3/17/2014

More thoughts regarding the Church of Wells...and The Way...and us humans...and...

Since around Tuesday of last week, I have been reading about the Church of Wells. Much of what I've read and seen has been directly from the Church of Wells own website - members' and leaders' testimonies and rebuttals, some of the doctrines and leaders' blogs.

I have so many thoughts that go through my mind...just about human groups in general. It's a fascinating subject, at least for me.

Part of me wants to compose a comparison between the tactics of the Church of Wells and tactics of The Way. But that sounds draining to me. Plus, there are plenty of essays, articles, etc., on the web that outline coercive tactics in human groups.

One thing (among many other things) that has struck me in reading some of the Church of Wells' testimonies, is that many of the followers were already Christians before joining up with or, in the case of the founders, initiating the Church of Wells. In fact, some of the testimonies I've read state that the encounters within their former Christian groups/churches acted as catalysts or confirmations to join up with (or initiate) the Church of Wells.

I can imagine that the same would be true of others who have joined fringe groups. I know that was the case for me; I was already a Christian when I hooked up with The Way.

I recall my own fervent zeal from over 36 years ago. The hours upon hours, days upon days, months upon months, I spent in prayer and tears and anguish, longing to know God's will for my life. My desire had been to learn Greek and Hebrew so I could know what the Word said; the many various interpretations confused me, not to mention what I perceived as hypocritical lifestyles and behaviors. So I applied and got accepted at a college with a biblical leaning located in a community with non-denominational, spirit-filled home churches. At the time, I thought I'd go into Christian counseling as my major. During my first semester of college, I was introduced to The Way.

My fellow Christian friends at Bible college warned me The Way was a cult. These same friends interrogated me regarding the devilish doctrines of The Way; The Way was of Satan who poses as an angel of light. The Way taught "another Jesus," not the true Jesus. These same friends blamed me for my college dorm roommate's mental illness challenges; it was my going to Way fellowships that caused her to get possessed of demons. Their warnings and interrogations and accusations simply drove me deeper into Way fellowships where Way believers welcomed me with open arms.

At 18 years old I quit college to study and serve with The Way. I thought I had found the living Book of Acts; the love of God was real, tangible, life giving.

Immediately upon quitting college, I moved into a Way Home to live with like-minded believers. Some five months later I volunteered for Word Over North Carolina, a two-month summer outreach program. On the heels of Summer Outreach, I volunteered as a Word Over the World (WOW) Ambassador which was a one-year commitment. At the end of my WOW year, I entered the in-residence Way Corps leadership training program - a lifetime commitment which involved four years of training with at least two of those years on Way properties.

The Way Corps training was the modern-day "School of the Prophets." I would get to live with leaders and be trained like Timothy was with Paul; iron sharpeneth iron. I would be immersed in the Word 24/7, away from the world. I would learn to believe God bigger. I would learn to better operate the nine "manifestations." I would learn how to do things right, from setting at table to shooting a rifle. I would learn how to lead God's people.

We, the Way Corps, were the Levites of our day and time. We were elite, God's crack troops. As Wierwille would say, something along the lines of, "As goes the Corps, so goes the world." We, the Way Corps, were spiritually responsible for the believers of whom we were charged oversight; we were responsible to know the spiritual atmosphere of the cities to which we were assigned.

The Way Ministry was the "true Household of God," the "functioning Body of Christ." Every other person on earth was either an "unbelieving believer," [unsaved] natural man, or born of the seed of the serpent. Way believers alone were "the remnant." As believers, we were responsible for keeping the integrity and accuracy of God's Word alive for the next generation. The "whore houses" (churches) on the corners couldn't do it; they were steeped in spiritual adultery and idolatry; they taught the false Jesus where the adversary posed as an angel of light.

It took time, but eventually the crack troops of The Way cracked and the cards of the house lay scattered. Lives and families were deeply harmed. Former followers coming forward, lawsuits, and the internet spawned its unraveling. Eventually the exposure of the dishonesty and arrogance of top leaders brought down The Way from its high and mighty stance on which it had set itself. The Way, though crippled, managed to hang on and is still around today but is now much smaller when compared to its previous size and influence.

