1-My Crime

I was once an "elder" and teacher in the Assembly of the Body of Christ (ABC) and am the son of Ramon A Haas, the founder of this denomination. About once per week I taught in various home meetings throughout the Portland OR / Vancouver WA area but at no time was I ever a paid teacher nor did I ever seek payment.  In truth, despite the ordination paper given to me in 1976, as shown below,

I did not at any time regard myself as an “elder”. It was a title I did not seek and never really wanted. It was bestowed on me simply because I was the son of Ramon A Haas. I was just twenty-one and quite immature. I taught in the ABC as an "elder" though for over thirty years; the only exception to this being the several year period during which I had been ex-communicated by my father. The excommunication lasted until several years after my father’s death and I will give the details on that first ex-communication in a later post.

The day of my "crime", a Saturday, I was teaching at a man's home in Vancouver WA. Saturday nights were "communion nights" so only those who had been baptized by a member of the ABC could attend these meetings. We would gather in a small group to sing, pray, eat a meal together and have a teaching. This was according to an order perceived by the ABC as being the correct order for a meeting. The ABC has other nights called "Foundation Nights", usually a Thursday, that serve as “doorway meetings” to introduce others to the ABC. These are also intended to teach the basic doctrines of the ABC. Great emphasis is placed on persuading others baptized elsewhere, or perhaps who had not ever been baptized at all, to join the ABC through their own baptism then introduce these individuals to the basic doctrines of the ABC which they call "The Foundation Truths".  Once an ABC style baptism was accomplished the individual would be told about the other "communion" meetings open only to the members.

I was the teacher most Saturday evenings at this man's house and on the day of my “crime” I referred to the story of Christ in the bible when he, at age twelve,was found missing. Jesus, his parents and siblings intended to travel a great distance by caravan through the desert but had to turn back to find him. Here is the story as is found in the book of Luke:

Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why have you thus dealt with us? behold, your father and I have sought you sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that you sought me? knew you not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spoke unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Luke 2:41-52

After relating this story a woman asked me this question
"Did Christ sin when he stayed behind in Jerusalem? I mean he made his parents come back and get him, didn't he? I thought He was perfect."
My response to the question was:
"No, Christ did not sin against God, however he may have trespassed against his parents by making them go out of their way to retrieve him."
I said nothing more about the subject and no one balked at my answer that night. My teaching, and the rest of the meeting, went as planned. There was, however, one individual in the room who inwardly felt my answer was blasphemy. This person did not at any time approach me  to voice their concern or attempt to get the point clarified on what I meant. This person instead reported my “blasphemy” to Bruce Leonard, the overseeing or ruling  elder of the area. Bruce was an individual who, on several occasions, had attempted to bring me under his personal control through various means of outright bullying but had never succeeded fully. Bruce, looking for another way to finally bring me under his control, used this as an opportunity to report to Gilbert Larson, the apostle, that I had blasphemed. Bruce and Gil had a very close relationship as friends and they; even though they had not been at the meeting or had ever discussed the comment with me;  made the determination I had nearly blasphemed the Holy Spirit and must now be "eternally judged" (Bruce's exact words) and then shunned or ex-communicated. The reasoning was that scripturally  this type of blasphemy is unforgivable thus it was clear if I could not be forgiven I should be isolated or put away.  No one involved in the "eternal judgment" spoke to any of the participants of that Saturday meeting to get their views of my statement or to see if I had actually “blasphemed” as had been reported.

A few days after that meeting I received a telephone call from Andy Atwell, considered to be "The Evangelist", and Mark, the owner of the home where the meetings were held. The pair wanted to meet with me so I invited them to my house but they refused to come stating rather abruptly they wanted to meet me at the local International House of Pancakes instead. They stated they planned to be there in half an hour and would meet me there. It was fairly late at night, nearing ten o’clock and I was instructed me not to bring my wife. I must come alone.  This should have been a clue as the ABC believes that it is “unsafe'” spiritually to enter the home of someone who has become “unclean”. It is also a ploy used by the leadership of the ABC to attack a person in a public place so they can leave quickly if necessary and the individual will feel emotionally restrained by the public environment and have less opportunity to fight back.

