Toxic Leader Behavior and Proverbs 6

I’m studying Proverbs in my Sunday School class and was reading Proverbs 6 yesterday. Verses 16-19 resonated in my heart in a new way as I began to understand how the Lord feels about those who use His word to manipulate and control those who are genuinely desiring to follow Him.

As I looked through every line of this section of the text, I was amazed, once again, at how toxic leaders, in my experience it was Tim Williams specifically, preach against the very things they do, and accuse those under their care of doing the very things they are guilty of.

There are six things the Lord hates—
no, seven things he detests:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that kill the innocent,
18 a heart that plots evil,
feet that race to do wrong,
19 a false witness who pours out lies,
a person who sows discord in a family.

Haughty eyes and a lying tongue. The foundation of a toxic leader and a common accusation Tim Williams made of anyone who questioned his authority or the way he used scripture. It was always someone else who was haughty, arrogant, and prideful… someone else who was lying, when all along it was (and still is) he who is the liar. Just take a look at the website he created to try to come across as an authority. When he couldn’t get the City of Enumclaw to acquiesce to his demands, he used it to smear anyone (myself included) who stood up for the truth, making it look like an official publication of our city. What a LIE! And this is only one example, for more on that, read this post.

Hands that kill the innocent. Interesting that Tim and his late wife, Carla, always went after those with disabilities who were developmentally disabled in some way, and of course those who were so broken from childhood abuse, vulnerable souls, who were easily manipulated. I’ve come to find out all con men and wolves target those who are easily controlled for a variety of reasons. They may not physically kill them, but emotionally and spiritually, they accomplish the task well.

I think back to the time when Tim Williams began blogging, out of the blue, about the Innocence Project and how so many people are sent to prison when they are not guilty. He followed those rants with the topic of false memory syndrome, declaring you could never trust a person who says they were sexually abused as a child. He was diabolically building a case he knew would surface in the future, as his timing was telling. He started blogging on these topics shortly after the family whose daughter was pedophile Malcolm Fraser’s sexual abuse victim left the cult. I believe Malcolm confessed his crime to Tim and Tim developed this plot to hide the truth. A heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong. He crafted his plan to brainwash his followers so no one would even ask the question, could Malcolm be guilty? There are still a handful of followers who stand convinced that Malcolm is innocent, even though he was found guilty on all charges. All as a result of a heart that plots evil to cover up a crime.

A false witness who pours out lies. Tim Williams had his followers lie on the witness stand during Malcolm’s child rape trial. I was appalled as I read the testimonies, thinking to myself, how can he justify the lies? Oh, that’s right, Sarah lied and said she was Abraham’s sister, so that must make it OK. More on that here.

The last verse jumped off the page as I pondered the wake of broken families in his path, mine being only one of many. Using scripture out of context, Tim Williams sowed discord in families. Turned wives against husbands, husbands against wives, children against their parents, adult children against their parents, all in an attempt to gain control. He intentionally would keep one or two families together just to be able to point to them to say he wasn’t destroying families. What evil. To use Luke 14:26 to divide families so that those under his care were easier to control for his own benefit. Interesting that this is a common scripture used in cults to keep their prey from staying in touch with those who don’t buy in.

Shame on you, Tim Williams.

Shame on you.

I would not want to stand before God in your shoes.

And to all who remain loyal to this man who, on all 7 counts exhibits behavior that the Lord hates, I pray for the courage you’ll need to finally realize you’ve been led astray. It was hard for me too, but the peace that comes from admitting the truth, no matter how painful, is more than worth it.

More on Toxic Leaders and How to Identify Them

Brad Sargent aka Futuristguy has cheered me on for years now, ever since I started blogging about my spiritual abuse experience at the hands of Timothy Shelby Williams, founder of Sound Doctrine Institute.

What an honor it was to spend time with him yesterday discussing the possible publishing of his life work. The overall series is for both survivors of spiritual abuse (and their support networks) and organizational developers (social activists, church planters, church and non-profit leaders), and is about deconstructing systems that damage and constructing systems that are healthy.

As we discussed the content and I scanned through some of the charts, I was stunned to see such accurate descriptions of the toxic leadership roles common in unhealthy organizations. Yep, there’s nothing new under the sun… evil men who are puppets of the evil one use the same tactics to control and manipulate those under their influence.

I’m sharing 2 charts that were particularly meaningful to me. You can view the articles on these particular topics on Brad’s blog here.

