Michael Woroniecki

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This article is about street preacher Michael Peter Woroniecki. For the Christian evangelist, comedian, and self-proclaimed occult expert, see Mike Warnke.
Michael Peter Woroniecki
Street Preacher DNC Aug 28 2008.jpg
Woroniecki at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
Born (1954-02-04) February 4, 1954 (age 60)
Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
Other names Michael Warnecki, Warneki, Worneki, Mike War
Education Central Michigan University
Melodyland School of Theology
Fuller Theological Seminary
Aquinas Catholic College
Church

Current: None

Former: Cornerstone Christian Fellowship

Michael Peter Woroniecki (also Michael Warnecki, Warneki, Worneki, and Mike War;[1] born February 4, 1954) is an independent, non-denominational Christian missionary. Woroniecki is well known for his ministry on college campuses and at various public events across the US over the span of the last 30 years.[2][3][4]

Early life and family[edit]

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 sought to introduce her children to the born again experience. In 1972, seeking a way out of Grand Rapids, he "made a deal with God" that he would attend prayer meetings with his mother if he could make All-City tailback in football and thus receive a scholarship for college. He got the title and the scholarship.[5][6]

Woroniecki attended Central Michigan University (CMU) where he studied psychology and played varsity football from 1972 to 1976. He boasted of being able to bench press 400 lbs and run a 4.5 second 40-yard dash.[6][7] Woroniecki explains in his Christian testimony that he forgot his deal with God and had a "wild streak", involving himself in alcohol and partying.[5][8] Woroniecki states that he was known to his teammates as the "Crazy War"[5][6] and says he was arrested the summer of his freshman year for fighting in a bar, just to prove to his peers how tough he was.[7]

During spring football practice in 1974, Woroniecki suffered a disabling football injury that threatened his athletic aspirations. About the same time, Woroniecki's mother gave him a Bible, which he began to read. Woroniecki says God used this time of suffering and depression to break him of his pride, preparing him to receive the Gospel.[6][9] Woroniecki attended the annual Catholic Charismatic Conference at University of Notre Dame the weekend of June 14, 1974 with his family. He was in the stadium when he says he told God that he didn't know what the saying "born again" meant, but that he wanted everything that the Lord had for him. While sitting alone in the stadium, Woroniecki says that he gave his life to Jesus. At that moment, Woroniecki believes that he "met the living Jesus". "The grass and goalposts were the same but I was changed" says Woroniecki, adding that he found significance in the recently painted Touchdown Jesus on the library mural right in front of him.[6][9]

Woroniecki's CMU football helmet showing a cross with the word 'Jesus" written in it on the back of the helmet.
After his conversion, Woroniecki put a cross on his CMU football helmet. 1974.

Woroniecki returned to college football practice in July that same summer. One day after practice, while in a bar with his teammates, Woroniecki says he ordered water in the place of his usual beer. His friends becoming curious, Woroniecki explained that he had met Jesus. Used to his outrageous life-of-the-party humor, they all mistakenly thought he was joking, and Woroniecki became the focus of ridicule and rejection by his teammates. He writes that he could not understand why people like Roger Staubach, a famous Christian athlete, were respected, yet he was rejected, until he read John 12:24 and 25. He reasoned that if the world hated Jesus without cause, they would also hate and reject him if he followed Him.[7][9][10]

The same year, Woroniecki and his teammates went on to win the NCAA Division II National Football Championship for the only time in CMU's history.[10] Woroniecki graduated from CMU with a B.S. in Behavioral Sciences in 1976. While at CMU, Woroniecki met a cheerleader from Detroit, Michigan, Leslie Jean Ochalek (later renamed "Rachel Rebekah"). Woroniecki and Ochalek married in 1979.[10]

Education[edit]

Charles and Rose Woroniecki, Michael Woroniecki's parents, were members of the Basilica of Saint Adalbert, a Roman Catholic church in the Polish west side of Grand Rapids. Michael Woroniecki attended a Catholic grade school adjoining his family's parish and then advanced to West Catholic High School, another parochial school in Grand Rapids. During his senior year of high school in 1972, Woroniecki began attending Catholic Charismatic prayer meetings, part of his "deal with God."[5]

After graduating from CMU, Woroniecki attended Melodyland School of Theology at Anaheim, California starting in 1976. A month after returning home from seminary that summer, his mother died from colon cancer.[10]

