Former WoFF members answer questions in Spindale
SPINDALE, N.C. — Over 100 people gathered at the Spindale House on Saturday to hear former members of the controversial Word of Faith Fellowship (WoFF) experiences and to ask questions. The panel included former WoFF members:
- John Huddle,
- Ben Cooper,
- Micah Cooper,
- John Cooper,
- Jamey Anderson,
- Chad Cooper and others.
The audience included some current WoFF members. A uniformed policeman stood at the back of the room.
Host John Huddle at the beginning stressed that the gathering was not for the sensationalism of the individual stories, but more of the understanding of their experiences within WoFF in order to reduce the mysteries surrounding what he called a cult.
Huddle acknowledged the bittersweet viewing of a WoFF video featuring his former wife and two children who remain members of the church. Huddle has not seen his son and daughter in years. However, the seemingly crafted words of the WoFF video served to denounce Huddle and announce that his former family was happy where they were.
Each panelist was allowed a few moments to introduce themselves and tell of their former association with the church. Among the first rebuttals of WoFF’s former statements on their website was that the Associated Press (AP) article release was timed to assist one of attorney Ben Cooper’s clients in a custody case. The fact is that many of the 43 interviews were over 18 months ago. None of the interviewees had any control over the long awaited release of the AP article.
As to WoFF’s allegations that the motivation of the Associated Press investigative article came from the large Cooper family and their cousins, the Coopers acknowledge the large number of siblings in the family but noted that 43 individuals were interviewed. Attorney Ben Cooper said that he would not do anything that might damage his clients’ cases.
Many of the panelists shared they’d been physically and psychologically abused. Many are still shunned in public when by chance they encounter their relatives.
One of their shared sentiments was the Survivors did not want their children to experience the type of childhood they had in Word of Faith. As Huddle pointed out, the panelists were second generation WoFFers. Their parents were already members when they were brought in. So, as children, they had no choice but to be church members.
“So, my end game is to see kids out of that situation. I don’t care how that happens, but I think that it needs to stop,” John Cooper said.
The audience responded with applause.
Micah Cooper, wife of Ben Cooper, stated that growing up in WoFF she had been a model child in obeying the church’s rules. However, when she went off to college and then law school, she met Christians with an entirely different perspective on the faith. She found out that they were not followed, did not live in communal homes, were not shunned, were not watched and not subjected to blasting. She said she found a Christian faith based on love.
John Cooper stated that when he and his wife were granted permission to buy a car, he fought to get the car in his name. In his case, according to Cooper was to have the car in the church leader’s name while they made cash payments. However, the day Cooper convinced Jane Whaley, pastor of Word of Faith Fellowship, to allow the car to be in the couple’s name was the day he left.
Perhaps the most egregious story was told by attorney Jamey Anderson. Anderson who left the church more than a decade ago was surprised to be arrested in Charlotte, N.C. A warrant had been sworn out in Rutherford County by a family member who accused him of trespassing on his property. Only after providing video, testimonials, and sworn statements attesting to the fact Anderson had never been in the area during that time, District Attorney Ted Bell dismissed the case.
Anderson stated that he and the other panelists had nothing to gain by going public but were in fact risking careers, families, and peace of mind by coming forward.
There were several questions answered after the opening statements. However, not all questions were able to be answered at Saturday’s meeting. They will be published on John Huddle’s blog. A recording of the forum can be found on the Facebook page of Citizens Against Child Abuse.