The two that captured my attention were the comparison of organizations run by agents of damage vs. agents of healing and the pyramid of responsibility. So telling. If you’ve ever been involved in a toxic organization, you’ll be able to identify the roles your leaders played pretty easily. I know I did.



My experience may have been the extreme end of the spectrum, but there are so many other examples of this type of abuse in the church today. I hear from people all the time who’ve survived abuse in the church. Sadly, many of them lose their faith and never return. Just what the enemy was hoping for.

As you read these charts, does any of it resonate with you?

I’d love to hear your comments.

Freedom in the New Year

Tonight marks the 5th New Year’s Eve I’ve celebrated since God opened my eyes to the deception I believed was truth for 12 years.

It must be difficult for the handful still left in Sound Doctrine to ask themselves the question…could it be true…that what you’ve believed is a lie? That someone you trusted and believed in could actually be guilty of the crime he was convicted of? That it really is a destructive cult? That the leader you follow does not speak for God? That you’ve been led astray?

Being willing to ask those hard questions takes courage, and a humble heart.

I commit this New Year to continue praying for those still blinded by the enemy’s lies.

At the same time I rejoice in my growing ability to ignore those who, as a result of believing those lies, call evil good and good evil.

I choose healthy boundaries, and I say “no” to:

  • The bullying.
  • The name calling.
  • The fury.
  • The intimidation.

Here’s the deal…those tactics don’t work on me anymore.

And that’s healthy.

And I praise God for that.

To all who’ve been led astray and to those who’ve found true freedom in Christ outside of the cult of Sound Doctrine, I pray that He continues to draw you to Himself and heal every wound caused by the enemy of our souls.

Happy New Year!

Discovering More About the Enemy’s Strategies

On the anniversary of my fourth year out of the cult of Sound Doctrine, I am praising God to be able to connect even more dots as to the why’s and how’s of my 12 year detour into deception.

As I taught this last weekend at a ladies’ retreat, I covered areas of vulnerability that can leave anyone open to deception. I used some quotes from a book we developed for ministry back in the late 90s and as I read this one section to the ladies, it took my breath away how precisely the enemy of my soul used these tactics through the leadership of the wolf in sheep’s clothing, Tim Williams.

This is the section of the book, Behind Enemy Lines, where the guerrilla warfare tactics are compared to the way Satan operates, and any comments I add will be italicized:

The following list of ways the enemy fought is by no means compete, but it will serve to show you some of the tactics used by the Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnamese soldiers to kill, maim, harass, and disrupt our war strategies. You will see how these methods match Satan’s ways in fighting us in the spirit realm.

  • The VC attempted to look as much like the civilian population as possible. (Satan disguises himself and can even look like a friend – an angel of light.)

Tim Williams used his wife, Carla, to draw people into his initiative. She found her way into positions of credibility so that she would be seen as friend, not foe. That was a very effective strategy…it sucked me in, and in the end, gained him a publishing company to further his agenda and doctrine.

  • The VC did not fight for physical territory…they fought to win the hearts and minds of people. (If Satan can shift our attention, our zeal, our time, our hearts and our minds onto something other than Jesus and the Great Commission, he has won. We have fallen into idolatry without even knowing it. He has captured our heart and mind leaving us unfruitful and ineffective in the Kingdom of God.)

The enemy used Tim Williams to shift our attention off winning souls and onto promoting his agenda, his doctrine, his message that ultimately divided families and destroyed lives. His twisting of scripture rendered the hearts and minds of his followers ineffective to discern the truth from a lie.

  • The VC deployed booby-traps along trails to destroy our confidence. By blowing off the arms and legs of our buddies along the march, our purpose and confidence was weakened. We were taking casualties, but never saw the enemy because after the explosives were detonated the enemy could watch the destruction from afar—out of harm’s way (Satan knows he cannot win the war, but if he can set enough traps along our walk to make us hurt and be unsure of our faith then he can keep us from being effective witnesses for Christ. He usually wreaks enough misery from a distance that we sometimes forget who the real foe is. Many times we target each other as the enemy because he (the devil) is not an obvious player in the scenario).

Tim was a master manipulator and using shame based theology he set traps to beat us down and make us question our ability to hear God and discern His will.

  • The VC used innocent civilians, even to the point of destroying them, as decoys to undermine our security and confidence. It was a common practice to strap explosive charges on small children and send them into groups of G.I.s to make friends and win their affection. When the child would get close enough, the communist soldier would detonate the charge with a remote switch—taking out the G.I.s and the child. (Often Satan will use even good things to win our affections. Once he has accomplished this, he ambushes us and attempts to destroy us.)

