Sunday 9 November 2008

75 years Through Rose Tinted Lenses

2008 marked the 75th anniversary of the distinctive Feast of Tabernacles tradition which began with a handful of observers in Belknap Springs, Oregon. The United Church of God marked the milestone this year with a 1 hour, 6 minute video, which you can view below. If a full hour sounds a bit daunting, try the first 40 minutes, which is a nostalgic backward glance with some great photographs of years gone by and reminisces by old timers. There is little there to reflect the painful side of that history - the focus is on positive memories - but even so many people may find it fascinating in parts. I had no idea that radio station KORE, for example, is still there, churning out religious broadcasts decades after Herbert W. Armstrong began his radio ministry there.

The video is professionally produced, and quite a trip into the history - admittedly the idealized, airbrushed history - of the movement Herbert Armstrong launched.


Anonymous said...

remembering !!!!

Anonymous said...

This video was a little bit of a surprise in that the United Church almost never ever mentions Herbert W. Armstrong in its literature. In fact, many of the leaders now in the UCG had helped Joseph Tkach, Sr. to change virtually all of HWA's teachings. The UCG was not founded until several months after the Worldwide Church under JWT, Sr. had openly turned against virtually everything that HWA had taught.

At its peak around the end of HWA's life there were about 150,000 people attending the Feast of Tabernacles in the WCG.

Near the end, HWA made it look so easy to grow the church that many other people thought that they could easily do it too--and even better than HWA. The Tkach regime mocked HWA's claims about the past growth rate of the WCG, but under JWT, Sr. it declined even faster than it had grown under HWA.

Here are some rough attendance projection figures for the UCG if it had a 30%/year growth rate, starting with about 20,000 people:

1995 - 20,000 starting attendance
1996 - 26,000
1997 - 33,800
1998 - 43,940
1999 - 57,122
2000 - 74,258
2001 - 96,536
2002 - 125,497
2003 - 163,146
2004 - 212,089
2005 - 275,716
2006 - 358,432
2007 - 465,961
2008 - 605,750 projected attendance

Actual 2008 attendance: about 20,000 people.

Perhaps there is some factor that the UCG leaders have left out of the equation that could explain why they have to try to find time periods over which they can claim a measly little 1.2% growth rate, before it gets undone by other things.

While claiming to be holding fast to the truth that they were taught, the leaders and members of the UCG do seem to have suffered a mass amnesia about many things.
If the UCG politicking and backstabbing do not end, they could suffer many more splits.

The UCG seems to have rejected HWA's "church eras" theory while at the same time assuming that they do not have to worry because they (the Laodicean era) is expected to be "rich" and will have "acquired wealth." It does not occur to the UCG leaders that it is just their perception, and that actually they should expect to be "wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked."

Anonymous said...

Actually, if you want to be honest and accurate, significant growth in terms of membership and income took place under Joseph Tkach Sr. The church as much larger and richer in 1990 than when HWA died in 1986. The decline did not take place until he and the leaders of the church decided that many of HWA's doctrines were not biblical and that the church was not built on Jesus Christ but on Mosaic Law. When that foundation crumbled is when the income and members were lost at significant rates. Up until that time, the leadership had a "good thing going". So either they were seriously stupid in thinking they could grow the church even better a different way or they did what their hearts told them to do, no matter the cost (which I would imagine they knew what would happen to an extent).

Anonymous said...

Memories so thick I had to wave them away...

Anonymous said...

Wow --- if Annie Elliot's brainwashed spewage wasn't enough to convince people how much United is still the Cult o' Herbie, the members' proud tales of how they sacrificed endless amounts of money in order to "give to gawd" would certainly do the trick.

Man, that video of the opening services was spooky, though: UCG's entire Feast site was about half the size of one of the congregations I used to attend, and at least one-quarter of the size of another.

Still, we ought to have a drinking game!

- 1 drink for every briefcase
- 1 drink for every briefcase adorned with the usual accoutrements: Bible, notebook, highlighter, pens, and hymnal
- 1 drink every time you see someone taking notes
- 1 drink every time you see the little kid-bots sitting up prim and proper
- chug when you see the one kid who's blanket-trained
- chug when you see everyone obediently flipping through their bibles

That's just off the top of my head. What did you spot that you recognized?

(What I'd really like to see is a bootleg of one of the satellite transmissions from the '80s go up on YouTube. Now that would be a blast from MY past.)

Anonymous said...

Purple Hymnal said...

Still, we ought to have a drinking game!

- 1 drink for every [occasion imaginable]

- 2 [glug, glug, glug]


I can see how the whole so-called COG experience could drive some people to drinking. Nevertheless, it sounds like you have had enough to drink already. Time to sober up, before your nose gets big and red.

