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"The Truth"

Deconstructing perfection



"The Truth" and reality


"I am so thankful for this site. I have been on the edge of professing* for a year and because of this site I realized i need to because you are definately fighting something inside yourself."

From my guestbook

William Irvine, a Scottish tent preacher, started a church in the late 1890's in Northern Ireland that within a couple of generations became the one true faith to people born into it.

We called it "The Truth." It is customary to say that the church has no name, but that is its name, within the congregation.

Early church members had excommunicated* Mr. Irvine. Or disfellowshipped him — the church really has no formal way of describing the forced discontinuation of membership. It has indeed no formalized doctrine at all — merely unwritten rules.

In any case, Mr. Irvine received some kind of rather distinct censure, in which he became unwelcome amongst the members of the church he'd started.

And then, after they stopped speaking with him, the members of the incipient religioin quit speaking about him.

Down a couple of generations, this organization had entirely lost knowledge of its history — at least officially. In other words, if anybody who was living knew about the real origin* of The Truth, they did not talk about it.

"Welcome to the club, grew up in same faith left and have survived long enough to become a grandfather so there is hope for you"

— from my guestbook, April 2008

In 1993, a book was circulating within members and aquaintances of The Truth. This book — entitled "Has the Truth Set You Free?" — was crap. Its notable feature was the bibliography — pointing almost exclusively to one other book.

This other book, "The Secret Sect," (Doug and Helen Parker, 1982, Sydney, Macarthur Press) is objective in tone. It's a history, not a screed. It was at that moment the most credible explanation for the existence of the religion in which I was raised. And, in my mind, "most credible" is the best one can do.

The details in that book are not as important as the book's existence. The importance of its details is that they illustrate, with journalistic protocol, the essential fact that my childhood religion is not originally and eternally right, exclusive and inescapable. The importance of learning of the history of "The Truth" is in learning that the church has a history. That history had been lost — shunned and forgotten. It was only during the young adulthood of my generation that such information re-emerged.

At 29 years old, with this knowledge, I began to feel differently about my long failure to attend the meetings. The guilt began to decrease. I began to feel better.


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* "Professing" or "making one's choice" refers to the formal expression of one's decision to become a member of "The Truth." This expression involves standing up during the singing of a hymn near the end of a "gospel meeting" after one of the "workers" (ministers) "tests" the meeting, which they occasionally do.

Basically, in the "testing" of the gospel meeting, the senior of the two workers will ask if there's anyone in the meeting who wants to give their life to Christ, and if so they should stand to their feet during one of the final verses of the final song of the service.

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* Excommunication is, technically, a formal procedure to end "communion." It does not imply nor require the end of communication. It's an official corrective action mostly associated with the Catholic church, or in any case larger, more formalized churches, and it involves complex bureaucratic formulae.

"The Truth" does not (and probably never did) have any such official procedure (nor is it driven by specific dogma as much as by unspoken consensual doctrine.)

In the case of William Irvine, the church members expelled him from communion, but they also quit speaking with him.

Maybe a better way to describe what happened to Irvine was that he was declared "apostate," as the term is used by the Jehovah's Witnesses organization.

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* It's disingenuous to say "if anybody knew" about the origin of the church while I was growing up.

Calculating the length of time that some of the ministers during my childhood had been "in the work," it is inevitable that some of them knew of William Irvine.

EDIT: There is in fact a photograph of Willie Jamieson sitting with William Irvine. Jack Carroll is there too, and I remember his name — but I remember Mr. Jamieson.

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