Whatever Happened to George Tarleton?
This page contains a link to an old audio tape message by the UK Restoration leader, George Tarleton. Its importance will become clear as I explain who Tarleton was, what he himself tells of his beliefs, and what has become of him in later years. You will hear this "apostle" of the British New Churches speak of his beliefs in the Bible, Jesus and the Church and you will be shocked.
George Tarleton is now a Gnostic and an Anarchist. See below his history in the British Renewal Churches. The audio tapes may be downloaded here, either direct (as a download) or on Archive.org.
First, who was this man? To explain, I will paste below the Wikipedia explanation of the UK Restoration Movement, born out of the Charismatic revival of the 1970's and leading to a full-scale reorganisation of the UK churches. (And, some would say, their demise.) A short summary from Wikipedia helps us understand the man and his background:
- British New Church Movement From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The British New Church Movement is a neo-charismatic evangelical Christian movement associated with the Charismatic Movement of the 1960s, although its origin both predates the Charismatic Movement and has an agenda that goes beyond it.
[MY NOTE: with this statement I would heartily agree. For some information about its roots I suggest you see other articles on this site such as "New Apostolic Reformation Roots". As for its agenda, that is also apparent in their past and current statements. They plan to "glorify" themselves and their church, convert the world, and usher in a new age of peace, unity and righteousness all before the return of the Lord.]
It was originally known as the "house church movement", a name that is no longer relevant, as few of these congregations meet in houses. Gerald Coates, one of the early leaders coined the name "new churches" as an alternative. It is also restorationist in character, seeking to restore the church to its 1st century equivalent.
While the Charismatic Movement focused on the transformation of individuals, the British New Church Movement (like Brethrenism, Baptists, Anabaptists and the Stone-Campbell Movement in the US) focused also on the nature of the church, and shared a distinctive view that somehow, through them, something important to do with church order was being restored to the whole church.
For the BNCM since 1970, this has focused on the renewal of the fivefold ministries, particularly apostles, which for others might resemble a charismatically ordained and functioning episcopate.
The British New Church Movement numbered roughly 400,000 people in the year 2000. It has two major aspects; those who believe in the role of Apostles, where churches relate together in "streams," and independent charismatic churches, where they generally do not. Those in streams represent about 40% of the BNCM. Since its origins, it has grown to include many networks of churches, with individual congregations to be found throughout the world.
Arthur Wallis and David Lillie, Plymouth Brethren men, became convinced of the validity of spiritual gifts. Lillie had received the "Baptism in the Spirit" in 1941, and Wallis in 1951. Influenced by ex-Apostolic leader Cecil Cousen, they developed an understanding that a return of the 'charismatic gifts' (e.g., prophecy and speaking in tongues) to the traditional denominations was not sufficient, and that the church needed to be restored to the New Testament forms of church government as described in St. Paul's epistle to the Ephesians - Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist and Pastor/Teacher (Eph 4:11).
This became known as the fivefold ministry model, and the group saw the fulfillment of these offices as essential to the reviving of the world wide Christian Church. Although they had in practice left the Brethren, their subsequent efforts produced a hybrid, Pentecostalised Brethrenism, displaying features of both traditions.
Growth and development
In the early 1970s the "Magnificent Seven" (later becoming the "Fabulous Fourteen") came together; a group of leaders who recognised each other as apostles and prophets, and who sought to develop a theology and ecclesiology that would guide the restoration of the Church. In 1976, however, these leaders diverged into two separate streams:
* "Restoration 1" ('R1') followed the more conservative teachings of Arthur Wallis and Bryn Jones, and included such figures as Terry Virgo, founder of the Newfrontiers network of churches, Barney Coombs of Salt and Light Ministries International, and Tony Morton, formerly of Cornerstone.
* "Restoration 2" ('R2') took a more relaxed view of cinema, popular music, and ‘secular’ culture, were generally less separatist, (contributing significantly to the resurgence of the Evangelical Alliance), and encouraged the leadership ministries of women. This stream included the ministries of Gerald Coates, John and Christine Noble, and others not now associated like Maurice Smith, Dave Tomlinson and George Tarleton.
