May 19, 1999
 
 

                   Cathy Ditton
                   1-30 St. Marks Place
                   Staten Island, NY 10301

                   Dear Cathy,

                   I decided to take you up on your suggestion to write.  When we've gotten together I have
                   chosen not to discuss "the fellowship" to avoid any confrontations.  My position on The
                   Church of Bible Understanding is hardly a secret and has not changed in the last 10 years.
                   If anything, my convictions have oddly gotten stronger.  Since you insist on making my lack
                   of involvement in COBU an issue, I'd like you to address and give you opinion on the
                   following cult-like practices that were so prevalent when I left.  Do you feel they are still
                   going? If so, to what degree?  Have I made up these wild stories?

                   I decided to send a copy to Veronica Welcheck for her input also.  Since I'm taking the
                   time to write, I'm including a copy to Stewart and posting it on the internet for all former
                   members to read.  I will attend the next meeting in which Stewart publicly addresses these
                   issues.  This is assuming he gives more than one week's notice so that those of us who
                   plan on attending would be able to.  Unfortunately, I don't believe that he'd ever honestly
                   address these issues, that's why I left.  As long as these practices continue and are not
                   addressed and changed, I will continue to openly speak of the evil that goes on at COBU
                   with no regret and with a very clear conscience.  Are you aware that some people think
                   the Holocaust never happened and it was invented to discredit Hitler'?  They often
                   complain that people make Hitler the issue.

                   Controlling and Judgmental: Members are constantly judging one another, Members
                   control one another by using ridicule, peer pressure, intimidation, shunning, public
                   humiliation and fear. (Colossians 2-8) There is never any thought or mention of allowing
                   the Holy Spirit and a member's conscience to convict and guide them.  The following are
                   specific examples of how COBU is controlling and judgmental.

                     *  During "sisters and brothers meetings" weaker members, members with relationships,
                       or anyone the general consensus feels needs to be talked to are singled out and
                       bombarded with questions and accusations, many extremely vague and unfounded.  I
                       witnessed this for years while I was there and again, three years ago at a sisters
                       meeting I attended. (Galatians 5-15)

                       *At most meetings, members are required to put themselves in categories and all
                       present members are required to vote if they feel that person fits in that category or
                       not.  Members who do not say the particular "Stewart saying" or "line" of the day are
                        ridiculed and mocked until they say the "lines" right. (Jude 1:17-21)
 

                    *  Members routinely judge themselves, each other and outsiders.  This occurs regularly
                      during one on one interaction.  An example of this is when you asked, "Are you loving
                      your brothers and sisters?" When I answered, "Yes.", you turned and asked Veronica
                      her opinion.  Veronica hasn't spoken to me in years except to rush me off the phone
                      when I call.  Despite this fact, you seem convinced that Veronica is qualified to answer
                      a question that is a matter of my own conscience.  How do you feel you're qualified to
                      judge another person's conscience and heart?

                     * Another blatant example of how the group controls members is when members are
                      told to quit their jobs without notice and move to another city in one day, or leave
                      their job without notice to start in the group business.

                     * Members have been pressured to say that they chose death over Jesus Christ and to
                      volunteer for the Lake of Fire.

                     * Ten years ago when I left, Stewart announced at a meeting that Teri Bergamini,
                      Stefanie Brown, and I had made a fatal mistake.  This is an obvious example of how
                      fear is used to control members.  Our mistake was not leaving years before.

                      *Stewart left a message for a couple before they married that they would hate each
                      other if they married.  Along with this being a fear tactic and threat, it is also an
                      excellent example of how Stewart prevents marriages in the group.

                      *Another example of controlling members lives and minds is found in "Training That
                      Accords With Godliness" under Love One Another Issues, it states, "I belong to Jesus
                      and my life belongs to the brothers and sisters".  This is a good example of a bait and
                      switch technique, the first half is right and the second sounds like the first so it must be
                      true too.

                   Elitist: The Church of Bible Understanding fosters a proud, elitist attitude.  Members
                   have always looked down on other churches and church members calling them derogatory
                   names such as CC's.  The group believed, when I was there, that other Christians didn't
                   have the deep understanding we did, and that no other Christians could understand us or
                   help us like the COBU members could. (Ephesians 4-1-6)

                      A good example of this is the way current members treat other Christian's who've
                       attended meetings.

                      Kristi West refused to meet with any other pastor but Stewart for marriage counseling.
                       Is Stewart is the only one qualified to give marriage counseling?  What qualifies
                       Stewart to give marriage counseling?
 
                   
                     Stewart always told us COBU had a "special" calling. this of course kept us bound to
                     the organization and Stewart himself admitted it at meetings.  This idea is contrary to
                     sound biblical doctrine.

                  Marriage And Dating Are Forbidden: Members are forbidden to date or marry.  For
                  years members were ridiculed by Stewart and blamed for not getting married.  This was an
                  unwritten rule for years. We were told we could get married but yet Stewart made it
                   impossible and even admitted it publicly on March 4, 1989.  So why hasn't anyone gotten
                  married since then? Why are current members who like each other kept apart and
                  harassed as a result of their relationships and romantic interests? (I Timothy 4:1-5)

                  Distorted View of Marriage: Married members are pressured to put the group before
                  their spouses and families and are expected to spend inordinate amounts of time at
                  meetings and group related activities.

