Revised January 23, 2018
1914 - 1919
William Irvine is forced to "Step Down"
World War I officially began on August 4, 1914 and ended November 11, 1918
Wm. Irvine and the Workers Discontentment
1914 - Irvine is Forced to Step Down
Four Reasons for Irvine being Disfellowshipped
Who Took Up Irvine's Mantle?
1914 - Irvine Returned to America
The Workers Regrouped
Erasing the Memory of Wm. Irvine
WM. IRVINE’S DISCONTENTMENT: Irvine considered the Two by Two Sect,or the "Testimony" as he called it, to be an Experiment, and in a visit with Alfred Magowan in 1938, he told him that it “was a great EXPERIMENT.” Irvine wrote: "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...I felt for long that The Testimony was not my home or rest..." (letter to Ritzmans, Oct. 10, 1920, Filmore, CA Conv. ground owners).
THE WORKERS’ DISCONTENTMENT: Magowan described a theoretical situation from the perspective of two visitors to Crocknacrieve Convention in his play titled: Outline of the History of a Peculiar People, p. 8:
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....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..."
Wm. Irvine was well aware of the discomfort his presence caused his Workers:
"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” (letter to Fred Hanowell, Aug. 17, 1921). "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” (letter to Skerritts, Nov. 4, 1922). "I often enjoy the times I went out of the way, because they were afraid to speak in my presence...they were always best when they knew I would not come on the scene..." (letter to Dunbars, Sept. 12, 1923).
IRVINE'S STRANGE PREACHING: Magowan wrote about Irvine at a 1913 Convention: "What I specially remember about the Conventions that year was the oddness of his preaching...he spoke about stars as other worlds, and held before us the strange possibility of going to them and doing for them the work of saviours as Jesus had done for this one!" [Sister Worker] Jessie Dawson was so distressed about it that she came to me to be reassured that our sorrows and griefs here would be sufficient without carrying them forward to other planets or stars! And I did what I could to comfort her (letter to Edward Cooney, Nov. 7, 1953).
In Australia, 1910-11: "...some sensed there was something amiss with Brother Irvine. Even Wilson McClung hung his head when Wm. spoke. This impression was further confirmed the following year at the 1911 Convention which Wm. Irvine again attended" (Bethel Mission in South Australia). Reportedly at the Warrandyte Convention in Victoria, Aust., Irvine accused the entire congregation of having a bad spirit and sent them home early.
From Jack Stancliff's account: "..sometime between the Convention in 1909 and...1920...Wm. Irvine made the statement to Uncle Willie and Jack Carroll that he felt like he had gotten beyond the place of needing to pray, and it was then they realized that he had strayed from the lowly way" (Early History of the Gospel in Bakersfield, California).
At the Woodside, South Australia, Convention in 1913, John Hardie feared the influence of Irvine's strange new ideas. Although Irvine had arrived at the Convention after it started, Hardie did not allow him to take the platform and appeared to keep him confined inside the farmhouse. Those attending other Conventions around the world were not given any further opportunity to hear Irvine 's ideas.
1913-1914 IRVINE IS FORCED TO STEP DOWN: From 1897 to 1914, for roughly 15 to 17 years, or from the time Irvine was 34 to 51 years old, he was the leader of this "great experiment." He ruled over The Testimony with an iron rod, as he did when he was a coal miner supervisor. In 1914, Irvine was told by Willie Gill and Edward Cooney "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." Further, if he wished to remain in the fellowship, he would have to "step down" and be an ordinary Brother Worker (letter to My dear Brother or Sister, Apr. 16, 1919).
Irvine wrote that the rejection of his leadership took place in three different months in 1914: April, August and September. He wrote Bill Carroll, "Six years ago in April, I was rejected and despised and cast out to die, my birthright divided among my children and enemies...The Jesus Way was stolen, confiscated, misappropriated” (letter, June 29, 1920). He wrote Ed Cooney: "10th August, 1914, the day of my rejection by W. Gill and you and you will long remember it to your sorrow" (letter, Aug. 19, 1923*), and gave September at the month in letters to Dunbars, Oct. 13, 1920, and Percy Abbott, Oct. 3, 1930).
After his rejection in 1914, Irvine went home to Kilsyth, Scotland. Ed Cooney wrote: “In the year 1914, when we became aware of William’s defeat, the writer was moved to go and see him personally to try and help the man who had been such a help to him and others, and now needed help himself...[Cooney] went to Scotland to see the man of God, [Irvine] who had lost the power he once had" (Ed Cooney’s Testimony). Irvine sailed on September 5, 1914, for America, just after World War I had begun.
