Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pandyce McCluer: The Widowed Church

Pandyce (at 18)
Pandyce McCluer was a longtime resident of Oregon City who grew up with neighbors and classmates who were members of the Followers of Christ church. She and her alumni have been puzzled since adolescence by former friends who systematically withdrew from all relationships with anyone who wasn't an FOC church member, and have been very grateful for the edification and insight provided by this blog, which has helped to explain and dispel some of the myths and mysteries that have surrounded this particular group for years, and has set to rest questions which have haunted her generation for four to five decades. She can be reached at:

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Most of my memories of friends and schoolmates that grew up in the FOC church are pleasant and positive ones; they all seemed to be willing to do the right thing when called upon to do so and were almost entirely cheerful and without guile or ill intent. There are a couple of notable exceptions, but the problem wasn't that they were FOC, but that they were boys, plain and simple.

The person I missed the most was beautiful, intelligent and funny, and so far as I know she married at 16 or so and had children by the time the rest of us graduated. Her family was very protective of her, and she made it clear before she disappeared entirely that this was a future she had chosen, and to be honest I rather envied her - her life was certain and strongly encouraged and supported by her family, while my family viewed me with a sink-or-swim attitude and my future was largely dream and guesswork to say the least. :)

I am willing to accept and believe that the people who comprise the body of the FOC were motivated with best intentions because of my association with their children, however briefly, and because a lifetime of exposure to churched people has made me conscious of the fact that no one seeks the will of God without a certain degree of hope and optimal intent on some level; that a few people whose motives may beg scrutiny inevitably struggle for control while most of the congregation are as sheep - the flock.

This church can best be described as having been widowed, since Walter White died rather than having left. However, the church's not refilling the pulpit offers two possible interpretations - one is of a faithful wife who will accept no other husband, the other of a wife who has had her fill of forced (rather than inspired) subservience and is glad for the breathing room.

Yes, it is possible that she sees her fallen pastor as irreplaceable. It's possible that since some or many see genetic descent as the only route to heaven besides baptism by a prophet, that moving on without leadership is the essence of living on faith. But is it also possible that deep down, some of the staunchest defenders of this stance don't pray for a new preacher lest their beliefs be found wrong, that they would have to admit that at some point they had to have been mistaken, misinformed, or perhaps even (gasp!) lied to. That would shake the faith of anyone, if not totally disrupt their whole view of life, both here and in heaven.

The fact that the church's doctrine isolated its members from other churches suggests a scenario ripe for exploitation. I don't know if you are aware of the psychological ramifications of this, but all potential abusers isolate their victims before beginning an emotional, mental and/or physical assault.

I think all churches do this to some degree, whether intentionally or not. It is the nature of humans to set forth the truth as they know it in proper order, and then to distort rules and stretch boundaries forever thereafter.

However, the one conclusive measure of any church family is the health of the people within it. One definition of "dysfunctional family" that I find particularly useful is 'one in which the people and dynamics fail to provide each member with the resources, tools and skills necessary to function in the real world'. As such, I can see where the church, acting as the Bride of Christ, might refuse another preacher who brings the threat of a doctrine that fails to provide for true needs, both her own and of the children from her former union. In certain cases, I have seen it be just an end to strife, to shame, to abuse, neglect, abandonment, ridicule, chastisement, etc, or just to end the damaging cycles brought about by an ineffective, inappropriate or ill-equipped pastor. Or husband, as the case may be.

Whatever the cause, there is a reason why the FOC church has not simply failed to pray for and seek a preacher, but has consistently refused to do so. That the pulpit remains in place and unchanged is testament to this, I think; a visual reminder of "where we stand on this issue" that goes beyond a widow's keeping a beloved husband's photo beside her bed; rather, in addition, she keeps setting a place for him at the table each meal, and no one sits at the head of the table. A bride
(theoretically) would have only her father's counsel (the bible) and her husband's memory to go on. A bride seeking solace and peace and healing from a longstanding history of troubled relationships would avoid both.

Something that this blog hasn’t clearly addressed, and that I don't imagine you have access to inside information on, is whether or not there is a ruling body of acting elders and deacons in the church now. If so I would love to be a fly on the wall at one of their meetings and see if the topics discussed are relevant to the real world, or if it's mostly domestic "housekeeping" issues that ignore the wolf at the door.

I recently got together with two former OCHS classmates, one of whom I haven't seen in 27 years. We reminisced about people we haven't seen or heard from since our youth, and when the conversation turned to former friends who disappeared into the workings of the FOC church, we all became somber and reflective and recalled them with wistful affection, and then discussed what we now know about the FOC church (most of which came from this blog) and what we have been able to learn of their fates and so were able to lay to rest their memories, but also at the same time to continue to hold them dear. We can accept that we may never see or speak to them again, and that they did what they felt they had to do. As outsiders, that's all we can hope for, but you have given us at least some ease of heart, and I know we aren't the only ones.

