Exit and Support Network

Philadelphia Church of God
Shatters Close Family Relationship

This is my testimony of a tragic and heart breaking experience. It involves primarily four people. My wife and I and my wife's son and daughter-in-law. My wife and I were long time members of the Herbert W. Armstrong Worldwide Church of God (WCG). This group was a "Bible and performance-based" dictatorial organization that claimed to be the "one and only true Church of God." Over recent years, since Armstrong's death, this cult has split and splintered into hundreds of small and competing religious organizations. Currently, my wife and I, having been delivered from the WCG by the love and power of God, and are members of a well balanced, nondenominational, Christian church. My wife's son and daughter-in-law, however, are currently deeply entrenched in one of the many splits: The Philadelphia Church of God (PCG), with headquarters in Edmond, Oklahoma (claiming to be "God's only true Church"). Triggered by recent events, specifically the personal posting of my testimony on the Exit and Support Network™ (ESN) web page, my stepson and daughter-in-law, have severed all contact with us.

Before going further in this testimony, I want to make an initial point very clear. My wife and I know perfectly well why these two kids feel compelled to take such drastic, unsound, and emotionally devastating action. We understand why they have said, "Mom, we don't want to do this, but we must!" They are mentally in the grips of, and controlled by, the false doctrines of the PCG. They are certain in their minds that to do anything else, would mean that they would be facing certain physical and emotional torment in this life, as well as complete eternal separation from God and total destruction in the "lake of fire." They are acting out of stark fear. They are blind to the fact that they are not using the mind God gave them, but are allowing themselves to be controlled by the false teachings of this organization.

I do not feel anger toward my stepson and his wife, but I do have a grave concern for them and their spiritual condition, a state of mind that would lead them to take the unsound action that they have taken. Yes, they do have a measure of responsibility and accountability for where they are, but the far greater responsibility and accountability rests with the teachers and leaders of this evil organization. It is toward these leaders that I address my anger. Didn't our Lord make it abundantly very clear that "leaders" who mislead His "little ones" have the greater accountability? Didn't He make it clear they would face serious retribution from Him? Need I say more? This testimony should make it very clear about the far reaching and emotionally devastating damage an organization such as this can do to a bond between a son and his mother--shattering a family relationship.1

I have but one purpose in documenting this recent experience (my testimony). Cultic and abusive organizations must be exposed. They wreck and destroy lives as this testimony will clearly demonstrate. Those who have experienced such, have a responsibility to testify against their abusive and spiritually deceiving practices. Yes, as we have learned by this experience, one who testifies will open a door that may cause great personal suffering.

So, with those opening remarks, my testimony begins.

My past, and to some degree that of my wife, is partially documented in two previous documents on ESN, going back to September of 2004. A friend made me aware of ESN around that time. As I reviewed the experiences and personal testimonies of those who have come out of the Armstrong WCG and subsequent splinter groups, I found so very much of their hurt and emotional turmoil easy to relate to. I also had been down the road they are now traveling. I, too, had experienced the deception, the fear, and the control of my mind. It's a very hard and very emotional experience, when one has spent years in a controlling cult, to make the break.

I wrote a letter to ESN as an expression of my concern and authorized them to post it if they wished and that they could publish my name. A day or two later, I filed a two page testimony (We are Free at Last!) with ESN, again advising them they could use my name.

My stepson and his wife are, as stated above, deeply involved in and supporting the PCG, fully and totally committed to its teachings. They knew we did not approve and did not agree with their religious doctrine, and, furthermore, they had twice stated, once in writing from the son in a letter to me, and again later verbally by the daughter-in-law, that we could have a relationship, but we "could not discuss religion." We in turn knew they did not approve of our religious beliefs, and we understood they regarded us as "lost" for we had turned away from the original Armstrong WCG. To put it in their words, "we had turned our back on God." I was especially a problem for them, because I had been a Local Church Elder (LCE) for years in the Armstrong organization. The PCG was carrying on, teaching, and enforcing the former beliefs of Herbert Armstrong's WCG; that they were "the only true Church."

So, my wife and I honored their request. We were careful not to discuss religion with them. We wanted very much to maintain a warm family relationship with them, and we hoped we could do this in spite of our religious differences. We felt the relationship was going well--as well as it could under the circumstances. This relationship had been going on well since their marriage four years ago. We had many very good and happy times with them when we were in their home, and when they came to visit us.

