Your body is a temple, not a daily dumping ground for another person’s pain, anger, betrayal, judgment, hypocrisy, denial, games, jealousy or blame. When you are being psychologically, spiritually or emotionally abused by a person, and they don’t care how it hurts you, then it is time to leave what is polluting your relationship with God.” ― Shannon L. Alder link
I want to thank Ellen for her willingness to transparently share the story of her family and Calvary Temple. The abuse this family endured is unbelievable. May this story open up the eyes of those still attending Calvary Temple. For those who are considering attending this church: Caveat Emptor!
I used to say I came to Calvary Temple kicking and screaming. I first attended a service in 1982 – my husband had started attending some time before at the invitation of a Calvary Temple church member. I immediately disliked everything about it. The pastor seemed arrogant and very prideful and I felt intensely uncomfortable. I hoped there was some way to convince my husband to find another church. In addition, I was working for a man who had left CT the year before and he had warned me against CT several times. He said he knew of abuse done by the pastor to family members. There were rumors that he had abused his nieces and his half sister. So I was extremely reluctant to attend. But in the end, I attended because my husband loved the pastor and had become close to one of the families attending.
Exhausting church expectations
After a very difficult adjustment period, I settled into Calvary Temple and accepted the good and the bad. My husband was appointed a deacon, I was involved in numerous ministries, and we seemed to thrive. But it took a toll on our lives, my husband and I had little time with our children and we all devoted endless hours to the ministry. There were services 3 times per week, prayer meetings 2 nights per week, Friday night "family" night, monthly fellowship meetings, outreaches, cleaning of the church and a variety of other activities. Because I did not work outside the home, I was called on frequently to do everything from working in the classrooms, organizing and catering church-wide events, photographing weddings and basketball games, cleaning the pastor's home, and numerous other obligations. Often I felt honored that I was called upon, but often I just felt exhausted.
No financial accountability
There were many red flags that we ignored. For example, there is absolutely no financial accountability at Calvary Temple. Star Scott teaches that the entire tithe belongs to the pastor and it is sin for it be used for anything other than the sustenance of the "priesthood". This convenient interpretation of an Old Testament principle has enabled Scott to amass hundreds of thousands of dollars of luxury vehicles, race cars, motorcycles, other possessions as well as first class vacations multiple times each year. It is said that he owns real estate in several other places – places he says he will flee to in the invent of persecution. Scott controls all the finances while telling the congregation that he owns nothing. We gave tens of thousands of dollars to this man and never knew where it went. He had convinced us that we were "giving to God" and had no biblical right to question where the money went. I can't believe we were so gullible, and yet we thought we were being obedient to the word of God.
Poor treatment of those who left the church
Another red flag came in the form of our own observations of the treatment given to people who had left CT. The offending individual (or family) was ALWAYS portrayed as rebellious, confused, lost and even mentally unbalanced. It seemed unlikely to me that every single one was now in complete rebellion to God only because they had left CT. Many of these people had been very well thought of just days or weeks prior to their leaving and now were being called reprobate, residue (as Scott said "we have filled a lot of the local churches with our residue"), backsliders, unsaved, lost, confused, etc. Their families were being divided and destroyed. He spoke of one very godly woman in this way: "that's the kind of woman I would like to punch in the face". I heard one of the associate pastors say "EVERY one who has left Calvary Temple is not serving God." Scott referred to some that dared to question him as "too big for their britches". He called two women the "daughters of Satan". Scott had no trouble maligning anyone who had dared to disobey him and he did it frequently.
Families were broken up
Of major concern and huge red flag was the breaking up of families. I watched parents lose their children (they were put out of the house if they were "not serving God"), children lose their parents (children were told to have nothing to do with a parent who might want to leave CT or was considered unsaved), husbands and wives divorce (because one wanted to leave CT), and friends be cut off from lifelong relationships. Some children left their homes and went to live with other people in the congregation at the insistence of the pastors. Some of my closest friends have not seen their children and grandchildren for many years. This is the motivating force for my stand against Calvary Temple – the destruction of families.
