Debra Worman's UPC Experience
Debra Worman, like Carol Peterson, was a member of the Good-Life Pentecostal Church in York, Nebraska. For further information on this church and the pastor, Edward Morey, please read Carol's case. Edward Morey is no longer affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church. However, when these events took place, he held credentials with the organization.
Debra Worman was a member of this church from April 1982 through the late summer/early fall of 1984. Her and her husband, Lyle Worman, were baptized in this church on April 11, 1982. Both received the Holy Spirit. They gave about 23% of their gross income to the church.
Debra, by her own admission, is analytical and questions things. She eventually asked too many questions at her church, confronting the pastor about double standards she saw. Edward Morey told her husband to keep Debra in line and that he should give answers to her questions.
As a child, Debra had been sexually abused. Finding that her biological mother was in an asylum, her biggest fear was insanity. She claims Edward Morey used this knowledge against her.
Some Church Teachings and Beliefs
During a telephone conversation with Debra, she brought up several beliefs and teachings of her former church and pastor. He was quoted as saying he would never hesitate to leave the UPC if they left God. This leads me to believe that sometime after the Peterson's custody trial, he voluntarily left the organization. He had been quoted as saying some UPC churches in Nebraska had become liberal. (See the Peterson case.)
Divorce was allowed, possibly encouraged, if a spouse would not follow their doctrine (ex: join their church).
Pastor Morey is stated as teaching that it was okay to leave bruises on children when they were hit. Tapes were usually made of the services, and it is alleged that when he taught on disciplining children and got to this part, he asked that the recording be stopped. So members later had no concrete proof that this was taught. Beating a child was okay, and if it was a girl, instructions were given to make sure any bruises were above the knee so they would not show.
At one point, when accusing female members of being witches, he supposedly also accused some in the upper echelon of the UPC of being warlocks and witches. Debra stated that no one was ever quite as good as him.
An "Extremely Bizarre" Story
In her own words, Debra's story is "extremely bizarre." She says that things really started happening when an evangelist was at their church. The evangelist told Edward Morey that something didn't feel right, that something was wrong with this. Edward Morey then turned on his former pastor, labeling him as a warlock and accusing him of having sexual relations with Debra.
The church was not growing (how familiar this sounds!), so the pastor felt there was sin in the church- an Achan. After a long-term fast, he felt there was a coven of witches in the church and pointed out 8 women who comprised the coven (8 is not the correct number for a coven). Debra Worman was accused of being the high priestess, recruiting through the children. She was also accused of being a lesbian and that she had molested her step-daughter, Jennifer, and her son. Debra related that she was "so messed up" in her own mind that Pastor Morey "convinced me that I was possessed."
This situation lasted for about 6-8 months. Over time, 5-7 'exorcisms' had been performed on Debra by the pastor. The same was done with others who were filled with the Holy Spirit. Accused of sacrificing animals and performing rituals, Lyle asked the pastor when it was that she was supposed to be doing this. He replied that it was during the night when Lyle was asleep. When her husband stated he was a light sleeper, he was told that Debra cast a spell on him. Her spells didn't work on Pastor Morey as he had the Holy Spirit. Lyle countered that he, too, had God's Spirit. Then it was told to him that he wasn't as strong.
Debra admitted to her pastor's prior definition of a witch, which was going to different people, talking about the pastor. But Edward Morey "turned and twisted it into something filthy."
Threatened with imprisonment and losing her family, she was "terrified of being kicked out" of the Good-Life Pentecostal Church. This, from how she was taught, would be equivalent to being cast away from God. This is not the only UPC church which teaches in this manner. Many state that the UPC has the full gospel and that other churches do not. To be disfellowshipped from the UPC would be equivalent to losing God and one's salvation.
Several other women had been accused of being in this coven. Supposedly they had pretended that God had healed them. Some of these women had emotional problems, coming from various backgrounds of sexual and drug abuse. Another woman, Pauline (I am omitting her last name), asked to face her accusers. She wanted them to look her in the eye and say the accusations. Pastor Morey took the accusers to her home and told them not to look in her eyes for fear she'd put them under a spell. Debra says that Pauline told them what they said were "lies from the pits of hell."
Debra has dark thick hair and sometimes developed severe headaches when she wore her hair up in a Gibson bun. At times she would un-pin her hair near the end of a service. Once, after attending a conference in Lincoln, she took her hair down when they stopped to eat. Pastor Morey saw that as a "signal of my power to the others I was influencing."
Snakes and the Devil
Debra's son was hyperactive and had no fear of snakes. There are many churches which equate snakes with the devil due to what happened in the Garden of Eden. Her son was born in 1977 during a prior marriage and was adopted by Lyle. He was around 5 when they joined the church and about 6-7 when the pastor called him up after a service to perform an 'exorcism.' Debra states she was "furious" after this happened. This occurred more than once.
What happened to her son formed a lasting impression. Wanting nothing to do with church, she says he is spiteful against organized church. He has stated that with the exception of someone's funeral, he will not step inside another church. All as a result of his experience in the Good-Life Pentecostal Church.
Debra was eventually excommunicated from her church in 1984, though her husband and son continued going through about the middle of 1985. During one service, while Pastor Morey was speaking about Debra, he asked if there was anyone there who did not believe him. The son stood up on a pew and said that he didn't and that his mother did not do the things of which she was accused. Other children in the church avoided him after this.
Needing to make a stand for her family, Debra finally told her husband she was going to leave. She gave him the choice of having a family or being by himself. Lyle decided that what the pastor had done wasn't right and left. It was that question in his mind that kept him attending even after his wife was excommunicated.
