Saturday, 28 February 2009

Occluded Vision

Meanwhile, in the pocket universe known as COG-aic...

Dilettante-in-Chief David Hulme has come close to rattling his begging bowl.

At Vision, we are pursuing excellence in publishing in print and on the Web... We hope you agree and that you will consider supporting in whatever way you can this very necessary work.

Yes, times are tough. Send money quick or Dave might have to fly economy class.

Also of some interest, given the recent discussion on evolution, is a Vision review of Michael Dowd's book Thank God for Evolution.Reviewer Dan Cloer unleashes a torrent of scorn. I haven't read Dowd, but he seems to mesh with a number of theologians who follow in the wake of Teilhard de Chardin, the early twentieth-century Jesuit scholar. For those who have encountered Australian Michael Morwood's "new story" theology, Dowd's approach will also be familiar, but in an Americanized, Protestantized version, seeking to make sense of God and Christian belief in a world very different from the "heaven above, hades below" cosmology of the ancient world.

Cloer comments: "Every page is replete with jammed-together science factoids and out-of-context Bible catchphrases."

Sounds like the Good News style manual to me...

"Intellectualism runs rampant."

Oh no... please... stop... mercy... not intellectualism...

Actually, Dowd seems reasonably approachable, based on sample pages you can access on Amazon. Now if Dan would really like a challenge, and risk shattering his delicate crypto-creationist worldview forever, I'd happily recommend John Haught.

You can find the digital edition of Vision online.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Ron the Cheshire Cat

Alas, the Work of the LORD has been thwarted. His Messenger, Ronald Weinland, is finally fading - like the proverbial smile on the Cheshire Cat - from public interest. Ron's website has been overtaken in the Alexa ratings by the Good News website, and the popularity of his COG-PKG website is sinking rapidly.

How can this be, gentle reader? The Two Witnesses can't be allowed to flunk, can they?

Oh well, it was quite a buzz while it lasted Ron, and you and your lovely wife Laura have provided us all with a lot of laughs. Now that the curious onlookers are moving away, the core membe... suckership will also start shedding. Tithes will take a nosedive, the jet-setting lifestyle along with it.

Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Born to Lose?

Born to Win, the online presence of former WCG/CGI and now independent evangelist Ron Dart (, has disappeared from the web. Try clicking over to the Great Man's personal site ( and you'll be stopped by the Internet Gestapo demanding a username and password - huh? I mean, why bother? (Update: the password protection was removed a short while after this posting appeared. The last entry - right wing political drivel - is dated Feb. 6. Born to Win is still MIA at this moment in time.)

The disappearance of Dart is probably a temporary situation, but maybe not. (Update 2: Ron is back, phew!) Regardless, a COGiverse without Ron's dulcet tones (in distinction to the relentless whine of Meredith) is barely imaginable. Dart was regarded by many as a better speaker than even the golden-tongued Garner Ted Armstrong. Whether the impressive preaching form is matched by actual substance is, naturally, a somewhat different question.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Evolved we have

It's kind of sad how what was meant to be a humorous post, featuring a morphed photograph of William Dankenbring, can bring the creationism advocates out of the woodwork. As far as I'm concerned, there is no debate. Evolved we have, as Yoda might say.

Most Christians would agree. Catholics and mainline Protestants long ago decided to front up to the inevitable. We don't read the Bible to learn about science, and we don't need to believe six impossible things before breakfast each day. We read the Bible to engage in an ongoing adventure that holds a mirror up to reality, that challenges us to live justly, that directs us to realign our lives with the Good Spirit, that enables us to become authentic, free and compassionate people. If reading the Bible doesn't do that, then we're probably better off not reading it at all. The kingdom of God isn't just some future pie in the sky hope, it's supposed to erupt in our midst and spill over as a blessing for those around us.

Which is why so much that goes on in the small sectarian communities that make up the Armstrong diaspora is unhealthy. If we read the Bible to fuel our "prophetic" conjectures, if we read the Bible to discover "new truth" that will make us special and better than other people, then we've exchanged the bread of life for junk food.

