Remnant Fellowship (Gwen Shamblin)

A controversial Christian movement founded by a diet guru, linking weight loss with spiritual growth.

Remnant Fellowship was established in 1999 by Gwen Shamblin, a dietitian and author, in the wake of her successful Weigh Down Workshop, a Christian diet program that combined weight loss with spiritual teachings. Shamblin, born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, leveraged her background in dietetics and nutrition, alongside her strong Christian faith, to develop a program that encouraged individuals to turn away from food and towards God. Her program quickly gained national attention, featuring in major media outlets and resulting in the publication of the best-selling book The Weigh Down Diet​.

The church, headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee, expanded rapidly, establishing branches in over 170 cities worldwide. Remnant Fellowship’s teachings emphasize putting God’s will first, encouraging members to live fully for God. Services are webcast live from the main church, with Shamblin’s teachings forming the core of the church’s doctrine. Despite not taking a salary from the church, Shamblin’s leadership and the church’s operations have been funded through donations, product sales, and seminar fees​​.

Controversially, in 2000, Shamblin publicly rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, leading to a significant backlash from evangelical communities, the cancellation of her book publication by Thomas Nelson Publishers, and her removal from the Women of Faith website. This marked the beginning of wider scrutiny and criticism of Shamblin and Remnant Fellowship​​.

The church has faced serious accusations, particularly relating to the discipline of children within its member families. The most notorious case involved Joseph and Sonya Smith, adherents of Shamblin’s teachings, who were convicted for the murder of their eight-year-old son Josef, following extreme corporal punishment practices allegedly advocated by the church. This case brought to light the church’s teachings on child discipline, which included the use of glue sticks for punishment, a method that faced widespread criticism and legal scrutiny. Remnant Fellowship and Shamblin were investigated, but no charges were brought against the church or its leadership directly related to the case​​​​.

Gwen Shamblin’s life came to a tragic end on May 29, 2021, when she, along with her husband Joe Lara and other church leaders, died in a plane crash. The investigation concluded that the crash was caused by pilot error, specifically spatial disorientation on Joe Lara’s part​​.

Throughout its existence, Remnant Fellowship has garnered both fervent support and critical scrutiny, with its unique blend of Christian faith and weight loss principles, alongside controversial teachings on discipline and governance within its community.

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