By JOHN ANTCZAK Associated Press Writer LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The leader of the controversia

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By JOHN ANTCZAK Associated Press Writer LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The leader of the controversial sports and religious group called Ecclesia told mourners at the funeral of one of its members that he was suspending the organization's activities for the time being. Standing in a pulpit before a flower-covered, pink casket containing the body of 30-year-old Faith Viola Hendrick, the Rev. Eldridge Broussard Jr. addressed her family and about 100 others at Pilgrim Congregational Church on Friday. "As of right now I am taking a leave of absence from what is called a ministry. ... Watts Christian Center, Ecclesia -- which has saw so much alarm, so much misunderstanding -- is about to be no more for a period of time," he said. Ms. Hendrick died Sunday after collapsing at the organization's farm in Oregon. An Ecclesia spokeswoman said Ms. Hendrick, an epileptic, had apparently suffered a blood clot in a lung. A coroner determined that Ms. Hendrick died of natural causes unrelated to trauma, stress or athletic activity. The coroner, however, did not specify the cause. Broussard, a former Pacific University basketball player, blames negative publicity about Ecclesia Athletic Association, which has run into oposition to its plans to set up a training camp in Oregon. Neighbors fear it is a repressive church. "I would be disrespecting the spirit that I represent, and I will also be disrespecting Faith, if I did not mention there is much controversy surrounding me ... and surrounding my ministry. I will dedicate my life to showing why this woman chose to follow where I was coming from ... until the last breath that she took," the somber Broussard told mourners in an emotional voice. "I don't apologize for my choices or for hers. And at the proper time I will launch my own personal assault in the direction of the instrument that was used for her passing." He also said that "an increase of faith will be the result of this woman's passing. One of the giants of the enemies of faith will come down as a result of this woman's passing." Broussard did not specify the "instrument" or "enemy" in his remarks, but said outside the small church that "I am somehow going to demonstrate that this has been associated with some irresponsible media coverage." However, Ecclesia spokeswoman Carolyn Von Brunt said Broussard blames Portland television station KOIN, the Los Angeles Times, the Portland Oregonian, Newsweek and other news organizations for inaccurate reporting that caused stress and contributed to Ms. Hendrick's death. Ms. Von Brunt said Ms. Hendrick's epileptic episodes had diminished until the recent controversy erupted. Ms. Hendrick was also eulogized by his father, the Rev. Robert Hendrick, who recounted his last talk with his daughter. He did not say clearly what it dealt with, noting only that "some things had transpired." "What she wanted to do was make sure we held no judgments, that we hadn't judged," Hendrick said. "And she made it clear that she hadn't judged. And that she was free of all of that -- so now she is free of all of this. I'm free. So I hope all of you will look on this moment in a conscious way, remembering your relationship with her and go on with your work." The Rev. Ralph Houston, who baptized the woman, recalled her life. "I remember when Faith was born and given that name," Houston said, and in watching her grow "I began to see how well that name was chosen." At the end of the service, mourners filed by the open casket with tears in their eyes. Interment was at Lincoln Memorial Park in Compton. Broussard founded the Watts Christian Center in Los Angeles about 12 years ago. He has said Ecclesia was formed to steer children away from drugs and crime, motivating them through tough discipline and athletic training aimed at qualifying for Olympic competition. About 100 adults and children have moved onto an 18-acre farm near Sandy, Ore. Neighbors have complained there is a "militaristic" attitude, with children lining up at attention every day. Late last month Ecclesia withdrew a request to Clackamas County for zoning variances for the farm, which has a four-bedroom house and is zoned as a single-family dwelling. Last page !


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