March 2005 - Issue 59

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

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New editorial on Internet evangelism & latest COG site rankings


M.A.M. returns: MAM was one of AW's first guest columnists, and we're delighted that he has resurfaced to share some personal observations and thoughts about the events that transpired this month. Those who've spent time as singles in one of the COG's may identify with some of his recollections.

Another blog: Blogs are a great way to express a view. Last year CGI's Vance Stinson began one which attracted some interest (however his stick-to-itiveness seems to have since come unstuck). In recent days we noted Lake of Fire as a bold new entrant. Now there's another called COG Critic, which seems to be targeted at outsiders wanting to get up to speed with COG culture.

LCG web reach plunges back to earth: The graph below demonstrates the huge spike in hits the LCG website got in the wake of the Brookfield shootings. It also clearly shows that both before and after LCG (red line) did poorly compared with UCG (blue line). This Alexa graph measures daily reach per million Internet users for each church in the last 3 months.



Field Guide to the Wild World of Religion by Pam Dewey

fieldguide.jpg (48753 bytes)

$16.95 at Amazon  Also check the bookshelf

LCG boasts about Web traffic: Predictably, LCG has attempted to make lemonade from the recent windfall of lemons.

In recent weeks, the Web site has been receiving about 3,000 visitor sessions each weekend. Well, this past weekend the Web site logged more than 48,000 visitor sessions—16 times above normal! Typically, weekend visitors view about 10,000 pages, but this past weekend the count jumped to more than 284,000 pages! (Wayne Pyle)

Pyle goes on to concede that these statistics may be "perhaps fleeting" (Statistics we've seen indicate that this has already occurred.)

Bob Thiel is also enthused about his website's traffic:

The visits to the COGwriter home page have also gone up. The response to what has been happening from our critics is that that LCG is "continues to crumble" [that's a direct reference to AW] because we lost couple of ministers (I am saddened that both E. Owino and D. Haney did what they did and I continue to pray for them) and the members who followed them this year, plus a few others shaken from the shooting. [Others? Plural? Do we take it from this that Chandra Frazier's departure has been just one of several?] From what I have been able to tell, LCG field ministers have been receiving more inquiries from perspective members [Bob's malapropism for "prospective members"?] than perhaps ever before. Our critics have been forecasting our demise for years...

The Journal: The latest issue of The Journal is being mailed out. A PDF copy of the front and back pages is downloadable at Notable items include an article by Dave Havir that points to Jim Franks as the replacement for Roy Holladay and a letter from Reg Killingley on the subject. This issue also features an editorial originally published in AW. Eric Snow has contributed an article in which he rallies the proof texts in defense of obligatory tithing, and Bob Thiel seeks to convince Laodicean readers about church eras.

There is initial coverage of the Brookfield LCG tragedy (with detailed reports planned for the next issue). 

1975 in Prophecy: If you're on a dial up connection you'll need to be patient when downloading Kscribe's sound and vision extravaganza 1975 in Prophecy. The music is simply cool, and Kscribe pummels Herb's failed prophecies relentlessly. Some of the smaller text was difficult to read, but there's no doubt that this has been a labor of love. You can download the video at And be sure to watch out for a very freaky dance clip in front of the auditorium, and whatever you do don't skip the surreal video clip in the closing credits... I'd describe it, but I doubt you'd believe me. These comments from Douglas Becker on his MD group:

Absolutely outstanding... What you have done in a video that lasts a few minutes is something I tried to do for years... A bloated download, but effective... congratulations. This is a "must see" TV.

The God Racket: Several readers have mailed in links to the New York Times article The God Racket. There is a passing reference at the end to Terry Ratzmann. (Please note, AW does not intend to publish correspondence on the Schiavo case.)

Rod of correction: From The Lake of Fire blog: Spanky the exalted Rod of Correction

Weekly Mailbag

Much ado about nuthin': What all of these splinter groups fail to realize is that they amount to nothing. Even when the WCG was in its heyday, we, as a group, still amounted to nothing on the world, and even national scene. As a member for many years, I thought we were really making a difference and reaching the world with the plain truth. The gospel message was being preached all over the globe. Unprecedented growth was taking place. The gun was cocked many times and ready to fire. People would soon know that we were the true people of God and our message was the truth. Now, not having been affiliated with the WCG and its splinter groups for a number of years, I realize that we were insignificant. In our own eyes we were grand, but the world really took little notice of us. 

My Dad died in 1995. He was a good man and well-liked by the townspeople who knew him. There was a good turnout at his funeral. But, I noticed that the world around us was still going about its business. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, people were doing their normal things downtown. Here was a great man to me, and yet the world went on without him. Only a comparative few people stopped to take notice. 

And now, years later that same thought of insignificance was brought to mind by our Mormon friends around us. They, too, think they are really affecting the world, their church growing in leaps and bounds, and the truth being preached. But, the honest truth is that once a person leaves this valley (from Idaho to Utah), Mormonism is relatively unheard of, or thought of as a polygamist religion. The members have all the church talk and self-importance to qualify for being the true people of God. Likewise, we in the WCG were also duped and living in a dream world of how important we were. We can look back now and see that the world has gone on without HWA or GTA or Gerald Waterhouse or any of the other important people of rank who are now dead. And, the world will continue to go on without Rod Meredith, Gerald Flurry, and any of the other men who are directly under Christ in authority. 

Steve Kakacek

Card sent by WCG congregation: The idea that corporate WCG prohibited local congregations from sending cards regarding the LCG shootings is [untrue]. There has been no such prohibition. Some people get a big kick out of trying to pull down other churches, especially their leaders. Our WCG congregation prayed for the families and sent them a card (although considering we are "wicked" in their eyes, I am not sure it will be well received). ...I think Joe Tkach showed the greater part of grace and wisdom to keep his prayers and comments on a personal level...


Meredith and the AC suicide: RE : Dave's comments regarding this incident.

1. "In the spring of 1974, Dr. Rod Meredith substituted as teacher for a Bible class at the Pasadena AC campus. He spent an hour describing in detail the horrific starvation and suffering which those who were not in, "the church," would soon experience in the, "great tribulation."

2. "Unfortunately, another freshman student, 18 year old [name withheld], was apparently on the emotional brink that day. Immediately after this class he walked over to the Arroyo Bridge and jumped off to his death. I still remember saying hi to him after the class and him saying hi back. No sign of problems.

As I recall RCM was teaching his own first year Bible class. In any case I was responsible for the investigation into the suicide matter. My conclusion was that it was not a prophecy topic that led a guilt-ridden young man to take his own life but other comments made by Dr. Meredith to that class. And yes, I made sure there was damage control as any competent leader would do for his company, government, church or organization. Beside that, the deceased's family had enough grief without having their son's privacy invaded. Was Meredith culpable? Yes he was. Was discipline meeted out to Meredith and a course correction demanded? Yes it was. I believe Charles Ohlman handled the announcement at the Forum that day and I do not recall being present myself.


Brookfield comments: A lot of folks in the secular press seem bent on finding a cause and effect between the "culture" of LCG (i.e. preoccupation with the "end times," authoritarian church government, etc.) and Ratzmann's tragic outburst. I kind of wonder if something hadn't been (as they say) "eating him" for a long time, and something somebody said or did that fateful day was enough to tip the balance. What sets this incident apart from most others (of the Columbine or Red Lake category of young punks gunning for kicks---Ratzmann was 44 years old and Coast Guard veteran, for pete's sake) was the setting: a church service. Usually when guys like Ratzmann "lose it" it more often than not has to do with their current or former employer, not their pastor. In fact, the workplace shootings happen so often we in the States have coined a new expression: "going postal." A few years ago there were a number of violent incidents where two or three current or fired postal employees returned to their workplaces and gunned down some of their co-workers. Hence the expression "going postal."

As to Joe, Jr. and the ban on expressions of condolence by local congregations: I'd say send *joe* a condolence card and express sadness for his loss of feelings of common human decency. But then again, Joe's in his own little world, oblivious to even the pain and discomfort of his own people. If he can't give the time of day to his own (now -ex) employees, how can we expect him to think outside the box and express sympathy for "them."

Dennis Embo 

Joe's silence: In reference to WCG ignoring the LCG shooting. One verse from the Bible says it all. "You shall know them by their fruits".

Kudos to Haney: Kudos to Don Haney for putting into words the growing concerns that some of us LCG members have been whispering about for the past few years. While one or two of his points may seem unnecessary (I personally have no qualms about eating at a typical restaurant on the Sabbath), his overall analysis is penetrating and sorely needed. Moreover, his attitude of brotherly concern is refreshing, especially in the environment of the COGs. His termination, mere days after the letter's publication, would seem to confirm that Rod Meredith is growing more insecure, while Charles Bryce becomes more belligerent.

Oh, and before the time passes: Thank you, United, CGI, John Ritenbaugh, Ian Boyne, and everyone else for your words of sympathy and comfort. A nearby independent church sent flowers to my local congregation. Even Norbert Link and J. Edwin Pope, against whom some hard words were said during the Great Global Split of 1998, gave their two cents. Thank you, brethren. We appreciate it.


Clueless in Charlotte: Meredith’s formulaic letter to his followers was predictably Armstrongian: “This is really tragic stuff, folks, but don’t get too distracted by human suffering or tragedy, or you’ll wind up forgetting to send in your tithes and generous offerings to God’s great globe girdling work.”

If LCG pastor Don Haney was fired solely on the basis of his letter calling for an end to factionalism, Meredith is as clueless as he ever was. Or maybe he isn’t. If people understand what Haney is driving at, the factions that the Living Church of God’s Bob Thiel finds so necessary (Yes, Bob, I know you’re quoting the Bible.) would be lessened, or even, God forbid, they would disappear. If people think they can just as easily transfer their membership from one church to another, they might. Look at the WCG. Many who left the post 1995 WCG did so because they finally believed they could, without losing their salvation. If the WCG hadn’t had so many assets from its first sixty years, WCG would have been in an even bigger world of hurt. The spin offs haven’t got the charisma of Armstrong nor the physical assets that he amassed to fall back on. They need factional lines to justify their existence and guarantee their income.

Men like Meredith rely on their members’ perception that they have no where else to go. One of my former WCG pastors told me that the thing to look for was doctrinal purity, but as I reminded him that is not the identifying sign Jesus said his people would be known for. If the identifying sign is doctrinal purity, or “preaching the gospel” (Now, there’s a blank check), members can wake up to find themselves in lockstep with an organization that would not be one of their choosing upon later reflection.

This is because perpetuating the “true church” mentality means that ministries do not have to be sensitive to the needs of their members or to the changing times. And lest that rings of heresy to those who believe that the Bible transcends human law or custom, ask yourselves why scholars had to come up with the concept of dispensationalism? It’s because some of the things that our forefathers purported to do were either too fantastic for us to be able to replicate (“God worked differently then.”) or because some of the deeds were a bit too bloody, callous, horrifying, etc. for later generations to swallow. Earlier versions of God had to be reconciled with later sensibilities and human experience.

Living churches are not afraid to examine older paradigms and traditions and see if they still work. Without placing blame on the victims of the Wisconsin LCG congregation, I would like to suggest that life might have been different for Terry Ratzman if a Don Haney brand of Christianity were practiced. A bit more freedom of movement, some wider perspectives might have been the safety valve Ratzman needed. Factionalism is a short term guarantee of membership and income. But it’s the easy way out.

Kathleen Kakacek

LCG's days are numbered: I just read Don Haney's Open Letter. Wow! I have to admit that it is very powerful and revealing, although I do take exception to his understanding about the Sabbath day. Being the skeptic that I am toward any cult that sprang out of Armstrong's bowels, I must say as did King Agrippa to the apostle Paul, "You almost persuade ME...". If Meredith does not take it to heart... then I believe LCG's days are numbered. Meredith's heart seems to be hardened as was Pharaoh's heart. an outsider looking in, I can honestly say that I did not detect any disloyalty or arrogance on the part of Haney... Meredith goes on the defensive and compares himself with the apostle Paul, which only reinforces what Haney has been saying. Meredith hangs himself by stating that HE does MORE for the "work" than any other group's leaders.


Response to "SS": Those of us who have left Armstrongism do not hate those of you who hold onto him so dearly. We feel it is our responsibility to do all we can to warn others not to fall for the same trappings of Armstrongism that we fell into. It's a dirty job but someone has to do it. No, we don't want to be a part of your LCG...or any other CG for that matter. We have had our fill of the hypocrisy that man's religion has brought to mankind. We have had our fill of the mixture of Catholicism and Judaism that Armstrong introduced to start his own brand of religiosity, adding to it his own hair-brained, cockeyed concepts and ideas of righteousness. The ones who can't "let go" are the swindlers and con men who see that there is still money to be made by preaching Herb's religion from the ones who wallow in the pig sty of Herbert's teachings. You follow a man whom Herbert "sent away" to Hawaii in order to get him out of the way. Herbert told you that your VERY SALVATION depended upon you following the next "pastor general" of the WCG. Did you listen to him then? Why do you continually pick and choose? You keep Herbert alive by following the same old teachings and "prophecies" that he hatched, and are even to this day constantly dug up by his disciples of hell who graduated from his college and call themselves "ministers". They still live that lie of calling themselves "ordained ministers", and you, the "laity", still fall for it. As long as you are nose deep in that caste system, you will continue to have deep-seated problems. "Church" people always want to blame others for their problems. If we weren't here for you to'd blame the world, and if you don't blame the blame Satan. But, the blame will never fall on your "minister" idols. I can't figure you out! How empty your lives are when you have to be stuck in time. No, cults will NEVER go away because there are always going to be gullible, ignorant, dumb sheep who believe what slick-talking charlatans tell them is "truth". They will always have people believing that THEY are Gawd's church! Not even when you're suffering in your "concentration camp" will you believe you are wrong. You'll just think it's more persecution. The only way you will escape the deception is when Christ returns, sits you down, and tells you face to face how wrong you were. God WROTE the book, and HE WINS! 


LCG member's view: Just like "SS", sometimes I think those who have left WCG, or one of the many splits, are more obsessed with Armstrong than any of the actual members. I've been a part of a group or organization that I later found to be bogus or just simply a waste of time, but they are no longer a part of my life. What they do is their business and I'm happy doing what I do. My family and I were members of WCG, moved on to Global and now Living. My family and I have never been happier nor more prosperous. Our daughter was just over 2 years old when we started attending, she is now 19. Throughout school, her teachers loved her, she was very active with the school (obviously excluding events taking place on the Sabbath) and graduated with honors. At an age when many teenagers are looking to get away, she is very devoted to God and His Church.

I had my doubts during the late 90s when Global was experiencing a take over, so I went back over every teaching we had accepted when becoming a part of WCG. We had never heard of Herbert Armstrong until after we started attending WCG in 1988. I had never actually taken time to study his life, it did not matter that much, I was after God's Truth. So, I also took time to research him as well. It took a few years to go through all the misinformation and look mainly at the facts. At times I succumbed to some of the stories and wondered if I had been conned. After looking into the history and character of those making these allegations, my concerns were calmed. Mr. Armstrong infallible? No way! I do greatly appreciate his achievements. I have long been an avid Bible student and what I saw in the past teachings of WCG (and see now in LCG) were the answers to many questions. I did not look at Global or LCG because of Mr. Meredith, I'm where I believe God's Truth is being taught. After all, you don't follow a man, you follow God...

Thomas Brooks

SS again: Dear SS, I don't know if you are a man or a woman. But you say we ex-Worldwiders really want back in but don't know how? I am an ex-Worldwider and I thank God every day that I am no longer a part of any of you! Neither do I hate Worldwide or any splinter group... YOU should think about what was the point of all of Jesus Christ's suffering if we still have to work our way to salvation by keeping laws and rules that were fulfilled through His death. Of course the Ten Commandments are still important but we fulfill them by showing love to God and our neighbor. 

David W. Berryman

From frying pan to fire: This is the first time I have been inspired to write a rebuttal to a posting on AW, after my husband and I left the PCG in 2002. Both of us grew up in the WCG (my husband’s father was a minister in the WCG for many years) and then going from the frying pan into the fire with PCG, we have been quite disturbed by many people in those organizations who love to point the finger at everyone else but themselves, stir up strife and division, profusely gossip and childishly tattle on one another, are hypocritical, and constantly witnessing the profound lack of love, mercy and tenderheartedness!

The Bible tells us to prove all things and to make those who would be over us accountable for what they preach and how they minister. So, yes it is “our” collective business to know what all churches teach and to know whether it is sound doctrine and truth or not, because our salvation hangs in jeopardy (salvation that is between an individual and God, not an individual, a “chosen” man of God and God as some would have you believe). It is our collective duty to expose these false teachers for who and what they are!

Why do ex-members of COG’s puzzle those who are still members of COG’s? Could it be because they don’t understand the healing process of those who have left and the magnitude of the spiritual betrayal they feel? We’re certain that many ex-members don’t hate the people in the COG’s, they despise the spiritual deception that is going on right under these peoples noses (the Bible best describes it as wretched, miserable, poor, blind & naked). No one WANTS to be part of a “church” that is spiritually deceived. No one WANTS to feel that their life was intruded upon, physically, emotionally and spiritually by false prophets and apostles! Many people in the COG’s live their REAL lives in secret and wonder why they are so unhappy? To feel better, they have to point the finger at everyone else because it takes the focus off of them.

Only the spiritually courageous, who’s eyes have been opened to the real truth, have left these false spiritual organizations or as some, have stepped up to the spiritual plate and exposed these snakes for who and what they are! It doesn’t matter which COG you are in, there are remnants of HWA’s way of doing things in EVERY COG! We don’t sit in ultimate judgment of HWA and those who follow him that is up to God. We do, however, have the right to judge by the fruits, which should speak LOUDLY to all of those who are still in the COG’s. COME ON, WAKE UP AND SMELL THE ROTTEN FRUIT and get your life back!

What has been hard to let go of (and maybe we speak for other ex-members as well) are all the lies we’ve been deceived enough to believe over the years (starting with HWA), and continue to watch while others are deceived as well. It’s hard to believe that one man had so much sway over people and caused so much destruction in so many lives (the REAL truth about HWA will set you free)!

We believe that AW exposes the COG’s by their fruits! By looking at the fruits of many of the COG’s, we know we have made the right decision. Our hearts go out to the multitudes of people (that were our family twice removed) because we LOVE them and want their eyes to be opened as well. AW has been a BIG part of our healing, along with links from that website to other websites that expose HWA, with real and undeniable proof as to whom and what he really was. If God’s people cannot be deceived, then what do those in the COG’s have to fear when they read “dissident” literature and information? All should have enough faith, if they believe they are chosen by God, to KNOW they will see what is true from what is outright deception and lies! HOW MANY HAVE THE COURAGE TO BE SET FREE FROM DECEPTION?

Yes, believers and doers of God do win in the end. We will all know who they really are in good time. Those who are without sin can feel free to cast stones, otherwise….

Juanita Simkins

Spanky: In fairness to Dr. Meredith, I don't know if the story about him spanking his teenage daughter was ever authenticated.

In talking with others, I think the nickname Spanky came about because he constantly talked in sermons about how God would have to "Spank" modern Israel, in love of course, by nearly wiping our nations out.

The Apostle Dave: I think a sermon is coming from Pack on "The holy twinity." That's him claiming he is both the two witnesses rolled into one!

AW: To be known as the Witless Witness?

Don't "Ask Greg", ask Guidestar: You can access the tax returns (Forms 990) of "Plain Truth Ministries" and find out how much Greg is paid (less than 60K, apparently) by PTM. 

Ill advised? The Worldwide Church of God was ill advised at the time by Ruth Tucker, Michael Feazell and people choosing a new direction for the church. A study of religious groups at the time would have indicated that the Messianic Judaism community was making great progress. The WCG could have changed its position without all the loss of the membership had it adopted the approach of Messianic Judaism which allows members to practice whichever elements of Judaism they choose or to remain evangelical. The alternative would have been to move the church in the direction of the Seventh Day Adventists, one of the most successful Sabbatarian groups whilst maintaining an evangelical approach. Instead it chose a course of self-destruction by ill advised semi professionals much to the annoyance of the members and ministers who had faithfully served the organization.

