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|Founder||Victor Paul Wierwille|
|Focus||Biblical Research, Teaching, and Fellowship|
|Origins||October 3, 1942 |
Vesper Chimes radio program
|Rosalie F. Rivenbark, Chairman of the Board|
Jean-Yves De Lisle, Director
Robert Lones, Director
John Rupp, Director
Greg Shaffer, Director
|Founder||Victor Paul Wierwille|
|Focus||Biblical Research, Teaching, and Fellowship|
|Origins||October 3, 1942 |
Vesper Chimes radio program
|Rosalie F. Rivenbark, Chairman of the Board|
Jean-Yves De Lisle, Director
Robert Lones, Director
John Rupp, Director
Greg Shaffer, Director
The Way International is a nontrinitarian non-denominational Christian ministry based in New Knoxville, Ohio, with home fellowships located in the United States and in over 30 other countries. It was founded by Victor Paul Wierwille in 1942 as a radio program, and became The Chimes Hour Youth Caravan in 1947, and The Way, Inc., in 1955. The ministry distributes works such as The Way Magazine through its publishing company, the American Christian Press, and has developed classes and other programs in several languages. It formed The Way Corps in 1970, a leadership training program, which continues today. The Way actively offers classes in biblical studies to its followers, highlighting The Way of Abundance and Power class series.
The Way promotes itself as a Biblical research, teaching, and fellowship ministry, providing service and direction on how to understand the bible so people can apply it and manifest the more abundant life.
The Way has received criticism for some of its internal policies, including its belief and promotion of living debt-free. Due to this and other practices, the ministry came under scrutiny as an alleged cult.
In 2000, the president of The Way, Craig Martindale, resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct. Rosalie F. Rivenbark now heads the organization along with four other members on the board of directors.
On October 3, 1942, Victor Paul Wierwille began a live radio program dubbed "Vesper Chimes." Wierwille assembled a group of youth to help him from local churches. The program was broadcast from WLOK in Lima, Ohio, where the youth would sing and perform alongside Wierwille's sermons that included incidents and "principles of the abundant life." Vesper Chimes began broadcasting directly from St. Jacob's in 1943 as a supplement to their church. Soon afterwards, the program was renamed "The Chimes Hour Youth Caravan." Wierwille's published his first book, Victory Through Christ in 1945, compiling his radio sermons addressed to young people. In 1947, The Chimes Hour Youth Caravan incorporated and Wierwille was named President alongside a board of directors. That year, The Way: The Chimes Hour Young People's Publication began publishing writings by young people associated with the radio program each month. Starting in 1948, Wierwille began broadcasting every morning in addition to the regular program. Nearly ten years following the first broadcast, "The Van Wert Gospel Gift Shop and Multigraph Printing and Publishing Co." opened for business and released the first issue of The Way Magazine. The Chimes Hour Youth Caravan continued to have radio and public performances until April 1953, at which time the Nielsen ratings showed that 70,000 homes were tuned in on Sundays, broadcasting over radio station WLW, Cincinnati. Wierwille continued to broadcast his meditations over WIMA (formerly WLOK), Lima, WONW, Defiance, and WRFD, Worthington until 1955.
In October 1953, Wierwille began teaching his first class, called "Receiving the Holy Spirit Today", which he based on a series he attended earlier that year in Calgary, Alberta. He received some criticism for drawing heavily on B. G. Leonard's "Gifts of the Spirit" class, and soon changed the name to "Power for Abundant Living". The class was initially taught live, with Wierwille traveling to each location personally. In 1967, the Foundational and Intermediate classes were filmed, and classes began to be run without Wierwille's presence. Weirwille continued teaching an advanced class in New Knoxville until filmed versions were put together in the late 1970s.
Wierwille incorporated under the name "The Way" in 1955, and resigned employment in the Evangelical and Reformed Church in 1957. He initially held meetings in his own home, and later constructed the Ecumenical Biblical Research Center on his family's farm in 1961, establishing it as his ministry's headquarters. Wierwille continued to teach Power for Abundant Living, and held additional seminars each summer for specialized classes. Wierwille recruited a board of directors from his former graduates, but disbanded it in the late 1950s. Wierwille explained his decision to disband the board in a later book, saying that the board was not supporting him in his decisions and it was not their purpose to argue with him, but to support his decisions. From then on, The Way was run by a board of Trustees headed by Wierwille as President, Ermal Owens as Vice President, and Wierwille's brother Harry Ernst Wierwille as secretary-treasurer.
