Apologetics Index

Twelve Tribes

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Quick Facts on Twelve Tribes

  • What: Twelve Tribes is a communal religious movement.

Dr. James A. Beverley says that

Yoneq fosters dependence upon his rule through false comparisons with New Testament apostles, developing an antirational mind-set in the group and equating his word with the direction of the Lord. His teachings are rarely self-critical and he is obsessed with the Twelve Tribes as the only work of God on the earth.

Police Raids on Twelve Tribes Communities

Over the years, Twelve Tribes community centers is various countries have been subjected to police raids. In France and Germany, in particular, such raids usually took place due to controversies on the issues of homeschooling, health, child abuse, and religious freedom.

See, for instance, the June 2015 raid on the twelve Tribes community in Sus in the ­Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France.

French police have seized the children of members of a fundamentalist cult in a hamlet in southern France who were allegedly beaten, forced to pray each day from dawn and had never seen television­ or the internet.

The Twelve Tribes, a Christian sect based at a chateau at Sus in the ­Pyrénées-Atlantiques, claims to ­emulate a first-century lifestyle. Members ­believe that youngsters must be caned to keep folly at bay, and force them, after a morning of prayer, to work for the rest of the day. They also preach that multiculturalism is Satanic.

The Sus community produces and sells fruit, vegetables and shoes.

The group was raided on Tuesday. Police placed four children aged between 18 months and 14 years into care amid allegations of abuse.

The raid came after a criminal ­inquiry, which began after a former member of the cult told ­a prosecutor that beatings had been ­administered by the community.

The Twelve Tribes communities in France, Germany, the US and elsewhere have long faced accusations of racism and violence. Gene Spriggs, its founder, who came from Tennessee, said that Martin Luther King was evil.

The sect denies the claims, and says that it is misunderstood.

In a follow-up report The Times writes

“I was beaten more often than I can say,” said a former member of the French branch of the Twelve Tribes who left a few years ago. “I was beaten until I gushed blood. Once, I couldn’t get out of bed for two weeks.”

This week 200 gendarmes raided the community’s headquarters in the village of Sus, near Pau, arrested ten adults and placed four children in care after doctors discovered bruises on their bodies. Two years ago German police removed 40 children from the Bavarian branch of the Twelve Tribes; 13 years ago a French court convicted 19 adult members of failing to give their children proper schooling.

“I think this sect should be closed. The children are in danger,” said Maître Jean-François Blanco, a lawyer representing a former member whose lawsuit against the community prompted an investigation that led to this week’s arrests.

Mr Blanco said that prosecutors had been slow to act in France, but he was astonished that no action was being taken against the community in Britain. “British justice is deficient,” he said.

The sect was founded in the US in 1972 by Gene and Martha Spriggs, fundamentalist protestants who wanted to “restore the spiritual 12 tribes of Israel”. It now claims to have 50 communities, in nine countries, with up to 3,000 adherents. They live like 1st-century Christians in almost complete isolation from the modern world.

Typical Newspaper article on Twelve Tribes

Newspaper articles on the Twelve Tribes group often read a bit like a typical Wikipedia entry.

Here’s an example, from the Religion section of The Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO):

The Twelve Tribes’ evening worship service in Manitou Springs is reminiscent of a scene straight from a hippie commune in the 1960s and early ’70s, and this group does, in fact, live in a communal setting.

But the similarities end there. No drugs and alcohol are allowed in Twelve Tribes. The women wear modest, baggy attire straight out of 19th-century America. The speakers at the religious services talk repeatedly about end times. And Scripture runs their life.

Begun in 1972 in Chattanooga, Tenn., Twelve Tribes is the brainchild of Elbert Eugene Spriggs, who is still part of the tribe but has never been its spiritual figurehead. Current worldwide membership is about 2,000.

The local Twelve Tribes community ranges in age from 1 to about 60 and consists of seven families and 12 single adults. They live and worship together in two neighboring Manitou Springs homes, and strive to replicate how they believe Christians lived in the first century: chaste, pious, hardworking and living together under the same roof.

Members give up almost all their possessions to be part of the tribe.

“I came into this world with nothing, and that’s how I will leave it,” said 31-year-old Malak Chesed Gould – born Derek Gould – who joined Twelve Tribes a decade ago and is now a community leader.

