Title: US church with chain of antique stores still working to regain Haiti orphanage permit
Identifier for the website: 10KM
Hash Tag: #uwreligions
The Church of Bible Understanding, previously known as the Forever Family, emerged in 1971 led by Stewart Traill in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It achieved a cult status because of the expectations it had on their followers: a message of “giving up one’s life in this world” is taught and leads to members either working for the organization or paying up to 90% of their income to the church as dedication.
A large focus of the church’s charity is centered in Port Au Prince, Haiti where it runs an orphanage. However in November 2012, the licence by the Haiti government has since been withdrawn due to the lack of cleanliness, overcrowding, and limited supplies, which remains unsettled. This discrepancy is surprising as the group supposedly spends $25000 every three weeks in Haiti as reported by a church member. The financial support comes from a chain of high end antique shops, the Olde Good Things, in New York and Los Angeles which reports earnings of $3 million and expenses of $2.8 million as filed in 2011.
The current managing member disagrees with the accusations and stresses that the different standards of New York and Haiti cannot be equated and could not possibly share the same expectations. The church reported that they have 60 workers who tend to approximately 120 children. However, a neighboring orphanage, God’s Littlest Angels, has been providing assistance due to malnutrition and inadequate training. There is also lack of policies and consequences for the staff who fail to show for their shift.
I think the majority of information about the Church of Bible Understanding leans heavily towards a negative cult status with discrepancies in their financial earnings and assets. This is especially troublesome after learning about the standards at the Haitian orphanage and the lack of accountability to the children.
In learning about the business aspect of this cult, it seems to have a similar cooperate structure to the Unification Church whereby businesses fund the leader and storefronts are managed and operated by members. They also serve and dedicate their lives to these beliefs that may or may not have been consciously chosen. It brings into light the question the extent of how the Church of Bible Understanding is actually about understanding the bible. It would be important to know which scriptures are emphasized and how the doctrine came to exist as Traill teaches.
The idea of a forever family also implies a very tight-knit community. Further descriptions of this cult emphasize the caring of a person’s weakness. I think in reality it was a form of exploitation of their vulnerability because any doubt or questions were immediately shutdown, redirected, and blamed on the individual. This psychological control is especially evident in the last statement of the article, where a former member said, “Any time you disagreed with anything someone would tell you, ‘You must hate the children Haiti.’” This form of control is similar again to the Unification Church of how to indoctrinate members by controlling perspectives.