Exit and Support Network

Pain, Guilt and a Lack of Love
in Philadelphia Church of God  

I just exited out of PCG. I had been raised with a lot of Armstrongism thrown around. I grew up afraid of Christ's return and afraid of never getting married.

I had to deal with Craig Winters and Jeff Greaser (who at last word was suspended due to something to do with a recently divorced member). I was almost always afraid of these men, afraid of asking questions for fear of being pegged as having a "government problem," or being unconverted. After I was baptized, I struggled to grow, fearing deep down that my baptism didn't "take" due to fault of my own. I could never seem to overcome or change, or have a deep love for the work, ministry, church, etc., that we were always told to have. I struggled to pray very much for any of these things, and most of my prayers left me with guilt, because I felt like I had prayed about my own problems and needs too much, and not enough about the other things.

Although I, unfortunately, cannot exactly remember what the occasion was, I distinctly recall Jeff Greaser referring to Italians as "Wops." This was from the pulpit! It was either after "special music" composed by an Italian, or he'd been talking about the Catholic Church. Yes, racism and no mercy.  Not too long after being baptized I married a wonderful man (who found ESN and has already emailed you) whom I'd been secretly dating long distance for a year...he was not in the church. I knew what was coming but I couldn't bear to lose him, and I'd seen what most of PCG men were like and didn't want to be a wife to any of them. Jeff Greaser suspended me, after putting me through a massive guilt trip and acting as if I'd sinned against him. And this was only after finding out about my relationship. That day is still painful. I will say that I think Mrs. Greaser knew my pain, for as I walked away to leave the hall she passed by me and gently touched my shoulder. I have read others here say (and I agree) that a lot of the minister's wives are good women who are trapped. She never made me feel evil; I was always able to talk to her. Mrs. Winters, on the other hand, I always felt was watching for me to mess up.

We were married before I got the phone call from Craig Winters officially suspending me. He was not as bad as I had expected, but even so I began the long hard journey of coming back. For the first 6 months of my marriage all I could think about was coming back to services, consumed with guilt at marrying someone I loved. Jeff Greaser, in this case, personally, was the worst to deal with. He was almost always harsh and made me feel worse than before, each time I talked to him. But eventually I returned, and the main thing I remember someone saying to me that first Sabbath back--once they found out why I had been gone--was, "God is merciful." The PCG is very self-righteous as a whole. I never felt wholly welcomed again except by a select few who sincerely accepted me and my new husband. I grieve for them now.

My husband wanted to attend and struggled with that for months. As he counseled and tried to do what was asked, Jeff Greaser would give me "updates" on how he viewed things were going for Robert (my husband). They were always negative, about how he basically wasn't getting it and not to get my hopes up. In his studies, Robert ran across 1975 in Prophecy1 and it alarmed him for the obvious reasons. I was so mind-controlled at the time into not questioning the ministry as being right that I told him to email his concerns to Jeff Greaser, and to be urgent in his message so he'd know how important it was to him. I was certain that Robert's concerns would be calmed. On the Sabbath following Robert's emailing him about it, Greaser approached me and basically said Robert was very "full of himself" for thinking that he (Greaser) had the time to be concerned with questions about such things. I don't remember now what kind of answer he actually ended up giving Robert; maybe he didn't. No one was ever able to answer why it was okay for Herbert Armstrong to be so wrong about so much, in light of Scripture.

Last August we moved to Mississippi and attended the congregation there. We were over an hour away and a lot of times were unable to make it due to health, money or car problems...thank God! It was in all these problems, in seeing no mercy or understanding from the pastor (because no matter what, we should be there at least twice a month; regardless of unemployment, mononucleosis, or the car dying) Not until then did we both--and especially myself (Robert had had problems and "difficult" questions from the get-go)--start to really question who was really behind all this, and just how godly it really was. God is not in that group. I hate that I wasted four years of my life and thousands of dollars for what seems to be nothing. But God has brought us out of it and for that I am thankful.

Brian Davis2 [brother-in-law of Andrew Hessong] is one of the least understanding men I've ever met. Sure, he tells us to be there at least twice a month, regardless of what's going on in our lives. Why? Because he's only missed services twice in his entire lifetime, and once was the Sabbath his wife died. And you can tell how much he loved his dearly departed wife [Brenda]: he was remarried before he could turn around twice. Car broken? So what, you should get a more reliable car. No money? Well, are your tithes correct? Because if they were, I don't think you'd be having these kinds of financial problems. Even if your tithes are 100% right, maybe you still aren't giving enough to God for Him to financially bless you. He's an overbearing sociopath who's intoxicated with his power.

One more thing: Although this most emphatically isn't true of every one in PCG, the prevailing attitude of lots of PCGers towards animals and pets is very disturbing. Lots of members view any other form of life as worthless, and it is okay to abuse, say, cats (especially cats it seems) and dogs or anything else that gets on your nerves, or in your way, or just for the hell of it. This is because animals don't have the "Incredible Human Potential." There is a lot of inhumane attitudes and treatment that goes on. I cannot for the life of me see Christ kicking a dog or a cat across the room just because of a bad day, or because it made a mess on the floor. I wondered for years how so many of "God's people" could be so callous towards another creature. Now I know. There is very little real love for God's creation and the creatures in it, in most of those people. I really don't know what they love.

"A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" (Proverbs 12:10).

Thank you for your time and again for your great work. You are in my prayers. (I am just now really learning how to pray.)

By Gretchen Blaize
September 10, 2004

UPDATE: Craig Winters No Longer a Minister (April 22, 2013 letter to ESN)

Also read: My Hurtful Experience With Philadelphia Church of God (Gretchen's 2004 testimony to ESN)

Footnote by ESN:

1 Basil Wolverton (a comic artist and WCG elder) was behind the grotesque and horrifying pictures in 1975 in Prophecy and other WCG literature. Read on our site more about Basil Wolverton.

2 As of 2012, Brian Davis is a PCG HQs pastor and is regional Director of Central Western U.S. Read 2012 letter: Brian Davis is an Abusive Tyrant


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