Tuesday 30 June 2009

The Sugar Police

There have been stories over the years about church officials checking members' cupboards for the signs of Laodicean backsliding. Yes brethren, we're talking about Satan's subtlest refinements: white sugar and flour.

Back in the seventies, one such Godly enforcer was, allegedly, Joe Tkach Snr. In fact, if memory isn't playing tricks, the suggestion has been made that he was one of the more thuggish "home visitors".

But is there any documentation? Is there anyone out their who can recall the details, or point to a source for this tale?

A COG researcher is looking for just such published documentation for this bit of oral lore. If you have first hand knowledge of Tkach Snr's kitchen raids (on member or ministerial residences), or can point to existing references to this effect (online, or in hard copy), we'd love to hear from you.

Monday 29 June 2009

An unexpected vocation

It's a tragic story about a good man, tragically slain. Once you fight your way past the incongruity of it all, you'll appreciate that the report - covering a major moment of reflection in Jamaica - depicts a good man who brought great credit to his community of faith, the Worldwide Church of God. I'm sure most readers here would want to echo the condolences expressed to the family of Greg Gordon.

But you might well have to battle with the surreal elements first.

A tip of the hat to "DP" who sent in the link.

Friday 26 June 2009

Thriller - the final note

Michael Jackson is dead, and the talkback station I listen to on the long drive home is full of it. Jackson was a trailblazer in the world of music, and that - rather than the controversies that plagued his personal life - will endure.

And here's the thing: the true mark of a recovering cult member. I'm reminded of the article in the WN, December 1980, in which Herb slagged off The Beatles - a kind of anti-obituary to John Lennon.

What's the bet that one or more of the grumpy old men who represent the hierarchy in today's COG's will leap into smug mode and bewail the attention given to the departure of the king of pop? How many sermons this coming Sabbath will take cheap shots?

My personal tastes in music run more to Beethoven and Tchaikovsky than Jackson, but you'd have to have been living in a cave not to have been hugely influenced by the Gloved One's music and dance, one way or another. Let's hope that this time the lords of COGdom have enough nous to avoid the snide sliming of a great if flawed talent.

Related link: MAM on HWA.


Well, slap me silly, Clyde Kilough has leapt into the breach with this GN commentary on Jackson's death. I hate to admit it but, fair is fair, he does a reasonable job and makes some telling observations. I did gag a bit at the end when he talked about encouraging "normal" childhood. He should listen in to the testimony of the lost generations of "church brats." But, all said and done, it gets a 6/10.

Monday 22 June 2009

Weinland & Harpur: A Match Made In Hades

Mike over at Flavor Aid reveals that Ronnie Weinland was a warm-up act at ideacity for Tom Harpur. It seems Ron, after giving his own address, was upset to hear Harpur's talk and, like Elvis, left the building.

Which says an awful lot about just how completely dense Weinland is. Harpur is a well known Canadian. Before gaining notoriety as a proponent of the mythical Jesus position, Harpur (an Anglican clergyperson) was a popular liberal Christian author - with a high media profile. In fact, I have a couple of his earlier books (prior to The Pagan Christ) sitting on a shelf somewhere. And yes, there's a copy of The Pagan Christ there too (though I'm not all that impressed by it.)

My point is, if you were speaking at something like ideacity, wouldn't you want to do a little research - even if it's just a bit of googling - to see who you're on with?

This thought never seemed to have occured to Witness Ron. Here in far flung New Zealand even a doofus like me knew more about Harpur than Ronnie, who took offense, then apparently spat the dummy and left in a huff.

The ideacity organisers must have had a wicked sense of humor to put Harpur on immediately after Weinland. It'd be hard to find a greater contrast. Harpur is understated, eloquent and intelligent. Ronnie is... well, he's Ronnie.

Many of those folk who sat through Weinland's presentation were probably drawn there because of Harpur. Ron was the equivalent of a free Tom & Jerry matinee feature.

Which seems somehow quite apt.

Related link: Tom Harpur's website.

Sunday 21 June 2009

Laughter is the Best Medicine

According to a report by Dill Weed, Ronnie Weinland's appearance at IdeaCity in Toronto brought forth... laughter.

God's Super-duper Witness spoke to a bunch of elite Canadians who actually paid for the privilege... and there was laughter!

Sit down Ron, let me explain it to you. Would you like a cup of tea first? No? Well, okay, it's like this.

You are a noodle-head. Now please don't take that personally. Maybe there's a genetic flaw. You might not be totally responsible for your delusions of self-importance.

How to put this gently... you were the light entertainment.

Now, now Ron, worse things happen at sea. Take this box of tissues. If at any time you feel faint, just put your head down between your knees and wriggle your toes.

