“Reading the Bible Together” – The Cooneyites Advertise in Local Newspapers


Just last week I noticed this small advertisement in our local free newspaper: “Reading the Bible Together. Anyone interested please contact… (telephone number)”

After reading this, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to ring the phone number in the advertisement. The lady who replied was most polite and friendly but very reluctant indeed to tell me with whom she was associated. Having discovered that I preferred the Authorised Version of the Bible and the old hymns, she whole-heartedly agreed with me, telling me about where their weekly Bible study was held. After giving me an invitation to come along, I discovered that it is held in a parish community centre in the town.

At this point I was still curious about her background. I told her of my own experience and of how I had come to ask the Lord Jesus Christ into my heart around 35 years ago. After that there was an awkward silence and I instinctively knew that the lady did not regard this wonderful change in my life as something to rejoice about. On the contrary I had the distinct impression that she did not think that it was valid at all.

“Yes, well, about our Bible Study…” she went on, completely ignoring the simplicity and the wonder of something which meant more than life itself to me. A true Christian, on the other hand, would have immediately warmed to this reference to my testimony and denominational differences would have melted into insignificance as we would go on to testify of our love for the Saviour.

Because of this experience, I am now reluctant to label myself as ‘non-denominational,’ although I can understand the thinking behind a phrase I once heard used: “denominations are abominations.” I suppose that denominations, although they came into existence following dissension amongst the brethren and doctrinal differences since the early church, are one issue – but cults are quite another. “A cult,” I have heard it said, (certainly of pseudo-Christian cults) “is a group of people who follow one man and his misinterpretation of the Bible.”

After listening to her enthusiastically give me this invitation to the Bible study, strangely I remembered the information that I had read about Cooneyites and decided to ask her was she associated with them.

I didn’t expect her to be so straight with me… “Well some people refer to us as that,” she said, “but we don’t call ourselves this.”

Professing to follow “the Jesus Way,” the Cooneyites concentrate on the life of Jesus but not on His precious shed blood for the sins of mankind; like other erroneous systems of belief this cult has sadly strayed into the path of ‘salvation by works.’ While there is no better example to follow than our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in all our attitudes, thoughts, words and actions, it is not by attempting to follow His life in our own strength, that we are saved – but by repenting and putting our trust in His shed blood at Calvary, in the knowledge that He has risen, is alive in heaven today and ever lives to make intercession for us. Only with faith as the sure foundation upon which we stand, can we ever be “Christlike” in His strength.

There is so much more that I could say about the aspects of this cult which was founded in Ireland in 1897 by William Irvine, who was originally an evangelist with the Faith Mission. Cooneyites have also been known as Irvingites, Go-preachers, Two-by-two’s, Workers and the Nameless House Church or Christian Convention Church. However they prefer to call themselves “The Way,” “The Jesus Way” or “The Truth.”

The lady I spoke to worked with another lady friend and from what I could discern they were both middle-aged and unmarried. “I felt led recently to work along the east coast of Ireland,” she had told me.

 ‘Led by whom?’ I wondered. (The Cooneyites do not believe in the leading of the Holy Spirit, in the Trinity or in the deity of Christ.)

It has also been said that they even go so far as to declare that the Bible is a “Dead Book” unless it is “made to live” through the mouth of one of their preachers

“You will come along, won’t you?” the lady pleaded with me towards the end of our conversation.

“You know,” I said, avoiding her question, “at the end of the day you and I and everyone else in this world… really what we want is the knowledge that we will definitely at the end of this life go to heaven. It is so wonderful to have that assurance.”

“Yes…” she replied hesitantly, “we can but only hope in God’s mercy…”

Today I pray for that lady and for the opportunity to perhaps speak to her again, even if it is only over the telephone – and I also pray that those souls who are genuinely seeking will not be snared by this cult which like many others is weaving its web in an Ireland where unwary people are weary of hypocrisy in the traditional teachings of a major system of idolatry which has betrayed the young and old.


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16 Responses to ““Reading the Bible Together” – The Cooneyites Advertise in Local Newspapers”

  1. Geraldine Smith Says:

    My dear lady, you are very misinformed about the way and the people who you have proceeded to write about. Having enjoyed some of your blog post I am most disappointed in what I’ve read here, all based on musings. Writing on something of which you have little knowledge can never be wise. Cooneyites are those who broke away from these people, and followed a man called Cooney. So the people who you refer to themselves are not the Cooneyites. They very much believe in the blood – “Wash me, oh Lamb of God… Now may the crimson tide… be to my heart applied and make me clean…” being a hymn they often sing. They believe Jesus hasn’t “done it all” and they try to do their part – but believe Jesus sacrifice is the ultimate part of salvation, which is what the bible teaches. I assume you have never attended one of their missions – as the Spirit is mentioned in possibly every single meeting, and their prayer to be lead by it. They teach the bible is dead unless God makes it real through the spirit, not through the servants. Its people who talk against those who are trying to follow exactly what the bible says, like yourself, who I would pray for… Though of course, everyone needs to be prayed for.

