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Issue 49 - May 2004

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

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MD editorial on the situation in UCG


Splitsville: Bob E. has updated his list of UCG splinters. He writes:

Below is the list of UCG splits that I have been able to discover. I am sure it is not complete. If anyone out there can fill in details of dates or circumstances, I would be obliged. The sources of my information have been people who were there as eyewitnesses, and/or reports on the Internet and The Journal.

UCG Splits

1. Nov 1995 Birmingham, Ala. Church governance

2. ? 1996 Spokane, Washington. Dave Treybig helps develop a local board and then votes against the idea.

3. Apr-Oct '96 West Palm Beach, Florida

4. Jan 1997 Miami, Florida. Ron Smith fired. Congregation objects

5. Mar 1997 Elkhart, Indiana. Approx. ½ congregation left because they did not want to be forced into a UCG group.

6. Apr 1997 Victoria, BC, Canada. COE told congregation to go elsewhere if they were not willing to give 
unquestioning loyalty & obedience to them

7. Apr 1997 Williamstown, Australia. Doctrinal differences

8. May 1997 Toledo, Ohio. Perceived mismanagement of funds.

9. Jun 1997 Minneapolis, Minnesota. Church governance

10. Jul 1997 Waco, Texas. Church governance - UCG would not listen to desires of the congregation

11. Jul 1997 Kansas City, Mo. Church governance - Larry Greider forbade local board

12. Sep 1997 Hartford, Conn. Congregation forbidden to visit other CoGs

13. ? 1998 Tulsa, Ok.

14. Apr 1998 Oakland/San Francisco, Ca

15. Apr 1998 El Paso, Texas

16. Apr1998 Modesto, Cal.

17. Apr 1998 Hulme's group [COG-AIC]. Alleged financial mismanagement by Hulme.

18. May 1998 Philippines

19. May 1998 Big Sandy. Texas. Church governance

20. Jun 1998 UCG-UK. Church governance. 400 members leave

21. Dec 1998 Brookhaven, Miss.

22. Jan 1999 Bogota, Columbia

23. 1999 Boston, Mass.

24. Jul 1999 Bloomington, Ill.

25. Nov 1999 Tupelo, Miss. Congregation did not want to be forced into UCG

26. Nov 1999 Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Church governance

27. Jan 2003 Terre Haute, Ind.

28. May 2004 Lexington, Kentucky. Church governance - UCG attempts to shut down local board

29. May 2004 Cincinnati, Ohio

30 ? Lewistown

31. ? Harrisburg, Pa.

32. ? Slidell, LA. People disfellowshipped for questioning the ministry

A positive UCG story: With the current kerfuffle in the UCG, it might be a salutary contrast to draw attention to a May 26 item in the sports section of The Columbian. Bridgette Sexton, daughter of UCG pastor Rex Sexton, faces the tough choices many COG and SDA young people do in trying to observe the Sabbath while excelling on the sports field.

"I am a very hard-working, motivated student and athlete. I am a passionate runner, but I am not willing to abandon my beliefs for track", says Bridgette. One coach hung up on Bridgette as soon as he heard about her beliefs. Another said, "We'll get back to you."

"I told him, 'No you won't, but thanks for your interest.'" As predicted, the coach did not call back.

Regardless of what one believes about the Sabbath doctrine, examples like Bridgette's certainly deserve respect. 

Revolutionary resolution? MD has been supplied with a copy of a remit apparently intended to be debated by the General Conference of Elders (GCE) of the United Church of God. At this stage there's not much more we can tell you, nor have we been able to verify it (though we're attempting to follow up.) In any event, whether wishful thinking or serious proposal, here's the document we received:

Whereas, "the General Conference of Elders is responsible to God to ensure that His people are served and their needs attended to" (UCG Constitution, and whereas the ability of the entire current Ministerial Services team to promote successful conflict resolution between the ministry, membership and congregations of the United Church of God, an International Association has been repeatedly shown to be deficient, resulting in loss or alienation of members, 

be it therefore resolved by the General Conference of Elders, in fulfilling its responsibility to see God's people served properly, that the operation manager of Ministerial Services, the three members of the Ministerial Services "team" be removed from their positions and the regional pastor structure be disbanded, and 

be it further resolved, in accordance with the United Church of God, an International Association Bylaws that the President shall immediately bring forth names for consideration for the vacated operation manager position to the Council of Elders, and 

be it further resolved that the current Ministerial Services structure ("team" and regional pastors) be immediately replaced by five "senior pastors" without specific geographic assignment who are selected by the president and submitted to the General Conference of Elders for ratification, and 

be it further resolved that each Ministerial Services "senior pastor" be ratified individually by a simple majority vote of all valid ballots cast by the General Conference of Elders, and 

be it further resolved that the Ministerial Services "senior pastors" serve four-year terms from date of ratification, upon which time a replacement will be selected by the president, to be ratified by the General Conference of Elders for a four-year term, and 

be it further resolved that Ministerial Services "senior pastors" may serve multiple terms, but not more than two consecutive terms.

Weekly Mailbag

Correction? In your most recent update about the UCG-Cincinnati North congregation, you make the following statement: "And so it seems that CN has finally parted from the Mother Ship." This gives the impression that the congregation as a whole has left UCGIA, and/or the board has voted to disassociate from UCGIA. This statement is incorrect for the following reasons:

1. The board of UCG-CN has not voted to disassociate from UCGIA. At its last meeting (May 23), the board appointed a committee (consisting of one board member and three congregational members) to propose changes in the UCG-CN bylaws. These changes may result in UCG-CN disassociating from UCGIA -- but only if any such proposed amendments are approved by the board in accordance with the UCG-CN Code of Regulations. So at this point, UCG-CN is still a congregation of UCGIA in accordance with UCG-CN bylaws, and it is a distinct legal entity. The next board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 2.

2. Regardless of what the board chooses to do, individual members have the privilege of making their own decisions regarding which fellowship they attend. So to give the impression that the congregation as a whole will make one decision or another is not accurate. Individual members will make their own decisions. Some already have.

I would appreciate it if you would make prompt corrections in your update that reflect the above facts, and print this letter in your next mailbag.

Thank you for your time.

Matthew Fenchel
UCG-CN Pastor
UCG-CN Board Member

MD: As was clear from the title of the item ("Congregation members depart") we were referring to members in Cincinnati North, not the legal entity. In the context of the earlier report (25 May) it is unlikely anyone would have assumed what you suggest. However, in the interests of clarity and accuracy, we're pleased to post your comments.

IF time should go on: I wouldn't put much weight in the fact that UCG ministers had a conference in Cleveland, Tennessee the other day. This was a ministerial conference which was planned well before the events in Cincinnati North, and one of several occurring across the U.S. during the year. Our UCG Pastor explained afterward the goal was to think about the next ten years of the Church -- preparing for new growth and ministers in the future, "IF time should go on." But he said we should "watch and pray," because it might not. I think he was talking about prophetic end-time events -- but the way things are going in some UCG congregations...

Richard Burkard

Burrow: I thought I had seen a lot in WCG, but your piece on Burrow was mind boggling! It will be interesting to see if WCG is embarrassed by this report... Keep up the good work!

A few questions raised: I don't know much about the laws regarding non-profit organizations, but reading the press release from Harvest Rock Ministries about the value of the Auditorium being three times the purchase price raises a few questions that WCG members, and members of its offshoot groups, for that matter, might want to ask themselves, as they continue to send the church their hard earned money:

1) How can an organization that is supported by donations legally refuse to publicly document the selling price of its assets?

2) How can that organization, year after year, refuse to publish a meaningful accounting of how it spends its income?

3) Is it legal for such an organization to sell off its assets, which were paid for with donations, at far below market value?

The organization can do so when it is operating as a corporate sole, as the WCG continues to do to this day, 25 years after the alleged crisis regarding the State of California's receivership has passed. It is my understanding that Joseph Tkach is a corporate sole, and the WCG's assets are at his disposal.

Those who are unfamiliar with the receivership should read two interesting accounts. The first is John Tuit's book, The Truth Shall Make You Free, and the second is Stanley Rader's Against the Gates of Hell. Even as an unthinking true believer in those years, I wondered why the church refused to open its books to public scrutiny. As I recall, part of the provocation for the receivership had to do with the Church's selling off assets at below market value. How these allegations were turned into a civil rights issue to the benefit of the church (and by that I don't mean the church membership, whose rights were supposedly being protected) makes thought-provoking reading.

I also recall from that time that Armstrong instructed church members to make out all checks to him, personally, (Herbert W. Armstrong: a corporate sole) and put an endorsement on the back that these funds were for him to use as he saw fit for the preaching of the gospel. That is just what we did, never questioning the way he spent our contributions, because, after all, he was God's apostle, and as such he was answerable to God, and because these funds were not ours anyway. They belonged to God, so we had no say in how they were used. In fact, I think at some level we knew implicitly that it was a taboo subject to question anything Armstrong did, and that is why we didn't think too deeply about the matter. "Trusting in God" can be such an easy way out. It takes away all personal responsibility in the minds of the faithful, since they have done their part and that is the basis upon which they believe God will judge them.

Dear church members in every branch of Armstrongism, learn to ask questions about anything that doesn't seem right to you. Don't let your ministers turn you aside or frighten you with disinformation tactics. Your eternal life is not at stake just because someone tries to intimidate you for asking honest questions. Good churches are transparent about their financial dealings (not to mention other matters). As is noted on the Exit and Support Network, if, by asking honest questions, you are disfellowshipped for having a "bad" or "bitter" attitude it should tell you more about the church itself than about your own spiritual condition.

Steven and Kathleen Kakacek

MD: WCG has stated (through personal correspondent Paul Kroll) that it is no longer organized as a Corporate Sole. However, it continues, in our opinion, to act as though it was.

All about control: My heart goes out to those who are being forced out of UCG. I, myself, saw the hypocrisy of the leadership when we split. I believe it's all about control.

Sometimes during these trials, when we think that God is far away, He is right in the middle of things. I "fear" that perhaps He is sinking the big ships and forcing us all into small lifeboats to preserve us during the rough times ahead. Big ships have names (WCG, UCG, etc.). Lifeboats do not. They're smaller, slower, more unstable, and are certainly not so comfortable. But they can keep you alive. Many members of organized groups would be terrified to "join" a group with no name, no minister, no "work." But maybe that's where God wants us to be for now -- or else face going down with the ship.

The gates of hell won't prevail against the true church, which is the people of God, not the organizations.

Perhaps this should be a signal to us all that something big is in the offing -- perhaps even God's way of preserving His people and truth through the trying times ahead.

Just a thought.

Mark W. Farmer

Deep failure of love: After being in the Church for more than 30 years (I came in as a teenager), I can see more and more that, yes, we were thoroughly convicted to what we called the "truth" and that was to lead us to a place of safety and ultimately in the Kingdom of God to become part of God's family.

What we have deeply failed at, is love. We said that we loved God, and this was by keeping all of the commandments and Holy Days... and this was pleasing to God. We were definitely, like the Israelites, in bondage, since these understandings were requirements for salvation and blessings, otherwise God's hand would swiftly correct us and bring us cursings. So we loved God primarily out of fear...and this also was reflected in our dealings with others in and outside the Church. If you were sick, you were sinning...out of job, probably not injured, you were not close to God; so, we effectively had all the answers to life and how God was going to deal with us.

In my observations, I have found more love in most Sunday keeping groups than in our Sabbath groups. Just looking at all the current splinter groups, the continued bickering over doctrine, all the divorces and the "truth" is exactly what we don't really have! What ever happened to genuine love and God's grace, mercy? 

Further, what blessings, gifts and talents can we identify with anyone EVER in the Church as mentioned in 1 Chronicles 12? If you had these God given talents and gifts, probably you were chased out because you were a "threat."

The ministers need to wake up, and see what is going on...stop boring us with sermons, and talk from the heart and get it right with God...after all, love will prevail regardless of Saturday vs. Sunday! 


Hymn writer's departure: (1) Mark Graham's letter was not surprising to me when I first read it. I had written a letter to the UCG board during the 95-96 year. I shared my disappointment with what appeared to have come out of Indy and why I felt that the direction after Indy in many ways was not reflective of the desires of the lay members (the elders yes, but not the lay members.) I attended AU and many of the men on the board I knew personally... Out of the board members who got my letter, of which there were twelve, only Gary Antion responded... I suggested to the board at that time that if they wanted to build "esprit de corp", creating a hierarchy ruled by a group of ministers (board) ... was not the way to solve this problem of unity. I suggested heavily setting a vision for the church of doing the work, which means, in my opinion, empowering individual Christians to works of service and ministry. Instead what has followed has been business as usual in many respects. It is hard for me to see many of these men who I so respected in college not move the church forward in a direction that might be more healthy. I think what you are seeing now with an increasing number of splits and divisions, are hidden problems that have been present since Indy that were not resolved and have no come to fruition. It needs to happen but this way is a lot more painful than it would have been had the ministry included the lay membership more fully in devising what the new UCG would be in 94-95.


(2) What planet has Mark been on these past 30 years? I too, had conducted several Festival Chorales for the WCG, --- both in the United States and overseas --- graduated from fine Schools of Music and [was] employed for decades by a fine university in the Midwest. Big Deal! I really wonder how many "lost sheep" this church composer sought out to rescue over the years while the church continually splintered apart. Perhaps I've misunderstood his letter. However, I would like to now welcome him among the rest of us peons who were forgotten as soon as they "walked OUT the door." ...

(3) I think there is a serious question that Mr. Graham needs to answer. He was heavily involved with UCG's Supplemental Hymnal that was released during the 2003 Feast of Tabernacles. Many of his excellent hymns were included... Did he hold off his departure in order to get his hymns published in the new hymnal? I would appreciate if Mr. Graham could comment on why he left just after the publishing of the hymnal. 

UCG member

Tithe till you drop: From the LCG "Festival Planner 2004" which was sent to members with their pre-selected feast sites - witness, before your very eyes, the subtle move of a "voluntary" tradition into the realm of doctrine and required obedience. Meredith writes:

"As you review this Feast Planner, please prayerfully consider: Have you faithfully saved your second tithe? Have you sent in your tithe-of-the-tithe? Have you kept up with the prayer, fasting, and Bible study that will help you remain attentive to God's teaching during the Feast? If not, now is the time to make those vital corrections. Do not wait until just before the Feast!"

And if you thought that the tithe-of-the-tithe or tithe of the second tithe was the excess of the second tithe, look again, young brown-shirts! In the same brochure, Don Davis writes:

"By sending in your "tithe of the tithe" and excess second tithe, you are fulfilling the royal law of love..."

Davis writes that the tithe of the tithe and excess second tithe are to "help fund the administration of the various Feast sites around the world...festival expenses must be paid...and speakers ("Levites") must travel to the various sites..". Of course, he later mentions, "tithe of the tithe and excess second tithe also help meet the Feast needs of widows and orphans." Funny, that "also". The original subject of the article is all about helping the less fortunate at Feast time, yet by the end of the article it is clear that it is only a thinly disguised ploy aimed at giving some sort of Biblical credibility to LCG's "asking" of the brethren's "tithe of the tithe".

Paul Ray

Spanky: I am a new reader and I noticed that several times Rod Meredith is referred to as Spanky. What is the story behind this nickname?

Fred Patrick

MD: Spanky is a respectful and affectionate nickname for Rod Meredith: our little contribution (with apologies to the kid who bore the name in the early talkies) to the immortalization of this Giant of Righteousness (Rod has never, according to his own testimony, committed a major sin!) We were inspired by Rod's frequent allusions to spanking - both metaphorical ("God is going to spank our English-speaking peoples!") and literal. Although "spanking" is also an American euphemism for masturbation, which has also been a theme for many, many, many of Rod's fulminations from the pulpit over the years, we were unaware of this usage at the time.

LCG offerings slide: Looks like offerings are down in Spanky's flock. Here is a portion of his May update.

..sincerely feel I should share with you the fact that our offerings during Unleavened Bread were below normal on both Holy Days! The first offering was lower than normal. But the second offering during Unleavened Bread was actually negative compared to the same offering a year earlier! 

What’s wrong? If our hearts are in the Work—as they should be—I ask that all of you will join me in praying that God will move His people to give generously on the coming Pentecost offering. As the summer "vacation season" approaches, we certainly needed this influx of funds to keep on growing and serving and to accomplish what I know God wants us to. I do not ask anyone to give beyond his means. But I do hope and pray that all of us who can will show the zeal we should for giving generously to the Work of the living Christ at this time.

Helping exiters: The use of the HWA incest story to get people ot of the WCG and it's spin-offs is very stupid and dangerous for the following reasons.

