the Spirit Watch
An Unhappy Proximity:
Cults, Cultism And Gwen Shamblin’s Remnant Fellowship
by Rafael Martinez, Co-Director, Spiritwatch Ministries
An executive plan book appeared on the teacher's kitchen table, and he began tossing around terms like "worldwide ministry" and "market share" when he referred to his new project. Yet he continued to tell us every week, "I have no interest in worldly things. I have no desire to be famous."
Blind Faith, p. 9
Remnant Fellowship (RF) is a new religious organization that began to form in 1999 as the outworking of the convictions of Gwen Shamblin, the well-known dietician who created the "Weigh Down Diet", a dietary program first outlined in her 1997 book by the same name. First circulated among Christian churches across America, and achieving runaway success in secular diet circles as well, the Weigh Down Diet's core philosophy is based upon Shamblin's unique melding of Christian teaching on personal sanctity with an emphasis on dietary moderation. Tens of thousands of "Weigh Down Workshops" (WDW) across the nation sprang up and attracted hundreds of thousands of men and women from a broad cross-section of Christian denominations, providing Shamblin a massive, attentive audience for her teachings.
In the late 1990's, Shamblin's evolution of thought led her to conclude that Christianity in the closing years of the 20th century was largely apostate, due to her belief it "coddled" sin and idolatry, a chief sign of this being obesity among churchgoers and what she called a "false grace" message. This teaching began to color all of her Weigh Down conferences and writings, as well as her belief that impending judgment upon America by God for these grave sins was coming, and that her hand "was the sword that would separate the wheat from the chaff," (1) a self-perception that viewed herself as appointed by God to bring this message to the world.
In the year 2000, a year after starting her Remnant Fellowship movement at her Franklin, Tennessee corporate headquarters, Shamblin began to openly use her WDW venues as a bully pulpit to recruit churchgoers to her new church organization, having come to the highly controversial conclusion that the "institutional church can be defined as the counterfeit church the Apostle John warned about in Revelation - 'The Mother of Prostitutes' (Rev. 17) .. a place that says it is Christ's church and yet .. has insidiously allowed its members to rebel against Christ" (2). Viewing the small groups of people who hearkened to her message as being a true remnant of true believers, Shamblin's Remnant Fellowship now openly urges all like-minded people to abandon Christian churches and affiliate with her band. Drawing upon the contacts and influence that Shamblin and her Weigh Down Workshop business enterprise managed to build among the Christian churches before revealing her separatist vision and anti-Trinitarian stand in 2000 that led to a massive exodus out of her organizational orbit, Remnant Fellowship has now incorporated itself as a church ministry, drawing upon a war chest of tens of millions of dollars of WDW corporate wealth to finance and publicize itself. A Remnant Fellowship sanctuary an obvious "mother church" for the movement was completed in 2004 guaranteeing that it will be forty acres worth of "New Jerusalem" harbor for the far smaller Remnant Fellowship chapters across the country. It has become the venue of choice for Shamblin's movement for their religious festivals and pageants. For the moment, that is essentially where Remnant Fellowship has come from and its future, while increasingly clouded by uncertainty, seems poised for growth to some degree, thanks in part to media irresponsibility and the failure by prospects to look beyond the superficiality of their claims of "permanent weight loss.".
Gwen Shamblin and I both reside in America. Our country constitutionally protects and safeguards diverse opinions on matters of religion, and if she wishes to believe herself to be a member of a special class of people commissioned by God to safeguard a special revelation as the Gospel truth, she is certainly free to believe this. I however, do not, and my opinion is shared by thousands of former WDW participants and a new and growing number of disillusioned former members of Remnant Fellowship. Many have found their brief foray into Shamblin's organization become an excursion into nothing less than outright cultism. Complete with authoritarian leadership and a viciously antisocial dogmatism tinged with false doctrine denying essential Christian truths, it uses cultic mind control in a religious culture that spiritually abuses those who find themselves unable to meet up with all of its ideals.
That is the contention which we wish to explore and document in this article. What I am about to share will be disturbing and yet compelling as it is based upon first hand observation and testimonial of ex-RF members and others. As a Christian minister who has labored in the discernment ministry field of countercult evangelism and restoration for the past 17 years, I have sought to be fair and objective in the gathering of my thoughts here on Gwen Shamblin’s writings and teachings, which, in effect, comprise those of Remnant Fellowship’s, since she started and leads this organization. Sources of objective information authored by Shamblin and RF were gathered from the Internet, internal Remnant e-mailings, in her book "Rise Above", her Weigh Down Advanced (WDA) course materials, and from copies of the Remnant Fellowship's "Rebuilding The Wall: Foundational Beliefs" handbook. My observations and research have led me to take a very definite and unequivocal position on both Gwen and Remnant Fellowship International: it is a deceptive cult organization led by a cult leader with an antisocial and heretical agenda that fosters both unhealthy and unbiblical spirituality, physical misery and psychologically damaging religious abuse. We take no pleasure whatsoever in making such a bold contention, yet we would be sorely amiss if the essential truth about this remains undefined and unheralded. This article is an attempt to explore, from a Christian perspective, the main reasons why Remnant should be considered an aberrant cult that should be avoided and to provide an orthodox Christian framework for understanding its' central claims and subsequent abuses of power at the expense of a balanced and Christian lifestyle.
If Gwen and RF still plead ignorance of Remnant's cultism, we believe it will be forever dispelled if they were to study this article, something we hope that will happen, but have no illusions that it will. However, if they are serious in wanting to dialogue with the Christian Church at large, we offer this article as a summary of the concerns that millions of people will likely have in regards to their skewed interpretation of Christianity, in an effort to help them understand the real reasons why the Christian Church rejects their overtures (and to cease viewing this rejection of their claims as the great apostacy prophesied in the Bible in Matthew 24 - the truth on this point, as I see it, is vastly different but outside the scope of our discussion here). It is also our hope that those who may be considering joining with Remnant or who may have made this decision will at least consider the perspective we bring, understanding it to be an alternative view that may help them make better-informed decisions about the choices they have made to continue association with it.
What Is Cultism? A Generic Review
We wish to briefly review our contentions about the so-called "C" word - cults - so as to provide a necessary context to our ongoing discussion. You will find these discussed in other articles on our site here. "Cults" are social groupings formed within the larger societies of mankind that are in an active tension with the existing social order out of which they come. Abusive cults exhibit 3 traits in general: an 1) abuse of power and authority by 2) manipulative, unscrupulous leaders who 3) control followers by fear and deception to fulfill their agenda at followers’ expense. But the actual human property of cultism itself can be understood along psychological and social lines, and must not be mistakenly identified solely by doctrine. Cultic groups can be said to be following one man or the group’s teachings which denies essential orthodox Christian doctrine and claims to be the "only way" to God, salvation, fulfillment, enlightenment, etc., but cultism involves more than doctrine. We contend that the manipulative depravity of human nature coupled with human desire for community and a human search for authority all but guarantees that cultism can and will occur in all walks of global human life.
Cult leaders abuse an authority that isn’t theirs while cult followers offer "blind" trust without accountability and this misguided zeal (encouraged by the leaders) always results in bitter fruit often hidden to outsiders' eyes. In dangerous cultism, you will find unethical forms of manipulation, deception and mind control to compel a member’s submission to the group’s authority by involuntary/voluntary means, and the consequences of involvement with such a toxic community of faith usually include religious abuse, psychological damage and social disruption both within and outside the group. Several types of cultism are prevalent in human society today, the most well known being religious groups of many varieties. But cultism can take the form of dyadic personal relationships, political movements, business organizations, psychotherapy groups, and aberrant churches (of which Remnant Fellowship, as we shall see, are a part).
While the theology, belief and practice between different cult recruiters may be quite different, there are several fundamental commonalities they share which make cultism of any shape both observable and predictable, these being how they recruit and retain members. We remember the remarks of a leader of a political activist group that was essentially a cultic organization when once asked by an admiring outsider how she kept the group so disciplined and focused. She leaned forward and told them "with a little carrot and a lot of stick." Her remark speaks volumes about how cults drive people forward in their involvement and integration into the cultic movement even when they at some level may not want to, just as the proverbial horse pursues the proverbial carrot on the proverbial stick dangled just ahead of his reach. Dr. Paul Martin describes this process as one in which cults "use methods that deprive individuals of their ability to make a free choice by the use of deceptive recruitment techniques .. to recruit and assimilate members and to control members’ thoughts, feelings and behavior as a means of furthering the leader’s goals" (3).
Pieces of this cultic carrot are literal steps to control of the mind, and they take very familiar shape among those who monitor the recruitment tactics of cults. There will be appeals to felt needs, in which cult recruiters make their appeals and invitation to involvement on the basis of potential recruit's desires for meaning, purpose and spiritual community (all very legitimate and healthy needs of all people). A drawn out and intentional process called "love bombing" is then set in place, which involves the smothering of prospects with insincere attention and lavish amounts of positive regard that draw recruits into the group by apparently loving and caring group members. There then comes what we call "isolation through indoctrination," a period of time in which gradually intensified social activity, service and study is brought to bear upon new recruits, and is aimed at isolating members from their past beliefs and to create dependence upon the group's ways of thinking and doing. A free usage of misinformation, implanted phobias, Scripture twisting and outright falsehoods will be used to support the creation of a new mindset in the member.
At this point, the full scale initiation of the recruit to "insider doctrines" begins in earnest, which further accelerates a profound change and reordering of their values, goals and even their personality. "Insider doctrines" are the unique core beliefs of a cultic group that give cohesion and standardization to their belief system that is not meant to be shared outside the group except in a highly qualified, even deceptive way which misrepresents their actual teachings and shield the group from being seen as aberrant and unorthodox. Changes in diet, clothing, friendships, and even family relationships are usually inevitable, and while this varies in degree from person to person and among cult groups themselves, it regularly takes place.
Part of this misinformation about cults is perpetuated by cultic group themselves. Some of the myths and misunderstanding about cults and cultism itself are circulated by these same sectarian groups, using definitions of cultic spirituality and practice cleverly contrived to draw sharp distinctions between the really "crazy kooks out there" and their noble, balanced examples of true spirituality. The "real cults" are described as freaks on the fringes of society with bizarre and secretive rites and beliefs, of which, of course, the actual cultic group can then piously cry has nothing to do with what they truly believe and practice. In fact, by setting forth to describe these "real cults," the cult's "spin doctors" actually attempt to turn the tables on those who would question them by noting how far they themselves are from this "real cult" model, and point out how such descriptions are a typical sample of the hateful accusations those religious groups and critics outside their circle would circulate about them in obviously jealous envy over their cutting-edge success and outright hateful spite! This clever table turning convinces many people that many cultic groups get bad press and unfair criticism and actually serves, with a strong dose of underlying postmodern relativism, to assist a significant and powerful bloc of academics and religious scholars whose "value free" approach to the cultism of modern society has become a major ally in their deceptive and destructive cause.
The Power Of Cultic Mind Control
The culmination of this campaign of internal and external misinformation that a cult circulates about itself ultimately bears a stupefying harvest of bitter fruit in the hearts and minds of the indoctrinated recruit. All of this eventually comes down to cult mind control, a process that compels the change of an individual’s behavior, thought and emotional patterns by the intentional control of their thought by subtle, deceptive and damaging means by unethical group leaders. Independent thought is sinful, carnal, demonic while submission to a group’s ideals and mindset is seen as the highest good. This does not mean that the members so controlled become mindless zombies, either for cult members influenced by cult mind control can think for themselves but are persuasively taught not to question the cult group leaders through various forms of socialization and indoctrination that lead them to take issue with everything and everyone in the world, except their group leaders!
Research psychologist and professor Dr. Robert J. Lifton studied the way in which people can be compelled to embrace new beliefs that evoke new behavior many years ago and called the process "thought reform" .. today, it is also called "mind control" and it is a process all abusive cults use in one way or another. These are patterns of group behavior that are seen all over the world in cultic situations: we need to take time to explain these to you so as to give you what we have found to be a good working understanding of how cults control the thoughts of their members, using the descriptions of what are called "Lifton's Eight Points Of Thought Reform (Mind Control)":
1. Milieu Control – simultaneous isolation/ rejection of external influences and creation of new world order of group’s vision
2. Demand For Purity – pressure to engage in a continual process of self-purification from all the group deems impure and unholy
3. The Cult Of Confession – communal exercises to compel confession of failures, reinforce submission to authority, and discipline through shaming, fear and guilt
4. Mystical Manipulation – an exaltation of the group’s authority through an allegedly spontaneous, yet staged event aimed at inspiring or evoking awe/wonder
5. The Sacred Science – group claims, authority and wisdom of which establish "new truth" never before achieved & available exclusively only to group members
6. Loading The Language – unique group vocabulary meant to directively evoke and condition thought and practice by conveying specific meanings
7. Doctrine Over Person – resolving of tension between group truth claims and personal experience at the group member’s expense, regardless the cost
8. Dispensing Of Existence – belief that group authority is so absolute that it can infallibly determine the right of people, relationships and even cultural institutions to exist or not exist, and thus given any actual recognition
These are eight observable traits of the process of mind control that Lifton first described and we have amplified (4), and while it seems rather incredible to believe that people can be changed by them, the sobering truth is that millions of people have been affected by them in one way or another as they became involved with cultic groups across the world. Testimony after testimony from family and friends of loved ones who became ensnared by the persuasions of a cultic group continually point to the radical personality changes, the almost overnight reordering of their value systems, a complete rejection of the world around them as evil and hopelessly tainted along with an equally complete obsession with association with a group's philosophy or theology as if their very lives depended upon it. Friendships, family relationships and personal goals are among the first casualties of this change, and these behaviors can be seen through careful examination of any destructive cult group; cults use them well to transform those who submit themselves to the authority and teaching of the group that uses it.
And, in the case of pseudo-Christian groups claiming to be the latest restoration of the Kingdom of God, throwing in twisted interpretations of Scriptural mandates on submission and obedience and the human mind control dynamic gains a powerful and almost irresistable leverage in the pretensive form of divine authority. Worse of all, when this deceptive and abusive perversion of spiritual authority arises within a Christian congregation or setting, the potential for chaos, confusion, religious abuse and naked manipulation of people's lives at their whims rises astronomically.
To help illustrate how all of this works in a cult’s efforts to
recruit and retain a controlled and loyal following, we would like to invite you
to screen an online short film made by an independent film maker that is called
tongue in cheek “Mind
Control Made Easy: How To Become A Cult Leader.” Following the film’s expose of a fictional cult group called
Emerge, it will vividly explain with relentlessly black humor how cults enslave and ensnare people through the
most basic and the mundane of human existence. Click
here to view the Real Video clip (it requires a RealPlayer).