Have you ever heard the story of the Emperor's New Clothes Ron? Well, you're kind of like the Emperor and the tailors! Your theology (using that term loosely) is built of nothing more than hot air, and anyone with an ounce of sense can see that you're buck-naked (thankfully we're using a metaphor here Ron. Do you want me to explain that?) The Emperor was conned by a couple of shyster tailors Ron, but you seem to have done it to yourself. Which is kind of sad really. Not as sad as the poor jerks you've convinced, of course - the ones who sacrifice to bankroll your megalomania - but still sad.

Public scorn and rejection won't change your money-raking success though, will it Ron? You'll just puff out your persecution complex and carry on regardless.

But those folk at IdeaCity knew, and Ron, so do we. Good grief Ron, even Bob Thiel knows.

Maybe you're mad, or just bad, in need of therapy, or just plain greedy. Not my place to say.

But Dill Weed - and the other bloggers who've been snapping at your heels - have it right.

Are you familiar with the concept of repentance Ron? How about restitution? Does the word humility enter your vocabulary somewhere Ron? No, not as a club to bludgeon the sheeple Ron, I mean to apply to yourself and your activities?

What's that Ron? You'll have the last laugh?

Well, okay, that's nice. No, you can keep the box of tissues. You're free to go, I know you're a busy man, what with clearing the post office box for tithe checks and all. What's that? Just my opinion? Yes, you're absolutely right, just my opinion, and what would I know - or those wicked people in Toronto for that matter.

What's that? Me laughing too? Oh Ron, how could you think it?

Saturday 20 June 2009

Neil's spiel

I never cease to be amazed by the diversity of opinion out there in former-WCG country. We, the children of the Herbal diaspora, are an incredibly varied lot, ranging from wooden biblicism to radical atheism.

Take Neil Godfrey for example. Here's his potted bio on Ironwolf. Yes, I realise he's an Ocker, but, c'mon now, nobody's perfect. And here's his blog. Despite the dippy blog title (did I mention he's an Aussie?) this guy is incisive and articulate (even if he does hail from Toowoomba.) It's definitely a blog to follow if you're one of the evil, depraved Atheist brigade that hangs out in the comments zone here on AW. Despite obviously heading straight for Gehenna fire (which he would have anyway, especially if he supports the Wallabies) Neil seems well read and highly knowledgable. At the risk of being zapped by a lightning bolt myself, I've added a link to Vridar in the sidebar.

Die Meistersinger - Zweiter Teil

It's one of the assured results of the disintegration of Armstrongism: Humpty Dumpty can never be put together again. Yet Paul Kieffer reminds us that it ain't necessarily so. Extraordinary times bring forth extraordinary developments.

So lets do a little intemperate speculating...

Fact: Roderick C. "Spanky" Meredith isn't going to be around much longer. He is the center of gravity for his LCG sect, and when he "passes on" the rubber bands will snap and his sect will disintegrate under pressure.

Fact: Things are not good at the moment for the income of the COGs. In the wider Christian community things are very tight, and now is surely the time the COGs can boast of how tithing pays back the faithful tither. Except it doesn't. Income is down, and duplication of resources is inexpedient.

Fact: COG brethren are connected by ties of family across the artificial boundaries. Kieffer's forum posting is an excellent example. Hardliners like Bob Thiel may puff and pout, but many members would be delighted to see the paper walls come down.

A cynic might suggest that Kieffer is trying to position UCG to conduct a mop-up operation when LCG self-destructs. After all, a significant number of Global Church of God refugees - both ministers and members - came over to UCG after Spanky decided to take back his toys last time. But we shouldn't factor out a naive altruism either. Should we?

Could history be about to repeat itself? Maybe. The breakup and reunite script was played out decades ago in COG7, with minor splinters then splitting off in both directions. A united UCG/LCG is not an impossibility once the Presiding Egotist is safely planted under the turf. Even if only 70% of both memberships went with the merger, the gains would be huge.

The new magazine title: maybe The Good News of Tomorrow's World (UCG does the better job here.)

The new TV title: The Good News of Tomorrow's World (LCG has the glitzier studio and more lurid production.)

Who knows, maybe the rat-tag remnants of CGI might buy into the package too.

But what on earth would they call the newly united United church?

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Within a Decade

What a complete plonker Gerry Flurry is!

That, of course, is merely a statement of my honestly held opinion. There are, it seems, a number of people who think that, to the contrary, he should be taken seriously.

Those folk need to take notice of the front cover of his latest Trumpet magazine.

"Major news sources ask Will Christ Ever Return? Yes, He will. And probably within a decade!"

Haven't we all heard that before?

The "major news sources" reference is to Newsmax, described on Wikipedia as "a propaganda and media organization of the American extreme right-wing..." I guess that passes as "major" for the like-minded house-writers cloned at PCG.

