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Thursday, 18 May 2017

JESUS ARMY: SEXUAL AND FINANCIAL ABUSE CLAIMS

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20).

The Northampton Chronicle 11th May 2017:

Sexual and financial abuse claims made against founder of the Jesus Army in Northampton

"The founder of the Jesus Army in Northampton, who was accused of running the organisation like a cult during his lifetime, may have abused some members “sexually and financially”, according to claims by his successor.....
Two former Jesus Army recruits have already been prosecuted for sexual offences carried out during their time at the church’s communes.
In February, “transient member” Nigel Perkins was jailed at Northampton Crown Court for five counts of sexual assault, which he inflicted on young boys in the 1980s.
A Northamptonshire Police spokesman has revealed the force will also be bringing “several” more prosecutions against former members as part of Operation Lifeboat, the investigation set up to look into historical sexual abuse within the Jesus Army.
Lead investigator DCI Ally White said allegations about Noel Stanton’s conduct were also made as far back as 2015.
DCI White said: 'In early 2015, Northamptonshire Police received two complaints about Noel Stanton’s conduct in the 1970s and 1980s. These complaints were fully investigated and in one case it included contacting an alleged victim in Australia.'
However, no victims were ultimately identified and, despite a full and proper investigation, no criminal offences were disclosed and as a result the case papers were filed.
'The force has devoted some considerable time to this overall investigation and has brought, or will be bringing, prosecutions against a number of individuals connected with the Jesus Fellowship. If any new evidence, intelligence or information comes to light we will investigate appropriately....'" {1}

Described by Wikpedia as a neocharismatic evangelical Christian movement, {2} the Jesus Army is yet another example of the bad fruit resulting from the charismatic movement of the 1960s. (Matthew 12:33). The Jesus Army was founded in 1969 by Noel Stanton (1926–2009), formerly the lay pastor of the Bugbrooke village Baptist chapel near Northampton, East Midlands. New Creation Hall and Farm in Nether Hayford, which belongs to the Jesus Army, is known in the East Midlands for its unorthodox communal way of life.

The mission of the Jesus Army is described as "essentially one to the poor, the disadvantaged and the marginalized." {2} 

Unlike most new religious movements, a large proportion of its predominantly young membership is working class and without higher education.{3}

The Jesus Army vision and practice of targeting vulnerable homeless street-people, those involved in drug or alcohol abuse, prisoners and ex-prisoners is either a wonderful God thing, or an abusers paradise. Very sadly, all too often, it has proved to be the latter. Critics of the Jesus Army accuse them of brainwashing members, exploiting and abusing the vulnerable, procuring free labour, extorting Giro benefits and intimidating those who try to leave. They were expelled from both the Evangelical Alliance and mainstream Baptist Union in 1986. The Jesus Army now has congregations in venues around the UK and has approximately 2000 members, 500 members residing in New Creation community houses. The Bugbrooke community centre has long been viewed with suspicion, not only by local residents, but also by the homeless themselves. In 2014, interviews with homeless people on the streets of London revealed that they were fearful of the Jesus Army:

"Speaking to homeless people in London, we were told to stay away from the Jesus Army, who warned us that they would lure us back to their New Age farm with the promise of food and a bed, before stealing our money and making us work for no pay. A homeless Londoner named Scott Larkin told us, 'We're old, so we understand the score. But the Jesus Army prey on the young and vulnerable, especially in the winter when the cold sets in. They offer you food, and before you know it you're on a farm in Northampton. They make you sign over your benefit money and then you're trapped in the middle of nowhere.'" {4}

These fears were not without cause. Incidents of infiltration during the 1980s and 90s by child beaters and an "absolutely relentless paedophile" were, the Jesus Army expressed "deeply regrettable". {4}

Between 1976 and 1986, three corpses were discovered in Northampton villages, all were former members of the Bugbrooke community:

"The first incident involved the frozen body of 24-year-old David Hooper who wan- dered out into a field in December 1976, partially clothed; the Northampton coroner ruled his death accidental, but why Hooper was found in a field half-dressed in the middle of winter was never explained. Stranger still was the case two years later of 19-year old Steven Orchard who, one June night, was found headless on the railway tracks behind the New Creation farm in Nether Hayford, belonging to the Jesus Army. The coroner left the Orchard case with an open verdict. Finally, in 1986, the body of Mohammed Majid, another mem- ber of the Jesus Army, was found floating in an underground water tank on the grounds of the farm." {5}

