An exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation focused on a Williamson County church, and how its Firm Beliefs may have led to the child abuse death of a little boy. One of the questions: why are members so willing to let the group’s founder tell them how to run their lives?
In the Bible, there are the prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Malachi.
In Remnant Fellowship, there’s Gwen Shamblin.
“She seems to be considered a prophet by all members of Remnant Fellowship,” says former Remnant recruit Adam Brooks.
Which is why Brooks and others believe members — like the Atlanta-area couple now charged with beating their son to death — are willing to yield to Shamblin on the use of severe discipline for children.
“If Gwen speaks about parenting, you can bet people are going to listen, they are going to take her advice and follow it,” Brooks says.
NewsChannel 5′s chief investigative reporter Phil Williams asks Shamblin, “Are you a prophet?”
“I don’t believe I know what my gift name is,” she replies. “I will tell you that I am still wrestling with that.
“I’ve been told that for years.”
In fact, videos from Shamblin’s Weigh Down Christian diet plan strike an exodus theme, and she finds reassurance in her own public relations.
“Even in the Atlanta Constitution years ago, they likened me unto a present-day Moses because it was breaking people out of the slavery of overeating,” she tells Williams.
Then, when terrorists struck on September 11th, 2001, Shamblin quickly sent out an e-mail to her followers, comparing herself to the Old Testament prophets and saying she had been trying to warn America.
Brooks lived in New York and was being recruited to join Shamblin’s church.
“She was kind of saying you don’t have a lot of time to make a decision and a smart person would decide in my favor and get underneath the authority of Remnant Fellowship because that’s the only thing that’s going to protect you.”
Former members say there was something exhiliarating about Remnant’s claims to be a group of believers who are completely becoming obedient to God.
“They always said this is the true church,” says former member David Phillips. “There is no other church. Every other church out there is counterfeit. This is drilled in your head week after week after week.”
Members are encouraged to listen to Christian music by Shamblin’s son Michael, but avoid other Christian artists who might present counterfeit messages.
And Shamblin tells her followers that she has the authority to tell them what’s right and what’s wrong. In a conference call obtained by NewsChannel 5, she says:
“I have not been put in this position because I’m going to put up with you all’s disobedience. If I hear of it, then I will correct it. If I have to come to you, then you’re really in trouble.”
David Phillips’ wife Terri says that was a recurrent theme.
“If it was storming — it was God’s judgment,” she remembers. “We might not live through the night. She used a lot of fear. And then if the storm was over, then she’d say oh God is so good he actually let us to live another night.”
Remnant’s church services have even drawn protests from parents, who say Shamblin encouraged her followers to cut off contact with their non-Remnant families.
One of those parents, Pamela Carney, blames Shamblin personally.
“It’s all about being under Gwen’s control,” Carney says. “She wants to control everybody.”
By all accounts, Shamblin has made millions of dollars through the Weigh Down Workshop, the for-profit arm of her ministry. But, as part of the settlement of a lawsuit filed by some former employees a few years ago, she insisted that those financial details be kept under seal.
Shamblin says she believes the questions about the apparent child abuse death of a young Remnant child is just God’s way of getting out word about what she calls the New Jerusalem.
“I do believe we are on to things. I believe God is making public what we are doing.”
As to the truth about Remnant Fellowship, there is this problem:
“You think if you lie for God’s sake, it’s OK?” Williams asks Shamblin.
“I believe if God calls you to, you’d better protect Jerusalem,” she answers, pointing to her Bible.
“There are so many cases in here where people did that very thing to protect Jerusalem, and so they were rewarded.”