A personal note from the
Webauthor of this site ...
My name is Pamela Starr Dewey. My friends call me Pam. You may be wondering how this website came about. So here is a brief version of "my story."
My husband, George, first came in contact with the ministry of a media evangelist
named Herbert W. Armstrong in about 1958, via an ad placed by an institution called
Ambassador College in the Capper's Farmer magazine. George was in junior high school
at the time. The ad offered the major booklets 1975 In Prophecy, Will Russia Attack
America?, and The Wonderful World Tomorrow-
For the next seven years, he collected a large stack of Plain Truths, and began bugging his high school and college buddies with dire predictions about current world events as they related to Bible prophecy. But he never bothered to follow through on any of the doctrinal articles in the magazines, nor did he pay any attention to the Radio Log for the World Tomorrow broadcast that appeared in each issue.
Thus by the time we married in 1965, he had still never heard the voice of the aging
founder, Herbert Armstrong, or his young son and “heir apparent,” Garner Ted Armstrong.
Nor had he had any personal contact with anyone in Armstrong's ministry. And he made
no mention of his prophetic interests during our short courtship. But shortly after
our wedding, he showed up one day with a stack of Plain Truths from his parents'
home. I rummaged through them and found them to be at first humorous ... and then
irritating. A major series of anti-
I began writing probing questions to the Plain Truth editorial staff, challenging them to answer the evidence for evolution I had been learning from my professors at Michigan State University. To my surprise, they had convincing answers for many of my questions. And thus as I read more and more, I found myself agreeing that maybe there was something to this "God" idea after all.
George and I began to listen to Garner Ted Armstrong “Bringing You the Truth About
Today’s World News and the Prophecies of the World Tomorrow” (as the announcer boomed
out every time) on the daily World Tomorrow radio program, and I sent away for every
booklet offered in the magazines. We also started taking the 52-
At the time, we had no idea that a "denomination" was behind the publications and the broadcasts. They were all advertised as being produced by Ambassador College. And even though there was occasional mention in passing of the "Radio Church of God, " we just viewed that as essentially a clever name for an evangelistic association, somewhat like the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. We did not know that there were congregations of this Radio Church of God around the country affiliated with Armstrong's ministry, supervised by ministers ordained by Herbert Armstrong himself. So even though we eventually began requesting a visit from Ambassador College representatives to consider immersion baptism, we did not connect that idea with attending church services somewhere afterwards.
Our requests went unmet for some time, but eventually two men showed up at our house to discuss our questions. They still did not indicate that there were congregations that met in various places in our state, but merely invited us to continue our studies and eventually come to a "baptism counseling session" with others who had shown interest from around the state. I was baptized in January, 1968, and after coming up out of the water was shocked and surprised to be invited to start attending weekly worship services. George was allowed to accompany me, even though he was not baptized until August that same year. In 1967 the church had changed to the name Worldwide Church of God (WCG).
We lived in the Lansing, Michigan, area at the time, and the nearest church services
were held in Flint, about a ninety-
For the next ten years we were totally dedicated and deeply involved in the organization.
We soon found that the church leadership had policies, or at the very least "strong
recommendations," about almost every facet of the private life of members. Hair lengths
for men, skirt lengths for women were prescribed. Using medicine of any kind, any
type of surgery, blood transfusions, and vaccinations for children were frowned upon;
natural childbirth—preferably at home—was recommended. Work outside the home for
women was frowned upon; home-
George eventually worked his way up the local leadership ladder to being approved by the local minister to give short "sermonettes" before the congregation of about 400. As a former school teacher, I was involved in developing programs for the children of the congregation. The WCG had long neglected any activities aimed at the children on the Sabbath. But our local pastor had received permission for a pilot "Sabbath School" program, and I expended considerable energy and time creating one.
We tithed faithfully, ten percent of our gross income being mailed directly to the
church Headquarters in Pasadena. We saved another ten percent to attend the annual
With all of the necessary church activities, there was little time or opportunity to develop any friendships outside the organization. So, as with most members, we found that eventually all our social life revolved totally around the church.
For a more detailed description of what life was like in the Worldwide Church of God in its heyday, see the Field Guide profile of the History and Overview of the Ministry of Herbert W Armstrong.
