Two by Twos
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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).
- Salvation can only be achieved by accepting Jesus, not through works or good deeds. James and Paul may have differed slightly on this theological point but, certainly, the Two by Twos are not out of step with most other major denominations here. Similar to other denominations, there is no crime so serious that it cannot be absolved by a death-bed conversion.
- 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.