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Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Ohio ()
Date: August 02, 2005 06:05AM

I have a friend who recently went to Wales to study abroad. She found a church there and has completely changed, saying her former bible studies were 'groups of little faith' etc. I'm familiar with the signs of cultic/abusive churches and I think this one fits the description, however I'm not sure and don't want to jump to any conclusions before I speak with her. Does anyone have any information about this group?

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Clive ()
Date: August 31, 2010 10:43PM

I have been to a summer camp ran by Struthers Memorial Church and several of my family are members of it.

Many things trouble me about this church. Firstly it is heavily woman led. Even if one were to have no objections to the idea of female leadership, pastors and preaching and teaching by women, it is a fact that in the Struthers group there seems to be a definite bias towards women leaders. Currently the leader is a woman.

I reckon there are at the least three “satellite churches” belonging to this group that have women pastors. It is based i understand in the history of the church. A woman - “Miss Taylor” was a founder and while alive it appears the the church regarded her as being heavily “anointed”.

When I was at the camp and asked why there seemed to be such a female bias and, as an evangelical, naturally raised my concerns about why they as a pentecostal church claiming to be evangelicals I was given this answer: They “comply” with scriptural teaching because they have a man providing the “teaching” and leadership ( ie “head” as in the letters of Paul ) roles, the women merely give “talks” and "laying on of hands” and so on.

However since the death of their male leader Hugh Black, the church is now led by a woman and as stated before, many of their sister churches and groups are totally led and taught by women pastors. When I suggested recently that this conflicts with what other evangelical and pentecostal churches teach, i was given a new “rationalisation” about how this is still scriptural. Basically it boiled down to the fact that in the Epistles, Paul uses the “I” word when giving the command for women not to be allowed to teach. Thus Struthers members appear to use the excuse that since Paul specifically states that this admonition comes from Paul personally and NOT the Lord himself, then they as a church are free to choose not to implement that command. This reasoning seems to me to be suspect and a case of special pleading designed merely to allow the Struthers church to carry on adopting its idiosynchratic approach to pentecostalism. This is worrying especcially considering that on other matters this church is staunchly fundamentalist.

My second concern with this church is its heavy emphasis on its leaders. Although it is not unusual the believers tend to flock to churches specifically because of a certain individual being the pastor, in the Struthers movement this is taken to an unhealthy level.

My third and last worry about this church is that as part of its overt focus on “Holiness”, members and particularly children are groomed to consider other churches and christians, not to mention the “world outside” to be considered less spiritual, committed, mature etc.

Many cults will used the supposed “shunning” of sin and the “world” as a device to “lock-in” their followers to their own sect. Athough admonitions to live pure lives and avoid the “world” are found throughout scripture, the Struthers group takes this to dangerous levels - so for example it is often implicitly if not explicitly taught that its members should avoid contact with the media, newspapers, television, and the creative industry because of its worldy corruption.

Whether this qualifies as a true cult depends of course on how one defines a cult, but the above, coupled with a general feeling that Struthers Church members and its teachers themselves often feel no qualms about claiming that their church is somehow “special” and superior ( for example in terms of supposed "anointing”, “holiness” and commitment ) suggest that there is an implicit exhortation on its members NOT to consider any alternatives outside of this movement. It is a common tactic of cults to paint any doubts or objections my their members about the sect itself ( or its teaching ) as a sign that the member raising the objection is somehow at fault spiritually, rather than merely raising valid concerns. Such sects often couch such criticisms about their sect or leadership as “attacks fro the devil” and simply and aspect of their “spiritual warfare”.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: CovLass ()
Date: October 05, 2010 08:04AM

Hi Clive

Yes Ive had some very negative experiences of Struthers Memorial Church. Its a long story bit I'll try to bring out the main points here. It began by meeting a friend who went there, first online and then we develpoed the freindship in real life. She spoke about how the church was really 'anointed' and how holiness was a major focus for them. My first experience was summer bible camp and then a meeting at the Cumbernauld church. Here the pastor preached on holiness and staring into the congregation and Im sure at me shouted "Would you like me to reveal all of your sins to everyone here? I could do it you know."

