One's dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.” ― Michael J. Fox link
TWW will continue to post personal stories of former members of Calvary Temple on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We believe that the support our community can give to these folks will go a long way in their healing. In return, their stories also help all of us who have been involved with abusive churches to know that we are not alone. Tomorrow we plan to post a story about a Gospel™ Coalition member who is none to happy that blogs tell these stories of abuse. He calls us "weeping prophets."
It seems unbelievable, surreal, like something you might hear or read about in a distant place – but not here, not to you. You ask yourself:
- How could this happen?
- How could anyone be so cruel?
- Why didn’t we see the signs?
- How could we have be so fooled?
Such is the world we now live in, these are the questions we have asked ourselves time and again.
In 1969, we were sixteen year old friends who fell in love, laughed, dated, and accepted Jesus Christ as our personal savior in a small close knit Assembly of God church in Herndon, Virginia. We ultimately were married there in 1972. Everything was perfect. We had very little, but we had each other and our friends, but most of all we had “Him” – Jesus Christ and “He” had us! Life was just awesome.
A charismatic youth minister with amazing stories: a star is born.
Then came 1973 and a charismatic youth minister from California. We were awed by his past raucous life of alcohol, sex and drugs as an unsaved youth, his story of finding Christ, and the sacrifices he had made to serve God;
- giving up a professional football career,
- losing his family, his college fund, his home
- and so much more;
He traded them in for the Gospel sake.
Oh, but the rewards were great – or so we were told. Prophetic words predicting his greatness in the Kingdom of God, rubbing elbows with some of the “elite” in the Assemblies of God, rising quickly as the most sought after youth minister in California, and yes – even raising the dead! But God had led him to Herndon, Virginia, and we were so impressed that within a year we would vote him in as our Senior Pastor.
Looking back now, knowing what we know now about Star Robert Scott Sr. There were signs, but we were too blinded by the “fame” and how fortunate we – a small group in the little town of Herndon – were to get such a man.
He begins a campaign to separate the inner circle from the wiser and older members.
Soon, older saints (especially women) – those with deep knowledge of God’s Word, strong in the faith and proven in character were subtly questioned, undermined, and over time driven out of the church, often without most members knowing or understanding how and why (the first evidence of controlling information). The younger members of the church were drawn to him, and he used that to form close personal relationships, select positions within the church structure, and share information forming an ‘Inner Circle.’ Even so, we were often torn in our thinking – confidence in trusted, proven pillars of the faith that were now in conflict with the “Shining Star” leading us to great things.
Building the empire-starting with the purchase of a school.
Opportunity came for us to purchase a private Christian school in a neighboring town. It meant selling the Herndon property – church and parsonage. The cost was significant and many questioned the viability of such a venture. Assurances from Star Scott that this was a great “money-maker” (another warning sign) helped to persuade some, but not all. In his attempt to persuade us (I was a deacon at the time), he tried to minimize the concerns by saying, “these are just nickel and dime people.” This, the flock God had called him to serve.
Another sign flashing brightly as to this man’s character, and though it did not go unheeded, we ultimately voted to sell the Herndon property and purchase the Triple Seven Christian School. However, research had been poor, if any at all, and as it turned out the cash cow of the school had been its Kindergarten which was all but eliminated because the year we purchased the school, the county opened kindergarten to the public for the first time. Most of the enrollment and tuition ceased.
He begins teaching questionable doctrine and the Fosters resign from the church, temporarily.
Around that same time Star Scott began to teach that there was no power in the name of Jesus. “It’s just another name,” he stated, “there is nothing special about that name.” Disillusioned with some of the tactics, the abuse, disregard, and lack of respect for some of the church leaders and now this new teaching degrading the name of Jesus, a group of concerned members met with one of the Deacons, and Elder in the church. We went to present our concerns and his first question was, “where is the pastor, why is he not in this meeting?” He did hear our concerns but nothing was done, and so I resigned my position as deacon and along with a number of other families we left. We worked for a year in another Assembly of God church, while Marsha’s family remained back at Calvary Temple, and after the year, we truly felt compelled to return.
The miracle of children
I immediately began to play piano for all services again, and felt welcomed – more by the pastor’s wife, Janet than by him, although he was cordial. The church membership had dwindled significantly, but began to grow again. All seemed well – working together, growing in number, and seeing first-hand the miracle of children – although we had been told we would never have children of our own! A deacon had come to our home, laid hands on us, anointed us with oil, and prayed the prayer of faith. Within a few months, Marsha was expecting our first child. Fast forward 3 years, and we were hoping for another child. Again, the same deacon came, went through the same process and again, God moved and our second child was on the way. We thought we were finished, but spring forward 2 years, and boom, our third child was coming! God had blessed us wonderfully.
