January 29, 2005

 

PRESERVING OUR HERITAGE

An Open Letter To My Brethren, From Alan Hemenway.


I am a follower of Maurice Johnson, only as he was a follower of Christ; I am not a man follower.

In studying his ministry encompassing his life, sermons, and writings, I am amazed by his truly spiritual dynamic as a servant of Christ. He magnified Christ; he did not magnify himself. Also, I want to think it was divine providence that the descendents of Lyman H. Johnson (the other Johnson family) through B.D. Johnson, had met Bro. Maurice and shared many truths in doctrine that are neglected by virtually all religious sects today.

John 16:13 "Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth:"

I am interested in the preservation of the heritage they have left us. As I read the material and listen to a hundred MMJ tapes, I am amazed at the power of the Holy Spirit that is obviously behind the ministry of MMJ. My personal devotion to our spiritual heritage, based in it's inherent truth (not the works and traditions of men) is attested to by my having published almost 1000 pages of MMJ materials on the Internet at MauriceJohnsonArchives.Com, that were transcribed by Randy Gilbert . The web site also includes material by MMJ's late associates, as well as the collection of quotations assembled by Jack Langford called "The Sin of Sectarianism". It seems like MMJ's legacy should go on BibleTruths.Org but someone needed to preserve this legacy, which seemed rather neglected. (MauriceJohnsonArchives will be open domain and never be identified or linked to any personalities.)

I Cor 2:12-16 "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ."

I have often heard that Bro. Maurice never claimed to be anything special nor the assembly special. He simply tried to walk consistently with what we professed to see and believe from the scripture. He used to say, "there is only one big man in Godís program - Jesus Christ." When sought for advice he would say, "Iím not God, Iím not Moses, I canít tell you what to do. I can only give you Godís word." He absolutely never at all in his entire ministry told anybody that he was over them in the Lord or that they had to be subject to him or his judgements, by using Hebrews 13:7 or :17 on them. He also said, "I am not the head of anything but my family, and I am not the head that I should be."

I have heard it said that during MMJ, it used to be that we were satisfied with Christ's sufficiency as fellow members in the Body of Christ, and happy to recognize Jesus Christ as our Lord and Head. He said, "The blood of Christ unites us, The Word of God delights us, The Holy Spirit invites us, Come with us." There wasn't any other criteria for fellowship. Obedience to the "leadership" was never an issue. The older men had respect because they earned it. They never demanded obedience.

1 JOHN 2:20 "But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him"

MMJ is on record to have marked very few people: Homer Rule, Ernie Hawk, John Owen, Richard Bailey, Earl Grove, Larry Davis, and Derwood Lane. Most were people who exhibited self importance and came up with doctrines that were their platform for greatness. They exhibited a reckless attitude and became hostile when publicly challenged and did not receive recognition or acceptance, and generally made fools of themselves. [Derwood Lane was reported to the authorities for incest.] They were publicly rebuked and it was recommended that they be avoided and prayed for, hoping that they would see the error of their way and allow the Lord to humble them. None of them were marked because they withstood or made accusations against Maurice Johnson, nor marked on his account.

II Tim 3:16-17 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; That the man of God may be perfect throughly furnished unto all good works."

I am fearful that succeeding generations will lose our heritage which is based in the truths of doctrine, faith, and practice that the Lord has providentially handed us through the Johnsons and others, who have faithfully handled God's Word. I am also fearful of the seeming inevitability that ALL religious movements eventually become sectarian. I have reason to believe that this is the greatest vulnerability among us. In recent decades, preaching has been rarely doctrinal and I see a lack in preserving the ancient landmarks. The character of our fellowship has changed in the past 30 years. The preaching is more sociological, psychological, and marketing & motivation, focusing our eyes on our flesh rather than on the Lord Jesus Christ as Maurice Johnson, Wilbur Johnson, and Ed Stevens did.

