Saturday, December 5, 2015

Churches That Abuse

Emmaus Christian Fellowship

Before changing their name to Homestead Heritage the group was formerly known as Emmaus Christian Fellowship. Part of the group lived on property in Colorado, and part of it in Austin, Texas.

It was during this time that they came to the attention of. Dr. Ronald Enroth, former Professor of Sociology at Westmont College and author of Churches That Abuse.  He writes on p.56:
Control can also be exercised by regulating contacts with family members and friends from the past. Members who go home to visit friends and relatives are encouraged to keep the visits brief because, "you may lose the vision." When prospective members consider joining Emmaus Christian Fellowship in Colorado, they are told to read a document that spells out the ramifications of their baptismal vow. "Because our lives become intimately intertwined with others in our new family, our lives will profoundly affect our new brothers and sisters. We recognize any disobedience to God's patterns [read: patterns of that group] will necessarily affect others. This makes it necessary that we should submit to God's discipline in our lives not only for our own sake, but for all others as well . . . God tells us that no earthly relationship should draw us away from our commitment to His covenant Body, thereby bursting through the covering of the Body and making both our own life and the entire Body vulnerable to infection. We must instead be willing to lose our family, our friends, our nation, even our own life if we are to be worthy to be His disciples."
And on p.93:
The experience of a former member of the communal Emmaus Christian Fellowship in rural Colorado illustrates many of these feelings and is typical of the many accounts I have documented in various groups during years of research. "Two of the elders yelled at and talked to me for four hours," she reports. "I was told I was a stubborn, rebellious woman, that I was throwing away my salvation, hanging onto pagan holidays [Christmas and Easter], and wanting my boy to play baseball." One elder also told her "that when he stood before Jesus Christ on Judgement day, he would tell Jesus that I didn't really want to make it to the kingdom of heaven."
Like so many of the ex-members of spiritually abusive groups that I have interviewed, this woman left with a heavy load of guilt, somehow feeling that she was to blame and at fault for what had transpired. "I doubted my salvation. I had lost all my best friends whom I had shared my life with for five years. I was literally devastated. I was pregnant at the time, and I lived in mortal fear that something would be wrong with the baby, that God had cursed me and my child."
This woman lived in a very small town. Following her departure from the group, she found it difficult at first to confront her former church members in public. "I just couldn't face anyone. I dreaded going to the post office or the store, afraid I would run into someone." Then, when she was able to reach out to them, her efforts were rebuffed, "with either excuses or by their outright ignoring me." The reason: "I had broken covenant. I had turned my back on God. I was the worst kind of heathen there was. I was lost and there was no hope for me in their eyes." 
 As you can imagine, the leaders at Emmaus Fellowship (now Homestead Heritage) didn't appreciate the mention in Enroth's book. A paper was distributed to members on "Questioning Authority."

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