Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News
Kalona, Iowa
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Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News

December 5, 2018 Shiloh’s future in question after Living Word dissolves
Article Pages -- as published on the The Kalona News website.

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ARTICLE DESCRIPTION:

The future of a local church is up in the air because the organization it is affiliated with is dissolving.

Shiloh, a church built in the mid 1970s by John Robert Stevens, will become an independent operation.

The Living Word Fellowship – also founded by Stevens – announced in late November that, in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations, it is closing down the organization and its central governing body.

Shiloh is a Living Word Fellowship church. In addition to the church, Shiloh is home to a conference center and Shiloh University, an accredited online Christian university for Living Word Fellowship congregants.

“This critical evaluation of our culture has led us to expedite a decision to eliminate our central governing body, thereby making our churches independent local churches, governed locally as they serve in their communities,” Living Word Fellowship said in a Nov. 20 statement posted on its website.

A spokesman for Shiloh told The News Monday that the church is in the process of preparing a statement regarding the situation.

Repeated attempts by The News to reach Living Word Fellowship leaders for comment were unsuccessful.

The Living Word Fellowship’s decision comes on the heels of allegations of sexual misconduct made public by former member Shalom Abrahamson Caples on Facebook in October.

Caples claims that she was sexually abused by a church leader, Rick Holbrook, while she was a teenager in the 1990s at the Shiloh church and later at another Living Word Fellowship church in California.

Caples’ post has received more than 500 comments, some of them from others saying they experienced similar abuse while members of Living Word Fellowship churches.

In an undated statement on its website, Living Word Fellowship acknowledged it had “received credible reports of such inappropriate behavior” and that actions have been taken to address the allegations.

“We have already removed leaders who have been involved in misconduct or did not call out or sufficiently address such issues,” the statement read. “In particular, Rick Holbrook is no longer involved in any aspect of leadership or involvement with The Living Word Fellowship, and he will not be allowed back as either a minister, leader, or member of a congregation of The Living Word Fellowship.”

On Oct. 24, Living Word Fellowship’s senior pastor, Hawaii-based Gary Hargrave, abruptly stepped down from his position.

“I will personally resign from any authority within the churches or church leadership to simply retire or pursue other avenues of livelihood,” Hargrave wrote in a letter titled “An Apology from Gary Hargrave, Senior Pastor of The Living Word Fellowship.” The letter is posted on the Living Word Fellowship website.

In his letter, Hargrave said that Holbrook “has been removed from all commissions, employment and involvement of any kind with the fellowship, including the congregation.”

He also wrote, “The initiation of the process of ending The Living Word Fellowship legal structure, the allowing each local church to decide on its own how to move forward as an independent local congregation and to engage in fellowship with one another in a freewill, autonomous relationship.”

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