Controversial preachers whose extremist views and behavior while 'evangelizing' fall outside the norms of normal, orthodox evangelical Christianity, and may have helped at least one woman, Andrea Yates, go over the edge
. [See also
is the theological term for ''correct practice.''
- adherence to sound doctrine - leads to orthopraxis. Unsound theology, however, leads to unsound practices (aberrant
Bad doctrine produces bad fruit behaviorally (e.g., Mark 7:7-13; Col. 2:20-23; 1 Tim. 4:1-5; 2 Pet. 2:1; Rev. 2:14-15, 20, 24), which is as true for Christians as it is for cultists. As Van Baalen stated, 'If practice follows from theory, if life is based upon teaching, it follows that the wrong doctrine will issue in the wrong attitude toward God and Christ, and consequently in warped and twisted Christian life.'
Churches or movements that persists in unsound practice - all or not supported by unbiblical
teachings - may be (or may eventually turn into) a cult of Christianity
. Likewise, individuals who show this behavior will exhibit many of the characteristics of cult
In what comes across as somewhat of a PR campaign since early in 2010 the Woroniecki's have established on online presence
, including a website, a blog, and videos on Vimeo and Youtube. At the same time they have attempted to purge information posted elsewhere by critics. In some cases they have succeeded in doing so (e.g. Wikipedia
Apologetics Index was asked by Joshua Woroniecki to remove this page. However, our policy is to encourage visitors to research any and all topics included in this website from a variety of perspectives
. That is why we attempt to provide links to a variety of research resources -- which can include pointers to pro- contra- or neutral information about the subject.
A former Grand Rapids street preacher,
whose fire-and-brimstone style led to him being exiled from his hometown, is embroiled in the case of a Texas mother accused of drowning her five young children.
Letters written by West Catholic High School graduate Michael Peter Woroniecki and his wife to Andrea Yates may have contributed to Yates' downward mental spiral, according to "Breaking Point,"
a book by a Texas author who researched the case.
Jury selection continues this week in the trial of Yates, 37, of Clear Lake, Texas. She is charged with capital murder after confessing to drowning her children in the family's bathtub June 20.
Her husband, Russell "Rusty" Yates, said his wife suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of their fourth of five children.
Andrea Yates has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. If convicted, she faces the death penalty.
Watching the trial closely is Suzy Spencer of Austin, Texas, who interviewed Rusty Yates shortly after his wife was charged with murder. Her book details the Yates' family life and Andrea Yates' alleged slide into mental illness and suicide attempts.
It documents the Yateses' lengthy relationship with Woroniecki and his wife, Rachel. It describes how Rusty Yates first met Woroniecki in the 1980s while he was a student at Auburn University and Woroniecki was preaching on campus.
Unlike his reputation here
, Woroniecki, 47, was described by Rusty Yates as a "quiet and simple preacher" who asked "fat cat preachers" the kinds of questions he, too, wanted answered, Spencer said.
In the years that followed, the Woronieckis served as spiritual advisers to the Yateses, while Rusty Yates and his wife sent the Woronieckis money to support their ministry, she said.
The family had Bible study three nights a week in the living room because Rusty had not found a church he liked. He had learned the faults of organized religion from Michael Woroniecki, the traveling preacher who had sold him the bus. Rusty did not agree completely with the extreme views of his old spiritual mentor. But Andrea, moved by the repent-or-burn zeal, wound up exchanging letters with the preacher and his wife for years after they bought the bus. Woroniecki wrote that ''the role of woman is derived ... from the sin of Eve'' and that bad children come from bad mothers. Sometimes her family life seemed to parallel his: raising kids on the road, home schooling, God fearing. At one point, she asked Woroniecki to write a letter to help convert her Catholic parents. The influence worried the Kennedys. What had Rusty got her into? But even Rusty grew concerned with her obsession with Scripture. Still, he says, ''a guy cannot really complain that his wife is reading the Bible too much.''
The Texas mother accused of
drowning her five children in a bathtub last June told jail doctors she was possessed
by the devil and that the sign of Satan, ''666,'' was marked on her scalp, Time magazine reported.
Author Suzy Spencer, who has just written a book about the case
, told Good Morning America that Yates was profoundly influenced by a conservative minister, Michael Woroniecki, and his wife, Rachel, who had been close to the Yates' for years.
