1990, 12/01. Dirty Dealings in the Church of Bible Understanding

Introduction

Without this introduction, the several entries that follow (which cover December 1990 to early 1991) will just seem like random and confused writing without any context to understand them in. At this time, I was only just beginning to realize what was wrong with the Church of Bible Understanding and its leader, Stewart Traill, and to really think about it. This is why there are some long passages in my journal where I agreed with all the negative things Stewart Traill was saying about us.

I wrote other journals, but I ripped them up because I was afraid someone would find out what I had written and would use it against me, because I had doubts about COBU and its leader. This journal was kept in a little notebook which I carried in my pocket. I originally wrote in shorthand to save space. The good thing about shorthand was that it was hard for anyone else but me to read. So, I didn’t rip up this journal, and I kept all my journals in shorthand from this time on. (This shorthand was not the kind taught in a stenography class, it was something I made up by using abbreviations and symbols, making it almost like a “secret code,” that only I could read.)

The journal was written during a heavy period of “correction.” That means we were being come down on by “Brother Stewart” (as we called him) all the time, in long meetings where he put pressure on us, and we put pressure on one another. When not at meetings we endured a daily treadmill of carpet cleaning work that went on into the evenings, sometimes with night jobs.

At this time we had “swept up” a lot of new people, mostly homeless men from the streets and the train and bus stations, and we were living in crowded conditions with them. We called these people the “new disciples.”

(It was a communal living situation. I was living in a crowded apartment building in a violent area in Brooklyn. There were also church residences in Philadelphia and Staten Island.) During this time, Stewart was trying to drive the Older Brothers (the long-term church members) out of the church and replace them with the new people, after they had been trained to work in the church cleaning businesses and to sell donated paint on street corners or to go around the city with push carts selling merchandise that had been donated to the church. This plan proved to be impossible to carry out, because these “new disciples” frequently ran off with the money to go on drug binges. The newest members also didn’t have the loyalty to the church that long-term members had. In spite of this, Stewart accused the older brothers of running the church’s Christian Brothers Carpet Cleaning business with an “iron fist” with which we oppressed the new disciples. He said that we refused to train them in managing the business or to let them know how it operated, so we could remain in control of it and not hand over the operation to them.

Really, it was Stewart who ruled us with an iron fist. In a classic case of projection, Stewart often accused us of what he was doing – whether it was that we were “ruling with an iron fist,” or that we were “perverts” and rebels” and “thumbing our noses at Jesus.” The purpose behind Stewart’s accusations seems to have been to keep our minds off what he was really up to. Who had time to look at what Stewart was doing, when they were running from the lightning bolts of his wrath? And if anyone did try to accuse him of anything, he had already accused us of doing the same things first, so it would only look like we were defending ourselves by saying, “No, I’m not doing that, you are!”  Stewart had all the bases covered, ahead of time.

With a few exceptions, the new people we “swept up” from the bus and train stations were not able to be in positions of responsibility. (Maybe they could have been trained over time, but the Church of Bible Understanding was not interested in rehabilitating homeless people, but only in using them as a free source of labor and therefore little personal care was provided for them. There was no school or help available to rebuild their lives, except to the degree which they could be used to make money for COBU as workers in church businesses.)

Many of these men had to be supervised by us older brothers on jobs so they would not take jewelry or prescription medicine from customers’ homes. And really, the only people in “middle management” were the long-term church members, the brothers and sisters who had been in COBU for 15 years or more. They knew how things operated, what Stewart expected of them, and not only that, they were willing to put up with it. They understood the expectations Stewart placed upon them, which is something which could only have been learned over many years of being in the church. These long-term members had come to the church when they were in their teens and they had stayed there and had been through everything that had happened since then. Many people left the church over the years, but these were the ones who stayed and who believed Stewart’s claims to be the only bearer of Christian truth and that COBU was the only true way to serve Jesus.

Stewart was constantly abusing these loyal long-term church members and now he was determined to push the older brothers out of the church. I often felt like Stewart was trying to push me out the door and that I was hanging on to the door frame for dear life with both hands while he was shoving. Stewart had been uninvolved in our lives for a long time before this. Then, in 1989, he gave a us long talk about his repentance and about the positive changes that would take place the church.

