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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: ThePetitor ()
Date: August 23, 2011 06:27PM

Dear all,

I thought the following incident would be of interest to readers of this forum. It took place around 25 years ago but, as you will see, it still has considerable relevance and currency, providing amongst other things an insight in to the selection of leaders.



The background is that two young people –let’s use the initials L and M - were in the car together travelling along Callendar Road in Falkirk. Both had been members of the Falkirk branch of Struthers Memorial Church for some time. Both had a number of questions about the church, which they had discussed at times and, partly as a result of these shared concerns, M was no longer attending regularly. M and L had previously been involved in a relationship of sorts but, since relationships were frowned upon by the leadership in Struthers, it had largely been pursued in secret. That in itself caused a fair bit of confusion, but this post is not about any personal relationship, it is about whether Struthers values integrity.

On this occasion, L asked M stop the car and to bring the camera. Both then went into the playing fields (known locally as “the pikes”) and L did three things: 1) she made a promise to M; 2) she made a solemn vow to God (her words) and; 3) she asked M to take a photograph as a witness to both the promise to him and the solemn vow to God. This photo is of M and L’s hands clasped together. If the technology has worked correctly, it should be available here for all to see. M has the original and recently sent a copy of the photo to L along with a draft of this article.

It should perhaps be emphasised that the relationship was over at this point. Neither the promise nor the clasped hands related to anything to do with re-starting or continuing any personal relationship. Nevertheless, both the words and the actions, including the request to take the photograph, made this a very serious occasion and commitment, all of which was at L’s initiative.

Shortly after this, the Struthers leaders became aware there had been a relationship, and L instantly decided to stop speaking to M, refusing to have any direct contact with no explanation at all. L had already given an undertaking never to talk about personal matters to M’s brother but she also broke this commitment by telling his brother she was not going to meet with M as planned one Saturday. There is a whole story of Struthers-endorsed betrayal here as well, but that is not for now.

M had real difficulty with what happened, especially with regard to the promise and vow made in Callendar Road. There was no evidence that it was being kept, but no attempt by L to explain any reason, or even that there was a change in plan and it could not be kept.

To try to help understand, M spoke to Miss Jack, the leader of the Falkirk branch of Struthers, about a number of things, including the idea of breaking promises. Miss Jack made the meetings very difficult, imposing a different set of rules for each one but, although she never gave a straight answer, she did eventually vaguely acquiesce to the idea that if someone made a promise, they had some responsibility to honour it or at the very least take the initiative to explain why it could no longer be fulfilled. Unfortunately, God apparently then revealed to Mr Black (overall leader of the church) that Miss Jack should stop also speaking to M, so he never did get the chance to talk about the specific promise, the way it was made, how it was after the relationship had broken up and how it was surrounded by the solemn vow to God.

Since this online forum did not exist at that time, M had no idea that others had been cut off from the church in this way. He was left with no opportunity to talk about what had happened, no contact with his own church leader and no explanation of why it was so wrong for people to have contact with him. As a result, the matter of the promise to him and the related solemn vow to God is still outstanding nearly 30 years later.

It seems that there are three issues here. One is that L made a serious promise to M and has still not taken Matthew 5 v 23 to heart. L - your brother does have something against you and the scriptural injunction is clear – leave the gift at the altar and seek to be reconciled to your brother. That is not a request from M or anyone else: it is a command from God. Does Struthers accept this verse is in the Bible or doesn’t it?

The second is that L made “a solemn vow” before God and is not acting on that (easily achievable) vow. That is between L and God but, if she really believes she will stand before Him one day, it will presumably be important to her, and should be of interest to the leaders who are advising her. If she has managed to hide her head in the sand to the extent that she cannot now remember the details, she can easily find out.

The third is that this demonstration of the ability to treat fellow-Christians with impunity appeared to be the selection criterion for more leadership responsibility in the church, something that illustrates beyond any doubt that there was no spiritual discernment taking place. If there was discernment, the leaders would have know that there was a serious problem between L and God, and would have encouraged her to resolve it. Instead, they encouraged the head in the sand attitude, which now appears to be their response to every issue. (How unlike the true saints of God that we read about!) Rather than cutting off those with access to the facts and the evidence, the leadership would do well to accept anon201062’s advice to check out the facts before acting.

