About Athena Dean


I’ve spent the past 30 years in the book publishing industry, as co-founder and former owner of the pioneering custom publishing company in the Christian book industry, and one-on-one as a freelance publishing coach. I have also done lots of blogging at my personal site, www.athenadeanholtz.com.

I was blessed to spend a year as a radio personality on “Always Faithful Radio” a live radio program for women on AM 630 KSLR in San Antonio, TX where I served as broadcast missionary under Commission to Every Nation. In fact, the Lord recently opened a door for me to relaunch Always Faithful here on AM 630 KCIS in Seattle. 

I am also a cult survivor, twice over. Once before I became a Christian I got sucked into and escaped from the Church of Scientology. After my salvation experience in 1986, I was lured into a legalistic, toxic, abusive Christian cult called Sound Doctrine. Ever since I walked away from this traumatic experience I’ve not been afraid to stand up and tell my story. It’s created an immense backlash online by my abusers, but I have nothing to hide. I’ve learned a lot from that experience and God has taught me a great deal about why I was vulnerable in the first place. He has also given me great insights into deceivers and those who have been deceived as a result.

Early in 2014, I returned to publishing in the Northwest and co-founded Redemption Press. The amazing part of that story is God brought me full circle, back to the offices I used to occupy before my detour into deception.

I’ve written four books including, “Consumed by Success: Reaching the Top and Finding God Wasn’t There,” “All That Glitters Is Not God,” and my most recent, my memoir, “Full Circle: Coming Home to the Faithfulness of God.” And my personal blog was included in the Top 100 Faith Blogs for Christian Women for 2015.

The most exciting thing that’s happened to me recently is I married Ross Holtz, founding pastor of The Summit, an Evangelical Free Church. That means I’m now a pastor’s wife…who knew? We now have a combined family of six sons, two daughters and 17 grandchildren, and absolutely LOVE boating and RVing. We live in Enumclaw where a large percentage of our grandkids live as well.

I’d love to hear from you and discover how the lessons I’ve learned could help you or your church.

19 thoughts on “About Athena Dean

  1. Thanks for your blog Athena. What a journey
    I am so happy there has been a reunion with family. Looking forwaard to having you back in Rotary.

  2. Dear Athena,
    With the latest “In the news stuff” on the SD Church, I came across your blog on a random web site. What a Wonderful surprise! I Praise God for your delivery! You don’t know me, and I only knew of you, through your involvement with the cult from a mutual friend (the Crones). Because of her concern for you, I have prayed for you in the past off and on! I will continue to pray for your healing, and freedom for those still entangled in this web of deceit!
    Press On!

    • Thank you, Carolyn, for your prayers over the years. I can only imagine the number of people interceding on my behalf during my years of captivity. God truly does answer prayers! I’m glad to be on the receiving end of those answered prayers!

  3. Hello Athena,

    Remember me? I am very deeply sorry for your trouble/problem at the WP.

    I suggest you with a highly recommend to read a book “Twist Scripture” by Mary Alice Chrnalogar.

    I will pray for you and your family.

    Colleen Simsa, Traverse City, MI

    • Hi again, I am sure as you go through the posts on this blog you will come across a number of posts where I quote Mary Alice’s book extensively! What an eye opener that book was for me…praise God!

  4. Athena,

    I am just now discovering all of this about Winepress, about the church, and about you! I, like many others I’m sure, am absolutely shocked.

    I first got to know you and some of the other Winepress folks (via telephone and e-mail) about ten years ago, when I was beginning to seriously work on a book project highlighting Christian leaders from my home state of Mississippi. You were always very encouraging to me, full of great ideas, and helped give me hope that I would ultimately get that book into print. That book is STILL not in print (though I have made good progress, and am still determined to see it happen…). However, I DID formally co-author another book (titled, “Crossing the Tracks”), which is being released by Kregel Books on June 1! So, perhaps this book will help open the door for me to get some more books published in the future.

    Anyway, I am so sorry to hear about the terrible things that have taken place through the church (which I had never even heard of), and the publishing company – and I’m sorry that the two were so closely related (along with the bookstore), that one rotten “preacher” (though he clearly does not deserve such a title) has led to the downfall of all of these ministry endeavors. This is so tragic in so many different respects – and I am saddened to think of how many lives will be spiritually damaged and emotionally wounded because of all of this.

    At the same time, though, I am so pleased to see that – in spite of all that has happened – God brought you through it, and helped you break free from this terrible situation. I am so impressed at your courage and your willingness (and ability) to say, “I was wrong” – and to do so in such an honest and public way. Since you were involved with that group for 12 years, I suspect that you’ll care some emotional scars with you for the rest of your life – especially since their false teaching had persuaded you to build walls (of some sort) between you and your family.

    I have encountered an awful lot of cults and false teachers over the years, but I have truly NEVER heard of anybody who claimed that Jesus wanted us to LITERALLY HATE anybody – much less our family and ourselves. It is absolutely horrifying to hear that somebody who professes to love God and to preach his Word can believe that this one verse “trumps” the multitude of other passages that insist that we LOVE others – in addition to, and even MORE than, we love ourselves – and that we treat our families with respect and kindness. I am so sorry to hear that such a teacher – and such a “church” even exists – and I am even more sorry to hear that you, my sweet, encouraging friend from Winepress, were among those who were (for a time) misled by a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    I am sorry to hear of what you went through – but so amazed to hear that you’ve come through it – more or less – in one piece. There is no doubt that you now have a story to tell – and a testimony to give…not so much about the wickedness of the people that you used to work with and worship with (although that, of course, is what the tabloids most want to hear!), but about the GRACE OF GOD in your OWN life – the way that God convicted you of your wrong thinking, revealed all of the deceptive leadership to you, and helped you find another, more Christ-honoring path. Of course, it’s just as amazing to consider the love that’s been demonstrated to you by your family, as they welcomed you back after TWELVE YEARS of separation! Now THAT, my friend, is a story worth telling!