Looking back now so much of this shouldve been warning signs but I was searching for a deepening relationshio with God and I guess I was blinded. In November of 2007 I moved to Cumbernauld and attended the church. It wasnt long before I started to notice certain things that caused me to question. Members would think nothing of asking permission to do all sorts of things we take for granted. Applying for certain jobs, taking holidays, moving house, even missing meetings in order to go for a meal with visiting family. When you questioned you were told the pastor had the best interest of the church members at heart and had been given that responsibilty by God and who were we to question that.

One of the most alarming times was when a young girl aged may 7 or 8 was dragged out of the meeting by the pastor during the time of worship. I have no idea what the poor kid did but she had to remain outside on her own for the rest of the meeting then her parents made her apologise to the pastor when the meeting was done.

Finally after me being there ust 6 weeks and not really knowing anyone else but my friend, she was told she wasnt allowed to talk to me or have anything to do with me. We werent even allowed to acknowledge one another in church. When I asked why I was told it was because I was unclean and sinful and needed major deliverance ministry. I asked for clarification as to how I was unclean as I certainly wasnt livng an unclean life. The answer I got was that she discerned it spiritually. Once agin questioning was forbidden. I was devastated by what happened and quickly sunk into depression, I even momentarily considered suicide. When I went to the pastor for help she told me that if she offered me sympathy it would be know good for me.

Thankfully I had some good friends, good church leaders back home and a good grounding in the bible and I got out of there. I aslo found out that I was by no means the only one and local ministers were quite concerned by the church. Many were afraid to leave because of the teaching that many members of others churches werent truly saved and were likely to go to hell. Leaving the church was seen as walking away from God and thus walking into the devils arms.

I have much more I could say about this but suffice to say they are dangerous people. It nearly cost me my faith and my life. It still bothers me some of the stuff they said to me, but what bothers me more is those who are affected by this, getting hurt and destroyed and possibly being turned off God for life.

I really hope this helps anyone. Im new to this forum so not sure how anything works but if people want to know more please respond to this and I will do my best to help

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Clive ()
Date: October 06, 2010 07:37AM

Quote
CovLass

...she was told she wasnt allowed to talk to me or have anything to do with me. We werent even allowed to acknowledge one another in church. ... Once again questioning was forbidden.... I was devastated by what happened and quickly sunk into depression, I even momentarily considered suicide. When I went to the pastor for help she told me that if she offered me sympathy it would be no good for me.

....... I aslo found out that I was by no means the only one and local ministers were quite concerned by the church. Many were afraid to leave because of the teaching that many members of others churches werent truly saved and were likely to go to hell.

... suffice to say they are dangerous people. It nearly cost me my faith and my life.

Hi Cov-lass,

Thank you for sharing all this.

I have to say, your experience makes me even more suspicious of Struthers Memorial.
The way they treated you - after they spotted signs you weren’t going to be “one of them” reminds me of some of the reports one hears about the Scientology Cult, and yet the Struthers Church is a pentecostal church and not something normally thought of as a cult.

How did you feel about the ( to my mind ) suspiciously high percentage of female pastors ? Im not against the idea of women in pastoral roles per se, but considering Struthers is in most other ways very strictly conservative and evangelical in its doctriine i find it highly dubious as to why on the subject of women they deviate form the standard “strict” conservative position. Strikes me as a little hypocritical.

If you can elaborate in any way on what you’ve already said, it might help others muster up the strength to also share their stories and even muster up the strength to leave. Fear plays a large part of why people in these types of cults never leave even if they have doubts.

I hope you are ok now.

Take Care

Clive.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: CovLass ()
Date: October 11, 2010 04:42AM

Hi Clive

There are so many negative experiences and worrying things that happened in Struthers in such a small space of time. I guess one of the biggest things was how scripture and preaching from the pulpit was used to intimidate people. It was often used as a ploy for fear. The pastor at the cumbernauld church would often say stuff like "I know there are people here who have spoken against me. I know who you are and what youve said and so does God. He knows and he has told me and he will bring judgement on you."

