|Net Worth||$ 4,000,000|
|Real name||Gwen Shamblin|
|Source of Wealth||Diet Program|
|Profession||Dietician, Church leader, Author|
|Date of Birth||Feb 18, 1955|
|Died||May 29, 2021|
|Height||160 cm / 5 ft 2 inch|
Gwen Shamblin, later Gwen Shamblin Lara, is most known for her Christian diet program, ‘The Weigh Down Workshop’.
She later founded the Remnant Fellowship Church, which got a lot of publicity with the HBO Max documentary “The Way Down: God, Greed, and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin”.
Gwen passed away in a plane accident on May 29th, 2021, along with her husband, Joe Lara, her son-in-law, and several more Remnant church members.
At the time of her passing, her net worth was estimated at between at $4 million.
Gwen Shamblin was born in Memphis, Tennessee, where she spent most of her life. She was the daughter of a doctor, Walter Henley, which is how Gwen showed interest in becoming a dietician.
Her family was a part of the Church of Christ, a church that practices the New Testament, so it exposed her to religious preaching from a very young age. In addition, the Church of Christ is among the more conservative forms of Protestantism, and Gwen was a firm believer in their principles.
The Church of Christ didn’t allow females to preach publicly, and they weren’t allowed to be church leaders. Gwen Shamblin was a part of this church until 1999 when she founded her own Remnant Church.
Gwen got a B.A. in dietetics and an M.A. in food and nutrition, with an emphasis on Biochemistry, from the University of Tennessee. She was a certified consultant, a dietitian, and worked in the Tennessee Department of Health for five years.
She developed her Weight Down Workshop while she was getting her Master’s Degree at Memphis State University. Her first class ever was held in a Memphis-based mall, and the program didn’t have any religious background or settings.
By 1980, Gwen had started giving weight control consults, since she struggled with being overweight in college herself. According to Shamblin, each person’s metabolism, genetics, and personal behavior take part in how the body is developed.
Her program isn’t based on food restrictions, counting calories, and exercise regimens, which is why experts showed concerns about what results from the program would show since it wasn’t based on recommendations from the American Dietetic Association.
Shamblin had her first course hosting at the Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, and the program lasted for 12 weeks, including a seminar guided by pre-filmed tapes from Gwen Shamblin.
Around 600 churches across the States joined by 1994, and the next year already, Shamblin’s program reached more than 1,000 churches in 49 States, the UK, and Canada.
In 1996, 5,000 churches joined, and 10% were located in Tennessee. The same year, the Weigh Down Workshop had 40 employees and a headquarters building in Franklin, Tennessee, when Shamblin hosted the first annual summer convention in Nashville.
The Workshop hosted 21,000 classes with more than 250,000 participants by 1998, and by the next year, the Remnant Fellowship Church was founded.
Once the Weigh Down program started becoming popular, Shamblin started receiving a lot of criticism for building her business based on Christianity. By 2011, Shambling was subject to an investigation of how the money that was made was being spent.
According to her, half of the profit went to tax payments, and the rest was invested back into the program.
They built the Remnant Fellowship Church in 1999 in Franklin, Tennessee. By 2004, they had finished the building on land that Shamblin had purchased in Brentwood, Tennessee.
She published her book, ‘The Weigh Down Diet’, where Gwen spoke about her advice that overweight people need to use spirituality to avoid overeating. According to her, the love of good should be considered the love of God. Food portions are supposed to be cut in half, and if readers ate only when they’re really hungry, they would stop struggling with being overweight.
The book sold over 1.2 million copies.
She later released ‘Rise Above’ (2002), and ‘Exodus Devotional’ (2002).
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Her controversial opinions took a toll in 2000 when Shamblin sent out an email to her followers that the Trinity doctrine (the belief that God exists in three ‘persons’: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) was not biblical. Several evangelical churches left her program, ‘Thomas Nelson Publishers’ broke up their contract for her next book, employees left the church and the program, and Shamblin got removed from the ‘Women of Faith’ website.
The biggest controversy related to the Remnant Fellowship Church occurred in 2007 when followers Joseph and Sonya Smith murdered their seven-year-old son, Josef. The child had been a victim of abuse for an extended period. Josef was ‘routinely disciplined’ by being beaten with glue sticks, belts, and heated coat hangers. He got locked in confined spaces for days or weeks on end, and they left him alone with only a picture of Jesus and a bucket to serve as a toilet.
Sonya admitted to beating her children in a series of ten blows, and the day Josef passed away, he got multiple beatings. They forced one of the older children to hold Josef down while they were ‘disciplining’ him.
The medical examiner stated that the child passed away due to ‘chronic and acute’ abuse. The money for the Smiths’ defense was paid by Remnant members, led by Shamblin. The couple received a life plus 30 years in prison, which is the maximum sentence in the state of Tennessee.
Reportedly, while being in church, people could see glue sticks sticking out of the diaper bags from multiple present Remnant Church followers.
Gwen Shamblin lived in Brentwood, Tennessee, with her family, in a historic mansion. In 1978, Gwen married David Shamblin, with whom she had two children. They got divorced in 2018, and she got remarried to Joe Lara.
On May 29, 2021, Gwen, her husband Joe, her son-in-law Brandon, and four other church leaders got killed in a plane crash heading toward Palm Beach, Florida. The private jet crashed in Percy Priest Lake in Tennessee, not too long after takeoff.
The report stated that the crash occurred as a result of meteorological conditions. Air traffic instructed the pilot to climb, but there was no answer. The plane crashed in a shallow area of the lake, deep around 2 to 8 feet.
Many questions arose after Shamblin’s death regarding her legacy and heritage. While Gwen was still alive, she made multiple claims that none of the profit was going into her own pockets. She stated that half of the money went to pay taxes, while the rest was being reinvested into her programs to keep them running and ‘help more people’.
However, her will didn’t mention anything about the Remnant Fellowship Church, and all her heritage was left to her children.
After her passing, several news stations released details of her properties and how much they were estimated. The Remnant Fellowship Church released a statement claiming the church building was estimated at around $10 million, and she left her publication rights to the church, which was ‘more than enough’.
During her divorce, she and her ex-husband David had to split more than 18 different estate properties, which were valued at more than $20 million. Since the properties were bought after they got married, it would be necessary for them to have a massive amount of money coming in constantly, which is why the public wondered where did the church money go?
In several interviews, when asked about one of her houses, which is currently estimated at around $7 million, she claimed she would ‘have no issue selling the house if needed’, since it was a ‘house of God’s’.
After the divorce was finalized, Shamblin transferred almost all of her properties into trusts, while hiding the names of the owners. Some of the names are ‘4714 Ocean Trust’, ‘902 Franklin Trust’, and ‘Highway 56 Farm Trust’.
Gwen Shamblin Lara was surely one of the more controversial preachers, with many questions left unanswered after her passing. All of her inheritance was left to her children, who took her role in the Remnant Fellowship Church, especially her daughter.
Her net worth at the time of her death was estimated between $1 million and $6 million.
Wikimedia Foundation. (2022, October 29). Gwen Shamblin Lara. Wikipedia. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwen_Shamblin_Lara
newschannel5. (2021, October 28). Gwen Shamblin's will, potentially worth millions, leaves nothing to her remnant Fellowship Church. YouTube. Retrieved November 7, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJ5_80ckBBs