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Cult Watchdog Says The Way Is Growing

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

The Columbus Dispatch,August 15, 1993
NEW KNOXVILLE, Ohio A cult awareness group said last week that membership in The Way International is growing, but a spokesman would not say how many people belong to the 51-year-old religious organization.

The Cult Awareness Network said it has been receiving complaints about The Way. [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.]

"We have had people involved in The Way tell us that it was a cult experience," said Cynthia Kissler, executive director of the Chicago-based network.

The Way held its annual Rock of Ages festival last week on a 300-acre site near New Knoxville, in western Ohio.

Spokesman Bill Greene said The Way has for years denied it is a cult.

"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.

Greene said more than 12,000 members from around the world had been expected at the festival. But he would not say how many people belong to The Way, which he described as a biblical research ministry dedicated to interpretation and application of the Bible.

The cult network said The Way has about 20,000 members. It had about 100,000 members before its founder, clergyman Victor Paul Wierwille of Van Wert, Ohio, died in 1985. L. Craig Martindale now leads the organization.

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

Greene said he has not detected a backlash since the tragedy at the Branch Davidian compound in Texas.

Spokesman Denies Infiltration Allegations


BODY: An FBI investigation into alleged infiltration of two defense plants by The Way International is ludicrous, says a spokesman for the religious group that reportedly has conducted weapon training classes.

There could be followers of The Way at the two Chrysler Corp. plants, "but more Roman Catholics are probably working there, and they are not being accused of infiltrating," said Lonnell Johnson, spokesman for The Way, which is based near this western Ohio town.

"Any association is purely coincidental," he said. "There is no connection any more than if a person were Roman Catholic or Baptist."

Earlier this week, the Chicago Sun-Times quoted a Chrysler official as saying the FBI has been called in to check reports that followers of The Way were working at plants in Warren, Mich., and Lima, Ohio.

"We do have a preliminary investigation under way in accordance with the existing domestic security guidelines to determine if there have been any violations of federal law," FBI spokesman Wiley Thompson said in Washington, D.C. "There have to be allegations of criminal activity present for the agency to undertake an investigation."

Thompson would not elaborate.

John Sweeney, director of the Citizens Freedom Foundation, a nationwide anti-cult network, said he was interviewed by the FBI at his California home in February. He said an unidentified agent "told me that they're very concerned -- not from the religious angle but from the security angle."

Bob Heath, a Chrysler spokesman, said the automaker had not been informed of any investigation, adding "Chrysler did not in the past, nor are we presently conducting any kind of investigation."

The Way International describes itself as a biblical research center that also conducts weapons training for "hunting and outdoor safety."

According to Johnson, the investigation is based on the assumption that the organization is trying to learn about government weapons. He blamed the media

Copyright 1993 The Columbus Dispatch

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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.