Menu•SiteMap | Biography

G. R. Cowell (1898-1963)


Background :
  • G. R. Cowell
  • Mrs. Cowell
His Family
His Friends
His Foes :
  • London 1959
His Withdrawal
His Trials and Stand
His Ministry
Last Days and Burial :
  • G. R. Cowell
  • Mrs. Cowell


G. R. Cowell, c. 1957

Mr. G. R. Cowell – though unknown or unremembered, except by a relatively few –

This sketch is based largely on several documents in my Historical Reference Series.


Page Top


G. R. Cowell, 1898-1963

Gerald Robert Cowell was born on June 5, 1898 in Saffron Walden, Essex – the birthplace of Mr. F. E. Raven.

Around 1915, he came into fellowship with the brethren at Debdon Green, near Thaxted, Essex.

"… you cannot make known the mystery simply by talking about it: right words come in and are needed, but to make known the mystery you must show it.

At 18, during World War I, he served in the army as a conscientious objector.

Around 1920 he married Irene May Holding and they settled in Hornchurch, Essex, living there for the rest of his life.


Mr. and Mrs. G. R. Cowell

Irene May Holding was born April 20, 1896, at Wandsworth Common.

Thomas and Flora Holding, her parents, had been Baptists, but had come into contact with the brethren and into fellowsip.

She was baptized as belonging to a Christian household and trusted Christ in her youth.

In her late teens she came into fellowship, perhaps at Enfield, Essex.

Before her marriage she was employed at Somerset House.

Irene was the eldest child but she outlived her three brothers – Frank, Eric and Douglas – who were also in fellowship.

Mrs. Cowell wrote two fine hymns, No.'s 179 and 485, in the 1973 Hymn Book.

Page Top


Mr & Mrs Cowell, possibly at Toronto 1957

The Cowells had two sons Alan and Brian. At the time of this writing December 1998:

Page Top

In this biographical sketch, the term "friends"
refers to spiritual friendships, not to natural or partisan relationships.

Mr. Cowell was highly respected among the brethren – not only in Great Britain but abroad as well – both personally and for his gift and service in the ministry of the word.

Notable among those who did not yield to the intimidation were:

• Edward J. Hemmings of Acton

In a word at Mr. Hemmings' burial in December 1963 – just 10 weeks before his own death – GRC said:

• Philip Haddad of Ilford

Subsequently, Philip Haddad personally took on the onerous but valuable service of reprinting GRC's proscribed ministry and much of his previously unpublished ministry.

Page Top


As stated in History: Hymn Book 1: 1962 Revision :

• London 1959

Mr. Cowell served at the 1959 London special meetings* at which he was challenged when he said that "the greatest numerical losses we have had of late years have been through the Galatian spirit".

Page Top

ON 12TH JULY 1960
March 13, 2009; Marcus Chapman writes: "Also attached is an outline of the assembly meetings leading up to his withdrawal. It is quite clear to me that the whole matter was a "put-up" job with brothers from outside the locality heavily influencing young, unspiritual men, within the locality.
"I do feel it is a worthwhile record to publish. One of the 3 signatories is still alive and has no objections to its being made available in a wider way".

May 12, 2011: Paul Allison writes "Just as a matter of interest you may or may not know that the brother who was to the fore in withdrawing from GRC, Alan Parsons, is still alive, 90 years old and living on the east coast of Scotland where he and his wife attend a charismatic church! It's amazing where some people end up, isn't it?
The Parsons parents were at Sutton Coldfield with us in the 1930's and I believe one of the grandsons is priest-in-charge there now.
I seem to have a great memory for trivia out of the long-ago but at 78 my memory for what happened yesterday is not so bright!"

This 1960 statement* which has only recently come to light is valuable as it is an eyewitness acount by three responsible brothers.

G.A.R., March 2009.


