Sunday, 17 July 2016
Everybody forgets Fred
But trotting alongside patiently, often barely noticed, is Fred Coulter. Fred parted ways from the mother-ship shortly after Ted jumped into the shark-infested waters in 1978. Prior to that he was a California-based pastor, produced his own self-published Harmony of the Gospels and occasionally hosted a call-in radio show. Fair to say that, even then, he was a bit outside the usual ministerial stereotype. Perhaps he jumped before he was pushed. Fred established the Biblical Church of God (BCG) and produced a magazine called Bible Answers.
Alas, Fred had a Spanky moment (or more accurately, in later years Spanky was to have a Fred moment). Problems arose. The peasants were revolting. People were getting ideas above their station. Fred relaunched with the Christian Biblical Church of God (CBCG)... leaving the stroppy underlings out of the picture.
While Fred doesn't have a lot of profile, it isn't through lack of effort. In some parts of the world (New Zealand is one of them) the faithful followers of Fred are batting in the big league (the big league here being any COG sect with a mailing address and a minister).
It seems to me that Fred isn't to be counted among the more abusive COG leaders, which may be why he flies under the radar as much as he does. Listening to his sermons is an acquired taste - he makes Rod Meredith sound simply riveting by comparison. Don't believe me? Try his 1 hour 20 minute ramble on Brexit.
CBCG has recently held an Elders' Conference. Counting spouses, kids and curious members, over 150 are said to have turned up at the Hilton Cincinnati Airport Hotel. Actual elders? 17, including Lyall Johnston from New Zealand. Other registered attendees? 7.
(Lyall is an interesting chap. I knew his parents and brother's family in Invercargill many years ago. Genuinely nice people. Lyall returned here several years ago in the wake of WCG's dissolution and - please correct me if I'm wrong - attempted to get credentialed as a mainline minister. He apparently took on the job with Fred after the Stephen Gough fiasco and an initial transfer of leadership to son Chris Gough.)
Being a sprat in the fishpond doesn't stop Fred from thinking big. Some years ago he translated the New Testament into a kind of updated King James Version (A Faithful Version). No mean feat. How many COG translations other than Fred's can you think of? The Old Testament followed, but as I understand it he just bought an existing translation then edited it to fit his agenda, tweaked the proof texts (Hebrew isn't on his CV), then bunged it on the front of his New Testament. Full page ads in the BAR followed lauding the excellencies of this Bible, though he had to scrape pretty deep to find any favourable reviews to quote.
Speaking of the Bible, hallelujah, there's an app. The Fred Bible on your Android or Apple device. I needed to have a lie down and slowly sip a cup of weak tea just to bring my excitement under control. Sadly, I have too many thirsty apps on my phone as it is, so I guess I'll give this one a miss.