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Issue 47 - March 2004

Covering developments and advocating accountability in the Worldwide Church of God and related groups

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A Little COG Midrash on Discernment

To those of discernment who often eat bacon
The trim cuts are best unless I'm mistaken.
The enjoyment is total and you need nothing more
But many opponents will stiffen the jaw.

Middle bacon's in vogue, and quite a choice slice
Taste that great flavor which really is nice.
And all those pig farmers will surely agree,
So why not support the pig flesh industry.

A cut from the middle is surely the best
And many believers have tried the taste test.
With potato reduced by a suitable masher,
Go all the way and be a MID-RASHER.


Campus plans go West? This item from the Pasadena Star News.

Auditorium can reopen: ALONG with Ann Hassett, the accomplished show-business veteran recently hired to promote the saving of Ambassador Auditorium, we fully believe that goal not only should be achieved but that it can be. 

Easy for us to believe. Harder for the entire community to achieve. Because this monumental task is the kind of effort that is going to take the efforts all of those in Pasadena and surrounding communities who say they love the old '70s-Modernist war horse and then some. 

It's simple and cheap to laud the Ambassador's fine acoustics, to call it "the Carnegie Hall of the West,' to moon over the fancy purple Persian rugs and shimmering chandeliers. It will be complicated and expensive to reopen its doors. 

For the two decades during which those doors were open, the Worldwide Church of God heavily subsidized every single concert held there. Thanks to the generous check-writing of tens of thousands of little old ladies and little old men around the country who believed in Herbert W. Armstrong's call to tithe a genuine 10 percent for their church, Southern Californians got to see Horowitz and Benny Goodman, Ella and Arthur Rubenstein. 

After the church changed its doctrine, the money stopped flowing, and the Ambassador has been shuttered since 1994. 

Fancy as the building and its fine fixtures are, we see Mayor Bill Bogaard's system for assessing its true market value as the economic key to its being available again to the community. Sure, there's a lot of lovely rosewood inside, a lot of crystal. But that doesn't mean the building is "worth' the absurd $20 million figure some come up with. It's worth what someone would pay for it. And since no one would pay a quarter of that sum for a money-losing arts hall, Bogaard's proposition that the land should actually be valued at what it could be sold as for the housing that will surround it when the former campus is developed is absolutely spot-on. 

That figure would be more in the neighborhood of $2 million than $20 million. That's still a lot of scratch. But at least we're now talking an amount that a community campaign could raise. And with Hassett, who successfully helped open the Levitt Pavilion in Memorial Park, at the helm, and with the incredible and practical arts expertise of Alice Coulombe, Carol Henry and their Ambassador Hall Board spearheading the drive, the fact is that it could really happen. 

If we all tithe just a little bit, that is. We wish the Ambassador and its backers all the best in their cultural quest.

Ann Hanna, commenting on the story on JLF, writes: My personal suggestion would be a sign put on the front of the building saying... "FREE TO A GOOD HOME".

Yahoo COG boards: Don't say hallelujah! brother, say Yahoo! At least that's the way it seems, judging from the proliferation of Yahoo! groups with WCG connections. Counting the number of WCG related discussion groups on the Internet is an almost impossible task, but Yahoo! alone lists 34 in the WCG section. A number of these are inactive, while others that are active are not listed, and a few don't seem to belong on their list at all. What follows is MD's best effort at identifying those with 25 or more members. Membership figures were accurate on Saturday. Some group postings are available to anyone visiting the board, while others require membership. Warning: reading some of this stuff can be hazardous to your continued connection with reality!




Original WCG


Old time Armstrongism with a vengeance
Likeminds 247 Independently minded believers
Worldwide Church of God 208 Mostly postings by moderator Charles Sawyer
WCG Splinters 133
Missing Dimension 96 Loosely affiliated with this site, moderator Douglas Becker
United Church of God 83 Brand new and attracting a good deal of interest
WCG Recovery 61
WCG Doctrinal Issues 53 Another Charles Sawyer board
Ex WCG 51
Women of WCG 47
Called Out/7th Day Gay 45
Garner Ted Armstrong 30
WCG Doctrine 28
HWA Prophecy 28

In the last 24 hours a new group has been formed, this time by one or two of UCG's more "Pollyannaish" supporters who don't want to rock the boat, but so far only ten members have signed up. 


Over to you Mr. Luecke: Linda Schreiber has issued a challenge to UCG Pennsylvania pastor Paul Luecke. A polite and reasonable challenge to be sure, posted on the new UCG Yahoo group. Linda, an AC graduate, has been an active and loyal UCG member. She wrote the original posting on the Pennsylvania situation (AW March 9) that brought the issue into the open, leading to the closure of the first UCG board. 

Servant leadership is meant to serve the needs of others not somehow twist it to serve the needs of the leadership instead... 

I think we have two lines of thinking in UCG right now. One that embraces servant leadership in the purest form and another that gives it lip service while wanting to wrap it up in a different package while still saying it is servant leadership. It either is, or it is not.

 Authoritarianism can't be wrapped up in a wrapper with the words "servant leadership" or whatever name they want to put on it.

I think in all fairness the other side of the story should be given a fair chance to speak. I see on the membership list that the PA pastor who was spoken about is a member here. It would be a good thing for him to tell us his reasons for dissolving two local councils in the PA area.

Because what is happening in PA is of concern to all in UCG, I believe we need to discuss this issue. It is everyone's business if we are all considered members in UCG.... If things are being done properly then doing them in the light and with open communication to all is not a problem. It should actually lead to better understanding and cooperation among the brethren and ministry. I know that what happens in another area could potentially affect our area if we had a change in leadership.

I think there are good things happening in UCG. For instance here in our area we have a council which has been a valuable tool for growth in our congregation. Our Pastor encourages that growth and the entire congregation's input is valued as well. When UCG began we had no pastor for about a year. We consulted the regional pastor and he gave us the go ahead to form our council/board and we functioned that way without a pastor for quite some time...

When our pastor arrived he saw our process as beneficial to the congregation and to his own ministry as well. He had continued to support and encourage the growth of the members in this way. We have had a number of people serve on our totally elected advisory council. We have not had any issues where the council and the pastor were unable to come to an agreement. Our pastor shows a great deal of respect and gives value to the discernment and opinions of the brethren. He seems to understand that God's spirit also works in the rest of the family and works to serving the needs of the church. Our pastor has said that our council is a valuable tool in his ministry.

It is my belief that Stephen Covey's book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" should be compulsory reading for every pastor/elder. Also, if a pastor doesn't have the experience they need to work with a local council then they should be trained to do so. Our UCG constitution provides for each congregation to have a local council if they desire one. This was set up from the beginning to try and eliminate some of the problems from the past in WCG. However, now some are trying to say that was not the intent of the local councils. Perhaps that is their opinion but that is not what most of us signed up for.

Servant leadership is meant to serve the needs of others not somehow twist it to serve the needs of the leadership instead. Some feel they are benevolent leaders and have no need for advice or council or help in dealing with the local physical administration of things. This only feeds the egos and domineering tendencies of some.

Those who do not understand true servant leadership are afraid of it because they feel the loss of power and control. Until we get outside the old WCG box and see it for what it was we will have problems. Change can be a scary proposition to some. However, growth cannot happen without change. You either grow and change, or you get ripe and rot! Just as a plant changes as it grows so does the body of Jesus Christ. When a plant stops growing, it dies. Spiritual growth is the same.

I believe God allowed WCG to be destroyed for more reasons that just doctrinal heresy. We were not treating each other in a Godly manner. Some of the lessons have not yet been learned. I believe this is why we are still having some difficulties in our organization. I think we have two lines of thinking in UCG right now. One that embraces servant leadership in the purest form and another that gives it lip service while wanting to wrap it up in a different package while still saying it is servant leadership. It either is, or it is not.

Authoritarianism can't be wrapped up in a wrapper with the words "servant leadership" or whatever name they want to put on it. People will see it for what it is. It won't work. You either do something different or you keep getting the same old results as before. The results of the past speak for themselves IMO. 

These are my thoughts on this subject. Now perhaps Mr. Luecke would like to give us his.

We hope Mr. Luecke has both the courage and courtesy to reply.

Weekly Mailbag

Resistance is futile: Want to get your Feast reservations out of the way a little early? You are a free citizen right? If you are in the LCG, think again Loyal Dogsbody!  From latest LCG HQ update:

Rumors abound about where the 2004 Feast sites will be located. Reports are being received here in Charlotte that some few are jumping the gun, in an attempt to get ahead of their brethren and book the best housing for themselves.

Some major changes in procedures will be announced in the upcoming Festival Brochure, the details of which are too numerous to explain here. However, the most significant difference this year is that everyone is being assigned to a specific site. The Church has grown to the point that we can no longer offer open attendance. Those wishing to travel to a location, other than the one to which they are assigned, will need to complete the transfer request form that is in the brochure. Seating is limited in some of the sites, and unregulated attendance could overwhelm the facilities.

Outlandish predictions: I had to chuckle about the elimination of "dated" comments Ted made. Is that Mark's euphemism for outlandish predictions that proved woefully inaccurate? No matter how "dated", we can all be assured that if Ted had accidentally gotten one right, then it would be included in the "Long Tradition..." booklet mentioned in the adjacent column. Keep up the good work


Under 20 million: Is WCG income down to well under $20 million a year? If so, it can probably get into the "Guinness Book of Records" as having either :- (1) the largest number of Executives per income dollar of any corporation, or (2) the highest percentage of income paid to the few at the top

Jonathan Higbed
(AC BW 68-72; WCG TP [tithe-payer] 66 - 80)

Welcoming Tom home: I had to laugh out loud -- literally -- when Tom Aldred characterized the Painful Truth website as "lunatic fringe" (March 13). The first time I ever heard that phrase was in TV Guide magazine, years ago. The article was about religious programming, and the phrase "lunatic fringe" was used to describe Herbert Armstrong and his World Tomorrow telecast. (Of course that didn't stop TV Guide from taking our advertising tithe dollars to promote the program.)

Mr. Aldred may find the Painful Truth website offensive, but the PT is not unfriendly to Christians. Many of the readers and contributors to the site are still Christian, we're just no longer Armstrongites. Everyone is treated gently as long as they behave themselves; but when someone takes it upon himself to tell us to "get over it", the discussions can get a little heated.

Painful Truth stands as a beacon of hope, an aid station for the wounded as they stumble out of the killing fields of Armstrong's religion. We are there to encourage and comfort those who have finally had enough. Our mission is to tell them, unequivocally, that -- yes, it really did happen; no, it wasn't your fault; and no, you are not alone!

No one at Painful Truth demands that everyone agree with them. There is a wide divergence of belief and opinion, and all such are accepted as long as no one abuses anyone else. That is certainly more than can be said for the Worldwide Church of God or any of its daughters. 

Perhaps the day will yet come when Mr. Aldred himself has had enough. When it does, Painful Truth will welcome him home.

John B

MD: John B has written a number of articles for The Painful Truth. His latest is "The Bait and Hook".

Celebrity surprise: Hey Gavin et al, here I am scrolling down your fine publication while munching on a snack in my office when my own name jumps off the screen at me. A plug for my article on the PT! I feel like a celebrity. You've made my day!!


MD: We're pleased we didn't cause you indigestion Colin! (Colin Ward's latest article, The Faithful Puritans, is now also available, and has drawn a lot of positive comment.)

Another urban legend? Perhaps more specifics should be given about the UCG member that allegedly embezzled from the bank. I searched figuring there would be a news article somewhere on it but couldn't find anything. Makes me wonder if it is true or just urban legend. Even if true I am sure UCG didn't know the money was embezzled so could hardly be blamed for it.

Transparency needed: The comment from Richard Burkard, "So whether I give directly to the Home Office or to the local fund, Cincinnati gets the money anyway -- and our local funding apparently is NOT affected. Hoping this clarifies," shows the underlying mentality of all the COG orgs, not just United. If this is the case, and I have no reason to doubt it is, why is this fact not expressed clearly from the pulpit? Seems a simple solution to eliminating extra work.

I thought being open and clear in our communication was what the "truth" was all about. I'm not picking on United. Honest people know United is more open than any of the larger Church of God groups. 

Regarding another point on this subject. How in the world are we suppose to get "both sides" of an issue? For the most part we never even get one side.

We all know some issues should stay private; but there are many issues and decisions made by a church organization where the details of why a decision was made should be communicated clearly, to the entire church. How else can members and interested parties know how the church operates? This is the point Bill Lussenheide was making concerning local boards. Most everything is done in isolation and privately. And make no mistake about it, this is done strategically and intentionally, as Bill mentions. Often an issue that affects an entire congregation is made in private, by one or a few people.

Yes, the details can be different for each congregation. Yes, some details concerning personalities, etc. might be better kept private. That should not be used as an excuse to keep the overall details of how a decision was made private.

If the churches of God were open and transparent there would be no need for Ambassador Watch, The Journal, Servants' News, etc.

Incidentally, I am a firm believer in the teachings of the Church of God (old NOT new), and I know many that read AW are. Because there were, and are, many legalists in the COG is not relevant to what I believe are very healthy teachings and doctrines that are biblical. There were, and are, wrong doctrines and practices in the Church of God (there are many more wrong teachings/doctrines in Catholicism and Protestantism). There are many unhealthy people there. Many do "check their brains at the door." Many do not, and have not done so for a long time. Many, it seems, have not given much thought to the plan and strategy of God. He never intended it to be easy to become a first-fruit.

