Tuesday, 31 May 2016


If you've hung around this blog for any length of time you know that I don't have a high opinion of Greg Albrecht's Plain Truth Ministries, nor the slogan "Christianity without the Religion." Albrecht publishes a reasonably substantial quarterly magazine called CWR, the latest issue of which is now out, but I think it'd be more accurately titled CWGMR (Christianity With Genetically Modified Religion).

Which isn't to say that the burned-over constituency of the COGs won't find some interesting stuff here, particularly those who've traded down (or is it up?) to a less demanding, more evangelical type of faith. Hey, whatever works!

One article took my eye in particular. Zack Hunt writes some really good material, and he's a regular columnist for the "Gregoriana", so to speak. His blog is definitely worth the occasional visit (I even link to it over on my disgracefully inactive Otagosh blog.) In this issue he has a one-page piece with the provocative headline "Sometimes I Wish the Bible Had Never Been Written." Well worth the trip across to check out.

CWR magazine is available in - shudder - flipping book format, but you can hit the download button when that screen comes up and access the far more readable PDF version.

RIP Karl Beyersdorfer

Since Gary broke the news online of Karl Beyersdorfer's suicide a number of other COG-related websites have posted follow-up comments including a commendably pastoral piece on Living Armstrongism. The following summary appeared on the COG-friendly COG News.
On the 28th of May a pastor’s suicide was reported: 
“Today it was announced in the Charlotte LCG congregation that LCG Joplin, Missouri pastor Karl Beyersdorfer has killed himself on 5/27/2016. Recall that his wife Gaylon fell and broke her hip two weeks prior on Saturday 5/14/2016 and had to have hip replacement surgery." [From Banned]
He was ordained in the Worldwide Church of God, joined Roderick Meredith in founding the Global Church of God, then continued with him in the LCG. His name in its list of congregations has been replaced by that of the area pastor, Gene Hilgenberg, but there is no announcement of his death on the website as yet. 
One LCG member has commented [on Gary's blog]: “I can tell you first hand that what is happening at LCG is heartbreaking. Especially for those of us who survived what happened in WCG. It can lead to feelings of depression, hopelessness and despair. Many of us love our church, despite what our critics think about it, and it is hard to watch it crumble like it is. I’m sure Karl had other reasons for what he did, but the current state of LCG didn’t help, I’m sure. It’s hard to see something you heartfelt believed in and gave your life in support of fall apart because of egos and bad decision. I could see where that would make your life feel like a total waste. In the months to come, especially after RCM’s death, it will be important for us to stick together and love one another through the turbulent LCG splits ahead which, at this point, seem inevitable.”
Bruce Tyler's death has been marked with a fulsome tribute from Rod Meredith. The suicide of a prominent minister is a much more difficult event to address, and yet the impact is just as profound - probably more so. Hopefully, LCG will do the right thing and publicly acknowledge Karl Beyersdorfer's passing in a respectful way that not only mentions his contributions but also speaks to a difficult situation. To pass by in silence and ignore what has happened would merely compound the problem. They could do worse than by using the Living Armstrongism post as an exemplar.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Focus on William Miller

The father of Adventism, and hence the Churches of God, was William Miller, an American Baptist preacher active in the 1800s. Know about Willie, know something about the backstory that led to not only Herb Armstrong and the COGs but Seventh-day Adventism and a motley bunch of somewhat related sects which at various stages "cross-pollinated" with the Adventist movement.

Pam Dewey has an excellent discussion on "the Great Disappointment", the inevitable let-down when Willie's prophecies failed dismally, and ties it in with the theory of cognitive dissonance. I found it interesting that Miller wasn't the stereotypical wild-eyed ranter that many assume, and actually moved from a non-controversial Deism to premillennialism over a period of time. Then, as we know, he got caught up in all those confounded numbers in Daniel and Revelation. As do many even unto this very day. Another Willie for example (to wit, William Dankenbring) is currently promoting a new and novel interpretation of the "Seventy Weeks Prophecy" in Daniel chapter 9. Having taking countless pratfalls on prophecy in the past you'd think he would learn to keep his speculations to himself, but alas no. There are lots of dates tossed around in his Prophecy Flash newsletter (affectionately referred to as the Prophecy Flush by some) and long outdated commentaries (Jamieson, Faucett & Brown; Adam Clarke, Alfie Edersheim) are dusted off to back his convoluted logic. You'd need to be a more determined person than me to wade through the schlock in detail but, in the end, Dankenbring determines that 2016 is prophetically significant; fancy that!

But wait, there's more. In the midst of "the week", which the highly knowledgeable Mr. Dankenbring has determined to be a period lasting from 2016 to 2022, the Messiah will return.

Well, it makes about as much sense as 1844 or 1972. The difference is, I guess, that Miller eventually stepped away from prophetic fantasies and number-crunching after he'd made a fool of himself. Our Willie, however, seems ever willing to give it another try.

Maybe he should read Pam's article.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Is it a Cult?

"It has been said, not entirely tongue-in-cheek, that the difference between a cult and a religion is about a million members." (David V. Barrett, The New Believers, p.21.)
Is Armstrongism a cult? The gut reaction for many of us is to respond with a rousing 'yes!' But then Armstrongism comes in a seemingly endless assortment of flavours. Is PCG a cult? What about the Church of God Big Sandy? Toss in the UCG and Ken Westby's ACD and there's the making of a red-eared argument. The reality is that some COG groups are far more objectionable than others, and it helps to tease out the reasons why.
"... Evangelical Christians tend to use words such as 'cult' and 'sect' to show that such movements are, in contrast with their own true faith, false religions." (Barrett, p.25.)
The problem is criteria. What makes Dave Pack's RCG so different from Laestadian Lutherans? Why is Thiel's micro-sect different from the Church of God (Seventh Day)? To broaden the discussion, are Southern Baptist churches different in essence from their more progressive Northern brethren. Where do you draw the line?

Doctrinal fanatics tend to hunker down behind Trinitarian barricades. If it's not Trinitarian then it's a sect or cult. I guess that lets the loopy Laestadians off the hook. Those of us who view the doctrinaire types with a jaundiced eye are more likely to cite patterns of abuse and manipulation. But then, is there a single Pentecostal prosperity gospel group which isn't rotten to the core when it comes to blatant snake-oil manipulation?

For some of us, finding an alternative term to replace 'cult' is political correctness gone mad. But then again, maybe not. Maybe, by falling for the popular usage, we're allowing the rats who hide under mainline labels to escape scrutiny.

Which is the argument advanced by Jonny Scaramanga on his Leaving Fundamentalism blog.
"Churches are not either good or evil, either ‘cults’ or ‘Christian’. That kind of binary thinking is for Sith Lords and fundamentalists. Church practices exist on a continuum... When we divide congregations into ‘churches’ and ‘cults’, as if there is a clear distinction between the two, it absolves ‘churches’ of the need to consider ways in which their own practices might be controlling, harmful, and abusive."
Read it through for yourself (it's not a long piece). Maybe we should reframe the problem. It's cathartic to call Armstrongism - whether in the whole or in its peculiar splinters - a cult. The reality is that many of these groups are abusive, controlling, manipulative and deceptive, but a few (too few!) are not really in that ballpark. Perhaps we should first be calling them out on their practices rather than reaching for convenient labels handed to us by people who are often just as guilty of these things as their targets.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Tribulation Ahead for LCG

Gary is reporting that tough realities are striking home for the Living Church of God. Leading minister Bruce Tyler recently suffered a major stroke and died. Rod King, a former Tomorrow's World presenter, is said to be afflicted with stage 4 cancer. Rod Meredith struggles on, at least part-time wheelchair bound. There are rumblings about the appointment of Gerry Weston as the heir apparent, a man not known either for pastoral skills or empathy. Not surprisingly there are rumours of defections.

