Elizabeth Smith: Former Faith Tabernacle UPC Woman

My name is Elizabeth D. Smith. I am the daughter of David and Debra Smith. I was born and raised in Faith Tabernacle in Junction City, KS. I left Faith Tabernacle United Pentecostal Church about 12 years ago and it was hell to leave. My mother still attends Faith Tabernacle and she no longer communicates with me or her grand-kids.

I believe Faith Tabernacle is a cult. I was born and raised in it and I know it is ran by fear and control. L.E. Westberg was my pastor and he, in my mind, he was a racist, even though the church was predominately black. He would not allow black and white to marry and he taught that one time when the young people was trying to inter-racially date. He taught that black people were cursed because out of Noah's sons the one that uncovered Noah's nakedness was a black person and so we were cursed.

We were taught to uphold the standards above any and everything. No television, longs sleeves, long skirts, no slits, no lip gloss, no earrings, don't cut your hair, no perms, no gold, no rings...it seems like everything was a sin. People would tell the pastor on you if you disobeyed the rules.

I also went to the church school called Apostolic Academy and graduated as the Salutatorian of the Class of 1999. The school was just like the church, if not worse. They stressed me completely out there, but I did my best to follow all of the rules. Many of the leaders and members that attend are just plain nasty and mean.

I met my ex-husband there. He was a soldier and I believe God had me marry him for a way out of bondage. My ex-husband was a Pentecostal as well, but he was not used to all those standards and he would show me where they were not in the bible. L.E. Westberg told my ex-husband that the only thing he had against him was the fact he was not born there and threatened to kick him out. We went through hell to get married. We almost eloped, that's how bad it was.

My ex-husband, instead of getting out of the military, he decided to reenlist so we could move because he hated the church. We tried to keep it a secret, but I told a few friends and it got out. Next thing I know, we were getting called in the office and we told him yes, we were leaving. L.E. Westberg told us there was no good churches but he said he had no problem with us leaving. They talked about every other church and called them trash cans so we would not go. We left the office thinking that all was well.

A friend told us that they did not believe all was well and that we would be talked about. Lo and behold, I came to church and L.E. Westberg preached on me and my ex-husband and talked about him over the pulpit. I was so devastated and I vowed to never return until I confronted him, but he went on a cruise and died.

I was so confused because on one hand, I loved him, he was the only pastor I had known. On the other hand, I hated him for lying. His wife took over and I came to the church, because friends and my ex-husband begged me to come back.

Sis. Westberg asked for all the members to say something about her husband. So I testified that I was moving, but I would still keep the standards and take them with me. I got called in the office and surrounded by all the ministers, me and my ex-husband, and they questioned me about having a slit skirt, and a perm. I was devastated again. I vowed to never return. This time my ex-husband left with me.

The whole church acted like they never knew me, like I never even existed, when they saw me.

My ex-husband was in a wedding at the church and so I came and the wedding was a disaster. The ushers would not let the bride's family come in to the wedding because they were not dressed according to the standards, even though they no longer attended the church. It was horrible. The ministers was even trying to fight the family. The bride and groom ended up getting married in the office. They did not like the groom marrying the bride because her mother was an enemy of the church.

I was invited to a second wedding at the church and we was called into the office before we could come in and Sis. Westberg told us that we were not welcome to come into the church because we were not members anymore. I was angry and bitter.

We moved and some people still kept in contact with us. It was a very depressing time for me to lose all the people I knew and associated with. Slowly but surely as I prayed to God, God delivered me and set me free.

I went through several bad churches and now I am really afraid to join a church. I currently attend church, pray, and read my bible, but I refuse to join another church because of my bad experiences there.

I was bitter at God for awhile because I tried to do the right thing and the church still talked about me. It was hard for me to separate God from the pastor and church. I still struggle with anger and pray that I do not get bitter. I have seen so much devastation in that church.

I believe that L.E. Westberg broke up my parents marriage. My dad wanted to leave after he was disrespected and lied on by the pastor and my mom went in to ask the pastor permission. He told her it was not God's will to leave and so she stayed and my parents battled against each other for a while.

After some years, my dad turned to alcoholism for a long time and it was a nightmare for me and my brother. Every time my dad got drunk, he would mention what Westberg done. He just got free a couple of years ago, but I think it still bothers him, but he is no longer drinking.

My mom still attends and will not acknowledge that she should have left with her husband instead of obeying a pastor. Right now my mom no longer talks to me because I called her church a cult. I feel like the church destroyed my family and my life, but I still trust God. For awhile I had stopped trusting him.

About five years ago, I was tired of hearing about all the mess going on in Faith Tabernacle and I was angry with my mom not being there for her own mother on her death bed and again choosing the church over her own mom. And my cousin also told me Edwin Young slapped him.

I was angry, so I did a blog site with my testimony and with others. Shortly after that, I had a nervous breakdown and lost my mind and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. They attacked me and talked about me hard and said it was God's punishment on me for talking about the church. I cursed out the pastor, then I called him and apologized. I was so confused. I did not know why I was going through what I was going through.

