The cultish new theology all began, as far as I can remember, with a new emphasis on Headship, Family Order and a seemingly innocuous little booklet on Abraham and Sarah from Vic Hall. We had just been doing ‘fatherhood’ with the interim regime for three or four years and it seemed like the next step.
Then came ‘guru headship’.
To the uninitiated, Headship is the Biblical principle that
But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.1 Cor 11:3
It’s well known, no surprise to many, and much hated by feminists no doubt.
Initially it led to much chauvinistic behaviour by men at MCF. Women were to ‘stand on their husband’s ‘holy ground’ and support his work and ministry. Random men could counsel random women. Women would ask random men for their opinions on their life situations.
Men’s ministries were highlighted.
Women only ministered in Church if ‘covered’ by their husband or an elder.
Later this was somewhat corrected by eg:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for herEph 5:25
Clearly Biblical headship is not really about bossing people around!
We were taught that if we were not living in correct headship order, men to Christ and women to husbands that we were not living in ‘Family Order’ and we could expect all sorts of disasters including giving birth to children with birth defects.
True. Vic Hall told us personally about what had occurred to two of his grandchildren and accounted it to living out of Family Order.
The women stopped short of wearing Amish head scarves.
Once my wife, in the choir, sitting next to Murray Wylie’s wife Kate, of Jerusalem Passion fame (Murray’s beautiful Oratorio on Christian unity performed at the Sydney Opera House), tried to pass on a message to the AV guys about no mics for the 2nd Sopranos. Not only did she get told off ‘How dare you correct me in front of Murray Wylie’, but I got told off by my homegroup leader the next day for not having my wife in line!
A silly little story. But indicative.
We had become a cult. I was wondering when I would be suiting up in Amish plain clothes.
Abraham and Sarah
The teachings in the Abraham and Sarah book shocked me.
Everything was taken as a symbol, rather than face value.
Now, I am very aware, and very interested in Old Testament symbology, and appreciate its value. For example, The Passover Lamb is Christ. The walk through the Red Sea was baptism. And so on.
But we were taught that when Abraham asked Sarah to say that ‘I am your sister’ to Pharaoh, it was prophetic of us men to treat our wives ministries as separate to our ministries, as if they are, no more than sisters (in that aspect). Abraham was honouring her.
But we all know that Abraham did it because he was scared of Pharaoh because Sarah was a beautiful woman.
But our leaders would have none of that.
Abraham did it to honour her ministry as we are to honour our wive’s ministries as separate to our own. (The teaching itself is great, but is it supported by this Abraham and Sarah story?)
We all ingored the plainly indicated reading:
Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.Gen 12:13
Maybe, the spiritual meaning is what Vic was saying. But who knows?
Women were taught to treat their husbands as Sarah did, virtually calling them ‘lord’.
It was brought in with much testimony from multiple Brisbane couples including Vic and Lorraine Hall.
Well, I started to doubt, but as booklet after booklet came in, and the elders all went on about how revelatory it all was, I gradually joined in and accepted that Vic Hall was bringing in ‘an administration for the fullness of times’ and we should expect to be shocked and challenged, just as the Jews were shocked when Jesus turned up with his occasional strange re-interpretaiton of the Scriptures.
The next booklet was the clincher: Light in the Face of Christ.
In that one it was revealed that elders were the Face of Christ to men.
Elders were inserted in-between Christ and men. And women would get their headship from their husbands and fathers or an elder in the case of grown-up singles.
The supporting Scriptures never got better than:
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with themMatt 18:20
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.2 Cor 4:6
As I’ve asked before, do those Scriptures at all suggest that elders are the face of Christ?
There was no better Scripture than these that I or they ever found. Yet we fell for it. If anything the Corinthians Scripture suggests the opposite: Christ gives us light directly in our hearts!
But somehow they twisted it to mean that it was the light shining in the elders’ hearts that were like the face of Christ to us . . plebs.
The next books and songs covered ‘Naming’ and the evils of naming yourself (to a ministry or job or business or house or life plan).
It became clear that if you didn’t obey your elder you would go to hell.
At one point the elders would travel around with you looking for a house to live in. And you even had to OK your holiday plans with them. Not to mention being banned from job changes or business plans.
A Fathered Word
And the companion message was that this was a ‘Fathered’ word that was being ‘proclaimed’ like in Acts 2. It was not to be doubted or questioned and needed no defence. The presbytery up in Brisbane had already checked it.
That’s how it started.
Cultish teachings, very poorly supported by Scripture. And very dangerous.
And it’s hard not to see it as all designed by Vic Hall to control us and worded so that it seems distinctive and yet reasonable to justify it’s exclusivity. But it was nothing but a twisting of Scriptures on headship and a re-packaged Shepherding movement.
And absolutely nowhere in the New Testament does it suggest that elders should be controlling people’s lives.
I thought I would document it for posterity.
5 thoughts on “How the cult of 1992 actually began”
The confusion over headship and leadership causes many problems. They are two different things. Taking scriptures out of context and in isolation and building a doctrine from that is typical of a cult. MCF / Immanuel was a cult long before 1992. That’s what many of us realised after what you called the great fiasco of 1988 – it opened our eyes to what we had been involved in and was why many of us left.
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Agreed. The only thing that kept us was the solidness of Jeff Hammond’s work and Bible-first approach of people like Phil Baird and, earlier, Laurie Holland.
Sounds like we should catch up sometime. I remember you, Justine & Charles well, although I preceded you out of MCF 27 years earlier. If you want to follow up, give me a text on 0401 682 096.
Nb. I’m still intruiged by cold fusion.
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That’s a blast from the past! John, of course . . will do. 27 years . .