1. As many reports are current as to the sorrowful events in Hornchurch concerning our brother Mr. G. R. Cowell and many inquiries have been received, it is apparent that a factual statement of these matters is called for

2. We have been governed in our considerations by 1 Timothy 5: 21 "I testify before God and, Christ Jesus and the elect angels that thou keep these things without prejudice, doing nothing by favour".

3. The exercise concerning our brother arose, in Great Britain, over three things said at the meetings he was taking at the Central Hall, London, in July 1959.

4. The concern continued and increased and, in December 1959, Mr. Cowell came to the conclusion that, although what he had had in mind had been right, Isaiah 52: 12, was not the appropriate scripture to have used. Accordingly, in an assembly meeting held on 19th December 1959 he withdrew it, said he had erred and was forgiven.

5. The second point which caused concern was our brother's reference to large numbers having been lost to the testimony as a result of legality. He was pressed to say which meeting he had in mind and he said Auckland, New Zealand.

6. The third point related to the worship of the Spirit in the morning meeting. Our brother raised the question, as an inquiry, whether the prominence of the Spirit in passages of scripture referring to the lordship of Christ (particularly 1 Corinthians 12: 13 and 2 Corinthians 3: 17, 18) might not suggest that a brief response to the Spirit "in the lordship setting" at the supper might not be pleasing to the Lord.

7. Subsequently criticism was also expressed of the ministry at Exeter Purification and Life. The theme of this ministry seems amply justified by Matthew 23: 25, 26 and Romans 2: 28, 29 but some accused our brother of putting holiness before righteousness, contrary to Romans 6: 19.

8. In spite of the assembly meeting of 19th Decumber 1959, and the accord between Mr. Cowell and Mr. Jim. Taylor when they met in New York about a month later some brethren were still unhappy about Mr. Cowell and his ministry, although such brethren were then still very few.

9. Then, on 20th January 1960, two brothers made statements after the city reading in London in which they referred to what Mr. Cowell was supposed to have ministered the previous July and pointed out the seriousness of these alleged errors.

10. Until after the London assembly meeting of 20th January 1960, there was only one brother in Hornchurch openly critical of Mr. Cowell (a young man who had not been present at the meetings at the Central Hall) but now two others also expressed concern and raised questions locally.

11. In a care-meeting held on the 5th July 1960 Mr. Cowell made a statement as to these and other related matters and it was arranged to have an assembly meeting on Friday the 8th July to clear them.

12. A visiting brother (Mr. Leslie [W.] Turner [of Doncaster]) who had come to take the fellowship meetings arranged for the following day, remarked that there were evidently two assembly judgments and suggested that the brethren should hold the matter sub judice over the week-end in the hope that help might be afforded in the ministry

13. In the evening a number of local brethren were at supper with Mr. Turner and Mr. P. Lyon [London] was also present.

14. We felt the rightness of this and came together on the following Tuesday, 12th July, expecting that all would be humbled.

15. Our brother then made a further, much briefer, statement withdrawing everything that had caused even the least concern and expressing his self-judgment, sorrow and repentance in the most abject terms.

16. An older brother who does not usually take much part then gave a word in power on Daniel 9: 7-9, 18, 19 etc., emphasizing that unto us was confusion of face, calling on the Lord to extend forgiveness and saying that we could righteously forgive our brother.

17. A large number of brothers then confessed to their part in contributing to the divided state manifest on the Friday or said that they had been supporting Mr. Cowell and now recognized that they had been wrong.

18. For the sake of completeness it should be added that a fortnight after Mr. Cowell had been withdrawn from a brother said, at a meeting at the Central Hall [July 26, 1960] concerning Stow Hill Depot, that in ministry in South Africa Mr. Cowell had said something derogatory to the Person and work of Christ.

19. From the foregoing account of events leading up to the assembly meeting of 12th July 1960, it will be seen, firstly, that our brother was not withdrawn from because he refused adjustment on any matter concerning the truth but because he was said to have been not really repentant.

