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Michael Peter Woroniecki

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Woroniecki is arrested at Brigham Young University in 1994 for preaching without a permit and harassing students with vicious namecalling. The BYU article can be found at this address: http://newsnet.byu.edu/story.cfm/37644

Michael Peter Woroniecki, (A.K.A. Michael Warnecki, Worneki, Mike War and Shabar Ben), born February 4, 1954, is the self-ordained, itinerant, verbally abrasive, "fire and brimstone" preacher of Andrea Pia Yates, the Texas woman who drowned her five children in a bathtub on June 20, 2001. His relationship with disciples is firmly documented by many professional media sources as being psychologically abusive.

Contents

Doctrinal Beliefs and Message

The central message Woroniecki has carried mainly to college campuses throughout the United States since 1980 is that all Christian churches are antichrist preaching a "false and polluted twentieth century gospel" which he believes has no salvic value. Consequently, the only people on earth that he believes are saved are himself, his wife and his six children. When people ask him if anyone else is saved, Woroniecki often replies quoting Jesus from the gospels, "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man" (a time in which only eight persons were saved in an ark from a worldwide deluge, he says, emphasis on "eight.") If anyone else happens to be saved, he has told his disciples, he just hasn't met them yet. A few former disciples believe this statment is disingenuous, as he participated in many phases of the Christian churches for six years, attended several Christian seminaries, claims he has had "thousands of loyal followers" since forsaking the churches and says he has met and preached to "millions of people" on the streets. These ex-followers also believe that without the Biblical expectation that godly parents will train up obedient children or his documented allusion that he is a modern day prophet like Noah, condemning the world and saving his family of eight in his ark of "robotic acts of obedience," Woroniecki would soon narcissistically write off his family, too, remaining as "High Priest serving in the Church of One."

Woroniecki says God simplified the gospel for him when he was "first coming to the Lord" in 1974 through a children's book called "Hope for the Flowers," by Trina Paulus. According to Woroniecki's interpretation of this story, a caterpillar leaves the "rat race" of the world to spin a cocoon of suffering in isolation to become a newly regenerated butterfly. The worm represents to Woroniecki sinful, unregenerate man. The cocoon is Woroniecki's gospel of struggling in isolation through the law of God to find salvation, and the butterfly represents the spiritual rebirth into a child of God. The butterfly "flies freely above it all," so that there might be "hope for the flowers"--the harvest of righteousness. In fairness to the author, Trina Paulus is an "Earth Day" environmentalist who desired to introduce the concept of recycling through her allegory so as to assure hope for leaving an ecologically sound planet to future generations. The caterpillars serve no other purpose but to climb over each other in countless piles of allegorical trash heaps in land fills. Transforming caterpillars (recycling refuse) into a productive butterflies would give hope for the environment, reducing landfills and conserving natural resources.

Woroniecki reads into "Hope for the Flowers" an unintended gospel message that in order to find salvation, one must isolate and endure hardship by coming out of the churches, hating your family, forsaking career and academic pursuits, fleeing the materialism inherent in the "yuppie" lifestyle, resisting the temptation to become married, endure humiliation and suffering from persecutions and preach at your place of employment until ready to leave it and assume the capacity of his prophetically itinerant calling, just as he has trained his own children to do. Until then, he says, it is his disciples' calling as "unregenerate" seekers of salvation to supply him with financial and emotional support and prayers. He teaches that only by practicing this hatred and denial of "self-life" though "crucifying" acts of self-humiliation in obedience to the Law of God can one ultimately become broken open to the light of God and become saved, but even many of those of his disciples who have tried, he has eventually labeled as "reprobate" and consequently dismissed as going to hell. His children are said to have had salvation experiences often while preaching with their father.

Woroniecki has no familiar church structure. His following is comprised of his "saved" immediate family who travels with him, the unsaved but genuinely "seeking" hearers, and the "reprobate" hearers Woroniecki has mostly given up hope for but still receive his materials and support him. Interaction is mostly through correspondence, teaching tapes, the phone and rare visits. One of Woroniecki's classic clichés is "Go to Jesus, not to church!" Church is defined as a person who acts as the temple for the Holy Spirit of God, not a building or organization where people commune for worship. There are no elders appointed locally where ever he has left "seekers." Woroniecki has alluded in his materials to being an apostle. He has clearly declared himself to be "a prophet of this last generation." He has described himself as "God made flesh in the twentieth century... through a man and his family," a description thought by most evangelicals to be reserved for the incarnation of God as Jesus of Nazareth. His wife and children function like elders under Woroniecki's authority to interact with his followers, extend the arm of his evangelical purpose and regurgitate his teachings in a newsletter called "the Perilous Times."

