Jesus Army


Jesus Army

The Jesus Army is the outreach ministry of the Jesus Fellowship Church, an evangelical Christian movement based in the United Kingdom.

The Jesus Fellowship was founded in 1969, when Noel Stanton, the lay pastor of the Bugbrooke village Baptist chapel near Northampton, East Midlands, was inspired by a charismatic experience which led him to successfully expand the congregation, largely by appealing to a younger generation of worshippers [C. Peter Collinson: "All Churches Great and Small" p.78: "Originally this was a Baptist church in the village of Bugbrooke, just west of Northampton. Noel Stanton became the pastor there in 1957, and is still the overall leader. After a charismatic experience in 1969, he led the church into experiencing the supernatural gifts of the spirit, and they grew in numbers quite dramatically."] [George D Chryssides, "Exploring New Religions."] The Jesus Army was affected by the Charismatic Movement of the late 1960s and early 70s, and influenced by the Jesus People movement in the USA. [Keith Newell in "Charismatic Christianity" ed. Hunt et al p.122: Under the leadership of the pastor, Noel Stanton (who still holds this position), a number of Chrismatics gathered at Bugbrooke Baptist Chapel, near Northampton, in 1969. At this point there were some similarities with the Jesus Movement in California (Palms, 1971). For the first three years the group that met at the chapel to participate in Charismatic life included bikers, drug-users, hippies and others who lived through the counter-culture. Very diverse people joined in the years that followed, including a number of evangelicals from Oxford, and to a lesser extent, Cambridge University.] [Nigel Wright in "Charismatic Christianity" ed. Hunt et al p.66: A full description of Restorationism ought to include a reference to the Bugbrooke Community or Jesus Fellowship in Northamptonshire. In the 1970s an ordinary village Baptist church passed under the leadership of its lay pastor, Noel Stanton, into Charismatic renewal and then into practising the community of goods in the style of the Anabaptist Hutterites.] According to William Kay, [William K Kay, Apostolic Networks in Britain (Milton Keynes; Paternoster, 2007)] Stanton was highly influenced by Arthur Wallis's book "In the Day of Thy Power," [ Arthur Wallis, In the Day of Thy Power (London: CLC, 1956) ] and associated with a number of the early leaders within the British New Church Movement. As the new church grew and became more charismatic in nature, many of the original congregation left to continue worshiping in the more traditional churches. [Chryssides, "Exploring New Religions."]

The Jesus Army frequently engages in evangelistic activities in public places, seeking through outreach to demonstrate the love of Jesus and the moving of the Holy Spirit. The slogan of the Jesus Army is ‘Love, Power & Sacrifice’.

Baptist Union and Evangelical Alliance membership

. However the sudden expansion in members had made the new church a nationwide movement, which took it out of the ambit of the Baptist Union, which places authority within a specific congregation. The JA was also accused of "isolationism," epitomised by the JA practice of sometimes rebaptising new members who had already been baptised by other Baptist churches, implying that Christian baptism elsewhere may have been invalid. Consequently, in 1986 the Jesus Army was expelled from the Baptist Union, leaving it on the margins of the Baptist denomination. [Chryssides: Exploring New Religions.] [Buzz Magazine, April 1986.] [Northampton Mercury and Herald, 22/11/86. 'We shall not be moved - Jesus People to carry on regardless.' The latest blow to the sect, which owns and runs numerous businesses including several Northampton shops, came from 129 of the 137 council members of the Baptist Union. The Jesus Fellowship was expelled from the organisation because of a lack of involvement in denominational life and unilateral programme of recruitment. A statement from the union also said the Fellowship was becoming a national rather than local organisation, and spoke of 'embarrassment' over bad publicity.]

