Monday, 15 October 2007

Wikipedia - someone please re-write the crit section

Would someone please re-write the section on Wikipedia which has to do with Criticism of the JA. I don't know who first started this section but it has had a frustrating history, with numerous efforts deleted by John Campbell and others.

He is challenging my right to edit it on the grounds of conflict of interest, which I think is fair comment. (I think his right to edit the JA article should also be challenged on the grounds of COI too, as he is their PR man, but ho hum).

As I think it is important that at least something appears in this section which has some punch and as JC will almost certainly get mine deleted, I would be delighted if someone would take up the challenge and rewrite it.

Here is what I wrote [revised Nov 07] (wrapped around what little was there, as editors should endeavour not to delete others work) - sorry about the formatting (no paragraphs):

In the past, local Northamptonshire newspapers and the late Archdeacon of Northampton, Bazil Marsh, among others ([2]) have accused the group of being a sect ([3]) or religious cult ([4]) but members of the group have denied this ([5], [6]). They state that the Jesus Fellowship is a member of the Evangelical Alliance ([7])
In 1985/6 an intercessory prayer group known as Prayerforce was formed by a former member of the Jesus Fellowship, Peter Eveleigh[8], with the intention of praying for change in the Jesus Fellowship. Together with another Christian and fellow ex-member he published a pamphlet under the auspices of Prayerforce, which highlighted their concerns about, among other things, the fellowship's exclusivity and isolationism, a matter which they then raised with the Evangelical Alliance (an umbrella group representing one million evangelical Christians in the UK). They were concerned that the Jesus Fellowship was benefiting from the respectability afforded by EA membership, while continuing to eschew contact with all other Christians of whom they were scathingly critical, referring to them as "the form without the power". They were concerned that undue pressure was placed on members to become life-long celibates and that the degree to which members were required to submit to Elders was unhealthy. They also highlighted the then prevalent teaching that leaving the fellowship must result in backsliding and apostasy, making some afraid to leave for fear that they would lose their salvation([9])([10]).
The EA invited the pamphlet's authors to meet with representatives of the JFC to discuss their concerns, but the latter refused to attend and subsequently the fellowship was asked to resign its membership. The JFC issued a threat of legal action against Eveleigh but after he stood his ground no further action was taken ([11]; indeed a further edition of the pamphlet had wide circulation. Subsequently efforts were made by the JFC to cultivate external contacts through the formation of Multiply Christian Network ([12]) with a view to re-joining the EA, which they did in 2000.
According to local and national newspaper articles from the 1980s and 1990s, members of the Jesus Army communal houses were encouraged to withdraw from the world and cut off their ties with outsiders[13][14], except for the purpose of evangelising. It was also stated in newspaper articles that it was a policy of the group that community members must gain the permission of the group's "elders" before they got married[15] citing the claims in the Prayerforce pamphlet[16].
Concern was also raised about the Jesus Fellowship's corporal punishment practices, involving the use of a rod for juniors and a wooden spoon on infants, which Noel Stanton defended on an Anglia TV documentary in June 1989([17]). Parents who objected to being required to use "the rod", which they described as being casually visible over the doorways of households, complained of the pressure applied to them to do so; and one child, now grown up, has expressed the humiliation of being beaten with a spoon, rather than being conventionally smacked.[18]. A member of the Jesus Army, who had a criminal record for rape and indecent assault, was convicted in 2004 for repeatedly beating two children on the hands and soles of feet with a weapon made from three bamboo canes tied together.[19]. The man's lawyer said that the defendant believed the boy "was going to the devil". The judge said, "You have a total lack of remorse and would do the same again.'
Several members (of a community in which celibacy is required of all single members, and which requires strict sexual segregation and tolerates no flirting) have been convicted, over the years, of indecency, indecent assault, one of incest and two of making indecent photographs[20][21] and the court was told in one case of child abuse which had spanned three years at a JA commune[22]. One member was also convicted of rape[23].
Throughout the history of the Jesus Fellowship, there have been a number of deaths of community members, fellowship members, associates of the group and visitors to the community, which have resulted in concerns being raised by parents of members about the circumstances in which they died[24]; and in at least one case the coroner returned an open verdict.[25] However statistically you would find the percentage of such events no higher than in any cross section of the general public over a number of years, though perhaps not in the average church.
As Professor Jeffrey K Hadden commented: "The Jesus Fellowship did not escape the muckraking of the tabloids." [26]
One of the houses was featured more recently in a Channel 4 television documentary, "Battlecentre", in 2001 (Production summary, Guardian Unlimited Reader Reviews, BBC interview with producer).