THE WAY INTERNATIONAL IN 2011
The Fortieth Way Corps class graduated July 23, 2011 at The Way International Headquarters. Corps leadership Rev Greg Bolchalk and Mr. Bryan Mittler assisted in the ceremony which graduated 14 adults. Grads received Corps rings and President Rivenbark administered the salt covenant to each.
Earlier that month about 50 students from 23 states and three international countries gathered at Camp Gunnison for The 2011 Advanced Class on The Way of Abundance and Power. The two week, forty hour class included video lectures, four study groups led by in-residence Way Corps and meetings with a “share-pair” partner. The 2012 Advanced Class will be held in June 2012 at the New Knoxville headquarters.
TWI celebrated its 69th anniversary in October 2011, counting from the day founder V. P. Wierwille said God spoke to him audibly and promised he would teach Wierwille the Word “as it had not been known since the first century.” TWI said that 1,450 Wayers from 175 cities in North America attended the service in New Knoxville, while the service was followed by more Wayers at 151 telephone locations in 40 states. They also commissioned the Way Disciples of Outreach Group XVIII to serve for six months in five US cities.
Since The Way’s drastic decline in membership in the late 1980s (which is seen in the low numbers of people in the Corps and in classes), many properties were sold and Camp Gunnison became underutilized. Graduates of the Foundational Class on The Way of Abundance and Power can now rent rooms at the Camp for “Getaways” at which they can enjoy recreational activities in the mountains around Gunnison, which is a popular tourist destination.
The Way’s 2011 theme is “Living the Word’s Way: Dwelling Together in the Lord.” Rosalie Rivenbark continues to be President, but unlike previous Presidents Martindale and Wierwille, seldom teaches at the Sunday Night Services. Instead, there is a rotation of teachers. For example, 16 different individuals taught at the 16 Sunday Teaching services from June to September, which prevents any of them from becoming the public face of the organization.
TWI defines itself as a research ministry. But they implicitly admit they don’t do much research anymore. The “About Us” page on their web site says, “We do not commit our work to publication until we are fully persuaded on a subject.” Apparently it takes them a very, very long time to do this, because the only research books published by TWI listed on its web site are by founder V.P. Wierwille, who died 27 years ago. The newest book was published in 1982, back when 5 ¼ inch floppy disks were cutting edge technology in computers and Jimmy Carter had just left the presidency. TWI offers a two-year reading plan of Wierwille’s books. The only book TWI published recently is The Illustrated Word, an 88 page children’s book which recycles illustrations from old issues of The Way Magazine.
TWI still emphasizes central control and large donations to itself. An article on its web site, www.theway.org, titled “Pattern for Growth” details four principles of growth. One is supervision of home fellowships by TWI ministers who visit and write to them. Another is “giving of plurality,” which is “giving beyond the tithe to help further the work of the ministry” (TWI has long used the term “the ministry” to refer to itself). “Giving of plurality” used to be called “abundant sharing” in TWI, and goes directly to the national headquarters.
Current leadership includes “Senior Officers” President Rivenbark, Vice President Rico Magnelli and Secretary-Treasurer Jean-Yves De Lisle. Serving on the Board of Directors for the 2011-2012 year are Chm. Rivenbark, De Lisle, Robert McCulloch, John Rupp and Greg Shaffer. The Board of Directors was called the Board of Trustees until after 2002. At that time there were only three on the Board, including Harve Platig.
Rivenbark has spent recent years restoring founder V. P. Wierwille to prominence in TWI. The previous president, Craig Martindale, worked to reduce dependency on Wierwille, while increasing his own prominence. Ten years ago Wierwille could not be found on TWI’s website, but now the name is prominent. Perhaps Rivenbark wants to bring back the “glory years” of TWI, an impossible task. TWI tries to cultivate this nostalgia by promoting Just the Way it Was, a book of memoirs by Dorothy Owens, the wife of the first vice president of TWI who died some 30 years ago, and Born Again to Serve, memoirs from Wierwille’s deceased wife. TWI today is nothing like TWI in the early years, nor anything like TWI in its peak years in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
TWI’s website is relatively static and offers no forums, no email address, and no way to purchase materials on line.
Dr. John Juedes, 2011