Saturday 31 May 2008

A(nother) Witless Countdown

There's a little over a week to go before Pentecost arrives (June 8) on the COG calendar. The "Great Harlot" and her daughter churches celebrated their version of Pentecost some time ago, but that's not what Ronnie Weinland is talking about when he prattles on about the impending End. To repeat what he's said:

"If by Pentecost I'm just going to make this real clear to everyone. If by Pentecost it is not powerfully and abundantly clear that there has been a great deal of destruction that will clearly encompass a third of all plant life in the US and at least the clear results of this mingled with blood the death of very much animal life and the beginning of large numbers of human life then I will stop preaching.

"Just so all the critics and everyone out there will understand. I am true to my word in these things. OK? And for all the critics if by the end of July and for most likely around Pentecost if nothing has clearly caused great destruction and death I will make it very clear that I was a false prophet. I will do exactly what I said I would do on all of those interviews that I have held; to do less, aah well, would be quite insane."

(You can actually listen to this clip here - link courtesy of Weinland Watch)

Insane? Well Ron, you said it! It seems the First Witness has been flailing about, attempting to move the goalposts back further ("end of July"), but Pentecost is the deadline that marks the edge of the cliff. As I understand the Weinland spiel it's a two-stage backdown: if the H-bombs haven't started dropping by the 8th he'll take himself off the speaking schedule; then at the end of July fess up to the sheep that he was an idiot and repent (anyone wanna run a sweepstakes on it?) In advance of Ron's lemming leap it seems some of the flock have been wising up and drifting off to greener pastures. Better late than never.

So, will Ronnie be true to his word? Will he do exactly what he's said he'll do and quit raking over the manure pile? To date he's done little more than bleat like a dysfunctional ten-year old about people "mocking" him, the blind critics who just can't see how things really are.


For Ron the game is already up even if he is "keeping up appearances", but he'll finally checkmate whatever remains of his own credibility on June 8. Ron nonetheless assures the faithful but dwindling remnant in last Sabbath's sermon that, come what may, COG-PKG - his designer cult - will survive.

That remains to be seen.

Friday 30 May 2008

And You Thought COG Ministers Were Nuts!

I shamelessly stole this clip from the N. T. Wrong blog (the name is a backhander to the inflated reputation of the excruciatingly irritating Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright.) The speaker is Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Phoenix (after viewing the video you might be tempted to suggest Steven renames his ministry Faithful Turd.)

Steven's qualifications? "Pastor Anderson holds no college degree but has well over 100 chapters of the Bible committed to memory, including almost half of the New Testament."

Monday 26 May 2008

Ach du liebe!

Himmel! British Sabbatarian Robert Taylor hast Herbert W. Armschtrung videos geupenloaded to YouTube. More than sixty Herbalische clips so far. Liebe Gott! So if you want a taste of 1980s Herbolatry, this is definitely the place to steer your zeppelin too. Candidly brethren, it brought tears to my eyes...

Robert writes: I am collecting and putting historical videos of the WCG, HWA, World Tomorrow and other stuff that I can find on YouTube... I am always looking for old stuff on video and dvds.

Though he be dead, yet it seems the Herbster yet liveth in the hearts of his devotees.

What will Robert's polar opposite, Rev. K. Scribe, have to say about this?

Saturday 24 May 2008

Why Meeker Matters

The spectacle of a leading UCG minister and former COE member screaming and pounding his fists on the carpet may be a tad disconcerting, but does it really matter? Joel Meeker wouldn't be the first COG elder to throw a five-star tantrum, and he won't be the last.

Meeker however is perhaps the UCG's chief asset in the French-speaking world. He has edited French-language publications for Cincinnati, traveling the world on their behalf - Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. If Meeker catches a cold, you'll hear sneezing in Bordeaux. Clyde will have to tip-toe through this particular tulip patch with greatest care.

And, interestingly enough given the current spat, Joel has served as chair of the Ethics, Roles and Rules Committee!

One thing is clear, after this impressive little hissy-fit it'll be difficult to kiss and make up.

A couple of comments from the earlier posting throw some light on Meeker's character:

One year before the GCE he posted and said that the nonsalaried elders who didn't got to AC should talk with their Regional Pastor about who to vote for. Seems that the "worldly educated" elders who didn't go to AC...didn't have the brains to know who to vote for.