Magowan referred to 1914 as "the year of his [Irvine's] scapegoat going into the wilderness." It is doubtful that a public or private declaration was made to the Friends that Wm. Irvine, the Father and Founder of their Church and ministry, was no longer their leader. Most members were not aware of the changes in administration and Worker hierarchy.
REASONS FOR IRVINE BEING DISFELLOWSHIPPED: The four reasons given most often for Irvine being disfellowshipped are: (1) He was guilty of womanizing or immorality; (2) He became too proud (big in himself); (3) He was preaching false doctrine; and (4) He became mentally unbalanced and unfit. It could well have been a combination of some or all of these reasons.
Reason (1) His womanizing or immorality: Some sexual improprieties involving Wm. Irvine were exposed and became known as "The
Scandal" and is probably the most well known reason.
Irvine wrote how The Scandal became known: “It was out of Christchurch,
N.Z. came The Scandal…The
last time I slept with him, [Ed Cooney] he read a letter to me written by a
dog outside The Testimony...on this he slew his Brother” (letter to
Loitz, Aug. 9, 1924).
Irvine didn't deny it. In his early letters after he was expelled, he frequently referred to some unspecified “scandal” and “sins of the flesh” for which he was condemned by other Workers: “…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…” (letter to Willie Abercrombie, Mar. 2, 1921, a Worker on the 1905 list). Irvine wrote: “Think of all I did for you, and others, in spite of my sins!…Fancy the labor in building a house for God, and the pain of seeing it become a den of thieves!!" (letter to John Hardie, Aug. 28, 1920, a Worker on the 1905 list and Overseer in Australia). "...I had many helpers of all kinds, was much loved, (and overloved by the sister)..." (letter to My Dear Friends, Dec. 24, 1921).
Irvine Weir wrote, "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" (Secret Sect by Parker, pp. 61-62). Ed Cooney explained: "There was in the days gone by, a certain man called Wm. Irvine, upon whose heart God's spirit worked to raise him up like the judges of old, to lead back those in Christendom to the truth as it is in Jesus. In fact he bore some resemblance to Samson. He was a strong man...till Delilah so influenced him that he put her before God....The long hair of Samson seems to speak of revelation from God direct...When Delilah clipped his hair...Samson...found that Jehovah had departed from him, and that he was weak like any other man. ‘Tis so with all God's servants who depart from revelation from God direct, and confer with flesh and blood" (Edward Cooney's Testimony).
Some have suggested that the reason for The Scandal was the discovery of Irvine's illegitimate son, Archibald (Archie) Grassam Irvine, born in 1886 when William was 23. This was seven years before Irvine professed in 1893 at age 30. The 1891 Census for the household for John and Elizabeth Irvine, parents of Wm. Irvine, lists a resident (four year old grandson) named Archibald Irvine, born in Maryhill, Lanarkshire, Scot. Archie was nine years old when his father went to work with Faith Mission in 1895. When he was 14 years old Archie immigrated to New Zealand with Irvine's brother James and wife. Several early Workers from Kilsyth grew up with Wm. Irvine, and one of them, Willie Clelland, was a brother to two of Irvine's brothers in law. Archie's mother was a first cousin to Irvine. Is it likely they didn't know about his son, who lived with Irvine's parents?
1913 New Zealand Workers List: Strangely, no sister Workers were listed on the 1913 NZ Workers List, whereas the 1912 list included 10. After Wm. Irvine attended the NZ Convention in 1912, rumor was all the sister Workers were sent away until it could be determined if any of them were pregnant. The reason given for their disappearance was a concern as to whether sister Workers were scriptural, so it was decided to continue without them. However, the Brother Workers had no converts that year, so the sisters were recalled, and the following year, 1914, there were six sisters on the Workers List. Wm. Hughes, Overseer of New Zealand, wrote a 2 page letter (view in TTT Photo Gallery) to Willie Gill dated February 12, 1913, providing the location and occupation of all the NZ sister Workers. The sisters who were from the U.K. had been removed to Australia and he explained the absence of others.
Reason (2) He became too proud (big in himself): Ed Cooney blamed the Living Witness Doctrine as the root cause of Irvine's defeat. He observed in Irvine a spirit of dominion which set him above his fellows, and believed this spirit was a direct result of the LWD. He viewed Irvine's downfall as proof that the LWD was false. "In 1914, God showed me that the pre-eminence Wm. [Irvine] got through this error [LWD] led...to his ceasing to be the humble Brother among brethren that he was in the beginning" (letter to My Dear sister, May, 1930).