Woroniecki applied to the Dominican and Franciscan Orders of the Catholic Church with the intention of helping to bring reform from within the Church.[10] In his final round of interviews with the Dominican seminary near Chicago, Illinois, Woroniecki was refused immediate admission and decided on a different course of action. He then applied to the Franciscan seminary in his own hometown of Grand Rapids. After a semester of study at Aquinas College, Woroniecki was again offered an extended preparatory period. He chose to pursue other means of study.[10][11]

In 1978, Woroniecki was accepted at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, a non-denominational institution. Woroniecki says he was "deeply grieved" by the professionalism and business-like attitude towards the things of God at Fuller. This atmosphere, Woroniecki claims, ultimately compelled him to stand on the campus lawn and preach "the living Jesus" to fellow students and professors when they came out of the chapel. He confronted classmates over the attitudes of scholastic pride and hypocrisy that he thought to contradict the life of Jesus of Nazareth.[11] Woroniecki obtained his Master of Divinity degree from Fuller in 1980.[11]

Upon returning to Grand Rapids, Woroniecki briefly attended and occasionally preached at Maranatha Church, a non-denominational charismatic ministry founded by the late Calvin Bergsma, Sr. Shortly thereafter, Woroniecki left to start his own home church and street preaching ministry.[12]

Ministry[edit]

Preaching[edit]

Woroniecki returned to Grand Rapids after graduating from Fuller Seminary in the summer of 1980 where he preached on the streets and at various events with a sign or cross, starting his own ministry called Cornerstone Christian Fellowship.[12] As a result of, according to Woroniecki, “youthful zeal” and a city unsure of how to handle his unconventional evangelistic approach, Woroniecki was arrested numerous times over the next year and a half.[13] In October 1981, Woroniecki phoned the City Attorney’s office and offered to leave town if the pending charges against him would be dropped.[14][15][16] The offer was accepted and Woroniecki began to travel the US, stopping first in Atlanta, Georgia where street preaching is permitted.[17][18][19]

To deliver his message, Woroniecki chooses college campuses, large sporting and political events as well as city centers. His wife and six adult children are often seen ministering alongside him.[8][20] In the early 1990s, Michael Woroniecki shipped a Ford van to England and then ferried it to France. The family traveled together across Europe and then to Tangier, Africa. In May 1995, they preached in Casablanca, Morocco, where Muslim law makes it a crime to declare Jesus as the Son of God. A riot resulted and the family was arrested. They were interrogated for eight hours by state officials, then ordered to leave the country.[21]

Since leaving Grand Rapids 30 years ago, Woroniecki and his family have preached in all 50 U.S. states, Latin America, Europe, Russia and Morocco.[20][22][23]

Music[edit]

Michael Woroniecki began creating music with an electronic keyboard in 1986.[24] In the early 1990s he began using this music as another form of ministry on the streets of Europe. During the summers of 1992 to 1996 he performed in downtown city plazas and centers in places like London, Paris, Barcelona, Lisbon, Rome, Berlin, Budapest, Athens, Moscow.[20][23] Woroniecki says he used the music along with dances and biblical skits as a means of communicating the gospel in countries where they did not speak the language. Michael does not consider himself professional but believes “that music is a powerful tool to touch people of all walks of life” .[24]

During the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic Games, Woroniecki was reported to have performed with his family outside the various venues using the event to reach the international crowds with his message.[24] Beginning in 1997, Woroniecki traveled throughout Mexico and Latin America, playing on the streets.[20][24]

According to his bio, from 2006 to 2009, Woroniecki has self-produced eight music CDs which he and his family have distributed in their travels.[25][26][27]

Christian view[edit]

Woroniecki carries sign in Times Square that reads "Discover forgiveness for all your sin and eternal life in the Living Jesus".
Woroniecki in Times Square. 2008.

