| The Way International
|| Claims founding date of ; incorporated in 1947; incorporated as "The Way" in 1955 |
| Board of Directors:
The Way International is a religious organization founded by Victor Paul Wierwille. It claims a founding date of 1942, the year Wierwille began his Vesper Chimes radio program, a.k.a. the Chimes Hour Youth Caravan. The Way describes itself as a Christian biblical research, teaching and fellowship ministry that teaches others how to understand the Bible and operate the "9 manifestations of holy spirit". Critics accuse the group of being a cult; some point out inconsistencies between The Way's doctrines and orthodox Christianity. This group is non-trinitarian and believes Jesus Christ is the savior and the Son of God, but not God Himself.
The Way International founder Victor Paul Wierwille was ordained by the Evangelical and Reformed Church
in 1941 and took his first assignment in Payne, Ohio
. In 1942 Wierwille started the Vesper Chimes radio show as part of his church's youth ministry. The radio ministry was incorporated in 1947 as The Chimes Hour Youth Caravan
; Wierwille changed the name to “The Way, Inc.” in October 1955. The Way considers the first broadcast of Vesper Chimes in 1942 as its founding date.
Wierwille told the story that, in 1942, after only a year as an ordained minister, he was already frustrated with a lack of results and was ready to “chuck it all.” He claimed God spoke to him audibly that fall, telling Wierwille that he (God) would teach Wierwille “The Word like it hadn't been known since the First Century” if he would teach it to others. In the early seventies, Wierwille added to this account, saying that God confirmed this promise by making it snow on an otherwise clear day. There is, however, no official meteorological record of snow falling on this day. Wierwille, in his Power for Abundant Living series of classes, said that at one time he dragged over 3000 volumes of theological works to the city dump, and from that point on, used the Bible as his only textbook.
Power For Abundant Living
Despite this promise to be taught by God himself, Wierwille was again ready to give up on his mission a decade later; his "ministry" was still confined to his pastoral assignment and his radio program. He relates in The Way: Living in Love
that a turning point was when he first spoke in tongues during a "Full Gospel" rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, December, 1951. According to Wierwille, an unexpected snowstorm shut down the airports, trains and buses, giving him the opportunity to meet J.E. Stiles, the man who would lead him into speaking in tongues. Meteorological records show no snow of any note during this time period . Wierwille's wife, Dorothea, gave a different account of this alleged snowstorm in Born Again to Serve,
writing the connecting airport was experiencing snow and sleet was predicted for Tulsa the following week. When asked about this for an article in The Way's Heart Magazine,
Wierwille speculated that it may have been an angel that he spoke to on the phone, telling him of the snowstorm.
Shortly after this experience, Wierwille traveled to Calgary, Alberta to take B.G. Leonard's "Gifts of the Spirit" class. Almost immediately upon his return, in October of 1953, Wierwille began teaching the class he initially called "Receiving the Holy Spirit Today," which was similar to Leonard's class, including names of characters such as Maggie Muggins. He claimed that his class was an original work based on his own research and study. He soon changed the name of his class to "Power for Abundant Living" (PFAL).
PFAL grew and evolved from being virtually identical to Leonard's "Gifts of the Spirit" class (according to The Way: Living in Love, during the teaching of Wierwille's first live class, graduates of Leonard's class were considered "grads") to a vehicle for Wierwille's own mix of ideas and theology.
Wierwille initially taught this class live, traveling to areas where there was interest in it, rarely allowing others to teach the class in his place. In 1967, the Foundational/Intermediate class was filmed (the one-hour section on Interpretation of Tongues & Prophesy was later expanded into a full Intermediate class and filmed in the early 1970s). This allowed classes to be run without Wierwille's presence, facilitating growth. An "Advanced Class" was taught regularly, usually at the headquarters in New Knoxville. This class was taught live by Wierwille until filmed versions were put together from live teachings in the late 1970s.
