Secretive sect under investigation faces venue cancellations after email campaign

RNZ, New Zealand/June 4, 2024

By Amy Williams  

A secretive sect being probed for historical child sexual abuse is facing venue cancellations for some of its half-year meetings, held from this weekend.

The religious group known as the Two by Twos or The Truth is holding 18 events across New Zealand in June, for its 2500 members - part of its usual calendar of meetings.

Members book the venues, often as a 'Christian fellowship group' because the sect has no official name and is not registered as a charity.

A group of five former members of the fellowship have sent a generic email to the venues, with links to recent stories.

The links included the RNZ story as well as links to the various media that picked it up including the NZ Herald, Newshub and the Otago Daily Times.

"As ex members we are concerned that this group is still operating in community venues and schools," the email said, from Surviving The Truth Peer Support Group.

The full email is below:

To whom it may concern

You have a church group hiring your venue on Sunday 9th of June. I would like to bring to your attention the following articles about this church from over the last month which have been in the media.

As ex members we are concerned that this group is still operating in community venues and schools.

Thank you for your time,

Surviving the truth peer support group

Email sent to bring group out of the shadows, support group spokesperson says
The support group's spokesperson, who wants to remain anonymous, told RNZ they sent the email to venues hired by the sect to bring the group out of the shadows, not prevent them meeting.

The FBI is working with international law enforcement partners to investigate abuse within the group, and police in New Zealand are investigating at least one former minister for historical abuse.

This week, the sect's Australasian leaders have launched a website with information about its response to historical child sexual abuse and a written apology to victims.

The sect's overseer Wayne Dean told RNZ he was aware one venue had cancelled its booking for a half-year meeting.

Dean said he was not personally responsible for hiring venues, which were booked by locals in each community.

"We have had venue cancellations due to concerns raised over potential media attention and while this is disappointing, we respect their right to do so."

In Northland, a half-year meeting was due to be held at Kerikeri's Riverview School on Thursday 6 June.

"The school received an anonymous email in relation to the information you have raised," Louise Murdock from the board of trustees said.

"The school then contacted the booking group seeking clarity around the allegations and any associations it had with the group," she said.

"They were advised that the board would need to review the booking. Before this could occur, the group cancelled the booking."

Other schools contacted by RNZ declined to comment.

Sources told RNZ an Auckland high school the group had booked for its half-year meeting on Monday, 3 June, had cancelled.

Venues 'recognised the risk' - current sect member
Victim advocate Jillian Hishon runs a hotline for abuse survivors in the sect, The Brave Truth Australia and New Zealand, which had received calls from victims in New Zealand.

She said the sect had also faced venue cancellations for its meetings in Australia.

"We're talking about a group that is actually under FBI investigation for child sexual abuse so I would imagine it's fairly understandable if venues don't want to keep the bookings," Hishon said.

A current member of the sect who wants to remain anonymous said they were not surprised a venue had cancelled.

"A lot of people going to meetings will see it as religious persecution... but venues given the information have made informed decisions and recognised the risk far faster than a bunch of people who go to meetings have."

They said they would likely attend the half year meeting in their region to hear if anything was said about historical sexual abuse.

"I'm really conflicted about going because I'm very disillusioned about a lot of things. Part of me wants to go if anything's being said so I can hear it for myself."

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