Our Experience With Weigh Down Workshop and Remnant Fellowship

by Steve and Betsy Miozzi, ex-members of Remnant Fellowship

We originally joined Weigh Down Workshop in 1998, that was given through our local church. Basically I (Steve) was the more serious partner about losing weight than my wife because I had more weight to lose. This was the new Out of Egypt series. I was encouraged because for the first time in my life, this was the only diet that had worked for me. I lost 35 pounds in the first 12-week program. Betsy joined mainly because she wanted to quit smoking, and she dropped out about the third week. I reenrolled in the class and lost an additional 10 pounds. Then I coordinated a men's class at my church. The men in my class had some weight loss success, but my weight loss was slowing down.

We continued holding the men's class a second time, but a third time was unsuccessful because there was a lack of interest. We felt that God was leading us to another church to spread this message, so we held a co-ed class at a new church where we were now attending. The pastor, one of the participants, loved the program and had lost 60 pounds, but he argued with me over Scriptures that were presented in the program. After the first class, there was no other interest for another class. Therefore, we took the Exodus from Strongholds class back to our old church, since Betsy wanted to quit smoking. I was still struggling because I had hit a weight-loss plateau.

In March 2001, while we were doing the second Strongholds class, Gwen Shamblin (the founder of Weigh Down), announced that she was going to be speaking in Columbus, Ohio, in May, and would give us all the answers to why we couldn't lose all the weight. The name of her tour was Rebuilding the Wall. At this seminar, her claim was that after someone would finish a WD class, they would gain weight back because the churches that they went back to allowed sin. Even people filled with sin were sitting on the same pew, unchanged for years, according to Gwen. She claimed that all other churches were counterfeit; therefore, we needed a place of worship where sin was not tolerated. This place of worship was called Remnant Fellowship, which was started by her family and the David Martin family in 1999.

In June 2001 we were invited to come down to Nashville, Tennessee, for a "Remnant weekend" to learn about how to start a local Remnant fellowship in Ohio and to ask further questions about what Remnant stood for. We arrived at the Weigh Down building on a Friday evening, and we were just amazed by the joyful, loving way they greeted us. We thought this must be what heaven is like. We were impressed that everyone was getting along with each other and we couldn't believe how well-behaved the children were. Everyone seemed so happy. It was a weekend full of learning, fellowship, and baptisms. On that Saturday, Gwen held a question-and-answer session, where we got to interact with her on a more  personal level. We were impressed by the fact that she seemed so prepared for any question that was asked of her.

She seemed like she was "bigger than life," powerful and charismatic. She seemed to be so generous with opening her home up to so many people. The weekend ended with a huge barbecue at the Shamblin home with David, Gwen's husband grilling. We later learned that Gwen's husband, David, was part of Remnant Fellowship in name only, not in presence. I felt a strong need to be baptized (immersed) in the Shamblin pool, along with several people who are now leaders in Remnant Fellowship. Betsy was baptized also, but her heart really wasn't totally in it. She felt "pressured" to be baptized along with everyone else.

Before we left Nashville, Gwen prepared us for how our current church leaders would respond when we presented some tough questions about them condoning sin in the church. She said that  if they were serious about getting rid of sin, that they would immediately repent, fall on their knees, and go to work about how to rid sin in their church. If they weren't serious, they would give excuses as to why they couldn't do this right away. After that weekend, we journeyed back to our current church in Ohio. The leaders responded the way she said they would...they said that getting rid of sin would take some time and that it was a process. After much prayer and many e-mails back and forth between us and the Remnant Fellowship in Nashville discussing our current church situation, we decided to leave our church in order to help rid sin from our own lives. Gwen said that stopping sin was not a process; it was a choice.  

We were informed that there was another family in our area who was interested in forming a local Remnant Fellowship. We met Rich and Kelly Gadke and discussed Scripture. While Kelly was ready to "jump right in" and start the church, Rich still had some reservations that night. After a few weeks, we decided to start worshipping on Sunday mornings:  singing, praying, and reading Scripture.  Our fellowship grew slowly. Kelly Gadke taught Weigh Down classes in her home. In the fall of 2001, every Remnant member was encouraged to take the new Weigh Down Advanced class. The new Weigh Down Advanced class was much more intense and convicting. For the first time in a Weigh Down class, Betsy had weight-loss success and I started losing weight again.

