Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Date: August 27, 2013 07:32AM
EDITED HIGHLIGHTS OF EXPERIENCES BY SMC EX MEMBER - RENSIL - SELECTED BY ME - CLIVE - APOLOGIES IF BITS ARE MISSING :
I went to Struthers Church for over 20 years.
I found that rules made by the church leadership can change but with no announcement of the fact or instruction to the members. For example, it used to be that women were not allowed to wear trousers, especially not jeans. Nowadays most of the women there wear trousers including, in the younger women, tight-fitting jeans. Nothing is said. The wearing of hats for women ceased also, with nothing being said; it was just that graduallly women stopped wearing them. Before then, not wearing a hat was said to be a sign of disobedience to the leaders.
Other things concerned me, one of which, not so far mentioned in these posts, is their healing ministry, so much so that people are afraid to say they are ill because that indicates that there is something wrong in your life, or you don't have enough faith or you've lost the healing you had, so basically, it's your own fault. Some people have experienced great confusion and upset on this matter.
I could write more. I know there are other people in Struthers church who are unhappy but are too frightened to leave and that concerns me greatly.
It is good to see this Forum as, yes, you do feel you're the only one.
In the early 90s SMC produced a church magazine about 4 times a year and I had kept some copies. In one of them, I read someting which I found very disturbing. The entry, which had been written by Mary Black was entitled "I will Purge the Rebels Out from Among You" (with no Scripture reference given).
In the first part she decribes how the above word is a necessary part of the process of revival and how a common pattern in the aftermath of revival was a church which gradually lost its ardour and became lukewarm and carnal and that from this grouping a remnant arose who refused to accept the coldness and who fought to maintain revival fire. This remnant are ultimately driven out by the pressure of a cold-hearted congregation and cold-hearted leadership.
In the second part she turns the idea right round and describes a church where the leadership are on fire and fighting to maintain revival despite people bent on backsliding. She then writes, "Those who exit are not the revived, but the backsliders who in the face of the growing light of truth coming through an uncompromising leadership, eventually feel under pressure to leave since their carnality can no longer be hidden. In this case the remnant are those who remain rather than those who go".
(Incidentally, the scripture reference for the above word is Ezekiel 20 v 38 and the chapter is about rebelliousness in Israel.)
The first part of her entry seems to refer to how the SMC movement came about, when a small group left a large church which they considered to be cold and backslidden. Then in the second part she refers to those who leave SMC because they are backsliding and carnal, and judged to be so by an "on fire" leadership!
If this isn't an example of twisted scripture and re-interpretation of a Bible verse to make it fit what you want, I don't know what is. Also, I know several people who have left SMC and they are on fire for God, some in Christian leadership positions, others ministering and helping the weak, living holy lives, preaching the gospel etc. How can SMC leaders justify what they say and write, because it is erroneous!
Thanks for your contribution, Lorna. However, I don't think you will be able to understand the experiences which are being written about here as you haven't obviously gone through what some members, who are very sincere and loving people who committed their lives deeply to God in their youth and wanted to serve Him fully, have suffered in past years in this church.
To Archbishop Laud, you say the doctrine of the church is mainstream. Yes, it is, but sometimes I noticed that Bible verses were re-interpreted to suit the teaching, and comments were made about other verses saying e.g., "but that doesn't apply to us, we do things differently here, this is what Leader A said it means." That used to really concern me, because if Christians don't accept that the Bible is the true Word of God, then they can just add a bit or make up anything they fancy.
I was always aware that members were not encouraged to visit other churches or go to other outreaches or hear other Christian speakers. Some folk did, but ended up consumed with guilt and felt they were being disloyal. It seemed that only Struthers had the true pathway. Surely we are one Body of Christ and therefore we should be free to fellowship with other christians from other groupings. Not so, it seemed.
There have been several posts relating to the Cumbernauld branch of Struthers, but I'd like it to be known that the same controlling, favouritism and banning procedures occur in all the branch churches. Since every one of the leaders follow the same teaching and continually told us how much in unity the leaders are, then it followed that their treatment of members of their church grouping adhered to the same pattern. I was advised to cut contact with an individual if they left the church; this happened to me on 3 or 4 specific occasions. It was hard to take especially if the person is a friend and one whose company you enjoyed. I also knew of people who were banned and of course, you were told not to see them. Because you're held by fear, you just did what the leaders said on the issue.