The Cultism Of Remnant Fellowship - Doctrinal Considerations
We will now consider how these generic descriptions of cultism - found universally in cult groups around the world - can be identified in Remnant Fellowship. Based upon first hand observation, the testimonies of ex-members, the claims of Remnant members and the writings and teachings of Gwen Shamblin found in her WDW and RF materials, we will now present the documented evidence that we feel proves that Shamblin is what many have been calling her - a genuine cult leader developing a new religion that is dangerously cultic to the core. There are three general dimensions of Remnant's cultism and they may be described in terms of doctrinal and structural considerations, as well as a review of it's parallels with other cultic groups currently active. It is along these lines that we will conduct our discussion.
Doctrinally speaking, Remnant Fellowship's teaching and preaching are quite questionable from an orthodox Christian perspective. While there is much stated concern for the purity of Christian truth in Remnant, and hours upon hours of teaching through endless chapters of Scripture, the fact remains that the group's stated fidelity to the authority of Scriptural truth is a sham. The Bible has essentially been made a proof-texting source that is used deceptively to "support" the doctrinal positions of Remnant's teaching, even called a "employee's manual" by Shamblin in her unbiblical attempt to draw parallels between the Fatherhood of God and the CEO of an organization. Her illustration of Remnant members being likened to "employees" of God rather than His children subtly colors the intimate positional relationship Christians have long affirmed and trusted (John 1:12, Romans 8:14-17) (5). While their citation of Biblical content is voluminous, a careful examination of how these Biblical passages are used often reveals that the plain Biblical meaning of the verses is often completely wrested out of context in persuasive, compelling yet erroneous ways. We don't have time to fully explore this point but we will cite a few examples of this in reference to the most central doctrine of orthodox Christianity, the doctrine of salvation.
In Shamblin's book Rise Above, on page 227, she teaches that "true repentance means a change of mind brought about by godly sorrow that leads to a change of life (2 Cor. 7:10). Repentance is the major foundation of bearing any fruit. When you repent, the spirit of Jesus can come into your life(emphasis hers)." She then goes on to define this "spirit of Jesus" in terms of the well known list of the "fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5:22-23. She equates these good character traits as the signs of a changed life, but while this would appear to be true, one will find that her emphasis is not upon the transforming power of the Spirit of God in the life of the believer (an orthodox Christian perspective) but upon a conduct that the person themselves must conform to purely in the context of their own effort. Remnant Fellowship leader David Martin's testimony, as given in a WDA promotional video, emphatically declares that the course teaches people to commit to "total obedience" to God and to demonstrate it by "building a wall of righteousness" by using "your brick, your stone of obedience to God." To exhibit the "fruit of the spirit," therefore, is directly dependent how one is able to control and purge themselves of sin; in essence, this is a works-righteousness position that compels the person to do his best to "do right", when the Bible itself makes it clear in Titus 3:3-7 that it is the "washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost" that transforms a repentant person - not his personal act of self-denial or repentance.
We don't want to sound as if we are downplaying the absolute and utter necessity for repentance in the Christian life. The Biblical context of true repentance is a whole-hearted decision of a person convicted of his sin to literally recognize his sinfulness and to intentionally decide to forsake and put behind him his sinful ways so as to reach up to God for the forgiveness of that sin in his life that is freely available only by faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). Jesus Himself made it clear that He "came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32). And Paul, recognizing the merciful and yet sovereign will of God, emphasizes that the paths in our lives that draw us to repent before God are entirely under His Lordship, and not our own" .. the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" (Romans 2:4 and 2 Timothy 2:25: ".. if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth..") Hebrews 6:1 makes clear that a genuine Christian foundation for true spirituality is "repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God," these dead works being the sinful and rebellious acts they have done which they must consciously turn away from.
Again, however, this initiative of divine mercy is still under God's power - yet one's repentance is a choice that all can choose to make or reject as 2 Peter 3:9 reveals: "The Lord is .. longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (Jonah 3:4-7 shows how the ancient and wicked Near Eastern city-state of Nineveh chose to believe God and in so doing, received His mercy). Repentance is as much a frame of one's mind as well as state of their heart, and is a spiritual tempering that Shamblin rightly observes is largely absent in the Christian church today to it's spiritual detriment. Led by God's Spirit to repent of sin after His revelation to them of their sinfulness, all of humanity may also turn to God and receive His saving mercies by exercising faith in Jesus Christ alone. But repentance alone cannot save without the sovereign work of God's Spirit that would prompt a sin-blinded person to forsake their self-centered will and submit to God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal savior. Our contention is that Remnant Fellowship teaching emphasizes just the opposite and renders a well-intended yet misguided self-controlling renunciation as Shamblin demands it as "repentance."
This grave error is further reinforced in Remnant Fellowship's doctrinal teaching. In the Remnant handbook, Shamblin forcefully emphasizes that "what REMNANT is all about" (emphasis hers) is "starting all over and teaching people how to be saved. .. We cannot wait to tell you more about this New Testament Christianity that is totally life changing .. We are convinced that the gospel has not been taught in full." Since, as she believes, the essence of Bible-based Christianity has been corrupted by "false messages or fellowships", her conviction is that Remnant has been commissioned by God to save men and women from judgment: "The Remnant Fellowship teachings have been led by God and are based on a concern that many people will face Jesus on judgment day and discover that they have missed the foundational teachings of a saving relationship with Christ." So what are these crucial, soul-saving teachings as Shamblin would have us understand so as to redeem ourselves from eternal punishment? "To understand the foundational teaching, we must realize that we are not equal - even 'Christ, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped' (Phil. 2). Not only do many attempt to grasp equality with God, but many have been led to believe that God has resigned himself to man always sinning ..to letting you be God" (6).
This reference here to Philippians is said by Shamblin to reveal the nature of subjection Jesus had in relation to God as an example of how true believers are to submit to Christ in their own lives, to fully surrender to His Lordship. But while submission to God is the fruit of the Gospel, it is not the Gospel itself. Realization that we are not equal with God is not a saving truth but is found in receiving the Gospel that "Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" as 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 explains. Shamblin's emphasis is not upon the saving act of God in Christ's sacrifice as applied by the Spirit of God in the repentant heart but upon her view that one must "be eager to do what is good and to be holy and to say 'No' to sin." Again, the emphasis is upon what one does and not is. This may seem to be a fine distinction, but a vital one: if one can simply do well to prove their salvation, then one can be saved by what they do. Scripture, however, trumps this Remnant emphasis on external morality and impeccable character as a sign of salvation in Ephesians 2:8-9: "For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast."
It is by the grace of God that He has done all that can be done, according to orthodox Christian teaching, for the salvation of man from his sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and it is by faith alone in this that anyone can receive salvation. For all that Remnant's teachings may say about Jesus, less is said in them about saving faith in Christ and more about "doing the will of God" than anything else. We agree that saving faith should be manifest in holy living, but disagree with their strong emphasis on works (holy living apart from a foundational faith in Jesus alone). These subtle spins and reinterpretations of Scripture passages shape much of Shamblin's teaching and the two examples we share here don't begin to reveal the full extent of her unbiblical views.
Aside from Remnant's heretical reintepretation of Christian orthodoxy on the doctrine of salvation, other denials are a matter of record and are becoming more and more pronounced. Shamblin's now infamous rejection of the Biblical revelation of God as a Triune Being of Father, Son and Spirit is part of what she is actually referring to in her teachings on Philippians.we have just looked at. Much has been written about this aspect of RF's unbiblical teaching and we would invite you to check out the list of links at the end of Adam and Maria Brooks' article to examine these articles. RF's rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity is also accompanied by their free redefinition of the Christian doctrine of salvation (which we have briefly examined above), the doctrine of the nature of the church (claiming all churches apart from RF are the Whore of Babylon described in Revelation 17, the "counterfeit church"), and distortions of the doctrine of sin (rendering weight control struggles, failure to uphold RF teachings on diet and "food idols", close relationships with non-RF members and even reading critical articles - such as this one - as actual moral failures God will judge). These warped reinterpretations of Christian belief have long been advanced by cultic groups other than Remnant: for example, the LDS Church, the Watchtower Society and the International Churches of Christ make the same claim of being "His true church working toward Zion", "Jehovah's clean organization" or "God's modern day movement" with the same certainty Remnant Fellowship exercises when it bills itself to be the exclusive restoration of the New Testament church. This abusive theology can only be created when the Bible itself is twisted out of context, and not properly interpreted (2 Peter 3:16-17 concisely describes how this happens).
A continuing multi-part analysis on Gwen Shamblin's "Essence Of God" statement that directly addresses her position on the nature of God is on this website: to access them, click here.
We anticipate that these and other twistings by Shamblin and the Remnant Fellowship will continue in other areas as well. Certainly this will possibly involve new spins based upon their views on the doctrine of last things - endtime teachings - evident in Shamblin's revisionist "historical cycles" view which culminated in the spawning of her grotesque belief that she had prophesied the horrors of September 11, 2001. To what degree this may happen, however, remains to be seen. What has been seen already, however, is evidence of a cult's ideology that is very much in process, with an inevitable doctrinal and practical flexibility that assures many more twists and turns to come.
The Cultism Of Remnant Fellowship - Structural Considerations
Cultic Recruitment Patterns: We have already reviewed how cultic movements reach out to prospective recruits in very intentional, interpersonal ways. This is done so as to personally engage them in a persuasive socialization that draws them into the group centered around the recruit's desire for belonging, self-improvement and community. Remnant Fellowship's efforts are no different than those of the ingratiating overtures made by groups such as the Watchtower, the Latter Day Saint (LDS) Church, the Unification (Moonies) movement and the International Churches of Christ (ICC).
Creative forms of recruitment are not new to cultic groups. They exploit every means their unified organizational command of modern technology and public relations savvy can acquire. LDS missionaries will call upon visitors to various Mormon visitor centers around the world often within 24 to 48 hours after returning from the visit. Jehovah's Witnesses utilize weekly contact with prospects directly at their door steps, and often will attempt to provide services, advice and transportation to those needing it, as well as free "Bible studies" (which are actually studies of Watchtower magazines and publications).. The rebirth of the Unification Church among minority churches involves attracting a hearing (and a following of Sun Myung Moon's dangerous political and spiritual agenda) with lavish gift-giving, sponsoring of minority causes and outright bribery through lotteries, drawings for Rolexes and the hiring of Christian musicians like Phil Driscoll, Vickie Winans and the Mighty Clouds of Joy to perform at their "ecumenical" functions. The International Churches of Christ will send their recruiters to actually enroll in or live near college campuses for visitation purposes utilizing anything from free cookouts to "Christian service" activities to volleyball tournaments, hoping to exploit young men and women's zeal and desire for belonging and purpose when out on their own for the first time of their lives (this, however, doesn't begin to reveal the ICC's missionary zeal). Public service announcements by the Church of Scientology, the Latter Day Saints ubiquitous ad campaigns, and the Bahai religion tug at hearts and hope to draw moved seekers via toll free numbers with offers of "inspirational" videos. And of course, the power of the Internet is used by cult recruiters in chat rooms and bulletin boards, not to mention online websites dedicated to providing their groups a Web presence, a global outreach for only $19.95 a month or less.
The attendees of Weigh Down Workshops are usually the primary target of Remnant recruitment efforts. "Love-bombing" of potential recruits by Remnant members is often quite intensive. Contact information such as phone numbers and e-mail addresses of attendees gathered through formal workshop registrations are usually turned over to RF staff at their Franklin, Tennessee offices - which, not too surprisingly, share the same building as the Weigh Down Workshop corporation itself. Expressions of loving concern for WDW attendees struggling to process the rapid fire Workshop delivery of Shamblin's dietary and theological positions are intermingled with invitations to visit a Remnant Fellowship chapter for spiritual support. This "outreach" comes at a most vulnerable time of their lives in which WDW attendees are being engaged in a process of self-evaluation in deeply personal and overlapping areas such as weight-loss, personal spirituality and self-esteem. This utilization of e-mail, phone and personal work among prospects who are often completely ignorant of the RF agenda and who interpret it as genuine and loving care is, as most cultic recruitment is, highly unethical and manipulative since the full RF agenda is not disclosed all at once and recruits are forcefully urged by zealous RF members to fully commit themselves to it. Testimonies abound to the persistent and never-ending attempts made by them to recruit in this manner: one ex-Remnant member put it this way in a recent personal e-mailing I received:
What did attract me to RF initially was the informality and the music. Growing up in the Church of Christ, I must admit that worship services are fairly structured, formal, and of course there is no instrumental music. I was very much into the music, and I gladly would lift my hands in praise there .Everyone I met at RF was friendly, including Gwen. .. Everyone seemed to want to be Gwen's "new best friend". Men, women and teens flocked around her just wanting to be noticed or spoken to, it appeared to me. As I said, she was always friendly to me but since she and I are about the same age, I think it was easier for me to see through a lot of what was going on there. I was seeing things which to me seemed more like "Gwen worship" than anything else. For a while, David Shamblin was there a good bit of the time, playing guitar during the services. But then I saw him less and less and eventually not at all. To me, that was kind of strange. .. For a while, it was meeting my needs spiritually, however, things began to change. The assemblies grew longer and longer, with the same Bible texts used over and over. Very rarely was anything mentioned about God's love and grace. Very rarely were New Testament scriptures read. So much of the readings were from the major prophets and were all "doom and gloom" to me. This depressing mind-numbing message eventually became too "heavy" for me and I realized that I was not being encouraged or uplifted in any way.
As we have said, the overall goal of cultic recruitment is to draw new members to cultic organizations on the basis of appealing to commonly felt needs. Accompanying such appeals are other emotional ploys aimed at inspiring a poignant and almost painful romanticism. They are intended at inspiring a longing for community with like-minded souls called out by God yet drifting apart from one another in an exile among the darkness of a sinful world and seeking to "come home" to the group's safe harbors. This is a very cunning exploitation of the plain Biblical truths that actually define Christian believers as real pilgrims who "declare plainly .. they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly", the "few" that are on the "narrow way to life" (Matthew 7:14). The motif of the lonely pilgrim, wandering the earth, seeking others as they journey and battle homeward is a common one cults zero in on and often exploit in their recruitment. And like them all, Remnant's spin subtly creates an elitist exclusivism that sharply contradicts the true nature of the Body of Christ as a chosen generation and a holy nation found around the world, glorifying God as "strangers and pilgrims .. among the Gentiles" (2 Peter 2:5-11 with Ephesians 2:19-22).
