Sunday, June 7, 2015

United Church of God Is Now Embracing "Transformative Learning" After Mocking WCG Over Its Own Transformation Learning Process

During the mid 1990's when the Worldwide Church of God was transforming its thinking and beliefs, many of the so called "loyal men" headquartered in Pasadena, and elsewhere, balked at this new way of thinking.  The WCG was throwing out the phrase "cognitive dissonance" in almost every sermon, article and interview.

Wikipedia defines cognitive dissonance as such:
In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.[1][2]

Leon Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance focuses on how humans strive for internal consistency. An individual who experiences inconsistency (dissonance) tends to become psychologically uncomfortable, and is motivated to try to reduce this dissonance—as well as actively avoid situations and information likely to increase it.[1]
After months and months of claiming the church was NOT changing any of its teachings, even though the rumor mill was working over time claiming it was, the Worldwide Church of God  abruptly departed from the path and made epic changes.  These changes ripped the church apart by forcing members to "think" on their own for the  first time.  Some got the necessity for the changes and many did  not.  How could Herbert Armstrong have been wrong?  Is everything I ever believed wrong? These questions disrupted the life of the church.

Some of the biggest enforcers of the "new" doctrines of the WCG were the very same men that sit in positions of leadership of the United Church of God today.  For a long period of time, while they planned and plotted their new church, they kicked out hundreds of members from the WCG for disagreeing with the new teachings.

While these men were punishing questioning members, Vic Kubik, Robin Webber and others to gathered in Kubik's apartment on the Pasadena campus where they plotted to form a break away group where they could divert as much money possible in order to preserve their jobs.  Word was quickly spreading as to what these men were up to.  Church of Administration was also aware and told them to get in line or get out.  Many paid lip service for several months till the UCG  officially had money coming in.  Then they left.

Once these men left thy started mocking WCG's comments on the "cognitive dissonance" comments being made.  They claimed that they had no cognitive dissonance in their thinking.  They were right and there was no possible way they could be wrong.

Now jump forward a decade as United Church of God started facing its own upheavals with major splits happening.  The splintering groups and members claimed that the UCG brass were up to something and making subtle changes doctrinally.  UCG swung into denial mode claiming no such thing was happening.  Disgruntled members and employees in Cincinnati kept spilling the beans on all kinds of things happening.  Pretty soon UCG big-shots started claiming that those upset were dealing with cognitive dissonance.

Now jump forward to 2015.  The United Church of God ha snow embraced "Transformative Learning" as  its new tool of "educating" its "college" students and members into examining their thinking and to being open to new ideas.  The UCG recently hired on a new minster trainee who is educated in this thought process.

What is transformative learning?

Here is what the University of Central Oklahoma define Transformational Learning as:

Jack Mezirow, a leading thinker in adult education, developed his characterization of transformative learning (TL) in the late 70s and early 80s. Dr. Patricia Cranton of Penn State, another leading writer on transformative learning, says that the “elegantly simple” definition of TL includes the idea of people changing the way they interpret their experiences and their interactions with the world:

. . . an individual becomes aware of holding a limiting or distorted view. If the individual critically examines this view, opens herself to alternatives, and consequently changes the way she sees things, she has transformed some part of how she makes meaning out of the world. (Cranton, n.d., available here) 

This idea of a fundamental change in perspective or frame of reference (King, 2002) is at the heart of transformative learning. When someone undergoes such a change, he has, in essence, “transformed” his view of himself or of the world or of how he interacts with others and his environment. 

There is nothing wrong with that approach and should be what every single person heading off to college or parked on their butt in church is using.  However, in the historical Church of God movement under Herbert Armstrong's influence, critically examining ones view, being open to alternative thinking and actually changing ones thinking was NOT something that members were encouraged to do.

The entire foundation of the 20th century Church of God movement was based upon Armstrong's six months spent in a public library, a dream of his wife, and a distorted interpretation of British Israelism.  Once that was set into print or uttered by Herbert Armstrong it was FINAL and no one was to question him.  Anyone that dared to question or actually prove he was wrong was immediately kicked out and marked as a dissident.

So what is the United Church of God really up to?  Many see this is just one more in a long line of hypocritical things that UCG is doing.  What is UCG going to do if someone comes forward and says that everything that UCG believes is actually wrong?  Will they stop, listen, examine and open themselves up to new alternative thoughts and practices?  You and I know the answer to that!


Byker Bob said...

What occurs to me is that sometimes there is a delayed effect to education. Apparently, some issues that were raised twenty years ago are registering on some people now in ways that they may not have been prepared for back then. Time and exposure to circumstance have a way of accomplishing that. Twenty years of "delayed" prophecy impressed a certain percentage of the people back in 1995, causing them to re-examine not only prophecy, but the basic doctrinal approach. And, now, we have twenty further years of "delayed" prophecy, making the questions that much more intense. Clearly, something was horribly wrong from the beginning, or the total package would have been validated in 1975 without the backpedaling, excuses, spin, and lies. So long as the identity, and what "they" said would happen continues to fail, what "they" said to do is just as much open for a complete restudy.