Alfred Magowan expressed grief over the harsh sentence Irvine received from the Workers. He wrote: "I have often wondered if those responsible for exalting our great man in preparation for his casting down, ever repented of giving him that lift which led to his degrading by them?....There are histories to all things; and as there were many things leading up to the final folly of King Saul, so was it also with our 'King' William...You saw it 40 years ago as violated morality. I have seen it in all the years since as God's answer to unchristian ambition" (letter to Geo. Walker, Feb. 21, 1954).
Magowan explained: "And this is what I see: He [Irvine] became exalted, and needed to be humbled. His 'sons in the gospel' contributed to his spiritual delinquency by giving him a place that not even a Pope might claim: making him the spiritual progenitor of all Christians in our time. They helped to seat him on that most unusual throne; and would have kept him on it all the days of his life if 'sin' had not intervened to cast him from it" (letter to Willie Hughes, July 1, 1957).
Goodhand Pattison wrote: "And the Workers now in fellowship with Wm. Irvine...increased in their attachment to and respect for their chief's leadership, possibly more so than was good for him or them...when deference, loyalty, obedience to leadership, etc., goes beyond a certain point, it is very apt to...[be] 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..." (Account of the Early Days by G. Pattison).
Reason (3) He was preaching false doctrine: It is true Irvine had started preaching some odd things, making strange prophecies and pressured Friends to prepare for a famine. "He was asked to leave ...because he took up his own doctrine unfounded by scripture."
Jack Carroll wrote: "During last few months, Wm. Irvine has written many letter to saints all over U.S. and Canada urging them to sell their homes and farms and invest their money in Railroads, Fisheries, Canneries, Shipping, etc. He...prophecies (sic) a world wide drought and famine beginning August 1 of this year (letter of warning, April 16, 1919).
Irvine encouraged people in California to bury food for a drought he predicted: "Sword, famine and pestilence…Soon we will have the whole stock, lock, and barrel of it" (letter to Fladungs, Jan. 3, 1920). "Bury & hide. The less you have in men's eyes, the safer you will be…what you do in burying, don't trumpet it" (letter to Fladungs, July 9, 1920). "So encourage everybody to prepare by buying a little food for three months emergency when they can do it" (letter to Edwards and Kerrs, July 16, 1920).
However, it was not until late 1918, over four years after he stepped down as leader, that Irvine believed he had received a new understanding of the book of Revelation. "Toward Armistice Day [November 11, 1918] for about 3 weeks, night after night, His Spirit began to open up and put in order the truth we find in Revelation; and since that, has increased and become as simple as the Gospel reveals in Alpha Jesus...The first that opened was Rev. 13...then slowly, line upon line, the whole Message or program for the last days of the age has been unfolded" (letter to Andrew Walker, Feb. 21, 1929). Therefore, it was impossible for his Omega doctrine to have been the reason the Workers rejected his leadership in 1914.
A reporter quoted Geo. Walker as saying: "About 22 years ago, he said, church members in England and north Ireland became interested in the doctrines, and out of this has come the spread of the faith into this country, Canada, Australia and New Zealand…Wm. Irvine, a Scotchman, one of the original leaders, is not now affiliated with this group because of a difference over the prophecies of the Revelations, i.e. 1898, or 22 years before 1921 (Indianapolis News, IN, USA, Sept. 26, 1921, p. 11).
Jack Carroll explained: "To accept without question his revelations and follow blindly his leadership is the only way to have fellowship with him. He has been so discredited in so many different ways that to do this is now utterly impossible. We were simple enough to do this in the Old Days when there was some little evidence of the Lord’s anointing, but for a number of years, it was becoming more and more painfully evident that the Lord was not with him; and in the last two years this has been made very manifest both in his manner of life, letters and foolish wresting of the scriptures" (letter of warning, Apr. 12, 1919).
Reason (4) He became mentally unbalanced and unfit to remain in charge: Some said Irvine had a mental breakdown, "went off the deep end," had "gone mad," or as Jack Carroll put it, he was "delusional." No evidence has turned up to confirm that Irvine was ever in psychiatric care. Up until the last few months before his death, he was able to live by himself and was well spoken of by those who personally knew him. He was supported by odd jobs and voluntary funds which were supplied by his many faithful correspondent supporters across the world.
