Like A Fantasy .. Only It’s Real
“My name is Terasee Morris and this is my husband Richard. We are here from New Mexico and we don’t know where to go,” I sobbed.
After three 12 hour days of driving through the wintry blizzard conditions of February 2015 across the center of America, we finally found it. “It” was a pristine building with the sun glistening off its steeple in a dazzling sunburst that drew us closer. It was like a dream to even be here and now to see it in person, I could hardly contain my tears. They were tears of joy that would soon change to tears of sorrow, sadness, and brokenness.
The long drive opened onto a circle in front of huge wooden doors, the walls shaped like battlements adorned with fleur-de-lis spikes. It looked like heaven to us. The side parking lot had a smattering of cars so we headed for the side entrance. We pulled under the awning in front of the brass doors and I jumped out of the car and ran to the enormous door and knocked as hard as I could. I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz banging on the door of the Emerald City. I prayed, Please let there be someone here!
After waiting what seemed like an eternity, the double brass doors opened and a friendly man by the name of Kent Smith graciously invited us in and told us to sit in the throne-like chairs near the door. I knew Kent Smith from the many hours we had watched online church services from this very place; webcasts of a church calling itself Remnant Fellowship (RF) in Brentwood, Tennessee and we recognized him from the Wednesday night “You Can Overcome” talk shows. I knew he was one of the leadership of the church and felt so comfortable talking to him because I felt I knew him. I finally felt like I had arrived at a safe haven and all of my dreams were coming true. We had battled the storm and overcome so many obstacles on our way to Tennessee, we truly felt we have come to the Promised Land.
He asked us our story and we told him how we had come to know about RF through my participation in the Weigh Down (WD) Workshop weight loss program. He asked us about our progress in the program and then asked who my “accountability partner” was When you start Weigh Down classes, you are assigned an experienced Weigh Down participant and RF member to guide you through the weight loss process and concurrently entice you into joining. This person is your Accountability Partner or in RF jargon- AP. As soon as he heard the name, he got immediately on the phone and we were directed to her home. Also, before we made the arduous trip, the church had reserved a hotel room for us for two nights. However, we had missed the first night meaning we only had one night and a day to find jobs and a place to live. While we visited with my AP and her family and some friends, he got on the phone and reserved us a second night at the hotel. We did not know until later that evening and felt truly blessed. We had left everything in hopes of finally finding love and acceptance and a place to belong. We are a childless couple and so we were looking for FAMILY.
We arrived on Sunday, and first thing Monday morning we went to the WD office to meet with Tedd Anger. We had a good discussion with him and during the conversation he asked when we were going home. We told him we had left New Mexico and had no jobs and no place to live. He said “You mean you are moving here? When we answered in the affirmative he said, “Most people don’t do this this way. Usually they come and visit a couple of times and then move here.” He was shocked and surprised. Then he said “Let me see what I can do.” In the meantime, he gave us some instructions about personnel agencies, and possible job openings. We left the office, a little nervous because of what Tedd had said.
As we drove around to the various places, we worried if we had made a mistake. But late in the afternoon, He called and said my AP and her family were inviting us to stay with them. So, on Tuesday we moved in with the family. This was our first, face-to-face, experience with the leadership of Remnant Fellowship. This was an answer to prayer, a dream come true, and what I assumed would become my ticket to health.
For most people, their first experience with RF introduces them to nothing short of a red carpet treatment. You are showered with the warmest of attention by so many people and every need, wish, and desire you could mention is considered, bestowed and granted in what is called “love-bombing.”. Love-bombing is an expression used at RF and with members who shower a potential member with kindness and real help—namely housing, jobs, transportation, and more. This immediate gratification helped to lull me into a dependence upon people to supply my needs. In return, I would reciprocate in kind. This bonding became a codependent relationship that would be hard to break loose from. Ask and you shall receive… This royal treatment begins during your visits before becoming a member or if you are an “out of towner,” an RF member who lives somewhere other than Brentwood, Tennessee. An example of love-bombing would be how during festivals RF members would line the hallway from the brass doors to the Fellowship Hall and would cheer and hug visitors as they arrived to pick up their registration packets. The visitor is overwhelmed with the love that is literally showered upon them.
Prior to ANYONE visiting, whether for a festival or being invited by a member, the “sponsor” (person inviting) is emailed by the main office and a specific name tag is made and the sponsor sends in a picture and a short bio of who they are and what their interest is in coming. So by the time the person arrives, the leadership and staff know every visitor and staff members are assigned to ensure their visit experience is over-the-top amazing. I know now what a calculated sales pitch it really was but at the time I thought it was just to be very helpful to the visitor and the host.
For those who live ‘in town’ it is really no different except that there were expectations that I would be a participant in the love-bombing. There are many titles for RF besides the actual name… Remnant Nation, Zion, The Remnant. All of them refer to those who are a part of the membership – and we had travelled out of desperation to join the ranks of the Remnant, where we were told the only truly holy live.
You may ask, how did we get here?
Dreaming Of No Place But A Home
All my life I have been, what my mother called, “a spiritual child.” I cannot remember a time when I did not love the Lord. When very small I used to dream that I was one of the women who traveled with Jesus and the disciples from place to place. In my teens I had some visions. One of the most precious gifts from the Lord is my voice. I love to sing and I love to “sing” my prayers to the Lord. The Psalms are my favorite book in the Bible. But I always felt invisible. I never sensed any importance in anyone’s life. I always craved attention. I wanted to BELONG somewhere to feel important and noticed and LOVED.
As a young adult I attended an Assembly of God church and was very involved in the ministry to children and single adults. I taught Sunday School, worked in the nursery, led the children’s church worship team, and was worship leader for the singles’ group on Friday nights. I sang in the choir and traveled and sang with two other girls. My life was filled with ministry and joy and happiness and everyone knew my name. However, my biggest stronghold was overeating and I struggled with my weight from puberty on.
