Revised February 22, 2018
1928 - 1960
The 1928 Division - The Second Split - Ex-Communication of Ed Cooney
Changes in Cooney's Beliefs
1921-1928: Cooney went Abroad
Ed Cooney's Renunciation
The Lurgan Historic Meeting - October 12, 1928
Cooney's Ministry - On His Own - Alone with God
1960, June 20: Edward Cooney Died
Photos of Edward Cooney
CHANGES IN COONEY'S BELIEFS: Through the years, the Two by Two Sect had adopted various beliefs and practices with which Ed Cooney disagreed and believed were unscriptural. After Irvine was no longer their leader, Cooney mounted a campaign for the Workers to go back to the way they were in the first four years he and Irvine preached together. For example:
1. He wanted to jettison the LWD and for the Workers to reclaim their original conversion experiences.
2. He believed all Workers should be individually guided by the Holy Spirit as to where they preached; i.e. not assigned to particular "fields."
3. He objected to organization and hierarchy
4. He believed all Workers should have freedom to express whatever God revealed to them
5. He believed the family of God was an equal brotherhood; with no classes of Saints and Servants.
6. He opposed the reserve fund some Workers relied upon, rather than faith in God.
7. He disapproved of the Workers assuming the name, "The Testimony of Jesus," in Great Britain during World War I.
8. He disapproved of the movable halls used for Missions and living quarters, believing they showed a lack of faith.
9. He believed the annual Conventions were unscriptural.
REASON (1) LIVING WITNESS DOCTRINE: Cooney believed it had been a serious mistake to add the Living Witness Doctrine. In 1914 after Wm. Irvine was no longer their leader, Cooney wanted the Workers to openly renounce
the LWD and return to preaching what they originally taught and believed in their first four years. He wanted the Workers to reclaim their original salvation experiences before they met Wm Irvine, if they had one.
REASON (2) SPIRIT LED - NO ASSIGNED FIELDS: Cooney did not believe Workers should be assigned to geographical fields. Although Cooney was a pioneer of the Two by Two Sect, second in command and an Overseer, he, like Wm. Irvine, claimed no particular field and recognized no boundaries. He saw the world as his field and himself as God's Servant. Cooney was always on the move, being led by the Spirit. He believed all Workers were called to serve the whole world and that they should be ready and willing at all times to be Spirit-led and not assigned to a particular area. He wanted them to go back to being "Go Preachers" as they were in their early days, following Jesus' instructions: "As ye go, preach." On the other hand, the Workers wanted to restrict Cooney's movements, requiring him to obtain permission before preaching in their respective fields.
Cooney was of the same opinion as Alex Buchan who objected to Workers being assigned to fields and certain companions for a year: "The disciples in Bible days were led by the Holy Spirit...The Workers' List was made up at the beginning of June while the Workers did not go forth until September. But when the order is made they must go and the Spirit's guidance is not sought....When the Lists are made out, all the Workers are too busy (and are so for weeks) to minister to the Lord. It is left to one man who is relied on to have the Spirit's guidance for all the Workers. There is no Scripture for Workers being sent to one shire [county] for one year....Barnabas and Saul were sent forth by the Holy Spirit" (letter to Tom Elliott, Nov. 15, 1929; NOTE: Alex was excommunicated for writing this letter).
REASON (3) ORGANIZATION AND HIERARCHY: Cooney said: "You can't organize a person controlled by the Holy Spirit." The Worker's Church had evolved to where it had both organization and a hierarchy, or a chain of command. He believed all religious organizations were unscriptural and of the devil and that human control would lead them back to where they were nearly 30 years previously when they led their converts out of the various organized churches in which they were members. He wanted to go back to the way it was when the Spirit was allowed to control them and no organization was needed.
REASON (4) FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION: Cooney wrote: “Wm. Irvine and I 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" (letter to Alice Flett, circa 1930). He also wrote: "At the beginning we were all free to express the revelation God made clear to our hearts” (letter to My Dear Sister, May, 1930).
Cooney preached whatever he believed was revealed to him--even if it was contrary to the Workers' beliefs or had not been revealed to the Worker in whose field he was preaching. Cooney thought to do otherwise was controlling the Spirit. The Workers did not want Cooney to express any "revelation" he had in their fields unless they agreed with it. The Workers never knew what Cooney was going to say in a Meeting. Cooney didn't even know—he came without preparing anything. He said, "When you know–you don't know; and when you don't know–you know." Wilson Reid wrote: "Eddie...had begun teaching things on his own without consulting any of the brothers" (letter, Dec. 13, 1928). No doubt it left the Workers in a difficult situation when Cooney was vocal to Saints concerning beliefs and practices in which he and the field Worker disagreed. The Workers were unable to muzzle him.
