Articles in ‘The Age’ – Melbourne, Australia

Two newspaper articles were published in The Age on 23 September 2013 by Chris Johnston,  Senior Writer.

Sect leader to face 12 child sex counts

A Fairfax Media investigation has established senior members of the sect knew of the allegations yet promoted him, in 1991, to the senior position of ”worker”, or minister – meaning he was travelling throughout Victoria and Tasmania and staying in family homes as a ”missionary”.

Friends and enemies, truth and lies

They have no churches or headquarters, no written policies or doctrines. But this secretive Victorian-based religious sect is again in the spotlight for sexually abusing its own child members.

12 thoughts on “Articles in ‘The Age’ – Melbourne, Australia

  1. These articles are very misleading. It’s a fact that offenders are reported and dealt with by the law if the case is known about AND the person overseeing or some knows they are obligated by law to report it. (some do not realize this, even in the ordinary religion or ways of life)

    As far as the hair, dress, TV and the physical things…..that IS NOT what this way is all about. It’s about understanding, the love, wisdom, and knowledge that is in the Bible and revealed by God. This is hard for many to grasp for reasons unexplainable.

    As far as these home meetings you speak of……if you have been told that they are forced on people or people feel uneasy or are unhappy about them then that is an issue in them. It’s not the way. If you are doing anything that you do not love then I believe there in lies the the problem.

    I am apart of this way of life and have never been more free and at peace in my life.

    Really disappointed in these articles but I know it’s the soft hearted, contrite spirits and kindness of these people who will and can forgive the misguided information that has been written.

    Sent from my Sprint phone

  2. The above opinion is quite disturbing as it seeks to defend any perceived criticism of the way rather than focus on the criminal actions of workers and others against children. Pamela, it seems that you have either ignored or not identified that too many of the workers or elders take it upon themselves to personally advise victims or their families rather than follow the mandated reporting processes and contact the police.

    Additionally there are reasons why CSA is prevalent within religious organisations and some of the “physical things” that you referred to in the recent newspaper articles, and to which you regard as misleading, are in fact contributors to the increased risk of CSA within this belief and many other religious denominations.

    Separation from the world; female subordination through dress and hair styles; a gender determined hierarchy; the ‘divine’ authority of the workers; emphasis on modesty and a reticence in speaking openly about sexual matters are just some of the factors which encourage CSA within the meetings.

    The Victorian preacher who unashamedly admitted to the journalist that ”I investigated with the actual people involved, with the people who were supposed to be the victims. They said nothing happened. [The worker] brought forward false child sexual abuse allegations and he was removed from his posting”, had no authority to undertake his own investigation.

    Pamela, I hope your tendency to defend what you hold dear will be replaced by an understanding that it is not misleading to publicly advocate for the victims of CSA in the meetings and that you will instead speak out on their behalf.

    Please consider there are no reliable statistics on the number of victims and there is a real potential their numbers are continuing to rise.

  3. The evolved mentality of the workers has resulted in a self-given spiritual authority which places them somehow over and above the law in their own minds. They have even gone so far, on occasion, as to forbid the friends to report abuse, or give evidence in court against it. At the end of the day, the reputation of The Way seems more important than anything else, and the protection of the ministry more important than the protection of children. Agreeing to speak to The Age gave me no joy in having the two-by-twos represented as child molesters. I do not know anything about the worker mentioned in the article as being on molestation charges, and nothing of his guilt or innocence. I spoke publicly because of the many cases I do know about, for which there has never been justice. I spoke publicly because I want parents to think twice before leaving their children vulnerable to someone they have welcomed into their home. I spoke publicly because the workers have continued to knowingly put perpetrators into homes. If I am misguided in this, judge me as you will.

  4. The problem with articles like “Friends and enemies, truth and lies” is they are based on a limited view and miss facts like this;

    In 1991 it was done right and NOT covered up. There are more examples of it being done right

    So Chris et al are wrong when they broad brush in a biased way by saying things like “There was, she says, a culture of secrecy, cover-ups and denial, and a dismissal of outside authority, which meant sex crimes stayed hidden.”

