Two by Twos
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The Two by Twos are an enigmatic sect of Protestant Christianity founded in Ireland by William Irvine around 1897. They have no official name and as a consequence a proliferation of names have emerged to describe the sect including 2x2s, Tramp Preachers, Go-Preachers and sometimes they are incorrectly labelled Cooneyites; amongst the religion's adherents it is commonly referred to as The Friends, The Truth, The Way or The Professing People.
The sect has no formal documented doctrine, instead relying on sermons and implicit cultural expectations to communicate doctrinal requirements. Perhaps the most distinctive aspect of the sect is that ministers, known as workers, base their conduct upon chapter 10 of the Gospel of Matthew. In these passages, Jesus sends out the twelve disciples with specific instructions for their ministry. Irvine regarded this text as a commandment, believing that ministers should be unsalaried and have no home. Workers travel and operate in pairs, and look to the congregation for shelter and food.
Since the sect doesn't officially collect numbers it is hard to estimate the size of its membership. It has adherents in:
- Australia - An estimated 70,000 members (though the estimate was conducted in 2001 and membership is likely to have changed)
- United States - An estimated from 48,000 to 190,000 members (again the study was conducted in 1995 so membership is likely to have changed)
- Ireland - Numbers unknown
- New Zealand - Numbers unknown
Estimates for worldwide adherence have fluctuated from as high as 3 million in the late 1960s to as low as 300,000 in the early 2000s.
Since the religion has no formal texts, there is considerable regional variation in doctrinal beliefs and practice across the world. Furthermore the sect's elders (leaders) avoid publicly commenting on specific doctrinal issues. In practice, their doctrine is developed from national "Overseers" that convene yearly to discuss theological issues. As to be expected, with no formal published doctrine and regional variation, compiling a list of doctrinal beliefs is difficult but a few are fairly consistent across regions:
- The rejection of the Holy Trinity; Jesus is considered to be, literally, the son of god but not god himself. Obviously this stems from a plain reading of the Bible and neatly bypasses some of the common objections to the nature of god (polytheism, sacrificing yourself to yourself, and so forth).
- Baptism is a necessary step to salvation - baptism is conducted after a person has "professed" (formally elected to join the religion). This is conducted by immersing the victim fully in water, and is the final step to joining the religion. Those baptised by other religions must be re-baptised. In Australia this is primarily conducted during "conventions", which are large meetings held over several days, usually in the ubiquitous dams that litter convention grounds.
- See the Wikipedia article on Two by Twos.
- Denomination of the Week: The Church with No Name (The Truth/Two By Twos), Roger E Olson, Patheos
- The church with no name (a.k.a. Two by Twos, The Truth, Cooneyites, Secret Sect, etc.), ReligiousTolerance.org
- The Truth Church: Inside the nameless church cult where TV and dancing are "the devil's work", Cult Education Institute, April 20, 2019