C H R I S T A D E L P H I A N R E S E A R C H
Out of Fellowship Christadelphian Support Guide
Although this guide has been written for former Christadelphians, the issues considered are not by any means limited to them. Leaving a religious community is well recognised as being a difficult process and this is true whether leaving is voluntary or not. With the advent of the internet the issues being considered are becoming far more well recognised and it can be noted that moving forward is a particular difficulty for ex members from certain religious groups. Many of these are frequently labelled as “cults,” although there are difficulties defining what a cult actually is. Their general characteristics are that they are “high commitment” churches, are often exclusive in their demands on members, and promote exclusive mindsets. These act as real or mental barriers to those outside the group and often result in former members being left poorly equipped to function easily outside the group. This can even be true for the children of members who decide after being brought up in the movement to not join.
A similar group which is of particular interest is the Jehovah’s Witnesses which theologically has strong similarities as well as shared history to the Christadelphians, but promotes the same kinds of mindset and beliefs towards outsiders. It is more hierarchical than the Christadelphians and is probably more prominent because it has both a more rigorous practice of shunning former members and also far more members. Another group worth noting is the former Worldwide Church of God. It again historically had many similarities of approach and doctrine. Huge numbers left because of total reversals in doctrines and the absolute turmoil that created. The difficulties however are general to a far larger group of churches than these – from former Mormons, Scientologists and even many churches with orthodox Christian beliefs.
This guide is a basic attempt to explore the difficulties former Christadelphians face, both psychological and practical, in order to help those who do so. It may be of value to those considering joining them as well as having some relevance to those who are considering leaving. It could also clarify for some children of Christadelphian why they find certain areas of life difficult too. They may not have made the connection with their ability to operate in the wider world and their upbringing. In many cases even former members have taken years to recognise certain associations and have only learnt after counselling and depression. It may also explain why certain Christadelphians struggle with issues such as depression. It should be noted this guide deals with complex issues about how we learn, how our thinking affects us, how it works and therefore will need some future updates.
Objectives of this Guide
The objectives of this guide are the following:
- to better understand where those who leave are coming from and the emotions and thoughts they have experienced.
- for research purposes.
- as a basis for existing Christadelphians to better understand those who leave them.
- as a guide for those who find themselves in similar situations.
It is needed because:
- there is a lack of understanding of the difficulties people face.
- there is little easily available help or experience out there in navigating ways forward.
It’s intention is:
- to facilitate individual exploration of the issues.
- to recognise every person and situation is unique.
- not to patronise and tell anyone what to do or what to think.
- share experiences which may help.
This is currently a framework and any useful suggestions, help and advice are welcome.
Reasons Why People are Out of Fellowship
Everyone’s experience is of value, but different both in reasons why they leave and how they come to leave. Reasons of how they leave can be:
- resignation through a desire to leave.
- resignation under a feeling of emotional pressure or under actual recommendation to resign.
- simply stopping attending.
Reasons why people this happens can relate to:
- behaviour mutually acknowledged as sinful.
- personal situations such as sexual abuse, marriage breakdown which haven’t been resolved satisfactory to one or all parties involved.
- change of beliefs mutually regarded as not workable.
- questioning the status quo or practices not accepted or leading to unviable situations.
- questioning beliefs not accepted or leading to unviable situations.
- personality issues such as control issues, Asperger’s Syndrome or mental illness.
- depression or attendance/membership not meeting emotional or spiritual needs.
Reasons Why it Can be Difficult to Move Forward
It is acknowledged that moving forward after leaving ones church or religion is difficult and the more different that group is to mainstream society or other churches, and the more high demand it is, the harder moving forward can be. However there are personal elements as well as elements which are related to this process and worth exploring:
Issues Related to the Christadelphians:
- very definitely a mentally high commitment group which promotes separation from the rest of society.
- creates a mindset very different from mainstream society (worth exploring the exact reasons).
- creates a distrust of other churches and mental barriers to reconsidering them.
- strong emphasis created to separate both from other churches and friendship with people in the world.
- difficult to rework worldview to fit in anywhere else.
Issues Related to Ourselves:
- how devout and involved we were as Christadelphians.
- how much our family were and still are connected.
- our personality and how easily we form friendships and trust.
- how easily we change established beliefs.
- our status as single or married folk.
- what involvement we have in other areas of life such as interests, groups, childcare groups, etc.
- how much support and friendship we retain with supportive Christadelphians.
Issues that Will Need to be Faced
These tend to be interconnected, but there are many practical, emotional and spiritual elements which will need resolving.
