I am a former member of the “abolitionist” church known as Door of Hope based out of Norman, Oklahoma. Over a year and a half ago I joined together with Cross and Crown Church in Northern Virginia. I was formerly a member of Door of Hope for over three years. This is the “house church” that the founders (T. Russell Hunter and others) of the modern “AHA movement” were members of after being removed from a local Baptist church. I have many thoughts on my time there. Furthermore, I am an active abolitionist and was for well over four years associated with the particular abolitionist sect that is sometimes colloquially labeled “AHA.” This group of abolitionists is a loose social-media based activism group who wear and associate with the AHA symbol and who largely look to T. Russell Hunter as their de facto leader. Due to much-repeated speculation and controversy surrounding this “fellowship” and this particular group of abolitionists, I thought it would be beneficial to finally share my observations and knowledge about this congregation and some of its members.
This article will be surprising to some and disappointing to others while others will feel vindicated for different reasons. That will depend on what you’re looking for. Some will be looking for dirt because they are spiteful anti-abolitionists. Some will have their well-earned suspicions confirmed. Others who were formerly more critical of this particular sect will ignore this testimony because Hunter and his tribe have become more socially acceptable. I will wholeheartedly agree with many positive responses to this testimony, but I sadly suspect that I will not appreciate or condone some support this testimony may get. Some will use it to hurt abolitionism, while others are just petty. Many more will “stand by” their man and condemn me for this testimony.
I am writing this because I believe the abolitionist community is being essentially suckered into supporting men who are not qualified and who display very alarming traits that will lead the community and the cause of abolition into damaging scandal after scandal. I am writing this because I believe orthodoxy matters, accountability matters, and integrity matters. For the new, passionate, and eager abolitionist, I want to warn them of the rocks ahead hiding in the surf. I want to ring the alarm bell for other young and impressionable abolitionists who believe that it would be nice to fellowship with the “AHA church.”
There is far more that could be added to this article, but some stories should be told by those more familiar with the events and other stories are not mine to tell and would negatively affect innocent parties. What I am sharing is my testimony and this testimony is shared and can be corroborated by multiple families who have seen what I have seen and experienced what I have experienced.
I want to clearly say that I was wrong. I was wrong when some warned me and I shrugged them off. I was wrong about Door of Hope. I was wrong about T. Russell Hunter. I was wrong when I saw the red flags and I ignored them or explained them away. I was wrong about a lot of other things.
I also want to apologize for all the quotes around words like “church” and “fellowship.” I do not intend to sound snarky, but I do not know how else to discuss this, well, “fellowship” in a clear and honest way. I do not believe it was ever a truly healthy fellowship, and at a certain point, it failed to meet even the barest of prerequisites for being considered any sort of Christian fellowship. But it also sounds silly to just call it a clique or a group of friends.
First, it should be known that I fully understand that AHA is a symbol that represents an ideology. AHA (abolish human abortion) is the wrote-out symbol that represents abolitionism. However, symbols are adopted by various people and not others. Therefore, the reality is that there are a group of individuals who associate with “AHA” and who rally behind T. Russell Hunter and there are groups that do not. Abolitionism is an ideology that I affirm, have defended, and will continue to defend. The broad community of “AHA” abolitionists and their leaders I cannot defend without many qualifications.
I first met T. Russell Hunter about twelve years ago in Norman, Oklahoma. Though Russell holds no official title or legal sway over the abolitionist community, he is widely considered a central leader of this ramshackle movement and he carries a great deal of influence. I met him long before “AHA”. We met through a mutual friend and although I didn’t get to know Russell well then, we did strike up a shallow friendship. At this time both Russell and I were attending a Southern Baptist Church; the eventual birthplace of the modern “AHA” abolitionist movement.
After my time in Norman, I made a move to Southwest Oklahoma for work. I became a member of a PCA congregation there and remained a member for several years. During this time Russell and I were still Facebook friends. After some time I started to notice anti-abortion graphics on social media that all had a certain symbol on it; the AHA. Over the next year, I befriended more Norman-based AHA abolitionists and became convinced of the ideas. I ended up moving to Norman and fellowshipping with this group. Not too much later, I started blogging for the AHA website, spoke at various AHA conferences, created graphics, became an admin for the main AHA Facebook page, and an admin for the AHA community page. I do not point this out to puff myself up, but to add context to this testimony. I was not an outsider, rather, I was as much of an insider as you could be. Keep that in mind while reading. I am not some Facebooker that read a discernment blog and decided to be a “hater.” Rather, I am someone who directly witnessed what I write about.
