i-3 While a part of this group she had witnessed what she felt was repeated child abuse.
The specter of “child abuse cult” is raised here and never laid to rest, although the subject is promised treatment.
But consider what Katheryn Somma had to say about the Community six months after leaving it, prompted by the misuse and exaggeration of her earlier testimony. These are notarized statements made by her on June 24, 1994. The first thing that must be noted is that she never did say she had witnessed child abuse, according to her own sworn testimony. In fact, her testimony was just the opposite:1
“When I resided in the Community I did not choose to leave because of any of the concerns the D.S.S. has about the families. I found the parents loving and the children well cared for. Since leaving, however, I have become increasingly alarmed by the conduct of the individuals in the Department of Social Services.
“I feel that I have been dragged into the middle of a fishing expedition. I do not wish to be party to the falsehoods I have observed throughout this experience. If the D.S.S. continues on with this investigation knowing about these breaches in ethics they should not be allowed to distort my account. I can not stand by while the department uses such tactics to harm others.” [Signed by Katheryn Somma and notarized by Margaret E. Freeman]
Here is her second statement concerning an affidavit brought forth by Keziah Wilson, an employee of the Department of Social Services (DSS):
“The Department of Social Services asserts that ‘She (Katheryn Somma) had also observed bruises and marks on the lower back of Joseph Kirby.’ This statement is not true. I have never stated that I have at anytime seen bruises anywhere on Joseph Kirby’s body.
“I am alarmed by the willingness on the part of the D.S.S. to exaggerate and alter statements for the purpose of their investigation. I would also like to state for the record that the parents residing at 19 Camp Street are conscientious and loving with their children. These facts were never mentioned in that report.” [Signed by Katheryn Somma and notarized by Margaret E. Freeman]
The contrast between Katheryn Somma’s sworn statements and the account in the Analysis is striking.
Since Mr. Pardon knew of the existence of these letters (copies were mailed to him in June, 1994), it seems that, for the purposes of the Analysis, he would use her sworn affidavit, which is the most objective account available to NEIRR in its research. Why then did they not rely upon it and use it to lay to rest the accusations of child abuse in Hyannis?
i-3 They had told her they were the only true representatives of God on the face of the earth, and to leave them was to literally turn one’s back on God, inviting His judgment.
Her shepherd while she was in the Community in Hyannis told her that it is better not to make a covenant with our Master than to make one and then to break it, for then she would come out from under the protection of the covenant. He saw that she was somewhat unstable and hoped to keep her from rashly entering into a covenant.
i-3 She eventually pressed charges through the Department of Social Services ...
2An even more puzzling aspect of this account in the Analysis is the statement that it was Katheryn Somma’s complaint which led to the DSS investigation. It was, in fact, Robert Pardon’s official complaint to the DSS which led to the investigation — a fact he admitted to privately to Hakam, and for which he promised to publicly repent to the Community in Hyannis (which he has so far failed to do). His words as recorded by the DSS are:
“He stated that Kathy had been encouraged to report what she had observed to the proper authority but she was afraid to do so. He stated that it is not unusual to find people extremely fearful and paranoid when they leave the group. He stated that he had an understanding with Kathy that she would call him, but since he did not hear from her, he made the decision to file the report.”3
It appears, however, that Mr. Pardon lied in another very telling way, either in the Analysis or to the DSS in April, 1994, when he reported the Community in Hyannis for child abuse. In the Analysis he stated that Katheryn Somma contacted him as a distraught woman, having left a community. In his report to the DSS he is not clear as to whether she called him, or he called her, but it does seem that he set up the call, however it went. Apparently it was through a friend of Katheryn’s, also named Kathy, that he made contact with Katheryn Somma:
Investigator asked Rev. Pardon how he became aware of this woman, Kathy. He stated that although he does not now have a congregation he is an ordained minister and has maintained contact with many churches and groups. He stated that a friend of Kathy’s who is receiving Christian counseling had shared Kathy’s concern with her counselor. The friend received Rev. Pardon’s name and phone number. The friend then facilitated contact between Kathy and Rev. Pardon.4
Indeed, Rev. Pardon was motivated to establish contact with Katheryn Somma because of a judgment he had already arrived at concerning the Messianic Communities, as is obvious from his comments to the DSS, in which he refers to us as an aberrational religious group that some members run wild with authority and child discipline,5 and an extreme mind control organization.6
The Case Closing letter of 11/8/94 from the DSS stated:7
“At this time the Department believes that it is appropriate to close your case for the following reasons: No risk factors evident. Good luck. Happy holidays!”
Coupled with Katheryn Somma’s comments, this would leave quite a different impression of the investigation than given in the Analysis. It would be consistent with Mr. Pardon’s admission during his visit to Island Pond in the summer of 1994 when he talked freely with the leaders and average members.8 When he came to realize the suffering he had needlessly inflicted on the Community in Hyannis, he was sorrowful to the point of tears, in the presence of witnesses, namely Hakam and his wife Havah. Why is it that the Analysis gives just the opposite impression?
ii-0 We ... interviewed at least 75 current members, members who left and came back to the group, a variety of other “friends of the Community ... close to two dozen ex-members from around the country, distressed relatives of current members...
Primary sources of information regarding the Community included three times the number of satisfied members as those dissatisfied, yet the preponderance of information reported in the Analysis is negative. Why was more weight given to the two dozen apostates? And why was there no attempt to verify the accounts of the ex-members with current members of the Community prior to drawing conclusions?
ii-2 It has become very evident, upon reviewing all that we have learned, that many lives have been devastated by involvement with Messianic Communities.
10The authors are not in a position, either spiritually or professionally, to judge the devastation of the lives of ex-members. They don’t know where they came from or what their lives were like when they came to the Community and while they were with us in the Community. His conclusions ignore the findings of academic scholars on the subject of apostates.11
ii-1 The “apostle” of the group, Elbert Eugene Spriggs, essentially has a “direct pipeline” to God and no real accountability. This is a very dangerous combination in any situation.
According to our beliefs, every disciple has a direct pipeline to God, and every disciple is accountable to Him and to his brothers. All have equal access to the Throne of Grace (Heb 4:16), and each is accountable to confess his sins (Jms 5:16; 1 Jn 1:9), submit to his brothers (Eph 5:21), etc. If we are all connected to the same Holy Spirit (the same anointing), then what each receives in his pipeline should be compatible and complementary to what his brothers and sisters receive (Jn 6:45). This is what we teach.
With regard to apostles, the New Testament teaches that apostles (plural) will be given to the church until we all attain to the unity of the faith ... to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:11-16). Clearly we have not reached that stature yet, and have no hope of getting there apart from the apostolic gifting and grace in the Body.
Those placed in authority are not merely the gifted administrators, but also the most submissive and caring and responsive to the needs of the other members. They are more accountable (Jms 3:1). In our experience, Yoneq proves this in his life by example and has done so consistently in all the years we have known him.
iii-1 We have spent many hours with these people and have always thoroughly enjoyed those times. They are, without exception, truly wonderful people who evidence a level of commitment, hospitality and love that we do not encounter in many other groups we have worked with.
According to Jn 14:12 (NIV), anyone who has faith in Yahshua (the faith He delivered to the saints) will do what He did; and Jn 13:34 makes it clear that what He did was lay down His life for us. We are commanded to love each other in this same way. This is how all men will know we are His disciples (verse 35). How then can the authors praise us for our high standard of love in one breath and condemn us as heretics in the next breath? Are we in the faith once delivered to the saints or not? Can you judge a tree by its fruit, or not?
iii-1 In many respects they are orthodox theologically, but do deviate in fundamental ways that would classify them as a heresy...
Concerning orthodoxy, see our response to 14-5.