Woroniecki preaches that one must "get alone, study the New Testament and seek the Living Jesus to be Born Again".[27][28] He says that today's "churches" are not the true Church as seen in the Scriptures and cannot save anyone.[27][29]

Woroniecki has used large banner signs and often a wooden cross to convey his message for the past 35 years.[8][23] In his ministry Woroniecki addresses the Biblical themes of hypocrisy in the institutional system, grace, salvation, forgiveness, hell, judgment, deception and the consequences of sin. Because of this, Woroniecki has taken his share of verbal and physical opposition. He claims that these are the "last days" and that Jesus will soon return to judge the world.[30][31] Woroniecki cites various Scripture verses in his pamphlets to substantiate his message that only by faith can a man be saved from hell and reconciled to God, a doctrine accepted by most mainstream Christians and defined by Martin Luther as sola fide.[32][33][34]

The Bible figures strongly in Woroniecki’s beliefs and is a focal point of his preaching. Despite not holding a conventional position in an established religion, Woroniecki’s knowledge of Scripture and theology is extensive.[35] His years of personal and scholastic study at three seminaries are reflected in his literature.[6][7][10][11] Woroniecki believes in Biblical inerrancy and considers the Scriptures authoritative on all matters of life.[32][33][34]

Woroniecki's message is met on the streets with a variety of responses.[27][36][37][38]

Andrea Yates[edit]

Woroniecki first met Rusty Yates in the mid-1980s while preaching on the campus of Auburn University. Rusty took some literature, and they corresponded by mail for the next several years. In 1989 Rusty introduced the Woronieckis to Andrea Kennedy, whom he had recently begun dating.[39] Woroniecki said of this meeting that Andrea seemed slightly intimidated, and that he advised them not to marry quickly, the same advice he gave to other young couples.[40]

The Yates and Woroniecki stayed in touch by letter and telephone, and in 1998, the Yates travelled to Miami after hearing that the Woronieckis were selling their motor home.[41] Rusty bought the bus, a 1978 GMC that Woroniecki had used for his family's travels.[2] During the week that the Yates stayed, Woroniecki confronted Rusty, saying that he was "willing to sacrifice his wife and children for the sake of his job"[41][42][43] After this confrontation, Rusty and Woroniecki "grew apart".[43] In the months leading up to the drownings, Rusty described the relationship with the Woronieckis as not being very close.[43]

Andrea Yates had suffered mental health difficulties for several years leading up to 2001. In June 1999 Yates took an overdose of sedatives and was hospitalized several times over the next two years. She was prescribed a variety of antidepressant and antipsychotic medications. On June 20, 2001, a few weeks after being discharged from Devereaux Texas Treatment Center, Andrea killed all five of her children.[44]

In early 2002 Michael Woroniecki came to the attention of the national media[45] when Yates' trial started. Yates' defense attorney George Parnham placed a copy of Woroniecki's newsletter The Perilous Times into evidence,[4][46] suggesting that the material was dangerous for someone like Yates,[47] and defense team psychiatrist Lucy Puryear said on Good Morning America that "Yates' fate may have been different if she never met Woroniecki".[4] Certain media outlets alleged that Woroniecki bore some responsibility for influencing Andrea.[48]

However, both Michael Woroniecki and Rusty Yates dismissed the allegations. According to the Houston Chronicle, "(Russell)Yates said his relationship with Woroniecki was more like learning from a book. He was free to accept what he wanted and reject that which he didn't".[45][49] Yates said "That’s just crazy" when asked whether or not his wife was influenced by Woroniecki.[45] He stated that Andrea had suffered schizophrenia, depression and delusions for years.[45] Both Yates and Woroniecki characterized the connection between Woroniecki’s teachings and Andrea Yates' state of mind as nothing more than sensationalist reporting. Woroniecki “…certainly didn’t cause the delusion,” says Yates.[45]

Woroniecki called the defense’s claims “ridiculous”.[4] He stated that he had only met Andrea personally four or five times over 20 years and that his relationship with her was “one of nothing but love and compassion”.[4][50] Woroniecki said that he had warned Russell Yates that Andrea and their children needed his love.[8][20][50] Peter Jennings of World News Tonight reported that Rachel Woroniecki wrote to Rusty and Andrea that they needed to reconcile their marriage.[51] In an interview with NBC Dateline in March 2002, Mrs. Woroniecki said:

"A major problem is that people think that by emulating our lifestyle they can have the joy and the love that we have without building a foundation in Jesus Christ."

