I have been visiting your site for several years now, and I wanted to finally thank you for the help and comfort it has given me on my long journey to peace after leaving the Philadelphia Church of God (PCG).
I was a member of the PCG for about 10 years. Most of that time I loved the security of feeling like I was “safe” in the “one true church.” Like many others, I heard and saw things that raised eyebrows, but I didn’t openly question anything, and kept my concerns quiet. There was practically nothing that I wouldn’t accept if it came down the pipeline from PCG leadership, because I believed they spoke for God. Because of growing up in the Worldwide Church of God, I was used to being “separate” and “different,” so the isolation from the rest of the world wasn’t a major issue. Actually, I think it was comforting to live in a bubble. It’s sure easier to think you have “all the answers” than to live with uncertainty. As I’m sure you know, very few PCG members have any close friends or personal relationships with people outside of the group.
Eventually though, they trampled on what for me was sacred ground, wanting me to cut off contact1 with my family. As for my parents, who had loved and sacrificed for me for so many years, I was supposed to judge them as “lost” and have basically nothing to do with them, ignoring God’s command to honor them. [Ephesians 6:2] I struggled with knowing that my parents would grow elderly and need assistance, and I would be nowhere in sight. Facing the choice of either being that negligent towards them, or breaking ties with the PCG, was a heavy burden to carry.
As heartbreaking as it was, I could not in good conscience obey that ruling. I knew I would hate myself for it, and resent the PCG as well. I had no choice but to leave. And what proceeded from there were years of agony as my world was turned upside down. For years I begged God to show me what was right, and as much as I asked Him to if it was His will, He did not lead me back to PCG (or any “church of God” splinter group).
The healing finally started–after what felt like eternity–when I at last found the courage to start asking hard questions, questions I would never have dared to ask while within the organization. They were questions that would sometimes come up in the past but were always brushed aside. Questions like: How can they demand I go against my conscience or be put out of the “church”? Isn’t my first loyalty supposed to be towards God? And eventually I dared to ask, by what authority do those men really have the right to stand up and teach me God’s truth? Who appointed them? And actually, who appointed Herbert Armstrong? Lots of religious leaders believe that they alone speak for God. Why did I really believe he was the only one used by God? Is it just because that is what we were told, or is there a better reason? Because I thought it all “made sense”?
For the first time in my life I timidly began to study church history–objectively study it–not with the “assistance” of a tiny WCG-printed booklet that would gloss over centuries in a few paragraphs. Coming to Herbert Armstrong’s place in it, I had to honestly admit that his claims were largely unfounded. How could we dare dismiss the thousands who throughout history have shed their blood for their (Christian) faith as being “deceived,” thinking ourselves to be so much more faithful and understanding? And how could we really accept that when Christ so clearly commanded His disciples to “go into all the world” 2000 years ago, that that command wasn’t fulfilled, and the church just basically fell off a cliff, only to unexpectedly resurface in the 1900s after endless disputes between men who thought they were called by God?
A study into the differences between the old and new covenants helped a lot, too. To those who are struggling, I would say have the courage to look into the hard questions, the ones you don’t dare ask openly within the splinter organizations. There is really nothing to fear from asking honest questions and seeking the answers. Dare to ask yourself why you really believe what you believe. God tells us to seek, and doesn’t abandon us when we do so. Ask God to lead you and have faith that He will, even if it is into the unknown for a while. The struggle, however hard it is, is worth it.
Also see: True Original Church/Faith Once Delivered (Proof Herbert Armstrong Lied About the “Lost” Church Century)
1 Read: Gerald Flurry’s Sermon: Exposing Satan (explains about the no-contact ruling in PCG)