Exit and Support Network

Why it's Hard to Leave
Philadelphia Church of God

I want to say a few things from my own personal experience which may help anyone out there understand just how controlled people in Philadelphia Church of God are.

PCG, like any totalitarian group, knows what the members fear the most and it's all about fear tactics! Members in PCG are willing to sell their soul to the "church" because they simply don't see that they have any other option, and I was one of those people at one stage in my life. Our very sense of "belonging" and being loved is in our attachment to the "church." Love is equated with complete and total obedience, even if lies, betrayal, shame, threats and disapproval is taking place.

To be loved and accepted in the group requires total obedience even to the point of total self sacrifice and a life of unhappiness! Some people are willing to do that because fear and manipulation causes very black and white thinking. We become trapped by our conditioned responses. If we obey, we will be loved and accepted versus not obeying, which triggers fear of rejection thus being disfellowshipped (cut off from the "church") and threatens our very sense of safety and security (our basic human need).

The threat or fear is not so much about being kicked out of a church or group. The "church" is a lifestyle in which everything in our life is based upon which gives us our security. It's the fear of being cut off from God, not making it to God's Kingdom, and being separated from an illusion of what we believe is our family. The stakes are high....very high and when people are in that position, it's a dangerous place to be because we don't have any power. They hold the power to accept or reject at any time and members are fully aware of that, and continually treading on egg shells, nervously proving to the ministry their right to be in the group. Sad...but very true.

After a while, you begin to internalize all of this, about ourselves as people, our worth, and self-doubt starts to creep in. It takes a while to get out of this pattern of thinking, even a long time after being free of PCG, especially for those who have grown up in the "church." I know of stories where advice is given by the ministry to divorce when this will ensure members are not influenced by their spouse who are non-members. They try and control members from having any contact with the outside world, so they are under complete control of the ministry. The members become isolated and their whole world is the "church." The ministry have also been responsible for forbidding dating and marriage even between members. They make direct and indirect threats about what will happen if the members don't go along with the ministry.

If we are sick and are not healed when anointed, we are blamed for lack of faith and the blame is put on the individual for not giving our whole lives to the "church." They once lent me money when I was in a tough spot financially and little did I know it would be forever brought up to remind me of what I owed the "church." I felt guilty and selfish because of this and found myself accepting their abuse because of this. I spent a long time going against my own wishes and now I am free, although it's still hard trying to move forward. It's possible though, so don't give up, all of you who are struggling out there and have been through the PCG experience!

By Cliff (former member of PCG)
March 30, 2007

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