A Short History Timeline for "the Truth"
The origin and history of this movement are well documented in public records, in press coverage, through the statements, letters and sermon notes from early workers and friends. Unfortunately, those of us residing outside the British Isles have been told a story which differs radically from the truth.
The headquarters of The Impartial Reporter in N. Ireland, one of the newspapers to chronicle Two-by-Two beginnings
William Irvine joins the Faith Mission evangelical organization. He had earlier professed at about age 30 during a mission held by Presbyterian evangelist Jack McNeil in Motherwell Scotland. He had also attended Bible courses at John Anderson College in Glasgow.
William Irvine is sent by the Faith Mission to head its operations in Southern Ireland.
Faith Mission headquarters in Scotland
The Beginning: William Irvine, already disenchanted with the Faith Mission, establishes his first independent mission in northern County Tipperary during August. He meets Edward Cooney, a fabric retailer and lay preacher, who had been preaching independently among various denominations. A second mission is held in Rathmolyon. The Carroll and Gill families first hear Irvine. Irvine begins to break away from the Faith Mission and to recruit its workers.
Irvine proclaims that he has had a revelation of the "true meaning" of Matthew 10. Along with some companions from the Faith Mission, he begins to preach this revelation, which he dubs: "the Alpha Message." John Long becomes Irvine's first companion. Alex Givan, T.M. Turner and George Walker (an employee of Cooney's family business) join Irvine's new movement during this year as workers. Other Faith Mission workers in Ireland support Irvine, but also continue to serve under that organization.
Irvine begins extensively recruiting workers away from the Faith Mission. Faith Mission founder John Govan receives disturbing reports regarding its Superintendant in South Ireland. Irvine's name is removed from its rolls, and his support from that organization is cut.
William Irvine and John Kelly officially resign from the Faith Mission. Edward Cooney leaves the Church of Ireland and joins Irvine's new group by meeting the requirement of selling all possessions and giving the procedes to Irvine. The first three female workers are commissioned, including Sara Rogers.
William Carroll, his sister May (another recruit from the Faith Mission) and Mrs. W. Carroll enter the work. The first convention is held in Rathmolyn, Ireland and lasts for three weeks. Seventy attend. All orthodox Christian beliefs are rejected at this conference in favor of Irvine's new revelation. Attendees take vows of poverty, celibacy, submission, self-denial, etc. The first recorded mention is made of the "Living Witness Doctrine" occurs during this convention, in a sermon delivered by Joseph Kerr.
(left to right) Jack Carroll, May Carroll, Willie Jamieson, Elizabeth Jamieson and William Irvine in 1905
Later during this year, the first workers to countries outside the British Isles are sent forth. William Irvine, accompanied by Irvine Weir and George Walker, is the first worker to set foot in North America (September 14, 1903).
The group's first baptisms by immersion are performed. The growth of the movement causes considerable friction to develop, as many families are being torn apart. Up to this time, it is required that all who profess sell everything and enter the work. Riots break out at meetings and baptisms. Fanny Carroll, followed by brother Jack, enters the work during this year.
John Long, Irvine's first companion, is excommunicated for lacking enthusiasm in his support of the "Living Witness Doctrine."
A formal distinction is made between the workers (who must give up all possessions to go preach) and the friends (who are henceforth accepted as professing members without being required to go forth as itinerant workers). Though during the previous few years the preaching had gradually de-emphasized the requirement that all become workers, Irvine's official sanction of the property-owning lay members opens the way for Sunday house meetings and mid-week Bible studies, first held during this year.
The hymnal, Hymns Old and New, is adopted in June. The last of the large, original-style, three to four week long international home conventions is held in Ireland.
(left to right) William Gill (appointed overseer of Britain), William Irvine and George Walker (appointed overseer of Eastern N. America) in an early photo
Irvine claims a new revelation, which includes prophecies about the future and the return of Christ. The new revelation is called "The Omega Gospel." A group of overseers (the chief workers in each area, reportable only to Irvine) exclude Irvine from preaching at meetings and conventions during this year. Rumors of some sort of unnamed scandal are also circulated. Joseph Kerr (who first framed the "Living Witness Doctrine") is excommunicated, along with those of Irvine's supporters who continue contacts with him. The overseers set themselves up as independent authorities over their respective regions of the globe. With the outbreak of the First World War in August, the group registers with the British government under the name "The Testimony of Jesus.""
Jack Carroll, James Jardine and George Walker reportedly personally persuade Irvine to relocate to Jerusalem, in order to remove his continuing influence and to hide his existence. Irvine eventually complies (in 1919), although he continues to maintain regular contacts with his adherants.
The group again splits when Edward Cooney is excommunicated for rejecting the group's organization and the "Living Witness Doctrine."
