MD Interview


Former members of the WCG who are willing to talk openly about the church are by no means common. In this, the first of a series of interviews with people who are willing to share their story, Gavin Rumney talks with Pam Dewey. 
Pam Dewey with mascot Jonathan Livingstone Eagle

Gavin: What was it that led you to join the WCG?

Pam: My husband started getting the Plain Truth in high school. He had answered an ad in a Capper's Farmer magazine for free copies of "1975 in Prophecy," "Will Russia Rule America," and a free PT subscription. He never really paid any attention to any of the "doctrinal" articles, just the prophetic speculation. And thus he began attempting to preach prophecy to his classmates. They weren't impressed.

We got married in 1965 after a whirlwind courtship (he proposed on the third date, we got married less than a month later.) And thus I hadn't a clue about his religious interests. And I had none of my own. My parents had been disinterested in religion, and we attended church together only on Easter. I had been sprinkle-baptized in grade school in a Pilgrim Holiness church where I had gone with an aunt, and dabbled in a variety of churches as a teen ... mostly based on the religious preference of my latest boyfriend. But I had never even opened a Bible to read it in my life. And I was basically an agnostic by the time I arrived at Michigan State University as a freshman in 1964.

Thus when George brought home a stack of PTs from his parents' home shortly after our marriage in May 1965, I viewed them as a bunch of fanatic religious garbage, and told him so. But since I took the summer term off from classes about then, and he was working full time, I had a lot of time alone and bored, so I took to reading them. There was a series on Creation vs. Evolution in the magazines at the time, and since I had been a student of evolution at university, I was convinced I could de-bunk the claims of the magazines, and set out to do so. I spent some time in the university library science stacks trying to find info that would refute the claims they were making, and I fired off letters to Pasadena defying them on such matters as carbon-14 dating. But they had an answer for everything, and within months they had me convinced.

And once I decided there might be something to this Creation stuff,  I realized there might be something to this Bible stuff too. And I ended up devouring the whole stack of PTs and falling for the whole package hook, line, and sinker. We got the "Military Service and War" booklet that year, and right about that time George was re-classified 1-A for the draft. So he applied to his draft board as a Conscientious Objector, and listed "Herbert W Armstrong" on his application as his minister. His exemption was granted, and he volunteered to do alternate service in a local hospital. By December, we had given up Xmas, and were tithing to Ambassador College (we knew nothing about the Radio Church of God at the time) on his meager $1.35 an hour wage.

Although I wrote that fall in 1965 to Pasadena asking about baptism, we somehow fell through the cracks evidently, and we didn't hear from them about that until fall 1967. At that point, two "Ambassador representatives" showed up at our door to talk about baptism. We had no idea it was a church pastor and his deacon, and that there was a church congregation about an hour away from us at that time. Since 1972 was fast approaching,  and they were expecting persecution on the church before the start of the Great Tribulation, they were very tight-lipped at the time. We honestly just thought the whole organization was an "evangelistic outreach" or something ... we had tried looking up "Radio Church of God" in phone books to no avail, so decided that was just a catchy name for the evangelistic ministry and there was no real denomination involved.

After determining that I didn't wear makeup and we both seemed to agree with most of the booklets we had read (there was very little real "Bible" knowledge discussed) they invited us to a baptism counseling in January 1968. I was baptized that night (after the minister had made it clear in front of everyone that my skirts were too short, and I had agreed to remedy that immediately). George went off to a side room to counsel, and came back out and announced he would be waiting until later for baptism. (I hadn't realized he was still smoking, and when he confessed that to the minister, he was put on hold.) He was later baptized in August that year.

And thus began our ten years of enthusiastic, faithful membership in the organization ... which ended with the chaos in 1978 when GTA was kicked out. We were marked and disfellowshipped in January 1979, two days before the Receivership was imposed on the WCG. We foolishly joined up with GTA and the Church of God, International, at that point. George was ordained in 1980,  and served as a CGI pastor from then until we left that organization in disgust in 1988.

