The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God

Spokemans Club

I've been reading the thread on women's experiences in the Worldwide Church of God with a mixture of sadness and laughter. Keep in mind though, men had to pay for their superior status with such infliction's as the SPOKESMAN (men? man's? men's?) CLUB. Perhaps other people have similar memories as these?:

1. I remember a time when it was decided that the local club needed to raise some funds (I don't remember what for; probably the sergeant-at-arms was going broke keeping us in Triscuits and Decaff on a weekly basis ). During the business session, one man said that he'd spotted a "worldly church group" cleaning up with a bake sale at a nearby supermarket. It seemed like a good idea...but...the idea of working on a bake sale just didn't sit well with a group of such manly men. After a great deal of wrangling, we crafted the perfect solution. We'd have the women do the baking for us (...they really liked doing that stuff anyway), we'd make the YOU stand out and sell it for us (...a great opportunity for them to serve), and we'd take the money. Never let it be said that we learned nothing from the Church.

2. Looking back it strikes me now just what a bloodthirsty group we future Gods-in-leisure-suits were . Tabletopics sessions were the forum for our policy discussions as future rulers. Among the issues that a tactical nuclear strike was deemed suitable for were: any Mid-East hostage situation, any act of terrorism, any challenge to the possession of the "gates of our enemies", or anything that made us feel uncomfortable... I particularly remember the detailed, explicit, Torquemada-like descriptions of the various tortures that should be inflicted on drug dealers.

3. At a time when triple tithing was being strictly enforced, I remember many men being criticized for wearing the same suit all of the time. The men were told that they should be like Mr. .Armstrong and buy quality that would last for many years. When several men broached the fact with a LCE that they could not afford those kinds of clothes, it was quietly recommended that they not be proud and should look through Goodwill or Salvation Army stores to buy their clothes.

4. I noted as the years went by, one of the techniques that the Club Directors (be it the Pastor or an LCE) used to keep the men in the proper state of deference was a "you say yes, I say no" approach. If the club was ever in consensus on the particular answer to a Table Topic, it was the Director's job to then disagree with them (keeping in mind that most answers were what the men thought that the Director wanted to hear anyway). He would show they were wrong even if they were repeating back verbatim something that they heard him say in a sermon the week before. Of course, most of us would just interpret this as being our fault for not really understanding him in the first place. The total effect was to always make us feel like chastised children. ( An effect that was reinforced at the end of the club meeting when a group of grown men would have to listen to a 25 minute lecture on using deodorant.)

5. There was one minister who was candid enough to tell us during the lecture period, that as good representatives for God we should always have an answer ready whether we really had one or not. (He repeated this at a Deacon and Elders meeting so my ears did not deceive me).

Name witheld


 

The Des Moines Church had this minister we all loved. Bob Cloninger. Great guy. Overlook his faults and his cultism. He was a great person; And did his damnedest to help folks.

Still is, probably. He's too chicken to contact me now that I'm agnostic.

ANYWAY....

We Spokesman Club guys found out that Bob had never gotten past speech 4 at Ambassador Club. So during his last meeting I thought it would be cool to "graduate" him with some goofy certificate from Pasadena. I made the calls and went through bureaucracy.

I get this call from an LCE (never call a mere tithe-payer back...) that such a certificate would demean Mr. Cloninger's esteemed office as a representative of Jesus Christ. (Like I'm chopped liver representative, eh?). Blah blah blah. The guy's name was Rice. One of the Rice kids.

Well, a cc of the letter and memo reaches JWT jr's desk (This was while JWT was alive) and poop hit the fan. The certificate was sent out with all humor intended. But the poor, flustered LCE was so intimidated by talking to the mucky-mucks, that his presentation to Bob was utterly humor free. Bob never did get the joke.

(I explained it to him years later. But by then he was pretty upset by loss of ministerial perks to care too much.)

I was emcee that night, and I still feel bad about the poor showmanship. The poor LCE was so intimidated that he never even told me that he was sent the sacred certificate of graduation. I had to fudge it into my performance a capella.

I respected JWT and jr. at that point. They had a sense of humor over the Rice cakes of HWA bureaucracy.

I was grossly disappointed later.

Roger Blakesley


 

I mentioned this subject to my husband last night. He was a veteran club member, years of Ambassador Club, then Spokesman and Graduate Clubs.

You all remember the famous "Heckle Nights" don't you? Usually they were planned ahead, and the speakers knew what to expect. Generally they all had fun with it (I think?)

His memory was sparked of a meeting in Pasadena, when the minister, before the meeting, had arranged for a few of the men to "heckle" the speakers that evening, without telling anyone else.

My husband remembers how flustered and upset some of the speakers were. At least one of them was fairly new in club, and didn't know anything about heckling. They had no idea what was going on, or what they were supposed to do. Instead of the usual "fun" that heckling was supposed (?) to be, it became awkward and painful.

One club member went over to Mr. minister and pleaded for it to stop, but he was told to just go back and sit down and be quiet.

My hubby was giving an evaluation that night, and you guessed it, even HE started to get heckled. By this time, he was pretty mad, and told the guy to sit down and shut up!

Now he wishes he would have heckled a few of those ministers during their sermons!

Name Witheld


 

Regarding heckling, I was not present for it, but was told the story of a Heckle Night in the local club during a visit by Raymond Cole back in the 70's. It kind of highlights the torture sessions that they were meant to be.

I gather that Raymond Cole was not a man known for his jovial sense of humor and was pretty pompous (this was before my time). Anyway, it was decided by the Director and Club officers that they would play a little practical joke that night. They selected one of the men in the club and told him that they were going to heckle Cole. They said that he, the member, should start it off, and everyone else would follow and join in. What they didn't tell the guy was that they had no intention of joining in.

When Cole stood up and took over the meeting, he began addressing the club by saying, "Well, I really did not have anything prepared to say tonight..." At this, the poor schnook who was being set up yelled out, "Well if you have nothing to say, why don't you sit down and shut up?" Silence reigned as heckler began to sweat. Those present said that Cole's fingers tightened around the lectern until they were white, and he looked as if he was about to leap over it at the guy. The heckler had all but crapped himself as he looked desperately around for support. Finally the Director spoke up, and a great laugh was had by all as another spasm of rugged male fellowship came to an end.

Bob Diorio


 

Received on 3/9/98:

This morning I read some of your latest installments and even though I am a woman and never actually had to participate in Spokesman Club (for which I was always silently thankful) it brought some thoughts to mind.

From my earliest memories of Ladies' Nights or Family Nights (in the 60's & 70's), I always wondered why all the men joined because it was so cruel. "Evaluation" seemed more like vultures attacking a weak animal.

On one particular Ladies Night, I had attended with a young man who had always worn glasses with very thick lenses. When "Evaluation" time came around, the focus was not on his speech but on how his glasses sliding down his nose at intervals broke Mr. Evaluator's concentration and how he couldn't even remember what he spoke about because of it. He suggested that the speaker check into getting glasses with thinner lenses or contacts or, failing that, figure out some way to keep his glasses from sliding down his nose.

The minister agreed and failed him on the speech.

What a wonderful example of brotherly love, care and concern, eh?


 

Received on 3/11/98:

Being 17 years old at the time, I had very little speaking experience, in fact you might even say I had none at all. But that did not seem to bother the deacon that was club president. He relentlessly and enthusiastically kept after me to join. My hesitation did not seem to bother him at all. So he wore me down and reluctantly I joined.

After the first meeting it did not seem to be terribly difficult to participate, although it did seem somewhat risky. It appeared that the director took great pleasure in the verbal battles of mind and will that took place during the meeting.

So during my second meeting as a member, I was baptized earlier that year so I was entitled to full membership, I jumped right in the middle of it all and suggested, during the business session, that the next meeting be completely impromptu. Everyone would draw a slip of paper from a hat and on it would be their designated task for the evening. Everything was up for grabs, including the officers jobs. Which meant each member needed to be prepared to: give a speech, do an evaluation of a speech, be prepared for table topics, or be in readiness to be toastmaster, or be prepared to act as an officer, no one knew which opportunity they might draw from the hat. The director seemed to like the idea since it placed all the men on notice to be prepared for everything.

At the next meeting, as it turned out I drew the position of president, I guess it was poetic justice. Which meant I was, technically in charge of the meeting for the evening. I even got to sit at the head table, right next to the director. Wow! I was impressed, and just a wee bit nervous.

It was a dinner meeting. This club had a dinner meeting every week. So it was not particularly unusual or different this time. The only difference was our club assignments.

Sitting directly to my left at the head table was the director, Al Corrozzo. Dinner had no sooner been served when I started a meaningless conversation with Al. But he ignored me which made me feel a little uncomfortable, after all this was only my third meeting. I guess perhaps I was a little too nervous because when he called my name, to start the meeting, I jumped slightly and I accidently dropped a whole mess of over cooked, soft, green peas on his new light brown suit. To make matters worse, in my embarrassment, because he was obviously grossly annoyed, I tried to wipe them up with my napkin. It just smeared those suckers all over his suit. Green smeared peas on a light brown suit looked rather disgusting. In desperation I quickly tried to remedied the problem, I dipped my napkin in a glass water to try to clean up the mess. The napkin got entangle with the glass and, you guessed it, I dumped that in his lap as well.

About that time he shot straight up, it was not my fault it was really ice cold water, and stood there before all the men. Which got everyones attention. They stopped their conversations to see what was going on at the head table and were expecting profound words of wisdom to flow from the golden and inspired lips of the director...

I think the spirit grabbed and took hold of AL because the color of his face changed and he started to tremble. Could not quite make out what he was saying, it appeared that he was trying his best to speak in tongues....no one there could interpret what he was saying, actually no one dared to try. I wanted to tell him that it was unBibical to talk in tongues without an interpretation but I felt it probably was not the wisest thing to do at that moment.

I held the record for the shortest club presidency in the history of Spokesman Club. A record I might ad that was never to be broken. I was impeached and forever banned from the head table.

For me, club is now a memory of a collection of absurdities, humorous pranks, and meaningless conversations and speeches, which was the best part. It is also a memory of iron fisted tactics used by the various directors to damage and destroy individuals for the sheer pleasure of seeing if they could take the pressure, or would they crack. He was always trying to make us holy by working the hell out of us.

Spokesman Club, tomorrows church rulers, oops, leaders in the making.....It was a nice fantasy that they would shepherd and watch over us, in reality they ruled us with a rod of iron.

Bob W.


Received on 10/4/99:

Hi

Been visiting this web site for almost a year, and I don't think you are really hurting for material, but I'd thought you guys might get a kick out of some of this.

It was some time in the mid 1980s when I was a new A.C. graduate just settling back into my home church area when I joined the local Spokesmans Club. Contrary to what some of the A.C. faculty taught, I wasn't going to try to be some kind of example, it was just something to do with my friends who all went. At that time I was the only non-ordained A.C. grad to have come home, and I was anything but successful. I had totally failed in some clerical job I landed, and it became apparent I really had to go back to school for some more technical training. This was also at the same time the church and college spent a great deal of effort announcing findings of that famous survey they did claiming that A.C. grads earned more than graduates of Harvard University. It would be many years later I would find that the survey was not true. At church it was always difficult answering questions about why I was not more successful. The truth is, most of the fellow graduates I knew were not doing a whole lot better than me, unless they had a real good job with the church or with a family business somewhere else.

Our club director was a Don C., a man who talked a lot about how he supported himself fixing typewriters. One night at a club meeting, he really got into talking about his typewriter skills and proclaimed the requirement for every prospective student for any college to complete vocational training before enrolling. A friend of mine raised his hand and started asking questions. I don't think my friend was trying to defend me or anyone else, but he was a successful computer programmer, and explained how the local university had given him the skills to land and do the jobs he had. Of course Mr. C. spent a long time chewing him out tell him how wrong he was. I knew enough not to say anything that night otherwise he would have gotten much worse attacking everybody. To this day I feel sick about that night. Looking back at that time it is obvious that the ministry would stop at nothing to uphold the reputation of the college. Mr. C. was also fending off some personal attacks as well, since it was greatly rumored that he got that ministerial job because he was the man who repaired Herbert W. Armstrong's typewriter.

Well as time went on I finished my training, my jobs got better, and I got to see a lot of friends of mine go on to do better things with their lives than go to that dumb club.


 

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