"Frank Webster and Chris Back — church ministers who handle criminal cases as assistant DAs for three nearby counties — provided legal advice, helped at strategy sessions and participated in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member, according to former congregants interviewed as part of an AP investigation of Word of Faith. Back and Webster, who is sect leader Jane Whaley's son-in-law and lives in her house, also helped derail a social services investigation into child abuse in 2015 and attended meetings where Whaley warned congregants to lie to investigators about abuse incidents, according to nine former members."
UPDATE – 3.10.17, 7:20 p.m.
Prosecutors gone from jobs after AP report on church abuse– Associated Press
A North Carolina district attorney said Friday that two assistant prosecutors no longer work for him amid charges they sabotaged investigations into abuse in their secretive religious sect.
District Attorney David Learner's announcement came just two days after he asked the State Bureau of Investigation to look into allegations by former Word of Faith Fellowship members against Frank Webster and Chris Back. As part of an ongoing investigation by The Associated Press, nine ex-congregants had said the men, both of them ministers of the sect, provided legal advice, helped at strategy sessions and participated in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member.
"I cannot allow the integrity of the office to be called into question," Learner said in a statement. "My administration is dedicated to the fair and impartial administration of criminal justice."
I am really angry as I write this post! You see, it was over 22 years ago — February 28, 1995, to be exact — that Inside Edition featured several shocking segments on the Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) in Spindale, North Carolina. At that time the church's leader, Jane Whaley, was 55 years old. Fortunately, these segments have been preserved on YouTube (see Part 1 below).
Why am I so mad? Think of all the children over the last two decades who have been involved in this 'fellowship' that many are now calling a cult. It breaks my heart! I am also grieving for the adults involved. Now take a look at another segment aired on Inside Edition.
One of our astute readers, Steve240, tracked down a list of Rules (Do's and "Don'ts) purportedly for WOFF members. Here is a screen shot of the 'Do's".
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There are 145 'Don'ts" in this guideline for new members. I would be in serious trouble if I were a WOFF congregant. Here are some of my violations:
I have been known to drink root beer, Cheerwine, and Ginger Ale on occasion. I watch movies, and I have watched DVDs in our Surburban (but NOT while driving!). I listen to the radio and read and handled magazines. Someone just gave me some older copies of Our State magazine, and I can hardly wait to read them! I watch television and NEVER get approval for the books I read. I have been known to take notes during sermons, and if I need to go to the bathroom during a church service, I will not hesitate to do so. If I bought a dress already owned by someone in my congregation, I would never return it to the store. I have worn sleeveless dresses to church during the summer. I celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving and I eat turkey on Thanksgiving! Birthdays and wedding anniversaries are wonderful celebrations in our family. And I am occasionally late (but usually only by 10 minutes)!
Is this list for real???
Perhaps this time authorities will conduct a thorough investigation of WOFF and finally uncover the truth.
The press is continuing to cover this story, as evidenced by the following Associated Press article published earlier today:
This AP article begins as follows:
SPINDALE, N.C. (AP) — At least a half-dozen times over two decades, authorities investigated reports that members of a secretive evangelical church were being beaten. And every time, according to former congregants, the orders came down from church leaders: They must lie to protect the sect.
Among the members of the Word of Faith Fellowship who coached congregants and their children on what to say to investigators were two assistant district attorneys and a veteran social worker, the ex-followers told The Associated Press.
Frank Webster and Chris Back — church ministers who handle criminal cases as assistant DAs for three nearby counties — provided legal advice, helped at strategy sessions and participated in a mock trial for four congregants charged with harassing a former member, according to former congregants interviewed as part of an AP investigation of Word of Faith.
Back and Webster, who is sect leader Jane Whaley's son-in-law and lives in her house [emphasis mine], also helped derail a social services investigation into child abuse in 2015 and attended meetings where Whaley warned congregants to lie to investigators about abuse incidents, according to nine former members.
According to the AP article, North Carolina law stipulates that prosecutors are not allowed to provide legal advice or be involved in outside cases in any way. Those who violate these rules can be brought up on ethics charges, be dismissed and disbarred. Furthermore, offering legal advice in a criminal investigation to help someone avoid prosecution could lead to criminal charges such as obstruction of justice.
When AP reporters attempted to contact Back and Webster, they were "too busy" to respond. No doubt about that!
This AP article discussed missed opportunities to get to the bottom of what is really going on behind closed doors at Spindale's Word of Faith Fellowship. Here's an excerpt from the article that discusses missed opportunities regarding the Inside Edition broadcast that aired over two decades ago:
As part of its investigation, the AP examined decades of the criminal justice and social services systems' dealings with the church. The AP also interviewed dozens of former congregants, legal experts and law enforcement officials, reviewed hundreds of pages of police and court documents, and listened to hours of conversations secretly recorded by now-former congregants.
The first full-scale police investigation of Word of Faith stemmed from a February 1995 broadcast of the TV show "Inside Edition" that included secretly recorded video showing children being subjected to "blasting," where a group of congregants surround a perceived sinner and scream for hours to expel devils.
Acting on a request from the local sheriff and district attorney, state Bureau of Investigation agents interviewed dozens of former congregants and leaders — including Whaley, a former math teacher who co-founded the church in 1979 with her husband, Sam, a former used-car salesman.
Agents heard accusations of child abuse and assault but ultimately deemed them too general and broad.
SBI Special Agent R.C. Hayes wrote that the agency had been told children were "whipped with paddles and rods" and that adults had been "physically restrained and assaulted" during deliverance sessions.
In an unreleased 315-page report of the investigation obtained by the AP, Whaley acknowledged children were spanked but contended they had asked for the discipline. "They all left after the paddling smiling and praising," she said.
Of blasting, she said, "They loved it."
Behind the scenes, former members say, Whaley embarked on a cover-up that continued for the next two decades.
"She said if investigators contacted us, we couldn't tell them the truth," said Rick Cooper, who left the church in late 2014…
If you read the remainder of the article, you will learn how WOFF purportedly coached members regarding what they were to say to authorities. So far, Jane Whaley and her cohorts have been successful in avoiding any legal repercussions.
In their defense, WOFF has posted several videos on its website claiming to have caught some of its formers members 'in a lie'. Here is one of those videos.
And here is Danielle Cordes in a video that was just posted today.
Now that the Word of Faith Fellowship has garnered widespread attention, we are praying fervently that the truth of what goes on behind closed doors will finally be revealed to a watching world.