20. In short, the assembly judgment was the result of misrepresentation and influence from outside the locality. What our brother had said (often in private conversations, not even in ministry – as in the matter of the radio mentioned in paragraph 10) was taken out of its context, exaggerated and circulated without any regard for the circumstances and in violation of the principles of 1 Timothy 5: 19.

21. J.T. himself had to meet the very same thing and says of it:

22. During the period of exercise much was said of having a "moral" judgment of "the whole matter" and of not discussing "points".

23. This is not, of course, to claim that all that our brother has said is faultless for "the Holy Spirit is often limited [Himself] because of the weakness of the vessels available to Him, so that we do not have the same power they had in apostolic days", J.T. [ Old Series] 153: 245 [New Series 50: 392-93].

24. In spite of all the circumstances, many of us in Hornchurch felt that what was done on July 12th was the will of the Lord and should be bowed to.

25. The signatories of this paper (who were in the same meeting as Mr. Cowell and had first-hand knowledge of all that transpired) have now withdrawn on the authority of 2 Timothy 2,

K.E.G. BARBER, 22 Berther Rd., Hornchurch.
J .L. WALLACH, 13 Walden Rd., Hornchurch.
H. J. DOUGHTY, 16 Burn Way, Hornchurch.

December 1960.

Page Top

The following extracts are – except for the last –
from letters to a brother in Toronto. They give some idea of the severity
of the trials through which Mr. and Mrs. Cowell passed in 1960-61.

August 13, 1960: May I ask you to give me more information as to the "new teaching"? … You say that you were given the choice of the new ministry or your family.

You will no doubt realize that I have been passing through a time of unparalleled pressure of spirit; and am no longer in close touch with current events among the brethren.

September 9, 1960: Since you wrote, my dear wife has been withdrawn from because she felt she could not say she had [illegible] supporting me, and also Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Hemmings.

This may refer to the statement of SMcC's [Stanley McCallum] re the Cape Town notes, made at Central Hall on July 26, 1960, [History: Stow Hill Depot: 1960] after I was withdrawn from.

—— has criticised remarks re the title "El" in Purification and Life; but no opportunity has been given for a fair examination and explanation of the matter.

It is a time of great testing. There is much fear among the saints.

October 8, 1960: … In leaving one form of evil it is not right to link up with another.

The present idea of a virtually infallible leadership is blatantly wrong and the Lord will deal with it.

As regards 'authoritative ministry' I have not agreed with the things that are being said on this subject since 1949 when Mr. McCallum gave the address on it at Barnet …

It is amazing that brethren in Great Britain in the course of 8-10 weeks have so rapidly succumbed to evil, though much of the submission is undoubtedly through fear.

I would exhort you again to hold yourselves free from other associations and to await the issue of the conflict …

December 16, 1960: … The issues are now very plain – Pharisaism, popery and licence.

May the Lord keep us very dependent for each step – led by the Spirit, in faithfulness to Him … The God of peace be with you.

G. R. Cowell

January 20, 1961: My husband is somewhat snowed under with correspondence and visitors so I am sending along a list as you suggested. It is by no means complete and the figures may be greater now in some cases …

We know of impending moves in many places. In many others there is a smouldering state of unrest and distress but they cannot leave the position.

Irene M. Cowell

Mr. and Mrs. Cowell continued in fellowship with a number of those referred to above, who resisted the legal sytem and either withdrew themselves or were excommunicated.

November 9, 1961: … I ought also to make clear that I cannot accept the doctrine that those walking together in separation are at liberty to attend religious services held by sects around us.

I love and value believers in the sects and would do all I could for them.

G. R. Cowell

Page Top


Mr. Cowell ministered among the brethren from 1936-63, in England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Canada, U.S.A., South Africa and Australia.

• A Catalogue

'Ministry of G. R. Cowell and others – A Catalogue', No. 7 in 'The Memorabilia Series' – lists all the known published ministry of Mr. Cowell at the time,

Only one volume of GRC's ministry published by Stow Hill Depot was available to be listed.

