2017 – A year to remember…

Hands for Hope
Hands for Hope and Action

During 2017, many new people became aware of the ongoing, complex and often surreal drama which surrounds Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF). This is a good reason to recap several important events which happened that brought much more attention to the often secretive and closed “church” in Spindale NC.

Starting February 27th, the Associated Press released the first of several articles which detailed abuses inside of WOFF. “Ex-congregants reveal years of ungodly abuse…” These accounts came from 43 survivors who lived inside WOFF and subsequently left at different times. The testimonials covered by this release and the subsequent articles throughout the year, resulted in a proverbial ongoing “indictment hearing” for the WOFF leadership as well as several local and State officials. The AP’s site (here) serves as the central hub for the many articles, videos and audio files unveiled after almost two years of investigation. The information gleaned from survivor accounts, court documents, recordings and intense research served to alert government officials and thus open several investigations into possible abuses, instances of fraud and wrong doings by WOFF in the United States and Brazil.

March 6th – “Ex-sect members tell AP: Prosecutors obstructed abuse cases“- was the next release which told of meetings inside Jane Whaley’s office where two members who served as Assistant District Attorneys in Burke County were involved in coaching members how to answer questions posed by various investigators. Also, present in these sessions was a church member who served as a social worker in Cleveland County. Not long after the AP release, Frank Webster and Chris Back were no longer employed as Assistant District Attorneys and Lori Cornelius decided to leave her position as a social worker for Cleveland County. Continue reading 2017 – A year to remember…

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NC DHHS not bound by Compromised Settlement from June 2005

In November, I sent an email to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) asking for action to initiate a Judicial Review of the Compromised Settlement (Settlement) filed June 21, 2005 in the civil case between Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) and the Rutherford County Department of Social Services (RCDSS). I also asked for the replacement of Director John Carroll. Later that day, I received a call from Michael Becketts, the Assistant Secretary of the NC DHHS. He acknowledged my email and asked for a face to face meeting to discuss my concerns. The meeting took place this past Monday. Julie Cronin, the Assistant General Counsel for the NC DHHS was also present for the meeting.

We began with a short recap of why we were meeting which included Mr. Beckett’s voicing his concern for what I thought was going on in Rutherford County –specifically as it related to the RC DSS. After a short summary of my involvement with WOFF including my time inside and since leaving in July of 2008, I explained my perspective of the civil action which resulted in the Settlement. My remarks included the mistakes made by RC DSS workers stemming from what I believed was a lack of training on dealing with members of a closed religious subculture. I suggested some resources for training in the area of interviewing children from closed subcultures and both seemed receptive to the information. Continue reading NC DHHS not bound by Compromised Settlement from June 2005

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This Past Week…

The Associated Press continues to deliver impactful investigative articles conveying their findings surrounding the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF). There is no surprise that some will not want to accept the stark and shocking nature of their findings. Each article since February 27th has peeled back yet another layer of the thick veil which for years hid the true nature of the extreme practices of this church.

How could this be happening in our town? How this gone on for so long and no one has done anything about it? What can be done to stop the abuses?

I hear these questions and many more often containing intense emotion and excitement. The truth shocks many in the community and they are upset to say the least. I understand and am so thankful that the AP has continued to forge ahead though some express their doubts.

The most recent articles published this past week drew intense interest from many folks. I referenced the article – “Ex-members say church uses power, lies to keep grip on kids…” earlier this week and provided a link but did not review the second release titled-“Investigators face big hurdles in church child abuse cases.

This second article begins;

“When Rutherford County’s child protection agency seeks to investigate allegations of abuse at Word of Faith Fellowship, it runs smack into two major obstacles: a habitual lack of cooperation from church members and a court-ordered compromise that limits what can trigger an inquiry and how social workers can question minors.

Word of Faith has been investigated numerous times over the course of decades without serious consequences, in large part because church leader Jane Whaley orders congregants to lie to and mislead authorities, according to dozens of former followers interviewed by The Associated Press.”

The article goes on to explain several of the aspects of the “Compromised Settlement” filed June 21, 2005 which outlined many procedural changes and hurdles which applied to complaints of abuse involving children of WOFF. I have mentioned this settlement before as it has also been referred to as the “Federal Injunction.” The settlement is binding any county’s department of social services not just Rutherford County Department of Social Services.
Continue reading This Past Week…

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AP: Ex-members say church uses power, lies to keep grip on kids… (video)

The Associated Press released another article in their ongoing investigation of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF). This account opens with the ordeal which Nancy Burnette went through on a visit to the church. As a court-appointed advocate, she visited the church during a service with her supervisor to check on the two boys in her charge. The AP details the events of that day and her ultimate removal from the case.

