TWI promotes certain teachings and practices which are generally unknown to (or hidden from) outsiders and which are harmful to individuals involved in TWI and to their families. This letter focuses on the basics of TWI practices regarding owning a home and financial matters. Phrases in quotation marks are actual terms used universally by Wayers (our web site offers a list of Way jargon with definitions if you would find this helpful).
Four important facts are basic to understanding TWI's teachings and practices:
1. A follower of TWI does not follow primarily a set of teachings (as is typical in Christian churches), but follows "the Man of God," who speaks to followers and teaches by "revelation." "The Man of God" is President Loy Craig Martindale who, with two other trustees, controls all aspects of TWI, from doctrine to finances ("the man of God" is also sometimes used generically to refer to any local leader the Wayer is to obey). Since he alone is God's spokesman, he is to be obeyed explicitly, even if Wayers think he's wrong.
2. Since "the man of God" speaks by "revelation," what he says is not a request, but a demand; not human ideas worth considering, but God's revelation to be obeyed. Local leadership is a hierarchy (much more forceful and powerful than those in business or other religious groups) which enforces directives from "the man of God." Enforcement is done mainly through fear (which will be described below).
3. TWI teachings and directives are mainly verbal, not written. Although TWI describes itself as a "Biblical research and teaching" ministry, it has published only one full length book in the last fourteen years, and prints only six brief magazines a year. As such, it is sometimes hard to explicitly document on paper some important teachings and practices.
4. TWI has become extremely secretive in the last fourteen years, refusing to sell publications, tapes or classes to anyone who does not currently make regular financial donations to TWI and regularly attend TWI meetings. One result of this is that outsiders and families of Wayers are often "in the dark" about many aspects of life in TWI.
Since about 1994, "the Man of God" has told Wayers to have no debt of any kind (Wayers understand that this is not a suggestion, but a command). Therefore, anyone who cannot pay cash for a house must not buy one, and any who cannot immediately pay off his or her mortgage, must sell it and rent a place to live instead. Rev. John Reynolds of TWI wrote an article in The Way Magazine (July-Aug. 1995, pp. 10-12) in which he stated that avoiding all debt was one of three "absolute requirements" for a Wayer to do in order to fulfill TWI's teaching on "prosperity" (this is considered authoritative teaching, not a financial suggestion). In the article, he mentions one of President Martindale's sermons which revealed this. The same issue includes an article by Martindale called "God's Call to Abundance: Need and Want Parallel," in which he describes this in some detail.
Wayers clearly understood this to be a command from God to sell any house which has a debt. I have received many letters from Wayers/ex-Wayers which describe how leaders pushed them to sell their houses and to rent instead (they also pressure them to move in order to be nearer to TWI leaders). If they hesitate to do so, leaders implicitly threaten them by saying that their hesitation will place them "out of the protection of the household," where they will likely be harmed in some way (ie- they will have an accident, lose their job, etc). If they continue to resist, leaders "mark and avoid" them. In other words, they mark them as disobedient and/or "possessed by devil spirits," and all Wayers are commanded to "avoid" them, that is, to never speak to or have anything to do with them again. (Literally hundreds of Wayers have been "mark and avoid" in recent years, often for very minor infractions.) When a married couple differs on the issue of selling an indebted house, leaders pressure the more favorable spouse to sway, or to divorce, their partner. This has caused or contributed to divorces of Wayers. TWI commonly pits family members against each other as a means to induce them to obey the organization.
The Way Magazine (July-Aug 1996) printed a letter from a Wayer: "After Rev. Martindale taught on living within your means and being debt-free about two years ago, we immediately went to work to eliminate our debt....A few months later it was established that a home mortgage was also a debt. Right away we tried to find ways to pay off our mortgage and decided that the only way was to sell our house." The Sept-Oct issue of The Way Magazine printed a letter from a Wayer in Brisbane, Australia, who wrote, "...thank you for the tremendous guidance and encouragement that you brought to our lives regarding living debt-free. Once we quit justifying our home mortgage and got committed, we stopped talking about selling and actually did it.... (now we can) make a significant increase in our abundant sharing." The Way Magazine only prints letters from Wayers who talk about doing what Way leaders tell them to do, and never prints any suggestion of disagreement.
These letters indicate several things. First, Wayers look to "the Man of God" to "establish" what they should do in every "category" of life. Second, that once leaders "establish" this, Wayers must obey immediately, since it is tantamount to a command from God. Third, that obedience to leaders is the central test of whether one is "committed" to God. To disobey leadership in any way is to be uncommitted and unbelieving.
What is the purpose of eliminating debt? Many people reduce debt in order to increase their personal assets. TWI promotes it as a means of transferring wealth from the follower to the organization. This is the doctrinal basis for it: First, Wayers are told to "get their needs and wants parallel" (note Martindale's article by this title in The Way Magazine, July-Aug 1995). Wayers are required to submit their personal budget to leadership, which then tells followers what expenditures to eliminate. In this way they eliminate their "wants" and live on the bare minimum to meet their "needs." Second, Wayers are commanded not just to tithe (give 10% of their income, which is spurned as miserly), nor just to "abundant share" (give 15-20% of their income to TWI), but to practice "plurality giving." "Plurality giving" is to live on the barest minimum one can, and give all the rest (preferably a majority) of their income to the national office of TWI.
Twig Coordinators (who lead the home-based small groups which compose much of TWI) and Limb Coordinators (who oversee regions about the size of a state) keep track of what followers give, and confront everyone they feel are giving too little (especially those giving less than they tithe payment). Leadership pushes and cajoles its followers to live on less and less so that the organization can have more and more. In practice, followers prosper less and the organization prospers more. TWI spends money differently than do most churches. Most churches, like my own, use most of the income to support local personnel and facilities, and give money to outside agencies who help the poor, print Bibles to distribute around the world, etc. Budgets are set by the local members themselves. By contrast, all donations to TWI go directly to, and mostly stay at, the national office in New Knoxville, OH, and all expenditures are controlled by the three national trustees alone. Followers have no input.
Local leadership enforces Martindale's commands through manipulation, intimidation and fear. Martindale threatens followers that if they leave TWI they will "be a grease spot by midnight." Leaders tell followers that if they do not tithe and obey other commands, something terrible will happen to them (like having an accident or becoming ill). When an accident happens, leaders assert that it is because the followers did not fulfill their commitments to TWI.
The primary tool of manipulation is "confrontation." While they claim confrontation is loving, actually it can be several hours of verbal abuse, cursing, yelling and cajoling. Leaders expect to be able to examine and make intimate decisions for their followers over even very small aspects of life. Followers are required to expose every detail of their lives to their leadership. Leaders tell followers who to date, who they may marry, when to divorce, what activities to do or stop doing, how to spend their money, where they can live, what jobs they can have, and details of their weekly schedule. This usually involves stopping outside activities such as the children's soccer team, and doing more Way activities, meeting several times a week. Followers fear that if they do not obey they will be "mark and avoid.". In order words, all their family and friends in TWI will refuse to speak to or have anything to do with them. This is a very real fear, since literally hundreds of Wayers have been "mark and avoid" in recent years, and most Wayers have lost friends, family or spouses this way. In fact, many followers of TWI have actually been forced out of the group ("Mark and avoid" because they have not eliminated all mortgage and other debt by the deadlines their leaders established. One letter by ex-Wayer Russ Mahan which describes his experiences with Way leadership may be found at our web site (www.empirenet.com/~messiah7).
TWI claims that its followers are free to make independent decisions, but use many tools of mind control to manipulate them.
Dr. John P. Juedes C. 1998, firstname.lastname@example.org
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