Friday, 14 July 2006
Making a virtue of necessity
Down in Alabama the WCG remnant is trying to convince themselves that the Tkach revolution has been worth the grief. Here's a condensed version of how the July 7 Huntsville Times tells it:
A little more than 10 years ago, Paul Kurts pastored a congregation of 200 close-knit members. Today, his flock sometimes numbers as many as 20 - and he's never been happier.
For Kurts who, with his wife, had joined the church when he was a college student, it felt like someone had shifted the magnetic pole of the Earth.
There's a lot more in this pathetic little report. If this is typical of those who remain then you have to suspect that self loathing and self justification are mixed in nearly equal portions. Read it and weep.
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The congregation I grew up in closed up shop about a month ago. It had gone from around 320 in the mid-80s to 12-15 in 2006.
What's strange to me is this sense of joy about it all, both in my old congregation and in this article. Maybe that's the Holy Spirit in action; maybe it's just severe denial.
Maybe the joy comes in part from the fact that on some level they know it's a very good thing that Herbert Armstrong's religion has proven to be false and has come to nought and is gradually fading away.
Pathetic? I don't know if I'd go that far.
But being happy to lose 90 percent of your members (have they gained any at all?), and with one of them unwilling to give his last name in public -- why, I'm a bit tempted to say those are signs of a cult.
Gavin, your newspaper article in question says:
“Tkach's announcement, for most of the 150,000 members of the church worldwide, had the same sort of cataclysmic power that would come from, say, the Pope suddenly announcing he was not really God's viceroy on earth.”
Equally stunning and cataclysmic might be Tkach’s announcement in 2006 publishing his Church Association's Bylaws, with its "top secret" Article V, sections 4 through 7, dealing with the replacement of the Pastor General.
As many may remember, the corporate bylaws were first published in Ambassador Report #58, followed up by a belated “egg on the face” publication in the WN. But the unincorporated WCG Association religious bylaws have never been made public.
A decade later after the corporate bylaws were leaked, none of us know how the missing Sections 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 5.7 of the religious Articles of the WCG Church Association bylaws actually read on the replacement of the Pastor General. Pastor Tkach has arrogantly not published his undisclosed, unincorporated Church Association secret bylaws, much less reform them.
Next, the newspaper article reports that “within a few years, membership dropped to less than 60,000 worldwide.” Maybe so. But Tkach’s press kit on the WCG website today claims that “Approximately 560 pastoral ministers serve...an international membership of 64,176.” What gives? Given the fact this large Alabama church dropped from more than 200 members to down to 20, perhaps a recount of the chads might be in order as, like the Alabama congregation, many of the pathetically dwindling US churches are soon becoming “ghost churches”. Since the wcg website today links to a now nonexistent Ambassador Center at Azusa, can we really count on these membership congregation figures, like the financial spin, as being even remotely accurate?
The WCG's membership figures are certainly inflated. First of all, the WCG has never had 150,000 members, unless you count unbaptised children and pet goldfish. Membership and church attendance are not the same thing, and before the Glorious Reforms of the 1990s, the WCG always spoke about how many baptised members it had (a figure that maxed out around 85,000, I think), and only occasionally mentioned the number of people who probably attended Sabbath services. It's also highly unlikely that the WCG currently has 64,000 members worldwide (a figure that no doubt includes unofficial "members," unbaptised people and children). My hunch is that the true number is closer to 20,000 (and that's counting the pet goldfish), but who can tell for sure?
As I recall, when I left the WCG in 2000 and joined the Catholic Church , it took me two or three tries to convince the WCG that I was no longer a member.
"First of all, the WCG has never had 150,000 members,...."
If the average congregation had 150 attendees including children and there were 300 congregations that would give us 45,000 persons inclding children and the unbaptised. I doubt that there was ever 150,000 attending at any one period.
60,000 members? Maybe they are counting pets.
I can only speak from my own experience with 14 congregations. Of them, the vast majority are simply gone and of those left, 25 members would be the average. What a pathetic tribute to spiritual management of real people. I can't imagine more than 10,000 "sure, whatever you say" members left. One can comment on how a "false" religion needs to go, but only someone who believed, as did WCG member, in some new and improved not so true either church would use that as proof of anything. The moment you organize spirituality, it starts down the slope of falseness.
PS My dad was listed as a member and elder long after we all departed or parted depending. We had near 40 family in WCG and of course they have all moved on...
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