In December 1996, I married my amazing husband. My weight was an issue for me but not for him. In 1997, the Methodist church we were attending offered the Weigh Down Workshop “Bible study.” It was called “Overcoming the Magnetic Pull of the Refrigerator”. During that class I lost a little weight, and I was thrilled by the use of the scriptures in each lesson. The following year we did “Exodus out of Egypt”, the second series. But this time I didn’t lose very much weight at all. So when the Weigh Down Advanced course came out I was looking for more conviction to really make this work. BUT… during our study in this course the curricula stressed that to overeat one bite would separate you from God. AND that the Trinity was said to be a lie and false doctrine.
Needless to say the Methodist Church discontinued the study. In the early 2000s we tried to start an Exodus from Strongholds class in our non-denominational church, but the class didn’t continue due to lack of attendance and the participants’ feeling insulted by the judgmental tone of the class material. So, I went looking for other weight loss methods. I believed my weight was keeping me from being all I could be in the Kingdom of God. It was my biggest STRONGHOLD. So began the 14 year roller coaster of diets, pills, over exercising, starving, binging… the usual story.
By September 2014, I received some terrifying news from my doctor My health was seriously deteriorating. I was dying, as we all are. The obesity and diabetes had taken its toll and I was headed for dialysis and an early death. My lifelong desire was to be pleasing to the Lord and to Glorify His Name. In the almost 300-pound body, I was no longer able to walk more than 50 feet without stopping to rest, much less stand and lead people to the throne room in worship. I was benched from service to my King.
When I got the news from the doctor I was devastated and felt hopeless. I was mentally praying to lose weight so that people would be able to carry my coffin. I was preparing for NO future. At the time, we attended a Messianic/Hebrew roots congregation on Sabbath and a megachurch on Sunday. We craved fellowship and a place to belong. The people in these congregations were warm and friendly, but any interaction outside of church events was minimal. Not having children and being an older couple left us in a place where we didn’t fit the mold. No connections because of no children, and too old for most couples fellowships and too young for seniors groups. We just did not fit in.
I was lonely, sick, depressed and hopeless. My song had gone and my love for the Lord was growing cold. I was desperate not only for my health physically but for my spiritual health too. One night, during the deepest pit of despondency I cried out to the Lord for an answer. I missed my relationship with Him. I knew my work in the Kingdom was not over but I had so abused my body that I could find no way out.
I cried myself to sleep. Then, in a dream I saw Gwen Shamblin, the founder of the Weigh Down Workshop. I woke up knowing that Weigh Down was the answer to my obesity and ill health. I had no idea that they were still in existence. It had been 14 years. So, I went to the computer and found the website. But with my ill health preventing me from employment we didn’t have the finances for me to take the BASICS class. So I prayed again. Lord, if this is your answer, there has to be something here for free. Then I saw it…at the bottom of the page, a link to “Weigh Down at Home” free program. I went to the link and it was a compilation of all the old lessons and videos from the 1990’s. I began waiting for hunger that very day. I joined the WD Facebook group page and started forming relationships with Weigh Downers and RF members… some of whom were “leadership” and monitored everything said on the group page.
We found the link for the live webcast and the archived “You Can Overcome” (YCO) programs on the website. We traded the Food Network for the online media of Weighdown, RF, and YCO. We finally were able to purchase the online Facebook class, (where I was assigned an Accountability Partner) and subscribe to the online channel called “Truthstream.” Now it is called All Access. I dove in with both feet, not realizing that I was heading into a web of spiritual abuse. I began losing weight at a rapid rate, 20 pounds in one month. I was feeling better. And I felt hope for the first time in a long time. I felt loved by the Lord and people began to notice me. Even during one of the You Can Overcome shows my name and weight loss was announced from the stage. Someone NOTICED me. The doctor had begun to lower the dosages of my medicines and even discontinued some. I felt I had finally found the answer.
In January 2015, my husband was notified that they would be dissolving the News Department at the radio station where he was a news director. His last day would be the end of February with a one month’s severance pay. At the time we lived in New Mexico, but we are native Texans. We had no ties to New Mexico and very few left in Texas. We had already been talking to Tedd and Candace Anger about becoming RF members living in New Mexico. We were planning to make our first trip to Tennessee in the Spring, but with the job loss we wondered if this was God saying we should move to Tennessee. With nothing to hold us, we left Roswell, February 27, 2015 for the Remnant Nation, Zion .. to us it was the Promised Land….
The Nightmare Begins
When we first arrived we were “housed” at the home of my accountability partner. This is common practice in Remnant and Weigh Down circles. At first it seems like a dream and you cannot believe that someone would so generously open their home to “strangers” at no cost. It seemed like a complete blessing. I continued to lose weight, weighing in weekly, reporting my food intake, and learning how to “fit in” to the RF culture that was modeled to me by my accountability partner and her family. You go where they go, endlessly trained in the Remnant Fellowship etiquette of what to wear, how to act and their acceptable jargon. From brief visits to extended stays among RF family circles, all interactions and relationships are intended to mold us into “Remnant Saints” who all look up to RF leadership and respected members for behavioral cues. Every need you have is taken care of and out of gratitude you willingly conform to their way of thinking. You belong, and have a place.
