Workers, Friends, Home Church, The Truth, The Way, Meetings, Gospel, Cooneyites, Christian Conventions, Hymns Old & New
Transcript of Canberra Talk
By Doug Parker, 2000
Revised November 13, 2015

Transcript of Tape of Talk

Given by Doug Parker to Group of Ex2x2s

in Canberra, Australia, Easter April 23, 2000


NOTE: [….] Indicates places where the tape was unclear.

Doug’s Personal Story

I am going to commence by saying that it’s been so encouraging to see so much now being written by different people, particularly in the Reflections (1) and articles coming out now. I think we’re also tremendously indebted so much to Elizabeth [Coleman] for all that’s she’s doing and encouraging us to come together like we have.

Now, I really wanted this, my first recollection of "The Faith," to keep more to my notes on this because it’s many years since I was in the sect and I have to keep a lot of thought and even look over some of the things that I’ve written in diaries years ago.

My first recollection of “The Faith” as we call it, or as we used to call it, is when I was just a little boy – I don’t think I would have been much more than 5 or 6.

We had moved to Kogarah, which is in the St. George District and we lived there for quite a few years, at Kogarah. I can still recall as a little boy, this knock at the front door, and two men – one of them had a beard – there they were standing at the front door and they asked my mother if she could remember them. And she remembered them. They had held a mission at Cudgegong.

According to Warren last night [Warren Johnston, former worker] a lot of workers have been out near Mudgee, near Cudgegong. That’s where my mother was born and where she grew up, in the Mudgee District. She attended this mission that was conducted by Jack Craig and Jack Annand in that area when she was just a young lady.

Twenty or more years had gone by, and she never had any contact with them at all. Mum and Dad had met there. When she was a girl, he was jackarooing [station hand for cattle] on a property. They met and fell in love. He went to the first World War. He returned after Gallipoli and France, and they were married, and they had five children. I was the youngest. Four boys, and my sister Jean.

Three of us joined “The Truth.” I’m interchanging the names here--that’s what we used to call it. In fact, my brother Gordon and I were baptised in a dam out here at Wattamondara, just out of Cowra. We passed it when we were driving through to Cowra, and I saw the sign and I said to Helen and Dave, "There’s the sign to Wattamondara." The dam’s still there, is it?! [response to audience comments]. It would have been early 50s I suppose, or before that. Yes, probably before that.

Now prior to that we were just Anglicans. I’d go to Sunday School, and my sister used to play the organ and the piano. And so Jack Annand and Jack Craig invited us to their nearest house church. And we used to go to the house church. We asked our own Anglican minister about this, but he knew nothing. He couldn’t tell us a thing about this house church. It just had the appearance – he just thought it was a house Bible group.

It’s interesting. In the press, when the Henderson children had taken their lives, I notice that some of the ministers in that district, they just thought the sect was a house church Bible group. It still has that appearance of just a genuine home Bible study group to a lot of people on the outside.

The Ship's Butcher

The second World War came and went. We moved back to Padstow where I was born, where we had a family butcher shop. In fact I was a ship’s butcher. As a young fellow, I went to sea as a ship’s butcher. And I remembered this vividly, when I was thinking about all of this. I was in my teens then, but I was so impressed with one of the English workers. He was the first one up the gangway. I was berthed in Hull in England, and up came this worker on this little metal walkway, seeking me out, Harold Winnow, I think his name was, but I was so impressed with that. I naturally, like so many others, held the workers in high esteem – it was a real affection for the workers we had. They lived in our home and we held them in high esteem. I always felt this was the True Way, and it went right back to Christ. That’s what I’d been taught as a child, same as most of us.

The Brick Accident

Over the years we became heavily involved with house church meetings. My parents’ home – my father was the local elder, or bishop, as they called it. Mum and Dad were very busy. We had a lot of people that would come to the house church in our home.

As time moved on, I moved out and had my own business. I became a newsagent. There was quite a lot of socialising, closeness in the fellowship. Quite a few people attended the meetings and we would always look forward to the workers, visiting missionaries. One called Trigg, I think his name was, yes he’d come, and different ones would come and speak at our home and give us a break that night, from giving our testimony, a little message, because of course you’d have a missionary there. There was real affection for these different workers. Then of course, going to convention, either at Guildford or Wattamondara. And Mr. Hardie asked me if I had considered becoming a worker and going into the work.

