(Squeezing More Money Out of Members)
Gerald Flurry sent out a “Dear Brethren and co-workers in Christ” letter on February 2, 2004. This letter, which included a page entitled “Building Fund – Statement of Intention.” The purpose of this article is help others use discernment and to analyze what this letter is really saying. Exhorting members to give more and more is found to be extensive in exploitive, high demand groups.
Below we have placed quotes from the original letter. The “Statement of Intention” is at the end. Caps/italics are Flurry’s. All emphasis and comments in purple color are ESN’s.
Gerald Flurry’s words are in quotations:
“You can see that there is a vast audience awaiting God’s television message, which now gives us access to some 300 million people worldwide.”
COMMENT: The reader thinks that the PCG TV program is actually going to be watched by 300 million people around the world.
“There are other good TV stations available, but we can’t afford them at this time.”
“We can already begin to see the value of our court case victory. AND IT IS YOU BELOVED BRETHREN AND CO-WORKERS, WHO MADE THAT VICTORY POSSIBLE—AND ALSO THE MESSAGE THAT IS GOING AROUND THE GLOBE RIGHT NOW. Through you Christ is opening some giant doors.”
COMMENT: Members are made aware of how Philadelphia Church of God “can’t afford” certain stations which would get out the message. They are reminded that their victory so far has been because of them; i.e., their financial contributions.
“THIS WORK IS COMING ALIVE AS NEVER BEFORE! We have only a short span of time to deliver our message before the Great Tribulation and the return of Christ.”
COMMENT: Herbert Armstrong repeated these same words many times. Flurry, instead of saying that we have “five, ten, or fifteen years left” as HWA did, uses similar words such as “short span of time.”
“Christ has given some renewed life to the American and British economies to help make our Work possible.”
COMMENT: The sole reason for the economy not collapsing is supposed to be because of PCG’s end time work. HWA (who started his work in 1934) told members the same thing and the economy has risen and fallen since.
“Race problems are heating up and will soon become race riots and wars.”
COMMENT: HWA also talked about race riots and wars back in the 1960’s–40 years ago.
“And the militant blacks are exploiting this opportunity to spread their hatred!
COMMENT: Do these statements show racial attitudes in PCG?
“America and Britain are collapsing as fast as the Holy Roman Empire is rising.”
“Time is indeed running out!”
COMMENT: These words are almost identical to what HWA was saying for decades in his letters. Anticipated fear is injected into members which would cause them to believe time will soon be no more.
“We are in the last hour—only a tiny little span of time to finish this Work.”
“All of the signs point to an imminent end-time catastrophe.”
COMMENT: Apocalyptic cults which continually warn members that there is only a small amount of time left use similar language. This keeps members riveted on the edge of their seats, ready to pour their last dime into whatever it takes to “finish the Work.” The Scriptures show us that the “Work of God” (which is redemption) is already finished. See John 4:34.
“We must intensify our zeal for God’s Work as Satan makes a maddening effort to destroy it!”
COMMENT: In exploitive religious groups much emphasis is always placed on the fear of Satan. It is as if there is a contest between Satan and Christ and each is as strong as the other. What Satan is trying to destroy is not PCG’s message on TV, but people’s faith in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the work of redemption which He finished on the cross.
“America, the number-one superpower, must be shaken by this message! That is why we were called.”
COMMENT: Members are evidently only called to send in money to “shake up America.” They are not called to be redeemed through the blood of Christ Jesus.
“NEVER HAS THERE BEEN A GREATER OPPORTUNITY TO WARN THAN NOW. NEVER WAS THERE A GREATER NEED FOR A WATCHMAN WORK. WE MUST DO IT, OR THEIR BLOOD IS ON OUR HEADS.”
COMMENT: Flurry is trying to say that he is the watchman–one of many titles which he has given himself. The fear is that if members don’t have a part in “warning” (i.e., funding Gerald Flurry’s work as the “watchman”), they will end up suffering the consequences.
“Expect persecution from the devil. Be assured it will come.”
COMMENT: When the members are told to “expect persecution,” it causes them to become even more loyal to the PCG organization when they find themselves experiencing trouble from their family or those in their community.
“But also remember God is going to protect His people physically.”
COMMENT: Flurry’s teaching on this subject has been the same as HWA’s, that members will flee to a “place of safety” when the persecution gets bad enough.
“A few members and co-workers will weaken and fall away from God’s Work.”
COMMENT: When anyone exits PCG, they are looked upon as one who has “weakened” and “fallen away.” On the contrary, have they not shown strength in breaking free of PCG? However, these words will cause members to fear to leave PCG.
“Christ is about to return.”
COMMENT: In other words, members must do whatever Flurry tells them if they want to make sure they will not “fall away.” See: Eternal Security of the Believer [offsite link]
THE PLEA FOR MORE MONEY:
“We have just hired three new employees, and two more are about to be hired. We must have more help for the workload. Two of those employees are ministers. One is going to Florida and one to eastern Canada.”
COMMENT: More money will be needed to pay for this “more help.”
“We only received slightly more income in 2003 than we did in 2002. But here is the encouraging part: Our holy day offerings were 15 percent higher. That is the only reason we had more income in 2003 than we had the year before.”
COMMENT: “Only received slightly more” is telling members that “we need more money.” To mention that the holy day offerings were higher lets them know that it is vitally important they don’t slack up on giving abundantly during coming spring holy days.
“And please be thinking and praying about your offerings during the Feast of Unleavened Bread and other holy days throughout the year. They are critically important for this surging Work.”
COMMENT: This translates into “make sure you give enough, no matter how much it may hurt you or your family financially.”
THE BUILDING FUND:
“Also we have to be acutely concerned about our building fund. Let me explain why. We are in the last stage of completing our new mail processing building—a relatively inexpensive structure. There is also another dormitory being built for the college students and the Philadelphia Youth Camp. And we are already working with architects to build what could be our most expensive structure yet—the administration building.”
COMMENT: And a “most expensive structure” will take lots of money. Guess who will pay for it?
“It will cost almost $3 million. We hope to recoup about half of that cost from the sale of our headquarters buildings that we are in now.”
COMMENT: Flurry tells members when he sells the headquarters buildings, they “hope” to get half of it back. What happens if he doesn’t? That’s right. The members will have to make up the remainder.
“The building fund has dropped considerably—34 percent decline in 2003. I didn’t say much because I knew a much greater need was just over the horizon. Mr. Armstrong used the building fund to expand God’s headquarters in the Philadelphia era. We must do the same. So now I am going to scrap our present building program and start all over.”
COMMENT: He “didn’t want to say anything” but now he has to. What does it mean he has to “start all over”? Will members have to re-donate to the new building program?
“We have created a statement of intention information sheet to see how much you could help above your tithes and offerings.”
COMMENT: Tithes and offerings are already burdening most members; now they are to give more.
“Let me again quote Mr. Armstrong about your statement of intention: ‘I am not asking for a binding PLEDGE—it is NOT a vow or anything like a vow. It is a mere statement of intention—of what you plan to do AS LONG AS YOU ARE ABLE. If your circumstances change so you can’t continue it, YOU ARE NOT BOUND!’ ”
COMMENT: Herbert Armstrong’s word will remind members of how important it is for them to be loyal. No member wants to have a “government problem.” To state, “as long as you are able” appears to give the member a way out if it becomes too much to pay into this building fund. However, this begs the future question, “why were you not able?” seeing as God is said to “bless and prosper” all who do what is right and contribute to this building fund.
” ‘But … we cannot proceed with this program , unless we MAKE A BUDGET—unless we appropriate a certain SUM. We need to know approximately how much we are going to be able to pay within a given year. WE NEED THESE STATEMENTS!’ ” [HWA quote]
COMMENT: How much is truly going to go into this “building fund”? How were funds appropriated that were sent to Herbert Armstrong? [Read: “Fleecing the Flock” and “Southern Exposure” in Ambassador Report #2, 1977. Note: Be aware that the AR is now posted on an atheist site.] Are methods of coercion being used here? Does Flurry furnish a detailed financial report to all members so they can see where every penny is allotted?
” ‘I asked you before—even if this is your third-tithe year and you cannot subscribe to this fund this year—even if you are the wife of a non-member husband and unable to subscribe—or on an old age pension—EXPLAIN THIS ON THE CARD—AND SEND BACK THE CARD ANYWAY.’ ” [HWA quote]
COMMENT: Why should someone have to “send back the card” anyway? What would this serve? The next sentence of HWA’s will show why.
