The Church of Gibborim is a Los Angeles-based religious organization that follows the teachings of David Ellerh. While publicly appearing as an open and charitable organization, the Church engaged in forced "reindoctrination" to those deemed troublesome or rebellious for the church's leadership and also provided sacrificial victims for PRIDE to murder in their Rite of Blood, in order to restore their benefactor Jonah.
Initially led by Leslie Dean after her father Ellerh died, the Church of Gibborim went through a time of instability with the last revival of Jonah, who managed to gain more influence within the Church, empowering Leslie's husband Frank in the process and thus causing dissension in the leadership. Although the sacrifices were no longer needed, the Church of Gibborim remained active until Leslie attempted to dismantle it since its beliefs were only lies made up by Jonah. However, she was stopped in this endeavor by Frank. With Karolina Dean seemingly fulfilling the prophecy of the Radiance when rescuing her mother, the faith of the Church's adepts was even more strengthened, and Karolina became their messiah.
In the aftermath of the Gibborim's defeat at the hands of the Runaways, Leslie figured out that she could not simply shut down the Church of Gibborim and deprive people in their search for answers. Since Leslie knew that there could have been some truth in her father's beliefs due to a prophecy he had made before his teachings were corrupted by Jonah, the Church of Gibborim continued its existence, but freed from any nefarious extraterrestrial influence.
The Church of Gibborim was founded by David Ellerh after he had his beliefs and studies of years confirmed by Gibborim Jonah, who helped Ellerh to go from a simple hippie community to a well-established cult in Los Angeles. Ellerh wrote the Book of Gibborim to be the canonical text of the church. However, due to Ellerh's wife Susan distrusting Jonah because of the interest he had in their daughter Leslie, Jonah and David had her exiled to the Crater. In 1998, Ellerh died due to testicular cancer, leaving the church to his daughter, Leslie.
Public and Hidden Activities
Under the leadership of Leslie Dean, the Church of Gibborim was affiliated to PRIDE, a so-called charity organization which had been assembled by Jonah for them to perform ritual sacrifices to periodically revive him. The Church of Gibborim played a significant role in these rituals. Indeed, thanks to active members like Aura and Frances, the Church frequently picked up runaways and marginalized youth in the street. Dean then selected one of them to be annually sacrificed under the pretense of becoming an Ultra member of the Church. Once Jonah was revived, he pretended to be an old benefactor of the Church.
Publicly, the Church was recognized as an organization providing comfort and support for lost people, like Vaughn Kaye, who thanked the Church for helping him with his life and had become Dean's personal assistant. The Church of Gibborim presented itself as an inclusive one, welcoming all those who were interested - and attracted by the charm of the Dean family: Leslie, her actor husband Frank and their beautiful daughter Karolina - and allowing its members to retain some other aspects of their religion. Despite that, some people like Gert Yorkes still saw the Church of Gibborim as a cult. Moreover, Karolina was sometimes mocked by her classmates for her religious beliefs, being called "brainwashed" by some.
During one of their traditional cruises across Los Angeles, Aura and Frances picked up the young Destiny Gonzalez off the streets and welcomed her into the Church of Gibborim. Gonzalez became a devoted member of the Church, thanking Leslie Dean and her daughter Karolina for having helped her to put her life back on tracks when she was in dire need. However, Gonzalez ultimately decided to leave Los Angeles and return to the baby daughter she had abandoned.
Aura and Frances discovered it and informed Leslie, who resolved to find Gonzalez as she had been selected to be the next victim of PRIDE's Rite of Blood. Leslie found Gonzalez in the Los Angeles Bus Depot and convinced her to return into the Church so that she could be part of a ceremony making her an Ultra member of the Church. Gonzalez accepted and returned with Leslie, Aura and Frances, unaware that she would be sacrificed by PRIDE. In order to cover up for her absence, the Church of Gibborim pretended that Gonzalez was on a trip to London.