At that time, I was also a building contractor. I was actually a workaholic (Helen would possibly say he’s always been a bit that way, with the ministry and such, there’s so much.) I was a building contractor and I used to build shops, lots of shops. I’ve never forgotten this, because I was working with a friend of mine and his family were all in the sect. We were loading the scaffold for the brickies and loaded it too much, and it collapsed. A beam hit me on the shoulder, and fortunately it threw me – that shoulder has arthritis in it today – but it threw me under the edge of the barrow and you know the back legs of a barrow – there’s a lot of strength in a "V", only have to look at the harbour bridge to realise that. And that saved my life. Thousands of bricks fell on top of me, and by the time they uncovered all the bricks – I was just badly bruised. I was badly shaken. But I remember – I’ve never forgotten – you know, I nearly croaked it. That was a close shave. There have been others over the years, but that one, I just thought well, God’s guardian angels have been here today. And I crawled out of that, and I was ready. Because in the midst of life we are close to death. And you realise that, we all do, from time to time. I was so thankful to God to be alive and I decided to enter the work.  Photo of brick scaffolding

I sold the business, and wound up the contracts I was involved in and was on the verge of really handing everything over to Mr. Hardie from the sale of everything.

The Cooneyites

I was staying with my brother and his wife. They had a little farm down near Bega, at Quaama. The local Anglican Minister visited them. And I usually looked down on these fellows, all [.…] because we’re the only True Church, we went right back to Christ. I told him I was going to go out into the work.

And he said “What’s the name of the church?”
I said, “Oh, we don’t have a name.”
My brother Ray said, “No, our church never had a name.”
“Oh”, he said, “It’s the Cooneyites!”
I said, “Oh, no it’s not.”
He said, “Yes, that’s what the Cooneyites tell all their followers, that they’ve got no name.”

And I thought to myself, “Oh dear, there’s something …."
I asked him, “Is there anything you can tell me, anything you’ve read?”

“I read a little pamphlet,” he said, “there’s something written by [.…]” He mentioned a name and I wrote it down. It was a Brigadier General Cross – that was the name he mentioned. And he said “That’s all I can tell you, that I read something in some book on heresies." That’s all he could give me.

So I returned home to Padstow, where the meetings were being held, and life was pretty busy, and I asked John Hardie about the truth of that statement. I asked him whether we – if our church – had any connection with the Cooneyites. [end of tape]

[Next side of tape]

[.…] he denied it, blankly denied [gave a blanket denial] that there was any connection with the Cooneyites. And I was aware that I’d touched on a sensitive nerve. Until then I'd had complete faith in him, but now I was extremely suspicious, suspicious of his integrity.

I informed Mr. Hardie that I was going to have a holiday before I entered the work. I'd made up my mind. Dad wanted to go and see The Somme [Battle of Somme, France], wanted to visit Ypres [a Belgian municipality] and other places. My uncle had lost an arm, was a stretcher bearer on The Somme. And I had made up my mind that I’d take them and drive them, because Dad was particularly old and wounded and had suffered with gas and things like that. So I told Mr. Hardie, “I’m going to have a holiday before I start in the work.”

When I was on leave, I used to stay with my aunts and uncles and cousins in Scotland and Ireland. I had several uncles in Ireland, my father’s uncles, and I stayed with them, had usually gone to church with them, when I was a young fellow over there.

He [John Hardie] informed me he’d have to reconsider my acceptance for the work if I went overseas – if I went to Britain and if I went to Ireland. He said, “I have to reconsider you going into the work.” I can still remember – I’ve read a lot of William Irvine’s letters people have sent to me from Queensland and different parts – he uses the same sort of thing. They threaten to try to cower you into submission. He threatened it would be like Noah and the ark, and you wouldn’t get into the ark. Once you put your hand to the plough and you turned back, you’re doomed, all that sort of thing.

It’s like – I remember a scripture teacher someone was telling this story to the children about Lot and Lot’s wife, turning back and turning into a pillar of salt. A little boy put up his hand and said, “Oh sir, that’s nothing! My mother looked back the other day, and she turned into a telegraph pole!”

Here was Mr. Hardie telling me that if I turned back I was doomed. One thing was certain, he was shamed [….] and he was very angry. What we thought was church family quickly changed. And then he put pressure on my mother and father. He told my father that if he didn’t stop me from going to Britain, that the church could be taken out of our home. That was a big blow to them, because they had spent many years since I was a little boy in ‘The Faith’ as we called it, and now the church would have to be taken out.

