Lindsay, Reid & Beth

To: Jim Holt, North Carolina workers, and friends,

If anyone had asked us prior to the spring of 2023 about our faith and the guiding principles of our lives, we would have shared our belief in God, our Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, who is our Savior and Redeemer. We would have told them about the fellowship of the Holy Spirit that we treasure. We would have told them about our “workers” who go without a salary or home and who stay in our homes, who hold gospel meetings to reach out to people and tell them the gospel story of Jesus Christ. We would have proudly relayed the way our fellowship meets in homes, and how we look forward to annual events such as special meetings and conventions.

Having been raised in “The Truth” and believing it was the “one true way” to have salvation, our whole lives were consumed with all these tenets of this fellowship, including Sunday morning meetings, Bible studies weekly, gospel meetings, special meetings, and conventions. We rarely missed any of these meetings in almost 70 years.

However, it has become very clear, since hearing of the Dean Bruer debacle, other abuse, and the fact that people have been complicit in aiding the continuation of abuses and crimes, that our faith in “The Truth” and “the one true way” has been completely misplaced.  It saddens us to now realize this fellowship doesn’t even resemble “The Truth”, which is by definition, something that is true, and in accordance with facts and reality.

The extent that overseers, workers, and others in the fellowship have gone to and are continuing to go to, covering up and denying terrible atrocities such as child sexual abuse, sexual abuse (aka CSA/SA), emotional, and spiritual abuse is criminal behavior at worst and immoral and lacking love at best. We have experienced stages of grief, realizing that what we thought we had in this fellowship is not even close to actuality.

We are aware that immorality, abuse, and crimes have not occurred in just the last several years. It has been an ongoing, unbridled evil in this fellowship for at least a century. It has been exacerbated by overseers and others seeking to protect the image of this fellowship and ministry—rather than acknowledge, show compassion for, and support victims.

Beth’s grandmother and mother, both spiritual, exemplary women for many years in this fellowship, spoke of abuse and immorality that they were aware of that took place almost 100 years ago.  Upon hearing of this in the past, we assumed it was isolated cases and was dealt with appropriately. However, we now know it is an ongoing, systemic problem, that has been revealed to us over the past 11 months.

During these months, we have also learned of an incident in our home that occurred more than 30 years ago, during the night while we, as parents, were sleeping. For this to have taken place, there was a grooming process that occurred not only to our nine-year-old child but also to us as parents. This grooming of us by the perpetrator continued as recently as 3 years ago. We have become keenly aware of how easily grooming and abuse can occur under the current ministry system.

In actuality, the groundwork for grooming and abuse has been established by the teachings and traditions of this fellowship. For example, ministers staying in homes of members offers opportunities for abuse. Ministers, elders, and others are believed to be honest and trustworthy because they are viewed as a Godly person and an authority figure. At the same time, members have been conditioned to not question workers’ decisions or actions. Simply stated, members are trusting, and do not anticipate or suspect evil actions from workers. This structure could be viewed as a magnet for abusers.   

The devastation caused by CSA/SA, emotional abuse, and spiritual abuse creates horrifying results. The victims are condemned to a life sentence with psychological, physiological, and financial issues that affect not only them, but also their families and loved ones. Having learned the effects on the victims and those close to them, how can there not be an outpouring of love and care from the ministry and fellowship? Instead, though out the history of the sect, we have been made aware of cover ups, victim blaming, and even excommunication of those with the courage to speak out and reveal the abuse and perpetrator. There is nothing that resembles the life of Christ embodied in those committing and perpetuating these abuses, nor in those complicit regarding the abuse.

Last year, we were encouraged somewhat by the adoption of North Carolina regional guidelines that were approved by [Overseer of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia & N. Carolina] Jim Holt just prior to Downings Convention. We appreciate everyone that had a hand in and was responsible for developing these guidelines. We believe, if followed and enforced, they would help provide a safer fellowship in our region.  

We are tremendously disappointed and saddened that, despite the positive beginnings of addressing this crisis last year in our region, now acknowledgement of and actions to address the problem have regressed. The messages now being communicated are meant to discredit people that have advocated for victims, and to minimize the magnitude of the abuse.  

We’ve heard phrases such as, “It’s just human nature and we just need to move on,” and “Some just want to stir things up and cause problems,” and “What people are reading over the internet is mostly untrue and is being taken out of context.” Nothing could be further from the truth. We believe this rhetoric is to protect the image of the “one true way” and the ministry and to discount victim’s voices and those advocating for them.

When learning of the crisis, we expected to see immediate and swift action from our overseers to irradicate the evil and dishonesty revealed to us. Instead, measures to protect members have not been a priority, and in fact there are denials that guidelines are even needed.  In many areas, more consideration is being given to abusers than victims.

For example, there appears to be eagerness to extend meeting privileges to abusers in Child Sexual Abuse and Sexual Abuse cases. What is equally concerning is the apparent priority of resuming business as usual, displaying no interest in ensuring a plan is in place to help prevent further abuse.  Having observed for almost a year now we see no progress toward a unified resolution without which will allow the various abuses to continue.  

We have learned some members have left this fellowship because of abuse. Some were cast out of the fellowship, shunned, and excommunicated for speaking out regarding the abuse. Others have left because they saw deceit and cover ups. We were astonished and saddened to learn that we have been misled our entire life, even as to what we were taught was the origin of this religion. We do not believe deceit, deception, or exclusion of members seeking to stand for righteousness is part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  

It is our opinion the core of this crisis is the teaching and belief of exclusivity. This doctrine teaches that only one particular religion or belief system is true. In this fellowship we have been taught in order to obtain salvation, one must be a member of this fellowship, all other churches including Christian are false, condemning those members to a lost eternity.

Even though this was taught and reinforced by members in the fellowship meetings, we have long held that this is not a doctrine we could support. This disqualifies Jesus as the way, the truth and the life, and replaces it with “The Truth” for our salvation. In addition, it implies that workers are gate keepers, possessing control over members and their salvation. This has fostered abuse of all types which is now being recognized as a horrendous problem in this fellowship.

We find all types of abuse, deceit, the cover ups, and the doctrine of exclusivity unacceptable. This misrepresents the good news of the gospel as it is in Jesus.  

For these reasons, we have decided to step away from this fellowship we have loved and cherished all our lives. This, of course, means that we will be giving up our Sunday morning meeting and Wednesday Bible studies in our home. To continue as we have been implies support and complicity to these misrepresentations, actions of perpetrators, and leaders that have allowed the abuse to continue.

It grieves us deeply to make this decision, but we believe it is God’s will for our lives now, and we trust that His future plans for us will further enrich our service and relationship with him. Despite our disappointments, we stand strong in our faith, in our love for God, and in our Redeemer Jesus Christ.

We believe and are promised God will keep His own.  

There are many people that we love that have enriched our lives over the years in this fellowship. We dearly love you all.  Over our lifetime, we have enjoyed friendships that we hold dear and treasure, and it is our prayer these will continue.

Paul’s prayer to the church at Colosse expresses our prayer for you all. Colossians 1:9-15.

Love to all,

Reid and Beth (Warlick) Lindsay
Cherryville, North Carolina USA
March 4, 2024