Connie Schmidt said...

It is interesting to note that the portraits of HWA and his wife Loma were permanently removed from the UCG Cincinnati HQ council chambers when they remodeled them this past winter. Glad to see this progressive step.

However having a young ministerial trainee who has a background in Transformative Learning in his college training cannot be viewed as an organizational shift, but a curious sidebar at best.

Anonymous said...

Reinventing the wheel is one of the COG's greater administrative n doctrinal skills

Anonymous said...

For me, back in ~1995, it was half about Joe Jr. saying that everything we had believed was wrong, and half about him saying that normal Protestant orthodoxy (prettymuch everything that HWA had railed against in successfully positioning his product in the religious market) was right after all.

It's possible to interpret Joe Jr's social engineering experiment as not just an avaricious attempt to come out of the religious closet while maintaining his revenue stream, but also a misguided attempt to wean people off of doctrines he may have sincerely believed were wrong. However, if he really had believed that orthodox Protestant beliefs were true for so many years previous, as claimed, why didn't he do the honorable thing and switch church affiliation way back when? Why did he stick around in what he thought was a heretical church for so long?

But let's face it, there's unevidenced faith and belief on the one hand, and there's established facts based upon evidence on the other. To think that you can "prove" one set of unevidenced beliefs wrong and another set of unevidenced beliefs right, as though there were some underlying evidence, is philosophical nonsense to begin with. The whole point of "beliefs" is that they can't be proven right (even if they can be proven wrong!) So, given this, why did he think it was his business to meddle in so many other's beliefs since he can't prove what he believes is right? Unfortunately, this substantially erodes my charitable interpretation of what Joe Jr. could have been up to.

Nevertheless, it was a very obvious attempt at social engineering. But the fact is, people don't really choose deeply held beliefs, and they certainly don't change them like underwear. At the time, it felt like, "Now we're finished washing your brain in THAT belief solution, here, now let's try washing it in THIS belief solution." What brainwashing is next? If you can do it once, twice, why not three times, or more? To think that you can or should mess with people's minds in this way reveals a large sense of entitlement, paternalism and, to my mind, a demeaning view of humanity. Either the people who stayed with Joe Jr. were reverting back to what they had been raised with all along, and had always believed underneath HWA's social engineering, or else they didn't really "believe" what Joe Jr. was busy forcing down their throat under duress. Either that, or you're really dealing with a cheapened and shallow sense of what it means to hold a belief in the first place. It's really just a suspension of disbelief.

I guess, more than anything, I found Joe Jr's social experiment insulting. Totally aside from whatever unevidenced beliefs I held before, to change my mind based upon the cotton candy Joe Jr. & Co. presented was to be an idiot all over again. What UCG is up to now is nothing more than another insulting foray into social engineering and I have a hard time being as charitable in my interpretation of UCG's experiment.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think people give Joe Jr. too much credit for being the wizard behind the curtain.

There's no question that a cadre of folks in Pasadena had misgivings about a number of WCG doctrines going back a number of years. I'm not convinced, though, that the whole thing was some big grandiose plan. I say that because it's not that hard to disassemble HWA's doctrinal premise. It's really based on British-Israelism, which is problematic for virtually every intelligent person still residing in the splinters. Take away the notion that the church is "modern Israel" and you take away the justification for Sabbath-keeping. And it just explodes from there.

Remember, there was once a time when nobody was more of a hard line Armstrongite than Greg Albrecht, and he became a ringleader for doctrinal change. That indicates there was a period during which the errors and inconsistencies became too obvious to ignore. Without HWA around any more to arbitrarily enforce doctrine no matter what, there was room for upper management folks in Pasadena -- or anybody else, for that matter -- to relax and consider the other side of the story.

I'm not excusing the gang at HQ. Certainly, things were handled clumsily and carelessly, at best. There was really no need to blindside people the way they did. But, just like the way they stumbled trying to implement the changes, I suspect they also stumbled into the awareness and understanding of the major doctrinal errors to begin with.

To this day I struggle with how people in UCG in particular can be so accepting of British Israelism. Of course, once you recognize that errant theory for what it is, the other dominoes begin to fall one by one, and that's problematic for anyone who believes it's their responsibility to continue promoting the tenets of Armstrogism.

Anonymous said...

“United Church of God Is Now Embracing “Transformative Learning” After Mocking WCG Over Its Own Transformative Learning Process”

These worth-less-than-nothing (note that it would be neither proper nor technically correct to merely call them worthless) UCG bums already transformed themselves right out of their old WCG jobs. If they just will not ever smarten up, then let them go ahead and transform themselves right out of their current UCG jobs too. Then maybe they would be forced to learn how to transform themselves into honest laborers.

