moves

Jason Lee Middle School where the UCG meets... for now....
Jason Lee Middle School where the UCG used to meet….

The United Church of God an International Association congregation has moved from Jason Lee Middle School to the Fircrest Prebyterian Church.

Fircrest Presbyterian Church
Fircrest Presbyterian Church — has no air conditioning

The Jason Lee Middle School did not provide the UCG with a kitchen or cafeteria and other amenities. The Fircrest Presbyterian Church is in a relatively quiet neighborhood, away from traffic and other distractions. The Fircrest Presbyterian Church has a nice kitchen available and other amenities. Unfortunately, there is no air conditioning, which makes the dog days of summer intolerable to people sensitive to the heat. The UCG is thinking of investing in fans.

Now it turns out that the Jason Lee Middle School is not to far away from the location of the Church of God Seventh Day building and facilities, as it was some decades back. It has not been there for a long time because the building was sold and a hospital was built on the site. The local CoG7D did get an adequate sum of money for the building and property and they put the money in a bank account, looking to build anew. The church moved services to Gig Harbor where they rented a church facility for Sabbath Services and activities. Around 80 people a week met for the song services accompanied by piano, guitars and drums. Somewhere along the line, a new young minister came and took over from the old guard. Around this time, for some reason, Gig Harbor property was purchased for new facilities in the woods. Unfortunately, the I16 Freeway construction just happened to turn their property into a wetland, making any construction quite problematic to say the least.

The new minister had an agenda and made it clear that his intention was to have a ‘community outreach’ to encompass other church denominations and people. There was money left in the property fund, so he convinced the board to pay for his further education at Fuller Theological Seminary with the caveat that he would never follow the same path that Joseph Tkach, Junior followed after he had a stint with the Fuller Theological Seminary. This charismatic minister was relatively young and appealed to the young married couples with children that he would be their minister to lead them into the future. Surreptitiously, he made it clear that he had no use for the older members. He went to the board and got them to give him a significant increase in salary at a time when the older members began leaving — the ones who actually tithed. This precipitated a crisis and soon the young minister was sapping the building fund for his salary. Meanwhile, he was skipping payments to the CoG7D and changing some of the doctrines. Along the way, he branded the church as Wellspring Fellowship, so it had a double branding for awhile. He kicked out the minister who was loyal to the CoG7D and declared to the Regional Administrator that the minister he had kicked out was disfellowshipped, which would have worked if it weren’t for the fact that he severed association with the Church of God Seventh Day at the same time.

Somehow, Wellspring Fellowship moved from the complex they were renting to the Harbor Life Church:

Harbor Life Church in Gig Harbor
Harbor Life Church in Gig Harbor, hosting Wellspring Fellowship

Meanwhile, the minister he kicked out managed to persuade the Regional Conference that he shouldn’t be disfellowshipped and rented the Westgate Baptist Church for weekly Sabbath Services:

Westgate Baptist Church
Westgate Baptist Church

The Wellspring Fellowship chewed through the building fund in short order and refused to give up such things as sound equipment which technically belonged to the CoG7D. The irony here is that Wellspring Fellowship attendance was down at least 60% from the days of the CoG7D, so when it came time to pay property taxes on the property in Gig Harbor, Wellspring Fellowship couldn’t spring for the money. The CoG7D at the Westgate Baptist Church eventually paid for a couple of years on the property, hoping that the property could be returned to the CoG7D. The Denver Headquarters did declare all of their property as a corporate sole possession so such hijacking of property could not happen in the future, as a result of this experience.

Meanwhile, the Westgate Baptist Church congregation who owned the building being rented by the local CoG7, was paying for insurance to protect the property at a $2 million level. It also had a Christian Congregation of Eastern European extract paying rent for the facilities for their meetings. The Westgate Baptist Church congregation had been shrinking for any number of years and in 2016 there were only 8 members of the congregation left including the pastor. It was at this point that the Westgate Baptists decided on selling the building and property to a responsible Christian Church for around $40,000. The reason for the ridiculously low price was that Westgate was an independent Baptist congregation, not associated with any larger Baptist Conference — and the remaining members could not take any personal profit from the sale.

There is one more Church involved in this moves scenario. It turns out that there was another congregation meeting in a school near Jason Lee Middle School, where United used to meet. The Journey Community Church has been renting the Mason Middle School for services:

Mason Middle School
Mason Middle School where the Journey Community Church meets on Sundays

The Journey Community Church also rents offices for church business. It is inconvenient to rent a school property for church services and it is expensive to rent property for church offices. That all ends in September when the Journey Community Church moves everything to the former Westgate Baptist Church property, which they have purchased. They will consolidate everything into one place.

Journey Community Church lives up to its name. It is a community oriented church. During the school year, it provides 140 lunches for poor students who have insufficient food at home. You can check out their vision at their website. The church is associated with Christian and Missionary Alliance which has an association with 20,000 Christian churches world wide. The church participates in a youth church camp in August. October 6th through 17th, 2016, members will participate in the Cambodia Mission Trip.

The Journey Community Church is enthusiastic about their move and are busy remodeling. When they started, they had $50,000 for the remodel project and the Christian and Missionary Alliance is providing additional matching funds, so they have a total of $150,000 to work with. The kitchen size is being doubled. The downstairs will be finished. There will be any number of improvements and changes made before they move in. There is a weekly work party that the members can attend. The Journey Church will be occupying their new facility in September 2016.

The Armstrongists live in such a limited view of the world with blinders on. They totally ignore the larger Christian community, which causes them to underestimate those outside their cult.