Another correspondent notes:

You will note, the term "member" or "membership" or "church members" or "brethren" appears nowhere in Joel's write up.

Which puts some perspective on the matter.

Nothing Secedes Like Succession

Poor old Garner Ted, a victim of succession envy.

Perhaps Ritenbaugh Jr. should take note...

Not to mention Stephen Flurry.

The probable reason Joey Jr. made it to the Herbal throne is that dad was too busy fighting his illness to particularly care.

Check out Why Succession Plans Fail

Friday 23 May 2008

The Meeker Requiem

Biff! Pow! Sock! Wham!

Guess who's not a happy camper...

From: Joel Meeker

To: [UCG Elders Forum]

Sent: Thu, 22 May 2008 5:27 am

Subject: EF: Requiem for truth and honor

Joel Meeker, Milford OH
There have been times in the history of the United Church of God when I've been very proud of this association. There have been times when we've come through trials or temptations with our heads high, and our GCE or COE or particular leaders have performed with distinction.

But now we've disgraced ourselves as a body and I for one am ashamed to be part of this General Conference of Elders.

Last year we prayed and fasted and voted on relocation and it was finally approved by 7 votes. This year we were assured that revisiting the decision would bring unity and closure and everyone would be "brought on board." We fasted and prayed and the relocation was canceled by 10 votes. So far I haven't heard anyone who was so morally indignant last year, complain about this obvious lack of consensus; that this decision was made by such a slender margin. But that wouldn't be due to a double standard, or situation ethics....

This year 9 fewer men voted against the move, 34 fewer men voted to support the relocation. So 43 men, nearly 10% of our GCE, were discouraged enough or disgusted enough or far enough along in the process of disengaging from the GCE that they didn't vote this year when they had last year. Thank you for the new unity, and for getting everyone on board. Or is that silence you hear the sound of some more saints having been worn out?

What does this prove: that 10 is more than 7 so God has finally spoken? Does God work through misinformation, innuendo, and railing accusations against the brothers we have chosen for our administration? Does He accomplish His will through furtive slanderous internet forums and personal attacks? I guess we're supposed to believe so. Thus far those who were in favor of the relocation have generally behaved with decorum and respect, so I expect this issue will remain a dead letter now for some time. Some elders do have a sense of propriety and shame. Would that it had been so with those who worked so hard, with so much misleading misinformation to defeat it. Yes, I'm ashamed to be part of an association that supposedly repudiates factions - where a faction can behave with such cunning ruthlessness and contempt for the truth, and still win its own will.

The most telling blow and the most shameful to us, however, is that an elder who blatantly defied the lawful decision of our president – made in the best interest of the Church, a man who according to the Council showed no repentance or remorse and stated plainly he might do the same thing again any time he chose, who thereby soiled all respect for our rules, our policies, our leaders and anyone who doesn't agree with his own personal view of "God's will," a man who was censured by our COE – an unprecedented act of sanction and disgrace – for his actions and his attitude; that man we have blithely reelected to serve on our Council of Elders.

Shame on him. But even more than that, shame on us.

I suppose we get the leaders we deserve. We shall drink deeply of that cup.

We have just crossed a moral line. I don't believe we can ever go back to the ethics and principle-driven values we at least tried to have before. Populist politics have taken over – just like in the world; we have espoused a post-modern, emotion-driven worldview. A majority of our balloting elders have shown they will not support the consensus of the GCE if they don't feel like it. They have shown that they will listen to mud-slinging and vituperation and even lies, mixed with generous helpings of fawning and flattery and they will willingly cooperate.

They have shown that they don't care about rules or codes if they don't feel like it, even if we've all previously agreed to abide by them. They have besmirched our ministerial code of ethics by reelecting a defiant, self-willed man to the Council.

Either that or they were just duped. And that would scarcely bode any better for the future of this association.

I believe this is the beginning of the end for the United Church of God as we have known it. The fissures caused by the moral earthquake we all just felt will no doubt be papered over for a while and we will be assured that all is well in the best of worlds. Great trees don't fall in an instant, but the cracking sound is getting louder. Some of you have sown the wind; you will in time reap the whirlwind. God is not mocked. In the meanwhile, may God have mercy on His people; they deserve better.

