Nick Winkler of FOX25 did a special news report on Philadelphia Church of God which was aired on November 24 and 25, 2008 in two segments.
Part two of this special report examined the “perfect church” facade shown to the general public, while exposing another, shadier side. (See Part two below.)
Mike’s Enlightenment Page (much more exposé info on PCG and Gerald Flurry)
This transcript was done by ESN. It will be interspersed with our comments.
Speakers on the video:
Andrew Speno (Aspeno), Anchorman
Jaime Cerreta (Jcerreta), Anchorwoman
Nick Winkler (Nwinker), Investigative Reporter
Dennis Fisher (Dfisher), Ex-member
David Ben-Ariel (DbenAriel), Ex-member
Dr. Babara Boyd (Dr. Dr. Bboyd), Oklahoma University Professor
Stephen Flurry (SFlurry), son of Gerald Flurry
Gerald Flurry (GFlurry), founder of PCG
Fox News Special Report on Philadelphia Church of God, Part one:
Jcerreta: [Anchorwoman] Upfront at 9:30 tonight the Philadelphia Church of God is known for it’s belief the world will soon come to a violent end.
Aspeno: [Anchorman] The church has thousands of followers and its world headquarters are based in Edmond. Tonight, FOX25’s Nick Winkler investigates the church and its beliefs, next.
Nwinkler: [Investigative Reporter speaking to Anchorman] Well Andrew, church followers say the Word of God has been corrupted and misinterpreted over the years, so the Philadelphia Church of God says its mission is to warn people of the violent end that’s near, which will then be followed with the return of Jesus Christ.
[Shows panorama of the massive PCG construction site and pictures of the Performing Arts Center when completed]
SFlurry: And in this Performing Arts Center that we’re building. It’s…it’s going to change this community [when it’s finished next year].
Comment by ESN: The Performing Arts Center is also known as Armstrong Auditorium or the “House for God” to members.
Nwinkler: [Speaking in the background] When this fifteen-million dollar Arts Center is finished next year…
Comment by ESN: Why would God require such an extensive building program when the end is near? Aren’t all these buildings going to get destroyed, and in the very near future? [Read: “Flurry Formerly Said the End Would Be in 2008” – 8-11-08 letter to ESN] Those on the outside may be surprised to learn that PCG members do not vote or have any say in the matter as to whether or not to incur these kinds of expenses. They are expected to shoulder this $15-million dollar debt. [Update: In 2012 Flurry told the members that the building actually cost $25 million because they had not included the cost of landscaping. (December 26, 2012 letter to ESN)] Plus, members will never get any kind of financial statements that will detail expenditures. Mutual “accountability” and congregational “consensus” are practiced in grace-filled, non controlling, churches and their members often are asked to vote as to whether a large sum of money should be spent. These dynamics are completely missing in totalitarian groups. Members are expected to get behind Gerald Flurry’s visions and fully support him, no matter the cost. When Gerald Flurry speaks, members believe his words come directly from the mouth of God and they will not challenge expenditures, since they are taught this is equivalent to challenging God.
SFlurry: We want to showcase the greatest achievements of the human spirit.
Comment by ESN: Were members told that this $15-million dollar building (paid for by their tithes and offerings) is, “to showcase the greatest achievements of the human spirit”? It appears that Flurry’s goal of exalting human achievement goes against members being discouraged from spending money to further their own personal achievements or education, as they are continually told that this is “worldly.” And how exactly is imbibing worldly entertainment equivalent to “preaching the gospel” anyway? If Flurry wanted to make an impact on the local community (“change this community”), wouldn’t it have been better to spend that money helping others through local charitable programs instead of putting up an extravagant building? This building will not simply be “adequate”–it will be excessive, containing the best and finest furnishings and materials from around the world. The real purpose behind the Performing Arts Center is to use world-renown entertainers as a front to legitimatize the church in the eyes of the community. Herbert W. Armstrong did this with his Ambassador Auditorium, and Flurry will do the same.
