Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Vernon Howell (aka David Koresh): Infamous Adventist : Leader of Branch Davidian Cult
[Fifth in series of Adventist Celebrities and Me... because so many SDAs claim I wasn't ever really an SDA but someone on the periphery of the church.]

When the whole Waco standoff fiasco was still in progress-- ATF versus The Branch Davidian compound-- I got a call from a Las Vegas radio station and was told I was on live.

I could hear the snickers and the blaring rock music in the background. The disk jockey asked,

"We saw your comments in USA Today and wanted to know, what it was like to have grown up with David Koresh?"

I made a fool of myself, having been caught off guard by the slick talk show host. I told them that I had a crush on him in the second grade--which touched off peels of smirky laughter. But truly at that time, Vernon's fifth-grade shyness and curly head was just adorable! The DJ asked me all about Adventism (you could hear the sarcasm in his voice and the suppressed laughter). Back then, I was a true blue Adventist and tried to explain to him all about the importance of the Sabbath. To him and probably all his listeners that afternoon, I was a joke.

My connections with Vernon Howell had been more than just attending Dallas Junior Academy. Many of Vernon's friends were my friends. (Which made it very shocking as he cried out their names when he was on national live radio from the compound.)After elementary school, he went out of my radar screen until he wandered down to Keene, Texas where the Adventists college was and I heard occasionally about him.

Then suddenly he reappeared into my life:

He sheetrocked the house my dad was building for my mother in Alvarado, Texas, right outside Keene--which took weeks as it was a huge house! At that time I was a bit frightened of Vernon because rumors were that he smoked marijuana and was getting weird. Yet, he was extremely polite and several times encouraged me to hear what "God was telling him."

One afternoon, as I was descending the staircase, he plead with me just to give him a few minutes to explain something God had told him about the last days. It was an extremely important prophecy. So I sat on the staircase and pretended to listen. He took a carpenters pencil (you know those flat ones) and traced out an elaborate timeline on the raw sheetrock. I sat there staring through him and his word's for what seemed like an hour. If I had known what was going to happen in a few years, I might have paid more attention.

If anyone out there is interested in any Branch Davidian memorabilia, that piece of sheetrock was papered over and is still hanging in our foyer. My guess is that under the wallpaper his prophetic timelines is still there.

When the compound went up in flames, I was sitting watching and praying. What a tragic end to that curly headed little boy I knew in elementary school. How could anyone become that self-deceived?


Jim Gilley: Adventist Celebrity: President and Televangelist of 3 ABN[Fourth in series of Adventist Celebrities and Me... because so many SDAs claim I wasn't ever really an SDA but someone on the periphery of the church.]
My father and Jim Gilley grew up in Dallas and attending the same church and church school. They fought over girls, got into trouble together and shared each others secrets.

On our old, silent black and white family movies there is young Jim with curly dark hair, skinny and handsome teasing Camille, his not-yet wife, who is smiling broadly waving and playing self-consciously on film.

So our families go way back... my grandmother knew Jim's mother...

The Gilleys were pillars of the Dallas First SDA Church on Central Expressway where my family attended and all of the kids attended the SDA church school there. The Gilley's four kids, about the same ages as my younger four siblings all played together too. I remember picking the phone up and hearing Jimmy Gilley (in fifth grade) crying, trying to "win back" my sister Heidi who he evidently had a crush on.

I have enough memories of the Gilleys to fill a book. Mr. Gilley, as I knew him before he was "pastor Gilley," with his charming and always calm smile, his slurred melodious voice and his gracious wife always at his side. Our families, along with the Collums, were the ones with the large homes and we were always entertaining--giving each other showers and surprise parties and occasionally spending a fourth of July or New Year's Eve together. We had fun.

Jim and Camille are there in my most wonderful childhood memories, laughing, singing: at school, at church, at ingathering, at church or school sponsored events. They were a big part of my childhood formation.

But I have to say, I don't remember our families ever really speaking about religion or spiritual things--or of Ellen White or the Investigative Judgement or even of the Sabbath. We had enormous fun as "gladventists." To me, I thought of Jim as more of a business man than a pastor.

When my parents moved to Keene, Texas so that our family could attend Southwestern Adventist College, soon the Gilley's followed suit as well as several other prominent Dallas Adventist families. We were bringing Dallas liberalism to the "holy city."

Jim rose in the SDA ranks rather later in life. He became a pastor and eventually did something with the General Conference. The last time I saw them was when they, as always, graciously opened there home for us to stay with them near the General Conference in DC. It was so fun for my family to hear some of Jim's fabulous adventure stories, as well as the horrible time he had with shingles.

Now Jim Gilley is head of the ailing 3ABN (Three Angels' Broadcasting Network). I was so glad to hear that he was placed there. Jim is good at bringing humor and relaxation to whatever he is doing. I wish him the very best. Jim is one of the reasons I think Adventism will eventually become a mainstream religion. Unless he has sincerely become orthodox as he grows older (and I guess some do sometimes) he will melt the radicalism of the SDA conservatives with his generous smile.

Dear Mr. Gilley,

HI! HOW ARE YOU? Wow, I miss our families having fun together. Wish we could all just go back to those simple days at the Dallas Church....

Please use this opportunity you have to influence your church about abortion. Mr. Gilley, the SDA church is really a one-commandment church because of its exclusive promotion of the fourth commandment, when our society is collapsing under the weight of sin of ALL Christ's commandments. I know you aren't going to jump into a picket line, that is not your style. But you have enormous pull--a quiet strength, that can mean all the difference. You can be a silent hero of Adventism. Take the opportunity.

Love you SOOO much, tell your beautiful wife that we said hello.