However, the home life reveals just how powerless this uniformity really is to change lives. The teenagers still exhibit anti-authority tendencies; arguing with their parents; talking back; procrastinating with chores; and sneaking behind their parents’ backs to manipulate what they wanted. The younger children followed their older siblings examples. Gwen’s teaching on the “Line of Authority” establishes a rigid social hierarchy which requires the younger children to be in submission to the older children, whether they are siblings or not. Obedience and submission to this form of social interaction is viewed within RF as the prime mark of “holiness.” It is peer pressure on steroids. One example of this came forth as I was waiting in the car with the four children when an argument began between them. The younger children are taught to do what the older children say without question. But little A, was not that compliant and talked back, to an older sibling. The older sibling was in the wrong, but I did not to intervene. When the mom returned to the car the 3 older children lied about the incident. Finally, I was able to tell the mom what really happened.
After about 3 months with our first Host family we began “house-sitting” for other Remnant Saints. We had commitments for a couple of months with intermittent returns to the original home. At one point we were going to go “home” but our room had been made available to a visiting Out of Towner (OOTer) and would no longer be available to us because family would be arriving soon after the Canadian OOTer left. So we were encouraged to “move on.” This means find housing on your own or placement with another “family unit” and in July 2015, we moved in with a childless older couple into their brand new home. We were advised by leadership not to make the move but we did anyway… our first act of “rebellion.”
In May 2015, during one of our ‘house-sitting’ assignments, we were joined by 2 “saints’’ who were single. I had been a part of Zion, the Remnant Fellowship culture, for almost 6 months but felt left out of the important fellowship gatherings. People would come up to me at church and tell all the things they had attended with “friends” but I was never notified or had a clue that anything was happening. I was telling this to one of the girls and she told me “just show up.” I didn’t even know when anything was happening so how could I just show up? At the same time I was feeling pressured to lose more weight faster… by this time I had lost 75 pounds. I was in tears worrying over my weight loss, not fitting in…. And one of the girls. who is no longer in Remnant, “Call leadership, talk to your accountability partner, call the office. You have to check in!”
I had no idea what she was talking about but I very quickly found out. When you join RF you are assigned a “shepherd”, a leader who is meant to watch over your spiritual and personal progress on a regular basis. You are asked to check in once a month to let your leader know what is going on in your life, what you need, what counsel you lack and above all to report your weight loss or progress, as well as confession of whatever “sin” you may harbor and what you brought into RF. If your immediate shepherd feels you need further ‘counsel’ you are referred to someone in the inner circle of Remnant leadership. These people have 24/7 access to Gwen and are able to bring any situation to her immediate attention .. and “advice”. And if you do not comply with leadership’s suggestions, you are labeled “Anti-Authority” and “rebellious,” at which point you then are “asked” to “sit out” until you are ready to actually humbe yourself before them and repent of your evil doing.
In June of 2016, I went on the WD tour to Indianapolis. I felt like one of the gang, and “in the middle of the pack’’ as they call it. I was called upon to “testify” during the gathering that was broadcast world wide.
Then came the long ride home. And I began to reflect on what I was doing and what I was feeling.
It is very difficult to describe what happens when you are alone with your thoughts after participating in a Remnant activity. First, you are constantly bombarded with the last teaching that you have just listened to, which always made me feel condemned for failing to meet the standards Gwen set forth as “the Message”, the “gospel” she presented. Then, those feelings of unworthiness expand to the point where you feel hopeless and damned. But you know enough scripture that you try to contradict what you are thinking. The true Gospel of Jesus says you are loved, The Message says if you do not obey you are not loved and you do not love God. The true Gospel of Jesus Christ says if you sin you have an advocate with the Father, Jesus; The Message teaches that you cannot have forgiveness unless you bear fruit (weight loss) from your repentance. The true Gospel of Jesus Christ says, the cross is the power of God unto salvation; The Message says, the cross is for past sins, but if you sin now, you must pay for with your obedience. This mental battle of terrible contradiction and confusion was what I called The Voices. and these Voices can drive you crazy.
This is what happened to me riding home with my 2 companions. The cognitive dissonance became too much for me and I had a meltdown in the car that led to me to start crying and telling my friends, “Gwen says ‘If you love me you will keep my commandments.’ But I can’t lose anymore weight! I can’t stop overeating. So I must not love God. But that must mean that God does not love me because I am sinning!” And over and over my sob-torn venting went for an hour and finally both women said, “I am calling Tedd.” “You need to talk to somebody.” “You are not thinking right.” The following week I was ‘called in” to talk with Leadership and was told, in no uncertain terms. “You are being self-focused. You are confusing the saints. And you are anti-authority. YOU CANNOT HAVE A MELT DOWN AGAIN. That is unacceptable behavior and it won’t be tolerated.”
The Fantasy And Reality Blur
As I’ve said, the influence of the “authority line” of leadership at Remnant is profound beginning with Gwen and her family (the “First Family” as one leader says), the innermost circle of power. The hierarchal authority trickles down to the under shepherds and their families. The counsel that is received is meant to direct the lives of the average member. Their “suggestions” are to be taken as the Lord’s Leading, and to be implemented without question. These suggestions include, where to live, what job you have, what car you drive, how to discipline your children all meant to enhance your life.
You feel, at first, that it is amazing pastoral care, but in the end you realize you have given up your ability to make decisions and reason on your own. It is then you begin to feel trapped, confused, and not good enough. You stop thinking because all the thinking is done by the leadership. You realize you really are no longer in control of your life. When you “check in” with authority there is an online form you have to fill out. One of the questions you are asked is…in what areas have you been counseled before. For me, the answer was always, gluttony, anti-authority, and self-focus .. and it was in these personal areas their “admonition” was always targeted.
In our second “housing placement,” our relationship with them began as a result of house/pet sitting while they went to spend a week in California with family. We enjoyed their friendship and we found that we were pretty compatible. Also, Richard and I were being “edged out” by the original family we had been placed with when our welcome began to wear off. We were being required by leadership to “move on.” So we were in need of a place to stay. We truly enjoyed the second couple though they had some personal issues themselves, and were in need of housing so we felt it was the Lord who was moving us. But leadership counseled that they believed this was the wrong move and to test it out to see if it “bore fruit.” They were telling us no but we were still under the impression that we were able to make our own decisions. However, independent thinking is frowned upon at RF and will be dealt with eventually.
