many faithful supporters.
Some blame Irvine's removal on his prophecies: "He was asked to
...because he took up his own doctrine unfounded by scripture."
This has reference to Irvine's insistence that the only avenue
for salvation after 1914 was by relying on his claim to be The Prophet
For The Last Days and accepting his Omega Gospel Message.
it was late 1918, over
four years AFTER he was told he must step down, that Irvine received
his new "vision" of Revelation, so this explanation could
not be the reason for his dismissal in 1914. The Scandal
was most likely the reason.
Alfred Magowan summed up the dilemma quite well that the workers
experienced at the time of Irvine’s fall in his play titled: Outline of a Peculiar People From 1900-1931, pp. 16-17:
Third Overseer: "He made us what we are. Except for him I might still be what and where I was when he discovered me.
First Overseer: "It's going to upset our Family Tree!
Second Overseer: "You mean uproot it! Perhaps we made too much of him as our Father in the Gospel. I begin to think I was right before I met him.
Third Overseer: "Fathers sometimes go wrong without ceasing to be fathers.
First Overseer: "Yes, but spiritual fathers are different. When they fall away, they carry away the whole ground of relationship with them.
Second Overseer: "Do you think then that we should give up the Foundation of Teaching because he is not what he used to be?
First Overseer: "We can still refer to the time we met him, and the necessity of Genealogy, without committing ourselves any further.
Third Overseer: "But supposing somebody asks us who our spiritual Father was, and WHERE he is now?
Second Overseer: "In that case, it would be wise to change the subject!
Third Overseer: "...I cannot forget the early days when he was himself, and when his words were our meat and drink. How thou art fallen from heaven O Lucifer, Son of the Morning! Sometimes I wish he was back again. All of us together have not the force he had. And the old people mourn for the powers and the glory of the first days.
First Overseer: "But we cannot afford to lose the place we have gained by his fall.
Second Overseer: "I do not like to put it that way.
Third Overseer: "His unfaithfulness gave opportunity and occasion to our faithfulness.
First Overseer: "That sounds better."
1919, NOVEMBER 11 at 11:00 A.M. - THE WORLD STOOD STILL FOR TWO MINUTES:
"On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, 1919, the day of the celebration of the League of Nations and proclamation of peace; there was two minutes of silent prayer by order of the King of England: every ship on the sea, every train, every tram car, and vehicles, and public works, stood still during the Solemnity of those two minutes silence." (From: John Long's Journal, 1919). This day, November 11, would figure prominently in Wm. Irvine's life and letters each year thereafter.
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