A couple of months ago I befriended someone from my Church days on Facebook that I haven’t had contact with for about 30 years. I noticed his wife openly made references to things like “divine light,” “Jesus saves us,” and posted pictures of Jesus figures and wore a necklace with a cross. OMG I thought, this is not the style of the man I knew back then, not how we were taught and grew up!

And so last night out of the blue I googled WCG, and today I am walking around feeling a bit strange like something in my life has changed.

I was born in 1963 directly into the World Wide Church of God with both parents attending services weekly in Sydney NSW Australia. I remember playing on a rug on the floor with my dolls and Etch-A-Sketch, quietly during the service which lasted from 2 hours sometimes up to 4 hours. I remember the Feast of Tabernacles in Blackheath (Snowy Mountains area) which attracted hundreds of people and we ate communal style, with lots of food on long tables.

In 1969 my Dad passed away and my Mum moved us back to West Australia to be closer to her family, but we still travelled over East every year to attend the Feast. The Church was growing everywhere in Australia and soon Perth had such numbers that it progressed from one meeting in City Beach, to a North and a South congregation. I fondly remember the YOU program, summer camps at Binningup Beach, and playing basketball every Sunday in Belmont.

I grew up not knowing I had a birthday until a playfriend asked me how old I was and I had no idea. I had to ask Mum — I was 7, but she didn’t tell me the date. We did not observe Christmas or Easter, Boxing Day or New Years. I never ate prawns or bacon, the “cloven hoof” and “scales” thing. I never sought friendships outside of the Church, and socially only ever interacted with my peers and older people in the circle of the Church. I was healed with an anointed cloth and oil by a Minister on many occasions, and also blessed when I was about 6 years old. I didn’t like observing The Day of Atonement because of the whole day fasting, or Unleavened Bread, having to clean the whole house, school bags, cupboards, garden and car – everything – to make sure there were no yeast products at our address. My school friends thought I was weird; I was segregated from Religious classes and did not participate in any Easter or Christmas activities. No shopping, work or sport and recreation were allowed on the Saturday Sabbath. No smoking, no alcohol, no modern pop music, no hot cars, no radical hobbies — just everything understated and “normal.”

In 1979 when everyone realised the World didn’t end, we were all told not to wear makeup, nail polish or use hair dye. I was not allowed to go on a date by myself with a boy, because that would send out the message that maybe sex was involved. Having sex before marriage was against all principles and I think some people were made to leave the church because of this. It was all about how other people saw you. Divorce was against all laws and just didn’t happen — put up or shut up I think.

My goal in life as a teenager was to be good enough to make it to the “Place of Safety” when the world ended and for entry into the “Promised Land.” I recall as if it was yesterday, sitting on the bus on the way to work looking around me at all the passengers, thinking how sad it was that they were all going to die and how I was so much better than them. I was 18.

When I was 20 years old I met my husband, a non-church person, and was stopped from going to Church because my parents notified the minister. I was barred from going to any Church activities, from seeing any Church people, speaking to any Church people even on the phone, taken off all YOU responsibilities and could no longer participate in any sport programs. My Mum and Stepfather scorned me and were devastated and ashamed of my choices.

And so I left home, deeply in love with my new mate, totally alone with no friends no family— nothing. I left it all behind: the price I paid. My parents, by choice, did not attend our wedding because to them it was wrong in the eyes of the Church and they could not support me as my choice would make for a bad life. Now in 2015, I am still happily married and more deeply in love than ever. We have 3 beautiful, well-adjusted daughters and also a grandson.

I grew up believing (blindly knowing) that all the people in WCG older than me must have my respect because they obeyed the Church 100%. I trusted everyone, and it never occurred to me to question anything that anyone older than me did. About 10 years after leaving the Church I met some people from Church, people that had been individually happily married with young families. She was a Minister’s daughter and he was a quietly spoken businessman. And here they were this day 10 years later, arm in arm, smiling and laughing, saying hello to me like nothing was out of order. How dare they!!!??? I have never been so speechless and dumbfounded. I walked away unable to speak to them, and to this day cannot process that moment and that situation.

In about 1992 my husband, our daughters and I were on holiday in our South West. We stopped in a small town called Dardannup. Regional WCG members met here in a small hall for services every fortnight and we called in to say hello to my Aunty and Uncle whom we hadn’t seen for a long while. With respect I approached the hall entrance on my own to ensure that they weren’t in the middle of a sermon. I was met at the door all in a hurry by a man I know very well (I have holidayed with that family on their farm in Donnybrook many a time). He stood on the step and closed the door behind him, raised his arm and pointed away saying “I don’t know you, you and your family are not welcome here. If you don’t go I will get other people to help me remove you”. Gobsmacked, confused, betrayed, sad and angry, it made me feel so much less of a human being. Some things take a long time to forget.

