Gerald Flurry has gone to a lot of trouble and expense to launch a massive PR campaign to lash out at FOX 25 Primetime News for airing a special report on Philadelphia Church of God. Why would he feel the need to defend the PCG so vehemently?
Towards the end of the report (when Mike’s Page was shown), Stephen Flurry, in speaking of his critics, told reporter Nick Winkler, “It’s not slowing me down.”
Has Gerald Flurry and PCG now been slowed down?? It would appear to be the case as it is evident he has moved quickly in order to do “damage control.”
Flurry Says Outrageous Attack
Flurry first held a press conference where he called the report an “outrageous attack against the Philadelphia Church of God”; “a slanderous report,” “disgraceful, yellow journalism,” and said it made PCG as “some kind of doomsday cult, similar to the Branch Davidians.1
Gerald Flurry then placed full page ads in The Oklahoman and The Edmond Sun (with members’ tithe money no doubt) to “refute scandalous, unsubstantiated allegations” which he believed were levied against him.2 The title (in large print) said: “The Philadelphia Church of God asks Fox 25 News: WHO is really acting like David Koresh, the Waco cult leader?”
Flurry said he knew the report left “little doubt in the minds of their viewers that they see our church as some kind of doomsday cult, similar to the Branch Davidians.”
Why was Flurry so sensitive about this subject? Can a destructive “cult” be identified by their behavior? (Read: Identifying Marks of an Exploitive, Abusive Group) Is the word doomsday the same as apocalyptic? Isn’t an apocalyptic bible-based cult one that preaches the end (“doomsday”) is near?
It is true that citizens in Edmond, Oklahoma (and elsewhere) are now beginning to ask some questions.
In the same article Flurry said “Fox news is being dishonest and they know it.”
He ranted about the “dangerously demented tactics” FOX25 used but went on to say that PCG was an “upstanding Edmond church.”
What the general public was not made aware of is that not anybody can walk into this “upstanding church” and be a part of PCG’s Sabbath services. There are strict requirements that Gerald Flurry doesn’t want outsiders to know about until they become hooked on his “free” literature and ready for baptism. (For more info read: Philadelphia Church of God Info)
This PCG article1 included much boasting about PCG’s grand achievements and all they have accomplished. It sounded very similar to what Herbert W. Armstrong would have said (and did say) about his “Work” and “The World Tomorrow.” Flurry bragged about how the Key of David is “reaching millions of people” in his “globe-encompassing work,” yet he doesn’t let anyone know that PCG congregations have been steadily losing members the last few years.
Following are some of the other inciting words Flurry used, which got worse as one reads through the article: [bolding mine]
“David Koresh murdered his followers in Waco, Texas.” (Did Koresh murder his followers?)
“It was a dangerous and demented environment.” (referring the Koresh compound)
“…dangerously demented tactics.” (referring to FOX25)
“This isn’t just outrageous—it’s borderline criminal!” (referring to how he believes that Fox compared PCG to the Davidians)
“…reckless and irresponsible attack on me, the members of my church, and…Almighty God!” (referring to the report on PCG)
“…we have nothing in common with him or his perverse and violent brand of ‘Christianity.'” (speaking of Koresh)
“Fox 25 has more in common with the Branch Davidians.”
“…the Fox 25 reporter came with a preconceived agenda to smear us, and he imputed tainted motives behind every positive thing he witnessed.”
“…hatchet job news story” (referring to FOX25’s report)
“Not once did they provide their viewers with any information about that man’s troubling background.” (speaking of David Ben-Ariel) Note: Would Gerald Flurry want others to find out about Herbert Armstrong’s “troubling background”–a man whom Flurry believes “restored the true gospel,” and was “the Elijah.” (See our section: Herbert W. Armstrong)
“…much more concerned about digging up dirt about me” (referring to his police record) Note: Was it “digging up dirt”? Or merely presenting the facts about how he was drunk on the Sabbath (a day which he teaches members they must keep for salvation) and tried to bribe the officer.
“…the reporter only wanted to expose the ugly slice of the truth.” (speaking of Nick Winkler telling about GF’s police record)
“…were far more interested in sensationalism and distorted truths” (speaking of FOX25)
“…proved themselves willing to titillate their viewers no matter what the harm to our organization or our church members” (referring to the report) Note: Who is really being harmed by the PCG organization?
“How many innocent lives will be wrecked” (speaking of FOX25) Note: How many lives have already been wrecked because of PCG and its destructive cult teachings and rules?
“…character assassinations” (speaking of FOX25) Note: What character assassination? Is he referring to how his mug shots and police record were shown? Is he referring to how viewers got a glimpse of papers referring to an investigation?