The Watchtower's literature is filled with references to "honest truth seekers" who seek entrance into the "ark" of "Jehovah's organization" (7) as well as that of the Mormon Church whose "prophets have sent missionaries into the four corners of the world to gather scattered Israel into the fold of God" (8). Such evocative language leads recruits toward the acceptance of the group's exclusive claims to being the only true spirituality on the face of the earth, and it is precisely this sort of wording that Shamblin's Weigh Down Workshop uses in their Weigh Down Advanced materials. The picture above, taken from from their videos, is a prime example of how the faithful "remnant" idealism is cleverly inserted into the WDA programming as a rather bold attempt of impressing it upon the minds of WDW attendees and those moved by such word pictures. Other uses of this manipulative form of recruitment conditioning are Shamblin's frequent attention given to the early church's martyrs, pointing to the stand for their Christian testimony they took as an example of total commitment to God, and therefore, an example for WDW participants and RF members to hold fast to the truths she "restores" in her own teaching (even to the point of publishing it with her own introduction and a CD of music and teaching).
Authoritarian Leadership: Another characteristic of abusive cultic movements is their imbalanced obsession with power and control as embodied in a leader or leadership caste within them that wields supernatural or divine authority that is virtually infallible, speaks exclusively for God and cannot be questioned. The creation and exercise of this claimed power among cultic groups is a trait shared among them that typically is manifest in the life and work of a divinely commissioned messenger who expounds a special revelation or insight that will revolutionize the progress of mankind in some profound manner. And the cultworld is filled with charismatic individuals who represent themselves in that same great manner. According to Unification lore, Sun Myung Moon's "warfare" in the spirit world, interaction with Jesus, Buddha and other spiritual sages there and his personal sufferings at the hands of earthly authorities such as the Communists of North Korea and the Internal Revenue Service have helped to achieve spiritual breakthroughs for the world. The leader of the occultic Eckankar group, the "Living ECK Master" Harold Klemp, is the only spiritual guide said by "ECKists" to be able to lead humanity back to God - primarily through the "Mahanta", the spiritual essence of the Master "available to all at every moment" (9). Long before the Branch Davidians engaged in their ultimately fatal standoff with the FBI at their Mount Carmel compound in Waco, Texas, they had concluded that their leader David Koresh was the Seventh Angel spoke of in Revelation 3, a prophet raised up to declare the true message of God (10). The same could be said about the self-promotion of cult leaders such as L. Ron Hubbard of Scientology, Shoko Asahara of Aum Shin Rykyo, Marshall Applewhite of Heaven's Gate and others, but we don't need to belabor the point.
Remnant Fellowship's teachings on its' self-identity as "the Remnant" (11) - penned by Gwen Shamblin - forcefully assert the emergence of a God-sent prophet commissioned by God to warn a rebellious world blinded by sin and the "false grace message" of a backslidden church that has fallen into sin over centuries of time. While quite careful to not directly call herself a prophet here or in the other references to this true prophetic office, it is abundantly clear that Shamblin expects others to recognize her as such. She writes in the Remnant handbook on page 42 that "God sends prophets to warn but the people do not listen," and makes the connection clear on the Remnant Fellowship website: "Very few have recognized my warnings over the past 10 years for what they are; a desperate and timely warning from God." Such writings have not gone unnoticed by the Remnant rank and file, particularly its' leadership: this revealing passage from a widely circulated e-mailing to all Remnant Fellowship members shows just how genuinely exalted Shamblin and her daily lifestyle has become for them:
This past weekend, we the Martins had the honor and incredible privilege to travel with the most righteous family that any of us knows-the Shamblins-to New York, NY, to spend a weekend with Remnant Manhattan, Tedd and Candace Anger and Greg and Rene Heck. What a blessing from God! First of all, hearing this generation's prophetic messenger Gwen Shamblin deliver the message of the Gospel and the warning to flee FALSE TEACHERS is always a humbling experience. The message gets stronger each and every day. Gwen offers no apologies for God's Truth. She speaks it with the urgency as if it were the last 24 hours on this earth for all of us (12, emphasis mine).
The role of the prophetic brings with it a compelling mantle of authority in any religious context, one that preaches and prognosticates with the full weight of divine power around it. But Gwen Shamblin’s role as a "prophetess" functioning under "lines of authority" creates a strongly centralized hierarchy of power accountable to no one that is qualitatively no different than the cultic power structures we have mentioned. Her prophetic posturing is effectively exalted so highly in Remnant that her very word has become the standard of truth for the group as the writer of the above e-mail, David Martin, goes on to affirm:
As she shared, completely pray out, confront, and destroy any spirit that wells up in you or your group that has any anti-authority, disobedience, or self-focus. With the love of the Lord, keep praying and keep clearer minds than you have ever had or asked for. KNOW that this is THE TRUTH! Obedience unlocks the door to God's salvation. Any other teaching is NOT from God.
Martin highlights a principle Shamblin relentlessly pushes in her teaching. The concept Shamblin terms "total obedience" at first glance seems orthodox enough, yet it is only deceptively so. She describes obedience in very concrete, black-and-white terms she calls "doing the will of God." While obedience to God's will is certainly a principle of Christian living no true believer could object to, the skewed principle Gwen advances is a "doing" that is defined very narrowly after how Gwen believes it should be done, based upon her convictions of how the world, the church, and life should be defined. This is what dangerous authoritarianism is in leadership, and Shamblin's worldview is explained as derived squarely and completely from God's perspective. On pages 171 and 172 of Rise Above, this self-exalted perspective is made quite evident:
God has led me through many experiences since those early days that have helped me to learn about the heart of man and the heart of God. I had already experienced being a child under authority of parents, a wife under the authority of a husband, and employee under the authority of employers, and a student under the authority of teachers - and as those of you who have pursued higher education know, you sometimes have to submit to some pretty strange characters. On the other hand, I had also experienced being a mother who had authority over her children, and being an instructor who had authority over college students. With Weigh Down, God gave me a new experience over coordinators of classes and authority over adults at work. .. My heart goes out to God and there have been several times that I have wept with Him over how painful it must be to supervise this wild group of people who have varying levels of devotion down here on earth. .. God wants us to understand why He is in authority and to become accustomed to lines of authority. He is testing us to see if we can recognize His genius behind this setup and to see if we can joyfully get with the program. Truly submitting means that you are a team player, you think the Coach is great, and even if the assignment seems unusual, you obey it.
To Shamblin, what she calls the "mysterious link" between "authority and devotion" shows how one's level of obedience and submission to God-ordained "lines of authority" in personal relationships demonstrates one's actual righteousness before him, even citing Romans 13:1 to support her case (13, see footnote). As one called by God to be a prophet, raised up by Him to lead God's "remnant" in restoring the New Testament church, Shamblin's dictates cannot, for all practical purposes, be viewed as anything but God-inspired, if not equal in authority with Scripture itself. How can one possibly then question or even dare to consider that her authority and teachings could be questionable or at least subject to debate? These truths she preaches must be heeded and obeyed - she states continually throughout her WDA video series just how life-changing and essential they are! Such iron-fisted absolutism regarding her personal authority is clearly cultic in tenor and direction.
In other words, to call Jesus Lord is to also essentially acknowledge Shamblin's precepts compelling one to accept her own views. Hence, complete and absolute submission to her views become the test of orthodoxy within Remnant and the "plumbline" of judgment upon all outside of it. Dedicated to this concept of "total obedience" to Gwen’s infallible exposition of the "will of God", all RF members must submit to it and in so doing, contribute to and reinforce her authoritarianism, her unbiblically biased worldview, and the circular reasoning that wobbily supports it: "The state of the church is connected to our struggle with our weight loss. This series has been approached with much prayer and humility and concern, and though penned by one, had been endorsed and confirmed by many and has borne much fruit" (14). Click here for an alternative view of the WeighDown Diet itself.
Shamblin's authority is confirmed by the "amens" of those who accept her claims to authoritative teaching, which in turn advance the many unwarranted claims she makes about the church, the heart of man, and her own position. The fruit of changed lifestyles is said to be a compelling authentication of her teaching (in a "proof test" cited by many other cultic groups, a pragmatic review of how following their dogma healed the sick, restored a marriage or brought peace of mind), but it doesn't begin to answer the fundamental question we ask of it: is this "fruitful teaching" actually, legitimately true? Healings, marital restorations and claims of deep inner serenity are testimonies shared by spiritual rebels from Asatru to Zoroastrianism, and are nothing new. The ethnic groups globally involved in Hinduism alone could say the same thing, and since there are millions upon millions of them, why do we not then embrace Hindu claims of fruit? How then can Remnant Fellowship's table tops of "good fruit" stack up with generations of false religious harvest fields drawn therefore from all times and all cultures? Great signs and wonders are a stock in trade device of deceptive spirituality as Mark 13:22 points out, so the question remains - is Remnant's teaching actually true? For deception to actually be deceptive, there must be elements of truth present to lure the unsuspecting (Romans 15:17-19). And for all of the worthy admonitions to self-denial, personal purity and attention to Scripture that Remnant may creatively and engagingly deliver, the truth in them is more than twisted, perverted and even denied by the far greater errors we have already discussed. Therefore, we conclude that their teaching is largely false.
Cultic Mind Control: Virtually all of Lifton’s eight components of mind control can be seen in Remnant literature and practice. Loaded language (a vocabulary of buzz words and cliches unique to Remnant's social circles and teaching) is indeed present as is the dispensing of existence of the non-Remnant world (the belief that God has found all but Remnant outside his concern except for divine judgment and destruction). The other elements are also present, but we will briefly expand only upon three of these components of cult mind control as advanced by Remnant teaching. Bearing in mind Lifton's definitions as we have concisely described them above, we can now examine how these thought reforming principles are evident in Remnant's philosophy, self-identity and practical application. In each of the following cited examples, we are directly citing Shamblin's own thought and precepts.
1) The Cult Of Confession
You would like to think the closest people to you are your family, but Jesus said that his mother and brother and his sisters were those that did the will of God. Start with getting a Weigh Down Advanced saint who will tell you the truth, not falsely flatter you. Pray and God will lead you. Judgement is coming and we’re all going to need pure and holy fellowships of sold out Christians to make it through the terrible day (15).
do you mean that you are not good enough or a leader enough to open you home up
to read scriptures each week and talk about how you are going to give your all
to God and that you are not going to wear the pants in this relationship with
God any longer? Of course you can open your home and offer a cup of cold water
to the weary Saints that are not sure how to find their way. Weigh Down Advance
can be your Wednesday or Sunday lecture time and you concentrate on all of the
"obedience" and "do" scriptures until your little group has
"purified themselves by obeying the truth" (I Peter 1:22) (16).
Trust and truth can only be found within the discipline and fellowship of the group – not even among’s one own family members. To survive a coming spiritual holocaust of judgment, one must cling to and totally identify with the group. Such identification extends to even being ready to offer one's personal resources and homes up as a place to hold weekly meetings at, using WDA materials to reinforce Shamblin's teachings on the "obedience" and "do" Scriptures . To remain spiritually pure and to ensure one is "doing the will of God" (measuring up to Shamblin's standards), one should readily submit to the censure and admonition of a "Weigh Down Advanced saint" who "will tell you the truth." One's family cannot be trusted to be the closest or most important relationships one would have; the "doers of God's will" would so qualify, ones found only in "pure and holy fellowships." This is a shameless plug for turning to a local Remnant Fellowship to submit oneself to: the communal dimension said to be necessary for seeking holiness and righteousness can be attained only among their spiritual leadership.
Other cultic groups find using the cult of confession principle quite handy in their own attempts to force conformity upon their own. The "sin sessions" conducted by ICC disciplers with their "disciples" are times in which they literally demand them to confess to personal weaknesses and character flaws. Such details are also extracted from LDS bishops in their "interviews" with LDS Church members to ascertain their "worthy" status, as well as in the feared "judicial committees" that Jehovah's Witness elders will assemble when needing to provide "public reproof" to Witness congregation members who are not found meeting their standards. Detailed records of these proceedings are kept on file by cult bureaucracies and become a permanent record by them which will follow them in one way or another the rest of their lives (or time in the group). A broad variety of punitive measures are then meted out by the cult leaders: such confessional sessions in which members are demanded to "come clean" are part of the flow of cultic life, and needless to say, are alien to the Biblical forms of Christian discipline as detailed in 2 Thessalonians 3:15 which enjoin continuous admonition of Christians struggling with sin or rebellion in the same manner as one would deal with their own brother (we will discuss this later in the article).
2) Doctrine Over Person
"So we will be either in the category of those who hate God or in the category of those who love God. There is no middle ground. If you love the food, you will automatically despise suggestions for eating less food, much like the undevoted employee who despises his supervisor. .. For example, you will continually ask 'What is hunger?' and 'I'm still not sure where food is.' .. You will ask questions like, 'What does Gwen really mean by "empty"?' or "What does she mean by "being submissive to your husband" or "dying to your will"?' Since you love food and reject or despise God, you cannot comprehend how to serve Him" (17).
“Some people turn to antidepressants for comfort, and that desire usually occurs when they are still in Egypt enslaved to the false god. Once you are truly in obedience to God in the desert, you drop your dependence on the world’s remedies because you are so joyful to be under the enslavement of righteousness and out from under the enslavement of food" (18).
Shamblin’s central lifestyle principles (concerned at first with diet, then overlapping quickly into lifestyle issues related to personal holiness, self-esteem, and "strongholds" such as depression) are exalted as the only proper, even righteous, way to live and act. If you fail on them in any point, you simply cannot be considered acceptable before God, and of course, Gwen herself. The rigidly exalted valuing and enforcement of a doctrinal position - at whatever the cost of those who are compelled to follow them - is fundamental to the cultic manipulation they must heartily submit to. There is no middle ground – only a typically black and white worldview that leads Shamblin and Remnant to view the struggling as somehow spiritually deficient, sinful, evil and even Satanic ally bound by character flaws seen as actual idols and idolatry. A disturbing instance of this is how quickly and coldly Shamblin depicts the usage of antidepressant medications as an act of idolatry and a stronghold of evil unbelief. This has truly troubling implications for men and women who use antidepressants for legitimate medical conditions such as chemical imbalances or therapeutically to help the abused with the psychological trauma they may have suffered in instances of family dysfunction or personal weaknesses preventing them from coping with life. Such an astonishingly calloused position utterly and contemptuously rejects long established medical and mental health sciences regarding mental illness and the necessity to view at as a physiological condition needing professional attention in an area Shamblin has no authority in. And this is not a claim we've misrepresented Shamblin with either, using an isolated quote taken out of context. From pages 242 to 251, Shamblin's Rise Above book severely discourages and condemns the usage of antidepressants with horrifically twisted logic said to be Biblical counsel, contradictory claims and a harsh, almost brutal characterization of such drug usage as "substance abuse" and the need to seek "reasonable progression for decreasing your dependence. Clinging to worthless idols causes depression."
