The events leading up to the 1999 Alberta excommunications are outlined below. Let the reader decide.
A number of people have wondered about what were the events and issues that preceded the
excommunications in Alberta in 1999. I will attempt to explain what was happening at the time,
based on my recollections as well as notes, letters, and various documents that I have kept. As
I'm sure you could imagine, there were many different issues, and there is probably no single
issue that was the key one. It was really an accumulation of incidents and concerns, and the
manner in which the ministry dealt with them (or, in most cases, refused to deal with them).
As most of us are aware, the ministry does not take kindly to being questioned about their
actions or being expected to be accountable to anyone, and I guess that was what resulted
in the ministry having to take drastic action if they were to maintain the control and position
that they were accustomed to having. I am sure I will miss some of the issues and if I do
miss anything that someone else feels should be brought out, please feel free to provide any
I'm sure that we all had certain expectations when we were "professing," based on a number
of "basic truths" that we learned in the group. But, during the period beginning about 1995, a
number of issues came to light that caused many to question why some of the actions of the
ministry seemed to not be in line with the "basic truths" that they taught. To fully appreciate
the concerns that some of the Friends had during this period, it is necessary to review some
of the things that we had all been taught as basic doctrines or truths in this group that calls
itself "the Truth."
Some of these "basic truths" as we understood them in the group were:
- The group took no name, and we were frequently reminded that taking a name was one of
the marks of a "false church."
- The ministry received no wages and went out completely in faith with no assurance as to
where their daily provision would come from. And, again, any church that had a ministry that
had an assured income was definitely a "false church."
- The workers were "God's anointed." This would seem to imply that their conduct should be
above reproach, and that they should receive unquestioning respect and obedience at least,
that was the attitude they certainly portrayed.
- The workers gave up all their worldly possessions when they went into the ministry and we
heard many times that to do otherwise was just another mark of a "false religion."
These were just a few of the key ingredients of this way we called "the Truth." They had been instilled
in us since our childhood. It wasn't until it became evident that some of these "basic truths" were not
being adhered to by high profile workers that some of the Friends began to get concerned and started
to take a closer look at what was going on. Of course, we know now that so much of what we were
taught in that group was not sound doctrine, and this includes those "'basic truths" listed above. But,
when we were in "the Truth," these teachings were very well ingrained and were just the way we
believed things should be.
Some of the events that occurred that caused us to have concerns and to start looking into things a
bit more deeply were the following:
- The way money was handled had always been a bit of a mystery but we generally went along
trusting that the ministry was upright, caring and honest, and would always do what was in the best
interests of "the Kingdom" and of the Friends. However, in the last half of the 1990s a couple of cases
came up where the ministry had received substantial amounts of money under very questionable
circumstances. But even though concerns were raised, there was no attempt or apparent interest
by the Alberta ministry to make things right. There was even a meeting with all of the other overseers
from Western Canada and USA to discuss these concerns, as well as numerous others. Some of these
overseers indicated that in their jurisdiction if there were ever concerns about the circumstances under
which money had been acquired by the ministry they would, without hesitation, just give it back to the
family. This was definitely not the case in Alberta. We now know there have been many other cases
where there were questionable dealings regarding money which they have managed to keep covered
up "for the sake of the Kingdom."
- About this same time (maybe a bit earlier), Willis Propp made a concerted effort to get all of the
senior workers (those over 65 years old) to make sure they submitted their applications to receive the
Old Age Security pension from the government. Up until this time, we had always understood that the
workers did not take pensions because of their practice of not accepting money from anyone who
wasn't "professing." At this point in time, there were a number of workers who were well up into their
70s and 80s, and had never collected anything. And the government was allowing anyone who hadn't
been receiving the pension to apply for retroactive payout for previous years that they had not collected
(to a maximum of 5 years, I believe). So, in some cases
these amounts were substantial in the $15-20,000 range if I remember correctly. Apparently, Propp's
expectation was that the money that came in from this was to go to the fund that he administered. This
caused considerable concern and distress in some families where they had an elderly relative who had
been in the work but was going to be needing to go into a facility for the elderly, and who should have
had the money available to pay for at least part of the resulting costs but Willis had designated that
it be turned over to him (presumably for the furtherance of "the gospel").
- It became known that some Alberta workers had been involved in improper sexual conduct, and that
the ministry's method of dealing with it was to do everything possible to keep it under wraps "for the
sake of the Kingdom" and at most, move the offending worker to some other part of the province or
country, but certainly NOT advise anyone why they had been moved or that they needed to watch out
for this worker. We have now come to realize that this has been going on all through the years and in
all parts of the world. But at that time, it came as a stunning realization that "Hey, the workers are not
the perfect beings they make themselves out to be, and certainly aren't being directed by God in all
they say and do."
