Saturday, 30 April 2016

Discern - "a sort of guide to the ultimate guide"

The latest issue (May-June) of COGWA's virtual mag Discern is now out. Is it any more impressive than the parallel issue of Beyond Today (reviewed here)? In terms of cover art, Discern is the clunkiest. More significantly, the quality of the analysis in Discern may be indicated by editor Clyde Kilough's decision to approvingly quote Joe Kovacs' eminently stupid book Shocked by the Bible in his introductory piece. If this issue has a theme, it's bad-to-the-bone Bible prophecy.

Jeremy Lallier in the lead article assures us that God knows stuff Google doesn't.
"we created this edition of Discern to serve as a sort of guide to the ultimate guide. Because it was written thousands of years ago by a diverse group of authors who lived in a wide range of cultures spanning multiple epochs of human history, the Bible can be an intimidating book — but don’t worry; we’ve got you covered."
Well shucks Jeremy, that sure is good of you.

David Treybig advises us that "For many professing Christians today, religion is just a few-hours-a-week thing. Many are passive, even apathetic." Not the COGWA faithful of course!

Theological titan extraordinaire Jim Franks brings us up to speed with the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in just two pages and puts the Seventh-day Adventists in their place at the same time.

Does God Exist? You thought that was a deep question? C'mon, this is COGWA. Rick Avent avoids tough questions like, what do you mean by God and, in what sense do you mean "exist" as opposed to things like toast, freedom and dandelion tea? Nope, Rick goes straight for the real dope (as in dopey), "fulfilled prophecy", ta-da!. Well, as long as you're happy Rick, but it rather begs the question, don't you think?

10 Ways to Protect Your Children from Technology Traps. Sounds a mildly useful article. Becky Sweat does a reasonable job at laying out some commonsense advice, but don't expect anything you haven't thought of already.

Back to the naive nineteenth-century prophecy theme. What's a COG without a pretend expert to make silly prognostications about the near future. COGWA is lucky enough to have Neal Hogberg (Gene's son?) and he's following in the family tradition of palliative prophetic punditry. Neal has written something called "A New Battle for Britain." Yup, Neal is a know-it-all about Brexit.
"Bible prophecy shows an end-time economic and military colossus composed of 10 core nations (Revelation 17:12-15; 18:9-19) that will be of one mind (Revelation 17:13). Other prophecies show this will not include Britain."
Gene would no doubt be proud of him. Bible prophecy, of course, shows no such thing. Have any of these guys bothered to do even the most basic research on the characteristics of ancient apocalyptic literature? (Rhetorical question, we probably know the answer already.)

The popular hymn that begins "Just as I am" gets pushed into a dark alley and beaten up by Erik Jones.

It's downright amazing how these geniuses know so much about the future direction of world news. Brexit has been covered, but what about the European refugee crisis? No worries, Joel Meeker is on the case. Joel "recently drove by The Jungle outside Calais in France." Guess that makes Joel a drive-by expert. Of course, Joel has the one-page answer - how could we doubt it - and it's (surprise!) Bible prophecy.
"Bible prophecy foresees intensifying refugee problems in the years ahead, as the four horsemen of the Apocalypse ride ever harder. But there is hope. The displacement of harassed populations will finally end with the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Under God’s protection, all people will be safe and flourish in their own homes and nations."
It's an interesting solution, Joel. I guess that means that millions of Caucasians like you will be deported from North America and the land returned to the Native Americans, right? Just following the logic...

Honestly fellas, if this is "a sort of guide to the ultimate guide", I think you just got everybody, including yourselves, horribly lost.

Anyone got Google Maps?

The PDF is available to download.

(Next in this series: Tomorrow's World).

Herb's Baptist Beginnings

Interior of Hinson church, 1933
Gotta hand it to Gary and Dennis over at Banned. The latest post there features a recent photograph of Hinson Memorial Baptist Church in Portland "where HWA was baptized in 1927."

It's one of those factoids COG members tend to overlook. In the Autobiography it reads "It was probably May or June, 1927, when I was baptized. One Sunday evening we [Herb and Loma] attended a service at Hinson Memorial Baptist Church." Earlier he notes: "Next I went to a Baptist minister in Portland [John Marvin Dean], to learn why Baptists believe in baptism. He was courteous and patient, glad to explain his church's teachings. He seemed sincere, though he was later dismissed from his pastorate under accusation of some kind of disgraceful or sinful conduct." Strangely, Herb seemed reluctant to join the dots and come right out and say he had been baptized by a morally dubious Sunday-keeping Baptist. (Quotes from the 1967 edition).

And surely there's got to be some bizarre synchronicity in the mutually tarnished reputations of both Dean and Armstrong.

The Wikipedia article on Herb provides more details:
He was eventually baptized, along with his brother Dwight L. Armstrong, in the summer of 1927 by Dr. Dean, the non-Sabbatarian pastor of Hinson Memorial Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon. It is unknown, however, if he ever joined this denomination. He would later recollect over four decades later that he believed, "On being baptized I knew God then and there gave me HIS HOLY SPIRIT!" Despite his own unique teaching on baptism his own account is noteworthy for the absence of any mention of the process of laying on of hands or a special prayer in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, which were considered fundamental for membership in the Worldwide Church of God and reason for many a new convert's rebaptism.
Hinson church, mid-1950s
What! No laying on of hands? Maybe Dave Pack could explain that away. Or Bob Thiel with the undocumented ThD.

There's a separate Wikipedia entry on Herb's younger brother, hymn writer Dwight. Again, Hinson Baptist is mentioned.
Subsequently, both Armstrong brothers were baptized during the Pentecost season of that year by Dr. Dean, pastor of the Hinson Memorial Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon. In the 1986 edition of Herbert W. Armstrong's Autobiography edited by Dr. Herman L. Hoeh, on pages 416-417, it is suggested that Dwight answered an altar call given by his brother in December 1930 in Harrisburg, Oregon, and was subsequently baptized by his brother.
Does this mean Dwight was rebaptized by Herb? Sadly neither Herman nor the Armstrong brothers are in a position to explain what happened.

And what about Loma?

Joe Tkach - or possibly his ghostwriter - in Transformed by Truth also noted these Baptist roots.
In the midtwenties... was baptized by the pastor of the Hinson Memorial Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon. Mr. Armstrong once said of this pastor, "The man is the most godly man in all of Portland." There is some reason to suppose that Mr. Armstrong attended the Bible school which was associated with Hinson at that time; this Bible school met at the Portland library at the time Mr. Armstrong was beginning his studies.
As the photograph on Banned shows, Hinson Memorial Baptist Church is still there in Portland. One wonders how many members of the congregation today know that "Hogwash Herb" once warmed their pews.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Beyond Today - Clinging to the mold

(This is the first in the current series reviewing various COG publications)

The May-June issue of Beyond Today is out. If you thought the lads in UCG were interested in breaking the mouldy old mold by rebranding their flagship magazine, you must be hugely disappointed.

BI is back (not that it ever left) with a major back cover ad for the awful booklet some of us hoped UCG was quietly trying to drop.