The reality is that the old guard is passing on, men who thought (and loudly proclaimed) that we would all live over into "the world tomorrow". The tragedy is that this line is still being pushed in pulpits, broadcast and print media. Nobody has said, hey, push the pause button, we've obviously got something horribly wrong here.

Which leads me to ponder Melvin Rhodes' latest blog column. Mel is prominent among those who try to discern the "signs of the times". He manfully attempts to join the dots, trawling through news trends and consequently finding exactly what he expects to find. The fact that he is affiliated with UCG rather than LCG is no big issue; on this both groups sing the same tune.

And yet, Mel's latest post is well worth the read. I suspect he intended it as a lightweight piece, but in reality, it has far greater depth than most of his output. He observes his three-year-old grandson digging dirt in the driveway with the unmistakable affection of any grandfather and ties it together in a good-humoured fashion with the state of the roads in Michigan. He concludes:
Perhaps, 15 years from now, when he graduates from High School, Leeson can work for the Transportation Department and help fix the roads.   I’m convinced those potholes will still be there.
Even Mel, the doomsayer, suspects at some level that the end of the age isn't all that close and that his grandchildren will grow up in the world we have today. And yet, what are the chances that his next contribution will return to the usual watch-world-news prediction-addiction?

Meanwhile, LCG tumbles toward the abyss. It's tempting to give a cheer, but we're talking about the lives of real people, and most of us know the negative impact of such events first-hand. The danger is, if LCG crashes and burns, the vultures will swiftly arrive to pick over the remains.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

I was wrong, but...

I've been reading Ron Miscavige's book Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me. As the title implies, Ron is the father of Scientology boss David Miscavige, the heir to L. Ron Hubbard's empire.

The elder Miscavige is a longtime Scientologist who introduced the religion to his kids. Now in his late seventies, he and his current wife have left his son's toxic dominion behind them and moved back into the real world. Sort of.

It's quite a story involving private investigators, manipulation, abuse and "disconnection" - the Scientology term for being marked and disfellowshipped. What struck me most in his account, however, is how he still clings, to some degree, to the image he bought into all those years ago. He's willing to see the negative side of Hubbard as a person, and he's brutally honest about how he sees David's leadership as an entirely negative, oppressive force. And yet he sincerely believes that Scientology - at least in the early days - had a lot to offer. With apologies to Ian Boyne, he seems to advocate a "Reformed Hubbardism".

If you're going to make a huge change in your world view, best to do it when you're young. The older we get, the more likely we are to throw in a truckload of "yes, but" statements. It's painful to cut our moorings completely. Cognitive dissonance is not kind to us in the later decades of our lives.

Miscavige tells an important story bravely. He's a regular kind of guy, not overloaded with subtlety in his views or his approach to life. There's no doubt he's recounting things as he sees them and with honesty and integrity. If you get the chance, Ruthless is well worth investing some time to read.

The parallels with many who have left various branches of COGdom behind them is hard to miss. They want to pick and choose from the flotsam and jetsam of their former affiliation. Herbert Armstrong may have been a deeply flawed man, but... Some parts of British Israelism may have been a bit off, but... The church went too far in some areas, but...

I'm glad Ron and his wife have escaped from the Scientologist gulag, but it's not always true - as Rodney Lain maintained back in the early days of WCG Internet resistance - that if you "free your mind, your behind will follow." Some of us want to find a comfortable compromise that allows us to save face, admitting that we were wrong, but not entirely wrong. Miscavige's book illustrates just that point.

Going for the package deal

Back when WCG congregations often had over 500 members and were growing fast, most had at least one Spokesman Club to hone the men's communication skills.  In our area, our club met on the second and fourth Monday's of the month.  In one meeting in late 1985, the topics session got off to a slow start.  However, the astute Topics Master knew how to remedy the situation and deftly lobbed a softball question to the club... "Can anyone tell us how were you called into the church?"  The hands began to shoot up in the air - everybody in WCG had a story to tell about their calling.  The floodgates had been opened.  A barber told his story about  the wind blowing a magazine onto his leg as he walked to his mailbox one afternoon. He shook his leg again and again and yet the magazine remained - it just wouldn't break free.  He reached down and grabbed the magazine and what do you know - it was the Plain Truth!

My father had a story, too.  His parents had not attended church and neither did he.  He was not at all interested.  However, while driving to work one morning, he turned on the radio and - Boom! - Mr. Armstrong's voice bellowed from the speakers and it grabbed his attention.  He became hooked.  Shortly thereafter he was reading the Plain Truth, WCG booklets, and the Bible.  His mind had been opened and he began to understand the Bible even better than those who had been trained to become priests.

My mother followed his lead and their excitement soon rubbed off on us kids.  During high school, the excitement had waned a bit as it had for many church kids.  Early in my fourth year of college, a friend began to talk about how it was time for us to get off of the fence, one way or the other.  This made sense.  How could we keep going if it was merely to please our parents?  Shortly thereafter, I experienced my own calling.   On a Saturday morning, while searching for something interesting on the radio... BOOM!  I heard a voice crying out of the wilderness and I was hooked.  It was a familiar voice yet new at the same time.  It was actually a young HWA (perhaps a re-run of a 1950's program) and this dynamic man had grabbed my attention.  All the sudden 'the truth' became exciting once again.  It was time to set the school books aside and work through the correspondence course and, what do you know, it all made sense!  All those things taught to me as a child were actually true and I could prove it from the Bible.

During the same time period, about 30 miles across town, my uncle had been called.  His mind was also opened, he learned 'the truth' and he had proved it from the Bible.   And just five or six houses down the street, my friend was called.  His mind had been opened and he now understood 'the truth'.  Now the three of us all had something very important in common with each other - we had been called by God and could now understand the 'truth', unlike the vast majority of humanity.  It is amazing how it worked and what are the odds?

Of course, our experience would not make sense to most people external to the 'true church' but, for those in it, it made perfect sense.  We knew what we knew because  we had been called by God, given special understanding, and we because we had proved everything that we believed straight from the Bible!

Oops.  The was a small problem.  Even though my uncle, my friend ,and I had very similar experience that led to a complete change in our lives, we also ended up with a few significant differences.  I had been baptized into WCG.  My uncle became a Jehovah Witness, and my friend became a Mormon.

How could this be?  Well, obviously my uncle and my friend were deceived.  Although they were sincere in what they believed, they were sincerely wrong. I knew that to be a fact with absolute certainty.  At the same time, they felt exactly the same way that I did.  They knew that they were right and they knew that I was wrong.  We even had a bit of arrogance in common!  The sad thing is that although we could each recognize the error in the beliefs of the others, none of us could see our own error.  And there is the real problem.  We all had become blind regarding some truths that were obvious to others.  As a  result, we had each become slaves to organizations that had elevated themselves above God, merely because they were effective in tying up their core beliefs into attractively wrapped packages.  They had all the answers to life's most important questions and we liked what they taught.  We were special and we were going to fill some mighty important positions in the kingdom.

Looking back, it would have been nice had the internet been invented 25 years earlier.  Maybe we would have realized more quickly that not everything was quite what it had appeared to us initially.  We might have determined early on that they were not actually joining the 'one true' church being directly led by God as the organizations had claimed.  We might have realized that the neat little packages they had given us actually contained errors and half-truths, and had to be re-wrapped now and then to cover up erroneous prophetic predictions from the past and teachings that were conveniently reversed along the way.

My question to anyone still believing UCG, COGWA, LCG,  RCG, or any of the other splinters from WCG to be the only churches with 'the truth', please explain to me how you can know that for sure.  If we are dependent upon revealed understanding to make sense of the Bible and 99.9% of the world is deceived, how can we be sure that WCG's 'package of beliefs' had been the pure truth rather than merely a mix of error and truth?  Because we liked it?  Because it was wrapped up so well?  Because it made sense to us?