1. Most people who are committed to any religious system will naturally defend the leader(s) when they are attacked. In a cult, any criticism of the leader is regarded as a Satanic attack on the group as a whole. So, even if you bring up the incest charge, the group members will not take you seriously. They will just think of you as a slanderous fool who's trying to get back at Mr. Armstrong.

2. Most folks who leave cults leave because they finally realize the ideas expounded by the leadership doesn't match the reality of life in the group. Pressure to depart builds up inside the potential exiter's mind to leave without any help from from a harping critic. But the critic may short-circuit this process by causing the cult-taught defenses to kick in. Why risk alienating a loved one, and risk losing him for good?

3. Many exiters have a condescending attitude toward their former cult friends. They see themselves as "superior" because they know so much of what the cult is all about. (Incest, alcoholism, failed prophecies et al) The remaining members, even if they are not Einsteins, can see this attitude in you, and will regard you as a arrogant snob.

So if this is the wrong approach, what will work? Many years ago, I read "Deceived" a book about people who were involved in the People's Temple cult. One of the things that stands out in my mind is how many of these former members got their loved ones out of the Temple. It was a combination of the natural process mentioned above, and showing effective love toward the member who was still involved in the cult. Whenever the exiters would have any contact with the current member, they would ask how he was doing. They would inquire about any needs that could be taken care by family and friends. They would include him in any activity that he might be interested in. The one thing they did not do was to criticize Jim Jones. These folks understood the hold Jones had on their friends and relatives. They understood their friends and family members would defend the leader if he was attacked. So, instead of attacking Jones, they met their loved one's spiritual and physical needs, and most of the time this approach worked. And I'm willing to bet it will work with many members of the WCG and the spin-offs.

Steve Dalton

A lesson from nature? Not sure if you've heard about the 17-year cicadas swarming in Cincinnati, especially Cincinnati North. This one is known scientifically as "cicaeda o'brien" (pictured after having devoured a rival variety known as "cicaeda pinelli").

MD: I'd heard that regulations on Genetic Modification were pretty loose in some places, but who'd have guessed it'd gone this far  ;-) 

And does this mean Jim may name his group the Monsanto Church of God?


Good News for Mr. O'Brien's congregation!

They will be meeting this weekend for Sabbath services and Pentecost!

Everyone is welcome!  

Sabbath services:
Mr. Jim O'Brien
will be conducting services at 10:30am at the regular meeting hall - Northern Hills Fellowship. There will be a guest speaker: Mr. Dave Havir, from Church Of God, Big Sandy.

Services venue: Northern Hills UU Fellowship

Pentecost services:
Mr. Jim O'Brien
will be conducting combined services for Cincinnati & Lexington congregations at 10:30am and 2:30pm at the Drawbridge Inn in Northern Kentucky.  Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Dave Havir will be giving splits sermons for each service.

Congregation members depart: The following announcement (see side panel) comes from Linda Pratt, a member of the Cincinnati North congregation until recently pastored by Jim O'Brien.

And so it seems that CN has finally parted from the Mother Ship. In a remarkably amicable arrangement the O'Brien-led services will be held in the morning, while UCG will hold afternoon services at the same venue. A member of the congregation makes these comments:

I do hope that we can be a part of the catalyst that will help bring people together so that we can work together in harmony and mutual respect.

And so do we. 

Gaudy Modernism meets tub-thumping Pentecostalism: The following commentary appeared in the May 19 Pasadena Star News.

Future resolved

Sometimes the rescue party comes from an entirely unexpected direction. Such is the case with the latest sale of another part of the Ambassador campus in West Pasadena, which we first reported last Saturday.

The property has been on the market for so many years that you would have thought any potential institutional buyers would have expressed their interest by now. But in this case, it was a matter of waiting for the right combination of institutions: longtime area private Christian school Maranatha High and the rather less-well-known locally Harvest Rock Church, which is certainly well known around the world for its massive The Call revivals, including one in February 2002 in the Rose Bowl.

Maranatha, founded in Arcadia and formerly of Sierra Madre, had been based in northeast Pasadena at the old William Carey International University campus after foothill development plans were rejected by the Sierra Madre City Council. Harvest Rock holds its services at the cramped Carey site as well. Now both will move to one of the most verdant pieces of real estate imaginable, the central campus of what was Ambassador College, including the administration and sports complexes and the world-renowned Ambassador Auditorium.

It's a great place for the school: classy address, outstanding track-and-field facilities where the great high-jumper Dwight Stones trained, infrastructure built for college students that is still in fine repair 14 years after the last Ambassador students left town.

It's a stunning move into prominence for the church, whose services will be held in the gaudily Modernist Ambassador Auditorium, its lobby dripping with purple carpeting and crystal chandeliers, its interior warm and acoustically brilliant.

It's a big coup for the Save South Orange Grovers who opposed the various plans for housing on the site at any cost, mostly out of fear of too much traffic though there will certainly be traffic impacts from the new uses, especially on school days and Sunday mornings.

It's too soon to say whether it's a victory for the diligent group of Pasadena arts advocates who hope to restore the tradition of fine concertizing in the auditorium. Perhaps not, as the church says it's open to considering public performances there so long as the acts don't conflict with the church's values. We don't imagine that Marilyn Manson wants to take the stage there, anyway, and will keep our fingers crossed for the divas to return.

An opportunity has been lost to provide more housing for Pasadena, housing that it very much needs. But it's not as if there had been much commitment on anyone's part to make that housing affordable to all but the wealthiest Southern Californians. And there is still a chance that the eastern part of the campus, sold to Sares-Regis Group in February, can become the kind of truly eclectic residential neighborhood the area needs if Old Pasadena is to grow past its current auto-oriented, chain-retail stage into even more vibrant commercial and entertainment uses.

Meanwhile, it's a pleasure to have the future of Ambassador resolved, and we'll look forward to heading onward and upward with the development and planning of west Pasadena.

The following concerns have been raised by a Pasadena-based source known to MD.

As of this date, no Pasadena employee has received any written documents that specifically state that they are in the retirement program. Many are wondering if this was just another con story to keep some of the employees here when the lower campus sale was announced.

Many have flashbacks to the time when the Church was selling the church-owned plane. Employees were promised a cost of living raise. The plane sold and nothing happened. When the Church decided to sell the Office Facilities building, they promised the employees a raise. Nothing happened once again. Now we have two separate properties, the East Campus and the lower part of the West campus that have sold, also 5 homes, the tennis courts, and a small lot across from Imperial High. But as usual, no retirement program and no raises.

It has been reported by some that they do not plan on giving any raises till they lay off all the Facilities/Security/and Telecom employees. Of course, token bonuses that were given out were just that, token bonuses. Unless of course, when you are WCG exec's and Bernie's employees and you are making 100,000.00+ a year then a 10% bonus is no small hunk of change!

The days of WCG execs denying that they made salaries over 100,000.00 are over. Many of them presently make over that amount. If they deny that they do then they are liars.


Cat & Mouse game in Cincinnati North: This first-hand account was forwarded to MD today:

The [local CN] board meeting lasted for over 4 hours and the members could not agree on a clear course of action. The plan was to first amend the bylaws to disassociate the congregation from UCG. However, the make up of the board does not reflect the profile of the congregation. In my opinion, at least 70 percent of the membership is wanting to divorce UCG but 50 or 60% of the board are reluctant to do so. They are accepting Matt Fenchel's influence to stall and delay the process.

Jim O'Brien became openly upset and accused Matt of using scare tactics to cause the board to delay from making any decision. Matt then responded by recommending that Jim go ahead and rent a meeting room to start a congregation for us in Cincinnati. Jim answered that it probably will come down to doing that

The initial discussion was on an attempt to amend the bylaws in order to remove any provision that binds us to United but then in order to gain the support of the ones that are opposed to leaving United, they discussed an option of trying to establish an "affiliation" with UCG so that we could continue to work together. Connie and Gerald Seelig were there so Matt asked Gerald if this had ever been attempted before. Does this sound familiar...?

When this got bogged down Rick Pratt proposed a second idea - dissolving the corporation. After an emotional appeal, he asked for a second and could not get anyone on the board to second the proposal. Around this point in the meeting, Jim O'Brien became openly upset and accused Matt of using scare tactics to cause the board to delay from making any decision. Matt then responded by recommending that Jim go ahead and rent a meeting room to start a congregation for us in Cincinnati. Jim answered that it probably will come down to doing that.

As it stands now, the board will meet again this Wednesday to discuss the proposed amendments to the bylaws that are needed to disassociate ourselves from UCG. Several of us told Matt and the board that we will never attend another UCG service regardless of what the outcome is of the next board meeting. The Lexington congregation is already in the process of trying to find a meeting place in Northern KY that we can use for combined Pentecost service. Work will now begin to find a facility that we can use on a regular basis for weekly Sabbath Services. The negotiations will continue.


In brief: Over the last few days there have been several items that simply sank to the bottom of the priority pile. Here's a brief catch-up.

1. The Robidoux cult ("The Body") featured on NBC's Dateline last week, and WCG got a fleeting mention.

Herb: not asleep at the switch?

2. A fundamentalist ministry to Jews based in San Antonio, Texas is showering kudos on HWA for his apocalyptic theories about a prophesied  "United States of Europe". Gary Hendrick of CJF Ministries opines:

It is unfortunate that the first preacher to recognize the prophetic importance of a coming “United States of Europe,” long before it became a reality, was Herbert W. Armstrong, a cult leader, broadcaster, and publisher of the often heretical Plain Truth magazine. (His organization, The Worldwide Church of God, changed many of its erroneous doctrinal teachings in the years following his death. The [WCG] is no longer considered a cult by most evangelical authorities.) 

Armstrong, a former advertising man, was using the term “United States of Europe” in his magazine 30 years before it appeared in the pages of secular publications like Time and Newsweek. Most evangelical prophecy scholars were asleep at the switch! Believe it or not, some die-hard evangelicals still deny that there is any prophetic significance to these developments in Europe.

Adopting Herb's illogical eschatology hardly seems a smart move. You can read the whole sorry thing at

3. And finally, the advice we've all been waiting for. How do you convince a loved one who is still in thrall to Armstrongism to take the incest allegations seriously? A new article on the ESN site poses (and attempts to answer) that very question. 


Roger Burrow

Living and Sharing the Gospel in West Palm Beach: Wouldn't it be nice to celebrate something positive in the Worldwide Church of God? After all, this is a church with a mission statement that reads: Living and sharing the Gospel. How about a pastor doing his bit to make the world a better place? A pastor, for example, keen to house the homeless. A pastor who who boldly proclaims to the local newspaper his desire "to provide a safe, habitable place for everyone." A shining example.

West Palm Beach pastor Roger Burrow features in the Palm Beach Post (view full article). Here are excerpts.

Their empires begin at the corner of 27th Street and Broadway. A decrepit white apartment building stands there with the front door long gone, leaving a gaping threshold. Inside one of its apartments, the tenants have to plug holes in the floor to keep out the rats because the building's owner, Roger Burrow, hasn't done it. Just north of that sits another apartment building owned by Burrow, which has been cited by city inspectors for more than 15 kinds of code violations from broken floors to rotten wood to pests. The next two apartment buildings are Burrow's, too. Around the corner sit three houses owned by Joseph Slonin, who has a long list of code violations himself and has repeatedly been accused of beating his tenants... Together, Burrow and Slonin own at least 31 properties, with a total of $3 million in city liens, on or near Broadway, most of them between 27th Street and 36th Street. And together, they are the poster boys of the blight that residents and business owners in the Northwood area say have long blocked the path to progress.

"They hold the neighborhood hostage," said Jack Hairston, who lives next to and across the street from houses owned by Slonin... What distinguishes Burrow and Slonin is that they've amassed so much real estate.

He has compiled this unflattering record even though he is a pastor of the Worldwide Church of God, which says on its Web site that its aim is to "proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ"

"What is unique about Mr. Slonin and Mr. Burrow is the high volume of property they own," City Attorney Claudia McKenna said... Burrow bought almost all of his in the summer of 1996, records show.

Burrow has a more exhaustive list of violations than Slonin, so many that the city is suing to foreclose on many of his properties. He has liens of more than $2 million. He has compiled this unflattering record even though he is a pastor of the Worldwide Church of God, which says on its Web site that its aim is to "proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Burrow, 64, tried to explain away any conflict between his position as a pastor and his code violations. "We try to provide a safe, habitable place for everyone," he said. He said he has tried to fix his properties, but the city has made it difficult by denying him permits. "They oppose me when I try to do something," he said.

Burrow said he has no plans to pay any of the fines the city says he owes. Besides, he said, many of them are not legitimate. "I think we'll find out in court that a lot of those are false allegations," he said.

Burrow said he's corrected many problems, but inspectors won't reassess, so his fines keep growing. McKenna said the city would have no reason not to reinspect a property.

Tenants, meanwhile, put up with day-after-day frustrations. At one of Burrow's apartments, the tenants say they call him all the time about the refrigerator that's on the fritz. "He says he's going to come tomorrow, but he never comes tomorrow," said a teenager who lives there. His mother doesn't speak English. The family pays $500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.

The city sued Burrow in November of 2002, but the suit has dragged on slowly because Burrow, who represents himself, keeps filing motions to dismiss.

When confronted with a property owner who has no intention to pay their fines or clean up their property, it's not as easy as the city simply telling them who's boss. "It's a huge undertaking, just a huge undertaking," McKenna said.

starting Monday evening July 5th we begin a weeklong series of service to celebrate the purchase of the Auditorium... This will be called Seven Days of Dedication, Seven Days of Glory

$7.5 million plus for Auditorium? The following comments come from a press release issued by Harvest Rock Church.

We have agreed with Maranatha High School (MHS) and the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) that we would not disclose the price of the Auditorium or the over all price of the campus that was acquired. However, we can say that the mortgage of the money owed by HRC to Evangelical Christian Credit Union (ECCU) is $7.5 million that must be paid in full within five years... The building's value is almost triple of what we paid for... 

Our dedication service is tentatively scheduled for July 4th. We will have our traditional picnic afterwards with no evening service that night. However, starting Monday evening July 5th we begin a weeklong series of service to celebrate the purchase of the Auditorium. Renowned guest speakers will speak each evening culminating on following Sunday evening. This will be called Seven Days of Dedication, Seven Days of Glory.



Which way to jump? Excerpts from Matthew Fenchel's latest letter to the Cincinnati North UCG members:

I also wanted to comment about a few things happening within congregation. As I am sure all of you heard by now, the only decision made at last Sunday's board meeting was to adjourn the meeting until this coming Sunday, May 23. As usual, the entire congregation is invited to this week's meeting. It is at the home of Rick and Linda Pratt, and it will begin at 6 p.m. If you need directions to their home, please give them a call...

Most of you also probably received a call last Sunday, asking for your opinion/input/answer to a question about the future of the congregation. I do wish to clarify that this phone poll was neither discussed nor approved by the board, nor was it approved by the pastor. The board may still want to consider how to proceed in this matter.

Updates on the situation in Lexington and Cincinnati North as reported on news groups:

As you can imagine this is a very serious decision for each of us to make. I have had the opportunity to speak with both Jim O'Brien and Matt Fenchel and I am very impressed with the ethical manner both men are conducting themselves. At no time has either one tried to influence the personal decisions of the members.

I am very impressed with the ethical manner both men (O'Brien & Fenchel) are conducting themselves. At no time has either one tried to influence the personal decisions of the members

Lexington is ahead of Cincinnati North in this process and it appears that 80% or so agree with Mr. O'Brien. General impression is that the majority in CN also agree with Jim's position. This process is nearing its conclusion and we are facing the probability of family members and life-long friends choosing different paths. Help us all to see it through with dignity and respect for all.

At this time no one can provide any hard numbers... I can expect that it will take several weeks for some to visit with both groups before they can come to a decision that they can live with. It will probably take 6 months before each group settles down into a regular pattern of the people attending. As far as what other ministers and congregations and individual members are thinking and considering for their own futures, these are deeply personal decisions that only they can make. We encourage the free and open flow of information so that each individual can count the cost of whatever they are considering. May God guide us all.


Word is Lexington UCG is on it's own save a family or two who stayed with the UCG. Cincy North is giving everybody a few weeks (couple of weeks?) to get caught up on events before deciding it's fate.

New MD column from Dennis Diehl:
Cain & Abel

Hymn writer reflects: Mark Graham, the hymn writer responsible for many of the worship songs used in UCG services, has parted ways with the church. In a letter to The Missing Dimension Mark makes a number of observations that will interest those following recent events.

I served as a local elder under Lyle Welty for 15 years; the kindest thing I can say is that he is a hard-working uninspired man who would rather be correct than right. I’m sure he’s as puzzled as anybody to find himself right at the heart of the storm.

