Mark Driscoll protest – updated*


KIRO reports…

“Former members of Mars Hill Church are planning to protest on Sunday at the Bellevue location.  They say the pastor, Mark Driscoll, is on a power trip.

“It’s not about Jesus. It’s about this hierarchical authoritarian regime,” said former member Rob Smith.

Smith and his wife attended Mars Hill from 2002-2007. Smith says he was asked to be an elder, then all of a sudden he was forced out of the church after he had a disagreement with Pastor Mark Driscoll. “He said I will destroy you and used language a pastor should never use,” said Smith.

Smith says he was shunned, completely cut off from the church community.

He also says he’s not alone, he says the number of people kicked out and shunned by Mars Hill is in the hundreds and believes Driscoll is to blame.

Driscoll recently posted a video for member addressing the recent problems in the church.  “A lot of the people we are dealing with in this season remain anonymous so we don’t know how to reconcile,” said Driscoll.

“Which is just a bold face lie. They know who we are, that was just a tipping point,” said Smith about the video. He says Driscoll knows exactly who he has hurt. To remind him, former members plan to gather on Sunday morning with signs saying, ” Question Mark!”

They’ve also started a Facebook page called, “Dear Pastor Mark & Mars Hill: We Are Not Anonymous.”

The page had 524 members as of Wednesday night.

With so many former members upset, a rant posted by Mark Driscoll  years ago, using his alter ego “William Wallace II,”  resurfaced. It’s called “Pussified Nation.”  He wrote, “It all began with Adam, the first of the pussified nation, who kept his mouth shut and watched everything fall headlong down the slippery slide of hell/feminism when he shut his mouth and listened to his wife.”

Smith say Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll tried to get every copy of the rant from 2000 deleted, but someone still had it. Someone posted it in response to the recent dischord in the church.

Driscoll talks about how he would post using the name “William Wallace II” in his book on marriage. The book has been the center of controversy too. Mars Hill used $200,000 of church money to get Driscoll’s book on the best seller list.  Driscoll’s also been accused of plagiarism.

KIRO-7 wanted to interview Mark Driscoll tonight. The church website says he’s not doing interviews for the rest of this year. KIRO-7 asked why Driscoll isn’t available for five months, “To reset his life and take time to focus on the local church and his family, Pastor Mark stated earlier this year that he will stay off social media, and do less interviews and events at least through the end of the year, ” said Mars Hill spokesman Justin Dean.

Dean also said the church wouldn’t comment on the protest planned for Sunday, “We would prefer not to comment on a potential protest at a Mars Hill weekend service. We recognize fully that there are wide-ranging views and opinions about our church and our pastor and we acknowledge the right for anyone to disagree with us on any and all issues-we would only ask that they do so peaceably and respectful of those who do choose to worship with us,” said Dean.

Smith says he’s tried to talk to Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill leadership and they will not meet with him.

“It is you do as we say. If you don’t do as we say we will throw you out in a harmful way and shun you,” said Smith.

The protest is planned for Sunday at 10 a.m. at Mars Hill in Bellevue.”





Access denied – updated*


The ABC reports…

“Victoria has banned religious organisations from running prayer groups, handing out Bibles and delivering other unauthorised information sessions in state schools during school hours.

The directive has been issued by the Education Department under recent changes to the delivery of Special Religious Instruction (SRI) to students in public schools.

A government spokeswoman said the directive only affected religious activities that were run by unaccredited teachers or external groups.

But Dan Flynn from the Australian Christian Lobby said the guidelines appeared to cover all activities by students.

“In the SRI policy, the formal wording appears to ban prayer groups, youth groups, clubs, info sessions or workshops,” Mr Flynn said.

“It says that those forums or the events constitute promotion of specific religions in schools outside SRI and are not permitted.

“It’s one thing to say that education in state schools should be secular – we agree with that – but it’s quite another step to drive any religion out of schools, particularly at lunch time when the children are free to form their own clubs and do their own activities.

