Heck shared that she is thankful she has found a place where she can now rest and “receive the love of God that wasn’t dependent upon what I did, and how I worked, and how many people I brought to church.”
“I know that there are wonderful people [currently at Dwell Community Church] that don’t understand why their church is being criticized, and want to just follow God. And they love their community and, at some point in time, will experience these same kinds of pain,” she told WCMH.
Kari Puchovich, another former Dwell Community Church member behind the billboard (1996-2014), told the local news agency she left the church so she could battle her addiction with alcohol. Puchovich shared that there was an abundance of alcohol at church affiliated bible studies, which made it difficult for someone with addiction.
“I was a mess, and this wasn’t the place where I was going to get any help. And I needed to leave to get actual help,” Puchovich explained.
Puchovich read the NBC4 Columbus reports while she was taking care of her dying mother and was reminded of the wedge it created between their relationship while she attended there for nearly 20 years. “That narrative of, ‘You’re either with us or against us’ is so damaging for people. And so it really just jumpstarted me to ask people for funds, to get an LLC started and have a billboard,” she said.
15 minutes after posting a GoFundMe link for their billboard, Puchovich’s goal was met.
Dwell Community Church’s senior pastor and senior sphere leader, Conrad Hilario, told NBC4 Columbus in a statement that the church treats “claims of abuse very seriously. We are not a perfect church, but we do have many safeguards to protect members from potentially harmful leaders.”
“When a member has a specific complaint against a leader, they can contact one of the elders or bring their complaint to a grievance board,” Hilario shared.
Some Call the Church Formerly Known as Xenos Christian Fellowship a Cult
Another site similar to the one featured on the billboard, titled “Xenos is a Cult,” has over 170 stories from former Dwell Community Church congregants and people associated with church attendees. The site includes a disclaimer: “Content Warning: These submitted stories are graphic, detail disturbing content, and contain strong language.”
“Xenos Christian Fellowship has been operating in Columbus, Ohio since 1970 and has been causing massive trauma to countless people,” the site says. “This website contains over 700+ accounts of people claiming abuse at Xenos, many which involve the complete destruction of personal mental health, spiritual abuse, and the loss of happiness and emotional stability.”