Gwen Shamblin’s will left nothing to her Remnant Fellowship church

Mild spoilers for The Way Down
This story is about Gwen Shamblin Lara, the founder of the Remnant Fellowship Church and its Christian diet program, The Weigh Down. I’m familiar with Gwen and her grifter husband, Joe Lara, from the HBO Max miniseries, The Way Down: God, Greed and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin. I also vaguely remember seeing her on television in the late 90s, when her diet was at the height of popularity. Shamblin had a background as a dietician and she billed her diet as a way to substitute God and worship for mindless eating. The reality of the diet, especially for her close followers, was much darker. Shamblin established a massive cult compound in Brentwood, Tennessee, where she accepted free services from parishioners (which may explain her hair and makeup), dictated almost all aspects of their lives including abusive child rearing, and accumulated incredible wealth, tax free. Shamblin and her husband died in a plane in crash in May, 2021, while the documentary was being filmed. Her daughter, Elizabeth Shamblin Hanna, runs the cult now. That’s all preface to the story from Nashville’s NewsChannel 5, revealing that Shamblin left nothing in her will to the church which made her rich.

Gwen Shamblin Lara, who created a Christian diet plan that became its own religion, died in a plane crash back in May. That crash also killed her husband and five leaders of her Brentwood church, the Remnant Fellowship.

But an exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation discovered that Shamblin’s last will and testament — involving an estate potentially worth millions of dollars — is reviving old questions about her ministry — and her money.

“It suggests to me — perhaps I’m cynical — it suggests to me that the accumulation was not for God, it was for Gwen,” said veteran Nashville lawyer Gary Blackburn, who sued Shamblin over allegations that her company fired people who would not join her church.

NewsChannel 5’s investigation first raised questions about Gwen Shamblin 20 years ago, but the rest of the country is getting to know her through a new HBO Max series, “The Way Down: God, Greed and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin.”

Shamblin left behind a legacy, stemming from her days as founder of the Weigh Down Workshop, of false claims about her own wealth.

“This money, half of it goes to the government, the other half goes to keep it going so that someone else can be helped,” she told then-CNN host Larry King back in 1998.

In a July 2001 interview, NewsChannel 5 Investigates pressed her on that claim.

“Half and half leaves nothing for Gwen Shamblin. That’s not completely true, is it?”

“Yes,” she insisted, “it’s completely true.”

Yet, Blackburn had succeeded in getting Shamblin to admit under oath that the money was going to her and her husband, David.

“I hate to say this to some degree because she’s deceased,” the Nashville lawyer continued, “but she struck me as 100 percent phony, as a grifter, a huckster.”

Yet, it was a story that her daughter, Elizabeth, had continued to perpetuate as recently as four years ago.

“She practically handed mine and Michael’s inheritance away,” Elizabeth Shamblin Hannah told an audience in 2017.

But NewsChannel 5 Investigates obtained Shamblin’s will, a will that leaves everything to her two adult children, Elizabeth and Michael.

[From NewsChannel 5]

NewsChannel 5 has a video excerpt from Shamblin’s video series on greed, which she was working on before her death. She says, in a massive beehive, pearls and garish makeup that money “was never intended to be accumulated, but rather used as one small tool to build up the kingdom of God. If you cling to your money, you’re going to lose it. But if you give it up, you’ll find it again.” She was telling her followers to give her all their money, right? NewsChannel 5 goes into detail about Shamblin’s known assets at the time of her 2018 divorce, which involve 18 different properties including a beach property in Mexico valued at $4.2 million and her Brentwood mansion valued at about $7 million. She also hid her assets by transferring her property into the ownership of trusts. Shamblin had tens of millions and was living the life of luxury while telling people to send her their cash. Isn’t that how these cult leaders always operate? Now her daughter, who inherited half her wealth, is running the same scam.

As for the HBO series, I recommend it and found it fascinating. It gets really sad around the third episode, when they interview young adults who grew up in the cult.

Here’s NewsChannel 5’s report. Damn she was shameless.




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46 Responses to “Gwen Shamblin’s will left nothing to her Remnant Fellowship church”

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  1. HandforthParish says:

    These so-called Christians make me sick.
    It’s such a blatant money-making scam, in what world is it even tolerated?