“Terrified, Burnette left, but not before promising the boys, ages 4 and almost 2, that she would return — a promise she ultimately could not keep.
“What I didn’t know was how hard Word of Faith would fight — and the tactics they would use — to keep the kids,” Burnette told The Associated Press.”

This scene sets the direction of the article with the following paragraph:

“That was not the only time Word of Faith Fellowship’s leaders and members have used positions of authority, intimidation or deception to bring children into the church’s folds or keep them from leaving — often at Whaley’s behest, according to dozens of interviews and hundreds of pages of court records, police reports and social services documents obtained by the AP.

As a result, children have been introduced to sometimes violent church practices that run counter to the North Carolina laws designed to protect them, the AP found.”

Continue reading AP: Ex-members say church uses power, lies to keep grip on kids… (video)

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Audio Resource Round-up – John Cooper, Mitch Weiss, John Huddle

Everyone is busy and may not have the time to experience all the different resources on the unfolding drama surrounding Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF). Also, I know there are folks who just recently started following this story. 2017 has been a year full of new information from the Associated Press, updates on the Matthew Fenner case; including some survivors sharing their individual stories through different media channels.

This post includes three audio resources which you may have missed. First, we have a two-part podcast featuring John Cooper’s story. Even after living inside WOFF for years, I was captivated by John’s narrative. Within the first two minutes of Part 1, he describes a confession session where he is thrown to the floor and “…it all becomes a blur…” “…this guy is sitting on my legs and punching me in the chest…”
Continue reading Audio Resource Round-up – John Cooper, Mitch Weiss, John Huddle

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Fenner Case Update: Walker Trial Continued and Gag Order Modified

What does this all mean?

Rccatalyst.com reported the continuance of the Robert Louis Walker trial earlier in October. A date for the trial to begin was not set. The reason given was “new discovery.” Translated this means new evidence. Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers agreed to the continuance and one has to interpret from that notion that the “new discovery” held some weight and potential effect on the pending trial, possibly a good thing in the long run (longer than ever anticipated).

For background: these ongoing court proceedings stem from incidents on January 27, 2013 in the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) sanctuary in which Matthew Fenner alleges he was assaulted, held against his will and strangled. The indictments handed down in January 2015 were filed against Brooke M. Covington, Sarah Anderson, Justin Covington, Robert Lewis Walker, Jr. and Adam Bartley- all church members at the time of the incidents. After many pre-trial motions during 2015 which included a disqualification of Farmer and Morris as counsel for any of the defendants, Brooke Covington’s trial commenced earlier this year. During the June 6th session, unauthorized documents introduced into the jury room by the jury foreman caused Judge Gavenus to declare a mistrial. In addition, he followed this with a gag order on those involved in that trial either as potential witnesses, attorneys and court officials. The jury foreman, Perry Shade, spent 30 days in jail and was fined $500.00. The Associated Press filed suit to remove the gag order.

Rccatalyst.com also reported Judge Gary Gavenus finally ruled on the gag order he imposed in June. In court documents provided on the Rccatalytst.com website, Judge Gavenus modifies the order to allow the jurors to talk freely to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). He orders the sealed documents surrounding the trial and the documents introduced to the jury held and viewed only by the SBI. He states he never intended the gag order to be permanent and set it to expire on March 31, 2018. Included in the documents is a line by line account of the conversations during the session on June 6th. I found this very satisfying and was glad to know the public could get some understanding for how this all evolved in court. The AP’s motion to immediately lift the gag order was unsuccessful.
Continue reading Fenner Case Update: Walker Trial Continued and Gag Order Modified

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Gain Control of Your Inner Narrative…

beautiful balloon

We all do it. We all have the ongoing inner voice which continually voices to the audience of one- you. Okay, some will not readily share the ongoing narrative which rolls continually on the inside of them, they have filters. Those can be good at times. For now, let’s just admit the fact that we all experience self-talk.

Are you aware of the continual thread of self-talk which is in you? Do you realize the power of your self-talk? I did not realize how important it was until recently. Oh, I have known about positive thinking and read books in the past about the power of being positive. But, does that really matter? Apparently it does.

In an article by the Mayo Clinic under the heading of Stress Management; “Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress”- “Is your glass half-empty or half-full? How you answer this age-old question about positive thinking may reflect your outlook on life, your attitude toward yourself, and whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic — and it may even affect your health.”
Continue reading Gain Control of Your Inner Narrative…

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