Former Word of Faith members claim they were coached as children on lying to DSS

WENY ABC News, New York/April 9, 2018

By Adriana Mendez

Spindale, North Carolina -- There are new details Saturday about alleged abuse at the hands of members of a controversial mountain church.

Former members of Word of Faith Fellowship gathered in Spindale Saturday for a second annual meeting.

"These crimes have to be heard," said one member to those gathered.

"Fear of leaving is what keeps people there," another added.

The former members choose to have this meeting on this date because April is Child Abuse Awareness Month.

They claim they were abused physically and psychologically, and say they hope that by sharing their personal stories, they will empower current members to leave, and let them know they are not alone.

One by one, former members of the Word of Faith Fellowship came forward to the podium to share their own personal testimony of the alleged abuse they say they endured while a member of the church.

"Fear of losing your family, that's a big one," said one former member

These group of people call themselves survivors--the ones who got out, but not without a price.

In front of current Word of Faith members, they shared their initial fear of leaving, because of the tactics used to keep them in the fold.

"She's just fooling us, and they are all empty threats to keep people there, because you're not going to get cancer from changing churches," one member said as our cameras rolled.

Many stories were similar. These survivors say that as children, they were asked to lie to DSS officials and deny physical abuse.

"They coached us on very specially what we had to say to DSS," said a former member. "I knew there would be punishment if I said something I wasn't supposed to say."

The church is being investigated on a state and federal level for allegations of abuse, and which it disputes.

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