Horrific abuse allegations continue to bleed from a charismatic congregation based in North Carolina.
In a new Associated Press report, Jamey Anderson describes the torture he allegedly endured at the hands of members of Word of Faith Fellowship in North Carolina:
Jamey Anderson vividly recalls being a skinny kid trembling on the floor of a dank, windowless storage room, waiting in terror for the next adult to open the door.
He was bruised and exhausted after being held down while a group of Word of Faith Fellowship congregants—including his mother and future stepfather—beat him with a wooden paddle, he said. As with most punishments at the secretive Western North Carolina Christian church, Anderson said, it was prompted by some vague accusation: He had sin in his heart, or he had given in to the "unclean." The attacks could last for hours until he confessed to something, anything, and cried out to Jesus, he said.
Sometimes even that wasn't enough for redemption. Then, Anderson said, he would be locked in a dark place he called the "green room," where he would bang his head against the brick wall, wanting to die.
"I just wanted it to end," he recalled in a series of interviews with The Associated Press. "Of course, they told us that killing yourself is the unforgivable sin."...
From early childhood, Anderson always seemed to be in trouble, resulting in regular severe beatings, several former members said.
Anderson recounted a particularly brutal attack when he was about 9, when he said a female church member pinned his arms down while his mother sat on his legs and beat him with a paddle.
"It hit me in many other places than where it was supposed to. But they didn't stop, because I needed a 'breakthrough.' The demons were 'taking me over,' as a kid. I was going to go to hell. And so they kept swinging the paddle, swinging the paddle," he said....
When he was 14, Anderson said, Jane Whaley called a mandatory church meeting, on a weekday. Waiting in the sanctuary that day in early 2002, "we knew it couldn't be good," he said.
When Whaley arrived, she pointed to Anderson and a group of "troublemakers" she called the "five boys." For two hours, he said, Whaley screamed and shamed them.
They were expected to fall to the floor and cry out to Jesus for forgiveness. Some did, but Anderson said he was too scared to move.
"That meant to Jane that my heart was hard. I was unreachable and that's when she got very close to my face and called me everything she could think of, yelling at me at the top of her lungs," he said.
Whaley placed Anderson and his four friends in isolation for a year, he said. Instead of attending class, he said they sat in a room watching videos of Whaley preaching and were confined to their homes after school and on weekends. Family members weren't allowed to talk to them. When it was time to eat, someone would open the door and slide food in, "like in a prison," Anderson said.
They were treated as if they did not exist—except when it came time for punishment and they were told they were full of "witchcraft and warfare," he said.
The Associated Press has targeted WFF with multiple stories throughout this year. The first expose reported 43 members had come forward about abuse they suffered at the hands of leadership, including pastors Sam and Jane Whaley.
"False allegations have been made against our church in the past. Investigations at several levels of government have been conducted. We have been exonerated at every point," the Whaleys said in a statement earlier this year.
According to the church website, however, the congregation does believe in "church discipline."
"If a person persistently gives himself to sin after know the truth, Titus 3:10-11 teaches us how this situation should be handled. Romans 16:16 teaches us how to handle those who sow seeds of strife and division among the weak. In 1 Corinthians 5, the whole chapter also teaches us what to do when a person will not allow God to deal with their sin."
Much of the allegations stem from treatment of people who struggled with homosexuality and include a practice called "blasting."
The AP reports these sessions often graduate to slapping, punching and choking.
"We, the members of the Word of Faith Fellowship, use the Biblical terminology 'blast' in reference to any strong demonstration of the Holy Spirit such as in preaching, praising, singing, praying in all kinds of prayer, praying in the Spirit, supplication, travail, diverse tongues, weeping and groaning and crying out to God, including shrill cries for Christ to be formed in us and others and to come against the temptations of the devil," according to their site.
The church has launched multiple social media campaigns, including Twitter and YouTube accounts, to tell their story. Many members of the church have rallied around the Whaleys and decried the reports as vicious attacks.
"All I have ever seen [Jane Whaley] do is lay down her life selflessly for everyone she comes in contact with," a woman identified only as "Miss Norris" writes in a statement posted to the church website.
"She exemplifies John 15:13 more than anyone I have ever seen. ... It grieves me to see what is going on against her; these wicked allegations are all lies. Jane is exactly the opposite of what they are saying. She is always available for whoever needs her 24 hours per day when someone needs help, whether it is my church family or someone else who needs help. She has truly loved the 'unlovable,' and her lifestyle epitomizes the life of a true Christian. She loves not just in words, but in deeds in every part of her life. She has truly set an example of godly living for all of us," the statement continues.
Jessilyn Justice @jessilynjustice is the director of online news for Charisma.
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