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Remnant Fellowship Church

A Superior Court judge in Marietta, GA, has sentenced Joseph and Tonya Smith to life in prison plus 30 years for beating their 8-year-old son, locking him in a wooden box, and confining him to a closet for hours just before he died, in 2003. Authorities say the child was habitually abused. The Smiths belong to the Remnant Fellowship Church, in Brentwood, TN, which stems from Gwen Shamblin’s Weigh Down Workshop, a Christian diet program that encourages corporal punishment. The congregation is collecting funds for an appeal. . . Meanwhile, Shamblin and 78 Remnant Fellowship members have filed a $3.3 million defamation suit against Raphael Martinez — operator of the Internet-based Spirit Watch — accusing him of saying church members use “extreme discipline for children,” such as “harsh spankings and whippings,” and suggesting that members’ children have been starved. [csr 6.1 2007]

Remnant Fellowship Church/Weigh Down Workshop
Leader Says Critics and Police Want to End Her Ministry
Franklin, TN-based Remnant Fellowship Church leader Gwen Shamblin, founder of the associated Weigh Down Workshop, says that she is the real target of an investigation into the death of an 8-year-old child whose parents are being accused of child abuse after following alleged church teachings on discipline. Shamblin says that police, critics, and cult experts have made former church members believe they were members of a cult, and while she accepts the “prophet” label, she derides the notion that she uses mind control on her followers. She also said she believes the parents in the case, who say their child ran into a banister and died of a seizure. Shamblin, acknowledging that she might be arrested, like Jesus and some other biblical leaders, says: “If I’m imprisoned because of this, if they take my home, whatever, I believe that my calling is to write in clear terms how to fall in love with God. And I have been true to that calling, even in the midst of all this.” (Karen Miller, The Tennesseean, Internet, 6/30/04) [csr 3.2 2004 2004]

Group’s Teachings Investigated in Murder Case
Representatives of the Weigh Down Workshop of the Remnant Fellowship Church, and the founder of both organizations, Gwen Shamblin, are being questioned in Franklin, TN, about possible connections between the church’s teachings and the murder of an 8-year-old in Cobb County, GA. [csr 3.2 2004]

It is alleged that a church couple, Joseph and Sonya Smith, beat their “demon possessed” son Josef so severely that his brain swelled and bruises covered much of his body. Police say the parents sometimes locked the boy in a closet and made him pray to a picture of Jesus.[csr 3.2 2004]

The boy’s father told authorities he disciplined Josef — described by his parents as a “wild” problem child — by hitting him with a two– or three-foot-long, whip-like glue stick. They allegedly sometimes ordered an older boy to hold the child during the beatings. His mother said Joseph had received “several whippings,” normally given in series, ten at a time, according to a December 2003 Atlanta Journal Constitution story. [csr 3.2 2004]

Gwen Shamblin, who gained thousands of followers with a “Christian” diet plan that she turned into a religion, one that requires strict obedience from all members, including children, said in the wake of the death: “I’m not going to hide behind the fact that our good Lord says do not spare the rod.” [csr 3.2 2004]

The Smith’s, from jail, show no remorse. They feel it’s “just apart of discipline,” and were “very defensive” about their religion,” investigators say. Shamblin denies that The Remnant Church advocates repeated spankings. But a couple formerly members of the church say Shamblin stressed that spankings must be severe. “You had to make them count . . . They had to feel the pain and [know] that they were being disobedient.” In a NewsChannel 5 tape, Shamblin says: “If they’re not scared of spanking, you haven’t spanked them. If you haven’t really spanked them, you don’t love them. You love yourself.”[csr 3.2 2004]

Told about one member’s full-night “showdown” spanking of his two-and-a-half-year old, which went on and on, Shamblin replied: “Are you asking, does that go on very often? Are you kidding? No, it does not . . . It is so rare, and it is only strong-willed children.”[csr 3.2 2004]

Some former followers describe a policy of isolating a problem child in his bare room for days at a time with only a bible in hand. Shamblin, on tape, says of the process: “You’ve got a child that’s going from bizarre down to in-control. So praise God. We are spoiling these kids. We are ruining their lives by even letting them think about themselves at all.” [csr 3.2 2004]

Critics say Remnant Fellowship leaders believe mental illnesses are “more sort of fabrications of a poor spiritual life where you are not in obedience to God.” The group’s videos equate depression and anti-depressants with sin, and members are urged to shun medical assistance for psychiatric conditions. The group’s website chastises those who suffer from depression and says: “What’s the worst thing that happens? You die! So what? You go to heaven.”[csr 3.2 2004]

One former member said she felt fine for a while after giving up her psychiatric medication, especially because she felt a spiritual ‘high’ as a result of her church membership, but when she began to take her medication again, the Fellowship urged her husband to take it away from her.[csr 3.2 2004]

Shamblin — who does not deny the suggestion that she is a prophet in the Old Testament sense — is accused of encouraging followers to cut off contact with their non-Remnant families so she can control them totally. (NewsChannel 5, WFTV Nashville, 2/5/04; Melissa N. Warren, Williamson County Review Appeal, Internet, 5/20/04)[csr 3.2 2004]