    The mistake reporters like Chris make is not interviewing happy satisfied professing people who make up the vast majority of the fellowship. Instead they give activist exes like Coleman the sole voice of authority on the entire fellowship resulting in a story that is quite biased.

  5. I recently read a letter, written over ten years ago from one worker to another, in which there is reference to a woman who was currently attending missions. This lady had prayed to god due to the “terrible things” within her own church having been aired in the paper and she was wanting to move away from the world.

    Having been reared in the meetings, I had often heard a similar tone as that expressed by Jesse in her above post. When a person leaves ‘the way’, terms such as ‘bitter’, ‘angry’ and now it seems ‘activist´ are applied to justify professing people dismissing the valid and reasonable concerns expressed by ex-members.

    CSA should never be dismissed with the intention of protecting a religious belief system. It is a “terrible” crime which ruins innocent lives. When professing people read of the CSA committed by priests and other officials they would, and should be horrified. It is very concerning and also dishonest and bigoted if professing people are choosing to deny that workers and others from within their belief, have also committed this heinous crime.

    Professing people who avoid confronting these crimes are wrong, selfish, introspective and reveal a blatant disregard for the victims. If, as Jesse stated, ‘the vast majority of professing people are happy and satisfied’ then their happiness and satisfaction must depend on avoiding the truth and denying the rights of the victims of CSA. The truth is that there have been workers and friends convicted of CSA across the globe, and others have broken the law by failing to report these crimes. It is only a false degree of happiness and satisfaction which can be gained by pretending all is well within the belief when it is not.

    My professing family members were horrified about the workers who have been convicted of abusing children and, had they been in better health, I am convinced they would also have acted on the victims’ behalf. It is a terrible shame when people within the belief are not adopting the role of activists and it must therefore depend on those ‘outside’ to speak up. The worker who wrote of the lady who had prayed to her god to help her find a belief away from her previous church which harboured ‘terrible things’, likely symbolises why workers and others try to hush the criminal actions of other workers.

    We need to seek for a truth which is based on evidence as this enables us to honestly face up to facts and, in the context of CSA, to appropriately support the victims.

  6. I don’t want to start a comment war but your comment deserves a response Joede. Coleman published a book titled “Cult to Christ” about the fellowship. That is what an activist exe does, they write books and publications that paint their former experience in the worst possible way. Most people exiting churches don’t do that. In regards to CSA, people who haven’t been abused using CSA as a vehicle to bash their former experience in publications actually re-victimize the victims. It’s pretty sad to see.

    • “Paint their former experience in the worst possible way” – this comment is greatly at odds with comments by those who have actually read the book, Jesse. I would have to ask – did you read the book before making this comment? So far no one has advised me they have felt re-victimized by anything I have said or written. Quite the opposite.

  7. Could you please present the evidence to support your claim that the publication of a book which refers to CSA within the meetings is “re-victimising the victim” Jesse.

    Research into the impact of CSA stresses that secrecy and silence are factors which are conducive to CSA, whereas giving the victims a voice empowers them and negates their isolation and helplessness.

    Open and respectful discourse on CSA assists in removing the barriers which may prevent the perpetrators from being identified and convicted, and encourages victims to acknowledge the impact of their shocking experiences and thus take steps towards rehabilitation.

    What is sad is if the intention to protect a belief system predominates the needs and rights of the powerless and vulnerable.

  8. Hi Joede. Yes. The fact is books and publications written by exes never limit their content to CSA, there is always criticism of a lot outside the CSA issue. CSA is a secondary criticism piggybacked on all the opinionated criticisms that have been published for over 100 years now. In reality CSA is a society issue, it is NOT limited to the fellowship. The CSA issue has become just another way to criticise the fellowship. Read the article these comments are under – that is exactly what is going on.

