Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Thirty Years On

It's been thirty years since Herbert Armstrong departed the land of the living - now ticking on for 31. After three decades we're beginning to see a major die-back among those groups that loudly claimed his mantle.

The Church of God, an International Community is one of them. Splintering from UCG and led by former World Tomorrow presenter (and later founding UCG president) David Hulme, it struggled on for years, never reaching a critical mass. COG-AIC haemorrhaged prominent ministers. Rumour has it that Hulme thought he could get away with dumping the deeply flawed British-Israel doctrine, but Peter Nathan et al had other ideas. It no longer publishes its journal, Vision. In fact, the energy levels were so low that subscribers weren't even informed of its demise. COG-AIC has been downsized, scaled back to the point of irrelevance.

There are also reports that the Philadelphia Church of God has been hit in the pocketbook to the tune of a 25% reduction in income. PCG continues to throw money at its British Bricket Wood clone, Edstone Hall, and Gary is reporting that founder Gerry Flurry is set to purchase a personal jet to wing him - and members of his inner circle - across the Atlantic and beyond, just like his long-dead idol. Apparently flying commercial (and we're clearly talking first class here) is just too much for the great man to endure. How can he afford it? Perhaps it's all those bequests that have accumulated over the years, the gift that keeps on giving. Reason enough to check that your current will is up to date and that the parasites don't get a red shekel.

The United Church of God, an International Association is treading water at best. It's not that they're not trying to recruit new blood, it's just that they're not very good at it. UCG is still operating with a 1980s mentality, despite having paid out big bucks to bring its websites and media facades up to scratch. The message, however, is firmly targeted at old white males of the grumpier variety. Alas, lads, not only are the times a-changin' but so is the demographic.

The Living Church of God is facing a challenging time. Meredith won't be around forever, his successor is probably not up to the job, and there's widespread disillusionment in the ranks. Meredith predictably blames it on Satan. Anyone with a functioning brain can apportion responsibility closer to home than that.

And out beyond the barriers and borders that each of these "major" bodies has erected? "Here be dragons." With a couple of honourable exceptions, there you'll find Thiel, Weinland, Dankenbring and their ilk. Hardly a pretty picture.

The Churches of God will battle on in an increasingly diminished capacity for some time to come, but they have about as much chance of making a comeback as Christian Science or the Christadelphians.


Redfox712 said...

It is sickening that it appears that PCG's top echelon are contemplating throwing away so much money on such an extravagant acquisition.

It is good to note that, indeed, Meredith bears more than a small share in leading the COGs to be in the current state that it is.

"Here be dragons." This is so true about the small COG groups operating out there.

Byker Bob said...

Yep. Pretty much a nostalgia act at this point. Can anyone seriously imagine people aged 60-85 doing three and a half years of hard camping in a place like Petra?


Redfox712 said...

New post discussing PCG's booklet about dating practices for singles within PCG.


Connie Schmidt said...

In business or in battle, once a 30 percent decline in numbers hits, only in the most rare of situations, does a comeback to the original level ever happen.

Miller Jones said...

It's 2016. The availability of information discrediting/disproving Armstrongism is astounding. Even a person with minimal intellectual curiosity is not very likely to be snared by any of these groups. Moreover, the importance of doctrine has diminished throughout Christianity. People just don't get as excited about theological arguments as they used to. In 2016 America, most of the folks attending a funeral are looking for comfort and closure, not a treatise on what happens when a person dies. Hence, any group or individual minister who views a funeral as a golden opportunity to evangelize/proselytize is almost certain to be disappointed.
The future does not look good for Armstrongism. God's Church may never see the gates of hell, but Armstrongism is already at the bottom of the grave! We're all just waiting for someone to throw in the dirt.

nck said...

The more I read postings like these the more I would like to see a list (perhaps I should read the STP again) of what actually constitutes "Armstrongism.

Just two random examples:

-Some years ago million of Americans were watching movies and buying books on a sudden rapture. How does that crazyness differ from "Armstrongism."

-I see the mention of grumpy old white farts as a market. Isn't that the constituency of a certain person with a likely chance of becoming president of the usa?

-A (once) crazy doctrine like keeping the FOT for Christians is being practiced by hundreds of thousands of Americans nowadays. Thousands flocking into Jerusalem in the Fall.

-On the "crazy channel" major evangelists are talking about the Beast and other prophecies like hwa was speaking to kindergarten.

It seems a certain combination of doctrines are about to disappear as a combination. But I do not see the demise of lunacy soon. Actually it seems there is a vast increase in lunacy these days.