REASON (5) EQUAL BROTHERHOOD - NO CLASSES: Cooney believed in an equal brotherhood and in the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9), without classes of Saints and Servants. Cooney urged them to get back to the way they were in their beginning when they individually and collectively recognized one leader–Jesus–who said, "One is your Master even Christ, and ye are all brethren." Cooney believed it was contrary to the teachings of the New Testament for their group to be divided into classes of Workers and Saints. He believed the Workers should all be Servants—not rulers over the Saints or other Workers.
REASON (6) AN ESTABLISHED RESERVE FUND: By 1928, the Two by Two Sect had become organized to the point reserve funds were established, to which Cooney was opposed. He believed it was not honest to claim they preached solely on faith lines, trusting God to provide, while having a reserve fund. By 1928, the Workers were no longer being supported by the method expressed in a letter written about 20 years earlier in 1909 to the Impartial Reporter Editor from by of the Saints:
"...the scriptures teach that those who preach the Gospel should live by the Gospel is quite true....But we say a preacher should live no other way. It is not living by the Gospel to establish endowment funds....Jesus told his preachers...take no thought for tomorrow, to consider how God clothes the lilies of the field, how he provides for the very sparrows and compares their value....Six hundred tramp preachers have been proving during the past ten years that these scriptural promises are for the 20th century and are just as real and as true as when they were spoken....We tell them on the authority of God’s word that no true prophet or preacher had ever any provisions made for him by an established fund of any kind..." (letter by Within, IR, Oct. 7, 1909).
From the very first Conventions, the Friends donated money to the Workers for Convention expenses. As early as 1913, Workers paid for Convention supplies using bank checks. It was and still is the common practice for the Workers to give all their money to their Overseer near the end of Convention. Later, he returns some money to each Worker, usually in an envelope, to take with them to their fields. Any surplus funds are retained by the Overseer. An ex-2x2 Brother Worker wrote:
REASON (7) TAKING A NAME: Cooney did not approve of the Workers registering the name ("The Testimony of Jesus,") with the British government during World War I. It was not only taking a name that troubled him, but it was also the name itself. Cooney saw that while they could give the testimony of Jesus—they could not BE the testimony of Jesus. While he went along with taking the name which some of other Workers used, he later regretted and repented of doing so. However, to the outside world, they were known mostly as "Cooneyites."
"Our money would be collected near the end of the last convention each season, generally on Saturday evening, or perhaps a bit earlier. We of course knew and expected this, and joked about it. 'Yeah, we're gonna get rolled tonight.' I never sensed this being said with any resentment. Personally, I usually didn't have that much to give to the collection, while we were given $200 to $300 each, with more being allotted for travel expenses. Because I was, on several occasions, returning to the Pacific Islands, I received larger amounts for the airline expenses I would incur" (Personal Communication with Alan Vandermyden, 2017).
REASON (8) CONVENTIONS: Cooney did not believe there was a scriptural basis for holding Conventions. He preached in his last Convention in 1929. He was critical of the vast amount of time, organization and coordination required to prepare and hold the Conventions. He objected to Workers spending so much time going on arranged Convention tours, instead of going wherever the Spirit led them.
REASON (9) MOVEABLE WOODEN HALLS: Cooney was against the Workers holding Missions in movable wooden halls, which he believed showed a lack of faith in God's provisions. He believed Workers should spend the night in homes, not in beds in wooden huts. He told the other Workers: "I'll have fellowship with you if you use them, but don't ask me to use them."
1914: COONEY'S RENUNCIATION - When Ed Cooney could not persuade the Workers to jettison the Living Witness Doctrine, he openly renounced it for himself in 1914. He also reclaimed his original conversion in 1884 to Christ by his bedside in his heart at age 17—long before he met Wm. Irvine. Years later the Workers pinpointed the time when Cooney first got "out of step with his brethren" as his renunciation of the LWD in 1914. For the next 14 years, the gulf would widen between Cooney’s beliefs and opinions and those of the other leading Workers, to the point the Workers would eventually excommunicate him in 1928. Cooney wrote:
"At this time [their first 4 years] 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 Wm. 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 Wm. Irvine's associates. In 1914, I declared that I had returned to the true gospel Wm. Irvine and I with others preached for some four years before these heresies were introduced" (letter to Alice Flett, circa 1930).