Nearly every member of every cult had a nearly identical experience as to ours when we had joined WCG.  They felt it, believed it, and proved it.  Just like we did.  Once we liked what we heard, we wanted to prove it.  Once we believed that we had proved it, we did not want to let go of it.  And then we surrounded ourselves with others that reinforced the fact that we had all proved it and that the worst thing in the world was to let go of that belief.  No wonder we were so sure.

But what had we actually proven?  Maybe just that we were human. We proved that we could be fooled just like the thousands of intelligent people that had been more recently fooled by Bernie Madoff.  He was self-confident.  He was convincing.  He was connected.  He gained people's confidence.  Yet he was a con man.


Visions in the Night

From a special correspondent.
It hath been reported from "impeccable" United sources that evangelists across the board in the US are having visions about Mr Trump and his taking his seat in the Oval Office. These visions are of a negative nature.
Hour-long sermons have a lot to answer for. The guy in the expensive suit mounts the podium/lectern/pulpit knowing that he's got to burble on for sixty minutes when what he's got to impart will, in all honesty, take 15 minutes tops. What to do, what to do...

Padding is required. Fullsome padding.

A couple of weak jokes.
A semi-relevant personal anecdote.
Time allowed for the lucky listeners to fumble up the scriptures in their wide margin bibles.
Time to read the scriptures in full with distractions along the way.

That accounts for another 10 minutes.

No, something more is required. A diversion off into punditry. After all, the minister is God's mouthpiece, so it stands to reason that his views have a degree of clout beyond anything the peons might come up with. What shall we talk about? Oh, I know: "world news and prophecy".

Is there a single COG minister - whether in UCG or an alternate franchise - who hasn't been beating his gums about the upcoming presidential election?

So the Great Man rattles his tonsils at length about what he read online last night in the Washington Times (the Washington Post would be a bit of a stretch for these guys). Or what he heard yesterday on talk radio. What an expert! How is this relevant? Why it's prophecy! Moreover, there's this imaginary commandment to "watch world news".

From there, perhaps it's only a short step to imagining that God is confirming their prejudices in the form of dreams - brought on by indigestion no doubt.

And so it's no surprise when a sermon turns from sound teaching and an emphasis on edification to... Trump.

But was it actually a sermon?

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Not Edstone... Redstone

Redstone Hall
Ah, what a life, what with good people on limited incomes throwing money at you. So how do you spend "God's tithes"? Well, maybe you could shovel them into a faux university.

The students at Living University are currently moving into plush new accommodations. LU, you'll recall, is the unaccredited (and likely never to be accredited) training school for LCG members with aspirations to ministry (if they're blokes) or perhaps a ministerial husband (if they're not).

The men's facility is called Redstone Hall. Not sure whether there's a library, but there's a very nice billiard table.

Putting in the all-important billiard table
The women's residence looks pretty classy too. Study facilities don't get a mention here either - you get the impression that "book learnin'" ain't a high priority at LU. But it does have "an exercise room equipped with two Sole E235 Elliptical trainers... music room, formal dining room, kitchen and breakfast nook, living room and five bedrooms."

Nice. But just five bedrooms? How many students does this "university" actually have? Divide the cost of running LU by the total number of students on campus and... throw another million in the furnace Rod!

Actually, the moving van with the big, bold Tomorrow's World logo is quite impressive too. Well, I mean, gotta burn up those surplus tithes somehow, right.

Remind you of somewhere (and somewhen) else?

Not quite up there with PCG's edifices maybe, but clearly LCG is trotting along in the same well-worn rut, scattering greenbacks as they go.

Makes you kinda wonder how much the president of LU is making... speaking of which, my thanks to President Germano who proudly posted the pics.

Women's accommodation plus branded van

Monday, 23 May 2016

Who? Lil' Ol' Me?

Not being an American, I try not to comment on US politics, I simply don't have a dog in that fight. So it seems a tad inexplicable that a certain Michael Germano should take a FB sideswipe at me in that particular context. I could be wrong, but I don't recollect posting anything about Doc Germano around the March 17 mark (though I did a piece on Living University - not being aware of the FB entry - in April). So maybe there's another Gavin R he's referring to, or maybe I should wear the reference as a badge of honour.

We all know Germano's politics are to the right of Attila the Hun. Why else post a Trump-sourced video clip of Hillary Clinton "barking like a dog"? But that's okay. Michael is entitled to be a self-opinionated boor. Kinda goes with the territory out there in LCG-land. Perhaps I should be flattered that he knows who I am. Heavens to Betsy, do you think he's a regular reader?

And yes, occasionally I feel the need to "get a life". Then I think about all the has-been know-it-alls who pontificate each Sabbath in hundreds of pulpits and realise that things are never going to be that bad. Count your blessings I say...

As for relaxing and enjoying the show, well, if I was paid what Germano is for his Living University sinecure, I guess I'd feel that way too. Must be a laugh a minute in Charlotte.

Women in UCG

Compulsory reading over at Gary's Banned blog. It seems the lads gathered back in March to discuss whether women should be allowed to write substantive articles for church publications. The fact that there's any doubt on the matter is a real indictment. Gary hits the nail firmly on the head when he uses the "p-word", patriarchy.

The lads apparently haven't taken on board the evidence that a woman, Junia, is listed as an apostle in Romans 16:7 (for a fascinating discussion of this passage, how it has been misrepresented in many modern translations, and the implications, you could do worse than to hunt down a copy of Rena Pederson's The Lost Apostle: Searching for the Truth About Junia).

Not that we expect UCG to ordain women any time soon, or allow them speaking rights in worship services, more's the pity. To be fair, it might not be that the lads on the media committee are entirely averse to greater participation by women in writing and editorial content (though their hand-wringing hardly sounds enthusiastic!), but apparently there are grumblings from the Luddite fringe at the very prospect. It seems they didn't all pack their bags and migrate to COGWA. UCG seems to have simply continued muddling along the path of least resistance on this issue as if it's 1956, not 2016. The current unofficial policy seems to be that women can write an occasional bit of reflective fluff, but when it comes to important stuff (reader alert: another "p-word" follows) a penis is definitely required

Great to see Beverly Kubik speaking up on this issue.
Beverly Kubik asked if there was a well done study paper on the verses brought up today about women not speaking at church, because if you take these verses literally then women have to put gags in their mouth when they enter the building. She asked if there was a study paper and said we should have that when addressing this topic. Robin Webber agreed that there are many commentaries on this, and they could be put together. Mrs. Kubik said she would like to see an unbiased study into those scriptures.  
She went on to comment that we encourage discussion of the sermon after service and, if we take those verses literally then women can’t talk about the sermon after services. She didn’t feel that interpretation of those verses make sense with the context of rest of the entire Bible. When Christ came He showed more respect to women than had been in the culture prior to that. She asked why that was. She asked why some women are called “prominent women.” Why were they prominent, and what were they doing in the churches there? She feels we are so fearful of anything that comes near preaching for women, yet we have no problem with women singing scriptural words. She would like to understand why these lines are being drawn, and she wants to know what is right or isn’t right. She isn’t trying to promote any idea over another. 
The full COE report is online.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