Frank Dean's Ambition
Frank Dean, the husband of the head of the Chuch Leslie Dean and a prominent figure of the religious organization, saw his acting career wither due to his commitment to the Church, losing his collaboration with his agent Phil. As a result, Frank decided to devote more of his life to the Church and declared his intention to become an Ultra member of the Church. Leslie ultimately agreed to have Frank undergo the official version of the Ultra ceremony, which involved spending the night in the desert in a place called the Crater. However, once the ceremony was done, Aura and Frances informed Frank that he had failed to ascend to the rank of Ultra.
The sacrifice of Andre Compton, held in the very Church of Gibborim Executive Office, enabled PRIDE to revive Jonah, who once again intended to pose as a benefactor of the Church of Gibborim. Jonah went to a fundraising gala held by PRIDE in Wizard Headquarters, where Leslie Dean represented the Church of Gibborim. Leslie and Frank Dean also had a discussion about the latter's failure to ascend to the rank of Ultra, although Frank admitted that he was after something out of his reach.
Frank also encountered Jonah, which caused him to reminisce fragments of memories of Jonah having sex with Leslie. Frank and Jonah also had a talk about Frank having tried to go Ultra, with Jonah confirming to Frank that he had gone Ultra. In order for Frank to increase his influence within the Church of Gibborim, Jonah gave him Healing Gloves for Frank to use them on the ill members of the Church. Frank used them on Calvin, which was witnessed by Leslie who later confronted Jonah as she suspected him to plan to undermine her leadership in the Church. However, Jonah replied that the Church was nearing its end and that PRIDE was all that mattered.
Due to Frank gaining more importance in the Church thanks to Jonah, Vaughn Kaye was appointed as Frank's new assistant. Frank and Kaye went to retrieve old furniture in the Church's building's storage room for Frank to use them in his new office. They found the desk used by David Ellerh to write the Book of Gibborim, and Frank discovered a photo depicting a child Leslie with an already adult Jonah, making him suspicious about who Jonah really was. Later, Leslie admitted to Frank that she had had an affair with Jonah, who was the Being mentioned in the Book of Gibborim.
Watching the Construction Site
As Jonah's plan were near completion and the Nemo Industrial Drilling Machine was delivered on the PRIDE Construction Site, Jonah and Leslie Dean decided that it was time for the Church of Gibborim to directly oversee the operations on the site. Thus, the teams providing security which were hired by Geoffrey Wilder Construction Inc. were dismissed and replaced by members of the Church of Gibborim. One of these guards, Carl, saw the Runaways arriving on the site and informed Frank Dean of their presence. Frank, who was actually working with Jonah, told Carl to let the teenagers enter the site. As Franck hung up, Jonah told him that the Church of Gibborim would thrive under his leadership.
Karolina Dean, who had been captured by Jonah during the Infiltration into the PRIDE Construction Site, was taken into Jonah's room in the Church of Gibborim Executive Office to recover from her duel against Jonah. When she woke up, Jonah told Karolina that he was her actual father, not Frank Dean. Later, Jonah went to see Geoffrey and Catherine Wilder, who had come to see Karolina in order to find out where their son Alex was. However, Jonah refused to let them see Karolina and had members of the Church of Gibborim threateningly stand around the Wilders, prompting them to leave.
Meanwhile, the Runaways sought to rescue their friend. They reached out to Church of Gibborim member Vaughn Kaye and attempted to convince him to help them, arguing that Karolina was in danger and that Jonah had taken over the Church of Gibborim. Although Kaye refused to listen to them and to believe their story which went against what he believed the Church to be, he secretly reported his encounter with the Runaways to Leslie Dean. Dean then asked him to help the Runaways to save Karolina.
As a result, when Aura and Frances, who had picked up Chase Stein and Molly Hernandez from the streets, believing them to be the typical runaways they welcomed into the Church, Kaye guided them to the private room where Karolina was being held. Once the Runaways were able to escape despite the Church's security trying to stop them as they had been warned by Aura and Frances, Kaye informed Leslie of their success, who thanked him in return. When Kaye expressed his worrying that Jonah could be in control of the Church, Leslie replied that he was not, much to Kaye's relief.
