To challenge Phillips’ control, Jeffreys began sending out letters to individual churches to ask for support. What followed was a six-year period of devastating attacks and counterattacks between Jeffreys and Phillips through this correspondence.
Frankly, both of these men were guilty of immaturity in their handling of the leadership conflict. They had begun the Elim movement as young men who loved the Lord and desired nothing more than to see His kingdom increase in the world. But the rapid growth of the denomination, along with the popularity, influence, and power that came with their positions, would have affected any man. Jeffreys erred in looking primarily to the people in the Elim movement for counsel. As the apostolic leader of the denomination, he should have sought counsel for how to bring about change in the church government from his peers in ministry, such as T. B. Barratt of Norway and Lewi Pethrus of Sweden. And Phillips, though he was a diligent administrator, should have been willing to listen to the man whom God had used to bring so many into the kingdom of God and the Elim churches. In the end, both men leaned too much on their flesh and gave Satan a place to intensify the conflict.
It may seem odd that so little has been written about the Elim conflict in light of the state of warfare in Europe at the time. The Bible is clear to point out to believers, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
As Phillips and Jeffreys were on the brink of war over control of the Elim denomination, there was a nightmarish conflict brewing in Europe. As the evil forces of darkness working at that time through Hitler and the Nazis began the bloodshed of world war, it seems clear that spirits of conflict and desire for power were also attacking the church of Jesus Christ.
Roberts Liardon tells us that one of the ugliest parts of the Elim conflict came at the Conference of 1939, just as Hitler was preparing to enter Poland. Because of the caustic letters and questionnaires that had been circulating, Jeffreys initially refused to come to the 1939 Conference and instead stayed in a home just a few miles from the meeting location. He sent emissaries to the meeting to give his answers on the subjects that were brought up for discussion. Frustrated and angry over his lack of cooperation, Phillips used Jeffreys’ absence as an opportunity to put the “nail in the coffin” of eroding support for Jeffreys.