22 June, 2008

Regarding my 10 years under Gene Edwards

In a small group meeting in my church, I mentioned that I had spent 10 years in a "cult." I then had to apologize for not having mentioned it before, and explain that this is not a fact one usually "leads" with when meeting new brothers and sisters.
:-)

About 2 months ago, I promised a sister in the Lord that I would republish a statement I made about 6 years ago regarding the leader of this little group.

Those two events finally pushed me over the edge to get off my duff and pull this little story back from the archives and publish it again here.

This article was written in specific answer to some question. I believe the question was something like, "Would you recommend I join Gene Edwards' church?" It's not tremendously detailed, but it covers the broad outlines of what happened. If you'd like a little more detail, you can look at this series of posts.
http://familyhoodchurch.blogspot.com/search/label/Gene%20Edwards

Leaving Gene Edwards

By the time I started college, I had decided to spend my life as an itinerant minister of the gospel. The two things I knew were that no minister of the gospel should earn a salary, and that I didn’t want to take over anyone’s church. Instead, I would move from church to church, helping as I could, when I could.
Yes, I was full of the arrogance and idealism of youth, but I also knew something of my ignorance. I knew that it would be decades before I could be of use to any church, and that I needed someone to teach me. I began looking for an old man to train me in what it meant to be a worker in the church.
My quest for a new type of church led me to Gene Edwards’ books. I loved every word, and practically memorized every one. I had found the man who could teach me what the church should be. Amy and I married with the understanding that as soon as possible, we would move to be a part of one of Gene’s churches.
I had written Gene some time earlier to request permission to move to his church in Portland, Maine. Gene had recommended that I wait, and move to a church that he planned to plant in Atlanta. I could not have been more excited. Gene always wrote about how important it was to be in a church from the beginning. This would be my chance.
Gene wanted us to avoid Portland. It turns out that Portland was in its death throes. Gene explained to us that half of that church was experiencing church life for the first time, but that the other half had been a part of his earlier experiment in California. The older members seemed to be tearing the church apart due to secret bitterness against Gene. It should have been a clue to me, but I was too excited that the Lord had answered my prayers for a mentor.
We didn't expect to find a "perfect church" in Atlanta, but we sure did expect an exciting ride.
We could not have been happier those first few years. We fell in love with our new brothers and sisters, and practically wore out each other's living rooms. We spent hours together eating, singing, and dreaming. Life in the church was everything I’d ever imagined. We described the church as a piece of heaven come to earth, and we meant every word. We fought more than we could tell, and hurt each other too frequently, but we loved each other, and were loved just as much.
In the end, we left Gene and his church, and we would never go back. We still love the memories and maintain relationships with people who accept our departure, but Gene’s church was not heaven after all. In retrospect, the church in Atlanta looked suspiciously like a frat house, commune, or any other group of college kids thrown together by any fate. It was fun, but I suspect the excitement was just youth.
I believe the problem in Atlanta, and in all Gene’s churches, lies in the vision of the worker.
Gene started a 40-year countdown on his ministry in 1987. In 2027 he wanted us to look back on his ministry, after he was long gone, to honestly evaluate whether his time had been well spent on this earth. He told us that there would be no way to honestly judge his work until it had survived forty years worth of crises. I half agree with him. There is no way to judge a man’s work a success without seeing it survive forty years. I believe, though, that we can and must judge his work a failure today.
Gene Edwards proposes two standards by which a worker in God’s kingdom should be judged. The first is by his ethical standard, and the second is by the health of his churches. I believe Gene’s work fails both standards. To be fair, Gene believes that he is doing exceptionally well in both areas, and that he is doing so against incredible odds. His followers agree with him, and will defend his record without reserve.
Gene teaches that the foundation of a worker’s ethics should be that the worker would consciously lose whenever one of his churches is in crisis. I believe that this standard is false. Moreover, I watched Gene neglect even to try to meet it. What I saw him do under pressure was the exact opposite of what he preached. In situation after situation he manipulated the church from the outside, and micromanaged the outcome of crisis after crisis. He chose a spy or two in each church (sometimes overtly and sometime covertly) and used that person to pull the strings of our lives. At first, we were amazed at how much he knew about what was going on in the church. Within a year or two though, we had figured out what was happening. By the third or fourth year his ways were old news.
Gene's churches never had true, independent elders while I was there. Instead, we had "contacts". The brother or (more often) sister who reported our actions to Gene and brought instructions from him had an aura of prestige, but no real authority. Gene changed contacts pretty frequently, such that they could never grow into de-facto leaders. Instead, all the brothers ran the church together via “brothers’ meetings”. Gene told us that this method was not biblical, but that it was necessary to keep the egos of 20th century Americans in check.
Gene teaches that elders will spring up organically within the church. He also claims that those elders are his head covering. In my brief tenures as contact/elder, and in my observation of others in that role, I never knew anyone to exert headship over Gene at any level except once. That once, Gene declared that brother a mortal enemy, shunned him for the next seven years, and never allowed that brother into any position of responsibility again. I believe that this action is a natural outflow of Gene’s theology, and I'm sure that he would defend it as safest for the church.
