Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Date: August 27, 2013 07:06AM
SAVED TEXT EXTRACTS FOR COVLASS - EDITED HIGHLIGHTS SELECTED BY ME - APOLOGIES IF BITS ARE MISSING :
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.
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.
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 can relate to the experience of prayer for healing/deliverance at Struthers. I'd often see people go out for prayer as the result of a genral "appeal" to receive "ministry" and them be totally passed by from the leaders or made to stand at the front for ages whilst the leaders prayed for others who hadnt even come forward and as an after thought they got one of their "underdogs" to pray for the person right at the end. Of course the justification was that they didnt feel "drawn" to pray with that person mainly due to the person having terrible sin in their life or not being ready to receive what God wanted to do, even though they had responded to an appeal for ministry. This was just another attempt to belittle people and keep them in their place. Many would be greatly upset that the key leader hadnt prayed over them. I for one felt extremely awkward and embarraed the time I went forward for prayer on a saturday night in Glasgow and was left standing there for over half and hour, being by passed whilst others received prayer and was left until last. Maybe people may think Im paranoid but Im sure it was used as some kind of statement against me.
I also experienced a "deliverance" session and again can identify with what others have said. The session took place in Dianas office with her and her young protege. There was little conversation at the start and I was told to begin praying in tounges. As time progressed I was encouraged to pray more ferverently (louder) and I ended up shouting tounges until I lost my voice. There was no prayer in English as the other 2 also prayed in tounges and nothing happened. After about 20 minutes Diana brought things to a close and told me that the reason othing had happened was because I still had sin in my life and I didnt hate my sin enough. I was then encouraged to confess more sins as this was they key to being "set free" (and being allowed to actually talk to and befriend other people in church) Im almost embarrased to say that I was scouring over my past with a fine toothed comb, recounting stuff I did when I was 12 and 13 before I was ever a Christian. It was at that point I contacted my old pastor from an Elim church and was advised to get out of their as it was spiritually abusive.
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.
To "Anon" - a defender of SMC..
"Many people do not stay in struthers. This is ok. It is not forbidden to talk to them or anything such as. People are given advice at times. Never told to do anything. Or never told if you don't do this you'll be asked to leave etc. We are encouraged to find fellowship with other christians, regardless of denomination, who are finding god as this will bring us closer to god."
My friend was FORBIDDEN to have anything to do with me and I was FORBIDDEN to have anything to do with her. This was confirmed by the Pastor of the church. And this while I was still in attendance. I was also told and I roughly quote "If you don't like this perhaps its best you go back to Coventry" This was said to me by the pastor at Cumbernauld church.
You say "Often at times people leave because of reasons such as Clive has mentioned (women ministry) but at times it is because they do not wish to TRY to live to the standard of teaching that is brought (all biblical). No one is asking for perfection. But one wonders why people come to church and sit and listen to a sermon preached from the bible about teachings that jesus brought us yet still behaves, knowingly, in a manner contrasting the bible."
However in my case I was trying to live for God when I was accused of being unclean. I challenged the leader to tell me in what area I was unclean and she couldnt tell me. Her response was "I discern it" Discern what exactly? Im sorry but that is a total cop out.
I have a good relationship with my minister and several other ministers and no one else has 'discerned' uncleaness in me. Does this mean they are not as righteous or close enough to God? Or could it be they are right
I could go on about several ther points you have brought up. One thing that comes to mind is the almost 'god like' status of the leaders among the congregation. Several members have told me that what the leaders say is right and anyone questioning them is looked down upon by the vast majority of struthers memorial church members.
You also say that "People are allowed to leave and are not in any way regarded in a negative way because of this." yet I have heard people who have left being spoken of in negative ways such as "they were never with us" or they were not truly part of us" I recently met a lady who was 'with' Struthers for over 40 years and has now left. It took her several years to get over the way she was treated.
I brought into the promise that I would only find true freedom if I joined Struthers Church. Then only after I had moved to Scotland I began to get the message that the leaders should be obeyed and that certain things were expected. When what they asked was way off, I felt or was made to feel that if I left I was somehow walking away from the promised freedom I could have in God into a lesser spiritual walk. Yet with retrospect I have been a Christian for 24 years and I had never felt so bound and restricted in my faith and towards God as I did in the time I went to Struthers Church.
I think that what is going on in Struthers is emotional blackmail. The leader says - "I know something about you that is really bad - but Im not going to tell you unless you do this that and the other - and even then I wont tell you until I think you're ready" Whats worse they often threaten to expose 'it' to the whole of the congregation and yet you still have no idea of what 'it' is.
I was thankful that I did have healthy church experiences to compare with what was happening. I also knew church leaders I could speak to and get some advice. The first time I spoke to my previous pastor, an Elim minister, she said "I dont often advise people to leave a church, but my advice is get out. What they're doing is spiritual abuse."
( @ Uncertain )
Just to encourage you, since my experience of Struthers church and losing my then closest friend due to what happened I was very upset. I missed her friendship and still do. This was made worse due to the fact that I was living in Scotland, over 400 miles away from family and friends back in England and she was the only friend I had at the point I left Struthers.
However I made some good friends in Cumbernauld when I joined another church. Since moving back to Coventry I have now formed a friendship with another lady whom I would now consider to be my closest friend. The best thing about this friendship is I know it is not dependant on what church I go to, how 'spiritual' I am perceived to be or anything else. As a Christian, if she feels I need pulling up about a faith issue (as we all do from time to time) she will speak to me about it and do her best to encourage and support me. I know that whatever I say to her in confidence will remain so and likewise I would not share anything she tells me.
Yes it is hard to leave long standing friendships behind and it is sad that this should have to be so. However there is 'life after Struthers' Not a lower level of life or a lesser walk with God. I know that I, along with many others here will testify to the greater freedom to serve and worship God and experience his love and grace, coupled with a freeom from undeserved guilt and condemnation.
I also came across the phobia ministry at Struthers. You were basically told that if you had phobias you were not trusting God so I imagine some people just shut up about these phobias afterward and dare not admit it. Its not that I dont believe God can take away fears. I know that after I left Struthers God totally took away my fear of thunderstorms. Its interesting that I heard that one of the 3 main leaders of Struthers has or at least in my time, had a fear of big dogs, that is rarely mentioned. Yet others are made to feel they dont trust God if they struggle with a phobia.
I think the obvious one regarding repetition being a form of control is the over emphasis of speaking (or shouting) in tounges. Often in services we were encouraged to 'push through in the Spirit' My recollection of prayer meetings were that about 80% of the time was spent actually speaking in tounges with about 20% of the time used to pray in English. Don't misunderstand me. I personally do pray in tounges in my own personal prayer life and occasionally when with other believers but this was to the extreme.
Hearing others talk of tounges being used as a form of a mantra to induce hypontic states, does make sense when you look at how Strthers used it. I think it is very apparent when anyone goes for 'ministry' My experiences of Struthers 'ministry', especially on a one to one basis, was there was very little speaking, advice, biblical counsel or prayer in English. I was told I needed deliverance (of what, is anyones guess) and just needed to pray in tounges earnestly (i.e shout at the top of your voice until you became hoarse) You really are taught that doing this brings you freedom from whatever it is they decide you need to be free from. I really do think that it was akin to the Buddhist chanting in order to reach 'enlightenment
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/27/2013 07:06AM by Clive.