This second couple were being counselled by leadership that it was time to buy a house. In the process this couple invited us to come and live with them with no time limit. I was not working outside the home yet, and so I was able to help Mr. with his business run out of his home. Mrs. had and has many health problems — all of which were under oversight of their shepherd as with every other Remnant family.
So, in July 2015 we moved in. During the following winter they decided to go on an extended trip to California again (that is where they are originally from) And without much thought assumed we would take care of their unruly dogs. My husband was ladened with the responsibility of walking the dogs 3 times a day. Even though they had bought a house there was no fence for the dogs to run in the backyard. So my husband, went to work and came home at lunch time to take the dogs for a walk when he could. If he could not, I was to just let them do their business on the floor and clean it up! In the meantime, I was able to discipline the dogs to some extent and so when they came home they were thrilled to see how well behaved they were.
Around Christmas 2015, one of the dogs, uncharacteristically jumped in my lap. It was fine. But when I went to get up from the chair the dog was startled and bit me. It wasn’t a bad bite and he didn’t do it maliciously, but Mr. went berserk! He started yelling at me and telling me that I had no business even talking to the dogs. And we needed to find another place to live. I mean literally yelling at me. Mrs. was crying and upset that the dog had bitten me. I had no problem …it hurt but I startled him, it was a natural reaction.
Words were said, and Richard and I were called in to leadership to find out why we were being such a problem. I had not said anything rude to the couple about them or their dogs. But I was told I had to apologize for the dog biting me! When we got home. I told Richard I was NOT going to apologize for doing nothing wrong. My husband said– do we need to go back to leadership? I felt alone, I had lost my husband’s support to leadership. So I went in and apologized.
My trust was gone by that point. I felt like I couldn’t express myself at all. I had no one to talk to…even my husband was under their control now. I didn’t even feel like I could trust God and that I was an unruly child and nothing I said or did would ever be good enough. I felt abandoned and alone At this point I wrote an email to leadership and told them I no longer belonged to Remnant and that I would never be good enough or perfect enough to fit in.
The husband of the second couple, a church photographer, was very “anti-authority” at home but toed the party line at church. This couple has been members for 10-15 years and so we, the newcomers were going to be “in the wrong” no matter what we did. On a side note: Mrs, had lost over 100 pounds and had been counselled to stay in a previous marriage that was abusive until it landed her in the hospital. After the hospital she regained all of her weight and was asked to sit out of Remnant until she could repent and show fruit of her repentance by losing weight.
The following brief comment is an example of how, beginning with Gwen Shamblin herself, Remnant leadership actually views those who struggle with their weight goals within “Zion.” It is hardly supportive: in Remnant, excess weight is considered the fruit of sin and immorality and disciplined by exclusion from church, social functions and privileges other members enjoy. This “encouragement” was offered unrequested by Gwen to me in April 2016 just before we were leaving Ashlawn, Shamblin’s home, on a visit there:
“Terasee, you have to get this weight off. It’s a choice, it’s just a choice. You know you can’t keep coming if you don’t get the weight off. If you don’t lose, cut what you ate in half. If you don’t lose the next day, cut that in half and you keep cutting the food until you start losing weight. You shouldn’t even be eating… you have so much weight on your body you … no more eating.” (I had lost 130 pounds by this time.)
This is a normal course of discipline to a Remnant member.. At anytime there are many people in the Remnant congregation who are suffering this kind of abuse as God’s will for their lives. Under this kind of “counsel,” the wife of the second couple, thereafter divorced her abusive husband.
As soon as she was divorced, her friends, the leadership in California, introduced her to her second husband who, while they were dating was to financially support her and her 3 children. And they would eventually marry. During our stay with this couple, I personally informed leadership on several occasions that they were having problems at home. In the end we were told it was US who were the problem and were told to move. At this point I was glad to get out of there.
Our final familial placement is probably the hardest for me to talk about. I love them so very much. The mother, a very sweet friend suffering from lupus, was sold out to Weigh Down. She has lost over 100 pounds and kept it off for years. Her husband, works very hard but is not as sold out as she. Their teenage, very opinionated, rebellious son is a handful for the parents. And their pre-teen daughter, hungers for love and affection, validation and acceptance.
I will talk mostly about the daughter here. The children at RF are, for the most part, homeschooled. They are at home, with family or go to the homes of other RF families during the week. Their studies are monitored by leadership, and they are given all they need to be the best students they can be. While we lived with this 3rd family, the RF children gathered on Tuesdays for “RF doctrine/Bible Study” and academic electives. This provided for more co-dependence and Remnant’s controlling socialization.
This sweet child that I lived with was an outcast among her local RF peers. She was lonely, depressed, and overweight. She is also, about a foot taller than her other petite, super-thin counterparts. They left her out of their “sleep-overs” and treated her as an afterthought on most occasions. Her only friends in her peer group were children of RF members that lived out of town and only came for the festivals and special events.
While at home, her mother monitored every bite she ate, and put her in weigh down classes. In an effort to release her frustrations, she was very bossy with her older brother and was constantly in “trouble” with her parents. While living with her, she and I buddied up to help each other eat only when we were hungry and stop when we were full. I helped to homeschool her and we were super friends. We both cried when my husband and I moved to our own place and many times she came to spend the night with me. I miss her still.
