Re: The Living Word Fellowship, The Walk, John Robert Stevens
Date: June 08, 2019 08:00AM
Writing this in hind sight about The Church of the Living Word; The Walk is long past due- what I have wanted to scream out for so long had so many missing puzzle pieces blanks that I could not fit the words together to complete the puzzle to make any sense of the whole picture which is becoming much more clear to more and more of us survivors.
I apologize for the length - but, I really have wanted to scream out what I am going to say.
Most of the early members were truly seeking the Lord and intent on worshiping God. But, unbeknownst to we good Christians we were infiltrated by people who did not join to seek the Christian God. It grieves me to say that some joined the church for purely evil reasons of power and control fore greed and immoral sexual perversion.
It is embarrassing to admit that we were conned. I am not denying spiritual growth for individuals – that spiritual growth was NOT ever due to the teachings of the Walk- but by our own seeking of the Lord and our hearts worshiping God. We had good friends whom we will love till this day- tho’ separated by time and distance.
Looking back into history of the cult part of “JRS ministry” it reeked of sexual improprieties that were over looked from the beginning. In those days – it was kind of the “norm” in our society in general to keep up the appearances – keep quit as to not to disrupt what looked like perfects families. Fathers having affairs was never morally and spiritual right- most often the Father still supported the families- with dirty little secrets never discussed publicly.)
Infidelity was accepted in the LA- it made for risky reading in the gossip columns for good people who would not dare cross the lines themselves- they enjoyed reading the glamorous fantasies- in secret. I am uncomfortable saying that the moral standards in LA and Hollywood had to have affected those who lived there.
I know that those who survived The Church of the Living Word along with me, have been in the same isolated place holding missing pieces of this horrible picture.
We now the knowledge base and the vocabulary to explain to legal experts piece by piece what went on that was so wrong for so long. We now have the attention of the legal system. And we are finding our long lost friends due to the ubiquitous invention of the internet.
Countless so called religious organizations suffered under the exact same kinds of abuse- it is no excuse for Gary’s cult to use as an excuse when we were supposed to be God’s chosen people and held to more Godly standards – my words.
In 1957 my parents became members of Christian Tabernacle I was almost 6. I loved going to children’s church. I learned fun Christian songs that taught me about what the Bible said. I accepted Jesus into my heart I learned 100’s of bible verses. When it was time for service WJ Stevens preached inspiring words- no I did not fully understand.
I enjoyed singing worship songs when I was growing up - what happened to worship ? The cult had us praying for the deaths of those who opposed the leadership instead or who were the congratulation worshiping? Not God of Israel in the Bible.
It felt safe and warm to go to church in Washington, Iowa in the '50's and '60's and it seemed to me that my fellow church members went to church to worship God.
I know that a number of California sister church members under JRS leadership were Christians fed up with the denominations. And lived in a different cultural world far different than in California than Iowa values. We as a group of Christian tried not to judge. Perhaps we should have if we could have seen into the future. But, mostly, we did not understand anything that JRS did not want us to understand. - he was a con man riding on his father’s loving credibility.
It was engraved on my heart “... Thy word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin again Thee.” I was determined to be a good Christian girl and good witness. My focus had been on being spiritual and having goals of a career in which I could help people and demonstrate the love of the Lord from when I was a child until I left the walk by 1983. I am certain that many other members had their hearts set on God not man.
It never occurred to me as a child or a young adult what the full meaning of “Not everyone who cried Lord Lord will enter into the Kingdom of God” really meant. I had no idea that we in Washington, Iowa , a loving church group would have so many wolves in sheep clothing enter into our safe and peaceful sanctuary.
In the early years of the church I was in more fear that the Communists would storm in and steal our Bibles and burn them. (It was 1950’s , only a few years after WWII in the 10950’s. By the late ‘70’s I was in fear of getting Left Behind when the world as we knew it was ended.
There were times when WJ’s son, John or Bob Stevens and others like Harold Williams and his family, came to be guest ministries. These were charming men.- now I know how they misused their charm.
The Bill Arnold’s family moved back from Hawaii with their 3 kids with their 2 children, then the Fred Bickharts moved back. To Iowa. It was exciting to have our missionaries back home.
Bill Arnold , a Washington, Iowa native, had married WJ daughter Mary ( sister to JRS). The couple had 3 children.
Fred Bickahart married Eva Stevens, another daughter of WJ Stevens and the sister of JRS. They had been missionaries in Africa. (Bickhart and WJ were in a law suit to keep JRS from taking over the Washington property.