After 30 years in the church, I simply told Lyle I was not attending and walked out the door. Neither he nor the other elders initiated any attempt to contact me. In spite of my high visibility in UCG as an elder and musician and writer of many of their hymns, not a single person from the Council or the Home Office called or wrote or showed any interest or concern, other than a cordial registered letter from secretary Gerald Seelig saying my “credentials” were taken away. One minister I had worked with on UCG’s hymnal called me with very friendly wishes. Other than that, I think it is worth noting that the ONLY minister who contacted me was one Jim O’Brien... He called to express love and concern and to offer any help he could give. Although I am quite happy and am working towards what I hope is a new day of God’s work, one of the inevitable self-imposed results is that there is little contact with “the brethren”, and I will always remember and appreciate Jim’s call.

The full letter appears at the top of today's mailbag.

The Identity of the Beast - Unveiled at Last! From the humor section of the Painful Truth discussion board.

If you assign a numerical value 1-26 to each letter of the alphabet A-Z (A=1, B=2, C=3...Z=26), then J=10, O=15, S=19, E=5, P=16, H=8, T=20, K=11, A=1, C=3 & H=8. Now increase the value of each letter by 50 ("the number of completion"). Thus, J=60, O=65, S=69...H=58. Yep, adding them all up equals 666 (the so-called "number of the beast") and we rest our case. 

New issue of Journal mailed: The latest issue of The Journal, dated April 30, is now available. It includes a full background article on the events in Cincinnati North in the days leading up to Jim O'Brien's termination, stating that events had "ignited a firestorm of disagreements centered on church governance." The Journal also publishes an open letter from Tony Prettyman which draws attention to underlying issues involved in the dispute.

Among other items of interest is an update on the Darryl Henson "commune" and a tribute to the late Carl McNair from his older brother Raymond. There are also several very reactionary essayists in this issue: Alan Knight (COG7), Eric Snow (UCG) and Sue-Mae Robinson (CGI). All of which put us in mind of this little ditty by Douglas Becker:

I can remember way back when,
Girls were girls and men were men!
Mister we could use a man like Herbert Armstrong again!

Everybody pulled their weight,
The Radio Church of God was Great,
Postponements made most Feasts come late!

Those were the days!

The Journal website is A PDF version of the front and back covers is available here.

Weekly Mailbag

A Note from the webmaster: Due to problems with a software program a number of emails sent to The Missing Dimension earlier this week were lost beyond recovery. As a result these emails were unable to be considered for this week's Mailbag. The problems occurred in the first half of the week. Correspondents are invited to resend any messages that they feel may still be relevant.

Myst as a parable:  I used to enjoy computer games like Myst, where you wander around beautiful deserted landscapes to try to figure out what led up to their demise. That is how I felt looking at the virtual tour of the Ambassador campus. The overwhelming feeling was one of emptiness and vacancy. I’m sure members of the new owners’ church view the photos with hope and excitement, and I actually do wish them well, because it’s clear to me that they haven’t bought our heritage, only a bunch of empty properties.

I was surprised that I actually had tears in my eyes, because of the good and happy things in my life that happened on the Pasadena campus. I couldn’t help thinking about the bank president Herbert W. Armstrong used to write about, who was famous and influential in his day but whose entire memory was preserved in a single newspaper clipping which the bank was quite happy to hand over to Mr. Armstrong. Back then who would have thought he was writing the story of his own fate?

I think it is worth noting that the ONLY minister who contacted me was one Jim O’Brien

Last year I took a long, hard, clear-eyed look at the daughter churches of WCG, and realized they were all quite dead in terms of the growth of God’s family and reaching the world, and that I was sinking my energies and dreams into efforts that God himself had little interest in. The people of God are decent, righteous folk who honestly want to live God’s way and see his will done. But recent events make it clearer than ever that those who say that United and the other churches exist to give ministers a living are right on the money, literally. I served as a local elder under Lyle Welty for 15 years; the kindest thing I can say is that he is a hard-working uninspired man who would rather be correct than right. I’m sure he’s as puzzled as anybody to find himself right at the heart of the storm.

After 30 years in the church, I simply told Lyle I was not attending and walked out the door. Neither he nor the other elders initiated any attempt to contact me. In spite of my high visibility in UCG as an elder and musician and writer of many of their hymns, not a single person from the Council or the Home Office called or wrote or showed any interest or concern, other than a cordial registered letter from secretary Gerald Seelig saying my “credentials” were taken away. One minister I had worked with on UCG’s hymnal called me with very friendly wishes. Other than that, I think it is worth noting that the ONLY minister who contacted me was one Jim O’Brien. I do not know him well, but had worked with him at Feasts and Winter Weekends. He called to express love and concern and to offer any help he could give. Although I am quite happy and am working towards what I hope is a new day of God’s work, one of the inevitable self-imposed results is that there is little contact with “the brethren”, and I will always remember and appreciate Jim’s call.

Mark Graham
Cleveland, Ohio

Keep that list handy: Tell Bob E. to keep his list handy. From what I am hearing from friends in UCG, many if not most of the UCG congregations in the Southeast are very concerned with where UCG is headed. It appears that about half of the members are ready to make a change. In fact, this week or next, UCG is holding meetings with the ministers in Chattanooga, TN concerning their problems. Personally, I am glad that the members are finally making the effort to find out what is actually going on in the UCG home office. The UCG leadership is very good at appearing to be open with the people without actually divulging any pertinent information. The coming weeks and months ahead should prove interesting. Thanks for keeping us informed. 


Questionable question: Dear Ambassador Watch, I was referred to by a reader of your website to the poll you are conducting with regards to UCG-Cincinnati North. I believe the question being asked is: "Should Cincinnati North accept Home Office directives and disband their Board?" I believe this question is inaccurate for a number of reasons.

1. I do not believe the Home Office has ever given a directive to UCG-Cincinnati North to disband their board. In my discussions with board members, no one has ever referred to a directive from the Home Office to disband the board. If such a directive has ever taken place, I would like to know from whom and to whom the request was made. In that case, I will stand corrected.

2. As the current pastor (in accordance with UCG-Cincinnati North Code of Regulations), I have gone on written record that I am looking forward to working with the UCG-Cincinnati North board, just like I have gladly worked with other congregational boards and advisory councils in a mutually cooperative manner. There certainly has been no directive from the Home Office during the last several weeks to the UCG-Cincinnati North board asking them to disband. I have never issued nor forwarded any such directive.

3. The Home Office could not disband the UCG-Cincinnati North board even if it wanted to do so, because UCG-Cincinnati North is its own legal entity -- a Charitable Nonprofit Corporation in the State of Ohio, USA. As such, it would be illogical for the Home Office to even issue such a directive. Because of state law and because of UCGIA governing documents, the Home Office does not have any legal standing to make such a directive.

Thank you for considering these points.

Matthew Fenchel
Pastor, UCG-Cincinnati North
UCG-Cincinnati North Board Member

MD: Thank you for your letter. Please see the comments in the Poll Results item (May 20).

Editorial: Your editorial came at an interesting time, for I was thinking just this morning about how there is a sea change going on, not only in the xCGs, but in the world of religion in general.

How many "young" people do you see heading up these organizations? Mostly when I think of religious speakers, I think of people such as James Dobson, Billy Graham, or in the xCGs, (ex) Ted Armstrong, etc., etc. Even Mark  Armstrong isn't exactly a youngster. They're all growing older and older, and soon they'll all die. And they'll have to be replaced, by necessity, with those that are younger.

And soon the generation that is now under 35 will be under 55, and then under 75. And hopefully once that happens, and all of the current "leadership" (for I use that term loosely) is pushing up daisies, there will be a change. We've been living under the thumb of the hyper-ultra-super-duper-conservative world-war-II generation for way, way too long. It's time for a change.

As an aside, sometimes I wonder if the reason the xCGs discourage(d) voting was because that's an individual right that one must exercise according to his or her conscience. They couldn't have that, now, could they? Well, I'm 28 years old, and I just registered to vote for the first time in my life. Not only that, but I'm voting for Kerry. They can put that in their pipe and smoke it.


Right on: Apropos of your editorial (May 2004: A month of pain and hope for the United Church of God): Right on, Bro! Thank you.


Heads in the sand: Don't you find it interesting that so many loyalists of UCG aren't willing to see this issue through with O'Brien and so many other church destructions... I wonder why if there were so much turmoil over an issue, so many people would rather put their heads in the sand than find out the real truth or demand it... why wouldn't the membership at large really want an answer from their governing body of all the details of the supposed abuses of O'Brien and others.

Steve Clouthier

Split explosion: Concerning your site's May 13th note: A less daunting task may be to just focus on the congregations and ministries that have departed from the United Church of God.

You can easily at least double the number of splits listed for UCG (15). 9 or 10 other splits, other than what you listed, came immediately to mind. There are others, of course, but time does not permit listing them nor researching to re-find and "nail" them all down.

Suffice to say, based on ongoing research of 300+ split groups (I still keep up with splits to an extent since my 1993/1994 research and paper on them), the UCG in its first six or so years of existence had more splits itself (30+) in the shortest time of any COG-related group in the last 50+ years. They have not had the most splits, though, as CGI has easily had 100+ in its history.

A. Ruth

MD: Alan Ruth is webmaster at 

CGOM comment: Further to your comments on UCG your readers may like to access our article Church Leadership - a Biblical perspective on the CGOM web site: It addresses some of the underlying problems, with recommendations, faced by the churches.


Another perspective: When United first began in Cincinnati, troubles started immediately. We were there. We fought against O'Brien getting a church then. We told them he had an agenda. Time has proven us right. O'Brien never was completely United with them, just associated. We didn't want or need two congregations in Cincinnati, (John Elliott was already given one) we wanted to be together. But O'Brien got his way, he was given a congregation, and friends and families were split, and many hard feelings have yet to be healed over this.

As far as we are concerned, O'Brien is getting what he deserves. We hope he takes half of the whole of United with him when he comes out fighting. It's the same old same old. We couldn't deal with United then, and it is obvious they can't deal with them now. It's control and money. And they are willing to forego some of the money so long as they can keep their big salaries, their bonuses and benefits. And they certainly have their spin control experts, but the people that have eyes to see, ears to hear, brains to think with should be able to see them for what they are.

Former Members of Cincinnati UCG.

Fiduciary obligations: After the recent Sale Bernie Schnippert stated. “We reached our other goal of preserving a significant amount of the identity of the Ambassador Campus while also achieving our fiduciary obligations to our congregations.” 

I looked into "fiduciary" the following seems to apply: A fiduciary relationship is quite different (to standard contractual relationships and moral obligations). The fiduciary is required to a far greater extent to look after the interests of his or her principal. A trustee who is a fiduciary, for example, must not set himself or herself up in competition with the trust. Nor may a fiduciary act for a competitor (e.g., solicitors, who are fiduciaries, must not act for both sides in a conflict).

The message to all the splinters and ex-Ministers would seem to be "don't come a knocking because there is nought in it for anyone, except current WCG faithful prepared to toe the party line".

More evidence that Religion is more about Money and Power than improvement in the condition of mankind!

Harvest Rock: I just took the virtual tour of the new college of Harvest Rock/Maranatha. It looks awfully familiar. I particularly remember that sculpture. All the big shots made such a scene over it. They honored the dude who made it at the unveiling, had a big party beside it, and talked about how it had cost a bundle. The charlatans really thought they were up town at that time. No one stepped up in protest to stop their frivolous spending...not one. It reminded me of the Enron scandal in retrospect. It's amazing what crooks can accomplish? Those who keep funding their schemes and scams never seem to learn from the past... 


Harvest Rock reflections: (1) I see that the Harvest Rock Church had the foresight to remove the rats from the reflecting pool. 


(2) Thanks for the link to the virtual tour provided by the new Pentecostal owners. Evidently, the waters were finally cleared of floating vermin. 

Jay H.

No surprise: No surprise that WCG sold its 13 acres to another cult. I guess it is good to keep things in the family. Harvest Rock Church is an extremely charismatic group associated with the "Toronto Blessing" movement


Curious: I am just sort of curious. Do you have any inkling of what the sales price of the Pasadena campus was? So far, I really have no idea of what stuff has been bring in.

(Another) Jim

MD: We'd love to know too, but there's only so much you can glean from the term "undisclosed amount"  ;-) However, consider the next letter...

Bernie the bluffer? Regarding the Campus sale, the ultimate irony is that this deal has closed at what will probably go down as the ABSOLUTE TOP in the Southern California Real Estate Bubble.

Prices have gone crazy for real estate in Southern California , worse than anywhere else in the country, and the market has now shown signs of serious cracks, with interest rates rising rapidly and the recent crash in values of "Reits" , (Real Estate Investment Trusts) on the stock exchange over the last 6 weeks.

Say what you want about the Tkach "Gang" , but they played their poker hand very well in this transaction, with great bluff and fake with the City of Pasadena, and with the timing of the ultimate sale at the market top in terms of price.

Bill Lussenheide

Is Joe a "promisekeeper"? It will be interesting to see whether the many promises made by Tkach & company regarding the sale of the campus will come to pass. When I was still a member of the Worldwide Church, among the promises made were that the local churches would have more autonomy, and the congregations would get to keep at least some of the funds now sent directly to headquarters. Since the enormous amounts needed to maintain the campus are now available, the local congregations can now have budgets of their own, and they can have more discretion in the use of funds. Also, local church buildings are now possible, instead of the dingy rented halls that many congregations were stuck with. And the long awaited ministerial retirement fund can now be set up. It will be interesting to see how jealously Tkach & company guards the loot.

It will also be interesting to see how those splinter groups still loyal to the memory and teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong will react to the fact that a worldly, counterfeit Christian church will now take over the Ambassador Auditorium. Maybe Harvest Rock Church will change the name to "The Trinity Center," or some such church of God blasphemy.

Sadly, the auditorium escapes the wrecking ball. I had hoped that the auditorium would be imploded. It would have been a fitting end to the last vestige of the Armstrong empire.


Publishing falsehoods: I am very disappointed in you slanting the issues. I sent you a letter from Matt Fenchel stating that he had no intention of doing away with the board instead of publishing this factual letter you instead allowed things to be printed that say the opposite including the poem about "Boardbusters". You in fact are publishing falsehoods. 

In fact when UCG is accused as lying you are doing the same thing by withholding and slanting the facts by not allowing the truth to be published.


MD: Well Janet, you are allowed to be disappointed I guess. I've really tried to "bend over backward" to accommodate your requests. These included a prominent notice on the AW page (May 15), re-editing an AW item (May 14), excerpts from your letters appearing in the mailbag (May 15), honoring your request for anonymity and posting the two Fenchel letters you provided to both the UCG and MD Yahoo boards. And as you can see, this mailbag includes a letter from Matthew Fenchel.

AW publishes what I judge to be genuine news items, and commentaries on those items. Steve's poem was in the latter category and referred to the policy of pressurizing local boards to disband; nothing specific about CN - he probably had Paul Luecke's congregations in mind. I don't know anyone who seriously disputes that this agenda exists: the evidence seems pretty clear. Notice Jim O'Brien's comments in his second letter.

You seem to want me to withhold other people's views while giving carte blanche to the official UCG position. Wouldn't that equally be "slanting the issues"? Luckily, UCG already seems to provide this service, so I see no need to duplicate it.

Rod the Resurrecter: It was interesting to read your recent article on Rod Meredith's call for a fast so that the LCG would be blessed with the "signs of the spirit" as referenced in the Gospel of Mark. This is not a new fascination for Meredith on those signs - it's something that's been on his mind for many years.

I can recall a Friday night Bible study Meredith gave in the Auditorium sometime during the Eighties. I'm not sure what brought it about, but he started to tell us about Richard Armstrong's death and the impact it had on everyone at the time. Rod also confessed that he convinced Herbert Armstrong to go down to the morgue and lay hands on his dead son in order to raise him from the dead.

Perhaps their minds were clouded with grief, but the story does demonstrate the true believer status of Rod Meredith. Tragic as the death of Richard Armstrong was, we can be thankful that the 1950's jackbooted ministry did not also have his resurrection as a sign of the spirit and use it to club the membership even further. Were the LCG to receive such signs today I'd be very concerned that they would be used in the same manner, and chiefly to demonstrate the LCG's presiding evangelist should be presiding over all. Of course, the best sign of the spirit is love, but perhaps that's too simple and "icky" for Spanky and his gang.

Von Howitzer


Garrett_Lloyd.jpg (99211 bytes)

Lloyd Garrett

Breakaway bonanza! - WCG joins the trend: UCG officials may take some comfort in the news that they're not the only COG body experiencing congregational secession. We're told WCG's very own Ron Kelly has been racing around trying to prevent the Worldwide Church of God congregation in Washington DC from going AWOL - reportedly without luck.