The current Way isn't as abusive as it once was; it had to clean up its act if it was going to maintain incoming financial donations. At least, that is my opinion. Top leadership of The Way has never (to my knowledge) been accountable to Way followers for their actions. I'm not holding my breath that they will ever step up to the plate

Some would say The Way in its former days wasn't as bad as this Church of Wells. I'm not sure. In some respects it's probably worse and in others not as bad. As an online acquaintance once stated to me, "Comparing abuses is like comparing Dante's levels of hell."

Human groups are intriguing. Actually, all sorts of animal groups and herds are intriguing. But, I don't think non-human animals use manipulation to control their herds; I imagine herds are directed due to instinct. I think manipulation and coercion are probably unique to us two-legged human creatures.

***
Dr. Laurie Roth provides a phone number and email for Church of Wells followers considering an exit from CoW. The contact information is: churchofwellsexitplan@hushmail.com and 206-984-6859.

***
Links to my blog posts regarding Church of Wells:
Church of Wells: I see no good end ....
More thoughts regarding the Church of Wells...and The Way...and us humans...and...
Church of Wells ...when the doubts arise...

***

23 comments:

  1. So very interesting Carol. There's times I thought to myself this sounds like the Baptist church we were in.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Part of my "so many thoughts" have been in regard to people's stories like your own, Zoe. People who have been true believers in so-called more mainstream and accepted churches. Jesus as the only way, which the Bible clearly teaches, is exclusive in itself. From there...a believer can go all sorts of directions...and scripture is used to back up those many paths.

    I have little doubt that there are many more small groups out there very similar to the Church of Wells. Groups the public never hears about, that manage to stay under the radar.

    And, as I know you know, it's not just Bible groups that apply this us/them, etc., mindset; it happens in all sorts of groups....even among certain of the anti-cult groups.

    For over two decades I would find myself answering the cult allegations toward The Way. I could argue the allegations quite well...all backed by scripture, of course.

    I am wondering about the physical health of the CoW members, especially of the women. If it hasn't manifested already, I fear chronic illness is in the making for the CoW members. Suppression, it appears, abounds in this group. As we know all too well, the result of all that suppression is often chronic health issues.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Suppression, it appears, abounds in this group. As we know all too well, the result of all that suppression is often chronic health issues."

    Added thought: "...or worse."

    Also, for any readers, I do believe there are healthy Christian churches and other healthy people groups. I don't want my previous comment taken as a blanket statement; that is, that the exclusive aspect to Jesus being the only way equates with someone taking on the extreme behaviors of elitist groups.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am amazed at the similarities of these types of groups...
    They are the only ones doing bible religion correctly
    They have the "true church"...and on and on.

    That group reminds me so much of the church of Detroit that I was involved in. The preacher of the cult church I left had been preaching since he was 15 and was always making himself appear so much more spiritual than the rest.

    UGH

    I'm so glad to be out of there. As far as this new church I do hope people can escape. the sooner the better. Otherwise their lives will be wasted in religious nonsense. I do feel for them though, because I was involved in something so similar, still I wish I had the sense to see it sooner!

    ReplyDelete
  5. @April....I thought of your former group too...especially since it calls itself the Church of Detroit; even the name is similar; ie: "Church of ...".

    After leaving The Way and slowly learning about other groups, Christian and otherwise, I learned my experiences (good and bad) in The Way were not unique. This stuff happens and has happened all through history in all sorts of groups.

    In 2009, I wrote
    a blog piece
    at my amazement of behavioral similarities between 3 different groups with totally different belief systems: Siddha yoga, The Way, and Heaven's Gate (the Hale-Bopp suicide group).

    Shortly after writing that blog piece, as I continued reading Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults by Janja Lalich, I was amazed with the similarities of those groups with the fringe political group with which Lalich was previously involved. In Bounded Choice, Lalich compares the similarities of her former fringe political group and Heaven's Gate. It's one of my favorite books on this subject of how people groups work. Another one of my favorite books on the subject is Eric Hoffer's True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements.

    ReplyDelete
  6. PS April...I'm glad you're out too.

    Glad all of us are.

