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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  • I was in the way briefly, and not my best experience. It wasn’t until I left that I could see what was really going on. It’s the typical ‘give all to the group for the greater good.” Kind of like a Kenneth Hagan campmeeting where people give up their wedding rings and other jewelry to fund the ’cause’. Married a man I met through them, who was a drug addict that beat me with in an inch of my life. It was garbage. I’m a very happy pagan now, and the Goddess is good to me with out having to sign my house over or give up expensive family heirlooms.

  • In 1985, my sister invited me to a Way seminar (she has since left the cult). I was 20 years old. While I managed to come to Christ despite it, I can recall that what put my back up the most, even at 20, was that I was not allowed to take notes nor ask questions. That is a huge red flag. In addition, even I, without any theological training, understood that their stating that there were four thieves at the crucifiction was a false argument: “Why would the soldiers break one thief’s legs, then the other’s, *then* come back to Christ?” Well, because he was the main attraction, as it were.

  • I associated myself with the Way and as to the behaviors of the early leadership; they will have to answer to God. The teachings of Dr. Weirwill are sound, sometimes more true than any organized religion that is generally respected elsewhere. We wafers are NOT members we were willing participates in a belief system that made more sense than ANY other religion that exists on the earth today. I no longer participate, and have never been harrased, asked, or dragged into going back. However I stand with the teachings of the Dr have not wavered from the doctrines that he taught. I don’t care if everyone calls it a cult. Jesus associated himself with the Nisians, which was considered a cult of his day.

    • I was in The Way for years. I was there when Martindale was ousted first his indescretion. When people spoke against him, I thought of king David who wanted Basheba so bad he put her husband on the front line. Once confronted, he got himself together so much so God called him a man after his own heart. David was a great leader, but God forgave him as he would anyone who truly repented of their transgression. The blood of Jesus cleanses us of all unrighteousness. Now, I only heard of all the alleged sex acts via the internet years after his departure. Whatever happen or didn’t happen. God is the righteous judge. I will say this, Dr. Victor P. Weirwill was the greatest teacher I’ve ever known. I have yet to hear or find anyone better. The things he taught 60 years ago are truths that are just being discovered by ministers of today. Martindale was himself an excellent teacher and his behavior should not be condoned but forgiven. I joined the ministry in 1974 and I still have my books and other written materials that are based on the truths of Gods words. We all fall short, but VPW said, don’t look on him, but on the Lord Jesus Christ. Even now, we listen to the teachings of the Apostle Paul who murdered Christians. If these things occurred within the ministry, they sinned against their own bodies but if God is willing to forgive those who ask with a heart of humility who are you to not do the same. Get and keep your own life in order. We all have to one day stand before the judgement seat.

      • Ms. Lee, I also joined the ministry in 1974 went WOW met my wife of 44 years. She is gone now, maybe she knows the whole story now that she is dead, anyway if you were there an also you would know of Bob M, HE WAS ONE OF THE GOOD ONES he left the ministry because of the wrongs that were being done by Martindale and others I have been out of the way since the 1980. They were trying to control me way too much for my likening. But the ONE big thing i did not like was the teaching of the 6 million jews the nazi’s killed he preached it did not happen. What a LIE my Father was one of the troops who walked up on a camp with the dead and starving people behind the wire!!!!

      • Well said. My opinion is only my opinion and what you say makes a lot of since. Last I looked, Jesus was the only perfect person to walk on this earth. We know right from wrong. We can Identify it, use the protocol the word gives to try to heal the Body of Christ and if any individual decides they don’t want to do right, I have enough sense to leave that person alone. Romans 3:23 is real, ALL have sinned, so why get so bent out of shape and spend years and good energy talking about the sin when we’re called to spread the gospel, the good news.
        Ego is a big word. I love the friendships that were cultivated during my about 25 years in this ministry. Truth be told, I haven’t found a church that comes close to teaching what I learned in this ministry. I lived in 4 way homes and when things went wrong, we stayed up until they got right or the individual causing the issue had to move on. The Bible was what we based the truth on.

        Again, wonderful insight.

        God Bless,

        • I was involved with the Way Ministry in the 70’s and 80’s, representing God’s truth of His Word as a Wow Ambassador with my husband 1987/1988.
          The years I spent with this ministry are a great time of learning the truth of God’s Word and what I have In Chris Jesus.
          I am forever thankful for the teachings from Dr Wierwille and others who stood faithfully on God’s Word. I have learned so many truths and learned the accuracy of the Word and how it fits together like a hand in a glove… and the mathematical exactness and scientific precision of how it fits together and all makes sense.

          All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. It is not ours to judge.

      • I too was in the Way Ministry in the 70’s and early 80’s and still have many of the books, tapes and magazines. Dr Wierwille taught the truth of God’s Word that in my heart still stands today. He was only a man and as he taught, don’t take what he says, read it for yourself in God’s Word. I ma forever grateful and thankful for learning the truth of God;s Word under his leadership in the ministry and his stand on the accuracy of God’s Word.

