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.. Each church 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 individual church elders were traditionally chosen by their predecessors.
This sometimes led to fighting within the membership leading to individual congregations splitting.
I will minimize this a bit by stating this is nothing new if put it in context of religion across the world in terms of religious splits over the ideologies and control.
This timeline focuses mainly on the Shiloh Truelight Church and may be updated from time to time as I continue learning more of the True Light 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 slave holders. His father was murdered by slaves in 1838.
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 judgement. 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 True Light Church, 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 True Light Church after Boyle’s death.
1905 – August - Joseph Dalton Reynolds Joins the High Hill True Light Church.
1906 – February – Joseph Dalton Reynolds becomes the Elder of the High Hill True Light Church.
1906 Shiloh Society is established and Melton Culpepper Mullis becomes the first Elder of Shiloh True Light 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 True Light Church.
1920 – Daniel Jenkins is recognized as the first Head Elder of all the True Light churches thus creating a loose knit federation of the True Light 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 True Light churches.
1936 – James Alexander Griffin dies and carries on the tradition of passing the position of Elder to Edd Mullis before his death.
1936 – Edd Harrison Mullis is appointed Elder of Shiloh True Light Church. Edd Mullis elected by the “Conference Body” as the Head Elder (Bishop) of all the the True Light churches.
1956 – July – 3 – Shiloh True Light 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 Elder of Shiloh.
1960′s – Under the leadership of Edd Harrison Mullis, the informal and loose knit federation of the 6 True Light churches grows to roughly 2000 members.
1962 – May – 16 – Rocky River True Light 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 adultry). Mullis reopens the church again in a few weeks and appoints Flake Braswell as Elder.
1962 – Mullis closes the church again for unknown reason.
1969 – Shiloh True Light Church in Charlotte has near 1000 members and is the largest of all the True Light sister churches.
1969 – December – 23 Edd Mullis Dies. This is the beginning of the separation of Shiloh True Light Church from the rest of the True Light churches. James Rommie Purser states before Mullis died that he was told he would be the next in line as the Elder of Shiloh True Light 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 True Light Churches. Rapheal Price, Elder of High Hill True Light 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 True Light 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 True Lights Churches officially elects Herman Flake Braswell as the Elder of Shiloh True Light Church.
1969 – December – 28 – Flake Braswell brings a group of men to a Sunday service and goes to the pulpit and appoints Clyde Huntley as the new Elder of Shiloh True Light Church. Purser is also there attempting to act as the Elder and holds service. The two groups get into a physical altercation which leads to Braswell and his group to be forcibly ejected from the church premises. Purser is then elected Elder of Shiloh True Light 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 others services again over the conflict of who has church usage and who is the rightful Elder.
1970 – December – 31 - 1970 Ended but World Didn’t - Boyle’s prophecy of the end of time does not occur. The True Lights 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.
1971 – May 6 – Clyde M. Huntley commits suicide – rumored to be because of disappointment of the end of time not coming as well as his dispute with Flake Brasweel over the position of Bishop of the church, He was instead appointed as head elder.
1971 – Members of Shiloh remove their children from public school. 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 True Light 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 court ordered Elder of the Shiloh True Light 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 True Lights whom Braswell is considered the Head Elder (Bishop). Shiloh holds over 1/2 to 3/4 of the total federations membership.
1971 – December – 6 – Injunction filed in Mecklenburg County, NC – Herman Flake Braswell v. James Rommie Purser
1972 – August 30 – Braswell vs. Purser – Brasswell appeals case and court upholds previous ruling that Purser and his followers maintain control over the Trulight Church in Mecklenburg, NC.
1972 – December 13 – Braswell vs. Purser – Braswell appeals case again. Federal Court supports Purser and his followers maintain control over the Trulight Church in Mecklenburg, NC.
1975 – March – Harvey Walters becomes Elder of Ebenezer True Light Church. 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 True Light Church) removes Harvey Walters as Elder of Ebenezer True Light 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 of Walters is upheld by the court.
1981 – February 2 – Walters vs. Braswell - Walters files a review of the case in Federal Court. The court denies the motion.
1986 – April – 7 – Department of Labor files compliant 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 TRUE LIGHT CHURCH OF CHRIST v. BROCK – Shiloh Church files a complaint 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 it’s members and should be exempt from any child Labor Laws as due to Freedom of Religion clause under the First Amendment.
1987 – September – 10 - The court dismisses the complaint and finds no basis of Violation of First Amendment rights.
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 True Light 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 True Light Church is noncompliance 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 and agrarian society that is noncommercial. Shiloh argues they are within their First Amendment Rights of Freedom of Religion. True Lights argue that it is their religious belif that their children 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 Wodworking, 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 Light 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 True Light 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 True Light 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 TRUE LIGHT 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 True Light Church can rebuild it’s 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 affect 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 True Light 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.
“Children of Light” by James Lattimore
Reich v. Shiloh True Light Church of Christ
Reich v. Shiloh True Light Church of Christ – suplemental
Judge Rebukes Church Members Over Child Labor
Analysis of the True Light Church: A Review of the Movement and Comparison to Similar Movements
Hallman Wins 2009 NCMCA Skills Contest
Shiloh True Light Church of Christ v. Brock
Shiloh True Light Church of Christ
Walters v. Braswell
News of the Weird
McGee Brother’s History
The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions
By James R. Lewis
McGee Brothers Claim Top Spots, June 2011 North Carolina Masonry News, page 10
True Lights – The world did not end so what are they doing now?
Erred on Doomsday, Says Sect
Cunningham Boyle is True Light Key