Best of the Letters From 2008
January 2, 2008
Ronald Weinland (another offshoot of HWA’s WCG) is claiming to be one of the two witnesses of Revelation. He has stated the Tribulation is to start in February, but has also claimed that the two “TV presenters” will die early on, which as far as I can tell, should have already happened or should happen very soon. I would take him to refer to one as being Gerald Flurry. He’s the only one I know of from the “churches of God” that’s on TV on our cable system that would be in competition with Weinland.
Do you have any idea who the other “TV presenter” could be he is referring to?
Weinland is causing great chaos with one family I know. He has such an effect on them that they are planning to move to the hills somewhere so they can be “safe” during the Tribulation. I suppose that’s where Weinland is going to be.
I wrote to Weinland and asked him who these men were but got nothing more than a cop-out answer saying those prophecies didn’t involve me. I think I have enough perception to be able to tell if someone named as dying actually does or not. Regardless, he didn’t say and I still don’t know. I was hoping you might know. Thanks, –Concerned
Update: See our article:The Church of God-PKG (Ronald Weinland)
Robert Ardis and Church of God’s Faithful:
January 4, 2008
I used to be a member of the WCG from 1984 to 1991, and then from 1991 to 2001 I was with Flurry, now I’m still looking for the true church. What do you know about Robert Ardis and his Church of God’s Faithful? I got some of his books, and there’s stuff in them that I don’t believe. What have you found about Robert Ardis except for what you’ve already mention? My [relative] is with Robert Ardis and I would like to know if you have something that could open her eyes to the truth about him. Warmest regards, –W.
Reply: One person who is very familiar with Robert G. Ardis told us that he is another false prophet with some ridiculous ideas and gives speculative ideas about prophecy. He said he may be “a nicer guy than Flurry, but false prophets come in all shapes, sizes and colors.” CGF is now saying they have “75 new truths that were unknown in Mr. Armstrong’s time.”
Also read letters: Church of God’s Faithful is a Splinter of PCG (2007) and Church of God’s Faithful is a Spiritually Dangerous Group! (2010)
UPDATE: Robert Ardis died March 17, 2016.
January 5, 2008
I’m a survivor of Imperial School and WCG, in Pasadena. My mother started listening to HWA’s radio broadcasts when I was little. She was determined to make her pilgrimage to HWA, and so we moved to southern California when I was 5. She put my brother and I on a wait list to get into Imperial School. Meanwhile, we started to attend services. After I was officially enrolled at Imperial, my real childhood hell began. I have memories of spiritual, emotional, and sexually abusive experiences within the classroom that haunt me even today.
I broke free in 1971, but my family remained involved in the WCG until things fell apart.
Thank you for your kind words. It’s actually somewhat of a comfort, as sad as it is, to know that others have gone through this, to know I’m not alone in these experiences. I’ve been trying to find others like me via the Internet, and this is my first success. –Child survivor of WCG
Comment: Read: Experienced Degradation and Abuse at Imperial School (February 20, 2011 letter to ESN) and letter: “Predator in WCG Approached Me.”
February 4, 2008
It is hard to shed the image of HWA. But when we think about it, what did we really know about him? Only what we were told. And those who did know the truth about him, turned around and told us a different story. It was difficult for me to believe that he could be so evil, so perverted. But then one only needs to look at his son Garner Ted and see that something wasn’t right about his upbringing. If HWA were truly a godly father, then GTA would have turned out a godly man, and this was certainly not the case. It’s hard to “look at the fruits” of HWA and reconcile his deeds with the “image” that we were fed. When I first came into the WCG, I remember being told to “Prove All Things…” and that asking questions was welcomed. That’s one of the things that “sold me” to the WCG. But after being in for awhile, we were told that “questioning authority was evil”–it was like “questioning God Himself” and we didn’t dare do that! So in reality, we didn’t dare “prove all things”–what they really meant was that we had to “prove that all things that Herbert Armstrong said was right” (that comes after the “….”). –L. B., former WCG member
Could No Longer Ignore We Were Victimized by WCG:
February 7, 2008
There are many people who feel they were never victimized by the WCG. When I first exited, I firmly believed that we hadn’t been. We had wonderful times in the WCG, we had many friends, we never went hungry, and we were always well liked by our ministers. I did not exit on the grounds of abuse, but on grounds of HWA’s conduct, and on grounds of the group being unbiblical and a cult. It would take me a long time to see the true motives of the organization, the lies that the leaders told, and that they really weren’t sincere. It took me awhile to realize that the hard-earned money that we sent in was not used in the way that they claimed. This is abuse, like it or not. Covering up for HWA is lying, and this is abuse. They talked down to us during the changes, and shamed and intimidated us into adopting the new doctrines. This is abuse, but I didn’t see it at the time. I felt only good things about the WCG and only thought good thoughts about the ministers and HQ’s leaders. I believed they weren’t capable of doing anything evil, and I believed that I should forgive them, because “they, too, had been duped.”