Friday, 13 February 2009

The Missing Link

The Darwin anniversary is too good an opportunity to miss a bit of borax poking, as the Aussie expression goes. So for the edification of AW readers here is a prime example of Homo habilis. This fine fellow was morphed courtesy of the British Open University site, where you can upload a photo of yourself (or a dear friend, perhaps) and see what a handsome chap (or beautiful chapette) you or they would have made back when Adam was a boy.

Pictured is a latter-day Homo habilis (meaning 'handyman'), a creator of stone tools who lived in Africa 2.2 - 1.6 million years ago. This particular specimen, however, is very much alive and kicking, and has made a monkey of himself many times.

Additional clue: appropriately, he's the author of a book on creationism!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

The Art of Foolish Preaching

by Dennis Diehl

I’ve heard a lot of foolish preaching in my time. Bathsheba was named so because David lusted after her while she was taking a bath. A man was found days after being swallowed (200 year old urban legend). Scientists have found missing time in the universe and it must be because Joshua stopped the earth from rotating for about a day to kill more of Israel’s enemies, and so on. The examples of foolish stories given to illustrate the mythologies of the Bible are endless.

In the COG ministry, those most given to foolish preaching tend to give the longest sermons on the most speculative of topics. Rambling is raised to an art form.

But there is a style of preaching that beats them all. Ron Weinland, the dominant half of the Two Witnesses spoken of by John the Divine, or at least John on Drugs, in the book of Revelation, has a style that works very well to keep the human mind's unconscious marginally informed by the foolishness of preaching.

Let’s notice how this kind of preaching programs the mind. There is no real content in this style. There is no real theology, no historical understanding or truth of any matter for the most part. It is meme (mind virus) stimulation misusing the Bible as the feed and the member as the fodder.

Let’s take a look at the example of foolish preaching from a recent sermon.

After noting that he will be speaking in upcoming weeks in Detroit, he says that he will confine his Church visits to the South and won’t be traveling north in winter due to unpredictable traveling weather. Detroit? If I had been a teen in that audience, I’d have busted up. It’s February. Who moved Detroit?

“Sometimes we may expect big things to happen…but that’s not how it works.” This implies he knows just how it really works when he has no clue how it works.

“All of these are thunders…the worst drought in 50 years.” Why do we fail to ask, “Well, 50 years ago must have been a Thunder that pooped out.” Kinda like today being the hottest day since 1921. Well, it got hot then so what’s the big deal?

“New people can go to the interviews and that can be a stumbling block to some..” Ya think?

“There are questions that can be EASILY answered.” Not really. One can give easy answers but easy and correct are not the same thing.

“We are the only true Church that is God’s.” No comment

“ God is leading his Church and me as his end time prophet.” And you know this?

“As I teach, and lead and guide the church….we yield.” Well except that part about if found false anything less than quitting preaching is insane.

“That was inspiring and exciting..” This spoken in light of God not allowing Ron to give a sermon on Trumpets that would prove not to be true.

“People came to understand and see…the vast majority did.” Are you sure?

“This is exciting… all stated in these interviews concerning these time lines ...does not in any matter take away from my role as end time prophet... I hope we understand that.” Uh huh

“It’s not our choice.” No Ron, it is our choice. Life is choices.

“Do you know what God’s purpose in doing that was? These trials serve to bring to the surface impurities.” And you know this? Maybe they bring foolishness to the surface.

“There are sins in people’s lives that they are not addressing as they should be. cannot receive more that God has for us.” You know, blame the member for questioning sermon content and accuracy.

“God has given one year, 2008, as a type of the past 6000 years.” Uh huh

“The 50th truth did change the all the major timing in the interviews.” Phew! Close call there on me being a false prophet.

“It would be wise for you to listen…” Or not…

“No one contacted me back. They don’t want to go into this.” Yes they do.

“What became clear was that he wanted me to declare myself a false prophet…nothing happened.” How unreasonable.

“Why go into explaining anything to them…they don’t even keep the Sabbath.” Doh! What were we thinking!

“They can’t handle the truth.” Either can you.

“There is no need to have anymore..” (interviews) Yes there is.

We get the point. This style of preaching simply reminds people of how they are to think. It is liberally sprinkled with “God wants us to know.” “It is obvious to us as God’s people.” “You have to have the Spirit of God to even begin to understand what has happened.” “I think we all understand this even if others don’t.” “We know…” and many other such phrases that make the audience feel either special or at least unwilling to wonder why they don’t feel this way.

It is mind virus contagion at its best and worst. It does make people sick and they do spread the infection to others until it runs its course.

It’s one style of foolish preaching. Any others that come to mind?

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Web Witnesses

The Internet trends bring both good news and bad to COG ministries in the latest Alexa update. Dropping out of the top million listings on the Web are World News & Prophecy (UCG), and the LCG member-site ( Overall, however, traffic is on the rise. Here are the COG high-flyers. The number denotes which thousand band each site sits in, so at 503, AW is actually ranked at 503,198 - close enough to LCG to breathe down the neck of Roderick the Unready (503,176).

1. Still sitting in the top spot is Ronnie Weinland's The court jester always pulls an audience! 76
2. The UCG's stately galleon, The Good News. 79
3. Fresh off the Oklahoma compound in Edmond, the Trumpet. Were those helicopters flying overhead black? 99
4. Can you clip your toenails on the Sabbath and still be a true Christian? Ask Alan Ruth at 124
5. The first of the official church websites, up 10,000 on last time, UCG. 130
6. Keeping up appearances - with David Hulme rather than Hyacinth Bouquet - Vision. 146
7. Packatollah Dave hangs in there for the RCG. 153
8. None other than the double-doc, Bob Thiel, sailing out way in front of any official LCG site. 161
9. Here's a church site from Charlotte, NC. Nope, nothing to do with LCG, Bible Tools is the work of the Ritenbaugh CGG. 166
10. Spluttering in at number 10, the Tkach sectlet, which may or may not be called WCG if the Glendora GICks get their way... 178
11. Tomorrow's World finally puts one on the board for Rod "Spanky" Meredith of the LCG. 192
12. Ernie Martin may be long gone, but his nephesh goes marching on (metaphorically of course) in the guise of David Sielaff's ASK. 330
13. The Ritenbaugh church site, 383
14. I once described Vic Kubik's indepedent UCG site as Kubikistan, which was uncharitable. Vic punches with the heavyweights. 392
15. A flurry of applause for Gerry! PCG's official site drags the chain to accompanying moans. 497
16. The true Philadelphian (but not Flurridian) Work of God - LCG's official church site. Is that a cry of Hosanna from Bob? 503
17. Yes, well, there's always one black sheep... Ambassador Watch cuddles up to the Rodomite edifice. 503
18. And hot on our heels, throwing money hither and yon on spiffy design, it's Greg ("I'm no legalist") Albrecht at PTM. 508
19. UCG's Beyond Today chugs in. 586
20. Pass the wieners and ketchup, Ronnie's PKG takes a bow. 587
21. Ron Dart's Born To Win takes a dive. 705
22. Fred Coulter (CBCG) gains a little extra traction. 802
23. Don Billingsley's Faithful Flock also make a small gain. 830

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Flying Free in print

John Morgan's Flying Free is now available in large soft-cover format. Here's an edited version of two earlier posts on AW about the first edition (which was only released on CD ROM.)

John Morgan is a member of the Kiwi diaspora living in the Big, Dry Country, west of Eden. He is also a former member of the Worldwide Church of God.

He’s the latest to put his story in book form, but unlike some others he doesn't appear to have a sectarian axe to grind. He’s put together a valuable resource.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the preface:

“I believe that to be successful in completely moving on ... it is important to understand more about Herbert Armstrong – answering critical questions like: what was his background, and where was he coming from? It is important to understand the actual reality of the organisation WCG members were a part of. ...

“In Flying Free I have addressed these issues. This book contains never previously published research on Herbert Armstrong’s Holiness Quaker upbringing. It includes extensive research on the WCG’s comparison to a cult, and the characteristics that actually define a cult. There are also many pages devoted to scanned material from original WCG literature – the content of material read from an external perspective, is assimilated and interpreted completely differently to the identical documents read from within the organisation. Reviewing this material can give new insight into the journey taken by WCG members and ex-members.

“Further to this, Flying Free also contains an open-minded assessment of the origins of the Bible, the authority of the Bible, and an appraisal of organised Christianity’s influence on the individual Christian.

“Flying Free documents the impact of the Armstrong teachings on individual lives, but then goes on to show a priceless freedom – found in life beyond fundamentalism.

“Flying Free should serve as a warning to those contemplating entering a fundamentalist church.”

I've read quite a few books by ex-WCG members. Some of them have been shattering (Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web springs first to mind) while others have been facile. In recent years I've reviewed – favourably – Pam Dewey's Field Guide (an excellent primer on American religions), Dennis Embo's The God that Prevailed (a testimony by an ex-member who converted to Catholicism), and Henry Sturcke's Encountering the Rest of God (a theological dissertation.) Good people, good books.

Then there are the less worthy tomes. These are filed away in box where I can blissfully ignore them, side by side with ancient “literature” sanctioned by the church.

Flying Free is in a category of its own. I can honestly say my expectations were exceeded. In fact I've read nothing like it before. Author John Morgan captures the spirit of growing up in the old WCG. Looking at it through his eyes put a lot of things in a fresh light, and as I read through the first chapters I found myself thinking: man, we really were weird!

I was blessed with the rare opportunity to come into the church during an atypically “liberal” period. It lasted a few brief years – an Indian Summer of relative sanity – then was swept away in the “cultural revolution” that saw Garner Ted dumped, Stan Rader facing off against the State of California and Herbert taking a final extended trip into megalomania. I didn't hang around much longer – Christ was using an extremely caustic “spot remover” to tart up his Bride, and the local minister wisely decided I was a definite liability (thanks Jack, you did me a favor!)

I mention that because one's experience of the WCG is determined to some extent by when you were actively involved. John was there long before me, as a kid growing up in the “Truth”, and stayed with the church through till the changes. With a measured style he sets about detailing his story – our story – with great fairness. Warning: if you're anything like me you'll be entering the “flashback zone.” So many things I'd forgotten about. So many fanatical teachings, so much manipulation! Being a part of the church came at a cost. If it wasn't so downright tragic it'd be hilarious.

Unlike some others, John isn't pushing a particular barrow, nor is there any sense of bitterness. It seems he just wants to put it all “on the record”, and he does a magnificent job. No nutty conspiracy theories or cheap apologetics, no strange interpretations of Bible passages, just an amazing story, all the more bizarre for its familiarity. There's also a personal touch to John's account. You can't miss the fact that this church, these doctrines, had an effect on real families, people just like you and me. The personal asides add a great deal to Flying Free.

And oh, those quotes! I'd forgotten just how blatant a lot of Herb's writing was. The thinly veiled threats of eternal damnation if we didn't do this or that. I read them again with a sense of disbelief... was I really taken in by this rubbish?

A full review can be found here, once again based on the first edition. Back then I also commented that it would be wonderful to see it appear in hard copy, and it's great that Flying Free is now available in book form. You can order a copy through, either as a $10 download, or in paperback format at $38.95. It is expected by be available on Amazon shortly.

To repeat something I said when the first edition came out - "My advice? Get a copy."

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Hieronymous Wolverton

He's been called “the Hieronymous Bosch of comics.” And, oh dear lord, he's about to make a comeback.

Basil Wolverton's "Bible Story" has been tweaked by son Monte, given the good housekeeping seal of approval by the GICcies* at WCG (I'll be interesting to see what they cut out) and is due to hit the bookshops later this year. It's re-titled The Wolverton Bible.

And get this: every one of those amazing original BS illustrations has been included.

Amazon has preview pages up. Being released in December it'll make an ideal (turn over in your grave Basil) Xmas gift!

*GICcies, a possible replacement term for COGgers, now that Joey ("if you don't like my rules I'll take your ball and YOU can go home") Tkach is trying to rename his made-over sect Grace International Communion. Any other suggestions?

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Journal mailout

The September-December Journal has rolled off the presses. The front cover might perhaps be described as ecumenical, with articles about the late Samuele Bacchiocchi, and a major feature about COG7's Robert Coulter, who visited the Big Sandy church in November. The Q&A transcript following Coulter's address is eye opening. For those who want to know how the WCG and COG7 fit together historically this is a fascinating resource.

Ken Westby reviews James Tabor's Restoring Abrahamic Faith. Frankly, he's a lot more generous about it than I was prepared to be. While directing some very gentle criticism toward the end, Westby also writes, "I love the book and use it as a devotional guide, meditating and praying along with the many important scriptures he has artistically assembled." Ken really needs to get out more often! My abortive attempt at a review last year may yet resurface. [Update: it's now posted over at Otagosh]

There's an essay on the calendar which includes a chart labelled "God's 19-year time cycle of new moon conjunctions." I'm not prepared to read it until all the sharp objects in the house are locked away. I did notice two of author William Neely's concluding sentences however: "God's calendar is precise, living and permanent. It is carved in the heavens!"

Uh huh...

Check out the front and back pages online.

Following up on the previous post, the Waldheim prophecy appeared in Willie Dankenbring's Prophecy Flash.

King of Fierce Countenance - NOT

Here's a nice quote from the year 1989. So - who said it?

Events in Europe have certainly speeded up to a "quantum leap" into the future. A new "world empire" is beginning to arise in Central Europe - a modern "Holy Roman Empire," which is neither "holy," nor "Roman." Undoubtedly, with his stunning relations with the Arab world and its volatile leaders, and with the Pope, Kurt Waldheim will play a very significant role in that future Germanic-dominated Empire. His anti-Semitism and his personal characteristics fit him perfectly for the role of the future king of "fierce countenance" foretold by Daniel the prophet.

Kurt Waldheim, a former Secretary General of the UN, died in 1997 at the ripe old age of 88. "Undoubtedly" he wasn't the king of "fierce countenance." That "quantum leap" was evidently in a backward direction.

So who was the reckless prognosticator who fell flat on his derriere? Clue: he hasn't learned from the pratfall, and is still busily pontificating on the meaning of "prophecy." His identity is revealed next time.

Monday, 2 February 2009

HWA - Guilty as Sin

Over on Stan's AR blog you can find this intriguing quote, which I assume comes from John Trechak's original Ambassador Report.

Four ex-WCG members - C. Wayne Cole, Ron Dart, Guy Carnes, and Benny Sharp - testified favorably on Robinson's side at the Tulsa trial. Benny Sharp, for one, was personally aware of the incest, as he was in the room when the legendary "I will destroy you" last meeting took place between HWA and GTA.

In final settlement of a legally dubious, WCG pre-publication lawsuit against Robinson for exposing Armstong's Tangled Web, the losing WCG plaintiffs who sued had to write David Robinson a check for $25,000!

HWA or the WCG never challened the factual, plain truth about Armstrong's incest itself in court, which would be in the preferred legal strategy to stop publication, or get a retraction to set the record straight. But in order to get that public retraction, Armstrong had to have the real truth about the guilt of his repeated criminal incest on his side to win, which he didn't.

The new Living Armstrongism blog fits many of the pieces together in an impressive summary, and reaches its own conclusion. It's an excellent piece of writing.

As the years go by, collective amnesia sets in. Those who left in the eighties were often hard pressed, for example, to tap into the experiences and research of those who'd left in the previous wave of 1974. The Internet has changed all that, and rose-tinted glasses are bound to be shattered.

If the sordid tale of Herbert Armstrong's private life is a threat to anyone's faith, one could only ask whether this is a valuable - perhaps God-given - opportunity to change the focus of that faith. A very long time ago - 1979 to be exact - Tanya Bryan wrote this poem as the result of the upheaval in the church at that time. It appeared in Internews, an early publication of CGI.


I am not old
Nor smart
Nor rich
But now I know
There is only one hero.

I've seen promises broken
With no explanation
Words spoken
But not upheld.

I've seen horrendous acts
In the name of religion
People crushed
In the name of God

All the pedestals we place them on
All the blocks we set them on
There is only one we can really count on.
Christ is the only hero.

An Onion By Any Other Name

From: Joseph Tkach...
Sent: Thursday, 18 December 2008 6:48 AM
To: [a variety of apparatchiks]
Cc: 'Mike Feazell'
Subject: RE: Status of Denominational Name Change

Greetings again today!

Since sending the email updating you about the survey, Mike suggested to me that I share with you, my original email to all U.S. pastors:

Greetings from Glendora!

It is always such a great joy to see all of you at our annual district conferences, and I want you to know how much I appreciate you and your work in Christ. My only regret is that there is never enough time to interact with everyone as much I would like.

One of the common questions we discussed and that I’m frequently asked is, “When will we change our denominational name?”

I want to answer that question and also seek your assistance.

First, let me rehearse the background to the question of changing our denominational name.

1. Some people have an immediate negative reaction to the name “Worldwide Church of God” because of our past. Changing our name signals clearly that a change has taken place. It also strengthens our witness to God’s grace and his intervention in our fellowship.

2. “Church of God” conveys association with any one of a number of sectarian groups that have long used that name, such as the Churches of God, Anderson, Indiana, and many others. Some of these churches are Pentecostal, and most are fundamentalist.

3. When considering a name for our denomination, we need to consider the future as well as the past. Choosing a name for a church is a spiritual matter, but it has important practical implications. The name becomes the church’s public trademark, and helps people form a concept of who we are. What we call ourselves also has business and legal implications.

4. Our name should not misrepresent what the church is. Older members will remember that our church has been known as Worldwide Church of God only since 1968. Before then, we were known as the Radio Church of God. This made sense at the time, as the church had pioneered religious radio broadcasting. In the thirties, forties and maybe even the fifties, a name that included the word “radio” sounded dynamic and modern. But by the ’60s, it had begun to sound quaint and out-of-date. Membership was growing, and congregations were established around the world. We needed a name that described what our church had become. So “Worldwide” was chosen, and it has served us well. But today, the name “Worldwide Church of God” name carries the baggage of our pre-transformational reputation and culture and therefore misrepresents who and what we are as a denomination.

Since the beginning of our doctrinal transformation ministers and members alike have been raising the question of changing the name of the denomination. Because our doctrinal foundation, mission focus and church structure have undergone major changes, many have and continue to express their feeling that we need a name that better represents who the church is today and where it is going in the future.

As you know, in the September 2005 issue of WCG Today, members in the United States were invited to submit possible new church names to their pastors. District superintendents collected the suggested names and forwarded them to Glendora. Members, national leaders and mission developers from all over the world were also invited to participate in the process.

Our name search team, which was appointed by the WCG Board of Directors and was composed of a number of leading men and women from various departments at headquarters, examined the names submitted and made recommendations to the Board and to the Advisory Council of Elders.

After a reviewing all the submitted names and discussing the viable ones at length, the search team isolated key terms that reflect the church’s values and mission as a denomination while avoiding key terms that are normally associated with other denominations as well as those that are already in use by other organizations.

The name search team presented their findings and recommendations to a combined meeting of the Board and the Advisory Council of Elders on Dec. 20, 2005. After all factors and criteria were considered, the Board and the Council settled on the name “Grace Communion International” as best representing who and what our church is today and where it is going in the future.

The rationale was published in the February 6, 2006, issue of WCG Today:

Grace: Grace lies at the heart of our values and mission as a transformed church. The gospel is the message of God’s grace to humanity revealed in Jesus Christ. And it is by God’s grace that we were led out of our former legalism and biblical misinterpretation. If we must choose one word to best describe our fellowship in terms of our spiritual journey and our ongoing mission and goals, it would have to be the word grace.

Communion: The terms church, community, communion, assembly, conference and fellowship can all refer to a group of congregations belonging to a single denomination. Of these terms, communion includes the concept of spiritual unity and positive relationships in the love of the Father, the grace and peace of Jesus Christ and the life of the Holy Spirit. It is a biblical word, and one that resonates on several levels with our experience of transformation and new life in Christ, who shares with us his own communion with the Father and the Spirit.

The terms "community, fellowship and church" are less likely to be approved by the trademark office, in the current opinion of counsel.

International: We are an international, multicultural church. We value and respect one another, existing not as a single, national church in any given country, but as a unified body of believers who span the globe, sharing a common history and journey of faith.

(As a reminder, the name “Grace International Fellowship,” which I originally raised for consideration at our worldwide pastors conference in the summer of 2005, we found to be in use by another organization. That made it unavailable to us and meant that even variations of it could subject us to legal challenges.)

The approved name, “Grace Communion International,” was met with mixed reactions when it was first announced in early 2006. Although a majority of members expressed their support for the new name, we decided to put the name change on hold to allow more time to see whether a greater comfort level might develop among members did not.

As time has passed, the consensus in favor of the name “Grace Communion International” has continued to grow. Although we cannot expect 100 percent agreement on any name, it does seem that there is a growing majority of ministers and members who favor a change to this name.

We are a church that God has changed radically from what we once were to what we are today. Our change to a new name that accurately describes what God has done with us would be consistent with that transformation.

As you know, most of our congregations have already taken on local names, demonstrating the value in putting before the public a name other than our current denominational moniker. A new denominational name would underscore the rationale used by our local churches in allowing our name to reflect who our Father has made us through the Spirit to be in Jesus Christ.

Grace Communion International describes our spiritual journey together, celebrates our new life in Christ, and communicates our Trinitarian/Incarnational theology.

Any change, even a positive and accepted one, can generate a level of uncertainty and distress. That means your personal support as a pastor would be crucial to helping your congregation through the transition of a name change.

As a reminder, we are speaking about the change of the name of the denomination only. Each local church, and each international church, will still be able to choose its own name that may or may not be the same as our denominational name (or even keep the name "Worldwide Church of God"). Some North American congregations might wish to change their name to "Grace
Communion" (we anticipate obtaining the legal trademark to this shortened version of the name as well), or some variant, but they do not have to adopt our denominational name as their local church name.

Here is where I’d like to ask for your help. In order to gain a sense of whether now is finally the time for us to change our denomination name to "Grace Communion International", I am asking each pastor to do these three things:

1) explain the need for the change
2) explain the meaning of the new name
3) survey the response by asking your congregation for a show of hands as to whether they are supportive of this name change now. Please reply to this email with the results of a show of hands (e.g. 75% in favor, 25% opposed, or vice versa) along with the name of your congregation(s). While the email address bears my name, it is a temporary address for the purpose of this survey.

Thanks for your help in this and your continued faithful service in the gospel.

In Jesus’ love,
Joseph Tkach

AW response: dear Joe, ditching the baggage is a great idea, so why not start with the hierarchic leadership which has no mandate! Your resignation and the creation of representative structures (elected board, conference structure etc.) would mark a genuine change, unlike your present window dressing proposal.)

Sunday, 1 February 2009

More Denial

Unsurprisingly, as if tapped on the knee with a mallet, Bob Thiel has leapt manfully to the defense of his dead idol following yesterday's posting.

I agree with Mary Lane that the most interesting part of Bob's response is this.

Perhaps I should mention that since one aspect of these accusations is commonly attributed to a comment supposedly made by Herbert W. Armstrong’s son Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA) concerning his dad and his sister Dorothy. I personally called Garner Ted Armstrong’s office on Dec. 12, 2002 to inquire about this particular accusation. I was not able to speak with GTA directly, but a key employee of the Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association discussed it with him and got back with me. Through his spokesperson, GTA declined to comment except to pass on the message that:

“everything you really need to know about my father is contained within the Autobiography (of Herbert W. Armstrong).”

Thus GTA would not stand by a statement attributed to him on this matter–so how can any believe this?

Put yourself in Ted's shoes. Along comes a request from a pesky devotee of Rod Meredith for information on the incest allegations. What could Ted do?

(a) deny them. That would settle the matter, and you'd think he'd be eager to do just that - clear the family name - if it had all been a horrible case of smear and innuendo. Let's give Ted some credit, he had enough integrity to not do that.

(b) confirm them. After twenty-three years revisit a painful part of his past and see it blow up in his face all over again.

(c) tell Bob, diplomatically, to sod off.

Wisely he chose option three. It says a good deal about Bob that he failed to realize he was being given the bum's rush.