In 1982, the Jesus Fellowship had joined the Evangelical Alliance, one of whose membership requirements was that the church remain in close fellowship with other local evangelical churches. Earlier in 1986, the Evangelical Alliance had launched an inquiry into the beliefs and practices of the Jesus Fellowship Church and found that it no longer qualified for membership, citing much the same problems as did the Baptist Union later that year. But at least as relevant in both cases was the fact that the rise of the JA came at a time when an international welter of anti-cult activity was under way. Allegations that the JA had too authoritarian a style of leadership and that members were under pressure to commit to life-long celibacy, together with the fact that corporal punishment of children (rodding) was practised, and that community members were required to hand over their material possessions, left them vulnerable to the accusation that they were a cult. Their intense style and all-engulfing requirement of commitment led to some allegations of abuse from disillusioned former members, and some hostility from more conventional churchgoers. [Wright, Nigel in Charismatic Christianity p.66] A number of churches within the Evangelical Alliance threatened to leave if the Jesus Fellowship Church was allowed to remain a member. [Chryssides: Exploring New Religions.]

During the late 1980s and the 90s, the Jesus Fellowship improved its relationships with other churches, and broadened its membership so that community residents became a minority of the church. [Hunt in Pneuma, p. 40: "The decision in the late 1980s to become more open and link with other New Churches has been of particular importance. So has the decision, over the last decade, to broaden the membership so that now community residences [residents] form only one-third of the church."] At the same time it re-examined its practices and loosened its style, [William Kay in C. Partridge (ed), Encyclopedia of New Religions. "After criticism of what were seen as cultic aspects of the Jesus Fellowship in the mid-1980s, deliberate attempts were made to widen and loosen the organization."] with the result that when it reapplied for membership of the Evangelical Alliance in 1999 it received endorsements from both local and national church leaders [idea [magazine of the Evangelical Alliance] , May 1999: "...the Jesus Fellowship Church, which withdrew its own membership from the Alliance in 1986 due to relational issues. Since then, positive efforts have been made by the leadership to improve their contact and working relationships with the wider Christian constituency at both local and national levels...Having received a number of endorsements from both local and national church leaders, the Evangelical Alliance expects to approve the Jesus Fellowship Church's application for membership later in 1999." ] and was accepted into membership later in the year. [Christian Herald, 29 July 2000. "Another high-profile movement who joined the EA family last autumn is the Jesus Fellowship Church - also known as the Jesus Army. The fellowship left the EA in the late 1980s in relation to issues with other evangelicals. John Smith [General Secretary of the EA] explained: 'They again have moved considerably since then. It is an organisation that has had a lot of allegations made against it, most of which are based on past reputation rather than present practice.'"] It has never re-applied for membership of the Baptist Union, though a number key Baptist ministers have spoken at Jesus Fellowship events. [Hunt in Pneuma, p. 27: "Prominent leaders of practically all the strands of the British charismatic and Pentecostal scene have spoken at the large public meetings of the Jesus fellowship, and are frequent contributors to its major publications "Jesus Life-style" and the "Jesus Revolution Street Paper"."]

Despite the entry of the Jesus Army into the charismatic mainstream [Hunt in Pneuma, p. 24: "marked by ... the entry of the Jesus Fellowship into the charismatic mainstream"] , the church continued to attract a range of views [Hunt in Pneuma, p. 40: "To some in the broader movement, the Jesus Fellowship will always be something of an enigma, tending towards exclusiveness and displaying a sectarianism incongruent with contemporary Pentecostalism. To others, the Jesus Fellowship will continue to epitomize the fullest expression of Christian and Pentecostal life."] and anti-cult groups like the Cult Information Centre, FAIR and Reachout Trust still included the Jesus Army on their lists.Fact|date=October 2008

Current practices

The community has founded a series of Christian businesses employing some 250 people. Profits from the businesses help fund the wider work of the Jesus Fellowship. Businesses and community houses are owned by a Trust Fund ultimately controlled by the members.