This seems to have far-reaching consequences, both for L and for the Leaders who clearly share the conviction that the way to treat a solemn vow is to ignore it. For example, how do all the Struthers prayers to “send revival and begin it in me” (which are presumably continuing) relate to such a basic lack of integrity? Even more seriously, what if someone from Struthers is in court and takes the oath to “Tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” with their hand raised or on the Bible? How could any court believe they would stand by that oath if this is an example of the contempt with which they treat a solemn vow to God? They appear to have taken their own infallibility to such an extent that they can even lie with impunity, so why should a court believe what they are saying?

These are of course rhetorical questions (although the courts might not think so if that scenario ever arose), but God is not mocked. While the matter of this vow remains unresolved it is self-evident that any statement by L will have little authority, and any work of God led by L will bear little fruit, and any leaders who support the “head in the sand” position will prove similarly ineffective. This is not said to insult or offend any individual, it is said to emphasise the importance and consequences of the “hiding your head in the sand” approach to all of the important issues mentioned on this forum, including undertaking a “solemn vow to God”; supporting it with photographic evidence, then failing to treat it with any integrity.

No matter what “blessings” or “anointing” an individual has, it cannot possibly lead to any real spirituality if the experience is based on lies and broken promises, damaging others and ignoring the requirement (from Jesus Himself) to be a good neighbour.

I wonder if anyone in Struthers will be a good neighbour as a result of this post.

That is the choice Jesus gave to each one of us – either pass by on the other side or be a good neighbour. As Mr Black used to say, “You cannot avoid that choice. Doing nothing is making a choice, not avoiding one.”

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Grace-girl ()
Date: August 24, 2011 01:42AM

Hi all. As far as i can see the main leadership is still the same. Although i went to a recent summer camp and it was the same! I was never told about this site but stumbled upon it.i had no idea people were posting these thoughts. I wonder how many people in smc have issues with the church and are scared to speak up

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Rensil ()
Date: August 24, 2011 06:26AM

To Chris19
Welcome to the Forum. Your story is very interesting and informative; thankyou for sharing it. I was in SMC for over 20 years and often wondered what happened to people who left SMC and who had been favoured by the leadership and given special attention and training by them, and were in so-called ministry. Of course, we were told that such a person had backslidden and had done so to a greater and more serious extent because of their training and calling. At the time I believed that to be the case, as did (and still do) most SMC members. Of course, now I do not believe such nonsense. It's control, inducing fear in people so that they are frightened to leave and in turn to lose their calling. You are right in saying that people selected and given special attention in SMC are to be pitied and not envied.

I am glad to hear that you have found a good, lively church and have been able to recover from your experiences and rebuild your life. The matter of the leaders telling people that they are called to the single life has happened to quite a number of members over many years and I believe has curtailed some of their lives; this is rather serious when a person isnt allowed the freedom to find the will of God for themselves on such an important issue as marriage.
I have just read the story posted by The Petitor above. What a terrible experience for someone to have. Sadly, I doubt whether he/she will ever receive an apology or explanation. That's why we need this Forum as people can share their hurts and feelings here with others who understand. So let's support one another and the Latigo site too.

Re relationships, I always found it a bit strange that some male/female relationships were encouraged or the leaders did not pay much attention to a relationship one way or another, whilst other m/f relationships were disapproved of and broken up on the instruction of a leader, leading in most cases to great heartache on both sides. I begin to wonder if it was all part of the control mechanism just to keep people in the church or keep them from marrying someone else. It had the opposite effect, though, as it just caused people to leave because of the hurt and pain.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Archbishop Laud ()
Date: August 25, 2011 04:51PM

There was a fascinating and thread-relevant programme on one of the 'God' channels last night.

A lady explained her life in the Exclusive Brethren and how she escaped from it. Her story reminded me greatly of my experience in SMC. Indeed, I would suggest that Mr Black's background in the Exclusive Brethren explains much about what is wrong with Struthers. He claimed to have been liberated from it when he was baptised in the Holy Spirit, but I am not sure the liberation was thorough enough. I think he imported most of their doctrines and forms of life straight into Struthers, which can, as a result, be classified as a a kind of Pentecostal Exclusive Brethren. Or rather Pentecostal Exclusive Sisterhood -- because brothers are very much in the background there.

I repeat my call: what are we going to do to help others?

