I recently had the opportunity to attend a Celtic Throne production by the PCG. I am an ex-PCG member and grew up in the WCG. Here are some of my thoughts and observations.

Attendance at the show was approximately one-third of what the venue could hold, perhaps 250-300 in total attendance. The mostly secular audience seemed to enjoy the show, with applause, positive comments, and audience involvement (clapping and singing). From what I could tell, there were only a handful of PCG members in attendance (that I knew of).1

From purely an entertainment perspective, the show was very well produced.2 Stage settings, lighting, special effects, and sound levels were almost technically perfect. The quality of music was very high, and the performers danced, sang and played at a level worthy of the venue, with intricate and well-choreographed dance steps that were practiced and executed to a high level of proficiency. I’m not a particular fan of Irish dance.3 but an audience member sitting near me who was a professional dancer said they did very well.

An outsider (non-PCG member) would have viewed the production as a mostly-family involved event (more on that later) that told a story about the “history” of Irish dance surrounding a mysterious king (who is never named), weaving in various well-known milestone events in history and a good amount of patriotic, classic Americana culture.

The PCG has gone to great lengths to separate the financial backing and identity of the “church” itself from the dance production. This glaringly obvious omission is evident in all promotional materials, websites, advertising, leaflets, posters, and show bills. In fact, during the introduction, Brad MacDonald made no mention of the PCG or even the entity that produces and funds Celtic Throne (Herbert W. Armstrong College, according to the playbill; and Armstrong Dance, according to the website).

This omission is strange for many reasons. One is that the PCG considers this production the most important element of their “work,” or stated mission. (It was once explained to me by a headquarters employee in 2019 that the “work” was Gerald Flurry taking a warning message to world leaders on the private jet; as far as I know, there have been zero instances of that). However, this new element of their mission can be found nowhere documented on their website regarding beliefs or their statement of activities. It also begs the question of why they would intentionally mask this from the public.4

The Celtic Throne production likely costs the PCG organization a significant amount of money. According to the event website, this year alone, the production will visit 15 different cities in North America (not including a handful of Edmond, Oklahoma headquarters productions). And they have ambitions to take the production overseas, as Brad MacDonald stated in his opening remarks.

According to the playbill, there are 35 dancers, 11 live musicians, two music engineers, five stage hands, 11 people dedicated to costumes (there are numerous costume changes during the production), and likely another dozen people in supporting roles (chaperones for the young children, cooks, etc.). In total, about 75 people are involved in the traveling production. PCG elites, leadership, and some family members fly to and from performance locations in the PCG’s private Gulfstream jet (you can follow those flights on X/Twitter under @pastorplanes and easily correlate them with dates and locations of Celtic Throne productions).

According to members still in the group, the expenses associated with the Celtic Throne production are an issue of contention with many PCG members. It’s not surprising why, when one understands that the significant monetary investment in the show benefits only a handful of people.

During a mid-production break, lead dancer Jude Flurry [son of Stephen Flurry] takes the opportunity to introduce most of the main cast members. They are all young adults–early 20s, teens, or children, with the exception of Joel Hilliker, a PCG minister around 50 years of age who participates as both a singer and instrumentalist.

Jude’s carefully crafted introductions convey that the group is a happy-go-lucky cadre of mostly extended family, with cousins, brothers, and sisters participating in a theatrical production showcasing a particular dance style with a murky history. The reality is that nearly all of the cast are either (like Jude and his sister), related to PCG leader Gerald Flurry, or children of his extended family (son or daughter-in-law), or children of prominent PCG headquarters’ ministers or members (Ryan Malone, Brad MacDonald, Andrew Locher, Wik Heerma, and others, all whose recognizable names are listed in the playbill). The cast and supporting team mostly comprise the Edmond “elite” families.

This would not be evident to a secular audience that has been sold the idea that the cast is mostly a traveling group of youthful, extended family entertainers putting on a public show for the pure joy of it.

(I want to clarify here that the children involved in this production are very sincere in their efforts to deliver a high-quality experience for the audience. I have no issue with their motivations as they have been largely born and raised in this organization and may not even be of the age to have the cognitive awareness to question what they are being taught.)

Here are some observations from half a lifetime spent in this “church” and a thorough understanding of their doctrine, teachings, rules, and admonitions:

1. Despite being funded by the tithes and offerings of PCG members, and this being their “work,” Celtic Throne is a pay-to-play production requiring ticket purchases at all venues. “Buy the truth and sell it not” (Proverbs 23:23) comes to mind. They also sell branded “Celtic Throne” merchandise at each event and offer the same for sale online. That’s a lot of selling for a “church.” On its website, the PCG states the following as one of its main activities: “Procure, advertise and arrange for…. free educational benefit of the public and procure, advertise and circulate educational reading material and audio tapes for the free educational benefit of the public;” (It should be noted that the PCG hasn’t offered audio tapes to the general public ever, and stopped allowing members to access sermon messages on any audio device whatsoever out of the fear that messages would be “inappropriately” distributed outside the “church.” In fact, when I was a member, we were required to physically destroy the CDs sent to remote congregations from headquarters that held the messages for weekly services.5)

2. The production could be considered a misappropriation of funds according to the PCG’s mission. One of their other stated activities is to “Provide for humanitarian financial contributions.” I don’t recall a single time during which I was a member that the “church” publicly announced funds being used for this purpose. One wonders how many thousands of lives could be positively impacted materially by the huge expenditure on this production, which is in its third or fourth year. And as is often the case, misappropriation of funds within corporations, nonprofits, or charities usually manifests by materially enhancing the lifestyle and quality of living for the leaders of that organization, just as it does in this case (often on the backs of the donors and members who receive no such benefit). The Celtic Throne production in no way qualifies as a humanitarian contribution.