And if possible, even more disturbing examples of "doctrine over person" are now surfacing in reports of children of Remnant members being compelled to limit their own diets and to avoid any food intake until their stomachs literally growl at the cost of feeling condemned by God to hell for eating earlier in "rebellion." Brilliant young people with their lives ahead of them now labor in menial tasks related to Remnant or Shamblin herself at the cost of their college, vocation and spirituality. Many Remnant members themselves, in following Shamblin's demands for centering their attentions only upon close association with authentically holy people (of which only the Remnant qualify), have distanced and even cut off ties with parents, spouses and loved ones. Families and marriages are being submitted to illegitimate stresses and division based upon her authoritarian demand for "death to self" at the expense of relationships with loved ones whose "unholy" nature often is simply disagreeing with Gwen's spin on spirituality. Testimonies of this are becoming more and more frequent, but in order to keep whatever desperately heart-rending relational equilibrium they've managed to sustain, many of those who have shared with us out of this personal pain cannot go on record for fear of losing contact with their loved ones. This forced silence aids in the continued cloaking of Remnant's abusive nature.
We have rarely read or heard of more convincing and alarming examples of Lifton's "doctrine over person" observation than what we share here. But it isn't news to many in the cultworld today. The Watchtower's unbiblical prohibition against blood transfusions have caused the untimely deaths of untold thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses for many years, while LDS Church members often find themselves under enormous stresses in juggling family and personal responsibilities along with the demands of their church "callings" (supposedly divinely mandated roles of service in their local congregations). The demands of cutting all of one's ties with the world in a quest for enlightenment and union with Hindu and Buddhist deities, even to the point of completely abandoning families and gainful employment have always been made by scores of Eastern mystical cults devoted to gurus such as Sai Baba, Maharaj Ji and organizations like the Hare Krishnas since the 1960's counterculture emerged. All of these extreme measures and others like them are routinely demanded by cultic groups as a means of establishing personal submission from their members and to reinforce their ultimate control over them by compliance no matter the personal cost to those expected to adopt them as lifestyle choices.
In only the most tragic of ways, Remnant Fellowship travels in familiar territorial wakes already churned up by other cultic mariners slashing through the sea of humanity with their icebergs of illusion. It is a spiritual pirate ship masquerading as a heavenly cruise liner sailing toward a celestial Club Med - ultimately, it will leave more and more travelers marooned in their own personal desert islands, tongues severed, minds beaten down with terror and abuse, with water and rescue in plain sight being rejected as "counterfeit."
3) Milieu Control
"You must surround yourself and your family - if you really love your family - with a pure fellowship. You cannot believe that you will go back in to your old church and change your existing fellowship. .. As Gwen has said many times already in this series, judgment is here and it is now. To maintain this purity, holiness and righteousness .. you must fellowship with people of exactly the same mindset. And you’ll be worshipping in Spirit and in truth" (19).
“The true message of Jesus will not bring peace but a sword, and it will divide friends and family. (Matt 10:34-36) Likewise, if this church is devoted to true Kingdom work, it will have Jesus’ words that separate the wheat from the chaff, the obedient from the disobedient, the saint from the mocker - the mocker who scoffs at people like me who long to obey God - THE CREATOR of all” (20).
David Martin’s unblushing absolutism here shows just how firmly Remnant Fellowship is committed to demanding a degree of control over its members by cutting them off from any external influences, so as to disrupt and divide people from their cultural ties of family and church supposedly for their own good. The goals being the supposed purity and unity of Holy Spirit-led truth found only in the milieu of Remnant Fellowship socialization, it practically is what we have called "indoctrination through isolation," the social segregation of a group of people from the larger cultures they have previously been a part of by their own intentional withdrawal from them. While again appearing to meet the Biblical mandate for sanctification and avoidance of sinful cultural influences, it is apparent that what Shamblin is advocating Remnant Fellowship members to do is to cut all ties from church associations, family and friends who do not agree and even question her authority. Such relationships are seen as part of a Satanic world order with influences so corrupting as to render them entirely worthless and even evil institutions, laboring under a last-day "powerful delusion .. sent out by God" (21). And like many cult leaders before her, Shamblin cites Matthew 10:34-36 as a command from Jesus to separate one from family who resist a Remnant member's determination to pursue their group's agenda. But such action is actually meant to isolate members from any outside perspectives that might bring critical, independent thought and information that might lead them to reflect seriously upon the choices they've made to follow Shamblin and Remnant Fellowship.
Using the pretext of keeping a group of believers spiritually pure by limiting, qualifying or avoiding contacts with people outside it as a means of controlling the flow of alternative information about it is unethical, dishonest and an outright manipulation of the hearts and minds of those involved. And this has led to the painful and agonizing realities that scores of family and friends of Remnant members have had to grapple with. They have been forced to behold their loved ones move from a concern with weight loss toward a vibrant clinging to Remnant social circles and a simultaneous distancing, if not rejection of formerly close and intimate bonds with loved ones and friends both in and out of church circles. The terrible division of husbands from wives, of mothers from daughters, of grandparents from grandchildren is a social scourge all cults scar their communities with. And such relational disruption has nothing to do with the spirit of Jesus' words in Matthew 10:34-38, which are concerned with His admonition to testify in one's faith in Him (verses 32-33) even at the cost of opposing a loved one's rejection of Christ (35-38): "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." For most, if not all of the non-Remnant family involved, a rejection of Jesus Christ's authority was never the case - but Shamblin, like other cult leaders, reads into Jesus' intent her own megalomaniacal belief that any opposition to her teaching was the equivalent of opposing God in Christ Himself.
Cults universally recognize the need to divert any information critical of their group away from their recruits in fear of the impact it would have upon them, since an alternative perspective based upon freedom of thought is the greatest enemy of the cultic mind control they have been laboriously placed under. In many instances, reading and possession of such material in various forms of media (print, audiotape, video, computer files, tracts) is often considered a major transgression displaying one's disloyalty, a mental pornography, contempt for the group authority and even spiritual backsliding. For years, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses have severely punished their rank and file who were unwittingly caught reading books or viewing videos that criticized their origins, doctrine or policies even to the point of discipline and even expulsion from the group as "apostates" or "antis" who have lost their place in the Kingdom of God. Other cult members are then enjoined not to speak with or interact with them at all, typically citing a distorted set of Scriptural mandates regarding non-association with sinful people and teaching that any discussions with them are forbidden. Other cults usually proceed along the same lines, and have the same blatant disregard for the personal relationships involved, often setting brother against sister, father against son, and old friend against friend.
An anonymous rhetorical question raised by the sibling of two Remnant member families in another recent e-mailing brings the issue even greater clarity: "Line up 50 family members of Remnant Fellowship who do not know each other and what would their response be to the question as to whether the claim is true or false that Remnant Fellowship members separate themselves from their own personal family?"
Thought-stopping cliches are frequently used in cults to summarily and immediately stifle any spontaneous emergence of a subversive thought in the mind of cult member to quash any critical thought. These are canned statements, phrases or words used within a group that immediately send a clear communication that completely qualifies a given situation to end any discussion or thought about it that may undermine the cult's perception about it (and threaten their control of the member's thinking). For example, we've heard someone say to us, upon seeing some one not liked, "boy, that guy is a JERK, isn't he?" That is a thought-stopping cliche. We are told that the guy is a JERK, so therefore, we are confronted with the choice to accept that insulting qualification as objective reality or to reject it and live like it isn't the truth (in other words, we will say "you are wrong and I'm going to say hello"). Since cult group authorities - like Gwen Shamblin - have the final say upon what objective reality consists of, when she speaks, her followers immediately listen and act accordingly to reinforce that establish truth and ruthlessly extinguish any other thinking going beyond that. And in Remnant, the thought stopping cliches abound. Words and phrases like "idols", "strongholds," "false grace", "counterfeit church," "death walk", "repentance" and others come up frequently as conversational and directional shorthand in the interactions of Remnant members, communicating very specific, unique, and preexisting meanings to the group's members. This is also what "loading the language" will result in, and is still another example of how "doctrine over person" exacts a terrible price in cults today.
Time simply will not allow me to go into the other components of mind control that are very evident in Shamblin’s movement. But they are there, and very pronouncedly so. At this stage of our study of Remnant group dynamics, we see strong evidence that suggests that all eight of these components are actively engaged in their recruitment, indoctrination and retention strategies. We have yet to conduct exhaustive post-cult involvement interviews with former Remnant members, but in our informal interactions with several of them in face to face, online and phone settings, we believe our observations to be sound, verifiable and supported by Remnant produced evidence that is irrefutable.
Abusive Discipline and Excommunication: Those who "walkaway" (Remnant members who intentionally decide to break off association with the group) or become "castaway" (Remnant members who are abusively cast out from the group with what has most aptly been called the "right foot of fellowship") are demonized as carnal, self-seeking spiritual rebels who bear the "mark of the Beast" leaving the "ark of salvation." There is no honorable way to leave without being labeled a Satanic apostate bound by the "Cain syndrome" of fleshly bondage. At this point in time, it is difficult to gauge from those who we know are leaving Remnant Fellowship the exact proportions between walkaways and castaways but early indications suggest that walkaways are far more prevalent. It would appear that more and more people are simply leaving Remnant Fellowship because of it's high demand environment of coercion. Of course, Remnant's spin on their departure usually results in a characterization of defectors as who "have pulled off from Remnant Fellowship due to their strong desire to keep their strongholds" and their departure as a "recent purging that God has done," misquoting Scripture as the framework to understand it in: "Ezekiel 20:38 says, 'I will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me.' ” (22).
Go to the Remnant Fellowship-operated websites containing the glowing testimonies of Remnant members who attribute their successes to their submission to Shamblin's defined "lines of authority", and one could easily assume (thanks to the ability of the Internet to create alternative worlds supported by the bells and whistles of glitzy browser displays) that it's social circles are filled with love, grace and truth found among zealous Christians.. However, the stark reality of another side of Remnant's existence in real-time, three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood living becomes abundantly clear when one considers the voices and testimonies of former Remnant members. In their quest to find a home among "a group of people - the called out - a remnant willing to move their will aside" (23), they found quite another abode, a dark cultworld where they endured the unique horror of experiencing religious terrors at the hands of their trusted. Our article now shifts to hearing first-hand testimonies as to how Remnant's social dynamics contain not only its' claimed light but a darkness so tangible it can be felt, and seen, and heard.
One of the major issues we have seen Gwen Shamblin and Remnant Fellowship raise in their vicious condemnations of the Christian church relate to the need for strong Christian discipline of those within Christian fellowships who persist in sin. No one can argue against the need for the Christian church to "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Timothy 4:2) all those within itself who may yet persist in sinful behavior. For several years prior to her Remnant start-up, Gwen has had free access to the personal lives of many of those who have sought spiritual counsel through Weigh Down Workshop venues. This contact has exposed her to the some of the struggles of men and women in churches across America have had with not only sinful habits but sinful "Christians," many who may actuall by deacons, pastors and bishops. She alludes to this again and again in her writings and teachings. We are convinced that in this sharing with her, they conveyed to her their own testimonies of how they were involved in various kinds of sinful activity. In traveling to church after church, her organization's counseling activity exposed a side of the Christian church that unquestionably has convinced Shamblin it is largely corrupt. Sadly, it is easy, therefore, to understand why Shamblin and the Remnant membership can feel so justified in blasting the Christian church as the "Great Prostitute," but it doesn't excuse her persistence in openly hateful antagonism toward it and to unjustifiably characterize it as such.
There are three dimensions to true Biblical discipline. First of all, it is relational: it is lovingly administered in the context of the Christian congregation as one would deal with a beloved family member (2 Thess. 3:14-15). Secondly, it is redemptive: it seeks to reclaim the fallen from their wandering, saving those bent for separation from God (Jude 20-23). And thirdly, it is restorative: the applied discipline will provide for rehabilitating and rebuilding the life shattered by sin (2 Cor. 2:6-8). True Biblical discipline should lead the sinful to submit to the promptings of God's Spirit that He has sent upon them to lead them into true repentance (John 16:7-11 sheds more light upon this sovereign reproval of the world by the Spirit of God seeking to lead it from the judgment to come). Hebrews 12:6-11 demonstrates that ultimately, the discipline of the Christian congregation is used by God as His chastening that is meant to bring the Christian through a process of purification making them "partakers of his holiness" (v. 10).
However, in the sharpest contrast, Observe how this was accomplished in the lives of ex-members of various cultic groups:
Erica Lukins, ex-Jehovah's Witness: " A few weeks later I started to have doubts. Why are the 144,000 so special? Why is it wrong to take communion? Why can't I have a nose ring or four earrings in each ear? Why do we have to have a different Bible? Why must we go door to door? Why do I have to study two books before I can get baptized? And then why do I have to take a test before the Elders? Why is there no Trinity? So on and so forth. Soon after that my "mom" (an elderly Witness "pioneer") moved a thousand miles away. It shook me to the core. I lost her and then started to realize that if I stopped studying (with the Jehovah's Witnesses), I would lose all the rest of them too. My "family" would be gone. So I started to go to meetings and have studies again. But it was a chore and I did it with a heavy heart. I didn't want to be there but it was the only way to keep the people I thought loved me close. Well, my marriage started to suffer. I thought because he was a jerk but I now realize that it was a slow wall coming up because he did not support me in my choice of religion. The J.W.'s were telling me not to worry about him and that I should pursue my study on my own. I always had their support! They always claimed that they do not split up families but they do. They do it in a way you don't see. If it was in your face then you would see them for what they are and they would lose you as a recruit. .. "
"I am slowly picking up the pieces of my naive life and nearly ruined marriage. I have lost all contact with the young girl I loved so much because her mother thinks that both my husband and I aren't suitable role models for her child. Unfortunately because of the lie that I have been living for the last two years, I will not be so quick to get sucked into another church. That is going to hurt my relationship with God. You need people to be there to give you supso much because her mother thinks that both my husband and I aren't suitable role models for her child. Unfortunately because of the lie that I have been living for the last two years, I will not be so quick to get sucked into another church. That is going to hurt my relationship with God. You need people to be there to give you support and build you up in your faith. But unfortunately right now I can't trust any church or religion. It will take time and a lot of prayers to heal the open wounds that the Jehovah's Witnesses have created!" (24)
Jana, ex-Mormon: "I kept asking questions of friends and family. I would pose questions
to them of the literature I found on the net and they could not answer, would give me their own answer that could not be backed up, or they
would tell me that I needed to have faith and pray. My bro-in-law told me that if I prayed about the church being true and received any answer but a positive one, that I would be wrong. He also told me that if I left the church, I would be unhappy the rest of my life. Then, at the beginning of December, we were told by a friend that the bishop was going to call us in and he had talked about excommunicating us. We were shocked and got in contact with him and went to his office for a meeting. He had the Relief Society President and his 1st counselor join us in this meeting. We were told that three sisters had called the RS pres and reported us as having distributed anti-mormon literature. One of these sisters would not even give her name. We knew the other two. We were also told that several of the friends that we had gone to with questions, had been reporting us, saying that we were asking questions about the church doctrine. The bishop told us that these accusations were very serious and could lead to excommunication. We were in shock. How could anyone say this about us? It wasn’t true! We assured the bishop that we were not distributing anything but told him that we had serious questions about the church history and doctrine. With these false accusations, we had doubts about returning to church."
