Born Again, Again
I was Born and Raised in meetings, 4th generation on both sides and married at 19 to B&R 18 year-old Dwight Ransom who was from a very hearty family. Second generation on his dad’s side and his mother professed 7 years after they were married. We started our family about 5 years after we got married and had 4 kids, 3 bio sons and adopted our daughter. Even in high school (when pants for women were added to the school dress code) I didn’t think there was anything scriptural about the dress code and hair stuff in the F&W fellowship. But I tried to be a good ‘fessin’ daughter and wife and mother. For many years. Muttered about the hair and dress stuff especially when my hair was giving me fits on Sunday morning!
Used to hear people say they’d been professing for 50 years, and I’d say, “wow!” It was about 57 years for us when we left in July, having both professed at 11. Six months ago, I would never have believed we all (including my mother) but one son and daughter-in-law would be outside. Today I wish we had left sooner!
At one time all of our kids professed. Then our daughter left, and when she came back broken and reprofessed about 7-8 years ago, they were all “professing” again, and I was so happy! Her story isn’t an easy one (before and after she reprofessed, and it’s her story so I won’t talk about that here). But it had a role in our leaving journey.
Sometime back in the busy child-raising years I bought and read The Secret Sect. And read the letters that went around that we were told by the workers to throw away without reading. So, I’ve always had my doubts about a church that would control people to that extent. We have personally known about one “child-sex-abuse/worker moved out of state situation” for a long time. Heard whispers a few times about others. Two happen in our field that were mishandled while the kids were still home.
Knowing the origins of the sect was weird but more believable than the “from the shores of Galilee!” More like the shores of Ireland. And life was too busy to spend much time thinking about it.
The boys didn’t have too rough of a time growing up in meetings, and if they felt they were missing something they didn’t complain to me about it. We started homeschooling when our oldest was in 5th grade and next was in 2nd. It was strictly for educational reasons for our oldest, and our next one wanted to homeschool, so we started both of them. Our youngest son was a toddler and our daughter arrived home in March of our first year of homeschooling.
There were quite a few “professing” kids for the older two to get together with; not as many for the younger two. For a while our youngest had several little girl friends but over time most moved away. We had a homeschool cooperative for other socializing. All the kids did some public school stuff; technology center for two of them; orchestra and art for our daughter and two of them took classes at the community college, sometimes with me, since I started taking classes part-time between sons 2 and 3. All of our kids graduated from homeschooling high school.
I tried not to be too hard on our daughter but looking back I know I fussed too much about her wearing skirts vs pants, though I personally didn’t feel convicted about it, just trying not to offend anybody. I started wearing pants a lot to college and a lot of the time at home. More comfortable and warmer in winter.
In the back of my mind, I knew this sect wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. So many little things were spoken that didn’t line up with scripture. I was almost always on edge when workers visited, hoping my kids would behave reasonably well, partly because I always wanted things to be just so and partly worrying about getting “talked to” about something. The kids were all home all day when the workers visited, after all. There were a few of the workers that I really enjoyed having though. Sadly, we entertained pedophiles unaware many times.
We got a video player and watched PBS and other educational programs on it for homeschool, VHS for the win! Gradually as the kids got older, we started date night. We’d get them pizza and let them watch a video (not always strictly educational, but we knew they’d be glued to it because they didn’t get to watch very often) while we went out for dinner. It saved my sanity to have that night out with my husband! The two older boys were responsible for the two younger kids. We’ve heard a few wild stories about those evenings since they’re all grown up, but they all survived! Of course, the video screen wasn’t set up in plain sight in our living room. Legalism breeds secrecy and hypocrisy.
At some point I got really fed up with the whole dress code and hairstyle stuff along with hearing about the one true way and other triggers in testimony and at gospel meetings and was ready to walk. I felt hypocritical believing one thing and looking like I was conforming. One of our sons talked me out of leaving, saying, “Think what it would do to our family.” So I carried on, often saying I felt like a hypocrite because I wasn’t convinced this way was the only right way or that all the legalism was necessary. At some point I realized that people, especially women, were more turned off seeing a bunch of buns and skirts at a gospel meeting than learning more about it.
I had also discovered a couple of the early groups, Wings for Truth and at least one other. Some of what I read there was concerning but I didn’t really get into checking them frequently as life was still busy. Over the years I found it more and more difficult to give my testimony because too many things I read weren’t talked about by the workers, especially as I discovered more readable translations of the Bible.