Then it happened. As I understand it, from the poor communication that has since resulted, my stepson was on the Internet and for some reason (?) typed my name in a search engine. As a result, my ESN testimony popped up on his computer. This upset them both very, very, much. We had no way of knowing they were upset with what I had written on ESN, for they did not call us. We found out in a telephone conversation with his brother--for he had voiced his upset feelings with his brother, but not with us. At the time, I was surprised and did not understand why these two would be so upset, or surprised, for they knew and have always known we were not in harmony with their religious beliefs. My testimony on ESN was intended to help people who were hurting and encourage them. In my mind, it had nothing to do with our "kids." My wife and I decided we should not call them about this matter because it seemed to us that they should talk to us and communicate their concerns. We felt the brother we had talked to should not be involved.

A couple of weeks went by, and my wife decided to call her son, as she normally did periodically, to keep in touch and see how they were doing. During this routine conversation, her son brought up the matter about my document on ESN. His statements were that everything on ESN about their church "are lies and hate."2 He said he knew "all the people who have documented stuff on that Network, and he knew all of it is lies and hate." He said, "Mom, if you are going to support stuff like that, then you don't love me, and we can have no more to do with you. The only way we will ever have any relationship with you is that you are going to have to get your name and those documents off that web site!" After a long conversation, my wife told her son that we would talk about it and get back to him. I wondered. Why didn't he talk to me? His mother didn't write those documents. I did. Why would he decide to disown his mother for something I did?

My wife and I talked about it. We agonized and cried over it. We slept very little that night. We prayed about it. This mother loves her sons deeply. They have been through some very, very trying times together. There were three sons, the older one died while a senior at the University. Now the second born son is threatening to disown his mother! What's more, he's going to take this life and relationship-shattering action over the telephone!

Again, I want to make a point crystal clear. This is a young man who really loves his mother and has always been very respectful, kind, and attentive to her. He too, as well as his wife, have to be hurting very much also. This is a very serious threat to the family relationship, just what the Adversary of God precisely delights in.

After agonizing over this throughout the night, we came to the conclusion. This is a situation that is far too serious to conclude over a telephone call. How can anyone sever a relationship like this over a cheap telephone call?

We called our son, and I spoke to him. I told him that we must reconcile this broken relationship. I said, we can do this but it is far too serious a matter to resolve over the phone. I told him that we would drive to their home (1,140 miles one way) so we could sit down together, heart to heart, before God, and do all we can to reconcile, and restore the relationship to where it was before. He responded saying, "Well, that would sure be commendable of you, but let me talk to my wife and we will call you right back." We waited two hours, and he called back, and told us that there was no need for us to come, because it would do no good. We talked further, in which he said, "You turned your back on God. We can have no relationship with you. We don't want to do this, but we have to. This is a matter of eternal life for us." I assured him and pleaded with him our only motive in coming was to reconcile the relationship. Then he unloaded an emotional bomb saying, "There is no relationship to restore. It's all been a fake and a show for four years." Surprised, and hurt, I said, "Well, maybe it's been that for you, but it certainly has not been that for us." I further told him that we were coming, and we will be there knocking on your door, and if we cannot reconcile this, then I want him to have the courage and character to tell his loving mother to her face that he wants no relationship with her. He responded, "Well, we may not be here." I said, "I understand that is your decision, but we will be there, and if you are not there when we arrive, we will wait for you to come home." He then asked to talk to his mother. They talked awhile and she confirmed to him that we were coming, for we must do all we can to reconcile, and then the phone call ended.

So, when we arrived at their home, we decided that I would stay in the car, and my wife would go to the door. We felt that this might be our only chance for a dialog to take place with them. If we both went to the door, they may not open the door or talk to us at all, and we really should honor their request that they did not want me in their house. Our deepest hopes and prayers were: 1) That they would be home. 2) Total reconciliation. 3) Or at the least, partial reconciliation in that he would not sever the relationship with his mother. After all, what had she done to justify such drastic, unstable, and heartless action? 4) If they were not there, we would leave our written goodbyes to them at their door.

