July 2004 - Issue 51

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

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Roy and Clyde "are truly grieved": We gather this letter won't appear on the UCG website, though it's hard to imagine why not. UCG's Dynamic Duo hold hands to plead their case for nuking two elders and thereby creating an unintentional avalanche of support for a less autocratic denomination.

Letter From the Chairman and President


July 23, 2004

Dear Fellow Elders and Wives,

We hope this finds you doing well. This is a cowritten letter specifically and privately to the United Church of God ministry and not intended for public dissemination, but as an information resource to equip you to answer questions that may come up regarding a recent situation. As you may know, Bill Jacobs and Guy Swenson have decided to resign from the membership and ministry of the United Church of God. In their Web site statement, “Both cited the decision by Mr. Roy Holladay and the organization’s Council of Elders to interpret participation by Jacobs and Swenson in the Evangelism Conference as a violation of corporate ethics. Rather than commit a violation of ethics, both men chose to resign.” While we are dismayed and deeply saddened to lose two elders, and sincerely wish it had worked out differently, we appreciate their voluntary resignations as opposed to forcing conflict.

This issue has created quite varying levels of concerns and questions and, as always it seems, spawned quite a bit of speculation and misinformation . In consulting widely about various issues that have arisen over the evangelism seminar, we determined that it would probably be helpful to more fully explain to you the circumstances from our point of view. Essentially, there were significant problems in these three areas:

· The way their evangelism conference was developed and introduced.

· The reaction from fellow elders and members.

· The response to the administration’s judgment. 

Before elaborating on these three points, first consider the subject of evangelism within our church context.

Numerous false assertions are floating around that United isn’t interested in evangelism, or squelches initiative toward it, or is afraid of new ideas, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth.  “Preaching the gospel, preparing a people” has been our mission from the beginning. In the last two years in particular the Council and its Media and Communications Committee members have been discussing at length how to more effectively preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to the world. Out of those discussions, however, came the clear understanding that because “evangelism” is such a huge subject, it is quite vulnerable to misunderstanding and misapplication . The subject, even the word itself, has been a hot topic for decades, rising to new heights of controversy in the late ’80s and early ’90s when “evangelism” introduced into the Church catchphrase ideas associated with charismatic Protestantism such as “building” or “growing” the Church. Regardless of one’s view of the subject, it is a fact that the phrase is encumbered by suspicion and a great deal of historical and emotional baggage, both within our church and in the religious world in general.

As a result, in May of 2003 the Council of Elders established an Evangelism Task Force, aiming specifically to unify the Church in our understanding of evangelism. To unitedly move forward it is imperative that we speak with the same voice. We eagerly anticipate that the task force’s work will result in the most comprehensive biblical study of evangelism we have ever had, and will form the basis for all future programs ranging from worldwide efforts to congregational and individual endeavors. The task force’s directive was simple: give a clear definition to “evangelism” and related terms; give specific proposals for application in today’s world; and present suggested terminology for future UCG programs. This has turned out to be an exciting, but daunting, undertaking.

The work of the task force has been well-publicized in the Council meeting reports of May 2003, August 2003, December 2003 and February 2004 (see them on the UCG Web site). For instance, the February report shows the scope of the study paper:

“[Doug Horchak] commented that the use of the word evangelism and the history of evangelism is diverse among other churches and throughout history.

“Mr. Horchak pointed out that although we think of evangelism as a New Testament issue, the paper will also consider public proclamation in Old Testament times, as well. In addition to the work of the prophets, Paul refers (in Galatians 3, Hebrews 4 and Romans 10) to the gospel being preached to Israel by Abraham and others.

“Evangelism in the New Testament will be a key section of the paper. It will include all the examples of preaching and sharing the gospel, instructions given by Jesus Christ and the apostles and their actions and examples. The paper will address the issue of who should evangelize and what is an evangelist.

“It’s clear that New Testament Church members were involved in evangelizing the gospel. The question is, How? Three particular scriptures will be explained that seem to be examples of lay members preaching (Luke 10, Acts 8:3-4 and Philippians 1:14).

“Since there are those who believe the work of the Church has already been completed, the paper will also address the question of whether preaching the gospel is a duty of the Church or an option.”

It is important to understand that while the purpose of the task force was to undertake a thorough biblical study on the subject of evangelism and how it applies to the Church and its mission, the reason for the study was to be sure that we were going about our evangelistic efforts from a biblically accurate perspective, with one mind and using a consistent approach. Given the knowledge that this study has been commissioned by the Council and is near completion, it seems logical that most elders would want to first see the approved results of this work before embarking upon any new evangelistic initiatives that have not been part of our historical practice for the last 60 years.

With this background, perhaps we can better understand the problems as listed above.

1. The way their evangelism conference was developed and introduced. In his two July 8 e-mails to the ministry, Roy Holladay addressed the ethical issues regarding the use of Elder’s Forum and the Employee Code of Conduct. However, other actions also exacerbated the situation, in particular, the lack of openness. It strains credibility to criticize UCG for a lack of openness and inclusiveness, then suddenly stage this seminar when virtually no one—including the president, Ministerial Services, the Evangelism Task Force, the pastor in the host city and the pastor of one of the sponsoring elders—knew anything about it.

Doing such things secretly in a corner, then maintaining that it is private in nature even when it is publicly promoted, is not forthright or realistic. As elders in the United Church of God, we always represent the United Church of God. We don’t switch off and on who and what we represent, just because we may say an activity is privately sponsored or does not bear the UCGIA label anywhere. Mr. Swenson even noted in his resignation letter, “Prior to the July 8 letter from Mr. Holladay, UCG, as an organization, actually received praise from normally adversarial sources  because two of its ministers were initiating a cooperative effort among many of the churches of God through an evangelism conference.” That statement only proves the point that they were recognized as UCG representatives and that what they did was linked to the church they represent. Another problem developed when fellow elders and the administration could not get clear answers to legitimate questions. Among many legitimate questions are those such as:

·Who are these churches referred to as experiencing such dramatic growth?

·Who gave the seminars from which you drew your material?

·What is the specific material that will be presented?

The titles to the seminar sessions were certainly intriguing, but the descriptions gave little information about what would be presented. Knowing the scope of questionable evangelism ideas and tactics extant in the religious world today, it was not unreasonable to want to know what a UCG elder would be presenting.

After a couple of weeks, when word filtered out that the examples cited and the sources of the seminar material were from a major Protestant Sabbath-keeping church, that did little to lessen the concerns. There is much more to consider than what was stated, that the seminar material is based on “the results of current research regarding the characteristics of healthy congregations and approaches for evangelism that have been proven in a Sabbatarian environment.” While we do share the seventh-day Sabbath belief, we differ greatly from this church in many other doctrinal areas that could affect one’s approach to evangelism. Very likely there are positive things that could be gleaned from them, but that misses the point that we couldn’t find out one way or the other because there was not openness in sharing the information.

2. The reaction from fellow elders and members. Regardless of whatever opinion one holds on the matter, there is no doubt that the announcement of this seminar immediately spawned dispute and, depending on one’s perspective, even suspicion toward either the two individuals or the Church’s administration. We are not ascribing motives or intent on the part of either individual, but simply put, it did create disunity.

The level of dispute was not minor, and even though it was promoted as being private, it certainly became a high-profile public debate. The Elder’s Forum was only one venue of feedback (many more opinions were expressed privately), but those of you who subscribe know that it serves well to illustrate the level of differing opinion and conflict that arose.

Now, when such reaction boils up, do we elders not have an obligation to consider the doctrine of unity as important as the doctrine of evangelism? Is it not logical and incumbent upon us as individuals, once we realize our actions have created a broad level of misunderstanding and disunity, to reconsider our actions and pull back in order to not further division? Would you not deem it advisable to say something to the effect, “We feel passionately about this issue, but we did not anticipate how both the negative and positive reactions would create such controversy, and we will at least put our plans on hold until we can do this in a way that preserves unity and promotes teamwork”?

3. The response to the administration’s judgment.

Considering the factors described above, the Council’s advice to the president and director of Ministerial Services was that they should call and personally talk with Mr. Swenson and Mr. Jacobs, explain the problems created, request that they not hold this seminar and let them know there would be some form of disciplinary action if they decided to go ahead. (Some have speculated that the “disciplinary action” would obviously be “defrocking.” That was not discussed and should not be assumed.)

One may disagree with our ethics statements or policies, but when you are voluntarily part of an organization, it is only ethical to abide by them. Such policies are neither sinful nor baseless; in fact, they were crafted in order that we might have a fair standard so that inequity, favoritism and bias would be controlled as much as possible. Such policies are worthless, though, if there is no admonition when they are obviously disregarded. Furthermore, you set a precedent that any similar actions are permissible in the future.

The bottom line is that we responded to the level of concerns that had been raised. This response was not hasty, reactionary, motivated by retaliation or by one or two people. We deeply regret that after some time for consideration, Bill and Guy chose to resign in order to continue with the seminar.

Subsequently, some very negative criticisms have been directed to the Church’s administration for taking this position. It seems most would agree, though, that in any organized group or society, someone has to have the responsibility to consider what is in the best interest of the whole. In United the General Conference of Elders entrusts that role to the Council, which actively works with the administration to try to ensure all such matters are handled as equitably as possible. Still, as in any organized group, if “the boss” says “no, don’t do this,” then you don’t do it. This matter did not involve an issue of someone in authority telling someone to do something sinful, unethical, immoral or unreasonable.

However, for those who ask whether we are overreacting to a relatively small event, would not the question be more appropriately asked of anyone who resigns from the UCG church and ministry? If this is such a relatively small event, is it worth resigning over? Furthermore, the size of the event does not matter as much as the size of the principle, and the principles of working cooperatively in unity and openness are critically important to our functioning well as a body.

Some claim we should have followed the “Gamaliel Principle” (Acts 5:38: “Keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing”). The analogy is worth considering, but all analogies are limited. A different analogy is actually more applicable in the context of both the biblical examples and our work today, and that is the “Paul Principle” (Galatians 2:1-2):

“Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.”

Paul and Barnabas, upon conferring, received the approval from James, Cephas and John, “who seemed to be pillars” (verse 9). Barnes’ Notes offers an insightful commentary on this section:

“In this way the whole matter was settled, and settled as Paul desired it to be. A delightful harmony was produced between Paul and the apostles at Jerusalem; and the result showed the wisdom of the course which he had adopted. There had been no harsh contention or strife. No jealousies had been suffered to arise. Paul had sought an opportunity of a full statement of his views to them in private, and they had been entirely satisfied that God had called him and Barnabas to the work of making known the gospel among the pagan. Instead of being jealous at their success, they had rejoiced in it; and instead of throwing any obstacle in their way, they cordially gave them the right hand. How easy would it be always to prevent jealousies and strifes in the same way! If there was, on the one hand, the same readiness for a full and frank explanation; and if, on the other, the same freedom from envy at remarkable success, how many strifes that have disgraced the church might have been avoided! The true way to avoid strife is just that which is here proposed. Let there be on both sides perfect frankness; let there be a willingness to explain and state things just as they are; and let there be a disposition to rejoice in the talents, and zeal, and success of others, even though it should far outstrip our own, and contention in the church would cease, and every devoted and successful minister of the gospel would receive the right-hand of fellowship from all—however venerable by age or authority—who love the cause of true religion.”

This speaks to the true need for everyone involved to respond appropriately. Paul was inspired by God (“by revelation”) to see that this was an internal Church matter (unlike the situation with Gamaliel) and took the initial step to openly communicate. In light of today’s circumstances, following the “Paul Principle” would have surely been the wiser move. It would have promoted the safety in a multitude of counselors and preserved the unity in the Church. It would also have avoided the “jealous control freaks” accusations aimed toward the administration and the “independent maverick” accusations aimed toward the individuals. These accusations serve no one, except the detractors and critics of the Church.

We are truly grieved that things came to this point and that some members are suffering confusion and loss. The very gospel that we seek to evangelize demands a behavior on our parts exemplary of the Kingdom of God: “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that…I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). Unity (not splintering), striving together (not apart), will be a hallmark of that Kingdom, and we must be working, no matter how difficult it is, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

There are many such scriptures regarding unity, and a lack of this vital ingredient is perhaps the single greatest plague upon the Church of God today. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see how splintering furthers the work of God and the preaching of the gospel. Nevertheless, the gospel will be preached, and the Council, home office, every elder and every member must be zealously committed to doing our parts. We just urge everyone to be equally committed to working together. And when we may not be of the same mind and understanding on a particular issue, may we be of the same mind and understanding about how to work toward resolving it.

Thank you, as always, for your labor of love in serving the people of God. We hope this perspective has been of help in furthering that. Our prayers are with you, and we deeply appreciate your prayers for us.

With warmest regards,

Roy Holladay, President     Clyde Kilough, Chairman, Council of Elders 

Controller Ron's decimal slip: From Ron Kelly's latest "financial report".

Speaking of accounting, a few readers caught an error in last month’s update. I reported an income of $1.362 million as a 1.5 percent decrease from the previous year. The figure should have been a 15 percent decrease—an error in placing the decimal point.

Psst -- Neville? God tells me you're a dingbat: Far away, out on the utter edges of COGdom, is the tiny fringe sect led by Neville Stevens. Nev is founder of "Zion Ministry", an Aussie based cult that has at times managed to swamp the WCG Usenet group with an avalanche of ill-tempered postings, but apparently achieved little else. 

The Stevens cult is small enough that most COGgers are either blissfully unaware of it, or wisely ignore it. However Nev seems to have caught the attention of the Christian fundamentalist Tektonics apologetics website. They now feature an article called Galatian Shooting Gallery, responding to Nev's ravings on the subject, and from which we've borrowed the title for this item.


Joe & Co. on the move? A letter to WCG's "valued employees".

In an effort to keep you informed, as valued employees, Mr. Tkach has requested that I share with you the following:

With a large portion of the Ambassador Campus now sold, we have been searching for a new home for the administrative headquarters of the church. As you know, it takes time to locate, purchase and prepare a building in order to insure a smooth transition to a new facility.

Although it has taken several months, we believe we have located a facility that may meet our needs going forward. Yesterday, the church signed a Letter of Intent to purchase a building in Glendora. Although this agreement is non binding, it expresses our interest and our intentions to purchase the building subject to closer investigation. During the weeks ahead, we will study the building and land carefully to insure that it is suitable for our needs and is a good investment for the church. Many of you will be asked to participate in your area of expertise. We know that this may cause some inconvenience and may add to your work load. Thank you in advance for your assistance.

