WOFF Survivor Returns… No One Wins…

A life-long member of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) returned this past week. Many have followed the story of Michael Lowry on this blog. He was born 1990 and resided in WOFF until November 2011. It is with sadness I must bring to you the next chapter in this saga. Earlier this past week, Michael Lowry was picked up by his WOFF family and returned to Spindale, NC. Later in the week, he recanted his allegations and on Friday met with AP reporter Mitch Weiss. Please, continue reading for excerpts from the article.

Man recants church kidnap claim

22-year-old’s report led to criminal probe in Spindale

By Mitch Weiss The Associated Press    Posted: Friday, Feb. 08, 2013

(source link- http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/02/08/3842930/man-recants-story-he-was-held.html)

(My quoting of this story does not in any way infer that the Charlotte Observer or Mitch Weiss agree with my opinions on this subject or others here on this blog. Neither the Charlotte Observer nor Mitch Weiss have expressed any approval or endorsement with the thoughts or conclusions I will recite here in this post or any previous posts on this blog.)

From the article:

“SPINDALE A man who accused a North Carolina church of holding him against his will and abusing him because he’s gay has recanted his story.

Michael Lowry, 22, told The Associated Press on Friday that he’s sorry for filing charges against Word of Faith Fellowship – and for hurting his family and the church.

“I know I’m going to have to pay for the things that happened,” said Lowry, surrounded by his family.”

Let me comment on parts of the story and give some background to my perspective. When Michael says, ““I know I’m going to have to pay for the things that happened…” What does he mean by “pay for”? At this point, the consequences of telling State officials that he was abused may not be known. If he is truly forgiven by his family – then what does he have to “pay for” in that regard? Will his family hold his exposure of the inner secrets of WOFF to outsiders – against him- forever? Well, I don’t know for certain. What do you think? When God forgives – He removes the sin as far as the east is from the west. Will his WOFF family be able to do that?

No one won when Michael Lowry returned to WOFF. First off, Michael lost any and all new found freedoms he had gained since leaving WOFF. Freedoms which included many personal life normal liberties that those on the outside take for granted.  For instance, will he be eternally guarded by a WOFF member wherever he goes? Will his bathroom times again be monitored? I would say that is a “YES”. What other freedoms has he been forced to give up? Has his access to electronic media been cut-off, has he been able to watch movies, read newspapers and other books? I have not confirmed this with Jane, but, feel I can speak with a rock solid confidence- YES. Will he again have a laptop or any unrestricted computer access? Will he be put through a re-training and be required to listen to hours of tapes of Jane preaching? That is a good possibility.  Others on church discipline have experienced such joys. Will he ever be able to finish his college classes which started a couple of years ago? I am not sure on that.

Next, those who had come to know Michael and watch his budding acceptance and enjoyment of life outside the group have lost that continued experience. From November 2011 until a few weeks ago when I last saw Michael, he had changed and much for the better. He seemed a lot more socially savvy and able to make decisions on his own. Will his ability to make his own decisions continue? Are you kidding me right now? He gave up his freedoms the minute he stepped into the car to be whisked away to his return to Jane’s WOFF-dom. Up until that point, he could have reached out for more help and run again.

The next group that loses is the WOFF members who see him back inside. What kind of questions are running through their heads? God only knows at this point. Can they even ask all the questions without being in trouble and put in church discipline? From what I know, Jane has not learned to love the questions themselves. Any present faithful WOFF member that expresses the least little bit of doubt as to the wisdom of returning Michael to the group will be questioned themselves. After all, how did Jane talk about Michael while he was gone? Did she brand him as a “Judas”, so full of unclean? Now, that he is back, how does that work out practically? I suspect for some members there may be a renewed sense of hopeless that they will ever make it out. There will be in some a quite resolution that maybe there is no hope on the outside. And for that they lose.  Unless there is a determination that is undaunted by the return of Michael, if that determination can survive Michael’s return, then they won’t lose in the long run.

From the article, “Lowry said he was living in a hotel when former members of the church discovered he was on his own… I was about to be homeless. I needed a place to stay and they offered me one,” he said. He said they suggested that he should claim he was gay to make it seem like a hate crime and they would help him.”