Over time I have learned that so many of the generation next older than me have basically lived life to look good on the outside, but done otherwise in private— been unfaithful in marriage, gotten divorced, married from another race, my own Mother now eats bacon, the Church has splintered into so many groups I have no idea, it’s all confusing. Which is exactly that — the Church is all confused.

Today I am not a religious person, but I still believe God is there watching. When I really need to, I pray because I know He will hear. When I met my husband I participated in my first Christmas — that was in 1984. I also eat Easter Bunnies and do enjoy getting a present or two on my Birthday.

So last night after I read about WCG and how it has remodelled itself to be Grace Communion International, I feel strange, like I’ve been let down somehow, again. So most everything I was taught by the Church as a child is now a lie. I know I chose to leave the Church and have become my own person, but the foundations of my youth are actually not credible any more, to anyone. Does this mean I’ve been excused from leaving the Church?

It’s like the family that I was born with, that disowned me and that I left behind, has now changed its mind after not wanting to know about me for over 30 years, and now would like to pretend it’s all OK— I can come back if I want to.


I’m fine where I am now, I am able to leave the past in the past and know that whatever teachings of the Church are still with me today, must be the good bits.

12 thoughts on “Emily”

  1. My story begins exactly as yours in 1963 only in the SF Bay Area California. Exact same feelings regarding everything. U got out as u should have at the right age. I did not. I needed my parents approval and got baptized and “converted” and dragged my gf in with me. After 10 years she got wise and stopped going (we had been married all those years). Well it was too much part of me at that point. I stopped going when the church broke up but I’m still struggling to belong in “the world”. I wish I made the same choice as u. I wanted to but I didn’t. I regret it. I feel like a very lonely man with no one. Thankfully I spared my kids the same fate. They r happy and well adjusted.

  2. Everything you wrote, I read and understood, nodding silently in agreement. I also grew up in the Church and felt set apart from my classmates (I was). The way you describe the disjoint in reality when meeting up with people you once knew in the Church — that too. I can not be a member of organized religion, though I still want to, but it is impossible. Thank you for writing this. It touched my heart.

  3. Emily’s story of how ex people from a religious group are treated is quite well know and wide spread. If it wasn’t the WCG, it would have been another religious group. Its quite unfortunate how the ” BIRDS OF A FEATHER STICK TOGETHER” saying is quite true. We cannot take this against any specific individual, its an organisation thing. True believers that have God’s love would never treat ex people in that fashion – God’s love would supercede any situational relationship regardless of the circumstance……to Jesus this was so important that he noted it as the second most important commandment after ” the love for God”. Also as an ex WCG member and meeting up with another member whom I had known from my youth days and who is now a minister, I do at times recognize this does exist and when I see the signs of it coming I would gently remind him that we are both mature in Christ to allow ourselves to get in to a squabble over detail differences and we should spend our valuable time together strengthening and further building our faith by sharing experiences in our life. So its not the religion or the people….its really a nature of every organization……we just need to see through this and never give up doing what is the loving thing to do.

  4. Thank you Emily. My wife and I have been in the cold from Nov, 1997 to today (2016). We have had to rely on Christ as our minister. If you wish me or my wife to pray for you please let me know. I am unordained by men but God seems to view me differently. If this is a problem to you then I will understand.

  5. Hi Emily
    I am also now living in Australia – RSA’s new democracy has driven me here. Like you I also grew up in dad’s holy church – the Worldwide Church of God. I can share many similar events to the ones you describe with regards to the makeup, the long Sabath preachings (do you still remember old Waterhouse? – Church members were rebuked for taking cushions to church when he preached) the doctrines regarding people of this world ect. ect. The best part of all was that the very ministers that preached these righteous preachings themselves were imposters of their own doctrine. HWA had incest with his own daughter – how’s that. But as you say: if you only dared looking at a person out of the church you were branded an imposter. The best part of all is that the ministers were themselves – in RSA anyway – a bunch of washouts. None of them ever had decent jobs in ‘this world’ and some ministers even stole offering money.

    Your quote “So most everything I was taught by the Church as a child is now a lie. I know I chose to leave the Church and have become my own person, but the foundations of my youth are actually not credible anymore, to anyone. Does this mean I’ve been excused from leaving the Church?” actually nails it perfectly. We have been betrayed and lied to. Our lives would have been destroyed had we carried on with this subversion.

    Don’t feel bad about your parents snubbing you and your ‘worldly’ husband. I have never been married because I looked at my parents’ example and I decided as a young boy that it was not for me. My brother, however, married a wonderful lady from ‘this world’ and even had a minister pronounce a curse on his marriage. Well.. it looks to me that is what it takes to make a good marriage. He and his beautiful wife are married for 30 years now and the marriage seems to get happier and stronger. His children both have outstanding academic and sports achievements. Many of the blessed church marriages are no longer – many ended in separation a long time ago. Virtually all of the Church high-society marriages that I know of, ended in divorce.

