How one woman founded an entire religion based on a diet workshop and the mysterious plane crash that killed her and church leadership. A former member reveals how she lost over 130 pounds but also allegations of abuse that caused her to walk away.
In response to the claims, Remnant Fellowship offered the following statements:
In response to claims that Gwen Shamblin Lara and Remnant Fellowship teachings allegedly encouraged physical punishment as a means of disciplining children.
Remnant Fellowship vehemently denies the accusation that we encourage child abuse in any form or fashion. Children here are happy and healthy, being raised with the most love, care, support, and protection imaginable. The church’s stance is that parents should determine how they set boundaries and guide their children based on their own family decisions, as long as it is founded on love and protection. There is no harshness in God nor Jesus Christ – there is only gentleness. Countless parents have shared that they are more loving and kind to their children after they started attending Remnant than they were before.
In response to claims that Remnant Fellowship Church members Joseph and Sonya Smith were convicted of beating their 8-year-old child, Josef Smith, to death
Young Josef Smith passed away in 2003 of a staph infection and high fever; the presence of this infection was verified by hospital technicians in court. Remnant Fellowship firmly believes that this inner city, innocent couple has been falsely accused due to their race; we disagree with racial profiling. Please see further details about the Smiths at www.TheSmithsAreInnocent.com
In response to claims that Remnant Fellowship had told church members that Josef Smith died because of an infection despite medical examiners concluding that he had been beaten
We do believe the medical examiner’s testimony that the child had a very high fever with staph infection present throughout his blood. This is what caused his death; staph infection can be enough to kill anyone in 24 hrs. We stand behind the innocent because God asks us to defend those who are defenseless. We disagreed with the court’s ruling, and we know that people do end up jailed from false accusations at times, and we believe this is one of those times.
In response to claims that Remnant Fellowship Church often pressures and/or controls its members including the clothes they wear, the music they listen to, and their dietary choices.
In no way does Remnant Fellowship micromanage members regarding personal choices, clothing, music, foods, or occupations. We believe in free will of all mankind, and we also believe that God leads people in the direction they should go.
In response to claims that when members start to regain weight, they may be asked to refrain from coming to church in person so as not to confuse other members
People are not asked to leave the church due to their weight or size, and that is very obvious when you come to the church and witness people of all shapes, sizes, and weights. For those who do wish to find a healthier weight, we have numerous medical professionals who uphold that portion control and listening to the body’s natural cues is a sensible approach to weight loss. However, we have had some long-term members who have struggled with their weight for over 15 years, and they have not been asked to leave the church. Our church membership includes those who would be considered trim and petite, those who are sturdy and muscular, and even those who would be considered medically obese. We love people of all sizes, and our goal is to free people from addictions and bring them to God in a most loving manner. We do not body shame or bully anyone, as we know that God created every person uniquely. We also do not approach anyone about weight, but we help those who approach us wanting help.
In response to claims that Remnant Fellowship Church has engaged in emotional abuse
Remnant Fellowship adamantly denies emotional abuse. We are a Bible-based, Christian church focused on love, care, mercy, and kindness shown to people from all walks of life. We have helped thousands to find a relationship with God. The church has also encouraged members to find their own personal relationship with God and has proven to restore numerous broken marriages and other relationships. Our teachings have helped thousands to overcome strongholds, vices, and addictions.
In response to claims that Remnant Fellowship Church has pressured members to ignore and/or not take medication that was prescribed to them by a doctor
Remnant Fellowship adamantly denies that we pressure members to ignore medications prescribed by doctors. In fact, in Weigh Down or Remnant materials regarding weight loss or other medical issues, you will see that our leadership points everyone to consult their personal physician before making any changes.
In response to claims that when former church members decide to leave the community the rest of the congregation is pressured and told to cut all ties and no longer communicate with them
Remnant Fellowship denies this accusation. Church members have always been encouraged to honor family members and friends, regardless of church status or affiliation. If a friend, family member, or ex-member of the church becomes emotionally abusive to a current church member, our recommendation is the same as many therapists today: that the person may need to consider distancing themselves for their own emotional well-being. Our church contains countless members who will testify that the teachings of Remnant Fellowship have led to restored marriages and healed relationships with family members, regardless of church affiliation.
