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.

This quote about John Carroll drew much attention:

“A January 2005 email, however, reveals that the state had serious concerns.

Kirk Randleman, acting as counsel to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Resources, wrote that the stipulations could have “far reaching impact” on social service departments throughout the state. He also noted that Carroll’s department didn’t have “authority to negotiate policy decisions, but they are proceeding full steam ahead.”

In a statement to the AP, the state agency said it “disagreed with the stipulation agreement” and did not support Carroll’s decision to sign it.”

Yes, it definitely got my attention. Several times, I have spoken to John Carroll about incidents pertaining to adults and children involved in WOFF. John Carroll has remained consistent over the years claiming the settlement ““does not prevent us from fulfilling our statutory obligation to protect children.” He refuses to comment on any previous or possibly ongoing investigation.

Over the years, I have discussed the necessity of a judicial review of this compromise with survivors and advocates. The reasons for review include the recent revelations of the efforts of WOFF leadership to coach and pressure members under investigation to lie when answering investigators. I believe it could be argued that Word of Faith Fellowship did not enter into and has not since carried out the requirements of this agreement in “good faith.” (as acknowledged in #4)

I contend there is also the argument that the protected “Religious Practices” can no longer be accredited as safe for the children (or adults) inside WOFF. How can the foundation of law be used to protect that which is dangerous and harmful?

Also, I believe that if a case by case analysis was performed on the accusations received by RCDSS about suspected abuses inside WOFF, then viewing such reports with testimony of those involved taken after they left WOFF- many of if not most of the reports would be found accurate and worthy of further investigation.

Earlier this week, based on my concerns I sent the following email to Governor Roy Cooper. NC Attorney General Josh Stein and Secretary of the NC Dept. of Health and Human Services, Mandy Cohen.

“The ongoing Associated Press investigation into Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) has revealed some disturbing and damaging practices. The physical and emotional abuses are alarming as well as the implications of an ongoing multi-year unemployment scam fostered by the leadership of WOFF through several church-member owned companies.

Monday, the report included information on the Compromised Settlement in the case of WOFF vs. the Rutherford County Dept. of Social Services which ended with a document filed June 21, 2005. This document commonly referred to as the Federal Injunction- burdens the RCDSS with procedural hurdles which render them ineffective in investigating claims of abuse against the children of WOFF.

The director of RCDSS, John Carroll, agreed to these stipulations against the counselor for the NC Dept. of Health and Human Services. Subsequent investigations have been derailed by these stipulations in addition to the concerted efforts of WOFF leaders to change the testimony of members facing such investigations. This was also reported by the AP.

I am writing today to ask you to use whatever power you have to initiate a Judicial Review of the Compromised Settlement and to replace John Carroll with someone willing and able to carry out the mandated protection of children suffering abuse inside WOFF.

Thank you—John Huddle”

Shortly, I received a call from Michael Becketts, Assistant to the Secretary. He acknowledged receipt of my email and expressed his desire to meet with me and discuss my understanding of what was happening in Rutherford County. We agreed on a future time frame for that meeting.

After much consideration, I held a press conference on Thursday in Rutherfordton. My main message was to convey my reasons and concerns for a judicial review of the settlement and the resignation of John Carroll. Minutes before the meeting was to begin, a television reporter presented me with a statement by John Carroll disputing the AP reporting that the counselor for the NC DHHS was against the settlement.

The reporter asked me if I was still calling for John Carroll’s resignation. I replied, yes. In my opinion, the years of unresolved complaints of abuse inside of WOFF need a fresh set of eyes- better management of the crisis at hand. Add this to my understanding of the inside dynamics of WOFF and I believe my concerns are justified. posted the AP reply to the new information from John Carroll. They stand by their story. also reported on the press conference with video and quotes. I do appreciate the support from them as well as all media outlets in getting the word out.

Will all of this make a difference? I hope so, but only time will tell.

In closing, my layman’s perspective of the settlement is colored by my time inside WOFF. I was inside during the process which led to WOFF filing the civil action. The resulting settlement was portrayed as a victory to members inside. We won! RCDSS had to pay us a portion of the legal fees – $305,000.00. Did we as members of WOFF actually win anything? Yes, I agree that RCDSS mishandled certain aspects of the investigations. I believe this is in part due to a lack of training on how to interview children from a closed religious subculture.

However, in retrospect, by qualifying and defending our “Religious Practices” to include “blasting” and “isolation,” were we building our fortress based on the notion that these two now legally defined practices were safe and necessary to our lives? Were we able to comprehend that the walls we won the permit to build were also the walls which would keep the true nature of our evolving practices hidden from those charged with protecting the innocent- our own children? Could we see the downside to the “victory?”

No, I can say with assurance that those faithful to WOFF and to Jane did not, could not know the direction these protected practices would take. We had no idea the practices we fought to protect would someday evolve to become the very catalyst for many of us to leave WOFF. It was totally foreign to our thinking that something so necessary could one day be so harmful, when in fact these cherished “Religious Practices” were already harmful; we just couldn’t bring ourselves to admit it. Our “victory” contained the seeds of our destruction as individuals and possibly the group itself. We shall see what the future holds…

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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. Jane told me and Josh confirmed it.

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 623.

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2 thoughts on “This Past Week…”

  1. Thank you for your continued pressure to stop the abusive practices of WOFF. Not only the physical abuse but how they have abused the legal system to take children from their mothers and separate family members from any family member outside of WOFF. My cousin David Brown is a member and we have heard nothing from him since March of this year. It is so sad.

  2. You are to be applauded for standing publically for the removal of John Carroll. I think you are right, and I am looking from an outsider’s perspective. It is shocking and horrific that these allegations have been made for years and years and no progress has been made for protecting people from these destructive practices, slave labor and getting away with tax evasion.
    Thank you.

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