Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: GlasgowGirl ()
Date: July 19, 2020 09:23PM

Welcome back #thisisme. Apologies that I didn't respond to your earlier posts directly - and I'm sure no-one thinks your posts were at all rude. Many of us had to work up the courage to post here and one of the really good things to get out of reading and sharing is to find out, as you say, that you are not alone.

I was staggered by the extent of the damage - both in numbers and degree. I am also aware many folk will not know of this forum or have chosen not to post, so there are many more out there who have had bad experiences or been badly hurt.

It is hard to know whether making things "public" would have helped to reduce the damage. Unfortunately, I think many who still attend Struthers would believe what they would be told about any of us posting such disclosures - that we were lying,deceived, backslidden, misguided, or even demon-possessed (which I know has been said to some who dared disagree, question or criticise)

If we know folk who still attend and have the opportunity, we could consider gently suggesting that they examine what's gone on with an open mind. It certainly seems, though, that folk somehow need to discover for themselves that a lot of what goes on is very far from scriptural and "anointed" in spite of what the leaders would have them believe.

At the church I now attend, I have told the pastor and a few friends about my experience and view of Struthers. I felt I had to as there is a branch nearby and I wanted the church leadership to be in a position to decide how to advise any young (or older) folk who may be considering getting involved with them and to consider very carefully the extent of any proposed joint ventures among local churches (not that Struthers usually goes in for that sort of thing).

I do have friends who are still connected to Struthers and I knew a lot of selfless, kind and genuine people who were and may still be associated with Struthers. I have occasionally met some of them in a social context and can have quite a pleasant chat, although I am aware they probably all "disapprove" of me to some extent as I left quite publicly with a group of others when financial shenanigans came to light!

I am sure we are all happy to discuss anything that may help each other - whether on the forum or by private message. All the best xx

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: seethelight ()
Date: August 29, 2020 09:04PM

Hello everyone,
I am new to the forum and having read most of the posts within the forum, I do identify with SMC abusive behaviour . Individuals that have involved themselves within this hidden group have been damaged through hidden spiritual abuse which is very hard to detect.I have known more people who have been involved and nearly destroyed by the Struthers hidden Group. I live my day to day life with the faith and hope I have left in God to pull me through as SMC are very dangerous. ONCE THIS IS READ BY SMC THEY WILL CLAIM ITS AN ATTACK ON THE HIDDEN GROUP FROM SATAN... ITS CERTAINLY NOT.....


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 08/29/2020 09:15PM by seethelight.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Phoebe 2 ()
Date: September 22, 2020 10:02PM

I've found myself listening with great interest over these past months to the SMC Sunday evening presentations on You Tube. They all follow a similar pattern -- a time of recorded music and / or singing (I presume by the Struthers' choir or congregation) followed by a meditation from Mrs Grace Gault and then a Bible message from a young man called Andrew, whom I don't recognise (he is obviously someone who has come to the fore since my contact with SMC many years ago). I would be very interested to know who he is. Evidently, from certain remarks he has made, he is linked to one of the Struthers' family networks.

The talks given by Mrs Gault are very much in the traditional SMC "style" as I remember it from years past but Andrew ?? has a somewhat different style -- refreshingly different, I must say. He is a gifted communicator with a wide knowledge of Scripture and his messages are often illustrated and applied in ways that are pithy and more relevant to real life than the somewhat "other-worldly" traditional style previously mentioned, which I feel tends to use vocabulary and allusions that don't really engage with the nitty-gritty of life outside the SMC orbit. Andrew does follow their predictable practice of preaching from isolated texts, rather than unpacking a whole passage or working systematically through a Bible book or epistle. This may of course be due to a lack of theological training or exposure to other church traditions. In that respect, quite apart from undertaking any formal training, I think he could benefit greatly from a visit to one or two websites where he could listen to the fine expository preaching of an equally gifted young man like Paul Washer, or some of his fellow-countrymen such as Sinclair Ferguson, formerly of Glasgow Tron church or Alastair Begg of Parkside Church Cleveland -- all readily available online. However, apart from these relatively minor homiletical and theological shortcomings, I would have to say I can detect nothing in what I've heard said or sung during these podcasts that could be called heretical or even unorthodox. In other words I don't believe SMC is a cult! I wonder, having read through previous posts, if their failings lie much more in the area of pastoral care of their flock than serious doctrinal error.

