Matthew 11:29-30 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. [30] For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Acts 15:10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

BY: Phyllis Norris- PhyllisJane@postmark.net

My story is not that much different from some of the others I have been reading on this website. They all seem to have the same thread of hurt, anger and confusion running through them.

In 1961 when I was nineteen years old, a Gospel Assembly Church came to the Kingsport, TN area. I had been in Pentecostal church all of my life, so when Carl Voorhees opened this church on East Center St., about two minutes from my house, I was curious about who these people were. This was the beginning of this long journey. Little did I know what was ahead.

At first everything was so good. Everyone loved each other so much. It seemed like this was the place to be. I began to hear about a man named Tom Jolly. We were told that Jolly was the head or leader of all the churches in this movement. Voorhees told us that we had found the "Body of Christ."

In 1967 or 68 our church relocated to the Bloomingdale Pike location. This is where everything began to change. Slowly, we were made to live by more and more rules. These rules supposedly came from the mouth of God.

We were told that our boys could not wear athletic socks. This might have made them want to play sports! "God forbid!" Men, women and children were required to wear long sleeves everywhere. The women were told they had to wear their hair up in "a bun" or "in curls" no matter where we went. Even the young girls starting at age 13 had to wear their hair up like a "granny". We couldn't even pull a little piece of hair down on our neck or at our ears! Wearing our hair up was supposed to prove our obedience or submission to our husband, pastor and to God. In my heart, I knew this was strange and silly, but I did it anyway. Maybe this is when I crossed the subtle line into mind control. It is hard to say "when" or "where" it actually happened because "the heat was turned up so slowly that we were conditioned to the water boiling around us".

Another of these crazy rules was to wear "no red clothing". If we had even thought about wearing red, we would have been, and some were, made to feel like whores. We were afraid to say that these were not our convictions, but Voorhees'. Still, we just went along with it. I find it amazing that when Lee Ray "gave" the church in Kingsport it's liberties, how fast those God given convictions went out the window.

We were not allowed to miss even one service or someone would come to our house to ask us why we were not at church. I guess they feared that we might begin to think for ourselves.

Before Lloyd Goodwin died, he was the one that told us that these "standards" were all man made, self-righteous acts, and didn't prove one's goodness or Godliness. Goodwin tried to slam the door closed that he had opened a week earlier concerning man made rules. He said that "any women that wore her hair down was a goat and just to tolerate them and milk them (the goats) for everything they had. (Meaning money)

Goodwin acted so strangely towards the end of his "reign". He looked at me with such hatred one weekend because I dared to wear my hair down and wear earrings. All I could do was stare back at him. He told Lee Ray there would be some changes made before he left that weekend. Lee Ray told everyone to hold off on their liberties for awhile.

Let's not forget about the school. I worked several years in the school as a monitor. The school became almost unbearable for the kids. They were not allowed to even turn around in their seats. The boys and girls were NOT to speak to each other, even if just to say Hello. A lot of corporal punishments were given for no reason. To the people that ran the school, nearly everything was a reason for a "whipping". How could these children be as mean and unruly at school as they made it seem when they were covered with so many rules? The kids suffered a lot under the hands of the principal. I'm sure he got his marching orders from Voorhees. Why didn't the parents step in?

Most of the people in the Kingsport Church knew that there was an ongoing affair between Voorhees and a "woman" in the church, but were afraid to confront "the Man Of God" about it. They had conditioned us to become cowardly in the face of wrongdoing.

A few people did try to talk to him. When they did this, they might as well have been ready to get out of the church. I for one did confront him. After this, I fell out of the grace of Carl Voorhees and his mistress (which before this time was a friend of mine). Jean Campbell, another good friend of mine, also confronted him. Voorhees told Jean that no one would believe her. He also called her a witch. This affair went on at least 18 years that I know of. If nothing was going on, why did Voorhees marry this woman shortly after Sister Pearl (Voorhees' first wife) passed away? There are a lot of people out there from the Kingsport Church that left because of this, among other things.

Money laundering is another example of corruption. The new pastor's wife "allegedly" would "give all of her income" earned from her small cleaning business to the church. Allegedly, Voorhees would give her cash back, free of taxes.

One of Voorhees' right hand men said from the pulpit that if the people didn't believe that God sent this woman for the pastor to marry, that we were stupid and didn't have good sense. Was this meant to be "edifying the brethren"? This man insulted God and the "Children of God" in that service. Why didn't we just all get up and walk out?! The people in Kingsport devoured and consumed each other. If you were not in that invisible clique you just might as well get out. "We didn't stand a chance."

The Kingsport church members were never allowed to listen to Lloyd Goodwin's tapes because Voorhees did not want anyone's voice to be louder than His in his own church. We were sister churches, yet we were not allowed to hear all of the "wonderful truths"Goodwin (supposedly) had. We only heard Goodwin preach at conventions.

I know I did my children an injustice by raising them at a GAC church. When we left, my son was 16 years old. How had I stayed in a place like this that long? I hope they have forgiven me and have been or will be healed from it all.

The principal told Mark (my son) that he would never amount to anything. Well Surprise! Mark had been in the Navy for 19 years, has a CCRN Nursing degree and a high rank in the navy. Count the real jobs Jeff Velie has had. At this time Jeff Velie is helping to build another Church (here in Kingsport) with the help of some former members of Voorhees' church, and even his widow. Hopefully this work will be stopped also. (This church to some degree is associating with the Des Moines Gospel Assembly.)

The thing that most people need to remember is that Jesus said "my yoke is easy and my burden is light." It's time for all of us to be restored in Christ. My son Mark said in one of his letters on the message board, that "God and things pertaining to Him weren't so complicated after all". All we need to do is follow His outline in the bible. Our Bible tells us that God is the head of every man (and woman). God is the ultimately the one we have to answer to.

Do what the Holy Spirit tells you is right, not what a man told you was right. These men are just abusing scripture when they say, "touch not mine anointed…", "Charity covers a multitude of sins…", or "He that has not sin, let him cast the first stone". They have been using these to cover personal faults for countless years.

God bless every one out there. May you know that God holds each one of us in the Palm of his hand.

Former member of Kingsport, Tennessee Gospel Assembly,
God Bless,
Phyllis Norris,


  Pat's Story