Twelve Tribes attempts to include every member in decision making, but there is a hierarchy. Each of the communities – 25 in the U.S. and about 25 in other countries – is overseen by in-house leaders, who are overseen by a tribal council in a regional office, who are, in turn, overseen by the Apostolic Council, a fluid number of elders scattered across the U.S.

Communities support themselves through their small businesses, and all profits go into a common pool.

The local Twelve Tribes runs three Manitou Springs businesses: the Maté Factor cafe, the organic-produce store Common Sense Market, and the tree-cutting business Forest Keepers. They don’t proselytize to customers, but if someone inquires about their faith, they will talk about it.

Because Twelve Tribes is a 501 (d) – used by for-profit organizations with a religious purpose and a common treasury – the community pays taxes on its earnings and property. […]

Though Twelve Tribes has sometimes been characterized as a cult, its members say it doesn’t have the negative characteristics often associated with a cult: abuse and mind control.

“We don’t teach abuse,” said Apostolic Council member Eddie Wiseman, who is currently living in the tribe’s community in Purceville, Va. “Our safety net is that we don’t silence people. This has been very effective in keeping the community together. People can also leave the tribe whenever they want.”

Allegations of child abuse have been made against some Twelve Tribes communities, and some people have accused them of mind control, but the faith has never been charged in connection with either. Its biggest blemish occurred in 2001, when two of its businesses in Green County, N.Y., were fined for breaking child labor laws.

However, even a cursory examination of the group’s teachings quickly reveals some serious issues.

Theologically Twelve Tribes is a Cult of Christianity

Theologically, the communal religious movement known as The Twelve Tribes (‘Commonwealth of Israel’), is a cult of Christianity

Sociologically, the movement also exhibits cult-like elements.

Explainer: Cult Definitions

The term ‘cult’ can be defined theologically or sociologically.

To understand the difference, see CultDefinition.com — which provides definitions of the term ‘cult’.

The New England Institute of Religious Research (NEIRR), a countercult organization, has extensively researched this group — examining 20 years worth of the movement’s teachings. 1

NEIRR writes:

High control groups traditionally have “inner and outer” doctrine. The “outer doctrine” is for public consumption and the “inner doctrine” is for the “elect members” of the group. This is not to say that there is necessarily a conflict between the two, however, “inner doctrine” will reflect more clearly the true nature, beliefs and practices of the group.

In the Messianic Communities they have both inner and outer doctrine. Their outer doctrine is the Freepapers and other works they make available to the public and press. Their inner doctrine, which can only be understood if you are under the “anointing,” are the teachings of their self proclaimed “apostle,” Elbert Eugene Spriggs. He is referred to in the group as “Yoneq.”

NEIRR has posted a number of Yoneq’s controversial teachings online.

Another website, Twelve Tribes Teachings – at TwelveTribesTeachings.com – has posted additional material:

This website contains a very abridged version of the hundreds of teachings of The Twelve Tribes. As more material becomes available it will be added.
Here you will also find the complete archives from the years 1994-2004 of the in-house periodical InterTribal News.

This site is offered for educational purposes since none of this information seems to be available on the group’s website: www.twelvetribes.com.

All of the teachings, unless otherwise noted, are written by a man named Eugene Spriggs, also known as Yoneq. Curiously, he is never mentioned on the website either.

High Control and Theologically Deviant

Based on its extensive research into this group, the NEIRR concludes:

Elbert Eugene Spriggs, “Yoneq,” is the key to understanding Messianic Communities and its evolution. His own personal spiritual odyssey has been reflected in the group. Just as a local Church tends to take on the personality of the pastor, for better or for worse, so Messianic Communities has taken on the personality of Spriggs. It is our studied opinion that his influence has been immense over the life, leadership and direction of the Communities. Unfortunately, as time goes on and the group moves further from the original Vine Community Church of Chattanooga days, this influence is more destructive and controlling.