Hello Old Skool
I also go back a long way in Struthers and can remember the previous female leaders of whom, yes, we were terrified and were scared that we'd do something wrong and get mentioned from the front (platform) either by name or anonymously. That's why I wrote in a previous post that recent problems in SMC are not confined to the Cumbernauld church. I was in SMC before the Cumbernauld church came into being and the same controlling behaviour existed back then and has been passed on. I'm well aware of how leaders intervene in situations and get things changed, often causing confusion and hurt to those involved. If we questioned this, we were told the leader was right and "knew the mind of God". So if you believed that, you submitted in remorse and kept quiet thereafter.
Yes, Old Skool, there were a lot of rules back then relating to dress, jeans, TV etc. Rules on dress were relaxed over the years, but TV was still deemed unacceptable and few members owned a television. I never saw anything on a TV for years. I didn't know what certain people in the Government or in the News looked like! What seemed a bit hypocritical to me was that using the internet or mobile phone was never spoken against, and much of the same content can be found there as is seen on television. Can't we be trusted to select that which is good and switch off the bad? If we can on the web, then why not similarly on TV?
Many cults prohibit the watching of television. Could it be yet another method of control and a means of taking people out of reality into a confined way of life where you find your way by obeying only what the leaders teach and tell you.
I have actually experienced the same sense of God's presence and the anointing of the Holy Spirit in other Christian meetings outwith Struthers. I have experienced deep and meanigful worship and singing outwith SMC. I have met other Christians who worship and sing just as strongly and sincerely and who feel the presence of God. I have prayed with other Christians just as deeply as in SMC, with or without the use of the gift of tongues. God is God and He isn't confined to SMC alone, as we now know for sure.
And, yes, I also agree that the Christian walk isn't all about experiences and feelings, which can be deceptive and linked to emotion.
[ about breaking up couples]
Yes, I've witnessed male/female relationships being broken up causing great pain to both sides, lack of teaching on SMC's views on divorce so that a relationship formed with a divorced person leads to confusion, upset and shunning by other members, marriages deemed to be less important than your service and "call" to SMC, meetings to have priority over caring for your babies and children, breast-feeding discouraged because it kept you away from church meetings. These happen in all branches, not just Cumbernauld and it goes back years so is not a new thing. I was there.
I know that a number of years ago, a young man with mental health problems and who was a member of SMC, tragically committed suicide.
We were all very upset and so were the leaders - rightly so. It was nobody's fault; as I say, he was mentally unbalanced.
So it seems very heartless for the leaders to say to you that you shouldn't hang out with such people (who struggle with life and take their own life), when it has happened to one of their church members.
Surely compassion is in order and also support for you in your loss and shock. This is what you would find in most other churches which have a close-knit fellowship and where there is a care for the flock. If one member of the Body suffers, we are meant to suffer with them, not ostracise them.
Re the singing of a song/chorus over and over again, this used to concern me greatly because, as young people in SMC, we were told in the meeting that we must look straight at the leader and make eye contact whilst she was leading the singing and we used to have to sing the same words over and over again. This frankly seemed to have the effect not of bringing us deeper into God's presence. Rather, I felt we just went into a repetitive mode similar to rote learning for exams, where the actual content becomes meaningless and isn't doing anything for you spiritually. I've wondered if there was a hypnotic effect at times. If not, it certainly worked as a method of control and drew you deeper in to the Struthers ways and contributed to your desire to obey that leader whatever she said or preached.
SMC write a lot of their own songs, some of which are really lovely, but again, certain lines and words are emphasised over and over again. They also shunned some other Christian choruses if they didn't suit their purposes and frequently changed words in them to suit, or altered the timing of parts of the music.
( to Susie ) :
I understand exactly how you feel having gone through similar experiences myself - feeling so worthless and that I'd failed God, so why did He save me in the first place. It's awful that Christians should come out feeling like that, but that's what happens to many in SMC. It's not God's plan for His children to feel like that. I hope and pray you will find a supportive church and others who can help you through this. You're not alone, remember, and it takes time. I didn't find it at all easy to leave.
