This page is a collection of links to other ex-members’ stories.
James LaRue has written extensively about his time in COBU. He kept written and audio journals when he was in COBU and he wrote his book, Captive Congregation after leaving. His journals are highly subjective and reflect his own experiences and observations. The value his journals is that they captured events and dialogues as they happened. He also wrote in great detail about the processes that took place at the meetings. Better than transcripts of the meeting, he gives a running commentary of the events, his own thoughts on the proceedings and his observations of how Stewart Traill’s coercion and manipulation affected church members. James was writing as a way to better understand what he was experiencing, and as a result, he wrote in great detail. This has the effect of giving the reader a front row seat to the psycho-drama of the closed society of a communal cult with an authoritarian leader who claimed to be the only person in this day and age to correctly understand the Christian religion and to whom God was revealing knowledge that, in his own words, “has not been revealed since the time of the Apostles.”
James was often confused about whether his observations were real or whether it the devil trying to deceive him, but eventually he came to terms with the truth and was able to leave. Another value to his writings is that while still in COBU, he began to read about cults and apply what he was learning to his situation in COBU. He offers insight into the way the communal lifestyle and other methods of coercion worked together to keep church members bound up and enslaved into the cult system. It is a “you were there and this is what it was like” story of life in COBU and if the reader can take the time to wade through the material he has published, it provides a good picture of what it was like to be a rank and file member of the Church of Bible Understanding.
Ann’s account of her Princeton years, her time spent in Stewart Traill’s house as one of the “Gayle Helpers,” can be found on Mike Montoya’s COBU website. There are two versions of Ann’s story: Scans of her original lettters and a printed version of her testimony.
Ave Hurley has a blog with many pages about the Church of Bible Understanding. Her own story can be read at this page: The Forever Family Became COBU, Then Turned Into A Cult. She talks about moving into one of the communal houses of the Forever Family, being counseled to break up with her fiancé (because he was “newly saved” and not strong enough in his faith, but ultimately because he was telling her to leave the group). She goes on to describe how the Forever Family morphed into the Church of Bible Understanding and became progressively worse due to Stewart Traill’s increased control over church members’ lives and his exalting himself as the great bible teacher with the “only true method of Bible interpretation.” The many people who have left comments on her pages also shed light on the history of the Forever Family.
Beth’s story about leaving COBU. Beth’s story (under the pseudonym Betty Donald) appeared in Ron Enroth’s book, Recovering From Churches That Abuse. Her story can be read here: A Broken Bone That Heals Is Stronger.
Joe Griffo put his story on Mike Montoya’s COBU website. Joe was a Young Sheep brother. His story can be read here: A Story by Joe Griffo
Sabrina Erdeley visited COBU in 1999. She also did extensive research on the group and interviewed ex-members. Her article was published in Philadelphia Magazine. A pdf version with illustrations is here: I’ll Be Damned. A text version without illustrations is here: I’ll Be Damned (text only version).