Details are sketchy at this time, but the Washington church has been pastored by Lloyd Garrett who, we understand, now leads an independent fellowship. Does this mean the Tkach sect is no longer represented in the nation's capital? If so it will provide a sobering counterpoint to the much-trumpeted success in selling a large, bleeding chunk of the HQ campus to a Pentecostal sect just a few days ago.

Garrett's name already seems to have been purged from the roll of Tkach-compliant ministers listed at 


Bad News: Greg writes a book! PTM's King of Glib, Greg Albrecht, has leapt into print, eager to scatter pearls of wisdom before the fundamentalist book market. Bad News Religion - The Virus That Attacks God’s Grace is slated to appear in Christian bookstores shortly, according to an announcement in the June WN. World Publishing is producing the 224 page book which is not yet listed on Amazon. The WN piece states: Among other compelling questions, Bad News Religion asks: Is grace really all you need—or is it too good to be true? Are you a slave of religion? Could you be a victim of “easy-believism”? Uh huh. We'd love to ask Greg a few compelling questions of our own...

Poll result: The AW poll on Cincinnati North has now closed. It drew 144 responses over two days. 16 readers indicated that CN should disband its board if Home Office required it (11.11%) while 128 agreed that the board should resist any such attempt (88.89%)

To clarify however, MD understands that no directive has come from Home Office on this matter, and that the initiative in Paul Luecke's congregation came from the pastor (though seemingly backed up and endorsed by Home Office officials). See Jim O'Brien's second letter

Coburg killing: The tragic killing in Coburg, Ontario of a police officer has a WCG connection. Officer Chris Garrett was fatally attacked by an 18 year old, but first managed to incapacitate him with a shot, possibly saving the lives of the next two officers to arrive on the scene, one of which was the husband of a former WCG Toronto East member. Coverage of the story is online


Already more than 90 people have voted in the AW poll on whether Cincinnati North should dissolve its local board. The poll will remain online for a further day.

Cincinnati & West Virginia hotspots for UCG: As if the problems in Cincinnati North weren't enough, UCG's Home Office team are also said to be attempting to deal with a quite separate series of problems on John Foster's patch in West Virginia.

Word is out that Lyle Welty has been dispatched to Princeton as details of the situation there become more widely known. Many members of Foster's church are reported to have withdrawn their support until a resolution is reached. MD understands Ministerial Services has so far supported Foster's actions.

Details of the issues involved have appeared on various news groups, and further information has been given to Ambassador Watch. We hope Welty manages to both listen to the concerns of those affected, and uphold the need for high ethical standards which members should expect.

Home Office Anthem?

There's something weird
in the church neighborhood,
Who ya gonna call?

Tell me!

There's something strange
and it don't look good,
who ya gonna call?

Come on!

Seeing things
running through H.O.,
who ya gonna call? BOARDBUSTERS!
Invisible laymen
taking away your dole,
who ya gonna call? BOARDBUSTERS!

I ain't afraid of no board.

Who ya gonna call?
Who ya gonna call?
Who ya gonna call? BOARDBUSTERS!

I ain't afraid of no board.


Meanwhile, another UCG board moderator seems to have been "spooked" by open discussion of concerns - particularly those arising from Cincinnati North. This time it's the "young adults forum". 

Hello all,

Effective immediately (Monday, May 17th 4:45pm CST), a 24 hour message freeze is in effect.

This is a decision I've come to based on the continued bantering back and forth. After 24 hours there will be a new "official" document for the young adults forum. After which, I may continue the freeze another 24 hours so that the forum members will have time to read the document and digest it.

As always, your questions and suggestions are welcome.

Andy Lausted

Proverbs 21:23 He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.

The list of UCG congregations that have separated keeps growing (see Dwelling together in unity, AW May 13). According to Bob E, writing on the UCG group: I am up to 23 congregations destroyed by UCG head office politics. I have only covered 1995-1998 so far, with the exception of a couple of recent ones like Lexington. I suspect that the list may be double that by the time I get up to the present.

Virtual Tour: The proud Pentecostal owners of the Ambassador Campus properties have produced an online "virtual tour" to display their new acquisitions. You can find it here


New owners - PSN photo

As the dust settles: Bits and pieces about the sell-off to Harvest Rock and Maranatha.

The Worldwide Church of God announced Friday it has sold a large portion of the remaining Ambassador campus to a consortium of local religious institutions, ending a controversial plan to build houses on the site. The highly anticipated deal will preserve the world-renowned Ambassador Auditorium as a house of worship, and put the mothballed classrooms and athletic facilities back into use.

Maranatha High School and Harvest Rock Church bought the 13-acre property for an undisclosed amount. "Needless to say we think we instantly have some of the finest facilities for a high school anywhere,' said David Poole, president of the Maranatha High School board of directors. "It's a great day for Maranatha, it's a great day for Harvest Rock and we think it is a great day for Pasadena.'

Mayor Bill Bogaard said the sale will "reduce the scale of concern' about the property. Questions remain about what the Worldwide Church of God plans to do with the remaining property. The property fronts St. John Avenue and includes many of the academic and athletic facilities that were once the center of the Worldwide Church of God's thriving Ambassador College.

Maranatha, a nondenominational Christian school, will use the buildings to house its 500 students.
The auditorium will become Harvest Rock church, the charismatic Christian church founded in Pasadena 10 years ago.

"It is way beyond our expectations,' said Senior Pastor Che Ahn of Harvest Rock. "We just thank God for making something that was such a hope into a reality.' Ahn said his congregation will consider reopening the auditorium to public performances, but only if they do not conflict with the church's values and another group underwrites the cost. He said he will reach out to the Ambassador Hall Board for the Performing Arts to discuss these issues.

Mike Vogler, executive director of Save South Orange Grove, hailed the deal as a "victory for the community.' The group has vigorously opposed plans to build housing on the property, saying it would ruin the surrounding neighborhoods. "If this community didn't stand up (against) overdevelopment we'd be saddled right now with the Legacy development,' Vogler said, referring to an earlier development plan for the property. Vogler said Save South Orange Grove will continue to watch what happens with the remaining 17 acres.

Over the past few months, the Worldwide Church of God has sold five historic mansions along Orange Grove Boulevard and the 13-acre east campus. With the latest sale, the church has enough money to meet its financial obligations and then some, said Bernard Schnippert, the church's director of finance. As such, he said there is no rush to dispose of the remaining property. Meantime, the church will lease office space from Maranatha. "We are in a very good position financially and able to frankly take our time to consider the next steps,' said Schnippert. "Our mission here is over, we are going to eventually move on.'

Maranatha and Harvest Rock have both been looking for a permanent home for some time, in part to escape the cramped conditions at William Carey International University in Pasadena, where they currently lease property.

Ahn said he first became interested in the Ambassador Auditorium last April, when Schnippert approached him seeking support for plans to develop the Ambassador property. Schnippert said the auditorium was not for sale separately. Harvest Rock knew Maranatha was also looking for a permanent home and the two organizations decided to combine their resources.

Maranatha had sought to build a high school on property it owns in Sierra Madre. The City Council there rejected the plans and the school filed a suit. Poole said he expects the suit will be resolved shortly as a result of this sale but would not comment further.



Auditorium and campus properties gone.

An announcement appears on the church website at  

The Worldwide Church of God today announced the sale of approximately 13 acres of its 31-acre west campus to Ambassador Acquisition Partners, LLC, comprised of Harvest Rock Church and Maranatha High School. 

The sale includes what was once part of the main campus of Ambassador College. The transaction includes the college’s famed Ambassador Auditorium, Hall of Administration, Physical Education Complex, Student Center and Men’s Dormitory.

Harvest Rock will be the new owner of the Ambassador Auditorium. The Ambassador Auditorium has historically been used primarily as a worship center and, secondarily, as a world-renowned concert hall. Maranatha High School will also have use of the Ambassador Auditorium for performing and theatre arts productions pursuant to an agreement with Harvest Rock Church.

The Worldwide Church of God plans to retain its headquarters offices in Pasadena for now by utilizing the remaining 17 acres of the campus and leasing back space from Maranatha as needed while exploring options for the future. Due to both the previous sale of the Ambassador College’s East Campus on the other side of the 710 Freeway, and the sale announced today, the Church will withdraw its application for the Ambassador Campus Development Plan from the City of Pasadena.

From WCG Press statement

Today the WCG announced that Harvest Rock Church and Maranatha Schools had purchased part of the campus. They now have the Hall of Ad, Auditorium (Harvest Rock), Student Center, Track, Gymnasium and Grove Terrace. As off 3:00 Friday afternoon, the church no longer owns any of those buildings. The church will be leasing back portions till they move to the new facility. The upper campus was not sold. The WCG has pulled it's application from the City of Pasadena and will take a few weeks breather, before anything is determined in that area. WCG will now only occupy the 2,3, and 4th floors of the Hall of Ad. Those offices in the first floor will be moved elsewhere in the building.

Employees were shocked when they came into the Auditorium today and saw that the two candelabra had been dismantled. The chandeliers are going to be auctioned off along with the Steinway piano.

From MD special correspondent

Kilough weighs in: UCG chairman Clyde Kilough has moved to shut down debate on the UCG Young Adults Forum. According to a contributor on the Likeminds group, this may be the first time a minister has posted there, and reflects deep concern among younger members, among whom Jim O'Brien had a high profile.

Further to an earlier item, we have been able to confirm that the email from UCG Home Office employee that linked to Ambassador Watch was a unintentional error. Once dispatched there is, of course, no way to "un-email" a message. There is absolutely no suggestion, as some have apparently speculated, that this was either a deliberate action or intended to precipitate the removal of Jim O'Brien (in fact his would have been impossible as the email was sent the day following the dismissal, a detail which we have been able to also confirm)

While similar things have happened in the past in various congregations, it seems this time the outcry has reached a level church leaders cannot ignore. Perhaps the days of the "roll over and play dead" strategy for lay members has finally ended!  

An Open Letter to the YACOG.ORG Forum Subscribers from Clyde Kilough

Hello everyone,

I have followed with great interest the string of emails on this and other forums concerning Mr. O'Brien's dismissal, and by extension the discussions about other pastors, the Council of Elders, the President, Ministerial Services, etc. Ordinarily I would not jump into the fray, but it just seems appropriate now to make some comments due to the disputes, confusion and misinformation.

Many of the forum messages have been quite good, while others have been disappointing. Any opinions driven by emotion rather than objectivity, any statements that judge and condemn others, any declarations without all the facts, are hurtful to both the reader and the sender. The Internet is an enormously powerful medium, multiplying and amplifying our words, and it projects anything we write to the whole world. Our use of it puts a heavy accountability on our shoulders.

Recently I have been daily reminded of Proverbs 18:17, "The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him."

Concerning such "examining," some seem to be demanding that the church should do this publicly. The reasoning seems to be that since the "pleading of one's cause" was put before the public, then we must respond in kind. There are a few other things to consider, though.

First, we are not hiding behind the "it's not legal" screen. Certainly, there are some things we cannot say legally, perhaps depending on the audience being addressed. There is also quite a bit we could say legally, but just because it is legal does not make it right. There are some things we should not (biblically and ethically), and simply will not, divulge or comment on. To do so would not only break our own policies and set a harmful precedent for other employees, but it would also be taking this case into the court of public opinion. That was not and is not the proper forum.

We can say a few things, however, and I do so in hopes that it will bring better understanding to all concerned.

For one, what many do not realize is that this whole matter began very simply with a discussion about a job transfer. It was neither Ministerial Services nor the Council of Elders that broadened its scope into many other areas and took it public, initially before a church congregation. However, when that was done, the administration sought to engage in an internal process of working out the differences of opinion and any misunderstandings, whatever those might have been. We believe that was the honorable and correct course of action, and that is what we will adhere to. That process did not get very far, unfortunately, but not because of our actions. When an employee refuses to communicate with the appropriate parties, or work toward resolution according to universally-accepted operating procedures, and takes (or allows someone else to take) his grievances outside the circle of those involved, that is not tolerable. It is even less acceptable when those actions damage the reputations of individuals and/or the church itself.

When I refer to the way one handles grievances, maybe it would help to be aware of this statement for all employees in the UCG Policies and Procedures Manual, under "Grievance and Termination Review Process:"


The Church has established this process to provide an internal avenue to resolve grievances that may arise from time to time. Employees can use this process to address any disciplinary action that has been taken against them, up to and including involuntary termination or any workplace action(s) or treatment which is claimed to be unfair, unchristian, illegally discriminatory or contrary to Human Resources (HR) or Church policies as it relates to their employment including their wages, hours or working conditions."

That is pretty plain, and what follows is a clearly defined, step-by-step process to insure equity and fairness. Furthermore, the policy states (italicized in the document for emphasis):

"It is expected that employees will use this process to resolve their grievances privately within the internal avenues made available herein and will not air those grievances arising out of or concerning their employment other than to those individuals authorized to hear the complaints at each step, nor take the matter prematurely to the Council. Employees who fail to follow this process and make the matter public, skip steps and/or cause division or polarization
within the Church are subject to disciplinary action, including termination of their employment."

Is there anything unfair or lacking common sense in that? This policy is based on biblical principles, to say nothing of standard ethical guidelines in most organizations. Some have commented on this forum about the need to look for fruits. I would say to look at all the polarization, conflicting opinions, emotion, even occasional antagonism, personal judgments, etc., that has taken place just on this forum alone! I can make the case that this can all be traced back to not following this policy. This is a serious ethical and spiritual matter. There was no need to embroil the entire church (to say nothing of people outside the church, both friends and foes) in a personal matter. In the discussions that took place no subject was broached that could not have been further explored and resolved internally.

What about insinuations that the church just hides and covers up matters? Was this policy designed for that? No. It was to protect people's integrity and reputations, maintain peace, avoid division, solve problems as close to the problem as possible. Furthermore, it is also the basis on which we choose first to not "examine" anyone publicly. It is based on many scriptures, such as the following:

"He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates the best of friends" (Proverbs 17:9).

Following this thought, Paul even used an expression in the "love chapter" to show there is a godly "covering" based on
love. He wrote, "[love] bears all things…" (I Cor. 13:7). That's pretty easy to gloss over, but notice the meaning in the expression he used. Barnes' Notes says this:

"Beareth all things - The word used here … properly means to "cover" (from stege¯, a covering, roof; Mat_8:8; Luk_7:6); and then to "hide," "conceal," not to make known. If this be the sense here, then it means that love is disposed to hide or conceal the faults and imperfections of others; not to promulgate or blazon them abroad, or to give any undue publicity to them. Benevolence to the individual or to the public would require that these faults and errors should be concealed. "All things - …The meaning must be, "as far as it can consistently or lawfully be done." There are offences which it is not proper or right for a man to conceal, or to suffer to pass unnoticed. Such are those where the laws of the land are violated, and a man is called on to testify, etc. But the phrase here refers to private matters; and indicates a disposition "not" to make public or to avenge the faults committed by others."

Jamieson, Faucett and Brown Commentary is also thought-provoking :

"Beareth all things--without speaking of what it has to bear. The same Greek verb as in 1Co_9:12. It endures without divulging to the world personal distress. Literally said of holding fast like a watertight vessel; so the charitable man contains himself in silence from giving vent to what selfishness would prompt under personal hardship."

Many other similar scriptures, especially in the wisdom of the Proverbs, back up the concept that "he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter" (Proverbs 11:13). You can easily study these yourselves. The point I'm making is that so often in today's culture, "enquiring minds want to know." In church matters all of us are concerned about things we hear because nothing is more important to us than the Work and the lives of our fellow brethren. But somewhere in the equation questions have to be asked about who should hear what, and when, and why? Those questions must be answered in light of clear spiritual directives that aim to resolve problems and maintain everyone's dignity.

To say that the responsible parties must answer publicly to the whole world is to put a simplistic and unfair demand on them. To judge that by someone's silence they are "covering up" is to impute a wrong motive. Do not those leaders responsible deserve the consideration that maybe they are "covering" in the godly sense of the word?

The real issue is that this matter should have been resolved internally to begin with, based on both policy and principle. Even though it was not the administration's wish or decision to take this into the public arena, we are now being called upon by many people to publicly answer and satisfy their concerns. Our concern is whether it is proper, ethically and scripturally, to start down the road of putting this matter on trial in the court of public opinion. We realize that many in that court will pass judgment regardless, as some already have. I have been very saddened to see the damage already that has come as a result of misinformation, distortions and even pejorative name-calling.

