Cult Stories

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” –Maya Angelou

My story – John Spinks

Due to the imposing of Exclusive Brethren law, my family have been split for 47 years. From the age of 4, I had no more contact with my 4 grandparents, 2 uncles and aunts and 10 cousins until I left the EB at the age of 22. My older brother left home at 16 and I didn’t see him for 9 years. My parents and youngest brother have been separated from me for 29 years. In 2002 there was a brief lifting of the law, as far as my parents were concerned, and I saw them 6 times. This finished when I was told, “It was just to see if you would come back”. However I saw my Mum most weeks during the last three years of her life. I was allowed to because she was in a residential home.

The hardest part was my parents not being allowed to see me. They brought me into this world. I always had deep love for them. I still do. I often longed to be able to hug them and it felt tormenting with them not being allowed to. I missed out on growing up with my grandparents and experiencing their love and support. Likewise, with my uncles, aunts and cousins, I missed out on celebrating special occasions and mutual love and support. My marriage in 1998 was not acknowledged, and the birth of my daughter was ignored by those in the EB at the time, despite the fact that she was the first grandchild. I did not allow this freak behaviour to get me down but I will not deny that the whole family separation was a tragic waste of what could have been a very healthy, happy life together.


My Story – Glennis Boyd – Through the Eyes of a Ten Year Old Child.

1970 We left. Watching my parents tumultuous decision to leave the cult. I have memories of tension, discussions, private meetings with blinds pulled across with Grandparents who had already left. Four grey haired men descending on my Mother, at home alone, slamming her for questioning, wickedness and leaving her in tears. I believe my Father was pressured to leave her and us six children. He chose not to. Leaving meant that she would lose contact with her brother and his family and my father would no longer see his parents and some siblings and their families. We left and were excommunicated.

If we saw family or friends we had grown up with up in town or tried to make contact we were shunned, rejected, looked straight through as if we didn’t exist. My mother grieved the loss of her brother. My father his sisters and brothers. His parents and some siblings also walked away. We were not to know that at the time. When my brother’s younger brother died at a relatively young age, Father was not allowed to attend the funeral. He had to stand at the edge of the cemetery and only allowed to ‘file’ past the grave when given the ‘nod’. I tried phoning my Aunty to give our condolences. My parents said, “Its no use!”, ” They won’t talk to you’. On answering the phone. A cousin said he would only talk to me if I “returned to The Way and repented”. I replied,” I have just phoned to give our love and say sorry for your loss”. We chose to leave. The door was shut. My parents are now at rest. Secret meetings with some relatives have happened since. Out of respect and fear or retribution for THEM, I remain….SHUT UP. As for me….I am FREE!


My Story – Peter Harwood

My background briefly is that my parents came from The Channel Islands in the UK and both families for 3 generations had been in EB’s. I was newly married in 1971 and not living at home in London and after ‘Aberdeen’ went in a different direction to my parents and brother. Those early years were very painful when I used to regularly visit my parents and the door remained closed. Many years later when my mother, then my father died, I was not told until 6 months later and this I found difficult.

I have another example of this EB family splitting as follows, (with no names / places.) A good friend of mine in 1971, who was ‘shut up’ for some EB misdemeanor, was instructed NOT to visit his father in hospital. My friend disobeyed the EB orders and did visit his elderly father in hospital. The next day on returning to the family house, a suitcase of his clothes was on the door step and he was told not to contact his family again. He lost his business, his home and his family.

Any assistance I can give you in any way with your book please ask. Kind regards Peter Harwood


My Story – Anonymous.

Think I might stay anonymous. My parents left the Exclusive Brethren in 1970, having heard evidence of the debauched behaviour of the so-called leader at the time, James Taylor Junior. His lack of Christian teaching in the church gatherings, his alcohol dependency and his adulterous behaviour (getting into bed with and touching other men’s wives), were not what they felt were qualities for a Christian leader, so they left a large gathering of friends and family in Bristol, with me and my sister, aged 4 and 3. While it was their choice to leave for these reasons, my father’s family who remained in this cult have had no contact ever since. My father died six years later, and although my mother phoned his parents to let them know, the response was polite but curt, and none of them came to his funeral. I am sad that we have lost these family connections – my grandparents, two aunts and their husbands, approximately 9 cousins and their families – even if we had contact now, they would be complete strangers after more than 47 years of no communication. I have chosen not to tell my own sons about this lost family as there doesn’t seem to be any point.


My Story – Reg Shaughnessy

Hi John,
I am following up on your Facebook post requesting emails of experiences of those who left the brethren.

I was never in the brethren. However, my father, Reg Shaughnessy, was. He was in a meeting in Swansea, Wales up until the early 1960s. Some of my family are members of this Facebook group: Brian Shaughnessy of Swansea and Allison Scanlan of Toronto.