Tim effectively used children as pawns in his game of deception. He and his wife openly shamed the parents, telling them they were unfit to lead their children in the Lord, and then turned the children against their parents, building into them complete loyalty to their new “granny and grandpappy.” That inevitably made the parents more dedicated to the wolf’s doctrine and agenda because they didn’t want to lose their kids or grandkids.

  • The VC tried to get us to mistakenly kill our fellow warriors. One particular tactic he used was what we called “cutting the pie.” At night, when we would stop daylight operations in the jungle, we would dig into night-defensive positions. The entire unit formed into a large circle (pie) for protection. Normally, there were two men to a hole, and one slept while the other kept watch for enemy activity. The VC would probe a point in the perimeter circle, making a lot of noise to attract attention, and would try to take a slick out of the “pie.” After making the noise, they would pull back into the jungle and hope we would fire our weapons in the direction of the noise—which would be at our own men on the other side of the circle. (Satan deploys the same strategy against us. He creeps into our midst and causes disruptive “noise,” and then pulls back into his jungle and waits for us to kill each other. He tries his best to cause fights, quarrels, dissatisfaction and dissention in our midst. All the while he has distanced himself and remains the undetected source of trouble. This tactic is evident in almost every church or fellowship in Christendom. Most pastors can attest to this.)

This was common in the cult. No one was safe, people were used against each other in order to further the wolf’s agenda and provide information to be used against them in the future to his advantage.

  • The VC attempted to stay close to U.S. military units. They knew that the closer they could be to us—especially in a firefight—the less likely it was that we would call in artillery or air support, in fear of directing the incoming fire on ourselves. (Satan sends his forces against us in the same manner. He gets as close to us as possible so that we cannot determine which direction to call in “air support” to take him out. Many times he is so close that we completely overlook him when he is in our midst.)

There was always lots of talk and preaching of Satan and his strategies, when the reality was he was in the midst of this group and calling all the shots, in the Name of Jesus.

WOW. Reading this book again after all these years, with 20/20 hindsight, it’s amazing to see how the enemy worked to steal, kill and destroy our family, business, and faith.

Today is, however, a victory day. Four years ago I escaped the mind-control and evil deception of Sound Doctrine and Tim Williams, and am connecting new dots as I review the schemes of the evil one and more clearly see how he worked in my life and the life of my family.

Let me be clear. I am not one who sees a demon behind every doorknob. But I have to say, the church had better wake up and realize how the enemy works. There is just too much at stake and there are too many opportunities for him to come in and deceive. I am living proof of that, and I praise God He rescued me from that deception. There continue to be too many others caught in the enemy’s grip through Tim Williams and Sound Doctrine, and other spiritually abusive leaders out there. Oh God, please open their eyes, in Jesus’ Name!

My Independence Day


It’s been 44 months since I gained my independence from toxic leadership.

As I thought through the characteristics of this type of destructive leadership and what I am no longer dependent on, I could only praise God for opening my eyes, delivering me from deception, and giving me the courage to warn the rest of the body of Christ.

There are many red flags we MUST be aware of that characterize a toxic church. At the same time, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of us as Bereans understanding scripture IN CONTEXT, being willing to respectfully question and search out the truth, not just believing what someone says because they are a persuasive communicator who quotes a lot of scripture.

Here’s the full post that illustrates what to watch for in leadership, and may we be ever thankful for the independence that Jesus has given us by giving up His life for us.

Nothing New Under the Sun When it Comes to Cults

If you’ve ever heard my story, you know that I come from a New Age background and was involved in Scientology back in the ‘70s before I ever heard the gospel. This last Sunday evening, we watched the HBO documentary on Scientology, called “Going Clear” which included a number of people who have had the courage to leave the cult, and stand up and tell their stories. They spoke out even though each one experienced tremendous backlash and ongoing harassment by the “church” and their loyal followers.

There were so many similarities in how Scientology deals with criticism and former members who speak up and how Sound Doctrine behaves it was chilling.

I sat stunned as the video footage of L.Ron Hubbard spilled across the screen, giving me a glimpse of what a nut case he was. I realized as I was watching the documentary that, for the seven years I was involved and on staff at the Celebrity Centre, I never saw even one of those interviews with him. The only thing I was ever exposed to was the headshot of him in his skipper’s hat where he looks pretty normal and credible.

Ding, ding, ding!

