*An NPR Best Book of the Year*
A PopSugar Best True Crime Book of 2020
“I can’t imagine a more important book.”—Jeff Guinn, New York Times bestselling author
An explosive investigation into Word of Faith Fellowship, a secretive evangelical cult whose charismatic female leader is a master of manipulation
In 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 of life inside the Word of Faith Fellowship, and the harrowing account of one family who escaped after two decades.
Journalists Weiss and Mohr provide a fast-paced, harrowing expos of the Word of Faith Fellowship, an evangelical Christian ministry. Weiss and Mohr explore the appeal of the North Carolina church and its charismatic leader Jane Whaley by following the experiences of Rick and Suzanne Cooper, who joined the church with their six children in 1993. The Coopers grew increasingly devoted, even as Whaley exerted ever more control over the family, including forcing their children to live away from the family in Word of Faith housing and dictating when the couple could have more children. Whaley preaches a strict vision of spiritual warfare in which she singles out individuals at each service for "blasting": long session of being violently berated and sometimes hit by other congregants in order to force the demons out, particularly accusing members of not sufficiently suppressing sexual desires. Defectors, including Suzanne's sister, face orchestrated efforts to lure them back and discredit them. In 2014, after over two decades as congregants of Word of Faith, the Coopers left the church. The ballooning number of characters and some unresolved trajectories can make the narrative feel jumbled, but the stories of prolonged abuse and powerful control tactics are transfixing. This is catnip for readers who enjoy investigative reporting on shadowy organizations.