Selling Satan

The Tragic History of Mike Warnke

By Jon Trott & Mike Hertenstein

Copyright 1992 by Jon Trott & Mike Hertenstein

Holy Orthodox Catholic Church in Kentucky

Mike Warnke married Rose Hall in Paintsville, Kentucky, on January 2, 1980. [132] It was his third marriage, her fourth. With the marriage came several changes; Rose was often onstage and on record with Mike.[133] Warnke left Dharma Agency and began to book his own concerts; the public focus shifted from onstage concerts to the ministry back home.[134] As Mike has said: "When you get right down to it, I'm just a glorified cheerleader. The real work of our ministry goes on back there."[135]

The name of the "ministry back there" was Warnke Ministries; its nonprofit status was listed under "The Holy Orthodox Catholic Church in Kentucky" (HOCCK). This built on Warnke's previous 1974 ordination in Tulsa by Bishop Elijah Coady while Warnke was attending Trinity Bible School. With HOCCK, Mike Warnke joined the ranks of "independent" Eastern Orthodox churchmen who founded their own autonomous denominations. During the early eighties, Warnke met James Miller, a local bishop in the American Orthodox Church. Miller told us he ordained Warnke a deacon and then a priest in early 1983. He suspended the ordination later when Warnke failed to submit regular reports.

And then Mike Warnke became a bishop. This final ecclesiastical step occurred when another independent bishop, Richard Morrill, consecrated Warnke--an event we have verified by speaking to three other bishops who say they were told by the late Morrill that he indeed made Mike Warnke a bishop. [136]

Bishop Richard Morrill had officiated over Mike and Carolyn's marriage in Nashville.[137] According to Elijah Coady, Morrill was an itinerant cleric given to flamboyance and the founding of organizations, many of which seemed to exist only on paper. In 1981, Morrill incorporated in Texas under the name "The Holy Orthodox Catholic Church, Eastern and Apostolic."[138] One year later, Mike and Rose incorporated as "The Holy Orthodox Chruch in Kentucky."[139]

HOCCK's offices were located at first in a converted garage behind the Warnke's Versailles home.[140] As time went on, they staffed it with a series of Christian women whose opinions of the Warnke ministry were much higher when they joined than when they left. In the summer of 1983, Dorothy Green heard Rose on a Lexington Christian radio station and invited her to speak to the Danville, Kentucky, Women's Aglow.[141] Soon afterward's, "Dot" was hired to answer letters and do phone counseling. Dot's friend, Jan Ross, joined later as Rose's personal secretary. Roxanne Miller and Phyllis Swearinger eventually worked in the bookkeeping department.

All four women were nonplussed by Mike's preference for High Church "chapel" services. Dot remembers an early chapel service with Mike: He had incense, and he'd come down the aisle with his robes, swinging it in this thing."

Roxanne Miller's opinion had less to do with the High Church trappings than with an event where Mike's ritual got in the way of a few friends' prayer time. "We used to go down to the park for lunch," Roxanne recalls.[142] Dot, Jan, myself, a few others . . . and we'd just talk about what God had done in our lives. What he was still doing. Mike was usually out of town, but one day he just showed up and said, 'I'm gonna do the teaching this week.' So we sang, and then Mike put on his robes. I thought he was plain ridiculous. It was like dressing up to be something you're not. It made me feel sad. He wants to be so much, and he isn't. I can still see him standing there in his robe, all velvet and dark."

The Ministry and the Money