On this blog, I first told of this exit drama in a post on November 24, 2011. This post contains my recount of the events just three days previous. Here is the link… “Another Exit Drama Unfolds…” http://religiouscultsinfo.com/?p=4782 . To my recollection, during this meeting he did not mention being “gay”. No one that I am aware of in the two weeks after this meeting suggested such a thing to him. I have no exact idea of whom he referencing in this quote from the article. However, later, I did learn that during this first meeting, he did not share his entire experience inside the group.

Two more quotes from the article and then we will close.

“But Lowry said no one coerced him. He said recanting and returning home to live with his family was his own decision. He also said he is attending Word of Faith services and that his family and church has forgiven him.”

Most of my personal thoughts about this series of events, I will keep to myself. I can say that I was astounded to hear of Michael’s return after being around him briefly just a few weeks earlier. Also, practically, how is this return working out? Is he living at home with his parents – well, at his brother’s? Will he be allowed to get a job and work for money? If so, will he be allowed to handle it himself or have to submit to someone else handling his money?  Is he back inside the services or watching them on a monitor with a guard helping him to listen and participate? How does he look upon the very ones he accused? Is there any tenseness between him and leaders within the group? Does he have any “friends” left inside the group? Is he addressed as Michael or Michael Roy? Truly, for now, we will not know.

From the article, “In an earlier interview with the AP, Lowry said he fled after the church had confined him to a locked building on church grounds because he was gay. Lowry claimed that from August 2011 to November 2011 he was taken to the building and beaten and abused. He said it was all part of the church’s trying to cure him of being gay.”

Except for the last sentence, this is the part of the story that was retold on this blog back in November 2011. Let me say that my work depends greatly on being able to tell if people are lying to me. Honestly, I don’t always get it right, but, I would say most of the time I can tell when folks are telling whoppers. The meeting on November 21, 2011 was full of new information for me and as far as I could tell then, Michael Lowry honestly told me his experiences inside the fourth building. As far as I know, that part of his story was consistent the entire time of his absence from WOFF.

Lastly, as for those who will lament that in this round, Jane Whaley won. To them I will say- please reconsider. Has not everyone seen what lengths Jane will go to denigrate and smear former members and then manipulate people and circumstances to do her bidding, in order to get back those who bring her the most intense scrutiny? Did she win or show her true colors? You decide.

Thank you, for taking time to visit and read this blog. Please, consume the information on this site responsibly. The author is not a licensed mental health professional and encourages those that need professional help to seek it. The intent of the material is to inform and be a resource. Be sure to tell every member that you know at WOFF about this blog. There are readers at WOFF. Comments are invited from all readers, including present or former members. Polls are not scientific and no private information is gathered.

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Please, take time to read the Terms of Use for this personal blog. As mentioned, for posts written by John Huddle, any information about WOFF is from his memories and recollections as perfect as that may be or not be. Scripture references are Amplified Version unless otherwise noted. (Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation ) This is post number 427.

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4 thoughts on “WOFF Survivor Returns… No One Wins…”

  1. I am not surprized that Michael went back to woff, after all he is young man with no marketable skills to get a decent job, and he was about to be homeless. He also had the added burden of never really even dealing with people out side of his “circle which was just the group at woff.” A group whose decisions both big and small are governed by someone else, supposedly. I know that is the way it is, based from my own personal experience.

    In short he had no life skills, no experience even making his own decisions and no support system on the outside that was enough to actually help him. He left behind everything even his own family to go off on his own. He was alone and had no real idea how to do things. Of course he went back.

    Society even those who really want to help people leave there, have no idea what all that is, and the last contact I had with him , I tried to encourage him to find people that he could trust to help him through all the things that you go through when you are out. I know that he did not have the support system that I had when I left, and did not take my advise or could not take it.

    His brief freemdom is enough to bring him out again, and I expect him to do just that in a few years, when he is old enough to really make it on his own, if he is ever able to do that, and I can’t imagine after this taste of freedom that we won’t hear of his leaving again sometime but maybe not. Either way he has had the taste of “freedom” and at some point will most likely make another exit plan.