Renowned Christian author, Gene Edwards, wrote a book called Letters to a Devastated Christian. In this book he suggests some guidelines for evaluating groups and leaders. “Does the man who is leading the movement have in his nature a need to control everyone within his environment?” He then goes on to explain that some people have a “psychological flaw” to control. God can break that in a man’s life and then use him. However, “if this need to control remains unbroken in a man, then he will almost always tend towards authoritarianism.” Messianic Communities, under the leadership of Spriggs, has tended towards an extreme authoritarianism.

This group is a classic study of the evolutionary process that occurs when a person rises to a position of leadership, claiming a “direct pipeline” to God and having no accountability. Back in the early 1970’s when the Vine Community Church first began Spriggs had an undisputed authority. However, there was a more “free-wheeling” expression of life and devotion to Christ. The group was then far more orthodox theologically and open to other Christian expressions. Many street people had their first encounter with Jesus through the witness of the Yellow Deli’s, Areopagus, musical band “Salt,” Freepapers, etc. People were allowed more freedom to come and go, express their opinions, dress individually. There was also always the promise to raise up others who would have a shared leadership position with him. This never developed. There are others who have the titles of leadership within the Messianic Communities, however, nobody wields the authority and power that Spriggs does. It is our conclusion that had the Messianic Communities truly been led by a “Responsible Ten” who were accountable to one another and shared in all decision making the group would be radically different and far less controlling.

The primary vehicle of control within the Communities are the “teachings.” Since Spriggs is the source of new doctrines and the standard which measures the truth of any other teachings his influence is singular and absolute. Sociologically, the group has become more controlling over the years and more theologically deviant. A large part of the reason for this is the extreme isolation of the group. People live in community and look and behave alike. People also are not allowed to have any diversity of opinion, and certainly never question the leadership of the “anointing.” They are also cut off from outside intellectual stimulation and challenge. What information is fed to the average Communities member is thoroughly filtered through the narrow lens of Spriggs’ construct of reality. This is not to say that he personally reviews every piece of disseminated literature. However, it is his theological “never, never land” that has a secure and steadied influence over every aspect of Communities life.

That the Messianic Communities “majors in minors” is consistent with the corrosive effect that occurs in groups where members essentially abdicate all the decision making power in their lives to those in “authority over them.” Major concerns for Communities members now consist of the “correct” name of Jesus, beards, ponytails, Sus pants, head coverings, complete obedience to authority, establishing 12 tribes, dietary restrictions, name changes, Sabbath keeping, etc. This appears to be Phariseeism. The Gospel of Jesus Christ should set a person free. However, people in Messianic Communities become increasingly weighed down with an ever expanding number of rules and regulations that demand strict adherence. To deviate from these regulations is to be “cut-off” from the “Body” and potentially be sent away. This is analogous to being damned. This is all managed with the greatest sincerity. Our initial reactions, when we had the privilege to visit various Communities, were only positive. We have met many, many fine people who have given up their lives to Messianic Communities. Thus, upon first exposure to the group there does appear to be a love that is demonstrated in a way not often found in Christianity. However, there is a seamier side to Communities life. The devastation in most ex-member’s lives, and the teachings of Spriggs, evidence a litany of spiritual and emotional abuse. In their zeal to “forsake all for Yahshua” it is, in reality, a forsaking all for the Communities. This is because the members commitment to Messianic Communities is their commitment to God. This is a common confusion that often occurs in high control groups.

In our opinion, Messianic Communities is essentially a Galatian heresy. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he is deeply concerned about those who would once again reestablish the Law as a means of pleasing God. Paul asks them in Galatians 4:9-11,

“But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.”

This question must also be answered by Spriggs and Messianic Communities. In their zeal to serve the Lord people are once again enslaved, and tragically, in His name.

Twelve Tribes: Pro-Segregation

The Twelve Tribes’ offbeat and un-Biblical theology is evident in all its teachings, including its views on segregation, globalism, and multiculturalism:

The Creator of all mankind didn’t want the nations and the races of earth to come together. That is why He divided their languages at the tower of Babel. He saw that they were not maintaining the boundaries of conscience and would need further boundaries to keep them from destroying themselves. Therefore He separated them into nations to become distinct races and cultures. By themselves, they would have a better chance to hear the voice of their conscience and the voice of creation speaking to them. Through this, it was possible for them to see their need for their Creator and find a way back to Him.[…]

Nations have to impose laws and sanctions in order to keep order in a multicultural society. Multiculturalism pressures people to cross boundaries that go beyond the realm of natural law, coercing them to be one with a neighbor that doesn’t even speak their language or have their culture. It goes beyond the realm of how God wanted people to live in separate nations for their own welfare and safety.

