We came into contact with Twelve Tribes late one night in January of 1994 when we received a phone call from a very distraught woman. Apparently she and her daughter had just left a "Christian" communal group in Hyannis, Massachusetts. While a part of this group she had witnessed what she felt was the repeated abuse of one particular child. She told us privately that a long thin rod, that left marks, was used to "discipline" children as young as six months.
She was also convinced that God was going to kill her for having left this group. They had told her they were the only true representatives of God on the face of the earth, and to leave them was to literally turn one's back on God, inviting His judgement. She eventually pressed charges of child abuse through the Department of Social Services that were ultimately dropped, due to lack of evidence.
That encounter began an odyssey for us that has involved literally thousands of hours of research and investigation as we have tried to understand this relatively "new religious movement." We have not taken this lightly and have tried to leave "no stone unturned" in seeking to understand this group. We have visited seven of their communities numerous times (Bellows Falls and Island Pond, Vermont; Boston and Hyannis, Massachusetts; and Providence, Rhode Island; Gorham, Maine; Buffalo, New York), interviewed at least 75 current members, members who left and came back to the group, a variety of other "friends " of the Community, close to two dozen ex-members from around the country, distressed relatives of current members, law enforcement officials, lawyers, newspaper reporters and university academics. We studied all the written data we could find including hundreds of news articles dating back to the early '70's in Chattanooga, Tennessee where the group began. We gathered court records, reports from various government agencies, and correspondence to and from the group. We have also collected their own printed materials...Freepapers, InterTribal News, booklets, tracts and other works produced for the public's consumption. Finally, but most significantly, many people gave us hundreds of the "teachings" of their "apostle," without which it would have been difficult to put all that we have found into perspective.
We decided to put our research into writing and on the Web for four reasons. First, there is literally nothing written on Twelve Tribes that is helpful in understanding who they are, how they began, and what they believe. Second, their impact belies the actual size of the group. Third, it has become very evident, upon reviewing all that we have learned, that many lives have been devastated by involvement with Twelve Tribes. Fourth, they are a classic study of how a group begins with the best of intentions but, over time, evolves into something far different than what was originally intended. The "apostle" of the group, Elbert Eugene Spriggs, essentially has a "direct pipeline" to God and no real accountability. This is a very dangerous combination in any situation.
The following categories below will hopefully give you a better understanding of who the Twelve Tribes/Messianic Communities truly are. To simply encounter them on the street, in one of their Freepapers, or at their Web site does not fully reveal the true nature of this group.
The Institutes Conclusion... / Response from the Twelve Tribes...*For further information on the Twelve Tribes please contact us by e-mail or call the Institute at (508) 947-9571.