Web site to track ministries
By John Warren
Because of her background with religious groups and an interest in what she calls "cult watching," Pam Dewey of Allegan, Mich., has decided to combine her personal experience and years of research to produce a new Web site.
"The focus of the Web site will not be doctrine per se," Mrs. Dewey told The Journal. "Disagreements about the exact nature of the Godhead or is the Sabbath required for Christians or other debatable ideas are not included."
In other words, Mrs. Dewey's site is not concerned with "incorrect doctrinal teachings.
"What I am concerned about is methods of control or influence of the individual followers via deception--deliberate or unwitting. A deceived person can deceive others with a clear conscience."
Mrs. Dewey worries about "emotional and psychological control" in religious groups, as well as "dictatorial policies, alleged supernatural signs and wonders and so on."
Her religious background goes back to her college days at Michigan State University, where she met her future husband, George Dewey.
Mrs. Dewey earned a bachelor's degree in education from MSU in 1968 and continued graduate work in education and social sciences at the same school until 1974.
She first came in contact with the ministry of Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Radio/Worldwide Church of God, in 1958 through an advertisement placed by the Radio Church of God in Capper's Farmer magazine. She was in junior-high school at the time. The ad offered the booklets 1975 in Prophesy and Will Russia Rule America? along with a subscription to The Plain Truth, the church's magazine aimed at the public.
The Deweys married in 1965 and have one daughter, Ramona, born in 1970. In 1968 George and Pam were baptized as members of the Worldwide Church of God, headquartered in Pasadena, Calif.
"I was baptized in January 1968, and, after coming up out of the water, was shocked and surprised to be invited to start attending services," she said. "George was allowed to accompany me even though he was not baptized until August that same year."
Up to that time time the Deweys did not realize the WCG was more than an evangelistic work or that it had local congregations. They lived in Lansing, Mich., at the time and began traveling each Sabbath to Flint, Mich., for services, about a 90-minute drive.
Benny Hinn and Dan Gayman
On her Web site "I will include information and documentation on such widely diverse fellows as Benny Hinn and Dan Gayman and such diverse groups as the JWs [Jehovah's Witnesses] and the Promise Keepers. My target audience is the general public.
"However, there will be major sections which will undoubtedly have particular appeal to Sabbatarian COG folks."
A major part of the site will include documentation and commentary on Sabbath-keeping and non-Sabbatarian movements, ministries, teachings and concepts that she believes are of "particular concern" because of "possible spiritual harm to the unwary" they can do.
She lumps her concerns into the category of "spiritual abuse."
"George and I became members of the WCG in 1968," she said. "We were marked and disfellowshipped from that organization for disloyalty to the organizational government in January 1979, the same week the receivership was imposed in Pasadena."
(California's attorney general placed the WCG under a legal restraint called receivership that lasted until the church brought a successful lawsuit to overturn it).
"We then affiliated with the CGI [Church of God International, founded by Mr. Armstrong's son, Garner Ted Armstrong, in 1978]. George was ordained as a CGI minister in 1980 and pastored the only CGI congregation in Michigan at the time."
In March 1988 Mr. Dewey resigned form the CGI ministry, and the Deweys left the CGI as a result of "disillusionment with the headquarters leadership," Mrs. Dewey said.
However, "we have retained the standard set of COG doctrinal distinctives. We keep Sabbath and holy days, don't observe Christmas and Easter, don't eat unclean meats, etc. But we have been unaffiliated with any denominational organization since that time."
In the interim Mrs. Dewey has written, edited and researched for Norman Edwards' ministry. Mr. Edwards, of Perry, Mich., publishes a newsletter, Servants' News, which began in 1996.
"Around the time we left CGI, I decided to investigate where God might be working among various Sabbatarian groups not connected historically to the Worldwide Church of God," said Mrs. Dewey. "I took the Bible Sabbath Association's directory of Sabbath-keeping groups, 1986 edition, and wrote to every group listed. I explained that I was a Sabbatarian and was looking for fellowship."
She asked each Sabbath-observing group a question: Why do you think I should affiliate with your group over any other specific Sabbatarian group?
"I received answers from most of the groups, and I was dismayed to find a large percentage of them to be extremely idiosyncratic, exclusivist, and/or downright strange."
So she embarked on a study of religious movements, both Sabbatarian and non-Sabbatarian, down through history.
"I particularly focused my studies on three kinds of non-Roman Catholic groups." They were:
Frequently, she said, she found groups and teachers who had all three characteristics. The more she studied certain religious movements, the more she found fascinating how they fit in with the other religious movements around them.
So she broadened her research even more to include the whole panorama of influential religious movements outside the mainstream and old-line Protestant churches.
Mrs. Dewey also narrowed her research to emphasize movements, ministries, teachers and religious ideas of the past 200 years.
Because of her intimate involvement with the Sabbatarian Churches of God for more than 20 years, she is especially interested in ideas, teachers and movements that in any way intersect with or have affected the Churches of God. Her studies have become widely known enough that other researchers contact her to help them track down information about specific groups and leaders.
Talking the talk
Some simply need help in deciphering what she calls "religious lingo." She can often identify an organization's background simply by reading a few paragraphs while noting the "idiosyncratic religious buzzwords they use."
"You cannot look up in the average dictionary terms like preterism, cessationist, Oneness Pentecostal, spiritual gifts, Satan's seed, pretribulation rapture, slain in the spirit or Hebrew roots. The world of religion develops its own buzzwords, and, for those who are unfamiliar with a specific teacher's background, these kinds of words can confuse rather than clarify."
Since compiling such information into a usable form to share with someone is so time-consuming, Mrs. Dewey decided it would make sense to pull her most useful information and documentation together and organize it in an easily searchable form on the Internet.
See it all at www.isitso.org/guide.
"I expect to have the Web site fully operational by the last week of September," she said, "before we leave for the Feast of Tabernacles. I plan to have major sections up, with just some under-construction signs, by the end of August."
Mrs. Dewey receives E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or write her at 705 Vista Ct., No. 3, Allegan, Mich. 49010, U.S.A.
© The Journal: News of the Churches of God