Woroniecki was quoted by the Grand Rapids Press as saying,

"I will gladly sacrifice my reputation if it can spare Andrea from the death penalty and give her a second chance at life. However ... it is deceitful and irresponsible to blame doctors, hospitals, clinics or 'postpartum depression.' They (Rusty and Andrea Yates) both know that the issues which culminated in this tragedy are much, much deeper." [50]

Currently[edit]

Woroniecki and family members carried signs and preached at both the Democratic National Convention in Denver, CO and the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, MN in 2008.[30][52]

In November 2010, Woroniecki and his family were seen ministering in Times Square in New York City, promoting their website ‘www.ifanyoneisthirsy.com’ . The author writes that the primary point of their message was “that Jesus is alive and that we need to actively seek him out”, adding that despite any controversy, the family seemed to him to be genuine in their efforts to “go all over the world and celebrate life and the living Jesus.” [53]

Jack Wellman, Christian evangelist, author and regular contributor to OVI Magazine and Yahoo! Voices, confirms that Woroniecki continues to take his message “to the world and the streets of the nations”. Woroniecki’s current message, according to Wellman, taken from Woroniecki’s website and literature, is:

“Are you willing to look deeper, beyond it all? Please give us a chance to help you. It will be well worth your time. What we offer you is not a new group, “church”, formulas, self exaltation or doctrines. What we offer you is the love of the living Jesus who has the answers that you are looking for”. [54][55]

