This is a piece I wrote four years ago under a pseudonym about my husband and I visiting a church in Wilmington, North Carolina named “Vineyard” with a pastor named Tom Hauser. I have told this story here before in fits and starts, but not published this piece here. This was posted on NLQ friend Bruce Gerencser’s The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser site.
At the time I wrote this I didn’t want to have to explain to everyone here about the whole crazy subculture practiced at Vineyard, and the other church they are linked with, Bill Johnson’s Bethel Redding. But with the death of Olive Heilingenthal last December we took a peek at this weird little offshoot of traditional Quiverfull and Evangelicalism and their practices like Soul Sucking.
Last night I had a few people contacting me because they did not understand what I meant on yesterday’s NLQ piece about deliverance ministry. Deliverance ministry happens at places like Bethel and Vineyard, which has been renamed . They literally believe that everything that is negative is a demon and had the conceit that only they can remove these demons from people.
If I had to list the ten worst days of my life this experience would be on that list. It was abusive, it was wrong, and it could have literally led to death.
Tom Hauser is the pastor of Global River Church in Wilmington, North Carolina. Global River is affiliated with Bill Johnson and Bethel Redding. I have written previously about Bethel Redding in a post titled Bethel Redding: A Dangerous Evangelical Cult.
I know there’s no way you would remember me. I’m just some random woman at one of the churches in Virginia that held a deliverance ministry weekend taught by you and the members of your church many years ago. I’m the one who our overbearing pastor’s wife forced to make all those fancy half round flags for your church as a gift from our church. I’m still several hundred dollars out-of-pocket for the materials, and I’m still annoyed at that even if you had nothing to do with it.
You and your church pushed the deliverance ministry that your church did, telling tales of people set free from all sorts of weird demonic infestations. Your goal was to get people to sign up to come to your church — Vineyard, in Wilmington, North Carolina.
During that weekend I had the chance to speak to you several times. I found that I liked you. Maybe it was the fact that you walked away from a high dollar career to preach, I don’t know. You are personable.
But, I know you don’t have a clue about the damage you and your fellow church members do. I suspect, seeing that the name of your church and the deliverance ministry has been changed more than once, that you have some small inkling that others think it sucks. Did you guys get sued by those you victimized while pretending they are demon-addled and need an exorcism? Something obviously happened.
For my husband and I, the damage was limited. We just lost some time, hotel and gas money, and spending time with our family for Thanksgiving. I feel pretty certain that your deliverance ministry likely did lots of damage, wreaked havoc, destroyed marriages and few families. Let me explain why I think your deliverance ministry — that you now call a ‘prayer ministry’ at your renamed church, Global River Church — is a bad thing.
You preyed on my husband who was going through a long, horrible depression. Thanks to competent doctors, medical tests and therapy, we know his entire problem was that he had cancerous tumors on his parathyroid glands. He wasn’t under spiritual oppression, nor did he lack faith. He wasn’t filled with demons and in need of deliverance ministry. He was sick. With cancer that would have killed him if we hadn’t tossed aside the compete and utter codswallop that the church was saying and sought legitimate medical treatment.
Jim told me a few days before Thanksgiving in November of 2005 that he had scheduled a weekend deliverance that weekend, that you had arranged for a team of deliverance-ministry trained staff to remove our evil spirits and cleanse us. This meant that we had to abandon our children to others for the holiday, make the long drive from Northern Virginia to Wilmington North Carolina, and stay at a local hotel for several nights while the deliverance was going on.
I remember how angry I was, because even while at that time I was still a hard-core believer, I didn’t believe in what you guys did or your claims of demonic infestation. I was angry at the ruined holiday, angry I could not be with my kids, and angry that you insisted that I take part in the deliverance ministry too. Jim was told that you wouldn’t help one spouse without de-demonizing the other. I wanted no part of it.
One of my clearest memories of that weekend was waking up at 3 am on the Saturday morning before the first sessions. I felt fearful and angry, and l was suffering from extreme pain in my right arm due to an injury I was waiting to have surgery on. I sat in that ocean front hotel room, contemplating the Atlantic ocean in the moonlight while listening to praise music on my iPod, waiting for opioid pain medication to kick in. I wondered what the day would bring.
What the day brought was us being met at your church by the deliverance team. Jim and I were separated, and the sessions started. I wasn’t in Jim’s session so I can only imagine what happened. For mine, I was confronted quite starkly over things the two ‘counselors’ had received from God during their prayer time that week. The information that the women claimed to have heard from the Lord was wrong on so many things. They told me I was having an affair with someone named ‘Walt’, which made me laugh because, at the time, the only Walt’s I had heard of were Walt Whitman, Walt Disney and Jim Walter Homes — two dead men and a corporation. No, I was not and have never had an affair.
I was also told that my husband was having an affair — again not true. I don’t know much, but I know that about him. He’s not the type, and he didn’t have enough downtime with his commute into DC on public transportation to have an affair.
Imagine how such false revelations might have affected a married couple having problems? We both were told this and neither of us believed it about the other person. If someone in a shaky relationship was told an outrageous lie like that, it would have blown apart their marriage. Somehow, I don’t think any of this is something Jesus would approve of.
The personal details and ‘problems’ listed on both of our prayer sheets were beyond wrong, right down to the smallest details. For example, Jim was told he loves ‘Star Wars’ and fishing, both of which he hates. I was also told Jim had a ‘demon of rage’ in him that would physically kill me if they didn’t exorcise it from him.
The women attempting to ‘deliver’ me gave up after about two and a half hours, realizing that I was highly skeptical, thought their words of knowledge were ridiculous, and I was not cooperating like they wanted. I was told by the staff to go back to the hotel and wait for a phone call to come back and pick up my husband. He was held and brainwashed a total of nine hours. Fifteen years later, he still hasn’t told me what happened during his session. I do know that when I picked him up he clung to me and would not let go for many days (either holding my hand or hugging me).
We went home; it was anti-climatic by that point. We spoke very little about what had happened and things continued as normal until the point Jim was diagnosed with parathyroid cancer and had the first of several surgeries.
I get it. You somehow think you are ‘helping’ people by doing this type of prayer and deliverance ministry. But you’re not. You are, at best, confusing people, and at worst blowing up homes and families and/or causing people with serious medical conditions to die because they believe their conditions are demonic. You take advantage of desperate people.
To this day here in my home in Costa Rica I have the notes from this deliverance. I still have all the original prophesies and wrong words of knowledge written in the hands of the deliverance team. We did contemplate suing the church and the ministry after discovering my husband had parathyroid tumors not demons, but decided to chalk it up to spiritual abuse, and call it a day.
This all took place a mere year before leaving our original church. I think by this point I had started to wake up and smell the coffee, realizing that some of the things going on were toxic and wrong. This was one of those moments.
Interestingly in the four years since this was posted at Bruce’s site there have been plenty of people coming in to say in the comments that they’d been hurt by this church too. Along with two true believers accusing me of merely being bitter, that Evangelical buzzword they throw at those harmed by them.
Please, if nothing else, do not fall for charlatans like these. This is just a modern version of the patent medicine scheme at carnivals in the distinct past. It’s just disgustingly wrapped in the name of Jesus.
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