Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Melvin Rhodes in Trump mode

Melvin Rhodes is the United Church of God resident expert on world affairs. A couple of excerpts from his most recent blog post, which you can read for yourself here.

Well, I'm grizzled enough to be classified as 'old' but sure as hades know no such thing. I for one am delighted to rub shoulders on a daily basis with people from very different backgrounds. What does he mean by "mixed race"? Is Mel still fettered by the nonsense taught by Herb Armstrong about interracial marriage? Mixed religions? What does that even mean when we're dealing with a guy who believes Roman Catholicism is the great false church and Protestants are her whoring daughters.

The mellifluous Mel continues.

Dear, sweet lord, is this guy serious?

If you want a reason why UCG isn't connecting in its efforts to reach the public, here you have one. They are simply incapable of moving beyond a version of Tea Party rhetoric - based, one expects, in the exceptionalist fantasies they regard as "prophecy". Multiculturalism is bad, liberals and leftists are to blame, the current pope's emphasis on compassion and mercy is somehow less Christian, in the Rhodesian world-view, than the lunacy that unleashed the crusades.

For a long time, I've maintained that UCG is a more benign form of COGism. I suppose that's still true, but it still has venom in its bite.

Mel would, I imagine, get along famously with Mark Armstrong.

Monday, 28 March 2016

French connections

Gary Leonard on the Banned blog has breaking news of upheavals in the French-speaking LCG. Gary quotes an announcement from leader-in-waiting Gerry Weston.
Mr. Roland Lecocq, our minister in Switzerland, and his family have made the decision to move to another Church of God fellowship. We are saddened by their decision, but wish them well. They have served the Church faithfully for many years and we appreciate that service. Since he served as Secretary and Treasurer for the French association, he is continuing with those duties until they can be transferred to another individual in the next few weeks and he is being most helpful and faithful in the transition. Please show the upmost respect and love toward the Lecocqs as each of us must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
These comments from Gary's source in LCG.
LCG suffered a major loss a few weeks ago when a popular European minister, Mr. Roland Lecocq, decided to resign from serving LCG and aligned himself with COGWA. Although Mr. Lecocq has been careful not to sway any of the LCG brethren to blindly follow in his decision to leave LCG, it is anticipated that a large majority of the brethren in the areas he served will go with him to COGWA. There are also concerns that LCG will not be able to continue with their planned Feast site in Carry-le-Rouet, France as a direct result of Lecocq's departure. 
This news hasn't been aired among LCG's membership outside the affected areas (or wasn't until Gary blew the cover off). One wonders whether the recent chat between COGWA and LCG leaders was a factor in some way (or an agenda item). Nothing yet from COGWA itself. The peripatetic Joel Meeker is listed as COGWA's man on the ground in Switzerland (along with Belgium and France).

Lecocq was ordained an elder in LCG in 2008.

Read the full account over at Banned by HWA.

A message for Roderick

Dear Mr Meredith, Jim West has sent a message. I think it might be for you, with a cc. to Vic (UCG), Dave (RCG), the other Dave (COGAIC), Bob (with the highly esteemed 'Trinity' ThD he picked up in India), the other Jim (COGWA) and Gerry (PCG).

(Jim is the outspoken biblioblogger at Zwinglius Redivivus.)

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Is there a Christian Sabbath?

Many years ago the WCG published a booklet with the title "Which Day is the Christian Sabbath?"

Wrong question. Why? It just assumes there is such a thing as a Christian Sabbath, and once you've conceded that it's all downhill; off into the proof texts. When it comes to a Saturday/Sunday shootout, based on duelling with Bible texts alone, the Sabbatarians can make a very good case.

The problem is that there's a degree of dishonesty in this approach. One false trail is to assume that there is such a thing as a Christian Sabbath. Another is to imply that Christians who attend services on Sunday are doing so under the illusion that they're keeping the Sabbath command.

The idea that Sunday was the Christian Sabbath first occurred in 17th century England under the baneful influence of Calvinism and Presbyterianism. This was the genesis of Sunday Sabbatarianism and advocacy groups like the Lord's Day Observance Society. The early Adventists were seeded with these same Reformed assumptions. Most non-Calvinist churches teach that there is no divinely appointed day of rest required of Christians. It hasn't helped that Christians have occasionally referred to Sunday as their Sabbath either. This was simply appropriating a biblical term, not adopting a commandment which they regarded as abrogated.

Why Sunday then? Tradition and convenience. If pressed, they'll talk about a Sunday resurrection, but that's not a command, it's a precedent and a sanction. There's no concept in their theology of an obligatory pre-set twenty-four hour period of sacred time. Christians, under this view, sanctify time by worship, regardless of the day. Time isn't "pre-sanctified". It's an important distinction and one that most Saturday Sabbatarians seem totally unaware of.

It's also why most Christians, other than blue-stocking Presbyterians of the old school, have no qualms of conscience about visiting the mall on Sunday afternoon or going to a cafe or watching the big game. The hour of worship is special, but not the whole twenty-four hour period.

So it's appropriate to reframe the question. Is there a Christian Sabbath? A Jewish Sabbath, yes. A Saturday tradition in parts of the early church? Yes. Beyond that, if you want to argue for a Christian Sabbath - whether Saturday or Sunday - you have to do a lot better than leaping straight in with the 'Which Day?' proof texts.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Hislop - his slop

Among dyed-in-the-wool COG preachers, Alexander Hislop is regarded as an authority, and his 1858 book The Two Babylons is treated as an accurate historical source second to none. Hislop is seen as an unimpeachable expert on the 'true' origins of Easter.

Grabbe, Can a 'History of Israel' Be Written? p.28. 
In reality, the Reverend Hislop was a rabidly anti-Catholic Presbyterian. Presbyterianism in those times eschewed anything that was regarded as 'Romish', and Hislop played the part with relish (he also inveighed against the evils of instrumental music in church services). Lester Grabbe, a name familiar to many Ambassador College alumni and a casualty of the purges that followed GTA's ouster, calls Hislop's work "naive history" (Grabbe went on to a distinguished academic career at Britain's University of Hull).

Roger Pearse asks a few more pertinent questions about Hislop's credibility in a recent blog post. Worth reading if you've ever wondered just how much weight to give the old thumper when he's quoted in COG literature.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Even the smallest splinter

From the Silenced blog.
... the COG -- which will continue to bleed money and members and prestige as its elderly leaders whither and die -- is likely to exist decades from now. Even as organizations splinter, break or merge, Herbert W. Armstrong’s ideas will somehow manage to live on. We’re already approaching a century of his teachings, depending upon when one marks the beginning of Armstrongism. 
It’s why providing as many facts as possible about these cults is important to keep people away from their grasp, or at least help them to make informed decisions. Even the smallest splinter running the Armstrongite program can cause people a lot of hurt, and even though they can’t really attract new members, they can keep having kids, which will always make informational, historical repositories about the COG an important resource to promote and maintain. 
We’re coming up on five years of Silenced and other XCOG blogs are much older than that. Here’s hoping even if we someday shutter up our digital doors that there’s someone always out there to shine the light, because the cults are going to linger like a viral remnant for the foreseeable future.
Well said. You can read the full post here.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Herb Armstrong's Sickening Racist Fantasies

Thanks to Pam for pointing out the audio file of a sermon Herb Armstrong gave - probably in the last year of his life - on interracial marriage. It is, simply, horrendous, salted with threats of the Lake of Fire. Includes appreciative clapping from the mindless sycophants in the congregation. It fairly drips with racist rhetoric. God destroyed Noah's world because only he and his family were racially pure and, therefore, worthy of saving ("Noah was perfect in his generations"). He was the only man left who was "pure white". Segregation is good ("God's way is geographical [yells] segregation! And integration is not the way of the Eternal God!"). The Canaanites were black.

