Sunday 31 August 2008

Poor old Ron

Ron Weinland has the dubious distinction of predicting the End of the Age and being stood up at the Apocalypse. Others have gone this way before, but few as clumsily.

While Ron and his Church of God PKG are minnows in the puddle, Ron has the distinction of attracting more Internet attention than his more successful peers. Blogs on Weinland abound, and now there's a new one with the intriguing title Radio Free PKG.

Poor Ron. The IRS are going through his bank accounts and the plebs are revolting. Does Rod Meredith get this kind of flak? Is Gerry Flurry subjected to this level of scrutiny? Has Dave Pack had to endure these torments. Oh the pain, the pain!

Saturday 30 August 2008

The Burning Issues

The latest issue of The Journal is out, both in paper format (yesterday the May 31 edition arrived in my mailbox here in the more distant latitudes of Her Majesty's Dominions) and via electronic media (the June 30 edition - just in time for 1 September!) Here's the rundown of what's in that June 30 issue.

One God: Another Westby debate, this time in Seattle. I'm not sure why the "one God" thing attracts as much attention among the post-COG faithful, but it does. It'd be interesting to know how many folk Ken has influenced away from classic COG binitarianism. I feel a poll coming on...

Jamaican Pentecost: Ian Boyne toots his trumpet on local CGI attendance. There's even an invitation for Dennis Diehl and myself to wing our way to Jamaica and debate the great (grate?) issues of COGdom with Ian. ["We would allow Ambassador Watch webmaster Gavin Rumney and former-minister-turned-Bible-skeptic Dennis Diehl to present if they would come! (This is an open invitation.)"] Thanks Ian, no offense - and Jamaica is an alluring destination - but I'll be giving that a miss.

Bleak Knight Over Babylon: Another installment of - IMHO - ill-informed, offensive, speculative piffle from a COG7 author whose qualifications are... ??? That's without mentioning the tie-in anti-Catholic ad in the Connections section... sheeessh.

Knee Jerks: Dear Lord are there only Republicans in COGdom? Reactionary commentary from Dan White who, I think one can confidently assert, won't be barracking for Obama. After laying down the cover fire, he then moves on to the holy virtues of home schooling.

UCM: Wesley White reports on the UCM Women's conference in Alabama.

Den Again: Amidst the gloom, Dennis Diehl arises with another column that goes a long way toward washing away the aftertaste of some of the other articles.

The most striking news? The heathens of Harvest Rock in Pasadena have painted the egret scupture in front of the auditorium white. Is there no end to Pentecostal deviance?

Across in the Connections section my favorite ad is headed up: Is William F. Dankenbring really a true "Apostle" of God? The author? William F. Dankenbring!

Having said that, I'm a big fan of The Journal and proud to be a paid subscriber - even if only, to cadge a phrase from a certain esteemed resident of rocky Gibraltar, "to keep our disgust fresh." To check out the PDF of the front and back pages click here.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Cult botch?

Cult watch groups are a bit like Contrary Mary: when they're good they're okay but when they're bad they're worse than useless. The least credible cult watch groups are those that hide behind a nifty URL but provide no information about the sponsors - individual or corporate. Those dudes could have variable competence or a wacky agenda, who's to know?

Consider this entry at

Worldwide Church of God (New Zealand). Not Yet Rated Under investigation. We have been informed that the Worldwide Church of God in New Zealand is turning away from the teaching of Joseph Tkach and is returning to Armstrongism. See Worldwide Church of God (United States) for more information about the WCoG's reformation away from Armstrong's false teachings.

Uh? Well, that's a surprise. But does this information have credibility? Who or what is anyway? The person responsible is Ian Mander, but in our eagerness to contact him AW ran up against a minor problem: no email address. Ian seems to be well regarded among his peers, and has got himself some publicity with his views on a group called "Gentle Wind." There is supposed to be a contact form but - wouldn't you know it - "the feedback form/survey is offline at present."

My advice to Ian (apart from fixing the contact thing) is to simply pick up the phone and give Rex Morgan a ring. Rex is a decent fellow and has a reputation for being an honest bloke. I'd be very surprised if he was leading any charge back into the herbal fog-bank.

Oh yeah, it took years to get around to it but - behold - WCG-NZ finally has a web presence. Congrat's Rex, but ya gotta do something with that church news page...

Sunday 24 August 2008

Climb the Wall

Remember Ron Wallen? The one-time minister headed up a WCG faction that decided to hang tight in the church till God set things back to right, which means returning to the pure herbalicious flavor of Armstrongism. The Wallen crowd continued attending WCG (because, despite it all, it was still God's True Church, wasn't it?)

