Tag Archives: WOFF

AP: Brazilians funneled as “slaves” by US church, ex-members say

For years, the smoke and mirrors used by Jane Whaley and her leadership at Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) has created an aura of deception, filled with misstatements and euphemistic renaming of their practices. Screaming is called prayer, verbal and physical abuse is called “love.” Private sexual relations between and husband and wife are not private, but are regulated by church leadership to “keep out the unclean.” Members are prohibited from free access to news sources including radio, television, newspapers and computers because they are “not able to hear God and stand against the devil.” Unpaid forced and coerced labor is called “volunteer work.” These highly restrictive church practices equate to “walking in God’s ways with God’s people.”

Now the individuals damaged from the years of chicanery are speaking out. The latest installment of the Associated Press’ ongoing in-depth investigation has been released. The long needed reporting of the secretive church practices is clearing the smoke of confusion and angst which hangs thick over Old Flynn Road. There, the church compound serves as the hub of the WOFF-kingdom in the sad ongoing saga of abuses revealed by the AP. The aim is not only for the souls of the members, but this report reveals the aim is to capture “slaves,” laborers- mostly unpaid to work at the church or school or for businesses owned by church leaders, as well as in their homes.

The AP report: This link has the full text, pictures and video. (click icons bottom right of image)

“When Andre Oliveira answered the call to leave his Word of Faith Fellowship congregation in Brazil to move to the mother church in North Carolina at the age of 18, his passport and money were confiscated by church leaders – for safekeeping, he said he was told.
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Who is rubbing her feet now?

Is it true? A good foot rub takes the stress away from aching feet. Surely it does. Consider this from two survivors of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) talking about their experience rubbing Jane Whaley’s feet.

A few years ago, a survivor told me in casual conversation that they rubbed Jane Whaley’s feet at her beck and call. I just listened and asked few questions. Looking back, I should have asked better questions. This individual did not present their participation in rubbing Jane’s feet as voluntary. Like many things inside WOFF, this was “ministry.” Who cares if you want to or that is late at night and you are tired? This person gave me the idea they just did it because they had to. It did not seem truly voluntary.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago and I am talking to another survivor. Out of the blue, they tell me they were also commissioned to rub Jane’s feet. At any time, they were subject to a call for foot ministry. To the point, they had blisters on their hands. Yikes! I also detected a forced submission – no genuine willingness- just duty.

The names of these two survivors is not important or my focus. My point is the attitude in common with both- each not knowing the other had told me their foot ministry story. There was no pre-planned coordination. Knowing that part of the scene brings more clarity for me. The glaring common trait in both cases was the feigned forced affection to give the illusion of willingness to perform the task. If this task was glamorized as “ministry,” then what else inside WOFF is classified as ministry? What other “labors” are classified as ministry and require an appearance of submission, all the while the member is churning inside?
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Fenner Case takes a turn… July 17th next court date

moon plant
moon plant

As I sit here surveying the latest round of Motions and Orders in the Matthew Fenner case, I can’t help but wonder where the road will lead us. Where will this path that began in 1979 by Sam and Jane Whaley take us as a community and as a group of survivors, where will it end? Will it ever end? Will the destructive dynamics set in motion so many years ago, which have been allowed to strengthen and fester in a small community in Western North Carolina ever come to a conclusion? Does the winding journey have a happy ending for anyone?

This journey begun with possibly good intentions includes people from several countries and many members hailing from various parts of the United States. On this day when we are to celebrate the freedom afforded us by our Constitution and upheld by our strength as a nation; we are experiencing and witnessing a court case unfold which includes allegations of intimidation and fear, along with testimonies and evidence which any sane person would agree do not signify a healthy religious environment.

A survey of the history of Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) includes episodes of religious abuse, political and community scandal, physical and emotional abuse, financial doubts and many court cases full of legal wrangling. A journey of over thirty years has touched so many lives in on several continents in such negative ways. I do not believe what we see as the practices included in the WOFF subculture were ones our forefathers intended to protect when they declared “freedom of religion.”
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A Week of New Court Dates, Disappointment and Sorrow

Professional and personal commitments kept me from posting updates about the Matthew Fenner case this past week. Rccatalyst.com has been one of the sources carrying updates. As a recap; June 10th – Judge Marvin Pope opened matters with setting June 20th for a deadline for pre-trial motions in the State versus Brooke Covington trial. He required any such motions be heard in Buncombe County on July 7th. The exception for that date was a Change of Venue Motion for which a separate date would be announced.

Attorney David Teddy filed a Motion for Continuance citing his preplanned vacation to Ireland during July and the necessity of reviewing transcripts from the first trial adding the expedited costs would run around $5,000. Assistant District Attorney Garland Byers said the Rule for such declaring reasons for a Continuance had not been properly met.