The job of the brothers was to implement Gene’s plans. Gene does not like to manage details, and it was the job of the brothers to flesh out his plans and make them happen. Gene alone set the spiritual agenda of the church, and any deviation from that plan was sure to anger him. I know that this is a far cry from the version of the church that Gene preaches, but it is what I watched for ten years.
I was eventually forced to the opinion that Gene ministers in a fundamentally dishonest way. He told us that he was the most honest man we would ever meet, and for years I took his claim at face value. With stunning regularity, though, he put my trust to the test with actions that seemed to give lie to his words. I made excuses for him again and again, and struggled to understand each of his actions in the light of his conflicting claims. For years I found ways to believe him, but it was an exhausting way to follow the Lord.
The house of cards fell for me over the course of a dismal year in which I watched him tear apart the church in St. Cloud. He bragged about his boldness and ethics, then explained to us how thankful they should be that he been so spiritual in their dismemberment. There was no excuse for the things I watched him do that year. Finally, I had been forced to look at his actions, rather than at his words. Looking back over the previous years, I saw everything he'd said and done, and everything I’d chosen to believe, in a new and heartbreaking light. Gene’s years of explanations and excuses were all torn away, and the reality of everything I’d supported came crashing home.
I had watched Gene plant a handful of churches, and I had watched each of those churches die, sometimes more than once. I had listened to Gene explain how in each of those cases, it was the church’s fault. They had ignored his warnings, and failed to do what he lovingly suggested they needed to do to thrive. Looking back, his excuses were the same in every case, going all the way back to Portland. I cannot know what happened there, but I sure recognize the excuses.
I knew several of the churches that grew and died under Gene’s ministry. I watched them weep as Gene dealt with perceived enemies in their ranks, and listened as they begged to know why Gene was being so cruel to them. My loyalty lay more with Gene than with my own eyes, though, so I allowed those saints to believe that they were bringing all this pain down on themselves. I was wrong. I should have known enough even then to conclude that Gene was lying to these people, but I was too indoctrinated to see the truth.
Whether you agree with my assessment or not, nothing can excuse Gene’s track record. The second standard to which Gene holds the worker is the health of the churches he plants, and there are no survivors. (Several crawled back from the grave and he called them resurrected, but I would call them zombified. I lived through one such rebirth, and the second church was only half-alive while he was not there to breathe life into it.)
Gene blames all that death on the brothers and sisters who gave their lives to those churches, and to him. I would listen as Gene praised brothers and sisters to the highest heaven. A year later I would listen again as he claimed to have known all along that these same brothers and sisters were troublemakers. I watched it happen in every church, and to saints whom I know had done nothing wrong.
I was forced to realize that the problem was with Gene, and had no option but to leave him. Leaving him, though, opened another can of worms. I had to decide whether Gene’s theology was right or wrong. Should I leave just him, or his theology too? Should I keep trying to practice what he preached, or had we been pursuing the wrong goals for those ten years?
There are brilliancies in Gene’s theology, and he is a wonderful speaker. His standard for church ethics is quite elegant (if the world believes it is wrong, it’s wrong, else wise it’s probably just someone hunting brownie points with God). His teaching of the Lord’s Supper is truly beautiful (it should be a high celebration and a joyful feast, rather than an introspective wake). He also preaches that salvation is not the prime force behind history (the relationship between the Father and the Son is the central motivator for all of redemption).
Still, the core of anyone’s theology is a hard thing to nail down, and I was most concerned with Gene’s theology of the church. Gene preaches that each church should be autonomous, but his actions belie his words. Practically speaking, Gene’s several churches share one leader. The church planter makes every significant spiritual decision for the church. Gene taught us that the wisdom to handle the weightier matters would grow up in the church, but it never did. Gene handled all the weighty matters himself, or through his trained men, and we in the church were simply required to keep our mouths shut.
The two defining characteristics of Gene’s churches are both direct fruits of his theology. The first is their church planters, with their ultimate authority. The second is their brothers’ meetings, with their displacement of eldership. Inevitably, the churches became men’s clubs.
This atmosphere has had some painful outcomes. Gene told us, during the conference in which he planted our church, that the church and the family are natural enemies, and that neither can flourish, except at the expense of the other. When asked to clarify that statement, he told us that the family must not be allowed to steal from the church. Over the next 10 years, I watched, applauded, and participated as time and again our church stole from its families. There is nothing that I regret more than the pain our church caused families, and I believe that most people who have been mothers and fathers within Gene’s churches would agree.
In the end, Amy and I left Gene's movement for a number of reasons, but mostly we left because of Gene. We had our share of troubles with the saints, but those could usually be worked out. We fled that man's ministry. We adored those first few years in the church, and there are a hundred things to remember fondly, but leaving Gene Edwards is the best decision we ever made.
Whether you chose to follow Gene Edwards, or to move on without him, may the Lord bless you, and the body of which you are a part.

