RUDE AWAKENING ROCKS THE ROOD CREW
Michael Rood, once a TWI leader, has become a "cult leader" according to his
own staff at A Rood Awakening (ARA). Rood started a competing organization
in August 2007 after ARA board member Jamie Louis accused Rood of
"inappropriate behavior," financial irregularities and becoming a "cult leader."
Rood counterattacked, alleging Louis (another ex-Wayer) funneled ARA money
into his personal accounts.
Michael Rood and his "A Rood Awakening Ministries" were rocked by controversy, accusation and allegations of unethical or criminal actions in summer 2007.
Michael Rood parted ways with A Rood Awakening Ministries (ARAM, based in Oregon) in August and began a competing organization, A Rood Awakening Ministries International (ARAMI, based in Michigan).
Jamie Louis is the Administrator of the Corporate Sole known as ARAM and was also close friends with Rood. Louis sent a series of letters to ARAM supporters and published letters on the ARAM web site making serious allegations against Rood. Louis accused Rood of "very inappropriate behaviors:"
"Through the years, most everyone who has worked inside A Rood Awakening! Ministries has, at times, been uncomfortable with the way Michael Rood has conducted himself. Because he is a man, and we all have our faults, this conduct was often overlooked and generally excused 'for the sake of the message.' Unfortunately, not confronting the problem allowed it to grow and fester. Now we have found that in YHVH's perfect justice , the very inappropriate behaviors we excused in him are now returning as virulent accusations or misconduct against us." He added that Rood is "out of control without any regard for the Torah, the truth, or the law" (Open letter titled "From: The Advisory Board- Regarding Recent Events on the Ministry")
Rood countered the allegations in part by publishing a recording of a private conference call between staff members of ARAM including Louis. In it Louis says that Rood "has become a cult leader" and that he is "nothing but trouble- there are the reasons." He adds that Rood will "answer to God for his crap."
Allegations against Rood like those above are mostly vague. However, Louis did specify that Rood put ARAM assets in his own name rather than in the name of ARAM, that he took ownership or control of ARAM assets, was not accountable to the ARAM Board, and falsely accused Louis and ARAM staff of putting ARAM funds into their personal accounts.
According to Louis, Rood began the new ARAMI organization because he would not be accountable to the Board or come clean on his financial improprieties.
Rood admits to no financial improprieties at all. Instead, Rood accuses Louis of financial improprieties. Rood began a new web site on which he published an open letter titled "Michael Rood's response to Jamie Louis' Unsolicited Letter to Michael's Supporters." Rood printed Louis' letter and responds to each paragraph. Rood insists that he, not Louis wanted proper accounting and that Louis did not provide it, but instead lined his own pockets with ARAM funds. Rood alleges that Louis did not use proper accounting procedures and did not pay employment taxes, file IRS returns, or file papers to comply with law. Rood adds "It looks as if Mr. Louis was transferring corporate funds and assets into his personal name and use" (and)... had not reported this to the IRS...."
ROOD'S DEFENSE REVEALS HIS ATTITUDES
Rood published letters in his defense from two of his friends who are also speakers on the Prophecy Club and Hebrew Roots circuit, Stan Johnson and Glenn McWilliams, hardly neutral sources.
The letters are textbook examples of how cult leaders respond to criticism, and support Louis' comment that Rood had become a "cult leader." Instead of treating the allegations of misconduct seriously, judging them objectively and censuring the leaders when necessary, they simply declare no one should even think of questioning Rood, because he is an Anointed Minister who is above reproach.
Johnson's letter was directed to an ARAM staff in order to badger him into accepting whatever Rood did, no matter how offensive, illegal or ungodly. Johnson writes,
"It doesn't matter what Michael has done, or not done.... Michael is the speaker and minister, the ministry cannot do without Michael.... Let's take a worst-case scenario. Let's say Michael made $3000,000 on a speaking tour, and decided to buy himself a nice house with it. Let's say some don't like that. Their ONLY recourse is to LEAVE the ministry." (Letter by Stan Johnson to "XXXXX" posted on Rood's web site as www.reeallyrood.com/Stan.html)
Johnson describes a fraudulent use of ministry funds for self-serving purposes. If, in this scenario, Rood had told his audiences that he would use the entire $300,000 of proceeds for his personal benefit, the audience would certainly not have donated generously. This is like Elijah's servant Gehazi's greed which was punished with leprosy on him and his descendants (2 Kings 5:190-27), Achan's greed (Joshua 7) which was punished by a rout of the Israelites, and Simon Magnus' greed to which the Apostle Peter said, "may your money perish with you!" (Acts 8:20). But rather than emphasize the importance of confronting this severe sin, Johnson protects the unethical "Minister" who did it as though he is above correction.
