1992, 05/04. Stewart Traill’s Message To Jim LaRue.

This was Stewart Traill’s response to me after I stood up and spoke to him at a meeting. Stewart dictated his message over the phone to the church office through one of the sisters who lived with him and then a brother named Joe read it to me.

Joe enjoyed the act of reading the message to me from the file cards it was written on. In a church in which all forms of entertainment, relaxation or joking were considered to be “levity,” enjoying someone else get the third degree from Stewart was one of the few acceptable forms of entertainment available to church members, and Joe was truly enjoying it. And besides, the message was from Stewart, so it was considered to be the absolute truth about me.

Stewart did not say that this message was his response to me standing up to him at a meeting. He did not mention anything I said to him or say he hadn’t agreed with me.  Instead, he dictated a message that sounded like an Old Testament prophecy. He pronounced ominous sounding words against me as his reply to the pointed observations I made about him

The words I said to him at the meeting were:

“You said that you repented (back at the “Grace Meeting” in 1989) and I think you were sincere, I really do. But you have gone back to the way you were before. In fact, you’re even worse than you were before.”

“You’re alone and you need to get your views checked.”

“You’re pushing brothers around.”

I never got to finish what I had to say, because Kevin and Paul S. and other brothers rose up in one angry voice, denouncing me for “attacking the basis for why we’re together as a church,” and for “attacking the very roots of our church.’ (Stewart led the pack of angry brothers in the direction he wanted them to go by asking leading questions like, “What’s he really up to? Would you say that he’s attacking the church?” There was loud and angry agreement.)

It was true, in a sense, that I was attacking the church, and everything that was near and dear to the brothers and sisters.  We were huddled around Stewart Traill as our leader, a leader who had the only true view of Christianity in these modern times. This is what Stewart promoted about himself and what the brothers and sisters in COBU said they believed. To allow someone to disagree with Stewart or to find even the slightest fault with him meant tipping that worldview over on its side. If this were to be allowed, the whole structure would fall apart. Stewart would be a mere man and not God’s special messenger. And what would that do to everything else that had been built upon this assumption and which gave meaning and purpose to the brothers’ and sisters’ lives? No wonder there was an immediate and vicious response to what I said.

I naively and sincerely believed that if I spoke up, what I said would be dealt with objectively.  Some people might disagree with me.  Others must be thinking the same thing, and maybe some of them would agree.  And there might be changes here. 

Within seconds it was clear that the only change that was going to take place was the immediate end to my church membership.  This also included the immediate termination of my job and immediate eviction – because I worked in the church business and lived in the Church of Bible Understanding.  Though I had been a member of the church for 11 years, I was to be forcefully escorted off the property then and there.  I asked if I might get a ride back to New York to get my things before being put out on the street.  

At the last minute, my sentence was commuted to a “three day sudden death,”  which was the ultimatum given only to the most violent and disruptive of the “New Disciples” we “swept up” off the streets.  If I was not appropriately repentant within three days, I would be put out.  At least in the meantime, I would be able to go back to New York.

I was surprised and shocked to receive this treatment. But maybe I should not have been surprised.  Being suddenly overpowered by these tactics, I immediately backed down and began to blame myself. Stewart was not my problem.  As it said in our “Training Papers, “My own sin is my basic problem.  Not circumstances or the other bad guys.”  

This moment became a milestone in my thinking about the Church of Bible Understanding and all that it stood for – and about my place in it.   Those that I had lived and worked with for years were willing to summarily throw me out the door for having voiced a few objections about our way of life. And didn’t Traill himself say he had been teaching and acting wrong up till recently? It wasn’t possible that he could still be doing something wrong?

No one objected to this treatment.  No one said I had a point.   Stewart Traill, the man of truth who was always “truthspeaking” and exposing our faults in bitter tirades against the “Older Brothers” in long meetings which often seemed to be on the level of the Nuremberg Trials, did not permit the slightest criticism of himself and immediately shut down anyone who ventured to try it.

Here is the message:

“Give this to Jim LaRue.  Tell him to read this 17 and a half times and take two aspirins.