Gavin:  Are there any positives that came out of your WCG experience?

Pam: Although it was possible to end up just totally brainwashed by the church's doctrinal package, there really was an emphasis on Bible study that is unusual in most Protestant churches. If you were diligent to follow every suggestion of the church ... which I was ... you really did learn to use Bible helps like concordances, memorize the books of the Bible in order so you could follow along during sermons, relate Bible incidents to history, and many other such skills.

Looking back,  I believe many of the things in the old Bible Correspondence course (the one with about 50 lessons) were in error. But if you went along with all of the instructions, you actually wrote out in long-hand all the scriptures you were reading. And thus it was possible to internalize an awful lot of the Bible ... much of it passages which few Protestants ever even get around to reading.

Back in 1989,  I was sitting in a hospital waiting room with my mother while my father was in for surgery. Waiting with us was their Church of Christ pastor. He and I struck up a conversation, and before I knew it I was explaining to him our sojourn in the WCG and CGI. He asked many questions about my doctrinal understanding, and before the day was out, he said something like, "Wow... you make me ashamed at how little I know my Old Testament. I wish you were going to be staying in the area so we could do some in-home Bible study."  I have had similar experiences a number of times talking to Protestant ministers, regarding my understanding of both Old and New Testaments. And not only have I been able to do Bible studies with several of them, they have allowed me to teach Bible classes to their congregations--even though they understood that I was a non-Trinitarian Sabbatarian. Although I have done a lot of independent Bible study since we left the WCG, I credit the groundwork of study that I did there as the foundation for many opportunities I have had since that time to teach.

Gavin: What were the issues that led you to leave the church?

Pam: When HWA kicked GTA out of the church in 1978 and began a "disinformation" campaign in all of the organization's publications to attack his son and every change that had been made in the church in recent years, George and I were totally bewildered. Because within weeks I noticed absolute, bald-faced lies being stated over Herbert's signature. And twisting of scriptures, and falsifying of history.

As a pack-rat, I had faithfully kept almost every piece of paper that had ever entered our home sent out from Pasadena ... all the coworker letters, all the PTs and GNs and Tomorrow's World, all the Worldwide News and everything besides. In the summer of 1978 I sat in the middle of my living room floor with all of it stacked around me, and with a 3X5 box of cards. Then I'd take the latest letter from Pasadena, or the latest screaming Worldwide News article from Herbert, and start lining up the dogmatic statements with my memory ... which kept saying "No, that is NOT true". So I'd look up the documentation proving that what was now being said was lies or distortions of reality. Herbert would write "I never said..." and I'd find the exact document in which he had INDEED "said." Sometimes it was so blatant that he would make statements in the Worldwide News one month, and deny that he ever said any such thing a month or two later. And when the literature began openly calling him "God's Anointed," ( a title that belongs only to Jesus Christ),  and he declared the validity of the Primacy of Peter doctrine (essentially making himself a Sabbatarian Pope) I was utterly convinced he'd gone off the deep end.

I tried to be as discreet as possible in sharing my findings and questions with others,  but the Gestapo was in full operation, so we were under suspicion very quickly. On the Feast of Trumpets 1978, the local pastor, Nelson Haas, ranted from the pulpit that if anyone was confused by what was occurring in the church, they were allowing Satan to deceive them. Everything was wonderful and couldn't possibly be any better.

After the feast, I wrote to him and said, "Nelson, it is NOT a sin to be confused in the midst of confusion!" I can't remember what the rest of the letter said, but it wasn't pretty; and he probably didn't like me referring to him by his first name [said with a smile].  We attended services only once after that Feast. The last time we tried to go, our little daughter threw up in the back seat of the car on the way, and we were thrilled to have the excuse to turn around and go home.

