NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WTVF) – A plane crash on Saturday in Percy Priest Lake ended years of controversy for a former nutritionist who turned weight loss into her own religious movement.
A group text sent to members of the Brentwood-based Remnant Fellowship said that on board were founder Gwen Shamblin Lara and her husband Joe Lara, church leaders David and Jennifer Martin, Jonathan and Jessica Walters, and Gwen Shamblin’s son-in-law Lara Warenra, Brandon Hannah.
Brandon’s wife, Elizabeth, wasn’t on the plane.
The Cessna C501 crashed into the lake shortly after taking off from Smyrna-Rutherford County Airport just before 11 a.m.
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Gwen Shamblin and Joe Lara’s wedding in 2018 was a big event for their church.
Other videos posted online celebrated their lives together – and their love for airplanes.
“I love being at the airport, it’s just cool to be around planes,” says Joe Lara.
“It represents a lot of freedom, doesn’t it?” Gwen Shamblin Lara answered.
“Yes,” he agreed.
Gwen Shamblin’s very popular business-to-business ministry, which she called the Weighing Workshop, wasn’t always so charming.
“I brought it up on simple principles: don’t focus on it, focus on God, focus on His will,” said Shamblin NewsChannel 5 determined in 2001.
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Her books earned her thousands of loyal followers, but also controversy.
She claimed she found support for ideas – that genetics don’t play a role in weight loss – by looking at the starvation of Jews in Nazi concentration camps.
“Like in the Holocaust, did you make all these people really thin? They ate less,” she told CNN’s Larry King.
During the same interview, she downplayed the for-profit nature of her company.
“This money, half of it goes to the government, the other half goes to keep it going so someone else can be helped,” Shamblin told King.
But she also lived a lavish lifestyle.
NewsChannel 5 investigates questioned Shamblin about her claims in that 2001 interview.
“Half and half leave nothing for Gwen Shamblin. That’s not entirely true, is it? ”We asked.
Shamblin replied, “Yes, it is completely true.”
There have been lawsuits for her claims that employees believe what she believed.
Within the Remnant Fellowship, former converts said that Shamblin was viewed as a prophet.
NewsChannel 5 determined she asked directly in an interview in 2003: “Are you a prophet?”
“I don’t think I know what my present is called,” she replied. “So I’ll tell you that I’m still struggling with it.
After Shamblin founded the Remnant Fellowship, she was repeatedly accused of leading a sect.
“I was not placed in this position because I will endure the disobedience of all of you,” she told her followers in a recording.
“If I hear about it, I’ll correct it. If I have to come to you, then you really are in trouble.”
Then, the death of a child of the remains from child abuse in 2003 raised serious questions about Shamblin’s teachings.
NewsChannel 5 determined the founder asked, “Does Remnant advocate locking children up for long periods of time?”
Another church leader, Ted Anger, replied, “We do not advocate imprisoning them for any length of time.”
“Absolutely not,” Shamblin agreed.
But NewsChannel 5 had received a recording in which Shamblin had praised the mother for doing just that.
“It’s a miracle. You have a child who goes from simply bizarre to controlled. So I praise God,” said the Remnant founder.
The parents, Joseph and Sonya Smith, were eventually convicted of the murder of their child.
But Shamblin didn’t apologize.
NewsChannel 5 investigates asked, “Do you think it is possible that you accidentally promoted child abuse?”
“No, no,” she insisted.