After a probationary period, members may make a "covenant," or pledge expressing an intention of lifelong loyalty to the Fellowship, [ [http://www.jesus.org.uk/vault/library_hottopics12.shtml Jesus Army:Vault-Library-Hot Topics 12] (retrieved 11 Dec 07): In the Jesus Fellowship many have entered into a membership covenant, joining together as a committed brotherhood-church. This covenant, like those made between people in the Bible, is made before God and is viewed as being unbreakable. We agree to be bonded with one another and to work out the implications of such a pledge of brotherly love. [...] We promise never to let one another down. We help one another through difficulties. We forgive and encourage one another. We fight together to save sinners with the gospel, sharing in sufferings and disappointments. We build strong brotherhood relationships and 'find' ourselves. This vow of covenant brotherhood is part of the strength of our church.] and may then elect to join the Jesus Fellowship Community. They then surrender their possessions for collective use, but may reclaim them should they subsequently decide to leave. While they are members, the value of their contribution is protected by the Trust Fund. Around 700 people, including guests and children, live in the 60 intentional communities, in accordance with their interpretation of Biblical descriptions of the early church, and are collectively known as the "New Creation Christian Community." [William Kay in C. Partridge (ed), Encyclopedia of New Religions, a Guide (Oxford: Lion Publishing, 2004).] In 2001, one of the houses was featured in a Channel 4 television documentary, "Battlecentre."( [http://www.diverse.tv/programme.aspx?id=20 Production summary] , [http://film.guardian.co.uk/Reader_Review/0,,-90304,00.html Guardian Unlimited Reader Reviews] , [http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/realmedia/sunday/s20011216f.ram BBC interview with producer] ).

Those who do not wish to live within the community may live in their own homes and earn money outside the community. In 2007, there were estimated to be 1,800 such members.

The Jesus Fellowship operates much like the House Church movements, or the more radical elements of the larger, more conventional churches. [Stephen J Hunt: "Alternative Religions" p. 113: In many respects, however, the movement was not that different from other New Churches that sprung up at the time, though it did differ in its emphasis on communal life and a membership that was not predominantly middle-class in composition.]

The Jesus Army engages in aggressive and effective street evangelism among the marginalized sections of society. [Wright, Nigel in Charismatic Christianity p.66: ...the Jesus Army has engaged in aggressive and effective street evangelism among the marginalized sections of society. ]

In 2002 the Jesus Fellowship opened the Coventry Jesus Centre including a Drop-In Centre known as "The Bridge", which provides services such as a 70p breakfast, free clothing, showers and hot drinks, as well as social support, job training and medical help to vulnerable people. The Centre also assists in finding rented accommodation for the homeless, though a major emphasis of these activities is evangelistic, "bringing people to Jesus". [Hunt, Stephen J. ‘The Radical Kingdom of the Jesus Fellowship’ in Pneuma, The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Vol 20, Number 1, Spring 1998 (Hagerstown, Maryland, USA) Pp.21-41 [pp.39ff] ] [ Coventry Evening Telegraph, May 2, 2007.] Other Jesus Centres opened in Northampton (2004) and Central London (2008), with more expected to follow.

Beliefs

The Jesus Fellowship upholds the historic creeds of the Christian faith. The creeds are a set of common beliefs shared with many other Christian churches, and consist of the Apostles' Creed, the Athanasian Creed and the Nicene Creed. It believes in baptism in water and the Holy Spirit, in the Bible as the Word of God, and in acceptance of charismatic gifts. [ William Kay: New Religions, A Guide.] [Jesus Fellowship: We Believe.]

The Jesus Fellowship is the only new church stream that advocates and practices celibacy for those called to it, claiming it leads to a full life for single people. Within the Fellowship there are couples and there are male and female celibates. JF claims both as high callings. A main justification for celibacy, following St Paul, is that it frees a member for ministry, particularly in the unsocial hours that Jesus Army campaigning requires. Some critics have maintained that JF teaches celibacy as a better or higher way, and that single members have felt pressured into making the vow. [ Newell in Charismatic Christianity [p.130] JF is the only new church stream that advocates and practices celibacy for those called to it, claiming it leads to a full life for single people. There are couples and celibates, male and female, and JF claims both as high callings. A main justification for celibacy, following St Paul, is that it frees a member for ministry, particularly in the unsocial hours that Jesus Army campaigning requires. Critics have maintained that JF teaches celibacy as a better or higher way and that single brothers and sisters are pressurized into the vow, though I have not myself seen any evidence of this.] Current members deny this.

