Broken Faith
"I can't imagine a more important book."--Jeff Guinn, New York Times bestselling authorAn explosive investigation into Word of Faith Fellowship, a secretive evangelical cult whose charismatic female leader is a master of manipulationIn 1979, Jane Whaley, a fiery preacher with a thick Southern drawl, attracted a small group of followers--twenty-two men and women drawn in by her passion, and promise that through prayer and deliverance, they could turn their lives around.In the years since, Whaley's following has expanded to include thousands of congregants across three continents. In the eyes of her followers, she's a prophet--to disobey her means eternal damnation. It could also mean hours of physical abuse. The control she exerts is absolute: she decides what her followers study, where they work, whom they can marry--even when they can have sex.Broken Faith is the meticulously reported story of a singular female cult leader, a terrifying portrait of life inside the Word of Faith Fellowship, and the harrowing account of one family who escaped after two decades. Based on hundreds of interviews, secretly recorded conversations, and thousands of pages of documents, Broken Faith offers both a cautionary tale and a deeply emotional examination of faith, resilience, and family. It's the story of an entire community's descent into darkness--and for some, the winding journey back to the light.

Broken Faith Details

TitleBroken Faith
Author
ReleaseFeb 18th, 2020
PublisherHanover Square Press
ISBN-139781335145239
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Crime, True Crime, Religion, Cults

Broken Faith Review

  • Allison Sesame
    January 1, 1970
    It feels almost unbelievable that this sort of cult is still active today. This book was powerful and fascinating while at the same time horrifying. I could not put it down.
  • Kaleah
    January 1, 1970
    After watching a documentary on this cult, I cannot wait to get my hands on this one!! I believe this "ministry" is currently still thriving smh.
  • Bookreporter.com Biography & Memoir
    January 1, 1970
    In a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, a little church has grown to a worldwide phenomenon, and has not escaped the attention of the press and law enforcement for its bizarre and --- in some instances --- illegal practices. Its history and the personal accounts of some of its congregants are collected here by investigative journalists Mitch Weiss and Holbrook Mohr.Word of Faith Fellowship was started from the inspiration of Sam Whaley, a former used car salesman. But once In a small town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, a little church has grown to a worldwide phenomenon, and has not escaped the attention of the press and law enforcement for its bizarre and --- in some instances --- illegal practices. Its history and the personal accounts of some of its congregants are collected here by investigative journalists Mitch Weiss and Holbrook Mohr.Word of Faith Fellowship was started from the inspiration of Sam Whaley, a former used car salesman. But once it gained purchase in Spindale, NC, Sam’s wife, Jane, began to feel envious. Looking at the successful lifestyles of the wives of televangelists, she remade herself, with new teeth and a more practiced accent than the one that she, a denizen of the rural south, was heir to. With expensive clothing, folksy wisdom underpinned by Biblical quotations, and a strange manner of screeching to ward off devils, Jane soon became the acknowledged leader of the church.A central practice of the fellowship involves “blasting” --- screaming at those who are deemed to be possessed by entities that Jane might characterize as harbingers of lust (any sex outside of marriage and all homosexuality) or, in children, “soccer” or “buddy” demons. Even Sam is not immune to her sudden accusations of possession that require the accused person to sit in a chair with a bucket next to it and get yelled at by fellow congregants until vomiting or other proof of exorcism ensues.But the secrets of Jane’s church were worse than the public displays. Children interviewed for this harrowing account reported abuse, from sexual attacks to the almost constant harsh beatings with wooden paddles wielded by parents, the church’s private school administrators, even Jane herself. The smallest infraction could result in isolation in rooms in the church’s basement, where children sat or stood for hours at a time watching videos of Jane’s preaching. Adult church members must tithe, are restricted from almost every kind of media, and in some cases are encouraged to break laws to help maintain the fellowship.One such case was taken to court, when, in tight economic times, church business owners “laid off” employees who received unemployment benefits, while continuing to work for the business --- so the church would not suffer from lack of tithe money. There have even been accusations of international jewel theft.To date, though there have been numerous small legal disputes, SBI probes and many accusations from former fellowship members, Whaley’s religion carries on, even developing overseas connections. Comparisons to the cult of Jim Jones are inevitable --- and credible. Weiss and Mohr have done their investigative work thoroughly and given their book a disturbingly up close and personal feel through the words of Jane’s accusers. They believe that her perfidies are clear to any rational observer, and hope that “good people will do the right thing” and bring her to justice.Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott
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  • Katharine
    January 1, 1970
