Who? Noel Stanton (1926-2009) UK Baptist lay-preacher at Bugbrooke chapel, Northamptonshire, UK.
What did he do? In 1969 he founded the neoCharismatic Jesus Army.
Who? The Jesus Army practised street evangelism, targeting the poor and the marginalised. They had many young members and set up Jesus Centres which gave out food and advice to those they tried to convert. They also set up communal residences, intentional communities, where people shared their belongings. Up to 3500 members lived in 24 such houses in 2007 in the UK.
Influences: – The Jesus People Movement in the US,
– Arthur Wallis’ book ‘In the day of thy power’,
– The British New Church Movement,
– The charismatic movement of the late 1960’s.
Life-style: celibacy was encouraged, the body was considered indecent, families were split up and siblings sent to different homes from each other, children were brought up by those adults whom the elders considered most suitable.
Members were expected to sell their houses and other property and give the proceeds over to the church, clothing – including underwear – was shared.
Children had no possessions, they were beaten for the slightest transgression and exorcised for more serious ‘sins’. Birthdays were replaced by ‘honouring days.’
Each day was given over to work and worship, with Stanton’s firebrand sermons on sins of the flesh going on for up to 3 hours. One of his best known war cries was “Give your genitals to Jesus!” TV and papers were banned. Contact with ‘worldlings’ (outsiders) was discouraged. A complete totalitarian regime was set up with no one allowed to dissent. The Christian side was a cover for a cult.
Women had to keep their ears covered and ankle-length dresses had to be worn. Women and girls were supposed to serve the elders and other male members of the community. As one abused woman put it later:
“I grew up assuming there was something wrong with me, I could never attain redemption because I was born of Eve, and I cast sin into the world by making Adam eat the apple from the tree of life.
“Where can you go from such a negative starting point?”
Abuse: sexual, physical, financial and emotional abuse was rife, according to survivors. The Baptist Union expelled this sub-church of theirs in 1986. As the May 2019 BBC report by reporter Jon Iremonger put it “into this chicken coop were introduced some very bad foxes.” Members have accused Stanton (now dead) and several elders of historical sex abuse going back to the 1970s. Reports from the Northamptonshire Police are staggering. There have been hundreds of complaints, and 6 men have been sentence to date with more cases in the pipeline.
What can be learned? Such organisations as the Jesus Army are chosen by predators who know they can get away with the abuse of children. Churches such as this with one charismatic leader need to be properly managed and held accountable. There are still many other such religious organisations where children are at risk today in the UK. They need to be inspected or even closed down until such time as they can be investigated fully. Compensation is now being paid out by the residual organisation left in the ashes of the Jesus Army criminals. They still have over £50 million of assets, every penny of which should go to help their victims.
Sources: Wikipedia and other internet sources, especially BBC and local newspapers on line.