But after claiming to repent of his former ways, he came after the older brothers in full force – after first having spent a year slamming the sisters and claiming they were all rebels who wanted to break down and destroy the brothers’ fellowship. There was something he needed to dealt with among the sisters, because apparently, they knew what his public show of repentance was really meant to cover up (that is, having sex with some of his young female helpers, a detail which he left out when he made a big show of public repentance). After a time of putting the sisters in their place, he then came after us, the older brothers.

All of this was meant to reconsolidate his power over us, which he had lost for a period of time, after having been caught by his wife in a rather precarious position which threatened to cause him to lose control over his church and business empires and over the oppressed minions who staffed and worked those businesses in believing obedience that their selfless toil was for what was officially called “The Purpose,” which was “making Jesus known.” All the money we made was to fund the spread of God’s kingdom on earth, and that was to be done by preaching the gospel and training up new disciples in the COBU way of life, so they in turn could go out and make more disciples. It was a heavenly pyramid scheme with Stewart as the Great Bible Teacher at the top and an oppressed labor class at the bottom. It also had the rather earthly motive of making Stewart wealthy. As the head of the corporation of the Church of Bible Understanding, he enjoyed the use of the church’s property and goods, even if those things were owned in the church’s name and not his.

(Reading Ann’s Account can help shed some light on some of Stewart’s motivation behind his show of repentance. Further information is contained in the History of the Forever Family and the Church of Bible Understanding.)

For a brief period of time, Stewart’s attention shifted to the unruly crowds of homeless men among us, in an attempt to weed out the troublemakers among them so things would run smoother. And then it was open season on the older brothers, with a determined drive, at least for a while, to put us out. This culminated with a move to strip us of all power and to send us to live in the homeless shelters that the older brothers had once been running. Now the homeless people were running these shelters. They ruled over us and we reported to them and were accountable to them. Those of us older brothers who stayed would be simple helpers, humble and not “proud,” and just grateful to still be here. We were not allowed to speak to one another. If two older brothers were seen speaking together, they were to be separated by the new people in charge.

There was a meeting in Philadelphia, where where all the older brothers were told to “pack your bags” and leave. (One of the lines that the new disciples were supposed to say to us all the time was, “Older brother, when are you packing your bags?”) The older brothers who were in Philadelphia had to leave that night and those from New York were to be given a ride back and had to leave the next day. I felt a sense of relief, and not anger. Finally, I could leave! I still thought that COBU was the only true way, but I often daydreamed of leaving and having an easier life than this constant grind, and now it was being done for me.

But at the last minute, Stewart called it off. He said that this was exactly what the older brothers wanted, because if we got thrown out, we could blame the church for putting us out. He said that if we left the church, it had to be on an individual basis and not a group basis. If an older brother left, it had to be his own choice. That way they could not blame anyone for putting them out and it would be clear all that they chose to leave Jesus and to live for sin.  (There were no legitimate reasons for leaving the Church of Bible Understanding. Since it was the only true way, the only reason a person would want leave it was to look for an “easier way,” which, according to Stewart, did not exist. There was no other way but this way.)

While this meeting was happening, it seemed so spontaneous. But later I heard a tape of the meeting, and it was enlightening. I hadn’t been aware of the process taking place at this meeting, because I was reacting in the moment. Now that I was listening back on it as I was scrubbing a carpet, I could listen more objectively. I had thought that the older sisters and the new disciple brothers decided to put us out of the church and that their decision and the discussion leading up to it had been entirely of their own making. We were rebels who would destroy and obstruct anything we got our hands on, any time we got the chance. We had not shown signs of repentance and now the only thing left to do was to put us out of the church.

But, as I listened back on the tape, it was clear to me that the idea of putting us out had been initiated by Brother Stewart. It took place during a meeting about “what to do with the older brothers,” which was the kind of meeting we often had. It started as a routine opening to the usual verbal beating meeting, nothing out of the ordinary. As the discussion followed, Stewart could be heard interjecting comments and questions to prompt and lead everyone in the way he wanted them to go. He said, “So, what should we do with the older brothers?” After several suggestions were given by the sisters, he picked whatever was closest to what his intentions were, and commented further on that, and asked for more opinions. And he directed the discussion so that the sisters began to arrange to put the older brothers out.