Robert Taylor, Bible Sabbath Association UK



Kiwi UCG departure: Graham Robinson, a prominent New Zealand UCG member, has parted ways with the church. He outlined his reasons in a long letter which has rapidly circulated. Excerpts from the letter appear here.

Spanky dumps on Don: One good letter deserves another. Roderick C. Meredith writes to the flock:

Dear Brethren in God's Church,

Read the complete text of the Don Haney letter here

Greetings from Charlotte! It is with a great deal of sadness I am writing about the recent actions of my former friend and student, Don Haney. When this young man first came to college, I came to love him and wanted to help him. I spent extra time with him and was glad to have the opportunity to anoint his little children for healing. Later, when the apostasy took over WCG, Mr. Haney came with us and helped us start the Medford church and other groups in the Northwest. I appreciated that, and thought that we were good friends and that he respected me and that we could work together in love.

Then, right at a time of deep trauma and sorrow, when so many of our dear brethren in Milwaukee had just been killed and we were all grieving and trying to comfort the survivors, Don Haney zeroed in on us with a series of charges and personal attacks against me— and charges against all of us for eating out on the Sabbath. From my experience of some 53 years in God's Work, I can easily see that this is an effort to divide the Church of God. As you know, we have just been on the cusp of tremendous growth and opportunities to reach the world with God's Truth more than ever before. Satan knows this, and he is trying desperately to discredit us and to divide and confuse God's people. Unwittingly, perhaps, Mr. Haney seems to be playing into this plan.

Rather than coming here to Charlotte as we had asked him to do, he has gone over our heads to the brethren all over—including hundreds of outsiders—in a way that could publicly humiliate, discredit and divide God's people if he were successful. This is an unusual act of disloyalty and arrogance on his part. It has taken place at the same time he is accusing me of arrogance because of trying to encourage our own people in the Living Church of God by letting them know that we are trying to do more of the Work. He has taken phrases that I have used such as, "we are the spearpoint of the Work" and that we "are doing more of the Work," etc., and attempted to indicate that this was extreme arrogance and even blasphemy on my part.

Perhaps Don Haney should have been there to correct the Apostle Paul! For—comparing himself with the other apostles—Paul wrote, "I labored more abundantly than they all"! (I Cor. 15:10). Was Herbert W. Armstrong sinning when he constantly tried to show the brethren that we were truly a big Work—and that their "hearts" ought to be in that Work? No, indeed. For the great God has called us to work together as a "team" and—imperfect as we are—learn the lessons of mutual submission as part of that team in proclaiming Christ's message powerfully to a dying world. If Satan can use any one of us as a tool to "divide and confuse" God's people—to hinder the very Work of Jesus Christ in these last days, Satan will be delighted to use that misguided individual.

Coming "out of the blue," so to speak, I just received a very thoughtful letter from a dedicated woman in God's Church. This letter was totally unsolicited by any of us, and this dear lady wishes to remain anonymous, though I can tell you that she is not a minister's wife. This lady writes:

I have been studying the `Open Letter' from Don Haney—like Job we seem to be abounding in `comforters'. I can see how this letter could certainly be misleading to members and many others as well— because it is a fascinating blend of truth, false inferences, misapplied scripture, the author's own opinion and a few true Christian principles.

After a couple of days of thought on this, I see three very dangerous things that Satan could be trying to accomplish here:

Intimidate us to quit the strong warnings to our Israelitish peoples— or as Mr. Haney says `become more cautious with our proclamations'. After all, he says that `Perhaps God's greatest work on earth is His `still small voice'—or what he refers to as `a great harvest through men's conscience'.

Pretend there are no differences between the branches of God's church—church governance, zeal for preaching the gospel and warning message is not that big a deal; and we're `complacent and too self- assured in our stand with God' not to mention `blasphemous'.

Satan is hoping through this letter and other things to create doubt and division within our members, just as we are getting more growth and world attention. He is also seeking to REPEL (to use Mr. Haney's word) lost sheep, and those from other fellowships who would seek to join with us.

I believe this letter to be a direct attack by Satan, and am quite sure that Mr. Haney has absolutely no idea what he does. Neither at the time I'm sure did Terry Ratzmann—which tragedy Mr. Haney is using as a platform to promote his own theories, and self-promotional opinions.

Dear brethren, the above letter certainly spells out the true nature of this situation. I know that Mr. Haney is trying to "position" himself as being the "little guy" who is being picked on. That is absolutely not true! If you would ask Mr. Rod McNair, Mr. Terry Graves, Mr. Gary Ullerick or perhaps other nearby elders, you would learn that Mr. Haney has been making derogatory remarks about the leadership of LCG for many months—plus giving out "unusual" ideas about many things contrary to what the Church has taught for decades. You would learn that he has been "accusing" us of all manner of things. We know who the real "accuser" is! (Rev.12:10). We have not been accusing Mr. Haney all during these months, but rather have been patient. But we have been driving ourselves— many of us way up into our 60s and 70s—to do the Work while he has been busy making these remarks and innuendos behind our backs. Now, with this frontal attack Don Haney has publicly launched, we are finally forced to respond by disfellowshipping this man who definitely has caused and is causing division within God's Church (Rom. 16:17).

May God help you to see the "Big Picture". Here is a local pastor rebelling against the Headquarters Church and very cleverly trying to get a following for himself. He has publicly—on the Internet and before the whole world—accused us of the gargantuan "sins" of proclaiming that LCG is "doing more of the Work" and of not being as careful as we should in observing the Sabbath (with which idea I partly agree and have preached for years!). So any of you who follow this misguided man will soon find yourself in a "blind alley." You will end up in a tiny little group— cut off from having an effective part in the very Work Jesus Christ is doing in these last days. You will demonstrate to God—and to the loyal brethren—that you are able to be easily deceived and turned aside even over comparatively small issues. May God help you to understand and to be loyal to His Work and to make the right decision!

With Christian love,
Roderick C. Meredith

Sounds like a worried man...



Welcome to the Lake of Fire: A nice new initiative - a blog called Lake of Fire, motto: Keeping the heat on COG leaders everywhere.

How does one argue against a closed religious system? It will not submit itself to scientific scrutiny. It will not subject itself to periodic reviews of leadership or policy. The books are closed even to supporters. Alternate views of theology are heretic and discarded. Reading alternate books and articles is flirting with disaster. Warning: Lake of Fire Ahead. ...The COG way was bent on self-destruction from the start. Just like any other system claiming perfection and being imperfect at its core.

Bobby's icy future: With other events taking precedence, former WCG co-worker Bobby Fischer has dipped below the radar. Here's coverage from Britain's The Guardian.

XCG: If you haven't checked out Gary Scott's XCG site yet, take a look. This is a multi-user blog with writers coming from a variety of perspectives. Contributors include names well known on AW, including Jared Olar and Dennis Diehl.

Knowles on Brookfield: Not to be left behind, the lads at ACD have started their own blog. The first entry (March 24) includes these comments by Brian Knowles on the recent LCG shootings:

It is rumored that at least one pastor in Living has suggested that the killing signals the beginning on the "Great Tribulation." To me, that idea is just plain ridiculous. To begin with, the hyperbolic verse most often quoted about "The great Tribulation" is found in Matthew 24:21 -- in a pericope that applies to the sacking of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD (verses 15-22). Secondly, to assume that a killing within a congregation is prophetically significant seems somewhat arrogant. It supposes that the denomination in which the killing took place is more significant to the Plan of God than any other group -- in fact, it assumes that it is the center of what God is doing on earth these days. This mentality is a toxic residue of earlier, worse, times within the old WCG.

Who brought the popcorn? Once upon a time a certain well-known "evangelist" chased his massage therapist around the table. Cameras were rolling and the rest became history... or perhaps herstory. Thanks to the anonymous source that provided this clip. The file is in QuickTime format.

Response to Thiel comments: AW correspondent M.T. Hall has offered a rebuttal to comments by Bob Thiel on his website in which he compared coverage of the LCG killings with those at Red Lake reservation.

WCG's callous disdain

LCG's Bob Thiel comments: I noticed in the weekly update I get from [WCG], that there is still no mention of the Ratzmann shooting. Dennis Diehl observes: WCG's lack of any statement on the LCG tragedy...which they own every bit as much WCG owns it's history, is beyond comprehension...

AW drew attention to the silence from Pasadena on March and 18 and 21.

You shut the door of the kingdom of Heaven in people's faces; you do not enter yourselves, and when others try to enter, you stop them

Matthew 23: 13b (REB)

Now WCG is apparently prohibiting individual congregations from expressions of sympathy.

A WCG congregation wanted to make up a card and send it to the LCG church in Wisconsin, assuring them that they were in their prayers. WCG would not let them do it as a church. They said that the Church could not officially make something and send it, and they could only send individual cards. (Source: email by church member to Dateline Pasadena)

As lay members they could send individual cards? That means nothing. Of course they can send individual cards, as can anyone. But as a congregation they are forbidden. Why?

There have been suggestions by some that WCG is operating on legal advice. That seems ridiculous. Since when has a simple statement expressing sympathy been an issue. If Joe can't stomach the thought of mentioning LCG or Meredith by name, he has the option of simply referring to "the Brookfield tragedy". A direct communication with LCG isn't necessary; simply a mention in the Pastors Update. These people were not strangers. As we said on March 21, most of the victims were past members. It is entirely appropriate that Tkach, as president of the church, expresses the sadness that many still in the church share over this terrible incident.

Yet Pastor General Tkach has consistently hardened his heart against even this smallest act of compassion. 

Again, why? And what credibility does the WCG have as a Christian denomination when it ignores such a basic obligation - one of common human decency?

AW readers - especially those still affiliated with the Worldwide Church of God, may wish to put that question to their local pastor, or email church headquarters directly.



Between the covers: Imagine finding David Antion, Ron Dart, Ray Wooten and Wayne Cole together sipping Earl Grey tea and passing the time of day. You look around and spot Pam Dewey, Jim O'Brien and Dave Havir in animated conversation at the water cooler while Guy Swenson passes around a plate of unleavened cucumber sandwiches. This is, in short, a gathering of the good and great from the "free spirits" wing of the Church of God. 

Too good to be true? Not at all. Control freaks beware - the control-free coalition is in the ascendant... and not before time. You can find them all between the covers of the latest 12-page issue of Faith Networks, along with Wendy Pack, Brian Drawbaugh and Bill Jacobs. Some have written articles, others appear on the masthead in various capacities. It's downloadable in PDF format.

Haney in hot water with sect leaders: AW understands that LCG minister Don Haney has been fired following distribution of a letter written in the wake of the Brookfield shootings. Some of Haney's statements:

Dennis Diehl - on the banks of "de Nile"

Meredith writes to LCG members on the Brookfield tragedy

Church's changes divided its members

I hear some claim we’re the “best church” -or- that we’re the “MAIN” place God is working –or- that we are more perfectly practicing the correct “government of God” – or - that “we’re preaching the gospel more perfectly and zealously than any other branch of the Church of God.” Everyone should want to join with us, because “WE are the ONES”... the ones who are the “SPEAR POINT” of God’s efforts on this earth! Oh, “we’re not perfect”–we’ll admit– “we’re just the best there is today”…….

Many groups boast a quality or reason why they are the “best”, be it size, government, variety of programs and literature, zeal, or, as judges - because “all the others are Laodiceans.” But are these condescending comparisons Godly, wise or humble? Can ANY OF US in ANY branch or fellowship of God’s Church REALLY afford to make such self-aggrandizing statements that are clearly disdainful to our brethren in other fellowships of the Church of God? Especially given our own recent church history, that has been such a despicable display of conduct by character assassination and counter attack between brethren and church groups over the last decade? Can any of us afford to claim to be better than anyone else? How about just proclaiming the Truth by expounding God’s Word – feeding God’s sheep – living in peace - while taking the focus OFF of ourselves? ...

The implications of the many, condescending statements that we all hear in various congregations and in various forms of media, strikes many people as being very presumptuous, self-righteous – and is offensive to many, both in Living and in other fellowships. ...

Today people say, “I am of Meredith”, or “I am of Holladay”, or “I am of Ritenbaugh”, or I am of “____”! If our focus is TOO centered upon ourselves or upon which physical leader, or fellowship we support or “follow”- instead of simply preaching the gospel, loving and respecting one another and leading by example – we actually perpetuate the division! Some may feel they attend where a more powerful doctrine and zeal to do the work is, that’s fine! So let us preach it powerfully, while showing love and respect for one another. ...

The full letter is available here.

Congregation gathers a week after tragedy strikes: The Brookfield LCG met a week after the shooting spree. A report on that gathering appears in Oconomowoc Focus.

Terry Ratzmann - did LCG do the right thing? Several correspondents to AW last week were outraged at any suggestion that Terry Ratzmann was anything other than a criminal. Comments by the minister who officiated at Ratzmann's funeral, and local member Thomas Geiger, were strongly criticized. Two different views:

I’m strangely moved by the fact that victims’ families were in attendance at Ratzmann’s funeral. I doubt there were many, if any, families of Jeffrey Dahmer’s victims at his funeral. I doubt very much that there would be victims’ families at the funeral of Atlanta gunman Brian Nichols had he killed himself. Thinking about the nature of these three different crimes clarifies for me why it’s possible to speak of mercy in Ratzmann’s case.

This was not an extended killing spree, as in the Dahmer case. Nor was it the act of a desperate man trying to escape from the police. This was an otherwise “normal” individual that inexplicably went berserk. Recall that when a member addressed Ratzmann by name and asked him, “Why are you doing this?” Ratzmann stopped. Whatever clicked in the first place clicked again, and I would imagine that in that moment he possibly realized what he had done and realized the simplest way out would be to take his own life.

Was it premeditated? It seems so – he did buy the gun in the summer. Was it planned, as a terrorist attack is planned? I doubt it. He came to church with his Bible, and then returned home to exchange it for a gun.

It all revolves around whether Terry Ratzmann was a victim in this too, and I believe he was. (Gary Scott, 21 March, on XCG)

Then there are these comments from CGI's Ian Boyne, in an email to Bob Thiel.

There is something which I found touching and noteworthy of mention which I am sure will receive little public comment in the present environment. I refer to the fact that the LCG had the dignity and generosity of spirit to officiate at the service for Terry Ratzmann who slaughtered eight of its members, including himself, bringing unfavorable attention to itself. The church could have, in repulsion and anger, decided to have nothing to do with his memory. Instead, the church not only sent a minister to conduct the service, but a number of members, including people like Glenn Diekmeier and Thomas Geiger who lost close family members, turned up to pay their final respects to Terry. What a demonstration of Christian love and forgiveness! That the service for Terry, according to the report you carried, served to honor him for the good that he had done, and that the minister explicitly held out God’s forgiveness to him demonstrates a side to the LCG that many critics are wont to gloss over. I feel proud to be associated with brethren who can so tangibly demonstrate the love of Christ. I say to the traumatized and psychologically battered members of that hurting congregation who attended Terry’s funeral, especially to Glenn Diekmeier and Thomas Geiger, that you have given an unequivocal witness of your faith in the midst of deep tragedy. For those critics of the LCG who think I am straining at a gnat to find something to praise, I have one question: Do you believe that it is unthinkable that there are groups within the Church of God movement who would absolutely have nothing to do with Ratzmann and who would refuse to conduct his funeral?

Perhaps in this matter at least, LCG got it right.

Article focuses on LCG's apocalyptic fervor: The following article is sourced from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Apocalyptic beliefs can prove dangerous

Published on: 03/17/05

When Terry Ratzmann shot and killed seven people in a Wisconsin church service Saturday, the eyes of America suddenly focused on an obscure sect based in Charlotte — the Living Church of God.

In many ways, the Living Church of God echoes the beliefs and practices of well-known evangelical groups. But police speculate that its powerful focus on an imminent apocalypse, which is central to its teachings, may have prompted Ratzmann's actions.

Meredith's penchant for outrageous statements and his aggressive leadership style have made him both popular and controversial as an author and a preacher...

The recent events in Wisconsin suggest there may be a darker lesson about a preoccupation with apocalypticism ... Fascination with and speculation about "the end" can foster an atmosphere of paranoia and pessimism.

Apocalyptic preachers ever since have learned to couch their predictions in vague language that is often more akin to the daily horoscope or a fortune cookie.

The Living Church of God is one of the many splinter groups formed since the Worldwide Church of God took a turn in the 1990s toward the orthodox mainstream. The presiding evangelist of the Living Church of God, Roderick C. Meredith, was ordained in 1952 by Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God. Meredith's penchant for outrageous statements and his aggressive leadership style have made him both popular and controversial as an author and a preacher.

Like numerous evangelical churches, the Living Church of God is committed to the inerrancy of the Bible, born-again conversion, heterosexual marriage and evangelical missions. Its authoritarian church polity may be cause for concern, but it is not alone in such a tendency. Its beliefs in Saturday worship and the practice of Old Testament rituals also are shared by other denominations considered in the evangelical mainstream.

The church does have strict teachings about separation from the world, which includes nonparticipation in civil politics, the court system and military service. Members decline to observe the traditional holidays of Christmas and Easter, and they reject the doctrine of the Trinity. Church doctrine also includes a peculiar belief that white Anglo-Americans are the literal descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, and heirs to the covenant promises.

The church's apocalyptic convictions have come under scrutiny in recent days, yet, in all fairness, they hold to a view of the world's end that is not too different from that of other evangelicals who embrace the "Left Behind" theology of the popular fiction novels — in which true believers are taken away to heaven and unbelievers are left to suffer through hell on Earth. So what is different, and perhaps dangerous, about it?

Living Church of God teachings state that history is in the penultimate era in which there is still an "open door" to preach and teach the Gospel to all the world. In recent days, however, Meredith has hinted that the door may be closing and that the end of the world as we know it may be imminent. He has pointed to natural disasters and wars as signs that the apocalypse is approaching, and he has intimated that an impending financial collapse may soon devastate the United States' economy.

Still, it may not be the belief in the end of the world that is the problem, but rather the mistake of predicting the end. This sort of prophetic certainty can be problematic. Jesus himself said, "But of that day or that hour no one knows" (Mark 14:32). Nevertheless, many have proceeded to claim to know what cannot be known.

The most infamous example was William Miller, who correlated biblical prophecy with current events and announced that Oct. 22, 1844, would be the time of the coming kingdom. When the day came and went, it became known by Miller's followers as "the Great Disappointment." Apocalyptic preachers ever since have learned to couch their predictions in vague language that is often more akin to the daily horoscope or a fortune cookie.

Yet not all apocalypticism is merely speculative or harmless. Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and David Koresh at Waco, Texas, are reminders that violence can be a result of end-of-the-world imagination.

The recent events in Wisconsin suggest there may be a darker lesson about a preoccupation with apocalypticism of even the more temperate "Left Behind" variety. Fascination with and speculation about "the end" can foster an atmosphere of paranoia and pessimism. It is one thing to be entertained by fictional novels, but quite another to entertain ideas as historical reality.

Apocalyptic preachers want the liberty to predict the collapse of civilization and the end of the world without ever having to worry that someone may believe them and act accordingly. It would be wise to remember that preaching can be a dangerous craft.



Newspaper digs into LCG past: Another excellent background article from the Journal Sentinel covers the Herbert Armstrong connection - - excerpts:

The North Carolina-based church is led by Roderick Meredith, a patriarch of the Armstrong movement and a man whom religious scholars view as an authoritarian figure in the mold of Armstrong. Church leaders confirm they follow Armstrong's teachings almost to the letter... Some scholars who have studied the Churches of God say it is not a cult but has "cultish" tendencies.

The church's harshest critics say the legalistic nature of the groups, and their restrictions on member's contacts with outsiders, socially isolate adherents and leaves them vulnerable to mind control.

"The individual is lost to the group. It's very clannish, very closed," said William Hohmann, a former Worldwide Church member from Texas...