Rood also published another letter from Johnson to Rood, in which he asserts that Rood has a "DIRECT ministry from God as Paul the apostle did. Everyone else, he claims, is only there to serve Rood without question as (he claims) Barnabas existed just to serve Paul without question. This is a false statement, because Paul and Barnabas had the same direct call to ministry when "the Holy Spirit said, 'set apart for me Barnabas and Paul for the work to which I have called them'" (Acts 13:2; Barnabas is named before Paul, which would have been reversed if Barnabas was sent only to serve Paul).
Johnson then tries to bully and threaten anyone who confronts Rood by claiming they will be cursed if they do:
"They were to be blessed BECAUSE they blessed you. When they stopped blessing you, they stopped receiving their blessings, and in the Kingdom of God there is no middle ground. ... In that they have decided to step away from their ministry, and come against you, they have stepped into curses. 1 CH 16:22... Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm. They have touched God's anointed, and they can not be blessed. If you are cursed, you can not be blessed.... There is only one hope to remove God's curse upon them, that is to return what was stolen, and repent before you, and ask your forgiveness. Upon which you will forgive them and pray God removes the curse...." ( Www.reallyrood.com/Stan.html)
Johnson rips 1 CH 16:22 out of context. The "anointed" are not men with "DIRECT ministry" but rather are the whole nation of Israel. The verse refers to the time of the Exodus from Egypt and is directed against nations who wanted to destroy all the Israelites, not against well meaning believers who need to confront serious error and sin in "ministers."
Paul himself confronted Peter who would have had a "DIRECT ministry" (a position Johnson made up, not one that actually exists). Paul rebuked Peter for abandoning Gentile believers and posing as Torah-observant when observant Jews came from Jerusalem. Paul also criticized men like Barnabas who submitted to Peer's attitude at the time, even though by Johnson's rules Barnabas should have been compelled to go along with Peter because his only ministry was to "hold up his hands" even when he was wrong.
By posting Johnson's letter, Rood is clearly declaring himself to have the exalted position of "DIRECT ministry," which Johnson says is above all believers and above question, even when he is clearly in the wrong.
By doing so, Rood conveniently forgets the many times in the past in which he said he was equal with all of his followers, not above them.
ROOD CHANGES HIS TUNE
Rood said that one day in New Mexico he decided to no longer allow people to call him Rabbi, because he is on the same level as everyone, and therefore no one owes him allegiance (Michael Rood, Messiah's First and Last Message to Israel, CD 3 of 4).
Rood repeated this theme that "we are all on the same level" and no one has dominion over others, which he says was the sin of the Nicolaitans (Rev. 3). Rood warns that "false apostles sent to build their own kingdoms will always want to put themselves up there and put everyone else under them.... that is what Yeshua hates... it's foul" (Michael Rood, The Sea of Fire and Glass: Comments on the Book of Revelation, CD).
This was easy for Rood to say when everyone actually was owing him allegiance. But now that his behavior is being questioned, he changes his tune and does exactly what he said is evil and hateful to Yeshua. By agreeing with Johnson that he has a "DIRECT ministry" over all his staff and followers he claims dominion and puts everyone else under him. When ARAM staff questioned his dealings, he began ARAMI to build his own kingdom just as Rood says false apostles do. His supporters like Johnson and McWIlliams use the phrase "his ministry" instead of "his kingdom," but they amount to the same thing.
