My Mind Was Finally Opened
About Living Church of God
I joined Living Church of God about 4 years ago. Most of my life I had been exposed to Herbert Armstrong by my parents, who read and studied the literature put out by the WCG, but they were not members. So I was aware of many of the doctrines of the LCG. When I first joined, I really thought I finally found a church and belief I could embrace with all my heart. The people were nice and accepted me. I became very good friends with one of the elders and his wife, a deaconess.
The first three years I was growing and learning--or that is what I thought. My friendship with the elder and deaconess grew. I asked a lot of questions. The deaconess and I shared many personal issues which we both agreed were confidential. During this time I also was privy to things about the congregation and the pastor.
As I grew, I started asking questions. I asked the elder, deaconess and older established members of the LCG and they wouldn't know how to answer me. They would all end with "ask the pastor." Roderick Meredith would say don't believe me but "look it up." He also wrote in LCG newsletters about servant leadership and that it was appropriate to give opinions as long as they were done in a respectful way. So, I took this seriously. Along with the questions, I started giving my opinions and giving honest answers when asked if I enjoyed a sermon. By the third year I also began researching LCG history and looking at the different blogs on the Internet. I started really seeing things--I mean I always observed things but I just accepted what I was told. I was not using my brain. The following are a few of the situations that began to open my mind and heart about LCG.
The pastor and his wife were completely absorbed with themselves, very arrogant and entitled. I was constantly told I had to respect the pastor no matter how he acted because God will judge him accordingly. There was no servant leadership on his behalf. The more I learned and observed their behavior the more disgusted I would get. They had to have nice china cups to drink out of during services and expected snacks when they were scheduled to visit the congregation. The pastor's wife would always state that we were to bring "nice snacks." I expressed my opinion on all of this - the arrogance and entitlement. The deaconess agreed and would tell me things that had happened in the past. The pastor also did not want me to visit other congregations within LCG. He did not want me having Bible studies with other members unless he was present. I began to realize he wanted total control. It felt like an abusive family where isolation and control was the norm. I really started having a difficult time and could not understand why he was allowed to run congregations. I expressed my opinion to the deaconess.
In the congregation was a couple whose income is $700 a month. Members would give them money and food to help. I mean, that's what Christian love is about. The pastor stopped that. He had the deaconesses go to each member and tell us not to give them anymore money. A few of the members did not follow the order. This was hard for me to believe. I could not live on $700 a month, and I know that the pastor could not. Again, I expressed my opinion to the deaconess.
The first two years I would underline and make notes in my Bible instead of taking notes like everyone else. I started realizing that the same scriptures were being used over and over. It was the same old stuff--the government of the church, holy days, and a little prophecy. The past year became very hard for me to listen because I felt that the whole content of verses were not being looked at. The sermonette would usually relate to the sermon and it was always stated that it wasn't planned but that Godly intervention occurred and for many years I believed this! When the pastor was there the first fifteen minutes would be ranting and raving about politics and certain people (calling them "queers"1). Over time it made me uncomfortable. I thought we were to stay out of politics. I thought we were to love everyone--love the person but hate the sin. Why not condemn liars and cheaters? Wasn't one sin just as bad as another? Then I realized that when Meredith gave a sermon that the same thing would occur. Again, I expressed my opinion.
I heard a lot of sermons on church government, one man government, such as what it will be like in the world tomorrow. Once I opened my ears I heard that man was ordained by God and of course the evangelists, pastors, elders and deacons were also ordained by God. Really? I understood why God would be head of church government but wondered if here on earth if Meredith thought he was God? What was the proof that God ordained him as the one man dictator? I did not express this opinion.
Then there is the nepotism! Many of Meredith's family members and friends are employees at LCG headquarters or are evangelists and pastors. The pastor of the congregation I went to is the father of Sue Meredith, Jim Meredith's wife, son of Roderick Meredith. I knew that Jim had a successful business in construction in California before the housing crisis but that went south with the housing downfall. So now Jim Meredith is a pastor and his wife are both working at headquarters. A member of the congregation quit a good job because of having to work on a Saturday once a month. The pastor's wife told her that everyone has to make sacrifices, including her son-in-law Jim. He choose to leave a very profitable business in California to work at LCG headquarters! What hypocrisy! Dad bailed his son out.
Over the past year I started hearing some of my observations in sermons and sermonettes. In one sermon the pastor started "hate speaking" certain individuals. He said, "I know a sin is a sin (my exact words I said to the deaconess) but this sin is the worst!" Did someone tell him my opinion? No, surely not. One Saturday we had a sermon by a visiting elder stating that pastors and elders should be respected and not questioned. A friend walked up to me afterwards and said the pastor had him preach that topic. Surely not. I was told not to look on the Internet for church issues.2 Then there was a sermonette on the evils of looking at the Internet. I thought "how curious" but went along on my way.
I began reading the Ambassador Report.3 I had read that in the old Worldwide that deaconess and others reported everything to the pastor. I gave a ride to a college student in the group whose home was in another city. While I was there I visited another congregation. Then not too long after that my friend the deaconess called me. She had just met with the pastor and he wanted to talk to me about the "snack issue." I was also told I could not give the college student a ride to her home town. I don't know why but this was the straw that broke the camel's back. I hung up the phone shaking! Everything I have done and said was reported to the pastor! My friend whom had told me many things in confidence had been reporting on me. My eyes were finally opened.
There are many more issues than this but at that moment I realized I have been blindly following a religion and not using my brain. I, a very educated individual, had been misled, or I should say, allowed myself to be misled.
I have not returned to LCG. I will not return. I'm studying and reading. The Exit and Support Network™ has been very helpful. Thank you for sending me Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web by David Robinson.
December 17, 2012
Note by ESN: Read: Identifying Marks of an Exploitive, Abusive Group
Footnotes by ESN:
1 In 1961 Roderick C. Meredith, founder of Living Church of God, wrote a 6-page article entitled, "The Shocking TRUTH about 'Queer' Men!"