The Helpmate of Males An Ethnography on Sex Segregation and Theocracy

Cultic Studies Review, Volume 3, Number 1, 2004

The "Helpmate" of Males: An Ethnography on Sex Segregation and Theocracy

Cliff Cheng, Ph.D.

University of Southern California (USC)


This ethnography explores sex segregation in a cultic communal social change movement - "The Third Sacred School." "The Third Sacred School" had 12 "units" (communes) in western Caucasian Christian countries. First a study of "The Third Sacred School's" organizational structure was done. The member's view in "The Third Sacred School" is that is has no structure and no hierarchy. Focus groups comprised of 36 members indicated that there was a hierarchical organizational structure. Within individual "units" there were five hierarchical levels. Above the "units" was "Spiritual Leader." "Spiritual Leader's" job has always been held by a male, for "The Third Sacred School" believes "women focus spirit through men." After the structural study was done, members were coded into the structure based on their job assignments. In the "units," the top two organizational levels included 6 "Unit Focuses" and their assistants and the "Unit Managers." Only males held these jobs. At the third level, the "Unit Managers" were assisted by 12 (6 males, 6 females) "Work Pattern Coordinators," who oversaw a workforce that was sex segregated into the "Men's Work Pattern" and the "Women's Work Pattern." The fourth level of hierarchy consisted of departments which were either the women's work pattern, i.e., kitchen, household, or men's work pattern, i.e., construction/maintenance, farm/ranch. Of the 10 Department Supervisors at the fourth level of hierarchy, 6 were males, and 4 were females. At the worker level, there were 402 workers, 287 females and 115 males, a 2.5:1 ratio of females to males. Most females started at and stayed at the fifth and lowest level of hierarchy. The females at levels two through four were usually wives of high-ranking males. The subject organization used theocracy to justify patriarchal sex segregation.

Key Words: Sex segregation. Patriarchy. Theocracy - to be used Front Page.

As a graduate student whose interests include organizational theory and social change, I found the literature on communes fascinating, for they purported to be a practicing form of social organization that is an alternative to modernistic organization (Kanter 1972; Zablocki, 1980). Having never seen an actual commune before, which is an alternative form of social organization that is in most cases supposedly non-mechanistic, I invited myself and my students in 1987 to visit one of "The Third Sacred School's" (Note: in this paper quotation marks are typically used for terms that have a unique meaning for the group's members.) communes, after a colleague introduced me to one its leaders. I recognized that the "The Third Sacred School" could potentially be (and later was) the subject of my doctoral dissertation (Cheng, 1991). ([1]) Here was an organization that purported to resocialize itself and its "members" through education and communal living away from conventional modernistic organizational behavior to humanistic organizational behavior. ([2] ) "The Third Sacred School" was utopian, for members believed they had developed through "living out God's will" a community that was "enlightened." Their purported kind of society was an ideal type, a utopia.


The study I did on "The Third Sacred School" was the result of known observer longitudinal fieldwork that began in 1987, while I was a graduate student, and continues to this date, albeit on a limited more focused level. From 1987 to 1991, I immersed myself into the everyday cultural life of the subject organization and did participant observation. I started studying "The Third Sacred School's" organizational resocialization program (Cheng, 1991). Gaining access to study "The Third Sacred School" was easy, for they have an organizational cultural value of "welcoming all who come." They believe anyone can see "The Truth" (as defined by their organizational ideology), which will result in a "new person" (recruit) becoming "enlightened," and thus joining the organization.

In this research project, I first studied organizational structure. I noticed that the organization was sex segregated. Then I did a second study to see how the jobs in the organization were sex segregated.

I took extensive field notes and kept a personal journal. Tape recording was not allowed due to "members'" objections over perceived invasions of privacy. To preserve confidentiality, some identifying details have been changed and/or merged together.

I was in residence in the field at "The Third Sacred School's" "units" (communes) from 1987 to 1991 for periods up to six weeks at a time, for up to two to three months of the year. During the four-month period in which I wrote the first draft of my doctoral dissertation I moved my residence near one of the "units" and had daily interaction in the cultural life of that "unit" (Cheng, 1991). On a daily basis I observed and took part in cultural life, made field notes, and conducted interviews, which refined my writing. When not in residence at the "units," I spent up to thirty hours per week on non-residential fieldwork at "centers" and conducting interviews.

During the deep immersion fieldwork, I participated in most of the different types of "The Third Sacred School's" leadership development and communication training classes, as well as other events which purported to resocialize its participants. As a "class member" I learned the organizational culture and gained crude member's competencies to the point where I could communicate with "members" by reproducing their culture in talk-in-interaction (Garfinkel, 1963:191-201; Spradely & McCurdy, 1975:41; Fine, 1980). Additionally, I sampled training classes in which I was a non-participant observer. I also participated in communal life by working along side "members" in their everyday organizational routines, e.g., picking berries, cleaning toilets, cooking meals, mending fences, attending "services," and so on.

Sampling and Data Sources.

To examine sex segregation, "The Schedule" of work was a primary data source. A three-month period was examined because the "Spiritual Leader" of "The Third Sacred School" often refers to changing seasons. Solstices and equinoxes were prominent themes in "services" (sermons). "Long-term visitors" to the "units" often visited "for a season," which may not have coincided with calendar seasons. For the "units" which were agriculturally based, seasons were very important to their planting, growing, and harvesting. Summer was chosen, for that is the season in which most crops were harvested and canned, the maximum number of "classes" and "seminars" were offered, and the maximum number of "long-term visitors" and "visitors" were at the "units." ([3] )

An attempt was made to sample "The Schedules" of all 12 "units." However, the lack of response, incomplete data, illegible data, and uncertainty of the sex of person assigned to the job, resulted in the study of 6 "units." These 6 "units" included both the "International Headquarters Unit," and "Canadian Headquarters Unit," which set the example for all the other "units." Also in this sample were all four of the "big units" (communes with over 40 unit members).

"Units" that sent 80% or more of their schedules and up-to-date "unit roosters" were included in the study. To eliminate uncertainty of the sex of person assigned to the job, a request was made that an annotated "unit rooster" be sent with indications as to who were or were not full-time workers, and what their sex was. If the "unit roosters" sent were not annotated, or were out-of-date, they were not counted.

A second data source was structured and unstructured observations on which sex performed which job. The sex segregation of a particular department or production was also observed, e.g., what jobs do females perform in the milking house and what jobs to males perform?

The third data source used was semi-structured and unstructured interviewing of hundreds of "Envoys" (a name for members of the "Third Sacred School") at all organizational levels, with varying demographic characteristics, and tenure. More detailed information will be supplied later.

As a fourth data source, most of the existing and available "transcripts" (of sermons) from the 1930s onward were read and content analyzed.

Internal Labor Market. "The Third Sacred School's" labor market was internal to itself. That is, only very rarely was labor hired from outside the "units." "Envoys" who were non-unit members were expected to donate their time and services without compensation, and typically without reimbursement of expenses. With few exceptions, all the labor was performed by "Envoys." While "Unit Managers" liked to represent their "units" as "self-sufficient" from conventional society, an important organizational cultural value, their organizational structure required more labor, especially skilled labor, than they had amongst their "unit members." "Units," while not admitting so, were dependent on "long term visitors," short term "visitors," and "class members" to operate.

"The Third Sacred School's" construction plans were often not carried out, or the ones which began construction often stalled in construction due to a lack of skilled labor. "Envoys" with construction skills were "invited" to live in the "units." They were transferred around from "unit" to "unit" to work on different construction projects. Typically "Envoys" were not "invited" to live in a "unit," though they may visit, without having completed several levels of "The Third Sacred School's" educational offerings. I observed that people with needed skills were invited to live in a "unit" that needed their skills much sooner than "Envoys" who have completed several levels of "The Third Sacred School's" educational offerings and had longer organizational tenure.

Skilled "members" who lived "on the outside," often volunteered their skills to "units." For example, there was a licensed electrician who was an "Envoy" of "The Third Sacred School" who did not live in a "unit." He volunteered and went to several of different "units" in different parts of the world to volunteer his skills, usually on major construction projects. The "units" also saved up repairs for him to do, but in times when they needed work to be done, such as in the case of a construction project that was being held up by electrical work, they often hired non-members. Similarly "Envoys" with computer skills also volunteered their talents and went around to different "units" to work.

Workforce. The workforce in "The Third Sacred School" was somewhat fluid. The 6 "units" studied had an N of 517 "unit members" (permanent residents). The 517 "unit members" studied live at the four largest "units" and 2 smaller "units." They made up 74.9% of all "unit members." Nearly all the "members" who lived in "centers" or by themselves usually held jobs in conventional society. Since they did not work in one of "The Third Sacred School's" businesses, they were excluded from the study.

The 517 "unit members" studied were etically categorized, that is according to the schema of members, into 439 working adults and 78 non-workers. The 439 adult workers were easier to count and categorize for they worked a full day or more. The 78 remaining "unit members" were excluded from this study because they were not considered workers by management, for they were either children—less than 18 years of age—or adults who were retired and/or medically disabled. Most "units" had few, if any, children. In the "units" that had children, the infants and toddlers were communally cared for. School-age children went to public school in conventional society. Teenagers were sometimes given work after school and on weekends or helped their parents do their work.

Retirees and the disabled were not considered by management to be full-time workers. As "unit members" aged or developed medical conditions, they were assigned less work or no work if their medical condition so dictated. Some of the retired adults were able to work for a short duration on light duty tasks, such as dishwashing, setting tables, stuffing envelopes, or answering telephones. Invalids were assigned people to care for them. A few "units" had nurses or chiropractors who were "unit members," though typically not currently licensed in their respective professions. The other "units" had aides assigned to their elderly "unit members."

Of the 439 working adults, 37 were management personnel who could set their own schedules. Of the 37 managers who could set their own schedules, 26 were men. Of the 11 women managers who could set their own schedules, 7 of them were wives of senior male managers. The rest were supervisors.

The assignable full-time workforce of 402 working adults consisted of 287 females (71.4%) and 115 males (28.6%). This included 18 working female adults whose primary assignments were office jobs. The regular office jobs were not on "The Schedule" since a particular person did those jobs, such as secretary, bookkeeper, or clerk. All those jobs were staffed by females. However, those individuals were put on "The Schedule" and assigned an extra job. The extra job varied day to day. It would often involve some aspect of kitchen work.