We loved and still love this family. The only reason I mention them at all is because of the belief that Remnant children are perfect little angels During most every Remnant worship service, Desert Oasis, roadshow, and every Festival, the children within the group are touted as the best behaved and most respectful children ever. This endless flattery comes from Gwen on down the “authority line” of leaders, culminating in a marketing mantra by Gwen she continually cites: “People have told us they didn’t believe what was going on here until they saw how well behaved the children were.” As we have already shared, the children of Remnant definitely are not the most well behaved offspring in a religion you’ll find, being no better than any other group of kids in a big church. And even though the husbands of RF women members attend, not all of them are completely on board with all that is going on there. But they go along to make their wives happy. However, this family truly treated us like family and made us feel the most comfortable.
In December 2016, Weigh Down and RF introduced “All Access”. This media tool contained every class and teaching that Gwen had ever done for a nominal fee. It was 24/7 access to ALL things RF. It was like a gift from heaven when it came out New Years Eve 2016. That night, I testified on stage to the entire world of all the blessings I had received (click link to view video). I attributed them all to Weigh Down and Remnant Fellowship I had my 15 minutes of fame… I was SOMEBODY and people who came to visit from out of town, all wanted to meet The Croc Lady. The video is of my downfall. I was completely and totally indoctrinated. God had nothing to do with it. It was all because of RF and WD and the “Message” of sacrificial self-denial.
My works… I lost the weight.
Soon after moving in with the last family I got a job at the Tennessee state human services office. the DHS. And because of it we were finally able to afford living on our own. We took our desire and search to leadership as good little sheep should. We tried to find many places that were within a reasonable budget but each time we brought the location back to leadership we were told it was too far from the church, that we would lose our desire to make the drive and drop out. So, we finally decided on the place we live now, which is very expensive, and a 5 minute drive to the church.
But, I had no transportation to and from work — of course that was provided and I carpooled with 3 other Remnant members who also worked at DHS. They were eventually fired and another remnant member, more recently hired at DHS, would bring me home but my husband would take me to work and then drive an hour the other direction to go to work himself. He was working 2 jobs at the “suggestion” of leadership. So I rarely ever saw him. With the work commutes, and the work day we were away from home for 12-16 hours a day. Consequently, I stopped going to Wednesday night services. Then many times I was too exhausted to go on Saturday. I had to depend on others to give me rides because Richard was always working. I was alone most of the time and began to feel depressed and tired, and I started eating and gaining my weight back
I would worship at home while watching the web casts but personal fellowship was dwindling to nothing. I was angry, and hurt, and despondent… and the spiral downward into the mental anguish and negative self-talk increased.. I would watch as Gwen would use a scripture and then my mind would switch to scriptures that refuted or contradicted what she was saying. It was as if I was hearing 2 voices all the time. I was confused, felt condemned and cried all the time because I could find no peace of mind. This mental tennis match began to take its toll. I cried a lot. I couldn’t stop eating and by this time I was convinced I was going to hell and God didn’t love me so why bother anyway? I had lost all I ever enjoyed and even my love for the Lord. I longed for the relationship that I had when I first believed.
In the midst of my spiraling down into ever deepening sorrows, I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning listening to the old music that I had loved as a new believer. I would binge on Nancy Honeytree, Keith Green, Maranatha Music, and Love Song, Second Chapter of Acts and just my own songs that I had written years ago. The message of the true Gospel their music centered in on shared Biblical truth like nothing else could. God loves me. Jesus died for me. I could never pay the debt I owed for salvation. The tears and the worship began to wash over my mind and my spirit and the refreshing of the Holy Spirit came. Lyrics of conviction would beckon to me: Clean before my Lord I stand and in me not one blemish does He see. … Oh Lord you’re beautiful, Your face is all I seek. For when your eyes are on this child. Your grace abounds to me. The Gospel so pure pulled me out of the mire. I started to come out of the Remnant fog and understand that I had walked away from the Lord in an effort to make myself more “pleasing to him” when all along He was pleased with me. But now I was lost, alone and scared. But for the grace of God, I would be eternally lost in this abyss of self righteous works.
We had given so much of our trust and dependence to Remnant that we had nothing of our own. We were secure, as long as we “obeyed” everything would be taken care of. But as soon as we left we would be “on our own.” And that was terrifying. We had left to come here and now … we were stuck. All dependence had shifted from the Almighty God, to Remnant Fellowship. And God wasn’t enough: it breaks my heart to say that but that is where you end up with RF.
In the midst of all the mental turmoil, one of the single Remnant moms was looking for a place for her girls to homeschool while she worked and so the girls started coming to my house every day to do their school work. I did my best to help them but they were locked into their self-centered teenage “independence” and even though I tried to teach them things they were rude and disrespectful and argumentative. But thinking it was me, I apologized for any altercations we had. I talked with the mom about the incidences, but never got much support.
During the girls time with me I would listen to my music and other teachings that I found helpful. Eventually, the girls reported on my attentions given to non Remnant sources of real inspiration and the mom came to my house and confronted me. I was teaching her girls from things that were non-Remnant and listening to music that “mixed the message.’ I was gaining weight and I needed to repent. Of course, leadership soon learned of my “evil doing.” She notified leadership and two days later we received a text to meet with leadership to discuss my beliefs and my weight loss progress. Nothing about my husband… just me. I was the rebellious one.
I told my husband he could go but that I wasn’t going to their little meeting. I was not going to church anymore and I was dropping out of Remnant and Weigh Down. He could do what he wanted but I was done. That’s when real fear set in. My husband was fearful of how we were going to manage without Remnant resources. I didn’t care. God has always taken care of us and He would continue to do so but I was not going to be told what I could and could not do in my own home. I was about to learn another lesson just how Remnant could compel that kind of obedience from outside my home.
