My Experience With Remnant Fellowship

By Teri Phillips, ex-member of Remnant Fellowship (Nashville)

I pray, dear reader, that what you are about to read will be taken as my perceptions of what truly happened to me and my family, and that you know that we have been forever changed as a result of our experiences with Remnant Fellowship.  I do pray for these people, and I hold nothing personally against the members of Remnant; they are merely being brainwashed and misled by the leaders. I will not hold anything back; I will mention names, not to slander, but in the hope that if you know any of these people that you will pray for them.

Before Remnant

First, a little background…I began regularly attending the church of Christ after I was baptized at age 17. When my husband, David, and I married in 1989, we began attending a large church of Christ in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. I made many friends there, and was very active as the church librarian. We seemed to receive spiritual food there, as long as we had a good preacher. Then in early 2002, the preacher that we loved moved to another state to preach. We had “fill-in” preachers every Sunday. We began missing church a lot, because several of these “fill-ins” weren’t that inspiring to us. Our children, ages 4 and 9, at the time, would always argue while we were sitting in the pews, and we would have to separate them. Sometimes, we would leave church in the middle of a sermon because of our son’s behavior. We were dissatisfied with the Bible classes on Sunday mornings, because the leaders would spend 30 minutes of an hour, listing everyone who needed prayed for and give announcements about upcoming fellowship events. Needless to say, we were not getting fed spiritually. We would see the look of sadness on people’s faces as they entered the church building. They wouldn’t smile or speak. It seemed like torture for them to be there. We hardly ever saw joy and praise on people’s faces while worshipping God. The assembly seemed dry and passionless.

One of the few times I felt like I grew spiritually was when I attended Bible study classes, like “Experiencing God,” “The Mind of Christ,” a Beth Moore study like “Breaking Free,” or a Weigh Down class. I had attended Weigh Down classes off and on since 1995.  I was minimally successful with Weigh Down as far as losing weight, although I always grew spiritually. In the summer of 2002, I was 47 pounds overweight and had tried all kinds of diet programs…spending lots of money, losing the weight, then gaining more back. I hated to count calories or exercise. I hated diet foods. So, the logical thing was for me to look up the nearest Weigh Down Advanced class that I had never taken. I called Gina Graves, who works for Weigh Down and had moved from Murfreesboro to Franklin. She was a coordinator at one of the churches in Murfreesboro where I had taken the Exodus from Strongholds class. She told me that the next W.D.A. class would begin in October of 2002. I told her I would be there, even if it meant driving 50 minutes one way from Murfreesboro to Franklin.

My Early Experiences At The Weigh Down Building

When I first entered the Weigh Down building for the first session, I was in a miserable state! I was wearing a sweatsuit because the pants were the only pants that I could fit into! I had just received news from a recent mammogram that I had a cyst on one of my breasts that needed to be rechecked. I was depressed, worried about everything, and irritable! I was very quiet the first few weeks of this class and observed the others around me. I noticed that Jenni Mendl, one of the coordinators, was one of the sweetest people I had ever met! She was so humble and so in love with God! Gina, of course, had my respect because she showed God in her behavior and was so led by the spirit.

Then I met David and Catherine Rector, who also attended Remnant and were so sweet….and Tom and Mary Beld, who were so accepting and encouraging to me. I couldn’t believe these people! They were so unselfish and looking for ways to serve others. They didn’t push coming to Remnant on me, but as I studied the  W.D.A. materials I saw the problems at my church in Murfreesboro. I agreed with Gwen’s statement that people sit on the pews for years unchanged. I felt that described David and me. David and I hadn’t attended our church for several weeks; we were just staying home, so on Sunday, December 7, I decided to attend Remnant alone and check things out. I was particularly looking to see if people bowed down to Gwen.

When I first walked into the building, I heard praise singing and saw people with their faces looking up in the ceiling, smiling, raising their hands in praise, happy to be there. I felt warmth and acceptance when I spotted the Rectors from the W.D.A. class, and they invited me to sit with them. At first, I didn’t detect that people were bowing down to Gwen. She didn’t stand at a pulpit; she simply sat on the stool with David Martin at her right and shared words from the Bible. Her message was focused on the Weigh Down principles and she was talking about not overeating and waiting for the growl. I wondered how many people were there that were former Weigh Down members. She received calls from New York and other states over a conference call.

After church, I talked with Ruth Kubichar and Shannon Crowder. Ruth was sharing how she had grown to love her mother-in-law, who lived with her, who previously she didn’t get along with. I related to that, because I had my mother living with us, who has a very strong, demanding personality and not like David and me. Shannon Crowder shared with me that I needed to “be separate,” even if it meant coming to church without my husband (I wasn’t sure if David would like this church). Shannon gave me her phone number to call her if I needed to. This began my friendship with her.

I was so impressed by the love that these people showed for God that I returned the following Wednesday night with my kids. I noticed that there were no classes for children; they were expected to sit there with the parents and behave, even if it meant 2 hours of sitting. I was worried about this because my kids couldn’t even sit still at our old church for 1 hour without getting in trouble. The first night, I brought a tote bag filled with books for my kids. My son ended up sitting with Chris Radebaugh, who was a great role model for him. My son, Chris, behaved by watching Chris Radebaugh’s and Kris Kubichar’s examples. I took care of my daughter, Courtney. She behaved well. My kids loved the music and was interested in what was going on, when at our old church they were so bored! After a week or two, I invited David to go with me. He wasn’t sure if he liked it the first Sunday, mainly because they were less conservative than what he was used to, and he was a little tired of Gwen talking for lengths of time. But by the 2nd time, he was really into the service, and getting to know guys there. This part was great because he felt he never had “real” guy friends at our old church. The guys who were so sweet to him were John Radebaugh, Ryan McCauley, Robie Bass, David Rector, Marc Dunn, Ken and Vernon Eikenberry, and later, Don Fischer. 