My mother nearly had a nervous breakdown. I can remember that she was so demented and worried at the time because excommunication is a very traumatic experience. The immediate vilification of myself and my parents [.…] and so this heavy handed persecution was what we felt at that time. Those friendships we had with all those people that came to church, they were very strained.

I can still remember my father taking John Hardie to the front door and saying, “I don’t want this church back in this home again." He said, “You’re not showing the spirit of Christ.” And he said, “That’s the end,” because my mother was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. And so one thing led to another, and my father ordered them out of the home. He and Gordon McNabb, they walked out that door, and I don’t think I saw them again [at that time].

The loss of those long standing friendships with members and workers, it is, I believe, designed to cower people into submission. The same thing happens today. They threaten people. Even members in the sect will threaten children, threaten family, or you feel afraid, you don’t want to rock the boat as it were.

One thing that happened just about this time, we lost contact with Jack Annand, and we had such an affection for Jack. And I’d asked questions, I asked Gordon McNabb and Mr. Hardie, and all over. “Have nothing to do with him, he’s got the wrong spirit.” I couldn’t find out anything about it. I did discover later. I went to Melbourne to find him – I had to search. I found him eventually, a broken man; broken in spirit he was at that time. So every effort was made to discredit him. His reputation – and the same with us. And like so many casualties amongst the workers who are abandoned and excommunicated by the hierarchy, he became broken in spirit and health for a long while. It was such a crime, and I believe a genuine fellow, rejected by the hierarchy.

We went to Britain. It took me weeks of searching in Britain. I’d go to libraries. I’d look for the name "Cooneyites." Couldn’t find a thing. I looked for this man Brigadier General Cross. The best thing – I caught up with him in [Mascot/Moscow?]. And very fortunately, my uncle in [Mascot/Moscow?], I used to go to church with him, he said, “There’s a minister I always look forward to hearing. He’s a Methodist and he’s visiting our church this weekend. If anyone might be able to help you find out anything about the Cooneyites he will, because he’s the principal of the Methodist College."

So I sat with this man, Dr Norman Snaith, and I explained to him this religion. I didn’t tell him they were Cooneyites – I didn’t know. I explained to him the meetings in the house, and the two-by-two preachers, and the conventions, and he said, “They’re the Cooneyites. I've encountered them many times.” And he told me where I could go – to County Fermanagh and Enniskillen, and he gave me the name of a Methodist Minister in Enniskillen, and said he’ll be able to help you. Harold Smoon (sp?), his name was.

And so I went to Enniskillen. And the facts became so clear, when I examined the files of the local newspaper. Mervyn Dane was the reporter there and the editor was Mr. Trimble, and they just let me go up into the room upstairs and there were piles of the records of that newspaper, right back into the last century – that’s the century before last, now! There were piles of them, and all of a sudden I started to just find so much. I am just so thankful to God for that editor, Mr. Trimble. I just think he covered those conventions from go to woe. He was a marvellous man. And I was just conscious of [.…] I was incredibly fortunate and I did feel indebted to the editor. Of course I also felt indebted to God for so much.

His good reporting was so accurate; the whole early revolutionary fervour of the sect, and its turbulent years. He’d go to convention after convention. He wrote profiles on William Irvine, and he connected Bill Carroll. It was there in the paper, and George Walker, the head of it in the United States – all the names were there. And he the traced the rapid growth, the arrogant claims of the founder. And he drew attention to the glaring errors in the new sect’s dogma – this perception of self-superiority that looked down with all contempt on everything that wasn’t with them. A little bit like Willie’s mother, when she’s watching the boys marching, and she says, “Look at that, they’re all out of step, except my Willie!” It was a bit like that. Everyone else was out of step.

Of course that’s the trap most of the churches have even still today, one way or another. You find factions in churches, and in sects especially. The sectarian movements – as Jim Packer says in the little foreword – they’re exclusive bodies, they’re very aristocratic. We’re the best. They have strict rules for membership and they excommunicate [.…]This is a pattern of sectarianism particularly; he sums up in a very brief sentence what the pattern of this sect was from the beginning.