Frank Dean's Leadership
Due to both Jonah's influence and the fact that Leslie Dean had to take a few step back to focus on the search for Karolina Dean, the leadership of the Church of Gibborim was transferred to Frank Dean. Frank knew that Leslie would be upset by this change in leadership and was well aware that Jonah could be manipulating him, but he remained convinced that taking the reins of the Church was the only way for him to have a chance to put his family back together. Leslie still kept some connections within the Church, using them to arrange for Dale and Stacey Yorkes to access the PRIDE Construction Site, which was still managed by the Church of Gibborim.
Despite Frank being the public face of the Church, Jonah was still the one in charge of the organization, for example relying on the extremely devout Aura and Frances and reminding Frank of his true place. As he was running out of time with his decaying body, Jonah revealed the Church's secret Ultra Project, assuming that Frank also had to deal with this responsibility since Leslie was away and ordered Frank to find a runaway to be sacrificed. Frank opened up on this subject to Leslie, and this gave him the courage to actually refuse Jonah's request.
Leslie eventually publicly returned to the Church, being welcomed back by her husband Frank during a sermon he delivered to the parishioners. Jonah secretly attended the sermon and summoned the two leaders of the Church, begging Leslie not to let him die, but Leslie refused to carry out the sacrifice he needed.
Later, during a Coruscation ceremony, a miracle seemingly occurred when a large colorful aura appeared over an initiate and the crowd of followers. This caused the parishioners to fall into an ecstatic state, cheering and clapping, unaware that it was actually Karolina using her powers so that the Runaways could infiltrate the facility. Even Frank fell for the fake miracle, and only Leslie doubted the reality of the event.
The Church of Gibborim was meant to provide heavy security for the launch of Magistrate's Ship on the PRIDE Construction Site. To that end, Aura and Frances delivered several weapons to followers of the Church and were then tasked to drive a fleet of vans to the site. Before the departure, Jonah agreed that Leslie came to the site as well while Frank would remain to finish and prepare for what he thought was the Ascension event mentioned in the Book of Gibborim. However, the Church's vans were hacked by Alex Wilder, who sent them to Las Vegas. Since the guards already present at the site, including Carl, were incapacitated by Alex and Geoffrey Wilder, the Church could not do anything to prevent the battle between Jonah, PRIDE and the Runaways.
Meanwhile, Frank was confronted by Oscar Gonzalez, the brother of Destiny who had been welcomed into the Church and sacrificed by PRIDE. Oscar had discovered the full extent of the Ultra Project and intended to reveal the truth about the Church of Gibborim to the public, but Frank convinced him that he had also gathered evidence regarding the program, and when Frank attempted to remove Oscar's weapon, he accidentally killed him in the resulting brawl.
Following Jonah's apparent death during the Battle at the PRIDE Construction Site and the complete confirmation that the beliefs of the Church of Gibborim were nothing but lies made up by Jonah, Leslie Dean resolved to shut down the Church once and for all. This drastic decision profoundly shocked her husband Frank, who had found a purpose in leading the Church and was traumatized by him shooting Oscar Gonzalez. Upon learning that Leslie would meet with Flores to dispose of Gonzalez's body, Frank decided to frame her in order to stop her plans. He secretly took pictures of her meeting with Flores and showed them to Aura and Frances, blaming Leslie for the murder and claiming that she had become the biggest threat to the Church.
Unaware of her husband's schemes, Leslie remained determined to shut down the Church and began by throwing away many of the Church's documents, including some of high personal value for Leslie like her first copy of the Book of Gibborim or her father David Ellerh's dream journal. Frank strongly disagreed and tried to talk her out of her projects, insisting that they had to keep the Church open. However, Leslie retorted that Frank had to choose between reuniting his family or leading the Church, but that he could not both.
In order to prevent Leslie from dismantling the organization, Frank informed Aura and Frances of her plans. Both the adepts confronted Leslie in her office, claiming that she could not be allowed to carry on her plans and that she had to be stopped. Nevertheless, Leslie refused to listen to them, as she considered that she was in her right due to being the leader of the organization. This caused Frank to set up a reconditioning session for Leslie, requesting the reluctant help of Vaughn Kaye. However, since it did not work on Leslie, Frank decided to send his wife to the Crater.