“This is a serious limitation on freedom of association, freedom of religion for high school students and state school students.”

Parent Lara Wood from Fairness In Religions In Schools (FERIS) said the claim that students’ rights were being infringed was “absurd”.

“It’s not against any individual students of faith expressing their faith or bringing a Bible into school and praying,” Ms Wood said.

“These new clarifications of the law are saying that religious groups and corporations can not use our schools as mission fields to come in and use the schools as an extension to operate their youth ministry.

“This is really no different then if the Minister of Education said to the Liberal or Labor Party that you can’t go into schools at lunch time and hold political rallies.”

The changes to the religious instruction policy were prompted by a report that found the state’s key provider Access Ministries had breached its guidelines by handing out a so-called “Biblezine” containing homophobic material.

Under the guidelines, which came into effect this month, accredited instructors are permitted to teach a maximum of 30 minutes religious instruction per week, as part of the scheduled curriculum.

But the Government’s School Policy Advisory Guide stated that religious instruction could not be taught in schools outside of these approved classes.

SRI cannot and does not take the form of prayer groups, youth groups, clubs, information sessions, or workshops… Any other forums or activities as noted above, would constitute promotion of specific religions in schools outside SRI, and are not permitted.

It would also be against the guidelines for anyone, including approved providers, to distribute “religious texts (e.g. Bibles)”.

However the rules would not stop students from learning about religious celebrations, such as Christmas, Eid or Hanukkah.

Students may be taught about a religious celebration, festival, special event etc., as part of the general religious education curriculum at a school by government school teachers.

This may include recognition of and educational activities relating to key religious celebrations such as Christmas, Eid, Hanukkah and others.

And students would not be prevented from praying.

For the avoidance of doubt, students engaging in prayer in observation of their religion at lunchtimes is not SRI as there is no element of “instruction”.

Such prayer cannot be led, conducted by or at the instruction of staff or parents/visitors/volunteers.

Ms Wood said under the new guidelines, parents must also now give their written consent for their children to attend SRI via a new government-approved form.

She said that while religious instruction had been opt-in in Victoria since 2011, the new forms would make it clear to parents the difference between religious education and instruction.

“Many parents have been under the false impression that it’s education about many religions, and we’ve always believed that once parents know the facts they’ll make an informed choice,” Ms Wood said.

“It does give informed consent now to parents and lets them know that it is instruction in how to live according to that particular faith that they’re learning about, not education.”



Death of a believer



The Sydney Morning Herald reports…

“Australia’s media watchdog has reprimanded Channel Seven’s Today Tonight for inaccurately suggesting a doctor treated his dying mother with prayer and hymns, rather than medical care.

The segment, “Death of a Believer”, first aired in March last year, reported on a woman who died after a stroke in 2010 while living in a religious community near Inverell, in northern NSW. 

The 11-minute story suggested Irene Maendel’s church community, the Bruderhof, and her doctor son, Chris Maendel, failed to provide adequate medical care, preferring prayer and singing.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority ruled this claim breached the accuracy requirements in the act governing commercial television.

Shortly before the story went to air, a medical tribunal had found Dr Maendel guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct for not taking his mother to hospital for CT scans. 

But the tribunal found him not guilty of the more severe charge of misconduct.

Dr Maendel had provided competent palliative care, believing his mother would not have wanted aggressive treatment. He had not opted for palliative care on the basis of any church belief. 

An ACMA spokesperson said the case had been highly complex, with dozens of aspects to consider. 

Channel Seven agreed to remove the segment from its websites and link to the ACMA decision for three months. 
The ruling will feature in future Channel Seven training.”

Creflo Dollar plants Australian church – updated*


The Christian Post reports…

“Pastor Creflo Dollar of World Changers International Church has joined the list of megchurches using satellite technology to spread the Gospel and expand their ministries globally, by planting a new congregation on Australia’s Gold Coast, his ministry’s first-ever international plant.