The hundreds who went out preaching

And of course he [the newspaper editor] expounded. Many people wrote letters for years, for thirty years – they have records right up into the thirties, rather, of the sect. George Walker coming back and how it has all changed. They used to be "tramp preachers." Now George is in a cut suit, and the whole tone has changed. Eddie Cooney was put out and so on. The new dogma was emotionally devastating. Broke up families; children were excited by Irvine’s challenge to go preaching. Hundreds of young men and women left their homes in Ireland and went into the work. And thousands were attending the early conventions. It just struck a nerve of need at that time and particularly the Methodist churches lost hundreds of families to this sect. There’s no doubt a new sect had been born. And the editor, having a long background of understanding of sectarianism that was right throughout Ireland especially, [knew] that’s what had happened.

And so they recruited. There were some families – it's almost like a little Moon [Moonies?]. We were in America a couple of years ago, and Helen and I spoke to some meetings about the sect in Los Angeles and Seattle. We were invited over to speak to people over there. And I remember getting off the plane and we were walking through Los Angeles and you have these gurus come up and wanting to engage you, inviting you into their group. I know a very dear friend of mine, he’s lost his son. Can’t even find him.

And that’s what happened with this sect in the beginning. One lad, he lost five daughters to the sect. He was demented; he couldn’t even find out where they were sent. They were sent off to America and different places, and he organised protest meetings. Tents were burnt; wooden halls were burnt. In fact John Hardie got the money from the compensation for the burning down of one of the halls, a hall where he was missioning, and that money paid his fare to Australia.

All of this was hidden, of course, the early background. Eddie Cooney – his parents and family were still there in Enniskillen. He was the son of a draper – he was a draper himself. And he gave up his business interest in 1901 – 1,300 pounds was a fortune in those days. He gave all his life savings over to devote himself to preaching. He formed the opinion, as so many of them did, that Irvine was a prophet. He had this charisma, a powerful charisma, and he was convinced that Irvine had been chosen by God to call the churches back to the truth. The truth was Matthew 10. That you’ve got to give everything up to the call; the call, of course of the preachers. You have to give it all over to the work. You have to get rid of the lot. You have to go out entirely by faith.

And I met people – one year I met old George Beattie living in a caravan. He said, “We were literally tramp preachers. We weren’t allowed to have even a change of clothes.” It was just ridiculous. And he said they’d sleep under a bridge or in a barn, and a lot of them died from pneumonia. The casualties were enormous. And I met people who told me how their colleagues had died here in Australia. They’d get wet through, and Arthur McCoy told me, how they’d go for a whole year, and they wouldn’t feel that they should even buy a cup of tea in a shop. He said, “We’d be cycling all day, and we’d boil some water from a river, or an old tank, and sleep in a barn or a shed." It was ridiculous.

The First Convention and Vows

And Cooney believed that, that he [ Irvine] was a prophet and all these people who attended even the inaugural convention. Now there was quite a few I imagine who went to the first convention that Irvine held in 1903. These were foundation members. George Beattie was one of those and also there was another man, Willie Clelland. I met him in Portland in the States on the way home. And they recalled details of that convention that was solely conducted by William Irvine. Nobody else. For 3 weeks he spoke for hours of a morning and of an afternoon. And it was Alfred Magowan who told me, “We’d just sit on hard benches and we were enthralled with him. He’d come into the meeting, and he’d address us for hours.” And he said, “When he was going out he’d jump out through the window!”

And I said “What did he do that for?” [Alfred said,] “I don’t know, but I think it might have been he was above us.” There was this strangeness about him. When I went to his hometown in Kilsyth and met some of his family in Scotland, they shared with me and said, “Well, he was always a little bit that way.” He had this charisma, but it wasn’t easily discernible. He’d be just on average the same as any of us, but he had this belief that he was specially chosen.

And so before they left that convention – there were 70 of them – it had taken him 3 years. See, it’s just a hundred years, this is its centenary this year [2000]. It started in 1899, October 1899, was their first mission, so we’re in the first year of the history of the Cooneyites. That photograph in the book where they set out and went to Scotland – William Irvine and John Hardie and Carroll, all in that photograph with George Walker.

[....]So for 3 weeks and then he made them take this vow. Everyone had to be completely poor, everyone had to be celibate, and you were never to own your own home. Can you think of anything so cruel? That you were denied your beautiful instincts that God has implanted in us [.…] Christ and his Father there in the beginning? You could never own your own home, have the privacy, the joy of family, the blessings that go with that.

[Interjection - question from the audience: “Did they have scripture to go with that?”]

