The Fellowship – Fractured Families

Many have experienced the deep pain of being estranged from family members, restrained by the Fellowship who frown upon non-Fellowship associations. There are grandparents who have never seen grandchildren who are within the Fellowship, siblings who must watch the agonising “drift” of brothers and sisters away from family contact, and parents who have “lost” children who have married into the Fellowship. The ripples of pain and hurt have extended beyond immediate family members, and across the decades. In addition to the pain and confusion caused by relationships and families being broken, there are many stories of sudden and unexplained moves interstate, job losses, clinical depression and ill health.

How did the Fellowship have such influence over its members? One person interviewed for Fractured Families commented: “They’re so hard to deal with because they’re so righteous and so holy and so nice, to your face.” Many described how public confession plays a significant part in exercising control. And, as with other cults, language was used in such a way that an air of mystery was cultivated and sustained by those who had an interest in maintaining it and using it to wield power over others. Leaders also vetted reading material, encouraging that which fed into the particular teaching which was prominent at the time within the group. Tragically, years of inward focus have left a legacy of feelings of guilt and failure.

Several churches were impacted significantly by a strong Fellowship presence.

Congregations have been left disillusioned and disunited, with many people still struggling to come to terms with the impact the Fellowship has had on their church homes.

How has the group existed for as long as it has with so little reaction from the church hierarchy within which it thrived?

Criticism has been levelled at the Presbyterian church – and, earlier, the Anglican church – in Victoria. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the concerns that had been simmering below the surface for some time, rose in the form of an investigation by the Presbyterian Church. One church, at Mt Evelyn, spent years trying to deal with a schism that nearly ripped it apart.

In 1999 the Presbyterian Church of Victoria published a booklet on the Fellowship, which sought to bring to public discussion some of the issues which the existence of such a group in the church’s midst raised. According to several people interviewed, it is a book that Fellowship members have not been allowed to read.

The New Testament speaks of false teachers and the destructive heresies they introduce. “If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing … But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.” (1 Timothy 6). Let us not allow any others to be robbed of the precious truth of the Gospel of Christ.

Tracy Gordon is a social issues researcher for the Anglican church in Sydney.
– Source: Fractured families: A new book tells how a cult has riven churches in Victoria, Tracy Gordon, Australian Presbyterian, Australia, Dec. 2004

This post was last updated: Feb. 27, 2006    
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