Some Workers believed that forcing Irvine out of the ministry was the only course of action open to them under the circumstances; i.e. the Workers "were compelled" to do so. While the Workers were not proud of their actions in rejecting and ejecting their leader, they also were ashamed of Irvine’s behavior while he was in the role of the "Lord’s Anointed." Little did the Workers know at that time that they and their successors would be plagued by their decision to cast out Wm. Irvine from that time forward.
IRVINE'S PAIN and SUFFERING: Irvine experienced intense pain and suffering from the rejection and betrayal of his best friends. Magowan sympathized: "The wonder is the man who, in his earlier years so bravely ran, was not driven raving mad when he surveyed his world of friendships falling round his head!" (Cross-Examination of a Witness and Address to the Jury, circa 1958). Irvine felt he had been robbed of his kingdom by other Workers whom he considered thieves. He wrote:
“…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…” (letter to Dunbars, Sept. 12, 1923). “...deliver you from the power of the greatest set of robbers in the world history, who thought they could rob ME..." (letter to Fred Hanowell, Aug. 17, 1921). "...I planted the Vineyard, and it has fallen into the hands of wicked husbandmen" (letter to E. Cooney, Mar. 2, 1923). "Rejected of the seed in The Testimony...it was grasped greedily...The Jesus Way was stolen, confiscated, misappropriated....I guess you did not feel it; but I was there to feel it...the jest of fools; the song of the drunkards; the victim of the heel bruisers; the theme of the scandal-mongers, and the dirty slut Sisters; the man without a parallel in history, whose back has been plowed upon, who has been vanquished—no fear of him now!" (letter to Bill Carroll, June 29, 1920).
"Moses made 250 men Princes in Israel, who became famous in the congregation of men of renown, such as many of those [Workers] whom I made Princes in the Israel of today [The Testimony]; they set themselves against Moses, making a strong case against him, leading many people with them - what was their end?....Their righteousness today before men and their princely position and fame in the congregation and the renown they have made for themselves will not stand up against their violation of Mercy to the Man God chose to make them [Workers] and place them where they are today” (letter to Willie Abercrombie, March 2, 1921).
WHO TOOK UP IRVINE'S MANTLE? When a leader is impeached or overthrown, the question arises: Who will take his place?
Irvine remarked that: “…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” (letter to Bill Carroll, June 29, 1920).
The Workers did not select a single man to lead them. Instead, it appears they agreed to a governing body of at least 12 or more senior Workers. Over the years, some Workers Meetings were held and some important decisions came out of these Meetings; e.g. in 1921, the Dimsdale, Staffordshire, England Meeting (after the war, possibly aftermath of Irvine's excommunication); in 1928, the Lurgan, Ireland Meeting (excommunication of Ed Cooney); in 1930, the West Hanney, England Meeting (to resolve the J. Carroll/Geo Walker feud); and in 1938, the English Meeting (Divorce and Remarriage Ruling). Usually at least twelve senior Workers signed any documents that arose out of these Meetings.
With Wm. Irvine out of their way, the senior Workers took full control in each of their geographical territories (aka “fields”) over which they had been exercising oversight. 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 (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney by Roberts, p. 118).
Without a single head over them to enforce unity and conformity, each Overseer was self governing. This paved the way for differences to develop and grow within the various divisions. With so many sovereign Overseers holding ultimate power over their territories, it followed that the outward customs and traditions of the group would begin to differ from Worker to Worker and from place to place. The outward customs enforced upon the Friends came to depend upon the whims, likes/dislikes, preferences, idiosyncrasies, ideas, convictions and "revelations" of the Worker in charge of the area–regardless of customs being followed by other Overseers. In spite of these differences, however, the Workers have long (inaccurately) claimed their Church was/is “the same the world over." Their proof text is Heb. 13:8: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today and forever.” However, they fail to grasp that the verse is about Jesus, and not their Two by Two Sect method.
1914: IRVINE RETURNS TO AMERICA: Information is scarce during the war years about Irvine's activities after he withdrew from the work and Workers. He was told he could step down and be an ordinary worker if he wished to remain in fellowship, and technically, Irvine was considered a Brother Worker from 1914 to 1918. Irvine wrote: "Those who thought I ceased to be their Father in the Gospel, and became their Brother as so many tried to make out, when they were tested, then those who have ceased to be my brother and apologize for not subscribing themselves, such as Jim, Eddie and quite a few others have done—surely are their own condemners…Their attempts to prove that I should not have a right to overlooking of the whole Ark is clear evidence of where they were" (letter to Edwards, July 6, 1921). While the Workers continued to technically consider Irvine as a Brother Worker, Irvine never accepted that as his place.