First parallel


Limit what the loyal members of the organization see and hear about the leader and his activities. Only let them see and read what makes him look good. It’s much easier to play word games with a printed document than it is to edit a video. And words can be quoted completely out of context and end up looking and sounding completely different than when they were originally spoken. Those who are intent on keeping others controlled and in bondage will twist words like a pretzel if it gets them what they want.


Using private information against a potential threat (or as Scientology calls it, a Potential Trouble Source) in an attempt to shut them up is the order of the day in cults. The church of Scientology amasses intimate information about each member’s life through their process of counseling (called auditing), and threatens to use it to destroy a person’s reputation if they happen to question the abuses they see or show in any way that they may be thinking about leaving the organization. Because of this, many high profile people have stayed in the organization against their better judgment because of the promised threat of humiliation. And everyone involved in speaking out on this documentary had smear campaigns launched with dedicated websites and all manner of lies spread all over the internet.

Tim Williams was a master at this. He would have me put my repentance and confession into writing to document whenever he got me to a point of turning everything back onto myself and believing I was wrong for questioning his integrity or actions. These situations would always turn inward to search my heart and repent for my accusations, which were surely of the devil. I would have to apologize in writing and admit that I had a bitter root, and that I was focusing on the speck in his eye instead of the log in my own.

I was persuaded using scripture to say that Tim was the man of God that He put in my life and I was in sin to question his authority. I would then be required to list all the sinful aspects of my character and personality and grovel in order to prove my repentance, (this was supposed to show that I was walking in the light and the only way I could be healed by the Lord). He would then file these documents away to use at a later date to disprove that any criticism I could ever possibly make if I ever left Sound Doctrine. These documents would be used to try to prove that anything I say that is negative is a lie since I have apologized in the past for the same behavior.

More specifically with the fraudulent sale of WinePress, he made sure I wrote up a statement saying I was selling the company of my own free will, that it was my desire to do so, that I was unfit to run the company, and that if any of my children say otherwise not to listen to them. I was made to feel that I would be in rebellion if I did not declare my allegiance in writing and that was the last thing I wanted to be. As is fitting with this characteristic of a cult, he has some of those very documents I penned posted on the website he created to destroy my reputation!


One of the long time Scientologists in the documentary talked about how he never read any of the stuff online about Scientology. That he was loyal and was convinced that anything negative online was put on there by suppressive people who’d left the church and been excommunicated, so their words could not be trusted. It was actually only after 35 years and a nagging inside that he finally started reading what others were saying and realized they were speaking truth, and it really was abuse that he was experiencing, and it was wrong!

The more I thought about it, I realized how the Scientology leadership is able to keep people from looking at what people are saying or doing any kind of research on criticism. And it’s amazing how similar it is to what Sound Doctrine did! During the course of a Scientologist’s auditing, the question would always be asked by the counselor “Did I miss a withhold?” A withhold being something you don’t want them to know about. Actually, I just looked it up on a site that exposes the cult:

A Withhold is an unspoken, unannounced transgression against a moral code by which the person was bound.

As a loyal member, dedicated to the moral code of Scientology, if you read any of the critical analyses of the organization, you knew good and well that, if you admitted it, you would be in big trouble, disciplined and abused in horrific ways. But of course, you believed that you would have deserved that kind of discipline for your bad behavior. That’s all part of the brain washing and mind control.


Tim Williams did the same thing. We were convinced early on, with lots of scripture, that anyone saying anything negative about Tim or Sound Doctrine was in sin, a “wide road Christian” with a bitter root, a false witness, a Judas, and generally just someone who is selfish and doesn’t really want God but just wants their own way so we should have nothing to do with them. I can’t even find the scripture now, but Tim always used to quote “Whoever listens to a false witness will be destroyed.” So of course, if you ever read anything critical about Tim’s handling of scripture or the doctrine he pushes, you’d feel incredibly guilty (even if you wondered if they were right in the criticism). So guilty, in fact, that you’d be compelled to confess it as sin, and would then be disciplined for your rebellion, your bitter root and for becoming a Judas. You would be cut off from fellowship from the rest of the body, and likely put “outside the camp” like Miriam was when she rebelled against Moses. If that happens a time or two, you definitely determine to avoid reading anything that could bring Tim or Sound Doctrine into question…out of self-preservation!


The last huge parallel I will mention today is the standard practice of Scientology utilizing lawsuits to bully others into giving them what they want. The documentary talked about them taking on the IRS to get their 501©3 status, and how they had members file lawsuits against IRS tax auditors INDIVIDUALLLY, to the tune of thousands of individual lawsuits. It was a tidal wave of intimidation that the IRS finally caved under and gave them what they wanted to get all the lawsuits to go away.

