Former members say Franklin cult is back open in Dickson County

Fox 17 News, Tennessee/February 26, 2020

By Dennis Ferrier

A Franklin church that the state of Tennessee fined for not being a "bona fide" religious institution is open again under another name.

Former members are sounding the alarm. They say this isn't a church, it’s a cult that specializes in destroying families.

The Gathering International in Franklin, Tennessee doubled as the home of Wayne and Linda Jolley. It was really nice. The congregation was small but affluent.

Former members say the Jolleys lied about where the tithing was going. An international radio station in 100 countries, yet no one ever heard a single broadcast.

But they saw the Jolleys buy expensive things for themselves.

"They spared no expense on things they did it for their own gain and it went into their own bank accounts," said Heather Asbell, worked for the church.

Mike and Debbie Pugh were former members. When Debbie started complaining about some of The Gathering’s practices, she was targeted.

"And then he forces us to separate after 35 years of marriage," Pugh said. "He forced us to separate and had already given up our relationships with our kids under his directive."

The Pughs say it was common that many people in the congregation were not allowed to have relationships with family members.

"They separated families they take money under false pretenses we were by all accounts involved in a cult," Pugh said.

The church lost its status as a church in 2016. Wayne Jolley died in 2016 and then The Gathering International reformed under the name The Gathering Place.

Linda Jolley is now in charge. In many ways they didn't seem to skip a beat in 2017, reporting 585,000 in total revenue. And now the church is open again as The Gathering Place, and a school, The Burns Christian Academy, which is out on Highway 96 in Burns, Dickson County.

Linda Jolley is the pastor. Her daughter, Marjorie Tellez, says she still loves her mom, but says she is morally incapable of leading a church.

"She allowed my stepdad to abuse me physically and sexually and knew about it and didn't do anything to stop or help it," Tellez said.

Marjorie Tellez says from age 9 to 19 she was sexually abused by Wayne Jolley.

“He would ask me to undress and touch my private areas and ask me who they belong too," Tellez said. "He would kiss me on my mouth and say he was teaching me how to kiss my husband."

Why is that relative now? Because Tellez said she told everything to her mom.

Everything in an 8-hour meeting. She said her mom said she didn't want to choose between her daughter and her husband and so Tellez fled, saying she didn't speak to her mom for 16 years.

And while Wayne Jolley is dead, all the members say the Jolleys were absolutely in step on everything.

“He was not a lone wolf and didn't understand what was going on," Pugh said. "Everything he did she spent the money. She lived in the mansion she drove the cars she took the vacations."

We asked Linda Jolley for an interview she did not return our calls. The church gates are locked all the time, briefly open for church member events, just like the original Gathering.

And that, according to the people we talked, to is the problem. This all feels disturbingly familiar.

“We want to be a stop sign before more people go off a cliff," Mike Pugh said.

The Gathering Place is currently in good standing with the state of Tennessee according to the secretary of state.

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