Cooney reclaimed his born again experience while he was on his knees beside his bed. He also reclaimed the belief they held in the early days that people could come to Christ through various means; e.g. nature, scriptures, revelation, preachers, etc. and that there were people saved outside their group. This meant he no longer considered the Two by Two Sect God's Only True Way. Instead, he believed: "God has his children everywhere, even among the heathen.” While Cooney believed all religious systems, institutions and organizations were unscriptural, he still believed there were people in them who were born again (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney by Roberts, p. 125). This was radically different from the LWD the Workers still believed and taught. The Workers stuck to their LWD doctrine: "A person can be born again by a living witness–without one never." Concerning his renunciation of the LWD, Wilson McClung declared that Cooney's chief offence was not believing the LWD, or the belief that prior to meeting Wm Irvine, the Workers had not been born again.
1914-1921: For the next seven years, from 1914, when Irvine was put out, until 1921, Cooney continued preaching wherever he felt led to do so. As he became bolder in pointing out the sect's departures from scripture, the Workers became more disturbed. In 1916, Wilson Reid first noticed Cooney was "out of step" with the Workers. Conflict had been brewing between the Workers and Cooney for several years. The Workers had a serious dilemma, yet most of the Saints were unaware of the crisis. In 1917, Princess Victoria heard Ed Cooney preach in Hyde Park, London (Details were given in Chapter 26).
In 1921-1928: COONEY WENT ABROAD. Cooney attended the large 1921 Workers' Convention held at Dimsdale, Staffordshire, England. At the time, Wilson Reid was the Overseer of Ireland, which was Cooney's home and base. Reid and other leading Workers urged Cooney to travel abroad. It was hoped that by mingling with the other Overseers, Cooney might fall in line, give up his liberty and be willing to submit to their human control. So on Aug. 4, 1921, Cooney (age 54) boarded the SS Empress of France in Liverpool, Eng. headed for Quebec, Canada, along with Willie Gill (58), George Walker (44) and Jack Carroll (45). For the seven years, between 1921 and 1928, Cooney travelled in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
BANNED IN NEW ZEALAND: Cooney preached in the NZ Special Meetings, and soon managed to antagonize the NZ Workers to the point of being banned from their Meetings. Furthermore, Wilson McClung, Overseer of New Zealand, excommunicated any of the Saints who declared their belief that Cooney was a Servant of God. Those who were loyal to Cooney, including his brother, Fred Cooney, of Havelock North, NZ, started holding their own Meetings. Reportedly, the final straw was when Cooney attempted but failed to heal a young woman.
AUSTRALIA: Cooney left NZ for Australia, where he stayed four years, or until early 1925. Wilson Reid said Cooney "...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” (letter, Dec. 13, 1928). Bill Carroll, Overseer of Victoria, gave the reason for Eddie's problem as: "...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" (meeting, Dec. 16, 1950). So after "causing trouble" in Australia for four years, Cooney (age 58) left Sydney on April 3, 1925 aboard the SS Aorangi for Vancouver, Canada, heading for the USA.
BANNED BY JACK CARROLL in Western U.S. and Canada: The Workers kept each other apprised of Cooney's movements, and the Overseer of Western U.S., Jack Carroll, tried to head off Cooney and asked him not to preach in Western America. Cooney ignored Jack and held a Mission in Seattle, Washington, where one man professed. The Friends were told to stay away from Cooney's Seattle Mission, so he did not receive support or shelter from them. As a result, Cooney was forced to stop preaching and work in his former trade, the clothing business, for three years.
BANNED BY GEORGE WALKER in Eastern U.S.: Three years later in 1928, George Walker told Cooney in Edgar
Hawkin’s home in Detroit, Michigan, that he was not welcome in the territory where he had the oversight. Nor was he welcome in James Jardine's territory, who
had the oversight of the North Central States of Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota.
BLACKLISTED IN IRELAND: Before Ed Cooney arrived in the British Isles, the Workers had begun to warn the Friends about "the trouble with Cooney." They were told that Cooney had changed, something had gone wrong with him, and he was out of step with the other Workers. He was portrayed as not being born again, a deceiver, a preacher of false doctrine, a false shepherd and had supposedly committed "awful crimes."
Cooney had a large number of converts and Friends in N. Ireland where he was from. Two of his staunchest supporters were two brothers, John & Wm. West and their families, from Ballinamallard, both of whom had Conventions held on their properties. John West and Cooney were longtime close friends who enjoyed Bible Studies together in Enniskillen long before Wm. Irvine came along. Wilson Reid often visited the home of John and Sara West. He told them Ed Cooney was coming back from America where he had been "causing trouble" and warned them not to have fellowship with him. Sara West wrote: "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 (Statement by Sara West, August 31, 1954).