From Their Shaming To Our Reclaiming
Social media is used to connect people from all over together over the internet, but in a place like Remnant, it is a powerful tool used to maintain control over the lives of the Remnant rank and file. Every member of RF has their social media accounts on places like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest monitored 24/7. If anything non-Remnant approved is posted to your personal Facebook pages or other social media, you are called immediately and “asked” to delete it. For example, I crochet as a pastime and a niece asked if I could crochet her a swimsuit and was sending pictures so that I could see what she was talking about. Now my niece is not a church goer so you can imagine the pics were a little less modest than I would like, so I would respond with more modest designs that were similar to what she wanted. Within 15 minutes of this discussion I received a phone call from Jennifer Martin at the WD office telling me that I was to delete the photos. They were not RF appropriate. I tried to explain the situation but I was told it didn’t matter… I was to remove the photos.
In the WD Facebook group, many of my posts were deleted by the moderators, because, they did not reflect the “hope” and encouragement that was expected of RF members. Every action public or private must be approved and/or monitored by leadership. Compliance is expected without question. About a week later I got a Facebook message from a new member asking what had happened. He sent me the text that went to the entire congregation:
We wanted to update you that Richard and Terasee Morris have left the Church. Because they have been very active on Social Media with the Church and Weigh Down we felt led to update you right away. There has been much help and counsel provided to them over the last couple of years but we have had issues with divisive behavior with Terasee. When we attempted to meet again regarding the need for repentance, they opted to leave the Church and disassociate with the Weigh Down Facebook page, discontinue in classes and have begun posting various other Ministries on Terasee’s FB account. It would be right to unfriend on Facebook and pray for their repentance but not to fellowship until after they meet with Leadership and show True Repentance. Thank you for your help with this. We are so grateful for this Church and the unity in the body. We are looking forward to celebrating the Festival with everyone !
With Deep Love and Respect,
On behalf of Leadership,
Chris and Helen Boerman
Honestly, I was not surprised. I had been to meetings after church and received emails of similar nature about others who had left RF. But I was angry. Angry at the lies about me. And furious that this was ME and not my husband they were talking about. The scandal was cut and dried in the black and white Remnant worldview: Richard was not controlling his wife and I am sure, had we attended this ‘counseling’ session, he would have been given direct instructions as to how to “handle” me.
Then came the silence.
We were contacted by a couple of people to say they were sorry but they could no longer fellowship with us. We returned items that we had borrowed. I also, let the people that were closest to me know that I had left immediately, because I considered them my friends. And the deafening silence of social isolation to force us into submission began. My days were filled with quiet and the only human contact I had was from my online students and my husband.
I reached out to my biological family and to friends who had been cordially distant while we were at RF. My estranged brother invited Richard and I to come to Ohio to see him, and he also contacted my sister and invited her. Blessing of all blessings! We had our first sibling reunion in over 10 years. It was just what I needed. My long time friend, called me every day to check on me. While I was in RF she spent those 2 and a half years, finding resources for the aftermath that would ensue. And I made use of them.
I cried almost every day for the first month or so. I wondered if I had made a mistake. I vacillated between staying out and returning to RF. My first instinct was to run back to Texas with my tail between my legs. But my husband has the best job he has ever had and there is/was no way to leave now. Our apartment, is in the Remnant Nation neighborhood, so I stopped going out to the store or to eat unless I knew it was church time for them. I was afraid to see anyone. And the times I did, I would say hello but was completely snubbed.
I was afraid to go to any church now. I was very unsure of myself and questioned every thought and action. I couldn’t believe we had been sucked in by a cult. I was sure I had heard the Lord. But, the lack of physical socialization got to be too much so we began attending churches in our area. They were lovely people but I felt so vulnerable that I was afraid to trust anyone….especially a pastor or someone in leadership. I was terribly gun shy.
We visited a small Messianic congregation just before we left RF and fell in love with the people there. We had been a part of many Messianic churches in the past and some were very legalistic other a bit relaxed but still controlling as to dress and food laws. So we kept looking. We have since joined the Messianic congregation we first visited and are beginning to build relationships and feel safe there.
I have reached out to many ex-RF members and we communicate at least once a month. All of us are hurting, some more than others but we are united and on the mend.
The Reality Behind The Fantasy
With our time away, we’ve had a chance to reflect on aspects of Remnant control we jumped into as totally trusting new members and these are my observations on what you don’t see behind the glittery ad print, websites and sunny smiles and hugs. I wish I could say that all things are great and rosy and the sunshine is shining again. But it is not.
To function well, the body and brain need food. The effects of food deprivation can cause weight GAIN when you return to eating and BRAIN FOG, which contributes to the cultic mind control of RF. It ensures a person’s’ inability to ‘fight back’ and/or think independently. When we left, we were not reading our Bibles, or praying, or listening to anything NON-Remnant. I was afraid to pray, thinking that it didn’t matter if I did, the Lord would not hear me anyway because I was in sin. (the lie that is instilled in the teachings at RF) When I picked up my Bible to read, I heard Gwen’s voice in my head and I couldn’t read anymore. I have come to understand that this is common in many who leave Remnant or leave off the Weigh Down indoctrination.
I didn’t trust my husband anymore either. I blamed him for letting things get this way. I blamed myself for not being more spiritually aware. Our marriage was just on paper. So we sought counseling. The healing began. But we still are struggling after almost a year of being out of RF. I have gained all the weight back, but using the principles of hunger and fullness, I have begun to lose again. The Weigh Down principles of hunger-to-satisfaction eating are not new and have had proven results since the 1970s when begun by Dr. Arthur Halliday MD and his wife Judy Halliday RN. However, the emotional damage and spiritual control through the twisted theology of Gwen’ message of total submission and obedience are long lasting.