Nwinkler: [Speaking in the background] The Philadelphia Church of God, or PCG, will celebrate man’s God-given musical talent, and preach this warning. [Shows Young Ambassadors dancing]
SFlurry: We believe that we’re at the end of the time, yes.
Nwinkler: Stephen Flurry’s father, Gerald, pastors the church, which believes the world as we know it will end violently in a world war. [Shows clips of PCG webpage].
[Loud Bangs and Scenes of Destruction]
SFlurry: This comes right from the mouth of Jesus Christ, as he says that at the end, this Great Tribulation period will be worse than anything man has experienced.
Comment by ESN: The Great Tribulation is what is hung over the members heads as the worst time of suffering that this world has ever experienced, and that if they are not obedient to the “government” (i. e., PCG Headquarters), and continue be obedient to everything Gerald Flurry says, they will experience it. This is using fear to manipulate people’s minds.
Nwinkler: [Speaking in the background] He says only the faithful will survive. Afterward the church believes that Jesus will return, and establish a government in Jerusalem. [shows Jerusalem]
Comment by ESN: PCG is not the only offshoot from the Worldwide Church of God that believes “only the faithful will survive.” There is the Living Church of God, Restored Church of God, The Church of God, PKG, and hundreds of others, along with millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses and other apocalyptic groups which say the same. (Read: All or Nothing Statements (from those that have “the truth).
[Shows short clip of Gerald Flurry on his program] GFlurry: Greetings, friends! I’m Gerald Flurry…
[Shows quick clips of expensive homes and other church buildings]
Comment by ESN: The disparity between GF and his luxurious lifestyle and the level of poverty that the average member has to suffer is not brought out.
Nwinkler: Pastor Flurry says, to prepare for all this, PCG’s 170-acre campus is designed to be a model for how Christians should behave, and help Jesus set up his new government.
SFlurry: This was essentially the first building that went up on this land. [Shows the gym.]
Nwinkler: [Speaking in the background] Besides the Field House, the PCG has built its own grade school and college, though it’s not accredited. Members have built their own roads. They have their own water supply, and a warehouse stacked to the ceiling with Biblical literature–and they give it all away for free. [Shows roads, a large pond, a warehouse, and shelves full of PCG literature. A flag hanging down says CD/Tape department.]
Comment by ESN: And the teachers are not certified. In regard to PCG’s CD/Tape department, no one reveals that the PCG ministers have been instructed to destroy all CDs after members hear the sermons. (2/27/07 letter to ESN).
SFlurry: We send our Trumpet [Philadelphia Trumpet magazine] out to 300,000 subscribers each month.
Nwinkler: In the mail center, magazines, books, and articles are sent out to anyone requesting materials after watching Pastor Flurry on his weekly television program, which he shoots from the church’s television studio. [Shows people working in the mail center, and GF taping his show].
SFlurry: Yes, it’s a fantastic work and it’s of an upstanding quality for sure. But we’re building, we believe, for God.
Nwinkler: To pay for all of this, the church relies on generous tithing. Former members say that they were asked to give a second and third tithe just to remain in the church. The church says that tithing is voluntary.
Comment by ESN: If the statement “tithing is voluntary” is true, PCG members should take Flurry’s words to heart and volunteer not to tithe which will test how “voluntary” this practice truly is. In actuality, members are instructed that “not sending in tithes” is the equivalent of “stealing from God.” And if one “steals from God,” they believe that they will not be protected from the coming Great Tribulation. This has created much fear and anxiety.
[Nwinkler interviews Dr. Barbara Boyd of Oklahoma University]
Dr. Bboyd: So you… That’s not where you can critique somebody. It’s “What do they do with the money?”
Nwinkler: [speaking in the background] OU Religious Studies Professor, Dr. Barbara Boyd says it’s not uncommon for members of evangelical or fundamentalist churches to give away thirty-five percent of their income.
