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THE CULTS 3. Cooneyites. The Church Without A Name. Although without an official title they have various unofficial titles: Go- Preachers Dippers Two-by- twos Cooneyites Irvinites Tramp Preachers. Most probably is the only cult to have originated in Ireland.

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Clogher Valley Bible Class

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The Church Without A Name

Although without an official title they have

various unofficial titles:

  • Go- Preachers

  • Dippers

  • Two-by- twos

  • Cooneyites

  • Irvinites

  • Tramp Preachers

Most probably is the only cult to have originated in Ireland

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The Secret History of the Cooneyites

Their History Which They Prefer To Hide Proves That They Are Deceivers

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William Irvine

The Faith Mission Evangelist

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His Background

  • Born in Scotland in 1863.

  • Converted under the preaching of evangelist John McNeill in 1893 in Motherwell.

  • In 1895 he joined the Faith Mission as an evangelist.

  • In 1896 he was sent to Ireland where he conducted missions in Counties Antrim, Clare, Tipperary and other places.

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Early On He Had His Sights Upon A New Movement

Mr Goodhand Pattison who wrote an account of

the beginnings of the Conneyites recorded

from first hand experience:

“.. he made no secret of the fact either publicly or privately that in preaching the Gospel he was connected with and owed allegiance to that association, and would continue to do so – so he used to say – until he found better”

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“ One never knew from first to last what was going to come next with him, sometimes hardly any sermon, at other times nearly all sermons; sometime give out a hymn; sometime sing a hymn half standing, remainder sitting; sometime nearly all racy anecdotes with plenty of smiles and laughter, at other times soul stirring exhortation, backed by sad and tragic experiences etc.”

Goodhand Pattison

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But Zealous

All this added freshness and life to the words

of one whose intense earnestness and

wholehearted zeal none of us had seen


Goodhand Pattison

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And Appealing

“no wonder that the Nenagh (certainly not at

that time overburdened with much more than

the merest husk and shell in religion) had

some of its best type powerfully appealed to,

and yielded quite a crop of decisions for


Goodhand Pattison

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Why Was Irvine So Different?

“Preaching had developed into a fine art in

Methodism but lacked personal touch of real

personal experience, and he would

persistently keep telling people in every

address …that he attended meetings and

made up his mind to serve the Lord…”

Goodhand Pattison

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A Detectable Early Flaw In His Theology

  • Goodhand Pattison’s concept of Christ was changed by Irvine’s oft repeated phrase, “Jesus was a common man”.

  • This is incorrect as is the phrase commonly used today describing the Lord as “the man above”. He is the Son of God, the Lord of Heaven.

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Growing Dissatisfaction With the State of Protestant Churches

  • As a Faith Mission Pilgrim he worked with the support of all denominations.

  • As he gathered converts he came to the conclusion that the churches were ineffective when it came nurturing.

  • He began gathering these converts around himself and he took on the role of turning them into disciples.

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1897 – The Two-by-Two Teaching Churches

From Matthew 10:8-10 he deduced the


  • That preachers much evangelise in pairs.

  • That they were to take nothing more than what was necessary in their preaching tours.

  • That they were not to receive a wage for their efforts.

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The Challenge Churches

  • He called on his disciples to leave the mainstream churches and follow Jesus in preaching the gospel.

  • In 1898 a team made up of faith mission pilgrim and new converts undertook a bicycle preaching tour of Scotland.

  • Back in Ireland a growing number were joining Irvine’s preaching team.

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Conflict Churches

  • Irvine’s attacks on mainstream churches became stronger and more determined, which was against the policy of the Faith Mission.

  • He became unhappy with Mr Govan’s practise of inviting “outsiders” to speak at Faith Mission Conventions.

  • In 1901 Irvine broke links with the movement which unwittingly had given him a base in Ireland.

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The Emergence of the Cult Churches

  • Irvine broke ties with all the mainstream churches seeing his own movement as a church.

  • He was recognised as the leader.

Characteristics similar to other cults are

beginning to form

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Ed Cooney Churches

  • He worked as a salesman for his father’s business in Enniskillen.

  • He was converted in 1884.

  • He met Irvine in 1897 and became noted as a dynamic preacher and won many converts.

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Cooney Becomes a Go Preacher Churches

  • Irvine in 1901 won Cooney’s heart to follow Jesus as a Two-by-Two.