I met Andy and Mark at the IHOP that night and the only topic discussed was a statement they claimed was made by another  man; Wayne; at a meeting I had not attended. They alleged Wayne had stated Christ had sinned; same accusation they would soon level at me. It was their intent to confront Wayne about this statement then pass an "eternal judgment" on him and "put him on discipline". That discipline  meeting was to be held the following Sunday morning. I told Andy and Mark that night I did not feel Wayne would believe such a thing, and if he had said something that sounded like that it must have been misconstrued. I also told them that night that I had seen many people's lives destroyed by the ABC's "disciplines” and made it clear I did not agree with their plan.  I told them I would attend their discipline meeting but I would not be on Wayne's side, nor would I would be on their side either, wherever the truth fell, that's where I would be. That was the exact phrase I related to them but, in all honesty, I knew Wayne very well and did not see much truth in what they related that night. I knew already I would not and could not defend their view. Nothing was ever mentioned to me at the IHOP that night that I too had allegedly stated Christ had sinned and therefore had  "blasphemed" as well. That would come later.

I arrived on time at the Wayne "discipline" meeting the following Sunday. It was held at Bruce Leonard's house in Battle Ground WA and nearly every single elder from the area was there (a few refused to attend and not long after suffered retribution to the point they also left the church), but Wayne, the purported subject of the meeting, was not in attendance. I thought this odd but when Bruce Leonard opened the meeting with a lengthy prayer about eyes being opened and such, then brought out a legal pad with pages and pages of accusations against me scrawled on it I became quite aware it was more or less an ambush and the IHOP meeting was just "evidence gathering".

After telling me first I was being "eternally judged", and that my crime had been “witnessed by two elders”, so it must be true, I was also informed I would not be allowed to speak on my own behalf or defend myself in any way. Bruce began reading the accusations to me from his pad but the only thing I could think at the time, as he was reading the list of accusations, was that I thank God he is mercy and truth because these things being read  to me exhibited neither mercy nor truth. I also could not help but think that the scriptures they purported to know also tells us it is Satan, the enemy, not God, who is the accuser of our souls.
The great dragon was thrown down, the old serpent, he who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. He was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now is come the salvation, the power, and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ; for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night. Revelation 12:9-10
I was condemned by all present that day as a "blasphemer" and, as far as the ABC was concerned, the judgment was final, eternal and could not be rebutted by me or anyone…ever.  I was forbidden to speak to anyone associated with the ABC unless another "trusted" elder was present.  I was forbidden to continue “Foundation Meetings” in my home or even invite another to my house unless I also invited a "trusted" elder in good standing as well.  It was the spiritual equivalent of an ankle bracelet and electronic monitoring.

After this meeting every person I knew; some whom had been my "friend" since I was a youth; received a letter or phone call telling them I was a "blasphemer" and they should have nothing more to do with me. I had grown up with many of these people; having spent more than thirty years being "family" with them; and was now forbidden to speak to anyone a "trusted" elder was present. It was a lot to bear at the time emotionally, caused a great deal of marital strife and I did not hold up well under the strain at first.

A few disobeyed the orders by the elders and dropped by my house to visit anyhow. Some came to inquire what I had done that made me such a pariah, others came  to offer encouragement and show a little love but all were eventually pressured into not talking to me. They were told in definite terms they must decide if they wanted to remain  "in the body" and if they spoke with me they would be deciding to "leave the body".  Most stopped visiting but a couple continued to come but only, it seemed, to question my life and pressure me to try to return and "just go along" even if it was not true.  The grief of losing every “friend” was overwhelming and it took years to recover. I ended up leaving my employer of many years soon after. I was unable to handle the life stress this had caused my family and the work stress as well. I sold my house,which I had just bought, and moved out of the area. When you are a member of the ABC you find yourself very isolated from those outside already so life suddenly becomes quite lonely. It was as if I had lost my entire family in one day and with that comes initial grief followed by a process of recovery from that grief.