Jim Butler 

More Aramaic: I very much enjoyed Reg's comments about the languages of The Passion of the Christ. I suppose he was serious, but do not rule out the possibility that he was engaging in a little linguistic inside joke -- since one can never be absolutely sure how ancient, extinct languages and dialects were pronounced. (The argument over the theoretical construct known as "classical Latin pronunciation" versus "ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation" is a case in point. No one really knows for sure how Latin was pronounced in the time of Christ.) In a recent Chicago Tribune article, Father Fulco, the linguist who translated the movie's script into Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew, was said to be fully expecting criticism on the linguistic front. "We linguists are a crazy bunch," he said. "The more obscure the language, the more people try to prove their territory worthwhile and say, by God, we're going to sniff out errors." The complete Tribune article may be found here: 

Jared Olar

MD: Yup, I think you're right. "A little linguistic inside joke" probably sums it up. Must have been Reg's Southern drawl that had me confused...  ;-)

On the level: Hello Gavin, in the beginning your site did not sit right, as time progressed and my continual return to read the latest, I began to see - that you were on the level. Okay some things you err in and down beat the reality to some extent (my opinion)... A suggestion, report the things as you see, leave the judgment in the care of the one who made us flesh. 


Cheese please: In response to the "Say Cheese" commentary on the recent photograph album project: Maybe the "ministry" feels they have to have a photograph album to debunk the myth that they are really modern-day vampires and are able to be photographed? Maybe "Spanky" can have one taken with a pipe in his mouth, or maybe with his eyes closed in deep thought, to give the appearance of a great scholar? Better yet, maybe he can create a "special fund", so that the project can move forward in a timely fashion and all involved can get a bonus check for their time spent? In any event, I'm sure the "brethren"/tithepayers/members will pay dearly...whatever the cost.

MD: Rod chomping on a pipe? Now that's a sight I'd pay to see!

Barabbas: Is it just me, or does anyone else find the story of Jesus King of the Jews (Matt. 27:11-26) and Jesus Barabbas suspiciously contrived? Here we have Jesus admitting he is King of the Jews in vs. 11 and a rather contrite and timid Pilate (history gives a rather more horrific testament to his real power and cruelty), almost begging Jesus to reconsider lest Pilate have to do something he really doesn't want to do. Then we are told of the non historical "custom" of letting the crowd pick a prisoner for merciful release at Passover. Low and behold, there is this guy called, strangely enough, Jesus Barabbas (he was known in the Fourth Century by this name after which the Jesus was dropped), who, in spite of being a notorious criminal who led a previous rebellion against Rome, was up for grabs in the Passover release program. Today we might think of this making about as much sense as releasing Bin Laden for Christmas if enough of us demand it. 

We all know the story. The nasty Jews, who could have saved Jesus, King of Jews, for that is what Jesus just admitted to, chose Jesus Bar Abbas instead and the rest is history. Pilate, the wimp that he was , was practically in tears over their choosing the wrong person in his estimation. On top of this, Mrs. Pilate had just send him a message not to hurt Jesus the King of the Jews because of her really bad dream about all this. (Hey, who gave the contents of this secret note to the media?). As a result, and kicking and screaming over the inhumanity of it all, Pilate, the Roman wimp, who was easily swayed by the Jewish crowd, washes his hands of the whole mess and the Jewish crowd utters the same words found in a well known "mystery play"...."Let his blood be upon us and upon our children." 

The origins of this statement goes back to slaying the bull (Taurus) in well known and well worn Mithriac mystery play. After the slaying of the sacrificial animal the crowd yells the same words spoken by the Jews in Matthew's account and the blood of the Bull is sprinkled on them from the stage to insure their fertility, but I spare you. Let's just say the concept of being washed in the blood of Taurus the Bull preceded getting washed in blood of the Lamb or Ram , Aries by several thousand years. Like Taurus the Bull before (4410-2260 BC), the Age of Aries the Lamb (2260 BC-110BC), was dying, to be replaced by Pisces, the Fish--nice Christian symbol (110BC-2040 AD) after which we will see the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Matthew liked the phrase and used it in a bit of a different way, which rather than bringing fertility has brought the Jewish nation the Holocaust. (Hey, who cares who killed him, he was SUPPOSED to die remember! Who cares if it was a bus or a train!). 

At any rate, back to the suspicious Barabbas incident. Is it not strange to you that here we supposedly have two men in custody. Jesus, King of the Jews (that's what the sign on the cross said put there by Romans), and a character called Jesus Bar Abbas. What does Bar Abbas mean anyway? Well Bar means "son of" and Abba means "Father". So we really have a Jesus, King of the Jews and a Jesus Son of the Father, or Son of God. Hmmmmmmm. You think this is just a literary and historical coincidence? I don't believe we are talking about two men here. I believe we are talking about TWO TITLES and the lives of the Jewish crowd depended mightily on how discretely they answer the question put to them by the real Pilate....the Pilate who could have them all murdered before sundown for treason. 

Simply put, the Jews had to chose between a Jesus who THEY considered their King (a political threat to Rome) or a Jesus THEY considered the Son of God (a non-threat to Rome). Same Jesus, different title. Chose carefully crowd, your lives depend on this. "Give us our Jesus Bar Abbas, our Jesus Son of the Father" they said. "Good answer for indeed you Jews have no other King but Caesar, as you once said, and I don't care about your religious Jesus, so I free him to you. But if you ask for your King to be released, Jesus King of the Jews (same man different title) I will kill you all for treason, and I am very capable of it."

The fact seems to be that a Jesus was going to die one way or the other by the hand of Pilate as a King or as a Son of the Father, but whether the Jewish nation died with him, totally depended on their asking for the right one. In this case, the right one for the nation to be FREED was Jesus, Son of the Father, and the right one to crucify was Jesus the King of the Jews. The whole story is a test by a truly vicious Pilate for the Jewish crowd, not some favor in a nonsense story about Pilate the Roman wimp under the complete control of the Jerusalem Jewish community. 

The Romans killed Jesus. (Burn down all Pizza Stores! Expel the Italians!) Romans crucify, Jews stone. All New Testaments books are skewed to relieve Romans of any responsibility and to place blame on Pharisees, who in reality were much closer to Jesus perspectives than the Gospels portray and Romans, who appear as near Christians in most accounts. Why is the New Testament so Rome friendly? Because it is safer in the Bible to pick on Jews, who can't really hurt us , than on Romans, who can kill all at will. 

When you get crucified, you are done so naked to humiliate you, it takes days to torment you, you get nothing to lessen the pain, no spear to end your misery out of respect for Jewish Holydays and no grave other than that provided by scavenging birds and dogs. Thousands of people were crucified by Romans. 1000 Pharisees in a day by one account, nailed to doors and any post they could find. Pharisees hated Rome, which is why Paul was one strange Pharisee with Roman Citizenship. Sadducees were Roman quislings, in charge of the Temple and safe from Roman punishment for the most part. In Mel's movie, Jesus gets the worst, but in reality, they all get the worst of the worst. Actually Jesus died in a mere six hours and by crucifixion standards, got off very easy. Broken legs take longer to kill than spears to the side. Isaiah not withstanding, they all got beaten, bruised and marred. It was a death meant to instill sheer terror in any who would oppose Rome. Romans crucify...Jews stone and the Jewish citizens asking for Jesus Son of the Father (Bar Abbas) over Jesus King of the Jews was a nation- saving response to a Roman leader who , in reality, held their lives in his hands, and whose offer was meant to test their loyalty to Rome. If these were two real men, we can only conclude that the King of Jews did indeed die and the Son of God (Bar Abbas) went free. Not good New Testament theology. 

Dennis Diehl

PS Someone please tell Bill Dankenbring that Mel's rendition was not actually filmed during the actual events portrayed nor can be shown as News at 11. 

Antion interview: Is it possible to get you to consider posting the David Antion interview so we can access it? I would certainly appreciate and I believe others also would. Thank you for your attention to my inquiry. 


MD: Try contacting Dixon Cartwright at The Journal. I guess access to features like this is one of the benefits of a subscription.

New Moons: ... I really would like to see some honest, thought provoking comments from those who believe DAYS matter:

The New Moon of the first month of the year, according to the "Hebrew" calendar, will occur on March 21st at 12:41 A.M., Jerusalem Time. Universal Time shows that the New Moon will occur on March 20th at 10:41 P.M. That will make the FIRST day of the New Month to fall on Sunday, March 21st. 14 days later, INCLUDING that day, will bring us to April 3rd.

Why, then, will the majority of the COGgers be celebrating "Passover" at the beginning of April 5th, and the First Day of Unleavened Bread on April 6th? Why are they so far off? We were always told, and I'm sure they still are, that keeping the right day was very important, even a salvation issue...hence, Saturday as opposed to Sunday. What is the determinant factor in keeping the right day/days? Isn't it knowing when the New Moon occurs? The more important question is, if it doesn't make any difference to the One we declare we worship, then why the Saturday/Sunday conflict? Is the weekly sabbath more important than an annual sabbath? If so, in what way?


Herb on wheels: Here's an item to may want to consider including in MD. IMPORTANT NOTICE! GOD'S ONE TRUE CHURCH HAS MOVED (again).

It is fortunate that the House of Herb has wheels. According to a letter that I received today from a Robert Ardis, it has most recently traveled from its former site in Edmund, Oklahoma (you know, Gerry's place) to Eutawville, South Carolina. According to Mr. Ardis, old Gerald did a fine job upholding Herb's Heritage for a while, but has really stumbled of late. Therefore, Ardis' "Church of God's Faithful" has now assumed the coveted title of "GOD'S ONE TRUE CHURCH." To learn more (especially where to send your tri-tithes and numerous offerings) visit:

As an alternative, for those seeking "truth," I suggest giving consideration to a letter from Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Waterhouse, June 26, 1822. It said in part: "One day the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in the United States will tear down the artificial scaffolding of Christianity. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."

I fear that Tom was overly optimistic. It seems to me that Christian theologians and practitioners have shown that they have boundless imagination and energy to invent, reinvent, embellish, prop-up and promulgate fables and myths. I doubt that the "artificial scaffolding of Christianity" will be disassembled any time soon.

Bob Gilbert

Captain Kangaroo: The latest edition of the Church of God News by Richard Nickels includes a story concerning bravery on the part of Captain Kangaroo. When I first saw this, like many I wanted to believe it, but it doesn't take much time to find that it is just one of those rumors that emerges from time to time. In interviews, Bob Keeshan has stated that he joined just before his 18th birthday in June of 1945, after Iwo Jima. He had also stated that two months after he joined, they dropped the bomb and that he saw no action. I'm not saying it's impossible, but I'm not aware of any 17 year old sergeants who fought at Iwo Jima. I have also seen quotes from interviews with Fred Rogers, where he stated that he was never in the military. It seems that this portion of the story was added in later rumor mills. 


MD: Gasp! Are you saying that Richard's COG News is a bearer of RUMORS? Oh surely not!  ;-)  COG News carries a lot of cutesy stuff (nothing controversial please, we're COGgers!) The latest issue can be found here.

And speaking of rumors: I have heard of a rumor that some homosexual men had infiltrated Garner Ted Armstrong's ICG organization during the last year or so that GTA was alive, with the intention of sabotaging the ICG because of GTA being outspoken against homosexuality. In addition, some gay men allegedly attended the GTA personal appearance in San Diego and heckled GTA by making rude noises during his presentation.

As much as I know about it, the information is supposed to be from a gay man who was dumped by a gay lover and is getting revenge against his former lover by revealing his activities. Is there any truth to any of this? Is there anyone out there who knows anything more about this?

MD: That's got to be the dopiest GTA rumor on record. Rude noises? Oh surely not! Poor Ted, denied the proper respect due to such a pillar of rectitude...

Note: some AW correspondent's are extra keen, submitting more than one item for the weekly mailbag. These two "bonus" contributions were too good to leave out. 

Klingon accents: I totally agree with Reg. It really burns me up to hear Aramaic spoken with a British accent. I've never seen any actor take the trouble to learn to speak it correctly, or even fake the real thing. Must be something about British arrogance, dontcha think?

I'm equally offended when actors portraying Klingons don't take the trouble to embed their G's and swallow their R's. Makes them sound like Bajoran tourists working out of a Vulcan phrasebook. Just burns me up.

(Seriously, I'm told that if you smoke enough marijuana, you really CAN understand these things.)

John B

Dankenbring: You can number me among the "few readers who wouldn't perceive a very real thread of anti-Semitism in Dankenbring's remarks." I don't detect in his remarks anything more than the old classic polemic of Christian anti-Judaism found in the New Testament and throughout the history of the Church -- and I daresay there are probably millions of Christians who also wouldn't perceive any anti-Semitism in his remarks. I can't tell how Dankenbring's remarks could by any stretch be misinterpreted as resulting from or advocating a racial antipathy to Jews, since his objections are all on the level of doctrine and theology, not race. That being said, I think in light of the long history of Christian persecution of Jews that Christians need to tread carefully when it comes to pointing out the superiority of the Gospel to the forms of Judaism that evolved after Old Covenant Judaism died in the first century A.D. On those grounds I think one can object to the tone or the approach of Dankenbring on this subject. But it would seem that his remarks are only as anti-Semitic as the Old and New Testaments are.

Jared Olar

MD: You don't think "the old classic polemic of Christian anti-Judaism" is anti-Semitic? Maybe you should check out the meaning of "polemic". And are you saying that racial slurs "on the level of doctrine and theology" are exempt from promoting "racial antipathy"? 

James Tabor makes an interesting comment when he says "I should point out that some of the fault, as I see it, rests in the Gospel accounts themselves". The issue is how to approach the obvious polemic in the gospel accounts. One way is taken by Dankenbring, following the moronically literalist tradition of the Oberammergau Passion Play and Luther's spirited advice to throw pig turds at unrepentant Jews (both firmly bedded in German history and culture, and grist for later Nazi propaganda). Joe Tkach, of all people (or a ghost writer?), attempts to steer a commendably sensitive middle course in a recent article on the WCG site. The comparison makes Dankenbring look churlish. 

Then again, if you want to look at a serious scholarly treatment, there's John Dominic Crossan's "Who Killed Jesus?: Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus". 