The 402 full-time workforce was augmented by "long-term visitors," "short-term visitors," and "class members." All able bodied individuals, including paying visitors, were required to work on "The Schedule." I asked one of the "Unit Managers" "Why do paying visitors have to work?" He replied, "We are not a hotel. you misunderstand. This is a spiritual community. Everybody must be in focus here. We can't have people running around here on vacation. Everybody must have a spiritual purpose." "Spiritual purpose" in this sense meant working for free for the good of "The Third Sacred School."

"Long term visitors" were required to work a full day. Some of them were de facto probationary "unit members" who were listed as "Long term visitors" when they were really "unit members" but could not be counted as "unit members" due to their immigration status. "Short-term visitors" (of under a few weeks) usually worked a half-day. "Class Members" were there for education. Part of that education included daily work of 2-4 hrs.

Analysis, Translation, Writing, and Feedback

After I gathered data, I looked for patterns by performing a semantic domain and content analysis on the emic terms (Casagrande & Hale, 1967; Spradley, 1979:110-111; 1980:93). These domains were compared and contrasted to generate an emic model (Spradley, 1980:131-139). Then, I looked for corresponding etic domains to ground the theory generated (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). "Emic" terms are those actually used by the members. "Etic" terms are those used by social science or conventional society.

In writing this ethnography, I translated emic (folk, members') terms into etic (social sciences, conventional society's) terms by using parentheses following the emic terms, if the emic term was different from conventional usage. For instance, the term "Envoy" is emic, which translates into an etic term, "members." Emic terms that have multiple meanings, depending upon usage, are translated in varying ways throughout the ethnography.

To increase validity, I sought feedback on earlier drafts of this and other ethnographies from interested members, managers, executives, and "Spiritual Leader" where there was disagreement of my presentation of the emic view.

Background of the Subject Organization

In 1923, "The Third Sacred School" was founded in the United States after "Founder," also referred to as "Spiritual Leader I," "came into consciousness" (enlightenment) following several days of rapture, which was preceded by a period of severe depression. "Founder" was a Euro-American male from the rural working-poor with a grade-school education. He was the son of a Christian preacher father and homemaker mother. His public ministerial activities started during the American Great Depression of the 1930s, when he began preaching to anyone who would listen to him.

"Founder" stated that "The Third Sacred School's" revolutionary social change mission is to "assist in the spiritual regeneration of humankind" (to act as a change agent to save humankind from its own evil human nature). In 1946, "Spiritual Leader I" founded his first "unit" (commune) where "mailings" (transcriptions of his addresses) could be mailed from, and where residential "classes" (resocialization) could be held, and "Envoys" could live communally to "prove out" his vision.

After "Founder" died in a plane crash in 1956, "Spiritual Leader II" succeeded him. During his thirty-three year tenure, "Spiritual Leader II" built a worldwide organization of twelve "units" in western, Caucasian, Christian dominated countries and five front stage organizations. ([4] ) The front organizations presented themselves to the general public as nonprofit foundations interested in business ethics, educational improvement, holistic health, media responsibility, and so on. On the backstage, the purpose of these front organizations was to feed recruits into a global chain of patriarchal Christian revisionist charismatic communes (Cheng, 1999). ([5])

At the peak of membership in the 1980s, the total membership was approximately 2,300 ([6] ) The typical "Envoy" was a Caucasian heterosexual female who either joined while she was in college, due to "The Third Sacred School's" college outreach efforts, or after she was divorced. Most "members" had a Christian background. "The Third Sacred School" did not have much of a presence in nations outside of the Christian west. In nonwestern nations, the membership consisted of Caucasian, ex-patriots of western nations.

"Envoys" may be classified by where they lived. About 30% (690) of "members" lived communally as "unit members" (permanent full-time residents) in "units" that ranged in size from approximately 20-150 "unit members." About 5% (115) of the total membership lived in "centers" (suburban and urban communal homes). The rest of the membership lived non-communally in cities and held jobs in conventional society.

Most "units" had to varying degrees a semi-dependent relationship with the larger economy (Stein, 1973). Some "units" ran a business such as a health spa, a hotel, or a trailer park while others depended on a combination of farming, ranching, and rent paid by "unit members" (commune residents) who "worked out" (in the general economy). "Centers" (urban and suburban communal houses) were financed by rent from residents who "worked out," and from businesses, e.g., nut and candy distribution, vitamin distribution, and so on.

"Envoys" who lived in the "units" farmed, ranched, cleaned house, cooked meals, did administrative work, and so on. They as a "unit" communally ate together and attended four "services" (sermons) weekly. Single "members" lived in small rooms and shared communal bathrooms. Nuclear families lived together in apartments, trailers, or in some cases duplexes, or houses.

"Spiritual Leader II" died of natural causes in 1989 and was succeeded by his biological son "Spiritual Leader III." "Spiritual Leader III" attempted to change the organization by changing his leadership style to be more consultative-participative and less like his father's paternalistic, patriarchal leadership style. In "The Third Sacred School" the lesser leaders and "members" were expected to follow the example of the leader. The change in leadership style caused polarizing organizational conflict. One fraction was traditional and opposed the new consultative-participative leadership style. The traditionalists wanted to maintain the paternalistic patriarchy of the first two "Spiritual Leaders."

The progressive faction supported the new leadership style characterized by consultation and participation. A subgroup within the progressive camp made public an institutionalized pattern of sexual harassment, financial improprieties, and power abuses, which were not supposed to happen within "The Third Sacred School." Subsequently the organization became polarized. ([7] ) The resulting organizational conflict caused an organizational decline—high turnover, withdrawal of commitment, decline in donations, and conflict, including lawsuits, over sexual harassment and other causes of action. Within 18 months, the membership dropped to about 500.

"Focalizational" and Organizational Structure

"The Third Sacred School's" organizational structure was studied in order to determine if jobs were sex segregated. I convened three focus groups, consisting of 14 "members," half females and half males, and also interviewed an additional 24 individuals, half females and half males (38 "members" in all) to discuss organizational structure. Two of the focus groups had recently completed either "Spiritual Expression Class" or "Leadership Class," which were, respectively, "The Third Sacred School's" basic three-week spiritual educational program and the intermediate program. The third focus group consisted of half male and half female "unit members" in a large "unit."

I asked the "Envoys" "if a friend or relative who knew nothing about The Third Sacred School asked you to diagram how The Third Sacred School works, what would your drawing look like?" I supplied pen and paper and asked them to make a drawing. Two "Envoys" refused to draw saying the relationships cannot be drawn. These "Envoys" recited the often repeated phrase in "The Third Sacred School's" organizational culture that "We are all one." In "The Third Sacred School's" animistic cosmology there was supposedly "no separation" between subject and object. There was supposedly "no separation" (no ego defense boundaries) between "Spiritual Leader" and the "members."

Thirty-six "members" were left at this point in the focus group. Two "members" drew a concentric circle diagram in which "The Lord" or "Spirit" was in the center of the circle. "Spiritual Leader" was at the next ring. Then the next ring consisted of "The Third Sacred School." The outer most ring was everyone else on earth.

They explained, "spirit" was the center of all life. "Spiritual Leader" was the "spiritual focus of the planet." "The Third Sacred School is God's body in action on Earth." The outermost ring consisted of non-members.

I asked the clarification question: "I notice Spiritual Leader is the only human individual you have on your diagram. Do you mean he is the closest to spirit out of all human beings?" They replied, "yes," and went on to explain that they thought he was the means by which "spirit" comes into the world.

Figure 1

Concentric Diagram of Organizational Structure


"Spiritual Leader"

"The Third Sacred School"


I asked for further clarification: "Are Envoys more close to spirit than non-Envoys?" They replied, "yes," and said because they were "conscious of their spiritual mission on earth" and non-members were not.

The "spiritual mission" referred to was the organizational mission of "The Third Sacred School." I asked: "How do you carry out the mission of The Third Sacred School?" They replied, "by playing my part in The Design." "The Design" meant a perfectly orderly universe in which everybody and everything has a hierarchical place. I presented Figure 1 to focus group members for their feedback (the original figure used concentric circles, but rectangles are used here for technical reasons). The focus group members unanimously agreed that the concentric circle diagram showed how some people were "closer in" to "The Center" (of spirit) than others. The emic concept of "closer in" will be further discussed later in this paper.

"Divine Triangles." The remaining thirty-six "members" drew "divine triangles." "Divine triangles" were a concept taught in "The Third Sacred School's" educational program (Cheng, 1991). They diagrammed the emic concept of "focalization."

All living things can be diagrammed into "divine triangles." Everything and everyone was either classified as a "responding one" (subordinate) or the "Focus" (superior).

"Envoys" were taught that every life form, everything on Earth, has a "focalization," a control, a motivation. They believe that "people" on Earth, meaning non-members, were spiritually "unconscious." Envoys were taught that "people" were "focused" (place primary emphasis in their lives) on "human nature"—impulses such as greed, sex, fear, anger, envy. By being "Envoys" of "The Third Sacred School," their "focalization" was in the highest possible realm, "The Lord," "God," Spirit," who was represented in human form by their "Spiritual Leader."

"Members" were taught that "Spiritual Leader" was the "clearest" (most enlightened) human on Earth. He was thought to be a direct descendent of "Jesus" (savior). Under this belief, "giving Sunday service" was the most important job not only in "The Third Sacred School" but on Earth. "Spiritual Leader" gave "The Word" (of God) to them every Sunday and every time he spoke.

Since "Jesus" was always conceived as a male, all three of "The Third Sacred School's Spiritual Leaders" have been male and their successors always must be male. A "Center Focus" told me, almost echoing word for word what was taught in "The Third Sacred School's classes," that "women focus spirit through men. Women need men to align themselves to spirit." "The Third Sacred School" in its educational program cited the Christian Holy Bible to support the notion that women were the "helpmate" of men (Cheng, 2003). ([8] ) Sex roles in "The Third Sacred School" were sharply defined by these beliefs (Cheng, 1999b).

The thirty-six focus group participants' diagrams placed "Spiritual Leader" atop of a "divine triangle." The top of the "divine triangle" was the "focus," while those at the bottom were the "responding ones" (subordinates). The "divine triangles" above "Spiritual Leader" reflected their conceptions of deity, which synonymously was drawn as "God," or "The Lord," or "Spirit."

