The death of Faith Assembly leader Hobart Freeman has spawned growing speculation about the future of his 2,000-member sect. Freeman, who taught against medical treatment, died last month of severe cardio-vascular disease and mild broncho-pneumonia. His teachings are believed to be responsible for the deaths of some 90 Faith Assembly members and their children in the past few years.

The 64-year-old Freeman, founder of the 20-year-old sect based in Wilmot, Indiana, earned a doctorate in Old Testament and Hebrew from Grace Theological Seminary. He taught there from 1961 to 1963, when he was dismissed because of growing doctrinal differences with the school.

Just prior to his death, Freeman was indicted for contributing to the death of 15-year-old Pamela Menne. The girl died in September of chronic kidney failure, a condition a local coroner said was medically treatable. The girl’s parents still await trial. If they are found guilty, they could face jail terms of up to 20 years (CT, Nov. 23, 1984, p. 38). Two Faith Assembly couples already have been convicted on charges related to the deaths of their children.

Freeman’s death could lead to changes in the controversial religious movement. But the extent of those changes is unknown.

“In the community’s mind, the death of Hobart Freeman constitutes the end of an era, because he was the genius behind Faith Assembly for 20 years,” said John Davis, a Grace Theological Seminary theology professor and a former student of Freeman’s at Grace. “And there is a sense that Freeman will never be replaced. Yet with Freeman gone, his people will continue, because the doctrines [of Faith Assembly] are so entrenched.”

Davis said Freeman’s death, while a cause of emotional strain and possibly some ...

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