The Life & Ministry of William Irvine
Revised February 3, 2014
The Division of 1928 - The SECOND Split
Ex-Communication of Ed Cooney
How Cooney Differed...
1921 - 1928
The Lurgan Historic Meeting - October 12, 1928
Wilson Reid's Letter - December 13, 1928
THE DIVISION OF 1928
Cooney Continues Alone
Comments by Others
1938 - Worldwide Council about Divorce & Remarriage
1948 - Irvine Weir Excommunicated
August Gustafson - A New Companion
1960, June 20: Edward Cooney Dies
Photos of Edward Cooney
Edward Cooney's ExCommunication
HOW COONEY DIFFERED: As time went on, the sect adopted various beliefs and practices with which Ed Cooney disagreed and viewed as being unscriptural. The other workers viewed him as being "out of step" and "causing trouble." According to his official biographer, Patricia Roberts, he believed movable gospel halls (also called baches) indicated a lack of faith in those who used them, as they also slept in them. He saw the annual conventions and bank accounts as unscriptural. He was against the workers assuming the name "The Testimony," in Great Britain at the outbreak of World War I. He did not believe workers should have "fields," over which a senior worked ruled. He believed that religious systems and organization were unscriptural, and that human control would return them to the very place they had come from earlier. There was definitely a gulf between Cooney’s beliefs and opinions and those of the other leading workers, and they were disturbed about it.
LIVING WITNESS DOCTRINE: In 1914, Ed Cooney had openly renounced The Living Witness Doctrine, and since that time, had not tried to persuade others to accept it. He returned to preaching what they originally taught, and believed; i.e. that some of them were truly converted to Christ BEFORE they ever met Wm Irvine. In his Testimony, Cooney wrote: “The only remedy was to return to God and cease mixing Gods revelation with that which proceeded from flesh and blood. This the writer has sought to do with profit. William had been partially persuaded by Joe Kerr to accept the heresy that no one could be born again without meeting a living witness. Others held that that witness must be a sent preacher who had heard William or some other preacher associated with him.” (Edward Cooney’s Testimony from Selected Letters Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney 1867-1960, edited by Patricia Roberts p 43-46)
“He (Ed Cooney) concluded that a mistake was made in 1903-04, when they had accepted the Living Witness doctrine and had agreed that previous to meeting Irvine they were 'unregenerated'. Once he had decided that Joe Kerr's teaching was heresy, Edward Cooney reaffirmed the fact that he was not converted through William Irvine and made it known that both he and Irvine made decisions for Christ before the inception of this movement; Irvine, after he heard the Rev. John McNeill at Motherwell Town Hall, and Cooney, when he was a church member at seventeen years of age, long before he met Irvine. Cooney's reiteration of his conversion experience was a disturbing reversal from the movement's anticlerical platform and from the Living Witness doctrine. (The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker, p.71)
Ed Cooney explained what they had originally taught in a letter: "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, circa 1930 printed in Selected Letters, Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 edited by Patricia Roberts, p. 16)
Fred Wood wrote: “Edward Cooney said he proselytised his conscience for 4 years by accepting this (Living Witness Doctrine) so as to avoid offending his brethren. But afterwards he denounced it as a heresy. “ (Selected Letters of Fred Wood 1890-1986 edited by Patricia Roberts, p 59)
In May 1930, Edward Cooney wrote: "Joe Kerr backed by William Irvine believed that previous to meeting him we were unregenerated. John Hardie for over 20 years refused to accept this. I am sorry to say that John Hardie has embraced the error he stood out against so long. Wilson McClung declared that this is my chief offence.”
REVELATION: In May 1930, Edward Cooney wrote: "At the beginning we were all free to express the revelation God made clear to our hearts.” The other workers did not want Cooney to express any "revelation" he had in their territories, unless they saw it and agreed to and with it. Ed Cooney felt he should be allowed to preach anything that was revealed to him--even if it was contrary to what the workers in whose field they were laboring believed; and even if something had not been revealed to that worker in whose field he was preaching. To do otherwise, he viewed as controlling the Spirit. Therefore, he would not agree to respect territories or organization.
Cooney wrote: “Wm Irvine and I (Ed Cooney) were drawn together as brothers in Christ, each of us claiming liberty to follow Jesus as we received progressive light from God by the Spirit." (Ed Cooney's Letter to Alice Flett, circa 1930 printed in Selected Letters, Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 edited by Patricia Roberts, p. 16)
"God's revelation is Jesus the Christ the Son of the living God progressively given to the heart of God's child from his Father who is in the heavens. [Matt. 16:16-17] This revelation being progressive cannot be systemized; for we know in part and in part we prophesy; any attempt to organize this revelation so that it becomes final produces stagnation - 'for the path of the just is as the dawn that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.' If the physical light was organized at the dawn stage what a catastrophe it would be for the children of men. So, any attempt to systematize or organize the progressive revelation of the Christ, the Son of the living God gradually given to God's children individually, with a view to its being received collectively, is equally a catastrophe with more fearful consequences, because the issues are eternal." (Edward Cooney's Account of the Lurgan Historic Meeting of 1928; from Selected Letters Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney 1867-1960, edited by Patricia Roberts, pp. 5-6)
TAKING A NAME. Ed Cooney did not want to register a name for the group with the government. He went along with taking the name "The Testimony of Jesus," which other workers used, but later, wished he had stood his ground.
Concerning their registering under the name of “The Testimony” in World War I, Cooney wrote: “In 1914 when all of military age were required to register, Andy Robb registered himself as Independent Faith Mission. I registered myself as Christian, and advised Willie Gill to council all to do likewise, but he said "Let us take the name we call ourselves by 'The Testimony of Jesus.’ At that time I am sorry to say I used to go contrary to my conscience, to avoid differing from my fellow workers. I gave in to Willie in this respect and so erred, but have confessed my sin to God, and God has forgiven me. We have committed the same sin in the U.S.A. in calling ourselves 'Christian Conventions.' We should repent and take the consequences.” (Edward Cooney’s Testimony from Selected Letters Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney 1867-1960, edited by Patricia Roberts, p. 43-45)
ORGANIZATION & HIERARCHY: Cooney believed it was contrary to the teachings of the New Testament for their group to be divided into the two classes: (1) workers, and (2) saints. He believed in the priesthood of all believers—an equal brotherhood. He also believed the workers should be servants, not rulers. He wrote:
CONTROL: Unlike the other workers, Cooney had constantly kept on the move, preaching in cities around the world, and never became an overseer of one particular geographic areas. Dr. Patricia Roberts, his biographer, expresses the opinion that the basic issues that brought about the irreconcilable conflict between Edward and his fellow workers were faith (as opposed to organization) and control by the Spirit (as opposed to human control).