Apart from all that I was very interested to note that, unlike the strictures of years past, first names were very much in evidence! In my time it was always "Miss Taylor", "Mr Black", "Miss Black", "Miss Jack", etc.! Dress and hairstyles have also had a major refurbishment to a much more 21st century look!! I would be interested to know what other viewers may think!

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Wise Piglet ()
Date: September 29, 2020 03:32AM

I am very new to this page and it has been so helpful for me to read of people’s experiences. My own experiences span 20yrs and I was brought up in this church from a very young age. Like someone else on this page, my experiences are very identifiable and my family extremely well known to the heart of this church. Sadly to say, since no longer attending, no one has ever attempted to meaningfully keep in touch with me or show kindness about my wellbeing, or how I’m doing in life despite spending all of my formative years, adolescence and 20s growing up and developing right in the heart of this church. I have been left as if that period of my life did not exist. In “normal“ life there would be some remanent of human connection and belonging due to such shared friendships, experiences and growing up throughout all of those key years of developing into an adult. I’ve experienced passing my “friends” from this church time in my life in supermarkets or other places and I have been looked up and down and been passed by. In “normal” life this would be a moment of sheer joy and excitement as you both shared how things are and what you’re doing in life and reminisced about all our times and experiences together.

I was left scared, frightened, unsure of my sense of belonging, no support network because I had been taught to shun everyone who wasn’t part of this church. Due to all the power and control dynamics of leaders towards those attending, damaging doctrines, and abusive experiences (On all levels that were overtly silenced) whilst attending, and being told when I left that I would always return there as it was my spiritual home and Mr Black stating to me he was my spiritual father, I had a great deal to work through in relation to all of this and although it saddens me those connections I had for most of my life weren’t true or meaningful, it has certainly shown me how not to treat people and I have went on to have positive, healthy and healing connections and learn the questioning and being inquisitive are healthy and essential skills in life.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: anonymousfornow ()
Date: October 25, 2020 12:16AM

It's been a number of years since I first posted here, and I've been keeping up occasionally with the forum from afar. Maybe I'll share some more personal experiences soon.

It's certainly a testament to the damage Struthers does that so many ex-members regard the place as a cult. The practices of intimidation, coercion, and psychological/emotional abuse, particularly directed toward young people, seem to be ongoing. I do note however that some of the satellite churches seem to have paired down their activities (even prior to Covid), and wonder if this is a sign of dwindling membership and local appetite? I certainly hope so. An organisation that subjects youngsters to exorcisms, techniques of conversion therapy, and seeks to control as many aspects of life as possible (relationships, culture consumed, finances, even what books are read) has no place in 2020.

A positive thing that this forum appears on the first page of results for a google search of this church, for both those looking for information, and those thinking about leaving.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Rob1967/C ()
Date: November 15, 2020 03:32AM

I am no longer angry at the church, I am angry at myself for wasting a quarter of my life with these disgusting bullies. They know so much about God's purpose for your life and can discern your sins, but have no idea who is suffering from depression or anxiety. Either that or they don't care. They are lying, manipulative people who claim a lot of knowledge they do not possess in order to control and bully innocent teenagers who they can they them have in their slimy grip for the rest of their lives.
I have finally accepted that not all churches are like that and memory cafes run by the Church of England are actually staffed by honest human beings and not the bullies of Struthers. Despite that I would never believe in anything any longer and the whole idea of faith is a joke.
I hope you forgive my use of the word bully and my disgust, but going back to the last year I was there I was subject to manipulative behaviour by two of the leaders and had several of my so called friends coming up to me to tell me I made a mistake I only confided to one person who obviously used it as gossip. Nah, they are not spiritual warriors. They are a wee group of sad people whose only way to feel important is to gang up on weaker members and as for that Mary Black and her tendency to get everyone in a trance before telling them she is God's chosen one. The less said the better.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/15/2020 03:38AM by Rob1967/C.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: GlasgowGirl ()
Date: November 15, 2020 08:16PM

It says a lot that people are still posting here and that there are people who have posted for the first time. Many speak of being grateful to have found the forum and have been reassured to find that they are not alone in having negative and sometimes very damaging experiences through the church.

I am so, so sad that a church has ignored the wellbeing of its members,driven people away, cut them off when they left, contributed to some losing their faith in God, or led to some having serious problems with their mental wellbeing.

