What is Homestead Heritage?

Waco Tribune-Herald/May 7, 2007

Q What denomination is Homestead Heritage?

A The group does not belong to any denomination. They prefer to just call themselves Christians. However, the group draws heavily from two faith backgrounds. One is the Pentecostal church. Another is Anabaptists. An example of their Pentecostal beliefs is that people speak in tongues after receiving the Holy Spirit. Their Anabaptist leanings are reflected in their simple lifestyle and belief in nonviolence.

Q How many members does the group have?

A About 900, 500 of whom are adults.

Q Where is the group located?

A It owns 510 acres in the Chalk Bluff area. Its church and crafts village are located on the land, along with 42 homesteads that house about 270 people. Many other members live on privately owned land nearby, though some live in other parts of the county and even in Austin. The group also has a cattle ranch in Oklahoma that is operated by members.

Q Members dress differently. What are the rules?

A The overriding principle is modesty, which means not only covering the body but also not drawing attention to it in other ways.

That's why members don't wear jewelry, including wedding rings. Some do wear watches, however. Along the same lines, women don't wear makeup and keep their hair uncut and worn up. Dress customs also are gender-specific. Females wear dresses, while males keep their hair short and wear pants and shirts with collars.

Q Are there rules for what members can eat?

A The group says no foods are banned outright. But members try to follow certain guidelines. They don't believe the dietary rules are religious per se. But they do believe the Bible commands them to be good stewards of their bodies and thus eat as healthily as possible. For that reason, members observe many Old Testament dietary rules, such as not eating pork. They also avoid highly refined products, such as white flour and white sugar. They try to avoid caffeine. If members are guests and these foods are served, however, they will often eat them. And they do eat at restaurants on occasion, even fast food joints.

Q Do members go to doctors?

A Yes, members sometimes go to the doctor or hospital. But they believe many health issues can be taken care of in the community through common sense or applying traditional cures that have worked for other members in similar circumstances. The philosophy is that doctors and hospitals can be utilized but should not be relied upon.

Q Do all members home-school their children?

A Yes. The group has been home-schooling since 1977. Much of the curriculum parents use has been written by the group. But for higher grades, families also use other teaching materials that are common in home-school circles. Schooling usually stops at 17, but if the student hasn't mastered all he or she should, it can continue past that.

Q Do all members practice home birth?

A It is not a requirement, but the vast majority believe that is God's choice for their lives.

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