But really, according to the scriptures, a heresy is a faction within the church (1 Cor 11:19), which exposes those who are factious so that they may be warned and then expelled from the church if they don’t repent (Titus 3:10). Once the factious person or persons are excommunicated, they are no longer a heresy, but are considered as unbelievers or tax gatherers. So, for example, from the point of view of Christianity, Mormons are not truly heretics, but rather unbelievers.
iii-2 Our greatest concern is what Messianic Communities teach, and how this compares with the “faith once delivered unto the saints.” When there is a discrepancy between these two then we need to understand by what authority Messianic Communities alters what has been understood for nearly two thousand years.
The authors never state what is the faith once delivered and he never compares our belief and teaching to it. The faith once delivered will always produce the life of Acts 2 and 4. This is the only way it can be defined — by the works it produces (Jms 2:14).
The “faith once delivered unto the saints” has no coherent doctrinal definition other than the Biblical record. The writings of the Early Church Fathers (if they are not forgeries), and the decisions of the church councils, merely record how things were done and viewed after the many warnings in the epistles and Revelation were written and, apparently, not heeded.
But concerning the faith once delivered unto the saints, the authors would do well to consider the entire verse and context:
“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:3-4)
It is precisely this common salvation (which we have in common with those mentioned in Acts 2:44-47) which was the result of the “faith once delivered unto the saints” that we are contending for, in the face of ungodly persons who cheapen His grace and make it an opportunity for living their selfish, independent lives, thereby denying our Master the tangible, visible demonstration of His Body that He died for.
iv-0 How free are members of Messianic Communities to express the individual uniqueness given to them by their Creator, or have they become indistinguishable one from the other?
The question is raised, but apparently never answered legitimately, with the result that the reader assumes that the Communities are full of “brain-washed cult robots.” Anyone who knows us knows that this is not true. To us the charge is absurd, along the lines of, “All Oriental people look alike,” for we live, work, and enjoy fellowship with the most astonishing variety of people, daily benefiting from each one’s uniqueness in gifting, personality, creativity, sensitivity, sense of humor, etc. We believe that each disciple represents a different facet of our Master’s character, and that each one is vital for the part that only he or she can contribute (1 Cor 12).
We believe this testimony helps to answer the question, and we invite the authors to publish it so that the question may be answered.
In the case of the Analysis, Mr. Pardon and Ms. Barba go one step further in finding us guilty of things which they could not even observe when they were among us:
“Second, we did not observe any degree of thought or behavior control that could not be found in other religious communities, be it Catholic, Hutterite, Amish, etc. People could freely express their opinions, and there almost seemed to prevail a “democratic” form of government. We thought it was important that you were careful to let any perspective members know “up front” what was required of those who joined the Messianic Communities. This was one thing we were careful to ascertain in the many informal interviews we conducted with various members. In every instance we found that people joined of their own free will and were not coerced.
“Third we did not detect any excessive emotional control. This is not something that can be easily hid. We did not sense any manipulation of fear in order to control. The group did not appear to have any sense of paranoia (“people are out to get us”), or the outside world is persecuting us. We also did not detect any sense of terror or exaggerated fear of the leadership if one failed in their responsibilities or behavior. The Messianic Communities do have very high standards of behavior for all to live within, from the top leadership to the new member.”12
iv-2 We will consider … the use of power and authority to remake individuals into the image of the group.
Without substantiation by factual evidence, NEIRR asserts (or at least insinuates) that individuals are remade into a group mold, losing their own personalities. See comments concerning the Sociological section, beginning on page 64.
1-1 Out of such turmoil inevitably arise those who have “answers” to all life’s problems. They evidence a genius for attracting to their cause those seeking purpose and meaning in life. Usually these leaders are sincere … Elbert Eugene Spriggs … is just such a man.
Was our Master Yahshua just such a man? The whole gospel is the answer to all of life’s problems. People are lost and seeking purpose and meaning. One who offers eternal life through the preaching of the gospel must make sure he preaches the whole gospel, and that he is sent by God to preach. Those who find true salvation through the preaching of such a sent one are not disappointed (Rom 10:11; Isa 49:23) because they find answers, purpose, and meaning in our Master’s life expressed in His Body. This is what we believe and teach.
1-2 Very often the only source of information is the media, as questionable as that may be at times. Therefore, we have spent many hours poring over old newspaper accounts…
Ironic. One would think that media information would then be largely ignored in favor of personal testimony, not quoted unless substantiated, and certainly not recommended to the reader, as in footnote 16, page 6, where admittedly sensationalized accounts are offered to the reader.
4-2 Spriggs began teaching that the Christian Church was “the Whore of Babylon” and needed to be avoided. He referred specifically to Ben Haden as “of Satan.” The latter is born out in many statements made by Spriggs about Christianity in his teachings.
Christianity has become a harlot (Rev 18:2). We always taught that we should love the people in Christianity, but have nothing to do with the unfaithful Christian Church. The quotation from The Disciple fails to bear out anything regarding Ben Haden specifically being called “of Satan,” nor will you find it in any other teaching.
14-1 No longer was it acceptable to join with those outside the Vine Community to worship God. This seemed to be a radical change from the message of love and brotherhood in the body that had originally been taught. Not only was the Church to be avoided, but even family was excluded from the “inner circle” if they were not part of the Vine Community.
Here again, we had reached no such conclusions regarding worship outside of the Community. The fact that we did not frequent denominational assemblies indicated not a prohibition against them, but a love for the free and life-giving celebrations we ourselves enjoyed. We struggled with this for years, seeking to understand why there was such a difference between us and those who go to the denominational churches. The message of love and brotherhood that we preached offended people outside “our group.” We didn’t change the message; we just quit trying to pour new wine into an old, crusty, lifeless wineskin.
The “love and brotherhood in the Body” is still what we teach — the love that lays down its life (1 Jn 3:16) and the brotherhood which does the will of the Father (Mt 12:50). Is this not what the Scriptures teach? Whoever rejects that message rejects what we hold not only dear, but also orthodox. However, those who wish to participate with us in our social life are not excluded even if they are not members. We simply do not leave what our Father has given us to return to what did not give us life.
Concerning our relationships with family members who are not a part of us, we heed the words of our Master: “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother” (Mt 12:50; see also Mt 10:34-38, Lk 14:26, etc.). That is not to say that we reject our relatives out of hand. On the contrary, we encourage them to visit us and get to know us as a people, unless they are against us. We have many warm relationships with family members. The only family members who don’t have warm relationships with their relatives in the Community are those who do not respect our way of life. We do not have a law against visiting family members away from the Community, but we do expect family members to uphold the dignity and respect the beliefs of those in the Community, even though they might not agree with those beliefs.
5-1 In Dayton, the president of Bryan College stated that at first … “We thought this group had a sound, basic Christian teaching.” But by December of 1977, concerns about manipulation and control influenced him to warn the students about becoming involved in activities at the Yellow Deli. Three months later the Yellow Deli was placed off limits to the students. Similar actions were taken by the President of Tennessee Temple Schools, J.R. Faulkner.
Here, as in other places, the chronology and order of events is confused, hopefully not on purpose. What preceded these “concerns about manipulation and control” in December of 1977 were the events described in the third paragraph on page 6: deprogramming and the attendant sensationalized publicity. When the source of information that causes alarm is a kidnapper who makes money preying on the fears of alarmed parents, any individual, college, or religious researcher would do well to question the validity of the information. See Appendices B and C, the Neilson and Westbrooks testimonies.
5-2 The [Covenant College study] committee concluded the church (The Vine Community Church) had exceeded its “ministerial” function and was taking on “magisterial power.”
What the actual issue was here is obscured in the elevated language of the committee’s findings. Were they concerned that the Community was teaching authoritatively, or accusing it of taking over secular society? Given the facts of history, why would a Calvinist college be concerned that a church had taken on magisterial power? Early Calvinists took on magisterial power to the point that men were physically and psychologically brutalized in attempts to purify them.13
6-1 Friends saw a positive work being done in the lives of many who came to Christ through their involvement in the group. Their various business ventures were seen as benefits to the Community. Even their foes did not dispute these things. Their concerns were all in the area of authority and control, and whether members would or could make decisions on their own.