The reality is that there is a much larger world out there — one which may be only blocks away from the Armstrongists cloistered world and narrow minded thinking.

Poof of the Bible

The Proof of the Bible

Herbert Armstrong wrote The Proof of the Bible in 1958 (no one can be quite sure if he plagiarized the material or who he might have plagiarized it from). Unfortunately, the so-called “proofs” are all based on Old Testament Prophecies — touted by him to be absolute proof because they were fulfilled, thus “proving” the Bible. Now those of us who have our own copy and have studied Pseudoscience and Extraordinary Claims of the Paranormal: A Critical Thinker’s Toolkit by Johathan C. Smith can spot the problems with The Proof of the Bible almost instantly. We won’t bore you with the disproved theory that Tyre was actually not destroyed — it still exists. No, we ask you to skip forward to page 22 and read the section Why Egypt is a Weak Nation. Herbert Armstrong quotes Ezekiel 29:15-16 where he makes a point that Egypt will be the basest of kingdoms! How did he do? How did the Bible do on this one?

It’s hard to get our arms around this because, really, the statement is pretty vague. Nevertheless, let’s use a commonly agreed upon measure of a country’s viability and ranking by selecting the List of Countries by GDP (PPP). Data from the World Bank ranking Gross Domestic Product for the years 2005-2013 rank Egypt #25 out of 179 countries with a GDP of $910 Billion. That’s fairly respectable. Of course, the United States, China, India, Japan, Germany, Russia, Brazil, France, United Kingdom are ranked at the top above Egypt as you might have suspected. What’s interesting though, is the nations ranked below Egypt: Countries such as Netherlands, South Africa, Columbia, Venezuela, Philippines, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland (who knew?), Iraq (Iraq?), Sweden and Switzerland. The most interesting one, though is… wait for it… Israel! Israel was ranked at #54 with a GDP of $264 Billion.

So if Egypt is the basest of nations, are we to assume that Israel, the specially selected country chosen by God, is even more base? If you use the objective measurement of Gross Domestic Product, the answer is obviously, yes. So much for Herbert Armstrong’s Bible Prophecy (not that he wasn’t a huge failure in this department anyway). The Proof of the Bible is no such thing. And not to put to fine a point on it, The Proof of the Bible doesn’t even begin to address the New Testament, it’s provenance and the questions about such books as II Peter, the gospels and Revelation being forged: The Proof is more than a little thin — it’s only about a small part of the Old Testament and a few prophecies given there — it does not address the Big Picture at all.

Some of the ministers in the Armstrongist churches seem to have realized that no one can actually prove the Bible is true and may believe the information from Theologians, such as David Fitzgerald at Skepticon 3 “Examining the Existence of a Historical Jesus”:

Byker Bob wrote, over at Banned!:

Many groups over the millennia have taught the sabbath, the holy days, clean meats, the ten commandments, and either a tithe or voluntary giving of a generally recommended percentage of 10% as God’s basic standard.

People have been happy, they’ve lived exemplary lives, and they have raised fine families in peace and tranquility under those customs. Whether they are New or Old Covenant, whether certain facts are known or unknown that would make it possible or impossible to still observe those tenets, and whether the act of teaching them is the way of identifying “God’s True Church” rather than love, faith, and other Christian fruits, has been the subject of ongoing unresolvable debate for many years. Still, a once a week “special date with God” would certainly not harm self, or others, in and of itself.

What elevated Herbert W. Armstrong’s church and his heirs into cultic status was the addition of an extrabiblical theory (which can actually be disproven using the Bible, let alone archaeology, history, linguistics, and genetics) based on British Israelism and German Assyrianism. This was compounded by Armstrong’s pretentiousness in claiming to know something that Jesus said could not be known, I.e, when the end would come. Now, that is all cultic “gnosticism”, but it doesn’t yet rise to the label “toxic”.

Toxicity entered through Herbert using the apocalypse of Revelation, bolstered by the prophecies of Daniel, asserting that these would occur during our lifetime, applying it all to civilizations initiated by Anglo-Saxon gentiles, and leaving anyone from his primary broadcast audience who wanted to be spared and protected from these with the sole alternatives of joining his church movement, or suffering the brunt of the tribulation. It was a black and white ultimatum. He then introduced another bit of speculation, that the churches enumerated in Revelation were actually eras, thus branding anyone more liberal or conservative than himself who actually taught the same doctrines as “Sardis” or “Laodicean”. Some over the years have considered all of this intimidation to be special, privileged truth, while in the face of continued failure of the root prophecies, and witnessing horrible fruits, others have seen it as blatant, deliberate, false entrapment.

The final and worst toxicity came from Herbert’s doctrine of “government from the top down” (rather than the power of Jesus Christ converting and transforming one Christian heart at a time from the bottom-up), thus opening the door for all of the cruel, arbitrary, “our way or the highway” enforcement practiced in original WCG and the ACOG splinters. Basically, this is the “we OWN you” doctrine, making the leaders of these groups the gatekeepers to the so-called “place of safety” and supposedly to the kingdom itself. Members in good standing do not question their gatekeepers’ authority!

I have no problem with the people who think that the New Covenant is simply the Infusion of Jesus into the Old Covenant. But, I have a huge problem with the people who would contaminate all of that with the various ingredients that Herbert W. Armstrong added as his own modifiers to that. The use of a special set of Armstrong gnosticism, combined with totalitarian enforcement, is what makes the ACOGs toxic. That is in no way spiritual guidance.