In August 2015 the Northampton Chronicle and Echo reported allegations of historic sexual and physical abuse within the Jesus Army:

"Northamptonshire Police have released a statement confirming they are investigating a number of allegations of historic sexual and physical abuse within the Jesus Army.   The Jesus Army, also known as the Jesus Fellowship, is assisting police with their enquiries relating to alleged incidents in the late 1970’s to the late 1990’s.....
Concern was raised about the Jesus Fellowship's corporal punishment practices, involving the use of a rod for juniors and a wooden spoon on infants, which Noel Stanton defended on an Anglia TV documentary in June 1989. Parents who objected to the use "the rod", complained of the pressure being applied to them to do so.  It was also said the day to day regime was exceptionally harsh and often amounted to servitude, particularly for the young children who were expected to work long hours with little sleep.
At least one member of the Jesus Army, who had a criminal record for rape and indecent assault, was convicted in 2004 for repeatedly beating two children on the hands and soles of feet with a weapon made from three bamboo canes tied together. His explanation at Court was that, "he believed the boy was evil, possessed and 'going to the devil'".
Several members have been convicted over the years of indecency, indecent assault of children, one of incest and two of making indecent photographs of children. In one case of child abuse which spanned three years, the Jesus Army member was also convicted of rape.  In Court his Counsel advised that, "He retains his strong faith and connection with the church. He will be welcomed back there when he comes out of prison".
The Jesus Army has yet to acknowledge liability for the misdemeanours of the past....." {6}

My own contact with the Jesus Army during the 1980's was very fleeting. I did not attend any of the meetings at Bugbrooke, but I did visit one of their residential houses in Stoneygate Leicester once and spent some time with some of the women residents. I decided not return or follow up their invitation to attend a meeting thank God. Over time I became acquainted with a number of former Jesus Army members, both before and after my visit to the Stoneygate residence. Without exception, from the stories they told me and their obvious difficulties, I concluded that something was very wrong inside the Jesus Army. Long term former members were very unstable and could not cope with every day life as we would define it. For instance, they did not know how to function in society and they found things like shopping and paying bills extremely challenging. Residents had no independence whatsoever, they were given no money or even small change to buy essentials. The tyranny of Stanton was such that one day he announced that cheese on toast was forbidden to the residents, he said that it was due to the carbon content! The recent article in the Northampton Chronicle reports that apart from the cheese on toast prohibition, Stanton banned many other things, including chocolate and sugar in tea, which he described as "the devils food".{1} However, apparently these prohibitions did not apply to Stanton himself! The residents suffered a miserable existence of mandatory austerity, drab clothes, no reading material (except religious publications), television, radio, cinema, newspapers, and Christmas, Easter and birthdays were not recognised. The women did servile work and were not given any responsibility, they were not allowed to wear trousers or to drive the vans, whilst the young men were identified by their combat gear. I remember watching a Jesus Army video where Stanton announced that anyone afflicted with "lust" should "give their genitals to the Lord". I thought this was hilarious at the time, but it did have serious connotations since married couples were required to sleep in separate beds. Obligatory celibacy was imposed upon single members with a policy of strict sexual segregation.* Stanton's regime of sexual repression was highly questionable, as was his habit of surrounding himself with "strong young brothers" on stage! {7} Marriages that did take place were supervised by the eldership and approved by Stanton personally. Stanton was an autocrat and unaccountable. One young man explained that they were free to leave Bugbrooke, but with no money, isolated and alone, with no outside contact from friends or family and miles from anywhere, leaving was a challenging option for all but the most determined escapee. Some of the testimonies I heard put me in mind of the extreme abuses of Jim Jones in Jonestown, Guyana, and also David Koresh in Waco, perhaps on a lesser level, but it is all a matter of degree. I was deeply troubled that this man had such a cultish influence over Jesus Army residents and that these abuses were happening so close to my own home in Leicester. Stanton brought the truth into disrepute, and the damaging repercussions for the witness of Gospel of Jesus Christ was and is a deeply troubling to me. (2 Peter 2:2; Romans 2:24).