- there may be a big space left in your life which was filled with various church activities.
- where do you now go?
- where do your children go?
- how do you use this space?
- free to explore other options and other perspectives.
- gaps may not be filled.
- gaps may be filled with negative stuff.
- lack of friendship, supports and people who will give an understanding ear.
- need to explain to those outside the community.
- altered relationships with family, friends or spouse.
- may develop in faith and relationship with God.
- learn to be less affected by the status quo and peer pressure.
- develop greater empathy and understanding for others in vulnerable situations.
- could have problems with depression or suicidal thoughts.
- may develop addictive problems.
- may develop friendships which aren’t helpful or constructive.
- struggle with isolation.
- need to re-evaluate your worldview and beliefs.
- need to reconsider what your faith is based on.
- need to reconsider whether you return to the Christadelphians.
- need to consider if you don’t whether you attend another church or how else you fulfil your spiritual needs.
- may learn to own your own faith to a greater degree.
- are able to experience greater freedom in Christ.
- may find ways and learn lessons of value to the Christian community and yourself.
- may be in a position to share the lessons you have learnt at some stage in the future.
- most people find this incredibly tough and difficult.
- it may be a long process spanning years and you won’t find it easy to find a place where you feel totally comfortable.
- you may lose faith altogether, you may even regard and find this to be a benefit.
Some General Advice
- don’t beat yourself up. Realise that this isn’t easy and it will take time and whilst your experience is individual to you, the emotions involved have been encountered by others and the varying aspects are not unique to you.
- the Christadelphian community will tend to justify its stance and will tend to blame you for all your difficulties in moving forward. Some of this may or may not be true, but you will come under more pressure for your failures than would typically be the case should you still be a member.
- you will fail personally in many respects and this may be used against you. This is because you are having to deal with emotional, practical and spiritual issues at the same time and you are not perfect, and like all humans you want to avoid pain and sometimes we do that in the wrong way.
- don’t jump for final solutions quickly. Explore, take your time, value your freedom. Committing to another church too quickly could be a mistake. Coming to settled conclusions too quickly could be a mistake. You are in God’s hand, accept he understands that, you can’t force progress before you are in a position to understand.
- learn to accept and deal with pain and explore your thoughts and emotions. If you do you will come out of this immeasurably stronger and more able to help others.
- repentance may also be needed sometimes to work through certain issues, recognise and accept God’s grace when you fail as we all do.
Help and Resources
Use all the help and resources you can, these may come from many different sources such as:
- other churches and Christians will sometimes be supportive, although this could be a source of pressure to accept another set of doctrines.
- online support groups.
- read books from other people who have similar experiences, sometimes from groups even more difficult to leave.
You could consider:
- writing your thoughts out to better understand and explore them.
- establishing a blog or website, especially if you are a conscientious objector and want to promote reform.
- taking a break. You don’t have to attend church or be religious all the time to show God is working in your life or for him to do so even if that is what you have been told or led to believe. Many people God used in the Bible had to spend periods in the wilderness.
VIEW THE MIND MAP
PAGE VISITS FROM 16/09/13
THE TRINITY HURDLE
NOVEL: HOLY BIBLE
You lay a great stress upon facts throughout your letters, and are incessant in your demand that I should attend to them. This is good; but facts have to be rightly put together, and then you must have all the facts. I do not think you put the facts rightly together, and you leave out some, I am sure.
(Robert Roberts, a Christadelphian Pioneer, quoted
by Ruth McHaffie in Brethren Indeed)
The Spirit of liberty, based upon the law of faith, is the Spirit of Christ; and this spirit all the Sons of God are privileged to possess, and having it, to breathe. I claim the right of exercising this privilege, as well as my contemporaries; and I require of them that they should do to me as once they loudly required others to do to them…
(written by John Thomas, the founder of the Christadelphians, when he was against creeds in
The Apostolic Advocate magazine, August 1836)
(John Thomas, from Apostacy Unveiled, p. 137,
quoted in The Christadelphian Magazine, January 1906)
Must a man never progress? If he discovers an error in his premises, must he for ever hold to it for the sake of consistency? May such a calamity never befall me! Rather let me change every day, till I get right at last.
(from a letter written by John Thomas in 1848, quoted by Robert Roberts, in Dr. Thomas: His Life and Work)
Do what is right; be valiant for the Truth; teach it without compromise, and all lovers of the Truth will approve you. For all others you need not care a rush!
(from a letter written by John Thomas to Robert Roberts and published in The Christadelphian magazine, February 1866)