But after reading a lot of research and hearing testimonies, I could no longer ignore that these things were not done for our benefit, but for theirs. Many in WCG today are burying their head in the sand. Maybe they didn’t suffer as much, maybe they were a minister’s kid or an elder’s kid, but they grew up in a system that was highly abusive, like it or not. Many people who come from dysfunctional families don’t realize they’re dysfunctional until it’s pointed out to them, and then they will still deny it. People in WCG were manipulated by mind control techniques so long that they don’t even realize they have been abused. These people are in denial, and are a willing participant. There’s not much anyone can do about that.
It is hard to see abuse when you’ve only had good times in the WCG. But the way HQ implemented the changes was very confusing and downright abusive. Nobody was “saved” or even invited to a relationship with Jesus Christ. We were told what to do, what to believe, and were pushed and guilted into compliance. We were told to send money to them because of “dwindling finances” and then Tkach, Jr. gave himself a pay raise. Without a democratic government in place, it would be easy to get away with something like that. Those in WCG put a lot of faith in the “government” (as I did) and believed that HQ had their best interest in mind. When one comes to understand that this is not so, and that everything boiled down to damage control, then you begin to understand that we were only valued because of the money. –R. M.
February 11, 2008
I just watched a film called “Called To Be Free” [read ESN’s critique of this film] and I didn’t realize it when I began watching it, but by the time I was finished, it seemed to simply be an advertisement for the WCG and how it’s a safe organization now. I’m a pastor and have no intentions on joining them.
A lot of red flags go up in my mind when I read or hear about the current organization. My biggest issue is why people didn’t simply leave the cult when they knew it was one. I don’t see Jesus condoning the mentality of staying with a cult and trying to change it from within. Martin Luther did not continue to call himself a Catholic. You can’t change other people’s minds; only God can. So why didn’t Tkach just write a letter of resignation with all the problems of the cult in his letter, and leave it for others to decide for themselves? I think he simply wanted to keep his job. –A pastor in Maine
Comment: Good question. Why didn’t Tkach just write a letter of resignation? For thoughts on why WCG would find it advantageous to mainstream, read the OIU Newsletters.
Made a Clean Break From God’s Church, Worldwide:
February 16, 2008
I have been reading all the material on your site and others for about three weeks. It has been a tremendous help to me in trying to understand why I got sucked into “God’s Church, Worldwide.” There had been red flags waving at me from the very beginning, but I have finally made a clean break with them and am out of it for good. In order to be baptized one has to agree to discredit all other churches as the synagogues of Satan. There is too much doom and gloom prophecies and I was getting caught up in the fear and intimidation theme. Awhile back, there was a major split, and, as a result, many people left. I feel very sorry for all the young people, the children in this church, who have no one to date, or be very close with, since they are allowed only to associated with church members. I am still very embarrassed to have been a part of it, and to have been so duped by the tall tales of doom and gloom days ahead. I have a ways to go still, but at least I have seen the truth about this group. –Exiter of GCW
More info on GCW: God’s Church, Worldwide, located in Sorrento, Florida, describes themselves as “Holding Fast to The Herbert W. Armstrong Foundation.” It was founded by Robert J. Elliot, a WCG pastor who was disfellowshipped in 1995. In June 2006 he died of cancer. His successor, Richard Bickel died in 2007. The present pastor is David Moore. GCW states that the end-time began January 16, 1986 (the date HWA died) and the Church of God fell away from the truth at that time except for a small Philadelphian remnant. They believe HWA was the final Elijah–a bona-fide servant of God–who “restored the truths” that the church lost, and the job of taking the gospel to the world as a witness and a warning is now complete. They believe they are called to be part of the 144,000 and that there will be a place of safety during the Tribulation (probably Petra), but that some will be have to endure the Tribulation due to “lukewarm attitudes” and because they “forgot who Herbert Armstrong was.” GCW is a very controlling, authoritarian group which focuses on end-time prophecies. Also see: Where is the True Church?
