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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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...