While the megachurch pastor already has a presence in Australia through his Creflo Dollar Ministries, the church is the premiere World Changers fellowship, or satellite church to launch in the Asia-Pacific country. Just two months after Dollar revealed his plans for the new congregation, World Changers Church International Gold Coast officially launched on Sunday, June 22.

Dollar does not minister at the church in person, but instead his sermons are streamed live from World Changers Church International’s New York City campus during Gold Coast worship services. Live broadcasts or high-definition videos have been long employed by U.S. churches with multi-campuses in the United States and abroad as a means of unifying congregations.

“If the technology had existed in Paul’s day, he would have used it. The technology exists in our day. We’re going to use it,” Dollar declared in an announcement earlier this year about his plans to launch the Gold Coast fellowship. He also expressed hope to one day transition to holographic technology, an example of which was seen at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards with a “live” Michael Jackson performance.

A World Changers Church International representative informed The Christian Post via email that although Dollar was not involved in the daily on-the-ground activities of WCCI Gold Coast, the pastor “is involved with the vision, direction, leading and preaching as well as assigning teams to assist.”

Peter and Kim Cooper, said to have been employed by Creflo Dollar Ministries Asia Pacific for the past five years, oversee the new Gold Coast congregation. “They have worked in all departments from Production, Partner Relations, Design & Marketing, and Information Processing to Office Management,” the WCCI representative added.

As for what led Pastor Dollar to develop this new WCCI fellowship, CP was told it was due to the Georgia preacher’s “passion to share the Gospel of Grace around the world.”

“It was only a matter of time before he started an international fellowship. After (being) led by God to launch internationally, he explained at his book signing event … that the Gold Coast would be the first (international fellowship). He further expressed how special the Gold Coast is to him, as it was the first place he visited, preached at and opened an office in Australia,” the representative explained, declining to be identified by name.

The Gold Coast, located in the state of Queensland, is home to more than 513,000 residents and is Australia’s sixth largest city. According to the government website, it is also very diverse, with nearly 28 percent of the city’s population counted as immigrants. The tourist-magnet city also is home to at least two dozen other Protestant churches, according to online listings.

An average of 50 adults and 10 children have been worshipping at WCCI Gold Coast since its inaugural service at the local Southport Community Centre. Pastor Dollar, whose goal is “to teach the word of God with understanding, grace and empowering change,” aims to develop within the Gold Coast fellowship a children’s ministry, youth ministry, marriage ministry and various outreach ministries to meet the needs of the local community.

Gold Coast residents who learned of the local WCCI launch via Facebook welcomed Dollar’s new congregation.

“Welcome to the Gold Coast! We are praying for you all, how wonderful to see the Body of Christ working together to complete His Work! His Name shall be praised and glorified and proclaimed throughout all the earth! Glory! Have a great service!” wrote Chanel King, a local resident who attends Harvest Faith Family Church.

The WCCI representative shared with CP that some worshippers participating in Gold Coast services travel nearly two hours to partake in the fellowship. One participant, identified as Cheryl Wedlock, was said to have told the ministry that the new Gold Coast congregation was the answer to her three-year prayer:

“…I have not been to a church for over (three) years. I have been praying for God to show me where He wanted me to go. I would constantly say to God (almost on a daily basis), ‘God, if I lived in the States, I would go to Creflo’s church.’ I have been to the States many times, so I handed God, what I thought was an impossible prayer, but there is nothing impossible with God. He brought Creflo to me and right to my door step, yes that’s right, I live in Southport, (five) minutes away from the fellowship.”

Creflo and Taffi Dollar explain on the WCCI website, “We are committed to making a mark that cannot be erased, locally and globally, by serving as a world missions and outreach center. Our goal is to empower billions of people in over 100 countries around the world to experience victory in every area of their lives.”