49 comments:

Milly said...

God bless ya Cowboy

Lynne said...

"My loyalty lay more with gene than with my own eyes"

Alhough I've never had anything to do with the man other than read a couple of his books, I really identify with that statement. That was where I came unstuck too, putting more weight on my need to believe someone else than on the plain evidence before me. It's incredibly painful to wake up from that and find that you have lost so much. it takes time to learn how very much you have gained: the glorious liberty of the Children of God! Nine years on, I'm still learning how to walk without chains around my ankles.
Thank you for your honesty, may you keep learning how soar into his joy.

Danny said...

I do not have time to respond to these posts. I can tell you I,m very excited that someone has stepped up to exspose this impostor.
When I do respond I will be writing about Isla Vista, Portland & Jacksonville.
Hopefully I can help expose this dangerous man. He has devistated to many dear christians.
It's time to take him down.

codepoke said...

Thank you, Milly and Lynne. I hear you about the chains.

Thank you, too, Danny. Some unpleasant jobs must be done, in the best way possible. This is one. Taking Gene down means nothing to me, but sharing my history with people who have doubts about him is very important. He's too persuasive to be left as his only historian, and he's done a good job of shutting down opposing voices over the years.

J. Samuel Thomas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

If anyone would like to call me feel free 434-531-2720. I fellowship with saints from Isla Vista & the Portland disaster.
Every thing they have shared with me I saw first hand when I lived in Jax for 5 years.
I guess I,m taking a chance by writing this publicly. If anyone knows Gene & his soldiers they will understand what I,m saying.
Danny

J. Samuel Thomas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I guess we all should grab a spear and throw it has hard as we can! Wow! What was your purpose and reason for writing this blog? You can't play Holy Spirit. Every man of God has their good and bad. You take the good that the Lord reveals to you and you go and make it better instead of soaking in self pity and bitterness. The church is in dire need! Maybe Gene Edwards can only take it so far, and it is upto someone else to take it further. At least Gene has the boldness to try, maybe in error, to advance the Kindom of God. And you can not deny that he taught you the depths of Jesus Christ and introduced you to authors like Guyon. What are you doing with those richness? I hope 10 years from now your not writing about another man of God? Man up in Christ and "YOU" try doing something!

Danny d said...

Put your name to the post.
Then you might have merit.
Gene Edwards took his churches nowhere.
You would no that if you had been in any of them.
True he is one of Gods children.

As far as a church planter? I would say more of a church splitter(facts my friend, not bitterness).
Hang around long enough and you will experience how mean this man can be. Then you might sign your name to your posts.
Man up in Christ. You might want to explain that to Gene. He is no more than a coward that has other people do his dirty work. Come on if you are around the man you know at lest that much.
Gene should come out from under his desk and explain to the churches and the saints, he purposely
try to destroyed,what his true motive was.
That would be for his benifit to repent and ask forgiveness, we that have been in his sectarian churches already know the truth.
Gene has put himself out in the public arena.
Some people like the way he conducts himself,some people don't. Thats just the way it is.
Danny

Kevin Knox said...

Hello Anon.

Your words cut to the heart. It sincerely hurts to be accused of such motives and meanness.

But then I realize there's no wooden shaft protruding from my chest. You have criticized me, not thrown a spear at me, and I am not at all above criticism. Your words are a personal assessment, and I accept them as such. We should reserve the phrase "throwing spears" for cases of attempted murder.

What was my purpose in writing this? I wrote this for the same reason someone wrote the story of Saul's narcissism and his attempts at murder - because it happened. Somehow factual history gets lost in all the worries about Gene's legacy in the kingdom. These are the things that happened to me.

In 1989, a man from one of Gene's churches came and insinuated some negative things to us about Gene. I rebuked that man very much as you have rebuked me. I don't know whether he was right in spirit or intent, but I know the things he told me were things that really happened. When my family was at risk 9 years later, the facts I received from that man helped me to measure Gene more accurately.

Maybe some day these facts I'm relating will help someone else.

mikebroadie said...

Mike Broadie says,
Some of these posts are really ugly. Haven't you read, "Don't judge another man's servant, before his own Lord he will stand or fall, and He is able to make Him stand. I have known Gene personally for 20years now and I can't relate to these judgements. Somewhere the Lord said something to the effect, "Judge not lest you not be judged" Remember which of Noah's sons responded well to his aleged failure.

To be a critic of another christian by name and in print seems to be a serious matter to me. You may cringe to read some of these comments in 30 years or so when you are older and hopefully wiser.

Do the Lord's servants make mistakes? Of course. Any human that is trying to do something will make mistakes.

Gene Edwards is my friend and my brother and I have profited in many ways in knowing the Lord and enjoying His church through my friendship with him.

Ching said...

Thanks Kevin.

Now I know why nobody would ever explain why the Manila church broke off with Gene Edwards along with the church planters from Jacksonville.

I was extremely grieved but instead of an intelligent explanation, I was always told "oh we still recommend Gene's teachings", "we love Gene" or "the Bride of Christ is so beautiful".

I realize now I was a Gene Edwards fanatic. I felt the whole christian world is missing the real thing by not understanding the teachings of Gene Edwards (and also Frank V. and Milt R.).

Years ago, any negative comment about Gene E. or his teachings would have bothered me.

I truly appreciate what you have written here Kevin.

Thanks bro!

Andrew Kenny said...

I musy admit I have enjoyed many of Gens's books. He was also very kind when he sent me several of them free of charge. But I do not doubt your experience and it seems to ring true. I had been involved with Shepherding Movement for many years and saw the same sort of thing happen there!

ElderChild said...

Appreciate your sharing that which you have "seen(experienced) and heard(received)".

Sadly, storytellers seem to be of those who with "good words and fair speech deceive the hearts of the simple", yes even their own selves ;-(

Thankfully i never would accept 'religion' and 'church' as it is, as being The Will of Our Father.

Even when in "Search of the church" and/or "community" for some 15 years, it was Family that i longed for.

Only recently could i see that, and then bear witness to The Truth!

Truth came to Light when i questioned, "what are brothers and sisters if not Family"?

You might appreciate my testimony concerning such @
http://asimpleandspirituallife.blogspot.com/2011/07/family-of-faith-or-system-of-religion.html

Father Help! and HE does.......

Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this world and it's systems of religion, for "the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one" indeed and Truth.......(1john5:19)

Truth IS, a lie never was and is not.......

Abide in Truth....... francis

Radixx said...

I think that scruntiny deserves observation. I wasn't there, BUT I know brothers and sisters from Isla Vista who still will not talk.. This is after 40 years...
That speaks volumes to me..

pam said...

I was attending UCSB in the early 70's when he preached regularly in Isla Vista. He was a gifted charismatic speaker BUT he told the students to drop out of school, that the University was an institution of the devil!!!! Now his website is all about his education with no apologies. AND he had written a book called the
5th Apostle--about himself??? I thank God that His Spirit lead me way from this man, to a more doctrinally sound church. AMEN!

Bella said...

I came from a church in Australia which used to idolise Gene Edwards. That church was swallowed up in an authoritarian group who became destructive and dangerous. Now eight years after leaving that group and reading Gene Edwards' Letters to a Devastated Christian, I can see Mr. Edward's own issues clearly. He has some salient points to state but they are interspersed with strong condemnation of those who were victimised by the shepherding/authoritarian movement and much of his attitude seems to me to stem from a guilty conscience.