As usual for Herb's sermons, he rambles all over the place (Adam, two trees, give/get...) before getting to the point, but the point - when the old goat finally gets to it - is painfully clear.

The audio (a little scratchy) is available here. It lasts just under 69 minutes.

Just so you can keep your disgust fresh.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

COGs - the road to extinction

With the probable demise of the late Robert Ardis' sect in the not-too-distant future  - see the previous post - it seemed opportune to identify a few that have recently headed down the highway to oblivion. In 2008 the blog-meister at Foresight of Hindsight set out to list as many active COGs, both in the States and beyond, as he could. He put together two lists, one for the US and another for the rest of the world.

Eight years later one thing is evident. A number of these groups have effectively disappeared.
Gone with no forwarding address:
Raymond McNair's Church of God 21st Century. (Didn't survive McNair's death).
John Allen's Destiny-Worldwide (Costa Rica). (Didn't survive Allen's death).
Church of God - Christianos (Canada).
Sabbatarians (Netherlands)
Church of God IIA (Philippines)
Fading from view:
Neville Steven's Zion Ministries (Australia). (Site seems to have been last updated in 2012)
Sprats swallowed by bigger fish:
Church of God, A Christian Fellowship, Canada. (Now refranchised as the Church of the Eternal God.)
Global Church of God UK. (Now refranchised as the Church of the Eternal God.)
Arlen Berkey's Stedfast Church of God. (Not so steadfast after all. Arlen reportedly jumped fences to Ronald Laughland's Wholeworld COG.)
Those are just the groups that FoH listed with a web link and so could be checked out. The actual number of inactive or deceased COGs since 2008 could easily be twice that number. Some of these groups - Zion Ministries in particular - were extremely vocal in their day.

The takeaway message is that once a sect's leader passes on, the group's days are numbered, unless there's someone groomed and waiting in the wings. Better yet, there's an enduring structure that draws on more than the ego of one self-anointed cult leader.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

"Urgent Understanding"

The Midnight Cry calls itself "a magazine of urgent understanding". Not so urgent in that not a single issue appeared last year. But wait, 2016 has kicked off with an overdue reappearance.

Cry is published by the Church of God's Faithful, a breakaway from PCG, led by Robert Ardis. Though it has a low profile among the splinters, it manages to operate mailing addresses in England and New Zealand as well as its main office in South Carolina.

Ardis obviously believes that he is a key figure in the great scheme of things.
I have stated quite a few times that I believe we of the CGF have as much or even MORE faith than many of the righteous characters of the Old and New Testaments! (p.3)
I have not seen God or heard His voice. But I have, on many occasions, felt His presence and have been directly guided by His Spirit to certain verses of Scripture that He wanted me to apply in my life. The CGF is God’s true Church, and we use the Holy Bible, through which Christ speaks to us. (p.3)
 And wouldn't you know it, CGF is mentioned in Bible prophecy.
Gerald Flurry was raised up to lead the Laodicean work of Jesus Christ and to reveal the apostasy in the WCG. But, as predicted in Revelation 3:14-20, the Philadelphia Church of God (PCG) became a lukewarm church doing Mr. Flurry’s work instead of the work of God.
However, God had reserved a few faithful brethren to carry on the Philadelphia work of the sixth candlestick of Revelation 3:7-13. And they were ready (although they did not know it) for the Day of the Lord and the secret coming of Jesus Christ as “a thief in the night” (II Pet. 3:10). This happened 12 years after Mr. Armstrong gave his final message to the WCG at the Feast of Trumpets 1985! The Gospel of the Kingdom of God had been successfully proclaimed to the world as a witness to all nations. Now it was time for the message, “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” to go out in power!
On the Feast of Trumpets 1997, the Day of the Lord came as a thief in the night, and the living Christ came suddenly to His Temple (Mal. 3:1). A new 19-year time cycle also began on that date on the sacred Hebrew Calendar and we have now come to the 19[th] year of this time cycle. Has God given us this one 19-year period to get the bride of Christ ready for her Husband? If He has, we have much work to do. (p.3)
Yes, those 19-year time cycles are back.
This is a sure thing. Revelation 3:9 will be fulfilled, and I still wonder whether we have only a little less than two years to complete our work of preparing the bride! (p.4)
 Ardis relates a personal testimony to his faith.
I am a sick, old man and it is difficult even to write this article... I look forward to the healing that God is going to do for me soon, and for all of us in the CGF... I have been afflicted with cancer of the bone marrow for seven years. It has been a “thorn in my flesh”! (p.4)
So here's the reason for the blip in publishing. Yet Ardis' health issues don't seem to have led him to secure a smooth transition for his church. Nor has he taken the tough option of reconsidering the prophetic speculation that led him to create CGF. Once he passes from the scene, as we all must ultimately, his work will be forgotten. The hosts of heaven are not coming to his rescue at the end of any imaginary 19-year time cycle. "Urgent understanding" is required, but seems in limited supply.

 I wonder whether this will be one of the last issues - if not the very last - of The Midnight Cry.

Somehow it all seems a bit sad and pathetic.

The PDF is available for download.

Update: Robert Ardis passed away less than a week ago on St Patrick's Day, March 17, according to correspondence on the Exit & Support Network. He was aged 84. Thanks to Redfox for passing on the information.

Easter and the fertility goddess

We have been warning all our Western nations — and countries all around the world — that God will judge them for their lawlessness and evils (Joel 3:12-13). By the time you receive this letter, hundreds of millions of professing Christians will have celebrated one such evil — a pagan Easter Sunday — on March 27. Millions of Eastern Orthodox will observe Easter a month later, on May 1... Why do nearly all of our world’s 2.2 billion professing Christians participate in a non-biblical religious tradition named after a pagan fertility goddess? As I told our Atlanta audience, if any of you are observing that festival, you need to repent!

Richard Ames
Co-worker letter, March 18

Easter is evil. It's named after a pagan fertility goddess. Richard Ames thinks so, but is that really true?

Word derivations can be complicated, and false trails abound. There is a line of logic that connects Easter with an Anglo-Saxon goddess who rejoiced in the name Eostre. But there's a problem. The only source we have for this connection is the Venerable Bede, a monk in the 7th century. Everything we know about Eostre comes from Bede, and it's precious little. There's a very good chance that this name died out, and that the modern English term Easter has a quite different derivation.

All major languages except two refer to this festival by a term related to the Greek Pascha  (from Pesach - Passover). In Spanish it's Pascua, in Dutch Pasen, in Latin Pascha, in Italian Pasqua. The two exceptions are German and, obviously, English.

The modern English usage seems to come from the German Oster. Blame Martin Luther. When he translated the New Testament he chose Oster, a German word for resurrection, alluding to the metaphor of sunrise.

Up till Luther's time, the only English translation of the Bible, John Wycliffe's, used the word Pask. No mention of Eostre. Later, William Tyndale, who was greatly influenced by the Luther Bible, adopted the Reformer's preference and coined a new term, Ester. The King James translators, with the sole exception of Acts 12:4, went back to the earlier usage, Passover. The name Easter, however, stuck.