Multiculturalism increases murder, crime, and prejudice. It goes against the way man is. It places impossible demands on people to love others who are culturally and racially different. This is unnatural — it forces people to go against their instinctive knowledge, like trying to love sodomites. They are told, “You can’t discriminate.” Although discrimination is viewed as an evil sin, it is still within a person’s prerogative (right) to segregate himself.

If the human race had remained united during the era of the Tower of Babel, then globalization would have resulted sooner. The leaders of that generation would have seized the reins of history and there would have been no end to their rebellion against God. Just as back then, globalization today is the proud attempt to displace and exclude the Kingdom of God. It is a satanic attempt to take over the earth in a unified one-world government.

Compromising the Gospel of Grace

Bruce J Lieske, founder of Lutherans in Jewish Evangelism, writes:

The group Twelve Tribes … has a core teaching of unity, as expressed in its name, which is taken from Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa (Acts 26:7). According to their Web site’s “Who We Are” page, “We are a spiritual brotherhood whose love for one another stretches across the boundaries of nationality, race, and culture…. We sometimes speak of ourselves as Messianic communities, for we live in the hope of Messiah and are being made ready for Him.“

I phoned their toll-free number (888-893-5838) and spoke with one of the members. He said their identity and heritage is Jewish and that one or two of the leaders are Jewish.

Their doctrinal statements appear to be Trinitarian. The Messiah is Yahshua (a.k.a. “Jesus” by denominational churches), who is eternal Creator, the Son of God, who lived a sinless life for us, died for our sins, and was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit. The call for a holy life appears to be gospel-motivated: “It is out of love for Him who first loved us that we live as we do, no longer for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again for us (2 Cor. 5:14–15).”

As with many exclusivist sects, their emphasis on unity seems to be on their terms only. They teach that communal living is an essential feature of Christian faith, and there is a high degree of antidenominationalism in their literature.

Yet it is their view of man’s eternal destiny that casts the biggest shadow of heterodoxy on this group. Their exegesis of Matthew 25:31–40 portrays three categories of humankind: the wicked (the “goats,” cast into the lake of fire), the non-Christian righteous (the “sheep” who will have a kingdom based on their merits), and Yahshua’s brothers (the Holy City has been prepared for them).32 This teaching on eternal destiny distorts Scripture, adding a category that is not there, teaching the heresy of justification by works for the second group, and possibly blunting attempts to share the gospel — if we decide that we are speaking to one of the “sheep” of Matthew 25:31–46. And if Jesus Himself said that these righteous “sheep” have eternal life, why should they bother to trust the Messiah? The Twelve Tribes’s exegesis of this passage fatally compromises the gospel of grace.

Videos about Twelve Tribes

Cults and Extreme Belief – A&E: Twelve Tribes

This episode covers the Twelve Tribes. It includes an interview with former Twelve Tribes member Samie Brosseau. Features cult experts Bob Pardon and Stephen kent.

Cults and Extreme Belief (Twelve Tribes) 6of7
Cults and Extreme Beliefs (A&E) episode on the Twelve Tribes

Cult Expert Steven Hassan interviews former Twelve Tribes Leader

Roger Griffin, former leader and 20 year member of "Twelve Tribes” Authoritarian Cult
Cult expert Steven Hassan interviews former Twelve Tribes leader Roger Griffin. See also this article, in which Griffin applies Hassan’s BITE Model of Authoritarian Control to the Twelve Tribes

Former Twelve Tribes members speak out

Michael Painter was in the Communities for 18 years and started many of the Communities’ “cottage industries.” James Howell was Spriggs’ personal secretary for over a decade.

The Twelve Tribes  MP and JH Video Interviews 1/18
Interview with former Twelve Tribes members
Twelve Tribes MP and JH Video Interviews 2/18
Part 2 of an interview with ex-Twelve Tribes members

This interview has 16 additional videos.