In response to claims that Gwen Shamblin Lara preached for decades about how women should remain in relationships with their significant other, despite these relationships being potentially abusive, yet then divorced her own husband to marry Joe Lara
Gwen has never preached to remain in a marriage that is abusive physically, verbally, or emotionally. Before Gwen’s divorce, there were over twenty cases of divorce inside Remnant Fellowship. Gwen’s divorce from David Shamblin had nothing to do with Joe Lara, and each divorce case inside of Remnant has been founded upon spiritual, abusive, or personal needs or reasons. While Remnant Fellowship has always honored the Godly sanctity of marriage, our church has never supported abusive or oppressive situations.
In response to claims that no material finances were left to the Remnant Fellowship Church in Gwen Shamblin's will
Gwen and her family had already donated over $10 million of what would have been Michael and Elizabeth’s inheritance to the establishment of the church building and grounds. Gwen also donated Weigh Down Ministries and its proceeds, as well as all her intellectual properties, over to the church. This was an incredible gift of generosity from Gwen and her family’s inheritance, and the church will forever be grateful for her amazing donations.
Remnant Fellowship categorically denies the absurd, defamatory statements and accusations made in this documentary - yet another Hollywood attack on religion.
Over the last 20 years, countless celebrities and public figures have had to endure allegations of child abuse, eating disorders, sexual abuse and more. While many of these situations might be accurate, there are definitely situations where people are falsely accused. In today's society, everyone should be highly discerning regarding anything they see on any media. We insist that the allegations made against our church are completely false and defamatory.
Our Christian beliefs are Bible-based. Our church is a place based on love, care, mercy, and kindness shown to people from all walks of life. We have helped thousands to find a relationship with God.
The church has also encouraged members to find their own personal relationship with God and has proven to restore numerous broken marriages and other relationships.
Our teachings have helped thousands to overcome strongholds, vices, and addictions.
Remnant Fellowship vehemently denies any accusation of child abuse in any form.
Our membership includes a high number of professional “mandatory reporters” who would be required by law to report any signs of abuse or concern, including over 90 medical professionals (including doctors, nurses, and psychologists), 7 legal professionals, 4 law enforcement professionals, and over 20 educators. These mandatory reporters have never reported any concern regarding the health or safety of any children at the church.
Young Josef Smith passed away in 2003 of a staph infection and high fever; the presence of this infection was verified by hospital technicians in court. However, his parents, church members Joseph and Sonya Smith, were accused of outrageous acts of child abuse that led to his death.
Regarding HBO’s "expert" testimony, their "expert" never visited the church, never spoke with Gwen, and never talked with any current members. HBO originally interviewed cult-expert Dr. Gordon Melton, who cleared Remnant Fellowship’s name of having anything to do with being a cult.
We do not body shame or bully anyone, as we know that God created all of us uniquely with different sizes, shapes and weights. We also do not approach anyone about weight, but we help those who approach us wanting help. Our membership includes those who would be considered trim and petite, those who are sturdy and muscular, and even those who would be considered medically obese. We love people of all sizes, and our goal is help all to find God in a most loving manner. Otis Rickman, a Pulmonary and Critical care physician who attends Remnant, sums this up well: “Everybody’s different. God made us all different. We have big, sturdy, muscular people; we have thin people. We have all kinds of people.”
While Remnant Fellowship has always honored the Godly sanctity of marriage, our church has never supported abusive or oppressive situations.
Thousands have said that their lives have benefited from the mere-Christianity message of Remnant Fellowship and the Weigh Down Ministries, but we know that there is no one message that can ever please everyone.
Over 40% of our resources are given away to members at zero cost, including free scholarships for classes or summer camp activities.
As any other church, Remnant Fellowship operates under all U.S. guidelines and laws.
Our Church’s services and assemblies are webcast each week and viewed by people all around the world at no cost. Anyone seeking to learn more are always welcome to visit anytime online or in person. This is a place full of love and mercy with welcome, open arms to everyone around the world!
For Remnant Fellowship Church's official statement in response to the HBO Max series, please visit this link: https://www.remnantfellowship.org/official-response-from-gwen-shamblin-church-to-hbo-documentary/