It is very interesting to me to read this post from somebody who had personal experience with Mr. Edwards. The rest of the world knows him only for his engaging prose and apparent wisdom in relation to church history and the woes of modern christianity. However, as many charismatic speakers have drawn unwitting suspects into their webs, we must all be willing to look objectively at the words of men who blame everyone else except themselves for the devastation which surrounds them.

Mr. Edwards comment that "Across our land have grown up little pockets of Christians whoa re bitter and shipwrecked. They seem to be able to find one another, move near one another and fraternize together - like glazed-eyed beings in Dante's "Inferno" -forever dining on nightmares, partaking of mutual cynicism and hopelessness. That is the saddest of all scenes. There is no cause for a Christian to be that wrecked. No. No justification for it whatever".

There IS justification Mr. Edwards and there is just cause. The facts are clear, the witnesses are much larger in number than simply two or three, and men such as yourself need to recognise that you do not have the right to point the finger at those who are 'just bitter' with impunity and assume some kind of special dispensation simply because you are the one chronicling the devastation.

Bella said...

I was in a small struggling church in Australia which used to read Gene Edwards books about coming out of the system "What to do in the event of a churc split" and "Tale of THree Kings" avidly. We all thought Mr. Edwards a great man of God with amazing insight.

23 years on, and eight years after leaving that same church which devolved into a cult, and I have recently read Edward's "Letters to a Devastated Christian". I have a much greater insight into Mr. Edwards motivations now than I used to and much of his prose reminds me of the writings of my former church leader.

It is very interesting to me to read the testimony of someone who has been under the leadesship of this man and has seen first hand the problems and consequent devastation that eventuated.

It puts his writings into a much greater perspective.

One statement alone in his "letters" book is very revealing. Pge 34/35 he writes..

"Across our land have grown up litle pockets of Christians who are bitter and shipwrecked. They seem to be able to find one another, move near one another and fraternize together - like glazed-eyed beings in Dante's "Inferno" - forever dining on nightmares, partaking of mutual cynicism and hopelessness. That is the saddest of all scenes. (There is no cause for a Christia to be THAT wrecked. No. No justification for it whatsoever.)"

Yet several sentences later he says "There appears to be an almost total disregard - by the leaders of these groups - of the mounting and apalling destruction resulting from authoritarianism".

He perpetually contradicts himself yet manages to set himself above the fray. He apparently is not one of these leaders who is unaware of the thousands of shipwrecked lives. Yet, again, he claims these leaders should know about the thousands of shipwrecked lives which he himself states have no cause or justification for being so shipwrecked!!!!

Mr. Edwards has a knowledge and understanding of church history and can analyse and sum up the problems therein. However, he has an appalling attitude towards the damaged laity who are so foolish as to be drawn into the abusive movements. Where does he place himself in all of this one wonders. In his earlier books about Isla Vista he gives the impression it was other men who were the wolves in sheeps clothing. Yet we have always thought that it was an appalling lack of wisdom and discernment on his part that he should have simply left the group to the ravages of these 'other' men and claimed at the same time to have somehow been just like Paul who according to Edwards never defended himself or warned the sheep about the wolves. My reading of the epistles shows that Paul was not only concerned but warned people, naming names in the process. You could hardly have called Paul a troublemaker, yet Edwards claims that those who go around discussing these problems (page 31) "are no better in heart motive than the worker (that they are discussing)".

THis is a time honoured trick of abusive leaders to stop dissent and criticism. In our church we were known as 'just bitter' as well as being 'not of us' and other such well used epithets. The carnage is minimised, the facts dismissed and the glassy eyed followers are encouraged to shun those who leave because God himself has left them.

I find much in Edward's writings to agree with, but his overarching attitude comes across as patronising and self-aggrandizing.

And now that I have read some facts about his actual ministry it further fortifies my concerns about this man and his attitude. It is so much more than just spit out the bones and eat the meat, Mr. Edward's writings need to be read with much caution.

Kevin Knox said...

Hello Bella. Let me know if you wanted both comments published. The moderation thing can be awkward from time to time.

And thanks for commenting at all. :-)

It looks like it's been over four years since I wrote this. As I skim back through those comments and read yours, it brings up a lot of feelings.

I reread the words of good brothers who earnestly believe I've done wrong in writing the facts as I saw them. I miss those brothers, and the relationships I severed with them. May the Lord bring fruit to their lives.

I reread the words of brothers and sisters who were hurt in various churches, including Gene's. May the Lord guide them to a place of safe fellowship.

And I reread some highly combative words by people who really want to see Gene stopped. I'm glad for the truth they've told, and I wish them success in their quest.

It's been an uncomfortable thing living without the epic grandeur with which Gene infused all of life. I really loved that feeling we were living out the change the world needed, but it's been a healthy change to get beyond that illusion. My relationship with the Lord is happier, healthier, and more intimate for dropping all the extra-biblical silence/beholding stuff Gene taught, and my church life is much more satisfying for being able to accept people and things as they are, without constant critique.

I've sat under a handful of leaders since Gene, and none of them's been perfect. None of them has been dangerous, though, and that's worth its weight in gold.

Sergeant Sue said...