Then in 1978 our whole world crumbled. A major behind-
However, we were not discreet enough, and by January 1979 found ourselves publicly
"marked and disfellowshipped" from the organization for disloyalty to the leadership
of Herbert Armstrong. "Marking" is the term that was used in the Worldwide Church
of God to indicate that such a person was to be totally shunned by all loyal church
members. Anyone who would dare defy the shunning order might well find themselves
also cast out. We were thus viewed, by almost all our former local church friends,
as headed directly for the Lake of Fire unless we recanted and once again pledged
loyalty to "God's Apostle" (as he was styling himself by then), Herbert Armstrong.
And thus both we and our seven-
Garner Ted Armstrong quickly launched his own rival church organization, the Church of God, International (CGI). Since our belief system was very unusual, we realized that we would have no place to fellowship unless we affiliated with his group. Even then, there were only a handful of people in the whole state at that time who chose such affiliation. So we enthusiastically threw ourselves into the project of building a congregation for the CGI in Michigan. By fall 1980, George was ordained as a minister for the CGI, and became pastor for a time for the only congregation of the organization in the state, which met in Lansing.
Our early years with the CGI were pleasant, as GTA had the common sense to "lighten up" many of the oppressive policies his father had insisted on in the WCG. But as the years went by, and we became more familiar with some of the "politics" at the headquarters of the CGI, we finally realized that we could no longer respect the spiritual leadership of Garner Ted Armstrong. Nor could we agree any longer with some of his doctrinal teachings.
George resigned his role as pastor in March, 1988, and we left the organization. Once again, we and our daughter lost almost all of our friends, this time not by an official "marking," but simply because most of our friends could not see the problems we saw in the organization. Thus they resented our choice to leave, and cut us off from fellowship.
After our departure, I embarked on a major research project of studying religious movements in America, as well as gathering as much information as I could find about "what went wrong" with the ministries of Herbert W. and Garner Ted Armstrong. I have a B.A. degree in Education (magna cum laude) from Michigan State University (1968) and did graduate work at MSU in Education and Social Sciences (1974). A course in Social Psychology in 1974, which had an emphasis on the Social Psychology of Social Movements, particularly inspired me to desire to understand how people react in groups to shared apocalyptic hopes and fears. (See the section of this Field Guide titled When Prophecy Fails to see what I learned.)
For the next several years, we lost all contact with the Church of God groups which
had their roots in the WCG. But in 1996 I got on the Internet for the first time.
And during my first evening "on-
Through a number of Internet forums, I was able to find many old friends, both from our CGI days and clear back to our WCG days. I also made many new ones from throughout the country, and became involved in a variety of ministry outreaches to former WCG members. The Internet has also made it possible to do much more extensive research work on the history and beliefs and activities of religious groups in America and throughout history. I have thus spent considerable time and effort gathering documentation about many religious movements, groups, and teachers.
My particular interest is those groups for the past 200 years which have declared
that the Return of Christ was going to occur in their own generation, as well as
those which have declared that their group is either the Only True Church on earth,
or at least that all other groups are vastly inferior to their own brand of Christianity.
The more I researched, the more I realized that many of the policies, procedures,
and principles of the WCG that lead to unhealthy control and spiritual abuse by church
leaders over the lives and minds of their supporters were found throughout the spectrum
of Sabbatarian and Non-
Because I am so familiar with the Armstrong movement, and have seen up close ... over a period of over three decades ... the great harm, both physically and spiritually, it has done to the lives of many thousands, that movement has a more prominent part on this website than many other overview sites may include. This does not, however, indicate that I consider the abuses and problems in that organization and its offshoots to have been any more egregious than those in a number of other groups. I just happen to have more personal documentation on the Armstrong movement than the others.
George and I have not affiliated with any denomination since 1988. For the past decade, we have had our own small ministry we have dubbed “Oasis Ministries,” with a goal of sharing the Gospel and encouraging Christians via the Internet and public speaking engagements throughout the country. I present seminars at congregations and regional conferences and conventions on a variety of educational, inspirational, and motivational topics. I have a growing collection of websites (a dozen so far) and blogs (three active right now and more on the way.) For a sample of what’s on my mind in a more “positive” vein than the somewhat gloomy content of this Field Guide, check out my StarrTrekking blog and my BrightStarr blog.
For more explanation of the purpose and perspective of this website, see the Field Guide FAQ.