CHARLOTTE, NC – A 22-year-old gay Rutherford County man claims that his former church held him against his will for four months, and says that he was subjected to physical and emotional abuse because of his sexual orientation. As reported this spring in the Agenda, Michael Lowry filed a complaint in February against the Word of Faith Fellowship Church.
In a statement last week to sheriff’s investigators, Lowry said he was first knocked unconscious and then held against his will in a church building, during the months between August 1 and November 19, 2011. Lowry said he first informed church leaders about his sexual orientation when he was in his mid-teens, an admission that resulted in years of abuse, he claims, which included church members attempting to expel the evil forces they believed were responsible for his homosexuality.
Word of Faith Fellowship pastor Jane Whaley said on Sunday that all of Lowry’s allegations are “lies,” that he was neither kept in captivity nor beaten, and that her church only learned about his sexual orientation when she saw a news report on Thursday.
Last week, another former congregant filed charges against four current Word of Faith members. The four were charged with false imprisonment and misdemeanor stalking.
According to Brent Childers, executive director of Hickory-based Faith in America, the actions of Word of Faith Fellowship “constitute a hate crime.”