    Why do those Evangelicals get away with it?

    • HK9 says:

      They get away with it because they know standing up to them is useless. If you don’t have to report income to the government you are a law unto yourself. They amass so much wealth that it’s hard to fight them in court because they have deep pockets. Many of the horrible things they do are categorized under ‘religious beliefs’ so it’ll never be addressed. Unless they ‘kill someone on the president’s desk’ so to speak it’s easier just to walk away.

      • Chaine says:

        I didn’t watch the documentary yet, but from news reports when her plane crashed, weren’t some of her church members convicted for killing their own child due to following her teachings on discipline?

      • Ponchorella says:

        It is long past time to start taxing churches. Wasn’t this grifter on the way to a MAGA rally when the plane crashed?

      • iconoclast59 says:

        Amen, @Ponchorella (pun intended!). Let churches itemize their charitable spending on their tax forms for a rebate, just like the rest of us.

    • josephine says:

      Because people do not want to have to think, or think critically. They will literally pay someone to make their lives very simple, with strict black & white rules, which allows them to feel righteous. These grifters aim for people who are lonely and don’t feel like they have a purpose. So the griftees get: 1) simple rules for life that allow them to turn off thinking about everything that is hard and complicated about living one’s life; 2) a sense of belonging with the “right” people; 3) righteousness.

      And all they have to do is hand over their money.

    • LillyfromLillooet says:


      I realize this question is rhetorical, but it does lead me to think of more established lines of Judeo-Christian tradition that have formalized learning processes (different from “Bible study”). Evangelicals’ relationship to religion seems highly weighted to charisma and emotion and light on reason, ethics, and philosophy.

      I know and like some Evangelicals, pro-choice, LGBTQ people who are truly following the path of the one whom they believe is the Messiah and do good works. But yeah, it is really easy in a charismatic worship situation for things to go off the rails.

      • pottymouth pup says:

        “Judeo-Christian” isn’t a real thing, it’s just a phrase the right-wingers/fundagelicals started to use to try to make it appear as though they’re not pushing Christianity by referencing Christianity’s roots in Judaism (but doing so in name only)

        The right preaches prosperity gospel and Shamblin is an prime example of it

  2. Nicole says:

    This movie is in my HBOMax queue. Humanity really seems on a downward trend.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      These televangelist have been around for decades.

      As for her death, and the other cult members dying in a plane crash, her children should consider that act as a sign from God! Don’t steal from people for your own personal wealth and use my image for your OWN personal use.

      And don’t walk around looking like Tammy Faye Baker 2.0!

    • I watched it as soon as it came out as I grew up with these religious charlatans and I’m still fascinated how they manage to indoctrinate people. I swear, I’ll watch anything about a cult.

      And it SO does not matter but her hideous beach house was in the GULF of Mexico in Destin Beach Florida , not Mexico.

      It just seems like some kind of sick poetic justice that she was on her way to a bloody MAGA rally when she died. A HIDEOUS human being.

  3. atorontogal says:

    No idea who this person is but how in the name of baby jesus does she get her hair to do that?!

  4. Abby says:

    I didn’t realize she died! I have been planning to watch the documentary. My mom was overweight her whole life. I remember when I was a teen (90s) her going to a weigh down workshop at my church. I don’t think she stuck with the program. My mom has passed away so I can’t talk to her about it, but I think about this woman and what I know now about that program and I hope so much that my mom’s self esteem wasn’t negatively affected by this woman. I didn’t know better back then.

  5. WithTheAmerican says:

    They died on their way to a Trump rally. You can’t even make this crap up.

  6. Coco says:

    The documentary missed an opportunity in not using the title “The Weigh Down to Hell.”

  7. VegasSchmegas says:

    This miniseries is proof that PT Barnum was right.

  8. SpankyB says:

    I thought that was someone’s Halloween costume.

    I’d heard of Weigh Down and knew it has a religious background, but I never paid much attention to realize it was a cult. Sounds like an interesting mini-series.

