I am not in a position to answer all of your questions, but I can shed some light on this. Struthers Memorial Church is a company limited by guarantee. That company has charitable status and controls the churches, the school and the coffee/ bookshops. There is only one company, so all of the activities are part of the same organisation.
I am not sure how they get away with having potentially profit-making bookshops and coffee shops that are part of a charity, competing with other commercial ventures that have to pay tax, but I guess that is a matter for the Charities Commission.
I have some serious concerns about the fact that it is just a single organisation however, as some of the practices in the church services would certainly constitute bullying in an employment context (see some of the posts on page 1 and 2 of this forum). Since they are a single organisation, that means that this approach is condoned by the Board, which also runs the school. If an organisation that promotes bullying from the pulpit running a school, that has to be a bit worrying.
The organisation has 6 Directors who are the ones who select other directors so, no, there is no elected membership of anything. There is something strange in the constitution about the ability to appoint "Members" but, from what I understand, no such "Members" have ever been appointed. I don’t think anyone knows whether pastors can be hired or fired. I doubt they have any form of contract of engagement. I think one of the problems is exactly that – not only can they not be fired, there is not even a mechanism to complain against them.
In terms of the accounts, there is a set of published accounts, but they hide more than they reveal, and they raise some interesting questions. For example, they show that a considerable part of the congregation’s contributions go to fund the school, and that there are some pastors/ leaders who do get a salary.
In spite of this, Anon201062 said on 8 Dec, “I am writing this as someone who does go to one of the Struthers branch of churches” and “The leaders in struthers are not paid or appointed by themselves.”
Similarly Rensil said, on 18 March, “I went to Struthers Church for over 20 years. I honestly had no idea that money from Church collections went towards funding their School.”
Both of these prove that the members themselves do not know what is going on. From what I hear, and questions about the accounts are yet another indicator that the person raising the question is unspiritual.
Not sure if this helps in people's judgment of whether Struthers is a cult, but I did think Archbishop Laud’s comments were a bit misleading – yes, Archbishop Laud, I agree that you did say earlier that Struthers wasn’t a cult, but you didn’t actually win that argument, so I am not sure how a reference to earlier comments adds any weight to your current comments.
In my view, whether Struthers fits a specific definition or not is not really the issue. I see at least three things that people might, rightly or wrongly, associate with being a cult.
1) Non-standard doctrine. Archbishop Laud is clear that the doctrine is mainstream. I am not so sure. Struthers leaders appear see 4 classes of people –
(a) people who have not accepted Christ,
(b) those who are saved (a doctrine accepted by all of the evangelical churches),
(c) those who are baptised in the Holy Spirit (a doctrine accepted by the Pentecostal churches) and
(d) those who are deeply anointed (a term that does not occur in scripture and would not be accepted by other churches or by any of the great Christian leaders they are always quoting) and who as a result must always be obeyed and never criticised.
I wonder if point (4) actually puts them quite wide of the mark in terms of having standard doctrine.
2) Secrecy and ambiguity. This is a huge part of what happens in Struthers. Apart from the examples above, the Latigo site lists dozens of questions. Even from this forum, it is clear that people have tried to get answers to these questions over the years, and that the response is always the same – divide and conquer. Make people feel they are the only one with these questions, that they have “ a questioning spirit” a “seed of bitterness” or some other fault. Doctrine is not made explicit, but is all anecdotal, and often contradictory. For example, there was a whole sermon recently about the dangers of humour yet Jennifer Jack, one of the leaders and a Director of the company, wrote the Founder’s obituary for the Glasgow Herald (search for Herald obituary Hugh Black) and in it said he had a great sense of humour! How are members of the congregation meant to deal with this sort of thing when there is no opportunity to discuss it and tease out what is meant?
3) Control. To me, this is the real issue. Whether the above 2 points are proven or unproven, and whether Struthers fits within this site’s definition of a cult or in some dictionary’s definition is not the issue. The issues is the way the leaders control the lives of the congregation, spending almost all of their time convincing them not to leave. I personally like the ten warning signs that you publish on this site [www.culteducation.com
]. Whether or not Struthers is a cult, I think it meets all of these criteria and that many people who come into contact with it are damaged rather than helped. I for one have never met anyone who has left struthers without being damaged, and others on this forum have testified to exactly the same thing.