Struthers Memorial Church and the Care of Children




One of the interesting things which has happened since the original articles on this site were published online in September 2010 is the separate ongoing conversation on the US based Rick Ross website. In the “controlling churches” section of that site people have been sharing their experiences of Struthers Memorial Church. As it is a site which exists to promote and encourage honest and open dialogue we can only welcome this development.


One of the discussion participants Anon201062 in his post of Dec 8 2010 makes a particularly credulous statement which needs to be addressed.



He claims: “there are no policies in SMC we just follow the teachings of the bible”


It is hard to know where to start with a statement like that and the utterly naïve, though possibly not untypical, view of Struthers by its members it encapsulates. But one simple example shows this statement to be fundamentally incorrect.



If no policies exist does this mean there is no Child Protection Policy in Struthers Memorial Church?


We actually believe there probably is but, if Anon201062 is typical, it is possible that what the leaders of SMC in the centre have set up has not been effectively communicated to their own members. There are certainly no online references to Child Protection documents or documents available to the public, There is not even on the Struthers Church website a statement that a Child Protection Policy exists, – (other than for the fee paying school. We are asking about the church).  


So this situation raises questions:



  • Has each member of SMC been made aware of the Child Protection Policy and been given a copy or a summary?


  • Have all the leaders and those working with the young or vulnerable been trained in the policy?


  • Is there a nominated individual for reporting concerns in each church or one person for all the churches?


  • Do those attending each church know who the nominated individual is to whom they are to report any concerns?


  • If the nominated individual in any church is the Pastor, to whom would members report concerns relating to the conduct of their Pastor?

(We have to assume that we as a society are far past the point where people are irresponsible enough to think it is not appropriate to ask this very important question)


  • Is the Child Protection Policy for the church exactly the same as for the church school? If not what are the differences?


We then need to ask some questions relating to particular ways SMC would handle young people - in line with their Child Protection Policy - given some of their public statements and the deeply concerning testimony of former members, some of which has been published in books for many years and some of which is now online.


We do not claim (or even think) that any laws have been broken and are not suggesting they have been. We are simply asking how the Struthers Memorial Church Child Protection Policy operates. To help the public understand this we have put together some cases and ask how each of these situations would be dealt with when the church Child Protection Policy guidelines are applied correctly.








Often spoken of and testified to in SMC, certainly until a few years ago, was the story of 2 young teenage girls who were 13 or 14 at the time. As early secondary school children they got involved in SMC meetings in Greenock but the mother of one of the teenagers was vocally and openly against her daughter attending SMC meetings. So, the testimony goes, the two girls colluded with some of the adults then leading the Greenock church to deceive their parents and when pretending to visit the other's home they were smuggled into SMC services without the knowledge of the mother in question. This was done with the full knowledge and approval of the Greenock leadership and in fact was presented as some kind of triumph since the most important priority was not the mother's wishes, but the need to make it possible for these young teenage girls to get to Struthers meetings.


Perhaps this is a tale from another age and era.





  • Would the present leadership of SMC approve young teenagers of 13 or 14 being sneaked into SMC meetings in deliberate defiance to their parents’ clearly stated and fully known wishes?
  • If this were done now would it be consistent with the present Child Protection Policy?








A witness recounts how a weekly SMC meeting for young people was regularly conducted 15 years ago.



The young people's leader – a young adult with no training of any kind in children's or youth work was solely responsible for this weekly gathering. Children attended from around age 10 upwards. The main focus each week was the "prayer time," which sometimes lasted half an hour or more. Children were encouraged to follow the leader's example of praying loudly in tongues for a sustained time, as the leader laid hands on them. Other young adults were chosen to 'assist' during this time by laying hands on the children too and praying loudly in tongues. Most of these young people were from non church-going families and no information was communicated to their parents about these practises.



Are children under 16 subject to laying on of hands and being prayed with in tongues routinely without seeking agreement that this is acceptable to their parents? Do parents decide what is appropriate for their children - or do church leaders decide and parents would never be asked? If a leader “felt” they should pray with a young person would they be expected to check with the parents first; or would they be at liberty to go ahead in all cases and permission would be automatically assumed? If the girls in Case 1 had hands laid on them by adults and were prayed with in tongues, without parental permission being sought, would that action be consistent with the present Child Protection Policy?  