I mentioned my experience of the "threat" of her saying she could expose all someones secret sins to the whole congregation if she wanted to. Even if she had some kind of prophetic ability and was able, what kind of person holds someone to ransom over revealing someones deepest darkest secrets to the whole congregation. I currently have a very close Christian friend and we decided to hold each other accountable. I know stuff about her that I wouldnt tell anyone. I would never dream of threatening her with the information I have in order to get her to do as I want or to be afraid of ever speaking out against me.

That brings me to another point they were heavy on. When you joined the church you were 'encouraged' to tell the leadership everything you did wrong before you came to that church. So. if you ever used to go out drinking or took drugs, if you slept around, struggled with pornography or did anything that wasn't up to their high standard you were supposed to confess it to the leaders. The result of this was you more than likely needed 'ministry' as you had opened yourself up to demonic forces and therefore needed deliverance. In many cases, even if they suspected something about you and you denied it they would still say you had a problem with it. In my case I was asked if I had ever had a lesbian relationship. I never have and never want to. I dont wish to offend anyone here but I see that kind of relationship as an abomination to God and it doesnt even interest me in the slightest.

However when I was asked about this, even after I told her I never had that kind of a relationship or felt that way about other women I was told that she discerned it anyway so it must be there. To me thats like asking someone "have you ever taken heroin?" The person honestly replies yet is met with the response "Well I feel in my spirit that you have, so you must have and you need to go to a drug rehab centre to get free from this addiction to heroin."

Im kind of embarrased now that I allowed myself to be sucked along in this for a while. Once I started confrm a little to what the pastor said she was nicer to me. She then offered me a 'ministry' session which I accepted. The session consisted of the pastor and a guy who had recently come out of a drug rehab centre and she was 'training up in the ministry' sitting in her office.

I was then encouraged to begin to pray in tounges very ferverently. After about 5 minutes of this I started to wonder what was going on as it was just me speaking in tongues with these 2 people sat either side of me praying in toungues. As I began to slow down I was shouted at to keep pressing through, keep pressing into Gods victory etc. This resulted in me shouting in toungues at the top of my voice until I started to physically loose my voice and break into a sweat. Still nothing happened, still the 2 people in the room sat either side of me, their hands on my shoulders praying in toungues. After about another 15 minutes I had to stop as I had all but lost my voice through screaming the session was brought to a close. I was told nothing had happened because I hadnt been ferverent enough and didnt really want to be delivered.

I left the church that night in bits. They had broken me down and I so wanted to be accepted by them and by God. I feel so foolish to think I belived them when they told me the only way to get close to God was to go through this silly yet dangerous process. They had me believing for a good while that I actually was demon possesed and that the only way I could get free was through that church.

Another policy of theirs is that they do not permit members to have ANYTHING to do with ex members. There was a man who was quite involved in the church for some time. He had a few disagreements with the pastor of Cumbernauld and decided to leave. Before he left he was 2 renting rooms in his house to 2 guys from the church. As soon as he left the 2 men were tod they had to leave his house immediately. As there was no alternative accomodation they were told they could live in the church. It had a showe and a kitchen and they had to sleep on mattresses on the floor in 2 of the sunday school rooms. One of the men had recently come out of a teen challenge drug rehab centre and was readjusting to life. However within 1 week of this move he went back on the streets and back onto drugs. A tragic case of putting their policies before people.

You ask whether it bothers me regarding the predominantly female leadership and I do understand the point you are making. However my main concern over the leadership is that it only ever comes from within their church. To my knowledge no 'outsiders' have taken positions of leadership unless they have been fully ingrafted into the struthers philosophy.

Also there appears to be no accountability of leaders. Elders etc are hand picked by those in leadership and one of the strongest beliefs in the church is the pastor is always right. So if a member had a grievane with the pastor where do they go? To an elder who is also held in fear to never disagree with the pastor? They are not part of the evangelical alliance or any other umbrella organisation. I know in Cumbernauld many of the other ministers have had issues with that church. I joined a different church and shared my experiences with the pastor there and although he was very supportive he was not surprised by what I told him as he had seen it several times before.

