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Churches that Abuse #9

Dissent and Discipline

                          CHURCHES THAT ABUSE #9

                             RONALD M. ENROTH

                               Written 1992


Abusive Churches Discourage Questions

"I'll never forget, as long as I live, that feeling the first
morning when I woke up there at the [River of Life] ranch and
stared at that ceiling. I said, 'Oh God! I've really done this.'
And, after a couple of days, I remember thinking to myself, 'Boy,
I've really blown it.' But it was kind of like, 'Well, here we
go, I'm just gonna trust God.'"

     This was only the beginning of Paul and MaryAnn Hasting's
negative experiences with Ed Mitchell's River of Life Ministries.
Months of preparation had gone into their being influenced to
"lay down everything they had to walk with Jesus." They were
wooed and courted by Mitchell and his indoctrinated followers
with publicrelations techniques that would rival those of Madison
Avenue. Eventually, their succumbing cost them everything,
including their home, retirement monies, jobs, lost wages, and
very nearly their family. They also exited River of Life almost
eight thousand dollars in debt and with River of Life creditors
after them for organizational purchases.
     Paul, an educator of thirteen years experience with a
master's degree in educational psychology and a professional
credential in pupil-personnel counseling, had limited Christian
experience before his involvement with River of Life. He and his
wife MaryAnn had been brought up Catholic, but they were not
devout adherents. Their involvement began when River of Life was
called The Centurion Door, and was based in Thousand Oaks,
California. Attendance at that point was some three hundred
persons. MaryAnn was the head of a liturgical-dance troupe called
Hallelujah Dancers, and was having some personal difficulties
when she heard of The Centurion Door as being a place to go for
"counseling." As her involvement increased, the Hastings opened
their home to prayer meetings. It was at that point that Ed
Mitchell became involved in their lives and began inviting them
to River of Life's ten-acre Apple Valley Ranch.
     Mitchell, "tall, good looking, and charismatic," was
developing an "end-times ministry" at the ranch, a place where
people could come when society fell apart. There, Paul, MaryAnn,
and their family found the people to be very loving and
accepting. "We played volleyball, had barbecues, and had
tremendous religious experiences. Over the period of the next
couple of months, we would go out there on weekends. It was
wonderful. It was something I had never experienced in my life
     Over the months, as the Hastings' longings for significance,
friendship, and "a return to Eden" were seemingly fulfilled,
there were also subtle messages given concerning their commitment
to Christ. Thcre was the constant pressure to join "the group
that had laid down everything they had to walk for Jesus Christ."
Eventually they concluded, "What could be greater than to give
one's life to Jesus Christ and the spread of the Gospel." Paul
turned in his letter of resignation to the school district; they
began the process of selling their home. Then the real pressures
     Paul's resignation was extremely difficult for him.
He had been told by Ed Mitchell that when he quit he would
experience great emotional turmoil, but that he should realize
this was Satan's ploy to keep him from accepting "God's call."
Having internalized the group's initial indoctrination, Paul
spiritualized his anxieties as the devil's attacks and then
interpreted chance readings of scriptural passages as messages
from God to go to the ranch. He was anointed as "pastor of the
ranch" by Mitchell, who then began speaking of himself as "the
major end-time Apostle."

(Oh, oh oh, sounding familiar ex WCGers? It should be - yep HWA
was not the only one to call himself the "end-time Apostle." -
Keith Hunt)

     Paul was also going to be the principal of the ranch's new
school, and also the counselor to the many seekers who came to
the facility. However, as Paul states, "Everything inside of me
was just screaming out against it. Everything. I woke up that
night ... and I lay there for three hours rebuking Satan. I felt
sick to my stomach. And then I had what I felt were some visions
that were pointing me to the ranch. But everything inside of me
resisted." Ed Mitchell was smart enough to notice that Paul was
wavering after making the initial commitment, so Mitchell sent
one of his people to stay with the Hastings for the two weeks
before they left for the ranch. Paul continued to have grave
doubts, but he was convinced that it was Satan trying to block
him. "Now, as I look back, I think it was the Holy Spirit trying
to say 'Hey, this is not of me at all.'"
     Paul continued to resist the indoctrination process upon
their arrival at the ranch. "It almost became a daily ritual
where I'd get called 'on the carpet' one way or the other in what
they call 'truth sessions.'" These sessions, which at first began
with just a few persons, devolved into hostile verbal beatings
before the entire group. Paul would be grilled, yelled and
screamed at until he finally began yelling and screaming at
himself and rebuking Satan.

