Deliverance Ministry: Choosing God over family

W-Five CTV, Canada/February 21, 2009

In the small farming community of Ballinafad, Ont. - an hour's drive from Toronto - a drama is playing out among members of a small church, distraught families and the church pastor, Andrew Paton.

Last July, Alice Sanderson, wife, mother and grandmother, left her husband and cut off most contact with her family. But this was no ordinary case of domestic strife.

"God called her. She had her bags packed a couple months beforehand," explained Alice Sanderson's husband, Jim.

Jim Sanderson and his three grown children, Lisa, Laura and Glen, believe the pastor of the Mount Zion Full Gospel Ministries, Andrew Paton, brainwashed Alice Sanderson with a radical brand of theology and influenced her to leave her family and the home she had known for three decades.

After four years of worshipping at the Mount Zion church, Alice Sanderson told her family God had called her to a life of greater religious devotion.

She moved to nearby Acton, into one of two houses occupied by other members of the church. Soon after, Sanderson filed for divorce from her husband.

W-FIVE recorded Alice Sanderson explaining to her daughter, Laura: "God just chose me first. And he has to test my heart: are you willing to let go of your husband? Are you willing to let go of your children?"

When Laura Sanderson asked her mother about the divorce, Alice tried to explain, "It's a spiritual divorce."

"And you still love Dad?" Laura questioned.

"I do still love Dad," Alice replied.

W-FIVE's Victor Malarek asked Pastor Paton about the messages he preaches at the Mount Zion church.

"In the Scriptures, does God say that someone might be tested by giving up their families?" Malarek asked Paton.

"Well, it says if you love your family, your husband, your wife, your brothers, your sister, more than you love me, then you're not worthy of me," answered Paton.

Alice Sanderson isn't the only one of the six female church members to cut family ties. None of the women who attend the Mount Zion Full Gospel Ministries live with family anymore.

Four years ago, Edith Giles sold her home in Brampton and moved to Acton to live with other members of the Mount Zion church. At the same time, Giles cut ties with her adult daughter and grandchildren. Giles has never met her four year-old granddaughter.

Giles' daughter, Deanna Johnston, recalled one of the last times she spoke with her mother. "She said: 'Well, I'm not coming up to see you anymore, I can't associate with you because you are not following the same path that I am'."

W-FIVE discovered this isn't the first time controversy has surrounded Pastor Andrew Paton. Almost 20 years ago, Paton preached to a small but loyal flock near Owen Sound, Ont.

Katie Gerber, whose missionary husband gave Andrew Paton a conditional ordination, remembered when Paton began preaching to the congregation that gathered weekly at her home.

"My first concern was when I started noticing how he was navigating towards the women, and women only. There was hardly any men ministered to," recounted Gerber.

Gerber knew some of these women were having problems at home with their husbands. And she told W-FIVE she was astonished at Pastor Paton's advice to them.

"In every case, he was counselling them to leave their husbands," Gerber said.

While ministering to this group, Pastor Paton, who was a married man, became romantically involved with one of his female parishioners. The scandal rocked the small community and eventually Pastor Paton relocated to Ballinafad, where he's now preached for 13 years.

W-FIVE followed the trail of broken families right back to Pastor Paton himself. W-FIVE discovered Paton has been married and divorced five times. In at least three of those marriages, Paton's wives alleged that he was adulterous. That's not all; Andrew Paton left behind four children from these different marriages, children with whom he has had almost no contact.

W-FIVE also found that Paton never received formal ordination from a mainstream Christian organization. He became a pastor by simply filling out a generic form over the Internet - something anyone can do for a fee of $85.

When reached by W-FIVE, the six women and one man in Paton's church all claimed to be happy and at peace in their dedication to Andrew Paton and the Mount Zion Full Gospel Ministries.

Recorded by W-FIVE cameras, Edith Giles described her loyalty to Pastor Paton: "I will walk the way God wants me to, I will be guided by his right and left hand and by what Andrew does for me - because Andrew is a prophet."

Without proof of criminal activity at the Mount Zion Full Gospel Ministries, there's nothing that Jim Sanderson or any other family members can do about their loved ones who are devoted to the church.

The Sanderson family may never reunite. But that hasn't stopped Jim Sanderson from hoping that one day his wife will come back.

"I love her. And I know she loves me."

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