Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.
Blaise Pascal French mathematician, physicist (1623 – 1662)
For it is humility – the complete abasement of our own assessments and thought processes – that opens the way to freedom.
Tim Maurice, Highlands Christian Fellowship – June 2008
You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know.
William Wilberforce, 1789
Helen Pomery is a typical, upper-middle class woman – the absolute epitome of a well-to-do doctor’s wife. Tonight, well-dressed, immaculately made-up and hair carefully coiffed she stands in front of an audience of seventy people in the meeting room of a slightly shabby Brisbane pub.
“I was married for 30 years,” she explains. “My husband was a doctor – a gynaecologist and an obstetrician. I was his practice manager. I can’t prove it to you, but we had a normal, happy marriage. We had three children. We had a close and loving family. My husband was a good man.”
Helen’s nightmare began after they moved from South Australia to Maryborough in the 1990s and began attending a normal looking church, full of normal looking, middle-class people. Some time after, the couple moved to Brisbane after Helen’s husband expressed a wish to become more involved in his leadership work with the church – which is based at Samford, in Brisbane, but has satellite churches throughout the country.
“There were no alarm bells,” says Helen. “The church presents so well – it doesn’t look like a cult. No-one knowingly joins a cult.”
What Helen wasn’t told when she innocently joined the Brisbane Christian Fellowship (BCF) was that her husband would be persuaded to transfer his loyalty from his family to the church hierarchy and that she would be required to submit, unquestioningly, to him. If this chain of command was not honoured, they were told, their entire family would suffer eternal damnation. The responsibility of keeping his family under the submission of the Church falls to the husband. Helen was not to know when she joined the BCF, beguiled by smiling, welcoming people and ‘wonderful music’, that the Church leaders would later subject her family to an ‘acid test’, setting husband against wife and parent against child, to ensure that their loyalty lay, not with each other, but with the Church and its supreme leader, Vic Hall.
“The dynamic wears you down,” Helen explains. “They screw with your mind. They practice poisoning in small doses.”
During her 15 years with the BCF, Helen was forced to submit, without question, to her husband and the male elders of the church and she was punished arbitrarily when they deemed that she was not ‘on board’. She was routinely instructed to produce written confessions to trumped up charges of disloyalty and threatened with various forms of exclusion if she did not comply. She was told that she must not think for herself. The Church, she says, calls for the ‘complete abasement of thought processes’. Her role in the ‘divinely appointed’ order was to act only under the instructions of her husband, and his, to act only under the instructions of Vic Hall and the other church elders.
The BCF teaches that ‘an unsubmitted woman walks into insanity and then she walks into death’. Worn down, psychologically abused, and on the brink of suicide, Helen wrote in her journal, “The men want me to come to an end of myself – do they want me dead?”
“My life at that time was sheer survival,” she says. But what was the price of self-preservation? To fail to submit, she was told, was to condemn her entire family to eternal damnation. Meekly invalidating herself, giving up her free will, her intelligence, her autonomy was, she was led to believe, the ultimate act of selfless love.
Cruelly, her misery was exacerbated by the fact that, “The more I was victimised, the more my husband was esteemed.”
Helen’s second daughter was the first to be excommunicated from the BCF and estranged from the family. At 26 years old she wanted to date a man from outside the church. Her father, in concert with Hall and the church elders, refused his permission. She insisted on being free to make her own decision, and was evicted. Helen was told she was to have no further contact with her daughter – ever.
“It’s not like coping with a loved-one’s death,” says Helen, who lost her father at around the same time. “Death is normal.”
“To be asked to treat my daughter ‘as if’ she were dead, but knowing that she wasn’t, was torture – nobody understands the horror of being trapped inside a cult.”
Now Helen’s marriage is over. She was evicted from her family home and left destitute and alone for the ‘sin’ of phoning her daughter to tell her she loved her. When Helen confessed to her ‘crime’, she was given seven days to leave the house, excommunicated from her church, and prevented from seeing, or having contact with her two children and three grandchildren still trapped inside the cult.
As her husband informed her of this decision, he assured her, “I have never loved you more than I love you now.”
“He meant it,” Helen explains. “He was convinced that the only way to save his family was to force us to submit.” The church rules by fear. Fear is the ultimate tool of control.
It has taken nine years, a stint in a USA deprogramming centre and long-term, on-going psychological counselling for Helen to reach the point where she is tonight – standing up and telling her story to a room full of strangers.
Helen now works with the Queensland Cult Information and Family Support network. Since meeting with other cult survivors she has realized that her story is not unique.
“We have all lived through the same nightmare,” she says. “The names of the victims, the institutions and their ideologies may differ but they all operate the same way.”
And there are thousands of victims here in Australia. At the recent Cult Information and Family Support (CIFS) conference, survivors from more than twenty different cults were represented. Not all cults are religious, but many are. And what should outrage ordinary Australians is that our government supports this abuse through tax exemptions and grants.
Indeed, the BCF is widely known as an abusive cult. It has long since been exposed by its victims, on television, in a book, and on an internet forum where survivors tell their stories. According to Helen, the BCF offers no charitable or welfare services or any other kind of community benefit. And yet, their multi-million dollar income and property holdings are untaxed, simply because they are a ‘religious institution’ and, in accordance with a four hundred year old law, the state deems that the ‘advancement of religion’ is a charitable act in, and of, itself. Further, our government supplies the BCF with grants to operate a ‘Bible School’ which reportedly runs only four ‘classes’ a year – has any government officer asked what is taught at this ‘institution’ or do they just blithely hand the money over, no questions asked?
And, what is the response of our esteemed politicians to this blatant abuse of tax-payer’s largesse, not to mention the psychological abuse of women and children within the cult? They tell Helen they can’t get involved because they have to honour the ‘separation of church and state’ and people’s ‘freedom of religion’.
As Helen says, “Nobody chooses to join a cult.” It is not a free choice. The people who join such organizations are the victims of a ‘bait and switch’. They may enter the ‘shop front’ of their own free will, but they don’t know that, ultimately, their ‘free will’ is the price of admission. Being drawn into a cult and being kept there by coercive persuasion and mind-control techniques has nothing to do with ‘freedom of religion’ – it is state-sponsored slavery, abuse and imprisonment.
