Jesus Christians

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The Jesus Christians were a small radical Christian group which practiced communal living, voluntary work, activism and distributed Christian comics and books. The group has officially disbanded[1] but the founders and several members and former members are continuing together and separately to pursue the goals of the movement as different groups.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] The online movement "End Time Survivors" has since emerged which promotes the same literature, books and teaching as the Jesus Christians and features videos with "Brother Dave" who resembles Dave McKay, the co-founder of Jesus Christians.[9]

Beliefs and teachings[edit]

  • God will provide the material needs of people who stop working for money, and dedicate their lives to obeying the teachings of Jesus (Luke 6:46, 12:22-23, 16:13, Matthew 6:24). (21. "A Unique Teaching", circa 1996)[10]
  • Jesus expects his followers to give up all their worldly wealth (Luke 12:33, 14:33). ("How to Be Saved")[11]
  • Jesus (not the Bible) is the Word of God. Although holy writings may be inspired, they are all fallible. ("The Word of God", August, 1995)[12]
  • Jesus never established water baptism as a form of sacrament, nor did he ordain other sacraments as such. ("Water Baptism", January, 1991)[13] ("I Will Have Mercy", March, 1998)[14]
  • Beliefs about the doctrine of the Trinity are of little consequence. ("Father and Son--Two for One", January, 1994)[15]
  • The teachings of Jesus, not religious traditions, should be the basis of faith. ("We Believe in Jesus Christ", circa 2000)[16]
  • Non-Christians can be saved on the basis of their faith in God, even if they have never heard of Jesus. This was made possible through the death of Jesus on the cross. See Universalism.
  • Sincerity is more important than being theologically correct. ("The Good Hindu")[17] ("In Search of Truth", November, 1986)[18]
  • The return of Jesus is likely to occur soon, although not until after the Great Tribulation. ("Signs of the Times", June, 1986)[19]
  • Christians will judge the world after Jesus returns, and Jesus will reign over the world for a thousand years.[20][21]
  • There are spiritual advantages to remaining single; however marriage is not forbidden even though it is regarded as an inferior option to celibacy.[22]
  • There is nothing sinful about masturbation. ("Wanking, the Last Taboo") [23]
  • When an individual rejects the teachings of Jesus, they are in fact rejecting God.[24]
  • Technology which will one day be used to implement the "Mark of the Beast", is on the earth now in the form of subdermal RFID chips.[25]


Members forsook all private ownership, handing over all of their earthly possessions to the Jesus Christian community. ("Forsaking All", from Jesus and Money)[26] The group teaches that all members must have equal say in how funds are to be used. ("Power--Good or Evil",[27] and "Setting Up Your Own Community"[28])

History and controversies[edit]

The history and activities of the Jesus Christians over the years have been extensively documented by both the group and the mainstream media, attracting both positive and negative attention. Some older newspaper articles have been reproduced on the group's website, and where these are used below this is noted in the references.

Early days[edit]

The group was started in Melbourne, Australia, by Dave and Cherry McKay when Neville Williams moved in with the Mckay family in early 1981.[29][30][31] It has operated under several different names, including Christians; The Medowie Christian Volunteers; Australian Christian Volunteers, and Voices in the Wilderness. The name 'Jesus Christians' was selected in 1996. ("A Change of Name", August, 1996)[32]

Free work[edit]

In 1983 Australian media followed members of the community who offered to do free work for one day for any family or business which requested their assistance.[33]

Money burning[edit]

In 1984 group member Boyd Ellery was sentenced to three months prison in Sydney for burning an Australian dollar note in a statement about trusting God and not money. The protest was broadcast on national television by Mike Willisee.[33]

Messages with money[edit]

In January 1985 the group glued Australian $2 notes to pavements to spell out messages against greed and money outside post offices around Victoria and New South Wales.[30][34]

Christian messages also appeared written on a claimed AUS$100,000 worth of $2 notes in Sydney. The group claimed that as a result the federal police confiscated their mail until the Council for Civil Liberties intervened.[35]