Stewart kept asking the sisters, “Are you saying we should put them out of the church?” This was too drastic for the sisters. On the tape, I could hear some of them hesitating, “Well…uh…no.” Stewart kept saying, “So what are you going to do then? Are you saying you’re going to put them out of the church?” And he began to drive them. “Hurry up!  Come on then, decide!” He was asking if that was their decision, and if it was their decision, he was telling them to hurry up and get on with it, because they had been deliberating for some time. On the tape, I could hear that Stewart seemed angry and driven – and clearly driving the sisters’ decision. And it could be clearly heard, by their tone of voice, that the sisters didn’t want to put the older brothers out of the church. (When I was in this meeting, I was too worried about what was going to happen to me to notice this.)

After Stewart pushed them into it, the sisters finally took a vote to put us out of the church and more commentary followed on how to do it. Should the older brothers just be put off the property now, or should they be allowed to go back to New York to get their things?

On the tape, I heard Chuck break down and sob. (Chuck was one of the top people in the church, along with Kevin and Jay.) Chuck had been trying to talk to everyone and at this point he was overtaken by grief. His body was seized by uncontrollable spasms. He was stomping the floor with his right foot and he was violently shaking and sobbing. Maybe it was the fear of hell before him and the prospect of being put out of the Church of Bible Understanding for the rest of his life on earth, to face a miserable existence apart from all that he had given his life to. All of his years of devotion and loyalty had resulted in this. To be put out in disgrace, as irretrievably hopeless, by the decision and vote of the church “family” he had lived with for 15 years, by the pastor whom he trusted as having the only true insight on God and the Bible and as having the only true view of himself. And this pastor was telling Chuck that he was unfit to live here any longer (Stewart was not disagreeing with the sisters’ decision). He was ruined and unfit for Christian service and no longer fit to be a member of the body of Christ. He was lost, unable to be healed and without hope of redemption. Stewart had been very calm through the whole meeting, just making comments here and there. All Stewart needed to do to play the church members against one another was to make a comment here and there during the proceedings.

It was Chuck’s shame of being put out of the church and his sense of powerlessness to do anything about it that lead to his breakdown.

(I was listening to the tape of this meeting while I was on a carpet cleaning job with a brother named Stuart R. We sometimes used “walkmans” while cleaning carpets. Most brothers listened to Bible tapes or tapes from meetings. Some listened to Christian music, like John Michael Talbot, Phil Keaggy and Handel’s Messiah. It was considered seriously wrong to listen to “worldly” music, though such music helped the work go by easier. Stuart R. sometimes listened to the Beatles, which he repented of from time to time at brothers’ meetings, saying it was because he was backslidden. The brothers told him to throw away the tapes. When Stuart said he paid a lot of money for the tapes and that the last time he backslid he had to buy them all over again, so why can’t he just put the tapes aside for the next time he backslides, so he won’t have to waste money again, it caused quite an uproar. I thought it was tremendously funny. Stuart was a “middle brother” and not as bought into the COBU mindset as many older brothers were. I had Bible tapes and tapes of foreign language courses and recordings I made from shortwave radio. What you could listen to also depended on what brother you were working with, as some were more hard line than others. Some brothers considered that listening to anything, except the Bible, was a distraction from the work that we were doing and was not “keeping our minds on things above.”

I remember one long period of work around the Christmas holidays, on the third long cleaning job of the day, an evening in someone’s apartment in the Bronx, when Greg S. lent me his tape player, because I told him I was ready to snap from the frustration of the long working hours. He lent me his headphones and I listened to a tape of Handel’s Messiah which helped calm to me down as I was scrubbing the carpet. It was something to fill the long empty days and the wasteland of conflicting thoughts and the frustration of my unmet needs. My thoughts sometimes became a boiling cauldron on days when we woke up, were given our carpet cleaning schedule for the day and often worked into the evenings and there could be a night job in a restaurant as well.)

When the meeting had reached a fever pitch, and after it was decided how, when and where the older brothers were to be put out, Stewart called it off. He said that we would be able to blame the church for it, if it was done this way and he wasn’t going to allow that.