One more thing - I have lived for what is getting to be a rather long time, and in the span of my life I have seen people pick up and read a bible and then do some really crazy things as a result of what they've read. The most common is taking up the belief of being "chosen", and I've learned not to judge anyone acting on their convictions. If we are all eligible for inclusion in the Book of Life, then we all have some tentative and hopeful claim to being chosen, and therefore may well
become subject to actions compelled by that belief or knowledge. I also know that the gospels say that we are made strong in our weakness, so even if it's a wrongful self-assessment we have taken upon ourselves, we are given the promise of righteousness being forged from our errors. We are all no more than sow's ears bearing the hope of becoming silk purses.

So if the FOC church is stumbling blindly and in error, rest assured that as a Bride of Christ, she will not forever be forgotten, but that a time will come when she sees clearly, walks straight and sure, and is confused and mistaken no longer. We all cling to that promise. We all cling to the same cross. We all wait for the Bridegroom to return and to wipe away our tears - to make all wrongs right, even our own.

Your Sister in Christ,

P.S. Thank you for letting me vent and share with you. I wanted to offer to you sustenance and encouragement, since final and full closure may not come for decades, if at all. The loss of friends has been born by my generation for decades, and without any sense of reason or any manner of explanation, but your involvement and investment makes these issues all the more deep and painful.

Remember that the sins of youth are only condemnable if having passed from childhood into adulthood you choose to remain faithful to what does not prove true. Forgive yourself, so that you can forgive others, and so that all may be forgiven as is in keeping with the family of the one true living and loving God.


  1. Pandyce, do you really beleave that the members of the foc don't pray for a preacher? The fact that you wrote that is crazy to me. how can you possibly believe that you know what they pray for? Did you "poll ex-followers" like Suzanne has claimed to do to get some of her info? I also find it odd that you make it seem like you were very close with some of there members when you were in school. Acctualy you sound as if you were so close that since high school you have deeply missed your very close freinds. Give me a break!!! Why would anyone read all the stuff about how private and isolated they are and believe anything you write. Did you have any contact with them outside of school? Where you invited to there birthday parties or go to the movies whith them? No need to answer I know the answer is NO... So how were you this close to people that you only saw in passing at school or sat by in class? Your story sounds intetesting but it's just that a story. To Suzzane, why would you post this persons story when you know as well as I do that she is making stuff up just to be in your book.

    1. I posted this because it was a gracious take on the FOC. Most outsiders do not give you the benefit of the doubt, but this woman does. So, please be kind to her.

      By the way, this is not part of my book. None of the guest bloggers will be in my book, except the ones who are in my family.

    2. WOW anonymous why so defensive? I can really relate to Panda. I too grew up in Oregon City and always wondered what was up. In fact there was a girl I had a class with that I was always asking her to hang out and she was always busy. I would call her house and she could never talk. One day I was talking about that with another friend of mine and she said “you know she can’t talk to you outside of school”. I was blown away. Then I worried that I may have got her in to some sort of trouble by calling her. Who knows what ever happened to that girl. I wonder that about a lot of my classmates. No, I didn’t go to movies, parties or events with them outside of school. Not because I didn’t consider them my friend or friends but because it was forbidden by their families. Forgive us “outsiders” for having a heart and caring about the people in our schools and community. Not all of us want to burn you at the stake. However, with defensive attitudes like yours I could see how one might get that craving!

  2. Some pray for a preacher, some do not. They have waited more than forty years for an "apostle". In any case, if someone came a long and claimed to be a preacher it would likely be a lot of confusion. If the preacher did not act and preach exactly like Walter White, he would not be accepted. Walter is believed to be almost god-like by many people there. They believe he preached perfect. He did not and to say he did not preach perfect is blasphemy to many people there. However, it is right in front of you and if you go to the FOC today, throw out the belief that he preached perfect. Suzanne posted a sermon from Walter and Walter says he is going read from first Timothy then immediately starts reading from 1 Corinthians, how is that perfect? Stop trusting in a man and look towards God.

  3. Dear Anonymous,
    I will have to reply in parts. Please excuse the inconvenience.
    I would never assume that no one in the church prayed, since the church fell into chaos when Walter White died, and since now the church faces moral and legal issues. I think that the man who wrote so many letters to the church urging prayer was asking for the group to pray in unity.
    No single body part can judge the whole body, but certain parts can tell about its needs (empty stomach, dry mouth, etc). As such, a man began to speak about the need for unified prayer, and he was not listened to. Any church that has an empty pulpit for decades clearly has some issues to resolve, wouldn't you think?

