On April 28, HBO Max released the final two episodes in its docuseries “The Way Down: God, Greed, and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin.” One of the takeaways from the new episodes should be sobering for any believer: don’t assume that being ensnared by a cult couldn’t happen to you.
“A lot of people say, ‘I’m not stupid, I wouldn’t do that,’” said Megan Cox, who was a member of Gwen Shamblin Lara’s Remnant Fellowship Church from 1996 to 2006. “And that is so unfair because I’m not stupid either.”
“What people need to understand,” said clinical psychologist Adam Brooks, “is that everybody is vulnerable. At a certain point in your life when you’re a little bit low or you’re in a time of transition and the right leader comes along with the right message, catching you at the right moment, you could be vulnerable.”
Gwen Shamblin Lara: The Fallout Continues
Gwen Shamblin Lara was one of seven people who died tragically in a plane crash on May 29, 2021. Among the deceased was her husband, former “Tarzan” actor Joe Lara, as well as Remnant Fellowship church leaders David Martin and his wife Jennifer, Jonathan Walters and his wife Jessica, and Shamblin Lara’s son-in-law, Brandon Hannah. Gwen Shamblin Lara’s two children, Elizabeth Hannah and Michael Shamblin, were not in the crash.
Shamblin Lara became well-known in the 90s due to her Weigh Down Workshop, which was offered in many churches, and her book, “The Weigh Down Diet.” She founded Remnant Fellowship in 1999 with Weigh Down participants as core members and was the primary leader in the church. HBO Max’s docuseries lays out evidence for the church’s cultic and abusive qualities, allegations Remnant Fellowship categorically denies.
ChurchLeaders covered the original three episodes of “The Way Down,” released in September 2021, in the article linked below:
The new episodes contain additional testimony from former Remnant Fellowship members, some of whom appeared in the original episodes and some of whom came forward after watching them. Adam Brooks is one of several experts who offer input on the Remnant Fellowship community and the plane crash.
Episode 4 of the series starts by exploring how former members felt upon hearing the news that the plane had crashed, killing people some of them had known for years. Gina Wilson, who was a member of Remnant from 1996 to 2012, said she was “grieving for them because they were at one time very, very close friends…It was like reliving, you know, those early days and losing it all in one moment.”
Rachel Phillips, a member from 2002 to 2009, knew everyone on the plane personally, except for Joe Lara. She grieved the tragedy as well, but also she admitted to thinking, “Well now [Shamblin Lara] can’t hurt anybody else.” Megan Cox and former member Teri Phillips (1995-2003) each expressed the idea that there was some sort of cosmic justice involved in the crash. Teri Phillips said, “Later I was thinking, ‘God had something to do with this’…you hurt people over a period of years, and there’s going to be karma or payback.”