Former Member: The Way International Biblical Ministry Was Rife With Sexual Excesses Just Like Other Cults

By G. [A former cult member]

This is in response to Nxivm Perv Leader Keith Raniere Taught ‘Rape as a Metaphor for Orgasm’

I am offering my perspective from my own experience in a cult since they are all about power, sex and money.

Cults don’t reveal everything up-front or lay it all out in the beginning. One is casually strung along with the inner workings privy to a trusted few whose world is now the cult only and whose moral judgment has now been suspended.

Plus there’s a lot of word salad going on by the leader. Note the ever-ready plastered-on smile, the long soliloquies where this kind of stuff would be hidden among what one was told was the main topic yet the real agenda was to propagate sexual acts we would ordinarily find abhorrent.

I was in a cult called the Way International for two years

The Way International is a Christian ministry based in New Knoxville, Ohio, with “home fellowships” located in Argentina, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chile, and the UK.

Now I was never openly told, nor did I see it, but the members in leadership, those close to leadership in the Way Corps, those who had gone WOW, [Word over the World ministry] those who lived communally with other Way members saw, knew and participated in sexual shenanigans where the reasoning given was “take care of the shepherd and you take care of the flock”.

The same reasoning was given for Jim Bakker of PTL being serviced by women other than his wife.

I never saw it, but I did suspect my twig leader [A twig is an organizational term and consists of about 10 members] of being unfaithful to her husband because of her overly flirtatious, touchy-feely manner with a new male recruit for the Way].

I even questioned her about it and how her husband was off, alone, with female prospects.  I can’t recall her exact reply but I do recall her anger at my even questioning and the immediate punishment meted out to myself by her.  I was made to feel I was in the wrong.

Neither Catherine Oxenberg nor Sarah Edmondson lived in the Nxivm community; thus,  I doubt they would have been privy to it.  Add to that they are rather free-thinking women, not prudes, who would not look askance at NXIVM adult members sleeping around.

Once I lived in a houseful of Way women, for a short period of eight months. I began to see the “anything goes” sexual attitude of the women I lived with.  When one was on the WOW field, one was supposed to be celibate for the entire year, if one was unmarried. Yet my Twig household was screwing WOW’S right and left under my own roof!

I went to my area leader, questioning this, thinking she would enforce Way policy.  Boy, was I naive.

When the high mucky-mucks from headquarters, always men visited, the prettiest young woman in the area was chosen as his bed partner and the young women thought of it as a privilege.

Again, I knew nothing of this at the time.

Catherine Oxenberg is no prude. In fact, she’s a bit risque as they say. At one point, and she may still be, she was involved in some group having to do with the female orgasm as some spiritual passageway to enlightenment.

Do you begin to see the complexity, the drip, drip of it all yet how it always boils down to power, sex and money?


Image result for the way international cult
Some say that the Way International is a cult. The group itself says it is a Christian ministry.


Image result for the way international
The Way International fellowships are located throughout the United States, as well as over 30 countries. The Way is predominantly financed via its course fees and tithing. In 2000, the president of The Way, Craig Martindale, resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct. Rev. Rosalie F. Rivenbark became president of the organization and served along with two other members on its board of directors. In 2017, Rev. Jean-Yves DeLisle was installed as the fourth president of The Way and currently serves in this position.


South Atlantic Region’s 75 Years and Onward Day in the Word
The President of The Way International, Rev. Jean-Yves De Lisle, and his wife, Michele. Does this man lead a cult or a serious Biblical based religion?

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  • My perspective on The Way is encapsulated in my memoir, Undertow: My Escape from the Fundamentalism and Cult Control of The Way International. New Wings Press, LLC. 2017.

    I was in the group for 17 years as a Way Corps graduate, leader, and worker on their so-called Biblical Research Team. My story shows the problems with sexual misconduct in the group and with their biblical research. I worked at The Way HQ on their biblical research team, then escaped in 1987.

  • “…the real agenda was to propagate sexual acts we would ordinarily find abhorrent”

    This post, and the one immediately preceding it, are remarkable for their Puritanism. In fact much of the criticism on this blog seems to be obsessed with sexual misconduct. It’s bizarre.

    What are the “abhorrent” sex acts in this article? “Flirty” behavior. Being “touchy-feely”. Hinted-at marital infidelity seems to be the most serious accusation. That’s all? This is supposed to be abhorrent sexual acts? Damn. I was disappointed.

    Yeah, a married person shouldn’t be flirty with other people. And yes it’s hypocritical for a person who claims to be chaste for Jesus to be screwing around. But really, that’s all you got? I was hoping for something juicer!

    Jesus cults, like cults in general, make me want to puke. But it’s the money grabbing, the lies, the obsessive behavior and mob belief in stupid principles that get to me. Not that the leader is having sex. Sex is neither immoral or illegal. Fraud is both. Cults are primarily frauds.