    The terms "in" and "out" strike me funny this morning. Not funny like in haha funny, but in an odd-type funny. Actually, the terms are kind of sad...that us humans think that way. I wish we could all be for life and freedom...and that was "in."

    ReplyDelete
  7. I read the following this morning, written by a Church of Wells follower. She is sharing about a book written by one of the elders of the group.
    "... [the book] proclaims nothing new; it is not adding to scripture, it is not inventing any new doctrine, but it is simply a revealing of the things of God, the things which have been hidden to our generation, and for many generations, for many centuries. They're being brought back out. ..."

    LINK


    Wierwille said that God told Wierwille that God would teach Wierwille the Word like it hadn't been known since the 1st century. That what was taught was old light, but it was new light to our day and time.

    April, if you see this, did BM teach that he was bringing old light back to light?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Oops...forgot something. Wierwille said that God told him that based on a condition: "that God would teach Wierwille the Word like it hadn't been known since the 1st century"...if Wierwille would teach it to others.

    Ka-ching...$$$

    ReplyDelete
  9. concernedlocal3/21/14, 4:15 PM

    Hi! I stumbled across your blog today. I began researching COW back in Oct. You may know this already but here are some other resources. Facebook: Pray for Catherine Grove page, FB Boycott Wells, Charity Enterprises Page (locals set up to track their various business and encourage the public to avoid in hopes of impacting them financially), Texas Monthly has written two articals, The Roth Show has hours of interviews, and Nightline was in town last month preparing for a story hopefully airing in the next month. The discussion board you referred to that is not accepting registrations is actually about 90% bigger than most can see. Only a few threads have been made "public". It was public before but it came under cyber attack with all the threads being junked up with horrible pictures and statements. It is assumed it was done by COW. Catherine's parents have also come under cyber attack with facebook pages being made, pictures being posted on fb and twitter being photoshopped and portraying them as a cult- again the assumption was that COW members were behind it. Many of us who have spoken out have come under hacking attempts on our fb and twitter accounts, myself included. Dr Roth has set up a special email and phone for people wanting to leave, white bows are displayed around town by people as a sign for a safe house or place for people to come. Jake Gardner mocked this in a blog on their webpage-typical of their arrogance and superiority. Jake was recently arrested for disrupting a Disciple Now event screaming at people they were all going to Hell. The deacon Rick was arrested in New York for making threats to his ex that she was going to die if she did not give him their child and he knew exactly when God would strike her down. Catherine is kept out of the public. Her facebook and phone all shut off. Who even knows how much she really knows is going on out here in the real world. Other new recruits that have already pledged their allegiance they have their facebook pages. They have close ties to a similiar church in Austrailia and a senior COW member replied on fb to one when asked "How is Catherine going?" His reply, "she is not yet broken". Anyway, sorry to ramble. Keep blogging, join the Pray for Catherine FB, information is updated constantly by friends and family. Spread the word or share any suggestions on ways to expose them and help tumble the walls down, returning these young children to their families before to much damage is done.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hey Carol,

    xpastard believed that most every church was deceived or had bible religion wrong...and of course HE was doing it right so your only recourse if you wanted to avoid being on God's shit list was to become a member of his church and believe the doctrine that he was teaching.

    BM's tactics have changed over the years, manipulations, some subtle some obvious...same ole same ole as far as religious manipulators go. LOL

    People are still drinking the koolaid from BM's pulpit. It's sad they just can't seem to be able to SEE what is happening. This COW is not going to end well...lives will be ruined and relationships destroyed, all in the name of their cruel religion. So Sad. :(

    ReplyDelete
  11. Carol,

    I'm having issues with my memory/brain right now and forgot I had already read your post let alone commented. I haven't been able to read any of the stuff about the Church of Wells wanting to not strain the brain right now.

    What you did share at times was like my experience in the Baptist church. In fact, it was my study of cults that led me one day to think, 'How is my church any different than these cults?'

    Yes re: chronic health issues and suppression.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for sharing concernedlocal.

    "Dr Roth has set up a special email and phone for people wanting to leave, white bows are displayed around town by people as a sign for a safe house or place for people to come."

    Big thumbsup for that avenue for folks to leave. I'll add the phone number & email to my two blog posts re Church of Wells.

