Trial delayed for Word of Faith member

This 2016 image from video shows the entrance to the Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindale, N.C. Newcomers to the Word of Faith Fellowship live by a list of strict rules for daily life, which sect leader Jane Whaley says God revealed to her, former members say. (AP Photo/Alex Sanz)

The trial for a Word of Faith Fellowship member Robert Lewis Walker has been delayed.

Rutherford Co. District Attorney Ted Bell says the trial has been continued and will not be proceeding Monday.

Five church members are accused of beating and kidnapping Matthew Fenner, a former churchgoer because he is gay.

A judge has decided to move 4 out of the 5 defendant’s trials to Buncombe Co. from Rutherford Co.

They are Justin Covington, 20, Brooke Covington, 56, Adam Bartley, 25, and Sarah Covington Anderson, 27, all of Rutherfordton, along with Robert Walker Jr., 26, of Spindale.

The first trial against one of the church leaders, Brooke Covington, ended in a mistrial after allegations of jury tampering.

Her trial will remain in Rutherford Co.

Matthew Fenner said he was attacked in 2013 and claimed he was berated, pushed, and told he was disgusting to try and break him free of homosexual demons.

Fenner is one of several former church members to claim they were abused. More than 40 former people told the Associated Press that they endured physical abuse to “purify” their sins. Some allege they were sexually abused and that minors were cut off from their families for years after they were placed in ministers’ homes.

The prosecutor says evidence and a testimony will show that Matthew was confronted about his lifestyle and was held down and beaten because he was “unclean.”

On the witness stand, Matthew Fenner said that, on January 27, 2013, he was “blasted” by prayer three times for more than two hours. He said this included being punched, pushed, and tossed around.

Church leaders have denied the accusations.

The defense says Fenner came back to the defendant’s home and spent the night two nights in a row and then left. They say evidence will show he wanted the “prayer,” and that it was a prayer, not a beating.

Fenner stated on the stand that Rutherford County Sheriff’s deputies were not doing their job after it took a year and a half for an assault report to be filed.