On the Dole

I'm not sure what to make of this recently posted comment.
Thanks to Senator Bob Dole ordering the preservation of GTA's tapes into the national archives of the United States TV division of the Library of Congress - (HWA's broadcast tapes of the World Tomorrow from 1978 to '86, were never ordered preserved by Dole, but were included miraculously by God, as a clerical "error" by a library staffer) - THE WORLD TOMORROW will once again ring out around the world over TV, radio and Internet social media websites, hosted posthumously and jointly be the tandem father and son duo of Herbert W. Armstrong and Garner Ted Armstrong. We needed to have a PROGRAM TO DO AN ENDTIME WORK OF WITNESS AND WARNING, and GOD our father along with His son, Jesus Christ put it into the mind of a POWERFUL UNITED STATES SENATOR TO PRESERVE THE ORIGINAL MASTER BROADCAST TAPES OF THE WORLD TOMORROW!!
Somehow I think the anonymous sender (why are they always anonymous?) might be the same guy who sent these comments earlier to the One Accord thread.
...you [refering to a previous comment] have no independent verification of the rumor the Timmons used blackmail leverage on Joe Jr to obtain the World Tomorrow rights, because you are the one who started to [sic] false gossip rumor right here at this blog in your precious post. The fact, the truth is Shirley Timmons was a caregiver, a private nurse aid, to Shirley Tkach, SR's wife when she was ailing. Shirley Timmons called Joe Jr to inquire about the broadcast name and rights shortly after they split from ICG following GTA's death. Joe Jr fondly remembered Shirley and Earl from his childhood and their personal friendship with his parents and the great loving care Mrs. Timmons provided to his mom. So, Joe Jr. instructed Ralph Helge assist the Timmons with the acquisition copyright and trademark right for TWT for FREE. Previously it had been up for sale like most of the assets, asking price $300 THOUSAND. The only offer came from David Hulme, who offered Joe Jr $100 THOUSAND for the rights after Hulme left UCG. Junior turned down the Hulme $100K offer. God miraculously blessed the Timmons with the rights, for FREE! 
Ah, kindly Joe and nice Mr. Helge. Hmm. No, gotta say that version doesn't jibe, though the incidental details (Hulme's bid, for example) are interesting.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

After the deluge

Things have been busy around here, so this is the first update in nearly a week. Not that it seems to have mattered much, Kevin's post on the incest issue has been the most commented on since AW was rebooted at the beginning of the year.

News that an LCG member was aboard the ill-fated EgyptAir flight that crashed into the Mediterranean. Our thoughts go out to all those affected, and especially the Dalle family.

Kathleen over at Dying for God's Sake has issued an invitation for those with experience in a faith healing belief system to share their stories. She writes.
If you are a former member of a church that taught you to rely on faith-healing to the exclusion of competent medical care, please share your story on this blog. Remember what it was like to be cut off from close relationships with anyone outside of your church, how peer pressure can seem overwhelming. We can reach out to parents through our own experiences. I envision these stories as the backbone of this blog. They might even save a child's life.  
It's a way of passing on our own experiences - whether anonymously or not - in order to help others who might be going through the same process of soul-searching and grief.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Confronting the Rumors about Incest (Final Part)

"David Defense"

Some supporters have acknowledged that HWA had committed incest with his daughter but offer the "David defense" to excuse this transgression and say that it has not impact on the role he played. This position need not be examined further as it neither proves non-consensual incest occurred nor would it excuse it.

Lack of Denials

It would be nice if one could find clear denials regarding these claims by HWA personally, by the church when these claims were first put into print (Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web), and/or by the family members that would have known one way or the other regarding these claims.

Unfortunately, none of these denials were made.

One may find this odd but the lack of denials does not prove that the incest took place. Innocent people do not have to defend themselves against false claims.

Evidence (or lack of it) found on the Internet (and/or shared by individuals)

1. A Nov. 19, 1979, letter from David Robinson (former WCG evangelist) to HWA alluded to the incest and other sexual issues and requested that HWA resign for the good of the church.
[Comments: Some have attacked David Robinson's integrity while others have defended him. I had read (likely in The Journal) that he was an honorable man who suffered greatly for making these claims.]

2. 1981 book Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web (An Insider's View of the Worldwide Church of God) by David Robinson
David Robinson, a former WCG minister and employee in varied capacities, wrote from firsthand knowledge with deep disappointment and has come to agree with Solomon who advised against putting their trust in men. Chapter XX covered HWA and the incest story. This book is available in PDF form here.
[Comments: This book may not have been the most well-written account of the church but much of the material was consistent with other sources and confirmed through personal discussions with ministers that had been at headquarters. The portion dealing with the alleged incest was distasteful but there is likely no way for anyone to address this topic it in an acceptable manner to all.]

3. December 30, 1981 letter from Jack Kessler to the Board of WCG
Jack Kessler was WCG's CPA who worked directly with HWA and Rader and his letter detailing a number of corporate irregularities contained the following references to the charge of incest:
“The human condition is such that it would shock probably only just a few to learn of the moral depravity that is reported commonly among you. Although others, such as Dave Robinson* and Floyd Lochner, apparently thought it might work to their advantage to report Mr. Armstrong's admission (which he's made to several) that he had engaged repeatedly in incestuous intercourse with his daughter during the first 10 years of his ministry, as well as more recent, self-confessed sexual perversity..."
The entire letter available here.
[Comments: Was this letter credible? In a number of areas, yes, such as the abuse of authority and financial mismanagement. It also brought out a second name related to the accusation of incest: Floyd Lochner, who had allegedly taped HWA hoping to get a denial on record but instead getting a confession. Damning evidence... if true. But where is the tape? Who had heard it personally?]

4. Lakeland Ledger May 12, 1984 newspaper article about HWA’s divorce with Ramona mentions an “understanding” the couple reached about Armstrong’s “prior incestuous conduct with his daughter for many years.”

*[Comments: The reference within this article was quite significant to me. This is not the type of comment a newspaper would make carelessly.]

5. 1997 letter from GTA in response to an inquiry about the incest
The Church of God International
Post Office Box 2530,
Tyler, Texas, 75710
Garner Ted Armstrong, Founder
July 28,1997 
Dear Mr. (Name Withheld by Request), 
I'm sorry, but I really have no comment about the very lengthy letter from Jack Kessler. The entire situation is completely moot at this time, of course. My father died at age 93 1/2 back in 1986, eleven years ago, and I certainly have no desire to resurrect a lot of ancient ghouls from their graves and engage in a lot of criticism involving the actions of individuals in that organization decades ago. 
Nothing my father did, negative or positive, matters to my personal salvation, or to yours. 
For the last twenty years, I have continued to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God as a witness and a warning to the world, and I have never engaged in the kind of spiritual "grave robbing" that exhumes ancient sins of fifty or sixty years ago, and attempts to defile and defame the memory of individuals who themselves are long since dead.
Sorry if this proves disappointing to you, but I simply have no further comment. 
Garner Ted Armstrong
This letter is available here.
[Comments: This letter came across more as "I do not want to talk about it" than as "It did not happen."]

6. 1999 Letter from Bruce Renehan who had interviewed some members of the Church of God 7th Day who reported they were aware of the incest.
"I'm not exactly sure what constitutes proof to everyone. Before I began to author my book, my wife and I visited the Church of God, Seventh Day, both in Bakersfield and in Fresno. That is the church that Herbert Armstrong started attending in 1927. I first heard of the incest from some of their members, two of whom--Israel Hager and John Keiss [correct spelling Kiesz]--had known Armstrong in the 20s and 30s. Keiss, who was Armstrong's closest friend in the COG7 had actually discussed the incest with Dorothy Armstrong who confessed to him. Not wanting to believe hearsay from just one group, I placed a call to a friend of mine (Bob Mizell) in Pasadena. Bob was a very close friend to Joe Tkach Senior and, if anyone would know if the stories were true or not, he certainly would. Bob told me openly that both he and Joe Tkach had known about Armstrong's incest with his daughter and then he quickly brought up the David was a man after God's heart" ploy. "
The full letter is available here.
[Comments: To me, Bruce Renehan came across as sincere and credible but this does not constitute proof that what he said was true.]

