A Wiarton-area preacher who also teaches self-defence night courses in Owen Sound and Sauble Beach was the focus of a W-FIVE television broadcast Saturday which investigated allegations he brainwashed women in the Acton area into leaving their husbands and devoting their lives to his church.
"They've said we're a religious cult," said Pastor Andrew Paton in a telephone interview from Brampton Saturday, before he had seen the show.
"Unfortunately it's me that looks bad right now because, you know, I have a good position in the community where I live up there."
Paton lives near Wiarton but said in the interview he makes weekly trips to see his parents in Brampton and to preach to his tiny congregation of nine at his church in Ballinafad, near Acton.
W-Five reporter Victor Malarek investigated whether Paton caused women in his congregation to leave their families and devote their lives to Mount Zion Full Gospel Ministries.
Paton denied that six of the seven people in the church the day a camera was snuck in were women who no longer live with their families, as alleged on the show. W-FIVE alleged instead the women live together in two homes in Acton.
"It's not true. Let me give you the correct details when I get back," he said Saturday. He was referring to getting back from a meeting today with a lawyer about the broadcast.
He said the whole controversy is "about money." He said the TV show was "misled by a family."
The show focussed on Halton Hills resident Jim Sanderson and his adult children, who according to W-FIVE, believe his wife Alice, a Paton church member, has been "brainwashed."
She left the family farm last July, after packing her bags two months prior and waiting for the moment God would call her, Jim Sanderson said. She has since filed for divorce.
His wife started attending the Mount Zion Full Gospel Ministries church four years earlier. That's when she required all family gatherings at Christmas, New Year's and Thanksgiving to be held at the church. If they missed a Sunday in church they risked "a stint in hell; we might die," Jim Sanderson told Malarek.
A daughter, Lisa, described a "deliverance ritual" in which her mother was taught to vomit in buckets provided in the church "to get rid of evil spirits."
In the parking lot of the community hall where Paton holds his church services, Alice Sanderson explained to her other daughter, who was expecting a baby in weeks, why she left her husband. "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?"
"God brought the division, Laura. It's not that I don't want your dad," she said emotionally on the TV show.
The show also interviewed an Owen Sound-area woman named Katie Gerber, whose minister husband gave Paton a conditional ordination to allow him to pray for people in hospital, but who later took over her late husband Elmer's ministry. Paton denied knowing him in the interview Saturday.
"There was hardly ever any men ministered to. It was always women," Gerber told Malarek. She was concerned for those who were confiding problems with their husbands. "In every case that he was counselling them, he was counselling them to leave their husbands," she said.
"I don't have any enemies out there because I've always treated everybody with the utmost respect," Paton said in Saturday's interview.
"I've never had people come against me and say that I'd destroyed anybody's family. We've always wanted to have men in our family."
He said typically churches are filled with many more women than men.
"Do you know why? I think women are more broken and they're more, they have more issues and problems maybe. You know, things that have happened to them in their life . . . ."
Asked about the allegation of brainwashing, Paton objected to the television program sending someone into the church with a hidden camera, though he added he had nothing to hide.
Asked whether it is true that he became a pastor over the Internet, as WFIVE reported, Paton would only say Saturday he is taking an upgrading course now.
He confirmed the show's reference to his five marriages was accurate. "But who wants to drag up all those things, you know, the mistakes you made when you were, you know, early 20s?"
He said he doesn't proselytize either. "We keep the Lord in the Church." He doesn't generally even use the title "pastor," he said.
Paton said he declined to be interviewed by W-FIVE on the advice of a lawyer. But he was featured in the broadcast speaking by phone to Malarek, who asked him, among other things, about the nature of a relationship he has with a 30-year-old woman who lives with Paton, who is almost 60, near Wiarton. She's the daughter of two parishioners.
Past wives and his children who said they never see him were also interviewed.
W-Five also showed Paton slamming his pickup truck door shut when Malarek tried to interview him in person.
Saturday Paton said the report contains "false accusations that have been made against myself and the church." He said these accusations have been made about him since last summer and that they're related to a lawsuit he wouldn't discuss.
Paton hadn't seen the televised report and said he wouldn't watch it. But he read an online report in a Georgetown newspaper called The Independent & Free Press, which quotes from a W-FIVE news release about the show and reveals some of the contents of the program.
Paton described his church as a "full-gospel charismatic ministry," which he incorporated 14 years ago. He said everyone gets a tax receipt at the end of the year for contributing money to the church.
Paton said he's well-known in the Owen Sound area, where he still teaches self-defence night courses at Hillcrest Community School and at Amabel- Sauble Community School in Sauble Beach.
An advertisement in the online Sauble Bulletin newsletter this month advertises his services under U. K. A. Self Defence Canada Wednesday and Thursday evenings at Amabel-Sauble Community School for adults, children and families.
In a 2005 profile, The Sun Times reported Paton was an 8th degree black belt and was one of the highest ranked martial artists in Canada. He reportedly studied under Elvis Presley's former karate instructor, Kang Rhee.
"You exemplify the true essence of martial arts spirit with your integrity, courage, humility and strength of character," a letter from Rhee said.
Paton won the light heavyweight full-contact championships in the mid- 1970s. He opened a school in the Ballinafad area in 1995.
He said Saturday he no longer teaches there but when he did he always put examples of scripture on the board. And if people noticed them, Paton would mention they were welcome to come to the church there too.
He said this "was a good way" to introduce people to the church. He said he doesn't mention church or post scripture "at all" at his self-defence courses locally now.
In the early '90s he preached in rented Park Head Community Centre space near Hepworth for a year and in the Owen Sound Seventh-Day Adventist Church where he rented space for about 18 months, he said.
He also preached in Hepworth for about eight months with what he called the Elmer Gerber Evangelistic Association and also preached in rented space in London, Ont., he said.