Time passeth, and Ron shuffles off to join Herb in the great pre-resurrection waiting room. But the faithful remnant - presumably a rapidly aging remnant - holds fast. They refuse to split away, remaining attached like barnacles to the rotting Tkach hull while also doing their own thing. No bank account, no formal status...

So where do you send the money to? This recently received email (slightly edited) sums up the problem.

The "Wallenites" (originally formed by Ron Wallen who died a few years back) believe that WCG was and is God's one true church. They are Armstrong worshippers and consider themselves "the remnant" holding on to the original teachings of HWA. They have their own services, holy days, mailing lists, literature, pastors, etc. but refuse to incorporate into a "church" because somehow they think that act of putting a name to their organization would make it a sin because God doesn't want them to start a new "church". Apparently they tell their followers to remain in WCG to "help others see the light" unless they are unable because the local congregation no longer worships on the Sabbath.

I've been told that since they are not formed as an official organization they simply tithe by writing checks directly to their spiritual leader based in Lakeland, Florida. I know they attract about 600 to their feast site so while they are very small and scattered that is potentially a fairly decent revenue stream.

The correspondent goes on to wonder about IRS details and suchlike. While we're not suggesting malfeasance, you'd have to say writing personal checks in this way, if that's what's happening, hardly seems "best practice." Anyone out there able to clarify?

For those interested, the good folk who adhere to Wallen's position have a website with the incongruously appropriate URL A list of Sabbath venues (dated January) is available here.

Thursday 21 August 2008

House built on tithes

We've had a peek at the Weinland house already. Now, whose modest home is this?

According to an unconfirmed posting on an LCG board, this is the abode of Dr. Roderick C. Meredith, Presiding Evangelist of the Living Church of God.


It's good to know that the Eternal is taking good care of his faithful commander-in-chief.

If you'd like to contribute to the upkeep of the gardens, remember, Rod's meager stipend is made possible through your generous, sacrificial tithes and offerings.

Update: For details on the Meredith domicile - all from publicly available records - click over to the Mecklenburg County Real Estate Lookup System, enter Rod's name in the search field and, ta-da! Click on the photo link at the top of that page and you'll find that the picture is indeed genuine (though perhaps a little dated.)

Wednesday 20 August 2008

Looking for Darwin

Intelligent Design is nothing less than Creationism in Drag: it is an attempt to pass off Creationism as a science, without ever mentioning the word God. The principal modus operandi of its proponents is to attack what it perceives as the two main weaknesses of the Darwinian world-view. Namely, (i) the fossil record is imperfect, and (ii) it’s impossible to conceive how really complex organs like eyes could be the process of an apparently random and uncontrolled biological process like Natural Selection; that is, half an eye, by its very nature, would be as useless as half a kidney: so how could these complex structures have been constructed as a series of steps as evolutionists seemed to be suggesting?

Except that the Creationists’ arguments are a superficial and nonscientific treatment of the evidence. Indeed, there are gaps in the fossil record, but the fossil record is nothing if not supportive of the Darwinian view of evolution – where one form can be seen to change over time, where simple can be seen to become more complex. Similarly, with complex organs such as eyes, it is being at best mischievous to suggest that the Darwinian view of evolution implies such structures came into being all at once (the Creationists are fond of likening the probability of evolution producing an eye as being similar to the probability of a tornado going through a junkyard and assembling a bus). But that’s just ignorant bluster: evolution doesn’t happen as a single event (in contrast to Creation), but as a long series of steps – some small, some big – that occur over long periods of time. And, yes, it is possible to discern a series of steps whereby simple light receptors have been modified in succeeding groups of animals, culminating ultimately in the vertebrate eye.

Of course, the telling thing for supporters of Intelligent Design, for proponents of so-called Scientific Creationism, is that they have no testable hypotheses, nothing they can hold up and potentially test to validate their view of the world. They lack that basic requirement of any science. They are, therefore, left believing in God and his ability to create the world in six days as an act of faith. Call that intelligent, if you will.
Lloyd Spencer Davis
I've just finished Looking For Darwin, a fast-paced mix of science and travelogue by Otago University's Lloyd Spencer Davis, who follows in the footsteps of the author of Origin of the Species to throw light on the whys and wherefores of life on our small planet.

Regrettably you won't find this one on Amazon, as it's only published in NZ. But be of good cheer ye Northern Hemisphere types, there's a website to accompany the book that's well worth checking out. I particularly enjoyed the comments about ID, but the anecdotes about far-flung places from the Galapagos Islands to Antarctica make this anything but a dry academic read. A helluva book.

Thursday 14 August 2008

Link not

Bob Thiel recently provided a helpful link on his blog to Gerry Flurry's DUI arrest record - the PDF of the documents released by the State of Oklahoma. This was followed by, dare one say, a flurry of outrage because those papers included the alleged prophet's social security number.