Woroniecki believes women, particularly working women, are "witches" and "daughters of Eve," who through physical birth have inherited the nature of rebellion against the ordained order of creation, submission to God's appointed ruler, man. He also believes men who submit to the "contentious" nature of Eve, particularly in their wives, are "wimps." Woroniecki teaches that Eve usurped the authority of her husband in the Garden instructing him to eat the forbidden fruit, consequently becoming responsible for subverting the entire human race, contrary to the biblical teaching in Rm. 5:19 and 1 Co. 5:22 that Adam was responsible, not Eve. Woman is an exceedingly "evil creature," according to Woroniecki's cosmology, that must be contained by the domination of her husband or "chaos" will result. Women are to endure pain of childbirth as a "rite of passage," forsake contraception subjecting themselves to his doctrine of "as many as nature allows." The woman is entirely responsible for her maternal duties of raising and homeschooling the children. The husband is not to confuse the children by helping the mother in her clearly defined roles. A woman that does not subject herself to Woroniecki's teaching is labeled "contentious." If the husband is still submitted to Woroniecki's teaching, he is responsible for separating from this woman for the gospel's sake and for the sake of the children too, so that they might not be subjected to the agumentation that will result. An excerpt from a tape Woroniecki distributed in 1989 reveals that Woroniecki practiced leaving his wife behind with five children, some in diapers, for periods of forty five days at a time so he could preach the gospel alone, despite the fact he lived in a mobile travel trailer at the time which he pulled with his van when he did bring them along.

Many of Woroniecki's teachings sound evangelically fundamentalist and mainstream, e.g., Jesus is God, Jesus is soon to return in judgment of hellfire and salvation is by faith through grace, not by works. However, several ex-followers warn that if Woroniecki really believed Jesus was God, he would do as Jesus says and "care for My sheep" (Jn. 21:16), not psychologically abuse them, that a man who "begins to beat His servants" really believes that "my Lord delays His coming" (Mt. 24:48,49), and that requiring a prerequisite labor of suffering for what Woroniecki says can take months or years in order to just find salvation nullifies the Biblical definition that salvation is a "free gift" (Rm. 5:15).

Biography

Michael Woroniecki was the youngest of a large Polish Catholic family who was raised in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. His mother became involved in the Catholic Charismatic Movement in the early 1970s and was earnestly seeking to introduce her remaining children to the "born again" experience. In 1971, Michael, seeking a way out of Grand Rapids, made a deal with God that he would attend spiritual prayer meetings with his mother if he could make All-City Tailback and get a scholarship for college. Michael got the title and the scholarship and attended Central Michigan University from 1972 to 1976. However, when he arrived at college, Woroniecki says he had a "wild streak" involving himself in sex, drugs and alcohol, once being arrested for assaulting someone in a nearby college bar. After almost two years of failing to live up to his end of the bargain with God, Michael suffered a disabling football injury that threatened to destroy his dreams. At this time, his mother gave him a Bible, which Michael says he began reading. After two months of serious soul searching, Michael attended the annual Catholic Charismatic Conference at Notre Dame University the weekend of June 14, 1974 with his mother, Rose, and sister, Mariane. Michael was in the stadium when he told God that he didn't know what this saying "born again" meant, but that he wanted everything the Lord had for him. At that moment, Michael believes that he was infused with the Holy Spirit and was born again.

In his remaining years at CMU, Michael met his then cheerleader girlfriend, Leslie Jean Ochalek of Detroit (renamed "Rachel" in 1992), who would become his wife in 1980. Michael became the president of his Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter. According to his own recorded testimony, Michael was attending an FCA retreat when he began to call all of his Christian peers "phonies." Distraught with his inability to control himself, he sought the counsel of his director-minister Dave Van Dam who then suggested to him that maybe he was called to be a "Jeremiah" (the office of a prophet who preached destruction). Michael became enamored with this idea and set off to seminary after obtaining a B.S. in Psychology from CMU in 1976.

Michael attended Melodyland School of Theology at Anaheim, California that very same year. His mother died in July 1977 from colon cancer. He made an attempt before many people to raise her from the dead, but he failed in tears and embarrassment. There is a hint from his teaching materials that suggests the church cited his failure to heal and raise her was due to a lack of faith on his part, a teaching that Woroniecki now abhors. He applied to the Dominican and Franciscan Orders of the Catholic Church thereafter, perhaps to honor the memory of his faithful Catholic mother (whom he now believes is in hell), but he was rejected both times on the basis he was "too zealous." He was finally accepted at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. There, he met a lone radical street preacher carrying a sign, possibly Robert Engel, (A.K.A. Bobby Bible and Bobby Biblestein) or one of his disciples from the now disbanded Christian Brothers Church formerly based out of Long Beach, CA. (Some former disciples of Engel run a website at www.preachtruth.org which Engel confirms is a faithful reproduction of his doctrines.) He shamed the students and faculty of Fuller Seminary for their comfortable "indoor" Christianity. He also carried a message that women are "witches" whose usurping nature of Eve was responsible for the fall of mankind, a teaching Woroniecki apparently gleaned from him, unaware that Romans 5:19 faulted only Eve's husband, Adam. (This misrepresented teaching would eventually lead to Andrea Yates' downfall.) Assuming this radical outdoor style, Woroniecki once again demonstrated his zealousness standing outside chapel preaching to his peers as they exited saying "It is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside,'" condemning them for what he perceived was their hypocritical confidence in their scholastic religious pride. He was again seen preaching several times at Fuller Mall. Consequently, Michael was rejected for every position he applied for within the churches after obtaining his Masters of Divinity degree in 1980. Again, the reason that was cited was that he was "too zealous."

