ARBITRATION BOARD RULES AGAINST MICHAEL ROOD
An Arbitration Board which was convened to mediate in the conflict between Michael Rood and his former staff at A Rood Awakening Ministries consistently ruled against Michael Rood in its November 2007 report. The rift between Rood and Jamie Louis, the administrator of ARAM, exploded in August 2007 when each accused the other of financial indiscretions, theft, false allegations, legal errors and deceit. Rood began a new organization in July with an almost identical name, A Rood Awakening Ministries International in Michigan to replace the Oregon group.
Rood and Louis agreed on the composition of the Arbitration Board which included Neal Brenner of Beit Emet Ministries as chairman, Monte Judah and Phil Vellekamp of Lion and Lamb Ministries, Allen Dodge of Beit Emet and Todd Bennett (who later resigned because of a conflict of interest). Brenner and Judah were personally asked by both Louis and Rood to investigate these matters. The report notes that "Michael named Neal Brenner and Allen Dodge to be his appointees to the investigation committee" (2.19). The Board included friends of Rood, not critics. The ARAM incorporation document calls for an Ecclesiastical board to resolve any disciplinary matters.
The extensive report included 28 items of supporting evidence all of which were posted on www.areallyroodawakening.com . The evidence included verbatim phone conversations, email, web site pages, interviews with staff, financial records, contracts, incorporation papers, and analysis of an edited tape on a Rood web site. It appears to be a thorough and objective effort to evaluate allegations from both sides and give an accurate and chronological account of what happened.
Rood appointed two of the arbiters and initially agreed to assist them, but in fact did not cooperate with the Arbitration Board and never informed his followers that it existed. The Board says that Rood "rejected in a hostile fashion" their request for an interview. Perhaps Rood declined to cooperate once the process began because he knew the evidence was so completely against him.
Rood posted a letter by Jamie Louis along with paragraph by paragraph refutations of it. The Board reprinted this along with its own annotations on every allegation made by Rood and Louis. Evidence showed that every one of Rood's allegations was false except for one, while none of Louis' statements were shown to be false.
The Board did not state flatly that Rood was deceitful. But it indirectly said so, using rhetorical questions about Rood which any fair minded reader would answer against Rood:
"Do the attacks you have seen make you wonder who is walking in the light?"
"Please consider how the camp is being cleansed and who is being cleaned out of it."
"Is this web site representative of how you treat a brother over 'possible non-compliance?'"
"If Michael Rood was living Torah, why does he speak in vague allegations instead of specific allegations?"
It is clear from these rhetorical questions and the evidence that the Board concludes that Rood does not walk in the light, does not treat a brother in Scriptural ways, does not live Torah and the Almighty cleaned Rood out the camp because of his error and sin. This is a warning to Rood's current followers and staff that he does not meet the character and moral qualifications of a Torah teacher or ministry leader.
Two of Rood's supporters have since reversed their support and now distance themselves from Rood. Don Harris who initially supported Rood's departure has left Rood's new organization. Stan Johnson, who runs the Prophecy Club and is a long time colleague of Rood, initially wrote a letter siding with Rood against Louis. Now, however, he has posted another letter withdrawing his support of Rood.
LOUIS AND ARAM ERRORS
The Board found Louis in error on only three things, all of which reflect more poorly on Rood than on Louis.
First, it concludes that ARAM did not demand that Rood regularly account for his expenses. ARAM poured money into Rood's account and paid his credit card charges, but had no idea how much of it Rood was using for legitimate ministry expenses and how much was lining his own pockets. The report notes, "While we fault Michael for not filing expense reports, we fault Jamie for continuing to pay Michael's expenses without receiving an accounting" (2.26 Sept 10 interview with the Bookkeeper). This is how Rood wanted it, and he refused to provide expense reports to ARAM, and continues to refuse even though he is required to do so because he received funds from ARAM the first seven months of 2007.
Second, ARAM did not provide 1099 forms to the IRS and its workers, including Rood. ARAM did not treat its workers as employees, paying half of the Social Security payments. Instead it treated them as independent contractors which requires workers to pay both the employer and employee halves of Social Security, which is much cheaper for the organization. If they did file 1099s, Rood would be the most at risk because he would have to pay income tax on all $80,000 he received from ARAM in 2006, $47,000 he received from ARAM in 2007, and probably more income from previous years. Issuing 1099s would likely be a blow to any ARAM workers who did not pay taxes, but would be a tax catastrophe for Rood.