Future sites of World Changers Church International global fellowships are Toronto, Canada and Johannesburg, South Africa, according to the megachurch’s representative. Dollar’s online biography states that the minister’s ultimate goal is to establish 500 satellite churches around the world.

Dollar’s World Changers International Church has dozens of fellowship, or satellite churches in the United States, and Creflo Dollar Ministries offices in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada and elsewhere around the globe. The megachurch pastor’s headquarters, however, remains the College Park campus, while his New York City congregation recently upgraded to a new worship facility.

The WCCI church in College Park alone counts about 30,000 people among its membership, and the New York City congregation attracts 6,000 worshippers weekly. Pastor Dollar founded World Changers Church International in 1986, with his first service held in a College Park, Georgia, school cafeteria with just eight people.

Although Dollar’s ministry remains popular, the pastor’s teachings prove controversial with some Christians for what critics say is an emphasis on prosperity. Dollar was among six mega-preachers targeted in 2007 by the Senate Committee on Finance for possible abuse of his church and ministry’s nonprofit status. The Christian ministers were under no legal obligation to comply with the committee’s inquiry, although some voluntarily submitted information on their financial dealings. Dollar was adamant in his refusal to provide any information about his nonprofit organizations, and was identified as “the least cooperative” by the Senate committee.

Dollar, who told The Associated Press in 2007 that he no longer takes a salary from his church, has taught that “prosperity is a result of God’s blessing. And poverty is a curse, the result of disobeying God.” In a recent sermon series, however, titled “Grace Based-Prosperity,” Dollar insists, “Society’s definition of prosperity is limited to finances; however, God’s definition of prosperity means wholeness.”


The church for people who don’t like church


The Telegraph reports…

“Viewed from the outside, the pointy-roofed building in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee deep in the heart of America’s Bible Belt, looks very much like a church.

And stepping inside, where a congregation is swaying along to music, listening to sermons and discussing ways to help their local community, it sounds very much like a church, too.

There is, however, one rather fundamental missing ingredient that sets this congregation apart from the hundreds of others turning out to worship this Sunday morning in Nashville: this is a church without God.

“I pass seven big churches between my house and the main road two miles away, there are plenty of churches in Nashville, but we needed a place for us,” says David Lyle, a founder-member of the Nashville branch of the “Sunday Assembly” secular church movement.

Started in London in January 2013 by a pair of British stand-up comedians, Sunday Assembly offers a church experience but without the ‘God part’ and, according to organisers, it is starting to catch on in America.

Sanderson Jones, one of the London co-founders, says that almost 400 towns from Sao Paulo to Singapore are now expressing interest in setting up an Assembly, and more than 150 of these are in America.

“People hear about it and email saying ‘I’ve been waiting for this my entire life’,” he says. “It turns out that loads of us had this idea, we were just the ones who were stupid enough to try it.”

The movement is non-profit, founded with £12,000 in crowd-sourced funding and a £7,000 grant, and it has resonated not just on America’s liberal coasts, but also in conservative places like Nashville, where non-believers are a beleaguered minority.

It also hopes to tap into a rising tide of secularisation which – for all the continued power of the US religious right – now sees almost a third of Americans under-29 saying they have no religious affiliation. These are the so-called “fuzzy faithful”.

For Kris Tyrell, a 28-year-old atheist who was raised as a Catholic in Jamaica but brings up her six-year-old daughter, Kai, outside any faith, the Sunday Assembly provides a welcome opportunity to belong to something without having to believe.

“We came here from South Florida where religion was a ‘thing’, but nothing like it is here. It’s difficult for my daughter in a class full of kids saying ‘I’m thankful for my Jesus’ and she wants to know why we are different. So this is something for us,” she says.

While the Nashville congregation is mostly atheist – several joke about being “recovering Fundamentalists” – it is also careful not to be aggressively so.

Adam Newton, a 38-year-old musician whose marriage broke up when he lost his faith, describes the group as “radically inclusive” – positively embracing a life without God, not looking to run down the faithful.