The fact that our politicians turn a blind-eye to this abuse and pretend that there is nothing they can do is both despicable and inexcusable.
The French Government, does not subsidise any religion, either with grants or exemptions, so that they are not implicated in allowing religious cults to fleece their members, tax-free. The British Government has recently introduced a ‘public benefit’ test for religious institutions seeking tax exemptions. Why is this not being done in Australia?
Further, in 2001, the French Government instituted laws to guard against cultic abuse. The French anti-cult law established the new crime of mental manipulation, defined as any activity or activities undertaken with the goal or the effect to create or to exploit the state of mental or physical dependence of people who are participating in the group’s activities and to infringe upon their human rights and fundamental liberties; to exert repeated pressures in order to create or exploit this state of dependence and to drive the person, against their will or not, to act (or abstain from acting) in a way which is heavily prejudicial to them. Importantly, the French law allows for the criminal culpability and dissolution of a corporation or association whose members or leaders have been found engaging in such activities.
If such laws and protections can be enacted in other Western countries, they can be enacted here. The defence that the state must allow ‘freedom of religion’ is a smokescreen for cowardice. These religious institutions are about money and power – not religion – and religious institutions which actively seek to deny freedom of will and action to their adherents should not be protected by laws enacted to safeguard such freedoms.
Currently, the Australian federal and state governments not only fail to protect the interests of cult victims, they negligently enable cults like the BCF, the Exclusive Brethren and Scientology through tax-exemptions and grants.
In her quest to have the BCF’s abuses stopped, Helen Pomery has written letters to all politicians – state, federal and senators – three or four times, with minimal response. Not only are they not interested in taking action, they seem intent on preventing action from being taken! Just last month, Senator Nick Xenophon’s request for a Senate inquiry into the tax status of the Church of Scientology, following numerous claims of cultic abuse, was defeated by both major parties. Xenophon has since vowed to continue his campaign and return to the Senate with a re-worded motion which may include a push for police to take criminal action against cults and allow for the prosecution of cult leaders whose actions cause psychological harm to their adherents.
Recently, a small glimmer of hope has been offered by Queensland Senator Sue Boyce, who would not support a ‘public benefit’ test for religious organizations but has forwarded a letter to the Federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, asking him to consider introducing legislation against psychological abuse. CIFS Queensland has drafted a petition [downloadable here as a word document] aiming to persuade the Attorney-General that such legislation would receive popular support.
Generally, however, our politicians remain apathetic to and disinterested in the fate of Australians innocently entrapped in abusive cults. Helen despairs that despite the personal testimonies of hundreds of people, the CIFS is still only achieving small, incremental changes. But she will keep fighting – for herself, her family, and for the many others who have suffered as she has. As Helen says, “I bear witness to the reality and the power of coercive persuasion and mind control, because I live with its impact every day of my life.”
Comments on this post are moderated but will be approved and published as soon as possible.
For an account of what cult survivors go through, please read Helen and David’s stories on this blog or on the campaign website – David’s Story;Helen’s Story.
Support for Victims and Survivors of the BCF & Similar Cults
2023 update: There is a new group, the Olive Leaf Network – https://oliveleaf.network/ – to support people leaving closed cults like BCF. You can read more about them in this article – https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/486996/former-exclusive-brethren-church-member-sets-up-support-network-to-help-other-leavers
Streetcar Forum – a place for people who have left or are looking to leave EB or RFI type organisations and need support. With nearly 100 families from CF Groups around the Country, what is being said can no longer be ignored. If you chose to leave a CF you will have a voice and support here.
Cult Information and Family Support – a network for families, friends, former members and concerned individuals working together towards a common goal, to provide support and develop awareness for those affected by high demand groups or cultic relationships
Please read David Lowe’s moving story about his experience with the BCF. Here is a short extract:
…I really can’t believe how BCF has changed and affected my life. I lived under these controlling abusive men for 35 years of my married life and suffered irreparable damage to my home, my family, my heart and my whole being. Often I wake up in the night crying and I have been dreaming of my children. I am sick of having pain in my heart all the time. I have often felt like there’s a black hole that’s going to suck me in. In the aftermath of BCF they are still trying to kill me. I oscillate from feeling frustrated to being exhausted by the unbearable pain in my heart and mind. There is no time or place where you are free of the pain because our children are part of our very being. I have phoned my children on their birthdays and at Christmas and they will not talk to me.
I hold the elders accountable for violating the sanctity of our home and for poisoning my close, loving family relationships in an evil and perverted manner without any qualms or conscience. I spoke up on the ‘Four Corners’ programme last year because I have recovered enough to know that my story and my voice is important in this struggle against this evil dictatorship that holds so many innocent people captive by it’s corrupt doctrine and obsessive control.
How can a church do this to people and get away with it?
The God of Broken Hearts – Four Corners, 2008
You can view investigative journalist, Chris Masters’, Four Corners report on the Brisbane Christian Fellowship, featuring stories from several victims of the BCF. Or you can read a transcript of the program. Helen tells her story to Chris Masters here.
1. Send a link to this story to your local, state and federal political representatives and ask if they have taken any action whatsoever to support people in Helen’s situation and, if not, why not?
2. Disseminate Helen’s and David’s stories as widely as possible – either by writing about them yourself or linking to this page. If you are writing about this subject, please link to the Streetcar forum and CIFS so that people within the BCF (or similar organizations), or planning to join it, can read the truth and seek support.
3. Write to Nick Xenophon and support his efforts to make cults legally accountable for their actions.
Senator Nick Xenophon, Level 2, 31 Ebenezer Place, Adelaide 5000
4. If you are willing to collect signatures for the petition to the Attorney-General, please download this petition form and return the signed form/s to: CIFS, PO Box 4002, St Lucia South Q 4067.
You may also wish to print up Senator Sue Boyce’s letter to the Attorney General as supporting information for your signatories. (Please note, the letter has two pages, click the thumbnail under the first page for page two, or see here.)
5. Write to your political representatives (state, federal and senate) asking them to:
a) support any future motions regarding an inquiry into organizations like Scientology, the Exclusive Brethren and the BCF
b) support a ‘public benefit’ test for religious exemptions or, ideally
c) call for the removal of all ‘as of right’ exemptions for religious institutions.
