Springdale, NC (AP)- Matthew Fenner said he was leaving a Word of Faith prayer service on Jan. 27, 2013, when nearly two dozen people held him captive for two hours, slapping, punching, choking and blasting him to expel his "homosexual demons."
For nearly two years, Fenner said he waged battle with various law enforcement agencies until the five congregants he said administered the worst beatings were charged with kidnapping and assault.
Nearly two more years later, no trial date has been set because of persistent legal wrangling, mostly by defense lawyers who also are Word of Faith members.
Meantime, former congregants say, Pastor Jane Whaley has been working to sabotage the case, holding meetings with congregants to make sure their stories match her narrative: Fenner is a liar.
Jane Whaley reportedly manipulated the narrative of members even in official investigations, subverting government investigations through the influence her network has within government agencies, like the District Attorney's office and state social services.
Read the AP report, here.
When I was pastoring in Minneapolis in 1983, Sam came into the city to conduct a missions conference with Jim Kaseman. He later returned to his native North Carolina to pastor a church there. The odd ministry stories continued to emanate from mutual contacts. A former classmate of mine (David Ward) who also pastored in the Carolinas later told me his wife left him after Jane Wiley prophesied to her that God ordered her to divorce David.
This is all bizarre behavior which Rhema and Kenneth Hagin Ministries clearly does not practice or condone.
There is little that Whaley does not control at Word of Faith, the former followers said:
Members can’t watch television, go to the movies, read newspapers or eat in restaurants that play music or serve alcohol. Men cannot grow beards, and no one can buy a house or even a car without permission.
Sexual thoughts and intercourse are considered “ungodly” or “unclean,” so adult members need permission to date, get married and even have sex after marriage. Ministers dole out condoms because couples are not allowed to have children without Whaley’s authorization.
Several couples said they had to wait up to a year after their weddings before they were allowed to have sexual relations.
Two former members said a 20-year-old woman was repeatedly smacked and punched by a church leader who blamed her late menstrual cycle on pregnancy, when she hadn’t obtained church permission to have a child. In fact, the victim said she’d never had sex with her husband; they’d only kissed — once.
“That was one of the worst beatings,” said Rachael Bryant, 28, who left the church last year. “She started punching her in the chest, punching her in the stomach, slapping her in the face. It went on and on.”
Sixteen of the former members said they were hit or beaten by Whaley, including two who said she banged their heads against a wall repeatedly. Another 14 said they saw her smack or assault others — including grabbing crying babies at services and aggressively shaking them to drive away the demons.
Tim Cornelius, 44, a nurse who left in 2013 after more than 20 years in the church, said that in the eyes of Word of Faith leaders, “The baby isn’t hungry or needs to be changed. The baby is crying because they’re possessed by a devil.”
Some of the worst abuse involving children and teenagers took place inside the church-run school, according to former congregants.
Read the full report at the New York Post.