HBO documentary on “cult” of Gwen Shamblin Lara to air on HBO
By Matthias Browning
September 26, 2021
The diet guru pastor who died in a plane crash earlier this year is the feature of an upcoming HBO documentary, in which her ministry is made out as a cult.
Pastor and diet guru, Gwen Shamblin Lara, died on May 30 after the plane she was traveling in crashed. Lara and six others, including her husband, former Tarzan star Joe Lara, were killed when their jet crashed into the Tennessee Lake.
Those killed were members of Lara’s church, Remnant Fellowship Church. Their Cessna C501 reportedly was registered to JL&GL Productions LP, which is a partnership formed by Lara and her actor husband.
Now, months since their death, according to EOnline, HBO debuted the new documentary project last Thursday. The five-part docuseries, The Way Down: God, Greed and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin, features interviews with people about Gwen’s Christian diet plan, The Weigh Down Workshop, along with the Tennessee-based Remnant Fellowship Church, which she later founded.
HBO Max’s description of the series stated in part, “Despite a carefully curated image, Lara and the church soon fielded accusations of emotional, psychological and physical abuse, and exploitation for their alleged cult-like practices.”
The trailer included a previously filmed clip of Gwen saying, “God revealed to me that the key to permanent weight control is a matter of the heart.”
Among the individuals featured in the trailer is one man who told the camera, “You taught your kids about drugs and alcohol, but you never think to coach your kids on a cult.”
According to her bio on the church’s website, “…Over 30 years ago, Gwen began the “Weigh Down Workshop” a Bible study series that directed hurting, imprisoned souls how to turn away from destructive vices and unwanted behaviors and emotions – such as overeating, alcohol indulgence, anger and depression – and point them to a genuine relationship with God. The results of pointing seekers to the Truth in the Bible, along with the practical “how to” wisdom, produced phenomenal results. The once obese lost all their excess weight, addicts were no longer turning to their vices, and the depressed experienced true joy.
“Participants even reported that their finances were being restored and their marriages were being healed – all a direct result from what they were learning and putting into practice through the Weigh Down Workshop Bible studies. Local churches heard of the life-changing teachings of Gwen and inquired if they could host Weigh Down Workshop classes in their own facilities…and a grassroots revival was soon underway.”
Lara founded the Remnant Fellowship Church in 1999, which at first was a small gathering at the back of the Weigh Down building in Franklin, TN in the shipping department. In 2002, the Shamblins purchased 40 acres of land in Brentwood, Tennessee, where construction for the church building took place.
Her husband, Joe Lara, is best known for the role of Tarzan in the American TV series Tarzan: The Epic Adventures.