Philadelphia official responds
By Bill Stough
Three men--all former elders of the Philadelphia Church of God--have leveled serious charges at the PCG, alleging mismanagement, misrepresentation and rewriting of history. (See the article in the June 30 print version of The Journal.)
So The Journal telephoned PCG headquarters in Edmond, Okla., to seek Philadelphia's side of the story.
Dennis Leap, who handles public-relations matters for the church, agreed to respond to the three men's charges if he could read the article The Journal intended to publish. The Journal declined to release the unfinished article to the PCG but agreed to provide Mr. Leap with a written summary of its interviews of the three former elders.
The Journal on June 22 made telephone contact with Pastor General Gerald Flurry, who said he was aware of The Journal's interview of the three men and its attempts to interview him. He assured a Journal writer that Mr. Leap was authorized to speak on his behalf.
"Several of the issues raised are very petty and really don't justify a response," says Mr. Leap (see the main article for the issues raised). "Some of our responses-for example, place of safety-will obviously [suffice] for issues raised by the three different men."
Has the PCG changed?
Of the allegation that the Philadelphia Church of God has "changed" over the years, Mr. Leap responded June 20:
"Don Roth, Mike Okamura and Randy Schafer were all well respected and loved by their fellow ministers and members. The plain truth is these three men changed in their loyalty to PCG headquarters; in our common beliefs about Malachi's Message; and about what Mr. Herbert Armstrong taught concerning government, free moral agency, the God family and the future role of the church as the Bride of Christ.
"Members in these men's congregations were disheartened and discouraged about the changes in these men."
How much respect?
Concerning Don Roth's allegations that church members are taught to pay too much respect to Mr. Flurry, Mr. Leap responded:
"Mr. Flurry is still standing up for the truth as taught by Herbert Armstrong. Mr. Flurry and the PCG firmly believe that Mr. Armstrong fulfilled the Bible-prophesied role as the end-time Elijah as described in Matthew 17:10-11. The PCG believes that Christ restored the truth once delivered to Mr. Armstrong, who in turn delivered it to the church. As stated by Mr. Armstrong, the most important truth restored to the church was the knowledge about God's government. Don Roth no longer agrees with this point and has taught others to disagree as well."
Of the charge that the policy regarding ministerial seating at the Feast has changed, Mr. Leap responded:
"In recent years special rows have been reserved for the ministers and their families at the Feast. This has been done to make it easier for brethren to locate their local minister when needed. This was a well-established tradition under Mr. Armstrong. In the beginning years of the PCG, when our Feast-site attendance was small, reserving rows for the ministry was not necessary. Since there were not large crowds, it was much easier for members to locate the ministry. Don Roth is making a very petty point here."
To the allegation that money matters are overly emphasized in the PCG:
"The major emphasis within the PCG has always been on doing the work as defined by Herbert Armstrong. The PCG has a proven track record here. All of our publications, The Philadelphia Trumpet, Royal Vision and The Philadelphia News, are given at no cost to readers.
"Our Key of David program is now carried on 71 TV stations worldwide. Nearly 400 million people have access to the Key of David. Recently we have procured time slots on KTLA in Los Angeles. These two additions to our lineup add the potential of 250 million more viewers. Many of the brethren cheerfully obey God and give to support this effort."
Place of safety
Regarding criticism of the church's teaching on the place of safety: "The PCG teaches exactly what Herbert Armstrong taught about the place of safety. The No. 1 question posed by even this world's scientists, leaders and educators is will man survive?
"Recent events in India and Pakistan show that nuclear World War III is still very much a viable threat. Jesus Christ prophesied that our world would suffer terribly because of major, world-shaking calamities in Matthew 24. There is a great tribulation coming-Matthew 24:21. Jesus Christ said His disciples would have to flee to preserve their lives-Matthew 24:15-20. Should we accuse Christ of using this truth as a hold over the brethren? The fact is there is a place of safety-Revelation 12:14. Some will go to the place of safety, some will not-Revelation 12:17."
The ethics of behavior
Regarding the charges of unethical behavior involving elders in 1993-94 by Mr. Roth, Mr. Leap responded: "Don is referring to some miscommunication that happened in 1993-94. He overreacted then and is overreacting now."
Mr. Roth's removal
Concerning Mr. Roth's disfellowshipment: "Don Roth resigned from the PCG ministry twice. His first resignation was in the summer of 1996. We were able to work with him and keep him in the ministry at that time.