That reminds me of Tim Williams having all the cult members write letters to the Insurance Commissioner to try to get State Farm Agent Tony Truax’s license suspended. All because he was willing to stand against them and their bullying.

Tony had told me that 3 single women from Sound Doctrine had tried to purchase million dollar policies and put Tim down as the beneficiary. All three of the ladies came into his office at different times and used the same reason and story as to why there was an insurable interest. He was so troubled by this when it happened that he reported it to the Enumclaw Police. When Tim got wind that I’d been told about this he demanded an apology from Tony and Tony would not offer one, on any terms. When Tim couldn’t get what he wanted, he had all the members cancel their insurance policies. When that didn’t work he had them all call State Farm and complain and try to get him fired. When that didn’t work, he had them all write letters to the Insurance Commissioner and filed a formal complaint to get his license revoked. When all was said and done, Sound Doctrine LOST the suit they filed with the state agency. Praise God they didn’t cave like the IRS did!

With today being April 1, 2015, exactly 5 years from when Tim Williams and Sound Doctrine got legal possession of WinePress Publishing (albeit fraudulently), I thought it timely to have seen the documentary of a secular cult and discover how similar the tactics were in a conservative Christian cult, both organizations originating from the pit of hell….hmmmmm…. nothing new under the sun, huh?

When the Truth Becomes a Lie

I Googled my full name the other day (Athena Dean Holtz) and stumbled upon the latest twist in the ongoing rampage against my character. My jaw dropped as I read it…I was stunned at the blatant deception that was communicated. A perfect example of the truth becoming a lie. Here is the statement made about me:

Spokesperson calls Athena Dean a “rabid griper who makes a career of attacking the church.”

This quote was cited on the website created by Tim Williams to smear my reputation and cause people to question my character. The people he most hopes will continue to buy his lies are the handful of followers who continue to consider him a “man of God.” Those whom he’s convinced will be destroyed if they listen to anything I have to say. (Truth be told, if they actually did read everything I’ve written, they’d realize they too have been duped by this con-man who calls himself a pastor).

So how has this truth, this quote about me, become a lie, at the hands of Tim Williams? Here’s how. The way this quote has been cited leads you to believe someone else with authority agrees with Tim Williams, that I have made a career in attacking the church, as in, the body of Christ. But what is the context of this quote about me, and who actually said it? Seattle PI Article 1984

Since their resignation, the Deans say church members have heckled and harassed them. Scientologists who worked for them have quit. The Deans believe it’s part of a church process called “disconnecting” or “striking a blow to the enemy.” That’s ridiculous, said Ruble, the local Scientology president. Ruble, who oversees 16,000 Scientologists in three Northwest states, called the Deans “rabid gripers” who are making a career of attacking the church.

The full article can be found at this link:

Pretty ironic, really.

This was a newspaper article from 1984, 2 years before I became a Christian. And the most compelling parallel is that all those years ago I was standing up to yet another cult… the church of Scientology… another toxic organization that bullies and intimidates anyone who speaks out against them. Amazing how all cults use the same tactics…threats, intimidation, lawsuits towards the defectors, and extreme isolation of those who are still buying the lie…heaven forbid they should learn the truth that they’ve been led astray.

So when you read the quote on the website that was created to expose my “lies” and bring to light the truth about “who I really am,” does it mean something different now…now that you actually know who said it and what church they were referring to?

Of course.

But that’s just exactly how the enemy works. He doesn’t want you to know the truth, because it’s the truth that will set you free. Instead, he wants to keep you in bondage with word games that hide the truth.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Col 2:8

Please pray for all those still ensnared by the hollow and deceptive philosophy of Sound Doctrine and Tim Williams. Pray that they Holy Spirit would be able to get through to them and open their blind eyes, and that they would be humble enough to admit the truth…that they’ve been duped.

That’s a hard thing to do when you’ve burned all your bridges.

Just the other day I’d heard about “confirmation bias,” and was amazed at such an accurate description of what happens to people who stay in cults and turn against those who have the courage to leave and expose the truth.

Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true.

It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs.

I must admit, I lived for 12 years being manipulated by a man who knew how to take advantage of our sinful human nature that looks for a way to prove we are right when we are really dead wrong. I think the Bible calls that PRIDE.

Please, please, please…pray with me that the power of the enemy would be broken in the lives of those who remain loyal to the wolf and that Jesus would draw them back to Himself.