Amid charges of mismanagement, intolerance, and adultery, The Way International—considered a cult by some—appears to be deteriorating. Over the past year contributions have dropped by one-third, college enrollment has plummeted, attendance at their annual conference has declined, and at least three factions have splintered from the church. Many former members attribute the declines to current president L. Craig Martindale and the board of trustees.

Growth, Then Trouble

Starting in 1967 with a handful of people and the family farm, Victor Paul Wierwille founded and parlayed his new church into a multimillion-dollar empire, operating two colleges, two ranches, and a publishing concern. In recent years the group has shown a net profit of at least 26 million dollars. The Way’s phenomenal growth is traced, in part, to the Power for Abundant Living (PFAL) discipleship course developed by Wierwille. Over 100,000 people in all 50 states and 40 foreign countries have taken PFAL.

However, since the installation of Martindale as president and the subsequent death of Wierwille, The Way International has experienced setbacks. In 1985 the Internal Revenue Service revoked their tax-exempt status for engaging in political campaigns (it was regained this past October). The following year questions about the leadership began to surface when Chris Geer, ordained by The Way, presented a paper to The Way leadership and to The Way Corps (the missionary arm of the movement). The paper, called The Passing of the Patriarch, effectively established Geer’s spiritual authority, which, in turn, challenged Martindale’s leadership.

Damage Control

Because of this and other similar actions, resentment of the leadership quickly escalated ...

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