About 5 years ago I was pressed to answer the question as to what were the material points of the division that took place in our assemblies about 19 years ago. I had sat through all the men's meetings and listened carefully but I couldn't put my finger on the material points of each of the markings. I went back to my tapes of those men's meetings and listened to them all, in search of the material points, and I still couldn't put my finger on the material points. In each case, the talk and the letters of marking stated that brethren were overtaken with pride, caught up in the world, causing division and offenses, and that their souls would be prayed for. Seldom was the specific transgression spelled out. To prove all things for myself, as Bro. Maurice, Bro. Wilbur, and Bro. Ed would have me to do, I undertook to find out what the markings were all about.

The majority of brethren reading this should understand the grief and despair in their hearts over the separation of loved ones through the markings. What were the egregious and mortal sins of the marked brethren to cause the assemblies to be split in half with hundreds of brethren not being able to have contact with their parents, children, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and in-laws? The answer is in the chain of events from ONE marking in Tulare. Ron Blain was missing meetings one summer when he was spending all his spare time after work and on weekends building his house. He was called into question about not attending meetings. The leadership did not like his response. He had questions about various things. They resented his questions. So they marked him! Was Ron Blain's response/offense bad enough to justify marking? Ten families in Tulare were marked because they questioned the propriety of the overlordship in marking someone for anything less than what I might call a mortal sin. Supposedly, the leadership concluded that he had to be marked so that others wouldn't leave. Their ineptitude backfired on them and the situation was out of control. They caused the carnage of hundreds! None of the markings were based on I Cor 5:11, Romans 16:17-18, or II Thess. 3:6. How would Bro. Maurice, Bro. Wilbur, or Bro. Ed have handled this and entreated Ron?

Bill Blain was one of the ten families marked. His marking letter says that he was marked for going to a denominational church. He didn't visit a denominational church until after he was marked but the marking letter came out much later and that's an excuse they found to mark him. Many years earlier, Robert Grove had a falling out in the employ of Bill Blain and quit because he was miffed over not having the services of Bill's personal secretary. You would find the whole story very interesting. On Robert's departure, he says, "Every dog has his day." Motive? It sounded like he wanted to get even with Bill someday, attested to by a subsequent strained relationship.

Loren Johnson asked Jim Langford for his understanding of Romans 16:17 in late October 1985. In a discussion with John Morey about that time, Jim promised to give John a copy when it was done. Four pages of outline notes were sent to both men on about Nov. 3rd. Loren gave copies to Kevin Grant and Bill Meeker. Bill gave his copy (without reading it!) to Robert Grove, who was in CA at the time with Bob Harrison. Robert (without having read the study!) confronted Jim at a wedding in Atascadero to verify that he had written it. Jim said he wrote it and Robert accused him of sending it out without approval of leadership. John Morey responded to the study in a letter dated November 28, 1985. Jim was not able to answer John's letter before he was "marked" at the December 1985 camp. At camp, Jim was accused of "heresy" for the study on Romans 16. He was told it was like "pouring gasoline on a wildfire!" Actually, Jim only sent copies to 4 or 5 people. He was also marked for refusing to stand with the Tulare markings. How would Bro. Maurice, Bro. Wilbur, or Bro. Ed have handled this?

There was another underlying prejudice against Jim Langford to silence him. Because he was said to be not of "like mind" with some of the SLO men on certain things, they developed a wariness toward him over the years that grew to intolerance. They became extremely suspicious of him, conjuring up many slanderous tales that proved to be false in subsequent men's meetings with him. It was not until the Romans 16 issue that they thought they found something heretical enough to justify marking him.

At this point, ALL the subsequent markings happened because of one thing: The response of many to the lack of justification for the leadership going to the hasty extreme of the markings in Tulare and of marking Jim Langford. Jim Johnson was marked for not standing in the marking of Jim Langford. I've heard that there was an undercurrent against Jim Johnson also. He was asked to lead singing in Sacramento and then was accused of being proud and trying to take over. Jim swears that he didn't have any intention of apostolic succession to take up after his father left, which he was accused of.