The minister teaches a very conservative form of Christianity that says that women should have a very subservient position in the home, and that Satan is constantly trying to drive people wrong, Spencer said. In correspondence, the couple bombarded the troubled and isolated mother with talk of Satan, and the idea that God can see people's wickedness, Spencer said.
In one letter, Rachel Woroniecki writes, ''Life is so short. It is so very cruel. It is so lonely and empty. You must accept the reality that this life is under the curse of sin and death.''
Spencer said she thinks that because of Yates' deteriorating mental condition, the mother of five may have taken the message more literally than she might have otherwise, somehow believing that her sadness and loneliness meant that she had been overtaken by evil.
''They constantly equate loneliness, depression, anything negative in your life is separation from God and alignment with Satan,'' said Spencer, the author of Breaking Point.
In talks with therapists later, Yates talked about the trip to Florida, and how at that time she first knew that the ''devil had gotten into her,'' Spencer said. According to correspondence between Yates and the couple, they talked about Christianity and sent her religious pamphlets to help her embrace religion, and save herself.
''According to the letters that I have read and looked at and studied, they hammered her about her faith,'' Spencer said. ''You know, it's now, you've got to do it now.''
The Yates family followed Woroniecki's teachings and patterned their lives after his.
The preacher had six children with biblical names and lived on a bus. The Yateses had five children with biblical names, and lived for a while on a bus they bought from Woroniecki.
On the newly released video, Woronieki tells followers that "multitudes are going to hell. God doesn't give a hoot about your little selfish affluent self-oriented world."
At the time Andrea Yates drowned her children, she and Rusty were still devoted followers.
A former follower of Woroniecki says his heart sank when he heard the Yateses were connected to the preacher.
"I dropped the receiver and my heart sank because I knew immediately what happened," said David De La Isla, who had followed Woroniecki for 12 years.
De La Isla says Woroniecki was a powerful influence on the vulnerable mind of Andrea Yates. "In her thinking she was doomed to hell, her kids were going to go to hell, and that the only way she could save them was by killing them."
De La Isla says Woroniecki has no church and no place of worship, but speaks to his followers through newsletters and videotapes.
In one recording he wears the mask of Satan while warning that the devil lurks. "That's all the matters, what you feel in your own heart," Woroniecki says on the videotape.
De La Isla, a successful salesman, says the preachings are more like brainwashing
. He says that's why it works on people like himself and the Yateses — Russell, a NASA engineer, and Andrea, who was her high school valedictorian.
"It starts off very innocent, your perceptions start altering and pretty soon you are sucked into a system," De La Isla said.
In following Woroniecki, De La Isla says he quit his job, broke up with his fiancée and tried to kill himself. After 12 years he broke away from Woroniecki when he finally realized that no matter what he did, the preacher still told him he was going to hell. "It's a psychological trap of salvation," De La Isla said.
Woroniecki ignored ABCNEWS' repeated request for a response, but he did write a letter to the Dallas Morning News in which he said: "We enjoyed our relationship with Rusty and Andrea for many years as they tried to learn from our ways of following Jesus … they obviously 'fell short' of salvation."
The Woronieckis have been under fire from Texas authorities and the media for the influence their preaching had on Andrea Yates, who killed her children because she believed their lives were not going in a direction God wanted. After her arrest, Andrea wanted to have her head shaved, so she could see the Mark of the Beast, which she believed to be branded on her scalp.
Rusty Yates was not willing to give Andrea the support she needed, and this is what led her to kill her five children, Michael said.
“He let Andrea get into that situation, where she needed help. Then, he couldn’t help her and wouldn’t recognize that she needed him and Jesus. He let Andrea suffer under that.”
When Michael and Rachel met Andrea and Rusty, Rusty glorified the lifestyle the Woronieckis lived.
“He thought he could be like us, without coming to Jesus Christ. He thought he could be like me, that his children would be like mine. He saw our life and our way of living and wanted it, but wasn’t willing to pay the price. He was a workaholic,” Michael said.
In a letter to Andrea Yates, Rachel Woroniecki wrote, “Life is so short. It is so very cruel. It is so lonely and empty. You must accept the reality that this life is under the curse of sin and death.”
