I'm a big fan of The Journal. It's not something that many of the more radical ex-COG folk understand, but Dixon Cartwright strikes me as a decent man and a highly professional editor. The Journal exists to cater for those still within the wider fold, and overall it does a great job.
That doesn't mean agreeing with everything that appears there. The latest issue is no exception. To start with there's a lead article by Ian Boyne about the latest success his Jamaican branch of CGI has chalked up.
"Some Church of God critics say it is in decline, but it is certainly not declining in Jamaica!"
I've exchanged a few emails with Ian, and without giving away any confidences I think I can safely say that the man is something of a puzzle: part intellectual gadfly, part dogmatist and 100% self publicist. How does he hold it all together? And how will the Ian-o-centric Jamaican CGI hold itself together when he eventually, inevitably goes the way of all flesh?
James Tabor responds to Ken Westby's review of The Jesus Dynasty in the letters section, followed by a lengthy rave on Herbal themes from Eric Snow. There are only three letters in this issue, which must be a new minimalist record, but the third is a hoot: a brief (!), humorous comment on the WCG's on-off name change.
If there's a focus to this issue it's the brutal act of disfellowship, and Dixon launches it with a rare editorial on the subject, focusing on the treatment Dan Cafourek received at the hands of those Holy Spirit-led fellows who determine the direction of the United Church of God. Dixon writes:
"The institution of disfellowship in the COGs over the years has been a hateloaded weapon for church leaders to keep lower-echelon church members in line through one of the cruelest forms of intimidation: hanging over people’s heads the threat of the loss of their very salvation."
BI enthusiast Steve Collins soaks up most of the remaining column inches with an essay on the Babylonian Captivity (not the historic one - the coming one y'know.) I'd give you a precis, but would rather leap naked off a very tall building than waste the valuable time.
So it's another mixed bag. But the genius of The Journal is in the combination of the good, the bad and the ugly. It holds up a mirror to the community that calls itself the Church of God, and the reflection is uncannily accurate.
(The Journal website is www.thejournal.org )