By the way, I also find it ironic how that a year and a half ago many people applauded the Council of Elders for honestly and equitably addressing a situation that resulted in a fellow Council member having his ministerial credentials removed. Yet now the same Council is accused of a wide variety of faults ranging from ineptitude to Hitleresque tactics. Does anyone think we judge such matters lightly? Carelessly? Without concern? Does anyone think we are trying to get rid of ministers when we already have a shortage?

I understand how that many see an individual's good qualities in his personal life and ministry, and it is upsetting to see someone you respect lose his job. Believe me, it is upsetting to everyone involved. But, while one's good deeds have been acknowledged and appreciated, that is not the issue when a problem rises to the level of a termination. One's improper actions must also be acknowledged and accounted for, no matter how many good deeds are apparent. That is the issue at hand.

That being said, may I also offer a few quotes and thoughts about another concern I have that this matter has raised: judging. That word also includes the personal judgments we make regarding what, when, why, where, to whom, and how we express our opinions. Forums like this can be wonderful communication tools and my words are not intended to stifle participation. My caution to you is to please be wise and thoughtful before hitting the send button – your words on the internet will be out there forever, even if your mind changes later. More important, we should tremble at God's powerful words on this subject. For example, Jesus warned, "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36).

Consider carefully what Matthew Henry's Commentary says about this verse:

"It concerns us to think much of the day of judgment, that that may be a check upon our tongues; and let us consider, (1.) How particular the account will be of tongue-sins in that day: even for every idle word, or discourse, that men speak, they shall give account. This intimates, [1.] That God takes notice of every word we say, even that which we ourselves do not notice. See Psa_139:4. Not a word in my tongue but thou knowest it: though spoken without regard or design, God takes cognizance of it. [2.] That vain, idle, impertinent talk is displeasing to God, which tends not to any good purpose, is not good to any use of edifying; it is the product of a vain and trifling heart. These idle words are the same with that foolish talking and jesting which is forbidden, Eph_5:4. This is that sin which is seldom wanting in the multitude of words, unprofitable talk, Job_15:3. [3.] We must shortly account for these idle words; they will be produced in evidence against us, to prove us unprofitable servants, that have not improved the faculties of reason and speech, which are part of the talents we are entrusted with. If we repent not of our idle words, and our account for them be not balanced by the blood of Christ, we are undone."

Jesus also said quite plainly, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24).

This certainly implies that appearances can be deceiving. Even more fundamental than that, we first have to know in any given situation whether it is even our place to be a judge! There is a line we can cross over from having questions and concerns into passing judgment. We must be very careful with that line. Before we cross that line, we have to ask ourselves, "If I am not in a position to have all sides of a story and all the facts, how can I then even be qualified to judge with righteous judgment?" Certainly we can have legitimate questions or concerns, but it has been rather dismaying to see the rush to judgment made by some, the assumptions, the misstatements, the blinding emotion, and even the character assassination – sometimes done without the remotest possibility of knowing the complete story! In that condition, any judgment made about anyone can hardly be righteous.

Even righteous Job, when called to account before God, said, "I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know" (Job 42:3)

"Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge" (James 4:11).

"In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise" (Proverbs 10:19). John Gill's Exposition makes a great observation on this verse:

"Where a great deal is said, without care and forethought, there will not only be many weak things uttered, but much falsehood, and at least many idle things, which cannot be excused from sin; not but that much and long speaking may be to great profit and advantage, when it is with care and judgment, and founded on close meditation and study.

"…but he that refraineth his lips is wise;" lays a restraint on his mouth, bridles his tongue; does not suffer his lips to utter anything rashly and inconsiderately; is sparing of his words and is careful of what he says, that it is true and proper to be spoken; and considers well the time when, place where, and persons to whom he speaks; and, all circumstances weighed, conducts accordingly: such a man is a wise, prudent, and understanding man; see Pro_17:27."

This is a forum primarily for the young adults in the church, and we who are older know that you are the next generation of leaders, and you are already in preparation for that. A big part of that preparation has to do with communicating in a wise manner. Many of you will find yourselves having to make the hard decisions in the future, and you will be subjected to intense scrutiny. That's just the hazards of leadership. I hope situations like this provide a field of learning many good lessons, whatever they may be. Thank you for enduring such a long letter – I hope it has been helpful in some ways. May we all continue to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Clyde Kilough

The Great Imitator: Guess who's planning a brand new Hall of Administration (price tag $3,000,000), and then a Grecian-style auditorium? None other than Gerry the PCG prophet. It seems plans are afoot to break ground this summer at the Flurry compound (a.k.a. Imperial College) on the "Hall of Ad" project. Ayatollah Gerry wants it complete within twelve months. Then it's onward to even greater (and grosser?) things: an opulent auditorium!

The exterior will have a classic Greek appearance with a seven column portico and seven steps leading into the building, which will have an earthen, limestone color. The inside will have different hues of purple and gold - the school colors of IC.

This travesty of taste will surely cement in Gerry's much-deserved reputation as the least original post-Armstrong cult leader.

Weekly Mailbag

Has Bob Thiel been gagged? While floating around the web: Has anyone noticed that LCG Bob Thiel's web sites seem to be spinning in neutral these days? If there was ever a time to attack UCG governance problems, this week had to be it. But now it seems that the contents of Tootsie Rolls and the mythology behind Europe have taken center stage. (Wow, now that is something to sink the old teeth into!)

Has someone told him not to publish anything controversial or is he just being nice? Just wondering...


Fast or feast? My first visit to your site and I see that Rod Meredith is calling for a day of prayer and fasting over the Sabbath of May 15. By Torah Law, the Sabbath is a Feast day and thus fasting is prohibited. Perhaps Rod Meredith missed that particular Law in the Torah. We are all learning.


MD: Rod is, naturally, above the Torah. Even when he's wrong, he's right! Such are the wonders of the government of Rod, whoops, God! Anyway, welcome to our little community of refugees and reprobates.

Well known fakery: Hi Gavin, I found it very interesting that Rod is calling for a day of fasting and prayer regarding LCG receiving the gifts of the spirit, as reported in the apostolic era. I for one am not going to be too fast to poo poo this idea, as it is something that those of us who are veterans of the various COG forums have discussed at great length. Perhaps Spanky even lurks on our forums to catch the buzz from time to time, who knows? If any group did verifiably receive the gifts, anyone who thinks logically would need to rethink their positions. I also need to share that I am not holding my breath on this, because of the well-known fakery in the past which resulted in the premature deaths of many people with medically curable ailments, not only in WCG. Charismatics have always done a real good job of faking the gift of tongues. 

One of the conclusions we came to on the forums was that even if you could definitely prove that Satan existed, it would prove that God existed . Some contibutors have shared that they had fervently attempted to contact Satan with no better results than those obtained when they tried to develop a relationship with God. Anyway, Spanky gets an "A" for coming up with this experiment, and whether he realizes it or not, the results will either bring many people into his church, or perhaps cause many to leave. That's a win-win situation to this particular skeptic! Really, when you think about it, only God can prove that He exists.

Bob Evans

Will Spanky's LCG or Kilough's UCG ever call a fast to "undo the heavy burdens", or to "let the oppressed go free", or to "break EVERY yoke"?

Heard on high? I think it's hilarious how all the weird Herbert splinter groups always call for a fast "to make their voice to be heard on high", or for reasons other than what is mentioned in the scriptures. I remember Herbert always called a fast when there was never enough money for him to get his greedy little hands on, or some other "crisis" of his work. Will Spanky's LCG or Kilough's UCG ever call a fast to "undo the heavy burdens", or to "let the oppressed go free", or to "break EVERY yoke"? Their selfish fasts will never "deal their bread to the hungry", or "bring the poor into their house". They are too busy "speaking vanity", eg., Spanky wanting to show others that he has "spritual gifts", "putting forth the finger", eg., accusations by UCG bosses. Every COG "minister" is grabbing what they can for themselves, and lining their pockets with loot. When UCG first started up, I remember asking Burk McNair what was the number one thing on the agenda that "we" were going to do. His answer was, "We are going to make sure that the ministers are taken care of". That agenda has not changed.


The curious case of the missing controversy: Not a peep about O'Brien [in the UCG COE reports]. If they don't talk about it, it didn't happen, I guess. On another note, maybe they should do a doctrinal paper on how the chairman is selected.

"The chairman is selected by a secret ballot and requires a two-thirds majority. No Council member received the required two-thirds majority on the first ballot. On the second ballot, Mr. Kilough received the necessary majority and was selected to fill another term as Council chairman."

Was God guiding his selection? If so, why didn't Kilough get the two-thirds vote the first go-round? Or are some members of the council more Spirit-led than others? 


Cincinnati North/Lexington: I've been following with interest the ongoing saga involving Jim O'Brien and the Lexington church. While there are obviously two sides to every story, one thing is for certain: if UCG does possess valid reasons for what they are doing, then they are turning in a world class performance in how NOT to communicate key issues in a decisive situation that could well tear their organization to pieces. Given that the majority of UCG members are ex-WCGs, doesn't anybody pay attention to the fact that these loyal UCG tithe-payers have already suffered near-fatal emotional burns from the Tkach "feel-good" managerial reign of incompetence? Even starting out, UCG made one catastrophic near-unforgivable error in selecting ... Dave Hulme as their initial apostle-in-training. Hulme [allegedly] had to nearly run the UCG into bankruptcy before anybody did anything--and all the while serving as a direct barrier to those of us who were waiting to see whether UCG would "get it right" before we made another erroneous commitment. And now... here they are again. 

When I first read that Pinelli fired the Big Sandy minister BY FAX, I thought that UCG really ought to pony up some real money and secure the services of a management consulting firm to figure out what keeps going wrong in their executive circle. It is obvious that despite whatever well-meaning commentary exists, the UCG doesn't possess the necessary management skills--much less the sensitivity--to run a multi-million dollar service organization. From a different perspective and for whatever its worth, these days to me the Bible represents above all things an ancient guide to right behavior. Time and time again it says "Do the next right thing." With that in mind, consider that there is no such thing as "Church government" or similar rubbish in the New Testament. The administrative structure presently used by COGs is inferred by extrapolation (so forget your "compelling" arguments about congregationalism, Lyle old buddy, because you are just point blank WRONG--even HWA himself admittedly garbled that one up). If UCG is interested in "preaching the Gospel," then perhaps they would be well-served to consider changing their administrative behavior. After all, it is their administrative behavior that attracts the most attention and serves to illustrate whether they actually practice what they preach. Right now the UCG possesses a growing credibility issue--how many more times will this happen before the dwindling believability data line intersects with the "enough is enough" data point? The lack of sustained right behavior tears at the very heart of who UCG says they are. 

Back in the old days of the WCG'S Worldwide News, whenever a minister or administrator would get canned, the staff would go back and carefully delete--similar to George Orwell's 1984--any and all mentions of that person. They officially became a "non-person." That act has continued in the Tkach "Golden Age," and it should be stamped out--at least by COGs who profess to follow Christ. To UCG's credit, they have not yet deleted all the online references to Jim O'Brien, and there are many. Doing a Google site search on O'Brien yields dozens of highly positive references, many from President Holladay himself (E.g., "Jim O'Brien and his team are to be complimented..."--April 24, 2003 member letter; "Jim O'Brien and the dozens of volunteers are to be thanked for their tireless work..." June 3, 2003 Member letter). If UCG intends to hold to their empty guns, perhaps they should consider the free advice served up by O'Brien in United News, describing how he approached his service: "We want to treat members as customers, asking them for suggestions on ways we can better meet their needs." In the wake of confusion, one might reflect on the thought "by their fruits ye shall know them." Perhaps the Ambassador Bible Center ought to consider adding courses in Chaos Theory. The administration evidently possesses the depth of knowledge to teach it.

After what we experienced in Worldwide," this pastor said, "I don't just accept whatever pabulum comes from Home Office."

Home Office pabulum: A veteran United Church of God Pastor told me after church today that Jim O'Brien attended the UCG General Conference of Elders May 2-3. "He's a very good minister," this seemingly puzzled pastor told me. "Then I get home and there's this e-mail from Roy Holladay that he's been dismissed, for violating ministerial ethics." The Pastor said from what he's been told, there were "long-term issues" between Mr. O'Brien and the Home Office. But this Pastor admitted he's only heard the UCG side of things, and he's interested in tracking down Jim O'Brien's side. He apparently was unaware of the Internet uproar of the last few days, at MD and elsewhere. "After what we experienced in Worldwide," this pastor said, "I don't just accept whatever pabulum comes from Home Office." He later added: "You have to consider both sides of the story, and then draw conclusions." This Pastor wondered in speculation if Mr. O'Brien might have changed suddenly in some way, or if people in Cincinnati might have crossed a line. He suggested I consider whether Mr. O'Brien is being contentious, and trying to draw other people away with him. "I would pray that we not have any more upheaval in UCG," the Pastor said. But he noted as the largest surviving WCG spin-off, Satan might be working to stir up dissension within the Church.

"Cincinnati Royal"

One sided garbage: [Regarding] the long letter about the splits, why do you not have the authors name attached? If they are going to write their side they should have the courage to at least sign their name. I am also concerned that people can send out all this one sided garbage without signing their name. If you say it then you just have enough courage to back it up with your name. It is easy to hide in emails and attack people and not post your name. [Matt Fenchel is] still working with the committees. Note that the committee chair is Julie O'Brien, daughter in law of Jim O'Brien, who is a wonderful Christian.

MD: These comments were excerpted from several emails sent in by a UCG Home Office employee. She also supplied copies of two further letters by Fenchel, apparently with the authorization of UCG officials (although this was not stated). Neither, in our view, merits publication here, although both have been posted to the MD and UCG Yahoo groups for anyone who wishes to view them. 

MD respects the need for anonymity of some letter writers and, in certain cases, contributors of articles. Our policy on letters appears at the bottom of each AW issue. Indeed, the Home Office correspondent has asked that her own name not be attached, a request that we have likewise honored.

Al Portune: Just curious -- does this link (May 8) refer to the Junior or the Senior Portune?


MD: Sorry, no idea.

Black hole? I have to say that I really enjoy reading your Missing Dimension website. I am a member of our local WCG church, but I have long since wrote Pasadena and had them take me off their mailing / membership lists.

One person in the mailbag asked a good question. What is happening to all the money from the campus sale? It seems that years ago when it was first mentioned to be up for sale, it was going to finance retirements and allow local churches to buy their own church buildings. My impression is that bits and pieces of the campus are being sold, the money is just falling into some 'black hole'. I was also under the impression that the campus was worth about $100,000,000. The amounts they are getting seem to fall far short of that mark. Was my impression wrong about the worth of the campus, or is something going on that is unseemly.


Barnyard pecking order: I remember sitting in a "Harmony of the Gospels" class taught by Rod Meredith. His idea of teaching was reading it to us and commenting on it in sermon form. I now shake my head in personal disbelief at my own naiveté' as to what constituted teaching. Anyway, I became momentarily uncomfortable with his reasoning on Church Government. It was a "niggle" that foretold much of the frustration that I allowed to lead to depression (repressed anger) over the next three decades. I had been Presbyterian up to that point and local church boards and councils, which functioned very well, were a simple and present reality for a hundred years. Rod made the point that "Mr Armstrong was under Christ, who was under God (hey that's two god's, what gives!), next would be Garner Ted Armstrong, under his father and then I (RCM) would be third under Christ to be followed by the leading Evangelists in God's work." Gulp....I remember thinking that he was pretty sure who were in the top three and then after him the pecking order became rather hazy. By the time I graduated, GTA was in sufficient trouble for RCM to practically be in a perpetual drool in hopes of getting bumped up a notch. Unfortunately, bumped up turned to bumped off and he was sent into exile. In the years to come, this divine comedy changed players many times, but it was always a who's-who in the line to Jesus, ( well was really the line to HWA...Jesus never really seemed to communicate these important topics very well, even though one often heard how clearly and obviously this or that approach was inspired by His intervention and leadership.) This was always an amazing concept and sideshow to me from my youth all the way through my termination. 

Not LISTENING to those under you was leadership. Not LISTENING to those above you was suicidal

The remnant ministry of the WCG experience, which includes all those who still struggle to maintain the various splinter COG's, have all too often majored in the minors. It's what they do best. Church government problems always sprang from HWA's self image fueled by sycophants and his unwillingness to LISTEN to others. He attracted others with the same traits who were allowed to exert this pressure down the line of "apostles, evangelists, pastors, preaching elders, local elders, deacons (a rare deaconess) and the members," but of course, NEVER UP the line. Not LISTENING to those under you was leadership. Not LISTENING to those above you was suicidal. The Tkaches were and are masters of NOT LISTENING, and the rest is history. I never sat in a meeting in my entire life of ministry where the idea that came into the room from above was talked out and left in the room. We were always talked into the "truth of the month" and of course, since it was "of Christ", well try and question that and see what happens. And so it still is in UCG, PCG, LCG, RCG and all the CG's of splinterization. It's a theological comedy which leads to spiritual, emotional and physical exhaustion. An oft told tale in the world of churches and leadership that majors in the minors. Something that Fundamentalists and Evangelicals in general, and COG's in particular, have raised to a theological art form and for which they are now paying.

