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Shining the Light on a Family in Darkness
“Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! When the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil. In that day shall one take up a parable against you, and lament with a doleful lamentation, and say, We be utterly spoiled: he hath changed the portion of my people: how hath he removed it from me! turning away he hath divided our fields. Therefore thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord by lot in the congregation of the LORD”
(Micah 2: 1-5).


Pastor, former associate exchange accusations



SCHELL CITY -- Ask Scott Stinson, and he is likely to say that the last five months have been devastating for him and his family.

"It's been hell," Stinson said as he sat and reflected on what life has been for him since he broke last fall with the Church of Israel in Schell City.

"They (the church leaders) have turned everyone against us," Stinson said, "including people who were formerly our friends. They never came to us for our side of the story."

But ask those who have remained associated with and loyal to the controversial Vernon County church, and they will speak of Stinson in quite different terms. They call him a hypocrite, a Pharisee and even Judas, saying that like the biblical character, Stinson has betrayed Christ.

"Scott's ultimate goal is to terminate the existence of the Church of Israel," said Dan Gayman, pastor of the church. "How successful he will be remains to be seen."

The formal split between Stinson and the church -- or, more accurately, between Stinson and Gayman -- occurred abruptly last November.

Since that time, the relationship between the two men and the workings of the church have been played out and scrutinized by the media, especially by the Joplin Globe newspaper which came out with a 24-page exposé of the church in January.

Since that time, Stinson has accused Gayman of launching a public campaign to discredit Stinson for Gayman's own personal gain.

Since that time, Gayman has countered that Stinson is trying both to extort the church of money and land, and to destroy the church in the process.

"There is no question that there are two diametrically opposed stories," Gayman said from his office Friday.

Last week, during the high holy days, the schism became more public when the two men held competing Passover feasts.

A not-so peaceful separation

Stinson, a former minister within the Church of Israel and the former chairman of the church's board of trustees, said that he broke with the church last fall after what he calls a prolonged period of soul-searching.

"I began to see that I was entertaining the false belief that the church one day would change," he said. "My patience began to turn into frustration. I would not play along. They weren't about to change. They were changing me."

Stinson has charged that church leaders were participating in illegal, immoral and unethical acts with the full knowledge and, in some cases, under the direction of Gayman. On Nov. 12, saying that it was his "moral duty and principle obligation to expose all the unethical things that have happened," Stinson wrote a letter to the church detailing what he considered some of the illegal and immoral acts.

The next day, Stinson formally left the church.

When Stinson left the church on Nov. 13, an agreement was reached between Stinson and the church in which the church paid him $20,000 -- the equivalent to what Stinson earned in a year from things he did within the church -- and the deed to the home in which he and his family had been living. A document, titled "Confidential Conditions for Peaceful Separation between Scott Stinson and Dan Gayman and the Church of Israel at Schell City, Missouri," was signed on that date by Stinson and Gayman and witnessed by Jerry Gentry and Reed Benson.

But the separation has been anything but peaceful, and the nature of the agreement, like many of the facets of the separation, is clouded in controversy.

Stinson refers to the November agreement as a severance package. Gayman refers to it as extortion.

As Gayman tells the story, Stinson left the church on the morning of Nov. 13 when church officials discovered that a mailing list and files were missing from the church office. When the officials began to suspect Stinson of taking the missing material, Stinson walked out of the church and did not return, Gayman alleges.

"I have never talked to him since that morning," Gayman said. "He has refused consistently to talk."

Instead, Gayman added, Stinson negotiated with the church through Gentry, a former member of the church who has also disassociated himself from the church. Gayman referred to Gentry as Stinson's "agent."

Gayman said that following Stinson's departure on Nov. 13, Gentry was the one who approached Gayman and two members of the board with the separation proposal. The proposal included, Gayman said, "exceptionally strong financial demands" that were "beyond reasonable."

In fact, the church did ask its attorney, Kendall Vickers, to contact Stinson about the agreement. And in a Nov. 27 letter to Stinson from Vickers, the Nevada attorney does allude to possible extortion and to "stealing by means of coercion" on Stinson's part.

In the letter written, Vickers stated that those church officials who entered the agreement with Stinson -- specifically, Gayman and two members of the board of trustees -- had no authority to make the agreement in which the land and money were conveyed.

