Saturday, July 15, 2017

CEM: The Vultures Are Circling

From an East Texas source regarding the current turmoil swirling around Church of God Big Sandy and Christian Educational Ministries/Born to Win.

Please note: Any information James Malm posts about this is from spurious sources.

The Vultures Are Circling
A recent comment to Banned By HWA expressed concern about the possible merge of Christian Educational Ministries (CEM) with Church of God Big Sandy (COGBS).  The fate of CEM should indeed be of concern to CEM supporters at this time.  Ronald Dart passed away over a year ago.  Allie Dart has long been the number one, bulwark defender of Ron’s image and Ron’s works since his illness and death.  But she is not in good health at this time.

For this reason, it is important to keep an eye on organizations and individuals that could potentially be key players in this rapidly-evolving situation.

Let’s be blunt.  CEM is a cash cow.  Granted, CEM’s social media presence is quite deficient – especially when compared to some of the other ACOGs.  In spite of this, CEM has a healthy income through contributions and from sales.  All of this is done mostly thru radio and snail mail.  CEM has little overhead when it comes to paid employees.  And, contrary to popular opinion, only 6% of CEM’s inventory requires a purchase.  CEM gives away 94% of its products. 

CEM’s biggest strength is the inventory of preaching and teaching created by Ron Dart.  His DVD’s, CDs, booklets, books, and articles are considered by many to be the best messages in the ACOG movement.  So it would be quite the coup for any ACOG that ends up merging with or partnering with CEM. 

And let’s not play word games.  There is no such thing as a merge or a partnership.  Whether discussing business, education, politics, or religion, there is no such thing as a merge or a partnership.  There can be claims that two organizations are merging or partnering.  But a merge or a partnership always ends up being an acquisition where one dominates the other.

So no one should be fooled into believing that CEM will merge or partner with another group.  Any such group will, in reality, be acquiring the works of Ron Dart. 

Here are some of the possible corporate candidates for the acquisition of CEM.

Church of God Big Sandy.  When David III was first hired by CEM, it was hard to imagine that his dad wasn’t salivating at the prospects of some kind of alliance that would keep both father and son on the ecclesiastical teat for many years.  After all, COGBS is experiencing severe financial difficulties due to the recent loss of its major donor who had been financing the group since its inception.   And COGBS’s membership is now only a fraction of what it was when they separated from United Church of God. 

That was then.  This is now.  The possibility of a CEM/COGBS marriage probably died with the firing of David Havir III by CEM.  COGBS pastor Dave Havir is notorious for being highly protective of his cubs.  Anyone who dares criticize either of his adult boys has committed the unpardonable sin and can never be forgiven. 

For years, a local business in Big Sandy had an arrangement where it would occasionally rent the COGBS building during the week for things like employee meetings and Thanksgiving dinners.  After several years of this arrangement, David III was hired by that company.  Things didn’t work out.  He left the company.  Soon after, Pastor Dave then kicked that company out of his building.  They have not been allowed to rent it since.   

You can be assured that Pastor Dave (who is known for his many, many sermons about how he is so “besmirched” with his “good name being trampled thru the mud”) is now enraged by the “unfair treatment” his son has received at the hands of CEM.  So you probably won’t see any more cooperative efforts between CEM and COGBS.

Still, it can’t be completely ruled out as a possibility.  After all these years, both United and Worldwide are still trying to figure out how Havir beat them so badly in the battle for members and money when he broke with each of them long ago.   So maybe Papa Doc still has his mojo. 

United Church of God.  This is an interesting possibility.  And the only reason it should be considered as a possibility within ACOG circles is because UCG elder John Garnant is on the CEM board.  When John accepted a position on the CEM board, some were startled -- considering UCG does not allow its ministers to get involved with other church groups. 

An example of this would be when Aaron Dean was disciplined for preaching at a non-UCG feast site.  His punishment was that he was removed from the UCG speaking schedule for six months.  

One possible explanation of John’s ability to be involved with CEM is that that the bosses in Cincinnati haven’t picked up on his wayward activities yet.  Or it could be that UCG (considering CEM’s healthy cash position) is interested in maintaining any longshot chance they might have.  CEM’s good income and low overhead make it mighty attractive to any group that has trouble making ends meet.  UCG is just such an organization.

Church of God International.  This might be the most viable and realistic possibility.  After all, Ron left CGI to create CEM during the late Garner Ted’s scandal regarding the masseuse.  CGI and CEM currently co-sponsor a Feast site in Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky, where 325 people attended in 2016.  However, there are some corporate culture issues that would have to be dealt with for these two groups to join forces.

When Ron Dart first set up CEM, he made it very clear that his new ministry was not to be a church.  And he made it clear that he wanted CEM’s corporate culture to be different than those of the ACOGs.

Dart knew that there was contention over the very term “Armstrongism” within the church of God movement where some think highly of Herbert Armstrong’s ministry while others are totally antagonistic toward it.  Dart wanted to find a middle ground.  And, in his attempts to create a balanced approach, he pointed out there were certain aspects of Herbert Armstrong’s (HWA) ministry that he wanted to avoid in the newly-created CEM.  Here is what Dart was quoted as saying in the January 31, 2003 issue of “The Journal.”  The title of the article was “Beware the Demons of Differentiation.”

