'Church of Wells' elders speak out and answer questions about their practices

WELLS, TX (KTRE) - We've been following the controversial Catherine Grove situation involving her membership in the Church of Wells.

Catherine left her life in Fayetteville, Arkansas more than 2 months ago and moved to Wells to be a part of the Church of Wells.

Catherine's parents, Andy and Patty Grove then packed their lives into an RV, drove to Cherokee County and have been trying to reach out to their daughter.

KTRE was scheduled to attend a press conference called by the Church of Wells on Sunday.

But it was canceled after evidence against the Grove family was removed from Facebook.

The Groves contacted KTRE over the weekend and said they believed pastors from the Church of Wells had traveled to Fayetteville to harass their family.

I called the Fayetteville police department and spoke with Sergeant Craig Stout who said their department  heard the group would be in town to protest at a local college but no one from the group showed up

Police dispatch did log a call for assistance on Saturday, September 7 from Amy Grove.

According to police, Amy told them that she received calls and a text message from Sean Morris, a pastor with the Church of Wells saying he was in town and Amy told police she believed she was going to be abducted

KTRE talked with Sean Morris Monday, who said no one from the Church of Wells went to Arkansas over the weekend and he said he didn't call Amy but he did text her.

A KTRE reporter saw the text message Morris said he sent to Amy and it was a non-threatening text message.

The church elders have made it clear that Catherine Grove is free to leave the church whenever she wants.

But the community has asked a lot of pointed questions recently about the practices of the Church of Wells like: is the church really a cult or does the church make all their members give up their belongings and their money? Another frequently asked question is, are the church's marriages arranged?

KTRE sat down with two elders with the Church of Wells today to get those answers.

Church leaders say they have been cautious when responding to questioning from the media in the past because they didn't want to be misrepresented.

But now, Pastor Jake Gardner and Sean Morris want to clear up some hearsay and set the record straight.

Many in the community call the Church of Wells a cult, but Gardner says they're not.

"The difference between a church that is cult and church that is a true biblical church is that a true biblical church is one that they are not leading according to their own means, they are not leading according to their own like power," said Gardner. "The spirit of God is with them and they are leading according to what the word of God dictates."

"If you go into any church nowadays, there's going to be pastors, elders, deacons, there's going to be a format of authority established in that church because God is not a God of confusion," said Gardner.

According to Pastor Sean Morris, "Professing Christianity today overwhelming is a cult because a cult is that which is not found in the written word of God which is born by the thoughts of human beings."

But the church does agree that they are not a traditional church and says they are just trying to return to what the bible is and they're being labeled a cult.

"And the reason why there is so much ignominy and reproach cast upon us is because we're merely endeavoring to get back to what the bible says and in a generation that is so far departed from the plain understanding and interpretation of the scriptures that is a cult, someone who is trying to return to simply what the bible is, is labeled a cult and that shows the degeneracy of our age," said Gardner.

And Gardner wants to separate his church from other organization that have arranged marriages. 

"We have not in the past or ever intend to arrange marriages," said Gardner. "We do not marry off our children. The oldest of the children I believe is 13 all the rest for the most part are under 10. We have no plans or arrangements regarding our children. We believe that God arranges marriages and as he does that he changes the heart of an individual and makes them fall in love essentially is what the world would call that. They fall in love.

"I just want to make it clear that...there is not force, there is no pressure that we would use to coerce people to marry in the church," said Gardner. "I can't arrange it where both parties hearts are changed and are actually in love with one another, 2 men, 3 elders can't do that, preachers in a church can't do that that's a work of God."

Morris said that unlike other organization, his church does not require members to give up their finances or possessions.

"Everyone in the church has their own possessions, their own homes, has their own bank accounts, the ones that do," said Morris. "So no we don't have all the money and we don't give allowances that is not how this church operates. That's absolutely unbiblical and absurd."

"When I was saved I still had everything I had," said Morris. "When I was lost I had 20" rims, a nice gray truck with bass sub woofers in the back and listening to the latest of the rap stars and heavy metal stars and when I was saved I still had that. But obviously my heart is going to be changed I'm no longer going to be listening to the gangster rap of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. I'm no longer going to be loving the things that I once loved."

Gardner says, "When we preach that a man must forsake all that he has just simply quoting the scripture people will immediately if they're not…if they're not keeping a judicious heart and mind. They're going to judge us unrighteously and so you mean everyone has to leave everything, every car, every house, all their family, everything, you just cut off everything and you go live in the wilderness. That's really how it's been portrayed but that's not the case at all. Many in the church have been saved and have their same care. Many in the church have been saved and have their same house you know they have the same family all these kinds of things, Christ is not saying that every man literally, always has to forsake everything in the flesh. Physically. The point where all Christians come to meet is in their hearts."

Gardner and Morris say they hope their willingness to answer these questions will clear up any of the rumors circulating.

We will of course continue to follow this story and bring you any updates as they become available.

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