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Gwen Shamblin's daughter wants to take mother's church to next level

Remnant Fellowship, which Gwen Shamblin created, has faced widespread criticism from former members and others as being "a cult."
Gwen Shamblin's daughter wants to take mother's church to next level
Posted at 12:46 PM, Feb 23, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-23 14:46:58-05

She's the reclusive leader of a controversial Tennessee church who reportedly hasn't been seen at services in years. But in a newly obtained recording, Elizabeth Shamblin Hannah — daughter of the late Christian diet guru Gwen Shamblin Lara — declares her intention to take her mother's following at Remnant Fellowship to the next level.

"I want to make a difference. I want to make history. I want to start a movement around the globe," Hannah said in a New Year's message played during a Remnant service on Jan. 6. That message was leaked by a current insider and provided to Scripps News Nashville.

"My mother started it, and I want to not only keep it going but to expand it around the globe in such an exponential level that anyone who sees it can pick it up and get it."

Hannah, 42, assumed leadership of the church after her mother was killed in a plane crash in May 2021, along with her husband Joe Lara and five other Remnant leaders. Elizabeth's husband, Brandon Hannah, was among those killed.

Remnant Fellowship, which Shamblin created and declared to be "the one true church," has faced widespread criticism from former members and others as being "a cult." In the often-rambling message, which continues for 37 minutes, Hannah brushes aside such criticisms, saying her goal is to become famous in heaven.

"I want my name to be written in heaven," she said. "I want to be friends with the greats, and I want them to know that every day I woke up that I was not here for myself. I was here to make the movement happen."

Former Remnant member Helen Byrd, who appeared in an HBO Max docuseries about Shamblin and Remnant Fellowship, could barely contain her disgust as we played the recording of Hannah's message for her.

"Are you kidding?" Byrd exclaimed at one point, laughing out loud at another.

Scripps News Nashville noted, "She sounds a lot like her mother."

"She didn't before," Byrd replied. "She absolutely does, and I think that was probably what was most triggering.

"That she has ideations of spreading this absolute pain across the world, this pain, I think that it's a scary thing," the former Remnant member continued.

As for Hannah's desire to become well-known in heaven, Byrd said: "It's incredible hubris. You know, it's just, wow! Really? And you are part of a movement that has shielded abusers, child abusers." 

When Scripps News Nashville first met Elizabeth 20 years ago, she was right at her mother's side — a role she continued to play. Remnant's website now says it operates "under the leadership and direction" of Hannah.

Oddly, her brother Michael Shamblin and others say she does not attend church services, opting instead to call in or, more recently, to provide recorded messages.

Remnant members widely considered her mother, Gwen Shamblin, to be a prophet.

We asked Michael Shamblin about his sister: "Is she viewed as a prophet now?"

"She's viewed as having the lead," he answered. "I don't know if they call her a prophet, but she would be viewed as having a leading from God."

In the recorded message, Hannah calls upon Remnant members to follow her lead.

"You’ll be lifted up if you follow this example, if you followed my mother and follow me as I followed her."

Helen Byrd's reaction?

"How about following Jesus? That's a good place to start. How about following Jesus?"

It comes two years after an HBO Max docuseries — "The Way Down: God, Greed, and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin" — that portrayed Shamblin as a power-hungry cult leader.

Hannah said she is working on a book about her mother.

"I’m going to make a difference in this country. I’m going to make a difference around the globe, and I’m going to write this book about my mother — and the world will one day see that she’s a misunderstood woman," she said.

Among the misunderstandings, Hannah claimed, was Shamblin's role in the child abuse death of 8-year-old Josef Smith — a case in which a Scripps News Nashville investigation discovered that Shamblin had praised the child's parents for locking him up in his bedroom for an entire weekend with just his Bible.

"Her philosophies on child-raising were awesome! Incredible! She couldn’t hurt a fly," Hannah said.

While some suspect Hannah may still be struggling after the tragic loss of her mother and husband, she insisted she's doing well in the Remnant message.

"Don’t you want to join me? I’m a lot of fun, by the way. Don’t just believe what you hear. You need to come party with me."

Helen Byrd was appalled.

"They're still spewing this propaganda. They're still sticking to their guns. They know that it's not the greatest place on Earth, it's the sickest place on Earth."

As for those who may ridicule her, Hannah said that's OK with her.

"Guess what? Every time they’re rude and they lie about me, then more people in heaven hear about it and I get a better standing again in heaven — so they are cracking me up. The more false things they write about me and my mother, the higher up I’m going to go."

Scripps News Nashville asked Michael Shamblin about suggestions in the HBO Max docuseries that his sister is not well. He declined to comment.

This story was originally published by Phil Williams at Scripps News Nashville.


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