Auditorium - sledgehammers ahead?  As time goes on the prospect of the demolition of Ambassador Auditorium seems just as real a threat as ever. Excerpts from the Pasadena Star News, March 22.

For almost 10 years now, the Ambassador Auditorium has been relegated to the world of nostalgia its opulent decor nothing more than a tourist attraction, its world-renowned acoustics echoing only in memory. "I would like it to be alive again,' said [Ann] Hassett.

Sitting beneath the gold leaf- covered staircases, blue sky shining through the glass walls and off the three-tiered crystal chandelier, Hassett presents a brave face for what will be a mountainous task. Hassett was hired by the 23- member Ambassador Hall Board of Directors to develop a plan to reopen the famed building as a performing arts center...

While there is no lack of support for reopening the Ambassador, at least in spirit, there are the challenges proving to investors, including the city of Pasadena, that the concert hall would be a wise investment... Not only must the building be bought but it also must be renovated, with new lighting and sound systems. "It was top of the line when built, but it's now 30 years old,' Hassett explained. Then there is the booking, ticket sales, advertising, parking, etc. Hassett has brought in a team of entertainment economists, architects and consultants to help create a five-year business plan. She hopes to have it completed later this year...

For as many years as the auditorium has been shuttered since the swinging Big Band sounds of Larry Elgart and His Orchestra faded on a June night in 1995 there have been calls for the owner, the Worldwide Church of God, to unlock the doors and raise the curtain... Church founder Herbert Armstrong built the 1,262-seat auditorium in the early 1970s for religious services and community concerts. No expense was spared. The first concert was held in 1974, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.

While the church still uses parts of the buildings for prayer services and instruction, they have neither the money nor the inclination to continue operating it. In fact, church leaders warn the building will be razed and high-end apartments built in its place if the community fails to act to save it. Some critics of the church's development plan for the remaining Ambassador campus property call the threat a game of chicken to force the city's hand.

Dashed hopes have made putting a new preservation plan together more difficult. "There is a real perception that it is a lost cause,' [Alice] Coulombe said.

City and church officials are now talking again about ways to save the Ambassador Auditorium from the wrecking ball. Hassett said she hopes these negotiations will come to fruition parallel with the completion of the business plan.

Many would like to see the city buy the auditorium. With its woolen carpets, rosewood-paneled hallways, and bathrooms tiled in Italian and Brazilian marble, some estimate the building is worth more than $20 million. Mayor Bill Bogaard, for one, is arguing for a different accounting. He says the cost should be determined by what the church stands to profit from developing the property into apartments.

Meanwhile, Hassett will work to show that saving the auditorium is more than just a good idea, but something that is worth doing. And she is sure there are artists waiting for a chance to be heard inside the "Carnegie Hall of the West.' "You don't have to build it, you don't have to save it, you just have to reopen it,' Hassett said. "I am old enough that I have seen things come and go. I have never seen a structure like this go. I really believe this will reopen.'

"...they, like their ancestors, still reject Christ as the Messiah for reasons of prejudice and blindness... It is God whom they should fear – not men. Anti-Semitism could not exist in the world unless God allowed it – and He would only allow it because He is very displeased."

William F. ("I am not at all Anti-Semitic") Dankenbring

Dankenbring protesteth too much: One of the more colorful figures from COGdom's schismatic past is former Plain Truth writer William F. Dankenbring. Dankenbring operates Triumph Prophetic Ministries and reportedly runs a "living room church" out of his home. For a number of years Dankenbring had a high profile as a COG publisher (his own books, and Raymond McNair's Ascent to Greatness) although his influence seems to have been on the wane for a long time. Now he has joined the host of COG "experts" on Mel Gibson's grim portrayal of the final hours of Jesus' life.

My wife and I saw the movie the day it came out in Pasadena, California, and were deeply and profoundly moved by the movie and its depiction of the last hours of Christ and His incredible ordeal of suffering.  The movie was indeed a tremendously effective portrayal of love, suffering, and compassion, showing the great character and moral strength of Christ, who, despite being persecuted and tortured by His enemies, nevertheless forgave them while hanging on the crucifixion stake. Several times the traumatic, emotion-stirring scenes moved me to tears, as I thought of the awesome price Christ paid to cover my own personal sins with His precious blood.  And I thought of the overwhelming love that God the Father has for all of us, demonstrated by His willingness to give up – and allow to be put to death – His very own firstborn Son, to reconcile all of us to God.  My thoughts were moved to the words of the apostle Paul...

Well, you get the idea. "Ringing endorsement" is probably an understatement. But is there is a dark side to the Dankenbring review? 

Personally, I am not at all anti-Semitic and have a deep love for the Jewish people...I certainly harbor no ill feelings toward Jews, or the outspoken Jewish leaders who have attacked and assailed the movies. They are entitled to their opinion, but I feel they are very insensitive to the feelings of Christians by their horrendous and false accusations. Sometimes I feel as if some of these modern Jewish critics have the same attitude of the Sadducees and Pharisees who condemned Christ to death, and then who persecuted all the Jews who followed Christ and embraced Him as the true Messiah, and whipped and scourged the apostles themselves for preaching and teaching this profound truth!

By their relentless attack on the historically accurate, and moving film of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” the modern generation of Jewish leaders shows themselves to be just as culpable and blameworthy as that ancient generation of hatred of the truth, hatred of Christ, and a deep, abiding “Anti-Christianism,” if I may coin a new word! ... Notice that Peter clearly said the PRIMARY responsibility for the death and crucifixion of Christ lay at the doorstep of the Jewish people of that time, themselves, and their leaders! 

The entire New Testament bears the same witness. All four gospel accounts concur. For the Jews to try to deflect the responsibility to Pilate, the Roman governor, is a violent wresting of the facts, a twisting of history, and a deliberate DENIAL of the truth, for purposes only they know in their innermost being and heart...

The crowd, like a surly mob, their blood roused to fever pitch, cried out, saying, in their own words, that they accepted the responsibility! “AND ALL THE PEOPLE ANSWERED AND SAID, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matt.27:19-25)

In his movie, because of unrelenting Jewish criticism, Mel Gibson did not put these words in the translated script at the bottom of the screen, although they were left in the Aramaic spoken by the Jewish leaders. This small “sop” however has not averted or deterred the Jewish leaders today from attacking the movie and hurling insults at its maker...

But God is just. The movie grossed over $125 million during its first five days – breaking the record for movies released on a Wednesday during the winter! The distributor who took it on did very well, and those who refused have missed out on a bonanza of profitability! Sometimes taking a risk has a way of paying off handsomely, but the real blessing is not in the financial returns, but in being a part of history-making – a part of something far greater than yourself – a part in bringing the world’s attention back to what happened two thousand years ago at Jerusalem and Golgotha – the pivotal turning point of all the ages – the death and resurrection of the Messiah, the Son of God, the Lamb of God.

It seems then that God shares Willie's opinion of The Passion, and has showered mammon on Gibson as a display of divine approval. 

This is not Anti-Semitism – it is historical fact. Some Jewish leaders today are far too sensitive on this subject, and they, like their ancestors, still reject Christ as the Messiah for reasons of prejudice and blindness. By attacking Mel Gibson’s movie with seething anger and invective, and mocking insults, and false accusations of “Anti-Semitism,” they show themselves to be men no better than their ancestors who crucified the Messiah Himself! They may well bring greater judgment down upon themselves. They claim to fear Anti-Semitism. And it is making a terrible comeback, today, around the world. Especially in Europe and the Arab world. But their unrighteousness, fearful, loathsome and self-serving attack on a historically accurate movie and innocent movie producer will likely bring upon themselves the very thing they wish to avert! It is God whom they should fear – not men. Anti-Semitism could not exist in the world unless God allowed it – and He would only allow it because He is very displeased.

Despite the insistent denials, there would be few readers who wouldn't perceive a very real thread of anti-Semitism in Dankenbring's remarks.

Latest Journal released: The February 29 issue of The Journal has been produced. Notable features include an interview with David Antion that covers the events of 1979, and several opinion pieces about the Gibson movie. Brenda Ross exhorts everyone to go out and see it ("You must see The Passion") while Warren Zehrung raises the alarm ("Whatever you do, don't see The Passion").

You can view the front and back covers (in PDF format) here.


Pasadena bucks dip further: From Ron Kelly's financial column in the latest WN.

Member contributions for February came to $1,210,197, down  slightly from February of last year. Including other sources of income, the total is down one percent... The total donation income for the first two months of the year was $2,171,126. Because expenses were above income, we transferred the small difference from the home sales. That’s O.K. on a temporary basis, but not something we hope to do every month.

Kelly makes a surprising statement later in the report while talking about a ministerial "think tank" on finances.

One of our primary objectives was to listen to what the field ministers, representing our membership, sincerely felt about church finances...

More doom and gloom from Controller Ron

Is Ron kidding? WCG clergy representing members? Where did that come from?

Kelly also telegraphs tough times ahead.

... if we were to move the projected staff we anticipate under the new decentralized model into a new facility and keep our programs and expenses at the current level, our expenses would exceed anticipated income by nearly $1 million a year! My task, as controller, is to find ways to minimize expenses to be more realistically in line with projected income. 

But reducing expenses is an emotionally draining experience. It usually means termination of employees, reductions in benefits, downsizing programs and possibly depleting reserves. By discussing almost every line-item budget expense, our task force could easily share with us at headquarters the pain of reducing expenses. For example, if we had to cut funding, would we cut out regional ministerial and member conferences? Or would we stop publication of The WCG News, Bible studies, member letters and booklets? Or would we totally abandon our international missions program?

As you can imagine, none of these would be an easy decision. But you can perhaps readily identify with the angst some of us in denominational finances experience.

The new ICG booklet, the hilariously named Long Tradition of Prophetic Insight and Accuracy, appears to be a thinly veiled attempt to lend legitimacy to Mark Armstrong's leadership claims. It abounds in references to "my Dad" and "Grandpa Armstrong". 90% of the text appears to be quotations from earlier publications (Mark isn't known as a gifted wordsmith), and it probably won't come as a surprise to learn that the GTA corpus must have been scoured for references to validate Mark as mantle-bearer of that "long tradition". It seems the best they could find was this:

The day following my interview with Mr. Husseini, my son, Mark, interviewed Gershon Salomon, whose march to the Temple Mount precipitated the riot and killings. Here are major excerpts from that interview...

The long and unremarkable interview then follows. 

Ted's Latter End: It is the fate of unsuccessful writers (and not a few successful ones) to be remaindered. What of deceased televangelists? Mostly they're forgotten as a new gaggle of tithe-farmers rise up to claim the space and bag their fortune. Garner Ted Armstrong is the exception. The corpse is wheeled out each week on US television stations in the form of re-runs. This is a necessity as no one in the ICG comes even close to being a credible TV performer, especially Mark Armstrong. 

But there is a problem. Ted's stock in trade was commenting on "world news" in the light of "prophecy". However, world news has moved on since Ted kicked the bucket. What to do, what to do? The cash cow must, after all, continue to be milked at any cost!

And so Mark Armstrong has crafted a unique solution. His father's broadcasts are to be sliced and spliced, cut and pasted. 

Another “new” program was produced and shipped this past week.  The commentary from GTA in the body of the program has never been “repeated,” because it originally contained some dated statements made prior to the war with Iraq.  New production which includes discussion of the terrorist attack in Madrid, Spain’s electoral capitulation, and the prospect for terrorism to alter our upcoming presidential elections was added, which accomplishes a number of things.  Not only did it bring the program current, but it provided the ability to remove comments which were dated, and still make the program come out to the required twenty-eight minute, thirty second running time.  That program will air on WGN and all the other stations this weekend and on Monday.

Alas poor Ted, publicly disemboweled on television.

UCG group: AW was contacted by the moderator of the new UCG Yahoo group last week. He requested we honor his wish to remain anonymous ("I do not want the UCG knocking on my door"), but confirmed that he is not a member of the UCGia. The group itself has grown to just under 30 members, and it appears that a variety of viewpoints will be allowed. It's interesting to note that of the 8 "identities" who have posted there so far, less than half appear to be UCG members. The group is unmoderated, and can be found at  


Letter sparks papal response: A critical letter from a WCG member was published in last November's Worldwide News. You missed it? That's because it appeared in the British edition. Nonetheless, this is a remarkable and welcome precedent: the first time in postdiluvian history that a genuine alternate view has been allowed in WCG-controlled media.

Excerpts from the letter:

What about those in the WCG? Are their hard-won... freedoms to worship God... now to be dismissed? Dismissed, not by other Christians note, but by the very fellowship they were called into.

The editorial [by Joseph Tkach]... entitled "Peace at any price" greatly troubled me... because of its implications within the church... to imply that within our fellowship we need to make changes just for the sake of change I find worrying... 

I don't find that other Christians get upset at our "distinctives". On the contrary, they find our congregation's practices "interesting", "attractive" and even compelling... I find therefore, no necessity to change my practices to remain anchored to Christ. And no Christian that I know of in other churches has put pressure on me to make any such change. Only those of my own fellowship, apparently...

The Personal advocates that we should leave behind behaviors that imply disapproval of Christian freedom and distract people from the heart of the gospel. What about those in the WCG? Are their hard-won (usually against much opposition in the past) freedoms to worship God in the manner they find best suited to their faith, now to be dismissed? Dismissed, not by other Christians note, but by the very fellowship they were called into. It's not a matter of continuing to follow Old Testament law... It is a matter of following conscience and Christ...

I attend services outside of this fellowship and have no problem with those of mainstream Christianity. I feel that our distinctives, rapidly fading away apparently, actually are what will attract others into our fellowship - others who feel little empathy with mainstream churches...

I don't advocate being different for the sake of being different. But we have come a different route to our present consensus about Christ. Why would God put us through all of that only to discard it? I believe He wants us to work with other churches with our distinctives, rather than to embrace theirs. I seem to remember that's what church leaders in America advocated at the time we were joining the [NAE].