Few now will have all, or any, of the books listed in the catalogue, but it will be of benefit

As a catalogue, it provides a comprehensive overview of the titles of each series of meetings and every individual reading and address,

• Published Ministry of G. R. Cowell

The Headship of Christ and of God – Birmingham, 1953

The Assembly in the Book of the Acts – Ipswich, 1954
The High Praises of God – Ealing, 1954

Memorials of the Ministry of G. R. Cowell – 16 volumes
  1. God's Relations with Men – Aberdeen, 1958
  2. Greatness: Readings in Hebrews – Toronto, 1957
  3. The Lord Jesus as seen in the Revelation

– Bristol, 1957
  4. The Sabbath of Rest – Belfast, 1958
  5. Devotion by Vow – Reigate, 1958
  6. God With Us – Bournemouth, 1955
  7. Progress in Recovery – Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1959
  8. Ordering of the Camp – Doncaster, 1960
  9. Purification and Life – Exeter, 1958
10. The Gospel of the Glory – Sydney, 1959 and
      Filled with the Full Knowledge of God's Will
– Melbourne, 1959
11. A Christian's Relationship with God and other Addresses
– 1936-53
12. The Grace and Government of God in Days
of Recovery – Edinburgh, 1956
13. God's Work and our Response in Service Addresses and
Readings – 1938-57
14. Spiritual Vision Addresses and Readings – 1936-57
15. The Times of the Nations – Croydon, 1957
16. What the Asembly is to Christ and to God: Addresses – 1942-50
and The Assembly in Paul's Epistles – Manchester, 1956

Ministry of G. R. Cowell – Booklets 1-6

Addresses and Readings – 1954-62, some of which are
duplicates of the 'Divine System' series of Books
All appear as appropriate in:
Ministry: G. R. Cowell - Early 1 through Early 12
Ministry: G. R. Cowell - Later 1 through Later 7

Fundamental Truths of Christianity – Cape Town,

December 1958

Unity as Presented in Paul's Epistles – London, 1959

The Divine System – Books 1-12
     – includes ministry of GRC, 1959-63, and of others.

The Divine System – Booklets 1-10
     – includes ministry, of GRC, 1941-62, and of others.

The above Divine System Books and Booklets appear
as appropriate in:
Ministry: G. R. Cowell - Early 1 through Early 12
Ministry: G. R. Cowell - Later 1 throught Later 7

Greatness and other ministry

In 1983, in the foreword to his final series, PH said,

Page Top


Mr. Cowell suffered a fatal stroke and was taken by the Lord on February 19, 1963.

Brian said of Mr. Cowell:

    The following letter from Mr. Philip Haddad, of Ilford, gives some details of Mr. Cowell's last days, and notice of his burial.

February 20, 1963

Beloved Brother:
The Lord has been please to take to Himself our beloved brother Mr. G. R. Cowell suddenly at 3:00 am on Tuesday, the 19th instant.

  • He had been staying at his son's home, Mr. Brian D. Cowell, at 6, Hillam Rd., Wallasey, Cheshire.

Our brother had returned the previous day from serving at fellowship meetings at South Shields over the week end, where much help and encouragement in a remarkable way were proved by all present.

  • He awoke in the night feeling smarting in his eyes, and within a few minutes he lapsed into unconsciousness from which he never recovered.

  • The doctor, who was called in, advised his going to hospital immediately; but the Lord took him before reaching it.

His spirit had been much refreshed by the occasions of the last two week ends – at Marlow, Birmingham and South Shields – and even his health had been unusually good.

  • He expressed joy the last day that the Lord was showing his hand in the way so many localities were working out the truth among themselves apart from human interference or leadership.

    Not long after GRC's departure "human interference" did appear in the actions of leading brothers in one local meeting in particular – and there was no "leadership" to restrain it.

Our beloved brother will be sorely missed the world over.

  • But his course and service in 'the testimony of our Lord' has now been completed in the unquestionable ways of our God; and we can only say: 'It is the Lord', and: 'The will of the Lord be done'.

