Structure of the Truelight Church
The Truelight Church was a loose-knit congregation of 6 churches that all followed the religious doctrines laid out by Cunningham Boyle who established the separatist sect.
Boyle declared that the existing established churches had so deviated from Christ’s teachings that they had lost their way. In the 1870s Cunningham Boyle left Methodism and set out to begin preaching in the area around Lynchburg, South Carolina. and parts of North Carolina where he established several churches that became the Truelight Church. It is obvious he stepped on some toes as seen in this clipping in The Sumter Watchman, Sumpter, South Carolina, 26 Oct 1870, Wed • Page 4 in which he publically called out a Christian publication accusing him of trying to “draw” members from other churches into his own.
Each church/congregation that was initially established loosely elected an Elder. Each elder from each church would meet and Elect a Head Elder to oversee the 6 churches. This process was never formalized and the individual church elders were traditionally chosen by their predecessors.
Unfortunately, this loose-knit structure led to squabbles within the membership and eventually led to the individual congregations splitting. Even though the initial congregations split because of internal differences of ideologies, they still share the same historical origination of Cunningham Boyle’s dream.
This is taken from Encyclopedia.com
The beliefs of the church are summarized in its articles of faith. The church affirms the living God, a personal spiritual Being whose perfection consists of his attributes of mercy, justice, truth, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, and immutability. The Bible is the inspired Word of God. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, possesses the same attributes. The Son existed in an embryo state until the beginning of creation, at which time the Son was separated from the Father and made equal to Him. The devil is also a personal spiritual being who is co-eternal with God. The devil possesses seven attributes of unmercifulness, injustice, untruthfulness, wisdom, power, omnipresence, and immutability. Humans are essental souls (personal spiritual beings) who exist in the body and impart life to it.
The church teaches that all spiritual and immaterial things are non-created, hence cannot be annihilated. Besides God and the devil, the uncreated reality includes time and space, and the souls of human beings. Souls are the offspring of God, existing from all eternity. Souls were separated from God on the sixth day of creation to go through a period of probation. God created human beings in His own image, but when they fell to temptation, the Spirit of God (the image) was lost and humanity received the spirit of the devil. The work of Christ was to provide salvation and the recovery of the Spirit of God for humanity.
Members believe that there is one true church of Christ, and membership in it, gained by repentence of sin and faith in God through Christ, is essential for salvation. The church observes two ordinances, baptism (by either sprinkling, pouring, or immersion) and the Lord’s supper. Members are conscientious objectors to war. Alcohol and tobacco are forbidden.
The church teaches that 7,000 years was the period allotted by God from creation to judgment and that 6,000 years is the time allotted for the probationary period. The last generation began in 1870 and before this generation passes (i.e., the end of the 6,000 years), Christ will return. Without specifically naming the date, the church believes that it is living in the last years before Christ’s return, possibly by the end of the twentieth century.
This documented historical timeline is meant to be respectful of the Church and its members. I applaud the church for its perseverance through the good and the bad that they have dealt with. I write the information below making no judgment and am only providing the documented history of the Truelight Church which I have found to date in regards to my genealogy quest.
I hope this page is helpful to family members doing genealogy research as well as Church Members wanting to know some of the histories behind their Church. All of this information can be found in the public domain.
This timeline may be updated from time to time as I continue to learn learn more about the Truelight Church and the families that were a part of it.
I welcome all comments. If there is something I need to add or correct regarding this timeline please let me know.
1831 – Cunningham Boyle is born 1831 to Ann Cunningham and Cunningham Boyle, Sr. They were large land and slaveholders. His father was murdered by slaves in 1838.
Tarboro, North Carolina
11 Aug 1838, Sat • Page 2
1870 – Boyle claims to have a revelation from God who tells him he is the third angel in the Book of Revelations. The first angel was Martin Luther and the second Theophilus Gates, according to Boyle. Boyle set out for his quest of Truth. 7000 years marked the end of time on earth and the time of judgment. Boyle calculates the last 100-year generation was to be born in 1870 and Jesus Christ was to return in 1970 for final judgment and begin a new Millenium of Peace as dictated by The Book of Revelations.
