Monday, March 31, 2014

"Why I Left The United Church of God"

ESN has a two letters up for a young man who grew up in the WCG then left it during the changes to join the United Church of God.

Here is a quote from his letter:

My wife and I moved to another area. I still felt a tug to go to UCG. I wanted familiarity. So we would attend a living room fellowship a couple times per month, and attend UCG a couple times per month. The UCG area was large, so this arrangement went virtually unnoticed.

This was about the time I first got DSL internet. I was able to do a lot of research in a short period of time. This was the first time I learned about the scandals in Pasadena and the moral corruption of HWA, GTA, and Stan Rader. I mulled over this question that changed my life forever: "Can a good tree bear bad fruit?" And the answer was "No." This raised a credibility issue with me and exposed these unique doctrines to cross-examination. Like the Bereans, I was going to open the Scriptures and see if these things were true. HWA taught that the first centuries of the early church were undocumented, yet he was restoring the Truth believed by them after 1900 years. But within minutes I was able to find a lot of early church writings from that time. It gave a clear indication about the things the Christian Church believed and taught at that time. I read my Bible and prayed fervently for guidance. I read the writings of the Early Church Fathers. I read writings like the Didache. I met with pastors from several denominations in order to see how they viewed the Gospel, Jesus Christ, and the End-Time. Some of the pastors I met with were Lutheran, Anglican, and Baptist. In so many words I asked each of them, "What does God expect of me? What must I do-- where should I go to please Him?" The response was unanimous: It was not what I had to do to please God, but I had to realize what God had already done for me!

I wrote in to UCG with specific questions about how they saw the ministry. This was regarding a strange comment they made in one of their booklets. A UCG pastor told me that the UCG ministry were in effect, the "representatives of Jesus Christ Himself." I thought to myself about what that implied. What they are claiming is that they are a priesthood--new Levites if you will--not a ministry. But I contrasted that statement with the pastors of other denominations, who seemed to have a humble attitude, seeing themselves simply as people who wanted to love and serve Jesus Christ. Furthermore, UCG's teachings on the Sabbath, Holy Days, and the nature of God did not add up. Also their paranoia and hostility towards Christmas was hypocritical, inaccurate, and completely unjustified. British Israelism is patently false, and I have a suspicion that many in the UCG ministry know that, but teach otherwise. Plain and simple, UCG and groups like it teach heresy and their fruits show it. I found that when you impartially read Scripture, have a good grasp of church history, and compare UCG's doctrinal statements against the doctrinal statements of other denominations, the Truth will certainly come out. UCG and the other offshoots rely on ignorance.

Read the entire letter here:  Why I Left United Church of God

From his WCG letter he writes:

WCG emphasized money. This was core to their message. It wasn't reflecting the love of God in Christ to the world, feeding the hungry, or caring for the poor. WCG considered that "false" Christianity. This should have raised a red flag right there, but it didn't with us. Where was all this money going? Although we were so poor, when I was older my dad sold some recently inherited land and was able to scrape up enough money to go to the Feast in Pasadena. I saw items such as a gold-foil ceiling in the Auditorium, and carpet made from the wool of an extinct species of sheep. Was that preaching the Gospel or materialistic self-glorification?

As a very personal case in point, I'll explain how raising money was so important to the WCG. My uncle and aunt were members. Their son (my cousin) contracted HIV at the age of two because of a blood transfusion he received. Distraught, they asked the local minister to pay them a visit for counseling. The associate pastor came by their house but did not appear to be the least bit concerned about my cousin's fate. On the contrary, he was shocked and dismayed upon learning that my uncle and aunt were unable to tithe. My uncle now had huge medical bills to pay and he did not have health insurance. From what I heard, my uncle threw him out of the house. My mother disputes that part of the story and said that my uncle was just extremely upset. Either way, my uncle left WCG that very day and has not expressed any interest in religion again. My cousin survived for several years before succumbing to complications from AIDS at the age of twelve.