Nullarbor Walk[edit]

In May and June 1985, six of the youngest members of the community, 12 -year-old Rachel Sukamaran, Malcolm Wrest, Roland Gianstefani, Robin Dunn and Gary McKay, headed by 15-year-old Christine McKay, walked 1,000 miles across the Nullarbor Desert in the interior of Australia without taking any money, provisions or support vehicle for their journey, prompting controversy and media interest.[36]

Fall of America Prophecy[edit]

In 1990, members of the group travelled to the United States to hand out 290,000 booklets prophesying America's destruction. They wore T-shirts with an upside down American flag (as a symbol of distress) and the caption "Pride Goeth Before a Fall" [37]


In 1994, Craig Hendry and Kevin McKay were among Jesus Christian members who voluntarily cleaned sewers and toilets in India.[38] After one protest where members stood in the sewer for a week to draw attention to the filth that spread disease, Craig Hendry contracted Typhoid.[39]

In 1995 the Jesus Christians converted a section of open sewer in Chennai into a children's playground. The real estate created by covering the sewer was estimated to be worth AUD $950,000.[40]

Nappy Chappies / Children of God[edit]

In April 1997 and 1998 several Jesus Christians were arrested at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney dressed as babies in over-sized nappies while distributing "The Baby Books", highlighting how Jesus said his followers need to become like children to enter into God's Kingdom. The introduction of the books stated "We are children of God"[41] which led to confusion about the group being the same as the Children of God group started by David Berg of the same name. This continuing confusion can be seen in a 2013 article which uses a photograph of the "Nappy Chappies" labelled as the Children of God.[42] The books were an attempt by the Jesus Christians to relate to the Children of God group[citation needed], which David McKay was a member of for 3 months in the 1970s before starting The Jesus Christians.[citation needed]


In 1998 there was a split in the community. Craig and Yesamma Hendry and their family, Kevin McKay, Boyd and Sheri Ellery and their family, Darren and Donna Cooke, Ray Sippel, Josh and Tim left the community in Australia. Boyd wrote to the remaining community: "The Spirit you are following is not Christ's. We will have no part of your hierarchies and fleshly importance." The remaining community were "encouraged to avoid private correspondence or discussions with them..." [43] '

Kyri and Berni Sheridan[edit]

In July 1999, 19-year-old Kyri Sheridan joined the Jesus Christians in the UK. His mother reported him missing to the Guildford Police in Surrey. Kyri (accompanied by fellow Jesus Christian Francisco Gonzales) signed in at the Guildford police station to state that he was not actually "missing". The police confirmed Kyri was happy and making his own decision to be with the Jesus Christians. When his mother held Kyri to stop him from leaving she was pinned down, handcuffed and arrested by the police.[44]

Post 2000[edit]

Bobby Kelly controversy[edit]

On 14 July 2000 the group made the front page of the British tabloid Daily Express, which declared that then-members Susan and Roland Gianstefani had kidnapped a 16-year-old boy, Bobby Kelly.[45] When the Jesus Christians refused to hand the boy over to the authorities, and when Bobby started doing telephone interviews with the media declaring that he had not been kidnapped,[46] an emergency court ruling was made banning the broadcast of interviews with Bobby or the group, which the BBC successfully challenged.[47] Bobby was eventually located and placed in a foster home. No members of the Jesus Christians were charged with kidnapping but a charge of contempt of court (for failing to hand Bobby over to the State) resulted in six-month suspended sentences for Susan and Roland.[48]

Kidney donations[edit]

Over half of the Jesus Christian members donated a kidney to people they did not know prior to agreeing to donate, thus earning them the nickname 'the kidney cult'.[49]

In January 2003, Jon Ronson's documentary called Kidneys for Jesus aired on Channel 4 in the UK. After an invitation from Dave McKay, Jon Ronson followed the group over a year as they attempted to donate their kidneys to strangers in the UK and the US. The successful donations of members Casey Crouch, Robin Dunn and Susan Gianstefani are featured.[50] The film also documents the tension that arose between Ronson and McKay during filming: McKay became increasingly concerned that Ronson was portraying the Jesus Christians in a poor light and Ronson was concerned about McKay's ideas to try to manipulate a media storm around the donations as well as his role in the decisions made by members to donate kidneys.[51]

