Apostles of FearI am currently reading a recently released book by Morag Zwartz entitled Apostles of Fear. It is a tragic story about a number of events that have taken place over the years in two related churches: Melbourne Christian Fellowship (formerly called "Immanuel") and Brisbane Christian Fellowship, under the leadership of Vic Hall. The injustices done to so many people over so many years needs bringing to the light and confronting appropriately.

My dad, Kevin Conner, was involved in Immanuel (now Melbourne Christian Fellowship) in the very early years. Ray Jackson was the leader of the church at the time and after becoming aware of some of the immorality taking place, my dad confronted Ray directly. Unfortunately, Ray did not respond and he began to shut my dad down and eventually excommunicated him from the church. My dad continued to help people as he was able but was basically cut off from the church.

Our family moved to the USA in 1971 where we lived for 10 years. When we returned in 1981 we became involved with Richard Holland and Waverley Christian Fellowship (now CityLife Church). By this time Richard had cut off all relationship with Immanuel. Essentially, my dad has had nothing much to do with Immanuel since 1971.

Morag had a brief meeting with my dad and I while doing research for her book. Unfortunately, because my dad didn’t know Morag, he chose not to say very much at all to her about his experiences with Immanuel. As a result, Morag ends up shedding a fairly negative light on my dad and his perceived lack of action in confronting issues within this church. Due to people such as my dad not saying much to Morag (I now wish he had), she makes a number of unsubstantiated claims in her book and she lacks some of the details needed to paint a complete picture of what actually took place, especially during the early years of this group in Melbourne.

What I do know is that my dad has been very saddened by the developments that have taken place in Immanuel after his departure and the many people who have been hurt. He believes that he did all he could at the time in confronting Ray Jackson and he has helped as many people who have left as he has been able to.

Hopefully, this book will be a wakeup call against all forms of abusive leadership within any church, a leadership style which is so un-Christlike. I pray it will also encourage those within cultic groups characterised by fear, manipulation, and control to leave and to know that there is hope and healing available for them.

Thanks for your comments

P.S. I have just finished reading the book (17/12/08). Morag has done a good job of exposing the abuse and theological errors of this group. The extreme authoritarianism and intrusion into families that she writes about, especially at BCF, is just awful. Having left 'Immanuel' in Melbourne when I was 10 years old, I have had no direct experience with them as a group since then, although I have heard similar stories of people who have left MCF. It is a very sad story overall and I trust that the book will help bring these people to account, help those who are still trapped in this cult, and give hope and healing to those who have already left.

[Refer also to my other posts on: Spiritual Abuse]

43 thoughts on “Apostles of Fear

  1. After I moved to CityLife, I remember sitting in the pews, crying my heart out and each time, the Lord would minister to me through the worship songs and the messages. CityLife has been a place of healing and I really appreciate Mark and the leadership team.
    For those experiencing spiritual abuse, take heart:
    1. God does vindicate us
    2. It is part of character building
    3. Not all Christians & churches are “bad”
    4. Jesus too suffered from religious leaders

  2. Hey Lil,
    My heart goes out to you with compassion, for I understand brokeness, and am glad to hear you have been blessed at City Life. I totally agree with you. City Life Church is a healing Church, (and much more than this) comprising of wonderful people, just like you, which has helped and blessed many to be restored to who God has created them to be. Jesus restoring love with His amazing grace is active in the house!!!!! 🙂 It’s people like you that make up a church along with the wonderful anointed leadership. We are family who are doing life together. God bless your heart.
    Mark, thanks for sharing this message with openess and honesty. It must have been a really tough time for your dad and you as a family back then. It takes courage to stand up against injustice. Your dad is a GIANT hero of faith, one I greatly respect and am proud to know. Even my much learned sister, who is a great judge of character, loves Kevin for his sound teaching and integrity. Praying for you and for your dad’s recovery.

  3. I have come to CityLife from an abusive (control driven) leadership and I’m absolutely gobsmacked at the negative impact that old church had on my relationship with God and others. I’m currently going through counselling to help me work through the issues. I’m so thankful to be in a church that is working with me to bring healing and freedom, and I know God is using this to grow and strengthen me, and that I’ll be able to speak to others and share my journey with them to encourage them.
    Thank you CityLIfe, for the love, integrity and fellowship.
    Mark I’m sorry that your father was misrepresented in that book…and I commend you for looking past that to the good that exposing Ray Jackson in that book will bring.

  4. I cannot believe that your dad who is such a man of integrity & compassion would be subjected to such slander – he is fondly called a father in the faith to countless thousands around the globe.
    You dad is the epitome of the non-controlling leader who inspires by example & love for Christ … and you’re doing a very nice job of emulating him Mark.
    I’m still ticked off that people would do such poor research on such important topics!

  5. I attended the book launch and have eagerly anticipated the release of this book, having known about Morag’s research for some time. I pastor a church that has been a post-excommunication and post-withdrawal safe house for people abused by BCF.
    As I was reading the book I wondered if you would be addressing the book. From my reading of the book the issues arising from the mention of your father extend beyond the fact that he knew Ray Jackson and worked closely with him but it also covers the doctrines and ‘coverings’ he was associated with.
    I do regret that your dad did not contribute to the book, as it could have cleared up a lot of things and helped a lot of people. It’s not just some of the manipulative people involved in Immanuel that is a concern but it is also the teachings that were espoused during that era [including by your father] which have left behind a bitter legacy. Some have never recovered from this.
    The reason you give is that your dad ‘didn’t know’ Morag. I think that is not a compelling enough reason not to cooperate with a book that rightly blows the lid off things which have happened under cover for too long now.
    Facing up to that through cooperating and doing justice to where he is at now would have been a good outcome. I think it is a credit to you that you have addressed this though your blog [the fact that you blog is highly unusual for pastors of your ilk].