Dr. Bboyd: I have a great deal of respect for anyone willing to give away such large portions of their income. I have not ever lived up to my parents’ standards and at my age, I’m embarrassed about it.
Comment by ESN: Even in evangelical circles, it is mostly those who can really afford to give who donate large amounts. Those in the PCG who can afford it the least, e.g., the elderly, large families, the under-employed, are expected to give tithes and offerings. There is no mercy extended to members who can barely afford to pay and survive. Every member must tithe on their gross income, regardless of their financial situation. “Headquarters” (i. e., “the church”) comes first in all aspects of their lives. In fact, the gain or loss of their very salvation depends on it. (Also read: “Transfer All Your Assets to Gerald Flurry After You Die!“)
Nwinkler: The church says is generated about fifteen-million dollars in revenue last year.
[Interview with D. Ben-Ariel]
DbenAriel: I was basically put out.
Nwinkler: [Speaking in the background] Former PCG member David Ben-Ariel says he was kicked out of the church, for writing a book without the church’s approval, and says all that money could be better spent spreading God’s word differently.
DbenAriel: Hopefully they’ll stop spending their money in Edmond, Oklahoma and use it to become a household word with our teachings and let that become known.
[Shows clips of Dennis Fisher and the phone interview]
Nwinkler: Other former members like Dennis Fisher say Pastor Flurry scares members out of their money with his “end of the world” message, and told us this by phone:
Dfisher: I mean they put him up there as God, and he claims that he is “That Prophet,” and the “voice of God.”
Comment by ESN: Gerald Flurry wrote a booklet several years ago, Who Is That Prophet? where he attempted to prove it was he. (See Acts 3:23) The words “That prophet” in Scripture is referring to none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, not Gerald Flurry. Since then he has given himself many more titles. (Read: Biblical Titles Gerald Flurry Has Appropriated for Himself.)
[Showing clips of GF on his TV program The Key of David]
Nwinkler: Followers say Pastor Flurry does believe he fulfills the role of a prophet, but tomorrow night at 9:30, we’ll investigate what led police to snap this mug shot of Pastor Flurry. [Shows GF’s police photos]
Comment by ESN: Read: Does Gerald Flurry Have a Police Record?
We’ll also show you what police say they found after investigating the Philadelphia Church of God, and why the church says it feels sorry for all of it’s critics. Andrew?
Aspeno: All right Nick Winkler, thank you. After our interview, Stephen Flurry wanted us to let you know about the church’s outreach activities: A concert series sponsored by the church is open to the public, Young Ambassadors have performed concerts for schools and assisted living homes. And the church’s college has sponsored archaeological digs in Jerusalem. We’ll learn more about the PCG, we’ve linked their website with ours. Go to OKCFOX.com and click on Daily Links, and you can see Part II of our investigation into the Philadelphia Church of God tomorrow night on the Prime Time News at Nine.
Jcerreta: Upfront at 9:30 tonight, we first told you about the Philadelphia Church of God last night. It believes that the world is coming to a violent end.
Aspeno: The church is headquartered in Edmond. Tonight in Part II of our series, FOX25’s Nick Winkler investigates whether the church is preparing for Christ’s return, or trying to scam people out of their money.
Nwinkler: Police and the FBI have investigated the church, but prosecutors have not charged it with a crime. The church says it’s simply warning people that the end is near, but former members say that the church and its leader are scaring the people into giving the church millions of dollars.
[Show scene of GF’s TV program]
GFlurry: Greetings Friends! My name’s Gerald Flurry…
Nwinkler: It’s Pastor Gerald Flurry’s warning.
SFlurry: We believe that we’re at the time of the end, yes.
[Loud Bangs and Scenes of Destruction]
Nwinkler: Before Jesus Christ returns…
DbenAriel: Violence, World War III…Yes, there’ll be lots of that.