Irvine was 51 years old when he sailed from Glasgow, Scot. and arrived in New York on Sept. 12, 1914, on a ship whose name is unknown. WWI had just begun in August 1914, and it ended Nov. 11, 1918. No military records have been found for Irvine. During the war years, Irvine bought an auto and drove around America for three years. Alfred Magowan wrote:
"Writing to me from Jerusalem he [Irvine] said that after...1914, he went to New York thinking to preach there, but he could not preach, or God was not with him; so he got an old car and drove on to California. And apparently he took heart again when you [Jack Carroll] and others had that re-union with him in Santa Barbara. Then disheartenment overwhelmed him again, when it was reported to me Geo. [Walker] wrote from Australia or New Zealand that he would have nothing more to do with him. Or that is how it was told to me (letter to J. Carroll, Dec. 1, 1954).
Irvine wrote: "The cheapest way of travelling in USA is by auto....For 100 pounds, I got a good machine with tent, blankets and all I needed. This saved me board and lodging and train fare and enabled me to be free to go anywhere I wanted. I covered 12,000 miles first year. Sought in every way and place if I could find a man with God in him; and the end of the quest was to find out that what I sought—I was...I sold the machine for 38 pounds after 3 years service. I look on it as one of the best and wisest choices I ever made..."
"After spending a year in car all over the states, I spent a year [1915-1916] alone in San Diego in a shack and there I got to see and taste much of the tenderness and love of God and Jesus...Then I went amongst Testimony friends and workers--to find the Devil and Satan had swamped them, and it was rather a painful experience but the only way I could have been convinced of their condition" (letter to Sandy Hinds, Australia, Oct. 20, 1935).
Given the lack of east-west roads in the United States in 1914-1919, Irvine's auto travels would have been limited. Although the first transcontinental, passable auto route was conceived in 1913 (the Lincoln Highway), it remained a patchwork of graveled and unfinished sections until after the war.
While WWI was being fought, Irvine withdrew from the other Workers, and later he wrote, "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..." (letter to Ritzmans, Oct. 10, 1920). Irvine was on a quest, was searching, and made no attempt to fill the shoes of an ordinary Brother Worker. "For five years I was in every kind of meeting in USA...with an honest, hungry heart ready for any blessing they professed to have and only to find out that wickedness was in them all. They could all kill, but none of them could make alive, Testimony included. And I found less wickedness in a picture show than any meeting I went to..." (letter to Lees, Apr. 28, 1921).
In 1916, he traveled to Placentia, in Southern California where the Dunbars were living: “Here we are at the same date, or thereabout, I reached your door in 1916, 12 years ago, after being in the tunnel from Alpha to Omega; from the Jesus of the Gospel, to the Jesus of Revelation 1” (letter to Dunbars, Nov. 27, 1928). In 1917, he was in Arizona: "I had a 120°s in Phoenix when there for a week in 1917 with the Campbells, both now dead" (letter to Edwards, Aug. 20, 1937*). From the Convention Notes of Sermons by Wm. Irvine 1910-1917, it appears that Irvine attended some meetings and perhaps spoke at a few North American conventions during these years.
Irvine wrote about his time in Los Angeles: "What the Pentecostal people witness to in healing and tongues is part of the truth of God. I recognized it was wrong ever to speak against these things....I look back very kindly on all the privileges I had in Los Angeles for testing all that was in the whole religious world for I don’t know any place where you have a sample of everything religious as in Los Angeles, and that’s the reason I was there in the purpose of God, that I might have a chance of seeing the reason for the absence of the blessing and power of God has always been the same in every age...
Irvine began to believe he was one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11, the other being the Apostle John. In 1919, he went to live in Jerusalem to await the Lord's return, which he believed was eminent. His plans were a relief to the Workers, as it would take him far away from their fields and converts, with his only contact being by mail. Little did they know how much grief he could and would make for them with the volumes of letters he would generate over the next 28 years of his life. Distance did not hinder Irvine from contacting those with whom he chose to correspond.
From 1914, when Irvine "stepped down," the senior Workers continued to lead their flocks in their respective territories. Although Irvine had been forced out of leadership, he had not been officially excommunicated or "cast out."
THE WORKERS REGROUP: WWI started in 1914, and it was a year of serious examination, re-evaluations and regrouping by the leading Workers. How should their group continue? What should remain the same? What should be changed or jettisoned? Should the LWD be retained? Cooney thought not.