Gladly’s Book Recommendations
Gladly gets madder than a bear with a sore head at injustice and political cowardice. If you feel the same way, you might like to read these books:
Apostles of Fear: A Church Cult Exposed by Morag Zwartz (includes Helen’s story) – available soon from Embiggen Books
Behind the Exclusive Brethren by Michael Bachelard
People In Glass Houses: An Insider’s Story Of Life In and Out Of Hillsong by Tanya Levin
The Cult Files: The inside stories of the world’s most intriguing cults and alternative new religions by Chris Mikul
God Under Howard: The rise of the religious right in Australian politics by Marion Maddox
Jesus Freaks: A True Story of Murder and Madness On the Evangelical Edge by John Lattin
The Purple Economy by Max Wallace
Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer
Wow Chris. This so perfectly captures how I felt hearing Helen speak about her experiences. I’ve offered my groups services to raise awareness of these issues on my three campuses and hope other readers can find a way to help raise awareness in some way.
I go to this church. It is not a cult.
Trust me, I am 35 and have been here all my life, and it is wonderful. There is no brainwashing or anything like that. The bible school is free, you do not need to pay anything. I knew this woman when she left, and she was just angry. The church is not widely known as a cult, not at all, it is just the media hyping up the issue. This is a wonderful church. We made some poor decisions back in 2010ish but we have changed. But let me get this straight. We have never have, we aren’t, and never will be a cult.
Laura, your church is widely known as a cult and many ex members have needed psychological counselling and even de-programming after leaving. The cult has driven many to feel suicidal.
Cult experts agree your church is a cult.
I hope one day you’ll find the strength and support to leave.
The thing is – people who are in a cult don’t know they’re in a cult. Even when you point out certain behaviour, beliefs or practices identifying it as a cult – they still don’t see it.
Separation of church and state prevents them from stopping cults fleecing and abusing people – but doesn’t stop them allowing scripture classes in public schools?
I call bullshit.
Thank you for writing this. I admire the people who’ve managed to escape these cults and start putting themselves together again. The horror of a parent being torn from their children is surely one of the worst things people do to each other – and these people do it supposedly in the name of love and the rest of it.
And they get tax breaks for doing so. It’s appalling.
Imagine if any church found an atheist organization operating like this ?
If one victim from a non religious cult walked into a main stream church and complained of this kind of abuse at the hands of non believers.
Pell, Nile, Abbott and Rudd would be screaming from the spires and sending in the police to break up such an organization and demanding criminal action be taken in the courts.
But because they use the word “Religion” it is all OK to abuse and torture their victims.
In reply to doug Steley…Jones Town, an athiest cult, need I say more
I don’t think Jonestown can really be represented as an atheist cult. It’s true that Jones variously claimed to be an atheist or agnostic BUT he used religion and religious faith in order to control his flock. He also, by the way, claimed religious exemptions. Whether or not he believed it, Jones preached “that he was the reincarnation of Mahatma Gandhi (murdered in 1948) and Father Divine (died in 1965), as well as Jesus of Nazareth, Gotama Buddha and Vladimir Lenin. Former Temple member Hue Fortson, Jr. quoted Jones as saying, “What you need to believe in is what you can see … If you see me as your friend, I’ll be your friend. As you see me as your father, I’ll be your father, for those of you that don’t have a father … If you see me as your savior, I’ll be your savior. If you see me as your God, I’ll be your God.”
Now, Darren, this may not be a kind of religion you recognise, but equally, it is a kind of atheism no self-respecting atheist would recognise. I’m happy to accept that Jones was an atheist – being an atheist doesn’t make you a good person any more than it makes you a bad person. What I think is indisputable is that the techniques he used were the same as those used by religions for eons and that, if his ‘flock’ had not had a religious ‘faith’ in him, the Jonestown massacre would not have occurred. Stalin is another example of an atheist, trained up in the church, who used religious techniques to mould himself into the object of worship. That is not atheism.
and they get tax cuts so we are funding their abuse !
A very very brave lady indeed.
Cults = The ultimate power and control.
I wonder if the approach should be to sue the government who allowed the grants to be funded to cult like this?
Maybe if politicians wont look at the human side of things what about tax , governments get people who defraud in many areas.
These so called leaders/elders are harming families, people and using Australia’s tax money to do it.
I cant even fathom what poor Helen went through it was just heartbreaking to hear first hand.
I may be a secular humanist/atheist however a question why aren’t larger religious organizations getting behind Helen? She needs a huge amount of support and so do many others who have similar stories.
This needs to be investigated by the government; state and federal plus exposed world wide. A lawyer needs to take on this and make a case out of it.
This kind of practice is not unique to Oz. We may have the “public benefit” in place here in the UK but it’s totally ineffective. It’s easy enough to run programs that appear to “benefit” the public.
We have cults like Mercy Ministries here in the UK, and yes they are a cult because they encourage submission to their leaders and encourage people to cut off from their families. They perform exorcisms here in the UK just as they did in Australia and do in America. They are still operating alive and well in the UK spreading lies and damaging lives and they’re free to get tax breaks and all the rest because they’re “religious”.
As has been said by others I fear the story would be somewhat different if this were an “atheist” or non religious group. Then it would be classed as abusing the vulnerable. Stick the word religion on and the governments get scared. To shut these groups down would involve them saying that the cults theology is incorrect, and thus they would then be accused of being sympathetic to the theology of those they don’t shut down. This argument doesn’t stand though and all governments need to get some balls. Imagine the damage done to the kids they force to sit through ‘Sunday School’.
Pathological groups like this are neither Christian nor do they provide fellowship. They repress the human spirit and are cruel to subordinate adherents and crueller to those who challenge their self-bestowed authority. They are a blight on society and should not receive State support.
Very sad story indeed, similar to stories you here about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have elders in the Church who control everything and everyone in the Church. And if you try to get out of the Church you are socially isolated and castigated by the Church. There are no greater evils committed on this Earth than those committed in the the name of God!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The abusive manipulation/control Helen endured is far more endemic in Australian society than is realized and practiced to varying degrees within certain ‘religious’ and other organisations including single people who trap their ‘victim/s’ in a ‘cultic’ prison and in effect hold them hostage.