“The idea is why not steal all the good bits about church – the music, the fellowship, the community work – and lose the God stuff,” he says. “Luther said ‘why should the Devil have all the good tunes’. We kind of feel that way about the church.”

The Nashville group, conscious of the continued stigma attached to atheism in bible-minded places, also does public works, providing a monthly meal for the homeless and rounding up volunteers to clean up a local creek.

“Not having a church doesn’t mean I don’t have a moral code,” says Landry Butler, a 46-year-old graphic designer who co-founded the Nashville branch. “I want to get away from this idea that ‘you have to have God to be good’. You don’t.”

The group’s monthly service is held in an old church building that is now used as a recording studio and, under a rubric laid out in a charter from London headquarters, they rotate the master of ceremonies role to avoid any one person or charismatic individual taking over the show.

This weekend Mrs Tyrell is leading, and she introduces the movement for the sake of any first-timers in the audience. “Sunday Assembly is all about coming together to celebrate the one life we know we have,” she says, “our motto is ‘Live better, Help Often, and Wonder More’.”

It is a snappy formulation which sets Sunday Assembly apart from a long history of secular churches, according to James Croft of the Humanist Community Project at Harvard and a leading scholar on humanist movement.

“Atheist congregations need to update their business models, and they haven’t for 140 years,” says Mr Croft, referring to the Ethical Culture Movement, a network of atheist congregations set up by the son of New York Rabbi that is still around today.

“Most humanist congregations are all classical music and long talks on some social concern; a hymn or 60s protest song maybe,” he adds. “The Sunday Assembly model is more like an Evangelical Christian church but without God. Music and clapping, active participation, short talks, humour and pop music.”

The service or the “show” (no-one is quite sure what to call it) fairly fizzes along, although there is a long moment’s silence, at which the congregation is invited to “turn down their inner volume knob” and, in a little dig at the idea that only God can bring meaning, “be grateful to this impersonal universe that you have a place, and people in it that love you.”

But mostly the emphasis is upbeat and life-affirming. At one point members of the congregation are literally dancing in the aisles as the band plays a cover of Jesus Jones’s “Right Here, Right Now” before speakers step up to “share” on a range of topics around the theme of “balance”.

One member talks about coping with depression; then a life-coach talks about the importance of self-knowledge that isn’t narcissism while a third – it being Mother’s Day – talks movingly about his mother’s battle with an abusive husband and his decision to respect, not mock her Christian faith.

It all ends with a quotation from Albert Einstein – “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving” – before coffee and doughnuts are served, followed by lunch at a local Southern barbecue restaurant.

Soon the hall is filled with running children, suddenly released from the discipline of having to sit through the service, a joyous cacophony which also points to one unavoidable similarity between going to Sunday Assembly and going to church.

“The kids still moan about it,” admits Craig Mueller, a lapsed Catholic who has four children under 10 and comes to the service because he enjoys the sense of community. “I tell my nine-year-old son, it’s time to go to Sunday Assembly and he’s like ‘argh, no, boring’.”


The assembled multitude


The ABC reports…

“A four-year investigation by the ABC has uncovered shocking claims of abuse and torment in relation to NSW-based registered charity and religious group Christian Assemblies International (CAI).

Tonight’s Four Corners reveals that self-styled religious guru Pastor Scott Williams was using his warped brand of evangelical Pentecostalism to run a clandestine homosexual sex ring while allegedly misusing vast amounts of member donations for personal use.

Courageous former members break their silence and tell of their torment living inside the group, which they say is not a Christian church but a horrendous cult run by one man.

The ex-members have remained in the shadows until now out of fear and shame. They detail shocking acts of abuse ranging from spiritual abuse, financial abuse, verbal and physical abuse, and the sexual abuse of adult men.

They say bizarre sexual rituals were carried out in secret by Williams, who described himself as “The Anointed One” with the Lord’s authorisation to sidestep biblical commands against homosexuality and sexually train his male members into submission and obedience.