Again there is more I could say. I hope this doesnt sound like a bitter person having a gripe. Im doing fine now although it did take a while for me to be able to forgive those who hurt me. There are many lovely people in struthers with a genuine heart to serve God but it troubls me that they are held by this fear. I really hope that me sharing my experiences will help others. Yes I am 'over it' as much as its posible to be over something like that. However my concern is for those who are still being hurt or for those who have the potential to be hurt in the future and if my experiences will help stop that then praise God.

I hope this helps you and your family Clive

God Bless

CovLass

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: ThePetitor ()
Date: October 12, 2010 02:20PM

Some interesting info here. I was a member of SMC for a number of years and, although I left some time ago, am still confused about a number of things.

Two comments I relate to specifically are the “discernment” bit and the lack of communication with ex-members. In my case, the two are very much related as it was made very clear to me that the leaders know more about me than I do, but they refuse to talk to me. That leaves me in a difficult position – they know more about me than I do, but they will not tell me what it is. I really can't see any way out of that catch 22 situation.

The women leaders thing isn’t really an issue for me, although I can’t say I have looked into it in terms of scripture. The main justification by SMC is that women always wear hats in church, which they see as necessary and sufficient to allow equality of access to the pulpit. This is also the main argument in Hugh Black’s book, although I can’t remember its name.

I have visited a number of churches since leaving SMC, but I don’t think I have ever been in another one where all the females have their head covered at every meeting. Do those with more knowledge of scripture know if that is a sustainable argument?

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: CovLass ()
Date: October 21, 2010 03:54AM

Hi The Petitor

You say you left SMC a while back. Im wondering how long ago you left because they dont practice the covering of heads for women now alhough I know they used to. Basically it refers to a passage of scripture in 1 Corinthians 11v 1-16. This basically says that f a woman prays or prophesies with her head uncovered it is dishonourable and she should have her head shaved. In that culture it was dishonourable for a woman to have a shaved head. It also says that for a woman long hair is her covering and doesnt mention a hat or scarf.

There has been an ongoing debate over this passage for years. Many churches used to insist on women wearing hats. When I became a Christian in 1986 women were required to wear hats but this has since phased out and only a few churches insist on it now. It seems funny to me that a church leadership team that is so close to God has many opinions on women leaders. Like I say I dont have a problem with it personally but they seem to chop and change their mind over it.

The so called 'discernment' is a big one for me too and the fact that they wont or cant tell you what it is they actually discern. I mean why would God show them and them not tell you or give you the help you need. See this is how I see true discernment working.

Lets say for example you have a guy called Fred who is caught up with pornography but has made excuses for it. Because of this his spiritual life isnt at its best but he hasnt made the link between the two. So God reveals this to Freds pastor who sensitively approaches the subject with Fred and offers to help him work through the issues. Fred is embarrassed at first but he doesnt receive any condemnation from his pastor just love and support. Eventually Fred gets free of it and draws closer to God and is grateful that his pastor intervened and helped him. This way is helpful and productive.

However the struthers way is to say to people ' I discern something really bad about you .. that you are unclean' So you ask what it is but they refuse to tell you. This gets you paranoid thinking of all the little things you did wrong, even going back 20 years or more. You really cant think of anything, maybe you start confessing to having read your dads porno mags when you were 13 etc etc. If you question what they say and tell them there really is nothing, you are told you are resisting God and need to submit to him and hate sin. Like I said in my case they got it into their heads that I had lesbian tendancies which couldnt be further from the truth, yet when I denied it I was basically told I was lying.

To me its like the Hans Christian Anderson story of the Emperors new clothes. They didnt exist but the people were told that if you coudnt see them you were stupid as only the wisest people could see them. Only a young boy had the courage to speak up and tell the truth. With SMC if you deny or disagree with anything the leadership say you are classed as unspiritual or worse. If this is the case then they dont want you 'corrupting' the other church members.

