Category Archives: Criteria for Cults

What critieria should one use to determine if a group is a cult?

June 6th Hearing for Fenner Case Delayed

Late Friday, sources close to the Matthew Fenner case confirmed the hearing set for June 6th has been postponed. No confirmed date for rescheduling is available at this time. Possible reasons for the postponement include Judge Pope having an unexpected scheduling conflict.

The hearing on Monday would have been the first in this case since August of last year. Five defendants, who were at the time of the alleged incidents members of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF), face varied charges including second degree kidnapping, simple assault and one for assault by strangulation. These defendants are Brooke Covington, Justin Covington, Sarah Covington Anderson, Robert Lewis Walker, JR. and Adam Bartley.

Matthew Fenner alleges that on January 27, 2013, he was assaulted in the sanctuary of WOFF during a “deliverance” session. The five defendants were named and indicted in December 2014 after an initial hearing. Once the new District Attorney Ted Bell took office in January 2015, he set aside those indictments amid rumors of improper procedures and possible witness tampering and presented the evidence to a second grand jury. This session secured for the State a set of indictments which Bell described as clean true bills of indictment. [ Timeline for this case – here.]
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Sunday Afternoon- Relaxed and Informative (Pictures)

Sunday afternoon was a beautiful day in western North Carolina. The gathering at Great Expectations and More in Rutherfordton turned out to be a gentle reflection of the outside weather. Mary Hornback and her family were so kind to open their doors again to a reading from “Locked in” and a time of questions and answers. Those in attendance were responsive with some very insightful questions. Words are hard to find to fully express the satisfaction of knowing the truth about the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) is getting out week after week, month as month since the release of my book, “Locked in”, in September 2015.
Friends and followers of the saga came together to direct questions and express their concerns and observations. My hopes are that everyone left with hope for changes in the near future. There are more copies available and keep checking for announcements for future events.

2016- The Year of Change in Rutherford County! (Thank you, Mary for the pictures! )

Sunday, Feb. 28th
Sunday, Feb. 28th

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Leaving Thought Reform – Spring Thaw and the Resulting Liberty (1)

During the research for my soon to be released book, “Locked in”, I remembered my time within Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) and the time shortly after my departure in July 2008. For days on end, the emotions washed over me as I recounted the anxieties, the drama and the choices made during those months. At least part of the struggle was discovering who I really was. It was a “spring thaw” from the many years of my “self” existing frozen in the deep recesses of my soul; put there by the many rules, dictates and practices of WOFF. Those first few months of freedom were full of apprehension, while many times overrun with the questions… what do I do here? How do I? When do I? What if I? I was living free and making choices for the first time in many years.

Through the years since 2008, I learned my struggles were new to me, but not unexpected for one leaving a religious cult or a high-demand group. The feelings and emotions of those days were predictable. There was no one close to me who had traveled the same road and could guide me. In a quest to learn more, I turned to resources- books and online sources. Many a night, I traded sleep for the time to read survivor stories or other resources and/or the freedom to write. Both reading and writing helped sort out the jumbled mess of my life from the years within WOFF.

One of the most valuable resources I found is the International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA). Their online resources are many. July of 2014, I attended their conference in Washington, DC. The people I met and the sessions I attended, deepened my understanding of the dangers and results of high-demand groups. One of the benefits of membership is receiving the publication, ICSA Today.

ICSA Today Magazine volume 5 number 3 2014 – contains an article titled “Thought Reform and the Psychology of Breaking Away from Totalism”, written by Ron Burks, PhD. This is my resource for this post. I will quote from it in order to explain my struggles and those of others leaving WOFF during these days.
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Remember This…

As I have been doing my daily deeds, I have been reflecting on the ICSA conference attended last week. There was so much good information shared and many new relationships formed. It was a lot to take in all at once. So, as happens with me and I suspect others, I remembered things said during meetings that at the time did not get my attention or make an “Ah Hah” moment. Today, I remembered a quick comment made by a speaker that has since jarred me. I cannot remember exactly which speaker said this since I believe it was in a session where a panel of counselors and experts were leading the meeting. The comment paraphrased was “Leaders of these groups have to control their members because of their own insecurities.” The manner in which it was said conveyed the speaker’s position that we all should remember this. This is where we start when understanding the motivations of a leader of a controlling group. We must get past the smoke and mirrors of any religious authority or special enlightenment. We must push through the euphemistic phrases used by the leader and even the leadership. The reason for the control of a group leader to keep people INSIDE the group is NOT healthy. The motivation is from the leader’s own insecurities. Okay, that being said, we are talking about destructive controlling groups here of which I firmly believe Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) has become one of those groups.