I perceived, (and indeed had many of these myself) fear and anxiety, paranoia, introspection with accompanying condemnation, low self-worth, indecisiveness, and even depression. These develop as a result of being constantly told in the preaching that you're not giving enough of yourself, not pressing through enough, not getting the anointing enough and being told you are useless to God until you do these things. Years passed, you did all these instructions, gave up every bit of yourself and your personal life, and you still felt you were getting nowhere and it seemed impossible that you ever would, so the result is bad fruit like the above in your life. I know we were told that people who leave SMC haven't "done it all" but this is not true - we gave every bit of our lives over, just the same as these leaders had.
What a lie that is, because when you meet other ex-SMC members who are doing well now in their walk with God and manifesting love, joy, peace, self-control, patience etc etc., you realise what you were taught was utterly untrue and totally negative.
There is certainly lots of repetition going on in the preaching and teaching at SMC. As Chris19 says above, we were constantly being told that we weren't yet holy enough, committed deeply enough to God, surrendered enough etc etc, which only led to introspection and consequently, discouragement about one's spiritual condition and future. Certain spiritual giants were spoken about again and again: Hudson Taylor, C. T. Studd, Amy Carmichael, Madame Guyon. They were the ones who had "made it" and we hadn't and had no hope of ever becoming like any of these pioneers. Of course we couldn't!
I also remember the following being repeated again and again:
- how SMC started and how it had its roots in the Welsh Revival because Miss Taylor was converted under the preaching of Principal George Jeffreys in an atmosphere of revival. What I never heard mentioned, or maybe only once briefly during a Bible study on church history, was that the Elim movement which gave rise to the present Elim pentecostal churches, has its roots in that revival too and was started because of the outpouring experienced by Principal Jeffreys and others. SMC was not the only church movement to come from that. Of course, Elim Churches are never mentioned in SMC because SMC leaders, and consequently the members too, look down on them spiritually as being a wordly church branch where there is lack of holy living and commitment to God. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.
Re Covlass's comments on deliverance and misuse of tongues, I have witnessed that happening to people getting prayer at the front. The person is instructed to shout louder and louder in tongues in order for the demon or demons to come out. If nothing comes out, the person is told to shout even louder (as Covlass has described). Coupled with this, I noticed the person being pushed back and forward in a rocking-chair motion at the same time. What is behind that way of ministry I just have no idea. The explanation I was given was that deliverance is associated with a rise in the volume of tongues, therefore if we get people to get louder in tongues then they will be delivered. What?? Where does it say that in the Bible? Funny thing is, I remember Hugh Black teaching on deliverance and saying that it happened in many different ways and the evidence could be just a sigh, cough or heavy breathing and the demon came out. Shaking and shouting surely isn't the correct approach.
CBarb, I think I remember your dad and indeed he had a great sense of humour and used to tell some really funny stories. I note that you think SMC must have changed since these days when you were growing up in it, but I don't think it has changed. It was the past leaders who trained up and produced the current leaders. Indeed, the current leaders talk about "having so and so's mantle". They kept telling us that they were following in the footsteps of Miss Taylor and Hugh Black and were proud to do so. They learned the teaching and the methods of control from past leaders and are just continuing in the same vein as past ones.
I once got instruction from an SMC leader as to how to lead a group and, looking back, I know now that I was being taught how to control and dominate in a subtle way and never to let anyone express their opinion, because I was in charge. I felt uncomfortable about it but did what I was told because the leader told me to. Thankfully, I am out now and free. But in my opinion, SMC has never been OK. What is going on now is the same stuff that went on years ago. There is a wrong spiritual continuum, a thread of twisted teaching coming right on down through the years till now.
Your parents left SMC, therefore they couldn't have been happy with things or they would still be there. So there must have been issues which troubled them back then. I just remember being told that they had left the church. I couldn't understand why, because, to my knowledge, your parents were both very committed Christians who moved under anointing of the Holy Spirit. But we were never given explanations or information about people who left the church and were simply led to believe they must have fallen away from God or slipped down to a lesser way of Christian living. How ridiculous and how far from the truth!
