The widow of slain former Hamilton preacher Richard Watson says he had grown to regret his actions as the leader of an anti-gay Christian “cult” The Potter’s House which was based in the city through the 1980s and 1990s.
Speaking from her daughter Lisa’s home in Western Australia yesterday, Louise Watson said her 50-year-old husband – stabbed twice at a party in Perth on April 20 had turned his back on The Potter’s House-Christian Fellowship Ministries (CFM) movement he ministered for. She said he felt he had been manipulated and brainwashed by the group’s Australian-based leaders.
A Ngaruawahia man is in custody in Perth facing a wilful murder charge after the stabbing at a 21st birthday party.
Mrs Watson disputed suggestions by a Waikato Times source that Mr Watson may have inflamed the incident at the party which led to the stabbing. She and her husband were invited to the party, where she said there had been no fight. Her husband and the accused had not known each other before the 21st, held for Miss Watson’s partner’s cousin.
An at-times emotional Mrs Watson said her late husband was a calm, kind and gentle man and a loving father and grandfather who had realised in hindsight his evangelical teachings in Hamilton in the 1990s including screenings of anti-gay films at The Potter’s House church had harmed some people.
Mrs Watson said the couple were with The Potter’s House for 20 years, including ministering in Hamilton for 14 years to up to 200 parishioners. They left the group in 1998, around the same time as “hundreds” of other couples departed, she said. Before leaving Hamilton, Mr and Mrs Watson had confronted leaders of the church about some of its teachings, “and that didn’t go down too well”.
She would not say what those issues were.
“We came to Hamilton and started the church from scratch. We gave a lot of our youth and our time to the church. It had become very controlling, to the point of being a cult which was the reason we left the organisation. We didn’t want any part of it any more. We actually resigned from the church.”
Asked if she and her husband had been brainwashed by church leaders, she replied: “Pretty much, yes. They (The Potter’s House/CFM) are very close to being a cult. It was evangelical, we used to preach the gospel in many forms that other churches didn’t.”
Mrs Watson said the couple “definitely regretted a lot of our years of our youth”, including some of their views and teachings leading Potter’s House.
Her husband had “laboured endlessly (for The Potter’s House in Waikato) for very little money and we did a lot of good for a lot of people,” including working with people with drug problems and people in prison.
“We did help a lot of people, a lot of Christian work but it was the wrong way to go about doing things.”
Her husband was no longer anti-gay, and the couple now had gay friends in Perth: “We’re much more open (now) than we were.”
She offered an apology, also on behalf of her late husband, to anyone in The Potter’s House or its opponents they had harmed while ministering for the church.
“We had good hearts, we didn’t mean any harm.”
The couple had found it “very hard” to re-establish themselves in Perth after leaving the church.
No-one from The Potter’s House/CFM had offered condolences to the family after Mr Watson’s death, Miss Watson said. She said some former members of The Potter’s House had attended the funeral, and the family had received supportive calls from people her father had previously had “fallings out” with.
“They’re devastated at the news, and have said to me if it wasn’t for him, they wouldn’t be alive.”
Mr Watson, born in Pukerua Bay north of Wellington, had been working in Perth as a painter for several years, writing poetry and “taking care of his family” before his death, said Mrs Watson. The couple were married for 28 years. Mr Watson returned to New Zealand late last year to visit family members.