If they cover up evil so that people will continue sending them money, I would say that could be as bad as the person that committed the evil to start with. Does money mean so much that they are afraid of the truth? I guess so.
Those in charge of any of the xcg's had better be hoping that there is no God, because, if there is one, they are in deep trouble. Enjoy it while you can boys, you will pay later on.
Bernie Schnippert wrote to an emailer about supposedly inaccurate reporting of what was said at a meeting of ministers.
Ray Luechtefeld Jumped in and sent Bernie his two cents on the matter:
Given the history of the Worldwide Church of God, many people find it difficult to believe your protest of distorted reporting. I think the only way that people might believe you would be for you to send a copy of a tape of your presentation (if such a tape was made) to some mutually trusted third party who would have the tape transcribed and the transcription sent to ekklesia. If you're not willing to do something like this your refusal will, frankly, be perceived as "proof" that you are hiding something, whether that is the case or not. The fact that you have an office in Pasadena is not reason enough for you to be believed... in fact, it will cause some to be more skeptical of anything you say. If you want people to believe you enough to follow this course of action I am willing to help locate a trusted third party, etc.
For those of you on ekklesia reading this, I'm wondering... would this be enough to believe Bernie? If not, what would it take to believe his statement about what was said at the meeting as opposed to the "anonymous source"?
For me a tape is enough, providing that the anonymous source would verify that the tape was a tape of the presentation and not something doctored up for the occasion.
Just interested in truth...
Ray commented to Ekklesia in another post:
The Worldwide Church of God focussed on the "bad outside", but never on the "bad inside". HWA forbid you ever speaking of what was wrong in "gawwwds church". You would be accused of having a "bad attitude" or being a "dissident" or "trouble-maker".
Research has shown that an organization which is unable to reflect on what it is doing wrong is less able to learn and change than other organizations. Internal critics perform a valuable service by revealing inconsistencies and injustice.
Unfortunately, it seems that the "new" wcg still retains much of the culture of the old, including an intolerance for criticism. (I can talk more about my proof for this if someone is interested.)
Many Ekklesia members requested that Ray expand on his statement and he did with the following:
First, I want to apologize for my response time. I get ekklesia in digest form, so TAT (Turn Around Time) is at least a day. Also, I'm copying Bernie Schnippert because I mention his name and don't want to be talking about him behind his back.
Several asked me to explain what I meant better, so here goes.
I have three key beliefs about this, which I will argue.
1. Worldwide Church of God stifles criticism.
2. This stifling impedes learning and substantive (rather than superficial) change.
3. This is not only bad policy because of (2), it is a moral failure, even in some way evil.
First, I believe that number one (1.) is not hard to prove
given the disfellowshipment of Rodney Lain,
the reported statement that "everything on the Internet is a lie",
and the often stated sentiment that "we shouldn't dwell on the past".
If these are not enough, consider the recently issued Code of Ethics for Elders, available on Worldwide Church of God's website (part of "everything on the Internet" ;-) ) which states:
"Responsibility to the Denomination
As an elder of the Worldwide Church of God, I have a responsibility of loyalty to denominational headquarters and administrative supervisors. This means I will strive to:
respect my denomination and be responsible and respectful in discussions about fellow leaders, past and present."
Given the common usage of "respect" (i.e., don't say anything negative about another), this effectively prevents any unearthing of problems at HQ, in the same way that problems have been covered up in the past. It also hinders a frank discussion of the failings of Herbert W. Armstrong, GTA, etc. I see this policy as placing the denomination ahead of God, who is a God of Truth, not cover ups.
Now for number two (2.), that these practices impede learning and prevent substantive change...
Chris Argyris, a Harvard professor and expert in human learning, states that there are two common responses to being confronted with a mistake ("Reasoning, Learning, and Action", 1982. Jossey-Bass, page 165). What Worldwide Church of God sees as "criticisms" are, essentially, someone pointing out what are perceived to be mistakes. The responses are:
A) Deny the presence of a mistake and refuse to test whether it is true.
B) Deny presence of a mistake then work toward testing whether it is true.
