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Now Reading: The Prophet, Part 1 – Word of Faith Fellowship

The Prophet, Part 1 – Word of Faith Fellowship

The Prophet part 1 explores The Word of Faith Fellowship.

You will hear about the accused cult leader, Pastor Jane Whaley, who many inside the sect believe is a prophet with direct communication with God.

Jane Whaley-Word of Faith Fellowship accused cult leader in Spindale, North Carolina

Jane Whaley-Word of Faith Fellowship accused cult leader in Spindale, North Carolina

John Cooper grew up in a christian community in Spindale, NC. His church was a big part of his life. He went to school there. He worked there. He even lived with other church members. And when things got out of hand, his church made sure they were always there… whether he liked it or not.

 

When I met John Cooper at a park in Chapel Hill, North Carolina he told me that pastor Jane Whaley called for a meeting with a group of up and coming ministers. You see, some of these young parishioners found themselves in trouble with the church. John remembers Jane saying:

 

John Cooper: Y’all are so out from under authority and you’re giving to so much sin and you’re so wicked so ya’ll young people need to get together and have a revival of sort. There was probably about 40-50 young people that were told to show up. And so we show up on Monday night and people are talking and sharing like they normally did, reading scriptures.

 

These meetings were held two nights in a row. They were asked to go around the room and confess their sins. John remembers he and wife sitting there quietly waiting for their turn.

 

John Cooper: They’re all going around kind of talking about what God is doing in their life, for what sin God is convicting them of. I was just sitting there being quiet. Like trying to figure out, what am I going to say, right? Well over half of people have already said something and they’re working their way around. And my wife and I are both being really quiet here in the corner. And they kind of turned on us and asked, “What are ya’ll giving to? Why are ya’ll sitting over there not opening your heart?”

 

Then, things escalated quickly.

 

John Cooper: Then almost instantaneously they were like, ‘You have unclean in your life. You’re giving to the unclean.’ You’re doing something wrong. Of course they didn’t know anything. They were like, ‘Something is going on between ya’ll.’ So they grabbed me and dragged me out of the chair and threw me on the floor. And then at some point it all becomes a blur because there’s 40-50 people mobbing you and they’re all yelling at you saying you have sin and unclean in your life.

 

John thinks the beating went on for 20 to 30 minutes.

 

John Cooper: So they start yelling at me and then, you know, one of them sits on my legs and another one is just grabbing me by this arm and violently shaking me back a forth and I ended up with bruises on that, like finger marks. And then there were people behind me like whacking me in the back and shaking me around and people grabbing my head. And then this guy just sits on my legs and starts punching me in the chest. And he’s just punching me as hard as he can. And they’re at this point doing the their blasting prayer where they’re all yelling.

 

Blasting, which you can hear in the background, is an ear-piercing, screaming prayer that lasts hours. We’ll talk more about this in a bit. At this point you may have figured out that this is isn’t your typical Christian church.

I’m Javier Leiva and this is Pretend Radio – stories about real people pretending to be someone else.

The Word of Faith Fellowship is congregation lead by Jane Whaley, who many believe she is the prophet with direct communication to God. Before she was ever a the pastor, Jane Whaley described herself as the wife of a preacher and a stay at home mom. Her husband Sam traveled a lot overseas and sometimes left Jane to pastor the church while he was away.

At first, it was hard for Jane to assume the role of pastor because she says she grew up believing women weren’t allowed to be in the ministry. But God spoke to her husband Sam, and he said Jane is the pastor. Later, Jane says she too spoke with God and God told her the same thing. In 1979, God spoke to Jane again and this time he told her to start Word of Faith Fellowship. Since then, the Associated Press has interviewed 43 former members who have describe years of terror, physical abuse and isolation – all in the name of God.

The world didn’t know much about Word of Faith Fellowship until the late 1990s when it was investigated twice for its treatment of children but was eventually cleared of wrongdoing. It wasn’t until 2013 when a young man named Matthew Fenner led law enforcement to investigate. Matthew Fenner claims church members gathered around him in the back of the sanctuary and began deliverance – or beating the gay demons out of him. He said these violent measures were the church’s way of trying to cure his homosexuality.

So, what’s the difference between a cult and a religion? Some may argue there’s no difference at all.

The United States doesn’t distinguish between religions and cults.  In fact, the establishment clause of the First Amendment clearly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Religions and cults share many commonalities. But then again so do country clubs, fraternities and sports teams. There are some clear differences between a legitimate religious organization and a cult. A cult typically has a single, unquestioned leader who makes all the rules and doesn’t have to answer to anybody else. Often, members have to live together in isolation with little to no interaction with friends or family. Cults are known for extreme recruitment methods; often depriving their members of sleep, and food as well as performing brainwashing techniques.

The Word of Faith Fellowship exhibits all of these traits and some. To me, it’s the alleged abuse that concerns me and the fact that some of it may still be happening today. When John Cooper described to me the day they 20 people beat him repeatedly in the chest. He said, that degree of violence wasn’t typical.

Learn more and listen to part 1 of the Prophet on Pretend Radio.

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