The remarriage of the pastor to a young woman raises questions
One of the most disturbing events occurred when Scott married a member of the church, 20 year old Greer Parker, less than 3 weeks after his wife's death. He stated from the pulpit that God had spoken to him in prayer one night shortly AFTER Janet Scott's death that he was to marry Greer. "Out of the clear, like a lightning bolt Thursday, a few days ago, God spoke to me and He pointed out in our midst one of the virgins among us that's to become my wife." And yet a friend in leadership told me that Scott had spoken of marrying Greer the week BEFORE Janet Scott's death.
The pastor refers to himself as the High Priest
In the teaching entitled "Ruth" in which Scott referred to himself as the High Priest.
"A very interesting thing that was upon the high priest, however, he couldn't mourn anyone. He wasn't allowed, as you read this, to mourn mother, father, children, and as you read into this, even, the implication being, the wife." and "He talks about the high priest and He says if you've lost a wife, you take a wife. It has to be one that's a virgin, it has to be one that's out of your midst. As you study the context of this, let me read to you starting at verse 10. It says, And he that is the high priest among his brethren, [Now catch this, this is the key to the whole thing.] upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, [upon] and [he] that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes. Uncover his head, you see, this is the high priest. This is the miter of the high priest. This is the garment of the high priest. This is what it's saying: The ministry goes on. You can't mourn to the place where you can't function in ministry because of the anointing. There's a grace that goes with that. It's not saying that you don't have emotional moments. It's saying that–the key–your life is different than everybody else's. I think that's obvious."
Besides the fact that his explanation of these verses was somewhat rambling and incoherent, it was a ridiculous application for a pastor in the New Testament church. There were many explanations as to why he referred to himself this way ("he chose to identify with the priesthood, he didn't mean it that way, etc"). But ultimately, he placed himself as High Priest that needed to marry a virgin right away.
He described his marriage proposal (via his daughter) to Greer. I listened to the following emotionally loaded statements such as:
- ALL THE PASTORS, there's been discussion;
- ALL THE BIBLICAL PRINCIPLES have been gone over, everyone's at peace…" and
- I just encourage you that between myself and the pastors, we have thoroughly covered the scriptures to make sure that every things that's done is according to the Word of God".
I knew he was manipulating this young girl, I knew this was wrong, and yet I helped with the wedding preparations. All the while, I was sick inside. Most of us didn't say a word to each other. There is such a high level of fear in Calvary Temple – we were all afraid to question anything for fear of being found questioning leadership. I don't even think I knew that was my reason – I just knew I would not speak up.
Marriages were controlled by the leadership
Marriages in Calvary Temple are strictly controlled. A member can only marry another CT member, the marriages are sometimes directly arranged and always subject to the approval of leadership, and engagements are restricted to 2-3 weeks (to keep the couple from succumbing to their "fleshly desires".). Consequently, though the couple has probably known each other most of their lives, they are not allowed to date or even get to know each other in a romantic way prior to marriage. Everything is done in a group setting to be sure there is no "giving in to the flesh". I believe many marriages would not take place if the young people were allowed to spend time together and find out they may not be compatible.
Marriages in CT are for the purpose of "serving in the ministry". For a time, marriages had to take place in the gymnasium and be performed by the fathers or a stand-in deacon. Their explanation? Marriage is a civil ceremony and should not take place in the sacred sanctuary and the pastors should not take part in the ceremony. This continued until Scott married Greer Parker. His wedding took place in the sanctuary and a pastor performed the ceremony. Some friends questioned the attendance and honoring of his unsaved brother when we could not have our family members attend a wedding and Scott responded that they were being "picky". This type of hypocrisy was seen again and again and if challenged – we were told we were being rebellious or out of order.