Who these foes were and whether or not they derived their concerns from deprogrammer propaganda is not clear from this report. But the line of concern is a standard deprogrammer line.14
6-2 Clifford Daniels, one of the first Chattanoogans to join Spriggs in 1972, left the group in 1976. He expressed grave concerns over the power that Spriggs wielded in the group. Ex-members told us that when Cliff Daniels left, he was seen as being crazy and out of touch with reality…
A later indication of his condition was that he took up deprogramming as a profession and wound up being prosecuted for kidnapping. According to the Word of God, kidnapping is a capital offense (Ex 21:16; Dt 24:7), which gives you an idea of what God thinks of Mr. Daniels’ character and of the character of the ex-member who stated recently, “Now I know that he [Daniels] was making total sense.” Consider Romans 1:32.
7-2 The Vine Christian Community was now known as the Northeast Kingdom Community Church in Island Pond.
This passage is inaccurate. In the first place, the Vine Christian Community ceased to exist when we left Vine Street. Members from this and five or six other communities with different names in the tri-state area moved into the already-established community in Vermont. Those who had been elders in the south relinquished their authority and submitted themselves to the rule of the elders who had been established in Island Pond.
14-1 While becoming more inwardly focused as a group, they began developing a stringent understanding of Scripture that narrowed their behavior and their outreach. Rather than converting people to Christ, they were now “finding” true believers. They were also beginning to spread geographically.
This passage is unclear. Becoming inwardly focused and spreading geographically seem to be contradictory concepts. Apart from a brief decrease as we settled in and tried to survive economically, we actually expanded the outreach we had in the south. We never ceased to evangelize through the restaurant business, we expanded into many other service-type industries, increased our efforts to evangelize at concerts and other public gatherings, devoted ourselves more to walking, and increased our production of literature. We are not personally aware of rigor, strictness, and severity in our understanding of Scripture, nor any new direction to stop making disciples according to the words of the Great Commission and start finding those who had already received the message.
In Isaiah 58:1 it says, “Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins.” We came to understand that there was a message to Israel and that they are His sheep who are scattered all over the different denominations of Christianity. There is a legitimate message to them. There are people who are in Christianity, many thousands and millions, who need to be saved. Certainly there are people who follow the Grateful Dead and all walks of life who also need to be converted to the saving knowledge of Messiah. But there is no greater mission field than in Christianity. Revelation 18:4 says, “Come out of her, my people.”
8-1 According to the Communities excesses have occurred, although no more so than has occurred out in the world.
Since our beliefs and practices concerning child training (and the resulting fruit) are not dealt with as promised in Analysis footnote 17, this leaves the reader open to imagine a wide spectrum of abuses such as take place in the world outside the Community. This is neither accurate nor fair.
8-4 When the Communities first came to Vermont they tended to be somewhat confrontational with the local people, telling them on occasion that they were going to hell for smoking or that they were followers of the devil because they didn’t belong to the group. Calling the Pope a “son of Satan” and the Virgin Mary a “whore” only antagonized the villagers in Island Pond. When they would refer to the various Christian denominations as “daughter of the great Mother Harlot, the Roman Church” it created difficulties for many of the townspeople. After the raid, such sentiments were not expressed publicly.
This passage is almost entirely slander. We do not, nor did we ever, believe that people go to hell for smoking or are followers of the devil just because they do not belong to our community. We do not refer to the Pope as a “son of Satan” and we refer to the mother of our Master as “blessed.” Our teaching on the Pope15 is that he disregards, among other things, the instructions of Paul in the Bible regarding men praying publicly with their head covered. We do believe that the Roman Catholic Church and the denominations which have split off from her are the Harlot and her daughters described in Revelation 17:15. Both of these sentiments that we actually do hold are currently expressed publicly in our literature.
10-5 Although it was apparent that Gene Spriggs, along with his wife Marsha was the driving force behind the Vine Community, his “position” lacked a title or any specific “authority.” His position and authority came with the respect accorded him…
Yoneq does not have a title now, such as “Apostle Yoneq,” “Rev. Yoneq,” or “Pastor Yoneq,” nor does he have any specifically-deliniated authority or position. We consider him to have apostolic gifting and grace, and he has earned respect in our midst, but he defers to the graces and giftings in others. Some things he speaks about get done, and other things don’t, according to the faith of each individual or household or community.
10-5 …as a result of a vision he experienced in a California redwood forest, he realized that he, himself, needed to come under authority. (and footnote 21)We were told that Spriggs related the specifics of this vision on several occasions. It is significant since, at the present, Spriggs appears to be accountable to no one.
He never said he “had a vision.” He simply sensed a need to be discipled, hence his stay at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission under Chuck Pope. He is the kind of person who is sensitive to checks in others and seeks for confirmation from his brothers, according to Ephesians 5:21 and 1 Peter 5:5.
11-2 In the beginning the leadership was referred to as “Responsible Brothers” and consisted of approximately ten men which included Gene Spriggs. As stated above, there was no stated leader … Currently those “under” the apostle are referred to as Apostolic Workers and oversee more than one Communities locale … it would appear that the person closest to Spriggs (Yoneq) in authority is Eddie Wiseman (Hakam) … As mentioned above, under the apostle are a group of men called Apostolic Workers.
Nothing has changed. There is still no stated leader. The elders in each locality are responsible to guard each other. Those who function extra-locally co-ordinate affairs between communities. Apostolic workers advise local elders, but don’t usurp their authority. They do not issue decrees to the elders; elders do not issue decrees to the people; and Yoneq does not issue decrees to anyone. NEIRR has taken a spiritual concept of submission to the graces and giftings in others and tried to squeeze it into a carnal mold of religious hierarchy, with the result that the concept has been distorted.
11-f22 Notable here is the charge of child-abuse leveled at Wiseman in 1983 related to the disciplining of a preteen, Darlynn Church. The newspapers covered the story and the details are available to anyone interested. Wiseman himself spoke to us of these details and expressed his deep regret over the incident and his part in it.
The charge was not child-abuse, but simple assault. The newspapers may have covered the story, but their accounts are slanderous, except for the coverage of the news conference in which Roland Church made a public apology for falsely accusing Hakam and Hakam repented for disciplining the girl when asked to by her father. This footnote gives the impression that abuse actually took place. Why, in seven lines of type, is it never mentioned that the charges were false or that the case was dismissed?
12-2 Other positions of importance but with less overall authority are those of the deacons, who are servants of the Apostolic Workers, and the household heads, who are, as the title indicates, overseers of their individual household. Each household also has a bursar, usually a woman, who dispenses monies and supplies as needed. There are also those designated as shepherds who encourage and support the individual members of their household. In addition to these “positions” each person has a “job” as well; some sort of occupation or function to perform that either brings revenue into the household or keeps the house in order.
An artificial distinction is made here between positions in which people exercise authority or handle money and jobs in which people serve. It should be made clear that there is no distinction with us. Everything we do is service. The bursar or bookkeeper distributes money and pays bills, but other women who are in charge of food, clothing, and other personal needs actually make more decisions over what is to be done with the finances than the bursar. Household heads, perhaps more accurately called co-ordinators, do not have a title, nor do apostolic workers or deacons (who are to assist elders as well as those who function extra-locally). Everybody just has a job.
12-4 …what began as a “freewheeling,” loosely organized brotherhood of those who loved the Lord and desired to serve Him became something far different. Over time it became a tightly knit, highly legislated organization…
We have always believed and taught that we should obey our leaders (Heb 13:17). There is an odd contrast between the nostalgic picture that this passage gives of the early days and the account that Clifford Daniels is reported to have given16 based on his experiences in those same early days (’72 to ’76), in which he expressed his concern over “the power that Spriggs wielded” in the Community.