Misogyny reigneth again. Not even one token woman listed in the staff box. There is an article by Janet Treadway though. Just a one-page reflection on the birth of a grandchild (congratulations Janet, lovely photo). But it still seems clear the lads wouldn't be happy having a female byline accompanying a big-boy-type article (you know, prophecy, tithing...)

The rest of the issue is pretty predictable. Scott Ashley editorialises his literal reading of the magic millennium. A "final crescendo" is building. The end-times armies will gather to Jerusalem to be wiped out by the armies of heaven. Happy days!

That well-known expert on the Middle East, Darris McNeely, pontificates on why Jerusalem is so very important. Darris was involved in "the big dig" in 1971, so he's clearly a pundit without peer.

Scott Ashley is back with an imperious bit of American exceptionalism, a flag-draped article about "The Global Power Vacuum". Let me get this straight, Scott doesn't vote, belongs to a supposedly apolitical sect, and yet races around his office on a mobility scooter chanting U.S.A.! U.S.A.!? The reason is - should there be any doubt - "Bible prophecy", which Scott naturally understands in great detail. The article concludes:
America is heading down a dark and dangerous path, and so is the rest of the world. Bible prophecy reveals where this path will lead—to a terrifying conclusion where, if not for God’s direct intervention, human life would be exterminated from all the earth (Matthew 24:21-22). 
You don’t need to tread this same path. You’re offered a much different way, a far better way, revealed in the pages of this magazine and your Bible. Instead of a vacuum of purpose in your life, you can fill your life with the understanding and real power that comes only from God. 
We hope and pray that you’ll choose wisely!
Then there's a nice little ad for their BI booklet to help make it all clear.

Apparently the US is heading toward some kind of election - who would have guessed it? - so Mike Kelley has radically rewritten the old chestnut article on voting. Mike assures us that "God doesn't oppose wealth", which is comforting given all the counterindications in the New Testament about eyes of needles and suchlike. But no, be ye reassured.
Helping those in poverty is often viewed as a hallmark of liberalism. But genuine concern for the poor seeks to alleviate their plight permanently through different means—by encouraging private charity and reducing wasteful human government programs and regulations to allow economic freedom leading to wealth creation and greater prosperity for all, including the poor.
Moreover, Jesus compared himself to a wealthy man. So there! The Koch brothers must love this guy.
The Bible does make a case for a liberty-oriented economy — what we would today call true capitalism or, perhaps better put, private property and free exchange.
Really? Can't wait for that booklet.

A number of readers may share Mike's weltanschauung, but it's hardly unbiased and is arguably inappropriate for a denominational publication. It does demonstrate the ongoing narrowing of COG engagement with the wider world, and a departure from the usual call for readers to disengage from the electoral process. I'm guessing - and I may be going out on a limb here - that Mike doesn't "feel the Bern".

Steve Myers writes about the Sabbath, "a precious place in time". Indeed, he describes it as "God's Sabbath benefit plan". Apparently it's the best thing since well before sliced bread.

Scott Ashley returns - obviously, he's been earning his salary this month - with an article on the Holy Spirit. Perhaps someone can explain why COG writers capitalize Holy Spirit when they believe it is a force not a person? Briefly, in the distant past, the WCG style guide seemed to flip on this issue and, for a very short time in the 1970s, it was holy spirit. Barely time to blink and it was back to capital letters "unto this very day".

Not to be outdone, Darris McNeely grabs his violin and pays a tithing sonata. Less said the better.

Someone who doesn't want to be identified by name has contributed an article called "The Valuable Benefits and Purpose of Bible Prophecy." As we say in this part of the world, "yeah, right!" Vince Szymkowiak writes about Pentecost and there's another anonymous bit of waffle about decision making.

This thing reads more like the Philadelphia Trumpet each month.

The PDF is available to download.

(Coming up next: Discern)

Thursday, 28 April 2016


Spanking was de rigueur in the Worldwide Church of God. Parents were expected to spank (smack) their kids, as anyone who read The Plain Truth About Childrearing knew. Stories were told of the Ambassador College workshop producing wooden paddles so noisy youngsters could be disciplined during services at the Feast of Tabernacles. Today, the leading ex-WCG crusader against this kind of practice is Samuel Martin, son of former AC theology prof. Ernest L. Martin. There's no doubt in my mind that Martin has it right; spanking kids is a stupid, repugnant practice.

And the research backs it up. A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology (summarized here) reveals the links to difficulties kids face later in life. Of course, this was by no means just a COG issue. It's believed that, worldwide, 80% of children are spanked. Even in countries like New Zealand where the practice is illegal, conservative lobbyists wail, gibber and bemoan the development and there is widespread sympathy for parents who break the law. To which one can only reply, read the research for yourself.

The crazy thing is that in the church we were taught that God was the ultimate abusive parent, getting prepared to spank (that's the word Rod "Spanky" Meredith used again and again to describe it) the nations of modern (make-believe) Israel - the United States, Britain and the "white commonwealth" (whatever that is). Even now, the Eternal of Hosts has the divine paddle raised to wreak his displeasure. Famine, flood, epidemic, earthquake... look out below!

It's a fairly sick portrait of God.

(Samuel Martin's book, Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me, is available to download here.)

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Occluded Vision

It seems to be official. The Hulmerous publication Vision - the pet project of David Hulme - is no more. At least in print form.

The latest issue, Winter 2016, is available, but only online as a collection of web articles.

Even then, with no further postage and printing costs, Dave pleads poverty: "Our quarterly online journal Vision is free of charge, but resources are limited."

Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

Money is tight brethren and costs need to be slashed. How many people do you think have been bumped off the payroll?

Weirdly, there isn't as much as a PDF magazine facsimile, or a flipping book version - the sort of thing COGWA do with their bimonthly Discern publication. Apparently it's all too hard.

Perhaps Dave, a onetime World Tomorrow presenter and founding president of the United Church of God (which he subsequently abandoned) has taken a drop in salary to go with the new austerity drive? That seems unlikely.

So is there a future for Hulme's secretive COGAIC? We know that a lot of its ministerial talent has, like rats, jumped ship. How its membership is holding up in the wake of all that trauma is hard to tell, COGAIC was never famous for its transparency. It is hard to imagine that the Hulmerous brethren will be elated by the media retrenchment, though.

Sixteen years after its launch Vision has been gutted and another ambitious COG splinter seems headed for the rocks.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

I'm gonna cark it brethren

Do Americans use the term "cark it"? Perhaps not, in which case here's the skinny.

After reading Gary's latest post, inspired by Meredith's recent Passover epistle, the expression seemed appropriate. Meredith is preparing the faithful flock for his soon-coming demise. Here's the relevant section.

Some observations. Rod lists eleven names of the dearly departed, all blokes, all ministers. In the dim domains of Meredith's religion, there is apparently only one gender that counts, and those who pound pulpits are of superior significance. He doesn't even bother to name his significant others.

Next, Meredith assumes nobody is expecting him - God's most important representative on Planet Earth - to go the way of all flesh. It's true that there will likely be ructions and eruptions in the wake of Rod's passing, but that will hardly be unexpected. The vultures have been gathering for some time (to study the meaning of Matthew 24:28 no doubt). Younger members of LCG, in particular, have long considered Rod well past his use-by date. Sorry Rod, nobody is indispensable, most particularly those who consider themselves indispensable.

