the Spirit Watch
The Weigh Down/Remnant Testimony of Laura
I began Weigh Down Workshops in the Summer of 2003, because I wanted to lose weight for a show I was producing/singing in and had to lose ten pounds. When I heard that the workshops were based solely on the Bible, I felt it may be the right program for me. I started with the beginner’s course right away.
Back story: After a rape I had experienced in the Navy many years prior, I had developed an eating disorder that turned into what people call Bulimia. This is an eating disorder that is sometimes brought on by an emotional or physical violation. Some people participate in the behavior just to keep weight off, and others are compelled; due to a strong need to purge themselves of a terrible time in their life or a multitude of stressors they have no faculties to deal with in a healthy manner. Before starting my Weigh Down path, this disorder was luckily in remission due to therapy and a 12-step program.
After attending that first class, then finally hosting two additional courses in my home (of which I oddly had to pay for), I had contacted Weigh Down Headquarters to see if I could become involved with a larger support group. Being fairly new to Los Angeles, I only had four attendees in my class and wanted to enlarge my fellowship circle.
When I contacted Gwen’s staff, I was told that there was a church within this organization called “The Remnant”, Gwen’s church. This was good news to me, because I already loved the Beginner’s course. I also loved the fact that she used scriptures to aid in weight loss, while seeking God through prayer and by studying His word. So, I joined. Immediately, I began hosting Gwen’s Internet webcasts in my home on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. I was happy to incur the costs of food, necessary upgrades/memberships/programs to my computer, coffee, and communion wine/bread; and did it willingly and joyfully.
Soon after beginning and hosting these in-house church ceremonies, our Los Angeles group grew from four attendees to sometimes twenty. It was wonderful because I had a larger support group. This was an exciting time for myself and the attendees.
Things unfortunately began to take an awkward turn. Gwen’s teachings were integrated by her controlling opinions and commandments. This Gwen seemed different from the Gwen on the beginner’s Weigh Down course and book. When my guests heard from her that anti-depressants, 12-step programs of which she named as “victim groups”, complete healthy eating lifestyles were not necessary (or painted in a negative light), people ran for the door. Gwen also mentioned that our local Remnant leaders should be our “go-to” for important life decisions and basic counsel. This was odd. What about our prayer life and a close relationship with God? According to Gwen, her words relate that we must go through a Chain of Command now.
This was sad to me because I felt that Gwen’s teachings may be tainted with self-serving undertones. I tried to ignore this red flag, because I was so happy to have a group of people who really loved God and wanted to worship him and follow His plan. Unfortunately, His plan wasn’t being preached in the Remnant Fellowship
After struggling with a few life decisions and speaking to my local church leader in Fresno, I began becoming distressed. The advice was confusing and not based on scripture, but on what “Gwen thought was best for everyone”. For example, Lisa; my local leader told me that she had recently been verbally scolded by Gwen to move her children into home-school from public or private schooling. She tried to make it sound as though she deserved the scolding (but it was without a doubt obvious) that she felt she had no other choice because Remnant members do not “grumble or complain”. These words were supposedly taken right out of the Bible. I don’t remember seeing in the Bible “no grumbling or complaining to Gwen Shamblin”? Apparently, in this church; verses are taken and manipulated to serve The Remnant church and its own agenda.
My local leader also told me to quit therapy, because I should be going only to my fellow Remnant peers and leaders with all problems. This was another red flag because cults eventually cut all people with sound advice from your life because they can be a potential threat to the cult’s selfish needs. You can see examples of this fact by reading some of the other testimonies of families that have been disowned from Remnant members.
Because of the exhausting drama and inconsistencies in this fellowship, my bulimia returned full-force and worse than ever. This disorder had been in remission for the past 2 years, with the help of Overeaters Anonymous and therapy. Now my 24-hour a day affliction had returned? How was this possible? I was following a tenacious 7 day per week “Weigh Down” regimen and following all the rules perfectly. To add more confusion to my now unmanageable life, Miley (a peer) had told me that I had no discernment. Wow. That is the third sign of a dangerous cult by demoralizing their members to feel they cannot draw upon themselves but only draw strength from the cult. Thank God I wasn’t born yesterday and had enough discernment to ignore this ridiculous claim. So, I guess to affirm my fears; “go to the Remnant instead of God through prayer” was alive and well in this institution. Still haven’t found that verse in the Bible to date. Going to God for the answers in life was the very reason I was attracted to this program and now I have found just the opposite to be true in The Remnant.
Obviously, I needed more answers. Maybe things are being ran incorrectly just here in California? I could find out for myself. I then brought up to my fellow LA Weigh Down friends, that I had wanted to visit Gwen in Nashville. Because I had serious reservations, I wanted to clear up all my doubts and go straight to the main source. I didn’t tell anyone else about my doubts because I felt it was unfair to push my opinions on others. Well, they were in for it. We booked our flights and were on our way to Nashville - myself and two friends were on our way.