Not so much scripture, it was more the example of Christ as a man. Jesus wasn’t married; of course he wasn’t married. He had a very limited life and he knew his hour would soon come. And to refer to Jesus’ life as one of poverty’ – he was a carpenter. He learnt a trade, provided for his mother and father and his family when his own father died – for all those years. He could say to John, “Behold, your mother; to ask him to look after his mother, and John took Mary home to his home. The disciples had their homes. No different to the Old Testament Prophets. Samuel and so on. They were married men. And the Levitical priesthood – the church had to provide for them. That was the requirement, and Jesus’ teaching is the same. Not that you’re to be poor. He said, “You shall not muzzle the ox that treads out the corn, the labourer is worthy of his hire.” Paul preached the same. “We minister to you in spiritual things, what is it to you to repay us with physical things?” And so it was nothing to do with Christ’s teaching. It was something that he got out of Matthew 10, that you had to go out with just – not even a bag, just one pair of sandals – it was only a short mission! It was abrogated later on.

Burdening Men with a ' Superior Way'

And so here he was, he got them all. Of course they were all so sure, certainly they were so sure that they were right and everyone else was wrong. No argument would convince them. And the arguments were even in the press on one occasion (Edward Cooney), and the magistrate said to him, “Let’s look at the portion of scripture that you’re using! Doesn’t the Lord tell his disciples NOT to go into the ways of the Gentiles this way? And yet that’s the very thing you’re doing!” The magistrate even tried to explain it to him. But as Alfred Magowan said, “Our minds were made up.”

It just had such an attraction. It captured their imagination. They were excited by the promise of God’s care for them if they were to give up everything. Now this is an attraction in a lot of movements – they say the Buddhists will do that. It’s an attraction to poverty. We call it "naturalism." It’s got nothing to do with the mind of God though, and it’s certainly not referred to in scriptures as incumbent upon people. If people do it voluntarily, yes. If a man wants to live a life and he’s got that control and so on of being a single person, yes – as long as it’s voluntary. But to impose it upon him as though it’s a law from God is a very contradiction of the magnanimous, generous nature of God.

Here they were making life heavy, whereas Christ was making it easy. “My way is easy,” he said, “and my burden is light.” It’s a way of grace, kindness, generosity, God’s way. You only have to think of it as was mentioned this morning – the sun is shining on everyone. The rain, the goodness, the love of God, even of Christ on the cross, “Father, forgive them.” No excommunication with Christ. Even Judas, right to the last, he’s patient with him. There’s this big heart. But they never had that. From the beginning, there was a view of a very harsh God who demanded rules and regulations. Of judgement, and of course, for some reason, suffering and sacrifice – it appealed to young people.

And Irvine, he embodied in his teaching this contemporary [….] it was more a humanist train of thought which swung theological emphasis to the humanity of Christ, and then lost sight of where he’d come from and who he was. There was a trend where the church – or the sect – becomes monumental, and Christ goes into the background. This is always a danger with us even in our own churches. Where the church can become more monumental than the one who we are to preach about – Christ and him crucified.

And so that was a very popular trend at that time. There was at that time even in the writings of Nietzsche and so on the possibility that humanity would become superior. And so you have Hitler, and the ‘superior’ race, all starting in that particular period. That we’re going to become the ‘super’ race. And that was the theory even in this, that the more we give up, and the more we trust God, and go out, to test him to care for us, we’ll become like Christ. But the spirit of Christ wasn’t in it. And Irvine’s harsh view of God made hard work of religion. A level of faith based on suffering and sacrifice.

From Grace to Works

Now, there was so much correspondence in the press; observers objected that the new doctrine was based upon a believer’s works, as opposed to the Christian doctrine of faith in the sacrifice of the Son of God. And that’s all God ever wants, is for us to trust him. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” And that’s what Jesus is [the atoning sacrifice]. At the last supper, Judas had gone out to betray him, and he said to them, “One of you is going to betray me.”

When we were flying home last year, we’d been in Ireland, I was in Ireland, rather, in Belfast, only just before Christmas, and we had a couple of weeks in Italy on the way home. My son David, being a sculptor, he was particularly interested in all those things. The night before we flew out of Italy we went to Milan. Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper – that is a magnificent piece. It’s life size, absolutely life size. And the particular building it’s in, it [the painting], the full width would be [from that wall to that wall], life size. And when they were driving the Nazis back up through Italy, back into Germany in the last war, everything was blown to smithereens, except that wall. They had it built up with sandbags. The painting is still there today. It was wonderfully restored. It moves you to tears. Leonardo da Vinci, he was inspired by the words of our Lord, “One of you is going to betray me.” Then they said, “Is it I?” He [da Vinci] captures the feeling, the amazement of the apostles – one of us is going to betray our Lord?! And the grief in Jesus, you can see the grief in Jesus; there he is at the Last Supper. He’s saying, “This is my blood, freely shed for you, for the remission of your sins. And do this [often], in remembrance.” He was the Lamb of God.