From previous experience, I knew "Envoys" were uncomfortable with questions about "hierarchy." Previously when I asked questions about "hierarchy" I was met with defensive reactions of silence, quick change of the subject, interviewees suddenly excusing themselves and leaving the room never to return, or they would defend "The Third Sacred School" and repeat the organizational discourse that they have no "hierarchy." Not only did "The Third Sacred School" claim it had no "hierarchy," it also said that it is not an "organization." They claimed instead to be "God's body on Earth," organic as opposed to "an organization humans thought up." Nevertheless they did think of themselves as a group of people with a common shared goal working together (an organization). They did admit people have different jobs with different levels of responsibility within "The Third Sacred School." In etic terms they were an organization and as such may be analyzed using the literature on organizational studies.

From "Spiritual Leader" to "Councils." My questions that probed beyond the point where "Spiritual Leader" was drawn atop of "divine triangle" had to proceed with caution. I asked: "Who responds to Spiritual Leader?" The typical answers were: "We all do" or "Everyone on the planet whether they are conscious or not." However, a few focus group participants were more specific, which allowed me to follow-up and explore the organizational structure. Responding to "Spiritual Leader" in the diagrams drawn were "Executive Council" and "Central Council."

Figure 2

Emic Version of Divine Triangle (superior-subordinate dyadic relations)a




a. There are triangles above and below this one. According to "The Third Sacred School's" organizational ideology, all life forms can be drawn into triangles that are hierarchically above and below this one.

"Spiritual Leader" appointed an "Executive Council" of 12 people, males and their wives, to assist him. ([9] ) ([10] ) "Executive Council" males were considered to be the "focus" and their wives were their "response" (helpers). "Executive Council" was a permanent body. Membership was for life. Most of the males of "Executive Council" had a region of the world they were responsible for, or in one case were responsible for outreach. ([11] ) ([12] ) The regions of the world had at least one "unit" in them where the male Executive Council member in charge would headquarter himself.

"Spiritual Leader" convened a "Central Council" each year to meet with him and "Executive Council." "Central Council" consisted of representatives from across "The Third Sacred School." This group was made up of approximately 150 people, the maximum number of visitors "International Headquarters Unit" could host. Some males consistently were invited to attend each year with their wives accompanying them. These males held jobs including all of the "Unit Focuses," "Unit Managers," "Regional Focuses," which are all male jobs, the heads of the outreach organizations, and other managers. ([13] ) ([14] ) Very few females went to this conference without husbands. These females were the current and former "Spiritual Leader's" personal secretaries, heads of the outreach organizations, or the "Women's Work Pattern Coordinators" at the larger "units."

Figure 3

"The Third Sacred School's" Spiritual Governance Hierarchy

Spiritual Leader

(1 male)

Executive Council

(6 males, 6 females)

(Special Session Participants - Jr. Executives)

(approx. 12-15 males, 3 females)

Central Council

(approx. 98 males, 52 females)

"Regional Councils." There were also "Regional Councils" to which many average worker "members" were invited. ( [15]) Attendance at these low-ranking "councils" was not read in "The Third Sacred School's" culture as meaning one is "closer in" (to "Spiritual Leader" and has high status). However, not being invited to these low-ranking "councils" meant that a "member" was not considered by the "Regional Focus" to be "responding" (deferential, committed, and sufficiently participating).

"Special Sessions" and "Closer in." Seven focus group participants drew "divine triangle" diagrams which had "Special Sessions" as a "responding one" in addition to "Executive Council" and "Central Council." These responses, together with the concentric circle diagram (Figure 1) made it possible to differentiate statuses. The emic concept of being "closer in" emerged. One respondent put it that "Some people are closer into Spiritual Leader than others. They are more important to the design than I am and most of us (in the focus group)." I asked the entire focus group "would everyone agree that Executive Council is closer in or higher in the design than Central Council, and the people who go to Special Sessions are closer in than the Central Council people?" They all agreed this is so. I asked "does being closer in mean the same thing as being higher-up in a divine triangle?" All agreed.

The "Executive Council" met in person twice a year, September and April, and monthly by telephone. The men of "Executive Council" spoke with "Spiritual Leader" at least weekly on the phone. "Central Council" met immediately after the "Executive Council" meetings in September of each year. After the April "Executive Council" meetings, there were "Special Sessions with Spiritual Leader." "Special Sessions with Spiritual Leader" consisted of top leaders invited by "Spiritual Leader" for small group meetings. Those invited changed somewhat year-to-year.

Rarely were women invited to "Special Sessions." Almost all of the male participants who were not on "Executive Council" were on "Central Council." The seven focus groups members who drew in "Special Sessions" participants called these men the "junior executives." One of the seven summed it up saying, "any man who regularly meets with Spiritual Leader must be an executive." After "Spiritual Leader II" died, many members hinted at or even outright asked "Spiritual Leader III" to invite them to "Central Council." "Spiritual Leader III" had to address the issue by saying an invitation to "Central Council" is not a sign of having "made it" spiritually. He said people were invited because of their spiritual responsibilities. "Envoys" nevertheless regarded an invitation to "Central Council" as a marker of high spiritual attainment.

Councils Do Not Make Decisions. The "Councils" were not governing or legislative bodies. They were not even advisory boards. There were no debates or votes. They "offered up" (deferentially gave to their superior) information that flowed up the organizational hierarchy to "Spiritual Leader." "Spiritual Leader" said he made no decisions, that "things became clear" (intuited). In practice, "Spiritual Leader" made all key decisions, especially personnel decisions.

From "Spiritual Leader" to "Councils" to the "Units." The structure of "Spiritual Leader" and the "Councils" was "The Third Sacred School's" spiritual governance hierarchy (figure 3). It was not a day-to-day hierarchy. I continued exploring the cultural concepts of "closer in" and "divine triangles" with the focus groups by asking "how does the divine triangle get from the executive level where Spiritual Leader, Executive Council, Special Sessions, Central Council are to your unit"? Their replies had some variations depending on whether they lived in larger "units," smaller "units," in a "center," or by themselves.

All "Unit Focuses" were males who were regular invitees to at least "Central Council." In the larger "units," the "Unit Focus" was a member of "Executive Council." These males were the "spiritual focus" of their "units." They were all drawn atop of a "divine triangle" for their "units." They had the most important job of all in the "unit," that of "focusing" the Sunday morning and other "services" (presiding minister). ([16] )

The "Unit Focus" was assisted by the "Unit Manager" who ran the day-to-day operations of the "unit" while the "Unit Focus" "focused spirit" (sermonized, counseled). "Unit Manager" was also a job held only by males. All "Unit Managers" were regular participants in "Central Council," but not higher.

At the "International Headquarters Unit," the "Unit Focus" was a member of "Executive Council." He was assisted by two men who were the "Unit Manager," and the "Regional Focus." In that region, the "Regional Focus" "focused" everything in his region except the "International Headquarters Unit." He was the only "Regional Focus" who only had the "Regional Focus" job. All the other "Regional Focuses" were also a "Unit Focus" or "Unit Manager." "Spiritual Leaders II and III" both lived at the "Canadian Headquarters Unit." While they were not the "Unit Focus," they gave the live Sunday morning "service" there. Anywhere "Spiritual Leader" went, he gave live Sunday morning "service." At the "Canadian Headquarters Unit" the "Unit Focus," the "Unit Manager" and the "Regional Focus" were the same male. He was a regular participant in "Central Council." However, since "Spiritual Leader" lived there, his job as "Unit Focus" did not include "focusing" the Sunday morning "service" unless "Spiritual Leader" was on travel.

At the other "units," the "Unit Focus" or the "Unit Manager" served as the "Regional Focus." While "units" were in regions, made up of several American states or Canadian provinces, the "Regional Focus" job was not as big as the "Unit Focus" or the "Unit Manager" jobs. "The Third Sacred School" emphasized "units." While there were "centers" and individuals living outside of "units," "units" were where the most active "members" lived and were the sites where all of the important activities took place.

Only five or six "centers" were large enough to have a "Center Focus" who participated in "Central Council" on a regular basis.

From "Units" or "Centers" to Individuals. I continued to cautiously explore with the focus group how the "divine triangles" extended downwards towards individual "members." "Unit Managers" were assisted by a "Men's Work Pattern Coordinator," and a "Women's Work Pattern Coordinator," who accordingly were the supervisors of the male and female workers. The smaller "units" referred to their departments, which in practice had only the "focus" working in that function full-time. In larger "units" there were departments with their own "focuses" who were in turn "focused" by one of the "Work Pattern Coordinators." The maintenance and farming/ranching departments were "focused" by "Men's Work Pattern Coordinators." The Kitchen, and Housecleaning Departments and their "focuses" were "focused" by the "Women's Work Pattern Coordinator." In the headquarters' "units" there were office workers who were focused by the "Unit Manager" or by another senior male.

In "centers" most of the "members" worked in the regular economy. There was only one "center" that was large enough to support a full-time "Center Focus." That "Center Focus" was paid a salary from the "center's" donations and businesses. There were a few "centers" that had a business that employed more than one person. A few of "The Third Sacred School's members" were franchisees of a particular nut and candy franchisor. These franchisees typically employed 2-3 "Envoys." The other businesses run out of "centers" were usually one person businesses such as carpet cleaning, carpentry, or secretarial services. Thus, most "members" did not work together. There were no organizational levels in most "centers" between the "Center Focus" and "members," for they were too small.

Most of the "Center Focuses" were males. The only female "Center Focuses" were from small "centers." These small "centers" had few, if any, other "members" or were in parts of the world where "The Third Sacred School" had few "members." In some larger "centers" there were assistant(s), but few of them were female.

The "Center Focus" was supposed to "focalize" all the "members" who lived by themselves in his area. If he did not have a communal house as the "center," then it was likely he would not have many committed "members." If there were a "unit" within driving range, then as one male "Executive Council" member told me "the members (who do not live in units) tended to orient themselves to the unit." He also told me "The Third Sacred School" was the strongest when there was a unit nearby."

In "units," the "unit members" were more interdependent than "Envoys" living in "centers" or by themselves. "Unit members" had to live, work, socialize, and worship together. The emic term "unit" implies "members" working together interdependently as one. For "Envoys" living outside of a "unit," even living in a "center," "focalization" was often diffused for there are no other "members" or a "focus" in physical proximity to remind them of expected behaviors of "The Third Sacred School's" organizational culture.

Compiling a Hierarchical "Divine Triangle" Model. Next, I took the data from the focus group and compiled a "divine triangle" model of organizational structure within the "Units."

I fed the model back to the focus group. They all agreed that "Spiritual Leader" was atop of all "divine triangles" and that "Executive Council" and "Central Council" "responded" (were subordinate) to him.

