Wednesday 29 October 2008

The True Dave Pack

David C. Pack has launched a new publication called "The True Jesus Christ." The RCG website gushes: A single book can change people forever. The True Jesus Christ – Unknown to Christianity does this! There has never been a book like it!

Never? Well actually Dave, there has; The Real Jesus by Garner Ted Armstrong. How could you forget, especially as almost all your stuff is rewritten from WCG originals to circumvent copyright infringements? Please tell me you're not in the early stages of Alzheimer's!

Big Dave has also picked up another trophy-elder, this time a Peruvian UCG minister: Wilfredo Sáenz Asencios.
Mr. Sáenz was a member of the very first Peruvian congregation established in the Worldwide Church of God. After his ordination in 1978, he raised up and served a number of local churches in Peru and Bolivia, working full-time in the ministry from that point. He left the Worldwide Church of God for the United Church of God when it formed in 1995, continuing to oversee congregations in his native country.
Determined to hold fast to the full truth, Mr. Sáenz will care for members of The Restored Church of God in Peru and a number of other countries, alongside RCG’s other minister serving the Spanish-speaking world.

Exactly how many RCG members there are in Peru - other than the few that jumped ship with Sáenz - is unknown.

RCG may not have a TV or radio program, but the lads in Wadsworth do know how to put audio and video online, and are about to make a big, expensive leap forward: The World to Come will soon transition from audio to video! From a newly built state-of-the-art television studio, David C. Pack will continue to address the pressing issues of today, making plain the truths of the Bible and tying their significance to world events, trends, conditions—and to your life!

A state of the art TV studio for a glorified podcast? Hey, why not?

Friday 24 October 2008

The Journal, David Barrett, Hymn Satire

Over 200 responses came in to the question "Which COG publications do you read - at least occasionally". Surprisingly the free flagship mags attracted only modest interest, while Dixon Cartwright's The Journal is the most popular. Here's the breakdown.

Stan over at the AR blog has some further info on David Barrett and his survey. While it's amusing to fill out one of the many informal polls on sites like AW, the Barrett questionnaire gives members and ex-members a chance to participate in a very real piece of research. If you haven't already done so, toddle across to and give it a go. The password seems to have posed problems for some, but most of us shouldn't have too many hassles: David asks you to type in the name of the city where HWA's radio ministry began on KORE (and where he famously hung out in the public library), followed by the year Radio Church of God first hit the airwaves... e.g pasadena1972 (which is of course wrong on both counts, but you get the idea.)

If you haven't checked out Bill's links on Ekklesia lately, there are some new entries. Bill has also dug up a nice little variation on WCG hymns... including Everybody Wants To Be a Pastor General and Onward German Soldiers (a sense humor is definitely required!)

Thursday 23 October 2008

A Proud Arrogant Haughty Willie

I'm predicting an Obama victory. My major reason is that Willie Dankenbring seems to be pinning his credibility on a McCain/Palin win.

Here's what Willie says in his latest long-winded ad in The Journal (for which, I sincerely hope, Dixon charged him top dollar):

With a proud, arrogant, haughty Obama at the helm, a neophyte, a do-nothing, inexperienced “amateur” in charge as “Commander in Chief,” our decline would be seriously hastened and our national world standing quickly eroded, as enemies began to pounce. The great time of tribulation would be hastened and soon engulf our shores.

With McCain and Palin at the helm, if they win the Presidential race, then it would appear that God in heaven has given us a little more time—perhaps four more years—to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God, to get God’s message out to this war-weary sin-sick world—to thunder and rattle the gates of heaven — before the ‘end’ comes.

Proud, arrogant and haughty... hmm. My terrible confession is that once I thought that Willie was a smart cookie. Tucked safely away in storage I have copies of several of his books from the 1970s - I wouldn't contaminate my bookshelves with them these days.

Willie undoubtedly wrote this schlock with a sudden rush of blood to the head when it briefly appeared that the Palin factor was an asset rather than a liability. In any event, Willie seems to be saying that if McCain takes the presidency, his myopic little godling will sit back in the heavenly armchair and graciously grant humankind an extension to its suffering here below. You'd think Willie would be praying for an Obama victory so this "sin-sick" world would mercifully reach its terminus sooner - but that's hardly his logic. Willie is, I suspect, hoping to pull the same rabbit out of the hat that Rod Meredith did with George W. Bush: elect a conservative and the embarrassingly wrong prophetic speculation can be pushed a little further into the mists.

Then again, I wonder what Willie thinks it means to "thunder and rattle the gates of heaven"... as far as I can see all he does nowadays is write dopey ads for The Journal and issue low quality re-writes of the KJV...

But watch this space: if Obama wins expect the Trib to "engulf our shores" well before "four more years" - for thus saith the prophet.

Saturday 18 October 2008

Journal out

The July 31 Journal has just been released - even though it's mid October and mid-Tabernacles as well. But don't let that put you off, this is quite an issue!