In any group, whether businesses, schools, institutions or churches, it is those at the "bottom" who determine the success of those at the top. Stop cleaning the hospital and the surgeon can't come to work, can't find the file and the bosses can't function intelligently, don't show up and the brilliant teacher has no purpose, and certainly, vote with your resources and all of a sudden a more compassionate and reasonable way to think comes directly from Christ through his chosen servants. This now greatly encourages us all as we see how Jesus is leading his Church on earth today and that Government from God to Christ to Minister to Member... and then to woman, works so well... So all works out!

Dennis Diehl

Loyal Zombies? Just when we thought Joseph Tkach's WCG Cult had been whittled down to a rock solid core of fiercely loyal zombies, we learn that income so far this year has taken a surprise 10% plunge [AW 19 Apr] ! It doesn't take a genius IQ to figure out why members are continuing to leave and/or withhold funding : The WCG still has an installed monarch, Joseph Tkach II, who presides over a "Dummy Board" who are beholden to him (and well compensated for their loyalty). The board meetings are SECRET as are the very generous salaries (rumored to be well into six-figures) assigned to Tkach and his loyal executives. The benefits and pensions they provide for themselves are also SECRET. The details of property sales to fund their generous salaries and pensions are also SECRET ! No surprise then that even the most fanatical supporters of the now very wealthy WCG leaders have finally had enough.

Fences, not ambulances: Many men, women and children fell over a certain cliff. The local Authorities decided - expensively - to station a fleet of ambulances and paramedics at its foot to pick up the remains. Then some bright spark thought of placing a secure railing at the top. No more deaths or injuries.

When are the corporate churches going to learn that the sensible solution to governance is for each local congregation to be self-governing without coercion from a central headquarters? Each local assembly should have its own home-grown leadership and be small enough for the brethren to be interactive. No need for bureaucratic regulations or salary scales or a remote headquarters etc. Voluntary co-operation, not dictatorship, is the way forward. After all - such a system is the New Testament pattern.

Sadly, the appetite for power has not, largely, deserted the 'old' ministry. Nor has the desire for a comfortable salary or pension or prestige or respect. Old habits die hard. For a 'working model' of this approach please feel free to read CGOM In Perspective, downloadable at the base of the Home Page.

It's time to move the ambulances and to build fences!


Mr Common Sense: Is it just me, or does "Mr Common Sense" [previous mailbag] sound...somewhat...FAMILIAR!??

MD: LOL, now you come to mention it...


Home Office officials front up in Cincinnati North: Mark Winner may have inherited Lexington, but the new HO appointee in Cincinnati North is Matthew Fenchel. This week he wrote to the members about the weather, juice and cookies, and a high powered visit this Sabbath. Reading between the lines it seems the local board is hanging in there. Here's the Fenchel letter:

Dear members and families of the Cincinnati North congregation.

I hope your week is going well. We certainly have had some beautiful summer weather. Unfortunately, with some rain in the forecast, it looks like the cicada invasion will take place shortly. Oh, well, as one philosopher once said: "This too shall pass."

My family and I want to thank everyone for an enjoyable first Sabbath in Cincinnati North. I have received very positive feedback about the question-and-answer session we had last week, and I appreciate how respectful everyone was towards me and towards other brethren. My compliments. People recognized that good, objective communication is important (Proverbs 18:17) and that brethren in the congregation have different perspectives about the current situation. Let's go forward on that basis.

On this past Saturday evening, the CN board authorized a letter be sent to Messrs. Roy Holladay, Richard Pinelli and Lyle Welty. I quote part of that letter here: ". . . a few questions from the congregation have continued to come to the surface. To put those matters to rest, at the request of the Cincinnati North congregation, the board of trustees would like to extend an invitation to Mr. Richard Pinelli and/or Mr. Lyle Welty for a Question & Answer period following Sabbath services, May 15th. If that date is not available, the Sabbath of May 22nd is also open." I am pleased to announce that all three individuals -- Messrs. Holladay, Pinelli and Welty -- have accepted this invitation for this coming Sabbath, May 15. Therefore, as with last Sabbath, we will have a Q & A session after services, for those who would like to attend.

The letter from the board stated that arrangements should be made through me, as the pastor. We are still finalizing a few details to make sure everything is done "decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:33, 40) -- but the format will be very similar to last week's meeting. I will facilitate the session, and Messrs. Holladay, Pinelli and Welty will be seated in front of the congregation to answer questions. Like I mentioned in last week's Q & A session, please understand that these men are not in a position to answer questions where it would be biblically or legally unethical to do so. However, that being said, they have assured me they will be as open as they possibly can be.

They also asked me to remind everyone of the invitation they have extended for people to contact them via the phone, or to schedule a personal visit. We all realize that not everyone is comfortable with a group format, so please take advantage of this opportunity, as I know a number of you already have. Obviously, the same thing goes for me. I am trying to initiate contact with everyone in the congregation, but please do not hesitate to give me a call or send me an e-mail if I can be of more immediate service.

On a more "routine" matter -- my kids are convinced that the Sabbath is much better (especially if we have both services and a congregational meeting) if we have cookies and juice! (Aren't kids are funny that way!?!). I am not sure how these things are organized in the CN congregation, but whoever is in charge of this, perhaps we could arrange some refreshments between services and the Q & A session? I mention this here in case the usual procedure is for everyone to bring something. If that is the standard method, let's do it. If not, perhaps someone could let me / us know.

I don't want to make this too long, so I will try to wrap it up. As I mentioned in my e-mail to you last week, I fully understand that this is a difficult and emotional time for everyone. We need to be praying for one another, we need to be supportive of one another, we need to be patient with one another. The main point I have been discussing with many brethren is this: in everything we do, in everything we say, in every decision we make, let us be above reproach before God. If we know in our conscience and heart, in the light of God's word, that something is right before God -- let's do it! If we know in our conscience and heart, in the light of God's word, that something is wrong before God -- let us flee from it. God gives no allowance for us to do wrong, just because someone else has. God gives no allowance for an "eye-for-an-eye" just because we are suffering. In this regard, Christ truly left us an example. God directs us to rise to the challenge of putting on perfection, as the Father is perfect and complete (Matt. 5:38-48). May we all diligently seek this, through the Holy Spirit.

Well, you have heard enough from me for one day. I wish you God's blessings for a profitable week. Look forward to seeing you on the Sabbath. Please feel free to forward or share this message with anyone else in the Cincinnati North congregation.

Best regards,

Matthew Fenchel

Perhaps CN members might like to refresh their memories on a similar situation that occurred in 1997, as they mull over their questions for the the Home Office troika. The following material was provided by M.A.M. It's reasonably lengthy, but perhaps profitable as a new group confronts old issues.

For those of us who have followed the UCG throughout its history, especially in the pages of The Journal, this is nothing new. From its inception, those in charge of the UCG have been trying to abolish local church boards and extinguish any local autonomy. It has been a slow process, but the bosses at the home office are very patient, and they have been moving inexorably toward the goal that they had all along, and that’s a Church of God that is completely under ministerial control. They have been largely successful, as there are few vestiges of local autonomy left in the UCG.

Let’s go back to the summer of 1997, to Kansas City, Missouri. On page 8 of the September 25, 1997 issue of The Journal: News of the Churches of God, their reporter writes, “The Kansas City, Mo., congregation of the United Church of God, an International Association, formally split the Sabbath of July 19 over questions of church governance in the UCG. Not long ago the congregation was one group, with peak attendance of about 110. Now about 50 attend with the UCG, and about 50 attend with the new independent group.

“The issues in Kansas City that led to the separation involve the role and authority of the ministry, church government and how local involvement should take place, according to people interviewed in recent weeks by this writer.

“Those who separated from the UCG - who call their new group the Church of God Kansas City - express views on church governance that differ widely from the perspective of many of the brethren who remain in the United Church of God.

“The catalyst for the separation of brethren was the local board, although former board members say that the underlying issues were broader than that.

“Many have said they feel betrayed-again-and that they had understood that the conference in Indianapolis in May 1995 that founded the United Church of God promised a different kind of church from the Worldwide Church of God: one that would release the energies of local people rather than stifle them. Now they remark that the UCG never intended that-or that many UCG ministers have changed their minds.”

Sounds mighty familiar, almost like Cincinnati North circa 2004.

One paragraph caught my eye. “When the United Church of God was formed at Indianapolis, this independent group [those in Kansas City who left the WCG and eventually joined the UCG] felt the answer to its problems was at hand and decided to affiliate with it. They formed a board in 1995, following guidelines given in the April 30 May 2, 1995, issue of New Beginnings [then the UCG equivalent of the Worldwide News] newsletter, published by the UCG.”

The UCG ministry viewed local boards as a temporary expedient

So, in the early days of the United Church of God, the leaders of UCG gave guidance to those disgruntled Worldwide Church of God members as a means of prying them away from the mother church and make them ready for incorporation into the UCG. Local boards were encouraged as a means to keep a congregation intact, ready to be taken over by the United Church governing body. The UCG ministry viewed local boards as a temporary expedient. Once the central authority was established, the UCG ministry intended to dissolve the local boards. The United Church of God was established to get the ministry out from under the heavy-handed leadership of the Tkaches, not to get the members out from under the heavy-handed rule of the ministry.

The lay members were misled into believing that they, too, would be freed from a ministry that expected unquestioning obedience, but many disappointments were in store for those who looked to the UCG as a corrective to WCG abuses. As long as the local board was suitably compliant, they were tolerated. Some local boards even voted themselves out of existence. On the other hand, those local boards that insisted on having a say in how the local congregation was run were squeezed out, even if it meant losing part of the congregation. The UCG leadership established this pattern early and it has been followed ever since.

This is what happened in Kansas City. At a board meeting held on April 5, 1997, a conflict erupted between the board and the pastor of the congregation, Larry Greider. The Journal quotes from the minutes of the meeting, listing several points discussed. Point 6 is the most interesting for Missing Dimension readers:

“‘6. There were some significant disagreements with the pastor over the board- and its function. -Mr. Greider suggested that the board was no longer necessary and ought to be restructured. He indicated that there was not enough interest in the congregation to continue to maintain the board in its current format, pointing out the low attendance and that not all the deacons and elders were even present.’

“Point No. 6 continued:

“‘While UCG began in 1995 encouraging boards, they have since changed their approach and believe they are unnecessary. Rather, Advisory Councils are recommended, winch report to the Pastor and whose decisions are subject to the Pastor’s approval.

“‘According to Steve Andrews [then the UCG treasurer; he joined David Hulme when Hulme left the UCG and started his own church of God split]… there are only nine boards left in the country…, and none in this district other than ours. In his opinion, the board is in violation of UCG-AIA bylaws partly because it renders deacons and elders less effective.

“‘In addition, there are some gray areas in the [UCG-AIA] bylaws regarding where the authority of the board begins and authority of the pastor begins. He said that if the board feels that he cannot overrule its decisions, then he can’t pastor this church. He maintains he has the right to veto any decision the board might make.’”

At this point, one of the actors in the current Cincinnati North crisis makes an appearance in a familiar role:

“A meeting of deacons, elders and board members was called by the pastor for before services the next Sabbath, April 12. A letter from Richard Pinelli of Arcadia, director of ministerial services, was read to them. Mr. Pinelli, in his letter on the UCG letterhead, dated April 11, said he wrote the letter because he had heard from ‘several people’ about the previous Saturday night’s board meeting.

“‘It occurred to me,’ he wrote, ‘that perhaps there are some misperceptions about some of the comments that I made at a meeting with some of the Kansas City members in 1995 only four days after the Indianapolis conference.

“‘It is helpful to note,’ he said, ‘that the term “board” is never used in the documents coming out of Cincinnati [the second general conference of the UCG-AIA, which took place in the Ohio city in December 1995]. The idea of boards comes primarily from a presentation in Indianapolis, which I used in the first meeting with many of you immediately after being there.

“‘While we are not opposed to boards, we must realize their purpose is to advise and not govern. In the meeting in Kansas City and the sermon I gave on governance, the role of the minister, his responsibility and proper authority was never intended to have changed.’”

when it comes down to a decision between the desires of the members and what is best for the ministry, the leadership of the United Church of God will choose what is best for the ministry

You see, it was always the intention of the UCG ministry to continue to be the bosses of their congregations. The purpose of the boards was to maintain congregations intact so that the UCG ministers would have congregations over which to be bosses. After all, what good is being a minister if he can’t boss anybody around? Isn’t that why they went to Ambassador College? Isn’t that what they all live for?

“Mr: Pinelli quoted from the UCG-AIA constitution that ‘each local congregation is GUIDED and SHEPHERDED by a pastor, ASSISTED by elders, deacons and deaconesses. A congregation MAY establish one or more local ADVISORY councils to ASSIST the ministry in SERVING the needs of the local congregation [and] the Church as a whole, and as they have the opportunity, their local community’ (the emphasis is Mr. Pinelli’s).

“Mr. Pinelli said that, since the constitution says a congregation may establish one or more advisory councils, that means it cannot legally establish a board…”

“Mr. Pinelli, in his letter to the Kansas City brethren, continued:

“‘A Church pastor is appointed. It is a calling. The members do not elect the pastor, nor do they govern the pastor. He is responsible for the well-being of the congregation and not a board or council.

“‘The Kansas City board, at that early time, was set up with elders, deacons and leaders of the Church to handle the physical matters of the Church. The definition was refined in Cincinnati in our Constitution as “advisory” councils. An advisory body gives helpful input to assist the pastor; however, it does not govern.

“‘I know that the past two years has been unsettling for some in the Kansas City area. While trust must be built, I do hope everyone is willing abide by and honor our Constitution and Bylaws in this regard, since the meaning is clear and more importantly, it is consistent with the Bible in this regard.’”

What is happening in Cincinnati North has happened time and again in the United Church of God. The June 27, 1997 issue of The Journal contains a story about the split of the Minneapolis, Minnesota UCG congregation. The July 31, 1997 issue reports on a group in Florida that elected to attend meetings held by Ron Smith, a minister who had just been fired by the UCG. The August 29, 1997 issue reports on a split in the Waco, Texas UCG congregation on the front page, and on the last page reports on a split in the Victoria, British Columbia UCG congregation. Page one of the November 21, 1997 issue carries the headline “New England UCG congregation splits over governance, personal responsibility.” On May 31, 1998, The Journal reports on the split of the Big Sandy, Texas congregation with the headline, “Largest UCG church splits over governance.” There have been fewer splits in recent years, but the Cincinnati North crisis shows that when it comes down to a decision between the desires of the members and what is best for the ministry, the leadership of the United Church of God will choose what is best for the ministry.


Effie & Andrew Dugger

Orabelle's story: COG history buffs may be interested in an interview currently featured in the print edition of the Bible Advocate (May 2004). The subject is Orabelle Youngs, daughter of pioneering COG7 leader (and later schismatic) Andrew N. Dugger, a gentleman who featured prominently in Herbert Armstrong's autobiography. It's a warm and rambling piece, and one can't help observing that things appear to have turned out better for the descendants of Andrew and Effie (who all still seem to be on speaking terms!) than those of Herb and Loma.

Don't forget Spokane: Another addition for the list of UCG dropouts: Spokane, Washington, circa 1995. The issue was apparently (surprise!) a local church board. Pastor David Treybig at first accepted the arrangement, but then rethought matters. Dennis Luker began "shuttle diplomacy" to salvage the situation, however things degenerated. Two local elders, Robert Gentry and Steve Weininger, left with a significant slice of the membership. (Based on a posting to the MD Yahoo group)

The O'Brien factor: So what has happened in the UCG congregations pastored by Jim O'Brien? Two discussion board postings may throw some light on developments.

There was a meeting in Lexington and the congregation was told Mr. O'Brien was "dismissed" from UCG and they would have a new minister on 5-8 Sabbath in the morning, BUT there would also be another meeting in the afternoon with Mr. Jim O'Brien as pastor. Mark Winner was put in charge for UCG in the Lex. KY congregation in the morning services, but most of the congregation went for services in the afternoon to hear Mr. O'Brien. So it looks like O'Brien took most of the Lex. KY congregation with him. They don't have a name yet...

