But before we look at this unpleasant aspect let us first look at the 'map' of Christian polygamy worldwide and in particular the larger ministries and churches which promote it at they stand in 2001. This will be an update of an earlier report made about two years ago (1999) which in many ways oversimplifies what is a very complex phenomenon. This article has already been updated twice but is in need of a new revision completely. Instead of replacing it with a new one, I felt it should be left 'as is' out of historical interest.
To begin with, it would seem that there have been other lesser known advocates of Christian polygamy who have been omitted from the histories by the larger polygamy ministries and churches simply because these earlier advocates have slightly different views on other doctrinal matters. I must admit I felt somewhat intimidated by one of the larger ministries when I was 'advised' to drop references to one of these earlier advocates because he was a 'racist' and that his works were used by violently racist groups. Unwisely I took the 'advice' before doing some research work of my own and removed the man from the earlier map. As it turned out, whilst I did not (and still do not) agree with many of his doctrines and practices (which are derived from Celtic Christianity) I did not find the man a 'racist' at all - at least no more 'racist' than the biblical concept a chosen or elect people, which of course Christians/Messianics are. In defferance to my own troubled conscience I therefore restored the man in question to my new updated map and gave him the credit that is due him as the first Christian Polygamist of the 20th Century to start the work of establishing a Scriptural basis for Patriarchy...in the 1970's.
I also decided back in 2001 to be fair to our opponents (even those who were unkind and very unchristian to us) by placing them on the map too. Censorship is not a mark of Christian maturity and whilst the major polygamy churches and ministries continue to censor one another we at FICP decided to rise above that and let the honest investigator come to his or her own conclusions. I regretted ever getting sucked into the partisan spirit in the first place and hoped this article would make ammends. Whatever my earlier and very human and sometimes impure motives may have been - to maintain friendship, gain exposure for my own ministry, protect the spiritually weak, or simply to promote one particular view of polygamy - I now regret that, and have decided simply to let history be what it is, get on with our own calling from Elohim (God), and let Yahweh lead people where He wants them to be. For wherever you go you will inevitably find human imperfection and Elohim (God) will lead humble seekers to those places where they can be best progressed and ministered to according to their natural dispositions and the spiritual choices they have made. I am sure that is the only reason why Yahweh tolerates diversity until the "restoration of all things" which all Christians and Messianics eagerly await. In the meantime we must learn to get along with one another.
The map below shows all the main 'players' on the Christian Polygamy scene as they were in 2001, the four major 'movers', as it were, and four others who have made an important contribution. The omission of the many other 'players' was not to minimise their work and contribution nor of the others who will doubtless arise.
(d) Patriarchy [Website] (PW) was the ministry of Israel C.S. Lim's own Pentecostal Church and was based in Singapore. Whilst Patriarchy was a ministerial partner with GFMW it maintained friendly relations with both TB and FICP. The major similarity between FICP and Patriarchy was the shared belief in women ministers - at least one of Lim's wives was a co-pastor with him. Friendly with almost all Christian Polygamy Ministries, he avoided getting himself involved in the turn-of-the-century controversies.
The Smaller Polygamy Groups'
Of the many smaller ministries and churches four deserve special mention though none of the men who ran them were, as far as we knew then, married polygamously:
- (i) James W. Stivers who very possibly was the first to make an attempt at a scriptural exegesis of Christian Polygamy. His book appears on this site. Had he not been, for the main part, promoting a rather obscure variant of Christianity, namely, one of the 'Celtic Churches', he might well have risen to prominence in the Patriarchal Christian Movement. Of all the claimants to have been 'first out' with modern Christian Polygamy, Stivers has the undoubted prior claim, in spite a very unchristian attempt by one rival to smear his name. He wisely kept himself aloof from the various Christian polygamy controversies.
