This post about the Church of the Living Word cult founded by John Robert Stevens is written by a fellow survivor of The Walk. He kindly allowed me to publish his words on my No Non-cents Nanna blog.
We hope this synopsis reaches more wounded former members seeking recovery with old friends and family members who JRS’s predecessors had separated. (This is explained below.)
This guest writer has very clearly broken down how the husband and wife leadership changed the “directives” and interfered with nurturing family units by removing children from stable homes to others in the “church” to “shepherd” under assigning designated relationships.
I took the liberty to separate paragraphs for easier reading in this format.
There may be some therapists working with people who had been children who the church under Gary &Mariyn’s orders would like to see this synopsis to verify that their patient cannot make up this bizarre religion promoted as Christian, which is not even close to what the mission statement claimed.
This is what MS wrote:
This could probably be a post about two subjects, but here goes anyway.Even though I care about what happened to everybody in the LWF disaster, I care a little more about the children who grew up in it by virtue of their parents’ involvement.They never had a choice to be involved or not. They also ended up denied having stable parents in cases where the church either took the kids out of the home or intervened and interfered with the parents’ ability to raise the children as they saw best.Any semblance of a “normal” family life was made very difficult by virtue of that culture.Then on top of that they had to grow up in an erratic culture in which there were bizarre beatdowns from shepherds who were also trying to prove that they were the most violent supporters of Gary & Marilyn.They didn’t get to be free range kids who ran outside and played all day — they had to sit in services and listen to tapes, and attend YASP sessions that turned into predatory boot camps and heavy-handed “programs” that made their childhood hell.
Or they had to watch as their parents jumped from one bizarre fad to another –
– for example, in no particular order,
- storing wheat and sorgum for the tribulation,
- all night violent intercession with chants of death to the nephilim,
- drinking heavily,
- then drinking wheatgrass,
- eating steak and going vegan,
- divorcing wives then marrying two generations younger,
- refusing to celebrate Christmas then marching alongside the Christmas truck,
- buying Franklin planners,
- then watching Deepak Chopra videos,
- wearing Jordache jeans and cowboy boots,
- then switching to Hawaiian shirts and Nikes,
- then to elders wearing 3-piece suits on the platform,
- being told that they could not have a direct relationship with God,
- but their Mom & Dad could be Gary & Marilyn,
- then being told that Gary & Marilyn were sick of being Mom & Dad to everyone …
- …so they were assigning designated relationships instead.How our “kids” grew up to be remarkably brilliant, empathetic, marvelous human beings is the real miracle.I’ve tried to keep track of as many of you as I know and I can’t say how much I admire you, not just for what you survived but for what you’ve become.
The second thought I had was love for all the OGs who may have been part of things from the beginning.In a real way, they may have experienced the ultimate “Bait-and-Switch.”The people who were in the church before I got involved in the early 70s were people who in the 50s wanted to pursue a closer walk with God and they found in JRS someone who provided a lot of teaching about the scriptures and keys for how to “wait on the Lord” and worship. So many of them were decent, salt-of-the-earth people who gave of their time and finances and concern to the younger kids coming in.My generation was mostly young kids dealing with the Vietnam war, the generation gap, the Jesus movement and a general desire to find spiritual fulfillment, and the services in the early 70s catered to that. (Not to mention a lot of spaced-out, rebellious weirdos.)The “switch” started with the JRS Vision into the future (which we now know was probably a cover story for a day in which JRS had gone inexplicably missing and was with someone else, not his wife (Martha) or his mistress (Marilyn). That focus set the whole church into an apocalyptic focus of survival, Kingdom schools, Kingdom businesses, Kingdom cities, Kingdom everything.Then with JRS wanting out of his marriage came violent intercession, demands of death to the Nephilim (his wife), and an entire culture change which pushed out all of the older people and consolidated everything onto a focus on John and then Marilyn.After John died, the fellowship could have just dissolved, and everybody could have taken whatever lessons they’d learned and gone on with their lives, but Gary & Marilyn seized control over the churches, the assets and the Living Word facilities to essentially start a new movement. While everybody was in shock, they set the LWF on an entirely new direction.Small churches that were scattered throughout the country were sold and shut down and the people who were “dedicated” were told to move to the “Kingdom facilities.” I know families who had great jobs, relationships in their community and their own homes who sold it all to move to LA and Shiloh. Some recovered eventually and still ended up with homes and a retirement. Others I’m sure did not.One of the first things they made clear was that they had the Living Word now and they set about to tell everybody how to think. Then they began bringing messages about how the rebellious people in the churches were simply “Finding God Unacceptable” — and anyone who questioned what was going on was purged.Gary solidified this thinking by bringing a message called “When Seeking God Becomes Unbelief” — where he said that it would have been idiotic for the disciples to seek God when Jesus Christ was standing right there — and it was just as ridiculous for people to be praying to “God in the sky” when they should be listening to Marilyn as the Lord in the earth.One reason I refuse to defend or excuse myself is because I was right in the middle of all of this.From the time I came in, I collected and read the This Weeks, listened to the tapes, carpooled into midweek services in Anaheim, South Gate and weekend services in Anaheim, South Gate and the Valley.Later, I was involved 24/7 with JRS at Comm West, then with G&M, putting together the Service Notes and helping with the Apco Communication packets, all while trying to “stay connected”, working part time, then bringing messages that followed exactly along with the “Current Word,” trying to make the churches I was working with part of the whole direction we were given. (In my more unforgiving moments I can describe this process as both drinking the Kool-Aid and dispensing it like a good soldier.)I broke more than once under the pressure of refusing to treat people as harshly as I was being instructed to do, then being drawn in closer, then isolated out, and finally being told I was not really “family” material for them. Which turned out to be my first break into reclaiming the life course I’d been on before I’d joined the church 24 years earlier.So the original bait of having a closer relationship with God was completely switched to an obsession with Gary & Marilyn. Millions of dollars were poured into the now-burned-down Shiloh and into the Kingdom facilities that have now pretty much disappeared.The whole process was pretty much moved along by a belief that every word out of John’s mouth or Gary & Marilyn’s mouth was THE WORD and questioning it was a sure one-way ticket into being shunned, isolated, or publicly shamed. It was also gradual until everyone had to find their own breaking point where they realized that they had to seek out their own path or die, literally.Anyway, I guess all of that is to say that you are the people I care about and you’re some of the best people I know.MS