"He resigned a second time in January 1998. Three days prior to his resignation he and his wife were in a three-hour meeting with Mr. Flurry. I was present for the last hour. During the meeting it appeared that all of the Roths' questions and issues were resolved. By midweek Mr. Flurry received a letter stating why he [Mr. Roth] could no longer remain in the church or a minister. Don Roth was marked for mailing information to attract a following for himself."
Doubts about book
Concerning Mike Okamura's skepticism about Malachi's Message and other PCG teachings, Mr. Leap stated:
"In his employment interview, Mike was asked specifically if he had any doubts about Malachi's Message or other PCG teachings. He told Mr. Flurry that he had none. It came as quite a surprise to discover that He had serious doubts about PCG doctrine.
"His doctrinal doubts began to surface within months of his hiring. We worked with Mike many times to resolve his problems. He did spread his personal ideas about the God family and the church's future role to our members. His ideas do not square with what Herbert Armstrong taught. Our question: Why wasn't he completely honest with Mr. Flurry at the time of his hiring?"
Concerning Mr. Okamura's "four questions," regarding Joshua, whether the church is God's son or Jesus' bride, whether the PCG is in possession of the seventh lamp and are the brethren rich and increased with goods, Mr. Leap responded:
"Mike Okamura was told that his four questions would be answered at the 1998 ministerial conference. His doctrinal problems came to a crisis point and he was not permitted to attend the conference. These questions have been answered in a Bible study.
Loss of membership
In answer to Randy Schafer's comments about the decline in membership of the PCG, Mr. Leap stated:
"As with all WCG offshoots, some disgruntled members and ministers have left us. No one is being held captive. However, the facts show that the work of the PCG is stronger than ever before. We are able to advertise an 800 number on the Key of David, making it easy for interested people to request literature. We have begun a newsstand program, patterned exactly after the one developed under Mr. Armstrong, that is quickly blossoming. And we assume that KTLA and the Family Channel are representative of our sustained income."
More criticism of book
Concerning Mr. Schafer's criticism of Malachi's Message:
"When Malachi's Message was first published, Randy Schafer wholeheartedly supported it. In fact, he encouraged many others to support it. Our membership in Minnesota is proof of his support.
"The PCG does believe that Malachi's Message is more than a human work. We believe it was inspired by God. We also firmly believe that Malachi's Message is the little book of Revelation 10. Our beliefs about Malachi's Message as the little book are well documented in our publications. Our belief has not changed.
"The PCG has never claimed that Malachi's Message is Scripture. It has been updated to reflect current events within the WCG and other WCG offshoots. At the time of new printings some typos have also been corrected."
Mr. Flurry as prophet
Concerning criticism of the PCG's alleged teaching that Gerald Flurry is a prophet, Mr. Leap stated:
"The PCG ministry and members firmly believe that Mr. Flurry is fulfilling the ministerial office of a prophet as described in Ephesians 4:11. Mr. Flurry does not see visions or go into trances. However, God does give him new understanding from the prophecies as already recorded in the Bible."
Questioning the ministry
Regarding criticism that the PCG will not brook members questioning elders, Mr. Leap commented:
"PCG ministers have been taught from the start of the PCG to allow members to talk about or discuss anything. I know for a fact that Mr. Flurry has allowed all of the three men, recently interviewed by you, to ask him any question. The PCG ministry also follows his example.
"However, the PCG ministry also expects that the person raising the question or issue come in a right attitude. There have been times when disgruntled members and ministers wanted to just argue. Nowhere in the Bible is a minister required to listen to a heated, argumentative person."
Testing one's leaders
On allegations that Mr. Flurry disallows members to "test" their leaders, Mr. Leap stated:
"Mr. Flurry stands firm on his belief that members should test their leaders. He states this emphatically in Malachi's Message. This belief is founded on the principle established in 1 John 4:1. Some disgruntled members have misused and misapplied this scripture to a minister's personal life, evaluating everything from the style of his necktie to his choice of beef. Recently, on a tape, Mr. Flurry explained that our members must be careful how they use this scripture. It is a spiritual principle and should be applied spiritually. Randy [Schafer] is lifting Mr. Flurry's statements made on that [audio-] tape out of context."
To order a copy of Malachi's Message or subscribe to the PCG's Philadelphia Trumpet magazine, write the PCG at P.O. Box 3700, Edmond, Okla. 73083.
The Journal is available from P.O Box 1020, Big Sandy, Texas 75755, U.S.A., and http://www.thejournal.org.
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