Saturday, August 2, 2014

Suicide in the Philadelphia Church of God

We at ABD were saddened this week to hear about a Philadelphia Church of God member who is reported to have taken her own life in response to PCG's "no-contact policy." It is also reported that PCG is downplaying the tragedy by claiming the woman died of heart failure - an unlikely story for a 30-year-old. I suppose it's possible the method she used eventually caused heart failure. Regardless, we pray for her husband, her family and all affected by this unnecessary tragedy.

Life in the Churches of God is often a lonely existence, but PCG takes it to a whole new level. PCG twists scriptures discouraging fellowship with people who live sinful lifestyles (like fornication, drunkenness and extortion) to force members to cut off contact with family members who are not members of the group. 

In his Pastor General's report on the edict, (Dec. 10, 2005, Vol. 2, No. 39), Gerald Flurry cites 2 Thessalonians 3:6, which states that "We command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us."

You may recall back in 2010 with parents abandoned their teenage daughter when she expressed a desire to leave the Philadelphia Church of God. You can read our article "PCG Parents Abandon Teen Daughter" if you need a refresher on that.

Gerald Flurry then has this to say regarding contact with the "Laodiceans" - presumably friends and family members who are not members of his particular splinter.
"Certainly all the Laodicean groups are walking disorderly. They're not walking after the traditions given to us by God's government through Mr. Armstrong. We have to look upon people that are in the Laodicean churches as being disfellowshipped. Revelation 11:1-2 says they've been cast out, they have been put out of the Church of God. We must not keep company or fellowship with them by going to restaurants and things like that."
Revelation 11 barely makes sense in this context, but 2 Thessalonians 3 does appear to speak to the topic. Reading the context of the rest of the chapter, however, reveals that Paul was telling the Thessalonians not to support idle brethren who refused to work and instead spent their days in gossip and disorderly conduct. It's hardly a command to cut off conduct with relatives whose primary "sin" is not to recognize Flurry as "That Apostle" or keep his traditions. As usual, a COG group uses a single scripture as a proof-text used to promote fear, control and isolation.

One would expect a group that elevates Exodus 20:8-11 above most of the New Testament would treat Exodus 20:12 with equal gravity. However, instead of encouraging her to honor her parents, PCG ordered this young woman to cut off contact with them. Those familiar with the situation report that her depression spiraled out of control, and she committed suicide.

It's unlikely that Jesus Christ expected His followers to cut off contact with unbelieving family members. In Mark 7:11-12, he condemned the Pharisees for shirking their familial duty to take care of their aging parents by declaring their material possessions as "corban" - a gift to God. And if He had cut off contact with his half-brother James (who was not one of Jesus' original followers), we would probably only have 26 books in the New Testament. While Jesus taught those who lose relatives for the gospel's sake will be blessed, the context indicates He was encouraging those suffering in those damaged relationships - not commanding them to sever all ties.

We personally know parents of PCG members who have only learned of children's serious injuries through local newspaper reports, thanks to PCG's "no contact" policies. We have seen elder care fumbled when PCG members refuse to be in their aging parent's house at the same time as their "Laodicean" siblings. We have witnessed the hurt of new parents whose PCG family refuses to see a new grandchild. And now the blood of this young woman is on their hands. May God use this tragedy to His glory - to awaken her husband, friends and brethren to the toxic, controlling environment in the PCG and lead them out before it happens again.

And for those of you shaking your heads from other COG groups, don't think it couldn't happen to you. Your apple fell from the same tree. Your friends and family might currently attend a more stable splinter, but that doesn't mean they always will. And it happens on a smaller scale each time you split and splinter, or each time one of your friends leaves "The Church." We have all suffered the sting of unofficial COG policies limiting contact - or made someone else suffer - at one time or another. 


Jesus died so that you could have an abundant life, not cower alone in the shadows. Make today the day you leave behind the fear, anxiety and isolation. Embrace the love, joy and peace your Creator wants for you, that He died for you to have.   


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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11
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2 comments:

Jonathan said...

May I add another scripture that has remained impressed on my mind and lifts me up every time I reflect on leaving the UCG. It's John 9 and the story about the blind man Yahushua haMashiach healed that IMHO poignantly illustrates the toxic and destructive culture that exists within Armstrongist cults today, but also permeated Jewry during Yahusha's time. The religious leaders disfellowship the blind man whom Yahushua has healed (v. 34) and after hearing about this, like the Good Shepherd that He is, our Lord goes in search of him and upon finding him assures him of salvation through Him alone not through any other man or some institution (vv. 35-41). In fact, after watching an Australian documentary "Code of Silence" regarding Manny Waks's ordeal at the hands of Jewry after he alleged abuse as a youth and the isolation he and his father experienced from other family members and the wider Jewish community in his pursuit for justice it seems that this kind of bullying mentality is not limited to the ACOGs at all, but has been around for millennia. Maranatha Yahushua!

xHWA said...

You certainly may. Thank you for your addition, Jonathan.