I have always judged the "nazi" watchers in the seventies/eighties/nineties as absurd. Since ever, I have believed that if any "nazi" movement was ever to arise again it would look completely different than the former. Not disguised. Just totally different. First the movie "Starship Troopers" was marked as trash, one of the worst movies ever, worse than a parody. Only in later years people looked in the mirror and recognized the transformation society had experienced and now some critics are even judging that movie as some sort of art.


nck said...

It's not that I see you, me or us as absurd.
I'm just saying that by focussing on a tree one might just be missing the entire forrest.
Of course I understand we have a history with one particular branch of a tree of a forrest.


Miller Jones said...

nck, while I no longer believe observance of the Feasts is obligatory for Christians, I don't think that Christians who study or attempt to observe them are crazy or wasting their time. In fact, generally speaking, I think most Christians would benefit from a greater awareness/understanding of the theology that spawned them. Acceptance or rejection of any belief/teaching should be based on an objective evaluation of the evidence available. When I speak of Armstrongism, I'm talking about a constellation of teachings that were linked together by Herbert Armstrong and portrayed as Divine truth. It is possible to isolate individual components of that constellation and find some merit or truth in them, but I don't believe that is objectively possible within the context of Armstrong theology. And I'm most assuredly not saying that there aren't significant problems with the theology of other groups. I believe the trend among the great unwashed is away from an emphasis on doctrines (underscoring petty differences over things that no one can be sure of) and towards an emphasis on behavior/character (and I think that's a positive development)!

Minimalist said...

Miller Jones:
I believe the trend .. is away from an emphasis on doctrines .. and towards an emphasis on behavior/character ..

IOW: "We Christians, our philosophy in crisis, must become a moving target, constantly shifting the goalposts."

nck said...


To clarify, I meant to say that once upon a time it would have been absurd if large quantities of Christians would even entertain the thought to observe a FOT. Now we see that behavior that was quite limited to Armstrongism accepted among the masses. Even the pope is judaizing. Or "considering a greater awareness of the theology that spawned them" , as you so say.

So I am just observing that individual components of the constellation are finding a way into mainstream.

But hey Armstrongism was partly Buddhist through Hoehism, and of course Islamic, since the first Christians spawned Islam after having fled from Jerusalem to Medina. Even the meaning of the word Islam means submit. So they got that part right. Even the Lord Shiva is mentioned in the bible, albeit a hero. In the late ninety eighties there was that wtm brochure claiming we were all energy. That is so definitely Hindu. I never got over that moment when hwa called god allah during his Mubarak interview. At the time I found it so weird but he was very intuitive (and therefore found wanting by scholars, but not so much by the religious folk he met.) When Joe Tkach at Jerusalem airport explained some of the doctrines to waiting businessman this guy exclaimed, "Ah, I understand, so you are the thinking man religion" probably alluding to the fact that we at least tried to get a feel of the Christian foundations. Sadly we did not research well enough I guess, but still strange to see even the pope exclaim Armstrongisms these days, or get a feel of the religions origins that do seem to have some merit to the Christian religion I should say after examining your posting.

This emphasis on behavior/character? Wasn't that announced in that song "this is the age of Aquarius" in the seventies, transitioning from the age of Pisces (Ichtus)?


Miller Jones said...

Minimalist, everything that endures must evolve with changing circumstances (I thought that you accept evolution?) nck, yes, these young Aquarians like deeds - the words don't mean as much to them :)

nck said...

Miller Jones,

Just a short question.
Do you find my way, "strange", "confused", (mildly) "entertaining, "irritating", "distracting", "other"?


The Skeptic said...

I'm all for an emphasis on improving peoples' behavior/character. But why would religion be needed for such an exercise?

The Skeptic said...

Sounds like religion is trying to reinvent itself in order to survive.

Miller Jones said...

nck, I'm not sure what you mean. I find your comments to be interesting.

Miller Jones said...

It isn't. However, for those so inclined, isn't such an emphasis more constructive than squabbling over whose interpretation of Scripture is right?

Miller Jones said...

Evolution - what's wrong with evolution? Do you think that the traditional manifestation of religion is OK? You may find it more desirable for religion to disappear, but how likely is that? And, if we say that's not very likely, isn't change preferable to the status quo?

The Skeptic said...

Agreed. A majority of people seem to need religion so it probably isn't going away anytime soon. And I agree, change is preferable to the status quo.

Black Ops Mikey said...

It's all quite insane, isn't it?