- (ii) Ron (Lee) Tyler is best remembered for his many hundreds of Newsgroup Articles which gave Christian Polygamy exposure at about the same time as Mark Henkel. Then in his 60's, he promoted a ultra-orthodox view of Christianity and rejected the miā claims of the other groups, maintaining that polygamy was not for church leaders.
- (iii) Isaac Alouchier, based in London, England, and formerly of Kenya, ran an Internet Ministry called Servants of Yahweh which had many excellent articles on Christian Polygamy. He sadly slipped into the Ebionite heresy by rejecting the apostle Paul and his writings which forced us to break links with him as a ministerial partner. There are many messianics who have gone down this dangerous path and into apostacy (see The Anti-Paulists series).
- (iv) Finally, Sam Chapman of England who likewise had an Internet Ministry and was very much a clone of GFMW, though remaining of the Baptist school (unlike GFMW which became Messianic Jewish). Like GFMW itself, he had blacklisted FICP and TB for not towing the GFMW line. Because of his uncompromising stand on the Catholic Creeds (Nicean and Athanasian) he has tended to isolate Messianics and other Christian polygamists who are not committed to Trinitarian formulations of the Godhead. He has gone out of his way to be hostile and to deliberately misrepresent FICP, the only polygamy ministry apart from GFMW to do so.
The Sad Tale of the 'Polygamy Ministry Wars'
It is indeed a sad and sorry state of affairs that Christian brethren should 'fall out'. Sadly, this is the story that has repeated itself over the millennia and has, as one commentator astutely noted, always revolved one or more of two principle issues: money and/or power.
In the case of the 'polygamy ministry wars' the issue seems largely to have revolved around the very childish and immature 'power' issue and who wanted to be 'first' and dominate the movement. The first falling out occurred in 1994/5 when TB and GFMW effectively excommunicated each other (the polite term used by both is 'ignore'). In about 1996/7, when FICP (then FECPP) would not tow the GFMW line, we too were given the cold shoulder, briefly attacked, and then ignored. Precisely the same thing happened in 2000/1 when FICP would not tow the TB line - after a vain attempt by a cowardly TB member (who remained anonymous) to prove that my family did not exist and that the FICP was just a money-raising scam, TB blacklisted FICP as it had done with GFMW (and vice versa) and as GFMW had done with FICP (then FECPP). Yet both TB and GFMW continued to list Mormon, Hindu and Muslim polygamy sites but not FICP. This was the kind of nasty pettiness that obtained.
The sad but simple answer was that FICP was a threat to the power bases of both as each desired to claim to be the global authoritative Christian Polygamy Ministry. It is ironic that TB, who always accused the leader of GFMW of wanting pro-polygamy Christians to 'kiss the papal ring' (to use his own words), soon moved into a position of wanting the same honours for himself.
But putting their childish and trivial rivalries that have marked these important ministries aside, the real issue as I saw it, was in defining exactly what PATRIARCHY is. I believe that the division that took place, though regrettable, was necessary in setting forth the true patriarchal agenda. There was a time, until recently, when I believed that reconcilliation between the various 'wings' of the polygamy ministries was both desirable as well as important, and until the last month in 2001 I devoted my efforts in this direction. But because of the crystalising tendency of all kinds of dogma, these kinds of divisions were really inevitable. They served the useful purpose of showing investiagtors the different 'ways' in which Patriarchal Marriage is to be seen as a result of misinterpretation of the Scriptures as well as to reveal the different 'spirits' behind such dogmas. Such sadness as I once felt over these divisions has now long gone as I came to understand the purpose in Yahweh allowing these crystalisations to take place.
The Polygamy Controversies Examined
The first real 'controversy' in the Christian polygamy movement was mainly fought over a single issue: should a first wife be 'forced' to accept a second sister-wife once the clear scriptural truth had been expounded by her husband or should she first be persuaded? TB insisted, for the most part correctly, that no woman should be forced to enter polygamy against her will especially as she had already entered the marriage covenant on the basis of a monogamy-only contract. TB convincingly argued that since a contract had been mutually agreed to, it had to be mutually renegociated by both parties. If the wife refused, they insisted, the husband was bound by the contract and could not unilaterally break it.