In 2004 the group made headlines in Australia when the leader, David Mckay, admitted members in Australia had lied to health authorities to donate their kidneys.[52] David Mckay later admitted it was his teaching that if you must lie, be honest about your dishonesty.[53]

In June 2008, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation broadcast a report on Ash Falkingham's fight for his right to donate a kidney to a stranger. The documentary covers the attempts of his parents to thwart the young Jesus Christian's intentions and his final success. Ash left the community shortly afterwards to work restoring bicycles for a charity.[54]

Kenya abduction charges[edit]

In 2005 a charge of abduction was made against Roland and Susan Gianstefani in Kenya, this time by the father of a 27-year-old single mother, Betty Njoroge, who had joined the community with her 7 year old son. The woman released a video on the group's website declaring that she and her son had not been kidnapped and that her father was responsible for the case being pursued as he wanted custody of her son.[55] Roland Gianstefani was arrested and questioned by police and held for several days without charge, until the Australian embassy insisted he be charged or else released.[56] Roland and his wife Susan were charged[57] and Roland was held in a remand prison in Nairobi until 600,000 Kenyan shillings bail was paid.[58] The charges against him and Susan were dropped when Betty Njoroge appeared in court and presented an affidavit confirming she was acting of her own free will.[59] Roland contracted tuberculosis in prison and Susan, who had earlier told the media that she and her husband would never stoop to bribery,[53] not even to save their lives, claimed she had to resort to bribery to get basic amenities provided for Roland from the prison guards.[60]

Californian whipping trial[edit]

In October 2006 Jesus Christians in the United States, along with Dave and Cherry McKay, held a mock trial in Long Beach, California where they charged the parents and two brothers of one of their members, Joseph Johnson, with attempted murder and with aiding and abetting others in doing this. It followed an attack on one of their members, Reinhard Zeuner, in which he received a fractured spine, bleeding on the brain, broken teeth and numerous cuts to the head and face. An amateur video was made of the attack,[61] but the police never prosecuted the case. Although the family did not attend the trial, various sentences of 5-25 lashes of the whip were carried out on volunteers from the Jesus Christians themselves, as an attempt to illustrate their understanding of the cross of Christ. "God hates the sin, but loves the sinner", they said, in an effort to summarize what they were doing. ("The Trial")[62]

In July 2009 Civil action was taken against the family members involved in the attack.[citation needed]

Joseph Johnson's family went to the police, claiming that their son, a top student and basketball player with a scholarship to Yale University, had been kidnapped. The FBI acted on the report for a while but when the son turned up at a police station in Kentucky, stating that he had not been kidnapped, the missing persons report was dropped.[citation needed]

The Jeremy Kyle Show[edit]

On 11 December 2007, Dave and Cherry McKay and Roland and Susan Gianstefani were interviewed on stage as part of a two-day feature on religious cults on the UK television programme The Jeremy Kyle Show. The show attempted to link the Jesus Christians with such groups as Jim Jones' People's Temple, and the Children of God. Dave and Cherry and Roland and Sue were questioned by Jeremy Kyle and opponents of David McKay. At one point, due to the nature of the questioning, Dave McKay refused to reply to any more questions and McKay walked out of the interview and then returned to say "Just let them do their thing". In spite of the seemingly negative report by Jeremy Kyle, the Jesus Christians have reported an increased number of sympathetic inquiries.[citation needed]

Freeganism and Wife Swap show[edit]

In February 2008, Roland, Susan and Daniel Gianstefani were featured on the Channel 4 program Wife Swap,[63] where freegan Susan went to live with the millionaire family of an IT consultant.