Over the next few months, the fellowship was already involved in a controversy. A few of us thought it prudent to raise some to the position of elder, while Russell and others believed that elders were not needed and not good. We came to no resolution and, as became the habit, we shelved the issue and changed nothing. In hindsight, I do not believe anyone was qualified to be an elder save perhaps one (not me). As it turns out, the one man that was qualified to be an elder came to the same conclusions about this fellowship as this testimony and is no longer a part of that fellowship.
It should be noted here that T. Russell Hunter made it a habit out of telling some individuals on social media that himself and others from Door of Hope were elders while telling others that his fellowship had no use of elders. If he was talking to a Presbyterian or a Reformed Baptist, Hunter would claim eldership. If he was talking to someone who was critical of institutional churches, his story would change. The plain explanation of this is that Russell and others at Door of Hope will simply lie to outsiders about the nature and function of the fellowship.
As I feared, a failure to have elders (official or not) led to pastoral duties and responsibilities falling through the cracks. The version of accountability that was practiced was waiting until an issue got out of hand and then addressing the “problem person” harshly and in as large of a group as possible. Consistently, steps in the Matthew 18 process were skipped, rushed, or abused. The men that would spearhead these discipline cases assumed all of the authority of mature elders, without practicing many (if not any) of the responsibilities of men that should have authority. This was one area that I admit fault in.
The AHA Norman sect prides themselves on what they call “plain dealing.” We talked a lot about going to one another directly and getting to the root of the problem. This sounds nice on paper, and I admit I bought into it for a time. What it looked like in practice was heavy-handed interrogations, massive amounts of gossip and backroom dealing, and extreme methods of intrusion. Keep in mind that this was all done without any structure, doctrinal standards, polity standards, or eldership. This was literally just a few young men taking power into their own hands.
And this “plain dealing” was also highly selective. In one dramatic example that happened last year after I had been in Virginia for months, a leader in the “church” who I had previously lived with wrote an excommunication document “excommunicating” myself, the only man fit to be an elder in the fellowship, and another family (none of us were actually at Door of Hope at this point). This man, Aaron Hoffman, had not attended the fellowship in over a year and yet thought himself to be in a position to type out an ecclesiastical document condemning others in the fellowship (and others who had been gone for some time). He’s also one of the men that Hunter would falsify as an elder. He took this upon himself, and the last remaining men in the fellowship affirmed the document (about four others), all without prior meetings, phone calls, evidence of sin, cross-examination, or due diligence. This man was too busy running a real-estate business to ever fellowship (at the regular gathering or just for fun) with his community, but not too busy to claim all authority in the fellowship for himself.
Depending on what was seen as expedient at the time, “plain dealing” would fluctuate from heavy-handed four-hour-long meetings to secret excommunication meetings wherein the accused knows nothing about the charges till the sentencing is complete and posted on social media. This is the behavior of cult-like megalomaniacs.
Similarly, the focus and attention of T. Russell Hunter was always on his grand abolitionist plans rather than his local fellowship. As often is the case in situations of radical ecclesiastical anarchy, those who talk the loudest and the most often seem to wield the most power by default. An anarchistic structure is only a more duplicitous route to tyranny. Power Religion, I have learned, does not ultimately spring forth from institutions and Books of Church Order, but from hearts. Tyranny of personality and mob rule is every bit as much tyranny as the tyranny of elders. When T. Russell Hunter wanted to flex his power, he claims eldership, when Hunter was too busy to deal with problems or responsibilities in the community, he’d (with a false sense of humility) deny that he was an elder. The authority was demanded while the responsibility was abandoned.
Some of the most troubling things about Door of Hope was the lack of character and behavior of its de facto leader, Russell Hunter. I have already talked about him some, but I feel the need to focus in a bit more in order to be as clear and convincing as I can. He has a large social media presence, and like most individuals with a cult following, he has his private army of apologists who know him exclusively from social media and occasional public appearances. This can not be helped.
