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Don't throw baby out with bathwater
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Don’t throw baby out with bathwater
By Wesley White

The writer was a member of the Worldwide Church of God from 1971 until 1983. He was a member of the Church of God International from 1984 to 1989 and a member of the Church of God (Seventh Day) from 1991 to 1995. He regularly attends Sabbath services of the Church of God Big Sandy.

CARROLLTON, Texas—I'll admit right from the beginning that I lived a life of privilege while a member of the Worldwide Church of God.

Almost immediately after I was baptized, in 1971, I began giving guitar lessons to the district superintendent of my local church area. The poor man had no ear for music, but I was able to teach him a few chords and some strumming techniques.

My relationship with this high-ranking minister got me out of a lot of scrapes. As a result of my friendship with him, I got away with long hair and hippy clothes that other young guys in the church were corrected for. I was given permission to put together church events like sing-alongs.

About a year later a ministerial trainee was assigned to our congregation. He was a few years younger than I and (having being raised a church kid) had never been allowed to pursue his dream of playing in a rock band.

By that time I had several years of experience in bands so I suggested he and I start a church band.

He jumped at the chance, and we played several church dances and wedding receptions.

Again, being close friends with someone in the ministry enabled me to do things that normal guys my age in the church wouldn't dare dream of doing.

Lucky me

I was soon accepted to attend Ambassador College and again was fortunate to be able to make friendships with the right people at the right time. None of this was due to greatness on my part; I was just lucky.

That being said, no one can accuse me of not being able to get over the past. I have things to repent of, and I continue to work on overcoming. But I have nothing to get over because I was never mistreated while in the WCG.

But what about those who were? It is fashionable to declare the following: "They need to get over it. They need to forgive. They need to quit living in the past."

If you make these types of statements, I'm sorry to tell you that you are wrong.

Happened all the time

In dealing with this problem, our first step is to acknowledge that there were countless incidents in the WCG of members being mistreated simply because they were not high in the system of ranks that existed. It's hard to find someone who lived through the WCG experience who did not witness members being abused. It happened all the time.

I remember in the '70s when we used to have Saturday-night shows in the Frontier Room of Ambassador Hall on the Pasadena campus. Students would perform folk songs and read poetry. We would sell pizza and Cokes. The environment was wholesome and friendly.

One evening several hooligans marched into the room, glared menacingly at us and loudly left.

I asked if we should call security. Surely the campus police would want to check out this band of ruffians and probably ask them to leave the campus.

I was told: "Oh, no. We can't do that. One of them is the son of Mr. [prominent minister]."

I suppose we could fill books with the stories of kids of high-ranking ministers who picked on, humiliated and abused kids of regular church members.

Why bring this up so many years after the WCG has crashed and burned on the rocks of doctrinal lunacy? Because people are still out there who have rejected God's truth over these issues.

It is unfortunate that these folks have rejected wonderful Bible doctrines simply because so many ministers (with the help of their wives and kids) did not know how to wield power over little ones.

These offended little ones haven't figured out that, even if these men were terribly flawed, the truths taught by the WCG were the truth.

What is the lesson for us today? I can think of two:

  • We should never stand for a religious environment in which men have power over the brethren. If history teaches us anything, it is that (even in the church) man finds it virtually impossible to have power over others without eventually misusing that power.

  • The second lesson is that each of us has a responsibility to reach out to these hurting people whenever possible.

If you know of someone who has thrown out the baby (God's truth) with the bathwater (abuse of power), you should do all you can to help that person. Let him know there are churches out there that would love to serve him, not by lording it over him but by sincerely serving.

These people should be encouraged to find healing in churches that are not hierarchical in nature.

But suppose you attend a church that is hierarchical? Then perhaps you should consider encouraging these folks to attend a church that is not that way.

You may be comfortable with attending a hierarchical church, but I hope you are willing to help an injured brother by encouraging him to attend a church in which there is much less likelihood of little ones being abused by men of rank.

Finally, we must never wash our hands of such people. We must never harshly tell them to get over it.

It is not that simple for people who have been abused. They would love nothing more than to snap their fingers and say, "I have been healed."

It takes some people longer than others to be healed of abuse.

Love the abuser, not the abuse

If there is one lesson to be learned about healing in God's church, it is this: We do indeed see healings. But we don't see healing all the time.

When you see someone who is not immediately healed of cancer, do you disgustedly tell that person to get over it? No, you don't. And neither should you talk flippantly with those who have not yet been healed of emotional and verbal abuse, whether it has come from family or hierarchical ministers.

God's people should be quick to forgive and quick to love both abusers and those who have been abused. Whenever possible, let's reach out to our hurting brothers and sisters.

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