Status, Hierarchy, and Subjugation
One of the reasons that I had joined MCM was that I perceived it as an egalitarian Band of Brothers and Sisters focused on God’s Kingdom. For Paul wrote that no one part of the body was more important than another in his letter to the first century church at Corinth.
But hierarchy and status mattered within MCM and I would soon find out how that status affected me!
Based on interviews with a number of ex-MCM members (including Mike and Missy) I believe this description of the Auburn site applied to other ministry sites as well. Having said that some sites were more lenient than Auburn, and, believe it or not, some were much stricter.
Regardless, all of MCM operated under this system of hierarchy, status and subjugation.
I was, when writing this Part, tempted at first to use the military analogy of soldiers and sergeants. But the idea repels me both because of Bob’s use of the term God’s Green Berets and the dishonor it would do to the men and women in the armed services.
A much better analogy would be that of a plantation.
For each MCM site was like a plantation; complete with slaves, overseers, house servants, production, quotas and the threat of being sold down the river minus your family. Members constantly faced the threat of banishment and being shunned like my mentor, Peter, who after being thrown out of MCM was never heard of or mentioned again.
At the lowest level of the MCM plantation hierarchy were the slaves; the single brothers at the bottom of the MCM heap.
These single brothers lived together communally and footed the bill for the meeting-house and for the pastor’s apartment.
They had neither private lives nor any privacy at all. They must be ready at a moment’s notice for action. Additionally they did jobs such as keeping the meeting-house, grounds, and living quarters in order and they acted as gophers for ministry staff. Their personal needs, when they conflicted with those of the ministry, were never considered. [See my description of one of my hootah sessions for details]. In fact the ministry reveled in this on-call life style and sold it to the brothers as proof being the spear point of God’s Green Berets.
Now there were grades within this lowly single brother hierarchy.
At the bottom of this grade were the grunts that were brand new baby Christians, those that had not born any fruit (brought in converts) or those were not deemed sharp enough to have the potential to go full-time. These low-level grunts condemned to a life of servitude, might, just might, be able to break out of this rank if they worked hard enough and if they brought enough converts in.
Or so they believed.
Next in status within this grade of single brother/slaves were those who were bringing in converts, or, were contributing significant sums of money because of a having a professional job. My friend Peter, due to his lucrative real estate business fell into this latter category prior to being banished.
And at the top of this lowest level were those single brothers that were slotted for full-time service, like yours truly. These brothers MIGHT have a shot at full-time paid ministry if they were diligent enough, if they were submissive enough, if they contributed enough and if they continued to bear fruit (bring in new converts).
That’s a whole lot of ifs and with no promises.
Worse yet, did any of the ones who were striving for full-time ministry really understand what they were signing up for???!
Another group inhabited the lowest order of MCM- the single sisters.
It is a coin toss as to who had it worse: the single brothers or sisters; but my money is on the single sisters.
For the single sisters were also called upon at all hours to work for the ministry just like the single brothers.
And single sisters had an extra burden to bear. That burden required exhibiting the traits of femininity that MCM considered Biblical. Any sister that did not show these traits was in for a rough time.
So, in addition to the burdens of the single brothers the single sisters had to deal with other requirements imposed on them by MCM.
- They had to dress in a feminine manner, but they must not show too much leg or cleavage for then they were “tempting the brothers.”
- They could not be too aggressive or masculine, nor seem too independent. If a brother challenged a teaching precept or an elder/shepherd then he would be chastised; but the thinking was, “Boys will just be boys,” and, “Potential leaders always test the boundaries”. But any female, who dared challenge or question the leadership, ran the risk of being labeled a Jezebel. And being labeled a Jezebel was being equal to Satan’s bride. Do it more than twice and you got the boot. Because, having a Jezebel among you was worse than a plague carrying rat eating at the communal dinner table.
- The single sisters had to give money, perform feminine ministry work, and also bear fruit (bring in converts)…and perhaps, just perhaps, they would get the privilege of marrying a brother whose destiny was full-time ministry. More than likely a brother that they barely even knew.
Ranked above the single brothers and sisters in the hierarchy were the overseers.
These overseers on the MCM plantation were the older brothers and sisters, many who were single themselves, who acted as shepherds. Now when I say older I don’t think there was a shepherd at MCM north of thirty years old.
These shepherd’s lives were not much easier than the slaves/sheep because they were accountable for all the actions of their sheep. If a sheep acted poorly it reflected poorly on the shepherd and any bad action by their sheep brought into question the shepherd’s spirituality and ability to properly lead and discipline their charges.
Those overseers who were too lenient with their charges would be disciplined for, “Not being a proper role model.”. If they were too easy on their charges they could ruin their chances of making it into full-time service; for wasn’t that the goal?