After listening to the tape, I realized that it had been a mock execution. Mock executions were done in Communist re-education camps to break down prisoners’ resistance. The prisoner really believes he is going to be executed and he is lead to the wall before the firing squad. He goes through all the stress of being about to die. He is in fear of death, or perhaps he has resigned himself to the fact his death. The firing squad lines up, guns ready. Next is heard, “Ready… aim… wait!” And this is what Stewart had done to the older brothers. He goaded the sisters into playing the appropriate roles, then he called it off. Not only that, he appeared to be bailing the older brothers out from the decision the older sisters had made about them. It was a last moment stay of execution and it was delivered not when the triggers were about to be pulled, but while the bullets were flying through the air to their targets.

This is just one example of the manipulation that cult leaders like Stewart Traill practice. It is not accidental, and the purpose is to mold members’ allegiance to the leader, while also keeping any meaningful friendships, relationships and loyalties from developing between cult members. Friendships between cult members are alternate loyalties which compete with cult members’ allegiance to the leader. Alternate loyalties cannot be tolerated by a cult leader.

It was hard to be friends with or to have a relationship with any woman who was doing this to us, even if she was merely a tool of the cult leader and hadn’t really wanted to do it to us. It would be hard to make friends with the newer church members, for the same reason. And it was hard to be friends with other older brothers when much of our thinking is about what is going to happen to us, or about making a good show in the voting where the others are there to expose one anothers’ faults, lies and shortcomings, real or imagined.

This was only one incident, but it was part of the life and dynamics that were going on all the time in the Church of Bible Understanding. At this time, Stewart intended to bring about some effect or change among us and about the way things were to be done in the church. It was one of the ways he manipulated and managed relations between the different types of people in the church, getting them to jump through the appropriate hoops, while keeping them busy bringing in money to the church and keeping their minds off complaints about living conditions and long work hours. Why, after this mock execution, I felt so fortunate just to be allowed to stay there! Now, how was I going to complain about long hours or about wanting some time to study and exercise, or even, to be able to have a relationship with one of those sisters? (I had expected to be able to have a relationship now, after Stewart said he “repented,” because he said that he had made it too hard for brothers and sisters in the church to get married and declared that we were now free to marry, if we chose to. After that landmark meeting in 1989, I had been expecting to start a relationship. But now, for some reason, the church always seemed to be in an extreme state of crisis and emergency and we were running from the whip all the time. It just didn’t seem to be the time now for relationships. Just like it always had been before!)

But after a year of Stewart wanting to drive me out of the church, which happened right after that time when radical new freedoms seemed to be promised and during meetings where it was decided that we were to be broken up, broken down and demoted, and finally after this meeting, where we had been brought to the cliff and were about to be thrown over the edge, how could I complain or even make a helpful suggestion for improving our lives in the church? I was lucky to be alive, lucky to still be here. Or so I felt. As time went on, I began to realize that events like this were designed and planned and not spontaneous, as I had once assumed they were, and that this treatment was intended to have certain effects on us and to create a certain result in us.

Soon after this meeting and the failed pushcart business with the new people, I was sent with a group of ten older brothers to Manhattan to get carpet cleaning and construction leads. We slept on the floor of the church office, “on a homeless basis.” We were supposed to be out from morning to late evening, looking for new customers. At this time the agenda was openly business related, and although gathering new converts was mentioned, it was all about making money for the church. But Stewart had a way of making this work seem like a way to reach spiritual redemption, through being tentatively offered acceptance back into the church flock, from our former position of having been criminals about to be executed, to becoming those who could “prove themselves” by adding to the church’s financial bottom line.

At this time I made friends with John V., an older brother who had left the church many years ago and had recently returned, who was now thrown into this way of life. The good thing about brothers like John was that they weren’t bought in to this mindset and they wouldn’t run the usual lines and church agenda on me. I could talk to them like friends. Brothers who returned to the church from a long absence were often confused by what was going on. They remembered life in the church in the old days when things were “good.” John and many others like him returned for short periods, having battled addictions or alcoholism or had lives ruined by divorce. Their thinking often was that they had left the church years ago and that their lives had not worked without Jesus, or by trying to follow Jesus any other way than the COBU way, and that if they wanted to follow Jesus again and to repair their lives, it had to be done by living in COBU. When they came back, they were shocked at the way things had become and they usually only stayed for a short time and then they left. Life in COBU was, apparently, not better than the life they had left behind.

