I was a member of the Philadelphia Church of God from 1993 to 2009. I finally left after a series of abusive actions by the ministry which all came to a head.
After sending Wayne Turgeon1 a few theological questions that he could not or would not answer, Turgeon and the local minister Ron Hanson, severely threatened me with excommunication for wasting his “precious time” by “asking too many questions.”
I knew that was unbiblical because Jesus told Peter to feed the sheep. (John 21:16-17) So how can they kick people out for asking a few questions? I’m sure the real reason is that Turgeon just did not like challenging questions he could not answer.
Ron Hanson was extremely strict and controlling. From the day he was transferred into our area he acted a like a bull-headed macho-man and things started going downhill.
For example, he sternly commanded that we must all attend Bible study. In doing so, he was overstepping his authority, acting like we had no choice, and I called his bluff. The Bible does not say that we must attend church Bible studies. I would always show up for the Sabbath sermon but skip the boring and repetitive Bible studies because I could learn more on my own. I think Hanson was peeved because I was openly undermining his (excessive) authority by not going to Bible study on the Sabbath like everyone else.
Presumably to get me in line, he would, for the most trivial of excuses, get furious, go into a drill sergeant routine, and yell at me. It was impossible to have rational discussions with him angrily snapping out orders and authoritative pronouncements with a definite note of finality. He really seemed to dislike me and to relish wielding power. He was always jumping to foolish and hasty conclusions. He had a hair-trigger temper and a suspicious mind. He would fire intrusive and skeptical questions in a highly authoritative tone. I felt like I was under a police interrogation. Perhaps he was trying to trip me up and find something he could use against me.
I’m sure Hanson got the job because of his loyalty and awe of the top ministers and willingness to bully people. There were many people more qualified than he was. His people skills were poor. He even failed some of the basic Bible qualifications for a minister in Titus 1:7 (“not soon angry”) and I Timothy 3:3 (“patient”).
I wrote a letter to Gerald Flurry about these two abusive ministers. He once promised us that his “door was always open” if one of his ministers was being abusive. That turned out to be a big fat lie. To say his door is open means I can talk to him about it. I was not able to talk to Flurry and he never wrote one word back. He once told us he opened his own mail, so I was sure he got the letter, yet he never replied. Like a coward he hid behind his abusive ministers, presumably so that nothing could be directly blamed on him.
Some time earlier I had been fired from my job for refusing to be part of an illegal scam at work. Wayne Turgeon (who was pulling Hanson’s strings) must have decided he didn’t want someone around who was asking difficult questions, standing up to ministerial abuse, and not contributing anything financially to the cause.
A week or two after I mailed the letter, Ron Hanson called me in for another stern lecture. He denied being abusive, said I just made that up in my letter to Gerald Flurry, and that nobody believed me. It seemed that he was trying to intimidate me so I would not write any more complaints about him. I told him he was a liar and if he didn’t change his ways I would only write more. I also told him his tough-guy demeanor was “silly.”
As soon as he got done chewing me out about the letter that I sent to Flurry, Hanson told me I would be suspended if I did not get a job in four weeks because I was not paying tithes. Of course, this was my punishment for sending in the letter.
Four weeks later I did not have a job so I came up with an idea for going into business for myself. This was not good enough for Wayne Turgeon (who didn’t bother to find out anything about my plan) so I was suspended. Anyway, I now work for myself.
After being suspended I found a number of critical mistakes in Malachi’s Message and other PCG literature. I spent a great deal of time searching for another Church of God2 and wrote to dozens of them but could not find one that I could agree with and which could answer my questions honestly. Most of them just stopped writing back as soon as I asked a question they could not answer. Few if any were honest enough to admit error or that they just didn’t know the answer.
Ron Hanson, Wayne Turgeon, and Gerald Flurry are all bullies. The PCG talks a lot about the love of God but they have twisted it to mean loyalty and obedience to the ministry. They do not have basic decency let alone the love of God.
Doing research on bullies helped me understand why the ministry behaves the way they do and why the PCG has become more strict over time. When bullies feel threatened they bully people even more. The threat they are scared of is the growing amount of information on the Internet and in the other splinters that refutes their teachings and exposes their lies and abuse.
Some of the PCG people were great, but I don’t think one can still be a minister in that organization without being controlling and without helping to cover up for other ministers who are abusive.
I will never go back.
July 8, 2011
Profile of a Sociopath (A number of abusive, religious leaders may exhibit many of these behavioral characteristics.)
Update: As of 2017 Wayne Turgeon was a PCG HQs pastor; dean of students at Herbert W. Armstrong College; principal of Imperial Academy; vice president of Armstrong International Cultural Foundation and dept. head of buildings and grounds. In March 2021, Wayne Turgeon was transferred to Edstone, England where he became dean of students and regional director of the United Kingdom, Europe and Africa and Joel Hilliker became the new principal of Imperial Academy.
Footnote by ESN:
1 Wayne Turgeon is Gerald Flurry’s son-in-law.
2 Read: Where is the True Church?