“…they came in with the same kind of deceitful, destructive spirit that David Koresh used to brainwash his 80 followers” (speaking of FOX25)
“…tried to sell their garbage to the general public” (speaking of FOX25)
“…a shameless attempt to get higher ratings so they could charge higher ad rates” (speaking of FOX25)
“It’s despicable and shameful” (speaking of the report)
“…damaging innuendoes, smears and lies” (speaking of the report)
Notice the massive amount of name-calling Gerald Flurry resorted to in his ad in order to defend PCG’s “reputation.” What is the community going to think about this kind of behavior? Notice how he avoids the real issues and discredits FOX25, making them look like the evil persecutor. PCG members can identify with this type of message (which includes trigger words) as they are frequently told they will receive persecution and be “attacked by Satan” for the Work they do. Herbert Armstrong (the man that Flurry emulates) was quick to do the same, using identical methods of accusation and slander, whenever he was exposed or confronted by his critics.
FOX25 stated that they stand behind Winkler’s work which was “based on exhaustive and objective investigative reporting.”
Flurry stated, “Telling only part of the truth can make the truth out to be a lie.” But isn’t this what deceptive and destructive organizations do all the time?
He says, “My congregants hold me accountable based on God and His inspired Word—the Holy Bible,” but he doesn’t tell how no one is allowed to question him once they become a member. He doesn’t tell that he considers himself “that prophet” (who “speaks for God”) and before anyone can be baptized into his organization they must acknowledge that.
Gerald Flurry says, “We want you to know the truth about the Philadelphia Church of God.” But Flurry has made members and potential members think that the only one who can give them the truth about the PCG is him. Isn’t this a reckless way to base one’s sole conclusions on?
Rising Up Against Critics
Why is it that we often find that it is destructive religious organizations, and those that always have something to hide, who are the ones most likely to rise up against their critics in a frenzy of fury and rage? But the truth has a way of eventually coming out and being exposed to the light of day.
Did FOX 25 really “compare” Flurry and the PCG to David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, as Gerald Flurry accuses them of doing?2 Let’s take a look at what was really said.
During part two of the interview, Nick Winkler told how a writer said that in 1993 Flurry was afraid the government was going to come after him. So what happened in 1993 to make him think that? Nick went on to tell how 1993 was the year Federal Agents raided David Koresh’s religious compound. Then he asked Stephen Flurry, “Are you the Branch Davidians”? Stephen Flurry had a chance at this time during the interview to act “offended,” but instead he seemed amused, chuckled and just answered, “no.”
The Worldwide Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong (which PCG is an offshoot of), also had concerns after Waco, too, and felt they didn’t want to be called a “cult” anymore. Too many people were asking too many questions. (Read: WACO: We Start to Investigate)
Similarities with Branch Davidians
Interestingly, the Branch Davidians were a break-off group of the Seventh-day Adventists, just like Worldwide Church of God was. (See: Roots of the Worldwide Church of God) PCG is an offshoot of WCG (since December 16, 1989) and holds to the doctrines that the WCG had when it was run by Herbert W. Armstrong. Few may be aware of the fact that PCG holds many beliefs similar to the Davidians:
David Koresh and his members (the Branch Davidians) all kept the Seventh day Sabbath and also believed the books of Daniel and Revelation had been unsealed. They claim to have the “Key of David.” They teach that the Daily (aka the “Continual”) has been taken away. They give the identification of the tribes of Israel today. They teach about the Elijah messenger. They hold to clean and unclean foods. They teach about the two trees, and the two witnesses. They also claim to understand the firstfruits harvest. They claim New Truth and New Revelation. They distinguish their faith as special and unique and they believe they are God’s chosen people and are living in the end times. The Branch Davidians (David Koresh) were an offshoot from the Millerites (Seventh-day Adventists), just as the WCG was.
Would there be another reason Gerald Flurry is concerned that people might wonder if PCG could be a dangerous religious group? He teaches that obedient and “faithful” members will flee to a “Place of Safety” (as HWA taught) in order to escape the Great Tribulation. Now wouldn’t this give those who have family inside reason to be concerned about what he might do next? (Read: Philadelphia Church of God and the Place of Safety)
In defense of PCG, Stephen Flurry said in an Edmond Sun article that “anyone who has seen the campus and the PCG’s work, knows the sincerity behind its actions.”3
While we don’t question the sincerity of members (and even some ministers) in high demand groups, does this cancel out the fact that their trust can be, and is, used against them in order to exploit and control them? Wouldn’t it be considered normal (and using discernment) for anyone on the outside to want to get to the bottom of things and research more thoroughly when they hear so much criticism against a particular religious organization? Or should they simply and naïvely accept whatever a particular leader of the group tells them because he appears to have the truth?
Stephen Flurry went on to say (about FOX25), “To me, they’re the ones scaring people to get money. We don’t scare people to get money. Our people give voluntarily, and they give because they believe in this work.”
This a smoke screen to cover up what is really happening inside PCG. To place anyone under fear, almost to the point of panic, of going through the Great Tribulation, or losing their salvation, if they don’t tithe is “scaring people.” But when people are unknowingly mind-controlled and coerced, they will feel they are giving money because they “believe in the work.” (Read: How Mind Manipulation is Used for Influence and Control and Lifton’s Eight Criteria of Thought Reform)
Stephen Flurry gave his own view by saying, “The report was aimed at scaring Oklahoma City and Edmond residents about what the church is or is not doing, he said.”