Beginnings of The Way
Although The Way International considers its founding to be in October 1942, Wierwille did not incorporate under the name "The Way" until 1955 and did not begin independent operations until 1957, when he left the Evangelical and Reformed Church. His departure from his church followed a trip to India and the Middle East where he was critical of his denomination's mission policies. Wierwille taught meetings in his home, and later in the Ecumenical Biblical Research Center (eventually shortened to simply The Biblical Research Center, or BRC) which he had built on his family's farm in 1961 after he moved back, establishing it as The Way International headquarters. Wierwille continued to teach PFAL, and added seminars called "Summer School" each summer, where he would teach the Advanced Class, as well as other specialized classes.
A Board of Directors, made up of supporters and graduates of Wierwille's classes, helped Wierwille with his growing ministry, until, according to Dorothea Wierwille in her book Born Again to Serve, Wierwille disbanded the Board in the late fifties. A letter from Wierwille explaining his reasons for this action is reproduced in Born Again to Serve. Wierwille wrote that the Board was not supporting him in his decisions and it was not their purpose to argue with him, but to support his decisions. From then on, The Way was run by a three-man Board of Trustees made up of Wierwille as President, long-time friend Ermal Owens as Vice-President, and Wierwille's brother Harry as Secretary-Treasurer.
The Way's membership growth increased in the late 1960s and early 1970s, coincident with Wierwille's visit to the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco in January 1968, where he sought out a group of young people who were having success reaching people with their Christian message. Several leaders of this movement began using PFAL as a teaching tool and incorporated in New York and California as independent ministries called The Way East and The Way West. According to ex-Way member Karl Kahler in The Cult That Snapped
, Wierwille took over these organizations and incorporated them into The Way International, bringing all organizations using PFAL under the Way International umbrella.
In 1970, the "Word Over the World Ambassador" outreach program was begun in order to facilitate recruitment. Volunteers signed up for one year to recruit people to TWI. Word Over the World (WOW) Ambassadors were required to find their own part-time work and spend time "witnessing" for a set number of hours each week. Typically, WOW "families" consisted of four individuals, although married couples with children sometimes were part of WOW families as well. Some WOWs were sent out in teams or "branches" of two to seven "families," although isolated single "family" groups were common as well. In some years, cities designated as "Outreach Cities" were sent hundreds of WOWs at a time. The program was discontinued in 1995 and replaced a year later by the six-month "Way Disciples Outreach Program." Growth continued into the late 1980s in all 50 states and many other countries, especially in the European, South American and African continents. WOW festivals modeled after the Rock of Ages festival were held in Great Britain, several South American countries and in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo).
Rock of Ages
A yearly gathering of Way followers in New Knoxville, Ohio
, known as "The Rock of Ages Festival
," was a popular Way event from 1970 until 1995, when it was discontinued. One of the purposes of the festival was to welcome home returning WOW Ambassadors and to send out a new group on their yearly assignment. Some regional groups (states are known as "Limbs") now hold annual meetings instead. According to Way Corps conferences, one reason for the termination of the festival was the suspected teenage sexual relations
on campus grounds .
Leadership of The Way
Wierwille was the leader of The Way from its beginnings; he held the title of President until 1982, when he chose L. Craig Martindale as his replacement. Although there was a Board of Directors in the fifties and later a Board of Trustees with two other members besides Wierwille, there seems to be no doubt that Wierwille was The Way's decision maker. After Wierwille died on May 20,1985 of Hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer) and melanoma(cancer of the eye, a period of disagreement developed between some of the organization's leaders and followers, lasting until the early 1990s, along with a general decline in numbers. (See section below on "Splinter Groups")
L. Craig Martindale was the president of The Way International from 1982-2000. He joined The Way in 1971. He served as head of the Way Corps training program from 1977 to 2000 (retaining the position through his presidency) and had many articles published in The Way Magazine. He taught most Sunday Teaching Services during his presidency. He also wrote a book titled The Rise and Expansion of the Christian Church in the First Century.