Rod is the last of the original Armstrong evangelists. He preached for decades that the World Tomorrow would dawn in his lifetime. He was wrong. Embarrassingly wrong. As was Herb. As was Ted. As were the elect eleven listed. Gotta share the news, brethren, it isn't coming anytime soon either, not in your lifetime nor mine, not anytime this side of the Sun going supernova. The magic millennium is based on a facile reading of the Good Book. It'll be a chilly day in hell when the chiliasts are proven right.

Why wait for Rod to cark it, with all the expected "after match" drama. Now is a great time to walk away.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Loopyness, loopholes and leavening

What's in and what's out during the Days of Unleavened Bread? For the more myopic COGophiles Jewish understanding of the Tanakh doesn't really matter, only what their own authorities have decreed. John Carmack of COGWA, for example, can pontificate: "It should be noted, however, that modern-day Jews keep "Passover" as a seven-day celebration, mixing the two celebrations of Passover and the Days/Feast of Unleavened Bread together. However, the Bible makes it clear that they are two separate celebrations." Don't worry about all those rabbis and Talmudic scholars down the centuries, it's our own less-than-a-century-old tradition of fundamentalist dilettantes, founded by a failed ad salesman with alcohol issues, that has the inside track. Oh yeah, that's credible.

When it comes to advice on what can and can't be consumed over the period of unleavened bread, the Jewish approach is varied, as demonstrated in this article from Atlas Obscura (thanks for the link, Bill! I still mourn the passing of your website.) Kareth, chametz, kitniyot... I don't know about you, but I've been pushed up the learning curve. Nothing is, it seems, as simple as it first appears.

There's a bigger issue here, though: what species of arrogance does it take for an ostensibly Christian group to appropriate Jewish traditions, modify them, impose new meanings to fit in with their literalist eschatology, and then imply that they can teach someone else's granny how to suck eggs?

It gets even worse when we're dealing with the Feast of Tabernacles, but in the spirit of Leviticus 23:4 - declaring the holy days in their seasons - let's leave that till later in the year.

For those folk who are observing the COG version of DUB, I hope everything goes well. But do keep an open mind, and do remember that your pastor and his bosses are winging it when it comes to the details.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Date Line Lunacy (updated)

Pre-2011 Date Line
Well, dusk has turned to dark and the Passover has now "passed over" New Zealand, the first major country in the world to meet each new day as it emerges out of thin air over the International Date Line. Welcome to the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Of course, our Aussie brethren might want to challenge the assertion about "major country," but we'll bide our time: if the cane toads don't get them first then global warming will eventually.

But seriously, how do people outside "the Holy Land" know that they're observing their sacred days on the right days? Why not have the date line in the middle of the Atlantic instead of the Pacific?

Regrettably, there's no proof text at hand. The problem of where to plonk the changeover line never occurred to the biblical writers. As far as they were concerned the earth was flat: heaven above (with Yahweh somewhere beyond the starry canopy), hades below. When the sun went down it passed over bare rocky nether regions that opened out onto nothingness before ascending once more into the bright domains of humankind.

Apparently Yahweh, despite being omniscient, was unaware of the problems that migration to the "Down Under" zone would create. Or the New World for that matter. The International Date Line was eventually set by mere mortals over a few gin and tonics.

Then there's the issue of the kink in the dateline over Tonga. Being sensible, intelligent and perceptive people the Tongans naturally wanted to be on the Kiwi side of the line, but the cartographers wanted to put them in company with the Americas. No wonder they objected! Thus, the dateline was amended - and a bump was created to put Tonga on its preferred side of the temporal chasm.

As I understand it, Seventh-day Adventists in Tonga keep two sabbaths each week as a result: both Saturday and Sunday. Why? Well, the LORD seems not to have spoken specifically on the dented dateline, so they play safe... just in case!

I'm not sure whether there are any Adventists on Kiribati, but there the problem is even more glaring. Until January 1st, 1995 Kiribati was on the Western side of the date line, but the micro-nation decided - again, who can blame them - to grab a day's march on the rest of the world, and thereby become the first place on the planet to welcome in the new millennium (and grab a lot of free publicity.) Boy, I bet the heavenly Department of Holy Days was cheesed off about that one!

Among the calendar fanatics who want to argue about solar/lunar/360 and suchlike, I've yet to come across a single one of these geniuses who can give a poor Tongan, Kiwi or Aussie a bit of biblical assurance that they're not a day out.

In the absence of a solution to this enigma, the whole concept of "Holy Time" outside the Middle East becomes meaningless.

SDA's are given to statements like: "Some people believe the placement of the International Date Line was achieved under divine guidance." Yes, doubtless, but it also logically follows that other people - outside the Saturday/Sunday Sabbatarian gulags - don't. What's needed is proof - or failing that, at least a nice proof text. Vic? Rod? Gerry? Bob? ... Anybody?

None of this has much to do with the spiritual significance of a eucharistic celebration. The Lord's Supper would be the Lord's Supper for observant Christians anywhere. But let's be clear, there is a real problem if you shackle it to a legalistic calculation of "holy time."

Herbert Armstrong always postured about sending a certified bank cheque to anyone who could mail in a Bible verse that commanded Sunday observance. I'm tempted to repeat the offer on the dateline issue. Clearly I won't need to go running to the bank anytime soon.

But if you do come up with a proof text, please be sure to mail it with a Kiribati stamp.


A version of the above post first appeared here in 2009. Since then things have continued to get, in the words of Lewis Carroll,  "curiouser and curiouser". The graphic at the top of this piece from 2009 is now inaccurate. In 2011 Samoa flipped over, skipping a Friday and moving straight from Thursday to Saturday, reversing an earlier change made in the 1890s. This latest flip-flop created an anomaly with neighbouring American Samoa, which is now once again a full day behind. In Pago Pago it may be Friday, but just a few kilometers to the west in Apia it's now Saturday.

Ever been told that the seven-day cycle has never been broken? Bullgeschichte.

Little surprise then that it engendered a crisis for the nation's Seventh-day Adventists, many of who have believing relatives in the adjoining jurisdiction, historically just a canoe journey away. Which day is true Sabbath now? If you parked your canoe for a spot of fishing on the invisible line that separates the waters of American Samoa from Samoa, what would you do? When exactly should the Holy Days fall? Can't you just hear one of the COG preachers screeching "brethren, your eternal future is at stake!" But they don't. I wonder why?

If you're awaiting an article in Tomorrow's World or Beyond Today to settle such deep matters, probably best not to hold your breath.


Lonnie Hendrix hits the proverbial nail on the noggin with a post on leavening/de-leavening. Even if you're committed to hardtack for the week ahead, the message is still very relevant.

A question for fellow Kiwis and Aussies who have doubtless pondered this question as deeply as I have. Are our shared cultural icons Vegemite and Marmite, both yeast extracts, technically unleavened?

Online here later today a somewhat-related post about calculating Sabbaths and Holy Days, with absolutely nothing to do with to the idiocies of New Moons and Barley harvests that some of the freakier COG sects obsess about.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Old Macdonald had a farm...