If I were the only one this had happened to it could be considered an anomaly but I am not. Most just end up disappearing with a broken spirit and are afraid to speak out thinking God will deal them a punishment.

I make no excuse nor feel any regret for my statements the night I am alleged to have blasphemed. When taken in context my words were accurate. If I step on a persons toe, by accident, have I not trespassed against that person?  It would seem so.  But was it a sin?  Of course not. Sin and trespass are two separate things. Even from a scriptural standpoint one need only review the Old Law to see that sin and trespass are not one and the same thing.

In the story told in Luke Christ made his parents leave their caravan (it is not clear if the siblings stayed behind in the caravan or not), travel a day back to Jerusalem, through the desert, without protection  (a very dangerous thing especially in that day and age), then spend three additional days searching for him. In light of this story he did indeed trespass against them since he was not at the place he was to be, (he was a youth and was supposed to be on the caravan with his family) and made them worry. It would appear from this story he did not do it intentionally, or out of spite against God or his parents. In his youthful mind he thought he was doing good by staying behind to teach at the temple however this unintentional act caused his parents to suffer hardship and worry for many days. Was that a sin? Of course not. Was he where he was supposed to be? No he was not.  Was he in perfect obedience to his parents wishes?  No again. But it was simply a minor infraction...a trespass, a stepping on their toes if you will and his parents reaction when they found him verify this fact as they scolded him;
"Son, why have you thus dealt with us? behold, your father and I have sought you sorrowing."
If one believes the scriptures they tell us Christ, on earth came as a man and had to learn obedience by the things he suffered.
Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Hebrews 5:7-9
They tell us that Christ put aside his Godhead status, made himself not just lower than a man but also lower than the angels.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. Hebrews 2:9
I see no example in the scripture where Christ was anything other than a normal child as he was growing up...yet without sin against God. For certain his mother, father and siblings knew him only as a normal child and part of the family until his ministry began as a young adult. We see evidence in this scripture as well when it says about his family,
"And they understood not the saying which he spoke unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them:"
The scriptures state God sent Christ to earth in the flesh, as a man, lower than the angels even, so he could know and suffer our human frailties. If one states they believe the scriptures yet  denies this basic truth they are called deceivers and part of the antichrist in the scriptures.
For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. 2 John 1:7-8
Isaiah, when prophesying about the coming Messiah, states in Isaiah 7 that Jesus would be no more or less than any other child as he grew up and would have a time when he would not know to refuse evil and choose good,

 14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.16For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that you abhor shall be forsaken of both her kings.  

I dare say that if Isaiah were a member of the ABC his "controversial" statements of "blasphemy" would have brought about his ex-communication as well.

Well, that is the short story of my faux pas and I have heard it was the final act during Bruce Leonard’s quest to obtain apostleship through the trampling of others. There is much more to the Bruce Leonard story than is related here but this was not the first time he had sought to bring me under his control. Even if I had been in error in my words, I am saved by grace anyhow...not by Bruce Leonard. My faith in God, and his grace, is all I really need to see me through to the end. If someone chooses to remove mercy and grace from me, well, they'll need to wrestle it away from God first. I am quite certain that is not possible. It is difficult for the leaders of the ABC to understand mercy because it is not part, nor has it ever been part, of their Pharisaical dialect.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-10
I am not alone. Many others have been "condemned" and accused in the exact same manner over words and on similar, or even lesser, charges. My hope is they will also someday tell their stories but most are too devastated, afraid or unable to speak about these things. For this reason I have taken on this endeavor to write a bit of  my own personal history in the ABC and I hope my words serve as a warning to others to stay away, not from just the ABC, but also from the many other ultra-fundamentalist groups that assume God has given them an exclusive franchise on truth.  There are no franchises on truth.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have found this most interesting,I have been doing research because the Doctor I work with belongs to this group and has said some very bold statements to me , for instance I have been told I do not have the Holy Spirit because I do not speak in tongues because I was not baptized by someone spiritual and I get the feeling he doesn't believe in saved by grace through the blood of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1, 2:1-9. dl