And they [the workers] moved away from that. They moved away, see, the prophets even had said this, as we see in the epistle to the Romans, chapter 5: “By the obedience of one, many will be justified.” By the sacrifice of that one – that’s God’s love. He loved the whole world that he gave his own son. And it’s in believing.

Mr. Trimble the Editor of the Impartial Reporter drew attention to this. How Irvine had changed John 3:16 from believing, to becoming a homeless tramp preacher, suffering and all of this cruelty. It’s hard for us to imagine. You would have known about it if it was your own son or daughter, if you knew that they were starving. [ Irvine] had made mankind’s salvation hard going, whereas Jesus had made it as easy as possible. It was a free gift of forgiveness and righteousness, and all those unsearchable riches; the Father’s love and forgiveness.

Irvine insisted that this dramatic change to become like Christ was incumbent on all of his followers. And he masterfully used Matthew 10. I think that was just a peg upon which he could hang his experiment. He later on called it "an experiment." He told that to Alfred Magowan, and we refer to that in the book – to Alfred Magowan and Edward Cooney and another man, a solicitor from Enniskillen. I interviewed him, and he was the one who told me that Irvine had been away for a few days, and he got him to go and collect his mail, and he said there must have been 60 letters; a lot of them would have come [as replies] from Australia. A lot of people have sent me [Doug Parker] their letters that Irvine sent to them. And he said, “I watched as he opened these letters, there was money in all of them.” He had a very good income. I know there would be a lot of workers with poor incomes. But this is changing.

There was a court case early last year [2] [1997-99], it’s on the internet, the court case. If you’ve seen it, the senior worker in Alberta is before the magistrate, and the magistrate says to him, “Well, you are a penniless worker?” And he said, “I’m not penniless.” And he started questioning him, “What’s the limit on your bank card?” He had a limit of over $20,000 on his bank card. So it’s a changing scene. And even John Evan Jones, when he did the affidavit for the Henderson children suicide [ Victoria, Australia], he makes it quite clear that their church has large sums of money. It is no longer the poor homeless preacher. This is why Edward Cooney eventually changed company, and got out, because it was becoming so denominational. [2]

Rapid Growth of the Movement

Irvine derided any who attempted to oppose his claims. "Everyone who lifts the voice or pen against Jesus Christ or His messengers - and I am one of them - has to answer to God." [3]

Now County Fermanagh was in turmoil as increasing numbers were persuaded to leave the denominations and to "go preach." That’s where they got the name of the "Go-Preachers." And once Irvine’s views had been absorbed, they took a tremendous hold over young people.

Now that’s still happening today. I have a copy of a letter from a lady, and she talks about how her married son in his mid-thirties has come under the influence of the sect, and how his whole personality has changed. He used to be an active Christian, rejoicing in the Lord, and now he’s condemning all the family because they have a television set and they’re not wearing their hair in a bun and all this sort of thing. His whole personality has changed. And that was what happened with so many of the people at that time.

And once his [ Irvine’s] views had been absorbed, they just took a strong hold. They had to break ties with the family, their parents. The original emphasis I mentioned somewhat earlier was of the priesthood of all believers. And Edward Cooney and William Irvine, they attracted these tremendous crowds. It was called “Cooneyism.” That was the new sectarian name. John Hardie, of course, has kept that from all of us [here in Australia].

Now, as I read page after page of all these descriptions of the sect’s rapid growth, I realised that I had every reason to doubt the integrity of John Hardie. In fact, I knew why he was so anxious about me going to Ireland. It was obvious he had a lot to cover up. And the longer the overseers were in Australia, they led many thousands to believe that their church went right back to Christ. And right back when I was doing this, they were only a little over 50 years old! This was in the early 1950s--'54 or '55. And it was dreadful--it was a spiritual fraud!