We will keep you informed of further developments regarding this potential purchase as we proceed. Please do not visit the building or call the current tenants unless directed to by Vance Gilless, who will be coordinating our evaluation of the property. Thank you for your service to the church.


Mat Morgan
Secretary of the Board

Tournament update: More details about the Winter Tournament sponsored by Cincinnati North are now online. There's also a plug for the upcoming evangelism conference. These two events seem to have galvanized interest among independently minded members of UCG and the more balanced minor COGs - largely thanks to their handling by Sheriff Roy Holladay and his posse of Home Office deputies.

Seig heil! Question: how do you get disfellowshipped from UCG when you're not even a member? Answer: try contributing some honest thoughts to an online discussion group. The following item appeared on one of the discussion boards and was forwarded to AW.

I just received phone calls from Bill Winner and Don Henson telling me that unless I quit writing "divisive" (as I asked them, divisive towards the church or the organizational leadership?) posts on the internet then I could no longer attend any UCG events. I told them I will not be censored, oh well, not even a member and I get disfellowshipped ;-)

Honestly guys, this is getting really worrying. Maybe Home Office needs to get someone in to help scrape the leader-type-dudes off the ceilings. In the meantime it might be helpful if all the lads practiced deep breathing and took St John's Wort tablets three times a day.

Spanky's unpaid moral debt: These comments appeared on the Likeminds board this week.

It might interest some people to know that even today, the brethren who lent RCM's Global a lot of money so he could start showing his program on WOR-TV were left with their debt unpaid.  In order to at least get partially repaid, they have purchased a life insurance policy on him.

Religion vs. Spirituality: Dennis Diehl returns this weekend with a new column. Here's a brief quote:

The more fundamentally literal and organized the group is, the less one will experience a genuine inner and calmly confident spirituality. There are only two genuine emotions from which all others flow…Love and Fear. That’s why perfect, unconditional love can cast out fear, it’s opposite. Of course, fear can totally trash any prospect of being loved as well. Notice love does not cast out hate, as hate is the result of some fear. The opposite of Love is Fear. Genuine Love produces genuine spirituality while Fear produces mere religion and its associated atrocities and control. Christian soldiers are fear-based zealots and true believers in THEIR religion, not your spirituality, and are the most destructive of all.

Comments which seem especially relevant in light of the feverish attempts in certain COG quarters to assert control over the hapless membership.

COG7 magazine features ex-WCG writers: The current issue of the Bible Advocate features articles by two former WCG members, Brian Knowles (once managing editor of the Plain Truth) and Richard Wiedenheft, a minister who left in the mid-1970s. Wiedenheft addresses the "prosperity gospel" so beloved of flakier fundamentalists and offers some interesting observations. Knowles offers a standard homily on "talking nice". He hits his stride briefly with this one-liner.

Sometimes we open our mouths only long enough to change feet.

The following comments come from the pen of Calvin Burrell, responding with some genuinely good advice to some poor soul who has set out to find the "one true church".

Your search for the one true church will continue to frustrate you as long as you think of it as an organization or denomination... Don't look for all Christians in one visible group now, only the Lord knows those who are His (2 Tim. 2:19).

The EBay Way: (Special correspondent) There was another auction for WCG in Pasadena this past week. This auction was to clear out all items from the remaining buildings on the east side of the freeway. These buildings all have to be vacated by the end of the month.

There was office furniture, lots of tools and machinery, some paintings and crystal stemware from the Auditorium, and lots of odds and ends. There were not many people at the auction (as compared to past auctions) and as the morning went on more people wandered off, leaving just a handful to bid on the rest. Entire rows of office furniture (desks, bookcases, file cabinets etc) were going for 5-10 dollars for the lot.

Quite a few of those present were amazed at the actions of a WCG minister and his wife. They were buying all the Gorham stemware along with other items in order to resell them for a profit on EBay. Asked whether they would be willing to sell a few glasses to those at the auction, their reported reply was they would decide that after going for higher prices on EBay first. Needless to say a lot of people were not impressed.

Weekly Mailbag

Airtight hierarchies: Bravo to Reg Killingley for his letter to the UCG Council of Elders. I'd like to think they will benefit from such good advice, but I have my doubts. If the UCG ministry were made up of independent thinkers, they wouldn't have stayed in Armstrongism in the first place. They are likely victims of too little information, brainwashed, as we all were, or dependent on the security of a regular paycheck.

It's telling that Killingley alludes to the ministry of the UCG as Milford myrmidons. I think he means Milgram--Stanley Milgram, the controversial psychologist who performed experiments using American volunteers to understand why the Nazis had followed orders so mindlessly. It's freshman English reading material in most college curriculums, but that doesn't guarantee that Ambassador College graduates ever read it. Although they may have--this is the same "Christian" college where, for whatever reason, students in the late 1950s and early 1960s were encouraged to read Hitler's Mein Kampf

In any event, Killingley is correct regarding the UCG's short-sightedness regarding the harm they do their organization by clamping down on anyone who isn't in lockstep with them. Groupthink doesn't serve corporations or governments very well in the long run--not even churches that require it because "We should all speak the same thing." Such airtight hierarchies are subject to stagnation, error, and decay if they succeed, or to rebellion because dissent is not allowed. If the ministries of any of Armstrong's splinter groups want an explanation for why the Armstrong empire has been subject to repeated splintering, it is this, and not because of some end time prophesied departure from the truth.

On a somewhat different note, it is paradoxical that Herbert Armstrong, who bragged how he often broke precedent, should have spawned a ministry of individuals that are afraid of academic freedom. I was recently visited by my former pastor from the Worldwide Church of God. I had not seen him in about ten years, and he is now a retired pastor with the UCG. He reminded me that there is a way to know if God's truth has been restored/preserved by Herbert Armstrong, and that was to obey the teachings of the church based on its interpretation of the scriptures. He admitted that this might seem simplistic, but assured me that "a good understanding have they that keep the commandments." My neighbors, who are Mormon missionaries, guarantee me the same thing if I will only convert to Joseph Smith's brand of Christianity. Likewise, the Jehovah's Witness who came to my door said that if I would believe like they do, I would know that I had found the truth. Maybe none of them ever heard of tautologies. 

Kathleen Kakacek

Shepherds not Slaughter men: What is wrong with these people?

These latest events triggered by the Evangelism Weekend are tragic to say the least. If one really takes note of the initiatives that were mentioned by Guy Swenson regarding the creation of a magazine, the creation of the humanitarian initiatives, the founding of the original UCG - then 'Head Office' is unable to do anything except steal ideas. 

The Winter Tournament is another classic theft of regional initiatives because it appears that no one in Head Office has the imagination or ability to make decisions or maybe the management skills to make things happen. They appear to just sit back and pick off the fruitful endeavors that have a profile. They then appear to take centre stage so that it will be written or they will be noticed and then take the pats on the back from other people's sweat and tears - did I mention skills and intelligence - because Head Office can't make it happen.

When you read the letter produced to clarify the misunderstanding of statements by Richard Pinelli, you can only shake your head in amazement at the level of disdain that they appear to be treating the flock. There is an arrogance shown towards the flock that smacks of the 'elitist, precious few' that are in charge of the ignorant masses. They have an answer for everything, but how dare you question us in 'Head Office'. We can do anything we want and how dare you think for yourselves.

Let us take a look at another program that seems to have ground to a halt in the committee mentality of UCG. 'Servant Leadership' - this was mooted as the panacea for drastic change for the culture of UCG. It was needed because it was lost in the previous organization and all levels of the church could be a part of this grand initiative. After 4 years, yes 4 years, the last heard about this panacea of leadership for all, was that the ministry didn't like the name 'Servant Leadership' and it sat better if it was called 'Godly Leadership'. Is the title Servant so abhorrent for some fragile egos to accept as their true calling?

We all know the statement about committees: "A committee is where all good ideas go to die."

UCG is showing that Head Office cannot create anything unless it steals ideas. UCG Head Office is showing that Control comes before Christianity. UCG is fast drifting back into the past and may be better off changing its name to "The United Church of Worldwide Ways", because God seems to be left out of the picture in all the events to date.

If they do not take stock quickly and stop having little tantrums every time that someone outside of the 'inner sanctum' produces something that they cannot control, they will only be left with the 'inner sanctum'. People left Worldwide for less and will not tolerate despotic attitudes anymore.

The Sheep need Shepherds not Slaughter Men.

Joseph Lee

Pandora's box: For whatever they're worth, here are some observations or ruminations of the UCG leadership's inappropriate response to Guy Swenson and Bill Jacobs' evangelism conference: Besides the leadership's obvious desire to grab or keep power, I think there may also be an almost unconscious fear that the conference might open a doctrinal Pandora's box. The UCG was founded in reaction to the decision [by both Tkach Sr & Jr] to renounce the teachings of Herbert Armstrong in favor of a generic, warmed-over evangelical mishmash. That is why the UCG was established without the classic Armstrong dictatorial hierarchy -- so no leader would have the authority to unilaterally ditch those elements of the Law of Moses the UCG's members believe are still binding on Christians.

But a looser governmental structure makes it harder for the higher-ups to keep individual ministers and members in line. Considered in light of the reason the UCG was created in 1995, an evangelical conference not directly controlled by the UCG's central authority could be quite dangerous. After all, the UCG's parent sect was thrown into crisis by exploring questions that all relate to this one question: "What is the gospel?" Obviously you can't have an evangelism conference if you don't know what the evangel is. In part, the UCG's leaders may instinctively be reacting to the idea of an independent evangelism conference because of an ill-defined fear of reopening the same can of worms that led to the shattering of the WCG in 1995. They might fear that the conference could unintentionally influence participants to reexamine what connection, if any, the Sabbath and festivals, etc., have to the gospel (and as most Christians have always understood, they have very little to do with the gospel).

Of course, these kinds of concerns are probably only background and rather intangible for them, but I think they might have at least a little to do Roy Holladay's actions toward Guy Swenson and Bill Jacobs.

Jared Olar

Steve's bet: This reminds me of the scripture found in Luke 9:49. "Now John answered and said, 'Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us [he does not have the party spirit].' But Jesus said to him, 'Forbid him not, for he that is not against us is for us.' " 

The UCG hierarchy will indeed step up their pace to compete with this evangelism conference. You can bet that they will have one up and running within a month or two.


The Long Shadow of Dale Haynes: The reason why some of these "Pass out the Prozac" letters seem to be so similar is that the writers have years of practice at writing them, going back to Roy Holladay. In the early 1970s Roy was in San Antonio, Texas next door to Corpus Christi where the original Associated Churches had an impact on the congregation led by Dale Haynes. Because Haynes was married into the Armstrong family line, his own turmoil went straight to GTA in Pasadena and eventually it led to him quitting the WCG. But at that time Ernest Martin in Pasadena and the handful of Associated ministers found themselves involved in the Corpus Christi debacle which for a short time prior to Haynes quitting, led to a small spin off early breakaway group with its own 50,000 watts clear channel radio program. Those early breakaways soon became disgusted with religion entirely. It was in this environment that letters very similar in tone and content to your "Prozac" example were circulated to denounce the Associated Churches and all those connected with them. Roy Holladay knew the people and Roy was located in the area. Obviously Roy was close minded then and close minded now and he is still stuck in that Texas rut which emerged way back in the 70s.

Sacred relics and loyalty issues: Dennis Diehl's contribution to the July 18 mailbag triggered a few thoughts. I don't believe Gerald Flurry's acquisition of Herbert Armstrong's stuff is merely to fulfill his desire to live as richly as did Herbert. Rather, Gerry is collecting Herbert W Armstrong relics, the same way medieval Roman Catholics collected the relics of departed saints. Pieces of the original cross were in high demand all over Europe. Whole cathedrals were built to house scraps of bone alleged to be remains of a saint.

As described in Ambassador Watch 12, Gerry acquired what he believed to be Herbert's prayer rock, and moved it to his Imperial Campus with great fanfare. I'm sure that Gerry would pay big bucks if the Armstrong family gave him permission to move Herbert's remains to the Imperial Campus. Perhaps Edmond, Oklahoma would become the site of the biggest cathedral this side of the Atlantic Ocean as Gerry builds a repository worthy of the bones of the Apostle Herbert. Or maybe Gerry would have Herbert stuffed, and put him on display as the Soviets did with Lenin. Perhaps the Armstrong family should get in touch with Gerry and make an offer. If the WCG was able to get a seven figure payment for some of Herbert's worthless booklets, the Armstrong family should be able to get tens of millions of dollars for Herbert's bones.

It is also interesting to see that none of the three UCG ministers who recently departed that organization were employed full time. One minister, Bill Jacobs, was on half salary while the other two were unpaid. It seems that ministers who are self sufficient have little to fear from UCG headquarters. If the UCG wants to keep their ministers in line, it is necessary to make them totally dependent on headquarters for their living. This Herbert W. Armstrong knew well. In the world of church of Godism, nothing buys loyalty better than money. Cut off a minister's salary and you cut the tether binding him to the mother church. Carl Falzone, Bill Jacobs and Guy Swenson had nothing to lose except their ministerial credentials, which are worthless. All they need to do is start a church and they can issue themselves credentials. Or they can do what I did and go to the Universal Life Church web site (ulc.org) and be ordained on line. If they are willing to pay $100 tuition, they can get their Ph. D. in religion by scoring 75% on a 20 question true-false test.

The Reverend Dr. MAM, Ph. D.

UCG and the SDAs: I think UCG ought to be informed by Paul’s statements in Philippians 1:14-18. Paul doesn’t censure the brethren for preaching or for teaching others to preach. Further, he doesn’t even criticize those who preach to build a personal following or for personal gain. He is simply glad that Christ is proclaimed.

UCG might also read Mark 9:38-39 and Numbers 11:27-29.

Perhaps Ellen White was a prophetess in saying more or less that “You don’t have to worry about the Church of God. They’ll never amount to anything. They’re too busy converting each other.” The Church of God movement has become largely irrelevant, not only to the world but increasingly to the brethren. Now that someone has decided they can no longer refrain from doing something about it, how should anyone do anything but rejoice in what they are doing?

UCG operations remind me of a fire brigade at an out-of-control blaze standing aside to discuss the color of the uniform. If the brigade established a task force to study the issue and then told the firemen that they mustn’t work until the report was received and ruled on, how much would be lost to the blaze?