     Other members were also subjected to this "hot seat." Paul
says, "To stay sane, you turn on other people. If you don't jump
right in during the 'truth sessions,' and yell and scream as hard
as the next guyeven though you don't know what in the world is
going on - then you haven't 'supported' the group properly."
     Three weeks after the Hastings committed themselves to the
River of Life Ministries, Paul read newspaper accounts of a
former member's death and the defection of ninety percent of
Mitchell's following. The dead individual was a diabetic who had
gone off his insulin after having been prayed over by River of
Life members. He "stood by his healing," as did others in the
group, regardless of his deteriorating condition, and
consequently died. Most members left immediately after the
tragedy; the few remaining loyalists were those who recruited the
Hastings. As Mitchell began to see "persecutors" everywhere,
Paul's indoctrination became even more difficult.
     After the setback, because of the diabetic's death and the
loss of the majority of his following, Mitchell began to believe
that a conspiracy against him had begun, consisting of all
evangelical churches that had hundreds of airplanes and
four-wheel drive vehicles at their disposal. He began sending
groups of his followers to hide in the California desert. Paul
notes: "The whole persecution thing, as I see it, is just a
self-fulfilling prophecy. You do a bunch of off-the-wall,
bizarre, crazy things, and sure, people are going to come after
you and ask, 'Hey, what's going on here?' That's not persecution
- not as Jesus experienced it."

     In their desire to serve the Lord, the Hastings continued in
River of Life and came increasingly under Mitchell's sway,
primarily due to the constant barrage of guilt and spiritual
hype. As MaryAnn indicates, "They have a public relations side
... so warm and loving. And then there's the inner workings of
the group, which included public humiliation and sometimes
screaming sessions that would go on for two or three hours."
     As the group deteriorated, these inner workings came to
include physical abuse. "There was punching, hitting, children
were whipped with belts, women were whipped with belts." This
behavior was defined as "love" for the victim, because, "if you
really love someone, then you're going to pay the price for that
person to be set free. You're not going to compromise; you're
going to confront them with their sin or their area of weakness
and get them straightened out." Of course, the majority of this
"love" came from Mitchell, who also constantly reminded the
members how much he "suffered" by having to chastise the people
and treat them the way he did. "He was always telling us how
difficult it was for him to take all the steps that he took. And
if you ever challenged him on anything, you wouldn't be
challenging a human being, you'd be challenging the Holy Spirit
because of his 'apostolic authority.'"

(Apostolic authority? Sound familiar ex WCGers? Yep, it should
be, you had in the WCG under HWA apostolic authority, and going
against it you were taught was going against the Spirit of God
and God's end-time Apostle - Keith Hunt)

     MaryAnn's experiences were even more traumatic than Paul's.
Having been accused of being in league with the "evil spirit of
Jezebel that controls every woman unless she is submitted to the,
spirit of God in her husband," MaryAnn was isolated from Paul and
the children. She was dressed in "sackcloth and ashes" by
Mitchell, called a seductress and a temptress, not allowed to
bathe, forced to do heavy physical activity in the desert sun,
and forced to confess that she had lustful desires for all the
men and boys, including her own son. She was also accused of
having a "spirit of motherhood." This meant that she "idolized"
her children and focused too much attention on them. "I was
absolutely terrified to even talk to my children, show any kind
of concern for them," even when her son fell and split his head

     Eventually, because of the level of abuse, Paul and
MaryAnn's children were taken from them, first by the Arizona
Department of Public Social Services (at times the group moved
around the Southwest quite a bit), and then, upon their return to
California, by California authorities. The children were in
foster homes for six months before MaryAnn left the River of Life
Ministry. Paul left the following month with their oldest
daughter, a teenager who did not leave willingly. "She was one of
the ones Mitchell would surround himself with - certain people he
knew could be manipulated. He just poured everything into these
teenagers. They became even more valuable to him than the adults.
And, it was an unwritten rule that one of their jobs was to
report on their parents at all times."

     Before their escape, Paul had been made president of the
River of Life Corporation by Ed Mitchell. Mitchell told him,
"Well, I've been freed of this; I want you to have this
experience, Paul." Consequently, Paul would meet with the press
to defend the group, talk with the attorneys, confront the
sheriffs department - and shoulder all final fiscal
responsibility for the group. He is still being followed by bills
that haven't been paid. As Paul says, "It was just a total
set-up. He used me because of my talents."