In short, his yes could mean no and his no could actually mean yes. Russell has told multiple people that he would treat people as if he were in a poker game. He will lie to your face and then say “I was just trying to see how you would respond”. People are like a poker game to him. This is an actual analogy he would use as if it weren’t obviously repugnant.
I could not and do not trust him to represent abolitionism well. He is driven by his personal feuds and passions. He will lash out in haphazard ways that damage both abolitionism and the name of Christ. Russell is the sort of person that habitually makes long unplanned rambling live videos, will later delete that video, try to explain away the video in a new post, but then also delete that post too because he only dug himself into a bigger whole. He’s a powder keg of unpredictable and reckless behavior.
I do not trust him to handle any funding responsibility. If he says something costs $50, I cannot trust that it actually costs that much. If there is a deadline, I cannot trust that he will meet the deadline. If there is a budget, I cannot trust that expenses will be within that budget.
He is uncorrectable. He has, over the last four to five years, occasionally apologized for how people have responded to him, but has never apologized for any real specific sins. This is in the same category as the “I’m sorry you feel that way” style of non-apology. In fact, he has gone back on apologies and confessed that he apologized for diplomatic reasons and that he feels like he didn’t do anything wrong. Whether it is blatant, willful, planned deception, or having uncontrolled emotional outbursts on social media, he has not been able to be corrected on this.
He is a manipulator. Russell fancies himself “as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice,” but he paints and portrays his critics as bitter, petty, and mean spirited. He will offer hollow vague apologies in order to appear pious and humble, but will never go to the people he sinned against to apologize and he will never seek to undo the harm he has done. In other words, he wants to appear as if he is being humble without any of the hard work and selflessness true humility requires. He is passive aggressive and clever with his jabs, while being sure to remain polite and being sure to sound as holy as possible in front of certain individuals.
He is a proven liar and hypocrite. I will prove this later in this testimony. He will make up lies about men he sees as competition. He will spread rumors about them and slander them both publicly and privately.
Russell is one of the smartest people I know. With that charisma and intelligence comes a danger. He also views himself as a modern day prophet that cannot be questioned. He regularly compares himself to William Lloyd Garrison and recently he compared himself to the Apostle Paul. He will nod along when you’re attempting to correct him, and he’ll then go along with the same behavior. Anytime something goes terribly wrong, he will claim that things are just going according to his plan. Criticisms of T. Russell Hunter’s character are twisted (by Russell and his sycophants) as criticisms of abolitionism. In the mind of Hunter, T Russell Hunter equals Abolitionism. To defy Hunter is to “hate and hurt the cause.”
In a video discussion with a so-called friend, T. Russell Hunter responded in an alarmingly revolting way. His narcissistic behavior slinked out from among the shadows and displayed itself proudly with no constraint. It is a difficult video to watch. The pride is dripping off of every word and his outright condescending behavior is palpable. I am contacting this man and asking for this video to be made public again. I will update when it is.
In this choice quote, Russell lambasts an organization that had fully and is still fully supporting abolitionism. Because Reconstructionist Radio dared criticize another AHA celebrity (Matthew Trewhella) for his views on women being unequally Image Bearers of God, Russell immediately turned on this radio network of friends and allies.
“[(Timestamp 5:30] I think that the Recon Radio Discussion group is filled with people who follow people who do not have long track records of service or faithfulness. I think you’ve got people who basically, I’m just being frank, done nothing. Like, they are either young or immature or they said things but have done nothing. They have achieved very little in the world for the sake of the growth and spread of the Gospel or for the Kingdom of God. Basically making live videos or vblogs or whatever, video blogs, bashing, writing articles or your things, you know, bashing people who have bushels and baskets full of fruit and, you know, seven years of service for the sake of the Kingdom with essentially no care sorted gain.”
Other quotes are directed at the young man he was speaking to, his family, former members of Door of Hope, and other critics.
“What accomplishments do they have? None. They have served none. They have produced nothing but division.”
“Stop arguing like a girl.”
“You used to be a man, or a little guy who wanted to be a man.”