And speaking of Ellen White, we might do well do notice how effective SDA evangelism is. I understand that they have grown in the last 40 years from an attendance of about 3,000,000 to about 25,000,000 now. Within the SDA church are many independent ministries such as that of Dr. Bacchiocchi or of Dr. Veith which are able to operate without being dictated to.

The resignation of someone over the date upon which to observe Passover is also indicative of the problem in the Church of God. Why cannot people work together even when they disagree over such a point? Can disagreements get much smaller than that? Seeing as how Christians are basically commissioned to (1) make disciples of all nations, (2) encourage and build the brethren, and (3) worship God, I fail to see how people disagreeing on calendar issues cannot still fellowship and work together for these weightier objectives. Yet, Church of God history for at least 140 years has been replete with divisions over what seem to me to be the smallest of points. Again, contrast this to the SDA church in which some observe Christmas and some don’t, some are vegetarian and some are not, and some observe the annual festivals while most do not. These people are able to overlook these differences in order to unite in doing what they see as their work. In the Church of God, each of these issues would have given rise to a new church, and the work be damned. Now, I ask, which culture appears to be the more godly?

Jesus warned of those who have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. Are we affirming the power of godliness (and godliness comes from God) when we can’t even lay aside doctrinal issues to unite in doing “the Work”? Or, are we denying “the power thereof”? 

The fact is that godly men will disagree on many small issues, not because they are godly, but because they are men. When they cannot work together because of it, I question whether they are godly. Of course, someone will point to Barnabas and Paul not working together, and it is true that they each went their own way, but they still remained part of the same organized church.

The Church of God has a huge gift to offer the world. UCG has a big contribution to offer to the Church of God. I hope that each can soon see fit to give. One suggestion I would make to COG leaderships is that Churches of God begin amalgamating feast sites (does it make sense to have 3 in the same city?). Use different colored envelopes if you have to. Of course, I don’t expect anyone to do this. COG leaderships seem too intent on maintaining a culture that can only foster divisiveness. I am glad I don’t have to answer for them.

Gordon Feil

Living defections: Just a query. So many defections, seemingly from every group. What about LCG - we don't seem to hear about them.

James (COGUK)

AW: No defections in Living lately, just defects!  ;-)

Fruits of dishonesty: I have been reading your posts and have two comments on this evangelism conference and on Guy Swenson's Indy recollections from Victors website.

1. I personally question any long time member or minister in any of the Churches of God being able to speak with any authority on the issue of evangelism. All of these splinter groups together would not know evangelism if they were hit square in the nose with it. If Bill Jacobs and Guy Swenson are doing a retrospective study on others who have made evangelism work in their sabbath keeping congregations and also documenting what the Bible says about evangelism that is great, but that is probably where they should stop. Maybe what they could do is invite some people, probably lay members, from these cited Sabbath keeping groups that are growing by evangelism. Then those who are attending the conference could learn from those who are actually working some form of evangelism and not just studying it. Just a thought.

2. I think you might find it interesting to get George Crow's recollection of how what became UCG came about. Initially I believe George and George alone was the only one willing to begin a new church as WCG was falling apart. Sadly, as Guy Swenson states, the first item of priority for many who started and have been the main stay of what became United Church of God was how they were going to survive financially. Interesting since many of these same ministers were the ones who for years told the lay members to sacrifice their jobs to go to the feast or keep the sabbath and have faith that God would provide. These same men felt it necessary to immediately facilitate their own financial security as a first step in forming this new "church". George and a few others were the only leaders who did not have to act like a hireling at that time and their ideas and participation in this new church was quickly unneeded. George appeared to be quickly cut out of the picture by many in the United hierarchy including some of the names who are now being scolded by United, most likely because he wasn't part of the Ambassador College good ole boy ministry club. Such revisionist history needs to stop. From many of our recollections who were around before United actually formed, there were no paid ministers who appeared to be governed by this faithful attitude to the point of being willing to sacrifice their paychecks with no promise of another one from this new corporation in hand. I even had a friend that was in the ministry at the time that was told to bring his paystub so that the new pay structure could be set up immediately. Very questionable behavior from the beginning Gavin, and we are seeing the fruits of dishonesty, self preservation and contempt that are being borne out now.

Preterism: (1) Just a short note to thank Keith for his perspectives and understanding of "Bible Prophecy". He is correct and when one examines the topic with an open mind will see just how correct he is. Everyone of Matthew's "and thus it was fulfilled" affirmations in the opening chapters on how the OT prophesied Jesus in detail are gross stretching of the original contexts and have nothing to do with Jesus. But that was the style... Midrash and Pesher which few laymen will ever hear about. 

At any rate, good job Keith. I know several ministers who know or suspect such things and many others as well, who also conclude that it would cost them their job if they brought the congregation up to date. I remember sitting at a lecture at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena where the professor reminded the audience that the average, honestly educated pastor would be 100 years ahead of his congregation. Sometimes I think when you do your homework, you can stretch that to 1600 years.


(2) It's really funny that you should mention preterism at just this time, because I've been learning a little about it myself, by a complete coincidence.

I'm not by any means a believer, but I find that studying preterism is still helpful, because having been raised with all of the prophetic crap that flurry and his minions are still spouting, it's kind of a catharsis to have those teachings so thoroughly debunked. Even if the foundations of preterism are shaky, they're much more solid than the house of cards that the apocalyptic ramblings of the Worldwide Church of Money offshoots are so fond of ramming down people's throats.


(3) I am pleased to read Mr Stump's comments on Preterism. May such papers increase in spite of the shaking of a worldview.

When I was gathering up my damaged life in preparation to exit the WCG after 25 years of tremendous emotional and financial commitment, I came across a Preterist booklet offered in Christianity Today. The title was, "What Happened in 70 AD?" The question was as grabbing as "Why Were You Born?" from my earliest contact with the cult in 1962.

After receipt of the booklet and briefly reading it, I put it aside for awhile as I had to deal with the larger personal issue in the early 90s of the church trashing so many assumptions I had held dear. But I was finally in a questioning mode so the booklet became quite an eye-opener later as I started to re-examine everything I was taught.

My interview on this site tells some of my story.

The relevant point I want to briefly address again is that the New Testament is chock full of imminency--some great thing is about to happen "soon" to "this generation" of the first century. What was to happen didn't. So the spin doctors had to go to work over the centuries. The spin can first be seen in the alleged second letter of "Peter" where no clear statement is made but is just vague enough to be intriguing. That was its intention--to keep the interest but avoid any answers.

Today, the futurists among us, as represented by the many branches of COGism, doggedly hold onto that premise of the future. Those who hold to the fulfillment of prophesied events as re-interpreted are the Preterists. Both groups have the same mission--to hold Christ from not being seen as a false prophet. And, of course, neither dares to question the written record.

The futurists believe in a literal fulfillment of the event but have to re-interpret the clear time statements. "Soon" has to take on a different meaning. The Preterists accomplish the same defense of Christ by accepting the reality of the time statements as given throughout the New Testament and then are forced to spiritualize the event. The "Kingdom" really isn't one as normally understood. It's all about interpretation on both sides.

When I finally understood this blatant scripture-twisting, I made a major advance in freeing myself from the whole deceptive mess of religion.

Jim Baldwin (WCG 1967-1992)

AW: Keith's article sets a new record for reactions within 24 hours of upload!

Armstrongites: The Central Texas Church of God's display of the Bush-Cheney banner indicates that they are giving support to lies, incompetence, obfuscation, misuse and extension of power, and wholesale corruption...well, after all, they ARE Armstrongites, aren't they?

Francis Penkava

Shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic: I just read Randy's comments regarding the upcoming Evangelism Conference and it appears to me that he would have been a blast to have had on board the Titanic when the word spread that they had hit an iceberg. Instead of helping to lower the few life boats that they had and making sure that they were all filled to their maximum, safe capacity, he would just stand in the middle of the deck and complain. Why don't we have more life boats? What is wrong with the crew? They don't have my life boat seat reserved in a first class section. Would someone please stop that band from playing? They are making me sleepy. Someone needs to rearrange those deck chairs!

A lot of his observations are valid. Everyone knows that it is God that calls people into the church. Without His blessing, this project will fall flat on its face. If we have not learned enough to be able to provide a proper, spiritually nurturing environment for new Christians to come into, then God is going to keep His children far away from all of us. But maybe, just maybe, we, the ordinary, silent members of the churches can see the potential for this conference to point us in the right direction to do a small portion of the work that God wanted us to be doing all along. We are tired of basically being told that we are unable to think and talk about the faith that still has a glimmer of life within us. Apparently, in the current situation with UCG, it is only the elite, administration ministers that are qualified to discuss such esoteric a subject as my personal belief and faith in Jesus Christ. We, the majority of the church should just remain silent, while the elite ones get into a huddle to read their "task force study paper" on evangelism so that somewhere down the road they can tell us that there isn't enough money to go around so they will set up a designated fund that we can contribute to in order to make a feeble attempt at a new radio program or something else that they may call evangelism. Whatever they come up with will have to be controlled by the home office and it will be expensive. 

I am 57 years old and I am not in the greatest of health. I have been waiting for the ministerial elites to get the job started for more than 40 years. I am tired of waiting. We are all willing to take an honest look at what Bill and Guy have learned and see if we can implement it. All of us know that we are flawed individuals with much to learn and much to overcome. That is why, if God does choose to bless this conference and our actions after the conference is over, we will need all of the help we can get.

If Randy cannot support the conference now, I can live with that. I just ask him to give us a year to see if the program will work and be blessed by God. Then he can just walk by and tell us, "Told you so!" or he can say, "Wait up fellas; help me to get on board!" 

Fred Patrick
member Church of God - Cincinnati

Brylcreem Priesthood: Hey Dennis! Recently you said, What is it that allows a man, in this case, a Gerry Flurry, the Self Appointed Apostle of Nothing, to spend the hard earned and faithfully given (no matter how misguided) offerings and resources on expensive trinkets for his ego?

Most excellent question, Mr. Diehl! Ask it again! Ask all in the Spitoffs (er, "Splinters") to ask it, No... of all religions, of their Priests! "Why am I continuing to line the pockets and stroke the egos of some Priest in a far away city, pay for his auditoriums, his cars, his legal fees, his "I Love Me Wall"...?"

Ask ALL to ask it, the Bottom Line of Questions: "Why do we allow ourselves to be Ruled by conmen?" Why do we allow ourselves to buy toys and trinkets for these crooks?

It's the members' fault. They allow it.

A promo for Ambassador Bible Center?

These Priests don't know what food stamps are. They don't know what the inside of a Kroger grocery looks like. They don't know what it's like to make a decision on whether to buy gas for the car, food for the table, or send in a check to the Priest. But, in the end, the faithful flock send the check to the Priest, under duress of an eternity of hellfire..... These Priests like Flurry and Merry Death and... don't bother consulting a Priest on whether its Gawd thinks it's ok to seek medical help, they just get it. 

These Priests want your money. That's it. That's all there is, folks. Simple. As. That.

These Priests have no job, no career, nothing in their world except feeding off the backs of Good People, and as long as Good Folks allow that to happen, the Priests will buy their houses, send their kids to expensive private schools, rearrange the "church's" dogma to fit themselves, stock up on Brylcreem, and scam ... their flock. They know nothing else, have no other talents.

They are crooks, but the members allow it to happen. It's all their fault.

And they can stop it. I for one hope they do.

Keep asking those questions, Dennis.

Mike Minton


Prophecy marches on, and on, and (yawn) on: Keith Stump is a former PT writer, and a man who has had the time and courage to re-examine many of the beliefs he once championed. We're delighted that Keith has taken pen in hand once again, this time on the subject of Bible prophecy, but we doubt this piece would be accepted by The Good News (which is currently milking those Four Horses of Revelation for all they're worth). A welcome antidote to the unremitting cries of apocalyptic alarm that constantly saturate COGdom.

Wacko in Waco: No namby-pamby pussyfooting around down in Waco, Texas. No limp-wristed, pinko-liberal pretence of political impartiality: heck no! The Eternal has disclosed his choice for the 2004 US election, and God is backing Bush! Bob Thiel has drawn attention to the fact that the Central Texas Church of God is prominently displaying a Bush/Cheney banner on the main page of their website. 

Conference attracts 130: New Testament Evangelism Conference registrations climbed to 130 this week. The conference is scheduled for the weekend of July 31. Registrations close July 28.  


Name pain: In the beginning there was the Church of God, Worldwide, and they were those who separated from the son of the son of the End Time Elijah. And lo, there arose those who said "pluralize!" and the name became Churches of God Worldwide. Then spake up a sagacious scribe from afar, Ralph Helge, and he saith this name is "deceptively similar and an infringement of our client's name" (and his client was known as the Worldwide Church of God). Great was the wailing and gnashing of teeth and loud were the petitions before the throne of The Eternal. Nonetheless Ralph spake again with stronger words yet "threatening, not just civil suit, but criminal prosecution if we did not cease and desist from using the name..." 

After "prayer and discussion" the assembled elders of the holy remnant did petition King Joseph the Younger and entreated him. And the King deigned to give his sacred approval for the brethren to take unto themselves the name Church of God, Worldwide Ministries.

And behold, are not the full tidings to be found in a PDF newsletter?

Control is everything: Support for Guy Swenson and Bill Jacobs has come from a high profile source. Reg Killingley of Big Sandy, a former WCG minister who has been quoted in publications as diverse as the Pasadena Star News and Christianity Today, has written to UCG's Council of Elders offering some no-nonsense comments. The letter appears below. One correspondent who forwarded a copy to AW observed, "This letter definitely speaks for itself." We agree.

Reg Killingley

To: UCG Council of Elders

Re: Your censure of Messrs. Jacobs and Swenson.

What are you guys afraid of?

Paul rejoiced when Christ was preached, period. Even when those doing the preaching did so from less-than-perfect motives (Phil. 1:18).

Jesus Himself was no control freak, even though His disciples tried to force His hand (Mark 9:38-40; Luke 9:49-50). (Can you see yourselves in that picture? Try harder.)

Even Moses rejoiced when "unauthorized" folks took on an active role in doing God's work (Numbers 11:28).

But when you have a hierarchical mindset, control is everything. Control is power. And the carnal scarcity mentality believes that any loss of control or power is dangerous. A threat that must be dealt with -- ruthlessly.

So you will sanctimoniously caution against a "dangerous precedent" because in your worldview it threatens your control: "Why, if we let them do this, they might come up with other ideas. And some of their ideas might even be better than our own -- and then what will people think?!! That we don't have all the wisdom and all the good ideas?? That would reduce their dependence on us and that would indeed be dangerous!!!"