1872 Boyle withdraws his membership from the Methodist Episcopal Church in Lynchburg, South Carolina.
1872 – Boyle establishes High Hill Truelight Church, a separatist religious sect, in Lee County (near Lucknow), South Carolina. The “word” spreads and more churches are established North in Union and Mecklenburg, North Carolina.
1874 – Boyle publishes “Book of Truth“. He proclaims himself the third angel in the Book of Revelations.
1884 – May – 10 – Cunningham Boyle dies.
1884 – Daniel Jenkins becomes the Elder of High Hill Truelight Church after Boyle’s death.
1905 – August – Joseph Dalton Reynolds Joins the High Hill Truelight Church.
1906 – February – Joseph Dalton (J D) Reynolds becomes the Elder of the High Hill Truelight Church.
1917 – Cul Mullis dies in 1917, but passes the position of Elder to James Alexander Griffin before his death.
1917 – James Alexander Griffin becomes Elder of Shiloh Truelight Church.
1920 – Daniel Jenkins is recognized as the first Head Elder of all the Truelight churches thus creating a loose-knit federation of the Truelight churches that operate under Boyle’s religious doctrines. Some believe he was self-appointed and believe Boyle did not want this kind of church organization. Jenkins is in Florida and does not come to the 1920 conference. J D Reynolds presides over the 1920 conference instead.
1923 – Daniel Jenkins is dis-fellowed due to contradictions of Boyle’s doctrines in which he attempts to teach his congregation.
1923 – J D Reynolds is appointed Head Elder of the Truelight churches.
1936 – James Alexander Griffin dies and carries on the tradition of passing the position of Elder to Edd Mullis before his death.
1956 – July – 3 – Shiloh Truelight Church burns to the ground due to a lightning strike. All the3 other congregations pool their money and labor and rebuild the church.
1958 – Head Elder J. D. Reynolds has a stroke. Edd Harrison Mullis appointed as Head Elder by the other church elders. Mullis continues being the Elder of Shiloh.
1960’s – Under the leadership of Edd Harrison Mullis, the informal and loose-knit federation of the 6 Truelight churches grows to roughly 2000 members.
1962 – May – 16 – Rocky River Truelight Elder Henry Pusser dies. Edd Mullis appoints Luther Haigler as Elder of Rocky River. Haigler is the uncle of James Rommie Purser.
1962 – Edd Mullis closes Rocky River church for some unknown reason (rumors of adultery). Mullis reopens the church again in a few weeks and appoints Flake Braswell as Elder.
1962 – Mullis closes the church again for an unknown reason.
1969 – Shiloh Truelight Church in Charlotte has near 1000 members and is the largest of all the Truelight sister churches.
1969 – December – 23 Edd Mullis Dies. This is the beginning of the separation of Shiloh Truelight Church from the rest of the Truelight churches. James Rommie Purser states before Mullis died he was told he would be the next in line as the Elder of Shiloh Truelight Church. Flake Braswell states that Mullis told him (Braswell) in front of 4 other ministers that he would be the next Head Elder of the federation of Truelight Churches. Raphael Price, Elder of High Hill Truelight Church, states that he heard Edd Mullis state he would not put Purser in the Elder position of Shiloh and that that (Mullis) stated “I Would lose my if I did such a thing”.
1969 – December – 23 – Edd Mullis Funeral – Altercation between Rommie Purser and Flake Brasswell. Braswell believing to be the next Head Elder of the Truelight Churches attempts to take charge of the funeral. The Mullis family wants Purser to take charge of the funeral. Purser heads the funeral and it is reported that Brasswell gets in his car and moves it between the hearse and the funeral procession blocking the funeral and proceeds to blow his car horn in protest.
