Thursday, April 12, 2018

"So, if you were losing your faith, why did you stay in the ministry so long?"

That's a fair question and one I struggled with I'd say from the mid 1990s to finally being free from it by '98

I went into the ministry in 1972.  Ted Armstrong was out, then he was in and then in '74, when I was working in Chicago during the Great East Coast Rebellion, he was out and I got fired by association with my boss, the Regional Director for whom I was his man Friday.

Got rehired when the dust cleared for me personally and I wanted to go on in ministry.  In my mind, I really thought that my generation of ministers would mellow and balance the church.  LOL.  Sorry about that.  I was naïve.  But by 1975 I was pastoring my first two of 14 congregations, Findlay and Mansfield, Ohio.   From then on, it was one scandal, drama, trauma after the next and I wondered while driving my 60,000 miles a year visiting what I had gotten myself into.

Yet I believed the Bible as seen and understood through the eyes of the WCG.  It was better , it seemed than my Presbyterian perspectives which left out, it seemed, whole parts of and topics in the Bible.  I really wanted it to be true. I thought that after HWA died, and I always thought he would, the church would mature and the beat would go on better and better than ever.  We know how that went!

But there was that one thing, always in the back of my mind and it was personal between me and my dad. And it was this.......

Me on the left and my brother

My only brother, a couple years older than me, was born a preemie at a pound and a half.  In the day they poured on the pure Oxygen, minus the nitrogen  and it burned up his tiny retinas, ear bones and as a result could not speak either growing up.  His birth for my parents was a traumatic experience to say the least.  He spent his early life at the NYS Hospital in Newark and we visited him every Sunday after church.  Thus this picture.  

Back to staying in the ministry.

In 1972 I sat breathless during a forum at AC where they were announcing the ministerial assignments for my graduating class.  Not the best way to do it, but it was dramatic.  When they got to my name, and said,  "Dennis Diehl...Minneapolis, Minnesota" my personal goals were unfolding just as I had planned.    I went to AC to be in the ministry in spite of warnings from Apostles not to think you could come to AC with that goal.  It was my goal, I wanted to be a minister and I simply reached my personal goal.

I had also been accepted to the Roberts Wesleyan Theological Seminar in NY but choose AC for various reasons. I only mention this to say that I wanted to be a theologian type minister and had no idea AC had not concept of proper theological teaching in the history, background, origins and composition of the Bible.  Had I gone to RWTS, I suspect I would have learned a more realistic view of the Bible and probably had my mid-life exit from it much earlier. 

After the forum I went out to call my dad to tell him I was going into the ministry.  He got real quiet on the phone and I could tell he was a bit overwhelmed.  I had no clue why until I asked him if he was ok and he said...

"Son, I never have told anyone this.  When your brother was born with all his handicaps and disabilities, it practically killed me.  I even drove with him in the car around once thinking of just running the both of us into a tree.  Then I prayed to God that IF he ever gave me a normal son (I know, I wise cracks please!) He could have him.  Seems God has taken me up on this. Congratulations!"

And so forever more I felt that not only had I reached my goal of ministry, wrong one not withstanding,  it also was an answer to my father's prayers.  And so while some of the reasons I stayed on after perhaps my own expiration date, had to do with really loving the local people and not wanting to hurt them or thinking that things would get better and I could be force for the good etc, this sincere perspective my equally sincere  father, who went on to be a local elder in Rochester,  gave to me in that one phone call home was fundamental to not walking away too soon.  

After my dad died, I was looking through his Bible and in the back on one line he had written, "April 1998.  Dennis Terminated from the ministry."   I wonder how he felt when he had to write that. 

And too...  Transitions in life can be very messy. I just wanted to share that with my friends here on Banned. 


Anonymous said...

Great story Dennis!

What About The Truth said...

I was watching a interview recently with Judge Judy of television fame. In it she made the comment that she chose the profession of being a judge because she wanted the ability to make decisions unencumbered with what people think. It sounds as if the front line of the WCG for you was filled with people who were adept at encumbering. I guess it would be safe to say that HWA didn't have the same problems as you had.

I just recently got a call from my daughter saying she wanted to transition into a whole new field of work. I asked her why? She said she wanted a job that would make a difference in peoples lives. That sounds like that has been the theme of your journey through life and what shame is there to gravitating towards a church that taught you would be god and a king and priest to how many cities, guiding and teaching people - making a difference in their lives.

Life goes on for all those still living in or out of the COGs and there truly has been many different paths of transition for those touched in some way or another by the theology of the greater COGs.

nck said...

What can one do in life but pray, work, abide with the golden rule and when given extra talent, contribute accordingly to the world.

Families are a great concept and manner to achieve most of that.


Byker Bob said...

There’s an old saying: “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans!”

We all either try to take or exert control, or to surrender control to those whom we believe have it, or we do something in between. The bottom line is that life is a ride, and most of us don’t know in real time what is going on while it’s actually unfolding. There are just too many variables, and unintended or unexpected consequences. The full depths of many of life’s most poignant lessons only become plain to us in retrospect.

Bob Dylan was once asked in an interview for Rolling Stone Magazine what it felt like to consistently pull the rug out from under existing musical trends, and to replace them with new ones. Dylan responded that in the middle of each instance, the outcome did not seem certain. He did not feel any sense of control. The reality was that he was just following his musical vision, and in the end he was gratified that numerous others ended up appreciating that vision.

For me there were a couple of profound take aways from that interview. The first was, wow, was that not a metaphor for life? The second was the realization that like so many successful individuals, Dylan was a risk-taker. His cumulative successes opened the possibilities for additional risk taking and further success. And, thirdly, Bob Dylan had been brutally honest, and totally humble in discussing his success. What a contrast in comparison to the arrogance of certain “prophets” and “apostles”!

