Was it painful to walk away from my reputation, position (Church Elder) and friends held dear for 35 years? Extremely, excruciating. Did I meet good examples of Christianity and come in contact with wonderful people and have good times there? Yes, I did. Could I have gone away quietly and never said a word about the negative things I encountered? Well, If I were a different person, probably so, but that’s not me, and I’m glad it’s not. From the feedback I’ve gotten over the last few months, it was helpful to others and myself to air out the truth of what I see. It was important to break the code of silence, “the smile and don’t talk about it” syndrome that had remained in the back rooms, on phone calls and in corners after church services for many, many years. I needed to have truth and genuineness in my life.
And after years of hoping things would change and then realizing that Gino would never be able to fulfill his calling to teach and, that we couldn’t teach the bible as we understood it in the current atmosphere without suffering serious blow-back and creating a conflict, we decided to salvage the time we had left and peacefully move on.
I told one friend who was complaining about the conditions of the organization, that I had toyed with the idea of writing a treatise to Pastors I knew, about what I was seeing and remind them what the Bible says. It was going to be a test to see if I could get any movement out of them since I noticed that the efforts I had made so far, garnered little to no response. I had been ignored. So I finally realized that all the effort would probably be buried or thrown in a circular file. My friend told me, “Well if you do write something like that, I think you should pack your bags”. Very true. Enough said.
My blogging has helped me focus on my beliefs, on my next steps, and saved me emotionally. I’m grateful to my readers for sticking with me on this journey.
As promised (see Part 1), here is a list of the things that changed me:
The View of Being Exclusive and Special in the Christian World
My husband and I discussed and studied these scriptures: Mark Chapter 9:38-40 and Philippians 1:15-18.
38 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.40 For he that is not against us is on our part.
15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel.18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
God is not confined to one organization. Christ is in anyone who is forgiven, born again and loves and obeys his word. He doesn’t want us to approach other Christians with a judgmental eye and suspicion. According to God’s Word, He can use people that have no profession of Christianity at all for His purposes. He is just that wide and deep and powerful. As I read and meditated on these scriptures, the closed mindset that only people from the Church of God organization can teach you or give you light began to fade. I saw that the New Testament does not support group-ism and exclusivity in the spread of the gospel. I realized that such self-righteous attitudes were neither biblically-based nor godly.
I know from having been in the system 35 years, members and their children believe professing Christians outside of our little group are not really saved. I’ve seen the internal reaction against members visiting other churches. I’ve seen parents not accept the salvation of children because they decide to attend a non-Church of God congregation. Anyone that works with people outside of the Church of God is labeled “ecumenical” and part of the 8th Beast of the book of revelations.
The Changing View of the Body of Christ
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: — Ephesians 4
Ephesians 4 and I Corinthians 12 describe the views of the body of Christ.
Increasingly, over the years, Ephesians 4:11 which teaches a completely equal ministry and I Corinthians 12 teaches balance in the entire body of Christ and the necessity of all gifts, has been abandoned in favor of another version of the body of Christ where the head is the Pastor and all other parts of the body are subservient to Pastors. Thus there is no equality in the ministry or in the full use of ministerial gifts or influence. If a person says the Lord is leading them in anything, and the Pastor does not “see” it, then the Pastor’s opinion takes precedence over God ‘s leading and the poor person must wait on the Pastor’s approval. So rather than being accountable to God, a person becomes accountable to the Pastor. This may sometimes take years. This is not a biblical functioning of the body of Christ but it’s entrenched in the system. As a result, very few people find their place in the Kingdom because the Spirit of Christ is not given the liberty to work with the body as he sees fit.
The partiality of Pastors and other leaders, based on who they liked or didn’t or who paid tithes well. The decline in genuine love. This included the treatment of women and children.
James 2: 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?… 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.
As a minister and being privy to many counsels and cases, it became apparent to me that this new group of Pastors and ministers seemed biased against women. Over the last 15 years I noticed that for many marital issues that came up, the woman was seen as the problem. The woman had to make changes in her behavior but very rarely the man. This was even in cases of physical abuse against the wife.
There seemed to be a decline of women in the ministry due to these attitudes from the leaders. Sadly, in the early years of the Church of God, a large number of women were leaders in the church and we historically had a better record than most denominations but this has changed.