The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

From: Joel Meeker

To: [UCG Elders Forum]

Sent: Thu, 22 May 2008 6:25 am

Subject: EF: Post may be shared

Joel Meeker Milford OH

My post of this morning may be shared in accordance with our EF rules.

Tuesday 20 May 2008

Well shucks...

The news from Kubikistan:


Elected to the Council of Elders:

International: Paul Kieffer
US: Aaron Dean, Darris McNeely, Robin Webber

Motion to rescind the 2007 GCE resolution to relocate in Texas:
For: 186 Against: 176

Wow! After slapping Aaron Dean all the way into next week, Aaron stages an impressive comeback. Dennis Diehl comments: May I be so bold as to suggest that Aaron Dean's censure has started a change that will lead him to the Presidency of UCG next time around?
Gone: Leon Walker, Jim Franks and Larry Salyer. A power shift perhaps from the hardliners to the "progressives"?

Not only that, but the empire builders have just seen their BMW driven off the edge of the cliff. The lads are staying in Cincy.

Gotta love a bunfight... but canst thou sense a gathering of cabals, a whiff of schismatic ozone on the air?

Monday 19 May 2008

Hawkins on CNN

Yisrayl Hawkins, the much-married polygamous leader of the House of Yahweh (and former WCG devotee) will be on Nancy Grace this coming Tuesday on CNN. This is a live broadcast where viewers can call in questions. Maybe somebody would like to chip in a query for the Lord of Libido... like, um, what happened on September 12 2006? (Ronnie Weinland might like to watch so he can pick up tips!)

To be honest, it's unclear whether this kind of exposure does any good or is just plain treasonous. Ego-worshipers generally exploit to the nth degree both publicity and criticism to their own manipulative ends. Ms. Grace will need to be play a cut above the usual superficial "gee-whiz" journalism if she hopes to make much headway with this sly and seasoned old codger.


As promised, Bill over at Ekklesia is updating his site. A new feature, Top Secret, has recently appeared which contains articles of a more diverse nature, including one by the Lord of Darkness himself, Richard Dawkins. While you're there, click on those Google Ads that link to Weinland and Pack... each click costs those fine upstanding servants of their lord (possibly Baal or Dagon) precious moohlah, and helps Bill with his endeavor at the same time!

Saturday 17 May 2008

Growing Up WCG

This guy - a former second generation member - tells it like many of us feel, especially on the vexed question of reconnecting with another stream of Christian tradition, and coming to terms with the conflicted feelings that endure.

Thanks to Shadows of WCG who gave it first exposure.

Part 2 is here - also worth watching.

Wednesday 14 May 2008

Stranger and stranger

It's a strange old world. On the same day the Vatican astronomer pontificated on life on Mars, the latest Journal was released.

I have to admit that I didn't know there was a Vatican astronomer. I mean, what on earth (!) would his job description be? "Holy Father, I wish to confirm that after rigorous research and observation from the Dome of St. Peter's, it is now possible to possibly affirm, with the appropriate qualifications and disclaimers of course, that Galileo was right."?

Is there also a Vatican agronomist who can advise the faithful on the merits of organic pumpkin soup?

But on to The Journal, and my nomination for the worst COG website design of the decade. Yes, there have been some really strong contenders for this coveted award, but - tipped off by the front page story - Living God Ministries has got to be the unanimous choice of the academy. Try clicking around on this sucker in anything other than the demon-spawn Internet Explorer browser! Even in IE it's, well, in a class of its own.

Dennis Diehl is back with another column, and that's worth the price of a copy in itself. On the other hand Alan Knight (of La Mancha?) is serializing his latest improbable book beginning with this issue. This guy is capable of making Bob Thiel look good!

All those years in WCG have messed with my head, so I hope Dixon will forgive me if I note that the regular Connections column by Darlene Warren is a reprint of one that appeared back in 2004, and knowing that Darlene is connected to the current palpitations in Big Sandy, the obvious question arises...

The Big Sandy Church may be bloodied, but apparently it's still unbowed, with a major ad promoting five FOT sites.

You can, as usual, download the front and back pages of The Journal without charge.