In the late spring of 2002, the men from Remnant Nashville began calling the men from outlying home fellowships across the country in order to encourage them. There were approximately 20 fellowships other than the Remnant home base. After talking with Robie Bass, one of the men from Nashville, it was determined that we needed to visit Nashville in order to be strengthened and instructed in our journey to continue losing weight. We spent a whole week at the Bass' home. We felt very comfortable there.

The first Saturday we were there, we went to the Shamblin estate to offer our support in preparing the grounds for an upcoming Remnant wedding. When we pulled onto the property, Gwen was outside directing the activities and gave us a disapproving look. Then she asked us, "What are you doing here?" We responded, "Robie Bass invited us down, so that we could witness how others lived this Remnant lifestyle." She began questioning us: were we on vacation? or what was our present employment status? When she discovered that I was receiving unemployment benefits at this time (due to a layoff), she wanted to know why I was in Nashville instead of back in Ohio looking for work. She then walked off. We began helping with the flower planting for the wedding, and David Martin, one of the leaders, talked with me for about 2 hours after we finished. He seemed to be on a fact-finding mission as to the details of my job and as to why I hadn't lost all my weight yet. He said that I needed to repent about the weight and to know that if I overate I was disobeying God. He told me that I needed to get back with the program, so I repented right then and there. I felt like I needed to accept the correction and follow his advice. On Sunday we worshipped at the Weigh Down building with the local fellowship and noticed that the number of members were growing in the Nashville area.

That afternoon, we were invited to a wedding shower held at the Langsdon home (Joe Langsdon was one of the leaders). Betsy and Gwen were standing out on the back deck, talking, and Betsy was wearing a tank top because the weather was warm. Gwen questioned her about the butterfly tattoos that she had received before she became a Christian. She had 4 tattoos that was easily seen. She said, "What is this about your tattoos?" She answered that they were done before she had known the Lord and they were scars to remind me that she had been forgiven of my past sins. She hoped that the tattoos would be a witness to someone about the miracle-changing powers of our Lord. Gwen said that she didn't think they (tattoos) were not appropriate here and that she didn't want the Remnant children exposed to them. She mentioned that it was wrong to have tattoos because Leviticus 19:28 states "...do not ....put tattoo marks on yourself. I am the Lord." (NIV) She suggested that I always wear long sleeves or the half sleeves like she does. Betsy was shocked!

Then we talked with Gwen some more, and she questioned us as to why Betsy was not working. She was concerned that we seemed to be "on vacation" visiting in Nashville when we both should be actively pursuing jobs in Ohio.  I told her that Betsy had had health problems for the past two years and wasn't working because of it. She lost her job due to health reasons. I told her how I believed God answered a prayer by directing us to go to a chiropractor for her problems. She proceeded to say in a loud voice, "You can't go to a chiropractor. Don't you know that they drug you before they treat you?" Once again we were shocked. Then someone called her away and our time with her that night was over.

We went back to the Bass's home to go to bed, and Betsy informed me of the tattoo discussion. The tattoo issue totally puzzled me. The week before I had read the book of Galatians at least 3 or 4 times, and my take on it was that Jesus freed us from following all the laws of the Old Testament.  Upon reading Leviticus 19:28 that night at bedtime, we noticed that verse 27 states: "Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head, or clip off the edges of your beard." So, the book of Galatians made me believe that my heart was more important than Old Testament rules and regulations, but if we were to follow verse 28, why weren't we also to follow verse 27? We slept very little that night, spending most of the night discussing the subject.

The next morning we went downstairs and talked to Donna Bass after she noticed that we looked somewhat disturbed. She asked if we needed to discuss this further with Gwen. We had a lunch date with some Remnant ladies, so we headed to the Weigh Down Workshop building a little early. We told the ladies we weren't attending lunch because we wanted to talk to Gwen instead. David Martin and Joe Langsdon questioned us earnestly about why we didn't go to lunch with the ladies. We said that we had some questions to ask Gwen. At first, we were told that Gwen was too busy to talk to us. The next thing we knew we were in her office.

I started the conversation by asking her to restate what she had said to my wife so that I hadn't misinterpreted what my wife told me. Gwen said, "Do you think I'm lying to you?" This was totally not what I was saying. I didn't respond because I was so stunned that a "Spirit-led" person did not understand what I was asking and that she took offense, when none was intended.  After that, I continued to try to ask how the book of Galatians and the Old Testament laws and regulations could work together. The reason I was asking was because I was thinking of Galatians 2:21 which reads:

"I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

I was never able to explain further because I was stopped continually and Gwen was off on a completely different tangent. Included in the tangent was Gwen's command to apologize to the women that we backed out of lunch with. We were also told that we were to apologize to Donna Bass for involving her in this. Our questions were never answered. After David Martin and Joe Langsdon (who was still standing there), agreed to agree with her, we left. We drove to a nearby mall's parking lot and sat there, dumbfounded, not sure what to do next. We sat in the parking lot for over 1 1/2 hours, and we decided it must be something wrong with us, so we gave Remnant another opportunity. Later at the Bass's house we apologized to Donna and the other ladies. They graciously accepted and suggested that we have lunch together the next day.

Later that week, we attended a Rebuilding the Wall seminar in Atlanta, Georgia. When Joe Langsdon saw us there, he said, "I'm glad you decided to stay." Gwen noticed that I had lost a few pounds. I was amazed that she could tell when I had lost just a few pounds. We went back home in a few days. We still had an uneasy feeling, but we felt it was us not "dying to self" enough.

A week later, right before Memorial Day 2002, Betsy invited Debbie Hahn, a lifelong friend, and her 11-year-old son to Marion, Ohio, for a Remnant gathering. Many of the young people from Remnant Nashville were in Marion for the weekend, including Michael Shamblin, Gwen's grown son. Michael made a positive impression on Debbie, and she seriously considered joining Remnant. Betsy and I continued encouraging her, so she agreed to attend more Remnant functions. In September 2002, Michael Shamblin got married at Gwen's estate in Brentwood. Debbie and her son came to Nashville with us for the first time. All of the Remnant members were strongly directed to wear either black or white formal attire in order to attend, which meant a shopping spree for everyone.

When we walked into the wedding and were greeted by Gwen, she praised Betsy for having her tattoos covered with a long- sleeve dress. The following day, Gwen invited the fellowship over for two separate meetings: the women's meeting was inside; the men's meeting was out on the lawn. At the women's meeting, there was a question-answer session. The subject of getting children off medicine for ADHD came up, so Debbie asked about her 11-year-old son, who had been taking ADHD medicine since the age of 4. She was told by Gwen to get him off the medicine (not wean him off the medicine) and to talk to another Remnant  member who had successfully accomplished that with her son.

When we got back to Cleveland, Debbie began doing just that. She slowly started taking him off the medicine. He became more and more unruly, and the issue of disciplining him came up. In October 2002, we once again went to Nashville for a religious festival at Remnant. I approached Tedd Anger for advice about Debbie's son. He told me that Debbie should spank her son with a glue stick or a belt on the back of his bare thighs in increments of 10, and if that didn't work, he was to be put in his room with nothing to occupy him except a Bible. He added that if Debbie didn't do this, Betsy or I should do it. I was flabbergasted at this and didn't know what to say or think. We shared this information with Debbie. We decided that the punishment should be much less severe and what a normal parent would do (with regard to spankings.) One Wednesday night at the Remnant Cleveland East service, her son was disruptive and she was instructed to take him in another room to reprimand him because he seemed totally out of control. This seemed to make the situation worse, so I called Tedd Anger on a speaker phone for instructions. Debbie and I were both told that he needed the 10 swats, and if that didn't work, he needed 10 more hard swats with a belt or glue stick. She was told that if she followed these instructions exactly that he would become obedient over time. To sum up, after a period of time, the advice hadn't worked, Debbie was still overweight, she put him back on medication, and she left Remnant.

