Book reveals new details about NC’s infamous Word of Faith Fellowship ‘cult’

The Herald Sun, North Carolina/February 5, 2020

By Brooke Cain

Two award-winning journalists have written a book revealing new details about an infamous North Carolina church — often characterized as a cult — that has been at the center of federal criminal investigations and the subject of numerous news reports and true crime documentaries.

“Broken Faith: Inside the Word of Faith Fellowship, One of America’s Most Dangerous Cults” by Associated Press investigative reporters Mitch Weiss and Holbrook Mohr takes a close look at the Spindale church and its head, Jane Whaley, and paints a chilling portrait of life inside the secretive organization.

Word of Faith Fellowship, near Rutherfordton, has been the center of attention for decades, after former members reported allegations of disturbing mental and physical abuse of children (and babies), intimidation and separation of children from parents and forced labor. In 2018, four congregants faced federal charges connected to an unemployment benefits scheme.

The church was the subject of a damning six-part A&E documentary series that was supposed to air in November 2018 — a series that never ran because it was blocked by Word of Faith attorneys.

Word of Faith Fellowship, which has thousands of congregants across three continents, has denied wrongdoing, but there are disturbing accounts by those who have “escaped” the cult that indicate otherwise.


In November 2018, on the day the much-anticipated “The Devil Next Door” documentary series was set to premiere, it was suddenly pulled from the A&E lineup.

At the time, A&E released a statement saying that the postponement was due to the need for additional reporting.

But Josh Farmer, an attorney and spokesman for Word of Faith, told The News & Observer via email at the time: “The postponement occurred after we discovered some serious ethical problems with paying participants.” Farmer noted that the network canceled another documentary series, “Escaping the KKK,” two years earlier over the same issues.

While A&E described the broadcast disruption as a “postponement,” the series never aired.

But in July 2019, the Investigation Discovery program “People Magazine Investigates: Cults” devoted one episode to the church. The program described the episode in this way: “Lost souls flock to North Carolina where they’re promised deliverance from demons by Pastor Jane Whaley at the Word of Faith Fellowship. However, deliverance comes at a price, including beatings, medical horrors and psychological abuse.”

The book by Weiss and Mohr reveals that the Word of Faith Fellowship hired a law firm with ties to the Church of Scientology to block the A&E broadcast.


The Associated Press, led by the reporting of Weiss and Mohr, has covered the happenings at Word of Faith for many years.

But “Broken Faith,” published by HarperCollins/Hanover Square Press, touts new revelations.

Among the new information in the book:

▪ a murder-for-hire plot meant to silence a public official.

▪ a senior member of the church told followers that he had access to sodium cyanide (the poison used in the Jonestown massacre).

▪ Jane Whaley paid off law enforcement to cover up abuse and rape by church members.

▪ a former church member was beaten by congregants in an effort to expel “homosexual demons.”

▪ an international gem heist was orchestrated to fund a new sanctuary.

The book also discloses that a church member currently serves as a faith leadership outreach leader under President Trump.

The reporting by Weiss and Mohr is the result of interviews with more than 100 former members of the church, their relatives, advocates, law enforcement officials and others. The two reviewed more than 100 hours of video and audio recordings secretly taped by former members, legal documents and a sworn deposition from 2017 by Whaley.

They also worked from a 315-page report from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation chronicling allegations of abuse — a report never publicly released.

The release date for the book is Feb. 18.

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