Fact Sheet for the Church without a Name
Revised Sept 1, 2013
Also Known As: The Truth, The Friends, The Workers, The Two-by-Twos, The Fold, The Cooneyites, The Way, The No Name Church, Christian Convention Church, etc.
Name: Claim to take no official name, but are often called: "The Truth, The No-Name Church, The Friends, The Way, The Two-by-Two's, The Cooneyites," etc. Officially registered with various governments under names of: Christian Conventions in USA; Assemblies of Christians in Canada; The Testimony of Jesus in England; The United Christian Conventions of Australia and New Zealand.
Clergy: Called: "workers, servants, handmaidens, evangelists." Shun formal religious training and education in original Bible languages. Lay members supply ministers' needs. Travel with assigned companions of the same sex, usually older in authority over the younger. Ascetic lifestyle.
Members: Called: "the friends, saints, children of God, brothers/sisters in Christ, the Kingdom, family of God."
Day of Worship: Sunday considered day of rest. Work ceases.Bible: King James Version used almost exclusively in English-speaking areas.
Hymnal: Use their own compilation: Hymns Old and New published by R. L. Allan & Son, England, 1987.
Services: Two principal types: (1) Sunday and midweek fellowship meetings: participation by members in prayers, testimonies and hymns. (2) Series of gospel meetings conducted by their evangelists for the purpose of teaching and converting non-members.
Ordinances: Observe Baptism by complete immersion; oppose infant baptism, sprinkling. Commu nion (bread and grape juice or wine in a common cup) served every Sunday, reserved for baptized members approved by ministers. They do not observe the Ordinance of Foot Washing.
Conversion: Public profession in a gospel meeting required to become a member. Previous baptisms are not recognized, and a convert must be baptized into this faith.
Taboos: Claim they have no rules or regulations. Some taboos or expectations vary according to locality. The following unwritten taboos are generally recognized by the entire group as being unacceptable: Televisions, movies, stereos, smoking, drinking, illegal drug use, swearing, gambling, dancing, reading Christian books or literature, Christian symbols, current fads and fashions, jewelry (except for wedding rings, pins and watches). No short hair, make-up, slacks or shorts for women. No long hair for men. Women are expected to dress very modestly and wear their long hair uncut and pinned up on their head.Holidays: Usual holidays observed, including Halloween and Thanksgiving. Easter and Christmas are not celebrated religiously. Customs varied.
Conventions: Held annually in most regions for four days, three meetings per day. Size ranges from 300 to 1200 attendees. Members are strongly urged to attend one complete convention per year. Convention property owned by approved members. Buildings are constructed with member donated funds.
Armed Forces: Approved method
of serving in armed services is in Conscientious Objector capacity,
refusing to bear arms, taking literally the commandment: "Thou shalt not
Marriages: Strongly recommended that spouse be a group member. Performed by civil authorities, as their ministers are not licensed. Home weddings are common.
Remarriage: After spouse dies, remarriage to group member is acceptable. Restrictions on divorcees after remarriage vary depending on the overseer in charge.
Census: No census records of membership available. Member estimates range between 150,000 and 250,000 worldwide. In 1987-88, the USA and Canada listed a total of 1,071 workers: 63% women and 37% men. In 1991 they listed around 2,500 workers worldwide; 972 men and 1,533 women, making 1250 pairs, if all listed were able to be in the work.
Outreach: Worldwide, except where Christianity is no tallowed to be preached.
Hierarchy: States, provinces or regions are controlled by a male head worker who assigns fields to workers under his authority. Each field contains various home churches, where up to 35 meet, over which an "elder" presides. All overseers and elders are men. There are less than ten senior USA overseers, to whom the state leaders report.
Controls: Characterized by rigid authoritarianism. Workers have absolute authority in all matters. Members have no representation and no means of recourse. Members exist for the belief system, rather than the belief system existing for the members. Unquestioning loyalty is expected.
Discipline: Implemented with talks, threats and shunning. Not unusual for communion or baptism to be withheld; or to take away offender's ability to take part in prayer and testimony. Meeting may be removed from an offender's home. Excommunication occurs rarely.
Finances: No collections taken. No accounting made to the congregation. Claim ministers do not use bank accounts. Monetary contributions are made privately to individual ministers, rather than collectively. Claim not to accept donations from non-members.
Doctrine: No doctrinal statement published. Profess
their doctrine is the Bible.
Authority: State they believe and follow only "the teachings of the New Testament."
God: There is only one God. God is God, the Father, the Creator.Jesus: View Jesus as God's only son, who is today under the authority and position of His Father; but He is not God the Son. Believe Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary; lived a perfect life; came to establish a ministry pattern (Matt. 10) to be followed universally ever after; was crucified, died and rose again bodily before ascending to Heaven; look for His second coming. View on this vary.
Holy Spirit: A force or power emanating from God or Jesus to a child of God; not generally viewed as God the Spirit.
Satan: A fallen angel engaged in an age-long struggle to deceive and seduce men to follow him rather than obey God. He is evil, a deceiver, a murderer, a liar, and has power only insofar as God allows.