Personaly I think its a ploy to control members and keep away anyone who disagrees with them. Essentially what theyre saying is we know every little detail of your life, even stuff that you don't know and if you dont tow the line we will expose these 'sins' to everyone. Whats more is if you challenge us we will see to it that you are ex communicated or we will have you ostracised in the meetings you do go to so that you will want to leave. In my book that smacks of extreme control through extreme fear.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: seekingsusan ()
Date: October 22, 2010 12:40AM

Quote
CovLass
The so called 'discernment' is a big one for me too and the fact that they wont or cant tell you what it is they actually discern. I mean why would God show them and them not tell you or give you the help you need. See this is how I see true discernment working.
(snip)
However the struthers way is to say to people ' I discern something really bad about you .. that you are unclean' So you ask what it is but they refuse to tell you.
(snip)
Personaly I think its a ploy to control members and keep away anyone who disagrees with them..

One can see where all this dangerous and manipulative reliance/emphasis on “discernment” and “deliverance“ so-called ministry leads to when one looks at the proliferation of pentecostalism in parts of africa, with sometimes appalling consequences on the lives of innocent and vulnerable children.

Take for example the pentecostal church in Nigeria led by pastor Helen Ukpabio as an example of where this overt, unquestioning reliance on “anointed” authority can end up.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: ThePetitor ()
Date: October 22, 2010 02:16AM

Hi CovLass, and others.

Thanks for your reply. It is good to hear from others who have been in the same church so understand the background. One of the problems I have had over the years is that there has been no-one to talk to - those in SMC just tell me to repent (although they won't say of what) and these who have not been involved just think it is all rubbish, so why am I bothered?

What you say about the head coverings I actually find quite astounding. How can SMC have changed their position on this? This was a really strong doctrine with 100% compliance in my time. I wonder if the change was in Hugh Black's time or after he had gone. After all he - quite literally - wrote the book on this doctrine. Hmmm.

I really relate to the discernment thing that you describe. In my experience, it was often initiated by a pointed "discernment" sermon. This led to a number of individuals recognising they had a problem (more discernment perhaps?) that they would take to the leaders who would pray with them in tongues - generally without providing any other input or advice. I wonder if this worked for some people. Looking back, I guess the message was it worked everyone who had the right attitude.

Not sure if this pattern is still going on, but the first part of is seems to be - see for example the page on the abomination sermon at [www.latigo214.info].

I wonder if there are any others out there with experience of SMC? I had nightmares every night for years after I left, and am still what I will chose to call "confused" by the whole experience. It would be really good to hear about others who have had any experience of SMC.

Glad to hear there is at least one who has been there and moved on!

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: CovLass ()
Date: November 04, 2010 07:02AM

Hi The Petitor

Sorry I havet replied for a while, have ben quite busy with work and stuff. It seems to me, and this has become much more clearer the more Ive heard about other peoples experiences is that the Struthers leaders can change their minds on whatever they want whenever they want and if anyone questions their motive or decisions they are seen as doubting God.

Im sorry to hear your still confused by your experience. I guess I am still confused a little too. I read the article on the abomination sermon and could almost hear it being preached and imagine being there. I guess looking back at that now you think, how come I didnt see it then? Part of me still feels stupid at falling for the nonsense they teach. I would consider myself to be a strong Christian and a level headed adult who is able to think rationally, so how on earth did I get sucked in.

I guess my consolation in this is that I had a dissatisfaction with my then current experience of church and a genuine desire to grow closer to God. SMC seemed to offer the solution to this at first. I think its hard to understand how someone who claims to teach the bible so strongly could get it so wrong but then as the saying goes 'absolute powers corrupts absolutley' The bible does warn that these groups will rise up and for me the whole thing got a whole lot clearer when I looked at the accusations etc in the light of scripture and realised that much of what was said to me was very unbiblical. I dont really want to get into preaching in here but I hope that helps.

Im really glad you managed to get out and are getting things back on track. Im also glad youve had the courage to share your experinces here too.

God Bless

CovLass

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