14-1 As early as the late ‘70’s/early ‘80’s concerns about Spriggs’ authority were being expressed. Gene Edwards, a much respected Christian author and man with whom Spriggs had associated was heard to say to Spriggs at a meeting, “…Your view of authority scares me.” To what extent must limits and structure go before true freedom is lost?
It is not true that Yoneq associated with Gene Edwards. We came in contact with Gene in Quebec City and we came directly in contact with him out in California in 1981, as we recall. When Edwards said, “Your view of authority scares me,” it was in the context of our discussion with him after he walked out on the community that he started and wrote a book about. He completely pulled the rug out from under them in Golita. Basically he told them to go back home, that the “experiment” was over. But they hadn’t signed on to an experiment. We confronted him with that, about how he could abandon these people, then as we continued on in the discussion and corrected him, telling him of the seriousness of doing things like that, he said, “Your view of authority scares me.” That is because any authority scares Gene Edwards, because he doesn’t have any, and authority in anybody scares him. He is a Christian Mystic who believes basically that people just have this mystical relationship with Christ and that’s really the ultimate in where we are supposed to go in our spiritual life. It’s a totally independent view of what it means to be a disciple.
Concerning footnote 24, it never was Yoneq’s intention to go to Gene Edwards seeking input about living in community. Gene wrote a book called The Early Church, and we thought that we might have common ground with Gene Edwards, so we sought that common ground with him, but found out that he was in a totally different place, especially after what he did in Golita. It was a shock to us. It was totally contradictory to everything we thought he stood for.
14-1 “The things I want to speak to you about are things that have been misunderstood for at least 1900 years. That is because the Bible is written in a way that assumes you already know what it is talking about … But for 1900 years it has been misunderstood…”
The ellipsis omits a phrase that qualifies the entire passage. Its omission generalizes the passage beyond its original intent. The complete second sentence reads:
“That is because the Bible is written in a way that assumes you already know what it is talking about by the second death and the book of life.”
By omitting that critical phrase, the authors create the impression that Yoneq was saying that no one has understood anything in the Bible for the past 1900 years. That is not what the teaching says.
14-2 We have made repeated requests to meet with him (Elbert Spriggs). After all, he is the “apostle” of the group, and it is his own teachings that indicate what the group truly teaches and believes. This is also the first of any comprehensive analyses of Messianic Communities. It would seem that the “apostle” would find it important enough to meet with “these outsiders” to correct any misperceptions on their part.
As we have reminded NEIRR, they were informed that Yoneq was going to be at a gathering in Bellows Falls, Vermont in June of 1994, which they were invited to attend. One month later he left for Europe and has been away ever since. He had no intention of avoiding them and certainly not of offending them. Yoneq trusts the men with whom NEIRR has been corresponding. What is in us is the only validity he has. This is what he teaches. He trusts us to correct any misperceptions. The real issue here is whether NEIRR will correct these numerous misperceptions and misinterpretations that we are pointing out.
14-5 This question [of authority] may arise in regards to their rituals, practices, or beliefs that deviate from an historical, orthodox understanding of Scripture.
17What is meant by “an historical, orthodox understanding of Scripture”? Orthodox as understood by whom and at what point in history? Orthodoxy as defined by Keith J. Hardman, Ph.D., assistant professor of Philosophy and Religion at Ursinus College, is as follows:
“...the standard of orthodoxy — the Word of God set forth in the first Christian century — continually demands that all else be measured by it.”18
So it must be with historical understandings of the later centuries — they must not conflict with what is actually recorded in the word of God, both in belief and practice.
14-5 We were continuously told that he [Elbert Spriggs] was only “one amongst many leaders” in the Communities, however ex-members and hundreds of his own teachings (that are disseminated worldwide to all the Communities) give a far different picture.
We made it clear that although Yoneq is one amongst many leaders, with particular graces and gifts which we all appreciate, he is special to us in that he introduced us to this Yahshua whom we serve. He brings the anointing that has produced the life we have. To see him in any other way is to fail to discern the Body properly. If people see him in any sort of exalted way instead of as the servant of all, they are missing the whole point of what we are doing, and of what our Master said in Mt 20:25-28, and of what Yoneq teaches. In the Scriptures, Moses was a humble man with the attitude of a servant in his exercise of authority, but some thought that he exalted himself (Num 16:1-3, 13). They proved, however, to be in error.
15-0 These teachings are their “inner doctrine,” and are not for public consumption.
The teachings, as they appear in notebooks and in typed notes, are not distributed to those outside the Community for several very good reasons. They are not doctrinal statements. They are often not even accurately recorded. They are intended for teachers with a foundation in our common understanding, who can explain certain things that may not be clear.
At any rate, this accusation is not true, as can be seen in two readily observable things. First, we invite people regularly to our teachings, because we think very highly of them, feel they illuminate the Scriptures, and we are grateful when others come to listen. Bob Pardon even attended a teaching in Island Pond when he visited. Second, the editor of our freepapers for the last ten years has catalogued the teachings illustrated in the articles from the 35 freepapers published during those years, covering all manner of subjects, up to and including apostolic authority, giving up everything, the twelve tribes, the nations, church history, freedom of conscience, and other “unusual” doctrines.
Robert Sage, a young man who grew up from early childhood in the Community and now lives in the Community in Boston, recently said:
“Why would we want our Freepapers to paint a different picture of our life that what really exists? What would we do when people got here and saw the difference? It makes no sense.”
We would like to ask for proof of this charge — the compilation of evidence showing the intentional discrepancy and difference between what is taught in the households and what we publish through various means.
15-0 No one else in the Communities is able to give original teachings, the teachings of others are merely a rehash of what Spriggs has already taught.
In the first place, we recognize that Yoneq’s gifting is to bring to light the words of the Bible. He is the foremost among us in this regard. He brings the anointing. In the second place they are intended as a catalyst for teachers, who are under no obligation, either stated or implied, to teach anything but what the Holy Spirit leads them to. The reason we teach from Yoneq’s teachings are primarily: 1) they bear witness with our spirit and therefore bring about in us the obedience to the Word; 2) they give us life; 3) they apply to situations in our communities that need to be addressed; and 4) Yoneq has ministered a spirit to us from the teachings that has caused us to fall in love with our Master Yahshua and with His people.
Finally, we have no desire, nor does Yoneq, to give original teachings. Jn 7:18 says:
“He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
The following quotation from one of our teachings expresses our position very well:
“We are not trying to be original. We are trying to be in the vein of prophetic truth. We build upon the revelation of other men down through history. There is truth in bookstores (mixed with error) which only those with a gift of discernment can extract. We take the work and knowledge and truth of many men, without receiving the spirit of error.”19
15-2 Sole Leadership [Three quotations are offered to establish the assertion that Yoneq is the only real leader in the Messianic Communities.]
While other answers will be made on a Scriptural basis to the basic issue of authority raised here, we will focus here on the personal aspects of the letters and teachings which are quoted in this section.
It is hard to see our personal lives on display, misrepresented, and even more profoundly misunderstood. It adds to our sense of being violated to have to then explain what was actually going on in the lives and hearts of the people being spoken of. It is as though we have become, through trusting the executive officers of the NEIRR, something like fish in a fishbowl instead of participants in a forum for accurately representing who we are and what we believe.
Let’s consider the individuals mentioned on page 15, and why they might have expressed their personal loyalty and gratitude to Yoneq and Ha-emeq the way they did from a more human, less analytical perspective. Perhaps this view will enable the reader to see their hearts, and ours as well — the individuals who make up the Messianic Communities.