When asked about how a "unit member" was "focalized," all focus groups members agreed that the "Unit Focus" was atop of the "divine triangle" of a particular "unit" and all "units" were "focused" in the same manner. They all agreed that the "Unit Focus responded to Spiritual Leader." As "unit members" and other "Envoys" they all agreed that "unit members" and others staying at "units responded to the Unit Focus."

However when it came to diagramming the intervening relationship between the "Unit Focus" and "unit members," there was some discussion and disagreement. One subgroup favored an "absolute" interpretation. "Absoluteness" was an emic organizational cultural concept in which there was a strict literal interpretation of "The Third Sacred School's" teachings. The Absolutists enthusiastically participated in "clarification" about matters relating to "focus." ([17] ) For this subgroup there was no doubt that "unit members were focused" by their sex's "Department Focus and/or Work Pattern Coordinator." Their "Work Pattern Coordinator" was focused by the "Unit Manager" who in turn was "focused" by the "Unit Focus."

Figure 4

Hierarchical Structure of Six Sampled "Units"

Unit Focuses1

(6 males)

Unit Managers

(6 males)

Work Pattern Coordinators

(6 males, 6 females)

Dept. Supervisors

(6 males, 4 females)

Unit Members2

(287 females + 115 males = 402)


1. Most "Unit Focuses" report directly to "Spiritual Leader."

2. Only "Unit Members" have been counted for the rest of the workforce was highly contingent. They were "long-term visitors" (months or years), "short-term visitors" (overnight, weekend, weeks or months), "class members" (who were there to be educated but worked a few hours a day as part of their education).

Another sub-group said the absolutist model was only administratively true, that the "Unit Focus" was the "spiritual focus" of the "unit" and all others in between the "Unit Focus" and themselves were merely administrators, and not "spiritual focuses." I shall call this view the charismatic follower view, for they emphasized following specific individuals they deem to be the "spiritual authority" by virtue of a perceived quality of "consciousness."

The absolutists said charismatic followers' spiritual understanding is "unclear," and lacks "absoluteness." The absolutists "focus on" (emphasized) the "design" (of mankind) in which every life form is "spiritually focused." As one absolutist put it, the "design comes down to my level from the Unit Focus to the Unit Manager, to the Men's Pattern Coordinator, and then to me."

A charismatic follower subgroup member said, "We are all equal except a few very special people who were born to play a bigger role than we. They may have helpers who have more responsibility than me. I respect that, but they are not my spiritual focus." By "special people," charismatic follower went on to say he meant "Spiritual Leader," "Executive Council," and "Unit Focuses."

An absolutist countered by asking the question, "When Unit Focus is away, who focuses the Sunday morning service?" All agreed that it was "Unit Manager." This meant in "The Third Sacred School's" culture that the "Unit Manager" was the acting "Unit Focus" since "focusing Sunday morning service is the most important job in "The Third Sacred School."

The same absolutist then asked, "When Unit Focus and Unit Manager are both away, who focuses the Sunday morning service?" Not everyone knew for this rarely happened. When it did happen, a few scenarios previously occurred, a male executive from elsewhere in "The Third Sacred School" would fly in and stay in the "unit" and "give Sunday morning service" or the "Men's Work Pattern Coordinator" would "focus" the Sunday morning service. The absolutist said, "What happens is when the Unit Focus and the Unit Manager are both away on a Sunday morning, the Men's Work Pattern Coordinator focuses the service. This means he is in charge." Nobody raised any objections.

After a pause, I used the opportunity to ask, "Would the Women's Work Pattern Coordinator ever focus the Sunday morning service?" All said "no." I asked, "Who would focus the Sunday morning service if the Unit Focus, Unit Manager, and Men's Work Pattern Coordinator were not available?" The answers were varied: "I don't know." "That's not for me to worry about." "I just play my part and the rest falls into place." "There are many capable men here who can do it." "The next most clearest man would focus the Sunday morning service." "Spiritual Leader would send us someone."

In cases when both the "Unit Focus" and "Unit Manager" were away, often the "Center Focuses" would come to the "unit." I asked one "Center Focus" why he drove over to and stayed at the "unit" in the middle of his work week. He replied, "The pattern is thin, Unit Focus and Unit manager are both gone. They need some stability at the unit." The "Center Focus" took time off work to stay at the "unit" to reinforce the "Men's Work Pattern Coordinator." The charismatic followers conceded this was true, but most still insisted the real "spiritual focus" was the "Unit Focus" even though he may be on travel and there were other men substituting for him temporarily.

Figure 4 represents "The Third Sacred School's" day-to-day organizational structure. For the average "unit member," it is the day-to-day hierarchy in the "unit" he/she lives in which manages her/his life, since power is highly centralized and hierarchical in "The Third Sacred School." The "Unit Focus" made the key decision of whether a "member" would be allowed to live and for how long at that "unit." A "member" could be "asked to leave" (fired) at any moment. It was the "Unit Focus" through the "Unit Manager," that decided what kind of housing a "unit member" would live in and where he or she would work. It was the "Work Pattern Coordinator" for her/his sex that determined what jobs, and what extra jobs a "unit member" would be assigned to on a day-to-day basis.

Vertical Organizational Mobility

I interviewed four "Unit Managers" about career advancement. I asked them, "How does one get ahead in "The Third Sacred School?" The most succinct response was, "One does not get ahead. One lives the life of the spirit. Sometimes spirit needs us to assume more responsibility and we do it. Sometimes spirit needs us to play our part just where we are."

It was evident from the response above and the other responses that my phrasing of the question was clumsy. I restated the question using "The Third Sacred School's" emic terms. I asked "When one is ready for more responsibility, how does one get it?" One "Unit Manager" said "There's nothing to get. Spirit provides us with all that we are ready for. When one is ready for more responsibility, Spirit gives it to us."

I still was not getting at the issue of career advancement, for "Envoys" tend to frame things in spiritual terms. I restated - "I notice that most focuses have done their jobs for many years. How does one who is ready for more responsibility assume more responsibility?" One typical response was, "People do move on, but this is rare. People are called by The Lord to be part of his conscious body on earth. This is not a job we are doing. It is a calling."

There were few chances for organizational advancement. "The Third Sacred School" was a small organization of approximately 2,300 members. The largest two "units" had 140-150 people. The membership level was at best stagnant. "Units" were not being started as they were in the 1970s. No growth in organizational size or even a decline in membership meant there was no need for more managers, no room for organizational advancement.

I interviewed one male who had a highly coveted job in which he was free to set his own schedule. He also had more spacious housing space than other "unit members." He had been doing that same job for 16 years. There were few openings for advancement in those 16 years. He not only left his coveted set-your-own-schedule job, he left "The Third Sacred School" in frustration. He said, "I want to serve the Lord and there is no room to do so in The Third Sacred School. I have to leave and find my own ministry." He went on to tell me that he had an argument with his "Unit Focus" and got angry at him, which is against "The Third Sacred School's" emotional display rules. He wanted a promotion and was not given one. He was told there were no opportunities and to continue to be patient.

In the 1970s, the way to get ahead in "The Third Sacred School" was to found a "center" in a town which did not have one. If a man was able to attract "response" (followers) to him, this would have been interpreted by "Spiritual Leader" as evidence of his ability to "focus spirit." If progress was made, the small "center" grew into a big "center" with many dozens of "members," people who went to "service" regularly at the "center," stay on "The Third Sacred School's" "mailing list," wrote monthly "response letters," made donations, and went to "Classes." Eventually that "center" would have so many solid "members" that they would desire to live together. They would easily raise the money to purchase land for and operate a "unit." However, membership was not growing, declining even. Founding a "center" was unlikely in an organization that has zero growth or was in decline.

When one was appointed to be a manager, it was in practice assumed he would do that job for life. There was very rarely turnover at the managerial levels. Very few were appointed to "more responsibility" (promoted) for there was a lack of opportunity for advancement. At the very top levels, turnover was the result of the death of that job's incumbent.

"The Third Sacred School" does have a hierarchical structure. The "units" within "The Third Sacred School" have five levels. Males hold the top two levels of job and most of the third and fourth level jobs. The "units" report to "Spiritual Leader," a job that also has and will be a male job. Not only is "The Third Sacred School" male dominated, the males are hegemonic, Caucasian, have a Christian background, and are from the first world.

The Schedule of Job Assignments

Studying jobs in "The Third Sacred School" was somewhat problematic. "The Third Sacred School" lacked the rigid job classifications one would find in mechanical bureaucracies such as governmental, military, or unionized organizations. There was much fluidity between the jobs. Almost everybody except the managers did many other, often very diverse jobs. Few people, except managers, cooks, bookkeepers, and construction personnel, did the same job everyday. The work performed in the "units" was organized by "The Schedule" of work, a written document which was posted in the late afternoon each day so that "Envoys" could check it when they came to dinner in the "unit dining room" (communal dining room). Most "unit members" (permanent residents) knew what their regular job would be the next day but looked on "The Schedule" for their additional job assignments, such as "after service snacks" (setting up and cleaning up snacks after sermons) for females, chapel set-up and clean-up for males, or dishes for both sexes.

Sex Segregated Supervision

"The Schedule" of work at a particular "unit" was set by "Work Pattern Coordinators" (Supervisors, one for women and one for men). They were also respectively referred to as the "Women's Work Pattern Focus" and the "Men's Work Pattern Focus." The "Women's Work Pattern" was also referred to as the "Home Pattern."

I asked the "Women's Work Pattern Focus," "Why is the 'Women's Work Pattern' called the 'Women's Work Pattern' or the 'Home Pattern?'" She replied, "It is natural for the feminine spirit to want to make home. We're only letting spirit manifest itself."

I then asked the corresponding question to the "Men's Work Pattern Focus," "Why is the 'Men's Work Pattern' called the 'Men's Work Pattern' or the 'Maintenance Pattern' or 'Construction Pattern?'" He replied, "That's obvious. We gotta lot of building projects go'in on right now. We're actively do'in construction, and at the same time keeping up with our maintenance of what we've already built." ([18]) I followed up and asked, "Is men's work the only work males are allowed to do and women's work the only work females are allowed to do?" He said, "Of course anyone is capable but men are better suited to do men's work and women are better suited to do women's work. It's natural."

In smaller "units" the "Women's Work Pattern Focus" was often the wife of the "Unit Focus" or "Unit Manager." Most of the baby boom generation "Unit Managers" were at one time in their organizational careers the "Men's Work Pattern Focus."