We had union meetings in our home early in our marriage and were in the Bible study rotation early on. A few years ago when our elder got Alzheimer’s, we had a Sunday meeting temporarily until the head worker, Jerome F., had time to figure out what to do long term. So there were two meetings in our area fairly close together to keep numbers manageable. Our oldest son had Bible study in the rotation for a number of years, and another recently had a union meeting put in his home. Numbers changed, our elder passed away and we weren’t needed for a Sunday meeting. After no meetings (except us and our granddaughter) during the worst of Covid, we again had a small group that met in our home until everyone could go back to normal meetings. At one point we had one cousin, two nieces, a nephew and a great-nephew in the work. I believe each of them felt truly called by God. I pray that the ones who are still in can keep free of this cancer (sexual atrocities and covering up) that has corrupted the ministry, or get out.
Fast forward to BruerGate. We heard about it at our son’s first union meeting from our elder and wife. I started looking online. I created some anonymous email accounts and started trolling. This was some crazy stuff. Advocates for the Truth (AFTT) was born and started posting stuff and I found Kari Hanks Facebook group, Ex-2×2 Support Group, and every day there was at least one perp revealed and some days more! The AFTT hotline was established and started ringing day and night! This was freaking me out.
I’d read some of the accounts and allegations to Dwight or send him screenshots. He said that Dean Bruer was at Alma for convention a few years before. I found his obituary online which my husband confirmed to be the person he remembered. A couple days later I thought to look in my convention/special meeting notebooks, and in my 2012 notebook I found copious notes on what he spoke on: lighthouses. I’ve since learned that was a sermon he spoke in many conventions as a visitor.
Somewhere in my web surfing I saw Cherie Kropp-Ehrig’s book Preserving the Truth advertised. I am an avid reader and usually won’t pay more than $5 for a used book and rarely buy new books. This seemed too important to wait for a used one to be available somewhere. I ordered it and a couple of others. It took me 3 weeks to read it and I’m a fast reader. Life was still busy. We had been caring for a preschool age granddaughter for a few years.
As I started reading I was very startled to realize one of the original workers Wm. Irvine sent out was George Walker. Many of you younger people won’t understand because you may never have heard of him. But I grew up in Pennsylvania, US where George was overseer and his address was in Philadelphia. We saw him at conventions and special meetings. He visited my grandparents. If you were out and about and saw someone who “looked professing” (it wasn’t the skirts and buns, btw, definitely the countenance), to find out if they were, you would ask, “Do you know George Walker?”
Now learning that George knew all about the origins, helped excommunicate the founder, Wm. Irvine and Eddie Cooney, and was only known to mention the origins a couple of times in his lifetime, and then pretty ambiguously, had my blood pressure rising. This man was highly esteemed to the point of worker worship by some. To find that despite claims of unity he and Jack Carroll had to split the USA in two due to inability to agree on divorce and remarriage. That doesn’t seem spirit led. That shouldn’t have been settled by having two different policies! That’s not unity!
Meanwhile I learned that almost every worker we knew from childhood was either an abuser or covered abuse by moving pedophiles and rapists to different fields, states, regions or countries. I professed through Roy Dietzel who has allegations. I realized that the higher up the workers go to positions like head worker or overseer, the more likely their hands are dirty.
We talked to ex-workers and ex-“friends.” Ex-friends are more apt to be your true friends than the innies once you leave. And you appreciate it so much that you wonder why you didn’t ask them “why?” when they left. Instead, we heard and parroted “bad nerves” (if I was raped—I’d have bad nerves, too!), bitter spirit (I might be bitter if I had to move from east to west for my job and I was remarried and couldn’t take part or take the emblems, then found out there were two pedophiles in the meeting and one was an ex-worker perp/elder!) I could give many more such examples. I heard about a few workers who dared to speak truth about what is going on in the church, and a few days later, they were handed an envelope and poof! They are no longer in the work. Today I heard what Eric Hahn spoke at Demorest, Georgia convention. Watch your back, sir!
My husband had planned a retirement trip before we heard about BruerGate, to include convention at Chugwater, Wyoming this past June. Something he’d thought about during all the years he worked was to travel and go to convention in different places. We had retired at the end of 2021, so this was our first such trip. Albeit with a 5-year-old along! We wondered what we’d hear there.
It was the strangest convention we have ever attended. Knowing what we knew, we kept listening for someone to say something. Two or three workers vaguely seemed to allude to something from the platform; forgiveness was a heavy topic. Probably if you weren’t aware of the stuff that had come out about Bruer, it may have seemed like a regular convention. There were a few testimonies with serious talk about having a personal relationship with our Savior. But again—not real unusual. Still it seemed there was a kind of hush of expectancy different than what you usually feel at convention. That was our last convention although we didn’t know it at the time.