To this day, the 11-year-old child, now 15, refuses to attend any church.

In April 2003, we came down to Nashville for their Passover service. Gwen had read in the Old Testament that there were festivals that needed to be celebrated each year, and Passover was one of them. We roasted lamb meat, ate bitter herbs and unleavened bread. All the yeast was taken out of the Remnant houses and kept out for seven days. Betsy needed to buy makeup to cover her tattoos for Elizabeth Shamblin's wedding, which was occurring Passover weekend. At a Remnant member's house, we first tried some make-up to cover the tattoo on her arm, but it didn't work. Then, we went to the mall and found someone who sold stage make-up. It worked well, but it cost almost 100 dollars. We found out that other Remnant members with tattoos had used either Band-Aids or decorative armbands to cover up for the wedding. One time before the wedding, Betsy stopped by the Weigh Down building, and she didn't have her arm tattoo covered. One suggestion Gwen made about covering the tattoo was for Betsy to use her left hand and keep it over her right arm so people wouldn't notice her tattoo. When Betsy demonstrated what she suggested, Gwen noticed that she had had my nails professionally done to fit in with the color scheme for the wedding.

Gwen then made the comment that she didn't approve of Betsy's nails and that they would draw too much attention. She was shocked, but she thought it was just one more thing that she didn't do right while in Remnant. The little diamond like sequins that were glued on her nails came off, and Betsy just thought it was God's will that she should get a French manicure instead. This wedding visit was very expensive for us: travel expenses, the cost of the arm make-up, the cost of the dress, my tuxedo, the two nail visits and the expensive present that was on the wedding registry list. But we had to remind ourselves that it "wasn't about us" because that would be thinking of self, and we had to "die to self."

While there was a wedding rehearsal, we babysat one of the Remnant member's sons who was about six years old. We were at the large Weigh Down warehouse where the Passover celebrations were held, and the little boy was sitting with us. He was fidgeting, and after awhile we told him to stop. He didn't. On the way home to this Remnant family's house, I told the little boy in the car that I would have to tell his father if his father asked. He got noticeably nervous. Upon arriving at the house, the first thing the father asked was how did his child behave. When I told him the truth, he just looked at his son, his son got more nervous, and they walked into a room where we heard the sound of a hard spanking and a child crying out. The father thanked me for letting him know.

The Monday after Passover Sunday, there was a general question asked about how many were thinking about moving to Nashville. Many people, including us, raised our hands. There was a paper passed around for people to write their names, how many were coming, and phone numbers. (By June, we had our house in Ohio up for sale.)  We were in Nashville a week and a half, and served in a great capacity, helping where needed and transporting many families to and from the Nashville airport, using our own van and gas.

The last week of July in 2003, there was a Remnant family camp outside of Nashville. I couldn't attend because of work, but Betsy felt led to. She was accidentally placed in the "Beulah" cabin, which pertained to the women who were married but did not have their husbands "on board" in Remnant. These Beulah women were very pampered at this camp because of the persecution that supposedly was happening to them at home. They received facials, foot rubs, hand massages, and Gwen even got  special permission at this campsite to have wine and mudslides in the Beulah cabin only.

One of the first nights we were there, there was a big rainstorm with thundering and lightning. The whole Remnant nation was under a big pavilion with a stage. Gwen had just begun speaking. The storm got so bad that Gwen said that it was God's wrath that was on them, and that we'd better get down on our faces and pray for forgiveness and mercy. About 400 of us got down on our chairs, on the floor, anywhere we could and prayed. After the storm ended, Gwen was praising God that He saved us from His wrath, and everyone was rejoicing.

During that week, Betsy was confronted on a couple of issues by local leadership. She was told that if it continued this woman leader would go to Gwen and then she would be out of Remnant. She was also told by this woman that I was in for a rude awakening when Betsy got home.

When I came back at the end of the week to pick up my wife, she was staying at a members' house in Franklin. She seemed very shaken up by some of the events that had happened at camp. She seemed convinced that we had brought "sin" into the camp because I had not lost all my weight and she had had some issues that she was corrected about that week. In Remnant, members were continually told that they could be sinless if they worked hard enough, and that one person's sin could bring the whole church into eternal destruction.