Requirements increase and reports of absences from meetings were reported.
We raised our children in the church, where attendance at the private Christian school was required, but things were changing. More and more programs and activities were introduced. What seemed at first to be viable, even great things in and of themselves, began to be burdensome, mandated attendance, and questioning from leaders for those who were missing. Terms like “raising up a Godly seed” and “training them up” really meant brainwashing, keeping them from anything, everything, and everyone outside of Calvary Temple.
Ultimately with year-round school, children spent Monday through Friday at school, then back on Tuesday evening for Corporate Prayer, Wednesday Evening for Bible Study, Thursday evening for Corporate Prayer, Friday evening for Family Fun Night, Saturday evening for Youth Group/Young Adult Group, Sunday Morning for Church, and Sunday night for Church. Plus there were Home Fellowship and Men’s Breakfast meetings monthly as well as basketball games – most all were mandatory, and yes there were those who watched to see if you were there and reported absences to the leadership.
Authority of the pastor and tithing stressed.
The “church” became more and more insular. Outside speakers/singers who had once been welcomed were now prohibited. All teaching/preaching came only from the Pastoral staff. Sermon topics were most often related to spiritual authority (obeying those who have the rule over you), and tithing. Tithing to the point that records were scrutinized by the pastor and anyone who was not tithing or needed assistance paying mandatory school tuition were required to meet with the pastoral staff, review their personal finances and in many cases, eliminate unnecessary items, e.g., cable TV/Internet service, eating out, and other personal items so that they could pay tithe and tuition. Second and even Third “tithes” were taught and required at times all the while Star Scott amassed a fleet of high-end sports, dragster, and racing cars that he justified as a “race car ministry.”
People were told never leave the church-even for college or jobs.
There was also a very specific and lengthy focus on never leaving this church. “God has placed you here” was the rule and people were counseled and advised to quit their jobs in the event a job related relocation was in process with their employer. High School Graduates were required to attend college only in the immediate area. Several students who had been offered scholarships to universities out of the area were required by the church, and with the ‘support’ of their parents, to turn them down and stay local.
In 2005, our daughter Sarah, our oldest child, a nurse having graduated from a local technical school became engaged and married a young man in the church. It was a joyous occasion for us – we were able to participate in the ceremony and Marsha’s brother, one of the Assistant Pastors presided.
Their youngest son decided he wanted to leave the school and was told he must leave the church.
However in the Spring of 2006, things took a different turn. Our youngest child, Rob – then 16 years old, along with four of his close friends in the church and school announced that they were not serving God, they had been just following the rules, but no longer wanted to be there. They were immediately expelled from the school. We talked with Rob about his decision, and were impressed that he truthfully identified he had been being a hypocrite and could no longer do that. We wanted him to serve the Lord, but knew he and he alone had to make that decision.
We enrolled him in public school, and went forward. We required the same rules as before, no smoking, drinking, cursing, drugs, sex, and required him to obey and respect us and attend church. He willingly complied with these, but after a couple of services at Calvary Temple, we were told by the overseer/deacon we were assigned to that “Pastor Scott said Rob was no longer allowed to attend church there.” We questioned this as we felt hearing the Word of God was the best way for him to find his way back to Christ, but we were told absolutely not. So, we asked Rob to find another church which he willingly did and attended regularly.
Disobedient children were now pegged as God haters and the Fosters were told to put their son out of their home.
Things seemed to smooth out into what we thought was our “new normal” and family members were friendly, relationships were good. Even other family members from Calvary Temple treated Rob with love and affection. But again, things began to change. Sermons focusing on rebellious and disobedient children – “God haters” as Star Scott called them were more and more prevalent. We began to be counseled by the overseer/deacon that we should put Rob out of our home. We had observed this practice in a number of other families, and while we did not agree, we were not aware of all the circumstances with each family, and felt it was their decision. We disagreed with the deacon’s position.
Our son was not disobedient, rebellious and did not meet the requirements they were pointing us toward. As a result, we began to notice a distancing from other church members, family in the church – people we had been close to for years. The deacon continued to meet with us telling us that the pastor said to put Rob out of the house, he is a God hater. We tried to reason with him, telling him that Rob did not hate God, and that it was the job of the Holy Spirit to convict and draw him to Jesus. But we were told we were wrong. We asked where they would recommend putting him if we put him out, and they said, ”put him on the street with just the clothes on his back.” We refused to do that, but we were being worn down.