  • What is the Child Protection Policy guidance on this and what training has been given to youth leaders on this? Is it consistent across all the Struthers Churches?



  • Would children under 16 ever be prayed with for deliverance? If the answer is “yes” would their parents’ permission be sought first?


Children whose parents are not members of SMC     Sometimes / Always / Never?


Children whose parents are members of SMC           Sometimes / Always / Never?









There is a very disturbing testimony on the Struthers Memorial Church section of the Rick Ross website (culteducation.com) from a lady called Covlass. She indicates in harrowing detail some of the stress she suffered during her time in one of the SMC branches. One of the things she saw and recounted was the harsh, physical removal of a child aged about 7 or 8 from a service she attended by an angry church leader who felt slighted by the child's conduct. After being removed from the meeting the child was made to apologise in tears to the leader afterwards – in public insofar as it was witnessed by many of the church members.


Following this testimony there was a request by another contributor to the Rick Ross discussion for the leader of the church concerned to come forward and confirm the details of what happened so that those who are trying on the site to defend her (but admit they were not there when it happened) can know if they have grounds to defend her or not. So far there has been no response and people will be drawing their own conclusions from the leader's silence.



  • If the testimony of Covlass and what she saw is true would that behaviour by the leader towards the young person be consistent with the conduct expected towards an 8 year old child within the SMC Child Protection Policy?


  • If it is not consistent with the conduct expected, who has the responsibility to bring that fact to the leader's attention?


  • Has that responsible person investigated this public claim by Covlass?


  • If this conduct is not acceptable what action would be taken to assure parents with children in Struthers Memorial Church there would be no repetition of this conduct by any pastor?


  • If this conduct is outside the SMC Child Protection guidelines, will the church leader be expected to apologise in public to the young person?


  • Has any Struthers leader ever been subject to a disciplinary proceedure (or any consequences at all) on the basis of a complaint against them being found to be true?



If the answer is “no” what protection do Struthers members and their children have other than to hope that the perfect conduct of the leadership thus far continues?









One of our team of contributors recalled a very alarming incident.


He was part of a young persons group meeting at a Struthers run camp in Wiston in the early 1980s in a small meeting with about 35 young people – the majority of them would have been between 13 and 16. The leader of that small service, who is one of the present SMC leaders, chose to make the following statement - (presented here as it is remembered by the contributor):


I know you young people and I know what hidden sins you have committed. I can see in your faces who is living a clean life and who is indulging in secret sin. I am not fooled and God is not fooled. I only have time for a few of you. The rest of you mean nothing to me at all. I have no connection to you in my spirit.  


If this sounds too harsh to believe we would point you to the similar quote in our article Struthers Memorial Church and the Focus on an Elite which shares another persons’ memory of a different Struthers leader saying almost exactly the same thing about another group of children.



Let us leave aside that every young person in that room had given up part of their summer to be at a church camp because they, each in their own young way wanted to learn about God and His teachings. Let us leave aside that they had all paid to be there. Let us also leave aside that many of their contemporaries back in their home towns were busy with a range of other activities which young people get up to. These children had chosen (or agreed) to be at a church camp. We believe that all these things would matter to God. But this SMC leader made no mention of any of that. Young or not these children were bad and needed to know it and be made ashamed they were not as good in her eyes as some of the others in the room.


This was not a gospel service – these children were Christians and many Baptised in the Holy Spirit. There can be a devastating effect of telling Christian children they are not good enough for you - and by implication not good enough in the eyes of God. Brazen lie or not – this conduct is so astonishingly damaging it cannot stand. To say such things to young people risks massive damage to their view of God, their view of themselves and their view of their value as human beings.


If someone in a position of leadership and influence did tell a group of young Christian children that some in the room were pleasing God and cared for by the leader and others were not because of their own sinful awfulness- this would be as close to a definition of abuse as we can think of.


That it happened a long time ago does not lessen its importance. This still lives as a very strong and hurtful memory in the heart of the person who shared it and at least one other person we know of who was there and remembers it the same way. It is as live and harmful today as the day it was said.


First and foremost – all the humans in that room were saved by the power of the blood of Jesus and there is no good from any other source in any person. We cannot earn our forgiveness or earn merit in the eyes of God by our own supposedly righteous actions.  