Man: Created by God per Genesis account. Adolescents reach "the age of accountability," when they are responsible to God for their actions.
Ministry: Men and women follows Jesus' instructions to His disciples in Matt. 10:5-14, Mark 6, Luke 9. They leave their homes, give their possessions away and go from place to place preaching in pairs (two and two), unmarried, living with and taking meals from those willing to receive them. Don't ask for contributions, accept no salary, taking literally Jesus' command: "freely give as you have freely received" Matt. 10:8.
After Life: All people either receive eternal life in heaven or eternal punishment in hell, depending upon their allowance of God's work in their life while on earth.
Healing, Miracles, Speaking in Tongues, Casting out Demons: Viewed as divine signs used in the first century only to confirm and convince. Speaking in tongues is deemed to be speaking in foreign languages.
Church Sites: Congregation meets ONLY in homes for fellowship meetings, taking literally; "God dwells not in temples made with hands" Acts 7:48, 17:24. No restrictions placed on sites for their gospel meeting services. Strongly opposed to church buildings. A often used slogan indicates the emphasis placed their methods: "the ministers without a home, and the church in the home."
The sect is a little over 100 years old, and was started by William Irvine in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century. After Wm. Irvine was converted through Presbyterian evangelist, John McNeill, he undertook classes at John Anderson Bible College in Glasgow. He joined the Faith Mission as a preacher in 1895. Irvine and some others went on an experimental mission to Scotland in 1899, using Jesus' Matthew 10 instructions to the disciples as their guide; totally relying on God to meet their needs, without any prearranged financial support. Since this method worked (their needs were adequately met and several converts were added), they assumed that God had never withdrawn or changed these instructions.
Wm. Irvine left the Faith Mission and developed a separate faith ministry. George Walker, Jack Carroll, Ed Cooney and others joined him. They rapidly gained volunteers for their ministry who abandoned their homes and gave away their possessions. The first convention was held in Rathmolyon, Ireland, in 1903, after which the movement went worldwide with William Irvine, Irvine Weir and George Walker going to the United States.
Sometime around 1906, home churches were first established. Irvine believed
he had been divinely appointed to bring the last message of Jesus to the world
before the end of the age of grace in August, 1914. The other workers
did not agree with what Wm Irvine considered a progressive revelation.
A schism arose in 1914, and the majority of the sect's adherents followed the
leading of the other leading workers (sometimes referred to as the 2x2s, The
Testimony, The Truth), while a few remained loyal to Wm Irvine (sometimes referred
to as the Message People, the Witnesses, Irvinites). Ed Cooney, the co-founder
was excommunicated in 1928, and some of his loyal followers also left with him
(sometimes referred to as the "Cooneyites"). None of these three
groups that were originally founded by Wm Irvine take an official name for their
Most members of this sect are totally unaware of the history and believe the group is the direct historical continuation of the New Testament ministry (i.e. of apostolic succession). However, the history is well-documented in the newspaper: The Impartial Reporter and Farmers Journal of Enniskillen, No. Ireland; The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker; as well as other books; personal letters, credible eye witness' accounts; and court cases.
That Their Fellowship:
- is a direct historical continuation of the New Testament church
- is "from the beginning"
- is God's ONLY true way; therefore, all other church members, preachers, churches and religions are "false".
- comes by grace AND works (self-effort)
- is earned or merited through faithfulness and righteousness
- is determined at death
- is not possible without being in their fellowship
- is conditional upon works and not secure
- includes sanctification coming BEFORE justification
- came to be a perfect example, pattern minister or way-shower
- life is equal or more important than His death
- created a way to Heaven through His death; and a way on earth by his life; which is one and the same as their fellowship.
- are God's only true ministers
- are the ones through whom one must go (mediators) to be saved
- are the supreme authorities in Biblical interpretation
- have authority and rule over members
- viewpoints are considered as authoritative as the written Word
- traditions are equal in importance with God's commands.
HOW THEY DIFFER FROM
ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN BELIEFS
In What They Do NOT Believe
- in the Triune God
- in the deity of Jesus; That Jesus is God the Son
- in the deity of the Holy Spirit; God the Holy Spirit
- the Holy Spirit permanently indwells every believer
- in the finished work of Christ
- that Jesus came to be our substitute in His life and death
- that man is born in sin
- in eternal security
- in the priesthood of all believers
- conversion can take place through the written Word without human agency
- one can know they are saved in this lifetime
- salvation can be attained without going through their ministers
- in total reliance upon Jesus' shed blood for salvation
- that salvation is an unconditionally free gift of God
- in salvation solely by grace through faith in Jesus, not of works (i.e. Jesus' Way is their fellowship)
DISCLAIMER: The above are general statements regarding the group's beliefs and practices gathered over many years from numerous sources. However, they may not be believed or observed universally or in total. And as in any group, some individuals may hold specific beliefs/understandings that differ from the main church body. This list was compiled in 1990, and reflected the group's characteristics at that time. Historically, depending on the time in history and/or the overseer in charge, changes have occurred regionally and are likely to continue to occur.
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