    I hope you have a very good time now and that you are happy.

  6. David Rickman, I am loath to say your sentiments out loud, and in fact know that I participated in so many fabulous youth activities, and learnt many valuable life lessons from my time in WWCG. It is indeed unfortunate that you couldn’t take any lessons with you, sorry.
    Thanks Marcel Muller for your kind words, I am VERY happy and have a clear conscience too!
    Mr Elderly R Staff, thanks for your offer. I’d be more inclined though to pray for the rest of the world and our children and grandchildren in it, dealing with all the nonsense of today’s various extreme challenges.
    Sharon, I hope this was as an epiphany moment for you as it was for me. Somehow writing it all down came in a rush, after 30 odd years of thinking I find I am leaving ‘all that’ behind at last.
    Thanks for sharing Mike, I reckon we all should write our experiences down somewhere, even at home in our own time even in a notebook. Read and re-read it’s like therapy I guess.
    xx Em

  7. The sad part about all of your stories is that your participation in this cult has turned you off to having a real relationship with with Jesus, our Lord; the Father and His Holy Spirit and the fact that Jesus came to save us from “religion” and establish a relationship with each of us – even if it is outside church walls.
    Our Lord loves each of you and has helped you get out of an ungodly cult. But don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater – – Jesus is real and He did die for each of us. Sad that so many people are led astray: Remember Mark 9:42 says:
    Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be thrown into the sea.

  8. Sounds like the way I grew up Emily It was like reading about my self growing up from 6 yrs old – 18 and a bit longer as a adult until the Church changed and after that I felt like I just couldnlt stand being in that Church any longer I left then the Church closed its doors here in our town , Till later someone else opened up a branch of the changed Church , I also lost my Dad at 10 but my Mom did stay in the Church . It was hard cleaning out the bread crumbs I laugh at that today and explaining to the teachers why a 10 yr old did not keep Christmas .I still very very close to others who grew up like I have Because they understand where I have come out of . They understand my mind the best .

  9. Wow! I’m so glad I found this because you articulated my feelings perfectly! I grew up in the Church from about age 8 to 21. I also was not a fan of Day of Atonement or Unleavened Bread (but some of the ladies made a Jewish bead that was to die for!) I actually had my braces put on the day before Atonement. Big mistake! My mouth hurt so bad and I couldn’t do anything about it.
    Anyways, the Church really turned me off from organized religion. I consider myself to be agnostic.
    Thank you so much for posting!

  10. Emily, I can relate to your experience. The only thing that helps me with all the swirling snippets of memories I have, is that I believe that even Israel misinterpreted the scriptures. So, since Herbert W Armstrong built his empire off of Israel’s misinterpretation, he will be forgiven his tresspases. I now enjoy Christmas, it’s a nicer lie than Israel’s lie.

  11. Hi Emily,
    Thank you so much for posting! This is all so familiar. I grew up in the 70’s and 80″s in Pasadena.
    Today I was explaining to a friend how I had to cut the hearts off my school valentines because they were “satanic”. I was thinking how tedious it is to tell my childhood stories and receive such blank stares. Ahhhh. Reading your stories, sad as they are, it IS comforting. You can’t make this stuff up.
    I remember sitting in church as a small child and HWA was screaming “ERA means Eve rules Adam!!!” and turning red. I thought, wow, that must be really important because he is screaming about it. I remember when those “vain” ladies had to stop wearing makeup. I went to their school for several years which they called “God’s school”. I remember thinking it a bit odd that God had only one school. You know, that its a bit off, ha ha. They used to tell us that everyone outside the church would be trying to get us to take drugs and have sex or would simply drug and rape us, you know, like a concert. I used to sit in class and look around wondering if everyone believed what they said. It felt very alone.
    One of my friends who also grew up in the church remarked that for a Christian church, it was curious that there was no real love for Jesus that we learned. This is absolutely true. It was all about following rules, not loving Jesus. I was taught that “the love of God is the fear to disobey” I think that is one of the most twisted things I have ever heard.
    Growing up in the WWCG did not ultimately turn me away from Christianity. I have been a part of congregations unlike them who do walk their talk. I know Jesus was a great teacher and mystic, but ultimately I am taking a very different spiritual path. Now, at middle age, I am finally past so much of the anger and resentment and can appreciate the gifts and blessings of growing up there. Spirituality was then and always will be central to my life and had really earnest family with high integrity (even though their beliefs are totally wack, ahem). It was good to see how power corrupts and to be able to survive in such utter weirdness and isolation. WWCG was a seriously DIY church. I’ve developed a lot of confidence about really knowing what I believe and sticking to it.
    I have to mention that much of what they did with us children is nothing less than emotional neglect and child abuse and I have worked very hard to put myself back together. Self esteem and valuing myself as a woman still come up.
    I ramble on. There are so many stories. Thanks so much for this forum!

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