Now a fallen leader of the Church of Gibborim, Leslie Dean was brought to the Church's indoctrination facility, the Crater. She was welcomed by S4E2R, but refused to willingly submit to the reindoctrination process, claiming that it would not work on her since she had developed it. However, she was shocked when S42ER revealed that she knew about Leslie's pregnancy. Later, Leslie managed to sneak out of her room and reviewed some of the Church's files, only to discover that S4E2R actually was her own mother Susan Ellerh. From this point, Leslie resolved to get her mother out of her indoctrination so that they could both escape from the Crater and put an end to the Church of Gibborim. The Church's official reason for Leslie's absence was that she had undertaken a pilgrimage in Europe.
Leslie and Frank Dean later had an argument about the Church of Gibborim, with Leslie claiming that Frank only cared about the Church because it brought him the fame he had failed to obtain during his acting career, while Frank insisted that Leslie only wanted to shut down the Church because it helped him to know that he was not insignificant and that she wanted to deprive him of his true purpose.
Despite being imprisoned at the Crater by her husband Frank, Leslie Dean still had a support in the Church of Gibborim: Vaughn Kaye, who alerted Leslie's daughter Karolina of her mother's situation. Therefore, Kaye and the Runaways set up a mission to rescue Leslie. Karolina infiltrated into the Crater, hoping to convince Frank to release Leslie by claiming that she believed in both the Church and their family, but Frank saw through his daughter's lies and had her locked up in a room as well. However, Karolina was released by her grandmother Susan Ellerh, who helped her reunite with Leslie.
Leslie and Karolina decided to promptly leave the Crater, asking Ellerh's assistance in this endeavor. However, they were caught by Frank, who called the three of them apostates and attempted to turn all the parishioners of the Church against them for the Church's protection. In return, Karolina activated her Gibborim powers and delivered a sermon while levitating, thus fulfilling the prophecy of the Radiance mentioned in the Book of Gibborim. This caused the Church's adepts to turn on Frank instead, who was locked up in his turn while Karolina and Leslie were allowed to leave and Ellerh decided to stay in the Crater to cleanse the Church from Frank's influence. According to Leslie, having acted as the Radiance made Karolina the new leader of the Church of Gibborim, a perspective Karolina was not enchanted by.
Shortly before giving birth to her second daughter, Elle, Leslie Dean had a conversation with the Xartan Xavin, during which it became obvious that the prophecy about love Xavin believed in bore similarities with the initial teachings of David Ellerh written in a journal by her father before he encountered Jonah. This convinced Leslie that, despite what she had come to believe, there was some truth in the Church of Gibborim's philosophy.
Therefore, knowing that she could not deprive hundreds of people from the answers the Church provided them, Leslie decided to restart it, purged from all the nefarious Gibborim influence, with many new parishioners arriving after the events involving Karolina Dean at the Crater, as they blindly adored the young girl. Among the newest members of the Church were former PRIDE member Dale Yorkes, who sought a new meaning in life after his recent failures. Jules, a former PRIDE volunteer, and Bodhi, a young boy secretly under the influence of Coven, were also new members. Meanwhile, Vaughn Kaye remained an active member of the Church, in charge of the youth activities.
Beliefs and Practices
- "A bracelet. A circle. What do these things represent? Eternity, unity, belonging. Each week, we gather to celebrate the most important ritual to our community: the Coruscation Ceremony. And I invite each of you to join me this afternoon as we welcome yet another initiate out of the shadows and into the warmth and the safety of the Light."
- ―Frank Dean[src]
The Church of Gibborim's beliefs and teachings were based on the Book of Gibborim, a religious book written by the founder of the Church, David Ellerh. It notably featured detailed descriptions of beings known as Beings of Light, which were actually derived from the extraterrestrial Gibborim. Aside of such descriptions, the Book of Gibborim also featured the prophecy of the Radiance, according to which a chosen one, similar to a messiah, would one day come to them. This person would be able to shine with a bright and colorful light and to fly to give their blessing to those who believed. Other notions featured in the Book of Gibborim were an event called the Ascension; and the Spectrum, which was an embodiment of truth and reality as a whole.