1969 – December – 26 – The Conference Body of Truelight Churches officially elects Herman Flake Braswell as the Elder of Shiloh Truelight Church.
1969 – December – 28 – Flake Braswell brings a group of men with for a Sunday service and goes to the puplit and appoints Clyde Huntley as the new Elder of Shiloh Truelight Church while. Purser is also there holding attempting to act as the Elder and holds service The two groups get into a physical altercation which leads to Braswell and his group being forcibly ejected from the church premises. Purser is then elected Elder of Shiloh Truelight Church, that day, by his more numerous followers.
1970 – January – 14 – Purser is elected again as Elder of Shiloh Church on advice from his attorney. Held Elder Braswell and his group were there and did not recognize the election as being official.
1970 – March – 1 – the Purser and Braswell camps interrupt each other’s services again over the conflict of who has church usage and who is the rightful Elder.
1970 – December – 31 – Boyle’s prophecy of the end of time does not occur The Truelight’s believe Boyle miscalculated and the church continues with its mission to prepare for the end of time. Braswell recalculates and believes the end of time will come in 1992. NY Times Article – Truelight’ Sect in Carolinas Bracing for End of the World.
1971 – Members of Shiloh remove their children from public school. The lawsuit is filed against NC to home school their children.
1971 – McGee Brothers is Formed. This family was and still is heavily rooted in the Shiloh Truelight Church. They used church members (adults and children) as laborers based on the ideology that they are teaching their children the value of hard work. Church members still, to this day, work for the company.
1971 – November – 29 – James Rommie Purser is now a court-ordered Elder of the Shiloh Truelight Church. Braswell ordered not to conduct meetings or interfere with Shiloh Church directly or indirectly. This order creates a power shift since it cuts Shiloh’s ties to the overall federation of the Truelight’s whom Braswell is considered the Head Elder (Bishop). Shiloh holds over 1/2 to 3/4 of the total federation’s membership.
1971 – December – 6 – Injunction filed in Mecklenburg County, NC – Herman Flake Braswell v. James Rommie Purser
1972 – December 13 – The NC Supreme Court upholds the lower court’s decision regarding Braswell vs Purser. The case is fully closed.
1975 – March – Harvey Walters becomes Elder of Ebenezer Truelight Church in He was the assistant Elder when Elder V.H. Cox died in 1975. Walters was appointed as Elder of Ebenezer by Head Elder Flake Braswell.
1980 – November – 5 – Walters v. Braswell – Flake Braswell (Head Elder of the Truelight Church) removes Harvey Walters as Elder of Ebenezer Truelight Church on 21 May 1977 and temporarily moves the Ebenezer congregation to the Rocky River Church. Braswell Installs Joe Cox as the new Elder of Ebenezer. The court record shows this was over a dispute regarding church doctrine. Walters continues to hold service at Ebenezer after he is removed by Braswell. Walters sues Braswell in court and Braswell’s removal is of Walters upheld by the court.
1986 – April – 7 – Department of Labor files complaint against Wendell Woodworks and McGee Brothers that they are violating child labor laws allowing children under the age of 16 to work with heavy machinery and on construction sites.
1986 – October 15 – Shiloh Church files complaint against in Federal Court against the Department of Labor arguing that it operates a children’s vocational program through McGee and Wendell Woodworks for the benefit of its members and should be exempt from any child Labor Laws as due to Freedom of Religion clause under the First Amendment. The court dismisses the complaint and finds no basis for the Violation of First Amendment rights.
1987 – September – 10 – SHILOH TRUELIGHT CHURCH OF CHRIST v. BROCK –
1987 – October – Judge Potter (Federal District Court Judge) orders Shiloh Church, McGee Brothers, and Wendell Woodwork to obey child labor laws. The judge ordered the two companies owned and operated by the church members to pay $203,272 to cover a Federal investigation and legal expenses and to pay employees back wages and interest.