Our Experiences In Remnant

As we began attending church there, I was changing externally and internally. Our marriage was not very good before Weigh Down Advanced; we were like two ships that passed in the night. It was foreign to me to serve David. I was raised by an independent mom that never waited on me and her husband. I began cooking more at home and serving my husband with a kind attitude. I was losing 2-3 pounds a week, and David was noticing. He couldn’t believe the change in me, and he liked it. By the end of the class in December 2002, I had lost about 30 pounds, our marriage was better, we were growing spiritually (for the first time in David’s life he was reading the Bible daily), and our children were growing in the Lord. I was taking care of my elderly mom in our home without too much resentment to her demands. She demanded most of my time to the exclusion of our children. In late December, I began thinking about Gwen’s talk on how terrible it was to have kids on medicine and her take on anti-depressants. Until this time, I felt that my son, who was ADHD, needed his medicine and that I needed mine for depression because I had a “true” chemical imbalance.

But then I began thinking that we both needed to be off medicines. So I began weaning Chris off his medicine. He was on Adderall for inattention, Paxil for mood disorder, and Clonidine to help him sleep at night. I first got him off the Adderall and weaned him off the other two. I sent him back to school in January with a note to the teachers about what we had done, fearful of what they would say. You see, since the age of 4 Chris had had all kinds of behavior problems and was on about 15 different trials of medicines over a 5-year span. He was sent to another school in 1st grade to a behavior class and was even in the children’s psychiatric unit for a week. The doctor there added the diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). This is a very high-functioning form of autism, where he is very delayed in social skills and verbal expression, although he is high in math, spelling, and language mechanics.

Anyway, I sent Chris back to school in January with a ratings sheet, asking the teachers to circle yes or no as to whether he paid attention in class, got along with others, did his work, didn’t fidget, and was in a good mood. The ratings sheets came back with yeses in everything except for fidgeting. The teachers told me that they would take his fidgeting anyday over his bad mood when he was on medicine. They also had thought that he wasn’t as alert and animated on medicine as he was off medicine. He continued to do well in the spring of 2003, scoring higher on the achievement tests than he had in the past and even making honor roll 2 times! So, this was a good thing to get him off medicine, and we might not have done that if we weren’t in Remnant. I’m not saying that all ADHD or autistic kids need to be off medicine; we just found that it worked for our child. (We still have to give him melantonin, an herb, at night so that he will fall asleep at a decent hour!) I will add that when I told some people in Remnant that I was considering giving Chris an herb to help him sleep at night, that they didn’t agree and said that I just needed some good discipline to make him go to sleep at a decent hour. Of course, they didn’t know my son. I could put him to bed at 8:00 pm, and he would lie there until 11:30 pm wide awake; then get up the next morning for school and be irritable. Every night after this, he would continue to fall asleep late, getting more and more cranky as the week went by. By the end of the week no one could stand him. I couldn’t spank him to make him fall asleep; his brain simply doesn’t work that way.

After the success with Chris and his medicine, I began to consider getting myself off medicine.  I had experienced depression since the age of 15 when my hormones began fluctuating as a teenager. I was depressed throughout my early marriage and had severe post-partum depression After the birth of my first child, I experienced panic attacks during 5 pregnancies, in which I had 3 miscarriages. When I was 30, I went to a Christian counselor who diagnosed my depression and after several months of therapy, said I needed to see someone to try antidepressants. I remember coming home with my first bottle of pills and telling my husband, “This is gold that I was holding in my hand,” because I was happy that I finally had something that would help me function like a normal human being. I loved God and had faith in Him, and resented anyone saying that since I had depression I didn’t have enough faith.

One night I was doing the Weigh Down Advanced study where I was asked to read about Saul’s disobedience to God. He was almost totally obedient, but not totally, and God turned his back on him. I was thinking, I have no other idols (I had licked the idol of food and felt that I had killed “self” for the most part), but I still had the idol of antidepressants. I then found 2.Corinthians 7:1 which says, “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” I claimed this verse, saying that this confirmed that I needed to get off the pill since it contaminates my body. I wanted to be purified. I first told Gina Graves that I wanted to get off this pill, and she told me to call Jennifer Martin, who had been a nurse and who had a reference book that would tell me how to wean off the pill. I also went to the doctor, who told me the same information. It took about 3 weeks for me to wean off the medicine.

From the end of January to the end of April 2003, I was depression-free! I was so happy! I felt that God had healed me for my obedience. I was asked by Gwen twice to share my testimony in front of Remnant Fellowship. People from other states would call me to find out more information. Also, in April, David and I began thinking about moving to Franklin so that we could be close to the people and church that had changed our lives. David had owned a carpet cleaning franchise for 15 years and was so tired of doing it. He was ready for a change. I was beginning to be frustrated by the schools in Rutherford County and what they would do (or not do) for my son as he entered 5th grade (he was in a special education class and had an IEP written up for specific educational services). We were tired of the heavy traffic in Murfreesboro, and had lost touch with former Church of Christ members. We were tired of driving two hours every Sunday, Wednesday night, and sometimes on weeknights to church functions. So, we decided to put our house up for sale, and David decided to sell his business so that we could move to Franklin. We prayed that “open doors” would mean that God had his favor on us to move. The house went on the market in mid-May, and by mid-June we had a firm contract on the house. The first franchise owner that David told about selling his business wanted to buy his business at the asking price. So, all we had to do was to look for a house in Franklin.

The first week in May 2003, everything changed and my world collapsed. It started with panic attacks over the thought of packing up the house and moving (I was always overwhelmed by moving and we didn’t move very often). I was also panicking about David’s selling his business, wondering how he would adjust and what he would do for a job in Franklin. The panic attacks took my breath away…I would have to get outside and pace around our 1 acre back yard. I would call Shannon Crowder or someone else at Remnant, who would tell me to be strong, to get out my sword and fight those demons. Next came the depression. I would stay in the bed all day and not get up. I would pray that God would make me stronger to resist the arrows of the evil one. I would read the Psalms and listen to “how to conquer depression and anxiety” by a famous Christian speaker. Nothing would help. Then, I began thinking that I should get back on my medicine, but then Tedd Anger talked to me and encouraged me to not do it. He gave me a list of the whole Remnant nation, with phone numbers of people who I could call to encourage me. My husband was on Tedd’s side and never liked the idea of my taking medicine because he didn’t think anyone needed to. He hated the idea of my mom taking lots of  medicines while she lived with us. So I went for about a week, feeling better and not getting the medicine. In mid-May, the attacks and depression began again.