And Cincinnati North? A posting from a member of that congregation included this comment.

I'm a member of the Cincinnati North congregation. Mr. Jim O'Brien is my minister. Notice I said "is". I personally do not accepted his "firing" by ministerial services. He was not fired by God... 

So it may be that Mark won't be the "winner" in this situation.

It also seems that a Home Office employee inadvertently emailed the AW address to members of Cincinnati North shortly after the dismissal of Jim O'Brien. We'd like to, um, thank UCG for the unintended publicity.

ESN offline temporarily: The ESN (Exit and Support Network) site has been down for a couple of days, and was still unavailable at time of upload. According to Bill Hohmann, the webmistress "got three emails from different people containing viruses, then the ISP rolled over dead, and they appear to be having quite a problem getting it back up and running. It has been down since Sunday." When the site returns we understand that two separate reviews of Mystery of the Ages (one by Bill) will be available.


Dwelling together in unity: Most of us long ago gave up counting the many splits and splinters that have gone forth and multiplied from the carcass of WCG. Any such list would be out of date almost before it hit the Internet as new bodies explode into existence and then fade into oblivion. Last we heard, the tally was well over the 300 mark.

A less daunting task may be to just focus on the congregations and ministries that have departed from the United Church of God. That thankless task has been tackled by Bob E., who has developed this (as yet incomplete) list. Any additions will be gratefully received.

Big Sandy. Texas
Waco, Texas
Terre Haute, Ind.
Kansas City
United Christian Ministries (Wooten)
Hartford, Conn
Victoria, BC, Canada
Williamstown, Australia
Elkhart, IN

Oakland/San Francisco, Ca
El Paso, Texas
Church of God AIC (Hulme)
Boston, Mass.
Lexington, Kentucky

Emotional allegations in campus outburst: The following item was received today from a Los Angeles correspondent.

A man came into the Hall of Administration in Pasadena recently wanting to speak to a minister. He then went on to claim that HWA had molested him sexually. When he was ignored he went into screaming fits that HWA had sexually molested him when he was younger. This was all supposed to have occurred in HWA's home. He claims he is going to sue the church. His name is [removed]. The family were prominent in the WCG [the name would be familiar to many AW readers]. The complainant is reported to now be in his mid to late 30's.

Do the allegations have substance? We have no idea. But some may remember than David Robinson (Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web, 1980) darkly hinted that the Apostolic peccadilloes may have strayed into strange territory from time to time. Among the charges Armstrong raised against Robinson prior to his dismissal was that "I (Robinson) said I had in my possession pictures of Mr. Armstrong in the nude having aberrant sexual relationships with young boys." (p. 251)  Robinson then commented:

While one becomes almost "shock proof" in the church environment we have been in during recent years, this was the grossest charge of all. I have said no such thing. I have heard that such pictures exist and had heard so just recently in Pasadena from men who are still with the church... They [Herbert Armstrong and Henry Cornwall] were both very demanding to know who had told me that. I would not say. Henry pushed and pushed on the matter. It is not a new story and always revolves around Sam Gotoh... Interestingly enough, neither Henry nor HWA denied that such pictures existed...


Lexington KY follows pastor into wilderness: It seems that the Lexington UCG congregation has split from Home Office control following the sect's dumping of Jim O'Brien last week. This outcome must be the result of all that fasting Clyde Kilough called for prior to the COE meeting. Whoever said prayer and fasting didn't work!

Rod wants to cast out demons ... has he been practicing in front of the mirror?

Spanky calls another fast: And on the subject of fasting, joy is indeed multiplied for the fortunate members of the Living Church of God. Pontifical Evangelist Roderick Meredith has called yet another of his character-developing compulsory fasts for the brethren, something he does with alarming regularity. Perhaps ruminating on his own mortality, Rod is keen to see his sect imbued with the power to "heal the sick and cast out demons."

So, dear brethren, I call upon all of you to join with me and out other brethren around the world in a day of humility, fasting, seeking God and crying out in fervent prayer that God will grant His faithful servants the "signs" of the Spirit mentioned in Mark 16. After discussion with a number of leading ministers on the Council of Elders, we have decided that the Sabbath of May 15th would best time set for this day of fasting. Please cancel other activities which are not nearly as important!

Dibar Apartian spells it out in his letter of May 6: all of us in the Living Church of God are to abstain from food and drink beginning at sunset on Friday, May 14, and ending at sunset on Saturday, May 15.

Does Dibar really believe rumbling tummies are likely to convince God to bless this insignificant splinter-sect with the kind of gifts Spanky covets? Maybe if the LCG brethren focused on something more realistic... perhaps that God might teach Rod a little humility... although that might be a tough ask for even God. 


Gerry - no dough for "That Prophet"

Canadian court rejects PCG appeal: Things didn't go well for Gerald Flurry in a recent judgment by the British Columbia Court of Appeal [Fuller (Estate) v. Fuller]. The decision by three judges favored the relatives of a deceased member and left the PCG high and dry. Details here.

A COG commune? Norman Edwards, founder of Servant's News, has launched an ambitious new project. Reaction seems mixed, with some believing this is an exciting and uplifting development while other more cynical souls arch a jaundiced eye. You be the judge. Here's the spin.

Thank you for your prayers and encouragement to start a Sabbatarian school and retirement center. After much prayer, discussion and consideration, we signed a contract to purchase part of the former Air Force Base at Port Austin, Michigan on April 28, 2004. Our plans have gone further than just establishing a school and/or retirement center. We want to do those things in the context of a community that lives as much as possible by Biblical laws and principles. For this reason, we have decided to call it Port Austin Sabbatarian Church Community or PASCC.

What might you expect at this utopian enclave? Norm lists 7 purposes (now there's a good Biblical number!)

1. To establish a community living by biblical law and principles encompassing every aspect of physical and spiritual life.

2. To establish a witness to our local neighbors and all who come to visit.

3. To educate young people in Bible basics helping them to prepare for ministry within their marriage, family, church and community-including the learning of physical life-sustaining skills.

4. As God makes it possible, to serve older brethren, giving them an opportunity to live in a Sabbatarian environment and to use their wisdom and experience to teach the young.

5. As God makes it possible, to help and teach brethren to be fruitful individuals in spite of personal difficulties and limitations.

6. To be a repository of Bible study literature and to disseminate it as God makes it possible.

7. To chronicle the experiences of the community in word, song and other media, to be an inspiration and an encouragement to others for similar communities and local church congregations.

Norman Edwards (Journal photo)

Altruistic? No doubt. Naive? Probably. Unwise? Perhaps. Edwards is certainly regarded as a sincere and committed man. But this kind of enterprise, high minded as it may well be, may also be fraught with risk for all concerned. Edwards attempts to allay concerns:

Working as a biblically-based Sabbatarian community, raising some of our own food, tending to our own needs and coming together for daily praise and prayer does not mean that we will live by ancient technology or drop out of society... we will not become a church organization or attempt to control other church groups. We hope to work with and serve Sabbatarians from a great variety of groups, especially the young people and the older people... we have about 20 acres and 12 major buildings: 3 ready-to-go dormitories, a motel-like building with a large living space, a dining hall, a gym-auditorium-classroom building, a four-bay garage, a two-lane bowling alley, another auditorium that needs some work, another dorm that needs some work, and two other empty-shell buildings that need some work. Phil Frankford is in the process of acquiring two other buildings for industrial use there. We could accommodate about 80 students right now... We are inviting Sabbatarians everywhere to come for Pentecost weekend.

And finally, a bedtime story: For all of the "old timers" who recognize the name Albert J. Portune, here's a surprising link sent in by a reader. 

Weekly Mailbag

UCG or PCG? The information you have posted concerning the problems in UCG is interesting. What's more interesting is what you find out when investigating the truth of these allegations. I found that in many of the UCG congregations, members were using this past Sabbath to fast and pray concerning these problems. Those who stayed home to do so were contacted afterwards by local church officials questioning their absence from services. This sounds more like PCG. From what I am discovering, a major split in UCG seems inevitable. Has anyone verified the findings that UCG is headed toward bankruptcy within the next 5 years? I know that regular Sabbath attendance at UCG has been declining, but had no idea as to how bad things actually are... Please continue to keep us informed.


Spread the word: It is clear that there is widespread dissatisfaction among UCG members regarding the increasing authoritarian direction of the church, and the shameful preoccupation of the UCG ministers with stuffing their wallets. UCG members can show support for Mr. O'Brien and the Cincinnati North congregation by talking with the members of this congregation to learn firsthand what is happening, and then sharing that information with other UCG members in their own congregations. 


Transfer Pinelli to LCG: The UCG suddenly and ironically seems to be coming around to Rod Meredith's views on church government. This is a shame for the lay members who trusted them to adhere to a higher level of accountability. Richard Pinelli is the one who should be transferred; his membership and ministerial credentials should be transferred over to the LCG, where they already practice his favorite kind of government. 

"Byker Bob"

MD: Not a bad idea. Maybe Roy could even demand a "transfer fee", in the same way soccer clubs do. 

My way or the highway: I spoke to Jim O'Brien a few days ago to encourage him in his then unresolved situation with UCG. While I have no theological or emotional (ok, some anger, anxiety and a bit of depression) connection with any of the WCG offshoots, I simply want to say that Jim is one of the kindest, most sincere Pastor types any church could hope to have and once again the Gestapo wins. The "my way or the highway" administrators and local pastor types win. I hope they are proud of themselves. I also encourage members of such churches to confront these control freaks who ruin the lives of real people in the real world...

I would simply ask UCG pastors and members to break tradition and think for yourselves. You don't need a pastor to answer the questions they can't or won't answer. Vote with your feet, vote with your wallet or get on the internet and do some homework. That kind of vote is well understood by Churches. 

In my own experience with WCG I saw that those who pushed others around, including their peers, tended to rise to the top. The unqualified were asked to do things the qualified were never asked to do. It was asked, "what would Moses do?", long before anyone thought to ask "what might Jesus do?" Moses tended to kick bum so I think he was more popular than those in the Jesus camp. I also learned that the best way to determine if a rumor is true is to simply ask yourself "have I heard a rumor?" If you actually heard a rumor, it was true. :) If the official answer was "no", it meant "yes". If you ever heard "we would never do that", it meant it was about to go down, and if the pastor tried to convince you he wanted a "Unified Singular Administrative Method", it meant that he alone would administer all aspects of the local church and you will agree with it ...... as God would have you to do. This of course, would be for your own long term good, not to mention his. Pastors also learned that you always had two choices. Write your concerns to the Controllers and get no answer and a pastoral black eye for bringing it up, or write to others who might listen and get fired. I always found "ask and you shall not receive, do not ask and all things are possible" to work better in the real world of local churches and in the lives of real people in need. 

While the Gospels may indeed be Passion Plays, the Churches of God are continuing sagas and dramas far removed from reality. Majoring in the minors. Still after 30 years trying to figure out what is leavening, gross or net, what is God's true form of government, and how to get the damn knot untied from the dock so we can actually sail us therefore into all the world. How can I help, serve, love or encourage must be questions for a time yet to be announced. 

Please remember Jim and his family and perhaps all those who have suffered under the stress, anxiety and depression the leadership of the various Churches of God continue to cause. Being piously convicted of one's truth does not justify being marginally informed about the consequences of foolish policies, perspectives and pastors. 

Dennis Diehl

The bottom line? Every now and then I check Ambassador Watch to learn what is happening in the different groups. Now there's the shakeup with Jim O'Brien. Oh, poor, poor Jim is going to lose his job. He'll be away from his grandchild and his college age children will lose some of their credits. His wife will be without support. Now it's hitting home with him in the pocketbook. That's really the bottom line IMO. That's the bottom line with all of those ministers in UCG. 

What about all of the brethren who suffered under WW and now the split-offs who gave till it hurt? I don't know if Jim ever took into account these souls. Now that it's Jim, he has a different tune. 

I don't begin to know the whole soap opera between Jim and UCG. Hopefully, he will leave UCG, not start another group and find a job like the rest of the brethren had to when they lost their job because of the Sabbaths. 


Peon payback? Well! A UCG "minister" gets a taste of what us peons have gone through for years.


Home Office Sanhedrin: It seems that the "HWA hand me down hirelings" who do nearly nothing at all at the UCG Home Office Sanhedrin have exposed their true craving and lust, which is a sneaky Vatican style, infallible, unquestioned, repressive organization.

Do these suddenly detail oriented ministers of God require an accounting of of a certain ministers "pet" lifelines project, which accepts our local funds without so much as a thank you?

Do these ministers provide a time sheet that details and legitimizes their compensated time. Productive professionals must provide hourly time sheets. 

Have the UCG Home office ministers enquired about Holy Day sermons explaining the purpose of the holy day, and allowing lame unrelated sermons to be presented? If the good shepherds of the home office want to find wayward ministers, the can do so very close to home.

By the does a UCG employee qualify for a bonus?....what exceptional production have they been rewarded for? Did some of the UCG home office honchos earn their previously lofty positions in Worldwide due to their merit......or did their wives help?

One now realizes that lay members should become members of the UCG Council of Elders. This would help to provide unbiased reports on the council activities and provide much needed advice and balance from persons with real world work experience. (Jer 5:30-31)

This escapade between Minister O'Brien and UCG home office has reinforced the suspicions among the brethren concerning the version of UCG church government.

Abuse allegation: When one hears of a church protecting one of its “elders” from charges of sexual abuse of a minor – and actually SUSPENDS the child’s parent for reporting it… do you suppose it’s time for people like US to file a police report on behalf of the victims? Or at the very least, report the allegations to the local authorities where it happened? Scenarios such as this need to be made public and investigated. Apparently “god’s church” is not interested in protecting its children, so someone else is going to have to.

John B

Machinations: I have just come to know about your web site and find your information on WCG most interesting. Having been a member since 1978 I have grown exhausted by the now denomination and it continuing machinations. 

I am curious, is there any source where financial information is available about who is being paid what, what the part of the campus that sold was sold for how much and what is the second half of the campus being sold or asked for.

I have no confidence in the leadership, I am convinced that their lack of transparency is simply to allow them to pocket millions of poor members dollars.

Wheeling remembered: Having been in the Wheeling area the same time as Bob Williams I am certain his recollection is wrong. Bridgeport high school football games at that time were on Saturday nights, after sunset. I was there myself as a teenager several times while cars were being parked. What made it unusual was that Bridgeport was virtually the only school in that area which played their home football games on Saturday nights.

Thankful for unanswered prayer: Raymond F. McNair was with Dr. Meredith, then he left, only to return. Now, it appears he has left "the fold" again. What were the issues that led to this split? Do you know what led to the move from southern California to the east coast? Did the top leadership move, also?

One of the greatest unanswered prayers of my life was when I was not chosen to work full-time for "the Work" when I graduated from AC in 73. If I had stayed, I would be broke now, like so many others. So now McNair is "broke." Well, I wouldn't be too surprised if he and others have stashed away a little something for a rainy day. If not, then he can experience what so many other employees and members are experiencing after a lifetime of conflict and giving for "the Work."

Steve DuCett

Five furs: I had the pleasure of meeting Evelyn Flores McNair many years ago shortly after her marriage to Raymond McNair. My husband had known her slightly through a California WCG single's group, and he was anxious for me to meet her when she and her new husband attended the FOT in Spokane. She was very sweet, and quite excited about the new fur jacket she was wearing. She said McNair had already bought her five of them. I chalked it up to her years as a divorced woman in the WCG, probably living in diminished financial circumstances, and was happy for her. It didn't occur to me for many years that it was absurd that I bought my own clothes at second hand stores so that a few privileged ones could live so well. Re: the plea for tithes to Buffy. You know, I can truly never make up my mind if these guys simply lack a conscience, or if they believe the nonsense they spout. 


Typical liberal mudslinging: Dear Missing Dimension, I don't think I have ever heard such subjective information in my life. Does your research department actually have intelligence or do they listen to every half-crazed story they come across? I am almost appalled by how horribly inaccurate that you actually are. Luckily, intelligent people will just pass your updates and "reports" up because they see how bias and liberal they are. Anyone who only knows how to report one side of the story should seek employment elsewhere. I just don't like how you try to deceive those that are less intelligent that actually go along with your opinions. And yes, they are opinions, not fact. From what I can see your sources are terrible... stemming mainly from people with hidden agendas of their own. Just a lot of typical liberal mudslinging. A rebellion is being incited and you are helping it along. I'm sure that you love seeing a good church in turmoil, it gives you more of a chance to lie and get your little opinions in. One day you'll find out what is really going on and look so utterly stupid to everyone, but until then, keep going with your ridiculous statements and "true" occurences [sic]. Just know that your only audience that actually believes what you are saying is comprised of 6th grade intellectual ability. I say this for your sake my friend, try to do a little better research.