Four Corners approached Williams, whose full name is Anthony Scott Williams, and senior people in the church. All declined requests for interviews and refused to answer the program’s questions.

The CAI is one of more than 60,000 registered charities in Australia and Four Corners can reveal it has been investigated by multiple authorities around the world.

But until now, the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC) had no idea of the systemic abuse and allegations of corruption regarding the CAI, despite other authorities in Australia being alerted and informed of possibly illegal acts several years ago.

ACNC head Susan Pascoe has pledged to take immediate action.

“This is clearly one that we’ve been alerted to by the media, and in that instance we would certainly be investigating,” she said.

“If there was evidence that this was not acting in a charitable way or causing serious harm, then the charity can be deregistered.”

It is a pledge that should strike fear into the current leadership of the CAI, of which Williams is still a director.

The CAI headquarters may be in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, but the organisation began in the small German town of Feldafing in the late 1970s.

Former members say they were recruited by Williams as teenagers and young adults, with many still at school. They say they were brainwashed into believing Williams was The Anointed One, filled with the Holy Spirit and gifted with the divine power of healing.

Williams was working in Feldafing as a pool attendant at a military school for young men.

Steve Forkin was converted when he was 17. He says Williams paid special attention to young males.

“He was an Australian obviously and I’d never met anyone from Australia at that point in my life,” Mr Forkin said.

“He was very charismatic. He was very friendly. He was very outgoing, quite fun-loving, to be honest. Initially he presented himself as a missionary who’d come to Germany with a calling from God to start a church there.

“He’s very, very eloquent when it comes to knowledge of the Bible as such, and of course the flipside of that coin is that in Bavaria kids have no concept of the Bible and very little concept of religion per se, so really he could have told us anything and we would have believed it.”

Once introduced to Williams, usually through a church meeting or a weekend barbecue, Mr Forkin says Williams began to brainwash people.

“At that stage his message was that the world was going to come to an end very soon and that we didn’t have much time and we needed to convert as many people as possible before the return of Jesus,” he said.

“Also his message was very much predominating around that Russia would invade Germany, a third world war would break out, and he brought up all sorts of scriptures from the Old Testament to prove his prophetic statements.”

Gunther Frantz, Williams’s first convert in Germany, says he was 12 when he began to be indoctrinated. He says Williams brainwashed him into doing almost anything.

“He had such power over people,” Mr Frantz said.

“His beautiful saying was always, ‘I’m gonna convert the German nation, this time to do a better deed instead of what Hitler did – a bad deed’.”

Williams’s core beliefs included a strict literal adherence to the Bible and a highly conservative lifestyle.

Upon baptism, members would often speak in tongues. As part of their membership, they were expected to donate 10 per cent of their gross income to the CAI in addition to many different offerings every year.

Four Corners has spoken to more than a dozen men around the world who all claim they were pressured and led to perform sex acts against their will by Williams.

Warping biblical scripture to carry out perverse sexual acts, Williams began to hold regular men’s nights. During these nights, the males attending would be asked to undress and participate in mass massage sessions.

Former members have told Four Corners that Williams would often be in the centre of the group receiving massages and caresses from a male member of the church.

Mr Frantz says he was often present and forced to take part by Williams.

“I think the biggest one I ever remember was 80 males in rooms covered only in naked bodies, and everybody giving massages,” he said.

“And Scott always had his personal private room with one or two at the end of any of those sessions. And then at two o’clock he sends everybody out of the room and out of everywhere else and he usually picks somebody to stay with him, to get more training.”

Four Corners has been told that Williams would choose a man to stay back with him and spend the night with him, ordering them to surrender and submit to him for the Lord’s training.

He would then order them to perform sex acts on him during a personal naked massage and during naked showers.

The shocking ritual played out for more than two decades, with victims believing they were the only ones suffering at the hands of Williams.

Mr Frantz says he, like other men, never consented to the sexual acts and that it could happen to anyone.