So for a while, I was living “on a homeless basis” in the church’s office and carpet cleaning shop. But before that, I was still living in the church’s residence in war torn Woodruff Avenue, in the heart of one of the worse sections in Brooklyn and that is the time period that this following section covers. And now, after this long introduction, which I hope will give some context to the things I have written, here is the beginning of my COBU journals. Anything I have added in brackets [like this] is not part of the journals, but is there to explain and to give some more context to what I was writing about.

-*-

Last night, we had a correctional meeting with Brother Stewart. The subject was about not avoiding suffering and about being a Christian leader. Stewart said that we will be of no use to the new disciples unless they see “nails.”

[Unless they saw the imprints of the nails of crucifixion on our hands, figuratively speaking. That is, if we have crucified ourselves and our desires for a life in this world. This may sound like a good idea, but what it really meant was: if we have put to death all our personal ambitions and wants and given ourselves over to Stewart’s plan for our lives.]

Well, I am going to write what I think. I can’t really argue with it and I always hear a voice that certainly confirms how much trouble I am in.

But I thought, when am I going to get these nails? How can I say I am taking my share of suffering if I can’t show that I have them? Of course, this sounds like an excuse. I thought also, if I were really “not my will but thy will” and didn’t find little places to do my own thing, then I would have it made. I guess I would no longer be accountable for anything. But that also sounds like a getting lobotomy or being a robot.

[I often thought what was expected of me was like getting a lobotomy. This idea of killing off my life in the world and only working at the church’s plans seemed like getting cutting out part of my mind, and the useful parts of it too. Once that was done, I could placidly and obediently follow the church’s teachings and plan to use my life. It would also be a loss of all personal responsibility. I would only be following what I was told and never objecting to anything. This was what we were expected to do and this was the pressure I began to resist when Stewart began forcing it on me.]

Also, I have to do it, but I wonder if Stewart is too harsh or demanding at times. I wonder if he needs to be with other Christians of his own caliber. I think he is alone and possibly he still needs correction.

[“I have to do it,” means that although I was struggling to accept and conform to what I was being told to do, I still had to express my doubts. It was outrageous at the time to think Stewart could still be doing anything wrong, because he was the true teacher who lived a true Christian life and was a true example of the faith. Sure, he admitted to doing some wrong things in his 1989 “confession,” which, like true repentance, was supposed to be a complete 180 degree turn away from those wrong things. I was soon to see in no uncertain terms, that it was not repentance, but rather a stronger and more continued determination to remain on his usual course. (Or we could say that Stewart’s repentance was a 360 degree turn. He did at first appear to be changing, but as the saying goes, “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” It was a great show of repentance. I was too naive and trusting to understand this at first.)

I imagined that maybe Stewart was alone and needed to talk to other pastors. We were always told that we should “fellowship” together with our brothers in “three fold cords” for accountability and help. Why not Stewart? I realized the man had no friends or peers and I sincerely believed that if he were to seek help, it was there. But Stewart had no intention of “seeking help.” But I was like most innocent and naive people, who could not believe that others harbor evil intentions, or at least I could not imagine the depths of those evil intentions. I read once that most Germans in the 1930s were good and law abiding people and that is why they could not understand that some people, like Hitler for example, have evil agendas and ambitions, because they could not imagine having such thoughts themselves. They could not conceive that their leader was evil until the results of that leadership became obvious over time, when it was too late to do anything about it.]

I began praying about this, and praying for Stewart. I heard a voice, “I hear you,” which gives me encouragement to continue praying for him.Maybe my thoughts are not all wrong. I remember in the past, how I couldn’t help thinking things which I wasn’t supposed to say openly or wouldn’t dare to peep.

[I could not dare trust that my thoughts could be right about what was wrong with Stewart and the church, and that they were not “thoughts from the devil,” much less that God could be encouraging me to pray about it, which meant that I might be right.

In earlier years in the church, I had my doubts, but would not dare say them. Yet, Stewart himself talked about some of these same wrong things in his so-called repentance speech. Therefore, I reasoned, some of my doubts about him back then had been true, so therefore some of my doubts about him now could be true. But, I couldn’t talk to anyone about it then and neither could I talk to anyone about it now.]