    I can guess that the CoW regular (as opposed to leadership) members might be directed to stay away from reading the online information about CoW. In the group I was in (The Way International), loyal followers were told to stay away from reading about The Way on the web believing folks/former members speaking out against The Way were (at the least)influenced by the "father of lies." I obeyed Way leadership in that regard for a few years until I dared (while trembling) to search The Way online.

    Thanks again for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  13. April said "BM's tactics have changed over the years, manipulations, some subtle some obvious.."

    Yeah, these leaders have to use abusive tactics of being heavy and light; otherwise, no one would continue to follow. And when a handful of followers wake up to the manipulations, then the leader(s) will change to appear more open and tolerant. It's all for appearance. True change would include some sort of compensation to those from whom they've stolen.

    I know you know that, btw. :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Zoe...Sorry to read about the brain fog, etc. I've been going through similar. This evening was especially rough for me. I get my spinal injections next Monday and I hope they bring relief again. I wish next Monday were tomorrow.

    Your second comment prompted some thoughts for me. I'll try to come back later to this comment section and endeavor to posts some of those thoughts; I'm too tired right now.

    Gentle hugs and some laughter too...
    <3

    ReplyDelete
  15. Yeah, it the manipulation was always harsh people would revolt. It is mixed. I recall privately the pastor told me that he needed his flock to be 100% behind his teaching and ministry...then I swear not long after he must have been trying to put out the image that he was not the religious dictator and spoke of how "I've never said you have to be 100% behind everything I say and do..."

    He totally said the exact opposite in the pulpit of what he told us privately! It was unbelievable.

    It's like we talked about the degrees of the pressure harsh and subtle. Actually I'm reading a book by Michael Langone called Recovery from Cults. A section was about a person who was researching the Moonies and found that the manipulations were very subtle, but enough. It was also interesting that they seemed to make people childlike so they (the leaders) would just TEACH the followers. No real investigation or thinking on behalf of the followers. You just accepted what you were told as the truth because those higher up were more spiritually in tuned than you, the novice. Soooo much like the Detroit church!

    ReplyDelete
  16. my first sentence should have been IF the manipulations...

    Anyhow wanted to add I hope you feel better soon. I know that shot will help you. and Zoe too, hoping for some relief. ((HUGZ))

    ReplyDelete
  17. I've heard some people refer to the Cult Leader Cookie Cutter School, or something like that. Similar tactics, different belief systems.

    Thanks for the well wishes April. I'm feeling a little better today. :)

    ReplyDelete
  18. It's a great question Zoe; ie: 'How is my church any different than these cults?' One that I imagine you have thought about a thousand times...and made comparisons as well.

    I agree that certain (many?) "churches" do fall under the "cult" description; ie: information control, isolation (physical of mental) from broader society, doctrine over person, obedience to leadership, redefining terms, language unique to that group subset, elitism, and more. I like what is stated on Arthur Deikman's site (italics mine): Some degree of cult behavior can be seen in all groups, so instead of asking “Is this group a cult?,” a more useful inquiry is: “How much cult behavior is taking place here?”

    The Way being labeled "a cult" rarely bothered me once I became a loyal Way follower. When someone would throw the cult question/allegation at me, I would typically respond with the question, "How do you define a cult?" Then I would answer accordingly, and sometimes my answer was, "Yes. According to you definition, The Way is a cult."

    A term I've recently heard from certain of the anticult circles is "destructive cult" instead of the single word "cult."

    From the book
    "Coercive Persuasion"
    (CP) by Edgar Schein, I adapted a simple type of litmus test in regard to what (at least in part) makes a healthy belief system. "CP" is dated but is a book that impacted me enough to keep on my personal library shelf for referral.

    Following (in italices) is my type of litmus test, which I don't have memorized but I know where to find it. The sections in quotes are directly from the book.

    Does this "class of ideas, beliefs, or attitudes":
    1) "serve the person as a way of defining his role in relation to his environment"?
    2) "express his own needs and personality"?
    3) "grow and change as his experience changes"?
    4) "guide...behavior because of their inner logic"?