  4. My name has come up as Unknown, but this is Pandyce responding. Again, many apologies.
    I grew up on the same block as a FOC family back in the 60's and 70's. It's true that I wasn't invited to birthdays and such, but the kids of my age were welcome at our house, and they often came to play up until late grade school, though we still spoke and were on friendly terms. I'm guessing that the church policies were changing at that time, and that since we were young it was harmless.
    For you to accuse me of making this up is funny, if you think about it. You're telling me that I can't know what people pray about, which is true, yet you seem to think you know all about how things were when I was a girl, which was likely long before you were born, if I'm guessing correctly.
    If you are the beloved of God, why do you find it impossible that I could care for or miss a fellow member? Children love each other freely and without expectation or limit all the time. This is very likely why the bible says that we should 'become as little children' and 'love one another as ye love yourselves'.
    It also says that God ^IS^ love, so why are Christians so often angry and fearful?
    The problem with building a wall to shut out all the things that we are afraid of is that sooner or later we are held prisoner within those same walls along with the source of our fears, completely in the dark, and to quote gospel again, "oh how great is that darkness!"

  5. Furthermore, Anonymous, I originally wrote the above posting as a private message to Suzanne. I had read her blog and had all these images in my head and was trying to assemble them in some meaningful order, and when I started to make some sense to myself, I just started to write to her in an effort to describe what I felt I understood and to encourage her.
    You see, I know what it is to think for one's self, which is often considered a dangerous fault, and especially if you're female. What a long and lonely road it can be, one that is best traversed by the fearless and the tireless, plus she has been targeted by both church members for falling out of ranks, and outsiders who see no difference between her and any other FOC.
    She didn't say much by way of reply, but later on asked me if she could publish what I'd written, and obviously I said she could.
    Since I'm not a member, I had no expectations as regards inclusion in her book, nor do I intend to write one from an outsider's point of view.
    I hope and pray that you can see the truth when it's revealed to you, and that you can make some peace within yourself. I didn't write to offend or harm anyone, and I am sorry that you are so angry and defensive as a result of what I've written.
    There will come a time when all mankind is judged and the ransomed will then begin beating swords into plowshares. Since I'm a person who needs lots of practice to get things perfect, I've chosen to start now. Peace be with you all.
    Pandyce McCluer

  6. Way To go Pandyce, thanks for being patient with the FOC, they really don't know how to relate to anyone.your words are kind, theirs are cruel, it's plain to see that you are genuine. Thanks for your kind thoughts.

  7. Dear Anonymous,
    If their words are cruel, perhaps it's because of the state of their hearts and minds. They have a lot on their plates these days, given changes in the law and attitudes of the judicial system and the media exposure that inevitably follows.
    I can be compassionate with FOC church members because they grew rather shy and introverted after decades of sequestering themselves, then suddenly hauled into court and aired on local and national tv and also because I knew a few FOC's as a child and remember them so fondly (though I have to wonder now if they came over to play when their parents weren't aware that they were at my house - it occurred to me that they always dropped everything and left before their father got home - or simply because there were no other FOC children close by for them to play with).
    Life isn't easy for any of us, and these people have been isolated and in some ways misinformed for a long time, which makes it hard to relate to anyone. It doesn't seem to occur to some of them that there is anything but hostility on the 'outside', let alone appreciation or someone to miss them, which is painful even to think about, let alone live in that mindset.
    Thank you for your indulgence. You are very kind. :)

  8. You are kind, and patient, but your making excuses for them also? You shouldn't have to. They should be ashamed for their actions against you.

  9. There are times when all of us need kindness, patience, and yes, even excuses. The people who make up this particular group aren't any more or less perfect than anyone else.
    It's a peculiarity of human beings to expect Christians to not be possessed of shortcomings nor fall to sin and error - but all of us do. Between Christian and non-believer, the only difference is whether or not we have accepted forgiveness.
    Another peculiarity of human beings is that we sometimes need most what we least deserve. Anyone who has raised a child is very familiar with this paradox - that when acceptance and a hug is most desperately needed, a spanking is all too readily forthcoming. These are gentle people. I have never known one to be violent or even disrespectful of others. They have been badly treated by those outside their own community for a long time. I'm willing to believe that their hostility is one born of isolation within their own group and mistreatment from the general population, because I remember some of them from another time, when they were still part of the community.
    Lastly, Christians and non-Christians all too often suffer from lack of communication because of what I think of as the "should/should not mindset". If you've ever watched how people's behavior changes in the presence of a pastor, you've seen it in action - all of a sudden that person is keenly aware of what he "should" be doing rather than all the things he's been doing that he "shouldn't", and suddenly the "hypocrite" Christian has company, because when people do what they "should", they tend to act out postures rather than live out their true hearts. Unfortunately this leads to churchgoers who blandly mouth platitudes to the lukewarm god of conformity, and non-believers who tend towards excess, sometimes violently, as pagan rites of passage.
    The bible isn't only a book of law, but also of redemption, of mercy and justice and peace and forgiveness, qualities most valuable and best appreciated by those who need it most - me and people like me. Sinners, every one of us.
    I don't think anyone needs to feel ashamed on my behalf. It was never my intention to cast anyone in unfavorable light or to make them feel bad in any way. This is a very difficult time for the FOC church, and I feel compassion and encouragement for this group, some of whom have lost both their children and their freedom to the faith that has been thrust upon them since birth by a man who has been dead since the 1960s. Put yourself in those shoes for a moment or two, and maybe you can understand why I feel as I so.


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