    Good Luck to Michael, I pray for God to Keep you where ever you end up, and maybe next time you will bring your family with you. Just a prayer of mine.

  2. on looker,

    Yes, Michael had challenges. The assertion that he was about to be homeless is not based on facts- as far as I know. Yes, the outcome of this group and many others is to develop an overwhelming emotional, physical, social and spiritual dependency that not only keeps them enslaved, but, robs them of the confidence to leave and the hope of making it outside of the closed community- which IS WOFF. Nonetheless, there are resources, both public and private who support the exit and adaptation of first and second generation survivors of high intensity faith groups into society … He had access to a few of these resources and for reasons only known to him (and maybe not actually known by him…) he reentered WOFF. I can say with extreme confidence that there was deception used on him at some level to cause him to even consider reentry into WOFF. Deception is the modus operandi of WOFF and groups like them. They cannot exist on full disclosure and honest assessment of their methods, motives and use of their money.

    His taste of freedom will be hard to erase or in my hopes- will not be forgotten regardless of the “prayer” and retraining he must endure. I agree, he will be able to reevaluate his life choices as the months and years pass. And yes, there is still hope for true freedom from the oppression and suppression which is characteristic of life inside WOFF. Soon, I will post more information about some clinical studies done on second generation survivors like Michael. The information will astound some and confirm the thoughts of others… please, keep reading.

  3. I am sure that Michael had access to resources, but was his mind “well enough” to make total use of all that. I remember my early days of being out, and how awful it was in some ways. No one to check out decisions with, no one to go to with issues and problems, and there are a multitude when you first leave real and imagined I might add. With Freedom comes enormous responsibility, and I can’t imagine making decisions for the very first time in your life. At least in mine I had at some point and time, made decisions and made mistakes, stood on my own so to speak . This was his first rodeo so to speak.

    Yes John, you are right I am sure there was no small measure of seduction used to reel him back in. This was one time that it was in “their favor in a big way for the wayward one to come home.” Had it not been so, they would have opened wide the door for him to get out and stay out. I have seen that one more often than the open arms for Michael. In fact, this is the first time I have ever seen that one.

    Because I have been there, I am convinced that it was better for them, “main leadership ” that he come home rather than stay out, so he is at home tonight.

    It is difficult to stay in a situation like that, and it is very hard to leave, irregardless of how much of a support system there is. Again, I was blessed with alot of people who had left around me, and it enabled me to see things as they were.

    The longer you are out, the more you see the enviroment there for what it is, but it takes time to really get your “mind back” alot of time. For the record I had a sitution with a friend that peeled back some more healing for me last year. I was shocked, as long as I have been out, a simple statement sent me to orbit, and almost cost me one of the only true friends I have ever had. The “recording in my mind said, you were wrong before God for this.'” Thank God my friend was a true friend, and knew my background so that when I came back around and said this was said to me before in this context “of being at woff” she understood.

    Because I had and have a back ground in “true Chritianity” if you will, I can come to the conclusion that God would not condemn me, nor is he the author of confusion. This is not God. True conviction changes us, does not condemn us, and God is never vague.

    My point is that I have been out of woff for years and years, and there are still things that come up after all these years, from things that were taught at that time, and this particular incident came out of the blue. I had to sit down and evaluate it, then I understood oh that is because of this situation actually a teaching I was taught at woff. It is extremely difficult to heal in your mind, and especially in the beginning of leaving, so again I am not surprized that Michael is back there.

  4. on looker….

    You make the point for my next post. This may be my theme for the next few posts. I have a copy of a dissertation from the doctoral thesis of Cyndi Matthews. She has counseled and studied second generation survivors of high intensity faith groups. She has given me permission to quote from her findings. When I briefed her about Michael’s return, she was not surprised either; but for a whole different set of reasons. The work is so comprehensive; I have to consume it in small bits. However, the particulars and conclusions I believe would be of great interest to the readers here. The biggest admonition I am taking from the information right now is – don’t give up. Many participants in her study were seeking ongoing counseling after leaving their group. I will post more in the days to come..

    The trauma and the teachings go deep into the survivors of WOFF. It is not always predictable when they will be drawn out and seen in our everyday lives – no matter how hard we try to ignore them.


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