Although the organizational discourse was that work was integrated into the spiritual life of an "Envoy," the "Work Pattern Coordinators" were regarded by most "Envoys" as mere administrators rather than a higher form of spiritual leadership. "Envoys" typically went to the "Unit Focus" for "clarification" (to seek spiritual counseling), rather than to the "Work Pattern Coordinators." However, the "Work Pattern Coordinators" did have an important spiritual function. They respectively held "men's meetings" and "women's meetings." All the "Envoys" of each sex group, except the top managers and their wives, and the invalids, would go to the meeting for their sex. These meetings usually reinforced gender roles by telling of male responsibilities to "protect and care for women" as I typically heard repeatedly stressed in the 14 men's meetings I attended. While I was not allowed to observe "women's meetings," I am told that one common theme was to stop "nagging" or "distracting" men and be deferential to males.

Sex Segregation in a Job

To determine whether a job was sex segregated, as either female or male or mixed sex, an observation period of four weeks was used. During that time, "The Schedules" from 6 "units" were analyzed to determine the sex of all the person(s) assigned to a particular job, regardless of whether "unit members" or not. The jobs were typically listed on "The Schedule" by function or place, rather than job title, e.g., "Chapel Set-up" meant setting up and taking down chairs for "service," or "strawberries" or some other crop name meant picking that crop. Following Jacobs (1993:53), a female-dominated job was defined as having 70% or more women. A male-dominated job was defined as having 30% or fewer women (Jacobs, 1993:53). The male-dominated jobs of "Spiritual Leader," "Executive Council Member (primary server)," "Unit Focus," "Unit Manager," "Regional Focus," have already been discussed.

Table 1

Female Sex Segregated Jobs

Managerial Levels

Executive Council Member - wife or secretary

Women's Work Pattern Coordinator

Housing Coordinator

Worker Level

After Service Snacks - hostess


Chapel Cleaning

Child Care - worker


Home pattern - housecleaner

Elder Care - worker

Food preparation - kitchen worker

Milk House ladies - cow/goat milker



Special Diets - delivery person

Table setter

Transcriber – typist of "services"

Female Sex Segregated Jobs. The female sex segregated jobs that had 70% or more female jobholders were: "Women's Work Pattern Coordinator," "Housing Coordinator," "Child Care" worker, "Table setter," "Housecleaner," "Secretary," "Receptionist," "Nurse," "Elder Care" worker, "After service snacks" hostess, "Cook," "Food Preparation" worker (also called "Kitchen Helper"), "Special Diets" delivery person, and "transcriber," the typist at "services."

The jobs of "Women's Work Pattern Coordinator" and "Housing Coordinator" were 100% female dominated jobs. Both these jobs were supervisory in which the female job holder could set her own schedule.

The "Housing Coordinator" did not have people working for her but she was supervisory level. Her job was essentially a combination of comparable larger society jobs of hotel reservations clerk and a nightclub door person. This female helped the "Unit Manager" perform the very important gatekeeper function. "The Third Sacred School" was very concerned that disruptive people would stay or want to move in. Everyone wanting to stay was screened by the "Housing Coordinator," with close oversight by the "Unit Manager."

The "Housing Coordinator" also performed an important internal function, i.e., coordinating the "unit" housing. Space was an important reward and status symbol. Higher-ranking males (and their wives and families) had the best housing, i.e., more space, private bathroom and kitchen, and laundry facilities. Families also got more space, regardless of their jobs. Where to house "unit members" was such an important decision that the "Unit Focus" made those decisions himself, while the "Housing Coordinator" carried out the decisions.

"Table setters," "Home pattern" (housekeeping), "Secretaries," "Receptionists," "Bookkeepers," "Nurses," "Elder Care" workers, "Chapel Cleaning," "Transcriber," and "After service snacks" hostesses also had 100% female job holders. Eighty percent of "Cooks" were females; 85% of "Kitchen"—food preparation—helpers were females.

In the smaller "units," there often was only one "Cook" in the kitchen, who was usually a female. She sometimes would be helped by another female who did the "Food Preparation," washing, peeling, and cutting of food, and dishes. The "Kitchen Helper" job was considered light duty and was usually assigned to an older female "unit member" or female "visitors." The helpers who were male tended to be older males and or visiting males who could only, because of some medical condition or age, work in light duty job assignments. "After service snacks" was a job that consisted of serving and cleaning up refreshments after a "service." It was a combination of a hostess job and kitchen worker job. I will discuss the other female dominated jobs in the pages to follow.

Male Sex Segregated Jobs. There were jobs which were male sex segregated in which less than 30% of the job holders were female, such as: "Men's Work Pattern Coordinator," "Farm," "Ranch," "Gardener" (maintenance), "Dishes (dish washer of large pots and pans)," "Maintenance" worker, "Construction" worker, "Pipe Change" mover, "Chapel Set-up," "Usher," "Control Room" audio-visual technician, "Computers," and "Night watch" (watchman).

Males did maintenance gardening, while both sexes did vegetable gardening. Males were assigned to wash large pots and pans. "The Third Sacred School's" kitchens used commercial kitchen equipment, including commercial dishwashing machines. People were still required to pre-wash dishes, pots and pans before they went into the commercial dishwashing machines. Females were available to wash large pots and pans, since they were already working in the kitchen. However, the females did not want to wash large pots and pans for they thought it was men's work which required the upper body strength of a male. I did observe a few instances of tensions over this division of labor. Female kitchen personnel would often let large pots and pans pile up until a male would come pre-wash and load them. Males would be annoyed at this. There were an insufficient number of males to do the male only jobs. If a male had to stop work on a "more important" (male) job to wash large pots and pans, there was tension.

Table 2

Male Sex Segregated Jobs

Managerial Levels

Spiritual Leader

Executive Council Member - primary server

Unit Focus

Unit Manager

Regional Focus

Men's Work Pattern Coordinator

Worker Level

Chapel set-up


Construction - worker

Control Room - technician

Dishwasher - large pots and pans

Farm - farm hand

Garden - maintenance gardener

Maintenance - worker

Nightwatch - watchman

Pipe Change - moving irrigation pipe

Ranch - ranch hand


On "The Schedule" the job of "pipe change" meant irrigation pipe mover. This job was unique to "International Headquarters unit" which had a large farming operation. Its irrigation technology was manual. It was necessary to physically move the irrigation water pipe that watered the crops at sunrise and sunset everyday. As many people as they could find were needed to carry the pipe. The minimum needed was about 6 strong people. If only 6 people could be found they moved the pipe very slowly in sections. If 20 or 25 people turned out they could get it done faster.

"Night watch" was a job for an unarmed night watchman who walked or in the case of larger "units" drove around the "unit" at night to be alert for possible intruders or fire. There were few incidents of theft at the "units" of "The Third Sacred School." Those cases were always attributed to outside thieves. Fire was a concern, for the "units" tended to be of older construction and did not have fire sprinklers. I will discuss the other male dominated jobs in the pages to follow.

Non-Sex Segregated Jobs. There were also non-sex segregated jobs in which there was no female or male majority. These jobs were: "Kitchen Focus," "Meal Focus," "Dishes"—regular dishes, "Vegetable Gardener," "Weeder," "(crop name)"—crop picking," "Canning"—canner of the crops picked, "Choral Director," "Musician," "Camera Operator," and "Greeter." The "Kitchen Focus" and "Meal Focus" shall be discussed later.

There was an ongoing need for "Weeders" to tend the garden. Anyone willing to do this undesirable job was happily accepted. When it came time to pick a crop, everyone was needed as "fruit pickers" and "canners." In both fruit picking and canning, the men did the heavy lifting. I will discuss the other non-sex segregated jobs in the pages to follow.

Table 3

Non-Sex Segregated Jobs

Managerial Levels

Kitchen Focus

Meal Focus

Worker Level1

(name of crop) - fruit/vegetable picker

Camera Operator


Choral Director

Dishes (dish washer of regular dishes)



Vegetable Gardener


1. The jobs of "Musician" and "Singer" were not on "The Schedule

Workplaces and Sex Segregation

To further study sex segregation, the workplaces that have the largest number of people working at them shall be examined in more depth: services, kitchen, office, and the milk house.

"Services." "Services" (sermons) were productions which were regarded as "the life blood of the ministry." They were at the center of spiritual and communal life. Everyone, "unit members," visitors," and "class members," was expected to attend. The "services" were held four times a week on Sunday morning and evening, and Wednesday and Saturday evenings. The rooms visitors stayed in had invitations inviting the visitors to come to "service." A typical "service" lasted an hour and 5 minutes to one hour and 15 minutes. Most of the people in the "unit" were in some way involved in the production of a service, ranging from "chapel set-up" (and clean-up), "greeters," "ushers" "housecleaning," "control room" (audio/video technician), "camera operator," "Focus" (speaker), "musicians," "singers," and "transcriber" (typist of what was said in the "service").

All these jobs except the "musicians" and "singers" were scheduled jobs. "Musicians" and "singers" were mix-sex jobs. They were expected to be ready to perform without taking time from their scheduled jobs. The "service's" "Focus" was the one who conducted the "service." The "Focus" of the "service" was a male job belonging to the "Unit Focus" or his higher-ups who may have been visiting.

Each Sunday morning "Spiritual Leader" would give a live "service" from whatever "unit" he was at that Sunday; this "service" was videotaped and transcribed. The videotape and transcript were copied and sent out express to the "units" and other subscribers of the videotapes. Each "Envoy" was individually mailed a packet of "transcripts" twice a month and required to write a "letter of response" (deferential commentary) to "Spiritual Leader" at least once a month. At the "units" and "centers" where "Spiritual Leader" was not giving a live "service," the "Focus" of that "unit" or "center" would either play the videotape from "Spiritual Leader's" previous week's "service," or read "The Transcript." Occasionally a "unit" or "center" would have a "hook-up" (teleconference) call and listen to "Spiritual Leader" giving a live "service." Even though the "Focus" of the "unit" or "center" is introducing a videotape or reading verbatim "The Transcript," this job is regarded very seriously as the most important job in the cycle of a typical work week. After watching the video, or reading "The Transcript," the "Focus" of the "service" would make his own comments, which interpreted and reiterated what "Spiritual Leader" had just said. It was the job of the "members" to listen and learn the "themes of the service," both from "Spiritual Leader" and from the "Focus's" interpretations and reiterations so that they could mediate upon them and practice them during the upcoming week.

