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Way Fights Label

Religion: New Knoxville-based group is doing well in the wake of Branch Davidian tragedy.

The Lima (Oh) News August 10, 1993
By Stephen Huba
New Knoxville The Way International believes it's on the rebound despite negative public reaction to non-traditional religious groups following the Branch Davidian tragedy.

"Our fellowships are growing," said spokesman Bill Greene. "That's not just here but all over the world."

Greene cited the number of participants at this year's Rock of Ages festival as evidence of The Way's new strength.

"This is the largest since 1988," Green said Monday, noting that the number is expected to exceed 12,000. The 23rd annual festival began Sunday on The Way's 300-acre property which straddles the Auglaize-Shelby county line. It concludes Friday with the send-off of 400 Word Over the World (WOW) "ambassadors."

Greene said he hasn't detected a backlash from the Branch Davidian incident near Waco, Texas, although he acknowledged that the non-traditional religious groups have been subjected to greater scrutiny.

"I think they're looking for the more militant people. People who are living the book of Revelation, who believe these are the last times," Greene said. "We're not that at all."

The Way International, started by Van Wert clergyman Victor Paul Wierwille in 1942, describes itself as a biblical research ministry dedicated to the interpretation and application of "the word," the Bible.

The organization, considered a cult by some, denies the divinity of Christ yet says it is important to accept him as "Lord and Savior." It also rejects the concept of the Trinity.

"Contradictions" in the Bible can be ovecome by taking The Way's Power for Abundant Living courses.

Greene said the cult label is undeserved often the result of "guilt by association."

"I don't think that it really took hold. There's a whole outfit out of Chicago - Cult Awareness Network _ that is convinced we are a dangerous and destructive cult. We just say, 'Come and see.' But they won't come and see," he said. [Important Note: We do not recommend contacting the Cult Awareness Network, or CAN. An extraordinarily courageous and useful organization in the past, CAN was recently forced into bankruptcy with the help of the Church of Scientology, who now owns their records and mans their phones.]

The Way International got inquiries from the news media at the time David Koresh and his Branch Davidian followers were wanted by federal authorities, Greene said.

"I did not give any comments during the whole Waco thing," he said. "It was one of those situations where any light that was shed on The Way International would be in the shadow of Waco."

Greene said television stations wanted to take pictures of The Way's "compound."

"They asked, 'Don't you have a fence?'"

"I said, "'Yeah, it's in the back to keep the cows out.'"

Greene said The Way seems to be filling a need in the lives of the people disenchanted by organized religion. He said more young people are getting involved.

"(They) have no church affiliation. Some of them have never even been to church," Greene said. Others are the second generation of people involved with The Way.

Even so, the numbers aren't what they used to be. "We're not claiming to be a big organization," Greene said,

Participation in the Rock of Ages festival reached it's peak in 1984 and 1985 at 20,000, he said.

Wierwille's death in 1985 sparked "vicious in-fighting" over who would succeed him as president of The Way International, Greene said. Prior to his retirement in 1982, Wierwille named L. Craig Martindale as president. He remains the organizations leader.

"There were people who felt like they should have been chosen to be president of the ministry. Once that was handled, we have been growing ever since." Greene said. "We are probably as healthy now as we were before it started."

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Dearest Way Believer:

God bless your wonderful heart super-abundantly in the precious and powerful name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

I love you very much, and I love God and His Word also. I know that you too love God and want to do His will. Thus I am writing you this letter which I pray will speak to your heart. Remember, you have within you "the spirit of truth," and I believe it will confirm to you that what I say, though perhaps not all pleasant, is true. And it is the truth that makes us free. This is not an easy letter to write, but what else can I do but speak the truth in love?

I would guess that as a Way believer you probably recognize my name. During nearly 20 years of working for The Way, I was privileged to serve in just about every capacity except Trustee and Trunk [regional] Coordinator. I wrote three books which you may have read. Via these and thousands of live and tape teachings, it was my privilege to interact with tens of thousands of fabulous people like you.

I basically "got in on the ground floor" in 1967 and was near "the top" all along. This afforded me many, many personal encounters with all the original and current Trustees and other top leadership. I was a loyal employee and worked hard to teach and serve God's people. I certainly made my share of mistakes but I always tried to treat all believers kindly and believe in them.

On April 1, 1987, I was fired by the Board of Trustees from my position as Limb ["state"] Coordinator of The Way of Washington, D.C. Why? That's a good question, and one I asked Howard Allen that day. He refused to give me a reason.

Despite The Way's leadership's attempt to cover up, it's no secret to most followers of The Way that there are major problems. Many have been aware of them long before April 1986 when Chris Geer first read "The Passing of a Patriarch" and publicly exposed some things. Yet even that did not begin to expose the root of the evil.

In February of 1987, in conjunction with Ralph Dubofsky, Tom Reahard, Robert Belt and my wife Pat, I participated in writing a 37-page letter which we sent first to the Trustees. In it we confronted them with God's Word as to where they were in error, and called for a meeting of leadership to get things out in the open and resolve them biblically.

We gave the Trustees ten days to respond, which they did not. Then we went "to the church," sending out about 500 copies to as many leaders and believers whose addresses we had. Since then we have continued to send them out, along with other pertinent and enlightening literature and tapes.

We mailed the letter to the Trustees February 26, and they did not respond until March 30, when Craig [Martindale, The Way Founder Wierwille's successor] and Howard called me and asked me if I had heard Chris Geer's tape of March 25 to all The Way Corps [an inner-circle cadre], and if I still thought they were in error. Of course I did, because they had not specifically handled from the Word [biblical scripture] even one issue we brought up, and to this day they have still not done so. That was the whole conversation, which was taped.

What was Chris Geer's tape about? Beside accusing all the USA Way Corps of being at "enmity with God," he condemned our letter and us. How many Bible verses did he read? None. How many specific issues did he handle from the Word? None. Where was our letter biblically wrong? He didn't say. He did say that he had told the Trustees they were "the most qualified men on the face of the earth to handle the responsibilities that God had called them to," and "the only exception is that they haven't yet turned back to the One True God."

Your brother in Christ,


John A. Lynn

Cults come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Categories of cults that are recruiting successfully today include:

Eastern meditation: characterized by belief in God-consciousness, becoming one with God. The leader usually distorts and Eastern-based philosophy or religion. Members sometimes learn to disregard worldly possessions and may take on an ascetic lifestyle. Techniques used: meditation, repeated mantras, altered states of consciousness, trance states.

Religious: marked by belief in salvation, afterlife, sometimes combined with an apocalyptic view. The leader reinterprets the Scriptures and often claims to be a prophet if not the messiah. Often the group is strict, sometimes using physical punishments such as paddling and birching, especially on children. Members are encouraged to spend a great deal of time proselytizing. (Note: included here are Bible-based neo-Christian and other religious cults, many considered syncretic since they combine beliefs and practices). Techniques used: speaking in tongues, chanting, praying, isolation, lengthy study sessions, many hours spent evangelizing, "struggle" (or criticism) and confession sessions.

Political, racist, terrorist: fueled by belief in changing society, revolution, overthrowing the "enemy" or getting rid of evil forces. The leader professes to be all-knowing and all-powerful. Often the group is armed and meets in secret with coded language, handshakes, and other ritualized practices. Members consider themselves an elite cadre ready to go to battle. Techniques used: paramilitary training, reporting on one another, guilt, fear, struggle sessions, instilled paranoia, long hours of indoctrination. -- Captive Hearts, Captive Minds, Lalich and Tobias, Hunter House, 1993.