Philadelphia Church of God
and Their Strict Feast Rules
Mark Nash wrote an article for members attending the Feast called, "Follow the Rules."1 Notice how grouchy and strict he sounds. Also, how he doesn't say anything against how Herbert Armstrong failed to instruct members to take a sick child to the doctor. I think some of what he says members have done--or might do--is completely made up. (my comments will be in brackets and at end)
Follow the Rules
Pets at the Feast: ... If you cannot make arrangements to leave pets with a friend, in a kennel or at home [except seeing eye dogs or those for the deaf], then you must arrange in advance with your hotel to have pets in your room. However, any damage or other problems caused by the pets are your responsibility. In no way can the Church be involved or held responsible.
Swimsuit Dress Code: One-piece swimsuits are the standard. The cut should not run too high up the thigh. A safe guideline would be for it to approximately follow the natural crease in the groin. Also, be sure it completely covers the buttocks in the back. Tankinis [sic] [Bikinis?] are unacceptable unless the two pieces are sewn or tacked together [you mean stapled??] so that they don't come apart and expose the midsection. Swimsuits can be worn with skirts or shorts over them, but this is not required of our ladies. Lastly, as with shirts, no cleavage should be exposed.
Caring for Sick Children: ...The following is an excerpt from a letter by Herbert W. Armstrong, dated Sept. 14, 1962: "Many members have been inexcusably careless and inconsiderate by bringing sick children to the festivals—and also to local Church services on the Sabbaths. Frequently children are brought with whooping cough, measles, mumps, flu, chicken pox and other contagious diseases. [huh??? Isn't that an exaggeration?] Other members' children have been exposed and come down with these diseases because of this. This must stop!!! If your child has even been exposed within two weeks before coming, don't bring him. If your child is sick, call upon God through one of His ministers for healing—or write to headquarters for an anointed cloth. But do not, under any circumstances, bring such a child until you can actually see that he has been completely healed. When anointed, have faith—believe—but if God does give you a test of faith, do not bring the child on the strength of that faith. Let him be healed on the strength of your faith, but do not bring him to any Church meeting or festival until every physical symptom is gone and the healing is complete. Moses expelled those with communicable diseases from the camp of Israel. We shall have to do likewise... but some few seem to want to reason their way around a Church order like this, and disobey, on the way they reason it out. Any who are in that way inconsiderate of others will have to be swiftly expelled. If your child is taken with such a disease while at the Feast, call a minister at once, and ask him not only for anointing, but whether the child must be isolated or taken home."
Name Badges: Name badges will be required for everyone who is 18 (and out of high school) and older who will be attending Feast of Tabernacles services in North America. These pre-printed name badges can be obtained at the information table prior to opening night services on Wednesday, October 12, from 4 to 7 p.m. Please plan to arrive early so that you have plenty of time to get your name badge before the business office closes at 7 p.m. Everyone is expected to wear his or her badge; please cooperate and wear yours. If you are told to go get your badge, do not argue or make excuses. [why would they be arguing about it?] The security or ushering personnel are simply following rules made for the benefit of the brethren and the Church, and so should we all. Many have commented on how they appreciate the name badges. They help remind us of the names of the brethren. ... [don't you mean they you help identify people who come to the feast that aren't supposed to be there?]
Counsel At the Feast: At the Feast, you will come into contact with the ministry. But remember, God's Feast is not a time to "shop around" for other ministers' counsel. Counseling is provided at each site to resolve issues that come up during the Feast. It is not provided to handle problems that can wait until you speak with your local minister at home, nor to get a "second opinion" on something you have already counseled about. When there is a need, please seek the minister assigned to counseling; that is why he is there. Just be sure it is not something you can wait on to counsel directly with your own minister about when you return home. [how are they to know??]
Here are my comments on these "rules" and what I think is behind them:
These rules are the ministers throwing their weight around to keep the members dependent and child-like.
The "Pet rule" and the "Sick Child rule" are what any sane person would know to do in such a situation without being told. Also, I was at many different feast sites for many years and never saw or heard of anyone bringing a child with a "contagious disease," but I saw plenty of people with colds, especially the ministers!
The "Swimsuit rule" is hard to figure out as members are regularly preached at to dress modestly and I can't see the parents allowing their teens to show up in peek-a-boo apparel. Since we're always going to have dirty-minded ministers and other leaders lusting after women, I think this rule is another attempt at extreme control.
The "Name Badge rule" helps ministers quickly identify anyone that shouldn't be there (ex members, disfellowshipped, marked, those from "Laodicean" churches, news people, the media, people from the community, etc.) and gives the members a chance to snitch on them. GF wants to keep out anyone who could report on what is being said at these feasts. In the WCG I remember them announcing, "Be sure and report to the ministers immediately if you see any reporters or dissidents here." Name badges now make it easier.
The "Counsel rule" is really control in the extreme. It also makes it difficult for members to know which is a need and which isn't, so they would be afraid to counsel at all. I think this rule is mostly for the ease and comfort of the ministers so they don't get overly disturbed at the feast while they wine and dine at the most expensive restaurants and relax in luxurious establishments.
Your article Warning Signs of Extremism helped me to see through all this.
September 8, 2011
Footnotes by ESN:
1 This was printed in the Philadelphia Church of God's "Feast Planner."