"Chapel set-up," "ushering," and "control room" were also male jobs. "Chapel set-up" involved setting up and putting away chairs. During a "service," the set-up people moved the podium and "Spiritual leader's" chair on-stage after "The Choir" sang. "Housecleaner," and "transcriber" were also female jobs. "Choral Director" and "Musician," "camera operator," "greeter," and "usher" were jobs that were mixed sexed.

Kitchen. In the communal life of "The Third Sacred School" meal times were the time of day "unit members" and visitors saw each other, usually at lunch and dinner. While "services" were the center of spiritual life, meal times were the times "unit members" socially interacted. As a "Women's Work Pattern Coordinator" told me, "Everything in the unit revolves around the kitchen." Some people did not eat breakfast, or ate in their rooms. Families often ate breakfast together. ([19] ) Lunch and dinner were the meals that had the largest turnout and, consequently, required the largest number of kitchen staff.

There was uniformity in the "food service" in "The Third Sacred School." There was a centralized "International Food Services Director" in "The Third Sacred School." This was a male job. He also was the "kitchen focus" of the "Canadian Headquarters Unit." Three "kitchen focuses" told me that the "International Food Services Director" set up all the kitchens to resemble one another to make interchangeability of personnel easier. The food was served cafeteria-style, which eliminated the need for food servers. Diners bused their own dishes. "Executives" were served.

The lunch served after Sunday morning "service" at "headquarters unit" was always the biggest meal of the week for that was when the most number of "visitors" came. Sunday lunch at "International Headquarters Unit" often involved serving 300-400 meals. Consequently the largest cooking staff was needed. If "Spiritual Leader" was visiting or there was a "class," "seminar," or "council" meeting at a "unit," there would be more people in residence and more people visiting so more meals were served and more kitchen staff was needed.

"Kitchen Focus" and "Meal Focus" were two supervisory jobs which were non-sex segregated. The "kitchen focus" job at the two largest "units" were held by males. ([20] ) At the other large "units" and the medium sized "units" these jobs were also held by males. Only the small "unit" had a female "kitchen focus." In small "units" breakfast was usually prepped, cooked, and cleaned up by one person. Lunch in small "units" was usually staffed by the cook who only had help to set the tables and wash the dishes. Dinner in the small "unit" was usually staffed by two people—a cook and a food preparation helper. In the medium and large "units," the meals were staffed by two people—a cook and a food preparation helper. Lunch and dinner at the largest units was usually staffed by two different teams of three to five "members"—the meal's "focus" or "chef," one or two cooks, and one or two food preparation helpers. The "Meal Focus" was the cook in charge of a particular meal. This was a supervisory job for a particular meal.

At larger "units" there may be multiple things going on at once. For example, the crew from the previous meal might be cleaning up, while the crew for the next meal was starting preparation as deliveries were being made and put away, menus planned, and outside food and supplies purchased. If the "unit" was large enough to need more than a few kitchen personnel, then the females tended to work under males in the larger units. Food preparation helper is a job regarded as a light duty job given to females, especially older ones who may be less physically capable. Dishwashing was regarded as a job everyone was supposed to do, but I rarely observed managers doing this job. This was a mix-sexed job.

At "International Headquarters Unit" there were enough invalids that they not only had a nurse, or aide, there was actually a scheduled job of food delivery. The job title "special diets" meant food delivery. This person was a kitchen helper whose task was to deliver food, sometimes a special diet meal, to the invalids and pick-up dirty dishes. Sometimes, if this person was a cook, she/he also prepared the special diet food.

Office. The office at the small "unit" only had the "Unit Focus" and receptionist working there full time. The "focus" there as with all the "Units" was a male. And as in all the other "units" the receptionist was a female. The larger sized "units" had bookkeepers and computer personnel. The job of bookkeeper was female dominated. Computer personnel were all males.

With few exceptions, all the managers were male. The "Women's Work Pattern Coordinators" were female. In smaller "units" this was a part-time job and combined with the part-time job of Housing Coordinator, in addition to working part-time in cooking, housecleaning. All the wives of the "Unit Focus" and "Unit Managers" had some kind of managerial job or were free to set their own schedule. The other women managers were heads of the outreach organizations.

Milk House. Milking the dairy animals is an example of sex segregation. "International Headquarters Unit" had both cows and goats. There was a special barn called the "milk house" in which animals were milked. These animals were milked daily. Their milk was used to drink and to make yogurt and cheese and on special occasions to make ice cream. The cows were usually passive. They rarely bit their milkers. Goats on the other hand often resisted—kicking and bucking—when they were moved or milked. Goats were often muzzled to prevent the milker from being bit.

Typically, one lone male milked these animals. This male was expected to move the animal from the pasture, tie it to tethers, muzzle the goat, milk the animal, and lift and carry the milk bucket over to the kitchen. When females milked, they usually only did the milking. They did not move the animals, tie them to tethers, muzzle the goats, or lift and transport the milk buckets, which was a male job. There were not enough males, according to the sex segregation schema, to make milking be solely a male job. It was also thought that females, who are supposedly more nurturing than males, relaxed the animals into giving more and better quality milk. Animals supposedly benefited from the "maternal touch" of females into having a less traumatic experience of being milked. As one female milker told me, "we (women) are thankful for the men coming to protect us so we can milk the goats." ([21] )

Crossing Sex Segregated Boundaries

Only rarely did the boundaries between "men's work" (male dominated jobs) and "women's work" (female dominated jobs) get crossed over (Cheng, 1999b). The few exceptions were women doing "men's work." Seldom did men do "women's work."

One female observed normally worked with the construction crew. Since building trades skills were in short supply in "The Third Sacred School's" internal labor market, there was little choice by the "Unit Manager" but to allow her to disrupt sex segregation. When I asked that "Unit Manager" about the atypical job assignment of the female on the construction crew, he replied, "We never tell anyone where to work. Spirit does this for us. Once a person is clear, then he will know where best to serve the Lord."

There were jobs that "members" deemed undesirable, and anyone willing to do the job was accepted regardless of their sex. No one seemed to like to wash dishes, especially large pots and pans. Some "Envoys" were always trying to get others to do their dish duty. Pulling weeds was another job no one wanted. It was a dirty and tedious job. Pipe change was an even dirtier and more physically demanding job. It was also possibly dangerous, for one could easily slip in the mud and drop the pipe, perhaps causing serious injury. There were also jobs in which everyone was needed, such as picking and canning crops, and in which sex segregation was not an issue.

Breaching Experiments on Sex Segregation. Personally, I was told where to work, and likewise so were the people I observed. In my participant observer role as a "Class member," I was told where I was needed to work by the organization based on the chores that needed to be done that day, such as mending fences, tending to chickens, painting the porch. Other male "Class members" were similarly assigned. I also observed that female "Class members" were assigned to different kinds of work: housecleaning, food preparation, and clerical work.

I wanted to see what would happen to the sex segregation of "The Third Sacred School," if I used one of these spiritual justifications in an attempt to get assigned to a female job. I considered what female defined job I could work in and for which I could come up with a credible and compelling spiritual justification. I chose child care, for there were no men who worked in child care. Child care was regarded in "The Third Sacred School" as a naturally female job. I seemed to be a male child care worker would breach the social order of sex segregation.

I stated to the "Women's Work Pattern Focus" that I needed preparation for fatherhood to see if she would assign me to child care, a female defined job. ([22] ) Since my stay at that "unit" began as a "Class member" and after class was over I was reclassified as a "long term visitor," the "Women's Work Pattern Focus" was the person who supervised "Class member" work assignments. She not only gave me the job assignment, she praised me for being so "personally responsible" that I wanted to prepare for fatherhood. ([23] ) ([24] ) "Headquarters Unit" had both a nursery for babies and a fully equipped nursery school for toddlers. I was assigned to the nursery school for half-days over the course of a week. The other half-days I worked various male dominated jobs, such as maintenance worker, farm hand, ranch hand.

On the first day, I was supervised by a female child care worker. There were six to eight children to look after depending on whether their mothers were working on a job that day in which they could take their children with them. The toddlers ranged from two to five years old. The infants were cared for by their mothers or were cared for in the infant nursery. At age five the children went to nursery school in the larger society.

I read stories to the children, served them snacks, played with them, picked up after them, and made sure they were safe. On the third day, my female supervisor left me alone for part of the time. At lunch and dinner that night, a few parents thanked me for doing a good job caring for their children. Thereafter I received more thanks from parents, especially the mothers. I also received "invites" (invitations to come visit someone's home) from parents for they were curious about me because I was caring for their children. On the fourth and last days, I cared for the children myself. This was also the first time I was assigned babysitting as an after hours additional duty.

The next week I was reassigned to men's work full time. The "Women's Work Pattern Focus" told me that the "Men's Work Pattern Focus" was complaining that she was "taking a man from him, and that he is shorthanded and needed all the men." I asked her if there were not any women who wanted to do the jobs the "Men's Work Pattern Focus" needed to have done? She replied that the women did not want to do men's jobs.

Clearly the jobs in "The Third Sacred School" were segregated based on sex. There were male jobs that had almost all male job holders and female jobs that had almost all female job holders. Most of the un-sex segregated jobs were undesirable.

Etic Analysis of Sex Segregation

A patriarchal hierarchical organizational structure that was sex segregated with females at the bottom of the hierarchy was not in itself remarkable. This kind of structural inequality was more typical than not. The reason for this structural inequality, i.e., theocracy, is noteworthy. Before discussing this reason, however, it will be useful to summarize and analyze the data.

"Work Pattern" was a term synonymous with the etic term "formation," an orderly arrangement in which everyone has a place and only one place, such as a military formation. In "The Third Sacred School" every member had a well defined place in the hierarchy. The social position one had was either the "focus" (superior) or "servee"/"responding one" (subordinate). In each interaction, one is always one or the other. In "The Third Sacred School" male members were almost always the "focus" in relationship to female members.

"The Third Sacred School's" sex segregation is similar to de Tocqueville's (1969[1832]:240) observation that:

In America, more than anywhere else in the world there are...constantly traceable clear distinct spheres of action of the two sexes and both are required to keep in step, but along paths that are never the same.

The jobs in "The Third Sacred School" were divided into the "men's work pattern" and the "women's work pattern," which segregated the sexes and reinforced patriarchal sex-gender roles. In conventional society, the particular biological sex of the worker is often the organizing principle in the division of labor, e.g., physicians are supposed to be male while nurses are supposed to be female (Acker, 1990; 1992; Baron, 1991; Williams, 1993:2-3). In "The Third Sacred School" males were the "spiritual focus" while females were supposed to "respond" to "spiritual focus" (males). ([25] )

As Acker and Van Houten (1974) noted, female work was designed for passivity and dependence. One example of this phenomenon in "The Third Sacred School" was the sex segregation of cow and goat milking. The job of cow milker was labeled "Milk House Ladies" on "The Schedule." There is no biological or technical reason why this job should be sex segregated. No males were scheduled for this job during the observation period. Only females were assigned to this job according to the "Women's Work Pattern Coordinator."