Tying it all together, when a person surrenders control to people who have represented themselves as being the enlightened ones, the gatekeepers, and accepts their interpretation or philosophy, only to come to realize later that they and what they taught were not what they represented themselves as being, that involves one of the major investments of life. There are some easy things in life that you can just flip a switch to “on” or “off”. The major investments, and partnerships we generally agonize over. And frankly, that’s not something for others to make fun of or question. It’s the proper way of handling the things in life that are most important. The more important these things are, the longer the reevaluation time span tends to be when the outcome could go either way. It is perfectly natural, and your mind is working properly if you do not want to burn your bridges until your decision has been made. This is called limbo, and it is often a very unpleasant state to get through.


DennisCDiehl said...

I was ordained an "Elder" at 23 and a "Preaching Elder" at 24. I figured I'd be a Pastor by 25, Evangelist by 26 and Apostle by 27. (Just kidding) Got stuck at PE for the next quarter century though I "pastored" or I suppose "Preaching Eldered" 14 congregations in 5 states over the next 25 years. Anyway, right after I was ordained at 23 in Mt Pocono, my brother was home at the same time I was and sitting on his bed upstairs. Perfect, he would be the FIRST person I would anoint and lay hands on for healing. And so I did. I thought it might be a nice thing for him to say a few words at the dinner table for the first time and tell us a bit about himself I guess lol.

I laid hands on him, prayed a bit about "the deaf will hear, the blind will see and the lame shall leap like a hart" etc and then waited. I looked at him as he just sat there with a look of "what was that?" on his face. I said "Can you hear me?" I had a good chuckle and led him down the stairs to dinner. I figured I either did not have enough faith at the time or in some way I had "asked amiss." lol

He is still living in a very nice home, with others like him, in Rochester with his advocate who tends to his needs

DennisCDiehl said...

Oh..and too I might add that my dad told me later in life that one Presbyterian minister of their young couple marriage told both of them that "you must have done something wrong for God to give you such a son" I kid you not. Lest you think just WCG minister types said dumb ass stuff. I think in hindsight it made my mom feel defective or dirty in some way as she was so very very proper and always dressed to the nines as they say to compensate perhaps. Maybe not. But that had hurt and of course was simply not true.

I told Dad God really punished them with my two sisters! :) Whenever I did something stupid as a kid, dad was prone to remind me that he knew he had a handicapped son but "at this moment, I am not sure which one it is." Aww man... lol

Near_Earth_Object said...

Why did I stay with the WCG so long? I was a member for 30 years approximately. I think a couple of forces were at work. Both involved me projecting my own personal idealism on the WCG. This effectively kept me from facing the harsh reality of what the WCG was.

First, I thought that HWA provided a means of systematizing life. He broke down life into a collection of principles - like the 7 laws of success. Everything was a system and HWA knew how to capitalize on the system. GTA used to speak on the broadcast about getting in harmony with God's laws and living a great life.

I searched for this elusive, putative system and found only chaos, disarray, unexpected and unpleasant consequences and other bizarre experiences. I finally understood that one of the lessons of the Book of Job was that if you are looking for a system to take advantage of, forget it. Herbert had his own system that worked for him but it had nothing to do with the laws of God that he preached.

Second, like Dennis, I always thought things would get better. For example, when I left my hometown in the midwest and moved to AC BS, I was appalled at what I found there in the way that people mistreated each other. The caste system was palpable. And the un-Christian quality of the caste system was palpable. Actually, an AC student had warned me about this ahead of time but I swept his comments aside. I thought he probably had a "bad attitude" - the cult's favorite personal pejorative. Then when I went back home for the first time, I told some friends about how dismal things were at AC BS and they recoiled and no doubt thought I had a "bad attitude." My pals wife pretty much quit talking to me.

As an AC faculty member told me later on, the average church member believes that AC is a wonderful place to work and most church members do not have the necessary capacity to yield to authority to successfully live in the AC environment. Part of what implemented that "authority" was the very robust AC Caste System.

An AC graduate told me that my years of experience at AC had wonderful value. Now, he said, nothing that anybody ever said about the church, no matter how bad, will ever surprise you.

It was not until after the GTA Rebellion that some of my friends back in my local area would admit that maybe some of the things I had mentioned might be true. At least I seemed to be less of a pariah.

Throughout my experience at AC BS and thereafter, I always thought that the church was flawed but would improve. It had to grow in grace and knowledge. It was God's one and only true church. So I hung in there waiting for better days. I believe now I overstayed what would be required by good common sense.

Anonymous said...

NEO - very good comment. I almost felt like I could have written what you did in my experiences with the church.

The only difference is I was a student at BS (I take it you might have worked there??) who quickly saw the double standards in place and the hierarchical standards that were so wrong.

I happen to be there when the 1974 break up hit and watched the scrambling of the “truth” that they wanted to hide from the average member. It truly sickened me then, but I too sat in the church for over 40 plus years trying to reconcile what I saw, with what I knew deep in my heart.

I think that is what still troubles me to this day.... that those who claimed so much control of every aspect of our lives, was worse than the fox guarding the hen house ..... they owned the hen house.

I’m truly glad I never was a minister, even though I might as well have been one, doing most of the jobs they did. The big difference was I tried to actually serve the people, in helpful and encouraging sermons or in service that was needed... the ministry simply wanted to be served at our expense.

Near_Earth_Object said...

Anonymous 11:03

Thanks. I was an employee at AC BS in various capacities in the early and mid Seventies.
I was there in 1974. I was never a student. I probably know you.