Woroniecki remains active in his ministry and has recently visited various universities during the fall semesters.[8][28][27][52][56][57][58][59][60][61][62][63]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Suzy Spencer, Breaking Point, St. Martin's Library, p. 176,213 (Warnecki, Worneki "and a few other names")
  2. ^ a b Berryman, Anne; Fowler, Deborah; Hylton, Hilary; Fulton, Greg (2006-07-26). "The Yates Odyssey". Time. Retrieved 10 March 2010. 
  3. ^ Cuomo, Chris (2006-07-27). "Insanity Verdict". Primetime (ABC News). Retrieved 10 March 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e "I Shared Jesus With Them". Good Morning America (New York: ABC News). 2002-03-27. Retrieved 10 March 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c d O'Malley, Suzanne. "Are you there alone?" The unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-7432-4485-5. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Woroniecki, Michael. "Michael Woroniecki "How To Win The Crazy War"". Retrieved 11 March 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c d Woroniecki, Michael (1994), The Victory In Defeat 
  8. ^ a b c d e "Michael Woroniecki preaches Jesus not murder", Central Michigan Life, Heather Bellife, May 22, 2002 "Archive"
  9. ^ a b c O'Malley, p.102
  10. ^ a b c d e f g O'Malley, p. 103
  11. ^ a b c d O'Malley, p.104
  12. ^ a b O'Malley, p.105
  13. ^ "Evangelist Michael Woroniecki Meets the Press in the 'City of Churches,'" Curt Christy, December 1, 1981
  14. ^ "Street Preacher Will Leave City to Beat Charges", Steve Grinczel, The Grand Rapids Press, October 8, 1981
  15. ^ Steve Grinczel,"Woman Prefers to See Street Preacher Tried", Grand Rapids Press, October 12, 1981
  16. ^ Assistant City Attorney Michael D. McGuire, "Dissent!: Woroniecki Case, Grand Rapids Press, October 18, 1981
  17. ^ Follow Up: High Volume Street Preacher Reports Progress in Sunbelt, Grand Rapids Press, December 14, 1981
  18. ^ "Traveling Preacher Arrested," Arizona State University State Press, November 3, 1986.
  19. ^ Jeanette Waite, "Anti-Mormon Protest Disturbs Campus", BYU Press, October 6, 1994 Article
  20. ^ a b c d e The Truth About Michael Woroniecki"Website"
  21. ^ O'Malley, p. 106; Seattle Times News Services, Around the World--Rabat, Morocco, "Oregon Missionary Family Arrested in Casablanca", The Seattle Times, May 31, 1995; "Casablanca Chrisitians [sic?]", USA Today (European Edition), approx. May 31-June 2, 1995, p.2;
  22. ^ Article, Judgment Day? Freedom of Speech on Campus, John Nakatsu, Kaleo (The Voice), March 19, 2008
  23. ^ a b c "Going for the Gold Steve; Grand Rapids Exile Preaches on at Olympics", Steve Grinczel, The Grand Rapids Press, Aug. 4, 1996
  24. ^ a b c d Michael and David Woroniecki Bio on Reverb Nation.com "Site"
  25. ^ Michael and David Woroniecki on Reverb Nation "Website"
  26. ^ Music by Michael Woroniecki: Time Seizure-2002-English, Traveline: ¿Donde Puedes Ir?-2003-Spanish / English, Measures of a New World-2008-English, Las Alturas de los Quebrantados-2009-Spanish / English , Mi Amigo-2009-Instrumental, Aperture, 2009-Instrumental
  27. ^ a b c d e "Varied Followers share Faith with Campus", The BG News (Bowling Green), Stephanie Guigou, Sept. 25, 2008 "Archive"
  28. ^ a b "God's Warriors come to UCO", Aaron Wright, The Vista, University of Central OK., Aug. 28, 2007 "Archive"
  29. ^ Spencer, p.137
  30. ^ a b Interview with Woroniecki family member outside the Republican National Convention, Baron Dave Romm, KFAI-News FM 90.3 and 106.7, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, September 3, 2008 [1]
  31. ^ Explosion, Michael Woroniecki, Tract, circa 2003"Archive"
  32. ^ a b Fact or Fiction, Michael Woroniecki, Tract, circa 2002"Archive"
  33. ^ a b What About YOU?, Michael Woroniecki, Tract, circa 2003"Archive"
  34. ^ a b Slammed, Michael Woroniecki, Tract, circa 2004 "Archive"
  35. ^ ; William Holm, "A Prophet Without Honor", Grand Rapids Magazine, February, 1981
  36. ^ Jerry Morlock, "Disturbing Word Jails Evangelist", Grand Rapids Press, September 14, 1980
  37. ^ Spencer, pp 177,178.
  38. ^ Steve Grinczel, "Woman Prefers to See Street Preacher Tried", Grand Rapids Press, October 12, 1981 ; Stuart Villanueva, "Religious Conflict", The Battalion, Texas A&M University, Apr. 26, 2001
  39. ^ O'Malley, p.28
  40. ^ O'Malley, p.29
  41. ^ a b O,Malley, p.31
  42. ^ "A preacher speaks out". Dateline NBC (NBC News). 2002-03-20. 
  43. ^ a b c Nichols, Bruce (2002-04-20). "Unrepentant in Yates tragedy". The Toronto Star. 
  44. ^ O'Malley, chapters 2 & 3
  45. ^ a b c d e "Lost in the message? Cleric says he’s not to blame for Yates demons", Lisa Teachy, The Houston Chronicle, April 6, 2002 "Archive"
  46. ^ Gesalman, Anne Belli (2002-03-18). "Examining a spiritual leader's influence". Newsweek. p. 8. 
  47. ^ O'Malley, p.175
  48. ^ O'Malley, p.109
  49. ^ Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy, Volume 10:1, 2003 Apendix 1, Timeline of Andrea Yates Life and Trial "Archive"
  50. ^ a b c ["They Needed Jesus", Steve Grinczel, The Grand Rapids Press, March 9, 2002]
  51. ^ Did the Preacher see it coming?, World News Tonight, Peter Jennings, January 21, 2002
  52. ^ a b Street preacher, family undaunted by jeers The Grand Rapids Press, Sept. 23, 2008
  53. ^ Woroniecki Family in Times Square by Jesse Schmitt, Nov. 8, 2010
  54. ^ Is Anyone Thirsty? The Woroniecki Family's Story by Jack Wellman, Nov. 17, 2010
  55. ^ If Anyone Is Thirsty Michael Woroniecki's Website
  56. ^ Traveling preachers descend onto PSU September 23, 2004
  57. ^ Zealots preach in Oak Grove September 27, 2004 The Penn, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
  58. ^ Yates was one of Woroniecki's followers September 30, 2004
  59. ^ Relgious(sic) solicitors harass students October 5, 2004 The Collegiate Times, Virginia Polytechnic & State University
  60. ^ Religious enthusiasts identified October 6, 2004
  61. ^ Family warns, preaches: 'We are ... going to Hell' October 18, 2005 The Digital Collegian, PSU
  62. ^ Traveling preachers stir controversy Article from the Pennsylvania State Daily Collegian, September 22, 2005
  63. ^ Jesus Banners wave at SU The Slate Online, Shippensburg University, Sept.10, 2013

References[edit]

  • O'Malley, Suzanne. Are You There Alone?: The Unspeakable Crime of Andrea Yates, Simon & Schuster, 2004. ISBN 978-0743244855.
  • Spencer, Suzy. Breaking Point, St. Martin's Paperbacks, 2002. ISBN 978-0312983093.

External links[edit]