1-30 St. Marks Place
Staten Island, NY 10301
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Elitist: The Church of Bible Understanding fosters a proud, elitist
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
• 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
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
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
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,
*The brothers were always told they had to have spare zeal to get married.
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
• Employment - Members are expected to work in the group businesses
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
unflattering or outdated it looks. I have yet to know of anyone in the group who dyes
* 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,
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
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
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
cc: Pastor Ken MacGillivray