  6. Hi Gordon
    Thanks for your comments
    I agree, it would have been good if my dad had talked to Morag, especially concerning details about the early years of ‘Immanuel’.
    I have just finished reading the book. Morag has done a good job of exposing the abuse and theological errors of this group. The extreme authoritarianism and intrusion into families that she writes about at BCF is just awful. Having left ‘Immanuel’ in Melbourne when I was 10, I have had no direct experience with them as a group since then, although I have heard similar stories of people who have left MCF.
    It is a very sad story and I trust that the book will help bring these people to account, help those who are trapped in this cult, and give hope and healing to those who have already left.

  7. Hi Mark
    I have found the book a harrowing read. I drive past Vic Hall’s compound every day and I am reminded daily of the broken families and the trail of human destruction.
    The book however, doesn’t just deal with controlling and manipulative individuals, it delves into the toxic effect on pastors and their flock of the theology of the Latter Rain movement. Helen notes in her book that amongst others, your father was not prepared to say that there were any doctrinal differences related to their ultimate parting of the ways with Ray Jackson. (pg 79)
    Are there any theological parallels between Waverly of today and the Latter Rain movement teachings?

  8. Good question.
    There is an interesting article on the ‘Latter Rain’ movement at wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latter_rain
    Let me comment on a few things:
    1. Personal prophecy. We do believe that God still speaks today (though not at the level of Scripture). However, we take a very cautious approach to personal prophecy and encourage proper testing of any so-called ‘words’ (1 Thess.5:19-21). We also do not see prophecy as the only, or even primary, source of guidance for a person’s life.
    2. End Times. We believe that things will get both darker (Satan’s work) and brighter (God’s work) as the second coming of Christ draws near. We try to avoid the extremes of pessimism and triumphalism. However, end-time teaching is not a major emphasis in our church.
    3. Types. We do not take a strong allegorical approach to interpreting Scripture and we do not focus on types in our teaching. The teaching in all of our weekend church services focus on practical Christian living. [You can check out the sermon notes on our web site or our podcast for a sample of our teaching content]
    4. Praise and worship. Yes, we do believe in biblicl expressions of worship such as lifting hands, clapping, and singing. These are the pattern in the Psalams. Interestingly, most of the church around the world does the same today.
    5. Five-fold ministry (Eph.4:11-12). We do believe that Jesus gave these ministries for the benefit of the church. However, we do not elevate them above other ministries or give people titles such as ‘prophet’ or apostle’. We also don’t agree with various self-appointed ministries who go around like loose canons trying to influence others inappropriately.
    We try to base all that we do as a church on the Bible, not on some recent movement or emphasis. We believe life is all about loving God and loving people. The church is called to evangelise and make disciples.
    Hope this helps

  9. Hi Mark,
    I have observed the situation where a Pastor is spiritually (and sexually) abusing members of the church. What surprised me was that other Pastors and Elders made essentially the same decision that your Father made, ie. not to talk about it to people they don’t “know”.
    It was therefore discussed in a very small leadership circle only, other church members and church visitors would be none the wiser, or would just pick up a general atmosphere that something was wrong. In my view this was the wrong decision as it enabled the Pastor to continue for much longer than otherwise, and exposed more people to abuse.
    This book brings things out into the light, and my hope is that no church-member,laity or leader, thinks that it can ever be Godly to cover them up.

  10. Hi Wazza2.
    I think you have misunderstood something … when my dad was in this church over 40 years ago, he confronted Ray Jackson, the leader at the time, about some suspected immoral actions and he informed the elders. Unfortunately, these allegations were denied and my dad was shut down and gradually squeezed out of the church. The full truth didn’t come out until years later.
    Last year, Morag was researching this church and wanted to interview my dad. He only spoke to her briefly about his experience because he didn’t know who she was.
    I think you may be mixing up these two completely separate events.
    I do agree that when leaders sin sexually there needs to be appropriate disclosure and discipline, not a covering up.

  11. Hi Mark, when I read the book I too wondered why if your Dad knew about Ray Seniors immorality he didn’t do more to expose the situation. But after reading your replies to some other emails I’m satisified he did all he could and as a result was forced out of Immanuel. I grew up in that church (but am out now) and never really knew the of the sordid events taking place in the early years of the church in Melbourne. It was quite sickening to read-not to mention all the other stuff still going on in Brisbane. As a kid I’d met Ray Senior, Cec Barton and many of the other early leaders in the church. (I think your dad may have even visited my dads church in Toowoomba many years ago too.) I’m glad Morag has written the book and exposed Vic Hall and BCF for who and what they really are. Unfortunately…..so much damage has already been done (and still is) to peoples lives.

