Understanding the Word of Faith Fellowship Response to Recent Reports of “Slavery”

The text message telling me about the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) press release from July 30, 2017 ended with “smh.” This is a new abbreviation for me, it left me wondering. I searched and found it means “scratching my head.” After I quit laughing about my temporary confusion, I pondered the answer to the obvious question- Why and how would Joshua Farmer and Jane Whaley consider their press release appropriate?

This post is my answer. First, the text of the release – source: www.wordoffaithfellowship.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Word of Faith Fellowship Responds to AP reports regarding “enslaved” members

Spindale, North Carolina – July 30, 2017 — We are appalled to learn of the allegations published by the Associated Press regarding foreign members of our church being “enslaved”. Many of these allegations are obviously preposterous on their face and they are all false. It is ludicrous that people now claim they were in an abusive environment at our church but admit that they traveled from Brazil to the United States many different times, returning repeatedly to their place of alleged enslavement. Clearly, there is a group of people determined to stop at nothing in their campaign to destroy our ministry. We are confident that the truth will ultimately prevail and we remain hopeful that the public will see through these fabrications and see them for what they are.

Next, the release includes a quotation of II Timothy 3:1-5 (Amplified Bible). The release is closed with acknowledgment of Sam and Jane Whaley and Attorney Joshua Farmer- Farmer and Morris Law (828) 286-3866.

The standard WOFF strategy is followed here by saying “Many of these allegations are obviously preposterous on their face and they are all false.” This is standard WOFF practice to deny accounts of wrong doing by calling the testimony of survivors of their group- lies and false.
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AP: US church goes to Brazil; instills fear, splits families

In light of the most recent Associated Press release- “US church goes to Brazil; instills fear, splits families – I believe it is appropriate to repost this review titled: “More Thoughts on WOFF and Brazil” from August of 2010. (click “back” button to return here)

The lead paragraph from this article:

SAO JOAQUIM DE BICAS, BRAZIL (AP) — At the Word of Faith Fellowship churches in the Brazilian cities of Sao Joaquim de Bicas and Franco da Rocha, the signs of broken families are everywhere: parents separated from their children, siblings who no longer speak, grandparents who wonder if they will ever know their grandchildren.

This AP release goes on to chronicle the process of WOFF taking the practice of destroying families from North Carolina to Brazil. The Brazilian churches have become a sad reflection of WOFF NC. Jane Whaley’s ministry of destruction and pain has indeed transferred its dark stain seen and felt in America to Brazil.

Read the post below and note the heartache and angst. The WOFF-effect on families is real. It is indeed an international travesty.

On a personal note, my daughter is expecting or has already delivered her child this month. I am one who wonders if I will ever know my grandson…

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Jane Whaley and her crew from Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) have been making trips to Brazil for many years. The first time I knew about the trips was in 1992. At that time, I heard about previous trips in previous years made by members of the Greenville church traveling with WOFF members to Brazil for seminars. There was always a certain mystique associated with the trips and the privilege of going to help the Brazilian church members. During the early years, those who did not go to Brazil would hear about shopping trips to rock shops and eating at Brazilian restaurants.  The seminars would also include many deliverance sessions and teachings about WOFF ways and WOFF life. Many of the teachings were about “hearing God” as Jane or certain others would speak, with Jane’s approval. For sure, the church members in Brazil would emulate WOFF members and end up copying many of the WOFF ways and in order to live in WOFFness.

   Since my time at WOFF ended in July of 2008, I have heard several accounts of WOFF doings that as a member inside of WOFF, we just did not learn about. Why would that be? A few months ago, someone began to let me know about things happening in Brazil. At first, I was shocked. But, as I considered what I knew has/had happened in America over the whole WOFF saga, it all began to make sense. What I will share here is from a translated email sent to me from Brazil. The names of the church members affected are not the key part of this story. The key thing about the scenario of events is to note the strange and sad similarity to previous events here in North Carolina and/or in other states caught in the WOFF-web.

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AP: Brazilians funneled as “slaves” by US church, ex-members say

For years, the smoke and mirrors used by Jane Whaley and her leadership at Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) has created an aura of deception, filled with misstatements and euphemistic renaming of their practices. Screaming is called prayer, verbal and physical abuse is called “love.” Private sexual relations between and husband and wife are not private, but are regulated by church leadership to “keep out the unclean.” Members are prohibited from free access to news sources including radio, television, newspapers and computers because they are “not able to hear God and stand against the devil.” Unpaid forced and coerced labor is called “volunteer work.” These highly restrictive church practices equate to “walking in God’s ways with God’s people.”

Now the individuals damaged from the years of chicanery are speaking out. The latest installment of the Associated Press’ ongoing in-depth investigation has been released. The long needed reporting of the secretive church practices is clearing the smoke of confusion and angst which hangs thick over Old Flynn Road. There, the church compound serves as the hub of the WOFF-kingdom in the sad ongoing saga of abuses revealed by the AP. The aim is not only for the souls of the members, but this report reveals the aim is to capture “slaves,” laborers- mostly unpaid to work at the church or school or for businesses owned by church leaders, as well as in their homes.

The AP report: This link has the full text, pictures and video. (click icons bottom right of image)

“When Andre Oliveira answered the call to leave his Word of Faith Fellowship congregation in Brazil to move to the mother church in North Carolina at the age of 18, his passport and money were confiscated by church leaders – for safekeeping, he said he was told.
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Who is rubbing her feet now?