    Anyway, I am certainly glad for the peace and joy that are surely ruling in your heart now – and I hope that, in spite of the bitter feelings, you will continue to pray for those people who hurt you so badly and deceived so many. Hell is surely a more awful a place than any of us can possibly imagine, and we should deeply desire that people – even those who’ve treated us so terribly – should find true salvation in Christ and be spared of that eternal fate if at all possible (God taught Jonah this lesson.). I will lift up a prayer of thanks for what God’s done in your life, and will ask him to keep working in your heart to draw you ever closer to him. May the Lord richly bless you in the days to come – and may you, as a result of your painful and difficult experiences, be increasingly effective in guiding others toward the TRUTH!

    Your brother in Christ,
    Josh Dear
    Assistant Pastor,
    Lakeside Baptist Church
    Muskegon, MI

    • Thank you for the encouraging words, Josh. So good to hear from you! Praise God you never ended up yoking yourself with WinePress…that is one of the hardest things for me to do…forgive myself for all the authors who are being hurt in the process of everything being exposed, and how many people I led astray. I so appreciate your prayers! Big hug to you.

  5. Wow. What. A. Story.

  6. Hi Athena,

    It was great to meet you at the NCWA conference! Thank you for your help on how to follow up with Terry. It was a very successful conference all and all.

    Completely unrelated: A couple of months ago, I read Chip MacGregor’s post about Wine Press, but didn’t put 2 and 2 together until now. To quote Anonymous, “Wow.”

    Josh Kelley

    • Hey Josh…glad to be able to help you navigate your meeting with Terry 🙂 I’m glad to hear the conference was a success for you!

      Yes…WOW is an understatement. But God will use the 12 years of deception and abuse to set others free, of that I am certain 🙂

  7. Athena,

    We met at a CBA in 2001 or 2002. I am from Rock Church in Va Beach and friends with Paul Tribus. Was pastoring in Chicago and with a ministry there called Reformation & Revival (John Armstrong), etc.

    Wow…what story!

    When we met you gave me a book by TW. I remember distinctly the moment I “tried” to read the book, where I was sitting, etc. and for whatever reason sensed the HS preventing me from reading. Something was terribly wrong in content even though it all appeared “sound”. I threw it away.

    You and another girl from WP tried to contact me many times to engage me and connect. You both tried to guilt me, etc. I finally had to be rude w you/girl and say do not call me again….I’m NOT interested. The constant calling and low-key pressure, I knew you were trapped in a cult of some kind by this obsessive behavior.

    Few years back, I saw that you got married and how God in his providence reversed things and restored you back to your business and love of publishing. So happy! I kept up on SD off and on and was not surprised to see it implode.

    I pastor now in Lakeland, Florida at Grace Church (www.hisgrace.com).

    I would love, if you are ever in Orlando/Tampa area, to have you share your testimony and message at the church/community. So many churches operate in cultish and authoritarian ways. Would welcome husband to minister as well.

    Keep that in mind if ever in Florida.

    As you know, many “evangelical” types are often cultish in the abuse, manipulation, control, authority. Cultish in practice, even though they may appear orthodox. Yet, who ever addresses this??

    So happy to see you married and happy.

    Take care,
    Tim Campbell

    • I remember you, Tim! Wow, like another lifetime ago. I JUST returned home from Orlando! I was there for the Advanced Writers & Speakers Association… sorry I didn’t see this while I was there 🙂

      I will be back in Florida for the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference, with my husband, in February of 2016… maybe we can coordinate around that conference. I would love to come and share His faithfulness in opening my eyes. Amazing that my husband was the pastor in town who got all the phone calls from devastated family members of those involved in the cult. What a breathtaking full circle!

      Praise God the Holy Spirit held you back and you obeyed and threw the book away. I wish I’d done the same!

  8. Hi Athena, I am hearing you on Bob Dutko right now. Did I hear you say something about midnight mass? I’m not sure if you were originally a Catholic? Did I hear you say no one ever told you what Jesus did for you? Not sure I heard correctly! Kathie

  9. I often hear similar things and your cousins may not have shared the Gospel, but at every mass, we hear the Gospel. In particular, in addition to a ton of scripture, at every mass, at the consecration, we hear: “This is my body, which will be given up for you.” I am just responding to you saying that no one ever told you what Jesus did for you. I’m not doubting your sincerity, nor am I doubting the lack of evangelizing by individual Catholics. But the mass is not deficient at all in proclaiming the Gospel. I hate to spread that impression. Glad you’re in a better place now!

    • Thanks Kathie. At age 8 if I had heard “This is my body, which will be given up for you” honestly, it would have gone right over my head! Especially with no follow up conversation about what that meant. That didn’t happen with my cousins and certainly not in my new age family! Of course, that was 55+ years ago, so it could be different now!

  10. I only heard your interview from another room – I didn’t catch all of what you said, so did not know your age when you were attending mass. Yes, 8 is certainly too young to understand! Although priests are supposed to preach each week on the Gospel readings – one would hope some of it would be graspable even by an 8-year-old.

    My point was to say that the mass itself is not deficient in any way. Only individuals. What happens at the Mass is the same thing that happened at the masses of the Apostles – when they met to “break bread” – it brings Jesus down on the altar and we come to the table of the Lamb to feed on Him. John 6: “…for my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you. If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, I will raise you up on the last day…”

    I hope you someday attend midnight mass again.. this time to see the Lord and to commune with Him. God bless you.

  11. Athena, I was part of the sound doctrine cult for 3 years in Denver. But God brought me out and protected me. Your words are a balm to me. Please email me, if you have time.

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