These shepherds had to lead by example so when their charges found themselves assigned a job, like renovating the back house for the sisters, the shepherds had to be there as well. And they had to set an example in hard work and diligence.
Oh, and there was a hierarchy within the ranks of the overseers, or shepherds, as well.
One might easily get the impression that the single sister shepherds had no power within MCM.
I would argue that this was not the case, and that, in many ways, some of these sisters who were shepherds had as much, or more power, than the single or married brothers who were overseers/shepherds.
Within the group of sisters who acted as shepherds there were those deemed prophetesses. These prophetesses were deemed to have special insight or intuition from God.
This elevation of some of the sisters, who supposedly possessed this special gift prophetic gift, derived from Rose Weiner.
Many of Bob’s goofball proclamations originated in the nonlinear, non-logical, and nonsensical mind of his wife Rose. Anyone who got on Rose’s bad side was dead on arrival in the ministry. Most of the full-timers were scared stiff of her and for good reason. Those that crossed her might find themselves a deacon in Iowa City, or worse, thrown out of the ministry altogether. And likewise, anyone that she deemed of God or Chosen of God was considered anointed and untouchable.
There is no doubt in my mind that the power behind the throne of MCM, and behind the elevation in power of certain full timers, was Rose Weiner.
Now at the local level, at Auburn this small coterie of prophetic single sisters, in the Rose Weiner mold, also held sway. For indeed, all the prophetic sisters in MCM descended from either Rose Weiner or her sister-in-law Mildred Russell.
It worked like this: anyone that Rose or Mildred shepherded and deemed having the prophetic gift became a MCM prophetess. And anyone that these prophetesses shepherded, who supposedly had this anointing, was also deemed a prophetess.
For example Missy Caulk was once Mildred Russell’s hand-maiden (translation full-time servant). She was marked as prophetic by Mildred. Any sister that Missy shepherded at Auburn, and she marked prophetic, now also became a prophetess. And so forth.
These prophetess sisters, because of their descent from Rose and Mildred, had a lot of power within MCM.
In fact it was almost a requirement for a full-time staffer to marry a prophetess. For this meant that each pastor’s wife could mark a line of succession back to Rose and Mildred. This was yet another way for these women, and the elders of MCM, to control the pastors and local sites. In a future post I will share how I narrowly escaped just such an arranged marriage.
Now Auburn mirrored what happened at MCM corporate with Rose and her insights..
These prophetic single sisters influenced things behind the scenes and could either mark a brother or sister [meaning discern and proclaim that the sheep’s problems were of Satan] or they could receive a word from God which could alter a person’s life radically.
Maybe for good, maybe for bad.
Marty, my shepherd and site administrator, aside from Mike and Missy, was the other fulltime employee at Auburn, and, because of this, he wielded great influence at Auburn. My portrait of him is correct; he was a true believer, dry, dogmatic and fanatical.
There was only one other person, aside from Mike and Missy Caulk, who rivaled my shepherd, Marty, in influence and power within MCM, and she a single sister prophetess.
In a later post I will show how a word from this sister, and a clash between this prophetess and Marty, changed my life radically while I was at the MCM Auburn ministry.
Now one group that I did not mention, thus far, in my discussion of the hierarchy of the MSM, was the band, or as we called it at Auburn, the music group.
Music was very important to MCM, extremely important.
In my plantation analogy the house servants were the members of the music group. These were the privileged few who did not have to chop cotton, tote water, and act as slaves, and sometimes enjoyed a few of the benefits of the plantation setting.
In MCM music set the tone for each service, allowed us to worship God, and showed everyone that God was in control and blessing us. Our internal and external services centered on the Auburn music group who provided this musical sound track.
The music group set the pace for all the meetings and ensured that the sheep were prepared for the message from God by plowing their hearts with inspiring music.
And if you were kind enough to read the earlier parts in my story you can see that the national music group for MCM, the Praise Band, made a huge impression on me. They were a primary mover in all outreaches, second, only to Bob Weiner and Joe Smith, in influencing the crowds.
The music group was so important to MCM that members of the group at Auburn were exempted from the normal routine and mundane duties that I have listed like setting up for meetings, cleaning and maintaining the house, cooking, and most importantly the spur of the moment requests that chewed up so much of the member’s time.
Now Matt, the band leader, who I have already introduced you to, had a level head, played a mean guitar player and was also spiritually mature. He became the music group leader early on after the Praise Band left Auburn in 1978.
It was important to have an accomplished actor as leader of the music group because the leader must be perceived by the flock as in tune with God and the Spirit, really experiencing the worship of God, and catapulting the crowd at the service, if you will, before the very throne of God.