Before Ed Cooney arrived back in Ireland, Workers arranged for a Meeting of Workers, Elders and Saints to be held at James Bothwell's home in Irvinestown to discuss the Cooney situation. After the meeting, Bothwell wrote Wilson Reid: "...I did everything I could to have all present, thinking there might be something wrong with Eddie. But when all was told, I found nothing to condemn Eddie for, no evidence, but only untrue reports written and carried across the country by false and jealous brethren. And...I think [it] was unkind to come round behind Eddie's back and pour in all that poison and him not here to defend himself" (letter, Dec. 28, 1928).
James Bothwell, the Wests and some others decided to keep an open mind until Edward Cooney returned and they heard his side. Bothwell wrote Reid: "I also opened my home to Eddie for him to explain the awful 'crimes' he was being accused of by you and George Walker. If the 'crimes' were so terrible, why did you state here that if Eddie would consent and fall in line with all the others, you would all be one in the morning?" (letter, Dec. 28, 1928).
Sara West wrote: We 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..." (Statement by Sara West, August 31, 1954).
Wm. West reminded George Walker in a letter that when Geo. was in his home he had said that there would be no harm for anybody to go hear Eddie; and that above all there could be no separation, excommunication or division in the family of God. As the biblical parable says, the tares and wheat would have to grow together until harvest. With George's assurance, Wm. West and many others went to hear Eddie at the Christmas Meetings in Irvinestown and at his brother John's home at Rossahilly where Cooney was staying. Consequently, they were put out of the fellowship for doing so (letter, Oct., 1929).
THE DIVISION OF 1928
1928, OCTOBER 12 - WORLDWIDE WORKERS' COUNCIL MEETING AT LURGAN: A week after Ed Cooney arrived back in Ireland, a Meeting was held at the home of Andrew (Andy) Knox in Clankilvoragh, Lurgan, Co. Armagh, N. Ireland. The twelve senior Workers present were: Jack Carroll, Wm. 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 was the Worker in charge of the Meeting. Geo. Walker was not present.
The purpose of the Meeting was a final attempt to bind Cooney to an Agreement which would restrict his ministry. The Solemn Agreement necessary for the Basis for Fellowship for all Workers was:
"(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 refused to agree to follow the decrees, declaring he would retain the liberty God gave him when he first started to preach. He wrote: "If I had agreed to abide by these decrees, I would henceforth have been subject to rules which we in public denied existed in this fellowship." Jack Carroll rose up and left the room, declaring he would have no more fellowship with Edward Cooney. The other ten Workers followed, with the exception of Tom Elliott (Account of the Lurgan Historic Meeting of 1928).
Tom Elliott had been nicknamed "Tom the Baptist," and in their early days was designated to do most of the baptizing. It was ironic that it was Tom who baptized all the Workers who excommunicated Edward and Tom at the Lurgan Meeting. Afterwards, Cooney posed the question: “The baptism of Tom, was it of man or of God?”
AFTER THE LURGAN MEETING: Wm. West took Ed Cooney home with him. Wm. had professed through Eddie 25 years earlier. West wrote: "I would rather die than see him cast out. I could do nothing else but stand by him when he was forsaken by his Brother Workers. We brought him to our home and the home was immediately blacklisted and even our life-long friends, Tom and Mrs. Betty, told us they could not have any more fellowship with us because we committed this awful 'crime'. The strange thing is that no one has yet showed us what the 'crime' is."
Although Cooney had been formally excommunicated by the Workers, many Friends and Workers around the world were not aware this had happened. The Division of the Friends had not yet definitively taken place. Apparently, some attempt was made to suggest that Cooney had voluntarily chosen to leave the fellowship. This was not true. 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.
"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' " (Cooney's Account of the Lurgan Historic Meeting of 1928).
THE PURGE: A great sifting began. Those who knew
about the situation surrounding the excommunication of Cooney
put out, frozen out or persecuted until they left. Wilson Reid was the Overseer of Ireland, and he took charge of the excommunication of Cooney's supporters. Geo. Walker arrived from America on Oct. 19, 1928, after the Lurgan Meeting. Reid, Cooney and Walker were all Irishmen. Reid and Walker mounted a campaign against Cooney in the British Isles. They arranged meetings of Workers and Friends to turn people away from Cooney, who was excluded from the meetings. They told the Friends that Cooney was out of fellowship, unregenerate, not born again, and that anyone who believed Cooney was a Servant of God or opened their homes to him would be cast out of the Fellowship.
