I first came in contact with WCG through the TV Program The World Tomorrow in 1975. I saw that regularly until I moved to a city where it didn’t transmit. But I never called them or anything, I was just a watcher of the program. Then in mid 1980s (probably 1984 or 1985), I got in contact with them again and this time I contacted them and started receiving all their magazines and booklets in English and in Spanish.
By 1989, they sent me an invitation to attend a conference of Plain Truth subscribers at a local Hilton hotel and that is when I first met a pastor and other members “live”; however, it wasn’t until 1992 that I was allowed to attend Sabbath services with them because—unknown to me at that time—some WCG pastors were of the notion that the Great Tribulation had started 3 years after Herbert Armstrong’s death in 1986. To them, the 7 days started when he died, and 3.5 years later was the beginning of the Great Tribulation. So our pastor was of the belief that in 1989 we were in the Great Tribulation and hence “the doors of the church have closed” somewhere during 1989 after the conference, and we were caught in this lie.
We only found out about it when we called HQ in Pasadena and they said no to 1989 being the beginning of the Great Tribulation. So they forced the pastor to let us attend, but he didn’t like it and developed hate against us for being “spies of the enemy” and things like that. All this time, this pastor was saying that Jesus would return in 1992.
Ignoring HQ demands, this pastor refused to admit any new members until 1992 when it was evident that Jesus did not return when they were saying He would. Then he begin to think that Jesus’ return was taking too long and started to mistreat the sheep as Scriptures say in Luke 12:45-47.
Pastor Was in Mental Home and Escaped
So 1992 is when we finally were allowed to attend and began to be treated cruelly by him and his associates [ministers] which were the same as him. Love and mercy were words unknown to them. Soon after we began attending. By 1993 the pastor admitted to have been declared insane and put in a mental home from which he escaped, and that is when he began to read the Bible and was baptized and made a pastor by HQs. When I called Pasadena HQ to talk about this concerning issue, they were astonished that this pastor had been in a mental home and escaped. They didn’t know until we phoned them and told them! They had ordained an mentally unstable man as a pastor, and he had been diagnosed as paranoid and schizophrenic. They didn’t know. This news was given to pastor Leon Walker.
After that, Leon Walker flew to Puerto Rico to try to oust this pastor but he left WCG with 2/3 of the brethren which were about 200.
Puerto Rico (the island of the Caribbean which is a half-state of the USA), is where this pastor Pablo Gonzalez lived and from there he flew to the other areas he supervised. The San Juan Puerto Rico congregation had 300 members.
Many Unbalanced People in WCG
There are many unbalanced people, not just a few in WCG. More than one can imagine, and I found out about them when they sided with this pastor Pablo Gonzalez, who was in charge of the Latin American region of Colombia, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic under Leon Walker who was the Head of the Latin American or Spanish Department. But he had many pastors under him.
Before continuing, let me clarify that we are two brothers who went through almost exactly the same experiences and abuses, and we actually write one testimony, but we want our names concealed, because we even had to move from where we were living because of persecution from people who were in that dangerous sect [cult].
Pablo Gonzales Proven a Liar But Not Removed
I am aware that Leon Walker and his secretary in Pasadena pressed hard at Pablo Gonzalez to allow us to attend services but due to Gonzalez’s constant lies and false promises this went on and on until about summer of 1992 which is when finally he just had to allow us in. (He was proven a liar many times yet he was not removed….because there was an underlying feeling that this pastor could “kidnap” all the sheep he had under. I found that out later, when the WCG breakup was happening.)
Pastor Gonzales Vowed He Would Never Baptize Us
So we were allowed to attend from 1992 onward, due mostly to pressure from WCG HQ and persistence (and ignorance) on our part, because if we had know what was coming, we would have gone elsewhere. You see Pablo Gonzales. the local pastor, was committed to an asylum for the mentally ill (a madhouse, if you will), and it seems evident he never became well.
Gonzales vowed he would never baptise us, but never told us. We only found out after two years when four of his best friends heard him say so and came to us with the news: “We heard the pastor affirm he would never baptise you and we told him it was unfair he didn’t let you know, and was playing a game instead, making you believe and wait in something that just won’t happen. Don’t wait anymore, we don’t want to be his accomplices, so go elsewhere, get out of here and seek baptism elsewhere because Mr. Gonzales has said he will never baptise you.”