Weirdly enough, this same issue contains - along with the usual hateful political dilettantism and drivel - a story about Herb Armstrong's misplaced sense of apocalyptic expectation. As the tale goes, back in the 1920s a group of journos were shooting the breeze about "what would be the most astonishing and dramatic newspaper headline." One hack suggested "Second Coming of Christ Happened This Morning!"

Little did they know that the future End Time Sole Apostle was in their midst, who sagely then observed: "You men may live long enough to write that headline."

The last laugh was on the High and Herbaceous One: as Bonnie Prince Stephen drolly observes, "As it turns out, they didn't. Neither did Mr. Armstrong."

And the lesson is? Well, whatever it might be, it has clearly zinged straight past the Edmond heir-head.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Die Meistersinger von Bonn

(Erster tiel)

Paul Kieffer is highly regarded by his elder-colleagues in UCG, and has been elected as an international member of the COE (check out his profile.) Paul is also a keen contributor to the Elders' Forum, and not exactly stand-offish about putting radical ideas up for debate. Consider this example...

Paul Kieffer (Bonn, Germany)

This message may be shared.

I appreciated the positive comments made re: the Living Church of God's media efforts. My father-in-law John Burquist is an elder in LCG. On several occasions my wife Monica and I have attended LCG services as guests, accompanying Mr. Burquist. Other than one time when brief mention was made in the sermon on LCG's understanding of New Testament governance, everything I heard was pretty much identical to what UCG teaches. The atmosphere at services was -- well, like at UCG services. :-)

"Chicago Bill" Bradford mentioned the potential synergy effect between our two organizations.

This topic may be especially interesting in the non-English language areas where there is considerable duplication of effort in producing materal [sic] with basically the same message. Via my good contacts in LCG, some years ago I inquired informally about the possibility of "joint publishing" a booklet in German where UCG's and LCG's beliefs are practically identical. For various reasons the idea went nowhere.

Personally I prefer the proactive approach, rather than inertia. I take comments seriously relayed to me from a fellow elder about what some young people say who fellowship across organizational boundaries. "Wait till the older generation dies off, then we'll get this impasse resolved," is what some of those young people think.

The recently revised guidelines for accepting an invitation to speak outside UCG have no effect on the policy re: required approval for non-UCG speakers being invited to speak at UCG.

I don't know how it could be worded, but I think a revision of that policy to exempt or to "soften" the required highest level approval for an LCG elder to speak at UCG would be a very positive signal toward LCG (without UCG expecting any reciprocal action being taken by LCG in return).

Is UCG "big" enough to take this first small step for CoG mankind? :-)

I think we are.

This is the bold new step... or at least one of the bold new steps (yes Mildred, there are others) that the UCG's leading lights are tossing around.

Of course, after years of "reading between the lines" in order to make sense of the machinations of the lads in Pasadena, it is possible to be just a tad cynical about this particular suggestion...

(Zweiter tiel to follow)

Monday 8 June 2009

UCG's new brooms

Things are changing in the United Church of God. Remember the brouhaha when Aaron Dean spoke to a non-UCG group? The "powers that be" censured him severely, only to then have their noses rubbed in it when Dean was elected to the Council of Elders. Now, with more new faces added to the governing body, changes are in the air. Here is the preamble to the new guidelines on speaking to outsiders.

The United Church of God, an International Association (hereafter UCGIA), acknowledges that the Body of Christ is a spiritual organism transcending corporate boundaries. We do not claim that all Christians are among our fellowship, neither do we claim to be the only organization through which God may be working. UCGIA desires, therefore, to promote unity and cooperation and to share our beliefs and teachings within the broader Church of God community.

UCGIA also believes that a Christian teacher, in following the examples of Jesus Christ and the apostles, is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God with other individuals and religious organizations, whenever granted opportunity. This responsibility encompasses professing believers and non-believers.

But wait, are those storm clouds gathering on the horizon? There are some very unhappy campers, in particular those who championed the old ways. The new force is also pushing several items on their agenda that have the potential to be highly divisive. It seems the generational change is not going to go unchallenged.

Poor old Clyde Kilough!

PT testimony on growing up gay in WCG

James, the editor over at the Painful Truth site, advises that he is featuring a new article, an autobiographical account by a former "church brat" of what it was like growing up gay in the WCG of the 1980s. Following the account is an interview by the editor.

Monday 1 June 2009

Wiener World

Everything you ever wanted (or perhaps never wanted) to know about Ronald Weinland: it's freshly updated (May) and available at Goofy photos, links, an end-slime chronology (whoops, forgive the typo) and much more. I believe we have the indefatigable Mike over at Flavor Aid to thank for this. Doubtless the Mighty Witless (oops, another typo, silly me!) will feel flattered.