What follows is Part Two of Carol’s story about her involvement with The Way International and her journey out of it. I thought it would be interesting for readers to read the story of someone who journeyed out of a non-orthodox Christian religion. I hope you enjoy Carol’s story.
Seeking: Life Along The Way
I began reading and rereading Acts and the Pauline epistles, mainly Ephesians through Colossians. I drove over an hour one way to attend church services where I had been led into tongues. The message at this church was different from what I’d been exposed to at the Baptist Church. The theme was love, grace, mercy, and understanding; not to mention they had good music! I was full of questions and wanted to understand the Bible, to be able to reconcile at least a majority of the contradictions. I decided to attend college focusing on biblical studies and counseling. I also had an interest in service work with either VISTA or The Peace Corps.
I chose a college that had “spirit-filled” connections, Montreat Anderson near Black Mtn., North Carolina, in the heart of Billy Graham country. During my few months at Montreat, I attended Montreat’s Presbyterian Church services along with various flavors of Charismatic meetings in the local vicinity. However, the same insecurity and shame that I experienced in the Baptist Church again haunted me. I couldn’t seem to find satisfactory answers to my questions nor a remedy for my shame.
I became friends with some students on campus who were considered to be spiritually mature. We met regularly for prayer meetings. Talk went on qualifying who was spiritual enough to be allowed at these assemblies. Looking back, these meetings mainly served to achieve an emotional high with some participants being slain in the spirit and speaking in tongues in an uncontrollable manner. During one of these sessions I had to leave because I felt like I was tripping; I felt paranoid and dirty. I don’t think I went to any more prayer sessions after that one.
On one occasion Ruth Graham visited the campus. I attended a small gathering with about 20 young ladies and Mrs. Graham. We met in an informal living room setting, attired with a few upholstered chairs for seating and the rest of us on the floor. It was very comfortable. I asked Mrs. Graham questions regarding speaking in tongues and the holy spirit field. Her answer was that she simply didn’t know the answers. I thought to myself, If Ruth Graham doesn’t know, who does? Around this time is when I found The Way.
Friends from the prayer group at college warned me that The Way was a cult. I considered their words and read about The Way in cult literature that was around at that time. It appeared to me that those who claimed The Way was a cult, based that conclusion mainly on the fact that The Way did not believe in the traditional doctrine of the Trinity. Until shortly after starting college I never realized that Christians believed that Jesus was God. At that time I was stunned that anyone would think such a thing, that a man could be God. Therefore the main thrust of The Way being a cult because it was non-trinitarian didn’t concern me, much.
Fellowship meetings with The Way were tender and welcoming and didn’t involve the frenzied spirit-filled confusion I was experiencing at some of the Charismatic gatherings. At Way fellowships I witnessed what I had read in sections of Acts and the Pauline epistles: all things common, decent and in order, fruit of the spirit, greeting with a holy kiss, etc. I enrolled and took The Way’s Foundational/Intermediate class. For once I was getting answers to many of the questions that plagued me. I learned that I was righteous before God and that I had “sonship rights.” I began to “retemorize” King James scriptures, repeating them over and over in my mind convincing my self of “the truth.” I was finally learning God’s will for my life.
In my college Old Testament History class I wrote an answer in response to an essay question on a test asking to compare Old Testament faith with New Testament faith. My essay was based on research from The Way. I received an A+ on that essay with a note from my professor, “Excellent research. I have questions about some of your findings.” Having been warned The Way was a cult, I felt uncomfortable and never approached the professor on the matter.
The same friends who warned me about The Way subjected me to a type of interrogation with an emphasis on the Trinity. I was seated in a classroom. About five of them were standing with one at the chalkboard writing. Their examination included questions, authoritarian proclamations, and accusations regarding The Way and its “devilish doctrines.” I recall a couple of them raising their voices at me, I think in an attempt to wake me from what they considered my delusion and to save me from the “cult.” I felt attacked, cross-examined, and fearful.
Not long after that incident my college roommate exhibited mental illness and was found in the parking lot trying to pick up sparkling diamonds out of the pavement. She had also recently begun using the window instead of the door to exit and enter our college dorm room. The same friends who led the prayer group and who had interrogated me, blamed me for tainting my roommate and causing her to get “possessed with demons,” all because I was attending a Way class and fellowships. I was the only student at Montreat involved with The Way.
These were the people warning me that The Way was a cult? I guess it takes one to know one. Jesting aside, I want to believe these friends’ intentions were good. But their approach, for obvious reasons, sent me running in the other direction. I finished my first semester at Montreat College and then dropped college to study and serve with The Way.
As my manner was, I got 100% involved with The Way. In January, 1978, at the age of 18, shortly after dropping out of college, I moved in with Way believers and got a job in the laundry department of a local hospital. In February, 1978, I met the president and founder of The Way whose charisma and fatherly demeanor left an indelible impression on my young heart and my desire to serve. He signed me up for the next wave of Word Over the World (WOW) Ambassadors to be commissioned in August, 1978. [WOW was The Way outreach program and involved a one-year commitment, the volunteer serving wherever assigned by The Way.]
Prior to that August WOW commission, I jumped on board and served with one of The Way’s volunteer summer outreach programs, Word Over North Carolina, from latter May until the end of July. Somewhere between January, 1978, and July, 1978, I made the commitment to enter the Way’s leadership training program, The Way Corps. Members of the Way Corps volunteered for a “lifetime commitment to Christian service” with The Way International. My August WOW commission began my apprentice year for the Way Corps. That apprentice year, I served as a WOW Ambassador family coordinator.