JOE KERR was born in 1881 in Dumfriesshire, Wanlockhead, Scotland, and grew up in the small village of Philipstown. He was a convert of Ed Cooney and entered the work in 1902. Joe was one of the eight pioneers of the work in South Africa in 1905, along with Alex Pearce, John Cavanagh, Wilson Reid, Mary Moodie, Martha Skerrit, Lilly Reid and Barbara Baxter.
Joe's long-time childhood friend, Archie Russell had been orphaned in the Tay Bridge Disaster in December 1928, and he and his siblings (a brother Thomas, sister Christine and perhaps more) went to live with their Grandmother Russell, who lived next door to the Kerr Household. The two boys became inseparable friends from early childhood, playing, going to school together and attending the same church. In their teenage years they belonged to the Presbyterian church youth group known as the "Band of Hope," a temperance organization founded in the 1840s, which encouraged youth to sign a pledge to abstain from alcohol.
In their mid-20s, the two friends decided to enlist in the army and go to South Africa to fight the Boers (Boer War?). They consulted with their pastor, and he advised them to not go with guns, but with Bibles to help. So they decided to become missionaries and became 2x2 Workers, Joe in 1902 and Archie in 1904. Joe went to South Africa in 1905, about two years before Archie arrived in 1907 with his companion David Gibson. The trip cost Archie ten pounds and took six weeks sailing time.
The Russell family reports that as soon as he disembarked at Cape Town, Archie started preaching to the crowd who were mostly black or colored. There was a black man in the front of the crowd who kept nodding his head and smiling. Archie asked him if he understood English. The man replied, "Aye and a wee bit of Scotch." Archie was amazed.
Somehow, Archie connected with Joe and the pair went all over the country preaching, often staying with Christian families. It is not known what became of Archie's companion, David Gibson. Joe and Archie went to the Wisweet thingersrand Diamond Rush in Kimberley, believing it would be a very promising mission field, especially in the "tent city" growing around the "big hole." There they met the Koekemoer family of Dutch descent and their three daughters where they held meetings in their home and the family was converted. They spent several years in the area preaching in the open air and holding house meetings, as well as a night in jail for "disturbing the peace." Eventually, Joe and Archie moved on to Johannesburg, as did the Koekemoers. Their eldest daughter, Gladys, became a 2x2 Worker, and began preaching with Barbara Baxter.
On February 3, 1915, Archie married Gladys (she was 23 and he was 35). Archie retired with the South African Railways as a fitter and turner, which he had been trained for in Scotland. Archie never drove a car, but cycled everywhere until well into his 70s. Archie died in the mid-1960s in South Africa. The Russell family moved around a good deal, starting and ending in Johannesburg. They had children, one of whom was a daughter named Ruth (Russell) Barnett. She and her son Rod provided some of these details.
Also in 1915, Joe married Barbara. They had three children: Norman, Doreen and Joe, Jr. Archie's children affectionately called them "Uncle Joe" and "Aunt Barbara." Ruth Russell said he was a good looking Scot with a marvelous sense of humor who teased everyone; and they loved going to visit them whenever they went to Cape Town on holiday. When Joe and Barbara married, they were forced out of the 2x2 Sect. Joe wrote Irvine Weir:
"It is about 39 years ago....We had a loan of beds etc. in the room we had and they sent the saints who owned these things and took them from us and left us the floor to sleep on. They forbid any of the saints to come near us, and I may tell you something that you may know already that the workers have almost the same power over the so called saints as the Priests have over their people. That is their strongest weapon. Then I had not any trade and all the unskilled work is done out here by the coloured and native people. I took a Diploma in Motor Engineering and later a Diploma in Fire Engineering and then a Diploma in Traffic Engineering, but it meant a lot of hard work and that was one of the reasons that I went blind."
In 1915, the same year Joe and Barbara married, another married couple was allowed to begin preaching. Perhaps Joe did not ask permission before his marriage took place. It is not known if Archie and Gladys left voluntarily. Archie and Joe and their wives joined the Plymouth Brethren. In his letter, Joe refers to E. H. Broadbent's book, "The Pilgrim Church." The author, Broadbent, was a Plymouth Brethren. Barbara died Feb. 24 1947, aged 64, and Joe died Dec. 17, 1966, aged 85, in Cape Town.
