Life on the List
Editor's note: This is an email which I reprint with permission. It deals with the author's inclusion on this website's Hall of Shame page, and the Ministerial Apologies page.
I guess I can live out my life on the list. Just so you know. In the 70's I did not enforce people not going to doctors, had my kids immunized , told others to do the same as they could not make such decisions for innocent children whose health it was. I encouraged necessary surgeries without the guilt of chosing either God or the doc. I visited everyone in the hospital and anointed them if they wished. I told people who had sabbath job conflicts to go slow and the vast majority worked out. I told those who went for weekend work responsibilities that church would still be here next Sabbath. I told those that could not afford to go to FOT, to go nextyear and staying home was no shame. I told people on Social security to STOP giving so much to the church and those who could not 3rd tithe , which always bugged me as a practice, to not give what they did not have, or give a bit as they could. I told those who could not first tithe to simply do the best they could.
I knew I had gay's in the congregation and would never have put them out for being gay, and held the hand of the one while dying of Aids and had come to church when the church was still thinking they were some kind of unclean. I picked his ashes up at the funeral home and took them to his wife where we put them in his fishing tackle box and sent him home to Texas. I would have been kind and don't ask/don't tell in that environment of the times. I am much more educated this topic now than ever.
I guess as long as I'm at it. Never treated a member less than an equal. Said in sermons that where God speaks we can and where he doesn't we should call it opinions. Was not arrogant or you don't know me. Told kids NOT to go to AC, including my own, and follow their talents. Never put a couple together who did not wish to be together and never told a couple that made me feel uncomfortable NOT to be together. Never put a kid out for premarital sex. Never put an adult out for Adultery. Never put anyone out for smoking and never put anyone out for missing six weeks of church. I let more people back in church than you can imagine after OTHERS had put them out, to the consternation of deacons and elders. I told store owners NOT to close or clean out for UB and that it was a lesson for home, not a pain in the ass. A ministerial assistant went over my head and Joe Tkach Sr. sided with him to my absolute rage. I told the member to do what he wanted and I'd stand behind him.
I told people that Gerald Waterhouse was not correct and that his speculations were just that. I told elderly that they did not have to go and sit thru 4 hours of his dirge which I had to at least twice each visit to my simmering boredom. I told Gerald Waterhouse that he caused more problems with his visits than he solved and HQ that they needed to reign him in and ask him to find at least one other topic in his life he could devote himself to.
I did not cover the sins of the leadership. (I had a few of my own and no one to talk I trusted.) I wasn't in the loop and when I asked, I was told to basically mind my own business. I went back to helping the local church do what we thought we all were supposed to do and be. I did keep a lot inside hoping that it wasn't so. I was wrong. My sermons were anything but boring. I did not yell, I did not use shame, guilt or fear to motivate. I taught and when I realized I was wrong about a topic, I either stopped talking about it or I corrected myself. I am sorry that I was not told the bigger picture of christian origins that I now have, or I would have passed them on. When I started to pass them on toward the end, I was terminated and told that while I was right about a lot, it wasn't good stuff. I was also told that "Dennis, you know a lot about Jesus, but you don't know Jesus," which I considered an compliment as knowing a lot about Christian origins and how we got the Bible, its errancy and historical illusions really is knowing Jesus, and Paul and what really was going on thru history.
I hated offering time more than you can imagine and got right to the point of do the best you can. No smoozing, no pleading and I gave just as others gave. Not "having" to 3-T did not mean I did not give for the cause. Oh and I also paid about $140 a month for my free fleet car plus personal gas. I never made more than 32,000 a year as of '98 when terminated. If it helps, I make less than that now with my massage practice, so i guess that will teach me. My dad made more than me working for Kodak so I guess I just didn't milk the cash cow of religion enough. I also paid members who helped me on the few occasions I needed help with some kind of repair. I bought my own houses with help from parents and lost money on every damn move.
I gave great advice about sex but we won't go into that. I told people to back off the King of the Hill approach to child rearing and love them. I never shouted at a child in my life. I nver cared about whether one got a bit of pork in the beans nor did i check for dust or too much sugar. We all make our own choices. I did suggest to one depressed woman who drank 19 cokes a day she might want to reconsider the amount of sugar that was depressing her adrenals with and perhaps her depression was the five lbs of sugar she ate a day.
I never stood between anyone and God or Christ. I was there if needed, I did not force myself on anyone and did not scare anyone when I showed up. Since I grew up in a home with a severely handicapped brother, (blind, deaf and without hearing,) I was especially kind to the handicapped and put them in the choir when some asshole in HQ found a scripture that the maimed could not be in the choir. I put them in anyway because they could sing and had a heart of gold. I actually came to WCG because I read "the deaf will hear, the blind will see and the lame will leap as a hart." I thought I could help that "reality" along a bit and help my brother.
I may have disfellowshipped five people in my career and they were leaving anyway which grieved me. Now I wish they had taken me with them. I grew up Calvinistic Dutch Reformed and missed a lot of Sunday stuff myself over my other affiliations. I do remember telling parents to let the kids be in the band and play on a sabbath if need be and to let the child deceide! It would be good for them to make their own decisions in life.
I you have read my writings on Women/Paul/NT opinions about Women, Patriarcy and Goddess history, you will know how I deeply feel about equality of women. These are not new views in my beliefs. I think Paul was full of TheoShitola when it came to women, but then again so is the whole Taliban Old and New Testatment.