  12. Hi Mark
    I notice you said that Morag made “unsubstantiated claims”. Actually everything written in “Apostles of Fear” regarding Kevin’s attempts to deal with Ray Jackson is found in his autobiography “This is my story”. The information there is clear and detailed and is a mine of information. I for one was extremely angry when I realised Kevin and others knew about Ray’s behaviour as far back as the 50’s. Whether he did all he could as Dean suggests is debateable. Admittedly he was not supported by the sychophants who were part of the leadership during those early days.
    And to John who suggested that Kevin was subjected to slander … this is not true as all the claims made by Morag are definitely substantiated by Kevin’s own account.
    And as there are quite a few people who used to go to Immanuel at CityLife I presume I will find the book in the church bookshop next time I visit? (Last time was the Christmas production – excellent!)

  13. Hi Gail.
    Thanks for your comment.
    My comment about ‘unsubstantiated claims’ was in reference to other material within the book, not specifically to Morag’s comments about my dad. One example is a character assasination she makes about one woman who she describes as enjoying adultery more than her own marriage. I happen to know a member of this woman’s family, and this attack is both unfair and unsubstantiated.
    Morag also has a very narrow stereotyped view of the Pentecostal church, painting them all with the same brush on quite a number of matters.
    I also found it interesting that Morag strongly attacks my dad in the book (comparing him to Peter Hollingworth) for not doing all he could when in fact he did confront Ray directly on two occasions but Ray denied everything and then shut my dad down. Other people did similar things (tried to confront Ray and also Vic Hall later on) and experienced similar things (denial and then exclusion), but Morag makes no character attack on these other people. Seems a little inconsistent to me.
    Thanks Gail

  14. I have noted the discussions regarding Kevin Conner and whether he has responded appropriately to the abuses perpetrated against so many innocent people at MCF, BCF and all the other Fellowship groups around this nation over many decades. I am making my comments on this issue from my own personal experience, because I have written several letters to Kevin appealing to him on behalf of many victims and I have met with him and discussed the abuses that happened to me personally.
    It was Kevin’s advice to me that I should not seek any legal redress and it was also his opinion that I should not go to the media to seek public exposure either. He indicated to me that I would be dishonouring Christ to take either action. I gave him information about alleged sexual abuses perpetrated by Vic Hall at BCF and he said he would make his own enquiries into this matter because another minister in Melbourne had approached him with another credible witness who was also alleging sexual abuses. To this day I do not know what actions he took in this matter, if any? However, I do know that after my appeals to him, Kevin did attend an MCF musical afternoon as an invited guest, giving them the acceptance, legitimacy and validity they craved.
    These appeals to Kevin were not made 40 years ago, but were made in recent years. Mark, I know that you have a loyalty to your father, but there are some very critical issues being discussed here that are essential to be examined, if there is any credibility and moral principles left within church circles. The victims who have appealed to Kevin Conner and Richard Holland over the years should have found in these men an advocate, who would stand up against such evil and expose these tyrants and declare to all the churches everywhere and to society at large what evil was being perpetrated against innocent lives. I believe I have been betrayed by the silence of many, not just Kevin Conner. To know of such horrendous abuses and human rights violations in a movement that you helped establish and not become actively involved in fighting the injustice is in my opinion, irresponsible.
    I have approached many ministers for help over the years, including many ex-elders of Immanuel, MCF and BCF, but they all prefer to remain safe, silent and preoccupied with their own lives and ministries, while so many innocent people are left defenceless. They all say, but I left 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago and they wipe their hands of any accountability for the current abuses and heresy. All these ex-leaders who were part of this movement, married couples, dedicated children, baptised people, preached in the pulpit and taught this heresy and they were all happy to have the honour and the responsibility of that leadership role once. However, now as the injustices and the abuses are being exposed, they distance themselves and maintain they have no responsibility for the current injustice and cruelty.
    As a victim and a Christian, I find this attitude unacceptable from men who pledged themselves to love and serve God’s people and then left them defenceless against such horrific abuse. It should be these men who are our advocates today, joining us in the fight to see this injustice and evil exposed and to see innocent lives saved from further abuse, but all I hear from them is the deafening pain of silence and indifference. Tim Costello who spoke at the Melbourne launch of Morag’s book was the first minister I have ever heard who was prepared to speak publicly and call the destruction of marriages and the break-up of families, evil! It was an absolute relief to at last hear one minister with the fortitude to expose this evil.
    May I ask you Mark, have ever made a statement in your church to publicly expose this injustice and call the abuses committed by the elders at MCF and BCF evil? Also, are you selling “Apostles of Fear” in your bookshop?
    “When faced with evil, there is no middle path. You either oppose the persecution of the innocent or you share in it. No one can preserve his or her private virtue by turning away from the world.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, (Ethics, p.69).

  15. Hi Helen. Thanks for your comments.
    I was not aware of your discussions with my dad about your situation but I will pass your comments on to him.
    In answer to your two questions …
    1. Our church dis-associated with MCF almost 30 years ago when Richard Holland was the Senior Pastor. He explained to the congregation why at that time. Under my leadership (the last 14 years) we have had no cause to mention anything about this as 99% of our people would have no idea who MCF or BCF are, or of the issues that have occured there.
    2. I don’t think that the ‘Apostles of Fear’ book is in our bookshop. We have a small shop that sells a limited range of Bible, gift items, and books with more of a general and broad appeal. However, I do know that the book is in available in Koorong which has a broad reach within the wider Christian community.
    Thanks again, Helen.