I still have what I call Remnant dreams. At first I would wake up crying, now I believe they are the Lord’s way for me to process some of the pain and to solidify in my mind the Truth versus the lies. I listen to all my favorite teachers online and I took a 60 day course that was only Gospel focused. That brought me out of the self-hatred and bitterness toward myself. It has caused me to be able to overcome my negative self-talk and put me in mind that without the Cross, there is no salvation. My mind is more at peace and the nagging little voices are gone. I have reached out to others who have left and find comfort and fellowship there and because I was so featured in the WD materials I have had many Weigh Downers who are being recruited, contact me. I have had family members of RF saints contact me and ask me about their loved ones and how they can help them get out. My number one answer is PRAY! Only the Lord can rescue us from the snare of the fowler.
Remnant Fellowship is a church that cunningly uses it’s self-captured imagery to market itself as the only true church on the earth. The “joyful” expressions on the faces in the plethora of photos on the website for the most part, are real—but not because of the Lord… the joy comes from simply feeling good. You are no longer overweight, you are healthy and feel like a kid. Literally! Much of the joy on the faces is genuine, at least from who I would call the Sheeple. They are duped and are ignorant or comfortable to the state they are in. I mean why wouldn’t you be happy if you knew that just because you are part of RF, the millionaire membership will take care of your every need. You have no lack at all! And you are told it comes from the Lord, but in reality, you never asked the Lord, you asked leadership and they provided. So you no longer pray, you go to leadership. You no longer ask from God – you go to leadership.
As long as you toe the line… everything is taken care of.
But underneath all of this is a group of people who attend RF and are desperately trying to please the Lord in their own strength. We were told that if we overeat one bite we are in sin and we could lose our salvation. You’re told God is not happy with you and your prayers will not be heard. So my daily, hourly prayer became exhausting—Please God help me not to overeat! They believe one’s ‘holiness’ is measured by the amount of weight lost and maintained. As soon, as your willpower is lost and the weight begins to return, you are “in sin” and no longer acceptable to God. We were told not to be self-focused but to “look inward” and examine ourselves! It’s an endless cycle of not being ‘good’ enough for anything.
Their theology denies the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ. They do not believe that Jesus Christ is God, which takes away the power of the Cross. All the weight loss is out of personal willpower— NOT reliance upon the transforming power of faith in the work of Christ’s Cross.
Everyone at RF is told when to be at church or functions, what to wear, and how to behave. In our own privacy, we were instructed that the only music we could listen to was music played at RF. Asking questions do not yield answers—God forbid you ask a question or don’t comply with the dress code! We were moved to the back of the sanctuary or to the overflow in the fellowship hall. Only the most ‘holy’ are allowed in the front and on camera. During services, most everyone arrives one to two hours early to get a seat but the leadership can arrive 10 minutes before because their seats are reserved. You are asked to squeeze three to five extra people on each row of chairs. I have personally been pushed out during the service because there wasn’t enough room.
Let’s talk about Remnant weddings. The decorating begins the Wednesday before the wedding. No holds barred, all hands are asked to be on deck, but when you go to help, you are told you are not needed. They have it all taken care of, however you are expected to be there. It is called being in the “Middle of the Pack.” You are kept so busy at all of the “functions” and ministries that you do not have time to develop outside RF friendships. At every event, there is someone espousing the ‘party line’ of dying to self, and carrying your cross by being totally obedient and without sin. The children have no friends but RF friends. The adults, make sure their children are a part of every gathering so that they do not ‘stray’ to drugs and alcohol and the ways of the counterfeit church.
During the gatherings, teenagers begin to be paired up by the parents and when a girl takes a liking to a boy. She goes to her parents and tells them. Then the parents go to leadership to see if they will approve the courtship of the couple. If so, the courting begins by the families joining each other at every outing. So the arranged marriages begin when the children are mid-teens. By the time they are graduated from High School and about to enter college, the engagement is planned, and orchestrated. A couple of years into college, the wedding date is announced and the fervor begins .. also the parental/leadership grooming of the couple begins. After the couple marry, they live with one set of parents for a year or they are gifted the down payment on a new home. They do everything with their parents so they can see how they are to behave.
The night before the wedding Gwen hosts a Blessing Shower for the couple. They are invited to Ashlawn, Gwen’s residence, and spend two hours listening to people talk about how great the bride and groom are! No one has a seat and it is a semi-formal occasion so no one is comfortable either.
The day of the wedding is also the day of worship and the charge to the couple by Gwen is for the entire congregation. All the vows are the same with little personal thoughts interjected. They pledge love to God, the church, and then each other, but the the church and God come first. At the end of the service the congregation joins in, corporately promising to hold the couple accountable for their vows and their dedication the furtherance of “the Message.”
After the wedding comes a “reception” that is just an excuse for plain partying. Gorging, drinking, dancing to secular music as well as an all out frenzy by the children occurs. While the adults are eating and drinking, the children are let loose all over the grounds, running, pushing, shoving, yelling….with little to no supervision. The children are out of control! The parents, from Leadership on down are oblivious as they self-indulge on food and wine. Then the adult dancing begins! I’ve seen Gwen and her daughter Elizabeth boogying down to Michael Jackson. You would think you had been transported to the local club to dance the night away. The couple is sent off into the night under the explosion of fireworks and the Sunday clean-up crew will be expected to put everything back into pristine order. After awhile, I stopped going—too crowded, too much noise, and too much chaos!
The weddings aren’t the only place where excessive alcohol is the norm. The drinking at every gathering is non-stop, whether in someone’s home or at the church. For example, one day I attended a “Love Book” reading in which there were 20 women there. Some had arrived together, others on their own but each bearing a bottle of wine. In all, there were seven bottles of wine. And when I left there was no wine left. I am not a drinker… don’t like wine anyway… but this is the norm!
Another example was when we were living with the childless couple. One man we knew was at every function including those at Ashlawn. And one night he got so inebriated one of the men in leadership had to drive him home.
