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research on past COG associations

Posted by Acheick on July 11, 2005 at 19:21:10

I know someone was asking about the COG/FI connections with other groups, offshoots from them, etc. So I found the following;

I found this interesting tidbit of information in a book about a Hutterite who becomes a politician. It is a study of his life and it appears that he traveled a lot in the Jesus People movement circles that were popular in the late 60s and early 70s. I found it extremely interesting the passage I am retyping here, about his involvement with the Children of God. It shows that in the late 60s and early 70s the COG/FI did pattern themselves after such religious communes as the Hutterites, Amish, etc. and followed a strict interpretation of the Bible. Interesting to note is how these Hutterites even adopted some of The Family terminology and/or visa versa. The socialistic political tendencies are also strikingly similar. Read on:

Terry Miller: The Pacifist Politician – From Hutterite Colony to State Capitol

by Rod A. Janzen:

In Chapter 4, the author discusses how Terry Miller had formed a group they referred to as “Millerleut” (the Miller people or the followers of Miller). This group moved to Manitoba where they started their own communal society. They were apparently defectors from Hutterite colonies and arrived with very few possessions, apparently having to leave in the cover of night (hmm..sound familiar?) Previously, the author discussed how Terry Miller defected from formal Hutterite teachings and wanted to get back to a stricter adherence to the scriptures. That sounds familiar too.

In Manitoba, they established the Bethesda Colony.

“Bethesda Colony was established in an attempt to institutionalize the ‘Hutterite Youth Movement’ (itself under attack by the Hutterite leadership) by creating a communal society more attuned to 16th century Hutterite principles.” P. 41

“Bethesda published a bi-monthly newsletter entitled The Fellowship of Believers Bulletin which had a circulation of 2000. Copies of these bulletins were instrumental in helping Bethesda reach out to many young people via an underground newspaper-like format. The newsletters are a mixture of Jesus People-era psycheledic (sic) artwork, ‘hip’ language, straightforward criticism of the traditional church (referred to as ‘plastic’) and exhortations to be totally committed to Christ. Life without Jesus is referred to as a ‘dull trip.’ The Bulletin…also contains stories of personal conversion experiences and life transformations. It focuses on the nearness of Jesus’ ‘second coming.’ Included at times are Children of God cartoon-parables.” P. 43

“In order to join Bethesda one had to sign a ‘membership agreement’ which included the stipulation that all material possessions and future earnings be voluntarily given to the colony. The agreement contained the following statement: ‘…if I cease to be a member of the fellowship (colony) that I shall not be entitled to any of the property of the fellowship or any interest therein…’”

“From 1967 to 1975, Bethesda Colony prospered both spiritually and financially though the membership at Gladstone itself remained small. A statistical study of Bethesda Colony residents during the 1967-1975 time period shows a total of 47 people.” P. 45
“Terry and some of the Colony residents in very non-Hutterite fashion, however, were involved politically with the New Democratic Party (NDP), a democratic socialistic party then (and now) in power in Manitoba. Although firmly opposed to dictatorial communism, Terry was challenged by the writings of democratic socialists (sometimes called social-democrats)…

Bethesda also had a brief association with various Jesus People communal brotherhoods including The Children of God (in their more conservative, pre-‘flirty fishing’ days). The Children of God, like ‘Millerleut,’ believed in an evangelical and communal form of Christianity. David Berg, their ‘prophetic’ leader (who has Pennsylvania Mennonite roots) used terminology in the early 1970’s that was similar to that employed by Bethesda Colony (or one might say that Bethesda utilized terminology that sounded a lot like that employed by the Children of God). The Christian life, for example, was called “the Revolution.” Both groups emphasized the need for “total” communal commitment to Christ and criticized the established church. In addition both organizations were attracted to socialist political philosophies and made statements attacking the capitalist economic system. Bethesda, in fact, helped a small Children of God colony get established in Winnipeg in the early 1970’s through the auspices of Bethesda friends, Chris and Susie Hofer Dorn. Food and appliances were provided and the leaders of both groups visited one another and participated in respective services.” Pp. 49-50.