OF RELIGION Field Guide to the



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--What it Will Be Like, along with a subscription to the Plain Truth magazine. The urgency of the ads and the reasonable price—free—prompted him to send in the coupon right away.

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-evolution articles was currently running in the magazine. As an eighteen-year-old agnostic university freshman, taking Natural Science classes which emphasized the theory of evolution and downplayed any notion of a real God, I was certain that I could poke holes in all of the Bible-thumping in the magazines.

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-lesson Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course. At one point we even considered applying for admission to Armstrong's Ambassador College in Pasadena, California. But limited finances prevented us from pursuing that option.

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-minute drive one way. Thus we began years of the typical WCG nomadic lifestyle, driving long distances sometimes two and three times a week in order to participate in a variety of church activities. These included weekly Sabbath services on Saturday, Wednesday night Bible studies, and mid-week meetings for the men of  "Spokesman Clubs."  We by no means had the longest distance to travel ... some folks attending our services in later years traveled all the way to central Michigan from northern Ontario, Canada, as often as they could until groups were formed nearer their homes.

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-schooling of children by the mother was encouraged. We dutifully got in line with as much as we were able. I gave birth to our daughter, Ramona, at home in 1970, and home-schooled her from kindergarten through sixth grade. She did attend a local private school from grades seven through nine, but at age 16 she dropped out and we went back to home-schooling.

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 eight-day Feast of Tabernacles gatherings. These were large conventions held in various parts of the country every fall, with many thousands in attendance at each location. And during our third and sixth year of membership, we sent another prescribed ten percent to headquarters for a fund allegedly used to support "widows and orphans."

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-the-scenes "political" battle developed at the church headquarters between Herbert Armstrong and Garner Ted Armstrong. Up until that point, we had no idea that there were deep, serious problems in the church hierarchy going back many years. But when Garner Ted was removed from all his positions of leadership in the organization, and eventually disfellowshipped by his own father, we were stunned and devastated. Trying to make sense of it all, we sought information on the issues from any source available. And we discussed our concerns, as discreetly as possible, with a few close friends.

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-year-old daughter lost virtually every friend we had in the congregation we had been attending.


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-line," I typed in "Garner Ted Armstrong" at a search engine. I was stunned at the wealth of information I got back on the history of the turmoil that had developed around the WCG since 1988. I found that HWA's successors (he had died in 1986) within the WCG had rejected most of his doctrines, and that thus many bickering, competitive groups had spun-off from the "Mother Church." Meanwhile, Garner Ted Armstrong had been involved in a sex scandal which eventually led to his ouster from his own denomination, and having to start a whole new small denomination to re-gather a following, this time dubbing it the Intercontinental Church of God.

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-Sabbatarian groups in America. This website is an outgrowth of my desire to share my concerns about what I have found with others.  

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.



Return to Top of Page and the Navigation Bar