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.
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
"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
At the end of the service, mourners filed by the open casket
with tears in their eyes. Interment was at Lincoln Memorial Park
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
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
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.
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