I therefore find that the sentiments expressed in this article, both personally and for the health and wealth of our fellowship, deeply troubling.

This passionate and eloquent appeal (only a small part is quoted above) deserved to be heard, and it's to the credit of the British church that it was published. Joe Tkach, to his credit, responded in the same issue. Unfortunately the tone of the Pastor General's reply indicated, once again, that he is a poor listener, more general than pastor.

For many years now, we have said that days do not matter for salvation. Now it is time to act like we believe what we have said; it is time for us to let go of the unimportant (the days) to focus on the important (our mission)... The holy days... are a testimony to our tradition, and to our doctrinal errors.

Both the member letter, and the pontifical reply, may be found in the November British WN (available as a PDF file).

A drachma each way: The celebrated classical scholar, poet and oracle of COGish by-ways, Seamus, is a mysterious fellow. With a name like his, you might be forgiven for thinking he had kissed the Blarney Stone at some stage, and perhaps he has. In any event, his latest ode, The Delphi Oracle,  is now online. 

Not so foursquare: The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is sometimes mentioned as a kindred spirit to the WCG, and the Pentecostal sect has even been mentioned as a possible buyer for the Ambassador Campus. That seems unlikely, especially in view of this news item carried by the LA Times, and forwarded by an anonymous Pasadena source:

The president and treasurer of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel have resigned after the church's loss of $14 million in two allegedly fraudulent investment schemes, the Los Angeles-based institution said Wednesday.

Foursquare's board of directors last week accepted the resignation of President Paul Risser, a minister with the Pentecostal church for more than 40 years and its top executive since 1998. Risser described his departure as "in the best interests of everyone," Foursquare spokesman Ron Williams said.

Treasurer Brent Morgan also resigned last week, the church said in a news release. Risser and Morgan could not be reached for comment.

Weekly Mailbag

Christ talked a lot about helping the poor. But are they taking out advertisements urging the US government to do more to help the poor?

Selectively Christ-centered: Joe Tkach’s comments on WCG’s participation in the NAE’s fundamentalist advertising campaign are disingenuous on many levels. He states that church members should express themselves in regards to political matters in an approach that “befits the gospel of Christ.”

But when did Christ ever condemn homosexual marriages? Yes, there are some controversial scriptures in Paul’s writings but technically those writings are not part of the “gospel of Christ.”

The WCG and other evangelical churches constantly harp on the need to be “Christ-centered.” And yet they seem to ignore the very topics that Christ emphasized. Christ talked a lot about helping the poor. But are they taking out advertisements urging the US government to do more to help the poor? Christ talked about being peacemakers. But are they taking out ads asking the US government to take a more peaceful approach to solving world problems. No, instead they chose a topic that Christ did not even think was important enough to address.

It seems the hypocrisy of American “evangelicals” has no limit.

Old time religion: 'Give me that old-time religion'. Very old, in fact. As I see it all the hoo-ha about local boards, ministerial authority, movement of money to the centre etc - all could be 'solved' by a return to the form of the New Testament church. (Not that there never would be local dissent - there always was, even in Paul's day.) Then, each assembly looked after itself in the matter of governance. No 'interference' from a central office. No financial demands other than voluntary support of 'mission'. No corporate headquarters to drain hard-earned resources. No alien leadership parachuted in from beyond. No pension schemes. No coercion to conform to man-made traditions. No heavy-handed direction from The Top: just a willing submission to the wise guidance of known men of faith - eg to the apostles and 'faithful men'. And a direct hyperlink to the Head of the church, the glorified Jesus, who actively intervenes in all our affairs.

James McBride 

Aramaic accent: In his review of "The Passion of the Christ," James D. Tabor wrote that he thought "the inclusion of Aramaic and Latin was truly a wonderful move. It gave the whole thing a feel of authenticity that few films on Jesus have approached in that regard."

For me, on the other hand, the authenticity was greatly marred by the failure to ensure that Jesus and his disciples spoke Aramaic with a distinctive Galilean accent. (It was as disconcerting as hearing, say, a true-blue Kiwi -- or even George Bush -- pronouncing English with a Pommy accent!) Further, Pilate's pronunciation of Latin followed the modern Italian (or ecclesiastical) pronunciation, albeit with the actor's involuntary Slavic inflection, rather than a historically accurate one (the two c's in "ecce," for instance, should be hard, to rhyme -- more or less -- with "kay," not with "che").

Just ruined the whole thing for me.


MD: Galilean accented Aramaic? Has anyone reconstructed what that would sound like?

Under the rug? The UCG... conveniently swept under the rug the story about a UCG member in West Virginia who was a bank president. She built for the UCG congregation a church in her area that was rather nice. But, little did they realize that this woman was stealing money from the bank and using it. She built herself a huge home, bought several Harley Davidson's for herself and husband. Her home was so elegant that Richard Gere even stayed there. At Feast time she would hand out checks to members with money in them. She stole this money from the bank which is in a middle income area of West Virginia. It was the hard earned money of the residents in the area. UCG never apologized for recovering her money or for using the building. The government finally stepped in after someone spilled the beans on her activities. The U.S. Government took the church back and auctioned it off to another church. She is in prison and still to this day has not apologized for her activities.

God's gonna getcha: The "wildman myth" that has made the rounds in the COG's is merely a variant of the old "look what can happen to you when you leave God's Church" scare tactic. Hinson's "Broadway To Armageddon" mentions how some ministers would claim demons would attack them if they were talking to hostile ex-members over the phone. this what they mean by reaching out and touching someone??? The other one that I remember is "you will end up a drunk or a drug addict". I remember Spanky gave a sermon at the Wisconsin Dells FOT in the early 80's that contained this warning. The only problem with that advice is that you were far more likely to risk becoming a drunk or a doper by staying in the WCG!

Steve Dalton

Tragedy of unbelief: Gavin, my background is former WCG and now Presbyterian Church in America. A lot of people read AW and I've got some things I'd like to say. When will all these pathetic hangers on to Armstrongism realize the jig is up - that it was all a huge lie based on the Armstrong's desire for "the good life"?

There were never supposed to be third and fourth generation Armstrongites, according to the old prophetic scenarios.

Armstrongism today is a dying religion splintered into hundreds of virtually unknown groups. The average person on the street has never heard of the UCG or LCG and likely never will. The gross immorality of the Armstrongs and others are now in the public domain. According to biblical teaching these men were NOT qualified to be church leaders in any way shape or form. The legacy of Armstrongism is multiple thousands of damaged and destroyed lives and this is also in the public domain. The marriages of three of my sisters who married WCG goons all ended in disaster. Multiple thousands suffered for decades financially, while HWA remained on a perpetual vacation pontificating about a "strong hand from someplace." People were mistreated and abused and also treated VERY DIFFERENTLY depending on social and economic status within local churches. The C.Y.A (to stay out of trouble and K.A. (for advancement in the church) were ways of life. A considerable number of people in my home area of
Gadsden, AL are still suffering because of the dirty, dirty politics that occurred in the WCG.

So now, after all the prophetic scenarios have failed, the old guard of Armstrongism is gradually dying out, the splintered remnants of Armstrongism are ever so gradually fading away and the post 1995 WCG is so brazen in its desire for money (it was always really about money) there are still a tens of thousands who stubbornly cling to the past NO MATTER WHAT. Fascinating (and tragic). 

I know you won't agree, Gavin, but excepting the fact that so many people still cling to a NON-CHRISTIAN belief system that cannot save anyone, I see the greatest tragedy of all as the tragedy of total unbelief. Thank you for the opportunity to get this off my chest.

Paul W. McWhorter
Rainbow Presbyterian Church
Rainbow City, Alabama, U.S.A.

MD: Well, I might agree, but either way I'm not telling. For those outside of North America, CYA and KA refer to covering your posterior and kissing someone else's. (And yes, we had to ask!)

Dancing pencils: [Bill Lussenheide wrote about] a supposed AC student who was expelled for apparently having the ability to either "levitate" books or other objects, or as I have heard it told alternatively "cause a pencil to dance". This is NOT a COG Urban Legend. I have seen many dancing yellow pencils in my 26 years in the WCG, as well as some of those same dancing yellow pencils in my 2 trying years in UCG. I also saw many of the hireling "ministers", who waited to see how many yellow pencils were going to dance right out of WCG, and willing to dance to their tune once more... The levitation of their power and control continues.


Not a clue? I get so tired of Bill attacking United with one issue after another. Now here he is offering up his expert opinion on a subject of boards that he don't have a clue on.

He is taking a side when he has not even tried to find out what issues are there in some of the congregations. Could it be that Garden Grove Board works well together and there are no problems? Could it be that there are problems occurring in the other boards? Has he sat in on the meetings and watched how the conduct their meetings? Or is he just accusing to just talk sides and throw out hate without facts.

What may work real well for one church may not be working for another. There could be personality conflicts, even boards can hold up things and make getting projects done very difficult. 

To make accusations without knowing both sides of the story is wrong and destructive. He needs to get the story from both sides before posting his hate, that is how a good reporter does and not just paint one side of the picture.


Venting refreshes: Well, I understand that you are getting off the internet. Why? Is someone telling you what to do? I enjoy the site. You should stay on. It is refreshing to find a site that let's people vent their feelings and thoughts. You should reconsider. 


MD: The webmaster is either too pig-headed or too tunnel-visioned to pay much attention to those who would like to tell him what to do. The longevity of the site is still uncertain, but there is no immediate danger of AW disappearing.

Envelope box offerings: Hi Gavin. The matter of local money collection in the Garden Grove UCG may be misleading. I attend a UCG congregation with an envelope box, where people can send tithes and offerings to a local post office box. The Local Elder gives members tax-deduction receipts every January.

For several years after I moved to UCG, I saw this but no one explained it to me. (I sent my checks to Cincinnati all along.) Finally after a message on finances, I asked the Local Elder to explain the local envelopes. "I personally wish we didn't have to handle it," he admitted. "The money just goes to Cincinnati, anyway."

So whether I give directly to the Home Office or to the local fund, Cincinnati gets the money anyway -- and our local funding apparently is NOT affected. Hoping this clarifies.

Richard Burkard

Say cheese: Found this on ... A "photo album" of all the ministers and wives in the Living Church of God ministry is being put together to be sent out to Church members. Work is being done on this around other pressing deadlines, so this project might not be completed until summer.

Why in the world would you need a photo album of the ministers?

MD: Maybe it could be called "Rod's Rogues Gallery"...


Hulme on Gibson: We're not sure who wrote the review of Mel Gibson's Passion that appears on the Vision website, but we assume it's David Hulme. Hulme is of course the "renegade" first president of the UCG who promotes himself as "a Middle East scholar", and famously (and improbably) quoted both Soren Kierkegaard and G. K. Chesterton in defense of Armstrongism during his TV special Cheating God Out of Christianity (Kierkegaard must still be rolling in his grave.) On Passion he opines:

Gibson takes too much license with the actual history of his subject... the problem is that the film has not been marketed as a subjective and interpretative treatment. Instead, he went to great lengths to advertise the film as true and accurate... Because of the hype, many who have studied and written on the subject for years were looking forward to the promise of a celebrated movie that would help set the record straight. Gibson had a real chance to undo hundreds of years of misconceptions and erroneous conclusions about the life of Jesus. Instead the audience is given, not only the same old story, but new errors and assumptions to further confuse the believer and non-believers as well...

A scene from that other costume drama. No, that's not David Hulme in the foreground.

Another COG-related review, and one that's well worth checking out, comes from the pen of Dr. James Tabor.

... on the whole I thought the film was very seriously flawed in so many ways, so much so that I can not endorse it as a great or even a “good” portrayal of the last hours of Jesus of Nazareth. In fairness to Mel Gibson, I should point out that some of the fault, as I see it, rests in the Gospel accounts themselves, not just with the director. Yet even so I think Gibson really got some things seriously wrong. I am aware of several of my colleagues who were brought in as historical consultants on the film and they have told me that Gibson largely rejected their input, preferring his own reading of the Gospels as well as the “revelations” of Anne Catherine Emmerich, a 19th century Catholic nun who had mystical visions of Jesus' passion. Mel added quite a few non-biblical scenes taken from her visions and as he has said in several interviews, he is convinced she was inspired to see these things.

Perhaps The Life of Brian wasn't so bad after all...

Jamaica farewell - to politics: Another CGI personality has been featured in the Caribbean newspaper, Jamaica Gleaner. This time it's former Labor Party senator George Ramocan. Ian Boyne drew our attention to the article, pointing out however that a statement on CGI's understanding of the Holy Spirit might be misunderstood. He clarifies: the CGI does believe in the divinity of the Holy Spirit though we deny the personality of the Holy Spirit and reject the Trinity. Uh, okay.


West Campus blues: This report from the Pasadena Star News, March 15.

The Worldwide Church of God has submitted a plan to develop the Ambassador College west campus property, and the Save South Orange Grove group is standing ready to knock that plan down.

Church officials say the proposal is "essentially exactly the same" as what was being considered for the west campus before the 13 acres east of the Long Beach (710) Freeway spur were sold last month to an Orange County developer. The church would build 696 new houses on the 31-acre west campus, and restore 15 others. The proposal also calls for razing the Ambassador Auditorium unless the community acts to preserve it. Church officials have asked that the development plan be treated as an amendment to the original plan, thereby saving the time and expense of starting a new round of environmental studies.

Mike Vogler, executive director of the group Save South Orange Grove, which has been opposed to church plans, demanded a new environmental impact report be prepared and indicated that a lawsuit would follow if the city approves the project without one. "This project is substantially different," Vogler said. "Fifty percent of the units have been sliced off and 40 percent of the land."

While the project is smaller overall, looks can be deceiving, Vogler said. His concern is that the city will not properly evaluate the cumulative impacts of the west campus development and the east campus development because they will move forward on different tracks.