  9. Lizzie Bathory says:

    Honestly, if she was squirrelling money away in trusts, it seems odd that she wouldn’t have set up a revocable trust. That would have kept the disposition of her estate private, as opposed to a Will. But I suppose we should thank her attorneys since now we all know about her hypocrisy.

  10. Liesel says:

    I hope her last moments were filled with terror, anguish, and pain. That’s where I’m at with these criminals. I have no empathy for them and their ilk. I used to be a nicer and kinder person.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      I agree. I have no empathy for those who pray on people of those less fortunate solely for the purpose of greed. That preacher who needed a newer private jet so that he wouldn’t have to make so many stops for fuel, and he got his jet!! Those that prey on the elderly with calling them and being sucked into losing all of their money. I hope that they all suffer immense pain and anguish.

    • Jennifer Romans says:

      Me too, I am just wishing so hard for Karma to be real.

  11. Ry says:

    Who tf is going to her for diet tips..or any tips. She looks like a costume turned human.
    She ruined lives. I hope she knew the plane was going down and her life flashed before her eyes. That, I would enjoy. I feel no remorse for these evil people.

    • Apple Cart says:

      I hope her last moment is realized she married an idiot who got them all killed due to his incompetence. If she followed her own rule of no divorce she would be alive today but wanted a washed up hunk who played Prince Charming to her Miss Havisham fantasy life.

  12. Katie says:

    I’m glad the news channel tooted their own horn a bit. I little reminder of the incredible importance of (dying) local journalism.

  13. Harper says:

    I watched the series. Reprehensible. Her daughter had a baby who died suddenly, the cause was not revealed, and the church brought in its members for inquiry about their lives because someone must have been living wrong for this to happen to Gwen’s daughter’s child. The daughter then went on with her life as if nothing happened to her. The daughter acted the same way after Gwen perished in the crash; she got up in front of the church and was like, “Y’all, we’re moving on.”

    If you want to get rich in life, come up with some study program that you can sell to a nationwide flock of sheep. That’s how Gwen first made her millions with the diet program. A church is a good idea too, but it’s limited locally. She did make people move down to Tennessee to grow it.

  14. Apple Cart says:

    I don’t think the daughter has the charisma Gwen had. I’m sure they will carry on for a couple more years before the kids cash out completely. And anything given to the Church before she died was just for tax evasion purposes

  15. AbbysMom says:

    when I saw the ads for this on HBO, I legit thought it was a parody or some kind of comedy series, a la Amy Sedaris in Strangers with Candy. I had no idea she was a real person and this is what she looked like.

    • Melisande says:

      Same! I saw her photo for the documentary on HBO Max and I thought they photoshopped it to make her look extra ghoulish. I was shocked to see that’s actually what she looked like.

  16. Nashville Girl says:

    It’s all so shady. My neighborhood is just down the street from Remnant and we have lots of their members living here. It was a big deal in our HOA elections last year with some people thinking they were trying to take over our subdivision. We’ve heard for years how it’s cult-like and I was fascinated by the HBO series.

  17. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Gwen. God. Same thing in those circles. What I found repulsive (aside from those taking), are the masses doing the giving. From way back traveling tent revivals to televangelists, I continue to be completely perplexed with their audience. And I was done feeling sorry for them a very long time ago. From the felons on stage to the Lazyboy donaters, my wish is for unilateral horrifying consequences. Children died within her ministry. She’s a monster. They’re all monsters.

  18. The Recluse says:

    It’s past time to tax the churches, including these phony grifter ones.

  19. Ann says:

    Her hairdo is like “The Rachel” on steroids, holy moly.

    I had never heard of this. Now I need to check out the documentary. Sweet justice that they were on their way to a Trump rally. In general, though, I don’t trust private planes. Too many tragic stories involving them, including a few people to whom I have/had a connection.

    This, however, is not a tragic story.

  20. Leah says:

    I saw that documentary, distributing and it wasn’t just her hair that was disturbing. The whole taking advantage of poor people, demeaning them if they gained weight, and earning coin off the backs of people to live high on the hill. That plane was on its way to west palm beach when it crashed, and it makes me wonder if like the other evangelicals they were on their way to see Trump to kiss his ring or something.