Cooney also wanted to go back to the freedom the Workers enjoyed in the early days of being controlled solely by the Holy Spirit, without being assigned to particular areas.
He tried to persuade the Senior Workers to discard the
organization that divided them into classes of Overseers, Workers and Friends. He attempted to
them they were setting themselves up over the Friends
the same way Irvine was set up over the Workers. Cooney made a wholehearted, valiant effort at this time to turn the
leading Workers from what he saw as errors that had been infused into their Sect over the years—but they
Although Irvine's power had been removed, his influence had not. Many Workers still agreed with and accepted what he had taught from their beginning. Ed Cooney did not believe that the whole Mission was a mistake, and he still believed Irvine’s original idea to follow Matthew 10 was a "revelation." He wrote: "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...Our only hope is to get back to the simplicity and childlikeness of the beginning, especially those of us who have the oversight” (letter to A Sister, May, 1930).
Cooney viewed Irvine's failure as a sign that God wanted the Workers to renounce the Living Witness Doctrine. He urged: "Let's return to the Lord, and He will return unto us." In his view, the LWD was not the foundation on which the Fellowship was built, but was a heresy which crept in later. He believed "God has His children everywhere," not only in the Two by Two Sect. Cooney felt it was the perfect time and opportunity for the Senior Workers to renounce and repent of the LWD and go back to the way he and Irvine had preached the four years before they accepted the LWD (1901-1905).
However, the Workers chose to keep the LWD, possibly because it was their most powerful tool in persuading others to become a member of their Sect. Without the LWD, the Workers' ability to market their Sect would be seriously compromised. Without the LWD, the Sect would no longer be considered God's Only True Way, which meant people could be saved outside of their Sect. Without the LWD, their Sect would not be unique and would be just another Sect started by a man.
Instead, the Workers chose to conceal the history; cover up Wm. Irvine's involvement in their Sect, wipe out his memory, purge his loyal Friends from their Church, and change their story as to how, when and by whom it began. The LWD continued to be an integral part of their doctrine as it had been since 1905. Claiming their church was "from the beginning" or started on the "shores of Galilee when Jesus sent out the 12 disciples" helped Workers overcome the difficulty of explaining their origin. Alfred Magowan wrote:
"But when he [Irvine] was removed...they went in for preaching about their homelessness, which they did so well that it was made by them to appear that every man of God from the foundation of the world was a homeless preacher...these 'homeless' preachers had to resort to proclaiming their own special 'virtues' as sacrifices, renouncers and sufferers, until it was made to seem that God was deeply in their debt, and doing nothing to get out of it" (letter to Edward Cooney, Nov. 7, 1953).
It was far easier to pretend that Wm. Irvine never existed, that their group had no known founder or history, or that a group of men founded it, than to answer the hard questions about Wm Irvine that were sure to come up if they did not conceal his existence. The cover-up was deliberate and is still occurs to this day. Some justify the deception with the verse, "Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matt. 10:16). Erasing the memory and name of Irvine from the history of their Sect would make it easier to acquire more converts as well as more Workers.
What did the Workers stand to gain by covering up Wm. Irvine's role? It protected their investments in their Sect they believed were earned through celibacy, endured hardships, sacrifices and persecution. It
retained the elevated status they enjoyed that was above the Saints. They
saved face and
did not have to admit they had been wrong, fooled or taken
in by a false prophet. Also, the senior Workers became the controllers and no longer had to answer to Wm Irvine.
What did Workers stand to lose if they had not covered up Wm. Irvine's role? All their sacrifices, hardships, persecution, celibacy and suffering would count for nothing. Their elevated status would be lost; they would lose face by admitting they were wrong. All the time they had invested and things they had given up would be of no value, and they would have to start life over again out in the world. Alfred Magowan summed up the dilemma of the Workers at the time of Irvine’s downfall in his play titled: Outline of the History 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!"
The LWD was a theory that was adopted which stated that ONLY those who professed through Wm. Irvine or one of his co-Workers could receive salvation. So how was Wm Irvine saved, since he had been converted in 1893 through a Presbyterian preacher named John McNeill, who was NEVER a part of the 2x2 movement? Originally, this was resolved by making a special exception for Irvine. Irvine was looked upon as a special man to whom God had given a revelation, as the anointed one, as a prophet; as someone God had raised up to restore, revive, rekindle, re-establish, restart, or regenerate the methods and ministry of the New Testament church upon the earth. This made Wm. Irvine their Father or "Spiritual Adam," through whom all successive Workers received their spiritual life.