The New Testament model was one of equality. Christians would sell their material possessions and give money to the poor (not take money from them), that is, principally, the poor amongst themselves. Christians in the early church had all things in common, the aim was to lift believers out of poverty, freeing them from excessive hardship. This model is something that Stanton completely failed to achieve in my view. The stories I heard demonstrated quite the reverse, the poor remained poor, suffering both physically and spiritually at the hands of Stanton's oppressive regime. Is it surprising that the homeless are fearful and are reticent to accept Bugbrooke's "Christian hospitality"?

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).

And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. (Acts 2:44-45).

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. (Acts 4:34).

For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15).

Honor widows who are truly widows. (1 Timothy 5:3).

And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47).

The news of “serious allegations” against Stanton and the call for a public enquiry leaves me hopeful that his deeply "flawed character" {1} will finally be exposed. Confusingly however, a Northamptonshire Police spokesman said recently that the force had not received any claims against Mr Stanton since early 2015.{8}

The Jesus Army was Northamptonshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds' second favourite cult in 2014, his most favourite cult being Trinity Life Church in Leicester!{9} Simmonds was PCC between 2012 to 2016. He has since been charged with breaching the Data Protection Act 1998.


*Whilst I concur with the scriptural principle of celibacy for Christian singles, the alternative being the sin of fornication (1 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 5:19 etc.) I do not endorse the methods of the Jesus Army.

I am compiling a list of testimonies from people who have had either direct or indirect experiences with the Jesus Army. Please feel free to add any information to the comments on this post, anonymously if you wish. Alternatively please contact me via Messenger on FB.

{1} http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/exclusive-sexual-and-financial-abuse-claims-made-against-founder-of-the-jesus-army-in-northampton-1-7956742
{2} https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Army
{3} http://jesus.org.uk/what-others-say/academic-work/jesus-army
{4} https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/the-jesus-army-will-feed-you-because-the-government-wont
{5} http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/3rd-august-1991/19/jesus-lives-in-bugbrooke)
{7} http://ja-1984.blogspot.co.uk/2007/10/shaking-noels-hand.html
{8}http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/jesus-army-inquiry-northamptonshire-review-board-is-not-ruling-out-probe-at-a-later-date-1-7957509
{9}  http://jesus.org.uk/blog/interviews/talking-to-adam-simmonds

Further Reading:
Jesus Army sex offender sentenced for string of indecent acts directed at children in Northamptonshire.http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/jesus-army-sex-offender-sentenced-for-string-of-indecent-acts-directed-at-children-in-northamptonshire-1-7888780

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

We had two ex Jesus Army members attend the church I was a member of several years ago. Both unable to cope with ordinary life and suffering some kind of mental trauma, they were literally starving,homeless and in a bad place. They were offered a great deal of help and for a little while seemed to be improving and becoming more able to cope. However it wasn't long before they regressed back to their previous problems and disappeared of the scene, ultimately no one knew what had happened to them. I didn't know the movement was so bad.

Wynkin de Worde said...

They did/do have some educated members such as doctors. In the seventies and eighties to my personal knowledge they had a member in a senior position at the DHS (Department of Health and Social Security) in Northampton. The very office that overlooked payments to Jesus Army members, this man made sure every last penny was extracted from the DHSS. It was in the thousands per week. I thought this highly dubious to say the least, especially as many of those claiming worked on the farm. In the local general auction you would find meagre boxes of belongings being sold, everything had to be sold on entering the Jesus Army. It was sad seeing photograph albums etc being sold for peanuts. In the nineties, it must have been more difficult to claim or more profitable to send Jesus Army members out to work. I had a seventeen year old former drug addict come to work for me. I tried to explain to him that he was on the wrong path, swapping one addiction for another but his eyes were glazed over. Tea and coffee were free to make at my company, we couldn't understand where all the sugar was going.... more than a bag a day was disappearing. We found he was filling his entire cup with sugar and adding water, turned out he was on a 40 day fast before being baptised. I again tried to give him some advice, that was too much for the brain-washed kid and he never came back.

Wynkin de Worde said...