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: ThePetitor ()
Date: August 25, 2011 11:08PM

Quote
Archbishop Laud
I would suggest that Mr Black's background in the Exclusive Brethren explains much about what is wrong with Struthers... I think he imported most of their doctrines and forms of life straight into Struthers, which can, as a result, be classified as a a kind of Pentecostal Exclusive Brethren. Or rather Pentecostal Exclusive Sisterhood -- because brothers are very much in the background there.

Now that is interesting. I did not see the programme but I was thinking exactly the same earlier this week. I even had a look online to see what info there was about the exclusive brethren. As you say, much of it is very similar including the fact that they run their own schools to protect their children form bad influences. In the close brethren schools, this extends to not allowing access to the internet believing it all to be a bad influence. Since Cedars has taken the opposite approach, pupils will be exposed to more of the truth, so are less likely to continue to follow Struthers in the longer term.

That is good news but in terms of what we can do in a more proactive sense, I am not sure. The evidence is now so overwhelming that no-one could actually read it and defend Struthers, but most of the congregation are so isolated that they can largely just ignore it - or are so depressed that they don't care. I do feel sorry for those still trapped but I am not sure what we can do either individually or collectively.

If we do have any contact with current members, we can be at least be a bit more robust however! I have met a few over the years, and generally said something about what happened to me, but I would be a lot more forceful now, as the evidence is overwhelming and I am more and more seeing that they each have their own personal responsibility to make a decision in the light of that public evidence. I think that responsibility of the individuals is one thing that has been lacking until now, as we have largely (and correctly) focused on the leaders.

Seems to me that there is now absolute clarity that the leadership is damaging however and, while I am sure that more evidence will continue to come to light, no more is really needed to convince any rational person. The question to the individual members of the congregations them becomes not just "why don't the leaders do something about it?" it is "why don't YOU do something about it".

As has been said before, "For evil to abound, all it takes is good men(sic) to do nothing." Come on, members of the congregation in Struthers, you are meant to be not just good men and women, but the salt of the earth. You are responsible for your own actions, including avoiding contact with former members, refusing to read or investigate the factual accounts on this forum and giving your money to an organisation that systematically abuses people. Do you not believe that you will have to stand before God and account for all that one day? Do you really think it is good enough to say, "but the leaders told me..."

This started with reference to a TV programme about the Exclusive Brethern, and I want to close it with another film reference. I was watching a film about Hitler recently (called something like the man who fought Hitler - it was about a lawyer trying to challenge Hitler's rise to power) and it struck me that the Struthers approach is very similar to the one Hitler adopted - absolute authority, including authority to say black was white. There is no way that is the model in either the old or new testament.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Clive ()
Date: August 25, 2011 11:20PM

Quote
ThePetitor

ThePetitor,

It is clear that Struthers influence over L’s decision to not have further contacts with L cause M great hurt, confusion and a sense of betrayal.

However, regardless of the nature of the promise, It pays to be careful before being so judgemental and scripture-quoting
concerning something, that clearly involved affairs of the heart and a lost or frayed friendship - as seem from M’s perspective.

But, putting my personal misgivings about SMC aside, one should take into consideration the fact that this happened 25 years ago, at - I am guessing a time when both parties were very much in their youth.

One needs to be little more forgiving about human nature here. People are allowed to change their minds - and - yes - even though it galls me to say this in the context of such a manipulative church - are allowed to have their minds changed by others - including church leaders.

I think it is quite possible that L felt quite soon in her own mind that she made a mistake at that time. People - particularly people in their youth - at a time when all manner of emotions drive us - DO make rash decisions, even invoking oaths.

What did Jesus say about this ? I seem to recall something about “let your yes be yes and your no be no”. Jesus and the Bible i would posit - frowns on oaths made before God. It is the sort of promise made where the person doesn’t yet have sufficient integrity or maturity as perceived by others - to just be taken at their word. And this is just the kind of thing one would expect of people in their youth. Whereas over a longer period one generally gets to know from experience just WHO can be taken at their word and who cannot, this is really too much to expect from people in their prime - even people in a Brethren-derived church dare i say it.

It seems to me very reasonable to expose the SMC’s hurtful involvement in micro-managing peoples relationships and the deep hurt that goes with it. But it is quite another thing to start using bible verses as a “spiritual stick" to coerce people like L into doing something "M" wants - EVEN if it was promised. We can all go “quote mining”. “Judge not etc...”, “Let he who is...” etc etc.