Glenn McWilliams of Torah Keepers never address the key allegations against Rood for inappropriate behavior. Surprisingly, this "Torah scholar" ignores spiritual concerns while emphasizing the pragmatic business problems. He tells Louis that "If Michael were to retire or resign, in truth... A Rood Awakening Ministries is over." He warns Louis that if Rood left ARAM, Louis' income would be crippled.
While this may be true, a true Torah teacher should place the moral and spiritual integrity of a Torah teacher, such as Rood claims to be, above his economic clout. The apostle Paul himself allowed for allegations against ordained leaders (elders) with certain safeguards when he wrote, "do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publically, so that other may take warning.... keep these instructions without partiality" (2 Timothy 5:19-21). "Without partiality" means that even those who claim a "DIRECT ministry" must be examined and rebuked if they have sinned or acted below godly standards for ministers, which are higher than standards for believers (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1:5-9, which specifically prohibits "dishonest gain" and requires being "blameless"), not lower as Johnson and McWilliams assert. According to Paul, believers not only may- but must- confront sin and error in ministers no matter who they are.
Johnson's and McWilliams' letters are both extremely dangerous in that they set some "ministers" above reproof, give entitlement to ministers who want to spend donations in any (even self-serving) ways they wish, foster secrecy rather than accountability, badger people who see error that must be addressed and promote a pragmatic, business-oriented approach to ministry rather than a Biblical one.
ROOD THINKS AND ACTS LIKE A CULT LEADER
The fact that Rood posted these letters is very disturbing because it shows that Rood thinks exactly like a cult leader, confirming Louis' conclusion. Cult leaders do exactly what Rood did here, they:
- consider themselves above accountability or correction (John 3:20 "Everyone who does evil hates the light and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.)
- bully and threaten people into assisting them without question
- claim unique anointing from God which puts them above everyone else
- disregard and attack others in ministry who disagree or attempt to confront them regarding sin
ROOD'S CONTRADICTIONS AND FAULTY PROCEDURES
Rood's answer to Louis' allegations reveal several contradictions in Rood's thinking. First, he identifies himself as only "a hired spokesman" of ARAM, not a Board member or employee. But whether he is an employee or a self-employed independent contractor, Rood is liable to Social Security and income taxes on his income from ARAM (something he may or may not have filed or paid). Oddly enough, here Rood claims to be only a "hired spokesman" rather than an anointed one with "DIRECT ministry."
Although he admits to being just "a hired spokesman," he acts as though donations to ARAM are his personal property. Both parties agree that Rood took control of $100,000 of video equipment. Rood insists it was donated to him personally while ARAM insists it was donated to ARAM to produce videos featuring Rood. When Rood was speaking at a ARAM-sponsored event, donations were taken. Rood admits that he retained and returned donations (including checks made out to ARAM) because they were intended for him, not for ARAM.
Since Rood admits he was "a hired spokesman" for ARAM, one wonders what right he had to withhold or return donations made at an ARAM-sponsored event.
It appears that both Rood and his friend McWilliams thought that ARAM was "his" ministry and all donations made to ARAM were actually donations to him and should be for his use and under his control.
In the conference call quoted above, Louis mentions that some assets were in fact in Rood's name and some were in Louis' name. It appears that ARAM had very poor practices concerning ownership of assets and perhaps had no clear agreement with Rood regarding his relationship to ARAM and who donations made at ARAM events were for (Rood or ARAM).
Louis hints at this fuzziness in the conference call. He says that Rood is not an employee of ARAM, but that "we just give him money." This seems to suggest what may possibly be a kind of "under the table" payments which the IRS may consider unreported income.
Organizations which produce videos and books frequently own the copyright, not the speakers who are featured in them. This is especially true when they use a "hired spokesman" such as are used in commercials and promotional and educational events. Rood seems to think that anything he appeared in is automatically his, but this is not necessarily so. This may also be an area in which ARAM unwisely did not spell things out in advance.
This may have been the worst possible combination: a speaker who felt donations were his personal property and that he was entitled to use funds as he saw fit, with an organization that had no definite rules regarding use and reporting of funds.
Reputable Christian ministries have clearer relationships between the organization and their prominent speakers. For instance, James Dobson is an employee of Focus on the Family and donations made at Focus events are for Focus, not for him. The same is true of Billy Graham, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Organization.