  16. Jesus demonstrated that a servant’s ministry is to be motivated by compassion (Matt 20:34 and elsewhere). Kevin betrayed all the victims of Ray Jackson, by not having this compassion, and it behoves Morag Zwartz to shed a negative light on Kevin as she did, as also with Peter Hollingsworth. They belong in the same category.
    Helen has had the same reception from Kevin Conner that I have had. Unwillingness to stand by the oppressed, expressed through the silence of indifference. With us, this time he was the oppressor. I recently wrote Kevin a letter of 10 pages, outlining the ministerial and human abuses that my late husband and I suffered through his manipulations. His reply? Absolute silence. (Except for one sarcastic comment. )
    Kevin was not excommunicated from Immanuel Church movement, as reported on Mark Conner’s Space and his blog on John Mark Ministries. My late husband Keith and I, were close friends and first hand witnesses to Kevin’s years from 1950 to 1971, when he left for USA to further his career. I can testify that Kevin was not excommunicated. Keith had became part of the prime ministry at Immanuel until 1979, when we left the movement – (I had created the orchestra and wrote the music).
    A definition of excommunication, however, may be required from Kevin. If, as Mark says, he was excommunicated, for what was he excommunicated? Matthew 18: 15 – 17 guides us as to the procedure for a church excommunication. There was not a “telling to the church” of any material for which Kevin could have been consequently excommunicated. Certainly Kevin did not follow these Matthew 18 procedures through re Ray Jackson, as Ray was not brought before the church. Kevin told two church members (Rob Wheeler, then Alan Thrift,) about Ray’s immorality, but did not follow through by telling the whole church. (Matt 18:17 ).
    Mark Conner’s language over the last few weeks has changed from “excommunication” to “shut down,” “squeezed out of the church” and “excluded” – re Kevin. But this happened to a lot of people there, who were also excluded and/or shut down at various times, and often did not know why. That is how the place worked. If, as Kevin and Mark say, he was excommunicated, he has left this out of his own book, This is My Story ; this information would have been a vital link in his story.
    He described Ray Jackson’s behaviour with girls and women as early as the 1950s. He made excuses for not publicly disclosing this, (“telling the church”), and never did, before he left in 1971.
    • What is wrong with Paul charging Peter in the sight of the congregation Galatians 2:11 – 14 and withstanding him to his face regarding an issue crucial to their basic Christian progress? Was Kevin afraid of being “persecuted for RIGHTEOUSNESS SAKE?”
    After Kevin took up the senior position at Waverley Christian Fellowship (now City Life) the sexual abuse by Ray Jackson went on until 1988.
    Why then did it take one abused woman in 1988 to finally blow the whistle about Ray Jackson’s predatory behaviour, if Kevin had already done so?
    How can Kevin NOW be “ very saddened by the developments that have taken place since his departure and the many people who have been hurt” ( quote Mark), when it was in his power to prevent this in the first place 30 years ( or any year) before?
    Kevin and his family left for the USA in 1971 and made sure he removed his own children from the evil of the Movement while other children remained, as possible future victims.
    I commend Mark for focusing his ministry on Christian life dynamics, apart from Kevin’s strong Offiler teachings; a difficult stand indeed. (Mark-what wording do you use for water baptism though, and why?)
    Mark needs to review his father’s book in the light of the Bible, before attempting to whitewash his father, and before accepting Kevin’s now, too late, “saddened state”.
    Rhonda .

  17. Hi Rhonda.
    Nice to hear from you. We haven’t spoken for such a long time. I hope you are well. I was so shocked by Earl’s sudden passing away a few years back. That must have been a very difficult time for you and the family.
    When I was younger, you were a bit of a hero of mine. I loved how you played the piano. Are you still playing? I don’t play too much now but the kids are all very musical. My sister, Sharon, still plays piano and sings in her church in America.
    You’ve asked some good questions and I’ll chat to my dad about them. I was so young back then and my parents kept a lot of this from me, so I don’t have all the information. I’m pretty sure my dad has an actual letter of excommunication from the Elders of MCF.
    I had lunch with my dad today – it’s his 82nd birthday. He mentioned you had written a long letter to him and me recently. He has put a copy of it in my in-tray at the church office, so I’ll get to it next week. I have been on holidays most of January.
    Thanks Rhonda

  18. Glad you remembered me after all these years, Mark.
    I just want to clarify one thing. I did not write that letter to both you and your father Kevin Conner. It was a letter to your father, partly stimulated by the reference he made regarding our family in his book ” This is My Story” which was a misrepresentation of the truth as to events.
    I thought it was time for Kevin to answer me on many areas. I am surprised (or maybe I am not) that your father has handed you my letter, as he has not ever taken responsibility for his own actions in the past, re the Holt family. Maybe he needs you to defend him, or whiteswash him.
    My discussions re my letter to Kevin remain between myself and him.
    Thank you Mark.

  19. Hi Rhonda
    Thanks for your clarification about the letter. I think that because my dad saw that you had made comments about me and my blog posts in there, he assumed you wanted me to read it to.
    I’ll pass it back to him and encourage him to respond to you.
    Hope you are keeping cool. We had two church meetings tonight – sure has been a hot day!