Joe Kerr is the most famous for reportedly being the one who FIRST applied the Living Witness Doctrine (LWD) to the 2x2 ministry. Joe’s explanation for the LWD is found in his letter dated January 28, 1956. Joe Kerr is generally recognized as being the one who initially proposed to Wm. Irvine that Drummond's theory of “Biogenesis” was applicable to Irvine's ministry. The Secret Sect states, "Alfred Magowan, many years later, reminded Cooney that Joe applied the natural law of Biogenesis, as discussed in "Natural Law in the Spiritual World," to the spiritual relationship of those in their fellowship" (The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker, p. 18). Ed Cooney wrote:
"William had been partially persuaded by Joe Kerr to accept the heresy that no one could be born again without meeting a Living Witness. Others held that that witness must be a sent preacher who had heard William or some preacher who had heard him.” (From Edward Cooney's Testimony, The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker, pp. 115-116) Fred Wood wrote: "The Living Witness Doctrine was said to have been brought in by a certain Joe Kerr and accepted by William Irvine. It would seem that our brethren still hold this, viz., 'That no one can be born again apart from hearing the gospel from one of their preachers'" ( Selected Letters of Fred Wood compiled by Patricia Roberts, p. 59). More details about the Living Witness Doctrine will be given later in this chapter.
John Long spoke highly of Joseph Kerr: "For knowledge of the Scriptures, Kerr was the finest companion I ever had; and he was only twenty-one; however, Edward Cooney, and William Irvine sent him with me for a training; and did not leave a good man with me long." Reportedly, both George Walker and Joe Kerr had started studies in religious programs. "Two of Irvine's prominent preachers, George Walker and Joe Kerr, had begun training for the Methodist ministry, but gave up their studies" ( The Secret Sect, p. 17).
THEN at the July, 1905, Convention at Crocknacrieve, unexpectedly, Joseph Kerr, who was about 24 years old at the time, altered the course of the Go-Preachers. Joe Kerr was:
"...one of the most gifted and talented of the workers got a very prominent place by William Irvine; rather too much so for a novice. He attended a conference, in the Bridge of Allan in Scotland; and he was so disgusted with the way the Clergy preached; that he come to the conclusion that there are no clergymen saved. Without any charitable consideration of the conscience or opinion of others, he preached it at that convention. Irvine defended him, but Edward Cooney opposed him and tried to prove that John Wesley was a born again man.
"The unwillingness of Clergymen to conform themselves to the pattern as seen in Jesus is very manifest; and the neglect of faithfulness to their calling and office is to be greatly deplored; and a true and faithful witness who tells them the truth in love is to be admired, but to say that there are none of them born again is not true; and limits the power and grace of God to regenerate whomsoever he will. Then again, regeneration is a thing of the heart and cannot be always measured by external appearance, dress, salary or education. The Salvation of the Soul is by grace through faith to everyone that repents and believes in Christ Jesus; and the experience, testimony and fruits of any clergymen bear witness to the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ. Up to that time they all believed that; nevertheless, Kerr’s New Doctrine introduced somewhat of what seemed to be absurd, and that the honest hearted could not believe without a violation of conscience and which hindered a true witness against error and wrong; and injured their own testimony..." (From: John Long's Journal)
Two letters by Joe are printed in the link above written in the 1950's using a return address in care of his son: Norman Kerr, 26 Raleigh Road, Mowbray, Cape South Africa.
benar: Perhaps you clicked on the Coronavirus thread...
Feb 27, 2020 1:03:20 GMT -5
wally: proboards can be a bit buggy...i still get virus warnings when clicking on thread links...
Feb 26, 2020 22:04:28 GMT -5
ant_rotten: Does anyone else constantly have a pop up saying “do you want to download index.html” when using TMB desktop version? This happens to me both on my iPhone and iPad..
Feb 26, 2020 19:56:33 GMT -5
wally: you haven't asked me a question or anything or did i miss one?
Feb 20, 2020 6:03:05 GMT -5
ant_rotten: What’s happening Wally? You’ve gone quite on me..
Feb 20, 2020 4:56:35 GMT -5
wally: its no mystery apostate ant_rotten i am quite vocal...
Feb 17, 2020 9:12:28 GMT -5
ant_rotten: I’m not surprised to find wally in the shoutbox
Feb 17, 2020 6:32:29 GMT -5
jetmech: Hello Dennis
Feb 15, 2020 13:39:39 GMT -5
kip: Looking for meetings in Maine.
Jan 25, 2020 10:03:22 GMT -5
snow: Great jetmech, you found it!
Jan 19, 2020 15:04:59 GMT -5
wally: welcome to the shoutbox
Jan 15, 2020 21:33:25 GMT -5
jetmech: Hey everyone … this is my first time here
Jan 15, 2020 14:01:06 GMT -5