Anonymous said...

The sermon featured in the film by Mr. Kilough in the video was not at a feast site. It was filmed months before the Feast in the local congregation in Eugene, Oregon.

Anonymous said...

Purple Hymnal said, “Man, that video of the opening services was spooky, though: UCG's entire Feast site was about half the size of one of the congregations I used to attend, and at least one-quarter of the size of another.”

MY COMMENT – Funny, I thought the same thing when I viewed the tape. I attended WCG with my family from 1968 to 1976. The WCG congregation attendance in my local region had over 600 in Baltimore, over 500 in Washington, D.C., about 150 in Hagerstown, Md. and about 150 on Maryland’s eastern shore.

I don’t know if Clyde Kilough would “get it” because he is a product of AC, but his documentary is also testimony of how the WCG threw away a whole generation of children. The video intersperses reflections and memories of AC like belonging to a little dieing fraternal club of a very few that defined their lives for a lifetime. My recollection of my teenage years in WCG was that if you did not go to AC, then what good are you?

I know I lost interest in the WCG after I was rejected from AC. Here is a more painful excerpt from my unpublished essay, “My reflections of the Worldwide Church of God: 1972 in Prophecy - God’s Practical Joke?” excerpted here:

When I applied to the Church’s S.E.P. summer camp program and to its Ambassador College, I was rejected in both cases. I remember a conversation I had with a girl at church who also applied to Ambassador College. At church, I had informed her that I had received my letter notifying me that I was not accepted to the College. She hadn’t heard yet whether she was accepted, but promptly informed me that she had hoped to get into Ambassador “because that was where the best guys are”. Thanks, I really needed that! She was eventually accepted, and hopefully, she learned some tact at Ambassador.

I did not feel good about myself in the years I grew up in the Church and the feelings of inferiority that the Church helped nurture stayed with me for many years. I sold myself short in a number of instances in my professional and personal life because I didn’t think I was worthy of good things happening to me. Although the Church prepared me for a 1972 German attack, the Church did not prepare me for life itself. To demonstrate the mindset of people in the Worldwide Church in the early 1970s, I recall telling a member that I was planning to go to College. The member replied, “Why go to College? The World is going to end soon!”

End of excerpt.

Today, I am very thankful I am “an Ambassador College reject”. But, I know a secondary reason why I wanted to go to AC, besides the primary reason of getting an education, was to find “the wife of my youth” among likeminded woman of same age and religious background. There just wasn’t opportunity in the local church region, even with the numbers I presented earlier in this post. So, after I left the WCG, I felt I was just “too weird” to relate to girls “in the world” during my prime youthful years, and I remained single all my life even to this very day.


Anonymous said...

Most of the UCG growth over the years has been through members having babies. Just like all the other splinter groups, they aren't growing. They've lost the one thing that caused the growth to begin with- HWA. Eventually, this cult, and the others, will die out, splinter more, or be relegated to some fringe rural congregation like Garner Ted's group.
The glory days are begind them, that's why they must reminisce like this at their annual festival.

Anonymous said...

Hey anon, I was just going along with the "Feast of Booze" theme that was prevalent every year anyway! :-)

larry said...

Anonymous 05:08 said:
"they did what their hearts told them to do, no matter the cost (which I would imagine they knew what would happen to an extent)."

A very astute observation. Glad to see that someone here believes that the leaders of the church are capable of making decisions that are not entirely monetarily motivated. There is a group here, which I don't have to name, who thinks that the entire WCG is just some big scam. They are entitled to their opinion. I really don't know what to say to such people.

When you have fallen to such depths of cynicism, you are beyond rescue. One thing I have learned over the years is that I cannot judge others' thoughts and motivations. I strongly recommend that approach for all.

Anonymous said...

Larry said:

"There is a group here, which I don't have to name, who thinks that the entire WCG is just some big scam. They are entitled to their opinion. I really don't know what to say to such people.

When you have fallen to such depths of cynicism, you are beyond rescue. One thing I have learned over the years is that I cannot judge others' thoughts and motivations. I strongly recommend that approach for all."

Exchange "WCG" for "traditional Christianity" and the shoe is suddenly on the other foot. Hypocrisy is soooo blind...

Anonymous said...

"When you have fallen to such depths of cynicism, you are beyond rescue. One thing I have learned over the years is that I cannot judge others' thoughts and motivations. I strongly recommend that approach for all."

I don't personally believe one "falls to depths of cynicsim" as if it was some kind of defective reaction to a life experience. I don't think either cynicism or skepticism is something one has to be rescued from. Without it, we'd still be in the Dark Ages. Cynicism motivates some to dig deeper. One draws one conclusion, one another. And it's ok.