  2. readywriterpublications Says:

    Dear Geraldine,
    Thank you so much for getting in touch. Any comments on my blogs so far have come from people who are in agreement with what I say, so I have to say this comment is very interesting and makes a change for me! Also, I’m glad that you have commented, in order that some issues may be clarified in relation to both our viewpoints.
    From what you say I understand that you would see ‘the Cooneyites’ as erroneous because they broke away to follow this man Cooney. You say: “the people who you refer to themselves are not the Cooneyites…” Do you know the people that I have been in touch with? However, having spoken to some people just recently, it is clear that no group wishes to be identified as being ‘Cooneyite.’
    You are right – I’ve never attended one of their missions. The truth is – I’ve never been invited to one of these or personally known of anyone who ever was invited. My information has been gleaned from personal research and the testimony of someone who was once involved with the ‘two by two’s.’
    I would like to ask some questions – not to argue with you, but just to know exactly what you personally believe…
    Do you believe that it is possible for a person to be born again of the Spirit of God, even when they have never had any contact with the people you mention?
    Is it possible, in your opinion, for a person to have an assurance of sins forgiven and a home in heaven, even though that person is not affiliated in any way to the people whom you are trying to defend?
    Finally, I find your comment “They believe Jesus hasn’t “done it all” and they try to do their part – but believe Jesus sacrifice is the ultimate part of salvation, which is what the Bible teaches.” very contradictory.
    Surely Jesus Himself said in John 17v4: “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”
    Those three words of Jesus, just before He ‘gave up the ghost’ speak volumes too… “It is finished.” (John 19v30)
    Yes, I believe in my heart that Jesus has done it all – for you and for me and for every soul in this world. “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1John 2v2)
    I believe in His deity and in His all-atoning, all-sufficient sacrifice for the souls of mankind. Yes, He is an example to follow – but we can only do this in His strength, having repented, realizing that He is our sufficiency and our sole means of salvation. When we are truly born again of the Spirit of God, acknowledging Jesus as Saviour, then our works in His strength will be evidence of our faith.
    Thanks again for commenting Geraldine. Please do feel free to comment on my reply to you and let me know your views.

  3. Geraldine Smith Says:

    Thanks for your reply. There is a small group, which has almost completely phased out, who were genuinely “Cooneyites”. They followed this man, broke away with him. In some areas of the north of Ireland there are a number who still would refer to themselves as Cooneyites. Labeling the people you have met with “Cooneyites” is just like labeling a new species that you have never seen before “rabbits” because you think they are a close enough match. Invitations are given out by these people, in thousands, every year. To say you know no one who has received one seems strange, if you live in an area where there have been meetings held. They often even go door to door inviting people.

    I do believe that those who truly seek God will find Him, and He will show them the way to be saved. When I say Jesus hasn’t “done it all” – you misinterpret what I say. Creating a strawman as they say. He has done “his part”, He came to earth in a human body, born in a stable, lived a perfect life, pleasing God. Fulfilling all scripture and leaving an example for those who want to please God – “I have left you an example, that ye should do as I have done.” He fulfilled his part in God’s plan of salvation, the part that we as humans could never do, shedding his blood for the remission of our sins. Its not unconditional, and we have a part to do ourselves. “Whoever will follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” There are conditions to have the benefit of the cleansing in Jesus. You mention about people not being affiliated with these people still being saved. If that is God’s plan, then I believe it could be. However Jesus did say – “I am the way, the truth, the life.” Paul also mentioned the many ones – One father, one spirit etc etc. If you are following completely everything you are ordered by someone, and I follow completely everything I am ordered by the same person, there will be unity between us, one mind controlling everything we do. Is this not what God planned? Not many denominations? These people believe God’s word, they take no other rulebook, no other doctrine. Anyone else who God speaks to, and moves to fit in with His word completely, they will have fellowship with those who do the same, as these people strive to do. So yes, I believe it is possible.