Without telling David or the Remnant leaders, I went to my Christian doctor, who told me that I had a true “chemical imbalance.” He agreed that there were people out there who took medicine that didn’t need it, or that only took antidepressants for a short period in their lives, but I needed to stay on my medicine long term. He told me that this was not a matter of not having enough faith and that I might need to leave this church, who weren’t being compassionate with me. He also told me that the reason that I felt so good for a few months was that the medicine had a half shelf-life of 4 to 5 months which stayed in my system, and that I was also experiencing a spiritual high from being in this church. So I left the doctor, determined to sneak with the medicine since I knew that my husband didn’t support me. The doctor also gave me a low dose of Xanax, to help me with the anxiety until the antidepressants could take effect. He told me that it would take 2 to 4 weeks for me to begin feeling better. So I went home and spent almost a week in the bed, sleeping most of the day, waiting for these pills to take effect. I had also bought Unisom so that I could sleep during the day because every waking minute was so horrible being depressed. The depression was also hard on my husband and kids: David was working hard cleaning carpets during the busy summer season, and my kids were at babysitters’ homes because I couldn’t deal with them.

I experienced some relief for a few days, then on Memorial Day, I was sitting on the floor doing the Weigh Down Advanced Bible study when the depression hit again. I called Rebecca Willocks, who had experienced depression in her life and had got off pills. My opinion was that once she found out she had sleep apnea and lost lots of weight, that her depression left; not that she had a “true” chemical imbalance. Nevertheless, she pointed me to Psalm scriptures that were helpful and she was a good listener. She was going to the Radebaughs that day for a picnic and told me to come up to see her. She didn’t want me to be alone. I told her that I would. I took my kids to a drop-in childcare, called David, and drove up to Franklin. By the time I got to the Radebaugh’s, I was feeling very panicked and saw that there were several cars parked there. I didn’t want to walk into the house with all those people. So, I decided to go to the Williamson Medical Center ER instead. I was wanting a shot or a stronger pill to help me with the panic attack. But the waiting room was filled with people, so, I went to the store and bought some over-the-counter Benadryl to help calm me down, since the Xanax wasn’t really helping. I did calm down and had the courage to go to the Radebaughs.

When I got there, Don Fischer began admonishing me about not coming immediately when Rebecca told me to come. He said that she was my “authority” and that I should have obeyed her and came when she told me to. He told me to apologize to her, which I did. I ended up spending the night at the Radebaughs since I felt groggy from the Benadryl and didn’t want to drive home. The next morning, I woke up, again with the panic attacks. I walked out of their house and down the road with my cell phone and called the doctor’s office. I wanted another appointment because the medicine didn’t seem to be working. When I went to the doctor, he increased the dosage and said it would probably be another 2 to 4 weeks before I felt better.

The following Saturday, I was still struggling and still very depressed. I decided to call Maggie Sorrells, a fairly new Remnant member (and close friend), because her husband, Andy, had got off antidepressants in February and was very strong in the Lord. I asked to come talk to him, hoping he could help me since he really knew how it felt to be depressed. He and Maggie were helpful, and I decided that I wanted to drive back to Murfreesboro from Franklin to study the Bible more and to pray. My kids were at a drop-in childcare in Franklin at the time. I called Julie Radebaugh to see if she could pick up my kids in  a few hours and take them home with her. I was planning to go home for a little while and then return. Julie was concerned and wanted to know if I had called a Remnant leader. I thought that was strange; I didn’t know that the leaders had to know everything. She called Jennifer Martin, who then called me. When Jennifer spoke with me, she first was concerned that I went to the Sorrells for advice. It seemed as if she thought I would discourage their spiritual walk by talking about my depression and that the Sorrells were too new members for me to share such “heavy” information when the leaders needed to be the ones to talk to. I believe that this also upset the Sorrells because they were only trying to help and were not trying to usurp anyone’s authority.

I was talking to Jennifer, and then I asked her if I could come over and see her for more help (since that was what I was told to do by Julie). I will never forget her response. She was getting ready to attend a social function with David at Gwen’s and she asked me, “Do you mean that you want me to stay home and talk to you when I could be going over to Ashlawn?” Then she seemed to check herself and say she would wait for me to come over, but that she couldn’t talk for  long. I wasn’t at her house for 5 minutes when David Martin came up the front door steps into the house and told me that we were all going to Ashlawn and that Gwen wanted to speak to me. This was the last thing that I wanted to do that Saturday, to be around people fellowshipping…I was still in a panic state and very depressed. But I consented and got into the car with the Martins.

At Ashlawn, Tedd met us and I told them that I was so scared that I couldn’t even get out of the car, and asked if they would pray for me. They all got out, and Tedd prayed. When I got over to the food section, Gwen walked up to me in a very serious manner. She told me that she wouldn’t feel sorry for me at all, that I needed to get over this, and that she would cry for me when my husband left me because he would be so sick and tired of this. (In an earlier conversation in the Remnant parking lot, Gwen had seen me with all my make-up off because I had been crying. She told me that the next time she saw me at church, I’d better have make-up, lipstick on, a smile on my face, and serving everyone, and asking how they feel. She also said I’d better not have anyone ask how I feel because it’s not about me.) I remember going to the bathroom at the guest house and Rene Heck (who had also experienced depression in her past) was waiting for me on a couch. We sat down and talked. It wasn’t two minutes before Gwen walked in, wanting us to come outside and join the rest of the group. I believe that Gwen thought I would bring Rene down by my talking to her. We stayed a little while longer, then Tedd, David, Jennifer and I rode back to the Martin’s house. That was when they asked if I was taking medicine. I felt that I could no longer lie, so I said yes. They all said, “Teri,” in a very disgusted tone and Tedd told me that he was calling David to come get me and he was going to tell David that I was sneaking around taking medicine. Tedd asked me if I had any medicine with me and where I had hidden it at home. I told him that I had some in my purse and I told him where some of my medicine was at home (but, not where all of it was).