It was also well known in the area that Stanton lived separately in a luxurious house with a hand picked coterie 0f young men. I once responded to a classified advert for a car and found myself at New Creation Farm to buy it. It was bizarre they were all spaced out and I was invited in - wasn't sure I'd get out! A man took me to an office and I paid and asked for the log book, 'Oh yes' he says and picks up a box of lots of log books and goes through them to find the right one. In the nineties in a boom I couldn't find a builing company to do work on my newly bought grade 2 listed house. I thought I know who won't be busy - SKAINO the Jesus Army building company. So I got them to quote for rewiring, central heating etc. A halfwit came out to price the job up and they gave me a quotation. The price was pretty low. I wrote a letter of acceptance of the quotation. They sent men over, sometimes lots. I would go over and check what was going on. I remember the main builder a big guy with a bushy beard. At break times and lunch he would pull out his big book (fairly obviously a bible) and sit and OO and AH as he read it and then shoot a glance at me. He obviously wanted me too ask what he was reading and to talk about it - I just ignored his charade. After some weeks he asked me directly if I had ever read the bible. I said yes 3 or 4 times from cover to cover and that it was highly contradictive and there were far more interesting books to read. Years later the 17 year old Jesus Army lad that came to work for me did exactly the same thing pulling his bible out to read, I had pre-warned my other employees and they studiously ignored him. The very first time I met one of the cult was when I was a long haired 17 year old and a very pretty blonde rushed up to me and hugged me telling me she loved me! I said we haven't even been introduced and you cannot possibly love me at short notice. Luckily I had already read about love bombing... Feel free to use whatever you want.

Treena Gisborn said...

Thank you very much for this W it sheds some more light on a very dark subject. I am sorry that you have been put off the Bible. God bless you.

colin said...

The 'Jesus Army'so-called is nothing but a cult.

Indeed Treena, I share your thoughts. It is so VERY, very sad that W has "been put off the Bible" as you say. What is more, I certainly agree with him that the Bible CAN 'appear' "highly contradictive" (I think he means contradictory?). It is because God's word is written warts and all that gives it the UTMOST credibility. Let me put it this way; if the Bible was seamless and 'perfect' in every which way, wouldn't we all think that it had been doctored? that man had his hand in it and ironed out all the apparent "contradictive" statements to make it 'easier' for all and sundry to understand, and 'believe'? Most of these 'apparent contradictions' I have subsequently learnt are NOT contradictions at all; is it for nothing that Paul said "STUDY to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" 2 Timothy 2.15?
God bless.


Treena Gisborn said...

Many are being put off Christianity because of counterfeit doctrines -- the Jesus Army, the pre-trib rapture fiasco, Trinity Life Church Leicester, Hillsong and on and on.. There is so much apostasy out there that it would be very easy to write off the Bible completely. It is worth noting though that so many counterfeits do prove the real thing -- why would the enemy counterfeit so prolifically if the gospel were not true... and didn't Jesus himself warn us that this would happen? (Matthew 24:24). Woe to the false teachers!!! ..gloom of utter darkness has been reserved for them (2 Peter 2:17). God bless.

colin said...

Truly we are in days of great apostasy. Our local Free Church of Scotland minister the Rev Dr Iain D Campbell who lived just down the road from me, has brought great reproach upon the Name of Christ and His Church.
I don't know whether or not you have heard of the scandal? it was plastered all over the national news and tabloids etc, but absolutely NO mention at all of it in our local press. He had several extra-marital affairs over a number of years, and apparently a child out of wedlock. He committed suicide last January when his wife found out. My next door neighbour taught him as a lad in school and thought the world of him. Folk up here are still dumbfounded about the whole sordid affair. He was the big man up here, built up a reputation in Scotland and the Western Isles as a leading churchman. He was a contributor to R.C.Sproul's Ligonier Ministries (a & post-millennial-a BIG no!), and wrote several books, I have one called "Heroes and Heretics"! it is a signed copy-my neighbour gave it to me.

Talk about "presuming on election"? His last sermon was about "my final assurance"! (a few days prior to his suicide).
I met him a few times, charming man (obviously!), but WHAT does his wretched testimony do to the waverers, unbelievers and youth of the island?
Matthew 18.6-8. Absolute tragedy, I still can't believe it, but then the Scriptures warn of such things as you say.
God bless.

Treena Gisborn said...

I have heard nothing about this Colin. Many are outwardly one thing, but in reality it is a very different story. When these "men of God" fall they often cause others to stumble.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1).


For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7).

God bless

Rina Jongsma said...

I have written my experience of the Jesus Army down:
https://sites.google.com/site/thehorrorofthejesusarmy/