I have emailed my ‘letter’ to various politicians and received only generic replies.
However, consider that many in Government are possibly fearful of attacking ‘religion’ in fear for their own afterlife or of losing the religious vote and donations.
Robbery by stealth of people’s democratic rights
Senator Nick Xenophon’s desire to establish a Senate Inquiry into the Church of Scientology and allegations about its activities is a small 1st step in the direction of halting the rapid spread of psychological manipulation and coercion that like a cancer is covertly spreading throughout Australia.
Australia is reputedly a democratic society, where people have freedom of choice – including their religious preference.
HOWEVER , many innocent Australian’s democratic rights are being stolen by psychological manipulation and coercion abusively used to reprogram them, without their consent or understanding, to comply with a new belief system which often isolates them from their family, denies them access to information and causes them tremendous personal harm.
Alert Australians will have noticed increasing media coverage of this problem including on TV news and programmes like 4 Corners and 60 minutes.
Surely the Australian Government can not allow this robbery by stealth of people’s democratic rights to continue.
Laws to intervene and investigate suspected crimes of psychological manipulation and coercion, regardless of the ‘victims’ age, must be put into effect without delay.
Police have complained to me their intense stress and sadness that they are restrained by law from investigating situations where they believe a person is suffering psychological abuse.
Furthermore, victims should have the right to seek and obtain legal and financial redress and lay charges against their psychologically abusive subjugator.
This insidious psychological cancer is tearing families apart and ruining the lives of decent Australians, the fallout will eventually become a burden on the Australian economy.
Having personal knowledge of the coercion I write from knowing many unwitting and devastated ‘victims’ and their families, I implore you to seriously consider and implement laws to halt the covert spread of this psychological abuse.
Every good Australian is a potential victim; male, female, old, young, rich, poor, educated or not – no person or family is immune.
The Government must protect innocent Australians with laws to intervene and investigate suspected crimes of psychological manipulation and coercion!
Fantastic letter, Pip!
Wonderful article (as always) Chrys. I’m still in a state of shock, having followed the link to the 4 Corners program. It’s beyond belief that this type of thing being tolerated in our midst, while politicians and people in power turn their backs on it – shame, shame, shame. Thank you for helping to keep the issue alive and in our faces.
Thanks for documenting this Chrys. Hard to believe that instead of the government intervening to shut these controlling, manipulative, women-haters down, they give them a tax break.
The knowledge that I am subsidising this woman’s misery, and that of others like her, makes me feel sick. It’s wrong, and it needs to stop.
Hugely impressive article Chrys! This twisting of “separation of church & state” to mean that the state may not interfere with the church is completely bogus and needs to be cut down. The separation is there to prevent the state from becoming mono-religious and hence *excluding* freedom of religion.
The individuals within the BCF are outright guilty of assault and should be arrested on a case-by-case basis. A leader of an organisation that promotes a culture of bullying and assault can also be held as culpable. Helen should probably talk to a lawyer to seek reparations for the damage done by *individuals* within the church. If the house doesn’t belong to the church any letter telling her she has 7 days to depart is further evidence of assault.
Of course there is resistance to going after cults because it begs the question “and why should the mainstream churches be given these tax exemptions?”
How did Australia get into this deep religious entanglement? It prevents justice and allows religious groups to even intervene with our relationships with our children via state schools.
Lets get the revolution rolling for making this country a proper secular state.
Even though these stories are scary there is a positive side. It creates awareness about the danger of believing in nonsense and not being skeptical. This goes beyond “harmless fun”and shows why skeptics need to be vigilant and are not “party poopers” or “too serious” (as is often accused) This is the end line of too much credulity. Thanks for presenting Helen’s story!
I was raised in a cult in QLD too, ‘Christian outreach centre’ was diagnosed with PTSD at 19. Never compensaed , never had the resources to deprogramme. Would love to see a class action with other ex members..
Libby, I’m so sorry to hear of your experience. I don’t know if anyone has considered a class action or even if it would be possible under the present laws. If you haven’t done so already, perhaps you should get in touch with the Cult Information and Family Support network –
I see that you was raised in the Christian Outreach Centre in Qld. I am in country Qld near Toowoomba and my daughter 23yrs is in Brisbane and has joined such group for 3 yrs. I do not know their teachings but she is acting really different from herself as we know her. She left her home and belongings and moved in with this family that she says loves her unconditionally and does everything for her. We hardly see her anymore and she never comes to any family functions etc (always too busy, got other things on) She has now dropped a Bomb Shell on us that she is to be married to this guy in this family/church.(Completely different to what we, her family expected).When I asked “is this what she wants” She has told me “It is not for herself It is for other people and God. I am as a mother, very upset by this. Could you provide me with some insight into their teachings???? Your comments worries me for my daughter.
you should be worried.you may have very well lost your daughter by now. I only came back to this post by chance-a year later. message me at email@example.com
Hi my name is mat I came across your site after searching B,C.F as like many believe they need to be stoped. They are dangerous and after reading many I still do not understand why something is not done to warn other. My wife was a big part of the church group until she left and married me with out the elders permission..
I meet my wife while attending the church after going to a youth outing at the woolshed. But it did not take long for the bells to ring when the elders told the parents off for going against there teaching as what they were teaching is from god and we should not go against what they teach the children. Now as a believer who has studied the bible from age 12 and always remembered being told never take a mans word but always search the truth. So this is when I decided this was not the kind of church for me. and after talking to the elders asking questions I never agreed with I decided to leave.
Now the church was not going to leave it there they were now gunning for my wife to make her stay in the church and to stop seeing me. She was now the target as she was also going to follow me and leave B.C.F. We were now planing to marry with in 9 mths and with out there permission So B.C.F was not very happy. They tried everything they could to split us apart to try and stop the engagement they were not going to let her go and married me. They told lies to her and her folks in how I was on drugs and many other lies told I would never go into. The lies just went on and on it hurt me to think a church who say they love god could stoop this low to hurt a person. To get what they want. That is control over a person. When this never worked they tried the vision and fear thing from god to get her to stay in there fellowship I could not believe what I heard. They told my wife away from me that if she leaves the fellowship decided to be married to me it will never last. The vision told to her this was 20 years ago now that was in 1991 if she marries me. It would only last 2 years, she would never own anything and be on the street and she would be bash. Well here we are today and it is now 2011 20 years on and 5 children. We still love each other more today. What happened to the vision that was given by god to a member of this fellowship?