7. Statement by Keith Hunt
"Oh indeed, the WCG was going to SUE Ambassador Report a NUMBER of times over the next years, especially over HWA having an affair with one of his daughters way back when, that came to light [and for those who still say it was all slander and lies; I personally heard GTA say he confronted his dad on the matter and HWA admitted it was so, saying, I was not always close to God"]. What was the reply from Ambassador Report to the WCG stating they were going to sue them, it was "Come on do so, will be happy to see you in court." The WCG NEVER did sue Ambassador Report!!"
[Comments: I spoke with Keith Hunt in April 2015 and found him to be sincere and credible. A direct confirmation by GTA is significant. Also, WCG never following through on their threat to sue Ambassador Report for repeating these claims is telling.]

8. WCG ministerial confirmations (various dates):
  • When asked by various church members, David Antion (related to GTA though marriage) has acknowledged that the incest occurred.
[Comments: Two credible individuals in my church area confirmed this is true as they meet with David's group occasionally and had asked Mr. Antion directly about the
allegations. Generally, families do not want to talk about such things openly (and most don't) but they do tend to know what happened. This is compelling evidence. Another member reported that she had come to the Antion home in the late 1970's, when Dorothy was inside crying about this. She is absolutely certain that it happened.]
  • Several individuals have reported that Art Mokarow confirmed that HWA committed incest while in a public setting.
[Comments: After hearing about Art Mokarow's statements from Pam Dewey, I contacted Art in Dec. 2014. He came across as being a very honest and sincere individual that had nothing to gain by lying about it. When I asked him how he knew for sure that the incest had occurred, his answer was clear, candid and direct - he had heard Mr. Armstrong's taped confession that had been recorded by his friend Floyd Lochner. After reading Bob Thiel's "proof that the incest had not occurred" in 2016, I again contacted Mr. Mokarow. We spoke on May 14th and Art did not back away from his statement at all. Yes, he had heard the tape himself. He also had heard Mr. Armstrong confess the incest directly to him and many other of the leading ministers (at what appears to be close to the time when David Robinson's book was released). This is likely why Mr. Tkach, Dr. Albert, and many others felt comfortable in acknowledging this to be fact when they were asked. Art said that the incest had continued well beyond the 10- year period that others had reported. Bob Thiel appears to have misunderstood his conversation with Mr. Mokarow.]
  • Other ministers have acknowledged the rumor to be true when asked including Gary Antion and at least one of the current UCG Council members.
[Comments: Although not proof when considered alone, such acknowledgments by ardent HWA supporters do carry weight and may be related to the HWA admission to ministers somewhere around 1979/1980 that Art Mokarow had mentioned in our May 2016 discussion.]

9. 2014 Interview of HWA’s niece Deborah
In a radio interview, Deborah related that the family had kept quiet about Dorothy to protect her. Deborah’s mother had told her it was true. She was also was told by her grandson. Interestingly, Deborah noted that the only thing HWA had given her was a hand signed copy of his “Missing Dimension in Sex” book.
Start at minute 50:00.
[Comments: For someone that would want to attack her credibility, please explain how Deborah would benefit from lying about this.]

10. 2014 Interview of HWA’s grandson Larry Gott
In a radio interview, Larry Gott said that the incest was an accepted as fact within the family and that it had started when Dorothy was 14 or 15. When asked, what kind of character was HWA, he said, “He was tyrannical… He was a person who craved and used authority over other people. That was sort of the essence of him. Nobody was really close to him – ever – including his wife. He was an authoritarian and I would tell people that he was not completely honest with everybody about himself.”
Start at minute 1:01:20.
[Comments: How would Larry benefit from lying about this?]

Conclusion: At this point, I would be more fearful of God for attacking the credibility Art Mokarow, Keith Hunt, Deborah, David Antion and Larry Gott on this topic than by stating that I feel certain that HWA did commit incest with his daughter.


Confronting the Rumors about Incest (Part 2)


False claims against any individual regarding incest are repulsive, vicious, and damning. Such charges never should be made, nor should they be repeated by others who cannot support such claims.

A number of individuals have indicated that the charges against HWA are false and that the attacks against him are unfounded and evil spirited. Two common positions are:

1. NOT GUILTY as the evidence presented would not stand up in court. A good example of such a position will be discussed below.

2. NOT GUILTY as it is inconceivable for a man of God to have done so. This type of defense will also be addressed below.

The NOT GUILTY due to insufficient evidence defense

Bob Thiel is an individual who finds HWA not guilty of these charges due to insufficient evidence. His full, in-depth explanation can be found here.

Bob personally investigated the issue. He determined that not only could the accusations not be proved, but some aspects were actually disprovable. He concluded that the accusers had merely perpetuated the charade with no direct information and that HWA would be found NOT GUILTY in a real court of law.

In essence, he believes all accusations stem from the charges first aired in David Robinson's 1980 book, Herbert Armstrong’s Tangled Web. Significant points Bob made about his own investigations include:

  • Art Mokarow would not stand by previous comments about personally hearing HWA's alleged confession in the "Lochner tapes"
  • On January 3, 2007, Dibar Apartian clearly and flatly denied the claim that had previously stated that he felt HWA was guilty of incest.

[Comments: If Bob had nothing to gain personally by defending HWA's authority, and If he were widely recognized to be a trustworthy individual, then his statements would carry significant weight. Personally, I do not find Bob to be a credible individual based on some interactions with him in the early 1980's, due to his claims of being a prophet, his misstatements about his religious training, and based on my own conversations with Art Mokarow.]

The NOT GUILTY because "it can't be true" defense

Some (such as the "HWA Library" site or Frank Nelte) argue along the lines of: God only works through men of integrity. God obviously worked through HWA . Therefore, HWA is a man of integrity and these claims must be false. However, circular reasoning does not prove anything.

[Comments: There is a big difference between God allowing someone to do something in His name versus God calling that person and working directly through him. HWA had claimed that he had learned from no man and that he had restored 18 truths to the true church and many give him credit for this. However, a little research will show that most of what HWA taught was not new and that he had copied it from others. For example, a good summary of the HWA's supposed 18 'restored' truths may be found here.


A number of supposed "proofs" regarding the abuse accusation will now be examined, moving from the general to the more specific.

(To be continued)

Confronting the Rumors about Incest (Part 1)

When individuals research the history of the Worldwide Church of God, they generally turn to the Internet. The Internet allows individuals to efficiently gather (and discuss) an abundance of facts, truths and insights. At the same time, the Internet is also a rich source of rumors, lies, and innuendo. For most WCG issues, it is fairly straight forward to separate one from the other. There is typically enough documented data for individuals to make informed decisions without buying into lies or relying upon rumor and innuendo.

When it comes to the Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) and allegations of incest, however, the situation is more challenging. The act is repulsive, the implications are significant, the burden of proof is high, and yet the documentation is somewhat sparse and hotly disputed. His critics say claim that it happened and is proof HWA was not a man of integrity while some defenders say that it did not happen and attack the integrity and motives of the accusers.

What should one do when stumbling across such an accusation... Confirm, deny or ignore these rumors? Having been associated with WCG and UCG for over 40 years, it made sense for me to disprove the rumors so that this troubling topic could be put to rest.

Incest is a very serious topic. It is also an exceptionally sensitive subject and best discussed as objectively as possible. It may help to begin this sensitive discussion with a definition and some comments from the Christian Courier website:
Incest is defined as: “The crime of sexual intercourse or cohabitation between a man and woman who are related to each other within the degrees wherein marriage is prohibited by law” (Black, p. 685). Incest has been held to be repulsive, dangerous, and illegal among many civilizations — even some of the most primitive. In ancient Rome, Augustus implemented a law against incest, and children born to incestuous relationships were deemed illegitimate. Modern laws against incest appear to be grounded mainly in the Levitical code (McClintock, p. 541).
The effects of parent-child incest are particularly significant and long-lasting. Many women subjected to this type of abuse, never fully recover. In these cases, few would argue with the above assertion that incest is repulsive. Likewise, it seems reasonable to infer that God finds such acts repulsive. This would be consistent with general public outrage regarding priests that have committed similar acts by molesting children and consistent with the majority opinion that such priests have disqualified themselves from being considered as representatives of God.