1. Marsha Spriggs
The context of this quote is glaringly absent, considering where Marsha Spriggs was at the time she speaks of in relation to Christianity. It doesn’t even mention that she is his wife — isn’t it an honorable thing for a woman to follow her husband? At any rate, she was, before she met Elbert, “convinced there was NO GOD at all,” as is stated on page 3 of the Analysis. However, since the quote from the Oak is very limited, it misses an essential part of the reason for her thinking:
“I, personally, was not raised knowing anything about the Bible (unlike Elbert, who was born and raised in the “Bible Belt”). I came from California and could count on one hand the times I even went into a church as a child. Then when I went to college, through various philosophy courses, I was convinced there was NO GOD at all. The fruit I saw from the churches was rotten. The lifestyle of those who called themselves Christians proved to me that they did not really believe what they said they did. For if they thought there was some all-powerful, all-seeing God up in the sky somewhere and they actually knew Him as they claimed, surely their lives would be different than mine. But I saw their mundane daily routine, their empty expressions, their ambitions, and their pleasures to be just the same as mine — except for a once a week visit to some building which assured them a “ticket to heaven” someday. Well, that was fine for them, but personally, I preferred to sleep in late on Sunday morning.”
To have quoted the larger context of her earlier statement about their being no God would have helped the reader understand, and so would a fuller appreciation of what was written in the Oak reader to our children:
“...Passion for justice and love were going out of style. But what I felt in my soul didn’t change with the styles.
“Then I met Elbert. He was a man with passion — but also a man bearing two things which greatly offended me: 1) a southern drawl; 2) a Bible. Yet even through my offense I could see that the God he spoke of was nothing like the one I had cast off as a myth in my early college days. When he spoke to me about the love of God’s Son for mankind and about the justice which His Words called for, I couldn’t help but listen. This man, whom Elbert at that time called Jesus Christ, spoke of establishing a society which was like everything I ever dreamed of. But why had I never seen it demonstrated?”
Somehow through his words she heard vision for the kingdom of justice and righteousness she had always longed for. Her own testimony makes plain why she was not looking for it in the ranks of Christian preachers and scholars. If the reader were to know these things, whether or not they agreed with Ha-emeq’s view of Christianity, it would enable them to see her appreciation for her husband as a normal response to the one who brought her the good news,20 and such good news.
2. A Woman Known as Shua
We do not in any way want to diminish the affection many people in the Edah have for Yoneq and ha-emeq because of their personal involvement in their lives and especially in hearing the good news of salvation. To do so for the sake of appearing more acceptable to suspicious people would be to deny and shame the truth of true friendship and love. However, many of the things she said both in the letter quoted, and in the one printed in the Oak reader, make plain the effusive language she customarily uses when speaking of her life in the Community. Her tone is no different towards Yoneq than many other brothers and sisters. Here are some examples:
“I don’t know how we could have continued without Yathar. I’m so thankful for him. He is such a blessing to us. Yathar is so good with children, and he is a worker. He is wonderful and I know that our Abba will give us all the grace we need to take care of him. We have such a wonderful Abba. He knows exactly what we need and He takes care of us. He brought Yathar just in time.
“Yerusha [Caleb David’s wife] is such a wonderful example of trusting our Abba in everything. We have nothing for her birth or for the baby and she has just three or four weeks left. I appreciate her so much, how she is trusting our Abba. I’m sure He is blessing her for that. Also, Caleb David is very wonderful; he is so humble. He works a lot on an organic farm, and for his work we get vegetables, milk, and cheese. I’m so thankful we’re starting to eat good food. Many things are starting to change. I’m totally encouraged.
“I’m so thankful for Almah and Obadiah. I would have suffered so much without them. They have such a good mind and they have a lot of understanding. I’m thankful to have friends who I can totally open my heart up to.”21
“It is so lovely when Yonathan wakes us up with his singing and then I look in Bahirah’s face and I always get a smile from her. Bahirah sews such beautiful clothes. The whole day and half of the nights she sits at the sewing machine to make clothes for Tana. On Tuesday morning Chen and I make breakfast together. He always asks me if I understand things we speak about, and when I don’t he explains it very patiently and makes things very clear. Yedidah has been, from the beginning, a mother to me. She takes perfect care of me. Yachath is a good father to me, but unfortunately, he is not home very often. Nun is the best shepherd I could imagine. He always knows what his sheep need. I love his cleanness and directness. Judith has so much understanding. Sometimes I just need to look at her and I know she understands me. She always can tell by just one look at me what I am thinking or when I am troubled. It was the same with you and Yoneq.”22 [emphasis added]
To take the words she addresses to Yoneq and Ha-emeq out of this context is to present her in a light which makes her into something she is not. It is no different for the other people who have personally heard the gospel from this man, who is the same to them as the one the Analysis spoke of on page 2:
“Spriggs was dedicated to saving the kids and so he would stand on the median strip on Route 1 passing out tracks and witnessing to them all day. Very often he would bring them back to the Mission, which, although not set up for them, was soon overrun with young people. He began to envision an outreach specifically to kids.”
It became much more than that (Ps 68:5,6).
3. An Unidentified Woman
She lived on a hippie commune which Yoneq and Ha-emeq visited to preach the gospel while we still lived down south. She and her boyfriend received the good news, were married, and moved into one of our communities. She is very thankful to Yoneq for preaching the good news that saved her from the judgment her immorality deserved.
It is hard to escape the conclusion that these quotations are given apart from their context in order to plant the impression of Yoneq as a cult leader. Ha-emeq’s observation, quoted (perhaps inaccurately) as, “Just follow Yoneq,” is, from the context, clearly not a command to give him sole allegiance but rather a contrast between the time when there was no one for her to follow but Yoneq and now, when there is a community with many leaders. The other quotations indicate only that Yoneq does for these people what Paul did in Acts 14:22:
“...strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.’”
16-6 Of the original Elders/Leaders of the Messianic Communities in Chattanooga, Tennessee, many have left in disgrace or been “cut off” from the group ... Edwards goes on to state that it does not matter how many people come and go over the years. The issue is the manner of their leaving. Were they thrown out? Was it an ugly scene when they left? “Or did they encounter true Christian grace, understanding and love as they struggled through the question of whether or not to leave?” He then goes on to ask, “Of the many people who left, how many of them feel really comfortable in coming back to the group for a visit?” Out of the scores of ex-members we have become personally acquainted with, we have yet to meet one who would feel comfortable going back for a visit.
Of the list of 18 “leaders or prominent members” offered here, all (with the exception perhaps of one) left the Community by their own choice. None were “thrown out.”
The issue here is 1 Jn 2:19. Gene Edwards discredited himself when he deserted the flock in Golita. What could he possibly know about the church when he called the common life they attempted to live an experiment?
17-4 A challenge to his [Elbert Spriggs’] understanding of Scripture by one of the others in leadership would not be tolerated.
What is the Scriptural authority for this business of challenging one another? Is it supposed to be tolerated? Is disagreement among leaders regarding their interpretation of the Word some sort of proof of orthodoxy? The apostle Paul wrote, “Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another” (Gal 5:26). He also wrote that “the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets” (1 Cor 14:32). It is a matter of attitude and motive. We do not challenge one another, but we do submit to one another out of reverence for Messiah (Eph 5:21).
17-5 ...everything is measured by the “revelation” that Spriggs has uniquely brought, and this “revelation” cannot be countermanded.
23This language of challenge and countermand is directly contrary to the unity of the Spirit which we are commanded to diligently preserve (Eph 4:1-3). We find Yoneq to be very quick to hear and consider genuine questions and concerns (yes, even about teachings), but promoting enmities, strife, disputes, dissensions, and factions (Gal 5:20), and wrangling about words (1 Tim 6:4; 2 Tim 2:14) is foreign to us — not that such things don’t ever happen, but they are not our way. We operate governmentally from agreement. Yoneq doesn’t push past our checks, but hears from the least of the brethren, and corrects leaders who fail to do the same.