  20. Mark (and in a wider context Kevin)
    “Evil happens when good men say nothing”,
    I grew up in the Windang branch of the CF cult and have first hand knowledge of some of the terrible abuses covered up by the elders. All of the youth in our church were emotionally and sexually abused. Sexual abuse is defined not just by physical acts but by emotional acts that invade the privacy of a young persons developing sexual awareness. The secrets of our hearts and thoughts were demanded of us, others were asked to report on us, and we were continually told how dirty sinful and unacceptable we were.
    It is true that men of the era such as your father and my father covered things up. I know my father often felt that the girl or woman was to blame. He also felt, as did all CF men … that he had the right to control the lives of people especially women. Their Christian belief is based on a horrible misogyny where they see women as practically incapable of good. Strange thing is, when evil is exposed it is more often than not a powerful man who is doing it, yet this fact seems to go unnoticed and unremarked by these cowards, and the powerless continue to suffer.
    The powerless are continuing to suffer now. In all of the CFs and at Brisbane under Vic Hall in particular. While Vic Hall practises his cruel manipulations on men as well as women, women are his special victims because they are ‘vital’ in his misogynistic and twisted theology of perfection achieved by the ‘marriage order’ of subjection. This can be seen in the way he put pressure on Helens husband to ‘discipline’ her and make her come into subjection. Helens husband had to prove that he was in subjection to Vic by ‘putting away’ his own wife! This is recorded in Morag’s book of course and is harrowing reading.
    As you probably know, after the sexual immorality was exposed in the 1980’s Vic Hall took Ray Snrs ‘mantle’ from him. One of his first acts was to demote women in the church. Many (including me) see this as a clear indication that it was not the powerful men but the women who were ultimately blamed. It is this ongoing imbalance that needs exposing NOW so that the CURRENT VICTIMS are given a fighting chance.
    Your father could well be a ‘good man’ who did not say enough. He told Helen to her face (as she has often reported) that if she took legal action or spoke publicly about her experience that it would bring the ‘Church of God into disrepute’. Mark (and Kevin) and ALL MEN ONCE ASSOCIATED WITH THE CF’s it is YOUR SILENCE in these matters that is bringing the church into disrepute.
    Mark, whatever the rights and wrongs of the past were, our fathers and others once involved need to get off their cowardly backsides and SPEAK OUT in defence of the innocent.
    I am not talking about sexual abuse now, but I am talking about the lives of the innocent children, teenagers and young adults being groomed at this very minute to be ‘disciples of Vic Hall and the Elders’. Of course Vic and his cronies pass it off as obedience to God, and this is why it is so evil. Mark, have you read any of the evil writings of this man? Have you any idea of the steps they are taking to separate the children from their parents AS WE SPEAK? They want total control of the hearts minds and souls of their people, not for God but for themselves.
    My friends and I who are involved on the CF survivor’s forum are sick with anguish at the unchristian teachings of Vic Hall and the other Elders. We are sick with anguish when we read the abusive manipulative writing given to the youth at the recent youth camps. This writing encourages them to turn away from their parents to be obedient and acceptable to God through obedience to the Elders! They do it with threats of the loss of their salvation! The writings of this man resemble the writings of the Hitler Youth movement and his actions are more akin to the twisted Christianity of the inquisition, which we all agree was not Christianity at all. THIS IS NOT A CHRISTIAN CHURCH IT IS A DANGEROUS CULT.
    Don’t sit in your safe church and say ‘I am alright Jack’. As a Christian leader you have a responsibility to Gods people to speak out! We are in terror of his situation turning into a Jim Jones or Wacko scenario. Even if this never happens, at the very least there are many innocent people inside the ‘Christian Fellowships’ being emotionally, psychologically and spiritually abused at this very minute. We are looking at what we can do. What do you and your father intend to do about it?
    Lorese Ferry

  21. Hi Lorese.
    I too agree that this is a dangerous cult! I have stated so on this blog and I say so to anyone I speak to about it.
    What other practical steps can be taken? I have no relationship or connection with anyone in MCF or BCF. Is there a number that we can call (Cult Watch?)? What did you have in mind?
    What is Morag doing beside publishing her book? What is Tim Costello or other pastors doing? I’m definitely happy to help in any way I can. What do you suggest?

  22. Hi Mark
    This is a rather late reply to your reply to me on Jan 14.
    In response to your comment that Kevin did all he could do in that he confronted Ray on 2 occasions: I too am aware of Kevin’s actions regarding Ray’s involvement with the two women and the fact that Ray denied – actually minimised, in one case – his actions. I am still in touch with one of the women and Ray’s denial and Kevin’s inaction after it still affects her today. To do nothing was to her the equivalent of calling her a liar and it continued the cover up of the ‘great man’s’ abusive behaviour. Even when all was revealed in 1988 and she requested an apology none was forthcoming.
    If Kevin really wanted to do something about it then the next step would have been to take it to the church … wouldn’t it?
    The similarity of this with the Hollingsworth situation is because Peter Hollingsworth allegedly ignored the seriousness of sexual abuse between priests and children and covered it up in various ways. Interestingly Hollingsworth, in 2004, a year after his resignation as GG admitted he was wrong and that he had become more aware of the impact of abuse and the long term emotional destruction it had on a victim’s later life.
    As far as the unsubstantiated claims go – it appears there were many people who were willing to be quoted but unwilling to be named for whatever reason. This doesn’t make their comments invalid nor untrue. A record of an interview where the source refuses to be acknowledged doesn’t alter the information provided. There were so many things that happened at MCF that were unpleasant, immoral and totally wrong. The context of the comment you quote is in a paragraph about a place which was just like that – a home where young people were supposed to be safe but where the ‘whistleblower’ of the 1988 expose of Ray, Cec and Dot was being abused. In fact the alleged ‘preference’ of the woman you mention pales into insignificance compared with what was happpening in that house at the time.
    And – I don’t understand the relevance of your suggestion that Morag has a narrow sterotyped view of the Pentecostal church … ? I couldn’t find anything in the book to indicate this and anyway, MCF was anything but stereo-typical – which of course was part of its attraction in the early days.