After we got home, I started having difficulty going to gospel meetings. So I stayed home and my husband picked up my mother and they went. Then I started noticing the wording used in fellowship meetings and Bible studies. Also not much was mentioned in conversation after meetings about spiritual stuff or the scandal unfolding. A couple of people commented positively on our testimonies as we tried to speak about what was happening without totally destroying the spirit of the meeting.
As I read first person accounts of people’s abuse, learned of the lifetime effects of child sexual abuse (CSA), and learned of affairs between workers, rapes of workers by workers, shaming and blaming of victims who tried to report or get justice, verbal, emotional and psychological abuse by older co-workers to younger co-workers, I was weeping and being angry by turns.
I was getting triggered by some of the things said (and not said) in our meeting and others’ reaction or non-reaction to what was happening in the broader scope regarding allegations. I was struggling with prayers and testimony in meeting. Lots of praying all through this time period. Many of my prayers were just thoughts throughout the day, “Please just show me what to do.” Dwight was also praying throughout the day. We both discovered the need to be “praying always” as we went about our daily routines. Dwight felt a sense of peace in the turmoil as one day he felt almost like he was “praying too much,” that God might tire of him being so “constant in prayer,” and it seemed like God’s presence was very near saying, “Come to me any time; I’m here for you.”
Hearing the call to show support for the victims, I decided I couldn’t continue to be a hypocrite and dress in my usual clothes to meeting. In what turned out to be my last Sunday meeting, I wore a linen pants outfit with a long sleeve open-front, knee-length tunic over a tank top. Being a self-conscious person at best, I don’t usually make eye contact with anyone as I walk into meeting, except sometimes my mother as she almost always sits in the same spot.
When the first hymn was announced, I realized there were 3 sister workers in the meeting. (When I do it, I do it up good). The workers didn’t say a word about my unusual (non-meeting costume) clothes to me afterward, but I received several compliments from ladies in the meeting. I’ve been wearing my hair down most of the time for several years. I think it was probably down that day though I don’t recall. That was my last Sunday morning meeting. The next Sunday I was dressed and ready, reading my Bible, and when my husband came up and said it was time to go, it was like I was glued to the couch. I finally said I just couldn’t go.
I truly never imagined what happened next. I was reading in the house that week and came across a story about an affair (with laptop proof) of a worker (we knew) and a divorcee, and the bullying of a young 18 year old woman, who reported it for the divorcee’s son. She was subsequently summoned to talk to 2 brother workers who didn’t want her boyfriend to come in with her, but she insisted (thank heavens)! They were bullied, threatened and treated horribly by these intimidating workers, who sat in overstuffed chairs with the young couple seated facing them in close proximity face to face on folding chairs.
By this time, I was crying audibly as I ran out with my phone to where my husband was painting the barn. I read it to him as best I could while still crying. My husband had been pretty upset about the CSA/SA and coverups and equally angry about the lying! Lying by omission about the origins; preaching the doctrine of “homeless workers/meeting in the home” as necessary for salvation, plus downplaying the importance of salvation by the grace of God through our faith in Christ, making Jesus’ sacrifice of no effect. As I finished reading, he exclaimed, “That’s it!” At first, I thought he meant he didn’t want me to read him any more such accounts; but he meant that he was done with meetings, right then and there.
We went to talk to our elder and wife the following Saturday, my husband’s brother-in-law and sister, and while they listened, their main reaction was that God will take care of it. No contact since, even no response to a couple of emails I sent about other topics. We texted our Bible study group. We did get return texts from most of them. Also received a letter and phone call from another. We got a note from our field workers, so they heard somehow.
Our youngest son had already quit coming to meeting after Bruergate, and when we talked to our oldest son, he said he was done. My mother wondered what to do (she doesn’t drive in snow or after dark), and I assured her we would make sure she got to meeting and back home in those cases. She also was reading online and at 86 is amazing! She’s reading Cherie Kropp-Ehrig’s book, Preserving the Truth, and John Long’s journals online. She really sees it after all those years of conforming while having a relationship with God. So she joins us and our oldest son as we gather on Sunday morning at our house and Wednesday night for Bible study at our oldest son’s. The fellowship is rich; we’re all learning so much! In addition, I’m doing a Bible study with a group of lady exes through Bible Study Fellowship Int’l. Our middle son, wife and kids have their eyes wide open but are still in meetings.
That’s it! Still loving and serving our amazing God and it’s so exciting to be able to put fear of “not being enough” behind us and to learn what the scripture really says about salvation: by grace through faith in Christ’s blood; it’s a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8)! And we gratefully acknowledge it and know the peace and joy that come as a result of understanding God’s complete provision for our souls.
By Marsha June (Linderman) Ransom
September 26, 2023