The Liberty Connection

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Lerwick, Deborah (Hodgdon)

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1990-91

By Deborah (
Hodgdon) Lerwick


Dear Friends & Relatives:

I believe it's about time for me to write you to personally explain some of my recent decisions. If you believed you offended
me, please put that thought completely out of your mind. No one has offended me. No one has preached to me and led me outside the "truth". It was totally my own decision made independently, based on my own study and observations, and no one is to blame. Don't be put off because I don't meet with you, or as you do. I have many dear friends in the "truth" whom I love, respect and want to keep.

For those who have asked and wondered, yes, I continue to read my Bible and pray. I feel a great need to serve God. I have always wanted to be a Christian, and I haven't changed in that regard. In fact, I can honestly say that my desire is much stronger today than it was this time a year ago. The Word of God is my guiding rule, and to be a glory to God is my purpose.

You may have thought that I left this way because of the scandals that took place in the ministry in Alaska. Sexual misconduct of Bob Ingram and Truitt Oyler resulted in their removal from the work. I understand that numerous incidents of this nature took place, over a number of years. However, these things were kept quiet by everyone involved--both the innocent and the guilty (even though if they had been found guilty under the law of the Old Testament, they would have been stoned to death; and in America, justice would have resulted in imprisonment).

When these workers were confronted face to face with their sins, they denied everything and did not repent. Naturally, this disturbs me, since I professed through Bob Ingram and Truitt Oyler. For the sake of appearances, it appears that the people in this way are encouraged to cover up the crimes of the ministers, to the detriment of the innocent involved. Even though this is all very upsetting, this was not why I stopped going to meetings. I realize there are scandals in every church because people are not perfect. However, there DOES seem to be more sins of sexual misconduct in the religions that enforce a celibate ministry, such as Catholics and the "truth". In my studies, I never found where the scripture required celibacy. In fact in I Tim. 4:3 Paul seems to recommend
the opposite.

However, it was partly the scandals that caused me to question the source from which we hear the gospel. How do we know who is right, and who is wrong? How could these men be planting the seeds of the kingdom when they were in unrepentant sin? Their outward appearance and spirit appeared to be right on the surface. Obviously, the fact that they are a part of a homeless ministry and the church that meets in the home didn't make them "right". In spite of their problems, I do feel that I
was led to Jesus through them. However, I believe I could just as well have heard the gospel from what is often referred to in this way as "false prophets". After all, Jesus said in Matthew 23:3 regarding the Scribes and Pharisees: "All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say and do not."

Several years ago I received a letter from a sister worker that mentioned "Jesus brought to the world a faith that can stand testing, and a doctrine that can stand investigation". However, the "truth" was not able to stand up when I closely examined
it. I encountered many differing stories and some outright falsehoods concerning the origin of this way.

For one thing, it was quite a surprise to me to find that the "truth" has a founder and is not of apostolic succession as I had
been told. My experience and reaction could be compared to a child discovering there was no Santa Claus. I have in my own notes "we know this is the right way because it has no founder". But I find this is not true--there is a founder. His name was William Irvine. I first heard about him a few years ago when all the Lerwicks were at the farm in Wyoming for our nephe­w's funeral. Paul's sister in the work, Lorraine Lerwick, mentioned that William Irvine started the "truth" as we know it today, but that shouldn't bother us because it is founded on the same foundation as Christ, and that's all that matters.

Recently I read a book concerning the history of the "truth" named The Secret Sect. If you are afraid to read this book, let me say that many of the friends and workers HAVE read it and have not left this way. Kenneth Lerwick said that it helped him to understand what the early workers went through; Geneva Durkee said that it increased her faith and Tom Layman liked reading it, but said that it was negative, and did not describe the good things in the fellowship. Another brother worker read the book and based on information from George Walker and Andrew Abernathy, stated the book was historically accurate, except for a few minor details.

Many details found in the book are gathered from articles that were carried in a newspaper called the Impartial Reporter of No. Ireland. It tells among other things about the life of William Irvine. For a few years he was a missionary in the Faith Mission in Ireland. Disagreeing with some of the customs of the Faith Mission, he decided one day in 1899, after reading Matthew 10, that ministers were supposed to go and preach just like Jesus sent his disciples. The result was the ministry and church, which we know today as the "truth". Some others left the Faith Mission to preach with him, and others joined them. All nine of the first workers had been led to Jesus prior to this time in other religions. William Irvine claimed he was saved through Rev. John McNeil, a Presbyterian Minister. The "truth" is actually a spin-off of the Faith Mission, and started just like many other denominations--with a man's idea.

Originally the workers preached that the only way to be saved was to sell everything you had and "go preach", and earned the nickname "Go-Preachers". There were no friends in those early years, just workers! No meetings were held in the home until 1908. However, it soon became obvious that everyone could not go into the work, and that is where the friends entered the picture. The doctrine that the "truth" is God's only true way to salvation was added in 1904. There were several years where they didn't take the emblems--to the surprise of other churches--and when they did, it was at convention.