Then came Thanksgiving weekend, 1978. We were at some friends'  home for the weekend (COG members who shared our concerns.) We sat and watched the TV in horror as the reports came in of the "Jonestown Massacre," in which over 900 people died at a religious compound in Guyana. They had been given poisoned Kool-Aid which they drank, and many gave it to their children to drink, all at the urging of a mad-man named Jim Jones whom they believed to be inspired by God.

As we watched the events unfold, I turned to George and said, "That is the mind-set of far too many in the Worldwide Church of God. I can't go back."  We agreed that unless some miracle happened and the incredible corruption at Pasadena was exposed and expunged, we would have nothing more to do with the organization. For the next month, we kept hoping that something WOULD happen (we knew via the grapevine that the Receivership was coming, and hoped that might really succeed.) But it was too late ... during that time, we had talked on the phone to a friend in the church who shared our concerns. We asked him if he would like a radio log for the GTA program, and he said "Yes." So I sent him one. The next day,  when he was at church, someone asked in a conversational group if anyone had heard from the Deweys lately. Our friend mentioned he had received a letter from us. A deacon in the group reported this to the pastor. And the pastor called our friend and demanded that he bring the letter to services the following week. Our friend did so, but before the pastor even saw the letter, he marked and disfellowshipped us from the pulpit, giving some vague reason having to do, I suppose, with "sowing division."

So that was the end of that.

Gavin: Do you believe that the WCG is a substantially better, healthier environment now than then?

Pam: Absolutely not. From everything I have been able to determine, the exact same abusive control methods wielded by Armstrong have been wielded for years by the Tkaches. The doctrines may have changed (some for the better, some for the worse) but the Government of God heresy has stayed the same.

Gavin:  If you had the chance to shake hands today with Joe Tkach (or GTA, or whoever) what message would you most want to convey to him given that opportunity?

Pam: "You may have been able to fool some of the people all of the time, and almost all of the people some of  the time. But you haven't fooled God. Repent ... or prepare for the wrath to come."  [said with a smile]

ALL of these self-appointed men who have been in positions of dictatorial or near dictatorial "power over" others (including the power to separate friends and families over "organizational loyalties" via disfellowshipment) have abused the sheep of God,  and have NEVER had "God's approval" on their ministries.

Gavin: What ministries do you recommend to people who are looking for an alternative to Armstrongism? 

Pam: For those who may still observe the Sabbath and Holy Days, and yet reject much of the prophetic speculation, abuse of "church government," and other evils and foolishness of the Armstrong system, one source of helpful information is Norm Edwards' "Servants' News" ministry and magazine. Norm has written two of the "definitive" research articles refuting some of the worst of Armstrongism, "How Do We Give to the Eternal?" and "How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans?" These have received wide distribution in Church of God circles in recent years. And Norm's "Servants' News magazine" has been a reliable source of information about what has happened and is still happening in the split-offs of WCG since the magazine began in 1994.

I worked with Norm on a volunteer basis from 1996 through 1999 doing writing, editing, research and office work for the ministry. I found him to be totally sincere and dedicated to providing accurate information and encouragement to those seeking to move from bondage to freedom out of the Armstrong system. I don't necessarily endorse every article published in his publications, but can affirm his integrity as a person selflessly dedicated to service to the brethren. The ministry is totally funded by free-will offerings, and honestly doesn't ever overtly "solicit" donations. Norm publishes an excruciatingly forthright financial statement available at any time to the public, and sends out all literature, including the thick monthly magazine (printed loose-leaf so it can easily be photocopied to share with others) free of charge.

You can download these articles, as well as the whole archive of back magazine issues and more, at  Click on "Literature List" if you want to find the giving and government articles.