After we got back to the house and David got there, Tedd and David Martin told me to get the medicine from my purse in my car. I did. Tedd then took me to the guest bathroom, told me to pour all the pills down the toilet and flush them. I did. He then told me that those pills were evil, were of the devil, and that he’d love to get his hands on the doctor who gave them to me. My husband, David and Tedd discussed that when we got home, he would find the pills and get rid of them. I was so upset at this point that I couldn’t even drive home. David drove us home in our car and we left the business van that he had driven to Franklin at the Martin’s house. David Martin said he would drive David’s van to church the next morning so David could pick it up. I went home that night, gave some of the pills to David, and went to bed. The next morning I wasn’t much better. I didn’t want to go to church and be around people. David forced me to go and told me he would give up church permanently if I didn’t go in that building. I was crying, and Shannon Crowder came out to the car, told me to stop it, and to walk in the building thanking God for my eyes, ears, hands, family, anything else that I could think of. When I got in the building, my dear friend Shona looked very concerned and gave me a big hug. Shannon urged me to stop hugging and quickly move on.

It was as if Shannon didn’t want anyone showing me compassion for my “sin.” I will have to say that Shona’s hug was the only compassion that I got from church that day. I believe that church people should be there to show compassion and love, not to judge others, but to help. I didn’t get that response that day. About halfway through the service, I had the thought that I would run away. I knew that our car was in the parking lot, as well as David’s van that he had left the day before, so I knew that my family could drive home if I took the car. I told Shannon and David that I was going to the bathroom, and I left. I got in the car and decided to drive to Vanderbilt Medical Center’s ER,  hopefully to get a shot or a pill to calm me down. I was feeling suicidal, although I would never commit suicide because I don’t want to put that burden on David to  raise the kids alone. When I got to the ER, I had to wait an hour alone before anyone saw me in the examining room. They didn’t give me anything, but they said that I would need to talk to a psychiatrist off-campus who would probably give me a prescription. This gave me hope. (And this point, I hope you know that I wasn’t leaning on a drug for a stronghold…I was simply tired of weeks of panic attacks and depression, had no compassion at church or from my husband, and was crying out for help). Two police officers came, who said they would have to escort me off-campus. As a precaution to protect myself from danger of hurting myself, they handcuffed me and placed me in the backseat of the police car with my purse locked in the trunk.

When we got to the mental health inpatient facility, the staff there began taking everything out of my purse to inventory. I told them that I wasn’t staying; that I was simply seeing a psychiatrist like I had been told I could see. I told the police officers not to leave because I wouldn’t be there long. After the psychiatrist saw me and learned that my church wasn’t supporting me taking medicine and my husband wasn’t supporting me either, she was fearful that I would hurt myself so she admitted me. I was terrified! I called David and told him where I was and that I would have to stay overnight. I was escorted to a room where a nurse kindly “strip-searched”me to make sure that I wasn’t hiding any weapons or drugs. She also took the belt from my waist in case I would try to strangle myself. We walked down the corriders to the “I” wing, where the nurse reassured me that the people there on that wing weren’t dangerous and that I shouldn’t  be afraid. When I checked in at the desk, there was another kind nurse who listened to me and was very sweet. They placed me in a room with a black lady. There were 3 hard cots in the room and no T.V.

The T.V. room was shared by all in the wing and I didn’t want to go in there and associate with what I thought were “crazy” people. (Some weren’t really; they just had depression and were there to get better). But, my roommate was one of those “crazy” people. I had with me a coin purse and some index cards with Scriptures on them. I laid my Scripture cards on the cot while the nurse took me to another room to get my blood pressure. When I returned, the black lady was there and I couldn’t find the cards. I had the nurse ask her to look. The lady acted like she didn’t know what I was talking about. When the nurse left, I began putting clean sheets on my cot. This lady went to her cabinet, took out my cards, sat down, and begin reading them silently. I said to her, “Those are my cards,” and she said, “No, they’re mine,” and then she stuffed them in her bra and looked at me defiantly. I left the room and told a male nurse, who came in there and made her give the cards to him.

I was crying at this point and begging this male nurse to find another room for me. At  first, he said, “Oh, she won’t bother you….she’ll just aggravate you by writing on the walls. You’ll have to sleep tonight with one eye open.” I was begging him to find me another room. He took his time looking and found me a conference room with a bed in it. He told me he was going against regulations by letting me sleep there, but He would do it anyway. I was so grateful! I lined up at a medicine door at 8:30 pm with the other patients to get our medicine. The nurse gave me 75mg of Effexor (half the normal dose) and after begging her, she gave me a small doxe of Xanax. Contrary to what Remnant thought, this facility didn’t dope people up. They were conservative with the medicine. The next morning I was awake at 6:30 am to get my blood drawn, blood pressure checked, and TB shot. At 7:00 am I had to go get breakfast, and I couldn’t go back in my room until noon. (They had a policy there for all patients to stay out of the rooms while the staff cleaned.) Most of the patients stayed in the TV rooms or went outside to smoke. I didn’t feel that I fit in there, so I paced up and down the halls for hours, watching the clock and praying to get out of there. I called David and asked if Tedd knew a lawyer that could get me out of there. I didn’t want to spend one more night there! David said that Tedd said that I got what I deserved by disobeying God and that I was experiencing “hell on earth” which was good for me. No compassion there!

One thing that was good though, Tedd had asked Shannon Eikenberry if she and Ken could keep our kids for a few days. David drove them there. I am forever grateful to the Eikenberry’s for their loving care of our children and for the manners and structure they taught them. I got very close to the Eikenberry’s after I got better. God in His abundant mercy sent me someone that day who helped me to be discharged quickly. She was an activity director who struck up a private conversation with me, telling me that she was a Christian and that she also took antidepressants. She said that she wouldn’t be able to get out of the bed and function without them, and that she could praise God because she was able to with the help of the medicine. She did her best that day to move my file to the top of the stack so that the psychiatrist could see me. She told me that I might have to stay a 2nd night, so be prepared.