The summary execution of unjust markings perhaps has one of it's best examples in the marking of Bill Langston. Jack Langford went through great deliberation in going to him and accusing him of contact with Richard Bailey. Bill was taken aback, but he is not the type of guy who is easily rattled, so he listened to see how far Jack would go with this. Jack went up one side of him and down the other with all kinds of characterizations. In the end, Bill told Jack that he never had any kind of contact whatsoever with Richard Bailey. Jack angrily marked him anyway.

It remains an enigma that Jack was permitted to take the chief role as prosecutor in the California Inquisition of 1985-1986 when his own family was in a state of chaos. He couldn't rule his own home but was allowed to rule the body of Christ! The devastation that resulted is evidence that leadership was grossly inept at that time. That Jack was disqualified at that time "for failures in the headship of his home" is attested to by Robert Grove on page 2 of the book on the subject of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage. There he states that "Jack has been and is disqualified from functioning as a minister... Jack seemed to come to the recognition of this fact sooner than his brethren. We first became aware of increasingly serious problems in his family in 1980." If Jack acted "in an aggressive and public way" in regard to the marriage and divorce issue, as Robert states, what was he doing in 1985-1986?

I have no problem with anyone incorporating to handle their personal business. The Groves have incorporated the estate, or cash flow, of our assemblies. This goes well beyond their incorporating their personal estates because it announces to the world an incorporated man-made ministry. Robert justifies this action solely on the basis that the action is lawful, ethical, and prudent, that he is not forming an organized church, because a church has membership. They have denominated themselves into ministries with memberships of threes; three officers. Under Caesar, everything that organized religion does is lawful and ethical. It would not be prudent by MMJ's counsel. Caesar did not force this upon us. "Robert A. Grove Ministries, Inc." is a man-made "Ministries", with three members, which gets it's authority from Caesar. The transgression is no different than "Billy Graham Ministries, Inc." We have traditionally taken position against man-made religious organizations, memberships or not. The incorporated ministers legally own a recognized corpus directly associated with the cash flow of the assemblies. John Morey tells me it was done so that contributions could be tax deductible. MMJ would say that, for the sake of testimony, it would be better to give to the ministers without claiming tax deduction, and the ministers paying income tax if necessary, instead of compromising for filthy lucre. John Morey told me that he stated he was prepared to do this but the "men" were against it. If Bro. Maurice, Bro. Wilbur, and Bro. Ed were still around, the Groves would not have gotten away with incorporating. They would have been called sectarian and heretics.

Doctrine and practice has evolved over the past 30 years or so. It is not the same assembly that I walked into 30+ years ago. Christ centered preaching used to be of Biblical exposition. The gospel of Grace had us more tolerant of one another. The markings have made us more fearful of one another and especially of the leadership. If you have the slightest question about current practices and anything that might point out leadershipís departure from the standards of long ago, the fear of separation from loved ones through marking is the control factor that keeps you in line. Today's leadership is involved in excessively controlling many aspects of people's lives. The leadership decides for everyone as to what they will believe and what they will do. This is contrary to the teachings of Bro. Maurice, Bro. Wilbur, and Bro. Ed. Leadership is decided and controlled by one man. Robert has established his own spiritual elitism. It is a variation of Roman Catholicism and priestcraft.

Many years ago Robert was witnessed with a copy of Hitlerís Mein Kempf in his office and asked about it. Robert said that he admired Hitler for his ability to control people. Since MMJ left, most of the ministers have fallen because the ministers made themselves vulnerable in their weaknesses and therefore accountable -- not any more; they've devised ways of self-preservation by tough discipline.