So, other than the German Oster, major languages other than English use a version of Passover. The English term Easter came into usage via the German and Tyndale's Bible. The whole Easter/Eostre issue is meaningless in most other languages. Even in English, the identification with Eostre is dubious.

Any questions? Probably best not to ask Ames.

There's a nice discussion of these issues here.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Welcome "elite intellectuals"

"The idea that the western nations on earth today came from the descendants of the sons of Jacob whose name God changed to Israel is something that the elite intellectuals not only deny, but condemn." 

Mark Armstrong.

Mark Armstrong, son of Ted and grandson of Herb, is an amazingly insightful commentator, as we all know. Somewhere, in an alternate universe, he's sitting in the big chair in an undemolished Hall of Administration, presiding over an unreconstructed Worldwide Church of God. That's the universe where Ted managed to oust Stan Rader and sideline Rod Meredith before the effluent valve blew in 1978. I imagine Mark, in that parallel reality, is ably backed up by the head of the Ambassador College theology department, Professor Robert Thiel, PhD., ThD. Joe Tkach is one of the deacons who hands out bulletin sheets for Auditorium AM services.

But back to Earth 1. Here Mark is holed up in East Texas, glowering out at the world from his ludicrously named 'intercontinental' bunker. It's a threatening world out there, what with people rabbiting on about global warming (what nonsense!), extending health care to those previously unable to afford it (socialism!) and the shameful travesty of a "black president". That's without even mentioning those nasty homosexuals (which Mark does, again, and again and again) who should, in any right and decent society, be tarred and feathered before being railroaded off to a gulag in Alaska.

But, here's the clincher, and I know we all will find this hard to grasp brethren: there are "elite intellectuals" out there who don't believe in BI! It gets worse (another exclamation mark needed)! These people actually condemn BI! They think it's (gasp!) racist!

No, I wouldn't make this stuff up (except for the alternate timeline of course, but then again, who knows?) Mark has once again risked rupturing his spleen in his latest Trump-friendly missive to the Intercontinentalites... hmm, maybe it would be more grammatical to say "missive to the incontinent". Whatever.

Of course, you have to discount all those articles in the Plain Truth that seemed to point to human-influenced weather calamities. And probably best to ignore those stories about Ted and his zipper problems (let alone the mention of a young Ted cruising the streets of LA for a 'manly encounter' - as recounted in Broadway to Armageddon). The important thing here, brethren, is that Mark has unknowingly identified many AW readers as "elite intellectuals".

I wonder if we can apply for a signed certificate...

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Yesterday's Wonderful World Tomorrow... tickets expired

The lion shall lie down with the lamb, and Herbert will be God's right-hand man.

The Wonderful World Tomorrow: What It Will Be Like went through several editions. My 'favourite' is the original 96-page version which rolled off the presses way back in 1966. It begins...
Where will YOU be, ten years from now? You can know what is going to happen. In this booklet you are going to take an astonished glimpse into this world as it will be - in just ten or fifteen short years.
Astonished indeed, as a little mathematics demonstrates. 1966 plus ten brings us to 1976. Add on that 5-year safety margin and you're at 1981. Bear in mind that you'll need to subtract three and a half years for the Great Tribulation. Clearly time was of the essence.
It's GOING TO SOUND INCREDIBLE to you - yet it is SURE! This advance news of Tomorrow is accurate! It is as CERTAIN as the rising of tomorrow's sun! 
Incredible is understating it. That was fifty years ago.

The other interesting thing about the 1966 version is that it bears two names as joint authors, both Herbert W. Armstrong and his then anointed heir Garner Ted Armstrong.

Subsequent editions, beginning in 1973, airbrushed out the date-setting. Date setting? Who, us? And Ted quickly disappeared from the credits never to reappear.  In 1979 Everest House released a hardback version, and by 1982 it was back in booklet form, revised with a new cover.

(In 1999 Scott Lupo, a former member, wrote a paper entitled The Wonderful World Tomorrow: Herbert W. Armstrong's Vision of Life After the Apocalypse. It was subsequently published in the Journal of Millennial Studies, and is still available.)

But, of course, imitations were bound to follow. To mention just one, The World Ahead: What Will It Be Like? by the ever-original Roderick C. Meredith in 2008.

I'd venture to say that in 1970 Roger Whittaker had a better handle on the 'world tomorrow' than Herb, Ted and Rod put together.
Everybody talks about a new world in the morning
New world in the morning so they say
Now, I, myself don't talk about a new world in the morning
New world in the morning, that's today
And I can feel a new tomorrow comin' on
And I don't know why I have to make a song
Now everybody talks about a new world in the morning
New world in the morning takes so long
I met a man who had a dream he'd had since he was twenty
I met that man when he was eighty-one He said too many
folks just stand and wait until the mornin',
Don't they know tomorrow never comes
And he would feel a new tomorrow coming on
And when he'd smile his eyes would twinkle up in thought
Now, everybody talks about a new world in the morning
New world in the morning takes so long
And I can feel a new tomorrow coming on
And I don't know why I have to make a song
Now, everybody talks about a new world in the morning
New world in the morning takes so long.
More perceptive by far, you could whistle or hum along, and he didn't need 96 pages to say it.

Old Time COGs

Recent additions the sidebar now include three "pre-Armstrong" bodies, all separate but related to the larger COG7. One is the Salem, West Virginia church. One distinctive belief of this group relates to the timing of their annual Lord's Supper service (usually referred to as Passover in Armstrong sects and scheduled this year for the evening of April 21). These folk will be marking this observance in a few days time (evening of March 22) due to a different approach to the Hebrew calendar. A second group is based in Jerusalem, Israel, with congregations as far away as Auckland (I well remember experiencing a degree of "culture shock" when I attended one of their services many years ago). This ministry was established by Andrew N. Dugger, who features prominently in the Armstrong autobiography.
Effie & Andrew Dugger
(photo from Friends of the Sabbath site)
Andrew N. Dugger (1886-1975) was the most famous Church of God (Seventh Day) leader in the twentieth century. He was born in Bassett, Nebraska.
Andrew N. Dugger's father, A.F. Dugger, Sr., had been an Advent Christian Minister. When commissioned by his church to do a study refuting the Sabbath, A.F. Dugger instead became convinced that the Sabbath should be observed. The result was a book he later published, called The Bible Sabbath Defended. For more than thirty-five years until his death in 1910, A.F. Dugger, Sr., was a leader in the Church of God (Seventh Day). His son Andrew, a school teacher and farmer, was in his early 20's when his father died.
A bright light in the sky around him seemed to Dugger to be a sign from God that he should follow his father's footsteps in the ministry. A.N. Dugger immediately sold his large farm and equipment, and went to the University of Chicago, where he majored in theology and public speaking, mastering Greek, Hebrew, and German.
Dugger periodically returned to Bassett to visit his mother and Effie Carpenter (1895-1980), a student of his whom he wanted to marry. Although he first proposed to her when she was sixteen, it wasn't until 1925 until they were married. They shared fifty years together.
Soon after college graduation, Dugger was invited by the Executive Committee of the Church of God to move to Stanberry, Missouri, to become editor of The Bible Advocate, a position his father had held before being forced to retire because of ill health. In 1914, Dugger arrived in Stanberry to begin his work in the ministry. For eighteen years he was editor, also serving as President of the General Conference. As field representative, he traveled widely, holding evangelistic meetings and public debates. The famous "Porter Dugger Debate," between Dugger and W. Curtis Porter, a Church of Christ minister, was later published as a book of over 230 pages. In 1919, Dugger wrote The Bible Home Instructor, which publicized the Church of God, and substantially increased its membership during the 1920s.
Two of Dugger's most adamant doctrinal positions were: a scriptural form of church organization with leaders chosen by lot rather than election, and a world headquarters in Jerusalem, Israel. After visiting Israel for only a year in 1931-32, Dugger returned to live in Sweet Home, Oregon. In 1935, A.N. Dugger and C.O. Dodd published A History of the True Church, which traces Sabbath-keepers from apostolic times to modern days. Dugger greatly influenced Herbert Armstrong, who was for years affiliated with the Church of God (Seventh Day) but later formed his own church, the Radio (later Worldwide) Church of God.
Dugger remained pastor at Marion, Oregon until 1953, when he and Effie settled permanently in Jerusalem, and launched the Mt. Zion Reporter. His aggressive leadership resulted in thousands of converts around the world. Andrew N. Dugger died in 1975 at the age of 89. Dugger's son-in-law, Gordon Fauth, continued the Jerusalem work... 
(Adapted from biographical information here.) 
Dugger's educational attainments may go part-way to explain Herb Armstrong's truculent attitude towards him - he seems outrageously overqualified by COG standards even today, let alone the 1920s. A little inferiority complex perhaps?

