I have been out of the Philadelphia Church of God for a year and a half now, and the longer I am out of it the more I can look back on it’s teachings and practices with an objective viewpoint.
Let’s take the subject of “idolatry” for example. I was in the Worldwide Church of God and Philadelphia Church of God for a combined total of 14 years. I am very well-versed on their teaching regarding idolatry. There was to be no physical aid or image of Christ at all. That is why they don’t use crosses, pictures of Jesus, or statues of Jesus in their buildings or rented halls for services. But do you know what you will find in their headquarters and other buildings? Pictures of Herbert W. Armstrong. In one of the foyers of the Edmond headquarters building there is a huge portrait of HWA looming over the stairwell. You will find smaller pictures of him as well as a representation of the Armstrong family crest. The crest isn’t large, but I am sure that I saw it there. It’s the same crest that is on the Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong. And now they have allegedly found HWA’s “prayer rock” and are putting it on display with much fanfare. That is getting very close to a Catholic-style idolatry, which they decry from the pulpit with such venom and zeal. I was so surprised about the prayer rock because it is about as blatant a form of idolatry as you can get. But I shouldn’t have been so surprised actually because the pattern of idolatry has always been there.
My point is this: If it is bad to have pictures or any other physical representations of Jesus Christ, why is it any better to have representations of Herbert Armstrong, a mere mortal man? Is there an inconsistency here? Hypocrisy perhaps? I think so.
I agree that we shouldn’t use statues, pictures, or even crosses as aids to worship God with. I still don’t do that. But the PCG will condemn the practice of hanging a picture of Jesus, or even a cross in your home, business, or church meeting place. But it is okay to hang a picture of HWA, who is not God? Or perhaps he is a god to them? You know a big characteristic of a religious “cult,” in the negative sense of the word, is the practice of deifying the human leader. Of course they would respond, “We are not deifying Herbert Armstrong, only acknowledging him and showing respect!” Well, isn’t that what most Christians do with Christ? If a minister of the PCG found out that you had a cross hanging in your house, he would “counsel” with you and ask you to remove it. If he found out several weeks later that you still didn’t remove it, he would “counsel” you again to remove it. If he found out that you still didn’t remove it, he would suspend and/or disfellowship you from the PCG. Some PCG ministers would’ve done it after only the first “counseling.” But if the minister knew you had a picture of Herbert Armstrong hanging in your house, he would note that as having a “good, converted attitude.”
As I see that now with more objectivity, I really just can’t help but notice how inconsistent and hypocritical that policy, or doctrine, was. I also see how we truly did put HWA up on a very big pedestal and practically deified him. Of course, the PCG still does. HWA’s words are quoted with reverence. His booklets, along with Flurry’s booklets, are quoted in sermons with as much reverence as the Scriptures. I have on tape my former PCG local minister saying, “Every word out of Mr. Flurry’s mouth is truth.” He would say that about HWA as well, despite how much he changed doctrine during his life. Those of you who are considering joining the PCG, better look into it much deeper before you make that move. Do you want to serve God, or men?
By Michael D. (former member of PCG)
“Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?” ~Psalm 94:16
Herbert W. Armstrong (articles)
Mike’s Page (Philadelphia Church of God Exposed)