Monday, June 24, 2013

Dennis On The Concept of Church of God "Ranks"

"There is God, Christ, Herbert Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong , Myself and a few other leading Evangelists..."
Roderick C Meredith
Harmony of the Gospels Class

Dennis Diehl - EzineArticles Expert AuthorThat's the first time in my WCG experience I ever heard the concept of ministerial "rank" spelled out with names affixed.  I understood the God...Christ...part, but after that I recall as a young 18 year old, still basically Presbyterian kid, thinking politely, "WTF...?  Who does this guy think he is...?"    It was all downhill after that.  Even back then I knew the Bible said things like, "he that is greatest among you, let him be your servant,"  "pride comes before a fall," and concepts like that. 

I had heard often in the Presbyterian Church growing up:

Philippians  2:3-11
Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. ... 

James 4:6
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Matthew 23:12

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Corinthians 11:30

If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness

Ephesians 2:8-9 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Luke 18:9-14

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ ...

1 Peter 5:5

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Ephesians 4:2

With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

James 4:10

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Micah 6:8

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Proverbs 16:18 

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall

Luke 18:9-20

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ ...

Something seemed lacking in the WCG Hierarchy and now even worse in the Splinters and Slivers that remain.

I never in my youth heard my minister indicate he was of any particular rank or in any kind of pecking order in the church.  I certainly never heard statements such as...

"And yes brethren...I am an Apostle"
"I am 'That Prophet'"
"I am a Prophet"
"I am the Two Witnesses"
("I are the Two Witnesses"?)
He's the Elijah to come
He was the Elijah to go
I am Joshua the High Priest
I am BSC (bat shit crazy)
and so on...

Of course, as time went by I learned there were Apostles, Evangelists, Pastor Ranks, Preaching Elders, Elders, Deacons, Deaconesses , Husbands, Wives, Children and Small Animals.  

I myself was "raised" from mere graduate to "Elder" at 23.  A ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...Anyway...  At 24 I became a Preaching Elder because I was preaching I guess and already had two churches.  When I left college, I was told that after the manpower meetings concerning me, "the sky is the limit for you.."  Somehow that troubled me and struck me as a strange comment for ministry.  I did not grow up with the sky being the limit for ministry.  See the above scriptures.  I think that mean in time I could be awesome of rank and power but rank and power were not my concepts and never were.  At any rate, Pastor Rank could not be far away after rising so quickly but somehow, not being in the inner circle and perhaps that being obvious after just two short years out of college, I never got raised in rank again!  I was not a Pastor while I pastored 13 congregations over 26 years.  I was merely a preaching elder.  By any measure in the ranks of ministry in WCG, I was a flop. 
I even tried to get a summer off once from all the drama in church by teaching swimming, canoeing, lifesaving, first aid etc which I had some great credentials in.   I had taught as a camp counselor for the Salvation Army camp and even a camp week for unwed mothers for three years when a kid. banana.  They gave the job to a guy who could not actually swim and had no credentials that I could tell, but was better connected.  I learned something from that episode too.  

When I hear the Apostle Pack use phrases like "lesser ranked ministers," it awakens a bit of snark in me yet again.  With Joshua C Pack it is all about numbers and rank of course.  He grew quite concerned when he realized he might have a problem if an evangelist came into RCG and he was merely a Pastor Rank Minister.  Who ordained him that!  The sky was the limit for me not him!  lol.    I repent of my part in Dave's returning to the ministry after he was terminated shortly after he was hired, when my Regional Director in Chicago asked me what I thought the Director doing so. The Regional Director was close friends with Shirley Pack's father and seemed some kind of favor.  Anyway,...Solution to the Evangelist fear?  "And yes brethren, I am an Apostle."  Problem solved.  He also had to figure out where in the pecking order the Two Witnesses lay since they would spring out of RCG.  We can't have them being of greater rank so I suspect they might be evangelists at best.  Of course there is plenty of time for Joshua C Pack to declare himself both of the Two Witnesses with the appropriate length sermon.

Others along the way who were a bit more realistic and practical noted that rank was just another name for a smell.  This I found to be a more satisfying outlook and quite accurate.