The anonymous commentator at Church of God News has this to say about the Flurry college.
There had been no news of developments at Edstone in England since the opening of the college in January 2015, until a post in February 2016 by Brandi Davis that Edstone Welcomes Six New Residents - that’s six pregnant Suffolk sheep, not students. 
“Mr. Macdonald (PCG’s Regional Director) chose this breed because they are a large breed, good for barbequing on the spit ... Mr. Macdonald also plans to add chickens to Edstone’s agricultural program in the spring.” 
Brad Macdonald has a farm? Why? ... “having a small flock of sheep on the rural English campus is another way Edstone seeks to raise the ruins of the Ambassador College campuses. Ambassador’s campus in Bricket Wood, Hertfordshire, also had an agricultural program, of which Mrs. Howard’s brother (uncle of Edstone’s office manager) was head cattleman. The 1,600-acre Ambassador campus in Big Sandy, Texas, also had a large agricultural program."
Now in April there have been 3 posts by Brandi Davis. 
A visit to the French and Belgian brethren was hampered somewhat by none of the Americans being able to speak French and most of the French and Belgians not being able to speak English. 
She then reported on the record increase in response to the Key of David, which is broadcast on the CBS Reality TV channel at 8.00am on Sundays, following the Living Church of God’s ‘Tomorrow’s World’ broadcast.) 
The most recent post was a day in the life of an Edstone student: 
“Up at 5am ... the fitness center for a 20-minute workout ... shower ... for morning headlines over sips of (freshly ground and brewed Ethiopian roast) coffee ... Malachi’s Message for Bible study.” (Not the final book of the Old Covenant, but God’s Revelation to Gerald Flurry.)
What is it that creates the kind of student mentality that PCG caters to? I get that most (all?) of these kids come from PCG homes. I get that many, having little hope of getting into a major college, grab the chance to get a piece of paper from the bargain aisle - affordable fees, nice facilities. even international travel. I get that there would be pressure from mummies and daddies laying it on the line about Flurry's college being their only option. And I get that the "first families" of Flurrydom are onto a very good deal indeed with kid glove treatment for those in the preferred gene pool. But these kids grow up in the same world everybody else does; reality TV, Facebook, Pandora, hormones and a drive to become independent people... How many are just playing the game by the rules set for them, biding their time?

The experience of those born into a high demand religious movement is different from those who were recruited from their late teens onward. In WCG the dropout rate of kids raised in the faith was huge. It's hard to imagine PCG is any different. One wonders what percentage of those bright-eyed young folk heading to Edmond or Edstone actually graduate with their junk degrees? And of those who endure unto the end, how many will remain in the Flurry fiefdom for the longer term?

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

LCG and World Vision

As Bereans Did is reporting that Spanky Meredith's LCG sect is still on schedule to present their public meeting at World Vision Canada's HQ; only the date has changed. Perhaps they were obliged to carry through on the agreement. Perhaps lawyers' letters were exchanged. Who knows? In any case, Martha's report is carefully written and fair-minded. Other than turning up with placards, there doesn't seem to be a way forward from this point.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016


As usual there are some great postings on other blogs concerned with the Churches of God. Gary's comments on PCG's latest big-money building project (here) provoked additional comments on the Living Armstrongism blog. Could it be that Flurry is digging a financial hole he'll never be able to climb out of? Forgive me for saying so, but here's hoping!

Kevin's recent post here on AW has also ignited some debate. Lonnie Hendrix has an excellent summary of some of the early crossfire.

More on Quest/77; the 1981 walk-out of editorial staff following interference from Herb and Stan (New York Times story) involving a promo feature for Anwar Sadat's proposed vanity peace monument at the base of Mt Sinai ("Anwar Sadat's Daring New Dream").  Despite the disruption, Herb inevitably got his way. The article - written by the apostle - appeared in the May 1981 issue. Shortly thereafter the plug was pulled and Quest disappeared forever. Whatever happened to the Sadat Peace Center I wonder? ... oh, apparently it never happened.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Forgotten History: 1976 - Fools' Quest

1976, and the Worldwide Church of God was anticipating a great leap forward with the launch of the glossy magazine Quest/77 under the auspices of the AICF (Ambassador International Cultural Foundation). It was an expensive PR effort designed to gain credibility among the shakers and movers, the kind of people who wouldn't give The Plain Truth a second glance. The acquisition of Everest House Publishers followed, with offices in New York; a further vanity project that quickly proved prohibitively expensive.

The following article and accompanying photograph appeared in New York magazine, August 2, 1976.

Forty years on (has it really been 40 years?) and nothing remains. Quest magazine was short-lived, Everest House is long forgotten, Ted was to be ousted the year following Quest's launch, and even the Hall of Ad has now gone... in a cloud of demolition dust earlier this year.

Which leads one to wonder about the durability of the various vanity projects among the competing sects of COGdom today.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

After Ambassador

Original AC logo
Once upon a time there was something called Ambassador College. One campus in Pasadena grew to three. Then two closed and Ambassador University had a brief existence at Big Sandy. Then it all collapsed.

But not to worry. Now there are slavish imitations operated by the squabbling sects that claim Herb Armstrong's mantle. They all have at least one thing in common - none of them are accredited. Nor do any of them seem to have key faculty with experience beyond the Armstrong gulags.

United Church of God: Ambassador Bible College.

COGWA: Foundation Institute.

PCG: Herbert W. Armstrong College.

Living Church of God: Living University.

Restored COG: Ambassador Center.

Obviously, there's an awful lot of duplication of resources, but these guys just don't trust each other. Granted that PCG and RCG are in something of a category of their own theologically, you'd have to wonder at what significant differences of substance exist between the other three (other than competing egos).

Lots of photographs of smiling, compliant young people. Add them all together and multiply by ten and it'd still be hard to justify just one tertiary operation. What real price for a junk qualification?

Hanging out in Plato's cave

In a high school English class, we worked through a textbook titled, "Philosophy & Literature: Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Commitment". It opened with Plato's "The Allegory of the Den" which asserts that most individuals are victims of illusion when it comes to recognizing Truth. At the time, I thought all of the time and effort spent on discussing what is or what isn't Truth was pretty silly, a waste of my time.

I knew the Truth, my family knew the Truth, after all our home was filled with stacks of the Plain Truth. We had no question about what was true or false because we were members of "The Church", the one true church that Christ was personally leading through his sole end-time Apostle, HWA. We had grown certain of this fact because HWA reminded us of it over and over again and we felt blessed to know THE TRUTH! If his claims had not been enough, we were also living in a bubble where all those around us reinforced this concept with repeated expressions of gratitude for how 'fortunate' we were to know the Truth.

And furthermore, there were the booklets... Yes, the booklets. My father, thinking he was doing us a favor, made a list of the 40 or so booklets that he had at the time and put columns for each one of us kids. Well, once one brother started checking a few booklets off the list, we were all jumping head first into reading them as well. It didn't matter what they were about, we were going to check off all the boxes. So, reading, "How to Quit Smoking" at age 10 didn't seem that odd to me. Come to think of it, this may have been the most valuable one for me as it did make smoking very unappealing. It's probably good that he hadn't included "The Missing Dimension in Sex" on the list.

