by Jim Langford
May 19, 2004
I just recently became aware of The Battered Sheep Ministry and Richard Hudson’s contributions to its mission. His testimony Marked and Shunned and his series entitled The Children of Tyranny are familiar territory for me, having been involved with the same group for over twenty five years (1960-1985). My acquaintance with Richard was brief, seeing him only at a few gatherings during infrequent travels to Texas from California.
John Morey, whom Richard has appealed to in his letters, I knew quite well. John was never highly regarded by his leadership peers in the California area, but being well-fitted with the eminent ability of a crafty politician, he has survived as a “leader” in that sect. Robert Grove I knew even better. We went on pack trips into the mountains together; our children played together; we sometimes ministered together. But as the years went by “the leaven of the Pharisees” began rearing its ugly head. A new generation of leaders, who thought they could manage the church better than their predecessors, began the move toward centralization of control. And ominous things began to happen.
That’s when Robert and I started sparring with each other. The issues were legalism, authoritarianism, exclusiveness and--most alarming to me--the twisting of God’s Word. I was soon targeted as a “divisive” person, a “ring-leader” among the “Korahs, Dathans and Abirams” sprouting up in the assemblies. Ultimately, I was “marked-to-be-avoided” for answering in the negative two questions: “Will you retract your study on Romans 16:17-18 [which was critical of their abusive use of that passage]? And are you going to stand with leadership in the markings of the Tulare brethren [the recent wholesale excommunication of ten families]?” My wife was at my side and my children were all present at this gathering of over 500 brothers and sisters in Christ whom we dearly loved. Those who administered that judgment, I’m sure, considering the state of frenzy they were in, would have preferred that the earth open its mouth and swallow us up! I am not jesting! One leader (Weyman Zelder) in a vehemently delivered speech at a previous camp gathering (Hartland) exclaimed, “We don’t have the authority to stone people to death today, but we can mark them to be avoided!”
Thus began a statewide “house-cleaning” that was to continue for a couple years, involving many, many more families. Robert Grove in a message given during that inquisition made the frigid remark that he’s “not the least bit concerned if it gets down to just three or four of us who are standing true to God!” John Morey was present on that occasion and apparently didn’t object. In ridding itself of the “leaven” that was creating a bubble of gas in the “only viable representation of Christ’s church on earth today,” (Robert’s terminology, which ipso facto makes him an elite leader indeed in the body of Christ!) the leaders of this religious movement persisted in maintaining that the purpose for their “disciplining” us was to produce “a clean and quick restoration to fellowship.”
It didn’t happen! Eighteen years later not a single soul has returned to place themselves under the lordship of those men or to breathe the stale air of such an exclusive environment. My family and I have been richly blessed since our departure from that group (something contrary to the “evils” prophesied!), and we are rejoicing in the liberty the Lord has so graciously called us to. We still hear echoes of slanderous sayings about us, but that only serves to make us more thankful for the Lord’s deliverance.
Posted on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 5:29 pm:
To Allen, who senses the need for Christian fellowship.
I append these thoughts to the encouraging words you received from Jennie, Betty and Richard. Many of us who walked away from or were put out of that legalistic, authoritarian religious group experienced for the first time in our Christian lives a real spiritual loneliness. “What do we do now?” was our collective cry. It took a while, but the realization finally sank in that we actually were ALONE with God! That’s a good place to be. Take advantage of it. Spend all the time there you need. But sooner or later our heavenly Father decides it’s time for us to get acquainted with more of our brothers and sisters we haven’t met. They need us and we need them! It’s a great adventure.
For many years after the inquisition of ’85 & ’86 we organized and held camp gatherings in central and southern California on an annual basis. These camps were a blessing and encouragement to all of us. In the process of time many of us became involved with Christian assemblies in our respective communities and the need for the camps diminished. Some of us still gather annually at camps sponsored by other Christian organizations, such as Mt. Hermon in California, or Hume Lake. A brother in Oregon has graciously opened his property for camp gatherings there.
Allen, you ask, “Do we know of any Christians ‘meeting in the name of the Lord’ in your area?” Frankly, I believe all sincere believers meet wherever and however in their Saviour’s Name. The terminology you use is not found in the Bible. It is a cliché rooted in the text of Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” The context there has to do with holy living. We live out our lives as representatives of Jesus Christ. By his authority and for his honor and glory we simply live in his Name. Sectarian minds have merely adopted that phrase to distinguish their little sect from those much bigger. It is ironic, indeed, that those who claim to have no name but meet in His Name must incorporate under Caesar’s laws in their own names in order to function . You figure that one out!
As an aside, we have in Betty Dunton a real jewel! Mention was made of her aunt and uncle, the LaForces. She lived with them for many years. Earl LaForce had a big impact on my life before I was married when I worked in Florida. I’ve always maintained great respect for him. But now for the rest of the story.