Furthermore, Vickers said that the agreement was reached only after Stinson "misappropriated copies of various records of the Church of Israel" which Stinson claimed were "evidence of misconduct by leaders of the Church and perhaps by the Church itself." Vickers said that Stinson had threatened to make the actions of the church known to law enforcement officials, taxing authorities and the news media. The only thing that would keep Stinson from going to others would be the severance agreement, Vickers said, specifically the money and the deed to the house.

Vickers warned Stinson that his actions constituted "stealing by means of coercion, a class C felony, punishable by up to seven years imprisonment in the state penitentiary."

In his letter, Vickers demanded that Stinson return the money and real estate.

"At the time of this initial plot, there were sufficient grounds for viable felony stealing charges," Gayman contends. "But that is not in our nature. We were willing to do anything outside the context of criminal proceedings."

But Stinson said that if he were in fact trying to extort or blackmail Gayman, then he would only be able to do that if he could find some evidence of something that Gayman or the church had done wrong or illegally.

"You can't blackmail an innocent man," Stinson said.

Furthermore, Stinson claimed that the reason no charges have been brought against him or that in fact Gayman has not even contacted Vernon County Sheriff Ron Peckman or prosecuting attorney Lynn Ewing is that Gayman and the church do not want the church's alleged immoral and illegal acts brought out in the open.

"He doesn't want this to go to court," Stinson said.

Gayman, however, said that it was due to the threat Stinson made about going to law enforcement officials, and especially the news media, that he and the two board members agreed to pay the money and sign over the deed to a house.

"He (Stinson) said he would go to the Missouri Department of Revenue with allegations of vast amounts of money the church owed in sales tax, saying the church should be paying sales tax (on its printing and publishing house)," Gayman said.

He added that the threat was enough, because, even if the church had done nothing wrong, he did not want the church put under the scrutiny of a government agency.

"When you go to a government agency, they almost make it (an investigation) mandatory," Gayman said.

But he also added that what he and the board members feared the most was an alleged threat by Stinson that Stinson would go to the news media with stories of illegal and immoral acts by church leaders.

"We were very alarmed, mostly by the news media threat," Gayman said.

Because of the controversial nature of the church -- specifically, its adamant teachings on the separation of the races and its alleged connections with Christian Identity and white supremicist movements -- the church has been the focus of intense media scrutiny over the years. And, he added, the church has suffered from much negative press.

"The Church of Israel has had a lot of exposure in the media for many years," Gayman said. "There has been a lot of recrimination suffered by people associated with the church."

He pointed to a 1980 incident in which a camera crew came in unannounced in the middle of the church's worship service, landing on church grounds with a helicopter and coming onto the property with large RVs.

"They virtually stormed the grounds," Gayman said.

Because of the exposure and the adverse publicity, he said, over half the members of the church left. Others who worked in Vernon County lost their jobs.

"We as a congregation probably never recovered from that," he said.

Deny and discredit

To hear Scott Stinson tell the story, however, it is Dan Gayman who is using the media that Gayman says has been so negative to Gayman and the church in the past.

"I believe that Gayman is trying to control the local media," Stinson said.

In particular, Stinson said he believes that Gayman has launched and orchestrated a public relations campaign designed to deny the allegations that Stinson has made and to discredit the Stinson family.

"Deny and discredit. It's the same sort of tactic the communists used," Stinson said.

Stinson alleges that since his break with the church in November, Gayman has worked to discredit him by making him out to be "drug-fried" and "mentally deranged."

"It is absolutely ridiculous for him to now say that I was mentally deranged and had a drug-fried brain, when his actions for 20 years clearly indicated that he had the utmost confidence in my ability," Stinson said in a released statement. "Any person who knows my history at the Church of Israel could not possibly believe what he is now saying about me. In the end, his effort to discredit me will only discredit himself."

In particular, Stinson alleges that Gayman has used both the local media and mailings to discredit Stinson.

After the Joplin Globe published several front page stories and the 24-page insert on the Church of Israel, Dan Gayman and the church's board took out advertising in the Nevada Herald, the Nevada Daily Mail and the Nevada News denouncing the Globe's stories as "an evil report" and referring to Stinson as "a dissident minister." In the ad, Gayman wrote: "The departed minister came into this area some six years ago, financially broke and with no means to feed his family" -- a statement that Stinson denies.

