For decades, the COG has promoted itself as “elect” and “called” to God’s “special” truths. In the views of many — and certainly as preached by COG ministers — the Holy Spirit really lives with them and all other religions of “the world” are deceived and empowered only by Satan.
Sure, they harp about sin and how humans are imperfect. But that imperfection is too often used as an excuse to sweep terrible crimes under the rug, ignore bad behavior or simply deny that terrible things are happening within their own congregations, perpetrated by people they call brethren — and in many cases elders and other church employees.
When it comes to awful crimes like pedophelia — which have been among the most abundant COG-related news stories in the general media across 2013 and 2014 — this whole “Holy Spirit” guiding the church and its members and leaders thing has to be called into question. Obviously, nobody of any sort of moral fiber — which includes the average COG member — would have anything but sheer contempt for the sort of sick, twisted stories of crimes against children that have boiled up across the world through the courts and into newspapers, nor should members have to shoulder the shame of those around them that perpetrate these horrors. But the problem is, most COG members don’t even know about them. Considering how small even the largest COG groups have become, it takes a special type of tunnel vision to not even hear that someone you once went to church with has been sentenced to life in prison. And yet, so many of the COG members we speak to about these cases don’t have a clue they’ve been in the public eye.
Atrocities like these aren’t only cautionary tales that very real predators are out there, including in the COG, but are also another testament to the cultist mindset and cultural isolation that permeate many Armstrongist splinters. It also calls into question just how “ordained” these ministers are to not even get the slightest hint from the divine that the guy they’ve appointed as a spokesman, elder or congregational charity case has a long history of raping kids. It’s a lapse in judgement that shouldn’t be ignored when asking whether the COG really represents “God’s church.”
Obviously, the COG isn’t the only religious movement that has experienced newsworthy allegations against pedophiles in their midst. The Roman Catholic Church can certainly sympathize. But reveling in not being the worst is a pretty far cry from bragging rights.
These are just the men whose allegations against them have recently surfaced into the public light. If we missed any, please let us know and we’ll add them to the listing. There have been tales of more such monsters who seem to have escaped justice for their crimes.
And of course, Herbert W. Armstrong himself has long been accused of sexual crimes against his own daughter, starting when she was a teenager. Whether or not that’s true (the preponderance of evidence suggests that it is) Armstrong’s legacy is partially that of standard-bearers committing similar crimes.
With the exception of one, each of these men at some point possessed a position of authority within their respective organizations. What measures have these groups taken in response to ensure their ranks are clean of such deviants? We’ve heard nothing but silence over the months and years from the COG on these issues.
Stephen Gough – CBCG
On November 12, 2014, Stephen Gough, a 79-year-old woodworking teacher and member of Fred Coulter’s Christian Biblical Church of God in New Zealand, was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for molesting children between the ages of three and 16 while reading them passages from the Bible.
Gough was formerly a WCG member and reportedly a spokesman for CBCOG.
British and Kiwi media ran with the story, describing Gough’s abuse as using children as “sexual toys” and “carefully orchestrated” his crimes.
No COG group turned him in. For years he was reportedly in therapy for his “addiction” instead of rotting in prison.
Joseph D. Wagner – COGWA
On June 11, 2014, 63-year-old Joseph D. Wagner — a reported COGWA member in the Cleveland, Ohio congregation — was found guilty of raping two young girls aged 6 and 10, whom he held prisoner in his house, turning his bedroom in a “torture chamber” for his victims.
He was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The two girls in question were reportedly not his only victims.
Wagner was reportedly a frequent host to the local COGWA elder and fellow congregants who helped clean his house, cook food for him and other charity work under the auspices that he was “disabled.” There have been rumblings of a civil suit against Wagner as well, which could also name and blame COGWA for negligence and providing material support to this hideous rapist.
William Koeneke – COEG
William Koeneke, the 86-year-old former WCG deacon-turned-Church of the Eternal God minister, was convicted on four counts of the dreadful crime of child molestation in England in 2013. He had molested young boys in a Paddington, London residence between the years of 1985-1989 while he was an ordained church official in WCG at the height of the cult’s power.
Koeneke since joined the Global Church of God, which later became known as COEG, as a minister who frequently gave sermons and wrote COG literature promoting British-Israelism.
Koeneke was arrested in 2011, his four accusers now in their 30s. Since he is nearly 90, it’s possible Koeneke could die in prison while serving his term for his crimes against children.
Kevin Owen Dean – WCG
A member of Herbert W. Armstrong’s inner circle in WCG’s heyday, 61-year-old Kevin Owen Dean is still on the run from authorities for fleeing a courtroom in 2010 where he was to stand trial for child molestation charges and 12 other counts. Dean was out of jail on a $75,000 bond.
Description: Caucasian man; 5-feet-11-inches tall and 175 pounds; brown hair and hazel eyes.
Last Known: Kennesaw, but Dean owns Imperial Medical, a business in Cartersville.
Anyone with information on Dean’s whereabouts should call BCSO’s dispatch, non-emergency line at 770-382-5050, option 7.
Cartersville-Bartow County Crime Stoppers accepts anonymous information on its tip line at 770-606-TIPS (8477). It gives cash rewards for tips the lead to an arrest in some cases.
Yedidiyah Hawkins – HOY
In December 2008, then 40-year-old Yedidiyah Hawkins was sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexually molesting his niece when she was 11-years-old. He claimed to be checking her for cervical cancer. His niece testified against him when she was 15-year-old.
Hawkins was an elder in former WCG member Yisrayl “Buffalo Bill” Hawkins’ dangerous bunker-dwelling cult, the House of Yahweh.
As reported in: Religion News Blog