  23. Thanks for your comments, Gail
    I hope that you hear my heart on this. I am very concerned about what has gone on and is still going on in this group. It is a disgrace to the cause of Jesus and an abuse of precious people’s lives.
    I am also not trying to defend my dad just because he is my father. By the way, he is 82 years old now and just recovering from a recent triple bypass heart operation. I’m just trying to share what he has told me when I have discussed these matters with him.
    I understand that the first time my dad became aware of Ray’s adulterous actions (here in Melbourne), he confronted Ray personally but everything was denied and there was no real evidence to take it further (it was one person’s word against another’s).
    As a result of this, my dad was squeezed out of MCF over time and our family relocated to the USA. Again, more evidence surfaced as people talked to my dad in the USA. My dad then actually travelled to another city where Ray was visiting to confront him, but again – denial. By this stage my dad was long out of MCF and living in another country, so there was not much he could do.
    I do see the situation with Peter Hollingworth as very different as he had evidence of the abuses and he had the positional power to do something about it (which he did not).
    P.S. Thanks for the link – I will check it out.

  24. Morag has accomplished a milestone in church history in her assembling of facts, disclosures and discussions on abusive church structures (outwardly innocent, though they might appear, especially with excellent music) which makes way for psychological, mental and sexual abuse. Her God-given task was accomplished in her books.
    Peter Hollingsworth apologised and admitted his short-sightedness in the handling of the existence of sexual abuse in his particular church denomination.
    The Latter Rain Movement long ago evaluated their excesses, and generally admitted their excesses and abuses.
    What can you do about your father’s abandonment of the sexually abused? Kevin, your father, is 82 years old and has been sick (although I hear that he is now doing very well) but that is no excuse. While he is still alive he has the opportunity to “do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with (his) God” Micah 6:8. Our first obligation is to the oppressed, not to building up our teaching repertoire.
    You asked what can you do? Encourage your father to put things right. This should have happened as early as the 1950s but it is not too late.
    The Shepherding/Discipleship movement (think “Covering” and “Covenant Commitment”) caused great devastation throughout the world. The leading five ministries of this movement long ago apologised to the Body of Christ and abandoned their controlling systems of discipleship, yet Kevin Conner installed it into Waverley Christian Fellowship (now Citylife).
    When under-age children, skilled at the violin and french horn, were playing in church, did not sign Kevin Conner’s Covenant Commitment papers in the absence of their parents who were away,and wished to wait for their parents to return before they signed, are kicked out of the church orchestra (which their mother had founded) because they did not sign the paperwork, then this is NOT the “voluntary commitment” that Kevin claimed he introduced (page 410 This is My Story. ) Further to that, he wrote a letter to the son claiming superior authority to the father.
    Covenant Commitment at Citylife Church is now called Church Partnership Agreement “supporting church leaders as they follow Christ.” Herein lies the danger. Morag’s book reveals the danger of following church leaders “as they follow Christ” because WHO KNOWS how they follow Christ?
    This Commitment follow-up is contrary to the teaching that we, as the church of the redeemed, ALREADY are equal partners with and “in Christ. “ In Christ” is the dynamic of the resurrection – “we are raised together in Him”. Why the need for further Partnership programmes? They are the invention of the leadership to tie up the customers with a contract so that the leaders can make a good living out of them.
    What if you do not sign? Your status will never be that of a full operating member of the congregation of the redeemed “ in Christ” . A dead end for one’s giftedness. No place for appeal here.
    Mark, you listed December 18 2008, Latter Rain principles including the use of types and allegorical teaching. All of your father’s books are founded on Offiler’s book with it’s types and allegories, and are all for sale at your book store. All these books embrace the teaching of BCF; in particular God and His Name” or the “Name of God” teaching. Immanuel ( now BCF and MCF) baptise with the formula based on the doctrine of the Name the way you still do. Without you teaching on it, the congregation do not know what you mean when you baptise that way.

  25. Hi Rhonda. Thanks or your post.
    1. I have passed all of your comments on to my dad. I have to leave it to him to do what he feels best and right with the issues raised.
    2. Many churches have a membership. We do too. The issue you have raised about the ‘shepherding movement’ was more an issue of inappropriate leadership control and abuse. We endeavour to empower people to make their own decisions, while doing our best to teach God’s ways.
    3. ‘Types’ are biblical. It’s the over-use that becomes problematic.
    4. We teach all of our members about water baptism, from both the Gospels and the book of Acts. We don’t over-emphasise any particular water baptism formula.
    Hope this helps.