The Way's membership grew in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In January 1968, Wierwille's visited San Francisco to personally witness the 'Jesus People' street ministries in the Haight-Ashbury scene. Some of the groups he met later incorporated, becoming The Way East (based in Rye, New York) and The Way West (based in Mill Valley, California). Wierwille also recruited a number of new members on his trip, marking a period of large growth for his ministry.
In 1970, Wierwille began an outreach program entitled "Word Over the World" to draw renewed interest in his ministry. WOW ambassadors volunteered for one year to preach and recruit new students. These ambassadors were required to find part-time work and spend time witnessing for a set number of hours each week. Ambassadors were organized into "families" of four, and were typically sent out in "branches" of two to seven families. In some years, cities designated as "Outreach Cities" were sent hundreds of ambassadors at a time. Growth continued into the late 1980s, particularly in the United States, Europe, South America and Africa. WOW festivals modeled after the Rock of Ages, and were held in Great Britain, several South American countries and in Zaire. The program was discontinued in 1995 and replaced a year later by a six-month "Way Disciples Outreach Program."
In 1982, during the ministry's 40th anniversary celebration, Wierwille installed L. Craig Martindale as President and accepted the title President Emeritus. Martindale became involved with The Way in 1971 while a University of Kansas student and Fellowship of Christian Athletes member. He served as Director of the Way Corps from 1974 to 2000 retaining the position after becoming President. An elaborate, public ceremony signified Martindale's installation as President which included a symbolic 'passing of a mantle' representing the authority transferring from Wierwille to Martindale.
After Wierwille died on May 20, 1985 of hepatocellular carcinoma and melanoma, a period of disagreement developed between Martindale and some of the organization's other leaders and followers, particularly Chris Geer who had been the bodyguard and close confidant of Dr. Wierwille's and coordinator of the group's European outreach, lasting until the early 1990s, along with a general decline in numbers. (See section below on "Splinter Groups")
In 2000, Martindale's term as president was ended following the admittance of sexual misconduct  and Rev. Rosalie F. Rivenbark replaced him. Sexual allegations had previously plagued Wierwille during his career as President. The Board is now called the Board of Directors, consisting of five directors, with Rivenbark as Chairman of the Board.
The Way International headquarters is located in New Knoxville, Ohio, and presently they also own and operate Camp Gunnison—The Way Household Ranch in Gunnison, Colorado. The Way is organized into branches located in the United States and in over 30 other countries, generally consisting of several household fellowships. The Way focuses on these fellowships as a basic organizational unit. Meetings are run in each home by fellowship coordinators who have completed The Way of Abundance and Power class series. The Way International claims no official membership other than the Board of Directors; individuals who participate in fellowships are referred to as "followers of the way," or "believers."
The Way offers three sequential classes covering the beliefs of the organization. The Foundational and Intermediate classes are required prior to taking any other classes. To qualify for the Advanced class, which is held specially in Ohio each summer, a student must first complete the Foundational and Intermediate classes twice, in addition to "Defeating the Adversary".
For many years, The Way offered a three-part "Power for Abundant Living" class, taught live by Wierwille beginning in 1953. This class was offered in video and audio tape form from 1968 until it was replaced in 1995 by Martindale's class "The Way of Abundance and Power," which was restructured and re-filmed in 2006.
As founder of The Way, Victor Paul Wierwille served as the organization's principal leader from 1942 to 1982. In 1947, The Chimes Hour Youth Caravan incorporated as a nonprofit religious organization with Wierwille serving as president aside a Board of Directors. The name of the corporation officially changed from The Chimes Hour Youth Caravan to The Way in 1955. The Board of Directors was discontinued in the 1970s, and in 1982, during The Way's fortieth anniversary celebration, Wierwille installed L. Craig Martindale as his succeeding president. Until his death in 1985, Wierwille held the title President Emeritus. Martindale served as The Way's President between 1982 and 2000, and was replaced by the former Vice President, Rosalie F. Rivenbark, following allegations of sexual misconduct.
From 1956 to 2001, The Way operated with a Board of Trustees, namely the offices of president, vice president, and secretary-treasurer. The original Board of Trustees was, Victor Wierwille, president, Ermal Owens, vice president, and Harry Wierville (Wierville's brother), secretary-treasurer. In 1977, the vice president and secretary-treasurer positions were filled by Wierwille's son, Donald Wierwille, and Howard Allen respectively. Victor Wierwille continued to hold his position until Martindale became President in 1982. In 1996, Rivenbark was appointed vice president and in 2000 she succeeded Martindale as president. Other served as Trustees for shorter terms.