I understand Phoebe's view that Struthers doesn't appear as a cult in it's online services. I haven't watched these, but there was never an awful lot overtly in sermons or written down anywhere that could be called heretical as such ( more probably reading between the lines with the benefit of hindsight). There seem to be very many definitions of a cult - whether in dictionaries, sociology, psychology, Christian writings or elsewhere. To me, it is the excessive devotion to one person/group and the level of control which do define it as such. More than a lack of good pastoral support, but a deliberate way of operating which seeks to control every aspect of life, to ensure the attendees/adherents see this particular church as the "only way" and to ostracise them if they leave, telling them they are backslidden and even demon-possessed for questioning the leadership or wanting to go to a different church instead. None of that is written down as far as I know - it is conveyed in more subtle ways or in private conversations/advice.

I also had Mr Black phone and tell me I was like a daughter to him and trying to persuade me to stay when I said I was going to leave following the dodgy/illegal financial goings-on. The financial issues were never properly dealt with (and the strange meeting called to air them certainly didn't address it). The financial issues also served to open many eyes to other things that were not as they should have been.

I think it is very important that people don't feel they have to wrestle with trying to recover alone. Many seem to have found other churches which are spiritually healthy and offer support and love. For some, the road to wellbeing seems to have been very long; others may not have really started or not got very far. I think it is so important to get support, whether through church, christian counselling or secular counselling. It is not an admission of failure to actively seek counselling ( whether or not you are a Christian) and probably all of us need support at some point in our lives to regain a place of mental, emotional or spiritual wellbeing.

My prayer for those who still believe that God is there and are still hurting badly, is that God would meet you right where you are (there are no conditions), surround you in His love and bring healing to every aspect of your life.

For those who are unsure or no longer believe in God, my prayer would still be the same. But whatever you believe and wherever you are on your journey,I hope that you would know healing, contentment and hope.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Wise Piglet ()
Date: November 16, 2020 03:09AM

Many of the things I read from others on this forum reinforce grooming strategies used on us by the leaders and others being groomed to groom others (I can confidently say this as on reflection I can now see how I was used to coerce other young people and treated others as lesser for not adhering to the leadership). The language used to suggest we are special, chosen or like a daughter to Mr Black as GlasgowGirl mentioned were also used on me. I was told many times by Mr Black that he was my spiritual father and that I would always return to Struthers as that was my home and where I belonged. On learning of my education and employment achievements whilst I was in transition of drawing back from the church, one of the leaders said to me “the world has been good to you”, my reply was “no, God has been good to me”........I became more confident to challenge such comments and that was not welcomed by the leaders, I had begun to find my voice.

I cannot deny that the sense of loss was crushingly overwhelming given Struthers was all I had known, I hankered for that sense of belonging. It was like a domestically abusive relationship and co-dependency as Struthers Leaders need people to feel a sense of power, control and status and once they can’t have that over you, your discarded and shut off so they don’t need to reflect on their issues and just blame others.

For those reading, thank you for listening, no one else understands, they are in utter disbelief when I share my experiences which can make me feel more alone. I have to say, it doesn’t distress me as much now as it used to, but that’s been years of working through this and just being open to experiencing healthy relationships in my life since.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: ThePetitor ()
Date: November 19, 2020 11:21PM

Hi all, and welcome to the all the new contributors in particular – I make it six new people in 2020: escapedtofrance, thisisme, seethelight, phoebe2, wise piglet and Rob 1967. Welcome all, and thanks for your insightful contributions. I have to say I have lost track of the total number of people who have now posted here, but it is amazing that there are still more people coming forward. Amazing – but also appalling that this organisation has caused so much hurt and pain, and even more appalling that they are totally indifferent to the pain they cause.

As I read both old and new contributors, I see the same common themes, one of which being a total lack of empathy, which I think is linked to the leaders seeing themselves as hyper-spiritual. As Brené Brown says, “Empathy is a vulnerable choice as, in order to connect with you, I need to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling”. The leaders of Struthers do not admit to that though – they cannot empathise with our weakness as, in their own eyes, they are so strong and invulnerable that they cannot relate to anyone who finds things difficult.

Contrast this with what is said in Hebrews chapter 4v15, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet he did not sin.”