The following words of the apostle Paul paint a pretty clear picture of how his authority and his teachings were received by the early church:
“I have confidence in you in the Lord, that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.” (Gal 5:10)
“If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.” (1 Cor 14:37-38)
“For this reason I am writing these things while absent, in order that when present I may not use severity, in accordance with the authority which the Lord gave me, for building up and not for tearing down.” (2 Cor 13:10)
“If anyone advocates a different doctrine [than Paul’s teaching], and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing.” (1 Tim 6:3-4)
“And the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (2 Tim 2:24-26)
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us.” (2 Ths 3:6)
“And if anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that man and do not associate with him, so that he may be put to shame. And yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” (2 Ths 3:14-15)
“And just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected as regards the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, as also that of those two came to be. But you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance...” (2 Tim 3:8-10)
This last passage is particularly interesting, for in it Paul actually compares the rebellion of those who opposed Moses with those who oppose him, in contrast to those who follow his (Paul’s) teachings and example, etc.
It is easy to forget that the early disciples didn’t have a canonized New Testament. Their Bible was what we call the Old Testament. They had to receive Paul’s teachings and letters as coming from a mere man, not from a holy book. They had to make a decision to trust a man, and follow a man who had the spiritual grace to say confidently and without fleshly pride, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). They had to receive his words as the words of God Himself (1 Ths 2:13).
17-6 ...if an expositor of Scripture wishes to declare “...Greek scholars cannot read plain Greek in Col 2:17,” he best have very convincing arguments to demonstrate that such is the case.
The most convincing arguments for taking Col 2:17 as literally saying that Sabbaths are (present tense) a shadow of things to come (indicative of the future) — besides the fact that Berry, KJV, NKJV, NAS, Berkeley, RSV, NRSV, Amplified, Douay, and even Moffat render it thus — are not linguistic arguments but Biblical ones. Namely:
Mt 5:17-19 clearly commands that we not suppose our Master came to do away with the Law, for it shall remain in force until heaven and earth pass away, so that whoever annuls one of the least of the commands and so teaches others shall, in the kingdom, be called least and he who keeps and teaches them will be called great. Clearly this does not mean that our Master would merely obey the Law personally and then annul it for everyone else, for then He would be least in the kingdom instead of the King of it. On the contrary, He teaches us to obey.
Even Paul, so commonly understood to oppose obedience to the Law, says in Romans 8:3-4 that God sent our Master to atone for sin and condemn sin in the flesh, “in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
Our Master (in Matthew 24:15-21) directs his disciples (privately) to pray that their flight would not be on the Sabbath. Now what difference would it make when their flight would be if our Master’s personal fulfillment of the law did away with honoring the Sabbath (Isaiah 58:13)? He is speaking of flight at the time of the setting up of the abomination of desolation spoken of in Daniel 12:11 (3½ years from the end of all things — Rev 12:6).
17-7 ...one of the things that disillusioned him [Larry Davis] greatly was when he taught at their community in France a “teaching” that didn’t originate from Spriggs. When Spriggs heard about it he “was angry because this teaching didn’t come from the head.”
The greatest witness regarding Larry Davis and what precipitated his departure is Larry’s own words:
“I’ve been a half-hearted reluctant follower of this way for nine years, too cowardly and fearful to drop out and too unbelieving to give my whole being... Even though I could expound the word and connect many verses, I really was spiritually sterile and impotent. It never had the effect on others that I thought it should have, so I judged them as being dull and slow. That was because I was an empty husk and a clanging cymbal. I had never allowed the Holy Spirit of God in the church to regenerate me and completely possess me. I came to the church with my own mystical experience of Christ and I felt that I didn’t need anything else.”24
If there was any comment from Yoneq about Larry teaching something strange, it is not surprising. Larry had a tendency to share things that were speculative and mystical, which numerous brothers, some who were not even elders, expressed concern to him about. When we say something comes from another source than the head, we are not referring to Yoneq but to that to which Colossians 2:18-19 refers.
18-f5 Mr. Davis left in 1983 and has since been vilified by Spriggs in later teachings, “Larry Davis left of his own accord because he didn’t get the recognition he wanted...”
This and other matters shared by way of example to the flock in the privacy of our own meetings hardly meet the criteria for vilification — “attempting to destroy a reputation by open and direct abuse; uttering slanderous statements against someone.” If we had published a paper condemning Larry Davis’ character and offered it to society at large, or if we had spoken things that were untrue, or if he had not already destroyed his own reputation in our eyes by abandoning the people he professed to love, then we might be justifiably accused of vilification. Again, in Larry’s own words:
“When I got to Europe, from the beginning, I calculated my “chances” with Jose and John. I saw that their gifting and graces and especially devotion to the anointing that we have put me at a disadvantage... I know that I often led Brett into discussions on irrelevant theology to just show off my worthless knowledge. Those brothers have heard me say that no one listens to me and that I have no true authority; I’m just an honorary member of the eldership. I see now what an evil spirit this was. I was sowing discord and accusing God and the church that I was unjustly treated. I was actually undermining their faith and promoting myself to gather a following... I think too, that I’ve given comfort and counsel to others that would build me up in their eyes and create in them a need for me.”25
18-2“The Holy Spirit dwells in our heart by faith ... only if the Spirit dwells in your HEART can you understand the teachings.” ... Many ex-members told us they were frequently confused by Spriggs’ teachings. They just did not seem to make sense or were not consistent with previous teachings given by him.
This comes from Jn 14:21-23 and also Jn 17:17-18.
Our teachings are not intended as carefully-constructed doctrinal statements. They are not painstakingly phrased so as to avoid any possible misunderstanding. The truth is organically related, not understood in a systematic theology. On the whole, however, people in the Community find the teachings encouraging and understandable and feel free to ask questions when things are not clear.
18-5 “Acts 3:19-23 ... In verse 22 when someone comes from Him there cannot be obstinance in anyone or the obstinant (sic) one will be cut off from the Holy Nation (Messianic Communities -rp). So you can see, shortly people will be cut off if we are not in unity about the anointing.” Receive the Anointing, 8/2/88, p.1
Spriggs is referring to himself in this teaching. It is clear that to be obstinate regarding the one who “comes from Him” is to risk excommunication from the Kingdom of God. This is very similar to statements that are frequently made by those in other highly controlling movements.
What this person said in his notes is true. This truth from Acts 3 is made even more clear by the following handwritten notes from the same teaching:
Acts 3:21 — Heaven must retain Yahshua till all things are restored. Can’t return to something mutilated or destroyed. Put in order. Acts 3:22-26 — These sent ones are spokesmen from Yahshua. Whatever comes from Him then if there is an obstinance [sic] then that obstinate one will be cut off from the people. Very soon people will be cut off because they hold their own opinion or anointing above Yahshua’s.
So, regardless of whether the NEIRR thinks Yoneq was talking about himself or not, what we teach is that this passage in Acts refers to our Master’s authority, and (through Rom 10:17, Jn 15:20, and Jn 13:20) to the authority of those He sends, who bring His word and not their own (Jn 7:18). At any rate, regardless of the version of notes, we do believe that those with heretical opinions will be removed from among the people.26 We do not threaten people with excommunication. We do, however, remove factious people from our midst, in obedience to Titus 3:10.
19-1 It was reported by every single ex-member with whom we spoke that one prominent female member of the Communities had contracted uterine cancer and died.
Amazing that every person NEIRR spoke to reported this. Was it because NEIRR inquired concerning this?
Response from Hakam:
“Bob, your comments on the death of my wife, Mary, were offensive, vicious, and showed me your true colors. You didn’t even have the decency to ask me about the reports you received from your trusted reservoir of ex-members. It is clear that you do not believe the academic scholars who warn and caution researchers like you of the unreliability of ex-members’ accounts of things. And this account of the death of Mary is convicting evidence of how you falsely accused Yoneq, had no respect for the judgment of the Body, slandered my reputation, mocked me by giving me the title of “chief lieutenant” while attempting to flatter me by referring to me as “an extremely sensitive and caring man.