Don't you realize how patronizing and paternalistic -- and pitiful -- your attitude is?! Your actions in this matter are appalling and unchristian. Sadly, they are also all too predictable. Some of the Milford myrmidons will undoubtedly be relieved to be rid of more "troublemakers." I wonder if you have any understanding of how much damage you do to yourselves -- and to the larger ekklesia and the cause of Christ -- every time you do this sort of thing.

What a pity. What a waste.

Reginald Killingley


Pass out the Prozac: While there have been no public missives from UCG Home Office commenting on the recent resignations, it seems a letter writing campaign has been launched at a local level. Considering just how "submissive" Home Office now requires its ministers to be, we suspect that letters like the one below are not isolated examples. The source who passed on this pernicious epistle asked that references which identify the particular pastor and congregation be deleted.

Dear Brethren,

These comments from the person who passed on this letter: 

From what I have heard and seen lately there are quite a few "ministers" writing epistles like this these days...  It is so ironic to me how many quotes from this letter are so very hypocritical and near sighted. 

... I did not intend to write another pastor’s message... But news of three ministerial resignations caused me to change my mind. Let me give you the overview and then some thoughts regarding what has transpired.

This week three ministers resigned from the United Church of God. They are Carl Falzone, Guy Swenson, and Bill Jacobs. The first minister, Mr. Falzone, resigned over a doctrinal difference on when to observe Passover. The latter two, Mr. Swenson and Mr. Jacobs, resigned rather than face disciplinary action for unethical behavior regarding their plans for an evangelism conference August 31-September 1 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Mr. Falzone and Mr. Swenson were not employed by the Church. Mr. Jacobs was on half salary, pastoring small congregations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Durango, Colorado. 

Whenever I hear of resignations such as these I am saddened that the body of Christ is further divided. Too often it seems that men are unable to check their egos and work together as a team to do God’s work. As for Mr. Swenson and Mr. Jacobs (the focus of the remainder of this message), both men claim that the United Church of God, by asking them to cancel their evangelism conference, is stifling Jesus Christ’s direction to them to make disciples. This simply isn’t true. There are lots of programs and opportunities available to ministers and members alike to get involved in evangelism. 

The Church asked Mr. Swenson and Mr. Jacobs not to hold their evangelism conference because the church itself has established a task force that is working on this subject. Sadly, these two men refused to comply with this reasonable request. Rather than work as a team with the United Church of God, they felt that they should be allowed to do whatever they wished on this matter. This is the way they apparently believe the United Church of God should function—everyone doing whatever he wants, no one submitting to anyone else or working together unless they want to do so. 

I was in Indianapolis at the founding of the United Church of God and this was not the philosophy that the majority of us ministers endorsed. We wanted to do things locally but we also wanted to work together. If we didn’t want to work together, we could have all just formed independent congregations so no one would have been able to tell us what to do. Similar to a marriage, working together requires submission to a cause greater than oneself. Sadly, my brothers in the ministry who resigned do not wish to submit to the United Church of God. Instead, they claim that the administration of the United Church of God has deviated from its founding principles of openness and become overly controlling and dictatorial. And at the same time they say that they don’t need the permission of the United Church of God to hold their evangelism conference and that they will hold it anyway. Can you see what is going on? Yes, this really does come down to who is in control.

Because of the divisive nature of this evangelism conference and the attitudes of its sponsors, we ministers have been asked not to attend. Because I am a man who voluntarily places himself under authority so we may more effectively preach the gospel, I will not attend this conference. I request that none of you members in this area do so either. Though I have been and remain completely committed to evangelism (as is evidenced in my writing and in inviting Good News subscribers to Sabbath services), I have no desire to be part of a conference organized in opposition to the Church. 

Brethren, we have many good things going for us in this area. We have a Speakers’ Club, a Women’s Club, and sermonette workshops for the spiritual development of our brethren. We are also now on cable access television... We have invited Good News readers to our services and I hope we will do more of that in the future. We also have a cardholder program that adds regular subscribers to the Good News every month. Let’s not allow the divisive conduct and false accusations of these men who have resigned to impede our unity and love for each other. I believe God will bless us for cooperating and working together. Evangelism is an important endeavor that we are all desire to learn more about but let’s make sure we do so in a respectful, cooperative way. 

In Christian love and service


Bobby bounces back: "Not many wise men now are called", nor many celebrity brethren. But the Church of Scientology didn't get its claws into Bobby Fischer. The world chess champ was once a dedicated follower of Herb. His subsequent career has been interesting to say the least. A reader sent in this link with details of Bobby's less-than-triumphal return to his homeland.

Contradiction? No, it's simple. Day is Night, Black is White. What's your problem!

Roy explains: It seems UCG president Roy Holladay is still trying to sort out the mess in Cincinnati North. The issue is broken promises over the Winter Tournament. Richard Pinelli assured local members that Home Office wouldn't pull the carpet out from under them by organizing a competing event. But then, lo and behold, a competing event was announced! Now, how exactly do you then justify the deed?

3. Did not Richard Pinelli say that United would not establish a competing weekend during the Q & A session with the Cincinnati North congregation on Saturday night, May 15? 

Yes. When Richard Pinelli made his statement, he was answering a question specifically regarding the Winter Family Weekend sponsored by UCG-Cincinnati North. He said that if the UCG-Cincinnati North or the UCG-Lexington congregation wanted to continue to sponsor the weekend, the Home Office would not compete with them. The Home Office would have supported them. At that May 15 meeting, no members of the UCG-Cincinnati North congregation had left United, and there was no new church organization in Cincinnati. He was therefore answering the question based on the only Winter Family Weekend in existence in this area, the one sponsored by UCG-Cincinnati North and UCG-Lexington. Obviously United would not set-up a competing activity with a United congregation. If it was meant to be a hypothetical question asking whether we would set up a competing weekend with a new church organization, that should have been clearly stated, not assumed. 

Uh, so it was the fault of the questioner?? Um... lets move right along to catechetical question four.

4. It is alleged that the administration intended to take the family weekend from the UCG-Cincinnati North congregation. Otherwise, how do you explain the fact that Mark Winner was asked to check out the facilities in Lexington before the May 15 meeting? 

The Home Office never had a plan of "taking" the Winter Family Weekend from the congregations that had always sponsored it (UCG-Cincinnati and UCG-Lexington). By the Sabbath of May 8, some members of the Lexington congregation had already left the United Church of God and organized an independent congregation. Mr. O'Brien had already had a meeting with them and a private meeting on the same Sabbath with the UCG-Cincinnati North Congregation. Richard Pinelli asked Mark Winner to make inquiries only after the split in Lexington because we were already beginning to receive questions about the family weekend. Richard did not want to upset anyone, but asked Mark to inquire since we did not know what the status of the weekend was at that point. Obviously, we wanted to be able to continue a weekend that had been sponsored by United, and we were reacting to find out information. To our knowledge, no contracts were signed at this junction, but negotiations had begun.

Convinced? The whole sorry epistle, addressed "Dear Fellow Ministers" but mailed out to the entire UCG email list, can be found here. We can hardly wait to see what gymnastic feats of logic Roy will eventually come up with to explain the treatment dished out to the organizers of the evangelism conference.

New Journal out: The latest issue of The Journal, dated June 30, is about to hit the mailboxes. There's a background piece on the evangelism conference by Dixon Cartwright (written just before Home Office had a hernia), and the fallout from Cincy North (including the duplication of tournaments). The front and back pages are online as a PDF download at www.thejournal.org/issues/issue89/jf063004.pdf

What next for Guy? Guy Swenson has released a short statement on his intentions for the future. Excerpts.

Right now my focus is on the July 31 - August 1 evangelism conference. I wake up early bursting with ideas about what to cover. At our house, it seems that every spare moment is filled with discussions on presentations and reviewing materials. But what about after the conference? When it's over, we will truly feel the void.

My family will need a place to fellowship. Perhaps there are independent groups with similar beliefs and passions meeting right in the vicinity. Perhaps we'll need to drive an hour or two. Maybe we'll worship at home. It's a little scary to step out on faith, but God always provides. There's no reason to hurry.

Meanwhile, it's thrilling to see how many are receptive and ready to participate in a conference about fulfilling our commission. It's encouraging to see how willing members are to come together in a spirit of mutual respect to discuss issues common to all of us, regardless of where God has placed us in the body of Christ. Conference attendees are coming from many "splinter" groups.

Could there actually be some positive purpose in this painful process of scattering we have all experienced? What if God is using His power to transform scattering into a real blessing? What if God's Spirit can see beyond the splinters to a further planting? Could each group provide a mechanism for God to plant seeds in a different field? What if we could see those fields white for the harvest - and participate in the threshing? Could God actually take a negative - our squabbles and divisions - and transform them into a springboard to spreading His word?

Weekly Mailbag

Doing the Math: All of us who are regulars on this site have done the math, are familiar with the demographics, and know that time and attrition are not being kind to the COG splinter groups. A person would have to be either deep in denial, or attempting to protect an agenda, not to acknowledge that they are slowly dying out. The reason for this is that without a high profile voice, well-funded and unavoidable on the airwaves, none of them are attracting new members at the rate Garner Ted Armstrong managed to do in his heyday. OK, fine! Fewer victims.

Suddenly, two gentlemen of excellent credential enter with a plan of personal evangelism which has been proven statistically to grow local congregations. One would think that this would be recognized as the solution to a long standing problem. A church group trying the techniques might actually enjoy vibrant growth, reversing an observable death spiral, and may be in a better position to fulfill what it feels to be its commission. But, the gentlemen are directed to cease and desist, or face censure for violating church ethics! Rather than violate ethics, they choose to resign. What is wrong with this picture? Calling Galileo!

This has been a rough year for the UCG. Under the stewardship of Les McCullough, there was not nearly the turmoil which has dogged the Holladay administration. The UCG was the one splinter group which had repudiated the Nicolaitane leadership style of Herbert W. Armstrong, which is why so many elders and lay members were attracted to this church when it formed. One would have imagined that all Nicolaitanes had followed Rod Meredith when he broke away because he didn't want to be accountable to a real executive board. But, now it appears that the current UCG administration is backpedaling from the concept of servant leadership, leaving entire congregations no alternative but to break away to preserve the due process and accountability which they've learned to expect from their system of worship. Leadership and governance are two of the key areas which distinguish a church from a cult. To paraphrase an old saying, "You can take the boy out of the cult, but you can't take the cult out of the boy!"

Byker Bob

Swenson pre-history: I read with great interest your recent comments on Guy Swenson. He is and remains a sincere and brilliant human being (I am not a member of United nor of any other COG). Ironically, he had a great deal to do with the founding of United and in particular the original UCG founding conference in Indianapolis. A short but highly interesting history of that time can be found archived (at least for now) on Vic Kubik's Web site: http://www.kubik.org/ind95.htm 

So what! The recent news about the upcoming Indianapolis evangelism conference – and the resulting political fallout accompanying it within the ranks of UCG – has prompted several thoughts, the first and foremost one being “So what else is new?”

Does it strike other readers of this website (as it does me) as rather odd how the many WCG-splinter groups zealously desire to be “evangelizing” the world with a message – one ultimately about peace, love and cooperation – while at the same time showing themselves chronically unwilling to apply it “at home” in order to get along with each other?

Isn’t it a bit strange, all this talk about “growing the Church,” when the COG’s have proven blatantly unsuccessful in maintaining existing sheep within their own folds? I would think the member turnover rate of WCG clones must be extremely high – it certainly was in the old WCG.

Just take a realistic look at the record - disagreement (and the resulting infighting) is a chronic syndrome among the wider COG’s. I remember the days when the old-style WCG used to point out all the disagreements and contradictions inherent within mainstream Christianity. It’s unfortunate that now their own track record speaks of similar failures – and often even worse!

Doesn’t this send up numerous red warning flags indicating something is awfully wrong, at the very foundations, and seemingly beyond the radar of the various leaders?

It’s no wonder all these groups are so dreadfully ineffective – in spite of their own delusions to the contrary. Really, why all this hubbub about preaching to the world a message they themselves seem so incapable of following?

It appears the same old baggage is being mindlessly embraced and unchallenged by virtually all these WCG spin-offs – bringing with it the same old predictable results year after year.

Randy Martens

A Jackpot for Gerry? What is it that allows a man, in this case, a Gerry Flurry, the Self Appointed Apostle of Nothing, to spend the hard earned and faithfully given (no matter how misguided) offerings and resources on expensive trinkets for his ego? And what is it in the evidently mindless and uncritically thinking followers that allows such abuse? Is it that Gerry has managed to fine filter out of WCG that base element of people who just don't care how "god" uses their resources once given and this creates a jackpot for Gerry? Are these the personality types that simply can see no further and speak up no louder than to say "ok" to the imperative to Pray-Obey-Pay and Stay? Do [they] ever get challenged BEFORE they bring the house down on the faithful? Apparently not. 

I remember as a student watching the Ambassador Auditorium being built in 1971 and at the same time hearing how Jesus will be returning, time simply cannot go on like "this". It was a time when 1972 was supposed to be significant for some, though it turned out to be just 1972 as I suspected. "Why are millions being poured into this campus if the end is near," I remember thinking. And I wonder about the same thing with Gerry and the mindless obedients of PCG. Same old, same old. (May I suggest starting recovery group for those hangers on in the various COG groups who have grown weary and embarrassed watching pastoral types learn nothing from the past, guarding their turf and making the same mistakes over and over again? I think it could be appropriately called On And On An Non-ymous.)

Does Gerry so worship the mind of HWA that in order to perpetuate it he has to surround himself with it's excesses? Does he have to clone the time tested format of personal material success in ministry for yet another generation of those who allow such things to be done to them? Do they enjoy the experience and privilege of being manipulated with guilt, fear, shame and the inability to think for themselves? What is it with those who fund and support it? Are you brain dead? Are you afraid to think! 