  4. readywriterpublications Says:

    Hello Geraldine,

    Thank you for getting in touch again. Firstly I want to make it clear that, yes – I have had an invitation to a Bible study in this area where I now live (for the first time ever) – but never to one of their missions and neither have I ever personally ever known anyone to have been invited to one of their missions wherever I have lived in Ireland. That aside, you seem very certain that the people I have been in contact with are not ‘Cooneyites’ and this gives me the impression that you may know these people personally. If they are not ‘Cooneyites’ do they call themselves ‘Christians?’ After all, this is very scriptural. “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” (Acts 11v26)
    I am a Christian because on Monday 28th August, 1978, I repented and put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, after an inward struggle when I was alone in my room.
    I don’t refer to myself as a ‘born again Christian’ because this gives the impression that there is more than one type of Christian. The fact is – only those who have been born again of the Spirit of God are Christians.
    I didn’t have to join an organisation or any church to make this experience real in my life. The Lord saved me and still today I love and serve Him, in the onward march of life, whatever it holds for me. The Bible became alive for me personally when I crossed from darkness into light and every time I read it through, I date it now. Its words to me bring comfort, enlightenment and love for the souls of my fellowmen and women, whatever their background or circumstances.
    I am aware that there a great number of denominations, traditional churches, sects and cults out there – most of which adopt a name for themselves, but there are only two types of people in this world – those who are saved, spritually speaking, and those who are not.
    Most of all, I have that assurance in my heart that when the Lord returns (or death comes to me first) that I am ready, by faith, in His precious blood to be with Him.
    I have proved His love to me many times in my life – “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9v6)
    “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” (Psalm 18v2)
    Jesus said: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14v15) It is only in His strength and power that we can keep His commandments.
    Praise God for the love He gives those who know Him for others. Geraldine, I just wanted to let you know of my personal experience and I pray that you will understand where I am coming from. At the end of the day, to have that peace in your heart of a knowledge of sins forgiven, a daily close walk with the Saviour and an assurance of a home in heaven is something which is the Lord’s will for each one of us.

  5. Geraldine Smith Says:

    I think it is good you have had such an experience, and if you in your heart you are fully satisfied with your relationship with God – that’s a great condition to be in! I’m not disputing your experience, or what you believe. I very much respect it, however I do regret that you have written things about these people which are unfounded and untrue. If you decided to write about them, I would have thought going to their bible study would have been a safe thing to do, to find out, even from themselves, what they believe. Who can tell you better about what they believe after all, certainly not those who have lost faith in the way or those who only have partial information. I’m not saying this in a criticizing way to you, just highlighting that its dangerous judging people and things by labels that other put on them, without finding out for yourself what is at the heart of it.

  6. readywriterpublications Says:

    Anyone interested in this issue may also be interested in:

  7. Annie Says:

    I do have first hand experience with the group and all that is outlined in the blog post above rings true, I did not see anything judgmental or anything that isn’t based on factual evidence. I would encourage anyone in this group or considering it to do full research first by checking out the link that is posted above and other books and websites so they are able to make an informed decision and be able to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

  8. Nathan Barker Says:

    Geraldine Smith is correct, readywriter needs to do more investigation. I was a 2×2 worker. I have been in this fellowship more than 35 yrs.

    Here is my 2×2 history message board.

  9. Irvine Grey Says:

    We need to distinguish between ‘Cooneyites’ and ‘two by twos’. When Cooney was excommunicated in 1928 there were a number who followed Cooney but these have diminished to only a handful. The movement that this blogger refers to are the two by twos who are often erroneously called ‘Cooneyites.’

    Because the two by twos do not have any written statement of faith trying to pin down what they actually believe is very difficult. After researching the two by two movement for over three years before writing my thesis, “Two by Two” – the Shape of a Shapeless Movement I was awarded a Master of Philosophy, Queens University, Belfast.

    I subsequently published my thesis as a book last year. http://www.irvnegrey.com. Although my final conclusion was that this movement is a cult of Christianity I do believe that within the movement there are those who are genuinely born again but sadly they seem to be a small minority.

    Generally they do reject the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity, although not all do. A good test is to ask if they will affirm that Jesus Christ was God come in the flesh.

    [1] In the beginning was the Word [Jesus Christ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] He was in the beginning with God. [3] All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. [4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men (John 1:1-4 ESV) [14] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. [15] (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) [16] For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. [17] For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. [18] No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:14-18 ESV) [11] For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, [12] training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, [13] waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, [14] who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14 ESV)

    • readywriterpublications Says:

      Hello Irvine,
      Thank you for your comment and for all the information you’ve given here. I don’t claim to be an expert on this group or their previous schisms; my main concern right now is to reach out to others in the community, as the Lord leads. By the way, I have reason to believe that no group today wishes to be identified as being ‘Cooneyite’ although remnants of the smaller group remain, especially in Northern Ireland. Since my blog was posted back in October last year, I have had a visit from two ladies and to be honest, I am not really 100% sure as to whom they are affiliated with, since they gave no information about this.