The Most Horrible Feast for Many Members
So we did. We left on the Feast of Trumpets of 1996, even though that year all of us in the Puerto Rican congregation had already made arrangements for Tabernacles in Kissimmee, Florida with Ron Dart and CEM. So that means we had to see Pablo Gonzales and his wife there again, and were they evil possessed then! We got threats; it was so bad that we had to tell Ron Dart and Larry Watkins at the start of the Feast, what was going on, because some members’ friend of Gonzales was inviting us out to give us a beating and possibly kill us. Pablo Gonzales acted aggressively towards Ron Dart and CEM all through the Feast, and in fact ended up divided. It was the most horrible FOT for many members, because of the hatred of Gonzales and his comrades towards not just Ron Dart and CEM staff, but also toward CEM members who were attending the Feast. Imagine, about 200 attendees from Puerto Rico all sitting to one side of the aisle of the assembly hall, and about 400 from CEM sitting to the other side of the aisle, and one side not speaking to the other. Not even saying hello.
Pablo Gonzales Used to Hypnotize Brethren
I have to tell you that Pablo Gonzales used to hypnotize brethren and his wife, while in private, and during visits to brethren’s houses. Due to this, various brethren, including his wife, had pop-out eyes and a few even had one eye distorted, and we all thought this was due to these hypnosis sessions. Then they never recovered after that. One or two years after we left that group, some of the others also left. But only 1 out of 5 was normal and trustworthy. Most had the habit of lying and manipulating, and they called that “the power of the spirit.” My brother already knew that Pablo Gonzales was unbalanced, sinister, lying and simply evil.
Pablo Gonzales Used Terror to Keep People Under Control
One time when services started and when it was Pablo Gonzales’ turn to speak, he began saying , “Jesus said unless we be like children we wont enter the kingdom of God….we have to become like kids, we have to be kids all over again and unless that happens, we wont make it to the kingdom…” and he continued speaking about this “doctrine” for a good 5 minutes or so, and then we noticed there was really something evil going on. He was trying to justify himself, because we already knew he hypnotized other brethren, and he wanted us to think that those experimental regressions were necessary so that we could be saved.
Others Had Complained to HQs About Evil Behavior in Puerto Rico
A few days after Sabbath, I phoned Pasadena HQ and told Leon Walker’s secretary all about [what was going on], with detail, in a phone call that lasted about 2 hours, and which was of great interest to him, because he mentioned to me “Manuel, tell me everything, and trust me, there have been numerous calls to HQ from members in Puerto Rico and from relatives of members and subscribers, all complaining about abnormalities and evil behavior on the part of the ministers there. A woman mother of a young subscriber, threatened to sue us, because she said that her son committed suicide right after Pablo Gonzales visited him. He left a note, and mentioned the pastor, and his mother were irate and heartbroken and were seeking justice, and threatened to sue us, but we asked the pastor and he says he did nothing wrong! But there are simply too many reports from the regions he is in charge of, and we know things are not being done right over there.”
And I reassured him, “I tell you, there is something very wrong with this pastor, I have told you the absolute truth, and you know it’s not the first time that I report serious issues to you.” And this secretary said to me, “Everything that members report, we write down and pass on to Mr. Leon Walker, and believe me, it is being treated confidential and is being investigated.”
Gonzales Removed From Being a Pastor
She also reported this to HQ, but the pastor was there month after month and year after year–until finally in 1994 Leon Walker decided he had enough proof and flew from California to Puerto Rico to oust Pablo Gonzales. After many altercations, Gonzales was removed from being a pastor, but it was too late because one or two months later I believe was when the church split and most pastors went their ways anyway!
I don’t know if he is still alive. I wish I knew for sure. After we left, he contacted all members and pastors he knew, to falsely accuse us of spreading lies about him. He wanted our death, physical and spiritual.
We finally left around 1996. We are not in any WCG offshoot or splinter group, and don’t want to be, because of various issues, not just abuse, there are also doctrinal issues as you probably are aware.
So I can relate to anyone who has suffered the same, or less, or worse. I believe what members say. I went through the same hell many others did.
I am so concerned for victims of cruelty and abuse. Thank you for being there with this site.
By Manuel and Evan [names changed]
August 26, 2022
Go to Part 2: More Hell and Horror While in WCG Puerto Rico–Pt. 2 (horrifying story)