Re the wedding in Cumbernauld, I wasn't aware that the pastor had conducted many weddings nor that many had split up. Marriages were usually conducted by Hugh Black or Mary Black and took place in Greenock or Glasgow. I have heard some quite harsh teaching being given at wedding services and strong warnings about divorce being given, but I don't hink I've heard as bad as that which you witnessed, Religionless. As has been said already, this type of thing is not commonly found at Christian church wedding services, quite the opposite, in fact.
Just to clear up further, regarding the timing of things, in the book which Hugh Black wrote about Miss Taylor entitled "E.H. Taylor, A Modern Christian Mystic", which he transcribed from Miss Taylor relating accounts of things to him, the vision which she had about a work, i.e. the development of the Struthers movement is described. HB writes that the date of this vision was "not recorded but was between 1962 and mid-1964".
This is the vision where God told her that "no stranger would teach His people and God would raise up from the midst of the company those of His choice" and that they would "not become dependent on visiting speakers".
So I am presuming, Cbarb, that this is what you saw happening in SMC and explains the change which occurred thereafter, and confirms Chesterk55's account.
Miss Taylor was a very reserved, shy person and apparently hardly ever left Greenock or spoke to strangers. (She said so herself).
So, as you say, Chesterk55, it took Mr Black ages to get her to travel out to Camps at Wiston. At the same time, we had to scrape up our small amount of pennies and get to Camps, or we got a telling off for not attending! We couldnt say we were too scared to go!
Yes, Anthony, many of us do pray for the people and leaders in SMC. The result has been more people seeing the truth and leaving, plus the exposure which this Forum has provided. Yes, we'll keep praying because we know God is in control and He is grieved over what's happening.
when I wrote about DR's discernment and the accuracy of it compared to that of the other leaders, I wasnt meaning that I thought it was ok and that I believed her discernment was always accurate and from God. I well know that it is not always accurate and that many people have been hurt through being told things that she had discerned and that were not the case. I know people who were told they needed deliverance but that they couldnt get it because they were either enjoying the sin or were not serious about getting rid of their problem. Again, it was always the person's fault never that of the leader who was ministering.
Pointing out people in a public gathering and speaking about their sin and need of deliverance, which has been discerned by a leader, is very upsetting for people. In most other churches where discernment and revelation gifts are in operation, the person in need will be taken quietly aside and counselled and ministered to in private. Again, on the matter of other churches, I have felt a strong presence of God and a strong anointing of the Holy Spirit in other churches. This is in no way confined to SMC, as the leaders and many members believe it to be and say it is. There are other Pentecostal churches around and other churches which pray for revival to come. SMC is not the only one.
Yes, I know that DR received training and counsel from Mr Black aswell, but for the more spiritual aspect of things, it was Miss Taylor and Mary Black because they both claimed to move in the discernment and revelation knowledge realm too. I remember we were told that Mary was never wrong in her discerning of things in someone or her predictions about people's futures. What a claim to make and what a terrible pressure to put on someone in ministry. I know for certain about situations where she was wrong and about judgements she made about people which proved to be incorrect, but this was never mentioned.
The story you have related about Person A and Person B rings very true for me too. That kind of thing was common in the Glasgow Church when Mary Black was the leader and I think I have heard of it happening in some other branches too.
Just a few comments:
Cbarb, do you know, I have never heard about the lady you call Ma (Mrs) Jewell. There's one reason and only one to explain this and that is because she left SMC for good and as you say, spoke up and questioned things. A lady like you describe, who appears to have worked tirelessly for the Church and given spiritual help and encouragement to young people, should have been celebrated. Instead she was never mentioned publicly by any of the leaders and I am certain that she was not mentioned at the 60 year celebration event. She should have been! I remember your parents and your uncle and aunt and I missed them after they left SMC. I'm sorry if this hurts you, Cbarb, but we were told in sermons in the late 80s that people who had left had fallen from "the high road" or the "high calling of God." When I left SMC, of course, I was able to see that this was totally untrue. As Lintar123 points out, she was spoken about publicly from the platform after she left aswell. This is how SMC leaders behave and this is what they pass on to the members who in turn believe the lies about people.