Sally Jesse Rafael and the Slander Lawsuit
In the fall of 1988, Debra appeared on the "Sally Jesse Rafael" show, relating what happened to her and her family at this church, but without giving the church name or her hometown. Rick Ross had asked her to appear on the show with him.
Debra had contacted Rick after watching him on a "Geraldo" broadcast. Someone else was watching the show and encouraged her to watch as some of what was discussed appeared to be similar to what she'd experienced. Though reluctant, Debra became "riveted to the seat." At the end, Rick gave his address and she contacted him with her story.
Rick states that before the Sally Jesse Rafael show, a call came in from UPC headquarters in which someone in public relations asked that he not mention them by name as they would "deal with Pastor Morey." Again, this was in 1988. Pastor Morey continued his affiliation with the organization through the early 1990s.
Three female members of the Good-Life Pentecostal Church subsequently filed a lawsuit against her, claiming the church was slandered. This suit was dismissed in 1989. The secretary of the church board, in an article pertaining to the Peterson case, said he felt Debra was trying to hurt the church. He commented that "No one had as juicy a testimony as Deb had." (Grand Island Independent 1/28/90)
Carol Peterson, Susan Allen, and Pat Worman (the ex-wife of Debra's husband) were the women who filed the lawsuit. None of these people are currently members of the Good-Life Pentecostal Church. They claimed that since they were the only UPC church in the area, that it would have been easy for someone to figure out which church Debra meant. Debra's attorney showed the others that they could not sue for slander as none of them had been mentioned in particular, only the church in general was mentioned. Therefore there were no damages to these ladies.
The women subsequently tried to show that since they were a part of the church, their good names and reputations were damaged. However, there needed to be a monetary damage which none of the women could show. One tried to claim that she might lose her inheritance, but her parents were not dead.
Another Custody Suit
Jennifer was born in 1978, the daughter of Lyle and Pat Worman. As noted earlier, Lyle later married Debra. When Lyle and Pat parted, Pat retained custody. Lyle and Debra had witnessed to Pat, inviting her out to church. Sometime after she started attending, Jennifer no longer wanted to visit her father and Debra. Pastor Morey advised them not to push her concerning visitation since they saw her in church. According to Debra, the pastor spent a lot of time with Pat, though his wife was there, too.
There was an incident where the pastor wanted to know who was teaching the children. He was upset that one of the very young girls had lifted her dress and wanted to know who was responsible. It is alleged that he told them to beat the children until they confessed. It was from this that Jennifer said that Debra had abused her sexually. This is where the child molestation charges against Debra started.
It was after the slander charges that Lyle and Debra filed for custody of Jennifer. Sometime after Debra left the Good-Life Pentecostal Church, Jennifer started seeing her and Lyle on the side when she was taken to her grandmother's (Lyle's mother). Debra told me that Jennifer acted differently toward her when her mother or other church members weren't around. If they were there, Jennifer "ran from" Debra.
Debra states that this custody suit was "similar, but different" from what happened to the Peterson family. The biggest obstacle was overcoming the child molestation charge. Volunteering to be investigated by the local police and the Nebraska state patrol, a thorough investigation brought no charges against her for child molestation. Police testimony confirmed this. A medical pelvic exam also showed no physical or sexual abuse. Pastor Morey countered this with the lesbian accusation, stating that the exam would not have shown abuse due to the nature of the incident.
Jennifer was encouraged by others to write letters to the editor, which the newspaper refused to print. Debra offered, even before she was asked, to take a polygraph test. She passed the polygraph test, which questioned her about the accusations made by her former pastor. Edward Morey refused the polygraph, as did her other accusers. I'd have no problem taking a polygraph test about what I saw happen at my church because I know I am telling the truth. These people obviously did not feel the same.
Lyle and Debra Worman overcame all the accusations by showing that Jennifer "led a double life." Stress from what she was told and how she was taught at church caused this. They had pictures showing her relaxing, laughing and having fun in their presence. She also wore jeans. (For those who do not know, this is forbidden in UPC teachings.)
They documented all the meetings, taking pictures to confirm the visits and how Jennifer responded. This was necessary to prove they were "fabricated lies." Jennifer stated that she remembered saying she'd been abused, but did not recall it happening. When the pictures were produced in court, Debra says that Pat dropped the case and turned over custody to them. She had virtually no contact with her daughter after then.
It appears that Pat Worman later skipped town, just picking up and leaving the area. Debra said that Edward Morey was involved, but did not admit it. After Pastor Morey was questioned by police and given a warning, Pat suddenly called.
What Happened to Debra?
After leaving the Good-Life Pentecostal Church, Debra first attended a church that had broken from the UPC. She then ventured into an Assembly of God church, but after things were said that reminded her of Good-Life, she left. For about 1 1/2 years she attended a Church of Christ church, saying she needed the quiet and some solitude. Last year she started attending another Assembly of God church.
It's still difficult for her to participate, so she's not very involved and keeps at a distance. This is not uncommon as I have seen it in my own experience and from speaking to others who have left abusive churches. You just do not want to get hurt again.
Debra and Lyle divorced in 1990 and she has since remarried her first husband, the father of her son. She now lives very close to her former pastor, who, she says, cannot look her in the face.
Debra believes that a class action suit may have been brought against Edward Morey in the last few years, but she is uncertain as to the outcome or details. She says there may be about 8 members now, but the church has more homes that the pastor rents out.
Posted October 5, 1997 and updated October 11
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August 23, 1997
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