In 2000, Martindale's term as president was ended following allegations of sexual misconduct and Rev. Rosalie F. Rivenbark replaced him. A minor change in the structure of the Board of Directors leadership body was introduced in October, 2005 at The Way's anniversary weekend. The new structure included three vice presidents instead of the single vice president used previously.
The Way International's division of duties and geographical regions was at one time based on the physical structure of a tree. While this is still generally the case, the tree structure is no longer used as rigorously as it once was.
The headquarters in New Knoxville, Ohio and the Way Corps training location in Gunnison, Colorado are considered "root" locations. Each country in which The Way International operates is called a "trunk". Each state in the United States is called a "limb" and each "limb" can contain a number of subdivisions called "branches". Several limbs are grouped into "regions". Finally, each "branch" consists of several household fellowships (which used to be called "twigs"). During the height of TWI's membership in the eighties, intermediate divisions known as "Territories" and "Areas" were used as well. The term "leaf" was at one time used to describe an individual follower, but was dropped during the 1990s Currently followers simply call each other "follower", "disciple" or "believer". (The phrase "follower of The Way" appeared in brochures printed by the organization through most of the 1980s.)
The Way focuses on the household fellowship as the most basic organizational unit. These meetings are run in the home by volunteers who have completed the four biblical studies classes taught by The Way. These men and women are called "fellowship coordinators". The Way International claims no official "membership" other than the Board of Directors and in theory, no attendance commitment. However, The Way discourages continuing in meetings or taking their classes if no on-going commitment has been evidenced.
Trustees and Directors
Founder and first President
- Ermal L. Owens (??–1977)
- Donald Wierwille (1977–1997)
- Rosalie F. Rivenbark (1997–2001)
- Harve J. Platig (2001–2005)
- Vince McFadden (2005–present)
- Roger Mittler (2005–present)
- John Rupp (2005–present)
The Way features a three-level series of classes that teach the beliefs and doctrine of the organization:
- The Foundational Class on The Way of Abundance and Power
- The Intermediate Class on The Way of Abundance and Power
- The Advanced Class on The Way of Abundance and Power
The first two classes are taught in areas where there are active Way fellowships when there is sufficient demand, but the Advanced Class is taught at the Way Headquarters every summer. To reach the Advanced class, one must have taken the Foundational and Intermediate classes twice, as well as the "Defeating the Adversary" class.
After the completion of the above series, specially themed Advanced Class Special weekends become available. Further classes offered include:
- Defeating the Adversary
- Living God's Word as a Family
- Practical Keys to Biblical Research
These classes can be taken after completion of "The Intermediate Class".
For many years, the main class offering of The Way was the three-level "Power for Abundant Living" (PFAL) class. This class was taught live by Wierwille beginning in the early 50's and was offered in video and audio tape form from 1967 until it was replaced by Martindale's class in the mid-nineties. After Martindale's departure from TWI his "Foundational Class on The Way of Abundance and Power" was re-worked and re-filmed, and the resulting class (with the same name) was released in March, 2006.
The Way Corps
In 1970 Wierwille formalized his selection and training of leaders by starting "The Way Corps". Wierwille, who had no experience in developing training programs of any kind, claimed that the inspiration for the term "Way Corps" came from his admiration for the United States Marine Corps
Prior to the First Corps, which began training in 1970, Wierwille invited a group of Way followers to New Knoxville for training and teaching. He disbanded the group for reasons which were never made public, other than a statement in The Way: Living in Love that they "couldn't get it together among themselves", and that Wierwille "gave them the privilege to leave" In later years, this group was referred to as "The Zero Corps". (Groups who trained and graduated from the program together were at one time referred to "First Corps", "Second Corps" etc., referring to the order in which they graduated.)
Originally, the Way Corps was a 2-year "in-residence" training program, with participants living and working at Way International Headquarters on Wierwille's former family farm. After a few years, an "interim" year was inserted between the 2 years where the Way Corps student was given a 1-year assignment before completing training (the Family Corps, a Way Corps program for families that included children, usually had this year tacked onto the end and was called a "practicum" year). Eventually, an apprentice year was added before the on-campus training when a prospect was expected to meet certain requirements, including raising tuition and sponsorship. As currently constituted, the first preparatory year is called the "Candidate Year", followed by an "Apprentice Year" when the prospect works on staff at headquarters or as a Way Disciple. The final two years are spent training at The Way's Gunnison Colorado facility.