Calvary, I remember the 10 Cities vision of DR and, to my knowledge, you're right that it doesnt seem to have come to pass. She boasted at the time that God had given her the towns which make up North Lanarkshire before local government had called the area North Lanarkshire. It reminds me of Miss Taylor's vision of the Fountain where she predicted the Struthers movemnt spreading out from Greenock over the central belt of Scotland and beyond and leading to branch churches being set up all over the place. As you can read in Latigo's article about "How many menbers does SMC have?" many of these branch churches which were set up in the 70s and 80s eventually closed and are no longer in operation. Latigo show that the numbers attending present branch churches are not that high and that the movement is not spreading out all over the place from Greenock. So what's happened regarding that vision? What are the leaders' thoughts on that one?
Yes, I think you're right that Mr Black did not always agree wiuth DR's ministry style and the pointing out of people in a meeting. I felt though, that he was always over-ruled by Mary Black and Diana because they were felt to have more spiritual insight and revelation, so he let them have their way often. It stemmed back to him being over-ruled by Miss Taylor for the same reasons. Again, it's this concept of women being in charge and getting their way. Of course, after Mr Black's death, they didn't have to worry about that anymore. The other leaders must think DR is OK to do as she does.
@Clive, It was hearing things in sermons and prophecies, which I did not feel comfortable about, which first led me to question the validity of the teaching and realise that a lot of what I heard did not equate with the Bible. So lets hope that present members of SMC do what you suggest. Not sure they will though, if they are content with things as they are. Often it takes a specific occurrence which tips the balance and leads to a person deciding to leave. Yes, Clive, the teaching and atmosphere in other charismatic and pentecostal churches is not the same as that found at SMC. There are some super churches out there.
I noticed that there were many people in SMC who take on the traits of the leaders and become controlling aswell, in their relationships with others. That is frightening too because it means that people's personalities could be changed just by being controlled by abusive leaders. I did see personality changes and I probably underwent some too, which explains why it can take years to re-adjust to normal life after leaving SMC. It's a type of mind control.
I don't think it's a simple matter to expect people to take responsibility, if they have become embedded in an abusive church for many years. Let's hope that more do question things and decide that they want more for themselves out of life and discover that there is life out there. For young people who have been brought up in SMC by their parents, they have to decide if this way of being is OK for them or not. Many kids did leave when they reached their mid-teens, so these ones have been able to take resonsibility for their own lives.
That is so good to hear about Ma Jewell again. I am amazed but not surprised really that she has been air-brushed out of the Struthers story and was not mentioned publicly or privately after she left. I have a story involving a wet dish-towel too but not a happy one.
Myself and another young person were washing the communion glasses, after the meeting, in the church kitchen at Greenock. We were working away, talking a bit, but not laughing or larking about.
Miss Taylor came into the kitchen and glowered at us. We then heard her speak to another adult who then came to us and said that Miss Taylor wanted us to leave the kitchen because for some reason, we werent fit to be handling the emblems of the Lord. Emblems? We were washing small communion glasses! So, filled with fear, we left the sink and went out of the kitchen.
The other adult then said to us at the door that Miss T wanted to handle the emblems herself and wasnt happy about us doing so.
A verse oft-quoted in SMC is "Be ye holy, who carry the vessels of the Lord". Maybe this was an application of the verse by her. (By the way, I'm sure that is not the meaning of the verse).
Of course, we knew, or had been told, that Miss T could see things that we couldn't, so we thought she must be right. We were left with the impression that we must be so sinful and impure that we weren't qualified to wash these glasses, as they were communion ones. It kind of reminds you of the Pharisees and their cup-washing regulations, which Jesus condemned. The incident just made us feel under condemnation. It was years later before I volunteered to wash the glasses again.
Furthermore, I would never dream of treating young people in that manner especially young people who are well-behaved, committed to the Church and helping out in the kitchen.
Yes, lots of us decided to forgive Mr Black and continue to be loyal and support the church when that shares crisis hit. It was truly an awful time; it was like some disaster had hit the church and everyone was upset. Many people left, some lovely and very spiritually-gifted people who were much missed. It took time for the church to recover from that - maybe it never has, as someone was saying.