BB

Unfortunately, most of the Armstrongist churches have resorted to tactics which make them look more like George Orwell’s 1984 than a church.

Now no one needs to give up the Bible. It can still be used for inspiration. In fact, in some segments of the Armstrongist community, there are those who actually seem to be fine with the fact that the Bible might not be the inspired Word of God, absolute, with Authority. It is a growing community and there are some prominent leaders out there directing the charge. One such group is the Church of God Big Sandy, led by David Havir who is, in turn, supported by Dixon Cartwright and The Journal. Dixon Cartwright has declared that he does not believe in British Israelism: He responded to the PT Article, The Journal is Cursed! by saying:

Yes, the aspects of Armstrongism that I judge to be silly I try to be above it all, as you put it. You can say false prophet all you like, I don’t care. But I don’t think terms like that are appropriate for a journalist to use (except in quoting other people) because those are terms for Bible scholars and farmer theologians and church members. I don’t think Herbert Armstrong was a prophet, therefore I don’t think he could have been a true or false prophet. Just as I tried to remove myself from the Bible fray when I wrote my canon articles (because one cannot prove or disprove the validity of the Bible in the usual conservative-Christian sense by arguing from within the Bible), I think it’s advisable for a newspaper not to report from inside the Bible. Interesting you guys are always talking about British Israelism. I am not a British Israelist, but I don’t think BI is any weirder than certain important doctrines of mainstream Christianity.

It seems likely that David Havir and others at the CoGBS hold the same disbelief. Since the staff of The Journal has ties to the United Church of God an International Association, it is also likely that many of the ministers in the UC Gaia also tacitly realize that British Israelism is a dead issue, although, behind the scenes they still have a United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, they have backpedaled the issue and don’t promote the booklet actively. Certainly, Dennis Luker was moving United in another direction away from Armstrong during his tenure as President. In addition, “False Prophet” and “Heresy” are irrelevant terms, as Dixon Cartwrite wrote over at Otagosh:

To Black Ops: You do not understand where I’m coming from. I pick up from Gavin and his little comments now and then that he pretty much does. “False prophet”? Interesting that you still are tuned in to the concept of false prophet. That strikes me as a religious and conservative-theological way of thinking that I try not to do anymore. It’s like saying someone’s a heretic. For a person trying to stay above the fray, some of those concepts make little sense. People obviously have strong religious convictions, and I think that can be an objective statement. But lamentations about false prophets and heretics and interpretations of Scripture and doctrine are not. –Dixon C.

This would make absolutely no sense at all in the highly conservative pragmatic Biblical based world of Herbert Armstrong and the Radio Church of God. But if it is rooted in venue of high concept religious abstract fuzzy thinking of modern Christian Theology, it makes perfect sense. The Bible is not absolute — it’s just used for inspiration to pad out sermons and written material. No, what’s really important is the social group. Dixon Cartwright has validated this.

Now if you take a look at the Church of God Big Sandy, you can clearly grasp the concept. Youth Day includes the activities of the Boy Scouts of America chapter at Big Sandy during Sabbath services. The Journal reports on all the personal items of interest (as well as doing the Boomer thing of allowing everyone to have their say and go their way). People can believe whatever they want to and even have discussions about it as long as they don’t get too loud or pushy. As long as it doesn’t threaten the group in any way, it’s allowed — this gives people the Byker Bob standard, acknowledging that as long as the environment isn’t toxic and works for the group, it’s (mostly) OK. In this case, the Bible is just a prop and has no real relevance and neither does doctrine, heresy, false prophets, prophecy. In fact, the ministers could all be humanist atheists (and they may well be) and it would make no difference: The social group is together and everybody’s OK. Of course, some of the more retentive types soaked and locked into the ultra conservative arcane religious beliefs espoused by Herbert Armstrong haven’t got the memo (clueless, deliberately excluded from being able to understand what’s going on) but that’s OK too — there’s a safe place for them to hold their superstitious delusions.

Now it is the case that for the sake of the social group, there are still some unique Armstrongist things. The biggest of these is the so-called Feast of Tabernacles. There is no such thing, of course, because there is no Temple, no Levite priests (no matter how Herbert Armstrong tried to make his hirelings into them), no altar, no animal sacrifices… well, OK, sometimes they do have a barbeque at the “Feast” but you know what we mean. The “Feast of Tabernacles” allows people to get together for social activities, meet friends, make new friends, eat, drink and be merry, have a generally fun time. People can have the best of everything (up to a point) more than they can have any other time of the year. The physical rituals help bind the community together, and that’s all good. There are also all those Christmas / New Year socials for various social activities. With this approach, there’s absolutely no conflict with “Feasts of the Lord” because if it benefits the social group, there’s nothing wrong with it. They do it because they can. [Note: United recently published in The Good News that it is OK for the elderly and those with medical problems to eat and drink on the Day of Atonement, meaning that those “Festivals” aren’t as much an obstacle any more for those who don’t really want to keep them fully and it also means that it was just fine for Herbert Armstrong to have a cup of coffee and a donut on the Day of Atonement to “keep up his strength”. Nothing’s all that sacred any more.]

This is real freedom!