[More Loud Bangs and Scenes of Destruction]
Nwinkler: The Philadelphia Church of God, or PCG, believes it all must end…
SFlurry: He [Jesus] says that at the end this great Tribulation period will be worse than anything man has experienced.
[Scene shows chickens and livestock fenced in and grazing on PCG grounds]
Nwinkler: But you’d never know it, looking at the church’s farm. Or it’s grade school and college, which is not accredited. But where Pastor Flurry is preaching the gospel, not everyone’s convinced though.
[Photo of Dennis Fisher in a telephone interview]
DFisher: He is the antichrist; what he preaches is against what God preaches.
Nwinkler: By phone, former PCG members like Dennis Fisher say Pastor Flurry has ulterior motives. One writes: “I first noticed a big change in/around 1993. He thought the government was going to come after him.” Well 1993 is the year Federal Agents raided David Koresh’s religious compound, in Waco, TX.
Nwinkler: Are you the Branch Davidians?
SFlurry: [Amused and chuckling]…No.
Comment by ESN: David Koresh’s belief system was very similar to that of Gerald Flurry’s Philadelphia Church of God. I. e.: David Koresh and his members all kept the Seventh Day Sabbath and also believed the books of Daniel and Revelation had been unsealed. They claim to have the Key of David. They teach that the Daily has been taken away. They give the identification of the tribes of Israel today. They teach about the Elijah messenger. They hold to clean and unclean foods. They teach about the two trees, and the two witnesses. They also claim to understand the firstfruits harvest. They claim New Truth and New Revelation. They distinguish their faith as special and unique and they believe they are God’s chosen people and are living in the end times. (Information from their official website, 8-02)
Nwinkler: Koresh and nearly eighty followers and four Federal Agents died.
[Flashes several mug shots of Gerald Flurry on screen]
Nineteen ninety three was also the year police came for Flurry. This mug shot was taken after police say they found Flurry passed out drunk behind the wheel of his car. When they woke him up and asked for his license, they say Flurry tried to hand them twenty-five dollars.
Comment by ESN:For more details concerning this incident, read: Does Gerald Flurry Have a Police Record?
Nwinkler: [to Stephen Flurry[ Does he speak for God?
SFlurry: Uh, well, we certainly believe that he speaks for God.
Comment by ESN: Gerald Flurry believes and teaches that he represents God.
Nwinkler: [Speaking in background] Pastor Flurry did not talk with us, but his son Stephen did.
Nwinkler: [to Stephen Flurry] Does he believe he’s a prophet?
SFlurry: He does believe he fulfills the role of a prophet as it’s divined in Scripture.
Comment by ESN: Gerald Flurry believes and teaches that he is “that Prophet.”
Nwinkler: The PCG is building onto its 178 acre campus. It’s most proud of this. [shows large facility where church literature is stored and distributed]
SFlurry: We have 1.2 million pieces of literature in here.
Nwinkler: In the last ten years, the church says it has mailed out 32-million pieces of literature, including it’s flagship magazine, Trumpet, for free. Comment by ESN: The literature is only free in order to bait a person into their organization where they become a member. Then they end up paying for it with their tithes and offerings. But not everyone can receive their literature, especially those who have been disfellowshipped.
SFlurry: That’s what our work is about. To “give” the word of God, to show people what God’s way of life is like.
Comment by ESN: Stephen Flurry says the campus is “designed to be a model for how Christians should behave” (see Pt. 1) and “to show people what God’s way of life is like.” Notice that the emphasis here is on outside appearances and expected “behavior,” not on how the church can help its members. As pointed out at the end of this broadcast, part of this “Christian behavior” includes a ban on interracial marriage and cutting off ties with loved ones who are considered “Laodicean.” (Also read: Identifying Marks of an Abusive Group and Buzzwords (or Loading the Language).
Nwinkler: To pay for much of this, the church relies on generous tithing.