Sydney whipping trial[edit]

In July 2010 Jesus Christians held a mock trial in Sydney, Australia, to draw attention to the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners who were being persecuted in China. The "court" heard testimonies of victims, then Alf Montagu and Jayme Kronmiller submitted to 25 lashes of the whip as a form of substitutionary punishment for the former leader of the Communist Party of China, Jiang Zemin, and the Secret Police, Luo Gan, who unsurprisingly did not attend the trial.[64]

Gianstefanis leave[edit]

In August 2010, long term members Roland, Susan and Daniel Gianstefani left the community after "numerous tensions over their parenting skills". This followed "a number of community discussions", according to the Jesus Christians Newsletter. Susan and Roland had been members of the group for more than twenty years.[65]


In November 2010, the Jesus Christians announced they officially disbanded.[1] However, Dave and Cherry McKay continue to manage a website called "Jesus Christians", a website called "Jesus Christians UK"[66] and websites using many of the same articles have since appeared.[6][7][8]

Long-term members Ross Parry and Roland and Susan Gianstefani have stated they were excommunicated from the Jesus Christians at the time the group disbanded.[67]


For many years members of the Jesus Christians have distributed religious literature, much of it written by Dave McKay.[citation needed] In recent years,[when?] they have primarily distributed copies of novels written by McKay, the main one being Survivors[citation needed] (ISBN 9966-755-00-4),[68] in exchange for "a few cents to help with the cost of printing them". In 2006 they reported that sales for this book had exceeded one million.[69]

Survivors is a response to the popular Left Behind series of novels on Bible prophecy, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. In its own words, Survivors attempts to include material that was left out of the LaHaye-Jenkins series. Mckay has also published a second book in the series, entitled Listening. It purports to be an "equel" (sic) to Survivors, taking place during the same time period, slthough from another viewpoint. A third book, also set during the same time period as the first two, is entitled Destroyers. It is available on the JC website,[70] and was released in paperback from around Christmas 2008. The story for that mostly takes place in Kenya and is told through the perspective of someone who takes the mark of the beast.[clarification needed]

As of 2009, the Jesus Christians had produced several videos, including a documentary expounding on various aspects of their lifestyle. They have produced several music videos. Their latest two videos include a documentary (The Tyrant Within) about the implementation of RFID microchip implants and a video about the justice system, its effect on society and a radical Christian approach to mixing justice with mercy (Beyond Justice).[71]

Books by David McKay[edit]

Jesus Christian pamphlets[edit]

  • Jeremiah's Lament – A modern paraphrase of the Book of Jeremiah.
  • Christian...but not religious!
  • Radical Christian Truths. ISBN 9966-755-15-2
  • Churchianity vs Christianity.
  • Making it Real. parts 1-4


