The Jesus Fellowship community has often faced criticism from ex-members and the relatives of those who have joined their commune community. Over the years, members have spoken out against the community after leaving. Many have had their stories published in the press or been interviewed for television documentaries regarding the group.
Concerns of the family members of those who have joined the group and their feelings of 'losing' children or parents to the fellowship have also been told. Often fuelled by fellowship members expressing to their relations that their new community family is more important in their lives than any blood relations. Accusations have arisen that this common change in loyalties may be caused by some kind of brainwashing techniques used by the fellowship to indoctrinate its members. Although the groups elders have strongly denied that any organised process is used to indoctrinate new recruits.
The attitude of the group towards ex-members is often one of denial. The experiences and accusations of disgruntled ex-members are usually dismissed as one-offs. Some ex-members have been accused by the fellowships leadership of bearing a grudge, and of jealousy that they are no longer able to be a part of the group.
The Horror of the Jesus Army, The horror of the Jesus Army
The 'JEsus Army Networking News and Information' website, JEANNI
An Ex-Member writes about her experiences within the Jesus Army. Melanie's Home Page
Relatives and ex-members express concern as to the effect membership of the fellowships community has on their families.
13/03/1982 : 'LOST' MOTHER: FAMILY HIT OUT
20/03/1982 : FATHER SOUNDS 'ACTION' CALL
20/03/1982 : MOONIE COP STARTS PROBE
03/04/1982 : LETTERS PAGE - DOES GOD ONLY LOVE STRANGERS?
18/09/1982 : SPECIAL ENQUIRY : FOR THIS GIRL, A NIGHTMARE
27/09/1982 : LETTERS PAGE - 'WE THINK THEY MIGHT AS WELL BE IN PRISON'
30/09/1982 : LETTERS PAGE - THE MISSING EVIDENCE
07/04/1984 : LETTERS PAGE - JESUS PEOPLE SPLIT MY FAMILY
09/10/1984 : SPECIAL REPORT : 'OUTSIDE' FAMILIES COME SECOND SAY EX-MEMBERS
25/10/1984 : LETTERS PAGE - PARENTS TELL OF DEEP HUMAN HEARTACHE
22/04/1989 : LETTERS PAGE - OVERRIDING FAITH
Other relatives disagree.
27/09/1982 : LETTERS PAGE - OUR FAMILY RELATIONSHIP HAS NEVER BEEN MORE LOVING
18/09/1982 : SPECIAL ENQUIRY : FOR THIS MAN IT'S HAPPINESS
In the early eighties a Northampton pastor began distributing tapes, containing recordings of the testimony of ex-members of the group in a bid to warn off prospective members from joining.
27/02/1982 : ANGER OVER 'BRAINWASH' TAPES
06/03/1982 : LETTERS PAGE - JESUS FELLOWSHIP HITS BACK
13/03/1982 : LETTERS PAGE - WHICH CHURCH CHIEFS GIVE THEIR BACKING?
Dismissing brainwashing and indoctrination allegations.
20/09/1982 : SPECIAL ENQUIRY : INDOCTRINATION? IT'S JUST NOT TRUE
17/03/1984 : 'COME AND SEE HOW WE WORK'
Leaving the fellowship is not always as easy as it sounds. Although the elders stress that members are 'free to leave at any time', there are many factors which make leaving the fellowship a drawn out, complex and emotional time.
Once an individual is contemplating leaving the community, pressure from the elders and other members to remain within the group can be overwhelming. The breaking of the covenant promises which members take when joining the group are the first of many hurdles. The covenant promises undertaken are a commitment to remain within the fellowship and be loyal to the group for life. Once a member has made the decision to break these promises, elders maintain that any decision should not be taken lightly, and anyone considering leaving should take considerable time to conclude that their decision is right, not just for them, but also for those within the community around them.
Within the close-nit household groups members have belonged to a unique style of 'family' often considered by many to be more important than blood relations. This creates such a dependence between members, that breaking away from the group is considerably harder to accomplish emotionally. The breaking of the 'family' and the inherent dependency built within the communal households can increase the pressure to remain.
Having nowhere to go and an absence of the financial capability to leave, (owing to the donation of income and savings to the group), no-doubt increases the difficulties a member faces when wishing to leave the group. If, after a long period of contemplation, and after many a discussion with fellowship elders, a consensus is reached that a member is to leave the group, then an amicable agreement can be made between the fellowship and soon to be ex-member. Financially, any capital donation made to the community trust fund when the member joined will be returned to them, and further financial and more practical assistance is sometimes given to assist the ex-member in finding accommodation and beginning their new life outside the community.
For many would be leavers, the drawn out process and the increase in emotional pressure involved in amicably leaving the fellowship community, has led them to make a quick break by running away from the group. Many ex-members consider suddenly and abruptly leaving the group to have been their only realistic means of 'escape' from the community once pressure increased on them to stay after they expressed their intention to leave.
Initially, life is hard for an 'escapee' from the community. Leaving with few if any possessions, and a lack of any finances, escapee's rarely receive the return of any capital donation to the group. Escapee's with friends and family outside the fellowship's community at least have somewhere to stay. Whilst others without a place to stay can face life on the streets. For some, a return to homelessness as they where before joining the fellowship.
Those who 'split' from the community, are often traced and contacted by elders and their friends within the fellowship. They are often encouraged to return to the community, and to attempt to resolve their differences/problems within the community rather than leave. Splitters are often told that they will be damned for breaking their covenant promises, in a bid to convince them to return to the group.
In the mid-eighties, 'The Prayerforce Fellowship' was formed, who prayed for change within the group, and distributed leaflets as a warning to prospective members. The Prayerforce Fellowship also assisted members who wished to leave the community.
1985 : LIFE?NEWS : Judgement for Covenant Breakers
17/10/1985 : JESUS PEOPLE THREATEN ACTION
Leaving the Fellowship.
10/10/1984 : SPECIAL REPORT : 'THEY CALLED ME JUDAS WHEN I LEFT'
10/10/1984 : SPECIAL REPORT : I BECAME A MORAL ROBOT ...
11/10/1984 : SPECIAL REPORT : DETERMINATION COURAGE AND CUNNING
21/09/1986 : INSIDE THE JESUS CULT: ROUTE TO FREEDOM
02/10/1986 : LETTERS PAGE - FELLOWSHIP'S TECHNIQUES NOT WELCOME
22/10/1986 : LETTERS PAGE - SUBTLE DANGER OF JESUS PEOPLE
Ex-members tell of their experiences.
27/09/1982 : LETTERS PAGE - I LIVED BETTER THAN A KING
25/10/1984 : LETTERS PAGE - WHY I AM SO DEEPLY WORRIED
17/10/1985 : LETTERS PAGE - AGONY OF FOLLOWING BUGBROOKE BELIEF
22/04/1997 : SECT ROBBED ME OF MY CHILDHOOD
22/04/1997 : OTHER YOUNG PEOPLE 'STRONGLY DISAGREE'
Other ex-member stories.
25/09/1986 : LETTERS PAGE - A CASE OF RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION?
12/12/2001 : EX-JESUS FELLOWSHIP MAN TOOK FATAL COCKTAIL OF DRUGS
Time Magazine Christian Soldiers article
Time Magazine Onward Christian Soldiers response letter (half way down page)