NOTES ON THE ‘COONEYITES’
Compiled by Fred Grigg
Gold Coast, Australia
The name ‘Cooneyites’ was applied to a group of people who followed one Edward Cooney after he was ex-communicated in 1928 from another group known as ‘The Two-by-Two’s’; which were founded in Ireland by one William Irvine in 1897. The ‘Two-by-Two’s’ and the ‘Cooneyites’ are today often confused as being one and the same people, but they are two distinct pseudo-Christian groups! Members of both groups will deny they are one and the same and both reject the name ‘Cooneyite’.
Edward Cooney came into contact with Irvine and in 1901 he joined the ‘Two-by-Two’s’ and donated £1,300 to Irvine’s ministry – it was a requirement that to become a ‘preacher’ one had to sell all and give to the poor. Cooney relinquished his part in the family business to become, as people called them, because they owned nothing, a ‘Tramp Preacher’ (also known as ‘Go Preachers’). He developed a reputation as being a ‘powerful speaker’ and became one of their most vocal leaders. Cooney was revered by some and ridiculed by others for his views.
In the early years of the 20th century, Cooney’s sermons were debated in the public and press, with frequent citations of aggressively provocative remarks: distinguished for its bitter hostility to all existing Churches, and to a regular paid ministry of any kind, reminding one not a little of the Plymouth Brethren on these and other points Cooney was excommunicated from the “Two by Twos” in Ireland, at a leaders’ meeting, on October 12, 1928. This occurred because he refused to conform his preaching to adhere to the “Living Witness Doctrine” (which posits that faith comes from hearing the word spoken, and seeing the “gospel” physically lived, from the lips and life of a witness), and to cease preaching wherever he felt led to preach. Afterward, he continued to preach worldwide, and groups of his followers left, or were expelled from, the main group and continued in fellowship with him.
Cooney had wanted to end his days in his native Ireland. However he also wished to impart a final doctrinal revelation which caused another divide among his followers there. He had come to the belief that God would grant another opportunity for repentance following death, and this caused a split within the group. Tired, ill and wishing to escape the uproar, he made a final trip to Australia, where he died at Mildura in 1960 .
Today, Cooneyites still exist in small numbers. In the UK, according to the 2001 Census just over 200+ were recorded living in Northern Ireland in County Cork and in Wigton, Cumbria, England. They also exist in Australia, notably in the Mildura District, Victoria; the Young, Muswellbrook and Ballina Districts in New South Wales.
HOW THE COONEYITES DIFFER FROM ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN BELIEFS
What They Believe…
That Their Fellowship:
• is a direct historical continuation of the New Testament church
• is “from the beginning”
• is God’s ONLY true way; therefore, all other church members, preachers, churches and religions are “false”.
• comes by grace AND works (self-effort)
• is earned or merited through faithfulness and righteousness
• is determined at death
• is not possible without being in their fellowship
• is conditional upon works and not secure
• includes sanctification coming BEFORE justification
• came to be a perfect example, a pattern minister or way-shower
• life is equal or more important than His death
• created a way to Heaven through His death; and a way on earth by his life; which is one and the same as their fellowship.
That Their Ministers:
• are God’s only true ministers
• are the ones through whom one must go (mediators) to be saved
• are the supreme authorities in Biblical interpretation
• have authority and rule over members
• viewpoints are considered as authoritative as the written Word
• traditions are equal in importance with God’s commands.
What the Cooneyites do NOT Believe
- in the Triune God
- in the deity of Jesus; That Jesus is God the Son
- in the deity of the Holy Spirit; God the Holy Spirit
- the Holy Spirit permanently indwells every believer
- in the finished work of Christ
- that Jesus came to be our substitute in His life and death
- that man is born in sin
- in eternal security
- in the priesthood of all believers
- conversion can take place through the written Word without human agency
- one can know they are saved in this lifetime
- salvation can be attained without going through their ministers
- in total reliance upon Jesus’ shed blood for salvation
- that salvation is an unconditionally free gift of God
- in salvation solely by grace through faith in Jesus, not of works (i.e. Jesus’ Way is only in their fellowship)
DISCLAIMER: The above are general statements regarding the group’s beliefs and practices gathered over many years from numerous sources. However, they may not be believed in totally. Historically, depending on the time in history and/or the overseer in charge, differences have occurred regionally and likely will continue to occur. And as in any group, some individuals may hold specific beliefs/understandings that differ from the main church body.
The above copy was cut and pasted from: http://www.tellingthetruth.info/home/factsheet.php