Let me speak a little of myself, from my own experiences of situations where relationships , or "unrequited loves” end up as “platonic friendships”. It is always an emotional minefield. Women in particular are far more happy in my experience to just casually transform such relationships into a “just friends” thing without thinking through what might be going on in the mans mind. But even as post-relationship “platonic friends” it is easy to still be overly hurt and to carry these grudges on into life way beyond their proper “sell by dates”. I speak from bitter experience here.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: ThePetitor ()
Date: August 26, 2011 01:34AM

Clive,

You are of course entitled to your opinion even though it is, once again, critical of one of the contributors to the forum rather than making any direct comment on the theme here, which remains as Struthers Memorial Church.

I for one am not sure how helpful that is. Your comments will not discourage me from continuing to contribute, but you must know that there will be others who are more cautious who will be very reluctant to contribute if they think it will just attract criticism. (I actually think that might have happened already.) How does it help anyone to restrict what can and can’t be said in this way? Many people have been HURT by Struthers. They do not just have an intellectual disagreement, they are continuing to suffer, in some cases after many years. They do not share their stories lightly.

I think we should allow others to make their own contribution and, even if it is flawed, to encourage people to speak out and share their experiences and hurt. To criticise contributions related to Struthers imposes a form of censorship which constrains what people can and can’t say. I know that is what you wanted to do when you sent the private emails to people, but I don’t think anyone actually agreed with you.

Sure, people have a responsibility to get over hurt, manage the things life throws at them, and put things in context, that is absolutely right. That does not absolve abusers of their responsibility however. For many years the Catholic church took that view – it would do more damage to expose abuse, and they could not change the past anyway, so why not focus on helping the person come to terms with it? Surely that would be much more productive than opening up old wounds. Thankfully, that is no longer the case in the Catholic church, and it should not be the case on this forum.

Personally, I think that you have also missed the bigger point here. Important as your view of the details may be, what I am interested in is the opinion of those in Struthers. The question is not really whether you think oaths carry less weight if taken by young people or there has been a passage of time, it is how Struthers fit this into THEIR belief system. They are the ones who preach about how you cannot put a sticking plaster over a wound and hope it will go away. If they say, this should all be dismissed because it was so long ago, that will be really interesting for a number of reasons (although, after your criticisms, I am not currently free to share why).

Many of the other issues raised in this forum are also years old, and I am not aware that has been a cause for criticism before. Should we now go through all the other stories here and point out how old they are or how people should just get over it because they were young or naïve? Even if there was something to gain by doing so, focussing our attention on what the victim should do and ignoring the responsibility of the offender in my view diverts attention from the main message of this forum, which is that 25 people all have different stories which together form a consistent picture, even if it was flawed human beings who were involved.

In fact, now that I come to think of it, Struthers has even MORE responsibility if we are dealing with flawed human beings who are struggling to get over things they “should have" got over years ago. Is that not the whole message of the gospel? To support the weak and needy? (and what does that "should have" bit mean anyway?)

My view is quite clear that the reason these issues are still around after so many years is not the fault of the individuals, which is what you are implying, but is the fault of Struthers, since they have consistently refused to deal with them over the years.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Treetop ()
Date: August 26, 2011 04:53AM

[referring to Petitor's post about L&M and to Clive's post starting - "It is clear that Struthers influence over L’s decision to not have further contacts with L cause M great hurt, confusion and a sense of betrayal......"]


If I were a parent of teenagers or young adults, and my children were under the care of teachers/tutors/youth leaders, secular or otherwise, I would expect these individuals to be properly trained, thoroughly vetted, with a code of conduct clearly laid out. I would expect this precisely because of the emotional difficulties young adults face – things like negotiating new and intense relationships for the first time, dealing with gender issues, potential eating disorders, emerging mental health problems and other serious difficulties.

Church leaders learn about these issues through proper training at Bible college etc. There are even special degrees people can study in youth leadership. Trained church leaders know not to meddle, know to wait until approached, know when they are out of their depth and know a range of youth advisors & services to send people to if needed.

Struthers shun training. They shun outside advice. They shun professional services.

Where did that get 2 young adults under their pastoral care? The amatuer advice and downright callous way in which L & M were meddled with at a crucial stage in their life has obviously caused 25 years of pain and suffering to one person. We don't know about L's side (although Clive has speculated.) However it's often noted that problems between people which are ignored do not magically disappear and that both parties will be affected to some extent!