GFMW insisted, however, that since the contract was ungodly and unscriptural, that it could, and should be, unilaterally annulled by the husband. As a result of this, TB indirectly accused GFMW (though never naming them) of being a 'polygamy-by-force' movement. This was, however, a half-truth. In my conversations with some GFMW members I was assured that the enforcement of polygamy was only as a 'last resort' after much patient long-suffering, with plenty of time for the wife to face the truth of the Biblical revelation and repent. Many GFMW marriages hit the rocks as a result of this doctrine and, though we could appreciate GFMW's concerns, had to on balance come down in support of TB. Avow is a vow and must be honoured. If a woman enters a marriage contract with the express understanding that there would be no other wives, a husband is honour-bound to uphold those vows as Yahweh hates vow-breakers.
To its great credit, TB always insisted on a 'love-not-force' paradigm, challenging those coming to it for counsel -- and especially the husbands -- to use the opportunity to selflessly love their wives, suffering if necessary, just as Christ loved the Church (Messianic Community). And suffering commonly followed even if the husband's interest was purely doctrinal. FICP supported TB all the way down the line in this approach. For the only real justification for a patriarch practicing polygamy, aside from Yahweh walling him, is selfless love.
Where, then, did FICP and TB begin to diverge? It became readily apparent to many of us supporting TB that whilst the 'love-not-force' model was liberally applied to the women, it was not applied to the men, making TB guilty of the very accusations it has repeatedly levelled against GFMW! Many men became estranged from TB as a result of what can only be described as a 'matriarchal spirit' or 'love-by-force', viz. 'I love you so much that I will take care of you no matter how much you dislike my terms.' It is possessed of what we call a passive-aggressive or 'Lilith spirit' as compared to GFMW's naked aggressive or Hecate spirit.
Hence the two wings of the Christian Polygamy Movement with FICP the 'pig in the middle'. FICP found itself in the thankless yet secure position scripturally of the frog who tried to reconcile but got pushed off the log for its trouble.
We found ourselves in agreement with both GFMW and TB withy respect to different issues. We just never believed they effected the right synthesis ... assuming they ever choose to do so. Of course, our conclusions were (naturally) rejected by both. We bore neither any ill-will and held out the right-hand of fellowship on a 'live and let live' basis. Our only regret was that we had, at various times, swallowed the propaganda of both sides. Once we had been pushed off the metaphorical log we felt free enough to say what we actually mean.
Sadly, trifling 'side-issues' were used to justify the tripartite theological divisions of the time which was really the most regrettable part of the 'Christian Polygamy Ministry Wars'. Unlike the other two big ministries, though, FICP had no 'public image' to maintain as we were not, unlike them, in the business of trying to convince the general public of the acceptability of polygamy. We said what we meant, calling a spade a spade, in the most charitable way we could.
We were never interested in fuelling the differences that existed between the three ministries and did not wish to enter into divisive debates. We recommended all those investigating Christian Polygamy examine all three websites and come to their own conclusions.
What of the Future?
People asked us back then in 2001 if we believed the gaps between GFMW, FICP and TB would ever be bridged, and reconcilliation ever take place. Of course, that is the heart-felt desire of every true Christian. History, however, seems to point to purposeful divisions as the means by which the Body of Christ, in any particular generation, is sifted according to the sovereign will of Elohim (God). We do not pretend to understand all His purposes but have observed certain recurrent patterns in history. As we read the story of Job, we find first three, then four, friends, each of which comes up with his 'explanation' of things. More than likely other 'types' of Christian Polygamy will come to prominence in the years ahead. But who can say? FICP had its clear vision and pursued it, reforming when reformation was needed, repenting when repentance was enjoined, but always being true to what it had received.
