The Remnant Fellowship,
Posted by: Auggie ()
Date: July 01, 2004 06:21AM


Weigh-Down church investigated in abuse case
21 Jun 2004

FRANKLIN, Tenn.—The Associated Press reported that The Remnant Fellowship, a church that emerged from the Weigh-Down Workshops, a Christian weight loss program, is under investigation after two of the church’s members were accused of beating their 8-year-old son, Josef Smith, to death last year in suburban Atlanta's Cobb County.

Remnant Fellowship founder Gwen Shamblin has said the church believes in discipline but does not sanction abuse. The church is siding with the parents, Joseph and Sonya Smith of Mableton, Ga., who contend that their son’s death was accidental. The church is helping to pay for the couple’s lawyers.

Shamblin and other church leaders and members refused to return calls from the AP, but former church members, Rob and Brenda Herbst of Florida spoke out against the church.

After joining the church, the couple said they weren't allowed to associate with their daughter and grandchildren, who weren't Remnant believers. Neither were they allowed to question church leaders, particularly Shamblin.

Members weren't allowed to read other materials besides Shamblin’s writing or listen to Christian music except that by her son Michael, Herbst said.

"They were filling your mind with nothing but Gwen Shamblin and her twisted scripture. Leaders would tell you, 'You are listening to a prophet from God,'" Herbst told the AP.

Last fall, church leaders tried to prevent Herbst from starting a job selling real estate. The final straw, they said, was the Smith boy's death.

Herbst said he read about the investigation and noticed that Shamblin was lying to investigators about whether glue sticks (long thin rods used in glue guns) were used to beat children to avoid leaving a mark.

"She says that never came from her, but there is not one thing done in Remnant Fellowship that Gwen does not approve of," he said.

Former members Betsy and Steve Miozzi of Ohio said church leaders told them to discipline a child with corporal punishment and excessive time outs.

"Just smack the child 10 times across the back of the thigh. If that doesn't work, do it again and again, and if it still doesn't work, put him in a room with nothing but a Bible and leave him there 'til he obeys or turns 18," Miozzi said he was told.

On visits to the Franklin church, the Miozzis often saw glue sticks protruding from diaper bags. They were used on children as young as 18 months who fidgeted during the long services, Miozzi said.

"They make you believe if you don't do it, you don't love God, you don't love your child and you can't be part of Remnant. If you're not a part of Remnant, you're going to hell," Miozzi said.

Six months after leaving Remnant, the Miozzis still struggle with that fear. They have recently begun talking with other former members dealing with the same issues.

Several are being counseled by Rafael Martinez of Spiritwatch Ministries in Cleveland, Tenn., who says Remnant Fellowship is clearly a cult. He says Shamblin tapped into the vulnerabilities of Weigh Down participants and took advantage of them.

"They are as abusive a religious group as any I've seen. And I've never seen a group get so abusive, so damaging in so short a time," Martinez said.

I use to go to the Weight Down Workshops in the church I use to go to..I always thought that Shamblin use to push her stuff all the time in her tapes and stuff..I thought her tapes were expensive anyways. I did eventually leave the workshop

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