Conventions
in the truth are exact duplicates of those that were conducted in Keswick in England. The notion to send women into the ministry came directly from the Faith Mission. Many other things were copied from the Faith Mission, including terminology like "professing", "workers", "special meetings", "testimonies", etc. They used a two-by-two ministry of men, as well as women, in spite of criticism against women preaching. One big difference I could find between the Faith Mission and the "truth" was stated on page 41 of Spirit of Revival by I. R. Govan: "The mission does not seek to advance its own interests, to draw away members from existing organiza­tions, or run down others sects. Its aim is to build up THE KINGDOM, and for this purpose to have fellowship with all God's people."

Whereas, in the "Truth" they try to convert people from other Christian fellowships and run down other churches in order to
gain followers for the workers.

Some people who have read the book and realize there was no remnant of what we know as "truth" passed down from Jesus' day, believe that William Irvine was a prophet God raised up to "restore" the truth. I have serious doubts, or I wouldn't be writing this. How can God be the source of a prophet whose prophecies didn't come true--Deut 18:22? Did any of the prophets God raised up ever fail so miserably or go as far off-base? He claimed publicly that he was one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 who would lay dead in the streets of Jerusalem 3 1/2 days and be raised to life again. All the time Wm. Irvine was in the work, he supported his illegitimate son Archie until he was grown. Isn't that surprising that William Irvine never shared the "truth" with Archie, since it was supposedly the "only way to heaven"? Archie not only never heard the message of the "truth" from his own father, but became an Angelican preacher.

The workers imply implicitly and explicitly that they are the same ministry that originated with the apostles in Matthew 10, and has continued without break since the time Jesus sent out his apostles. But, they aren't doing what he commanded in Matthew 10. The apostles and disciples were told to preach to the Jews only that the kingdom of God was AT HAND, and to heal the sick, raise the dead and cleanse the lepers. The mission of Matt. 10 was a limited one, specific in its direction (to the Jews only); specific in its object (to prepare for the coming of Jesus and announce the nearness of his kingdom) and specific in its nature (attended by miracles which verifying the disciples credentials).

Obviously, the workers can do none-of these things, are not preaching only to the Jews, acid utterly fail in calving out the commission of Matt. 10 that they claim to be unique in following. They take the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:44-49) seriously, and add that to Matthew 10. It differed in message (faith in the resurrected Christ, repentance unto the remission of sins through the blood of Jesus); in scope of the preaching (into all the world, unto all nations, to every creature); in duration (until the end of the world). There were no restrictions as to taking money or other provisions when going out to preach. The workers also ignore Luke 22:35-36 where the commandments in Matt. 10 were retracted. Jesus never really instructed the apostles to continue going like he sent them in Matthew 10.

Over the last several years I have had many questions for which I could not get any satisfactory answers. It is very frustrating that many of the workers actually discourage questions and preach against it. Recently, at Special Meeting, Carl Hamilton spoke about "those who have a love for unhealthy questioning". This attitude is not supported by scripture. Anyone should feel free to ask the workers questions. It seems to be difficult for the friends to distinguish the difference between questioning MEN and questioning God. I am questioning MEN, not God. I have no problem having faith in Jesus, and the Bible; but I do have a problem in having faith in men's theories, interpretations or applications for which there is no scriptural support.

I've noticed the standard replies when workers don't have any answers follow along these lines, which are all evasions or distractions, and not really answers at all. "If you had the right spirit, you wouldn't question"; "You would be doing this or that if you had the right spirit"; "You shouldn't question - it shows that your faith is too weak". "You just need to submit more fully"; "You just aren't willing enough"; These replies do not answer questions--they attack the charac­ter of the person asking the question. No doubt, about 50 years ago, the women were told if they had the right spirit, they would wear black stockings, without questioning.

I have been studying the act of questioning in the Bible. I find that to confirm what you have been told or taught at any time is considered wise, is never sinful and is supported throughout the Bible. I Peter 3:15, "but be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." God does not condemn anyone who seeks to prove things concerning Him. The writer of Acts commended the Bereans because they checked the Scriptures daily to see whether the things Paul was saying were in accordance with the truth," Acts 17:11. They didn't accept what Paul said just because he was the great apostle to the Gentiles, but found out for themselves. He commands us to try the spirits in I John 4:1. "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ" Col 2:8. To "beware", one must be skeptical, doubt and ask questions! Hos. 4:6 "My people perish for lack of knowledge". Knowledge is acquired by being taught, and asking questions. "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them." You first have to KNOW these things for yourself, before you can be happy doing them.