- And, related to the above point, concerns began to be raised that Alberta was becoming a dumping ground
for workers who had to be moved from other jurisdictions because of their indiscretions. Of course, we now
realize this has been their method of dealing with workers with problems all through the years and in all
parts of the world. But, at that time, it was just another realization that "the Truth" was not as squeaky
clean as we had been brainwashed into believing it was.
- In about 1996, it was discovered that Willis Propp had incorporated the group in Alberta. I suppose most
people are now aware of that situation. He had the group registered with the Alberta government
as "The Alberta Society of Christian Assemblies." The reason that this was done has never been satisfactorily
explained. Propp claimed it was to provide cover for a worker who was at risk of being thrown out of Hungary
if she didn't come up with a group to sponsor her. However, as it turned out, it was never used for that purpose,
but the registration was left in place and was finally dissolved only after it was exposed. A lot of unanswered
- It was also learned that some workers in foreign countries were receiving monthly stipends from Propp.
This seemed to go against what they always taught about going out totally in faith "without purse or scrip"
and their never-ending criticism of "those false churches that had a paid ministry."
- Someone ran across something that suggested that Willis Propp had a bank account in the name
of F. Willis Propp Enterprises. He denied it but refused to give authorization for anyone to check it out.
In a letter he wrote at the time, he stated (and this is a direct quote from his letter), "Upon consulting
with the Lawyer, he immediately said that whatever you do, do not sign such a release. It would be
global and it would immediately go to the Press, also that there was no time limit on it and it could be
held over my head for the rest of my life." This seems like a strange response if there really was not a
bank account in the first place.
- It was learned that Willis Propp had a credit card with a credit limit of $20,000 (and it had been even
higher previously). This seems to be contradictory to what we had understood was meant by their claim
"to be going out in faith."
- It was learned that Willis Propp owned mineral rights on property which seems contradictory to what
we had always heard about the workers "giving up everything to go out in the harvest field."
- The extent to which the workers would resort to outright lies and coverups to evade answering questions
about any of the concerns was another eye-opener. And, this was occurring in a group that called
itself "The Truth."
So, these were a few of the issues that all seemed to surface at about the same time and there are
others. But they were issues that raised doubts about the integrity of the ministry. I can't even be sure which
issue would have been first it was probably a different one for each person. But, overall, it became obvious
that the workers were not abiding by those "basic truths" that we had been taught all our lives. It was clear that:
- money was very highly regarded and sought after;
- the workers (some of them, anyway) were not going out penniless and in total faith as we had been taught they did;
- they hadn't given up all "for the sake of the gospel";
- their behaviour in some cases was far from what we would have expected from ones who claimed they were led and directed by God;
- they would take a name if it was to their advantage and if they could get away without it being discovered.
I should stress that not all workers are guilty of these things some are very fine people (although very
brainwashed and misguided). But, the really scary and disappointing thing was that even though many may not
have agreed with what was being done by their leader(s), they, with very few exceptions, declared their full
support for them. With very few exceptions, there was a total lack of backbone or readiness to stand for
what was right. In one instance, I was discussing some of the concerns with a senior sister worker (Dorothy
Tessman), and I asked her what she would do if she became aware that something Willis Propp wanted
them to do or believe was completely contradictory to what we had always been taught. Her response
"Well, I'm just a sister worker. I would just keep in my place." This seemed to be the general attitude you
must not rock the boat or make waves and you must go along with whatever the senior workers demand of
you, regardless of whether it was right or wrong.
The workers, as we all know, have not been accustomed to answering questions or being accountable in any way,
so to be expected to explain why any of these things had happened didn't do great things for harmony between the
workers and the inquisitive Friends. The workers' approach to dealing with questions they didn't want to answer
would be to initially listen to the question, and advise that they would look into it, and that it was now in the
workers' hands so we no longer needed to be concerned. Of course, they never took any action to get to the
bottom of any of the concerns or to do anything about them, and they would imply that we were overstepping
our bounds if we ever again brought the matter up. Generally, I suppose this approach had worked quite well
for them over the years but in the situation that had developed in Alberta, there were enough people with
enough concerns that they were not prepared to just drop the issue because the workers said so. As you can
imagine, it started to get tense pretty quickly as soon as questions began to be asked to the workers regarding
any of the above issues.