One month after the Lurgan Meeting, Reid began circulating a letter dated Dec. 13, 1928 to the Friends in Ireland announcing that Cooney was no longer part of the Fellowship. The letter was distributed just prior to the annual Irvinestown, Ireland Special Meeting, customarily held at Christmas time or on St. Stephen's Day (Dec. 26). Reid wrote:
"We must make it known that we cannot ask Eddie or his companion to take part in any meetings we are responsible for, nor encourage any Saint or Worker to attend theirs. We feel we must henceforth advise them to stay away. We can't 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...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."
“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....Geo. 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....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” (letter, Dec. 13, 1928).
Wm West wrote Geo. Walker: "The charges Wilson Reid brought against him [Cooney] were so easily refuted, and of such trivial character that even Eddie's enemies admitted there was nothing in them...And when I looked at this poor rejected man whose zeal and earnestness for God had put so many of us to shame, I could hardly believe that his brethren who used to love him and had 27 years of fellowship with him in the gospel could turn so bitterly against him for the few trifling faults you and others told us of" (letter, Oct., 1929).
James Bothwell, as was his custom, made the necessary arrangements for their usual annual Christmas Special Meeting held at Irvinestown, Co. Fermanagh, Ire. in the Orange Hall. Several hundreds of Friends showed up for the Meeting, along with Cooney—but Wilson Reid, the main speaker, didn't show. Later, James Bothwell wrote Reid a letter stating:
"I did not get your note until 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon AFTER the meeting was over. I had written to you that all arrangements would be made for the meeting...We waited after the time the Meeting was supposed to commence not knowing you would not come. Then I stood up and said: 'Seeing that our brothers who were to take charge of the Meeting (you and your companion) have failed to come to take charge, I will now ask our brother Edward Cooney to take the Meeting' " (letter to Wilson Dec. 28, 1928).
At that time, a large a number of Friends rose up and left the hall, but a greater number remained. Reid's failure to appear forced the Friends to take sides when Cooney took the platform. This started the Division of 1928.
The Workers had purged the fold when Wm. Irvine was forced to leave 14 years earlier. They did so again when Cooney was excommunicated in 1928. It happened again in 1999 in Alberta, Canada, and in Vietnam in the early 2000s when Friends did not agree with Workers' decisions. The Workers attempted to write Cooney out of the Sect's history. His name was omitted as the author of the five hymns he wrote in "Hymns Old and New" (Details in Chapter 40). Sister Worker Elisabeth Jamieson, wrote that when a man accused her of being a Cooneyite, "I pretended I didn't know what he meant, letting on that the only coney I knew about was the little animal spoken about in the book of Proverbs" (Aunty Elisabeth's Reminiscences).
COONEY'S LOYAL FOLLOWERS - THE OUTCASTS: By the end of 1928, the news had circulated around the world that Edward Cooney was no longer in Fellowship. Saints were instructed to have no further dealings with him. If asked, young Workers were told to say they were "not allowed to discuss the matter." To continue to communicate with Ed Cooney or to keep one's home open to him was considered taking his side. Those who did so were excommunicated and became shunned Outcasts. Those who remained loyal to Cooney separated themselves from the main group ("The Testimony"), creating "The Division of 1928."
Sara West wrote: “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....Wilson Reid and many in fellowship with us never came back to our home after...[we made] the decision to hear Edward Cooney's side” (Statement by Sara West, Aug., 31, 1954). John and Sara West, former owners of the Crocknacrieve Convention grounds and his brother Wm West, owner of the Mullaghmeen Convention grounds, all took Ed Cooney's side in the Division of 1928.
The same year that Edward Cooney was excommunicated, three Workers who had been in the Faith Mission along with William Irvine, left the work: John Kelly, Harry McNeary and John Burns. Also, Wm. Irvine wrote and encouraged Cooney: “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…foreign to all possibility of the Spirit working in those who profess” (Secret Sect by Parker, p. 77*).
Cooney remarked: “I have been excommunicated by my fellow-Workers and hundreds of Saints, and eight Workers have been put outside the camp with me" (Secret Sect by Parker, p. 78). The eight Workers were: Tom Elliott and his wife, Ellen, Fred Wood, Alex Buchan, Alfred and Sarah Magowan (who were already outcasts before this Division), and two others. Fred was a convert of Cooney and Alex was a convert of Tom Elliott. Hundreds of other Workers who professed through Cooney turned against him.
PAIN & SUFFERING OF ED COONEY & THE OUTCASTS: Once Edward Cooney was excluded from the main body, "The Testimony," Workers began to say that their Church had no connection with the "Cooneyites." One of the most hurtful things for Cooney was that the Workers undermined the gospel he had preached to his converts and had stolen his converts' love for him and diverted it to themselves. He lamented that his work was destroyed and his converts taken.