    • I agree with you James. After over 50 years, I have yet to find any ministry that teaches the integrity of Gods word like VPW. Even Craig Martindale. His teachings were right on. I think as king David, Craig should have left his leadership position, ask Gods forgiveness and move forward and continue to bless others with the teachings that he knew so well.

      • Craig Martindale‘s teachings were in no way right on. I was in the way with two young children. I would listen to Reverend Martindale‘s teachings in my car trying to do the right thing as a Christian woman. Reverend Martindale said so many curse words in his teachings that I could not even listen to them with my children in the car.

        • I agree with Anonymous that Craig Martindale did quite a bit of cussing. I disagree, however, that his teachings weren’t right on. If you could delete the cusses, would the rest of the teaching stand? Solomon had so many wives and concubines he could sleep with a different woman every day of the year…for almost 3 years, without sleeping with someone twice. And yet, his heart for God was open to the point that God could have him pen revelation in the Book of Solomon and build a temple that was a testament to the One True God. Was the Temple beautiful? Yes. Is the book of Solomon God’s Word? Yes. Did God want men to lust after women like that to the point of not being able to control that craving to have more and more women? No. God didn’t give Adam a Harem, but one Helpmeet. Why did God speak to Solomon? Obviously NOT because he was perfect…not even close. Did Solomon have a heart for God? Obviously. Mankind has always been very sinful. God’s solution? Condemn them, right? Wrong, as witnessed by God sending his only begotten Son, who walked PERFECTLY, to die for sinful mankind (yup…that’s ALL of us, even if we think we were pretty good folks, brought up right and real respectful like), we were still as far from God as anyone can get…DEAD in trespasses and sin. God knew we lacked what was needed if we were going to do anything for Him. He gave us what cleansed and made us whole: the gift of holy spirit, Christ-in-you, the hope of glory. God promises us that a day is coming when there will be no more old man nature in any of us. God is so perfect than even Jesus Christ, when called a good master, reproved the speaking saying there was only one God master, and that was God. Personally speaking, cursing has never gotten me upset. I’m a New York city girl through and through, and I prefer the Way Craig Martindale taught to others who would put me to sleep. I had a roommate, who felt the same way. She coordinated a group of fellowships (a Branch) and would not play his teachers for open fellowships, especially with new people. I enjoyed the scream fests, as I called them. I could relate to this teaching style better. But I do know it was a stumbling block for some, and to that degree I believe it is best to tone down cussing, not because it’s a sin but may keep others from being able to focus on what is being taught. On the other hand, I used to have a hard time listening to Don Wierwille teach. He had that deep, slow, methodical way of teaching. It would put me to sleep. Then one day I actually focused and listened to him teach. And after that I never fell asleep when he taught again. I began to appreciate the man who went to India with his father as a teenager, standing by his side ministering healing to people, casting out devil spirits, performing signs, miracles, and wonders and teaching, teaching, teaching. What he taught had power because he had lived what he taught. Would I have liked more fire from Don? Yes. But was I able to get beyond his particular style and hear what I needed to? Yes.

  • Just to clarify: the group named in the poster above, Prepare The Way International School of Ministry, has nothing to do with The Way International, which is based in Ohio and is the group featured in this post.

  • 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.

    • Was anyone holding you captive? It took you 17 yrs to realize all that is said was going on. It seems you were part of the problem. So now you want to bad mouth a ministry you were a part of for so long. It doesn’t say much about you. I know of Cults who make it impossible to leave and will hunt you down to get you back. Who leaders molest young girl and for all intense purposes stay out the limelight.

      • Everyone in a cult denies it is a cult and defends the cult and its practices. Also blaming young women for their sexy behavior, those harlots who tempt our poor man leaders is often a complaint. Because your leaders are so holy, spiritual, above reproach but are easily manipulated by sexy devious women. Women should definitely be quiet and let the head of the family, i.e. the man, speak for her because he is God’s only authority and everything about her is weak and incapable of being holy without him. I mean, women really are open to devil spirits aren’t they? You can hardly trust them any day of the week, month, year, decade, millennium.
        Also, typical for you to remain anonymous. Full of the spirit behind that screen. 😉

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

Additionally, Parlato’s coverage of the group OneTaste, starting in 2018, helped spark an FBI investigation, which led to indictments of two of its leaders in 2023.

Parlato 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. This was ironic, as many credit Parlato as one of the primary architects of his arrest and the cratering of the cult he founded.

Parlato is a consulting producer and appears in TNT's The Heiress and the Sex Cult, which premiered on May 22, 2022. Most recently, he consulted and appeared on Tubi's "Branded and Brainwashed: Inside NXIVM," which aired January, 2023.

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