I was very fortunate to be discharged from the hospital that afternoon around 5:00 pm. I had to appear stable in front of the psychiatrist so that he would let me go home. The social worker who spoke with David convinced him that I was truly depressed and told him that 30% of clinically depressed people commit suicide if they don’t take their medicine. He asked David if he wanted me to be in that 30%. At the end of the conversation David’s wall of adversity against medicine was beginning to break down. When we got home, he decided that I could continue to take the medicine but he didn’t want to see me take it. He wanted to be able to honestly say to the leaders that he hadn’t seen me take medicine. We discussed the possibility of us being completely honest with the leaders and telling them that my case was different. David said that they were so “black and white” that there would be no exceptions, and that I would be told to stop taking the  medicine or leave Remnant. I didn’t want to leave because I was afraid that David would stop taking the kids on his own, and I was terrified of not taking the medicine. So we decided not to tell. I began getting personal signs from God, in the Scriptures and by circumstances that confirmed that I was doing the right thing by taking the medicine. I began studying in depth what the Bible said about “physicians,” “healing,” “sicknesses,” “balms,” to see if there was any indication that I was sinning by taking the medicine.

I could find no proof that taking my medicine to help a chemical condition, not a spiritual condition was a sin or that I had an idol. We continued to attend Remnant because we still thought it was the “best” church we would ever find and just not tell the leaders. I had peace with God about this. When I returned to Remnant after the medicine begin to finally work, I had a smile on my face and everyone assumed I was off the medicine. They didn’t know that I couldn’t walk in the building without the medicine and still have a smile on my face. They thought that people on antidepressants would seem like zombies or act “drugged.” Since I seemed fine now and “cured” by their standards, nothing else was said and I wasn’t questioned whether or not I was taking medicine, so I didn’t feel like I had to lie if asked. Remnant likes it better when you’re no trouble. I remember listening to a particular tape (click to listen) where Gwen was telling Remnant that leadership and the Weigh Down office was tired of getting phone calls over and over about the same old problems, especially if someone was depressed. She said that we should be “over” our problems and that others shouldn’t “enable” those with problems by being compassionate with them.

My friend Shona started questioning herself if she had been enabling my depression by hugging me that Sunday that I was so distraught. I had to convince her that her compassion helped me that day when no one else showed mercy. At one point, Gwen told the Wednesday night assembly that we shouldn’t be like some slobbering “retard” in the bathroom somewhere (referring to those who were sad/depressed). I can’t imagine going to a church where a pastor said that! She also said that when the Remnant leaders and Weigh Down staffers had to spend so much time over the phone on old problems that Remnant should have already overcome, that that didn’t allow time for the staff to focus on possible “exiles” or new Remnant recruits.

Well, my husband and I coasted along in Remnant for awhile, although throughout the summer of 2003 I was in and out of the bed while waiting for my medicine to take effect and we wouldn’t contact the church with our problems. That’s really what a good church is for…someone you can call to ask for prayer or a need. But we knew we couldn’t call Remnant about my depression. I can remember one Sunday when I felt okay to go to church, that Gwen had talked about Achan in the Old Testament, who was responsible for several people getting punished by God for his sin. She emphasized that none of Remnant would want to be an “Achan”, which meant that one person’s sin would cause the whole Remnant nation to fall. I felt like I was that Achan since I was still taking anti-depressants, in disagreement to what leadership said. What guilt to place on people!

Another point I would like to make about the depression was that it had to be swept “under the rug” so Remnant wouldn’t know.  For instance, at one point Shona e-mailed Teresa Langsdon to find out how to e-mail a prayer request for me to the whole Remnant Nashville. Shona wanted to ask for prayers for my panic attacks and depression. Teresa then called Shona and told her not to e-mail this to the whole group, but that leadership was handling my problem. The real truth was that on the surface, Remnant is supposed to appear so sinless and pure, that my news of depression would have tainted their image. Gwen had said before in the assembly that all Remnant marriages were healed, that there was freedom from past pornography, and that everyone in Remnant was free from health problems. I can’t believe I fell for all that because after I left Remnant I found out that at least one marriage had almost ended in divorce after being in Remnant together for 2 years, that at least one male had been caught in pornography after being in Remnant, and there were health problems…they were just covered up like mine.

A big red flag that caused us to leave Remnant (besides the depression issue) was the result of concerns about how some people treated my son.  My son attended the Remnant Summer Academy and had been there for 3 weeks before Greg Heck, who was the counselor at that time, approached me and told me that he had had trouble with my son’s defiant attitude for 3 weeks and that he was the worst child in Remnant Nashville. This surprised me that this was the first time I had heard this, and Shannon Eikenberry, who was the counselor for the females during the day had not mentioned any problems to me about Chris. She would have because she had kept my kids at her home for 2 weeks.

When I said to Greg, “Do you mean that you have had trouble with Chris for 3 weeks and this is the first time I have heard about it?” he couldn’t answer me. The only defiance he could report was that he refused to work at the Remnant garden that the kids had planted at Ashlawn (Gwen’s estate). I felt that that wasn’t defiance; Chris simply didn’t have the confidence to work in a garden and wasn’t properly shown how to “hoe” or “weed.” Even though Chris can be defiant at times, I know my son and in this situation he was simply unsure of what to do and didn’t like being pushed. I proceeded to tell Greg that I wasn’t excusing Chris’ behavior, but that I did think he deserved to know the background on Chris. I told him about all the medicines, behavior, psychiatric hospital, etc., to let him know how far he had come. I might as well have been talking to a brick wall, because after he listened to me, he had no response and showed no compassion. This was another instance of the lack of compassion and mercy seen among some Remnant people. I knew this wasn’t biblical because when I think of Jesus’ example, compassion is the one of the first words that comes to mind. Needless to say, after I spoke with Chris over the weekend, he came back on Monday and was good the rest of his time that summer. All it took was one conversation and he was respectful and willing to do what the counselors said. But, the damage had been done because Chris caught wind that he was the worst kid in Remnant Nashville. This made him very sad because he felt he had improved his behavior since coming into Remnant.

I had to work to encourage him and convince him otherwise. Then the leaders began talking about everyone in Remnant Nashville taking their kids out of public schools and home schooling them. I fell for this and was planning on allowing Remnant members (who even weren’t certified teachers) home school my children  while I would be working full-time. The Holy Spirit really convicted me on this as a mistake, because I began to visualize my son getting spanked and reprimanded harshly for not doing the hard work that they would demand of him. My son is intelligent, but he has a very hard time doing lots of written work because of his fine motor skills. He is being taught to type in school now to help with this. Thank God, that I was convicted that doing the Remnant home school thing would have been horrible for him. My husband and I knew that when we told leadership that we wouldn’t be home schooling our children with them, that they wouldn’t like it. That, coupled with my antidepressant issue, caused us to leave the last week of July 2003.