A third group is the Meridian, Idaho General Council COG7. Links to all three are found under "Smaller COG players".

Friday, 18 March 2016

Moderation in all things

The comments on AW have been brilliant since the reboot. Not that we all agree, not much hope there. But disagree and disagreeable are different things. Thanks to everybody who has kept the discussion on track.

I know it's preaching to the choir, but given that I've just had to delete an 'intemperate' comment, here's a little clarification on how things work at the moment.
  • There is no moderation in the first instance. Comments are automatically published. Blogger's system of emailing comments for prior moderation isn't foolproof. When I restarted AW I found more than 60 comments that had been sitting in the system for six long years. 
  • In the event of a flame I can (and will) trash it, but it usually won't happen straight away... believe it or not, I don't spend my whole day sitting beside the laptop (though it sometimes feels that way).
If anyone can think of a better procedure, or would prefer active moderation, this is the thread to use. I'm open to suggestions. 

Climate change: why the about face?

The consensus among many COG pundits today is that climate change is a hoax, an example of left-wing lunacy. Mark Armstrong describes it as "the idiotic theory of man-made global warming." Even if there is climate change, it ain't nothin' to do with us.

But it wasn't always so.
At this very moment, in a world filled with revolution and dynamic changes, a veritable REVOLUTION IN WEATHER is occuring!
World temperatures are changing. The climate is warming up - causing drought in vast areas, with floods in others.
Why don't we wake up to the calamities we are bringing on ourselves!
Drought, floods, famines are the result of man's having turned from the ways of God. Man is bringing these sufferings upon himself.
(Herman Hoeh, "WEATHER Changes Threaten Disaster for U.S.A.", Plain Truth, January 1955).
Herman blamed farming practices and deforestation. If the science had pointed to carbon emissions in 1955, you can be pretty sure he would have lined up behind it.

Later that year Herman returned to the weather theme.
Despite the admissions of weather reporters and scientists, most news articles on weather are soft-pedalling the TRUTH. There is a definite campaign which aims at discrediting the real significance behind the weather changes. ("Worst WEATHER Ever!", Plain Truth, October 1955).
Would Herman be able to get these articles published in today's COG publications? You might think COG leaders would be tripping over themselves in their eagerness to proclaim that they had this 'prophecy' right many decades before it became an issue in the public mind. Yet they don't. I guess the 'talking points' have changed.

In these earlier times, the WCG beat the climate drum frequently. They may well have got that one right - though for all the wrong reasons. The question isn't so much whether Hoeh was correct back then, or whether he was just stirring the apocalyptic pot (I think it's clear it was more the latter); the issue is how and why most of the COGs have performed a massive double-flip and ended up in the climate change denial lobby.

Even in the 1984 50th anniversary issue of the Plain Truth Donald Schroeder was able to write:
Human activities have a part in causing changes in weather. In recent decades, scientists have begun to understand that industrial air pollution, harmful agricultural practices and deforestation are causing changes in local weather patterns. Man's burgeoning industrial activities and burning of coal and oil are significantly increasing carbon dioxide buildup in the atmosphere, threatening to alter world weather patterns. ("CHAOTIC WEATHER: Return of the Dust Bowl", Plain Truth, February 1984.)
Since then an anti-science attitude to evolution seems to have transmogrified into an anti-science approach full-stop. As a result, the COGs are increasingly orienting themselves to a fearful, wingnut constituency (to call it 'conservative' is to do all real conservatives a gross injustice), and in those circles the idea of Global Warming is anathema.

Herman Hoeh might have been puzzled by that.

[This blog post doesn't deal with the facts of climate change, but if that's of interest check out this link to National Geographic.]

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Learning to be ruled

Deference to the ministry is one of the unofficial doctrines of most Church of God groups. Do you, humble layperson that you are, have a question? Fear not, your minister can make a ruling. If he does, it would be a very bad idea to ignore it. Stories were told, apparently quite true, of members consulting the great man on what colour their new car should (or shouldn't) be. This must have been frustrating for WCG clergy too, often being sidelined after services by an insecure member trying to get advice when the minister just wanted to get some personal distance from the herd.

Some of us were worldly-wise enough to know that what the minister didn't know wouldn't hurt him. Or more to the point, us. It was one thing to listen respectfully (I'm not sure we even thought about listening critically) to a sermon and take the message on board, quite another to give the gentleman in the expensive suit carte blanche to micro-manage our lives.

Behind all this was another message. We were being trained. Training in obedience was conceived in terms not greatly different from dog training. In turn, parents were expected to train their kids in the same way, following the principles enunciated by that genius in child psychology, Garner Ted Armstrong. ("Any and every child needs spankings. It is a vital, integral part of his positive teaching and training.")

But isn't this all something long left behind in the 1970s? Well, apparently not in Rod Meredith's LCG. Faye League, wife of the late LCG pastor Bob ("the enforcer") League, shares some grandmotherly wisdom in the current issue of Living Church News. Alas, the experience many of us have had indicates that "true ministers of God" (Faye means LCG elders) do not always "have the best interests of each Church member at heart". Some of them may wish to, but at best that's just a good intention. Others certainly don't. Think David C. Pack who joined Rod before setting up his own franchise. When Big Dave was still holding hands with his best buddy Rod did he have the best interests of each Church member at heart? Does he now? Not exactly rocket science is it.

Then there's the undeniable reality that ministerial advice over the years has often been woeful. In many cases, you'd be better served by flipping a coin.

Being an autonomous human being means taking responsibility for your own decisions. Autonomy was almost always discouraged in the Churches of God. What the pastor said from the pulpit was not to be questioned. Even if you raised your eyes to the great one to express agreement with something he'd said, you could be pulled up for having the temerity to express an opinion - even a positive one - on his gracious words. That was simply not your place. That's how authoritarian structures work.

