Tag Archives: Leaving a Cult

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.
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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…”
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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.
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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.”
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Fenner Update: Bartley Trial Date Moved, Walker Trial set for October 23rd

Buncombe County Courthouse Entrance

Following the predictably unpredictable theme, on Wednesday of this week, Brian Oglesby filed a Motion to Withdraw as counsel for Adam Bartley. Attorney Thomas Amburgey filed a Notice of Appearance to represent Bartley and a Motion for Continuance. Judge Marvin Pope scheduled a hearing on the Motion for Continuance for Friday at 2:00PM, in the Buncombe County courtroom on the ninth floor.

This development came less than two weeks before the trial for Adam Bartley was set to start on October 23rd. The Rccatalyst.com reported this update on Thursday with several documents provided in the article to show the steps leading up to Friday’s hearing.

These 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 against Brooke M. Covington, Sarah Anderson, Justin Covington, Robert Lewis Walker, Jr. and Adam Bartley. After many pre-trial motions which included a disqualification of Farmer and Morris as counsel for any of the defendants, Brooke Covington’s trial commenced earlier this year. Unauthorized documents introduced into the jury room by the jury foreman caused Judge Gavenus to declare a mistrial followed by a gag order on those involved in that trial. The jury foreman also spent 30 days in jail and was fined $500.00. The Associated Press filed suit to remove the gag order. To date, the gag order remains in place and blocking investigators from performing any inquiries into the jury foreman’s actions.
Continue reading Fenner Update: Bartley Trial Date Moved, Walker Trial set for October 23rd

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AP- Church stoked tithing with unemployment scam, ex-members say

The next article released early this morning (here) in the ongoing investigative series from the Associated Press into Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) reveals a level of conniving and deception which causes me to shake my head in amazement and disgust. This account from ex-members outlines a premeditated fraud of a government program meant to help people who meet with temporary unemployment is shocking and sickening.

The scheme to have church members report themselves as unemployed and yet still be employed by companies owned by church leaders took a level of agreement and orchestration from the top leader, Jane Whaley, down the chain of command and influence. She convinced many of her leadership into compromising known laws and ethical standards of business in order to support her lifestyle through the resulting tithes and offerings which were under her total control. The glaring motive of personal enrichment cannot be ignored nor will it surprise those who have spent time as members of WOFF.

From the article:

“When Randy Fields’ construction company faced potential ruin because of the cratering economy, he pleaded with his pastor at Word of Faith Fellowship church to reduce the amount of money he was required to tithe every week.

To his shock, Fields said church founder Jane Whaley proposed a divine plan that would allow him to continue tithing at least 10 percent of his income to the secretive evangelical church while helping his company survive: He would file fraudulent unemployment claims on behalf of his employees. She called it, he said, “God’s plan.”

Please, understand the dynamics here. Randy and his family had been a part of WOFF for over 20 years. He had seen the results for those who choose to refuse Jane’s rendering of “God’s plan.” He explains-

“The price of the refusal, Fields said, could be beatings administered by fellow church members and public shaming by Whaley. The church also might mandate that he be cut off from any contact with his family, he said.”

Allow me to stop here and express my gratitude from all of the ex-members mentioned in this article. It takes courage to expose things done while a member of WOFF which may have crossed the edge into possible illegal activities. Each person faced a fearful decision to obey or lose all. Additional fear of telling the hidden secrets of WOFF had to be conquered or acknowledged.

Randy, “”I’m not proud of what I did, but I have to make this right,”…
Continue reading AP- Church stoked tithing with unemployment scam, ex-members say

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Fenner case-Predictably Unpredictable, Trials Moved to Buncombe County

Rccatalyst.com reported earlier this week concerning the hearing held on Monday, September 11, 2017. Judge Marvin pope allowed Robert Denton to withdraw as counsel for Adam Bartley. Public defender, Brian Oglesby was assigned to represent Bartley. Also, Judge Pope requested a hearing which was held today to rule on the Motion for Change of Venue for the defendants in the ongoing saga – the Matthew Fenner case.

This case stems from incidents on January 27, 2013 in which Fenner alleges he was beaten and strangled during a blasting deliverance prayer session inside the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) sanctuary. Five indictments against former and present members have been the subject of a rolling sea of pretrial motions, appeals, a disqualification of counsel and a mistrial. The mistrial occurred this past June in the trial of Brooke Covington. Presiding Judge Gavenous placed a gag order which still impedes the investigation into the mechanics on how unauthorized documents were delivered into the jury room and subsequently lead to the declaration of a mistrial. The jury foreman spent 30 days in jail and was fined $500 for the conduct.

The list of defendants includes Brooke Covington, Justin Covington, Sarah Anderson, Robert Lewis Walker, Jr. and Adam Bartley. The charges include first degree assault and second degree kidnapping for all, as well as the charge of inflicting injury by strangulation against Sarah Anderson.

Today’s hearing was short and to the point. I learned that Judge Pope requested Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers to draw up and order which moves four of the cases to Buncombe County. Brooke Covington’s case was not moved at this time, though her counsel, David Teddy was in court today. Byers will coordinate with the District Attorney’s office in Buncombe County to obtain court dates. Judge Pope was very deliberate and forthright after hearing statements from a few of the counselors in this case.
Continue reading Fenner case-Predictably Unpredictable, Trials Moved to Buncombe County

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