In 2001, to conform with Ohio state law, the Board of Trustees became known as the Board of Directors. Since that time, others have served on the Board of Directors fulfilling shorter terms than the original Trustees. Currently, The Way also functions with Senior Officers and Junior Officers.
In 1970 Wierwille formalized his selection and training of ministry leaders by starting "The Way Corps". The inspiration for the term "Way Corps" came from his admiration for the United States Marine Corps. The Way Corps' motto is "It Is Written," and The Way's website currently describes the program as "Leadership training for Advanced Class graduates who have a heart’s desire and passion to function as ministers of the Lord Jesus Christ." 
Prior to the First Corps, which began training in 1970, Wierwille invited a group of Way followers to New Knoxville for training and teaching. He disbanded the group for reasons which were never made public, other than a statement in The Way: Living in Love that they "couldn't get it together among themselves," and that Wierwille "gave them the privilege to leave". In later years, this group was referred to as "The Zero Corps". Groups who trained and graduated from the program together were at one time referred to "First Corps", "Second Corps", etc., referring to the order in which they graduated.
In 1977 the Way purchase property in Rome City, Indiana where the "Family Corps", those adults who wanted to train as leaders but had children or were older (over 40), resided and trained. A 200+ acre working farm, Rome City was purchased from the Catholic Church who had used the acreage as a hot springs sanatorium.
Originally, the Way Corps was a 2-year program, with both years of training in-residence, participants living and working at Way International Headquarters in New Knoxville, Ohio. After a few years, a third year of training, called an "interim" year, was inserted between the 2 years, in which The Way Corps student was given a one year assignment before completing training. An apprentice year before being in-residence started in 1978.
As currently constituted, The Way Corps training consists of a preparatory year called the "Candidacy Year," followed by an "Apprentice Year," when the prospect leads a group of Way Disciples, and then two years of in-residency training at The Way International's headquarters in New Knoxville, Ohio, and at Camp Gunnison—The Way Household Ranch in Gunnison, Colorado.
After completing the Advanced class, a follower may apply for enrollment. Before one can enter the program, however, the local leadership approves the applicant's entrance. Sponsorship requirements, as well as class prerequisites, change from time to time.
Activities during the campus residencies include basic mandatory physical activity (jogging) and optional other activities as desired (weightlifting, team sports, etc.) in order to promote health and fitness. Days are spent on work assignments to build responsibility and positive work ethics, and to maintain the particular needs of each campus (such as painting, food service, construction, building renovation, sanitation, gardening). People were generally matched to areas they have skill in or the desire to learn. Other programs include Biblical research and study nights, led by ministry staff, and typically involve in-depth study of various books of the Bible. Fellowships are held and practical lessons for leading fellowships and counseling attendees are shared. Meals are held as a large family, with Way Corps, College Division and ministry staff all in the same room, recognizing birthdays, wedding anniversaries, and announcing special campus events like campfire sing-alongs, movie nights or costume parties. Most time is spent on the campus but recreational time was given and can be spent off-campus.
One of the work projects of the Emporia campus (formerly the College of Emporia) was the restoration of the Anderson Memorial Library, a Carnegie library that was built in 1901 and had fallen into disrepair. It was rededicated in 1986 and placed into the National Register of Historic Places on June 25, 1987.
Upon completion of the four-year curriculum, graduates receive an accredited degree in theology. The graduating Way Corps can be sent out to different states or countries to coordinate branches or fulfill other assigned responsibilities, or remain at headquarters or Gunnison as staff. Way Corps duties include providing spiritual leadership at all levels and carrying out decisions made by the Board of Directors. Way Corps promotional materials mention "A Lifetime of Christian Service".
The Way has ordained Way Corps graduates over the years, and both men and women serve as clergy. Neither graduation from the Way Corps nor accepting a high leadership position guarantee ordination. At times state or region coordinators, and even members of the Board of Trustees have been laymen, while clergymen and women have served as fellowship coordinators, or without official responsibility whatsoever.
A member may be dropped from being Way Corps at any time without prior notice, although in recent years this practice has become uncommon. A policy titled Mark and Avoid was a major contributor to Way Corps discharge.