More comment on Brookfield: The Painful Truth is featuring a new, straight-talking editorial that is bound to be controversial:

From the Likeminds news group come these observations:

I know a LCG member who is firmly convinced that this is a direct attack on The Church by Satan. This person also believes that this is finally putting The Church "in the limelight". RCM has made mention before, as I have heard GTA also, of The Church one day being the focus of attention before the world. I feel that this week of media attention will be brought up constantly in the future in most LCG sermons concerning "The End Is Near". It will be used and used in sermons for years to come, even after no one in mainstream America remembers.

And from another news board:

I recall reading some years ago of how a taped sermon given by Meredith had been played in the presence of a psychiatrist in Australia who...based upon what was said in the tape...surmised Meredith was insane. We all used to laugh at some of the wacky things that came out of Meredith's mouth from time to time...but it all doesn't seem so funny now. 

Weekly Mailbag

“Another age will start within the next 3 to 5 years” 

(April 7, 1969 Roderick C. Meredith, Special Bible Study)

The next 3 to 5 years: I was saddened to read about Wisconsin Church shooting. Two things that I have read about the gunman were he suffered from depression and he was somewhat of “a loner”. Both descriptions of the gunman touched something deep inside me that I could relate to... Excerpted below is a section from my unpublished book that may provide some insight to readers coping to understand this tragedy... 

Second, I look back on my Church experience and I now realize how unnatural my own youth was. I literally grew up old! Let’s face it: The impending world destruction and “the end of the world” is pretty heavy stuff. Having Armstrong’s influence first introduced to me at age 7, I was “an old 20” by the time I realized Armstrong might not be right and I finally stopped attending this unhealthy church. In life, there is a time to be young and a time to be old. I feel I missed out on my youth and look back with much regret for my lost youth. I suffered from severe depression often during what should have been the best years of my life because I didn’t see any future for me and always felt “time was very short” as Armstrong said. Compounding the hopeless feelings, I also grew up feeling that I was different from other kids. I felt very inferior – I believe it was the partial effect of the periodic reminders of the Church’s teaching that I was “the weak of the world”, “a base thing”. I had virtually no friends in school because they were all “in the world”. We didn’t associate with people outside the Church, and I did not participate in any school activities. I remember I use to ask myself, “Why me?”

Additionally, I had the very heavy burden and grave knowledge of the impending 1972 great tribulation and the destruction of the whole world thinking all my classmates would soon be dead! Thus, I trace the origins of becoming a “loner in life” to my Worldwide Church experience (I’ve spent most of my adult life single and alone. At age 39, I had my only real relationship that lasted only 4 years but did produce a wonderful daughter).

I should also mention my book makes many references to my sermon notes taken in church services in the 1960s and 1970s. Here is one direct quote from Roderick Meredith: “Another age will start within the next 3 to 5 years” (April 7, 1969 Roderick C. Meredith, Special Bible Study).

Richard A. Dahms

Blame the victim: I must confess that I am not surprised at the tone in some of the letters in your mailbag. Blame the victim. How sad.

Positive Dennis 

More on the "C" word: (1) If you was living in the time of Jesus would you have called him and his followers a "CULT"? He sure taught different things than the religious groups that existed in time he lived on the earth. Remember Jesus was the son of God! And another thing just because some one(s) believe and teach something different than the mainstream religions of this time make them some "evil cult"

Joseph Kinchen

LCG member vents: I don't know which of you made the statement below, or subscribes to it, but it has no truth to it! .... talk about telling porkies!!! Unfortunately, Terry didn't have time to repent," Geiger said. "But God may provide a provision for that." The Living Church of God teaches that people have a second chance to repent when Christ returns to Earth. 

Why don't you get your "facts" straight before you present them? LCG does not teach that! Geiger said may provide! AND, Just who do you think you are anyway? "ADVOCATING ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE COGs?" you have admitted to being athiestic [sic] and yet you set yourself up as judge and jury to tell the COGs what to teach and how to conduct themselves??? thats like satan [sic] telling God what He ought to do and how to conduct Himself... It's none of your business what any church does or teaches. You are not part of any COG, what makes you think you have any right to judge anything that any church does ? You EX cog'ers puzzle me, you left the church and you evidently hate all the cogs and what they teach. (but do you really? or is it that you really want to be a part of the church, but don't know how?.. I wonder!) You spend a big part of your time wallowing in the teachings of the churches, I can't figure you out, you say you don't want any part of them, but yet you can't seem to let go of them. Some of you say you dislike HWA, but again, I wonder, you can't seem to let go of him either! He has been dead 20 years, but you are keeping him alive and he is still very much alive in your minds, still effecting your lives and thoughts whether you like it or not. If I hated something that much I would find something else to occupy my time!!! I wouldn't spend a large part my life nose deep in something I "dispised" [sic] like you are doing! Really, are your lives that empty? 

But... if you or any other of the anti cog,ers really think that propagating and spreading rumors, half truths and in some cases out and out lies, is going to make the church of God go away, then THINK AGAIN!... Jesus plainly said, "I will build my church" and he also said that His church would not die out, you cannot stop it, try as you may! It has been tried by the ''best'' of them since it began, So get used to it, it's not going anywhere!!! As HWA used to say, I've read the end of the book and WE WIN! I just hope that your creator will help all of you to repent of your anti God attitudes! I don't know about Terry, that is God's call, but You still have a chance to repent, the alternative is very grim indeed! THINK ABOUT IT!!!


AW: You're welcome to express your views, but not to twist the facts. (1) The quote is from the Journal Sentinel, as was clearly indicated. (2) If you're referring to AW, neither this publication nor its editor takes an atheistic position.

Hopelessness and Roderick C. Meredith: In the spring of 1974, Dr. Rod Meredith substituted as teacher for a Bible class at the Pasadena AC campus. He spent an hour describing in detail the horrific starvation and suffering which those who were not in, "the church," would soon experience in the, "great tribulation." As a 22 year old freshman I was perhaps better equipped to recognize that what he said was a bunch of baloney. In fact, I remember being angry and embarrassed for Meredith, as his presentation that day was so extreme. 

Unfortunately, another freshman student, 18 year old [name withheld], was apparently on the emotional brink that day. Immediately after this class he walked over to the Arroyo Bridge and jumped off to his death. I still remember saying hi to him after the class and him saying hi back. No sign of problems. The student body was told about it later that day at an assembly in the gym. Two things stand out about that, and really, I remember little else. First, the administrative person announcing the tragedy stated that his parents did not blame the church or college for his suicide. If you will remember, 1974 was an especially volatile time for the WCG and AC. Evidently, those in charge wanted to make sure no one else blamed them for the suicide either. (Sounds like LCG's response to the latest tragedy.) Secondly, I will always remember that HWA was there that day and that the second half of the assembly, after the suicide announcement, was filled with his tirades and yelling, towards those in the ministry who were questioning his authority. It was as if the man never broke stride. 

I never blamed Meredith for the suicide. I still don't directly blame him. People commit suicide everyday and for various reasons. But Christianity is about hope and faith. People will respond as they choose to any message. But the message of Christianity should not be the one which pushes them to suicide, but rather gives them reason to live. Review the messages of the LCG, and of Dr. Meredith. Do they give you hope in God? Make you want to turn to Him? Or do they generally make you feel lost and hopeless? The latter, I think, and the fruits prove this is true.


The "gentle soul" of Rod Meredith: Isn't this the same Rod Meredith who was a gold glove boxer? Isn't this the same Rod Meredith who [had a physical altercation with] C. Wayne Cole (I recall) during a heated debate on the grounds of the Pasadena Campus ... during the receivership? Isn't this the same Rod Meredith who [reportedly boasted of having] spanked the bare bottom of his teenage daughter, thereby earning the name, "Spanky"?


Planting crosses: I find it extremely typical that instead of using this opportunity to reach out to those who came to plant crosses to honor the fallen in Brookfield, those who came from all around to show honor and respect and love to those who were fallen, that a callous message would be administered for citizens not to place crosses because the church does not believe in crosses.

Typical that instead of welcoming these individuals who show concern they issue a condemnation. Typical that they are worried much more about the appearance of a cross than about the love of a neighbor. Typical that the physical use of a cross, even after a tragedy such as this, is more on the minds of leadership than the spiritual outpouring of love.

Typical that they would admit they knew "little about" the killer, but cannot admit they know little about how to help a church in desperate need of love. Typical that they would admit it is a tragedy when we haven't heard one peep from the head honcho himself.

Perhaps an event like this would wake them up to reevaluate their realization of what the love of Jesus Christ is all about, what caused this tragedy, to evaluate their organization as a group, and to reach out to a community who is reaching out to them. But that, in the COG's, is simply not typical.


Whither LCG? My guess is that Living as a group will, ultimately, look at this event as an attack directed by Satan. And who would Satan attack? Why God's true church, of course. So this may actually end up solidifying many folks' adherence to Living. (Of course, others will undoubtedly leave, believing that God is not with Living since He didn't appear to protect them.)


Diabolical? It is interesting to read the responses of people, who have been inside Armstrongism, to this tragedy. One of the hopes expressed is that something good would come out of this tragedy, that somehow Armstrongites would connect with the idea that something is wrong with what they believe or the way they function. Yet what makes Armstrongism such a diabolical religious philosophy is that it equips its adherents to process real events in such a way that the adherent's belief ... is always maintained inviolable.

Armstrongites can take any contradicting event and rationalize it so that it actually supports Armstrongism. If truth creates a dissonance with Armstrongism, it is the truth that is reduced in effect so as to be negligible. It is not rocket science to predict what [these] organizations will do. Some of the ways of processing this reality follow:

1) The shooter was demon possessed.
2) This was a persecution.
3) This was an indication of the end of the age.
4) The victims were sinners in some way we don't know about.

While it is unpleasant to observe, Armstrongites are incorrigible. Events like this will never cause a sea change in a COG. It would be greatly surprising if it had a positively transforming effect even on one person who witnessed this event in Brookfield. And maybe we should not expect it to -- this world is full of such events and how are they to be interpreted. Yet the witnesses are all equipped to process this event mentally and end up being stronger, more dedicated Armstrongites. God has already approached most Armstrongites back in the Nineties with the gospel and they rejected it in favor of HWA's pseudo-Christian philosophy.

[These] organizations will naturally seek to distance themselves from this event. Because they believe "all he does prospers well, but the wicked are not so." So this event presents them with a conundrum. It will be interesting to see in what dysfunctional manner they will finally process all of this. The question is whether or not we will ever know how they will decide to respond. Certainly the public statements and the private statements spoken from pulpits in COGs will differ. That is because, for Armstrongites, real events are plastic, to be shaped for expediency.

David Anderson 

The compassion and empathy of Joe Tkach: Let's hear it for our exulted leader - (boo, hiss). Whether Joe, Jr. likes it or not, he has an indirect connection in the Ratzmann incident. You would think that someone full of new covenant love shed forth from Jesus Christ would be among the first to step forward and offer condolences. You might even think someone filled with the Holy Spirit might have the attitude of the very early church in that he would be willing to step forward and share in the victim's burdens financially. (What did they get? $50, $100 million for the campus?). And a person who is used to 'boldly' preaching the gospel might even be willing to suffer a little persecution for doing good.

No, that wouldn't be our exulted leader. While it is easy to talk about love, a person really doesn't want to get their hands dirty actually showing love - would they? How preposterious - actually doing something yourself. It goes over better with the general public to write books about the "amazing transformation of the Worldwide Church of God". Got to keep up the public image - to h*ll with doing something that might hurt your vaulted image.


Who are they kidding? I am appalled at the stupidity of Tkach's WCG in thinking that if they remain silent no-one will notice/remember that they were once associated with the other COG's. Who are they kidding?????

Showing respect: In our church, UCG in the UK, we started services last Sabbath with a minutes silence, in recognition of those who lost their lives, and for their suffering and bereaved relatives. I know this would have happened in most, probably all, of the UCG churches in the British Isles. A special edition of our national announcements had been produced, four pages devoted to the tragedy - reports, both from the UCG minister in the area, and press reports of the incident, as well as UCG's official statements on the matter. Of course this was the main subject of the announcements.

In our particular church we were scheduled a video, but in addition the sermonette man, having heard of the shootings, wrote a new sermonette to cover the subject, so all in all I don't think we ignored the incident. I would hope and expect that there were many such similar reactions throughout the various Church of God groupings.

Brian Crook

Reckless disregard? After reading your summary of Gilchrist and Geiger comments at the funeral of Terry Ratzmann, I was very disturbed by the reckless disregard for a sense of justice. How could the surviving victims of such a terrible crime and such console themselves by promising a second chance to Terry. This sent my head spinning...

AW: There were several letters expressing similar views.

Fiedler fiddles new tune: The essence of locally based WCG Dist. Sup. David Fiedler's remarks in the Milwaukee  Journal Sentinel (as linked by AW) were that the 'WCG is unlike this conservative splinter'. Hmm, and this is the same guy who as Pastor Fiedler in '91 followed HQ's directions, kicking me out for passing a doctrinal paper?

Response from Bob Thiel: You might wish to read what I posted about David Pack at my GCG news page. I am surprised you have not commented on it. 

BTW, you might want to post my what I responded to the comments in Christianity Today piece from my site.

Bob Thiel

AW: Bob's site can be accessed at 

Pack - God's Latest Apostle? While everyone is being slightly side-tracked with the events in the LCG, the RCG recently sent out a 3 hour tape to members providing numerous proofs (1-100, Mr. Dave Pack specials from the pontiff's own mouth) that HE is the 21st century APOSTLE. . . what is NEXT! Of course, he denies that he is one of the 2 witnesses. . . but just wait for a couple of years to pass and we'll ALL see!!!!!! Why, oh why is it SO hard to just do exemplary good works without trying to anoint oneself with another high ranking title. . . can't these gentlemen wait for their rewards?

Apostolic amnesia: Dave Pack now claims he is an Apostle. Yet less than for short years ago he gave a sermon entitled Where the vultures gather. One hour and 16 minutes into that sermon he states: "I'm not gonna claim to be holding some high office, or I'm some kind of secret Apostle in waiting. Baloney! I don't think that way."

This is just another example of Dave contradicting himself, telling [seemingly] obvious lies, and trusting his sheep to just accept whatever shearing he gives them. Ironically, that sermon is still on his website, I wonder how long he will leave it up there, and what kind of spin he will come up with to downplay his doctrinal heresy.

Incidentally, that sermon was given in an attempt to discredit me and others who had left his employ and witnessed his misbehavior firsthand. It is filled with lies and misrepresentations about myself and others. Ultimately, time has proven that he only discredits himself. He is [in my view] an opportunistic liar who will say whatever it takes to get others to follow him. He should not be trusted. The above quote compared to his current teaching should be ample evidence for those who wish to see.

Thomas Munson

Random Thoughts: 1. Victor Kubik's blog has comment capability again -- and apparently the old comments are back. Perhaps he had a web site glitch of some sort?!

2. is promising to start Monday morning WEEKLY analysis of the news on its web site. Maybe they saw your Alexa rankings, saw where UCG stands compared with PCG, and did the math from there?!

3. [Notice] the latest "UCG Commentary on the News" -- which is about sports cheating, and not the OBVIOUS topic? I guess denial is the first step in grieving...

Bookshelf missed: Any chance you'll bring back the Book Shelf/Library page? You had a number of interesting titles out there which I picked up in 2004. Haven't seen it for some time now. 

Glen Leslie

AW: A link has been added to the top of the page.



WCG maintains silence: If you're waiting for the Worldwide Church of God to release a statement on the events in Brookfield, don't hold your breath. The cult is hoping to minimize collateral damage by playing dumb.

However, the nice folks at the Sword of Truth Ministries do want everyone to know that the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee "is a wonderful, bible based, spirit-filled organization of churches" and nothing like the LCG "which is a CULT!"

As you see, Mr. Armstrong and his "followers" [being used and seduced by the enemy] have usurped the name Church of God to confuse people; including believers. That is what the enemy does; casue [sic] confusion. Confusion is of the devil and not of God.

Our hearts and prayers of course go out to all the families and friends who lost loved ones in Wisconsin on March 12th but this point needed to be cleared up immediately.



Thanks lads, I think we get the point. And it just goes to prove, the COGs aren't the only ones who know how to use CAPS.

Click here for New York Times article on LCG (registration required, but free)

Personal perspectives: Mark Kellner, author of the Christianity Today piece, has a blog entry on the topic. ACD's Ken Westby has written an article in which he blames "the Serpent", and Homer Kizer gives a Commentary from the Margins

Dennis Diehl offers some very personal thoughts in the wake of the Brookfield tragedy in his latest AW column.

Then there's the thoughtful contribution offered by Hugo Schwyer, "a progressive, consistent-life ethic Anabaptist/Episcopalian Democrat (but with a sense of humor), a community college history and gender studies professor, an avid marathoner, aspiring ultra-runner, die-hard political junkie, and proud father of a small chinchilla." If that sounds a bit strange, don't let it put you off. This is an insightful guy. He concludes:

I still run into quite a few of these heirs to Armstrongism. They always tend to show up in my Western Civ classes, usually when we are talking about Paul and circumcision (or dietary laws.) They do their utmost to convince me that Paul didn't mean what most Christians think he meant when he proclaimed observance of the Law in these matters no longer necessary. I always smile, affirm them, and invite them to come and chat in my office. They've usually got a good story to tell, and they are usually with United or Living. They're bright kids, more often than not, and I enjoy their participation and their challenge.

And when I heard it was a Living church that was the target of Saturday's shooting, I thought of their faces.

Chandra parts ways with LCG: Chandra Frazier, a member of the Brookfield LCG, has left the church. This report from the Chicago Tribune.

Since the shooting, Frazier said she has wondered if the shootings could have been prevented had Ratzmann, 44, sought help from mental health care workers outside the church, something she said would have been frowned upon by church elders.

"I can't say that the church's teachings were the lone factor that caused the rampage, but I'm certain that it was a variable," said Frazier, who said she was so rattled that she has decided to leave the church.

"The church does not allow people to seek out help with psychotherapy and psychotherapists, because they say it's the devil's work. So, we have a lot of people like Terry in the church who are denying their problems instead of getting the help they need," Frazier said.

Mailbag madness: Last week saw a huge load of email arrive. Which items to publish? Many contained news links, others quickly dated as events overtook the concerns. While there's no way we can publish them all, we'll include a selection later in the week, after which, hopefully, things will return to normal.

Rankings change again: In the aftermath of Brookfield the LCG website has now replaced WCG as the second most viewed COG-related site on the Internet, and Bob Thiel's COGwriter site has also clocked up further gains. At the same time several media-focused sites have continued to slide, including the Garner Ted Armstrong program, Key of David (Flurry), Trumpet (Flurry), CEM (Dart) and Vision (Hulme). An updated chart showing the latest Alexa rankings is now available (you may need to hit the refresh button).



Bart Oliver

Terry Ratzmann's funeral held: The Journal Sentinel report on Terry Ratzmann's funeral is available online. The funeral for Ratzmann's youngest victim, 15 year old Bart Oliver, followed later at a separate location.

Glen Gilchrist, an LCG minister who previously served in Milwaukee, took the service.  

Pastor Glen Gilchrist officiated at Ratzmann's funeral and "attempted to honor Terry for all the good he did and recognized that some of the great men of the Bible did some heinous things," [Thomas] Geiger said. He mentioned King David and others who committed horrible acts but later repented.

"Unfortunately, Terry didn't have time to repent," Geiger said. "But God may provide a provision for that." The Living Church of God teaches that people have a second chance to repent when Christ returns to Earth.

Gilchrist, a former pastor of the Milwaukee group and close to Ratzmann, couldn't be reached Friday.

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Click the image to enlarge

New Book - Pam Dewey releases Wild World of Religion: Well known Church of God speaker and writer Pam Dewey has released a new book called Field Guide to the Wild World of Religion. Inspired by the positive feedback from her website, Pam has included new content in this 270 page companion resource.

Ambassador Watch heartily endorses this book. Pam's website has consistently provided information, perspective and common sense on the current religious scene, including (but by no means restricted to) the Churches of God. Hers is a voice from within the church, and one well worth listening to.