“They’re all poisoned little bitty boys and girls.”
“They have produced nothing but division.”
“They’re fighting abuse in a pissant poor way.”
“They have so much pride and they’re such women, in the feminine sort of way (then he goes on to say he’s not sexist because he’s always talked like this).”
“They actually act like effeminent scared little bitty pissants.”
“You’re acting like a little tribal pissant.”
That’s just part of the first message from T. Russell Hunter (about 20 minutes from a longer video). Although it is a long and heartbreaking video, it does demonstrate the sort of behavior that comes from Russell when he does not know others may see his actions. This was the Russell behind closed doors. This is not Facebook Russell or conference speaker Russell. This was just Russell.
However, as listed, there is more than just narcissism and scorn. There is also outright manipulations and deceptions.
I have confessed this privately to the party that was harmed and I have said this on social media as well.
In 2017 when Jeff Durbin and T. Russell Hunter were in a feud concerning the Dan Fisher Campaign, I quickly and fervently defended my friend (Russell). I had always defended my friend, even though there were numerous warning signs that something was off. Some know that I have had numerous arguments with Russell Hunter over the years. The nature and the quality of those arguments should have been clear to me and it was not. Some of the things people have told me concerning Russell Hunter were true. I ignored those things because I am loyal. I ignored those things because I value friendship and I value his work.
When criticism of Trewhella became public over his statements on women being unequal in their image of God (he also calls women voting Godless feminism, etc.), Reconstructionist Radio and many others were quickly denounced as heretics by Trewhella. This also led to Russell Hunter to do what he always does. He ranted publicly and privately against anyone who had the audacity to disagree with Trewhella and disagree with himself. He called old friends bitter and young men pissants. Some of the earliest Abolitionists and oldest friends of Russell were condemned. Their crime? Agitation over justice. Critics were called divisive and there was much talk about “the movement.” What was demanded was the sacrifice of integrity and truth for the whore of false peace and friendly relations with old guard prolife organizations. A theologian I respect recently taught in a podcast about how tyranny always goes hand in hand with collectivism. This was no different. The One of The Movement was enshrined in primacy while the convictions and liberties of the Many were sacrificed and discarded.
Of course, much time was spent by Russell talking about his own accomplishments. Note, it was always his accomplishments. Everyone else was just his little helpers playing to his tune. Another warning sign. A glaring one.
Over a year ago, Russell told me many things about how he spoke to Jeff Durbin via the Fisher campaign account. Some of those things were fabrications, lies, and deliberate deception. I was not aware of the deception, but I did eventually find out the truth.
This is from Kate Robinson, a former close friend of Russell and also someone responsible for a great deal of the digital media of the Fisher Campaign. This comment from Kate was publicly made on the linked video of Russell berating a supposed friend of his. From Kate;
“Last year, when the whole Jeff Durbin fiasco blew up on Facebook (during which I defended Russ fiercely), Russ made a live video in the abolitionism group that was similar to this one. In it he told the story of Jeff contacting the Dan Fisher page. He said, clearly, that when he saw Jeff’s message, he called Dan, and that Dan TOLD HIM to tell Jeff to “calm his people down”.
This was not remotely true. I was with Dan at the time Jeff’s message came in. I saw Russell’s response to “calm your people down” while Dan was on stage speaking, and I watched the ensuing conversation. What actually happened was that Russell responded of his own accord, then called Dan hours later, told him about the conversation, and received Dan’s approval retroactively.
When I saw Russell’s video telling that story, I was disturbed by it and I messaged him privately and gently said, hey you need to correct this. It’s not the way it happened. He said “oh yeah, got caught up in the narrative.”
I responded that if one of our opponents got “caught up” in a narrative where they had to rearrange the details to make themselves look better, we would call them liars and we needed to apply the same measure to ourselves. He said “I agree” and quickly disappeared from the conversation on the grounds that he was on the other line.
The next day I followed up and urged him again to either take the video down or correct the untrue thing he said. He explained to me that it was true enough because he felt confident that he had Dan’s approval. I said I understood that, but that what he actually SAID was that Dan INSTRUCTED HIM to answer Jeff the way he did, and that since Dan wasn’t even aware of it til hours later, that was not true. He said he’d go back and watch because he couldn’t remember exactly what he said.