Third, the Board notes that ARAM financial records were incomplete. But the only reason they were incomplete is because Rood refused to provide expense reports. In all other respects ARAM followed accurate accounting procedures and was not guilty of financial misdealings.
ROOD'S FALSE DEALINGS AND ACCUSATIONS
The Arbitration Board provides a long list of Michael Rood's false dealings and accusations which include:
+ There is no evidence of any conspiracy to steal "his ministry" as Rood claimed. ARAM made every effort to transfer ARAM to Rood's control but Rood resisted this. The Board concludes that "if Michael had been more patient he would actually be in control of A Rood Awakening Ministries right now." (Pt. 3)
It was actually the opposite of Rood's claim. Rood tried to take control of ARAM in 2007 at a time when he was not an officer, administrator or advisory board member (though he'd been on the Advisory Board previously) (Pt. 2 A Review of the Evidence).
+ Rood spent ARAM funds, deposited cash and checks from offering boxes into his own account and used an ARAM credit card without ever accounting for any of these funds. Without expense reports, Rood could easily have used large amounts of money for himself rather than for the ministry. Rood accused ARAM of financial impropriety, but only Rood was guilty of this, and flagrantly so. (Pt. 1, Executive Summary)
Rood never accounted for $80,000 that was given to him by ARAM in 2006, $47,000 that was given to him in the first six months of 2007, funds given to him by ARAM in previous years, credit card charges and a large but unknown amount of cash and checks made out to him. The Board rightly points out that "The IRS can interpret this as Michael profiting improperly from a tax-exempt organization" (2.24).
+ Rood purposely misrepresented what was said in a conference call of ARAM staff. Rood cut at least 71 segments out of a 114 minute conversation, reducing it to 33 minutes. The edited version leads listeners to believe ARAM is mounting a conspiracy against Rood, while the full version shows that ARAM is attempting to transfer control of ARAM to Rood smoothly.
The report concludes that "Michael Rood attempted to make the audio seem to say something it does not say" (2.8 Taped Advisory Board Meeting, July 26, 2007). It adds, "what Michael hid in the way he doctored the tape" is that ARAM staff would work with Michael on his then-current tour and turn ARAM assets over to Rood when ARAM debts were paid. Rood's highly edited version "completely eliminates anything that is complimentary to Michael or any comment that puts the ARA board members in good light" (3. A Review of Charges in Letters and Web Pages).
+ Rood, not ARAM, had poor financial records. The report states, "the only missing records we noticed are Michael's expense reports" (2.9 Taped Meeting with Michael Rood, July 30, 2007), and criticizes "...Michael Rood's accusing Jamie of not having an accounting system and not providing receipts when it is Michael who has not filed expense reports" (2.13 Michael's Demand Letter, August 7, 2007). Rood also showed a poor understanding of financial records.
+ Rood formally dissociated himself from ARAM on August 7, but wrote letters (posing as president of ARAM) to ARAM employees firing them on August 9 (2.14 Michael Firing Jana McDonald, August 9, 2007, 3. A Review of Charges in Letters and Web Pages). At that time Rood was president of ARAMI of Michigan but had nothing to do with ARAM of Oregon. In this mystifying action Rood seems to either think he owns everything and everyone associated with "his" ministry, or to be very ignorant.
+ Rood returned checks people made out to ARAM at six of his speaking engagements because he could not deposit them into his own or ARAMI's accounts. By returning checks to donors, he was denying ARAM money intended for them. And by returning checks that were made as payments for ARAM materials, "Michael was in effect giving away materials that did not belong to him" (2.22 August 30, 2007 Michael Rood web site).
+ Rood made many very serious accusations against Louis, including accusations of criminal actions. Yet Rood never gives specifics or evidence for them.
+ Although Rood accused Louis of depositing funds into his personal account, it was actually Rood who kept money and equipment that belonged to ARAM, not him. The report states, "When Michael left he took electronic equipment that cost ARA $100,000 plus some tens of thousands of dollars of ARA merchandise." "... it was not Jamie who appeared to be transferring assets into his own accounts, but Michael Rood" (2.24 August 21, 2007 Michael Rood's response to Jamie Louis' letter of August 16).
