In some ways I was more fortunate than many who got involved in The Way International in the mid 70s, I was older (about 28) married and with small children. Almost everyone was 5 to 10 years younger than me.. Rather than people confronting me about not going WOW or Corps, they felt sorry for me for not being able to go. The big attraction for me was the way the Bible was taught. I started attending a little Baptist church, but the Bible teaching wasn't giving me anything I could call life changing. I was in a very bad marriage, was scared and wanted some answers.
One of my sisters had gotten involved with The Way and shared some of their teachings with me. It all seemed so logical and she could show me in the Bible where to find everything she taught me. The first hint of weirdness was very early. I asked for more info and Debbie said, "I'm really not supposed to tell you all of this. We have a class you should take." I said "That's ridiculous! God doesn't want me to know the truth unless I pay $180 and take a class?"
She also had me tune in on a midnight 5 minute broadcast featuring John Lynn on a local TV channel. My husband thought he was funny, I thought he was overbearing. A large Limb meeting sealed my decision to take the class. The guest speaker.... none other than VP himself. He was polished but so down home. When he slapped his hands and said, "It's Christ in you the Hope of Glory!" I melted. It appeared to be old time religion and I thought "Thank You God, I'm on my way home." I was so wrong.
The next step was "believing" for the money to take the class. My husband was very tight with money and I was afraid he wouldn't let me have it. But I prayed, "claimed it" and to my surprise he didn't even argue. (More proof they were right, right?)
I took the class several times that first year, as well as every class but the Advanced Class. Back then there were very few Corps people so twigs were run by "real people". That's probably why so many remember the early years fondly. We hadn't learned yet that we were supposed to be confrontational horses petutes.
Times changed though. I ran a twig but had to protect my children from insensitive people, who were surfacing more and more. I did everything the way I believed the Bible taught, but was absolutely the opposite of what was going on higher up the food chain of The Way. I was tender with new believers and held older (in the word) believers to a higher accountability.
Once I was told that one young man who had been a WOW the previous year had bedded one of our newer, lonely divorced women. I was gentle with her and told her it was wrong. I understood her loneliness but to let God fill that void. Him I chewed, though not like they would come to do later. He said he was sorry, he just felt sorry for her and wanted to meet her needs. I had no idea that he did exactly what was being taught and practiced higher up.
John Lynn moved up in The Way. John always intimidated me a little, with his arrogant confidence. Things were changing. Corps started being sent out to run twigs, and people at the twig level started to get a glimmer of what The Way ministry truly was about. We kept writing the bad things off as people and personalities and started wondering where the good old days had gone. I got calls almost nightly from twig people that our Corps grad Rod had hurt somehow. We didn't realize we were seeing the results of what was really being taught. Rod was an extreme legalist. I was a person that believed in grace. --Oil and Water-- He jumped on my four year old son because he asked for an apple. From then on I kept my kids away from twig. Way people didn't care.
By then we were all well initiated into pretending. Crying and sadness and bad things happened to new people and unbelievers but not to spiritual giants like us. What a joke.
My husband was an alcoholic and abusive. I was responsible to keep this in control, but Steve Sann never held me to this kind of accountability. We counseled often and he was always understanding and kind. I could stop pretending and shoot straight with him. Funny, but those times probably gave me the strength to pretend better at other times.
The best example of our ability to pretend was at my Niece's memorial service, a very big turning point for my entire family. My niece was diagnosed with Leukemia when we first got involved with The Way. There was even a big article in one of The Way Newsletters about her healing. In February of 1979 Karen died at age 8. She and my sister Carol were on their interim year in the Way Corps.
The Memorial Service was held at Rome City. As we walked into the Chapel I wanted to scream, "I can't be strong, I want my sister back the way she was before this damn ministry, I want to see Karen and say good by, I can't do this anymore!!".(Karen's body had been whisked away and no one in the family was allowed to see her) I was a leader, I couldn't fall apart. Steve took my hand, and I felt, " I'll be alright now, I can do this."