The other terrible result of this crisis, though, was that we were told again and again, over the ensuing years, by the leaders that the people who had left had had something in them - a weakness in loyalty or commitment to God - and that was why they couldnt weather the storm when it came and had left the church when this crisis hit. The teaching was that if you were totally loyal and sold out completely to God (God, although they meant to themselves, the leaders), then no matter what happened or who made a mistake, you would rise above that and stay in the church and still submit to the leaders. Because they were right, as The Petitor points out. And I believed all that at the time. It wasnt until years later that I saw that was a total lie. Many of those who left because of that crisis went on to excel in christian service and leadership elsewhere and are still doing well. One could say that they were the ones who showed integrity, honesty and moral uprightness by not supporting a wrong move. Like Cbarb, I didn't know for years either, that people had been asked to sign forms so that the church could buy shares. This was kept totally secret (unless you were asked to sign a form).
Clive, that is why it was wrong what Mr Black did. We are talking about a church, not a company or family. Church members give their money freely. The problem was that he controlled all the money and there wasn't a group of other elders or whatever to sanction it, as other churches have. I believe SMC set things right after this crisis happened because of pressure from other professional people in the church. A salutary lesson was learned. Maybe God allowed it all to happen so that it was brought out into the light.
No, Squareone, the people in SMC aren't mindless. There are some very intelligent folk in the church. And we've all been in it ourselves! As Cbarb explains, it's mind control in a subtle way which keeps people looking to leaders and gives them a kind of false sense of security. Anyone of any intelligence level or any personality type can be subjected to manipulation and mind control through fear. It is often people who are seeking for the best and the highest who fall victim to it.
What happened to lintar123 and her husband was appalling. I agree that they should receive an apology. Theirs is about the worst case of its kind.
But many people in SMC were told not to marry a certain person, others were advised to stay single, and others who did marry experienced interference in their marriages from the leadership.
There were a lot of broken hearts over the years in the area of relationships. The advice given was to see this as the Way of the Cross and to suffer because Jesus suffered and because going through it would lead to a deeper walk with God. But many were left hurting and many left SMC as a result.
I'm just so glad for you, lintar123, that you both got out before anything worse could be dealt to you in your married life.
Yes, there were double standards in many areas, as Cbarb points out, and there probably still are. For example, we were continually told not to keep company with the opposite sex and yet the leaders kept company and went off on ministry trips with a person of the opposite sex to whom they were not married. Young folk were told not to mix with the opposite sex and yet leaders' families were seen mixing and hanging about with youngsters of the opposite sex. OK for some; depends who you are then.
The callousness I mentioned previously seemed to spread through the church because people would receive instruction on how to handle a situation with somebody in need and would only do what the leader told them to. So if a leader said, 'dont visit that person' or 'let them be, theyre just attention-seeking', then the person would take that on board and not help someone. Whereas if they were thinking for themselves, they would choose to help, visit, care for someone in need etc. I was caught up in that thinking myself and that is how I know it exists. Neglecting those who needed support or friendship was always justified in some way and that's how it spread through the church.
It wasn't/isn't only the unclean and those out in the world, who we were told not to associate with or let into our home. I was told on two occasions that I remember (there may have been more) not to have certain persons who were members (not new to the church, I add) of the church i.e. SMC, come to my house. I queried this because I found it hard to understand, as we like to welcome people to the home, but I was not given a very satisfactory answer. I was just told that these persons were "not quite with us in spirit" or their "behaviour had not been Christ-like". Being steeped in the SMC way at the time, I listened and didn't have the persons to the house. I regret it now, but I was simply indoctrinated into the SMC way of thinking.
I myself have also been told not to visit certain persons, who were (not new) members of SMC at their house. In two cases, the persons had illness/disabilities and needed support! When I queried this, again, I just got a similar explanation to that above. I remember not feeling very happy about this but, again, I just went with the SMC flow. That's why I can understand why members behave as they do and don't think for themselves but just go by what their leader tells them. The lack of love and care is passed on and infects others there.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/27/2013 07:38AM by Clive.