         “it is written: “ There is none righteous, no, not one;”   Romans 3v10:


We believe this leader and the “best” and “worst” young people in that room will kneel together on the very level ground at the foot of the cross and no one will get by without the blood. And no-one will matter more than any other – spiritual snob or not. The mark of Jesus Christ will be there and His righteousness or none.



But assuming you are going into rooms to tell children and adults that you know who God is happy with and who you (and by implication He) is ashamed of then you had better be ready for the fall out.


Telling Christian children that some are loved and cared for by the leaders and some are not because they are failing to be Godly or live “holy enough” in some undefined way is a road to breeding guilt, shame, mental health problems, physical health problems, unhealthy dependency on leaders, fear of the leaders, create a two tier church, can lead to damaging self loathing (before the SMC leaders claim that is good thing, they should try it), and potentially increase the risk of adolescent mental health issues such as teen self harm or eating disorders.


We don't anticipate many would disagree with that assessment of the dangers if such harsh and unloving statements were being made to genuine, trusting young people looking for answers from those they believe to be presenting God to them. But perhaps it will simply be claimed that SMC leaders do not say such things to young people (or adults) and therefore these possible consequences are irrelevant as they will never happen.


In that case – good.



  • We ask for a clear confirmation that such a statement to a meeting of young people would not be allowed in 2011 as it would conflict with the current Child Protection Policy in SMC. If so we can all move on understanding that mistakes may have been made in the past.


  • If such a statement to a group of children was, and remains, acceptable and the position is that Struthers Memorial Church leaders are sometimes instructed by God to say these things to young people - then they should make that clear.


Can we ask that they then list the actions and steps being taken by the Struthers Memorial Church leadership to ensure that help is being provided for any children (including those now adults) who feel they have been affected by the emotional, mental and spiritual damage resulting from this policy.









We present unedited an e-mail we received on January 3rd 2011




Dear Latigo,

I am relieved that someone is at last raising questions about Struthers Memorial Church and their practice of banning. A 'banning' occurred in the mid 1980s, which I find extremely disturbing given the circumstances.


A teenager – around 15 years old – was banned from Struthers Church after two or so years of regular attendance. The ban was announced publically at one of the weekly meetings. The reason was not given. What the leader did say was that while many may feel sympathy for this young person, the fact was that their conduct brought Struthers Church into disrepute, so the church had no option but to ban them. It transpired that the teenager had been involved with petty stealing. No one was told this through Struthers Church.

Several of this person's closest friends (who also attended Struthers Church) were told privately by the leader that they were to have nothing else to do with the teenager. None of these teenagers' parents attended Struthers Church and no parents were consulted or contacted on this whole matter by any Struthers' representatives.

The teenager had an incredibly difficult home background to cope with, which people in Struthers Church were fully aware of. The teenager's home circumstances came before a Children's Panel.

Here are the things I find disturbing:

1. That a minor was 'banned' without any contact or involvement of their parents.


2. That a church assumes the right to instruct minors on who they are and aren't allowed to talk to, especially without conferring with parents.


3. That a church excludes a young person who so obviously had issues from home which they were struggling to come to terms with. An elderly member at Struthers Church who had befriended this teenager was astounded at the ban and pointed out – this young person was crying out for love. What did the teenager do with the stolen property? It was given as gifts to people to buy their love, because the teenager came from genuine poverty.


4. That a church takes direct action to rob a young person of their friendship support network.


Please can you add this information to your website. It gives answers to some of the questions you raised:


• Have people ever been banned? - Yes

• What conduct has led to people being banned? - petty stealing

• Have children ever been banned? -Yes.  How was this communicated to their parents? - not at all.

• Are people banned to protect the membership or to make life easier for the leaders by removing difficult' people who just don't fit in? - to maintain church's image

• Are members given any indication if it is okay for them to stay in contact with banned people? - told not to on an individual basis


Thank you.

From "Listener"






  • Would this conduct towards the 15 year old girl as described in this letter be consistent with the 2011 SMC Child Protection Policy?



  • Would every person, regardless of status in the organisation, be banned from attending if they were found guilty of being involved in stealing, or in illegal financial activity, or does this just apply to children?