Footnotes

References

* cite book
author=Barker, Eileen
title=New Religious Movements, A Practical Introduction
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*cite book
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[http://www.google.co.uk/books?id=ic0UlDN9Nn8C&pg=PA78&dq=%22jesus+army%22&sig=i6eGAfGiNsthrRoXHcU1qkOcgz0]

*cite book
author=Collinson, C Peter
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publisher=OM Publishing
location=Carlisle
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[http://www.jesus.org.uk/vault/articles_cpetercollinson.shtml]

*cite book
author=Cooper, Simon & Farrant, Mike
title=Fire In Our Hearts (2nd edition)
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[http://www.jesus.org.uk/vault/library/jabooks/fireinourhearts.pdf] "Multiply Publications is the publishing arm of the Jesus Fellowship."

* Hunt, Stephen J. (1998). "The Radical Kingdom of the Jesus Fellowship" in "Pneuma, The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies", Vol 20, Number 1, Spring 1998 (Hagerstown, Maryland, USA) Pp.21-41. .

*cite book
author=Hunt, Stephen J.
title=Alternative Religions: A Sociological Approach
publisher=Ashgate
location=Aldershot
year=2003
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isbn=978-0-754634-10-2
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*cite book
author=Jesus Fellowship
title=We Believe: An introduction to the faith and practice of the Jesus Fellowship
publisher=Multiply
location=Northampton
year=2000
pages=50pp
isbn=978-1-900878-10-4
oclc=
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[http://www.jesus.org.uk/vault/library/jabooks/we_believe.pdf]

*Citation
last = Kay
first = William K.
author-link =
contribution = The Jesus Fellowship (Jesus Army)
editor-last = Partridge
editor-first = Christopher
editor-link = Christopher Partridge
title = Encyclopedia of New Religions, A Guide
isbn = 9780745950730
pages = 89-90
publisher = Lion Publishing
place = Oxford
year = 2004
contribution-url = http://www.jesus.org.uk/vault/articles_williamkay.shtml
Also published as "New Religions, a Guide" (New York NY: Oxford, 2004)

*cite book
author=Kay, William K.
title=Apostolic Networks in Britain: New Ways of Being Church
publisher=Paternoster Press
location=Milton Keynes
year=2007
pages=400pp
isbn=978-1-55635-480-9
oclc=
doi=

* Newell, Keith (1997) "Charismatic Communitarianism and the Jesus Fellowship", in S. Hunt, M. Hamilton & T. Walter (eds), "Charismatic Christianity, Sociological Perspectives" (Basingstoke: Macmillan and New York: St. Martin's Press), 236pp. ISBN 978 0 33366 598 5.

*cite book
author=Saxby, Trevor
title=Pilgrims of a Common Life: Christian Community of Goods Through the Ages
publisher=Herald Press
location=Scottdale, PA
year=1987
pages=208pp
isbn=0836134265
oclc=
doi=

*cite book
author=Scotland, Nigel
title=Charismatics and the New Millennium (2nd ed)
publisher=Eagle
location=Guildford
year=2000
pages=350pp
isbn=0 86347 370 9
oclc=
doi=

* Wright, Nigel (1997) "The Nature and Variety of Restorationism and the 'House Church' Movement", in S. Hunt, M. Hamilton & T. Walter (eds), "Charismatic Christianity, Sociological Perspectives" (Basingstoke: Macmillan and New York: St. Martin's Press), 236pp. ISBN 978 0 33366 598 5.

External links

* [http://www.jesus.org.uk/ja/index.shtml Official Jesus Army site]
* [http://www.newcreation.org.uk/nccc/index.shtml New Creation Christian Community]
* [http://www.request.org.uk/issues/topics/poverty/poverty14.htm RE:Quest] - Case study on the Jesus Army on a Religious Education site


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