“It’s possible. It happened to me. And I’m not the only one,” he said.

Mr Frantz says the number of possible victims is staggering.

“Firstly, he made himself rich, and secondly, he has groomed people, particularly men and boys, boys to start off and kids, for his own pleasure,” he said.

“The Pentecostal church which he represents is just … a facade which he has built to build his own kingdom.”

Underlying it all was the peculiar policy created and described by Williams as a “bundschaft”, a special relationship between two men.

Mr Forkin said the policy of the bundschaft was mandatory for all senior men in the CAI. Men had to have a male partner if they were to be trusted, and their bond was above that of husband and wife.

“Well, it’s basically a German word for the English word covenant,” Mr Forkin said.

“So in his, in CAI terminology, it’s a very special connection between two men, a very close friendship really, but it’s more than that. It’s like a lifelong commitment.

“So Scott would probably view that as a marriage without a marriage certificate, but in his eyes even if a man was married to another woman, the bundschaft friend was more appropriate and more valid to him than his own marriage.”

Williams, now 70, is living with his wife Ree in a luxury apartment in the beachfront Pacific Towers complex in Coffs Harbour. It is one of many properties Williams purchased using money donated by church members who believed much of it was being used for charitable purposes.

Today, the CAI boasts an impressive multi-million-dollar property portfolio including Pitversie House and Douglas House, a hotel in Abernethy, Scotland.

All were renovated to luxurious standards by church members, who have told Four Corners they worked hundreds of hours updating the properties while Williams monitored their work and punished them for any mistakes or minor misdemeanours.

Katja Forkin was recruited into the Assembly as a teenager living in Germany. She says women and men were expected to work on the properties night and day, and if they did not they would be severely punished or excommunicated.

She says life in the Assembly got worse once Williams began to purchase more and more properties.

“It started to change once the Assembly owned properties in Scotland, because basically all we did from then is just work on the properties, renovating, looking after Scott and Ree more or less, and everything evolved around their lives,” she said.

“So the little spare time that we had sort of dwindled away more and more to the point that we started to have less and less connections to the outside.”

As members disconnected from the outside world, following Williams around the world and moving away from family and friends, they say their leader’s language and demeanour began to change.

Former members have told Four Corners they were regularly denigrated and humiliated, losing their self-identity, confidence and sense of self.

Klaus Tishcer says it happened gradually.

“As the years went on and he was sort of more sure that things were going his way or going the Lord’s way, then he was more confident to express that we were a waste of space, useless heathen and would burn in hell and “the devil would rip our balls off” in a man’s case, or in females other words were used,” he said.

Mr Frantz says there was extreme pressure applied to members to donate regularly to the church, in addition to 10 per cent of their gross income.

Over the years, an estimated $20 million to $25 million flowed into the Assembly by way of donations or tithes. If you did not give enough you would be punished.

“You would be spoken to. There would be an investigation to find out why,” Mr Frantz said.

“And if you don’t have good enough reasons, then there could be hell, blood and fire, because you might not make it into heavenly places.”

Four Corners has counted that at one point there were up to 20 mandated donations per year and all sources of income were targeted. Senior officers were sent out to widows and pensioners to pressure them to hand over inheritances.

Church documents detail how members were to be targeted for financial contributions, with those on low incomes told to sell their property and belongings in order to give to Williams’s Assembly and to ensure he grants them salvation on judgment day.

But Assembly documents reveal something even more sinister. Four Corners has discovered members were also being fined by Williams for minor misdemeanours.

Mr Tischer worked in the finance department and was assigned to be a fine collector.

“Anybody who forgot to do their normal duties and their normal scripts and was found to be wanting that they had forgotten to do their tasks, could be fined,” he said.

“If somebody, say, did a tithe report and they didn’t send a report on time, they were fined, and I had to go and pick the tab up from all the people that were sent to me via email, ‘he is to be fined’ and so on and so forth.”