What about those texts Faye quotes in Hebrews? Notice the words "considering the outcome of their conduct." The writer of Hebrews presumes that a minister's conduct will have a positive outcome, but we know better when it comes to many COG ministers, beginning with Herbert Armstrong and stretching all the way down the line, past Bob League and into to the present. 'Consider' implies weighing up, judging, evaluating, a concept that should send a shiver up the spine of many a COG minister.

It's worth noting that the League article is particularly addressed to women in the church. A stroppy man is bad enough in authoritarian sects, but a stroppy woman is apparently much worse. Perhaps the 'little ladies' of LCG needed a particular reminder.

Sorry Faye. Not buying.


Tis the day for the wearing of the green. Or it will be in a few hours, depending on where you are.

But not for the dead-eyed literalists in the more doctrinaire COGs, Dave Pack's Restored Church of God for example. The Real Truth website features an article warning readers about all that nasty paganism.

For starters, we're advised that "the concept of a dead “Patron Saint” is contrary to what the Bible teaches."

Leprechauns? "God tells those who follow Him that such beliefs are worthless: “For the customs of the people are vain…”"

Shamrocks? "Today, St. Patrick’s Day revelers wear a shamrock out of tradition,” National Geographic reported. Colossians 2:8 warns against following manmade traditions..."

Wearing green or having a glass of Guinness? Licentiousness! "I Timothy states, “Have nothing to do with godless and silly myths”..."

Talk about killjoys. Dudes, lighten up.
St. Patrick’s Day customs, regardless of how harmless they may seem, are not from God. Jesus bluntly said what it meant for those who follow such customs: “…laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:8-9).
Recognize that, as with many other manmade holidays, St. Patrick’s Day is filled with pagan customs. The shamrock, green paraphernalia, and a plethora of fantasies about Patrick, including his fictional function as “Patron Saint” in heaven, are simply empty traditions. Such manmade holidays were adopted as early church leaders began “laying aside the commandments of God” to “hold the tradition of men.”
It's not hard to see where this is going. "God commands that seven Feasts be kept throughout the year."

The Puritans had nothing on these guys. 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Political neutrality, Armstrong style

Two excerpts from Mark Armstrong's March 11 Weekly Update.
We're not about to try to tell anyone who to vote for or who not to. We can only pray to God for the peace and safety of the United States in a time where vicious enemies have been strengthened and we've been systematically invaded by people with no respect for our traditions or laws. Thanks to the weak and/or intentionally wrongheaded "leadership" of recent years, many of them will actually be voting in the upcoming elections! Maybe you saw the caucus from the environs of Minneapolis, Minnesota a couple of weeks ago where the entire meeting was conducted in a Somali dialect. That can be only one of many examples of this type of thing going on all across the United States, in some language other than English. It's an outrage.
As we've said numerous times before, Western civilization is under attack. Not only from the Muslim hordes and their murderous religion, but by its own leaders. It has shaped up in Europe, and to a lesser degree in the United States, that if you're not on board in support of "multiculturalism," socialist redistribution and the idiotic theory of man-made global warming, you are dangerous. Rejection of that philosophy is taking hold across Europe and leading inexorably toward political upheaval. 
Yup, no clues there about which way Mark leans.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The End Times and apple trees

Herbert Armstrong, Ted Armstrong, Raymond McNair, Herman Hoeh, Rod Meredith, Gerry Flurry. Bill Dankenbring, Fred Coulter, Ronnie Weinland, Don Billingsley...

There's blunt irony in the inescapable fact that each of these doomsayers is now either dead or skating toward the precipice. Each proclaimed the nearness of Christ's return "in our time". Each was wrong.

It's an unenviable track record, and yet there's no lack of hopefuls to take on their mantle. You'd think they'd learn.

There is no escaping, though, that the Churches of God are part of the wider Adventist movement, with all that implies about misreading apocalyptic literature. Declaw them of that and they lose their very soul; witness what has happened to Grace Communion International. Adventism is all about the nearness of Christ's return. If you were living in 1844 it was perilously near, not to your grandchildren but to you personally. 1914, the angelic trumpet was about to sound. 1972, and the DC10s bound for Petra had their engines running.

And yet, here we all are, 2016. But wouldn't you know it, prophecy is still marching on. The trouble is, it's marching the other way.

The prophecy pundits don't seem deterred, busily "watching world news" with the help of WND. In fact, they regard this as a religious duty, assuming this is what Jesus meant when he called on his disciples to 'watch'.

Of course, it wasn't. No TV newscasts, no newspapers or magazines in the first century. Such news as you got was usually months old, carried by word of mouth or handwritten letter. Paul wasn't monitoring CNN, much less Fox News.

But, if you're going to bleed tithes from the flock, it helps to keep them expectant and stressed out. The apocalyptic mindset feeds on pessimism. It also discourages people from taking practical action - on climate change for example. Why bother?

There's a nice little quote attributed to Luther.
"If I knew that tomorrow was the end of the world, I would still plant an apple tree today."
It's almost certainly apocryphal, but like a lot of apocryphal sayings, there's a good deal of truth to it.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

GCI - branding churches

GCI is encouraging (requiring?) its larger "charter churches" to rebrand with the name Grace Communion. There also seems to be a renewed push for those churches that still hold Saturday services to move to Sunday. These excerpts from the March issue of Equipper, produced by CAD.
If you don’t own your building, then rent one in a neutral location where signage identifying your congregation can be prominently displayed at all times. Don’t lose your identity by meeting in a non-GCI church building.
If your meeting time for worship services (or other meetings) is out of step with your target community, change it to align with their schedules and cultural expectations (in most places in the U.S. that means moving worship services from Saturday to Sunday).
Consider using “Grace Communion” in your congregation’s name. Not doing so limits the visibility of the denomination and thus your congregation in the world around us. As we go forward, newly chartered churches will be asked to name themselves “Grace Communion” followed by their city or town. Our denominational name speaks to our distinctive values of God’s extravagant grace experienced in loving community.
Some of the many names currently in use include Christian Fellowship Church International (LA), Abundant Grace Church (Rochester), Hands for Christ Community Church (Staten Is.) and Heartland Christian Fellowship (Chicago).

BI and the demonisation of Germany

The Armstrong version of British Israelism incorporated more than a jingoism based on the hopeful fiction that America and Britain were the favourite sons of prophecy, the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim respectively. There was a devious pretender in the European bloodline. The French might be Reuben and the Dutch Zebulon, lesser tribes but Israelites nonetheless. However, the Germans were decidedly non-Israelite, descended from the warlike ancient Assyrians and predestined to rise once again to enslave their neighbours. In other words, the bad guys.

All of this is nonsense of course, but Armstrong confidently taught it - whipping up a fear of the End Times - and many of his followers still continue in that delusion. It might have been a crowd pleaser in the wake of two world wars, but times have changed. Most COGs now relegate the German connection to the deeper waters of prophecy, still trotting out the proof texts when required, but preferring not to talk about it too openly. Not so the Modesto-based Church of God EIM and its leading spokesman Steven LeBlanc.

LeBlanc has swallowed the BI myth hook, line and sinker and regurgitated the anti-German claims in a booklet called Germany & Prophecy.

Over more than fifty pages LeBlanc pounds home his message. We have been very, very naughty. God is very, very angry. God (who obviously lacks much imagination in choosing such a brutal strategy) is going to send the nasty Germans to punish us. You have been warned.

BI believers loudly proclaim that their pet doctrine isn't racist, oh my goodness no. Reading through LeBlanc's booklet you might think otherwise. The racism here isn't however based on colour, it's based on a wretched misrepresentation of national origins.
The Biblical genealogy shows the ancestor of the great majority of Germans and Austrians (modern-day descendants of the Assyrians) is Asshur, the grandson of Noah through Shem (Genesis 10:22). The Assyrian Empire developed from the city-state of Assur (named for Asshur, a son of Shem – one of Noah’s three sons – see Genesis 10:1, 22). Asshur was a brother of Arphaxad, an ancestor of Abraham, who was the father of the Hebrews (Genesis 11:10–26). Most of the ancient Assyrians eventually moved westward from the Bible lands into Europe. (p.44)
Once you accept that, you can then co-opt ancient biblical passages as prophecies which, by clicking your heels together and wishing hard, can be applied to today.
The Bible states that God will use the end-time German-led Beast power as a “rod” to punish the United States, Britain, and much of northwestern Europe.
I'm glad he left New Zealand and Australia out of it. Mind you, I think that was probably just an oversight.
Anciently, God used Assyria as “the rod of (His) anger” to conquer and deport the rebellious house of Israel in 721 B.C (II Kings 17:6). Later, God used Babylon as His tool to conquer the sinful house of Judah and to take them captive (Jeremiah 20:4). These punishments serve as types of the end-time punishments that will fall upon the United States and Britain. Notice the prophecy in Hosea 11:5: “…But the Assyrian shall be his king because they refused to repent.” Hosea 9:3 reveals that Britain will actually be conquered by Germany and taken into captivity before Christ returns. (p.52)
I'm not sure exactly where those multiple millions of captive people would be taken to. Germany has enough logistical difficulty just taking in refugees from Syria at the moment. But why let that spoil LeBlanc's turgid fantasy?

Yet BI is still a doctrinal distinctive in most of the COGs, firmly attached to a colourful but totally wrong-headed reading of prophecy. Can you think of one such group (exempting GCI and CoG7) which isn't still invested in this nightmare eschatology?

The problem for LeBlanc - along with every other COG that holds to the Beast Power German invasion scenario - is that it's just not credible. Not on any level, genetic, biblical, historical or realpolitik. More than that, it's laughable.

It's a ticket to oblivion.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Bob - a corporation sole

Good grief!

Hardly had the ink dried on the previous post - or whatever passes for ink on a blog - than this little gem appeared in the in-tray. It's the copyright notice to Bob's latest booklet.

A "corporation sole"? Who was the most famous corporation sole in COG history? None other than Herbert Armstrong, desperate to evade accountability to the State of California in the wake of the receivership and keeping well out of sight in Tucson. So I guess it's official, Bob is a one-man band.

And what do we make of the "and Successor" bit? Talk about taking precautions.

So is this all evidence of fiendish cleverness, or is Bob just delusional? Whatever the case, Bob seems to be intent on locking things down.

Making Bob look good

You've got to admire John Hickey, the Continuing Church of God's man on the ground in New Zealand. This guy has one unenviable job, making his master - accidental Prophet and Doctor-of-Theology-on-the-cheap Bob Thiel (pronounced teel) - look good in print.

John is proof-reader for Bob's magazine Bible News Prophecy. BNP is one of the rags in the 'also ran' category of COG evangelistic publications. And get this; every single word in the 36-page January-March issue is written by the Prophet.

Bob must spend long hours each day pounding away on his word processor. In February alone he clocked up 90 separate posts on his main news page alone, and we're talking long posts (I noted one recently in excess of 6,000 words). He's able to provide commentary on everything from Trump to tropical cyclones then, for light relief, film himself imparting prophetic insight for his YouTube channel. Moreover, you can now tune into Dr Bob's very own personal radio station (yes, his intro is indeed "greetings friends around the world"!) Now you need never go without Bob's expert knowledge about Bible prophecy. A heavily scripted John Hickey features too, Kiwi accent and all.

Of course, if you're going to more or less single-handedly produce, write and edit a magazine you need to display a modicum of skill with basic grammar and punctuation. That's without considering those garden variety typos which we all make. The key here is to fix them quick smart, something that busy Bob doesn't seem to be bothered with overmuch. Which is where John comes in. He's obviously a patient man.

So what literary treats await you in this issue? Bob on Islam, Bob on New Years Day, Bob on natural disasters and Bob on prayer tips.

The PDF is available to download.

Friday, 11 March 2016

A Call for COGWA accountability

To be honest, I'm not quite sure what to make of the initiative taken by Joe Sanchez, a member or former member of COGWA. He basically seems to be advocating openness and accountability in matters of church discipline. Unfortunately, on his new website one of the significant PDF links that might add some further clarity, a letter to COGWA's doctrinal committee, only brings up a 404 message. Hopefully that'll be fixed. In an email sent today Sanchez writes:
After years of seeing the same results time after time, I have come to the conclusion that the majority of the division, controversy and injustices in the church of God can be traced back to a total and complete lack of transparency by the ministry.  Although we may not agree in all areas of religion and theology hopefully we can all acknowledge that if the ministry was required to be transparent in matters of controversy, it would be a significant overhaul that would prevent a lot of the corruption we have all seen.  I have been a first hand witness to seeing genuine Christians kicked to the curb like a piece of trash as well as sexual predators given a haul pass.  These acts have only been possible because of a lack of transparency when these decisions are being made! 
A couple years ago I sent in a paper to the doctrinal committee of COGWA asking for scriptural evidence for their current system.  I was shock by how little biblical support the ministry has for justifying operating in secret.  All of this correspondence is available on my website at 
Please take the time to review my site and please share! Any help exposing this system for what it is would be much appreciated! 
Any call for transparency in decision making is obviously a welcome one. Sanchez seems to be networking with a small number of others, including Jonathan Reimann, in this effort to bring about a change from within the organization. It may be a worthy goal, but I don't much like his chances - though you certainly have to admire his tenacity.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Is this the Worst COG Magazine?

Stuck away in my files are the two earliest issues of Twentieth Century Watch, the preview issue and vol. 1, no. 1. (May/June 1980). It was supposed to become a credible rival to The Plain Truth. The publisher is listed as the Church of God, International, and the staff box includes names like Brian Knowles, Ronald Dart, David Antion, Mark Kellner, James McBride and, naturally, members of the holy family; GTA (Editor-in-Chief), Mark (News Bureau), Matthew (Graphics) and David (Photography).

At some stage, Ted apparently wised up and the ownership of the magazine was transferred to the Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association, a separate entity. When Ted was finally booted from CGI, the magazine went with him. These days the title is Twenty-first Century Watch, and it's still churned out four times a year under the direction of Mark Armstrong. Any attempt at balance seems to have been abandoned long ago, and the strident right-wing rhetoric more than matches the extremes of The Philadelphia Trumpet. Mark Armstrong clearly wears his politics on his sleeve and feels that bilious venting is somehow his religious duty.

Politically skewed articles in this issue concern the Iran deal, the Black Lives Matter movement, the 'myth' of the moderate Moslem and climate change. No surprises there. More conventional articles deal with the Sabbath (regurgitated from an old Ted Armstrong article) and Bible Study.

The circulation isn't stated, presumably this magazine has a very limited influence compared to those of the larger COGs. The amateur nature of operations at the GTAEA is indicated by the back page on the PDF where someone simply took a heavy black marker to a mailing label.

The PDF is available to download

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Man's Awesome Destiny - a response to Ian Boyne

Ian Boyne is one of the most approachable and thoughtful advocates for Armstrongism today (he refers to it Reformed Armstrongism). I really appreciate his willingness to engage those of us who are of a more jaundiced disposition, something which is in my experience extremely rare. Even when the language on this side of the fence gets overly strident, Ian seems to maintain his composure. He serves in one of the more benign COGs, the Church of God International, a movement with which I was once briefly associated myself "in the high and far-off times". Moreover, Ian is widely read in a way that is quite exceptional for COG ministers.

Ian recently issued something of a challenge. The gist of it was - and I hope I'm getting this right - that the shining thread that inspires the followers of Herbert Armstrong today isn't BI, but the concept of human destiny in the family of God. Here we find purpose and direction for our lives.
"[Herbert Armstrong] taught the glorious truth not found in any New Covenant church that all saved human beings of ALL RACES would become, equally, God beings after the millennium and the Great White Throne judgment. If you want to see a robust defense of that doctrine, I invite you to read my short booklet online Man's Awesome Destiny... It was published by CGI [and it] does not regurgitate HWA's Why Were You Born. I would be gleeful if Byker Bob, Gavin or Gary would read and critique it. I would be over the moon!"
The booklet can be found in PDF format here. I don't intend to go through it in detail, so doubt Ian will get all the way to the moon on this trip, but am happy to offer a few comments. I confess that it was this WCG teaching, certainly not BI, that appealed most to my teenage self, a real contrast to the rather dry trinitarianism that was drummed in during Lutheran confirmation classes (using a text with the magnificent title Catechetical Helps).

Right at the outset let's put the idea of theosis on the table. "Theosis is the understanding that human beings can have real union with God, and so become like God to such a degree that we participate in the divine nature" (Mark Shuttleworth). This is an entirely legitimate understanding of human destiny for those in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. You could argue that Armstrong adopted this position, then ran off with it adding in his own unique spin, but I think it's more likely that he simply adapted parts of Mormon doctrine. But regardless, the idea that humans can become divine isn't in itself such a big issue.

Ian's booklet delves into apologetics quite quickly, discussing "the Anthropic Principle" (I'm not sure why he capitalises it). The idea is that everything in the universe is purpose-built for life. It's an expansion of "the Goldilocks principle" (that planet earth is designed to be "just right" for humanity). Ian states, "The evidence for it is simply overwhelming." Not so overwhelming, though, that it isn't highly contested. The relevance of this to the core argument Ian is proposing seems a bit tangential to me. I guess the reason for introducing it into the discussion is to demonstrate that a wonderful human destiny is indicated by intelligent design. I'm of the opinion that there is a certain circularity to this line of thinking, but what do I know? If you're interested, there's a much smarter discussion of the anthropic principle than I could ever offer over at the University of Oregon website.

Ian loses me, though, when he makes an impassioned call for his readers to drop to their knees: "Could you please, at this point, stop reading and pray... Conviction of truth comes through the Holy Spirit... Pray now for God's divine guidance on this subject." Well, okay, but I don't think this necessarily bolsters his case. We all know people who pray an awful lot but still believe all kinds of nonsense.

For some of us the statement "If Jesus is not God, then man cannot be God" rather ruins the argument. WCG always had a very mixed Christology, reaching a crescendo of confusion with Ted Armstrong's The Real Jesus, and I'd personally want to step away from any full-blown binitarianism. I'm not saying that Ian is wrong, only that this logic only works from a certain perspective. Former Ambassador College faculty member Sir Anthony Buzzard plays the game equally well and confidently arrives at a type of biblical unitarianism (see for example The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound, co-authored with former WCG evangelist Charles Hunting) .

Ian rolls out a selection of texts to bolster his case, as you'd expect. I note that he includes 1 Peter ("In 1 Peter 5:10 we have the unmistakable words from the pen of inspiration") and Colossians. The trouble is that Colossians is not counted among the authentic letters of Paul, nor 1 Peter regarded as from the hand of Peter. At best they form a second line of defense in any credible academic discussion. During my studies, I remember being assigned a very thick textbook on the Ephesian church (Paul Trebilco's The Early Christians in Ephesus from Paul to Ignatius) in which the author studiously avoided using the book of Ephesians because of its contested authorship. Curated proof texts of this sort are inadequate to a serious discourse, something I expect Ian would agree with in discussing the Buzzard and Hunting book. I like the fact that Ian includes a short discussion of 'weak texts' which don't support the weight of the argument.

To summarise, Man's Awesome Destiny is an interesting and in some respects quite original defense of the God Family doctrine. Ian distances himself from the more extreme statements, but I'm of the view that he weakens his argument at several points exactly where he seeks to strengthen it. If we were discussing a non-trinitarian understanding of theosis, one not intermixed with extraneous elements and rhetorical flourishes, then I might be prepared to concede a point here and there.

You can judge the merits of Ian's booklet for yourself. As for me, I suspect that the real meaning of life lies in the meaning we bring to life.

(Update: clarification added in the paragraph about 1 Peter).

The Plain Truth on Race, 1964

Over at Living Armstrongism Redfox has an interesting post about current paranoia promotion in the Philadelphia Church of God over racial issues; PCG's False Prophecy of "Race War". Reading it I was reminded of the articles published in The Plain Truth in the 1960s. Perhaps the most disturbing example I've found comes from the pen of a certain Roderick C. Meredith, writing in the September 1964 issue.

The article, "CRISIS Flares into Bitter Racial REVOLT!" (emphasis in original) is anything but an objective, calming word on the subject. Meredith explicitly rejects the program of peaceful civil disobedience led by Martin Luther King, then under the sub-head "The Prophesied REVOLT of the Gentiles in Our Land" he makes some amazing statements after quoting Deuteronomy 28:43 [The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low]
"The Hebrew word here translated 'stranger' is clearly referring to the GENTILES or peoples of other races - who are living in the midst of modern-day Israel."
By "modern-day Israel" Meredith means the Anglo nations. By "Our Land" he means Anglo-Americans only. Where he went from there you can read for yourself in the clipping from that article.

Granted, this was the 1960s, these were less enlightened times and hindsight has 20/20 vision. Yet this same sabre-rattling logic seems to have been passed on like a virus into groups like the PCG. And what about the LCG and its ministry? Has the current Presiding Evangelist ever repudiated these statements?

Wouldn't it be interesting to sit down with Meredith now, all these years later, and ask "do you regret writing that? Is that the way you still understand those passages?" and maybe, just maybe, "would you like to offer an apology for what you wrote back then?"

There are many people who find it hard to accept that the Worldwide Church of God was ever racist in its teachings, or that BI was a fundamental part of that problem. That's not to say all members today share those views; many - perhaps most - absolutely don't.

Then again, some do, and that's a problem.

And honestly, can you separate out BI assumptions from Meredith's prejudices?

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Rambling Rod - and Herb's reading problem

Herbert Armstrong died thirty years ago on January 16, 1986. On that anniversary this year Rod Meredith, now 85 years old, recorded a tribute honouring Armstrong. It is available on YouTube and runs for one and a quarter hours. Curiously, audience shots appear to have the wrong aspect ratio and have the feel of something filmed on a much earlier occasion then spliced in. One wonders why.

Rod appears frail, as you might expect, but the fire of his zealotry still burns bright. This last living lieutenant of Herb Armstrong seems to be reliving old battles.