Nwinkler: [speaking to Dennis Fisher in telephone interview] Is this just a scam to get people’s money?
Dfisher: Well, basically it’s a scam to get their money and to keep them in power. They live a pretty good life, you know.
Nwinkler: Former member Fisher, and others say that churchgoers are urged to give a second and third tithe just to remain in the church. PCG says tithing is voluntary and says it brought in about fifteen million dollars last year, but says no one is getting rich.
Comment by ESN: Along with members being compelled to give 1st, 2nd, and 3rd tithe, they also have to give excess 2nd tithe, plus offerings are taken up on every holy day. They are also expected to give generously to the building fund. However Gerald Flurry and son are “exempt” from paying tithes.
Nwinkler: [to Stephen Flurry] How much money does your father make a year?
SFlurry: Uh, I’m not sure. I mean, that’s…I think it’s in the neighborhood of sixty-five thousand maybe. It’s certainly not a lot compared to other heads of churches.
Comment by ESN: Even though Stephen Flurry hesitantly muttered his father’s salary ($65,000), he quickly justified this amount by comparing it to other church leaders, making it sound far less than what other TV evangelists receive. It would have been good if Winkler had pressed Flurry further about benefits and other “perks” that Gerald Flurry enjoys for free (the expensive homes, furnishings, cars, etc). Even though Stephen Flurry stated, “No one is getting rich,” it isn’t hard to see through this fabrication.
[Shows a typed document concerning the complaint of Philadelphia Church of God’s illegal activities described below:]
Nwinkler: But five years ago, a police report accused the PCG of fraud. It says that the church was trying to take over a sick old woman’s bank account and withdraw thirty-five thousand dollars. No criminal charges were filed though.
SFlurry: I don’t know much about that case…If anything.
Comment by ESN: Not surprisingly, Stephen Flurry pretended he knew nothing about the case. Wouldn’t someone in his position (second in command) want to find out whether somebody in his organization is committing fraud, and deal with them accordingly? His nonchalant answer and avoidance of the topic reveals much.
DbenAriel: [Speaking about tithing] It’s between you and God.
Comment by ESN: David Ben-Ariel erroneously states that tithing is “between you and God,” when in reality for members in PCG it’s between “you and God and the PCG.” They have been taught that by tithing God is obligated to bless them and protect them for their obedience. In fact, Gerald Flurry has stated, “Backing and supporting this message is your ticket to a place of safety and a magnificent reward.” (Malachi’s Message, Chap. 9, p. 144.) The tithing system in the PCG is designed in members’ minds to “pay for their protection.” In addition, members are expected to give seven generous (and mandatory) Holy Day offerings throughout the year, along with other special offerings and contributions to the PCG. It is obvious that this is above and beyond what is required and in many cases impoverishes them.
Nwinkler: Former PCG member, David Ben-Ariel says he was kicked out of the church, but still defends it’s tithing practices.
DbenAriel: Again, it’s voluntary, but it’s understood if you’re a Church of God member, you will tithe. And you’ll want to.
Comment by ESN: Members appear to give voluntary because they fear the consequences of not giving. They are heavily indoctrinated through fear to “give with a good attitude” despite how much it hurts financially. They will want to because they’re afraid not to. We do not find anywhere in Scripture where people were commanded to give a tithe of their wages. They were to tithe on the increase of their livestock and produce.
Nwinkler: Other former PCG members have set up a website critical of the church.
[Shows Mike’s Enlightenment Page]
SFlurry: I feel bad for them, more than I’m hurt by it personally. I mean, it’s not slowing me down.
Comment by ESN: It’s not “slowing him down” because leaders of destructive groups know full well how to use “fear phobia induction” (See OIU 4, Pt. 3 under “F-E-A-R.” Available as PDF download) in order to recruit and retain their members.
Nwinkler: Flurry says the church’s followers far outnumber its critics.