Incest is reprehensible and so are false allegations of incest. Nobody should have to face false allegations of such a serious nature and we should avoid carelessly buying into rumors about others in this area. This brings us to back to the accusations against HWA. How can one separate the lies from the facts on a polarizing topic like this that is supported with equal passion and implied certainty on both sides? It helped me to remain cautious, rational, and skeptical in order to avoid jumping to conclusions.

Although research takes time, it is warranted when evaluating important topics. Having benefited from the research performed by those in the past, I'd like to 'pay it forward' by sharing my findings with those who may have the same questions in the future. The following information came from various books, websites, and discussion with COG members and ministers (current and former).

(To be continued)

"And his natural powers had not abated"

Those folk who have been plugged into unofficial channels down the decades are well aware of Herb Armstrong's sexual proclivities.
  • The famous flog log
  • The dildo in the Hermes pouch
  • The Romanian sex clinic visit
  • Dancing (and other performances) with daughter Dotty
  • Prenuptials with Ramona
  • Suggestions that Herb occasionally "batted for the other team" when away from home base
  • Prostitutes (escorts, floozies) on the GII "flying whorehouse" to amuse his VIP guests
Nothing new here that anyone who's read the late John Trechak's Ambassador Report or Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web doesn't already know. Now Living Armstrongism has posted a reprise of a further allegation that I'd completely forgotten. Herb brought one or two attractive young Filipino women to Pasadena and set them up in an apartment. Holy interracial canoodling! The sources are David Robinson, Albert Portune and Willie Dankenbring. When it became apparent that the ladies weren't keeping themselves unto Herb alone they were sent back home.

Dear old Herb, a pillock of biblical morality. It all fits a well-established pattern. As the oft-sozzled apostle himself stated more than once, "where there's smoke there's fire."

Saturday, 14 May 2016

The Journal - 183rd issue

The April 30 issue of The Journal is now available.

Some of the features:

  • A list of Feast of Tabernacles sites for 2016
  • An article by Dave Havir on dubious beliefs about leadership in the COGs
  • A major book promotion (in the ad section) by Fred Coulter, presumably anxious to increase his market share
  • An article by Wade Fransson defending the de-emphasis on the person of Jesus (oops, sorry, Christ) in the ministry of Herb Armstrong: "it is my opinion that the WCG did right by God and Jesus to emphasise the coming Kingdom aspect of His message."
And a good deal more, but those are the things that caught my eye. 

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.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Oh good grief!

Another brilliant expositor of the Herbolatrous Truer than True Truth. Jacob Israel Cyrus. Ya reckon that's the name his mammy gave him? Regardless, ol' Jake is a big fan of not only the High & Herbal One ("God's Signet" no less) but Gerry "6-pack" Flurry as well. I only got so far through his website before the barfing reaction started to set in, but I'm assuming Herbaceous Jake is a rogue member of PCG, possibly from the Philippines, and blessed beyond measure with deeper than deepity dippity doo insight on prophecy that he feels compelled to share with anyone sufficiently lobotomized to pay heed.

For an extra dose of fun, check out this guy's bio. Gotta say, it takes delusion one step further than most of us have seen so far. He also seems to think that the movie Gods of Egypt was made for the PCG. Whoa, cutting insight there!

Surprising then that a quick web search finds him mentioned on no other websites other than his own "Light to the Gentiles".

Famous in his own lunchtime.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Great new blog

Healing, medical intervention and faith. There are few issues which are more fraught, especially where young people are concerned, largely at the mercy of their parents' convictions. Kathleen, a former member of WCG, has launched a new blog dealing with these issues. Kathleen writes:
This blog is for parents who wish to provide medical care for their children, but whose church teaches that doing so is wrong. I grew up in such a church. Children (and adults) have needlessly died because of such teachings. This is a place you can share your doubts and worries. No one will judge you.
It's a fantastic initiative. The blog is called Dying for God's Sake, and you can find it at www.dyingforgod.com. Check it out, pass it on. Many of us know of horror stories from times past, but here's a chance to have some impact in times present.
Readers are invited to post personal stories about this in the comments below... Shared personal stories can help parents understand that they are not alone, that while there may be consequences for rejecting your church's teaching to deny medical care to your child (or yourself), those consequences must be faced for the sake of your child.
This is something we can surely all get behind, whatever our history or standing in any of the Churches of God (or any other unrelated body with similar teachings) might be.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

A Kenyan Connection

So many COGs, so little interest.

The Voice in the Wilderness Church of God is a bit different, seemingly based in Kenya. The ministry there seems to operate under the name Hands of Hope. Where it comes from... hard to tell, but the Kenyan contact is a guy called Haron Mokoro.

And yet, looking up the sermon list and other details, Haron seems to be fairly low if not invisible in the pecking order. The Great White Father is someone based in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, called Bill Goff.

Who exactly is Bwana Bill? Is this a registered charity? Why are all the sermons by dudes with non-African names? Is there any affiliation with one of the larger American-based COG sects or is Goff running a stand-alone semi-philanthropic operation?

If the YouTube videos are anything to go by it seems Goff is trying to do some good of a practical nature, so kudos there. Selling Armstrongism - variety unknown - to the East Africans seems a high cost for the support, though.

Anyone able to provide some background on Bill Goff?

Monday, 9 May 2016

Has anything changed?

It's in the news again.

He played special music on many a Sabbath. It was memorable in that he was a bit of a showman when it came to the piano. The performances at WCG services in Auckland always had a touch of the dramatic. And he was undeniably talented. In a congregation of 300 or more souls, this guy stood out. At the time I admired his style, little knowing the darkness beyond the facade.

Or was it a facade? How does someone live by two utterly discordant sets of values, one focused on the trappings of biblical Christianity, the other on the gratification of one's own desires at the expense of vulnerable children? Was the church profile just a cover, or was this man both deeply committed and hugely conflicted at the same time?

What isn't in doubt is the horrific damage he caused.

It could have happened in any church. Sadly, it often does. But that it happened in the church we - many of us - naively regarded as God's True Church, has a special poignancy.

Today churches have stringent procedures in place dealing with abuse. At least, mainline churches do. Perhaps someone can enlighten us as to whether the same is true in any of the bodies that have descended from WCG. This man was involved in at least one of these splinters (Fred Coulter's CBCG) - actually representing it in New Zealand until his past caught up with him.

Are they safe places for kids now? Have they ensured that the welfare of the young people is paramount?

(The earlier story on Otagosh, is available here.)

Saturday, 7 May 2016

One Accord

There are a couple of things that strike home about the latest issue of COGWA's member mag, One Accord. The first is a financial statement. There for all to see. Transparent. $11 million bucks in member-sourced income. Whatever reservations you have about COGWA, and I have a truckload, you can only wish certain other groups - particularly one based in Glendora - would follow suit and open the books up to their members and supporters.

The second is the blunt attempt to root COGWA in its pre-divorce prehistory. COGWA is a fairly recent UCG split. Not so, gentle reader, if you take the mag seriously.
* Mark Whynaucht [a COGWA minister] has been in the Church almost his entire life, ever since his parents started attending when he was 3 years old.
* 50th Anniversary of the Western Arkansas Church of God
* A Mr and Mrs Baker "began attending the Greensboro, North Carolina, congregation in November of 1963."
A casual reader unaware of the long history of divisions would think that COGWA has been around for yonks. The real pedigree is nothing like the impression One Accord promotes.

Elsewhere Jim Franks has a math lesson on counting Pentecost, Doug Horchak reports on an elite program for couples chosen by their all-wise pastor for future greatness (how else?) and Mike Bennett waxes eloquent on the Holy Spirit, Pentecost and "the awesome power of wind".

