ReligionNewsBlog.com — A small church in the tiny town of Wells, Texas, has come under scrutiny after the parents of one its new members have claimed their daughter has been brainwashed by the church’s leaders.
Catherine Grove, 26, disappeared from her home in Fayettevillen, Arkansas on July 2.
This greatly concerned her parents.
After endless attempts to reach their daughter, finally, almost a week later, they heard her voice.
“When she first called us on July 7, it was 11:30 at night, she said, ‘I’m in Wells, Texas, I’m with a group of people that are taking good care of me, but Mom and Dad I can’t listen to you any more, I have to keep my hands over my ears and I can only listen to my ‘elders,’ and that was alarming to us,” Patty Grove said.
It turned out that the young woman had joined the Church of Wells.
‘We care for her soul; You don’t’
Catherine’s parents are now staying in Well, living in their R.V., and are trying to see their daughter away from the church and church members.
They say that hen they went to the church, a young man answered the door.
“He steps out and we say, ‘We’re Mr. and Mrs. Grove, we’re looking for our daughter Catherine Grove, do you know where she is?'” Patty said. “And this man came out and brought another man with him, and they both stood in front of us, and their very first words to us were, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Grove, we have reason to believe that you’re going to kidnap your daughter, subvert her from our teachings, that we care for her soul and you don’t.'”
The 57-member ‘Evangelical’ church is run by three young “elders,” Ryan Ringnald, Jacob Gardner and Sean Morris. According to media reports they believe that Catherine is a former Satanist, and that they are merely trying to help her get saved — a process they believe would be hindered by her parents.
Hence they only contact the Groves have had with their daughter has been limited and on the church’s terms.
“When Christ calls a man, if he has his allegiance to his family first of all, or to his job first of all, or to his earthly possessions or riches first of all, that allegiance needs to be cut, if must be severed, or that man cannot truly bow the knee and worship in admiration in true service to the Lord Jesus Christ,” Gardner said.
Law officers: nothing illegal
Law enforcement officials have looked into the case, and have concluded that the church’s members and officials have broken no laws, says the Jacksonville Daily Progress:
In fact, there is no evidence whatsoever that Catherine Grove, 26, was kidnapped or is being held against her will — a fact Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department deputies verified three times by speaking to her away from the rest of the Wells congregation with whom she is currently staying, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Capt. John R. Raffield explained Tuesday.
“There is nothing illegal about it,” the captain said. “We have explained this to the family and other people. We can no more continue to question members of their church about this than we could pull parishioners out of a Methodist church, a Baptist church, or a Seventh Day Adventist Church and tell them, ‘Your parents are really worried this church is filling your head with nonsense.'”
On the church’s website Sean Morris addresses the controversy in lengthy, overly wordy messages and sound files filled with religious verbiage seemingly designed primarily to communicate that the Church of Wells is (part of) the ‘true church’ while those who question its teachings and practices are of a ‘carnal mind.’
That the wording comes across of somewhat dated is explained by the fact that this church believes “the King James Version of the Bible is the preserved word of God for English speaking people.” For details about this erroneous teaching — part of the church’s “Statement of Beliefs” — see the Apologetics Index entry on King James-Onlyism.
Press conference and Town Hall meeting
Morris last week contacted the media to announce that a press conference would take place on Sunday. He then cancelled the meeting hours before it was to take place.
According to the Jacksonville Daily Progress
When asked why the press conference was cancelled, Sean Morris contended the Groves family removed a Facebook page that contained evidence that Catherine Groves had been somehow involved with Satanism. – See more at: http://jacksonvilleprogress.com/x31543874/Church-and-parents-wage-war-of-words#sthash.v8rWiOtm.dpuf
The paper has also published various statements by Morris.
Last week the town of Wells held a town hall meeting to discuss the matter.
Local CBS affiliate KYTX says more than 150 people attended:
Most of the people in the room say they welcome different religions, but they feel the church’s unorthodox practices are too extreme.
“Christians believe in children obeying their parents, that’s one of the ten commandments, honor thy father and mother,” one Wells resident told CBS 19.
“It seems like they’ve come in here and they’ve tried to take over our town and tell us we’re all going to hell. You can’t come up to somebody and tell them they’re going to hell. I’ve been told that. One of them stopped me and told me at the post office that I was going to hell,” said another Wells resident.
Ministers from various churches from within Wells say they (Wells church community) stand for the gospel truth of Jesus Christ.
They don’t agree with the Church of Wells, but they don’t judge them. They believe that the community should show love to them and hopefully the church will turn around its practices.
The station has also published a statement by Catherine Grove, in which she says:
“I, Catherine Grove, am simply seeking the Lord Jesus Christ. I am a wretched sinner and I came here to Wells, TX to talk and listen to these Christians so that they could simply help me find the Lord. They are teaching me what the Bible says. There is no other reason why I am here. These people are full of integrity and are doing no wrong. These people believe and obey every word in the Bible. They are completely innocent of the wrongdoing falsely accused of them. I have actually never met anyone so pure and innocent as them. They have provided for me very well, cooking many meals for me. All I want to do is repent of sin and seek the Lord until I find Him. My parents are worried about me and I understand that, but they should be more worried about drawing me away from the Lord, by teaching something that is not in the Bible. I am not born again, and I don’t think my parents are either. These people are not keeping me here against my will. They are not brainwashing me as they have been accused of. They are telling me what the Bible says.”
To us — at Apologetics Index, the website that publishes Religion News Blog — the teachings and practices of the Church of Wells, and the behavior of its elders in this matter, raise all manner of red flags.
This does not come across as a healthy Christian church, which is why we include the following research resources:
Abusive Churches / Spiritual Abuse
Healthy and unhealthy churches: distinguish the difference
Churches That Abuse — online book
What is a cult of Christianity?
What you should know about brainwashing and mind control