+ Rood said he wanted to be accountable, but never actually made himself accountable for use of funds, "If Michael wanted to be accountable, why didn't he file expense reports all along? Why isn't he responsive to his donors who are asking him to explain himself? Why doesn't he respond to the major donor on this committee, the one to whom he said, 'if anyone has a right to ask questions, you do'?" (2.24) The Board notes that it is "often a firing offense" to not account for money and file expense repots (2:26 Sept 10 interview with the bookkeeper).
+ Rood's new company, ARAMI of Michigan, took funds from the Oregon organization when Rood decided to lead his tour to Israel through the Michigan group instead of through the Oregon group as planned. The report leaves us "to name the legal term for one company to use the funds in another company's checking account" (2.27 Israel; tour checks- Sept 18, 2007).
+ ARAM staff did not have a conspiracy to take the ministry from Rood. Most transition problems occurred because Rood made "unfounded charges," was "acting unilaterally," abandoned negotiations, failed to follow through on preliminary agreements, and absconded with materials and property ARAM owned (3. A Review of Charges in Michael's letters and Web Pages).
The report warns people not to believe Rood's accusations against Louis and ARAM: "it is a grave mistake to believe unsubstantiated charges" (3. A Review...). The Board noted that it asked both Rood and Louis to keep silent on the matter until they finished their report. Louis did, but Rood filled the months with more accusations against Louis and ARAM. The Arbitration Board offered to entertain questions about their report at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Louis has begun a new organization called Torah to the Nations. It plans to sell seminars, audio and visual programs, web sites, radio, television and tours to Israel which promote Torah observance. Unlike Rood, Louis at least mentions Yahshua (Jesus) periodically, though the message of grace is distinctly lacking. He directs people to investigate the Rood-Louis conflict using the resources of the Arbitration Board. Louis' Torah to the Nations letter to supporters of November 2007 avoids making accusations against Rood, even though many of them would be well founded, as the report shows.
Louis and Rood both market their organizations to the same list of followers of ARAM/Rood.
Michael Rood continued to attack Louis and the ARAM staff in his November letter. He labeled them as "something dark and deeply wrong," and "dead wood." He wrote of "Jamie's heartbreaking betrayal" in which he persecuted Rood and "stole the ministry" from Rood, and calls it "the depth of the deceit and treachery."
The first audio CD Rood offered to his followers through ARAMI was titled "Every Ministry Needs a Judas." In it Rood highlights Judas who was a thief and betrayer, as Elisha's servant Gehazi who was punished for his greed. Rood repeats his claim that his prayer of a year ago was answered when the evil of the ARAM staff was cut out of his ministry, clearly asserting that Jamie Louis was a betrayer and thief as Judas was, and that Rood was as innocent as Christ.
Like a true cult leader, Rood claims "I was given a vision and clear word from Heaven" that ARAM would be shaken and "the cleanup of our ministry" would occur. Rather than take any specific responsibility for the conflict or admit any errors, Rood claims that God himself caused the conflict in order to remove the "evil" of Louis and ARAM staff from "his" ministry. Rood claims to be a tool of God to remove evil rather than being part of the problem himself.
Rood feigns some humility by saying that he prayed "that the cleanup of our personal lives and the cleanup of our ministry continue." But the only cleaning up he identifies is cutting out the "dead wood" of Louis and the ARAM staff. According to Rood, he's pure as the driven snow, while Louis and the ARAM staff are dark, evil, deceitful, treacherous and summarily judged by the Almighty.
ROOD RATCHETS UP THE CONFLICT
Rather than work with the arbitration board, Rood has racheted up the conflict. Rood made more, and more serious, allegations against Louis in his Dec. 17, 2007 email to supporters. Rood claims to have filed a lawsuit in federal courts accusing Jamie Louis of illegal actions including:
I. Unfair competition, 2. Coversion, 3. Invasion of privacy, 4. Consumer protection violations, 5. Defamation, 6. Interference of contract, and 7. Unjust enrichment.
Rood claims that Louis continues to use Rood's name, likeness, materials and signature for personal purposes. He also says he offered to pay off ARAM's debts, but Louis refused, and that ARAM's financial records are not available to him. Rood also claims that Louis has also asked ministries which previously supported Rood's work to review the arbitration board report, which he seems to interpret as defamation.