The PDF is available for download.

Run like the wind!

Getting marriage advice from the levitical gurus of COGWA? Not a wise idea. But the COGWAddlers seem to be thriving in that area. This from the April 28 announcements.

No, no, no, no. Run! Run for your lives. No good will come of this. Find a marriage counsellor. Someone with empathy, experience and a functioning brain stem.

Friday, 6 May 2016

More United than usual

The United Church of God is enjoying a "breather" from the disruptions and discord that have characterised its development thus far. At least, that's what Vic Kubik seems to be saying in the May-June issue of United News.
"We value the current period of peace in the Church and need to constantly remind ourselves it is only in this environment we can have the growth and forward movement we all desire."
Growth, one suspects, needs more than peace in the ranks (though that certainly helps). It requires engagement with the issues that concern an up and coming generation. Forward movement requires the ditching of reactionary thinking. UCG isn't doing so well there. Beyond Today is becoming an increasingly shrill right-wing publication fixated on discredited prophetic speculation. The same might be said for the approach behind the spectacularly unproductive America: The Time Is Now! tour. No future in that.

For those who might miss the Good News moniker and logo, it has been absorbed into the UN as a section heading.

Included in this issue is an obituary for former WCG South African Regional Director Bob Fahey.

It's interesting to compare UN with its LCG opposite number, Living Church News. UN seems the more balanced of the two, containing more actual 'news' and not talking down - perhaps it's better to say talking down less - to the membership than its counterpart. It's notable that Meredith dominates LCN pages, whereas there is no real cult of personality apparent in the UCG publication. Credit where credit is due.

The PDF is available to download.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

It's the PT Jim, but not as we know it

The May/June issue of The Plain Truth is out.

The Plain Truth? Is that still a thing?

We're talking about the 8-page newsletter produced by Greg Albrecht, the man behind the slogan "Christianity without the religion". As if that could possibly be a thing.

Page 1: Greg on the fourth (and fifth and sixth) beatitudes.

Page 2: Greg on grace.
"Christ-followers believe that God became a man, and that God is One and yet at the same time, He is Three—Father Son and Holy Spirit. That doesn’t make sense! You want something that makes sense?" 
Well, yes actually. Or is it a case of "Blessed are the incoherent". And blessed are those who have no idea beyond romanticized mush about the historical development of the Trinity doctrine.

Greg's argument - if it can be dignified with that term - is reflected in his title: "Grace is Senseless, Irrational and Absurd." Really? Does Greg feel this way about every act of unearned kindness? Does compassion make no sense in Greg's life? A decent theologian might assert that grace is surprising, unexpected and undeserved, but that's not the same thing. You can certainly say that it runs contrary to the wisdom of the everyday dog-eat-dog world; but again, that's not the same thing either. At best you could say that grace seems at times to be irrational to certain people.

But to move from overblown polemic about the imagined and arbitrary qualities of grace to a semi-mystical dogma about the necessary incoherence of the Trinity? That's, well, "senseless, irrational and absurd."

Page 3: More Greg on the beatitudes.
Page 4: Even more Greg on the beatitudes.

Page 5: Some bloke named Stephen Crosby on the new covenant.
Page 6: Second page of the Crosby article.

Page 7: A one-page column by Monte Wolverton.

Page 8: Fluff.

Perhaps the most interesting item is an ad for an upcoming novel by Monte; The Remnant. Monte is described as an "award-winning author", though the ad doesn't specify which book or which award. Wolverton is an insightful guy and - keeping a family tradition alive - a fantastic political cartoonist. You can't help wonder why he still hangs out with Albrecht in his tin-pot ministry. I guess he has his reasons.

The PDF is available to download.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

LCG's mind games

Redfox over at Living Armstrongism is reporting that the punkahwallahs at the Living Church of God have launched an exciting new website called The Bible Says That? The slogan: "What you have been taught... might not actually be in the Bible."

You mean, like, tithing?

Well, no. The site is a potpourri of COG distinctives. Rapture (nope), hell (not yet, but watch out backsliders!), crucifixion (not on Friday). You have to tunnel down into the site to discover it's operated by LCG.

The best part of the site is this page; "Do Not Donate." Uncle Roderick doesn't want your readies.

Yeah, right.

The Bible Says That? is a repackaging effort. Pick out the core teachings and give them the 'gee whiz' treatment. It probably seemed a brilliant idea to whichever superannuated adolescent first came up with it, but the whole thing is a yawn, the equivalent of asking patsy questions then answering them yourself. Fiendishly not clever.

According to Rod "it is intended to be a topical resource that asks and answers challenging questions facing professing Christianity." LCG asks, LCG answers. Where's the fun in that?

How about a topical resource that asks challenging questions facing LCG? Then imagine a diverse range of 'answers' which people submit, compare and then weigh up for themselves as independent, thinking adults. We all know that ain't about to happen. The very thought is probably enough to send Gerald Weston running for the cooking sherry.

One final grumble; the term "professing Christianity". It crops up in most of the Armstrong sects, shorthand for "not real Christians". It's an insider term placing a boundary marker against other forms of Christianity. In short, it's an insult. Perhaps it's time to turn the tables and talk about the "professing Christianity of the LCG" (or substitute any other COG acronym). It seems eminently fair.

Meantime, the advice "do not donate" is very sensible, not just for the newbie mugs the site is trolling for, but those sincere folk who regularly tithe to Charlotte, NC. Take a tithe holiday. Buy the kids some new clothes, pay off the hire purchase, treat the grandkids, give a little to your favorite non-religious charity. It's not what LCG means, but it'd be a great way to respond to some really duplicitous marketing.

BA - welcome to COG alternity

You know you've slipped into a weird parallel universe when you pick up the Bible Advocate. Weird in a mostly good way. The first sign is a feature article that mentions (and quotes) both Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King in a positive sense. For that reason alone Israel Steinmetz's Kingdom Loyalties (on the subject of non-violence) is a few thousand kilometres down the flight path from anything published by the Armstrong derivatives. In fact, I don't believe I've ever seen Bonhoeffer quoted in any of the COG flagship periodicals (other than BA). And how many times have you run across an approving mention of MLK in Tomorrow's World?

I looked and couldn't find a single mention of "Bible prophecy" anywhere in this issue.

What you can find is an article by Ronald Gallagher on the crucifixion/resurrection, Calvin Burrell on the new covenant, Jason Overman on faith, Caitlin Meadows on abortion issues and a number of what I guess you'd call "devotional pieces." The closest thing to the stock-in-trade rigidities we've grown to expect in Armstrongism is a piece by former editor Max Morrow called Uphold the Faith!
Some of the distinctive beliefs of the Church of God (Seventh Day), which we believe are among “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints,” are being tested: namely, divorce and remarriage, tithing, clean and unclean meats, observance of extra-biblical holidays, and participation in military combat. 
Morrow is clearly "old school", but it's interesting what he doesn't list: Bible prophecy. Bearing in mind that COG7 is an Adventist denomination that traces itself back to the early days, it seems remarkable that they're not preoccupied - perhaps obsessed is a better word - with the eschatological junk-food diet that now defines their granddaughter churches.

There's no getting around it, COG7 is a fundamentalist church and the Bible Advocate is, naturally, in that mould. But it's a different sort of fundamentalism to anything those in thrall to Roderick Meredith, David Pack, Gerry Flurry and their ilk have experienced. Dare one say it, there's a pastoral tone to the Bible Advocate, and you get the feeling that you could disagree with one or more of the writers and still be welcome.

The PDF is available to download.

(Next in the series, Greg Albrecht's Plain Truth)

Monday, 2 May 2016

Vision - the COG Edsel?

