IT's been a while.
After spending several years helping out at WayDale and Greasespotcafe, it was time for me to move on and begin piecing my own life back together.
I finished my degree, moved to another state to be closer to family, walked right into my dream job at a wonderful college, and have begun my graduate program.
Everything was humming along quite nicely until I got an email from my sister in law this afternoon and my world came to a screeching halt.
I knew something was in the works a while back because I got an email from my sister in law regarding building consensus among the siblings on distributing the inheritance. I have tried to stay out of this decision because it is their family business, not mine.
You see, Mother in law owned a goodly amount of valuable farmland that she did not want to end up in probate. So, long before she went into assisted living, she got the kids together for a discussion. She told them she was putting the property all in WayBrother's name for safekeeping. The land would continue to be leased to the farmer and profits would be divided yearly between the siblings. When she passed away, the land was to be equally divided among them.
So Mother lives a long and happy life, spending the last few years in assisted living before passing away.
The inheritance is preserved. Because of the recession, the decision was made to continue leasing the farm land. As agreed, profits from the harvest were split yearly among the children. This process went on for 5 or 6 years.
Even though we had long ago left TWI, we and the rest of the family had confidence that when the time came, "WayBrother would do the right thing".
Time goes on, property values increase, and the two older sisters, one retired and one about to, want to cash out and divide the propery. Sister number one approaches us to ask if we are ok with it. Husband says yeah. She gets the same answer from everyone else, then approaches Waybrother.
WayBrother suddenly gets a case of "Mom changed her mind later on" and is keeping the entire 54 acres of valuable Ohio farmland for himself.
Y'all do the math on that one yourself.
After we left the ministry, I never talked to that family about why or what happened to us. I did not want to be seen as sowing division between blood relatives. I'm not their blood. I was staying out of that one.
And then I got this email today. And she asked me about WayBrother's behavior. Was this something that The Way taught him?
She went and did it. She wanted to know. She asked the question.
So I had to answer.
Please excuse any typos, because I'm trying to do this on a phone.
But below is my response to her question:
"Dear (Sister in law)
I am not aware of all that has gone on between you, (my husband), and WayBrother.
However, I do have nearly 30 years experience inside The Way International, and most of it at a higher leadership capacity than WayBrother has ever held.
Heretofore I have stayed out of this issue of the inheritance because it is your family matter.
However, in your email to me, you did ask if WayBrother's behaviour was something taught by The Way.
In The Way International, we were taught that the scripture says we were to "be especially good unto the household of faith".
We were also taught that the scriptural definition of "household" ONLY included active faithful believers associated with The Way International--no one else.
Those who had once been "faithful believers" but who had "walked away from the household" or had been kicked out were to be "marked and avoided". You were to shun these people. Not eat with them, fellowship with them, or talk with them. You were to cut them off from any access to you. They had known the truth and chose to walk away from it. They are worse than scum and had "spit in God's face".
Years ago, working as a doula before I left The Way International, I was witness first-hand to this doctrine in practice. I especially saw it in use by a well-known obstetrician in The Way who gave what, from my professional training, I knew was a very unnecessarily rough exam to an ex-Way believer in transitional labor. When the woman cried out in pain, the doctor exclaimed "Remember, I only have to be ESPECIALLY good the THE HOUSEHOLD!"
I will never forget how this doctor treated this poor woman during one of the most vulnerable and painful experiences a woman can undergo. At a time when she should have been given physical and psychological support.
I will say it: In my opinion this patient was physically and emotionally abused in my presence.
The word "household" only applied to active members and was used against ex members in a cruel fashion, insinuating that they were cut out of The Heavenly Father's favor.
Over the years (husband) and I felt the organization had changed it's basic nature and had abandoned it's original calling. As leaders, we were increasingly being asked to do things to people we could no longer do.
In February of 1997 after a fellowship leader openly undercut my authority with my own daughter, I decided to leave The Way International.
Because (husband) and I were were largely well known and well respected among the believers, the ministry went on a smear campaign of our reputations, and told people we were kicked out ( when actually WE left THEM), and they "marked and avoided" us.
Leadership representing The Way International called my parents, who were active in their local fellowship. They demanded my father throw my sister (who had also left The Way) out of his house.
My Dad told the guy "I crawled across Europe on my belly to make sure I could have a home and a family to come back to, and I'll be damned if I will let you tell me what to do!"
I was never prouder of my Dad. But they broke his heart. He, too, had spent neatly thirty years in the ministry as well.
The next time (husband), (daughter), and I attended the (Family) Hike, it was very uncomfortable and awkward for me. Then in one family photograph, WayBrother shooed (daughter) out of the picture, saying, "GET OUT--HOUSEHOLD ONLY! HOUSEHOLD ONLY!"
Of course, it was a picture of his family, but there was no mistaking the double intendre. It cut like a knife. It was meant to. Although I used to love those hikes, I have never been back since.
THAT IS WHY.
(Husband) also got a "birthday" card from (WayBrother that year basically telling him that how screwed up he was and he needed to "come back to The Word". (WayBrother) also had the gall to claim in that "birthday" card that we would not even have had our daughter except THEY prayed for it to happen.
You know, the teaching was at that time, "if you leave the ministry, you HATE your children."
I have since been quite distant from family reunion activities because I refuse to subject myself to that kind of abuse.
The teachings of The Way International continue to twist and turn based on the whims of upper leadership and their coffers.
The Way International suffered a loss of about 2/3 of it's participants (and funding base) after Paul & Fern Allen's lawsuit against The Way International, Craig Martindale, and Rosalie Rivenbark. It became common knowledge that Martindale, then the president of TWI, was abusing his authority and position to sexually subjugate women, while Rivenbark et al looked the other way. The Way settled out of court. Martindale lost his job because of it. Rivenbark is now in charge. Nothing has really changed. It's business as usual.
BTW I was one of many witnesses in the lawsuit. But that is all I can say.
In the more recent past, The Way has eased up a bit on harassing family members who leave. Now they want to act like everything is fine and nothing ever happened.
Institutional Psychology would say that the institution of The Way itself is pathological, behaving like an abusive spouse. Beat the hell out of you, then behave as if nothing ever happened. There is no fixing this organization. It should be relegated to the scrap heap of dead or dying pseudo-religions supported by a corrupt structure.
But as for what The Way taught WayBrother, it taught him very well to be loyal ONLY to "the ministry that taught you The Word". It taught him that his REAL family is "the household of faith" and that this household is made up ONLY of faithful, active believers of The Way International. I know that's where his loyalties lie because I was taught the same thing by the same people in the same ministry.
I just saw how toxic it was and got out.
Now I just live with the fact and the consequences of having dedicated my strength, my youth, my resources, and most of my income to an organization that gut-stripped my family.
But I will not be fooled by them again, so help me God.