Who to blame, who to blame... Flurridian supporters, one suspects, are not exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer. One might quite properly reserve one's righteous indignation for the authorities that released the documents. Then again, a spot of knicker-twisting might be vented on the website that released the papers onto the web. But no, the holier than thou brethren blamed... Bob!

AW links to a lot of websites and blogs - including Bob's. A link obviously doesn't imply endorsement, just a friendly nod to fellow travellers on the information superhighway. It's surprising then to hear that top officials in the LCG (apparently including sub-ayatollah Ames) were led - doubtless by the holy spirit - to pronounce on the issue, and Bob has now removed the wicked link.

My problem isn't that Bob links, but rather that he doesn't link often enough. In countless posts referring to "the anti-COG" AW blog Bob relentlessly fails to link. I guess that's his version of "Computer Nanny." In this case he did indeed link, to Robert Kuhne's excellent site on PCG. As I understand it, Bob didn't publicise either Flurry's SS number, nor the fact that the SS number was anywhere on the document.

Me, I'm a Kiwi, and therefore blissfully ignorant of the significance of a US SS number. Heck, I didn't think you guys even had social security... next they'll be telling me you have public health insurance! I certainly didn't think twice about linking to the same document, and gehenna will freeze over before that link gets pulled. Unhappy campers can picket outside the courthouse in Edmond which provided the material, or cast sanctimonious proof texts via email at Robert who courageously hosts the info.

For those who missed the link, here it is again: save a copy on your hard drive, email it to your relatives, print out an extra copy to give away. And be sure and drop by Robert's main page. No, I don't see eye to eye with Robert on everything, but he's a brave and principled man performing a valuable service, and that's worth acknowledging!

Monday 11 August 2008

Joe Jr. - The leopard's spots remain

Every now and then I fall into the trap of imagining the Tkach WCG isn't all that bad compared to the hairier splinters. Big mistake. Great Helmsman Joe isn't in the same league of outré as Flurry, Pack, Meredith et al., but surely that makes his apparent death grip on the organization all the more unacceptable.

Case in point, the laughable (and downright cultic) by-laws of the WCG, available on Stan's blog: read 'em and weep!

Then there's the strange case of the Canadian WCG being brought to heel earlier this year. Again, Stan is the man with the details.

WCG is not any kind of mainstream evangelical denomination, not as long as it avoids accountability by hiding behind a caricature of "episcopal" governance.

Nor as long as Joseph Tkach Jr. sits unchallenged and unchallengeable on the throne of his father, Joe I, and validates his "episcopal" authority through Herbert W. Armstrong.

Unelected, unaccountable, without a mandate. Why is he still there?

The very first editorial appearing on the old Missing Dimension/AW website was on this very issue. The years have gone by, promises have been made and forgotten. Nothing appears to have changed. Wasn't it Kruschev who said: "Promises are like pie crusts, made to be broken"?

Joe Tkach, shame on you!

Friday 8 August 2008

Caramel Onyx - Iranian opulence in Edmond

Hot off the press comes news that Oklahoma philanthropist and Prophet Gerry Flurry has picked up some expensive baubles for his Ambassador Auditorium clone.

Pastor General Gerald Flurry has approved the interior lighting and semi-precious stone finishes that will adorn the grand lobby of Armstrong Auditorium. Three diamond-shaped crystal chandeliers and coordinating wall sconces were approved, in addition to a caramel-color onyx that will decorate three feature walls in the grand lobby...

The caramel color was chosen to complement the interior finishes and overall color scheme of the building. After viewing several samples that ranged from light cream to dark caramel, Mr. Flurry approved the darker color, and it was agreed that the buyer in Iran should choose the onyx that matched this color during extraction at the quarry.

Nice to know that the Iranian economy is getting a boost from the tithe-payers of the PCG.

Full PR release here.

Wednesday 6 August 2008

On the piste with Gerry

The question of the hour: how competent is Philadelphia Church of God Pastor General Gerry Flurry on the piste? We don't even know if he can ski - seems more the toboggan type. But if he does decide to sluice down the slushy slopes we hope he'll be sober.

So much for the term piste - pronounced peest according to my dictionary - not the more obvious way. So now let's move on to a completely unrelated subject.

Short of a little light reading? Enjoy crime TV shows and Judge Judy? Boy, have we got a deal for you. Yes, we all knew about this already... courtesy of the Painful Truth and other sites. But this is more than just old news if you've never seen the official documentation (available as a PDF file).

So settle back in the armchair, crack a six pack and tuck a copy of the Philadelphia Trumpet under the cushion to establish the mood. Then click across.

