Autumn Leaves - Adventist Sect - Cult or Not?
Posted by: FormerSDA ()
Date: July 13, 2012 10:53PM

Hi everyone,

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.

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Re: Autumn Leaves - Adventist Sect - Cult or Not?
Posted by: SDA1 ()
Date: September 06, 2012 03:34PM

Hi Former SDA,
I am really sorry to hear your story. Sadly by the sounds of it you are not alone with this.
I myself have some knowledge of the Autumn Leaves ministry which you speak of. Some of the points you raise and other points I know of myself do tend towards cult like aspects. However, I think that maybe the followers themselves rather than the leaders are the ones that have personalities which have cult like tendencies. I take it you are a younger person like myself. Going through experiences like this are not nice.
As far as I am aware there are no official intervention meetings but I know of some situations which looked like it (was arranged by parents not by the ministry leaders).
The reaction received by yourself when you left Adventism i.e. the name calling etc does have the tone about it like you hear on documentaries about those leaving cults. However, if this was not directed at you from leaders of the ministry then I would say it is the followers with some big issues and faults themselves. Some things with this ministry definitely seem unhealthy.
I guess in conclusion I don't believe it is a cult but I believe a lot of personal improvement is required by followers (and leaders) so that we no longer hear of stories like yours. All the best and I am happy to chat to you more on this if you would like.
Regards SDA1

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Re: Autumn Leaves - Adventist Sect - Cult or Not?
Posted by: FormerSDA ()
Date: October 31, 2012 09:16PM

Some knowledge... the way you write, you seem to be a leader of the Autumn Leaves sect.

SDA1, you cannot wash your hands of what your sect has done. Why do you think these members do things like this? Because you have an exclusive group that you keep exclusive. Why do you think that Doug was kicked out of the adventist church? He was accepting tithe and he was arguing for ideas that are very unhealthy.

[www.youthbiblecamp.tk]

This is what you do to your youth. You send them to this. Their only friends and family are adventists - and Autumn Leaves adventists, at that. What happens when they no longer decide that your theology is correct?

Well, firstly the church will write some literature that will falsely claim that the reason that they (and the youth) are leaving, is because they want to join "the world", because it is "appealing". In this literature, you will never acknowledge that the reason they would leave is because they simply do not believe it anymore because it makes no sense.

Then the dissenter has few options available to them. Their entire social support network is adventist. They will forever be an outsider once they leave, for obvious reasons, and treated that way too. So they cannot leave, because from birth to adulthood their lives have been adventists (why would light mix with darkness) since their parents sent them to Youth Bible Camp instead of to a normal school to make friends with other people, or to boy scouts.

Lets say they try to make friends outside of this circle... good luck. Most people I met in Youth Bible Camp were socially not prepared for "the world" because of the closed environment they grew up in. The girls were the worst since your theology and way of life practically repressed them. So it is very hard to socially reach out when your social growth is stunted, because you grew up in a adventist bubble.

So lets say you manage to make social connections on the outside, and you have enough of a support network to pyschologically sustain you on the outside. It is incredibly difficult to leave behind your family (isnce you are a 3rd generation adventist) and friends. Perhaps you can visit/see them once the shock/tears/sadness of you leaving to them has worn off. But it will never be the same again. They are now part of "the world" you took so much time to painfully demonize to them as children. Now the children have become what their parents demonized to them, warned them about. They as basically rejected from their family; let alone the horrific interventions.

Most Autumn Leaves followers have no chance. Most youth from mainstream conservative adventism have no chance to survive the transition in a healthy way. Your exclusive nature ruins them.

Of course adventism will never change because it inheriently believes that there are good reasons behind all of it, since you are the chosen remnant.

There is no hope, really.

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Re: Autumn Leaves - Adventist Sect - Cult or Not?
Posted by: FormerSDA ()
Date: October 31, 2012 09:19PM

I would also like to say SDA1 that if you are not part of the leadership then I am sorry that I directed my post towards you. You say that you do not think the ministry seems healthy. What do you think is unhealthy about it?

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Re: Autumn Leaves - Adventist Sect - Cult or Not?
Posted by: magnocrat ()
Date: September 01, 2016 11:14PM

I don't think there is any doubt about that the group you describe is a cult. My reason is simple : when a family rejects its own flesh and blood they have been brainwashed. Mothers whose sons are a bad lot and commit murder are often still loved by them. Those who become drug addicts are loved and consoled by their families. The close family are a small tribe who belong together.
Christianity itself does try to break family bonds did not Jesus say 'who is my mother who is my father etc.

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Re: Autumn Leaves
Posted by: 334kti ()
Date: December 07, 2017 09:03AM

The answer to the topic question is an easy one once the organisation is compared with the definition on this site of what a cult is. It clearly does not fit any of the three key criteria or get anywhere near them.

Autumn Leaves is a service and resource organisation with no membership, followers or control. It is a charity who reaches out to others and one of the keys ideals is in fact free choice.

It seems that FormerSDA has had a difficult transition within their home with parents that had ideals for their daughter which she grew to disagree with. This is always unfortunate and each family deals with these situations differently. This emotional battle has lead to her searching for her own path in life which is something we all must do at different stages.

This girl was been confronted by her personal development and lashed out a little on her parents religion (Seventh-day Adventist) and organisations which her parents have connected with (Autumn Leaves).

We all may change our direction and disagree with our parents and others but we must be careful to not try to bag them into cults or power controllers when that is quite unlikely. We are always quick to look down on others and jump to conclusions when we have very little information. The definitive comment by Magnocrat above highlights this.

Unfortunately the OP has made many erroneous statements above and her unfortunate reply to another forum member who was trying to have some input, sheds a little light on the personal battle she was working through at the time. Note that none of the apparent accusations are founded on anything.

These types of comments, although regrettable later, left on the internet can put a negative slant on something that is actually doing a good work in the community.

If you want to learn something regarding this or other organisations let's just make sure we don't go by hearsay.

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