"We left that night and I went home to find out were this lie
had started. My husband called one of these sisters (sis H) and asked her if she had said anything about us and she told us no, that she would
never do that. One of the friends, sis B, who was helping us with our questions, had moved from our ward to Idaho. I had sent to sis B the
story about the Mountain Meadow Massacre, because this was one of the things I was questioning. This story had been sent through e-mail and
had our name at the top. When she was done with it, she had thrown it away. Sis H. had gone to visit her a month before this meeting with the
bishop. I found out that while she was there, sis H had taken that
story that out of her garbage can. She brought it home and then told another sis in the ward ( the other one who reported us) that we were distributing anti-mormon literature. NOW I was paranoid. I wondered about everything I had said to anyone and how they would twist it around to find us guilty. I felt I could no longer trust anyone. We made the decision, and sent in a letter to have our names removed from the records. I would NOT be excommunicated for lies, for something that I did not do." (25)
Thomas Simmons, ex-Christian Scientist: "In her diaries, which came to her children after she died, my mother writes, about a year before her death, of her escape plan. At some level she had never lost her desire for freedom. It stayed with her despite all that her parents did to rid her of it, and despite everything her church told her about her misconception of freedom. .. She had been free to choose a life within a rigidly defined context; she had been free to make choices within a highly stable, highly structured universe. When she made those choices they brought her obligations - a husband, children, church duties - and because she was a profoundly loving and kind person, she took those obligations to heart for most of her life. In the end, however, she looked back to a more instinctual universe, an unstable realm where she could make choices not only within once context - the reality of Christian Science - but within several contexts. In fact, she could choose her context; beyond the world her religion defined for her lay an open terrain. What she planned to do, then, was make real choices, choices which began to clarify her life. She would leave house and husband, she would travel, she would study the art she so long neglected. .. "
"As she was making these plans, in 1979, my mother noticed an odd swelling in her back. This was accompanied by wracking pains that awakened her in the middle of the night, and other symptoms that led her to believe that she had cancer. Though she did not think God was punishing her, she streaked back to her religion like a frightened fawn: she had to behave perfectly, she had to have perfect faith, or she would die. Ironically, there is some evidence to suggest that the kind of cancer she contracted has a very high rate of cure when treated medically. But she would have no doctors. .. The Christian Science practitioner who prayed for my mother came infrequently, preferring to offer her prayers by telephone. When she did come, she arrived like a small whirlwind, asking my mother why she was not up and around, why she had not eaten, why she did not get dressed. My mother, who reported this to me, took these exhortations to mean that she had failed once again." (26)
Joe Kellet, ex-Transcendental Meditation teacher: "As a teacher I frequently lied to people 'for their own good' because 'they weren't ready yet' to receive the full truth, and so did my friends who were teachers. We didn't think of it as 'lying.' We thought we were giving the people as much truth as they could handle. We thought it would be wrong to tell them more than they could handle since they might 'misunderstand' and not start or continue with TM, which would be bad for them. We did a lot of 'spin doctoring.' We deceived people by deliberately using words that would be misunderstood by the audience."
We said 'TM is not a religion' even though we knew that insider TM doctrine as a whole was incompatible with all major religions (including mainstream Hinduism in large part). But we didn't think of ourselves as 'lying' because we were mentally using a very restrictive definition of 'religion,' using the word to mean something like 'an organization that demands faith in a doctrine.' Even though we were teaching doctrine incompatible with other religions we weren't demanding faith so TM was 'not a religion.' We ignored the fact that people could be and were kicked out of the Movement for openly disputing TM doctrine -- we didn't consider this as 'demanding faith,' rather it was 'protecting the purity of the teaching.' "(27)
Deborah David, ex-Children of God and daughter of COG's founder David Berg: "My turmoil intensified. I did not know that my life was being consumed by sin. In the Children of God sin did not exist: 'to the pure, all things are pure.' The idea of sin had been carefully removed and set aside by the doctrines of Moses David. .. Intoxicated by absolute power, Dad calculated that he could introduce the doctrine of sexual 'sharing' among the members of his immediate family .. My mind flipped into a state of utter confusion and disillusionment. I was overwhelmed by doubts about Dad, about God, about my whole state of existence. .. 'If you had perfect love as the Bible speaks of,' he said, 'and were living totally within the love of Christ, you would understand that with other members of the body who also live within this perfect love, we can share freely with one another and there are no boundaries, not even sexual ones ..' "
"This was Dad's 'All Things' doctrine, a takeoff from Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 6:12, which states, 'All things are lawful unto me ..' Because I refused to go along with Dad's concept of mandatory sharing, I was consigned to the class of the unspirituals. .. Consequently, a conflict developed within me. From that moment on, I believed that because I could not accept this doctrine of sexual freedom, I therefore did not have a close relationship with the Lord. I lacked that 'perfect love' and was simply not as spiritual as the rest. Throughout my remaining years in the Family I felt great condemnation because of this." (28)
Anna, ex-Holy Order of Mans (now defunct): "Every waking moment I was occupied .. There was morning Mass at 5:30 and then Bible study, group meetings, or something else every night of the week. For seven years the community became my whole world. I completely dropped out of my former life. .. I was the shadow, a scapegoat for the order .. In our group, one woman was more of a scapegoat than I was, and everybody projected their anger onto her. She couldn't keep a job, she was always physically in pain, and she had no money. I was the victim, she was the crazy. Whenever I did anything to pull out of the victim stance, they put me back in my place. Yet we all professed brotherly love." (29)
Cultic Phobia Indoctrination: Along with the control of information, the advocating of unethical relationships and deceptive claims, and the firm rejection of any independent thought that questions the group, we also see a very common pattern arising here also, that of phobia indoctrination, the deliberate conditioning of a cult member's heart and mind to develop a deep personal aversion to a set of fears stemming from being recognized within the cultic group as not living up to its' high-demand lifestyle standards. The fear of being seen as disloyal, critical, sensual (or too inhibited), ungrateful, rebellious, or ignorant is a potent way to demand conformity in a cult group, and training people to fear certain actions or associations ensures this punitive dynamic will keep them "in line." When the fear of being expelled from the only source of truth in the universe and the subsequent loss of intimate relationships and personal salvation or enlightenment are then combined with these other profound fears, the creation of literal phobias within the controlled minds of cult members is then possible. And it is this indoctrination by the usage of phobias that fuels the power of the cult group over its membership, a horrible interpersonal dynamic best hidden by them of all of their "dark sides."
Fear is perhaps the most powerful way to forcefully, and abusively, control someone's thinking, and therefore, their behavior, but it is an abominable antithesis to Christian love as a motivation for spiritual living. The use of fear to make someone serve God is a gross perversion of the Christian "law of love", the ethic of godly love and compassion that all Christians are to live their whole lives out in expressing through the power of God's Spirit (Romans 5:5): "If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well" (James 2:8). Love for God and love for man are the reasons why any Christian would desire to reach into another's life and admonish them to turn their struggles and troubles to His care. But in the case of cults, the love of God is shortcircuited by the counterfeit expressions of "godly love" made by their membership out of their own human nature quite apart from the divine influence of God's Spirit and power. Human affection is substituted for God's love, and as anyone knows, the human capacity to consistently express loving attitudes is so changeable, finicky and mood-oriented. It can shift subtly almost instantaneously to a "love" tainted by questionable or ulterior motives, driven by bad information. Reinforced by personal biases, manipulative natures and old grudges or memories of past slights and offenses, this kind of love is a far cry from the pure regard of Godly love supplied from a Godly perspective. And it is this kind of "love" that is used to justify the phobia indoctrination and a coercively fear-driven lifestyle cults demand of their follwoers.
In Remnant, fears of failure to live up to RF standards are used to compel comformity to them; being found "coddling sin" or "birthing flesh" leads to public shaming and rebuke meant to chastise those who are struggling with "strongholds." And the "loving on" by Remnant leadership of those not meeting their party line reveals most clearly just how unchristian and abusive RF actually is. After carefully reading and even re-reading the ex-cultist testimonies we've just shared with you (and here are more insights if you need additional context), we now invite you to compare them qualitatively with these following four testimonies of three former members of Remnant Fellowship and a former WDW coordinator who nearly joined RF as we have received them:
Behind The Scenes: The Other Side Of Life In Remnant Fellowship
Patterson, ex-Remnant member: Complaining was forbidden, as was investigating any negative information on Remnant Fellowship or Gwen. In keeping in line with authority (the plumb line), we’d lose our obsession with our idols in our lives (e.g., overeating, money, TV, etc.), therefore also losing weight but gaining joyfulness. Submission to authority (children to parents, wives to their husbands, Remnant Fellowship members to Remnant Fellowship leadership) was a rule as this represented our submission to God’s authority. .. I began to doubt that I was worthy of God’s love, especially since I wasn’t losing any more weight and my work situation seemed to go from bad to worse. What was I doing wrong?
My situation was obviously very serious to the others in Remnant Streator as they convinced me to leave work on May 3, 2002, and drive to Streator to have a private conference call with Robie Bass, a member of authority in Remnant Nashville. .. On May 20th, I attended Weigh Down Advanced at the leader’s house of Remnant Streator as she started a new 10-week session. .. This was also the first of seven times that she confronted me about my continual sinning, lack of weight loss, and obvious rebellion to authority which seemed only obvious to her and the other adult female member besides myself and my mother. I was asked if I thought some people placed Gwen too high on a pedestal and gave her too much praise. My answer was, yes, which was then labeled as my uncertainty of Gwen’s message, which was essentially God’s message, therefore I was rejecting God, the ultimate sin. ..
On May 26th, I drove my mother and Remnant Streator’s leader back from Kokomo, Indiana, where we had spent the weekend with the local Remnant group for fellowship and worship. As I drove, we were listening to one of the Christian worship CD’s I had burned. The song Above All came on, and our leader started in on how horrible the song was because it has one line that says, "You [Christ] took the fall and thought of me/Above all." This is, in Gwen’s opinion, a "false grace message," and is, in essence, what the "counterfeit" church preaches. Therefore, this song was the first one my mother and I were informed we were never to listen to again. When I asked why, my question was answered over the next four hours. Again, I was accused of rejecting Gwen’s authority (I was questioning, which was forbidden), therefore I was rejecting God. ..
On July 8th, 2002, I drove to Streator after work as I had done for the previous eight weeks to attend Weigh Down Advanced class. Since the Passover celebration, we had been having Bible studies instead of our normal class because there was only one “student” who wasn’t a member of Remnant Streator, and she hadn’t shown up lately. As a result, these Monday night “Bible studies” turned into courtroom trials where my mother and I were constantly placed on the witness stand and all of our sins were laid bare in front of the rest of Remnant Streator. We were still being accused of doing things that we hadn’t done, and when the leader and the other adult female in the group were done with those sins, they’d bring up sins that they had forgiven us for weeks and months before. They were constantly telling us that we needed to learn from our past sins and to keep them fresh in our minds so that we would be reminded how horrible we had been and would not do those things again. ..
Then I received the shock of my life. My mother and I found out that the leader and the other adult female called each other every Monday night after Weigh Down Advanced class to discuss how the night went (a.k.a. “What do you think of what Heather and her mother said/did tonight?”). In order to save them the time spent calling each other when we got back to town this night, they informed us that they were going to “have their discussion right there in the car” – in front of us! It was horrifying to hear the two of them go back and forth about how horrible they thought we were and how sure they were that we were purposefully sinning because we still wanted to be a god. My mother interjected at one point asking if she could say something and the 14-year old daughter of the other adult female snapped, “No, don’t you get it? They’re having a conversation and you’re not really here.” The girl’s mother thanked her daughter for explaining this to my mother, and the they went on belittling my mother and I for another five minutes. (30)
Laura Nichols, ex-Remnant member: .. The next day, David Martin, Don, Joe, Robie and other men from Leadership called to talk to Mark. David Martin told Mark that if he didn't cut off financial ties to Stacey (Laura and Mark's daughter who was causing trouble with them) that we would be engaging in her sin! He quoted us the verse in Proverbs 19:18 "Discipline your son, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to his death." You see, according to the belief in Remnant, Stacey was dead in hideous rebellion to God and to us and out from under all authority. They told us that if we didn't take her car and cut all financial ties with her that we were engaging ourselves in her sin. He told us that God would judge us as harshly as He would Stacey .. . Mark decided that he would obey Remnant Leadership and no longer talk to his child. It was a tough decision but we were so deceived and didn't know it. We just did what they told us to. They were the authority. ..
I also want to add here that through the ordeal with Stacey, Mark's wrecks, stress in general, I was late for my period. I also had valid reasons to think that I was pregnant. I was freaked out because I'm 45 years old! My weight had jumped up 10 lbs in one week and I was real concerned since I was still pretty much eating 3 bits per growl! On occasion I might eat 6-7 bits but for the most I tried to keep my eating to 3 bites per growl. I called the WD office cause I was desperate to find out if I was in fact pregnant could my weight jump like that. Jenny answered the phone and I had met her at camp and she recently had a baby. She told me that yes the body does so many things when we conceive a child and not to worry. I told her about my conversation with leadership and how they wanted my weight to be coming off at 3-5 lbs a week and I was scared to have to tell them that I was up 10 lbs. Jenny just encouraged me to go get a home pregnancy kit and do it but call her and let her know what was happening and that she would be praying for me. ..
The phone rang and it was Gwen and David Martin. They wanted to know if Mark was at home and I told them that he wasn't that he was out doing his job. I offered them his cell phone number. Gwen said, "No, there is just a few things that we need to get straight with you guys and we want to see how things are going." I again told her that they could call Mark on his cell phone and she then started questioning me what time would be a good time for them to call back cause they wanted to talk to both of us. We agreed that they would call Thursday morning around 8:30 or so. ..
Gwen finally got on the phone and addressed us very kindly. She asked Mark about the previous night of worship and they talked for a few minutes. Then Gwen turned to me... The next few lines are all that I can remember of our conversation. This is all that I remember. It has no sequence because when she started she put me in such a state of shock.