* NOTE: Hilborn includes Roger and Faith Forster's Ichthus Christian Fellowship with "Restoration 2", however Walker disagrees, noting "perhaps the most significant house church organization that lies outside [Restorationism] is the Ichthus movement."
R1 and R2 did not represent two separate organisations. Both contained multiple groupings as listed above. R1 and R2 were labels devised by Walker for ease of discussion in his book. However they passed into popular usage.
The division was caused by a number of factors: differences of opinion about the priority of Apostles and Prophets; different views of grace and law, women in ministry, and relating to contemporary culture; and a discussion about appropriate discipline for an early leader. It was finally catalysed by a letter setting out the problems sent by Arthur Wallis to the other early leaders. A number of attempts to repair this breach were made, and within a few years there was some dialogue again. However, the shared vision of earlier times was never regained.
The British New Church Movement Today
Due to the emphasis of the movement on relational church structures, and an emphasis on local autonomy, the movement does not have an overarching authority or figurehead. The various networks retain differing levels of association with one another.
The fastest growing churches in Britain today are the 'new churches,' mostly independent charismatic churches, sometimes led by former Anglican ministers and forming loose associations. These have probably outstripped the classical Pentecostal churches in influence and extent. (Allan Anderson, An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity) 
Restoration 1 diverged into three groups, under the leadership of Bryn Jones, Terry Virgo and Tony Morton.
Eventually, Bryn Jones' group has diversified into five identifiable parts: churches led by Alan Scotland, Keri Jones (Bryn's brother), Gareth Duffty, Andrew Owen and Paul Scanlon.
Restoration 2 had originally had at least three groups: that led by Gerald Coates, John Noble, and George Tarleton. Tarleton left the movement quite soon after the split; in the 90s John Noble joined Gerald Coates' movement, with some of his churches following. During this time, Dave Tomlinson started as an Apostle within R1, moved to R2 and then also left the movement.
Barney Coombs churches have developed alongside R1 throughout the period. Thirty years after the first division, it appears that churches connected with R1 have generally maintained their impetus (with the exception of Tony Morton's churches, whose association has dissolved after he left the movement also). On the other hand, churches within R2 have had a much more difficult history.
Although some might say that R1 and R2 have ceased to have any meaning as labels and the relationship problems from the 1970s have very largely been healed, the close fellowship of the original group has never been regained, and there is no sense of shared leadership within the movement. The current distance between the various leaders would still reflect a different views of grace or cultural accommodation, for example; even if ideas about the use of spiritual gifts, adult baptism, and informality of meeting remained the same.
Key characters today include Terry Virgo, Barney Coombs, and Gerald Coates.
* Arthur Wallis
* David Lillie
* Cecil Cousen
* Campbell McAlpine
* Maurice Smith
* Bryn Jones
* Keri Jones
* Terry Virgo
* Colin Urquhart
* Barney Coombs
* Tony Morton
* Gerald Coates
* John and Christine Noble
* Dave Tomlinson
* George Tarleton
* Roger Forster
* Faith Forster
1. Andrew Walker Restoring the Kingdom: the Radical Christianity of the House Church Movement 4th Ed (Guildford: Eagle, 1998) 19
2. Allan Anderson An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity (Cambridge: CUP, 2004) 157
3. Andrew Walker, Restoring the Kingdom (Guildford: Eagle, 1998) 47
4. Allan Anderson An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity (Cambridge; CUP, 2004) 95
Downloadable PDF: (from sympathetic viewpoint) Charismatic Renewal In Britain: Roots, Influences And Later Developments - by Rev Dr David Hilborn
George Tarleton was always a bit of a loose cannon. He began his religious journey in the Church of England and explains on the tape that he was "born again" in the Church of England, however he says, "this doesn't mean i had an experience of God, just that I accepted biblical truth, that's all you need to be born again, you are just accepting certain propositions. Luckily...I got into the shallow side of evangelicalism, social events, good works, I was youth leader, and part of a gospel team..."
