The Seven Mountains in the Rockies

The Seven Mountains in the Rockies April 2, 2024

The Colorado Times Recorder’s Logan M. Davis covers Woodland Park, and so he covers Andrew Wommack Ministries, the mini-empire of tax-exempt organizations fundraising for the faith-healing, MAGA televangelist.

Wommack is two parts Steve Strang and one part James Strang. He’s a leading proponent of the “Seven Mountains” dominionism in which the self-proclaimed “prophets” and wanna-be popes of entrepreneurial religion say God wants them to control every aspect of society. That’s why Wommack used his various “ministries” to organize the takeover of Woodland Park’s school board and why he’s now using those ministries in an attempt to take control of the city council.

Control freaks.

City Council Races Could Complete Andrew Wommack’s ‘Takeover’ of Woodland Park” Davis wrote last month, in anticipation of today’s local election:

“Man, as many people as we have in this school here, we ought to take over Woodland Park,” he said from the stage at an [April 2021 event held by his political organization, Truth & Liberty. “This county ought to be totally dominated by believers,” he said. “We have enough people here in this school we could elect anybody we want.”

The comments drove a wedge between the ministry and the town it calls home, and residents on both sides of that wedge have spent the subsequent years attempting to navigate what the declaration means for their community. Wommack followers feel like the townspeople are persecuting them for their faith; other locals say they would have been happy to coexist, but will not stand for being taken over.

Wommack’s quip that April day was not idle chatter: within months of those comments, Wommack and his organizations – which occupy hundreds of acres just outside the town center, constantly patrolled by private armed security – were supporting a controversial slate of school board candidates to take control of the Woodland Park School District (WPSD) and turn that secular, nonpartisan institution into one with a decidedly conservative and Christian bent. As I have covered at length, the board’s takeover triggered two years of turmoil, involving public spats, a wrongful arrest, and a controversial social studies program which the new school board became the first governing body in the nation to approve.

Now, a fight which has consumed the school board since 2021 is coming for the city council, and the local stakes are even higher than they were during the school board fight. Controlling the school board was an ideological victory for Wommack. As one of the town’s major landholders and business interests, controlling the city council could have significantly more practical impacts for the man and his ministry empire.

That’s all about a city council and a school board — about as local as local stories get. But covering the Andrew Wommack beat also led Davis to write about a cult that started 30 years ago, 1,600 miles away, at Messiah College: “Bad Faith: The Narrowgate Cult.”

This is a gripping read, a story of religious zeal twisted into obsession. It’s also a deeply human piece of reporting that includes the voices of many of the members of the Narrowgate Cult and their reflections on their experience all these years later:

None of them realized they were in a cult until it was too late. It started in late 1993 as a Bible study group composed of students from Messiah College in Pennsylvania. By the time it shattered in February of 1997, most of the group’s members had lost their individual identities and many of their worldly possessions. Some had lost their marriages. The leader, the man who they say slowly wove a web of control around their minds and around their lives, had lost his wife and child: they fled in the night, afraid that he might kill them.

The group was named Narrowgate, and the teachings that drew members deeper into its leader’s control were based on audio cassettes from Colorado-based pastor Andrew Wommack, who today leads a ministry which commands tens of millions of dollars in annual revenue.

Between 1994 and 1997, Narrowgate’s leader isolated his followers from their families, their school, and any religious authorities who could challenge his doctrines. He filled them with a new version of Christian teachings which placed ultimate authority not in Scripture but in ongoing divine revelations from God, and made himself the ultimate revelator. He became their link to God, and, in doing so, he became the main object of their belief. He used that belief to bind them – by heart and soul, if not by wrists and ankles – and once he had them bound, they say, he abused them financially, psychologically, and spiritually. He racked up debt on credit cards in their names, he controlled and frequently rearranged their living accommodations. Eventually, he tried to rearrange their marriages, and his own, with disastrous consequences.

… Today, 27 years after Narrowgate fell apart, the group’s leader lives in Colorado Springs and works as a senior lieutenant to the man whose teachings he once used to build a cult. His name is Andrew Wertz, and he is senior vice president at Andrew Wommack Ministries International (AWMI) and Charis Bible College.

This is a very long read — over 10,000 words — but it was too compelling not to read the whole thing. The former members of Narrowgate wanted to tell their story and share it with a palpable urgency. You come to care about them, reading this piece, and to take some comfort from learning that some — but, alas, not all — of them have managed to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of what their abusive, corrupt, delusional, narcissistic “spiritual leader” put them through.

You also come to share their rage and fear and horror at realizing that this “leader,” Andrew Wertz, seems never to have suffered any consequences. He stole their money, toyed with their lives for years, preyed on their faith, and none of that seems to have affected him at all.

Today he will head to his well-paid job at Andrew Wommack ministries, and later tonight he will celebrate with his new boss as they take dominion over the city council of Woodland Park.

 

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