The last week of July 2003 was the Remnant camp. Everyone in the entire Remnant nation, all 650 of them, was strongly urged to attend. Originally, we were going to attend at the cost of a total of $625 for the family but because of the financial strain over moving to Franklin, we decided not to go. Then I considered sending Chris only, but I changed my mind. David and I were going to wait until we moved to Franklin to stop attending Remnant so that we could move there at least knowing some people, but when we started researching cults and Remnant on the Internet, we had clear signs that we would need to leave immediately. It wasn’t so much the Remnant information written by Adam Brooks and Don Veinot; it was the typical characteristics of all cults that really convinced us to leave. Some really good Internet sites are:

A good book that also convinced us that we were truly in a cult was: Toxic Faith by Stephen Arterburn. Once we realized that we had been manipulated and controlled by the leaders; misled by twisting the Scriptures, we were angry; at the same time, relieved that God had freed us. As I began reading "cult recovery books," I was shocked to discover that all false religious groups had certain things in common such as charismatic leaders whose characteristics are well described in this website linkPsychologist and researcher Robert J. Lifton's eight criteria on what cult mind control involves is included in the following link to another section of this same sites that we viewed:  You may click the above link on cult mind control for Spiritwatch Ministries articles that also go into detail about cultic mind control.

Leaving Remnant

After reading the above information about mind control and charismatic leaders (among other articles) I couldn’t believe how much Remnant and Gwen displayed these characteristics. We stopped attending Remnant the week of summer camp and decided to tell no one in Remnant because we knew we would now be considered “mockers.” We received a few calls saying that they missed us and wanted to tell us about camp, but we didn’t return the calls. David did have to see the Eikenberry’s to pay Vernon for some home repairs, and when David told them I was back on medicine, they turned against me and told David to bring the kids without me. When David said, I would go back into a mental hospital if that happened, they intimated that I would be the one facing judgment and that David would have to do what he had to do. This confused David, and when he came back home, he was wavering and back under the mind control again. This briefly sent me back into a panic state, but after a day, David came to his senses. A conversation with a friend of mine who left Remnant when I did revealed that I was being blamed by her sister for her leaving. The sister even said that leadership had told her that I was sneaking around taking my son’s medicine, that I was doing fine then I got back on medicine, and that I checked myself into a mental hospital. All LIES! This hurt that the truth was so twisted by people who claimed they had no sin or idols!

As of the date of this writing, we have been out of Remnant for 3 months. We began with grieving the loss of relationships in Remnant, then we became angry, but now we’re in the process of standing up for the truth by helping others heal and preventing some from entering, if possible. We know that Satan is heavily using these people, so we have forgiven most of them, but it is difficult to forgive the leaders because we feel that they have known all along that mind control is effective for furthering the business of Weigh Down.

As long as Remnant members continue to buy Weigh Down Online and other products and attend classes, that’s more money for Gwen and the leaders. It seems that most of the people from other churches who used to attend Weigh Down have decided not to support Weigh Down, and the few unsuspecting people who aren’t from Remnant have never before heard about Remnant or simply are drawn into the close group spiritual “high” that we were drawn into. Don’t misunderstand me, most of the people who are in Remnant are very intelligent, well-rounded individuals, whose unmet needs are somehow being met by the Remnant experience. I do know for a fact that lots of people consider Gwen Shamblin their “mother” because of the way she always gives advice, not only on religious matters, but also on fashion, make-up, hairstyles, what kind of house to buy, how to sell your house, how to decorate your house, who to date, marry, etc.

Other Red Flags We Saw In Remnant

I feel led to mention other red flags that I feel the Holy Spirit convicted me to notice throughout our participation in Remnant, but I was so much in a  “honeymoon state” for several months, that I pushed the red flags out of my mind.

1) During the Passover 2003 celebration, in which almost the entire Remnant nation (about 600 members) congregated at the old Exodus building the Good Friday before Easter, we watched a 2-hour video depicting Gwen’s interpretation of the Passover .

2) Several people were encouraged to fast for many days and weeks to get their excess weight off. Some folks even fasted for 40 days prior to  Passover. We were continually told that God could inflict severe punishment on us Passover night if we didn’t get rid of all our idols (sins) before Passover. We were strongly encouraged to be “pure.”

3) On the Sunday morning (Easter as most Christians know it), Gwen made the statement before the entire Remnant nation that from now on, children were also to partake in  the Lord’s supper every Sunday, since all of the Jewish families celebrated the Passover feast and this was the same thing. There was not one verbal reaction from anyone; and it seemed that no one had problems with this. Everyone just trusted her judgment. This really bothered me, but I just tried to block it out of my mind.

4) For 7 days after Passover, we were ordered to not eat anything with yeast in it, because unleavened bread would be a symbol of no sin. We were at a restaurant one night, where some boys were sitting at another table. The waiter brought out some bread for them, and I noticed that they were eating the bread. I called this to someone’s attention, who then told the boys. They were so sorry for committing this mistake! They immediately held hands and prayed for God’s forgiveness.

5) The Remnant leadership would say that I didn’t need to be medicating myself with medicines; that I needed to trust in the Lord, but I happen to know that Gwen had a prescription medicine for dizzy spells. Why didn’t she just trust in God to help her feel better? My opinion is that she was starving herself so much before Passover that it affected her health. Another person had to drink a whole glass of wine to help her to cope with going home to her husband, who didn’t like Remnant.

6) Gwen would use the Scripture: “to the pure all things are pure” to support that it was okay to drink alcoholic drinks, dance, and smoke cigars (of course in moderation) at Remnant functions. Of course, we danced and drank a glass of wine at functions, and thought it was fun. Now looking back, for someone who might really be tempted to go overboard with alcoholic drinks, these functions would be deadly. Sometimes, Remnant members would be a little tooo happy after drinking. And the music wasn’t Christian music sometimes I didn’t’ feel that the “rap” music was acceptable for Christians to dance to.

