I would like some thoughts on a sect of Adventism, Autumn Leaves
. It is based in Canterbury, New Zealand.
If you look at the website, you will see that it doesn't say that it is adventist. That is no surprise. The conservative adventist church likes to trick people into coming to prophecy meetings. For instance, take what the entire South Pacific devision (the South Island of NZ leaders) do; they will hold "health seminars". They will advertise is like a normal health program. They will not mention anywhere it is SDA, or even remotely religious. They will then talk about health for weeks. Then they will switch and now suddenly talk about how not only does your body need to be healthy, but you need to be healthy spiritually too. They will then start talking about adventism, and introducing people to adventist anti-catholic prophecy, the sabbath, health food laws etc. This costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it all comes from donations from the SDA church members. So, if the mainstream adventist church does that in New Zealand, you can only imagine that an adventist sect doesn't want to talk about who they are!
Now, I know that it has been discussed on here, and the conclusion is that it is not a cult, but that various areas will be more destructive than others. I would like peoples thoughts on Autumn Leaves. I will try to explain a little more about them.
> The leader, Doug Hurley, is soft-spoken but very judgemental. He is not very charismatic. I do not know how much of the sect relies upon him persay or not.
> He created this so-called "ministry" to band together all of the concerned-breatheren SDA members who felt the church wasn't strict enough.
> There is no formal leadership. You unofficially basically become a member by attending their meetings, donating and generally associating with them.
> They restrict and avoid becoming friends with anyone that is not in their inner-cicle. They certainly don't marry outside of their inner-circle. A mainstream SDA minister that follows church rules actually can't marry an SDA member to a non-SDA member.
> I do not know if there are official "intervention" meetings. But members of the sect do it amoungst themselves. My parents were quasi-members. When they found out through reading my private emails that I no longer believed in SDAism, they held a family intervention meeting. They took me to the living room, and everyone sat around me in a semi-circle and confronted me about what I wrote, and demanded to know if I was still an SDA or not. I lived at home at the time and I was terrified to tell the truth and so I lied.
> They are really strict. At their camps for the longest time girls couldn't wear pants. They can now wear very loose-fitting pants like track pants. Jeans are not allowed. Skirts have to be knee length minimum. Jewlery is absolutely forbidden. Some go as far as to not wear wedding rings - my parents almost kicked my teenage sister out of home because she got earrings.
> They are also really strict with food. There is a hieracy. At the top are vegans, then vegetarians, then finally meat eaters. Eating unclean meat is not acceptable under any terms. If I was ever caught eating unclean meat, I was shamed for it. People who brought meat to potluck lunches were shunned and whispered about.
> Members of Autumn Leaves for a long time paid their tithe to Doug. He got kicked out of the church because of this. He has since returned and he regularly attends Ilam Church, the biggest SDA church in Christchurch (the second biggest city in NZ). He is a very big member and holds a lot of meetings.
> Some of the members have been planning, for awhile now, to move waaaay out into the rural areas and live apart from society for good so that they don't have to mix with "the world". Most of the "members" live way out in the country anyway.
> They are really judgemental of non-members. Everyone else is referred to as "the world", "worldly" as though it was bad. When I left the church I was shocked to find out that in normal society, being "worldly" is usually considered a good thing, haha!
> Ellen G White is talked about a lot! She is quoted at least double the amount the Bible is. I do not know if it is written down anywhere, but it is at least acknowledged all the time by members that EGW is just as important and just as infalliable as the Bible. She is equal; in some ways she goes above-and-beyond because again... she is quoted way more than the Bible is.
> No one stops you from leaving. But I found it hard to leave. I found it hard to believe because people would place pressure upon me while I was still converted to stay within the church. For instance, my father would say to me "as long as you stay within the church, I will be happy. If you leave, I have failed at life." We would have long prayers for people that had left, and people (and my parents) would talk about how sad and gut-wrenching it must be for the parents. When I left I was so scared that people would come and pressure me to re-join that I didn't go home to MY house for 5 days. My mother would ring around trying to get ahold of me.
> When I left, I was told all sorts of things. I was told that I was a "whore", that "satan had gripped me" and that I was "evil" etc etc. My sister told me that I could no longer be a member of the family like I had been, because their entire life was adventism and I no longer shared it. Throughout my time as an adventist, I heard over and over again that people on the outside "don't understand us" as we are the "chosen remnant" and therefore we will always be connected to each other in a way that we could not with others.
> I have seen a lot of abuse go on that has been covered up by members of the church, especially those involved in some way in Autumn Leaves. My older sister would physically beat me (I am female and of much smaller frame) and my family would insist that we "keep it within the family". I know of others who have suffered much worse abuse.
> For some reason, I was really scared to leave. To leave, I had to do it in multiple phases. Phase 1, I left home. Phase 2, I left the church. I did this over the period of about 8 months. I finally broke down and told my mother I was no longer an adventist when she kept calling me over and over (I was ignoring her calls) because she was suspicious because I told her I didn't want to go to a prophecy meeting (there were like, 4 in a week). I was scared about being shunned by my family.
It is really strange. Because we weren't living in some big house or anything. I didn't have a leader breathnig down my neck. Instead, our beliefs basically created an environment where people would do that to each other. It was so awful to not be an adventist since being an adventist is the only way to salvation (once you have heard the beliefs, and even then a lot of these adventists think people she inheriently know these "truths") that people who didn't believe that were, by necessity, shunned. It was just so conservative and so extreme. Is this just an unhealthy church? What do you think it is? The scary thing is that Autumn Leaves used to be looked down upon as adventists as a cult. Now the leaders go to mainstream churches and run events there. I don't think they are official members but they are treated like that. I am not sure what it was.