Where JRS in particular came it was like the circus had come to town- exciting with new shows to dazzle our minds. John Stevens was charismatic, mesmerizing and bit intimidating for an elementary girl like me.. The congregation seemed to enjoy the preaching. We even had outside guests who came in and stayed as members. There were those who criticized his teaching. - What did I know? At that time my father had just begun to study the Bible- he had a great hunger for God – and a thirst for knowledge – but not too much in the way of discernment of fact from fiction.
It grieves me to know that the loving church with members with wonderful core Christian values would one day be duped by a wanna- be Bible Peddler who loved the spot-light- and used his father WJ Stevens credibility as a good Christian pastor. The walk ultimately practiced witchcraft and occult methods. It guess that is under the US constitution the right to practice what religions you wish, but, to claim TLW as Christian is a farce.
Washington Iowa church was a credible Christian front for the JRS version of occult in the beginning. WE the people had no clue what JRS was really up to.
In the ‘50’s the early days parents would stay after the long services on school nights and argue with the critics. My parents were new Christians. They had not studied the Bible too much yet. My sisters and I just wanted to go home and go to bed – we had school in the morning These week long services that lasted past bedtime – did not seem to matter to anyone except the kids who were exhausted and tired when we had tests to take.
The after church discussions in the '60's lasted even longer with people rehashing the new things god supposed had revealed to us chosen people. To me, this was an area our parents should have hired a baby sitter or left at a decent time. My parents set a very bad precedence of letting JRS control our families lives from the get-go. I do seem to recall the WJ would lock the church doors at 10 while people hung out in the parking lot with my yackidy- yak parents. I admit, my own parents failed to be responsible all on their own.
Some of the older siblings in the Christian Tabernacle family went out to California to the sister church at South Gate in the '60's. They married church members – which I suppose at the time seemed like a safe thing to do. But, little did the adults in Christian Tabernacle know what the future would hold. I think their adult children were used by JRS to keep up appearances as being credible. Many of the early church members are all related somehow. This fact makes it even harder on our families. Under some circumstances to sort out.
Historically in the 1960’s the American youth who enjoyed the Happy Days of the ‘50’s were tired of their parents ‘mainstream religious faith that had gotten the parents and grand parents thru the Depression and World War II.
The loving Christina church I knew was about to be duped by JRS.
The youth of the ‘60’s were seeking freedom from rules that had worked for their ancestors. Thus the Flower child- the Hippie movement began popular – the hippies invaded the walk. I think they were just looking for free love and free ride – not a walk with God. We opened our hearts to them- I doubt many had really over-come drug use and disdain of parents ‘rules.
I think many may have escaped abusive homes- so they had no real healing to move forward with healthy lives.- My opinion.- How many really did have any healing from the words that came out of JRS mouth.? Or did a certain portion move from one addiction to another?
I do know that the church in Anaheim the late '70's and '80's did have many drug and alcohol issues and problems that goes along with it. And no leaders had a problem with it is beyond me still to this day. I was not in other groups so I do not know for sure what went on within their walls.
By the mid ‘60’s the Valley church was built. We younger siblings were invited out to church camps. That was cool because the older girls were out there married and working. I, personally met life-long friends whom I will treasure for ever to this day.
However, on my many visits I was very disturbed and uncomfortable with behaviors and wording that I was not expected to understand at that stage of my my development. I was put-down for being a naive Iowa girl – that should have been a red-flag to the leadership in the Valley church, including JRS and Marilyn his secretary who did witness the inappropriate behavior of the youth in the sanctuary during off service times -such as when we were waiting for the rides to church camp. I saw a number of youth not displaying the respect in the sanctuary by rough housing and bad language. No one called them on it.
My older sisters ended up staying, and getting married to ordained boys from the California churches.. Those ended in divorce. ( I won’t say more publicly. )
Sure, I was a goodie-2- shoes Iowa girl – that should have been nothing to be shamed for, but, I was bullied by many of the California youth for not measuring up to the standards they knew.
I was not accustomed to boys hitting on me with such smooth lines. I was not comfortable with the too close and suggestive words some of the elders or deacons said to me. Talking about how another girl’s butt moved or how her boobs jiggled” should not have been on the boys minds after an alleged “meeting with god.”
I was not protected from the crudity of some of the CA boys.. In fact there were no chaperons. No one stopped these males from making, what I know now, were inappropriate sexual comments. to me or my dear girl friends. I was snob- so I got by- but left terribly disturbed.
Not every girl did get away from being abused some how. The stories that are coming out publicly should not have happened to these young ladies nor young men. _ JRS and his secretary Marilyn knew and so did the leaders who preyed on the innocent who were not old enough to understand how they were being manipulated in the name of false prophets. The abuse was NOT the fault of the victims who survived.