    The post immediately preceding this one, regarding Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard, is as Puritanical as this one. Scientology in my opinion is a gigantic fraud, hostile and isolating, that takes gullible people’s money and sucks them in and won’t let them go. I think it’s illegitimate from top to bottom. But I couldn’t care less about L.Ron having had courier girls dressed in shorts and go-go boots. Nor do I care that he drank to excess or took amphetamines. If he wanted to blow out his liver, it was his liver to ruin. I say go for it, L.Ron.

    Sometimes I get the impression that the gold standard around here is to be a teetotaling virgin.

    I have long loathed Keith Raniere, I’m glad he was finally caught and convicted and I hope he rots in prison. Not because he had sex with various women and had one of them buy BDSM stuff online but because he was running a scam. Nxivm was not a legitimate business. He was defrauding people. He also was evidently having sex with underage girls, which is both immoral and illegal. He was blackmailing people with the so-called collateral, and that is also both immoral and illegal. But the threesomes, his stable of (adult) women… it may have been seedy and gross but it’s not illegal.

    As for Jeffrey Epstein, who is prominent in these pages, he was an old rich guy who liked young women. Distasteful, yes, but hardly difficult to understand. He was rich and wanted sweet young things, they were sweet young things who were attracted by a rich and powerful man. Where the merely distasteful crossed into the illegal was Epstein messing around with jailbait. Some of these girls were underage. That’s illegal, as it should be.

    But a lot of the news coverage I see about Epstein condemns him for his taste in young women and confuses this with criminal behavior. Women who are adults. Young adults, but adults nevertheless. There’s a good deal of hypocrisy in this condemnation. And irritating Puritanism. Sex is not dirty. Sex is not something to be ashamed of. This is not Victorian England.

    • Actaeon,
      When “clergy”, married and unmarried, or others use their position of authority to seduce young women in their late teens, and twenties (innocents) to have sex, when they coerce and threaten staff members to yield to illicit or unwanted sexual relationships with them or be fired, and when the “minustry” pays for their abortions to cover it up, then that is crossing the line, wouldn’t you agree? These men had seniority to these girls by 20 to 40 years!

      The founder of The Way taught that the women were there for them – his inner circle of younger men. Ordained publicly by him, he taught them that these illicit and clearly adulterous acts were par for the course, and OK. No matter the collateral damage in this “minustry” of Love. This drifted down through the group but especially the Leadership.

      It’s understandable that some of the many that were scarred and damaged psychologically to the point of despair eventually committed suicide. They were ignored or, get this, blamed, by other “clergy” whose role it was to help and counsel. Where in the world were they to go now after this? This is Spiritual Abuse and that’s what this is about.

      The Way International, of which I was involved for 12 years, did this and more.

      I, like you, know that married people flirt and that there are flings among the younger crowd, and adulterous affairs, but what was going on there with the damage to people, the using of another for pleasure only and then to be cold-heartedly discarded or passed on to another authority figure, yes, passed on down the line as fresh girls entered the scene, was a manifestation of evil in its purest form. Abortions. Suicides. Lives ruined for the long haul.

      Perhaps you didn’t realize that some people can be that evil while teaching the “Word of God”, i.e., the Bible from a Fundamentalist approach. It was really nasty stuff.

  • There, that wasn’t so hard, was it g? Now we can see whether your experience was typical or an outlier, assuming others see the story and add their input. The fact that the guy at the top had to quit in 2000 is interesting. When were you involved?

    • Scott,

      I believe I can speak for G and everyone else…..

      Nobody gives an F regarding your input….

      G would probably rather wipe her ass with number 4 sandpaper than reply to one of your questions.

      • You are too scared to speak for yourself, let alone g. LOL

        How do you know that NOBODY gives an F regarding my input, have you checked with EVERYBODY? LOL

        It was more of a statement than a question. Have you ever heard of the term rhetorical question or is that too big of a word and too complicated of a concept for you? LOL

        • Scott,

          You were part of a class action lawsuit.

          You were not the tip of the spear or dare I state vanguard of the legal action against Amway. If we were in combat you would be the guy in the rear hanging with the gear.

          Stop making yourself out to be more than some dude from Texas with a shity looking mustache. 😉

          • I was part of the class action lawsuit Pokorny v. Quixtar (Amway) in California. I was also the sole defendant regarding completely different issues in Texas. You are stupid, clueless, and scared. I have never worn a mustache.

    • Scott, I did not reveal this because of anything you said nor didn’t say.
      I felt it was time, I placed it in a comment and Frank made it an article.

      As for when I was involved it was at the zenirh of The Way when L Craig Martindale was MOGFOT, VP Wierwille was still alive and the 35 page letter that hepled propel a schism within the group had yet to be written by Chris Geer.

      I was a child, an innocent, seduced by those more worldly wise than myself.

      In the years following I have become an armchair expert on cults of various kibds, and they are not all religious.
      I have gone so far as to “hang our” with Moonies, sat next to E Farley Jones and his wife, attended JW Kingdon Hall meetings, discoursed with Mormon’s. Dialogued with 12 Tribes, etc.
      I have sat with deprogrammers. Spoken with parents whose sons, and daughters, have been spirited sway by self help, home spun guru’s, etc and felt their helplessness.