The highest recommendation I can give is to say that I've already ordered my copy! Field Guide to the Wild World of Religion is available through Amazon at $16.95 


Commentary: Paul Ray


I find John Ogwyn's statement on dating and marriage very confusing. He said "the church does not restrict members to dating and marrying within the church"

Yet in 2003 when my wife, who at that time was a member of the LCG, went to her minister Jonathan McNair for marriage counseling, he told her that he would not marry us because I "was not a member, nor a prospective member of the Living Church of God", and that it was "Church policy". What is mind blowing is at the time I was a member of the Intercontinental Church of God... talk about Pharisaical; even though I believed and practiced the same core doctrines, I was considered a non-believer because I wasn't a member of their corporate organization. 

So I have a problem; either John Ogwyn is lying, or Jonathan McNair is lying. Which one is it? A wacky misunderstanding or good old WCG-style damage control and cover up???



Latest from Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel: Links to new stories include (1) Hundreds mourn 3 shooting victims at service, (2) Ratzmann's sister calls him kind, compassionate and not depressed, (3) Church official calls killing spree a 'satanic' act, (4) Shooter's life difficult from start

One story (Satanic act) again pits the word of a minister against the clear testimony of local members. John Ogwyn held a press conference in a local restaurant:

A cynic might wonder if some traumatized members might end up being disfellowshipped for simply telling the truth as they see it

Ogwyn used Thursday's appearance to counter comments from some local members of the church who said members were discouraged from seeking secular treatment for emotional problems. Psychiatric counseling "certainly has its place," Ogwyn said, and is not banned by the church. The church also has no ban on medication, he said.

Local members have said those with emotional problems are told to consult first with the local pastor, and some have said seeking outside professional help is actively discouraged...

Ogwyn said the church does not restrict members to dating and marrying within the church. He said, however, that choosing a mate who practices the same religion would likely lead to a more harmonious marriage. Some local members have said that outside dating was strongly discouraged and that Ratzmann had been frustrated by his inability to find a wife within the church.

Not banned maybe, but discouraged is what had actually been said. This unseemly contradiction by Ogwyn and other LCG officials of local members' accounts is an embarrassment, and can hardly create a good impression with either brethren (who know exactly what they've heard from the pulpit over the years) or the general public. A cynic might wonder if some traumatized members might end up being disfellowshipped for simply telling the truth as they see it.

CGI letter to LCG: A letter by Charles Groce expressing sympathy to LCG members appears on the CGI website.

We are concerned for the well-being of those who lost their loved ones in the shooting and the ultimate impact this tragedy will have on the body of believers... Undeniably, the church family has been shocked by this senseless violence and the inconceivable death of the young and old. The enormity of this evil has penetrated organizational borders, appealing to the soulful longings of brethren all over the world... We extend our sympathy to those suffering under the burden of so much grief and offer our condolences to those who have lost their loved ones.

COG websites gain hits: Huge public interest in the events of last weekend has already affected the Alexa ranking of several COG websites. Both the LCG and COGwriter sites have received massive boosts. Other sites such as The Journal and Ambassador Watch have also risen. As the week progressed AW almost tripled in daily visitor numbers.

Individual web site statistics are often unreliable, as they use different methods to calculate their reach. Occasionally webmasters have also been known to overstate the effectiveness of their sites. David Pack, for example, has boasted of significant growth, yet Alexa, which uses the same formula for all sites, indicates RCG has had a consistent dip during the first half of March.

Only two Church of God sites rank in the top 100,000 on the web: UCG and WCG. We've put together a comparative table listing 30 well known sites.



the Pharisees are still passing by on the other side of the road

Studied silence from WCG leader: Most of the victims of the Brookfield tragedy may have been past members of the Worldwide Church of God, but sect leader Tkach chose to simply ignore that fact in his latest (March 17) Update. No mention of sympathy or expression of condolence, no inclusion in the prayer request section. It seems that the fiction must be maintained that WCG has no relationship with those involved in the Wisconsin shooting. We've been told that WCG staff have been instructed to emphasize their complete separation from the LCG to any who might contact Pasadena on the matter. It seems the Pharisees are still passing by on the other side of the road. 

Contrast this with the March 17 statement from the United Church of God which says in part:

As has been published in professional media sources already, two individuals associated with United were present at the Living Church of God service and one suffered serious wounds in the shooting. Two members of the Milwaukee United Church of God congregation had either a close family member or a spouse shot to death in the tragedy. Out of respect and for the privacy of those individuals, their names will not be printed here. Thankfully, the young people who survived the shooting have recovered to the point where they have now returned home.

I have made arrangements for a licensed professional counselor to be present at United Sabbath services this weekend. This individual specializes in trauma and crisis counseling, and we plan to have him discuss with our members and families what the signs of post-traumatic stress disorders are, and what possible emotional and mental aftereffects one may expect after a tragedy of this magnitude.

Christianity Today article: Mark Kellner, a former WCG member, has written about the Meredith sect in Christianity Today. In an article called Armstrongism Is Wrong, But Not Murderous, he writes:

I knew Roderick Meredith, heard him preach, read his writings, and spent time in his company. He's not a friend per se, but he's also not Jim Jones or David Koresh. He's a peaceful, gentle soul who gets riled up over his beliefs, but has never incited violence or extreme action. If, as some have speculated, a February 26 taped sermon by Meredith calling on LCG followers to get their finances in order helped push Ratzmann over the edge, I would be shocked if there was anything in this particular message that would strike a rational person as a call to arms. (And, indeed, it was reported yesterday that police in Brookfield have ruled out that pre-recorded sermon as having precipitated the crime.)

Because Ratzmann turned his gun on himself, we'll never know (this side of the Judgment) why he did what he did. It's sad that some in the media are suggesting a link which, frankly, cannot be proven: that a Bible-based theology, albeit one far less orthodox than most evangelical creeds, was the trigger for an extreme act.

Gentle soul? Kellner can't have been in the Ambassador Auditorium when Wayne Cole was heavied off the stage by Meredith in 1979. 

Kellner ends his article by - dare we say it? - spanking Bob Thiel (who he does not name).

One member of the Meredith organization, on a website to which I will not link, takes great issue with the erection of memorial "crosses" outside the hotel where the shooting took place. Why? Because Meredith and his followers do not believe the "cross" is anything other than a pagan invention... The Meredith-supporting writer emphasized his church's view that the dead are "asleep" and unconscious until the resurrection, casting aspersions on a heartfelt expression from people who are presumably of good will.

Neither the symbolism of the cross nor the question of the state of the dead is a debate I wish to enter here. Nor do I wish to disparage the sincerity of the other writer's convictions. However, it could easily be viewed by the general public as ungracious at best for people in one church to disavow a kind gesture from another, different church because those other people didn't know the etiquette that the first church follows.

In a time of tragedy, when emotions are raw and hearts are wounded, I believe it is better for all concerned to merely accept whatever condolences are offered with the words, "Thank you," and then move on. This isn't the time for an "educational message" about paganism, so-called "soul sleep" or anything else. It's a time to accept what is offered with thanks, and in so doing perhaps opening the door to further discussion at a later time.

Praise for Ambassador Plan: An article in the Pasadena Star News has details of the campus development plans that seem much more sensitive to community concerns than anything prepared under the former WCG administration. 

Noting the controversy surrounding the earlier plans, [Mayor] Bogaard described the latest proposal as "largely satisfactory.' ... most of the large mansions, once home to the Worldwide Church of God leadership, will be preserved, along with large portions of the gardens and all of the fountains and brooks... "We like the campus the way it is and we want to maintain it as much as we can,' [Greg Galletly of the Glendale development company Dorn- Platz] said... "I've got to believe people will be favorably impressed with this compared to what was proposed before,' said Vince Farhat, immediate past president of the WPRA.

Too bad WCG's financial mullahs couldn't manage to bring the community on-board in the same way when they had their chance.

Apostle Pack: Great news brethren! The church has a new Apostle! Big Dave Pack has announced his new title in a three-to-four-hour sermon to the flock. And what wonderful timing! Just as COG groups are under intense media scrutiny. Y'all send in those tithes quick-smart.



New from Journal Sentinel: Ratzmann talked of suicide a decade ago - He kept a gun under pillow at the time, church member says

Listen to Wisconsin Public Radio's Kathleen Dunn (Wednesday's edition)  Focuses on the Living Church of God

Commentary: Kathleen Kakacek


I’m still waiting to see whether the man who was fond of ranking himself in relation to the godhead and the rest of humanity, the man who wrote articles telling church members how they can “build the personality of a king,” is going to show up at the funeral. When Meredith and his coterie ditched Dr. Hoeh’s funeral out of righteous indignation that it was held in lieu of services on the Sabbath, it was obvious that the lights were on but nobody was home. And I guess that helps to explain Bob Thiel’s primly worded but clueless request that citizens not plant crosses to honor the dead of the Living Church of God because the church doesn’t believe in the use of crosses. The LCG would have survived the shootings, but can it survive the cowardice and idiocy of its leaders?

Duke University statement on LCG: The frequent use of the word "evangelical" to describe the Meredith church is one indication that the media are still coming to grips with the nature of the beast. Professor Curtis Freeman is one person doing his best to un-muddy the waters. The article is available on the university website. We believe it to be one of the best short descriptions available.

The Wisconsin congregation where seven members were killed Saturday is related to the Charlotte, N.C.-based Living Church of God, an unusual denomination that fosters a sense of "apocalyptic paranoia," said Curtis Freeman, research professor of theology at Duke University's Divinity School.

Police said Terry Ratzmann fired 22 bullets in the church before committing suicide. Church members are reported to have said that Ratzmann, a fellow congregant, was frustrated with the church, suffered from depression and recently had lost his job.

Freeman said that Roderick Meredith, the church's presiding evangelist, recently began suggesting that the end of the world as we know it may be imminent, urging followers to prepare. Meredith has pointed to natural disasters, wars and economic crises as signs that the end is near.

"This heightened sense of 'the end' and the belief that they are the select few in an evil world creates an atmosphere of paranoia and pessimism," Freeman said.

Official church teaching holds that white Anglo-American people of the world are the literal descendants of the 10 lost tribes of Israel, and therefore are heirs to the covenant promises.

The church also employs a strict hierarchy, he said. "The presiding evangelist and council of elders make decisions, and church members simply obey," Freeman said. "This authoritarianism fosters a cult-like atmosphere that allows little room for dissent. Members are not permitted to disagree with interpretations of Scripture or doctrinal pronouncements made by church leaders."

Church members are encouraged to avoid politics, court litigation and military service in order to be separate from "worldly" belief systems and communities.

Among other beliefs, the Living Church of God considers Christmas and Easter pagan holidays that should not be observed by the "true church."

"While the practices of this church are similar in some ways to other evangelical Christian movements, such as born-again conversionism and believer baptism, it is regarded by mainline Protestants, Catholics and Evangelicals to be theologically eccentric," Freeman said. 

A report in the Journal Sentinel also highlights concerns expressed by several who have written to AW.

It was well-known in the local congregation that Ratzmann suffered from depression, Frazier said. But she said church teachings strongly discourage members from consulting with psychiatrists or other therapists to deal with emotional problems.

The church similarly frowns on the use of mood-altering medications, especially more powerful anti-psychotic drugs, said Frazier, believing they "weaken your mind" and make one "susceptible to demons," she said...

Frazier said it was the role of the congregation's pastor to counsel members having personal problems.

Which is exactly what most of us know to be true. The LCG however reacted with what seems to be a denial:

Sheldon Monson, an area pastor in Wisconsin for the Living Church of God, said the church had no policy against outside counselors.

"We encourage people to seek medical advice and see what the problem is," Monson said. He declined to comment on whether Ratzmann had mental health issues.

The article also highlights the problems many singles in the COGs face in finding a life partner.

The 44-year-old Ratzmann would use the church's annual "Feast of Tabernacles" in September or October to meet and possibly find a mate at different celebrations around the country, said Chandra Frazier of Milwaukee. "He would go from feast to feast site to see if he could find someone interested in him," but apparently did not, said Frazier. "It was kind of sad," she said. "He was doing it to find a wife."

Because local congregations are small - the Milwaukee-area group has about 80 members - dating other church members effectively is limited to the "Festival of Tabernacles," when singles can meet each other, she said. Dating non-church members is discouraged.

The 31-year-old Frazier said she sympathized with Ratzmann's plight, noting that as an unmarried woman, she's acutely aware of the pressure singles are under in the church.

Ratzmann's failure to find a wife or girlfriend caused him much pain in recent years, local church members Mark and Natalie Lorenz said Tuesday... "He wanted a wife in the worst way," Mark Lorenz said.

That was depressing for Ratzmann, especially in a church that places so much focus on family and marriage, Mark Lorenz said.


16 March (2nd upload). JON GREGORY, MAILBAG

From the Journal Sentinel

The more we know, the less we understand

Jon Gregory speaks out: The surviving son of Randy and Marjean Gregory has written to well-wishers about the tentative funeral arrangements and his mother's condition. It was posted on the originalwcg board.

Dear Friends,

Below is a letter I wrote last night after much prayer, and one I hope can be comforting. The letter is followed by introductory funeral details.

Thank you for your prayers, love, and support. These are very trying times on us all. The most important thing you can do now is pray. Pray for all the victims' families including mine. To give you an update on my mom, she is making a miraculous recovery. [When] she was taken into the hospital, she was doing very poorly. God intervened. Mr. Monson, who had been at the hospital on and off all day was told he should tell the family that she had died and did so. One nurse who had been operating on her came away crying saying, "I've lost her". God had other plans for her though, and she is continually making progress. Today, Mr. Bryce and Mr. Monson were there to help me tell my mom the news, which she was already somewhat aware that my little brother and Dad had been shot and killed. It went as well as could be expected and her strength motivates and encourages me. She will most likely be taken off the ventilator and is now only on it to help her lungs expand and receive oxygen. The bullet went through her lower lung and into her abdomen from what I understand, and she is improving daily. Keep praying that she has the faith and the strength to get through this. For me, pray that I have the faith and wisdom to get through tough decisions and seemingly insurmountable problems. God will never give us more then we can handle, and my friends and family have helped me through this so much along with the victims' families who are also dealing with this tragedy. At times like this it's easy to doubt, lose faith, and be overwhelmed. I have felt this, and will continue to as I grieve but God will be with me and with all of you if we stay close to him. "Draw near to him and he will draw near to you. Pray that God's spirit be with me continually and for the faith to look to him, to give my burden to Christ, and for the wisdom to know the right choices to make for my family. I'm currently surrounded by my immediate family, brothers and sisters in Christ and together we, with the help of almighty God and Jesus Christ will push forward and grow stronger as we await Christ's return. Look to God and his word through all of this and know his love never fails. As Winston Churchill said, never, ever, ever, ever, give up. I refuse to give up my calling and do not give up yours. I know I'll be very weak at times, and I will need you all to get through this. Please don't call me yet... Thank you so much for your prayers. We will all be weak sometimes, but I will need you all to get through this. Please don't call me yet, words of encouragement of hope, of details of your life, anything. Even if I don't respond, I know you all love me, and I hope I can reciprocate that love. I am blessed to have all of you, and I could not ask for better brothers and sisters in Christ. I know you'll be there for me and I will be there for you too. Christ's kingdom is coming soon, and my Dad will be there to reign, and my brother will know a life more rich and joyful then we can imagine.

Tentatively, the funeral will be for James, Dad, Bart Oliver, and Harold Diekmieir. A place has not yet been determined for the service, I will write you with those details later. For now, TENTATIVELY the funeral service is scheduled for Thursday at 7 PM somewhere in the Milwaukee area. All of you are invited. Do not put your future on hold for this though. If you can't make it, I understand, and those of you who knew and loved my Dad and James, were known to them, and focus on your faith in God, and put first things first, and pray that I do also. May God comfort all those who mourn, and may those who are persecuted for righteousness sake inherit the kingdom.

With love, Jon

Weekly Mailbag

This mailbag is devoted exclusively to correspondence about the Brookfield tragedy. Several emails on other issues have been held over, and will appear at a later time.

Denial: Like so many others who are or were affiliated with the WCG and its offshoots, I grieve at the loss of life. I think your first posting, calling on us to reflect and mourn before looking for answers, was right on target. Now that the first shock is wearing off, though, it's time to share the fruit of reflection.

It is encouraging that the news media is focusing on the role that the teachings of LCG may have played in creating the atmosphere in which such a senseless thing could happen. I think it is important to maintain balance here however. On the one hand, this could have happened anywhere. Such explosions of violence have occurred at other church services, even of balanced, mainstream denominations. If the police and media focus on LCG beliefs obscures that fact, then it has only served to falsely reassure people that these things only happen on the loony, apocalyptic fringe of religion.

On the other hand, though, if the leadership of LCG does not do some honest soul-searching about how the continual harping on tribulation "in the next five to fifteen years" contributed to an atmosphere that made it more likely to occur there than in healthier Christian environments, then they will remain as baffled about what led this poor man to do it as Charles Bryce professes to be now.

Studies of sectarian movements (which the LCG is--no further evidence is needed than the pains Bob Thiel takes on his website to point out that those who placed crosses in the snow and recited the Lord's prayer could not have been LCG members) suggest that members will go in one of two directions. For some, I pray many, it will be a reality check that helps them see that they have bought into a belief system that trades heavily on shame and fear. The other direction would be to circle the wagons, interpret both the shooting and the news coverage as "persecution" and be more reinforced in their beliefs. The evidence in so far is more of the second variety. Again, we need look no farther than Bob Thiel's website, where coverage of this has been moved from "News of the Living Church of God" to "News of those once affiliated with the Worldwide Church of God". The term for that is denial.

Henry Sturcke 

The Meredith sermon: I have it on reliable information that the sermon was about getting your finances together before the last day. This is directly from a ... church member. How could this guy, facing a job loss and all this pressure to pay off the bills accomplish this? It was just too much. I remember what it was like. We had the same sermon many a time in Worldwide before the split. 

Real needs ignored: I would like to share my thoughts if I may as to what I feel is key to understanding why this shooting may have happened. The COGS are not equipped with the emotional, psychological, and especially, the TRUE spiritual needs of Gods people. I see this still going on in the present WCG by many of their members who think some who are struggling with things who left, need, and I am quoting some, "to GET OVER IT". 

No, people can't get over it, especially when they STILL see coldness pouring from the veins of all COGS, especially current WCG. Brethren just don't need sermons on Christian living, they need to feel loved, nurtured, filled with real hope. They need to have ministers and brethren call and check in on them, and they need to feel that when ministers and brethren call, its not because of them checking them off on a list because of duty, but because they are truly concerned for that person...

Church leaders had better take note of this, and look at themselves and see if they are the compassionate leaders Jesus would want them to be... I didn't know Terry, I wish I did. He was depressed apparently for a long time, and someone needed to sit with him and show they really cared to get to the root of his depression. I think somehow, he was failed and allowed to slip through the cracks, I suspect he was ignored, I don't know. But as educated as we are supposed to be in the church, someone should have seen the signs he was placing out there. Depressed people need others who are sensitive to their silent obvious cries for help. But too many are too wrapped up in their own little worlds to see. 

Menial members: The heavy hand of the LCG cult has finally made itself manifest in the atrocity that has happened in Brookfield. The "clergy" has always distanced itself from the average, menial member. The leaders have considered themselves "servants" in name only, but not in conduct. They are far out of touch, and insensitive, to the real needs of their followers. They can't relate to their pain and suffering because they have always had a hedge about them. It is not just the fault of the leadership however, although the leadership plays a major part. There has always been a lack of substance in the "churches of god". In most cases, friendship has always been skin-deep. Cults like LCG, UCG, WCG, and PCG impose behavior and expect belief without question, place boundaries on a person's thinking, demand the observance of ritual, and gain obedience by generating fear. Followers of these cults lead lives of constriction and limitation rather than exploration and discovery. Old concepts and doctrines are adhered to, rather than seeking truth. Even 20 years after his death, most followers of Herbert W. Armstrong still believe he was God's apostle and that he delivered any and all truth to them. Nothing more needs to be learned. They have it all, and the leaders of these cults deliver to their followers the same redundant future prophecies that Herbert delivered for fifty years when he was alive. All of those prophecies failed for Herbert, but cult leaders and followers are still anxious for the collapse of the nation, then they can say, "We told you so", "WE are God's true church", "See, we had the truth". The catastrophe that happened in Brookfield can happen again in any of the Armstrong cults, because the leadership will never own up to, or come to grips with, the REAL problem.

