Dear Dr. John Juedes,
I was involved with The Way Ministry for about 22 years. The last seven as a clergyman and full time employee. I left the Way two years ago after wrestling with its teaching and practices for many years, especially since Martindale took over. In my experience and exposure to the inner workings of the Way, I believe it has become a far more harmful, abusive and potentially dangerous group than anything I have seen written about it, including your articles. While I have no evidence of their breaking any laws of the land, they certainly have and continue to break the moral laws of God and horrifically abuse the leadership responsibilities they claim to understand and practice, developing in themselves and their followers a type of learned helplessness. I, like many others, have come to describe this as "spiritual abuse". After I disagreed with them about the way certain situations and people were being handled, the leaders that were over me in the Way seemed to do just about everything they could to destroy my standing as a clergyman, my marriage and family, my finances, my mental health and all of my friendships within the Way.
Over the last ten years Martindale has been becoming more and more paranoid of anything that he cannot have control over. He has become fanatical in requiring the allegiance of his followers to what he teaches. He publicly emasculates, defames and insults those who question or disagree
with him. He rarely leaves TWI grounds and has taught outside of TWI 6 or 7 times over the last 8 years. He keeps an armed body guard around him at all times. In his teachings to the Way Corps he screams at the top of his lungs over trivial matters - usually over someone who has left the Way. His language is extremely foul, including frequently taking the Lord's name in vain. There are numerous women coming forward, married and single, telling of pressure to have sex with him and some have done so.
He has become obsessed with studying and teaching about the devil and his power over people. He has elevated himself to the position of the man of God of the world and believes that turning away from him is equal to turning away from God and His Word. He believes that God works in him to give him new and specific revelation for our day and time and that it is truly a privilege to sit "under my teaching ministry". Those who disagree are told to leave and then defamed. He is completely intolerant and vicious towards those that leave the Way. There is a definite sociopathic behavior here!
There are many people with the Way that agree with him whole heartedly and promulgate this. The Way has become a lot like the communist party, emulating the same paranoia, distrust of one another and allegiance to the "party" above all. People in the Way are having more and more restrictions placed on their lives. Attendance at their meetings is required three times a week. Teachings in the Twigs must be reviewed by the leadership and must be worked from the current articles in the Way magazine or Sunday night service tapes that are taught by Martindale. Martindale is given far more praise than God, Jesus or His Word. A close watch is made to see that people are giving at least ten percent of their income to the Way and to no one else. They are not allowed to have debt of any kind including mortgages and college loans and are pressured to sell their homes and get a rented property. Leaders keep a very close eye and very tight reign on all the activities of their people.
To me, the great danger of the Way is that the paranoia, fear and attitude of exclusive standing in
the sight of God is filtering down from Martindale to the rank and file. My wife recently
experienced this behavior when she ran into someone with the Way whom we were once very
close. I think there is great potential for disaster here, along the lines of the "Heaven's Gate"
fiasco, because the doctrine of Martindale is becoming practiced by those in the Twigs on a very
closely monitored level. I'm not saying it is going to happen, but the ingredients are there. If
nothing else, the abuse that people are suffering at the hands of the Way's leadership has and
continues to go far beyond anything of the past.
|A Richmond couple was told they needed to get rid of their 14 year old son because of his occasional sullen attitude (How unusual for a teenager to be this way!). Fortunately they left the Way over this.|
|A Little Rock, Arkansas man left his wife and five children because he was told his daughter had devil spirits and his wife was the cause. He was told she was incapable of changing and the best thing he could do was leave her.|
|A TWI employee was kicked off staff and made to leave that day. His wife was told that if she left TWI to be with him she would die. She stayed with the Way. He committed suicide a couple of weeks later.|
|Martindale publicly stated at one of the Way Corps national phone hookups that another clergyman and I had in effect stolen the abundant sharing monies (untrue) and he wanted us to die.|
A regular list is sent out to the leadership of the Way that tells what former members of the Way are doing. One of the categories is "Abandoned", a category reserved for those such as myself that publicly speak out against the Way.
A close friend of ours who left the Way three years ago recently died. Prior to this he was in the hospital for a few months waiting for a heart transplant. His young adult children who are in the Way never visited him and refused to go to his funeral because a former Way clergyman conducted the service.
Another Richmond couple was told that their two young children would die if they left the Way.
Mrs. Wierwille's children who have left the Way are not allowed to visit her at the home they were raised in. This includes the grandchildren. They also cannot visit their father's grave site which is on the property.
These are just a few of the examples I personally know of. There are many more. I list them to demonstrate a pattern of control and abuse that continues to escalate. More significantly, this behavior is becoming more and more accepted by the regular members. They are told that this is what is required to keep the "household spiritually clean". I believe there is a real set up for disaster here. I continue to pray for those in the Way to have their eyes opened to just how deeply destructive Martindale and his teachings are and to work with those people who leave the Way and want help. You are right when you say that rebuilding is a long hard road, but it is definitely well worth it. It is liberating and exciting to study God's Word and to fellowship with our heavenly Father without the Way filter over my mind and heart.
It has taken my family and I quite some time to get over the anger, confusion and humiliation we have been through and begin to rebuild the confidence, critical and objective thinking abilities and peace of God that had been destroyed. We are not there yet but we are doing well and thank God we are out. Currently I am working to re-evaluate pretty much everything the Way has taught me and rebuild my faith and understanding of scripture.
Love in Christ, (name withheld by request)
Return to Letters & Questions Answered Menu