      So, you see, I am no neophyte in this venue. I have been there, done that and realized the absolute danger of such ideologies and cult of personalities.

      I am still a believer. The cult did not steal that from me yet I am more a deist.

      How does the phrase go? “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosopy.”

      As for the Way it is now headed by a woman, Rosalie Rivenstock I belueve. Donna Martindale seems to be her right hand gal.
      Oddly no woman is to hold positions of authority per the Way since they taught woman is for man and man is for God.
      Hypocrites, aren’t they?

      One last note.
      Cults, a cult of any kind, is akin to mental rape.

      • Of course I had something to do with you revealing which cult you were in, you just can’t admit it.

        I never claimed you were a neophyte, all I’ve ever done is asked you to name the cult you were in, so I could better understand where you were coming from.

        Now I understand how The Way has a strong belief that everyone else not holding their beliefs is inferior, which is the basis for you trying to claim I had zero impact on you naming the cult you were in. You are trapped in your own head, swirling with other cultic input. I NEVER felt the need to immerse myself in another MLM scam or a cult after experiencing Amway. I figured it out.

        Perhaps The Way was “further enlightened” to allow women to hold leadership roles, much as the Mormons increased the number of people who could go to Heaven over time. How else would they explain it?

  • Thanks for sharing your experience with another group. It indeed shows that high control groups or cults tend to operate in fundamentally similar ways.

    As for Oxenberg, it seems that many people think that she did enough of the modules, and was around long enough, that she should have started to realize what was going on – though I have yet to see anyone say with certainty when the modules with the most objectionable material were presented, and that Oxenberg unquestionably would have taken them.

    It occurs to me that another thing to consider is that if NXIVM operated at all like Scientology with respect to celebrities, someone like Oxenberg may have gotten very different treatment from an average member, and special efforts may have been made to shield her from certain sorts of things.

    • Great point that Catherine may have got celebrity treatment.
      I know in the Way if you had $$$$, were a doctor, lawyer, ex nun (yep, we had a sister of St. Joseph just out of the convent and in the Way and went WOW to Colorado within a year and may have married another Way believer and she was handled like she was gold), highly successful in your field you were treated well. Poor schmucks like myself were seen as field labor.

  • G,

    Thank you for being brave and sharing your experience.

    I have heard of The Children of God, The Church of Christ and the Church of God, but never “The Way International”.

    I found an interesting old article/post on the internet. The link is at the bottom of this comment.

    Not too much public information exists for The Way International.

    • I was vaguely aware of them, I think because because they were one of the groups that recruited on college campuses during the heyday of such things in the 1970s and 1980s.

      The Moonies’ college front group CARP was also a presence on campus, as were the LaRouchies, and maybe TM. I don’t know if you’ve heard of all of those, but they would have been easy to miss – I didn’t actually run across them at a smaller college I attended, but only later when I went to a large university for graduate school, and other than on campuses I think they only really had a presence in big cities. Also, the Hari Krishnas were infamous along with a couple of other groups for proselytizing at airports (parodied in one of the Airplane movies) in the pre-security days, though I don’t think they targeted campuses as much. And Scientology was probably there too – using what was then their much more accustomed front of Dianetics.

      p.s. I’ve used the popular names for the groups rather than their formal ones – which would be even less familiar to people

      • Yep, Children of God was recruiting in my city when I was a teen.

        Scientology had a storefront on Lark St at the same time.

        The state Moonie headquarters is just down the road from me. Same road but across the main thoroughfare.

        We have numerous Kingdom Halls.

        A new Mormon building.

        I come across Mormon missionaries often. Always polite young men.

        Active recruiting by anyone regarding religion is nonexistent. Now, it”s the ideological cults that proliferate.

        As the Bible says “there is nothing new under the sun.”

About the Author

Frank Parlato is an investigative journalist.

His work has been cited in hundreds of news outlets, like The New York Times, The Daily Mail, VICE News, CBS News, Fox News, New York Post, New York Daily News, Oxygen, Rolling Stone, People Magazine, The Sun, The Times of London, CBS Inside Edition, among many others in all five continents.

His work to expose and take down NXIVM is featured in books like “Captive” by Catherine Oxenberg; “Scarred” by Sarah Edmonson; “The Program” by Toni Natalie, and “NXIVM. La Secta Que Sedujo al Poder en México” by Juan Alberto Vasquez.

Parlato has been featured prominently on HBO’s docuseries “The Vow” and acted as lead investigator and coordinating producer for Investigation Discovery’s “The Lost Women of NXIVM.” He was credited in the Starz docuseries, 'Seduced,' for saving 'slave' women from being branded and escaping the sex-slave cult known as DOS.

Parlato has appeared on the Nancy Grace Show, Beyond the Headlines with Gretchen Carlson, Dr. Oz, American Greed, Dateline NBC and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, where Parlato conducted the first-ever interview with Keith Raniere after his arrest, which was ironic since many credit Parlato as being one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

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