CONVENTIONS & BACHES: Cooney did not believe there was a scriptural basis for holding conventions. He was also critical of the vast amount of organization and coordination required to accomplish the conventions; which limited the workers from going wherever the Spirit led them and instead workers went on arranged convention tours. He was also against workers using tents and movable halls, which he believed showed a lack of faith in God's provisions. Fred Wood wrote: “Conventions were copied from Keswick in the north of England. When Edward Cooney saw that these were not scriptural, he spoke out against them, but he himself preached in them until 1928. He was also against wooden gospel halls for the purpose of holding missions in. These were in sections and could be erected in the field of any farmer who gave his permission for such.“ (Selected Letters of Fred Wood1890-1986 edited by Patricia Roberts, p 57)
In 1921 Cooney attended the great Workers Convention held at Staffordshire, England. Fred Wood wrote: “And it took them to 1921, where you see that big photograph of nothing but workers, about 800 there (Staffordshire, England) taken in 1921 (Cooney is No. 69). And they took Edward around the world for seven years to try to get him to change his mind. One of the faults they had to find with him was he never knew what he was going to say when he came into a meeting…Because he would come out without anything into the meeting and didn't know what he was going to say.” (Early Memories Recalled by Fred Wood)
Cooney's biographer, Patricia Roberts, wrote: "They tried to muzzle him by attempting to control what he preached. This did not work either. They then attempted to restrict his movements by requiring him to seek permission from overseers before preaching in their respective fields of labor. But Cooney recognized no boundaries. He thus became a great problem to the leaders of this fellowship…They could control all the others. Edward they could not control..." (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 by Patricia Roberts, pp 135-137)
1921 - 1928: Wilson Reid was the head worker in Ireland at this time. Hoping other overseers might be able to persuade Cooney to change his views, give up his liberty, and come under their control, the workers urged Ed Cooney to travel abroad. He visited various leading workers in their respective territories in the U.S.A., Canada, New Zealand and Australia for the seven years between 1921 and 1928. He was not, however, persuaded to mend his ways. "...and Eddie and Willie Gill went abroad. It was then hoped that as Eddie would mingle with the other brothers in the other countries that he would be helped. But instead of this, he got worse, until in 1925 some of the brothers in Australia and New Zealand sent home quite a few letters showing that the trouble with Eddie had become very serious.” (December 13, 1928, Letter by Wilson Reid) (Read two sermons by Edward Cooney at the Auckland New Zealand Special Meeting New Year's Day, 1921 Sermon #1 Sermon #2)
BANNED IN NEW ZEALAND - Cooney managed to antagonize the workers in New Zealand so much that he was banned from fellowshipping with the rest of them. The New Zealand friends who were loyal to Cooney began holding their own meetings. The final straw was reportedly a healing Cooney attempted of a young woman: “In an attempt to excel and strengthen his claims to be obeying Matthew 10, he (Ed Cooney) arranged what he called a test case to fulfil the 'healings' part of Matthew 10 and Luke 9. He advised a sick young woman to desire a cure, and to read, meditate and pray in preparation for healing. Taking with him two junior male workers he anointed her with olive oil and uttered words. But the sick girl only remained ailing and worried. Edward Cooney gave it up and left her to think that perhaps she failed or came short in some way in faith....Workers in New Zealand who already were antagonized by Cooney's teaching found the last action (the attempt at healing) intolerable. They banned from household church meetings any member 'who declared him as a servant of God', so those who were loyal to him retaliated by starting meetings of their own; 'and it is the safest place for them,' wrote a worker.” (The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker, p. 75)
In 1925, Cooney left New Zealand for the USA where he was BANNED BY JACK CARROLL from the Western States. This territory was under the authority of Jack Carroll and he refused to allow Cooney to preach there. Wilson Reid wrote: “When Eddie left New Zealand and Australia in 1925, he went to U.S.A. where in view of this trouble, Jack Carroll asked him not to labour in that part of America where he had been, but Eddie settled down to work a mission in Seattle, a city where Jack had friends both in and around. The result was that Jack had to ask them to keep away from Eddie's meetings. When the mission finished Eddie remained on and got into the clothing business and remained in it until the early part of this year. He was there almost 3 years in all. Soon after the mission however, George Walker and a number of older workers met in Seattle and did all they could to fix things up with Eddie and make it possible for him to be in fellowship. He then gladly agreed to what was suggested, but afterwards did not act upon it, and thus has been out of fellowship since.” (December 13, 1928, Letter by Wilson Reid)
"The rift deepened and a complete ban was placed upon Cooney in a successful attempt to deny him support in the USA and Canada. He said he would have starved if he had not left preaching and found employment in the USA in his former trade, the clothing business.” (The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker, p. 75)
He was also BANNED BY GEORGE WALKER in the Eastern states. Ed Cooney wrote: “Twenty years ago (1927) the writer declared to George Walker in Samuel Charlton’s presence in Edgar Hawkin’s home (Detroit, MI) that it was his purpose to cut out of his life all that contradicted the scriptures. George refused, and excluded him from the fellowship of his brothers and sisters in the territory over which he claimed oversight. John Carroll had previously excluded him in his territory. James Jardine acquiesced in his territory, and the exclusion has spread to British Isles. He still goes on conscious that he has not been excluded by the One who prunes the vine.” (Edward Cooney’s Testimony from Selected Letters Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney 1867-1960, edited by Patricia Roberts, pp. 43-45) (From: The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker, Reprint of pp. 115-117)
1928, DECEMBER 13,WILSON REID'S LETTER: In his letter to the Irish Saints, Wilson Reid, who was at that time the Overseer of Ireland, wrote a detailed account of the workers’ grievances with Ed Cooney and his objectionable actions: "As regards the cause of the trouble, it is not a thing of today or yesterday but a matter of years. The first I clearly saw of it was in 1916, although others can trace it back much further. About this time Eddie began to change his testimony and went back to claim he was saved at 17 years old, which was many years before he began walking in The Truth. Many things I heard him say then, I did not fully understand until long after. As I look back now I can see where he was then heading to at the time. I returned to Africa from where I had come in 1913, and did not see Eddie again until 1921. Things had developed further with Eddie and he had begun teaching things on his own without consulting any of the brothers. Some of these things were dealt with at the time (1921) and Eddie and Willie Gill went abroad.” (December 13, 1928, Letter by Wilson Reid)
In 1928, Eddie Returned to Britain and found that the minds of many of his friends had been poisoned and that his excommunication had been planned before he had ever arrived there. Wilson Reid, Overseer of Ireland, was heavily involved in the excommunication of Cooney's supporters. George Walker went to Cooney’s converts in London and turned some of them against Edward. Fred Wood wrote: “Then George Walker came from Massachusetts to London while Edward was in Ireland with a packed jury of ten men wanting to excommunicate him…I was there in the meeting. He spoke from the 2nd of Revelations and spoke of casting their (?) into a sick bed unless they repent. And, of course, there was the others of those I'd had fellowship in my time. There might have been about 12 or 14 of us there, and they were all trembling when they heard this. And they had their minds poisoned against Edward in that meeting. I didn't get mine poisoned because I knew I'd heard the Gospel in 1916 in the open air after listening for ten working days--Monday to Friday--in two weeks.” (Early Memories Recalled by Fred Wood)
Fred Wood: “And so, when Edward came home, he met some of
dear folks in 1928, and they said to him,
(EC) "Hello, how are you?"
(Them) "I'm all right, how are you?"
(EC) "I'm all right. I'm coming 'round to see you."
(Them) "If you come around to see me, you'll find a locked door."
"That was what Edward got from one of the converts...He was an
driver here in London. That was what he got from one. He
to another man's house who also professed through Edward. He was
very deaf. He knocked at the door. He came out to the door.
