Former Word of Life Church Parishioner Nathan Ames on Keeler
A former parishioner of a church at the center of controversy in Central New York spoke with WIBX First News with Keeler this morning.
Nathan Ames was brought up in the church. His family, he says, broke ties with it nearly fourteen years ago, after a series of incidents that he believes showed that those running the church taught the Word of God, but not the actions.
Ames said that the core belief system is in line with basic Christian beliefs, with some very important exceptions. Of Jerry Irwin, the pastor who started the church in its original location in Richfield Springs, New York, Ames alleges that he "forced people to respect him." He said things started to go wrong for his family with their relationship with Irwin's church shortly after an altercation occurred between his father and Irwin.
Ames originally spoke with Syracuse.com reporter Patrick Lohmann in which Ames' comments were characterized by this headline: "New Hartford Ex-Parishioner Reveals Church's Descent into Spiritual Cannibalism."
Ames, who was schooled at the church, says he was forced to stay up all night to complete a school assignment after not passing his "paces" testing. While his mother was battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy treatments he failed a test and was ordered to do all of the assignments leading up to the test in one evening. Despite the fact that his family helped him, and that they stayed up almost all night, he did not complete the packet of homework, and Irwin challenged Ames' father over it. He indicated that it was at this point that the family began to think that Irwin's teachings were going too far.
He says that the church was comprised of up to ten families, each of which included up to four children, so the church was not large. He claims that the father "brainwashed" the members and had control of them. He said that many of the parishioners were vulnerable and desperate, and afraid to leave.
The latest allegations of physical violence at the church, however, were not considered to be a regular practice at the church. He says that he never witnessed any corporal punishment or any so-called counseling sessions that turned physical.