“You can never be too rich or too thin.”- Wallis Simpson
Update on my mother: She is being cared for in a hospice-like setting. It has been difficult for me as I watch her slowly deteriorate. At this point, she doesn’t recognize me. I spend time with her every day. My children and their spouses have been incredibly helpful and kind to their “Grammy.” I will write more about this in the future.
Editor’s note: I will refer to the founder as Gwen Shamblin until she divorced and remarried Joe Lara. Then, I shall attempt to remember to call her Gwen Lara. Most people know her as Gwen Shamblin due to her early days with Weigh Down Workshops.
Stephen and Kristy Hord: former members of Weigh Down/The Remnant
The Hords reached out to me at the beginning of my mother’s illness. They were incredibly patient with me until I had the time to speak to them in depth. They were previously married to other spouses when they came to Nashville in 2004, explicitly intending to join The Remnant.
Kristy joined a Weigh Down group in California and lost weight. She found a connection with the people who followed the program and enjoyed listening to Shamblin’s Bible studies, which were incorporated into the program. More on that in the next post. She was married to an abusive husband. She followed Shamblin’s advice to lose weight and be submissive to be a”good wife.” They moved to Nashville and joined The Remnant. Her former husband’s sister was involved in leadership. She has three daughters who were also involved in the church. Her husband made her move away from the church for a short time, but they eventually came back. She followed him because she wanted to move in obedience to what he wanted, following the teachings of the church. Kristy divorced her husband in 2019. Shortly after that, she married Stephen.
Shamblin was opposed to all divorce. However, her husband rarely attended church, and she often spoke to those in the church about her difficult marriage. When she met Joe Lara, she changed her heart, divorced her husband of 40 years, and married Lara in 2018. At that time, she changed her “understanding” of the subject and allowed other church members to get a divorce. Lara, her husband, and some other higher-up church leaders were killed in a plane crash in 2021. Lara’s daughter, Elizabeth, is now the de facto head of the church even though she reportedly hasn’t attended more than a few times since her mother’s death.
Stephen became involved in Weigh Down in Michigan. He then moved to Nashville to join The Remnant with his wife. They had children, and Stephen relied on help from the church to care for them due to his wife’s frequent absences due to some personal issues. She had also distanced herself from the church. He received permission to divorce her in 2019 and married Kristy shortly after that. Stephen began to deal with some concerns that he had about the church, particularly since the death of Lara. He began to see he had some significant problems with the church, and soon Kristy shared his unease,
Stephen and Kristy made a brave decision to leave the church. They knew family and friends would shun them.
In 2022, they decided to leave the church. Their families who attended The Remnant were firmly opposed to their exit. They notified the church by text of their decision.
Quick digression alert: The Hords were smart to alert the leaders of their intent to leave the church in writing instead of in person. In my posts on hard-core church discipline churches, I routinely advise that a decision to leave should be made in writing instead of a meeting. Those meetings are often manipulative, and the leadership is angry since they lose control of their underlings. End digression
The Hords explained that they would be considered dangerous to be around at this point of leaving. This was manifested by the loss of their friends and family. This shunning indicates the weakness of both the leaders and the members. They are insecure in their faith despite professing the opposite. Jesus is a counter-example of this. He routinely met with the outcasts as well as the snobby Pharisees. He did not need to shun anyone.
On Friday, I will discuss many beliefs in this group, illustrating my contention that their faith beliefs don’t have a leg to stand on when challenged. They do the only thing they know how to do: hide. They remind me of the shy little girl who hides behind her mother’s skirt when strangers appear.
Stephen and Kristy started a website called The Way Out to Freedom to help others find their freedom.
Not only did they find freedom from oppressive beliefs and cultlike behavior, but they also hoped to help others. Here is how they describe this on their excellent website.
Abuse or toxic behavior can show up in many ways and many places; cult-like churches, communities, relationships and workplaces. This is a safe place to sort through your own thoughts and questions.
A safe space to find resources, help, and support to empower you to move forward in health, healing and freedom
The following is from their About Us page. Notice how they empathize with others who struggle.
The Way Out to Freedom was born out of personal experiences of abuse and various traumas – a journey of discovery, recovery and healing through a spiritual awakening of a deep relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
This awakening spurred a deep desire to help others who are questioning their own experiences. in marriage, faith communities, and workplaces.
For many of us in our journey to find healing from emotional and spiritual abuse, we have discovered that there are far more cult-like, controlling and toxic churches than we would like to believe. Too often church members are shamed, silenced or afraid to ask questions. Because we know in doing so, there will be consequences, as we have experienced personally. It may seem like there are few people or places to talk openly about what seems to be so obvious, but few acknowledge.
This is that safe haven, an open forum. No shaming, no fear mongering, no hate or slander. Just the word of God, facts, resources and most of all the love of Christ.
They are creating a dynamic, safe space for all those who have experienced trauma and abuse in their faith communities.
We are not here to lead you to any particular decision, opinion or action. This is simply as safe space to ask questions, dialogue and contemplate without judgment. Be comforted, heard and maybe gently challenged to go higher and further in your faith.
Look at the truths of God and contemplate what may be an unsafe church environment, community or relationship. Let’s learn together what God’s word says, find out what trusted resources and support groups are out there to help us make the best decisions moving forward for ourselves and our families. You are not alone. You are our neighbor, our friend and our family in Christ.
In the parable about the Good Samaritan,
Jesus said, “Go and do likewise”. We are called to help those who are hurting, helpless, attacked and in need of loving support, care and kindness. Luke 10:30-37
Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Ps 82:3-4
This is how they describe themselves. Steve’s background is perfect for their ministry.
Stephen and Kristy Hord live in the Austin, TX area. Steve is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Mental Health Life Coach. Kristy is in the process of training and certification to become a Life Coach.
They even have a phone number at the top of their pages!
On Friday, I intend to cover a variety of topics:
- What’s the deal about the weight as a measure of one’s commitment to God?
- The focus on weight demonstrates how Shamblin/Lara cooked the books with her well-defined sin of choice.
- Why does Lara’s unorthodox view of the Trinity lead one along the trail to Lara’s authority over everything?
- The Remnant was to be the only pure church. All other “Christian” churches are not really “Christian.”
- The Remnant mimics the Mormons in their view that the Bible has been wrongly interpreted. The Mormons have Joseph Smith’s writings, and The Remnant has Lara’s writings and videos.
- Lara believes Christians can be perfectly obedient in this life, but it involves “cooking the books.”
- Shamblin/Lara died in a plane crash. Did they ever determine which member was too fat or not perfectly obedient?
- Why is grace a dirty word?
- When something terrible happens, it means someone didn’t perfectly obey. Family units are quizzed to find out whose actions caused a miscarriage to happen. Who caused the plane crash?
- Is drinking to excess ignored when it happens during church services and festivals? They have fully stocked bars in the back of the church after services. Is drunkenness a lesser sin than being obese?
- How does the church define “being overweight?”
- Did Shamblin/Lara’s evolving hair and dress demonstrate her inner issues?