Is it true? A good foot rub takes the stress away from aching feet. Surely it does. Consider this from two survivors of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) talking about their experience rubbing Jane Whaley’s feet.

A few years ago, a survivor told me in casual conversation that they rubbed Jane Whaley’s feet at her beck and call. I just listened and asked few questions. Looking back, I should have asked better questions. This individual did not present their participation in rubbing Jane’s feet as voluntary. Like many things inside WOFF, this was “ministry.” Who cares if you want to or that is late at night and you are tired? This person gave me the idea they just did it because they had to. It did not seem truly voluntary.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago and I am talking to another survivor. Out of the blue, they tell me they were also commissioned to rub Jane’s feet. At any time, they were subject to a call for foot ministry. To the point, they had blisters on their hands. Yikes! I also detected a forced submission – no genuine willingness- just duty.

The names of these two survivors is not important or my focus. My point is the attitude in common with both- each not knowing the other had told me their foot ministry story. There was no pre-planned coordination. Knowing that part of the scene brings more clarity for me. The glaring common trait in both cases was the feigned forced affection to give the illusion of willingness to perform the task. If this task was glamorized as “ministry,” then what else inside WOFF is classified as ministry? What other “labors” are classified as ministry and require an appearance of submission, all the while the member is churning inside?
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Fenner Case- Medical issues for David Teddy delay Covington trial, Bartley Case called for September

The months pass quickly again this year as the journey for justice is longer and longer. Today’s hearing in front of Judge Marvin Caldwell was postponed because this Judge refused/declined to hear the motions according Rccatalyst.com. In another report, Rccatalyst.com shares the update that on July 28th at 9:30AM in the Buncombe County Superior Court- Judge Marvin Pope will hear pre-trial motions which include these possibilities:

-Motion for Continuance
-Motion for Fenner to produce recordings
-Motion for Change of Venue by Teddy

In a related matter, Judge Gavenus as the originator of the gag order set in place after the mistrial on June 6th in the State versus Brooke Covington trial – has agreed to review the pending motion to lift the order filed by the Associated Press and the Charlotte Observer. He will also review the motion filed by the State to partially lift the gag order so the investigation into the introduction of unauthorized documents into the jury room by the jury foreman can proceed. Judge Gavenus is asking for the supporting documents to be submitted on or before August 1st.

The court calendar lists the State versus Adam Bartley for September 11th. Bartley is one of the Famous Five defendants who all were members of the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) on January 27, 2013, the date Matthew Fenner alleges he was assaulted and held against his will in a deliverance session in the WOFF sanctuary. The other four include: Brooke Covington, Justin Covington, Sarah Anderson, and Robert Louis Walker, Jr. Since the incident date, Bartley and Sarah Anderson have left WOFF.
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Fenner Case takes a turn… July 17th next court date

moon plant
moon plant

As I sit here surveying the latest round of Motions and Orders in the Matthew Fenner case, I can’t help but wonder where the road will lead us. Where will this path that began in 1979 by Sam and Jane Whaley take us as a community and as a group of survivors, where will it end? Will it ever end? Will the destructive dynamics set in motion so many years ago, which have been allowed to strengthen and fester in a small community in Western North Carolina ever come to a conclusion? Does the winding journey have a happy ending for anyone?

This journey begun with possibly good intentions includes people from several countries and many members hailing from various parts of the United States. On this day when we are to celebrate the freedom afforded us by our Constitution and upheld by our strength as a nation; we are experiencing and witnessing a court case unfold which includes allegations of intimidation and fear, along with testimonies and evidence which any sane person would agree do not signify a healthy religious environment.

A survey of the history of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) includes episodes of religious abuse, political and community scandal, physical and emotional abuse, financial doubts and many court cases full of legal wrangling. A journey of over thirty years has touched so many lives in on several continents in such negative ways. I do not believe what we see as the practices included in the WOFF subculture were ones our forefathers intended to protect when they declared “freedom of religion.”
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A Week of New Court Dates, Disappointment and Sorrow

Professional and personal commitments kept me from posting updates about the Matthew Fenner case this past week. Rccatalyst.com has been one of the sources carrying updates. As a recap; June 10th – Judge Marvin Pope opened matters with setting June 20th for a deadline for pre-trial motions in the State versus Brooke Covington trial. He required any such motions be heard in Buncombe County on July 7th. The exception for that date was a Change of Venue Motion for which a separate date would be announced.

Attorney David Teddy filed a Motion for Continuance citing his preplanned vacation to Ireland during July and the necessity of reviewing transcripts from the first trial adding the expedited costs would run around $5,000. Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers said the Rule for such declaring reasons for a Continuance had not been properly met.

The result so far includes the latest date for trial in the State of North Carolina versus Brooke Covington is now set for September 11, 2017. I don’t know yet who the judge is for that judicial session. It will be interesting to learn and watch the events unfold through the summer.

As an observer, I understand the time and expense for obtaining a transcription of the first trial. My caution is that in an effort to expedite, that the assigned court reporter, Leanna Lynch, does not ask anyone affiliated with Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) to help in the completion of the request- for obvious reasons. Bridges Court Reporting is owned by Laura R. Bridges. She is a faithful WOFF member at last count having previously worked inside the Rutherford County Courthouse. There may be guidelines already in place to prevent such a mistake. I am not sure, but just wanted to make known my concerns.
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