  26. Mark
    I wonder if you are aware of your father’s own description of his departure from Immanuel in 1971, in his book This is My Story, page 390 ?
    “we as a family thanked Immanuel (Melbourne) for sending us to the USA with their blessing. We expressed our appreciation for the many years of fellowship in the Word of God…….Our association had been over 24 years with Immanuel at this time.”
    This changes all the rhetoric of the past few months, Mark. All excuses fall to the ground that have been made on behalf of your father for not pursuing Ray Jackson further (as previously discussed above). Rather, he stayed in Immanuel while a little leaven was leavening the whole lump. Abuse continued and victims were multiplied over 30 years.
    Certainly there was no falling out with the powers-that-be there. 1971 was the year of his departure to the USA; 24 years previous to this was 1947. Your father reports knowing of Ray Jackson’s sexual failings in the early 50’s.
    The facts are that Kevin lived among the victims, ministered among the victims, lived with the predator Jackson, so that nothing interrupted his pursuit of the teachings of Offiler and Jackson which built up his teaching ministry.
    Perhaps Kevin blamed the women, and thought it was partly their fault to have been sexually involved? The woman was taken in adultery and blamed, but the man was not brought before Jesus by the Pharisees.( John 8:3 )
    Quite likely every one of the females who became entangled with Jackson had some problem which made them vulnerable, and they needed help and mercy shown on their behalf. Many were under age when first prepped by Jackson. Some were fatherless.
    These victims were robbed in the house of God, and no consideration was given for their plight.
    Who was the neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?(Luke 10:30-37)
    God is encountered in actions towards the oppressed; he pleads their cause. This love is expressed in concrete action.
    The neighbour was the man who APPROACHED the wounded man and MADE HIM HIS NEIGHBOUR. The Samaritan approached the injured man because “ his heart was melting “; because his love for the man was made flesh in him. God was loved IN the neighbour.
    The priest and the Levite “passed by on the other side” (v31,32) It seems that Kevin did this for 30 years.
    The shepherd goes after the lost sheep in the mountains, and lifts the one sheep on his shoulders despite its separation and going astray. The shepherd might have to then smell of sheep, but he goes after, lifts up, and restores the sheep.
    And all this while Kevin Conner regarded himself as a Leader among Leaders – remember Intermin?
    Mark, you listed your action plan in your last response to me. You have said several times you were going to approach your father to respond regarding these things. So far he has not responded to you, to my personal letter to him, to Helen, Gail or Lorese.
    Maybe Kevin has a particular judgement against sexual sin, and regards it as beyond the redemption in Christ Jesus?
    His own book does not address restoring victims. Making lists of people’s sexual sins, and filing them, is no answer. Engaging in active redemption is the purpose for which all of us are “in Christ”.

  27. Hi Rhonda
    My understanding is that my dad has read your letter and responded briefly to it. He did feel that there was so much venom and bitterness in the letter that he chose not to answer every accusation that you made. He has also responded directly to Helen. I’m not sure who Gail and Lorese are?
    Let me repeat the facts that I know and that have been confirmed by my dad and also another elder who left many MCF years ago …
    1. My dad did confront Ray in the early years about possible inappropriate sexual behaviour. Ray flatly and strongly denied everything.
    2. Later on a group of elders confronted Ray over another issue but he again denied it and claimed that the woman was trying to destroy his ministry.
    3. Our family left MCF in 1971 and moved to the USA. At that time things seemed to be going okay. My dad referred to this in his book.
    4. Soon after our family moved to the USA, my dad was cut off. A letter was sent to him by the MCF elders. My dad has this letter and I know one of the elders who signed it who has since apologised. My dad has not a voice of influence in MCF since that time.
    5. Everything about Ray’s sexual immorality was exposed in 1988 when proof was finally brought forward. Our family was back in Australia by then but we were with Richard Holland and he already had severed relationships with MCF (around 1980).
    6. Richard Holland had to make a stand against a number of things at MCF. He was always available to those who asked for help. Few people realise that his stand came at great personal cost, with his relationship with his own brothers, whom he loved dearly, being affected by his decision.
    My dad is not seeking to make excuses. He honestly believes that he did all that could with the data he had at the time. He did not try to cover anything up (unlike the Peter Hollingworth situation).
    Rhonda, I’m not sure what you are trying to accomplish. Everyone who is aware of the issues needs to do all they can to warn those still in MCF and BCF. Morag’s book achieves this in many ways. I am trying to use my blog to do the same. Those who were hurt or who were victims of Ray’s (or other leader’s) predatory behaviour need encouragement to find a place of forgiveness and healing. That is not an easy journey as people such as Helen know very well.