The College Division participants differed in that their program focus was on deeper study and comprehension of Biblical research and its tools versus being prepared for a life of leadership or ordination. The College Division program had two campuses and housed students in Rome City, Indiana at The Way College of Rome City, Indiana, and in Emporia, Kansas at The Way College of Emporia, alongside Way Corps, for one-year, two-year, and three-year programs. Some of the first-year classes included Beginning Greek, Harmony of the Gospels, and Old Testament History, while second-year classes included Aramaic, Hebrew, Advanced Greek, and a Biblical research thesis project. Classes were held during the day, in addition to required fellowship attendance and fitness programs, but students were not given work assignments like the Way Corps; they also had less-structured recreation time than the Corps. The College Division was sometimes invited to collaborate with the Way Corps in events such as the LEAD camping program or lessons in public speaking, and had meals together as well as campfires and some recreational activities. The College Division had fewer participants than Way Corps or WOWs (varying in number from a handful to several dozen).
A yearly gathering of Way followers in New Knoxville, Ohio, known as "The Rock of Ages Festival," was a popular Way event from 1970 until 1995, when it was discontinued. One of the purposes of the festival was to welcome home returning WOW (Word Over the World) Ambassadors (its first missionary program) and to send out a new group on their yearly assignment. Some regional groups (states are known as "Limbs") now hold annual meetings instead. The Rock of Ages typically had between 5,000 and 20,000 in attendance, with an international representation of Way followers.
In the 1970s until the 90s, the Way purchased, renovated and maintained an historic estate property located in a Sidney as a historical archive naming it the 'Sidney House'. The newly air-conditioned mansion housed the ministry's historical documents and a collection of artworks but also hosted special events, meetings and weddings. It was sold and is now known as the "Whitby Mansion." 
The Way published a three-volume interlinear version of the Syriac New Testament Bible in 1988, after a 15-year effort by The Way International Biblical Research Team. The Way Biblical Research team cataloged 600 Aramaic manuscripts to compile their New Testament text and lexical aids. This was the first printed edition of the Estrangelo script Aramaic New Testament.
Victor Paul Wierwille became associated in 1957 with Aramaic Bible scholar George M. Lamsa, and Lamsa finished his translating the Lamsa Bible in Wierwille's home. Lamsa and Wierwille produced the first American Aramaic New Testament in 1960.
Students are encouraged to follow a list of biblical research principles, instructing that the Bible should be taken literally wherever possible, and where this is not possible, it should be assumed that the language is figurative. The Way encourages its followers to study their publications before beginning any personal research on a subject. In his book Order My Steps in Thy Word, Wierwille asserts that God designed the universe to support the Earth and the Earth to support his children who could love God in return.
The Way rejects the Trinity, and teaches that, unlike God, Jesus is not omniscient, omnipotent, or omnipresent. According to their ministry, Jesus did not exist before his birth except in the foreknowledge of God. The Way teaches that at his birth, God created the sperm to fertilize Mary's ovum, and is the literal father of Jesus. Wierwille writes in his book, "Receiving the Holy Spirit Today", that the Holy Spirit is a reference to God, rather than a separate entity or person. He contrasts this term with the "holy spirit" (lower case), which he believes is a reference to a divine gift from God. Wierwille claims that English translators of the Bible missed this distinction, and that Greek manuscripts were written in uncial script, which further confused the subject. The Way teaches that there are nine manifestations of the holy spirit and every born again Christian can inherently operate all nine. The list is derived from I Corinthians 12:7–10 (King James Version). Speaking in tongues, he claims, energizes the "effectual operation" of the other eight manifestations. According to Wierwille, speaking in tongues has numerous benefits for a believer.
The Way claims that there were four people crucified with Jesus, rejecting the standard interpretation which holds that there were two. Wierwille writes that different Greek words were used for those crucified with Jesus in the different Gospel accounts, as well as discrepancies in timing, statements, and actions of the characters in the narrative. Two malefactors (kakourgoi) were initially led and crucified with Jesus in Luke 23:32, then two robbers (lestai) were later crucified after his accusation was fastened in Matthew 27:38. Accordingly, two others were crucified on both sides of Jesus for a total of four. Additionally, they hold that the cross upon which Jesus was crucified was not the traditional t-shaped cross, but rather a stake or the trunk of a tree. The Way maintains that Jesus did not carry his cross for any distance. Rather, after leaving the judgment hall, the soldiers immediately compelled Simon of Cyrene to bear the cross all the way to Calvary per the three Gospel accounts in Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21 and Luke 23:26. The one account in John 19:17 which states "And he bearing his cross...", Wierwille believes refers to Jesus's spiritual bearing of sin. Wierwille also preaches that the "thorn in the flesh" in 2 Corinthians 12:7 is individuals sent by Satan to disrupt the apostle Paul's ministry, not an illness as it is commonly interpreted.