I went to church camp in California to learn about god. I was sincere as were the close friends I made. At camp with the youth raising or even rolling on the floor in “travail” or speaking in tongues. We were taught “new spiritual principals” . It seemed almost a big secret- later I learned that the “new spiritual tricks” were not Biblical but stolen from the occult. What a sneaky way to introduce the occult to the youth without running it by the parents first before church camp.
I could not understand the stark contrast of how some youth were “boy or girl crazy” when they acted so spiritual during worship.. Where were the boundaries placed on the CA youth? Why did some adults not seem to be acting like Christian? My parents assumed I would be safe from worldly things. Tho’ they did know about the immorality of the Hollywood scene. Who knew that that California fantasy culture was absorbed and accepted within what would called The Walk?
In hind -sight I can clearly see now that there were 2 sides of the people who attended the growing Church of the Living Word in California. !) those who sincerely wanted to go to church to worship and 2) Those who took advantage of unsuspecting good people as a sexual playground.
After the camps before I traveled home to Iowa what I did not understand was how leaders teenagers could get by with having sex and heavy drinking in their parents homes. I was appalled. I was the butt of jokes when I had no place to sleep but under a table. I had not even taken a sip of alcohol like the rest of the youth.
I had heard whispers of certain leaders having affairs- that was something I could not comprehend at the time. Now I understand that some of these leaders were predators who groomed their own children and disguised as angels of light did systematically groom innocent church members. JRS and other leaders had many indiscretions that were witnessed.
During the very up-popular Viet Nam War American boys were used as cannon fodder. Some could get a student deferment. Others who could prove they were conscientious objectors like the Amish could do their American duty by working in civil jobs such as a VA hospital.
But, JRS ordained boys to be ministers in order to avoid the draft. Just how many ordained draft dodgers truly had shepherds hearts or were qualified to preach the word of the Lord – I have no idea. Did they satay in the walk preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I have no idea.
Who asked why these boys were qualified to ministers? I have to question the over all deceit.
In those days few people had the support or the knowledge of the vocabulary to describe what was happening to us as victims. We were taught to obey those who were over us. Crap that happened was not ever our fault – the leaders knew- they were a part of the heinous crimes that would continue to this day in the cult The Church of the Living Word.
What started out as a Christian group was infiltrated by serial rapists; child molesters; pedophiles: practicing beastiality. And witchcraft. I wonder how much of these perverted behaviors were “acceptable” by those who practiced witch craft and the occult that infiltrated the teaching very systematically?
What are young girls to do or say when they find hard core pron magazine in the leaders bath rooms? We now know are able to Google the affects on wives and children of men or women who are addicted to porn. Did these men in the church not respect their wives and children under God’s holy ordinance? The use of porn was wrong!
I believe that those men who had porn under their beds- many did- played a big part in the seduction of all too many innocent people along with misuse spiritual sounding phrases.
Girls or boys were NOT the seducers – these men had no self control – they were there to prey on victims. And Gary and Marilyn were responsible for all the failure to protect. - it seems to me that it was all a heinous set-up for theses crimes.
Lists of perpetrators are being shared privately. Some names may be a shock or not. predators were church wide since the beginning. these were not isolated incidents - people are finally able to reveal what they had be hushed to keep quiet.
Many of us are studying to learn the vocabulary and the physiological terms that describes the harmful personalities of the leaders in the church turned cult. We are now able to put into words to tell the truth with intimidation, finally. We are no longer defenseless. - we understand all about the patterns of behaviors the perpetrators used on us all- not unique to The Walk.
The list of predators and frauds is shocking but not surprising. Once you think about with new found knowledge that ‘they’ colluded to keep us from by over working and under paying, isolating, and demeaning.
It is embarrassing so so liberating to reveal personal tid-bits and to tell expose people that we lived with – and could not understand why their odd words and behaviors- they had dirty little secrets that were covered by leaders.
The ugly truth is that many leader- ordained to care for the flock were wolves in sheep’s clothing putting on a spiritual front – but were nothing but abusers who gas-lighting and intimated any one who questions wrong doings. Most of our leaders were all apart of drugs- dealing, alcoholism and sex abuse. Most leaders were phonies.. too bad that a few good men and women who may have not participated did not walk away or call the police sooner. Unfortunately police and medical professionals, including myself still did not have the knowledge base until recently to know what to do to help. I had done and lot of research and had a lot of therapy. ( I needed validation from other members.)
We were all lied to and manipulated. Unfortunately we felt spiritual- any relationship we had to god was on our own.
