Elders of the controversial Church of Wells have disclosed quite a bit of new information regarding the scope of their community's evangelistic efforts, their efforts to locate new members, an outline of their belief system in regard to religion and medicine, and the current status of the member family whose 3-day-old baby died in May 2012.
The answers were both an elaboration on a previous face-to-face interview with a Jacksonville Daily Progress reporter and a response to questions posed by a JDP reader. The questions were forwarded to church elders on Tuesday and answered fairly quickly.
The clash between the Church of Wells and parents Andy and Patty Grove has made national headlines. The Groves' well-published belief is that their daughter — 26-year-old Catherine Grove — is under an immense amount of influence and pressure to stay with the church. Cherokee County authorities have gone to great length to determine Catherine Grove is of sound mind and body and that church members have broken no laws.
In response to the allegations, elders Sean Morris, Jake Gardner and Ryan Ringnald contend the Groves are making baseless accusations against the congregation and blowing their daughter's stay — and also the church's motives for allowing Catherine Grove to stay — completely out of proportion.
Likewise, loaded, legally precarious words such as “kidnap” and “cult” have been tossed around in news accounts and attributed to the Groves. But Patty Grove denies having ever used those words.
Church elders elaborate on belief system, saying parishioners were approached to join at 'pivotal and changeable' stages of life
As part of the Tuesday exchange, elders said their church was founded as a result of their evangelistic efforts and their travels across the U.S. in 2009 and 2010.
“Many souls were saved, awakened, stirred to believe God again to bring revival as he has been known to do in the past, even in this nation,” elders said. “Because of this we faced a dilemma: Do we send these people to the modern, for the most part, lukewarm church of America? How could we? Thus we took up the charge, seeing as God had blessed our ministry to these souls, to continue to care for them, rather than sending them off somewhere we knew not.”
In the second year of the church, 2011, elders said, “Twenty-six souls were saved. Many of the persons who were converted were already at stages in life which were pivotal and changeable. Many were in school, graduating, or just out of school.”
Elders Morris, Gardner and Ringnald said when they decided to move their church from Arlington to Wells — largely or financial reasons — they behaved no differently than a missionary society would when endeavoring to plant a church in a foreign land.
“In such cases: the people are sold out for the cause of Christ, set to labor for the planting of a biblical church, witness to the people, make a sufficient living in the process, and cooperate in all ways necessary until ends meet by the providence of God's time,” the elders said. “According to biblical Christianity, all Christians are missionaries - whether foreign or local - and they ought to live with such purpose and zeal in all their God-given vocations.”