Some of these claims are contradicted by the evidence. Louis has made a conscious effort not to use Rood's name anymore. His letters to supporters and his materials and recent audio CD are clearly marked with the name "Torah to the Nations," not with any name including "Rood" or "Rood Awakening." Louis offered a free CD to supporters in November 2007 which did not include any material by Rood. In addition, ARAM made several of its financial records publically available on the Internet and in the Arbitration Board report.
Louis has shut down the old ARAM web sites, www.michaelrood.com and www.aroodawakening.tv rather than operate them in a way that implies that Rood is still with ARAM.
It may be that Rood thinks that vendors should deal with ARAMI as though it is the same organization as ARAM, and is upset when ARAM rightly tells vendors that they are not the same. If so, this would not be interference of contract, but rightly distinguishing a difference Rood may wish to hide or not even wish to recognize himself.
There is at this point no confirmation that Rood actually filed this lawsuit as he claims. He did not identify any court or filing date. Although he offered to send a copy to anyone who requested it, at this writing he has not yet answered our request for one. If he actually has filed a lawsuit, he may not intend to follow through and attempt to prove its assertions, especially in light of the lack of evidence cited above.
ARAM'S FUTURE WITHOUT ROOD
What does the future hold for Rood and Torah to the Nations? Torah to the Nations plans to provide audio, visual, web, seminar and television teachings by a variety of Torah teachers. It may no longer have a "star" with the same crowd-pleasing ability that Rood had, which may limit its distribution.
This change of teachers is an opportunity to alter the theological direction of the ministry. The Apostle Shaul (Paul) placed Yahshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) front and center in all things at all times. For example, he names Yahshua 14 times, and mentions grace and redemption through His blood five times in the first couple paragraphs of the book of Ephesians. By contrast, Rood hardly mentions Yahshua except in novelty teachings like His genealogy or 70 weeks ministry (instead of two to three years). Keeping Torah, not grace and redemption in Yahshua is Rood's emphasis. The Messiah is clearly unimportant in Rood's teaching. When the Messiah ascended to where He was before, he declared that his disciples should be witnesses to and disciples of Him, not of Torah. Yahshua, not Torah, frees those captive to the Law and is a new covenant and light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6-7). Torah to the Nations has a fresh opportunity to become Messiah to the Nations.
ROOD'S FUTURE WITHOUT ARAM
Michael Rood, on the other hand, has clearly thrown off all accountability for his actions. He refused to be accountable to ARAM for the money it gave him and refused to be accountable to the Arbitration Board during its investigation and effort at reconciliation.
When Michael Rood established ARAMI in Michigan to replace ARAM in Oregon, he jettisoned Louis as the Administrator (lone officer) of the corporation and installed himself as President (and friend Glenn McWilliams as vice president). He wanted white glove treatment and a place of power without accountability. His friend Glenn McWilliams who is a new ARAMI officer will either be a yes-man or become irritated by Rood's claim of a hot line to heaven. In just the past few years Rood has run "new" ministries from Minnesota, Oregon and now Michigan. He may not last long in Michigan either.
Where will this lead? Rood may find that he is an ineffective administrator and that it is time consuming. If he follows the same lack of financial accountability, he may find the IRS will make him accountable. He learned ministry in the cult The Way International (TWI). Like ARAMI, TWI had a three person Board of Trustees which controlled the organization, headed by its president and founder V. P. Wierwille. Both Wierwille and Rood left previous ministries to avoid accountability and gain personal control, made themselves presidents of new organizations and installed two friends as "yes-men" officers. Wierwille's (and his successor's) lack of accountability led to the downfall of the organization because of authoritarianism and sexual indiscretion. Lack of accountability of leadership commonly destroys ministries, though the method (such as sexual or financial indiscretion) differs.
Michael Rood is first of all a showman. He serves as the ministry's carnival barker promoting the (real!) five-headed lady inside the tent. Each annual tour Rood comes up with a NEW! FANTASTICAL! DIVINELY REVEALED! UNKNOWN! (except to Rood) pitch to drawn in crowds of donors itching to hear something new and exciting, just as the apostle Shaul (Paul) warned people about (2 Timothy 4:3-4). The hype is needed in order to pay for production costs and to keep Michael Rood on television.
The Arbitration Board provided a great service to Rood's followers by producing an objective and thorough investigation of Rood and ARAM. Rood current followers would be wise to take it as a warning to avoid any Michael Rood ministry.
Dr. John Juedes, Jan 2008 www.abouttheway.org
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