"We took out the paid advertisement to counteract what we believed to be the totally prejudiced view in the Joplin Globe," Gayman said. "Had we wanted to undo Scott's ministry, to unravel it, we could have by other means, through our own publications. The most negative thing Scott can come up with is that paid advertisement."

Two other church officials -- board member and Gayman's son-in-law Reed Benson and associate pastor Gray Clark -- wrote letters to the editor about the Globe articles and what they perceived to be misrepresentations about the church's doctrine by the Globe. While both Benson and Clark denounced the Globe and defended the church, they never mentioned Stinson or alluded to him.

On Feb. 22, however, a letter to the editor was printed bearing the name of "Don Fassell." It is that letter with which Stinson takes issue. In the letter, Fassell takes issue with Stinson, saying that "Stinson should stop whining about how he deserves it (the severance package from the church) because of what he had to put up with."

Stinson has taken issue with the letter for two reasons. First, he says that the letter has been photocopied and distributed locally and throughout the nation as a way of discrediting him. Gayman denies the charge.

"I can't guarantee what everyone in the church does," Gayman said. "I am confident that if someone read the letter and there was someone else (in the church) who had not read it, he would photocopy it and say, "Read this.'"

But Gayman denies that he was ever responsible for handing the letter out or sending the letter to other people.

A copy of the letter, however, appeared with some other letters sent to individuals who have since left the church. A brief cover letter was attached to it asking the people to read the Don Fassell letter.

"This man (Don Fassell) has better spiritual discernment than you people apparently have," the cover letter reads. "This man can read the same Internet, the same trash in the Joplin Globe that you have read, and he can see the real Scott Stinson, while you people line up like bleating sheep to believe and swallow the lies of a thief and a Judas Iscariot who would sell his mother into slavery for the right price."

The cover letter is signed by Doug Gayman, Dan Gayman's son.

But what Stinson takes most issue with is his claim that Don Fassell does not exist, that the name is a pseudonym used by Dan Gayman and that Gayman himself is the author of the letter.

Usual protocol for publishing a letter to the editor requires the editorial department of the newspaper to contact the author, to confirm that the author wrote the letter and to confirm that the author intended the letter to be published. In the case of the Don Fassell letter, the protocol was not followed and the letter was published without the appropriate confirmation.

Subsequent attempts to contact Fassell have been fruitless. Currently, there is no way to confirm that Fassell even exists.

But Gayman insists that he had no connection with the Fassell letter.

"That's an absolutely fraudulent charge," Gayman said of Stinson's claim about Gayman's authorship. "I emphatically deny that I had anything do with the authorship of that letter. Whoever did write the letter had incredible insight, but I have no knowledge of who it is. You have my word that neither myself nor anyone I know wrote it."

A second, much longer, letter that also bears Doug Gayman's name, was addressed as "An Open Letter to the Pharisees," with the added note that the letter is addressed to specifically named individuals who have left the church. The last individual mentioned by name is Stinson, who is referred to as "Judas Scott Stinson."

In the letter, Doug Gayman said to Stinson, "The man who has sold his soul for a few pieces of silver. Scott, I want to go on record as calling you a petty thief, a man who would stoop to extortion, a greedy hireling preacher, having denied the faith by consorting with the enemy. I believe you are a coward who hides behind unanswerable Web sites, who uses the telephone and U.S. mail service to prey upon the weak, the ill-informed and those who are likely to fall prey to a predator. Scott, if you could steal a church through lies and deceit and your own style of propaganda, you still could not keep it all together."

Stinson says the letter has been mailed out along with the Fassell letter as a way of trying to discredit him in the eyes of others.

But Dan Gayman said the letter was written by his son in response to allegations that Stinson and others had made about Doug Gayman's marriage.

"The reason for the letter was that Scott openly attacked my son," Dan Gayman said. "In an effort to discredit Doug, he drug his name through the mud. The letter was written as a retort. He (Doug Gayman) felt like he had been ganged up on."

If anyone has been trying to discredit others, Dan Gayman said, it was Stinson. Through a Web site -- no longer accessible -- Stinson and Jerry Gentry had put out material meant solely as a way of discrediting the Church of Israel in general and Dan Gayman in particular.

