Living Word Fellowship (The Walk)

A Christian movement that faced a major downfall due to leadership controversies and allegations of misconduct.

The Living Word Fellowship (LWF) was a Christian group that had its origins in the United States. Founded in 1951 by John Robert Stevens, the fellowship expanded from its initial location in South Gate, California to include about 100 member congregations at its peak in the 1970s.

Founding and Expansion

John Robert Stevens, who became the pastor of the Lynwood, California, Assembly of God church in the late 1940s, founded the fellowship. After experiencing a revelation that included a vision of the continuing restoration of the first-century apostolic Church, Stevens began teaching about the restoration of the Church. This teaching emphasized the Lordship of Jesus Christ and a return to the pattern of church government outlined in the New Testament. In 1951, following his departure from the Assemblies of God, Stevens established Grace Chapel of South Gate, California, the first church of what would later become The Living Word Fellowship.

Beliefs and Practices

The Living Word Fellowship focused on several key teachings, including the importance of waiting on the Lord, personal and church stewardship, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the Christian celebration of biblical feasts. Stevens’ teachings aligned with some aspects of the Latter Rain movement, particularly regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit and singing in the Spirit.

Leadership and Controversies

After Stevens’ death in 1983, the fellowship experienced a decline in membership and began closing churches throughout the 1990s. In November 2018, the fellowship announced its dissolution following sexual misconduct allegations. Gary Hargrave, who succeeded Stevens, resigned as the head of the organization amidst the scandal. Subsequently, Shiloh, which served as the headquarters of the fellowship since the 1970s, announced the end of its affiliation with The Living Word Fellowship.

Legal Issues and Lawsuits

In August 2020, five women filed lawsuits against The Living Word Fellowship, claiming sexual abuse by church officials and employees when they were minors. These lawsuits followed allegations of rampant sexual abuse within the church, as well as claims of a hypersexualized environment and assaults on children. The lawsuits detailed the operations of the church and sought compensation for the survivors’ pain, suffering, and treatment expenses.