” ‘THAT IS WHY EVERY ONE OF US WHO CAN—WHO IS ABLE—MUST SACRIFICE TO CONTRIBUTE TO THIS SPECIAL FUND AS LIBERALLY AS CIRCUMSTANCES ALLOW!’ ” [HWA quote]
COMMENT: Now we can see the manipulation of guilt feelings and the extra financial burden that will be placed on those who are told they “must sacrifice” in order to make up for the unknowns who cannot contribute anything.
” ‘God has PROMISED US HIS BLESSING in this. He has said, I AM WITH YOU!’ ” [HWA quote]
COMMENT: Where in the Bible does God say He has promised a blessing for those who contribute to a building fund? Has he said, “I am with you if you give to the building fund”? He told Jeremiah, “I am with you” (Jer. 42:1) and He told Haggai “I am with you” (Hag. 1:13; 2:4), but God was speaking to prophets that were under the old covenant. After His resurrection Christ told the disciples, “I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20), but this was in the context of their going out and “teaching all nations” about Jesus message of salvation.
” ‘And REMEMBER—this BUILDING FUND subscription must be IN ADDITION TO your tithes and general offerings for the gospel Work. NO PART OF YOUR TITHES should go into this special building fund … Let’s put our HEARTS and our PRAYERS in this great WORK OF GOD! Let’s pitch in and WORK WITH CHRIST—with enthusiasm and with ZEAL.’ ” [last of HWA quote]
COMMENT: Can we see what a tremendous burden is being placed on the members through coercive tactics (which could be labeled psychological abuse)? It matters not if a member is already struggling financially as a result of already paying first, second and third tithe, plus offerings–including those given on the seven holy days. It is all up to the members to get everything accomplished. On top of it all, they must do it with a positive attitude–“enthusiasm and zeal.”
“Our intention is to continue this building fund program for just two years.”
TRANSLATION: “You only have to give to this fund for two years; that’s all.”
“And remember, these cards will not be a good indication of how much we can pay for construction costs within a given year, unless all of you follow through.”
COMMENT: Notice the word, “unless.” In other words, the previous words of HWA about how “if you can’t give, it’s OK, just let us know,” evidently don’t really mean anything, because this won’t be accomplished “unless” everyone follows through with their giving–above and beyond regular tithes and offerings.
“The more we put our heart in God’s Work, the more we prosper.”
COMMENT: Was that true for those who were in Herbert Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God? How many really “prospered” in WCG? Why should it be any different in PCG?
“The church is now in good financial condition. However, the cash flow will be tight through the springtime as construction costs hit us hard at that time. We expect about a $3.5 million construction cost this year. That includes finishing the mail processing center, building a new dormitory, administration building and infrastructure (roads, utilities and maintenance).”
TRANSLATION: “The church is now in good financial condition–but it won’t be come springtime, so it’s up to you members to come through.” Has anyone stopped to question why Flurry is building all these buildings at the same time he is saying that “Christ is about to return,” and “We have only a short span of time”?
“And we hope to do all this without borrowing money. (But we do have a $2 million credit line, if we need it.)”
COMMENT: A heavy responsibility is placed on the members as they must be the ones to keep Flurry “hoping” he doesn’t have to borrow money.
“On top of all this, of course, we intend to add more TV stations and meet other needs in the Work.”
COMMENT: As a result, we can be sure that members will be asked for even more money in the future.
“We have burst on the world scene with a powerful warning message.”
COMMENT: How many in the world have noticed that PCG’s TV program has “burst on the world scene”?
“Thank you, dear brethren and co-workers, for your dedicated support in this Work.”
COMMENT: The members’ “dedicated support” is their regular, on-going giving of large amounts of money to Gerald Flurry and his Philadelphia Church of God.
Following is the “Building Fund – Statement of Intention” that was enclosed:
I plan to contribute to the Building Fund, as long as my income and ability allow, over and above my regular tithes and offerings. as follows:
Lump sum contribution of $_____________ in the month of______________,200___
$____________per month for____________ months starting ____________, 200___
Please return by March 31, 2004 to:
Philadelphia Church of God
P O Box 3700
Edmond, OK 73083
If you live outside the United States or Canada please return to your regional office.
Info compiled by D. M. Williams
Exit & Support Network™
March 19, 2004
Beware Ambassadors’ Bearing Gifts! (This tragic story happened a number of years ago, but is very applicable to what could happen to those in PCG)