Charlene Edge is the author of the award-winning memoir, Undertow: My Escape from the Fundamentalism and Cult Control of The Way International. She was in The Way International from 1970 to 1987. Charlene lives in Florida, with her husband, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Rollins College, Dr. Hoyt L. Edge.
By Charlene Edge
This is in response to Frank Report’s Former Member: The Way International Biblical Ministry Was Rife With Sexual Excesses Just Like Other Cults
I’m responding to the information about Craig Martindale, the 2nd president of The Way International, who resigned/was dismissed after a second lawsuit for alleged sexual misconduct.
In my view, based on my 17 years of experience in The Way and on research I’ve done since, The Way was fraudulent primarily because Victor Paul Wierwille, the founder of The Way International, asserted two things.
1) He claimed God told him He would teach him The Word like it had not been known since the first century if he would teach it to others.
“The Word” is a phrase Wierwille used to refer to the Bible.
In my view, that claim to special revelation from God was bogus (fraudulent).
It was bogus, because the New Testament, the contents of half the Bible, (the Bible is what Wierwille meant by The Word), was not established until AFTER the first century. It evolved between 250-300 A. D.
So, if God really had spoken those words to Wierwille, either God forgot those facts, or Wierwille was playing fast and loose with them.
The second reason The Way was fraudulent, in my opinion, is that Wierwille plagiarized the work of others and passed it off as his original work.
For instance, his book, “Receiving the Holy Spirit Today” is a very close reproduction of a book by J.E. Stiles titled, “The Gift of the Holy Spirit.”
You can do an online search for more examples and you’ll find them.
I have published a memoir of my experiences in The Way.
I show how I was recruited and how Wierwille used psychological manipulation to gain and keep followers. My book is a very personal story of how Wierwille personally trained me, and how Craig Martindale, the second president of The Way International, eventually betrayed me.
These topics and more are in my book titled, Undertow: My Escape from the Fundamentalism and Cult Control of The Way International.
It’s available in paperback and eBook at major booksellers. Read about it at https://charleneedge.co
About Charlene Edge’s book
Undertow: My Escape from the Fundamentalism and Cult Control of The Way International(TM) is Charlene Edge’s riveting memoir about the power of words to seduce, betray, and, in her case, eventually save.
After a personal tragedy left her bereft, teenaged Charlene rejected faith and family when recruiters drew her into The Way International, a sect led by the charismatic Victor Paul Wierwille.
The Way became one of the largest cults in America. Charlene gave it 17 years of her life. Believing that God led her to Wierwille, she underwent his intensive two-year training program, The Way Corps, designed to produce loyal leaders.
When Wierwille warned of a possible government attack, she prepared to live off the grid. She ignored warning signs of Wierwille’s paranoia and abuse – he condemned dissenters as the Devil’s agents, he required followers to watch pornography, he manipulated Corps into keeping his secrets in a “lock box,” he denied the Holocaust, and he surrounded himself with bodyguards.
She married a Corps graduate and they served across the United States as Way leaders, funneling money into Wierwille’s bursting coffers and shunning anyone who criticized him.
As obedient Way Corps, they raised their child to believe the doctrines of Wierwille, the cult’s designated “father in the Word.”
Eventually, Charlene was promoted to the inner circle of biblical researchers, where she discovered devastating secrets: Wierwille twisted texts of Scripture to serve his personal agenda, shamelessly plagiarized the work of others, and misrepresented the purpose of his organization.
Worst of all, after Wierwille died in 1985, shocking reports surfaced of his secret sex ring. Amid chaos at The Way’s Ohio-based headquarters, Charlene knew she had to escape – for her own survival and her child’s.
Reading like a novel, Undertow is not only a brilliant cautionary tale about misplaced faith but also an exposé of the hazards of fundamentalism and the destructive nature of cults. Through her personal story, Charlene Edge shows how a vulnerable person can be seduced into following an authoritarian leader and how difficult it can be to find a way out.
Here is some praise about the book:
Gold Medal Winner for Autobiography/Memoir, 2017 Florida Authors and Publishers Association (FAPA)
“While a variety of controversies ended up surrounding The Way, the author’s most astute portrayal concerns her participation in its research branch. … A frank, in-depth account of one woman’s struggles in a controlling organization.” – Kirkus Review
#78 on BookRiot’s “100 Must-Read Books About Life in Cults and Oppressive Religious Sects”
“…more gripping than a mystery, Undertow will sweep you away.” —Janja Lalich, PhD. Professor Emerita of Sociology at California State University, Chico, author of Bounded Choice: True Believers and Charismatic Cults
“A tenderly written, intensely personal narrative about being swallowed alive by a cult. Charlene Edge’s encounters with the abusive Victor Paul Wierwille and her firsthand observation of how The Way’s Research Department twisted the Scriptures are enlightening and chilling.” —Karl Kahler, author of The Cult That Snapped: A Journey Into The Way International
“How could a smart woman join a cult that asked of her everything, and took her all in the process? … There is something in this book for anyone who has ever wholeheartedly embraced a questionable theology, only to find that what was meant as a salve eventually becomes a sword.” —Susan Campbell, author of Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl
“Charlene Edge’s heartfelt and heartbreaking memoir takes us behind the scenes to reveal how easily a handful of religious charlatans betrayed the trust placed in their hands. The pain is palpable as Edge walks readers through her seventeen years of virtual imprisonment by cult leaders who twisted the Word of God to psychologically and even physically abuse thousands of young people at The Way International. Undertow is a disturbing reminder that abuse of power can and does happen anywhere.” —Robert Ruff, Emmy Award-winning television news producer
“In Undertow Charlene Edge has written a brilliant and engrossing warning to the future by dissecting the past. … What she exposes to bright liberating daylight is just how our political and religious worlds actually function based on the mesmerizing enticement of belonging to an ‘in-group.’ —Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy For God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back and New York Times best-selling author of Keeping Faith
“Charlene Edge writes with clarity and sensitivity. This memoir on her experiences in The Way International will help readers understand the subtleties and complexities of cultic groups.” —Michael D. Langone, PhD, Executive Director of the International Cultic Studies Association, Editor of Cultic Studies Review, Editor-in-Chief of ICSA Today, and Editor of Recovery from Cults: Help for Victims of Psychological and Spiritual Abuse.