Mr Frantz says Williams introduced a disturbing culture of spying and monitoring in order to maintain control over members and their everyday lives.

Four Corners has obtained church documentation listing what members were allowed to read, what movies they were allowed to watch and what music they were allowed to listen to.

“We had a black book where people were on the black list. If they don’t perform, then they have to be excommunicated or cut off,” Mr Frantz said.

“People who didn’t, for example, abide within the certain rules, for example, people came to our house and checked the fridge, checked the house, the clothes, it was clean; if not, my ex-wife would be severely punished.”

Church documents show that Williams preached that women were Jezebels, swines, dogs and satanic beings, not to be trusted. Instead, they were to be punished.

In an extreme escalation, male members have told Four Corners that if they did not comply with Williams’s demands regarding how women were to be controlled and treated, he would order women be beaten.

Women were also routinely excommunicated and their children given to other church members to be raised temporarily.

Four Corners has also obtained church documents written by Williams detailing how women and children were to be beaten with a rod if they misbehaved.

Mr Frantz says Williams directed him to beat his then wife for not being obedient enough, something he is deeply ashamed of today. Mr Frantz says his brainwashing, like many others, was so acute that he believed Williams had ultimate power and authority on Earth.

“Otherwise we would’ve been chucked out of the church,” he said. “Otherwise we wouldn’t have been together.

“Otherwise he would’ve had the power to separate us, he would’ve had the power to eliminate our marriage, he would have had the power to excommunicate us and burn in hell.”

Sylvia Wagner, another convert originally from Germany, says she was terrified inside the Assembly.

“We were told he’s the overseer and that’s the highest instance before [God],” she said.

“He told us he will give account on judgment day on how well we have been doing and we ought not to offend him in any way because … he will give account on all his sheep.

“[If his account wasn't positive] I lived under the impression that I will burn in hell. I was often told I would burn in hell. My impression was, if I had left the church and joined another church I would possibly burn in hell because it’s not allowed to leave this church.

“I was scared.”

Ms Forkin says women were treated and used as servants inside Williams’s organisation. Their role was to cook, clean, and produce children for the Assembly. Women were told what to wear, what to cook and how to behave.

“We were supposed to be at all times what they called humble and subdued and obey our husbands,” she said.

“So they were the ones that made the decisions over us, whether they were good at what they were doing or not; that didn’t come into it. And I suppose that was the same on them, was the pressure that they were to be seen as being in charge of us.”

Katja’s husband, Steve, says women were treated as less than men.

“Women were second-rate citizens,” he said. “They were there to have children and stand in the kitchen and make food.”

Using biblical scripture, Williams also preached that children were born evil and that the evil had to beaten out of them with an iron rod.

Four Corners has spoken to many children who were born into the cult who are now adults. They detail disturbing policies of punishment, including children being publically beaten for making any noise during a Sunday sermon or for moving off a mat laid out at the front of the Assembly.

For all of the former members of the CAI who have broken their silence, they hope by going public and exposing their former leader that justice will finally be served.

Mr Frantz says CAI is not a Christian organisation, nor is it charitable, and it should not enjoy the tax-free status it currently does in Australia.

“It’s a cult,” he said. “I was abused and I didn’t understand it. For me I just thought maybe it’s me, it’s me? I just don’t understand why is this happening?

“I said to him, ‘I don’t understand why are you doing this’, and he says, ‘Well, the Bible says you’ve got to surrender, you’re my bundtling’, and all the rest of it.

“I remember the times where I begged, ‘Give me time’. He says, ‘You’re still not surrendering fully and I can’t use you and God is not gonna use you’.”

Mr Frantz now realises what happened to him was wrong. He is calling for more members of the CAI to come forward and expose the truth about the tormented regime run by Williams.

“I hope that many more people out there hear the message and have the guts to come out, because more and more people are coming out,” he said.”

“Whatever happened to you, come out and tell them about it. Go to the police. Go public. I hope people have the guts.”