Brazil church re­jects abuse claims de­tailed in AP sto­ries

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

RIO DE JANEIRO — One of Word of Faith Fel­low­ship’s two churches in Brazil has re­jected claims made by for­mer mem­bers that they were sub­jected to phys­i­cal and ver­bal abuse at the hands of min­is­ters and that young con­gre­gants were sent to the mother church in North Carolina and forced to work with­out pay.

The al­le­ga­tions were de­tailed in in­ves­tiga­tive sto­ries pub­lished by The As­so­ci­ated Press this week.

In a state­ment re­leased late Wed­nes­day, pas­tors of the Min­is­te­rio Evan­gelico Co­mu­nidade Rhema church in Franco da Rocha, Brazil, called the for­mer mem­bers’ ac­cu­sa­tions “many lies and dis­torted facts.”

The state­ment, pub­lished in the Folha de S. Paulo news­pa­per, said the church had main­tained a strong re­la­tion­ship with pas­tors at the Word of Faith Fel­low­ship in Spin­dale, N.C., for 30 years. “They are good peo­ple, they live God’s love and in try­ing to help peo­ple they have been slan­dered,” it read.

The state­ment also said the church in Brazil did “not tol­er­ate or per­mit any form of abuse in our min­istry.”

Word of Faith Fel­low­ship is an evan­gel­i­cal church founded in North Carolina in 1979 by Jane Wha­ley, a for­mer math teacher, and her hus­band, Sam. It has branches in Brazil and Ghana, along with af­fil­i­a­tions in other coun­tries.

This week’s AP sto­ries — based on ac­counts of dozens of for­mer mem­bers, a re­view of po­lice re­ports and in­ter­views with au­thor­i­ties in Brazil and the United States — also de­tailed how the North Carolina church took over its two Brazil­ian con­gre­ga­tions over the course of many years, in­still­ing its rigid doc­trine in Min­is­te­rio Evan­gelico Co­mu­nidade Rhema and Min­is­te­rio Verbo Vivo church in Sao Joaquim de Bi­cas.

Many for­mer mem­bers said they were beaten dur­ing ses­sions aimed at ex­pung­ing devils, suf­fered psy­cho­log­i­cal dom­i­na­tion by pas­tors and were cut off from fam­ily mem­bers upon leav­ing the church.

Lead­ers of the Word of Faith Fel­low­ship and both churches in Brazil did not re­spond to nu­mer­ous re­quests for com­ment made by the AP be­fore pub­li­ca­tion of the sto­ries.

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