Wm. West learned two Workers were telling the Saints not to come to his home for Meeting any more, and soon half the church had turned against Wm. and his family. They were treated as enemies by the very Friends with whom they had worshipped for 25 years and thought were their Friends in Christ forever. Wm. wrote Geo. Walker begging him to come back to Ireland and help, and expressed how sorely his faith had been tested:
"...two workers spent almost all their time during the winter and spring going around the little churches and then round to individuals, applying the test of whether or not the people believed in Cooney. Churches were visited on Sunday mornings for the sole purpose of closing them, including the one at my home, Mullaghmeen. Several of them were actually closed. Then individuals were tested privately as to what they thought about Eddie. And if they had any softness in their hearts towards him they were cast out and refused further fellowship. This happened in several instances. In my case, a new Church was formed at Reids of Gortaloughan (my brother-in-law) and now half the Church meet there. The other half continue to meet at my home. It all seems so strange....Where is the Scriptural authority for all this?.. I tell you we have passed through heartbreaking times. Our faith has been tested as never before....We are cast out. We did not go out. We were put out. I was written to not go to the Convention at Pogues (in this county). This all seems unbelievable" (letter to Geo. Walker, Oct. 1929).
Fred Wood recalled a sad time when he and Cooney were visiting in a 2x2 woman's home. When supper time came around, a visiting Sister Worker said, "We will give you food as men, but not as brothers." Cooney refused. Fred Wood wept as he recalled another time when he and Cooney were staying with a family in London in the winter. A Sister Worker arrived and turned the Saints against them. They put them out of their home in the snow and they had nowhere to go. As a last gesture, they decided to let them stay in a woodshed–without even a blanket. It was so cold they had to rub each other to keep their blood circulating to keep from freezing to death.
Saints who knew of the Irish background of the sect and those who opposed the Workers covering up their origins as well as those who were loyal to Cooney were marginalized, persecuted and cast out. Sam Boyd, Andy Boyd and Oliver Scott were some of these. Cooney and the Boyds grew up together in Enniskillen, Ire. long before they ever met Wm. Irvine. Sam went with Irvine on his first Bicycle Mission trip to Scotland in 1899. He entered the work in 1900 and later married. Sam and Andrew were living in Edmonton, Alberta, and the Meeting was in Sam's home. In 1948, Cooney visited Sam and Andy Boyd. Oliver Scott wrote: "Sam Boyd was warned by the Workers not to receive him [Cooney] into his house. At that time the weather was about 30° below zero; and if Andy had turned the aged Edward away from his door, and he had no other place to go, he could have frozen to death...they would have been willing that Edward Cooney perish with cold and hunger" (letter, October 1, 1949*) For this transgression, the Workers cast out Sam and forbid the Friends to see or speak to them (Secret Sect by Parker, p. 90). Sam died in a depressed state.
George Scott lived in New South Wales, Australia, and professed through Cooney. Having heard rumors, Geo. asked John Hardie about Cooney at the Guildford Convention in 1930. He discovered the Workers were bitterly opposed to Cooney, had made it almost impossible for him to preach anywhere and had also closed doors and homes which Cooney had opened himself over the years. At his first Sunday Meeting after Convention, the Elder told Geo. that he could no longer meet with them (Secret Sect by Parker, p. 91).
Cooney, on the other hand, continued to refer to the Workers as his "brethren" and instructed his loyal followers not to utter any unkind words against them because "They are all my brethren" (West letter Oct. 1929). He did not disown those who had rejected him. He believed even with all their faults they were still God's people—although they had gone wrong. He believed what had gone wrong was that: "The zeal of God's house had eaten him up" (Ps 69:9). Cooney counseled the Outcasts to keep their hearts and homes open to those who rejected them—while the Workers counseled the Testimony Saints to do the opposite. Cooney wrote: “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...”(Account of the Lurgan Historic Meeting of 1928).
1929, JULY - MULLAGHEEN CONVENTION took place as usual at Wm. West's home, where it had been since 1923. However, it was a Convention for the Outcasts and was not attended by "The Testimony" Saints and Workers. Nevertheless, there was a large turnout from all over the British Isles. Ed Cooney, Tom Elliott and Alfred Magowan took the platform. Since Cooney did not believe Conventions were scriptural, this was the last Convention at Mullagheen, the last Convention for Outcasts and the last Convention Cooney preached in.
