Ge’cobi Pittman, a member from 2006 to 2016, described her time at Remnant as full of intense pressure to perform and be perfect. “The church wanted everything from me,” she said. “All of me.”
When she eventually decided to leave Remnant, Pittman and her ex-husband had a meeting with Gwen Shamblin Lara. After Shamblin Lara realized she couldn’t get Pittman to stay, the church leader told Pittman, who was pregnant at the time, that Pittman would be cursed. When Pittman later miscarried, she was convinced for a while that the miscarriage was due to being cursed for her “disobedience” in leaving.
Steven Darling, a member from 2014 to 2017, decided at one point to tell Shamblin Lara that he was gay, thinking he could help the church see people like him as normal. But when he told Shamblin Lara, her face fell and she left the room without responding. Another church leader spent some time trying to convince Darling the church could change him, an idea Darling rejected. Then Remnant Fellowship members started shunning him, so Darling left and no one from the church ever reached out to him.
Laura Alvarez, a member from 1996 to 2006, did Shamblin Lara’s hair and never got paid for it based on the argument her work was in the service of God. Alvarez said she was told she had to lose four pounds per week to be in God’s will. She ate so little for so long that she got kidney damage. Doctors later told her that her body had eaten away at her kidneys, which is what happens during starvation, and that it takes two to five years for someone’s body to go back to normal.
Alvarez’s mother, Mindy Munoz, was key to launching the Weigh Down in Spanish. Munoz described working long hours for little pay, even though at one point Shamblin Lara promised her a higher paycheck. When Munoz asked why her paycheck was lower than promised, Shamblin Lara told Munoz she needed to humble herself and not expect more money or a raise in the future. “Gwen broke my family, you know,” said Munoz, “and the only thing I can do is pick up the pieces. Because that’s what she left.”
After HBO Max released the first three episodes, Remnant Fellowship published several statements on its website, as well as multiple video testimonies of people sharing their positive experiences at the church. Those testimonies and the overall response, said Cox, are “b*******.”
Helen Byrd, a member from 2008 to 2017, addressed one video specifically that has the text “Members are all shapes and sizes!” and features current member Otis Rickman, D.O. In the video, Rickman explains that Remnant Fellowship welcomes people of all body types. But Byrd says that Rickman’s own wife “was sat out of the church because she had gained weight. So that’s a lie.”
“If so many people are coming forward and saying they’re traumatized by an organization,” said Cox, “how dare you tell us we’re lying. If you are truly doing what you think God wants you to do, then you would take that information and reflect on it and make the change necessary, not go on the defensive.”
The Future of Remnant Fellowship
The series speculates on the future leadership of Remnant Fellowship Church in Gwen Shamblin Lara’s absence, briefly examining the background of Elizabeth Hannah, Shamblin Lara’s daughter. Brooks Binkley, another of Hannah’s childhood friends, said that when Shamblin Lara started Remnant Fellowship, Elizabeth Hannah invited her to come, and when Binkley was not interested in attending, Hannah stopped speaking to her.
Staggs described Hannah as a beautiful person who was changed by Remnant Fellowship. Staggs said with emotion, “I believe her mother is a master manipulator. She manipulated her daughter to be exactly what she wanted. And she stopped seeing me.”
Elizabeth Hannah is the heir apparent to her mother’s empire. But Rachel Phillips, whose children are still involved in the church, says that despite the fact that Hannah has told the congregation she is not giving up, Hannah has isolated herself in her mother’s mansion, and the church is not meeting in person for services.