Sitting on a stool and milking a cow or goat was considered "women's work" because it was passive and required relatively little physical strength. But when some of the goats resisted and struggled, male farm hands were assigned to restrained them. The female milkers depended on male farm hands to herd the animal to them and to protect them from the animals as they were being milked. Bailing hay to feed the cows and herding them to and from the milk house was considered "men's work" since it is physical and active. "The Third Sacred School's" job assignments reinforced the concept that females were less physically strong than males. This sex segregated division of labor reinforced the patriarchal gender role that the male protected the female. Similarly, only males were assigned to "Night watch" duty.

Atop of "The Third Sacred School's" hierarchy there was one and only one "Spiritual Leader." Only males have held this job. "Members" were taught that only males will hold this job. "The Third Sacred School" believes its "Spiritual Leader" was a direct descendant of "Jesus," the savior of humankind. "Jesus" was believed to have been a male, so his successors also must be male. Not only do "members" acknowledge "Spiritual Leader" as the "spiritual focus" of "The Third Sacred School," they believed he was also the "spiritual focus" of humankind.

Following the Christian Holy Bible, "The Third Sacred School" believed females were the "helpmate" of males. "Spiritual Leader" appointed six males to serve on a committee called "Executive Council." The males on this committee were the next hierarchical level below him. The wives of these men, along with "Spiritual Leader's" personal secretary, and his predecessors' personal secretaries were also on this committee. While these females were at the highest council level, their jobs were to travel with and support their husbands rather than have autonomous responsibilities and authority. The males on this committee divided up the globe and the "units" in those areas, or in one case, the male headed up outreach efforts.

The annual conference called "Central Council," which was made up of 150 attendees, was the biggest event on "The Third Sacred School's" yearly calendar, in which the important leaders of "The Third Sacred School" gathered. The real influence was vested in "Unit Focuses" who were the "spiritual focus" of their respective "units." All the "Unit Focuses" were male and attended "Central Council." Some were even members of "Executive Council." The 6 "Unit Focuses" were assisted by 6 "Unit Managers" who also were all males. These two males jobs were the top two levels of the hierarchy in the "units."

"Unit Managers" ran the day-to-day operations of the "unit." "Unit Managers" were regular attendees of "Central Council." "Unit Managers" were assisted by the "Men's Work Pattern Focus" and the "Women's Work Pattern Focus" who scheduled and oversaw the work-force. The "Work Pattern Focuses" were the third level of "unit" hierarchy. There were 12 of them, 6 for men, 6 for women. They were assisted by department focuses, 6 males, 4 females. It is only this fourth level of "unit" hierarchy where females were found to have hands-on supervisory responsibility but usually only over other females. Since there was only one "Women's Work Pattern Focus" per "unit," and only one wife per male executive, almost all females were workers at the fifth and lowest level of "unit" hierarchy. At the fifth level, there were 402 "unit members"; 287 females and 115 males—2.5:1 ratio of females to males. There clearly is a patriarchal organizational structure in "The Third Sacred School" whereby females were sex segregated and often relegated to the fifth and lowest level of organization.

Stopping the analysis of "The Third Sacred School" here without an understanding of hierarchical organization is insufficient. The fifth level of unit hierarchy is further organized by sex as an organizing principle. Female jobs were based on assumptions of women's nature and their place in a society (Davies, 1982; Vicinus, 1985; Reverby, 1987; Kessler-Harris, 1990; Baron, 1991). In "The Third Sacred School's" society that place was thought to be "The Home." "The Home Pattern" was an alternative name for "The Women's Work Pattern." The skills required in female jobs were thought to be natural (Davies, 1982; Vicinus, 1985; Reverby, 1987; Kessler-Harris, 1990; Baron, 1991). Females were thought to be the nurturers, who naturally enjoyed raising children and homemaking. ([26] )

The female defined jobs tended to be inside—in more pleasant surroundings, in the living areas, kitchen, or offices (Williams, 1995:48). Female defined jobs required the use of machinery or tools that required less skill and more repetition than the technology for male jobs, such as answering telephones, word-processing, chopping vegetables (Williams, 1995:48).

Male-defined work on the other hand was more physically strenuous, tended to be outdoors, and, if not more dangerous, had a greater risk of accidents than female jobs (Williams, 1995:48). These jobs include construction, maintenance, pipe change, night watch, farming, ranching.... "The Third Sacred School" thought of female job skills as natural. Job skills for male jobs were thought to require acquired skills from apprenticeships and degree programs (Bradely, 1993:13).

The kitchen was one department in which males and females worked together, but males were usually the "focus" (department manager), or the "focus" (chef) of the particular meal preparation. Women tended to be the cooks who worked under the direction of the "focus." While dishwashing was a mixed sex job, the job of washing large pots and pans was a male job. Large pots and pans were too large for the dishwashing machine and required more upper body strength than smaller pots and pans.

"The Third Sacred School's" patriarchal sex segregation was similar to modernistic organizations, wherein it was found that jobs with higher status were held by males while excluding females (Ortner, 1974). The females at the higher levels tended to be married to male executives or worked as secretaries in the case of "Spiritual Leader." There were a few higher ranking females in "The Third Sacred School's" outreach efforts. At the fourth level of hierarchy, there was only one female per "unit"—who was the "Women's Work Pattern Coordinator."

Theocracy and Sex Segregation.

For Pringle, (1993:130), occupational categories and sex roles are socially constructed discourses (Wagner, 1982). To understand "The Third Sacred School's" organizational discourses around occupational categories and sex roles, it is first necessary to explore the basis of authority under which "The Third Sacred School" functions. Weber (1947:152) posited three types of authority: (1) Legitimate—with sub-types of rational-legal, and theocratic; (2) Charismatic; and (3) Traditional—based on hereditary or designated succession, e.g., monarchies. Rational-legal authority has probably received the most attention from scholars. Rational-legal authority is based on a discourse of rationality (Shils & Finch, 1949; Simon, 1955; 1976; 1979; Braybrooke & Lindblom, 1963; Habermas, 1968; Dixon, 1980; Mintzberg, 1989). "Science" is often used to reinforce rationality (Dixon, 1980). Charisma's authority is based on a "gift" from "God" (Holy Bible, Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12). Traditional authority has received even less attention. Theocracy is often ignored. Its authority is based on holding religious office.

"The Third Sacred School's" basis of authority was a combination of charisma and theocracy. I shall focus on how theocracy (as a sub-type of legitimate authority) sacralised a sex essentialism in job assignments, rather than charisma. Charisma is important in studying "Spiritual Leader's" leadership and the "members'" followership. This topic is dealt with elsewhere (Cheng, 2003b). Theocracy better explains sex segregation than charisma by itself.

"The Third Sacred School" claimed that their organizational structure, with its sex segregation, was not a hierarchy that "humans" (unconscious people, non-members) thought up. They instead claimed it was the result of "divine manifestation" coming through "The Third Sacred School." This was a theocratic claim. This claim is similar to that of the Catholic Church. Collins (1986:49-52) calls the Papacy—the first bureaucratic state. "The Third Sacred School" was, like the Catholic Church, highly centralized under a male leader who is supposed to be the Prince of God. "Spiritual Leader's" "Unit Focuses" and "Executive Council" are akin to Catholic Bishops and Cardinals.

"The Third Sacred School" regarded itself as "God's body on Earth." In emic terms the organization claims to be a living entity. The discourse that the organizational structure is organic enables sex segregation by arguing organizational structure, including sex segregation, is natural rather than man-made.

Theocracy sacralizes itself; it gives itself the status of being sacred. Something that has the status of being sacred by definition means it is privileged from critical inquiry (Kramer & Alstad, 1993:36-37). One key characteristic of theocracy is sex essentialism, i.e., biological differences between males and females are used as an organizing principle. In "The Third Sacred School" the reason males worked at one kind of job, and females another, was the so-called "natural" differences between males and females.

I saw "members" defer to "higher focus" (management) when it came down to what kind of work they did. They checked "The Schedule" at dinner time "to find out where I am supposed to work tomorrow." I did not see or interview any worker "Envoys" who said their job was "natural" to them. What I did see and hear was that they wanted to "play their part" (in the hierarchy) for they thought this was "God's plan" and that "focus knows where they need to be" (management) (Cheng, 2003). "Members" had a sense of duty, which is a learned behavior, not inherent. Work was sacralized, for they were not only picking fruit, they were "playing their part in God's plan."

Abstractification facilitates manipulation (Weber, 1965[1922]:118-119; Goodall, 1984:134; Kramer & Alstad, 1993:331-354) of followers by their leaders. "The Third Sacred School" had an animistic cosmology of "no separation" between ordinary "members" and "Executives." In practice, worker "Envoys" lived in 300-400 square foot rooms, communally shared bathrooms, and ate in the "dining room" (communal cafeteria). The "Executives" flew on "The Third Sacred School's" corporate jet, were waited on by "members" who acted as their personal servants. "Executives" often ate special gourmet meals and got massages from an "Envoy" whose main job was to massage them while preaching the renunciation of the ego, and freeing oneself from desire. Since there was allegedly "no separation" between management and workers, it did not matter what job one had. If a worker were to complain about subordination, then the problem was the worker's ego that was preventing her/him from "oneness" between him/herself and "Spiritual Leader."


"The Third Sacred School" believed its organizational structure was a "divine manifestation of God's body on Earth." That claim was theocratic in that it made "The Third Sacred School's" organizational structure sacred. Sacred status is a defensive mechanism against criticism. Under sacred status, sex segregation cannot be social scientifically examined, for "outsiders" such as researchers, journalists, governmental officials, and so on, are "unconscious." To be "conscious" was to accept the organizational belief system of "The Third Sacred School," including sex segregation. If one were "conscious" one would not criticize.

At the individual-organizational interface, if the individual wanted to be regarded as "conscious," which was synonymous with being a "member," then she/he had to buy into organizational beliefs, including sex essentialism about the nature of females and males. In "The Third Sacred School," "Envoys" often repeated a phrase they learned in "classes" and heard "Spiritual Leader" say, that they "were on earth" (specifically were born) to "play their part" (in the patriarchal theocratic hierarchy) of "The Third Sacred School." For a male, buying in to and playing his part was typically very easy for it meant his sex group would be the dominant group within the organization. However, this did not mean he would personally benefit from patriarchy for the opportunities for organizational advancement were very limited.

