Church affection program allegedly included spouse sharing

The request came from a friend and fellow church member, the woman said, asking she allow her husband to be shared for their church’s communication program.

The woman said she wasn’t the jealous type and agreed to allow her friend to share physical affection, coffee and dates with her spouse.

Her pastor, Royden Wood of the now-defunct Ambassador Baptist Church, was encouraging what was known as the “affection program.”

But as the program went on, the two friends’ relationship deteriorated and the woman’s friend’s husband left and wouldn’t return unless the program stopped.

Yesterday brought another day of unusual revelations at the Superior Court trial of Wood, 57, who has pleaded not guilty to 13 charges — 10 of assault involving the disciplining of three boys who attended the London church’s alternative school from 1985 to 1987 and three sex-related charges involving two females.

After a week-long break, the case returned with the testimony of the woman, her identity protected by court order.

She was a member for almost two decades before the church folded last Oct. 4.

She gave a police statement in December. By testifying, she said she’s lost friends and her husband didn’t approve, “but it’s increased my faith and put me closer to God.”

The woman spoke of the affection program and said she received unwanted affection from men in church, but “I was expected to go along with the program.”

“I was not pleased that there were no spousal limitations set,” the woman said, adding there were no restrictions on other women kissing her husband on the mouth or sitting on his lap or holding hands.

Even Wood, she said, preached from the pulpit that some members should be getting “speeding tickets” for going too fast.

In church there was hand-holding, back massages, teasing and tickling.

Wood also taught an unusual view on adultery — and said it wasn’t that serious of a sin. The most harmed, he said was the person who committed the adultery.

Women had little status and were taught to submit to their husbands, she said.

Makeup and jewelry was discouraged. So were pants.

At swimming parties, people swam in their clothes.

When the woman asked about makeup and jewelry, Wood would speak about it “severely.” Her husband asked her not to ask questions. “Just go along and don’t make waves.”

The woman recalled that at one point, every woman would come to church in long denim skirts, running shoes and sweatshirts.

Wood said latest fashion was “ungodly” and by dressing down the homeless and addicts would feel comfortable sitting in the church.

“We did that to look separate from what we called ‘the world,’ ” she said.

Wood told the congregation women “should be treated like princesses” and a woman’s body was “a thing of beauty.”

The woman said Wood taught it was acceptable for men to look at other women. Not doing so might result in erectile problems that would cause a man to lose his relationship with his wife.

Birth control was also discouraged, she said.

The woman said Wood would raise “negative innuendos” about all the families that left the church. He called them “thumb-sucking Christians” and spoke of them in a poor light.

Members were discouraged from speaking to people who left.

“God’s quitter department was full,” was something Wood would say.

“We were in fear of bringing anything to him because we would be negatively spoken of by him,” she said.

The woman said Wood was in control of all aspects of the church and warned he would veto any decisions he didn’t agree with.

After charges were laid, there was a “hands-off” policy at the church, which she said was a “complete change for Wood.”

He told the congregation he was “being persecuted by people because he was doing God’s work.”

“He was getting rewards in heaven because he was being persecuted and he was happy because of it,” she said.

She said about one-third of the congregation “still sides with Roy.”

The trial continues today.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday March 6, 2008.
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