    Broken Faith: Inside the Word of Faith Fellowship, One of America’s Most Dangerous Cults by Mitch Weiss, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and Holbrook Mohr, an award-winning investigative journalist for the Associated Press, is a captivating, meticulously reported story on the evolution of Word of Faith Fellowship, an evangelical Christian ministry, under its leader Jane Whaley and lives destroyed by the secretive church.Weiss and Mohr explore the appeal of the church and its leader Jane Broken Faith: Inside the Word of Faith Fellowship, One of America’s Most Dangerous Cults by Mitch Weiss, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and Holbrook Mohr, an award-winning investigative journalist for the Associated Press, is a captivating, meticulously reported story on the evolution of Word of Faith Fellowship, an evangelical Christian ministry, under its leader Jane Whaley and lives destroyed by the secretive church.Weiss and Mohr explore the appeal of the church and its leader Jane Whaley by detailing the experiences of the family of Rick and Suzanne Cooper, who joined the Word of Faith Fellowship in 1993 with their six children. As the Coopers grow more devoted to the Fellowship, we see Whaley exert more control over their family, relationships, and lives, including forcibly making their children live away from the family in Word of Faith communal housing, dictating when Rick and Suzanne could have more children, and isolating the family from other family members not in the church.The authors also explore the preaching of Whaley and the ideologies she seeks to instill in her followers. Whaley preaches an extreme version of spiritual warfare, “calling out the particular devils she saw hovering near one follower or another, threatening to inhabit their lives” during church services. When these demons or the devil “threatens,” Whaley employs a high-decibel technique called “blasting”, shouting and screaming, “to drive the evil back to the pit of hell.” The authors explore the effects of blasting on individuals, explaining that “people would get so worked up they’d wail, scream, convulse, or vomit into buckets.”The authors assert that the evidence shows that Word of Faith not only blasts adults for hours, sometimes days or weeks, at a time, but have also blasted infants and children, causing hearing loss.However, in following the Cooper family’s experiences from 1993 to 2017, we learn that blasting is just the tip of the iceberg in the morally questionable, criminal, and abusive activities of the Word of Faith church. As the story progresses, the number of characters increase, which can make the narrative feel messy and unorganized. But, the stories of decades of abuse, manipulation tactics, and the Word of Faith’s efforts to cover up and end all investigations into its organization are transfixing. This is an excellent book for readers who enjoy true crime stories and investigative reporting.
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  • Amanda
    January 1, 1970
    An accurate and well-written account of a truly terrifying cult in western NC that has a surprisingly large and international following. If you've ever asked yourself, "What would possess anyone to get involved with a cult?" this book will help answer that question.Broken Faith primarily follows the story of one family, the Coopers, dialoguing their experiences and relating legal incidents and documentation. The facts are startling and the epilogue will, hopefully, incite you to want to do An accurate and well-written account of a truly terrifying cult in western NC that has a surprisingly large and international following. If you've ever asked yourself, "What would possess anyone to get involved with a cult?" this book will help answer that question.Broken Faith primarily follows the story of one family, the Coopers, dialoguing their experiences and relating legal incidents and documentation. The facts are startling and the epilogue will, hopefully, incite you to want to do something to help, especially for the sake of the children involved. Please, spread the word and pray. Physically breaking free is only the beginning.
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  • Stephanie T
    January 1, 1970
    I read an uncorrected proof so I won't comment on the things I think an editor will address.This is a story about a cult and the difficulties the escapees have had in bringing charges against the people who committed crimes under the guise of doing God's will. It made me intensely angry to read about the corruption in local law enforcement and I hope that the people involved with eventually be brought to justice.The best thing about this book is the sympathetic way it treats the victims. It's I read an uncorrected proof so I won't comment on the things I think an editor will address.This is a story about a cult and the difficulties the escapees have had in bringing charges against the people who committed crimes under the guise of doing God's will. It made me intensely angry to read about the corruption in local law enforcement and I hope that the people involved with eventually be brought to justice.The best thing about this book is the sympathetic way it treats the victims. It's very easy to see how people can get caught up in something that becomes a nightmare, and how by the time the cult mentality takes over they're too traumatized to see it and too isolated to be able to escape it. The book makes a point that no one still sets out to join a cult but that people often stay because their families and finances are too entangled to leave.I really hope that the people who were able to get out can find the peace and healing they need.