     Paul, MaryAnn, and the children have put their lives back
together in spite of the tremendous financial problems that Ed
Mitchell and his River of Life Ministries left them. Paul says,
"The Lord has really opened up a lot of doors for us. He found a
school for me last year, kind of by accident, and now, in my
second year, I can say without doubt that it is the nicest place
I've ever been."
     With his strong academic background in psychology and years
of experience, Paul gives this warning: "I've been involved with
kids all of my life, dealing with different kinds of unusual
behavior, and all that this experience says to me is that nobody
is really immune; nobody is really safe from being sucked into
something like this."

(Whoever you are reading this, from whatever background, let me
tell you, the Worldwide Church of God under Herbert Armstrong,
had MANY leading men, full time ministers, who were VERY WELL
EDUCATED - some with letters behind their name - some with a PhD.
Many were at one time very high up in the company they worked
for; they were very bright minded, very successful in various
parts of society before becoming baptized members and full time
ministers in the WCG. It is not just the uneducated and below
average wage earner that enter these abusive churches, not at all
as you have just read - Keith Hunt)

     Virtually all authoritarian groups that I have studied
impose discipline, in one form or another, on members. A common
theme that I encountered during interviews with ex-members of
these groups was that the discipline was often carried out in
public - and involved ridicule and humiliation.

     Discipline resulting from the infraction of rules or
"failure to keep with the program," as well as "spiritual
disciplines" imposed for one's spiritual betterment, have been
reported by former members of the Community of Jesus, a
controversial charismatic Christian group located in the Rock
Harbor section of Orleans, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. The
Community of Jesus (COJ) exemplifies commitment to self-sacrifice
and a semimonastic life-style in the context of what The
Christian Century referred to as "tasteful affluence." The COJ
accommodates resident members, associate members, and nonresident
members, as well as the many middle and upper-middle-class
Christians who journey to the Cape each year to participate in
retreats sponsored by the organization. Some of the evangelical
notables who are associated with the Community include Peter
Marshall, Jr., William Kanaga, formerly Chairman of the Advisory
Board of the New York firm Arthur Young, and at least one member
of the Rockefeller family.
     Two laypersons, Cay Andersen and Judy Sorensen, founded the
Community around 1970 (Mrs. Andersen died several years ago).
They soon became affectionately known as "Mother Cay" and "Mother
Judy," and were at the center of the controversy that has swirled
about the organization in recent years. In addition to what one
churchman called its "lack of ecclesiology," the COJ has been
accused of promoting a "theology of control" that focuses on
attitudinal sins like jealousy, rebellion, willfulness,
haughtiness, and idolatry. Critics and former members have argued
that the Community has shifted toward an unbalanced, unbiblical,
and highly structured program resulting in some people being
abused emotionally and spiritually. There have also been reports
of some forms of physical abuse. Media accounts, including an
extensive article in Boston magazine, have aroused suspicions.
These have been denounced by the COJ leadership.
     According to a lengthy article appearing in the April 19,
1985 edition of the Cape Codder, former members stated that one
of the cardinal sins at the COJ is to talk against Community
disciplines in public. A group of exmembers have shared their
concerns with reporters. "All of them had tales of being yelled
and screamed at. All of them said they had been disciplined, in
one way or another."
     I have extensively interviewed a number of former members of
the Community and have no reason to believe that they were being
untruthful. Independent verification from various other sources
has confirmed to me the questionable behaviors at the COJ, and
has led me to include here a brief discussion of the problem. I
do this despite repeated assertions to me by the leadership that
the reports are invalid, and that they represent the complaints
of only a handful of "disgruntled" ex-members. Several children
of the founders have also departed the Cape and their leaving is
dismissed by the leadership as a result of "family squabbles." It
would seem that since reports of abuse continue to surface, to
completely discount the experiences of these former adherents is
to question the motives of an increasingly large group of people
who have been, from their perspective, deeply hurt as a result of
their association with the COJ. Because of its proximity to
elements of the mainstream evangelical subculture, the Community
of Jesus represents an unusual example of what many Christians,
including many church leaders, see as a troublesome and
unsettling phenomenon.
     Since 1982, several presbyteries have initiated studies and
critical assessments of the COJ, including the Presbytery of
Boston and the Presbytery of Genesee Valley (NY). These studies
were undertaken because of the heavy involvement of members and
pastors of certain Presbyterian churches in various COJ programs
and retreats. In a report dated June 1987, the Synod of the
Northeast concluded, among other things, that "There is some
evidence that in the use of authority, some of the disciplines
and practices of the Community of Jesus have been appropriated by
individuals in less than helpful ways. The Agency [Synod Vocation
Agency] is particularly conscious of the authoritarian nature of
the Community of Jesus."
     The comments of Don, an ex-member, demonstrate why there is
an uneasiness among many secular and Christian observers
regarding the Community. "While the leaders continue to say that
they don't force anybody to do anything, there is such moral
persuasion and such peer pressure that there's no question that
you would do whatever you were expected to do. The alternative
would be anything ranging from a beating to being sent away from
the Community, which meant, separation from Jesus. None of us
wanted that, so therefore we would do what we were expected to do
- not because they stood over us with a whip, but because of the
psychological control they used in giving us the fear that
we would miss our calling or that we would be lost to Jesus if we
ever left."
     Like members of other abusive groups, Don was led to believe
that he was joining an elite team. "We were often told that there
was no place in the world like the Community, that it was