Finally, a little helpful counsel for confused or disoriented Pastor Generals (or is that Pastors General?) and wannabe prophets...

* never attempt to drive off when a police officer stops to have a wee chat.
* never attempt to bribe a police officer - at least with anything as small as a $20 bill.
* never tell obvious porkies to a police officer.
* if you're gonna drink and drive, make it a ginger beer.

Addendum: some people may be having problems with the link. If so, here's an alternate URL.

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Can any good thing come out of Dunedin?

Dunedin. Just a tad north of the South Pole. Hills. The world's steepest street. Grey, Calvinist weather (yup, that's two locals in the pic taking a stroll on the beach!), Rugby's "House of Pain."

Once in the long ago I lived in Invercargill, even closer to the icebergs. Forget the Aussie pretenders - we're talking the real Down Under. It was a brief tenure, but I have fond memories of life as a "mainlander." Fond but chilly. Well, mainly chilly. These days I've a continuing association with the South Island through Otago University (New Zealand's oldest and coldest seat of higher learning) where this Aucklander is chipping away (from a safe temperate-zone distance) at a degree in theology. I'd chance a reference to ice-picks, but not all Scots-descended Dunedinites are famous for their sense of humor (which explains a great deal about Presbyterians in general.)

Frankly, I woudn't have imagined a COG-related Kiwi blog coming from such sub-arctic climes, unless Max or Fraser decided to further their agenda (let the reader understandeth.) But then - great burning Scarfie sofas - it appears one has. Peter, take a bow. Pull on a jumper and an extra pair of socks then click across to check it out.

First impressions? Nice job.

Monday 4 August 2008

Two Witnesses have date with IRS

Great news scoop from Mike over at Don't Drink the Flavor Aid. At last Ron gets some much deserved attention... Couldn't happen to a nicer chap!

Sunday 3 August 2008

CGI - rattling on...

It's somehow comforting to know that, deep in the heart of East Texas, the Church of God International is still plugging away long after founder Garner Ted Armstrong was booted out following a naked romp with a local masseuse.

Now a new initiative is getting the de-Armstronged CGI gospel out via YouTube. Here's a sample from the very personable Bill Watson.

Searching for the CGI offerings on YouTube is a daunting task however. Try typing in "Armour of God" (British spelling) and you get Jackie Chan movie clips. Try typing in "Church of God International" and you get the unrelated Filipino sect MCGI. Holy Identity Crisis, Batman!

CGI made its debut in 1978 with Garner Ted and Ron Dart at the helm and has spawned an impressive number of splinter groups in its own right. It's not quite as dead as the dinosaurs in Bill's video, but it's also doubtful a few YouTube flicks will do much to haul it off the endangered list either.

Saturday 2 August 2008

By what authority?

After watching the coronation of the king of Tonga, I've decided there is a branch of Christianity more deviant than Armstrongism, ancient or modern.

I'm a PC kind of guy, culturally sensitive to the reality of living in a multi-ethnic world where people of diverse backgrounds rub shoulders. But the bastardized display of European religion and Pacific heritage on display in Nuku'alofa was simply nauseating.

Sitting on a golden throne gifted by the People's Republic of China (!), the monarch received the rites of ascension from the Anglican archbishop of Polynesia, a middle aged man in drag.

According to Paul Johnson there are two ways Christendom sets forth to evangelize:

One is to evangelize the lowest and least privileged elements, capture their allegiance in huge numbers, and so work upward from the base... The second is to aim at the elite, or even at the individuals at the head of the elite, obtain recognition or adoption of the faith as a matter of state policy, and then work downwards, by authority, example or force (or all three).
Johnson, A History of Christianity, 410

Kings are crowned by men in dresses because their royal authority is thought to come from the fossilized Sky Father in Heaven. Resist Lord Muck and you're fighting God. Citizens therefore need to know their place and keep to it. The people of Tonga had to riot in the streets last year to make their call for democracy heard.

These days most of us have no illusions about the divine rights of Europe's chinless aristocracy. Kings, along with presidents and prime ministers, serve at the will of the people; which is why lobbiests invest in PR firms rather than prayers.

Whether Mitre-Man Jabez Bryce was conflicted by the anachronism isn't known, but the archbishop trotted out the full paraphernalia in a cringing rip-off of European privilege: antiquated language, silly hat, oil of anointing. The choir even sang Zadok the Priest.

The fisherfolk who accompanied Jesus would have laughed themselves silly.

The good news is that just hours before the festivities, George Tupou V (known to his buddies as G5) announced his intention to bring democratic reform to his tiny nation. By so doing he may have avoided the indignity bestowed not long ago on his Nepalese counterpart.

Armstrongism or Anglicanism? Hmm, tough choice.