In the year 2000, the Worldwide Church of God finally sold the Big Sandy campus to Hobby Lobby for 8.5 million dollars. Hobby Lobby is a craft's company owned by David Green with over 450 stores in 39 states. HL does not use bar codes on it's products and hand prices items (a fear that it is the mark of the beast?) Green later transferred ownership to Bill Gothard for ALERT Academy's use.
The Journal (COG) had this to say about the transaction:
BIG SANDY, Texas--The owner of the property that for 33 years was the campus of Ambassador College (which became a university in 1994) wants to sell the metal swan sculpture that graces the area in front of the administration building.
Ron Fuhrman of Big Sandy, director of Air-Land Emergency Response Team (ALERT), which has owned the grounds since Dec. 31, 2001, said ALERT would like to sell the sculpture and other items and wonders if anyone among the Churches of God would be interested in buying it.
. . .
The Worldwide Church of God sold the property in 2000 to the Green Family Trust, owner of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., of Oklahoma City, for an undisclosed sum.
Green in turn leased it to the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), a nonprofit educational and service ministry based in Oak Brook, Ill., headed by Bill Gothard. The Big Sandy acquisition joined about 50 other IBLP schools in several states.
The ownership formally transferred Dec. 31, 2001, from Green to the IBLP, of which ALERT is a department.
Mr. Fuhrman said ALERT and the campus will soon become a "stand-alone" operation of the IBLP.
IBLP (Institute in Basic Life Principles) was started by Bill Gothard. Gothard is from a Baptist background with deep ties into Dominionist theology. He is also an advocate for large families, home schooling, staying away from medicine, and for making women stay home from outside work. The Dugger Family with their 18 kids is an example of this. Men are the rulers of the household and it causes trouble when women work out in the world and are under authority of other men. Christian Identity is also promoted. He was famous for describing children as being "diamonds in the rough" that God was chiseling to perfection by the blows of flawed and sometimes abusive parents.
Alert Academy describes it's self as :
The Air Land Emergency Resource Team (ALERT) is a unique training and service organization for young men who desire to achieve maturity and fruitfulness in service as Christian men. The training young men receive at ALERT equips them with the discipline, character, and skills necessary to meet the needs of people in crisis. These ALERT Responders will then be deployed to disaster-stricken areas such as those affected by hurricanes, tornados, floods, and mud slides.
Many label the course as a paramilitary boot camp. The instructors walk around in military style clothing with military style badges and medals.
They are groujped in "Unit's" and receive deployment orders when being sent out during natural disasters or other emergencies (hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, floods, etc.). Training includes some of the following:
Training ElementsBasic Training is structured around the eight callings of II Peter 1:5–7. Each week, one calling will be emphasized in devotions and other activities.
Recruits are challenged to establish the disciplines of personal devotions, Scripture memory, and Bible study while applying Biblical principles to life situations. ALERT proves to them that if they can have a daily time with God in the most extreme circumstances, then they can maintain this discipline throughout the rest of their lives and hopefully gain a vision for God’s kingdom.
Scriptural application is further refined in the pursuit of Godly character. The men gain emotional maturity as they wrestle with homesickness, youthful fears, and controlling emotional reactions. Their comfort limits and fear boundaries will be regularly tested to widen their horizons and to help them develop a healthy level of self-assurance. Specific fears addressed include being under authority, facing the unknown, homesickness, extended hiking, camping in the wilderness, and heights.
Learning how to respond to stressful situations increases a man’s faith in God, as well as his confidence in his own abilities. Basic Training is carefully balanced to control the tribulation necessary to stabilize fear, resignation, discouragement, anger, resentment, and other negative emotions. As men overcome increasingly difficult challenges, they are able to see God’s hand at work in their lives, and they grow in faith, discipline, motivation, and focus, all while combining training with a spiritual emphasis.
ALERT provides a quality alternative to young men considering military service, as it imports the best features of the U.S. military. As such, ALERT should not be confused with church camp or recreational outdoor programs.
Training in Godly character is organized into clusters, the chief cluster encompassing the area of compliance. The principle of authority is taught with a view to differentiating between obedience, submission, honor, and loyalty.
Within the context of compliance training, recruits master the elements of basic obedience (rote compliance motivated by consequences) and balance that with responsible boldness in learning appeal techniques. Moving on to the second level, submission is learned in light of phileo (brotherly love) and mutual trust. The third and highest level of compliance, honor, is imbued with the agape (God’s love) understanding that we die to self as we strive for the success of a God-appointed authority.
The Basic Training environment is very effective in revealing resistant attitudes and rebellion in young men. Responsiveness is ALERT’s byword, and as an ALERT Responder, a good employee, or a faithful son, the recruit must demonstrate the qualities of dependability, diligence, and thoroughness. Meaningful projects allow men to develop these qualities along with punctuality and accountability, to achieve a mature level of responsiveness.
Similar qualities are clustered around persistence (endurance, determination, patience), confidence (boldness, initiative, decisiveness), and readiness (vigilance and attentiveness).
“PT” is an integral part of Basic Training. Although “…bodily exercise profiteth
Additionally, physical fitness training provides a convenient classroom in which to learn self-control and mastery over one’s physical body. Although ALERT deems physical training a lower priority than spiritual and character development, it may be an area of struggle for those not in the habit of physical training.
