An Open Letter to Bethel Redding

An Open Letter to Bethel Redding July 28, 2020

Panel over the door from my local Catholic church of what looks like an angel threshing wheat.

Every time I write about certain churches and theologies for NLQ I can count on one thing. Contact. How much contact there is depends on the church. The one I dislike writing about the most is a place I used to be affiliated with, Bethel Redding and Bill Johnson.

It’s not that I get the usual assortment of true believers contacting me to tell me I’m so wrong, that they think I’m doing the Watusi with Satan himself around a bubbling lava pool in Hades. I expect that. I usually do not even respond now, and move the most interesting ones to my website Jerks 4 Jesus.

Bethel Redding brings its own special set of problems. The other messages I get are from people who have never encountered Bethel and say I must be making up their Death Raising Team, healing theology and soul sucking practice. If you’re from standard Protestant theology what the theology of Bethel sounds like is science fiction. Badly cobbled together scifi or other ‘out there’ fiction.

The overwhelming flood of crap from Bethelites is why at the first of this year I turned off all messaging options for No Longer Quivering’s Facebook page. It’s why when someone does manage to message me personally and if it’s someone I do not know it is shunted to the garbage chute. There’s an email box I rarely check, and comments only now.

What I find is that people tend to be a little extra nasty on NLQ FB messenger and my personal messenger, and reasonably normal in comments or emails. I tend to melt down when I have to spend hours each day dealing with five trillion messages. It’s just too time consuming.

Lately I’ve started to get a distinctly different set of messages involving Bethel. Emails in a reasonable and measured tone, clearly from people involved in the ministry, within the church management. Emails that read pretty much all the same.

One involved correcting me on saying that Bethel Music released the worship song “Come Out of That Grave” after the death of Olive Heiligenthal. Yes, it’s true the song was released after her death. It turns out it was actually played at their prayer sessions to resurrect the child. Both of which I stated. They seemed to think I was implying that the church wrote the song at or after her death and released it just to exploit the death. I said it still did strike me as exploitative on NLQ days after receiving that email. It still does. That’s just my personal opinion.

I didn’t answer that email, nor have I answered the chorus of similar ones insisting I was defaming the church in my last piece by not bothering to interview them or ask their opinion, when I talked about their use of magical imagery, magical thinking about healing, about the worship services lead by one of their members without using any social distancing or masking. They do not understand that No Longer Quivering, and by extension Patheos itself, is not a news organization so much as a host for opinion pieces by writers all over the faith spectrum.

Yesterday I got one from my editor, passed on with a brief “FYI”. Same stuff, different day. It was from someone at Bethel, a repetition of what I had been receiving and not answering:

“Hi there, There have been several blog posts on Patheos that mention Bethel Church in Redding, California that make inaccurate assumptions and have not contacted us for comment or fact-checking before posting blogs and articles. I cannot find any contact information on the individual author themself, so you can you either provide me with their email address or pass my message along to them to contact me? This is the blog I would like to reach out to the author about: SUZANNE TITKEMEYER: Thank you for helping make the connection! Aaron Tesauro Communications Director Bethel Church, Redding, CA”

First, again NLQ is an opinion column, and you cannot dictate what my opinion might be. I am guaranteed that right until the Constitution. My opinion has been formed by the many years I sat under the teachings of Bill Johnson and Bethel at my old home church, at conferences like Voice of the Apostles at Randy Clark’s church. The literal years put in at the Healing Rooms of Central Virginia futilely praying for serious situations. The years when I made my Mast Cell worse by being pushed to give up all treatment and trust that I was healed by that same theology. The words of knowledge that were anything but knowledge filled.

I watched as people around me were likewise manipulated into avoiding medical care. Chloe, long dead now, who became convinced that yearly cancer screenings were not trusting God because of what she’d heard in conferences. Cheri, whose MS is now so progressed she’s bedridden after putting her entire trust in being healed miraculously, relying on what she’d been taught in conference instead of doctors and medicines. Pam, who stopped all conventional treatment for her breast cancer and died quickly in horrendous pain. Gary, encouraged to only pray for healing, now also dead of cancer, treatable prostrate cancer. Joann, ending up in a coma because she refused to take the medications for her diabetes and claimed her healing. I could go on and on, naming so many more who either died or suffered the sad effects of stopping treatment for serious illnesses. So much suffering so needlessly compounded by that particular theology. This is the real life consequences of healing ministries who promote miraculous healing. Maybe some get healed, but I never saw any genuine evidence of it in my years there.

You know what we all had in common? We all went to a church that taught books by Bill Johnson like “The Supernatural Power of the Transformed Mind” and “When Heaven Invades Earth” We believed, we prayed, nothing happened. Just the church turned more insular and toxic.

You guys are hardly the only ones. I hold other ministries and ministers responsible as well. This is a theology that harms people, creating a broad swath of devastation even in those who do not die. It’s a modern Evangelical version of Moloch.

Plus here’s the thing about your constant flow of missives towards me. You have no real desire for the truth to be known. This is all simply publicity spin, you want only good press. Your only aim is to politely bully me into parroting your party line, which I find reprehensible and disgusting in this time of pandemic.

Plus add in the fact that I am a woman. Your constant attempts to ‘correct’ my opinions also seems likely to be from a place of white male privilege. I’m guessing you did not continually email the male writers at Pulpit and Pen that routinely write about you. Or the guys at SacBee and other local papers who have been covering the COVID denying conferences. This is just another case of trying to put a little woman in her place that you think God ordained for her.

By the continual sending of those emails you are exhibiting a level of control that is one of the warning signs of a high demand organization. It should be a huge red flag for anyone thinking about joining.

I am under no illusions about you, just like I am under zero obligation to answer any of your emails. This is not a conversation. You do not get a voice here. Those of us who have suffered at the hands of those like you are the only ones that get to speak here.


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About Suzanne Titkemeyer
Suzanne Titkemeyer went from a childhood in Louisiana to a life lived in the shadow of Washington D.C. For many years she worked in the field of social work, from national licensure to working hands on in a children's residential treatment center. Suzanne has been involved with helping the plights of women and children' in religious bondage. She is a ordained Stephen's Minister with many years of counseling experience. Now she's retired to be a full time beach bum in Tamarindo, Costa Rica with the monkeys and iguanas. She is also a thalassophile. She also left behind years in a Quiverfull church and loves to chronicle the worst abuses of that particular theology. She has been happily married to her best friend for the last 34 years You can read more about the author here.
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