Single members might choose to live in a house with a family, or live in a house with other single members. Each member has a spiritual guide, called a “head.” The regional female leaders were called “handmaids” before the Margaret Atwood novel and subsequent TV series made that word too charged, and are now called “women leaders,” said Craig Lent, People of Praise’s overall coordinator, a position akin to chairman of the board. The coordinator is elected by the board to a single, six-year term.
…A founding member, Adrian Reimers, left People of Praise and wrote a manuscript that paints the group in its early years as having a powerful — in his view, dangerous — influence over its members. The 1997 document talks about how people who leave are described as having a “quitting spirit” and that leaving the group is like adultery.
Coral Anika Theill told the National Catholic Reporter that her five-year stint in the group in Oregon “still traumatizes me to this day.” She said she suffered under conservative ideology, strict gender-role divisions that emphasized women’s submission, and secrecy toward outsiders.
…Members contribute at least 5 percent of their gross income to the community, Lent said. Their commitment also may mean choosing to not take a promotion or other job in a city that does not have a People of Praise branch.
Lent said the group is politically and theologically diverse. Asked if members hold particular views about hot-button issues like abortion and gender, he said they believe life begins at conception, and that men are the leaders of the home.