Lord Our Righteousness Church

A controversial New Mexico-based sect with a leader convicted of sexual misconduct.

Religion: Christianity
Founder: Wayne Curtis Bent (Michael Travesser)
Founded: 1987
Location: Union County, New Mexico, US
Size: 50 (2008)
Other Names: Strong City, The Lord Our Righteousness Church of the Firstborn; The Strong City sect
Website: strongcity.info

The Lord Our Righteousness Church, also known as Strong City, is a religious sect founded by Wayne Bent, who later assumed the name Michael Travesser. Bent’s path to founding this new religious movement began with a conventional Christian upbringing, followed by a transformative religious conversion in 1967 that led him away from his former lifestyle, including smoking and drinking. After earning a master’s degree in religion from Loma Linda University, Bent became a minister. His dedication to his faith eventually caused a rift in his marriage, leading to divorce in 1981.

Bent served as a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Idaho from 1982 until 1987, when disagreements with another pastor led to his departure. He continued his religious work, focusing on teaching the Adventist faith, until 2000, when he claimed to have received a divine message instructing him to move to New Mexico. According to Bent, this was also when he was transformed into the Messiah, a role that he and his followers believed he was destined to fulfill​​.

The Lord Our Righteousness Church settled near Clayton, Union County, New Mexico, with around eighty followers initially moving from Sandpoint, Idaho, in 2000. This community, known as Strong City, became the physical and spiritual center of the movement. However, the church drew significant media attention and legal scrutiny, particularly in 2008 when Bent was arrested by the New Mexico State Police on charges related to sexual contact with minors and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The initial charges were related to inappropriate contact with three minor girls in 2006 and 2007, as well as sexual relations with his son’s wife, which both Bent and his son attributed to divine command​​.

Bent was convicted in December 2008 of one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor but was acquitted on another charge of sexual contact. He received the maximum sentence, with part of it suspended, and served time in prison. IHis convictions were overturned in 2011 by the New Mexico Court of Appeals due to a procedural error, but were reinstated by the New Mexico Supreme Court in 2012, and Bent continued to serve his sentence until he was paroled in February 2016 due to a cancer diagnosis. Following his release, Bent authored a book titled “The Little Book,” drawing from biblical references to share his perspective on his legal battles​​.

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