Twelve Tribes Communities

A network of religious communities advocating for a return to early Christian values and communal living.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Messianic Communities
Founder: Elbert Eugene Spriggs (known as Yoneq)
Founded: 1972
Location: Various locations worldwide, including the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia
Size: Approximately 3,000 members (estimate)
Other Names: The Twelve Tribes, The Yellow Deli People

The Twelve Tribes, a new religious movement with origins in the early 1970s in Tennessee, has developed a complex structure and set of beliefs that set it apart from other religious groups. Founded during a period of burgeoning Jesus movements, it sought to revive the communal spirit and practices of the early disciples as depicted in the Acts of the Apostles. The group refers to itself as “an emerging spiritual nation” and comprises a confederation of twelve self-governing tribes, which are made up of self-governing communities. These communities, extending across the United States, South America, Europe, and Asia, include families and single people living together in homes and farms, embracing a life of shared resources and common purpose​​.

The Twelve Tribes promotes a lifestyle that seeks to mirror the early Christian community, advocating for a return to a simpler, more devout way of life. This includes communal living, where all property and income are shared within the community, and a strong emphasis on agriculture. Many of their communities operate farms that not only serve their food needs but also act as a means of engagement with the broader society through farmstands and farmer’s markets. Their businesses, such as the Yellow Deli, are extensions of their communal life, with profits supporting the community rather than individual gain​​.

Controversially, the Twelve Tribes holds doctrines that have attracted significant criticism and scrutiny. Accusations of child abuse, stemming from the group’s disciplinary practices, have been a particular flashpoint. The Southern Poverty Law Center has described the Twelve Tribes as a “Christian fundamentalist cult,” critiquing its teachings on race, homosexuality, and the treatment of children. Their teachings, some of which are kept private or “inner,” have also been a source of ongoing controversy. For example, the group’s founder, Elbert Eugene Spriggs, who is also known as Yoneq, has teachings that are only fully accessible to those considered to be under the “anointing” or spiritual authority of the group​​​​.

The group’s eschatological beliefs further distinguish it from mainstream Christianity. The Twelve Tribes holds a detailed interpretation of the end times, believing in the imminent establishment of the Kingdom of God concurrent with the rise of a world leader or Antichrist. This belief system anticipates a final, divine intervention that will usher in a new era, with the Twelve Tribes playing a pivotal role in the unfolding of these last days​​.

The Twelve Tribes’ approach to religious life and community, while seeking to replicate the practices of the early Christian church, has thus evolved into a complex tapestry of beliefs and practices that include elements of both communal utopianism and controversial doctrines. Their self-sufficient communities and distinctive theological positions continue to provoke both interest and controversy in the broader religious and secular world​​​​​​​​.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *