Wednesday, 30 January 2008


LDS leader Gordon Hinckley has passed into the Great Beyond, and Bob Thiel provides a COGgish spin...

Because of their belief to store food for emergencies, I suspect that once the USA is taken over that the few that survive and do not become slaves will partially exist on food that the LDS have stored.

The year is 2008, Herbert Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong, and Herman Hoeh have all long preceded Mr Hinckley into the grave, and Rod Meredith probably isn't far behind. It seems fairly certain to me - though perhaps not to Bob - that Adolph Hitler is not hiding out in the jungles of South America planning a resurrected Fourth Reich (as The Plain Truth once trumpeted.) Warfare in the Twenty-first Century is no longer waged with huge conscript armies, and the mass deportation of conquered populations makes little sense. Slave labor is inefficient in the Info-Tech age, and Germans are, if stereotypes are to be believed, anything but inefficient.

So what the blazes is Bob doing by advocating this incredible nonsense about the Anglo world being swept away by the German hordes, the citizens of the white English-speaking nations being taken away as slave labor or slaughtered?

Oh sorry, I forgot: the more sure word of prophecy.

This is the price of Biblical illiteracy. Armstrongists knew a lot of things about the Bible, could quote proof texts and flick through to the book of Obadiah more swiftly than your average Baptist, but when it came to the important stuff we knew sweet little.

Genre for example: Poetry, Apocalyptic, etiological legends.

The price of mind-numbing literalism can be deadly: ask King Charles I, who literally lost his head, in part because the Puritans thought he might be "the tenth and final horn on the fourth beast described in the Book of Daniel..." (Spurr, English Puritanism 1603-1689, p 113)

But then the Puritans had an excuse Bob and the weirder splinters don't; they lived in the 1600s.

The Bible does not predict world events in advance. Germany is not Assyria. The US and Britain are not Ephraim and Manasseh. The Tribulation did not begin in 1972.

My challenge to Bob, and anyone else who thinks they have the inside track on what's ahead because of Bible prophecy, is to invest in a good one volume commentary - Eerdmans or Oxford for example, and get a clue. It's interesting that both these commentaries feature significant articles by Lester Grabbe, a former Ambassador College lecturer who is now is at the top of his field in Old Testament studies.

Which just goes to show that there may be hope for all of us.

Including Bob.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Have camera - will schmooze

The Hulme sect - COG-AIC - is one of the few splinters to demonstrate scholarly interests, largely thanks to the personality (some might say the pretensions) of The Glorious Leader. In any case, Vision cameras and microphones were there at the November ASOR conference (American Schools of Oriental Research) in San Diego.

Whether Lawrence Stager, Eric Cline or James Strange had any idea exactly who was asking the questions is unknown, but archaeologists seldom pass up a chance to talk about their work, so probably not. Regardless of that issue, all three provided brief interviews for Vision, and all three are worth viewing if you have an interest in history and the Bible. Last year I posted a couple of brief items about Cline's book (which debunks Ten Tribes theories such as BI) here and here. Interesting that COG-AIC didn't quiz the professor about that part of his work.

The videos are available on Peter Nathan's First Followers blog.

On the subject of COG-AIC (Church of God - An International Community) David Hulme has contributed a chapter to a volume called What Makes Us Human? According to the blurb: " In What Makes Us Human? some of the world's most brilliant thinkers offer their answers to this perennial puzzle..."


Monday, 28 January 2008

Stone Age

Two trips to the Stone Age. A National Geographic report from 2005 states that: "Despite invasions by Saxons, Romans, Vikings, Normans, and others, the genetic makeup of today's white Britons is much the same as it was 12,000 ago..."

They forgot to mention those roving Ephraimites who dropped in for a cup of tea and a biscuit after the fall of Samaria, and then took the place over.

"The notion that large-scale migrations caused drastic change in early Britain has been widely discredited, according to Simon James, an archaeologist at Leicester University, England."

"They were swamped culturally but not genetically."

Who's going to tell Craig White and Steve Collins?

The second trip actually takes us way back further, then fast forwards through time. The bright young things at Vancouver Film School have produced a short but impressive presentation called Duelity that puts the Genesis creation story up alongside the scientific story of origins. It's very, very clever, approaching each view from the alternate perspective. Click "watch" then view each of the segments in order (creation, evolution and then the split screen version.) Trust me on this; you won't want to miss it! ... and watch out for that apple!

Finally, a memory trip into WCG's Stone Age (a.k.a. the 1970s): Remember Ralph Helge? Often seen in close proximity to Stanley Rader, Ralph reigned in Pasadena as church attorney and legal counselor for many years. The United News reports that Ralph has recently been ordained an elder (non-salaried?) in the UCG.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Big Trouble in Big Sandy

Things have not been going smoothly of late for members of the Church of God, Big Sandy.

If any independent COG congregation deserves the title prima inter pares, first among equals, then Big Sandy is probably it. For years now it has served as a positive example of how Church of God people need not submit to hierarchical leadership in order to get along. The Big Sandy church has successfully forged associations with other independent ministries, forgoing both the empire building mentality of the extremist sects along with their exclusivism. Minister Dave Havir is well respected. If the Worldwide Church of God is to have an enduring legacy, it will be among people like these rather than the Glendora-based organization that has inherited the name, or the ego-driven rip-off imitations.

All that is now at risk. One local has described the situation, perhaps with a feel for the dramatic, as "war." Some 30 - 40 brethren are now meeting separately, and a board member has been dumped. Details of the story are likely to appear in the upcoming issue of The Journal.

I find that incredibly sad. Gainsayers at both extremes will take comfort at the Big Sandy church's discomfort. Regardless of what you might think about the doctrinal position of the church, it has been good to see what appeared to be a healthy, balanced congregation holding its own in a "marketplace" dominated by weird apocalyptic speculation and manipulative power-trippers.

Disagreements are hardly the preserve of COG congregations. Mainline denominations often train pastors whose job is to go into troubled local churches and defuse a situation before it blows, something that is more common than most of us might think. Perhaps it's not too late for the folk at Big Sandy to do something similar; to bring in an outside facilitator - someone without a personal stake in the issues (and someone with prior experience of this sort of thing.) Such a person would not go in to bang heads together, but to respectfully listen to all those involved and arbitrate a solution. To cast blame isn't the way forward, to focus on solutions is.

I for one hope the Big Sandy church comes through its current difficulties intact, and continues to be an inspiration to those who chafe under a plague of pseudo-apostles, pastors-general, presiding evangelists, prophets and other charlatans. There has to be a better way than that.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Place of Safety

All right class, pencils and paper out, time for a quick multiple choice question to see if you've been concentrating.

No Gerry, you may not go to the bathroom now.

Roderick PLEASE remove that pencil from your nostril, accidents happen that way.

Now here's the question; pay attention David!

What is the meaning of the term "place of safety"?

Yes Ronald, I can repeat the question... What is the meaning of "place of safety"?

Stop that whimpering Joe, you only have yourself to blame if you didn't do your homework, and besides, you can always use your excellent common sense to work out which of the answers is most likely.

Oh for mercy's sake, pick yourself off the floor and stop cackling like a loon Mark!

Now, here are your choices:

A. An old rock city in the Jordanian desert
B. A tax shelter in the Bahamas
C. A Nazi concentration camp
D. Denton, Texas
E. The first name given by the Pilgrims to Rhode Island

No Clyde, there isn't an "F" option with "all of the above."

Now pass your papers to the front. Frederick, kindly put your name at the top of the sheet, I am not a mind reader. Robert, you have misspelled your own name again.

Thank you children. William, put away that Prophecy Flash comic book immediately and come up here, I'd like you to read the correct answer from the dictionary of euphemisms.


Given the almost exclusive use of this term in a religious sense by COG people (as a Google search quickly shows) and the fact that it doesn't actually occur in the KJV Bible, a cynic might wonder whether HWA was indulging in a sick private joke when he adopted the expression. Why? Remember what the Place of Safety was meant to offer protection from?
"place of safety: an inhumane prison. Himmler's favored term for his concentration camps."
R. W. Holder, How Not To Say What You Mean: A Dictionary of Euphemisms. p.299

While it's an unlikely connection, it would be still interesting to know if there was any documented use of the expression by HWA prior to World War II.

Monday, 21 January 2008

The Good News

I like The Good News.

No, really!

Although I'm not a subscriber, the occasional copy of UCG's flagship magazine comes my way. The Good News is a pleasure to handle, has a great design and layout, and a thoroughly professional appearance. In these categories the GN is simply streets ahead of LCG's Tomorrow's World.

The person who deserves the credit is Shaun Venish, a freelance illustrator and graphic designer who graduated from Ambassador College (Pasadena) in 1990 (that's him in creative pose). This guy is good.

But content-wise it's another story.

The Jan-Feb GN belies the slick design with the same tired old ideology that failed thirty years ago in WCG.

For starters the political content is far from subtle. Political content? Sure, what else would you call Melvin Rhodes' imperious articles, or the weltanschau that underlies the World News & Trends section? Objectivity? Fresh thinking? An international perspective? A willingness to challenge comfortable assumptions?

Not a sign of it. This stuff is only marginally less one-eyed than Flurry's Trumpet.

And then there's Paul Luecke's article called Help Your Child Refute Evolution in the current issue.

WCG did a nice little number on the creation/evolution thing once, in fact it was one of the draw-cards that attracted me to The Plain Truth in the first place. Sadly it was all nonsense. I've written about this elsewhere, so won't bore you with those comments here.

Luecke (whose credentials on this subject are not immediately obvious) won't have read it of course, but the US National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine have released a new book called Science, Evolution, and Creationism. It's tone, according to New Scientist, is not confrontational; rather the book draws attention to those many believers "who do not interpret creation stories literally, and do not view evolution as counter to their faith."

"The authors focus on why understanding evolution is critical to agriculture, medicine and specifically to tackling viruses such as SARS and HIV. They also stress that if Americans do not have a basic scientific literacy, which must include evolution, the nation will not be able to compete in the global knowledge economy."

Which is a thoroughly sane position. The creationism advocated by the GN (and its sponsoring church) is far more dangerous than any of the "bad news" dreamed up in the tormented imaginations of wooden-minded editors and columnists. Children need protecting from the pseudo-science of creationism, not the bogey man of evolution.

"There's nothing wrong
with a 5th Grade understanding of God

... as long as you're in the 5th Grade."
From the movie "For the Bible Tells Me So."

The Good News
: great form, shame about the substance.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

"We were zealots"

A former WCG kid makes good - in Bermuda.

Newly appointed Senator Thaao Dill (Progressive Labour Party) is known for hosting a radio show on HOTT 107.5, and is a convert to the Bahai Faith. But he "was raised under an incredibly strict religious regime - no birthday or Christmas celebrations, and certainly no Hallowe'en."
Any guesses which incredibly strict religious regime that might be?

The family belonged to the Worldwide Church of God, which literally put God front and centre above everything else. "I didn't have a birthday party until I was 13 and we didn't do Christmas," Mr. Dill said.

"We were zealots. We were taken out of school a week before Christmas or Hallowe'en so we didn't get contaminated by these pagan celebrations," he laughed. "As soon as the pumpkin placards came out, I'd be like, 'you know you are going to hell, right?'"
Read the article in the Bermuda Sun for an engaging portrait of a young politician who breaks the mold.

Obituary for two?

The man who became the world's best known co-worker in the WCG has died aged 64; but according to the New York Times it wasn't just Bobby Fischer that passed into the great beyond.
. . . (Fischer) tithed the Worldwide Church of God, a fringe church he had become involved with beginning in the early 1960’s. The church, now defunct, followed Hebrew dietary laws and Sabbath proscriptions and believed in the imminent return of Jesus Christ. For a time, Mr. Fischer lived in Pasadena, Calif., the church’s home base, or nearby Los Angeles, where he was said to spend his time replaying chess games and reading Nazi literature. There were reports that he was destitute, though the state of Mr. Fischer’s finances was never very clear.
A fringe church... now defunct? Well, fringe certainly, but still very much with us. And as someone else notes, surely he tithed to WCG. "Tithing WCG" sounds as though he took a 10% commission from church coffers (a nice trick if you could pull it off.)

Apparently someone (it may have been Mark Kellner) set them straight, and the online edition has been edited thusly:

At the same time, he tithed to the Worldwide Church of God, a fringe church he had become involved with beginning in the early 1960s. The church followed Hebrew dietary laws and Sabbath proscriptions and believed in the imminent return of Jesus Christ. For a time, Mr. Fischer lived in Pasadena, Calif., the church’s home base, or nearby Los Angeles, where he was said to spend his time replaying chess games and reading Nazi literature. There were reports that he was destitute, though the state of Mr. Fischer’s finances was never very clear.

So it seems WCG has been de-defuncted. That must be a relief for the lads in Glendora, though the way the article is written still gives the impression that church members keep a copy of Mein Kampf beside their Bibles.

Addendum: Pasadena Star News columnist Larry Wilson now leaps into the act with an article that tries to clarify Fischer's WCG connection. Here's an excerpt:
I know that some Pasadenans don't like to hear it, because the concerts in the auditorium of Ambassador College on the church's fancy West Pasadena campus were so fine and high-culture and whatnot. But it was all a charade - the Armstrongs didn't give a damn about culture. They just wanted what had been known as the Radio Church of God to be accepted in what they thought of as their snooty new hometown. But growing up around the church in Pasadena, with its neurotically manicured dichondra lawns - weeding labor courtesy of the automatons in white shirts and dark ties or little twinsets who pretended to be college students - the place always gave me the Stepford creeps.

Ouch! But Wilson doesn't do his credibility any favors by sloppy research, for example he names Herb's son Gardner Ted.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

The 34 500

Bill Lussenheide draws attention to the current membership statistics of the WCG in a recent posting in the comments section. The full account is contained in the latest issue of Together, and it makes interesting reading.

Membership figures seems to be based on attendance rather than those baptized, and even then the results are incredibly modest. There are, according to Randy Dick, 10,873 faithful folk left in the US. The next highest figure comes the Philippines (6225) then, from north of the border 4476 confused Canuks.

Next on the national hit parade come the Ockers (a.k.a. Australians) with a membership of 1438.

The Democratic Republic of Congo - where presumably limited flow of information, illiteracy and poor access to the Internet work in the church's favor - chalks up 900 followers.

Poor old Britannia manages to scrape a membership of only 871, while New Zealand comes well down the list with 183.

The total membership worldwide is now calculated at 34,500 (though elsewhere on their website they still claim 42,000) - and that appears to mean regular attendees. In short, the WCG is rotting from the inside out. And that despite desperate infusions of neo-Calvinist nonsense in the form of Karl Barth and Presbyterianism's terrible twosome, the brothers Torrance.

Those with get up and go have, well, got up and gone.

That doesn't mean WCG is about to fold: lots of income to be gleaned from the estates of the deceased; certainly enough to keep Joe and Co. in clover for life.

But in case anyone hadn't realized it, WCG is effectively dead on its feet anyway.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Random Musings

Browsing at Abe Books I noticed that the old purple Bible Hymnal is quite a lucrative commodity: two copies of this "rare" treasure are on offer, one selling for $95 and the other for $98, and neither in mint condition. In contrast the later WCG hymnal can be yours for as little as $1.36

What does this tell us?

David Pack, responding to the placement of Dwight Armstrong's hymns in the public domain, cloned the Bible Hymnal last year with a new cover. Unfortunately, to avail yourself of a copy you'd probably have to join Pack's RCG, which would end up costing you a great deal more than ninety-five bucks.

From dubious hymnals to dubious movies. My nomination for most pointless film of the decade goes to Cloverfield, which I had the misfortune to see today. As if anyone needs another reason to put New York on their list of places to avoid. Was it supposed to be Sci-Fi or was it Horror or something else again?

Who knows, who cares... avoid at all costs.

A better investment: How Not To Say What You Mean: A Dictionary of Euphemisms. To say the least, every page is an education (if a thoroughly un-theological one.) Published by Oxford University Press, this little gem is now in its fourth edition. For anyone with a wicked sense of humor who enjoys language-play (a special mention of the venerable correspondent from Gibraltar might be in order here) this is a pearl of very great price.

And speaking of price, it doesn't cost $95 either!

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

UCG - Old Dogs and New Tricks

In the real world there's not too much you can make of a difference of opinion among members of a board - whether a school board or the "suits" in a major corporation. Boards are meant to be places where ideas are put up and shot down, differing opinions canvassed and compromise reached.

The Mormon church is a bit different. A resolution, passed down from the First Presidency, is read out and all the hands are (I'm told) raised in silent unity. I guess mindlessness is what they think "being of one mind" is all about.

But what about the UCG. When it was formed there was little precedent other than the rubber-stamp model (which apparently still holds in the administratively unreformed WCG of Joe Tkach.) The new model could be understood in various ways, and it was. Those who hoped it would be the harbinger of a bright, new, inclusive and consultative style soon discovered that old dogs find it hard to learn new tricks, and when you try to make them fetch the newspaper they're likely to bare their teeth and growl instead.

But are things changing in UCG? The Journal reports on a difference of opinion among board members over the planned relocation to Texas. Bob Berendt, Aaron Dean, Bill Eddington, Roy Holladay and Vic Kubik want the decision reconsidered. Eddington is reported as saying that "the issue transcends the location of the home office and that some church leaders had underestimated the unrest and disunity." (Journal, Nov-Dec., and in following quotes)

On the other side of the fence are Robert Dick, Jim Franks, Richard Pinelli, Larry Salyer, Leon Walker, Richard Thompson and church president Clyde Kilough. The Mormon mentality is exemplified by Jim Franks who asks "How can a minority of the council put forward a resolution to overturn that decision and still say I’m in consensus with the council?"

Consensus? Somebody pass that man a dictionary!

The problem for UCG is, though those in favor of the move are in the majority, "it takes only four of the 12 to place a question on the [ballot] for the next general conference, scheduled for May 2008." There's also a petition (!) circulating among UCG ministers to the same effect. "If 25 percent of UCG elders sign it, that resolution will also require that the general conference vote on whether to rescind the original vote to move to Texas."

Is this a sign the UCG board has fallen apart, afflicted by the sin of Korah? Or is it more a case of Machiavellian posturing by power-hungry factions jockeying for the ascendancy?

Or, then again, is it a sign that there's hope yet that it can practice accountability and operate like a board should, demanding something more than a chorus of "yes sir, how high?"

One thing is certain, those on the outside, including a number of independent congregations that were formerly with UCG, will be watching these events carefully.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Putting Humpty Together Again

The latest Journal is out, and though the news content accounts for only six of the pages, they make up in quality what they lack in quantity.

The most surprising item (on a points decision) is the re-appearance from long hibernation of Al Carrozzo, the man who blew the whistle on Garner Ted in the mid-70s. Al has teamed up with Art Mokarow in an effort to bring about "the restitution of all things mentioned in Acts 3."

Al wants the various "fragmented groups" to get together in Dallas, Jan. 20 - Feb. 2, to discuss "Law and/or Grace."

Frankly, he'd probably have more luck herding cats. Carrozzo specifically says he's not interested in a return to the “restrictive and stifling” structure of the old Worldwide Church of God, but even a loose umbrella structure seems unrealistic. Elsewhere in the same issue Dr Bob Thiel fairly foams at the mouth at the suggestion that UCG and his beloved LCG might be courting.

Carrozzo is a key figure in the history of the Worldwide Church of God, and many of us owe him a debt of gratitude for exposing the moral hypocrisy of the church over GTA's lifestyle. It is remarkable that he is now one of those "old-timers" seeking to resurrect the rotting hulk.

To find out more about Al Carrozzo's initiative and his organization, Associates for Restored Truth (ART), you just need to hit the link to download the complete article, along with the rest of the front and back pages of the Nov-Dec Journal (you'll also find Bob's loud protestations of non-interCOG coitus in the Notes and Quotes section.)

Saturday, 12 January 2008


Most people probably learn about Lilith from C.S. Lewis, who mentions her in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The Clan of Lilith, according to a quick Google search, is a designation used by people who've read too many vampire novels.

But Wes White enters new territory with his newly released novel Clan of Lilith: The Oldest Conspiracy.

According to publisher Wasteland Press, this is a mystery and suspense novel, but don't be fooled, it's more than that. Wes is a well known figure in the independent wing of the Church of God, and his story-line is based around British Israel: the Throne of David, Jeremiah, and Tea Tephi all get a mention.

But the distinctive element is Lilith, Adam's first wife.

Before Eve there was Lilith. C.S. Lewis says so, that that must be right. Lilith - according to legend - was a stroppy, feminist type who refused to submit to poor old indecisive Adam and then ran off.

I'm not making this up, some people apparently take this stuff seriously.

Wes' contribution - and it's probably a COG first - is to pit the surviving descendants of Lilith in a multi-millennia-long plot against... wait for it... the Throne of David.

And John Morgan will be amazed to learn who really bumped off Princess Di.

Again, this is a novel, not something by Steve Collins or Craig White, so it's not immediately apparent whether Wes is having a joke with us, or actually believes some of this material. All I can say is, as a novel it's not too bad if you're willing to suspend disbelief (just like you don't have to believe in Klingons to appreciate Star Trek.) I read it through in a single sitting and enjoyed Lilith immensely. It's not quite Dan Brown, of course (although there's an intrepid professor at the center of this story too), but Wes has put together a good yarn. If you're looking for something for light reading that's a little different, this may just be what you're after.

But could there really be descendants of Lilith out there, tirelessly and ruthlessly suppressing the truth about our origins and plotting the overthrow of the Windsor family?

Not in this reality!


If some time in the future The Journal reports that Wes, like a loose-lipped journalist in his book, disappears "to Australia where three months later he went missing. His mutilated remains were finally found in the outback. His death was listed as accidental, having been attacked by a pack of dingos." (p. 19)

... then maybe it'll be time to reconsider.

Amazon link

Thursday, 10 January 2008

The Reich Stuff

I've been putting off some promised comments about Dr John Buchner's PhD thesis (University of Western Sydney) for far too long. Some time ago John kindly sent me a copy of The Worldwide Church of God: A study of its transformation in terms of K. Helmut Reich’s theory of Relational and Contextual Reasoning. As the title indicates this is a dense dissertation.

John, a former WCG member who later found a spiritual home among the conservative Anglicans of Sydney, attempts to apply the yardstick of cognitive psychology (as fashioned by Reich) to headquarters employees of the Worldwide Church of God. He draws on Reich's classification system to determine how well these insiders deal with that hoary old conundrum, the trinity. Initially willing to co-operate at a corporate level (i.e. Joe Tkach), the response from individual HQ personnel to the questionnaires was apparently less than enthusiastic, which is understandable as the whole project must have seemed both personally threatening and highly judgmental. I'm not well known for my empathy with church officials, but can certainly understand why some quickly became less than co-operative; it's probably a wonder that someone didn't inform Dr Buchner exactly where he could shove his questionnaire.

Is the end product a worthwhile contribution to the arcane field of WCG studies? Well, I guess that depends both on your perspective and your interests. I've had to wade through some pretty impenetrable stuff in my own theological studies, but I can honestly say that for me this thesis came close to setting a new benchmark.

That said, the thesis is carefully, if not clearly, argued. This is an area in which I have zero expertise, so any comments either positive or negative should be taken with a truck-load of salt. Two observations from the cheap seats:

1. Dr Buchner's work seems to make a number of faith-based assumptions, most obviously on the trinity doctrine.

2. Reich himself, whose work under-girds the thesis, seems to be a fringe figure in his own field. The man seems to be a polymath, studying physics and electrical engineering, working as a particle physicist, writing on religious education and cognitive development, and holding an honorary doctorate in theology. But, as Buchner concedes, "Reich’s work to date has been incorporated in few psychology textbooks." (p. 46)

To do justice to John's work would require a lengthy review, not a single blog entry - or even a series. Here however, for those so motivated, are links to PDF copies of the various sections.

Detailed Chapter Contents, Abstract

Ch. 1 Introduction to the WCG and the Cognitive Conversion of Its Leaders

Ch. 2 Literature review of Helmut Reich’s theory of Relational and Contextual Reasoning

Ch. 3. Relational and Contextual Reasoning related to Christology and the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity

Ch. 4 - Method: the qualitative application of Relational and Contextual Reasoning to the case study

Ch. 5 - Results of Study 1: A review of opposing interpretations of the Trinity as a cognitive construct, and transition from rejection to acceptance of the doctrine, in search of an explanation consistent with Relational and Contextual Reasoning

Ch. 6 - Results of Study 2: Analysis of responses to a survey of Worldwide Church of God leaders in regard to their understanding of the Trinity, in terms of Relational and Contextual Reasoning

Ch. 7 Discussion and Conclusion

References and Bibliography

Appendices A-E

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

CGI back online

After giving the Tyler-based Church of God, International a hard time about dropping the ball with its website, it seems only fair to note that the group is now back online.

Worth the wait? Well, you can be the judge.

Accompanying the new look is a new quarterly magazine (PDF download) which seems to have an outreach focus designed to mesh with the Armor of God cable TV show. Considering the small size of CGI it's reasonably impressive (assuming there's an actual print edition). It compares favorably with UCG's Good News, and has a far fresher look than the LCG's Tomorrow's World. The last time I recollect CGI producing a slick, color magazine was back in the late seventies in the form of the ill-fated Twentieth Century Watch - before it evolved (or de-evolved) into a thin newsprint tabloid.

CGI is one of the few splinter groups that has no "big names" in the form of decrepit ego-driven evangelists caught in a time-warp from yesteryear. Quite a contrast to its foundation under GTA and Ron Dart.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Tales from the Herbal Manor

An update on the item about Manor Del Mar which has been in the sidebar for the last couple of days: seventeen photos are now up for those wanting a nostalgic peek at how the building looks now, viewable as a slide-show.

Here's that original report.

Feel the need to trade up from the apartment to something more expansive? How about Manor Del Mar?

Can't you just see Six-Pack Gerry and various pretenders to the Herbal mantle rushing to outbid each other for a slice of the sacred campus.

What kind of moolah will you need for the mansion? You'll get it at a DIY cost of a mere 2.6 million. Chickenfeed if you've got a nice steady income from devoted tithe-slaves.
All joking aside, the PCG Prophet may indeed be interested in acquiring the property with his fetish for all things Herbal - after all, this is the bloke who hauled a rock back to Edmond because HWA allegedly prayed there. His latest effort to clone pre-Tkach WCG...

[I]n 2006, we completed a set of architectural drawings for a $15 million, 800-seat auditorium we intend to build and dedicate to God. I wrote at the end of Raising the Ruins that we hoped to break ground on God’s house sometime in 2007. Today, on the first Sunday in 2008, we did it. On a gorgeous spring-like day, with temperatures topping 70 degrees, about 500 people joined my father in a 45-minute ceremony kicking off this historic project. For an up-to-date view of the construction site, go here.
Should you be bold enough to click on the link you'll get a webcam view of the Great Work - updated each hour! Be still my beating heart.

And who knows, maybe another potential buyer might be Don Billingsley, who seems flush with enough tithe income to buy up lots of advertising on the main page of Charlotte Online - - two ads in fact, one with the face of the Late Great Apostle prominently displayed.

But why Charlotte, which, if my poor knowledge of US geography is adequate, is quite some distance from Modesto? Surely Don isn't trying to poach members from Meredith's LCG and the Ritenbaugh Church of the Great God, both based in Charlotte?

No, perish the very thought.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Donor's Bill of Rights

Stan Gardner has posted a proposed Bill of Donor's Rights for COG members.

You have the right to:

1. Know exactly how the funds of the COG organization are being spent, where Christian stewardship is not just a web policy for the sake of appearances, but an actual practice.

2. Know the salary and total compensation packages of key ministry, evangelists, executives, and board members.

3. Know what the COG programs you support are accomplishing or not accomplishing. Check and see if any outside ministry you are considering gifting to has a passing or failing financial transparency grade at

4. Know that the organization and its employees comply with all federal and state laws, including tax regulations for nonprofit, tax-exempt ministries, including regulations against inurement or personal benefit from tithes and donations.

5. Be able to specifically designate and permanently restrict your COG gifts to fund a specific charitable or religious cause within the organization's mission objectives, such as helping widows and orphans, the sick, or the assistance of the needy or hungry.

6. A timely and courteous response to your inquiries about finances and programs, not incomplete or misleading Orwellian doublespeak about quarterly income and budget percentages as substitutes for periodic, complete financial reports.

7. Give without being pressured by the organization, or computer donation tithe-checked for loyalty or "member in good standing" roadblocks to HQ accountability.

8. Obtain a full copy of the ministry's most recent audited financial statements and charitable disaster fund statements - not a sanitized version with meaningless categories lumped together. Third tithe collected by the ministry and spent for that specific charitable purpose should be placed in distinct, separate categories on the financial reports.

9. Know that there is a responsible, qualified, governing board of members providing oversight to the church mission, accepting responsibility for board actions; not a rubber-stamp, unincorporated church association's board of elders, controlled legally by one man and one man only.

10. Know that all appeals for funds are truthful and accurate, and that conflicts of interest are avoided. Audited financial statements are absolutely not a "clean bill of health" or CPA guarantee of fiduciary integrity. CPA-audited financial statements can also hide church assets, real estate, gold bullion in Swiss bank accounts, payouts, or loans; provide inadequate retirement funding for employees, continue to "cook" the books, or materially misrepresent your COG's financial condition.

You have a right to timely, accurate, and compete sets of financial statements from your COG, and to know exactly how your money is being spent by your ministry.

Which has got to be good advice. Click on the link above to view the full article (dated 21 Dec.) Maybe there's someone out there who would like to contact Ron Dart and other moderate COG leaders and ask them to endorse this document. If you do, be sure to let us all know what response you get via the comments section! And if there's a COG group that meets these criteria (COG Big Sandy???) then let's give credit where it's due in the hopes others will follow the example.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Clever Gerry

In case you missed it, there's a new COG publication which launched in December. This one hails from the fringes of Armstrongism, the PCG. Of course, fringe is a relative term; compared with some of the others out there I guess Flurry is inner fringe.

In any case, The Trumpet Weekly joins the PCG stable, and it's a clever concept.

For starters it's available online, not in print, so no mail-out costs. In exchange for shelling out for an easily edited design template, PCG gets to produce a nice looking newsletter with few ongoing costs.

Clever Gerry.

Next Gerry elevates his "Young Turks" (son Stephen, Brad MacDonald, Robert Morley and Joel Hilliker) as columnists, complete with by-line and picture, giving the impression that they actually know something about what they're writing. Add in a slop-bucket full of fear and loathing-style political commentary, and there's a guaranteed knee-jerk from the target readership who have both their insecurities and prejudices stroked.

Clever Gerry.

Of course, by huffing, puffing and pouting, Gerry and his protégés then give the impression that they - and they alone - are in the know. Build up the straw man then knock him down.

Clever Gerry.

But you have to wonder at a headline like German Fascism Is Conquering Kosovo! After all, the author is Gerry himself, a supreme spiritual führer in his own bailiwick surrounded by obsequious, goose-stepping lieutenants: pot and kettle stuff.

A PDF of last week's Weekly is available for those with an iron constitution, a perverse sense of humor, or a world-view somewhat to the right of Attila the Hun.