“Jim LaRue’s world:  “The Nile is mine and I reform it into whatever I want.”  Jim LaRue’s goal is to be allowed to be left alone to put together and live in his own little world.  Jim LaRue, among other things, is very strong-willed and convinced that his own little tree world is the best of all possible worlds and, being a true believer, he is ready, willing and able to suffer for his faith.  He refuses to accept the dominion of reality, yet he recognizes that he is also dependent on reality in order to survive and also to find “good things” to squirrel away in his tree world.  So, he is forever commenting and frustrated and irritated at his dependency on reality (but he will grudgingly accept the latter) and there are signs that he is starting to lose his way in this bizarre connection.  He just hasn’t gotten the concept of one or the other!  To him it is impossible to settle for only one.  So he actually argues that he will have it both ways.  The normal thing is to grow up and to realize that “I am part of something that is much, much bigger than me.”

“There are very few like Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, and Jim LaRue.”

[So, you see what I was up against.  A closer reading of this message reveals certain concepts: I was trying to do something impossible (to live in two worlds).  I was starting to crack and lose my mind (implying that standing up and speaking to Stewart was merely a symptom of my internal troubles).  In other words, it was a diagnosis that I was losing my mind.   I was defined as a mental case and I was trying to live contrary to all of reality.  (Contrary to Stewart’s teachings, which are reality.  This was not directly stated, but it is Stewart – who represents truth and all of reality – whom I have spoken against.)

Nowhere in this message is the connection between speaking to him and his response mentioned, except maybe the part where he said I was forever commenting.  It was plain to everyone, including me, that the message was Traill’s response to what I said.  He didn’t mention any of the things I said to him or dealt with them in an objective way. 

(We all “knew” anyway that Stewart always went to the deeper issue in any situation, to the “truth” andthe underlying motives for a person’s behavior.  That is what we came to believe about him over the years.  So, when he did not answer a question about himself, attacking the person asking the question instead, we thought he had “spiritual insight” and he was going to the real issue in that person, such as that they were prideful, a “gameplayer” or that the devil was using that person to “attack the truth” and he was defending the truth.  

We also believed that Traill always won in these situations because Jesus was on his side.  (Jesus was never on the side of the person that criticized or doubted Traill.)  It didn’t even have to be criticism.  A person could stand up at a meeting and say something encouraging and hopeful and Traill would come at the person in an out of left field response (in an angry attack or by making fun of them by name calling and put-downs) and we’d all think Traill was coming from true spiritual insight.  That way, Traill never had to be accountable for anything or answer directly about anything if he didn’t want to.)

In Traill’s message, I was also being “offered” a way out, a way to “come to my senses,” since my way of course, was hopeless.  In his greatness, there was now no retribution for what I have done, but rather a condescending offer to “join in something greater than myself.”  Then, as a final put-down, I am grouped with three great and legendary world conquerors, implying that I have delusions of grandeur.

This message was a pronouncement only, a diagnosis.  And a message that I should know my place.  And that everyone else should know their place too, or they would be dealt with in the same way.  There was no invitation to call and talk to him. 

I suspect that I was on to something real with him and he was trying to buy me (and everyone else) off with a diversionary tactic, by portraying me as someone on the edge of insanity, who has a perception problem, and with a condescending offer to stop this behavior (stop saying things like this to him) and to humbly rejoin the flock.  And it was also a demonstration to all the others of what would happen to anyone who questioned him. 


These pages, as well as my other pages, A Day In The Life Of A Cult Member and Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry Cult Leader, are part of the source material of my book, Captive Congregation: My Fourteen Years in the Church of Bible Understanding, which is available as a Kindle book or in paperback.