Each person, may I say, soul, responds to their own perceptions of the experience in their own way. There is no right or wrong way to respond to such a fiasco as the WCG. Each came in different ways for different reasons with different motivations some voluntarily and some with no choice.

I always heard that experience is the best teacher...BUT the tuition is high, as if one really didn't want experience to be the teacher. To me, experience is the ONLY teacher. Everything else is just hearsay.

Telling one how to be because look here in the Bible and see how so and so did it wrong so you better learn that lesson from "bible guy," is bogus. If I had Solomon's wisdom and resources, maybe I"d not be such a fool as he was made out to be. I might do a lot better than he ever dreamed possible because I wasn't him.

Everyone plays a part in the story. Let's face it, without Judas, bonehead disciples, Pilate, Romans, Satan,the sick and the dead...we'd have no story of Jesus. Without Paul, we'd not have the Gentile version winning out over the Jewish Jesus and without the early Church Fathers, who were probably more crazy than pure inspiration, we'd not have all the misery that competing "isms" inflict upon each other to this day.

All churches are controling. All religion (not spirituality) is designed for compliance and to support the priestcraft in their musings. Fear, guilt and shame have always worked well for the organized Church. Many in high places know the story is suspect or the history they give out of how it all was or is, is questionable, but you'll not ever hear about it unless you go looking. You don't go looking if you are comfortable or have no skepticism or critical thinking when being told what to think or believe.

Here on AW and on other COG blogs we find every combo of human reaction to such an experience as the implosion of a faith system such as we have seen. There are the deeply wounded who express it in cynicism, skepticism and theological doubt.

There are the wounded who have stepped over into yet another religous experience that is now the true way to go for themselves at this time. We get annoyed when they insist we see it as they do now.

There are the more mature and the less mature in how one expresses or processes the experience. Sarcasm is anger turned sideways.

And we have a few who have become more radicalized in religion in ways that make one just wish to pinch their heads off.

One may rise to the "heights of faith" too and be just as annoying and unable to be reasonable in their views. I would place those on the Surprising God Blog in the area of rising to such heights of blather that my cynicism is reinforced if nothing else. I watched my WCG minister brother in law die way too young of a broken theological heart, stuck in it and never able to reconcile what had happened to his good intentions. He died of a body reaction to mind disappointments and confusion. He was a very people sensitive human being and did not have the energy to go on. I believe this personally. A mind won't believe what the heart can't accept.

We should all respect each others journey as well as perhaps be aware of how we each express it. But the way of expressing is also part of the journey and changes over time as well as one grows through it, which is the goal anyway I would hope.

Anonymous said...

"One thing I have learned over the years is that I cannot judge others' thoughts and motivations."


Anonymous said...

"No religion can rise to power quickly without vast promises, fierce threats, and the doctrine of imminent catastrophe"

This is why the Old WCG grew so well in it's time and why the New WCG will fall on its ass, if it has not already done so and just not noticed yet.

Unless UCG sticks to this formula as do Dave Pack, Gerald Flurry and Rod Meredith and their successors, they will fail.

People who slobber over grace usually find out in time they need more law to keep the troops under control. Those who use law to keep the troops under control, usually learn that the troops can't be controlled and need more grace.

The COG's will never understand NT Theology until they learn, and they can't learn it because it has implications, there never was one true, coherent, doctrinally sound Church in the history of Christianity. The NT is full of one newly hatched Jesus group after another attacking the others. Within in a short time of Jesus death you had people saying Jesus never came in the flesh, and getting cursed by those that said they were liars. It was a free for all over who the true Apostles were and weren't. All Asia forsook Paul he blames them never wondering if he might be coming across badly. The Jewish Christians kicked Paul out and Paul kicked them out. The more things change....

The Book of James, and how it got left in the NT is beyond me, was written to negate Paul's ideas about law and obedience. James despised Paul, Paul despised Peter, John and Luke mocked Peter as leader and Paul only loved himself and didn't need anyone telling him about his cosmic vision Jesus. Anyone can read Galatians and see Paul was a renegade, had his own version of Jesus even though he never met him, and didn't care one bit who or what the Jerusalem Apostles thought or taught.

It's been a mess from the beginning.

I also might add, making your people feel the most special...a Holy Nation, a Royal Priesthood, a people of his own actually.

Also be able to say that it's obvious not many wise men now are called or noble brethren but rather the average and oppressed. This makes such qualities as wisdom, critical thinking, questioning authority and proving all things to oneself really suspect and not much welcomed by the priestcraft. You know, "creame of the crap," encouragment.

