How a Cult-Like Church Changed a Texas Town

The Church of Wells digs in against frustrated locals
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2014 5:46 AM CST
A photo from the church's website.   (

(Newser) – Andy and Patty Groves were dying to see their daughter again. Distraught over her grandfather's death, Catherine Groves joined a cult-like church in the tiny town of Wells, Texas. So her parents drove to Wells, where Catherine, now a docile believer, would only meet them in a shotgun shack at midnight with a church "elder" present. Thus began Andy and Patty's battle with the Church of Wells—a congregation led by three twenty-something men who preach a kind of Calvinism (man is a "loathsome insect" saved only by "the mere pleasure of God") and urge its 90 members to break away from their families, Texas Monthly reports. With the sheriff's office unwilling to help, what were Andy and Patty to do?

Like other parents trying to reclaim their adult children, they sought help from local clergy. "Every family that’s called has the exact same story," says pastor Josh Luellen. "It’s identical." Frustrated, Luellen led a hundred townspeople outside the Church of Wells, singing "Oh, How I Love Jesus" as an elder shouted back, "You are false Christians!" Since then, the townspeople have boycotted church-owned businesses and the church headquarters has been sold off, KTRE reports. What's more, the local DA is investigating the death of a church baby who received prayer instead of medicine, and an elder has been arrested in New York state for aggravated harassment, reports KETK. But the church lives on, and even posted a video of Catherine's baptism. So it's a stalemate. "It would be easy for us to say they should leave town, but I wouldn’t wish them on anybody else," says Luellen. "I want them to come to the Lord truthfully." Click for the full article.

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