7) Gwen really defended Michael Jackson; saying that she could relate to the persecution he had received and said that we should pray for him. 

8) Spanking was widely practiced; and it was accepted that people spank each other’s children. Even children under the age of 2 were spanked for disobedience and defiance. The spankings had to really COUNT or it wouldn’t do any good. Children were expected to sit quietly in the 2 hour services, and if they were taken out and refused to say they were sorry, or kept crying (which indicated that they were feeling sorry for themselves and not for God ), they were spanked repeatedly… I was instructed to spank my daughter on her bare bottom until it was beet red. I didn’t feel right about this, but I thought I had to obey.

9) Children were told to obey their authorities, which also meant that older children were other children’s authorities. For example, it was not unusual to hear a child of 4 complain that a child of 2 wasn’t obeying her authority; or a child of 10 would be spanked for not obeying the authority of an 11-year-old.

10) Appearance was so important; we attended fancy functions where we dressed formally, the decorations at the homes were so elegant, and the food was gourmet with delectable desserts, all to create the illusion of “heaven on earth” and to help keep us “hooked.”

11) Remnant members are expected to marry other Remnant, and if they can’t find a Remnant person and are dating a non-Remnant person, that person better become Remnant!

12) The Last Exodus, a new Weigh Down class for ages 8 to 28, is promoting anorexic compulsions that are training young people to eat such small portions that most teens/young adults in Remnant are a size 2 or under. This has been revealed in the video teachings; and the workbook is nothing other than the Weigh Down Advanced class promoting “getting with a fellowship of true believers” and “getting under authority.” This is the scariest promotion of all, because young people can be rather idealistic and want to belong. The Remnant fellowship definitely makes people feel special, and young people can particularly fall for it. Their fear of eating without a true stomach growl or eating one bite past full is obsessive. Gwen even teaches to pray before each single bite to ask God’s permission before taking each successive bite.

What Has Helped Us

What has helped David and me to heal has been the support of others who have experienced Remnant first-hand, or those who have family members   currently in Remnant. We are encouraged that we have grown spiritually from this experience, and we have not “fallen apart as a family” like Remnant members would have you believe. Also, reading Internet articles and books about spiritual abuse has helped. Of course, as time passes, we feel better each passing day. Personally, doing the Beth Moore study When Godly People Do Ungodly Things has really ministered to me.

What God Has Taught Me

I have learned many things through this experience:

1) You can’t depend on a church to “spiritually fill you up.”  

2) Yes, all churches have sinful people, even Remnant Fellowship, and you won’t find a “perfect” church on this earth.

3) We have the Holy Spirit inside of us, that teaches us what God wants us to know. Remnant would say the Spirit is God’s will (or what He wants.) They would also say that people need to trust the leaders’ interpretations of Scriptures rather than trusting ourselves since Satan could trick us.  I don’t want to go to a church where the power of the Holy Spirit is denied.

4) When there is a question, one should go to the Holy Bible for answers, and not simply “trust” a leader’s word.

5) I have learned to easily discern when others are trying to manipulate me. In the future, I will be alert to spiritually abusive churches. Remnant would say that when you leave that the “veil” drops over your eyes, meaning that we wouldn’t have any more spiritual knowledge, but really the veil has lifted even more.

6) We have learned much more about the Scriptures and our relationship with God since leaving. While in Remnant, we thought we had a strong love for God, when we really were in love with the people and the passionate assemblies. Now, we really are in a love relationship that is deepening everyday.

In Closing To Those Who Are in Remnant - The Real “Truth"

This experience has forever changed us….some events will continue to be painful for awhile. We are healing, and it doesn’t help matters that; we live in the hub of Remnant activity. We have been in restaurants  where Remnant people are, and they don’t speak or acknowledge our presence. We are now “mockers” and “enemies,” according to their own tradition, but when we see RF members in public, we make it a point to greet them any way and show the love of Christ to them. We are learning that  it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of us, it only matters that we get God’s approval, which we know is in the love of Jesus. We continue to pray for those precious families that  we loved there, that they will see the light. We hope we can be a support  for them when they do get out. We also continue to pray for Gwen,  David, Tedd, and any other future leaders that they will see the error of their ways, realize that they have played a major part in breaking up families and hurting people, and repent. Only time will tell, and we continue to trust in God’s faithfulness.

As for my depression, it has taken me 5 months to feel “normal” again, and I’m getting closer to this feeling and do find joyful moments in everyday. My children don’t seem to have been as affected by the experience as David and I have. David now has found new employment, and I am busy with daily chores, Bible studies, and volunteering at my children’s schools. We've found a new home church, a progressive Church of Christ that is joyful, loving, scriptural and has all the healthy characteristics that a church should have. I sincerely hope, that this testimony will be informative to you, and will prevent others from being “sucked in” to this cult. Always study  the church in depth and ask many questions before you join a church. If the leaders avoid your questions or get angry about questions, this is a red flag.

Yes, being in Remnant has brought forth fruit, such as lost weight, healed marriages, more obedient children, and a closer relationship with others and God. But anytime one works on walking closer with God through losing weight and improving relationships, fruit will be brought forth, regardless of the church one attends. You can leave this group and still maintain this fruit, but you will have more fruit in the form of having children whose spirits aren’t crushed and in the form of reuniting blood family ties that may have been severed.


Remnant leadership isn’t allowing you to search the scriptures for yourself and ask questions, especially if you disagree. You are not encouraged to listen to the Holy Spirit within you for discernment, especially if is differs from what the leaders say. Pray to God for discernment! Don’t be afraid to leave this group!


No, God will not turn His back on you and punish you for leaving. He will bless you with a much deeper relationship with Him than you ever thought possible. You will experience His love, mercy, and forgiveness! God is not only a god of judgment and fear, but of love, faithfulness, and reconciliation. No, your marriage/family relationships will not fall apart as a result of leaving. In reality, your family will grow closer, due to the painful process of sorting through what has happened. You can be reunited with your blood family, who are willing to open their arms to you! You can be helped with the grieving process of leaving with nearby support groups already in place to help you!