We lived in fear of missing out on the kingdom of god if we were not obedient or sacrificed enough. There was always a battle – a demon identified- we lived in a constant war-zone while leadership fraudulently amassed wealth and lived in luxury partying on misappropriated funds.
Again, I need to point out that the vision for Shiloh was supposed to e a Christian Church Camp with flush toilets owned by the church. People donated to the dream- but there was a hidden agenda all along that was NOT what those who donated were lead to believe. A nursing home was promised- it did not happen.
From the beginning of Shiloh there were gross instances of sexual miss-conduct by alleged “godly-men” whom I think only had designs on easy prey. People were used to do work they were often not qualified to do nor were given the proper safety precautions. to avoid injury.
I believe in a good work ethic- I’m an Iowan – but I have no idea how to sort out the misuse of power and control and questionable tax fraud on the leadership part. People lost chunks of their lives and earnings for the future to fund a few at the top to live in luxury.
With young impressionable people who had no close by support- who were they to tell who could and could not be trusted at that time? Leadership failed to set up a safe environment from the get-go in the organization. Common sense does not need intersession and a revelation to care for people who have not had time to gain life- experiences. . In fact leadership moved people around in order to hide them from extradition who were avoiding the consequence of breaking the laws of the land.
TLW used good people to cover up with out them knowing the whole truth– I believe that no one person, except the top of the pyramid knew exactly every little in front of their eyes that would have been enough to blow the whistle the cult leaders.
I believe that we should not blame the little people- we all had bits and pieces – but no one to trust to listen to our cries for help that could fix it – until recently.
I’m reluctantly admitting that we all, I included, had unwillingly had a hand in enabling the crimes committed by the leaders of the walk –Perhaps I could kept complaining or calling authorities that did not listen any way. Instead I escaped with my children in a very difficult way.
Why did not leadership have the training to know that the predators who should have be called out and treated legally and professionally? How many people could have and should gotten professional treatment ?
We all did what we died in fear of the hell that leaders portrayed to us.
We were intimidated and systematically manipulated. We are not to blame- those who plotted to commit these crimes are long past due to be stopped and tried in the legal system for their crimes against us.
JRS was not a prophet of God he claimed to be. Tho’ we may have at one time been inspired. His ‘revelations’ were plagiarized from other cultism occult s. Nothing came true. Therefore he had no authority to pass any mantle on to Marilyn and Gary – they took the money and spot light and ran with it without honestly consulting those who donated everything they had to the non-profit.
Main stream denomination- tho’ as imperfect as the next has checks and balances to keep the status non-profit to serve the congregation . JRS was not able to stick to the doctrine of Four Square- he had rouge ideas – that could have been our first clue- but who knew?
The televangelists have been caught as greedy frauds fleecing their members. With false promises every bit as much as the leadership of TLW
I want to encourage survivors to come forward with any names or disturbing pieces you can..
I encourage you to call the lawyers who have taken on the first 3 cases. You may be able to fill in a hole somewhere. Let them sort out the good from the bad. I know it is difficult to talk about the things our parents and grand parents never felt comfortable talking about. I really stinks to implicate people we trusted. - Let the lawyers sort it out this tangled mess although’ their focus is on the sexual abuse part – you may have a clue they need.
The Zalkin Law Firm, P.C.
Legal services in San Diego, California
Address: 12555 High Bluff Dr #301, San Diego, CA 92130
Phone: (858) 259-3011
The heinous crimes in The church of the Living Word were covered up far too long.
Innocent people were preyed upon- they were lied to- manipulated by people claiming to be Christians- but they never had intended to have a relationship with God at all. Can anyone serve 2 gods- and addiction versus Jehovah God?
Bad people infiltrated the church with bad intentions from the moment they stepped into the church - they were only there to sexual abuse- they got away with it for far too long – charm can be a very deceitful tool for power and control over others to rape, molest and to fraudulently misuse non-profit funds donated by us who sacrificed everything to “bring in the kingdom that was promised but never delivered.”
It’s sad that it will be hard to separates the bad weeds form the real men who had shepherds hearts. There had to have been good men in leadership up to a point-that were lied to- up to a point. Some may have been held hostage because they had secrets held over their heads- I don’t know.
I know my words are disturbing, and way to verbose - but I hope it helps us work towards resolution.
These predators show no remorse . There is no real repentance. “Forgive and forget” in the name of the being a Christian is what the predators want and hope for in order to not be held accountable.
Sure, forgive yourself – it was not your fault. Let’s move forward to stop the crimes committed against us for haling and for future generations. by seeking professional counseling and following their advice- there IS light at the end of this nightmare.
There are more of us good people than those who committed the crimes against us. We are not alone. The law is on our side.