It seems the once cosy relationship between Ron Dart's CEM and the Tyler Church of God has ended in a messy separation, and resignations have been flying. There's a lengthy article on these developments by Dixon Cartwright.

Art Mokarow wanted to start "something new and different," so he called it the Association for Biblical Research. Hmm... octogenarian Art is definitely old enough to recall that Ernie Martin established something called the Foundation for Biblical Research back in the 70s. Al Carrozzo, another ghost from the past still remembered for blowing the whistle on Garner Ted's shenanigans, is also involved in ABR. Sadly, there seems to be no website.

Back to Ron Dart who, with all that free time he has now there are no sermons to prepare for the TCOG, has teamed up with the indomitable Pam Dewey to write a book (or more properly a booklet given that it runs to under 50 pages) called Doctrinal Self Defense. Here's the blurb:

The ancient Athenians of Paul's day gave their time to nothing more than hearing some new thing. They had nothing on the modern crowds waiting in line at grocery checkouts. The supermarket tabloids are sold by the millions because so many love to read some new thing. And the more astounding that new thing, the more appealing it is, whether it's the latest juicy gossip about a celebrity scandal, or the latest wild speculation on UFOs. Unfortunately, much of the world of religion still constantly thrives on some new thing too. There is an endless stream of wannabee gurus peddling Astounding New Truth (ANT) about prophecy, or obscure doctrinal topics, or hidden codes in the Bible, or lost keys to getting your prayers answered. What is really astounding is how easily so many of them can gather a following through their literature, recordings, websites, and broadcasts no matter how outlandish or unsubstantiated their claims. If your home or church congregation has been infested with ANTs, you may wonder what you can do to defend yourself and your loved ones. That is what this book is about.

ANTs... clever. Published by the POD firm Wasteland Press, you can pick up a copy for only $8 from Amazon.

Gary Arvidson - yet one more name from the dim, dark, distant past - rambles on about prophetic countdowns and the seventy weeks prophecy. "This sequel to [a previous Journal essay] points to possible significance for the year 2007 based on what came to pass in that year. It is a starting point for what is happening in 2008. So it now appears reasonable that 2007 could have been a pivotal year." Whoa, with sharp logic like that someone's gotta introduce this guy to Ronnie Weinland!

But wait, there's more! Alan Knight is back with an article on - are you ready for this? - shamanism. Actually Alan, those recovery stories told about dead youngsters being brought back to life by Elijah (1Kings 17) and Elisha (2 Kings 4) just reek of shamanism according to many scholars... but of course that's a long way from the point of Alan's rant on the wicked Babylonian influences that have subverted mainline Christianity.

Sprightly Don Billingsley, faithful flock-meister to the COG-FF, age 82, has overcome his recent grief sufficiently to tie the knot once more less than a year after the death of his first wife Madeline. The new Mrs Billingsley is 71.

Dennis Diehl contributes a letter to the editor about Willie Dankenbring's newly minted apostleship, and provides a column on long, lonely train whistles: perhaps the highlight of the issue.

Finally, there are details of the Barrett survey, which should be going online within the next day or so. The web address is Put this one on your to-do list! You'll need to punch in a password. "Entry to the questionnaire is password-protected to prevent false entries by people outside the [COGs]. The password is six letters followed by four numbers: the town where HWA first began his radio ministry, and the year this occurred."

There are brief mentions of Raymond McNair's death and Rod Meredith's stroke.

With all that to digest, I haven't dared to peel back the pages of the Connections ad section yet... there's such a thing as too much excitement in one day ;-)

As always, Dixon kindly provides free access to the front and back pages in PDF form.

Friday 17 October 2008

Prophecy abused

Douglas Winnail writes:

Long ago, God told the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the twelve tribes of Israel, found not only in the modern nation of Israel but also among the peoples of the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and other nations descended from the peoples of northwestern Europe) that they would be blessed if they obeyed His laws—laws He had given them so they could be lights and examples to the world (Deuteronomy 4:1–10). However, God’s chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6–7; Isaiah 43:1, 10, 20–21) were also warned that if they chose to disobey God’s laws and to despise His statutes, they would suffer severe consequences. God said through Moses: “…I will even appoint terror over you… you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you…. I will break the pride of your power” (Leviticus 26:14–19).

We are seeing those prophecies coming alive today

You thought economic meltdown was a complex matter? Dummkopfs! It's because those Brits and Yanks haven't been keeping the Sabbath and avoiding ham sandwiches! How simple yet how plain!

As the greed-economy totters, the mindless whining ascends from the "authorities" within the various COG sects: "we told you so..."

Winnail and a few hundred self-lobotomized prophets will be eagerly milking the current Wall Street crisis for all its worth. Recessions come and go, and we all hope that this one will go before a lot of good people get hurt, but is this an example of "prophecy marching on"?

Do any of these blow-hard prognosticators know anything about history? If you want to read about a real apocalypse, consider the genocide directed against the Armenian people after World War I, or the wholesale slaughter of the Greek and Armenian population of Smyrna in 1922.