For my journal where I wrote about this, see the link below, then scroll down halfway through the page:



I also mention this in my “Exit Statement, Why I Desire to Leave the Church of Bible Understanding.”    You can find that by looking at the menu at the right of this page for 1993, 08/15., or on the link below:



17 Responses to “1992, 05/04. Stewart Traill’s Message To Jim LaRue.”

  1. Ave Hurley Says:

    Stewart is a miscrient narcissist. What he wrote to you was actually a description of himself~!! In his own warped way, he actually was admitting to you what he was but simultaneously warning you that you would be the one who is made out to be the bad guy. Typical reverse accusations~! Rather transparent when you stop to think about it a moment.
    Stewart was a mental case long before the FF/Cobu began to grow. He could hardly contain himself, that so many young people would actually be willing to hang on his every word and elevate him to the position of a god on earth as has happened.Still he is in power and confident and has very maniacally but carefully set about a bunch of self preservation controls that he has been able to elude legal authorities for the last 39 years.
    I am a bit surprised he actually put this in writing as all it is, is a projection of what he actually is.

    The mental problems any of us developed as a result of being under Stewart’s spell are the results of oppressive spirits that were sent to follow us after leaving Cobu~ Prophecies of doom and gloom to all who departed from ‘his’ way.

    Praise God you are out from under his foot~!!


    • James Says:

      Ave, I appreciate the comments. That’s an interesting way of looking at it. Yes, I realize now too that the things Stewart Traill accused us of were the things he was really doing. (Maybe that’s why he was so preoccupied with it.) Aside from the general (and constant) accusations and charges leveled against us, such as that we were “perverts,” “hoping in this life,” “thumbing our noses at Jesus,” and “rebels and cheaters,” I have just remembered this one: He accused the Older Brothers of being like the rich man, and said that the “New Disciples” (men we “swept up” off the streets) were like the beggar Lazarus. (The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Matthew 16: 19-31.) We were building up our “riches in this life,” while ignoring the new people. But, none of us were rich by any means. And we were working day and night in the church business and devoting most of our other hours on other church activities, including “shepherding” the New Disciples – I mean, Stewart didn’t spend any time with them. When I heard that, I thought of how I have only 2 or 300 dollars in the bank and I get 30 dollars a week “allowance,” own no properties or investments, and have few possessions, other than some books and several changes of clothing, how is it that I and the other Older Brothers are like the rich man? I’m giving up everything, my very life, to serve the machine here. Of course, Traill said, it’s not the physical money, it’s an attitude. I thought, what are my “riches?” (The ones that are not money.) That I want something for “self” in this life, like learning French? He went on to paint a picture of us, lifting up our eyes in torment in hell, like the rich man in the parable, and the New Disciples would be in heaven. If you look at the balance sheet of the Church of Bible Understanding, and the condos and the mansion, it’s clearly Stewart who was the rich man then, and he’s even richer now. However, it was convenient to accuse us of it, to guilt trip us in order to squeeze even more work out of us and to make us feel guilty about (and to give up) any little private space that remained, or any desire to have a little hobby or interest on the side that might direct even a few hours a week away from our full attention to, and from the giving up of our whole selves to serve his own goals. And Traill never looked rich to me. He wore his uniform of work pants and shirt, always the same colors. He drove an old car.
      However, I do consider that if Traill had thrown me a bone and said, “Yes, you may have a point there,” and if he had allowed church members personal time in order to have a balanced life, I might still be there.

  2. David Suit Says:

    I was in the FF back in 74-76 in Youngstown and Cleveland and briefly in
    NYC in 76.

    I read these posts and ?? well, I miss being so innocent and naive.
    Stewart was and I assume still is a miss-guided person.
    And, yes he has missdirected people
    but,We are all responsable for ourseleves!
    anyone is free to write me at Suitmedia@aol.com

    • James Says:

      Hi David,
      I think we were all innocent and naive in our earlier years there. I’m not quite sure of your meaning when you say Stewart is a misguided person. The meaning that seems to come through in your comments seems to be he’s not such a bad guy. But I could be misunderstanding your comments. Things have changed in COBU since the mid seventies, and it’s more than just a name change of the organization. I was not there back then, when it was called the Forever Family, but I’ve heard good things about that time period.
      From time to time, we’d have someone come back who had been in the FF and who had not been around since then. They were always in for a shock, and they never stayed very long.