(Sound familiar ex WCGers? It should! Were not you told there was
no other place on earth like the WCG, it was God's "special" end-
time church, with the end-time Apostle of God - namely HWA -
Keith Hunt)

     Don believes that many people who join the Community have
problems beforehand, or are spiritually immature, and therefore
vulnerable to manipulation. "People who were there all had
reasons for joining. Perhaps life was not going well for them, or
they were searching for something they couldn't find. By clever
manipulation, the leadership convinced them that they could find
it at the Community. I was a new Christian, and they convinced me
that I would best find Jesus at the Community. To leave the
Community was to get out of God's will."

(Ah, so taught the WCG under HWA - Keith Hunt)

     Don experienced firsthand the discipline that the Community
administers. "I was told I talked too much. I was directed not to
speak more than three sentences at any one time. And I had to
wait until someone else had said something before I could say
three more sentences. There were also dietary disciplines. One
time we were all expected to go on a grape diet. For forty days
we had grapes, grape juice, and raisins - that's all. A few were
excused for medical reasons. But the great majority of us were
expected to 'go on the grapes.'"
     Don's wife was placed on what is known as the "silence
discipline." She reports, "I was placed 'on silence' for six
months, except for certain times when there was company in the
house, or they decided I could be let off it, which wasn't very
often. Once I had been sent to pull carrots and when I brought
them back, I had, unfortunately for me, pulled up some small ones
with the larger ones. I was verbally chastised for this and was
told that I was not 'in the Spirit' and what did I have to say
about it. They said I could speak and I fell into their trap; I
began to defend myself and then I got another lambasting."

(You talk about crazy control geeks and demon inspired
authoritarians - it is in all cults - Keith Hunt)

     Don pointed out that no negative criticism of the Community
was tolerated, a distinguishing feature of most totalitarian
groups. "No one dared to say anything negative of any kind. I was
actually afraid of being beaten up physically by members of the
Community if I got out of line. No, you learned not to raise
questions. We learned to keep our mouths shut. If someone
questioned what the Community did, they were ridiculed and
humiliated. That effectively shut up everybody else."

(And, so it was in the WCG under HWA - ripple the water and you
were "marked" - ripple it again and you were "disfellpwshipped" -
Keith Hunt)

     Members of the Two-by-Two's also experience the subtle
effects of not making waves. "They struggle in vain to sort out
what they believe, only to give up in frustration and confusion
if they hope to survive. They are taught: 'When in doubt, do
nothing,' 'do not question,' 'doubt is sin,' 'if you have a
problem, go to more meetings,' and 'if you are unhappy, you need
to count your blessings, sacrifice, suffer or submit more.' The
resulting guilt, confusion, indecision, depression and low
self-confidence become lifelong burdens one must bear in order to
have hope of salvation."
     A former elder at Seattle's Community Chapel also discovered
that you could not question the pastor. "The only way you can
minister there is to stroke Don Barnett's ego. But once you cross
him, that's it for you. There's no way that you can tell him that
he's wrong. I flat out told him that what the church was involved
in was sin, that it was an affront to a holy God. That was my
demise as an elder."

(Oh the pages that could be written of this sort of thing taking
place in the WCG under HWA - I've talked to many, I've known
many, who experienced it all - Keith Hunt)

     In 1984 Pastor Barnett sent a memo about "Undermining the
Pastor" to his elders and their wives. It read, in part, "I am
alarmed to see a new trend which I believe the devil is in. A
number of you to whom this letter is being sent have been
privately sharing with others your personal opinions of how the
pastor has given you wrong advice, the mistakes that we have made
concerning revelations, and so forth.... To do this is to
undermine the church; it is contrary to the church and the Word
of God, and it is the devil's business. Those who are appointed
to be representing the church have no business undermining the
very church and pastor they represent, the one who has hired them
to do their job...."