Earl was born in 1899 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the son of Joseph LaForce (or LeFors as he was then known). Joe’s career included adventures as a Pony Express rider, a detective chasing train robbers, a hard-riding cowpoke, a livestock inspector trailing rustlers and even a private “eye” running down extortionists. But he was best known as the deputy U.S. marshal who elicited from the notorious Tom Horn the confession which led to his conviction and hanging as a murderer, and as the stock inspector hired by the states of Wyoming and Montana who trailed Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid into the “Hole-in-the-Wall” country of Utah. As depicted in the movie, they greatly feared him and opted for South America. In that operation he cleaned up the whole rustler infested, gun bristling area of Montana and Wyoming. And for those of you who have traveled through Grand Teton National Park and stopped at the Snake River Overlook and gazed down upon “Deadman’s Bar,” there’s another story to tell. Two gold miners were murdered on that sand bar and it was Joe LeFors who tracked the killer down and shot him dead in a gun fight! It was said of Joe by those who knew him well, that “He was the best. He didn’t know what fear was. He was quick on the draw and one of the crack shots in the west. He never quit and was about one of the toughest birds a man could tie into in this country.”
Posted on Thursday, September 02, 2004 - 5:19 pm:
Perhaps I can fill in a few blank spaces regarding Robert Grove’s convoluted rise to power. As reported by Dana, John Morey’s resume of the leadership question is quite accurate. It boils down to the desire to lead and “filling a need.” In a small assembly where speaking responsibilities are rotated, an assertive and aggressive man can easily command a following. Most Christians don’t enjoy being in the limelight and gladly abdicate leadership responsibilities to those who do. And where there are no biblically qualified elders to provide a balance, the rise to the top progresses unhindered.
The small assembly in the Tulare/Visalia community provided such a platform for Robert. He worked his way up from dishwasher to cook to camp director to Spiritual leader. He gathered to his side a few “faithful” men who vouched for his theories, thus paving the way for their general acceptance. He believed sexual sin was “the root of all evil,” among assembly members, and together with Gordy Grant made the systematic examination of one’s sex life their number one priority. He was never a favorite son in the more liberal Los Angeles area, frequently butting heads with John Morey, Allan Johnson and others. And he soon wore out his welcome in Tulare where his ideas on how the assembly should be run were usually voted down.
In the fall of 1976, he announced his intention of moving to Virginia. This was not a sudden, fortuitous decision. He had spent time during the previous two or three summers in Virginia getting acquainted with the territory. James Cox, the shepherd of the flock there, was having problems, a wayward son among them. Robert undoubtedly analyzed the situation and saw an opportunity. A farewell party was held in Tulare for the Groves and the Lincicums (Nip & Mary) who were moving to Phoenix. Most of the testimonials and heartfelt expressions on that occasion were directed to the Lincicums, the Groves presence hardly noticed. This can be verified by many who were present and gives credence to Robert’s statement to Richard that he moved to Virginia “for a fresh start. The people in California have long memories.”
The demise of James Cox followed very soon after Robert’s arrival. It seems that a separation had occurred in 1969 and 1970 involving many families. “In spite of known carnality in the lives of many” they had never been “marked.” James apparently was pressured into conducting a belated “indiscriminate and wholesale marking of at least five related families and of all others who would not accept that marking.”
James apparently had a change of heart concerning this action, because in a men’s meeting on Nov. 28, 1976, chaired by Jack Langford and Robert Grove, he stated “that he has changed his position with regard” to the markings and said “he is no longer able to stand with the rest of the church and his previously held convictions to avoid these Christians.” At that meeting James Cox, along with Randy Robbins, Bill LeFever, Arvil Hunt and Bill Hull, were marked for their “pride” and “absolute rebellion against church authority and proven leadership.” Allen a.k.a.’s comments seem to accurately portray what was happening at that time. My information was gleaned from the marking letter dated 1/30/77 and a letter written by James Cox dated 12/12/76.
It is interesting to note that the signatures of Robert Grove and Bob Harrison appear together on that document. Their collaboration was already entrenched. It is also interesting that Jack Langford was summoned from Texas to head that tribunal. His position as presiding Bishop of the “Church which is Christ’s Body” was firmly established by then. From Virginia, Robert Grove, now fully enshrined as the East coast leader, could with impunity dictate to his West coast cronies his every whim. Gordy Grant’s sons will vouch that their father’s long distance telephone bills ran into the hundreds of dollars every month!
Posted on Tuesday, September 07, 2004 - 9:09 pm:
At that camp meeting in Santa Maria, Dec. 1985, we were told that Jack showed up unannounced. I'm sure some of the men knew (Gordy Grant, Dave Bowin, etc.) that he was coming, but most claimed they didn't know. A meeting was held with Jack the night before camp to discuss what action to take against me. Apparently Jack would blast me publicly at the Saturday morning meeting, then they were to hold a men's meeting with me that afternoon.