Yes, you will receive blessings as a result of leaving. As a consequence of being obedient to God’s calling to really “know” God and Jesus and the Cross, you will be blessed beyond what you can imagine!


No, the “veil” will not drop over your eyes…instead it will lift and you will understand the Bible more deeply than ever before!


Yes, you will find a church you can love…(although you may need a healthy break to recover, and it may be awhile before you attend a church). There is no “perfect” church on Earth, just as Remnant isn’t perfect. All churches are made up of imperfect people…we won’t be made complete until heaven!


Initially, you may think you are doing the wrong thing because this message has been so internally ingrained. It will take time to undo the doctrines that have been taught (and twisted “out of context”) and to relearn what God wants you to know. There are qualified men of God who can know the original Greek/Hebrew and can explain the true meaning of the scriptures.


If you carefully read all of Jesus’ words in the New Testament and meditate on how he treated people, you will find a remarkable difference in the way a Christian should live, in contrast to the behaviors and attitudes exhibited in Remnant Fellowship. Yes, Remnant members are loving to one another, but once someone steps outside the boundaries set by leadership, very little compassion or forgiveness is shown. Remnant does not show that they should reach out to the “multitudes”; instead, small groups of Remnant recruits are handpicked due to their vulnerability and dissatisfaction with current church situations.


Please take the time to research tactics (found on this site) that leaders in abusive churches use to control the minds of people in their groups. Also, look up “cult characteristics” on the internet and see how similar those are to Remnant characteristics. Remember, we at Spiritwatch are praying for your release and healing! We are here to help!

To write to Terri, e-mail her at

An Update to My Testimony  - Feb. 23, 2004 


The past few months since I last wrote has been a time of intense drama, but I must say that God is definitely working and showing His incredible power. I also believe that God is angry at Remnant Fellowship because of the twisted lies that have been brought out into the open. It is interesting that a group of us who had left Remnant had prayed mightily on Saturday, January 10, that God would show His power to bring the darkness into the light, and on Monday, January 12, our group first heard the news from the Atlanta Constitution article that Josef Mykel Smith died on Oct. 9 due to injuries sustained from several whippings. The article also said that the boy was locked in his room and made to pray to a picture of Jesus. Josef had received marks on the backs of his legs, by the use of a belt with metal parts. He also appeared to be “demon possessed,” and called himself Legion. This was interesting to me because I have heard Gwen Shamblin use that term before in the assembly, as well as talking about when one demon leaves, he comes back with several others. The article did also state that the Smiths were members of Remnant Fellowship.


I was saddened when I heard about this tragic news, especially after I knew that Josef’s 18-month-old brother died of apparent pneumonia in July 2003. What was strange was that Joseph Smith (the father) testified that he loved God and his family (as shown on the recent Remnant website popup) but that was mere days after they buried their baby. How can parents come from the funeral of their baby and stay at Remnant summer camp, testifying to God’s goodness? I’m sorry, but I have lost three babies due to miscarriage, and being around people in a party situation less than a week of my losses would not be something that I (or any normal person) would do. Official investigative reports indicate that the Smiths showed no remorse when the older boy died. I guess they also showed no remorse when the baby died. I do know that the common comment made at camp about the baby was that the baby died due to someone’s “sin” at the Remnant camp. What a guilt trip to place on members!


Investigative TV reporter Phil Williams’ Channel 5 report (aired on Nashville's airwaves in early February  not long afterwards) was done with compassion, and all Phil wants to do is tell the truth. David and I came forward to do the segment, not with the intent to slander anyone, but with the intent that the Remnant members who seem to be so brainwashed by this message would wake up and see what group they are really in. We especially worry about the impact the Remnant teachings are having on the kids. Yes, on the surface it may look like the kids are obedient, happy, and have high self-esteem, but if you are around them for very long, you detect fear and anxiety in them. They are not encouraged to think and speak for themselves. They are pushed aside while the adults do their thing. I foresee that when they are grown, they will either have lots of anger and rebellion or very, very low self-esteem, and some will turn against religion altogether. Adult ex-cult members who were children raised in these types of abusive situations experience the above reactions to growing up in a cult. You can read this on any apologetic site. I do know that the older Smith boy has been withdrawn from a foster home because he was aggressively hurting the foster siblings. Maybe the effects of being in Remnant fellowship are beginning for him.


Now, it seems that Gwen is grasping at straws to get revenge against me and Phil Williams. I wonder if people within Remnant are questioning, and she is fearful that her fan club will leave. Of course, she used my testimony after I had only been off medicine for 1 ½ months. The medicine was still in my system and I was in a honeymoon state with Remnant (being in Remnant for only 2 ½ months). Her  statement that my family was elated that  I was no longer sleeping all the time was not true. I was not that much into lying around when I was on medicine before. I did occasionally, but for the most part I was functioning and holding down a job. The Effexor dose was not high enough when I was on 75 mg. It’s interesting to note during most of the summer of 2003,  I was sleeping all the time because I was so miserable off medicine and I couldn’t function or hold down a job. My family doctor kept saying that I needed to leave this church because I truly needed the medicine. Also, due to the emotional trauma experienced at the hands of Remnant leadership, I am on twice as much medicine. Thankfully, I am very happy now and functioning very well.


I really don’t appreciate that Remnant leaders have chosen to use my testimony on their site (especially since I was living in a “dream world” then) and they did not get my permission to do so. Strangely enough, I am not angry at them…instead I feel a real peace from God that He is still in control and the real “truth” will eventually come out. I think that the leaders there are very nervous about the upcoming trial and the way their advice has contributed to Josef Mykel Smith’s death. Remnant may act like they are being wrongly persecuted, but the real story will surface as to who the Remnant leaders are really persecuting.


In addition, I think it’s interesting that Gwen could afford to post bail for the Smiths, but she chose not to. It could be surmised that she is afraid that if they were free, they would be free from the cult-like manipulations and would really expose the leaders. It could be a means of control to keep the Smiths in prison. The Remnant leaders have also had the Smiths call in to the assemblies on conference calls, but they are not allowed to talk to reporters.


I continue to pray for Gwen, Tedd, and David to see the light and repent of their sins. I know that many would be willing to receive and forgive them. There is still time for them to change and to come clean.



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