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Former Church of God Restoration member says she is out and recovering after eight years of domination

·4 min read

Tina Wall says that for eight years of her life she was not allowed to watch TV, search the internet, or even look at any moving pictures because she said her church didn’t want her to hear or see anything that didn’t come directly from them.

“It was just one of the ways they controlled every aspect of people’s lives,” Wall of Winnipeg said, while speaking about her experience as a member of Church of God Restoration, a church that sits south of Steinbach and that has been front-and-centre in the news lately for both protesting and outright breaking provincial COVID-19 health orders.

“There was absolutely zero TV allowed. You could not make a video on your phone or open any videos, and you could not look at the internet unless you made an appointment to search the internet while you were with one of the leaders.

“The rule was absolutely no moving pictures.”

Wall spent eight years in the congregation of the Church of God Restoration, saying that she joined in 2012, and left in 2019.

The church is part of the greater Church of God Restoration, a denomination with congregations based around the world.

Wall said what she went through in her time in the church was “emotional abuse used to keep control over members.”

“When I first joined the ministry I realized I had never been with people before that believed that they could rule everyone and everything,” Wall said.

She said in her eight years in the church she found the leaders were either insulting people harshly, or praising them profusely, all in an attempt, she said, to keep control.

“They did this to everyone,” Wall said. “They would take me aside if I had done something they didn’t completely agree with and tell me what a horrible person I was, and ask ‘how would you dare question the church?’

“At the same time there were times when I would be alone in a room with them and they were telling me they loved me so much that it was very uncomfortable. They were either insulting you or telling you how amazing you are.

“It’s the worst thing you can do to a human mind.”

Wall claims the church would not let those who had serious illnesses even seek out medical attention, and claims she witnessed a fellow member who was diagnosed with cancer suffer because of that rule.

“She suffered tremendously for months in absolute agony because she could not take any painkillers or get any help. She was just left to die at home,” Wall said.

“They believed in a doctrine of divine healing, calling for the elders to pray over you, but not accepting medical help at all.”

Wall also claims the church used the fear of going to hell as a means to keep control over members, including children.

“They treated children horribly,” she said. “They would portray messages to children constantly scaring them that they were going to hell if they didn’t commit to the church.”

Any time Wall tried to leave the congregation she said the church did everything in their power to keep her in, and that is why she said she came back several times before finally leaving for good in 2019.

She now says as long as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, she believes the church will never stop fighting against restrictions, because she said they never give up on anything.

“Oh they never give up. They never, ever give up in any situation,” she said.

Wall said since leaving the church she has spent time “recovering” from what she went through, and has not joined another congregation or church since walking away.

“I don’t know exactly where I stand anymore,” she said. “But I believe in God, and my religion is love.”

Gloria Froese, another former member of the church who left in 2000, has also spoken out publicly about her experiences while part of the congregation. In a Q and A done with the publication Mennotoba in 2021, the Winnipeg woman claimed the church isolates members as a way to keep them insulated from the outside world, while also making other claims.

When reached for comment by the Winnipeg Sun, Froese declined to be interviewed saying she had reached her “point of saturation with interviews” and for now was “done with being featured in news articles.”

The Winnipeg Sun reached out to Church of God Restoration Pastor Henry Hildebrandt and Minister Tobias Tissen for comment by both phone and email, but did not hear back from either before Tuesday’s press deadline.

— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun

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