"Who has tried to destroy our ministry via the Internet? Scott and Mr. Gentry have endeavored to destroy it," Gayman said. "On Dec. 15, the Web site appeared. From Dec. 15 until recently, there have been 195 postings (about the Church of Israel and Dan Gayman). I would challenge 95 percent of the posted material. The letter Doug wrote was mild in comparison."

Gayman added that the only ones he knew who received the letters were those people the letter specifically names -- the so-called Pharisees.

But the Fassell letter and the Pharisee letter, as well as other materials, have been received in the mail by individuals in other areas of the country. A woman from Indiana, who asked that she not be identified, said last week that she had received a packet of material from the church.

"I did receive something two or three weeks ago," she said, adding that there were several things in the packet. "There was a letter that was supposed to have written by his (Dan Gayman's) son. The letter made Scott Stinson look bad and Dan Gayman look good."

Because of the controversy and schism that has arisen between the two men, the woman said that she was not planning on coming to Vernon County for the annual Passover festival.

"I was going to go over (to Schell City) till all this escalated," she said. "I don't think I will now. After all, this is not our fight. We're there just to hear the word of God."

She also said that there was a tape of what she believed to be a sermon. The voice, she said, she recognized as Dan Gayman's. The message referred to the Old Testament story of King David and his wayward son Absalom. In the story, Absalom mounts an unholy rebellion against his father, trying to overthrow David and usurp his throne.

The woman said that the tape never mentioned names, but it was clear to her that the message was that Gayman was like David and Stinson was like the wayward, rebellious Absalom.

"It talked about how he (Absalom) was a traitor to David's kingdom. Then at the end of the tape, Mr. Gayman said you couldn't be neutral. You had to choose," she said.

A house divided

Stinson said he believes that Gayman's reason for the alleged "deny-and-discredit" campaign is so that Gayman can force Stinson out of his home and move members of the Gayman family into it.

The house in which Stinson and his family currently reside was built and paid for by the church for $100,000. Gayman refers to the house as a "parsonage." The money used to pay for it came from church funds, from a half-million dollar donation made to the church by Jerry Gentry, the man Gayman now refers to as Stinson's "agent."

Gentry, who describes himself as "a seeker of truth" and "a recovering cult addict," said that he first became associated with the church in 1983 after spending time in the Church of Christ, the Worldwide Church of God and a small Oregon-based organization known as "Song in the Night."

"The Church of Israel was a natural for me," he said.

Gentry said when he came to the Schell City church in 1983, he was "hungry and looking for what God's doing."

"When I visited up here, I was taken by the love that was here," he said.

Though he never moved from his Texas home to Vernon County, he did purchase some property here, attended services when he could -- about 30 weekends a year some years, he said -- and contributed generously to the church. When he sold a business a few years back, he gave a tithe to church that was somewhere around $500,000.

Of that amount, $100,000 went to build the home in which the Stinsons now reside and $100,000 went to build a second home on church property -- a home occupied by Reed Benson and his wife, Gayman's daughter. The rest of the money, Stinson claims, went to refurbish Gayman's and Gray Clark's homes.

Gayman denies that any of the money went to refurbish his home. The money, Gayman said, was used to build two identical parsonages, both on church property, and to build an annex onto the sanctuary.

"That is where the expenditures went," he said. "Not one penny of that money was spent on my house. I did side (putting siding on) my house, but the money did not come from Jerry Gentry."

The Stinson house was built with church money on church property and should be considered a parsonage, Gayman said. The only reason that the deed was signed over to the Stinsons, he said, was because he and the two board members who were present at the Nov. 13 meeting felt pressured to sign the house over to him.

"Scott demanded the deed to the land," he said. "He pressed for the signature of myself and the two members. Under duress, we signed the deed."

Affidavits have been filed in the Vernon County Courthouse from the church board that claim the deed currently held by Stinson is invalid.

"The affidavits, in our opinion, will keep the property from being sold or mortgaged," Gayman said.

In the meantime, Stinson continues to live in the house with his family and to begin his own ministry. During last week's Passover feast, Stinson held services at the Schell City community center, with Jerry Gentry, among others, in attendance.

Stinson refers to his time in the Church of Israel as "spiritual abuse."

"My family continues to suffer from being in that church," Stinson said. "I feel like I've been part of a cult. Like an alcoholic, a cult member doesn't want to admit he was part of a cult. I don't want to admit I've been deceived."

“And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (II Peter 2:2-3).
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