I never treated a black person as anything less than equal..Never. I stood between a crowd of guys wanting to beat a black friend of mine up in NY once and put a stop to that crap right there. When it was too hot I took off my tie and told others to take off theirs becasue "It's too hot to wear a stupid suit." It's never a good time to wear a stupid suit those who knew me would remember. Neck ties are pagan and should not be worn...:)
It always bothered me that kids missed school during prime time, including my own. I told any number of parents that perhaps the kids needed to not go due to grades etc and stay home with a dad or mom who did not go.
I never gave a sermon on the reality of the place of safety (remember I told Gerald Waterhouse, what a pain he was) and never mentioned it as more than either a joke..."I want the toilet paper concession..or to own the Petra Huts." or a vague possibility as stated in the bible. I dismissed speculations and told HQ to tell Gerald to back off it scares people and is pure speculation. I knew in my heart if HWA ever said "GO" I was going to say NO. Anyone who promoted it in the congregation got my views and cautions about such things. I never gave a graphic prophetic sermon and NEVER gave a sermon on British Israelism. Who cared what race we were and Christianity is not about race or special people.
I never told a woman to just obey her husband, especially if he was a jerk. I never told a woman to ask her husband the answer to bible questions as some men were too ignorant to know her interest, study and perspectives. I never told a woman to be anything less than herself and I did tell many that some of what Paul had to say was simply his opinion.
I never covered up any case of known abuse and gave good advice on what to do the few times it came to my attention. I never covered for a minister and at times told a few that their manners, perspectives , sermons, ideas and treatment of people was inappropriate, mean, stupid, crass, ignorant and harmful. I never mentioned personal things in sermons about those I served. That would make me sick.
My family, children , and myself were not the standard for anyone. Dress how you wish, drink the wine or not you wish, live where you wish and where you can afford. And of course, drive any damn car you like. Have the friends you wish and no, not all church members can be your best friend, nor should you marry someone just because they are "in the church." I did weddings of any number who married outside the church.
I never expected anyone to go to a club, meeting , social or even service they simply could not go to. Club was optional and to tell you the truth it was a pain in the ass for me at times too. We all would have been better staying home at times. There were whole years where I simply said we don't need to do it.
I never made special group out of the deacons and elders, didn't ordain my friends, never had one spy on anyone, hated taking them with me to visit and didn't because a member who wanted to chat with me wanted to chat with ME and not them.
Using a credit card for offerings or giving in such a stupid way. That I might have suggested the member get a mental health counselor for. I told not a few widow types to stop giving what they could not afford.
All the years of rumour and scandal ate at my own soul as I didn't come to WCG for that crap either. It's in all churches by the way. And "buckling under" was a term or concept I would never have even thought to envoke.
I sat at no head tables unless forced to. I told my ministerial boss that I would not sit in his roped off picnic area and vowed in the 70's to never never ever let that happen again at any picnic I had anything to do with. Bible study was optional and it had nothing to do with your salvation. I tended to shun the AC students myself as being a bit unreal and prayed to God I never came across that way. Once again, I never sent spies..i did disband a few and paid dearly every time I was transferred and did not update deacons and elders on what I knew about people as the previous ministers had done. I drove a few nuts allowing some to return quickly the previous minister had dethroned. I believed in new starts and told congregations the previous minister and myself have not discussed "the people" so if they needed a start over, so did I. That seemed to make for a nicer group.
I let kids be kids. Hauled them all over creation if they wanted to go. When we sold oranges for church social fund, you sould what you could and I disbanded the idea that you sold a quota no matter who you were. Much to the anger of my elder who was much more into expectations from the "brethren." We made about $1400 less doing what we reasonably could over what a quota did, and I had a much happier group of willing sellers every year after that and few drop out guilt free.
Gosh, this damn list is too long. But thanks for letting me process my own perspectives and rejoice in the common sense my parents gave me long before coming to WCG. You don't even have to believe me. I am happy with me and my service to the wonderful people I meet in my WCG experience. I have no list of people to apologize to. I wasnt' perfect and members, elders and deacons could be pretty harsh in their phony expectations of the "minister". I was never "the minister" I was me, Dennis, a human being , caught up in what I thought was right and turned out not be. I made my choices. I should have left long years earlier but had a need to stay close to the local church. My mind split from "HQ" long before my body did. Can I be criticised for the parts I forgot about..sure. You should repent for some of the members and leadership I had to deal with. But one can't apologize for institutional stupidity. When you have to forgive something, you can't forgive an institution, you have to forgive a person. In the same way, I can't bear all the sins, misguided zeal, stupidity , speculation and behaviors of others as my own. I KNOW MYSELF..I WAS NOT EVERYONE ELSE. Sorry, I can't sign such a list of personal admissions. I was not and am not that list. It would make me as dishonest with myself as you think I genercially am just by being associated with the ministry of WCG. So we can leave it be. You keep me eternally young with that picture and I get to be my genuine self.
And please don't misundertand my comments or my using the word "you" etc. It is a generic 'You" and not Ed or Mike. We really do apperciate each other :)
Write me if you wish at [email protected] I need some new friends.
Editor: I've taken it upon myself to enter Dennis' name onto the Ministerial Apologies Page. He has not asked me to do this, but I think, given all his effort at exposing the crooks for what they are, that it is earned. He knows. He is not repentant, truly, but then.... admits he was wrong. We won't close our hearts to good people around here.
This boils down to the question of: what to do with Hitler's soldiers? They did what they were told, were even good people, maybe...some of them. Maybe didn't agree with the cult government. What are we to do? How do we judge them now?
I say that we don't rewrite history, but be open to the idea of second chances. In my view, we are doing just that here: welcoming a good man into our house, while not forgetting.
If I am making a mistake, then so be it.
Let a man's works define him.
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