By Bruce A. Smith
The Mountain News received a report this week that RW Davis, the controversial leader of the New Testament Christian Church, died this week. The NTCC is headquartered in Graham, Washington, and locally the congregation is known as the “church behind the fence.”
The moniker is drawn from the fact that the NTCC has a sprawling campus along the Orting Kapowsin Highway and its many buildings and homes are guarded by a cyclone fence.
Due to the enormous outrage expressed by many of its ex-members towards the NTCC, the Mountain News has conducted research into the church’s practices, and has published numerous personal accounts that include sexual abuse, and psychological manipulation and harassment from the leadership and congregants. ( https://themountainnewswa.net/category/ntcc/ )
The following essay is from a former member named Vivian Rhyne, who is also known as Vivian Lloyd-Owen and Sister Lloyd-Owen. She is also the person who informed the Mountain News of RW Davis’ passing.
This news was confirmed by an announcement posted on the NTCC’s web site, which stated that Pastor Davis died on March 2, 2014.
In Remembrance of R.W. Davis and NTCC
The news of Rev. Davis’s passing was neither shocking nor unexpected, yet after a nine year stint with NTCC, I really expected to be confronted with anger, resentment, and bitterness when the inevitable occurred. Instead it has stirred in me a multitude of remembrances and a keen realization of my moral debt to those still enslaved.
In July 1998, I had “Pepsi with the devil.” For the uninitiated, that’s NTCC-speak for thinking or talking with anyone, which includes a spouse, regarding NTCC policies, beliefs, or conduct in anything other than laudatory terms. The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back and led to even more and varied beverage drinking with the devil happened in my living room with my then-husband, Rev. Lloyd-Owen, as we followed an innocent train of thought through to its inescapable conclusion that public humiliation and the fear of the same is used in large measure by the leadership in NTCC to gain and retain control of the masses. Ding. Ding. Ding. The bell had been rung and could not be un-rung.
We witnessed public humiliation during our last spring conference at the NTCC campground in Missouri. Some man and his wife were shamed and rebuked in front of a large group of people in the tabernacle because the wife was a horse lover and the husband refused to squelch her proclivity. How dare they trifle with horses of all things when there are more important matters to attend to in the work of the lord? They could be praying or soul winning but instead, those sinners, they were attending to a horse. That man needs to get his house in order and bring his wife into submission. And each time someone is publicly humiliated, the brain, whether we like it or not, makes the correlation that you could be the next contestant on “The Pastor Jacks You Up.”
Likewise over time, the brain sees those inconsistencies in spirit, word, and deed which occur in NTCC. The brain knows they are in direct opposition to biblical teaching, to common courtesy, to human decency, to the fruits of the spirit. Excuses were made time and time again for R.W. Davis’s uncharitable treatment of people, his seeming judgementalism, his harshness, his elitism, his flaunting of riches while systematically keeping the sheep poor (well, except for the select few). Yet he was exempt from criticism – remember, no having Pepsi with the devil! – because he was a prophet and had a direct connection with god. Everything is for a purpose and didn’t Paul rebuke the churches in his epistles when necessary? Don’t the means, though wholly unchristian, justify the ends?
When Davis, from the pulpit or lectern, remarked disparagingly about the sub-par coffee he was served at some preacher’s house or the sorry excuse for a pie which he was subjected to over at another brother’s home… Is that right? Is that charitable? Is that how you teach your children to behave when they are guests at someone’s home? And if it weren’t for the fact that Davis was the founder and leader of NTCC, it would probably be nothing to be concerned about. One person lacking in common decency and manners is no big deal and should even be expected within a group. This dynamic changes when the person in question has created and defined NTCC or as Rev. Olson used to say in Practical Theology class, “New Testament Christian Church is Rev. Davis.” Shit rolls downhill, friends, and when the leadership is lacking the followers take that as cue to act the very same way (or worse) whether consciously or subconsciously. It is inevitable.
Now, having said that, having laid the foundation for why I took my leave of NTCC, having stood up straight and shaken the myriad straws off my back in order to examine each one, what did I find? I found questions, many still unanswered. For instance, why are so many of the women in NTCC, even in the upper levels of leadership, obese? Do women who are happy and fulfilled, imbued with the Holy Ghost and living the truth of the bible, generally eat themselves into the large lady’s section at Macy’s? Why was cash the only form of currency accepted for payment of tithes, tuition, and other offerings at the bible seminary? (Hint: In the real world that means no paper trail and no accountability.) Why are those who leave vilified, demonized, and said to have left the work of god because they want to live in sin? That was clearly not the case with me. Why so much secrecy? Honesty is so much easier. What is there to hide? Why were ministers retained who had a history of adultery? (Hint: They were money earners and/or married to a board member’s daughter.) Why is the organization set up as a corporation? The questions are endless and each person must answer them for their own self.
What’s next for NTCC now that R.W. Davis, who is NTCC, has gone the way of all flesh? Will the foundation which has already been lain, that of control, devaluing of women, secrecy, gossip, disregard for human decency, religious superiority, judgementalism, public humiliation, materialism, emulation of those in power, etc., be built upon or will that foundation be destroyed and another built on true Christian love and grace? Personally, I doubt anything will change dramatically. No one in leadership has had the resolve to stand up and elicit change thus far when as board members they should have done so for the well being of the congregants and a clear conscience toward god. I stood up and left when I realized I could neither change NTCC nor be responsible for bringing anyone into that Orwellian nightmare that masquerades as a holiness church. The question is: What will you do?
Vivian Rhyne, aka Vivian Lloyd-Owen, aka Sister Lloyd-Owen