The "ministry" needs to say, "We looked around and saw the problem, and the problem is US!"


Compassionate solidarity: It was inspiring to learn that UCG minister, Mike Hanisko and LCG minister, Sheldon Munson have a history of pastoral cooperation, and that members of the respective congregations have maintained caring relationships. This is as it should be; there can’t be much difference in the daily Christianity practiced by either group’s members. I also hope that any other WCG/WCG offshoot pastors living near the Milwaukee area will extend themselves as Mr. Hanisko seems to be doing. A show of compassionate solidarity would do much damage control among the various groups, and in the larger community.

Regarding Mike Minton’s editorial, and the essay in the Village Voice, I have to agree; it’s almost surprising that more such incidents haven’t occurred, given the bombardment of negativity that members are subjected to. Mr. Meredith’s assertion that his is a pacifist church reminds me of the dichotomy I sensed for years between our members’ refusal to serve in the military because we were commandment keepers, and the incessant, American-centric view (how odd this must have seemed to members from other nations) that “We have won our last war,” because, “We have lost the pride of our power.”

Something positive can be redeemed from this tragedy if divisions are cast aside between former brothers and sisters, and that the hierarchy of the Armstrong-based churches will see how apocalyptic teachings can have unintended consequences when they focus on terror and punishment of unbelievers, rather than on the Sermon on the Mount.

Kathleen Kakacek

That "c" word: I don't think LCG has any reason to worry about the media branding them a Cult!! CNN says they are an Evangelical Church that keeps the Sabbath! My how times have changed!! Gee maybe WCG should take heed to this!! Maybe they did not need to change after all!!

I think it is crazy the media hasn't said much about it!!! Imagine if it were a legit Church!! Then it would be all over the place!! I guess Satan doesn't really care about the Cults!

Blaming Satan: It strange how the member that blamed Satan, has been conditioned to not even consider that something may be wrong with the church organization. The shootings just make members think it's "prophesied end times" rather than looking internally for cause and effect. The real truth of the situation probably will never be known because of the expert damage control of these organizations. I do think Satan is more of a devised scapegoat than a reality; devised long ago to scare people into submission and then used as an excuse. I think in this case the member needs to get his/her nose out of the Bible and start living reality. I'm not discounting the reality of end times, but everything can't always be put neatly in that category and dismissed. There are internal problems that people aren't even seeing or addressing. They are clinging to the "trunk of the tree" because they are blind.

Callous comments: My take on the shooting tragedy: (1) Publicly, at least, the LCG, and even the UCG, seem more concerned about these shootings damaging their church and branding them a cult than they do about the families who suffered loss. Dr. Meredith should have commented immediately, and focused on the families. I cannot conceive of a church leader even giving thought to NOT coming out and making comment that same day. Privately, I'm assuming (and hoping) there was shock and even grief over this among the LCG leadership. But what you do publicly at a time like this is highly indicative of your priority. If you believe God is with your church, then let Him take care of the public image.

(2) The LCG is a cult. Let's get that settled. Second only to the Philadelphia Church of God as to extremes. This, however, does not put the specific blame for what happened on them.

(3) Why do people make such callous comments such as, "God works all things together for good," and, "God works in mysterious ways," at a time like this? God didn't load the gun or shoot those people. Terry Ratzmann did. If your loved one had been shot that day, what would your reaction be to a comment like that at a time like this?

(4) I cannot fathom what it would be like to lose your child, husband, or wife, in that way. Again, my prayer is that those who suffered loss will find Godly support from those who survived.


Not the first: I remember reading that a student of Roderick Meredith's committed suicide after one of Meredith's doom and gloom sermons.


Long-suffering members? Before commenting on the recent Wisconsin murders a word on my background. I've been out of the WCG for approx. 12 years or so, after having been a member for about 23 years. It comes as no surprise that a minister, his family, and others were murdered. The real amazing thing is that many more of them haven't been murdered in the WCG and offshoots. The lack of violence on the part of members is a testament to how Christian and long-suffering the majority of members have been. I know members that have committed suicide, I know members that have had multiple marriages and divorces (along with all the associated misery) directly attributed to these groups. I know members that have taken bankruptcy due to tithing. I know members and members children that have died from their "truth" about seeking medical help. I know many that are facing an old age with economic situations too horrible to face. The reality of having dedicated lives, marriages, careers, and children to liars, crooks, thieves, and heretics. In the end the fruit is horrible. 

As an aside, anyone that can read the comments written by the children raised in the church on the "Painful Truth" site without tears, and a great deal of shame, is a lost cause... I have known ministers that time, and in some instances even the legal system, has proven to be thieves & child molesters. I've known one that seduced a widow then disfellowshipped all those that found out. I knew one that routinely used the congregations fund raising monies as a personal piggy bank. One apparently carried on homosexual affairs within our congregation and under his young wife's nose (I wonder if his current congregation realizes this great speaker... is queer?? Not that I'm a homophobe but it surely is against what he teaches). Which one of us hasn't known ministers that used the congregation as a personal work force, baby sitting agency, and general servants?? I do feel truly sorry for the innocent members and children slain in Wisconsin and pray for them... What is really surprising is that members quietly commit suicide, or go off into old age and oblivion with shattered lives. Perhaps with broken children confused and marked for life by what was taught. Perhaps mentally damaged by brainwashing or depressed over the economic situations they must live, while the truly evil prosper and ignore the hurt. It's just amazing they go quietly... Just my opinion but it is based on having been there, lived it, and deeply repented of any part I had in it.

The church and medical help: Based on what I've read about the Wisconsin tragedy, I think a few general preliminary deductions can be made as to why it happened. Mr. Ratzmann, the shooter, suffered from what was, I suspect, an untreated case of depression. Most people who are being treated for a mental illness don't go on a rampage like this. They are being monitored by their doctors, friends, social workers, and family members, so if a relapse occurs a safety net is there to catch them. But, if a mental illness, like any other illness, is left untreated, the victim will decompensate and self-destructive acts can happen.

The classic gloom and doom culture of the Armstrongite faith and the long-time anti-medicine teaching may have pushed poor Mr. Ratzmann over the edge. The taped sermon by Rod Meredith that he heard several weeks before the shooting would not have helped a depressed mind in the least. It may have been a triggering event, along with other life situations we don't know about yet. And the long-time "no medicine, no doctors, it's monkey puss" bias that too many Armstrongites still believe in, in spite of the "change in that doctrine" in the 70's, also may have been a contributing factor in Mr. Ratzmann's final act. This bias may have prevented everyone from the minister on down to the folks in the pew from educating themselves about mental illness. If a pro-medicine bias was the norm for the Armstrongite spin-offs, the chances are that Terry Ratzmann could have been helped before this happened. 

What is terribly ironic about this tragedy, is that it happened in the Living Church of God. Rod Meredith, it's founding
father, was the author of that horrid policy letter about medicine and healing that was responsible for many members of the WCG and it's spin-offs neglecting their health to the point of death. I think it's safe to say, the attitude toward medical care taught in that letter claimed several more lives last Saturday.

I hope that some good things come out of this tragedy. The things I hope for are: That the members of all the Armstrong groups start holding themselves and their ministers accountable for teaching a correct, Christian doctrine about doctors and medical care. The classic Armstrongite doctrine has to be publicly renounced, and the authors of it exposed for the hypocrites that they really were. This nonsense that God didn't "reveal" the full truth to Mr. Armstrong prior to 1975 is a lie. Herbert always got medical care for himself, so he knew the right thing to do.

That the members of the WCG/Spinoffs will educate themselves about mental illness. So many desperate people with all kinds of problems, especially mental illnesses, are attracted to anyone or anything that promises a sure-fire solution to their troubles. Many religious groups promise too much by claiming it can all be cured by prayer, anointing with oil, or the laying on of hands. While I believe in the possibility of miracles, practical Christian charity demands that we that care of the sick until they are well. The WCG/Spinoffs need to learn how to do this. A visit to a local mental health group will be the beginning of practical applied Christianity for many of the Armstrongites.

That if the WCG, the LCG, and the rest of the spinoffs do not do any of the above, that many of their members will leave, and find good shepherds and good churches that really care about them.

Steve Dalton

The flip side: On one hand, I'm sad that it happened. No one deserves that. On the flip side... I saw it coming. I've been wondering when something like that would happen for many years. How could a movement, an organization like 
that, fail to attract unbalanced people? The only real surprise is that it didn't happen sooner.

Maybe now some law enforcement attention will be focused on the movements [which] oppress and steal from their members and drive people to such desperation...


The Meredith factor: The terrible events in Wisconsin are sad but not surprising when you consider [the possibility] that this was a mentally troubled man looking for guidance from another mentally troubled man, Roderick Meredith. This man who [is reputed to have] bragged about spanking his teenage daughter on her bare rear end once a week whether she needed it or not "just to keep her in line"! ...

David W. Berryman



WCG minister comments: The coverage of the Brookfield LCG tragedy by Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel continues to be outstanding as local reporters attempt to come to grips with the background behind Saturday's events. Excerpts from one of the latest articles:

It has been 10 years since David Fiedler pastored to Terry Ratzmann. The last time he saw him was when the church they both belonged to fractured in a doctrinal split that church leaders have likened to "Dodge City at High Noon" and a "nuclear explosion." The church lost 40% of its members, dropping to 60,000. Fiedler went one way. Terry Ratzmann went the other.

Saturday, Ratzmann suffered his own meltdown.

Police are wondering now whether it was his relationship with his church and fellow members - not a job loss as some had theorized - that caused the 44-year-old New Berlin man to shoot 11 of his fellow churchgoers, killing seven and himself.

"All I know is that Terry Ratzmann was a very gentle-spirited man," Fiedler said. "I just can't imagine him doing anything like this."

Fiedler, of the Town of Waukesha, was "relieved" with the changes in his Worldwide Church of God in 1995. He is now district superintendent, overseeing 30 pastors and 50 congregations in Wisconsin and six other states. But Fiedler said his local church members who meet in Milwaukee now number only about 75, compared with the 500 or so - Ratzmann, too - who used to meet at the Waukesha County Expo Center and then at Whitnall High School.

Ratzmann turned to the Living Church of God - a splinter organization that carries on much of the apocalyptic and Old Testament bent of the original church founder, H.W. Armstrong. ...

Fiedler said his church abandoned Armstrong's "prediction addiction" and "fear approach" long ago. "I assume that's still continuing over there," he said. "That kind of thinking and that kind of approach can be very unsettling." ...

If the turmoil of such a church split was nagging at Ratzmann, as at least one e-mailer to this newspaper said it had nagged at him for so long, Fiedler can't really say. Some people were so unsettled by the church's doctrinal change that they stopped attending altogether. Some turned to other churches.

"Some people seem to carry a lot of hurt with them and have been unable to deal with it," he said, "whereas Terry just continued on with the same belief system that he had in the past.

"I don't think the changes affected him because he didn't go along with the changes."

Fiedler knew six of the eight killed Saturday because he had been their pastor from about 1991 to 1995. He said he did not know the current pastor, Randy Gregory, or his son, James, both of whom were shot and killed by Ratzmann.

Like the rest of us, Fiedler struggles for answers. He remembers that when he first moved to the Town of Waukesha from Michigan, Ratzmann was among those who welcomed him. He brought pears to share.

"It's just so unthinkable and so unreasonable and so unlike who he was. He must have snapped." officials said three survivors being treated there are improving and expected to make full recoveries. One, Marjean Gregory, remains in critical condition in intensive care. 

Journal Sentinel

In another story the newspaper notes that sect administrator Charles Bryce has spoken in a news conference at the hospital where victims are recovering. Incredibly, his statements seem to contradict those of the LCG members who were actually there.

A Living Church of God official disputes reports that a "sensational" sermon had driven Terry Ratzmann out of a church service two weeks before Saturday's tragic gathering at a Brookfield hotel left eight dead, including the New Berlin man.

The church is still investigating what the sermon was on Feb. 26, but "it had nothing to do with prophecy or any kind of sensational topic," Charles Bryce said at a news conference today. "It was just about basic Christian living."

Bryce, the church's national director of administration, said the truth of why Ratzmann walked out of the February service may never be known...

"We don't know," Bryce said at Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital, where three church members are recovering from gunshot wounds. "There are some people who are saying that perhaps he was called upon to give the closing prayer and just got kind of nervous at the end, and that's why he walked out."

Witnesses to Saturday's shooting have said that Ratzmann was upset with a taped sermon played at the Feb. 26 service. One church member said the sermon concerned dire warnings of the end of time and how church members should prepare.

Bryce disputed that the sermon in question was one by Roderick Meredith, the presiding evangelist of the North Carolina-based church, an offshoot of the Worldwide Church of God.

News-board comments: Some of the more considered and less apocalyptic responses have come from an Ambassador alumni forum.

I don't attend LCG but am a member of UCG. If this horrible thing had happened in a UCG congregation I would hope it would cause a great deal of introspection from each minister, home office administrator and member (actually it should anyway). I would hope that UCG would face it head on, determine what could be done to keep it from happening in the future and not just label it a symptom of a sick world or Satan's influence. I would hope that in evaluating how doctrines such as the end time are approached they would find you can still teach them without scaring the daylights out of people.

I don't think this church (Armstrong's) will have received more media attention since the receivership in the late 70s and the 60 minutes interview.

Meanwhile - thumbs down on Bob Thiel's site for the coverage of this. I go there occasionally to get news - and am used to the self-righteous commentary that comes from too many LCG members (sorry if that offends - but its the way it is). Interspersed with news reports there are italic comments such as a reference to "Rev Meredith" in a report - Bob takes pains to explain they don't call ministers "reverend". Then there is a reference to locals putting up crosses and flowers at the massacre site - and a comment that the LCG doesn't believe in crosses. We know that Bob. But hello - blood on the floor - people are dead - citizens showing compassion.

The sermon tape in question has been removed from the Living Church site. The LCG legal department will be working overtime on this.

For the LCG - this is a major tear in the superstructure. A church that existed as an extra special COG - a place where the "work" was truly being done (as opposed to other places) - and God's "protection was near" - is now going to have to look for answers. Like the Titanic - the hull has been breached. It may take a while for the ship to start listing - but once the notion of organizational "specialness" is gone - its just a matter of time. Not to put too much emphasis on grief stricken reactions - but current news video shows two members - one lady asks "where was God's protection?" - and another elderly woman says she "doesn't want to go back to church any time soon". Time to check the lifeboats. The crew at North Carolina is going to have to step up - this is make or break for Rod Meredith.

Even the "Ambassador Watch" site which does not miss a single opportunity to skewer the WCG and split offs are knocked off guard by this tragedy

Our "extended family" hasn't got this much worldwide media exposure since 1992. The hotel and the Saturday church service assured instant recognition. This is a long way off from the Quaker part in our heritage.

To the extent that COG churches discourage members from working with psychiatric professionals - and instead try their own brand of "counseling" and checking for demonic activity etc - they are not helping prevent these situations - to put it mildly. I would think after this - the FIRST resort should be to urge members to seek professional help - and then later check for spiritual issues.

I have followed the breakup of the splinters with lots of interest. I think you are correct about how UCG would handle this situation. It could easily happen anywhere – so I don’t blame LCG for this – its not about their teachings or “prophecy” etc. Its about a mentally ill member. But my friends at LCG are no longer as close to me as they have been in the past – in no small part due to the “specialness” they must cling to in order to remain separate. It’s no big stretch to see that will now be difficult for them to maintain.



Terry Ratzmann

UCG also in damage control: The Brookfield tragedy may have involved a congregation of the Living Church of God, but it seems the United Church of God is also concerned about being tarred with the "cult" brush. An AW correspondent writes:

Thought you would find this email from Mike Hanisko (pastor in UCG Milwaukee, Wisconsin), forwarded by [Richard] Pinelli to the UCG pastorate. As you can see, there is much concern on the part of UCG (or at least Mike Hanisko) of negative publicity from being linked to LCG. There is also great concern about being labeled ... a cult.

In fact, there is almost as much time spent in the email below discussing the negative publicity as is spent actually discussing the tragic events and their effects on the families involved.

I do believe that Mike overestimates the media's interest in LCG/UCG's beliefs. Not surprising, especially considering that we were always taught the whole world is out to get us.

Here's the Hanisko/Pinelli email. 

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Richard Pinelli" <>
To: <Undisclosed-Recipient:;>
Sent: Monday, March 14, 2005 1:04 PM
Subject: Events in Milwaukee

Dear Fellow Elders,

Following is a message from Mike Hanisko, pastor of our congregation in Milwaukee, WI. We wanted to pass it along.


Hello from Milwaukee,

As you can well imagine, the events that took place at the Living Church of God services this past Sabbath have shaken the entire community here. The emotional impact on both the LCG and UCG congregations has been devastating. I'm sure you have heard some of the numerous reports provided by the media, but I also wanted to update you with the following details.

The shooter, Terry Ratzmann, was a member of LCG and had been a member of the WCG congregation in this area. He has never attended UCG services. He shot and killed 7 members of the LCG congregation and wounded 4 more.

Killed were:
Randy Gregory, the pastor of the Milwaukee LCG congregation
James Gregory, Randy's son age 17
Gerald Miller
Gloria Critari
Bart Oliver, age 15
Harold Diekmeyer whose daughter, Mrs. Gail Hoffman is a member of our UCG Milwaukee congregation
Richard Reeves whose wife, Lena, is a member of our UCG Milwaukee congregation

Wounded were:
Gloria Critari's 10 year old granddaughter who was treated and released yesterday.
Marjean Gregory, Randy's wife who is in critical condition but is expected to survive.
Angel Baricak, a 20 year old girl whose parents are members of LCG. She is in satisfactory condition.
Matthew Kaulbach, 21 years old, whose parents are members of our UCG Milwaukee congregation. Matthew and his 15 year old brother, Peter were both at LCG services on Saturday, and often attend both UCG and LCG Sabbath services because they have good friends in both congregations. Matthew is also in satisfactory condition and is expected to be released from the hospital in a few days.

As in many metro areas, most of our UCG members know most of the LCG members and have maintained a good relationship with them. I personally knew all those who were killed except for the shooter. Randy Gregory and I have had several joint counseling sessions with member families where one mate was a UCG member and the other a LCG member.

The media coverage has been extensive and nonstop. Within a few hours of the shootings, reporters had established the link between the Living Church of God and the Worldwide Church of God. Television and radio reporters have also referred to Mr. Herbert Armstrong and Garner Ted Armstrong and the World Tomorrow radio program. News sources here have also quoted a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor of Comparative Religion who commented that the Living Church of God has some nontraditional beliefs such as refusing medical treatment, not celebrating birthdays and not observing Christmas and Easter. To this point, I have seen only one reference to the United Church of God. This was in today's (Sunday) newspaper in an article which quoted an LCG member in Omaha. Here is the quote: "The Worldwide Church of God splintered over disagreements on doctrine and church governance, according to information on Web sites maintained by that church. The Living Church of God is the second largest group that formed from that split, said Jim King, a long-time member in Omaha, Neb., who is active in choir direction. He said the United Church of God was the largest new religious organization to form from the break up."

That has been the extent of any reference to UCG so far.

I have spent a good part of the last two days at the hospital where the victims were taken and where many LCG and UCG members have been gathering. Sheldon Munson, who pastors for LCG in the Twin Cities, has also been here, and he and I have been talking with the members and together anointed Matt Kaulbach last night. Church members from both LCG and UCG congregations have been providing food and other help to all the families directly affected by the tragedy.

