The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God

Forgiveness VS Trust

Stephen Richards

I would like to distinguish between forgiveness and trust.

Forgiveness means letting go of the pain and anger. But it doesn't mean restoring your relationship with the person. I was in a relationship once in which I was hurt very deeply. The other person expressed sorrow for my pain and said he/she wouldn't do it again, but he/she was never willing to sit down and listen to my side of the story so that I could explain exactly what behavior had hurt me so deeply. I was never convinced that the person would not do the same thing again because the person never understood exactly what had hurt me so deeply. (In fact, it did happen more than once, each time followed by apologies and refusal to listen to my side of the story.) I forgave the person; I have no hard feelings; I pray for him/her often. But I had to walk away from that relationship because I could never trust the person not to do it again.

Likewise, I don't trust Worldwide Church of God not to do it again. I think they have some ministers who don't have a clue what they have done to people. Until these ministers can state in simple English (or French or whatever) what they have done and why it was wrong, I don't trust them not to do it again. If they want a relationship with me, they have to prove to me that they deserve my trust.

Two years some UCG ministers were grumbling that their congregations had not forgiven them for past abuses in Worldwide Church of God. They seemed to think 1) that they were personally innocent of abuse, 2) even if they were guilty, their natures had changed with the change of organizations from Worldwide Church of God to UCG, 3) a simple apology should be sufficient without any confession or attempt at restitution, and 4) people should give them the benefit of the doubt without question.

Sorry, guys, but that doesn't cut it. So many ministers have been abusive that I don't know if you are guilty or not. It is reasonable for me to expect you to prove yourself. If you can't explain to me what happened in the past, I have no reason to believe that you won't repeat it.

Even when forgiveness has already occurred, people need to know that it won't happen again before they can extend trust. Laying guilt trips on people for not trusting you is not a godly way to win their trust. Instead, you need to repent openly, early and often. Even if you are personally innocent of abuse (as some ministers were), you need to acknowledge that it is reasonable for people to mistrust you and work to earn their trust. Moaning that life is unfair because you are being held in suspicion for someone else's sins is a sign of immaturity. Grow up! In the real world people are held suspect because of what others have done. Act like an adult and deal with it. If you don't like it, find another job. Otherwise, take a deep breath and start earning people's trust. In the long run, you'll feel a lot better about trust that was earned than about trust that was extended to you because of some title that you hold anyway.

There is the old quote that people who forget history are doomed to repeat it. This is especially true when it is the same people doing the repeating. If Worldwide Church of God wants to overcome its past, it needs to face it and acknowledge it. Only then can it begin to rebuild the trust that it has lost.

Stephen Richards


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