The Church with no name: Church or Cult?
by Danielle Martell
I’ll never forget the first day I arrived upstairs at my landlord’s Bible study above my basement suite. As an evangelical, Anglican priest, I had every expectation that attending Bible study would enable me to contribute, ask questions and learn like everyone else. I quickly discovered that things were different in my landlord’s ‘church with no name’.
Prior to my attendance, I was informed that I could come “only to listen,” which implied that I was not to speak. Bizarre. At this point, I had been a Christian for 32 years, had two degrees in the Bible, and I had never been not permitted to speak in Bible study. However, I took no offense. Instead, since I knew the people were ‘King James/New Testament only’ believers, as a woman, I wore a skirt to be respectful of what I thought might be an additional custom. Good thing! All the women were in skirts with buns on their heads. “Where was I?” I wondered…
They sang hymns and I knew none of them. Oddly, there was no scripture reading, only “testimonies,” which were each person’s unique thoughts on the Bible where they used orthodox sounding vocabulary, but with peculiar statements like, “I hope I can be worthy of Jesus.” I felt like I was walking in a familiar land and yet like my feet were floating ungrounded in that place. My landlord soon lent me the group’s only official publication: their hymn book called, Hymns Old and New. I googled it and it was then that I discovered I, in fact, was in a cult! Not only that, but this cult meets weekly and I had just signed a one-year lease to live in the basement suite beneath this cult for a year!
I started research! I quickly discovered that the nature of this cult is secretive. Secretive to get in, secretive to find, and secretive to understand.
The workers (cult leaders) intentionally do not publish their doctrines, which keeps their teachings secretive. Fortunately, over several decades, Christians have been exposing the cult through the internet and publishing.
I discovered that this ‘church with no name’ actually has many names. Their most common one by outsiders is the ‘Two-by-Twos’ because the workers go out preaching in twos, penniless and homeless, staying in the homes of their members.
The cult was started by William Irvine in Ireland in 1897 but has since spread all over the world. It has been estimated that there are between 250,000 to 650,000 members today.
There are a few books on the origins of the cult, including: The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker, with a forward by J.I. Packer, and The Church without a Name, by Kathleen Lewis. According to Lewis, “The workers sometimes buy as many copies of the book [The Secret Sect] as possible and burn them so that people cannot obtain them” (p35). The workers claim the origins of their sect go back to Christ while covering up their true history.
The cult has many strange teachings. In A Search for “the Truth”: The Worker’s Words Exposed, author Lloyd Fortt, says, “The ‘gospel’ preached by the Two-by-Twos is this: the true preacher must sell all that he has and go out preaching the ‘gospel,’ which is, that the true preacher must sell all that he has and go out preaching the ‘g…,’ ad nauseum” (p89).
If that weren’t offensive enough to the real gospel, the members in the cult are also taught not to worship Jesus. Lewis quotes a worker saying, “We do not worship Jesus. He refused to be worshipped” (p53). They believe Jesus was only a man, not also God.
It’s no surprise then that the workers do not believe in the Trinity and teach strange concepts about the godhead, including that the Holy Spirit is not God, and that God the Father is not a person but is spirit only. Furthermore, they teach that the Bible is a dead book that needs a worker to make it come alive. Once a worker speaks it, then it becomes the word of God.
Is this a dangerous cult? With teachings like this: Yes! Where does this cult exist? All over British Columbia, Alberta, throughout Canada, the USA and the world, in small house churches of three to 25 people.
Annual conventions are held across Canada hosting hundreds and even thousands of members for several nights of meetings and camping.
In British Columbia, the conventions are in Duncan, Glen Valley, Langley (x2), Salmon Arm, and Prince George.
In Alberta, conventions are in Didsbury, Greenshields, Mellowdale and Hythe. This demonstrates that there are many home meetings in these surrounding regions.
The conclusion is, if you are ever invited to a “Gospel Meeting” that uses language that sounds orthodox and you feel like you are in a familiar place but, at the same time, like your feet are floating ungrounded there, check out the name of the hymn book. If it is called Hymns Old and New, you are not in church; you are in a cult.
The people are lovely but their beliefs are devastating. Tell them the true gospel. Like all of us, they too need the Lord.