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Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: Stephen Dale ()
Date: July 25, 2014 09:16PM

Hi everyone,
Just came accross this forum about CP.
I joined CP way back in 1988 because my close friend and the one who lead me to the Lord had been killed in Africa when she was on mission with CP Earlier that year in a RTA. Emma has always been in my thoughts ever since, and it has still been a struggle to know why she was taken from us.
I joined the summer training in Stuggart Germany after I had graduated from theatre School in the UK.
At first it all seemed very exciting and totally engaging, but I felt slightly uneasy about the affirmations after every performance, which often came accross as cheesey and embarrassing! To keep on affirming something that isn't really that good is likely to produce a false sense of achievement and give you an ego that can lead to an unrealistic approach to your craft. Maybe it would be better to encourage people by having constructive crictism, which if done in love is more realistic and not false!

I was also deeply concerned about the lack of sleep and lack of food at training times. It seems that certain basic needs for many people were ignored and CP was very poor when it came to being organised, putting people who just didn't have the skills in positions of authority.

I was asked to make a committment, but at first I said no then changed my mind. I was assigned to Ireland with a lovely team, but it seemed that deep down I knew that CP wasn't good for me, I thought this was maybe something to do with my immaturity, or because i wanted to become an actor in the secluar world, which is what I trained for! My team leader was really kind to me, dispite my lack of respect to the team, and the job we had to do. However I was sent back the the UK and talked with Gail Crabtree who consulted with Robin, and they felt that I should go which I also agreed with!
I met some wonderful people in CP and it was hard to go because I really didn't know if God had called me to CP or not!

However, just a couple of years later I actually returned to CP again at another German training camp, and this time I felt ready to commit.
But it only took about two days before I knew that something was not right with this organisation. Some leaders looked like zombies they were so tired and again the lack of sleep and lack of healthy food was evident. One of the things that stuck me was how Chuck was referred to as 'beloved' this made me think that some people looked to him as an idol and put him on a pedistool. I never met Chuck, but you could tell his influency on people was too strong. I left again and went back home without making a commitment. It's was just as hard the second time around and I still didn't know if God was calling me to be in CP till sometime later when I was called to do something else.

I thought that some of the plays were good but some of them were patronising and cheesey in my opinion but noone was willing to say anything abouit them.
Everyone does good work and not so good work! Again if all Chuck was getting was affirmations after affirmations eventually you will believe them, and it will effect the way you view yourself. Real humility is something that carries great authority and brings the fruit of God's affimation not mans!

I am sure that Chuck was a driven inspired man. However, what I have read in the comments about the lawsuit, how he lied about his graduation, and his tenuous links to Hollywood, comes accross as a man who is just as fallen as the rest of us.
Like most leaders in Churches and christian organisations they all have falts and weaknesses and many leaders should not be leading people.

Maybe CP meant too much to Chuck, and it became more and more a personaility driven organisation with his characteristics stamped over the whole package!
Whatever, the case CP has served the Lord and done many wonderful things through
the faith and love of those who took the opportunity to serve.
I don't believe that it is a cult, but it certanily had many cultish charateristics.
I hope that people will forgive CP if they got hurt, and I hope for healing for anyone who is still angry and bitter about their experiences.

Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life.

Stephen

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Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 25, 2014 09:57PM

Being praised for every little thing in a "cheesey" manner can be a way
to put adults into a childs state of mind.

First, this is disorienting. Suppose you are used to being a good driver.

To be suddenly, gushingly praised for something you already know you do
very well and take for granted can leave one feeling off balance, puzzled
as to what is normal in this group.

Part of being mature is knowing one is doing a good job and no long needing
affirmation and praise for each and every thing one does.

Very tiny children do need this kind of external affirmation, because in very
early childhood, one needs to be tutored each and every step because one is
shaping a sense of selp and learning early skills, such as how to dress oneself, how to be ready for breakfast and school and playdates.

But with enough tutoring and over time, a child is supposed to *internalize* a growing sense of competance and build self recognition that he or she not only
has been accomplishing tasks but has secure knowledge he or she can
do these tasks for self satisfaction and no longer need constant praise.

Constructive criticism; yes. But an experienced cook doesnt require gushing
praise just because he or she has made excellent scrambled eggs for the thousandth time.

To do constant 'cheesey' sentimental praise of each tiny thing one does
as an adult can be off putting, put us back into a puzzled state of mind
and.....long term leave us dependant on getting praise from the ringleader
of this sort of 'adult kindergarten' situation.

This can lead to emotional dependance.