EXPLAINING WM IRVINE: Assuming it was true that Wm. Irvine had 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 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, God's anointed King. If Wm. Irvine was truly God's anointed one —there would be no reason good enough to excuse the Workers for expelling him. On the other hand, if Wm. Irvine was not a true prophet and was not given a divine revelation, then how could the Two by Two Sect he started be God’s Only Right Way on earth today?? For a sect to have removed its founder for being immoral, an heretic, or a mental case was not consistent with the sect he started being "God's Only True Way." Wm. Irvine’s downfall and excommunication was a colossal " fly in their ointment." This left the Workers with a dilemma. How could they show the Workers' actions against Irvine in a good light?
And so it was decided to remove all traces of "the fly.” At some point after 1914, the senior Workers instructed the other Workers that Irvine's name and role in the Sect were not to be mentioned. The Workers weighed the consequences of maintaining their position within the movement against the possibility of excommunication if they showed loyalty for Irvine or failed to repress their knowledge of the sect's origin. The Workers who felt certain they were in God’s true way accepted the Overseers' decision to excommunicate Irvine and obeyed. Some of Irvine's loyal followers left of their own accord.
And so, as Geo. Walker hoped and predicted, the facts of the origin and development of the Two by Two Sect began to fall into obscurity. Walker told Willie Edwards how Irvine would be phased out: "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 [Irvine's name] will be forgotten and new people will never know that such a man lived'” (W. Edwards letter to Fountains, Oct. 1, 1936). Famous last words!
THE PURGE: In history or religion, a purge is the removal of an undesirable person or group of people by those in power in a government, church or sect. When Irvine was excommunicated, numerous Workers and Saints were also purged from the Workers' Sect. Those loyal to Irvine who did not leave on their own were excommunicated. Those who knew too much were gradually eliminated, frozen out, or persecuted until they left. People were forbidden to visit certain people, and some were excommunicated because they did so. Irvine wrote:
“There were over 100 Workers rejected and as many hundred Saints these past seven years, and no two alike, and yet the treatment has been the same: unmerciful judging of their brethren, casting and shutting them out of fellowship. For anyone to have my name in honor, or in grateful memory, or to plead my cause, means to be cast out...and nothing pleases them better than when someone can speak more evil of the man to whom they owe all they have." (letter to Willie Abercrombie, a Worker on the 1905 Workers list Mar. 2, 1921). "It would take volumes to tell of all the envy, the malice, jealousy, revolt, rebellion, violence and treachery that has been wrought not only toward me but 100's of other Saints and Workers who have become the victims of the wolves in sheep's clothing...They have become expert at killing, stoning, robbing, stealing, shutting out and keeping out..." (letter to Laughlin, Jan. 29, 1921). "The men who would fail in mercy and become the wicked accusers of the hundreds in The Testimony, whom they have treated violently and put out...I count myself happy in finding a few hundred who have suffered for being true to my name, and being rejected and cast out for having fellowship with me in any sense…No man can mention my name lovingly in the Testimony and not suffer for it; try it and see for yourself...mention my name and stand for mercy of God to me and others like me, and see what you get..." (letter to Cooney, Feb. 23, 1921).
ERASING THE MEMORY OF WM IRVINE: After his downfall, Irvine's name became an anathema, and an attempt was made to erase his name and memory. Damnatio Memoriae is a Latin phrase meaning "damnation of memory," and was one of the most severe punishments the Roman Senate could impose upon traitors or others who brought dishonor on the Roman State. It forbade the mention of a particular person and required the destruction of any historical records that they ever existed. The intent was to erase someone from history; to cancel every trace of the person from the life of Rome, as if he had never existed, in order to preserve the honour of the city. This included removal of portraits, books, demolishing statues, doctoring paintings and images, smoothing out coins and any other traces of the disgraced person. The Workers attempted to do something similar to the name and life of Wm Irvine, but failed, and it has come back to bite them. It would not have been necessary for this book to be written if this had not been done. Irvine wrote:
"Since the parting of our ways—your desire to forget and dishonour my name and treat me as dead...When the world and Testimony set out to bury me, and forget my name, person, presence and etc., they failed" (June 29, 1920 letter to Bill Carroll). “To burn my letters is the highest compliment they could pay me. Some have been foolhardy enough to openly blaspheme against the Holy Ghost and say that me and my words of warning are of the Devil” (letter to Wilson? & John?, Apr. 1, 1923). "The attitude taken toward my name, making it the cause for the rejection of others, is rather a compliment than anything else…Percy Abbot tells of Wm. Abercrombie (Worker) warning him of hell even to mention my name" (March 1, 1921 to Edwards*). "... how hard the Testimony have tried to blot it out; they said, 'Don't even mention his name...so there will be nothing to bring his name into remembrance' " (letter by Minnie Skerritt to Lovell Baker, May 4, 1939).