Greedy, Abusive Criminals Running a Scam:
February 16, 2008
I grew up in the Tucson, Arizona WCG in the late 1950s and finally stopped going around 1978 after my family moved when I was 18.
I will never know the amount of money my parents sent the Armstrongs to sustain their lifestyle of greed and decadence, but after reading the articles regarding tithing on your website, I now understand why we were always struggling for money.
These leaders were not “men of God.” They were greedy, abusive criminals running a scam on people looking for comfort, and their teachings were further attempts to control their “flock” into submission with fear and manipulation.
They really are sociopaths with no sense of remorse and a huge sense of entitlement, otherwise they would not have done those things in the first place. Therefore, they are never going to acknowledge any of us who were damaged by their greed.
Thank you for giving us a safe place to express ourselves. For each one of us who writes, I am sure there are lots more who cannot find the courage to do so, but still receive the gift of knowing they are not alone. –Rebecca Gharis (WCG child survivor) [name used with permission]
Members in Church of God-PKG (Ronald Weinland) Stockpiling Food Now:
April 21, 2008
Members in Ron Weinland’s COG-PKG have begun stockpiling food and supplies now, as he is making them think there will soon be no food on the shelves. (I think this is supposed to tie in with truckers “going on strike.”) I remember HWA writing about food shortages, crop failures, etc. a long time ago in his Good Newses. I thought it was strange, though, that RW’s members would be stockpiling food because in WCG we were taught that when the Great Tribulation came, we would be in the Middle East already, heading for Petra. Staying in the U.S. during the Great Tribulation goes against what HWA taught. God was supposed to punish the U.S. and Britain (and other Israelitish nations during this time), while the faithful that were counted “worthy to escape” would be supernaturally protected in Petra. [Read: Memories About Petra] We were supposed to sell off all our assets and turn the money into HQ’s, not stockpile food and supplies and attempt to live through it. So what is RW up to? He had enough gall to announce the “two witnesses,” and now he and his wife are going to have to prove it for the next 3-1/2 years. I hope members get wise and start realizing they are listening to a false prophet who is speaking on his own authority and is definitely not from God. –Ex WCG
Armstrong Was in it Just for the Money and Power:
May 12, 2008
I really want to thank you for the resources on your site once again. I had told my therapist about being involved in a cult a few months ago, but I did not know that this was the big problem that needed to be resolved until I researched Herbert W. Armstrong last week and then your site. I didn’t know, or I refused to acknowledge, what a fraud Armstrong was. I had thought he was delusional when I left the WCG, but now I believe he was in it just for the money and power. Was I ever mind-controlled! I have grieved for the past week and went to see my therapist today. I explained everything to him–and we both know that we have our work cut out for us. I’m going to begin cognitive behavior therapy this week and am very hopeful that, after so many unhappy years of depression, anxiety, phobias, etc., that I will finally find my authentic self and learn how to think positively (not the way I was taught for all those years in the “church”). I want to finally be free in our Lord Jesus Christ and His grace and be a positive person, wife and mother. –Child survivor of WCG
May 27, 2008
Regarding the quotes from Carn Catherwood’s Petra sermon (the “Anti-Place of Safety Bias”), thanks for furnishing more quotes. The sermon was given before 1984 (that’s when we were allowed to attend, even though I had been reading the literature for 6 months already). I do not recall it and I know I would have remembered it, as I ate up stuff like this. I don’t even think it was in the tape library because I took out a lot old tapes to listen to them. So my guess is that it had to be sometime close to the time that GTA broke off, and after the Jonestown massacre [ESN Note: Catherwood mentioned “Jonestown” and said when they get ready to flee, the media will compare them to Jonestown and “it will be embarrassing”], but also during a time when they still heavily taught members that they were going to Petra.