In the world, and in carnal church politics, when a strong leader leaves the scene, the shrewd and ambitious usually maneuver to try to take over. When establishing a new order, a clamping down of control and "orderly following" is an absolute must. According to Machiavelli, in "The Prince", when the old families are overthrown, they don't forget, and the day will come that they will retake their control and return to the ancient landmarks, if they live long enough. To take control of the old guard, you first have to convince them you are working for them, then they are betrayed. I think it has already happened and the old guard is about to die off.

Years ago, Robert Grove boasted that he had served the saints in the kitchen and now he was going to lead them. To fulfill his ambitions, he had to leave California and go to someplace like Virginia because, as he said, "People in California have long memories.", meaning that he did not have a good reputation with the old guard in California. He has since installed a leadership who he can keep under his control. The ministers don't do anything without checking with Robert. He is functioning as an arch-bishop. He can easily get rid of anybody. Someone once made a facetious remark to him about being the Pope, and he was quoted as answering, "I am the Pope." He also claimed, in the presence of Gordy, Jack, Dave, Dwight, & others, "This is the Supreme Court, you have no where else to appeal."

Today the surviving contemporaries of Bro. Maurice, Bro. Wilbur, and Bro. Ed, who may still be in the assemblies, have been rendered impotent to hold the Groves to account. Through Robert's cunning and craftiness he has hijacked the assemblies, starting in Virginia, installing his dynasty through nepotism and with those who he can control. The degree of control he has over his appointees and his fearful subjects, according to common descriptions of cults, now qualify him as a cult leader.

Robert's sex book, "To the Bride and Groom", says that anything goes. Not even kinky sex is taboo. Bro. Maurice, Bro. Wilbur, and Bro. Ed would have not allowed Robert to get away with this.

A recent report on the Texas assembly: "I'm really appalled by the reports of the horrible state of things in Texas. Tom Collins and Jeff Grove are controlling the men in that group by usurping their headship. Almost without exception the men have become passive robots. The women address all their concerns and questions directly to those two and Robert Grove. Sexual matters are taught openly and explicitly to the assembly with children present. Fear rules! The biting, devouring and consuming is rampant."

When husbands get marked, the leadership encourages wives to leave their husbands. Bro. Maurice and Bro. Wilbur would never have counseled the breakup of families, not even for adultery. They would have dealt tenderly and scripturally for the sanctity of family and counseled for forgiveness, rather than make adulterers and adulteresses of both spouses through the recommendation of divorce from those who even have repented of adultery, especially which was committed many years earlier.

Bro. Maurice would never have approved of the production such material as "Orderly Following". It is so humanistic and devoid of scriptural premise that it is merely marketing and motivation material. Anybody who has to get in your face and tells you that he is a leader, is most certainly not a leader. Anthropologists would call the structure of our assemblies tribal. Every chief needs a witchdoctor to promote the chief and keep the natives in submission; a witchdoctor wrote "Orderly Following".

We seem to emphasize the first part of Hebrews 13:17 and neglect the later. "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they must give an account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." It is a licentious abuse of scripture in saying we are safe in following despots, right or wrong. Robert would want you to forget MMJ, much less become familiar with MauriceJohnsonArchives.com because MMJ's material would put Robert out of business. Robert and his promoters need to be put on trial to "give an account".

I am still idealistic in the idea that, "There should be no division among you." There is no excuse for Christians not being able to get together to resolve problems decently and in order. The World's court systems are orderly and typically everyone has their day in court. Christians should have a greater largess than the World and should take seriously ALL the scriptures regarding our conduct with one another. I have seen just the opposite. The manner of counsel is to gang up on someone and to brow beat them until they submit. This is not Godís order. I Cor 14:40 The carnage is worse than what you see in the denominations. There comes a point where the situation looks hopeless and nothing short of the hand of God can change things. At some point you "come out from among them and be ye separate." It's tragic that members of the Lord's church don't realize that they are stuck in a cult. Cults donít represent the Church which is Christ's Body, neither Robert A. Grove Ministries, Inc.

