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      THE TWELVE TRIBES (Vine Community Church, Northeast Kingdom Community Church, Messianic Communities)


1937 - Elbert Eugene Spriggs Jr. was born into a devout Methodist family in East Ridge, Tennessee

Spriggs early adult life was unsettled in a number of ways as he held a succession of jobs, was married three times before meeting his current wife, Marsha Ann Duvall, and describes hate of spiritual uneasiness

1970 - Spriggs reported a life-changing experience in which he confessed the sinfulness of his past and dedicated his life to Christ at age thirty-three.

1972 - Spriggs married Marsha Ann Duvall, and the couple moved to Chatanooga, TN.

1973 - The Spriggs' founded the Vine Christian Community Church, a Bible-study group for youth. They began inviting adherents into their home.

1974 - 50-60 people are living with the Spriggs. They purchased three houses and opened the Yellow Deli Restaurant, a refuge for runaways and hitchkikers.

opened a coffee house, and began ministering to countercultural youth, some of whom moved into their home. The group called itself the “Light Brigade”

1975 - They attended the local First Presbyterian Church but protested the canceling of its worship service on Superbowl Sunday. They began holding services in a local park.

1975-1978 - Opposition developed:

• Local religious leaders opposed Spriggs performing baptisms.
• Two local colleges place the Yellow Deli off limits
• "Cult" articles began appearing in the local media
• Deprogrammer Ted Patrick organized abduction-deprogrammings of members

1978 - Three couples visited Island Pond, Vermont and established a branch group there.

1979 - The group moved to Island Pond.

With the establishment of the Community at Island Pond, the movement assumed a more communal form and became more tight-knit.

1984 - On June 22 ninety Vermont state troopers and fifty Social Rehabilitation Services workers staged a surprise dawn raid on the Island Pond community, searched the homes, and took 112 children into protective custody.

1985 - The group received the "Stone Kingdom" revelation that the group must reject conventional society.

1987 - The group renamed itself itself the Messianic Communities. Members walked en masse into Island Pond to wash away the flaws of Christianity.

1980s and 1990s - Opened branches in several different countries, including Canada, Australia, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, and the United Kingdom.

2013 - The group faced child abuse charges in Germany.

The Twelve Tribes has grown to a reported membership of 3,000-4,000 members, about equally divided between adults and children.


The Twelve Tribes is postmillennial movement

Twelve Tribes is focused on building up the twelve tribes of Israel, consisting of a minimum of 1,200 believers each, after which time it is believed that Jesus Christ will return

The movement receives continuing revelations about the Endtime through Yoneq and others with apostolic gifts

Twelve Tribes teaches that there are absolute values that all humans recognize as inherently true and right, “Natural Law” Twelve Tribes has concluded that adherence to a Natural Law standard will not be sufficient to create the conditions for the return of the Messiah.

Separation is critical for the Twelve Tribes because the absolute values of Natural Law are being lost in contemporary society.

The Twelve Tribes opposed the rise of a multicultural, global social order: a single world government and world religion. The former relativizes values; the latter undermines and compromises the values of Natural Law and promotes rampant materialism and acquisitiveness, feminism, the demise of the traditional patriarchal family, and the legitimation of gay marriage.

The return of the Messiah is contingent on the gathering of a faithful remnant and the Church being restored to its original form.

To pave the way for the Millennium, the movement must expand from its present nine to twelve tribes, each of which must grow to consist of at least 1,200 members, thus creating the 144,000 faithful who will be included in God’s millennial kingdom (Rev. 14:1, 3).

The expectation is that this preparatory period may extend to as many as seven generations.

Members of the Twelve Tribes envision an increasingly hostile, repressive world dominated by a world government. During this time the movement anticipates its members will continue to purify themselves spiritually and move in a direction opposite to unfolding world history. Members expect that they will be forced into the wilderness in the years preceding the Endtime.