After completing the Advanced class, a follower may apply for enrollment. Before one can enter the program, however, the local leadership approves the applicant's entrance. Tuition and sponsorship requirements, as well as class prerequisites, change from time to time.
Upon completion of the four-year course, graduates receive a non-accredited
degree in theology. The graduating Way Corps can be sent out to different states or countries to start fellowships or fulfill other assigned responsibilities, or remain at Headquarters or Gunnison as "staff". Way Corps duties include providing leadership at all levels and carrying out decisions made by the root leadership of the Way International. Way Corps promotional materials mention "A Lifetime of Christian Service"; at times this has been interpreted as a lifetime commitment to serve in The Way Corps and accept assignments wherever they might be.
After the formation of the Way Corps few non-Corps were appointed to leadership positions above the local fellowship level. Virtually all ordained clergy and all leaders above the level of Household Fellowship Coordinator are Way Corps graduates.
Ordination and Clergy
Neither graduation from the Way Corps nor accepting a high leadership position guarantee ordination. Ordination during the Wierwille and Martindale years was entirely at the discretion of the President, and requirements were never explicitly specified. Although clergy, who used the title "Reverend", were held in high regard, ordination did not assure high office. At times state or region coordinators, and even members of the Board of Trustees were laymen, while clergymen and women were fellowship coordinators, or without official responsibility whatsoever.
Dismissal From Way Corps
A member may be dropped from being Way Corps at any time without prior notice, although in recent years this practice has become uncommon. A policy titled Mark and Avoid
was a major contributor to Way Corps discharge.
Miscellaneous Way Corps Information
- At the time the Fifth Corps began training in 1974, a program called "The Family Corps" was started, primarily for Corps candidates with minor children. Family Corps 1 began training with the Fifth Corps, Family Corps 2 with the Sixth Corps, etc. Several years ago, possibly due to declining numbers, the regular Way Corps and Family Corps were again combined. Groups called "Recognized Corps" and "Special Corps" were instituted for limited times during the late 70's.
- At Rock of Ages 1995, the final ROA festival, Martindale, noting no members of the First Way Corps were active with The Way International, designated long-standing Way followers such as Don Wierwille and Dorothy Owens as "The First Corps".
- Numbers of trainees in each group have fluctuated over the years. The first several groups had fewer than a dozen each, while later graduating classes numbered higher than 400. Recent Corps groups have been in the single digits.
- The title of Corps Alumni was given to those who dropped out of the role of active Way Corps, as opposed to being removed from this position.
TWI Beliefs and Doctrines
This is not an exhaustive list, but contains many of the beliefs and doctrines of TWI.
The Bible, the Word of God
The Way International believes the Bible is the written Word and revealed Will of God. The Way teaches extensively regarding errors in translation in versions of the Bible, pointing out what things, such as punctuation, chapter headings and chapter and verse divisions, were added by translators.
Whenever possible the Bible should be interpreted literally, although figurative usage is allowed in some instances. Related to this, it is taught that the Bible "interprets itself", i.e. once figures of speech, orientalisms (idioms from the Middle East of Biblical times), archaic usage of words and mistranslations are taken into account, the meaning of Biblical passages is clear and not open to "private interpretation". In theory anyone using the "keys to The Word's interpretation" as taught in their classes would be able to discern the correct meaning of any passage of scripture. Any disagreement then would be resolved by "going to the Word". Wierwille's interpretation was considered the correct one. During Martindale's presidency, research was defined as "re-searching" existing TWI publications.