  10. readywriterpublications Says:

    Hello Nathan – Are you still a 2×2 worker? You say “I was a 2×2 worker” but you also say “I have been in this fellowship for 35 yrs.”
    Why does no one want to admit to belonging to this group? Geraldine (above) refers to them as “they,” “these people,” and “the people you refer to, etc.” It is also assumed that the people I was in touch with were not ‘Cooneyites.’ At this moment I have no time to research the historical details behind the schism in your group. My main priority is to reach the people around me with the gospel, as the Lord leads. For those who are in doubt about any group they are involved in – or about to be involved in – I would say: get alone, away from any influences at all, apart from the Bible. Pray sincerely to the Lord that He will show you the truth. It is not His will that anyone be deceived and I believe that He will honour such a prayer from a sincere and open heart.
    May the Lord lead you into all truth.

  11. Irvine Grey Says:

    I decided that this was worth looking into in more detail and on my way back home from Dublin on Wednesday I stopped off and met with Elizabeth Burke. I was deeply impressed by her simplicity and strong Christian faith. I have no doubt that her purpose for making contact when she read the advert in the newspaper was without any hidden agenda and a desire to have fellowship with fellow believers.

    I know both who both the workers are and have heard them speak at various conventions. Elizabeth was rightly concerned about their evasiveness when it came to answering her questions and their lack of transparency when it came to saying what they actually believe. However, this is a trait that I recognise and experienced during my research. One was quite likely to get an answer but it was to a different question!

    The secrecy of the 2x2s when asked a simple question regarding their faith and what they believe is breath taking and a far cry from what the apostle Peter told Christians to do. ‘But in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect’ 1 Peter 3:15

    Paul had no difficulty summarising the Gospel when he wrote to the church in Corinth: ‘Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures’ 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

    Of course the 2x2s will respond with ‘we believe the Bible’ as indeed every other one who claims to be Christian will say, but when it comes to explaining what they believe the Bible teaches, a questioner is usually met with silence or an inane or rambling, incoherent response. The early church recognised the importance of stating clearly what it believed and they gave us the Apostles’ Creed which is a good summary of the Christian faith as we find it in Scriptures.


    I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell: The third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead: I believe in the Holy Ghost: I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints: The forgiveness of sins: The resurrection of the body: And the life everlasting. Amen.

  12. Irvine Grey Says:

    As I read Muriel’s story in VOX magazine I thought of all of the similar accounts from formers 2x2s I received during my research and still receive from those who have read my book, Two by Two the Shape of a Shapeless Movement.

    Muriel, a former Jehovah’s Witness writes: ‘In 1980 there was a big article on “Time” magazine about the Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation. Two elders from Dublin went over to the US to find out what was happening and they came back with lots of serious issues and questions.

    The huge result was that I left the Jehovah’s Witnesses. That was traumatic. My family were still JWs and when you leave, they cut you off completely. All my friends turned their backs on me. It was hard when my family wouldn’t speak to me. Over the years, they softened a bit but it has never been the same.

    When you are questioning all the beliefs you have had since childhood, your head is left in a state of meltdown. I didn’t know what to believe any more. My whole life was wrapped up in being a JW. . . .

    I remember one day on the bus reading Romans 8 about how God can adopt me and I can become His child. I thought “that’s it!” I was still afraid but right there on the 51B bus I gave my life to the Lord. It was a leap of faith jumping into the unknown, but I knew I needed Him.

    The witnesses don’t believe that Jesus is God so that was a revelation. I remember walking across a field trying to figure out the Trinity. I couldn’t seem to get my head around it and then I felt the Lord saying, “Just rest in that.” Jesus is Lord and that was it! Even now I wonder how I got to this amazing place considering where I came from. It is just the Lord’s grace.’

    ‘Muriel’s Story’ Taken from VOX magazine Issue 22.

  13. osarobohenry Says:

    Thank you for stopping by at my blog and for liking some of my posts. May the Lord richly bless you more abundantly in the name of Jesus Christ.

  14. Jo Says:

    Hi, I have been in touch with people from different religions, convictions, faiths and from time to time I browse the net to see what people are thinking and saying. I have also been in touch with people of the newly found “last reformation”
    So I’d like to support what you said and felt about your telephone conversation you originally had.
    I meet with people from the same group. It may sound strange, but yes I do, and yes, they have certain views that would support what you said.
    Sadly, most have been so “conditioned” (i won’t use the word indoctrinated) that they do not see what they really are like.

    Why am I in fellowship with them? Well, there are some really nice people, some who would or may have my thinking too. So I can enjoy some form of human godly fellowship on a regular basis.

    I would have an absolute conviction, that I may NOT judge any other person who says they believe in God and His son Christ Jesus and order their lives to the everyday teachings of Christ, no matter through who, where or how they came to that conviction.

    I am open to meet with anyone, and I do meet with people of “named” denominations/faiths, however, just as I see the flaws within the fellowship of my choosing, I see the flaws in theirs, however, I don’t condemn or challenge anyone on it. That is for them to figure out.

    You are welcome to contact me offline and to publish my email address. Unfortunately, I’m posting this under a nickname or I could face a big backlash.


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