My dad located a huge four bedroom rental home, still in Mountlake Terrace, not far from the "sewer house". Due to it's size and color it would become known as the "big brown house" and was the site of major changes for both our family and "the group". It was at this house my brother graduated high school, left home then soon married. (The ABC believes in arranged marriages and this was an arranged marriage.) My dad quit his job and started a successful business called "Medic Repair" so he could have a more flexible schedule. Many new people would be introduced to the group at this house; some young, some old, and more of the previous members would leave. The numbers continued to grow to the point that even the large living room could not handle it so the meetings were split again.
The previous attempted breaking up of "the group" into three smaller meetings had caused quite a bit of unrest and those original squabbles once again began rising to the surface. The central point of the new arguments was a huge disagreement over who should fellowship at who's house. One individual wanted "district lines" drawn. In his plan, if you lived in such and such district you would fellowship at so and so's house. Most just wanted the freedom to fellowship wherever and with whomever they wished, whenever they wanted. To end the squabbling, a decision was made; by whom I do not know, that for a short period the "Foundation Meetings", on Thursdays, would be held in three separate homes but the "Communion Meetings", on Saturdays, intended only for those who had been baptized in the ABC, would be combined back into one single meeting in our large living room at the "big brown house". This worked fine at first, and the return to a single Saturday "Communion Meeting" eased some of the tensions, but it was apparent our living room, even though quite large, would never handle the ever increasing crowd. A return to three separate Saturday meetings was inevitable but this time it would be at different homes than were used before to avoid any more "trouble".
It was now 1971 and this would be the year of the very first "All-Church Gathering". The gathering was not officially called the "all-church" yet the first year, and was really nothing more than just a picnic in a large park in Snohomish County Washington, but this single event would bring about the custom of having all of the home meetings everywhere gather once each year in a central rented facility. It was open to all persons the first two years but it was then decided "outsiders" would be prohibited from attending. Only those who had been baptized in the ABC were allowed to attend and this practice continues.
At the big brown house, my dad, now self-employed and able to schedule his own work, began making regular trips to Grants Pass Oregon to hold small meetings with Gilbert Larson (the current apostle of the ABC) and his close friend Pat, who drove over from Klamath Falls. Gilbert Larson would eventually marry a woman named CaraLee in Grants Pass and most members of her family would began attending the meetings as well, some becoming elders in "the group". They, in turn, brought to the meetings other acquaintances and before long Grants Pass had regularly scheduled weekly meetings on both Thursday and Saturday. Many years later, after disagreements over autonomy and money, every single person who lived in Grants Pass either left "the group", left town, or found themselves forced out through ex-communication. I will discuss that in more detail in a later post. As a result there are no longer any persons in Grants Pass directly associated with the ABC. The meetings ended decades ago.
This pattern of growth, then sudden annihilation, has played itself out many many times in the history of the ABC and is a direct result of the overbearing, legalistic, authoritarian leadership tactics devoid of mercy, compassion and love. The doctrinal philosophies of the ABC inevitably lead to the shunning and ex-communication of members over minor disagreements. Most times it results in not just one person but instead large swaths of people finding themselves accused of some "crime" against God (as I was numerous times). This would then be followed by a frenzy of furious spiritual and emotional backstabbings, browbeatings and thumbsquashing by the leaders. This tactic destroys a person completely leaving broken people behind to wonder what happened to their life and joy. These spiritual "stabbings" and "beatings" do not even spare family members. The justification given for this practice is the scripture that reads:
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Matthew 10:34-37But if we are to count the bible as a guidebook Jesus also said:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30Additionally He warned us we should not be like those that lay heavy burdens on others,
[The scribes and the Pharisees]...bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments...Matthew 23:4-5I have watched individuals and whole families be destroyed by the leadership and doctrines of the ABC. The ABC praises the making of broad phylacteries filled with the derivation of Greek and Hebrew words and tenses but, at the same time, they feel they have achieved a higher plain of perfection than all others. It is an egotistical view and thus they can easily find justification when they suddenly and viciously turn on others. I am just as guilty over the years of going along but I woke up and saw my error.
There are two lions mentioned in the scriptures. The Lion of Judah, for which it is safe for even the smallest lamb to lie with in peace without fear of torment, and then there is the devil, [who] the bible states walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. I have seen souls crushed and devoured by the "disciplines" of the ABC. There came that day I asked myself the question. Which lion do we/they actually represent? The lion of Judah, or the lion who seeks to devour? For me, the evidence spoke for itself. It is unfortunate it took being nearly “devoured” by the falsehoods before I saw the ABC for what it really is. A vicious cult that has deceived many.
In the next post, our family moves from the "big brown house" to Lake Forest Park, my dad in exchange for a truce over the tithe squabble gives his business to Earl and he begins full time ministry as the recognized "apostle" of "the group".