  3. Diana Vincelli-Hetrick Says:

    I just thank the Lord that got me out of COBU. We were all misguided, but Jesus from the bible does guide you. Not a man. Interesting article. I can see Stewart being a mental person. Is he still around and his wife Gail? We all need to get our hearts ready for the coming of our Savior.
    Looking forward to see everyone.

  4. Joan Thompson Says:

    I remember you and I was at that meeting that Stewart “quote ” repented” and confessed that he was not “Born Again”.

    The thing that I could never reconcile in my mind was this, if he was not a believer all those years how could he be in a position to “lead”.

    I thank God that dispite the false teachers and liars in the church/body of Christ, God will always preserve his people and lead and guide them into truth.

    I have come to learn as Solomon has taught us that there is truly nothing new that is under the sun. God warned the phophets of old that others will come and not speak my words.

    Yes we were young, we were not taught the truths of living the christian life based on the word. But by his grace and in Jesus name we can press on and learn from from our past and help and aid others.

    Btw, the last I heard of Gayle is that she was in a coma from a plane crash.

    • James Says:

      Hi Joan. I remember you too. That’s a good point you make about him not being qualified to lead, if he claims he had not been born again all those years. Maybe he would have started from a lower seat then.
      About Gayle, yes, she was in a coma. She may have improved slightly. There have been several people saying it was from a plane crash, but really it was an auto accident in the Bahamas.
      There is a court document online that says:
      On February 7, 2002, Gayle Traill was injured in a car accident in Exuma, Bahamas. At the time of the accident, Mrs. Traill was a passenger in a rental car operated by her husband, Pastor Stewart Traill.”

      You can read the document here:


      (If the link does not work, you will need to cut and paste the above into your browser in order to see that website.)

  5. Louise Says:

    The biggest draw was being around a lot of young people, and he was the Pied Piper. It was “you and me against the world.” Unfortunately, if you stayed too long your free will started to atrophy. I agree, he is a narcissist, and he did not truthfully appeal to our better angels. There is something cool about having super knowledge and looking down on everyone else, even if it is all a bunch of baloney.

    • James Says:

      Louise, I agree with all of this, except for the very last part, “it is all a bunch of nonsense,” but I’ll come back to that later…
      One of the big draws was being around all the other young people, and I got to know a lot of people. After staying too long, it was easy just to conform and not go by “my own thoughts.” Part of that came from the conditioning of being told what we wanted was wrong or that you had to be “in fellowship” about all your decisions, which often was just a form of asking for permission, rather than finding out options or what God’s will was in matters. Usually, the agenda of the moment was being pushed (bringing money and new converts) and that left little time for one’s own desires.
      About the communal life and regimented lifestyle, Sabina Wurmbrand told us (I met her after I left) that the COBU’s communal lifestyle might be good for a young person for maybe a year or so (sort of like a Christian bootcamp) but after that, not so good, as it would lead to the sort of dependency that you are mentioning (atrophying your will). She also said that if Stewart Traill says we should live this way, then he should live that that way too – which of course, he did not. Even from the earliest years, Traill lived in the tree-lined streets of suburbia, while FF and COBU members lived in lofts – though it is true some lived in communal houses. The only “community” Traill seemed to like to have in his private house was young female helpers?
      It’s true too that Traill was a narcissist and did not appeal to the good in others or truly seek their good – though he often preached on seeking the good of others and loving others. However this “love” was often carried out in the form of harsh criticism of church members. We also did this to one another. I was sometimes a victim of this “truthspeaking” and also am guilty of giving it to others.
      It “all being a bunch of baloney,” I don’t agree with, unless by “baloney” you mean the feeling better than others and looking down on them. Otherwise, I’d say I got a lot of good out of COBU, or maybe in spite of COBU and that it was not all a bunch of baloney. See, this is what is so difficult sometimes for those who leave. What do you keep and what do you throw away? Because we got a strong dose of legalism and condemnation served up with our Christianity, do we throw away our believe and faith in God entirely? If rat poison has been mixed with a good kind of food, do you never eat that kind of food again? (My rat poison detector or BS detector is fully operational after all this.
      Mark Twain said that “The cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will not sit upon a hot stove lid again. But he won’t sit upon a cold stove lid, either.” The and stove lid for me is not Christianity, but rather I am watchful of distortions of it and junk being mixed in with it.