Charles Bryce will be conducting a press conference at the hospital [Monday] morning at 10:00 am. I plan to be there, and I will update you on how that goes. There is also a meeting tomorrow evening that Charles will be conducting for the benefit of family members and friends of the victims. Any members of the Milwaukee LCG and UCG congregations who want to come are invited. I also plan to attend that meeting and I expect that many from both congregations will be there.

The local community has been very supportive, and as often happens in these kinds of tragedies, a makeshift memorial has sprung up near the hotel where the shootings took place. Many have left flowers, cards and other mementos at that location. To this point the tenor of the media coverage overall has been sympathetic and compassionate as has been the mood in the community. But there have been hints of some reporters exploring the "nontraditional" beliefs of LCG, and the UWM professor of Comparative Religion used the word "cult" saying that "many Christian churches consider other Christian churches to be cults because of their differences in beliefs." But that has been the only mention I have heard of the word cult.

Funeral arrangements are still pending. I will send that information to the Home Office as it becomes available... I hope to attend as many of the funerals as possible.

That's all for now,
Mike Hanisko

The Little Church of Horrors

A Village Voice writer pulls no punches

Meredith tries to soothe concerns: Roderick C. Meredith seems to have had second thoughts about fronting to the media. An earlier report in the LA Times stated "A spokesman said Meredith was not available to comment Sunday." But a later report in the Journal Sentinel contained these quotes from a phone interview:

"We're a pacifist church," he said. "We do not believe in violence or killing."

Meredith said that while the church emphasizes its beliefs that cataclysmic events will occur at the end of time and that that time is coming soon, it taught that people should not take matters into their own hands. If that was a factor in Ratzmann's thinking, Meredith said, "that would be exactly opposite what we've been teaching."

Meredith said he did not know of an explanation for why Ratzmann opened fire on members of the church and that nothing like that had happened before in the church's history.

Meredith said several leaders of the church were in Milwaukee or traveling here on Sunday to help members and to deal with the aftermath of the shootings. They included Charles E. Bryce of Charlotte, the administrator of the church, who was not available for comment.

"It is hard to understand. It is a terrible tragedy," Meredith said. He said God causes all things to work together ultimately for good, but "we don't understand the specifics; we wish we did."

Ratzmann website still online: Terry Ratzmann may be dead, but his website on carnivorous plants lives on in cyberspace. It can be found here. A link on the page displays photographs from the 2001 LCG Feast in Australia.

Editorial: The Journal Sentinel editorial on the slayings can be found here.

The COG reaction: If newsgroups are any indication of how Church of God members are feeling, then it seems there has been a rush to explain away the tragedy and simply avoid the painful issues. Two sad examples:

I feel that those killed are the first martyrs in this endtime. We truly need to be "rescued" from this wicked world and its horrible influence on us all. Satan is trying to get hold of us all as he did the man who did this dastardly deed.

That has all the subtlety of an old Flip Wilson routine: the devil made him do it!

After listening to this sickening hit piece by [Geraldo Rivera] who of course brought on “ex members” as experts on LCG and the other splits comparing them to Jim Jones type congregations should give all of us reason to get on our knees and realize the persecution to come. This is not going to be easy. Are we up to it? Will we deny Christ before the rooster crows three times? How important are our lives? Are we willing to rally around LCG or are the other groups going to sit by and hope for its demise? Time will tell.

Others are asking uncomfortable questions:

As a brand, LCG is toast. They did not get in front of the story by quickly making officials available to make affirmative statements about what the church teaches, or to answer questions. Way too late, they put a very shallow statement on their homepage about fully cooperating with the authorities. None of this has slowed the media's quick adoption of the view that the LCG is a 'cult' (whatever that really means), and since cults are dangerous, LCG must be. Indeed I read this morning that Fox News had someone from the FBI on last night saying this could have been another Waco.

So in a few hours, due to simple lack of attention, LCG has destroyed whatever benign public image they may have built up over the years of buying big bucks of air time and allowed the [media] to put his group in the same hopper as Jim Jones, Waco, and the wackos. After this weekend, his group might even have trouble renting halls or buying new airtime. Who wants to rent to crazy people?

The best we can hope for is that the rest of the Church of God does not get painted with the same brush. The horrible events on Saturday in Wisconsin are bad enough, and we all grieve the loss of friends, but as a body, we are going to all suffer for years in other ways as well.

Meanwhile Bob Thiel has been busy putting the best possible construction on the LCG's theology. Among Bob's clarifications is this one (emphasis supplied):

I just got through listening to ABC radio news. The broadcaster stated that the Living Church of God focused on end-time prophecies. This is not accurate, though in our telecast end-time prophecy is a common theme. The church emphasizes having Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20 is probably RC Meredith's favorite verse in the Bible) and living by every word of God. We believe, and emphasize, that the ten commandments show love towards God and our neighbor.

AW readers can judge the objectivity of that disclaimer for themselves.

Mike Minton comments: An editorial piece regarding Brookfield now appears on the Painful Truth site.



A Wisconsin radio station has placed online a guest book for each of the victims of the Brookfield tragedy. If you'd like to leave a comment, the guest books can be accessed through this link.

Sermon may have been catalyst: (from the Journal Sentinel)

While there was no known motive for Saturday's slayings at a Brookfield hotel, the man believed responsible had been upset about a taped sermon by the church's spiritual leader, Roderick C. Meredith, according to a fellow congregation member who survived the attack. She reported that the sermon by Meredith, who is seen on many of those broadcasts, dealt with a coming "spiritual war."

And from another news report:

Frazier did not know what set Ratzmann off but speculated he was upset about what was said at the church meeting two weeks ago.

"Dr. [Roderick] Meredith [leader of the Living Church of God] said there would be a spiritual war in the next five to 10 years and we need to be ready," she said. "At the service two weeks ago, Terry got up and left. He was supposed to say the closing prayer, but nobody could find him."

A full article on the sermon connection is available here.

Statements from UCG leaders: We in the United Church of God, an International Association, are shocked beyond words at the events encompassing the tragic and senseless slaughter at a Living Church of God Sabbath service in Wisconsin on Saturday. For many decades, those of us with an Ambassador College and Church of God tradition have strongly taught and preached the Ten Commandments which, as we all know, includes the command "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13). Violence and aggression have no place in any of our collective teachings and traditions.

News accounts here and abroad describe the gunman as "troubled" and depressed. Whatever his state of mind at the time, the outcome was horrific and it will profoundly impact us all. Our main concern now is for the survivors and families affected by this irrational and heartrending act. We in the United Church of God call upon all who fear and worship God to collectively and earnestly pray for the healing and comfort for those aggrieved. Today there are families who have lost their father, their mother, their sister and their brother. Their loss is our loss. In the face of such a tragedy, one's mere words seem very inadequate but the combined support of many helps ease the suffering.

We know that the day is coming soon when "God will wipe away every tear…there shall be no more death, no sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4). Sadly, as the events of the Wisconsin Sabbath confirm, that day is not yet here. God speed that day, and may God strengthen us all with His love and mercy.

Roy Holladay

Words cannot even begin to convey the sorrow and grief we carry upon hearing of the senseless killings in the Living Church of God services Saturday. We literally and symbolically ache for the families and friends whose loved ones were so tragically taken, and pray earnestly for the healing of those whose lives are still hanging in the balance. The lives of thousands of people around the world who never knew these individuals personally are nevertheless deeply affected.

The bond of God's Holy Spirit instills a special love for all of those in His spiritual family, and we "weep with them that weep" (Romans 12:15). Amid all the conflicting emotions and complex questions swirling around this tragedy, this much is clear: how desperately we need Jesus Christ to return to this earth. After today, our sense of urgency and longing for that moment to arrive has risen to an entirely different level and we pray as never before, "Thy kingdom come!"

Clyde Kilough

"When one part suffers, every part suffers with it" (1 Corinthians 12:26). We grieve the loss of life and the woundings among those attending church services in Brookfield, WI on Saturday, March 12th. We will all wonder what made the perpetrator snap. Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who suffered such traumatic hurt and loss.

Guy Swenson (former UCG pastor) 

At this stage we are unaware of any public comment from Roderick C. Meredith.

Condition of Mrs. Gregory: (from a report on Bob Thiel's website) Marjean Gregory has a blood clot in one of her lungs as a result of being wounded yesterday. It was first believed the clot could be dissolved, but I have now been told that she is being taken back into surgery. Your fervent prayers would be greatly appreciated.

Cleveland Piano Competition: We are aware that there has been a positive response to at least one AW reader who emailed Karen Knowlton at the Cleveland International Piano Completion. Your expressions of concern may make a real difference. If you've been considering making a personal approach, now would be a great time to do it. More details at the bottom of yesterday's upload. Please remember to keep it polite and to the point.



AW comment: What do you say in response to a tragedy like the one that struck the Living Church of God in Wisconsin? Seven dead; a family virtually wiped out in a few moments of horror. Two of those murdered just teenagers.

Whatever any of us might think about the church, its leaders, or even perhaps the pastor who died on Saturday, the reality is that this was an evil deed. Our sympathies naturally go out to the survivors and the families of those slain. Whether we like it or not, those of us who share a history in the Worldwide Church of God also share an identity, a sense of "family" (no matter how dysfunctional), despite the many different directions our lives may have taken since that involvement.

The tragedy in Brookfield was not, however, an act of "persecution" as one writer has already attempted to describe it. Persecution comes from beyond the community. This terrible event was perpetrated by a member of the congregation. Reports indicate Terry Ratzmann, a normally dedicated member, was depressed. Who knows what personal demons drove him to this savage act? His family must be suffering now too.

It would surely dishonor those who have died to misrepresent these killings as "an act of Satan", the beginning of persecution, the result of insufficient prayer, or God forbid, a further opportunity to solicit tithes. Perhaps, rather than rushing to glib explanations and exhortations about "the end times", we might for at least a few days, all keep respectful silence on such speculations. Perhaps, in a church tradition that places no great value on introspection, we could take a little time to reflect - and to mourn.



LCG members escorted from hotel after shooting (from BBC News)

Journal Sentinel 


Latest press release from Dixon Cartright @ The Journal

A New Berlin Wis., man opened fire at a Living Church of God Sabbath service at a busy hotel the afternoon of March 12, killing seven people and wounding four others before killing himself. Among the dead in the shooting in the Brookfield, Wis., Sheraton hotel today was LCG pastor Randy Gregory and his son James, 17. Also wounded was Marjean Gregory, Mr. Gregory's wife. Another son was not at church; he was visiting friends in Canada and therefore was not present. The Journal's report is that the gunman headed directly for the Gregory family.

The dead: Pastor Randy Gregory, about 52; James Gregory, 17; Bart Oliver, 15; Harold Diekmeier; Gloria Critara; Richard Reeves; Jerry Miller; and the gunman, Terry Ratzmann, about 45. (Note that some spellings are phonetic and may be incorrect.)

Mrs. Gregory, about 51, was in critical condition at this writing, March 12, at 9:45 p.m. central time. (Mrs. Gregory's heart had "flatlined" earlier in the evening, but she rallied although still in critical condition.) News reports say the gunman (here identified by The Journal as Mr. Ratzmann) was sitting in church services, then got up and began shooting. He reportedly reloaded his handgun once and reportedly was carrying three clips of ammunition.

The Journal has learned that the man had been a Church of God attendee for perhaps 30 years and was a bachelor whom fellow church members say was prone to bouts of depression.

At this writing eight people are reported dead, including Mr. Ratzmann, who shot 13 people, then shot himself. 

Mr. Gregory and his wife both attended Ambassador College, Big Sandy, in the 1970s. He was originally from Farwell, Texas. He married the former Marjean Strommen, originally from Blanchardville, Wis.

AW comment: Ratzmann has been described by neighbors as "a devoted member of the church." The Journal Sentinel link above has been updated several times in the last hour or so.

One news-board account: the gunman got up during the sermonette and began to pace at the rear of the meeting hall. Mr. Gregory rose from his seat in the back row to get a drink before his sermon. Terry **** drew a pistol, shot Mr. Gregory and proceeded to shoot those in the back row. Thirteen shot, one twice. So far eight are dead.

Reuters story (from NZ Herald website)

Eight dead at Wisconsin hotel shooting

BROOKFIELD - A man opened fire with a handgun at a church service in a Wisconsin hotel, killing seven people and wounding four before taking his own life, police said.

Four victims and the gunman died at the scene and three others died later at a hospital.

What prompted the violence at the Sheraton Hotel in Brookfield west of Milwaukee during a regular service of the Living Church of God in a meeting room was still under investigation, Brookfield's police chief, Dan Tushaus, said.

The unidentified 45-year-old shooter "was either a member or somehow affiliated with the church" and that he entered the service while in session and began firing.

Police were searching the man's residence in the nearby town of New Berlin for more information.

"I have no indication of a motive at this time" Tushaus said. The church had been meeting at the same location for the past four to five years.

The police chief did not release the names of the victims but said the four slain at the scene were two teenage boys, 15 and 17, a 72-year-old man and a woman aged 55.

Of the seven wounded people taken to hospitals, three later died -- men aged 44, 50 and 58. Still being treated and in serious condition were a 52-year-old man, a 20-year-old woman, a 20-year-old man and a 10-year-old girl.

The denomination, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, believes that the Sabbath -- the day of worship -- is to be observed on Saturday. According to its Website it is active in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia with more than 200 congregations.

The church is an offshoot of the Worldwide Church of God which was founded by American evangelist Herbert W Armstrong in 1933.

The hotel is near a major shopping centre. Several other gatherings were taking place there on Saturday, but no injuries were reported outside the meeting room.

Tushaus said he did not believe anyone else was involved in carrying out the crime beyond the man who did the shooting. 


Tragedy puts spotlight on obscure church

Organization's leaders stunned by slayings of members, longtime pastor

By DAVE UMHOEFER (Journal Sentinel)

Posted: March 12, 2005

The Living Church of God, a relatively new organization born of a split over religious doctrine, counts only several thousand members worldwide but spreads its word through weekly telecasts on 150 stations in several countries.

Saturday's shootings in Brookfield brought the relatively obscure church into the spotlight in a tragic way.

The slayings came on Saturday, the church's day of worship as practiced in the time of the Old Testament. Members, who believe the Bible is the literal word of God, were gathering as they do throughout the country in small groups at rented halls, hotels and other locations.

The non-denominational church dates only to the 1990s, a spiritual descendant of the Worldwide Church of God, which was established by the late Herbert W. Armstrong. In 2003, when it moved its headquarters to Charlotte, N.C., from San Diego, it listed 6,300 members at some 200 congregations in 40 countries. Many of its members are from the Southern United States.

The church produces a TV program, "Tomorrow's World," that is seen around the world. A church Web site lists Wausau as the only Wisconsin city receiving the broadcast. The show airs on WGN from Chicago early on Sunday mornings. Recent episodes have included "A Nation of Adulterers?" and "Prophetic Milestones Ahead."

The church's beliefs are rooted in the Bible. It cites its mission as preaching the true gospel of the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.

According to a piece by the church's Presiding Evangelist Roderick C. Meredith that is posted online, the Living Church of God is where "the full truth of the Bible is taught and practiced."

Members believe that the "Great Tribulation" - war and famine as prophesied in the Bible - is nearing and that Christ will return as "King of kings."

The Worldwide Church of God splintered over disagreements on doctrine. The Living Church of God is the second largest group that formed from that split, said Jim King, a longtime member in Omaha, Neb., who is active in choir direction. He said the United Church of God was the largest new religious organization to form from the breakup.

Church leaders and members from around the country struggled to take in the stunning news Saturday.

"This is pretty shocking," King said.

"We're still trying to put it all together. This is such a shock," said Charles E. Bryce, director of administration for the church at its North Carolina headquarters. Bryce said he would fly to Milwaukee today to learn more about the violence.

One of the victims of Saturday's shootings in Brookfield was Randy L. Gregory, a 50-year-old Gurnee, Ill., resident who church members say has served as a regional pastor for Living Church of God congregations for many years.

"He is a very fine man," said King, who said he met and worked alongside Gregory last fall in Missouri at the church's Feast of Tabernacles, a holy week for the church. "He's very committed and dedicated to his work."

Bryce, a close friend of Gregory's, described the congregation that meets at the Sheraton hotel in Brookfield as "a wonderful group."

Gregory, a veteran pastor in the church, traveled in the Midwest serving various congregations. His wife, Marjean, accompanied him to the Feast of Tabernacles, according to King, who joined the Worldwide Church in 1970. Gregory coordinated the feast.

Gregory often coordinated outings for youth groups, and was planning a camp for pre-teens in Missouri.

Gregory lived with his family off a quiet cul-de-sac in Gurnee in a modest, two-story home with basketball hoop. Neighbors said he, his wife and two sons were friendly but reserved.

"He was very quiet, almost overly so," said a friend and neighbor, Toni D'Amore, a dental hygienist. She said Gregory was seen walking in the neighborhood daily.

Moved from Texas

D'Amore said the family had moved to Gurnee from Texas approximately five years ago and chose the city because it was midway between Milwaukee and Chicago, where Randy Gregory also had a congregation.

The couple's younger son, James, is a junior at Warren Township High School, she said. Jonathan, the older of the two sons, had recently completed studies at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. The family would take trips with the congregation to such places as France and Canada, she said.

The split in the Worldwide Church of God has had serious side effects, with lingering disputes over doctrine and finger-pointing between people who used to worship together but are now apart, King noted.

According to its Web site, the Worldwide Church of God is a Christian denomination with about 64,000 members worshipping in 860 congregations in about 90 nations. It is headquartered in Pasadena, Calif. That church is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Meredith was one of the original evangelists ordained by Armstrong, the Worldwide Church of God founder.

Journal Sentinel reporters Graeme Zielinski in Gurnee, Ill., and Marie Rohde in Milwaukee contributed to this report

Kubik blog changed: It seems Victor Kubik was less than delighted at the implications being drawn by some about his online blog. Just a few days ago we pointed out that some interesting comments had been made by blog readers in response to his report about the presidential putsch in San Antonio (AW March 7). Now those comments have been pulled, as have all the others, along with the capacity for anyone to comment about anything. A bit of an overreaction perhaps?

Then again, at least one of those purged comments related to the prospect of Kubik putting his own name in the ring for Glorious Leader. If so, the sensitivity would be understandable. Could it be that Vic will be among those in contention for the top spot?

Calling all Culture Vultures: Love classical music? Maybe it's time to do your bit and help rid the world of the arts of the dubious attractions offered by the PCG. 

To showcase the new Hamburg Steinway concert grand piano [acquired from WCG], the Philadelphia Foundation [an arm of the Flurry cult] is planning on more solo piano recitals. The Foundation is forming a relationship with two prestigious international piano competitions—the Cleveland International Piano Competition and the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition. A Philadelphia Foundation solo concert appearance will be part of the gold medal prize package for each of these competitions. The winner of the 2005 Cleveland competition will likely perform in the spring of the 2005-2006 season of the PFCS. The Gina Bachauer competition is bi-annual: the next competition is in 2006. The PFCS hopes to host that winner sometime in 2007.

Polite expressions of concern to the Executive Director, Cleveland International Piano Completion, can be sent to Karen Knowlton - The foundation's website is here. To email the Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition you'll need to visit their website and use the JavaScript form provided. Correspondents may wish to mention the impact an affiliation with what many regard as a potentially dangerous religious cult may have on the credibility and prestige of these competitions.



why does the WCG go to such lengths to hide this kind of data from members and non-members alike

Joe's salary: How much does Joe Tkach and each of his leading myrmidons in Pasadena earn? We can only speculate because WCG won't cough up the info, and that's a real contrast to those churches which value transparency and accountability.

Take the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod for example. President Gerald Kieschnick is paid $143,315, while the denominational secretary and vice-president both receive $124,680 (all 2004 figures). No big secret, and no big threat - it's openly available to anyone who cares to read the minutes (p.11).