(EC) "I've come to see you."
(Man) "I can't let you in, Edward." (Tears streaming down his face.) "I can't let you in."
(Early Memories Recalled by Fred Wood)
John and Sarah West were the owners of the Crocknacrieve Convention grounds. Sarah wrote: “In 1928, an overseer preacher, Wilson Reid, who often visited our home told us that Edward Cooney, who was then in America was coming home, and warned us that he was giving trouble out there and not to have fellowship with him. George Walker and others called on the same mission of warning. My husband and others suggested having a meeting on Bible lines with elders and have Edward Cooney there too, so that both sides would be heard by them to judge. A meeting was arranged in Irvinestown but Edward Cooney was not there. My husband and others then decided to keep an open mind until Edward Cooney came back and hear his side. They thought it very strange to hear that Edward would change and preach false doctrine inside a few years because we knew that God had used him in a great measure in different parts of England and Ireland. Wilson Reid and many in fellowship with us never came back to our home after making the decision to hear Edward Cooney's side. When Edward Cooney did come back, we could not see any change in him; he was as sincere and ardent as ever, preaching the same simple gospel as we heard at the beginning.” (Sara West Statement About The 1928 Division, August 31, 1954)
1928, OCTOBER 19 - Evangelist George Walker, age 51, arrived at the Port Southampton, England onboard the S. S. Olympic, having departed from New York, NY, USA. Destination: 15 Southhampton Rd.
1928, OCTOBER 12 - THE LURGAN MEETING. "When Eddie came to Ireland, Willie Gill met him at Belfast and spent a day with him. George Walker also spent a day talking with him before he came this side. I too saw Eddie and told him what I had already written him a couple of years ago, viz., that so long as he was out of line with the other older brothers, whom I could not disbelieve in, I could not be one with him. It was then arranged that we would call a meeting of older brothers and let them hear and speak with him. This we held on Friday after Eddie landed, but it accomplished nothing so far as helping him was concerned, although we spent about 6 hours talking. He went off to do and say as he himself thought good and has been doing so since." (December 13, 1928, Letter by Wilson Reid)
A week after Edward Cooney had arrived back in Ireland, a meeting was held at the home of Andrew (Andy) Knox in Clankilvorah, Lurgan, Co. Armagh, N. Ireland. The twelve senior workers present were Jack Carroll, William Weir, Willie Gill, Wilson Reid, James Jardine, Joe Twamley, Andrew (Andy) Robb, Nat Dickson, Robert Miller, Ben Boles, Tom Elliott and Edward Cooney. Jack Carroll appeared to be the worker in charge of the meeting. George Walker was not present--reportedly, he was in London turning the friends against Cooney. (List of workers from: Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 by Patricia Roberts, p.143)
Sarah West wrote: “A meeting of old workers was held in Clankilvorah, an open home near Lurgan, Co. Armagh, among them being T. Elliott, Jack Carroll, Wm. Gill (deceased) etc. J. Carroll refused to listen or have fellowship with Edward Cooney who was also there. Thomas Elliott stood by Edward Cooney at that time because he saw an unrighteous act being done towards him. To the sorrow of many, those who kept their homes open to Edward Cooney became outcast from their brethren, and in that way the division started.” (Sara West Statement About The 1928 Division, August 31, 1954)
Cooney wrote: "It seems to be unknown by many of God's children and unrealized by most that on October 12th, 1928, at Clankilvoragh, Lurgan, Ireland, at a meeting of those who might be called the apostles amongst the people of God - indeed there happened to be twelve present - a verbal agreement was submitted by the summer-up, James Jardine, expressed by John Carroll, called by the latter different times a 'solemn agreement' binding all the workers not to express individual revelation even though true if the worker in whose field they were had not yet seen it. This verbal agreement was, as declared at that historic meeting and apostolic council 'a basis of fellowship for all workers.' " (Edward Cooney's Account of the Lurgan Historic Meeting of 1928; from Selected Letters Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney 1867-1960, edited by Patricia Roberts pp 5-6)
According to Patricia Roberts: "The purpose of this meeting was to make one final attempt to organize Cooney by binding him to decrees which he said would have restricted his service and suppressed the influence and power of God in his ministry.
The decrees were:
"2) That if a worker desired to preach anything which the workers as a whole did not agree with, he was to go to a part where the workers had never been in order to do so.
Cooney wrote Alice Flett: "Plans were made secretly to get me excluded, and in 1928, at Clankiborough, Lurgan, ten workers put Thomas Elliott, since deceased, and me out, excluding us from fellowship, because we would not agree to two decrees, which were additions to the scriptures." (Letter to Alice Flett, circa 1930 printed in Selected Letters, Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney 1867-1960, edited by Patricia Roberts, p.16)
Tom Elliott had been nicknamed "Tom the Baptist," as he was the one designated in the early days to do the actual baptising. “It is ironic that it was he (Tom Elliott) who baptized all ten of the chief workers who excommunicated him and Edward at the historic meeting in Clankilvoragh, Lurgan on 12 October, 1928. Edward afterwards often posed the question: “The baptism of Tom, was it of man or of God?” But the workers were no more able to answer this question than the Pharisees were to answer Jesus when He asked them the same question regarding John the Baptist.” (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 by Patricia Roberts, p. 166)
Walter Rittenhouse and W.H. Sweetland wrote a joint letter and mentioned this incident: "The meeting...took place in Ireland, Oct. 12, 1928, in the home of Andy Knox...The main purpose of this meeting was to promulgate a rule of conduct among older workers. This rule is sometimes referred to as ' The Workers Basis of Fellowship' or 'The decrees' or 'Conditions of Fellowship.' No matter by what title it is known, the purpose was to place geographic boundaries and human limitations by older Workers upon their Brethren...Jack will recall that when these decrees were being discussed, and some of the brethren refused to accept them (since they tend to limit the leading power of God), Jack exclaimed, and we quote: 'I will have no fellowship with you!' and walked out of the room followed by the Workers who were in favor of the rule. This was another milestone on the road to regimentation contrary to the teachings of Jesus and in conflict with Jack’s oft repeated phrase: 'In this family of God, all serve and none rule.' " See Mark 10:42-45, Luke 22:25-27..." (July 16, 1954 Letter to Jack (Carroll), Willie (Jamieson) and Brethren, by Walter Rittenhouse & W. H. Sweetland)
While Edward had been formally excommunicated by the workers in a Workers' Meeting, the friends weren't fully aware of this fact, and didn't know the reasons behind it. The workers let it be known that Cooney voluntarily chose to leave the fellowship. Ed Cooney wrote: "This is a true description of what took place on that memorable occasion; and as the untruth has been spread that I went out of fellowship from my brethren and thereby caused a division, I write to let you know that I earnestly desired, and still earnestly desire, to remain in the fellowship of my brethren on the same condition as we had from the beginning, viz., that 'the truth as it is in Jesus' be the only test by which His disciples are to be disciplined, and that the Scriptures are to be only written revelation accepted as declaring the truth." Edward Cooney's Account of the Lurgan Historic Meeting of 1928; from Selected Letters Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney 1867-1960, edited by Patricia Roberts pp 5-6)
After the Lurgan Meeting, according to Patricia Roberts: "...George Walker arrived from America, and with Wilson Reid, mounted an open campaign against Cooney in Ireland and Great Britain. They arranged meetings of workers, elders and saints in the homes of the various bishops in every community to turn people away from him...Cooney was excluded from these meetings....There were, therefore, many who chose to hear him also before taking sides....In addition to these meetings held in every community for the purpose of denouncing Edward, more letters for the same purpose were also widely circulated." (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 by Patricia Roberts, p. 145-146)
One of the circulated letters was written by Wilson Reid, overseer of Ireland at the time. He wrote to the Irish saints: “You will understand, therefore, that he (Ed Cooney) is out of fellowship with us all except Thomas Elliot who that day, and for a long time previous, was one with him. So far as I am concerned, I was and am satisfied that there is no use talking any more to Eddie, and I have not tried to do so since. We can't bind him down or stop him in any way in this country where he worked many years and has many friends; but we can tell them where he stands. This I have been slow to do until lately. George Walker and I have spoken to a number and this is written to reach others. I will be glad if it is made known to all in the family of God, but on no account to those outside it.”