Is this what the report was aimed at? Or did it spur the community to investigate PCG further?
Stephen Flurry also said the PCG has members who obey the “tithe command as we see it.”
And the way they see it is the way Flurry has told them (by his lifting verses out of context). It is expected that PCG members will tithe. Is tithing a command? (Read: Tithing and Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing)
Shane Granger (PCG marketing director) said the 2nd tithe is “saved by members for their own expenses and spiritual enjoyment attending biblical annual festivals.”
What Granger fails to reveal is that attendance at these “annual festivals” (mainly the Feast of Tabernacles where 2nd tithe is spent) is mandatory for members. He also doesn’t tell how 10% of this 2nd tithe (considered the “tithe of the tithe”) is to be sent to PCG headquarters and that members can only spend it at the festivals and in the way PCG designates. If there is any left over at the end of the festival (“excess 2nd tithe”), it must be turned in to PCG HQs.
Granger also had this to say about how there will be many others, not just church members who will survive the Tribulation, “We have never said otherwise.” This was referring to how Nick Winkler in the report said, “He (Stephen Flurry) says only the faithful will survive.”
This is double-talk. Those who are familiar with PCG teachings (especially members and former members) know that PCG teaches (as HWA did) that there will be people who survive the Great Tribulation, but they will be the ones that suffer “indescribable horrors” and who will then come to see that “God’s church” (i.e., PCG) had the truth all along, repent, and be ruled over by Christ and his “faithful” PCG members with an iron fist. One can learn more about their teachings simply reading some of Flurry’s fear-filled booklets; e. g., Lamentations: The Point of No Return.
Flurry continued to feverously place more ads in the paper. The second one on December 5 (again with large print) began with, “The Philadelphia Church of God asks Fox 25 News: What FBI ‘investigation’ are you talking about?”4
All we can say is, where there is smoke, there is usually fire.
Flurry feels that his and the PCG’s reputation has been “trashed.” He says Philadelphia Church of God is “a nonthreatening, family-oriented, commandment-keeping, tax-paying, law-abiding, community-serving church in north Edmond.”
Shunning Family Members is Not Family-Oriented
A “nonthreatening, family-oriented church” is hardly one that would isolate members from their own flesh and blood, shunning and threatening those who have been put out, program people’s minds through mind control techniques, and then threaten them with loss of eternal life if they aren’t submissive to everything Gerald Flurry tells them.
Flurry Flurry continues by saying, “We do, however, fear for defenseless innocents.”
Strange words coming from an organization that would have no qualms about targeting defenseless innocents.
The December 5 ad goes on to say, “Winkler also quoted a disgruntled former member who gave patently false characterizations of our doctrines and the nature of our church.”
Why is it that destructive, exclusive groups always resort to labeling those who would dare to speak out and tell the truth? Does PCG have something to hide? (Read: Identifying Marks of an Abusive Group.)
A third ad was placed in The Edmond Sun on December 6th and in The Oklahoman on December 7th. The heading was: “PCG tells Fox25: ‘You cannot stop our message.’ “5
A favorable column, “supporting PCG” showed up in Edmond Life & Leisure by Ray Hibbard entitled, “TV Report offends local church.”6
Final Ad Taken Out
Gerald Flurry continued on a roll to defend his organization and a “final ad” was taken out on December 9th. It was a glitzy, photo-filled two-page spread in The Oklahoman entitled, “Fox shamefully compared us to the Branch Davidians. Here is the inspired truth.”7
Flurry’s ads have been a last ditch attempt to go all out to try and show the public the “beautiful” side of the PCG organization (in contrast to its darker side). It has merely been overkill.
“Me thinks thou protestest too much.” (Shakespeare)
Those who are gullible, who do not think, who want to believe, will be taken in by it, and will end up caught in a deceptive web. Those who are discerning will investigate. They will heed the testimonies of many who have cried out as a witness. The will read and investigate and educate themselves. They will not succumb to the propaganda. They will find out what the Philadelphia Church of God is really all about.
By D. M. Williams
Exit & Support Network™
December 2, 2008
“I sometimes feel real good when I’m called a cult. … I think, isn’t it nice that they think you’re not very nice?” (Gerald Flurry, 6-23-90 sermon)
1 “Church holds press conference” (PCG’s official website, 12/2/08)
2 “Church answers Fox25 News” (PCG’s official website, 12/3/08)
3 “Local paper reports church response” (The Edmond Sun, 12/2/08)
4 “Second round of ads hit Oklahoma newspapers” (PCG’s official website,12/5/08)
5 “Third wave of ads hits Oklahoma papers” (PCG’s official website,12/6/08)
6 “Edmond paper defends PCG’s reputation” (PCG’s official website, 12/9/08)
7 “Final advertisement introduces PCG to Oklahoma” (PCG’s official website, 12/9/08)
Mike’s Page (PCG)