Michael returned to Grand Rapids where he preached on the streets with a sign and a blow horn, starting his own unordained ministry called Cornerstone Christian Fellowship. He was arrested several times for disturbing the peace, the last arrest coming in October 1981 when he allegedly berated a woman to tears while she was standing in line to buy tickets to the Shriner circus. Faced with certain jail time, the city D.A. made a deal with Michael to leave town in exchange for having the remaining ten charges against him dropped. Michael agreed, and he left for Florida to preach on the beaches there instead. Woroniecki claims he was the one who originated the offer, and that it was the D.A. who conceded.

Since then, Woroniecki has preached his gospel of "hellfire and damnation" throughout the continental U.S., Latin America and Europe. He once knowingly endangered his entire family by taking them to preach on the streets of Casablanca in Morocco, where it is crime to attempt to convert a Muslim. He and his family enraged a mob of Muslims, and they were quickly arrested and faced interrogation by the country's secret police. He was released on the condition that he left the country and didn't return. He went to Spain, thereafter, where he assaulted a non-English speaking police officer for standing on his evangelistic signs, waving his arms over them and saying "no" as if to say he wanted him to stop his demonstration. Apparently, Woroniecki mistakenly perceived the officer as refusing to return his elaborately artistic signs which took great time and skill to produce, as the video shows they retained possesion of them later in their European travels. He explained this act as "Holy Spirit courage" in the video he sent to his followers in 1995.

Woroniecki became a national media spectacle in March of 2002 for his alleged negative influence on Andrea Pia Yates.

Influence on Andrea Yates

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In this image taken from a video sent to followers in 1995, Michael Woroniecki emphatically warns followers who are parents that unless they abandon their "husband goes to work, wife just exists" Christian lifestyle, quit their job and take up his prophetic, itinerant lifestyle, their children would not be properly trained "in the Lord," reach accountability and "perish in hellfire." He also added that because of Mt. 18:6 the parents would suffer the "most severe judgment" for allowing an innocent child to stumble in this way. Andrea and Rusty Yates received a copy of this video.

On June 20, 2001, one of his disciples for the previous nine years, Andrea Pia Yates killed all five of her children. Eventually, Woroniecki surfaced in the media when evidence was admitted in court implicating Woroniecki's teaching in a newsletter called The Perilous Times as having negatively scripted Andrea's psychotic mind. Andrea had delusively believed that she was a horrible mother who couldn't give Jesus to her children and that because of her, her children would become spiritually damaged and end up in hell. Letters from the Woroniecki family were found by investigative author Suzy Spencer that berated Andrea over her unrighteous standing before God. His 1995 video taught that it was better for parents to commit suicide than cause their offspring to stumble and go to hell. Only two months after receiving the harsh letters from the Woroniecki's, Andrea was hospitalized twice for two separate suicide attempts.

On his 1995 video, Woroniecki demanded that unless his disciples lived a jobless life prophetically preaching the gospel, that their children would consequently not be trained in the Lord and would end up in hell. The "husband goes to work, wife just exists" Christian lifestyle (like the Yates were living) would certainly guarantee that their children would not be trained properly, according to the video. An audio tape from Woroniecki that Andrea possessed suggested that children were not accountable until the age of twelve, and that "babies were better off aborted than to grow up in the households of "witches and wimps," grow up and face certain judgment in hellfire." Feeling the weight of hopelessness infused by Woroniecki's condemnation and her inability to get saved so she could in turn save her children, Andrea psychotically reasoned that it would be better for them to drown in their innocent years, be trained instead by God and go to heaven rather than grow up damaged and be sent to hell because of her "bad mothering" according to her prison psychiatric interviews.