The first response is defensive and limits learning. Individuals and organizations who respond this way tend to reject attempts to point out their errors or state that if there are mistakes they are sanctioned by the present world anyway and so there is no need to alter them (reminiscent of "The Quest for the Ideal Church", by Don Mears, July 1998 WWN). They may distance themselves from critics in a multitude of ways, e.g., pushing them out of the social group (read "disfellowshipment"), saying that things have changed, or simply by ignoring the criticism.
The second response facilitates learning and change. I personally see it as exhibiting true humility, e.g., "We don't think we're wrong, but we may be, let's see how we can figure out if we're wrong." An active, growing organism, whether it be a church or an individual, must always be improving, seeking out and correcting errors. Stifling critics only impedes this process.
A critical part of the second response is "working toward testing whether the criticism is true". By this Argyris and I mean an experimental approach to action, defining your grounds for believing, and then seeing if it is true. An example of this would be the email I sent to Bernie Schnippert stating that I would believe his version of "The name of the game is Money" story if I could get a transcript of what actually occurred in the meeting. I clearly stated the grounds for my belief and what it would take to test his assertion that the reporting was distorted. He has not responded to my note, which I see as defensive and limiting learning. In keeping with this tradition, I do not expect him to respond to this note, or if he does, to respond in a way which is again defensive and limits learning.
Along these same lines, I agree with Argyris that there is a great value in surfacing negative feelings. Argyris (same reference, page 170) says that with experience in expressing negative feelings people begin to see that it is not necessarily a counterproductive activity, as commonly held values suggest. Rather than pulling people apart, it can bring them together to explore their differing perspectives and understandings, which can increase tolerance. As I said before, the commonly held definition of "respect" implies that you suppress negative feelings and never state them publicly. I feel that a far better/truthful/Godly approach is to honestly state negative feelings and be open to testing and changing them. This is respectful in the sense that it shows deep caring for another, both for their ability to change if they are proven to be in the wrong and in my own desire not to be unjustly thinking evil of another.
Now for number three (3.), that suppressing criticism is wrong, even evil....
For this argument I will bow to the writings of M. Scott Peck, who wrote about evil in "People of the Lie".
These excerpts are from Ed 's page at "people.htm" For more excerpts go there, or, even better, buy the book!
"The poor in spirit do not commit evil. Evil is not committed by people who feel uncertain about their righteousness, who question their own motives, who worry about betraying themselves. The evil of this world is committed by the spiritual fat cats, by the Pharisee's of our own day, the self-righteous who think they are without sin because they are unwilling to suffer the discomfort of significant self-examination. It is out of their failure to put themselves on trial that their evil arises. They are, in my experience remarkably greedy people."
"A predominant characteristic of the behavior that I call evil is scapegoating. Because in their hearts they consider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at anyone who does reproach them. They sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection."
"Since they must deny their own badness, they must perceive others as bad. They project their own evil onto the world. The evil attack others instead of facing their own failures. Spiritual growth requires the acknowledgment of one's own need to grow. If we cannot make that acknowledgment, we have no option except to attempt to eradicate the evidence of our imperfection.
"How are we to take Christ's admonition to " judge not lest you be judged" and still label someone as evil? If you see something wrong don't you try to correct it? Was Hitler OK? Was Jim Jones OK? Were the medical experiments on Jews OK? There is such a thing as an excess of sympathy, an excess of tolerance, an excess of permissiveness. The fact of the matter is that we cannot lead decent lives without making judgments; general and moral judgments in particular. Christ did not enjoin us to refrain from ever judging. What he went on to say in the next four verses is that we should judge ourselves before we judge others, not that we should not judge at all. We are to purify ourselves before judging others. This is where 'the evil' fail. It is the self-criticism they avoid."
These three issues lay out the essence of my beliefs about the current state of the Worldwide Church of God and how it might improve. As always, I welcome comments and criticism.
Respectfully (as "I" mean it),
Ray Luechtefeld Ph.D.
Candidate in Organization Studies,
(Researching Organizational Learning and Change.
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