In his letter, Wilson Reid disparaged Cooney and his ways and insinuated that
he was proud and a "deceiver," and not "born of God:"
“You may hear of Eddie's work; he could always create a stir, especially in Ireland. And he has now so much, if not more, zeal than ever; and as much outward marks of humility, but I'm afraid more exaltation and pride of mind and of his own name. I have lately been caused to think much of Colossians 2:23 in connection with him. Paul speaks there of the outward show that would not deceive...But at the same time I see the possibility of having the outward right and the inward wrong…I think too of a way which would deceive the very elect, and have already said years ago that if such a way came, it would have to spring from inside and not arise outside the Lord's Testimony. We may be up against this now as far as Ireland is concerned, but if it takes from us only those not born of God, we shall see in the end, it has been a blessing. We see, however, the possibility of many of the true children of God being moved, and if not moved, harassed and troubled. We therefore feel we must make it known that we cannot ask Eddie or his companion to take part in any meetings we are responsible for or encourage any saint or worker to attend theirs. We feel we must henceforth advise them to stay away. We can't at all accept any responsibility for those who decide to go with Eddie, nor for those who profess in his meetings, now that he is out of fellowship and on his own. We won't be any hindrance to him, and there will be no strife to disgrace us all and the Lord's name before the world.” (December 13, 1928 Letter by Wilson Reid)
Wilson Reid distributed his letter on December 13--just prior to the annual Special Meetings always held in December (Christmas time). In Irvinestown, a schism among the friends took place as the Special Meeting came to order:
"Despite this crisis in the fellowship, the Christmas meetings were held in the Orange Hall in Irvinestown as planned. James Bothwell, the bishop of this community, as was his custom, made all the necessary arrangements. Wilson Reid, the chief worker in Ireland, was to preside over the meeting. Members of the congregation, of whom there were several hundred in this area, duly arrived for worship. (The Christmas meetings were special meetings and comprised all the house churches in some several communities). They waited and waited, but Wilson and his companion did not show up. Then after 20 minutes, James Bothwell got up and addressed the people, saying: 'Seeing that our brothers (i.e. Wilson Reid and his companion) who were to take charge of this meeting have failed to do so, I will now ask our brother, Edward Cooney, to take the meeting.'With that a large number of people, with a display of much unrighteous indignation, rose up and left the hall. But the greater number remained and heard Edward. He preached that day on the foundation of the church. "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Christ." He had a wonderful response from most of those who stayed and listened...This meeting brought things closer to a head. Although Edward had been formally excommunicated, the division of the people had not yet definitively taken place." (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 by Patricia Roberts, p. 150)
THE OUTCASTS. When the Friends were made aware of "the trouble with Edward Cooney," they were divided into three groups: (1) those who had been persuaded against Cooney; (2) those who were for him, and (3) those who had not yet made up their minds which side they would take. To continue to communicate with Ed Cooney, or to keep your home open to him was viewed as siding with him. Those who did so were excommunicated and became "outcasts" from the rest of the group. Those who remained loyal to Cooney separated themselves from the main group, creating what is commonly known as"The Division of 1928." (See Feb. 3, 1957 Letter to Ed Cooney from Charlie Woodard who was excommunicated in The Go Preacher Movement - An Anthology by Patricia Roberts on pp. 84-86.)
By the end of the year 1928, instructions had been circulated around the world that Eddie Cooney had been banned from fellowship. Eddie was portrayed as a false teacher and someone who had gone wrong, so Eddie's followers were shunned, and they felt they were being shunned without just cause. Fourteen yeaars earlier, the workers had said similar things about William Irvine. Cooney's followers saw in their situation a similarity to those in the Bible who suffered outside the camp, while bearing reproach for Christ.
After the Historic Lurgan Meeting, Cooney remarked: “I have been excommunicated by my fellow-workers and hundreds of saints and 8 workers have been put outside the camp with me." (The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker, p.78)
About those who left the main group, Patricia Roberts wrote: "The vast majority of outcasts were saints. There were only 8 workers among them, and some of these like Alfred and Sarah Magowan were already outcasts before the Division. Tom Elliott and his wife, Ellen, were the only two senior workers who supported Edward. Among the junior workers, there were only Fred Wood and Alex Buchan and two others whose names we don't have. (Fred was Edward's convert and Alex was Tom Elliott's convert.) Hundreds of other workers, who were Edward's converts, turned against him, influenced by the chief workers. " (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney by Patricia Roberts, p 153)
JULY, 1929 MULLAGHEEM CONVENTION was held as usual at William West's home, as it had been since 1923; however, it was not attended by the Testimony saints. Ed Cooney, Tom Elliott and Alfred Magowan took the platform. The convention ground owner, William West, as well as his brother and wife, John and Sara West, former owners of Crocknacrieve Convention grounds, both took Ed Cooney's side in The Division of 1928.
1928 - 1947 - COONEY CONTINUES ALONE: After he was disfellowshipped in 1928, at the age of 61, Ed Cooney spent in the next five years (until 1933) in the United Kingdom, where he continued to preach, gain converts and set up churches. He traveled thousands of miles on his missionary journeys from his native Ireland to Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada; sometimes with a companion and sometimes alone. "During the years after he was cast out, he visited factories during lunch hour and witnessed to the employees, on buses and trains he would tell everyone he could about the Lord. Also he would find out when a prisoner was to be released from prison, and he would arrange a home and a bed for the person, and bring him to the home and witness to him also. He never held back in this area." (Statement by Rose Perry-1999)
“When Cooney left the
UK in 1933, he had good reason to believe that during the five years of his
ministry there since 1928, he had set the fellowship of outcasts firmly back
on the foundation laid by the apostle and prophets with Jesus Christ as the
chief cornerstone. And so he set out on another missionary journey which encompassed
a good portion of the English speaking world…He preached in the
US and Canada from 1933-1936; and in Australia-New Zealand in 1936-37.”
Fred Wood wrote: “And, of course, his life can be divided into three different parts:
30 approximate years before he went out to preach
30 years in fellowship with our very dear brethren, and
30 years after he was put outside the camp.”