We are a small few with a happy out come who were not affected by this group and can see people who I believe is a cult. I believe this is due to my strong grounding in the Bible from age 12 and always stood ferm to my own believes. I am glad to see that people are now talking out about this group of people the church who are not located at all in Brisbane city it would take me where I live a good hour to get there.
Hi I’ve recently started going to the BCF and friends who I attend communion with have warned me about articals and bad things that have been said about the church. Now I have read the story above and how she explained that her partner was big involvement at the church but what i dont get is why she keeps refreing to the elders?????????? I thought elders were just old people that you called elders out of pure respect. All it is, it just singing, then some morning tea and afterwards some bile study. Then there is the occassional mens meeting and womans meetings which is singing and bible studyagain. And the studies come from the new testerment which is the bible and its the exact same bible that all christians use. I am one of the biggest sinners I know. I am not married and I have 2 georgeous childre and my fioncee does not go cas he is athiest. So far no one there has judged me and everyone is really nice so explain that to me then!!!!
As so many youngsters do I joined BCF after a search for the ‘meaning of life’ back in the mid ’80s. I recall an early meeting with a pastor in his office at Enogerra. He asked me three times if I had ever “been with another woman” . I assumed he felt it was his duty to pray for my cleansing had I been gay. In fact I’m not gay and it wasn’t till years later that he had made the assumption because I rode up there on my motorbike. Perhaps he was getting his jollies from the thought.
homosexuality at BCF, is a sin so I have no idea how gays get on.
I recall them going on about the ‘headship’ of males which kinda stuck in my craw. I remember the inner struggle I had to leave. It is so absolute, you leave everyone and never see them again. But after the decision was made I recall the feeling of the world opening up to me after the narrow, insular path I had been on.
These days I am anti all religion and believe atheists should not be complacent. All religion causes division and encourages prejudice
And all of God’s athiests said “AMEN”! While it is common practice for those who are unbelievers to attack flaws within the confines of the church (eg: cults) is is quite right to do so. As a Bible believing Christian of some 33 years experience, there’s been one or two groups that I felt the need to ‘escape’ from too, and of course, I’ve warned others about their aberrant behaviour as I travelled on my rounds. Let’s not forget folks, that cultism occurs within politics (extreme left and right wing groups) and in the financial arena too (MLM – ‘Pyramid’ schemes, and Ponzi schemes) where similar methods of manipulation can and do occur. This does not excuse the horrors of family breakdown and financial ruin foisted on innocent people, by cults posing as ‘the Church’.
I was never a member of BCF, but I have studied them and other groups like the closed Brethren, and would heartily agree that both groups are cultish and both of them hide their wicked works behind the name of Jesus Christ. If someone had misused my name, (eg: forging dud cheques) then I think that I would want that matter exposed and dealt with – and in that context, I fully support exposes’ of these and other cult like groups that have found a home within Christendom, and have used inordinate power over people’s lives, and destroyed many of them – all in the name of God.
To the victims, I say “I understand” – one group that I escaped from back in late 1988 caused me psychological damage – they are still there today, acting as if nothing happened to me, or to many others. It took me nearly 6 years to return to ‘normality’. Many people in that particular township are much more aware of them and their wayward communal lifestyle, A lifestyle where people are told where to live (within the farm complex) what work to do for a living, and whom to marry. If that’s not a cult then I’m a monkey’s uncle.
In my experience, people succumb to cultic attraction and indoctrination when they are at a low ebb in life. They may have lost a loved one, or a job, or be at a loose end because things just aren’t working out for them at that moment in time. Cult leaders and their followers have an uncanny ability to ferret out such vulnerable people, and then promise them a piece of ‘heaven on earth’ – and so the cycle of indoctrination, abuse, financial fleecing and family fragmentation occurs all over again.
For the protection of individuals and society in general, it is best to operate on the principal of ‘informed consent’. Simply put, that means that you DO NOT give your consent to become involved with ANY unknown group in society (religious or otherwise – political, financial) until you have been fully informed about the group, who its leaders are, what is its history, is there a perceived benefit in joining, what will be expected in terms of your commitment to the group, what are its goals and aims, and finally, does the group have ‘good standing’ with the rest of the community etc. These simple safeguards, if employed, would make it a lot harder for cults to con people, fleece them financially, and wreck them emotionally.
I still retain my faith to this day but in no way do I condone the actions of such groups. I believe that their leaders should be brought to trial (obtaining money by deception might be a good start?) the leaders gaoled in extreme cases and their assets seized, sold and the proceeds divied up between identifiable victims, as a warning to other who would so mistreat their fellow human beings, and think that they can get away with it.
former cult member
Thank you for sharing your story and advice, Austin.
Thank you for publishing my post – I wasn’t sure that you would. I agree that freedom of religious persuasion is an inalienable right – a basic fundamental right that should work both ways. Those who choose to become involved are free to do so, within the law. Those who choose not to involve themselves in a belief system should be left alone with their choices made.
Those who coerce and deliberately con people into a false belief system (a cult) who knowingly plan to deceive and financially defraud innocent members of society, should be held to the highest levels of accountability within the law, including the tax department. Laws similar to those recently enacted by most state governments in regard to the “proceeds of crime” legislation might be another good place to start. Cults who have their finances severely cut back or cut off altogether, may find it impossible to start again and therefore no longer pose a threat to society.
These false cults are not about offering ‘salvation’ in any real sense of the word – they are hell bent on building their own kingdoms, and they need money and lots of ‘arms and legs’ to do it and maintain the status quo. Vulnerable people who have been deceived, should be able to pursue with ease, those who so flagrantly violated them and destroyed their lives, and receive compensation payouts, that would dissuade other groups from mounting the same sting operations on victim after victim.
Finally, the absence of any visible, charitable works would certainly raise questions as to just where millions of dollars in income were really going. Christ taught his disciples to look after the poor, so did the apostles. “Churches” who aren’t giving to the poor may have severe problems explaining ‘why not’, to relevant authorities, should such legislation succeed. No more extravagant lifestyles – no more ‘prosperity doctrines’ which only favour the few who promote them, and no more families ruined by religious con men and their cultish organisations.