In 1929, Wilson Reid started another Convention for "The Testimony" Saints at Greenhill, Co. Fermanagh, near Brookeborough on Albert Pogue's place where it continued until 1939. It was relocated in 1940 to John Reid's property at Gortaloughan, Co. Fermanagh. The locals in Co. Fermanagh called them the "Reidites," and their Convention the "Reidite Convention." In the Author's 2004 visit to Enniskillen, the tour guide referred to the Two by Twos as the "Reidites."
In 1930, Tom Elliott passed away in England. His wife, Ellen, continued to support and encourage Cooney. Mrs. Elliott was a welcome guest in the home of Cooney's widowed sister, Mary Elizabeth (Cooney) Boyton Smith, in England. After Mary's husband, an Episcopalian Rector, died in 1923, she never returned to an organized church, and instead began meeting with the Cooneyites in England. Mrs. Elliott died in England in 1966; Mary Elizabeth died in England in 1953.
COONEY'S MINISTRY - "ON HIS OWN" - ALONE WITH GOD: After 1928, Cooney's loyal friends continued to reach out and write to him from all over the world. He had a large number of correspondents who supported him financially so that he was able to travel widely and have fellowship with them. He preached in towns and villages throughout the country; as well as in the open air on the Enniskillen Diamond as in the past, at the Newtownards Square, at the Belfast Custom House, and in Hyde Park and Tower Hill, London. He visited factories during lunch hour where he witnessed to the employees. On buses and trains, he witnessed to whomever would listen. As in the past, he made many converts and performed baptisms.
The five years following the Division were active ones spiritually for the Outcasts. There was a great outpouring of love and zeal among them, and a feeling of release in being set free from the bondage of human control to experience once again the control of the Spirit. Since the Work was no longer restricted just to Workers, the Saints became more active in witnessing to outsiders, with some holding open-air meetings. Special Meetings and Fellowship Meetings in homes were also held. Ed Cooney, age 61, spent the years 1928-1933 in the British Isles where he continued to preach, gain converts and set up churches, often with the assistance of Fred Wood, his right hand man.
1933-1939 COONEY'S TRAVELS: After five years, Cooney felt the Outcasts were on a firm foundation, and he left Ireland on a missionary trip. He returned to Ireland six years later when World War II began.
1939-1947: In his absence, much had changed for the worse for the Outcasts. He found the people had lost much of their zeal and had declined spiritually. Some Elders had become irresponsible and some Outcasts had gone astray, and many who remained were lukewarm.
John West was the one most responsible for keeping the Outcasts together. He was a man of extraordinary discernment, and was able to use his influence for the many who were lacking in faith. When Cooney returned to Co. Fermanagh, he stayed at John West's home at Rossahilly, Ballinamallard. John was elder of the Meeting at Ballinamallard, one of the oldest Meetings, which was also the site of the Union Meeting for the area.
Ed Cooney's brother Fred died April 12, 1940, in New Zealand; and his brother Henry (Harry) died May 31, 1945, in London. Ed Cooney was left with one surviving sibling, his oldest sister, Mary Elizabeth, who predeceased him in 1953, aged 87. Both Mary and his brother Fred were followers of Cooney.
AUGUST GUSTAFSON became a preacher when he was 25 years old in 1899. He later came in contact with the Workers and joined them. He entered the Work and was the first Worker to preach in Sweden. In 1944, at age 70, he was excommunicated, reportedly, because he had objected to the harsh treatment a young Worker received from Senior Workers. In 1949, August saw a letter from Cooney and was impressed with Cooney's spirit. Shortly thereafter, Cooney took August to be his co-Worker. August died in Dec. 1970, aged 97.
1947-1953: Cooney, age 80, returned to North America for three years. The Workers had forewarned the Saints not to receive him into their homes, and those who did risked being excommunicated. On his arrival in New York in 1947, he was welcomed by Outcasts Earl and Mae Hammond who had professed through him. He travelled thousands of miles across America visiting old Friends, including Irvine Weir, an excommunicated Irish Worker, who was one of first three to set foot on American soil in 1903. In Sept. 1948, Cooney visited Sam and Andy Boyd in Canada, who had been cast out earlier for seeing him. In May 1953, Cooney (age 86) arrived back in Liverpool, England, on the SS American Producer.