A service was solemn, worshipful, introspective, joyous, or militant, or maybe all these in one service, based on the music chosen and the attitude of Matt, our music group leader.
But the music group leader also must be a thinker who, although appearing to be swept away by holy worship, or raucous celebration, had to continually think about the next song and the agreed upon (from preparation in the staff meeting and rehearsal) direction. Was he to hype the crowd up and then bring them down into slow soft worship? Or would it be all joy and celebration and militancy?
It all needed to appear spontaneous (to be of the Spirit’s leading- there was nothing worse in MCM’s eyes than an order of service) but it was also carefully rehearsed.
Another purpose of the music group and leader was in providing the sound track for the Movie of the MCM service. Try watching a horror movie without a soundtrack. A movie sound track may evoke fear, or for a love story dreamy music may play when the lovers reconcile. Without an appropriate sound track the emotion induced by a movie becomes less palpable.
So it was at MCM, for music both set, and manipulated, the emotional tone of those participating in the service.
For Bob Weiner learned from Hollywood that music could capture, and would channel, the emotions of people in just the direction he wanted.
Now the plantation was always facing requests for more money, special offerings, help for other campus plantings, and the occasional quack-pot schemes like preparing for food and water shortages that would come at the end times.
The people who dealt with all these requests and oversaw the plantation’s day-to-day activities were our senior pastors Mike and Missy Caulk.
Now, although Mike and Missy Caulk were at the top of the MCM Auburn heap it would be wrong to think of them as the plantation owners. They were more like share croppers who got a very small cut of what the ministry produced. They had all the responsibility, but none of the bennies.
They served totally at the mercy of the elders including Bob and Rose Weiner and Joe Smith.
Mike and Missy had absolutely no job security, and, if they did not produce and/or if they did not submit to the HQ requests they could be taken out on a moment’s notice.
In fact they had a double dilemma: if they grew too quickly and the ministry grew very large they could attract the big fish that might come in and steal it from them; relegating Mike and Missy to mere bystanders or worse.
This happened in Gainesville when that ministry took off and grew rapidly.
Of course if Mike and Missy did not grow the ministry (grow in the sense of increased attendance and contributions) they might be dismissed and sent away for help and counseling into one of the smaller ministries.
As I mentioned Missy Caulk was one of MCM’s prophetesses because she had been personally discipled by Mildred Russell, Rose Weiner’s sister-in-law, who was one of the top women leaders within MCM. I eventually met Mildred, at the University of Georgia and I will tell you she was one scary sister.
Missy had also worked as Bob’s personal assistant for two years in Paducah and was thus doubly trusted.
Mike and Missy’s marriage was a MCM arranged marriage. I am not sure how they fared in their early days of marriage when the Ole Miss ministry started but by the time they got to Auburn they seemed to have ironed things out.
Any idea that Mike and Missy had it made as pastors at Auburn, or that they were living the life of luxury, would be fallacious.
Their entire lives were subject to the wishes and whims of the elders meaning, at this time, Bob Weiner, Joe Smith, and Bob Nolte
Here is how Missy described their experience in working with Bob and the rest of the leadership (keep in mind that they pastored, at that time, one of the most successful sites at MCM).
“I never felt like I was “given” Auburn. WHO wasn’t somewhat intimidated by Bob ?? I think that is part of the whole manipulation thing that occurred in MCM. Some men control like being Santa Claus, other out of fear and intimidation. “
But eventually they would overcome their intimidation and fear and set an example of how Bob and his reign of terror could successfully be challenged.
But that would come much later.
One example of how Mike and Missy’s lives were subject to the whims of the elders had to do with a VERY personal issue: children. Missy and Mike wanted to start a family. And they had to submit desire this to the elders.
In Missy’s words:
“The worst thing to happen to me was that I was 27, Mike was 30 and we wanted to have a baby.”
Bob said, “NO, you have enough babies to take care of ……..spiritual babies.”
However, God intervened and we got pregnant with Christa at Steve and Beth McDowell’s wedding in Memphis. As it turned out 4 other couples in leadership at new churches did as well……….so he really didn’t say anything after that… But, I did cry my eyes out for weeks……….surprised you didn’t hear me Tikie!”
Bob could not, thankfully, control biology and ultimately he could not subvert, as much as he might unknowingly try, the will of God.
For God’s sake the man was abusing a newly married twenty-seven year old girl, for Missy was no more than a girl at the time!
This example alone should suffice to show how the pastors and the full timers were both victims and victimizers. Mike and Missy desperately wanted to serve God, but were caught in a system that they both intuitively knew was wrong.
And they were being abused and abusing…it was a terrifically bad system that Bob and others bear responsibility for.
But Mike and Missy tried to make the best of it.