Research Resources on Twelve Tribes

See “About These Resources” to understand why and how these resources were selected

Articles

Beyond Cult Controversy: The Mate Peddlers of the Twelve Tribes The Reader, March 10, 2012

Children of the Tribes: “In this country, we celebrate the First Amendment, which prevents the government from interfering with religious beliefs and practices. But what if those beliefs and practices make children suffer?” Julie Scheeres, Pacific Standard, September 1, 2015. Excellent article that provides a good introduction to the group’s history, controversial teachings and practices. The focus is on the Twelve Tribes’ emphasis on spanking children for a wide variety of ‘offenses.’

The Tribes continues to be dogged by negative press in England, Spain, and Australia, but the biggest blow to the group came in Germany, where corporal punishment is illegal. In 2013, a reporter for RTL Television infiltrated one of the sect’s communes and, over a two-day period, secretly filmed 50 instances of adults spanking children, including one small girl whose offense was refusing to say, “I’m tired.” After the footage aired, police seized 40 children and placed them in foster care, where most of them remain today. In France, a few months ago, a police raid of a Tribes community led to social workers rescuing four small children whose bodies bore evidence of recent beatings.

Shuah and her siblings are bewildered that the authorities have not taken similar action in this country. Despite the media expose´s that Noah triggered, Tribes members who have left the group in the years since have claimed that the Tribes continues to beat children, exploit them as free workers, and deny them access to education and modern medicine. “Where do our human rights as children begin and their religious rights end?” Shuah asked me during our time together.Click here to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.
“Children of the Tribes”

The Doomsday Prophets on Main Street by Christopher Dreher, Boston Globe, Oct. 23, 2005

Massachusetts has long been fertile ground for religious sects like Twelve Tribes. The group has already settled in Plymouth, Dorchester, Hyannis, and Athol. Newton, Wellesley, and Harvard Square may be next for a group that requires members to give up their possessions, follow the Bible word-for-word, and prepare for the end of the world. They may be coming to your street next – and might just be the friendliest neighbors you’ve ever had.

“The Doomsday Prophets on Main Street”

Here’s How the “Twelve Tribes” Cult Recruits and Retains Members, by Sinasta Colucci, author of Better Than a Turkish Prison: What I Learned from Life in a Religious Cult. Colucci, who currently identifies as an atheist, was a member of the Twelve Tribes cult for almost 8 years. See also his video, What I Currently Believe about the Gospel of the Twelve Tribes

Groups like the 12 Tribes love to implore you to “focus on the positive” and overlook the group’s many flaws. But the trick here, for them, is to do the exact opposite. While your attention is directed towards all the good qualities of the group: “Look! We all love each other! We live together! We all agree! Only the Holy Spirit could create the abundant life we have here!” Meanwhile, in order to divert your criticism away from the group, hopefully distracting you enough so that you won’t notice all their glaringly obvious faults, they will criticize other groups. It may sound funny, but the 12 Tribes’ main target is Christianity. They love to point out all the hypocrisy within mainstream Christianity, which is something that is easy to do, but the 12 Tribes themselves are a biblically-based cult, using the same holy book that mainstream Christians use (and many of the same recruiting tactics).
Sinasta Colucci

Into Darkness: Inside an American white supremacist cult. Intelligence Report, Summer 2018, Southern Poverty Law Center

The Twelve Tribes, a Christian fundamentalist cult born in the American South in the 1970s, is little-known to much of the country, and on first impression its communes and hippie-vibed restaurants and cafes can seem quaint and bucolic. But beneath the surface lies a tangle of doctrine that teaches its followers that slavery was “a marvelous opportunity” for black people, who are deemed by the Bible to be servants of whites, and that homosexuals deserve no less than death.

While homosexuals are shunned by the Twelve Tribes (though ex-members say the group brags about unnamed members who are “formerly” gay), the group actively proselytizes to African Americans, yet one of its black leaders glorifies the early Ku Klux Klan.