The church, understandably, would like to see the proposal treated as an amendment. Starting over will add months and thousands of dollars to an already complex and difficult review process. "There are obviously fewer issues because there is less ground being covered," said Bernard Schnippert, director of finance for the church. "All the previous work that has been done for the west is certainly applicable."

City officials, however, are leaning toward sending the proposal back to the starting gate. "They cut the project in half, took scissors and cut out the east campus," said City Planner Brian League. "I can't do that with the traffic model." Councilman Steve Madison, who represents the area, said he wants to see what staff recommends, but would prefer to see a clean EIR. "At some point it almost behooves the developers to not have a cloud or a potential legal challenge based on a flawed EIR process," Madison said. "A little bit of extra work and delay will pay off down the road."

Meanwhile, rumors continue to swirl around a possible sale of the west campus, which would render the entire review process null and void. Schnippert said he would not say whether the church is discussing a possible sale. "As of this date, it is in the hands of the church and we intend to move forward on the entitlement," he said. Harvest Rock Church of Pasadena, part of the Harvest International Ministries, has been mentioned as a possible buyer for the campus.

New Jesus booklet online: UCG's new publication Jesus Christ: The Real Story is now (PDF) available on the web. This is a substantial text (in COG terms) with 125 pages. This is obviously an apologetic account, intended for evangelistic purposes, which is fair enough. But is it also credible, honest and informed by at least some of the results of historical and Christological scholarship? Or is it just a re-hash of The Real Jesus? We'd be interested in comments from those who've read it.


Pennsylvania again: After several independent confirmations of trouble in UCG's Pennsylvania region, the writer who first "blew the whistle" (see AW March 9) has re-entered the fray. And it seems Dennis Diehl's tongue-in-cheek "translation" of the UCG moderator's farewell (AW mailbag, March 13) was, in fact, not too far off the mark. These comments by Linda Schreiber appeared on the Likeminds Yahoo group.

The UCG Yahoo group was indeed shut down... by someone at the home office.

The UCG Yahoo group was indeed shut down after my exposure by someone at the home office. I knew there were some... there who would run straight to ministerial services with it... All I have to say to them is "go for it"! Run and tattle up a storm if you like. I have spoken the truth about all this even if it is peppered with some of my own opinions. In my original post I challenged the readers who might know someone in those PA congregations of UCG to check out my story and call some of the members up.

I agree with whomever said that getting things out in the light is the best way to deal with issues like this. I have at times defended and supported UCG when I felt it was needed. I have written letters to the COE and spoken to people about things I feel have needed attention. I am not afraid to tell them how I feel, what I think and how I see relations in UCG as they relate to the word of God. This time, however, I could see that sweeping this under the rug was the wrong approach.

I saved some other posts from that thread on the UCG Yahoo forum which were rather interesting. I was not able to save them all however because... the moderator was deleting them as I was trying to save them.

Humility is not synonymous with cowardice and humility has nothing to do with exposing wrong doing and refusing to honor gag orders.

I have been told that Richard Pinelli was pretty angry... Perfect love casts out fear and I have no fear of the powers that be in UCG or any other place...

... the brethren in PA need prayers and my post was a result of prayer and love and concern for the brethren there... I have been accused of not being humble. Humility is not synonymous with cowardice and humility has nothing to do with exposing wrong doing and refusing to honor gag orders.

I admire the brethren in PA, they are trying to do things in the best way they can. I will continue to pray for a peaceful and right resolution to their suffering. Perhaps some will surprise us all and do the right thing which they should have done in the beginning. 

Meanwhile a new UCG Yahoo group has suddenly appeared. The anonymous moderator (hiding under the glorious pen name of HWA_1986) incorrectly refers to the organization as UCG AIA (the designation was changed to UCG IA several years ago).  Does this indicate that HWA_1986 is actually not a UCG member? As the only promotion for the new group so far seems to be on the hard-line originalwcg group, we're not too optimistic about its potential.

Guilty little secret? MD columnist and discussion group moderator Douglas Becker posted the following comments today.

It should come as no surprise that Garden Grove is exempt from the exorcism of the local church board: Dennis Luker was the former minister there as that congregation made the transition from Worldwide to United... He can do pretty much what he wants to do. He's smart enough to leave Garden Grove alone because of all the reasons cited by Bill Lussenheide (AW Match 14)... he made the transition from Garden Grove to move in and take over the Seattle UCG, displacing the ministers there, even as he went forward to disband the Spokane UCG local church board to the dismay of about half the congregation....

The results of disbanding local church boards... has been devastating. People started out in United with the expectation that they could have a say and that the leaders at the Home Office would listen to them. At first, they did listen, but it wasn't very long that freedom disappeared to be replaced with ultra strong hierarchical controls of governance. That is how the Big Sandy UCG Church was lost, and a number of other congregations. Today, the UCG meets in a city in Idaho because there is no Spokane Church--just Spokane attendees. Many of the members went with Robert Gentry and Steve Weininger, who were local elders in Worldwide before and United after the disassociation from the WCG, and were strongly supportive of the local church board and a part of it. The Spokane UCG was ripped apart because of... heavy-handed goose-stepping shuttle diplomacy... Dennis Luker was the hatchet man for similar assignments in Worldwide, such as the one in 1979 to John Ouvrier in Hawaii to stamp out "heresy" there...

United's guilty little secret is that while they may have one or two church buildings [one of which was acquired with saved tithes when the UCG started--an abandoned restaurant in Flint, Michigan, which was remodeled], the Seattle/Bellevue/Redmond/Kirkland /Issaquah UCG has been collecting tithes locally for a church facilities fund to acquire a building for the Church. I wrote the initial Church Facilities Research Committee Report... It's surprising that none of the other UCG churches are even interested in why Dennis Luker gets to do it and the rest of them would never be allowed to because "it would divert tithes from the centralized Work".


Garden Grove's charmed status: AW normally reserves letters for the weekly mailbag, but we'll make an exception for this one.

It has been well known for some time that the UCG has been going after congregations that still have local governing boards and local collection of monies. 

UCG's "modus operandi" has been to pick on the congregations from the smallest to the largest

There are still a handful of congregations that still are "not in the fold", and UCG has been addressing them (putting the heavy on them, and crushing them) one at a time, as to not create a large fuss or outcry within UCG. I believe this gradual assimilation is done purposely and with a plan. 

What I find fascinating is that the Garden Grove (Orange County California) congregation continues to operate with a board and local money collection with hardly a whisper by UCG against them. UCG's "modus operandi" has been to pick on the congregations from the smallest to the largest in regards to this issue, in order to isolate the remaining congregations who still operate independent of the HO. 

Garden Grove, one of the largest UCG congregations, is no doubt the wealthiest congregation in the history of the COG, and is well known to be full of many managers, entrepreneurs and to have a college educated membership. It is also well known to be an outspoken and self actualized group who is willing to fight for its autonomy. The local pastor is a UCG Man, Mario Seligilie, but that does not mean much to the overall group's internal identity. 

Here is what would "tick me off" if I was a local congregation that UCG was putting the heavy on to conform to their "program"... the fact that UCG Garden Grove, because of the amount of people and money they possess, gets a "pass" in the assimilation department because of the loss of money they would pose to UCG. It would also tick me off that they are choosing to isolate your congregations issue by attacking you singularly, rather than address the issue church-wide all at once. 

Bill Lussenheide

Bill's comments were also posted to the Likeminds discussion board. We're sure the people in Pennsylvania will be fascinated by Garden Grove's good fortune.


House of Herb: Dateline Pasadena reports: "WCG sold the last two homes on Orange Grove Blvd. That placed another 2.5 million in the purse. The only house remaining to sell is HWA's. It has never been placed on the market."

Why the Herbal mansion has been declared off-limits while other properties are sold off is a bit of a mystery. Does WCG hope to prevent its purchase by schismatic ex-members who might turn it into a shrine (or a symbol of legitimacy), or is the reasoning even more convoluted? 

Silverware for sale: Amazing what you can find on eBay. Currently available are a group of smaller silverware items that, according to the vendor, once belonged to the WCG. Go to eBay, type in the name of your favorite sect, and admire the offerings. When AW checked the entries earlier in the week the highest bid was a modest $30. 

Republican Joe: From the March 10 Pastors Update:

I will be attending the annual NAE convention this week, the highlight of which is President Bush’s scheduled address via live satellite feed. 

As most of you know, our church fellowship is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). In addition, I serve as a member of the NAE Board of Directors. You may have seen the full-page advertisements the NAE have placed in major newspapers in the U.S. My name and the name of the WCG are listed in the ad as being in support of President Bush’s initiative to add an amendment to the Constitution regarding the definition of marriage. 

The intent of including the WCG as a signatory was to affirm, along with the NAE, that the church will continue to promote a traditional view of the covenantal relationship of marriage and that it supports the President of the United States in his endeavor to protect the institutions of marriage and family as foundational to an orderly society. However, despite the wording of some parts of the NAE advertisement, it was not the intent of the Worldwide Church of God to encourage its congregations to become involved in the political debate regarding a constitutional amendment. The position of the WCG regarding involvement in politics is stated on the church website... members are free to express themselves as individuals on any matter they see fit, including matters of constitutional amendments, so long as their manner and approach befits the gospel of Christ. The church itself, however does not take official stands on political issues.

How disingenuous. Perception becomes reality, and an endorsement of the "Bush initiative" by the Pastor General "and the name of the WCG" can hardly be regarded as anything other than an official stand - especially in the lead up to an election.

Bi-vocational pastors frozen out of presentation: Non-paid WCG ministers are apparently not welcome to attend a presentation on the newly announced retirement program which is scheduled for regional conferences.

As we understand it, both paid and non-paid clergy are expected to attend these events, but the hard-working bi-vocational ministers will be required to "take a hike" while paid pastors go into a huddle over the retirement package. 

So much for the idea that all ministers are equal, whether salaried or not. One WCG member remarks: by allowing them to attend you [would] do three things: 1) remove the shroud of mystery 2) allow them to answer questions about the program 3) underscore that paid pastors really do hold the same office as un-paid pastors.

Quick Links: Passion fever spreads: Gibson's Passion movie has swiftly become the world's first "sanctity-assured splatter flick", and COG members continue to respond in various ways. One such person is Tony Badillo, who has added a Passion-related page to his website on Solomon's Temple:  

Pastor featured in article: CGI's Ian Boyne was profiled in an article published by Jamaica Gleaner:

A different perspective: The Painful Truth has published an uncharacteristic article called I imagine there are some Readers who are thinking my cheese has done slid off the cracker, putting this article on this site...

Out of the box: Some interesting thoughts from Brian Knowles in his latest online column. 

There is a great gulf fixed between the scholar and the rank & file Christian. Between them, in the gap, stands the pastoral gatekeeper. He has access to the thought world above him (the scholarly) and the one that is below him (the average church member). It is rare for a scholar to address a congregation. It is even more rare for a church member to read a scholarly publication... ideas that are widely accepted within certain scholarly circles have not yet penetrated to the lay level of the Church. Ministers who seek to popularize these ideas are almost instant labeled as “liberals,” subversives, heretics and worse. The more common approach is to insulate lay members from these “subversive” ideas and to reinforce popular approaches to Scripture...

The gap between scholars, pastors and lay members must be closed. All of the Church must gain access to the best of scholarship. Scholars, like pastors and lay members, come in different sizes, shapes and degrees of integrity. Some are faith-builders, other are faith-busters. Personally I prefer the former – but only if they are intellectually honest and motivated by a love for God and the Church.

We'd want to qualify Knowles' remarks by noting that sometimes you have to do some ruthless busting before you begin a building project.

MD Mission Statement: What is MD really trying to accomplish? Is AW "anti-COG"? Beginning next month AW will carry an expanded mission statement. Here's a draft version. It's still a bit wordy, but we hope it clarifies our intentions.

MD Mission Statement: "covering developments and advocating accountability in the Worldwide Church of God and related groups."

This website has no affiliation with any church group. Opinions expressed are those of the webmaster and/or writers contributing to this site. 

Writers have varied affiliations and perspectives. Some may be currently active in parts of the COG movement, others may not. The Missing Dimension neither maintains nor endorses any position on theological/doctrinal matters, although writers may express a personal view.

The Missing Dimension is however thoroughly committed to the following principles:

  • critical thinking and the value of sound contemporary scholarship
  • transparency and openness in financial and administrative governance of COG bodies
  • the responsibility and integrity of each individual in making their own authentic decisions and commitments
  • the right of each individual to relevant information in order to reach informed decisions regarding COG bodies
  • the right of each COG member to voice and representation both in their local church and their denomination
  • the rejection of any autocratic or hierarchical structure inconsistent with the above principles; and advocacy for the reformation of those structures

Weekly Mailbag

Biased but not lunatic: I agree with Bob Thiel that you are biased and at times unfair in your comments, but I don't consider you 'lunatic fringe' like The Painful Truth website.

As for Bob's site, not only is he biased and at times unfair in his comments, but he is [in the view of this writer] also loony, intellectually dishonest, and trapped in the error of Armstrongism. In other words he's 'lunatic fringe'. I've been a member of WCG for 25 years now and really enjoy your site, but I'm sure I'm biased too.

[With reference to] "Was it something we said?" [March 10]: the amazing thing about the moderator's swan song is that he actually wrote a paragraph about how UCG IA might some day have a public forum "monitored by official UCG representatives and the ministry". I have two questions:

1. He must be nuts! Does he seriously think that will ever happen?

2. Do you think "public forum" and "monitored by official UCG representatives and the ministry" is an oxymoron?

Tom Aldred

MD: We all have our biases. MD's are hopefully spelled out in our expanded mission statement (see above). Unfair? If so, give a yell - constructive criticism is welcome (wouldn't it be nice if Joe came out and said that!) Unlike most other COG websites, AW tries to publish a fair selection of negative feedback (imagine the Worldwide News adopting that policy). Lunacy is, of course, at matter of perspective. As for question 2... yes.