Some have bragged from the pulpit that they are male chauvinists. Others state that they don’t believe in women preachers and this seems to now be accepted. After studying the scripture from Genesis to Revelation, I could not find God viewing the woman as inferior nor any directive that she could not lead men. This is a change in teaching that I could not support. An interesting article about the decline in support of women in leadership and past examples of female leadership in our denomination.
I also noticed that love and actions of love were reserved for only those we were trying to win to the Church of God or people already in the church (and that barely).
Mind control of the people masked as obedience to the Pastor.
Their interpretation of: Hebrews 13:17
17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
The reality is that this was often carried out with authoritarian zeal. How Pastors saw themselves in the lives of their congregants came from misinterpreted views of the Pastor as an Old Testament King. It resulted in pastoral worship where people based their views and spirituality on the words of the Pastor. It resulted in stunted spiritual growth for the people, who were often treated like children. I remember being absolutely fearful of disobeying the Pastor as the man of God and hanging on to his every word. The real 411 on this was that such a mentality translated into fear. Some Pastors applauded this fear as humility on the part of the congregant, but in reality, this uneasiness in thinking for yourself resulted in the abuse of children, neglect, the break up of homes, job and career losses and in some cases death from not taking medication, all with the idea of being obedient to leadership or leadership’s vision of how to be a Christian.
Liberty in Christ
Romans 14: 1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
…where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. 2 Cor 3:17
This entire chapter had been barely touched or taught in the 35 years I’d been in the church, yet it’s practice is central to keeping unity in the body of Christ. To practice the correct understanding of this would cause too many problems under the Church of God’s structure. In reality, people did not have liberty to obey God as he lead. Everyone had to fit in like belonging to a social club. The leadership knows what these scriptures teach and they choose to stay away from or dig into this chapter and teach it. They are afraid people will not think the same things because they have a misinterpretation of I Corinthians 1:10. Christians were not intended to feel the same about every aspect of daily life. Any church organization that finds their standards and practices conflict with scripture and just ignores it or hold their standards above the requirements of scripture does not really respect the Word of God or the Spirit of God.
Consistent, unaddressed problems with division and sin among the ministry,while preaching about the Unity of God’s people and freedom from sin.
This was a constant problem and yes, it could be a problem anywhere except that, we taught fervently about a blameless ministry, bible unity, sang heartily about perfect fellowship and professed unfeigned love. We called division sin from the pulpit and thrashed false religion for being carnal and splitting off into Protestant factions, and becoming harlots of Roman Catholicism. I Corinthians 3 tells us that factions and division come from carnality, but among us, division is glossed over in a mild way and ignored. This is mostly because in the last 15 years there has been a decline in accountability to the Bible among the ministers. If you are a Pastor, you tend to be protected from strong judgment. Often the “Achan in the camp” are the people behind the pulpit.
The Teachings of D.S. Warner and His Associates
Reading one of the pioneers of the Church of God organization, C.W Naylor, really made me think. To see him outline the truth behind the revelation teachings, and reading there was a time that the Church of God people worked with anyone that taught holy living,— Baptist, Methodist, and Nazarene really opened my eyes to the purity of love for truth that has seemingly been discarded from the early years of our denomination. This is from a person that helped form the organization and he even acknowledges that many had gone too far in their fanaticism and didn’t understand that unity is NOT uniformity. Unfortunately, this notion of all being the same has caused a plethora of troubles that continue to this day. Link to booklet
We also realized looking back that after our older Pastor died, our presence was just tolerated in the church. The leaders for reasons we may never know did not like the idea of us both being ministers or maybe it was simply that we turned them off somehow. They definitely had a negative view of my husband and began to shut his influence down immediately after the older Pastor died. They all laid hands on him and accepted his call to the teaching ministry but when the Elder died, they had a different view. So I’m sure they are not too sad that we’ve moved up and out.
Additionally, the attitude about our leaving has been one of silent relief with the rumor mill going at full speed. They no longer have to pretend or listen. The ghosting and silence no longer stings me like it used to. I’m good. As evidence of this weirdness, consider that I’ve written about some of these issues YEARS BEFORE I left. I’ve sent private messages to Pastors and ministers who’ve read my thoughts, and they’ve made a point to not contact me or respond to me or my hubby about any of these issues. If one thinks a person is wrong or going spiritually astray, where is the love of God to engage in conversation or keep them from going down the wrong path? These are not strangers mind you, but people who have known us most of our lives. SMH. It’s all good though, God has blessed us and we continue in prayer with thanksgiving.