Coston, Todd & Cari

Kent, Rob, Dena, and Sara,

It is through months of prayer, tears, and searching of scripture, that we write this letter to you. We feel moved to step away from the fellowship at this time.

Over the last year, we have been made aware of the rampant sexual abuse and coverups that have happened in our fellowship. We have been betrayed and can no longer trust or support this ministry. Little progress has been made in addressing the many issues that still exist.

One of the key characteristics of Jesus time on earth, and his ministry, was his attention to those that were sick, abused, or needed healing. He interacted with those people with love and compassion and labored to heal them and give them hope. The current response by the ministry to those that have been abused is lacking. There seems to be a prevailing view that “we need to just move on.” The thought of telling someone that was severely abused and has been living with that trauma for 20 or 30 years, to “just move on” is appalling. That is not the love of Christ.

The seriousness of this problem is so significant that the FBI is now investigating the SA and CSA in our church. The same is happening in other countries. This adds some additional concerns for us related to the meeting in our home. Our neighbors and professional colleagues are aware that we have fellowship meetings in our home. If the news gets out about the FBI investigation into our church, that has supported and covered up pedophiles, they will recognize it and know that is the same church that is at the Coston’s house. We are not comfortable with that.

Once our trust was broken with the ministry, it prompted more questions and additional concerns have come to light. As we were raised in this fellowship, we were told this is the one true way and that this framework of meeting in the home is “from the beginning”. We’ve been discouraged from researching on the internet, asking questions about the beginnings of our fellowship, and encouraged to just stick with the form that we’ve known our whole lives and trust it to be true. It seems odd that if this way is the only true way, why would we be discouraged from researching, asking questions, and verifying for ourselves? Truth will ALWAYS hold up to scrutiny.

So, we began to scrutinize and realize that many of the things we practice are not scriptural. It is well documented that meetings in the homes were started by man and were put into place by a worker named William Irvine around 1903. His intentions seemed good but his interpretation of Matthew 10, coupled with the belief in the Living Witness Doctrine and the assertion of exclusivity does not hold up to scripture. His own fellow workers eventually excommunicated him because of some of his wild beliefs but still held on to this form. This has created a form of service that is not supported by scripture and often breeds self-righteousness in ourselves and others. The belief that you can only attain eternal life by professing through a worker, going to meetings, and following the form we currently practice, does not hold up with what Jesus taught.

This is one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made because we love our brethren in the fellowship. We have been fed in many of our meetings and believe God uses all opportunities to help us know more about Jesus. We believe that many of the workers have given their life with the honest intention of

serving God and sharing the Good News. Unfortunately, many of those workers are in submission to leadership that is more interested in preserving the “image” and the “form” of our fellowship rather than being open, honest, and truthful and having a true love and care for the flock, especially as it relates to the SA and CSA issues.

We are not bitter but rather broken-hearted and disappointed. We are not moving away from Jesus but instead moving closer and upholding his teachings. We love Christ our Savior more now than we ever have. The scripture has been opened to us in new ways. We have nothing but love for those we meet with and the workers that have given their lives for God’s work and who live honest lives.

With God’s help, we want to set aside any self-righteousness we have and learn better how to love the souls of those around us. We want to better practice the love of Jesus and to know how to better sit with those that have been abused and contribute to their healing rather than brush it aside and move on. This is our stand for truth, honesty and a genuine love and care for others. Our guide will be Jesus and Jesus alone.

It is for these reasons that we feel we need to step away from the fellowship. As a result, we will be giving up the Sunday morning meeting in our home effective immediately. We will be giving up the audio responsibilities for the Buttonwillow convention. For now, we have no problem continuing to receive the workers’ mail until other arrangements can be made.

With love, from our broken hearts and a hope for significant change, –

Todd and Cari (Cotten) Coston
Bakersfield, California
March 2024