Let me be clear. Nothing of what (fill in a splinter of choice) and in this case PCG and Gerry Flurry is doing has anything to do with "the Great God." or "His Work." Benny Hinn may pronounce a curse on anyone who might oppose his ministry, (HWA did it, and so did the Apostle Paul), but that's a gimmick to keep down the objections to obvious foolishness and theological showmanship to a dull roar. Cursing others is what you do when you run out of ideas or have the inability to say, "my thinking is flawed--I was wrong." Many men with genuine mental illnesses and in need of therapy, can hide quite well behind the guise of religion where in the everyday world of work and cooperation, they would not survive. Mental illness in ministry can appear to others as obedience and character, when in fact, it is mental illness and it IS hurting others. Genuine and abiding spirituality is not so crass a material display as we see with many End Time ministries. End time ministries have simply proven to be a very effective way to increase material pursuits while at the same time being able to fall back to the apologetic of "no man knows the day or the hour...but keep giving, one never knows." They are fear-based and crass, often run by one leader who, outside of religion, where mental quirkiness seems almost normal and where obedience to voices and promptings of the spirit are common, would not survive. 

A real spiritual entity, who exists for our good and not His or Her personal glorification and worship, does not need money to promote obscure writings that are errant, confusing, contradictory and divisive to humanity. And He/She sure doesn't need a Steinway or gold coolers to serve refreshments in, paid for by the believing family of five who struggle to keep body and soul together to begin with. 

Gerry Flurry is not an Apostle, much less "that prophet." He will die someday relatively soon, as will we all and will have to face the truth of impermanence... Re-gathering glitzy stuff that should never have found it's way into a genuine spirituality in the first place is a deeply spiritual lesson on how shallow some spirituality is. Spending money that one has no right to spend , which is a hallmark of lone COG leadership types, simply has to stop. I encourage those of you who still give your personal resources for foolish and crass materialism in Jesus name and for "the Work" to conclude it is time for you to seek some personal wisdom in your life. It's also time for such leaders to apologize sincerely for the embarrassment and misguided theology they pursue at the expense of others while rewarding themselves, and for not a few perhaps to seek the mental health therapy they need. 

Dennis Diehl

The latest from Pravda: To follow up on a recent letter, the July United News finally mentions the Jim O'Brien "situation." Here's what it says:

Pastoral Change Announced
Jim O'Brien is no longer employed by the United Church of God. Mark Winner is now the pastor of the United congregation in Lexington, Kentucky, and Matthew Fenchel is pastoring the Cincinnati North, Ohio, congregation. Please direct any inquires about time and location of services for these congregations to these men.

Short and to the point, as personnel matters in companies tend to be. If we need to know more details, I suppose we know where to turn -- and thank YOU for being that place!

Richard Burkard

God Bless the Attorney General: The California State Attorney General is proposing more accountability and oversight of nonprofit organizations and commercial fundraisers by setting new audit requirements, strengthening governing boards' control over executive compensation and solicitation campaigns, and barring unapproved fundraising payments to celebrities.

The reforms would require large nonprofits with gross revenue of $2,000,000 or more in any fiscal year to prepare annual financial statements audited by an independent certified public accountant. Charities would have to make the audited financial statements available to the Attorney General's Office and members. Audited financial statements prepared independent of the requirements imposed by Attorney General's proposal also would have to be made available to the public and the Attorney General's Office.

Under the reforms, nonprofit corporations that meet the $2,000,000 threshold would have to establish and maintain independent audit committees, a provision similar to a requirement imposed on for-profit companies by the federal Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Members of the nonprofit's finance committee and staff—including the president or chief executive officers Joseph Tkach Jr.(CEO), Gary Moore (CEO), and treasurer or chief financial officer Ron Kelly (CFO)—would be prohibited from serving on the audit committee.

Pro Bono

Servant's News: I noticed on the internet that the latest edition of Servants' News is the June issue...of 2003. What's the deal? I used to get the issues like clock work until I disagreed with Norm Edwards about his tactics to gather in the dole so that he could start his own commune. If you agree with Norm, then everything is hunky-dory, but if you get on his bad side...well, what can I say. All COG leaders are like that. It's going to be tough, but I guess I'll survive without the rag. ;-)


Babylon 5: Comparing the PCG to the Borg is a masterstroke! ... In fact, Babylon 5 unfolded in exact concert with the development of the UCG. It was eerie. Babylon 5 broke with the Earth Alliance the very same week the UCG broke from the WCG. Truly chilling fantasy, I tell you.

Douglas Becker

Messages for CJL: May I suggest the following: (1) Herbert W. Armstrong did plenty to discredit himself and needs no help from Gavin or anyone else. (2) If you were not following Mr. God's Apostle, you were not a true believer in his cult, and any "truths" you learned from him were likely plagiarized. (3) The best route to peace in life, at least for me, is to become "church free" and remain that way. (4) I am certainly relieved that I don't need to worry about the little sheep out there, because that is something I have never done. (5) And concerning that Worldwide famous root of bitterness, let me say this. I do not deny feeling regret for the 26 years I was a true believer, but I, and no doubt others, have long since expunged "the root of bitterness" with the rotor-rooter of reason. 


To comment on CJL's position regarding the expose of this website and those associated with it on a multitude of levels...Do you believe that a silent and "closed" forum is of necessity with regards to the examination of this subject of HWA and the "truth"? With regards to the idea of "casting out beams", it looks as though you have no problem with "throwing your stones of accusation" against this website, its host, and its contributors? As the famous debater and commentator Cicero once said (to paraphrase), if we are to argue, let us first decide as to what we will argue about, then proceed! I will assume that you were a "member" of this HWA persuasion and opinion of "the truth" by your comment? If you were, it would appear as though you are no stranger to starting in the middle of a question and working your way somewhere forward (or in reverse) on a linear scale? Your "bitterness" accusation is one of great interest, because that seems to be the coverall accusation for those that are in question of or disagreement with any of these cultish/occultic/kabbalistic regimes? As a now-casual observer, one-time participant, and lifelong "member" of the question of religion, morality, and life, might I suggest that you try to gather some facts, clearly state your agreement, disagreement, or whatever, and leave it at that? If these subjects remain under a cloak of silence, doesn't that make it ever more possible for "deceivers" (for whatever purpose and whoever they may be) to do their handiwork? On a personal basis, if you truly believe that Herbert W. Armstrong was "God's Apostle", that he was "doing God's Work", and that he had and performed "the truth", might you consider joining one of the "offspring groups" and participating rather than debating those that at minimum, question it, for the mere preservation of your own "belief system"? I sincerely wish you the best in your study and fact finding mission, and if you should ever have some positive and enlightening contribution to add to this forum...please... by all means... share it with us!

Bringing in the sheaves? At a recent UCG Council of Elders meeting the pros and cons of several new and innovative fundraising methods were discussed. The only caveat was that these methods had to be as ethical as those currently being used.

Apparently a decision was reached to use the following letter as a template for the next major fund raising letter to be sent out from the home office.


AW: The letter Rich attached is from an attorney in Benin who is keen to transfer $45 million in US funds and is willing to cut in the recipient for 35%! 


Mailbag will appear in tomorrow's upload

UCG developments: Since the last update there have been several major developments in the UCG. Both Bill Jacobs and Guy Swenson have resigned. Jacobs wrote the following to the COE:

Last Thursday, July 8, 2004, Roy Holladay and Richard Pinelli, speaking on your behalf, contacted me by telephone. They informed me that I would receive a letter of censure and that you intend to take disciplinary action against me if I go forward with the NT Evangelism Conference in Indianapolis.

I am sorry it has come down to this. In my memory I can still hear the calls from the floor at Indianapolis asking for more openness, more inclusiveness and less control in our new church. Who could have imagined at that time that UCG would become an organization so tightly controlled that ministers would need permission to sponsor an event on the subject of evangelism, the very mission of the Church?

Mr. Holladay and Mr. Pinelli asserted that I had violated policies of the corporation by my involvement in the NT Evangelism Conference. I believe, based on Scripture, that permission to evangelize has already been granted by Jesus Christ.

Rather than offering resistance to policies I consider contrary to the biblical mission of the Church, I think it best to resign my employment in the United Church of God, an International Association.

Please consider this message notice of my resignation effective today.

Swenson's letter was much longer. You can find it in its entirety here. There was even an apparent reference to AW in it.

Bill Jacobs has since written a short article about the situation he now finds himself in regarding his congregation.

Those interested in some background detail may find Guy Swenson's article on his involvement in the establishment of UCG of some interest. It will be interesting to see whether this essay will continue to stay online at Victor Kubik's site!

There's more on the way. Swenson is promising an article of his own, and conference registration has topped the 100 mark.

New Southern Exposure column now online

Gerry buys up big: Guess whose bottomless wallet has been making an appearance in Pasadena! Gerry has been buying up big at the Moran auction of Herbal goodies. Here's what various items pulled in - including a 100K+ spree by the six-pack prophet. Note: all prices quoted below have an additional 15% auction fee added on to selling price plus any additional shipping.

2 round tables from Ambassador Auditorium Lower Lounge 1,400.00 each (picture on auction flier)

Sculptures from Lower Lounge:
Arthur Rubenstein by Lawrence Dutcher $5,500.00 includes marble base
Vladimir Horowitz by Lawrence Dutcher $3,750.00 includes marble base

Steinway 9' Concert Grand 1971 $52,500.00 bought by Gerald Flurry
7' Steinway 1916 $16,000.00
6' Steinway $15,000.00
Upright piano $200.00
Upright Piano $300.00

Auditorium Lobby Baccarat Candelabra (2) $55,000.00 bought by Gerald Flurry

Fine Arts Hall (Academic Center)
Sculptures from entrance Hall

Yehudi Menuhin by David Wynn $2,500.00 includes marble stand
Sir Thomas Beecham by David Wynn $3,200.00 includes marble stand

Ambassador Hall
2 gold wine coolers $3,750.00
(displayed on fire place mantle on each side of Loma Armstrong's picture)

2 French Cloisonné Urns $1,500.00 (on cover of auction brochure)

We hope Gerry and his newly acquired booty will be very happy together.

Meanwhile... Bernie Schnippert seems to have ascended to new responsibilities...

Bernie has moved to Bend, Oregon. Employees watched this week as the moving vans came to pick up their belongings. A Security Guard mentioned that he had heard that Bernie will start handling the legal position of the church because Ralph Helge is reportedly going to retire. Bernie is to handle all this work while telecommuting from Bend. There has been speculation around Pasadena for some time that Bernie wanted Helge's job. The existing legal department has been viewed by some as opposed to the changes in the church. Is this one more way to weed out more personnel that disagree with the direction of the church? The Legal department was recently moved the second floor of the Hall of Ad. Harvest Rock has taken over the first floor. With this move it is a perfect time for Ralph to gracefully bow out. When Helge resigns, Earle Reese and the secretary may also quit.

All of this leads to more speculation that there may be a buyer in the works for the rest of the campus. For Bernie to leave now may mean things are wrapping up and Mat Morgan and crew can take care of loose ends. Lots of money is being currently spent in repainting, installing new roofs and fixing up of many buildings remaining on the upper campus.

12 July. Note: The next AW update is several days away due to travel commitments. Meantime we're advised that those interested in the evangelism conference issue might like to check their website during the week for further announcements. We've also been informed that Bill Jacobs may have been given some form of ultimatum by UCG Home Office. This is unconfirmed at this stage. 


Indy Conference on track: The organizers of the Indianapolis evangelism conference are going ahead with plans, despite the objections of UCG president Roy Holladay. A note on the www.ntevangelism.org site states:

On July 8, 2004, the President of the United Church of God, an International Association announced that their members are discouraged from attending this conference. The Evangelism Conference will be held as planned. Any member of the United Church of God who wishes to do so may write evseminar@ntevangelism.org by July 15th to request a refund of their conference fees. 

We had 8 new registrations on July 9, 2004. With the growing interest in the Evangelism Conference we are evaluating the need for more space. Also, some conference material will be made available in August on the www.ntevangelism.org web site.

In fact, judging from the interest on some Internet forums, Holladay has merely succeeded in turning the weekend into a major focus for those who favor a looser, more collegial future for the UCG. That whiff of brimstone in the air may be gunpowder... or perhaps just an indication that Holladay has just shot himself in the foot - again.

In the lead up to the fracas, some incredibly silly things were said in certain quarters. The following comments come from a sermon given on June 26 by a UCG pastor. The source who supplied it notes: I have the tape in my possession and have VERY carefully transcribed the following quote:

Bill Jacobs

Something is stirring in Indianapolis. You'll probably be hearing about it on the grapevine … I'd like to just take the time in the sermon this afternoon to tell you about it. July 31st and August the 1st of this year, which is a Saturday and a Sunday, an evangelism conference is being held in Indianapolis separate from the United Church of God Sabbath services … The conference on evangelism is being presented by Guy Swenson and Bill Jacobs. Both are ministers in the United Church of God … The United Church of God has appointed a task force to study this subject and it is soon to be given to the Council. While the Council is at work, these men have decided to present their own conference to -- apart from Sabbath services and apart from the Council and the task force -- teach the rest of the church how to evangelize and grow the church … Someone said, the next one that gets a church like that, when they're asked [for] a name, they're going to have to say 'I'm the boss now Church of God', 'cause that's what [the apostle] Paul said, they would do that in order to lead away a following for themselves so that they would be the boss. Those are some of the subtle, unstated aspects of this situation. There are two men who are presenting this information. If, indeed, they do get a following, who's going to take the lead and who will determine who will take the lead? You think they might fuss over it or flip a coin? Paul said they're going to arise from among yourselves and they will do it in order to lead away a following … Well, as I said in the beginning, if you haven't heard about it, you probably will be hearing about it. You can go on their website and read it all. I'm sure there will be those who will attend … Well, as I said, you're probably going to hear about it through the grapevine that's very active and strong in the church of God, so I thought I'd just tell you about it up front.

A few questions: isn't this far more divisive than anything Swenson and Jacobs have said or done? Will Roy censure this minister (we're happy to provide his name to Roy on request) for what amounts to an open attack - and if not, why not? Why wasn't Roy in there telling people to chill out and put things in perspective when the control freaks first started venting? And what does this tell us about Roy's ability to do the job?

Contrast these comments, also made before the July 8 encyclical, by Guy Swenson.

Perhaps it is evidence that we are on the right track when we are criticized from both within (it isn't authorized) and without (it must be a tool to get people to attend UCG) for a conference on evangelism, open to all who wish to attend

Guy Swenson

We have people in UCG who feel it is entirely inappropriate to conduct a conference - even one that is not a UCG conference - without getting official permission and approvals. We have others in UCG who are cheering that finally something is being done... Bill Jacobs and I are all learning how to work together for the greater good of the body of Christ regardless of corporate affiliation. This conference has nothing to do with bringing people into UCG. Perhaps it is evidence that we are on the right track when we are criticized from both within (it isn't authorized) and without (it must be a tool to get people to attend UCG) for a conference on evangelism, open to all who wish to attend. Believe me when we say that our goal is not to rustle sheep for a UCG flock but to address something that is much needed in our broader Christian fellowship.

