Cooneyites, Go-Preachers, Two-by-twos?

Discussion in 'Cults & World Religions' started by Jerusalem Blade, Dec 14, 2008.

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  1. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Anyone interested in a paper (9 pages) on this cult, which goes by many different names (they themselves give no name), the nameless house sect, etc, which started in Ireland around 1900, founded by William Irvine. Some folks in my congregation came out from thence, and lent me a few books on them. Evidently they're on all the continents. Give me an email and I'll send it in pdf or Word, 8½ x 11 or A4 (European-sized page).
  2. westminken

    westminken Puritan Board Freshman

    Sure, why not. It looks like it might be an interesting read.
  3. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    I have some of them in my family!

    My late aunt was brought up in one of those groupes here in NB. She died(young) when I was a teenager & I stayed with her often in her final months.

    She described them as a group that did not name themselves, but other people called them "go-preachers" or "black-stockings".

    Her father had been converted at one of their meetings after listening outside the window of a house meeting in rural NB in the 40's.

    I would love to read your paper, and so would many other family members. I always considered them some sort of "closed brethern" group.
  4. JohnGill

    JohnGill Puritan Board Senior

    It sounds interesting.
  5. Jerusalem Blade

    Jerusalem Blade Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I've sent it to those who gave me emails. Here is a brief history I just wrote, which is not included in the paper (included in the emails, though):


    While it is still fresh in my mind (though I have already given the books back to the folks who lent them to me), I will give a thumbnail sketch of the cult’s history. I do this as the paper is mostly their theology and related practice, apart from history, as the couple I wrote it for already knew that, and my purpose was to completely extricate their minds and hearts from the false teachings.

    Two men were the founders of the cult, which they endeavored never to name, though once dealing with the Selective Service during WW II, I think they listed it in official papers as “The Christian Testimony”. These two men were William Irvine, and Edward Cooney, both of Ireland (I can’t remember if Irvine originally hailed from Scotland). They both, despite their jobs (Irvine as a foreman in a coal mine, Cooney apprenticing to take over his well-to-do dad’s clothing business), preached publicly. Around 1897 they met; Irvine the dominant character (fiercely direct and strong willed), Cooney the more sensitive and well-bred, more knowledgeable in Scripture, the more dynamic speaker.

    Irvine had this “revelation” concerning Matthew 10:8–10, that this was to be the essential standard for discipleship, men (and women) giving up all, going two by two, with nothing, to preach the gospel, calling men to repentance. What this repentance consisted of, however, was to follow them in their style of following Jesus, and they would thus partake of Christ’s Spirit and be united to Him. Irvine (Cooney following) said one had to utterly discard the doctrines and worship of the Christian churches, for they were the dwelling places of the devil, and the clergy were the devil’s tools to lead souls to Hell. Anti-clericalism was a main staple of their gospel. They were quite dramatic in their presentations, and caused quite a stir. They were baptistic, and ridiculed the paedos (in a land where Presbyterians, Methodists, and Anglicans were predominant). Cooney later softened a bit on all clergy being of the devil, and he later in life allowed there were saved people outside the sect.

    One of their number (and the sect grew rapidly) developed the doctrine of “the living witness”, which was that Irvine was a special apostle / messenger from God and that salvation had to come through him, or through those preachers / workers who were “brought in” to the fold via Irvine (a weird version of ‘apostolic succession’). Cooney later repudiated this doctrine, for he held he had been saved before knowing Irvine, but initially he yielded to it. The teaching today is that all who are not in the sect are lost and going to Hell, and all who are disfellowshipped likewise shall perish. Preachers are not to marry.

    In 1914 Irvine was disfellowshipped by the overseers for, a) not going along with the new hierarchy of overseers controlling each country or large district (Canada, east and western USA, Great Britain, Australian, New Zealand, etc), and b) going way off in his beliefs. Eventually he came to think he was one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11, and went to Jerusalem to wait for the time of his manifestation. He also fell into sin with women. He died there in the 2nd or 3rd decade of the century. Cooney repudiated the “living witness” teaching, and opposed the new hierarchy, as he was thoroughly egalitarian in his approach, saying that God directly revealed himself to each preacher and gave him or her directions as to where and what to preach. The overseers claimed this prerogative.

    The main body of preachers, most young men and women, endured great hardships, living only by what they received for working odd jobs or scanty donations from those in the sect who were not preachers but settled in homes and jobs. Many were ill, many had breakdowns and nervous conditions. Yet the overseers began to have bank accounts, lived much higher, and retained severe control over all those under them in their districts. Cooney, the best of the lot, opposed all this. So he too was disfellowshipped, though many sided with him, and he ministered to them well into his 90s. The nuanced account of him is in the paper.

    The overseers decided to eliminate all memory and mention of their origins in Ireland, and of Irvine the founder, and of Cooney, asserting that their origin was from the time of Jesus and the apostles, and there were such witnesses up through the centuries. They named the Waldenses and Albigenses as among their forebears. Cooney said this was lying, and grossly dishonest, and he wouldn’t go along with it.

    The cult continues today, though they keep a low profile, as they always did. They have annual conventions in their respective countries. One of the marks of this cult is an abhorrence of the Christian doctrine of Christ’s atonement, and focus on the works of the people in obeying the “workers” (their versions of elders / pastors) and having “the right spirit”. There is much despair among them because they do not know the doctrines of grace. Their history is taboo, buried, and books about the cult are forbidden reading.
  6. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    I just read your paper. Thanks for your work, it was good.
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