Letters: Bill Freeman's actions familiar

The Tribune/July 17, 1999
By Wendy S. Smith

It was with sadness that I read the piece on the so-called Church in Scottsdale and the Longmate family. I do not know Jim Longmate well, nor do I know what personal mistakes he might have made, but I have a keen interest in this story because I was intimately involved with this group from its eary days in California until the time the Freemans left Seattle in 1987--a period of about 20 years.

It is true that when the Freemans left for Scottsdale in 1987 along with the 60 or so individuals who followed them, there was a rift in the so-called Church in Seattle. It appeared on the surface as a doctrinal difference between Bill Freeman (one side) and Witness Lee and his supporters (other side).

Underneath, though, was the fact that Bill Freeman could not face criticism that had mounted against his wife and her inordinate need to control people's private lives. I feel qualified to speak of this because I too participated in this kind of meddling and control. I could give countless examples of the very, very private matters some of us touched. It was and is appalling, sick and wrong--all under the guise of helping others learn to "follow the Lord."

The confrontation was not new--Bill Freeman had been asked to face this issue many times prior. But Bill caved in once again and was forced to move away to continue his "international ministry"; hence the move to Scottsdale.

At first, I did not recognize the problem, but slowly I saw my dearest friends tune out to others who could see clearly that we had been living in a self-made world. I began to acknowledge our mistakes and the twisted ideas under which we functioned. This writing is taking only a few minutes, but it took a few years for me to fully come to terms with how I let myself be controlled and how I controlled others. (And control is only one issue--the most dangerous one--there are many more.)

I often asked myself what would become of them and where it would end. By throwing off common sense and surrounding themselves with supporters, it was sure they would fall deeply into their own deception and an untimely end.

The (July 10) story has a familiar ring. The issues forcing Bill out of Scottsdale are the same issues that forced him to leave Seattle 12 years ago. It is certain that 60 to 100 people are not moving simply for relief in "Oregon's temperate climate"; it is also clear that this is not a case of a church "spreading and growing" and doing "something different."

We all know too many stories of groups like this. The followers seem to need a programmed life, but the individuals involved are in danger, and those in this group will be no exception. This should be of very serious concern, both inside and outside the Christian community.

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