He never corrected it and I never followed up again. I am sorry that I never did. I should have, but I justified it in my mind thinking that Russ was having a bad week, and had a bad memory, etc. etc.
That was all I could think about while watching this video. I’ve seen it happen dozens of other times. I don’t know how true the story Russell tells is of his meeting with folks who supposedly saw Wyatt’s video and came to their own conclusions. Maybe it’s totally true. I won’t say I know for sure that it’s not. but since I’ve heard the way Russell tells stories, and seen the way he’s represented things I’ve said to him, I have no reason to believe that this account is any more accurate than the other accounts. In general, Russell tells stories the way that serve his purpose and make his point, not the way they happen. And I’m sorry for defending his doing so in the past.”
Needless to say, I should have trusted Durbin when he told me that he was sensing a lot of cult-like behavior and dishonesty. Durbin was right.
Over a year ago an abolitionist criticized how Russell acted towards Jeff Durbin. Russell, of course, became defensive. I mentioned in the comments that Russell has publicly and privately confessed to running his mouth and being overly argumentative and that this abolitionist was not saying anything new or anything that Russell hadn’t previously confessed to. At that point, Russell claimed that in those previous confessions, he had not really felt that he was wrong, but he had only confessed to “keep the peace.” At that point, I named him as a manipulator and a megalomaniac. I stand by that.
About six months before I moved to Virginia I left the church in Norman because it had ceased being a Christian fellowship. It had devolved into an irregular get together with no eldership and no discernible and consistent structure. It was a gathering of the saints in the same way me having a beer with a few guys from my current fellowship is a “gathering” of the saints. Occasionally, there was some limited structure and order and we sometimes studied through scripture. Before I stopped attending the regular gathering, I voiced my frustrations over not making studying the Bible a priority to Aaron Hoffman (the author of the farcical excommunication document). Hoffman stated that this was not a concern to him because we should already know what we need to know from scripture. This was shocking to me at the time, but I did not make a fuss about it at the time. The utter arrogance to think that believers should not diligently study God’s Word because we supposedly already know what we need to know is alarming to say the least.
It was a particular frustration to me that every week we actually did discuss God’s Word, it was essentially a “how to apply this text to abortion abolitionism and make us into the hero” session. There was no preparing for the meeting, there was no deeper theological learning, and there was no application outside of abortion activism. Even this limited discussion of God’s Word would only happen every few weeks.
In hindsight, I believe some of this attitude regarding scripture and structure came from doctrinal positions held by some of the men in the fellowship. Most of the men had previously been Reformed in their doctrine but had rejected Reformed Theology by the time I joined them. Some, such as the man qualified to be an elder, were still Reformed, but most (including Hunter) were not. My concern is not just about rejecting Calvinism. Though I believe Reformed Theology is important, I have a great deal of love and respect for my non-Reformed brothers and sisters. This was not just a rejection of Reformed Theology, this was an embracing of Moral Government Theory (Pelegian-like heresy), a rejection of original sin, and an unhealthy derision for theological study. To some families at Door of Hope, they had grown beyond studying God’s Word and grown beyond the need for local fellowship.
I must admit that I also saw some of the fruit of this works righteousness and behavior modification theology in action when a parent in the fellowship would shout in his toddlers’ face berating them and demanding obedience as she stands terrified. The idea was that very young children can understand and can obey so they must obey. No grace. I recall one night vividly that the shouting was so loud that I was awakened. This was normal, and though I saw an extreme end of this parenting style, it was also implemented in other degrees in other families. To my shame I never said anything, but I’m saying something now. Bad theology is dangerous and it is no longer surprising to me that I saw several copies of the infamous Pearl’s parenting books on bookshelves while living in Norman.
One of the few fellow Reformed men in the fellowship was a former Pulpit and Pen contributor, Alan Maricle. Pulpit and Pen is among the worst “Christian” websites and could be best described as tabloid writing as opposed to honest Christian jounalism or ministry. They are an angry band of spiteful and pharisaical bloggers and Alan fit in nicely with them.