In any secular situation emotional wounds will need attention at some point later on if the person is to grow into a mature, resilient and fully fulfilled adult. Christians would say this has spiritual parallels. I think Petitor is pointing to this when he says L has to address the past in order to be an effective leader in the present. As a christian, I happen to agree on this point and I think the verse he quotes about "leaving your gift at the altar" to sort out a problem is entirely appropriate in this instance.

So, parents with teenagers or young adults – be aware that while your young people may be physically safe under Struthers care, there are a host of social and emotional problems that affect young people and which Struthers has no capacity at all to deal with. More than that, Struthers has strong potential to cause lasting emotional damage to your teenage children.

So many adults testifying personally on this forum have felt that very thing.
Petitor, I think the story you tell is extremely relevant. Thank you for sharing it.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Rensil ()
Date: August 26, 2011 06:58AM

Archbishop Laud -

I totally agree with your view that Mr Black took a great amount of Exclusive Brethren teaching into Struthers, including the idea that SMC is a special group chosen by God and called to live holier lives than other Christians and keeping its members isolated from society in general and from other christian gatherings. I agree that he couldn't have been free of the effects of his upbringing in the Exclusive Brethren. If he had been, this transfer and carrying over would not have been able to happen.

Regarding what we can do to help others, apart from praying for SMC and the leaders and members (which I know some people do), I am not sure what we can do in a pro-active way. Talking to individual members still within SMC , in my experience, most often leads to arguments and fruitless discussion, with accusations coming about me/you having failed God and let people down etc by leaving the fold, i.e. SMC. When a person does want to leave SMC, they generally make the move to call for help but I am not sure how many such people find the right help at the right time and summon the courage to leave. Churches definitely need to be equipped, knowledgable and ready to help such people when and as they leave, just as there are organisations to help former cult members to recover.

According to GraceGirl, this Forum hasn't been mentioned by SMC leaders recently. It was mentioned some months ago on Saturday nights and I believe they have members monitoring what is written here. Why else do they keep adding web links with nothing in them, on Google search-engine?
However, isnt it great that we have the internet and thus people can access information by themselves and quickly. That's why the Rick Ross site is doing a tremendous job. So again, let's keep posting on this Forum and support one another. Let's keep fighting back and presenting the truth about our experiences re SMC. This is one of the best ways to help others.

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Re: Struthers Memorial Independent Pentecostal Church
Posted by: Clive ()
Date: August 26, 2011 09:31PM

Quote
ThePetitor
Clive,

You are of course entitled to your opinion even though it is, once again, critical of one of the contributors to the forum rather than making any direct comment on the theme here, which remains as Struthers Memorial Church.

I for one am not sure how helpful that is.

I am sorry ThePetitor and others who clearly feel that the only opinions or criticisms that are legitimate here are ones that attack SMC, and that
every kind of “Mud” that can be “slung”, is valid for slinging, but I simply will not be part of that hypocrisy.

I stand by what i said about M and L. It is simply ridiculous if not indeed shameful for M to be resorting to scripture merely to vent anger about
something that happened 25 years ago concerning a relationship that ended, followed by a friendship - where clearly one of the parties, has decided not to follow through on a promise and by all accounts no longer wants contact with M. The fact is, L is not posting here, so we simply do not know her side of the story. I am not suggesting that SMC had nothing to do with why L no longer wants contact with M, but we are not talking about something like a scientology cult where a family is split apart and family members are actively forbidden from further contact. The story here is about two individuals who were in a relationship, followed by friendship and then a break.

I wonder how many women posting on this forum have found themselves in the situation of simply not wanting to have any contact with some man, whether ex-boyfriend, or merely ex-associate or ex-close friend, only to find that the man feels that the woman should be OBLIGED to maintain contact for all manner of reasons.

Maybe every poster here genuinely DOES find every little bit of the Latigo site extremely helpful. Maybe ANYTHING - never mind how little or pedantic or nitpicking IS worthy of mention , whether here or on Latigo - since it all aids in our “fight”. Sure, carry on being blinkered like this.

But in the mean time those that can effect real change - those within SMC will just come over time to dismiss this thread and especially Latigo as a joke and people within that MIGHT have dared to stand up or even consider leaving will think again.

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