[Nwinkler interviewing Dr. Barbara Boyd of University of Oklahoma]
Dr. Bboyd: I think they have the right to challenge that system and raise the awareness for the rest of us that we may need to ask some questions.
Nwinkler: OU Religious Studies Professor, Dr. Barbara Boyd says it’s critical to figure out if the PCG lets members disagree with Pastor Flurry. The church says it does.
Comment by ESN: If members disagree, or ask questions about things they don’t understand, they are told they are not converted, or swiftly suspended. If they don’t “repent” (and don’t agree that Gerald Flurry has “new revelation”), they are disfellowshipped and the congregation is instructed to shun them. (Read ESN’s review of Gerald Flurry’s sermon “Exposing Satan” which goes into more detail about PCG’s ungodly “no-contact” ruling.) Deep fear and guilt are placed on such members, especially fear or panic that they are failing God and will go through the Great Tribulation and be punished. This is nothing short of psychological abuse.
Dr. Bboyd: There’s all of that missing. The church is just supposed to swallow it whole, never ask a question, give their mind, body, soul and spirit to this, then I…I would say that’s worth critiquing fairly heavily.
Nwinkler: The church says it is not bothered by the criticism. It’s busy, preparing for the end. Pastor Flurry says that the Holy Roman Empire will revive, killing anyone who has not obeyed God’s Word, but sparing faithful PCG members.
SFlurry: We believe that that is what is going to trigger the start of the Great Tribulation or another World War.
Nwinkler: The PCG believes members who are saved will rise up spiritually, and join Jesus in Jerusalem. But the church says it is not stockpiling weapons, food or water in preparation for the end. The church says God will protect members. Andrew.
Aspeno: All right, Nick Winkler, thank you. The PCG also does not believe in interracial marriage and at times the church encourages members to cut off ties with loved ones who are not members. After our interview with Stephen Flurry, he wanted us to tell you a few more things about the church’s Outreach Programs. Among them, church members have volunteers at handicapped schools in Jordan. They’ve also sponsored archeological activities in Jerusalem. If you’d like to learn more about the PCG we have linked it’s website to ours. Go to okcfox.com and go to Daily Links.
Comment by ESN: While Stephen Flurry brags about their “outreach programs” (they are no longer involved in the handicapped program and were kicked out of Jordan years ago), he does not think twice about the misery his organization is causing to countless others by the heavy burdens placed on members, the cut off ruling, the fear, the guilt, the shunning, the isolation, etc. Members have been programmed to believe that love is obeying Gerald Flurry–no matter what. This has created tremendous grief and sorrow. How is this considered outgoing love??
And for a multi-million dollar corporation, why can’t the PCG name any kind of programs that help their members or the local community? Their third tithe fund is supposed to help the poor, infirmed, elderly, fatherless, widowed and orphaned, when in fact, little of this money is used to do so. Members are never even given a detailed financial statement showing how and where members’ third tithe is used. (Read: Questions to Ask Any Religious Group You are Planning on Becoming Involved With)
Final Comments by ESN:
Not once did Stephen Flurry appear or even say that he was thankful for the sacrifices the members have made (which have made it possible for him to delight in all the luxuries he’s received). His lack of empathy towards the members in everything they have suffered is evident. All we see is pride for grandiose visions and achievements, and an incredible sense of entitlement. (Read: Profile of a Sociopath) But those who have experienced first hand what’s it’s like inside the PCG organization, the ones who have had their minds racked with fear, guilt and misery, who have been abused and exploited in every way, who have had their dignity stripped from them, and the ones on the outside, who have not been able to have any access to their children or parents or other loved ones for years on end, and who go on suffering and waiting for them to be free–they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the leadership is deceptive and evil beyond measure.
By K. Marshall and D. Williams
Exit & Support Network™
December 1, 2008
Related Article: Flurry’s Fury Unleashed! (Gerald Flurry comes against FOX25)
Mike’s Enlightenment Page (Info on Philadelphia Church of God)