Headlines are circling this week about the trial finally getting underway over the 2013 Matthew Fenner abuse allegations. According to allegations, Matthew Fenner was a member and attending a Bible study at Word of Faith Fellowship, in North Carolina, when he was attacked and abused by several church members.
According to Fenner, he was beaten, kicked, punched, and even choked for hours as the congregants tried to expel the “gay spirits” from him. To make matters worse, Fenner was still recovering from cancer treatments. At one point during the attack he even questioned whether or not he would survive to see another day.
“I’m frail and in my mind, I’m thinking, ‘is my neck going to break, am I going to die?’” (Matthew Fenner testimony)
Pastors Sam and Jane Whaley have been known to practice these types of demon expulsions and have been accused before in the past of similar beatings. An ex-member, Michael Lowry, also accused the church of the same type of abuse to rid him of his own “homosexual demons.”
The trial will first being for the accused, Brooke Covington, who has plead not guilty to the allegations by Fenner. She is the first of 5 church members who will be facing a trial and if she is found guilt she can face up to 2 years in prison. The lawyer representing Covington has stated that no abuse took place. Rather, they simply laid hands on Fenner after the service and prayed for him, for about 10-15 minutes.
The 4 other members who will stand trial have yet to see the court room. One defendant, Sarah Anderson, has since left the church, claiming that her 1 year old child was also being abused.
ABOUT WORD OF FAITH FELLOWSHIP CULT
ABOUT THE CHURCH AND LEADERSHIP
Like many Word of Faith churches, Word of Faith Fellowship have a highly spiritual and charismatic form of worship and a leadership with virtual no biblical education. The church was founded by Pastor Sam Whaley, even though his wife, Jane Whaley, tends to run the church now. The church started in 1979, in an old steakhouse and has ballooned to over 750 members.
The pastors claim to only garner a meager 600 dollars per month from the church, however, they live like most Word of Faith pastors, in a mansion. According another ex-member who has written extensively about the cult, Jane claims they live in a modest home.
PREVIOUS ABUSE ALLEGATIONS
Over the years, WOFF has been the subject of a number of abuse allegations. In 2000 they found themselves embroiled in a nasty child custody case between Ben and Pamela McGee. The case was focused on the alleged abuse towards the child of the McGees, which said to have been ordered by the church leaders. Other allegations have been reported, accusing church leadership of ordering parents to discipline their children a certain way. In some cased the allegations claim that the church leaders, themselves, carried out the discipline.
In the McGee case, the testimony seems strangely similar to the Matthew Fenner case. Jim Siemen’s, the lawyer representing the father in the McGee custody case stated,
“It’s more like a family,” she said when asked to describe the church. “You live together, you play together, you eat together.”
She said church leaders “pinpointed” a variety of problems with her son, including declaring that he had “homosexual devils” and “feminine spirits.”
“He was subjected to hours of strong blasting”, she said. Blasting has been referred to by dozens of former church leaders as loud prayer often used by church members to drive out demonic or devilish spirits from a person’s body.
Apparently, the Matthew Fenner case is in-line with previous allegations.
For more insider information about the cult, I highly recommend a book called “Locked In: My Imprisoned Years in a Destructive Cult“. The author, John Huddle, was a member of Word of Faith Fellowship in the 90’s and currently helps survivors of church abuse. Much like other abusive cults like Ernest Angley’s Grace Cathedral or Mercy Multiplied, Word of Faith Fellowship has a vast network of survivors who help people leaving the cult.
In order to combat the testimony of John Huddle, the Word of Faith Fellowship church has placed a video on the front page of the church website, denouncing and accusing John of lying. After watching the video it’s hard to tell if the video is about John or if it’s a building up session about Jane Whaley. In fact, the entire front page of the website is full of videos trying to accuse ex-members of the church of lying about the church.
Details from court documents on the previous allegations can be found on law.justia.com. They have information on the 1995 and 2000 cases as well as other investigations.