Gwen starts by "Laura, I'm really scared about some things that I have been hearing about you. You call the office and talked with Jenny and something about being pregnant and that you did not want to report your weight to Leadership...Let me tell you Laura that I was shock when I saw you in Houston that you had not lost any more weight that you have since this past summer. Your body just can't go on in this state.... I need to have Charlie Crossland call and counsel you cause he lost 330 lbs in 18 months.... There is no reason why you not lost your weight.... Your weight should be coming off at nearly 10 lbs per week, Laura...I'm scared for you...Now remember Laura I could not be saying this to you if I didn't love you so much.... I heard David say, "Amen, Laura we do love you” Gwen continues "Mark, you ought be getting after her every time she is disobedient. You ought to love her enough and be scared enough to understand that if she dies, she is lost and you should be doing all that you can do not to let this over-indulging with food continue.... Mark I want you to put Laura on the scales every week and call me with her weight loss.... Laura I want you to get up in front of that Houston Remnant and confess your sin of greed of food the them and tell them that you are going to step down in leadership and show them who your God really is. Laura, get the weight off. I also want you to find someone in your WDA group to take over your class and you step down as a coordinator.... Laura, I should have put a stop to you 5 years ago and I didn't. You should have never had this weight on your body this long...but I love you and I want to help you.... please understand Laura that I could only say these things to you because I love you! I want the best for you.... (Another Amen from David Martin) ..
I just want to say that for the next 4 hours or so I was very suicidal over all of this. I could not even get my mind to think right. I scared Mark to death. He was scared to even leave me that day. I would get in the bed and cry and cover my face with the sheets, get up and just sit and stare. It was awful! It was more than awful!!!! It is a state that I pray that I will never ever experience in this life! That afternoon as Mark was getting ready to go out and do the outside portion of his job (he is an insurance adjuster) he was scared to death to leave me. He wanted me to go with him and I wouldn’t. I just laid in bed and begged God to let my next breath be my last. (31)
Maria Brooks, ex-WDW coordinator: I had gone to Desert Oasis 2000, Gwen's annual meeting she had before she started the Rebuilding The Walls tours, and it was also the first meeting when she introduced Remnant Fellowship. .. One of the things David Martin said right at the very beginning of the conference was "this is the most important place in the world to God right now." I remember saying to myself "my husband's back in New York and I hope that's an important place for Him, too." I remember thinking "that is weird that somebody would say that." I would understand that this is one of the most important places but not THE most important place as if God was only looking at this particular spot in Nashville, Tennessee. .. It was a long, intense meeting. We got there early in the morning and stayed there late. The
conference lasted a couple days. I remember coming home so emotionally exhausted and feeling like I had just gone through finals, my brain was so packed with information, but not really able to yet sort through what I felt was right and wrong. So I couldn't really articulate what I was
feeling to others when asked how the conference went I kept thinking maybe something's wrong with me because my fellow coordinator seemed to think everything was ok.
So when I came back and continued conducting WD classes. There was definitely conviction upon me about eating "one bite past full," and I began to feel guilty about even thinking about food when I wasn't hungry, as a result I began dropping more weight. "One bite past full" or to "lust after" a meal that had not yet been given to me was disobedience. Sometimes, in the middle of a meal I wasn't sure if I was full or not and I'd take a bite and then realized "wait a minute, I was full!" and then it's too late, I took that bite! I had disobeyed. So I cut my food in half again, and then I started cutting my half in half and by that time I was cutting my fourth in half .. the portions were getting smaller and smaller because the guilt was getting more and more. .. while I may have been feeling guilty, people started seeing me dropping weight and would say, "oh wow, what's going on?" and then a new zeal would start.
I think at that point I had almost ignored the voice of the Holy Spirit, sticking my fingers in my ears to Him and not really wanting to hear what He wanted to say because I was losing weight, so “this must be o.k.,” but in my heart feeling like there just wasn't any peace. I started getting anonymous e-mails about the firings at Weigh Down and I would call down to the Weigh Down Headquarters to ask questions about the articles being written about Weigh Down. They'd then tell me there was no religious discrimination at Weigh Down and that the writers were liars and disgruntled employees. I'd then naively say "oh, o.k," instead of taking the responsibility of actually call the woman in the articles to say "o.k, let me hear your side of the story." I started getting more and more pulled in as I was calling them to ask other questions and I began building a relationship with someone there at the WD counseling department. ..
There were participants of our group that would come to me and say "Maria, do you realize that what she (Shamblin) is saying and what you're saying she's saying are two different things?" People would come to me and say "I'm not going to continue to come to the group anymore because I feel condemned by this teaching" or would say that I made them feel condemned. I didn't understand. I would hear that and it would of course hurt because I didn't want to think that I was that kind of condemning, judgmental person that people were telling me I was being. People kept leaving the group. At one time it was a very effective group but the groups kept getting smaller and smaller. People whom I thought genuinely had a heart for God didn't want anything more to do with it.
The next year, my husband, Adam, was fighting to understand and sort through the truth by testing the spirits of different parties there in Nashville concerning the new Remnant vision we heard about at the June 2001 Remnant Fellowship weekend. Whenever he would ask questions of Gwen, her response was often an attack on Adam. I felt afterward as time progressed that she might have been trying to put division between us by constantly having people ask me questions about what was going with Adam, how are my feelings about this, what do you think about that, and I would just blithely write my honest responses in e-mails to them. One time, Adam and I had a conversation in the kitchen of our home and then the next day I talked about it to the other two wives we knew who were also exploring Remnant. I mentioned how upset I was over a question Adam had about a particular doctrine or article he'd read. The next thing we knew is when he would go to ask them about it, our friends were already armed and dismissing about the question of his I raised with them the day before. He never tried to hurt Gwen, he just wanted to get to the truth. We as Christians have nothing to hide, right, so why not answer the questions? What is Gwen hiding from?
I felt that WD counselors, particularly two of them I had built a relationship with, were trying indirectly to cause me to doubt Adam and Adam's integrity and who he was even to the point of making me wonder if he was truly evil, for they began to then talk to me about the difference between asking a question sincerely and being a mocker. They never labeled him as a mocker, but the timing of their counsel always implied that Adam might be one of these mockers and a son of the devil, and that mockers are evil and God says you shouldn't entertain them. I knew in my heart Adam wasn't this person they were describing, and I kept thinking, “Are they trying to cause division in our marriage? Why not try to encourage me or help me to be a better wife to him?"
We had a conversation with Gwen, David Martin and a few other RF leaders on September 12, the day after the terrorist attacks here in Manhattan, and Gwen tore into both me and Adam and made it clear that she thought Adam was a mocker and that I was manipulative, pushy and cared more for my husband then I did for God. We were just a bit overwhelmed and later, we got a phone call from the other two couples we know who told us that they had decided to join Remnant Fellowship; they said, "this isn't going to affect our friendship at all because this is what we felt God leading us to do." I could tell from the voice of one of the women I was closer to that there was something she wanted to say and couldn't say it. In a later call, she would tell me that the leadership at Remnant was very upset with Adam and didn't wanted to deal with him anymore. At that point we felt really abandoned by our friends but were still not sure if Remnant was a cult or not .. We left the city and while we visited my brother's home in Virginia, we went round and round on what was going on - we definitely believed God was humbling us to repentance, we just didn't understand what we were to repent of . . We thought we needed to repent of arrogance toward Gwen, but in actuality, we were feeling some guilt about how arrogant we had been towards our home congregation. Our friends called and asked us to come back early as they had some things they wanted to talk to us about, one of the things being an apology letter Adam had sent to Gwen. He'd apologized for questioning, but they told us that they found a lot of arrogance and pride in Adam's letter and that RF leadership didn't want to deal with us anymore, and our friends needed to make a decision on how they wanted to handle it. ..
When we got to the apartment where we were to meet with them, they received us without a smile, no lights on in a dark afternoon, no loving Christian hugs as before. They began to lecture us for twenty minutes about every sin we'd ever committed. We used to confess our sins mutually with one another in accountability as our personal spiritual confidantes and they had heard us share our weaknesses with them, and these all came out in recriminations. It was as if they were saying to us, "See we knew you were evil, because we knew this about you." They'd even take our humorous stories about our newly married spats (or even more recent ones) and used them against us as evidence of our "rocky marriage." Things that were perceived as sin were twisted as being sin even if that wasn't the truth at all. There were old e-mails brought up in which I had written to the WD headquarters to get help in situations that came up in the workshops I was coordinating which had been supplied to them and used against me; my friends said "see, even then, you were trying to cause Weigh Down to view us badly." After they had done that, (which can only be described as "spiritual rape") they said "you can leave now, as far as we are concerned, this meeting and friendship is over. Please never contact us again." We asked if we could say something. We wanted to begin telling them about what had happened to us that weekend and how God had revealed to us that we had been arrogant and needed to apologize. They didn't seem to care or want to hear it. It was too late for a repentant heart.
I then asked them, "There's only one true church, right?" I had believed that my whole life but knew what they meant was that Remnant Fellowship was that church. "I can't go back to the counterfeit church because its' counterfeit, and the one true church won't take me, so what happens to my soul?" I literally did not know, because I kept thinking, "Never have I ever been rejected from the church." And they looked at me, after literally sitting there for 20 minutes, listing every sin and condemning me, and they said, "We are not your judge." At the time, I felt like going, "What a cheap way out of that, you're just going to leave me here to die." Now I look at that and believe that they didn't know the answer to my question for themselves. It never crossed their minds. I think that the person who responded to that didn't know what to say, not realizing that she had judged and condemned me for the last 20 minutes. That's why I can now say I forgive them. They truly did not know what it was they were saying or doing. That night, going back and forth, back and forth with these thoughts in my head, not knowing if even the counterfeit church would take me back, I knew I had to have somebody to give me some stability, but I didn't feel that I was even worthy of that; what I did feel was that I had really let God down. I had come to the point in my spiritual walk that I had experienced this burning passion for Him, and now I had let Him down. How could He possibly use me again - why would He want to use me again? That was probably more devastating than anything.
I figured "Well, if I am obviously not accepted back into "THE church", which means I'm going to hell, so what's the sense of living through this agony any longer? Why not end it?" I wanted to look at my Creator's face and see if it was true that He didn't love me anymore. That His grace no longer covered me. Thoughts of ending my life filled me as we drove from the meeting back home. It was going through my head all the way home. I just wanted to take care of the people I felt responsible to because if I was condemned the last thing I wanted was for anyone else to be condemned with me. I felt that I would gladly give up my life in heaven for them. I didn't want to bring anybody else down with me and I knew that what was happening was wrong but ... what if I was the one in the wrong? It was so confusing. I wanted to at least do whatever I could to make my judgment easier, so I wanted to ask forgiveness from people I had hurt.
The events of September 11 had just occurred five days before that night's meeting - one of the scariest days of my life. It was a week in which so much personal innocence had died; the towers in Manhattan had fallen due to terrorist attacks and now my spiritual innocence had perished due to the attacks made upon Adam and me by our dearest friends. I never thought Christians could do to each other what we had just experienced at the hands of our closest friends. God had made his presence so unbelievably real, so tangible in our lives in the city in general that I had no doubt in my mind that He existed. I had no doubt in my mind that He was very upset with what I had done but I had doubts that He would ever want me back. And that was planted in my head through the five years of the indirect WD message of "You're unworthy if you don't do this, this and this." It was so subtle at first, and then all of a sudden, that unfair accusation and rejection was the crack in the dam holding back all that irrational and unspiritual guilt. All of a sudden, the unworthiness and guilt came flooding in. (32)
Tim Smith - ex-Remnant
Fellowship: THE FOLLOWING IS MY VIEWPOINT AND MY OWN TRUTHFUL,
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH GWEN SHAMBLIN AND THE REMNANT FELLOWSHIP. MY AGENDA IS
TO INFORM, WARN AND ENLIGHTEN, NOT HARM. ANY OPINIONS STATED ARE MY OWN.
My wife and I were one of the first families to be involved in the RF. I'm not sure exactly, but I do believe it was the Spring of 1999. When we started, there were maybe 10 or 12 people. We left in the fall of 2001, shortly after the September 11th tragedy. There are a number of reasons for leaving RF, and I will bring to light just a few important ones.
In the fall of 2000, she and I had a conversation in her office. I expressed to her my concern that WD and Remnant materials, teachings, etc. were getting too closely related and that I was afraid that the two would become so close, that one would or could be the downfall of the other. Gwen responded by telling me that all this was inevitable. She said she had had this "vision" of her church many, many years ago, and it now looked like it was all coming to fruition. She said she believed that the WD programs made it necessary and possible for her to gain the credibility with the institutional churches so she could begin teaching what she believed needed to be taught. She said she's been planning this for a long time, and now I see she had to make sure she had an audience.
David Shamblin is a great guy, and very well versed in the Bible. He started attending RF right after Desert Oasis 2000. That was in August. Even after then, his involvement was spotty, at best. He would come around for a while, then be absent for many weeks. He was playing bass in the praise band too. Even then, it was good for awhile, then he wouldn't come for quite awhile. Prior to that, I know for a fact (related to me by both Gwen and David Martin), that he wanted nothing to do with Remnant Fellowship. He was quite adamant against Gwen's leadership role in this situation and there was much turmoil in the Shamblin household. Gwen likes to equate the beginnings of Remnant (4 Shamblins, 4 Martins) with the eight left on the Ark. That was part of her "vision." In fact, it's part of the explanation given to inquiring callers asking about the inception of RF. This is an insult and a falsehood. Since we know that (husband) David wasn't involved in the beginning, she seems to be one shy. In fact, I'm personally appalled by the scriptural comparison when fact states it is simply not true.
Gwen is the pastor or preacher (or whatever you want to call it) of the Remnant Fellowship, though for awhile she would not own to the label. By now, however, she has embraced this "religious leader" tag quite willingly. According to most in the group, however, she is a heavenly-sent prophet, and she believes it, too, but you probably won't hear her say it openly herself. There is no real evidence of her being a true prophet, especially if you realize all the 9/11 nonsense is just propaganda. She definitely has done nothing to squash or curb any talk of her prophet status.
There is a board of appointed (by Gwen) deacons and deaconesses. This was formed only after she came under fire as a result of her "Trinity" views. The case against her was that there was no accountability and she was just free to say anything without any meaningful accountability. It was formed just to (hopefully) "shut her critics up." The board consists of husband and wife teams over whom she has complete control and influence. They all believe she is a prophet, so at the same time submit completely to her authority. So realistically, they aren't much more than mouthpieces for her direction and desires for the church. She controls it all. I never once saw any authoritative action or decision displayed by any "church leader" that wasn't pre-approved by Gwen. Accountability? Not possible with this arrangement. They literally "hang" on every word she speaks, and believe each one, so any meaningful accountability is impossible nor desired!
A prime reason was we really felt the need to find
better teaching and instruction for our young child. Neither my wife nor I
"grew up in church" so we didn't have a great bible based foundation.