  • Cooney offered Irvine £300 per year to support him but Irvine refused.

  • Eventually Cooney gave up the business and giving £1300 to Irvine and he became an evangelist.

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1903 – The Convention Churches

  • The Convention, a feature of Cooneyite practice was started in 1903.

  • The early conventions were held in Enniskillen and attracted as many as 3,000 people.

  • By 1904 there were 150 Go-Preachers.

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1904 – The Living Witness Churches

  • Joe Kerr, a 1902 convert, taught that only those who accepted the preaching of the Go-Preachers were truly saved.

  • By 1904 all the preachers accepted this doctrine.

  • Therefore the organisation at this stage stated that the church did not exist in any other movement – classic mark of a cult

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The Call To Surrender Churches

  • Early on Irvine took a hard line on supporters who refused to become Go-preachers.

  • He called them “sham hypocrites”.

  • As the movement grew, however, his tone softened.

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Into All The World Churches

  • As the numbers of preachers grew they began to carry their message into other lands.

  • Converts were won in Australia, North America and Sooth America as well as the British Mainland.

  • By 1942 for example there were 100 annual conventions with an average attendance of 400, 900 preachers and 3,000 house churches in the USA alone.

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1908 – The House Church Churches

  • In 1908 Irvine sanctioned house meetings.

  • He stated, “the true church is a man’s home…the first Christians met in the homes of the saints.”

  • Acts 7 and 17 were quoted where references are made to God dwelling in temples made with hands.

  • He divided the people into “saints” and “workers”.

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Irvine’s Downfall Churches

  • It appears that Irvine became more powerful and as he travelled worldwide he lost sight of his original ideals.

  • Opposition to his leadership grew.

  • In 1919 influenced by Seventh Day Adventist and perhaps Russellite teaching he claimed he was one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11.

  • He was expelled from the movement.

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A Lonely End Churches

  • He moved to Jerusalem in 1920 thinking he was a special servant of God.

  • He had his supporters within the movement whom he wrote prophetic messages to.

  • He died in 1947.

  • Unlike the servants of Revelation 11 he did not rise after 3 ½ days.

  • He certainly bore the hallmarks of a false prophet.

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The Downfall of Cooney Churches

  • Cooney believed that the loss of Irvine was God’s judgment.

  • He decided that the Living Witness Doctrine was wrong.

  • He became critical of the growing power exercised by overseers.

  • He disliked the wealth of the preachers.

  • He attempted to heal a young girl in England and failed.

  • In 1928 he was cast out of the movement.

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Cooney’s Influence Continued Churches

  • The greater part of the Irish movement supported him, hence the term Cooneyite.

  • He spent his final years in Australia supporting those who were loyal to him.

  • Throughout the world many were cut off from the movement for supporting Cooney.

  • He died in in 1961 at the age of 93.

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Huge Question Churches

If this organisation is the true Church which

part is the Church -

  • The original organisation?

  • Those loyal to Irvine?

  • Those Loyal to Cooney?

This argues against the credibility of these so called successors of Christ and the Apostles.

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The Practises of the Movement Churches

  • They conduct missions in an area for prolonged periods.

  • They will use no label.

  • The word No Denominational usually identifies them as being Cooneyites.

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The Message of the Movement Churches

  • It is undoubtedly a system of works not faith and grace.

  • People are urged to embark on the Jesus Way by living a good life – remember Irvine’s comment – “Jesus was a common man”.

  • They misinterpret Romans 5:10 claiming that we shall be saved by living by Jesus.

  • Saved by his life of course means that we are made pure because of Christ’s righteousness, not our righteousness which is non-existent.

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Their Teachings Are Not Written But Can Be Summarised As Follows

  • They are the only true Church.

  • Salvation is by works.

  • They frown on education and books, including theological works are not to be studied.

  • They are anti-denominational.

  • They are anti-clerical.

  • They claim to be Apostolic in origin.

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Witnessing To Cooneyites Follows

  • How can you be sure of heaven?

  • Show them verses such as Ephesians 2:8-9

  • Relate your personal testimony.

  • Ask them why their preachers cannot heal the sick or cast out devils according to the pattern of Matthew?

  • Remember – they are taught to never enter into a controversy or a debate with anyone.

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