Jesus Army

A radical Christian movement known for its communal living, outreach to the marginalized, and a troubling legacy of abuse allegations.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: British New Church Movement
Founder: Noel Stanton
Founded: 1969
Location: Headquartered in Northampton, United Kingdom
Size: 3,500 members in 24 congregations (2007)
Other Names: Jesus Fellowship, Bugbrooke Community

The Jesus Army, also known as the Jesus Fellowship Church and the Bugbrooke Community, was a neocharismatic evangelical Christian movement in the United Kingdom, which emerged from the British New Church Movement. Founded in 1969 by Noel Stanton in a Northamptonshire chapel, it grew significantly over the decades, becoming well-known for its street-based evangelism and distinctive communal living arrangements.

The movement established the New Creation Christian Community for its members, who lived in shared housing and adhered to a lifestyle of communal possession sharing, inspired by the Acts of the Apostles’ description of the early Christian church. This community lifestyle was central to the Jesus Fellowship’s identity, making it one of the largest intentional Christian communities in Europe. The Jesus Fellowship claimed a high proportion of young members and was involved in various outreach programs, including a yearly event called “RAW (Real and Wild)” aimed at young people aged between 15 and 35.

In terms of doctrine, the Jesus Army upheld the historic creeds of the Christian faith, emphasizing the importance of baptism in water and the Holy Spirit, and accepting the charismatic gifts. Their belief system was described as reformed, evangelical, and charismatic, focusing on the lordship of Jesus Christ and a commitment to witnessing His teachings through a holy and righteous society.

Recent reports have brought to light a series of grave incidents of abuse within the Jesus Army shedding light on the troubling experiences of several members. For example, Mrs. Charley-Farrall, one of the former members, described her experience in the church as traumatic, losing her childhood to a strict and controlled environment. She recounted how women were expected to show deference to men and participate in distressing weekly sessions of confessing faults to one another. Mrs. Charley-Farrall also revealed that she was sexually abused by a respected member of the church during her early to mid-teens. This abuse, which occurred over several months, was not reported to the authorities, a failure she attributes to a lack of care by the church leadership.

The Jesus Army disbanded in 2019 following a BBC investigation that revealed children suffered abuse “on a prolific scale.” The disbandment marked the end of a community that had started as a cult-like religious movement, attracting thousands of members and operating dozens of communal houses around the country.

In response to these allegations and incidents of abuse, a compensation scheme was established. This scheme, set up by the Jesus Fellowship Survivors Association and Lime Solicitors, is open to individuals who suffered sexual, physical, or emotional abuse within the church. The main features of the scheme include a written apology from the church, compensation awards aligned with common law standards, the possibility of meeting with a trustee of the church’s closing team, and a dedicated fund for counseling grants.

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