12 Ways to Rid Your House of Bad Smells

In the actual New Testament, the men who seemed to have no rank such as ..oh...Jesus and the 12 disciples seemed to do the best.  Now of course they did get into who was the greatest and such, but that was just theatre and stage setting for Jesus to teach.  I can imagine the endless "well excuse me!" the brothers James and John got when mom asked the favor of her boys getting to sit on the right hand and on the left of Jesus in the Kingdom.  Oh mom!   Besides, those positions are saved for Herbert Armstrong and Joshua C Pack. 
I finally have figured out why God the Father has gotten little done on earth here since Jesus ascended back to the throne.  Jesus is sitting on God's right hand!  He can't get up!....sorry :)  Of course , according to The Surprising God Blog and Ted Johnston, Jesus would be sitting next to himself on his own hand..but I spare you.  I have no clue where the Holy Spirit sits, but possibly on God's left hand or on his own left hand too next to himself and himself.  Holy Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva Batman!  That rank thing gets confusing even at the Throne.

But seriously...Once men, and it's always men take on offices and ranks, it's all downhill from there in the world of religion.  Paul had a great time bouncing between being the least of the Apostles when he felt humble and the greatest when he felt threatened.  He was both the smartest pencil in the box and the most arrogantly humble.  He was all things to all men and also not a man pleaser.  His ranks messed him up big time I think.  Men of other rank meant nothing to him , were considered reputed pillars who added NOTHING to his message.  Kinda like the Apostle Joshua C Pack and Flurry among others.  

George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer--Some high ranking  bite off a bit more than they can chew
 and make all the wrong kind of history.

The "And yes brethren...I am..." baloney in the COGs will prove to be its downfall.  These men of renoun will come and go.  Their lofty titles and ranks among men of lesser rank will not save them or coerce any Jesus into coming back so Haggai or Zechariah can be proven to have predicted types of future nutcases in religion.  They have not and only the blind deaf and dumb who need to believe the untrue and unbelievable will fall for that to their harm.

La la la la..we're going with what the Apostle tells us

The concept of rank, be it Apostles, Prophets, Priests, Witnesses or ultimate fulfillments of characters out of the Biblical past like Elijah, Joshua or John the Baptist is just ridiculous.  That is that God again "trying" to get things going again when actually it is not so in reality. 
In my view, titles, rank and position are for weak minded and insecure humans.  "I am an Apostle" does not carry the real weight or maturity of "I am an average human being,"  "I have my shortcomings and strengths just like everyone else," or "I am willing to sit down before the truth as a little child and let it take me wherever it actually goes."  The rank conscious tend to sit down before truth, twist it up a bit, make it conform to their inaccurate view of themselves and shove it down everyone else's throats.  It ultimately does not work and does not take those who accept such foolishness on a genuine journey of self exploration and learning. 

“It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.”
Mahatma Gandhi
“The greatest lesson in life is to know that even fools are right sometimes.”
Winston Churchill
“Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?”
Carl Sagan
“In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.”
Winston Churchill
To believe you are magnificent. And gradually to discover that you are not magnificent. Enough labor for one human life.”
Czesław Miłosz

contact Dennis at


Anonymous said...

Yes! An article from Dennis I completely agree with :)

Rank has always been a problem in the church. The biggest problem with rank is how it promotes ego instead of promoting service. Jesus said the ministers are to serve. Rank says ministers are to be served. The New Testament doesn't use offices as a matter of authority and rank. It uses offices based on what they are gifted to do best.

The churches of God have abused rank as a power structure not based on their ability, but based on their authority. This is why there were preachers who had no idea how to preach. Evangelists who never evangelized a day in their life. Pastors with no qualifications to actually pastor. And the list goes on and on.

Rank did nothing but promote abuse within the churches of God. The scriptures you stated you grew up with are the proper example. Rank promotes power trips, ego, the desire to be served, and not to serve. Rank promotes everything nasty and everything un-Christian. The hierarchical government model is actually military-like in war, not servant-like in peace.