I’d like to share my memoirs of days pre B.C.F & my involvement with the group Cross Bearers, the people & some of the things I saw.
I came to Christ in 1987 & almost straight away became involved in Cross Bearers, which was later known as The Valley Outreach. I wouldn’t say that I was coerced or manipulated terribly but did feel a certain pressure to stay & be involved. The group ran a 3 month full time program at Samford (?) training people to go as missionaries into India, this was the big push at that point in time & every effort was made to try to get new recruits to do this. I never did. Frankly, the thought of it scared me! Now that I have kids who are my age when I was involved with Cross Bearers I can understand my parents angst & what I sadly must have put them through.
The 2 brothers (biological) who held my hand through my early conversion, whose names I won’t mention for the sake of privacy & whom I still hold quite dear, were both quite “sold out” in regards to Cross Bearers; what they stood for, the elders, submission to headship etc.
Sunday services, morning & night went sometimes for 3 hours each or more. Noel Mann, Raymond Guyatt and, to a lesser degree, Rod Mackay were the main speakers & elders. Noel Mann would spend most of the time yelling at the group & alerting us all to the fact that we were sinners & that his prophetic gifting allowed him to see deep into our souls, which was more than disconcerting! Sadly, all I remember is that Noel seemed to love the sound of his own voice & would take center stage wherever & whenever he was given a platform. I also remember his many skitings about his time in prayer & fasting, the length of time he’d spend & just what the Lord would reveal to him through these times. The group, as one, felt very indebted to Noel for his time spent with the Lord & for the crumbs they were given during Noel’s many Sunday preaching sessions. One of his protracted sermons which went on for many months was on Jezebel. One of the elders of the extended group, one of the Mackay brothers, from memory didn’t much like this series & I was told that he often asked Noel for scripture references.
A couple of recollections I do have from those days is the doctrine that the “mind of Christ” comes out of the 5 fold ministry & that headship without the five couldn’t possibly be teaching correct & that if your were baptised in the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit then you weren’t “properly” baptised. You needed to be baptised only into Christ. Just a couple of the subtle methods used to “prove” that every other church, group & denomination was wrong. I would alternate between the group & Trevor Chandler’s, Christian Life Center which was also just down the road in the Valley. C.L.C. was different in just about every way. There was no yelling or grand standing or subtle condemnation of other groups. I had an inkling that other churches did not like Cross Bearers & yet every other church elder I talked to about them never once showed any animosity or contempt towards the elders.
I also remember a man & his wife coming to minister one Sunday morning who had spent some time behind the iron curtain. Sadly, the only thing I remember of the day is that the sermon went on past 3 hours & the minister asked if we were hungry & when most people nodded we were yelled at & called “belly worshippers”!
There was much worship of the elders by Christians who truly looked up to these men, especially Noel Mann. It seemed to me there were many young people in the group who were trying desperately to get Noel’s attention & trying hard to mimic his every move. One on one, Noel never gave me any reason to doubt his sincerity & he was always open to listening & helping where he could or where he felt the Lord was leading him to.
Raymond Guyatt’s sermons were difficult to understand & yet quite studious, perhaps too much so for the average Joe to grasp. He was a man of few words & seemed a little aloof when spoken to although very pleasant & accommodating. Rod Mackay was a thorough gentleman & great to spend time with, very caring & compassionate. Sadly, now I believe that these 3 families have been excommunicated from the larger group which calls itself Brisbane Christian Fellowship. Perhaps this is not so sad!!
Dear Helen and company,
I sympathize with you all, as I myself was deceived into belonging to another Bible based cult in Caboolture. A couple from a farm commune visited our small independent house church in Newcastle in 1983, and as a result of that visit, some of us younger single people took holidays and went for a month on the farms – with the “Farmily” as the townsfolk called them. That was the beginning of the end for our small group – we would all separate, some never to see others again.
After 2 1/2 years of indulging in ‘pastor worship’ and various legalism and bondages, including fear based manipulations, the Lord graciously opened my eyes to see the sorry state of Obed Mission and its wayward leadership at that time. If you were to look at them today they would seem ordinary enough – they have a large church complex on the outskirts of town at a place called ‘Moodlu’ and they have a website, with advertised youth programs, midweek meetings etc.
It’s not until you actually go there and stay for a while that the truth comes out about their deception, manipulation and the fact that they openly admitted to me that what is often taught on Sunday mornings, is basically ‘shop window dressing’ – what they really believe only comes out some time further down the track when the leaders feel that ‘you are now ready for the real truth’ – which is an apparently warped and twisted version of Latter Rain teaching.
The old couple who started Obed in a group of houses in Redcliffe (both are now deceased) back in the 1970’s admitted to me when I lived there in the late 80’s that many of their young converts were sheep stolen from the CLC in the Valley and also the COC when it was at West End. Some of their youth came off the streets of Redcliffe, but by no means all of them – just another lie.
The old woman told people on Sunday nights when she held the platform, that she received regular visits from ‘her angel’ and that this ‘angel’ gave her revelations that she would later on share around the communion table as opportunities came up. None of her ‘revelations’ were tested against the hallmark of scripture…
The level of deception at Obed Mission had to be seen to be believed, and I and many other had to virtually “escape” from that wicked place. In order to be finally free, I got on a Greyhound bus in 1994 and left for an interstate destination, but returned to Qld. 8 years ago, only to find Obed up to its old tricks again – proselyting and deceiving the simple…
Like the lady who owns this website and many others, my hearts desire is that those who have been deceived by various religious cults and sects would be free to view and worship God as they so desire, without the doctrines of men posing as the very will of God. Thank God that BCF is getting rid of people – I hope they get rid of their entire congregation so that they can all be free!!!!!!