Skill training is threaded throughout Basic Training as a foundation for subsequent areas of training. Many of these training opportunities have an element of adventure and provide incentive to complete ALERT Basic Training. Among these are camping skills, survival skills, and outdoor skills.
The realm of search-and-rescue requires Responders who are competent in all varieties of outdoor terrain and who will not be liabilities to themselves or to the mission. Living off the land, group sheltering, and outdoor living have been proven elements to teach our men to thrive in austerity while delivering valuable services. Such conditions are useful in preparing men for foreign missions or the coming perilous times.
Introductions in map and compass skills support later training in search-and-rescue, diving, and aviation. Elementary ropework, practiced in river crossings and rappelling in Basic Training, leads to high-angle rescue. First Aid essentials covered in Basic Training eventually yield to instruction in emergency medicine in Advanced Training. Problem-solving exercises give a practical forum for team-building and leadership practice, and by the time Basic Training is completed, the young men have been knit together into a cohesive team that depends first on God’s strength. They are then ready to confront new challenges in ALERT Advanced Training.
Initial response training foundational to disaster response will begin in Basic Training. Classes in Evangelism and Search-and-Rescue will equip Responders to deploy immediately upon promotion, if required. Many times international travel is required, and a valid passport is necessary prior to the start of Emergency Response Training (ERT). These skills provide confidence in ministering to
people in need and equip the Responders in their goal of service to others. This initial response training will also provide the building blocks for further training during Emergency Response Training.
Discipleship is what the Christian life is all about. But how do we know when we are true disciples? And how do we know when we have trained someone else to be a disciple? The answer is found in the Great Commission: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). So what were all the commands of Jesus? A survey of the Gospels will produce about forty-nine general commands that every believer should follow. This, then, is the curriculum for carrying out the Great Commission and being a disciple. We will attempt to cover 8–9 foundational qualities needed in the life of an ALERT Responder.
At first glance all of this may seem "ok", particularly to those trained in Armstrongism. However, ALERT is labeled in many cult recovery circles as a legalistic cult.
I find it interesting that the Worldwide Church of God sold both of it's properties to other 'sects" that are looked upon by many as "aberrant."
Harvest Rock Church, who bought the Auditorium, in Pasadena, is a charismatic personality cult centered around a charismatic religious leader who has legions of volunteers catereing to his every need. They regularly hold conferences where internationally known men like Benny Hinn, leaders from Toronto Blessing, Brownsville Blessing show up and hold week long conferences on "fruits of the spirit." This includes speaking in tongues, being over come by the "spirit" so as to bark like dogs, have hysterical fits of laughter, pogoing in place for long periods of time, being slain in the spirit where they lay on the floor of the Auditorium in 'frozen" states for hours on end and much much more.
ALERT is considered a cult because of it's legalistic tendencies, paramilitary training, and other attributes. While I hesitate to give them publicity, the Daily Kos has an interesting background on ALERT. and the WCG. Although I do wonder where they find a link of WCG to "Oneness Pentecostalism." I assume they tied the name Church of God to the other Church of God branch that is into pentecostal/charismatic hysteria.
What spurred all of this on tonight was an email from a person who sent this link to a web site that is filled with testimonies of people who have suffered under Gothard's principles. Recovering Grace: A Gothard Generation Shines Light on the Teachings if IBLP and ATI
Their goal is:
Recovering Grace is an online organization devoted to helping people whose lives have been impacted by the teachings of Bill Gothard, the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). Recovering Grace provides a unique perspective in that it was founded and is operated entirely by adults who were raised as children in Bill Gothard’s Advanced Training Institute. We all have attended Bill Gothard’s seminars, and most of us served within the IBLP organization in some form or fashion. Among the members of our team are pastors, lawyer, teachers, accountants, businessmen, and stay-at-home moms. We have all taken different journeys, but we all have one thing in common: We survived ATI.
Some of us had pretty great parents who, by the mercy of God, were able to bring balance to Bill Gothard’s legalism. To this group, survival means that they graduated high school and moved on. However, many of those involved with our site survived physical and/or sexual abuse that causes nightmares and trauma even today. Some survived spiritual abuse at home or training centers that has left them with years of untangling who God is, whether faith is worth having, and whether church and religion are anything more than a cosmic joke. Others have survived emotional abuse, being told that they weren’t good enough, weren’t pretty enough, didn’t look right, or whatever. To these people, survival means a lot more. It means there is a lot of hurt, guilt, and pain that is dealt with every day.
Together, we have decided it is time to speak out. Others have done so before in books, magazine articles, and websites. Still, they couldn’t speak from the perspective we can. They wrote about Bill Gothard’s ministry from the outside. We write about it from the inside. They observed our legalism and tried to warn our families. We lived in legalism and wish we’d listened sooner.
It's quit obvious that these people are just like those of us who were trapped in Armstrognism were. They/we see a need to speak out, to expose, and to let the world know what is going on. Lives have been scarred, damaged and sometimes destroyed. Accountability is the name of the game now.
For more information:
Child abuse and abuse of women: "Christian" Child Abuse
An irreverent guide to Gill Gothard: A Beginners Guide to Bill Gothard
A Guide to Bill Gothard
The Basic Life Principles of Bill Gothard: Benevolent Ministry or Bondage Making?
Stop Spiritual Abuse