“The only thing I have to say to you is what Mary and I believed at the time of her illness and what I still believe with all my heart. Mary and I both believed the Word of God concerning healing. We believed that if you are sick and call for the elders and are anointed with oil after having confessed your sins, you will be healed (Jms 5:14-16). We believed that He would deliver us from the pestilence and diseases of the nations if we individually were walking in the light. We also knew that if you went to the breaking of bread not discerning the Body correctly, you would eat and drink condemnation upon yourself (1 Cor 11:29-30). We knew that in the Body of Messiah some get sick and some die from doing this. We believed that a person could commit a sin unto death if they go on sinning after coming to a knowledge of the truth (Heb 10:26). We knew that our Father is very patient and bears with us with extreme mercy until that time (and He is the only one who knows when that time is).
“God’s judgment became evident when she entrusted her life into His hands, to do with her as He pleased. He took her life. This is the truth. Some people had a hard time with this because they did not want to admit that a disciple can commit a sin unto death or that He was that serious about purifying for Himself a people for His own possession so that He could have a pure and spotless Bride.
“You seriously misjudge Yoneq, both in this incident and in the entire Analysis. Who do you think you are to judge him? I want to warn you! Your vitriolic attack on Yoneq is misplaced and unfounded. It was not Yoneq who took Mary’s life; it was our God. Nor was it Yoneq who judged Mary; it was God’s people who did, the people whom she was a part of and who loved her more than anyone on the earth. And we, above all people, believe Paul’s words in 1 Cor 4:5 that if our judgment is wrong in any way, it will be made clear “when the Lord comes.” But we, as disciples, must learn to judge all things as best we can in the Body, since judgment begins with the household of faith.
“The account you render in your footnote on page 19 of the Analysis is full of lies and misrepresentations. You are not Mary’s judge, nor are you my judge, or Yoneq’s, or the judge of the Body of Messiah. I cautioned you many, many times about this role you have assumed. You are in great danger. If you were a man of integrity, one who is worthy of the nations, you would respect me, her, our children, and the people with whom she lived and died enough to not spread your lies to the public.
“Therefore, I am not going to defend anything about Mary or Yoneq or the Body except to say that our God did not take Mary’s life because “she made a negative comment about Spriggs.” That incident was an indication of a way in her in which she was not willing to change after years of patience and forbearing on the part of our God and those who knew Mary in the Body. All who knew her were willing to endure with her forever, and especially Yoneq who loved her dearly, but our God knows the heart and judges according to His Word which Mary fully believed. Our God is no respecter of persons — “high ranking” or not. Mary was never “pronounced healed.” She was prayed for by the elders in Island Pond, but it was immediately evident that she was not healed. I learned from this the absolute certainty and truth of God’s word, that He cannot heal if a person has committed a sin unto death.
“You, Bob, are the destroyer of Mary’s character through your slanderous and inaccurate report of her death. She is still deeply loved, sorely missed, and highly respected within our ranks and she always will be. Her children want to overcome the things she didn’t overcome for the sake of our Master and His purpose. He will have His way. Mary will be purified in death in all the ways she wouldn’t allow His love to reach her in life. God proves his mercy to His people even in death. She will be with Him in the Holy City forever and ever.”
20-3 “This is why Elijah (in the context Spriggs is clearly referring to himself) must come to raise up the age old foundation, restore the Church to the Israel of YHWH. Matt. 17:11 The Roman, Greek, and Protestant are completely off the foundation of Messiah.” Apostasy, Apostate Israel Today, undated, p. 2
These kind of claims have been repeated many times down through history.
This is true. Elijah will come and will restore all things before the great and terrible day of the Lord (Mal 3:1-6). He must do this work of restoration precisely because the Roman, Greek, and Protestant churches are completely off the foundation of Messiah. But if Yoneq is clearly referring to himself as Elijah, then print the entire context for all to see.
20-5 Receives Special Revelation - “Yoneq expressed how there have been several things which our Father has spoken to him which have kept us on course.” Letter from Yoceph to Jonathan and Caleb, Sus France, 9/89, p.2
NEIRR ought to explain why they took this passage out of its context and didn’t include the fact that the special revelation Yoneq is talking about is three Bible verses that teach us to love, obey, and depend on God: Pr 3:5-6; Jn 14:21,23; and Jn 15:5.
20-6 “Our Father revealed to me that we were to observe the Sabbath — the day He made, not Sunday.” ... There is a problem with God supposedly speaking to someone who leads a group that is almost entirely dependent upon him, and who teaches heresy. Please see Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:20-22 and then turn to the section on theology.
Since Mr. Pardon is so keen on understanding the historical context of Scriptures, let him answer this question: who would the hearer of Moses’ words think was leading the people astray after other gods, one who told them to observe the Sabbath or to observe the day of “the invincible Sun,” the Dies Solis of the Roman empire which honored the solar deity? But see the response concerning the Sabbath, beginning on page 61.
20-8 ...Spriggs is God’s prophet for these end times, and is the only one preparing the “Bride” so the heavenly “Bridegroom” will be able to return.
We do not teach or believe this at all. Eph 4:11-16 is our doctrine regarding the preparation of the Church for Messiah’s return. Apostles (plural), prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers are only for equipping the saints to do the work of service. It is the entire Body which builds itself up in love until we all attain to full-statured maturity, so as to be ready for our Master’s return.
21-1 Upon joining the perspective convert must divest himself of everything he owns. People literally own only the clothes upon their back and a few personal items. Everything else is held in common. Also, there are no televisions, books, magazines, newspapers, etc. No one is allowed to use a Bible that has study notes or any other such helps.
Based upon this mere assertion, NEIRR concludes that there is a two-tiered system in the Community, since Yoneq seems to have read commentaries or other books about the Bible. Two things must be noted:
1) We explained to the authors the day we met in the café in Boston that we retain legal ownership of property, but voluntarily share what we have, and consider ourselves to have surrendered sovereignty over them to Messiah. What we actually believe concerning possessions is discussed more fully beginning on page 52.
2) We do teach concerning the danger of dissipation and defilement that such media carry with them, and warn about how every factious opinion under the sun is found in Bible study notes, but it is up to each individual to be led by the Spirit. In fact, the quotations in our response from the footnotes in the Open Bible and Scofield Bible (page 51) were brought to our attention by a young disciple who supposedly is “not allowed” to use such things.
22-3 [Yoneq] believes that agreement with the historic Creeds “is not proof of sound doctrine,” and that “the acid test for detecting orthodoxy is: Is it producing love?” ... What is extremely problematic is the standard of “love” being elevated to the place where it determines doctrinal soundness. Biblical love is the hall mark of a truly vibrant Christian witness, however, love is always the handmaiden of sound doctrine and not the other way around.
Two questions come to mind: First, where was the handmaiden of orthodoxy when German Christians knowingly sent Jews to their death under Hitler, when Puritan Congregationalists banished Roger Williams from his home to wander in the snowy wilderness of New England, when Anglicans cut off the ears and slit open the noses of non-conformists, when Calvinists burned Servetus, when all of Christian Europe persecuted the Anabaptists, when Lutherans persecuted the Jews, when corruption of every kind riddled Catholicism from the fourth century on, especially during the 12th through 16th centuries with its merciless persecution of heretics, or when the rampant dissension of the second and third centuries necessitated the fiery apologetics and stiff ecclesiastical hierarchy that emerged during that time? These historical scandals were not the isolated deeds of disconnected individuals. They were the policy of the so-called church. The handmaiden seems to have had such a liberal mistress that she was given a 1900-year vacation.
The other question is, of course, what is the scriptural basis for saying that love is merely the handmaiden, especially in light of all the New Testament says about love? For example:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn 13:34-35)
“By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” (1 Jn 3:10)
“We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death ... We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 Jn 3:14,16)
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 Jn 4:7-8)
“And if I ... know all mysteries and all knowledge ... but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor 13:2)
So, where in the Bible does Mr. Pardon’s handmaiden doctrine come from?
