What to know about the new Lifetime film on Gwen Shamblin Lara

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The next cinematic depiction of Gwen Shamblin Lara and Brentwood’s Remnant Fellowship is reaching viewers this weekend, this time on Lifetime.

“Dirty Dancing” renowned actress Jennifer Grey depicts Shamblin Lara, the late Tennessee religious leader, in the cable television film premiering Feb. 4.

Reflecting on the lesson of the story of Shamblin Lara, Grey told "Good Morning America," “She could harness that amount of power for that many years because of peoples’ vulnerability to hearing a silver bullet, a recipe to basically feel like they’re enough.”

Remnant Fellowship Church founder Gwen Shamblin, left, sings with others from the church during services in June 2011 in Brentwood.
Remnant Fellowship Church founder Gwen Shamblin, left, sings with others from the church during services in June 2011 in Brentwood.

Here’s a recap of who Shamblin Lara is and what to know about Lifetime’s movie, “Gwen Shamblin: Starving for Salvation."

Who was Gwen Shamblin Lara?

Shamblin Lara became popular through the “Weigh Down Workshop,” a Christian diet program that was sold to thousands of churches in the U.S. and in other countries. After starting the workshop and its Brentwood-based parent nonprofit, Weigh Down Ministries, in the early 1990s, Shamblin Lara founded Remnant Fellowship in Brentwood.

Over time, additional Remnant locations launched in the U.S. and other countries.

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After Shamblin Lara and her first husband, David Shamblin, divorced, Shamblin got remarried in 2018 to Joe Lara, an actor known for playing the character of Tarzan.

Shamblin Lara and her children lived in a historic Brentwood mansion called Ashlawn.

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Shamblin Lara and Joe Lara, along with five other Remnant leaders, died in a plane crash in May 2021 at Percy Priest Lake just outside Nashville.

Why is the Remnant Fellowship controversial?

From early into Remnant’s founding, Shamblin Lara has faced controversy for exerting too much control over her congregation, while also imposing controversial or allegedly heretical beliefs on the congregation.

The picture is one that has led many, including a recent HBO Max documentary, to label Remnant a “cult.”

Shamblin Lara came under fire for preaching an unorthodox view of the Trinity.

Remnant and Shamblin Lara have faced scrutiny for a case involving Remnant members who were convicted of felony murder and other charges after the members, Sonya and Joseph Smith, physically abused their son.

There were other controversies surrounding Shamblin Lara, including financial impropriety and a custody battle between Natasha Pavlovich, who had a daughter with Joe Lara before Joe Lara married Shamblin Lara.

Drawing from reporting by NewsChannel 5 over the years, the HBO Max docuseries, “The Way Down,” explored many of the scandals surrounding Shamblin Lara. Remnant Fellowship, which is now led by a group of members in the wake of Shamblin Lara’s death, created a dedicated webpage to dispute allegations in the “The Way Down.”

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What are the Remnant fellowship's response to cinematic depictions of Gwen Shamblin Lara

“The Way Down,” the docuseries directed by Marina Zenovich and produced by Chrissy Teigan, released in two parts in late 2021 and early 2022. The second part explored the aftermath of Shamblin Lara’s death.

The HBO Max docuseries drew acclaim from viewers and ire from Remnant. The new Lifetime film has provoked the same response.

Shamblin Lara docuseries, part two:'The Way Down' follow up explores Gwen Shamblin plane crash and aftermath

“It is a complete fabrication of Gwen’s life,” Remnant Fellowship said about the new Lifetime film on its website.

In addition to the Lifetime film, another scripted drama series is reportedly in the works for HBO Max starring Sarah Paulson as Shamblin Lara.

Liam Adams covers religion for The Tennessean. Reach him at ladams@tennessean.com or on Twitter @liamsadams.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Gwen Shamblin movie: Who is Jennifer Grey portraying in Lifetime film?