Were you allowed to keep your ID papers and passport and money when sent
to foreign countries for teamwork? Keeping possession of these is very important.

Why sleep is necessary

[forum.culteducation.com]

Being in a foreign country can make one vulnerable -- much more
difficult to get up and leave, and one can become far more dependent
on one's team or group.

This was written about a different group but possibly some of it may apply.

If you go to a foriegn country or even fly 3 or more time zones across the US,
this can be disorienting to a person's body clock and sleep wake cycle.

[forum.culteducation.com]

Persons with medical conditions such as bipolar affective disorder may
have special trouble keeping moods in balance.

An overview of how we can be thrown off balance. Written to describe
a different group; but some of it may apply here.

[forum.culteducation.com]

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Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: canyonrunner ()
Date: April 25, 2015 10:55AM

I am a former and recovering EX-CP'er. I served my sentence between 86 and 89. To this day I still have nightmares that somehow I have been tricked back "in" and I am trying to escape. Guess that introduces my view on the organization.

I remember you, Mr Fugate. I can say I remember you, while not fondly, at least without rancor.

Marjoe2 wrote on Oct 8, 2010 that she challenges all comers to provide a shred of evidence that Tanner was involved in television or movie making. There was the play he wrote that is line for line near perfect recitation of an episode of Twilight Zone or Night Gallery. Roddy McDowell was in the episode. The two works are so close that a jury could return no verdict but guilty of copywrite infringement. Not incontrovertable evidence, but there is very little incontrovertible evidence about Tanner. I get the sense he was a bit player in the scheme of things, and not particularly successful. On numerous occasions he stated visitors in his home looked at the books on his shelves at home, not knowing he was one of the authors on the shelf, albeit under a pseudonym. Again, something he would mention that no one could DISprove. One event that rankled me early on was his mentioning a favorite book of mine "Around the World On Eighty Dollars". He stated the book was written by a man named Ibn Assam. Horsewash. I had an autographed first edition by the actual author, Robert Christopher. When I broached the subject with him, privately, he acted like a spoiled and truculent child. He berated me and advised I was never to correct my "betters" and that I best go off somewhere and "prey hard, pray long, and consider my attitude". Yeah, Chucky, never lets facts get in the way of a good story! And let's not forget, he would have never made it in this day and age with the Library of Congress and more at our fingertips on devices and young kids ready, willing, and able to bust anyone on a B.S. story!



Gladitsover wrote on March 30, 2013 that he or she wanted to get in contact with others that are out. This username is no longer active, but if he or she ever re-activates, I would welcome a private message and an oppportunity to talk. Also was mentioned the keeping of secrets from family. Reminds me of the off color joke about how to play "Uncle" followed by an inappropriate grope and quickly whispering "Don't tell yer daddy!" This is a classic survival tactic that abusers use with their victims. I also felt I could not tell my closest friends and the people I considered my Family In Christ...but it was becasue I felt I had been hoodwinked and was humiliated.

Davronin. Another username that has been inactivated. So sorry. I remember you David. I remember hugging you and telling you to keep my friends safe when you went overseas. He mentioned the unit leader that was sexually assaulted by a pastor and it was swept under the rug. I believe I was transferred mid-"Mission" to her unit with instructions to watch her closely, but no explanation as to why. Later that spring, she turned up drunk late one night while we stayed with an Assembly of God based ministry. (Drunkeness was cause for immediate dismissal.) We confronted her and thw whole story spilled from her like blood gushing from an artery. That poor woman should have been in psychiatric care and not out on the road!!!

I had a personal relationship with the leadership of this ministry and they asked me to account for what would happen. I related the standing policies and they begged I do all I could to get her the help she desperately needed. When I called WHQ the next morning, the closest I got to Chuck was Mark JT. I was assured all would be handled and they would take care of things. Nothing happened. Diddly all squat nothing. (I am still praying for her near daily 25 yrs later).

After I was out and attending college in Minot, ND and a unit came thru the area. They contacted me and milked me for housing. I had reservations, but found them homes with friends of mine. Later that week, I found out from the friends that one of the young girls on the unit came to them and admitted she was being held against her will, wanted to leave, and that the unit leader was sexually molesting her. The friends attempted to intervene and the unit pulled out of town, skipping out on scheduled programs ahead of the police.

David, if you ever log back into this forum, I would be honored if you would contact me by private message.

