This was the discovery that two senior leaders of MCF, including the founder Ray Jackson Snr, were found to be in immorality, one with the others wife, and other women, and the other with other women, not his wife. And there was incontrovertible evidence of grooming of young, disadvantaged women going back to the 1960s.
Horrific, horrific stuff going on under the noses of the remaining eldership. And ours.
Now, this was a shock. A third of the congregation of 500 fairly quickly left.
But neither of those two men had had much impact on me directly, and I had studied the word and Jeff and Annette Hammond’s book , based on Jeff’s Masters thesis, and saw that the multiple eldership principle was Biblical, and sound precisely because it allowed for continuity after a falling away like this.
I and many that remained held true to the other restorationist teachings covered in Jeff’s book, The Priesthood of All Believers and the hope of unity of the Body of Christ. And didn’t see them being practiced much elsewhere. So we stayed.
As I describe here in more detail, I initially felt the remaining eldership handled it well, although I agree with some that they didn’t include us much in what had really been going on.
But the disappointing thing we discovered much later is that these elders had been told by three departing or silenced elders, Kevin Conners, Bob Holland and Tony Lyon, since as far back as 1970, that the founder was living in immorality. Justine and I had learned that in the 2010s from relatives of Bob Holland and later from Kevin Connor, a great Bible teacher, and Tony Lyon after we left MCF in 2016.
So the elders we now entrusted our lives to had been living with and keeping secrets for twenty years! And put up with all sorts of games including: ‘if you forgive me, then you can’t bring it up again’ carryings on. When it’s ongoing immorality and grooming of young disadvantaged women!
Well, the remaining eldership seemed to be doing a serious job of cleaning up the place. And opened up to to other churches. Vic Hall came down from BCF (Brisbane Christian Fellowship) to help clean it up.
There was kind of a calm between two storms from 1988 to 1992.
I made some really good friendships, helped in Sunday School, kids clubs, youth work. I was pretty ordinary at those sorts of social things. It was OK.
But the youth program for my age group was based on music bands for most of those five years and gave nothing for us, by then, non-musicians to do during our own youth program. It felt pretty silly really, seemed to go on for about five years, but I know the band members were having a ball.
I also experienced my first real altercation with the elders.
I’d personally felt the youth program was too music focussed to the extent the band members walked around like rock stars and had become unapproachable. Murray Wylie came down and told them off for their poor culture. So I wrote a letter to the elders about what Murray had said because none of them were actually there that night.
I got accused of being jealous instead of ‘thanks for telling us what Murray said’! And got told the other kids said Murray had said nothing of the sort! Of course the band members were primarily the elder’s kids. So I sent my letter up to Murray.
Lots of fun. Not. Just more accusations.
A storm was brewing.
Little did I know that was my last year of freedom.
1992. I was 25.
That was one of the last times I made a major decision that was not forced on me at threat of damnation.
The next time I was 49.