  6. AveHurley Says:

    Yes, I think they call it itching ears 🙂

  7. Gregory Cherry Says:

    Jim LaRue (and anyone else who reads this):

    I was involved with COBU for a short period. I never lived at any of the residences but I did visit the Lamb House here in Philly and the house they had for a short while on Salagniac Street which was in Roxborough. People I remember: Shelly, Ann, Adrian, Bob, Daniel are a few. I was at a Big Meeting somewhere in New York when a man who had been a prisoner in Russia or Romania (I can’t remember which) spoke. I am a writer and have been considering writing a book about COBU. I am seeking individuals who have had any involvement with COBU or Stewart. I would like to interview you either online, by phone, or in person. also, if anyone knows how i can contact others who had COBU involvement, most especially Shelly, I’d appreicate any leads you could give me.


    Gregory Cherry
    e-mail: XXLivingProof@aol.com (please put COBU in subject box)

  8. JB Says:

    I am quite sure Stewart is a witch. His ministry of death is pronouncing curses, controlling others, rebellion: against the entire Body of Christ – in other words: witchcraft!

    • James Says:

      Stewart Traill, a witch? Nah. But I can just imagine him standing in front of a boiling cauldron and stirring and chanting “trouble trouble boil and bubble,” and adding just the right amounts of condemnation, guilt and manipulation while cranking the heat higher and higher on the Brothers and Sisters. You’re right about the ministry of death, curses, control and rebellion. But it’s not witchcraft, though he certainly is crafty.

    • Louise Says:

      I avoid analyzing COBU in spiritual terms, because that is a trap. The entire experience had nothing to do with God, but was merely a lure for suckers. However, I am going to indulge in some paranormal musings and point out that the Trails are descended from Mordac of Verdun, a Viking raider and Norman that terrorized and colonized England under William the Conqueror. The Normans have a history of using Christianity as their patsy.

      • Claudia Says:

        Christianity is never a “patsy”. It should never be used to use and persecute. Jesus fed five thousand families and then four thousand families who had come to listen to Him teach them. They were given spiritual food and physical food. They were never made to feel bad about themselves nor were they forced to work with no pay. His disciples were always with Him but they were never burdened to stay with Him nor were they without anything that they needed.

        Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus treated His disciples as if they were lower than low just to keep them following Him. That is what has been done here by Stewart Traill, and that is being done by the Mormon Church and Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was also done here in Yucaipa by a man named Michael Belzman. He is a very prideful and nasty man. My husband and I have both had personal dealings with him, and he is a crook to say the least.

        I have been researching cults since 2001, and have much written about them. I taught a class on them, but quit because the curriculum was some of Michael Belzman’s wannabe stuff. He told me not to cast my pearls before swine, so I stopped telling him anything.

  9. Claudia Says:

    I know a lot about cults. I was in one for a long time, as you were. I thought I had been delivered from such things, however, I wanted to volunteer in a place that I thought served God, but this individual who ran it was somewhat like this Stewart Traill, and he made many of the same accusations against people that Stewart made against you. He kicked me out of his office and wanted me and my husband to repent of our “sin” which was wanting him to pay my medical bills from the accident in which my shoulder was broken and my feet were run over by his car, twisting my whole body and causing many other problems. My “sin” was needing my bills paid, as he had promised to do. Also living in a roach infested park, and not wanting a bunch of dope addicts to clean my house for me. That was my “sin”. His name is Michael Belzman and he lives in Beaumont, California. I wrote a letter exposing him, but the local newspaper would not print it.

    Thank you for letting me rant; I really am interested in cults and I do a lot of research on them. They are contrary to the Bible, because Revelation 22:18-19 tells us not to add or subtract from the Word, and 1st Corinthians describes what happens to those who preach a false Gospel.

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