I never knew the full story of my father’s time in and departure from the brethren. I have been piecing it together over the last eight years. As I understand it, my father, A successful young engineer, was told to leave his profession as he was likely to give in to the worldly trappings of a good salary and forsake his faith. The brethren kindly told my mother that he was being put out because she was an Anglican. After my sister Allison was born, my Dad’s mother visited the family to help out. When the brethren found out, they put her out too. That was a secret I only found out recently.

My father emigrated with his family to Canada in 1968 where we took up shop in the Baptist Church in Sault Sainte Marie, Ontario. My mother never got over the guilt of feeling responsible for his departure from the church and turn to a life of depression and pharmaceutical depression remedies. Bless her heart, but she maintained this til her passing last year. Whenever things got dark in their relationship, my father always said “I’m going back” – – a reference to the fact that the brethren always wanted him back, threat that burned ulcers in my 11-year-old stomach.That said, they never called him when his father, Leslie, died. I am told is that on numerous occasions when he tried to visit, they would not receive him. He was cut off and thrown away.

It’s too bad they didn’t keep in touch. My father became a steel executive with great international connections. He spent a lot of his money and his talents on the local churches where he lived. He brought countless people to the face. He was a true Christian.

I was very close to my father, but we could never talk about his faith. Despite the fact that his library was full of bibles and books (mostly Taylor and JND), And despite the fact that I carried a Darby Bible, we could never speak about his faith (because of my utterance to him that I thought the Brethren was a despicable cult.) My father was the only true Christian that I ever knew, But his relationship with Christ was something that we could never share. I lived my life fearing that he would “put me out” just like his family had done to him. Incidentally, that fear kept my mother bed ridden for most of her, or at least my, adult life.

In 1985, I took a course in biology at the University of Toronto. I stayed with Roy and Marion Devenish. They had just been put out in Toronto and I spent a summer listening to stories of how they missed their family. I think my father had me billet with them to help them with their pain of losing a son. I never kept in touch with Roy and Marion , and I feel bad about that, but I felt I had to make a break as I was sick of atoning for the sins of the cult.

My father had three brothers and a sister, I think. When he died, one of the brothers called me [I don’t know how he had my number] to ask me the specifics of how my father died. It was very odd. My uncle, whom I have never met, and the only one with whom I’ve ever conversed, Said that he “prayed for us every day”. I thanked him for his call but caustically said that this was a funny way to treat those that one purports to Love. After my father’s death, the local brethren started calling on my mother, which threatened her immensely. She said they had been calling during dad’s lifetime, too, offering to take them back. That, of course, would come with them cutting us off and repatriating their capital to the cult. My mother would have none of this. Curiously, the same people called from the UK Shortly after my mother passed. Typical brethren: useless in life; present after death.

My father was an amazing man. My wife, an ardent atheist, says that he was the only Christian that she’s ever met. To say that I am a prodigal son would be offensive to prodigal sons. However, I have a faith and it is precious and dear to me. I have had it my entire life and yet this precious faith is something I have never been able to share with my father, just as he was never able to share his with me. A complete travesty.

In recent years, some of my cousins – – sons and daughters of my father’s siblings – – have left the brethren and have reached out. Brian is one of these. Through them, I have learned much more about my family, information that quite frankly I should’ve learned from my mom and dad. I’ve also learned about the pain that they have endured. The mistreatment from leaving; the lies; the double standards; the severing of families.

I don’t wear a badge of being ex-brethren. I am the son of an ex-brethren. But, I totally understand the pain that these departing members are going through. Funnily, One of these Ex-brethren Facebook sites Initially refused me entry because I had never been in the brethren. At the time, I remarked that I found such exclusivity to be comical and ironical, and they let me in, but on reflection, members of this group are only living out what they know. The sad thing is that they, who were once in have no perspective of someone, like me, who was always out and had no way of knowing what “being in” was all about. I am the true bastard son of a bastard cult- every entendre untended.

Why am I sending this note? It could be that I’m angry. A cult ruined the most precious relationship that I might’ve had with someone I loved the most dearly. A cult ruined my mother’s life, and those of my cousins. I read of abuses and lawsuits and people living in fear, and as a lawyer and decent human being and citizen, I get angry. I see somebody like you trying to present a message to make a difference, and I want to give you my comments from my small patch of the world.

I thank you for your invitation to contribute.

Sincerely, Andy

Andrew Shaughnessy
Torys LLP


Is you family split by religious law? What does it feel like? Would you like to share the story here? If so please email me on contact@cult-escape.com

Feel free to sign your story as anonymous. Some people want it to be for good reason.

As a simple format I suggest something like My Story above which is in two paragraphs. The first describes the split. The second is how it has affected me and my family and how I feel.

I pray for all our families to be united. One day we shall all see that they are.

Love John