Peniel Pentecostal Church
Peniel Pentecostal Church
First posted: Feb. 21, 2001
Controversial church in Brentwood, Essex, England. Britisch newspapers frequently report concerns expressed by former members and other critics regarding the church's cultic claims and practices.
Update, Apr. 10, 2008: Bishop who preached family values finally admits: I am an adulterer, Daily Mail, UK, Apr. 10, 2008.
After Michael Reid resigned from Peniel, he remained in 'ministry,' currently operating under the names 'Gospel of Hope,' 'What God Can Do Ministries' (WhatGodCanDoMinistries.com) and -- at YouTube, under the name 'BABYPEARS'.
During all the years I spent at Peniel I didn't question anything, I did everything that was expected of me... in the end I found that my whole life and the lives of my children were dominated by Peniel.
Former Peniel member, Caroline Green
Peniel members win libel case
The bishop and five trustees of a Pentecostal church yesterday accepted 'appropriate compensation' for libel from a local councillor who alleged they were members of a dangerous cult.
Their solicitor, Miss Caroline Kean, told Mr Justice Eady at the High Court in London that Bishop Michael Reid, the pastoral head of the Peniel Pentecostal Church in Pilgrims Hatch, Essex, and the trustees were 'deeply distressed' by the allegation madeby Anthony Galbraith, an Independent Conservative councillor on Brentwood Borough Council.
Miss Kean said that in February 1999 Mr Galbraith published a press release, headed The Brentwood and Ongar Association of Independent Conservatives, which concerned Peniel 'and in which he suggested that the claimants were a cult and danger to thepeople of Brentwood'.
Miss Kean said: 'This article alleged, in summary, that the claimants were so dangerous and extreme as to represent a real threat to the lives even of innocent members of the public.'
Jonathan Crystal, counsel for Mr Galbraith, told the judge he 'admits that the allegation referred to was wholly untrue'.
Birmingham Post, Feb. 20, 2001
Six members of the Essex-based Peniel Pentecostal Church have won libel damages from a Brentwood councillor who wrongly described the Church as a ''cult'' and danger to local people.
Anthony Galbraith was left facing undisclosed damages and legal bills after formally conceding that his accusations against the Church were ''completely untrue''.
The announcement at the High Court in London was a victory for the leader of the Church, Bishop Michael Reid, and five others who take a leading role in managing the registered charity.
Church members win 'cult' libel damages, The Daily Telegraph (England), Feb. 21, 2001
Peniel's problems reported
The following news article excerpt provides a good overview of the concern that have been reported regarding Peniel Pentecostal Church.
There's trouble in deepest Essex. The Brentwood and Ongar Tory party is in turmoil. There's talk of a bizarre bishop, a strange sect and an embattled MP. Now Martin Bell is riding in on his white charger, and even Frank Bruno is involved. What on earth is going on?
There's not much chance of slipping in quietly at the back at the Peniel Pentecostal Church. At the door, the little man in a suit giving out leaflets spotted me right away. ''Is this your first time?'' he asked. Within seconds I was in the hands of a smiling chap called Ian, whom I later found from the church's Expect a Miracle video, had once apparently been cured of acid reflux by the church's charismatic leader, Bishop Michael Reid.
''Music and Miracles'' - every Sunday - is the church's motto, though it has to be said the Advertising Standards Authority has taken rather a dim view in the past of its claims of physical healing for which the church could not produce scientific proof. But at least the church has now deleted from its video the references to the cure of a little boy who subsequently died of the leukaemia from which Mr Reid claimed to have healed him.
Ian was all smiles. He kept smiling until his mother-in-law came up and asked where the shopping was. ''She keeps asking the same question over and over. She's got Alzheimer's,'' he explained. Evidently the Bishop is not so good with Alzheimer's.
Ian gave me a welcome pack and a questionnaire to fill in. ''It's just so we can keep in touch and send you details of what's going on here. Don't worry, we won't use it to get money out of you,'' he joshed.
That was a relief. Peniel is the church where the Bishop is also director of several financial services companies that sell insurance policies to the congregation. One of the faithful has finally had enough and issued a High Court writ claiming the church owes her £160,000. She alleges a process of domination, public humiliation, threats, intimidation and the practice of refusing her contact with her parents.
If you think that makes the Peniel a controversial kind of church, then just wait until you get past the First Reading. There is also a writ pending that alleges brutal corporal punishment of children. The church admits it did smack children with a ''paddle'', up until ''the time there was a government directive which made it illegal'', but it strongly disputes the extent to which it was used.
Then there are the libel cases. One against the local paper, the Essex Courier, ended with it having to publish a front-page apology for comparing Peniel to the cults at Waco, whose members died in a shoot-out with the FBI. Another libel suit was settled out of court in London yesterday with a local Tory Councillor, Tony Galbraith, having to issue a similar public acknowledgement that the Peniel leaders were not ''so dangerous and extreme as to represent a real threat to the lives even of innocent members of the public''. Even so, Councillor Galbraith afterwards insisted that he was not withdrawing his claims that Peniel was a bizarre sect whose members infiltrated the local Conservative association and installed themselves in key posts.
Indeed, the third libel action is between the Peniel Tories and the Tory party officials they expelled as soon as they arrived Their disputed claims and counter-claims are at the centre of the move to invite Martin Bell - the sleaze-busting independent MP who ousted the disgraced Tory minister Neil Hamilton at the last election - to turn his attention to the constituency of Brentwood and Ongar, home to the church.
Yet in a place where pastors have been accused of manipulative psychology there is something unsettling about hearing a congregation told they must set aside the logic of their own minds and place themselves in the hands of God - especially when God's word is interpreted by a figure as darkly authoritarian as Michael Reid who preaches that health and wealth will come to those who truly commit themselves to the itinerant pauper who was Christ.
Certainly Mr Reid can point to himself as a striking role model of this gospel of prosperity.
These finance companies, according to Peniel's official spokeswoman Anne Brown, were ''founded years and years ago prior to Bishop Reid becoming a full-time minister''. Moreover, she said, ''he hasn't sold insurance for 20 plus years''. Some members of the congregation did buy policies through his companies but ''there is no duress and the company is never promoted within the realm of the church''.
And yet, at least one of the companies, Baynes Roland, was only incorporated in 1993 and has an ad in the latest issue of the church's Trumpet Call magazine.
Caroline Green claims that she and her husband ended up paying out £2,500 a month just before she quit. (They were high earners; Jesus may have been keen on the poor but Peniel tends to go for the wealthy). Along with their 13 insurance policies and mortgages, they were expected to tithe a tenth of their gross income to the church, and pay fees to the Peniel school, as well as working for the church unpaid. On top of that were ''love offerings'' for special items. When she protested that they could not cope, she says church leaders told her that she was a spendthrift.
Yet the whole business might have remained an internal matter until the day that 119 of Peniel's members joined the local Conservative Party and brought Bishop Reid's extremist views into the public arena. Among these were publicly-expressed positions that gypsies should be exterminated, that the unemployed should be allowed to starve, that homosexuals are ''filthy perverts'', that Muslims are ''vile heathens'', and that the European Union is a papist plot.
In the name of the Father, The Independent (England), Feb. 20, 2001
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Michael Reid Miseries Website that keeps track of Michael Reid's antics.
Peniel Pentecostal Church (Official site) Note that the church, which now no longer includes 'bishop' Michael Reid, is trying to recuperate from his involvement -- even while he reportedly still tries to get a foot in the door.