Though the topic is 'honouring Herbert Armstrong', Rod not unexpectedly ranges far and wide, up hill and down dale. The key message is a much-repeated exhortation to stay with the 'truth' no matter what. Christ's return is probably, you'll be pleased to know, somewhere between eight and twenty years from now. Not that Rod will have to worry.

One intriguing comment, made in passing (beginning around 24:00), concerns the role Loma Armstrong played in assisting Herb with reading tasks. Rod states that Herbert was a slow reader and had Loma read him "whole sections of books". Rod confesses he is a slow reader too, and that Herb would "read slowly and mumble". Loma was the one who could skim read and then direct him to the important parts. This is decades before the failing eyesight of his latter years when he resorted to a large magnifying glass.

Was the early difficulty visual or what might today be called dyslexia? Richard Nickels recalled, "I wrote an article especially for HWA using an ORATOR giant type size so he could read it with his one weak eye." Perhaps it was both.

Rod gives no clues, and perhaps the distinction never occurred to him. Could it be that, for whatever reason, written position papers were simply a waste of time when trying to convince the End Time Apostle? Documents like the STP were irrelevant, it was really about who had his ear at the time. Rod gives an unintended example at around 43:00, the change from a Monday to a Sunday Pentecost.

Which gives one pause to wonder at the oft-told tale of all those hours spent all by himself at the Portland Public Library acquiring "the equivalent of a college-level education". It might also help explain his aversion to scholarship.

The blind leading the blind? Armstrong's visual impairment is rarely factored into accounts of his life. It was clearly a limitation on more than one level.

As for Rod's disinterest in reading, it explains a lot too.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Odds & Ends

Rush hour in Ngatea
UCG Down Under: Victor Kubik has returned to the States after a trip to Australia and New Zealand. The New Zealand leg of the presidential visit was firmly focused on what remains of the church in this country following the late 2010 defection of ministers Jeff Caudle, Art Verschoor and Andre van Belkum. Holding down the fort now is Daniel Porteous. The visitors eschewed the sulphurous delights of Rotovegas (Rotorua) and the high life in Queenstown, choosing instead to "tiki-tour" around Auckland before carpooling on Saturday to a blip on the map called Ngatea, chosen because the location is equally inconvenient for members from both Auckland and the Tron (Hamilton) to travel to. The attendance was about forty.

LCG suit: Gary's site has published a letter from Patrick and Elizabeth Scarborough announcing that they have taken down their GoFundMe page because of "untrue statements which have been made to paint us in a negative light". They add.
I would also like to take this opportunity to let people know that we had our lawyer write Mr. Meredith and Rod McNair a letter last summer stating that we had no desire to take this matter to court. We beseeched them to contact us within 7 business days to schedule a meeting to talk things out but they let the deadline come and go. We have made it clear that we do not desire to be reinstated as LCG members but that we just wanted to walk in peace, have our names cleared, and be able to openly love our few remaining LCG friends without them risking getting in trouble themselves.

"The Most Significant Book of this Century"

British Israelism is surreal in and of itself, but the hard sell, the 'talking up' that accompanies it is, well, just bizarre. Former ad man Herbert Armstrong pulled out all the stops. He took an almost forgotten 60-year-old book and essentially rewrote it, without a word of credit, republishing it as his own. What he added were a series of over-the-top claims and predictions. Those claims were meant seriously and were taken seriously by his followers. It's incredible that some people even now still think he was essentially right.

This article was written several years ago but has not appeared here before.


It seemed every time Herbert Armstrong wrote a book, he lauded it as the most important ever written. The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, issued in 1967 and later retitled The United States and Britain in Prophecy, ran true to form. Plagiarized from a turn of the century British-Israel classic, J.H.Allen's Judah's Sceptre and Joseph's Birthright, this volume contained some brash predictions.

To put it in its context, in 1967 Armstrong was anticipating the "Great Tribulation" just around the corner. 1972 was to be the beginning of the end. 1975 was the anticipated year of Christ's return. This little bit of date setting was the result of, among other things, his teaching on something he called "19-year time cycles". Simply put, he was convinced God had given him two 19 year periods to preach a warning message before history came crashing to a close. This was a distinctive Armstrong doctrine, unlike the tortured logic he used to "prove" that the United States was actually the tribe of Manasseh and Britain the tribe of Ephraim (he simply lifted those elements straight out of Allen's book). But 19-year time cycles? That was a uniquely Armstrong flourish.

Herbert Armstrong would later attempt to dig his way out of accountability for his "prediction addiction", claiming he never set dates and was just overly enthusiastic. But the embarrassing statements in the 1967 edition were there for all to see. Needless to say, the offending bits were laundered out of subsequent editions.

Here then are some choice bits from the introductory sections of that volume.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Obituary Dilemma

It's one of those things that gives you pause for thought. What do you say when someone like Herbert Armstrong shucks off this mortal coil? It's polite to put on a show of generosity if only to show empathy for the family. Words like influential, philanthropist (more pist than philanthro really), prolific (make of that what you will). If things get desperate you can fade to nonsense; always well manicured maybe.

Armstrong has of course long since gone to his eternal reward, but a generation of his imitators are now lining up to enter the pearly gates and 2016 could see several take the final journey to join their master. How does one handle the etiquette of the big goodbye when the dearly departed has been, not to mince words, a complete tosser?

When Herb died in 1986, Australian columnist Phillip Adams decided to pay his own special tribute, which was published in The Weekend Australian. Adams was doubly blessed, for Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard conveniently popped off at the same time. Adams used Hubbard as a warm-up before launching out on Herb. You could say he pulled no punches. Could this be a precedent for the days to come?

Saturday, 5 March 2016

The Journal - 181st Issue

The latest issue of The Journal is now out, dated February 29. One of the most prominent articles features a previously unpublished account by the late John Kiesz of the early days of the Adventist movement and the formation of Sabbatarian churches. Included are his recollections of Herbert Armstrong's early ministry.
I well remember the time when Herbert apparently was as much against worldly pleasures as I was: such as attendance at the movies, dancing, drinking. card-playing, and the wearing of excessive jewelry... but now all these things are permitted in his groups.
And later.
I knew him as a humble man. But things have changed over the years. He grew too big for his own or anyone else's good, as far as spirituality is concerned.
The majority of his adherents have been thoroughly brainwashed, and there is nothing anyone can do for them anymore, as far as directing them into the right channels is concerned.
Kiesz, an elder in CoG7 in the 1930s, passed away in 1993. It's quite a fascinating look at COG history from a different perspective.

Also featuring in this issue is an article by Noel Rude that's sure to set the feline among the avians. Rude asks "can the virgin birth be the mother of all heresies?"
The road to the Trinity began with the virgin birth. Preexistence and incarnation followed. The virgin birth was... the mother of all Christological heresy.
Rude cites sources like Rudolf Bultmann and Helmet Koester along with a variety of ancient sources. The position he advocates is an adoptionist one; that "Jesus became a son of God, not by Eternal Generation and not by a virgin birth. Rather, his sonship was declared by a resurrection of the dead..."

Which, I think you'll agree, should generate (though not perhaps eternally generate) a lot of comment.

There's more of course. Editor Dixon Cartwright even includes a short item in the 'Notes & Quotes' section about the reappearance of AW.

The issue can, as always, be accessed in PDF format. A number of recent back issues can also be accessed from the sidebar, and more will be added as time permits.