  28. Mark
    Our family suffered extreme abuse at the hands of your father when he took advantage over us (his close friends and his previous “spiritual children”) for his own power and benefit. We were his victims but this is not the venue to outline this sad story.
    In my letter to your father I described to him the list of his abuses and supplantings and if he felt I was “bitter and full of venom” I do not care how he describes it Mark. It is indeed a bitter taste in your heart and mouth to have been dished up UNJUSTICE. One day he will have to stand before the judgement seat of Christ and give account for the deeds done in usurping authority and power to the destruction and hurt of another brother and sister and their children.
    I was quite amused to see that Kevin is still using the word “venom “ when someone is listing out the spiritual and human abuses from his hand. These are the very same words Jackson and Barton used when someone opposed them at Immanuel; whenever anyone dared to question them on any ruling.
    Anyway, personal abuse is no form of argument. It is bullying.
    Mark you missed my whole point in my communications re Morag’s book. What about the women? What about the victims? Kevin might have faced Ray up, but should have stood up for the victims of the system where the root cause of their fate was injustice.
    What am I trying to accomplish you ask? Some semblance of:
    1) Remorse from your father when he ignored every “accusation” as he calls it; I call it an acknowledgement of guilt from his abuse of power. (I asked him why he did those terrible things to us; he only felt threatened by the asking)
    2) Indication that by now he had something in God that enabled him to admit his abuses; to feel compassion for the sufferings he caused us. Theology, not from his ivory palace, but from engagement with our sufferings outlined in my letter.
    3) Some conscience and goodwill which might have been sparked in Kevin once he read my description of our devastations.
    However, all this was evidenced to be of no avail.
    Abuses are not only in MCF and BCF; they can be in any structure that disempowers and exploits others to their hurt; where the system gives you no defence. Your father knows what I mean.
    Morag in her books points out that it is non-Christian to shape and control a people and call that a church.

  29. Rhonda, if someone comes to a leader and makes an accusation about another leader, you would go to that leader and confront them but if the issue is denied and there is no hard evidence, there is not a lot more you an do. It’s one person’s word against another’s.
    As far as your feelings about my dad, you and him clearly have very different perspectives on many things that have happened in the past. Unfortunately, I can’t sort those out for either of you.

  30. It seems the the fallout from a person who was badly hurt has not only affected mcf and bcf, but it looks like she is looking for blood elsewhere.

  31. the situation above also occurs in some main stream penecostal churches with little accountability. i have seen hundreds and hundreds of people in such churches spiritually abused. Fortunately i came from a lovely Christ based church where Christ was the centre and focus, but teachings such as the “Under Cover” teachings seem to be used by insecure pastors to justify their behaviour. Its just a bit sad that there is not more accountability for such issues as so many people get hurt and i dont think that is Christ’s intention for His church, given how much He loves us all.

  32. Hi Mark,
    I met you today at the Apostolic Church conference and just wanted to say how much I have been blessed and strengthened by you and Nicole over these last few days.
    I write here because I also have read this book as I have some history with and some family connection to this group. I appreciate your clarification regarding your dad as I found the comments in the book about him inconsistent with my experience of him. However other then that I found the history outlined in the book informative.
    The abuse is of great concern and I am trying to find ways of approaching the issue with my family in a way that won’t break my relationship with them. I’d appreciate any advice.

  33. Hi Dallas
    Good to have you visit the blog. We really enjoyed our time at the conference too. Thanks for your encouragement.
    I feel for you in your situation. I also have friends who still have family and friends in MCF. They find it very difficult. It is a delicate balance to try to maintain the relationship yet still try to talk about the issues. Most people I know have had to avoid the issues (usually due to lack of openness) in order to prevent losing the relationships, especially with family members.
    We can only pray that God will continue to expose the errors of this group and that people will see the light and come out.

  34. Dear Mark and Dallas,
    My heart goes out to anyone that still has family connections to BCF and MCF as their difficulties are too numerable to mention. The families that have been able to leave with their family still intact have had sufficient information of the ‘spiritual wicknedness in high places’ to foresee what is ahead for their young family and, as Moses delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt, have saved their own children or young adults from an abusive, manipulative, ungodly regime.
    Sadly it is very hard to make this break unless the whole family is taken interstate or overseas, and in this regard the Connor family can truly honour their father and mother as they had their children’s interests at the very heart of their being. The sad situation is that (and was for us), unless the head of the home sees the dangers of their current church associations and acts to terminate those associations, the family gets tangled into a web of a ‘not so holy’ path to walk in God, then, who can untangle the mess? Only God can help out here, by much prayer and supplication.
    Having said all of the above, there are people who are endeavouring to help ones like Dallas that are feeling frustrated by the never-ending indifference between family members, and feeling they need to keep a code of silence to calm the waters. I trust that I am not stepping out of line by posting this link from your site Mark, if I am then I am sure the Moderator of this site will delete the link – which is as follows:
    God Bless

  35. Hi Mark
    Thanks for your comments on MCF, they helped us when we left in Nov 2016. We’re loving life again at LMC.
    Despite some great early years at MCF, we realized that since 1993 it had been destroying us piece by piece until there was almost nothing left. We know that under Jackson Snr disgusting things had occurred but we trusted the remainder of the eldership. But since Vic Hall took over the control over lives has been so degrading that we can’t express our own selves in our choice of career or business or in life or in service at church.
    I lost the best 25 years of my life. My wife too.
    The elders there have become delinquent in their following of Vic Hall and ‘new words’.
    If us men didn’t obey commands to stay in jobs we hated they threatened us with hell fire literally. They also told us ‘No man can start a business unless an elder ASKS him to’. I was crying in their devilish ‘sessions’ and they just pointed at me and said: ‘that is a man with blocked goals’.
    Our story is documented here if you’re interested:
    Paul Kovaks
    (that’s my ghost name, my real name is too easy to track on the internet by employers!)

  36. Thanks for sharing some of your story, Paul.
    These cultic places do so much damage and the fall out for people is so sad. Glad for survivors like yourself who can help others, especially by sharing your own journey.
    God bless

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