To make a long story short, we lived in that bubble of common believers for decades without hardly having a clue that our reality was distorted in many ways. Even with the distorted reality, our lives were pretty good, fortunately. Most of our ministers were reasonable men and our parents maintained a balanced perspective on most issues. They took us to doctors, they made their own decisions, they did not 'over-discipline' us, and they saved for retirement rather than giving all they had to WCG. We also weren't pushed to go to Ambassador College. Overall, we were lucky.

Nevertheless, my bubble eventually popped. It wasn't one, dramatic moment but a gradual deflation that occurred for various reasons. In part, the accumulation of so many inconsistencies between various teachings and between what was taught vs. what was practiced tended to make people like me become cynical.

You stop and think about it and realize that WCG had dogmatically taught us many things that were later changed, or once examined, proved to be completely false. A few examples:

1. HWA was the first to preach the true Gospel in 1900 years
2. HWA learned from no man and he restored 18 truths to the church
3. God specially trained HWA for his unique, end-time mission
4. HWA was given key to prophecy (Identity of Israel) from God
5. HWA was highly accurate in foretelling future events
6. The WCG was God’s government on earth; HWA was God’s sole end-time Apostle
7. WCG was the one, true church and could trace its’ roots back through the ages
8. All universities are bad because they turn almost all students into God denying atheists
9. Members that were not donating enough money would go to the “the lake of fire”
10. Petra was the place of safety, the final training ground
11. HWA completed his work in 1972 (...but, oh, um, well, actually HWA was given a special
commission to “preach the Gospel to heads of nations”)
12. HWA preached the gospel to world leaders
13. Existing members would go to “the lake of fire”; existing ministers were deceived and rebellious
14. Doctors, modern medicine, and make-up were; divorce was unacceptable
15. The church would not compromise 1/100% of the Truth
16. HWA’s marriage with Ramona was God’s will
17. Divorce was ok, makeup was a non-issue, and doctors and medicine were ok as well
18. The State of California’s investigation into fraud was “the most MONSTROUS conspiracy and
attack Satan ever launched against God's Work!”
19. WCG knew what positions David, Moses, Joshua, HWA would hold in the kingdom of God
20. God would not let HWA die before Christ returned; loyalty to HWA was paramount
21. Post HWA, Mr. Tkach would lead us into the kingdom and loyalty to him was now paramount

One could have a lot of fun expanding such a list but better to get back to the point. Other things that helped be "break the spell". The continual splintering of the church. After theUCG/COGWA split, it made sense to start digging around to try to determine, "What is wrong with us?" Here I'd like to give credit to all of those that many of us had previously looked down upon. Thank you to all of those that had caught on years before and then documented what had really been going on at headquarters to help wake up others and try to stop the idolatry of a man. I read books like Armstrongism, Religion or Rip Off, Ambassadors of Armstrongism, The Broadway to Armageddon , Herbert Armstrong’s Tangled Web, and The Armstrong Empire and found websites like Ambassador Report, The Painful Truth, Banned, and Keith Hunt's). I may not have appreciated some of the attitude and over-generalizations here and there, but the well-documented history and thought provoking questions were eye openers. It was time to put down the cool-aid, wake up and start smelling the coffee.

About thirty years after discounting Plato in my English class, I was ready to give him some well-deserved respect. I located the same textbook online and reread that introduction with new eyes... Yes, now it made much more sense. The author summed up Plato's Allegory of the Den quite well - "If one has been a prisoner in a den, condemned to see only reflections of the truth, he will assume that these reflections are really true. He will believe so firmly that he will not believe a fellow prisoner who has escaped his bondage, has seen Truth and has returned to inform the prisoners of their mistaken confidence in the "truth" of their shadow world."

Exactly! Much like those of us in the past and those still in HWA's Den.

Truth is not always so easy to discern and any given statement is not the Truth just because an arrogant man is able to confidently claim that God revealed it to him. However, now comes the hard part... What of my beliefs are true and which ones are false? When a man borrows from others, he may be borrowing truth or he may be borrowing lies. Most probably, he will have borrowed some of each. But for those who lived in HWA's Den for most of our lives, it may not be easy to rapidly discern one from the other, nor to recognize what part or our confidence comes from our present examinations vs. our bias from the indoctrination of the past.

I must admit that when I read the Bible, keeping the Sabbath still makes sense to me. Is that because of what the Bible says or because of my decades in WCG? Hard to say at this point. Like Ian, whom I respect, my overall experience has been good and I'd like to think that there is a way to make some of the basic teaching work without the corruption of the past, and most certainly without relying on or giving credit to one man. My wife comes from a primarily Catholic country and her family had learned of the Sabbath and Holy Days completely independent from HWA, any COG, or even another splinter from the Millerites. Just the Bible. Is this belief Truth or error? One day it would be nice to know for sure. It is easy for her to ignore HWA completely.

For me, it is more complicated. Reading HWA's own writings led me to conclude he was not sincere as others continue to believe. Therefore it is hard to accept the position that even though HWA was incredibly flawed, God still worked through him to reveal new truth. I could better understand that a man was going to profit from the ministry (as many do) and he got lucky with a few things that he borrowed from others. To me, there is a big difference between these two assumptions. A question for my friend Ian. Hypothetically, what are the odds that a greedy, dishonest man who had abused his own child would be the one that God would select to work with to reveal new understandings? And for this case, the greed and dishonesty were ways of life, not just occasional slip ups. And the abuse was not a single incident followed by acknowledgement and repentance but more along the lines 10 years of abuse during the critical, initial years of a 'ministry' while the revelations were coming from God... and followed decades later by an extremely odd gesture - the gift of a signed copy of the "Missing Dimension in Sex" to the abused child). Extremely unlikely in my view. Perhaps I do need to visit you in Jamaica where we can talk face to face as we adjust our eyes to the true light outside of the Den?

God has choices. It seems that, in terms of character, it is reasonable to assume there is a type of Bell curve just as there is for intelligence or physical agility. Nobody is perfect for sure but there seems to be those we can confidently identify as being above average and others that are below average. Doesn't it make sense for God to select an individual with above average character rather below average? That would be consistent with the Bible's instructions when it comes time to select deacons and elders. As a parent, I'd place anyone that abused their own child, lied to and stole from the poor to enrich themselves, and made repeated huge false claims about their own purpose and abilities well towards the left end of the scale.

There is a lot of gray in life but child abuse by a self-proclaimed Apostle of God seems to be one matter that remains in the black or white category.


(Postscript: This post was submitted to both AW and Gary's Banned blog. After being published here it subsequently appeared on Banned under the heading "What is Truth?")

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Gold, guilt and lifestyles of the rich and shameless

They will hurl their silver into the street,
    and their gold will seem unclean.
    Their silver and their gold won’t deliver them
        on the day of the Lord’s anger.
They won’t satisfy their appetites or fill their bellies.
    Their guilt will bring them down.