They put their son in with another family due to the pressure.
Our daughter and other son joined in to convince us to put him out. We did not want him far away, and thought of a cousin close by. But this family was not serving God, their son was on alcohol and drugs and in and out of jail. Our deacon said that would be a perfect place to send him! But we told him, absolutely not! Though we felt it wrong, we gave into the pressure and located friends nearby – parents of one of the other boys who had left the school in the Spring – the entire family left the church at that time. They were willing – actually glad to take Rob into their home and care for him.
It was the most difficult day of our lives. We had Rob pack all his belongings, told him we loved him, but sent him away in November 2006. Our hearts were broken, we were broken, and Rob was broken hearted. Only the leaders at Calvary Temple were happy. We maintained contact with Rob, seeing him on occasion over the next two month. However God was getting through to us, and in January, as I was praying in our bedroom, God spoke to me as clearly as I have ever heard that inner voice speak. He said, “Rob is your son, I gave him to you, a miracle – and I expect you to raise him, teaching him My ways and My Word. It is your responsibility as his father, not someone else.” I knew at that moment we were bringing Rob home. I shared this immediately with my wife, and we were both in agreement, this was the will of God, not what men had told us.
The Fosters are so distraught that they rethink their decision.
We knew that this would not sit well with the leadership of Calvary Temple and our family in the church. They were not happy with us, and quickly we began to have meetings again with our assigned overseer/deacon – Chris Ashley. We explained to him what God had spoken to us, but he said Star Scott said we needed to put Rob back out of the house. He specifically quoted the scripture from Deuteronomy 21:18-21 that speaks of a rebellious, gluttonous, drunkard son whom was to be taken to the gate in Old Testament times and stoned to death. We disagreed completely in that Rob was none of those things.
Marsha began an in-depth study of that passage, and it led her to Luke 15:1-31, the accounts of the Prodigal Son, the Lost Coin, and the Lost Sheep. All related the love of the Father, the Good Shepherd in seeking the lost, going after them, how they are precious to the Lord, and bringing them back. This we shared with the deacon and one of the Assistant Pastors, but they would not answer us, they grew tired of hearing us refer to this as our justification.
The Fosters begin to notice their friends in the church, as well as their other son and daughter, are distancing themselves from them.
And the distance between us and our life-long friends and family in the church grew. Some who had been our very best friends wouldn’t speak, or just gave a quick slight smile. In monthly Small Home Group Meetings, we were required to attend, but it was as though we were invisible, no one spoke to us. Our daughter, Sarah and oldest son, Michael distanced themselves as well. Sarah and her husband moved to another section of the sanctuary and no longer sat with us. Michael came to us finally and said that he was moving out of our house at age 21. His reason was that Rob was vexing him although we knew this was not true as he and Rob rarely saw each other due to their respective work and school schedules. Michael was being told by church leaders to move out.
In August of 2007, a well respected minister, David Wilkerson (now deceased) released a newsletter specifically addressing the Prodigal Son. This article completely confirmed what we had been saying to the leaders in Calvary Temple. Of course this caused a great stir in the church as many members followed David Wilkerson closely and respected him (even Star Scott – well up to this point). We had hoped this would be a turning point in our situation and that the Calvary Temple leaders would change their position. Unfortunately they did not.
I had been playing piano in the church since I was a teenager, but clearly Star Scott was unhappy with me. Though we were both on the platform and I played during praise and worship services as well as altar/after service, he would not address me, speak to me, not even so much as look at me. Finally, after one Sunday morning service, one of the Assistant Pastors came to me and told me that day was my last day playing piano at Calvary Temple. No explanation, but I knew it was because we would not obey Star Scott and put Rob out of our home again.
In September of 2007, Star Scott gave a sermon on Luke 15. He completely contradicted what David Wilkerson had said, and discredited him before the congregation on this topic.
Despite pressure, the Fosters stay in the church since their other children were there.
We continued to be called in for meetings with the overseer/deacon, but our position did not change – and neither did theirs. Marsha and I discussed leaving Calvary Temple many, many times. We wanted to leave, but we had seen what they did to everyone who left and knew they would do the same to us. They shun you, disparage you in front of the congregation, and no one will have anything to do with you. At this point, though our relationship with Sarah and Michael was strained, we were still in contact with them, so we elected to remain at Calvary Temple.