Our final prayer, before withdrawing from the internet scene, was Yahweh's richest blessings upon the other Christian Polygamy ministries, that grace and love might abound within them. History would produce some interesting outcomes...
B. 2016 AND 13 YEARS LATER...
Thirteen years is a long time to be away from a very active ministry. A lot has changed, prominent persons have disappeared and new ones have risen to prominence. The time during our absence has seen the parallel rise of polygamy in the Messianic Jewish/Israelite movement with many of the same mistakes being repeated. I will talk about that in a minute.
Two of the major players - GFMW (God's Free Men and Women) of Steve Butt and the Pentecostal Polygamy ministry of Israel C.S.Lim - have gone the metaphorical way of the earth. I followed the demise of GFMW because of others I knew from that movement. As I don't wish to become guilty of lashon hara (gossipping and speaking ill of others), even though my information is not speculation but based on corroborated facts from several ex-members of GFMW, I will report only that the GFMW ministry and church totally collapsed, along with Butt's own polygamous family. Its founder changed his name, relocated, and moved on into a successful messianic radio ministry and today lives with only one of his original (later) wives in what outwardly appears to be a monogamy-only organisation. Since access to many of his materials is only viā paid membership (as also latterly in GFMW), it is quite possible that he is still teaching polygamy, but secretly to an inner circle. Looking at the public profile of his ministry you would not conclude that polygamy had anything to do with his agenda. So the major 'polygamy-by-force' ministry may be said to be at an end, at least its public aspect.
Pastor's Lim's ministry and church have also, sadly, come to an end. I know nothing of the details beyond the fact that he lost his testimony in Christ and no longer reackons himself to be a believer. His interest in polygamy, such as remains, seems only to be historical. So his departure saw the end of a major polygamy ministry in South-East Asia. This I personally deeply regret as he was an excellent Bible-teacher.
With myself supposedly gone for good (until 2016), this virtually left the Christian polygamy field to Mark Henkel of Truth Bearer (www.truthbearer.org and www.2wives.com), which is what he always wanted. He has numerous websites which have greatly expanded and he has made media appearances in defence of the legalisation of polygamy, something I was never interested in - only its decriminalisation. With the accelerated demise of the state institution of 'marriage' and the de facto recognition by the European Union of Moslem polygamous marriage (if they contracted the marriages before coming to the EU), I consider my original position amply justified.
Of the minor players back in 2001, Isaac Alouchier seems to have disappeared too, along with Ron Tyler (assuming both are still alive). There are now dozens of small-time Christian polygamy ministries that have taken their place. James W. Stivers seems to have disappeared and possibly his Cambrian Episcopal Church of the Grail too. I would be grateful for any further information on these people.
Of the 'minors' back in 2001, only Steve Chapman, a fundamentalist Baptist and journalist, seems to have raised his profile and continued to operate a considerably expanded pro-polygamy website (polygamypage.wordpress.com/) until August 2012 when it went silent. If you were interested in keeping abreast with the lastest international news on polygamy, he was the one to follow. Like Mark Henkel, he has garnered media attention and published widely, presumably with the same or similar goals in mind as Truth Bearer. It is possible, with the field practically theirs, that they have reconciled following GFMW's fall, and maybe even merged.
The New Messianic Jewish Polygamists
In the period 2003-2016 we have seen several Messianic Jewish ministries embrace polygamy. The one that has risen to prominence is without doubt Moshe Koniuchowsky's Your Arms to Israel International Ministries (www.yourarmstoisraelglobal.com) which I know something about as I was involved trying to moderate its rapid and fateful plunge into polygamy in its early days which has virtually driven them underground. I was not successful. To be fair to Messianic Jews, Messianic Israelites and other types of messianic, YATI is a bit of a maverick organisation and has advanced not only some strange doctrines of its own but has gone so far as to embrace the Book of Mormon too! It too had major 'polygamy-by-force' issues, and may still have for all I know, as I distanced myself from associating with that organisation the more outlandish it became.