The Church's beliefs intensely referred to the notion of light, both literally and metaphorically speaking: all people were supposed to be vessels for a living light which was independent from their bodies. The adepts usually greeted each other or ended conversations with sentences like "Travel brightly". This also applied to death, as the Church taught that people who died left to see the Spectrum, and the adepts recalled a deceased parishioner with the phrase "May his journey continue into brightness". Conversely, the idea of darkness was associated with evil and sin; "losing the light" being the most serious thing which could happen to someone. In rare cases, some people would be considered displaying no inner light; such people were declared "aphotic" and usually subjected to a reindoctrination. The idea of forgiveness was also fundamental in the Church of Gibborim's philosophy, which valued the importance of collectiveness over individualism.
Every parishioner was provided with a bracelet signaling their affiliation to the Church of Gibborim, which represented eternity and belonging. The parishioners were supposed to always keep this bracelet on. They also possessed a copy of the Book of Gibborim, which existed in several versions, including one adapted to children. The bibliography of the Church of Gibborim also included the books: A Pioneering Look into the Gibborim Movement, Gibborim: A History of Light, Passing into the Light: A Grievers Guide to Gibborim, Glowing Gibborim, A Life Lived in Light: A Biography, and Prepare for the Light.
Adepts were encouraged to wear clothes of light colors, such as white or light blue. On the contrary, black clothes such as those worn by people dressing in goth style were associated with the dark side of the human mind, and thus not allowed. Homosexuality was not positively seen in the original Church of Gibborim, as Karolina Dean once removed her religious bracelet upon seeing two girls kissing and wanting to explore her true desires.
Aside of classic preaching sessions, the Church of Gibborim frequently held Coruscation ceremonies on a weekly basis. Such ceremonies were seen as a high accomplishment for the parishioner at the center of it, being accompanied with people known as their Esteemed Witness. This was a part of the process of climbing into the Church's hierarchy, with the most advanced adepts gaining the rank of Ultra (and even Elite Ultra for the leader of the Church). People climbing in the hierarchy were considered to be allowed to see more of the Spectrum.
Conversely, should a member fail to progress with the Church's teachings, they could be submitted to a reconditioning technique invented by Leslie Dean. If this was not enough, the parishioner could be sent into the Crater, a facility where they were forced to go through a reindoctrination process of an undetermined length, featuring the abandonment of one's name, religious trials and psychological manipulation. However, such practices were abandoned after the Church entered its post-Radiance phase, with all nefarious influences from the Gibborim being eliminated and the indoctrination being no longer necessary.
|Appearances for Church of Gibborim|
In chronological order:
Behind the Scenes
- The Church of Gibborim's practices and the organization itself are based on the real life Church of Scientology.
- Runaways: 2.08: Past Life
- Runaways: 1.07: Refraction
- Runaways: 2.11: Last Waltz
- Runaways: 1.02: Rewind
- Runaways: 1.01: Reunion
- Runaways: 1.04: Fifteen
- Runaways: 1.06: Metamorphosis
- Runaways: 1.10: Hostile
- Runaways: 1.03: Destiny
- Runaways: 1.05: Kingdom
- Runaways: 1.09: Doomsday
- Runaways: 2.01: Gimmie Shelter
- Runaways: 2.03: Double Zeros
- Runaways: 2.04: Old School
- Runaways: 2.05: Rock Bottom
- Runaways: 2.06: Bury Another
- Runaways: 2.07: Last Rites
- Runaways: 2.10: Hostile Takeover
- Runaways: 2.12: Earth Angel
- Runaways: 2.13: Split Up
- Runaways: 3.04: Rite of Thunder
- Runaways: 3.06: Merry Meet Again
- Bibliography of the Church of Gibborim - Behind the scenes photos
- ‘Runaways’ Showrunners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage on Adapting a Beloved Comic