The Twelve Tribes tries to keep its extremist teachings on race from novice members and outsiders, but former members and experts on fringe religious movements who’ve helped its followers escape paint a dark picture of life in the group’s monastic communities — especially for black members, who must reconcile the appalling teachings on race with their own heritage and skin color.
Intelligence Report, Summer 2018, SPLC

This Woman Was Raised By a Notorious Cult. Here’s How She Finally Got Away. By Kirstin Kelley, GOOD Literacy Project, March 15, 2016

Shuah Jones is an ex-member of the Twelve Tribes; her father was a founding member, helping to launch the group in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1972. Today, the organization has compounds all over America and in several countries around the world. A 28-year-old insurance agent based in Florida, today Jones offers informal support to other former members of the cult, which she escaped when she was only 15 years old.

“This Woman was Raised by a Notorious Cult”

Twelve Tribes, a blog post by Sarah Harvey, on the website of the Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements (CenSAMM). A helpful article, written from a secular, academic perspective. It provides a readable overview of the central teachings of the Twelve Tribes.

Sarah Harvey is the Senior Research Officer at Inform and the co-editor of two books in the Routledge-Inform book series: Prophecy in the New Millennium: When Prophecies Persist (2013, with Suzanne Newcombe) and New Religious Movements and Counselling: Academic, Professional and Personal Perspectives (2017, with Silke Steidinger and James Beckford).

What is the significance of the Twelve Tribes teachings on child-rearing and communal living for a blog on millennial beliefs? Members stress that through their communal lifestyle, they are living as true disciples of the Son of God, Yahshua. The sharing of all things in common, the purposeful cultivation of unselfishness, and the raising of children in ‘loving discipline’ (…), are demonstrations of their love for Yahshua and one another. ‘The Tribes understand their community to be the “body of the Messiah,” the physical manifestation of Yahshua’s love on earth’ (Palmer 2015). () It is this embodied lifestyle which marks them as true disciples of Yahshua. And it is this distinctiveness which will allow Yahshua to recognise them on His return. As the sociologist Torang Asadi writes, the Tribes’ distinctive culture ‘serves the theological position that Yahshua will be able to tell TT members apart from others in the End of Days’ (2013: 153). For, above all else, the Twelve Tribes are a millennial movement, ‘building a nation together’ (). The moral and physical decline of current society, evidenced in environmental crisis and the breakdown of the family, amongst other things are, according to the Twelve Tribes, signs of the coming End Time.
Sarah Harvey, CenSAMM. (…) = links to Twelve Tribes website removed.

The Twelve Tribes: Preparing the Bride for Yahshua’s Return, by Susan J. Palmer. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions Vol. 13, No. 3 (February 2010), pp. 59-80. Preview only. The full article will set you back $22.

Mind you, many cult watchers and cult experts consider Palmer to be a cult defender.

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Make an informed decision:

CultExperts.org

Blogs

Ithacans Opposed to the Twelve Tribes Cult [Contra] “Promoting a boycott of the Maté Factor restaurant on the Ithaca Commons and raising awareness about the beliefs and practices of the Twelve Tribes religious cult”

Yoneq and The Twelve Tribes [Contra] “Dedicated to educate anyone who will listen to what is really behind the curtains of the Twelve Tribes.”

Books

Better Than a Turkish Prison: What I Learned from Life in a Religious Cult By Sinasta Colucci. (See this article)

Better Than a Turkish Prison is the true story of a needy young man who encounters a religious cult known as “The Twelve Tribes”. With no better options in sight, he decides to join them in their pursuit to build the kingdom of God on Earth. After years of brainwashing and servitude, he must break free from a powerful delusion in his search for freedom and truth. Not merely a deeply personal portrayal of one man’s struggles, this book also serves as a critical analysis of religious ideals and their effects on humanity as the author divulges his presently held beliefs.
Book description at Amazon.com

Encyclopedia / Profiles

Twelve Tribes Communities Wikipedia. As always, do not use Wikipedia as a primary resources. The entries can be (and are) edited by anyone, friend or foe.

News and News Archive

Twelve Tribes in the news, Religion News Blog (An archive of news articles until December, 2016).

Note: some older news articles on the Twelve Tribes, up to January, 2002, are located in another archive.

Podcast

Coffee and Cults: Episode 28: Twelve Tribes Part 1 and Part 2. On SoundCloud: “Every month, Sam and Jon meet up, drink coffee and talk to each other about Cults.”