He spent 1937 to 1939 in North America, and at the outbreak of World War II in 1939, he returned to the United Kingdom. He remained there until 1947 to 1950 when he visited USA and Canada for 3 years. He was 80 to 83 years old and he travelled thousands of miles in North America visiting friends he had known before he was excommunicated. Some were still 2x2s, some were outcasts for remaining loyal to Cooney and others were neither. When he arrived in New York in the spring of 1947, he was welcomed by Earl and Mae Hammond who had professed through him and were put out for remaining Cooney’s staunch supporters after his excommunication.(Information Source: Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 by Patricia Roberts, p.168, 170, 179 & 185, 191).
In September, 1948, Cooney travelled to Edmonton, Canada where Sam and Andy Boyd. Cooney had known both Andy and Sam Boyd when they all lived in Enniskillen, Ireland--before they ever met Wm. Irvine. Cooney wrote: “Now my dear sister (Alice Flett), I could write much more, but if you get in touch with Andy Boyd, 10187 103rd St. Room 8, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, he was one of those who met with me in Enniskillen, and he may be able to answer some of your further questions. Am sure Sam Boyd has given you some light on our spiritual experience before we met William Irvine.” (Cooney letter to Alice Flett, New Westminister, B.C. Canada, undated)
Samuel Boyd was born October 7, 1873 in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He accompanied Wm Irvine on the first mission trip to Scotland in 1899 and entered the work in 1900. Sam Boyd was 34 years old when he arrived in the USA with a group of U.K. workers in September 1907. He preached in Indiana. He left the work and married, sometime between 1910 and 1917. He and his wife and Andrew Boyd (a brother?) lived in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where Sam was the elder of a meeting.
While Cooney was in North America, the workers warned the friends not to receive Cooney into their homes. Those who did risked beine excommunicated. Oliver Scott wrote: “Sam Boyd was cast out because he gave accommodations to Ed Cooney in mid-winter, 1948. ‘…they would have been willing that Edward Cooney perish with cold and hunger.’ ” (October 1, 1949 Letter by Oliver and Elsie Scott, 2180 Stevenson Road, Route 1, White Rock, B.C., Canada; Secret Sect Footnote 15, page 97) (Secret Sect by Doug Parker, Page 77)
Those loyal to Edward Cooney were often shunned by the other Friends and Workers. "Mr. Boyd's life was very unhappy as he was frustrated in his mind through the persecutions. Mr. Boyd suffered much in spirit mentally, both he and his wife, as they saw many that were once their friends becoming their enemies…There was a family who, when others forsook Mr. Boyd, still hung on and refused to give up his fellowship, continually affirming that Mr. Boyd was a true Disciple of Christ and Brother in Christ. This family, whose name was Hoogers, were persecuted to the extreme, because of being friends with Sam Boyd.” (Spiritual Fraud by Doug Parker)
Oliver Scott reported: “Things got so bad that we decided to leave that city and come to British Columbia. But, when I came to British Columbia, I got a registered letter from Jack Carroll saying, ‘You are not expected to take part in meetings.’ The meeting I did attend after some time was carried on in the usual manner until the sacrament was carried out. As the cup reached both my wife and myself, the worker stepped forward and passed the wine over our heads. Everyone was amazed and when the worker was questioned he admitted that he had been instructed to do this.” (October 1, 1949 Letter by Oliver and Elsie Scott, 2180 Stevenson Road, Route 1, White Rock, B.C., Canada; Secret Sect Footnote 15, page 90-91)
In 1930, Tom Elliott died. His wife, Ellen, continued to support and encourage Ed Cooney. Mrs. Elliott died in England around 1961. (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 by Patricia Roberts, p. 166) Letters by Ed Cooney to Ellen Elliott dated August 4, 1955 and November 28, 1956 can be read in Selected Letters, Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney 1867-1960, edited by Patricia Roberts pp. 103-105)
COONEY'S LOYAL FOLLOWERS TODAY: Currently, some of this group of "outcasts" and their descendants continue to meet together for fellowship in homes, take no official name, and use the 1951 Edition of Hymns Old & New. Fred Wood, who assisted Ed Cooney wrote: "We still hold meetings in homes for there is no scripture in the New Testament for erecting buildings for worship." The author of the books referenced here, Dr. Patricia Roberts, is one of these followers. (Selected Letters of Fred Wood,1890-1986 edited by Patricia Roberts, pp. 55-56) See Photos of Fred Wood and family.
"I only knew a great old guy who had upheld what he thought was
gospel and gave his all to the cause. He continued to preach till
his end, and he had followers all over the world, and many are still
(Statement by Geoff Schmidt-1999)
THE THREE CHURCHES FOUNDED BY WM IRVINE: By 1928, the group started by Wm Irvine had split into 3 separate groups, all with same beginning and founder; all of which take no name for their group, and all believe their way and method is the only way to follow to get to Heaven. How are they known or designated? How do we refer to a particular group so people will know which group we mean?? It's NOT easy! It's a good idea to make certain the other person understands exactly which group you are referring to.
Cooney's loyal followers, as well as Wm Irvine's letters and followers often refer to the workers' fellowship as "The Testimony." Those who remained loyal followers of Irvine and believe his Omega gospel are sometimes called: "The Witnesses," "Irvinites," or "Message People." Those who were loyal to Ed Cooney and split off the main group in 1928 are sometimes referred to today as the "Cooneyites." They sometimes refer to themselves as the "outcasts" or those "outside the camp." However, the public and press in the UK had long been referring to the main group as "Cooneyites" so this term may be used to refer to "The Testimony" group as well as to the loyal-to-Cooney group.
Ironically, Cooney strongly opposed taking a name in World War I,
it was an eponym of his surname that the group was best known by!
The nickname “Cooneyites” seemed to irritate Wilson
and Bill Carroll both. Reid wrote John West that he hoped the
of Cooney would “clear what is left of the name that has stuck to
like glue all along.” (His hopes did not
come true. The group is still listed as "Cooneyites" in books being
William (Bill) Carroll gave the reason for Eddie's excommunication at convention preps as: "Then we preach not ourselves. We do not wish to exalt ourselves or our own name. That was the lamentable and dreadful sin of Edward Cooney. We had to come to the definite belief after many years of patience that he preached himself. His message was to exalt his own name, which has been put upon God's people and which God's people reject and resent." (An address on Sunday Evening, December 16, 1950, during Preparations for convention by W.C.C)
FROM WILLIAM IRVINE: “I was pleased to hear that you have been able to break the yoke of bondage from off the necks of some who should have known better than ever come under such... All authority in the name of scripture discipline is only 'Popish bondage' and abomination which is foreign to all possibility of the Spirit working in those who profess. Knowing most of the people who presumptuously thought to exercise the authority which God gave me, I am not surprised at the results. It is only a repetition of what all the true apostles got.” (The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker, p.77)
FROM ONE OF THE APOSTLES: "One of the apostles has since said that it was not excommunication but withdrawal from a brother walking disorderly and referred me to II Thess. 3:6-12. I appeal to my brothers and sisters in Christ to read the passage and see if it can with fairness be applied to me under the circumstances of which I have given an account." (Edward Cooney's Account of the Lurgan Historic Meeting of 1928; from Selected Letters Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney 1867-1960, edited by Patricia Roberts pp 5-6)
FROM WILSON REID, who viewed the split in this manner: "...if it takes from us only those not born of God, we shall see in the end it has been a blessing." (Letter December 13, 1928)
FROM FRED WOOD: “But with all this, Eddie said he'd been helped by William Irvine more than by any of the others. Yes, and William Irvine thought a lot of Eddie Cooney. He wrote to Eddie Cooney. He said, 'I'm glad you've broken the power of workerality.' We've got a letter written by William Irvine in his pen.” (Early Memories Recalled by Fred Wood)
"You mention The Division of 1928 and ask the reason for it. The Division arose from the fact that Edward Cooney refused to be organized like the rest of his brethren for he claimed the freedom which can be enjoyed by every born again person, namely, the liberty to move and speak as directed by the Holy Spirit. Edward's brethren thus separated him from their fellowship. He has never disowned them, but is outside the camp bearing some of the reproach of which Jesus knew so much." (Selected Letters of Fred Wood,1890-1986 edited by Patricia Roberts, p 3; "Answers to Questions put by an Inquirer.")