Smyrna? Half a million terrorized civilians crowded on a waterfront as their city was burned and pillaged, unimaginable atrocities and butchery all around them. The stomach-churning story is related by Giles Milton in his book Paradise Lost: Smyrna, 1922. 1922? That's less than ninety years ago, but even though American and British battleships were in the harbor and eyewitness accounts abound, collective amnesia permits us to indulge in the conceit that their very real tragedies were a mere hiccup compared to the dire self-indulgent fantasies peddled by today's Bible abusers.

Tough times may be ahead, but what generation has escaped tough times? On one side there are genuine tragedies - Smyrna for example, or Kosova, or Darfur - on the other this kind of racist dogma whipped along by voyeuristic prophets - prophets who belch over their beer while sprawled on the sofa watching live satellite reports on 42" plasma TV screens - then attach bleeding chunks of scripture severed from their historical context to feed to the credulous sheep at their next pulpit performance.

Monday 6 October 2008

Groundbreaking survey online this month

The Day of Rumbling Tummies arrives Thursday this week, and then observant COG members will be busy preparing for the Feast of Tabernacles. To all who are traveling: have a safe and enjoyable trip.

With the seasonal slump in blog hits pending, AW will be taking a break. Comments can still be submitted, but there may be some delay in posting them. Of course, if any major news breaks - Rod Meredith meets the Pope for example - an exception will be made to cover the story.

Before your jaundiced blog-meister toddles off with the fishing gear, here are a couple of items of interest.

Survey launches October 20: Probably the most significant survey of ex-WCG members ever launched kicks in on the 20th. British academic David V. Barrett will upload an online questionnaire on that date at

Barrett is author of The New Believers (Cassell, 2001) which included a substantial chapter on WCG. Now, as part of his PhD thesis on WCG, he is taking the time to listen to the views of former members. He writes:

I've written a questionnaire for former members and ministers of WCG which... should take about 25 minutes to complete... I'm particularly trying to find out things like this:

* What it felt like for members and ministers to discover that their own church was abandoning its teachings.

* What was it like to leave WCG after years of loyal membership.

*Why people left when they did - what was the trigger?

*Why members initially went to PCG, to GCG [Global] or to UCG.

*Why many members later moved on from these to other churches.

*How members of COGs that had separated from WCG earlier, such as Raymond Cole's Church of God, the Eternal or Garner Ted Armstrong's Church of God, International, were affected by the massive changes in WCG and their aftermath.

I aim to end up with the first major unbiased account of what happened in the years following HWA's death.

More information about the survey will be published in the upcoming Journal, and David Barrett has taken pains to keep the various COGs informed.

... I am doing this study with the full knowledge, and I hope cooperation of your church leaders... I'm hoping they will be as open and honest in their replies as I am certain you will be with yours.

I personally have great confidence in David's professionalism and impartiality, qualities that are very evident in his earlier book. More on this important development straight after the Feast when the survey goes online.

New Blog: Corky, a name familiar to AW readers through his perceptive comments to many posts, has launched his own blog. A refugee from WCG, Corky fell under the influence of the Christadelphian sect before moving on to a skeptical path. You can read his thoughts at

Thursday 2 October 2008

Weasel Words

Bob Thiel cites something Don Billingsley wrote in the last Journal.

...please know this could very well be the last normal year to observe the Feast of Tabernacles as has been done in the past years. When these ever-increasing disasters are understood in view of end-time prophecies, traveling could be fraught with life-threatening danger as well as lack of funds for many of God's people to even attend the Feast of Tabernacles in 2009 (Leviticus 26:18-22).

Note the weasel words: could very well be... could be fraught...

That's a stock in trade qualification for the fringe Adventists of the Churches of God. You'd think Don would have wised up by now and learned to bite his lip each time his mouth outstrips his brain.

No Don, ain't happenin'. Not next year, nor the year after, and not even in "three to five" years. But then you've covered yourself haven't you: could very well be... could be fraught... Death by a thousand qualifications.

With Wall Street now reaping what it's sowed, the hucksters of the Apocalypse will be working themselves into a lather about the End Times arriving. The chickens may have come home to roost on Fanny Mae's roof, but there are no heavenly armies parked on armored clouds above our heads. German tanks aren't about to roll down the streets of Milwaukee or Nashville either.

The WCG fed off the Apocalypse for decades: 19-year time cycles, Basil Wolverton's lurid art, sermons with carefully intoned quotations from Matthew 24... Flip through 30-year old issues of The Plain Truth and count the articles on impending trade wars, environmental collapse, the rise of Europe...

Crying wolf was our greatest "denominational distinctive." For many it still is.

The surprising thing is that while for some of us the hard-learned lesson is about disconfirmation, for others the Pavlovian conditioning still kicks in when scary things happen out there in "the world." Every unwelcome headline is taken as proof that "prophecy marches on." Too bad it seems to be marching in circles.

Whipping up the anxiety level means, of course, checks in the mail for the peddlers of the Apocalypse. Why give a sucker an even break?