We had pretty much lost my sister Carol a year or two earlier. She was hiding from us (more pretending) how bad it was for her and how Karen was failing. The ministry was really categorizing people too. You weren't just a believer in the household of faith anymore. Household was now used for Corps people only. The Way didn't just rip people from families that weren't involved, they ripped them from families that were involved but not as high up the Corporate ladder. (I notice John Lynn is starting to repeat this with CES. A news letter dated May, 98 says that if you are part of their "Partnership Program" you'll get "Meatier" news letters, while others just get a shorter version)
Steve and Susie had been sent to Oregon and the Leadership was now the Belts, Robert and Jo They were the epitome of what it had all turned into. No support was given to the average believer, it was Corps, Corps, Corps. I started getting pressure to divorce and get myself into the Corps. I took the live Advanced Class. My husband fought me for custody of my kids using the reason that I was involved in a mind controlling cult. Rod testified-- not to what a good Mom I was, but that The Way was not a cult.
After that I attended twig rather than run one and after much soul searching I decided I did not want to go into the Corps. I hated what I was seeing and living. The only thing left for me was the Bible teaching. I could tell a ton of horror stories about unkindness, insensitivity and down right meanness. I didn't see at the time that in order for so many to be so cruel, the foundation, the Bible teaching, had to be wrong. I have since seen how Wierwille did to us exactly what the Devil did to Eve in the Garden. He changed a word, deleted a word and twisted the meaning.
The ministry was starting to fall. A gal I didn't know came to twig and said that she had lost a baby and Craig Martindale had told her it was because they hadn't tithed faithfully. It took me back to the death of my niece and how that was handled. We had never gotten over it. This poor woman was believing that her baby had died because they had not tithed enough. I remember telling her that I didn't care who LCM was that he was full of s---, and I'd like to see chapter and verse on that one. (Way people always did the old chapter and verse thing to outsiders. If we had done it more often inside we might have recognized that we were being deceived.)
I went to twig less often. Those higher up blamed my husband, but they were careful, because we were some of the very few people who had a good deal of money and we shared it. When the Limb found out that my twig coordinator was not making any efforts to pay us back money they borrowed from us, they sent Walter Holbrook and I ended up with a house full of screaming, yelling, Wayfers. I think they loved it when they had a real cause that they didn't have to contrive.
My final break with The Way happened over doughnuts. I had made a "commitment" to bring doughnuts to a Sunday morning fellowship. On Saturday night my husband became ill. I called Susie and asked if someone else could get the doughnuts so I could stay home with Dave, I said I would be more than glad to pay for them. Well, you would have thought I'd broken a salt covenant with God himself. I was so thoroughly reamed. (Wayfers always swore a lot. I don't know what kind of image we thought we were projecting, but it was part of the package.) I took the doughnuts the next morning. They smiled and hugged me like I'd been such a good girl. I never said a word, I just never went back. They got what they wanted.
I wish I could say that was it and I lived happily ever after. Obviously that is not true or I wouldn't have been searching the internet for more help ten years later. Once you walk away, you don't have to deal with the insanity of the people anymore, but you do have to deal with your own. I became ill often, I couldn't make a decision and was having panic attacks.
Dave, my husband, had taken both the Foundational Class and the Intermediate, but while he was getting in, so to speak, I was getting out. They didn't get him except for the Jesus Christ is not God piece. I still blame myself for that.
It was 1988 1 believe. I hadn't fellowshiped for about a year, but everyone I ran into was walking away. I read a letter John Lynn and other ousted Leadership had written to the Board of Trustees, and couldn't help but laugh. "What a bunch of babies. These guys just got a taste of what we have all been dealing with for years and they don't like it. What a surprise." I heard about the adultery paper and the Passing paper. I thought, "Big revelation, adultery is a sin and Chris Geer thinks he should be King."
We regular believers just did not know what was really going on. No wonder they were pulling in the ranks, exposure was coming. My sister, Carol and her husband left their Leadership position in New Hampshire and stayed with us until they could get settled.. However, my marriage was a shambles and what started as marriage counseling turned quickly into exit counseling. Though my Counselor hadn't dealt with cult people before, she arose to the occasion. I read everything I could find on The Way and mind control, including a book called "Combating Cult Mind Control" by Steven Hassan and "Captive Hearts Captive Minds."