Woroniecki's psychologically negative influence is not isolated to the case of Andrea Yates. Several ex-disciples claim to have become depressed or anxious to the point of contemplating or attempting suicide. Woroniecki freely admits on one of his teaching tapes that many of his disciples have psychologically "snapped" as a result of his message, but he blames this phenomenon on their refusal to submit to his rebukes. In 1989, when confronted with the reality that one of his followers was hospitalized for attempting suicide as a consequence of his persistent condemning rebukes, Woroniecki countered on a teaching tape saying that "suicide is the greatest self obsession." Woroniecki dismissed the suicidal Texas A&M student for projecting blame onto his gospel message and for refusing to accept responsibility for his own emotional state. David De La Isla of Houston Texas claimed on national television that he also became suicidal as a result of Woroniecki's beratings. Woroniecki dismissed De La Isla saying he only knew him for "fifteen minutes in a McDonalds fifteen years ago" despite the disciple's possession of a stack of letters he received from him over a period of twelve years.

Woroniecki's wife said on a March 27, 2002 interview of ABC's Good Morning America that the greatest problem they have with disciples is that "they try to emulate their lifestyle without coming to Jesus." They try to appeal to God through "dead works of the conscience" without the regenerative influence of a personal relationship with God, suggesting that their disciples mistakenly choose to place themselves under the "yoke" of the Law of God, consequently crushing themselves under its burdensome weight. However, Woroniecki teaches that "the Law is a tutor to bring you to Christ." His disciples are told by him that they must enter this "cocoon" of suffering under the Law in order to be transformed into the regenerate "butterfly" of a child or God, yet remarkably, Woroniecki has never confirmed any of his disciples as having achieved this salvation except his immediate family, even after being subjected to this "cocoon" for decades.

It is the "moving target" nature of this "Catch 22" gospel that some of his former disciples believe played a significant role in motivating her homicidal and suicidal ideations. If Andrea couldn't save herself so she could in turn save her children, she would commit them to God's instruction in heaven before their age of accountability. It was the only viable alternative to saving them within the doctrinal cosmology provided to her by this preacher.

Woroniecki denies that he had anything at all to do with negatively influencing Andrea Yates. He claims in a letter postmarked October 24, 2002 to author Suzanne O'Malley that Andrea's motive for killing her children was based on a deep and intense hatred for her husband that he learned from prior ministerial conversations with her and that she and the media conspired to use "religious rhetoric" to cover up her true motive. Only five months earlier, Woroniecki told the Leslie Primeau Show at CHED AM 630 in Edmonton, Canada that he had "no idea" what Andrea's true motive was, according to a recorded excerpt of the broadcast at an ex-follower's website.

Despite Woroniecki's contributions, there were many factors that were involved in both determining and hastening the outcome of the Yates tragedy. Although Woroniecki may have influenced the nature of her delusive actions according to defense psychiatrist Dr. Lucy Puryear, there is strong evidence indicating the origin of Andrea's illness was hereditary. Even so, Puryear stated that many of the lifestyle choices the Yates received from Woroniecki exacerbated her condition. Without the religion of Michael Woroniecki, she said on an ABC affiliate KTRK interview shown on Good Morning America, she didn't "believe that Andrea would have ever, ever killed her children." The husband, Rusty Yates, contends that her psychiatrist, Dr. Saeed, was the one at fault. He says Saeed had prescribed a "triple max dose" of antidepressants days before the killings and abruptly removed her from her antipsychotic medication only two weeks earlier. He says Saeed also reduced her antidepressant beyond the recommended rate from the manufacturer a day before the killings, a change that has the potential for creating dangerous swings in mood. Rusty claims that the responsibility for recognizing her psychosis rested with Dr. Saeed, not himself. Dr. Saeed, however, was under the impression that Rusty was supervising his wife around the clock. Without informing the doctor of his plans, Rusty announced to a family gathering the weekend before the tragedy his decision to leave Andrea home alone for an hour in the morning and evening, so that she would not become totally dependent on him and his mother for her maternal responsibilities. Andrea's mother, Jutta Karin Kennedy, expressed shock at such a plan insisting vehemently that he not leave her alone. Mrs. Kennedy added that Andrea was not safe to leave alone with the children, citing that Andrea had recently fed her toothless infant Mary solid food which could have choked her. According to medical records revealed at the trial, Rusty was advised by Andrea's first psychiatrist in 1999, Dr. Eileen Starbranch, that having more children would "guarantee future psychotic depression." Rusty Yates decided to continue against medical advice their Woroniecki inspired pursuit of "having as many children as nature allows," and Andrea submissively followed her husband's wishes in accordance to the teaching given to her by Woroniecki, lest she be considered by him a "contentious witch" like Eve who, according to Woroniecki, usurped the authority of her husband, Adam, and consequently damned the entire human race.

See also

References

  • "Are You Alone?" by Suzanne O'Malley
  • "Breaking Point," by Suzy Spencer
  • Dallas Morning News, Religion Section, April 6, 2002

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