Bill Freeman is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary.
He is reputed to have a lot of Bible knowledge. Yet he and his wife, Patsy, long were leaders in the Local Church - which, theologically, is a cult of Christianity. The Local Church is especially known for its elitism and exclusivism.
They left that movement, and have started their own meetings, first in Scottsdale, Arizona, and now in Spokane, Washington.
Controversy has followed them.
Ex-members say the Freemans and their followers are a meandering group of Christians who have no strong ties with any outside Christian group and that its leaders, Bill and Patsy, are spurred on by a need to control others and oversee a flock of adherents.
Specifically, critics say Patsy Freeman has a “lust” to manipulate and micromanage others’ lives — even subtly dictating to some members what clothes they wear, what color they paint their house, how they clean their house, when to do laundry and how to discipline a child by “breaking their will.” Ex-members say her husband — a Fuller Seminary graduate, author and owner of a publishing company — provides the funds to run their ministry and acts as a “figurehead” to the group.
[A] number of former members of the Freeman group said Bill and Patsy Freeman have left many divorces in their wake. One ex-member, Lynne Young, who says she knew the Freemans for 25 years, said the number of broken marriages is “just astronomical in numbers.”
The ex-members’ claims are backed up by 1993 letter signed by 71 elders of a worldwide Christian movement commonly known as the Local Church. The Freemans were an integral part of the Local Church movement in the 1970s and 80s, but parted ways 19 years ago.
The six-page reprimand addressed to Bill Freeman said he and his family practiced a “form of legalism which reached into and touched every aspect of the church and family, including the most basic and personal decisions of everyday life and relationships.”
“Splitting up homes and marriages for the sake of oneness with the Freemans became acceptable, often resulting in great distress and irreparable damage,” the letter continued. “There are too many husbands who have and can testify that the loyalty and dependence of their wives to your (the Freeman family) exceeds that to their own husbands.”
Another letter signed by 27 elders in the Local Church was sent to Bill Freeman last December. The letter was “a word of strong concern, especially with regard of the practices of interfering with others’ marriages,” said Jim Clark, an elder at the Local Church-affiliated Church in Spokane. Bill Freeman used to be a regular guest speaker at the church two decades ago.
“The stories we heard were very alarming to us,” Clark said. “There is a controlling influence on the lives in families. It’s disturbing to us that families seem to be in the process of being broken up.”
There is a general consensus among critics of the Freemans that the couple will continue its practices at Whitworth since they have regularly attracted students from college campuses in the past. Many ex-members themselves were attracted to the Freeman group by their campus ministries and some helped attract other students into the Freeman fold.
“Bill Freeman still has not gone away from his devastating practices and devastating teachings,” said Chuck Smith, a former member of the Freeman group.
Another ex-member sent out an e-mail last month to some people in Spokane detailing the Freemans’ reputation. It said there are “several hundred” people who can back up these concerns and that a “controlling organizational structure” in the group allows Patsy Freeman to arrange both the marriages and divorces of its members.
“Many will confirm that the Freemans have caused more damage and destruction to innocent Christians and innocent children than any other church leaders they have ever known,” the e-mail read.
Another former member of the Freeman group who wished to remain anonymous because some of the ex-member’s relatives are with the Freemans, said, “In my view, it would be better for any young person who has a desire to follow the Lord to completely avoid this group.”
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