Very intriguing and compelling account, Kevin. Thank you for writing this over four years ago. I met Gene Edwards at a conference his Denver church hosted in Evergreen, Colorado, which I believe was in 1993 or 1994. I had read some of Gene's books and had been a part of a fledgling home church that lasted about a year before it fell apart. The conference was a huge disappointment, from start to finish. About 60 people attended and we stayed in a rundown, dreadful camp with bunk rooms and dirty showers, no heat (it was in the 30's at night), and awful food. Gene stayed somewhere off site and only showed up for the seminars. He didn't eat with us in the cafeteria--I'm sure he knew about the horrible food! Attendees paid hundreds of dollars for the couple of days we were there. We could have stayed in a nice hotel for the money we paid! There was an elderly woman I recall, who had a very difficult time maneuvering into the cramped bunk bed each night but she never complained about being cold or uncomfortable. It was very difficult for me to listen to Gene's lofty minded teachings after paying hundreds of dollars to stay in a dump! It was a very strange experience. The good part that came out of it? I met some very wonderful brothers and sisters who I have stayed in touch with over the years. But I have steered clear of anything related to Gene Edwards' teachings and ministry. Thank you for your honesty in your blog!
Sue Smart

Sergeant Sue said...

Very intriguing and compelling account, Kevin. Thank you for writing this over four years ago. I met Gene Edwards at a conference his Denver church hosted in Evergreen, Colorado, which I believe was in 1993 or 1994. I had read some of Gene's books and had been a part of a fledgling home church that lasted about a year before it fell apart. The conference was a huge disappointment, from start to finish. About 60 people attended and we stayed in a rundown, dreadful camp with bunk rooms and dirty showers, no heat (it was in the 30's at night), and awful food. Gene stayed somewhere off site and only showed up for the seminars. He didn't eat with us in the cafeteria--I'm sure he knew about the horrible food! Attendees paid hundreds of dollars for the couple of days we were there. We could have stayed in a nice hotel for the money we paid! There was an elderly woman I recall, who had a very difficult time maneuvering into the cramped bunk bed each night but she never complained about being cold or uncomfortable. It was very difficult for me to listen to Gene's lofty minded teachings after paying hundreds of dollars to stay in a dump! It was a very strange experience. The good part that came out of it? I met some very wonderful brothers and sisters who I have stayed in touch with over the years. But I have steered clear of anything related to Gene Edwards' teachings and ministry. Thank you for your honesty in your blog!
Sue

Jackie Dukes said...

Wow, a friend sent me a link to this page today. I have to say that it is amazing and encouraging to me that you have come out of this and are able to talk about it. We, my husband, 3 young boys, and myself, recently left one of the churches started by Gene's students. It has been less than a year and I can't believe I was led astray from Lord and placed such high value on our church and our "leaders". I have chronicled my journey out of the "church" and the healing that's taking place, but I have to be careful because threats come hard and fast. People who were my friend were cut off immediately, because we left. I was never so alone as the day we left the church and people who I had shared my life with, people I shared myself with, shunned me. The further away I got from the group the more I saw what it was... we had joined a cult. And the vocabulary we used made it okay. I am so encouraged by this post. I realize it's old and I know that it took a lot for you to write your story. Thank you. Truly, thank you. ~Jackie

Kevin Knox said...

Thanks, Jackie, and you're welcome.

I'm really sorry for that feeling of loneliness. I wish there were a way to make it go away tomorrow, but there really isn't. On the other hand, it really will go away if you give it a little more time and invest yourself in normal relationships.

As Americans we're raised to believe we're good enough, but to worry we're not great enough. Gene's churches certainly created the feeling they were doing great things, and that their relationships were somehow the deepest possible. If you can get used to doing normal things again and having normal relationships, life will fill in the gaps. It's a little like coming off a diet of ice cream to one of oatmeal, though. It seems unlivable for a while, but in the end it's remarkably better for you.

May you find the confidence the Lord is real to you, right where He's led you, right now.

bunsofaluminum said...

Do you think it's possible to follow the antioch way of church planting/growing that Gene Edwards discusses in his book "Revolutionary Bible Study" without these cultic elements of authoritarian leadership and unwavering devotion to the founder? Because I'd love to see an organic church movement like he talks about, begin to flourish in America.

bunsofaluminum said...

Sorry...duplicate post, but I'd like to be notified...do you think it's possible to actually plant and grow churches along the Antioch line, that Gene Edwards teaches about, without it being "Gene Edwards Church" (It really surprised me to learn that Gene Edwards has 'a church' at all, since he teaches that churches are to be planted and then left to grow on their own)

anyway, sorry about the repeat. I forgot to click on the "email follow up comments" button previously.

Kevin Knox said...

Fascinating question.

14 years down the road, I see things a lot differently. I've been a part of corporate America most of that time, and I've seen a pattern of "centralized" is found wanting and "distributed" takes over. A few years later the roles reverse and everyone plays musical chairs to the new drummer's beat. Christianity is all about distributed, grass-roots, simple church these days. That's not a bad thing, but it's not the amazing discovery I thought it was back in '84 when I first read about it.

Do I think what Gene teaches is possible? No. Read Gene long enough and you'll see he says it can't really be done. He believes it's a worthy goal to strive for, even if failure is the only outcome. I'll never forget the excitement I shared about dying on that hill alongside him and my brothers and sisters.

I no longer think it's a glorious goal. I don't know exactly when I changed, but the more I change the less I think that goal is even worthy of pursuit (much less carnage.)

As I haunt my cubical at work, I find it doesn't matter whether leadership is pushing centralization or distributed these days. I do the same work with the same commitment, and make the same positive difference in my coworkers' lives. I am able to help them just the same, and I get the same joy from my job. During centralized periods, I make fewer decisions and work in better synchronization with the rest of the company. During distributed periods, I make more empowered decisions and react more quickly to customer needs. Neither's really bad.

I teach Sunday School in a Methodist church these days. I know, love, and help my brothers and sisters there. The dangers of the wild church are different from the dangers of the organized church, but as long as I'm giving myself to brothers and sisters I'm rooted in the Lord and His people.

There's a lot to be gained pouring the energy we have into loving the Christians we're with, and a lot to be lost gambling on men with a good story to tell.

May the Lord guide your path.

Hope's said...