Andrea took immediate and full responsibility for her actions, Michael said.
“She was a very caring, loving, intelligent woman. When (she) was put in that kind of pressure cooker, it was too much for her,” he said.
Michael said his preaching had nothing to do with the murders.
“I’m responsible for what I preach. I can’t be responsible for what they do with it.”
While Woroniecki's roots are in Grand Rapids, his life has been on the road -- a traveling preacher who frequents college campuses, sporting events and any occasion that might garner national media attention. The father of six has set up his microphone and spouted his version of Christianity at Mardi Gras, the Rose Bowl and at least two Olympic games in the last decade.
Woroniecki got his master of divinity degree in June 1980 from the interdenominational Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., one of the largest seminaries in the country, school officials said.
Gerald Woroniecki said his brother's family spends most summers preaching in Mexico and hope to take their message to Central America. In the fall, they return to the United States, where he preaches at university campuses around the country.
"Some treat them well, but other places, they just mock him," Gerald Woroniecki said. "There are a lot of people who may have not heard the true Gospel."
He said his brother rarely returns to Michigan.
Woroniecki's early fame came on the gridiron, first playing for West Catholic High School, then as a fullback for Central Michigan University.
Raised a Catholic, Woroniecki became a born-again Christian in college. His mother gave him a Bible to read while he was hospitalized with a football injury. Once back on the field, Woroniecki wore a gold cross on his maroon CMU helmet.
By 1980, Woroniecki had morphed into one of Grand Rapids' most notorious street preachers. The former Southeast Side resident was in his mid-20s when he began using a bullhorn to deliver his scathing pronouncements of sinners. He frequently tried to shame people on downtown sidewalks, and outside public events, concerts and churches on Sunday mornings. He often walked through crowds wearing a homemade wooden cross attached to his belt.
While his belligerent evangelical style had some supporters, others complained it was ear-splitting and obnoxious.
While living in Grand Rapids, Woroniecki was arrested at least five times and charged with a variety of offenses, mostly disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace. He was convicted twice and acquitted once. Another trial ended in a hung jury.
The last arrest came in October 1981, when Woroniecki was accused of accosting a woman who had gone to the Grand Center to buy tickets for the Shrine Circus. He allegedly told the woman she was a sinner who was going to hell, berating her until she was in tears.
Faced with jail time if convicted, Woroniecki agreed to an offer by the city attorney's office: stop preaching and leave town in exchange for the charges being dropped. The deal ousting Woroniecki from Grand Rapids made national news.
Since leaving here, Woroniecki has claimed he has taken his biblical message across the United States and into Europe.
A man raised a wooden cross,
and his voice, to approximately 350 "brainwashed" students between the Harold B. Lee Library and the Harris Fine Arts Center Thursday.
"You guys don't know Jesus Christ!" Michael Woroniecki shouted. "You are Mormon
Woroniecki, his wife and six children handed out pamphlets while holding banners and a wooden cross. The disturbance began at 10:45 a.m. and continued for approximately 25 minutes until University officials handcuffed Woroniecki and sent the students to class.
"This was an intent to disrupt our campus," said R.J. Snow, academic advancement vice president. "All he wants to do is create a scene, and he certainly did that with his negative message."
Some students spontaneously began singing "We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet," followed by "Love One Another" and "Called to Serve." To which Woroniecki responded, "Sing your idolatrous songs! You might as well be singing about Elton John. Jesus isn't listening to you."
Alison Akin, a musical dance theater major from Yakima, Wash., stepped forward and asked students to let him speak.
"Don't judge him!" Akin yelled. "We're above this. He has a right to think what he wants."
"On a campus where you say you believe in Jesus Christ, you won't listen to me speak about him," the Oregon resident said as he was being handcuffed. "Here are the fruits of your beliefs."
Woroniecki's wife, who wished to be identified as her husband's spouse, said, "We're just here to preach about Jesus Christ. We wanted to come to a place where we could reach lots of students."
The Woroniecki's six children silently handed out the pamphlets.
"We just do what our dad tells us so we can teach about Jesus Christ," said one of the daughters as she struggled to keep her banner balanced.
One sign said, "Your mouth talks of Christ, your life espouses you as of the world."