By showing such a demonstrable lack of empathy, the leaders of SMC are actually putting themselves above Christ – so high and mighty that they cannot empathise with us sinners.

To me, that does make them a cult, even if they are largely doctrinally sound.

That judgement is in line with most definitions of a cult, which are not related to doctrine or belief but are all about behaviour and relationships.

For example, one of the key tests of a cult is whether, “there is no go reason for leaving”. Any organisation that believes there cannot possibly be a good reason for anyone leaving is exhibiting cult-like behaviour. Reading all the contributions on the forum, including the recent ones form those mentioned above, it seems to me that Struthers passes this test with flying colours.

Another very simple test is to see whether people judge comments by their accuracy or by who says them. Take for example the “New Year Word” that Struthers proclaim each year. I have no idea what it was this year, but I would speculate there is a 50% chance it is from Isaiah, and an 80% chance that it was along the lines of “God will bless His people”. So… my question is, did it come true? Did God bless His people (or whatever the prophecy was) - is there evidence of that? I am of course going out on a limb here, as the prophecy may well have been “This will be a year of tribulation”, but I suspect not.

Now the Bible says: “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.” So how will those in Struthers react to this? If it was anyone else (well, anyone who believed the Bible or chose to apply it in this case) they would say that applying the Biblical test confirms that the Lord has not spoken. Those in Struthers put the authority of the human leaders above the authority of the Bible however, so will argue the “New Year Word” was somehow still the word of God.

This is simply nonsense.

Jesus at one point said to Peter he was the rock on which he would build His church then, just a few verses later, called him Satan. Jesus did not make the mistake of thinking Peter had to be either perfectly right or perfectly wrong, He judged each action on its merits. So, even if every other word that has come out of Grace Gault’s mouth is true, the “prophecy” patently is not.

Even the SMC annual accounts say, ““Due to the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 will be a radically different year, both financially and in practical terms.” If the New Year Word is so informative and infallible, why do the annual accounts not say, “2020 will be a wonderful year of God’s blessing in line with the New Year Word” or something like that? Seems like even those signing off the accounts recognise that the New Year Word is irrelevant and out of step with reality.

I actually think what they are doing is dangerously close to “blaspheming against the Holy Spirit” as they are saying the New Year Word is the word of the Holy Spirit when it is clearly, not according to me but according to the test scripture tells us to use – just the words of a human being.

(Oh and while I am going out on a limb, may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb: my prediction for next year is something along the lines of “The Lord will restore the years that the locust has eaten.” A very natural wish to make it seem like the difficulties of 2020 were somehow worth it in the end.)

To reply to a specific comment in your post Phoebe, I suspect the “Andrew” you mention is Andrew Jewell, nephew of bookshop manager Chris Jewell (both of whom are Directors of the company). I am not at all surprised that it is not the usual suspects such as Grace, Diana or Jennifer who are providing sermons, as that triumvirate do not tend to really provide teaching – their addresses are more “God is a terrible God… BUT... He will look after those who are special… SO… you need to be more holy… NOW, let us turn to prayer. WAIT, God is here! He is blessing us!” (And of course the subliminal message that those present are somehow specially chosen by God.)

The problem with that approach is that it has to be real-time – it does not really work as well when delivered remotely or as a recorded message, as the key point is the emotional journey from fear through resolve and hope to ecstatic acceptance, and is built around that “God is here” moment. So, I am not at all surprised that they have to turn to someone able to deliver a message that includes a bit of theology accompanied by illustrations and applications. I doubt I will listen to any of Andrew’s talks, but would probably quite enjoy them if I did.

Not sure that would allow me to endorse him however. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” If Andrew is developing an understanding of scripture then he has to stand up to evil, and reading this forum leaves me in no doubt as to the evil he is called to stand up to.

One other thought. As I was quoting the verse that says, “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken.” it reminded me of other similar themes in the Bible. Things like, “a good tree will bear good fruit” and “ my word shall not return to me void”.

It seems to me there is a broader test that we are all required to make - and I do mean “required” to make – and that test is whether the SMC approach works.