For those interested in a teaching ministry with no strings attached, I don't think one can do better than Ron Dart's Christian Educational Ministries. Ron avoids the prophetic speculation and church government nonsense I mentioned above, and provides teaching tapes and a radio evangelistic outreach that is pretty much middle-of-the-road doctrinally from a Sabbatarian perspective. He is a gifted speaker and teacher and many find his tapes on such subjects as the Epistles of Paul very helpful for Bible Study. CEM is a "service organization" that provides educational materials, not a "church" per se.  They don't ordain ministers or oversee congregations. They do sponsor an independent Feast of Tabernacles site, with about a 1000 in attendance, that is organized every year by a corps of volunteers from a variety of religious affiliations. They particularly do well in providing a full program of educational and recreational activities for kids and teens at the feast.  We attended the CEM feast site in 2000 and intend to be there this fall. I will be presenting a seminar at that Feast site related to the topic of my Field Guide website.

I don't believe anyone should look to ANY man, including Norm or Ron, as their "teacher" or "guru." These men are no spiritual giants, just sincere servants who may be able to provide some helpful assistance to folks who are now responsible for their own spiritual growth ... not satisfied to be unendingly spoon fed and told what to think for decades by a church organization.

Gavin: What are the pros and cons of being an "independent" COG member?

Pam: The "pros" include:

1. Being forced to take responsibility for one's own  relationship to God.
2. Freedom from interference by men with one's daily life and choices
3. Freedom to create fellowship environments in which the spiritual gifts of ALL can be used to edify the Body. No longer should anyone have to settle for "spectator religion" in which one or a tiny few of the people in a fellowship group "perform" up front while everyone else is merely a "consumer".
4. Freedom to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit on how to invest one's time,  energies and resources in the service of God

The "cons" include perhaps limited opportunities for weekly fellowship with those of likemind. The mass media evangelism of the WCG created a widely scattered church population, with few places where there was a truly "local" church ... people often drove an hour or more to gather with others who believed the same things. And now with the fragmentation of even those scattered groups, many are left "one to a town and two to a city".

Another "con" is the increased exposure to wandering wolves who seek to drag the unwary off into spiritual goofiness. I don't think it's good for people to be so sheltered by a doctrinal cage or an organization that they never learn to think for themselves. But there really is a Biblical "role" for spiritually mature people ... elders ... in a flock who can help the immature to sort through the winds of doctrine. When people are widely scattered and have little regular fellowship with stable, mature Christians, some tend to be tossed to and fro by those winds a lot more easily. I am not speaking here of an artificial "clergy/laity" division, in which  "religious experts" do all the thinking for others. The issue is not "ordained" men who dictate to others what to think, but truly spiritually mature men and women who can mentor "babes in Christ" and help them grow in discernment and spiritual maturity.

Gavin: Given that the Church of God movement is undergoing continued rapid change, what do you see as the "best case scenario" five years down the track?

Pam: From my perspective, the "best case" would be for the last dregs of the Armstrong "system" to be totally dismantled. In other words, the collapse of all of the "corporate institutions" which claim to have inherited the mantle of Armstrong,  or to be "carrying on (or finishing) HWA's work."  Armstrong HAD no "mantle" from God, and "The Work" that he badgered people to give sacrificially to for decades was not God's work.  The man taught some truth that was Biblical. But that truth is in the Bible itself, and needs no endorsement of the Armstrong name to be perpetuated.

But being realistic, I do not believe these institutions are going to be ended in the near future, surely not within five years. However, I believe that most will dwindle away as the "old guard" dies off. Gerald Flurry,  GTA,  and Rod Meredith's organizations will have no reason to exist once their gurus are dead and gone. Oh,  a few die-hard members may well keep on keeping on for decades more, but will be essentially tiny blips on the radar screen. The UCG has no real way to perpetuate its type of "corporate ministry" without an "Ambassador College". And it has neither the resources nor the brain power to create such an institution. So as its ministry dwindles and retires or dies off, I believe it will become essentially irrelevant and wither on the vine within the next decade or so. I wouldn't be surprised again to see those involved keep a semblance of SOMETHING going for many more years, but it would be but a faded shadow with no real reason for existence either, other than keeping together people who have kept together through the Church Wars.

