Former "End-Time" Group Speaks Out
It's a church that's been called a cult by some of it's neighbors.
However, leaders and members have simply hunkered down to weather the criticism, until now.
"They got a bunch of bussinesses, and they work good," said Donald Jenkins, a Lake City resident.
His vegetable stand is down the road from "Mountain Top Ministries," a church surrounded by barbed wire, and for years has been called a cult.
Pastor of the church, formerly known as "Meade Ministries" James Burbach says the gates and barbed wire are protection from vandalism. Controversy has surrounded the church for years.
"You're treated as a sub class of human, and it's not who we are," he said.
On Thursday, the church opened it's gates to the media, for their first official press conference.
Burbach is the grandson of the church's founder, Charles Meade, who passed away last year.
Online cult forums warn of his teachings, which allegedly frown upon modern medicine, contact with non-members, and formal education.
"Come listen to the message, and decide for themselves, based off of what he preached, and based off of the truth," said Burbach.
In 1990, Meade followers Charles and Marilee Myers pleaded guilty to child abuse after their son almost died from a heart condition that was left untreated.
"Many people think we tell people you can't go to the hospital, another perception that we have never once told people they can't go get medical help," said Burbach.
A perception that's still strong in the Lake City community.
"They don't believe in going to the doctor. I heard about that...I think God give you enough sense to go to a doctor," said Jenkins.
According to Pastor Burbach, the congregation is about 1,600 members strong.
Most of the members' children are home schooled, but the church has submitted an application for a charter school near their headquarters in southern Columbia County.
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