     Members of all abusive churches soon learn that the pastor
or leader is beyond confrontation. As one former member of an
abusive congregation put it, "Since no one in the church was
allowed to murmur and complain, or to disagree with the pastor,
there were many, like myself, who suffered in silence lest we
incur God's anger." All problems that befall the group are the
fault of members who violate the infallible rules. Accordingly,
members experience increased self-doubt, helplessness, and
insecurity. As Jerry MacDonald wrote in 1986:

     Oftentimes the deviant is barraged with attempts to get him
     to admit that he is guilty of crimes that he does not see.
     If he says that he is doubting the leadership, he has sinned
     because you are never to doubt the leadership. If he has
     talked to someone else about his concerns, he has sinned
     because you are never to plant "seeds of doubt" in others'
     minds about the leadership and/or the sect. If, however, the
     deviant does not agree with the definitions of his behavior
     that is placed by the group, he is immediately considered
     "unrepentant" and "unsubmissive."

     The ultimate form of discipline in authoritarian churches is
excommunication or disfellowshipping, followed by strict
avoidance procedures, or shunning. As MacDonald correctly noted,
"Once the deviant is labeled as factious and is denounced, he is
cast aside as thoroughly as one would throw out a dirty diaper
... [the deviant] is no longer considered even to be an exmember,
but a wolf in sheep's clothing. He is referred to and looked to
as how not to be."  When a rebellious individual leaves an
abusive group, he is labeled as a traitor, a reprobate, a sinner,
a backslider, or, in the case of Set Free Christian Fellowship,
an "outlaw." The congregation is told to disassociate from such
persons. "Friends of long standing will ignore him. They will
turn their faces away. They will go to great lengths to avoid
him. They will walk on the other side of the street, hang up the
phone, or not answer the door."

(Oh my oh my, this is like reading from someone who was so
treated by the WCG under HWA - it was all carried out the same
way in the WCG - Keith Hunt)

     It is one thing to live through the devastation of an
abusive-church environment. It is another thing to jump from the
frying pan of one aberrant group into the fire of another abusive
experience at the hands of one's supposed rescuer. Ed and Carolyn
Roberts's story is another example of the very destructive and
evil nature of abusive-church leadership.

     Carolyn, the granddaughter of missionaries to Tibet, grew up
in a very psychologically and physically abusive home. Her mother
and stepfather had left by the time she was a teenager, and she
moved in with her father and his wife at age sixteen. Feeling
trapped in poverty and powerlessness, she turned to God and
prayer. Carolyn believes that she was filled with the Holy Spirit
and received the gift of tongues during this period of time.
At age eighteen, she went to work at a state mental hospital in
California, but felt that God was calling her to Mexico. During a
phone conversation in the middle of the night, she found out that
her mother was going to Mexico to begin an orphanage. Believing
that her termination from her job was a sign from God to go, she
joined her mother who promptly suggested that she attend a
"school for discipleship" in Mexico. It was at this point, at
nineteen years of age and with very little Christian experience,
that Carolyn encountered Benjamin J. Hyde (not his real name) and
Witness to the World (not the actual name).
     B. J. Hyde, fifty-six years old and blind, ran a small
school in Juarez, Mexico, where he was "training people to be
disciples and to become the bride of Christ." Carolyn admits that
she went there in part to get away from a young man who was
pursuing her. "I was so mixed up. I was having a lot of problems
with demonic spirits trying to make me think that I was going to
go crazy." Carolyn came from an abusive family situation, and
knew very little love, but the school provided an environment of
total love and acceptance. "It just sucked me in." Of course, she
did not see the real dynamics of the group until much later.
Indoctrination began immediately. Being a rather stubborn
individual, Carolyn would approach the woman in charge of the
disciples-in-training wherever she saw things occurring that she
did not agree with. She was told, "Well, that's okay. Don't worry
about it. God'll give you the understanding of what is going on."
     In time, Carolyn became one of seven women who were supposed
to be "spiritual wives" to B. J., as he was called. She took a
vow of celibacy and wore a ring that had "Jesus" written in the
center. She was to learn submission, humility, and obedience
through her special relationship with B. J. In public circles,
the "wives" were supposed to be wedded to Jesus, but in the inner
circle, they belonged to Hyde.

     Hyde believed that the Lord had given him a new vision and
shown him a new thing. He was to prepare people for the bride of
Christ. Because he had "the mind of Christ," his followers put on
different garments according to the extent of their humility.
"When he deemed us humble enough, we could put on another
garment." The members were always striving to be submissive,
always working to be humble, and always working to be acceptable
in their leader's eyes. They gave up all their worldly
possessions to "apostle" B. J. Hyde, whom they also
affectionately called "Papa."
     The group moved to El Paso where they had an "outreach" to
servicemen, drug addicts, and runaways. It was at this
"Lighthouse" that Carolyn began crying out to God, saying, "Lord,
I cannot stand this anymore. I can't do this. I can't put up with
this. He is such a mean, cruel man." People, like herself, with
torn pasts and abusive histories, were the kinds attracted to
Witness to the World. It was among the hurting and the unlearned
that Hyde exercised his most abusive spiritual authority.
As a part of his "discipleship training," Hyde continually
insulted his followers, because "we needed to learn submission,
humility, and these were humbling things." Although he belittled,
insulted, and berated the members, he would "respond to us with
the right spirit if our spirit was right." Their spirits were
rarely "right."
     Ed, who joined the group a number of years after Carolyn,
also became subjugated to Hyde. At first he thought that "Papa"
Hyde and his seven dedicated spiritual wives were going to
instruct and teach him in the ways of Jesus Christ. That's why he
joined the little band. Now, in retrospect, he comments: "It's
pretty amazing how a person can be drawn into such a group and be
totally overcome and confused." Hyde would come across in the
morning as sympathetic, constructive, benign, and benevolent. But
by afternoon, if something had gone wrong or had not been carried
out exactly the way he had intended, it would result in severe
anger and chastening. Even when Hyde was clearly wrong, members
got to the point of saying, "He's not at fault. I'm here because
God has put me here, and he is going to refine and perfect me so
that I will be ready when Jesus comes. So, I am going to humble
myself under this absurd type of inquisition in order to purify
my character weaknesses."
     Hyde received the majority of his financial support from a
woman named Emily Fuller, who, reportedly through some miraculous
intervention and word, was shown that she was to give her
substantial savings to him. Her on-going support, plus initial
real estate investments, supplied Hyde and Witness to the World
with sufficient funds for daily expenses. But members were put on
food stamps. In addition, one of the "wives" worked as a
secretary, and, if extra monies were needed for down payments on
land or other purchases, members were sent to harvest tomatoes or
do other menial work.
     Regardless of one's position in Hyde's hierarchy, relations
with family and close friends were cut off because "allegiance
had to be to our spiritual family." Even though Carolyn was
"third down on the list" of spiritual wives, under "Mother
Superior" and "Mother Efficiency," there was no exception. When
family members were questioned about their "worship" of Hyde, B.
J. would respond: "They won't understand that all that is
happening is God using me to perfect you and get you ready for
the bride of Christ." The "bride of Christ" was supposed to be a
very small number, only two out of every two million according to
Hyde. Members were told that they would miss all the tribulation
if they were willing to submit themselves as the bride of Christ
now. "So we were willing to do anything to get ready to be right
with the Lord." This included the loss of one's children.
     Carolyn's sister joined the group two months after Carolyn,
bringing with her an illegitimate baby who was just a few months
old. "The baby was taken away from my sister and given to another
woman. This is what he would do; he would break up the family
like that." When Carolyn asked, "Why are you doing this?" he
answered, "This bondage is not healthy. She has to look to me for
everything, and this bondage between the mother and the son is
too great. If she can't submit herself to me totally and allow me
to do this with her child, then she's not totally submitted to
the Lord." Carolyn laments, "It was pitiful because the little
child was just thrown from one person to the next." Hyde also
separated another family with four children, parceling out each
child to one of his "spiritual wives."

