Tag Archives: WOFF

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.

Rccatalyst.com posted the AP reply to the new information from John Carroll. They stand by their story.

Rccatlyst.com 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.

Look on the right side of any post for the option to subscribe by email for notifications or RSS feeds notifying of new postings. It is a great feature. Also, find more posts by selecting “Categories”.

Guest posts reflect the opinions of the writers. Their opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of John Huddle or any other persons affiliated with this blog.

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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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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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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