Source : 25/10/1984 Northampton Chronicle and Echo
We have received the first four articles of your series on the Jesus People, and have read them with great interest. As parents, we have been very much involved with the Fellowship, over a considerable period, and we can truly say that the effect upon us has been devastating. What, to the members, appears to be a spirit-given heart-ease has for us been, and will always remain, a deep human heartache.
From the outset, we were not happy with the methods the Fellowship were using to procure new recruits, or thereafter to hold them. To some extend David Hawker's claims, that members are free to make decisions concerning their own lives, may be true. However, as several ex-members have testified, much subtle pressure, and some not quite so subtle, is applied to influence those decisions. We know this to be true in the case of two of our sons, one a member for three years, the other a potential member who left (secretly, incidentally) after a few weeks. We also have the personal testimony of one of their friends, who describes the 'heavy' pressure to become involved.
After our youngest son, Peter, became a community member, he changed from one with whom we had always had a very happy and harmonious relationship into one who came to regard us as, his 'persecutors' because we could not accept, as he had come to accept, the utter and complete authority of Noel Stanton's interpretation of the Bible. To us it seemed, and still seems, unreasonable to argue that, because Noel claims to be Spirit-led, his interpretations must therefore be considered as being beyond any possibility of error. When we sought to question in any way the teaching and practices of the Fellowship, we were seen as being used by 'the enemy'. Even though we had been Christians and members of a Baptist Church for many years. Peter came to regard our understanding of the Gospel as completely worthless. We know he loved us dearly, and was inwardly torn by his divided loyalties.
He did visit us from time to time, but a total of roughly 18 hours per year was not very satisfying, especially since we were constantly frustrated by the fact that, as soon as we tried to talk about the things that mattered most to us, he would immediately threaten to leave.
Unemployment may indeed be virtually unknown among the Jesus People but, though he tried desperately hard to secure one, he never had a suitable permanent job while he was there, though, in order to join the Fellowship, he had given up a job which he had successfully held for six years. He had to take factory work for which he was completely unsuited. He was not given the opportunity to work full-time for and within the community when his unsuitability for factory work became apparent; rather he was merely directed to work on the farm or other community projects while he was unemployed between various factory jobs. All this, he told us, would teach him patience and be good for his pride. We doubt if anyone, beside ourselves, had any idea how unhappy he really was to find himself in that situation.
We are sure it was desperation that let him to apply for a T.O.P.S course in painting and decorating even though, for several reasons, that occupation also would have proved to be anything but suitable for him. As no accommodation could be found for him in Milton Keynes, nor any means of transport except a community motor cycle, the die was cast for the events which were to follow. As a totally inexperienced, untrained and very nervous rider, he had perforce to begin his journeys in conditions and circumstances where few, if any, experienced riders would have taken to the road, namely in the dark and when black ice could be expected.
He survived for just four days before the latter hazard caused him to skid to his death under a lorry. We shall always feel that, if he had been loved and understood as the community claims its members are, he would never have been allowed to make those journeys, for he had a life-long fear of all things mechanical and up to that time, nothing would ever induced him to ride a motor cycle. After his death, his Elder tried to assure us he had been happy to do so. If Peter had indeed given such an impression, it could only have been because he could not admit that he had not conquered his fears. His last recorded words, given in evidence at the inquest, indicate beyond doubt that he had not been happy about his means of travel.
We cannot possibly cover, in this letter, all the misgivings we have about the community, which mainly result from Peter's letters to us and our conversations with him, and from our observation of the great changes in him.
No doubt we, like others, will come under condemnation for attacking our fellow Christians. However, as he and his fellow ex-members have found, there comes a time when one feels one must speak out, if it is truly felt that people are being misled. It must have been very difficult for them, as it is for us, since we all know that there are many at Bugbrooke who sincerely believe that they are living, thinking and behaving in the way Christ required. Our own greatly loved daughter-in-law is among that number. Those members will, if they hear of them, find our actions difficult to understand. Their spiritual mentors will, for their part, bring their undoubted skill to bear to counter the feelings we have expressed here.
Be that as it may, Jesus said that false prophets could be identified by the fruits they produce. For some it may seem sweet, sweeter perhaps than some bitterness they may previously have known. We can only say that, for our family, and for other families known to us, the fruit had been very bitter indeed.