Nature of Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ had no existence before his birth except in the mind (foreknowledge) of God. Although Jesus was a perfect sinless man, he was only a man, 'the second Adam', not God. Wierwille asserted that God and Jesus Christ are separate, independently-thinking entities who are literally father and son. He also held that Jesus Christ did not exist until God created sperm which fertilized an ovum in Mary's womb; he did not have any consciousness until she gave birth to him.
Holy Spirit vs. holy spirit
Regarding the Holy Spirit, Wierwille taught that there is a distinction between "The Holy Spirit" and "holy spirit", with the former referring directly to God the Father, while the latter refers to the gift from God (a.k.a. "the gift of holy spirit" or "Christ in us"). In Receiving the Holy Spirit Today
he put forth his view that translators lacked understanding when they did not distinguish between upper case and lower case usage. .
Manifestations of Holy Spirit (including Speaking in Tongues)
There are nine manifestations of holy spirit and every Christian has the inherent ability to operate all nine. The list of "manifestations" is derived from 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 (King James Version). The Way maintains that speaking in tongues energizes and enables the "effectual operation" of the other eight manifestations.
According to Wierwille, speaking in tongues is " ... the believer's external manifestation in the senses world of the internal reality and presence of the power of the holy spirit". According to The Way, speaking in tongues should only be interpreted in a meeting where other believers are present and should never be interpreted in a believer's private prayer life. They believe numerous benefits derived from speaking in tongues exist.
Four Crucified with Christ
Jesus was raised on Saturday and there were four people crucified with him, not two. Wierwille points out different Greek words were used for those crucified with Jesus in the different gospel accounts, as well as discrepancies in timing, statements, and actions of the characters in the narrative.
The cross upon which Jesus was crucified was not the traditional t-shaped cross, but rather a stake or tree.
Death & Resurrection
Only those "born again" (i.e., believers who lived after Pentecost, according to The Way International), will be gathered together with Jesus Christ upon his return in the sky. Everyone who died before the day of Pentecost (including the men and women of the Old Testament), everyone who has lived after Pentecost but was not born again, and those who will live in the tribulation period will be raised in the "Resurrection of the Just" or the "Resurrection of the Unjust".
Water baptism was never intended as a continuing practice in the Church after Pentecost. It is believed that water baptism belongs only to the "Gospel Age" from John the Baptist's ministry until the day of Pentecost, and that spiritual baptism takes place once a believer is born again, making water baptism obsolete.
Eternal Life Cannot Be Lost
Once a person is born again (per Romans 10:9 and 10 - confess Christ as Lord and believe he was raised from the dead), they receive holy spirit and cannot lose it or the resultant eternal life through any sinful acts. Since receiving holy spirit is acquiring a part of God's spirit, and therefore sonship, it is compared to the irrevocableness of receiving physical sonship from a human parent.
The Way teaches tithing (giving 10% of one's net income) as a Biblically-based minimum requirement of giving to the church. Additional giving is called "abundant sharing". An additional term, "plurality giving", was coined to refer to calculating the amount of money or items one needs to live on, and giving all the rest. There was no "official" requirement to tithe or abundantly share, but the concept was strongly promoted, and those who didn't were not considered to be "doing the Word". Wierwille included his booklet on abundant sharing, "Christians Should Be Prosperous", in his foundational class materials. Martindale frequently promoted increasing one's proportion of giving in Sunday teachings.
Five Gift Ministries
There are five "gift ministries", or abilities of service, Jesus Christ gave to the Church — apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. The lives of those who perform these functions for the service of the church are considered a gift from God.
The Seven Administrations
There are seven "administrations", or distinct periods of time governed by certain promises and commands God has given Man at key points in history. Therefore, some parts of the Bible are written to people in this administration and other parts are not, but are for our learning.
Five Sonship Rights
Every Christian has five basic rights as sons and daughters of God. These fundamental rights are righteousness, redemption, justification, sanctification, and the ministry of reconciliation.
Paul's Thorn in the Flesh
The Way maintains the "thorn in the flesh" referred to in 2 Corinthians 12:7
refers to an individual sent by Satan to disrupt his ministry. They assert the thorn in the flesh was not an illness.