3. The PCG has purposefully and bizarrely obfuscated the message subtly woven into the production. Only PCG members seem to appreciate the highly interpreted symbolism, subtle historical references, and vague apparitions attached to the narrative. The PCG has reportedly given sermons explaining the themes and imagery, but the general public is left to guess and interpret for themselves. One wonders why! For example, why wouldn’t the PCG clearly state that they believe their leader, Gerald Flurry, now sits as King of England on a new throne (pictured in the production) ordained by God, replacing both the throne and the royal family in Buckingham Palace in England? That is their stated belief.6)

4. Due to the fact that the Celtic Throne participants are almost solely related to the PCG’s leader, Gerald Flurry (Jude is his grandson), or to the Edmond elite, and that they have masked all PCG affiliation to the event, one can only conclude this is not a work in any sense of the word. It is a monstrous exercise in narcissism that exists to promote the ego and name of Gerald Flurry and his offspring. What other explanation can be offered? There is literally no scripture in the Bible which can be interpreted to mean that the work of any church should be acted out as a musical dance production. There’s not even an analog to such an idea anywhere in the New Testament amongst the newly raised churches.

5. Even the premise of the production is based upon a faulty assumption by Gerald Flurry about a Bible verse describing David dancing “before the Lord with all his might” (2 Samuel 6:14) on the occasion of the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. Gerald Flurry has made the proclamation (without further proof or evidence) that King David was dancing in the style of Irish dance, something asserted nowhere else in the text or by any bible scholar or even historian.

6. The PCG’s teaching about the throne portrayed in the production is at odds with the teaching of its figurative founder, Herbert Armstrong, in his treatise, The United States and Britain in Prophecy,7 which the PCG still publishes and requires as mandatory reading before becoming a member. The PCG considers Herbert Armstrong a God-ordained apostle. Armstrong taught that he was the only and last apostle since the original early-first century apostles. He also taught that Christ would return to sit on the throne today held by the British royal family descended from Davidic lineage. Despite viewing Armstrong as their spiritual founder, Gerald Flurry has changed that teaching, taking on numerous titles himself8 (see Point 3 above for an example), putting the PCG today in an unusual quandary: God revealed two contradictory pieces of cornerstone truths directly to two of his chosen, hand-picked church leaders in the same rough time frame. How confusing.

7. The messaging in the production is disingenuous at best. The PCG spends a great deal of energy in its publications, radio broadcasts, internet shows, books and booklets criticizing modern America for its godless society, backward culture, anti-family agendas, and political quagmire. Yet the show is full of patriotic overtones with giant depictions of the American flag and renditions of Americana classics such as “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.” The audience could be forgiven for thinking that the organization behind the production is pro-American when in reality, they spend a great deal of time criticizing America, its leadership, and its culture. One could argue they are paying homage to traditional American ideals, but that would still implicate their disingenuousness as that’s not the focused message they deliver in any other medium.

8. The dance production contains a glaring double standard of a rule that the PCG enforces vigorously and without exception on its lay members. The PCG has long forbidden interracial dancing amongst teens and adults (along with dating and marriage).9 Yet in the production, Jude (a white boy) dances closely with the female lead who is either mostly black or mixed race. In any other setting, that wouldn’t be tolerated.

9. After the production, PCG members I hadn’t seen in 15 or more years came up to me with effusive well wishes and greetings and even hugs and teary eyes. Not once has any of these people reached out to me to check on or communicate with me since I’ve left. This public interaction belies their “no contact” teaching,10 which forbids contact with any member who has left the PCG. The double standards are many.

10. Finally, I would offer this: if anyone in the Philadelphia Church of God reads this message (lay members or ministry), they are violating their own edict, which is not to read any dissident opinion or voice critical of PCG teachings. To those who are reading, remember this: prior to becoming a member of the WCG or the PCG, they encouraged you to question everything. Yet, as a member, you are not to question anything, even if it goes against life experience, good judgment, common sense, or what the Holy Spirit is telling you.

If you believe you are in “God’s one true church” and you have questions you’re not allowed to ask, a doctrine that doesn’t correlate with the Bible, and the PCG contradicts its own teachings, then you should be questioning where you are, what you are doing and what you are actually supporting.

By Luke (former member of PCG)
July 1, 2024

Recommended Articles:

Gerald Flurry’s Insanity with the New Throne of David

Philadelphia Church of God Info (History, teachings, destructive methods)

Where Is the True Church?

Footnotes by ESN:

1 PCG congregations are all very small, 20 people being the average. There were possibly PCG members from surrounding areas that attended.

2 PCG has the money to put on such a show because the organization has scammed, coerced and extorted people out of their money by the use of thought reform methods.

3 Edmond Elite Youth Being Taught How to Riverdance (Irish Dancing) [October 1, 2013 letter to ESN]

4 They mask it because the PCG leaders do not want outsiders to start searching on the internet for info on PCG and find out they have been labeled a very destructive cult which has ruined countless lives. See our section: Mike’s Enlightenment Page.

5 Read: We Were Told to Destroy the CDs (February 27, 2007 letter to ESN)

6 King Flurry? (February 27, 2018 letter)

7 The United States and Britain in Prophecy (What Did Herbert Armstrong Teach About it?)

8 Biblical Titles Gerald Flurry Has Appropriated for Himself

9 “They don’t allow interracial dating or interracial dancing.” (quoted from June 18, 2018 letter: “How to Boycott Events at Armstrong Auditorium and Make People Aware“)

10 Read: Gerald Flurry’s Sermon: Exposing Satan which will explain the “no contact” ruling.

 

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