    I'm going to respond with another comment with another (or more) quote(s) from Schein's book. When I read the book around 2009ish, I was quite taken with the similarities between the 1950's Chinese communist approaches and that of Christianity (or other groups for that matter).

    ReplyDelete
  19. Following are a couple paragraphs from the book "Coercive Persuasion: A Socio-psychological Analysis of the "Brainwashing" of American Civilian Prisoners by the Chinese Communists," which was first published in 1961. This is (of course) just a one of many examples which (at least for me) depicts parallels between those 1950's communist beliefs and approaches and other coercive human groups. All was for the group, not for the individual.

    I find the usage of the words "the new man" interesting. I wonder if the then-Chinese used the Bible as one of their instruction manuals...

    Begin paragraphs (please excuse typos):

    Creation of the "New Man"

    The ultimate avowed aim of thought reform is, of course, the "new man" who will be ideally fitted for the Communist society of the future. The "new man" had the following characteristics. He should be completely concerned about "others," "The People," and the ideology. He should not look at things subjectively, from a self-centered or selfish point of view, but "objectively," recognizing that the greatest good for himself is that which is the greatest good for the group as a whole. He should be an active enthusiastic supporter of the cause (apathy and indifference are tantamount to opposition). He should be enthusiastic about physical labor and manual labor as the essential means to the glorious "ends" of the revolution rather than being concerned with intellectual and aesthetic activities, which are often pursued selfishly as ends in themselves; intellectual and aesthetic activities should be pursued only for the purpose of effectively communicating the Communist conception of society and rallying other's support of it. He should be enthusiastic about the simple, unembellished life rather than being concerned with material possessions and the luxuries of life, he should adopt the simple values and standards of the the working people and peasants, including their language manner and morals. In short, the "new man" should be truly collectivised.

    The image of the "new man" was continually held up by the authorities and by the propaganda organs as the ideal to strive for, and any tendency of a citizen or a prisoner to behave in a manner not consistant with this idealized image could and did lead to his being severely criticized.

    (End paragraphs)

    ...But, it seems to me, that coercive tactics and beliefs aren't necessarily studied. Rather they seem inherent within extreme narcissistic or sociopathic personalities.

    PS: Analyzing this stuff too much can cause anxiety. For some people, I think it causes paranoia and looking for cults in their alphabet soup. Probably ought to stick with mac and cheese. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Carol your comment made me think of something. My xpastor, Ben Mott used to scream from his pulpit, "some people have said this church is a cult!!! Well I'm washing your brains for Christ then!"

    the man did NOT deny it. That was one of the many...hmmm... moments that made me think more about what exactly was I involved in?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Screaming must make these people feel more important. Alarm bells for hell, I guess.

      Glad you finally listened to that ... "Hmmmm??" <3

      Delete
  21. These human groups--well said Carol. And I believe you're right. Many of them (me included) were already "Christian."

    I'll never understand the mechanism that certain people have that makes them want to control and manipulate others for their own gain. They all work basically the same. Create a "need", then promise to fill that need. It's how advertisers work too. We're all vulnerable. Part of being human.

    I'm so glad you're spreading the word about how damaging these groups can be. I need to visit your blog more often. Good stuff!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Yes, we are all vulnerable.

    For years after leaving The Way and learning about the extreme Mr. Hyde side and the outright lies that other former followers' up-closely encountered with certain top Way leaders with whom I had "godly" up-close encounters...well the dichotomy baffled me. It took me lots of reading and a few some unpleasant (to put it lightly) encounters with narcissistic individuals to finally understand (as much as one can) that the only explanation I can come up with to explain the dichotomy is extreme narcissism and/or psychopathology. I know you know about that stuff all too well Grace.

    It makes a body's head spin.

    Glad we learned to spin in the other direction to untangle some of the tactics used by these type folks (snakes).

    I feel I am now better equipped to recognize a possible snake...to at least be aware. I never want to lose the ability to trust others, but I don't want to be naive.

    ReplyDelete

For HTML codes, click & scroll down on the 'html code chart' link below. When you click the link, you are taken to another page and will lose what you have written in the comment unless you have it copied and saved elsewhere.

LINK: html code chart

Contact oneperson...

Name

Email *

Message *