The statement remembered today brought me back into focus on several levels. When getting caught up in telling the horror stories of members inside and those who have left, lost in the menagerie of descriptions replete with heartache and drama is the starting point. Lost can be the reason for the leader’s profound motivation to keep people within their grasp and control. The starting point is the leader’s dysfunction, NOT the state of those recruited into the group. Time after time, people pose the question often in a sense of superiority – How could anyone get involved in a group like that? Though this question is viable in the discussion, it is not the starting point. The starting point is the dysfunction of the leader and the measures growing out of that dysfunction which trap victims in the web of control. In my opinion, the leaders of these groups are NOT mentally healthy. True some evolve into a black hole of dysfunction, but that still does not excuse the outcome nor should it cause us to begin with the victim when considering the evolution of the group.
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Ex-members of New Testament Christian Churches of America weigh in…

“… it was enough to make my oatmeal hit the wall.”

Don and Ange have provided insights in the past. I have personally been encouraged by all of their support. The recent post about the Mind Control Forum stuck a note with them and here we read their comment. I felt it was worth bringing to the front for more readers to enjoy.
Thank you, John for sharing this experience with us. We are inspired by your level of commitment to shine the light on your former cult. We are X-members of the New Testament Christian Churches of America, Inc, which uses many of the same mind control techniques to fulfill their desire of greed, power and wealth. Our group used a slightly different dynamic to control its members, and we were all not subjected to the measure of strict control that we see in WOFF. As one of your friends testified that WOFF was the only way to heaven, we were made to feel the same way about our cult. One of the main goals of spiritual mind control is to convince the members that they have the only answer to salvation. They use Jesus, and the threat of being lost for eternity, to create an atmosphere of fear that leads to obedience. Once a person thinks that his or her spiritual leaders are the Oracles of God, they can manipulate a person to open their wallet and give or do anything imaginable or unimaginable to benefit the Cult leaders. While the physical mind control of blasting was much different in our former cult, it was successful in convincing us that if we left our cult there would be no hope. Our blasting sessions came in the form of a preacher calling a person out from behind the pulpit and publicly humiliating them in front of all of their friends.

We had no friends on the outside of our cult because we were all force fed the scripture, “What communion hath light with darkness”? (2 Cor 6:14) This was used not to get us closer to God, but to further isolate us from every influence outside of our cult.
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Mind Control Forum Review – “This is what I want to see!”

Saturday, May 24th a forum was held at the Spindale House and the subjects included information about mind control and testimonies from Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) survivors. The lead up to the meeting was intense for many of those involved. Materials were put together, videos were reviewed, meetings were held and in the end the general consensus was that it was a success. Admittedly, there is no way to recap all of what was said since I do not have a recording. The pictures taken will be added here at a later date. My goal for this post is to just hit what few highlights I remember and to give enough for those who did not attend to get the flavor and direction of the meeting.

There were no decorations, but we placed information and candy in the seats for the guests. We had waters for the taking on a table to the side. There were three tables up front for the panel and the large screen television. The attendees filed in and in that group were two WOFF members, Greg and Rita Burgeson. Several other WOFF members were spotted circling through the parking area, some waving and blowing their horns. We were prepared for more WOFF members, but they only sent two inside.

We began the forum a little late after experiencing technical difficulties with the PowerPoint® we were given from another advocacy group. This was just “warfare”, right? We had a back-up plan and were able to use printouts of the presentation. Mr. Rape began the session in prayer encouraging all that it was possible to be deceived and we would learn how that could happen through the material revealed tonight. He delivered an encouraging prayer as well.

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You become the eyes and ears for Jane…

Don’t fool yourself, Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) and groups like them never stop recruiting new members. New minds to mold and shape and lives to control and sources of money serve as the life blood for WOFF and other groups like them. I know you are probably shocked that with all the information out there on dangerous groups and controlling practices, how can these groups continue to draw in members? Here is a tidbit that may help you.

The late Dr. Paul Martin’s research revealed that, “…fully two-thirds of the people recruited into manipulative groups were introduced to the group by someone they knew. Healthy suspicions about a group’s motives are often ignored because the introduction comes from a trusted friend or relative.”
(source link – here.)

In light of this, it should come as no surprise that the WOFF recruiters (any WOFF member) are continually checking their relatives and even friends at work or other sources for someone who may be open to the WOFF lifestyle. If you can get them over the loud prayer, the communal living and the closed group mores and rigid control dynamics, then you just may have a new member.
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