Robert, people want out! At the time of the markings, the patriarch of a large family said that he would have left if he could have gotten his whole clan out. Today, there are about a hundred of that clan in there. A scant few families were able to get out clean with their families. (I think of Allan and Burnell.) With a good conscience toward God, many brethren do not fear the concept of being marked but they fear separation from loved ones. Others fear you because they think you are their mediator between God and Man; that if they are marked here, they will be marked in God's eyes.

Learning from history and political science, the convictions of Hitler and Stalin were that they had a just cause and were doing righteousness. Compare the United States and the old Soviet Union. People of the World flocked to the United States because of Grace and freedom. People wanted to get out of the Soviet Union because of authoritarian law over their lives. The degree of control you will have to maintain to stay in power will become more and more apparent. Today the tide is in the direction of you losing more and more of your subjects, if not physically, certainly in faint hearts.

You are feared! Your manipulation is so transparent that I can imagine what you will say when you do damage control in response to this letter. Folks will continue to be afraid to question anything for fear of being marked! You will succeed for a season, but in the long run you will not succeed. You have destroyed everything that Bro. Maurice, Bro. Wilbur, and Bro. Ed have done to bless our lives with the gospel of the Grace of God. That is great evil before God and I am marking you to be avoided for the destruction of Christian lives, Christian homes, and the Church which is Christ's body.

Robert, the right thing would be for you to repent, lay aside your priestcraft, and allow the assemblies to go back to local oversight by the older brethren, as it used to be, and according to Timothy and Titus. The apostles are gone and there are no arch-bishops in the Lord's church today. There is no "office of" a bishop nor "office of" a deacon in the original Greek text. The King James translators added the word "office" because it was their prejudicial view in their ecclesiastical and sectarian order in the High Church at that time.

I recall that some time after you went to Virginia you were asked if you were a bishop and your response was that you were a minister-at-large. I've figured out why you preferred it that way. You avoided the responsibility and the accountability to a local assembly as a bishop, which is the post-apostolic New Testament limit of temporal church oversight. You've resorted to shrewd manipulation, which is abuse of the brethren. We have seen your life. You have become more transparent than you think. Although we can empathize with your abusive upbringing, you have made hundreds of others your victims of abuse. How can you live with yourself, with all your carnage? You certainly didn't qualify for any ministry according to Timothy and Titus. The situation with these damaged assemblies looks hopeless. As a Christian, I must still have hope and pray for you. At this stage, it would have to be the mighty hand of the Lord that disciplines you. Unity can be restored by lifting the markings.

I am just an observer.  I was neither born into nor married into any of the prominent families. I have no ax to grind because of any personal misfortunes in the group. I have been distanced from regular fellowship for 6+ years by my relocation and it has allowed me to look back and take an objective look, and by reading the multitude of witnesses at FactNet.Com . The incorporating of the ministries is the final insult to the Body of Christ by which I have to not touch the unclean thing.

I was moved by this post on FactNet on January 14th, by Betty Dunton. "I think most of us will always carry some scars, but I do believe that it is possible to heal from any bitterness we have felt, although it takes some time. When you think about these men standing before the Lord in judgment and realize that they will have to face their destructive and divisive behavior, it brings out pity and sorrow for these men."

I have more to gain in being delivered from a cult. I will be slandered and marked to be avoided for writing this letter. Robert Grove and his lieutenants are marked before God for destroying Christian lives, Christian homes, and the Church which is Christ's body. My wife stands with me. We'll do well before the judgment seat of Christ for upholding Maurice Johnson, Wilbur Johnson, Ed Stevens, and those who have been wronged; Our conscience is a lot better for standing up for what's right.

[Lord, give us ministers of good report who have been truly prepared and ordained by you.]

Sincerely, In Christ,

 

           Alan Hemenway                       

Copies of this letter can be found at my web site www.ChurchGrowth.CC/marking.htm

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