ex-member of former Maranatha church/cult (my story-long)
Date: July 09, 2004 09:34PM
I posted this on a different board, but wanted to try posting it on its own thread here under "Destructive Churches" too.
I attended for over 12 years a former Maranatha Church that renamed itself after Maranatha Ministries disbanned in 1989. Almost 3 months ago, I left in a haze of hurt and disillusionment. I experienced alot of the same abusive issues as many of you who have come out of former Maranatha churches/ ministries. The pastor became increasingly power-hungry and authoritative, repeatedly demanding "covenant" loyalty and both privately and publicly rebuking anyone who had any concerns or questions about him or "his" ministry. He verbally assaulted many of us, both privately and publicly, criticizing us, belittling us, and accusing us of things repeatedly that we never did or that were only sins in his twisted perception.
In addition to the abusive authority issues, it has been concretely proven with corroborating evidence and witnesses (more than the Biblically required 2-3) that he has embezzled more than $30,000 over the last few years. He had almost exclusive use of the church checkbook, with his name as the signer. He also evaded taxes by grossly overstating his parsonage usage. Despite the fact that his embezzlement caused our little church to greatly suffer financially, he placed the blame on the congretation, saying numerous times that we were not "bearing enough responsiblity" and that our lack of giving showed the "condition of our hearts".
He also has been arrested for a DUI. He tested positive for prescription painkillers and as part of his probation was forbidden to have any narcotics. He had become addicted to Vicoden and repeatedly obtained the drugs in violation of his probation by keeping the details of his arrest secretive and lying about his addiction in order to obtain Vicoden from church members who were precribed it for legitimate medical and surgical reasons. When he could not get enough of the drugs that way, he got it by having a church member steal a precription pad from her doctor ex-husband, and asked her to write illegal prescriptions to obtain the painkillers. She was arrested and consequently disbarred from her law license, as she was caught at a pharmacy picking up the medicine one of the times she wrote the illegal prescription. He had driven her to the pharmacy, but upon seeing from accross the store the police going up to her, he left the scene and left her to get arrested alone. She, of course, never brought his name into the situation, as she was mind-controlled by him to be protective of him.
It also has come to light that he and this same church member had relations that in his own written words "crossed lines" repeatedly.
Additionally, he and this same church member were prayer partners in an intercessory ministry focused on helping pray for people to come out of satanism. It has now been proven that over a 2-3 year period, the church member fabricated over 50 different personas that she would use to contact the pastor via e-mail. These fake persons would claim to be involved deeply in high-level satanism. The pastor would correspond with each "person", leading them to witness to them and counsel them out of satanism. Of course, all the while, the many "satanists" were reality the church member with whom he was praying. The two of them - the pastor and church member - would spend many hours interceding and praying for each "satanist" until each one, via e-mail correspondence, would relate that they had seen the light and were leaving satanism. This was a horribly deceptive and evil thing this church member did, and numerous ones of us in the church repeatedly went to the pastor to tell him that we suspected that these "satanists" were not real people, but were actually the church member pretending to be the satanists. The pastor would refuse to listen. Instead, he would berate us questioning ones for daring to question his discernment and authority and for accusing the church member of something so evil. Well, in February of this year, it was technologically proven that this church member indeed had fabricated each and every one of the "satanists", creating their respective e-mail addresses and maintaining correspondence with the pastor that would create a self-confirming intercessory ministry between her and the pastor, that their many hours of prayer were effectively getting people saved and out of satanism. Myself and another person from our church proved that the IP's of every e-mail address originated from and traced back to the church member's home or work computers. Her workplace was alerted to her unethical and illegal usage of computers to help perpetrate the falsified e-mails. The computer tech guy at her work was able to, without her knowledge, get screens shots of her keystrokes, concretely showing her fingers typing the fake e-mails. The pastor refused to believe the evidence. Instead, he maintains that he and the church member have been "set up" to make it appear that she fabricated the e-mails. He is too prideful to admit that he was conned and in turn refused to heed others' counsel, thus making him a part of the hoax by his willful blindness.
Yet in spite of all of this - the abuse of authority, the embezzlement, the immoral relationship, the drug addiction and ensuing illegal obtainment of the drugs, and the participation in a hoaxed prayer ministry - he is still in the pulpit. He was asked to step down, which he refused to do. Some of us have left. Some are refusing to see the truth and are continuing to believe his lies. An "apostle" from an international apostolic ministry, with whom our pastor and church have had relationship with, has stepped in at the request of the pastor and a few people in the church. He has now deemed the situation "taken care of", as the pastor gave a generic statement of apology from the pulpit, apologizing for "those he has hurt". He never specifically publicly addressed any of his sins, and has privately either denied or greatly minimized each of his sins. This statement was made 3 months after those of us who left had already left. We have yet to hear an apology from him. I doubt we ever will.
Thanks to Maranatha and other ministries like it who set up a pyramidic hierarchical system where the pastor is above rebuke and correction, he is still in leadership and still abusing his position and those under him.
The God of Maranatha and other ministries like it, is not my God. My God is loving, humble, and takes care of His sheep. He is full of integrity and honesty. I am thankful that He opened my eyes and pulled me out of the death-filled situation I was in. I only pray those who are left will allow their eyes to be opened as well. It is a sad, grievous situation.
I'm sorry this is so long.