Monday 12 May 2008

Bungles, Blunderbusses and Butchery

Nobody butchers Christian history, in my view, quite like Bob Thiel. Marcion, Gnosticism, Calvin, Luther, Melito of Sardis... you name it, you can bet Bob has an opinion. In his latest assault, Bob parrots Bacchiocchi about the supposed similarities between Gnosticism and Calvinism (!) before smugly delivering his personal imprimatur: "And on the above he is correct."

Yeah, yeah. Then Bob picks up a wide pasting brush: "It was Gnostic heretics like the second century Marcion that essentially set the stage of Calvinism, Lutheranism, and certain other forms of Protestantism."


Then there's, of all things, an altar call: "If you are Protestant, this may be a good time to wake up and realize that the God of love really does have a plan to offer salvation to everyone who ever lived. And that it was from heretics that “once saved always saved” originated."

But does Bob know what he's talking about? That is a question I'll leave to the discerning reader. Bob considers Marcion a Gnostic for example, which is highly debatable. Even a cursory check of Wikipedia would have prevented Bob from making that bungle: "Marcion is sometimes referred to as one of the gnostics, but from what assessment of his lost writings can be gleaned from his mainstream opponents, his teachings were quite different in nature." His contemporary in Rome, Valentinus, now he was a Gnostic!

Then there's that label - heretic. Careful there Bob, you might shoot yourself in the foot with that particular blunderbuss.

However, unless someone does a little background reading of their own, how would they know which orifice self-anointed experts are speaking out of? One solution, if you're interested in a readable but credible one-volume history of Christianity at a decent price, is Paul Johnson's History of Christianity. First published in 1976, this is a brilliant survey that will clue you in on any number of significant developments over the last two millennia.

If Bob wants to slap around the big names in Christian history I'm all for it... providing he at least gets it right! But fair's fair: on the principle of beams and splinters, why not tackle the super-jerks in our own tradition first? Herbert Armstrong for example. And when you're done there Bob, why not deliver a word or two of caution about Roderick C. "three-to-five years" Meredith?

And speaking of three-to-five-years, here's Bob himself in another posting just a day or two ago: "As regular readers of the COGwriter news page are aware, I do not believe that the Great Tribulation can begin until at least 2012–and that it will most likely start in 2013-2017."

Most likely not.

Friday 9 May 2008

Creation Smackdown

Recent issues of UCG and Hulme flagship mags, GN (May-June) and Vision (Fall 07), feature very different "takes" on that old fundamentalist chestnut, creationism.

UCG's resident "expert" on the subject, Mario Seiglie, is armed with a wet tea-towel and on the attack.

Darwin's deceitful theory... The movie [Expelled] gives a balanced overview... an avowed secular humanist and atheist... it's important to understand that the intelligent design theory was not developed by religionists... They continue deceiving the masses...

In the place of science, the old time gap theory is yet again dusted off. The result is something to bring pleasure to any home-schooled ten year old looking for a project to please Mom.

Contrast the approach at Vision, as always trying hard to impress the plebs with its depth and profundity. Here you'll find a complex discussion about the Big Bang and alternate cosmologies, including an interview that (and it pains me to say so) is actually quite interesting - if you're into that kind of thing.

In summary - the GN dishes up something worthy of The Watchtower, and Vision delivers something that wouldn't be out of place in New Scientist. A clear win to the High and Hulmerous One.

But, realistically, the typical COG reader will find the GN junk food more to their taste than Vision's art cuisine. Dumbed down is what brings in the financial sheaves: forget the science and spoon out the pabulum. After all, as far as anyone can tell the Hulmites are as gap-toothed on creationism as their former co-religionists in the not-so United Church of God: they're just a whole lot more subtle about it. And subtlety is usually lost on people who are convinced that Anglos are Israelites.

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Journal covers Dean discipline

The following item is being carried at The Journal website (

UCG council rebuffs elder Aaron Dean
A firestorm has raged lately on Internet forums fueled by the recent decision by the council of elders of the United Church of God, based in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area, to "censure" one of its members.

The governing 12-man body sent a letter to members of the church's general
conference of elders (GCE) in March 2008 informing elders worldwide that Aaron Dean of Gladewater, Texas, a council member since January 1999, had been officially censured. The council's action means Mr. Dean is prohibited from speaking in any UCG congregation until after the 2008 Feast of Tabernacles.