I will write about some doubts I have. (It will do me no good, but I will write them anyway.) One question is, I’m starting to wonder if this is a gospel for the strong because, as usual, only Brother Stewart is doing it and none of the older brothers are. Just like what we have always been told for the last ten years. Now the funny thing about this is that when I told Bob M. about these doubts (with all kinds of bending over backwards to explain to him that I was not being contentious), I felt lighter and freer. I feel that way even now when I write this. How can this be? Is there any truth to this? I remember before, when I had doubts and I wondered if God’s truth was somewhere above all this, like light shining above the clouds. And that now, I should not throw away my confidence, but be patient. I wish that I hadn’t done that before, but instead had drawn near to God and stayed in his word, even when everything looked hopeless.

[In past years in the fellowship, in other bad times, I thought of God like the sun that is always shining, even though I might not see if from the ground, because there were dark clouds overhead. And that what I was experiencing was not the way God was toward me, but the way the church and those in charge of it were toward me. God, whom I could not see because of the clouds obscuring the way, was like the sun that was always shining. This never changes and the truth and the way God was toward me and what he thought of me was the same, despite how it appeared or how things were in the church, despite the Church of Bible Understanding claiming to have the only way, the only truth, and the only truth about who I am and the way I am. I understood this was true about God and it was a break from the pressures I was being subjected to. According to COBU, we were not supposed to get a break from this pressure. We were supposed to be fully subjected to and affected by it, slammed and flattened by it. Stewart called it “Jesus pressure.”

At the time I wrote this section, Stewart was promoting his perfectionism teaching (“those who are born again do not sin” which, according to him, meant that if you still sin, you are not and never have been born again). According to Stewart, because of this, none of the older brothers were considered to be faithful to Christ. (Stewart always gave a reason why the older brothers were not faithful to Christ, this just happened to be the reason at this time.) Only Stewart was faithful. Despite the current teaching being different than before, the pattern was still the same. Stewart was the good and faithful teacher and we were all bad. The “new” gospel seemed to me to be a “gospel for the strong,” rather than hope for weak sinners. Only strong people (like Stewart) could be faithful to it. Stewart accused us of all sorts of condemning things in the name of our unfaithfulness, during meetings and in the messages he sent constantly during the week.  I remember one day, as I walking around the city, passing out flyers for the Christian Brothers business, the phrase kept repeating in my head, (“like a bell ringing, with a clear and distinct note or message,” it seemed) that “if anyone preaches another gospel to you..” “another gospel…” Stewart was preaching another gospel to us and not the gospel of Jesus Christ! This realization was not enough to make me get walk out of COBU. There was more to my bondage to this place than that. It was a communal life and I had lived here a long time and had almost no connections to anyone outside. The course I tried to take was to try to fight against wrong things there, to speak up, to make changes or to try to make things better. I tried to stand up for and defend my place, in my home country against invaders who were chopping off pieces of ground, shrinking the land I was standing on, as more and more priveleges were removed from us, and there was less and less free time from the demands of the church businesses, meetings and convert gathering in which to find rest and balance. I was willing to do these things, but I needed balance. I needed time for me. I needed rest. None of this was allowed, not even a little bit, in Stewart’s plan and worldview which he wanted us to accept as the only way to live a Christian life.

I did finally say something to Stewart at a meeting, telling him that this is the gospel of the strong and that “as usual, only you are doing it,” and that “I don’t believe this born again don’t sin thing. It’s not what I read in the bible. Something doesn’t jibe.” I suddenly felt embarassed about the funny word, jibe, I had used. And I could feel all the other brothers and sisters being silent, waiting. I had spoken some of their own inner, hidden thoughts about this. Stewart put me away with one well-aimed comment that nailed me to the wall, neutralizing me. He said, “That’s not what THIS one goes around thinking all day!” 