We just didn't know enough to pass on to our child. As time passed, we saw that
there was no "age appropriate" teaching at Remnant, and no plans to
implement any. And while we did (at the time) fully support Gwen's teachings, we
felt the need for more diverse methodology. I tried, as well as my wife, to
address this situation a number of times. I am a degreed educator, and I believe
strongly in age level instruction on any subject. It's just common sense that
you wouldn't approach a first grade math class with the same methodology and
material you would high school level. Unfortunately, this logic was not logical
to Ms. Shamblin. Once though, at a parents' meeting, we actually did have a
conversation that ended up with Gwen saying she would start to develop a kids
program and/or series of teachings. But that never happened and was never
discussed again. Gwen does not believe in Sunday school. She and other members
close to her would consistently make fun of other church's VBS and Sunday
schools saying it was nothing but a bunch of stories with puppet shows and
"watered down" meanings. While offering no viable alternatives, it was
just blatant criticism.
We would sit on Sunday mornings for two, three
hours while Gwen spoke and preached and ran us through reams of Bible verses and
piles of justification as to why we needed to believe every word she said. Most
weeks, it was "repentance, repentance, repentance." All well and good,
but that was pretty much it, along with a plethora of verses to support and
prove her viewpoint. But my point is: for all of the
young children, who had to sit through all of this, it was quite boring and
a good number of them were fast asleep or fidgeting or coloring or reading or
staring off into space. From where I sat, there wasn't much these children were
gleaning from all the talk. There are parents who will support the idea that the
children are learning by sitting there
and hearing Gwen speak, that they DO pick up things. Yes, the children do hear
things and will remember some. They're aren't stupid, but I will strongly favor
the practice of focused, age appropriate teaching instead of Gwen's
"osmosis" theory of learning.
Another reason we felt the need to leave was we
saw that there was no community outreach of any kind. The outreach was totally
performed and realized within the group. Again, the subject was never taken
seriously. The mention of sponsoring a needy family at Christmas time or even
donating to an "Angel Tree" type program or (God forbid) going down to
serve meals to the homeless at a shelter were met with scoffs and "waste of
time" attitudes. It only took one Christmas season for my family to see the
growing self-focus of the group. We never brought it up again.
She then started to teach that God was a God of
"conditional" love. In other words, you had to "do"
something to earn His love. Her outlook was that if you turn from God, He will
turn from you. That statement is scriptural and by itself, might hold up. But
she was putting God in a box and scaring people into only viewing that narrow,
one dimensional perspective of what God's temperament was all about. Any mention
of the countless scriptures describing God's love as enduring and endless and forever
and the concept of grace never seemed to enter her picture or teaching.
Consequently, it was more and more of this kind of teaching and (I believe)
twisted Biblical perspective that made our decision to leave necessary.
Upon our departure from the group, we sent a "blanket" e-mail to the entire congregation at the same time. We felt it necessary for everyone to receive the same information at the same time. It was very positive, short and definitely non-critical. We just presented the fact that we had different viewpoints and philosophy as it pertained to certain issues and it was time to go. We also stated that we still considered everyone in the group to be our friends, but we really didn't care to discuss this issue any further. In the two weeks directly following our letter no one from the group spoke to anyone in my family. Except for Robie Bass. He immediately e-mailed me back to tell me that he was in support of what I said, and how good of a job I did in my wording and non-threatening manner, as well as the way I separated "method" from "teaching content." He later changed his mind. At work, I received an occasional "hi" or wave and I was only spoken to in the context of WD related issues by others who basically had no choice but to talk to me. It was very strange and uncomfortable. What really bothered me overall, was the fact that there were two gentlemen in the group whom I considered my best friends. I saw them socially, went to sporting events with, played music with…things like that. To this day, neither one has attempted to contact or speak to me. After about two weeks, David Martin came to me and made the excuse that the reason that no one had gotten back to me concerning the letter was that they were just too busy with WD work issues. He assured me though, that he spoke for everyone and that the whole church was in support of our decision and respected how we felt and wished us nothing but the best. At the same time, however, he was very insistent in trying to tell me that no one had spoken to me because that was what I wrote in my letter. I told him that's not what I wrote, nor what I meant. I made it very clear that only the issues concerning our departure from the church did that apply to. My explanation fell to deaf ears. Again he insisted on "putting words in my mouth" and trying to tell me what I meant. It became clear that he was trying to simply place the blame on me for their inability to address that fact that someone may have actually had a legitimate reason for leaving Remnant. That same afternoon, Gwen caught me in the hall and asked if I would walk her to her car and we could "talk." I did, and she assured me that she "loved" me (and my family) and wished us the best and she will pray for us in finding a new church. Things felt fairly good at that point until later that evening. I received a call from a church member (still attending at that time) who told me that the Sunday following our letter (now almost 3 weeks ago), Gwen got up in front of the group and told everyone that "once again, a letter had been sent to the church, and once again, she and they were under attack." The member told me that it was obvious to everyone, she spoke of my letter, and went on to portray the author as criticizing and from "Satan" and someone not to be associated with. She spoke of us as ones who wanted to follow our own selfish desires and attend the counterfeit church. After being labeled as such, I now understood why no one had contacted us.
The last and final straw which
solidified our decision to leave was following the September 11th
attacks. On that morning, not even before the second tower had collapsed, we
(all the WD employees) were huddled in front of a TV, staring in disbelief. We
were all asked to be there so we could (or so we thought) pray. After we were
assembled, Gwen came in. She went over to the screen and after watching a minute
or so, started shouting at the TV. She kept wagging her finger at it saying
(paraphrasing), "See? I told them
something like this could happen. They wouldn't listen to my warnings, they
wouldn't listen to me. Now look! America's an arrogant nation, and God has
brought His judgment down. And I told you
all this could happen!" Well,
a prayer was said, and she left. David Martin then went on to reinforce the
notion that we all just witnessed a true prophet from God confirming her own
prophesy. It was a very frightening moment. Apparently, a couple of months
prior, during a taping session for WD Advanced, she said that yes, America was a
place that could be attacked by a foreign country and that it shouldn't take for
granted our security measures. (I've actually heard the same thing on CNN for
years) They have apparently decided that this was prophesy, and the September 11th
events were its' fulfillment. Biblical prophets and prophesies were VERY
specific in detail about where, when and what the events were about. Ms.
Shamblin's so-called September 11th "vision" was anything
The next Sunday, she got up and heavily criticized
President Bush for his lack of
leadership and for not mentioning God in a stronger context when he addressed
the nation. She blamed a lack of meaningful spiritual guidance (Billy Graham
& company) on the President's response and explanation to the country. She
even went so far as to give us the "if I were President" speech. I
knew then I was dealing with someone very far from being a prophet and a group
of people who worshipped the very ground she walked on. It was time to go. The
following week was one of what I thought was an understanding of her and her
reasoning. I contacted a church deacon, and I went through what I believed (at
the time) to be correction and enlightenment. It was just the beginning of my
real understanding. I was given much scripture (by asking God) as to what I need
to be learning. He brought me many, and all leaned on following Jesus.
I then asked Him to reveal to me if my initial reaction to Gwen's self
proclaimed prophet status was warranted or if I was missing something that they
(RF) were not. He immediately led me to Ezekiel 16: 1-34. At that instant, my
head completely cleared. There was no doubt, no hesitancy, no confusion. It all
made perfect sense. The power, the influence, the money, the houses, the cars.
It was really time to go now. I prayed
for deliverance heavily, and
mercifully I was gone from Remnant and WD within one month. (33)
Each of these testimonies are a stark personal documentation of the practical consequences of involvement with Remnant Fellowship. Above all, they reveal how Remnant's doctrine has so warped the Christian ethics and sensibility of its' membership with the pride and arrogance of judgmental self-righteousness that the members can only react to dissent with the hammers of abusive criticism. The grace-informed conscience and heart of a truly Spirit-controlled life is almost entirely absent; only an external application of a Remnant code of ethics seems present. To what extent this is evident behind the closed doors of Remnant Fellowships is uncertain, but these three reports, coming from entirely different individuals from across the country argue that it is not at all uncommon.
In presenting these testimonies, we feel that stark parallels between Remnant Fellowship and other cultic groups such as the Watchtower Society, the LDS Church and others have been made crystal clear. Their abusive treatment of members is no different from one another, their strategies of the crushing of disharmony are the same, and their leaders lambaste and rail against those who disagree with them as agents of Satan in like manner. Such abuse is intolerable and immoral in any Christian community and yet is sanctified by Shamblin as a "purging" that pleases God. It is instead the smoke signal of a flaming house filled with people who are so blinded and deafened as not to see the inferno they rest in as the "New Jerusalem," even beating off rescue workers who try to pull them out of the deathtrap.
We don't judge if Remnant members are believers or not or have apostasized and leave that question up to the Bema Seat of Christ to make the great final and eternal call on them. However, the mandates of Matthew 7:18 and James 3:11-12 provide a sobering perspective all of them would do well to consider: "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." "Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh."
However, I would like to send a purely personal note to Gwen Shamblin and every other Remnant leader: I would admonish you to re-read the Scriptures and realize that the legalistic and judgmental religious terrorism of Remnant theology regarding idolatry, "last bites" etc. that is poisoning your membership is an evil thing of the flesh that has nothing to do with the love of God. No one has ever successfully transformed themselves into the Holy Ghost, able to discern hearts and judge them as hell (or heaven) bound on the basis of an observation of their diet. Where is the chapter and verse for such a thing? Only God's Word is the standard for discerning the heart (Hebrews 5:12). A good place to start your restudy would be in the New Testament:
- But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
- Romans 13:10
- Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
- Philippians 1:9
- And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
- 1 Thessalonians 3:12
- And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:
- 2 Timothy 1:7
- For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
- 1 John 4:16-18
- And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
- Isaiah 5:21
- Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
- Jeremiah 22:13
- Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work;
- Matthew 18:6-7
- But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Where Is Remnant Fellowship Going?
Remnant Fellowship will likely continue to grow at the expense of the Christian Church due to its dynamic appeal to very felt needs that is well-packaged and marketed during a time in which Christian discernment is at an all time low. The growth and attrition rates of Remnant Fellowship, depending upon just how paranoiac the leadership gets, have yet to be seen and the last few years of their fortunes and disasters do not accurately give a picture of just how much potential they have to both survive and stumble. However, in the past few years, RF growth in Tennessee has provided some invaluable clues as to how RF is growing and developing.
First of all, RF will continue to enjoy the usage of its sizable financial resources drawn straight from the cash flow of the Weigh Down Workshop. Although the WDW is a functional business, it's firm connections to RF are no secret and by virtue of the church being a registered non-profit organization, enormous tax benefits are routinely being enjoyed by both corporations. Throughout the mid to late 1990's and at least through 2000, tens of millions of dollars were dutifully invested in various money market funds and investments which Remnant has nursed to provide operational income, as well as tapping into the tithes and offerings RF members give to also support it.
Secondly, free usage the newly revamped versions of WDW curricula as their fulltime form of "outreach" demonstrate that RF's recruiting efforts is now starting to reach new waves of prospective members. For example, the new "Exodus Change" series and how it is marketed to prospects shows that RF has gained a serious appreciation for the cultic art of incremental disclosure about it's teachings and positions. In a departure from previous practice, the "Change" series is being offered as a combination of personal study, discipline patterned after WDW principles and participation in online chatrooms led by "counselors" who have successfully arrived in their own private "Promised Land" of "permanent weight loss." Through study of WDW curricula and frequent online and phone interaction with counselors and group members, WDW participants can be targetted with personalized recruitment efforts that often lead them to seek out fellowship with Remnant groups near them where feasible. This has led into what has best been described as a mentoring experience called "shepherding" which essentially compels new recruits to join RF as the logical outcome of their study and reflection on the series.
Another clue is seen in how Remnant's membership have responded to Shamblin's "Zion" vision. RF chapters on a national scale have undeniably shrunk, down from the numerous chapters at one time scattered across the nation. This has occurred primarily because of Shamblin's encouragement of RF members out of state to move to Tennessee to become active members in her Remnant Fellowship "mother church" in Franklin. There has literally been a mass exodus of member families selling businesses, lands and homes to live in the Nashville metro area to reestablish themselves there. Those RF members leave behind churches, families and social circles in places all across our nation, with other RF members at various chapters still digging in and seeking to continue to proselytyze for RF. Ultimately, they will likely feel the pull to join the rest of "Zion" in Franklin. The creation of an economic collective system there in which Remnant actively networks to channel resources has been in full swing for at least 3 years now. RF members in HR positions at local firms and RF business owners actively assist their Remnant brethren to find jobs and means to live as they move in. Other cooperative ventures to support this move, including weekly newsletters used to coordinate collaborative efforts to swap, sell and barter within the group have been ongoing. What we are seeing here the consolidation of a new and abusive religious movement in one geographical area that relentlessly promotes itself on national venues where ever it can.
That leads to yet another important development: while it curses the outside world as being Satanic, Remnant's leadership has no problem in seeking to exploit the media within it to advance its claims. Various articles found in the lifestyles sections among newspapers nationwide sing the praises of the Weigh Down philosophy and feature glowing testimonies of RF members. Shamblin's marketing department has been actively seeking recruits in college campuses across the nation through direct appeals, as well as booths set up in women's expo shows in which RF members enthusiastically gush about their passion for God and "the message." Her theologically twisted program even ended up in at least one seminary (PDF file) as of spring, 2005.
The WDW's marketing department, led by Candace Anger, energetically seeks the attention of network TV producers to find new audiences and the "Oprah" show was the target last December of a letter-writing campaign hoping to get the WDW featured there. In August, 2005, the producers of the CBS Early Show fell for their ploy and featured Shamblin and a group of her followers in Atlanta in a TV piece. This past summer, 2006, the producers of NBC's Today Show and the Fox Network morning show Fox And Friends fell for WDW's image-driven seduction and gave them national air time talking about their "permanent weight loss" program. In the midst of all of the high-energy, breezy patter Shamblin and her associates pour forth on camera, nothing is ever said about Gwen's belief she's a prophet who thinks the whole world is an evil and demonic wasteland which she is morally and spiritually superior to - and neither do her "success stories" volunteer that side of their "testimony."
Clearly, RF's never ending campaign of deception and misrepresentation aimed at exalting Shamblin as the "prophet" God sent to the world to show us "the way" is not going to stop any time soon.
