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Remnant Fellowship is a religious movements of churches founded by Gwen Shamblin, the author of the Weigh Down Diet.
Sociologically the movement appears to have some cult-like elements as well, including heavy-handed authoritarianism, the reported suggestion that those who leave are "devils," and the reported shunning of ex-members.
Each Sunday morning, Kent and Regina Smith convert their spacious living room in Norman, Oklahoma, into a gathering spot for a controversial new religious movement, Remnant Fellowship.
In just two years, the movement, which Weigh Down Workshop author Gwen Shamblin founded in Nashville, has spread to about 90 sites nationwide. In 2000, thousands of church leaders canceled Weigh Down classes after Shamblin publicly rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, but her movement continues to grow.
The Sunday morning service at the Smiths' comfortable brick home on Norman's northwest edge began with singing "Refiner's Fire" and "Rebuild the Wall," which hold special meaning for fellowship members. They see themselves as the fulfillment of Ezra 9:8-9, in which God is said to leave a faithful remnant to rebuild his sanctuary.
They also sing a revised version of a hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy," more in accord with Shamblin's anti-Trinitarian theology. Rather than "God in three persons, blessed Trinity," fellowship members sang, "God over all and blessed eternally."
After worship, a fellowship member called a phone number in Nashville. All Remnant branches listen to Shamblin preach over a speakerphone at least once a week. On this summer Sunday, she was traveling on the Rebuilding the Wall tour. At Rebuilding the Wall events, Shamblin has said overeating is idolatrous self-worship. She said the modern Christian church has become the "great prostitute" by bowing to the idols of food, money, sexual lust, and television.
Shamblin has "lost some of her followers, but a lot of people still love her because of the weight loss messages," says R. Marie Griffith, author of the forthcoming book Born Again Bodies: American Christianity and Disciplines of the Flesh.
"Her critiques of the church being overly therapeutic resonate with a lot of people who want a stricter theology," said Griffith, a religion researcher at Harvard Divinity School. "Gwen seems to have her life together, she's beautiful, and her children are out there with her. Subconsciously, people want to be like her."
There is already a growing group of Remnant Fellowships dropouts. Don Veinot Jr., president of Midwest Christian Outreach in suburban Chicago, has met with Christians who left their churches to join Remnant but who are now alienated from Shamblin's movement.
Veinot told CT, "Most pseudo-Christian movements have this arrogant tendency—the propensity to find themselves or their perceived enemies in every passage of Scripture, while losing the gospel of Christ along the way." Veinot said Shamblin appeals to hurting individuals who have failed at losing weight and are deeply unhappy with their church.
Veinot described Shamblin's teachings as "the Jesus-plus plan," meaning she teaches that Christ died for a person's sins, but "total obedience" after conversion is needed to keep one free of sin and confident of salvation.
- Source: John W. Kennedy, New Sect: Weigh Down guru Gwen Shamblin's Remnant Fellowship grows "Remnant Fellowship grows, but critics see 'graceless legalism.'" ChristianityToday.com, Dec. 9, 2002
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