What is People of Praise?

RELIGIOUS group People of Praise has come under the spotlight as connections emerge between the community and Trump's leading Supreme Court pick.

Frontrunner Amy Coney Barrett is reportedly connected to the tight knit group. So why is it controversial and what do its members believe?

What is People of Praise?

People of Praise is a small, tightly knit Christian group which was founded in 1971 in South Bend, Indiana.

The group "grew out of the Catholic charismatic renewal movement that began in the late 1960s and adopted Pentecostal practices such as speaking in tongues, belief in prophecy and divine healing," NYT reports.

It has since grown into a community of about 1,700 members in 22 cities across the US, Canada, and the Caribbean, according to its website.

Although its members are broadly of the Christian faith and the majority are Catholics, there are multiple different denominations including Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians and other denominational and nondenominational Christians.

"Despite our differences, we are bound together by our Christian baptism," the group states.

People of Praise is not a church. All members of the community simultaneously remain members of their local parishes.

Members live in their own homes, and sometimes single people will live with an unrelated family.

Members support each other through weekly meetings, religious teaching, Scripture readings, and prayer.

"Our community life is characterized by deep and lasting friendships," the group says.

"We share our lives together often in small groups and in larger prayer meetings. We read Scripture together. We share meals together. We attend each other's baptisms and weddings and funerals.

"We support each other financially and materially and spiritually. We strive to live our daily lives in our families, workplaces and cities in harmony with God and with all people."

What do the People of Praise believe?

Members of the group swear a lifelong oath of loyalty, called a covenant, to one another, and are assigned and are accountable to a personal adviser, called a “head” for men and a “handmaid” or "women leader" for women, the New York Times reports.

These advisors are said to give direction on important decisions, including whom to date or marry, where to live, whether to take a job or buy a home, and how to raise children.

Controversially, the group is said to teach that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.

They have been accused of encouraging the subjugation of women as certain leadership positions are reserved for men and women in leadership were referred to as "handmaids".

While married men receive spiritual and other advice from other male group members, married women depend on their husbands for the same advice, one of the group's leaders has said.

Women in leadership positions are now referred to as "women leaders" after Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel The Handmaids Tale became a TV series and the term received criticism.

At the time the group said “the meaning of this term has shifted dramatically in our culture in recent years.”

Is People of Praise a cult?

People of Praise has been accused of being a cult or a right-wing sect.

However, the community says it's members are free to believe what they choose and come from a “wide spectrum” of political views.

The website says the group is grounded in a "lifelong promise of love and service to fellow community members" which is a personal commitment "made freely and only after a period of discernment lasting several years".

Craig Lent, the group's overall coordinator, said in 2018 that the organization centers on close Christian bonds and looking out for one another.

“We don’t try to control people,” he explained.

“And there’s never any guarantee that the leader is always right. You have to discern and act in the Lord.

"We're not unaware that could be misunderstood. Every member is free and responsible for their own decisions. No one should be servile, no one should be domineering," Lent said.

However, one former member, Coral Anika Theill, recently spoke to Democracy Now describing the group she was apart of in Corvallis, Oregon as a cult.

"I experienced abuse and torture by my husband, Marty Warner, Independence, Oregon, and the cult leaders, as well as shunning, shaming and a smear campaign against me when I escaped and left," she said.

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