Hey Austin, I too am an escape from the clutches of obed mission and now that I look back on that part of my life I can’t really believe what really went on. I was going through a rough time at the age of 20 my parents had just split up and I was feeling like I didn’t have any direction or family and was offered some guidance from 2 male church members at the time and they took me out to the farm and offered me dinner and we talked and they offered me a bed as it was late at night by this time then the next day they wanted to show me around the farm and they made me feel incredibly welcome and said I would be a great addition to their community and that everyone out there would open their arms to me as one big happy family. 2 years later I’m speaking in tongues as a prayer before each meal and at night and in the mornings and at every church meeting and bible study. My mum tried to have contact with me and she believes in God but was totally freaked out by me and my change. What broke the contact was I decided I wanted to get a job in the community and get myself a house in caboolture instead of just working on the farm for board and lodging, they immediately become very nasty saying that I will not make it and that I am going against gods wishes and I will not go to heaven as I will become addicted to drugs and alcohol and be brought before the devil for my sins. Luckily I knew better and moved out that day, 2 days later I went to the farm to get the rest of my belongings and was made to give them $250 for a weeks rent as I was not going to be working on their farm for them and my stuff had been stored there for 2 days they also told me that they believed that I was on drugs and that I wasn’t welcome back to their farm or their church and to never contact them again. I can assure you I’m not a drug addicted person, I don’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes or even do anything illegal or bad for that matter. I am now not religious as it made me question the whole faith thing and I’m 35 and doing wonderful. It was comforting to finally hear that someone else had been able to escape the clutches of this organisation as I sore so many people trapped by this cult especially children.
I recently left the cult BCF. It is a sinister place where money is the ruler of all. I tried to leave a few years ago before I was able to support myself and my parents threatened me with homelessness. My parents have owed me and my best friend over $9000 in total for more than 2 years for work in the family business. They haven’t attempted to pay any back yet though they pay all the offerings and tithe on time every time to that filthy organisation.
To be accepted into the youth program you need to sign commitment forms while in an interview with an elder. My last interview involved an elder that had never tried to say hi to me ever yet he was telling me we could get to know each other better doing physical labour on his personal property. All of my genuine friends left before I could and I didn’t know how to get out.
People would observe that I was not happy and did not want to participate in the meetings and instead of coming up and saying hi would snitch on me to my parents. I was born into this tainted culture of flattery mixed with controlling fear and I spent nearly 25 years there. Not once was my family invited over for dinner, lunch etc by anyone in power in the church but some where more than happy to come to our place, eat our food and then vanish out of thin air.
This “church” runs on multiple templates with one example being the path to marriage. You go to every teenagers event until grade 12 then you go to Young Adults until you are 25 and you get a signed release from an elder. However you can leave young adults earlier if you go their process of finding a partner within the church, being allowed to date and eventually get married. All under the confines and instruction from the elders. You have to complete multiple uni like assignments on how to date properly.
These circumstances are not unlike the way prison works with the aspects of control and manipulation as well as institutionalization. As I saw many leave then come back because they knew the routine of the weekly rituals which made them somehow feel comfortable. There are weeks in the church’s schedule that will have you attending over 9 hours of meetings and gatherings and much longer if you are apart of one of their teams (sound, vision etc).
I am not saying the people that attend are evil but the system they are in takes from their soul and creates shells out of human beings. It gives them a sense of higher class to other people which also inflates their egos which will only end in destruction. All I want is justice for everyone else that has suffered I don’t need any compensation I just want my parents to pay me. Surely that is not too much to ask.
Scott, thank you for your comments. I hope they will help someone, but I am so sorry for what you’ve been through. I am very glad you had the strength to get out.
Do you know about Streetcar? There are mane ex BCF members there.
I make no promises, but I have a good network and if you need any help or support, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for the trip down memory lane. I had quite forgotten about the commitment forms. I hope you are doing well.
My boyfriend is currently a member of BCF, and our story is very similar to that posted by Matthew above (although we are currently without the happy ending).
We went to school together, and reconnected approximately a decade later. My BF was aware that I was not a practicing Christian (although raised in a Christian home) when we (re)met, but asked if I would attend BCF with him.
After attending for several months, during which time we had discussed marriage (including timing, locations, number of children, etc) BF attended a family function with me. Upon our return home, he broke down crying and told me that unless I could agree to attend BCF (which included me being rebaptised, speaking in tongues, etc), we could not be married. I naively encouraged him to speak to one of the elders about our sitution, expecting that he would be met with the grace and compassion that has been offered to me by the various churches I have attended over my life. At this stage, although I could not commit to attending BCF, I was willing to undergo their marriage requirements, in order to be with him. He therefore went off to speak with this elder, optimistic for our future.
Instead, my BF was told that he had no option but to break up with me. He was obviously very traumatised by the thought of this. After a couple of weeks of deliberation, he did in fact break up with me for less than 24 hours. He then decided to leave BCF, a decision which also lasted about 24 hours. He then had a severe panic attack due to his absolute fear that by leaving BCF, he would loose his salvation.
We have been caught in a back and forth ever since (for many months). This is largely due to the fact that he has been told by the elders that:
1. There is a difference between two Christians getting married, and a Christian marriage.
2. We cannot have a Christian marriage unless we both attend BCF.
3. It is our duty to live according to God’s will, and it will nver be God’s will that my BF leave the church where he was ‘planted’.
4. If he leaves BCF, he will loose his salvation. In this regard, my BF has admitted that he thinks his salvation is dependent upon attending BCF.
5. While other Christians are ‘believers’, only those who go to BCF are true ‘first fruits’ Christians. Other Christian churches only provide the milk of the word, while BCF provides the meat of the word.
6. BF’s own wishes, and his happiness, are not important. It is only important to follow the will of God. If this means that he is alone forever, so be it.
7. BF is not to speak with any independent third party (i.e. counsellor, psychologist, leader from a different church) regarding his concerns/issues.
8. Although an elder was willing to speak with me about committing to attend BCF, they would not speak to BF and I together, nor would an elder speak to me with another person present.
At present, he is of the view that while he loves me and cannot leave me, we cannot be married or have a family. This is significantly impacting on his physical and emotional well being (as it is mine).
The lengths that the elders of BCF will go to to ensure that a member does not leave are terrifying, including using a member’s own family against them. In this regard, BF’s own parents (who I know love him very, very much) have been very manipulative in ensuring that he stays at BCF. This is perhaps understandable, given the teaching that by leaving BF gives up his salvation.