"I have been thinking about the cause of divisions in Christendom. It seems to be mostly through what are called doctrines. Luther was strong on justification by faith and this caused a split in the Catholic church when many became Protestants in support of this doctrine. Then we have the Church of England believing in infant baptism which Baptists don’t believe in and are therefore separate. We can bring it nearer home when we think of the doctrine of the living witness brought in by Joe Kerr and accepted by William Irvine but rejected by Edward Cooney as a heresy. This rejection may have been one reason for Edward's excommunication although I still think that envy was the principal one." (Selected Letters of Fred Wood,1890-1986 edited by Patricia Roberts, p. 46)
FROM ROSE PERRY-EYE WITNESS: "I have not ever met a man like Eddie for his zeal and vitality. His whole conversation was about His Lord. I wasn't a Christian at that time, although brought up in the Methodist Church and conscious of who God was, but didn't know Him. Eddie didn't consider my situation at all, He just witnessed about the Lord freely. What an eye opener for me at such a tender age!! I have never forgotten him. It was mentioned that he spoke out about the way the preachers were sent, and about the way decisions were made. He believed he should go as the Spirit led him. During the years after he was cast out, he visited factories during lunch hour and witnessed to the employees, on buses and trains he would tell everyone he could about the Lord. Also he would find out when a prisoner was to be released from prison, and he would arrange a home and a bed for the person, and bring him to the home and witness to him also. He never held back in this area.
"We discovered that when he was much older, he put a lot of emphasis on persecution, and to glory in persecution, as this was shown to be proof of being 'right.' This is still considered to be a priority by his followers. One of the favourite verses which he would state, and is stated clearly by his followers today 'Christ in you the hope of glory!' However, exclusivity is still obvious amongst these people, as they believe that no other denomination can be right and those in them, cannot be right either. However, people are welcome at the home meetings even if they aren't of the same mind. I know this is true because it happens locally still." (Statement by Rose Perry, Mildura, Australia, 1999)
FROM MERV SCHMIDT - EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT: "I first saw Eddie Cooney when he turned up uninvited at a Reconciliation Meeting convened to try and reconcile the problems created by the split in Victoria in the 1950s. As I was about to enter the hall where the meeting was being held, the worker at the door, Tom Turner, noticed Eddie. I will never forget the anger on his face as he turned Eddie away. Eddie had come to Mildura, as there had been about 20 put out of fellowship at the time in Mildura, including myself. Some of his supporters, the Greenaways, also lived in Mildura. I was at his funeral, as he died in Mildura.
"My Memory of Eddie is a man full of zeal , for what he believed in. I first met Eddie when I was 21 and he was 90 years old. He asked me on my first visit with him, when was I going out to preach, as young men were needed to continue the work. He was a man of strong character and he rejected the 'living witness doctrine.' I felt he was somewhat legalistic.
"After my parents and I had been reinstated in the fellowship, the meeting was in our home, and my father, Otto Schmidt, was the Elder. Eddie invited himself to a Wed night bible study at our place. I remember this causing some concern as we had not long been put back in fellowship. Eddie called our place the Half-way House, because we were sympathetic to others who had been put out of fellowship, and after we had been put out, we would never turn anyone away from our meeting.
"Eddie died in Mildura, and is buried in Mildura, about 4 yards from my parents' grave. My Dad and I along with a few other friends, and the worker in the district, Tony Knighton, who were brave enough to go, attended his simple graveside service. The funeral was taken by one of his loyal converts. A simple headstone states the year he died. Dad wrote George Walker an account of Eddie's passing. George wrote back thanking us for going to his funeral. When he was an old man, George Walker, told Willie Donaldson that he expected to see Eddie in Heaven.
"Some weeks ago I went to a meeting in Richie Greenaways' home. The format is just the same as in the 2x2 fellowship, and the message after 72 years of being out of the 2x2 fellowship is, if anything, more 2x2 than The Testimony fellowship." (Statement by Merv Schmidt, Mildura, Australia 1999. Merv Schmidt's father, Otto Schmidt, was one of the first two workers in Germany in 1912-13, along with James Jardine; and his mother, Sarah Heath, was from the Staffordshire, England convention grounds.)
FROM GEOFF SCHMIDT - EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT: "Yes, I knew Eddie. When Eddie was in Mildura, we had plenty of opportunity to have contact with him. However my parents forbade contact the earlier times when he was here. I only saw him after there was a huge split in the 2x2 church here in the 1950s with many of the friends being put out of fellowship. Later there was some re-gathering and Eddie tried to help with a reconciliation, but was refused. He was living with the Greenaway family (Mr. G is alive today and still has a fellowship meeting in his home) as Eddie was by then a very old man (1957-8-9). I decided to speak to him, as my parents did not. I found a very nice old man who had spent his whole life preaching the gospel around the world.
"What his gospel was I do not fully know. I do know he opposed the 'living witness doctrine' supported by Wm Irvine--that was clear. He opposed workers being told where to preach. He opposed the setting up of 'overseers,' believing he should go where the spirit led him. I think he thought conventions were a waste of resources, however he was party to them in the early days.
"I only knew a great old guy who had upheld what he thought was the gospel and gave his all to the cause. He continued to preach till his end, and he had followers all over the world, and many are still alive. He died here in Mildura in 1960 and is buried very near my grandfather, the worker in our district then. Tony Knighton went to his funeral. I think Tony sypathised with Eddie, as he later left the work soon after that and married my aunt. Tony, from my recollection, seemed to view Eddie differently than other workers." (Statement by Geoff Schmidt, Mildura, Australia-1999)
1938: ENGLISH COUNCIL of JULY of 1938. Meetings were held of sixteen of the most senior Gospel overseers worldwide, who agreed and confirmed a new policy relating to future divorce and remarriage situations. This worldwide meeting was held in England and involved all the countries where there were workers laboring at that time. North and South America (Argentina & ?), England, Scotland and Ireland, India and Australia and probably at least France, in Western Europe.
