By John Lynn
Reviewed by Dr. John Juedes
Overview of Events is an audio tape of a talk given by John A. Lynn in October 1987 in which he describes the turmoil in The Way International in the years immediately following founder V.P. Wierwille's death. He also describes some of the sin and corruption among top Way leaders-- especially Wierwille and the trustees, Craig Martindale, Howard Allen and Wierwille's son Donald-- which he says caused the splintering of TWI. Overall, the talk is a severe indictment and condemnation of Way leaders and gives a glimpse into the hidden motives and behavior of leaders and the function of TWI.
A key person in this drama is Christopher Geer, who at the time was root leader for Great Britain and who trained the European Way Corps. In theory, this puts him just below the level of the trustees. Geer first read "The Passing of a Patriarch" to Way Corps over a period of two and a half hours on April 23, 1986, nearly a year after founder Wierwille's death on May 2, 1985. (See our review of Passing... for a fuller description of its content.) Passing... was presented as the last will and testament of Wierwille, which was a damaging indictment of the trustees. It asserted that they failed Wierwille, departed from the Word of God, prompted Wierwille's death, and caused the decline of TWI. Geer portrayed himself as the one man who could correct the trustees and save TWI.
The "yak" fellowship of 11 top leaders in TWI was formed to study Passing...and save the ministry. At the time, Geer was the only person who had a copy, although pirated notes were circulating privately.
Passing... was read again at the 1986 Corps week meeting, held before the August Rock of Ages. At that meting, John Townsend (who later was added to the board of trustees for a short time) said the trustees were even worse than Passing... said. It was read again at the clergy meeting Nov 22-24 at the BRC in New Knoxville.
It is obvious that Lynn thinks very little of Geer. He mentions that Geer came into TWI early, during the 1970 push in Rye, New York, which was featured in Life Magazine. Geer was a Limb leader in Massachusetts, then Corps. He drove Wierwille's motor coach and was his aide and confidant. Geer was Wierwille's main bodyguard, learned evasive driving techniques and martial arts and was a weapons expert.
Lynn says that Geer was paranoid, carrying a 45 caliber handgun under his suit as he spoke to the clergy meeting, and checking his car for bombs before driving. Lynn says that Wierwille had the same paranoia about his life and ministry. Geer himself mentioned in Passing... that he and Wierwille conducted life saving drills in which Geer trained to save Wierwille's life. (In addition to paranoia, perhaps this also fed Wierwille's ego, since he always portrayed himself as though he was president of the United States-- he traveled in his own customized coach and plane, referred to his wife as "first lady," had "Hail to the Chief" played and had people stand as he entered a room, etc.)
Furthermore, Lyn says that Geer was a tyrant, giving orders to Corps by "revelation" so that they had to obey. Lynn asserted that Geer was a master intimidator and accuser who was motivated by the devil, and who issued contradictory instructions. Geer claimed by revelation that half of all Limb leaders were possessed by evil spirits and that all Way leaders, including the trustees, must obey his instructions to the letter in order to save the ministry.
Needless to say, this caused great confusion, guilt, counter-claims, heartache and anger among Way leaders, and through them in Way followers. Followers were largely kept in the dark, and the controversy, readings and content of Passing... were never mentioned in The Way Magazine. This is not surprising, since the trustees who control the publications weren't interested in publishing accusations about their personal and spiritual corruption. Soon John Townsend and Ricardo were installed as additional trustees-- and for a brief period of time TWI had five trustees instead of the usual three.
Adultery and the Schoenheit Paper
Geer accused the trustees of lots of sin and error, but one thing he never mentioned was sexual sin. However, allegations of gross sexual sin, adultery and promiscuity among Way leader became a key issue in this infighting among Way leaders.
The focus was a paper on adultery by John Schoenheit, who at the time was on the research team. The paper was a very simple, relatively brief description of basic Bible teaching on adultery, showing that adultery is serious sin in every administration (dispensation). (See the review of this paper for more details on the content.) Lynn notes that the trustees and Geer did their best to bury the paper. The trustees fired Schoenheit for writing the paper. They fired Bo Reahard, Franklin Smith, Dennis Hickman and others for their involvement with the paper, or just for reading it. (So much for the idea that Way leaders want Wayers to think for themselves.) Geer condemned the paper and said that anyone who read it should turn themselves in, be fired and never lead anything but a twig again. Many others were afraid to read or talk about the paper. Some heard of it but never saw a copy, while many of the rank and file knew there was turmoil (it's hard to miss when lots of people you know are getting fired) but had no idea why.
Why did a simple summary of The Bible's teaching on the sin of adultery cause so much turmoil? Lynn says that it all goes back to founder Wierwille, who was engrossed in sexual sin, and who taught other top leaders such as Martindale, the trustees and others to practice the same sin.
Lynn describes Wierwille as "a very insecure man" who was stung by the academic community rejecting his "research" and ministry. He was "driven" to make TWI socially acceptable and unique, including such ill-fated endeavors as launching the Way College of Emporia (which was never accredited and closed within 15 years), climbing Mt. Everest without oxygen, Rodeo school and a snow-climbing rescue machine.