Confrontation with the state is explicitly disavowed. The Twelve Tribes’ stance toward government is to maintain distance and separation, but also to seek out “men of conscience” to serve as allies when conflicts arise.

Twelve Tribes members’ understanding of the Endtime, based on the New Testament book of Revelation, is that it will unfold through four phases in which the Twelve Tribes will play a key role.
• The first phase involves the spiritual restoration of the twelve tribes of Israel that have been lost and scattered through the creation of their communes.
• In the second phase, Yahshua (Christ) will return, taking back the Earth from the Evil One.
• The third phase will occur with the building of the Stone Kingdom, which involves a total separation of religion and the state and pursuit of spiritual purification that will make members worthy as the bride of Yahshua.
• The fourth phase closely parallels conventional Christian renderings of the battle of Armageddon, according to the book of Revelation, with the army of Yahshua destroying the army of the Evil One. Those who have maintained the covenant with God will rule alongside Yahshua; those who are aware of their obligations but have failed to keep them will be consigned to the Lake of Fire; and individual judgment will be rendered for those who have never been made aware of their spiritual obligations. Twelve Tribes members understand themselves to be that nation, the Commonwealth of Israel.

Upon the second coming believers will be brought back for the thousand years to reign with Yashua before the last judgment. At the end of this thousand years, all the nonbelievers will be judged according to their deeds and be put into two groups: the righteous, filthy/unjust. The filthy and the unjust will be sent to the Lake of Fire while the righteous will go to heaven with the Twelve Tribes.


Spriggs came to be regarded as an Apostle within the movement and known by the Hebrew name Yoneq

Centralization of power and the charismatic authority of Yoneq were limited. It was understood that prophetic revelations within the group came from a variety of sources,

Leadership within is a structure is a series of Councils on the local, regional, and a global Apostolic Council. Within these councils there are teachers, deacons, deaconesses elders and apostles.

Each Tribe lives in a different geographic area and forms a community that remains apart from the world, faithful to God’s Word, and a model for others.

Raising children within the tradition and insuring their commitment to the cause is of the highest priority.

• Most children within the group are born at home with the assistance of a midwife.
• Children are homescholed.
• Teenagers may take on apprenticeships in the group's cottage industries
• The group utilizes corporal punishment, using a wet balloon stick on the child's bottom or palm after which the child is forgiven.

Twelve Tribes communities maintain ties to the wider society by operating businesses that offer services to residents of the surrounding community.

Members do not vote in elections.


The Twelve Tribes has experienced conflicts with families, business leaders, the anti-cult movement:
• Conversions to the movement by countercultural youth produced conflict with countercult and anticult groups.
• Twelve Tribes faced opposition from local business leaders, who charged that the free labor available to the communally organized Twelve Tribes constituted unfair competition.
• The movement has been charged with using underage children in its commercial enterprises.
• The most intense conflict has centered on allegations of child abuse. From the movement’s perspective, children are particularly valued and constitute key players in the millennial expectations. Children play a critical role in building a faithful remnant and achieving spiritual purity. From a child welfare agency perspective, the issues are corporal punishment as child abuse, violation of child labor laws, and illegal homeschooling.

The highpoint of tension occurred when a coalition developed between the anticult movement, Vermont state child welfare officials, and an influential apostate. These tensions led to the June 22, 1984 dawn raid involving ninety Vermont state troopers and fifty Social Rehabilitation Services workers on the Island Pond community and took 112 children into protective custody. The case was resolved within a day, with the court releasing the children to the custody of their parents and condemning the raid as lacking legal justification.

Twelve Tribes recognized its vulnerability following the raid and developed a new strategy that exchanged exodus for partial compromise with society.
• The group actively sought out supporters among members’ families, identified less antagonistic journalists who would offer the group more balanced media coverage,
• The group negotiated its schooling practices with the state school board
• The group disbanded the commune in favor of communal households dispersed throughout New England and other states.
• The group maintained its doctrinal system, its communal organization, and its distance from conventional society