1938 Ship Manifest for Jack Carroll and two 2 other worker who traveled with him on the same ship showed they were going to: c/o J. Humphries, West Hanney, Wantage, Berks. This is the Oxfordshire, England convention grounds. It is also the location of a previous English Council Meeting that was held July 19-20, 1930. It is highly probable that West Hanney was also the location of this 1938 English Council Meeting. It stands to reason that they would schedule the Council Meeting to be held at the time of a regular convention, so the workers could preach there.
All the ship manifests for the following 10 possibly 11 Workers traveling in 1938 to England showed their professions as Minister or Evangelist. They are listed below in order by their arrival dates in England. Some travelled together. There would also have been the 5 Overseers from Scotland (Joe Twamley), Ireland (Irvine Pearson or Wilson Reid?), England (Willie Gill), France and India for whom travel details were not found.
1938 June 1 Alexander Pearce – arrived Southampton, Eng. on SS Windhuk from Laurenco Marques, Mozambique, age 65
1938 June 10 Samuel Jones arrived in London, Eng. on SS Mooltan from Brisbane, age 60
1938 June 10 John Hardie arrived in London. Eng. on SS Mooltan from Brisbane, age 64
1938 June 21 Alex Scott arrived at Southampton. Eng. NOTE this MAYBE the Worker. The manifest was too blurry to read occupation, shows age 71, DOB abt 1867. Review of Hymns shows 1868-1968 from Scotland. A. Scott attended the 1930 English Council.
1938 July 14 Jack Carroll arrived in Southhampton, Eng. on SS Empress of Britain from Quebec; Destination: c/o J. Humphries, West Hanney, Wantage, Berks, age 60
1938 July 14 Robert Chambers (same JC above) age 37
1938 July 14 Hugh Mathews (same JC as above), age 60
1938 July 17 George Walker arrived in London, Eng. on SS Ausonia from Montreal Quebec, age 61
1938 July 17 John Doak (same as GW above) age 59
1938 July 17 Alex Dougal (same as GW above) age 39
1938 July 18 John S. Jackson arrived Southampton on SS Alcantara from Buenos Aires, Argentina. age 57
DIVORCE & REMARRIAGE DECISION - They reached the decision that professing friends who took that step should not be permitted to come to fellowship meetings; however, those who were in that situation before they professed would not be asked to separate, but would be permitted full privileges of fellowship.
The Western states in America still hold to the Divorce and Remarriage decision made then. In Eastern USA some years ago it was decided that Divorce and Remarriage would be permitted in certain cases. Over the years the practice became much more widespread.
1938 BALTIMORE LARGE WORKERS CONVENTION - Reportedly, in or around 1938, before World War II, a large scale
Meeting was held in Baltimore, Maryland. George Walker, Andrew Abernathy and Horace Burgess were among the 150 or so workers present. They may have been passing on the decisions of the 1938 Council.
1938 -The Colorado Disturbance Letter was dated Dec. 1, 1938. George Walker assumed teh blame and asked forgiveness for his part; as did Eddie Cornock. and signed by John Hardie, James Jardine, John S. (Jack) Jackson, George Walker, E. J. Cornock, Wm. Wilkie and Hugh Matthews. Very few details are given.
1938: A VISIT TO WM IRVINE - Ed Cooney, Alfred Magowan and R. Irwin paid a three-week visit to Wm Irvine in Israel. (This was confirmed by Wm. Irvine in letters dated May 18, 1938 and June 2, 1938 to Edwards.)
1948: IRVINE WEIR EXCOMMUNICATED: Irvine Weir and his wife had welcomed Cooney into their home in Boston, Mass and Irvine Weir also accompanied Cooney to various places in the USA on his missionary trips. Cooney wrote that:“Irvine Weir has written me that George Walker, Tom Tuft, and the bishop in whose house Irvine (Weir) meets, came to his home. George Walker told Irvine (Weir) that he would instruct the bishop to close his house to him unless he promised not to speak in the meetings. Irvine (Weir) refused, so without any scriptural reason being given, he has been cut off. Pray for him that he may stand firm and seek only to please God." (Letter to the Churches in Alabama and Kentucky, Selected Letters, Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 edited by Patricia Roberts, p. 56)
Cooney wrote in September, 1948: "Irvine Weir was ordered off the convention grounds for speaking between meetings to some he met; and bishops have been told not to allow him to speak in the home assemblies. He is getting from six to nine weeks leave from his work and thinks of spending it with me. Hope if we go together, we may be a help to each other." (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 by Patricia Roberts, pp.198)
1949 - AUGUST GUSTAFSON BECOMES COONEY'S COMPANION: In 1899, when he was 25, August Gustafson began preaching according to Matthew 10 independently of the Go-Preacher movement. He and his companion came in contact with the Go-Preachers and began to preach with their movement. August was the first worker to preach in Sweden; in other words, he pioneered the gospel in Sweden. When he was 70 years old, he was put out of the work. He met Edward Cooney sometime in 1949, and shortly thereafter, became his companion, at age 75. In the last 6 years of his life, he was taken care of by Fred and Sadie Wood in Northern Ireland. He died in 1970, at the age of 97. There was a memorial service held for him in Sweden. (Selected Letters of Fred Wood, 1890-1986 by Patricia Roberts, p34)
August Gustafsson's Obituary in Swedish Newspaper 1970
"The preacher August Gustafsson from Lugnas has died in Belfast, Northern Ireland at the age of 97 years. As a young man he went to America where he first had work on the railways. Very soon, however, he and a fellow worker listened to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, those words the Lord said to his disciples (Matthew 10 and Mark 6:7-13). That command of the Lord, August followed faithfully and practised all his life. He was in the service of the Lord in the U.S.A. and in Australia where he was manager of a home for seamen for 10 years. He was also in the Lord's work in New Zealand, Ireland, and Scandinavia. His native land, Sweden, he visited from time to time especially when he was old. When he was 90 he was invited to visit friends in Northern Ireland. Those friends gave him a home there for the rest of his life. During his last years he was blind and in declining health. His friends in Northern Ireland took care of him in a very loving, kindly way. The friendship between this good family and August lasted for many years. August Gustafsson was a very godly man and a blessing to many people. Before all religious communities he pointed to the loving command of the Lord: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, mind and strength and thy neighbour as thyself." Again and again August remembered those words and practised them in his own life." [(Selected Letters of Fred Wood, 1890-1986 by Patricia Roberts, p35]
Ralph Derkland came in contact with August and wrote: "After many of these experiences, I said to one of our friends I had come to the conclusion this really is God’s true way, but it has been corrupted...Some were blaming my ‘stand’ on poor old August Gustafson who, incidentally, was the first worker to take the Gospel to Sweden. While it is true, we entertained him in our home, we did not at that time agree with him in some things but this, no doubt was because at that time we ourselves were so confused we would have argued with anyone, searching for the loose end we felt we had suddenly lost. So he left us, and at that time we were not too much concerned if we ever saw him again, but the fact we entertained him seemed to be our undoing so far as some were concerned. Some would treat an--??-- kinder than we were to treat him. Some friends in Tacoma received him as a long lost brother, senced (sic) nothing wrong with his spirit and made him promise he would return for another visit; then 'they got the word,' and called him and told him not to come. Because that the human element entered, what may have been of Christ had to flee...Now then, I would like to ask you a fair question, WHY DID THEY KEEP WHO LET IT OUT THEN. Could this be the reason when a poor old man like August [Gustafson] comes around, the workers hasten to warn every body everywhere not to let him in as he is an impostor, a child of the devil and even one of Satan’s angels." [Undated Letter by Ralph Derkland and family who resided in the state of Washington, USA. Quote from Mabil Sill's letter indicates it was written sometime after October, 1955]