Neither Bill nor I need to be the ultimate "authority" on this subject. We didn't do the research about the 1,000 congregations we will cover - others have. We didn't create the mission of the church - Jesus did. What we want to do is address basic questions with principles that spring from the Scriptures and have been validated in the experience of others with a Sabbatarian background.

I am learning to be blind to organizational affiliation when it comes to Christ. Any of us can get petty when it comes to promoting one organization over another. I want my church organization to become more Christ-like. We need help. Perhaps your church does too. I want to honor and respect those who share a similar desire to preach Jesus and His crucifixion (1 Cor. 2:2).

Sadly, it seems UCG administrators instead chose to capitulate to insecurity and fear. 


Click on Benny to read an excellent article, The Heretic, published in The Door (Jan/Feb 2004). 

Ask Greg... about Benny: Seeing there's been some interest in the appearance of Benny Hinn in the Ambassador Auditorium, it's interesting to note that PTM's Greg Albrecht has an opinion to offer on the man. This is an answer to a PTM correspondent.

Benny Hinn ministers unorthodox doctrinal beliefs – such as the nature of God. But that is only the beginning of a number of biblical errors and teachings that are misleading. I believe your concern about his teachings is well-founded.

Hinn is not theologically trained and commits many errors of interpretation (perhaps they are sincere, but nonetheless wrong). Don Matzat writes, "Is Benny Hinn an intentional deceiver of the people of God?…I don’t think so. I believe that Benny Hinn is a product of the people who flock to see him lead the circus… The book (The Confusing World of Benny Hinn) you have before you is not as much an indictment of Benny Hinn as it is an indictment of those experience-driven Christians who create the likes of a Benny Hinn for their own enjoyment and the ongoing promotion of their superficial spirituality."

Whoa! Greg then goes on to plug a couple of books by his good friend Hank Hanegraaff. Unfortunately many Christians have deep reservations about Hank too. Hearing Hanegraaff pontificate about Benny is a bit like getting Colonel Sanders' considered opinion about Ronald McDonald.

But wait, that's not all folks. In the PTM Update for July 5-9 (interesting timing!) there's even more from Greg on Benny. Excerpts:

Because of Plain Truth Ministries’ mission to lead people to Jesus Christ and authentic Christianity with the main, plain and sensible teachings of the Bible, we believe it is necessary to  point out the pitfalls and potholes into which Christians can fall. This often involves warning our readers about certain leaders and ministries who pose a danger to the body of Christ. Benny Hinn is one such leader whose unbiblical teachings and mesmerizing exhibitions have been deceiving people for decades. We’ll look briefly at a few ways in which Hinn misleads unsuspecting believers.

Hinn twists and distorts Scripture. In response he claims he has had little biblical training, (although he claims to have “mastered” the Scriptures as a child) but he has never remedied this pathetic situation by becoming a genuine student or ceasing the torturing of Scripture to prove his points. His ego appears to drive him to produce novel explanations which becomes his theology which in turn supports his credibility.

If there is anything complimentary we can say about Hinn, it is that he is a consummate showman, a man who has been proven over and over again to expertly engage in magician-like, sleight-of-hand psychological manipulation. He is a master of group dynamics, who skillfully induces emotional intensity in his audiences to the point of hysteria, so that they expect and experience “miraculous” and “divine” manifestations.

It has also been proven that Hinn often does not tell the truth. His conflicting and untruthful accounts of his own history are well documented -- claiming that his father was mayor of Jaffa, giving conflicting accounts about his own conversion, about a plane crash in which he was involved, about the numbers of conversions that resulted from his preaching in Jerusalem, about specific accounts of so-called healings -- and the list of untruths goes on and on. The New Testament warns: "Many will follow their shameful ways and bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up" (2 Peter 2:2-3).

A lot of AW readers will be muttering a heart-felt Amen! to these comments. But Hinn is, after all, an easy target. Surely Greg can find some issues a little closer at hand to inveigh against - like churches with zero accountability to members and self-perpetuating leadership?

Evangelism Conference: In a rare but welcome display of co-operation, several COG groups are working together to present a conference on evangelism at the end of this month (July 31 & August 1.) UCG elders Bill Jacobs and Guy Swenson have taken the initiative, and a number of independent congregations appear to be supporting and promoting the idea, including those pastored by Jim O'Brien. The website for the conference is http://www.ntevangelism.org/. For once the paranoia and divisiveness seems to have been replaced by a measure of fraternity. Congratulations guys.

Late Update: The item above was hardly online a few hours before the following statement began appearing on various COG newsboards. Rather than modify the initial report, we present the UCG president's missive in its entirety.

Dear Fellow Ministers,

Last year the Council of Elders commissioned a task force to study the subject of evangelism. That task force is preparing to present its final report to the Council at the August meeting. That report will eventually be shared with the entire ministry for their input. The intent is that this study and report will form the doctrinal basis for our future approach to evangelism.

Recently, two elders in United have scheduled seminars in Indianapolis to present their own thoughts and ideas on the subject of evangelism. Neither Ministerial Services nor the president was consulted in the planning of this event. This action is contrary to our Ministerial Code of Ethics, which in part states: "I will seek to promote an atmosphere of openness and unity within the body by supporting and appropriately communicating with the Home Office staff and the equivalent office in other countries." It is evident from comments both private and on Elder's Forum that this event is divisive and controversial.

To advertise and promote one's personal agenda or a non-UCG event is a wrong use of Elder's Forum. The Elder's Forum is intended to provide a means for United elders to discuss issues involving the United Church of God and its work.

One of the elders hosting this conference is an employee of the United Church of God. All employees should be aware of several statements from the Employee Conflict of Interest policy:

Employee Conflict of Interest

It is very important that all employees and agents of the Church represent the Church in the best light at all times. It is extremely important that relationships with any other organization(s) do not bring disrespect on the Church.

Employee conflict of interest includes, but is not limited to, the following:

1. Participating in any activity which advocates division within the Church.

6. Participating in any activity, commercial or private, which creates an apparent conflict of interest, as determined by the employee's supervisor and the president of the Church.

7. Participating in any activity, commercial or private, which causes the Church to be subjected to embarrassment, criticism or abuse.

While no one has "advocated division" in the Church, the net effect of the way this seminar was organized and promoted has been one of creating sharply divided opinions among the ministry. Considering all the subsequent controversy surrounding this event, there has been no attempt by either elder to contact Ministerial Services, the president, the Council of Elders or the Evangelism Task Force concerning the wisdom of continuing this event.

This approach also sets a dangerous precedent. An elder could disagree about policy, the budget, doctrinal issues, pastoring or any number of topics and decide that he is going to organize a seminar to lead a discussion on the topic. We have procedures and guidelines in place to deal with any of these issues. It is obvious that this approach could lead to disunity, party spirit and a lack of cooperation and consensus.

Consequently, the administration does not support or approve this activity and does not recommend attendance at these seminars.

Respectfully submitted,

Roy Holladay

Weekly Mailbag

Quick Draw McHerb: When your reader asked last week whether "the original unexpurgated 'Autobiography' of HWA" is available online, I wanted to ask: Do you mean the 1967 edition, which included the first 30 chapters? If so, I'm certain you can find it... somewhere.

But even that edition was edited before it went to press -- the first two chapters especially so. If you want to read the original *original* unexpurgated version, you'll want to check out the series as it appeared in the Plain Truth. The first installment is in the September 1957 issue, and is titled "How God Led me [sic] to the One TRUE Church." By the second installment in November 1957, HWA obviously had realized that "The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong" was much catchier for an extended series. Some of the Plain Truth issues from those years can be found here. It should be noted that HWA didn't always get the installments in on time -- the series skips an issue every now and then.

The November 1957 installment contains an interesting story that was extensively edited in every subsequent version of the Autobiography. It seems young Herbert found a job in the pay office of a Mississippi lumber mill at the age of 18 or 19. Here we find the future Apostle pointing the business end of a revolver at a black worker -- for daring to waltz into the pay office without taking off his hat or putting out his smoke!

"I won't tell you again, Hub!" I snapped sternly and loudly, "I'm counting THREE, then I'm SHOOTING your hat off, and your cigarette out your mouth -- ONE, TWO --"

But of course, that was long ago, before World War I, before Herbert discovered the Sabbath, clean and unclean foods, etc. Certainly he repented, right? So how come he never says he was wrong, as he does for the other mistakes recounted in this installment?


The Second Apostle? Fact or Legend? Charles Hunting as pastor general? Your recent post about the archived interview with Charles Hunting energized an old memory. When that radio interview hit in the late 1980s, Ministerial Services and the Personal Correspondence department received a number of inquiries both from within and without. Ironically, as memory serves, the people writing from within the membership didn't know who Charles Hunting was. The task of researching a possible response fell to yours truly.

I interviewed a number of old-time evangelists and administrators who knew Charles Hunting personally. Since HWA was recently dead, they talked fairly openly. What they said was remarkable.

All of the ones I talked to recalled Hunting with great fondness and not a little bit of sadness. All spoke very highly of his abilities, saying that he truly was a gifted speaker. They all pointed out that Hunting was a natural PR man, comfortable and self-confident in virtually any setting, and very much capable of putting a proper "spin" on content for his audience. They said that he possessed a "handsome presence" and was very much like HWA in that he projected a personal and powerful "aura." HWA himself, they all said, was very happy to have Hunting represent the church and college in the public arena. As far the charges of excessive spending goes, the evangelists sadly remarked that Hunting himself was no stranger to the good life in Worldwide, referencing the style that Hunting embodied when he lived in "the big house" (whatever that was) at Bricket Wood. One evangelist suggested with a collective note of sadness that "Charles would be well served to employ the services of a mirror before he makes any public remarks on the extravagant lifestyles of others."

The remarkable comment they all shared is that Armstrong was so enamored of Hunting's communication abilities and personality that he was convinced that the Almighty had also chosen Hunting as an apostle (Hunting was already ordained to evangelist rank). According to the interviews I conducted, Armstrong planned to ordain Hunting as an apostle on Pentecost in the late 1960s. HWA talked to several other evangelists and senior ministers about it. All but Armstrong were opposed to one degree or another. Evidently Rod Meredith and GTA bonded together and led the charge against the ordination.

It may be oral history and apocryphal, but it was unusual in that several people corroborated the story independently. If true, it sure would have made one hell of a difference on the succession of Joe Tkach. The evangelists interviewed said Hunting suffered a personal tragedy over which he became embittered and subsequently became a vocal critic of the Armstrongs and the church.

The draft response to members about the radio interview? It was killed by the church's legal department because it would potentially open too many cans of worms and it thus disappeared into the void. As with so many other issues, the church's official response to Hunting's charges was deafening silence.

Winter Weekend: Hello Gavin, I am a member of Jim O'Brien's Cincinnati congregation but please note that I am speaking for myself only. I have the privilege to say that I know many of the people who have worked selflessly over the years to make the Winter Weekend such an enjoyable and successful event. These individuals, members and ministers alike, who worked countless hours side by side with their minds focused solely upon serving and supporting the families of the churches of God. It always amazed me that many of the families that attended, year after year, would do so in spite of the dangers of driving hundreds or even thousands of miles in order to attend. It is obvious to most that God's blessing and protection were on this event.

We are still in the final stages of wrapping up the official business of the corporation - United Church of God, Cincinnati North. After a board meeting on June 30, Matt Fenchel informed us of United's decision to conduct a UCG Winter Family Weekend. Several people were very hurt by this news, especially since Richard Pinelli had previously told them that United would not establish a competing event in the general vicinity of Lexington.

There have been some e-mails exchanged between the two factions from Cincinnati North expressing their differences of opinion over this decision. Some of them were very direct in expressing their opinions and concerns. But, fortunately, there were others, who proposed that the two groups begin having some joint social activities to help us remember that we are one family, regardless of which religious label we may wear.

All of the people that have worked at the tournaments in the past did so with a sincere desire to serve the people, their church family. I have every reason to believe that they will continue to do so at all future tournaments, regardless where the tournament is and who is sponsoring it. To do anything less would jeopardize God's blessing.

I am sure that all of the workers will encourage everyone to attend which ever event that they prefer. If there are a few that are motivated by political objectives, in either camp, then they need to get with the program as it was originally intended.

There are two requests that I would like to make. When the tournaments are over, I am requesting that each organization provide a financial accounting, at least to the workers, so that this does not become an issue as it apparently was in the last one. This accounting needs to have sufficient detail to be meaningful to any one that reads it.

I also ask the organizers of the Louisville weekend to remove the restriction for their tournament to be a UCG family weekend. There may be some non-aligned families that would be able to travel to Louisville but not travel the extra distance to Lexington.

The competition is over and the people have won.


Benny: Any word on how things went with Benny Hinn at his "debut" at the Ambassador Auditorium????

AW: It seems nobody was raised from the dead this time around, or you'd think it'd have rated at least a mention in the Star Times  :-)

Sunday push: About two years ago our St. Louis congregation got a new minister and one of his goals was to move to Sunday. We are (were) the last St. Louis WCG congregation still meeting on Saturday. We rent a small, old church building from a small, old Presbyterian congregation in a low-middleclass part of town. 

We had been looking for a new place for over three years, but we just don’t have enough money. During one service in May the minister stood up and said that we need to step out on faith and start attending Sunday afternoons in our current church building starting the end of June. The Presbyterians have their services Sunday morning. The minister made this decision without the help or knowledge of the Advisory Council, but the news wasn’t too surprising, as he had mentioned his goal during numerous services for about a year. It seemed we were all resigned to the fact that it was inevitable.

We’ve lost well over half our congregation since the Armstrong Era, and it will be interesting to see what becomes of it after this forced move to Sunday. It will also be interesting to see if we ever get any money from Pasadena to buy our own building. Who wants to meet Sunday afternoon at our current location when there are so many healthy, vibrant Christian churches in the St. Louis area meeting on Sunday morning? To have church services Sunday afternoon means you can’t really go anywhere or do anything Sunday morning. You have to wait around, eat lunch early, get cleaned up, and then attend church services, one or two meetings, Bible class/school, and fellowship until 6:00 P.M. For anyone with kids, tying up the whole Sunday for church will be difficult especially when school starts. 