Michael said...

Not to be too cynical, but I would guess it all boils down to economics.

COG numbers are dwindling across the board, and to maintain financial solvency, the more zeitgeist-savvy groups are forced to do what religion has been doing in the West for centuries: slowly and grudgingly accepting the new directions society takes in an attempt to remain relevant.

Thing is, that market is simply too saturated for this to make any big difference.
It's hard to see how UCG or any other group is going to undergo any significant growth, even while making themselves more palatable to a general public.

Lake of Fire Church of God said...

Anon 10:05 PM said, "Sometimes I think people give Joe Jr. too much credit for being the wizard behind the curtain."

MY COMMENT - Agreed!

I always thought that if little Joey Tkach had half a brain, he would have obfuscated the "transformation" better to keep the income stream from the dumb sheep going. For example, while he was trashing the Church, he could have picked one of Herbert Armstrong's lesser controversial works such as "The 7 Laws of Success" and re-published it monthly in serial form a chapter at a time in The Plain Truth magazine. This would have let little Joey Tkach to dispute those who were saying Herbert Armstrong was being thrown out of the Church. It also would have created cognitive dissonance in the dumb sheep tithe slaves who were too dumb to see through the obfuscation.

Now that would have been brilliant if little Joey had had a brain - trash the Church and its doctrines while publishing with great fanfare the late Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong's "7 Laws of Success" in serial form in The Plain Truth at the same time.


Anonymous said...

"Sometimes I think people give Joe Jr. too much credit for being the wizard behind the curtain. There's no question that a cadre of folks in Pasadena had misgivings about a number of WCG doctrines going back a number of years. I'm not convinced, though, that the whole thing was some big grandiose plan. I say that because it's not that hard to disassemble HWA's doctrinal premise."

Well, there's wizards with grandoise plans, and then there's wizards with grandoise plans.

After the bubble bursts and the zeitgeist has passed, it's easy to wonder what the fuss was about. At this late date, after Armstrongism's groupthink has splintered so spectacularly, after you've become aware of how genetics research has so unambiguously nailed the coffin shut on British Israelism, and while witnessing how the entire movement is slouching toward extinction, it's easy to see the WCG train-wreck as the inevitable result of the implausibility of WCG's theology combined with a leadership vacuum. It's easy to forget what it was like to be a member of WCG during the 60's, 70's, and 80's, and how little things had changed in the 90's under HWA's handpicked successor, and how much people did not want anything to change. As Joe Sr. would say over and over, that only cults explode after their founder's death. But that we had been a cult was all part of Joe Jr's marketing plotline for a mainstream WCG. It's also easy to forget how firm a grasp on the reigns of power Joe Jr. acquired, behind the scenes before his father died, and openly afterward.

If you weren't in Pasadena, with a job that took you behind the scenes of Joe Jr's theatrical production, working with Joe Jr and Mike Feazell on the one hand, and also hearing everything that people were saying about them in hushed tones, it's easy for a disconnected historian to chalk it up to a confluence of external sources, and basically write Joe Jr and his cronies out of the story. And certainly, at this late date, historical hypotheses can be floated that seem logical, explanatory, plausible, and compelling even (whatever that means). With history, that's what we usually have to do. And for many who weren't so close to the center of it, that's what they have to do to as well. I don't begrudge that. But it's not like having been there at the time. I can't imagine anyone who was there floating a hypothesis like this.

Connie Schmidt said...

I thought Joe Jr. was going to, at some point, allow for election of a new President of the church. He made this claim
many years ago.

How does he justify being a "Pope For Life", without any accountability or election?

The one doctrine that Joey is hanging on to that is still HWA driven, is church government from the top down,
with an unaccountable leader, without a process or system to have him replaced.

Ed said...

This sounds like a more gradual Tkatch style change process.
They want to make sure the vast majority of UCG members will accept doctrinal changes before they start to change doctrines.

James said...

Main stream is the way to sell you product. Good for the UGC money whores!

Anonymous said...

Will "going mainstream" really help? What has happened to the membership of mainstream denominations since the 60's? It has declined steadily. The whole church is in desperate need of another reformation. If the church was built today, rather than 2,009 years ago, I doubt if it would look like a 1500 A.D. church, building, liturgy and all.

Anonymous said...

Connie Schmidt said...

“It is interesting to note that the portraits of HWA and his wife Loma were permanently removed from the UCG Cincinnati HQ council chambers when they remodeled them this past winter.”

Removing the memory of Herbert W. Armstrong is just the start. Continue to watch the remodelling and see if they hang up a portrait of the UCG's real hero: Joseph W. Tkach, Sr.