After I got out, some years later, I was in contact with a "lifer" that was PNG. David talked to me about how he and his wife were working thru the brainwashing techniques that CP used in it's indoctrination techniques. Sleep deprivation, confusing doctrine and blind acceptance, drastic reduction in dietary inputs, removal of privacy, uncompromising rules, dress codes, chanting/singing/ love bombing, cutting financial bridges and supports ($25/wk...and less than a third of those weeks I was actually paid!), isolation, controlled approval, guilt, and fear, the list goes on.

While it may not be a cult, Tanner, I assert, was well aware of these methods of breaking down inhibitions and establishing abnormal control over his subjects. If he did not learn of this in the military, this information has been readily available in printed form since the 1950's. And Tanner was a voracious reader, if nothing else.

Like someone said, this group is dead and it is taking its time falling over. I don't miss it, but I do miss some wonderful people that drank the Kool-Aid to varying degrees.

-John

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Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: maiaoming ()
Date: August 21, 2015 03:42AM

SO

I was so excited to find this thread. I grew up in Covenant Players - Amy Sarah Marshall. My dad, Nels, my mom, Helen, my stepmom, Cynthia Gearing, my godfather, Mark J-T... and everyone else - my "family" - it's been hard to talk about what it was like growing up and seeing the things I did.

When I was in college, I studied anthropology and realized that CP fit the definition of a cult. No one believed me or would even listen.

But there was so much going on under the surface. Power trips. And in the late 60s, psychic experiments.

Some things that stick out for me:
The Tanners had health insurance. No one else did. Chuck promised to help pay my mom's bills when she had to have an operation, but did not.

No one was allowed to seek outside counseling. My mother was a "counselor," but people with major mental problems needed real help.

The PNG thing.

The emphasis on appearance was really, really mean and critical of how people looked, fiercely so, and the pecking order of beauty - as determined by Chuck - was explicit.

Sleeping = weakness.

Chuck told me once - and inferred to everyone - that he knew more about them than they knew about themselves.

I remember being taught - God first, CP second, everything else third. That latter included family. (me.)

ANYWAY, I'm going to write about this, and appreciate all the stories shared.

Thanks.

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Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: canyonrunner ()
Date: August 26, 2016 04:11AM

I check back on this thread only sporadically. I now regret not checking back sooner, Amy.

I remember your family fondly. I felt, even at that time, that they were genuinely good people. I cannot imagine how that toxic atmosphere warped your childhood.

-John

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Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: kitkatpaddywhack ()
Date: November 21, 2016 01:58AM

I was in Covenant Players a couple years before Chuck's death to a couple years after.

I can say that the fact that we still did verbal and written affirmations to Chuck even after his death raised warning flags for me, even at the time. The longer I spend out of CP, the more I realize that things were, at the very least, extremely problematic.

I didn't take the directing class for the beginner's level, because the person in charge of the class hated me, and would bully me whenever she was directing me in a play - which during the summer was pretty often.

I was placed under unit leaders that were emotionally and mentally abusive. I spent a year being one step away from a complete breakdown because of how they were treating me. One of them lied on the critique of a performance and blamed me for us skipping a couple pages of dialogue when it was another person that had done it, and said that they tried to give us three weeks to work on a play and they guessed they needed to give us more time. They had given us three hours, and I had learned a major role in that time, having never heard of the play before (for those CPers who know, it was Jill in "Best Laid Plans".) We didn't actually rehearse the play all the way through. We simply ran lines and ran lines and ran lines, and the guy playing Jack and I made up our own blocking during the performance. I was in charge of printing the reports off and happened to see them say that they'd given us three weeks and all that balderdash, so I wrote a letter to Mark and Bobbi J-T explaining that I knew I'd broken the rules by reading the critique, but that I couldn't in good conscience not say anything but that I was willing to take whatever punishment was deemed necessary for reading it, and told them what actually happened. I was chewed out and made to feel like crap, and they told the Unit Leader that I'd done it, and the UL was never in trouble for lying.

That Unit Leader was extremely abusive, but we were told in no uncertain terms by the leadership that our job wasn't to question the UL but to make sure that we helped them as best as we could.

"Chuck said" was still the fastest way to get anyone to do something your way, even with people that had joined after his death.

I very rarely made more than the $20 a week - and keep in mind, tax was taken out of it, so by the time it got to me, it was $17.86 a week, if we even got that. Since I wasn't having to pay rent or anything like that, it was easily doable - until it came time to go home, or go back to California for training. My parents had to pay for that. Training happened twice a year in the Oxnard area. It is expensive there. During training, we were expected to pay for gas, and any food we ate at the host homes (understandable, when you're living there for eight weeks in the summer). I was frequently having to go to the Deacons to get help paying for gas because I had only earned roughly $250 on a mission, and that was gone during the first two weeks of training because I was staying over an hour without traffic away from where training was taking place. (Deacons fund was basically there to help CPers who needed money for one thing or another.)