Hi Kevin,
Thanks for sharing your story. A good friend requested I read "A Tale of Three Kings", and alarm bells got louder and louder the more I saw of his extra-Biblical interpretations and rather un-Biblilical assertions based on those interpretations. The biggest issue was the fact that book's ending leaves off in a place that supports Edwards' thesis, but ignores David's actual response in the Biblical account. I have a huge problem with that! When discussing my conclusions with my husband, he began googling and came across your site and told me I must read. I am very glad I did.
God bless you for sharing truth.
Hope

Kevin Knox said...

I would wish I'd have seen that myself about 30 years ago. :-)

Lord bless, Hope.

Paul said...

First, I have no relationship with Gene Edwards outside of emailing him 10 years ago, to which he responded, and him sending me some free books, which I appreciated. I have no idea what it feels like to be crushed by him but I do have considerable experience being crushed by the strong hand of a loving dad (God the Father). I read all the posted comments and was hoping to find a Joseph who told his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good...". The cross of Christ always brings pain, suffering, and eventually death. But to those who endure patiently, their mourning turns to joy when finally they receive the kingdom of heaven. A simple saying, that is full of truth, "If you don't get bitter you will get better". I wish you all well on your journey to find the Christ. "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all".

Scott Curry said...

Hi Kevin and Amy,
I do remember attending a Alanta conference in which we stayed at your home. I experienced a reality so deep that words can't describe. I was intoxicated with the Lord. I was deeply searching for truth and was lead to your group. I remember so vividly talking to David one morning about my experience. I knew something inside me awoke! For the first time in my life I felt whole. Was this the secret reveled to me- in me. I was try to describe this feeling that words can express. No one could confirm to me what had happened except another who had the same experience. I shared this moment with David. Later I learned that he had died. Years have passed. I never joined a Gene Edwards church. My early church experience dealing with fundamentalism and small groups kept me safe from joining an Edwards house church. Our early pain of being lead by a man ensured that I would never do such a thing again. I realize men must not be followed. In Gene's frailty of the human condition, there is spark of divinity that he shares. All I remember is that everyone that was there had a hunger for The Lord. And maybe that's what can inspire others and what can be taken advantage of.
Sincerely,
Scott and Laura Curry

Kevin Knox said...

5 years down the road I've not moved a lot, but my reasoning's changed quite a bit. Gene told me a hundred things I'd never heard before. The stuff he taught about Israel and its part in God's plan was new to me, but it was way behind the scholarship and misleading. The stuff he taught about spiritual growth I found to be a dead end, though it's remarkably popular these days. He was truly cutting edge in his spirituality, even if I've rejected most of it by now. His teachings on the church fall into the same category, I think. The crowd has largely caught up with a lot of the things he was saying, but he was way out in front. The history of Israel leads me to give up on his view of the church, but it was sure new to me when I first heard it.

May the Lord bless you, Scott, and those whom I knew back then, and carry us all forward in the journey.

* said...

Your quote, "There's a lot to be gained pouring the energy we have into loving the Christians we're with, and a lot to be lost gambling on men with a good story to tell." is
a true and powerful statement right there.

I grew up a minister's daughter, which I don't recommend BTW.

As an adult, I've been active in a number of institutional churches and home groups. Most of the time it was bad. I will spare you the gory details.

More than once I heard, "well, you're just offended." Well, yeah!

Hope springs eternal, as they say, and I'm always hoping to find fellowship among like-minded believers.

I googled Gene Edwards because I remembered reading and enjoying some of his books. I read that he didn't approve of what is typically called "church."

So I googled "Gene Edwards' home church" hoping to find a like-minded group in my area.

What I found was like-minded and equally disillusioned believers.

I'm sad for all of us.

Kevin Knox said...

Hello *,

Thank you for sharing a bit of your story. Holding many stories gifts us all with balance. When I see the many types of pain the many types of churches can inflict, it reminds me how little was special about my personal trial.

The amazing love of the Father is such that He and His Son join us in that suffering and comfort us from real experience. Practically speaking, I've found great comfort in continuing to love and relate to brothers and sisters over the years, some from long ago and some from our little Methodist church here and many I've simply met over the years. I guess I've come to devalue like-mindedness and value a caring heart a little more. It's been a healing move for me.

May the Lord join you to a group whose hearts speak to yours.

Bella said...

To Paul,

First of all, God doesn't crush people. I heard that type of teaching from abusive men with controlling and psychopathic personalities. They use it as an excuse to oppress and bully others so that anyone who complains can be silenced with shaming and guilt tripping. Somehow anyone who cries out at the pain of abuse is rebellious, or bitter, or not allowing God to deal with them.

While I agree that God uses all things together for good, and that like Joseph, we can come to realise that,there is a vast difference between accepting that God allows evil and wicked men to exist and their actions to affect us, and thinking that this is all somehow necessary to deal with our sin.

Our sin was dealt with at the Cross. Christ took our punishment, and we are no longer under God's judgement. Yes, he chastises us as a father does, but no true and good father crushes his children. God is just and righteous but he loves us tenderly. Yes we go through all manner of fiery trials and can look back on them later and say 'thankyou Lord' for them. But don't forget that scripture also tells us that tears last for a night while joy comes in the morning. The psalms are full of the words of men like David who cried out in pain and anguish and even bitterness at their experiences. God doesn't condemn us for hurting and speaking of our hurt, nor does he condemn us for speaking the truth about our experiences in the hope of some comfort from others who have also experienced the same.

Blogs like these are useful tools and resources for those who have suffered. Please do not relegate us all to the 'you're just bitter' basket. We are not bitter, we have suffered a great deal and are moving on and growing in Christ. But we are still human and we still need to express our pain.

Thomas Kline said...

