Answering the claim

Waco Tribune-Herald/May 8, 2007

Claim: The group stages meetings for visitors.

Response: There was a time 13 or 14 years ago when members were advised that some visitors were not accustomed to a charismatic style of worship and that it might be appropriate to respect that perspective by being relatively low-key. That's it. At no other time have such instructions been given and never has a service been "staged."

Claim: The church arbitrarily makes up and changes rules relating to dress.

Response: The church has changed its customs over time. But those changes have been for a reason and members have been involved in each decision.

One example is how members stopped wearing wedding rings. The idea was presented to the group by other churches the group fellowshipped with. When Homestead leaders researched the matter more, they learned wedding rings were a Roman custom, not a Christian custom.

Leaders then presented that information to the entire church for discussion. It was left up to individual members to decide what to do. But over the course of a year, everyone reached the decision not to wear the rings. So now no one does.

A somewhat related example is that years ago, leaders advised members they might not want to buy Levi's brand clothing. The reason was the company was advocating beliefs the church believed Christians shouldn't promote. Christians across the nation were boycotting Levi's at the time.

However, the decision whether to buy Levi's was still up to each member. And nowadays, members don't think twice about buying clothes from the company.

Claim: The group drills members before its popular fairs so that when the public asks questions, members can repeat certain answers, many of which are misleading.

Response: The group did produce a question-and-answer book aimed at fielding visitors' inquiries. But it's not meant to turn members into robots who only parrot certain answers. Instead, it's to make sure members can accurately address questions asked by outsiders.

The Bible says believers should always be ready with an answer about why they live the way they do. Homestead Heritage leaders simply seek to follow that teaching.

Claim: The group intentionally misleads people by saying no one in the fellowship has ever gotten divorced and that it disassociates or disfellowships couples contemplating a divorce to maintain that veneer.

Response: The statement isn't false, though it could benefit from better definition, group members say. No one who was married in the fellowship and continues to adhere to its patterns has ever gotten a divorce.

There have been two instances in which couples married in the fellowship divorced after leaving. There have also been a few cases in which people married before joining the group divorced afterward.

In cases of the latter, at least one spouse asked to be disassociated till the marital situation was resolved. In some cases it occurred because the other spouse was holding membership over the other's head. In other cases it was because the member knew his or her spouse's refusal to follow group patterns would have a negative impact on the community if they remained.

Claim: Homestead Heritage never preaches the Gospel.

Response: Homestead Heritage does preach what it considers to be the biblical Gospel. It just doesn't preach the gospel of "once saved, always saved."

Claim: The group's founder, Blair Adams, is obsessed with Greek mythology and blends it with Christianity in bizarre ways.

Response: The group has produced a book discussing ancient pagan societies and how they had death covenants. But the book's point is to contrast that perspective with the hope found in the Bible. No rational person reading the book could miss that, church officials say.

As for supposed prohibitions on purchasing items with a Greek name such as Tonka toys, it's not true, members insist.

Claim: The group thinks its revelations from God are so authoritative that it places more emphasis on its literature than the Bible.

Response: The group has written and produced a lot of literature and believes it has revelations to share with others. But members do not believe group writings are more authoritative than the Bible.

Claim: Anyone who criticizes the group is shunned. That applies even to family members because criticizing the group is an unpardonable offense.

Response: If someone merely criticizes the group, it should not have an impact on that person's relationship with members, as long as it is done with truth and respect. Some members have cut off contact with relatives who have spoken out against the group. But that was their choice and based on the ex-members' behavior.

Claim: The group told a member who was mowing church grounds to put away his mechanized mower and pull out the hand version because a journalist was coming.

Response: The church has used a hand mower to landscape the yard in front of its visitor center. But that is because the turf was new and required a reel mower. The church once had a mechanized reel mower, but it broke, so members went back to a hand-operated one. It had nothing to do with putting on appearances for visitors.

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