There was an interesting video online that showed Petra. A long time ago (about 50 years or so), native desert people used to live in Petra, but the government made them leave and they turned it into a tourist attraction. Nobody is allowed to live there today, and the vendors have to pack up and leave at the end of each day (there are no permanent “street vendor” stalls that stay there and vendors must return to set up their street shops daily). So this idea of Catherwood saying that “Christian businessmen placed food in the caves” may be bogus. If food had been stashed there by Christian businessmen, what was the purpose of it? [ESN Note: Catherwood wanted members to believe the food was going to be for them when they arrived.] If natives had been living there, it would have been scavenged. Once again, like the others in the organization, all he does is “hint” at things, and then let our imaginations run wild. No doubt he’s in cahoots with all of them. He’s just another Gerald Waterhouse, only more civilized.
I used to think that Carn Catherwood was a really nice guy. I loved all his sermons. He seemed so thoughtful and intelligent, and closely connected to God. But after what you just quoted on this tape, it shattered that image for me. He was unabashedly perpetuating the fear and dogma, and openly inciting rebellion against Jesus Christ by not wanting members to see the pamphlets that would help them to understand and gain eternal life. He is an enemy of the Gospel.
He was one of the “ones” that “agreed with the changes” made by HQ’s. I guess he needed to keep his job. –C. G. (Former WCG member)
Comment: This person is referring to statements of Carn Catherwood where he told how “Christian businessmen” had already put food in the caves in Petra and “tracts in Hebrew bearing witness of Jesus Christ.” Then Catherwood went on to say, “Well, we’ll make bonfire out of those tracts!” Read other words of Catherwood at the end of the article, “Memories About Petra.” [Note: Carn Catherwood stayed with WCG until he retired in 2005, but continued as “a member of the council of elders.”]
June 14, 2008
My wife and I are former members of WCG. I can remember reading Herman Hoeh’s “historical” writings from my time in WCG. I have an MA in Modern History, but I’ve read deeply into ancient, Mediaeval and Renaissance, history &c., and that of Judaism, Christianity, Catholicism and of Europe and America–and have done so for most of my adult life (I’ll be 59 in September). So I had serious doubts about Herman Hoeh’s and Herbert Armstrong’s views on British-Israelism.
As a Scot who can read and speak a fair bit of Gaelic, the Dun for Dan thing just struck me as plain daft. Dun is merely an Anglicized form of A’Dhuin (pronounced a-ghoo-in) and, so doesn’t even sound anything like Dan in the original. It has two meanings in Gaelic–viz., “fortress” and “hill”–not Dan! Interesting, too, that neither HWA or Hoeh ever mentioned that there are a fair number of place names in Wales which actually begin with Dan per se. But again Wales didn’t fit the theory of Dan. Anyway even Dan in Welsh does not mean Dan. And according to HWA in his The United States and Britain in Prophecy, the Irish surname Dunn means Judge. Dunn, though, is an English name, not Irish. And there are three words for “judge” in Irish (and for that matter Scottish) Gaelic and none of them are Dun or Dan. HWA must have assumed that because there is only one word for judge in English, whether the verb or the noun or the related adjective, it was the same in “Irish” (Gaelic). Not so.
But when I was a member of WCG, I would not dared to have uttered this knowledge. In fact, I was so indoctrinated by HWA that I thought my thoughts on these things were nigh on blasphemous. It astonishes me now to think of how duped I was and how I once thought while I was a member of WCG. But I felt that HWA being “God’s only end-time apostle” must be correct and that the scholars and historians and etymologists must be deceived by Satan! I really could not imagine for a moment that a man who was so wrapped up in Scripture and in God could possibly be a deceiver.