                      *This was one of the contributing factors that deteriorated Kristi and William's
                      marriage.  Kristi refuses to even talk to William, let alone reconcile unless he returns
                      to COBU.  Stewart has refused to meet with William and Kristi to give them
                      counseling even after William called requesting it, telling him to "go talk to the
                      brothers" and sending him a very long verbal message criticizing him and denouncing
                      him.  When William asked that the message be faxed to him so that he could read it,
                      members refused.

                      *The brothers were always told they had to have spare zeal to get married.  This is
                      another man made rule with no sound biblical basis.  I suppose the person who
                      thought of it was applying their own distorted view of marriage to that standard,

                  Conformity- Members are pressured to conform in almost every aspect of their lives.

                     Living situations - Non-married members are pressured to live in the group facilities.

                     Financial - All live in members are expected to give their entire income to the
                      organization

                     Employment - Members are expected to work in the group businesses working
                      extremely long hours without pay.

                     Speech - Members are corrected for not saying Jesus' name enough times or reciting
                      the latest lines.  I have a letter from Stewart's wife criticizing me for not mentioning
                      Jesus in a 3 sentence note I sent her with my new address.  Members are also publicly
                      humiliated and criticized when they do not say the latest line or phrase correctly.

                     * Hair Style - The women are expected to wear their hair long, no matter how
                      unflattering or outdated it looks. I have yet to know of anyone in the group who dyes
                      their hair.
 
                    * Members are pressured to conform to a monastic lifestyle, fearing any deviation to
                     their routine will somehow be "hoping in this life", "hoping in marriage", not taking up
                     their cross, or "giving into the flesh".  This of course is in stark contrast to how
                     Stewart lives. (Colossians 2:20-23)

                   Thought Stopping Phrases: Phrases such as In your head, round and round, on the
                   deck, fully there, and numbers are repeated over and over without members ever thinking
                   through their meaning or even if what they're saying makes sense.

                   Excessive Focus on Attitudinal Sins and Absolutes: (Colossians 2:20-23) There is an
                   excessive focus on attitudinal sins and absolutes.  These are sins that are hard to gauge
                   and often difficult to judge and under pressure would even cause Mother Theresa (if she
                   were still alive) to lose confidence.  Some examples are pride, maneuvering, hoping in this
                   life, hoping in marriage, looking for a comfortable life in this world, not being fully there,
                   etc.  Absolutes are often used to gauge members sincerity and used to force confessions.
                   Examples of this are commonly used words such as fully, always coming from, always
                   considering, all the time, always an honest servant, every moment, fully doing, every
                   second... This is a technique commonly used to keep cult members focused on
                   themselves and never examining the whole picture.  This ends up with a distorted view of
                   God, themselves, Christianity, and the Christian life.

                   Authoritarian Leadership With Little or No Accountability: Stewart has exploited
                   COBU members by using group funds to live a lifestyle far more extravagant than any
                   other member.  He uses the group airplanes and facilities at whim without the approval of
                   the board and accounts to no one.  I was on the board for a number of years and he never
                   asked our approval for anything.  He and his wife are the only members of the
                   organization who fly the planes.  The group has wasted thousands and thousands of
                   dollars in plane storage and maintenance.  In the years I was in COBU the commercial
                   airfare to send Stewart and Gayle to Haiti would have been a drop in the bucket compared
                   to the costs incurred by COBU for the maintenance, upkeep and storage of the planes-
                   He's squandered a great portion of our hard earned income, not to mention the lost
                   income from full time Gayle Helpers. (James 5:4-6)

                   When I was in COBU Stewart ruled with an iron fist.  He was unapproachable and
                   belittled almost anyone who dared to approach him.  His rude, critical and arrogant
                   manner was hardly that of a Christian.  All of the members were afraid of him.  One of the
                   standards in "Standards For Older Brothers" and the O.B. Leader Training, one of the
                   standards states, 'No protecting the flesh by avoiding Brother Stewart." This rule only
                   proves 'ust how approachable Stewart is.  I can't help but recall the time he dropped fixer
                   on the wood floor in Princeton and he yelled at me because I couldn't find the paper
                   towels fast enough.  When I was in Princeton I stayed as far away from the desk as
                    possible so I wouldn't have to be the one who ran up to him with his messages for fear
                    that he'd yell at me for handing his messages to him in the wrong way. (Jeremiah 23: 1-4,
                   Micah 3, Jude 1:17-21)

 

                 I have only touched on the psychological and mental abuse I witnessed in COBU and have
                 not touched on the doctrinal error.  If I did, it would take minimally another 4 pages.
                 There are thousands of us who've left and most of us testify that COBU is at best
                 unhealthy and worst a destructive church and cult.
 

                 One practice I forgot to mention was attacking dissenters.  Surprise me and address the
                  issues rather than trying to find fault with me.  I look forward to hearing your response.
                 I'm sorry we couldn't meet in person and look forward to a time when where I worship
                 and serve Jesus Christ isn't an issue.
 

                 Your friend and sister
                        Beth Davies

                 cc: Pastor Ken MacGillivray
                      Stewart Traill
                      Veronica Welcheck