A group of former members of Dwell Community Church (formerly known as Xenos Christian Fellowship), a megachurch located in Columbus, Ohio, has purchased ad space on a billboard hoping to warn current attendees regarding abuse happening within the church.
The billboard is located along High Street in Clintonville, less than three miles from the church, and displays large bold neon green and white lettering that reads, “Stuck in Dwell Community Church? There is hope.” The message is followed by the website address leavingwell.com and a QR code, which directs to a page titled, “There Is Life After Dwell Community Church.”
“We who have left Dwell Community Church have shared similar fears,” the site reads. “We have feared that to leave Dwell would put us outside the will of God, that we would lose community and friends, that we would lose a life of meaning and purpose. But we have found hope in life outside of Dwell.”
Former Dwell Community Church members explain that “many of us have found communities and purpose and a deeper relationship with God. Others of us no longer pursue a Christian spiritual path but have experienced a deep sense of healing and self acceptance.” The former members say that the purpose of the site is to help others who are seeking to leave the church and provide them with resources to do so.
On the site, former members provide a section describing the spiritual abuse they and others experienced while attending the church. Stories from four former members are under a section labeled “Healing,” which also provides a link to recommended counseling services.
They also provide a list of other local churches, sharing that “finding a different church can feel very unsafe and unappealing after leaving Dwell, and many choose not to attend church after leaving. But many of us have also ended up in other local churches that we have found to be different and life giving.” The former members invite Dwell Community Church attendees to reach out to them, so they can help connect them with a new church.
One of the former members who helped with the creation of the billboard is Kate Heck, who left the church she attended from 1999 to 2007, because members didn’t approve of her marriage.
Heck shared with NBC4 Columbus, “It was uncomfortable to stay. I also had concerns about the way—the level of coercion within the church—and felt that I needed to leave at that point.” Heck said the group of former members has connected with “hundreds” of others who have also left because of spiritual trauma.
After a series of stories NBC4 Columbus ran earlier this year of former Dwell Community Church members speaking out regarding allegations of exploitation and emotional abuse, Heck said she was “disappointed by the response from the church and the leadership.”
“I think that when you hear stories of pain that people are sharing ways that they have been hurt,” Heck explained, “I think the appropriate response is to be curious about how and why, and to seek to make things right. Apologize. Find out what the systems are that are causing these pains so consistently. These stories span decades. They’re not just one-offs.”