The Living Word Fellowship
|Type||Religious and commercial|
Founder and leader
|John Robert Stevens|
The group was founded in South Gate, California, by John Robert Stevens in 1951. It has been known in the past informally as "The Walk" or "This Walk," referencing the biblical view that every Christian should have a personal walk with Jesus Christ, from I John 1:6-7. The fellowship celebrates the Jewish Old Testament festivals, and "It believes in the inerrancy of the Scripture, in the Trinity, in Christ's saving work, and in the various gifts and ministries of the Spirit as taught by the apostle Paul."
At its peak in the 1970s, the fellowship had about 100 member congregations. Its oversight was centered at Shiloh, a farm and retreat site near Kalona, Iowa. Membership declined after founder Stevens' death in 1983 and the fellowship continued to close outposts throughout the 1990s. As of early 2018, it comprised around ten primary churches.
In November, 2018, Gary Hargrave announced his resignation following a sexual misconduct scandal taking place within the churches of the Living Word Fellowship. Hargrave published a letter from himself on the church's main website. The church published a response regarding the sexual misconduct revelations.
In a December 21, 2018 press release, Shiloh announced it is ending its affiliation with The Living Word Fellowship. Shiloh, which has served as the headquarters of the fellowship since the 1970s, is currently in discussion with the city of Kalona about a possible annexation of the more than 200 acres of church property south of the city limits.
As of August, 2020, five women have filed lawsuits against the Living Word Fellowship. The lawsuits claim that Living Word employees and officials sexually abused these women when they were minors.
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