Another story that comes to mind is how one evening our pastor and associate pastor was over at our home. As they were finishing up their visit, my dad asked him why God was not blessing our family despite his obedience over the years. My dad was often working to 10pm so he could have enough money to both support the family and "the church." He would always say that he had to "support two governments." The pastor, leaving, partially turned around to my dad and shrugged his shoulders. He casually said, "I don't know. Maybe you're under a generational curse." Then he turned right back around and walked out the door. My dad took him seriously. I did too. Maybe we were. This influenced a lot of my decisions in life having that in the back of my head. I would tell myself, "I'm prone to fail anyway because of the curse my family is under. After all, that came out of the mouth of one of God's ministers."

Later I found that this same minister did not have a lot of credibility. He had been arrested for DUI on the evening of the "Night To Be Much Observed." A teenage girl was in his minivan at the time and he claimed to be taking her home. He announced at services how he was suing the Police Department because they left that girl in his van when they arrested him. I don't think that anything came out of that though--or whether in fact that he followed through on this lawsuit threat. Later he was abruptly transferred to another WCG area. He had been was accused of molesting young boys and Headquarters quietly transferred him to another congregation, where it is alleged that his behavior continued. This sounds not too different from the scandals in the Roman Catholic church. But when you place faith in a clique of elite "ministers," you always run the potential for abuse. 
 Read the rest of the letter here:  Childhood Memories of Growing up in Worldwide Church of God


Connie Schmidt said...

Interesting comments here by the author about the madness to be found in the "Living Room Groups" as well. My own observations confirm his...

"I also liked the relaxed atmosphere, although this was not without its problems, too. There was a lot of tolerance for a wide range of views. Although at the same time, there were certain caustic visitors who would try to hijack the conversation and force their own ideas on everybody else. I met quite a variety of people. For the Holy Days we'd associate with people from other "living room" fellowships or small independent congregations. In these groups I would meet folks who believed they were prophets, others who demanded that we only refer to God as Yahweh, some who taught us to wear prayer shawls and tassels, a few who denied the divinity of Jesus Christ, and others who wondered if they were one of the Two Witnesses. The craziness abounded."

Anonymous said...

It's so true, that there are WCG/UCG ministers who've preached what they themselves don't even believe, in order to retain their money and power.

Just look at how the UCG split WCG happened!
The "future" UCG ministers lied and plotted in secrecy, accepting paychecks from the WCG- even disfellowshipping WCG members who believed EXACTLY as they themselves (later) claimed they did- while those ministers callously inflicted extreme harm to so many people- just so they could end up as big fish in a small pond again, and continue to collect tithes from the herd of disenfranchised vulnerable gullible people exiting the WCG.

What a bunch of lying slimy shmucks those UCG ministers are!
They're some of the worst of the worst in Armstrongland.

Byker Bob said...

The splinter groups that Dave Pack now describes as having "rebelled against Mr. Herbert Armstrong" were just emerging at the time when I left in 1975, and I passed on the "opportunity" to be part of them. Even at that early date, they all appeared to be fruit from the same poisoned tree.

I never really thought through this whole Livingroom Church of God thing. A mainstream church I've attended has local neighborhood groups which fellowship in peoples' homes during the week, and there is pretty good unity in them, so I assumed LRCOGs would be similar. But, why wouldn't there be the same fights for control, the same wild speculative theories, the judgmentalism, the fantasy titles, and the weirdness that is present in the splinter groups? Smaller scale, yes, but basically the same ol' shibboleths. That mentality and whole subset of "fruits" would definitely still be there.

Best advice for an Armstrongite is: Be wise! Apostasize!


Head Usher said...

"A UCG pastor told me that the UCG ministry were in effect, the "representatives of Jesus Christ Himself." I thought to myself about what that implied. What they are claiming is that they are a priesthood--new Levites if you will--not a ministry."

This is exactly the case.

The Pervert claimed that he was the one true "apostle" who alone in all the world represented JC himself, and after 1900 years had finally arrived to set the record straight as to what message JC wanted the world to hear. Of course, all of that was a crock. The cult of HWA has only ever had a "ministry" in name only, but it has always been an unacknowledged quasi-preisthood. When it's convenient, they claim to be merely helpers, but when they need to they'll tell you they form the hierarchical "government of god," a structure which is implied you must go through as a earthly mediator to reach JC, which is unscriptural heresy in any case.

