Thursday, March 13, 2014

Are COG Ministers the "Unfriendliest of Church Members?"

A reader here sent me a great quote from an article The Phony Feast of Tabernacles

In spite of their admonitions to the membership, ministers were among the unfriendliest of church members. In one sermon shortly after I started attending the WCG, my first pastor explained why he didn’t socialize with lay members – if he got too friendly with them, they wouldn’t respect his authority. “Familiarity breeds a certain amount of disrespect,” he said. Ministers, with few exceptions, maintained an arms length relationship with lay members as a matter of policy. At the Feast of Tabernacles, ministers socialized with other ministers. When you saw them dining in restaurants, they dined not with lonely lay members, but with other ministers, usually their chums from Ambassador College. They had their own parking spaces, their own ministerial luncheons, and reserved ministers-only seating during services. Even if they participated in social activities open to lay members, such as dances and luncheons, they sat at reserved, ministers-only tables. “Ministers Only” signs were ubiquitous in the Worldwide Church of God. The ministers segregated themselves from lay members by staying in the best hotels and dining in the most expensive restaurants. The ordinary member couldn’t afford to patronize these establishments, but the ministers could because of the generous festival allowance they received from church headquarters. This is yet one more example of the Worldwide Church of God ministry applying one set of standards to the membership while applying another less rigorous set of standards to themselves. Needless to say, there are no “Parents Only” signs on the dinner table when the family gets together for Christmas.

I remember working in the Auditorium in Pasadena and how each week we had to mark of rows and rows of seats for ministers and their families.  Many of them never could get to church on time even though they lived on campus.  We had to ensure that they had seats when they came in late.

For many years I also set up and worked in the ministerial dining room at the Feast in Pasadena.  Members were forbidden to enter the room.  They were to remain in the main area of the Student Center at all times.  Most usually brought their own lunch and used the dining area, or on holy days ate from a potluck where unknown and questionable foods always were present.  However, it was another story on the other side of the folding teak walls.  A well stocked bar with every imaginable liquor, beer and wine was waiting. A vast array of food was waiting to be gorged upon, roast beef, turkey, salmon, lamb, chicken, all freshly cooked in the kitchen.  If you were the feast advisor and specially selected men (always men) you also received a gift basket of cheeses, salami's (beef of course), crackers, candies and wines costing over 200.00 each.  Go back outside those teak folding walls and it was another story.


Benjamin Dickmann said...

RCG keeps to these practices with diligence. One could never get too comfortable or friendly with a minister. However, there was one exception. I got pretty toasted on some damn good 21 year old scotch with a minister and some other members one friday night out on one of the member's back decks. We were drunk and loud, no doubt about it! And no doubt that he was one of "the sixteen". What a great way to ring in the sabbath! It was probably one of the few good memories I had out at Headquarters shortly before I bolted.

Head Usher said...

Absolutely. They didn't teach this at AC, but if your marriage coincided with graduation, and you got the "nod" that yes, in fact, you were "ministerial material" and got the fleet car and "sent out into the field," that's when it would be explained to you that your "old friends" can't be your friends anymore. Now you're in the "club." We will be your new "friends." Creepy as hell! But that's how it was.

And with that came all the Pervert's ideas about "status." The "minister" always had to be seen having the best of everything and living the "good life." If you, the member (who paid for his lifestyle) were as "godly" as he was (that's why he's the "minister") then you would be enjoying the "good life" too. But you're not. So sad! Next life maybe. Whoops! Not then either! So sad. See you pathetic try-hards next week! Buh-bye now.

Byker Bob said...

Yeah, for the most part, they adhered to the paradigms of corporate America or the military with regard to fraternization. And, to be honest, on a personal level, I tried to avoid the ministry whenever possible, and to stay below their radar. So, it worked both ways.

There were some notable exceptions, and perhaps it is best not to name names here, but for some reason, one pastor ranked speech instructor at AC would occasionally walk up to me, say "Hi Bob! Are you keeping your nose clean?" as he lightly punched me on the shoulder. One time, GTA gave me a ride back to campus from the barber shop. And, someone who later became pastor general knew and greeted me by first name and I always felt at ease around him. I don't know if these gentlemen realized it, but this personal touch stood out and above most ministerial behavior, and encouraged me to stick around much longer than I would have otherwise. Familiarity did nothing to diminish the respect I had for them. It enhanced it. The way we were taught to revere the ministers, their interest was almost like having Jesus smile at you. They should all have done this, and more often!


old EXPCG hag said...

And how bought that foot washing ceremony coming up very soon? Ministrs only wash other >VIP Members< feet. John 13:1-17

25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Matthew 20:25-28

old EXPCG hag said...

Head Usher said...

Absolutely. They didn't teach this at AC, but if your marriage coincided with graduation, and you got the "nod" that yes, in fact, you were "ministerial material" and got the fleet car and "sent out into the field," that's when it would be explained to you that your "old friends" can't be your friends anymore. Now you're in the "club." We will be your new "friends." Creepy as hell! But that's how it was.