Now, however, he is part of the "exodus out of the church" because he can no longer believe cold dogmas. His approach to Christianity is that nobody can really know what is accurate; nobody is infallible, not even "a certain book", because "people wrote the bible".
In his early religious life he became pastor of South Chingford Congregational church, but revolted against Calvinistic doctrine. However, through Michael Harper he became involved in Fountain Trust and the Charismatic Movement. Together with Maurice Smith, Dave Mansell, Gerald Coates, and John Noble he became an "apostle" of the new movement after John Noble prophesied he must resign the pastorship of his Congregational church. It was Bryn Jones who authenticated his apostleship.
Tarleton here applauds the early "anarchy" and individualism of the new churches but said sin came in with organisation and when "kingdom principles came in".
His remarks on the Bible and Church are startling. He seems to blame the apostle Paul for making up the Christian religion: "Paul's fundamental flaw was to translate Christianity in terms of Judaism, that was his mistake". But then, "the bible is not the word of God".
Tarleton no longer believes in the infallible word of God, the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the Church or classic evangelical doctrines. He has become an "anarchic Christian". He doesn't belive that "christianity should be a group activity" but "it should have no boundaries. It should be leaven, that changes and moves"
He wrote the book "Birth of a Christian Anarchist" in 1993
George Tarleton describes the Church as a walled citadel built on centuries of doctrine, first Roman, then Greek Philosophical, then Lutheran and finally Evangelicalism. He derides this and says "I am longing for a christianity without walls, the end of evangelism, praise God. Decades of it we have had, but if you didn't have the walls you wouldn't have the evangelism, christianity shouldn't be confined to christians".
In tracing the doctrine of the Church he commends Valentinus, against whose heresies Ireneus wrote five volumes. But the Gnostic doctrine that some like Origen and Valentinus taught was a way of "creating your own truth" and in that pursuit "self-knowledge was vital".
Tarleton then mentions the Gnostic work "The Gospel of Thomas" and calls gnostic wisdom "the zen of the western world". for "divine light is trapped in matter, matter has to return to its source. When we search within ourselves, we discover inner light."
He then goes on to explain how orthodox faith denies that Jesus is God and says there has never been a real Christianity because there has never been any agreement on its basic doctrines and the bible "is inaccurate". He gives many examples of what he believes are contradictions in the gospels, saying that Joseph and Mary did not go to Bethlehem to have their child nor was there a Virgin Birth.
The only gospel Tarleton appreciates is that of John because it is mystical. Even then, he says, we cannot know that it is true because people have added things to what John said. The bible only contains the opinions and convictions of the writers. "Everything we say about Jesus is subjective. Jesus was all things to all men, hero to a thousand faces, there are as many ways of coming to Christ as there are people, there's never been a time when the experience of Jesus was the norm, and there is nothing special about 1st century encounter of Jesus."
New Age has the right idea
Tarleton goes on to praise the budding New Age movement for seeking inner truth and light. "if you want certainty, fine by me, but some are shedding this for uncertainty, we want the wild flowers of heresy, but for God's sake, let's take this wall down, let's have a spiritual renaissance, and if the evangelicals don't like it, good! The New Age is just one visible sign of this happening outside the wall - the 1960's produced the charismatic movement, and these two things come from the SAME SEEDS - people seeking and looking, revolted by materialism, looking for spiritual mysteries. Humanity needs to change, and this is a new way to change. The moral absolutes of a bygone age are no match for this age."
To finish, Tarleton reads from the Introduction to his book, and in his description of "truth" as a voluptuous young woman that we "must undress and experience" I felt he was talking about the Gnostic "Sophia", the goddess of Wisdom who is in fact Lucifer the Bringer of Light.
This Sophia is now parading around in the churches seeking followers, for instance in the book "The Shack". (See here)
© 1995-2013 Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries. All rights reserved. Cross+Word Website: http://www.banner.org.uk/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.