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  • Aryn
    January 1, 1970
    At the Word of Faith Fellowship, in Spindale, North Carolina, the only word that matters is that of Jane Whaley. While they bill themselves as an evangelical Christian church, to those who have left, outsiders, and experts, Word of Faith is incontrovertibly a cult. Jane Whaley is the cult’s charismatic leader, regarded by some members of her congregation as a prophet. She, along with her deputies, control every facet of members lives. Her preoccupation with “the unclean,” the group’s euphemism At the Word of Faith Fellowship, in Spindale, North Carolina, the only word that matters is that of Jane Whaley. While they bill themselves as an evangelical Christian church, to those who have left, outsiders, and experts, Word of Faith is incontrovertibly a cult. Jane Whaley is the cult’s charismatic leader, regarded by some members of her congregation as a prophet. She, along with her deputies, control every facet of members lives. Her preoccupation with “the unclean,” the group’s euphemism for sexual thoughts, feelings, and actions, appears to be matched only by her propensity for abusive actions. Weiss and Mohr demonstrate that even after decades of reported abuse, news stories, fraud, and other crimes, local law enforcement bends to the will of the cult. Broken Faith follows a family through twenty years of membership and subsequent escape, and discusses the stories of other survivors who are actively involved in attempting to save those who are still inside. There’s something fascinating as well as horrifying about how cults rise to power and the way that people find themselves trapped. Weiss and Mohr’s skill as journalists is on display for the entirety of the work, simultaneously providing a focused narrative on the Cooper family and a broad view of the practices of the cult. The massive scope of Jane Whaley’s power is hard to capture in the book, and until I did some additional searching for references to the cult in the popular press, I assumed that this was a cult of a size that you would see on a television drama - a handful of families living in a compound. In reality, Whaley has hundreds of followers in the United States, and possibly thousands more internationally. After forty years of existence, multiple generations have been born into this cult, and her absolute power over their lives does not seem to wane, only to increase. Highly recommend to those who enjoy true crime, or those interested in the phenomenon of religious extremism taken to the point where it becomes a cult of personality. While descriptions of abuse are not particularly gory, they are graphic and a cornerstone of life within Word of Faith. I received a copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley for an honest review.
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  • Janet
    January 1, 1970
    When it is snowy and cold outside (and my car is buried under 2ft of ), superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. LOLI requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do .An explosive investigation When it is snowy and cold outside (and my car is buried under 2ft of ❄️ ), superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. LOLI requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.An explosive investigation into Word of Faith Fellowship, a secretive evangelical cult whose charismatic female leader is a master of manipulationIn 1979, a fiery preacher named Jane Whaley attracted a small group of followers with a promise that she could turn their lives around. In the years since Whaley’s following has expanded to include thousands of congregants across three continents. In their eyes, she’s a prophet. And to disobey her means eternal damnation. The control Whaley exerts is absolute: she decides what her followers study, where they work, whom they can marry—even when they can have sex.Based on hundreds of interviews, secretly recorded conversations, and thousands of pages of documents, Pulitzer Prize winner Mitch Weiss and Holbrook Mohr’s Broken Faith is a terrifying portrait life inside the Word of Faith Fellowship, and the harrowing account of one family who escaped after two decades.Wow, this was one crazy book: it is so outlandish that I can barely believe that it is a true story. What is even crazier is that people still belong to this "church" and follow her rules. This is a cautionary tool as well: there are other nutty, abusive, equally crazy "churches" out there are maybe one will come to see that theirs is going that way or already is an abuse of power.) The book is expertly crafted and its writing style would be readable by so many people and book clubs as its content is firey and could cause some serious blazes with its subject. (Maybe skip the wine at book club when discussing this one or skip to the hard stuff right off!)
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  • Claire
    January 1, 1970
    I want to be clear about why I gave this three stars. The background reporting and research by the author are definitely five-star-worthy. The book is a great achievement in pulling together the different threads that combine to form a full picture of the Word of Faith Fellowship cult. It's just the writing that is so blah that it *almost* renders descriptions of horrible beatings and "blastings" mundane. If you have never heard of this cult, or of Jane Whaley, its leader, then this book will be I want to be clear about why I gave this three stars. The background reporting and research by the author are definitely five-star-worthy. The book is a great achievement in pulling together the different threads that combine to form a full picture of the Word of Faith Fellowship cult. It's just the writing that is so blah that it *almost* renders descriptions of horrible beatings and "blastings" mundane. If you have never heard of this cult, or of Jane Whaley, its leader, then this book will be a revelation, and I don't want to steer you away from it. It's a valuable reminder of how people can twist the gentle and kind meanings behind any religious philosophy for their own enrichment. If you would like to listen to a good podcast on this subject, in addition to reading the book, then please check out season one of Javier Leiva's podcast, Pretend. He actually gets to attend a service and meet Jane Whaley, so it is worth your time.