I spent 3 glorious years in an offshoot of Isle vista, the Memphis collaboration I had a young family and I was under 30. It was started by one of the few men who I was told left Gene on good terms so every once in a while Gene cruised through for whatever reasons he had to do so. I thought it was weird that at the time there were no elders until I heard about that doctrine. Right before my quick severance with the fellowship I became bi-polar schizo effective and asked the men who felt like they had the mantle of elder ship in their lives to anoint me with oil as James talks about and the ferverent effectual prayers of a righteous man avails much. I heard stories of a man who came against the fellowship before I got there and cancer took him out. The Lord took me out of that group in June of 1991 when I got three calls back to my home state for jobs when I lost my job in Memphis due to my new found illness. I mourned the sweet family fellowship and the teaching was new to me and John Saunders books had just come out called the Guardians of the Ark. I haven't settled down in any group since, feeling I was cheating the Lord by doing so. Like has been so famously stated by our person in question I would rather watch the washer go through a spin cycle than sit in a pew. I am getting over this as I just spent the morning gathering in the typical Easter celebration. May all who read this find peace, love, joy and hope. My illness after 24 years is held in abeyance by wonder drugs put on the market in 2012. Your brother in Christ Tom Kline.

Kevin Knox said...

Wow, Thomas. I'm sorry to hear how difficult your path has been, and praise the Lord He's continued to love you faithfully across all the years and you've continued faithfully to follow Him. Praise the Lord, as well, for the help you've found in psychiatry.

You mention Gene's "spin-cycle" comment. I'm a happy Methodist these days, and feel blessed to be. The children of God in this assembly are as alive and supportive as any I've ever known, and I'm thankful for the union I have with them. I deeply hope you will find connection with saints right where you are, and maybe you'll find it encouraging that people who meet in churches are lovers of the Lord just hoping to make themselves easily found.

The Lord be with you, Thomas.

Linwood Austin said...

An Open Letter To Gene Edwards And The Brothers and Sisters.

I was in the church in Isla Vista in the late 70’s, early 80’s.

I had a wonderful time. It was the most “exciting” church experience I’ve ever had. In most churches, only 10% are serious and the rest are asleep. In your church, 90% were serious about God and 10% were asleep.

I recently… in a moment of nostalgia did a google search for your name. I wanted to see what was going on in the “home church movement”. Boy did I get an eyeful.

Some guy named Frank is your right hand man… and is accused of adultery… and blog posts here and there of some who ditch your church with hurt feelings of some sort.

When I was there in Isla Vista… some of us brothers got some booklets from The Concordant Publishing Concern. The booklets made the argument for the salvation of all. (I TIM 4:9-10)

I heard from one brother that he had approached YOU about this topic. And that your response was something like, “Yeah, but why bring it up?”

Gene… one of negative posts about you… some critique… said that you warned about “brothers bearing verses”. – Everyone “bears verses”.

But… as to your question (supposed question)… “Yeah, but why bring up the salvation of all?”

HERE IS THE ANSWER: Just before St. Paul says…”God is the savior of all”… he says… “Faithful is the saying and worthy of all welcome”…
…that God is the savior of all, especially (but not exclusively) of believers.


So if you say “Why bring it up”… I say because it’s “a faithful saying and worthy of all welcome”.

One thing I would add to those who left a “Gene Edwards” church with hurt feelings is this… When I left, I was lucky to fall in with the bible teachers who taught in fellowship with the Concordant Publishing Concern. I learned from them, that, God is the savior of all. That we are his workmanship. That we don’t or can’t save ourselves with our behavior. That sin is a pre-requisite to salvation… not an obstacle to salvation. All in all… I discovered that a great burden was lifted off my shoulders… feeling guilty that I had not done more…

I concluded that Gene’s teaching is still very much “works” oriented. Either God is the savior or he is not… We can’t save ourselves. God is the savior… of all… We are his achievement.

Sacramento Concordant Scripture Conference 2011
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94vL9K1IX20

http://www.purposeoflife.org.uk/files/Download/cv.pdf

A BELIEVER said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Wenger said...

My take on all this is you that complain is that you have put your trust in a man and not in Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit that is the teacher and He will teach you all truth. Men are used of God to share insights that the carnal man would never ever understand. Your job is to seek His Kingdom and His righteousness not some mans. So who really has the problem? May the comfort, healing, and abundance of the Holy Spirit descend upon you in full measure! Amen Love Never Fails!
God is Love!
David E Wenger

David Wenger said...

My take on all this is you that complain is that you have put your trust in a man and not in Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit that is the teacher and He will teach you all truth. Men are used of God to share insights that the carnal man would never ever understand. Your job is to seek His Kingdom and His righteousness not some mans. So who really has the problem? May the comfort, healing, and abundance of the Holy Spirit descend upon you in full measure! Amen Love Never Fails!
God is Love!
David E Wenger

David Wenger said...

My take on all this is you that complain is that you have put your trust in a man and not in Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit that is the teacher and He will teach you all truth. Men are used of God to share insights that the carnal man would never ever understand. Your job is to seek His Kingdom and His righteousness not some mans. So who really has the problem? May the comfort, healing, and abundance of the Holy Spirit descend upon you in full measure! Amen Love Never Fails!
God is Love!
David E Wenger

Kevin Knox said...

Hello A Believer. Sure. You can find my email listed in this site, and I'll be happy to respond if I can.

Kevin Knox said...

Thank you, David.

Greg said...

Thank you for selflessly sharing your story. So much of what you shared mirrored my experience with Gene's ministry. I did not sense any bitterness in your heart, just the desire to walk in the light and bring some clarity to a very sad and difficult situation.

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:14-15‬ ‭

In His Grace,
Greg

Kevin Knox said...

Thank you, Greg. I'm sorry to hear you identify with some of what I've said.

kerihui said...