The first pamphlet I put out – I’ve got a copy of it here – I think it went out of print, but there were thousands – people would write to me and get 300-400 hundred [copies] from me. I put out this pamphlet called “A Spiritual Fraud Exposed.” And copies of the documents, how they’d taken the name “Christian Conventions,” and the photograph of William Irvine standing at the garden tomb in Jerusalem, and on the back of the photograph, [it said] he was "waiting for Christ to return." And he was keeping vigil there at the garden tomb in Jerusalem. He believed he was the prophet now. The first "gospel" he called the "Alpha" gospel (Matthew 10), and now it was "Omega." He was the prophet of restitution to begin with, but now he was the prophet of doom. Because the judgement of the world had arrived with the First World War.

That came as an enormous shock, and I realised it was corrupt. That they were doing things that were misleading people, taking young people’s money. I met a man and he’d given them his whole life savings, gone out into the work and was almost starving, and he couldn’t even get any of it back. In my book, that’s criminal. And he discovered after that that the money was in a trust account, and he couldn’t even get his life savings when he was starving to death. And when he was in Armidale hospital, he heard the doctor say to the matron, “Feed him up, the poor man’s starving.” And that’s a fact. And the movement was that way.

So there was irrefutable evidence of the sect’s origin. It was undisputed in the first years of the 20th century in the British Isles that a new sect had originated, under the influence of William Irvine. That Edward Cooney supported this mission was so important because he had this charisma also, and he got the publicity. In 1911, ten years after, William Irvine said “We’re growing rapidly. Ten years ago we were very small in number. Now we’re spread over the English speaking world. We have conventions in most American states, in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Canada and here in the British Isles. Last year thousands of pounds were spent on conventions. There are several hundred workers in the field, and at every convention there are volunteers ready to go forth.” [4] But he never told of the casualties; that was always kept quiet.

Well, in the first decade of this imaginative mission, it took him around the world several times, and several times to Australia. Power became increasingly exercised by the overseers. Their strict controls even limited members from travelling outside their regions, and that scared us. You’ve got to get permission from the overseer if you wanted to go to Queensland! And to travel from Queensland to New South Wales. And many people [….] they [the overseers] had so much control you couldn’t even travel! Because there was friction between the sect in Victoria, and no love lost between the overseers, and often the overseers and the poor workers, no love lost.

And George Walker and Jack Carroll, they had such an argument and nobody from his side, Jack Carroll’s, could encroach into Walker’s space, and so you had all of this dissension between them. The sect became a monster, limiting personal freedom as you understand it, on a wide range of issues. Paltry, dreadful trivial issues, but it became a monster. The very thing that Christ preached against.

You know, it occurred to me only a couple of days ago, when I was thinking about all of this, where Jesus said, “No man can come to the Father except through me.” You apply this to this movement. The magistrate asked Mr. Propp, the overseer in Alberta, he said “Is it true in your movement, that you can only be saved through the workers?” And Mr. Propp said, “Yes.” The magistrate said, “That’s a positive? You mean no one can be saved except through the workers?” And he replied, “We don’t like to talk about it.” Isn’t that incredible? [2]

Now, no wonder Jesus said, “No man comes to the father except through me.” You don’t come to God through the church, or through the minister or through the workers. You come to God through his lovely son, because he helps us to know what the Father is like. Philip said [to Jesus], “Show us the father,” and he [Jesus] said, “To see me is to see my father, because we are one” [John 14:8-9].One in beautiful openness, kindness, graciousness, and there’s this unanimity in God. He’s in us, Father and Son and Holy Spirit.

The Excommunication of John Long

How did Irvine get his power over the overseers, the workers? Well, he just didn’t allow his will to be resisted. Men being men. Unfortunately men are like that often. Don’t allow their will to be resisted. By their wife sometimes, or their children. Particularly in this religion.

Now the press reported publicly how they excommunicated John Long. Now he was the fellow from the Faith Mission that discovered the idea of Matthew 10. Irvine was in the Faith Mission before he broke away and started it. And his colleague was John Long. And this was three years they were close companions. And now John Long left the Faith Mission and he joined Irvine’s mission.

But here is what the press reported. While John was speaking to a crowd of about 1,000 people in a large tent, Irvine and Cooney [were] also on the platform. John was speaking and the article mentioned he’d said, “There was no tobacco in the ark.” He was preaching against smoking, you see. And so Irvine said to John, “Tell the people there were no clergy in the ark.” And John is thrown off his line by this strange interruption and sits down as soon as he can bring his speech to a hasty conclusion."