But if one is going to quickly start a good religion, you do have to go by the tried and true formula of making big promises for compliance, threats and punishments for non compliance and disbelief and the reward for loyalty must just be around the corner or over the next hill. If you don't, you just end up Surprising God on your blog and no comments from your ministry who probably doesn't understand it either.

"Soon" and "Shortly" have worked well for the past 2000 years. Someone redacting "but in the last days there shall be scoffers..saying, where is the promise of his coming (mainly because he hasn't come as he said)..." and then reminding them that , "oh well, you see...ummm, ok, here's the answer to that....ummmm ok....your soon and God's soon are different. Your day and God's day are we're still right and you are so wrong keep sending it in."

Think how much misery and foolishness would be saved genuinely sincere and nice people if Churches could see the Book of Revelation is a failed Jewish Christian prophecy against the Roman occupation and probably that False, to them, Gentile Christian leader who say they are Apostles and are not, Paul?

But the Book of Revelation is the COG ace in the Pack and there can be no Rod of Iron and end time Flurry of scary soon now scenarious without it. Gee, the Weinlands would be totally out of ides without it. Truly, truly. :)

Robert said...

Teenagers and kids are the same in most religions, few, will ever stay and go and do their own thing when given half the chance. No other religion in history went through the experience we did when the whole foundation of the church was abandoned. No wonder few youths remained in the church. The changes caused the youth to fall away from the church.

On another note, no my name is not Hebrew but Germanic in origin with my first name meaning Bright with Fame. And my surname means To Cut. So we have a person who is bright who will be famous and cuts up.

Hmm, I wonder what Ron Weinland means?

Robert said...

Ronald means Rules with Good Judgment.
Hey, perhaps Ron is one of the Witnesses afterall!

Anonymous said...

I see why you recommend the first 40 minutes......the next 25 contain information few, if any, here want to hear. (at least right now anyway, maybe one day in the future you'll be open to it)

larry said...

PH, Have I offended you in some previous life? You call me a hypocrite, and you don't even know me.

I wouldn't recommend that you extrapolate too much about the doctrines of the current WCG from my posts. As I have said several times, my opinions are my own. I do understand that there are very good reasons why the Church believes the way it does and publishes its beliefs as it does. I do not disagree with the leadership of the Church.

But, as Dennis expressed so eloquently, the Church of God has never been monolithic in its actions and/or beliefs. It is a collection of dynamic individuals each with their own personalities, backgrounds, perspectives, and responsibilities.

They are unified by the love of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Anonymous said...

There never has been a monolithic, one man-at-the-top (except Jesus) church.
The apostles represented Jesus and had his authority. When they died each local assembly was not subject to any over-arching authority except the Word. (The overeer of each assembly was - for the sake of order - the only human authority.)
Life gets bad enough in a local assembly (eg Corinth). But the Head deals with each assembly individually. Add on an external hierarchy and, eventually, chaos reigns. The modern COGs bear witness!
An 'experiment' - rather an attempt to understand the best (Biblical) way forward - is that of the Churches of God Outreach Ministries (CGOM). There are, too, lessons to be learned from the COG Seventh Day church.

Anonymous said...

"PH, Have I offended you in some previous life?"

No, Larry, you offend me in this one.

Anonymous said...

It is very interesting that the UCG video only had some pictures from HWA's early years.

The video should have included some pictures from HWA's later years as well, when HWA flew around the world in his jet meeting foreign leaders, and claimed to be "Christ's Apostle" and "the Elijah who was to come and restore all things" in the "Philadelphia era of the Church."

Or, maybe saying too much would not have suited the UCG's little revisionist history video. After all, the UCG no longer believes or teaches everything that HWA did.

Also, saying anything about how large the WCG was at the end of HWA's life, or mentioning how many millions of magazines it produced each year, or how many hundreds of TV stations it was on, might make the UCG seem rather small and pathetic by comparison.

Furthermore, it could get too messy to talk about the WCG apostasy under the Tkach regime, since so many leaders now in the UCG had gone along with almost all of it, and many of them still agree with a lot of what the apostates taught them.

Anonymous said...

Today, I am very thankful I am “an Ambassador College reject”.


Richard the Reject,

One year at the Feast of Tabernacles an old fool who passed himself off as a professor at AC came up to the Feast site to yap at the eager, young, potential AC students. This was under the Tkach regime some time after HWA's death.

He explained that many parents wanted their precious daughters to be in the protective bosom of Ambassador College. The result was that so many girls applied that they rejected 2 out of every 3 girls who applied.