The average WDW adherent generally isn't been exposed to the full fury of the "global authority" of Gwen's beliefs initially. When they move to the far more hardline "Weigh Down Advanced" and "Exodus Change" materials, they are often jarred seriously as the "Remnant" gears try to engage the slower turning WDW cogs in the minds of WDW audiences. Another example of Remnant's uncontrolled zeal was seen on the Newschannel 5 Nashville bulletin board in response to an unflattering expose on Shamblin and her organization:
But, wait..Gwen has pointed out that it is because of the 'faithful Manhattan Remnant' that New York was spared..and only the WTC fell. WE should all be grateful for the Remnant in Manhattan and for Gwen as she has been pure..100% obedient..as has her family..the HOLY family. That's God's grace....because of these Remnant folk..9/11 wasn't as bad as it 'SHOULD HAVE BEEN'!!!!!!!
This anonymous Remnant member's bizarre post is based upon a Remnant "insider doctrine." In this case, the doctrine held by the group was the quietly adopted perception within RF that Shamblin had predicted judgment coming to America, and that the monstrous act of September 11's terrorist acts in New York City was a horror she had actually seen coming. This public presenting of this "insider doctrine" is so baldfacedly brazen that the sheer madness of it demonstrates how completely out of touch and over the top Remnant teaching really is and illustrates an ignorance of the cultic principle of "incremental disclosure" as well (showing increasingly more unorthodox, even fanciful, teachings a bit at a time and not all at once).
Lee Suddeath, described in a January, 2001 interview as "one of Shamblin's chief lieutenants" who, in listing what he had eaten that day, indicated that he was in a "lifelong program" (a reference to the WDW philosophy) and asked the interviewer "Who couldn't live with having some of those little candy bars every day for the rest of their life?" (34). Despite Suddeath's presence as a testimonial to the effectiveness of Shamblin's teaching as a representative "success story," his attitude in discussing his diet struck the interviewer, Rebecca Mead, as if he was "bragging about his chocolate intake." Noting that "pride is a sin" (yet another apparent citation from Shamblin's teaching), she raises an interesting question about just how really free Remnant members actually may be in regards to their food "idols" and "strongholds." While wanting to appear liberated from attachments to food, it could be argued that Suddeath's quip betrays just how thoroughly "ensnared" he may be to chocolate candy bars: this can arguably be interpreted as the existence of a food "idol" in his life (mind you, that's not our judgment, but the logical conclusion to the practical application of Shamblin's dietary doctrine on food "idols"). This is probably good evidence that, if he can keep such a conviction in Remnant, others can as well in a convenient double standard in the group. The hypocrisy.of such a position that is blithely glossed over by the steadfast insistence by Remnant members that this is part of their "freedom" achieved by their superior passion for God. However, a rose by any other name is still a rose, and the double standards of Remnant teaching here imply that others do exist (and they do).
When addressing such contradictory tensions, older and more seasoned cult groups know how to creatively enjoin members to "keep this to yourselves," but not all in Remnant, it would seem, have this wisdom, from Gwen Shamblin on down. Their zeal will overthrow everything they seek to establish. These factors are only a few of the several things that go on which will affect Remnant's future. It is indeed a story to watch.
Remnant Fellowship’s intentions, however good, are fatally flawed with a legalistic judgmentalism that will become more difficult to hide due to Gwen’s increasingly paranoiac and contentious direction. The WDW movement may have peaked due to this, and slowed RF’s growth substantially, but it has not stopped. It will attract a small, yet continual trickle of people who want a regimen of structure and a system of believing that offers the safety of rules and codes of conduct all framed in a pattern of vibrant Christian living, worship, teaching and activity that seems loving and accepting, meeting them "where they are." The vast majority of these are women, who usually are the center of a family's spiritual life, and whose transformation into vibrant, slimmed-down women is used as a powerful means of compelling their more religiously lax husbands to "get with God's program" or be confronted with warning after warning of facing God's judgment for not following or at least not resisting the total obedience of their newfound spirituality.
Such people fill churches everywhere and never stop to think just what such a lifestyle actually is, at best, a blind, benevolent legalism that has nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus and the truly abundant life He gives by the Spirit. We believe that a small number of these people will somehow look past Gwen's most abrasive and polarizing commentary and see how this "fits" in their lives. In terms of numbers, they may be quite small, but that is even smaller comfort to families who will discover their wives, or husbands, or children, or best friends, or neighbors suddenly changing into judgmental, divisive people who scorn Christian churches, railing against the supposed "whoredoms" within them, and cutting themselves off from any who disagree or try to reason with them. But it will, after all of this, continue to seek to aggressively infiltrate the church and will attract those seeking structure and order in their personal chaos.
Gwen's descent into authoritarian leadership seem to have begun long before her WDW achievements. The carnal rush of national recognition, unbelievable success in her diet workshops, as well as the press of the throng about her led Gwen, I believe, to start believing that she really did have THE answer to all of the ills of the church and the world. She got a massively inflated view of herself and her philosophy and began to believe it was a divine message God had entrusted her to give to purify and cleanse the church (what it was turned out to be an all too familiar cultic legalism and judgmentalism). And her attacks and "sheep-stealing" she engages in show no signs of stopping. Such attacks continue to extend to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Christian Church He died for (Eph. 5:25) and promised would stand victoriously against all of the assaults against it (Matthew 16:18) - in light of our Lord's promises, we stand secure in our faith in His Word and Truth and know that she will utterly fail. While Gwen will ultimately find her movement bog down and falter, it will still command an audience and seek the souls of sincere and trusting Christians seeking a Christian solution to their weight loss and who will instead find themselves bowed over with Shamblin's false and deceptive teachings.
For this reason, we believe Remnant Fellowship to still be dangerous and divisive. Only by prayer, patience, and intentional efforts to warn the Body of Christ by loving outreach and careful dialogue with family and friends affected by it can Remnant’s advances be slowed or arrested. But one thing is abundantly clear and absolutely certain: the stark Biblical perspective God has upon how those claiming to be His appointed shepherds of His flock - His children - and who abuse, exploit and misuse them for their own selfish agendas and fancies is both sobering and cautionary. Since Gwen Shamblin and Remnant Fellowship leadership boldly stand forth with such claims and demand submission to their pastoral authority, they stand squarely in the bullseye of God's judgment for what they do:
Ezekiel 34:10-13, 15
10 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.
11 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
13 And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.
15 I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD.
The day will come and perhaps sooner than we think, according to God's Word, in which Remnant Fellowship will be seized by a divine act of God's providential Lordship as He extends His hand out to take control from the prideful clutches of Gwen and delivers His suffering, blinded sheep from her control. The stewardship she arrogantly usurped will be reclaimed from her. This Biblical insight is without question a divine principle of God's truth even the prophetess cannot ignore or escape.
The best outcome would be for Gwen Shamblin and Remnant leadership to repent of its hateful condemnation of churches as evil, to meet with Christian leaders for an objective Biblical examination of their teachings and to at least recognize how unfair and unwarranted their divisive and heretical attitudes have been. I personally would be glad to be part of such an effort, as others. But given the history of the vast majority of cultic groups who consist of those who apostasized from Christian orthodoxy, I am not going to be holding my breath, so to speak. Still, the story of the Worldwide Church of God, a cultic group that miraculously turned toward Christian orthodoxy and now has largely repented of its' decades of antichristian activity is an example of how it could happen (35).
We truly do pray and long that such a day will come, that God's unbound Spirit will blow where He wills into the very hearts and minds of Gwen Shamblin and her organization and shake them to their core with a work of His power that cannot be done by man. We ask God that she realize that despite all of the distance she has created between herself, her congregations and the larger world that she is still loved and sought and desired back among those of her old family and friends who have withstood her, and that the Body of Christ, the very entity she has damnated, is where her zeal and passion belongs, informed by a real understanding of God's amazing grace. May it come quickly, Lord Jesus!
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(1) http://hometown.aol.com/cbarnella/myhomepage/index.html. This is the testimony of a former WDW coordinator named Cathy Barnella who was an eyewitness to Shamblin's first public invitation to joining with her Remnant Fellowship organization at the annual WDW convention called Desert Oasis 2000.
(2) Remnant Fellowship Handbook, p. 4
(3) Paul Martin, Cult Proofing Your Kids, page 22
(4) http://www.csj.org/studyindex/studycult/study_lifton2.htm. This is a link to an article written by Lifton in which he defines these eight criterion. Our summaries as given above are honest attempts to concisely and accurately describe these.
(5) Remnant Basics, audiotape, Tape 2: "This group of people we want to announce to the nation here in Nashville,. Tennessee is looking for opportunities now that we have gotten through the blood of Christ back into under this kingship, under this lordship. We are looking for ways that our will and the Bosses' will - because we've been, we've been flipping through the employee manual very diligently for hours on end. We spend two hours to three hours on Sunday morning, two to three hours on Wednesday night and we are in the Bible daily looking for ways of what our dear employer wants, because, my goodness, there's only two businesses out there, and we've checked it out. The other one is a lie. It's a deceit, and we are flipping through the employee manual, the Bible .." This seems to imply that the blood of Christ, in keeping with Remnant's skewed view of grace, would be the equivalent of a new employee's orientation session, with the real work of conforming to the employer's work structure ahead, based upon mandatory attention to the "employee manual." The whole feel of the talk is again works-oriented and utterly unbiblical.
(6) Remnant Fellowship Handbook, pp. 9 -10
(7) Knowledge That Leads To Eternal Life, p. 168-169: "But those who are a part of Jehovah's organization are presently enjoying the security of a spiritual paradise. Concerning them, Ezekiel prophesied: 'They will actually dwell in security, with no one to make them tremble.' - Ezekiel 34:28. Psalm 4:8." Again, this is the same kind of claim made by Remnant in it's "Rebuilding The Wall" and "New Jerusalem" themes, quoting Ezra 9:8-9.
(8) "Apostasy And Restoration", p. 14. This LDS pamphlet also assumes, as does Remnant, a massive apostacy of the Christian Church necessitating , of course, the divinely ordained emergence of the LDS Church to head up the effort to "restore his true church on earth."
(9) Eckankar: Ancient Wisdom For Today, pp. 106-108.
(10) Prophets Of The Apocalypse, p. 37. Koresh's deviant lusts and bizarre dreams filled with polygamous and abusive overtones became sanctified by his preaching as part of God's last days message. What is important to consider is not so much his scandalous and evil behavior but how he was able to convince the Branch Davidian movement around the world to accept it as part of a divinely ordained "new light"- at a time in which it was listlessly dying out in the aftermath of a failed false prophecy that God's Kingdom would emerge in 1960 given by the Branch Davidian's first leader, Benjamin Roden. The bold, brazen nature of Koresh's claims and cunningly twisted use of Bible prophecy and history became authoritative pronouncements of divine wisdom to a weary, disillusioned and essentially Biblically illiterate sect which brought them new hope and energy, and for David himself, an obedient flock and a harem of teenage girls called "queens."
(11) Remnant Fellowship, ibid, 42-45
(12) RF e-mailing on file, dated January 15, 2002
(13) Rise Above, pp. 171-177. David Shamblin, Gwen's husband, has exhibited an incredible ambivalence concerning Remnant Fellowship by his deeds and words. While not openly undermining her own authority, he displays very little to none of it according to many reliable reports of those who have interacted closely with Remnant's "mother church" in Franklin, Tennessee. We know of no articles, teachings, or instances in which David actually confirms any kind of spiritual authority over Gwen. He actually appears to have very little to no actual control or say in the operation and teaching of Remnant at all, even if given by Gwen a very nominal acknowledgment as her "authority" (p. 171). A reliable eyewitness report of family contentions in the Shamblin household over his lack of participation has been related. His support has always seemed forced, tentative and hesitant. Interestingly, Gwen writes that "God gives us the husband-wife experience so that we can once again know how passionate He is for us .. explains our covenant relationship with him .. (and) .. can be the best university or schooling of all," (173), but never really expands upon this marital pattern in her book or teaching that we are aware of to any degree at all.
(14) Weigh Down Workshop Advanced video, Week 10: "Total Obedience: The Best Of The Best" This one hour video, compiled of clips taken from the previous 9 weeks of video teaching, is essentially a review of the central truths Shamblin wants workshop attendees to grasp and walk away with. It is probably the most telling of them all, since Shamblin's passion for "doing the will of God" by "dying to self" is unmistakably revealed through the clip vignettes. One comes away from this video with the explicit challenge, even demand, to accept her beliefs - at pain of being found in spiritual rebellion - that Christianity is apostate due to sinful lust, that God is calling for a new restoration of the Church through a "remnant" and that Shamblin's "moderation" principles of "doing" must be carried over and adopted as a Christian lifestyle that merits God's grace. It is a summary that reveals just how seriously she takes herself to being a prophetic reformer or iconoclast, smashing the idols all around that she says offend God, and how far she has come from being the humble Memphis dietician she claimed to have been.
(15) ibid, Week 1: "Orientation"
(16) RF e-mailing on file, from November, 2001.
(17) Rise Above, p. 180
(18) ibid, p. 144
(19) Weigh Down Advanced video, Week 10: "Total Obedience"
(20) http://remnantfellowship.org/TheNewJerusalem.asp. This article evidently was authored by Gwen Shamblin herself, for the thought and tenor of the writing is far too much like her writing and thinking as seen in her Rise Above book and Remnant handbook.
(21) Remnant Fellowship Handbook, p 7.
(22) RF e-mailing on file, dated February 2, 2002
(23) Rise Above, p. 236
(24) E-mailing on file, dated August 8, 1998
(25) E-mailing on file, dated March 26, 1998
(26) The Unseen Shore, pp. 141-142
(28) The Children of God, pp. 10, 99-102
(29) Blind Faith, pp. 87, 102
(30) Patterson testimony on file: her story may also be accessed at http://www.geocities.com/heather_patterson7/testimony.htm
(31) Nichols testimony on file
(32) Brooks testimony on file
(33) Smith testimony on file
(34) http://www.rebeccamead.com/2001/2001_01_15_art_slim.htm. Some revealing and cautionary information about Shamblin and her worldview is noted by Mead, who writes for The New Yorker magazine - one particularly interesting portion concerns how her WDW teaching is directly related to her denial of the Trinity: " .. observers expressed the hope that Shamblin, who has had no theological training, simply didn't realize that her view of the Trinity amounted to heresy. Shamblins says that she meant exactly what she said. 'There is a hierarchy, absolutely,' she told me. 'Look at Jesus on the Cross. Who did he cry out to when he said, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" -- himself?' Indeed, the inequality of God and Jesus is the basis of the Weigh Down philosophy: 'The only way that I could talk people into not going into the pantry at ten o'clock at night was to help them see that even God's son was so humble and knew that God was so great, and that we are to follow him.'"
(35) For the entire wonderful story, read Joseph Tkach's Transformed By Truth (Multnomah 1997). Tkach was the son of the handpicked successor to Herbert Armstrong, founder of the cultic movement, Joseph Tkach senior, and it is indeed encouraging to know that such miracles can yet happen today.
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