Philadelphia - Freedom Through "The Work"?
The Philadelphia Church of God's (PCOG) Edmond, Oklahoma headquarters may not evoke images of captivity and a world war, but the gated and locked church college compound entrances give silent pause to those who have concerns about youth, family or loved ones living under the control of televangelist Gerald Flurry.
The PCOG holds youth camps at Armstrong College during the summer trying to create positive public relations buzz in packaged news reports released to local Oklahoma news outlets. However, unfiltered reports from the direct participants of what actually has occurred at the camps have surfaced. Letters about the camps sent to ESN with a reported camp sermon tirade by Flurry may be read by clicking here. Concentration on camp sporting activities combines with mandatory bible studies, harsh discipline, and campers being closely guarded twenty four hours a day. Reports of sleep deprivation; completely exhausted youth; inadequate meals; severe dehydration, heat exhaustion; camp injuries; nonexistent, or negligent medical care; and of military boot camp type techniques used to enforce constant, severe discipline have emerged. The Edmond, OK church college camp is for those who are 13-19, whose parents are baptized members of the PCOG. Acceptance at the PCOG Youth Camp can serve as an indoctrination and recruitment tool for idealistic, religiously inclined church youth to apply to Gerald Flurry's unaccredited Armstrong College.
Other widespread concerns for family members impacted by the PCOG include no further contact orders with family, once family members are disfellowshiped by the ministry. Philadelphia church members are ordered to shun any contact with family members or others who have been excommunicated, or disfellowshiped for any reason, valid or not, by the minister. The slightest criticism or minor doubt expressed about Malachi's Message, purportedly written by "That Prophet" Flurry as the "little book" referred to in Rev. 10, is strictly verboten upon pain of disfellowshipment. Philadelphia church members are only allowed PCOG approved reviews of Malach's Message, Raising the Ruins, Mystery of the Ages, and other such church writings at such booksellers as Amazon.com if they wish to remain a member of the church. Nor are PCOG family members who are outsiders allowed to post uncensored reviews of PCOG literature or risk disfellowshipment and permanently losing contact with their own family loyal to Flurry. Personal letters of PCOG family members directly impacted and hurt by PCOG's no family contact policy or otherwise may be found at ESN here.
It is becoming increasing difficult to find out exactly what members are being told in the church about the last hour of the upcoming prophesied "end time". Lengthy, blaming, emotionally draining, doctrinally explicit, shouting sermons from Flurry are deemed to be much too strong for the public to stomach. As soon as Flurry's sermon cds are played in congregations, they are to be immediately destroyed. Sermon tape libraries have also been eliminated. (PGR 2005-12-10, pg. 3-5) No recordings are to be made available, or allowed, to set the record straight. What has Flurry got to hide by having his own sermons destroyed?
After purchasing the rights to Mystery of the Ages from Joe Tkach Jr. (including the rights to 19 additional WCG titles) PCOG tithe and contribution income did not surge forward as Flurry expected. Nevertheless, how is all that incoming church tithe money going to be spent? For starters, construction of new, luxury homes for his loyalist inner circle; a two story administration building; followed by an imitation Ambassador Auditorium for the arts. Flurry said about the tithe money expended for homes being built:
"I'll tell you something that, well I just want you to know the truth, what's happening, but we, we are in good financial standing right now. In 2003, this stunned me a little bit, we actually decreased in members by six percent. Six percent from 2002. ... When you think about that six percent decrease, brethren, and really it happened the year we finally won the court case ... it certainly has the stench of spiritual death. ... What about the six percent decrease in the members - what does that mean? ... What is going to happen to those people? ... It is about spiritual death. ... Six percent of God's family just died or are dying." [G.F. sermon, That Prophet, 2/7/04, tape1:side2]
"In 2003 we had a six percent decrease in members." [G.F. sermon, Spiritual Revolution, 4/17/04, side2]
Contributions after purchasing Mystery of the Ages from Tkach for three million dollars were not what was expected, in the following Flurry quote:
"Now in January 2003 we received $45,000 less income than we received in January 2002. Now again, brethren, I know we're turning it around, but I want to be very cautious and I certainly want to sacrifice for the work as much as I can. And they were about to start building my home, and I've just decided, well I'm going to put that on hold until after the holy days ... [G.F.
sermon, That Prophet, 2/7/04, tape1:side2]-- we know one PCG member who lost her home trying to 'sacrifice for the work.' PCG members ought to visit Imperial College and see the beautiful homes being built for the PCG ministry inner circle."