The Love Book, The Tablet And The Class Videos
The Love Book, written by Gwen, is the newest indoctrinating tool of the church. It contains the Gospel as interpreted for Remnant Fellowship. We were not encouraged to read our Bibles. The only bible study that happens is in correlation with class materials. You are given specific scriptures to memorize and expound on based on RF interpretation. Also “Bible flops” are okay and expected. This is a Remnant tradition resorted to when you have a question or need encouragement or your mind begins to wander to food. You are instructed to literally close your eyes, open your Bible and put your finger on the page and begin reading. This is how God supposedly talks to you. It is, frankly, something similar to an 8-ball or Ouija board and just as useless.
However, each member is required to closely study the Love Book. Instead of having mid-week or group Bible Studies, there are Love Book readings. If we went to anyone and asked the slightest question, we were referred to a chapter in the Love Book. Most of the time, the person with the advice can quote the chapter and page number. Not only is the Love Book studied but also her new publication – The Tablet. The Tablet is the latest regurgitation of the WD’s “hunger and fullness” etiquette, whereas, the Love Book is the exposition of the doctrine of Remnant Fellowship, complete with its revisionist church history which, of course, points to the RF as God’s only true church on earth.
At this writing, July 2018, a new publication God Fearing Families has been released. It is the doctrine of how the authority line in church should be incorporated and practiced at home Not only is there the written expectation but the explanations and implementation are expounded in the Video series of the same title.
The class videos are more of the doctrine for church members. They are condemning and not encouraging at all. And after a group showing of the videos for the class absolutely no discussion is allowed. So no questions are allowed: you are to take your questions to leadership or your accountability partner that has been assigned to you. Your concerns will be dismissed. You will be told to stop being self-focused but but to continue to look inward and follow Jesus’ example. Most the time you are told to fast and to get control. In essence, when all else fails, just try harder.
Any testimony given by RF members regarding their weight loss must include a ringing commendation of Remnant Fellowship and how the real salvation they just found came only through “The Message” of total obedience that only is found in Gwen’s teaching there. Here is one such example heard recently:
“I could not maintain my weight loss without staying in a class. I have been in classes the last 20 years and I still take classes.”
In other words, when you stop listening to the endless reinforcement of the deceptions of Remnant claims, the actual truth comes out and you can be set free, but this freedom is obviously a direct threat to leadership control! Staying continually enrolled in a class or two keeps you bound in the web of indoctrination Remnant Fellowship readily ensnares so many with.
In RF there is no preaching unless by Gwen Shamblin with her own personal interpretation hailed as Gospel. There is no need for the cross of Jesus. Salvation by grace through faith, without works – the core of the Gospel – is not acceptable dogma. All Bible based truth is not necessary since Gwen has the final interpretation of scripture. There is no need for real prayer either, except prayers of desperate mercy inspired by the fear of hellfire and damnation for crossing leadership; what they call being divisive. Any questioning, no matter how sincere results in one of two things happening: you are rebuked by leadership and “suggestions” are made for you to conform and swallow their line, or you are totally ignored and shunned within the ranks and eventually booted out.
With this kind of tyranny you fear for your livelihood. You are completely smothered and at their ‘mercy.’ There’s the ever present and constant scrutiny by leadership and other members, a kind of smothering manipulation and peer pressure to maintain control over you. With everything provided for you from Remnant resources I felt guilty for even thinking about wanting to leave. One member told me: “You have a choice. You can leave or stay. But before you decide to leave, think of everything that people have done and sacrificed for you. Then make your decision.” With this kind of guilt trip, I felt completely bound to RF by the powerful of fear; the unspoken presence and binding energy among its membership
Fear is the norm in Remnant Fellowship — not Love.
We have been out of RF since October 2017 and I still have dreams. Today, the dream was SOMEONE at RF had stolen my New King James Version (NKJV) Bible. Now that may not seem strange but the only approved “scripture” translation at RF is the New International Version (NIV). BUT I had my own…something different and non-approved. I tried to go to the Lost and Found but kept getting the run around… I was sent to Leadership and other offices to try to get my Bible back… but to no avail. I told them it was an NKJV Woman’s Study Bible and that some of the pages in Proverbs were ripped because my dog Sugar had eaten them. They laughed. I woke before I got my Bible back and told my husband about the dream. His first question was “was it NIV?” And when he asked I realized it wasn’t my Bible that had gone missing but that they had stolen my relationship with God.
Recently, I got a text from an RF member who wants to come by and see me. I cannot open the door again. I don’t want to hurt her because she has been the only person who has talked to me since leaving. She is lonely but her family is RF too, although mean. She is the elder of the family and a single, “experienced” member, meaning senior citizen. She lives with another Remnant family as “Nana” to the couples’ children but her own grandchildren rarely come to visit or check on her. and they are all RF!
At this writing, July 2018, I rarely have Remnant dreams, but I had one last night that exemplifies the healing that is occuring in my spirit.
My husband and I and some family members were in a tunnel, with some homeless people. It was dark. We ended up in a house, but people from RF kept coming into the house. I began to yell at them: “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE! IN THE NAME OF JESUS, GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!” I went outside and there were thousands of homeless people in the yard. They were friendly and were gazing at a huge empty house next to mine. They wanted to go in, they wanted someplace safe to stay but it belonged to a stingy landlord. I told one of the homeless people, the house was for sale for $75,000. It was 3 bedroom 2.5 baths but had an enormous ballroom in the center. It was large enough to house ALL the homeless outside, but it sat there empty. But as I awoke, there was hope in my heart… maybe one day I could buy the house and let the homeless live there.
I once sat down with one of the worship leaders, Miley Barcus, and she told me “It is a fantasy, but it is real.”
In Reality, the Fantasy is a Nightmare.