  1. ^ a b "Communities Directory". Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  2. ^ "Jesus Christians". Dave and Cherry Mckay. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  3. ^ "Jesus Christians UK". Jesus Christians UK. Retrieved 26 June 2013. 
  4. ^ "Truthseeking". Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  5. ^ "The Movement". Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "Simba-Judah". Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  7. ^ a b "Truth Believers". Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  8. ^ a b "Ecclesians". 
  9. ^ "Books- Survivors and Armageddon". End Time Survivors. End Time Survivors. Retrieved 29 April 2017. 
  10. ^ A Unique Teaching. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  11. ^ How to be Saved. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  12. ^ The Word of God. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  13. ^ Water Baptism. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  14. ^ I Will Have Mercy. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  15. ^ Father and Son: Two for One. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  16. ^ We Believe in Jesus Christ. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  17. ^ The Good Hindu. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  18. ^ In Search of Truth. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  19. ^ Signs of the Times. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  20. ^ The Penal Implications of the Jesus Christian Alternative. (2006-08-22). Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  21. ^ 1 Corinthians 6:2 - Passage Lookup - New King James Version. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  22. ^ The Virgin Army, part 2. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  23. ^ Wanking: The Last Taboo. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  24. ^ Reject Us, Reject God. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  25. ^ Don't Take the Mark. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  26. ^ Forsaking All. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  27. ^ Power - Good or Evil?. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  28. ^ Setting Up Your Own Community. (2004-11-08). Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  29. ^ "JC History 1981-1996". Jesus Christians. Retrieved 6 June 2013. 
  30. ^ a b Hall, Sarah; Vasagar, Jeevan; Bates, Stephen (28 July 2000). "Boy Camped with Cult as Hunt Went On". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  31. ^ Christian, A (1985). Without Thought for Food or Clothing. Australia: Christians. p. 3. ISBN 0-9589327-0-0. 
  32. ^ A Change of Name. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  33. ^ a b "Excommunicated". Jesus Christians. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  34. ^ "Jesus Christians history". Jesus Christians. Retrieved 30 May.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  35. ^ "JC History 1981-1986". Jesus Christians. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  36. ^ "Walkers Begged Say Locals". Jesus Christians. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  37. ^ "Modern-Day Jeremiahs at Target Zero". Jesus Christians. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  38. ^ McGirk, Tim (26 June 1994). "New Untouchables in Madras Sewers (reproduced on the JC website)". The Age. 
  39. ^ Mcgirk, Tim (26 June 1994). "Australians find Godliness in Latrines and Sewers of Madras". The Independent. London. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  40. ^ "Australians Good Intentions Drowned in an Indian Cesspit". The Sydney Morning Herald. 27 February 1995. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  41. ^ "The Baby Books". Jesus Christians. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  42. ^ Hunt, Elissa. "Children snatched from their homes in dramatic raids on the Children of God sect in 1990s trials". Herald Sun. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  43. ^ Mckay, Dave (2000). Strong Meat. Chennai, South India: Reproman. p. 152. 
  44. ^ "Mother Slates Police for not Preventing Son Going off with Religious Cult". Get Reading News. Archived from the original on 18 June 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  45. ^ Hall, Sarah; Vasagar, Jeevan; Bates, Stephen (28 July 2000). "Boy Camped with Cult as Hunt Went On". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  46. ^ "Boy speaks out for sect". BBC News. 26 July 2000. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  47. ^ "BBC barred over cult boy footage". BBC News. 18 July 2000. 
  48. ^ "Cult pair freed after Bobby plea". BBC News. 27 July 2000. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  49. ^ Hospital refuses to accept kidney - National. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  50. ^ Ronson, Jon (6 April 2002). "Blood Sacrifice". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  51. ^ Ronson, Jon (6 April 2002). "Blood Sacrifice (part 2)". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  52. ^ "Cult push for Living Sacrifices". 
  53. ^ a b "ABC The Religion Report, full transcript". Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  54. ^ Australian Story :: Body And Soul. (2010-02-08). Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  55. ^ "Betty's Video Statement". Jesus Christians. 
  56. ^ "Cult member held over woman's 'abduction'". Sydney Morning Herald. 27 June 2005. 
  57. ^ "Australian cult member arrested in Kenya". Melbourne: The Age. 19 July 2005. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  58. ^ "Second Kenya arrest over 'abduction'". Melbourne: The Age. 19 July 2005. 
  59. ^ Daniel, Ooko. "Sect members cleared of kidnap charges in Kenya". Hana News Online. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  60. ^ Giles, Tanya. "Cult Aussie can't post bail". Herald Sun. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  61. ^ Christian Bashing Covered up by Police. YouTube. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  62. ^ The Trial. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  63. ^ Wife Swap. Channel 4 (2009-05-14). Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  64. ^ "NTD Chinese News". Chinese NTD News. 30 July 2010. Retrieved 28 May 2013. 
  65. ^ "Jesus Christians Newsletter #126 August 2010". Retrieved 28 May 2013. [better source needed]
  66. ^ "Jesus Christians UK". Jesus Christians UK. Retrieved 25 July 2013. 
  67. ^ Parry, Ross. "The Rise and Fall of the Jesus Christians". Jesus Christians UK. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  68. ^ Survivors. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  69. ^ Survivors - Google Books. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  70. ^ [1]. Retrieved on 2010-11-26.
  71. ^ [2].

External links[edit]