He also explained that guys tended to view AC as just a Bible college, so not as many of them applied. The result was that they rejected only 1 out of every 2 guys who applied.

He went on to say that they would like to get more guys to apply so that they could reject 2 out of every 3 guys who applied, like they did with the girls. (Remember, I warned you that he was an old fool, and old fools just don't know when to shut up.)

As for girls going to AC to meet a better class of guy, I remember one who came back pregnant after the first year, but not quite married just yet, after meeting a "better class of dink" there. Another girl graduated "with distinction" just before AC closed, but explained that it was difficult to do because she had to quickly learn all the new church doctrines in time to repeat them back on the exams. As HWA had noticed, education is just a system of memory training.

Whenever you are feeling down about not going to AC, stop and consider all the ignorant, lazy, greedy, immoral, money-hungry so-called "ministers" that place cranked out. One local old fool "minister" wanted the church to change even faster to a more Pentecostal style. One local young punk "minister" ended up divorced and then quietly shacked up with another girl. Many of the nutty false prophets now plaguing the COGs were AC students who never even learned not to lie. The results speak volumes about the selection process at AC.

Don't worry about AC. Just watch your own behavior so that you will not have to be rejected by God too. Now that WOULD be bad!

Anonymous said...

"What I'd really like to see is a bootleg of one of the satellite transmissions from the '80s go up on YouTube. Now that would be a blast from MY past."

That would be interesting, since I was one of the aforementioned blanket trained kidbots during the Herbie festival transmissions. I remember knowing that Armstrong was speaking, but was too busy sleeping on my mat or playing with my Feast presents to know what he actually said.

I remember FOT in 1986 had a new, special "Festival '86" video that I was excited about. There must have been some Armstrong retrospective or tribute, or something shown along with it because I remember a standing ovation for Herbie during which I asked my mother "Why are they clapping? He's dead."

Anonymous said...

Is that "How Excellent is Thy Name" playing in the opening minutes? I've not heard those notes in years. But suddenly, I'm a child dressed in her Sabbath best, dutifully finding my cold, metal folding chair in a rented hall again.

I wonder what a normal childhood was like.

Anonymous said...

This video is just another means of proselytizing more into the Armstrong system.
Most of these ministers are fast losing control of their followers. I have noticed that in the UCG(ie,the Aaron Dean decision reversal). They know that the old guard is dying off,and so in order to preserve the system, they have to do what the old advertising man did-advertise.
But there is too much information out there now in regards to what actually happened, and so this system will die with its builders, thank God.

Anonymous said...

I think I'll pass on watching that, thanks.

Anonymous said...

"I wonder what a normal childhood was like."

"Normal is a setting on the dryer."

(Borrowed from Tony.)

Anonymous said...

As I watched the entire video, I couldn’t help but notice that the vast majority of folks sitting in the audience that was listening to Clyde Kilough are gray-haired and rapidly aging - and are fairly representative of ALL COG adherents now, whatever particular COG organization they attend.

Given this demographic, I can't help wondering when such folks are gone, will the wider COG remain as a functional organization(s) with any kind of meaningful outreach to preach their message to the world?

(And in no way do I intend any disrespect whatsoever toward such sincere, dedicated and well-meaning folks - as I've come to know and love many of them through my three decades plus attending the COG.)

The video was a real appeal to emotion—essentially a trip down memory road for the old-timers—and I think a yearning to return to a “glorious past” of the early days of the WCG. And facing the actual realities of the current COG groups, I can understand why such sentimentality is so extent now in many present day COG splinter groups.

Another thought that occurred to me was that I can remember a time when I would have eagerly lapped up the material presented in the video. But now I see with crystal clarity how so much of it is rooted and grounded in all manner of unproven metaphysical assumptions.

I recall hearing Kilough speak in person another time when I attended a UCG service in Cincinnati several years ago with some old friends there who were members — and I remember not being terribly impressed with not only WHAT he said, nor HOW he said it. My inner “baloney detector” was sounding off — and a spirit of tremendous gratitude came over me that I’d been able to escape from this extremely emotionally-appealing yet dead-end ideology.

I noticed in his sermon how Kilough kept repeating over and over again of "sacrifice" — a word he mentioned many times throughout the message. So the foundational drum of tithing (one clear implication) is still being subtly banged. And the “heritage” he talked about, as Gavin pointed out, was highly selective: a fantasy that still remains popular among COGer’s.

These were just a few of the thoughts that came to mind as I was watching.

But please, no need for the various "anonymous" posters to scream at me in fundamentalist rage in order to remind me how I've fooishly left the faith once delivered, having been deceived by the Devil, and that I'm obviously heading toward the lake of fire, etc.