I enjoyed writing, and I would frequently be cautioned to make sure not to talk about my writing with hosts, because we needed to make sure that the focus was on Chuck and CP and God - and pretty much in that order.

I would frequently be told to not talk to my family about things, because they wouldn't understand and would think that CP was a cult.

Also for training, I was having to leave my host home at six in the morning to get to training by nine, and not getting home until two or three in the morning, because of how long training was. I was exhausted.

I had directors bully me until I had panic attacks, and then they'd congratulate themselves on finally getting through to me.

During critiques during training, Mark or Bobbi would talk to the director and cast after the affirmations time to tell them the things they'd done wrong and should work on (which is fine and not part of the problem). But if I as the actor were blamed for something I had specifically been directed to do, I wasn't allowed to point that out, because then it was arguing. I had multiple times that I'd be told why I shouldn't have done something I did that the director had told me to do and the director would nod and say "I told her not to do that, I guess I should have worked with her more on that".

I performed when I should have gone to the hospital. I performed with a dislocated shoulder. I performed with strep throat when I could barely talk - my Unit Leader made me do a singlet like that, and the church felt so bad for me that the pastor paid for me to go to the doctor because I couldn't afford to do it myself.

I was placed on a unit with a guy that date raped me. When I tried to explain why I wasn't comfortable with this, the blame was put on me, that I shouldn't have encouraged him and should have made things more clear.

There are so many things about CP that I loved. But holy hell, there were so many problems.

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Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: maiaoming ()
Date: November 04, 2017 03:01AM

Just for the record...

... Chuck DID make money. He sold books of his plays. He had a giant mansion in the LA hills. He and his family had health insurance. No one else did.

Lots of people had major mental issues. They were not encouraged to seek professional help. I know this because my mother was the "personnel" aka therapist for a few years. She had no training. But she dealt with people having depression suicide etc.

My parents had outside jobs in order to make ends meet. We cleaned the toilets at the headquarters. We slept on the floor. We lived in other people's houses. We had no health insurance.

The time involved was insane, though Even at the world headquarters, after working a regular work week, everyone was expected to attend two nights week of "rehearsal" to listen to chuck and work on plays - and then there were weekend demands.

And despite all this autonomy Scott speaks of, when it came down to it, Chuck was the ultimate authority over what happened to you.

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Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: Coffeecup007 ()
Date: January 10, 2018 02:38PM

I really appreciate reading your point of view Amy. I often wondered what CP was like from the perspective of a child growing up within the organization. Thank you for sharing.
I was in CP for four and a half years. When I left I was a PNG, it was devastating to be essentially excommunicated from a body that had been like a family to me. I think that was cruel and abusive on the part of the organization.
As far as CP being a cult, absolutely it is. You cannot leave whenever you want, the training sessions amounted to brain washing right down to sleep deprivation, poor food, indoctrination, and dress code. The so called special retreat plays were especially manipulative.
We were expected to revere Chuck's plays as if they were all master pieces and to boast how prolific a play write he was even though most of it wasn't really fit for stage. It amounted to nothing more than self publishing. The leadership was unquestioned, we were not privy to the organizations finances and nothing was transparent. I know people entering the organization may have had their hearts in the right place, I certainly wasn't wanting to be in a cult - but, that is how the organization functions. Looks like a cult, behaves like a cult, it's a cult. I certainly hope despite that we still managed to touch peoples lives as on individual levels at least we were trying to minister to people. I don't like the term cult but it doesn't change what it was.
My time with CP was over 20 years ago now but at times, when it reaches my mind I still have nightmares about being in CP. It's taken me years to heal from my experience.

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Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: joyous ()
Date: February 03, 2018 02:37AM

Coffeecup-
I can totally relate to your last statement, I too was in CP over 20 yrs ago but still have many a nights with upsetting dreams due to my time in CP. I was there during my very formative years (18-19). The life lessons and hardships I went through during that year in a half have made me who I am today. So, in a way, I a very thankful & I can see how the sovereign hand of God used it in my life to literally get me where I am today. The town I live in today is because of a friendship I formed in CP.I met some wonderful, beautiful people, still some of my favorite people to date.
I also met sexual predators (and was preyed upon) & experienced manipulative & emotionally abusive unit leaders.
I have often thought that I was probably to only person that still thinks & has dreams about my time in CP that was is in it so long ago, it is a comfort to know that their are others.
Blessings to all- Joyous

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