The Way teaches that the dead do not immediately go to heaven or hell, rather death is a continuing state which will end at the tribulation. Wierwille also writes that the unsaved simply "die a second and final death." Way followers reject water baptism, holding that it wasn't intended as a continuing practice after Pentecost, and that it applied only to Israel. Wierwille further teaches that once a person is born again, they receive holy spirit and cannot lose it through any sinful acts.
The Way teaches that tithing 10% of one's net income to the church is a minimum requirement, taking the example from Abraham's donation to Melchizedek, as well as the instruction in Malachi 3:7-12. Additional voluntary giving is called "abundant sharing", and "plurality giving" refers to the donation of any excess items the owner feels he no longer needs or has too many of, generally within fellowships to help the other members. Wierwille included his booklet on abundant sharing, Christians Should Be Prosperous, in his Foundational Class materials. Martindale frequently promoted increasing one's proportion of giving in Sunday teachings.
"Mark and Avoid" is a term for a form of shunning involving the separation of certain people from the main body of followers in the Way. The term is derived from the Biblical passage Romans 16:17 (King James Version)
This practice is reportedly used when, according to the judgment of the Board of Directors of The Way International, a person has met the criteria of Romans 16:17 which would warrant separation from fellowships in The Way.
"Spiritual Probation" was an intermediate step introduced by Martindale in which a follower was prohibited from direct involvement with the fellowship group for a set period of time, usually six months. When certain criteria were met, the follower was allowed back into full participation in Way activities. Generally, a letter to a high level coordinator was required, outlining the steps to be taken by the follower to ensure the "error" was corrected and they were back "in fellowship." 
In recent years, usage of the Mark and Avoid system has declined.
In the mid-nineties The Way began to teach extensively on debt, taking a position that God's will was for a believer to have no debt, including car loans and mortgages citing Proverbs 22:7: "The borrower is servant to the lender" and Romans 13:8: "Owe no man any thing." Eventually it became a requirement for all active Way Corps to be debt-free. A prerequisite for enrollment in the Advanced Class on the Way of Abundance and Power and various "Advanced Class Specials" was that the student be debt-free. Participants in fellowships were encouraged to get or stay out of debt.
By the early 1990s, following the 1982 retirement of Wierwille and his death in 1985, a number of splinter groups had formed from the main body of The Way.
The formation of splinter groups took place in the wake of actions by L. Craig Martindale after his appointment to replace Wierwille, including the implementation of new rules and beliefs, and the dissension among its leadership when Chris Geer initially read the authored 40,000 word document titled "Passing of a Patriarch" to the Trustee leadership and Way headquarters staff. In it, Geer claimed that Wierwille, during his final weeks, revealed observations, concerns and recommendations regarding the unbiblical direction of The Way and the lack of Biblical leadership by Martindale. The document was later read to The Way Corps who disseminated the information throughout The Way.
The splinter groups' presence as organizations became significant in 1989, when L. Craig Martindale fired all Way staff-including local "branch," "territory," "limb" and "region" leaders who did not sign an "oath of allegiance" document to him. Martindale demanded that Way leaders declare openly whether they were supporting him or Geer as titular leader of The Way. Many leaders, as well as followers, saw this demand as unbiblical and withdrew voluntarily from association from The Way. Others, including those who did not choose sides, were dismissed. Shortly afterwards, Martindale sent a letter to all members announcing the firings. In the aftermath, according to figures cited by Martindale at the 1994 Word in Business and Profession Conference in Dallas, Texas, approximately 80% of the membership at the time had left The Way either by their own decision or by being dismissed. Large numbers of ex-Way followers formed the foundation of the splinter groups.
In recent years, since Martindale stepped down from president and left The Way, administrative authority and decision making has been spread across a larger base of leaders, checks and balances.
Side-by-side comparisons of some of Wierwille's earlier books (Power for Abundant Living, Receiving the Holy Spirit Today and the Studies in Abundant Living Series) with previously-published works by other authors, including J.E. Stiles and E.W. Bullinger, show instances of verbatim copying, indicating plagiarism. J.E. Stiles and B.G. Leonard, other authors whom Wierwille was said to have borrowed from, are mentioned by Wierwille at various times, but not credited as sources in any of Wierwille's publications.
Wierwille's later books published in the late 1970s and 80s are properly footnoted and credit sources, such as Jesus Christ Is Not God, Jesus Christ Our Passover, and Jesus Christ Our Promised Seed, while earlier books, such as Power for Abundant Living, Receiving the Holy Spirit Today, and the Studies in Abundant Living Series are not.
"The Way is heavy," say Rye kids at a prayer-and-fellowship meeting