In particular, Lynn says that Wierwille was "very insecure in the sexual category." Wierwille taught privately that adultery is good for your life and Biblically right. Lynn says that in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Wierwille went after any woman he could lay his hands on, that his adultery went back 30 years, and that he has heard stories that would "curl your hair." Wierwille's adultery is "the roots of what has destroyed The Way International," says Lynn.
Many noticed over the years the same thing that Lynn did-- that Wierwille's 15 hour class on sex is nearly pornographic in places, and that it never mentions adultery. Wierwille's motor coach was parked by the Wierwille home when it was in New Knoxville, and women came and went from it, so the family was aware. (See letters on our web site from women who described how Wierwille used them sexually in his motor coach.)
Lynn mentioned that Wierwille said that women get eternal rewards for blessing a man of God by giving him sex. Wierwille coaxed women into having sex with him using his "man of God" status, threats, intimidation, the influence of devil spirits, and almost rape. He emphasized the "Lock Box" teaching to hide these sins.
Lynn, Schoenheit and Ralph Dubofsky all said that many women told them that Wierwille and the trustees had sex with them.
Lynn says that the trustees (president Craig Martindale, Howard Allen, Donald Wierwille) did not believe that adultery was wrong, and that they (and the fourth trustee, John Townsend), practiced adultery with hundreds of women. In fact, Lynn thinks that it is likely that adulteries with Way leaders actually run into the thousands. Lynn admitted that he also practiced this. (Note that "Marsha's letter" on our web site noted that Allen got Wierwille's "hand-me-downs" as Wierwille found additional women to use.)
Martindale Defends Adultery
Lynn referred to several letters by, or conversations with Martindale in which he defended sexual relationships between people who are not married. He notes that Craig said that Wierwille taught him that he must have sex with many women in order to be a great leader and lover of God's people. While sex outside marriage may at times be wrong, God approves and encourages it when people's intent and motives are acceptable.
Lynn also referred to a letter by Walter Cummins who at the time was siding with the trustees, saying that the Schoenheit paper was contrary to previous TWI research. Lynn claimed that Cummins, who headed the Research Department of TWI, was a "spineless...wimp" who was "pimping for Dr. Wierwille" by supporting doctrinal error. (Cummins is no longer with TWI and calls himself a research consultant.) Lynn says that Schoenheit thought his life was in danger and sent six copies of the paper to friends, with notes to follow up if he was killed after giving his paper to the trustees.
The appendices of Schoenheit's paper make clear that he was writing rebuttals to over a dozen Bible verses Way leaders used to defend their adultery. To this day, TWI has never publicly stated that the Bible teaches that adultery or sex outside of marriage is wrong or sinful. In fact, ex-Wayers often mention on chat lines that they believe Martindale continues to have and defend sex outside marriage.
Lynn goes on to say that TWI's stance on abortion was influenced by adultery. Although TWI books Are the Dead Alive Now (p. 108) and Jesus Christ is Not God(p. 62) say soul life is in the womb when sperm meets egg, abortion was a way of life in TWI in order to cover adultery.
Splinter Groups Form
Lynn was out to debunk the myth that Wierwille was "the Man of God" and apostle. Besides his paranoia, sexual sin, and inaccurate teaching of the Bible to support sexual sin, Lynn also noted that Wierwille plagiarized other authors. He noted that most of the Foundational series was plagiarized, and referred to my article on Wierwille's plagiarism of J.E. Stiles.
Lynn also accused the trustees of dishonesty and mishandling of TWI finances, though he had no written proof of it. He claims many say TWI lost $1 to $2 million in the stock market, and spent $60,000 on the best grass seed for headquarters while refusing to spend $300 for a VCR for a Limb.
In order to confront the trustees, Lynn and his former wife Pat composed and distributed a 37 page letter full of quotes of Wierwille, which criticized the trustees. TWI then fired Lynn along with others. Soon many of the ex-Way leaders were launching their own research and teaching groups-- Lynn, Schoenheit and others founded Christian Educational Services and Bo and Stanley Reahard began Atlanta Bible Fellowship. Many other organizations followed, all having essentially the same teachings, organization, goals and methods as TWI. While they fiercely defend their work as completely different from TWI, it is apparent to outsiders how very much like TWI they are in most every important aspect. This was especially obvious in the early years when they produced classes that were virtually clones of Power for Abundant Living. As years have gone by, there has been a little more diversity as the leaders have stamped their organizations with more of their own distinct ideas about the Bible.
The leaders who left or were fired took large numbers of Way followers with them. Lynn says that 80% of his Washington D.C. Limb left with him (supplying a base for his organization). Other Limbs were said to have left TWI as a block also. In just a few years, TWI lost two-thirds of its followers-- and of its income, causing the trustees to sell property such as the Emporia and Rome City Campuses. By 1998, TWI had lost perhaps 85% of the 35,000 active followers it had around the time of Wierwille's death.
Lynn's talk provides good insights into the behavior, attitudes and inner workings of Way leadership, and the causes of the turmoil in the years following Wierwille's death.
Related reading: The Way Tree Splinters, Changes in The Way International, Marsha's Story, Donna's Story, Wierwille Borrows, Schoenheit's Paper on Adultery, Review of Passing of a Patriarch
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