Ezekiel 7:19

Gary has a powerful post on his Banned blog about Herbert Armstrong's taste for the finer things in life.
Much of  the fine art and metalwork were purchased during the time HWA was mailing out letters to the membership demanding that they cut back and send in more money.  The "Work" was always in a state of distress. Many members did indeed sacrifice and mailed in more money.  The result - HWA was on treasure hunting trips to Harrod's in London and other UK locations buying treasures for his three homes and college campuses (St Alban's, England, Big Sandy, TX and Pasadena, CA). 
While Mrs. Armstrong was alive and in the early years of the church they lived in a modest house on Hill Ave (now owned by Cal Tech).  When Loma Armstrong died Herb began shedding his 'simple' life style for the extravagant one.  This was also the time Gerald Waterhouse and Dean Blackwell started blabbering that HWA was an Apostle.  And as you all know from the Bible, Apostles were meant to travel around the world speaking to world leaders, give them gifts of Steuben crustal, and play host to them at extravagant dinner parties at the various campus homes.  Apostles were ordained by God to live lives with the finest the earth and humankind has to offer.  This easy justification lead to multiple millions of dollars in extravagance by HWA,  evangelists, faculty, certain department heads and many ministers.
Sadly for Herb, the alcoholic apostle was unable to "take it with him", and the baubles were sold off after his death. Some legacy.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Donald Trump in Prophecy, or Here Come the Germans

It takes a Don to know a Don and Don Billingsley seems to think he has the prophetic 'real oil' on Donald Trump. You might even say that the latest issue of his Philadelphia Remnant mag is "the Trump issue". Trump is - according to Billingsley - playing into the winds of prophecy.

Yeah, right.

There's also a lot of huff and puff about those darn Germans coming to put your loved ones in concentration camps, with more of the same promised for the next issue. Can't wait. Don even writes of "the inherent nature of the average German".
German agents are currently active within the United States as they were before World War II! They are operating behind the scenes in many ways without anyone realizing their mission! Consider and seriously think about the recent massive riots in Chicago against Donald Trump with the foregoing writings of this book in mind; people used, such as George Soros a renegade Jew; instruments used by the unseen underground power players in Germany. 
With all this in mind, we would do well to remember the promise of Germany that is yet ongoing and will soon be realized: “One day we shall come back. Until then, A’ bientot (= goodbye A’ Soon)” (p. 41)
Looking at the cover you might think that you've seen it before. You have. Billingsley, one-time college chauffeur, keeps things simple by using the same cover art over and over again. Not a particularly smart strategy, but as you can see that's nothing compared to the contents.

Don has kindly provided access to his ravings in flipping book format (so that should render it almost completely unreadable to most folk.)  Dig around and you'll find you can download it as a PDF, but you'd be best advised - for sanity's sake - to avoid doing so. Be advised that there are formatting errors throughout the publication. Not a professional look.

As for "prophecy", all these years and Don has learned... nothing. What a waste. Just regurgitating nonsense he heard from Herb and swallowed whole back in the 1950s.

Isn't it a bit ironic that with all the inane drum beating over Germany and a return to Naziism, the real Nazis - authoritarian leaders in the "government of God"-type COGs - get a free ride. How many times was the CAD referred to as the Gestapo?

It's undoubtedly true that Don is an embarrassment to many good, thinking people involved in more moderate COG fellowships. And yet it's also true that such profoundly stupid extremist views were once mainline in Radio Church of God/WCG days, and that a bitter aftertaste remains even in the more respectable bodies. Would it be too much, for example, to expect that the more balanced COG groups should explicitly reject this perverse mixture of racism, cultural myopia, exceptionalism and twisted prophecy?

Apparently it is. If UCG or CGI (for example) were serious about presenting their message in a meaningful way, they'd long since have publically washed their hands - no weasel words - of this hogwash. The cost, though, would involve lost tithe-payers. The benefit? Some modicum of credibility.

The PDF is available to download

The FB format is available here

Thursday, 14 April 2016

The not-so International News

Those of us who are sufficiently long in the tooth may remember the days when Ted Armstrong struck out defiantly from his father's dominion, and the heady sense of  "a new beginning" in East Texas. The good (and not so good) and the great (sometimes just grating) gathered to the new ensign. Guest preachers in Tyler included Al Portune, Wayne Cole and David Antion bearing the 1978 equivalent of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Ron Dart became second in command. The Church of God, International was launched with high hopes and tasteful offices on the shores of Lake Palestine.

Ted knew the power of publishing as well as radio and TV, and moved quickly to create a stock of new booklets, and a rival for The Plain Truth was launched, Twentieth Century Watch, under the guidance of Alan Heath.

It wasn't to last. Ted had a blow-up with Heath, leaving the magazine project in jeopardy. It's fair to say that it never recovered. Portune, Cole and Antion distanced themselves, and Ted settled down to his old dark habits. All now ancient history. A seedling of the sect in New Zealand withered quickly. Jim Bennett, who was instrumental in beginning the process of setting up CGI in the country returned from a trip to Texas disillusioned. The little group (of which I was, if I remember correctly, secretary), quickly folded.

So what happened to CGI? Ron Dart walked, Ted was finally given the order of the boot and, having snatched back his toys, started all over again with the wonderfully-named Intercontinental Church of God. CGI continued in downsized and understated mode. Today it continues to publish The International News which, unsurprisingly, began under Ted as a clone of WCG's Worldwide News.

All of which is merely a tiresomely long introduction to the current issue of the IN, now reduced to a quarterly tabloid. As someone who still has a copy of one of the early issues in his files, volume 1, number 1 no less, I have to admit to a degree of sadness. But enough of the history. Grumpy old men love to recount rambling tales from olden times, and when we get started it's best to just nod and think of today's shopping list.

This issue (Vol. 37, no. 1) is 16 pages long, overseen by Vance Stinson. It features articles by Bill Watson, Adrian Davis, Lloyd Cary, Ian Boyne, Robert Giovi and a lengthy series of obituaries. A bit like a block of cooking chocolate, solid but hardly exciting.

The PDF is available to download.

A University backs BI

Yes brethren, British Israelism at a university level. The course code is THL 215 and it's entitled "The Lost Tribes of Israel."
This course examines what is known about the Israelite people from the Bible and other historical sources. Emphasis is on the diaspora of the Ten Tribes after the fall of the Kingdom of Israel in 721 BCE, the material culture documenting their migrations, and the historical sources detailing their unique contribution to the development of the contemporary world. Upon completion, students should be able to demonstrate the biblical keys and identify and explain the material culture and historical resources that enable the identification of the lost ten tribes of Israel, the tracing of their migrations, and their place in biblical prophecy.

I hope we're all excited. Do you think they'd offer a discount for a group enrollment? (Douglas, this has your name all over it!) No time to waste; here's a link to the eleven page course prospectus. Let's have a quick look at the required reading list.