Of course, the LCMS has 2 1/2 million members, compared to the 60 thousand Joe claims (a figure many regard as grossly inflated). It might be wise to also bear in mind that Kieschnick is both qualified for the job and elected to the position he holds. Joe can make neither claim. Here's a recent news-board posting that addresses the first of these concerns:

Joe Jr. wasn't exactly training for his current position either when his father called him into Pasadena. Joe was a laid-off ministerial trainee who worked as a social worker and corporate trainer before being placed by his father in a high profile, high responsibility position for which he had no training or experience. My cubicle was maybe 50 yards from Joe's when he began working at Intel. I know a bit about the work he was doing there and I, like most in the Phoenix congregations, was surprised to see him placed in such a high position with such an inadequate background.

I only wish he had spent more time learning Intel's management style. Of the many places I have worked, Intel was the best managed. Intel required strict accountability and transparency. Too bad Joe didn't take those lessons with him to Pasadena. 

But, that aside, the relevant question is: why does the WCG go to such lengths to hide this kind of data from members and non-members alike. Another question worth asking: is it ethical to donate funds to a church which fails to make information like this publicly available?

Bye Ron! Everyone's favorite cult-in-evangelical-drag is about to see a shuffle in responsibilities, according to a Pasadena source.

Word around campus is that Ron Kelly is retiring in July, and Mat Morgan will replace him. Mat was reportedly also anointed to be Bernie Schnippert's paralegal, now that Bernie is the main legal counsel for the WCG. Some are questioning the ethics of having a person involved in both the legal aspects of the church and also running the finances. Could this be a potential conflict of interest? 

If anyone thought Ron Kelly was a spin doctor, Mat may surprise them with his skills. Mat and Bernie have moved their offices into Ralph Helge's old area. 


09 March. MAILBAG

Weekly Mailbag

David Robinson revisited: Dave Robinson was friends with Ron Dart (who conducted Dave's funeral). He visited the CGI home office in Tyler from time to time, and attended Feast of Tabernacles services at the CGI's Oklahoma site on at least one occasion. I first met him at the CGI office in the late 1980s. Dave was a CGI elder for a very short time--perhaps a couple of months or so. He served a small congregation in Oklahoma. 

Vance Stinson

AW: Vance Stinson is a minister and administrator in the Church of God, International.

Lobbying? Looking at the minutes of the entire San Antonio session, it does indeed look like Mr. Holliday was lobbying for another term -- though I think the "public campaigning" was confined to the minutes which were released... Some ministers would use another term to describe Roy Holliday's presentation -- self-justification. And they'd probably preach against it. Is it only a coincidence that the UCG Bible Reading Program is in the book of Job right now?!?!

"Cincinnati Royal"

Rudy: Back in the mid-1970s, when AC Pasadena was seriously engaged in the process of seeking accreditation, one of the upper-division theology courses (taught by one of your brilliant fellow Antipodeans, Keith Crouch) had as its main text, Bultmann's Theology of the New Testament. It was hard work slogging through the existential understanding of the Christian kerygma and distinctions between Historie and Geschichte, but we survived! Of course, once GTA was ousted and everything associated with him (such as the STP and accreditation) was anathematized, then Keith was forced out as well. As part of this cultural revolution, later theology courses eliminated Bultmann and some used instead the appendices in the Companion Bible as their source of scholarship.


Wringing the Hankie: Has the Hanegraaff Worldwide financial scandal gotten enough print? Why not put a quick link to this [2003] Christianity Today article for the readership?

Tangled Web wanted: I'm hoping you might be able to point me in the right direction, or offer some suggestions. I'm a current WCG member in Australia (since 1982). as part of my Masters in Analytical Psychology, I plan to write a dissertation on my experiences in WCG, and I am in the process of assembling source materials. I have been able to locate some of the "classic" books, but so far haven't been able to get hold of Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web. Do you know of anyone who has a copy that they'd be prepared to sell or lend, or can you suggest where I could request such a copy?

Bruce Maguire

AW: If anyone in Oz (or elsewhere) is able to help out we'll pass on the info. Of course, if you're quick Bruce, you could download the book from Skeet's House (Mike Minton's site: just scroll to the bottom and click the TW links). With a bit of luck Mike's bandwidth will hold out this month.

Voting for Neil: Gavin, I admit it, I have a bias, I voted for Neil Earle for WCG president. Yes, he was my pastor in Toronto from 1984 to 1992. It is true that he was very authoritarian type when he first arrived. You either loved him or you hated him, there was no middle ground. He was a firm backer of the church's racial teaching (no interracial marriage,
dating, dancing, sex or whatever!) in the '80's but thankfully he graduated from being like George Wallace to Bill Clinton (in the positive complimentary sense) in issues dealing with race. Also he graduated from being like fascistic General Franco when he started to becoming more like former Ontario Premier Bob Rae (let the Canadian viewers on the site understand and interpret it in any view) in the sense of being humane and understanding with people in general (his friends said that him going back to university helped him substantially with that transition).

Neil Earle now would make a good President in respect that he understands that the Worldwide Church of God should be a multi-faceted organization, whereas Joe Jr. and Mike Feazell desire the WCG to a monolithic organization rigidly and inflexibly mimicking everything that the Evangelical Christian culture dictates, Joe and Mike do not care to understand that the Worldwide Church of God is a community or communities. Neil Earle is more mature in understanding that it is possible that a Christian who chooses to worship on the seventh day Sabbath is not anti-gospel and would be more committed to allowing people to keep their worship preferences without being harassed by headquarters.

My major contention with a Neil Earle presidency is that he still seems to want to revere the memory of Herbert Armstrong. I have seen his "analysis" on HWA on his Glendora pastorate website. I will just say here, "Let him go, Neil". As Sting says, "If you love someone, set them free." Painful but good advice.

My other choices would be John Halford. Mr. Halford is an excellent writer and brilliant communicator. I have really enjoyed his articles in both the American and British Plain Truth magazines. He was entertaining when he did his segments on the World Tomorrow program (1993-94) He can offer a substantial, intelligent and mature reason why the WCG should continue to exist as an organization, instead of a simplistic childish and very condescending answer shouting to members "We exist because of Jesus, Jesus!" ... 

WCG needs a person to say to their members, "Let my people think!" (with apologies to Ravi Zacharias). Prince George, B.C. Pastor Bob Morton who is a consensus builder not a divider (again Joe and Mike can learn something from him too!)... If I could vote Joe Jr., Mike and their gang to go on welfare, I would do it in a heartbeat! These guys have lost touch with working class people and average people who are struggling in general. They would do us all a favor if they left the religious business completely!

Felix (on the MD board)

AW: Pastor General Bob Morton? Uh, well, I'll concede that he'd probably have done a better job than Joe... Does he still do that irritating thing where he fiddles with his glasses in order to emphasize a point?

On the subject of polls, our last one self-destructed after just a few hours online. In that time around 50 readers expressed a strong preference for Richard Pinelli's head to roll rather than Roy's or Clyde's.

Time to sweep away COG dictatorships too: I don't know where exactly this talk about democracy and voting started from, but it seems to be the time for the idea. Of all places, look what is going on in the Middle East today... it is becoming clear that people in parts of the world that have historically been oppressed are now restless for an opportunity to vote and hopefully change their situation.

I think it is time for something similar in the COG organizations. In the WCG, if Joe Jr. is REALLY confident that he has the support of the church, then why doesn't he submit to a vote or referendum on his presidency? In the UCG, why not allow the members of the church to decide on the direction they want to go? Certainly, they can hardly do worse than what the governing body of the UCG is doing.

It might be hard to do a direct election because too many people like me simply don't know who is who in HQ. On the other hand, why not do a representative democracy? Give the rank and file membership a REAL choice in selecting delegates, and allow these delegates to learn about the different individuals running for the top job in the various COG organizations. This may be the wisest way to go.

Frankly, HWA's talk about top-down government is nothing but used cow feed. I don't see examples of hierarchies ruling over people in the New Testament. In fact, before ancient Israel had a king, their form of government was quite decentralized. As for the king in ancient Israel, that was more of man's idea than God's idea. Maybe it is time to shatter the iron-fisted leadership which infects the COG organizations, and adopt a model of setting people and congregations free to be the best they can be in the manner that God leads each individual.

Jim (from the MD board)

Political view: Some recent writers have had critical remarks about the so-called Religious Right in America and the perceived connection of the Bush administration to "Christian fundamentalism."  Until now I have refrained from commenting (though I do have a blog or two set to open soon which will comment on these and other matters). For the time being, I share with readers an excellent link to much information which will quickly and violently explode the perception of the Bush crowd as "Christian," or anything close to it. 

David Harrell



UCG members speak out openly: Who'd have expected a COE member's blog to become a forum for straight-talking about the recent dumping of Roy Holladay? Yet Vic Kubik's blog, which allows readers to post comments, has provided just that opportunity. Here are some of those comments:

When a president is selected/elected...shouldn't the membership have a voice in it!?!

I'm curious to know what significantly has changed in United Church of God since 2002 -- since the letter indicates something has.

I think all the reasons for this change should be public knowledge, I am not going to blindly follow anyone or group. I feel everything should be crystal clear with no exceptions. Whatever happens it will be on-line in a few days anyway, So please keep everything open for the members of UCG to see. And do not let it seem like something is hidden or covered up.

How can anyone get excited about the upcoming, "tenth celebration," when so many in the church are deeply saddened by this decision.

It would be nice if Roy Holladay was placed on the selection list again. When will there be stability in the church?

I understand the need to be somewhat circumspect about the exact nature of the termination. However, this letter generates more questions than it answers because of its vague wording. What were the "expectations?" What are the "different expectations?" Will we ever know? Probably not, if history is any indicator.

If the council is in the process of "redefining" the expectations of any future president, I would like to know what those expectations are before the leadership changes are made.

I am not bothered by change in leadership, but there certainly needs to be further explanation. If the council is in the process of "redefining" the expectations of any future president, I would like to know what those expectations are before the leadership changes are made. What are the expectations that are different now than three years ago?

Perhaps it's just my cynical nature coming through, but when I read words like, "fresh ideas", "positive change" and "re-defined expectations", it arouses suspicion. It makes it look as if there is more here than meets the eye. Don't get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for Mr. Kilough and the council, and I hope that much more honest communication will be forthcoming.

Meanwhile at least one UCG pastor has been venting about the Kilough announcement.

[He] expressed his concern about the change this weekend, during announcement time in the service. He noted if Cincinnati says "things are going so good," why suddenly change Presidents without explaining why? He suggested the Council of Elders should simply set a term limit for the President -- three years, six years or whatever -- instead of making vague comments about a change being needed, with most of the actions occurring in "executive session." Our Pastor also called the guidelines for selecting a new UCG President "unclear".

Dave Antion meets Rudolf Bultmann: The March issue of COG News (published by Giving & Sharing) contains brief articles by Michael Hubert (India), James McBride (UK) and David Antion. Dave is publicizing his revamped website which features his own online radio station. Wouldn't you know it, in the few minutes we listened in, Dave was quoting from Rudolf Bultmann!

Rudolf who? We suspect that not one in 1000 COG members would know. Considering the direction Dave's message took, we doubt he has much of an idea either. Nevertheless, this must be one of the few times a Church of God minister has approvingly quoted the great German demythologizer! It ranks right up there in weirdness with David Hulme citing Søren Kierkegaard in Cheating God.

LCG apologist Bob Thiel has his usual glowing report on developments in the Meredith camp. On his own site, however, Bob took a sideswipe at another COG News contributor, UCG president-reject Roy Holladay, suggesting that it was all a ploy to get re-elected. At least that seems to be what he's saying in this somewhat confusing passage:

This is the second time I noticed what I considered to be public campaigning from one in UCG who wished to remain being its president--the first time was when David Hulme sent out what I believe was a must-play video in November 1995 prior to his what I believe was a Dec 1995 re-election; in it he stated that no one was to campaign, but he laid out part of his vision for UCG. Although David Hulme succeeded, this possible attempt by Roy Holladay did not.


Dripping with piety: Who said this? 

"The foundation that has so far been laid in East Africa appears firm enough to withstand any spiritual hurricane. During my ministerial visits with the congregations in East Africa, I have tried to help our brethren to be constantly on guard against spiritual onslaughts and innumerable false prophets... our prayers are with the Church leadership in Charlotte."

Answer: apostatizing LCG elder Ernest Owino, writing in Living Church News shortly before he jumped ship and joined the Restored Church of God.

More COG publications: We're pretty sure you'll be safe from random references to Rudolf Bultmann at any of the following links... The February issue of the other COG News (published by David Hulme's COG-AIC) is online, as is the Spring issue of Mark Armstrong's Twentieth Century Watch. UCG's Good News for March/April is available (and thanks to a cloying article by Melvin Rhodes, this is one issue the tetchy Aussies are sure to mail out!), as is the latest Tomorrow's World

And for something slightly different, you could always knock yourself out with the February Forerunner produced in Charlotte by John and Richard Ritenbaugh's Church of the Great God

NB: these are all PDF versions.



Minutes of Cincinnati meeting - oops! Scoring an unintended "home goal", a UCG Home Office supporter has posted on a news board the minutes of the meeting held in Cincinnati North last May when Jim O'Brien was dumped (the same meeting referred to by Linda Pratt in the item that follows). Despite doing their best to control the meeting (and prevent the discussion from ever becoming public), the HO rep's obviously had a tough night of it. Read these minutes and be inspired by the possibilities for others. We can't think of a better time for this information to become available.

Richard "Loose Lips" Pinelli: On March 4 we quoted the following news-board statement: The scuttlebutt for months has said Jim Franks will be the next president of UCG. At our Q&A last May, Richard Pinelli said they were considering 3 men: Jim Franks, Vern Hargrove & Bill Winner. Linda Pratt has provided AW with additional details: 

It is interesting that Richard Pinelli confirmed our suspicions nearly a year ago at our Q&A, May 15th in Cincinnati that Jim Franks would be the next president of UCG. After Matt Fenchel declared the Q&A over, several of us went up to get our remaining questions answered. Everyone was standing in 3 different circles (around Richard Pinelli, Roy Holladay or Lyle Welty). There was quite a few (maybe 8 or 9), nearly shoulder to shoulder in a semicircle around Richard Pinelli, and at one point Matt came over to the group and muttered "give him some breathing room". We were talking about the next president being Jim Franks and Pinelli said that the COE was considering 3 men for the position, not just one, and we said "who". We were shocked at the mention of Vern Hargrove & Bill Winner... 

With all the traumatic things that happened that day, this was far down on the list of things I felt were important, but now I see Richard Pinelli either knows things he shouldn't (or at the very least speaks about things he shouldn't), or he's part of a plan to put firm "control" into place.

Knowles on Personal Theologies: Brian Knowles has a new Out of the Box column on the ACD website. In Personal Theologies Brian states:

...every Christian has, admit or not, his or her own personal theology. It cannot be otherwise. One would have to be terminally stupid to simply sign on the dotted line of any given denominational or cultic doctrinal package. That would be irresponsible in the extreme, especially in light of Paul’s admonition: “Test everything. Hold on to the good…” (I Thessalonians 5:21). It is a mistake to approach doctrine, or theology, uncritically... To apprehend the truth held by the first believers in Yeshua, we must build a bridge of scholarship from that time to our own.

The DP collection: AW's own Dateline Pasadena is an inveterate collector of WCG-related books. DP's bibliography - available at this link - is a valuable resource in its own right. That page has just been updated to include a list of books DP is currently hunting for (scroll to the bottom of the page). Able to help? Email

Weekly Mailbag

Neil - a scary prospect? As a former member of the WCG in Canada, I was rather surprised by the article entitled The people's choice for WCG church president... It is nice to know that if this was a real poll, Sheila Graham would win out!! Like that would ever happen in the real WCG. A woman in charge? I don't believe she was ever a minister... so can't say how she would govern... But hey... a woman? Can't be that bad.

Neil Earle came in a close second??? Now that is scary... Anyone who attended the "Toronto" Church in the 80's knows how bad things were then. I hope he has changed!! 

Sheila Graham for President: Sheila is a highly intelligent woman. She also is a warm friendly person, unlike many who have been tainted by participating in management areas of WCG. She was senior editor of the PT at one time. I was one of those that voted for her. I think she would certainly do a FAR better job than ANY of the other listed people including Neil Earle.

The ageless UCG: Clyde of UCG said: "As a relatively young organization..." I remember here in Houston when UCG was first formed, we (the sheople) were told that "our" organization was over 50 years old. They even honored C. Wayne Cole for his service of forty years in the organization. I had to go to the bathroom to throw up. Now, they're a "young" organization. I guess that's a way to justify not getting much work done for the past 10 years. Is UCG headed for the "one man rule" concept? Time will tell. Three guesses who will be the next top dog, and the first two don't count.


Kilough's letter: So why doesn't the letter tell the members exactly what the changes to the presidency are? Or do they all know already? Or maybe it's a device to make sure people keep reading?


Mike responds: Jim mentioned, "I was disappointed to see the 'Tangled Web' was not available anymore." Give it a few days Jim. It will be back for the month of March, as long as my bandwidth holds out :)

David said: "I have known about the existence of David Robinson's book "The Tangled Web" since it was published but only now have I read it, thanks to Mike Minton. I specifically avoided it for years, thinking it was merely another hyperbolic diatribe, but found it to be as close as one can get to a nostalgic tour of the WCG back in the Seventies. Though I cannot vouch for some of the factual details of the book, Robinson certainly captured the dark atmosphere of the WCG at that time."

I try to refrain from any critique of the TW, myself, but I would encourage all to read the comments earlier here on the subject. Tangled Web is... just what it is... one man's tale, and told through his own personal filter and during a certain time, for sure. It's certainly required reading, in my opinion, for any who want to know some of the real history of the cult.

I appreciate the thanks, David, but that also goes to my good friend and positive inspiration, A.M. May we all, one day, have her strength and dignity and lust for learning the Truth.

Mike Minton
Editor, The Painful Truth (

Tangled Web comments: (1) I just want to comment on the mail from "David" regarding Robinson. I have to agree that he probably did not have the Holy Spirit... What we need to look at is what motivated him to write the book to begin with, and is it factual, and consider the options-

1-money?-nope he lost his salary, his Chrysler, his job, his home, and his business relations in that venture.

2-politics? he lost friends, and ministerial support, and even some of his family did not support him (as is evident in the efforts of John Robinson to keep the book out of the public eye). David Robinson became a marked man in a church that he was dedicated to.

He did not gain any position with any organization, unless it was Ted's and I do not know that he was there in the CGI. He may have been. But I have not found it in the original CGI listing of the ministries. Certainly, he did not attain to the positions of any of the upper echelon of CGI (ie, CWC, RLD, DLA, AJP etc).

3-Robinson was obviously still hung up on the original teachings of the cult of Armstrongism as is evident when he compares HWA's immoral behavior with the church doctrines, which he still believed in. Exiting a cult takes courage, the kind of courage that makes one a marked man. Robinson knew that and had to go to court to defend his right to publish the book.

4-like... others who fought against the oppression of a despot, he risked litigation. Cults are very litigious and the WCG had her own law dept. But consider that Robinson was never sued for the book's contents. The WCG only tried to prevent it's being published, which speaks volumes in regards to the truth of its contents.

Myra Mcqueen

(2) No, Dave Robinson was never a minister in the CGI. My husband George and I were affiliated with the CGI from 1978-1988, and George was a CGI minister from 1980-1988. I'm sure anyone in the CGI who ever read Tangled Web would have fainted if Robinson had walked in the door in some CGI congregation. This is NOT to say that he manufactured anything out of whole cloth, however. 

A note on the Painful Truth site tells what he did instead of being a CGI minister: "Unfortunately, David Robinson did not get as good a paying job as he had had with Worldwide, but he had one where he could maintain his integrity, (unlike the present ministry of the Worldwide Church of God and its daughters): a school janitor. Defending himself and his book virtually broke him financially. David died in 1995."

Pam Dewey

Ain't funny Clyde: As Molly used to say on the old "Fibber McKee and Molly" radio show: "it ain't funny Mckee!". I say the same about Clyde's phony cry for help. I once wrote a similer letter to Ambassador Report but I was not kidding. It was in 1978 when Herbert disfellowshipped Garner Ted. I thought the world of Ted at the time and believed he was reforming the church. I had lost much respect for Herbert because he had mistreated my mother and grandmother through Richard Rice. Need I say more? Also his marrying a woman young enough to be his granddaughter. Of course I was wrong about Ted too, but at the time the whole thing was causing me a lot of anguish. Ambassador Report referred me to Dr. Martin and thanks to them both I was able to break the hold the Armstrongs had [on] me. Clyde could have made his point without mocking the torment some of us went through as we began to realize that the religion we had believed in most of our lives was fake. He really had me feeling sorry and concerned for him...

David W. Berryman

Employee tithing in the UK: When I first saw this [letter] I was a little skeptical. I was [in the] UK... in 1976 and the Press in Radlett was then still running. So far as I remember the system, or edict, referred to was not operative at that time. I wrote to someone there who was in financial admin at the time and asked about it. Here is his reply:

Not true. We did have a system which we called "Plan X" whereby employees had a tithe deducted from their gross salary and this enabled them to save tax on that deduction... We introduced that system, on my recommendation, in the late sixties. It may be she/he is referring to that. But all employees did tithe and, until the late seventies I believe, it was first, second and third.

Perhaps your [correspondent] is a little confused about the concept in that deductions were made at source rather than paid to the employee...

AW: The writer responds: "I am the first to acknowledge that my aging memory is not always to be relied on but I don't remember being told anything about first tithe being taken out at source once my ex-husband started full-time work as a WCG employee. In those days we tithed on the gross and there was no tax relief in England then (for 'donations' to non-profit organizations) as there was in some other countries. I do remember that he started work late 1965 as a printer (when the press was based in Watford; some years later it was moved to bigger premises in Radlett) and at some stage we were informed that we did not need to pay first tithe at all because we were 'doing the work'. We did continue to pay 2nd and 3rd, on the gross, as I mentioned. I do not remember any changes to 3T while I remained in England. I left in 1978 and changes to paying on nett rather than gross occurred in my new country of residence some years after that, until it was eventually scrapped sometime in the 90's."

Corporate Soles: Obviously I would have phrased it differently, but otherwise you're correct. In the United States (I don't know about other countries), dioceses are set up as "corporate soles" as a way of safeguarding the authority of the bishop. This came out of the Trusteeship Controversy of the early 1800s, when many U.S. parishes had set themselves up with a board of lay trustees, with the parish assets legally held in the name of the trustees. In essence, this made the pastor entirely answerable to the trustees, whereas canon law says the pastor answers to the bishop. Bishops sometimes had to coerce the trustees into signing the titles of the parish churches over to them. Today there are only a handful of parishes in the U.S. that are still set up with lay trusteeship. One of them is in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Missouri, where the new Archbishop is currently awaiting that parish's decision on whether or not to conform to canon law. As I understand it, the crisis was sparked when the Archbishop had decided to transfer their pastor to a new assignment, and the parish refused to accept their new pastor -- something they knew they could get away with because of how they were incorporated. The Archbishop responded by telling them they will have to decide whether they wanted to continue in affiliation with the Catholic Church. I haven't heard yet if the parish has made a decision. Frankly, it seems to me that that parish would be happier in, say, the Episcopalian Church.

Jared Olar

Gene Scott: While I do not know Dr Scott's final salary, his beginning salary is well known to listeners at that time. $1 a year and a limo to drive him. As for being an ally of the WCG, this would have to include most of the Christian establishment as they filed friend of the court briefs in support of the WCG. The State of California was clearly in the wrong, but by this I do not mean to imply that the WCG was in the right.

Positive Dennis

AW: Dennis, you've gotta read the LA Times article on Scott, which includes information on his "$1 a year" salary!

Jesus, the Apostles and Joe: I just went to your website, and was thrilled to see you are allowing Joey Jr. to take some direct hits for a change. I have something I want to say about him. Why doesn't anyone question, since in the late 90's, why so many were laid off by him through these years of being "transformed by truth", how much this man has consistently made paycheck- wise up to now? How come many ministers had to go to "lay" ministers, and for some reason he still gets a check? Or is he doing all this work for his precious Jesus for FREE? 

Is there anyone out there who can give me legitimate facts about this mans annual income during all the cuts starting from 1995-2004? Because I am curious how is it if he continued to get a paycheck, can he come out smelling so sweet when he has to give others the boot? Did he sacrifice his pay to keep others on the payroll? Why is it others had to lose jobs and he still sits with a regular steady income? Did Jesus and the Apostles fleece the sheep? Jesus clearly told the rich man to sell all he had to give to the poor. Has Joe done this? All I see is he is getting richer by laying off more people and keeping the monies for himself and his old cronies.

Since they are selling off the campus, and millions have to be piling up, are they willing to go to these people they have laid off over the years and give them some kind of severance checks? Do they love these people enough to do this?

I would like to see you all do some digging on this, and make sure it's facts, the public has a right to know. I hope you all check into this, ' cause a lot of families out there lost out after giving many years of devoted time to those in power in Pasadena.

Nori F.

AW: No problem Nori. Anything else you'd like us to do for you in our spare time? Make a sandwich? Pour a beer?

To Behe or not to Behe: Mr. Wiedenheft has followed his WCG training in teaching from one book to make a probable case for his point. This was the way for the years I was with the cult.

But interested parties that would care to read critiques of Behe's thesis should go here and find a rich load of real thought.

And before anyone takes on the task of thinking about the question of origins and the false dilemma of evolution/creation favored by the Armstrong company and its spin-offs, they would do well to investigate here.

Jim Baldwin 



Wayne Cole bows out: The latest issue of The Journal has been released dated January 31. The retirement of Wayne Cole (former WCG evangelist lately associated with the Church of God - Big Sandy) is featured, along with an article by Richard Griffiths, who AW readers will know as a regular correspondent in the mailbag. The front and back pages are available as a free download (PDF format).

New BA on Creation theme: Once upon a time (the early Seventies!) every issue of The Plain Truth seemed to carry an article "disproving" evolution. I confess that, as a callow youth, I found them enormously convincing as I tried to piece together a world-view that meshed a literal understanding of the Bible with everyday life. 

Richard Wiedenheft, a WCG minister who left in the "rebellion" of 1974, seems to feel the same way still, but he's updated his apologetics with a generous dose of ID ("Intelligent Design") - the latest fad among reconstructed creationists. Richard has written the theme article for the March Bible Advocate in which he cites the work of Michael Behe. It can be found online at (this is a longer version of the print article.)

X-COG moves up a gear: Gary Scott's X-COG site has continued to develop since our report last month. Several writers have now joined Gary in "a multi-contributor blog dealing with the theology, churches, and culture that grew out of Herbert W. Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God (WCG)."  First up to the plate is Doug Ward. Keep an eye on this one!

AW source responds to anonymous Pasadena "defender": A point by point refutation of the letter referred to in the last upload (Unfair Coverage?) has been received from our source. It has been forwarded to the retired evangelist who has graciously acted as "go-between". This gentleman has also advised us that the false information about Joe and others taking salary cuts in a previous correspondence was from a different contact.

We also received an interesting email on the subject of the Big Sandy terminations (referred to in the latest correspondence):


Anent the following statement (in the WCG apologist's letter):

"The same misinformation was disseminated comparing the terminations in Big Sandy. It was reported that employees there were given two weeks for each year. That is not true. Big Sandy employees received the normal severance package of one week for each year."

My understanding is that Big Sandy severance packages varied considerably. In my own case I was offered 12 weeks' severance. When I requested consideration for the 19 years I had served the church -- even taking a bullet for my pains at one time -- I was offered 19 weeks' severance BUT with six months' worth of unemployment benefits deducted from the amount. This meant that if I had accepted the 19 weeks' payment I would have ended up with less money than the first offer! The offer was also contingent on my signing a promise not to sue the church.

Some generosity. Some appreciation.


P.S. I wonder how WCG defines "misinformation." My dictionary entry would provide as an example of misinformation any communication from WCG.

Pack II: More captions for the Pack portrait.

packsign.jpg (18548 bytes)*"ME, ME,'s all about ME!!! "

*"Come 'ere sonny, an' I'll shove that camera up where the sun don't shine!"

*See this red mark? It's the mark of the beast!

*Are you speaking to moi?

*"It's perfectly appropriate for God's apostle to pick his nose in public."

*I have been popping these growth pills ever since I was 3 foot four inches. They really do work!

*Don't point your finger at me, only I get to point my finger at me!

*Call me "MR. PACK", emphasis on "MISTER"!!!!

*Oops, wrong finger.

*You know, being the #1 eagle in a world of turkeys is tough.

*I want you to know the first restored truth of my ministry is that I am in charge.

*"Hey, a------, NO ONE refers to me as 'Gerald Flurry Junior'!" 

And we're not through yet! The third installment will be up in a few days.



Is Jim the next lucky leader?

"There has been a palace coup, and we all watch in fascination to see which way the ball bounces."

Ron Dart

UCG - the goss: There has been a confused reaction to the announcement by Clyde Kilough that Roy Holladay is to walk the presidential plank. The more wooden-minded UCG brethren seem to be busy denying that Roy Holladay has been fired at all. Fired? Not at all! Everything is just dandy, and all the unseemly hoo-hah is the work of malcontents. 

Firing is not the correct word. He is still a paid minister and employee. The council appoints a president to a 3 year term. Near the end of the term the council must decide whether to reaffirm the president to another term or not. This is not the first time UCG has not reaffirmed the president. It is completely within the guidelines of the governing documents and does not necessarily indicate some horrible internal turmoil.

Less naive observers are wondering just how long it'll take for the hopeful candidates to step out from the shadows. And is that Jim Franks behind the stage curtain?

The scuttlebutt for months has said Jim Franks will be the next president of UCG. At our Q&A last May, Richard Pinelli said they were considering 3 men: Jim Franks, Vern Hargrove & Bill Winner.

Many former UCG members, however, seem downright cynical. Some deep Machiavellian strategy underlies the presidential dumping.

Is UCG headed for the "one man rule" concept? Time will tell. Three guesses who will be the next top dog, and the first two don't count.

Then there are those who feel the toppling might indeed indicate a last bid by those within the church who want genuine change:

I’ve been told by some VERY reliable sources that there are two very different camps within UCG. One group wants to change UCG to be like an umbrella organization that would support hundreds of independent congregations, and the other group wants the WCG back just like it was, but with a council of elders at the top instead of one person. If this is true, this year’s election outcome could be very interesting. 

Our advice: stock up on popcorn. This could be more fun than a papal conclave.

Unfair coverage? An unknown individual at WCG's Pasadena HQ has supplied a statement to a former church evangelist which he in turn has passed on to us. We've made the full statement available here. Basically, the anonymous writer says the coverage of the layoffs offered recently on AW was highly unfair.

We understand that this is the same source which claimed last year that Joe and the top administrators had taken sacrificial salary cuts. That turned out to be a complete fabrication.

This time round the evangelist's informant makes startling new claims:

Top level executives have not had pay raises for several years, and the Pastor General's salary has not changed since he was appointed.

Uh, if that's true it flatly contradicts the spin that came out from Pasadena some time ago which stated that Joe had indeed "reluctantly" taken a salary raise when all the underlings ganged up to tell him that he should! Both tales can't be true. 

The evangelist (who we have every reason to believe is a decent man telling the truth as he knows it) has not disclosed the identity of the apologist for the administration. On the evidence so far, AW remains highly skeptical of his reliability. Some of the claims made seem to be factual, but extremely selective. The same writer also attempted in a separate missive to justify discriminatory treatment of employees based on their record of tithes/donations, which indicates that our story hit a raw nerve, and that this had occurred just as our report stated. AW stands by that earlier report, whose author we know and trust.

While we're on the subject, M.T.Hall has a thought or two to offer on the layoffs. Mr. Hall is not exactly unqualified to speak on such things in his own right, and as always, he does so with characteristic panache. We only wish we could offer you the graphic-rich version Professor Hall supplied... but we think you'll get the idea anyway.

Poll update: With 114 votes cast, Sheila Graham has opened up an even greater lead as preferred president of the WCG. 53% of respondents have chosen her - an outright majority in a field of seven. The poll will remain up for another day or two. To vote or monitor the count just scroll down to March 1.



UCG opts for change - Roy Holladay is gone! More information as it becomes available.

Letter From the Chairman
February 28, 2005

Dear Brethren,

Greetings from San Antonio, where the Council of Elders has convened for its quarterly meeting. We never cease to appreciate the encouragement you give to us, the dedication you have for God's work, and your love for one another. This special letter is being sent to inform you of a significant decision we made earlier today.

Choosing and supporting the president of the United Church of God, an International Association, is one of the most important tasks of the Council of Elders. As established when we organized nearly a decade ago, the Council is charged with setting the vision and overseeing the direction of the Church. The Council must ensure that we are always effectively focused on fulfilling our primary mission: "preaching the Gospel and preparing a people."

For many months now the Council has been systematically looking at how the Church has developed for the last 10 years, analyzing the lessons learned from both our successes and mistakes, evaluating where we currently stand in fulfilling the Church's mission, and, most importantly, where we need to go in the years ahead. You may recall hearing, in the early days of our development, the description of the four natural stages of organizational growth: "forming, storming, norming and performing." We have been working our way through those steps, and although each new phase has presented unique challenges and occasional setbacks, overall our path has been one of growth.

Now, as we near the 10-year mark in the history of United, we have a prevailing sense that we are at a significant moment, and that we stand on the threshold of "performing" in a more effective way than ever. But we also have a sense that rising to that next level will require a certain type of innovation and implementation of fresh ideas.

As part of our commitment to positive change, we as a Council are redefining what we—and the Church at large—expect of a president in the coming years. As a relatively young organization seeking to discern, reflect and do the will of God, this change is good.

Accordingly, today when the Council addressed the affirmation of President Roy Holladay, as required by our governing documents, the Council chose to make a change in the presidency. As further dictated in Bylaw 9.1, the Council will also determine the remaining time of his service until the transition is effected.

The selection and retention of any president is a complex process. Following much discussion and earnest interchange, the Council decided that the president should be chosen according to redefined expectations, which are different than they were three years ago.

All of us on the Council possess high regard for Mr. Holladay. His integrity, diligent work ethic, humility, dedication to God's people and the serving heart of a pastor all speak well of him and his achievements. He has been a steady hand at the helm of United for three years. As a testimony to his character and with our gratitude, Mr. Holladay has gracefully accepted the decision of the Council and will help ensure a smooth transition. We collectively thank God for the dedicated service Mr. Holladay and his wife, Norma, have provided—and will continue to provide—for the people of God.

An important task for the Council lies ahead. We must prayerfully consider and select a new president. The challenges facing the president are numerous and the demands are high. We are not making this decision hastily, and we ask you to join us in heartfelt prayer and fasting for God's guidance and that His will be done.

We must urgently be about our Father's business. More than ever, all humanity desperately needs the hope of the gospel. Together, we will all achieve what we are commissioned to do: proclaim a divine and powerful message to a blinded and deceived world.

In Christ's service, on behalf of the Council of Elders,

Clyde Kilough

The people's choice for WCG church president: A desire for change isn't limited to UCG. A retired grandmother who formerly worked for WCG's editorial services is the surprise choice of AW readers as church president. Our admittedly unscientific poll gave readers an opportunity church leaders have never permitted: to choose the best person for the job currently held by Joe Tkach. AW rounded up all the usual suspects - Joe, Greg, Mike (the "gang of three"), Bernie and Dan. Then we threw in two "wild cards": Neil Earle, a minister who seems to have held his Glendora congregation together with diplomacy and Canuck decency, and Sheila Graham, one of the few women with a profile in the church.

Sheila Graham led the field from the beginning. At last count Mrs. Graham had 44% support, with Neil Earle in clear second with 27% of the vote. Trailing a distant 3rd was Greg Albrecht (11%). At the back of the field were Dan Rogers (8%), Mike Feazell (5%), incumbent Joe Tkach languishing at 3% and Bernie Schnippert (2%). The poll is still running (see the March 1 entry).

Of course, our survey is hardly reason for Joe to clear out his desk by 9AM (we're willing to give him till lunchtime!) But it does indicate that the people in the pews are fully capable of making a far better choice than they are credited with by the unelected hierarchy that currently wields authority.

Remember Quest? Once upon a time the Worldwide Church of God launched a magazine called Human Potential. It was swiftly repackaged as Quest, and sold on newsstands. Not a religious magazine, it focused on lifestyle issues, and was initially promoted as a glossy tool of the AICF (Ambassador International Cultural Foundation). The magazine never really took off, and was dropped after a few years.

If that ramble down memory lane strikes a chord, you might be as intrigued as one of our regular writers was to discover that Quest is the subject of a substantial entry on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. 



If there was a vote to elect the WCG president, my 1st choice would be:
Joe Tkach
Mike Feazell
Bernie Schnippert
Greg Albrecht
Sheila Graham
Dan Rogers
Neil Earle
Free polls from

Gene Scott - Shock Jock of Televangelism: Was the dearly departed Gene Scott just a lovable rogue who preached the gospel in an innovative style, or a ruthless religious huckster comparable with Elmer Gantry? We've uploaded a LA Times feature article from 1994 that throws the spotlight on the man described by one AW correspondent as Herb's "evil twin". 

What was Norm's game plan? A new missive from Homer Kizer (does this guy ever quit?) calls into question the very purpose of the Port Austin facility, as promoted by Norm Edwards. It now seems zoning requirements prohibited it from ever being used for the purposes stated in the PR. A cover note to the link provocatively states it was "a scam from the beginning". It continues:

The zoning of the former air base at Port Austin prohibited from the beginning the implementation of the SEE/SEAL program. 

It does seem that Norm's support has been thinning out of late. Norm built a great deal of goodwill through Servant's News, but much of that seems to have dissipated in the wake of the Port Austin fiasco.

Has Bernie retired? There has been some suggestion on one of the discussion boards that Bernie Schnippert has retired. Our sources say - no way!

Schnippert is not retired, although he now lives in Bend, Oregon. He has been the legal counsel of the WCG since Helge and Reese retired, and flies down to Pasadena at church expense whenever he desires and for all board meetings. Mat Morgan is to operate as his paralegal in Pasadena. My understanding is that Bernie will get his normal high salary, and that he will also charge the church fees for time spent on legal cases. There are those who believe that his position is now one meant to intimidate any who desire to sue the church from this point on.

Syncretistic sludge: With sickening regularity one sycophantic devotee or another gushes about how unique Herb's teachings were. Herb was the first man in 1900 years to understand the truth about this or that. 18 Restored Truths... yadda, yadda, yadda.

Actually Herb was a born imitator with a well-developed talent for tossing whatever took his fancy into the blender to produce an eclectic but seductive sludge of saleable syncretism. But don't take our word for it. Check out Richard Nickels' article on Herb's ties to previous Sabbatarian and Adventist ministries.

packsign.jpg (18548 bytes)Pack entries - Part 1: Okay, there's just no way we can publish all the entries in the Pack photo contest. For a start, several were of dubious taste (can we all say "gross" together?) while other's pursued almost identical themes (where has that finger just been?). However, here's a first selective sampling. Click on the thumbnail to view the original image.

* Look into my eyes..... Make no mistake..." I am that I am"... number three in the universe.

*"Are you talking to me?"

*All true "Philadelphian Era" Church of God Men above the age of 40 years, should SUBMIT to my annual prostate exam to keep with proper health principles. 


*I don't turn the other cheek. It's just as ugly.

*We'll get along fine as soon as you realize I'm God.

*"I lived in New York, so I know how to say.....'You talkin' to me?'"

*"This red dot on my face? It isn't herpes, you godless [pagan]!...It's a laser sight's dot from a sniper rifle... Uh...wait a minute...."

*"Read my lips. No . . . new . . . doctrine!"

*"Point # 1. I'm in charge here!"

Yes folks, and there's more - much more - where those came from. Stay tuned.

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