The large movements such as the Seventh Day Adventist Church and the Jehovah's Witnesses survived the death of their founders because a strong central organization remained in place at the point of their death. They have since flourished because they were able to maintain their dictatorial hold on large groups of  followers. Each of those organizations had a number of groups that split off from them long ago, and although some of those little splits still exist, they are essentially impotent. They are "footnotes" in the books such as J Gordon Melton's "Encyclopedia of American Religions."  This is true even though their websites may, as many little COG HWA wannabees' sites do, proclaim them to be the One and Only Great Work of God on Earth.

Gavin: Tell us about your website.

Pam: When we left the CGI in 1988, I embarked on a research project to study as many religious groups through history as I could find which proclaimed that the End was going to occur in their own time, and/or proclaimed their group to be either the Only True Church on Earth, or the primary group through which God was working in their time. I wanted to understand the history and social/psychology of such groups and their leaders and members.

I eventually narrowed my field of interest to the new religious movements of the last two centuries which have influenced the religious scene in America to this day. I was amazed to find how utterly common the experiences we have all had in the WCG and its offshoots have been throughout history within a wide variety of Sabbatarian and non-Sabbatarian groups. The methods of control and abuse and deception which have been typical in Armstrongism have been nothing new. Stories from group after group sounded just like what I had been through, with only a few minor changes such as names and dates and places.

I have acquired a fairly extensive collection of books on a wide variety of movements and teachers, and have a growing computer archive of documentation on a large number of churches,  ministries, movements, gurus and teachers.

After I got on the Internet in 1996 and began posting on a number of forums frequented by former WCG members, my research interests became widely known. I began getting requests from far and wide for information on groups, churches, movements, gurus and teachers,  past and present. People wanted to know such things as what is the difference between "Pentecostal" and "Charismatic," what is the difference between the Seventh Day Adventist beliefs and the COG movement, to just who David J Smith,   Michael John Rood, and Robert Roenspies are.

For a long time, I kept writing new answers every time someone would send me an email requesting   information. But in the past couple of years, the requests have become so numerous that I decided it might be more practical and less time-consuming to compile the most relevant of the information from my archives and create a website where people could go to do their own research. I began this project last year, and the website went up in October 2001. I am expecting to condense a significant portion of the information that will eventually be on the site into book form and pitch it to a publisher so that it will be available to those who aren't on the Net. Although a significant proportion of the material originally posted to the site has been information on the Church of God movement, with particular emphasis on the ministry of Herbert Armstrong, I expect that material to eventually be only a minor section of the website. Even now, the largest proportion of people coming to the website do not go to the section on the WCG, but rather to profiles on a variety of Sabbatarian and non-Sabbatarian teachers, information on such groups as the SDAs and JWs, and information on the Charismatic movement.

The site is called "Little Sheep's Field Guide to the Wild World of Religion." The primary emphasis of the site is to profile groups, movements and teachers about which I have serious concerns because of evidence of spiritual abuse, control, and/or deception. I attempt to first provide an accurate profile of each group and person and list their claims for themselves. Then I enumerate my concerns about the group or person, and document those aspects of their history, teachings and activities which have caused me my concern. I also provide links to other printed and Internet resources for further information, so that the reader may investigate the person or group to their own satisfaction and determine for themselves if my concerns are valid.

My website server provides detailed information about the traffic each month,  compiling statistics on where people were coming from when they arrived at the site (such as from a search on Yahoo), what portion of the site they came to first, what country they were coming from, even what words they were searching on at a search engine to get to my site. (This is all "general" information ... there is no tracking of individuals, just compiled numbers.) To date there have been over 14,000 visits to the site (over 200,000 "hits," which are downloads of files of pages or graphics) , with people coming from scores of countries around the world, from Bulgaria to Zimbabwe. I've been pleased to receive many fascinating emails from visitors all over the world who have been helped by the information. The website address is

[Pam Dewey can be reached at]