The fear that we were the cause of the "sin in the camp" led me to contact Tedd Anger personally for advice the next day while we were still in Franklin. He was able to tell me that although I had lost 135 pounds through the Weigh Down program that he could tell that I had gained 2 pounds. He also told me that I needed to lose 50 pounds more. In my mind, I didn't think I needed to lose that much more weight. He was praying for me to "blow out a knee" so that God could get my attention. What other church leaders would tell someone that?

I was once again speechless and I repented once again. He told me that if I wasn't sinning in my eating, that I should lose 5 pounds a week and this all would be over in 10 weeks. Once we returned back to Ohio away from the other Remnant members, we were beginning to think that we should leave Remnant. About a week and a half later, Betsy received a call from local leadership that Nashville leadership said that they had told me 2 years ago that I had needed to find another job, and they were upset that it hadn't happened yet. I asked Betsy if local leadership ever asked to talk to me personally about my job situation, and she said no. So I asked my wife, how is that not gossip? (Remnant members supposedly discouraged gossiping.) 

Going to local Remnant services became more difficult because of the tension and back-stabbing that was going on. In September of 2003, we had missed 2 weeks of services at our local Remnant location. David Martin (a Nashville leader) called us and wanted to know why we hadn't been in church the last 2 weeks. Local leadership had reported us. We told them that we went to Niagara Falls for our anniversary one week and that the other week, we watched the Remnant webcast services from our own home privately. I admitted to him that the tension that we experienced by worshipping with the local fellowship was making it almost impossible for us to attend peacefully. He replied, "If you cannot bring yourselves to be with the local group, you have no business being able to watch the webcast alone." He also told me that I needed to call local leadership and apologize. After a couple of days of considering this, I called them and apologized. 

This did not bring any peace, and I felt that there was no way that this was going to work. We even tried attending two more services at this local fellowship, but there was more tension than ever. On our way over there to try this for a third time, Betsy and I switched back and forth between going or turning around and going home. We finally turned around and went home.

In October 2003 we attended the Remnant Feast of Harvest in Marion, Ohio and we took our 11-month-old grandson with us. That Sunday morning after praise and worship, our grandson started acting fussy and whiny. Betsy started to get up to take him out of worship, but she was stopped by Karen Sims, a Remnant Ohio member. She took him, put her hand over his mouth to quiet him, and told me that I needed to stay in the service. I felt uneasy about this, but I obeyed. Over halfway through the service, I heard him cry. I started to get up to go to him and Remnant Marion, Ohio leadership told me to sit back down, so I did. But immediately after service I got him and kept him with us and was uneasy the rest of the day.

Betsy e-mailed local leadership to inform them that we were leaving. Almost immediately, our web access to the services and message boards was cut off. After we left Remnant, we felt that we never were going to be good enough to go to heaven. We felt like complete failures. For a good eight months, we couldn't set foot in our old church, or any church for that matter. We felt that there was no point in finding any church because we weren't going to heaven anymore. This thinking led to feelings of hopelessness and living for the moment. Many sins that had been laid down while in our former church were now becoming a way of life. That started a cycle of more guilt, then more sin because it didn't matter. After a period of time, we knew deep inside that God still loved us and that we could go back to a church and start over. 

The Sunday we decided to attend our former church, we sat in the parking lot for 10 minutes because of fear of the repercussions from this church because of the judgmental things we had said to them while we were beginning in Remnant. We finally got the courage to walk in the door. Upon entering the door, we were greeted by a smiling face and a huge hug. That to me was a demonstration of what Christianity really is.

In summary, it has been a slow process, but with the help of the pastor and good Christian friends and the support of people who have gone through similar experiences in Remnant and have left, we are doing better. It has been 3 1/2 years since we left, and the reason why we haven't done a testimony earlier is that talking about it was so painful. We're hoping that our testimony will encourage others to come forward to speak the truth, as we have. We continue to ask God why we went through this, and maybe helping others is why. If we can stop one person from going through this experience, than it has been worthwhile.


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