  • The Bible, preferably the NKJV [The NKJV is preferred mainly by proof-texting fundamentalists with little or no grasp of biblical scholarship.]
  • Bennett, W. H. The Story of Celto-Saxon Israel. Heber Springs, AR: The Covenant Publishing Company of North America, 2002. (ISBN 0818702907). [Can any good thing come out of Heber Springs? Call me cynical, but this doesn't sound much like an academic textbook.]
  • Capt, E. Raymond. Missing Links Discovered in Assyrian Tablets. 13th ed. Muskogee, OK: Artisan Publishers, 2010. (ISBN 0934666156). [Capt was the author of a variety of crackpot works including A Study in Pyramidology and The Great Pyramid Decoded: God's Stone Witness. He was also a fervent BI apologist.]
  • Ogwyn, John H. The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy. USA: Living Church of God, 2008. [This is on the reading list? A 48-page booklet? Not even an ISBN number.]

Of course, you've probably already guessed that the 'university' concerned is none other than Living University, the non-accredited training school operated by the LCG. Your instructor is Douglas Winnail.

The prospectus includes this challenge: "We welcome your input for improving this course."

Where to begin?

(Related thought. Isn't Michael Germano doing an outstanding job maintaining such high academic standards at LU!)

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

LCG, booking cancelled

Rod Meredith's Living Church of God will need to hire new facilities following a back-out by World Vision Canada. The As Bereans Did site has the details. " ... Gary Moore, GCI's national director for Canada, straightened things out about LCG's history with World Vision." Suddenly World Vision has a problem with cleaning schedules.

HT to Redfox.

Monday, 11 April 2016

The Midnight Cringe

What happens when a branch of the Church of God, one that's been led by a single autocratic figure, suddenly loses its leader. That's what recently happened to the Church of God's Faithful, a South Carolina-based PCG splinter (see last month's article). Robert Ardis has gone to whatever eternal reward awaits him.

You'll be relieved to know that the sect magazine, The Midnight Cry, has continued to be published. There's obviously a new editor. Who can it be? One Jon Ardis. Could this be the anointed son? CGF apparently continues "all in the family". Gerry and Stephen over in PCG; Robert and Jon in CGF. Nepotism? Oh my goodness, gracious no. How could you even think it?

Prophetically (!) this issue's cover is emblazoned with the words, The Writing Is on the Wall. That could well be true, but possibly not in the intended sense. Ardis the Younger has penned a fairly bland editorial. Kiwi writer Wally Lawton draws on his vast knowledge of the Bible to pen an article on Iran/Persia and prophecy. Reuben Lister warns us all that national slavery awaits.
Sad to say, these prophecies are about to become a reality and it’s hard to accept that Great Britain, America, and the nation we call Israel will all be reduced to insignificance. All will go down together, ending in slavery and utter despair.
He's right about one thing, it is hard to accept. Impossible, in fact, fanciful misrepresentations of Deuteronomy 28:64-68 notwithstanding. Have these geniuses ever considered the logistics of such an undertaking?

So will the tithe-payers continue supporting CGF, or will there be a general wising up? It appears that Jon is paddling hard and the team is standing by with buckets ready to bail as necessary.

Whether that will be enough remains to be seen.

The PDF is available to download.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Willie's World

One of the enduring characters on the fringe of Armstrongism over the decades has been William F. Dankenbring. The one-time Plain Truth writer launched a publishing operation in the 1970s featuring his own work, but also that of Raymond McNair (Ascent to Greatness) and Ivor Fletcher (The Incredible History of God's True Church). Basil Wolverton provided original artwork for his The Keys to Radiant Health, and Herman Hoeh agreed to write the foreword to his creationist tome, The First Genesis. Somewhere along the path, though, Dankenbring "jumped the shark" and became a date-setter with few peers. For many years now he has produced a periodical called Prophecy Flash! to promote his predictions.

Anyone who has read Dankenbring's guff in recent years knows just how much he loathes President Obama. We all have our personal political views - that's the foundation of a democracy - but Dankenbring drapes his biases in lurid biblical fantasy. The current Flash (March-April) is no exception. Some of the headings from the 'Prophecy Briefs' section.
President Obama wants to rule the world
Obama aspires to be King of the world
Obama wants to be UN chief
Fecklessness has its rewards: Barack Obama will be the next UN Secretary General
Dankenbring date setting from 2008
Move over, Benedict Arnold, there's a new traitor in town - Barack Obama!
And how about this:
Earlier this year and also last year I wrote about the signals that some thought Obama was emitting to be the Muslim Caliphate, that is, the Islamic leader of all the world's Muslims. He might indeed be acceptable for that position. 
To keep your disgust fresh, the current issue is available as a PDF download, but be aware that there may be a significant mental health risk involved.

Another black eye for Bob

COGWA's John Carmack has posted a response to a lengthy attack by Prophet Bob Thiel (ThD) over at COG Perspective. Did Bob expect anything else?

I certainly don't have a canine in this altercation, but gotta say, in my opinion at least, John has the high moral ground here.

Meantime Bob, we're all waiting for clarification on that super-impressive Trinity ThD you claim to have earned.

Some things never change

Luke 6:45. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Few will argue this concept. Are we focused on good or evil? Are we focused upon ourselves or upon others? Are our motives pure? People often can figure these things out by listening to what we say or by reading what we write.

As we all know, HWA's co-worker letters tended to focus a great deal on raising money and his lifestyle reinforced the perception that money was quite important to him. Is it any different for the other COGs?

Here is the opening paragraph from the latest UCG member letter:

March 2016 
Dear Brethren, 
More than 22 percent of the Church's revenue comes through the Holy Days offerings. It is an important part of our giving as we obey the explicit command: Three times a year your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you." (Deut. 16:16-17)

Some things never change.

Posted on behalf of Kevin. He has been associated with WCG and UCG for over four decades and is currently in the process of reassessing what is fact and fiction.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

The Strumpet

The Living Armstrongism blog has a review of the latest issue of PCG's The Trumpet. The cover speaks for itself. "The issue contains an inflammatory cover made by Gary Dorning trying to stir up resentment and fear of President Obama. PCG leans far to the right in regards to politics so they wish Obama was not president." (Redfox).

American politics; sheesh. Bear in mind that traditionally the COGs have pretended to be politically neutral, discouraging their members from voting. The reality is somewhat different. Herbert Armstrong's political views were well known, and church publications leaned heavily in advocacy journalism. That is even more apparent in the squabbling sects today.

The latest Trumpet Weekly apparently beats the same drum. The cover is supplied by a reader in the States, and features another political piece by heir presumptive, daddy's pride and joy, Stephen Flurry.

More interesting is the question of how many COG members ignore the non-voting advice. I can say, hand on heart, that I voted throughout the years of my WCG membership with a clear conscience (and I'm darn sure I didn't vote the way the ministry would have supported). Anecdotally one suspects that a substantial part of the COG demographic does indeed turn up to cast a ballot though most wouldn't admit it.

For the full baloney rundown on this issue (baloney as in the mag, not the review), hit the link above.

Two Gerrys carry the baton

Squished planet, squished beliefs... like sheep to the slaughter indeed!
UPDATED. If you enjoy BBC comedy, you'll know about "the two Ronnies". If you enjoy COG soap operas you'll be delighted to learn that there are now "two Gerrys".