Videos about Twelve Tribes

See also these videos

Inside Australia’s secretive Twelve Tribes “A Current Affair” TV show looks at the Australian Twelve Tribes group and speaks to some of its former members.

Inside the world of a cult “A look inside one of Australia’s largest cult, and how it tore this woman’s family apart.” Studio 10 (Australia) interview with former member Rosemary Ilich.

What drove religious elder to leave controversial cult? Preview of an episode of Australia’s “A Current Affair.” With former Twelve Tribes leader Chen Czarnecki.

Why I joined the Twelve Tribes community/cult! How I was drawn in. “I was in the Twelve Tribes cult for 8 years! I learned so much while I was there, and even more since I’ve been out!” See also here video, “Is it easy to leave the Twelve Tribes cult/community?

The Yellow Deli People A 7-minute documentary on the Twelve Tribes commune located in Oneonta, New York. It was produced by students, for an advanced documentary production class at SUNY Oneonta.

Check out some of the comments underneath the video. For instance, Neil Muzychko writes:

I’m actually the guy playing flute in this video. I lived with them for 9 years total in different locations across the East Coast, they are extremely mentally abusive and they take advantage of young people in hard spots in life. They make their people work at these deli’s without pay for 10, 12 plus hours at a time. To join them you are required to give them “all of your possessions” ( Yes literally everything that you have right down to the last penny in your savings), and if you choose to leave you do so with nothing but the shirt on your back. You can’t learn anything besides the bible so you have no real skills so you are stuck there unless you are prepared to suffer greatly. It’s been a little over 3 years but I still feel deeply damaged by these people. I advise you to keep your distance from them.
Neil Muzychko

Rod Taylor says:

I myself & my friend escaped the 12 tribes in NY. They made everything sound wonderful when the “walkers” met us. They did a complete 360 on us and was trying to use us against each other.
Rod Taylor

The “walkers” Taylor mentions are Twelve Tribes’ wandering missionaries. The group’s own website says:

Each community will send out a pair of walkers. They go out without money, phones, or credit cards. Praying to be led by holy angels to just the right place and just the right people, the team might take a ride with someone, they might walk along for miles, or they might help out a person in need. Sometimes people even feed them, or give them a place to stay for the night. If you see a pair of walkers with backpacks on, take a few minutes and talk to them. It could change your life!
Caution! Link leads to this cult’s official website.

Twelve Tribes also spreads its message (and recruits followers) via its Freepaper, a restored sailing ship (Peacemaker Marine), two custom PD-4501 Senicruiser buses (Peacemaker I and II), and its Yellow Deli restaurants. The group is well-known for its attendance at concerts and festivals, such as Grateful Dead or Phish concerts.

Websites

Question 12 Tribes: Working Together To Prevent Child Abuse [Contra] Extensive collection of information and documentation. This site does include some posts labeled “From a Christian perspective

Twelve Tribes [Official website, via the Wayback Machine]

Twelve Tribes [Contra] Research into the Twelve Tribes’ teachings and practices. A study by the New England Institute of Religious Research Includes Yoneq’s angry response. In a guest commentary for the Ithica Community News, John Sullivan explains:

Our objections to Spriggs and the Twelve Tribes are two-fold and have nothing to do with their beliefs about who they are, about God, and about an approaching apocalypse. Firstly, we object to their promotion of racist doctrines that have a long history of hurting people, doctrines that are in fact at the root of the greatest modern crimes against humanity. Secondly, we object to their exploitation of young adults and, most disturbingly, to their advocacy of child mistreatment.

NEIRR investigation of Twelve Tribes

Twelve Tribes-Ex [Contra] “to help Parents and others affected by the Twelve Tribe’s Cult.” Includes testimonies of ex-members. [Archived at the Wayback Machine]

About this article

This article was last updated on January 8, 2022. We have reformatted the post, slightly edited it for clarity, and updated all the links. Many research resources are now found only in the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.

It was again updated on Sunday, January 9, 2022 to include additional video links.


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Notes:

  1. NEIRR is currently known as MeadowHaven — a refuge for former members of high control, destructive groups to rest, heal, and grow.

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Category: Twelve Tribes
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First published (or major update) on Saturday, January 8, 2022.
Last updated on April 22, 2024.

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