Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

February 11, 2014

Church of Wells elder arrested at religious event

Progress staff reports
Jacksonville Daily Progress

EAST TEXAS — The Church of Wells, a religious entity based in the southernmost part of Cherokee County, is back in the news.

Church Elder Jacob Gardner, 25, was arrested during a religious event at the Sabine High School auditorium, according to reports.

The Disciple Now event coordinated by First Baptist Church of Kilgore was a "multi-church, multi-city student oriented weekend of worship, guest speakers, Christian artists and fellowship," according to the church's website.

"Some churches got together and rented our auditorium, like they do every year, and from I understand he (Gardner) just showed up," said Stacey Bryce, Sabine ISD superintendent.

It is unclear what Gardner was doing to warrant police to be notified, but he was charged with criminal trespass and resisting arrest/search.

Chief Deputy Chuck Willeford, of the Gregg County Sheriff's Department, said officers did not pepper spray Gardner, and no injuries were reported during the arrest.

Bond for the criminal trespass charge was set at $500, and bond for resisting arrest/search or transport was set at $1,000. Gardner was arrested and taken to Gregg County Jail on Jan. 31, and he bonded out Feb. 1, according to jail records.

"I wasn't at the event," Bryce said.

He emphasized that the event was not school-related.

The Church of Wells is a controversial group who were in the news last year after a church member's parents came to Wells in search of their daughter.

Catherine Grove, 26, left her family and life in Arkansas to join the Church of Wells, and soon afterwards she cut off communication with her family.

In October 2013, three members of the Church of Wells were issued criminal trespass warnings at Lufkin ISD after attempting to minister to students on campus.

According to previously published articles, the Lufkin incident was peaceful.

On the Church of Wells website, www.churchofwells.com, Gardner says:

"I was saved in the Spring of 2004. I look back now, year after year, and am always amazed at how God truly has made me a new creature in Christ, and how the Spirit of the Lord is changing me from glory to glory into His image."

A message to Gardner was not returned before press time Monday.