William Irvine stood up and said, “John was always the brake on our progress. When we set out to follow Jesus, he was selling books, and settled as a Methodist. He was convinced that we were right, and cast in his lot with us. But he was not convinced that the clergy were all wrong, and there has always been a holding back in him. For years he has been dragging his feet on the ground, to hinder our going on, and we’ve decided to part company with him, so he can go his way, and we ours, and let him prove whether God will be with him, as he was with us.

"And then he said to the crowd 'All those stand up who believe that John Wesley is in hell!' (John Wesley was a founder of the Methodist church.) Nearly all stand up, those who remain seated provoke William Irvine to wrath, and he makes uncomplimentary remarks about their quadruped connections!

"One of John's English friends got up and defended him, and said, 'It is not for us to discover the present whereabouts of the souls of men who are dead. They may not be where we think they are, and what we say about them can neither injure them nor help us. It is for us to look to ourselves that we may not come to where we say they are.' "

And that tore Irvine to pieces and he said, "John can go and take his friends with him." [4]

And publicly, he excommunicated John Long right then in front of hundreds of them, a crowd of people. None of the workers could hold the attention of the crowd like him. He was so full of energy and wit and he’d open up the scriptures and they’d all listen. He had a power over people; he excommunicated colleagues for years.

William Irvine the Prophet and His Omega Gospel Rejected

To justify his power over people, William Irvine began with the reason that he was the first since New Testament times to discover the true way of Christ; that he’d been raised up. Now the press recorded all of this; some of the workers left, because they brought in this new doctrine, that unless you’d been saved through William Irvine or his workers, you were going to hell. And that started the new apostolic teaching, through William Irvine.

See, there’s an interesting fact about sectarians, they are invariably founded by a self-appointed prophet – Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and Seventh Day Adventists, and one after another, they all have self-appointed prophets, and they’re all condemning everyone else. And Irvine was a self-appointed prophet. And this was the Living Witness Doctrine. It was reasoned that Irvine had been raised up by God. He would denounce the clergy. He had a favourite phrase: “harlot hearted hireling hypocrites.” [5] They were the only way, the true people of God.

Well, I might leave that there, and say that fear overtook the overseers, when all of a sudden, [there was] the outbreak of the first World War. And Irvine said “the judgement’s here, it’s all over, there’s no more need for the Two-by-Two preachers. The day of grace has finished; no one else can be saved. We don’t need the workers going out, because the judgement has arrived.”

And what a shock that was. All those workers, all those overseers, and they were driven together. The reality of those Omega prophecies of gloom and doom. How were they to explain the whole foundation of the faith and its origin and development? He’d made them what they were and now it was all over. He made it clear to them he was their "father." He said “I’m your father, you’re the brothers. And if you don’t have a family, you must have a father, and I’m the father of you all.”

Alfred Magowan seemed to feel it was a gradual development, the ego. It wasn’t easily discernible, but he had this tendency to view himself as something superior and looked down on others. This is where it all changed, because they [the overseers] decided then, they didn’t want him [ Irvine] coming amongst the people. John Hardie had him under house arrest and when he [ Irvine] came to Australia, he wasn’t allowed out of the house. Arthur McCoy remembered the sulky coming by the convention tent, and William Irvine being in it. They locked him in the house and wouldn’t let him speak to the people. Jack Carroll expressed his view that Irvine was no longer worthy of their loyalty and he was not accepted. Alfred Magowan remembered Irvine, and his heart was broken. Wherever he went, the convention doors were closed. So the overseers, they had no option but to reject him because of his strange prophetic views.

End of Tape

(Transcribed by Elizabeth Coleman)


(1) Reflections: The Workers, the Gospel and the Nameless House Sect, 1994
compiled by Daurelle Chapman (ISBN 0-9639419-17)
Published by Research & Information Services, Bend Oregon; available from Amazon

[2] The Dorey-Steingard Child Custody Case 1997 - 1999

[3] The Impartial Reporter and Farmers' Journal, 22.1.1903

[4] Outline of the History of a Peculiar People from 1900-1931 by Alfred Magowan

[5] Ed Cooney Feb 23, 1921 letter: harlot hearted hireling hypocrite

Other online documents of Doug Parker:

A Spiritual Fraud Exposed

June, 1995 Transcript of Doug's talk at Los Angeles, California USA

June, 1995 Transcript of Doug's talk at Bellevue, Washington USA

The Chronicle, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, May 17, 1983
Secret Sect Thread to Person's Rights - Doug Parker

Canberra Times, December 28, 1983
Book seeks to lift veil of secrecy - Doug Parker

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