One evening, Star Scott called all the pastoral staff to the platform for a Panel Discussion. This is a forum he uses regularly to “allow the congregation to ask questions on topics they need additional information on.” In reality, he “sets the stage” with a preliminary discussion that establishes the tone of the meeting and defines the parameters in which congregants would feel comfortable asking about. The undertones and unspoken rules laid out in the opening by Star Scott are intended to inhibit congregants from asking straightforward questions. In most cases these discussions would lprovide just enough information for congregants to recognize whom this particular Panel Discussion is really about without actually giving the person or family’s name.
This was a very clever way to control information. Congregants are consistently told they are not to discuss situations among themselves, they are to take it “up” (meaning to their overseer/deacon) and he will discuss with the Pastoral Staff and get back to them. They say they are trying to protect the people.
Excommunication and shunning
In this particular Panel Discussion, the topic was taking the rebellious child to the gate to be stoned – aka the Foster's son although no names were mentioned. The wife of one of the deacons asked what would happen if the people did not do what Star Scott wanted. Star himself said, “we will Mark them or excommunicate them.”
On October 31, 2007 after the Wednesday evening service, Chris Ashley, the overseer/deacon we were assigned to came to me and said, “Pastor Scott said to tell you that you need to leave Calvary Temple. Find another church and attend somewhere else.” He also said, “we know you are Christians, and we can have fellowship with you, you just need to go somewhere else.” So, this was it, we were excommunicated. We say that because shortly after that night, Sarah and Michael, our older children who remained at Calvary Temple along with all the members of the church completely cut off all communication with us. We attempted to talk with and see our children, but they would not answer the phone, would not return messages, and would not answer the door if we went to their house.
Their daughter kept her pregnancy a secret from the Fosters because she was told to do so.
We learned that our children were very distressed over the separation and that Star Scott told our children and son-in-law that he would do anything he could to help restore our relationship. We requested meetings with him on three occasions, but never received a call back or acknowledgement from him. In May of 2009, our daughter gave birth to twin boys. We had learned that she was expecting, but had not had any communication from her. Kevin and Ryan were born on May 22nd. The following Sunday morning at Calvary Temple, Star Scott congratulated the congregation on keeping the birth of the Sarah’s twin boys a secret from the Foster’s, and asked them to continue to keep information off social media for a few days as one of the twins had some complications and they did not want us to know anything.
Scott interferes with reconciliation between the Fosters and their daughter.
We continued to reach out to our children in Calvary Temple via phone leaving them messages that we loved them, that we were serving God, and that we wanted to have a relationship with them. Rarely did we hear anything back from them, but late 2009, we received a message saying that they wanted to meet to try and reconcile. We were elated, but at that same time cautious. We wanted so much to reconcile and have our family restored, but we knew that there was a great possibility that they would just try to manipulate us and then back away if we refused to return to Calvary Temple and obey Star Scott.
I met with Sarah and her husband Mike for about 2 hours and was able to see Kevin and Ryan now about 7 months old. There were tense moments, raised voices, weeping and laughter. We ended the meeting on a good note, believing that we absolutely could reconcile. Sarah and Mike needed to talk with Star Scott and our plan was to meet again in a couple of days with Marsha included at that time. When we did not hear from them, I messaged Mike and received a response stating that they had spoken with Star Scott and we could not be reconciled.
We have continued to reach out to them and made several more attempts to reconcile, but they have all been rejected. We have asked forgiveness for anything we have done that hurt them, and they have said they forgive us. However each time they speak with the leadership at Calvary Temple, they are advised that they cannot reconcile with us. Our daughter & son-in-law now have a third child, Alexis, whom we have never seen.
Reconciliation with their son, Michael
We learned that our oldest son, Michael was married in 2010 to a young lady who came to Calvary Temple after we were gone. We had never met. her. We were not allowed to attend the wedding. However, their marriage ended after just a few years. Michael was devastated, and was counseled by one of the Assistant Pastors for a long while. Unfortunately, this “Pastor” caused severe emotional and psychological distress.
Ultimately, they banned Michael from the church and all the members – including his sister Sarah- completely cut him off. All his friends from childhood into his early adult years were gone. Fortunately, he knew we loved him and cared for him, and on one of the those calls Marsha made to remind him we loved him, he answered the phone for the first time in over 7 years. We have been reunited and are working together closely to restore what was taken from us by Calvary Temple. We have learned from Michael that the leaders at Calvary Temple destroyed our reputation and character with numerous lies.
We are so elated to be reunited with our son, and we have hope to be reunited with our daughter and son-in-law and to get to know our grandchildren. God is faithful, our trust is in Him and Him alone!