(7) And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
Cry of Triumph
This phrase was left in the verse Mark 15:34
because the King James translators were unsure of its meaning:
- (34) And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" Which is, being interpreted, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
The Way maintains this phrase is better translated, "My God, my God, for this reason I was preserved (or spared)!".
Without Form and Void
Wierwille taught that in Genesis 1:2
- (2) And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
... the Hebrew word for "was" [hayah] is better translated "became". Therefore, the earth was not made without form and empty of life, but it became that way (by a cataclysmic event ... the fall of Lucifer and 1/3 of the angels).
Second Way President L. Craig Martindale, in his class "The Way of Abundance and Power", (WayAP) taught, the "becoming without form and void" was related to the "face of the deep" being frozen. The fall of 1/3 of the angels with Lucifer was physically to "the face of the deep" and their absence of light froze it. This was so catastrophic, all light in universe was extinguished and all life wiped out until God commanded "Let there be light".
The Original Sin of Mankind
Wierwille, in his class "Christian Family and Sex", taught the literal original sin of mankind was masturbation. He reasoned the Tree of Life from Genesis could be compared to verses where people were figuratively referred to as trees. He further compared the fruit of the tree of knowledge with the human genitalia, from whence human fruit, i.e, children, proceeds and came to the conclusion that Adam and Eve's sin was a sexual sin, masturbation.
Martindale, in the Foundational Class on The Way of Abundance and Power, changed this Way doctrine, concluding that virtually every word in Genesis 3:6 had a sexual connotation. Influenced by his belief that homosexuality was the lowest degradation of sexuality, he taught that the original sin of mankind was Eve having lesbian sex with the Devil, who had "come into concretion" in the form of a beautiful woman. In the current version of The Way of Abundance and Power this topic is no longer a part of the class, but there has been no retraction of the teaching itself.
Lists some of TWI's more controversial practices
Mark and Avoid
"Mark and Avoid" is a term for a form of shunning
involving the separation of certain people from the main body of followers in the Way. The term is derived from the Biblical
passage Romans 16:17 (King James Version
, boldface added for emphasis)
- (17) Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
This practice is reportedly used when, according to the judgment of the Board of Directors of The Way International, a person has met the criteria which would warrant separation from the other followers of The Way. In recent years, usage of the Mark and Avoid system has declined. Mark and Avoid was introduced by Martindale during his tenure. "Spiritual Probation" was an intermediate step introduced by Martindale in which a follower was prohibited from contact with active followers for a set period of time, usually six months. When certain criteria were met, the follower was allowed back into full participation in Way activities. Generally, a letter to a high level coordinator was required, outlining the steps to be taken by the follower to ensure the "error" was corrected and they were back "on the Word". Abundant sharing was also required during this period.
Oversight By Leaders
The Way teaches that their leaders are spiritually responsible for Way followers, and that these followers are in turn responsible to obey their leaders. The manner in which this belief was implemented varied. In general, adherence became stricter as time went on. In the mid-nineties, Way followers were expected to submit weekly schedules to their leaders, as well as reveal the details of their finances.
In the mid-nineties The Way began to teach extensively on debt, taking a position that God's Will was for a believer to have no debt, including car loans and mortgages. Eventually it became a requirement for all active Way Corps to be debt-free. A prerequisite for enrollment in the Advanced Class on the Way of Abundance and Power
and various "Advanced Class Specials" was that the student be debt-free. Participants in Way fellowships were encouraged to get or stay out of debt, sometimes selling homes to meet this standard.
In July 1994, President L. Craig Martindale sent an explicitly-worded, critical letter to Way Corps members saying "The Way Ministry household can be anything but a haven for the devil spirits from hell that turn people into the lowest of the low, called sodomites or homosexual"
The Way had always been against homosexuality, but the letter stated that in times past, Dr. Wierwille said it would take being caught "in the act" for a follower to be immediately dismissed. Now, however, Martindale called a "genuine spiritual suspicion" grounds enough for investigating someone's sexual orientation. Those who "genuinely want help" and "keep themselves clean" might eventually be allowed back into classes and ministry functions, pending leadership approval.
