Cult's teachings deemed heretical

The Age, Australia/September 30, 2008

The Presbyterian Church of Australia has declared heretical six principal teachings of a cult inside a Melbourne Presbyterian church, and ordered that the church's findings against the cult be read at every Presbyterian congregation in Australia.

The declaration, to be released today, vindicates the church in its decade-long battle to expel the cult, headed by stockbroker Bruce Teele, that dominates Trinity Presbyterian Church, Camberwell.

In 2006, the Victorian assembly excommunicated all the elders, but last year a special commission of the Australian Assembly Commission reinstated them on appeal and set up its own investigation.

Yesterday's ruling says the six teachings are contrary to the Bible, the Westminster Confession (the Presbyterian statement of faith) and the belief of the Presbyterian Church of Australia.

The six teachings the commission rejected are accepting "feelings" as revelation from God equal to the Bible, that contact with non-Fellowship members leads to defilement, that the Fellowship claims higher loyalty than members' families, that Christians can be controlled by "generational curses" or evil spirits, and that God's forgiveness depends on confessing to other people or on personal holiness.

The commission instructs that these beliefs must not be taught in any congregation or by any Presbyterian office bearer, and its declaration must be read in every Presbyterian Church of Australia congregation by October 31.

The clerk of the General Assembly of Australia, Dr Paul Logan, said: "If those heretical beliefs continue to be taught, then people can take disciplinary action through the courts of the church."

Victorian moderator Douglas Robertson said the findings vindicated the Fellowship's victims and the Victorian church, but did not provide closure. "It gives us a clarified benchmark against which to hold the elders at Trinity accountable, but it doesn't say the Trinity session is culpable. There's still the suspicion that these people are continuing this teaching secretly, but there is no church procedure for taking action against the elders of Trinity as a group, only individuals," he said.

The Fellowship has a reputation for instructing members to shun family who do not belong - a practice that the Fellowship has said no longer occurs. Its leaders have "suggested" whom members should marry, where they should work, how they should raise their children and whom they should avoid.

The national commission infuriated much of the Victorian church in May with a report suggesting the Presbytery of Melbourne East was also guilty of shunning and saying the Victorian church should move the Fellowship to the jurisdiction of a different presbytery and remove its critical booklet about the Fellowship.

The Victorian assembly rejected most recommendations, and will present its own inquiry next week.

The Reverend Philip Mercer, the minister of Trinity, said he had not seen the findings and would not comment.

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