The first year my sister and I worked tirelessly trying to figure out how we had gotten to where we were and how to fix it. If The Way doctrine was wrong, and we believed it was, where were the answers on how to live life and love God? She started shutting herself in and living in fear of everything. The message "It's The Way or Oblivion" was deeply seeded in our minds. I think LCM now uses the phrase "you'll be a grease spot by midnight" instead.
We knew we needed God, but were scared of traditional churches and their Trinity teaching (odd that we now realized Way doctrine was false, but we kept away from where true doctrine was taught) so I found Steve Sann who had been ousted too. I cried just hearing his voice on teaching tapes, but when I realized he was still teaching Way doctrine I never contacted him again. I knew in my heart it was wrong, but I didn't know what was right.
John Lynn was running fellowships in Indianapolis, traveling and started CES. We went several times, because my sister Debbie had told us they had corrected error and were really teaching true Bible and Jesus was being given his rightful place. They changed a few minor things, but basically it's the same doctrine and animosity towards the Traditional Church.
Debbie always loved John, though I'll never understand why. Deb has always been a very heavy person. Way people weren't kind to those who didn't look perfect either. When Debbie met her husband, (he's big too) she asked John if he would marry them. He said only if each of them lost 100 pounds. So Steve Sarin married them. However, to this day Deb and her husband are with John and CES.
Carol started counseling too. Of course the death of Karen came to the front. As Carol and I were discussing it, I looked up at one of her walls and reality hit home On the wall was a large picture of a cat that Carol had loved which had been hit by a car and died, but nowhere was there a hint of Karen.
The day after Karen died, Way Leadership saw to it that Karen was taken away and instructed my Sister's WOW family to get rid of everything. Then they told me and one of the WOWs (who is now her husband) to go to my parents house and get rid of everything. We all did as we were told. My parents were deadly silent as we did our deed.
I turned from the cat's picture and said to Carol, "My God, what have we done?" We cried and cried. Carol started dealing with the issue at that point. She and her family went to the grave site for the first time since Karen's death. She'll have to tell you what happened there but I can say this, I wouldn't want to be in the shoes of anyone who would try to tell her now that the dead aren't alive.
Our whole family went together to the grave site.(Only Carol had been allowed to be at the burial) She'd been waiting 15 years for this. Mom gave Carol an album of photos of Karen. After her husband and I had trashed the photos Mom rescued every photo she could find. Karen now has a special place in the family room.
Carol and I then decided we had to find a Church. Trinity or no Trinity the truth had to be somewhere. ( John Juedes wrote that Wierwille was better at keeping people from Church than he was at winning them to the Way. Boy is that right) We tried a Methodist church. It was hard but we stuck it out. They didn't expository teach, but we found we were getting rid of the loaded language of The Way and becoming desensitized to hearing "God in three persons, Blessed Trinity". We could even sing it without clutching. We also saw that these people had a heart for God. After a year we were ready for a Church that taught a more fundamental approach to the Bible.
We tried Kingsway Christian Church, an evangelical, fundamental Church. We have been there now for 3 years. They don't expository teach either, but a lot of Bible is taught. Now we feel it's time to really deal with some of the doctrinal issues that have not been cleared up for us. Kingsway folks are wonderful, but we have found that people in general don't understand the cult experience or how to help people who have been in them. We're searching for the final pieces to enable us to fully understand our own experience and to enable us to help others make it out without all the side effects we have had to deal with. We found the Christian Apologetics Research and empirenet.com/messiah7 sites. I just know those final answers are just around the comer.
I'm concerned for my relatives. The Way had a problem, but they don't realize how deep it was. They still believe most of what they were taught. I am concerned for all former Wayfers. I have not met even one other than Carol and I that is attending a Church regularly or has managed to overcome the doctrinal issues. Not one ..... I gave copies of Marsha's story to them, praying it will open their eyes enough so that they will ask themselves one question "Can anything good have come from this man?". (II Peter Chapter 2)
No, it can't.
BEA TATE JULY 1998
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