There are doubtless other, smaller messianic ministries that have more in common with Truth Bearer than with YATI though there are some pretty weird messianic polygamists out there too. Most of them keep a low profile, the moderates embarrassed by the excesses of those like YATI and the extreme ones provoking the negative attention of neo-Catholics (once Evangelical) like the Shoebats. The universal trend amongst polygamists, for understandable reasons, has been to keep their families lives hidden or in very low profile.
With the demise of GFMW there is no doubt that Mark Henkel (a Seventh-Day/Saturday Sabbatarian Evangelical) and Sam Chapman (Baptist) have shot to prominence as Protestant Evangelical Christian polygamists and between them have pretty much 'seized the market', if I can put it that way. Though the FICP ministry no longer exists, I have released all my old materials - now updated - back into circulation so that there is a balanced and moderate messianic voice once more plus our important revelation on Holy Echad Marriage (HEM) which we believe to be vitally important for the Remnant. I say 'materials' because I myself do not see the need to become directly involved any more and the materials we have published are extensive. There are also a few materials that have been released by the main website into which we are now integrated which were principally produced for the African Missions. So I shall not be debating again and probably only a few materials will be added to the new website in the future.
Whatever the reasons that other Christians promoting polygamy are, ours remain distinct and connected to the end-time gathering of the Remnant in preparation for a future day as well as to administer to polygamous families who have converted through our evangelism, such as in Africa. I have every reason to believe that, in spite of extensive exegesis and the promotional journalism of other ministries, the same mistakes will continue to be made and unnecessary suffering caused to men, women and children alike, so long as the old models are adhered to. At HEM we are not in the business of carnal multiplication. The Statement produced by our parent organisation is my position today. As 'next best', we would probably point people still to TB.
I believe it is a mistake both to try and legalise polygamy and/or to live it openly even if the social climate is more tolerant. Social climates can change overnight and we as a family know what it is like to be persecuted. In the last few years we have seen the rise of extremist fundamentalist Islam which is very much pro-polygamy (though being an oftentimes violent 'ultra-polygamy-by-force' religion that represents everything Truth Bearer, myself and others oppose). With all the troubles in Europe and elsewhere with massive, uncontrolled immigration that has led to a climate of lawlessness and fear caused by a massive rise in crime, rape, assaults against women and children, and murder (including beheadings), there is going to be a massive public backlash against not only the fundamentalist Moslems but also against Islam in general and also polygamy. Mention the word 'polygamy' and people still think 'Mormon' and (increasingly) 'Islam'. In such times the mob is not discriminating which will mean that not only will moderate Moslems be wrongly targeted but also polygamists of any religious or non-religious stripe. So we are anticipating a civil war situation in Europe and North America.
Finally, I think it is a mistake trying to take polygamy, as one ministry does, 'to the churches'. The denominations and institutions, which have political ties to the state, will never accept it. And the only thing such denominations and institutions with such ties do is to imitate the left-wing political institutions that they mutually benefit from. And polygamy is by nature - being pro-family - 'conservative'... which is why the left loathes it. These large bodies are on a downward moral spiral and are best left to themselves. If polygamists want to witness is should be to individuals. Better still, let the individuals with Bible questions find polygamy ministries on their own. The only thing we are called to actively witness of is Yah'shua the Messiah - Jesus Christ.
My counsel today in 2016, as it was back in 2001 and 2003 when we closed down, is still that polygamist families everywhere should keep their heads down by maintaining a low public profile - there are still too many people who want to cut them off. I believe this will obtain until Christ returns. Today, as before, I do not give media interviews and do not believe in advertising the practice. Journalists should go to the Truth Bearer website and speak with its founder. Those who are called by the Ruach (Spirit) will find their way to polygamy - and we hope to the HEM model - without any assistance from anyone. That is what this resource is for.