There's a quote from Stephen Elliot, one of the Hulmerous ministers who jumped ship in 2013, quoted on the anonymous COG News site.
The final print edition
"Our membership has declined, not grown. After 15 years and an estimated expense for Vision of $3+ million dollars for salaries, advertising, publishing, design, shipping, PR, video, travel and whatever, there has been no fruit from Vision or the Vision website. The only new members, other than children of members, have come because of a personal relationship with a member - not because of Vision."
Hulme's COGAIC looks more and more like the COG equivalent of an Edsel as time goes by. UCG was probably lucky when Dave slammed the car door and drove off into the sunset. The difference between Vision and Edsel? Ford only kept the thing for three years; Hulme kept throwing tithe money into the furnace for sixteen.

In what may be an attempt to airbrush the embarrassment of dumping their flagship publication, COGAIC has removed all PDF links to past issues. All you'll find now is a curated selection of articles from each back issue.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Tomorrow's World - Nice cover, shame about the content

Next cab off the publications rank this month is Tomorrow's World.

Rod Meredith has an editorial entitled Are We Ready for God's Intervention?
Dear readers, when we read the constant reports in the news about how corrupt governments all over the earth are oppressing and impoverishing their peoples, it is obvious that Almighty God will soon intervene!
As if corrupt governments, oppression and poverty were uniquely characteristic of our times... does this guy know nothing of history?
...you will see that this issue’s circulation number has gone down a bit. As many of you know, we ask those who have not been in touch with us for quite a while to “renew” their subscriptions. We are also finding ways to spread this message as cost-effectively as possible, and in ways to reach new audiences. Many of our readers, especially the younger ones, are “digital natives” who do most of their reading on the Internet - on their computers, or even on their smartphones. So, we are reaching out to those readers with a wonderful new “digital flipbook” version of this magazine. 
Harrumpff. Circulation is down, but it's okay, there's this cool flipping book version. Even Douglas will probably be less than impressed.

The lead article, Are You Willing to Change? is also by Meredith. Strange really, in that Meredith is the last person who has shown any willingness to change over long decades. His version of Armstrongism is firmly mired in the past.

Jonathan Riley writes the Canadian column, and he has the CN Tower in Toronto in his sights. The election of Justin Trudeau's government has rattled the LCG, it's a sure sign that all goodness and light is rapidly gurgling down the plughole. The tower has been lit in "rainbow colours in celebration of homosexual pride", hence Riley is doing a very credible Chicken Little impression ("the sky is falling!") Next thing he'll be comparing it to the Tower of Babel.

Oh, wait, he is.
In Genesis 11 we read about the construction of another tower in the Middle East... A people of one mind or purpose, whose desire was contrary to God and whose language was confused, bears striking similarities to the corruption, pride, vanity and nonsensical sociopolitical dialogue we see permeating Canada and Western society as a whole.
"Nonsensical sociopolitical dialogue"? Deeply fascist sects don't like the idea that people with different views can sit down and have a respectful conversion. It's God's way (which is, naturally, their way) or nothing. Kind of like the Taliban.

Global utopia is coming according to Richard Ames in an article that reads a lot like a precis of Herb Armstrong's Wonderful World Tomorrow booklet.
Who will supervise the twelve apostles in God’s coming Kingdom? Remember God called ancient King David “a man after My own heart” in Acts 13:22. Bible prophecy reveals that King David will rule over the united houses of Israel and Judah: “David My servant shall be king over them..."
Everything is obviously sorted; roll on 1972.

John Meakin has the inside word on industrial relations. Employee and employer groups might as well disband now.
But, if an employer is harsh, that is still no excuse to rebel. We read: “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh” (1 Peter 2:18). We are also told to “count [our] own masters worthy of all honor” (1 Timothy 6:1).
John apparently feels that the relationship between employers and employees is a master/servant one. I guess that's how they run things in the LCG.

But wait, we've still got the cover article to come: Rod McNair, no less, has written The Great Unraveling. If you thought this might be a prophetic piece about what will happen in the LCG when Meredith goes to Sheol shortly, you'd be wrong. Read this and weep, fellow scoffers...
Scoffers—even some professing Christians—contend that the book of Genesis is myth and fable. But Genesis is Scripture, and all Scripture is given “by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Genesis includes the account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden — and Jesus quoted from Genesis 1 and 2 (Matthew 19:4–6). Adam and Eve were real, and the choices they made produced consequences for the whole human family. They set in motion the social ills and societal decay we face today.
 So the way of salvation is through stupidity and ignorance of literary genres?

Jonathan McNair dishes up some gratuitous advice on boundaries for the younger readers - if there are any. Douglas Winnail gives a history lesson concerning "the post-Flood years of the Bronze Age". Post-Flood? You get the impression that LCG is staggering even further back into the mirror-arcade of Genesis mythology. How many other impossible things can LCG put on the early breakfast buffet? As if to confirm that TW has gone down the rabbit-hole, J. Davy Crockett, III (no, really, that's his chosen byline) has an article following called Chasing Two Rabbits?

To lend a veneer of scientific competence, Wally Smith has contributed an article called Einstein, God and Gravitational Waves. General relativity meets Armstrongism. Kids, a word to the wise, try not to quote Wally in your science assignments.

The PDF is available to download.

(Next time, The Bible Advocate)

More on childrearing

(I hope Greg doesn't mind, but his comments on the recent spanking post really deserve a wider audience. Consider this a "guest post".)

The most interesting thing to me about Samuel Martin's argument is his research citing ancient rabbinical sources and commentary that even the corporal punishment approved in the Bible never was of small children--only of young men. Furthermore, it was not for behavioral modification as much as an ancient theory of pedagogy or learning: if a young man was being taught and got an answer wrong to a question, the idea was that if you beat the crap out of him, that would teach him to pay better attention and improve the chances that he would get the correct answer the next time, and thereby learn faster.

That was the basic idea anyway; to help the young man more effectively learn what his elders were teaching him and be more attentive to their wise words by beating him when his attention strayed. Samuel Martin's interesting point is that whatever views one may have today concerning the merits of this ancient educational theory for the purpose of improving the learning process in teenage young men, it never applied to toddlers or small children.

Incidentally, has Mark Armstrong ever repudiated the horribly damaging advice promulgated for years in his father's booklet, "The Plain Truth About Child-Rearing?" He would be in a position to do real good in the Church of God community--a small step toward redemption and healing--by absolutely repudiating the toxic advice and legacy of that booklet--and who he is would give his words credibility if he were to do so in a strong voice.

If he does not do so, he remains part of the problem, which holds true for all of the other COG groups' leaders as well--all leaders who continue to advocate and legitimize the intentional physical infliction of pain and humiliation on defenseless small children ... which has justly become illegal and criminalized in a growing number of nations, 30-some now at current count, including nations such as Israel, Germany, most European nations, New Zealand, and more, all since Sweden started as the first nation to do so in the 1980s. It is comparable to the worldwide movement to abolish slavery of earlier centuries, which although slavery had been done for thousands of years, succeeded. Except the worldwide movement to ban corporal punishment of children is succeeding far faster than did the earlier abolitionist movement against slavery.

Any sincere COG person who is open to sober consideration of this issue, Samuel Martin's honorable work is thoughtful and factual and worthy. To go even deeper, seek out the writings of the late Alice Miller, a remarkable, courageous Swiss dissident psychiatrist influential in Europe, who wrote powerful, impassioned, deeply thought-provoking books on this subject that I do not think anyone can read and remain unaffected. Be forewarned though: reading Alice Miller may take thoughtful readers brought up in WCG culture into personally uncomfortable and painful issues going to the core of Armstrongism's effects on children (even though neither she nor her books had anything to do with COGism). For example, Alice Miller goes straight for the jugular and questions the traditional interpretation of the Fifth Commandment as at the heart of the problem, going deep into the history of how that has been interpreted and why...

Scroller (Greg D.)