1954 FEBRUARY: Not even a year later, Cooney (age 87) went to Australia in response to an appeal for help from some distressed Friends who had been cast out there. Cooney boarded the SS Orantes, accompanied by Richard Greenaway and Mrs. Elliott for Australia. He stayed with the Greenaways in Mildura, Victoria, Australia, where about 20 had been put out of fellowship. Cooney and Mrs. Elliott held meetings and visited with numerous Outcasts in several Australian states. The Workers called a Reunion Meeting to try to reconcile the problems with the Bill Carroll/Victoria split in the 1950s. Cooney turned up uninvited. When the Worker at the door, Tom Turner, saw Cooney, his face darkened angrily, and he would not let Cooney enter. Some others left the meeting when Cooney was rejected. In the spring of 1955, a little over a year later, Cooney left Australia for the U.S. where he joined August Gustafson for a couple years.
1957, JULY: Cooney (age 90) arrived back in Ireland, where he planned to spend the rest of his life. He had more friends, fellowship and support there than any other place. However, those plans changed. Cooney had held a belief for many years that he had kept to himself. He knew his time on earth was getting short and felt compelled to share his belief with others. The belief was that God's mercy did not end at the grave, and that there would still be an opportunity for repentance—even after death, for "His mercy endureth forever." This new belief seriously disturbed many of his followers and some of his staunchest supporters turned against him; others returned to The Testimony. It caused a Division among the Outcasts. Due to all the conflict, contention, schism and confusion, Cooney decided it would be best if he spent his last days elsewhere and he went to Australia to live out his time in peace.
1959, APRIL 18: Cooney (age 93) sailed from London, England for Adelaide, Australia, on board the SS Orsova in poor health, accompanied by George Greenaway and his mother. He lived with the Greenaways in Australia for a little over a year before he died.
1960, JUNE 20: EDWARD COONEY DIED, aged 93, in Mildura, Victoria, Australia, in the home of Richard and Emily Greenaway. He lived for 32 years after his excommunication. Mr. Greenaway wrote: "It was good that we were all with Edward when he breathed his last. He was unconscious for only an hour. There was no struggle at the end; he just gradually slowed down...he called Emily and thanked us all and the doctor for our kindness. He then quoted Philippians 3:12-14...He spelt out L-O-V-E—the last word he spoke" (letter to Chas. Woodard, June 24, 1960). He was buried in the Mildura Cemetery. View Photos of Ed Cooney's grave.
Ed Cooney's hometown newspaper, The Impartial Reporter, announced his death with an impressive 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..." (IR, June 23, 1960).
WHO TOOK UP COONEY'S MANTLE? After Cooney's death, his followers looked to Fred Wood as their authority figure. Fred was a convert of Ed Cooney in 1916 when he was 26 years old, and was a Worker for 20 years before marrying Sadie Greenaway, one of his converts, in 1938. Fred and Sadie Wood had four daughters and made their home at 37 Botanic Ave., Belfast, N. Ire., where they hosted the weekly Fellowship Meeting. They had four daughters: Elizabeth, Mary, Anne and Joanna. Fred retired at age 70 in 1960, the same year Cooney died. From that time until shortly before they passed away, Fred and Sadie shepherded the Outcasts in Ireland and also made missionary trips to England, Scotland, Canada, U.S., and Norway. Fred was born May 6, 1890, and died Sept. 11, 1986, aged 97; Sadie died Sept. 1985, aged 69.
THE THREE CHURCHES FOUNDED BY WM IRVINE: By 1928, the group started by Wm. Irvine had split into three separate groups, all with same beginning and Founder; all taking no name for their group. Cooney's loyal followers, as well as Wm. Irvine's letters and followers often refer to the Workers' fellowship as "The Testimony." Those who followed Irvine out of The Testimony and believed his Omega Gospel are called: "The Witnesses," "Irvinites," "Message People" and "Little Ones." Those who were loyal to Ed Cooney or were cast out in 1928 are sometimes referred to today as the "Cooneyites," and sometimes they refer to themselves as the "Outcasts" or those "outside the camp." In Northern Ireland, the locals call the Testimony group "Reidites." Currently, some of the 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. The author of the books referenced here, Dr. Patricia Roberts, was one of the Outcasts.
However, the public and press in the UK had been referring to the main group as "Cooneyites" long before it divided, so this term is still sometimes used to refer to both "The Testimony" group, as well as to loyal Cooney supporters, which is confusing. Ironically, Cooney strongly opposed taking a name in World War I, yet it was the eponym of his surname that the group was best known by. The nickname “Cooneyites” irritated both Wilson Reid and Bill Carroll, and perhaps others. Reid wrote John West that he hoped the banning of Cooney would “clear what is left of the name that has stuck to us like glue all along." That did not happen. The group is still referred to as the "Cooneyites" in some books, encyclopedias, newspapers, Wikipedia and websites.
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 (*).
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