Although the membership of the church was not generally aware of the council's letter to the elders, word of the censure surfaced. Mr. Dean, who served as a personal aide to Worldwide Church of God founder Herbert W. Armstrong from 1974 until Mr. Armstrong's death, in 1986, delivered a sermon and answered questions at a meeting of a Church of God group in Huntsville, Texas, during the 2007 Feast of Tabernacles. Mr. Dean's speaking engagement in Huntsville violated a UCG policy about addressing other groups and brought about the censure.

Photo: Don Bjoraker

AW comment: UCG set out to do things differently from WCG. Headquarters became Home Office, but the mindset endured. Aaron Dean, whatever strengths and fallibilities he might have (as we all have our share) has a reputation as a decent man, and one of the council members most in-touch with the grass-roots of the church. Kilough has effectively demonstrated - once again - that UCG is a long way from living up to the hopes so many held for it.

Earlier coverage of this story here.

Lisbon 1755

Every time something tragic occurs the ghouls gather to howl at the moon, calling us to heed, for it is yet another token of the End of the Age.

Thus has it ever been. A recent book, The Last Day: Wrath, Ruin, and Reason in the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, recounts the awe and horror that impacted on the cultural world of the West following the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. It was widely believed to herald the End, and was immediately factored in to the prophetic fantasies of the time. A example can be found here. Seventh-day Adventist guru Ellen White was one who, by the peculiar "gift of prophecy," discerned special importance in the disaster for the great scheme of the Last Days.

The Lisbon Earthquake is a lesson in caution and humility. A great city was devastated, but the sun rose the next day. Christ did not return "on schedule" with the hosts of heaven. Its relevance to the book of Revelation? Absolutely zero.

The wonder is that we - citizens of the twenty-first century - can still be suckers for the same sick misuse of tragedy. The self-anointed prophets now, as then, do little or nothing to provide relief for the suffering. Instead they play a game of "told you so," and solicit funds for their own ministries. Among the more crass examples is Roderick Meredith's LCG, but there is much worse on offer including, I'm ashamed to say, a newly launched COG publication produced (badly!) in New Zealand.

Lisbon has a lesson for all of us: human suffering is meant to be relieved, not exploited.

Monday 5 May 2008

Tribulation Update

Ron, Ron, Ron...

Why not just come out and say it?

I was wrong... I am not a prophet... I am not a Witness... I am sorry... I was a dipstick...

As is clear from the latest post on Weinland Watch, that isn't happening. Instead, Ron is dancing his way toward Pentecost with qualifications, bombast and bulldust.

Pathetic, and a bit sad.

If he thinks he's being clever and Machiavellian, he's seriously delusional. It's clear that, having whacked himself over the head with his own piece of four by two, the sheep are beginning to move on to other pastures.

On to the next Elmer Gantry End Times sideshow? Let's hope not.

After the Empire

A new blog: I survived Armstrongism. Worth checking out!

Friday 2 May 2008

Two ex-WCG writers in latest BA

The latest issue of the Bible Advocate features two former WCG ministers. The late Richard Wiedenheft left in the "rebellion" of 1974. He pastored an independent Sabbatarian church for many years and published a newsletter called Focus On Truth. He later gravitated to the Church of God (Seventh Day). His article When Defeat Spells Victory appears in this issue.

Also appearing in the April/May BA is an interview with former Plain Truth editor Brian Knowles on the topic of repentance. The BA asked Brian (among other things) "Can there be corporate repentance for a church?" Here's his reply.

Throughout church history, denominations and their leaders have changed their official teachings, doctrines, and dogmas to comply with a better, more mature understanding of Scripture. This represents a form of corporate repentance. To be alive, the church must be a growing, dynamic entity — not just in numbers but in spiritual maturity. Collectively we are animated by the Holy Spirit, which leads us progressively into truth (John 14:26). Growth in knowledge and understanding is mandated in Scripture (2 Peter 3:18). This requires ongoing repentance of inferior understanding and the adoption of better understanding. Such repentance is a function of leadership. Instead of endlessly rehashing the basics, we should be going deeper into more mature understanding (Hebrews 5:11—6:3).

Also notable is a column by COG7 president Whaid Rose with a title to send a chill of horror down the spine of many hardline Armstrong devotees: Embrace the cross.

The BA is currently marking its 150th year in print, making it one of America's oldest religious periodicals.