I agree that there are many good people caught up in BCF, but they offer blind compliance to the elders. This compliance is very heavily encouraged. I would plead with anyone considering attending BCF to find another church. The damage BCF causes its members and their families is huge, and potentially, irreparable. As an observer, it is truely heartbreaking to see the word of God used is such a destructive manner.
Any suggestions for how to assist my beloved BF, particularly from former BCF-ers, would be greatly appreciated. I am committed to helping and supporting him as much as I can, as he is someone I love very dearly.
I am so very sorry to hear of your situation.
First, I must say to you, as much as you may love your boyfriend, on no account should you have any involvement with this church. It is a cult. Stay away from it and its members. I think you know that, but I have to say it.
There is a forum for victims of CF churches. You can find it here: http://www.eagles-lair.org/info/StreetcarForumBackup/StreetcarForum_IndexPage.htm
You can also contact Cult Information and Family Support.
My friend, Brendan McMahon, is a psychologist who specialises in this area and he is familiar with the BCF. If you’re interested in speaking with him, tell him I recommended him: https://www.goodtherapy.com.au/brendan_mcmahon
I will send you my contact details privately later in the day, although I can’t offer much more than a sympathetic ear.
I’m afraid the short answer is, you cannot save your boyfriend. Only he can do that. But, you must save yourself while you can.
Thanks Chrys, I really appreciate the additional resources.
I know that I cannot have any part in BCF. I am very fortunate to have many loving and supportive people around me, & they are all willing to regularly reinforce that point. Difficult to see someone you love suffer such abuse though.
You are doing a wonderful thing with this website. Thank you very much!
Hi JP – I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness (left it many years ago) and have been in similar circumstances. I wonder what your bf would say if you told him that the elders teachings and requests are exactly the same as the Jehovah’s Witness religion? Contact me if you’d like to discuss some ideas and information based from the scriptures for you to consider questioning him on? Helen email@example.com
Thank you, Helen. It’s wonderful for readers of this blog to know members of my network will step forward to help. It’s one of the key reasons I write. xx
All I can tell you is that their culture leaves a deep and lasting impression. I never dated anyone while I was there because I was too scared of breaking the rules and I still have not dated anyone since leaving, which was about five years ago, because I am still afraid of breaking the rules. On the other hand, I know of some couples there who disagreed with the elders about their relationships and not only lived to tell the tale but also are thriving in their families and businesses. They are still attending as far as I know but I doubt they will ever be invited into the inner circle of elders, which in my opinion is a very small price to pay for a clean conscience before God. The lesson I learned from these couples is that if you stand up to the elders, like most bullies they will back away and leave you alone, maybe even respect you. I do not know what advice to offer your boyfriend other than to say that he should not try to ‘preserve his life’ by staying at BCF. As a Christian he should be willing to lay his life down for you. That is the nature of true love. There are many scriptural precedents for leaving family and home to follow Christ. Not so many about staying in the one geographical location that I am aware of. Furthermore, whatever is not of faith is sin. I could go on but I wish to sleep now.
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my post.
I know just how deep the fear cultivated by BCF can run. I think it was very brave you to face the truth, and to leave that organisation. I hope that you know that you deserved better than what you received at BCF. If you were able to find the courage to leave, and not to go back, I am sure that you will be able push past the fear of breaking those rules made up by men to control you and keep you there. It is not a sin to be happy.
I wish you all the very best.
Thank you for the encouragement JP. It means a lot. I will do my best.
Helen and all that have posted CF experiences, I hear your stories and totally empathise. I hope you are finding some recovery although for many the circumstances just simply don’t allow full recovery. My heart goes out to you.
I am one of many that left the related group, Toowoomba Christian Fellowship in 2015 when it’s senior leader/pastor fell ill and then mysteriously resigned, was ex-communicated and was never to be seen in that context again. Attempts to reconnect with the resigned senior leader failed due to him personally retracting (seemed strange since he was once the prominent) or the establishment discouraging it. His daughters (still in TCF as leaders) seem to have completely rejected him now and have nothing to do with their parents. Suggestion was made from the establishment that he would re-appear “when he had paid the last farthing” but he still appears to be a solitary and lonely man. He appears to have gone from boiled lollies to peanuts – the leading and esteemed man to shunned and ignored. On face value this was all over two health crises of appendicitis and then a heart attack in quick succession. Surely such an experience would have come with some support in such a ‘family of families’ environment. But that just simply did not happen. Quite the contrary. It was all so very odd and when we sought to engage the establishment (the BCF leaders/elders) it was all so hush hush! He himself was quite the bullying type Elder profile of many in the establishment but this type of solitary confinement, shunning and isolation is cruel and inhumane (though he likely did the same himself, but this is not about revenge, it’s about help and recovery)
Something is very wrong with this group. I fear that people are being robbed of life, human identity/dignity and also the usual common one, finances. If any knew the activities of the former TCF senior leader they may be inclined to wonder if the final outcomes were due to financial misappropriation, since he had a couple of business activities he was running on the side, multiple cattle properties, an entrepreneurial bullying approach and a large house that was constantly undergoing refurbishment. It would by no means be a vengeful approach to suggest that the government (ATO perhaps) should be investigating the affairs of this group. Not with a motivation of trouble, merely justice in our democratic society. Given some of the posts here does anyone know how such an approach/enquiry could be legitimately taken up with the government/ATO?
Be kind to yourselves good folks!
Thank you for sending me this. Even though I was never in CF I was raised Jehovah’s Witness and completely understand the suspicions, the spying demanded on each other, the reporting system, the interrogation by elders (called Judicial Committee Hearings), the ultimate ostracism – and the jumping through hoops for up to a year if you decide you want to ‘repent’ and come back before being allowed to speak to anyone again. That level of fear and control is unnatural, the antithesis of love and kindness. My Jehovah mother who is 91 refuses to speak to me. I left the ‘organisation’ (as they call it) in 1980. Thank goodness dad wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness and always stipulated I was allowed home to visit. He passed away in November 2002, a more christian man despite never attending any church than any JW I’ve ever known. I feel for all former CF members, especially parents whose children remain in the church. Not having had children I can only imagine the suffering. There is life after CF and JW, good life to be lived. The scars remain but I’m living proof of having raised above them. Best wishes to you all, Helen Travers