Wedding attendees were restricted to Calvary Temple members only. (Except for Scott's own wedding and the chosen few.) My mother was not permitted to attend my son's wedding because she was not a Christian (according to CT standards). We had little choice but to break the news to my mother and break her heart. This supposed "non-Christian" forgave me and my family and still blessed my son with a very generous wedding gift. At this point, I was ready to walk out but we were forced to comply. Our son was marrying a pastor's daughter and though we offered to have the wedding at an alternate location so our family members could attend – we were told that if we did so, none of the pastors would attend. Since that included the bride's father, we had no choice but to comply. We also knew if none of the pastors attended, most of our friends would not attend either. Of course, now in retrospect, we should have run for the door.
It was always clear to us that questioning the pastor was venturing onto thin ice. Once it became known that you were questioning things, you became a target of leadership. Most likely you would hear your legitimate question being ridiculed in the next teaching. He might mockingly say something like "We've already had someone questioning why Aunt Millie can't come to my precious baby's wedding….". You sat in the congregation feeling belittled and embarrassed because everyone in the church knew who he was referring to. During my son's (3 week) engagement, Scott made the following comment from the pulpit: "these people that want to send their kids on a cruise for their honeymoon – they are paying a lot of money for something that they can't afford". (probably not the exact quote – but very close).
We were very upset – first of all – my son had saved money and paid for his own honeymoon – and could easily afford it and second – it was none of Scott's business what we chose to do. But that kind of attempt to control personal lives was commonplace. His favored method is to weave your personal life into one of his teachings – again, everyone in the congregation (of approx 300) knows everyone else and it is almost impossible NOT to know who he is mocking.
Interference with careers
Excelling in the world is discouraged. Some have had job opportunities or promotions offered to them and have turned them down "for the sake of the ministry". I know of 3 different young people that desired to go to law school and were strongly "encouraged" to turn down the opportunity. They did so. Another had an offer to work with a NFL team – his dream job – and turned it down for the sake of the ministry. One young man dropped out of college because he was "thinking too highly of himself" and making school a priority. Promotions were routinely turned down. Their reward? Scott saying form the pulpit something along these lines: "we are blessed to have those that will turn their back on the world's treasures for the sake of pursuing God." Anything done outside of Calvary Temple was taking us away from our pursuit of God and causing us to be a lukewarm Christian. The bottom line was if it took you away from activities at CT, you knew you had to walk away from it.
Elitism is one the most valuable and powerful tools in the pocket of Star Scott. He CONSTANTLY puts down other churches, especially those in our immediate area. He has pet names for some of the other ministries in the area ("Sandstone" instead of Cornerstone, for example). He sneers at churches that don't have the number of services and meetings that CT has – as if that is the barometer of Christianity. We were told that CT is the only good church in the area and going to another church is akin to backsliding. It is constantly planted in your mind that any other church will cause you to lose your salvation. We were convinced that unless the church family was more important than your own natural family and unless another church met nearly every night of the week in some form or another, they were subpar and even dangerous.
One red flag that we were unable to ignore was the absolute worship the congregation had for Star Scott. It was highly encouraged by the other pastors as well as Star Scott himself. There were entire services devoted to "honoring" Scott. During one such event, the children's ministry sang a well known worship song to Scott, substituting the name of Jesus with Scott's name. Some teachings by other pastors were filled with accolades for Scott to the point that even die hard CT members were questioning the constant praising of Scott. Star Scott never attempted to quell the continual stream of exaltation. We often went home after such an event and felt sick but never had the nerve to leave.
Heavy handed authority
In January 08, Scott began a series of teachings on the authority of the church leadership .
He stressed that "God PREDOMINANTLY speaks to men that are placed by Him in roles of leadership" He stated "leadership hears the Word of God from a different perspective and on a different level than you hear it". He taught the he was the "man of God" and the head of the church. (always carefully stating that Jesus, of course, was the head). As the high priest, we could only be obedient to God if we were obedient to him. We were to follow after him as he followed Christ. And of course, he followed Christ in a way none of the rest of us could match up to. It would be a few months after these teachings that we left Calvary Temple, but first there were two more events that pushed us out the door.