"Mr. Common Sense"

MD: Maybe you'd care to actually give an example of how "horribly inaccurate" we are. Perhaps you'd also like to put a name to your email (anonymous postings are fine, but you're even hiding behind a junk-email address). 


UCG nukes outspoken pastor: COG news groups are carrying reports that UCG Cincinnati North pastor Jim O'Brien has gone down in a hail of bullets - metaphorical ones at least. He has been, according to these early accounts, fired and defrocked. Here's one such item:

I'm sure many of you are aware of this already; however, I thought I would let everyone else know:

Jim O'Brien was defrocked and subsequently terminated from the employ of UCG this afternoon. It happened in a meeting with Roy Holladay (UCG President), Richard Pinelli (Director of Ministerial Services), Lyle Welty (Regional Pastor), Jim O'Brien (Pastor), and Guy Swenson (Witness for Jim O'Brien).

I am saddened and disheartened by the outcome of these proceedings. I am fairly certain that this will only hurt UCG in the long run, which I'm sure none of us wanted.

Anyways, I just wanted to keep everyone abreast of this information (as it is public record).

Admittedly there are several UCG ministers who perhaps should be terminated. Many of them have been in the opposite camp from O'Brien. Arguably they include some who were involved in his dismissal. The consensus seems to be that O'Brien is a decent man with talent and integrity. Surely UCG needs pastors like this, not the ham-fisted, jack-booted types who seem in the ascendancy. Today's events will be seen as a sad commentary on the state of the largest remaining Church of God community: a community that promised much when it was founded, but has delivered little.

Did UCG foster abuse cover-up? A UCG pastor has been named on a news group as allegedly protecting an individual accused of sexual abuse against a minor. According to the postings, the pastor instead suspended the victim's mother for "reporting her daughter’s sexual abuse by an elder." There was speculation that the Council of Elders was to discuss the case in its current series of meetings.

The news group on which these reports surfaced has since purged them, presumably because they were too specific, though some of the information has since appeared elsewhere. The only comment MD cares to make at this stage is this: the pastor concerned still seems to be in the employ of UCG, unlike Jim O'Brien. We wonder what this tells members about their leadership's priorities and values.


United only in name: What little news has filtered through about the fate of Jim O'Brien is hardly promising. We're told (by a reader that attempted to contact him) that his email address appears to have been deactivated, and indications are that things may not be going well. The news groups have featured a lot of UCG-related discussion, little of which would bring comfort for the sect's leadership, which is increasingly perceived as unreasonable, authoritarian and dictatorial. The text of O'Brien's second letter has now appeared on a number of boards.

Meanwhile... Something seems to be happening in Pasadena. There are reports of a significant meeting occuring last week, and follow-up board meetings since (held after hours, without publicity). Has the fate of the campus already been decided? There is still strong speculation about an announcement around May 15.

A teaching of contempt: John Gideon (a pseudonym used by a former WCG elder) recently wrote a major piece for The Journal (March 31), parts of which appeared on AW in February. His latest offering appears here, and is on the vexed issue of the relationship between the Jewish and Christian faiths
Related link: How odd of God by Anne Hanna


Accusations fly in UCG bunfight: Exactly what is "going down" at the UCG gathering of elders, now underway, is uncertain, but Jim O'Brien's passionate defense of his pastorate must be a significant issue for all those attending.

The author of a letter quoted on May 1 has since contacted MD. She indicated that it is "not prudent at this time to notify everyone about the situation, as things are still trying to be worked out (we hope & pray it will be) through the proper channels." (We'd like to clearly state that the initial correspondence was forwarded by a third-party, not the author herself.) Judging from those comments you might conclude that things were settling down. 

If oil is being poured on troubled waters, however, it certainly wasn't evident in a massive follow-up epistle from O'Brien, who came out fighting for the second time (his first missive appeared on MD on May 1). In this second counterblast - running to more than 14,000 words - O'Brien pulled few punches. No wonder then that Clyde Kilough (April 23) took the unusual step of asking "fellow elders and wives" to fast in the lead up to the Council meetings - though, in typical COG style, he gave no specific reason for the request.



A smattering of quotations from the second O'Brien letter:

I honestly do believe that Richard’s [i.e. Richard Pinelli] administration has been a major step backward for UCG. His leadership has encouraged polarization within the church... I disagree with how Richard has allowed pastors to run roughshod over members. I disagree with his approach to appeals that creates conflicts of interest... Exhaustion rather than resolution removes the problems. I disagree with his tolerance of animosity toward local boards and advisory councils. To Richard, disagreement of him and his administration is criticism of the entire organization and the Council of Elders. In my opinion, this attitude is vintage WCG – loyalty to an administrator equals loyalty to God.

Now that Richard has introduced Mr. [Paul] Luecke and the situation of his congregations into this discussion, not as a pastor who has alienated his congregations but as one who merits an apology. Richard, regional pastors and some in ministerial services may support Mr. Luecke’s actions toward his congregation. I do not. I disagree strongly with Mr. Luecke’s approach to his local advisory councils and his congregations. I am ashamed that his egregious, unnecessary and unproductive conflict with his congregations has been supported by his regional pastor and, as the two of them have claimed to the congregations, by ministerial services... What he has done to his congregations is a black eye on UCG. I am completely ashamed of Mr. Luecke’s approach toward his congregations. His actions, and those who support him, have damaged our reputation in UCG.

I am not "pro-congregationalism." I am anti WCG-style arrogant leadership that views members, deacons and elders as employees of the pastor and those leaders that act as though there was no sense of accountability to the congregations or ministers they serve.

My honesty as a pastor is being attacked. I am being called to defend myself against disloyalty to UCG. I have nameless accusers and one accusation after another is leveled. My life is under a microscope. Ministerial services has asked me to "do the honorable thing and resign." I am being transferred away from my grandchild. My wife is going to lose her chance at a retirement. My children are going to have to transfer to new colleges and in the process, lose credits and extend costs and graduation dates. I am being told that others will take over the Winter Tournament... What is disappointing is that I feel we all were treated better and with more consideration in WCG than I am being treated now.


Cincinnati North: Many are the afflictions of the righteous, they say. Certainly, by that measure, UCG must be overflowing in righteousness. The latest fault line seems to have opened up directly under Cincinnati North.

Here's the text of a letter that was forwarded to MD a few days ago:

I wanted to write to you and ask you to pray for Mr. O'Brien and our congregation. Things have deteriorated quite a bit, here, in the last couple of months. It appears that Richard Pinelli (ministerial services) is "board busting": systematically eliminating ministers, (by way of transfers), who have boards or councils and replacing them with ministers who are against boards or councils and doing away with those governing boards. This has happened already In Lewistown and Harrisburg. Mr. O has been told he will be transferred this summer (but we suspect, the way things are going he might be fired, instead). Our board is incorporated by the state - that means we won't disband unless we vote to. The members of the board are solid on that. The disturbing part of all of this, is not that Mr. O is being transferred (although that is very troublesome), but the really disturbing part is the manner in which it is being done. All this is contrary to the "Rules of Association" that United Church of God was founded under. Rule 2-140 of the Rules of Association allows for incorporating, but does not require it, stating "Each congregation should analyze the facts and make a decision which best suits its situation". Interestingly enough, the church itself is not following Rule 2-130 of the same document, stating: "(the church) will initiate the transfers it deems necessary, considering the best interest of the minister and congregation involved. Input from the local congregation will also be taken into consideration as part of the decision-making process, though there are situations that can arise which would preclude congregational input." ... Needless to say, they are not getting any input! Our church decided long ago to incorporate. That decision has allowed us to take a serving role in the Winter Weekend, US Teens, summer camps, young adults group, annual church dance, pot lucks and socials and our YES classes. Without collecting tithes locally, we would severely be restricted on what we could do. And let's not forget - God has surely blessed our efforts! (The Winter Family Weekend is the largest "non required" event United has!)

It looks like it's all coming to a head in the next couple of days. Mr. O'Brien has write a 28 page letter in response to the allegations... The outcome will have very serious repercussions for the Church. Unless Home Office makes a quick course correction, there will be another split. Please pray that cool heads & righteousness prevail.

The text of O'Brien's letter was forwarded today via another source. You can find it here.

The writer of the letter above offered these closing comments:

Where will this end? Who knows? It looks like it will come down to firing of Richard Pinelli, or Mr. O. Mr. O says his chances are not good.

Hagiography of a Spiritual Giant: Joe Tkach has his fans - and even, it seems, a "fan page". Check out this tribute (PDF format) to everyone's favorite Pastor General. There's a photo, interview, and a some personal observations by the author, who reveals that The Great One has strong political views (though he doesn't reveal what they might be). 

More from All2True: Douglas Becker has two new features on offer at his associated website. There's a short editorial called Back to Basics, and a column called Thieves! (accompanied by a remarkable piece of colorized Wolverton "apocalyptica").

Weekly Mailbag

Melchizedek McNair:  I remember Raymond McNair when I was at AC in 72-73. He lived next door to Rod Meredith, as I recall. Why did he leave Meredith's group, again? Does anyone have pictures of these people that can be added to the website? I wonder how these people have aged over the past thirty years. Whatever happened to one of the more responsible leaders, Albert J. Portune? He and his sons were all in leadership positions back then.

People Greeter: Me thinks dear old Raymond is finally reaping what he has sown all these years. The rest of the hirelings will soon follow. Buffy had better start buying his suits at a second hand store and go out and find himself a real job. I think he'd be a good people greeter at Wal Mart.

Steve K.

Art Criticism: I became a member of the WCG back in 1975 in Detroit, and just a few months later in 1976 began attending Ambassador College out in Pasadena. Art Mokarow was a minister out there at the time, working for a department of the Church called the Human Potential Center, if I'm not mistaken.

Mokarow used to present among the most interesting sermons and Bible studies I've probably ever heard, including up to the present. They were very memorable and extremely influential in my life at the time.

Mokarow had such a tremendous reputation for speaking on truly thought-provoking and practical topics that I recall his Friday evening Bible studies in the Auditorium literally "packing the house" - as the names of the ministers scheduled to conduct the Bible studies were announced in the Church bulletins the week before.

(Later these announcements identifying the exact ministers giving the Bible studies were stopped, probably because many other big shots at HQ, who were known for presenting on a fairly consistent basis some real yawners, and thus couldn't even bring in enough members to fill the seats on the main floor.)

Anyway, I just received Mokarow's new book "God's Puzzle Solved" - and, though I've not heard him speak in person now for at least 24 years, was expecting a powerful presentation, of the caliber and quality of his former sermons.

But a brief perusal of the book quickly demonstrated to me that he's lost virtually all the "zing" he had back in the late '70's. The book is very poorly written, in desperate need of some serious editing, and it wouldn't surprise me if it had not even been reviewed by a competent proof-reader

I wholeheartedly agree with the guest writer who reviewed "God's Puzzle Solved" - Mokarow seems very genuine and sincerely motivated in making his book available free. (He didn't even include a pitch for money - hey, now that's a rarity in COG circles!) But may I suggest that maybe there was a more pragmatic reason behind it's being offered gratis - as thumbing through it and reading random sections showed me clearly that very few would be willing to buy it.

Randy Martens

Herb in leathers: How come us longago members of WCG never heard of leather bound copies of Headquarters writings? Do other writings also come leatherbound and hidden away. Think I'll take a closer look at used book stores.

FOT fodder: This was from last month's 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. 

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. 

From the latest LCG Headquarters update: The US and Canadian ministers were recently sent a site choice form that stated each minister’s assigned site, and asked for any requests for transfer. CAD and the Festival Office want to be sure that each minister has a firm assignment before the Festival Brochure is sent out, so they will have an equal opportunity to reserve their housing. Please don’t wait until the last minute to return the form. Thank you for your help.

So, the ministers do not receive a Festival brochure with a transfer request form, but instead receive a site choice form which asked for any transfer requests. Of course, the Festival brochure that is sent to the brethren will only be sent out after the ministers choose where they would like to spend that tithe money. Now just who is jumping the gun on getting the choicest Feast housing?

Paul Ray

Political musings: I was a George McGovern supporter (the U.S. Democratic presidential nominee for 1972) when I first met a WCG minister, Ron McNeil (sp?) and his sidekick, Glenn Eichelberger (sp?) in July of that year. I was seventeen--not old enough to vote, still in high school and living in Wheeling, West Virginia. While I had already voluntarily cut my formerly long blond hair and jilted my pagan brunette girlfriend (next year’s class valedictorian and a future cardiologist), I had not been informed about the meaning of pork or Nixon. Actually, I only learned about the evils of Democrats that day, bacon would have to wait for several months later when I was informed by a church member, David Cross, while we parked cars for money in the church parking lot before a Friday night high school football game.

I don’t understand why any educated American would vote for Bush and, of course most of the wise of this world like the cognoscenti and literati did not. Liking Bush is kinda like liking actress Julia Roberts. If you’re a gawky, lizard-lipped, big-hair, verbally-impaired high school dropout who works at the truck stop, you naturally love Ms. Roberts. If you have trouble with critical thinking, dislike philosophy and abstract thought, or if you scored low in divergent thinking (ideaphoria) on your Johnson O’Connor Human Engineering Research Laboratory aptitude test, then Bush is your bromide.

Yale professor Robert Sternberg explained in his book, Thinking Styles (Cambridge University Press, 1997) that people with conservative thinking (not necessarily political conservatives) like routine, are practical, and are not gifted with active imaginations. This sounds like the natural thinking of many church types too, who find comfort with current Republican dogma and Louis L’Amour.

Robert M. Williams
(another AC grad, Big Sandy, 1977, now in Portland, Oregon)

A Jacobite speaketh: [A mailbag correspondent wrote:] "You might think... that Catholics would not vote Democratic, yet they do, in overwhelming numbers. (Jared Olar care to comment?)" Sure, I can comment. At least half of Americans who identify themselves as Catholics vote Democrat. From what I can tell, that seems to be a holdover of past political loyalties. For a number of reasons, U.S. Catholics gravitated to the Democrat Party. One reason is that the Republican Party was founded by anti-Catholics. Another big reason is that the Democrats identified with and stood for the common, working man, which meshed well with Catholic social doctrine. However, in the 1950s and 1960s, the Democrats and Republicans did one of those weird trading-of-platform-planks that they've done several times in American history. In the past, the Republicans (or at least a powerful segment of the party) tended to support liberalization of laws regarding contraception, eugenics, and abortion, while the Democrats stood opposed to these things. But in the 1960s and 1970s, the parties switched around -- now the Republicans oppose abortion, while the Democrats support it. However, I think family upbringing, old habits, and comfortable familiarity have many Catholics continuing to support the Democrat Party despite that party's opposition to Catholicism's most important social teachings. Furthermore, many if not most Catholics either don't know or don't care what the Church teaches about these things. Indeed, I believe that most Americans who identify themselves as Catholics neither know nor practice the Catholic faith -- "Catholic in name only."

Thus, although Catholic support for the Democrats continues to drop as time goes by, the polling numbers will continue to show strong Catholic support for them. It should also be mentioned that the Republican Party platform isn't entirely in line with Catholic social doctrine either -- many Catholics now feel "politically homeless."

As for myself, I never voted when I was a WCG member, but do now as a Catholic. Given a choice between Republicans and Democrats, I almost always vote Republican. I don't vote for pro-abortion Republicans, though. Between Bush and Kerry, I support Bush -- with reservations, as always, but Kerry just has too many strikes against him from a Catholic standpoint. Really, I'm more of a monarchist anyway, a Jacobite even. But the Jacobite claimant, Franz von Wittelsbach, won't be on the ballot this fall, so I'll have to settle for King George. ;-)

Jared Olar

Living proof? Randy Karnes [writing in the previous mailbag] is living proof that some Americans simply don't understand the concept of freedom that they profess to love.


MD: Thanks to those folk who forwarded various links and articles. It would be easy to get "swamped" by this subject in an election year. 

Commentary on Stephen Wizenburg's observation: Is it only me? I find it quite exceptional that someone has placed Dr. Meredith among his peers such as Dr. Dollar.  Finally... Dr. Meredith gets the tribute he so eloquently deserves! Many here may feel that he may truly be the "Dr. Dollar" at heart, as it may appear to the observant that the "practicing" doctor has made a lifelong devotion to "house calls" to help the poor get poorer, the rich to remain as such, and the ignorant to remain in that state? Kudos to Mr. Wizenburg, although, Frank Zappa's "Cosmic Debris" may appropriately be a more descriptive and informative piece on the subject matter?

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. 

This website is independent from, and in no way affiliated with, the Worldwide Church of God or any derivative sect.

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