Testimonies aren't a part of COG culture - at least not a part of any COG culture I've been part of. Whether the retreads in the Tkach sect indulge between cheery praise choruses is something I'm not aware of. Mormons testify, ratbag Evangelicals testify, but not us.
So when I ran across a testimony in the Bible Advocate by a former WCG member, it was time to pause and wonder.
I was a creative and sensitive child — the kind experts say is likely to become homosexual, primarily for failure to bond with the parent of the same sex. Brought up like this, a youngster may acquire gender identity disorder (GID) and become sexually confused in life.
In elementary school, I once went secretly to my teenage sister’s bedroom and found pairs of her nylon stockings in and around the wastebasket. I took a few of them back to my bedroom and put them on under the covers. Rubbing my feet and legs together, I felt the pleasurable slickness of the nylons. Then I hid them in the back of the lowest bureau drawer.
The next few evenings I occasionally wore them under an afghan wrapped about me. Family members may have known I was cross-dressing, but nobody said anything — not even Mother. She might have felt that I was in big trouble, but didn’t know what to do.
I don't want to gainsay Howard Mesick's sincerity; it takes guts to tell a less than flattering tale on oneself. But is it really helpful to relate this kind of thing?
Howard also mentions the late Richard Wiedenheft, one of the genuinely decent WCG pastors who left in the so-called "rebellion" of 1974.
I seriously considered suicide as a teenager but did not want to end my existence. I listened to The World Tomorrow radio program and was impressed because its beliefs seemed to follow what was in our Bibles. Persuaded that I could escape the pain and find a fulfilling life now and forever, I confessed my sins to God, asking His forgiveness and receiving the Holy Spirit... But I was still deceived about some things. The Armstrong church’s atmosphere of rank and privilege did little to help heal a man with family and personal baggage as deep-seated as mine.
Leaving Armstrong’s church, we attended the service of a distant congregation pastored by Richard Wiedenheft, often driving over one hundred miles on Sabbath to enjoy his interactive Bible studies. Or we drove to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to learn from sermons given by Bruce Chesney in a church there.
Mr. Wiedenheft eventually dissolved his church and encouraged its members to enter the Church of God (Seventh Day). After I joined this body, I had a religious experience. Standing by myself in our living room, I felt peace and assurance that God’s kingdom was not one of competitiveness and power structure, but of cooperation and eternal helpfulness.
Howard Mesick's observations about "rank and privilege" certainly ring true, and COG7 is a healthier place than WCG by far, judging from the experience of many who have attended there. His subsequent health problems have doubtless given him time to consider a great many things.
I’ve been institutionalized for the past sixteen years due to a paralyzed left side and other handicaps. Through all this, God has remade a confused, frightened, depressed soul into a trusting, rational person.
Testimonies: they still repel more than attract, and it's hard not to harbor suspicions about the psychology that underlies them. But as for Howard, I can only wish him well.
You can download the BA here. The article appears on pages 18 and 19.