Like A Fantasy .. Richard’s Testimony
I will not duplicate everything my wife has written in her testimony other than to say that it is an accurate picture of the institution that was our church home for nearly three years.
I will elaborate on one event from the early 2000s when we hosted WD at our home for people who attended our non denominational congregation. Attendance at the weekly gathering was high for a few weeks. As attendance dwindled however Terasee and I became aware of the new church known as Remnant Fellowship which was just getting organized. We had done some church-hopping by this time and I thought a church based on weight loss was going too far. I would later regret thinking that as we got involved in the church. Now I wish had maintained that original line of thinking.
From 2003 to 2014, we had continued to try a lot of different eating plans, which WD would refer to as “man-made”. This would include South Beach, Atkins, raw vegan, juicing, etc. I joined my wife in doing these plans to support her and because I also had some weight I needed to lose (at least 50 pounds if not more). We would eventually find them all too restrictive and time-consuming and none of them lasted very long.
Fast forward to my wife’s devastating medical diagnosis over a decade later. I knew something needed to change, but I was at a loss to figure out what could be done differently. Doctors had all been very vague, as far as I was concerned,about what might or might not work. Terasee had her dream with Gwen in it and she called me at work asking if we could do Weigh Down again. I told her if it still existed to go ahead and go for it !
We became involved once again in WD and Remnant through webcasts in November of 2014 just before Thanksgiving. We began applying the principles and the weight loss for both of us was noticeable. I knew we had made the right decision. It was during this time that I contacted the WD office and spoke with Candace Anger to see what would be involved in becoming satellite members.Terasee and I were both on speaker phone as we visited with her. We were actually on the verge of becoming members of a mega church (by Roswell’s standards) and I wanted to know the Remnant leadership stand on that. I was told that we could be involved in WD while being members of another church and that we could continue to attend Remnant as a visitor, ,but could not join Remnant until we had made a decision to completely sever all ties to any other congregation including simply attending their worship services. Perhaps that should have set off a red flag , but it was no different than the stand some other churches took. I told Candace that we would like to have the opportunity to come visit and get to know the layout a little better before making a final decision. She actually said that probably would be wise and so in the meantime, we did join the church in Roswell in early January of 2015 and continued to watch Remnant services, weddings, and YCO in the meantime.
At this point, I did not give moving to Tennessee any thought at all. I was raised to always look at things from a very practical standpoint and my job was in Roswell. We had made several geographical moves and as my wife has said our plan was to stay involved from our home in New Mexico.. This was 2015 and we had done more moving in the previous 3 years than I had done in a lifetime. I was tired of it .
However, I began to believe that God had other plans for us. You know the old saying “when we make plans , God laughs !”. (At the same time, God has blessed us with the discernment to make plans that are sometimes in line with His.) My layoff took place in February of 2015 which was four months after Terasee and I had already begun to lose weight and her health had improved significantly.
The decision to leave for Tennessee seemed to be God-inspired as we even consulted the pastor at the church we were going to who did not agree with Gwen Shamblins teachings on the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. He saw what appeared to be fruit and told us we should make the move. I would soon be without work and I did not want to run the risk of resorting to a menial job I was overqualified for in a town where I had been serving in a high profile broadcast position. Terrasse had been offered a job with the Salvation Army i, but it was part-time and her supervisor could not give her a confirmed start date. It would not have paid the bills by itself.
I tried one other option before making the decision to move. I called the radio station I had worked for for so many years in the San Antonio, Texas area to see if a position was open. It was open,but the pay was less than it had been when I previously had it. I called some people I knew to investigate housing options, which were non-existent unless we wanted to pay twice the rent we had paid. I gracefully turned the offer down. I texted a personal apology to the man who would have been my immediate supervisor and he responded with a giant thumbs up to indicate I had made the right decision. There was a lot of uncertainty about job security with a recent change in ownership,
Were there any red flags about the theology prior to our final decision ? The only negative thing either one of us were aware of was the controversial death of a young boy in the church a few years earlier and the imprisonment of both of his parents. We read all of the publicity and were convinced an injustice had been done. It was not enough to convince us not to come.
I immediately began looking for jobs and a place for us to live. I found that rent was much higher than what we had paid in Texas and New Mexico. Radio jobs were scarce and having nothing but a radio background did not serve me well in the job hunt for anything besides an entry level position. I eventually found a sales job that paid 300 a week plus commission. It was a decent start but still did not enable us to move out on our own. I gave up that job after we moved in with our second family, because the commute between Spring Hill and the Grand Ole Opry area was 80 miles a day on a car that was beginning to have problems. I then took a job at the Spring Hill Walmart as a cashier before being promoted to Customer Service. By this time it did not matter where I worked as long as we had the opportunity to be a part of this “wonderful message.”
I do not think I can add anything to what my wife has said about our residential arrangements with the three families we lived with during the first year and a half we were here. I was grateful, yet apprehensive about our first invitation to move in with our first host family. The idea of moving in with someone we barely knew was completely foreign to me. Having to depend on them for support was a position I never dreamed I would be in for my wife and I. The mother in the family told church leadership we were welcome to stay with them after communicating with her husband who was on an out of town business trip. There was no time table given for how long we would stay. I think we were told it would be for a few days if memory serves me correctly.
It was during my time at the Spring Hill job that my wife was offered a job with the state. By this time, we were with family # 3 and were able to begin looking for a place of our own . I am so thankful we were living on our own when we made the decision to leave.
Back to some more of our household experiences…
We were told that Remnant Children were the best behaved children anywhere, That may have been the case on the surface, but we were in a situation where it was largely surface, The oldest son was not all in ( a phrase a remnant member would use to describe someone who completely embraced the message.) I once overheard him complaining to his dad about having to sing the songs at a Remnant Youth Gathering. Two of the kids were very mouthy and two were polite on the surface, but sneaky behind the parents back. At the same time , we did bond with them and the eldest commented on more than one occasion that he did not want us to leave when we would bring the conversation up. The maternal grandmother was in the message but the grandfather was not. I would later learn that while he continued to admire Gwen he became offended when directed by leadership not to go to a family funeral.
I began to wonder at this point what leadership reaction would be if I encountered a similar situation with either of our extended families.The youngest daughters in the family let us use their bedroom as they moved in with an older sister. Even so my wife and I did not have the privacy we would have had if we lived on our own. Had we had more privacy, we might have had more opportunity to fully process what was going on in this new life.
Terasee lost over 130 pounds and I lost 80. There was love bombing ,generosity, and what appeared to be plenty of opportunities for fellowship. We would see Facebook photos of events at church members homes, but they were published after the fact without us having any knowledge of them.
Here are things that I began to really reflect on as time passed , however. We would go to YCO broadcasts and the first thing any guest would reflect on was what a bad church situation they had come from. This is why I am relieved we were never asked to be on the show. My father was Direteacher.. I could never have said anything that would have cast a negative light on my first church family.
Something else that seemed to not be quite right had to do with Remnant weddings. Most of the vows which the couple wrote on their own included the phrase “I promise to love God first, this church second and you third.” I dismissed reflecting on it too much because I was still seeing what I thought was fruit in our lives. It also struck me as odd that weddings took the place of weekly worship gatherings. Did leadership think they were not going to be able to get people to attend more than one event in a weekend ?
I let myself get brainwashed into thinking that we could, indeed, be perfect as Jesus was perfect and that I was in denial if I chose not to go into the Eagle Room to express my convictions most if not every Sabbath. The Eagle Room was located behind the sanctuary and to the left of the fellowship hall. It had a large round table with the statue of an Eagle on top of it. I understand it was based on the scripture from Isaiah (40:31). “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like Eagles: they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” I attended about three such gatherings where the mood was somber and congregants talked about where they had failed and were expected to express remorse, repent and promise never to sin again.When they tried to explain why they were struggling, they were quashed. They promised to “get it right and be all in.”
At the end of the session, three to four leaders stayed with a few members to go into more detail. I was led to believe that my wife’s and my salvation depended on staying within boundaries of hunger and fullness and that we were doomed to eternal damnation if we crossed those boundaries. I would look at people who were downcast after each preaching due to condemnation. Conviction can be a powerfully positive thing , but being told repeatedly that God does not love you unconditionally is one of the worst kinds of emotional abuse a cult leader like Gwen can impose upon an unsuspecting sincere flock of believers.
My wife made reference to a time in which I backed up leadership and told her she needed to apologize over an incident or go back to leadership. I was listening and believing the bullet points in Gwens Vision series which was designed for the men in the congregation.
I was with my wife when Tedd Anger told her she could no longer have an emotional meltdown during a “counseling” session. Most every counselor I have ever been aware of encourages venting and letting one’s emotions out. That advice startled me a little at the time ,but unfortunately, not enough to be able to say to my wife that we were in the wrong place.
Everything seemed so scripturally correct and full of fruit at first. And yes, we were on the receiving end of that generosity. But I started gaining my weight toward the end of our time in the movement.
A class known as Revolution got started in the Spring of 2017. I will refer to it now as Remnant Weigh Down Damage Control. .It was for those who had started to regain their weight. My thought by this time was “If Weigh Down is so successful, why is there a need for a Revolution class ?” The church sanctuary was packed at each class and taping for the new video series.. It was during this time that Gwen began making reference to being expelled from the camp.Matthew 18 At first one person approaches the one in sin to admonish them and then if the sinner does not repent , two people approach them. Strike three of course is when the elders call a meeting to point out one’s sin and demand repentance.
I had to.miss several Sabbaths, You Can Overcome series, and special events due to work-related conflicts, but my wife made me aware of one YCO show that featured the men in the congregation and some of the special events they had all been involved in , which I knew nothing about until after the fact. The overall theme in this case was “Get Involved and Get in the Middle of the Pack.”.
I am not talking about mens classes or gatherings. Those were well-advertised . These were ski trips, golf outings and card-playing opportunities.
After January of 2017 , the church began to break up into individual sub-groups led by leadership in the church. Sub-group leaders were encouraged to make home visits to the homes of families in their group. We expected this and made arrangements to have our leaders come to our home for lunch. One thing that stood out in our visit was my inquiry of the husband in the couple as to what I could do to be a better husband. His main response was to read Gwen’s Love Book.
I never got specifics when I texted Tedd for the agenda of a meeting leadership had called with Terasee and I. He said he wanted to see what Terasees beliefs and progress goals were. He did not elaborate any further than that , other than to say that we needed to be unified. I felt a release when I texted him and said we would not be attending the meeting or RF anymore. We were shunned as expected when we left.
I need to conclude with some more observations :
The families we stayed with were more than just friends to us. They became people we loved like brothers,sisters, nieces and nephews. Even they, however have not contacted us at all since the departure. My only direct contact with a family was returning an item we had borrowed to their house. My wife sent a condolence card to the first family we stayed with on the death of a grandparent. There was no acknowledgment.
I continued to work at Wal- Mart in Franklin for a few months after we left before being hired in the Customer Service Center at the Tractor Supply Corporate building. I would still run into former fellow church goers from time to time and engage in, for the most part, superficial conversations with them.
We have had some trials since leaving. I was in a no-fault accident in my apartment parking lot in January and went without regular transportation for about six weeks. Thanks to the generosity of former church members who became aware of our plight, we were given rides to and from the store. I also was able to rely on co-workers for rides to work. God blessed us with the opportunity through my car salesman nephew who worked out a great deal on a new car for us.
I look back on all that has happened since we left. Remnant and Weigh Down gave us a lot in the beginning ,but it has taken away more than anything it gave us can replace. My wife and I went to 3 months of marriage counseling and it has taken us a year to fully begin to understand what a true relationship with God is. We are now reaching out to former Remnant members and being reached out to by them as well. We continue to pray for those in the church that they will become aware of the deception they are believing and teaching.