My wife went and knocked on their door alone. I stayed in the car. After a while, her son opened the door. Thankfully, part of our hopes and prayers were answered. They were home. He came to the door.

From the car, I could hear nothing of the conversation. The following is what has been told to me by my wife of the ensuing conversation. First, her son asked, " I want to know what your purpose is in coming here?" My wife responded, "I need to know where I stand with you. I have some questions I want to have answers to. Can we talk someplace other than this doorway, where I will be out of the sun?" He would not even invite his mother into his home, but advised her to go around the house to the back yard and he would meet her there. For a few minutes while mom and her son were able to talk, her son was being respectful and kind to his mother. Then the daughter-in law came out from the house with a copy of my document which had been posted on ESN. She used it to interrogate and question my wife. She dominated the conversation which lasted about an hour. She repeatedly pointed at my testimony and came in a verbally aggressive manner at my wife with statements like:

  • How could you have us in your home, eating your food, tell us that you love us, and stab us in the back at the same time with this?
  • Is this the way you love us by supporting these lies and hate messages?
  • Is it worth it to you to do this and tear the family apart?
  • This is our life! We give everything to it! You attack this and you are attacking us!
  • You use the word "creatures." Are we creatures to you?
  • Would you like it if we did this to your church?
  • Why are you and your husband so bitter against Mr. Armstrong?
  • Additionally, she interrogated and questioned my wife about my wife's conversion to Christianity. (What was her purpose in doing this?)
  • She also applied to us the Scripture as stated in Proverbs 26:11: "As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly."

As this grueling and painful hour came to a close, both son and daughter-in-law stated that the only way this relationship could be restored was:

  1. I would need to get the letter and testimony off the ESN web site.
  2. I would have to "repent."
  3. We would both have to accept and "return" to their church [PCG].

This mother traveled on the road two days each way, for one purpose. A purpose stated forcefully to them before we ever left home--to reconcile with the son and daughter-in-law she loves. Why would this daughter-in-law ignore this act of unconditional love, and repay it with cruel and heartless interrogation and questioning? My wife didn't write the document. I did. Neither of them made any attempt to talk to me, and I was just on the other side of the house in the car. I was there, honoring their demand that they wanted nothing to do with me. Is this the way to honor a loving mother, brokenhearted at what her son and daughter-in-law had chosen to do? Then, there is another question. Why is it okay for them to sit in their PCG services and listen to sermons, Bible studies, their Spokesman Club speeches, etc., that condemn the teachings of our beliefs? They fully support this doctrine that everyone not in their group are lost pagans, and must repent and be in their "church," or face indescribable horror and suffering in the Tribulation, and finally eternal death. Is that not being hateful to us? Why is it okay for them to do that, but it is hateful if we make any statement against their belief, or support any program to reveal what their false doctrine does to people?3 Is this not a double standard? Is there a double standard in true Christianity?

I spent over thirty years in the Armstrong organization, heard hundreds of sermons, attended countless Bible studies, attended and took part often in "Leadership Training Classes," as well as read many dozens of WCG magazine articles (i. e., The Good News) calling mainline Christianity "pagan, deceitful, and tools of the devil." As a Local Church Elder while in that organization, I am sorry that I fully supported, as well as taught, this grave error. Since the PCG is a supporting offshoot splinter group of the Herbert Armstrong teaching, it is totally logical that they continue to viciously denigrate mainline Christianity.4 Furthermore, this is clearly seen when one reads their Trumpet magazine (The Philadelphia Trumpet), as well as their key publication called Malachi's Message,5 and other items of literature they publish.

But, did we really "stab them in the back" when they knew we did not agree with their doctrinal beliefs? They knew clearly, and have for years, that we did not agree with their religion. I view all these accusations by my step daughter-in-law against the mother of her husband as disgraceful, dishonorable, unjustified, and insensitive. Also, why did this mother's son sit quietly by and allow his wife to dishonor his mother? Now, I must state that although he did not restrain his wife, he was himself sensitive and courteous to his mother.

I am angry at the injustice of their faulty reasoning, powerfully influenced by the PCG organization, and at their unsound choice, again, powerfully influenced by the PCG organization, to initiate a cruel stand against my wife and their mother who was only "guilty" by association. She did nothing but state, "I will support my husband." I am also grieving. We are both grieving, and very, very, sorry they have made this choice. It was not necessary. It could have been reconciled with sincere negotiating and careful listening to each other with Godly love prevailing.