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  • Tzutse
    January 1, 1970
    Great accounting of the interviews and collected information, woven into a fascinating story. It sounds so much like described behaviors coming out of Scientology. My heart aches for the former members, and everything they have had to endure, and continue to endure. My heart aches even more for the members, the children specifically, that are still in Spindale and are not able to escape, or feel like there is no alternative. It sounds like it is very difficult to leave if you wanted to, and even Great accounting of the interviews and collected information, woven into a fascinating story. It sounds so much like described behaviors coming out of Scientology. My heart aches for the former members, and everything they have had to endure, and continue to endure. My heart aches even more for the members, the children specifically, that are still in Spindale and are not able to escape, or feel like there is no alternative. It sounds like it is very difficult to leave if you wanted to, and even more difficult to help someone inside. Kudos to those on the outside who continue to help WOFF members leave the church if they desire to do so. May there be many more of them.
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  • David V.
    January 1, 1970
    Received as an ARC via my employer Barnes & Noble. Started 2-14-20. Finished 2-16-20. A fascinating look into the Word of Faith Fellowship, a dangerous cult in North Carolina. Tales of brainwashing, physical and mental abuse of children (as young as 6 months!) and adults, illegal business schemes, corrupt local government officials. And in spite of arrests and incarceration of some church leaders and lost lawsuits, the organization continues to this day with its leader, Jane Whaley, still in Received as an ARC via my employer Barnes & Noble. Started 2-14-20. Finished 2-16-20. A fascinating look into the Word of Faith Fellowship, a dangerous cult in North Carolina. Tales of brainwashing, physical and mental abuse of children (as young as 6 months!) and adults, illegal business schemes, corrupt local government officials. And in spite of arrests and incarceration of some church leaders and lost lawsuits, the organization continues to this day with its leader, Jane Whaley, still in firm control. The book leaves it open to a sequel since there are still pending court cases. I read this almost 400 page book in 2 days, so you know it kept my interest. Can't wait to read the results of the other court cases. All these people deserve to be in prison--they have no redeeming social values. They take desperate, needy and vulnerable people and "break" them physically and mentally.
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  • Andrienne
    January 1, 1970
    A really exhaustive look at the Word of Faith Fellowship. As far as cults go, it follows the same M.O. and no surprise there. Reading books like this though when the group is still operating can be emotional - there were times where I was getting really angry and in disbelief that those leading can get away with so much. Thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.
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  • Jen
    January 1, 1970
    This book was incredible. Nonfiction written from many alleged victims’ POVs that reads like fiction. Can’t give Mitch and Bert enough praise for the care that went into telling these stories. 10/5 stars.
  • Melanie
    January 1, 1970
    I found this pretty dull, so I decided to move on. I listened to an audio version published by Harlequin Audio. The narrator was fine until she was speaking in Jane Whaley's voice. I understand that Ms. Whaley will be the villain in this story but the overdone hick accent was a bit annoying.
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. This is a terrifying book but I looked up the information about Word of Faith and it is truly a terrifying cult. Small but powerful, Whaley has used all the cult tactics to compel her followers to stay in line.
  • Deborah
    January 1, 1970
    Well written book revealing a religious organization that's really a cult. It reveals how this "church" is so corrupt and powerful and yet almost untouchable by the courts. The church is still operating in spite of confirmed abuse and financial illegal actions.
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  • Bookclubbish
    January 1, 1970
    CategoriesSociology, Hoaxes & Deceptions, Social Issues, Cults
  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    This s*** is crazy, however, there were too many accounts of different people to make it easy to follow.
  • Kate SouthernBelleSimple
    January 1, 1970
    Damn. This is crazy. It's heartbreaking to me how much people hurt each other in the name of so-called Christianity. Disgusting. Great book though.
  • Olivia Madwell
    January 1, 1970
    Was not impressed, the whole book is more of a work of fiction than reality.
  • Tori Hoeschler
    January 1, 1970
    Review to come. I’m still reeling from what I’ve just read. I am literally gobsmacked.
  • Caroline Gosson
    January 1, 1970
    Everyone needs to read this true story. I had to keep reminding myself this was not a fictional novel. Reading the names of several family members helped with the reminders.
  • Sophie
    January 1, 1970
    definitely some of the wildest and most eye-opening non fiction writing i've read in a long time
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