The result so far includes the latest date for trial in the State of North Carolina versus Brooke Covington is now set for September 11, 2017. I don’t know yet who the judge is for that judicial session. It will be interesting to learn and watch the events unfold through the summer.

As an observer, I understand the time and expense for obtaining a transcription of the first trial. My caution is that in an effort to expedite, that the assigned court reporter, Leanna Lynch, does not ask anyone affiliated with Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) to help in the completion of the request- for obvious reasons. Bridges Court Reporting is owned by Laura R. Bridges. She is a faithful WOFF member at last count having previously worked inside the Rutherford County Courthouse. There may be guidelines already in place to prevent such a mistake. I am not sure, but just wanted to make known my concerns.
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MISTRIAL: The wounds are still open…

Superior Court in Rutherford County

Tuesday morning began with a buzz of expectancy. Conversations were filled with exchanges of opinions and speculations about what the next few hours held. Could this be the day that Brooke Covington of the Word of Faith fellowship (WOFF) is convicted of simple assault and/or second-degree kidnapping? Or will the huge grin from last week return to her face as she is found not guilty on both counts?

Will Matthew Fenner return to his life in college with some satisfaction knowing the legal system in North Carolina has meted out justice in response to the five indictments surrounding the events of January 27, 2013 occurring inside the sanctuary of WOFF? Brooke Covington is the first trial as four others; Sarah Anderson, Justin Covington, Robert Lewis Walker, Jr. and Adam Bartley were also charged and await their fate. Who could have predicted the events that would unfold?

The jury assembled at 9:00AM and returned to deliberations shortly thereafter. When I entered to courtroom, the atmosphere was different from days previous. The witness sequestration was over and more people were in the room including media, supporters of Matthew and a crowd from WOFF. The number of media representatives was larger than days past. I took a seat and began speaking with an investigative reporter from another city.

Soon, I learned of an incident from earlier in the morning. A young man had made some negative comments to a jury member in the hallway, and after the bailiff consulted with the Judge, the man was arrested. The man was to be charged with harassment of a juror and Judge Gavenus had requested the young man appear before him for arraignment and bond. This was only a foretaste of things to come.
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Brooke the Bounty Hunter?

Rose in Low Light
Rose of the Day

Have you heard the saying, “Old habits die hard”? Friday afternoon we saw evidence of that very thing. At the end of Danielle Cordes’ testimony on re-cross, Attorney David Teddy appeared to be done with his questions. Before he acknowledged his ending to the court; he turned to Brooke to check to see if she had any further questions. After all, if he had missed some elusive jewel of knowledge which may help his client, he did not want to waste the moment.

The questions offered by Brooke appeared as simple questions to the unlearned. What was the most important thing on Brooke’s mind during a trial in which the verdict could alter her future in ways unknown? What was most pressing to take up court time during a day when the secrets of what happens behind the lily white doors had been revealed during sworn testimony? What was at the forefront of her cortex?

The questions she passed to Teddy were about Danielle’s brother, Steven. Do you know where your brother Steven lives? Danielle answered, “No, Sir.” Have you talked to your brother other than when he left a few weeks ago? “No, Sir”, she answered again.

Knowing the backstory reveals possible motive for Brooke to ask “bounty hunter” questions. Danielle’s younger brother, Steven, did leave Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) a few weeks ago. Then he returned. Turns out, he was in a WOFF-relationship with a young lady church member whose father has been head of the not so friendly security team. Let’s just say his performance on that team has been “electrifying.”

Friday afternoon, Steven was “in his place” at WOFF. However, there must have been some doubts in Brooke’s mind. Being a practiced retriever of members who try to escape, the questions she had Teddy ask Danielle were assessing potential exit routes should Steven and his lady friend make a break for freedom. Right she was.
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Fenner Case Update- Three Witnesses Testify for the State

At the close of Friday’s session, Judge Gary Gavenus announced with a smile that the jury was excused for the weekend recess. After two full days of witness testimony on behalf of the prosecution in the Matthew Fenner case, he ended with the often repeated precautions for the jury to not expose themselves to outside sources of information including news media, Internet or social media. He added they were not to talk to each other, family or anyone else about the case in any manner. His instructions were firm, but laced with an underlying tone of respect and consideration for the fourteen individuals who answered the call for this jury session.

This has been a full week as several Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) members, former church members, press correspondents and supporters endured two full days to select the needed jurors. After the last alternate juror was selected and the Judge gave the jury instructions; Matthew Fenner was the first witness called for the State on Thursday. He testified the rest of the day. As a result of each potential witness being sequestered (not present in the courtroom during any testimony of other witnesses), the gallery was less full than in the previous two days.

In an attempt to time my arrival, I missed the first part of Matthew’s testimony which included his description of the events of January 27, 2013. I was told by one who heard it; they believed it was emotional and impactful. I have not doubt. The part of Matthew’s testimony outlining the events leading up to his escape is where my notes start.
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