I understand the New Covenant, and I have no desire to go back into the error of Armstrongism, but I was comfortable attending church on Saturday. I was glad when the Tkachs took over after the Armstrong Era and stirred things up, but this decision to force Sunday services has crossed my line in the sand. Looks like this is my opportunity to finally say goodbye to the WCG and attend somewhere else.

A recovering legalist in St. Louis

Cult-free: If WCG goes to all Sunday services as speculated, they will be mainstream religion and no longer branded as a cult.

AW: Maybe that's what they're hoping, but as long as they have a cultic leadership system they're going to seen as a spiritual health hazard. 

A surface shimmy: (This letter has not been edited other than to remove personal information.) I do not know all the particulars and I have just started shimmy the surface, but I can not believe there are so many websites dedicated to hating Hurbert W. Armstong and what is left of WCG. Yes I am one of the floundering flock. We were drug to church every Saturday by my mother. Yes we suffered persicutation from friends and other family member, because we went to church on Saturday and I am still confused on that matter.

I do not know what happen to the WCG. My younger brother explained that HWA an GTA were busted for everything from sex scandals to miss appropriation of funds. I did see our old pastor Dean Blackwell in the obituaries. what happen to prompt so much hate and bring the church down to rubble, and where do we go from here. I was often asked if I was "Jewish" yeah right with a name like [mine]. NOT likely! Just call me out of the loop. 

I guess all my rebellious youth spent away from the church kept me in the dark. Now that i am ready to come back I do not know where to go.

Behold the beam: Gentlemen: Speaking of accountability - watch for yourselves. It seems you perceive your jobs are to criticize and malign everyone else but yourselves. Why are you so embittered against Mr. Herbert Armstrong? So many years after his death - if he was nothing, why do you and all the rest waste so much time trying to discredit him. Many of us weren't following Mr. Armstrong, only the truths God taught us through him. We were too busy trying to clean up our own lives according to the scriptures to try to always be finding fault with the messenger. I suggest you follow Christ's instruction to get the beam out of your eye and then you can see clearly to get the speck out of someone else's. Let the "Johnny-come-lately "self appointed leaders look after themselves. My thoughts are that you are probably Roman Catholic in religion or some sect of Baptist who disliked the teachings of the WCG under the leadership of Mr Armstrong. Hoping you can find some peace in your lives for what it is worth. Don't worry about us little sheep out here. God is looking after us. He will look after you too when you get rid of the root of bitterness.


AW: Thanks for the new categories. I'll add Roman Catholic and Baptist to the other labels I've recently been endowed with by helpful critics: Atheist, Agnostic, Liberal and Deist! I'd plead guilty to all, but I think some of them are mutually exclusive... 

The latest Journal: I heartily recommend to all the reading of your most excellent analysis and "open letter" to the UCG bigwigs... And to all AW viewers, I must also tell you that this last issue of The Journal is one of the most provocative, interesting and even humorous ones I can recall. Why, it even had an article... speculating as to how the UCG Council... voted in all their elections for President. Dixon Cartwright deserves a tip of the chapeau for such a terrific journalistic endeavor.

Keith D Speaks

AW: The Journal reproduced a version of the MD editorial on problems in the UCG. The original can be found here. The Journal website is www.thejournal.org



July 3 item withdrawn: Recently AW has been following up on persistent reports that WCG intends to move all US Saturday congregations to Sunday services by the end of this year. This information has come quite independently from several credible sources close to church headquarters.

While it appears, based on what we've been told, that the move to terminate Saturday services may have indeed been scheduled by CAD, further enquiries indicate that, at this stage, no general directive has been issued to implement any such change. In the interests of accuracy and fairness the 3 July story has therefore been withdrawn. Thanks to everyone who has provided information on this matter - both on and off the record. 

A Blessing? The following commentary was supplied to AW by John Gideon, the pseudonym for a former WCG elder. He writes: In reading Dr. Tkach's July Member letter I wanted to comment on his proclamation of how the campus sale was a blessing from God. An article by John entitled The WCG Still Practices Armstrongism appeared in the March 31 2004 issue of The Journal

In the on-going spiritual tragedy of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) we are now witnessing another milestone in its continuing decline. Namely the sale of what was once considered the “crown jewel” of the church’s physical assets, the Pasadena auditorium and campus. Dr. Joseph Tkach the Pastor General (PG) has declared, in the July Member Letter, the sale a great blessing that God has given the church (http://www.wcg.org/lit/new.htm). He imputes that God’s hand was in the sale guiding it since 1996 in order to put the WCG in the best position to receive this blessing.

Yet I have to wonder if it is Dr. Tkach’s humility that prevents him from crowing about his role as PG in making such a blessing possible or the quiet voice that cautions him that this isn’t a blessing at all but a spectacular failure of his leadership. A voice that says it is best not to draw too much attention to him self because it would expose the deficiencies of his administration.

Is it a blessing and a testimony to Jesus that as many as 60,000 or more people went from believing in Jesus as their soon coming King and personal Savior to being so antagonistic that they refuse to have anything to do with organized Christianity? Is it a blessing that after 8 years under such devastating leadership that the WCG has been so decimated that they were forced to sell their physical assets including one dedicated to God? No this was not a blessing from our Lord rather it was the reaping of the whirlwind. Dr. Tkach is like a man who looks at the aftermath of a tornado and says isn’t it a blessing that we get to build again.

Now in many cases the ability to look on the bright side of a negative situation is an admirable trait. Except when we are the source of the problem. If we are the source of the problem then this is not a healthy trait but rather it is one of denial. Denial was and continues to be a unhealthy characteristic of the WCG Armstrongian system under Dr. Tkach.

Dr. Tkach was and remains the source of the whirlwind not God. He may try to make necessity a virtue but the true reality of the WCG stands in stark contrast to his proclamation of a blessing from God.


Bye Bye to Saturday? More feedback on whether WCG will dump all Saturday services by the end of the year. Some say yes:

Just saw your post about moving to Sunday. I checked with a couple of people [at HQ] and they indeed verified that all remaining Saturday congregations are to by moved to Sunday by the end of the year. So where ever you got your info from it is right on the money.

But there are also denials, including this one from District Superintendent Dave Fiedler to a concerned reader:

You can find about anything you want on the internet. We will not be intimidated by what anybody may pose there. However, the rumor you mention below is not true. Have a nice 4th of July weekend.

At least 2 other ministers have flatly denied the plan. We'll continue to follow the story with great interest.

Voice from the past: Tucked away in the voluminous archives of The Painful Truth site is an interview with former WCG evangelist Charles Hunting. In 1988 KWIS in Florida featured Hunting with talk show host Clyde Thomas. Some of the comments are fascinating. Excerpts:

Charles Hunting

In the accounting office, it was part of my first job as the business manager over in England.  It was a lot of money.  You would have $10,000 checks coming in.  Actually, for every monthly co-worker letter that went out, they figured that $1 million would be sent in based on the letter, plus all the other money that would be coming in from the appeals directly to the local church members.  It is unique because they have taken ancient myths, theories, and stories out of the book of Revelation and the Old Testament and they have dressed it up in the most advanced journalistic technology.  As I've said many times, it's as if it were the 6:30 news.

But you want to remember that they also had a very strong biblical orientation that ordinary churches have.  In talking about the normal established religions, they addressed very vulnerable points.  Like with all small religions today, whether the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, the Worldwide Church of God, etc. it is a very easy thing if you are biblically oriented and point out the errors of traditional Christianity.  Even with a very small knowledge of the Bible, you can see where these things just don't make sense.  They don't add up.  As a result of that the people are intrigued by the ideas.  If you had seen the broadcast last week, where they were talking about death and what happens to the individual-about the soul or whatever it is-it makes a lot more sense because it is based upon words that we all understand.

When you have an organization with one man in charge who exercises total control, whose board members are nothing other than a rubber stamp for anything that is done . . . it was just a rubber stamp because if you questioned anything you would no longer be a member of the board.  So we didn't have independent control.  There was no accounting for any finances or any money of any of these organizations, even by government law.  In fact, when they went in because of a citizen's suit that had been filed against the organization, they had filed it with the attorney general that at that time was George Dukemajin, now the governor.  Because of political pressure from churches and because at that time he was already having political aspirations for the governorship, he was prevailed upon by the church, the attorneys and the political power of the organization itself to get out and to remove that suit.  They came in, the State of California, and took over the whole organization and tried to run it.  There was no accountability for the money that had been sent in.  The people who had sent in money for special projects were extremely irate over the fact that money was being used for the personal aggrandizement, objects of art, huge expenses and personal expenses.

You see it with almost any of these leaders that their image there is quite different from their personal lives.  HWA was very flamboyant.  He did like to drink.  He was also tremendously interested in art objects-paintings and the very fine things of life.  I remember he went into Harrods of London.  It was one of the world's finest stores.  Within fifteen minutes-and I told this to the attorney who was representing Mr. Armstrong, Stan Rader, that this had got to be a new World's Record in terms of expenditure of money-he spent forty-five thousand dollars, which included solid gold dinnerware among other things.  This was the use of money which many people were distressed at.  When he bought an airplane, he bought a $10 million G2.  His general idea was, he told me one day, "Charles, most people in the church don't realize what an airplane is.  They think it's like an expensive automobile.  They don't think that it costs $1,600 per hour to operate."  The extravagances were, I'd say, monumental.  That would be an understatement.

Hunting later co-authored The Doctrine of the Trinity with former AC lecturer Anthony Buzzard

I had just stepped off the plane from England.  I had just read a co-worker letter that was handed to me as I stepped off the plane.  The work was in dire straights and money was needed so badly that the people were asked to dig deep down or even to borrow money, if they had to, to send in because the work of God had to progress and the members just had to sacrifice.  Well, I went into his home and he said, "Charles, come here!  I've got to show you something."   He took me into his dining room and showed me a silver piece that was an ice bucket that he had just purchased for $8,000, which I thought was rather unusual in view of the dire straits.

[HWA] did have a difficulty, maybe because of his hyperness and all this type of thing.  He did have difficulty going to sleep every night and it was known that he'd drink himself to sleep.  And this would be his main method rather than taking a sleeping pill.

Now if HWA were in Rome and he wanted to buy something at the Cavalieri Hilton, and it was open on Saturday, he would go in and buy jewelry.  Of course he wouldn't want the members in the church doing it.  One would sometimes wonder whether he really believed all the things that he taught.  He said to me one time, "Charles, if I preached a sermon only in those areas where [I] didn't commit a sin, I would never give a sermon." 

Prince Charles was trapped into having a picture taken with HWA.  Mr. Armstrong spent a great deal of money supporting his opera.  It happened to be an interest that Prince Charles had.  He was always standing by him with his photographers around and actually got a picture taken.  Menachem Begin was Prime Minister of Israel at that time.  Begin was going into his office and was surprised to find HWA standing there and actually got his picture taken.  He never knew the man.  It was as if he were in conversation with Menachem Begin.  It's a little bit suspect.  It was not being very ethical.  But the people in the church were all very much impressed that he was meeting with leaders of the world.  I had Franz Joseph Straus of Germany, who might have been the chancellor at one time.  I took him on a trip down to Los Angeles and the Grand Canyon.  Never was there anything ever said relative to religion, per se.  It was always a social event designed with the purpose of getting these pictures.

They will not read anything that is adverse, and they will not listen.  We trained them to shut their minds off.  We trained them to think in the direction that we told them to think.  When they began to deviate from that thinking, we warned them that they were tampering with a world that could be extremely dangerous to them that would bring them out of the one and only true church.

You can read the full transcript online at The Painful Truth. A brief review of Hunting's book on the Trinity is available here.

Destiny Church: Where do confused ex-WCG members go when they leave the loving embrace of Joe & Co.? Well, some former Auckland members have ended up attending Destiny Church, a fast-fundamentalism franchise. Is it an improvement? There's a description of a recent service online at Ship-of-Fools.

A favorite site for many ex-Destiny members (and yes, they seem to shed members like dandruff - just like WCG) is www.densitychurch.org (note the subtle variation in spelling). To be clear, this is a spoof site. Here you can email Jesus, buy a t-shirt to warn fellow fundamentalists about your menstrual cycle (in the spirit of Lev.15:19-20), and have your deepest and most probing questions answered: like...

"Where did the other 10 tribes go?"
"Did a Biblical prophecy against the City of Tyre fail to come true?"
"Did God really only save Noah? - and did He really kill everyone else?"
"What should I do when I'm jealous about my wife?"
"Does the Bible have a cure for pimples?"
"How should we discipline our children?"
"I'm a farmer. Does the Bible have any tips about Sheep Breeding Techniques?"
"I'm a young Christian Male. Can I grow my hair long?"
"Should I wear Boxers or Briefs?"

The good people who contribute to the OriginalWCG Yahoo group are also sure to be impressed by the special news item about inter-racial marriage. Density Church, New Zealand's answer to Landover Baptist.



Something nice for the rumpus room: Why not treat yourself to something nice for the house? It just so happens there's a trinket or two available at John Moran's auction house. How about a tasteful candelabrum formerly owned by the Iranian Shah? Or maybe music is your true love in life... imagine a Steinway in your en suite!

Items from Worldwide Church of God/Ambassador Auditorium Pasadena: Baccarat parcel gilt crystal floor standing pair candelabrum 7'x3', each composed of 800+ hand-cut pieces, ordered by the late Shah of Iran for the celebration of the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire, Oct 11-30, 1971. Purchased in early 70's from Herrod's [Harrods?], London. Three Steinway grand pianos: German (Hamburg) factory ebony 9' concert #D485150 circa 1972 (immaculate condition), Steinway 7' "B" ebony case, #164841 (circa 1916) rebuilt, and Steinway 6' "L" #382133 walnut case, 2 Everett console pianos. Four life size bronze sculptures: Vladimir Horowitz, Arthur Rubenstein, Sir Thomas Beecham, Bart & Yehudi Menuhin all signed.

These are goodies that Harvest Rock didn't get chucked in with their bargain buy-up of the Auditorium. Maybe Gerry, Spanky or one of the other cult leaders would like to swoop down on Pasadena to squander the tithes they've been entrusted with? The big sell-off is July 13. Our only question: who on earth is Bart Menuhin?*

Tournament of tournaments: On June 22 Jim O'Brien wrote: I have signed the most important contract for the Winter Family Tournament in Lexington, Kentucky and the second contract, which has been renegotiated, is in hand. We will again use KBA (Kentucky Basketball Academy) as the main sports facility for hosting the annual event. Second, the Marriott Hotel called this week asking for the opportunity to act as the host hotel for our activity. We are thrilled to have such a wonderful facility again this year.