Arrangements for the Burial are as follows, if the Lord will:

  • 2:00 pm Tuesday, the February 26, 1963 at the Barking Meeting Room at the corner of Ripple Road and Suffolk Road, near the Railway Level Crossing in Ripple Road – Barking.

  • Afterwards at 3:30 pm at Hornchurch Church Yard – to Hornchurch Cemetery – Upminster Road.

With warm love in our Lord Jesus,

Yours affectionately in Him, Philip Haddad.

Page Top

Notes by Philip Haddad
– Hymns are from the 1951 hymn book
Numbers in [square brackets] refer to the 1973/93 hymn book

Hymn 335 – Keith Oliver, Croydon [335]

Prayer – J. G. Brant, Hornchurch

Most of us here in this room and many others greatly value the ministry of our beloved brother

Our brother was a faithful minister of Christ, and as we heard in prayer – and we all know well – he delighted to call attention to Christ.

In Mark's gospel, we have, as far as I understand it, the first disclosure of the economy – the circle of the divine love.

Now, in Ephesians we have the blessed unfolding of God's thoughts to men;

Hymn 59 – Mr. Head [59]

I want to say a few words, dear brethren, about our brother's spirit.

It is remarkable how, in the ways of God, Elijah the Tishbite came to light.

I can understand how our brother has just spoken of our beloved brother as "a man greatly beloved".

I just pause for a moment in relation to our beloved sister, to Brian and Allan – what else can we do but commit them to God –

Hymn 295, from v. 3 – Hubert Calvey, Southport [526]

I have read these Scriptures, dear brethren, with one thought in one's heart – and I trust in all our hearts – of going forward.

This is a day of great grief, and no one can deny it.

Dear brethren, need I remind you of our beloved brother's ministry as to "The habitation of God in the Spirit" – Ephesians 2 – down here?

In the first chapter of Joshua, God said: "Moses My servant is dead; and now rise up, go over this Jordan, thou and this people into the land which I give unto them, to the children of Israel. Every place whereon the sole of your foot shall tread have I given to you …"

And now finally in Judges 1, the children of Israel ask Jehovah which of them was to go up first to fight the Canaanites.

And so Jehovah said, "Judah shall go up".

I appeal to our dear younger brethren; let us get back to our roots when we were delivered out of Egypt.

Hymn 294 – J. E. White, Whitley Bay –

late of Bulawayo [424]

Prayer – Kenneth Barber, Hornchurch

Prayer – Edward R. Shedden, Birmingham

Prayer – Wil Coleman, Yeovil

Hymn 86 – F. W. Cutler, Chelmsford [86]

Prayer – B. G. Hardingham, Cirencester

Prayer – M. P. Simmons, Bournemouth

Hymn 460 – H. Snow, Bournemouth [398] <

Hymn 229, last verse, and
Prayer – J. L. Wallach, Hornchurch [238]

Hymn 95 – W. M. Cooper, Barking [65]

In each of the above prayers it was mentioned how our beloved departed brother had exhibited practically in his life and ministry

And it may be apt here to quote some remarks in a reading at Croydon on May 27th, 1961 – 'First Love and First Works' – in which he pressed the value and the workings of the body of Christ in any given locality.

page 7

H.F.R. And then against that, according to this chapter, we are to grow up to Him in all things, so that this section is like a contrast again. So the assembly then is a vessel able to build itself up in love.

G.R.C. The gifts are given, and we shall always need them, for new generations come along, and yet they are given with a view to us not needing them.

page 9

G.R.C. And the very purpose of each of the gifts named is to prevent that. They are aimed against clericalism.

E.J.H. Have you an example in John the Baptist when he said: "He must increase and I must decrease"? –

G.R.C. He is really a sample servant. That should be the outlook of each one of us, that He must increase and I must decrease;

Page Top


Mrs. Cowell was living with her son Brian in Bradford, W. Yorks., when she was taken by the Lord on April 1, 1982.

Brian said of Mrs. Cowell:

Page Top