The letter was followed the next month by the Rock of Ages festival in August 1994, which had convened closed meetings of first The Way Corps, then Advanced Class graduates, and also veterans of the W.O.W. Ambassador program discussing his belief that homosexuals had infiltrated the W.O.W. program and the ministry at large. He described this infiltration as "an attack of the Adversary" (the Devil) and outlined steps to combat what he saw as a major problem.
The following years saw many confrontation sessions. "Mark & Avoid" and "Spiritual Probation" increased markedly.
By the early 1990s, following the 1982 retirement of Wierwille and his death in 1985, several splinter groups had formed from the main body of The Way:
The formation of splinter groups took place in the wake of actions by L. Craig Martindale after his appointment to replace Wierwille, including the implementation of new rules and beliefs, and the dissension among its leadership when Rev. Chris Geer initially read the authored 40,000 word document titled "The Passing of the Patriarch" to the Trustee leadership and Way headquarters staff. In it, Geer claimed that Wierwille, during his final weeks, revealed observations, concerns and recommendations regarding the unbiblical direction of the Way and the lack of Biblical leadership by Martindale. The document was later read to the Way Corps who disseminated the information throughout The Way.
The splinter groups' presence as organizations became significant in 1989, when L. Craig Martindale fired all Way staff-including local "branch", "territory", "limb" and "region" leaders who did not swear an "oath of allegiance" to him. Martindale demanded that Way leaders declare openly whether they were supporting him or Geer as titular leader of The Way. Many leaders, as well as followers, saw this demand as unbiblical and withdrew voluntarily from association from The Way. Others, including those who did not choose sides, were dismissed. Shortly afterwards, Martindale sent a letter to all members announcing the firings. In the aftermath, according to figures cited by Martindale at The 1994 Word in Business and Profession Conference in Dallas, Texas, approximately 80% of the membership at the time had left The Way either by their own decision or by being dismissed. Large numbers of ex-Way followers formed the foundation of the splinter groups.
Criticism and Cult Allegations
The Way International has long been accused of being a cult
. Some accusations are based upon alegations of sexual abuse , excessive control over members' lives and allegations of brainwashing In some instances, family members who weren't a part of The Way would hire deprogrammers
to abduct their loved one from one of the campuses because they believed exposure to these doctrines or the followers was harmful.
Due to many of The Way's beliefs the group is considered heretical by a number of denominations.
The group has been alleged to use "love bombing
" to control its initiates. These allegations initially occurred in the 1970s, but accusations and allegations about control of members continue to this day on various ex-Way websites.
Racism and Anti-Semitism
The Way has also been accused of racism
in times past, due to references of controversial Holocaust denial
books The Hoax of the Twentieth Century
, and The Myth of the Six Million. Arthur Koestler
's The Thirteenth Tribe
, also promoted by The Way, does not promote Holocaust denial or anti-Semitism, but its controversial thesis on the origins of modern Jews has been adopted by some anti-Semites.
Side-by-side comparisons of Wierwille's works with previously-published works by other authors, including J.E. Stiles and E.W. Bullinger
, show many instances of word-for-word copying, indicating plagiarism in at least some of Wierwille's books. J.E. Stiles and B.G. Leonard, other authors whom Wierwille was said to have borrowed from, are mentioned by Wierwille at various times, but not credited as sources in any of Wierwille's publications. Wierwille's books published in the late seventies and early eighties such as Jesus Christ is Not God, Jesus Christ Our Passover,
and Jesus Christ Our Promised Seed
are footnoted and credit sources, while earlier books such as Power For Abundant Living, Receiving the Holy Spirit Today
and the Studies in Abundant Living Series
Links to web sites of ex-members/ex-followers and offshoots of TWI:
Links to websites of current members/followers:
- The Family Tables (restricted to registered members, who are required to be current TWI members)