So now, people can whine about false prophets. Irrelevant. People can whine about heresy. Irrelevant. People can get all bent out of shape about doctrine and a million things associated with it, particularly the calendar. Irrelevant. British Israelism. Irrelevant. The Bible can go poof! No problem. Gee, about now, Joe Tkach probably wishes he had the idea back in the day with the Worldwide Church of God: Just allow people to have their local church buildings and build a local social community and people would be happy and it would all be good. None of this mucking about trying to change absolutely everything Herbert Armstrong stood for as a vendetta. Just let the people do what they want to do anyway, and sit back and collect the dough. Wouldn’t it have been so much easier? This is a successful business model that really works! It’s all good as long as the music’s good! After all, it’s just a social club.

Well, live and learn.

Or don’t.

And yet… it’s hard to know what to call these fun folks — Unarmstrongists, perhaps?

We do believe that those who have rejected British Israelism should be praised, it’s just that we would have hoped they would have been more obvious and public about it.

These days there are accounts of atheists yearning for a social group. They’d like to have something like a church, just without the religious nonsense that goes along with it. They’d like to socialize with get togethers, pot lucks, conventions, all without having to argue that the Bible is so much superstition. They need to take a page out of the book of these former Armstrongists. They could learn a thing or two.

Make no mistake: Most of those such as Roderick Meredith, David Pack, Gerald Flurry, Ronald Weinland claim to obey God and believe the Bible but prove by their behavior that they don’t.

2015: Stagnation

Stagnation
Stagnation

Herbert Armstrong established an empire which could only end in the stagnation of fetid rotten pockets of stale sluggishness where even revenue flow is stagnant. The stench of stagnation with entropy drifted everywhere among the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia sects in 2014 and trends indicate that 2015 will continue the stagnation. No one should expect the return of the Laodocean rich and increased in goods in need of nothing prosperity of the 1970s Worldwide Church of God because it is never coming back. Frankly, it may well be that 2015 may not even be as good as 2014 was and 2014 just wasn’t all that good.

Thumbs Down
Thumbs Down

A recent anonymous commenter on Banned! succinctly described the problem in a comment about United:

After 80 years of Armstrongism, you would think they would have gotten somewhere. Instead, Armstrongism is predicated upon stagnation, constantly reinventing wheels, and misguided attempts to “really get serious this time.” As a result, “depth” is something no one has ever achieved. Armstrongism’s idea about “going deeper” is to double-down on strategies that have proven to lead only to failure, and to go around in an old, familiar circles yet one more time.

How “deep” or “exhaustive” has any COG minister or member’s attempt to understand the bible or live like Jesus ever been? Armstrongists keep on using words like “deeper” or “more exhaustive,” but the fact is, these now-trite sayings are incoherent. Either something is exhaustive, or it is not. It is not possible to do a job “more exhaustively.” All this means is, “We were wrong about saying we did it ‘exhaustively’ last time (like every other time) and we’ll probably be wrong this time too. The reason why they can’t even come up to “the world’s” standards is because, for all their talk about “mooring” they’re completely unmoored from reality. Everything they say is without any objective referent to anchor it. The only thing that’s possible is more pie-in-the-sky talk and meaningless platitudes. They’ve never been serious before and they’re not about to get serious now.

The trouble is, when one really does make the personal decision to “get serious,” it winds up in that person realizing that he needs to leave Armstrongism behind, because the COGs, in and of themselves are an imposition to “getting serious.” Acceptance of the tenets of Armstrongism bind you with shallowness and stagnation. They make the abandonment of seriousness incumbent upon the believer. Instead, they divert any “seriousness” they might have had into useless old testament rituals like “deleavening” their homes. Ritualized “progress” takes the place of any actual “progress.” The only thing ministerial types like Robin Webber have ever been “serious” about is coming up with that extra 5 inches.

Armstrongist Leader Ponders 2015 Business Strategy
Armstrongist Leader Ponders 2015 Business Strategy

Perhaps we can expect statements of the state of the Work by the various cult leaders again this year. It may be that David Pack will issue Pastor General Yearly Letter again this January as he did last year with glowing reports of explosive growth for the Restored Church of God, but in reality the operative word here should be ‘implosion’. It looks like he’s been buying more property without sufficient resources to pay for it and that Steuben Crystal at the office looks like it will collect dust. Meanwhile, Davey will keep his member abuse program going in high gear, but that’s hardly an effort which will create an enthusiastic energy for his compound.

David Hulme learned something about tampering with British Israelism last year and it is very likely he will not recoup his losses.

The Future of Roderick Meredith
The Future of Roderick Meredith

The Living Church of God continues to have a name that it is Living, but it’s in the stagnant doldrums and the only possible excitement in 2015 could be the death of Roderick Meredith. There would be a great deal of frenetic activity temporarily, overriding the stagnation, but if it were to occur, the ultimate result would be even more stagnation from entropy, with possible help from a major split or two.

Robert Thiel has been off to a slow start and it does look like it’s going to decline from there: Expect stagnation.

PCG British Campus
PCG British Campus

Gerald Flurry keeps making noises about how good things are going at the Philadelphia Church of God, but a word of advice: When your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will be your downfall. Flurry has been spending money he doesn’t have and has bought a new campus in England which may well have as many as 8 students and it may well be the British may require diversity classes. Brad MacDonald will be moving in to be headmaster of a glorified high school called ‘college’ or ‘university’. It’s too bad he couldn’t get Bricket Wood and this is certainly not the same level of culture being represented, but it made him feel better to buy it and after all that’s said and done, raising the dopamine levels in a geriatric Armstrongist leader is what’s important here. It’s tempest in a teapot time and the water in the teapot has stagnated.

Ronald Weinland continues his prison term, so the PKG can’t expect much progress — it’s stagnation squared, while Weinland issues doltish daft decrees from his cell. He will continue to do so, and the troops in the trenches will continue to get the manure falling from heaven.

James Malm will continue to more or less accurately portray the faults and evils of his compatriot competitors without ever looking in the mirror.

The United Church of God, an International Association will have all things continue as they have from the beginning… of 2014. They have noted that their average congregation size is 20 to 30 people (that’s an average — some are hundreds and some could fit in a phone booth). That is not cause for optimism, because there is a bottom line. In the stagnation, there really isn’t much new blood and ministers continue to retire. In this long slide of entropy toward irrelevance, the average rank-and-file member will have less in the way of personal ministerial contact, not that has ever been a priority in the Armstrongist churches, but it will get ever worse… slowly. Changing the name of the flagship magazine from The Good News to Beyond Today can do nothing but lend itself to stagnation. It was about time to change, though, since the UCG hasn’t really come up with much good news, although… there may not be much beyond today for them — eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you could retire. It’s truly unfortunate that The Originals have passed from the administration, taking their expertise and vision with them, so in the interest of helping out the Council of Elders, we highly suggest this book for their support:

Church Cult Corporate for Dummies
Church Cult Corporate for Dummies

Hope it helps. The members have received the very last Good News they will ever get from United.

If the UCG is having challenges, one can only suspect that it will be worse for the clowns at the Church of God Worldwide Association. Everybody is aging out on the average from senior to geriatric in Armstrongism and the CoGWA certainly isn’t going to be exempt from stagnation. The dream of establishing a college or university just isn’t in the cards and they likely overestimated the possible prosperity on the way out of United. There are not a few people wondering why they are in CoGWA at this point, because, except for the name on the door, you really can’t tell much difference from the UCG. Their flagship magazine is One Accord. Ha, ha, ha! That’s really funny when you consider they split with the UCG. One Accord. Is that all they have left of their transportation fleet?

The House of Yahweh with Yisrael Hawkins isn’t going anywhere. It is likely that HoY will be featured again as an expose on Dr. Phil and legal problems will continue, but at a low level, befitting the state of stagnation into which it has fallen.

The Church of God in Truth with James Russell? He said himself that “we haven’t learned anything new in 40 years”. He does claim that because the other Churches of God don’t keep the Feast Days at the right time, they will be those described in Revelation 3:9, “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.” Yes, friends, all the other Armstrongists are the synagogue of Satan saying they are Jews but are not, will suffer in the Millennium while CoGIT members will be God as God is God, lording it over everybody else. With this ‘holier than thou’ attitude, there is no chance that there’s going to be much change: Expect stagnation. If there is an afterlife, someone is in for a BIG surprise! You should all get their flagship magazine, Prove All Things. It’s worth it for the misprints in every issue. For example, a favorite is “Herbert Armstrong Pasture General”. Replete with manure? Watch where you step? They have something every issue. It’s hilarious! They should Proof Read All Things.

And there are the Rittenbaughs of the Church of the Great God fame. Oh, maybe you’ve not heard of them? Perhaps fame is too strong a word? Let’s just say that they are of the same conservative ilk as the rest of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia, except no one much notices them or their flagship magazine, Forerunner Magazine. If you didn’t know better, you’d think it had something to do with Toyota. Prognosticate that they will see stagnation in 2015? It’s a little late for that. Try obscurity instead. We wonder what happened to their minister who raped 16 teenage girls and 8 of their mothers? Still preaching or not with them? Who cares? This sect doesn’t even rise to the level of apathy and will continue that way through 2015. The founder was a welder at U.S. Steel for 16 years. It’s like Johnathan and Martha Kent at their Smallville farm setting ecommerce up from their farmhouse living room to market organic produce to the Luthorcorp employees cafeteria, except in this case, there’s not really much of a product and not much of a market.

We’d mention Mark Armstrong and the Intercontinental Church of God, but if you look at their website, you’d swear that Garner Ted Armstrong was still alive, so what’s the point?

Dixon Cartwright will continue reporting about the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia in The Journal as a journalistic exercise in irrelevance in the modern world for those addicted to the preposterous idea that it’s all one big happy family of specialized believers when he knows very well it is nothing of the kind, with some of the weirdest ideas ever being promulgated in the ads while some of the real news is being covered up: It’s an impressive effort to ‘report’ on the stagnation where everything is presented in such a positive light when the underlying core is utter garbage, much of which is generated with people who have severe mental disorders. It wouldn’t be half as bad if he didn’t know better and didn’t pretend everything is OK. It’s called enabling; Dixon Cartwright is a enabler. He has The Touch: He can make the daft seem respectable; just don’t think about it too long.

In all of this, Herbert Armstrong will continue to remain very dead all the way through 2015.

The Worldwide Church of God transformed itself into Grace Communion International in 2009. Originally, Joseph Tkach, Senior ‘inherited’ (hostile takeover) from Herbert Armstrong when Herbert Armstrong died in 2006. After Joseph Tkach, Senior died, his son, (Dr.?) Jo(seph)[e] Tkach (,Junior) finished taking the WCG into pseudo mainstream Christianity replete with Christmas, Easter and the Trinity which was much less mainstream than it may have appeared — retaining the autocratic nature of the ‘leadership’ but projecting a more benign ‘liberal’ religion. It became stagnant long ago as masses of people left either for the more traditional cult Armstrongism or became atheists and agnostics. Congregations shrank significantly to pathetic little groups, some of which kept Sunday, others keeping Saturday still and still others kept both Saturday and Sunday. Feasts were slowly but surely eradicated, but not before the Feast of Tabernacles was kept in August so it was more convenient to get time off work and school children (the few that attended) wouldn’t have to miss any school. The ‘headquarters’ was sold to provide riches for the few at the top and the ‘administration’ moved to Financial Street in a nearby city. To tell the truth, there’s so much stagnation that those still left would be better off in local mainstream Christian churches with the people, doctrines and facilities and sever their connections with GCI once and for all. GCI has become totally irrelevant and those with the beliefs espoused by the GCI would be better served by going elsewhere. It seems unlikely that 2015 will change much for them.

Unfortunately, stagnation cuts both ways. There was a time not too long ago that those of us working to expose the sects of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia had an impact. Expect that to slow in 2015. Herbert Armstrong originally created the Pavlovian response by getting members conditioned to respond to prophecies of death, doom, destruction, devastation, deviancy (in the world) so whenever they heard or saw news reports, particularly those which engaged British Israelism in their heads, it invoked belief, strengthening their faith in the prognostications. Of course, Herbert applied a layer of snow on top of the toxic dump to make it attractive by plying his wiles to create visions of a brave new world of prosperity where the members were to become God as God is God: Ring the bell and the salivation began.

Typical congregation meeting in living room
Typical congregation meeting in living room

Rex Sexton of the UCG wrote in a church bulletin that church members were like dogs being trained by the Master, Jesus Christ. He has something there: Doggie members have two basic rules for their control — keep them on a short leash and don’t let them bark. It is useful to let them out free to romp in a dog park once a year to socialize at the so-called “Feast of Tabernacles”, and if you’re with the right trainers, you might even get out to play at the so-called ‘Winter Social’ which is really the Winter Solstice Social. There will be fun exercises and special doggie treats — for the ‘good dogs’. The one thing every mutt fears is the minister calling them ‘bad dog!”. That will bring about howling. No, the leaders must be careful in their regimen. Every dog has his day. And being in the Restored Church of God gives new meaning to ‘running with the Pack’. Dogs. They’re all dogs. Care must be taken not to mention Revelation 22:15.

The spit-offs have continued to ring the bell and the salivation continues, but the dogs are old and can’t do a much as service animals any more. For one thing, because of the decline in membership and the fact that the seniors are becoming geriatric, the bell has to be rung ever so more loudly for a response. The pooches are finding it harder and harder to hear and even more difficult to get around.

On the other hand, the old dogs aren’t getting up and roaming any more. Youth is gone and so is the spry. The Armstrongist Churches of God are beginning to realize that they have to let the dogs lie because their get up and go has gotten up and gone. This means that members don’t become strays much any longer. They lost their curiosity (and a lot of other things). They aren’t that swift on the uptake any more and the cultists have a captive audience in their little dog pounds. One would hope that the leaders — the hounds of hell — would be bitten by their mother when they return home to the kennel.

The implication of this is clear: Disorganizations, such as the PKG with Ronald Weinland, have had most of those who are going to leave, leave. The rest just stay and stay, no matter how little sense it makes, and continue to wait until Weinland rings the bell again from Terre Haut, Indiana.

Avalokiteshvara at the False Prophet Ronald Weinland adds one extra dimension to this discussion:

The COGS attract narcissists who lust for power and glory so the COGS are where they flock to. And then when they start seeing the real evil that Weinland and Flurry and all the other maggots do they use their intelligence to explain it away as if it is GOD’s Will or a righteous way to behave. They love the idea of a hierarchy, a place where they can treat everyone like they are already GODS because they are now in a highly ranked system. The Gospel of Christ and Heaven are not enough for a COG member. They want more. Power! Riches! Planets! GOD at THEIR right hand side!

The COG members that stay in these fake churches LOVE thinking they are better than everyone, and to leave the PKG or PCG or whatever is to lose their justification for bullying, lying, theft, misogyny, and all the other things they love to inflict on others to feel like they are GODS.

COG leaders are merciless, greedy, arrogant narcissists who reward their followers with the chance to share in this greed and lust and brutality – in the abuse of others (in the name of God) as long as these aspiring anti-Christs keep the tithes coming to the lead anti-Christ! And once you invent a reasonable story in your head to justify what you know DEEP DOWN is wrong, you get intelligent people acting unwise (evil). It is so easy to see that the Fruits of the Spirit in these COG leaders are CLEARLY Satanic, you MUST fool yourself in order to think they are godly!

Wolf Minister
Wolf Minister

It’s easier if you remember that dogs are the descendants of wolves. It’s a dog eat dog society — a result of bad breeding.

Stagnation has set in, in a big way and the dogs of war don’t much give as much as a woof any more — and it looks like that’s the way it’s going to stay in 2015: It’s all going to the dogs. The ACoGs should buy new deck chairs for the Titanic so they can constantly rearrange them — if only they could afford them!

2015: Stagnation — one implication is that a mediocre equilibrium of evil will be achieved by the Armstrongist leaders who will continue to act like 9 year old schoolyard psychopath alcoholic boozing bullies extorting lunch money so they can have prime rib with Dom and those who they have robbed will continue to dig in the trash bin to find something — anything — to eat. The glass ceiling between the elite and the Proles will become thicker and more opaque than ever, ever more impenetrable to the peasants as the Oriental Potentate and his henchmen continue their oppression upon the helpless who they see as social misfits who the elite have made that way.

There may (or may not) be more ministers / elders who are convicted of pedophilia in 2015.

It will be OK: The mediocrity will not bother you as long as you remain clueless.

Do we really have to say it? Stagnation means that the old guard will remain because you can’t teach old dogs new tricks or science, for that matter.

Just watch where you step.

Lost, Confused, Unsure, Unclear, Perplexed
Lost, Confused, Unsure, Unclear, Perplexed

Grow in grace and knowledge?

Not likely.

Because they all stopped accepting correction a very long time ago.

A View From Afar

How I see the whole CoG milieu, as though visiting a museum

This blog is all about and for survivors of Armstrongism, RCG, WCG, etc., so I will dive in again with more comments about myself and others in that shared relationship.

If I am to continue contributing to this (or any religion-based) blog, I want to make a clear statement up front: I am an unbiased, detached observer in all this. Don’t misunderstand. In a discussion of the concept of religion vs. no religion or god vs. no god, I am very biased indeed. To me the whole pool of belief systems could be drained and we’d have a solid starting point for humanity to thrive. To those who care to read any more of my thoughts then, be advised that I care nothing whatsoever about who is “right” or “wrong” within the context of believers slogging through the muck of confused and time-wasting searches for the truth. All I can do is offer a view from afar.

I am a positively oriented individual. An optimist. To my way of thinking, there are incredible numbers of ways to be right. The most egregious way of being wrong is in mistreating one’s fellow humans. I don’t give a damn about trying to please any god!
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The names of some old acquaintances from my WCG years will be brought up in this post. This is due to my continuing amazement at the interest being shown for the bad old days by many who are apparently still in turmoil.

Interesting to me is the amount of rapt attention given UCG, on the Painful Truth website and several more blogs. Otagosh from New Zealand seems to cover it almost continuously, as do others. Is this interest and microscopic observation based primarily in United’s take-over of maybe half of the original WCG membership in the mid 1990s?  Or is it perhaps in the minds of many that UCG might be the so-called “true” church? It does appear obvious that folks making up the general format and readership of the PT site believe there is some true church carry-over concept. I wonder where that true church is perceived to have resided earlier. Was it ever in the WCG, now so maligned?  Or maybe in its progenitor, the RCG, before corruption set in?

 When I was introduced to this site, I was surprised to see the banner just below the heading on the opening page – the one with the picture of a broken seal, the strike-over line of “Preparing a People” and the replacement wording of “Splitting the Church.” What can this even mean?

Is it not clear to everyone that the very idea of the church, which connotes a singular institution, would have to refer to some organization established many centuries ago? If there ever existed such a singularity, surely it wasn’t what we were taught – purely Armstrongism via direct feed from a supreme being, bypassing millennia of false prophets. Yet that must be what is meant by accusing the UCG group of splitting “the church.” Or else the term church here means something more fundamental and far pre-dating HWA, in which case (since UCG split from Armstrong’s WCG body) Armstrongism can lay as much claim to having been part of that original church as can Catholicism, Lutheranism, any other Christian organization, or for that matter, the self-appointed apostle named Paul.

That being the case, surely the group of dedicated WCG followers who scrambled (or even pre-planned, as has been claimed by some writers) to incorporate under the “United” banner are still carrying on the same work as the old WCG, no matter how well or weakly. After all, wasn’t it the direct aim of the founders of UCG to try desperately to unite believers under the faith once delivered as they were having the original CoG rug pulled out from under them? So how can it be said that they “split” anything any more than Ted caused division by his corruptions? Or more than any disgruntled minister or even HWA in his reportedly corrupt end? No doubt the Tkach debacle (by Sr. & Jr.) split things pretty well and, if we’re to believe what we read, young Joe is now dividing the notable spoils among his friends. So I wonder what is meant by that accusation of “splitting” leveled at UCG. And why did there appear to be some I told you so vitriol being spewed at floundering and frustrated UCG leaders during late 2010 when it appeared the group might disintegrate? Where’s the Christianity in all this?

Any chance Rod Meredith might be the one representing the church? After all, his was about the strongest drum-beat heard in the HWA band when I was involved in the nineteen sixties and seventies. Or was he guilty also of splitting something sacred? Pardon my lack of insight here; I didn’t hang around to witness the demise.

Do you get where I’m going with all these questions? Isn’t it about time everyone takes a step back so the intrigue and the futility of it all can be seen in perspective? Your life is worth more than this, is it not? Mine certainly has been worth more since dumping the whole shootin’ match!

From the WHO CARES? Corner:

In the various blogs I’ve been reading there are articles, letters, comments and rebuttals, etc. galore. It’s a bit weird for me, without context, to read about people and events.  One post was a very serious and strained letter from a fellow named Joel Meeker to some legal eagle. I know nothing at all about Joel. Perhaps he’s related to George, maybe a son who was very young when George and I were colleagues. Then there’s the Ken Treybig update to his website that shows how devoted he and his friends are in the effort to work out kinks in a new splinter from another UCG splinter; very important stuff about how best to “care for those God calls.” I don’t believe I know Ken. Seems I once knew a member named Harold Treybig; probably they’re related. Then I notice (through many a listing on a number of sites) the names of prominent men (are women still unacceptable as leaders within “the true church”? How very Pauline!) who are resigning from UCG – men such as Les McCullough and Leroy Neff who were strong in the RCG/WCG in the 1960s. I certainly knew them pretty well. Don Waterhouse I knew casually; I knew his older brother Gerald better because he taught me some valuable golf techniques. And Lyle Welty, a fellow who went through AC Big Sandy with me – nice Indiana boy who, if memory serves me, was in the car with two or three others of us Hoosiers driving to Texas in 1964 to begin college.

Then there’s Dick Thompson, a delightful southern boy who also attended when I did – apparently he has resigned the UCG ministry and a notice credited to him simply states “Follow Me.” Well if he’s one of those bright ones who is opening a new HQ in Florida rather than snowy and cold Ohio, seems like someone you might follow. Climate seems a better reason than many others in choosing a true church nowadays! And so many other familiar names of fellows who went through AC when I did (again, no females here!) – Roy Demarest, Greg Sargent, Dave Register, Jim Haeffele, Jim Servidio, Larry Neff and yet more are in the wind, lacking a place to hang their spiritual hats.

My point in all this? Well, it’s just another excuse to say how shocked I am at all this information. For all I personally have known over the last three decades about the activities of these and hundreds of folks like them, they might have A.) died; B.) gone to prison; C.) gone into hiding; D.) formed a singular new congregation of the Infinitely Faithful (the IF church) and set up shop in Zimbabwe. Yet they have apparently been plodding along in the trenches of this-or-that branch or splinter of something that used to be, and their motives could all have been perfectly godly, whatever that means. For all they have accomplished*, in my estimation, they might just as well have tried A, B, C or D!

This goes for thousands of other erstwhile Armstrongites, possibly including you, the reader, and it certainly goes for billions of decent people who live and die all over this planet without ever knowing the peace that freedom from religion offers.

* Note: allow me to detour here to explain this perhaps harsh criticism. It is aimed at me, first and foremost. I have found myself at times asking the deep question of “What did I really accomplish?” Most of us surely do this self examining, but our answers to ourselves come back highly slanted toward whatever bias we are currently harboring. No doubt Les McCullough, Leroy Neff and thousands of other present and past ministers (of all religious groups, Christian and otherwise) – would usually answer themselves in a positive way that best suits their beliefs.

Without the cocoon of belief surrounding any questions, I now can perceive quite different answers. Now I have to wonder whether anything I did from 1963 to 1976 was of real value in any way. Frankly, I doubt it. Then again, that word “anything” deserves more leeway. Surely a few things I did or said in those thirteen years can still be credited in some small way as good things. However all has to be suspect. It would be easy to conclude that some past actions or words of mine were accomplishments if it could be made clear that a benefit to humanity was involved. For example, if a member of one of my congregations from way-back-when were to contact me today and tell me of having been brought back from the brink of a planned suicide by my caring or counsel, then I would have to admit I did some real good. If that person might have been inclined to take a weapon to work or to a public place and wipe out several others on the way to a police-assisted suicide, then my timely help obviously did even more good.

But the type of clear message given in the above scenario is typically missing. So practically all of us can, on a particularly dismal day of feeling negative, say that our lives have been meaningless. Most days of my life have not been so negative, and even now I can feel that many people were likely somewhat better-off for my words or deeds back in my ministerial days. However, the question then becomes, “Were my helpful actions enough to override the burden I placed on people?” Burden; yes, I said burden. My job was to thump people hard with the hand of God. If any members of my former congregations are still believers, it’s apparent I did considerable damage! Would that they might listen to me as intently today. Yes, I remember the old biblical advice, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom,” but my firm conviction today is quite simply that fear of almost anything, especially phantoms in the heavens, is the most egregious limitation placed on the progress of mankind. My former active devotion to the dogma promoting that fear places me in the ranks of the most detestable and guilty.

I am compelled here to add, without braggadocio, that at least as many good results have come of my words and efforts to help others since I dropped the cloak of religion.
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Reading through only portions of the enormous amounts of CoG fall-out information found online, I am dumbfounded. Again, I do not sit back and laugh; I commiserate. Please recall that I was once a deeply dedicated (the deeply being my assertion, but with living witnesses who could testify to some of the dedication) minister in the old WCG. I recall well that at the time I was in that dedicated mode, nothing said from without could impress me in the least! Some yokel who tried (as this writing is now doing), to get me to look at my beliefs in any other way than that view to which I was already solidly committed […come to you and bring not this doctrine, blah, blah, etc.), would be ignored with iron-clad resolve. We humans cannot even hear our own ludicrous words clearly when we are in this lock-down mode of operation. Witness the last paragraph of the Ken Giese post of November 26, 2010. I do not personally know this man but I’ve heard of his devotion and strength, his Godliness. Yet this letter did, in fact, force laughter from me. The man could not hear his own words ringing in his ears as he wrote glaring contradictions into his resignation letter.

So you likely cannot hear my words either as I speak from a platform of post-belief, but imagine this, if you will:
You join a military unit with absolute conviction it’s a life-or-death need to go into battle on behalf of your nation. (A detestable concept but I’m stuck with it for the analogy.) The top general speaks in front of your vast army and relates that his orders come from a supreme commander who is elsewhere. He finally admits, the “elsewhere” is somewhere beyond the clouds, beyond the atmosphere, beyond the solar system – yes, beyond anything possible to describe. He’s just “out there” in the beyond! And the general can’t actually talk to the supreme commander in a war room or in real conversation, as in hearing direct answers to his questions of what to do next, but the Supreme commander does guide everything, you are told with conviction. “Trust me” the general says to his army. “Follow me as I follow Him.” “Wow!,” you gush with confidence. “Nuff said! Hand me my gun; I’m going out to kill or be killed!”

Sure, the premise is completely foolish – today!  But since a concept of belief in a supreme commander (with ten commandments and countless amendments) began for all of us thousands of years ago, we actually accept the foolishness and somehow let it pass for reason.

markman