In a hyper-patriarchal fit that demanded obedience, Alan would lust after women in the congregation and then present them with long lists of clothing problems he personally had with them. Note that Alan was the only man with these complaints. Instead of practicing their liberty, these single women abided by Alan’s personal list of do-nots out of love for him. But over time Alan turned viciously on the women that he sinned against and named them publically as so-called immodest jezebels. Dragging single women’s good reputation through the mud was a regular occurrence for some time. I am sure some will cringe at me being so open about other’s sin, but I believe there is a real danger to women’s reputations and emotional well being. Not only has Alan repeatedly lusted on women he fellowshipped with, he then turns on those women and defames them in a disgusting attempt to justify his own flesh. He is unrepentant and has been called out on his sin multiple times both privately and publicly, therefore, let the Church know. I do not believe he would ever physically do anything, but I would personally never want a sister I cared about to trust him for fear of her being stared at creepily, slandered, and then verbally abused. Mark him out. Though Alan admitted to having a lust and porn problem (one that he states he is unable to repent of), his leadership in “AHA” abolitionism is defended by Russell by Alan’s ability to hand out a lot of pamphlets. Even not considering some of these more alarming sexual matters, Alan displays all of the characteristics of Pulpit and Pen writers and should be marked out for that alone. Of course, I cannot say much about his current sexual sin, but I can say what he has both publically and privately stated on his views regarding sexual sin. What I do know for certain, is that he is unrepentant towards those he has previously sexually sinned against and his ongoing slander. Further, Alan has no accountability and is an ecclesiastical law unto himself. Unfortunately, this must be stated, but a FaceBook group is not what I am talking about when speaking about true accountability.
As I have documented elsewhere, T. Russell Hunter was arrested for a DUI and then kept this fact hidden from his financial donors for several months till outed by a third party. In his confession video (the one he made only after he was outed), he claims that he was secretly held accountable by his fellowship. The fellowship he is speaking about is Door of Hope. A fellowship that does not truly exist according to Biblical standards and a “fellowship” so overtaken by anarchy, heresy, and immaturity, that it has fallen apart to a few last remaining families. This fellowship is who is apparently keeping Hunter accountable. Who are these few remaining men accountable to? No one.
I could say much more. I could talk about breaking the trust of women in need who trusted Norman AHA men, weird late-at-night demands for impromptu meetings with single young women, and outright hypocrisy in demands of so-called holiness. The worst stories I could tell are not my stories to tell.
In short, Door of Hope in Norman Oklahoma is no more and has not been a faithful fellowship (house church, organic church, institutional, or otherwise) for some time. The fellowship was formed by and made up of young people who were right on abortion, but not right on much else. The fellowship was largely made up of men and women who were not treated well in other fellowships, and that gave them the impression that they now know better in all things. It is no great surprise that the “fellowship” has dramatically shrunk in size over the last year and a half or so and it should not be a great surprise that toxicity and immaturity was the norm.
I have been criticized for my views on ecclesiology. I am far from “high church.” I do not believe, for example, that one must be officially a member of a local church to be saved. I stand opposed to ecclesiastical megalomania and tyranny. However, I do affirm the importance in regular, local, and organized fellowship; especially for a bunch of twenty-something and early thirty-something young men and women.
I sincerely apologize to all of those many people I defended Door of Hope to and twisted the truth about Door of Hope to. It is not what it was made out to be. It never was.
This will be, God willing, the last thing I write about Door of Hope, Hunter, and my experiences. I should have written this sooner, but now I have said my peace and have done my duty for truth.
This is a testimony of what happens when a fellowship is centered on activism instead of Christ. This is a testimony about what happens when individuals value a cause over their King. This is a testimony of what happens when accountability is scorned, young men think they’re wise, and doctrine is dismissed. This is a warning for all to hear so they may avoid the same heartbreaking and traumatic experience I had. This is a plea to those few good believers still in that community and similar sects to get out. This is for those who are tempted to compromise on integrity and orthodoxy because this sect has seen some good publicity lately. Most of all, this is so I can say that I was wrong and that I’m sorry. For these reasons, I am speaking frankly and openly about my time at Door of Hope. I thought this community was a place that honored our Lord while being passionate about justice. I was wrong.