Although the PCG instructs its members to pay third tithe (RV July/August 2004, pg. 28), a member who was seeking third tithe assistance was recently told "the church has discontinued that program." How so? An article in the church magazine "Is Having Insurance a Lack of Faith" (Royal Vision, July-August 2004, p. 28), subheading "God’s Insurance System" after quoting Deut. 14:8-29, states:
"In the Church of God, this is commonly known as the third tithe. Third tithe is a pool of funds that Church members pay into. It is essentially the Church’s insurance program for the widows and the fatherless...If the head of a household dies prematurely, his family may face economic hardship unless some sort of financial provision has been previously made. In this case,the third tithe is there as an insurance program to help the widows and the fatherless."
Checking with the Oklahoma department of Insurance, two Philadelphia named insurance companies licensed to do business in Oklahoma were located, but no such Philadelphia insurance company was found based in Edmond, OK. Any church member paying out of their current income, life savings, retirement funds, or probated estate in premiums to Flurry’s version of "God’s Insurance System" to provide for their loved ones, should they unfortunately predecease their spouses, may well be leaving their families financially destitute. Flurry may not have to live up to his part of the insurance bargain as advertised. Perhaps the anti-fraud unit of the Oklahoma Insurance Department might be interested in hearing more about "God’s Insurance System".
The numbers Flurry provides in his PG reports for are United States PCOG income. How is Flurry "tithe farming" going in Canada? Ambassador Reports has produced a unique accounting spreadsheet for the PCOG, which should prove to be of interest to the readers of Ambassador Reports, based on PCOG charitable reporting to Canadian Revenue.
The total contribution for PCOG Canada average is $1.39 million annually 2000-2005, per year. Refer to the spreadsheet for the actual income and expense reported. For those five reporting years only, that’s a total of $8,348,105 in tithes and contributions from Canada, as reported to Canada Revenue.
Of interest in the Canadian report is the amount of $215,258 due from directors, employees, individuals, and organizations not at arm’s length - in other words, unnamed PCOG insiders. While this could simply represent a legitimate loan from the Canadian PCOG to the parent corporation in Edmond, it does not specify who or what organization owed the money to the Canadian PCOG and for what reason.
Similarly, an amount of $46,779 was owed by the Canadian PCOG in 2005 to unnamed persons or organizations not at arm’s length with the Canadian PCOG.
Directors of the Canadian PCOG in 2005 who were reported not to be at arm’s length are also listed in the financial report.
Finding out how much the Philadephia church collects annually is estimated using the available Pastor General reports. Philadelphia Church of God tithe income averages in the twelve million dollar a year range annually 2003 through 2005. Prophecy does pay! A bar chart illustrates the major grouping of some reported expenses for 2005, the latest year Flurry disclosed PCOG-U.S. expenses. But no personal salaries, ministerial liability insurance, or employee benefit costs were specifically listed by "That Prophet".
Where is the most of the money reportedly going? Not for a personal, custom-fitted corporate business jet. At least not yet. The single largest grouped component of the 2005 budget is media broadcasting at $4,109,937. A quick tally of the latest Flurrycast schedule shows 183 local TV broadcast nationwide in the U.S.; and one local station in Vancouver, Canada. WGN and other satellite feeds overlap some international areas outside the continental U.S. Early Friday and Sunday mornings are the favored days and times for purchase. No lack of Flurry on the air, but is anyone watching "That Prophet?" -click-
View additional PCOG financials on "That Prophet" developed at the following Ambassador Reports link: