New Documentary 'Children of Faith Assembly' Takes on Controversial Faith-Healing Church Connected to 91 Deaths
A North Carolina documentarian is in the process of creating a film about a controversial faith-healing church connected to 91 deaths.
Faith Assembly, a multi-church sect based in Elkhart, Indiana, during the 1980s and founded by Hobart Freeman, was known for demanding that its members refuse all medical treatment.
Over the years at least 91 people, the vast majority of whom were children, died of various illnesses due to not receiving readily available medical treatment, according to J. C. Lee of the Elkhart Truth.
In the film project presently titled "Children of Faith Assembly," documentarian Jack Pennington of Winston-Salem hopes to record interviews from children raised in the controversial church.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Pennington explained that the inspiration for the feature length documentary came from a shorter work he released last year where he interviewed former Faith Assembly member Josh Wilson.
"I interviewed Josh Wilson for my website, tellchange.com, and released a short form documentary in November of '14," said Pennington.
"People were interested in hearing from other survivors of Faith Assembly, and so was I, so Josh and I put together a plan to tell a feature length story about the church and the people who grew up there."
Pennington at one point launched a Kickstarter page to help fund the feature length project; however, earlier this week his page was listed as canceled after getting 73 people to donate approximately $5,100.
"We started with crowd funding, but soon partnered with organizations who want to see this project thrive and are helping us with more traditional fundraising avenues," said Pennington.
"Children of Faith Assembly" touches on the debate over faith-healing, a controversial practice found in some Christian churches.
Some televangelists, like Pat Robertson, are proponents of faith healing, with "The 700 Club" host being known to participate in events that included the practice.
"How do you get it? You have to empty yourself and ask Him. Sometimes it is spontaneous," said Robertson on the Christian Broadcasting Network's website.
"Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil and all who were sick. Everyone who came to Him for healing got healed."
Apologetics Index, a Netherlands-based online Christian ministry, has argued that there is a legitimate form of faith healing and an illegitimate form of faith healing.
AI notes that while the Bible "does not condemn, forbid, or even discourage the use of medicines or other proper medical care, many cults of Christianity preach and practice an unbiblical approach to faith healing," reads an entry on their website.
"Legitimate churches, movements, and individuals do not [equate] using [prescription] drugs or receiving proper medical attention with unbelief, insufficient faith, or otherwise sinning against God."
Regarding his Faith Assembly documentary project, Pennington told CP that he's "going into this project with as little agenda as possible."
"Although I have my opinions on faith healing and what happened to the survivors of this church, I'm not trying to present an argument to convince the audience one way or another," said Pennington.
"I want to collect the stories of those survivors, and give them a voice that they didn't have as young children in an oppressive environment."
Pennington added that he believes "praying for the sick is a good thing" and "powerful," but emphasized that "there's a practical element to healing that's undeniable, and at some point you've got to let a doctor look at you."