(Ya and the WCG under HWA in the 1960s broke up families also -
often sending the man and woman hundreds if not thousands of
miles apart so no "temptation to get back together" could happen.
It was how the WCG taught on "divorce and re-marriage" - Keith

     Because of this and other incredible experiences, Carolyn
began to balk at Hyde's authority. She became known as the
"rebel" because she was constantly being chastised. Hyde would
use the writings of William Branham, John Robert Stevens, and
Lester Sumrall to support his positions, although he would not
allow writings or teachings from more balanced perspectives to
enter the group.
     Carolyn, in her "rebellion," was subjected to physical abuse
as well. Hyde allegedly hit her and broke her eardrum. He also
put her on a total food and water fast because she came to the
aid of her nephew, whom Hyde was tormenting. The cruelty
increased upon their relocation to Alabama. He would beat, or
order the beating of, children who wet their beds. He would not
allow disciplined members to bathe for several weeks, and,
because of Carolyn and Ed's growing relationship, told Carolyn
"to wash with my tongue every place that I had stepped with Ed in
my 'adulterous path.'" She was forced to clean the floor of
Hyde's very dirty trailer bathroom with her tongue because she,
as a "spiritual wife," had committed "spiritual adultery" in her
relationship with Ed. "I didn't want to go to hell," she

(Some of this is hard to believe that cults would go so bonkers
and people would obey such orders, I shake my head - Keith Hunt)

     Eventually Witness to the World began to deteriorate. In
order to stop Joyce, Carolyn's sister, in her growing
relationship with Dan, another man in the fellowship (dating was
considered demonic), Hyde sent her to a ministry run by Phillip
Benson. Carolyn had convinced him that Benson was sympathetic to
their "cause." There, she learned that Hyde had allegedly engaged
in unspeakable sexual conduct and had had relations with a number
of women in the group. Carolyn, Ed, Joyce, Dan, and the majority
of the rest of the fellowship left Witness to the World upon
hearing about these allegations and went to Benson's camp on his
     Benson performed the marriage ceremony for Carolyn and Ed,
as well as for Joyce and Dan. He also helped them set up
housekeeping. "We went to Bible study every day because he said
that we had to learn the Bible without this twisted slant."
However, Carolyn and Ed began to see that staying at Benson's
camp was in many ways similar to their experiences with B. J.
Hyde. Benson claimed to have the same "psychic abilities" as B.
J. claimed to have. He told his congregation that Ed was jealous
of his "water witching" skill. He attacked one of his members in
front of the congregation, bringing up his "past sins," because
he disagreed with Benson. Things did "not line up with the
Scripture." Ed and Carolyn began to see the exercise of authority
and the use of manipulation and abuse in this congregation as
     Carolyn and Ed escaped and were later disfellowshipped from
Benson's church. They were told that he told the others, "Don't
pray for Carolyn and Ed anymore." He didn't want his church
members "spending their spiritual energy" on them. Unfortunately,
most of the ex-members of Witness to the World are still in
Benson's camp, and they are now hostile toward the Roberts.
Carolyn and Ed have worked through their experiences with B. J.
Hyde and Phillip Benson, and they have grown as Christians.
Carolyn says, "I am not angry with God. I am not angry with
Christ. I don't understand it all. I don't know how all of this
fits, but I still trust him."
     Ed adds, "I know that there is a lot of flexibility within
the body of Christ and even in the theology of the church. I have
tried to sharpen my senses to know what is on the 'outside' and
what is on the 'inside.' I am more intense toward his Word and am
a lot more protective of it, because when it is used properly, by
the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it brings life and joy. When it
is distorted, it's a monster."

     Unwavering obedience to religious leadership and
unquestioning loyalty to the group would be less easily achieved
if analysis and feedback were available to members from the
outside. It is not without reason that leaders of abusive groups
react so strongly and so defensively to any media criticism of
their organizations. Don recalls what happened when adverse
publicity about the Community of Jesus began to appear in the
media. "We were told in a meeting by Mother Cay and Mother Judy
that we were not to read the article in Boston magazine and the
newspaper article because we didn't need to know about it. They
said it was all baloney and that we were above all that sort of
thing. We would stand for the persecution in the same way Jesus
did." But then Don adds: "Some of us who were rebels did read it,
and in our brainwashed state, swept under the rug a good bit of
what was said. But I think it did lay some of the groundwork for
later questioning."