The only question was, would UCG react graciously

Yes, Winter Tournament was very much an initiative of Jim and his team. From the very outset of "the troubles" he has made it clear that his newly independent congregation would continue hosting the tournament and make all welcome. The only question was, would UCG react graciously. The answer became apparent in the Presidential Encyclical issued by Roy Holladay on June 30.

One... event that has met with great popularity and success has been the annual Winter Family Weekend, sponsored in past years by the UCG-Cincinnati North and UCG-Lexington congregations. Individuals in these congregations (along with volunteers from other areas) have worked extremely hard to put on a first-rate activity for hundreds of people over three or four days. I have personally attended this occasion and enjoyed myself very much. More importantly, the feedback from families, children, teenagers and young adults has been overwhelmingly positive.

Numerous pastors, parents and young people have asked us: "Will there be a Winter Family Weekend this year sponsored by either United Church of God congregations or the home office? We wish to attend a UCG family event." We are pleased to respond that the answer is "Yes!" The eighth annual Winter Family Weekend promises to be an exciting occasion. 

After discussing the matter with the pastors of Cincinnati North and Lexington (who discussed the matter with members in those congregations), this year's event will take place in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville is centrally located for congregations east of the Mississippi River and is one of the most economical cities in the United States to fly to. In the next few weeks we will be sending out a flyer with more information...

And just in case anyone missed the point, the following section is headed up: "Eighth Annual Winter Family Weekend 2004 Sponsored by the United Church of God"

Is this move likely to pour oil on troubled waters, or stir up further discord among the already traumatized members in Cincinnati North and Lexington? And what kind of moral high ground is there to be gained by refusing to even acknowledge the existence of another Winter Tournament? An AW correspondent writes:

Not a peep about Jim O'Brien. As a non-person, his name has undoubtedly been erased from the annals recorded by Pinelli. "O'Brien who?" When will they realize how gravely their credibility suffers as a result?

A divinely inspired sifter?  Was Herbert Armstrong a plagiarizing prophet of syncretism? Nah, he was "a divinely inspired sifter". A least according to the anonymous author of a paper published on Richard Nickels' website. Written to refute an editorial appearing on The Missing Dimension that points out parallels between Armstrongism and some varieties of Mormonism, the writer (Craig is that you?) is at pains to rescue the God Family teaching from the taint of Mormon teaching. You can find the essay here (PDF file), and the editorial that provoked it here

*We're kidding about Bart Menuhin... really! 

Weekly Mailbag

WCG "clueless": If Joe Tkach is going to put out a decree that all WCG churches should move to Sunday services, that will kill what is left to the church.

Personally, I still attend our local WCG congregation. Our local leadership is very sound and I have a sense of loyalty to the other members of our congregation. However, if we move to Sunday services - why should I continue to travel 35 miles one way to go to church when there are other sound Bible teaching churches which are a lot closer that are meeting at the same time?

Considering the other members who are also attending regularly in our local congregation - many others are in the same position. I could easily see a move like this cutting our already slim membership in half. There comes a certain point where a church becomes unviable and will fold. In complete honesty, that would probably do it for our church.

A few other thoughts. First, I thought under the New Covenant we were free to worship on any day that we chose. If our local congregation chooses to meet on Saturday - who's concern is that? Or was this whole thing about freedom just a bunch of 'used cow feed'?

Second - does Pasadena *really* think that moving all churches to Sunday will solve their problem with declining membership? In my mind, it will exasperate the problem. And what would cause the general public to come flocking in our doors on Sunday morning? The WCG's problems are much deeper than what day they meet on.

I would be quite interested in hearing more about this. If it is true, then it is apparent to me that Pasadena is clueless.


A Prophet for All Peoples: I would like to know from which pamphlet or booklet the racist quotes of HWA was taken. The page citations are listed but not the title of the work.

I wonder how many of us around the world were sucked into this and sacrificed so much and not just monetarily.

Thank you for your website.

Do you know if the original unexpurgated "Autobiography" of HWA is online?

AW: The quotes are from Herbert Armstrong in a 1963 special issue of The Plain Truth on "the race crisis". This information has now been added.

Getting intimate with Gerry: (1) Just read the quote by Gerald Flurry: "Presently, I am intimate with God in a way no one else is directly; you are, however, indirectly. This has to do with the man to whom God is giving the revelation. God gives the revelation to a man and has the Church look to that man."

Most church of God ministers suffer from delusions of grandeur. Flurry has simply carries his delusions a step or two farther than the average rank and file minister. Here is a man who had, at best, a tenuous grasp of reality. Without the constraints of superiors to keep him in his place and remind him he is nothing but a lowly field minister, he has completely lost whatever contact with the real world, mental or physical, he had. Now, in the comfort and security of his church, he is isolated him from physical contact with the real world and shielded from the distasteful task of dealing with people who consider him a mere equal. Flurry is surrounded with yes-men who feed his delusions, and he has become completely insufferable. He now lives in a cloud-cuckoo-land where, as first among equals, he rubs elbows with the apostles and prophets, and even with God the Father himself. On top of all that, he is on TV, which means he is really important.


(2) Yes, Gerald Flurry is pathologically delusional. I think it's been obvious for years that he belongs in a padded cell. I don't know who I feel more sorry for -- Flurry, or the people he has enslaved.

Jared Olar

(3) My comment: I guess god must be a pink elephant.


LA Times rewrite needed: Honey, I shrunk the Church, appeared in the December 4, 1997 New Times Los Angeles and I personally think it's time for another article, "Honey, I Demolished the Church"

Could you get in touch with the L.A. Times and have them do an article on the present state of the WCG? There has been a new directive given to all the U.S. ministers to move their churches to Sunday. This will probably get rid of any 'hangers-on' that the church would like not to have to give retirement to because, as was announced in church in May, only those in 'reasonable good standing' with the church will get retirement. And how do they determine that? I would guess on two things: attendance (hence the quick move to Sunday so those that only will worship on Saturday are gone) and money--how much they gave may determine their 'standing' in spite of the fact that the present regime said they would not sheriff such activities and would never deign to look into someone's personal files to determine such things. Oh sure, right!!! (And yet tithing has been MANDATORY - I don't know if it still is - for all employees under the present regime even though tithing as a doctrine was no longer taught!)

A couple of years ago a letter was sent out from the present WCG to some long-time members stating that they would be taken off the membership because they were not 'participating'. What that exactly meant they would not say but obviously had something to do with attendance and I would guess how much money a person was paying in the no-longer-taught tithes and offerings etc. Now it is clear that the WCG was merely trying to reduce the 'members in good standing' list!

[Although this is not quite related, the WCG, though disdainful of the previous Holy Days and declaring that they no longer kept such archaic Old Testament, Jewish days, continued for some time to send out "Holy Day Offering" envelopes (written right on there) because, as Joe Jr. said, "The WCG people enjoy giving in that manner" or something similar. They needed the money even though they disagreed with the doctrine! Has this present leadership been obsessed with money or not?!]

There are many many employees and ministers who gave virtually their whole lives to the WCG under Mr. Armstrong and though they may not have expected retirement, it was always understood that the church would take care of it's own. Indeed, the U.S. gov't does not require retirement programs set up in churches, probably assuming that churches are based on good will and taking better care of the poor, elderly and sick than the gov't does. HA! I wish! 

It is unconscionable that this leadership who did not build the WCG and its very lucrative saleable facilities, should be the only ones to benefit from the sale of such! 

The present WCG has made it abundantly clear that they will not provide for any that have left their organization even though most ministers that did are still doing their ministerial duty to God and the brethren. They haven't gone off to gamble or play the stock market, they are still serving under God as best they know how. It is unconscionable that this leadership who did not build the WCG and its very lucrative saleable facilities, should be the only ones to benefit from the sale of such! 

If any man worked for a corporation that had a retirement program and then changed jobs and worked for the competition, the first company could never in a million years tell him that he would not now be getting his retirement as he was no longer loyal. The U.S. Gov't would back him to the hilt on that! 

There are some old ex-employees who have already been getting discretionary retirement for some time and are too old and sick to work again. And the present WCG may well stop this discretionary income--have hinted as much--because these people are not 'members in good standing'. In other words, they attend a so-called splinter group. Not because they are wife-beating, alcoholic bums--no these men are still upstanding Christians obeying God as best they can!! Yet they will have this retirement cut off because they don't attend Worldwide! Scandalous! Are they to end up on welfare? They won't have Social Security!

Dedicated work on behalf of a church, no matter what the person's present religious beliefs--even if they are atheists now!, should be honored!! Period. I'm sick that those men who gave so much are left in the cold because the present WCG leadership has done 180 degree twist in their doctrines. It is not those ministers that left the WCG but the WCG that left them! They would still be there preaching and teaching and giving 110% had the new leaders not basically kicked them out because they would not preach the new (false) doctrine.

Please can you, will you get this story to the L.A. Times and shame those leaders at Pasadena WCG who are feathering their own nest at the expense of everyone else? Why isn't anyone standing against them? What are the members thinking?????


Ellen Escat: What is the whereabouts of Ellen Escat?  If she is still alive does she have a "discretionary" pension plan or full salary?  Maybe present and former WCG employees would like to know.  

I was wondering about it too.


AW: Mrs Escat was reportedly a close personal friend and trusted confidant of the late Joseph Tkach Senior. 


Benny Epiphanes?

Benny performs tonight! Thursday 1 July at 7pm Benny Hinn appears at Ambassador Auditorium: Che Ahn's lead act in the "3 Nights of Glory" circus preceding the July 4th "Day of Dedication". Some long-time COG members have muttered darkly about Antiochus Epiphanes and the Abomination of Desolation, but we understand no pigs will be slaughtered during the performance this evening. 

AW researcher Dateline Pasadena has produced a second treasury of "Hinnisms". Frankly, some of comments by Hinn are downright scary. The first compendium is also available.

Saturday services to be axed? We have an unconfirmed report that a new directive has been issued by the sect leadership in Pasadena to all US ministers: all WCG congregations must now move to Sunday services. Anyone who can provide further information is invited to contact AW.

McNair site redesigned: Some time ago Raymond McNair sent forth a plea for someone to help with a much needed web-makeover for his fledgling site. The revised version is now online, and includes Ray's 1963 Ambassador College MA thesis "Key to Northwest European Origins" (yes, they actually gave away Masters degrees for writing stuff like that!) Most of the other links are still "under construction".

COG commune: Norman Edward's new Sabbatarian community in Port Austin gained some Internet coverage in May. According to the report: A small group of families have gone together to purchase 20 acres of a decommissioned radar base on the thumb of Michigan. It is being converted into "an off-grid college campus and retirement community that will teach all the off-grid technologies, skilled trades, as well as the normal college level academics."

COG community base

"This was once a NORAD facility that watched for incoming ICBMs from the Soviet Union.  We want to turn it into a school of peace," said Phil Frankford, one of four founding leaders of the project.

The article includes a rather blurred photograph of the facility. An AW correspondent comments: To their credit unlike the rest of the COGs this group seems to have some sense of stewardship by preparing for the future. UCG members that continue to squander their money by supporting the upper middle class lifestyle of the UCG ministry should consider instead providing this group with their financial support.

Well, maybe so. But despite the romance of doing something idealistic, we understand the lifespan of communitarian projects like this tend to be quite brief. That's not to slight the efforts of Phil, Norm & associates; but those considering such a lifestyle change should probably weigh the pros and cons very carefully.

Books to feed the mind: Last month AW introduced the bookshelf feature. There was particular interest in Lost Tribes of Israel by Tudor Parfitt. Unfortunately this title was out of stock by mid-month (it's now available again and has been included in this month's list.) For July we've extended the bookshelf with a wider selection, including Twisted Scriptures. A number of titles also come from a particular WCG perspective (Lapacka, Albrecht, Ernest Martin and even Herbert Armstrong). Needless to say AW does not endorse all these publications, but we hope readers will find many of them them relevant to their interests and personal research.

On a related note, some people were apparently confused by a link appearing on AW that promoted the book When Jesus Became God. One reader even stated that it "questioned the authenticy [sic] of Jesus Christ" - a complete misrepresentation. In fact the book covers the history of the church in the age of Constantine, the debate between Arius and Athanasius over the emerging doctrine of the Trinity, and the various councils of the Eastern and Western churches. It might sound very dull and boring, but in fact is an excellent overview written in accessible language. Considering the fact that WCG was until recently non-Trinitarian, and that almost all of the splinters are still wedded to the earlier teachings, we thought When Jesus Became God might provide some insight from a non-theological perspective. AW heartily recommends the book to anyone who would like to know something about the history behind the adoption of the Trinitarian teaching. It's listed on the July BookShelf page.

Opus editorial returns: Several years ago, before MD or AW were around in their current forms, the editor wrote a short essay about Herbert Armstrong's book The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy (later re-titled The United States and Britain in Prophecy). Until now it has been "stranded" on another website. This month it moves to the columns department on The Missing Dimension. You can find it here.

Digging out Dugger: Back in the 1940s entertainment was what you made it, and what could be more fun than a couple of preachers dueling with proof texts in a dingy hall? The nice people at the Hillview Church of Christ have dug up (if you'll pardon the pun) a variation on that theme featuring Andrew Dugger, the celebrated COG7 leader, and a Church of Christ evangelist of the time - topic: the Christian Sabbath. In this case the two engaged in a gentlemanly and rather voluminous exchange of correspondence rather than pulpit theatricals. It's available as a PDF file. But be warned, the whole thing runs to more than 120 pages. We can only say that it's every bit as enthralling and scintillating as the McNair thesis mentioned above.

Gerry gets intimate: Robert Kuhne quotes this remarkable statement from Prophet Flurry (reproduced on Bob Thiel's site): Presently, I am intimate with God in a way no one else is directly; you are, however, indirectly. This has to do with the man to whom God is giving the revelation. God gives the revelation to a man and has the Church look to that man. (Royal Vision, Sept/Oct. 2000)

So there you have it. Gerry is truly a cut above his PCG herd. Gerry the Mediator between God and Man. Or is he just pathologically delusional?

Letter policy: AW understands that some people may not be comfortable with their names appearing in the mailbag. A problem can arise 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.

AW sometimes 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.

email MD: editor@ambassadorwatch.co.nz email Dateline Pasadena: dp@ambassadorwatch.co.nz 


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