The Fellowship (Australia)


The Fellowship (Australia)

The Fellowship is the name of a group within the Presbyterian Church of Australia. Located in Melbourne, its membership is estimated as being between 300 and 400.cite book |last=Zwartz |first= Morag |title= Fractured Families: The Story of a Melbourne Church Cult|origyear=2004 |url= |accessdate= |publisher= Paranesis|location= Boronia |isbn= 0958795517|pages= vi] The Fellowship has been labelled a "secretive cult".cite news |first= Barney|last=Zwartz |title= Breaking the Fellowship: a bittler-sweet crusade|url= [http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/breaking-the-fellowship-a-bittersweet-crusade/2006/03/03/1141191854028.html|work= The Age|publisher= Fairfax|date= 2006-03-04|accessdate=2008-08-03 ]

History

The Fellowhip was started by Ronald Grant and Alan Neil, who had both served with the South Seas Evangelical Mission in the Solomon Islands. Influenced by holiness teaching, they "felt persecuted by the evangelical world of the time"

Characteristics

The Fellowship is a group associated with the holiness movement. Members are strongly encouraged to discern God's will for their lives, and to submit to the advice of their leaders. Members are required to confess their sins in a group setting, and those who are perceived to have fallen into sin are often shunned.Fact|date=August 2008

The Fellowship is strongly opposed to Freemasonry, and members have been directed to refrain from listening to Mozart, due to his masonic connection. A theory of "generational curses" is taught, which encourages repentance if a member's ancestors were Freemasons..cite news |authorlink= Barney Zwartz |title= Breaking the Fellowship: a bittler-sweet crusade|url= [http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/breaking-the-fellowship-a-bittersweet-crusade/2006/03/03/1141191854028.html|work= The Age|publisher= Fairfax|date= 2006-03-04|accessdate=2008-08-03 ]

Criticism

The Fellowship has been criticised for broken relationships between Fellowship members and their families. Allegations have been made that non-Fellowship people have been refused contact with their grandchildren, and that Fellowship people have refused to attend funerals of non-Fellowship family members.Actions by the Presbyterian Church

In February 2006, the Presbytery of Melbourne East excommunicated all 15 elders of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Camberwell because of their handling of a complaint of emotional abuse against an elder. cite news |authorlink= Barney Zwartz |title= Church excommunicates 15 for cult membership|url= http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/church-excommunicates-15-over-cult/2006/02/24/1140670265693.html|work= The Age|publisher= Fairfax|date= 2006-02-25|quote= "The Presbyterian Church's Australian head, Moderator-General Bob Thomas, said yesterday the presbytery removed the elders because it considered they discharged their duties unsatisfactorily and not in accord with the code of behaviour expected of elders."|accessdate=2008-08-03 ]

This decision was appealed to the State Assembly, which upheld the decision of the Presbytery at its' meeting in October 2006.cite news |authorlink= Barney Zwartz |title= Cult elders back in church fold|url= http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/cult-elders-back-in-church-fold/2007/08/02/1185648061404.html|work= The Age|publisher= Fairfax|date=2007-08-03 |accessdate=2008-08-03 ] Members of the Victorian Assembly then appealed the decision to the General Assembly of Australia on the grounds that the Victorian Church had set up its' own processes for discipline rather than operating under the General Assembly's Code as required and that the decision of the Victorian Assembly was made based on information that was not available to the Presbytery of East Melbourne when making its' the original decision, against its' own process of discipline.

These appeals were upheld by the General Assembly of Australia at its Commission in August 2007. The clerk of the General Assembly, Dr Paul Logan, said that many felt that natural justice had been denied by the processes used.

As a result of this decision the elders were reinstated, " [b] ut members of the Victorian assembly, which excommunicated the 15 elders of Trinity Camberwell, were not too downhearted, saying the Fellowship had won the battle but lost the war."

The General Assembly of Australia established a committee to investiage material published about The Fellowship, including allegations of errors in doctrine and behaviour, promising to re-hear complaints.

The Victorian State Assembly was instructed by the General Assembly of Australia to take several actions including withdrawing from publication "Fractured Fellowship: A Presbyterian Case Study" and temporarily moving the parish of Camberwell from the Presbytery of Melbourne East to the Presbytery of Melbourne West until the matter could be settled. At its Commission in May 2008 the Victorian Assembly handled the private report of the committee of the General Assembly in public session, rejecting its instructions to retry the matter. Rev. Douglas Robertson from Scots' Church in Melbourne, who at the same meeting was elected the next Moderator of the Victorian Assembly, accused the General Assembly of Australia of censorship and unconstitutionally exceeding its authority. cite news |authorlink= Barney Zwartz |title= Presbyterian church split over cults fate |url=http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/presbyterian-church-split-over-cults-fate/2008/05/09/1210131265843.html |work= The Age|publisher= Fairfax|date= 2008-05-10|accessdate=2008-08-03 ] cite news |authorlink= Barney Zwartz |title= State Presbyterian Assembly rights the national wrongs|url= http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/state-presbyterian-assembly-rights-the-national-wrongs/2008/05/11/1210444242985.html|work= The Age|publisher= Fairfax|date= 2008-05-12|accessdate=2008-08-03 ]

References

External links

* [http://www.abc.net.au/rn/relig/spirit/stories/s1519357.htm "The Fellowship, Inside Out"] Episode of "The Spirit of Things" on Radio National.
* [http://www.apologeticsindex.org/183-the-fellowship-cult-in-australia#books "Fractured Fellowship: A Presbyterian Case Study (PDF)"] Booklet published by The Church and Nation Committee, Presbyterian Church of Victoria, 1999.
* [http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2006/s1587231.htm 7:30 Report Program Transcript - Trinity Church struggles for credibility after excommunications] ABC TV, Reporter: Geoff Hutchison


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