The Churches of God are, by and large, a dire and toxic faith environment; restrictive, hierarchic and dumbed down. An array of ego-driven warlords provide bread and circuses for their flocks - dry bread and performing fleas for the most part. The big players are bad enough, but the petty local tyrants can be even worse, as the bickering at Port Austin continues (and continues, and continues) to remind us.
But there are always exceptions, and maybe this is one. I'm referring to Faith Networks, a group I'd frankly forgotten about till someone asked "what's happened to Jim O'Brien?"
O'Brien, for those who've understandably lost track of the countless splits and splinters, was a popular UCG minister who fell afoul of the Cincinnati Sanhedrin, and now leads a couple of independent congregations on the doorstep of the Holy City itself.
O'Brien collaborates with an interesting assortment of refugees from the "orgs" in producing a small but professional looking newsletter called Faith Networks. A PDF of the November issue is available here. Those involved in various ways include Bill Jacobs, Wendy Pack, Guy Swenson (ex-UCG), Ronald Dart, Pam Dewey, David Antion (ex-CGI), the Church of God, Big Sandy, Herberth Cisneros (ex-UCG) Lenny Cacchio and Bill and Scarlett Stough. FN also seems to involve many of the same people who use CEM/Born to Win materials (the photograph below is of a CEM Pentecost gathering.)
The contrast in tone between FN and the bug-eyed, manipulationist apocalyptic ministries we're more used to is astonishing.
Yes, I'm sure these folk have their problems too, and this would hardly be a suitable resting place for the worldly-wise and cynical among us. I can also hear some of the more strident voices claiming that anything COGish is tantamount to hell-bound heresy in a hand-cart (evangelicals: gotta love 'em!) I freely admit that these very decent folk are barking up a tree I'd personally prefer not to build a tree-house in, yet for those still searching for a healthier alternative within the broader COG community, this might be a reasonable place to begin.