Anyway, not all the ministers were such megalomaniacs as the HWAs and the Flurrys (Flurries?) of this world. There were several really nice ones. And teachable ones at that. When the “Changes” were taking place and Joe Senior was at the helm, one minister actually asked my opinion on an Ambassador College MA history thesis he asked me to look at. (This was a particularly really nice minister who had real humility and treated the members as equals. He asked me to keep our “study” confidential.) When I read the thesis, I realized that, judging by the thing itself, Ambassador College was dishing out degrees not worth the paper they were printed on. I wrote so much refuting not only the historical points of this so-called thesis but, if my memory serves me well, the logic also.
I ended on the frank note that had the writer written such nonsense for an MA at a British university the examiners would demand he return his O and A levels!
Anyway, I want to thank you for the article on the so-called Lost Tribes. Not only was it scholarly and logical but it really made me laugh. I really enjoyed the humorous comments, albeit that they were factual and accurate.
You guys are doing a really great work. May God bless you in helping to free others. Though my wife and I left WCG about eight or nine years ago, I would occasionally get the “what ifs” regarding HWA’s teachings. Yes, even though I know all the Scriptures that contradict his heresies. But if that ever happens again I’ll just go back to your messages which really expose HWA for the fraud he was. As to Gerald Flurry: he is only a clone of HWA. Had there not been a HWA there would not have been a Flurry. We ought to be thankful that neither of these men were world leaders!
God bless your ministry. Thanks again. –Martin Horan (former WCG member)
(Reply to above email from author of Where Are the Tribes of Israel Located?)
June 15, 2008
I can truly relate to the things Mr. Horan was saying. For instance, I am a Russian linguist, and I, too, saw some things in HWA’s literature that weren’t correct (the argument about the word “paracletos” being a “neuter” word proved that the Holy Spirit was not a “he” is all wrong. In Russian, a drinking “glass” (sta-kan) is male gendered, but that does not mean the glass is male. So the argument is incorrect. Many languages (except the English language) assigns a “gender” to most of their nouns (male, female, neuter) so the “gender” of verb (and modifiers) agrees. If you have an automobile (which is “female” in Russian) then your verbs, adjectives, and adverbs must have a female ending so you know it relates to the female noun. Here’s an example:
Odna bolshaya krasnaya avtomobilya (means: One big, red automobile: all words end in “a” because that shows it is female).
Odnoy bolshoy krasnoy stakan (means: One big, red glass: the first three words have masculine endings (oy) to agree with the masculine noun (stakan)
Neither sentence above proves that automobiles are female and drinking glasses are male, nor does “paracletos” prove that the “entity” is neuter.
I believed the whole “paracletos is neuter” argument even though I knew better.
I truly enjoyed hearing Mr. Horan’s descriptions of the Dan/Dun words. It’s always nice to follow the logic of another linguist who can explain a fallacy clearly.
I did not look up any of the claims of Hoeh while I was a member. I simply believed him on the grounds that he was “Dr. Hoeh, God’s chosen Historical Scholar.” But in 2005 when I decided to finally do this research on the Lost Ten Tribes, I realized how simple it was to pick up any kind of basic reference materials (even outdated ones) and quickly debunk Hoeh’s claims.
I also wanted to point out to Mr. Horan that there were many highly intelligent people in the WCG. I personally knew lawyers, doctors, nurses, executives, etc. that were members (and top graduates of their classes). We were captured by the idealisms of the WCG–to usher in a better world, a just world where poverty would be eliminated and peace would prevail. But it wouldn’t be called “deception” if it were obvious!
I am sure, for those of us who had an interest in history, that we all had the same feelings that Mr. Horan did. If it didn’t agree with the WCG, we cast it aside, even though, for a brief moment, we wondered why their teachings couldn’t be proven through historical documents. I know when I did the Mystery of the Ages review, and I was able to obtain all the old historical books that HWA quoted from, I was amazed at how HWA misquoted and misrepresented the sources. Even more amazing to me was how HWA never gave the sources in a footnote so members could find these quotes. If someone is telling the truth, and is confident of that fact, then he would have no problem giving the source so others could see it. In fact, we know HWA would have used capital letters, bold writing, exclamation points, etc. But the lack of these in those MOA quotes should have told us something. Why did HWA make it difficult for members to find them? He could have easily supplied a photocopied page from any of these sources, but he didn’t. This is the work of a liar and deceiver and not of someone who is interested in seeing others learn the truth.