22-f10 [scoffing at the concept that love proves anything about the legitimacy of a group’s teaching] “See how we love one another! See how we have grown! Look at our lifestyle!” are the things we continually hear. They ask, “Isn’t it obvious that God is with us and blessing us?” Each of these groups believes that their particular expression has given them a real corner on the truth of Scripture, and all the other groups are wrong.
Normal rational thought supposes that if an opinion is true, then all contradictory opinions must be untrue. If one does not have assurance that what he believes is true, does he then have faith? Does NEIRR believe that its opinions are the truth? How does it differ from the groups it ridicules? To assume that no group has a corner on the truth is a departure from historical orthodoxy, as the following passage indicates:
heresy (from the Greek hairesis, “act of choosing”), a theological doctrine or system rejected as false by ecclesiastical authority. From the beginning, the Christian Church regarded itself as the custodian of a divinely-imparted revelation, which it alone was authorized to expound under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Thus any interpretation that differed from the official one was rejected as heretical ... After the 16th-century Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church continued faithful to the ancient and medieval theory of heresy, denouncing doctrines or opinions it considered heretical. Although most Protestant groups assumed that they held the true Christian faith and that all others were heretics, the gradual growth of toleration and the 20th-century ecumenical movement drastically revised the notion of heresy as understood in the pre-Reformation church. It is now possible for a person to accept the doctrine of his own church without regarding others as heretics.27
24-4 “It is obvious that Christianity has the wrong person (who died on Friday and rose on Sunday). But the real Savior spent three days and three nights in death (not one and a half)..”.. The Jews like many cultures, ours included, often used a figure of speech called synecdoche, where a part is spoken of as the whole. Jesus was in the grave part of Friday, all day Saturday, and then rose on Sunday morning.
This idea of the length of time and the specific days which the Master was in the grave is firmly established in the traditions of men, but is not clear from the Scriptures.
While the almost universal tradition has placed the crucifixion on Friday, there have been and still are some scholars who dispute that interpretation, putting it instead on Thursday, or Wednesday. Again, there is disagreement on the nature of that last supper, whether it was an ordinary meal or the Paschal meal.28
Some feel that Jesus arranged for an early Passover meal because He foresaw that His death would occur at the time of the official Passover sacrifice. Others think that Jesus and His disciples followed the Qumran calendar and ate their Passover on Tuesday evening...29
The real Messiah ate his Passover and was arrested on Tuesday night, was crucified on Wednesday (the day of preparation for the festival), laid in the grave that evening, remained there all Wednesday night and Thursday (the High Sabbath), Thursday night and Friday (the Weekly Day of Preparation), Friday night and Saturday (the Weekly Sabbath), and arose as soon as the Sabbath was over. We know this from His own words:
“But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall stand up with this generation at the judgment, and shall condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” (Mt 12:39-41)
A sign is a sign because it fulfills the conditions specified:
“...for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.” (Lk 2:11-12)
So how did the shepherds know they had the right one? Was it enough that they found a naked baby, lying in a manger? Or would a baby wrapped in cloths, nursing at his mother’s breast do? Did he have to be wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger?
So the Jesus of human tradition was in the grave at the most a brief portion of Friday afternoon, Friday night, Saturday, Saturday night, and according to Jn 20:1, had already risen before daybreak on Sunday. If the Scripture merely said three days, and you really stretched your powers of rationalization, you could get that Jesus to qualify for a synecdoche, and maybe for a sign, but certainly not for the sign of Jonah.
“And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, ‘I called out of my distress to the Lord, And He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; Thou didst hear my voice.’” (Jonah 1:17-2:2)
The sign of Jonah and word of Messiah was invalidated and annulled if the sign was not three days and three nights. If Christianity’s traditional Jesus is the real one, then the Savior who gave the sign of Jonah gave a false sign. But if the Scriptures are valid, then Christianity’s tradition is a sign that it has the wrong Savior. The true one was risen three days and three nights later. A sign designates or denotes something that will be irrefutable and indisputable and condemns all unbelief.
25-5 “Our Master said, ‘therefore’ (in relationship to the context) make friends for yourself with all the money you have made in the world so that when it fails you may have an eternal dwelling... Submit it to the apostles’ feet who would do, with mercy and compassion, the righteous thing with that money.”
So who is the they who will receive you into eternal dwellings? Are they not the recipients of your unrighteous money? And to whom is the parable addressed, if not to those who possess unrighteous mammon, namely, unbelievers who need to be saved? So the simplest interpretation is that an unbeliever would give his unrighteous mammon to those who are able to receive him into the eternal dwellings, which is what the 3000 did who were saved on the day of Pentecost, according to Acts 2:44-45.
It is also interesting to note that although the NASB says when it fails, the Greek text literally says when you fail. The believer, just like the wicked steward in the story, has come to see his true condition or predicament, and is wise to make terms of peace with the One to whom he must give account. And this One specifies what those terms are in unmistakable language — Lk 14:31-33.
Our Master drives the point home in the following verses (Lk 16:10-13): You cannot serve God and Mammon. If you will not surrender your worldly wealth, who will trust you with heavenly riches? It is a very little thing to give up all you possess (and count it as rubbish) in order to gain Messiah (Phil 3:8), in comparison to the surpassing value of knowing Messiah. Anyone who is not faithful to do that very little thing doesn’t know the value of Messiah and is not worthy of Him (Mt 10:37-39).
The authors’ inability to see Lk 16:9 in the context of all that our Master said about giving up everything to follow Him is due to their hatred of the cross.
26-1 This is a very interesting interpretation of this passage, and is pure invention by Spriggs.
This interpretation is not unique to Yoneq. Clement of Alexandria, for one, thought of it long ago:
“Make to yourselves friends from the mammon of unrighteousness that when it shall fail, they may receive you into the eternal habitations.” (Lk 16:9) Thus He declares that all possessions are by nature unrighteous, when a man possesses them for personal advantage as being entirely his own, and does not bring them into the common stock for those in need; but that from this unrighteousness it is possible to perform a deed that is righteous and saving, namely, to give relief to one of those who have an eternal habitation with the Father.30
28-1 What is also very disturbing is how Spriggs’ own teachings are given a place of equal divine authority with the Bible. This is true of the Freepapers as well. “The teachings (Spriggs’ teachings to the Communities - rp) kill us. The Bible — the Word of God kills our flesh. It requires our death.” Ahavah 2 ... “These Freepapers are eternal life — the Word of God ...” Reading Our Freepapers
The authors seek to establish this sensationalistic charge by two quotations alone, neither of which say that Yoneq’s teachings or the Freepapers (written mostly by other people than Yoneq) have equal divine authority with the Bible. It is doubtful that any thinking reader would take them seriously on this issue, based on such scanty “evidence,” especially if the authors were honest enough to let the reader know the following:
1) The subject of the Ahavah 2 teaching is the Biblical demand to die to selfishness and everything else that is contrary to the love of God that has been poured out in our hearts.
2) This particular teaching cites as its authority over 100 Scripture references in the space of 13 pages.
3) This is why we in the Community were neither alarmed when Yoneq mentioned the teachings and the Word of God in the same breath, nor confused as to which was which.
4) The Stone Paper, subject of the comment from Reading Our Freepapers, quotes the Bible more than 60 times as its source of authority, and cites 350 Scripture references.
5) For this reason, we have no qualms about saying that our literature would be words of eternal life to a lost person, and that for one of us to give out a Freepaper without reading it would not only be hypocritical, but would also exhibit a sinful indifference to God’s Word.
If the authors, after reading what we have to say on this issue, still have the temerity to publish such an outlandish accusation, we challenge them to quote our response in their Analysis.