After Jack's tyrannical performance, publicly endorsed by several men (Dwight Stevens, Russell Ross, etc.) Jack and several of the men approached me at the rear of the auditorium and demanded that I appear at the men's meeting scheduled for that afternoon at a time when John Morey and others would be there. I said to Jack, "haven't you gone about this backwards? You publicly castigated me and poisoned me in the eyes of everybody, then you want to try me! It's too late for that. I won't keep my family here, subjecting them to the treatment they'll receive." The response was, "We just want your answer to two questions. Will you retract your study on Romans 16 which was like spreading gasoline on a wildfire? And are you going to stand with the men in the markings at Tulare?" I said, "My answer to both questions is, NO!" Gordy yelled out, "Mark him, Jack, mark him!"
That's the way it ended, Shane. I was convicted by my own words for "heresy" and "not obeying leadership." Of course, the whole episode was shear folly. I'm not interested in a re-trial or renewed negotiations with any of those men. I would like to see that whole body truly repent for the way they have mistreated so many of their brothers and sisters in Christ. But even then I would be inclined to keep my distance. The only true cure for their disease, I'm afraid, is the change that will take place when we're all clothed with immortality!
Posted on Monday, August 15, 2005 - 11:20 pm:
Most accept it [The doctrine of divorce and remarriage as promulgated by Robert A. Grove et al.] as being true, not because they can actually prove it, but simply out of admiration and respect for leadership. This respect has been so high that most forget (or don’t want to take the time) to be “noble Bereans” and “prove all things.” And finally, the endorsement by numerous brethren in leadership gives it a semblance of solid authenticity so that it can be accepted by all the assemblies. Truth, on the other hand, seemingly, always stands alone. It is rarely endorsed by any one and doesn’t ask for such. Being born of Divine revelation, truth will eventually and beautifully display its own merit in the heart and lives of those who yearn for it and walk in it. –
[Jack W. Langford, May 28, 1997]
Jack’s concluding remark in his rebuttal of Robert’s innovative sanctioning of divorce and remarriage got my attention also, albeit for somewhat different reasons. The crisis that developed in certain California assemblies during the years 1984, ’85 and ’86 can be directly attributed to an inordinate “admiration and respect for leadership.” Jack at that time was at the pinnacle of power in assemblies across the nation, usurping apostolic authority, the office of which he himself didn’t believe existed in the church today. A few of us didn’t shrink from our responsibility to be “noble Bereans,” but we were overwhelmed by this “semblance of solid authenticity” that demanded such high “respect for leadership,” fallible and faulty though it was. The “truth” we advocated at that time fell on deaf ears also, but it “eventually and beautifully” displayed itself “in the heart and lives of those of us who yearned for it and walked in it.”
In those days Jack forsook the role of a godly servant and lorded it over the flock like the “rulers of the Gentiles,” like a modern day Diotrephes. Was it in ignorance that he defied the Lord’s plea: “Not so with you, Jack, not so?” No! We constantly tried to remind him of that. I vividly remember the December camp in Santa Maria when Jack hewed me to pieces before 600 brothers and sisters in Christ, with my wife and children present, and then afterward had the gall to insist that I appear at a men’s meeting that very afternoon to present my case. Years later, when Jack was setting the date for the rapture of the church, brethren gathered in Texas to deal with him on that subject. Jack (alluding to Brother Maurice’s warfare) felt he was first mistreated and “hewed to pieces” and then “asked if he wanted to present his case.” Such is the trademark of hypocrisy.
In his cover letter to his rebuttal of Robert et al., Jack claimed that he would stand guilty before God if he didn’t speak out. “Especially is this true,” he said, “as I thought not only of my own physical family, but of all my Christian family who has been exposed to this teaching. I realized that I owe it to the Christian family to give what I see regardless of any consequences to me personally.” Would to God, as a true servant of Christ, he could have viewed our situation in the same light before he carried out his inquisitions. In closing this same letter, he said, “God commands His children to ‘prove (or test) all things.’” He scoffed when we endeavored to likewise obey God in exercising this responsibility. “Obey leadership, right or wrong” was the retort of those who held leadership in high esteem.
It appears that Jack was rather dubious about the twenty-two additional names appended to the original document: "Brethren who have been a part of coming to the conclusions presented in this study," according to Robert. Jack knew that the "part" most of them played in the preparation of that document was to function merely as rubber stamps, not true authenticators. But Jack, as usual, forgot that he routinely applauded those same men (and many more) as they in unison solemnly ratified his iniquitous acts, to the consternation of his many victims.
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