    Now maybe you could present evidence to support your claim; that any time someone in the fellowship identifies broad brush criticisms that ignore the fact that the majority in the fellowship are happy and satisfied their real intention is; “to protect a belief system” and predominates ”the needs and rights of the powerless and vulnerable”.

    and this claim;

    “If, as Jesse stated, ‘the vast majority of professing people are happy and satisfied’ then their happiness and satisfaction must depend on avoiding the truth and denying the rights of the victims of CSA.”

    Our happiness and satisfaction “must depend on avoiding the truth and denying the rights of the victims of CSA”??

    Happy and satisfied in the fellowship doesn’t mean “CSA is dismissed with the intention of protecting a religious belief system” like you and so many others imply.

    Those are very vituperative and judgmental comments. They and others of their ilk are so typical of the activist exe mindset that stands out in the various activist exe publications and books. I’m sorry that is the way it is.

  9. Jesse, a salient point in your earlier post was that writings about CSA ‘re-victimised the victims’. That is an interesting claim and one which requires validation through research. Does expert opinion support your claim?

    Someone I know left the meetings after learning of those workers who were convicted of CSA and I have interacted with others who are appalled that their professing relatives easily dismiss this extremely serious issue and continue as if nothing has happened. What is the calibre of these individuals’ happiness and satisfaction and also consider integrity?

    The hierarchy within the fellowship, and many alternative belief systems, encourages adherents to maintain a dangerous silence thus enabling an environment where paedophiles may engage in their criminal activities.

    It is apparent that your main intention is to defend your belief Jesse. Maybe some ex-members who have written about the fellowship ( to apply your term) are attention-seekers and motivated by other than altruistic intentions. This could be more likely if they have left the meetings only to enter another church, as religious belief systems are effective machines for psychological control and fiscal advantage. The allegiance with their present organisation may motivate them to criticise their former religion: religious indoctrination is proven to contribute to bigotry and division.

    However this website is focused on CSA within the fellowship, as were the comments within the newspaper article, and this topic absolutely must be a focus. It presents as undermining and uncaring of the CSA victims of workers and others, that you are offended by any general criticisms of the fellowship Jesse. Additionally your claim that writing about CSA within the belief ‘revictimises the victims’ has potentially serious, negative implications, unless you can validate that claim.

    Surely the rights and needs of the CSA victims deserve more of your time and energy than the protection of any organisation?

  10. Just reading some of the comments here; I was brought up in this sect and whenever anyone mentions any problem in the sect, members of the sect are liable to see it as an attack. This is why child abuse and other problems tend to get covered up so much. In a normal, healthy organisation of any sort, questions are allowed, problems can be dissected, and a focus on problems is not seen as an attack, but an opportunity to improve.

    The Hare Krisna movement, when faced with allegations of physical child abuse apparently went out of their way to expose abuse, change problematic practices, and cooperate with investigations. This is why their reputation in the end remained surprisingly untarnished. Terrible things had occurred and they were exposed and changes made to prevent further such occurrences.

    The reputation of the Two by Twos seems to get worse and worse, precisely because of the culture of secrecy, and the fact of any mention — or even worse, focus on — problems being perceived as an attack.

    Membership numbers in the UK seem to be dropping like a stone, with three conventions closed not long ago and one new one opened (which is a for-profit holiday business the rest of the year). The cause of the drop is largely the fact that now, the instant anyone looks up the Two by Twos on the Internet, they quickly find that the sect is highly secretive and when faced with criticism, labels it as simple attack. And it now has a number of criminal convictions to its name (or lack of name!), has more often covered things up than exposed them, and current members tend to want all such scrutiny ended.

    This attitude seems to be allowing corrupt overseers and workers, if anything, to push out the many sincere and good workers in the sect. Anyone (like Graham Thompson) who dislikes the secrecy and cares first and foremost about “God’s children”, is liable to leave or to be pushed out.

    This is personally causing me problems to this very day, as I try to help relatives who are in this sect and need my help, due to illness. I repeatedly encounter an attitude that is the opposite to openness, clarity, and accountability from others in the sect, and instead is focused on protecting the reputation of the sect …. which is in the UK is steadily worsening.

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