Yet, we understand that in the state of mind they are in, they could do nothing else. This evil organization has them in its firm grasp. It has control of their mind. I was there for over 25 years, and my wife for nearly that long. My reasoning back then was the same as theirs is now. Now, I know it was very faulty. Back then, I did not use the mind my God gave me; therefore, another spirit took it over and controlled my thought processes. Now, we both know that only God can correct a mindset like this. He has mercifully done that for us. We pray for the day when He will do the same for our son and daughter-in-law.

In the closing moments of the short hour my wife spent with her son and daughter-in-law, I am happy that her son did take his mother in his arms and held her tight for a long while, as all three of them sobbed profusely. This very painful testimony is to point out the tragedy and intense intolerable pain a destructive, false religion can and does bring. We drove away from the home of our son in tears. We praise and thank the great God that there was given the opportunity for mother and son to talk, and to say goodbye in person. We will continue to hold out our hands of acceptance and Godly love to them, unconditionally, for as long as we live. We will continue to pray ever more fervently to our God, according to His will, that reconciliation will happen in this lifetime. We pray for all others who are bound in such false religions as well.

In closing, I have seen that this fear driven, performance based, false religious organization has stripped this son of the natural God-given affection of a son for his mother. In truth, and from my own personal observation, the affection that previously existed between this mother and son was very special, powerfully welded and sealed by the previous years of severe family adversity. I now find it hard to realize, but yet very sobering, to see that this young man was actually going to cruelly sever this relationship by a telephone call. He and his wife can afford to take three or four weeks away from his vocation every year, travel to Europe, or some other far flung international location, spending thousands of dollars, and yet he cannot even take four days, spending a few dollars, to talk to his mother in person about a critically important matter such as this--severing the relationship permanently, over something his mother didn't even do. Does this not powerfully reveal the nature of spiritual fruits that are produced by a religion such as this? Certainly it could only take intense mind control, stark fear, and enormous deception to bring this son and his wife to this mindless and intensely harsh action. Furthermore, there was never one single Scripture given by them to support their action.

There will be those who read this testimony, and they will call it "lies and hate." However, there are two individuals who, if they ever read this, will know it is the truth. Oh! What a joy it will be when the Lord, in His time, and according to His will, gives them the eyes to see, and the mind to clearly understand His precious truth. We pray and eagerly await that day.

By Charles Rightmeier
August 1, 2005
Updated November 8, 2013

UPDATE 2011: The family situation has improved some since this testimony was written.

Related Articles:

Gerald Flurry's Sermon: Exposing Satan (given in December 2005) (first part covers the new ruling to cut off from family members who are "Laodicean") Includes at end: A Letter to Flurry (from one impacted by the "no-contact ruling") The "no-contact ruling" is in the December 10, 2005 Pastor General's Report.

Why it's Hard to Leave Philadelphia Church of God

Other postings by Charles:

We are Free at Last! (2004 story)

Greatly Concerned About the Abuse Those in PCG Are Receiving (2004 letter to ESN)

HWA Made Us Stop Singing "It is Well With My Soul" (2005 letter to ESN)

Footnotes by ESN:

1 One thing members of PCG don't understand is that love is more important in the sight of God than obeying "the government of PCG." (See John 15:12-13; Rom 13:10; Gal. 5:14) In spite of members saying that they do love others because this is what God tells them to do, this is not true. It is not "love" to cut off from your family members. It causes tremendous grief and suffering, and it is evident that this is not good fruit.

2 PCG members are taught by their leaders to believe that anything critical of their group must be "lies and hate." .

3 PCG members are taught that they are God's "only true church" and that all other churches are Satan's counterfeit. Any criticism of their group is considered "persecution" and "lies." Read: Milieu (Environmental) Control.

4 To see what Herbert Armstrong really taught about his "one true church," read ESN's critical review of Chapter six of Mystery of the Ages.

5 It has been proven that Gerald Flurry plagiarized his material for Malachi's Message. See the articles and links on our section: Malachi's Message: How True is It?

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