A memory hole is any mechanism for the alteration or disappearance of inconvenient or embarrassing documents, photographs, transcripts, or other records, such as from a website or other archive, in an attempt to give the impression that something never happened. The concept was first popularized by Geo. Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The 2x2s attempted to dig a memory hole for Irvine and later for Cooney.
Some photographs were cropped so they no longer included Irvine. (See example in TTT Photo Gallery). Irvine's name in narratives and some writings was disguised or eliminated. At the 1964 Santee, California Convention, Fannie Carroll told about when their family first heard a Worker. She refrained from using Irvine's name when she said: "Jack was having his vacation and one of the Workers came with him to our home, because he was taking him to Scotland for his vacation (the Bicycle Trip). When he came to our home we saw he was different to any preacher we had ever met" (Note: the preacher was Wm. Irvine).
Fanny Carroll was also witnessed while ripping the pages out of the book Heresies Exposed and burning them in the metal trash can in her bedroom.
There are several Accounts that identify Wm. Irvine as the man who almost drowned in the Huero River when a boat tipped over at the California Convention in 1906 at San Luis Obispo, while James Bone's Account simply referred to him as "another man" (Account of the Spread of the Gospel in the Early Days in California).
Eldon Tenniswood recalled: "There was a Convention in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, during the summer of 1907, and Dad went to that Convention. The next year there was a Convention in Sunshine [Michigan] on Dad and Mother's farm...I think the Workers were Jimmy Jardine, John Patterson, a Scotchman who had been coal miners (sic), Charlie Hughes..." (NOTE: The Scotchman was Wm. Irvine. See Workers List for 1906 Toronto Conv.).
George Walker was no exception. He left out the names of the other two men he accompanied to America in 1903, Wm. Irvine and Irvine Weir. Walker stated that he "...and a couple others arrived in New York harbor Sept. 14, 1903" (George Walker's Notes on Early Days in America). Nor would Walker admit that he professed through Wm. Irvine; yet other documents report that he did. A Statement by George Walker to the U.S. Selective Service dated March 24, 1942, in which he deliberately left out Wm Irvine's name as Founder:
"during the closing years of the last century and the first years of this century, a number of people in the British Isles and in America were exercised in heart and mind, through their study of the Scriptures, in regard to the methods of preaching and worship in the several churches of which they were then members. They were deeply concerned about spiritual things, and became fully convinced that there should be a return to the methods and purpose taught and carried out by Christ and His first disciples. This conviction led ...to religious Meetings, and in due time a number of these people went forth to devote their lives to the preaching of the Gospel" ( Read typed copy of Statement) (Read original letter).
Cooney disapproved of the Workers' erasing the memory of Wm. Irvine. He wrote: “An attempt has been made to give an account of God's dealings with us, ignoring Wm. Irvine. This is not honest" (Edward Cooney’s Testimony from Selected Letters Hymns and Poems of Edward Cooney 1867-1960, edited by Roberts, pp. 43-46).
However, the Workers were not successful in erasing Irvine from their history. They did not anticipate Goodhand Pattison or John Long writing detailed historical Accounts that would turn up many years later. They could not wipe out earlier newspaper records. They were unable to stop Doug Parker's investigation or books from being printed...and then came the internet.
ASK A WORKER "WHO WAS WILLIAM IRVINE?" Today, it is a rare Worker who will voluntarily bring up the name of Wm. Irvine, to whom they owe their way of life. When Irvine's name is brought up, he is usually identified as being "just a Worker." When pressed for what happened to him, they may provide one of the four reasons given above. Or say that history isn't important; that the past does not matter or holds no interest for them; that one should be concerned only with their present relationship with God; that they have faith to believe their fellowship is God's only true way; that "genealogies...are unprofitable" (Titus 3:9), etc. However, to be fair, there may be some Workers who remain unaware of the group's past history relating to Wm Irvine.
Telling the Truth has a hard copy of the documents, books, newspaper articles, references, etc. used in this book. Any exceptions are noted with an asterisk (*).
Go to Chapter 25