I am happy Mr. Horan can see the fallacies built up by men–the very men who made merchandise of us all! But we are free, and hopefully we will continue, for as long as we can, to help free others while the Lord wills.
–Kelly Marshall (former WCG member; author of Mystery of the Ages (a critical review) (PDF) and other articles on the site)
June 26, 2008
I’ve went through several articles and stories regarding WCG, and all I can say is, Wow! I don’t know if I believe all this, but I don’t know that I don’t. I spent my entire life there from the time I was born in 1956 until I was put out in 1993. At that time, two of my daughters had been molested in the WCG, one by a minister and the other by a member. I was put out for my “attitude” since I had questions because one of those ministers had repeatedly molested numerous members and was allowed to continue to minister the flock. I wasn’t bitter, I just I wanted to know how this was allowed to happen and the members not made aware that amongst us sat a child molester that was allowed to preach from the pulpit every Sabbath. I was told that I “wasn’t taking my calling seriously” and asked not to come back. It was like someone took the wind out of me. I didn’t know where to turn, what to do, what to say, or where to go. Like a little child kicked out of their home with nothing, or no one to turn too. I don’t think I’ve ever been more devastated. I can relate to so many of these articles and stories. It’s awfully hard to trust anyone ever again. After reading them, I realize I’m not alone. I just didn’t realize that so many questioned the same things I do. … I find all of this so, so, much to take in. –Child survivor / former member of WCG [name withheld]
I See a Lot of Hope For My Whole Family:
August 18, 2008
Thank you again for the work you are doing with your website.
One of my brothers and his wife have decided that they may be leaving the WCG. They like the new direction of doctrine, but they see that the ministry still clings to its cult-like ways of control and authoritarianism.
He asked about the local church that my wife attends and next thing I knew we all attended with her and our neighbor friends yesterday.
Amazingly, the message was about not giving up on God, or blaming God, when things in this world do not make sense. The minister went over James 1:1-21. I felt like this was directed towards me and my shaken faith, faith shaken by finding out the truth about Herbert Armstrong and Gerald Flurry.
I think that it has been the guidance from your site that gave me the ability to discuss with my brother and sister-in-law the truth about the WCG and help them, in any small way I can, in their escape. For this I thank you.
My other brother is still in United Church of God and we had a talk and he let me know that he will always be my brother, and whatever I believe, different from him, will not separate us and our relationship as brothers. He had, I think, heard from another family member about my misgivings of discussing my beliefs with him. He also confided in me that he too has some disagreements with some of what they are teaching.
This has been a good year, I see a lot of hope for my whole family. I wanted to let you know how you have helped. I would add to others who still have family in these cults: please be patient, do not give up on your family members, always be there for them if they come to you about their situation. Try not to be judgmental. These are some of the attributes that I thank my wife for and she helped me to be able to leave by not forcing me into a corner that I could not back out of.
Thanks again, [name withheld]
November 21, 2008
Hello: Thank you very much for putting together your helpful website. With your permission, I would like to incorporate some of the information in an article I’m writing regarding the United Church of God. We recently witnessed the damage this cult has done to my sister and her children. We were under the impression that my sister had joined a more mainstream “Christian” religion, only to find out otherwise. One of the daughters has tried to commit suicide twice.
Thank you very much. –[name withheld]
Nobody Knew How to Counter What I Was Being Told:
November 27, 2008
I wish I had had people like you way back when I got recruited into WCG. Nobody knew how to counter what I was being told. All they could say back then was HWA was after my money, but they could not prove what he was saying was bogus. I wish I had known all the false prophecies he had made in the 1930s and 40s! None of that was ever mentioned in the group! –Former member of WCG & PCG