Little Tesa Fry! (Now Beem)

Mike Tucker and Me

Mike Tucker: Adventist Celebrity: Televangelist, Faith for Today
[Third in series of Adventist Celebrities and Me... because so many SDAs claim I wasn't ever really an SDA but someone on the periphery of the church.]

All the seventh-grade girls at Dallas Junior Academy were thrilled to get a single young male as our homeroom teacher. It was an instant crush for them. I was the only hold-out as I thought he was too lanky and gooey sweet. We knew it was inevitable that he would have a girl friend, but when he spoke about Gayle, it irritated the girls.

That year, with tears in Shari Workman's eyes, Mike married Gayle. That announcement in class didn't go over well....

Within a few months, the dudes (and a few really far out girls) no longer "dug" him, as my admiration soared. You see he was a godly man and his extremely mild and soothing manner grated on early teens who are trying their best to be cool. My roll-your-eyes-at-the-I-have-a-crush-on-Mr.-Tucker chicks helped me maintain a more judicious attitude about him.

However, I have to say... Mr. Tucker should have been a bit more teenage savvy, as the ardent tears for us to turn to the Lord each Friday during Bible class (a huge shock that really impressed us at first) (cringe).... as sincere as they might have been.... you know... it started to be mocked by the boys... I really felt sorry for him. I had never seen a guy cry and I sort of looked forward to it.

Several years later I worked for a friend of Mike's and learned WAY too much about him. And then he became pastor of a church nearby. My cousins, the Coles, are very good friends with him and I have always very much enjoyed going to the Arlington SDA church. It tries to be gospel-oriented and contemporary.

Once I spoke privately to Mike about starting a ministry for kids who had been sexually abused by SDA teachers and pastors. (NOT ME! I assure you, this idea was born from hearing so many stories from others....) He admitted that it was a real problem, but didn't really believe that he could get involved with something like that at the time. And I am sure that wasn't just an excuse, because he really was zooming his way to the top then. But when he said those kids need to just get over it with prayer, I thought.... "hum... what about those tears now? Where's the compassion for kids now?"

Not too long afterwards he became the televangelist for the Adventists TV program, Faith for Today.

I can't really see him in the SDA celebrity role, as I will always remember him as my sweet seventh-grade teacher who cried.

Dear Mr. Tucker,

I will ask the same thing of you as I have Shawn Boonstra, Cliff Goldstein and Doug Batchelor. Please, please, stop being a one commandment church. Join the rest of Christianity in fighting the culture of death, a culture steeped in immorality. No one can really understand anything about Sabbath when they are overwhelmed in sin. Sabbath isn't the answer, only Christ is the answer. I know you preach that, but begin opening up yourself to some really courageous statements. You may have to fall on your sword for this one, but why not really start preaching that abortion is a sin?

Now maybe you have been.... if so, then God bless you. But if so, speak a little louder so that the General Conference can hear!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Doug Batchelor: Adventists Celebrity: Televangelist and Director of Amazing Facts

[Second in series of Adventist Celebrities and Me... because so many SDAs claim I wasn't ever really an SDA but someone on the periphery of the church.]

(First was the Cliff Goldstein and Me post.)

Only I don't know Doug Batchelor.

My brother-in-law Michael O'brien and his wife, my sister, Heidi traveled with him for a while when they sang in the Seventh-day Adventists singing group "Heritage Singers." Doug was the official preacher for the group. So they know him.

My husband once played racquetball with him at Southwestern Adventist University in Keene, Texas. (My husband, who has pretty much dropped out of the church by then, didn't know who he was at the time.) Oh, and Arthur won.....

My only encounter with him was when he came to the Keene SDA church to give a series of meetings for the college. I, being the self-appointed prayer warrior for the church (as I led out in a prayer group each week during Sabbath School for Adventists requests), invited everyone in the Keene church to join me in a prayer session for Doug backstage every night. Mostly, no one showed else showed up.

Seeing my determination each evening, Doug graciously thanked me for praying for him during the service.

One strange memory that has nothing to do with this post, is that one evening a Pentecostal lady who WASN'T an SDA showed up to pray for Doug's meetings. She broke into tongues during the prayer session. It freaked me out. But I still appreciated her coming and praying for us.... especially since the SDAs were not showing up...

One of the nights (the seminar lasted for a week--at least) I confronted him in the media room before his sermon began and explained all about Adventists For Life and my work as President. I was becoming extremely discouraged that no SDA leader would get involved even though most CLAIMED to be pro-life. So I asked him to become involved with us.

He was bold in proclaiming to me that he was indeed pro-life---personally--and began suggesting that I get together a petition with signatures. I about fell over. That had been done over and over. I failed to impress upon him how involved our group had been. Finally, after a short struggle to explain to him the massive amount of work we had done for years that had been utterly unsuccessful in making a dent in the church, I begged him to help us.

He let out a despairing sigh, even with a big smile on his face, and whispered to me, "What do you want me to do? Get fired?" Then he thanked me and made a hasty retreat for the exit. I don't think he was making some grand "on the record" statement. The statement was thoughtless and impulsive (we've all made them...), at least that is what I hope....

But the statement revealed the abortion mindset was entrenched so deeply at the top levels of the General Conference, that even a televangelist like Doug Batchelor wouldn't touch the subject for fear of losing his position.

Pastor Batchelor,
I urgently call upon you to have the courage to be a man who stands firmly for more than just the Sabbath. Time for your church to be more than just a one-commandment church. Time to wake up and realize that your church has contributed to the cataclysmic failure of Christianity to impact our culture for Christ. Let's unite as the Body of Christ. Let's show the world the true face of God who is both full of mercy and judgement. Time for some Christian heroes. Are you prepared to be one?