"club"...that's the word BRIAN DAVIS used when >inviting< me back into the PCG after many attempts to discourage me in order to get rid of me which he finally accomplished February 2012. That was the BEST THING he could have done for me. "YOU SAVED MY LIFE!" ...ASSHOLE!!!

Byker Bob said...

"He knows that he has ratted.
He knows that he has squealed!
He knows that he's got enough brownie points
to be sent into the field!"

(composed by the rowdy dorm mates of 80 S. Grand, AC 'dena in school year 1967-68, and sung to the tune of "Santa Clause is Coming to Town")


Anonymous said...

Once, at the Feast, I had a date with a minister's sister-in-law. My one time sitting in the minister's section (and one of my home local elders had to question me about what I was doing there). The lady and I visited a local tourist site, had dinner -- a good time. Sometime later, I called her on the phone; I just wanted to say hello, perhaps to maintain an acquaintance. I forget how, exactly, but she made it clear she was "minister's family," and "different" from me.

When I got out of WCG and went back to being a Sunday Protestant (a great move, it's turned out) -- and I've seldom if ever told this story -- I remember being at some church event and everyone realized more chairs needed to be set up. My pastor was the first one to go where they were stored and grab a few chairs to set up! I stood there dumbstruck. 16 years of pastors who would never do such things -- deacons were there for the "menial" stuff -- left me in stark disbelief at what I saw.

But then another memory: the WCG deacon in charge of setting up chairs for Sabbath services, in our rented hall, scolding me because the back legs weren't exactly even with particular seams in the linoleum tile floor. Well, give someone an excuse to exert HIS "authority" . . .

Mark Wolfe said...

I was on a crew that set up chairs at a Feast of Tabernacles site with RCG. We were instructed to add about 20 more chairs for some purpose I don't remember. We followed instructions perfectly.

Then a headquarters deacon/department manager comes flying in with all of this unnecessary energy ordering us to remove all of the extra chairs because we had too many.

After a tepid response from me was aggressively tossed aside as though I was an annoying parasite, he discovered we were right all along----and we had to reset up the "extra" 20 again.

I didn't really blame the deacon because he helped. It was just the tone in how he communicated with us and the assumption that we were wrong----presumably because we had not had access to the great David C. Pack on a daily basis. How can we lowly sheep possibly do anything right without constant contact with the one person on earth who communicates with Christ?----that is the feeling you get when you came into contact with some of the younger officials from headquarters.

The older ministers and officials were actually very instructive, kind and patient. But there was an awkwardness when dealing with them in recreational activities.

Many, who had been with COG's for many years had mistrust for the ministry. I did not see it from that perspective because I was pretty "young in the faith". But being away from it now for awhile I can see how a minister is kind of trapped in an insular world. And since their living is dependent upon the well-being of the sheep, there is a certain dependence that is unspoken of.

I noticed that the main ministerial advice I received from the RCG was worldly success principles that I could have gotten from anywhere with much more precision and without the restrictions.

I also think that is why successful people who come in "from the world" get preferential treatment. It seems that HWA was far more comfortable with worldly successful people than the "weak of the world" who were responsible for his success.

Anonymous said...

Comment was made that: "...This is yet one more example of the Worldwide Church of God ministry applying one set of standards to the membership while applying another less rigorous set of standards to themselves..."

Well, Jesus Christ, who knew what was in man (John 2:25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
), did say of the pious religious leaders of His day the following:

Luke 11:43 Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.

Mark 12:39 And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:

Has man changed? Have religious leaders changed from the leaders of Christ's days on earth? No, after all, why should it?

God has always had hirelings associated with His Church; however, it appears that Jesus Christ knew what their attitude would be towards His sheep:

John 10:12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.

That is an important point. God's sheep don't belong to any hireling. Hirelings may be good or evil, but how much do they really care for God's sheep? Here is Christ's own words:

:13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

Even when they profess to "care" for the sheep, how much did they really care for God's sheep? We all got a pretty good idea when we saw them flee all over the place. It makes one wonder: why follow a hireling who does not really care?

Well, the problem isn't so much about good vs. evil hirelings, but that many of us have witnessed, unbeknownst to many of these hirelings, that hirelings are very capable of doing evil things.

If they followed Christ's advice, then perhaps they would do the right things, but then again we wouldn't give them any credit.

Perhaps we'd give credit to God for what He has done through them by the power of His Spirit, because good fruits come from God via His Spirit. Without that Spirit working in one's life there will be lots of evil evident. There is no way to get good fruit from an evil tree, nor evil fruit from a good tree.

Anonymous said...

I brought a mainstream couple to the FOT one time. After services were concluded, they stood there while people picked up their bags and left. They were used to mainstream churches where people usually introduce themselves, and they later commented that people "weren't very friendly." This was in a more liberal, independent-minded COG group, yet still the spirit of WCG remained. I remember in the COG how we used to downplay the friendliness of mainstream churches as some kind of defect. Of course, afterwards I realized that this was part and parcel of the whole New Covenant ethos, which we were completely ignorant of, still using observance of part of the law as a measuring stick of righteousness.

Paul Ray