The beginning of the end: Two disturbing incidents
1. As part of his senior year requirements, our son went on a missions trip. We had been questioning more and more of what we were seeing at CT, but had not quite made the decision to leave, nor had we told our sons what we were thinking. When our son returned home from the missions trip, he had just gotten off the plane when he was called into a meeting. The leadership informed him that they were very concerned about his father – that he was "struggling spiritually" and having problems. They advised him to be very careful – essentially warning him to not listen to or obey his Dad. We were beyond upset that leadership was actively trying to undermine and even destroy our son's relationship with his dad.
2. Star Scott has said that often people don't leave Calvary Temple until they are personally affected and I think there is truth to that. The incident that was very personal to us was "diploma night", the night Scott stripped our son (and others) of his diploma, awards, and godly reputation. He stated that these young people were not fit to represent Calvary Temple and he included our son in the group. Later, he admitted our son was considered a godly young man (he was), and though the congregation had been told to consider these young people as wolves, he refused to inform the congregation that he had been mistaken in categorizing our son as "leaven among us."
Leave-taking, shunning, and unbelievable accusations
Thus began a very difficult time for me and my family. We left (thankfully all four of us) knowing we could lose every relationship we held dear. And we did. (save my life-long best friend that left days after us). From the time we left CT until this very day, almost 7 years later, we are shunned by the vast majority of congregants and all the pastors and deacons. (The ironic thing is many of these friends we have lost would themselves like to leave Calvary Temple but they know the cost could be greater than they are willing to bear.) The night we left CT, every member of our home group (of which my husband was deacon) was called into a meeting at 10PM. They were advised to not speak to us. The were "given opportunity" to freely speak against my husband.
Not only is it devastating to lose friends and even family, it can be difficult to adjust to life outside of Calvary Temple. We struggled to make new friends (every single one of our friends were CT members) and were unable to find a new church home. After years of being told there were no other churches like Calvary Temple and that all were compromising the word of God, we drifted from church to church.
Our younger son was being bombarded with text messages from his friends, telling him to leave our family. One young man told him that he was in rebellion to God because it would be Pastor Scott that would stand before God and answer for him and not his Dad. The stress on our family was unbelievable. Our lives were filled with turmoil, questioning, and heartache. My husband, who had been a deacon for 18 years, took it particularly hard. He found it impossible to believe that none of those he had ministered to would even call to see why we had left. (Of course, we had tried to talk to a few friends before we left, but they "reported" us.) We knew if we said much of anything, it would only make it worse. My husband was categorized as trying to form his own church loyal to him alone. Scott told the congregation that my husband had called all of them idolaters "and I don't know about you but that makes me MAD that someone calls you an idolater". A panel discussion was devoted to dealing with us defecting from the faith.
A few months after we left, our family fell apart. Though my husband did not return to CT, he filed for divorce. He has stated he needed to start life over again. I know he feels he wasted 30 years in Calvary. He admits I was "a good wife and a great mother" but he can no longer live this life. I have been attending a small church for the past few years but I have little desire to become involved. I prefer to stay unattached to members in the event I decide to go to another church. I never want to experience the shunning and abuse again. Nearly all my friends are ex-Calvary members, we are a close group of survivors. We offer support, comfort, understanding, and love to one another. No one else can relate to what we have gone through.
I have a long way to go, I still feel sick when I hear certain scriptures that were used to manipulate us. (forsake not the assembling together…, obey those that have the rule over you…, touch not God's anointed…) I have had to work at de-programming years of twisted scripture and I admit my faith has been badly shaken. I am very wary of organized religion and will most likely refrain from ever becoming deeply involved in a local fellowship. But I am thankful every day of my life that I am out of Calvary Temple and away from the culture of fear, control, hatred, and legalism.
One huge comfort in my life are my two sons. Both of them are amazing and have been a source of strength and comfort to me. I sometimes feel I am spiritually drowning, but I continue to pursue God. He has gently guided me these past years through many trials, some as a direct result of Calvary Temple and others related to life itself. I can only pray that He that has begun a good work in me will complete it.