"Early in 1949, God provided Edward with a companion, August Gustafson, from Norway. August was what Edward called the pioneer worker, for he went out to preach according to Matthew 10 at the age of 25 in 1899, quite independently of the Go-Preacher movement. He and his companion subsequently met up with the Go-Preachers and were received into the fellowship as brothers in Christ. This was before the living witness heresy had crept in circa 1905. August too was eventually excluded from fellowship a number of years after Edward had been. It seems he had objected to the harsh treatment given to one of the young preachers by the chief workers. Thus at the age of 70 after a life of faith for almost half a century, he found himself shut out of fellowship with all doors closed against him. This was August's distressing fate in old age at the hands of the chief workers. He spent the war years (1939-46) as a cook in his native Norway when that country was under German occupation. Like most workers in foreign countries he didn't know the truth about Edward's excommunication since the chief workers had everywhere borne false witness against him. They said, for example, that he (Edward) had departed from the Truth by making himself out to be a great one like the character in Acts 17, deceiving many. What most people did not know was that Edward was excommunicated because he obeyed the Truth as it is in Jesus, refusing to be controlled by man; and as a consequence had his name cast out as evil by the chief workers...One day in 1949, August saw a letter from Edward to another worker, in which Edward had written: "I will forgive you for not forgiving me." August was greatly impressed with such a spirit and immediately decided to write to Edward requesting to meet him. Shortly afterwards they met, Edward took August as his companion and fellow preacher, and all homes open to Edward now became August's homes as well." (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 by Patricia Roberts, pp.198)
Cooney spent August, 1955 to July, 1957 in the U.S.A. and arrived in Ireland in 1957, when he was 91 years old, where he planned to spend the rest of his life. However, his plans changed, and he wound up leaving for Australia when he was 93, where he spent the remainder of his life, from March 1959 to June 1960. The reason given by Patricia Roberts for this move was: “For Edward’s last year in Ulster*, then, there was nothing but conflict, contention, schism, and confusion within the fellowship of outcasts. Things got to such a pitch that he felt he could stand it no longer, so in his 93rd year he decided to leave Ulster,* where he had hoped to die in peace, and go to Australia. He was in very poor health at the time and was by no means physically able to undertake such a journey.” (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 by Patricia Roberts, p.240)
1960, JUNE 20: EDWARD COONEY DIED at age 93, in Mildura, Victoria, Australia, in the home of some of his loyal Cooneyite followers, Richard and Emily Greenaway; 32 years after his excommunication. Mr. Greenaway wrote of his death:
9 Williams Avenue, Mildura, Victoria Australia 3500
June 23, 1960 THE IMPARTIAL REPORTER - his hometown newspaper announced his death with an article titled: "EDWARD COONEY - A GREAT FIGURE PASSES."- "One of Enniskillen’s most remarkable men, Edward Cooney, who turned his back on wealth to become a wandering preacher and the founder of a new religious sect, the Cooneyites, has died in Australia at the age of 93..."
BURIAL: Edward Cooney is buried in Mildura Cemetery in Mildura, Victoria, Australia. Mildura is in the northwest part of the State of Victoria on the Murray River. It is 550 kms from Melbourne VIC; 1000 kms from Sydney NSW; 450 kms from Adelaide SA. See Photos of Ed Cooney's grave. After Edward's death, his followers everywhere looked to Fred Wood as their authority figure. Fred Wood died September 11, 1986 at age 97. (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 by Patricia Roberts, pp 129-130).
1970 - AUGUST GUSTAFSON DIED in December, 1970. There was a memorial service held in Sweden. His obituary carried in a Swedish newspaper read:
"The preacher August Gustafsson from Lugnas has died in Belfast, Northern Ireland at the age of 97 years. As a young man he went to America where he first had work on the railways. Very soon, however, he and a fellow worker listened to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, those words the Lord said to his disciples. [Matthew 10 and Mark 6:7-13] That command of the Lord, August followed faithfully and practised all his life. He was in the service of the Lord in the U.S.A. and in Australia where he was manager of a home for seamen for 10 years. He was also in the Lord's work in New Zealand, Ireland, and Scandinavia. His native land, Sweden, he visited from time to time especially when he was old. When he was 90 he was invited to visit friends in Northern Ireland. Those friends gave him a home there for the rest of his life. During his last years he was blind and in declining health. His friends in Northern Ireland took care of him in a very loving, kindly way. The friendship between this good family and August lasted for many years. August Gustafsson was a very godly man and a blessing to many people. Before all religious communities he pointed to the loving command of the Lord: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, mind and strength and thy neighbour as thyself.' Again and again August remembered those words and practised them in his own life." (Selected Letters of Fred Wood, 1890-1986 edited by Patricia Roberts, p 35)
On February 10, 1971, about 10 years after the death of Ed Cooney, The Belfast Newsletter, published an article by Ken Nixon titled: "Cooney: He tried to live like Christ."
In October, 1984, about 25 years after Ed Cooney died, The Orange Standard printed an article titled "Edward Cooney - 1867 - 1960" by S. E. Long. The Orange Standard was a monthly Protestant magazine, being the official organ of the Loyal Orange Institution of England, published in Birmingham. The complete set is held by the British Library in London.
And the rest of the acts of Cooney, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the books of Patricia Roberts: The Life and Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 and Selected Letters Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney 1867-1960. And also in The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker and Life & Ministry of William Irvine, Chapter 5.
Books About Edward Cooney and his Followers
Three books have been written concerning Edward Cooney by his official biographer, Patricia Roberts, and are currently available. They are:
1. The Life and Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960,
1990 (ISBN 0 9510109 4 8)
2. Selected Letters, Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960, 1991
3. Selected Letters of Fred Wood 1890-1986, 1997
All three books are published by William Trimble, Ltd., Enniskillen, N. Ireland
All three books are available from the author:
Ms. Patricia Roberts, Bridgemont, Drumcullion, Ballinamallard,
Enniskillen, N Ireland BT942AE Tel: +44 1365 388487
The Life and Ministry of Edward Cooney, 1867-1960 and Selected Letters of Fred Wood are available from the Author, Patricia Roberts
See also: The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker.
Edward Cooney’s Testimony
Account of the 1928 Lurgan Ireland Historic Meeting
Sara West Statement About The 1928 Division, August 31, 1954
Cooney's Letter to My Dear Sister, 1930
Cooney's Letter To/From Mrs. Alice Flett, New Westminister, B.C. Canada
Wm. Irvine's Letter To: Ed Cooney March 2, 1923
Cooney's Letter Ex-communicating Wm. Irvine March 3, 1924
Wm. Irvine's Response To Eddie CooneyJuly 8, 1924
Wilson Reid's Letter regarding Cooney's Ex-communication, 1928
Auckland Special Meeting, New Year's Day, 1921
Edward Cooney Sermon #1
Edward Cooney Sermon #2
Early Memories Recalled By Fred Wood
Orange Standard Newspaper Article-1984
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