1988 – Shiloh Truelight Church rents the old Charlotte Coliseum to hold services
1988 – January 19th through 23rd – Shiloh Church, McGee Brothers, and Wendell’s Woodworks are brought back to court in front of Judge Potter and held in contempt of court for continuing to violate child labor laws.
1988 – March – 1 -McGlauphlin v. McGee Brothers Judge Potter rules that Shiloh church members and the two companies, McGee Brothers Company Inc. of Union County and Wendell’s Woodwork of Mint Hill, violated his October 1987 order to obey Federal child labor laws and that they are exploiting children. http://ftp.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F2/867/867.F2d.196.88-2064.88-2063.html
1988 – October – 13 – Department of Labor argues in Federal Court that Shiloh Truelight Church is noncompliant with child labor laws in that the church is using their children as laborers in commercial enterprises unlike where the Amish have their children work within an agrarian society that is noncommercial. Shiloh argues they are within their First Amendment Rights of Freedom of Religion. Truelight’s argue that it is their religious belief that their children are to be brought up in the church and taught various skills to uphold a work ethic in order to carry on that tradition to their children.
1989 – February – 7 – Brock v. Wendell’s Woodworking, v. McGee Brothers. Federal Court upholds Department of Labor’s complaint stating ” The district court properly concluded in this case, that enforcement of these labor laws may not be defeated by a claim by church members of free exercise rights under the First Amendment”.
1991 – March – 14 – Mint Hill, NC police release Timothy Belk (age 34), a mentally Ill man from being confined to a 9 foot by 10-foot wire cage in the basement of Shiloh True Ligh Church. Purser states the church did this out of love for the man and states the police action was “unwarranted government intervention”
1992 – December – 3 – Shiloh Truelight is sued by the Department of Labor for violating Child Labor Laws claiming that children under 16 continue to work on construction sites with groups of people over 16.
1992 – December – 31 – The end of time does not come as Flake Braswell predicted.
1995 – February – 24 – the district court entered partial summary judgment in favor of the Department of Labor. The court rejected the church’s free exercise defense, finding it indistinguishable from the free exercise claim denied in the previous Wendell’s Woodworking case.
1995 – May – 15th and 16th – The court rules the Shiloh Church had violated the Act’s child labor, minimum wage, and record-keeping requirements.
1995 – August – 7 – The court makes findings of fact in the Reich v. Shiloh Truelight Church Case. The church was found in violation of the Fair Labor and Standards act and ordered to pay back pay to those the church employed. The Church appeals.
1996 – Apil – 1 – The appeal of ROBERT B. REICH, SECRETARY OF LABOR, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR v. SHILOH TRUELIGHT CHURCH OF CHRIST, d/b/a Shiloh Vocational Training Program; JAMES ROMMIE PURSER; GARY LEON YORK is heard. The appellate court upholds the previous ruling stating that the Shiloh Vocational Training Program has violated child labor laws by allowing children under eighteen to operate hazardous machinery, and children under sixteen to work in construction during hours prohibited by federal regulation.
2004 – Feb 23 – Mint Hill Board of Adjustment allows a variance in code so the Shiloh Truelight Church can rebuild its porch. The Board was initially not allowing it, but upon appeal, it was allowed it since the church claimed hardship in that the current laws were not in effect when the church was built (re-built) in 1956 as well as to build a safer porch.
2004 – May -14 – James Rommie Purser dies. Buried at Shiloh Truelight Church.
2004 – Political monetary Contributions by Purser and various Shiloh Church members given to made to “ Berry for Commissioner of Labor”. This is interesting since the church has preached being separatists for so long.
2009 – September – 8 – An article showing the good work that the church does with mentoring youth through its Vocational Training Program in conjunction with McGee Brothers.
If you are looking for deceased family members of Shiloh Truelight Church, here is the link to Find A Grave with the interments.