I can perhaps use our own situation as an example. We had been trying to get answers from the workers in our field
that year (we were "blessed" to have Willis Propp and Merlin Howlett) regarding why the money issues and the
incorporation had been handled the way they were. Willis generally made himself quite unavailable for any discussion,
but Merlin was always up to the challenge. As we would ask questions, we would be provided with an evasive answer,
a diversion, or an outright lie. They are experts in diverting a discussion off track if it isn't going the way they want it to.
So, after each of our so-called discussions, we would go away and do some more checking and in almost all cases we would find
out that the answers we had been given were not correct. So, we would call Merlin and ask him to come back because
we would like to discuss some of his previous answers with us. Then we would get the response "Oh, you must have
misunderstood me" again, another of their devious tactics. And as we would raise more questions, he would rise up
from his chair, shake his finger at us and inform us (in a quite loud and threatening manner) that "You better watch
your step. You are driving a wedge between you and the workers." So, things were not on good grounds for a number
of months leading up to our excommunication. And I'm sure that most of the others who were eventually excommunicated
experienced similar things.
An interesting observation we made during that time period was the change in the general theme that we heard in
workers' sermons. In earlier years we would often hear that we should stand up for what was right, even if we were
the only ones doing it, etc, etc. We'd hear quotes such as "Dare to be a Daniel, dare to stand alone, dare to have a
purpose true, and dare to make it known," or "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." We suddenly
noticed that the focus had shifted to being forgiving of a brother's sins, keeping in your place, minding our own
business, not rocking the boat, keeping our brother's sins covered, etc, etc. Certainly there is a place for those
thoughts, alright, but not as a means of covering up serious, ongoing concerns. They were obviously trying to shut
down any discussion of serious issues, and to make it sound like it was scriptural to do so, and that raising concerns
was an unscriptural thing to do.
Anyway, in the period leading up to the excommunications, it would seem that the ministry (well, Willis Propp and the
other key decision-makers, anyway) had decided they had to get things under control. Since they had no intention of
actually doing anything to remedy the problems, and they couldn't squelch the discussion by talking and threats, it would
seem they felt the only solution would be to eliminate those who they saw as being the problems. We know that they
find it very difficult (almost impossible, it seems) to admit they have made a mistake or to reverse any bad decision they
have made or action they have committed. It seems that for them the only way to solve a problem is to eliminate those
who are not willing to go along with their attempts to whitewash the situation.
In the case of Keith and Mabel Veitch, they had been talking to the workers in their field about one of the money issues,
and the senior worker had lied to them about the situation. When they challenged her on the lying issue and informed her
that workers who lied were not welcome in their home, the worker advised them that lying had nothing to do with doctrine
and was therefore not a valid reason to deny a worker the right to come into their home. And, if she was not allowed in
their home, then they could not have a meeting. So, that was one of the issues that sparked the removal of the first meeting.
Of course, the rest is history the Veitches decided to continue to have a meeting if anyone wished to attend, and those
who subsequently did attend were excommunicated and thus began the chain reaction that resulted in a number of meetings
being removed from homes, and about 20 people being excommunicated.
At the time of the excommunications, 8 meetings were removed (actually, 1 of these was taken about 4 months earlier because
the elder had said that Willis wasn't welcome to stay overnight in his house because of his lack of honesty in answering
questions). Of these, 5 were Wednesday night meetings, 2 were Sunday, and 1 was Union meeting. In the period immediately
after the excommunications (and extending for a couple years), at least 16 more elders gave up their meetings rather than
be seen as supporting the workers in their actions. Of these, 7 were Wednesday, 8 were Sunday meetings, and 1 was a
Union meeting and about half of those elders have also left the 2x2 system. This makes a total of at least 24 meetings
that were closed in a period of about 2 years.
I should point out that the concerns at that time had very little to do with doctrine. We were convinced that what the workers
were preaching was right or if we weren't totally convinced of that fact, we assumed it was just our own lack of understanding
that was the problem. We have now come to understand just how far off track the workers' doctrine really is, but that was not
an issue for us at that time.
I hope this answers some of the questions, although I am sure there are still some unanswered ones. There are numerous other
incidents, as well, that contributed to the total loss of trust and confidence in the workers and their system. And, as noted earlier,
others who went through the experience may have observed and experienced other issues that convinced them that things were
not the way they should be and that they could no longer support a ministry and a system that behaved the way this one did.
On the next page, you can read about how some of the Alberta excommunications were