A campaign, coordinated by overseers Jack Carroll (western N. America) and John Hardie (New South Wales Australia), is launched in an attempt to “suppress” (in the words of one of the participants) an article by W. M. Rule that described the history, doctrines and practices of the Two by Two sect. A summary detailing this incident may be viewed at this link. With Cooney only recently being excommunicated, William Irvine still active and conflicts among the leadership, a widely distributed article detailing the movement was most unwelcome at this time, and led to a decision for further secrecy.
George Walker officially takes the name "Christian Conventions" for the group in the United States. Jack Carroll concurs, and the group is registered under similar names with governments worldwide, including "Assemblies of Christians" in Canada.
Word that George Walker and Jack Carroll had officially registered the church under the name "Christian Conventions" in the United States (see link above) becomes known by a few who objected to the taking a name as being irreconcilable with the sect's teaching. As word began to spread, some of those objecting either left the church, were excommunicated or decided to remain silent about the issue. The first documentation of the registration is obtained from U.S. government sources to refute the continuing denials.
Founder William Irvine dies in Jerusalem, shunned by all but a loyal core of followers, who continue on in anticipation of his return.
Irvine Weir, one of the first three workers to set foot in North America, is excommunicated by George Walker for (perhaps among other things) associating with Edward Cooney.
Early worker William ("Willie") Gill dies at age 88. He was overseer over the British Isles.
Early worker William Carroll dies at his home in Australia, where he was overseer in charge of the states of Victoria and Tasmania .
An article entitled “A Spiritual Fraud Exposed” by Doug Parker is circulated, raising questions about the history of the movement. This later was worked, with corrections and supplements, into the book The Secret Sect (see below).
Photos of Linda Heyes and Jack Carroll, and their tombstones at Milltown, Washington
Jack Carroll, overseer of western North America, dies and is buried at Milltown, Washington in the same plot as (and according to contemporary accounts of those present, "next to" and between) the graves of worker John Vint and that of Carroll's widely-reputed mistress, worker Linda Heyes. There have been subsequent additions to the plot.
Edward Cooney dies in Mildura, Victoria, Australia among his followers - who continue on in scattered groups to this day, albeit without the "Living Witness Doctrine" or the office of worker.
A small exodus takes place when information regarding the history and doctrines is again circulated, though this is quickly compartmentalized. Arthur Piepkorn does research for an in-depth article focusing on the group. His incomplete findings remain unpublished until some years after his death.
George Walker dies, aged 104. Although for many years it was speculated that Walker would be able to inherit Irvine's mantle, Walker could not muster the support for such a move and had instead remained overseer of the eastern portion of North America.
The book The Secret Sect is published in Australia and becomes the first work to achieve much awareness among the Two by Twos, despite calumnies spread about its author and veracity, and repeated injunctions from the leadership against reading it.
The first editions of The Church without a Name (1990), Has the Truth Set You Free? (1991) are published in the U.S. "Forward Press", a monthly newsletter, begins curculation among former members. Patricia Roberts begins publishing books covering Edward Cooney with The Life and Ministry of Edward Cooney (1990). R.I.S. publishes additional works, beginning with Reinventing the Truth and Reflections (1993).
Several letters from former members are widely circulated in Canada, the U.S. and Australia. Workers enjoin the burning of any such letters, books and other "hateful" information, unopened and unread. More people begin leaving the sect.
The Internet becomes more widely accessible and the first websites dealing with the Two by Two sect begin to appear in 1995. The first online discussions are started on AOL and Listserve in 1996. Participants included former Two by Two members, questioning members and even a few followers of William Irvine's "Omega Message." Workers begin issuing warnings against accessing the Internet, but by the end of the decade even workers were being equipped with laptop computers with Internet access, so the ban was quietly dropped. Although online access made it cheaper and easier for workers and members to do business and communicate, it also opened the door to information and discussion that had previously been effectively suppressed.
Documentation of the sect having organized under yet other official names in Canada, Sweden and Australia is uncovered and published. In Alberta, this and other topics led to a rash of excommunications of those who continued to raise questions touching on these issues.
The decline in membership continues to the extent that several annual convention grounds are closed down, rather than moved. Closed conventions are merged into other conventions. More cases of sexual misconduct are exposed. A website (wingsfortruth.org) is formed to address sexual abuse of children within the Two by Twos. Attempts are made by apologists for the Two by Two sect to launch websites and discussion fora, some of which attempted to misdirect from or rationalize issues involving the movement. Numerous new sources are uncovered and published that confirm the history, doctrine and practices of the sect. In some areas, enforcement of standards regarding appearance and some behavior becomes more lax. Additional book titles, editions and new media venues have made information on the sect ever more comprehensive and widely available.
These items have been extensively documented and verified through newspaper articles of the period; eyewitness accounts; official testimony by workers; government records; letters by elders, workers and friends; statements by workers to the press; etc.
For a more detailed outline that includes the various schisms that may be downloaded for viewing and printing off-line, click here