A female "member" had to accept patriarchy, was ignored, or in some cases asked to leave. She had to accept that "playing her part" would mean she would not likely rise in the hierarchy unless she married a high-ranking male. Since almost all high-ranking males were married, and divorce was practically unheard of and not an option for a high-ranking male, there was almost no chance of female career advancement. She had to acquiesce to the organizational reality that she would enter and stay in the organization at its fifth and lowest level for the rest of her life, or until she quit.


[1] I was given permission by an "Executive Council" member (executive) to use the subject organization's real name in my Ph.D. dissertation (Cheng, 1991). After my dissertation was finished, the organization declined into conflict and lawsuits. The subject organization's leaders, who gave permission to use their actual name, were driven out of power; many were driven from the organization, eventually including "Spiritual Leader III" (the head of the organization). My senior colleagues and attorneys advised me to discontinue using the real name of the subject organization.

I adopted the pseudonym "The Group" for the subject organization's name. "The Group" is a functional name. The subject organization is a group. This paper marks a change in the name used for the subject organization from "The Group," which I have used in my previously published works and presented papers, to "The Third Sacred School." The name "The Third Sacred School" was an actual alternative name for the subject organization's backstage culture. There were other emic alternate names of the subject organization: "The Program," "The Ministry," "The Body of God on Earth," or shortened to "The Body of God" or simply "The Body." In presenting other work at the American Family Foundation conference, I discovered colleagues did not know these alternate organizational names (Cheng, 2003). This name change enables a more accurate translation of the culture while still preserving confidentiality. This paper marks the use of an additional term for "member." "Member" is an accurate functional description. The actual term used for members was contained in the actual name of the subject organization. Since the actual organizational name could not be used, the actual name for members could not be used. Hence, I adopted the generic term, "member." To increase accuracy, I shall from now on use the "Envoy" synonymously with "member." "Envoy" is synonymous with the actual name of members.

[2] The summer chosen was the North American summer since half of the "units" were located there. For "units" in other parts of the world, the North American summer was not their busiest season of the year.

[3] It should be noted that in "The Third Sacred School" there were only two visible and acknowledged sexes, male and female. There may have been other biological sex categories that were not visible and acknowledged.

[4] Some "Envoys" objected to my characterization that the "units" were in western Caucasian Christian dominated countries. The objecting "Envoys" said the location of the "units" was "natural" and "organic," that "spirit determined where the units emerged." "The response (to The Third Sacred School's teachings) was the strongest in those countries." My observation is factual: the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, and France are western Caucasian Christian dominated countries.

It is also factual that these defensive "Envoys" were all Caucasian and had Christian backgrounds. It is also plainly observable that few peoples of color were "members." And most "members" had Christian backgrounds including "Founder" who was the son of a Christian preacher. A major branch of Christianity was founded by the forbearers of "Spiritual Leaders II and III."

The lack of racial diversity in the membership, despite outreach efforts, suggests that "The Third Sacred School's" teachings and program were not as "universal" as they claimed.

[5] The objection to the characterization that what "Envoys" called "the related organizations" refers to five organizations started by "The Third Sacred School." These organizations had a purpose of diffusing "The Third Sacred School's" discourse to the general public. They were staffed by "Envoys," led by its managers, and reported to the "Executive Council" member in charge of outreach, who in turn reported to "Spiritual Leader." These organizations were fronts for "The Third Sacred School" (Goffman, 1969[1958]; Cheng, 1999a). Eventually after most of these organizations failed to recruit the masses of "members" "The Third Sacred School" desired, even many of those "members" who criticized the characterization conceded that these organizations were front organizations for "The Third Sacred School" (Cheng, 1999a).

[6] Defining the population under study is a problematic task. It was not until the mid-1990s, after an organizational decline, that "The Third Sacred School" began to define membership as anyone who subscribed to "The Mailings" (transcriptions of sermons by "Spiritual Leader"). Not defining membership partially enabled "The Third Sacred School" to claim it was "organically organized by the grace of God" as one executive said. This claim naturalized its hierarchy and patriarchy.

For purposes of this study, the population was defined by "The Third Sacred School's" own internal figure of "2,300 people on the mailing list." This criterion includes people who were motivated enough to go through the preliminary resocialization to get on and stay on "The Mailing List." In cultural practice of "The Third Sacred School," "The Mailing List" was used as the tool to determine who to call when organizational communication was necessary, e.g., when "Spiritual Leader" came to town to speak, everyone on "The Mailing List" was notified.

[7] The view I present here of "The Third Sacred School's" organizational decline is etic. Many "members," especially those who quit, or those who are still "members" but reform-minded, share many of the views presented in this ethnography, or more accurately I report their view as well as the view of traditional minded "Envoys." Most of the anti-reform "members" were forced to quit or have become silent since they are a power minority whose views became unpopular.

[8] This paper uses the term "Holy Bible" for the Christian Holy Bible, while acknowledging the diversity of religious groups in America and the world and their sacred texts which may also be referred to as "Bibles." "Holy Bible" and "Bible" are used interchangeably by the subject.

[9] There were only three single people on the "Executive Council." The two female single members were the Personal Secretary of "Spiritual Leader III," and the former Personal Secretary of "The Founder" and "Spiritual Leader II." The male member who was single was an early follower of "The Founder."

[10] All members of the "Executive Council" were Caucasian. All had Christian backgrounds. All were westerners from the first world.

[11] While wives were on the "Executive Council," their main job was to support their husband's "ministry." Even though the wives would conduct "women's meetings," this responsibility was to support the patriarchal male point of view.

[12] The world in "The Third Sacred School" was mainly the Caucasian Christian first world countries. They had little presence in Asia and Africa.

[13] The "Related Organizations" (outreach organizations) were run both by males and females who reported to the male "Executive Council" member who was head of outreach (Cheng, 1999a).

[14] After having completed all three levels of "classes" I asked the "Center Focus" of the city I lived in why I was not invited to the "Regional Council." He replied that the "Regional Focus only invites people he is comfortable with." The criterion for council attendance was based on personal relationship with the "Focus" of that "Council," rather than organizational tenure, level of training, or membership performance.

[15] The "Unit Focus" job is similar to that of a Pastor in mainstream Christianity.

[16] One might expect under "absoluteness" that there would be an explicit authoritarian demand by management for conformity. "Absoluteness" was moderated by another important emic organizational culture concept—"personal responsibility." Under "personal responsibility," it was left to the individual to either accept "absoluteness" or not. This is akin to Christians accepting Jesus into their lives. "Taking personal responsibility" must be done freely. Ideally "The Third Sacred School" wanted "Envoys" to "take personal responsibility" and internalize their cultural values, rather than comply with heavy handed authority imposed upon them.

[17] Some of the "units" studied did not have construction projects, so they only used the terms "Men's Work Pattern," or "Maintenance Pattern."

[18] I asked five mothers why families eat breakfast in the communal dining room. They said it was easier to take out breakfast from the communal dining room or fix breakfast themselves than it was to get their children up, dressed and ready, over to dining room, eat breakfast, back, cleaned-up from breakfast and off to school.

Families were housed together as a nuclear family. Most families were housed so they either had an apartment, trailer, or house that had it own cooking facilities.

[19] After the observation period, the kitchen focus job at one of the largest "units" turned from a male job to two jobs divided between a male and a female.

[20] "The Third Sacred School's" discourse was that animals love to give of themselves, even for slaughter, to humans who love them. While the female milkers and the males who protected the goats handled them with care, even gentleness, petting the animals and speaking to them in a calm voice, the goats' resistance suggests that they were willfully resisting the milk being extracted from them. Their struggle makes it hard to believe that the goats were freely giving of themselves, if in fact goats are capable of giving consent and love. It is possible this discourse is a justification to use the animals for human purposes.

[21] It is true that as a single male doctoral student I had no opportunities to develop fathering skills. Also, I really do like children.

[22] "Personal responsibility" was a key organizational cultural value. It means one was totally responsible for everything in one's life. Females in "The Third Sacred School" appreciated males who want to be responsible fathers. Several of the females were single mothers. By saying I wanted to prepare for fatherhood, I earned the praise of many female "Envoys."

[23] I did think, which was confirmed later, that my request would be granted not only because I had a compelling spiritual justification but because I had just finished one of their educational programs. Education is a main mission of "The Third Sacred School." They want to train people in their world view, engage in resocialization education. My request for job assignment was consistent with wanting to be taught. Ethnographers want to learn as members of the culture they are studying.

[24] "Servers" in etic terms means superior; unlike servers or waitpersons in restaurants, who hierarchically are inferior to their customers. A "Server" in "The Third Sacred School" serves "God" by being a spiritual superior to his "Servees."

[25] Oddly enough, the naturalist argument was extended from females as nurturers to females as natural at clerical work. Clerical work clearly is a human innovation. Child birth clearly is a biological function of females and predates the innovation of human society. For the sake of argument, if we believe females are natural nurturers due to child birth, or even extend this to raising their children, it is a far stretch to also believe that women are naturally good clerical workers.

[26] Oddly enough, the naturalist argument was extended from females as nurturers to females as natural at clerical work. Clerical work clearly is a human innovation. Child birth clearly is a biological function of females and predates the innovation of human society. For the sake of argument, if we believe females are natural nurturers due to child birth, or even extend this to raising their children, it is a far stretch to also believe that women are naturally good clerical workers.


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I wish to thank Jack Crossley and Bill Rideout for their support. I also wish to thank Joan Weibel-Orlando, Tom Weisner, Ev Rogers, Les Wilber, Bill Millington, Bob Ferris and Pat Rooney. I am especially grateful to Audrey Schwartz for her teaching and tutelage.

(c) 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003 by Cliff Cheng. All rights reserved. Do not copy, distribute or reproduce without the author's opinion.

Cliff Cheng is a social scientist who earned his Ph.D. at the University of Southern California (USC). His dissertation was on the same group this article describes. He brings the discipline of organizational behavior to the study of cults. After teaching at the University of California campuses at Riverside and Irvine, Dr. Cheng went back to USC, then to UCLA and back to USC. He was recognized in 1998 as the Ascendant Scholar of the Western Academy of Management for his work on organizational behavior. He has served as Los Angles City Human Relations Commissioner, and on the advisory panels of the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission.