April 2005 - Issue 60

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

email AW at editor@ambassadorwatch.co.nz 

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A look in the mirror: It seems that almost half of AW's readers continue to identify themselves with the Church of God. With 200 votes cast our poll results show that agnostics form the second largest group, with Evangelical Christians not far behind. Despite the best efforts of Jim Baldwin, atheists are a definite minority, outnumbered by traditional Christians and level with liberal Christians. New Age beliefs don't seem to cut it with readers either, it's polling lowest of all the categories. This poll is still active (see April 24 upload).

Meanwhile votes have continued to trickle in for the UCG presidential poll. With more than 260 responses there is no change in preferences: Aaron Dean is a clear winner with more than 100 votes, while Clyde Kilough is the candidate least favored (he scraped just over 20 votes). This poll is now closed.

COGwriter on the move: Bob Thiel is no longer updating at his old AOL URL. The new location for his news page is www.cogwriter.com/news.htm. The home page is www.cogwriter.com

Out of Africa: AW has received a communiqué, purporting to come from East Africa, concerning the LCG/RCG split and Ernest Owino. It contains a number of serious personal allegations, the accuracy of which we're not in a position to establish. If true, the letter (which is unsigned) casts a new and disturbing light on the defections from LCG to RCG in Africa. If untrue it marks a new low point in internecine COG spin.

BI busters: Mike Burk has provided a link to a Jewish website that systematically deconstructs the British-Israel myth. It is a response to a different variety of BI (termed "Brit-Am"), but still highly relevant to the Armstrong version.

Forgotten history: Carolyn Smith-Kizer takes us back to pre-revolutionary America with an intriguing blog entry.

Adherents of the French Protestant Church, commonly known as Huguenots, established colonies at New Rochelle and New Paltz in the Hudson Valley, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Charleston, South Carolina. A weeklong Passover celebration, similar to the first century Church's Festival of Unleavened Bread, was kept by the Charleston congregation of the French Protestant Church in addition to Easter, as evidenced by its Liturgy, written down in 1713 and republished in 1737 and 1772.

UCG Information Control (from a JLF posting):

UCG is closedmouthed about specific salaries, but Article 10.5 of their bylaws requires that: "At each annual meeting of the General Conference, the treasurer shall disclose the salary ranges for all paid positions of the Corporation." http://www.ucg.org/about/bylaws.htm 

I haven't kept up with them but I haven't heard that they are violating this rule. During their first General Conference everyone waited for the salary ranges to be announced but the meeting ended without the announcement. When people asked the treasurer, Steve Andrews (who later left with David Hulme) why he had not done so, he said, nobody asked. So several people asked and Steve said that he interpreted this bylaw as prohibiting him from disclosing the information at any other time. The next year people made a point of asking and he read off the numbers so fast that most people couldn't understand what he was saying. Dixon Cartwright, the publisher of The Journal, managed to record the numbers but only because he is a whiz on the numeric keypad. 

Carolyn is something of an authority on such matters, and her selection of recipes is little short of amazing. One wonders, though, whether the Huguenots of Charleston may have served escargot with their matzos...

Nutburgers redivivus: From French cuisine to nutburgers. The link to a nutburger recipe a few days back fired the imagination of M. T. Hall. He has, shall we say, adapted the recipe... 

Perception becomes reality? Douglas Becker has another new offering on md.cultabuse.com. It includes this excellent one-liner especially for those moments when putative Apostles and prophets arise:

For the purposes of clarity of thought and just plain sanity, it is always well to bank the question to keep it ready: "Who died and left you God?".

COGonumbs: How any non-COG reader makes sense of AW is a mystery. Perhaps they don't. I mean, what does COG mean? Who or what is or was GTA? And does STP really mean "Stop Teenage Pregnancy"?

To help ease the confusion we've cooperated with the COGcritic blog to develop a dictionary of acronyms. It's still incomplete, but hopefully will assist the occasional Methodist or Baptist who stumbles here (after a hard night on the grape juice) to make some sense of it all.

Weekly Mailbag

Thanks Kathleen: I want to thank Kathleen Kakacek for her letter. It expressed where so many of us who have exited the COG groups are today. As one of the “fortunate second generation” COG members, I think I’ve dealt with the worst of the bitterness, but nothing can remove the profound regrets I feel to this day over the lost opportunities. Opportunities for connections with family, friends and neighbors, advanced education, and marriage. At 38 years of age, I’m trying to recover lost ground and finding it very difficult. 

Occasionally, I still find myself dealing with moments of anger, and depression. The anger and depression that began in my teens, brought on by excessive, unnecessary guilt and a sense of very low self-esteem reinforced by the COG teachings. It’s only now that I’ve been steadily “reprogramming” my mind with the doctrine of Grace, received good counsel, and medical care, that the periods of anger and depression are not as deep, nor as prolonged. 

If I feel bitterness today, it was for the needless suffering of all those years of continually trying harder to be better and to placate the God I believed to be so angry over my humanity; bitterness too for not giving decent men outside the church a chance to get close, and for not being able to take advantage of educational opportunities. I was programmed with too many mind blocks against, being “unequally yoked”, a “worldly” education, and accompanied continually by “end times” fear.

I’m sure the temptation for those still in COG groups is to think that I had some serious sin issues (I would have been tempted when I was in that mind set too), but I didn’t. I was the proverbial “good girl” who took notes in church, kept all the church requirements, and went to AC. I didn’t associate outside the church, didn’t have any wild ways, and was very loyal. I’ve never desired an immoral life, just a normal and decent one.

The Ambassador Watch has meant a great deal to me in my recovery. Here, I find people struggling on courageously to loose themselves from the oppression of Armstrongism and it gives me hope. It also helps to know I’m not alone. Thank you.


Marriage and the WCG: I have no comments about Terry Ratzmann and how he might have been motivated by what aspects of Armstrongism. I would just say that from my current vantage point as an ex-Armstrongite, now a Christian, I realize that during my Armstrongite tenure, I encountered many, many people among Armstrongites that were aberrant in their thinking and behavior. Although this strangeness was disquieting, one tended to bury this under the heading of "God calls the weak." Armstrongism seemed to attract and concentrate these people for whatever reasons. Considering that Armstrongites are a numerically insignificant piece of the religious scene, it is statistically extraordinary that a rare event such as the shooting of the Gregorys would happen in their ranks.

We must realize that to Armstrongites, marriage is a credential. (Similarly, within Catholicism, it is Sacrament.) And credentials and perquisites within Armstrongism are carefully managed and rationed. The distribution of perquisites and credentials must match the class hierarchy that defines the social structure of Armstrongism. Armstrongism, like Buddhism, is a performance based religion. It is their ardent desire that greater religious performance earns greater earthly perquisites and credentials. We all knew our Armstrongite ministers were more spiritual than us because they had nicer clothes, nicer homes and higher compensation. They were also married, except for Gerald.

Marriage, for this reason, is tightly controlled among Armstrongites. It is something to be conferred only when arbitrary qualifications have been met. Until a man is married, he is considered an odd and suspect bachelor lurking around the fringes of the congregation. Almost anything he says or does is considered to be inappropriate. He is kind of a sad joke. This is a means of hazing those men who have not received their bona fides as possessing "true Christian manhood." But why haze those who are single, you might ask. Because it exalts the status of those who possess the credential. Those who somehow manage to get themselves married, are imbued with a immediate sense of accomplishment and specialness and come to have a new status within the congregation.

So this will not be dismissed as a groundless assertion, I was a bachelor in the WCG for some time and then got married. The overnight change in my status in the congregation was extraordinary. People who never deigned to speak to me, suddenly became warmly communicative. I witnessed this in the lives of others. Also, I know of a ministerial assistant who was cruelly hazed by a collection of ordained ministers at a regional conference because he was not married and finally lost his job. I could go on. Really, to deny all of this is to admit to a disconnect with reality.

I have watched many marriages originating in this credentialing process undergo disintegration in the past ten years.

David Anderson

Jared's challenge: "I would challenge those who believe that to point to just one example of a Sabbath Keeper who was killed by the head of the Roman Inquisition, or for that matter by the head of any Catholic Inquisition.

Ravings: Gavin, thanks for sharing the ravings of that prominent conservative COG activist. That guy is just hilarious. I've believed quite a few ridiculous things in my life, but even I never thought there was anything significant in the Satan/Santa anagram that some WCGers talked about. But at least now we know that hell is infested with Ratz. Who would have suspected there was any connection between Terry Ratzmann and Cardinal Ratzinger. But then he had a Catholic parent, so maybe there's a sinister link after all.

"Ratzeinger [sic] is the Defender of the Faith, and has held this post for 20 years." Queen Elizabeth II, call your office! (As a matter of the fact, the British monarch's title of "Defender of the Faith" was bestowed by the Pope on King Henry VIII in recognition of Henry's writing a book against Martin Luther's views. That was before "The King's Great Matter." I think the Pope rescinded the title after the break with Rome, but the English monarchs have continued to use it all the same.)

Since 1981 -- a tad longer than 20 years ago -- Benedict XVI has been Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith -- and technically he still is, until he appoints a new Prefect.

"The post is a continuation of the Inquisition, which never has ceased." True. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was formerly called the Holy Office of the Roman Inquisition. Through the ages, the Catholic Church has had many different inquisitions (heresy courts) in several different countries -- the Roman Inquisition is distinct from the Spanish Inquisition, etc. They haven't always been called inquisitions, which was a medieval Latin term referring to any legal courtor trial, whether ecclesiastical or secular.

"Many Sabbath Keepers were killed by his predecessors in the same position." I would challenge those who believe that to point to just one example of a Sabbath Keeper who was killed by the head of the Roman Inquisition, or for that matter by the head of any Catholic Inquisition.

Jared Olar 

Chipper's epistle: Mark Armstrong’s allusion to the historical source of ritual worship is meant to frighten his readers into funding his efforts to “preach the gospel.” Such dim and dire warnings supported his grandfather in fine style; his father much less so, but still well enough. Let’s hope that those who think Mark is somehow ordained to continue the family “calling” will use a little common sense, and review the false and failed prophesies of his forbears, http://www.herbertwarmstrong.com/ar/Prophecies.html

The things that ought to worry the new family heir to the Armstrong Empire about the new pope, other popes, or any other dogmatic religious leader, ought to be that the poor, the weak, and the marginalized are sacrificed at the altar of doctrine. For example, Catholic women in the third world whose husbands were HIV positive were forbidden by their church to use condoms—because the pope felt that there must be another way to eradicate this disease, and because it would violate the church’s stance on birth control. Not only did these women have more children than they could support, many thousands of children were soon made orphans when both parents succumbed to AIDS. If this pope remains as committed to conservative doctrinal interpretation as John Paul II, this sort of thing will continue. Those of us who know what it was like to submit our lives to a ritual and often arbitrary (versus commonsense) religion should be able to empathize with the plight of people oppressed by their beliefs.

Kathleen Kakacek

Cursive research: You asked what "cursive research" is. I think lots of people do it these days. You use a cursor at a search site like Google. At least Mark Armstrong isn't doing CURSING research. That would be for a sermon on euphemisms. LOL!


Aaron Dean and AR: I check out your information often since I want several viewpoints. And you often have what appears to be solid information. I do not agree with all of your editorial comments and/or those of ex-COG people who now believe that basically all the doctrines we kept were erroneous, but I also have no love for the human corporate COGs that revere the Armstrongs. 

Re Aaron Dean. Since I only glance at your site at times and do not read all of it, I may be missing something. Aaron Dean in the old Ambassador Reports was singled out [for special mention]... as I recall. I am not saying the Report that talked about Aaron is the last word on him, but it certainly was a strong word...

AW: Or was it Kevin Dean?

Becker on obscenity: I read the piece on Douglas Becker’s website that you posted, “Obscene Material.” This does not only happen in the COG churches but also in the Baptist and other churches. I was a child when I attended the Baptist church and I can tell you they also scared me on many occasions, with their teaching that you will go to hell and burn forever, and that the devil with horns and a pitch fork will come and get you if you are not good. I too was afraid to sleep at night in a dark room, especially if I misbehaved that day. So to single out the COG of God in doing this is simply not right! 

With that said I am also reminded of the scripture found in Isa. 30:10: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: (Isa 30:10). If we teach our children to read God’s word then they will read it anyway, the warnings that God laid out for all of us, which does not exclude the children, the blessings and cruses that come with obeying or going contrary to God’s way of life. We can put rose color glasses on our eyes, hide the truth from our children and tell them everything is wonderful, or have balance in teaching them that blessings will come from obeying God’s truth, that God has their best interest at heart as he does for all of us.

Trumpeter unmasked: Dear Sirs, as a former member of WCG I found this site to be most compelling. What do you know about it? http://www.Blowthetrumpet.org ... These people appear to be very serious.


AW: As you probably noticed, Joseph, your email led to a small item in the April 23 upload. I was puzzled though that you used Randy Vild's email account... Anyway, here at AW we try to be helpful, and so do many of our readers. We'd like to thank Bill for taking time to research your question. The site is registered to... Randy Vild! We can even provide an address and phone number, but suspect you might know those details already.



Which of the following best describes your CURRENT beliefs?
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Traditional Christian
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Go away - I'm having a crisis!
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Becker's obscene editorial: Yes, Douglas Becker has obscene material on his Cult Abuse website. But you should read it anyway. 

Blogger commentary: The following comments come from the Lake of Fire blog.

The smoke rose, the bells rang and the crowd cheered, "Benedict, Benedict!" Ratzinger is now Pope. Good for him, bad for those tired of hearing the continuous flow of Anti-EU/Catholic pronouncements coming from Herbal offshoots over the past decades. I recall Gerald Flurry taking particular notice of Ratzinger in a past issue of the Trumpet. His German roots and his office of the "Holy Inquisition" play well into Flurry's prophetic insights.

Flurry won't be the only one yammering about the new Pope. John Paul II was just too old and feeble to be a convincing anti-Christ. He wasn't quite mean enough. Ratzinger has star potential. Sharp-minded, Germanic roots, EU friendly and a staunch conservative. Just the type to lead the world into a humanity-ending holocaust. Well, that's what a litany of writers will be saying as every event in Europe and beyond is associated with a Vatican/EU conspiracy.

Money will be required--lots and lots of money. The warning must be intensified, the message must go to Israel. Send in your cheque. The end/last end/final end/last hour/Bag End is nigh. The 9 Riders have gone forth in search of the Ring. Oh wait, I am mixing my metaphors again. Satan has intensified his attack as never before. Only those who will escape will understand and heed. You are one of those chosen to escape. Don't delay, don't disobey. Pray and Pay.

Save your money for popcorn. You'll need it while watching CNN's coverage of the Great Escape to Petra.

From HWA to Thomas to Atheism: There are a lot of unique stories out there. One ex-WCG member out in Arkansas tells of his pilgrimage from the WCG to the wacky world of Christadelphianism (founded by John Thomas in the 19th Century) on a website called The Ex-Christadelphian. These days the writer has moved away from religion altogether and is a big fan of Mike Minton's Painful Truth site.

The AW demographic: Just what kind of people read Ambassador Watch? If the mailbag is anything to go by, it's a highly diverse group. But the truth is that your guess is as good as mine. The poll appearing in today's upload is an attempt to take a snapshot of who we all are. 

Food for thought

Sean Gonsalves writes in the Cape Cod Times on "The moral bankruptcy of fundamentalism - 
Do so-called 'Bible-believers' ever read the Bible?" 

Gonsalves discusses, among other things, Old Testament laws concerning usury, Jubilee years  and land Sabbaths, and contrasts the Bible's concern for the poor (including the words of Jesus and James) with the agenda of lobbyists claiming to be 'Bible-believers'.

Douglas Becker: "Mr. Michelson told the congregation at the Feast that his young son became preoccupied with an obsession with world events. His son was worried about the Great Tribulation and world events, nuclear bombs and captivities. He told us that this was not natural for a boy of seven and that he had determined that his son was bothered by demons. He then anointed his son and prayed to cast out the demons. The exorcism was successful, apparently, for his son went back to the business of being a little boy again. Our own son was not so lucky..."



FN3: The third issue of Faith Networks has been released. The magazine can be downloaded in PDF format from the NTE website. Contributors this month are Lenny Cacchio, Ron Dart, Pam Dewey, Brian Drawbaugh, Bill Jacobs, Wendy Pack, Bill Stough (pictured) and Guy Swenson.

Butt lo: M.T.Hall has a much deserved reputation as a COG satirist. His latest article, Fear Not, is now available.

Nutburgers: Moving from intentional humor to unintentional, here's a recent forum posting by a prominent conservative COG activist...

It is all personal conjecture but something to think about. Satan tricked the world into worshiping Christ at Xmas and then took Christ out of it and put worship of himself in and was not so subtle about it, using Santa instead of Satan.

Most would agree that Satan entered Terry Ratzman [sic] and the Church got a wake up call last month. Then Ratzeinger [sic] is elected Pontiff Maximus, sure it may be mere coincidence that the names are similar, but Satan had control over both, so it may not be. We definitly [sic] know worse is coming and it will be by way of Satan for he knows his time is short.

Ratzeinger [sic] is the Defender of the Faith, and has held this post for 20 years. The post is a continuation of the Inquisition, which never has ceased. Many Sabbath Keepers were killed by his predecessors in the same position.

Ratzeinger [sic] was elected on the anniversary of the Waco tragedy where 80 Sabbath Keepers, including many Sabbath Keeping children were burned to death. Ratzeinger's [sic] election was announced with smoke rising from a chimney. If Hitler were alive it would make a nice birthday present for him tomorrow, to have one of his Hitler Youth (and later Wermacht [sic]) crowned Pope, he also had a fondness for smoking chimneys. (April 20th Hitler's birthday)

Everything may be coincidence, but Satan has his hand in all of the above, so maybe some isn't, time will tell. Those with Laodecian [sic] attitudes will slumber but God's Church is watching. (Frank Olive writing on the Elijah forum, forwarded by Dateline Pasadena)

Mark Armstrong pushes similar buttons in his latest weekly epistle:

If you’re intrigued by the demonstration of ancient “spiritual ceremony” that was beamed into your living room LIVE from the Vatican over the past two weeks, you might be interested to know just how far back this “state religious system” goes.  Some brief research into Roman civilization and religion reveals that the robed chanting and parading of holy men was going on, in the same way and in the same place, long before the birth of Jesus Christ.  Over three hundred years B.C. the “college of pontiffs” was electing a “pontifex maximus” from among their number. There is reportedly a clamor among Catholics all over the world to “canonize” John Paul II, and elevate him to “sainthood.”  It is interesting to note, as cursive research shows, that the practice of elevating mortal leaders to the status of  “god” was passed down through various civilizations and adopted in Rome by Julius Caesar before the time of Christ.

Cursive research? Pray tell, what is that?

It is impossible to imagine a man any more directly positioned to move Europe and the Universal Church toward the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.  We live in unsettled times. Initial indications are that this will be anything but a benign papacy.

And finally, here's the recipe for nutburgers... thanks for wading through the other stuff first.

Another trumpet: Whoever is behind this new Herb fan site is being just a tad coy about their identity. Not a church apparently, but your dollars are welcome anyway. The site is professionally produced - or perhaps overproduced (it takes ages to load on a dial up connection) - with lots of visual content. It includes the text of a book by Dennis Fischer who, we gather, is a member of the Eternal Church of God (Art Braidic's sect). Maybe he's just blowing his own trumpet...



Prophecies most dreadful: The 6-pack prophet is first off the blocks with comment on Pope Benedict XVI. PCG writer Ryan Malone opines: 

Put together what we've been reporting on Joseph Ratzinger for the past eight years and what we've been warning about the next pope for about five years, and in Pope Benedict XVI you have just the man to fulfill some of the most dreadful, Earth-shaking prophecies of all time.

More of the same on the cult website.

Canada crumbles: The following observations about the Canadian WCG appeared on the JLF forum.

Canada keeps trying to look good (as well they should) but their nice web site does not reflect how they are doing... Canada actually only has ... 2000 (if that) warming the seats each week. Their HQ is a mere handful of people and some things are farmed out such as the website..

WCG Canada has eliminated some of the smaller congregations but ones as small as a handful are still being counted as churches when they wouldn't make much more than a small group if that... some of the smaller areas [are struggling because of] the new financial set-up...

The festivals get a good write up of course but it is what is not written that is interesting. For instance in January 2004 the write up for Festival 2003... omitted one site. Why? Because it was cancelled a few weeks before it was to be held... No official or written notice in advance given of the change...

...the Youth Camp in Vendee [is] apparently being sold because the official word is that this is the last year for this location. My friends in Canada were surprised to hear that but the US WN has stated it in print.

Now what many do not know is that also off the radar now is WCG Canada's showcase congregation of Strathroy. Many times this has been presented (Northern Light and WN) as a success story. With the departure (for whatever reason) of their pastor George De Vlugt that congregation has disappeared as well. Big disappointment I would suspect.

Weekly Mailbag

Malarkey (1): I am surprised that you have missed this one. Ancient Prophecy by Malachy, Archbishop of Connor of the Catholic church received a vision of the succession of popes right down to the end times. Pope John Paul II was pope number 110 out of 111 popes. That means the next Pope is the last Pope prior to Christ's return. The 111th Pope is described as Gloria Olivae (the glory of the olives). And you thought the churches of God were scary in their predictions! 


AW: As if we don't have enough prophecy kooks in our little corner of the paddock... :-)

Malarkey (2): Well, what do you think of the election of the new pope, especially on the eve of Hitler's birthday. By the way, none of the media has mentioned that fact yet.


AW: Can't imagine why not...

The papal connection (1): I find it very interesting that the Cardinals are meeting in Rome to elect a new Pope, shrouded in secrecy. Meanwhile, the UCG is doing the same thing, electing their "pope", er....president by their "cardinals", i.e., the Council of Elders.


The papal connection (2): The election of a German pope couldn't have come at a better time for all of the little whore splinter groups out there getting ready to collect more money during the Jewish holidays from the dumb sheep. They can get them all pumped up to dig a little deeper into their pocketbooks in order to spread the prophetic announcement that "This is THE Pope that we have been waiting for!". Herbert would be proud!


The papal connection (3): If Benedict XVI is such a conservative, perhaps we should call him "Benny Hun?"

Richard Burkard

UCG Poll (1): In your Poll for the best president for UCG, you need one more choice in there. "None of The Above"


UCG Poll (2): Another name to add to the list could be Gary Petty. Already in some ways the voice and face of UCG through the radio program.

AW: Only official nominees were listed.

The sermon tree: Hey good photo of my dad on your web site. My younger sister who was at home during the "ripped plant" sermon wanted to clarify that my dad did not rip a living tree. It was a pruned branch from the back yard. My sister also mentioned that with 3 females at home at the time and my dad growing up on the farm, that ripping up a real plant would not happen. My sister also believes that my dad revealed in the sermon that it was not a plant with a roots but pruned branch.

Bill Bradford

Alexa stats: Your Alexa ratings listing is very telling and most interesting... I might add that I also have LifeNets.org that has a traffic rank of 782,766. That would put LifeNets just behind COGwriter. Also, I use the server at www.victorkubik.com to stream large video and audio files from both Kubik.org and lifenets.org. So, in effect, I have three websites that that could be two.

Victor Kubik (www.kubik.org)  

Doggone: Funny picture of the dog [April 13] and the enclosed statement that he is not listening to a Rod Meredith sermon. Many times my wife and I felt this way when attending Living. Rod has a very depressing view of God and our future. I think he needs to look at this photo and do some soul searching. Perhaps it should be put in a frame and sit on his desk. A small engraved plate below it could ask: "Am I inspiring people?"

Richard Markland

Worms in the Big Apple (1): Mike Grovak's letter (4/18/05) in response to MAM's article is typical of the arrogance and lack of empathy of the ministers. I attended services in the NYC area. I started attending at the Crystal Palace in Astoria in 1970. I left the cult in 1998. I have to say that MAM is 100% accurate about singles activities not only in NYC but in any area I visited. Especially at the Feast (of booze as some called it). The ministers had to get approval from Pasadena before they would allow a couple to announce their engagement. My wife and I experienced that. Anyone who was in the cult in 1972 knows that using medicine and doctors and especially psychiatry was considered a sin worthy of the "Lake of Fire." To say that the ministers didn't discourage their use is an outright lie. The minister's better pray there is no god and punishment in an afterlife or they're in big trouble.

Worms in the Big Apple (2): With regard to MAM's comments concerning singles in the WCG, I add my own personal observations. I was single when I was baptized in the early 1970s and was still single when I exited in the late 1970s. There was a large contingent of single young men in the church where I attended (the New Jersey area), many of whom floated from church area to church area in search of single women. The ratio of single men to single women in the New Jersey church was in the area of 10 or 12 single men for every single woman. Many of the singles in the local church floated from one church area to another in search of eligible women, some traveling as far as New England, Pennsylvania, and the NYC churches. The Armstrong message just did not resonate with young single women the way it did with young single men. Perhaps there is a message here. Alas, there were very few marriages in the local church and many, many frustrated singles, some still single after all these years. The WCG did very little for singles. There were few, if any, singles get-togethers in the local church and everything hinged on the opportunity of meeting women at the Feast. One gentleman that I knew met a nice young woman from Long Island at the Feast but was told that he would have to have ministerial permission to date her! It seems that she suffered from some sort of spiritual problem known only to the ministry and could only be rationed out with extreme caution. One year in the 1970s, I went to a feast site in England. and in talking with the young British chaps there, I learned that they also suffered from the singles disease: Lack of women and very few marriages. And from what I have learned on AW website, the beat still goes on.


COGnitive dissonance: Help! Can some one please help me to understand the latest piece of insanity? What am I referring to? Simple. It's the insanity of behavioral cognitive dissonance that emanates from LCG. Some time ago, the New Zealand distributor of The Journal was given an ultimatum. LCG, in the person of their NZ "minister", deemed the distributor's "membership" incompatible with distributing The Journal. The distributor made what I believe to be the sane choice and parted with them. And good on him. Now, lo and behold, the current issue of The Journal contains a rather lengthy, verbose dissertation by favored LCG unofficial apologist, Robert J Thiel. Ooooppppssss! Did I miss something? Isn't it time Robert was given the same ultimatum? Or is there respect of persons? Favoritism? Impossible!!

Are there any thinkers in LCG who are able to understand LCG's behavioral cognitive dissonance? ...which "sin" is worse? Distributing The Journal, or writing in it? Now is this another opportunity for LCG's "presiding evangelist" to "correct" the apologist for expressing his "personal views"?


John Karagiannidis

Bitter (1): To the anonymous writer who wrote to ask why former WCG members are bitter, if their lives are so much better now. Are we bitter because of the tithes we had to pay? My husband and I discussed this several times, and asked ourselves the same question, and interestingly enough, the answer is no. We didn’t resent paying the “first tithe” because of the very reasons you mentioned. What we did mind was realizing that Mr. Armstrong was shamelessly spending outrageous sums of money for ice buckets, gold plates and flatware, etc. while regularly abusing the membership with letters threatening their spiritual well-being if they did not send more money.

We are also unhappy about the deception about what the money went for. Even though third tithe years were always difficult for us, we were happy to pay it, believing that it went to assist our poorer brothers and sisters. Finding out that the funds sent to support widows and orphans was given out very sparingly to them, while headquarters evangelists and top administrators decorated and redecorated their homes for tens of thousands of dollars out of the third tithe fund did make us angry—and yes, bitter. Had that money gone to ease the lives of our sisters and brothers who truly needed it, we would have been glad.

As far as the second tithe goes, we always enjoyed the Feast of Tabernacles. We weren’t too happy to hear, from the pulpit, during our last Feast, that the ministry did not pay second tithe, rather the members indirectly paid for their attendance through the “tithe of the tithe.” Since the ministers were already receiving “double honor” (based on what standard?), plus had a virtually tax free income (everyone should be a minister, as an accountant told me), we didn’t see the need for them to have already burdened members pay for their attendance at the Feast of Tabernacles.

No, we are not bitter about the Sabbath. It was a sacred tradition in our home, and one we enjoyed. Yes, we experienced some difficulty or loss because of not being able to participate in activities on the Sabbath, regarding my husband’s career, and particularly because my husband and children are unusually talented musically, and so many of the occasions they would have been able to participate in were on the Sabbath. But there again, it was to obey God, we thought, so we didn’t mind it too much.

Regarding your assertion that members are bitter because they were brainwashed: that is one we could spend hours debating, so I’m not going to address it in detail here. All I have to go on is my personal experience, which is that my life has been much saner and easier since I left the WCG. I’ve come to know many loving people in my community, Christian and non-Christian, religious and agnostic/atheist, who are leading lives dedicated to improving the world around them, to put it in biblical terms, you might say they are living lives worthy of God.

Our family does celebrate Christmas now, but we do it on our own terms; we do not go into debt to celebrate it, nor do we spend more than we can afford. Just as we saved our second tithe, we save an affordable amount of our own choosing all year for gifts, and it is certainly nowhere near the 10% of our gross income that we spent to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. We also have money to spend on our widowed mothers. Furthermore, the “government” doesn’t support widows, “we the people” do, through our payments into the social security system, and with our tax dollars that pay for welfare for women with children without adequate support. When we are old, if the Bush administration hasn’t ruined the social security system, we will likewise have our income supplemented with social security payments made by younger workers. That’s what it’s there for. And incidentally, because we are no longer sending money to support a bloated religious bureaucracy, we have paid off our home and cars, and our living expenses will be quite modest when we do retire.

One thing you don’t mention is education. Many people in the WCG did not go to college, in my generation, nor could they afford to send their children to college or technical school without receiving financial assistance in the form of federal loans or grants. The few who went to Ambassador College received a narrow, proof-text sort of education. This is a tragedy. Not just because the members and their children probably made less income during their lifetimes, but because they know relatively little about the world around them. Nor do they know how they can effectively make changes in the world now, on an individual basis, instead of waiting for Jesus to come back and fix everything. I have been impressed by the quiet personal examples of many of my college professors in this regard.

You suggest that Sabbath and holy day keeping and tithing are the only reasons that former members have for being unhappy about their experiences in the WCG. And perhaps that is true for some. But what I am most unhappy about is that I believed in a vengeful, angry God. I’m unhappy that I spent the first forty years of my life believing that my “heart is desperately wicked,” believing that I must not trust “my own understanding,” and that I was not capable of running my own life. I regret that I believed that God would pick for his apostle a man who molested his own daughter. I regret that I stood up for the likes of Garner Ted Armstrong during the 1970s, believing the lies that his father told the church in order to cover up his sins. I regret that I didn’t know how many fine people there are in my community, because I believed that they were all false Christians, and in need of the “truth.” And I regret the arrogance that made me believe that.

The very fact that you read letters written by “bitter” ex-WCG members might suggest that you are not entirely happy with your current church affiliation, whichever one that might be. Personally, I don’t spend any time on the Internet looking for bad things about the way the Episcopal clergy operates, because my experience in the Episcopal Church was quite positive, so I can’t imagine why you would spending as much time as you do reading threads of discontent by ex-WCG members. Like others that contribute to this website, what I care about is not so much what you believe, but why you believe it, and that you are being well-treated by those you follow. That’s why I don’t “get over it” and “leave the church alone.” As long as you are well treated by your ministers, and are free to question what you do not understand, or complain when you are not well-treated (without fear of disfellowshipment), as long as you understand the reasons for what you believe and do, and as long as you treat others well, then I wish you well and I bid you peace. But you might ask yourself, if you are happy with your life, why do you frequent such websites as this, where persons like me post their thoughts.

Kathleen Kakacek

Bitter (2): In response to the Mailbag letter of 15 April subtitled "Bitter": It never ceases to amaze me when I see how illiterate the impassioned defenders of Armstrongism tend to be. The unnamed writer of the "Bitter" piece apparently can barely speak English, and can't write it at all. It seems that the more passionately such folks defend the "faith", the less able to communicate they seem to be. Perhaps this somewhat explains their need to be cared for (as they see it) by a cult.

The editor of AW, to protect his own reputation, inserted a "[sic]" into the text in a number of places, meaning that, hey, this is exactly how it arrived and I'm not responsible for the misspellings and misplaced words. The editor was extremely kind -- I saw at least a dozen more places where he could have inserted a "[sic]" and did not. Truly he was compassionate.

I understand that not everyone has had the opportunity to receive a good education. Ignorance of "book learning" is not necessarily evidence of a weak mind or the inability to reason. But we're talking high school English here, not graduate school. If you have trouble with spelling or sentence structure, the next time you write a letter to a public forum, why not have someone read it over for you and help with the grammar. People will take you a lot more seriously if you can express yourself at some basic level. Nobody expects everyone to be a Pat Conroy with the language, but try not to sound like you just stepped out of a mountain outhouse.

As for "leaving the church alone" and "just get over it", please follow this link: http://www.herbertwarmstrong.com/get_over_it_reply.htm and think about what you read.

John B 

Bitter (3): I read the article with the heading "Bitter." What an attention catcher. Well said, whoever you are. 


Passover reflection: In this day & age, wouldn't it be more meaningful to shine each others' shoes (as a servant does) than to wash each others' already clean feet?


Rhetorical question: Here is an interesting question for the leaders of the various COG organizations. Don Haney raised [it] in his first letter. Since there is so little difference doctrinally between most COG organizations - why don't you let people attend where they want? In all seriousness, are the (minor) differences between the LCG, and the RCG, and the UCG so profound that attending the right one is a matter of salvation? Of course not.

So why not allow people in your respective churches the freedom to attend whatever COG organization they would like without any pressure? In all honesty, the number of people transferring from LCG to UCG would probably be balanced out by those transferring from UCG to LCG. So why not encourage the members of your groups to go to whatever COG organization that works best for them?

Obviously, this is a rhetorical question. I know why people can't be given the freedom. Each individual leader believes he must hold on to "his people" at all costs. None of these leaders have the confidence that they can draw COG followers to his specific organization. Because the COG leaders knows he can't draw followers, they decided they must hold on to each person no matter what the cost. Basically, survival trumps growth.

If none of the COG organizational leaders lacks the ability to draw COG followers to their organization in an "open market" - then how can they ever draw the general public into their organizations? The COG organizations are doomed to obliteration. You have to be able to attract your own present followers long before you can attract new, future followers.


Generous Joe? In the April 13 posts, we once again find the WCG taken to task--this time for "'buying out' those that are left on discretionary assistance... So for the past 10 years, despite plummeting membership, WCG has continued faithfully providing financial assistance to "many widows" (even those who didn't support the changes). Amazing! I was regularly reading that WCG leaders are just a bunch of money-grubbing, promise-breakers all this time. How could I have been so misinformed?

Rog Schmidgall

AW: Discretionary meant just that. "Loyalty" was the main criteria. There are a lot of people who served the WCG for years - decades in some cases - and walked away with no retirement benefits whatsoever.


In brief: To Robert Clanton: views noted.



INCOMING! Hold on tight, turbulence ahead! The election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is bound to set off every nutcase in Wider COGdom. A German pope! Expect to be bombarded by sermonettes on the subject (some of those guys are already hyperventilating at the prospect). Then prepare for the measured and dulcet tones of the minister - who will regurgitate the contents of the latest TIME magazine as if it was some kind of inside information, before embarking on a tour of apocalyptic passages and asking leading questions (hint, hint) about the End Times. Prophecy comes alive brethren!

As for the newly elected pontiff, his biggest critics are likely to be from within the Catholic fold. For some he is a nightmare come true: a liberal gone bad. "Perhaps he's named himself after Benedict Arnold", mused the Catholic neighbor. When I raised a quizzical eyebrow at the comment he dropped his voice further and said conspiratorially, "Benny the Rat!"




The Presidential hopefuls: Yesterday we asked for some enlightenment on the men offering themselves as leaders of the UCG. Here are some of the responses. 

Dean doomed? From a former elder: One thing I appreciate about Aaron Dean is his willingness to respond. I have, over the years, sent several messages to council members, usually critical of one thing or another. The only council member who has consistently ever bothered to reply, even when he didn't agree with my criticism, has been Aaron Dean. He has been unfailingly polite in his responses and seems willing to listen to different views. He has his faults -- don't we all? -- but he may be the council's sole redeeming value. Now that he's received the AW seal of approval, so to speak, it probably means the kiss of death to him. We should, sadly, expect him to be replaced on the council soon. (After all, didn't they recently float a new rule they were considering adopting, requiring council members to be UCG employees? The fact that Aaron doesn't depend on UCG for his livelihood is perhaps an important reason for his having felt free to be a little less hidebound than the rest.

Someone with a good memory notes: Aaron W. Dean? (W standing for wiretapping) Have the people who voted for Mr. Dean read Jack Kessler's letter to the "dummy board"?

But a UCG member writes: I selected Aaron Dean based on the "bridesmaid" way of thinking. He's been an aide to so many leaders, in WCG and UCG. He's been a servant to them, more than anything. So he's doubtless seen what they've done right and done wrong -- all the better, I pray, to choose to follow the things which are right.

And finally: Aaron Dean is a very open, honest and upfront guy. He is not afraid to speak his mind on how he feels about things. But he will not be voted in. Clyde Kilough will probably get it. He seems to be a people person and I believe he would be the best choice other than Bill Bradford. I have heard some really good things about Bill but I don't think he will get it. Clyde would do well at the job. But we did lose a very good president in my opinion who cared deeply for God's people. Mr. Holladay's shoes will be hard ones to fill.

Down in Tampa UCG member Nathan Albright has been running the odds on who will get to sit in the big chair. Check out his blog entry.

Bradders: From the Land Down Under come these comments from a former LCE. I know he is out here now, and wife Jennie is Australian, but he himself is Louisiana born (I think). Bill (or "Bradders" as he was known by many of the members) was my pastor in Melbourne South for several years (probably only 4 or 5 - but seemed much longer)... I could tell you many many stories of this man who was basically a beast of the field yet strangely likeable as well. He also did and said some things that were so funny (unintentionally so!!) that I still fall about years later thinking about them! I have been watching with interest as he gradually takes over the UCG structure here in Australia. I'm not a member I hasten to add - very much an ex COG, however, if Bradders was made president of UCG I would join just so I could resign in protest!! ...[I perceived him as] a bully, strict, very much a company man... you never knew when he would explode... he once gave a sermon about how a person's emotions could be destroyed bit by bit in society without God (or some such) and to illustrate he had a big plant on the stage which he kept ripping leaves and branches off until it was just a stick... very politically incorrect.

And Les: Across the Atlantic, Tom Mahon is less than impressed with what he remembers about Les McCullough. When the break-up of WCG occurred in 1995, Les was the regional director in the UK. After visiting most of the congregations and delivering a meaningless sermon, entitled, "There have always been problems in the church," Les [is understood to have] resigned with 60% of his exorbitant salary as a pension on condition that he did not join UCG. He banked the cheque, and when it cleared, he joined UCG, who agreed to pay his pension. In addition, Les also wrote a letter (I have a copy on file...) to the UK brethren commending John Halford to them and asking them to give him the same support that he, Les, enjoyed... despite the fact that Les knew that John Halford supported the heretical changes... 

Pam Dewey

The apparently unelectable Aaron Dean is a clear winner in our poll, while both Clyde Kilough and Jim Franks, regarded as frontrunners, garnered little grassroots support. With 195 votes cast the numbers were: Dean 80, Bradford 45, McCullough 33, Franks 22 and Kilough 15.

Pam Dewey's Wild World of Religion: "This is the review that didn't want to be written. Most of my columns pretty much write themselves, but this one has bitten, kicked and screamed at every step of the process. So I'm going to take the easy option and put things together in a bullet list. Maybe that's appropriate. Those of us who've been "on safari" in the Wild World of Religion know that a few bullets - or at least tranquilizers - can definitely come in handy..." Read the review.



Who would make the best president for UCG
Bill Bradford
Aaron Dean
Jim Franks
Clyde Kilough
Leslie McCullough
Free polls from Pollhost.com

Aaron Dean in front: With more than 120 votes in AW's highly unofficial UCG presidential poll cast, Aaron Dean had taken a significant lead, with Clyde Kilough thrashing about at the bottom. 

Dean 42, Bradford 30, McCullough 22, Franks 17, Kilough 9 (1st 120 votes)

But exactly why? What are the qualities and strengths that appeal in each candidate? Is Dean, for example, popular because he's seen to be relatively untouched by the politicking? If you believe one of the candidates stands out (for good or ill), you can submit your testimonial for others to consider by sending an email to peopleschoice@ambassadorwatch.co.nz

These comments from one anonymous source who noted Aaron Dean's strong polling: I think it is interesting that Aaron Dean is leading in this poll. While he is the only non-employed member of the COE, he will NEVER be president. He no longer thinks like the old guard and there is an active campaign to get him off the COE, and no way in the world the old guard will elect him Prez. As had been mentioned here before, Richard Pinelli himself named 3 names, but only Jim Franks from those 3 is a real contender. However, talk now has it that because of all the publicity they might put someone else in instead--because they can't have all the dissidents being right. So rumor now has it that Clyde Kilough is the likely contender if they back off from JF.

The poll is still open.

The kingmakers: So who gets to cast the ballots that determine who will steer the UCG over the years ahead? UCG's Council of Elders consists of 12 (!) men, 4 of whom are aspirants to the office (Dean, McCullough, Franks and Kilough). Assuming that the four contenders either excuse themselves from the ballot (or vote for themselves) that means the decision really comes down to just 8 men. They are: Anthony Wasilkoff, Victor Kubik, Doug Horchak, Joel Meeker, Leon Walker, Mario Seiglie, Richard Thompson and Robert Dick (source: UCG website). 

Related link: Now or never editorial

Back in the Big Apple: Last month we featured an article by M.A.M., a former Manhattan WCG member, which drew attention to the situation faced by singles in the old WCG (and, by implication, singles in the LCG today such as Terry Ratzmann). That brought a swift response from Mike Grovak, who served as associate pastor in the area. Today we bring you a follow-up by M.A.M. which goes into greater detail and addresses several points raised by Mike. Come back with us to the Botha years.



And they're off! The UCG derby is about to enter the preliminary stages with the entrants named. 

* Bill Bradford (a win by Bill, an Aussie, would be an "Ocker shocker")

* Aaron Dean (Herb's "Red Coat" and leading non-intellectual)

* Jim Franks (picked by Dave Havir as the most likely to succeed)

* Clyde Kilough (the chairman who no longer wants to be the footstool)

* Les McCullough (the come-back kid)

Don't look for smoke signals above Cincinnati HQ (no chimney!) The College of Cardinals will be voting via teleconference on May 3.

So, let's give the lads a bit of feedback. Who do you trust to lead the UCG? Check out our poll. Remember, this is the only vote you're likely to get, and while it won't be counted, you can be sure that certain COE members will take more than a passing interest in the results.



Tim Greenwood

Oh good grief!  Dateline Pasadena tipped AW off on yet another ex-AC identity who has joined the pulp-fiction end of the fundamentalist marketplace. Tim was a cook at the Pasadena campus for many years. He also served with Carlton Green. You can find Tim Greenwood Ministries on the Web doing the "Word of Faith" thing, complete with tales of healings from AIDS, cancer, heart disease and possibly, if you looked hard enough, dandruff. Benny Hinn would be proud. And yes, you can donate! Hey, maybe Herb wasn't so bad after all!

Oh good grief II: Bob Thiel has asked that we clarify our M.T.Hall spoof. He writes:

Apparently learned of a version of the conversation someone made up that was posted at the AW site on April 13, 2005. I was actually asked tonight if I had been disfellowshipped. Would you please post that the conversation was intended as satire and was not true? While I know the article had a disclaimer that it was a possible conversation, apparently when it was relayed elsewhere, that disclaimer was missing. As you (and almost everyone else) is aware, I remain a member in good standing with the Living Church of God. Any who wonder further about my status with R.C. Meredith should simply read what he had sent to the LCG ministry and read to the membership last week, which concluded with: "Though Dr. Thiel’s comments on his personal website and in his articles do not necessarily represent “official” Church teaching, he has tried hard to be helpful and we should all appreciate that—which I certainly do."

We're happy to confirm that M.T. Hall's piece was indeed satire. How it could be read any other way is something of a mystery, but then again, there are apparently some very literal-minded folk out there. You'd have thought the reference to an ice-cream van outside St. Peters might have been a bit of a clue...




Jared Olar writes: I was wondering if you've seen this hilarious video of Benny Hinn's wife. You need RealPlayer in order to view it. Here's the commentary from Beliefnet:

"Televangelist Benny Hinn is threatening to sue the religious satire magazine The Door for the video clip it is distributing that shows Hinn's wife, Suzanne, preaching at their former church in Orlando, Florida. She says if you're a lifeless, blackslidden Christian, you need a 'Holy Ghost enema... right up your rear end.'

"Uh, we'd like chapter and verse on that, please, ma'am."

So these the are folks infesting, er, using the Ambassador Auditorium now? Somehow I don't think "running with the cloud" is any improvement on Herbert Armstrong's Bible-pounding and jowl waggling.

Another perspective on discretionary assistance: Following a report quoted on April 13, a Pasadena reader who was prepared to identify herself to AW, noted that she was currently a beneficiary of the program. She contested the statement that most had accepted the buyout, and maintains that there was no pressure for people to do so. "In fact we were cautioned to make the decision very carefully, accepting it only if we had additional adequate income to live on... those who did not accept the lump sum would continue to receive the payments." We'd be interested to hear from others in this situation.

LCG members follow Haney: Defrocked LCG minister Don Haney has been a busy fellow lately following through on enquiries and questions since his departure. In one such communiqué he states: Since Medford and Eureka have almost unanimously asked me to continue as pastor - I will. We are planning to remain independent, but are making efforts to work closely with several branches of God's Church in a harmonious and peaceful way. Another is a response to a letter by LCG's Doc Fall, dated April 12.

Dear Mr. Fall and those who have received your “To Whom It May Concern” letter of April 6th, 2005:

After receiving several copies of your letter about the “facts” as you put it, the need has arisen to ask you to reconsider the approach you have taken in your letter regarding my open letter. I’m sure you mean well, and I appreciate that, and many other qualities about you. You mentioned Proverbs 18:13 which states “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” However you have never asked me or checked the “other side” of your story to confirm your “facts.” Knowing that you would not want to be purposefully deceitful, I offer a reminder that biblically God’s Statutes and Judgments teach us to carefully gather information from both sides of an issue before reaching a conclusion. Yet you have never confirmed with me any of the things you wrote in your letter. Respectfully, how can you tell others what I supposedly “said” and “agreements” you claim I made when you were not there? Don’t you think it is biblical to investigate “both parties” before making judgments?

I realize that each side has their own perspective, but I do not at all concur with the accuracy of your letter, nor do I concur with the accuracy of the letter from your Presiding Evangelist; as they both contain hurtful false accusations, and they do not accurately portray the real events or their timing. I realize we now have comparatively small disagreements, and I am not trying to convince you of anything. This reply is not an accusation against you. I do not know your heart or why you wrote what you did. I offer this for clarification only in the spirit of brotherly encouragement and peace.

By no means am I faultless. If a person wishes to examine me or my words closely enough, they can find plenty of faults. I’m still growing and repenting. None of us stands innocent, without the blood of Christ. So perhaps we would all do better to focus upon Christ our Passover, and not sling hurtful words and unsubstantiated assaults upon each others character like a couple of politicians. I’m not seeking to draw away God’s people from ‘Living’, I’m just a brother with whom you disagree. I do not view you as my enemy. Let’s not sink to reviling comments (1 Pet.2:19-23). I have not been responding in kind, as our Lord said to turn the other cheek. But please, my cheeks are getting bruised.

Without addressing each inaccurate point, I respectfully offer a bit of clarification to your public letter about me: You refer to things you say I “said”, and to “agreements” that you say I made with church administration. While the Director of CAD and I did visit last December and had various conversations, they were not as you portray them. The “agreements” you attribute to me making were never made, and I did not say the things you say I did. Further, I never refused to go to Charlotte. Respectfully, you were not there. Sadly when people make statements and inferences about other people when they were not there and have not checked with both parties – those statements are only hearsay at best, or gossip. I’m sure that’s not what either of us wishes to do, so let’s avoid libelous or unsubstantiated statements, and focus upon love. While love is faithful, love does no harm and does not assume or impute evil to another. (1 Cor.13)

I have not contacted anyone who has not first contacted me. Nor am I at all seeking to persuade anyone to separate their fellowship from ‘Living’, or any other fellowship of God’s fold. I do not want a following, so no one should feel “threatened”. I love you and all my brethren in ‘Living’, and meant no disrespect to any leaders in ‘Living’ or anyone else in my open letter. Certainly disagreements have now arisen, but we’re not enemies. So let’s go our separate ways like Paul and Barnabas did, in peace and love. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. (Rev.12:9) Let’s not help him at his job.

My open letter did not apply as a Matthew 18 as your letter infers, as it was not directed toward any specific individual or group, nor was there the need for my personal reconciliation with anyone. It might also be helpful for you to know however, that I did communicate orally and in writing to Mr. RCM very thoroughly (the subjects contained in the open letter) on at least three prior occasions – twice in 2004 – and was assured by him that changes would be made. That is NOT, however, why I wrote the letter, nor was the letter directed toward any single person or group.

I began to receive many phone calls, emails and questions about the WHYS of the shooting tragedy. It was my own soul searching and the questions of many others who were seeking to understand the tragic events in Wisconsin; as well as God’s Spirit convicting my conscience that moved me to write the letter in an open format for ALL the fellowships of God’s flock to consider. It was the questions brought on by the shootings and the need to examine ourselves before Passover that created the timing of the letter. It was not planned.

It’s not that I claimed to have all the answers, but that we should ALL humble ourselves before Passover and seek answers from God. It was a letter by a concerned pastor to his fellow brethren who are scattered. That’s all! It was meant in love, and I meant no disrespect toward anyone. Only a very few have taken it in a personal or disrespectful way. The hope and intention was that it be taken for it’s scriptural merits in the context of brotherly love and peace, and that we would all judge less and love more. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” (1 Cor.4:5)

I appreciate the gospel preaching efforts in ‘Living’ and have no intention of working against LCG in any way. Let’s depart as brothers, and learn what Jesus meant when He said turn the other cheek, love your enemies, and especially love one another (Matt.5:39-48). Let’s not accuse which is the work of the devil, but let’s set the example as true disciples of Christ (Jn.13:35). Have a wonderful spirit filled Passover.

Respectfully and in peace,

Don E. Haney

Weekly Mailbag

Doctrinal PR: I’m sorry, but I disagree with your assessment of Rand Millich’s letter to the community of Milwaukee. It may be an indication of my own churlishness or cynicism, but the letter reads to me like a carefully crafted public relations piece from beginning to end, designed to demonstrate LCG’s “disgustingly normal” status as a church while seeming to thank the community of Milwaukee. Heartfelt expressions of gratitude don’t usually state the doctrinal positions of the grateful:

Millich’s letter also manages to be condescending, saying, to my ear, we of the LCG are true Christians, and you all seem to have gotten it right this time. If the letter was truly an expression of profound gratitude it would have focused solely on the goodness of the community without the carefully inserted doctrinal PR.

Kathleen Kakacek 

PS. M.T. Hall, obviously a gentleman, a scholar, and a discerner of the disingenuous, has outdone himself in capturing the idiocies, er, the idiosyncrasies of both speakers, in his recent transcript of a conversation between a Presiding Evangelist and a webmaster. Bravo, sir!

Membership numbers: For whatever it's worth, here are my personal observations on the WCG's membership stats. I'm not at all surprised the WCG membership is as low as 13,500. There's no denying that the WCG has been bleeding members pretty steadily since the UCG defection in Spring 1995, by which time up to half of the WCG's membership had left. My own unscientific estimate was that by 1996 the WCG had only about 30,000 members remaining, and I could tell that the membership bleed continued from 1996 until early 2000 when I left. In just the Springfield, Illinois, WCG congregation, membership dropped from over 100 at the start of 1995 to about 10 to 20 in early 2000. I don't believe the WCG is gaining enough converts to stem their ongoing membership loss -- after all, the WCG has nothing to offer that folks can't find in thousands of other evangelical groups, and those groups wouldn't necessarily be saddled with a dysfunctional leadership who just can't stop themselves from talking out of both sides of their mouths. I suppose if the WCG doesn't completely implode, the WCG's membership will eventually stabilize around 5,000 to 10,000 -- it will continue to exist, but will, like most American Protestant sects, more or less pass into oblivion in terms of their visibility and individual impact on society around them.

Jared L. Olar

Unless the Lord shall build... I read the comments about WCG membership. 13,500 and falling sounds about right. In the churches that I am familiar with, there are about 10% (and no more than 15%) of the members left. For example, in the very late 80s and early 90s, I used to attend the Twin Cities (Minneapolis / St. Paul). They would routine top 1,000 people for combined services for Holy Days. Last I heard, there maybe was 100 routinely attending. In our local area of Green Bay / Appleton, we used to top 300 for holy days, and now typically there is maybe 30-40 each week, and our area has been extremely stable compared to many areas. But there really haven't been any new members since 'the changes'. None actually. Around 10% of the peak attendance sounds about right.

I am one of those WCG members who has quit attending within the past month. All I can say is an old hymn comes to mind - "Unless the Lord shall build a house, the weary builders toil in vain..." ... what attracted me to the WCG in the past was that they seemed to teach out of the Bible. I can remember hearing we 'should blow the dust off of our Bibles and read it'. I grew up catholic and knew very little about the Bible, so this was a refreshing change of pace. And initially, it seemed like that the WCG was truly into the Bible. (Now I recognize that they focused on prophecy and the law, and ignored huge parts of it). However, this focus on truly understanding the Bible was very appealing to me.

Problem is that after "the changes", the emphasis on Bible study has eroded away to nothing... Rather, the emphasis is seems to be we once were wrong, but now we are mainstream Christians. In some respects, I think the focus is set things up to increase the reputation of Joe Tkach as a hero in the eyes of other mainstream Christians. In the future, Joe, Jr. should be able to get better honorariums for speaking about how he lead the WCG from the fringe to the mainstream. The problem is sheep in the flock are getting hungry... Give them God's Word and forget all the programs and whatever you are dealing with.

Here is something that is probably even more scary for the WCG HQ. Most of the people in our local congregation who are left actually attend or on some level are connected with another church. In some cases, I think they mentally affiliate themselves with this other church stronger than the WCG. It is only the strong social and friendship bonds which keep everyone coming back to the WCG. There is a strong set of women's small groups which is the core of the church. If it weren't for that, the congregation would loose its heart and core and would probably completely disband. 


Catholic converts (1): Reply to Darren Cary----One in our fellowship (Akron Fellowship) which split from UCG is adopting the Catholic faith. I believe he might have attended Flurry's church but am not sure. He was never a member of [WCG] or UCG.

Mel H.

Catholic converts (2): After I left the WCG in '92 I learned that two couples I knew well went back to the Catholic church a few years later. Both couples had also come from there. It was sort of growing up in a big cult, getting sucked into a little one, and then making a return to the big one. A sad commentary on the human condition. The main premise was never questioned.

I remember visiting a troubled member one time with the pastor. The fellow had finally come to see that the WCG was just a little copy of the Catholic Church with its Pope, College of Cardinals, Vatican, ritualism, and exclusivity. And each claimed to be the "True Church". The main difference was the WCG ministers didn't wear dresses.

The pastor disfellowshipped that right-on fellow. I wish I could remember the man's name; I'd like to buy him dinner. He was about eight years ahead of me in leaving.

Jim Baldwin

Catholic converts (3): Since we're on the subject of xCOG'ers and conversions to Catholicism I suppose now is as good a time as any to break the news to regular visitors to Ambassador Watch about my book which should be available for purchase by the end of April (if not sooner). Not a "conversion" story per se (I was brought up Catholic and left to follow HWA at about age 19)in a certain sense I count myself among those converting to Catholicism from the COG's in that there was so much basic stuff I had to relearn, like any neophyte understudy. For more information about me and the book, visit www.dgembo.net.

Dennis Gerard Embo

Catholic converts (4): Thanks for mentioning my status as an XWCG gone Catholic. I received two nice e-mails and one grumpy e-mail. Oh well, we live in a sin cursed world! LOL!

Steve Dalton

Hebrews 13 counterstrike: Could I suggest you consider another link to a sight that is not COG background. An article entitled "The Great Ecclesiastical Conspiracy"... It really puts paid to legalism and so called authority that some people aspire to. I think it would help a lot of people who are still hurting and let them see other ways of teaching the gospel. It certainly helped me when I was being hit with "read Heb 13" by some "ministers"!


Former PCG minister goes renegade... reprogrammed to say D-I-S-F-E-L-L-O-W-S-H-I-P

In search of the Ardis sect (1): Here is the website address for Bob Ardis: www.setapartbytruth.org/.  He is a former minister from the PCG who left in around 1997. His ideas are bizarre and he believes he is a prophet. It's doubtful he has more than about 200 faithful followers.


AW: Thanks, we've passed the information on.

In search of the Ardis sect (2): Isn't he Ardis hat hing hat "Dr Who" steps into?


Going for the incontinence market? On joining a perfectly ordinary book club recently I was sent a catalogue of special offers of catalogues and brochures. These included boating holidays, clothing catalogues, bathroom fittings, etc, and also incontinence aids, the Pountney Clinic for "very fine cosmetic surgery", Pleasure Zone ("Spice up your love life now!... Sexy Toys for Red Hot lovers"), Dash ("Male Concerns? Worried about size? Sexual performance? You could change your life right now..."), a catalogue with "Free thong worth £4.99... Pabo has all you need to indulge and explore your fantasies and passions. Experience how amazing your sex-life can be" -- and The Real God booklet from Living Church of God.

It's good to see that Spanky is using focused marketing....


Don't care - just spell it right! "Now our name is known...."? Dr. Meredith cares only about his name being known, pay close attention he didn't say GOOD name.


Bitter: I have read many, threads from former Worldwide Chruch [sic] of God People and want to know why they are so bitter and why they remain bitter after all these years? Is because they were asked give tithes? Well I guess that is a good reason after all we should be bitter over giving a tenth of our income to the God even though everything we have is due to God's love for us. And after all he gave up his son for us. Maybe it is becuse [sic] of the second tithe that is saved for the Feast of Tabernacles where we get to go whereever [sic] we want to and do not have to take out a loan to do it. Or is it the tithe that goes to the widows and orphans I guess that is a good reason after all why should we help them out and not get what we think we need?

No, I bet it is none of the above I bet it is because of going to church on Saterday [sic]. yes, that is a good enough reason after all it is just a commandmet [sic] of God our Father why should we obey him after all it is better to do what man says it right and what seems easier for us.

I forgot they were brain washed. Yes, I gues [sic] that is true after all if they attended church every sabbath then I guess they heard the bible preached every week all that awful stuff about how to show your love to God for all he has done for us how dare they we should have just heard just love the Lord and all will be well. You do not have to try to follow the Commandments after all that is impossible to do anyway even though God makes it easier if we just obey him.

Yes, those are all good reason to be bitter against the church and God. It is better to keep Christmas and go into debt to buy gifts and have to pay for it all year. It is best to let the government take care of the widows so we keep our money. It is best to take out loans to go on vacation. It is best to give a dollar or two when the plate is passed then to follow Gods law on tithing. Are you all so much better off? Are you all really happier now that you are "free" It sure does not sound like it from all that I read.

People if you are happier now that you are not 'inslaved" [sic] then get over it. Stop spreading your hate and bitterness to everyone and stop blamming [sic] the church for your unhappiness. Go to your church worship your god read your bible the bible that says you do not have to obey the commandments and that it is ok to live according to how you want. Just leave the church alone.

Pack: I have wanted to write for a while regarding the new end-time Apostle David Pack. While I feel sorry for most of those who are with him, they simply are not proving all things. Never in the New Testament was any one made an Apostle without the laying on of hands... Mr. Armstrong at least had hands laid on him and was placed into and office of an Apostle by the Sardis leadership. It's up to us whether we believe he was Apostle or not... This is the Passover season and our focus should be on Jesus Christ and not any self-deluded man. Idolatry is still commandment breaking. 




Discretionary assistance program: WCG seems to be moving to disencumber itself from the discretionary assistance program. This report from a Pasadena source:

WCG is still in the process of 'buying out' those that are left on discretionary assistance. Apparently the WCG no longer feels a need or a calling to take care of those people whom it had been giving financial assistance to over the years. I understand they are being offered lump sums of money as a final payment to be removed from the program. This includes many widows whose spouses had served the Armstrong Empire faithfully over the years as well as those that supported the changes. Most are believed to be going ahead and signing off on the offers. A 20,000-30,000 payout looks good to someone on a fixed income but actually does not go too far when you have to use it on medicine, housing and food.. They might be rich and increased with goods, but do they care?

The Incredible Potential of Bananas: Remember Carlton Green? 

You may remember Carlton Green from his days in food management for Ambassador College and SEP Camps. His genuinely kind and generous demeanor made him memorable to many whose paths he has crossed. Today Dr. Carlton Green is the Executive Director of Food Services and Nutrition at UCLA Medical Center. He has become a popular keynote speaker across all industries and educational forums. Along with his responsibilities with UCLA, he is a lecturer, consultant and is a part of the UCLA mentoring program. (email publicity)

Carlton has written a book, What Is The Purpose Of A Banana?: Critical Success Factors for Effective Leadership. Well, it's a catchier title than Carlton's previous tome, Food Service Manual for Health Care Institutions, co-authored with Ruby Puckett, but this latest volume isn't listed on Amazon and a check at Green's website doesn't disclose an ISBN either. Without these - why bother? Some information can be found at http://www.carltongreen.bravehost.com/

Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Bob Thiel has kindly corrected an earlier statement on his site which accused AW of heinous sins of punctuation:

Regarding that grammar crack, Gavin Rumney may wish to look at his silly COG organizational chart as he uses apostrophes where they should be left out :).

The chart (produced by an AW reader) appears on another website altogether. Bob's revised version now reads: ...that silly COG organizational chart as he links to that uses apostrophes where they should be left out :)

AW accepts no responsibility for either punctuation or grammar errors on linked sites - which seems pretty obvious seeing we've linked to Bob's site since the beginning. And yes, typos and goof-ups occur here too. Mea culpa.

Buggy conversation bugged? M.T.Hall has gone deep undercover to emerge with what might possibly be a recent conversation between a certain Presiding Evangelist and a webmaster. Professor Hall is currently staked out in the back of an ice-cream truck at the Vatican.

RCM Greetings Bob...From Charlotte, Headquarters of God's Work under ME. I realize I did mean you and wanted to ask you to tone it down. You know the gnats and camels thing. 

BT Oh that's fine...I knew you couldn't have meant me and if you read my site about the cross stuff, you'll see that I am clear in this matter for sure you betchabelieve it. I mean, I can reason my way out of anything. Sorry you had trouble with those others getting all buggy and silly over that cross and heart stuff, especially almost before they removed the bodies from the building. And I did make it very clear that no woman Chaplain would ever be allowed to encourage our people either...

RCM Uh, well now...Greetings Bob from Charlotte....uh well, I did mean you but since you're a Doc and all, I was trying to cover for you a bit. But I did mean you and you are giving LCG a ...well...buggy reputation. 

BT Oh that's fine...I knew you could not have meant me...

RCM Well now Bob, and Greetings from HQ here in Charlotte...I actually did mean you. I'd like you to stop your compulsive need to comment on every little thing ...of that kind...on your website. Now, I do mean only...of that kind of thing. 

BT Yes sir, I appreciate your clearing that up and making it plain that you did not certainly mean me....I will post the me justifying news immediately on my site.

RCM Well uh...and Greetings once again from God's Headquarters, where I am the current Evangelist...no that's not it. Where I am the resident...no, that's not it. Oh whatever...where I am in charge. I am not happy with the criticism you are bringing to LCG with all your buggy apologetics and deflecting responsibility for things you clearly have and are saying. I don't really need you to speak for me or clarify what I mean. I don't often know what I mean and you are confusing me.

BT Yes sir...I understand and I appreciate that you know it was not me being all buggy and silly. It was those others...

RCM Well no Bob, and Greetings from Charlotte again, stop trying to get out of this. Let me be frank...I would like you to stop commenting on every buggy thing and getting me in trouble for my members who do that gnat/camel thing, as you are doing from time to time. And once again, I don't mean your whole site, but I do mean of that kind of thing...that kind of thing, each after it's own kind.

BT Thank you sir, I deeply appreciate you and the fact that you have publicly cleared me of any wrongdoing or inappropriate comments...I have justified myself , using you quite nicely and will continue to represent you and LCG as I see it.

RCM Well no Bob, and this is Charlotte calling...I want you to stop using your website to embarrass me, and the brethren in LCG with your buggy comments. We call that Majoring in the Minors here at Headquarters. I am the only one who can determine what Gnats we will endorse in the church, not you. I'm choking here on camel fur. And how about listing all this under History of the Living Church of God where it belongs?

BT Yes sir, I fully intend to keep listing it under those once affiliated with WCG just as you said. That's where it belongs and I thank you for backing me and making it very plain that I am not the buggy one you were referring to. And darn those others...sir.

RCM Uh Bob, Greetings blah blah... I"m going to disfellowship you if you don't stop being so buggy and embarrassing our already beleaguered Church. Now please stop and apologize for the gnat/camel thing that the press is making fun of me for. 

BT Thank you sir. I knew you would understand and back me in my backing of you, our resident Evangelist... Is that the right word...I forget too. 

RCM Bob, you're disfellowshipped...and Greetings from Charlotte, where God has restored the true government in his church...me not you. 

No, he's not listening to a Rod Meredith sermon. Meet Hercules, star of the Toyota ads screened in NZ & Australia. 

BT Thank you sir, I deeply appreciate it and your support for my efforts and I will indeed continue to be the LCG apologist as you have asked me. It's an honor to clarify every belief we have anytime, day or night, in wind and fog, joy and sorrow, Monday through Friday...but not Saturday, we keep the Sabbath you know. In tragedy and pain, so no one ever ever misunderstands what we believe on even the most buggy...ooops sorry, gnattish, no sorry that's not it. Well you know what mean. Thank you for calling Sir. I will be sure that word gets out that you did not mean me. Damn those others who are troubling you...Sir. 

RCM Uh Bob...we don't say damn and you're disfellowshipped. (Click)

BT Careful Sir....Or I will put you under those once affiliated with the Worldwide Church of God.... Sir.... sir...??? Just kidding...damn. 

To which there's only one possible rejoinder (and it isn't "damn!") Unfortunately it's considered offensive in some (most?) English speaking countries despite having a domesticated American usage - Kiwi readers will remember the furore over the celebrated Toyota ad! If you're really curious, of course, you can view the ad (and discover the word) at www.thunderbike.co.nz (Quicktime required)... just don't get all buggy about it! :-)

Alexa results: Latest Alexa rankings of well-known COG websites are available. Notice that now Mike Minton's Painful Truth also seems poised to pass Greg Albrecht's slick PTM site. Quick Greg, throw more money at it!

Bernard Kelly resurfaces: A new edition of "The New Expositor" has been produced, dated April 12.

The test of any doctrinal truth is not how many believe it, but rather whether it is, in fact, taught in the Scriptures! This article presents twelve reasons why the New Testament Church had it’s beginnings about three years prior to the Day of Pentecost in 30 A.D.  It also discusses the phenomena of glossolalia in the ancient pagan world as well as its origin and development in modern times! 

Publisher Bernard Kelly doesn't (as far as we know) have a website. Anyone interested in having a copy of the issue emailed to them in Word format could probably contact Kelly direct: bhkell3@yahoo.com.

Knowles on blogging: Born-again blogaholic Brian Knowles has an article on blogging on the ACD site. 

Ardis - info please: A concerned reader is requesting information on Bob Ardis' church. If anyone can provide background or details, we'll be delighted to pass them on.



Even a moron in a hurry would realize that Kellner had to be referring to COGwriter: there simply isn't anyone else out there

Bulletproof Bob: Bob Thiel's website carries new comment on the Meredith sermon that criticized those who got "all buggy about crosses..." The Presiding Evangelist himself has issued a clarification on the subject!

On another note, I want all of you to know that in my March 19 “Must Play” sermon I stated that one of our members had posted “inappropriate information” on his website regarding crosses. However, at the time I had not personally seen his comments and relied on second hand information. So I was *not* aiming my comments primarily at Dr. Robert Thiel.

But, having now read the website comment that Dr. Thiel posted regarding “crosses,” I want to state that his comments were not offensive and I do not want anyone thinking that I was trying to publicly “correct” him by that comment in my sermon. Though Dr. Thiel’s comments on his personal website and in his articles do not necessarily represent “official” Church teaching, he has tried hard to be helpful and we should all appreciate that—which I certainly do.

Bob goes on to add:

The simple fact that he and others relied on second hand information was unfortunate, but to his credit, he has clarified that. Also when he stated that his comments were not "primarily at Dr. Thiel", what he means is that the most of the comments he made in that sermon were directed towards others and the ones that seemed to be directed towards me were based on a second-hand account of my statements. His negative comments in that sermon were not in anyway personally directed towards me as he had not even realized what webposting (nor had he actually read it, just a news account which misconstrued them) was being referred to.

The Rod 'n Bob routine raises a lot of questions that go beyond the specific issue dealt with.

New COG organizational chart!

(1) Has Spanky lost it? I mean, what other web sites could Rod have had in mind? Let's count up all the independent LCG sites it could have been... there's, um, er, Bob's, and then there's uh, hang on, um...

To our knowledge only one such site exists. Even a moron in a hurry would realize that Kellner had to be referring to COGwriter: there simply isn't anyone else out there.

Meredith would now seem to want us believe that he rattled his tonsils on the subject at considerable length without even knowing what he was talking about. Well... that sounds about right. But does this confession inspire huge confidence in his competence as a preacher, commentator or church leader?

(2) Why is there one rule for Bob and one for everyone else? In the wake of Brookfield the word went out from Charlotte: members should avoid commenting to the media, let the big boys handle it. And yet Bob's site hardly missed a beat.

Bob is, as far as we know, un-ordained. What other lay-member of LCG has the enormous latitude he has been given to act as an unofficial church spokesman? What other layman would be permitted to put together a personal website trumpeting his personal opinions on church matters, usurping the role of "the ministry"? Come to think of it, what elder would be permitted to do so? Remember Don Haney?

How then does Bob manage it? This is, after all, not an organization known for putting up with "loose cannons". What amazing qualities make Bob untouchable (we doubt it's his unique command of English grammar)?

A tale of two pontiffs: Douglas Becker compares a legend in his own time with a legend in his own mind... John Paul II and Herb. Grab your missal (could that have been the black log-book Herb wrote in?) and zorch across to http://md.cultabuse.com/Two_Popes.html

Of babies and bath water: A response to the first Third Thoughts column by Ian Boyne - Out with the bath water, by the inimitable "Kscribe".

Alexa rankings - more changes: The March table showing how Alexa ranked various COG websites proved popular with many readers. The latest stats are now available, and we'll be carrying details next time.

LCG says thank you: The following statement appears on the LCG website... nice touch guys (and no homilies on crosses included!)

THANK YOU! — To Our Milwaukee Neighbors

April 6, 2005

We of the Living Church of God deeply appreciate the love and warmth that you showed us following the March 12 tragedy in which several of our members were killed in an act of senseless violence that shocked and dismayed us all.

Those who know us well realize that we constantly emphasize the two great commandments of Jesus: love toward God and love toward fellow man. We are peace-loving people who teach Jesus Christ’s message of outflowing concern for all mankind.

And your community certainly demonstrated outflowing concern for us in this time of tragedy!

In Brookfield, and across the Milwaukee area, many throughout the community offered an outpouring of love, support, kindness and help to those who were hurting and grieving. We of the Living Church of God express our heartfelt thanks to the people of Brookfield and the surrounding communities, and to the public and private agencies that responded to, or were affected by, the tragic events.

Our Wisconsin congregations join Living Church of God members around the world in extending a special "thank you" to the staff and management of the Sheraton Milwaukee Brookfield Hotel and Froedtert Memorial Lutheran Hospital, as well as to the local churches, government officials, police agencies and schools that responded to this tragedy with such professionalism, compassion, empathy and care.

We are indeed grateful for your help, prayers and many kindnesses.

Rand Millich
Regional Pastor
Living Church of God







WCG membership - the real numbers: AW readers may be interested in these comments from Bill Stough, a lead writer for The Journal. Bill was responded to the "Numbing numbers" letter in today's mailbag.

The WCG sometimes gives the figure of about 60,000 people as members. Ron Kelly (WCG's financial controller) told me in a Journal interview with him that these are the people still on the computer membership list. He thought the actual attendance was about 25,000. But a WCG minister friend of mine asked the ministerial services department what the actual attendance was and it was averaging 13,500 one year ago.

13,500. Thirteen thousand five hundred. A year ago. 

Debugging Bob: Bob Thiel has posted the following comments on his COGwriter site:

I noticed several inaccurate comments about me at the Ambassador Watch website recently, including some today. I would like to address some here by stating that, no RC Meredith was not correcting me nor putting me firmly in my place in his 3/19/05 must-play sermon, I spoke on tithing in my sermonette in Tugun (Australia), and no, my comments about LCG and crosses should not have been offensive to any who actually read what I wrote. The fact that a reporter mischaracterized what I actually wrote is sad, but media bias does occur. 

Let's take a look at each of Bob's objections. (1) "...Meredith was not correcting me nor putting me firmly in my place in his 3/19/05 must-play sermon". Unfortunately for Bob, the sermon is available for any who care to invest the time in listening. Meredith begins dealing with the Mark Kellner article about 39 minutes into the recording. At 44 minutes in he deals specifically with Kellner's comments about Bob Thiel - and takes around 4 minutes to make his point. Quotes:

Some times our members, sometimes even our elders and deacons, get all buggy about crosses or hearts or something... people get nutty about little things... The two big commandments; you are to love God with all your heart and strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself, and not get all buggy about things like that and then lash out at sincere people - even in the church - who are probably not doing anything wrong, and certainly people outside the church who are simply trying to express concern and love. But that's what happened. Let's not do that brethren, let's get our balance... we don't need to get excited about little things like that and think we can out-righteous each other... try to be big minded and not get buggy about little things like that.

Listening to the full 4 minutes and taking the whole thing in context (which was Rod's approving citation of Kellner's CT article) it's almost impossible not to conclude that Bob was being firmly slapped on the wrist.

(2) "I spoke on tithing in my sermonette in Tugun (Australia)". I'm sure Bob is correct, after all he did give the message. But I'm also sure John Karagiannidis' comments in the mailbag (and he was there) are also correct. Anyone who has regularly read Bob's postings knows about the not-so-subtle jabs at UCG, which often verge on the gleeful. John didn't state the subject of the sermonette, just that it contained "attacks on other church of God fellowships, especially UCG." 

(3) "...my comments about LCG and crosses should not have been offensive to any who actually read what I wrote". The fact is that they were. To suggest that only one reporter "mischaracterized" what was written is hardly the case. This was not "media bias".


09 April. MAILBAG

Weekly Mailbag

NYC: I was single in the Manhattan WCG for part of the time period that M.A.M and Mike Grovak attended there. My observations are as follows: 

The ratio of single men to single women in the Manhattan church was about 4 males for every female and about 1 white female for every 8 white males. I bring this up because for most of the time period at issue here inter racial marriage and dating was prohibited in WCG. In regards to males being frustrated, given the ratio numbers, draw your own conclusions. 

There were a bunch of singles, including myself, that hung out at bars and night clubs after services. We were known as "the hang out crowd". If the WCG single males were to have any contact with single females we had to do it outside of the church simply because of the numbers and the fact that the women in WCG wouldn't give us the time of day (with a few exceptions). 

I cant remember a white male in the Manhattan WCG marrying a white female in the Manhattan WCG and I can only think of 2 white males that got married and they married females from out of state. 

In my opinion there were more unbalanced singles in Manhattan WCG then I've met in any other church I've attended, before WCG and after. 

I'm surprised to hear that the ministers told people to keep taking their medication as I thought that WCG taught that it was against Gods will to see a doctor.

As singles, M.A.M and I were more likely to know what was going on within the singles scene than a married with children minister would. And all three of the Manhattan ministers were married with children. 

Faithful Rod: Lessons from the Wisconsin Tragedy: Listening to LCG’s Davy Crockett talk about the difficulties they experienced in Charlotte, NC following the shootings in Wisconsin was predictably banal. What a fiery trial it was, all those reporters trying to trick those “disgustingly normal” people into admitting that the LCG has “strange doctrines.” when in fact they are “different but not strange.” It was also a bit odd to note that people had sent flowers to the church headquarters in Charlotte. I got the impression listening to Mr. Crockett, and later to Mr. Meredith, that the tragedy in Wisconsin was almost dwarfed by the strategic maneuvering at “World Headquarters.” In the end, the members seem like little more than an abstraction, while the “reality” goes on in the minds of the LCG leadership. Mr. Meredith’s pronouncement that Mr. Ratzmann was “temporarily possessed by a demon” because he had become “bitter,” turned the tragedy into a cautionary tale. I think HWA would have been proud of Rod Meredith, who has behaved exactly as his mentor would have.

Kathleen Kakacek

Name known: Dr. Meredith has got to be kidding! "Now our name is known...."? Doesn't he realize that the Milwaukee tragedy is going to be about as helpful in getting his message out as the Tate-LaBianca slayings were beneficial to Charles Manson's singing and songwriting career?

Byker Bob

Pack: Dave Pack's predilection for abuse started a long time ago. He was my pastor for years when i was growing up. There was a time when my Mom asked to be anointed for a severe case of hemorrhoids that she suffered with after the birth of a child. Dave Pack refused to anoint her saying that it was not something that was severe enough to warrant his anointing time and or effort. He was abusive to many in our congregation.

At the same time my wife was growing up in another state. Dave Pack was so outrageous one time at a Mens/YOU tournament that my father in law had to kick him and his team out of a tournament because their attitudes were so foul. He threatened to talk to my father in law's minister about having him disfellowshipped. Pack has always been a dictator and always will be. He knows no other way and in addition has a major case of "Ain't I the greatest". It's just amazing to me that so many will continue to give their allegiance to someone who exhibits so few of the fruits of the spirit.

Predictable: After the shooting it was predictable a number of people would start pointing at the membership as at fault and sure enough, "we weren't 'doing enough'" poured out of the walls nearly. It is almost embarrassing that it
was so predictable. This is what happens in churches and not just the COGs. Every church, every minister or minister wannabe believes any upset is reason to write, or preach, telling the believers they are "not doing enough", that God is punishing them, that they must "do more". I would rather look at the individual who did the shooting. Was he disturbed? Should he have stayed in a situation that was creating anger and resentment in him? Why did he stay if he was so enraged? That may be the lesson, if we are adhering to a religious discipline that is too much for
us, we need to have the wisdom to get out or change our thinking so that we can live by what we have chosen to.

I hear a lot of anger from xCOGers. I can only say, anyone who chooses to live by a belief had better be prepared to accommodate their personality to it or be strong enough to make their own decisions. Letting ministers or a church control your life is no way to be "religious". If we believe, we'd better believe God gave us brains to develop the wisdom to think for ourselves and decide on our own about our lives and choices. We need to be fully developed humans, able to act on our choices and learn from our mistakes.

The Catholic Connection: For several years, until July of 2003, I was assistant editor at the Church of God International in Tyler, Texas. I resigned to pursue Catholicism.

With the exception of Jared Olar, do you know of any others who left the COG movement to become Catholic?

Darren M. Cary

AW: Steve Dalton springs to mind.

Papabile: Please convey our condolences to Jared Olar and all our RCC friends on the death of John Paul II. The late pope bore his infirmities with great courage. He also stood firm on many of the principles that the churches of God hold dear, such as the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage. Let us be appreciative of those who have stood in the gap on critical issues such as these.

Now, the speculation on the supposed Prophecy of the Popes (a 16th-century forgery consisting of a list of mottoes supposedly fitting pontiffs from the mid-12th century to the end of time) of St. Malachy will undoubtedly lead many to emphasize chiliastic imminence. The next pope, motto: Gloria Olivae, is the penultimate pontiff listed. Do we hear dates being set?

All seriousness aside, I understand that Angelo Cardinal Scola is no longer a papabile (a cardinal who could be elected pope) because, if chosen, English-speakers might think that "Pope Scola" sounds too much like a soft drink.


Preaching to the penguins: As a former "member" of LCG Australia (don't ask...), sorry, but I have to disagree with your assessment of "shallowness" on the part of LCG's Presiding (sic) Evangelist. I think more apt descriptions are "callous", "cruel", "devoid of any conversion", "devoid of mercy", "devoid of love". Are we to conclude from his statement that Terry Ratzmann did Gregory a favor by killing him so that he wouldn't have to go through the Great Tribulation? What about the other 7 people killed? And of Terry himself? Come on. Enough of this stupidity, PLEASE!

As for church shootings being common, where and in which dimension, is he? IS he warning his group's prospective members????? 

However, at least he took Thiel to task about Thiel's, frankly stupid and insensitive comments about the crosses the local community placed on the killing site. The crosses were placed as outpourings of grief, pain, comfort, and love. To criticize, demean and denigrate them shows a hostile lack of Godly love. But then... why am I surprised. I recall a Thiel "sermonnette" at LCG's FOT in Tugun in 2001. Other than attacks on other church of God fellowships, especially UCG, he didn't enlighten any one on his understanding of scripture. And he did this with a LCG minister from the US in the audience. The minister admitted to me he often spoke at UCG services in his area. I won't mention his name. You just never know what LCG will do to him.

The best thing the presiding evangelist and Thiel can do is pack their bags, go somewhere very quiet and cold, talk to penguins, and leave the Almighty's Majesty, reputation, honor, mercy and love, alone. They disqualified themselves of speaking on His behalf.

John Karagiannidis

Spat: The recent spat between “Apostle” Dave Pack’s Restored Church of God and Rod Meredith’s Living Church of God over membership in Africa is simply pathetic, serving only to verify what many readers of this website have sadly concluded: these guys (and many other hirelings across the COG spectrum) will descend to virtually any level of pettiness in order to lure potential members over to their particular group – even blatant deception. But then again, I suppose little more can be expected of these self-proclaimed “shepherds,” who continue to live in their own delusional worlds of self-importance, in spite of the fact that their empires are slowly eroding away out from underneath them.

As I pointed out in a previous post (7/12/2004), these trivial little disputes only provide further evidence of their arrogant unwillingness to get along with each other – rather odd for a group of leaders who collectively claim to represent God’s way of love and cooperation. It seems whenever someone sincerely turns on the searchlight of truth and aims it in their direction, these men typically react in self-preservation by quickly unsheathing the sword of disfellowshipment – witness Don Haney’s recent insightful letter about the current state between the various Church groups, and Meredith’s instinctive response to it, which concluded with Haney’s being fired from the LCG ministry.

Like a dysfunctional family of spoiled, squabbling little brats who absolutely refuse to live in peace with each other, instead they continue to vie for the position of “God’s True Church,” openly competing against one another for the financial support of those who still fail to see through the fog of delusion presently enveloping the various COG’s. But one day this murky haze will be cleared away by the light of truth – and the reality will be made clear for those willing to face up to the facts.

Randy Martens

Numbing numbers: After collating press clippings from my local Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (MJS) newspaper on the Living Church of God massacre, I have been trying to make sense of a number of fresh COG membership/attendance statistics contained therein.

For example, we learned early on that the LCG has "7000" members and "50 to 60" people attending for the greater-Milwaukee area. So far, so good. The problem arises when we come to the WCG: I refer to a column in the Waukesha* section of the March 16th MJS called 'In My Opinion' by Laurel Walker. In this column Ms Walker quotes from an interview with David Fiedler - a former pastor of gunman Terry Ratzmann and now the WCG's District Superintendent. Also in this column, the WCG's membership is given as "60,000" and greater-Milwaukee attendance at "about 75". The problem I have is reconciling the the LCG-WCG ratios. It would appear that the WCG is grossly inflating its membership numbers. For further inquiry into this anomaly, I contacted a former GCG member who now attends McNair's group and manitains strong local trans-COG ties. I asked him how many attend the local UCG. He said about 80 before the split (the local UCG recently split almost down the middle after a conservative/liberal fight). The figure of 80 - for a church of about 10,000 - agrees with the LCG ratio, raising increased doubt on WCG claims.

When I mentioned to this gentleman that the WCG is claiming 75 in local attendance, he reeled in disbelief indicating that it would be more likely half that. The WCG for greater-Milwaukee meets in a Baptist church at 3800 South Howell Av. every Jewish Sabbath, so I thought I'd check out the number of cars in both of the church's lots last Saturday when they were in session. The result was pathetic: lots of empty spaces and only 18 cars. This confirmed my friend's skepticism - only an estimated 30-40 in attendance ! For the WCG's attendance to match their membership propaganda, they would have to have 300-400 attending!

No papal tribute: Have I missed something -- or have Church of God groups failed to issue statements of condolence or sympathy, over the death of Pope John Paul II? As they did over what happened near Milwaukee? They're two very different cases, to be sure. But if God's no respecter of persons...


Ditzel article: Whilst I agree with Peter Ditzel that Dr Meredith's wild and erratic speculations about end time prophetic events can cause some people to panic, Mr Ditzel has not proved that this is what drove Terry Ratzmann to commit a crime, which was obviously premeditated.

Mr Ratzmann didn't suddenly "snapped" and seized the first gun he could find, and then randomly starting shooting anyone that moved. It is evident that he was upset about something that the minister said, did or supported, and he choose to deal with the problem by first killing the minister and other members of his family, and anyone else who got in his way. To extrapolate that his actions were directly caused by the teachings of the church, as implied by Mr Ditzel and others, is completely irrational. For if this was the case, many other members of many of the cog's would be shooting their ministers.

Also, Mr Ditzel began his article by asking, "What motivated 44-year-old Terry Ratzmann, on March 12, 2005, to walk into the services of the Living Church of God with a 9mm handgun and fire 22 shots?" But by the end of the article, this question remained unanswered. If I may say so, it is not very helpful to ask questions in an attempt to advance an argument if one can't answer one's own questions.

Finally, Mr Ditzel asked, "What do you think?" In the context of Mr Ditzel article, what I think doesn't matter. I wanted solid proof that Mr Ratzmann's actions were motivated by Dr Meredith's propensity to terrify his congregations by falsely predicting the end of the world, and Mr Ditzel failed to provide it.

Tom Mahon

Third Thoughts: Congrats for carrying Boynes article... most interesting. But where were Wolverton's cartoons that you mention?

AW: It was a long time ago! 1976 or earlier.

Herb stole doctrines from COG7: Ian Boyne’s “Third Thoughts” article is technically correct that Herbert Armstrong “had it right” when it came to his teachings against a hell where sinners are burned for eternity. But, in these discussions of HWA’s belief system, we must give credit where credit is due. The truth of the matter is that HWA “had it right” only because he learned the truth regarding hell from the Church of God (Seventh Day). HWA learned most of his doctrines from CG7--including British Israelism and the annual high days! It is true that CG7 never officially taught these last two doctrines, but (starting around 1900) there have ALWAYS been many believers of British Israelism and the annual high days in the English-speaking CG7 congregations. Even today, you find many adherents of these two doctrines in CG7 congregations within the U.S.

The spirit in man and pyramid church government are possibly the only two doctrines that HWA did NOT get from CG7. I contend that he learned at least 95% of his doctrines from CG7.

Wes White

Wood-chippin':Boyne's piece is, um, interesting. "High school dropout" creates "intellectual defensible" theology. It ticked something in me and made me put my second post of the day on XCG. I'm spittin' it out like a wood-chipper now. ;)

Gary Scott

AW: Gary is the webmaster at XCG.

Listen to your mother! "Armstrongism Superior to Evangelicalism''? (Ian Boyne,Third Thoughts). Well, maybe but they're both fiction, Mr. Boyne, as they were taken from the Bible which is fiction. Herbie's doctrines were not original but taken mainly from the Adventist movement. The present followers of HWA are in denial about his reported immoral life style. But you admit GTA was immoral which makes me wonder why you would give credence to him at all. Did you ever hear the saying "actions speak louder than words"? HWA was merely a "snake oil salesman." GTA followed in his father's footsteps. It's true that GTA made the doctrines of HWA less harsh. I was there in the 1970's when STP was initiated by GTA. But I wouldn't want my kids to find out that my spiritual leader was a sinner and I knew it but thought it was still okay to follow him. When I found out about HWA I dropped him like a ''hot potato'' and told my kids that I was wrong to follow him. As I was growing up my mother always said "don't follow leaders." Good advice. If only I had listened to her...


Negative and cynical: Hello from Canada, I spent 26 years with the WCG and now I am in absolutely no contact with that church or any of its splinter groups - and I intend to keep it that way. However, I do regularly check your web site for information on what has happened after I left. That 26 years is hard to just forget.

I have to agree that many of your articles are too negative and cynical... You are providing a good service and I am sure you are not trying to be this way intentionally.

Jim Kotow

AW: Cynicism is a great prophylactic against con men :-)



Check out the first Third Thoughts column: Armstrong vs. the Evangelicals by Ian Boyne.

Third Thoughts: AW is sometimes accused of being overly negative: mainly by those clinging on by their fingernails to the belief that WCG (or one of the splinters) retains some tattered shreds of credibility. In fact AW is one of the few places where a variety of voices can actually be heard. Where else but the AW mailbag would you find correspondence from COG elders, converts to Catholicism, born-again atheists, evangelicals and other decent, thoughtful men and women with a genuine experience or viewpoint, all engaged in reasonable discourse?

One of the leading criticisms some of us have of the COGs is simply that they actively control and suppress debate and information. It's only fair that our policies try to set a higher standard. Today AW takes a further step by publishing a new feature, Third Thoughts. The inspiration comes from a submission by CGI pastor Ian Boyne and a long forgotten "cartoon commentary" by Basil Wolverton (also called "Third Thoughts") which once featured in the Worldwide News.

The idea behind Third Thoughts is to give ordained ministers and other credentialed spokespeople for the various COGs a chance to address the unique audience that makes up the AW readership, and provide an alternate perspective. Submissions must be appropriate to the tone and tenor of Ambassador Watch (the Boyne article is an excellent exemplar). Sermons, altar calls, and collections of proof texts, for example, will not be considered.

It would be nice to think that one day COG publications (such as WCG Today) might do something similar and ditch the "party propaganda" paradigm. Nobody expects them to cater for an audience as broad as AW's, but wouldn't it be nice if the "loyal opposition" in UCG, for example, had fair access to column inches in the United News?

One Third Thoughts column will be published each calendar month (providing suitable copy is received). Submissions can be emailed to AW. Prospective contributors are encouraged to email a proposal first. Of course we'll continue to feature the usual wide range of letters, columns and guest editorials, which we hope will continue to be as provocative as ever.

On a sad note: AW notes the passing of Linda Markland. Her husband Richard contributed a personal response to the Wisconsin tragedy in the April 1 upload. Mrs. Markland died April 4 after a lengthy battle with cancer. The Marklands are affiliated with Warren Zehrung's Sabbath Church of God.



Peter Ditzel on Meredith: Peter Ditzel is a former WCG member. Like Mark Kellner, he's been moved to issue a statement on LCG and its presiding evangelist. His press release is dated April 1, and includes a passing reference to AW (obviously a man of discerning judgment!)  We think it's worth quoting in its entirety.

What motivated 44-year-old Terry Ratzmann, on March 12, 2005, to walk into the services of the Living Church of God with a 9mm handgun and fire 22 shots? Ratzmann immediately killed four people, and three more later died in hospital. The gunman ended the shooting spree by killing himself. Police have still not figured out Ratzmann's exact motive, but they believe it was connected to the Living Church of God.

The Living Church of God is one of the many offshoots of the Worldwide Church of God, a church founded in the 1930s by the late Herbert W. Armstrong. The former advertising man based his church on unique blends of what most Christians would agree are unorthodox beliefs. Among these beliefs, which are also held by the Living Church of God, are strict observance of Saturday as the Sabbath, the teaching that only the followers of Armstrong's teachings are true Christians, a denial of the Trinity, believing that the Holy Spirit is merely an impersonal force, the belief that man's destiny is to become God as God is God, Anglo-Israelism (the belief that the white, English-speaking people are the lost tribes of Israel), and the belief that Jesus Christ's sacrifice justifies us only from past sins and that keeping the law of Moses (including the Ten Commandments and dietary laws) merits toward salvation. Armstrong also placed a heavy emphasis on prophecy, trying to create a sense of urgency in his readers and listeners by saying we are in the very last days.

Roderick C. Meredith heads the Living Church of God. Meredith was one of the first four students of Ambassador College, which Herbert Armstrong started in 1947. He was ordained in 1952 and quickly rose to become one of the Worldwide Church of God's top evangelists.

Herbert W. Armstrong died in 1986. His successor, Joseph W. Tkach, began making changes in the church's beliefs that many who remained faithful to Herbert Armstrong's teachings disagreed with. In 1992, Meredith, who did not like the changes made by Tkach, left the Worldwide Church of God and founded the Global Church of God. By the end of the 1990s, he had left Global during a power struggle and formed the Living Church of God.

In the January-February 2005 Tomorrow's World magazine, Meredith wrote an article named "Are You Prepared?" in which he claimed, "Events prophesied in your Bible are now beginning to occur with increasing frequency. In this Work of the living God, we are able to warn you about what is going to happen soon. We are not talking about decades in the future. We are talking about Bible prophecies that will intensify within the next five to 15 years of your life!" He then goes on to warn members to be prepared for a sudden emergency, such as the breakdown of the banking system, by paying off their credit-card debts and putting aside enough cash for at least sixty days' living expenses. Toward the end of the article, he adds, "If you truly believe in the living God and in His inspired word, you will do your part to support His Work even in trying times. Then the Creator will certainly 'be there' when you desperately need Him" (online version of article found at http://www.tomorrowsworld.org.

Meredith has been making nearly identical predictions for almost 50 years. In the August 1957 Plain Truth magazine, he wrote, "After 1965, we are destined to run into increasing trouble with the Gentile nations. America and Britain will begin to suffer from trade embargoes imposed by the brown and oriental races.... We will begin to experience the pangs of starvation and the scarcity of goods!"

"You might as well wake up and face facts! The world you live in won't be here 15 years from now!" 

(Meredith, The Plain Truth, December 1963)

In following years he wrote, "You might as well wake up and face facts! The world you live in won't be here 15 years from now!" (The Plain Truth, December 1963); "Frankly, literally dozens of prophesied events indicate that this final revival of the Roman Empire in Europe--and its bestial persecution of multitudes of Bible-believing Christians--will take place within the next seven to ten years of your life!" (The Plain Truth, Feb. 1965, p. 48); and "Bible prophecy indicates that the final attack on the U.S. and Britain by this coming 'Beast' power could easily be launched perhaps as early as the spring of 1972--or earlier." (The Plain Truth, May 1965, p. 45).

In his book, Armstrongism: Religion or Rip-off, Marion McNair, a former Worldwide Church of God evangelist, writes of days as head of the Worldwide Church of God's Church Administration Department: "Under the guidance of Meredith a social caste was developed in conjunction with a strong-handed ministerial visiting program, looked upon as a 'spy system' by members who denigrated it by comparing it with Hitler's Gestapo." (see http://www.ambassadorwatch.co.nz/meredith.htm for more information).

Meredith was quite truthful when he told the media that the Living Church of God does not advocate violence. But Ratzmann was obviously unstable, and unstable people commit rash, and sometimes violent, acts. The question is, did pressures he felt in the Living Church of God spawn Terry Ratzmann's murderous rampage? Was attempting to qualify for his own salvation too much for Ratzmann? Was first tithing and second tithing and third tithing and tithe-of-the-second-tithing and giving even more offerings to make sure God would there when he needed Him too much of a strain? Were the continual doom and gloom predictions putting him over the edge? What do you think? As Nancy Ammerman, Professor of Sociology of Religion at Boston University, said in a March 19, 2005, Associated Press article about Ratzmann's possible motives, "The strictness [of the church] can heighten the possibility for disruptive behavior." Meanwhile, Living Church of God members are blaming Satan.

Peter Ditzel was a writer for the Worldwide Church of God for 10 years, leaving in 1991. He is an authority on Herbert W. Armstrong's teachings, and, through Word of His Grace Ministries (http://www.wordofhisgrace.org), is a proponent of New Covenant Theology, a belief system that emphasizes the freedom and unconditional love believers have in Jesus Christ.

Word of His Grace includes a section on "Armstrongism", with a number of interesting articles by Peter Ditzel.

Has Dave finally gone nuts? As AW readers know, David Pack is God's 21st Century Apostle. Well, that's how Dave is telling it. Or could it be that Dave has just gone stark raving bonkers? The ESN site is carrying an article that documents Dave's latest claims, and quotes his mind-numbing 4 hour sermon on the subject. Warning: not for the faint hearted.

A COG tribute to John Paul II: It's impossible for any COG preacher to avoid injecting wild-eyed speculation into a discussion about the Roman Catholic church in general or John Paul II (and his likely successor) in specific... right?

Apparently not. CGI (Jamaica) pastor Ian Boyne has broken the mold with a highly respectful article in the Gleaner. C'mon Ian, play fair, you're upsetting the paradigm and in dire danger of sounding Christian. Get with it buddy, where are the de-contextualized quotes from Revelation? Where's the rant? Where's the tithe-generating fear? It's surely a sad day when you can't count on a COG minister to play fast and loose with a heady mix of proof texts and current events. Is nothing sacred any more...

Meanwhile we'd like to thank Gerald Flurry for these eminently predictable statements in the Trumpet.

The Trumpet has pointed out many times over recent years that the next pope will be an arch-conservative—and almost certainly the man to bring to fruition some of the most dreadful of end-time biblical prophecies.

AW passes PTM: Web rankings can be fickle, but we're happy to report that a little bit of speculation in the last AW editorial turns out to have become reality.

Even Plain Truth Ministries, publisher of the Plain Truth and publicist to "Ask Greg" Albrecht, is looking pretty pathetic. In fact Victor Kubik is doing a lot better with his personal website. It's even conceivable, looking at the stats, that AW may catch up with PTM (and I can tell you, from the horses' mouth, that Ambassador Watch is a very small, amateur operation... we don't even have an oily rag.)

On March 1 AW rose to the 399k band on Alexa, while PTM sank to 403k. Four days later PTM was still heading south at 435k, while AW rose again slightly to 391k.

Wild World of Religion: An AW review of Pam Dewey's book Field Guide to the Wild World of Religion is due to appear early next week.



Smoke & Thunder from Mount Pack - A Dave Rave: David Pack fumes about LCG in an online article. While not appearing under his name (it's issued by the "Department of Public Communications"), we suspect that the words are his.

Circumstances require that The Restored Church of God (RCG) address a recent report by The Living Church of God (LCG). The report... declared, “It appears that a majority of the brethren in Kenya and Tanzania are determined to remain with the Living Church of God.” The report went on to state that the East African brethren were able to “see through” the attempted “deception” by RCG. These statements are both patently false—invented from thin air (Rom. 1:30)!

Next Dave comes over all sympathetic:

At first, we were reluctant to take LCG’s leadership to task on this issue. We did not wish to “pile on” to its difficulties in the wake of the Wisconsin tragedy, and so many recent ministerial losses (some known to the LCG membership and others not) due to retirement, resignation, death, demotion, termination, poor health and, sadly, now even murder.

The Philadelphian love and empathy just drips from the paragraph. Dave continues:

...we simply cannot permit such gross misrepresentation of events to stand—we cannot allow RCG’s membership to believe hundreds of their brethren have left, or never came with us in the first place! The splinters, particularly LCG members, also need and deserve the facts. Reckless spreading of this falsehood by LCG and its surrogate spokesman forced us to reveal the truth of the matter. Since their false report publicly impugns RCG’s honesty, we are obliged to present the facts. We cannot allow pure fiction to be foisted on thousands of LCG visitors to our website, some of whom are awaiting our “confession.” Deception has in fact occurred and, because some are challenging us to correct “our error” in announcing that those coming with RCG numbered “300+”, this must be made clear. We will explain. We will not refrain from stating the truth, merely because someone may say that we are answering our accusers.

Rather than addressing the cause of such a mass exodus, the LCG leadership has attempted to cover—hide!—devastating losses they know most of their brethren could never research and discover for themselves (because they are too far away). Their hope and expectation is that their general membership would believe them incapable of such an act. RCG has learned otherwise!

Dave has the gloves off. Look out Rod, he's in spanking mood!

...here are the facts established “at the mouth” of these four witnesses (plus staff): The total number who actually remained with LCG in East Africa is about 30, or 18 percent of the 170 that comprised LCG’s original official count—by no stretch a “majority”! (Interestingly, and unknown to LCG headquarters, some of these 30 secretly kept an extra-biblical “Passover” service last week, a month early, and it was attended by the now key LCG Kenyan host.)

Also, recognize that there were always another 216 people never acknowledged by LCG, who live in remote areas and attended their services from time to time (allowed as visitors because of LCG’s open door policy)—making 386 total, a few of whom are now “on the sidelines” trying to decide what to do. Of course, circumstances required us to try to work with these people to see where they belong. So far, none of this larger group remained in LCG—meaning then that only eight percent in East Africa stayed (with none in Tanzania remaining).

Dave is just warming up...

To further clarify, it appears that only one person has returned to LCG to-date, apparently wooed by the promise of a “good monthly salary [3T assistance].”

Hey, didn't you just wonder what Rod did with all that third tithe? Now Rod is on the ropes, Dave takes a swing at the hapless Bob Thiel.

Shortly after LCG’s posting, we contacted three LCG headquarters evangelists via email, formally and respectfully requesting a public correction, to which we promised a public “thank you.” Though difficult, we waited patiently, because at first they ignored us. But, after a second request, one man did respond and denied our request, thus choosing to permit a report—which they then understood to be false—to continue circulating among thousands.

We had also called for a retraction on the website of a laymember who has acted as a quasi-official LCG apologist and “theologian” for many years. We were told to contact him ourselves, because “Websites operated by private individuals are the sole responsibility of their owners. Any complaint regarding such privately-owned websites should therefore be directed toward the owners.” (This is clearly a plain admission that there is no control in LCG over its membership, or what they publish. Besides, this webmaster, in a public email sent to us from an outside party, written to prove that “intellectuals do have a place in LCG,” has admitted, “I for example have two doctorates, read widely, and write what I wish to write—LCG does not try to stop, nor discourage me. Quite the opposite.” Thus, if this is to be believed, one must conclude that this man is, in fact, encouraged to write as he does.) 

Dave finishes in a smugly paternalistic vein: While we have been publicly impugned, we stand eager to forgive! This central question remains: Will LCG unequivocally admit the truth and publicly apologize for injury to so many fellow Christians? 

We hope Dave feels better now he's got that off his chest. Oh the joy of sects!

You heard it here first: AW readers were not the only ones to hear about Homer Kizer's defrocking and disfellowship here on AW. Homer found out from us too! The Kizers were under the impression that negotiations with the Stonefort group were still proceeding. Homer Kizer issued a press release earlier today.

The Philadelphia Church, an association of fully autonomous fellowships united through doctrinal beliefs and shared bylaws, regretfully announces that its founding fellowship at Stonefort, Illinois, has opted to sever its relationship with the parent organization, and with Homer Kizer. Stonefort’s pastor, Bob Farr, no longer finds Scriptural support for a second Passover, for the Azazel goat representing the glorified Christ Jesus bearing the sins of disciples, or for wine being used as a Passover sacrament. These doctrinal differences have developed since Pastor Farr rewrote Stonefort’s bylaws in October 2003. They have intensified as The Philadelphia Church added additional fellowships that did not support Pastor Farr's theological positioning. Therefore, with Pastor Farr making this theological schism public, The Philadelphia Church today ends its hope of reconciliation with Pastor Farr. The Philadelphia Church welcomes inquiries concerning the association’s doctrinal beliefs. Questions should be directed to the association’s website: http://thephiladelphiachurch.org 

More unleavened recipes: Another place to go for food ideas for the DUB; the Fort Wayne UCG website also has a recipe section (thanks to Scott Moss for the link).



Kizer cut loose: The following announcement appears on the Philadelphia Church - Stonefort website:

As of February 23, 2005 Pastor Bob Farr and The Philadelphia Church Stonefort, have revoked Homer Kizer’s license to preach and his Deaconship at The Philadelphia Church Stonefort. And we also have Dis-Fellowshiped him in full compliance with Matthew Chapter 18, for MAJOR DOCTRINAL DIFFERENCES. We have asked him to remove all references to The Philadelphia Church Stonefort and Pastor Bob Farr from, Homer Kizer Ministries.org, Repairing the Breach.com, The Philadelphia Church.org and The Philadelphia Church Bedford and any other writings, web sites or web pages not yet found. He is not authorized to represent our beliefs. He is not affiliated with us in any way.

Stonefort is a sect which also observes the New Moons. Homer Kizer has been an outspoken critic of Norman Edward's management of the now defunct Sabbatarian Community project in Port Austin. 

Papal paranoia: With the death of John Paul II the prophecy hucksters are sure to launch a barrage of poorly researched sermons heavily salted with apocalyptic speculation. Even before the pontiff breathed his last, we understand Ronald Dart was rattling his tonsils on the subject this past Sabbath in Tyler, while Stephen LeBlanc (COGeim) waded in last week with a Wonderful World Tomorrow program called Stirrings at the Vatican.

Unleavened recipes: With the Days of Unleavened Bread not too far off, readers who observe the festival may be interested to know that recipes for the season are available online. One of the smaller splinter groups, Church of God Worldwide Ministries (a breakaway from ICG), has produced an online recipe booklet, as has CEM



Holladay graciously bows out: In the first reference to his ousting we've seen, Roy Holladay appears to have accepted the decision to boot him from the UCG's highest office. In a letter dated March 31 he writes:

As you have read in recent letters from the Council of Elders, the Council is going through the process of selecting a new president. Please pray for God's direction and will to be done in this matter as well. Above all, we must be well pleasing to God and accomplish His desires. Once a new president is selected, let us give that individual our support and prayers in the difficult job he will need to fulfill.

I certainly wish to thank everyone for their prayers and support during the time I have served in this capacity. It has been a blessing and privilege to serve God and our brethren in this way. Norma and I look forward to continuing to serve our Father in other duties, and helping our brethren in whatever way possible.

Classic Meredith: Remember when Rod defied the appointed church government under Tkach, Sr. and fled to set up his own tithe-farming sect, the Global Church of God? Could this have been the same man who wrote:

God's church was governed and supervised from the top down. When calling or choosing someone for an office in the church, God always worked through those He had already set in authority. That way there would be no division or confusion in His church. That is God's way-the revealed Bible way. Let us follow it!

That's us dumb sheep who should follow it of course, certainly not Rod himself, who is far too important to be expected to follow his own edicts. For a taste of Meredith in his heyday, try reading his classic Underdog rant from the Good News. Special thanks to M.A.M. who provided the text, and a copy of the original front page article. 

Ambassador Files: AF is the original AW website, going back to before The Missing Dimension days. It initially appeared on Geocities, then moved to Tripod. These days it's a backwater, but there is still some worthwhile material available there, including HWA's March 1980 letter to Rod Meredith. A full list of contents is available on the main page.


Church of God Legacy
Lake of Fire
COG Critic

Blog explosion: Another COG blog worth checking out: Church of God Legacy.

Fast and shun: Meredith has called a fast for members of LCG, who have also been told to keep away from Don Haney.

Mr. Meredith has decided to call a Church-wide fast for the Sabbath of April 9, 2005. He will be sending out a letter soon, explaining in more detail about this very special fast day for the Church... We regret that it is our duty to inform you that based upon biblical instruction an ecclesiastical determination has been made to disfellowship and mark Mr. Don Haney for the spiritual protection of our members. Therefore, for your own spiritual well-being, you are advised to refrain from contact with this individual, including attending any meetings held by him or his representatives (Romans 16:17-18). He is no longer a minister or member in the Living Church of God. We bear Mr. Haney no ill and we should all pray that God would grant him repentance. Church Administration Department



Manasseh returns: Despite all those selectively conservative world news commentaries that plague the Churches of God, here is one significant story we bet won't feature in World News & Prophecy, as it clearly flies in the face of Armstrong dogma about the "prophetic identity" of the United States. From the Press Trust of India:

Two titles that throw light on the real story behind the Lost Tribes 

Read the AW review of Across the Sabbath River here

Hillel Halkin's book... closely examines the case for the B'nei Menashe being the Biblical tribe of Manasseh

The Bnei Menashe, a community found in India's north-eastern states of Manipur and Mizoram, may now be able to immigrate to Israel with the Shephardic Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Amar, formally recognising them as "descendants of Israel".

Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum, a dayan (rabbinical court judge) and spokesman for Rabbi Amar said that the decision was taken after careful consideration and study of the issue. "The Chief Rabbi sent a delegation of two dayanim to India last year to conduct a thorough investigation of the community and its origins. After a thorough review of their findings, it was decided that the Bnei Menashe are in fact descendants of Israel and should be drawn closer to the Jewish people," Birnbaum said.

The Chief Rabbinate has also agreed to send a beit din (rabbinical court) from the Chief Rabbinate to the region to formally convert the community to Judaism, he said.

The immigration of the members of the community - Bnei Menashe (literally sons of Menashe) - was put on hold by the former Interior Minister, Avraham Poraz, in June 2003 to "review the issue of their Jewishness". Shavei Israel, the organisation which was earlier known as Amishav and has been instrumental in bringing "the lost tribes' to Israel, hailed the decision. "This is a momentous day, and we are very grateful to the Chief Rabbinate for the openness and sensitivity that they have demonstrated in addressing the issue of the Bnei Menashe". PTI

There is lots of coverage of the decision, including Arutz Sheva and (LCG members take note) the Charlotte Observer.

None of this will be big news to longtime AW readers. We reviewed Hillel Halkin's book Across the Sabbath River a couple of years ago, which closely examines the case for the B'nei Menashe being the Biblical tribe of Manasseh. We've also drawn attention to Tudor Parfitt's excellent book The Lost Tribes of Israel.

Of course, none of this is good news for the few remaining disciples of British Israelism. Which is why you probably shouldn't hold your breath for coverage by the GN or Tomorrow's World...

Top AW pages in March: The most viewed pages in March were (1) AW, (2) Links, (3) Now or Never editorial, (4) the Haney letter, (5) COG site rankings, (6) the Robinson's letter, (7) MAM's article, (8) Meredith page, (9) columns page, (10) Web Gospel editorial.



Sermon in Charlotte: A week after the Brookfield killings, Roderick C. Meredith mounted the pulpit to address the headquarters congregation in Charlotte. After quoting from the article in Christianity Today to prove what a fine fellow he is (I wonder if Mark Kellner anticipated that?), the Presiding Evangelist proceeded to put Bob Thiel firmly in his place over his remarks on the memorial crosses. In his usual rambling style he then went on to suggest that Wisconsin minister Randy Gregory was killed because he was too sensitive a chap to go through the Great Tribulation, Terry Ratzmann was temporarily possessed by a demon, and church shootings are common (happening all over the place it seems). But all things work out for the good, Meredith assured the faithful: "Now our name is known... they're finding out about us all over the world." 

In other words, Meredith plumbed new depths in shallowness. But he had picked up a new word: introspection, and used it twice! But does he know what it means?

If you can stand putting yourself through this 1 hour 40 minute audio ordeal (which includes introductory comments by Crockett and Ames) you need only click across to http://www.cogl.org/announcements/vte323.htm

LCG members ponder: A sure sign of distress in any COG group is the issuing of personal letters, pleas and explanations by members. AW received the text of one such letter this week from Colleen Thomas in Reno. In her introductory remarks Colleen states:

This letter... went out to the entire LCG ministry two days ago. Not one has written me back to complain about my position or attack it in any way, nor refute any of it. I don't expect any will send notes of support or agreement lest it get around and cost them their job. So I count this silence as good news.

Another ex-LCG member, Richard Markland, has taken time to write an article attempting to make sense of the Wisconsin shootings. 

New Becker material: Douglas Becker has released new material on his website. He writes:

Let's start with the latest "featured column"--something familiar: http://md.cultabuse.com/Practice.htm. Then there are the Editorials: First, the one for March 2005: http://md.cultabuse.com/ModernMaturity.htm. Actually, I have never seen anyone address this topic. Some hint at it, so I've filled my perceived void... Then there's the April 2005 Editorial where I call a spade a spade: http://md.cultabuse.com/Garbage.html

Finally, it's been awhile since any additional satire came out... http://md.cultabuse.com/SunsetVsEENT.html

Whatever happened to Robert L. Kuhn? Robert Kuhn was once a high flyer in the HWA-era WCG, even co-writing a series of articles on the difference between animal brain and human mind with the Imperious Apostle himself. His latest publishing effort seems light years away from those times: a biography of Jiang Zemin. Apparently it's a big hit in China. More details are available on Amazon.

Weekly Mailbag

MAM's article - bouquets: (1) MAM's article, "After Brookfield," is in my opinion 100% accurate and should win a Pulitzer but no one would believe that's it's true unless they were in the church. I am well acquainted with the reign of terror in the NYC area in the early 1980's. Congratulations.

(2) I don't know who M.A.M. is but I really enjoyed the essay. It almost hurt to read it. Sometimes truth hurts. He touched a subject that is so sensitive for me I seldom write about it... I have no avenue to vent my anger on that subject, no legal recourse, and anything I would say would only sound like sour grapes. But its a funny thing about memories, you move on 20 years and remember the emotions of the time as clear as day, yet not remember what you ate for lunch the previous day...

I don't think there was ever any greater attempt to "play God" than what occurred with WCG ministers meddling in the romantic adventures of the Church youth. If it was bad in the local areas, it was taken to a high art form at Ambassador College. Its a good thing the WCG had such a short run, we'd be more in-bred than the Mormons in short order if the status quo had continued.

There have been times when I have reflected on what was done to me as one who was not "ministerial material" and it has just made me furious. Its amazing how much power they had with a subtle drop of a hint to a coed. But as I got older, I am thankful that the wife I did finally marry was not "arranged" by them. Things could have been worse for me. I could owe my wife to a theology professor's choice! Its the arranged ones that fell apart. We dis-arranged romantics, God seems to have take care of in one way or another. We may not have got what we wanted, but we certainly got what we needed.


And two contrary views: (1) Attached is my rejoinder to M.A.M.'s article in your March 29 edition. As someone who spent 8 years in the ministry in New York City, as well as 12 years as a bachelor in the Church of God - I find that he describes a totally different reality than I knew.

Michael Grovak
United Church of God
Lafayette, Indiana (USA)

(2) The return of your missing guest columnist... from NYC, was duly noted in the March 29 posting. Surely [he] will bestow more wise judgments on the whole based on his experience of the part. We await future installments... [attempting] to paint the whole barn with his 1 inch trim brush.

Paul Stevens

AW: I'd have thought that the only judgments anyone can make of the whole are those based on our experience of the part.

Bouquet for Don Haney: After reading Don Haney's open letter I find a man who has the courage to stand up and speak the truth. To reiterate what many in the COG's have thought for a long long time. The legacy left to us from the controlling ministry of not only our former association, WCG but those in UCG, LCC and the like. Thank you Don. 

We need to stand up and say to the ministers NO MORE! Why do you think these groups do not join together? It is not our beliefs, because we all basically believe the same, it is power, who will control the people, who will have the title, who will have the biggest church areas to rule over? 

Now after also reading the narrow minded, unchristian letter of a man who claims to be one of God's ministers. What a fine display of what one of God's Shepherds are like - I don't think so! As for the supposed dear lady who is not a ministers wife writes, to show her allegiance to a man, how sad and how very judgmental - it is truly amazing to read of the talent this woman appears to have in looking into Don's heart and knowing what he thinks. 

ALL ministry need to heed the wake up call that comes from the slaughter of the innocent people caught up in this tragedy. UNTIL the ministry realizes that they are not here to control the brethren but to lead and guide us this could very well happen again but I pray it does not. The sad fact is that there are those who have lost their lives through suicide because of the harshness of the Ministry. It seems that the ministers who have caused the suicides of some don't learn the lesson and they keep on crushing people. Tearing people apart with no regard or care.

Many many many people have suffered and are still suffering at the hands of the ministry. The ministry are very light on when it comes to showing respect to the brethren but very quick to demand it. Sorry, but respect is earnt and some of you ministers just don't know how to earn respect. I find it very sad to see that the COG's have to "dispose" of any ministers who dare to think outside the box. These churches have lost some very fine upright converted men who really care for their flocks. Those who 'dispose' of good men really must be threatened by them, why else would they get rid of good and upright men? They try to destroy what they can't control. I must also say that not all ministers are callous. I personally have met some wonderful, caring shepherds but unfortunately they are the minority not the majority of the ministry.

If a group of people are divisive, deceptive, political and power hungry it is the ministry and this includes their wives of the Churches of God. In some cases it is the wives who rule the congregation and the minister is merely the puppet. I have seen ministers wives prompting their husbands during sermons from their seats. Wake up to yourselves and start shepherding and stop crushing God's flock.

Joseph Lee

And a brickbat: I thought it was shocking, after reading all 14 pages of the letter, that Mr. Haney would write an attack against the LCG leadership a mere 4 days after the massacre in Wisconsin. Even though he says "this is not an attack against anyone" (p. 3) and "in no way think of it as an attack upon anyone or their motives" (p. 7), anyone reading the letter knows it is (which is why many reading this webpage have so enjoyed the letter!). Indeed, if LCG claiming that they are the "main" ones strikes Mr. Haney as "blasphemous" (p. 3), then he should be attacking them. Even though I agree with some of the points in the letter, I have to question the judgment of someone who has stayed in LCG for so long while having such a problem with how they differentiate themselves as to think it "blasphemous". 

LCG leadership has expressed great appreciation for the sympathy expressed by other COG groups, and Mr. Meredith has even said that instead of criticizing the crosses that were erected, we should take the gesture as it was meant to be (an expression of sympathy and respect for the dead). A tragedy like this may indeed bring the churches closer together. An attack letter written before all the dead have been buried will not.

Bill Heym

Faith Networks: Thanks for the very positive mention of Faith Networks. More people have already downloaded the March issue from the www.NTEvangelism.org web site than they did the February issue - and the February issue generated the third highest month's traffic on our web site.

We just finished the Harrisburg, PA Evangelism Conference. It is so encouraging to see people who think and use their heads. On Sunday half of those attending were from independent congregations, the other half were from UCG congregations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland. Everybody could agree on evangelism.

Our Cincinnati, OH evangelism conference is coming up on April 9-10. Jim O'Brien announced the Cincinnati conference in his latest church email letter - thought you might find it interesting.

We have also updated the Cincinnati Evangelism Conference announcement on www.NTEvangelism.org 


AW: I'd have linked to the text of Jim's letter if it appeared on the church website, but the site seems way out of date. 

WCG finances: I did a check on http://www.guidestar.org/search/report/docs.jsp for WCG and surprise, surprise!!

EIN: 95-4583490
This organization is not required to file an annual return with the IRS because its income is less than $25,000. It is a 501(c)(03) public charity.

Less than $25,000???


Satisfied with LCG? In response to Thomas Brooks (3/28, mailbag), If you are satisfied with LCG then you should stay. That your daughter grew up in the church happy and well balanced is a credit to you and not the church. If all is well with you and your family...great. But these xwcg sites need to be available for those who need somewhere to go were people can relate to their situation. We have a right to criticize those we feel have hurt us. There are a lot of people in the church that are sincere. The best thing for ex-members to do is to try to live a productive life so if someone they know in the church wants to leave they can see that their life won't fall apart without the church. In a sense we're all in this together so let's help each other. Why not? 


A request: Dear Editor, Would you be willing to post Fred Coulter's letter, "Special Letter-Shooting in a Church of God," on your web site? It is currently on our site at http://www.cbcg.org/special_letter.htm 

If desired, I can forward the file to you in .doc or .rtf format.

Thank you,
Ron Cary

AW: Anyone interested can follow the link.

High ranking demon: Thiel’s website includes an article published in the Chicago Tribune, with a quotation from one of the LCG members present at the shootings: “‘I don't believe, in all honesty, that was Terry Ratzmann who walked in," said Thomas Geiger, who had known Ratzmann for 20 years. "I believe he was under control of a high-ranking demon, and maybe the highest one.’"

The muddled sort of etiology that makes mental illness synonymous with demon possession can only cause more suffering. Any member struggling with a mental illness is going to be confused about treatment if they believe that they are also afflicted with demon(s). The ministry of the LCG has an obligation to educate itself regarding mental illness, and to educate its membership as well.

Kathleen Kakacek

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

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Letter policy: AW understands that some people may not be comfortable with their names appearing in the mailbag. A problem can arise when it isn't clear whether a writer wishes to remain anonymous or not. If an email is received which is signed at the bottom it will, if published, usually appear under that name unless there is a note attached which asks for anonymity. When signing a letter, writers have a variety of options from full name to initials, and everything in between (e.g. Bart Simpson, B. Simpson, Bart S., BS ...) If the email is unsigned at the bottom it will, if published, usually appear anonymously, unless the writer has already expressed their willingness to have their name attached. AW sometimes receives mail that is "not for publication." This is always respected. Just be sure to clearly state that the content is private. 

Letters are published at the the webmaster's discretion and may be edited for clarity and content. Letters for publication should not exceed 700 words. Articles may also be submitted, but it is suggested writers send a proposal first as space is limited on the server. 

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