     In response to questions submitted by The Cape Codder to the
Community of Jesus, the leadership issued a statement that
essentially denied the allegations made by ex-members, claiming
that the Community "stands in the long and honored tradition of
monastic and semimonastic communities, which have existed since
the early days of Christianity." Regarding the role of founders
Cay and Judy, the statement said that members "certainly do not
regard them as infallible or surrogates for God." The statement
also made reference to Jesus' words, "By their fruits you shall
know them." "We submit that the fruit of this Community's life
can be seen in the incredible abundance of creativity - music,
drama, art, crafts of every description, gardening, and writing
(to name a few)..."
     Regarding the latter reference about being known by one's
fruits, a former COJ member remarked to me, "The fruit of the
Spirit is well outlined in Galatians chapter five and has nothing
to do with gardens, music, drama, art, and crafts." Another
ex-member, reacting to the statement, commented: "The leadership
has done a beautiful job of putting together a large number of
words that say nothing. They have never in any way responded
directly to any of the facts which were stated as facts by
various individuals in the media coverage. They always come out
with a straw man that they set up and then batter down. 'Oh, we
don't know of any of these things which the former members
allege.' But they were not allegations, they were facts. We
witnessed the events, we knew they took place, and they happened
to US.

     No one was more vociferous in his denunciation of the media
than Hobart Freeman, pastor of Faith Assembly. Here is a sampling
of his comments extracted from several of his sermons:

"I don't care what the media says because it isn't true. It's
110% false."

"The spirit of the anti-Christ is in the news media. N.E.W.S.
means Negative Expression of What's Seen."

"Your responsibility on behalf of this Body is no comment to the
news media, ever!" 

"You're not obligated to answer one question to the media. They
will turn everything you say against you."

"When you feed information to the media, you're asking for
persecution you don't need." 

"They don't know which end is up, spiritually, those religious
reporters. Even when they try to report what they see, they can't
see right. They're cross-eyed."

     When authoritarian churches are subjected to what they
perceive to be negative press, they invariably interpret the
results as the "work of Satan." This is true even if the report
appears in a Christian periodical, or when Christian observers
are quoted.

(Indeed, and it was so in the WCG during news coverage from about
1978 to 1980 on the WCG under HWA and Stan Rader - Keith Hunt)

     I well remember the response of a columnist in the December,
1984 issue of Charisma magazine to a report authored by an ad hoc
committee of evangelicals who had investigated allegations about
Maranatha Christian Ministries. I was one of the authors of that
report. We were all cast into the role of unwitting agents of
Satan because we had critically evaluated Bob Weiner's
organization. "How can one group of Christians be attacking a
ministry which other respected leaders have called one of the
most significant movements in America?" the columnist asked. The
devil, he asserted, "attacks any vigorous expression of
Christianity - by persecution and slander...." He concluded his
article by stating, "Wherever Maranatha is going in the future, I
would like to go with them." I have often wondered how the
columnist, seminary professor Richard Lovelace, felt a few years
later when Maranatha was shut down as a ministry (to be discussed
in chapter 11). Ironically, some of the reasons cited for
Maranatha's demise were the very problems that we had identified
in our report, which was so roundly denounced by Maranatha and
others at the time of its release.
     Criticism, whether its source is Christian or secular,
sincere or superficial, is always viewed by fringe churches as an
"attack" - and dismissed as more evidence of Satan trying to
discredit "a good Christian work." In no way would I defend all
that is passed off as investigative journalism aimed at Christian
organizations. But I am aware of numerous instances where
carefully researched, accurate reporting has been totally
rejected by the evangelical Christian community without ever
considering the possible merits of the reporting. It is almost
automatically attributed to Satan. That is unconscionable.
     A case in point involved the publication of an extensive
journalistic investigation into Set Free Christian Fellowship,
located in Anaheim, California. Following publication of the
report in The Orange County Register on June 9, 1991, members of
the Christian community appeared on the Trinity Broadcasting
Network to denounce the article as an unjustified journalistic
attack, a contrivance of the Adversary. Pastor Phil Aguilar was
being interviewed and consoled by the hosts because of the
"vicious persecution" he had endured at the hands of the press.
The cohost made this incredible statement: "I've never read the
article about you Phil, but I know that it's untrue." When
Christians refuse to listen to "the other side," to say nothing
of reading the material under discussion before commenting on it,
they lose credibility with everyone. And let's not forget, there
are almost always reasons why abusive organizations do not want


All that you have been reading so far from this book by Enroth,
should be blowing you away. It is like a dream that such abusive
churches are out there, living, teaching, practicing, such horrid
theology. If you read through the Gospels there is NO WAY you can
try to claim that this kind of abusive conduct is of Christ or
any of His apostles of the first century.

These leaders of abusive organization are truly fruit-nut cases
from planet Pluto. You need to be able to recognize them, and run
as fast as you can from their influence. They are crazy men or
women - they are the blind leaders of the blind, and if you are
blind to them, then THEY and YOU will end up in the ditch along
with the demons who have captured their minds.


Keith Hunt

To be continued

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