Some questions that have bothered me are: Where in the scriptures are directions to have conventions? Why have I heard from the platform that there are no rules in this faith, and yet there exist numerous unwritten hardfast rules that must be obeyed? Why is this the only true way, and what scripture indicates there is only ONE way in which to assemble to worship? The verses mentioning "one way" all refer to Jesus as the way, not a method of assembling. Why are some things taken literally in the Bible, and other things spiritually? What is the criteria for deciding that things like fasting, taking up collections for the poor, praying for the sick (James 5:14) are to be taken spiritually, and not naturally? Where does it say in the scriptures that there are to be women preachers? I read where some women gave themselves in service by following and ministering to the needs of the Apostles, but it is not recorded that he ever sent out any women two by two into the ministry.

The gospel (good news) was that Jesus died on the Cross for our salvation and rose triumphant from the grave. This action provided the WAY to the Father, as in "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life--no man comes to the Father but by me.". The friends believe Jesus' Way is one and the same way as the "truth", but the "truth is actually the way that William Irvine started. They are two completely different systems, ways or methods. The system or method of the workers going out in pairs, and holding fellowship meetings in the home, is not the same as the gospel and Jesus WAY to Heaven. Irvine's way, or the "truth" is merely one method of fellowship for believers on earth. According to the Bible, Jesus is THE ONLY WAY, the TRUTH and the life. The TRUTH is a PERSON, not a WAY.

If Jesus had not lived, died, and been resurrected, there would be no way for men to get to heaven. HE is the only way that gives mankind the hope of salvation. He is the strait gate mentioned in Matt. 7:13. I don't find scriptural evidence for any other way, nor for the necessity of being a part of a way to the WAY Jesus provided. There is no Biblical scripture tying this way Jesus provided through his life, death, and resurrection to any church, to the "truth" or to the way Irvine started. Neither is there any scripture indicating that you must be in Irvine's way or any other way or fellowship or church as a prerequisite to enter the way Jesus' provided for men to get to heaven. Jesus alone is the only way. For their salvation, the people in this fellowship seem to depend largely on an imperfect way started by an imperfect man, instead of depending on a perfect Savior. Christ alone saves men, not a church, or certain preachers, or the following of certain rules. Incidentally, Jesus only mentioned the word "church" twice.

I have concluded that there is no perfect way on this earth. God created salvation through Jesus, and man created religion. I have been re-evaluating the value and authenticity of the "truth" since I found out its foundation is based on falsehoods. Most other churches freely admit their origins and founders. I can think of no reason to justify it being necessary to hide William Irvine, and cover up his function in this way with the lie that this way is of apostolic succession.

Some think that since this way "works" that proves it is Jesus' way. However satanic cults "work", and probably have more members; Seventh Day Adventist "work"; Catholicism "works", etc. Because something "works" or because God has allowed it to continue in no way proves their leaders are led by God, or that their way is Jesus' only way.

People often use experiences as signs that prove to them that the "truth" is the only true way of God. We have all heard testimonies about how workers showed up after someone prayed for truth. Although I would never discount the experience of anyone, I simply cannot base my own convictions on the experiences of others. I have heard and read of many similar experiences in other churches, such as Nazarene, Baptist, Mormon, etc. The stories are very similar and moving, but not something on which we can base our salvation, nor do they prove anything right or wrong.

Women in the truth are burdened by dress and hair codes that do not appear to be scripturally sound. No one has been able to clearly explain to me any scriptures that actually support these issues. I prayed for a long time for convictions along these lines but I never got any. I complied, feeling it was better not to offend, but with no belief that they were necessary. Why should God appreciate that? It was, and I believe is for most women today, mere form. I was following a mandatory requirement without understanding it in the least.

Deut. 22:5 is interpreted by the workers to mean that women should not wear pants: "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, etc." But continue reading. "Thou shalt not sow thy vineyard with diverse seeds...thou shalt not wear a garment of diverse sorts of woolen and linen together...thou shalt make three fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture". You can't just pull out one verse of the Old Law and use it as doctrine and throw the rest out. These verses must be read in their historical context. During this time pagans dressed up as the opposite sex as part of their worship to false gods. This is why God forbade his people to do this. Those who believe this verse pertains to women wearing pants for warmth, modesty and convenience had better be sure they don't sow two kinds of seeds in their garden, and that they aren't wearing a garment made of a wool-linen blend, and that they have their fringes sown on properly. Whether or not some of the friends and workers still consider pants an issue depends on what area of the country you live in.

At least long hair and jewelry are mentioned in the New Testament in reference to women, and are not obscurely hidden in the Old Testament law. There are two verses (I Tim. 2:9 and I Peter 3:3) that are used regarding jewelry. If these verses actually forbid jewelry, then they are contrary to all the rest of the Bible on this subject. If God is against the use of jewelry, why do we find many favorable references to jewelry in both the Old and New Testament?