I don't give a rat's booty about rank. You know them by their fruits, not their self-imposed title. You're right. They ordained elders at 23 and 24. I agree with your bahaha. 23 and 24 year olds have no experience, and know nothing. They had no business pastoring a congregation. I don't know what the church was thinking at that time.

Good post, Dennis.

Byker Bob said...

Yeah. Nail, meet head, once again. This ridiculous ranking system, assumed to be carried forward into the kingdom, was another example of extrabiblical teaching, exemplified the arrogance and vanity of those so ranked, and was by definition intimidating. Meredith was saying that same stuff in our First Year Bible Class, as well, thus making himself and his colleagues into a modern version of the Boanerges brothers, only even entertaining such a comparison back then would have been thought to be rebellion in the extreme!


Assistant Deacon said...

How dare dost thou attack ranks? Without ranks, my title of Assistant Deacon has no meaning! I am reporting you, Dennis -- to the deacon, of course, so that he can take it to the local elder, who can take it to the preaching elder, who can take it to the pastor (rank), who can report it to the evangelists, who can take it to the pastor general himself.

But don't doubt for a minute that you will be found out. For, as an assistant deacon (complete with arm band), I am temporarily given POWER and OFFICE to do this. Besides, I am destined to be a deacon in no time. Imagine: At long last, I'll be able to put all those pathetic ushers, greeters, song leaders and prayer-givers in their place. And then...can local elder be far behind? And then preaching elder? And then....

As a former minister, Dennis, you are no longer qualified to even straighten my arm band.

Head Usher said...

And Dennis, you missed between "Deaconesses," and "Husbands" the "Head Usher" and the lowly "Regular Ushers" who I get to trounce all over with mah authoritah!

Yeah, I've come to accept that Herbert was determined to be a captain of industry, the CEO of an important American corporation. What could be a more important industry than the god industry? And how could he possibly be more important than to speak for god himself? Herb wasn't building a "church" so much as he was building a corporation. Well, unless you think of "church" in totally pejorative terms. Which I do.

Steve Kisack said...

I remember a local "elder" coming to me and scvolding me for calling Jim Franks on the phone instead of letting my "pastor" call him. I was told by the "pastor" via the local "elder" that only "pastors" talk to "pastors". Well, who the hell talks to god then?!

DennisCDiehl said...

Steve wondered: only "pastors" talk to "pastors". Well, who the hell talks to god then?!

June 24, 2013 at 11:04 AM

"Ye are gods" so ye get to talk to God anytime you want!

Anonymous said...

Eph 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be evangelists . . pastors and teachers. My understanding is not that these are ranks, higher to lower, but rather referring to sequence. Apostles go first, to scout out the area, evangelists to spread the Gospel, pastors to care for the new believers. Jesus is the head of the church with apostles, evangelists, etc. side by side, not one above the other.

Head Usher said...

"Well, who the hell talks to god then?!"

Nobody. And that's all there ever was to it. HWA was the Great and Powerful Wizard of COG. He wasn't talking to anyone but the bank teller, with a great big smile on his face.

Joe Moeller said...

Im not giving up my title for anyone!...


In all seriousness, this "once ordained, always ordained" rank system is lacking.

Tell me what job on the planet is permanent and without review? Even corporate CEOs are accountable to a board and if the profits are down, well, ... out the door.

Ministry is UNDER the brethren! They are "servants" the same as the guy who mows your lawn, or cleans your pool!

Servants are to be asking the served on how to do it! This is common sense isnt it? Yet how many ministers , of any faith, are asking their audience on what they truly need?

Rare would be the church that had regular reviews, from the brethren they serve, with mathematical survey forms and feedback mechanisms. Smart organizations rotate out the bottom 5% of their workforce every year, or reassign them. Some people just dont cut it in their occupations.

How much leaner and diligent would the ministry be if they had to be subject to PEER REVIEW from the very own brethren that they serve?

This would not have to involve doctrinal compromising or the like either. Come on ministry, man up and face your customers.

More traditional churches have local boards who provide this type of feedback and cleansing mechanisms. Anyone beyond accountability for their work performance will suffer from the temptation of coasting, or becoming comfortable or authoritarian.