UCG carries on this heretical tradition, as do the other large splinters. During the UCG-COGWA fiasco was a good example of a time when it became necessary to play hardball again. On November 11, 2010, John Elliott, who wasn't on the Council of Elders (COE) at the time (but is now), published a letter in which he openly claimed the "Primacy of Peter" doctrine for UCG. He claimed that UCG's ministry is the modern day heir (the one and only, I guess?) of the mantle and authority of the "Levitical preisthood," and as such UCG's elected COE members are the "duly appointed" representatives of JC on earth today, which means that god has granted to them the right to make "judgments" and god has not granted you the right to second-guess them. To contradict them or accuse them of any wrongdoing whatsoever is to be in "rebellion" against god himself. The message was clear to ministers and members alike who dared to think that the UCG's COE might not be infallible, knuckle under—or else face eternal consequences! It's positively medieval! (I wouldn't know where to find the original letter now as UCG is back in "rainbows and lollipops" mode, and they've expunged all traces of "hardball" mode, but the document on this website quotes portions of it, just search for "Nov 11, 2010".)

That letter reveals a lot about who UCG's leading priests think the Pervert was, and who they think they are. They obviously think the Pervert was exactly who he claimed to be, namely the one and only priestly representative of god on earth at the time, a veritable modern-day Moses & Aaron tied up with a ribbon, and they think that UCG's COE is the one and only rightful successor to that (imaginary) "office," now shoehorning it's 12 "duly elected" priests of its COE into that "divinely-appointed" role.

That's an awful lot of hubris for a tiny little cult, which is just one cult among hundreds, all competing for some sort of claim to be true successors of WCG, which itself was only ever a tiny little cult with absolutely no connection to JC, Peter, or any first-century apostolic church. The RCC does the same thing, and it may not have a very good claim to the "keys to the kingdom" either, but the Pervert never had any claim at all, and neither does UCG or any of the silly councils and conferences of its priestly castes. It's all patently ridiculous nonsense.

DennisCDiehl said...

Stay home from a Church of God this 10,20 or even 30 percent...

Connie Schmidt said...

The Levite claim is probably used as the justification of being able to exclusively demand, and use a tithe.

Without such a claim, then where is the authority to demand the tribute, and for it to be exclusively given only to them, and not for, lets say, a charitable community cause, or for one owns personal evangelism and outreach.

It creates an exclusive class, a hierarchy, and authority.

There needs to be a real reflection, and mediation on what it meant when the Curtain was ripped in the Temple when Christ died. The ramifications of this is very scary to any proponents of hierarchy or those who would like to lay claim to Godly "Franchise Rights".

Mark Wolfe said...

Interesting that one of the letters stated that the core of the WCG's message was emphasizing money.

According to Marion McNairs book "Armstrongism or Rip-Off", after HWA's credentials were revoked by COG7 in 1937, "he determined to preach more, baptize more, and take in MORE MONEY than those in the Church of God."

Presumably, to him, this would constitute proof that he had God's blessing----or the fruits we as sheep were to consider.

In his autobiography he illustrated his business background as a training period to eventually run God's Church.

Armstrong, in defiance of Duggar's Salem Church in 1939 wrote a scathing piece on Church Government should be run from the bottom up----but conveniently changed that to top down when he incorporated his business background to the cause.

So the genius of Armstrongism is the business model which HWA created to compete more effectively against COG7 groups.

Dave Pack has claimed that the minsters who left WCG for UCG had been plotting that for years and executed it in a way that left no paycheck behind.

RCG is constructed exactly like WCG in Armstrong's early years. The leader emphasizes his business background as the sole proprietor of a retail health food store.

Statistics are used to prove the fruits and there is a grudge battle against all other Armstrong splinter groups. And the leader is constantly ridiculing, maligning, impugning and undermining all of the other COG leaders in the hearts of the brethren.

And the authoritarian government model in the RCG is taught with such rigor that one of the greatest sins is to not use this authority----wherever or whoever you are given it over by God----to its maximum effect.

So, hence you get the big picture model that you are called into the true Church to rule with Christ in the world tomorrow with authority over all nations.

That's the advertising gimmick. That is what pulls you into the store to buy the product. And that is what keeps you there and tolerating the abuses.

Byker Bob said...