Long hair is also a subject that needs to be addressed. Why make long hair a part of a woman's salvation when it is not? For by grace are ye saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works" Eph. 2:8-9. Growing hair is a "work". There is certainly nothing in the Bible that says it must be put up. The chapter used to enforce long hair for women is I Cor. 11. Is that really the issue Paul is addressing in that chapter? How can we be certain Paul intend for his instructions to the Corinthian women concerning the hair styles they wore to be applied not only to them in their culture and day, but ALSO to women believers from that day forward? There is no other time any New Testament author gave like instructions. In other words, how do we know Paul intended for these things to transcend culture and become universal to believing women for all times?

What is the underlying principle in this chapter? It would seem to be that in some women, there was evidence of a lack of due submission to their husbands. This was evidenced by the removal of their head coverings, the nature of which is not specified. However, this action does not represent a lack of submission in the American culture. In fact, it has no significance whatsoever to Americans. When someone sees a woman with her hair in a bun, do they auto­matically know that woman is in submission to her husband? Of course not! The only thing a woman's long hair put up in a bun signifies to anyone is her choice of religious profession, i.e. that she is either professing, or she is a Pentecostal. It is meaningless as far as submission if concerned! It was an instruction intended for the women of Corinth, and was never meant to apply literally in our day and time. I firmly believe it's one of those traditions Jesus scorned of the Pharisees, "teaching for doctrine the commandments of men" in Matt. 15.

One of the reasons women follow these traditions is because of the very strong peer pressure put on women to fit in with the way everyone looks. It's worse than that found in the world and dangerously similar to that of the Pharisees. Of course, the underlying fear of excommunication from the "only way to be saved" plays a big part in bringing about "willingness" to comply without question or conviction.

Jewelry can be sinful IF it's worn with excessive pride. However, in that case, it's the pride that is wrong, not the jewelry. We can take excessive pride in our home, cars, clothes, education, job, etc. It doesn't matter what it is. I'm afraid that I have fallen into the trap of refraining from wearing jewelry because I was taught it was worldly, but did other things that were just as worldly. Hair jewelry is very popular now, as well as wearing pins and pendants. But gold is gold, and pearls are pearls. Does it really matter how or where they're attached? In our country with our customs, it is not a shame for a woman to wear jewelry, make-up, etc. Nor is a woman mistaken for a prostitute, if her hair is cut or hanging down.

A brother worker who thought I should wear my hair up gave me this vague reasoning once. Our righteousness is as filthy rags to God. Can we really think that something we can put on, keep off, or GROW means anything to God? Worship is done in the spirit, or in the inner man. God looks on the heart, not on outward appearance. John 7:24 "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." Actually these prohibitions actually ENCOURAGE the sin of judging. They give us a yardstick (of rules) with which to judge others, causing the friends and workers to become Pharisees. In view of this, their bad fruit far outweighs their good.

My hope is that all the problems in the "truth" will be dealt with honestly by the head workers. That all problems pertaining to the history will be brought out and laid on the table. Also that legalism will be removed as an essential part of salvation (particularly women's) so that people are free to be led by the spirit of God, rather than by rules of conduct, dress codes and hair styles. I feel that to preach this is God's only true way to heaven is a falsehood. Jesus is the only way, not a particular system or method that has a 2x2 ministry and meets for fellowship in the homes.

My heartfelt desire in writing this letter is that my friends and relatives will study into these things for themselves, and show me where I am wrong in my beliefs and decision; or else accept my decision without grieving for me. I don't relish people saying that I'm crazy; unwilling; have the wrong spirit; and that I just have my eyes on the world, etc. To adopt one of these viewpoints is attacking me, judging my motives, and does not come anywhere close to accurately describing the agony I have experienced in uncovering this deception.

I believe Jesus Christ is the WAY to heaven through belief and trust in Jesus, the Son of God, and in what He did for me, as He lived a sinless life, and being the atoning sacrifice on the cross. It isn't enough to just say we believe, but we must repent of our sins and have a living relationship with Him through the Holy Spirit. We are saved by faith through grace which is a gift of God, not by our appearance or works. The church is composed of everyone who believes and does that. It isn't a method or a system or a group of people who meet in a particular way. Everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as our God and Savior is my brother in Christ and it is wrong not to love them.

Quite honestly, I can no longer be a part of a deceptive, legalistic fellowship that covers up its history, doctrine, scandals, and then preaches it's the only perfect way. For those of you that would like to talk with me, please feel free to do so. Above all, I want to know and believe what is true concerning God, and if you can show me where anything I now believe is in error, scripturally or historically, believe me, I want to hear from you. I feel a need to be in fellowship with people who also serve God. I have been visiting churches with other Christian friends, but I will not be making a hasty decision along these lines.

Love in Christ,


Debbie Lerwick
Midland, Texas