Gary Leonard is the first off the block to release the contents of a member letter announcing Gerry Weston's ascendancy to the status of leader in the Living Church of God. This April 6 member-only letter went forth over the signature of the current Presiding Evangelist, Roderick Meredith. Once again, Gary's sources have proved invaluable. Excepts:
One of the main reasons I wanted to write all of you members directly is that I want all of you to be fully aware and “on board” about the coming transfer of Mr. Gerald Weston here to Headquarters to become President and COO of this Work. I will remain as the Presiding Evangelist and human “head” of the Church as long as God gives me strength. But Mr. Weston will be in charge of running the physical day to day operations... Mr. Weston has pastored churches all over the United States, pastored and served as Regional Pastor of the Kansas City area for 13 years, pastored the churches and directed the whole Work in Canada for 13 years, and is now effectively running the churches and Work in Britain, Europe and the Middle East.
In all these years, he has been tried and tested and has been constantly loyal to the Truth, to God’s leadership in this Work and to all the things that matter. I have talked to literally scores of ministers and brethren from all over and not one has ever raised a big “issue” with Mr. Weston!
So it is after much prayer and Bible study and “multitude of counsel” that I have decided to select him and appoint him—in the name of Jesus Christ—as the next administrative leader over the Work here. I hope all of you will join me in being totally loyal to Mr. Weston in helping him, in supporting him and praying for him that God will guide and use him in every way.
For more, click across to Gary's Banned blog at the link above.

Some thoughts. This was certainly not unexpected. Now it's out in the open, though, we can expect a good deal of realignment behind the scenes.

Meredith has not appointed Weston as a new Presiding Evangelist, he's determined to hang on as spiritual leader as long as he can. Technically this is then an administrative appointment, whatever that means in practical terms. It could be an uncomfortable marriage with Meredith still capable of pulling rank (remember the Global fiasco?) though his capacity for this is unclear. Potential for friction at the very least.

In a separate post, Gary indicates that Meredith's health is poor. He has apparently been hospitalized recently and now uses a wheelchair.

The two Gerrys. Flurry and Weston. Let the soap opera continue.

The Journal - 182nd issue

The latest issue of The Journal: News of the Churches of God has been released.

In this issue there's an article about the arrest (seemingly unjustified) of chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer in 1981. Heavy-handed police officers have, it seems, been around for a long time. Fischer's personal account of the event is available in full online.

Tom Kerry's Church of God Ministries International, based in New Orleans, is prominently featured. Tom and his followers have spent up big on studios to broadcast their scintillating take on "the gospel as a witness and warning" via the Internet. Original!

Keith Slough asserts that "Jesus is the forgotten man in our old-Worldwide theology." I know he'll find more than a few 'amens' out there. He takes a while to get to the point, but ends up saying: "When we preach the gospel, if we leave out the focus the early true church had on the “Messenger” - the person of Jesus Christ - we water down the true gospel."

Self-anointed religious expert Joe Kovacs has endorsed a children's book on the COG Feasts by UCG member Ramona Wood. Kovacs, executive news editor for the right-wing WND, is "COG-friendly", but I'm not aware that he actually walks the walk rather than just talking the talk.

As always, the complete issue can be downloaded in PDF format. Back copies of The Journal dating back to 2012 can also be accessed from the sidebar.

Was World Vision conned?

There's been a bit of a flap about the use of World Vision Canada's headquarters facilities in Mississauga, Ontario by Roderick Meredith's Living Church of God. The LCG has hired the location for one of its proselytizing seminars in May: "Has God Abandoned Mankind?" 

So what's the problem? Organisations hire out their facilities all the time. World Vision, however, is more selective than most. A great backgrounder comes from Martha over at As Bereans Did. It seems World Vision may have been under some misapprehensions when it hired out the rooms.

The Bereans website decided to ask a few questions - and possibly point out a few germane facts. Here's the reply they got from World Vision Canada.

In fact, the Worldwide Church of Tomorrow [sic] (founded by H W Armstrong) had a radical shift after Armstrong’s death and has become thoroughly evangelical and renamed their movement as Grace Communion International. This denomination is a member in good standing both with the National Association of Evangelicals (USA) and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada... Given this outcome, we do not have any concerns with their use of our facility.
You've got to hope the office staff are, in general, a lot more competent than whoever emailed that masterpiece.

Given the outright contempt LCG shows for evangelical organisations such as World Vision, you've also got to wonder what kind of assurances the LCG representative gave when hiring their facilities. As others have pointed out, using World Vision may lend LCG an air of false legitimacy in the eyes of the evangelically-minded community.

Would World Vision hire out their facilities for recruitment purposes by the Jehovah's Witnesses? The Moonies? If so, no problem. If not, then they do indeed have a problem.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Fragmentation reissued in paperback

Good news, you no longer need to remortgage the house in order to acquire a copy of David Barrett's study Fragmentation of a Sect: Schism in the Worldwide Church of God. Oxford University press is releasing a paperback edition (with a few very minor revisions) later this year.

This is an academic work focused on the sociology rather than the usual agenda-driven stuff that tends to be published elsewhere. If you prefer debunking and steamy apologetics larded with Bible texts, this probably isn't the book for you. In my view, however, the story of the dissolution of the WCG is better told without the invective. It's a story that speaks for itself, and David Barrett is one of the keenest observers of the COG phenomenon. If it helps, I'm told Joe Tkach hated it - which in my view is the ultimate recommendation.

You're going to have to wait till August to get your hands on a copy, but preorders are being taken with a price tag of $29.95 US/£19.99 UK. If that sounds expensive, be ye aware that the nice people at OUP in NZ have the locally sourced hardback edition listed at just under eighty smackers, so quit with the complaining. Amazon currently has the HB at $61.

An ebook edition you ask? Sadly not the Oxford way.

More on this closer to August.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Bob throws his toys at John

... if Bob has "stretched the truth" on this matter, how can anyone believe a word he says on anything else.

Bob Thiel must be feeling brittle after having the headlights turned on his claims recently. Gary Leonard has been relentless, and the immediate past posting here also raised important issues for Bob's credibility. Bob, however, has decided to vent his spleen at John Carmack, a COGWA member who operates the Church of God Perspective site. Over to you, Bob.
While I cannot address all the lies and innuendoes on the internet about me, since someone who claims to be in the Church of God has once again posted false and misleading statements about me, that perhaps this would be a good time to answer lest those who believe such things feel that they are wise in their own eyes.
Actually, Bob, it wouldn't be at all difficult to clarify the little matter of your ThD credentials. But more on that later. Here's Bob's post. I guess I'm not completely unbiased here, but I find Bob quite incoherent in parts. In fact, his defense of his own 'specialness' seems downright pathetic. But what do I know, if you're up to it you can click across and judge for yourself.

What is interesting is that Bob chooses to respond to John, but not address issues others have raised. Is that because he can't?
Explain what TCU means please Bob.

The issues around the legitimacy of Bob's CV are quite straightforward, relying on matters of fact, yet Bob keeps fudging. It's important because if Bob has "stretched the truth" on this matter, how can anyone believe a word he says on anything else. How simple would it be for Bob to type up a proper CV that lists and documents his qualifications rather than grandstanding and evasions? No need to "answer detractors" - just provide the documentation.

If Bob doesn't know how to set out an academic CV, I'm sure he can find lots of examples online.