One of the things that I failed to grasp as a WCG member was how anybody who has ever had any kind of authority would even want it. It can be one lonely darned big hassle! Life as you know it, and unbridled fun or relaxation basically become a thing of the past. Now, it can be be fulfilling to help, mentor to, and share with people, basically "teaching them to fish" (metaphor) so that they can live quality lives and support their families.

Most of these people who want to rule with a rod of iron probably fantasize that in the millennium, nobody will ever challenge them, or advance alternative ideas. Everybody who has ever walked the face of the earth has a ration of talents, and obtains fulfillment from exercising them. These often put people at odds with one another. The remnants of the nations still alive at the dawn of the millennium will be human beings with human character traits and emotions.

Beings with perfect knowledge and Godly character would not even require a ruler. I can understand wanting to get past the stereotype of riding a cloud around as you play praise music on your harp for all eternity. That might be fun right up until Mick Jagger caught up to you singing "Hey, you, get off of my cloud!" But the Armstrongist model is still one in search of a greater concept. There is definitely a sense of mystery to our reward!


Black Ops Mikey said...

Levitical priesthood, eh?

OK then, where's the temple?

Where are the altars?

Where's the blood from the sacrificial animals?

If you want the tithe money, you have to do the priesthood work, all bloody and requiring heavy lifting every day with the heave offering.

It's a little tough since the Old Covenant was supplanted with something less bound with physical rituals.

Do you really want to go there UCG?

And just think: All your major doctrines came intact from G. G. Rupert (reference

old EXPCG hag said...

I now believe tithing is like a pyramid scam. Only the ones at the top of the pyramid get rich and benefit from it. The Philadelphia Church of God AKA >Gerald Flurry< (self appointed >THAT PROPHET< not THE PROPHET, but >THAT PROPHET<),believes (as his IDOL/FATHER FIGURE Herbert W. Armstrong taught), that "Government is everything" as he continuously preached. GF believes that all the syrupy "luv talk" that THE PROPHET AKA THAT PROPHET >Jesus Christ< taught, was just that..."Syrupy".
How FALSE of a >FALSE PROPHET< can you get??
In the PCG, people had to get it approved by a minister if you wanted to help someone out...such as give someone money so they would have gas or buy food for themselves or their families. I had a couple of men that at different times wanted to give me money to help me and my son out as I was going through a divorce, (BRIAN DAVIS REGIONAL PCG DIRECTOR CAUSED),and trying to start over. Well after asking our local minister, the men were informed not to. You see, they wanted all the money sent to >HEADQUARTERS<. I had people secretly giving me money though. Even a person they would not to this day suspect...GOING AGAINST CHURCH GOVERNMENT, HEY?
I have had more blessings since I was disfellowshipped than I ever had while I was a part of Gerald Flurry's PCG scam. And that's the PLAIN TRUTH...for real.

Anonymous said...

When I think of the "afterlife rewards" people think they'll have for being a "good" Christian, I can't help but think of 'Twinkie the Kid' wearing his cowboy hat and passing out Twinkies and congratulating people and saying, "Here's your ree-ward!"

Unfortunately, most contemporary Christians today are into sponge cake creme filled "ree-ward" theology.

Head Usher said...

"Unfortunately, most contemporary Christians today are into sponge cake creme filled 'ree-ward' theology.

Fundamentalist cults like those of Armstrongism certainly have always been. But if most contemporary xians today are still into the "carrot & stick" sponge cake creme filled "ree-ward" theology, that still leaves modern xianity as being the LEAST into that sort of thing of any xians have ever been at any time in the entire history of christendom. Roll the clock back any number of hundreds of years and you'll find a xianity much more steeped in "carrot & stick" theology than anyone is today. In fact, you'll find a xianity steeped extremely heavily in "stick" theology, but perhaps a little light on the sponge cake & creme filling.

To me, "carrot & stick" theology is endemic to the roots of what is so wrong with xianity. Doing the "right thing" because of some artificial "ree-ward" or not doing the "wrong thing" because of some artificial "stick" means that you wind up living your whole life doing everything for the wrong reasons. Unfortunately, this "carrot & stick" theology was, by all accounts, Jesus' theology, so, what ails xianity cannot be rooted out. In order to do the right thing for the right reason, I find it necessary to dispense with xianity altogether. Just because xianity is popular doesn't make it right. 2.1 billion people can all be wrong.