I felt suddenly neutralized and pinned to the wall. The sins and the evil intentions of my heart exposed! What did I go around thinking about all day? About Stewart and the church and about the things that were not right here. About selfish things like wanting to study languages and that I miss being able to go running. And, that I wanted to get married and have… sex. Yes, especially that. I was lost all day in these thoughts, instead of having my mind firmly set on Christ and living out the Christian life, as Stewart was now implibg that all the others – besides me – were doing, even if he did accuse them of being unfaithful. At least they were on the church’s side and did not harbor any contrary opinions about it. I felt harpooned to the wall. Maybe it was the suddenness and unexpectedness of Stewart’s sudden attack that caught me off guard. Or his completely left field response. I expected that Stewart might say, “And what do you see that is not correct about what I’m teaching?  What are your reasons?” And that the truth speaking and truth seeking teacher would seek the truth and maybe at the very least, correct a wayward person back to true belief, being that this was a meeting to further lay down his new teachings. 

But we were only allowed to ask Stewart Traill questions about his teaching in a way that showed we were asking for help in understanding it better. We were not supposed to say why we did not believe it. (And a year later, Stewart threw this teaching out. He said that it was incorrect and not only that, we had let him get away with it. “You all didn’t really believe that, did you..?” he asked. “And you let me get away with it!” No one challenged Stewart on his revocation of his former teaching. Though I did get a wry look from one brother who turned around to look at me, because he remembered how I had objected to it back then. But this was not unusual in COBU.  No one seemed to think much about the contradictions that were all around us. I asked a brother named Andrew if he saw how Stewart changed his teachings from one thing to another (and sometimes back again) and Andrew said, “Jesus just keeps showing us clearer and clearer.” Andrew seemed completely oblivious that this was not a process of things becoming clearer, but that we once believed that down was down, but now we are being told that up means down, and now it is being changed back to down is down.

I felt as if Stewart accused me of a deeply horrible thing, of being one who lives in darkness and is not what he appears to be, though he may certainly appear to be a quite harmless person and a Christian brother to to everyone else. He was saying that I was one who had non-Christian thoughts and dark motivations that were contrary to our way of life there. With that comment he isolated me as not being one of the brothers, not belonging to flock. And he also made it clear he was not tolerating anything else, whether from me or from anyone who might want to try it next. This was the clearest message that came across to me. And for a moment, during his attempt to contain and isolate my commentary, Stewart portrayed himself as just one of the boys to all the other brothers, as if to say: “You know, fellas, this guy is not really concerned about the truth. He’s not like us!  So, brothers, do you want to be accepted by me, Stewart, or do you want to be with Jim LaRue in his dark, sinister world?”]

These journal pages form the background of my book, Captive Congregation: My Fourteen Years in the Church of Bible Understanding, which are available as a Kindle book or in paperback.

3 Responses to “1990, 12/01. Dirty Dealings in the Church of Bible Understanding”

  1. Sandra (Bloomfield) Jones Says:

    Wow, a flood of memories came rushing back after reading this Jim. Thank you so much for sharing this. It seems like a distant nightmare sometimes when I read the accounts. However, it was and is all too real and it honestly did happen this way. Maybe one day I’ll write about me account. Thank you again, and I look forward to reading more of your writings.

    Sandra

  2. Ronnie Weiss Says:

    I am amazed how well you write Jim. Who knew you had such talent to express yourself and you are very articulate and I could fully understand your thinking as I thought many things but suppressed them while in COBU. After I left, myself and others who left would open up about everything and we began to see things clearly. This was a start to our healing besides Times Square Church where the Holy Spirit set me and others free of the bondage we had come under while in COBU. A Pastor there said we were under a ministry of condemnation. I will have to get your book. May Jesus bless you and use your writings to help others. God bless you – Ronnie Weiss

    • James Says:

      Ronnie, the reason no one knew I was thinking these things, or that I could express them reasonably well, was that we were not allowed to talk about these things. I kept my thoughts to myself. I was seen as the rather quiet and a little bit strange brother who kept to himself. Any time I spoke up at meetings, I was immediately shut down, and also I got informed on by the brothers I spoke to. In other words, at the next meeting, when we did the usual, “Who do we need to talk to?” my name would come up as one who is “playing with fire,” or “on the edge.” It was very unpleasant to have my thoughts dealt with as “contention, rebellion, fighting against the truth, pride and poisoning the new disciples.” It was better to keep quiet and to write in my journals which offered a way for me to compose my thoughts and to have some clarity about them. Though you can see by what I was writing, I was often very confused. And despite Stewart’s best efforts to snuff out any spiritual life in or among us, I was struggling to have a relationship with God.

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