The leaders of Struthers claim that they have followed the specific leading of God in detail every single day for say 40 or 50 years. Every day, God has told them who to speak to, what verses to ponder, the words to use when preaching, even things like which car to buy or which job to apply for. Other Christians do not have this advantage – they are walking about using their own sinful minds to make all these decisions. If this is true, would we not expect to see a huge difference in outcomes? What about the verse that “My word will not return to me void” – if the leaders of Struthers have in some unique way been proclaiming God’s word in a way that others haven’t should we not see the impact of this? They claim they have been in exactly the right place speaking to exactly the right people using exactly the right words (in many cases reported here NOT speaking to exactly the right people as well!) yet what do they have to show for it? Dwindling congregations that are largely depressed and ineffective.

Sorry folks, that simply cannot be the work of God. That is not “good fruit”.

(It is however a very predicable outcome of putting people – especially hormonally active teenagers – through the trauma of that fear - resolve - hope - ecstasy cycle a few times a week.)

The opposite side of the coin is also worthy of examination. Those who have plucked up the courage to leave Struthers have often (eventually!) been very successful and have found a life that is peaceful, joyful and spiritually uplifting - and has also had an impact on those around them. Those left in Struthers often only see the first six months after someone leaves and, as this forum testifies, that can often be traumatic.

Meeting someone who left twenty years ago can be very enlightening however, which is why Struthers do not want you to keep up with those who have left. In my experience, those who leave are much more likely to have a fulfilling life (in every sense) and any children are also much more likely to find faith and fulfilment. That should give anyone still in SMC pause for thought.

So… apologies as usual for the length of the post, but it does seem to me that one purpose of this forum is to take all the things that Struthers tries to hide and open them up for honest scrutiny and debate.

Thanks again to those contributing bits form their own personal story – I know how hard it can be to examine these painful memories and share them in an open forum like this, but I also know how much it can encourage others who are carrying similar pain, so thanks to you all. There is a way through the pain and trauma, and life at the other end.

I think it was Enkrateia a couple of pages ago who quoted Thomas Merton:
“We spend our lives climbing to the top of the ladder only to discover two things: first of all, there is nothing at the top anyway, and even more ominously, we had the ladder against the wrong wall the whole time!”

Here’s to those who have seen the ladder is against the wrong wall and had the courage to move it!

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Rensil ()
Date: January 11, 2021 09:02AM

Hi everyone and thanks for all the recent posts. Like The Petitor, I say a big welcome to new contributors and thank you for having the courage to post. I believe that Phoebe2 already posted on this forum a few years ago.

Phoebe2, you mentioned Andrew whom you had watched preaching via YouTube. As The Petitor has explained, he is Andrew Jewell, nephew of Chris Jewell, and his family have a long association with Struthers and still do. His mother pastors the Port Glasgow Struthers branch. As regards his preaching being a bit different and more engaging than that of the current female leaders, yes I could agree, but if you listen to him pray or introduce things, he just sounds exactly the same as all the other Struthers leaders. And as you say, he uses the “pick out a verse or verses” method of preaching. He was trained by Mary Black from his teenage years and singled out as a future leader. A lot of folk are saying they’re so pleased to see a man preaching at Struthers. Big deal. Don’t hold your breath about him going to do Bible training or learning from well-known Bible expositors. That is not the way things are done in SMC and I don’t see that changing. In a previous post on here, Jock told his story about not being asked to preach ever again, because he told Mary Black he’d like to go and do some Bible School training. Perhaps this makes the leaders feel insecure because they know they might be shown up by congregants who know more of the Bible than they do.

There have been easing of some rules and expectations in recent years. Women can now wear makeup and dye their hair. Big deal. Fashionable clothes have been allowed for a number of years after it was realised that young folk wouldn’t stay in the church if they were restricted in what to wear. Similarly, there are more marriages than before. Again, I think it’s for the same reason, that the leaders realise that folk will leave if they’re pressured, either verbally or more subtly, into staying single like many were in previous generations. SMC will spiritualise all these changes but there’s nothing spiritual about them when you use your head to think.

Wise Piglet, thanks for courageously sharing your experiences. I feel for all the children brought up in Struthers and going through their adolescence there. It must be so difficult to know who you really are and how to live in the modern world. So, well done, you seem to be doing well. It is not true what they told you that you would always return to Struthers. That is a lie. You are free to go to any church you choose. Being told that Hugh Black was your spiritual father is a means of keeping you in the church and making you feel you can’t leave. Also, it causes people to look to a person for guidance and strength instead of to God. Strange that so many folk were told by him that he was their spiritual father. I don’t go along with that concept at all. God is our Father.
Blessings to you all

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