It has been a long journey, but I am no longer afraid. I fear no man and I only serve God. Ask me anything.

Elizabeth D. Smith

Mary's Commentary

Note from Lois: I invited Mary to add her memories of things that Elizabeth shared, where she also witnessed them.

What this writer says is true. As I read her story, I remembered when Edwin Young got up on several occasions and told "us" who were still in Faith Tabernacle that someone had been posting things against him and the church and started a website against the church. He said that person was angry and bitter and that God would stop them. He later preached that the person had lost their mind and that it was a result of talking against the church and the Man of God. If I remember correctly, he even said he talked to one of her doctors at the hospital she was in.

Edwin had an unholy fascination with anything said against him, especially on the internet. Members of Faith Tabernacle weren't to have internet in their homes or to use it for anything but work purposes, but many members would use the internet at their jobs for a variety of things other than work. And it seemed that as soon as something was mentioned about Edwin Young or Faith Tabernacle, Edwin would know it and preach about it. It seemed weird to me even at the time, when I was completely absorbed with Faith Tabernacle's ideals. And the theatrics about internet, the preaching against it and then announcing what was new against him on it, was one of the first things that eventually raised doubts in my mind about all that was being preached. Why was he so fascinated by what people were saying? Why would he announce anything he deemed negative that was said and preach about it (seemingly incessantly at times) from the pulpit? I never got the answers to these questions. But the FaithTabernacleSpeaks blogspot seems in my mind to have marked the beginning of that fascination.

There is one other part of this writer's story that stands out to me... the part about the wedding. I was "in church" at the time and was not close to the bride or groom or their families. I didn't know any of the back story to what would take place. When a wedding would take place at Faith Tabernacle, the church members were expected to attend, whether they knew the bride and groom personally or not. With a supposed membership of more than 500, it was easy for two people not to know each other well. This wedding was one of those for me where I didn't know either the bride or the groom by more than face and church membership.

We sat waiting for the ceremony to begin. Too many guests arrived just before the ceremony was supposed to start, as usual. I was sitting nearer the center back of the sanctuary since I didn't really know them. I heard a commotion and yelling outside the main doors. We waited a bit longer. I was surprised when the ceremony didn't start on time or shortly after its scheduled time. Then someone (probably Thurman Young) came in and thanked us for coming and announced we should all leave, that it would be a "closed ceremony". I don't remember an explanation being given that day of what had happened. I do remember that we all left our gifts and walked soberly out of the church. I do remember feeling sorry for the bride and groom who'd paid so much for a nice wedding, for tuxes and dresses, flowers and decorations and cake, and were now having a ceremony reserved for themselves and a few witnesses - a type of wedding normally reserved for members who were marrying for the second or third time. I felt something huge had been taken from the couple that day.

The next service, the pastor told us what had happened. He said the bride's father was not allowed at the ceremony and had come anyway, belligerent and disruptive. That had been the commotion, and he had ruined his daughter's wedding. Something about what was said gave me the impression that the man had been drunk.

I tell this side of the story not to say the writer I'm responding to was wrong, but because her story makes so much more sense than the one we were told, and shows the ease with which some weird things were just accepted by members and how differently someone close to the situation might see those things. At some point, it had been announced that those who had once been members of Faith Tabernacle were not allowed to attend even weddings or funerals without the pastor's permission. Some others were also restricted from attending Faith Tabernacle for various reasons through the years as well. However, he is the only family member I knew who wasn't allowed to attend a wedding or funeral. He most likely didn't feel he should need pastoral permission to attend his own daughter's wedding, and it's quite likely that he was angry about not being allowed to walk her up the aisle, no matter what the reason for that decision. I don't know of any father who wouldn't be upset by that. To come as a guest and be turned away at the door from an open wedding would have infuriated any family member, much less the bride's own father.

As to whether he was refused entry because of how he was dressed, there had been others who'd been allowed entry to Faith Tabernacle regardless of how they were dressed. If he was told he couldn't attend because of his clothes that seems a poor excuse from Faith Tabernacle unless he'd arrived in his underwear or unless he was a former member who'd been told he had to abide the standards if he was to come. In that case, he could have been refused entry for anything from the length of his sleeves or the number of buttons on his suit. However, there were other bridal parents who'd attended in clothes that definitely didn't adhere to the standards and no one had taken issue with them. Although anyone in the bridal party was expected to dress by the standards, those selecting their own clothes for the wedding, such as the parents of the bride or groom, could dress as they liked. One mother of the groom showed up in a sequin bedecked dress, lots of jewelry, and large hat. She waved like a princess in a parade all the way down the aisle. Faith Tabernacle just laughed.

Other articles from former members of Faith Tabernacle Apostolic Church are available. Mary's experience may be read here. Another woman's experience may be read here. Also available are videos from a former Faith Tabernacle member.


Posted November 23, 2013 & Updated November 25, 2013

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