Anti-conmen: Thanks for the nice words... I really like Mrs. Brogaard's article... I am continually impressed with the independence and freedom I read and listen to from ex-WCG women who are no longer someone's "property".

The PT is anti-COG???? Anti-conmen, for sure, and if the shoe fits... :)

Mike Minton

MD: Mike is webmaster of The Painful Truth

Goose stepping merrily: I was most amused at the quote you posted from the UCG member who loathed local governing boards and supported strict, old-WCG style hierarchical governance. Amused because, sheesh, if that's the way they feel, why have they spent all this time in the (supposedly) collegially-run UCG? Rod Meredith's LCG is waiting breathlessly for such "true believers" in "God's government" to join up with that organization. And if they're REALLY zapped out on the ultra-fascist deep end, well, Gerald Flurry and his Philadelphia COG gestapo are, last I checked, still goose-stepping merrily in Edmond, Oklahoma!

Francis Penkava

East and West: WCG sells the east campus, then days later announces that the long promised WCG retire plan is fully funded. Now, given the ever sinking income of the church, the line of credit arranged for sales costs, and the absence of any sort of Environmental Impact Report, it makes me wonder if a deal for the west campus isn’t far off. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if one day soon WCG announces a sale of the rest of the west campus to another developer or user, pockets the money and departs for Apple Valley. And all those promises to the residents of Pasadena about being a loving and ever concerned neighbor? Conveniently forgotten in the euphoria “God’s blessing”.

Of course I could be wrong about all this, but since when has Joe the Deuce ever been so loose and free with “his” funds?


Hierarchy revisited: How about this for the church hierarchy

the ministry, servants of all

James McBride

MD: The writer is pastor of the Churches of God UK. A PDF copy of their latest newsletter is available online.

Dumb sheep: UCG has gone back to keeping the "dumb sheep" passive through controlling information. This is why web sites like yours are serving an important role, though I do not necessary agree with everything you write. 

It is clear from the recent report from the UCG COE that the UCG ministry are shifting direction, to... have a "loyal membership serving the ministry" once again. It appears that the "servant ministry" never was that popular with the ministry. 

Bruce P

Wild man II: The latest MD has "Wild man loose! How wide spread was the tale of the pastor happening upon a wild man on the side of the road whom the pastor recognized as one he had disfellowshiped?". I've never heard the tale personally, but maybe David Jon Hill did mention it. As urban legends go, it's pretty good, but the focus is rather quaint. I'd like to start my own urban legend:

A former WCG member finds a wild man on the side of the road, and realizes that it is his former minister off his meds.

No wait! That's happened! Just don't ask for specifics!

Douglas Becker (on the MD Yahoo board)

More urban legends: Thanks for keeping AW coming. In response to the "Wild Man Loose" letter, I too have often wondered about many "COG Urban Legends" and Apocrypha. 

A couple that I have heard over the years include the song "Stairway To Heaven" by Led Zeppelin as being written about a WCG church mother. This widespread tale has never been backed up by a single bit of evidence that I have been able to discover. 

The other one is about a supposed AC student who was expelled for apparently having the ability to either "levitate" books or other objects, or as I have heard it told alternatively "cause a pencil to dance". No one has ever come forward as a witness , or can pin point the exact circumstances, time etc., surrounding this event, although it has been told from the pulpit many times over the years. 

Would appreciate anyone knowing the "Plain Truth" about these legends coming forward with their evidence! 

Bill Lussenheide

Worldwider in remission:  Greetings from Perth. Just to say "You are doing an excellent job" providing the service of AW to the world. It's good to see that the "truth" is finally coming out. As a former W-Wider in remission, I find the comments, reflection and exposure of facts to be quite healing for what was a bad legacy in my own life. Thanks for all your hard work without fear or favor. You are appreciated.


Nailing it down: A slight clarification on your comments about our latest GN cover and the booklet cover. The United News piece was describing the booklet cover only... Although the Good News cover uses the same items, I wanted to give it a different look, thus it is very light while the booklet cover is very dark. I shot the GN cover in my living room using fabric draped over the back of a chair, illuminated by a window.

For what it's worth, years ago I ran a photo studio where we did a lot of product photography, so I used some of those techniques in these photos. When doing that kind of photography, one has to improvise a lot.

Scott Ashley

MD: Isn't it strange that the various Churches of God have published so little about Jesus of Nazareth? Of the few attempts (e.g. Garner Ted Armstrong's "The Real Jesus") most have been shallow and implausible. The new UCG publication by Bill Bradford will hopefully raise the bar, and we look forward to reviewing it. Scott is editor of the Good News magazine

Translation service: “Hello friends of the UCG Yahoo Group.” Translation: Not silent lurkers and Internet Cruisers.. I said Friends!”

“This forum has been operating for about 5 years now.” Translation: Sooooooo, I had this call from my minister and I think that about wraps it up. Fun while it lasted.

“It was always my intention to use this forum to promote the interests of the United Church of God IA ...” Translation: I am not a bad person, I didn’t do a bad thing, but I have to say goodbye now as instructed.”

“and try to play a small part ...” Translation: I tried, I was told I failed and sought to ascend above my status in the Church as a small part. I should have just stuck to Pray, Pay , Obey and Stay. What was I thinking. I am a bad person. I’m so sorry.

“and perhaps there was some good done in that regard.” Translation: I think I did a good thing, but I can’t question the observations of those who kicked my butt last night after this hit the net. So I say perhaps, so I don’t feel completely bad and maybe they won’t notice I sorta kinda feel like it was a good thing. 

“One never knows about the silent lurkers and Internet cruisers.” Translation: Whoa Nelly, I had no clue. I mean who’da known they were out there reading this stuff. I thought everyone agreed about everything all the time in the Church. Damn those Lurkers and Cruisers…I mean, who’da known? But my minister knew….and for saving me from THEM. It is now well with my soul, I hope. 

“We certainly all get to know the thoughts of the ‘vocal minority’ on these Internet forums don’t we…” Translation: Sheesh, I had no idea there were other thoughts out there! They just don’t tell ya this stuff in sermons. Please note I said “these Internet forums.” I am so out of them now, well I just am about ready to say, it wasn’t my idea in the first place. The only solice I have is that the vocals are in the minority. My minister told me that too. 

“Concerns have been raised to me in the past….” Translation: Well, ok it was last night after this hit the site. Well, ok, they were more than concerns. I was told my five year plan had come to an end so, and I needed to write a nice note and sound contrite and be totally to blame for this. After all, I am a bad person. I am so sorry.

“Mature, long time members know a single post by a single individual is simply that; a personal opinion.” Translation: mature members never even read the site. And even though a single opinion by a minister is not a simple opinion, rather kinda like a law , or a direct , on high reflection of the mind of God, opinions from single, lurkers and cruisers, well…are just that. 

“what impression does this leave on the one who is searching …. What if this person is someone who was wounded from the past and is finally starting to consider returning to out church culture…..and the first post they read is some off—the—wall wind of doctrine?” Translation: Ok, I didn’t think this stuff up on my own. My minister told me to include this kinda stuff in my letter and I’m just passing on to you how he was able to make me feel really badly for letting this happen. I would never have thought of off the wall/wind of doctrine thing on my own. That’s minister stuff. 

“Or the latest gossip about how a certain congregation is about to split apart because of perceived injustices from the ministry?” Translation: Well, ok, I mean, the gossip says it will split, I don’t mean it is really about to happen, and please, the injustices are just perceived. They are not real injustices, just perceived, (lurkers and cruiser perceptions I think), there in Pennsylvania, doh, I mean, wherever, Oh God help me…this isn’t coming out right… 

“No, the responsibility for that is not a burden that I want to have to shoulder before God and Christ at the time of my judgment.” Translation: The minister really scared me last night and said stuff about my eternal future, and I don’t mean in a good way. I’m outta here. It never happened. La la la la la…..I’m not hearing this, Satan made me do this..

“I was wrong to think that I should have the authority to moderate a forum in the name of the Official UCG IA.” Translation: I was told by the minister I was so very wrong to take authority like this on myself. I mean I am nothing, a worm, less than a worm. My minister told me. It’s even in the Bible. I believe it. I have proved it. What was I thinking. I can’t think, I can’t discern, I can’t let other thoughts in my head! I am sooooooo sorry. Sorry sorry sorry. 

“As well intentioned as I was, the plain truth of the matter is that if the UCG IA wanted a public forum, they would have created one.” Translation: I was well intentioned, but my minister told me I didn’t need to speak for the Church and they would rather not have a public forum to address issues. I forgot about the lurkers and cruisers again! 

“it will be monitored by official UCG representatives and the ministry.” Translation: I was told to say that in my note. 

“Anyway” Translation: What a mess

“It has been a pleasure meeting, chatting and rubbing cyberspace shoulders with many of you.” Translation: No I ain’t kiddin. They said to end it. I still think I’m a good person and I did enjoy most of you, but I swear, I never knew some of you were lurkers, and well cruisers….that just blew my innocence away!

“But I think my forum moderating days are over….Forum moderator (past tense) :) Translation: Well, actually my minister said it was over. So I guess, “think” is my way of coming down easier. But the smiley is a code icon for I still meant well and am not as bad as this whole thing has made me out to be. :) BOY YOU SURE CAN TELL IT’S ALMOST PASSOVER!

Dear Berean95---Bless your heart. You are a good person. I wish you had fought a little harder for your right to provide an open place for UCG members to express themselves without fear. I hope the members in Pennsylvania think for themselves and ask for the respect they deserve as human beings. 

Dennis Diehl

Observations: Just a few observations: As I browse through the internet on the various COG websites, I am not surprised to see some names pop up of people who I knew in the WCG from the 1970's. I really notice if any of these folks are still in the original WCG. I would like to know when it was that their personal transformation from the "old WCG" to the "new WCG" took place. Did they believe the new doctrines of the WCG BEFORE the "official" changes, or did they adopt the new doctrines AFTER the changes? What were they believing in the meantime? Either way, you can't get around the fact that many ministers and members of the WCG were "faithfully" in the WCG all through the changes in the 90's. Sorry, but it is not possible that all of them magically "saw the light" at once. Most of these folks were therefore part of an organization, for at least awhile, which held (and even preached) doctrines they totally disagreed with -- unless, of course, they simply sat there and believed whatever they were told each step of the way. I do realize that many were likely confused, etc. But if tomorrow, the WCG changed all of it's doctrine back to what they were in HWA's days, would you go along -- because you must remain with "God's church?" Or would you, at some point, dare to start taking responsibility for yourself before God? 

It is likewise amazing to me that many who have left the original WCG, supposedly because they would not go along with the changes (at least they were honest) continue to waffle back and forth over the teachings of HWA. Herbert Armstrong claimed to be God's apostle, and the one God chose to "restore the Truth." Either he WAS or he WASN'T. If he was, then you have no right to change a single word he taught. If he wasn't, then his whole body of teaching is error -- because he wasn't even right about his own calling. If HWA had not made this claim about himself, you would not need to be so dogmatic. You could edit his teachings and revise them. But once someone says, "I am the man," no such option is possible. He is either lunatic, liar, or a true apostle.

There are, of course, a few websites which claim to hold to every word of HWA. This is their "claim to fame." PCG is at the top of the list. A few of these sites are consistent, I'll give them that. They have preserved HWA's false prophecies, rantings, contradictions, and utter nonsense, right down to the last word. Gerald Flurry, of course, is a caricature of HWA. The only credit due these groups, however, is that they have preserved an historical record of an ego-maniac. Thanks to them for that. Now it is harder to lie about what HWA actually wrote. To their shame, they continue on the path that the WCG paved until the death of HWA -- that of a cult. 

As you noted, Ken Storey's website has apparently been taken down. On it were a number of "prophecies" stating that the Ambassador campus in Pasadena was going to be used of God. There were even claims that money had been promised, even deposited, for it's purchase, so it could once again be used for "God's work." Nothing against Ken, 'cause I don't know the man, but obviously things aren't working out that way. So why not apologize and admit these were false prophecies? Such an admission would be refreshing to see from anyone. 


Horowitz: Some years ago I came across this group [United Israel World Union - see Tabor's TEB, March 6] in a listing of a three part encyclopedia of religions that tied its beliefs to the Jews, and to the Lost Ten Tribes.

I contacted David Horowitz and he used to send me his tabloid newspaper and he also sent me a letter or two explaining his similar interests to HWA. He also sent me a book he had published about the founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses and claimed that Russell shared the same views only to have them hijacked by Judge Rutherford. He was a big fan of Russell and of HWA. He was a genuine Jew who has a very interesting biography which you can access from the new web site whose link you posted.

Obviously someone has decided to pick up the remnants of his work (he had a very small group in NYC with some support in Florida), and that is how it came to be relocated. Horowitz was always short of money, but he did have  some assets (he sent me his "free" book after I sent him a donation! Then he kept sending me his newspaper which was always asking for more money. My contribution was a one time exchange for the book which was not exactly a university press publication - more like something Gene Scott would publish.)

Also, on another subject, a friend of mine from Texas (Dr. Eric Gilder), who is a professor at the University of Sibiu in Romania, has finally published a limited edition book about the offshore radio stations of the 1960s which contains many references in one chapter to Herbert W and Garner Ted... I am now working with him to expand that book (short title "Mass Media Moments") into a larger book with its focus on the offshore stations and which will contain some of Herbert's writings about them. I am still looking for information but we are going with what we have at the moment since it is only a part of the subject matter. The book just published by the university press at Sibiu (in English) is available from Paul Byford ( in the UK. It costs US$10 plus s&h. 

John England


Was it something we said? The moderator of the UCG Yahoo group seems to have been seriously spooked, maybe by the thread he deleted, maybe by having two of the controversial posts appear yesterday on AW, perhaps by the feral screams of outrage from Cincinnati. In any case he's closed the board and tossed the key into a concrete mixer! Here's his swan song.

Hello friends of the UCG Yahoo Group:

This forum has been operating for about 5 years now.  It began as a "Yahoo Club" and was later transferred over to "Groups" when Yahoo merged clubs into groups.  It was always my intention to use this forum to promote the interests of the United Church of God IA and try to play a small part in promoting their literature throughout the Internet.  And perhaps there has been some good done in that regard.  One never knows about the silent lurkers and Internet cruisers.

But, we certainly all get to know the thoughts of the "vocal minority" on these Internet forums, don't we?  Concerns have been raised to me in the past how some posts have been very out of character and not representative at all of the teachings of the United Church of God IA.  And they have been right.  Mature longtime members know that a single post by a single individual is simply that; a personal opinion.  But what impression does this leave on the one who is searching and stumbles upon our website?  What if this person is someone who was wounded from the past and is finally starting to consider returning to our church culture?  They've heard about the UCG, do a search, find our group, and the first post they read is some off-the-wall wind of doctrine?  Or the latest gossip about how a certain congregation is about to split apart because of perceived injustices from the ministry?  The posts may have been made by people not at all representative of the UCG, but this is the impression that the returning member (or newbie) gets when they first click into the post.  Their conclusion?  "So THIS is what's become of God's people and God's Church? No thanks!"  No, the responsibility for that is not a burden that I want to have to shoulder before God and Christ at my time of judgment.

I was wrong to think that I should have the authority to moderate a forum in the name of the official UCG IA.  As well-intentioned as I may have been, the plain truth of the matter is that if the UCG IA wanted a public forum, they would have created one.  If they decide in the future that they might want one, I suppose they'll create one.  If that be the case, it will be monitored by official UCG representatives and the ministry.

Anyway, it has been a pleasure meeting, chatting, and rubbing cyberspace shoulders with many of you.  But I think my forum moderating days are over.

Kind regards,
Forum Moderator (past tense) :-)

So there goes one of the few online outlets for members of the UCG to express an honest viewpoint. Another victory for the priestly censors over freedom of speech?


GN Passion issue: The cover of the latest GN shows that UCG knows a bit about timing. The latest United News carries the story behind the "crown of thorns" photograph that is also used on the new booklet Jesus Christ: The Real Story.

One challenge was coming up with a suitable cover design, since UCGIA publications carry no representations of God, Jesus Christ or crosses. "Last summer an idea came to me, and I did a quick, rough sketch on a sticky note I had in my pocket," said [Scott] Ashley.

His idea was to show a crown of thorns and some crucifixion nails. "But there was a problem... because we could find no such photos, and I couldn't find the items to shoot the photo myself."

Part of the solution came when he visited his mother, a member in Gadsden, Alabama. "She had some thorn bushes that had sprung up in her yard, so I did her a favor by getting rid of them. However, I had ulterior motives! I twisted them into two crowns of thorns, packed them carefully in a box, and brought them home with me."

There they sat for months while he searched for some suitable crucifixion nails. "I looked everywhere I could think of and couldn't find anything remotely similar. I finally gave up and decided to either sculpt or carve some."

But then, in late January... "I was attending a conference on biblical archaeology in Albuquerque, New Mexico," he explained. "One of the sessions happened to be on metalworking in Bible times, presented by a master blacksmith. And right there in front of me, as part of his presentation, he made several crucifixion nails and an imitation Roman spearhead."

The blacksmith had already committed to donating the items to the museum sponsoring the conference, so [Scott] contacted the museum director and arranged to have the items mailed to him for a photo shoot. "So I rigged up a mini-studio on the trundle bed in my basement office, lit it with a desk lamp duct-taped to a stool so it wouldn't fall over, and shot several variations," he said.

Silencing the sheep: The following item appeared on the UCG Yahoo board, and was subsequently deleted by the moderator, along with a number of follow-up posts.

The issues at hand are the pastor in the Lewistown and Harrisburg (York) PA churches. The pastor is new and was recently sent to the area. Recently he decided that the local councils which have been operating in that area in a very effective manner since the congregation's inception are "ad hoc" committees and he dissolved them both with the support of the regional pastor and now it seems the home office. The pastor has made it clear that to oppose these actions is basically equal to following Satan himself but to support the pastor's every move is equal to following God...

The members have made joint appeals to the home office. It has been several months. What has the home office done? Well they did say that the local councils are not ad hoc committees but they have done nothing to stop this abuse. A COE member was sent out to give a sermon and tell people to love each other and work it out. The home office has also told the people not to talk about it. The other thing the home office has done is tell the people they must now each write individually to the home office and tell them how they have been hurt by all this and gave them a deadline to do so. IMO this is so that the HO can try and decide who they consider [are] the ring leaders and to divide the congregations. The congregations are basically united in their position that the pastor is not being a servant leader but instead a dictator. There are a few who support the pastor but as we all know there are generally a few who will support whomever is in charge no matter what they do.

It seems the home office is definitely back to the "good old boy" routine again. Placing a gag order on the members reminds me of how the old WCG used to abuse congregations and support abusive pastors... The previous pastor supports the members and feels they have maintained a good attitude about this despite having more abuse piled on top by the HO...

If you know anyone in this PA area, call them up and ask if what I say is true. You will find out that it is, providing they are not in support of this abuse. I think it is time for things to come out in the open instead of being kept behind closed doors and swept under the carpet. I am extremely disappointed in what is happening out in PA and also other areas of UCGia. I hope the general conference will take a close look at who is running things and elect a better group of individuals to run the show. Only the general conference of elders has the ability to change things for the better. I hope they will step up to the plate and help the members to have the servant leadership they need and deserve as the family of God. The only thing the lay members can do is to stop supporting this behavior.

The home office wonders why income is down recently? Perhaps they should take a look in the mirror. Some of them need a reality check. I'm not saying everyone at the home office is a problem or that everyone on the COE is a problem. They aren't. There are some who have tried to speak sense but to no avail. I for one will not support abuse in God's family. I for one won't adhere to a gag order and to sweeping problems under the rug.

What a mess!!


Incredibly, one of the now deleted replies stated:

As a UCG member I am very disappointed at the attitudes some of you have. Being a part of a congregation that had a "local board" for 8 years, I wholeheartedly believe they are nothing but the work of Satan. Boards represent 1) a lack of TRUST and SUBMISSION to the Home Office. 2) Weaken the Church by taking money away from the central organization and use it only locally. 3) Create horrible attitudes.

Satan used Ray Wooten and his improper ideas on Church government to inject division and strife into UCG. [Thankfully] we have faithful men like Paul Luecke who stand up for God's truth and against Satan's attitude of rebellion that has influenced some. I met Mr. Luecke at the Feast last year and have nothing but respect for him and his family. Lets get back to government from the top down within the congregations of UCG and trust in God to lead and guide us through the decisions of God's ministry. There are only a few congregations with local boards left in UCG, I praise God that the Eastern PA region makes one less.

Oh good grief: In recent days we've linked to Fred Coulter's CBCG, Pam Dewey's Field Guide, Joe Tkach's latest member letter, and a number of other COG-related websites including The Painful Truth. Most AW readers are astute enough to realize that we don't necessarily endorse all or any of these sites. 

This concept seems a bit subtle for LCG apologist Bob Thiel, who spits the dummy in the latest entry on his COGwriter site (which, funnily enough, we also link to!)

Today's news focus is on some anti-websites... Probably the most popular of those sites is Missing Dimensions [that's "Dimension" Bob, no "s"] run by Gavin Rumney who has a news section titled Ambassador Watch... The truth is that Gavin Rumney is biased against the COGs. Now unlike some sites, he and I admit our biases--he admits he is against the COGs, [uh, got a quote to back that up Bob?] I admit I am an advocate of the beliefs nearly all of us claimed to believe (see Jude 3). 

Gavin Rumneys [how come Bob has a doctorate in whatever but doesn't know about the possessive apostrophe?] March 7th post should show his colors to everyone interested... [He goes on to quote the "Painfully true" item] 

He had a link to PT's homepage. The homepage of Painful Truth site repeatedly flashes the statements, "Fable: A story with talking animals in it" and "Bible: A story with talking animals in it." Thus the Painful Truth site is put our by someone who considers the Bible to be a fable. 

What exactly this has to do with MD isn't immediately clear. Maybe it was just a slow news day in Arroyo Grande... Let's apply a little logic. Bob once (it was a memorable day) linked to MD. MD links to PT. Therefore Bob has displayed his colors: he's obviously a godless atheist. You have been warned! 

There, wasn't that simple!


Generous Joe: A couple of days ago AW ran a story about WCG's welcome "about face" on a retirement program for employees. This announcement appears in Tkach's March 3 update:

Today is a special day in the history of the Worldwide Church of God. I have just returned from an employee meeting on campus at our denominational headquarters where we were able to announce that we now have a fully funded pension plan for all of our current U.S. full time employees! Needless to say, the atmosphere in the fine arts hall was electric. I don’t know when I have seen such an air of enthusiasm and appreciation.

In the near future, employees will be receiving appropriate documents that will outline and summarize the plan, so I won’t go into details here. In our employee meeting, Bernie Schnippert gave an overview of the plan and then fielded questions from employees. Ron Kelly will be meeting with salaried pastors at each of the Regional Conferences and will provide the same information, review the plan and its policies, and take time for questions.

We have been hoping and praying that we would be blessed with a formal, funded pension plan. The sale of the east campus last month provided the finances to accomplish that long-desired employee benefit. We are still working towards funding a discretionary assistance plan for qualified long-term loyal [MD comment: loyal to Joe and not rocking the boat] former employees.

Painfully true: When Ed Mentell rode off into the sunset a few months ago, there may have been a few who wondered if "the new guy" could maintain the Painful Truth website's cutting edge. As it turns out, Mike Minton has not only kept things going, he's adding a great deal to the effectiveness of the "PT".

In a new initiative, Mike writes: I asked some Thoughtful Good Ones to sit down and address you folks: you folks in the split-offs. And specifically, the younger Readers here... I asked them: "What would you say, to these younger folks? If you had a place to say it, where they might read it... The ones who really know only their split-off cult, and don't realize the history which built it?"  He notes: I think the responses go beyond just the WCG+ though, and into Religion Abuse, the value of critical thinking, the value of freedom...

Of the writers who have contributed so far, the article by Betty Brogaard deserves special mention. This is a substantial piece by someone who has been much closer to the church's center of power than most, rich in anecdotes and insights.


Demolition on campus: From a trusted source in Pasadena.

Demolition began last week of the tennis courts and Archives building on Del Mar Blvd. This is officially the start of the demolition of the Pasadena campus. Herb's monument to himself is starting to dissolve.

Unleavened Tales: It's fast approaching that time of year, and we're sure AW readers are already busy "de-leavening" the toaster. In a new commentary Dennis Diehl recounts the following:

I had a ministerial assistant (affectionately known in the ministry as "Mini Ass" but never took it to the next step of asking who the big one was), once declare to me that he would not anoint anyone who went to the doctor. Big "Uh oh" to me and I think I gutlessly for the times just said "uh huh." He once "went around me" to Church Administration to find out if a member who owned a convenience store be required to "de-leaven" for Passover. I suspect he knew my own feeling and disagreed. He felt yes, I felt don't trouble the man's business it's a home thing etc...and Church Administration told him to tell the man to clean out the store or close for the week. Nuther big "Uh oh" and I told the member I did not agree and would get no problem from me over it. I forget what he actually chose to do.

And how about this "de-leavening" item from UCG's all-wise Council of Elders:

Mr. Franks then asked Mario Seiglie to review with the Council a paper on the question of "What Is Leaven?" The need for clarification came about due to questions that arose from a Q & A published in United News in February, 2002. A more precise explanation is needed to distinguish between fermentation that is caused by yeast (a living organism) and the chemical or metabolic process that results from use of baking soda and baking powder. The conclusion is the same as we have taught in the past ¯ during the Days of Unleavened Bread we should avoid food products that contain baking powder and baking soda, as well as yeast. The Council unanimously approved a resolution accepting the edited answer, which will be published in United News prior to the Days of Unleavened Bread. 

Whew! Thanks guys, we've been worried about that one for years! There have got to be some really wacky stories on this subject that are too good not to share. We'd love to publish them. E-mail

Tabor's TEB: Dr. James Tabor is an interesting bloke. He obviously has a lot of time on his hands, judging from his involvement with an organization called United Israel World Union, based in Charlotte NC (home to both Spanky and Ritenbaugh) in which he serves as president. A project more familiar to WCG folk is his championing of the Original Bible Project (a brainchild of the late Ernest L. Martin) which has been laboring since 1993 to produce something called the Transparent English Bible.

In a recent letter to the longsuffering supporters of TEB Tabor writes:

The question we are asked the most often is when will the TEB be finished? I will be honest with you—I have not been the best at predicting our progress in the past. When Ernest Martin first approached me with the Original Bible Project idea, over ten years ago, I was sure we could have it finished in five years at the most and I told him that at the time. I suppose I tend to be an optimist and overestimate what can be done in a given time. What we had in mind then was more or less “fixing” one of the more standard translations that was in the public domain... As I began to work the first few years I came to realize that I really had not had an accurate idea of just what this mammoth project would involve. It took us several years to develop our method, address many of the basic problems that any translator encounters, and really produce something close to what we felt the OBP demanded in terms of quality. We are well on our way in that regard.

If you're sick of waiting you could always compromise by requesting a copy of Fred Coulter's A Harmony of the Gospels: The Life of Jesus Christ (3rd edition). This is a handsomely produced book, but whether the quality of the content matches that of the presentation is a matter best left to the discerning reader. The translation is quite literal, and differs from the paraphrase used in previous editions. Presumably this is the same translation Fred has expanded on in his soon-to-be-released New Testament. The Harmony's supplemental material is vintage COG. Currently you can request this book for free from the Christian Biblical Church of God.

Websites offline: The Ken Storey site has apparently been iced, and the Church of God's Patience appears to have run out of patience. MD's links page still carries these URLs, but they'll probably be dropped shortly.

Herbal lit responses: Joe Tkach shares the following information in his latest member letter.

As most of you know, in past decades we sent out multiple millions of copies of booklets and magazines on topics we mistakenly thought reflected Jesus’ gospel of salvation. Inside these magazines and booklets we advertised other booklets and brochures on still other sectarian teachings. These ads appeared on “blow-in” cards and tear-out panels inside the booklets. What has surprised us is that people are still mailing in these literature response forms, requesting that we send them this or that piece of now out-of-print literature. 

For a number of years, we simply discarded these requests, as the desired literature was out of print and scripturally unsound. Then Paul Kroll, who handles personal correspondence as a member of our small publications staff, came up with an idea on how to respond to these people. He suggested we send each of these individuals a letter explaining that the literature they requested is no longer in print. The letter would also offer the requesters one of our new booklets, which teach the pure gospel of salvation. This approach allows us to place gospel-oriented booklets into the hands of people who don’t know about our spiritual transformation.

We're almost tempted to write in for one of those old titles and see what happens. Now, what was one of them called? Why Were You Bored? 

Free book: Another free book (to go alongside the Coulter Harmony) is Art Mokarow's God's Puzzle Solved. This is the tome that has appeared as sample chapters in The Journal Connections ad section. Mokarow is a former Pasadena-based WCG minister.

Weekly Mailbag

Wild man loose!  How wide spread was the tale of the pastor happening upon a wild man on the side of the road whom the pastor recognized as one he had disfellowshiped? I know I heard this yarn at least twice. The first time was in the late 1960's when I attended the Ft. Worth, TX, church and the second time was in the early 1970's when I attended the Lufkin, TX, church. (Or it may have been at Big Sandy on a feast day) Each time it was told by a visiting speaker and made to sound as if it were a personal experience. I never thought much about it until years later I read Bruce Renehan's book in which he mentions the same tale. Since then I have often wondered if this was a standard scare tactic used throughout the WCOG or if it was more localized. Also, was this idea to scare the faithful a WCG original or was it taken from another source? It would be interesting to know just how many of your readers heard this yarn, and when and where they heard it.

There may be other urban legends unique to the WCG and its splinters. Perhaps some of your readers could comment on the "wild man" legend or any others they know about.

John Gill

Only fair forum? Gavin, it just makes me so depressed to think you may close MD. Yours is the only fair forum for news of the COGs. I have visited numerous talk boards and any post I made pro-HWA was slapped down and ridiculed cruelly. You and I don't agree on HWA but you have always been kind and fair minded about it. I appreciate that. You also make the effort to verify what you publish where the crude posters on other boards will repeat lies and gossip. I hope you can see your way to keep MD up and running or partner with someone who will continue your honest format and kindness.

This is the only place we can come to read about all the splinters that isn't biased toward one or another. You help keep the leaders of the various splinters "honest", they know if they mess up, all the COGers will know about it. If you are silenced, they will know they can get away with anything because no one will know what is going on.


Tkach gets political: In two papers I read this past weekend, the Chicago Tribune and the Lafayette (Indiana) Journal-Courier I noticed a full page ad supporting President Bush's call for an amendment to the Constitution to validate marriage as a union between a man and a woman. All around the edges of the ad were names of supporters and in the lower right corner, in alphabetical order, was Joe Tkach's name, representing the WCG.

MD: Seems Joe isn't a libertarian.

Where the Wild Things Are (or how to say hi to a PCG pastor): I respect that all these disparate (or desparate) COG groups have their own unique set of doctrines and means of self-governance. I do not respect the imprisoning policy of not permitting anyone in services who is not 'approved' by the pastor. I plan to do something about this, but I need MD's help.

I'm putting together a webpage which quite simply lists the times and locations of the church services of PCG. I feel that PCG uses this policy in the most harmful way and so I seek concentrate with Flurry's group.

Anyone who would have this info please e-mail me with the 1) Address, 2) Name of Building, 3) Time of Services, 4) Last Known Date That This Information Was Known to with the subject PCG.

I imagine that there are many former members of PCG who would like to make this information public. Flurry wants to keep it secret - this secret is power in his pocket. This secret can be made public for the world to see.

Lyle Lange

Al, are you out there? This e-mail is for Al Carrozzo. You need to get your facts strait (sic) before you start bashing Garner Ted. Garner Ted was a watchman and no one here on earth can even come close to the work he dedicated his life to. He was a great man and will be missed very much. Yes, I am still mourning his death. Just as the people mourned Moses. Just remember this verse - "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." You mentioned he left behind sons, he also left behind a great lady, his wife, Shirley.

Rhonda Coats 

MD: By your criteria Ted must be several fathoms deep.

Condescending: I find Jared Olar's condescending ("poor Dennis..." "it's so sad", "doesn't seem to notice"), and sarcastic ("this time I'm sure Mr. Diehl has found The Truth") style of response offensive and ignorant. I sense that on the topics I am willing to bring to the fore, he has not ventured far into the implications and realities of non-denominational theological studies. I would add Elaine Pagels (Adam-Eve and the Serpent/ The Gnostic Paul), Uta Ranke-Heinemann (Putting Away Childish Things), and Merlin Stone (When God Was a Woman)... all women... to the editor's suggestion to read Karen Armstrong. 

Dennis Diehl

Mizoram COG: You can bet that if the Church of God, Israel wants to be a part of UCG that THEY will have to be the ones doing the bending, possibly even breaking... It's a shame that the Mizoram will be led down that deceptive path as all of us were!



A cheer from the cheap seats: MD is delighted to pass on the following information, and congratulates the WCG on its decision... (now, we betcha you haven't heard us say that before!)

Today the Pasadena WCG employees had an All Employee meeting. The retirement program is now in effect for all present employees and ministers! Everyone was shocked because no one ever expected it to happen! All the present employees are now fully vested in the program and can never be taken out of it. Present ministers are also now in the program. 

The only fly in the ointment seems to be...

Those on Discretionary Assistance are not yet part of the program and it looks like there will be several requirements they will have to meet to become eligible, one of them theological.

We hope WCG sees the light here too.

An unexpected tip: An email arrived today that appears to come from a knowledgeable source. 

Apparently someone has "squealed" to Equity Residential Trust of Chicago, financial backer of purchase of the East Campus, about Legacy having lost 13 million dollars and nothing being built---and also over the ethically-challenged officials of WCG--especially the Don Mears episode. Is there such a thing as a done financial deal becoming undone?


Dark Satanic Mills? Across in Blair's Britannia, the WCG is building a new office and launching a local version of the Aussie-based Ambassador College of Christian Ministry.

WCG-UK spends up big

The Church is pleased to announce the formation of Ambassador Christian Training. ACT, drawing its name from the heritage of Christian education in the WCG [MD comment: and what a fine heritage that is!], is dedicated to training men and women in theology [current dogma] and ministry. It will be based in its new training facility at the UK church office in Market Harborough

Ambassador Christian Training is launching its first course, Foundations in Ministry Diploma in April... It is the intent of ACT to achieve accreditation for each module through the UK education system by the completion of the first FiM course in the summer of 2006. We believe it is important that we achieve secular accreditation as well as accreditation within the Christian community in the UK ...

It is non-denominational in its content and is open to Christians from other fellowships [It'll have to be if they want accreditation]. Instructors and trainers, although primarily from the WCG, also come from a variety of other Christian fellowships... Questions about the course may be answered by phoning the Course Director: Andrew Silcox 01604-750951

And just when it seemed that Mother Hubbard's cupboard was bare... 

Gerry and Chipper - hear them roar! Just in case you hadn't noticed, the PCG's The Key of David, is back on the air after several months absence. The current "Trumpet" carries this cheery update:

Since the Key of David television program returned to the airwaves on Nov. 2, 2003, after its eight-month hiatus, it has enjoyed the heaviest response ever. The episode “Mystery of the Church,” which aired December 5, generated the second-largest response ever for the program. The “Mystery of Israel” episode was number one in religious-programming ratings for Sunday morning, January 11, in the Philadelphia market. It even received higher ratings that day than the Fox News Sunday program, which aired at the same time in that city... The Key of David [is currently seen in] the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Australasia. Representatives are working to secure additional contracts with high-quality stations in Europe, South America, the Middle East, the Philippines, Africa and Britain.

 Not to be outdone in the "mine's bigger than yours" department, ICG's Mark Armstrong boasts:

We are in the process of concluding a banner week here at headquarters! The response to this week’s telecast is staggering. I knew in advance that it would be good, because this particular program has always brought near record response... We are coming off two big response weeks already, as you’ll remember from the two most recent updates, each brought in well over 900 total responses. We’ve known all week we were headed for a big one, because the phones have been ringing relentlessly. Here it is, 1307 total for the week, Six Hundred Thirty Six of which were in touch with us for the very first time! It was that most successful program in recent years, The Bible, Fact or Fiction? “Mr. Armstrong’s work is finished?” HELLO!?! Who else reached out into the world this effectively over the past week? ...

Is that a rhetorical question Mark? Gotta impress the tithe payers I guess. Another case of much ado about nothing?

Tap-dancing with United: The United Church of God has arguably the most effective flagship magazine of all the COGs. It has the largest income. It has a developing radio and television presence, and has conducted evangelistic campaigns in several American cities. So it's something of a surprise to find Roy Holladay reporting only 177 baptisms into the faith in 2003 (Council of Elders minutes). It wasn't clear whether this was an international figure or just the US (some of these good ol' boys don't seem to know there's a difference), but either way it indicates that UCG is having difficulty getting to grips with a church growth strategy. And we hear some UCG insiders are intending "more of the same" with another website under development that will steer clear of directly advertising its church connections, focusing rather on the usual Adventist tap-dancing routine of "cautionary news and commentary" and "signs of the times". How innovative!

Field Guide makeover: Pam Dewey's Field Guide to the Wide World of Religion has a fresh look to it. One feature we hadn't noticed before is an "urban legends" section. Have you heard the one about NASA discovering a "missing day" corresponding to Joshua's long day? That was doing the rounds again just this month on one of the more credulous COG boards. Sorry, but you've been duped, and Pam has the details.

Mel-o-drama: Traditionalist Catholic Mel Gibson's movie, The Passion of the Christ, is exciting a varied response among the COGs. Joe Tkach is a big fan, judging from his Update comments. But even more ingratiating is this statement from COG7.

What will you be doing on opening night, February 25th, 2004? I guarantee it will be a night you will not easily forget, or whenever you watch it for that matter! Cheap entertainment? I don't think so.  Anti-Semitic? Hardly. Heart-wrenching. Definitely. Gruesome? Yep. After all, it was a crucifixion... 

Perhaps the most detailed and accurate portrayal ever produced on video of the last twelve hours of Christ's life on this earth, this is not a movie you will sit and watch. It is, as many Christian leaders have said it, a movie you will experience. An experience that in some ways we wish we never had to feel.  But these are emotions that we MUST feel. I cannot tell you it is an easy movie to sit through. You'll come out of it knowing all that Christ went through to save mankind from death. But if you want to appreciate what Christ did for you, you'll not want to miss it!

Please, by all means, consider attending this movie. And if you want to help make a statement to 'Hollywood' that you want good films instead of the usual smut, help boost the opening weekend ratings by going before Saturday night, Feb. 28th is over. Still confused about all the media 'concerns'? Focus on the Family has some good links you can check out... Need confirmation from someone who's seen it?  Email me at Need a handful of Kleenex? Go to Walmart! Might just be some of the best crying you'll ever do...

Once you've finished the dry retching, compare this approach from UCG. 

I can already predict the spiritual impact of The Passion of Jesus Christ (sic). Few will really take Christ's words to heart. Many will acknowledge Him as Lord; few will obey His Word. (David Treybig, "UCG Commentary")

Treybig's analysis might have more credibility if we could trust him to at least get the name of the movie right. Predictably, the writer then goes on to promote a UCG booklet on Jesus! Also on the negative side of the divide is Bob Thiel, who writes: I do not believe LCG has a position on [Gibson's movie], nor do I speak for LCG. Although I probably will not see it, I still may. But the Marian themes and the reported 'miracles' suggest demonic involvement. Also, the movie reinforces the inappropriate stereotype of how Catholics believe Jesus looked like.

Confused? Why not ignore all of the above advice and read Jon Meacham's "Who killed Jesus" in Newsweek instead. 

As the Crow flies - Part II: The following statements were posted to the Likeminds forum today and also forwarded to MD.

As a member of the West Houston Church of God Fellowship, I can truthfully state that I know of no such plans [as described in an earlier AW item] to join our congregation with the UCG congregation except for the purpose of fellowship from time to time... The West Houston Church of God Fellowship often has combined services with other groups and invites speakers from other groups. Likewise, members of the congregation, including myself, have invited and responded positively to requests to speak to other groups. What happened this week was nothing more than brethren getting together for fellowship. A large number of us even went out to eat together after services.

The writer appeared incensed at the suggestion that George Crow had led his group into the waiting arms of UCG. His post has been forwarded to Steve Kissack, whose comments the original story was based on.

Letter policy: MD understands that some people may not be comfortable with their names appearing. A problem arises when it isn't clear whether a writer wishes to remain anonymous or not.

If an email is received which is signed at the bottom it will, if published, usually appear under that name unless there is a note attached which asks for anonymity. When signing a letter, writers have a variety of options from full name to initials, and everything in between (e.g. Bart Simpson, B. Simpson, Bart S., BS ...) If the email is unsigned at the bottom it will, if published, usually appear anonymously, unless the writer has already expressed their willingness to have their name attached. Letters are always published at the the webmaster's discretion and may be edited for clarity and content.

MD often receives mail that is "not for publication." This is always respected. Just be sure to clearly state that the content is private. 

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