Hi Bro Kevin,
For some reason I landed on this blog post and I thank the Lord and you for sharing your stories. I'm a 20+ sister who has been in both house churches and institutional churches and have wonderful experiences in both;
Though I have had some tough times with each but definitely not as "big" as yours and I realize at the end the Lord wants us to look back unto Him and not men. And I realize that as humans, the root of our problem goes back to pride. The pride to be worshipped, allowing our knowledge to puff us up and forget about love.

By the way I saw someone talking about the rumour/slander about brother Frank whom I respected very much and I just wanna add that is simply not true. May the Lord have mercy and protect us from false accusations.

To be honest for Christians in a sense it is even more difficult to deny ourselves in the church (vs the world). To love our brothers and sisters no matter how they have offended us and hurt us. Your experience resonates with mine and is very encouraging to me. Your kind and honest sharing is inspiring and I pray that all of us can truly be one, as Jesus himself prayed to the Father that "they may truly be one". You handle it well, and mah your wisdom and kindness bless many more believers and be used by Him for His glory. Lord help us to put our ego to death.

janh said...

I was a part of the church in Isla Vista while attending UCSB from the first night I spent as a freshman in 1976 until graduating in 1980. I loved the people I met and worshiped with. But I was a student first and foremost. Between my sophomore and junior years, the church held an international conference, with young people coming from Europe and Nepal. It was the first time I met Gene and sat under his teaching. I was staying in the San Angelo house at the time, but moved to a house on Cathedral Oaks at the start of school (living with a lovely family from Norway and a myriad of single men and women.) Being away from Isla Vista without my own transportation meant that I didn't go to a lot of meetings, but I enjoyed wonderful fellowship with my house family. Somewhere in that year, Gene wanted all the singles at the State street house and eventually for them to go with him to Maine. But as a student, I stayed put. During my senior year, I went back to Isla Vista and shared an apartment with another single sister. My Norwegian family moved back home, and another family I was close to moved up to Washington, and my roommate followed shortly after. After graduation, I joined them in Seattle. During my time there, I met some people who had been part of the group in LA in 1969. They didn't talk much about their experience, and I respected that.
All this is to say that I was unaffected by the church politics going on. I really liked everyone I met, and loved many others. I am still in contact with a few. Looking back, my being a part of the church was a part of my journey to where I am (happily) today. Had I not been a part of that church, but had gone to my home denomination, I might have had a completed different life. Unless, of course, God used a different path that led to the same place...

janh said...

I participated in the church in Isla Vista from my very first night as a UCSB student in 1976 until graduation in 1980, and have nothing but wonderful memories of the many "saints" I knew then. I was a student first, however, and lived the first two years in dorms and attended meetings at Sueno as time allowed. In the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I finally moved into church housing - San Angelo. Gene lived there also, in his own suite, and led an international conference during the summer. We were joined by young people from all over Europe, and my dearest friend from Nepal. It was a wonderful time. In the fall, I moved to a house on Cathedral Oaks, joining a lovely family from Norway and other single brothers and sisters. Because I didn't have my own transportation, I didn't get to as many meetings. At some point during this year, Gene wanted the singles to all move to the house on State street (and eventually to move to Maine.) However, I stayed where I was and continued with my studies. During my senior year, the Norwegian family moved to Sueno, before eventually going back to Norway, and I shared an apartment with a single sister nearby. She eventually moved up to Seattle to join a family we knew that had moved up there previously, and after graduation, I joined them.
All that is to say, I was completely unaffected by church politics, either by my stubborn refusal to give up school and completely join in, or - more likely - by God's grace.
I absolutely loved the people I met and worshiped with. And I can also say with absolute certainty that, looking back, I would not have had the life I've had these last 40 years had I joined my home denomination upon arriving in Santa Barbara. That is, not without serious intervention from God.
But also, while I don't know details, I understand many of my friends were seriously hurt, and some walked away from God. And that hurts...

Brian said...

I was in the church of Isla Vista and Santa Barbara (and Goleta for that matter!) in 74-76 and it was an amazing experience as has been mentioned in previous posts here. I recognize some of the writers, especially Pam, hey Pam! If Danny is 'Danny O'D' then I recognize him too. I first lived in the El Embarcadero house, and we were often referred to as the El Embarcadero Christians by the residents of the area.

It was an exciting time, and we truly felt we were making a difference for the kingdom and eternity. I also lived later at the State St house (I was shocked to see it torn down when I drove down to visit in 1986.) My time at the Arrellaga house was also overall a good experience. In 76 people were leaving in droves, and the spiritual pressure was intense and I knew I didn't have what it took to stay on, and left shortly after.

Yes, the Sueno house was a smaller more intimate meeting place. The brothers meetings were a truly bonding and empowering experience for the guys, and a sister was allowed to attend too. I have so many memories about that time, that I don't really know where to begin or expand upon. When I left in 76 I also dropped out of UCSB and returned to Berkeley and resumed my previous pseudo hippie ways, got a job and joined a punk rock band of all things. I was hurt, bewildered and wanted nothing to do with any church or group. I never lost my faith in Christ, however, and over time my soul found healing and peace again. It took me about 10 years to "get over" that time and eventually I reconnected with God and tried a few churches, and finally connected with a small church in my area.

In 1993 I called one of the brothers and he said the church basically finally broke up and that many went into the Vineyard church. I had tried that branch in SF and decided it wasn't for me, but I could see similarities to Gene's flocks and saw why they went that route.

I hope all who were affected by that time can find healing if they haven't already. Life goes on, and some chapters are more painful than others. I tend to remember the good stuff and focus on that, while acknowledging the darker times. I look back on it now as an incredible experience, the love between the brothers and sisters was just off the charts. Sure, Gene was flawed, but a mesmerizing speaker and leader, as well as author, of course.

I can see from this blog site that there are lots of strong emotions and feelings about that time and the various church sites. Blessings to all on this earthly journey! - Brian