Joel Wordsworth is a first generation ex-member of the Family International/Children of God, and one of the cult's early Bible teachers.
Wordsworth was excommunicated by David Berg in 1975. In a Mo Letter titled The Uneager Beaver Berg said:
74. I'VE RECENTLY HAD TO EXCOMMUNICATE JOEL WORDSWORTH because his words were no longer worth what they used to be. From the time he forsook his interest in publishing MO Letters in the Northwest U.S. three or four years ago, when he was doing so well, he began to go astray.
75. JOEL BECAME MORE INTERESTED IN PUBLISHING HIS OWN WORDS and peculiar interpretations and strange doctrines than the Words of the Lord, and from that time on he began to be deceived for rejecting the Lord's Truth. For a long time we just ignored his wild ideas and hoped he'd repent and come to his senses after several gentle rebukes and chidings, but instead he grew steadily worse.
76. AT FIRST I JUST SAID, "LEAVE HIM ALONE. MY SHEEP KNOW MY VOICE, and a stranger they will not follow. Those who follow him are not my sheep, so it's best to get rid of them anyway. Give him enough rope and he'll hang himself--he'll expose himself and his false doctrines and disloyalty to God's Words, and the sheep will see who's right."
77. "BY THEIR FRUITS YE SHALL KNOW THEM", and soon Joel's fruits became apparent, bringing dissension, division, disobedience, insubordination, subversion, disunity amongst brethren--an abomination to God (see Proverbs 6)--leading poor little ignorant sheep and a few old rebellious bottles astray and troubling some weak Colonies.
78. BUT FINALLY HE BEGAN TO EXPOSE HIMSELF BY DEFYING THE WORD OF THE LORD and openly condemning some of the latest Letters and contradicting and twisting their truths so blatantly despite many warnings, so that we had to excommunicate him from receiving them at all. He is now busy defying authority and going about the Colonies sowing further discord amongst brethren.
79. SO WE HAVE HAD TO NOT ONLY EXCOMMUNICATE HIM BUT ALSO EXPOSE HIM AND WARN YOU OF HIM.--As we shall with any others who defy the Words of the Lord. To neglect them and replace them with other words is almost as bad.
Former member George remembered Wordsworth from the Texas Soul Clinic:
Joel was always serious about physical fitness -- nearly as serious as he was about the Word. He typically wore a tight-fitting white t-shirt with kakhi pants; his hair was dark, kept short and combed straight back; he usually had a small ghotee. At the Ranch, I used to see him early in the morning, before most people were up, jogging, doing chin-ups, push-ups, and other exercises while reviewing his memory verses (he knew probably 1000's of individual Bible verses, as well as dozens of whole chapters, and, I think, even a whole book or two!). In those days, leadership did not "fraternize" with the rank and file, following Berg's example, who believed that "familiarity breeds contempt".
The most common remarks made by students in Joel's prophecy classes (his specialty) were "Wow!" and "Heavy!" -- but few could tell you what he said, much less what he meant when class was over. As someone once pointed out, the measure of a leader in the early COG was his ability to deliver a rebuke -- to cut someone to shreds with the Bible. In this sense, Joel was very much a man to be feared!
In a 1977 interview in Christianity Today titled "The Children of God: Disciples of Deception" former member Jack Wasson likened the excommunication of Wordsworth to "kicking the Bible out of the COG". He went on to explain, "practically all of the Bible lessons in the COG were written by Joel Wordsworth. Now his writings are contraband. The point is that COG theology is now based entirely on the MO letters."
Presently, Wordsworth is a frequent poster on the NewDayNews.com (NDN) message boards, where, more than thirty-years after leaving the cult, he attempts to convince others that Berg is still alive and that his prophecies have yet to be fulfilled, frequently attempting to link Bible verses with Berg's Mo Letters. In his postings at NDN, Wordsworth and his wife Carmel describe a still living Berg as being held captive by Karen Zerby and Steven Kelly.