The minute we arrived, Andrea and I felt unease. However, my other dear friend was enthralled with admiration for Gwen and the others. The members had the same never-ending smiles that would fall at times and immediately return to their “proper position”. I wondered if it was a sin to just “be”. I witnessed the same smile, the same hairstyle, manicure, speech pattern and demeanor of Gwen in all female members in my view. Andrea and I felt like we were possibly in the midst of the re-make of the “Stepford Wives”. But our other friend’s reaction was scary to me, as she was easily influenced by many things. Her heart is so fragile and naturally submissive in nature. I believe she is an angel on this earth. I felt she deserved great care and I wanted to protect her, as she did the same for me many times. I felt her vulnerability may cause her trouble in this situation. She had been my best friend and I just adore this girl to no end. What is sad, is that the very thing I brought her into (The Remnant), would be the very thing that would take her from my life. I will always miss her, but I know that God will protect her and lead her to the best path for her life and life-lessons.
Moving onto the trip….The situation that confirmed my doubts, occurred at a formal and beautiful dinner given by Gwen in her gorgeous, extravagant mansion. I was shocked to see so many of her followers work a full day in her office on the phones selling Weigh Down materials, drive their older, worn-down cars straight to Gwen’s house and serve up dinner to us. I felt really awful because they had a forced smile on their face and were visibly and understandably exhausted.
During dinner, Gwen and two of her male leaders were drinking alcohol and gossiping about other churches in town and how they didn’t measure up to “The Remnant”. Ted drank so many glasses of wine and martinis, that I lost count. He asked me to join him in a martini and I declined because I was so ill, by what I had witnessed. This reminded me of running into Gwen’s son Michael during Sunday morning service smelling of what he called a Long Island Iced Tea. I guess it’s okay to indulge in alcohol and diet coke in the Remnant, but not food? Gwen’s group also made fun of homosexuals and spoke of them in a demeaning manner. I was upset by this rudeness. I thought that this was the opposite of their teachings. I looked over at Andrea and I was glad to find I wasn’t the only one witnessing this inexcusable behavior. Gwen kept interrupting her husband, which was entirely against what she preaches in the Remnant as being submissive to your husbands. All this time, struggle and faith I had in Gwen and her message had immediately dissipated. I felt I was in a sea of serpents and I was the prey.
I was sad to find out that “The Remnant” was in fact, the Counterfeit Church.
After dinner, the tired female servants sat around Gwen as if they were her harem. One of the servants rubbed her shoulders while others cleaned up from the dinner. The tired male servants went upstairs with the other male guests and stayed apart from the females. It was obvious that we new-comers were in for a sales pitch. Gwen spoke of her struggle with Weigh Down and the churches who dismissed her Weigh Down courses (due to the lack of Trinity teachings in her message), along with the money she had lost. She supported all bad media with answers to dispel any doubts we may have. Her supportive assistants continually peppered us with intrusive questions. I just sat there and prayed for strength to get through this evening without throwing up, for I was so devastated by what I had witnessed. This night couldn’t have ended sooner.
After barely getting through that disturbing evening, I shared my thoughts with two of my Remnant friends, which was a big mistake. I was met with opposition. Because I’ve had a full life and have been swindled before, I knew without a doubt that the Remnant, was not a safe haven, but an institution that preyed upon the souls of the weak. I started praying and soul searching with desperation. Every prayer was answered while being led to scriptures that said everything just short of “run for your life, Laura”! Every fiber of my being was convinced that this fellowship was a manipulative cult. That, my friends; was the Holy Spirit informing me. When I called upon God, he answered.
I quickly found that my house-mates had turned on me. I was no longer looked upon as a sister, but as the enemy. I was reminded that I had no discernment, so I must be wrong and had no ability to make decisions for myself. I just laughed to myself and tried to fake it, just so I could survive the next couple of days without arguing or being called more ugly names. No one could possibly change my mind. My salvation depended upon leaving.
The minute the plane landed back in Los Angeles, I knew what I had to do. I sent an email to Gwen, the others who were gracious hosts to me in Nashville, my peers and my local leader that I was leaving Remnant and Weigh Down.
Contrary to Remnant’s often preached “godly behavior”, the response I received was ugly. Miley emailed me a nasty letter that said I was foolish and I would fail without the fellowship. This was a girl that called me “sister” only one week prior. I thought that Holy brothers and sisters did not talk to each other that way. My San Diego peer said that I would have “Gwen’s blood on my hands and soul” if I didn’t confront her on her sins from the Nashville dinner. I guess they had wanted to scare me, but it only confirmed the bold fact that “The Remnant Fellowship” is a cult. And after reading several books on the subject and speaking to other Remnant escapees after my departure; I was glad to escape without further damage to my life as others have suffered.
After this resignation, the weight of the world, or the “Weighing Down” of my life had been lifted. I regained control over my life again. My eating disorder was blessed and gone. I had lost the weight I gained in Weigh Down/Remnant and I started back into therapy again. I had also tapped back into my confidence the group tried to steal from me, and received further career blessings beyond my dreams. In addition, my health had improved; which was a delightful surprise. The fruits of my decision were clear, and confirmed by my blessings.
I feel this entire experience has made me a stronger woman. I thank the Remnant and the Weigh Down staff and members for that. My relationship with God is stronger than I ever dreamed possible and I have Gwen to thank. God led me out of darkness with grace and dignity. He taught me to no longer look to “man” for the answers, but to Him. When I go to Him, my questions and prayers would indeed be answered in His perfect will.
You may contact Laura directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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