Joe Moeller
Cody, WY

Steve Kisack said...

Why should the servants receive the paychecks when all the rest of us did things for free?

Corky said...

Yeah, "ranks", the Lemmings lead the way over the cliff. The rats who put them up to it did alright, didn't they? Everybody ended up broke at the bottom of the cliff...except them, of course.

But, you know, when you're dealing with a God who says, "love me or I will kill you in fire", what can you expect from his minions?

NO2RCM said...

Ephesians 4 was mentioned. This verse was one of the foundational scriptures that Herman Hoeh used when he and Rod Meredith started instituting hierarchical government into WCG in the early 50s. This, in spite of the fact that HWA stated in 1939 very accurately, strongly, and correctly that there is no centralized government authorized in the New Testament.
Hoeh read the KJV, which has Eph 4:12 wrong. Why are the church leaders to equip the saints? "For the work of the ministry." So, Hoeh taught that the main purpose of the saints was to support the work HWA was doing. Problem is, this is a wrong translation. "Ministry" really means "service", and there is no word "the" in verse 12. This more accurately reads "for works of service". In other words, this verse is not about the purpose of the saints being to support the work of the church leaders, no, just the opposite. it is the purpose of the church leaders to support the work of the saints. And power-hungry, deceiving and deceived one-man rulers are still with us today.

Steve Kisack said...

Hey, Junior, Franks, Meredith, Flurry, Pack, Weinerdude, and all of you so-called Council of "Elders" in UCG. I hope you're reading all of this, as well as all of you "local elders, deacons, and deaconesses". You have lied to your congregations for years, and I'm sure some of you actually believe the lie. But, it's hard to face the truth and give up your positions and/or paychecks, isn't it?

DennisCDiehl said...

In my experience with ministers in high places who are really proud of themselves, when confronted, they accuse the humble of being prideful or they would not question them.

Lake of Fire Church of God said...

Joe Moeller said, "Smart organizations rotate out the bottom 5% of their workforce every year, or reassign them".

MY COMMENT - Joe, your entire post is right on the mark (but not the "mark" of the beast, LOL). But, your comment above rang true for me personally. I was in management of what was then one of America's fastest growing companies in the early 1980s. In a span that covered 2 decades, my company went from being an $80 Million company to being a $20 Billion company. I can tell you what you said is so true.

EVERY organization including WCG has its "dead wood". In my company it was customary to reorganize every so often giving people new assignments or laying off if there was no fit, and doing annual layoffs cutting the bottom 5% - most of which were dead wood or non-performers. It benefitted the entire company and shareholders alike.

The only time WCG ever purged itself organizationally was when someone got on the wrong side of HWA, or when a minister was excommunicated out of the Church over doctrine, or in Garner Ted's case moral issues. The first ministers I ever remember being excommunicated from WCG were Bob Lay and Carl O'Bearns (spelling?) in the late 1960s.


DennisCDiehl said...

Joe Moeller said, "Smart organizations rotate out the bottom 5% of their workforce every year, or reassign them".

WCG never removed their pain in the ass minister types, they reASSigned them to other churches to wreak their havoc there for awhile. I spoke up to this ONCE.

I learned not to do that.

Byker Bob said...

Any number of times, In sermons, HWA would attempt to shift blame. I recall on several occasions, HWA saying something like: "I never taught that! That is something that some of our younger ministers, in their over enthusiasm have begun.

Of course, such backpedaling was bogus, first because the stuff happened on his watch, and secondly, he always ruled with an iron hand, often instantly picking up on the latest micro-trends. Would you believe that he actually shamelessly used that phrase with regard to the setting of the dates 1972 and 1975, after having printed and published "1975 in Prophecy" for all those years?
But, to the stalwarts who have allowed him to rise to biblical status, criticizing him becomes like the mockers who falsely accused Jesus during His human lifetime.

Despite what he wrote in 1939, and despite the possible origins of the ranking system with Hoeh and Meredith, like a singer singing a song composed by another, HWA made government from the top down his own, and it was one of his most forcefully taught doctrines.