"No you are not saved. Just another typical American hypocrite," read another flag.
Woroniecki described his listeners as "marshmallows," saying that their faces looked as white as "milk." He then addressed the women as "contemporary witches."
"Get out there and be a witch," Woroniecki sarcastically preached. "Go and be a 20th century career woman and forget about your families."
In the pamphlet, "The Witch and the Wimp," Woroniecki outlines the role women should have.
"As man was created to dominate, God reveals that woman was created to be his helpmeet," he writes. "Thus the role of woman is derived, not from culture, but from the sin of Eve at the creation of the world."
One student recognized the family from its protesting outside general conference last weekend with the same pamphlets.
"It's a matter of being against counterfeit beliefs, not necessarily your religion," Woroniecki's wife said. Her husband made more specific remarks about the LDS Church.
"Brigham Young is in hell, right along with the pope and Billy Graham," Woroniecki said. "BYU is the farm capital of the world for finding husbands and wives, but why won't you pay attention to Jesus Christ?"
Woroniecki accused the students as being the ones that crucified Jesus Christ.
"The nature of the Roman soldiers is coming out in you right now," he said. "Say it together now, 'Crucify him!'"
The family's message wasn't new to many students.
"I went on a mission and I've heard all this before," said Deanna Hadfield, a junior music education major from Denver, Colo. "I've got a lot of respect for him, though ... for him to get up there is gutsy."
Woroniecki's courage was unappreciated by many.
"I got a sick feeling inside watching him," said Kasey Walker, a freshman from Orem, studying business. "It was cool to sing hymns together. And I suppose he could have shared his views at the proper place and time, but this wasn't it."
BYU has allowed people to speak in the past.
"We've had demonstrations before, but they follow the proper procedures," said Snow. "The ones we allow are orderly, and this one was disorderly."
In order to get permission to speak on campus, an organization must have someone on campus sponsor it and then obtain a permit.
"It is unfortunate that he wasn't more cooperative," said Alton Wade, vice president of Student Life. "People can get permission through the proper channels, but these people took it upon themselves to have authorization."
See also additional news articles at Religion News Blog.
- Andrea Yates - Examining a Spiritual Leader's Influence Newsweek, Periscope, Mar. 18, 2002
Was Andrea Yates's "spiritual leader" partly responsible for her delusional thinking? As testimony comes to a close in her trial, evangelist Michael Woroniecki's influence over the mother accused of murdering her five children has become an issue. A day after Yates, who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, drowned the children in the family bathtub, she told a jail psychiatrist that her bad mothering had made the kids "not righteous," and, as a result, they would "perish in the fires of hell." If she killed them while they were young, God would show mercy on their souls.
Where did these thoughts stem from? Yates's attorney, George Parnham, has put into evidence a copy of Woroniecki's newsletter The Perilous Times, sent to Yates and her husband, Rusty. In it a poem laments the disobedient kids of the "Modern Mother Worldly" and ends with the question, "What becomes of the children of such a Jezebel?" Houston psychiatrist Lucy Puryear told the jury that literature is "what her delusions are built around."
- Family warns, preaches: 'We are ... going to Hell' Marissa Carl, The Daily Collegian, Oct. 18, 2005
Woroniecki said Penn State's advertising campaign, "It's Your Time," is anti-Christ. He said the slogan promotes disillusionment to students and prepares them for depression because it leads to peer-pressure and loss of identity, which defeat the solitude required for true realization of Jesus.
Mellet said the Woroniecki family was encouraging students to quit school. "He associated college with hell and [said] you don't need to work," Mellet said. "I don't see that anywhere in the Bible."
- MichaelPeterWoroniecki.com Operated by Joshua Woroniecki, one of his sons, this site is titled, "The Truth About Michael Woroniecki" According to the subtitle, the site aims to provide "Accurate, first hand information pertaining to the message and ministry of the international evangelist and musician Michael Peter Woroniecki, his wife Rachel Woroniecki and their six children."
A blog titled "Michael Woroniecki Concerning Andrea Yates" -- also operated by Joshua Woroniecki -- has, at the time of this writing, one single entry dated Feb. 24, 2010. The entry is titled "Questions and Answers with Michael Woroniecki"