By John P. Juedes
The Way International (TWI) has worked hard to purge all its followers who are not completely committed to obeying its president, L. Craig Martindale. As a result, many followers have been expelled from The Way's twigs (small, home-based fellowships) or from leadership positions and access to some of the group's activities has been restricted.
The Way's late founder Victor Paul Wierwille installed Martindale as president in 1981 after placing his son, Donald Wierwille, and his closest associate, Howard Allen, on the three-member board of Trustees. These three officers, who alone are technically members of TWI, control all aspects of The Way's policy, operations, finances and teachings.
After Wierwille died of cancer in 1985, the group endured a power struggle among top leadership which it now calls "the fog years." Since then, perhaps 25,000 of its peak active "membership" of 35,000 left the group. Many began splinter groups of various sizes, which continued to draw followers away from the Martindale faction.
In recent years, Martindale has tried to solidify his position as president with complete power over The Way's followers, using purging as his primary weapon. TWI claims that this puts them out of the household of God, not just out of TWI.
REASONS FOR PURGING
Martindale has selected several types of people to "purge, mark and avoid." After 10% of W.O.W. Ambassadors (volunteers who served as TWI missionaries for year-long terms) in 1994 were suspected to be homosexual, Martindale spearheaded an effort to expose and expel all "homos" and "homo sympathizers" from the group, beginning with its leadership. Rev. Ed Horney bragged that "163 sodomites" had been purged in a nine month period (Highlights of The Way Corps Graduation tape, June 1995).
The group has since sought to discipline (by withholding communion) or purge all who do not tithe their income to TWI. TWI has long taught the importance of tithing and "abundant sharing" (giving more than 10% to TWI). Now Martindale is emphasizing "plurality giving," in which followers determine their needs and then give all income over that amount to TWI.
Martindale has also taught the past three years that believers should not be in debt, even to buy homes. This means that nearly all devoted followers have sold their homes (if they owned them but could not pay off the debt) and now rent. Martindale also expects husbands to have complete control over their wives. He also promotes big families.
OBEYING "THE MAN OF GOD"
Most of all, Martindale demands that all Wayers accept his teachings and follow his instructions without question. When he teaches, he expects people to accept his words as God's own direction.
The Way Magazine repeatedly lauds those who show "tremendous support for our man of God." Followers should come to classes "ready to receive the present truth taught by Rev. L. Craig Martindale," who is "the man for this day and hour." Graduating Corps share the salt covenant with him, "sealing their full commitment to stand with him" (September-October 1996, pp. 19, 16, 21).
Martindale is especially angry at anyone who listens to the group's defectors and critics. For instance, many Wayers heard that Way researcher John Schoenheit had written a research paper which prompted Martindale to fire him. However, Way leadership utterly forbade everyone from reading it or even listening to someone who knew any details about it. Contact with ex-Way splinter groups and leaders like Christian Educational Services and Chris Geer is prohibited.
Those who do what he says and give more than a tithe to TWI are considered "faithful, standing" believers.
These are all common elements of mind control. Group pressure, public condemnations, "mark and avoid" (complete shunning), prohibiting outside contacts, positive believing (filtering out all negative thoughts about TWI and its leadership), fear and guilt all exert tremendous pressure on Wayers. Publicly, Way leaders encourage followers to think for themselves, but everything they do and say is designed to control what their followers ear, accept and do.
MARTINDALE TAKES CENTER STAGE
Martindale is in the process of replacing V. P. Wierwille as the focus of his followers' faith. He has systematically been replacing Wierwille's classes with his own classes on the same topics. The core of Way teaching had been Wierwille's Foundational, Intermediate and Advanced classes on Power for Abundant Living. Martindale recently replaced them with the Foundational, Intermediate and Advanced classes on The Way of Abundance and Power. He also produced classes on "The Believer's Family" and "Defeating the Adversary" to replace Wierwille's classes with similar titles.
The "Abundance and Power" classes have already been taught to Way leadership. The Foundational class was first made generally available in October 1996, but only to those who faithfully attend a twig fellowship and who pay the $100 fee.
Martindale's new Foundational class reportedly does not include much material on biblical research principles, which dominated the first half of V. P. Wierwille's class. Actually, all this material can be found in Wierwille's book Power for Abundant Living, which is nearly an edited transcript of the first part of the class. Martindale goes into more detail on the evil of homosexuality, the benefits of holy spirit, the manifestations (such as speaking in tongues), Jesus Christ is not God, "the deep," "the flooding" and other new topics.
TWI reports that 770 new students graduated from the Advanced classes in the last year.
Martindale also ended the annual "Rock of Ages" national gathering in 1996, replacing it with smaller, private conferences of "faithful" Way followers. This is a major change, since the "Rock" had been the group's showcase and central event for some 25 years.
Martindale prides himself in "redefining" the Way ministry. This included replacing the W.O.W. Ambassadors with The Way Disciples. He has systematically removed people from staff positions and replaced them with recent Corps graduates who have been trained in his "redefined" ways.
Followers are sometimes asked to answer questionnaires which list classes they have taken, and are pressured to take the new ones. They are also told to subscribe to Martindale's newest teachings in The Way Magazine and on Sunday night service tapes.
They were also told to burn books, music, pictures and other materials which were published by TWI, but authored by people who no longer "stand" with Martindale now. This included books by former Way leaders such as Walter Cummins and John Lynn. A visit to TWI's bookstore at its New Knoxville, Ohio headquarters shows how paltry their remaining selection of written publications is. It is ironic that a group that calls itself a "Biblical Research and Teaching" ministry publishes so little research and teaching.
This "house cleaning" has further reduced The Way's numbers, leaving what they call a "remnant." It has also prompted TWI to class Way Corps as Active, Emeritus, Alumni (in the ministry but without Corps privileges), and Dropped (probably over 80% of Corps graduates are no longer with TWI).
CHANGE IN TRUSTEES
Rev. Rosalie Rivenbark replaced Donald Wierwille as Vice President of TWI at the groups annual anniversary observance in October 1996. Donald, the founder's son, had been a trustee for 19 years. His father and the trustees who served with him only left office when they were aged and ready to retire. Since Wierwille is not yet that old and apparently not ill, this change has raised unspoken questions in many followers' minds.
Rivenbark was a graduate of Family Corps II (in about 1978), was ordained by TWI in 1981 and has worked on Way publications for many years. Most of all, she has complete commitment to Martindale and TWI.
Meanwhile, Martindale's "redefining" of The Way International continues, with increasing elements of mind control and of devotion to its president.
C. 1996 Personal Freedom Outreach Journal / 1160 words / wypurge
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