Both Louis and Rood were formerly leaders in the cult The Way International. Its founder, V. P. Wierwille, also seemed to consider TWI "his" ministry with a sense of entitlement regarding the use of TWI assets such as RVs and airplanes. Like Rood, Wierwille claimed God spoke to him aloud and set him apart for an anointed ministry in which he would teach the Word as it had not been known since the first century.
Rood would be wise to establish better practices for his new organization, with strict rules regarding his income, employment, ownership of assets, and deposit of donations, as well as a strong board which expects Rood to be accountable in detail. However, since Rood published the McWilliams and Johnson letters he has essentially declared himself to be the Anointed Minister who is above question or accountability, and has found new staff who he hopes will support him without question.
Rood's mentor V.P. Wierwille of The Way International (TWI) went through this same transition. When his early followers such as Peter Wade and the First Way Corps questioned his leadership, Wierwille decided to put some "teeth" into his ministry. Wierwille eliminated TWI's board of directors, disbanded the First Corps, and established an authoritarian structure modeled after a tree, with Wierwille himself as the Root, serving as president and as one of just three Trustees who autocratically controlled all aspects of TWI.
RESOLUTION BY COMMITTEE?
Louis established a committee of Torah teachers to address the controversy:
"An arbitration board composed of Torah Teachers and Messianic Leaders from around the USA has been independently established to collect the facts and mediate this controversy. We... will continue to comply fully with their requests to supply documented and confirmed facts." ("ARA Advisory committee Responds to Michael Rood's Accusations," www.unroododespertar.tv/staging_test/statements/statements.html)
Five "elders" were selected on August 27 including Monte Judah and Phil Vellekamp of Lion and Lamb Ministries, Allen Dodge and Neal Brenner of Beit Ernet Ministries, and Todd Bennett, Attorney. September 18 Jamie Louis distributed a letter they had written stating they had reviewed correspondence, financial records and recordings provided by ARAM, but had not yet interviewed Rood. It remains to be seen if Rood believes his "DIRECT ministry" places him above review by these Torah teachers.
To support their claims that ARAM followed correct accounting procedures and did not commit any financial irregularities, the web site posted five financial statements:
- A short statement of facts from A Rood Awakening's (ARA's) bookkeeper Debbie Copper
- Debbie Cooper ARA's bookkeeper answering questions from, the committee members
- a short letter from Connie Mosier, an accountant who is preparing all ARA's books for a CPA certification
- ARA's current profit and loss statements (Jan 2007- July 2007)
- ARA's profit and loss statements (Jan 1, 2006- Dec 31, 2006)
The 2007 statement shows a six-month income of $1,020,522.18 but an operating loss of $125,935.47. It also lists under Other Expenses "Professional Svs - Michael $80,274.52."
The letter from Mosier Services supports ARAM staff rather than Rood's allegations:
"Your business activity and accounting procedures are excellent. Please note on the Profit/Loss statement under other expenses Michael has charged and transferred monies into his account(s) with no receipts. This may fall under Excess Benefit transactions. The IRS may impose an excise tax on any insider who improperly benefits from an excess benefit transaction." (Letter from Connie Mosier of Mosier Services to Jamie Louis, Aug. 23, 2007)
Normally when staff members of organizations are permitted to make purchases, they are required to provide receipts to demonstrate that purchases were for the good of the organization rather than the person. If evidence is not provided, the IRS assumes that the money went into the person's pocket and should be taxed as income (with penalties if tax payments are not made on time). The organization may consider this as either income paid to the person or as fraud. It may also be possible that the IRS would consider some other expenses such as travel, entertainment, rent, etc, to be Rood's personal income rather than expenses of the organization.
The ARAM staff are attempting to show financial transparency in the face of Rood's allegations that financial dealings were hidden and irregular, and that money went into Louis' pocket rather than for the good of ARAM.
If Rood is not in the habit of keeping receipts for ministry expenses, of distinguishing between gifts to himself and gifts to ARAM, and of distinguishing between personal and ministry expenses, he could have some very serious tax liability.
Dr. John Juedes, www.abouttheway.org 2007