I don’t know how much of a role old habits played in HWA’s evangelistic efforts, but I do know he looked for differentiation, and he did so adversarially, as an ad man naturally would.  What he wanted were wedge issues: issues that could be used to drive a wedge between a person and his old church so the person could be attracted to the WCG.  And he wanted exclusive use of the product.  He didn’t want you coming to church with him this week and going somewhere else next week.  The wedge issues are familiar: born again, heaven... Sabbath and Sunday, pagan holidays, immortal soul, etc.  But, in typical ad man style, Mr. Armstrong advanced these with hyperbole and often took them too far in the attempt to differentiate.  Other products (read denominations or churches) were demonized to complete the sale.  The long and the short of the by-products of this approach was a church that was long on hostility and short on tolerance.”

Dart went on to say:

“Change is coming slowly, but it is sharply hindered by the need for organizational identity.  One wonders how this dynamic played into the Tkach revolution in the WCG.  Like the old ad man, Joseph Tkach and associates couldn’t see any middle ground.  It was either Armstrongism or mainstreamism.  They knew the former was wrong, so the other must be right.”  

Dart also said:

“It is the tolerance we at Christian Educational Ministries have learned over many years…that makes the CEM Feast of Tabernacles and its Internet forum possible.  It doesn’t require any compromise with right and wrong, merely a humility that comes from being wrong too many times and a willingness to grant others the right to make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons.”

So here we have Dart making it crystal clear that Armstrongism was definitely not going to a part of his new ministry.  Yet, in CGI there are a number of ministers in that organization who are vehemently opposed to criticisms of Herbert Armstrong.  This is not just characteristic of some CGI ministers in the US, but also characteristic of some in Canada and Jamaica.  Instead of rejecting Armstrongism as Dart does, they embrace what some of them call “reformed Armstrongism.”  So we have two different aspects of two different cultures that could prove to be irreconcilable.

Another problem is in the area of church government.  When the idea of a joint CGI/CEM feast site was first floated, some CEM supporters were upset at the very thought.  One CEM supporter produced an email where he pointed out that most churches which support CEM are congregational where the brethren select their own elders and deacons.  CGI’s churches have pastors who appointed by and answer to the corporate office -- not to the local brethren.  As far as the writer of the email was concerned, “This church governance issue is a deal-breaker because CGI is in no way democratic.  And I am not alone on this.”

We also have a major difference that revolves around how the opening night services are conducted at CGI feast sites vs. what has traditionally been done at the CEM feast sites when Dart was still alive.

Over the years, CEM’s opening night church service would include a message about the birth of Christ.  This goes back to the old teaching in the Worldwide Church of God that Jesus was probably born in the Autumn – perhaps even on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles.   In CEM’s opening night services, there would be songs such as Handel’s “Joy to the World the Lord Has Come” which some in CGI label “a Christmas carol.”

During the planning stages for the 2016 Land Between the Lakes feast site, the CEM supporters wanted the opening night services to include these birth of Christ messages and songs that CEM had been doing for years.  In the end, this had to be rejected because there was no doubt that most CGI members would be offended. 

Further, there is the problem of competing definitions regarding the question, “Who is and who is not a Christian?”  For years, CEM has stated that many Sunday-keepers could very well be Christians who will be in the First Resurrection.  This goes against what many CGI ministers believe.  For example, a recent CGI “Armor of God” program hosted by Bill Watson and Wayne Hendrix entitled “Can a Christian Be Unconverted?” stated (at the 5:18 mark), “There’s what?  One and a half to two billion Christians on planet Earth.  Most of them – the overwhelming majority of that number – are nominal…Christians.”

Ron Dart would adamantly oppose that statement Accepting the possibility of the conversion of non-ACOG Christians was fundamental to Dart.   Conversely, denying the possibility of the conversion of non-AOG Christians seems to be fundamental to CGI’s Armor of God presenters.

Finally, we come to perhaps the most important reason why there should be no merger between CGI and CEM:  This idea goes against the wishes of CEM’s founders, Ron and Allie Dart.   From the beginning, they have always wanted CEM to be a stand-alone ministry that will not be in any way absorbed or led by another organization.   Allie is still adamant about it.

At the 2016 Land Between the Lakes feast site, it was mentioned to the congregation that, a few years prior, Ron had been approached about a the possibility of a joint CGI/CEM feast.  The speaker recounted that Ron replied, “It’s time.”   This story is no doubt accurate.  But Dart’s statement (“It’s time.”) should only be applied in the context of feast cooperation.  It should not be extended to include any sort of merger or combining or affiliation or unification or alliance or whatever spin/label is put on such possible future action. 

When Dart set up CEM, he clearly articulated that he wanted CEM and its culture to be distinct from the ACOGs.  He knew it was vital to CEM’s survival that it be kept corporately separate from the other ACOGs. 

Now we get into the question, “Can CEM continue as an independent, stand-alone ministry without being taken over by another ACOG?  The chances of this approach succeeding will probably depend on which individual ends up at the helm of CEM.  In the past, there have been numerous candidates who were considered to take the reins of CEM.  Dave III was not the first attempt.  In fact, he was selected only after discussions and interviews had failed with several other men.  Here are a few:

Richard Crow.  Richard would probably not be a good fit because he currently works as a high-priced lawyer.  CEM could never match his current pay.  Taking over CEM would require him to abandon his lifestyle back at his nice subdivision in Houston.  It would not be pleasant for his family to relocate to rural East Texas which is not known as an urbane social mecca for the arts.  Further, Richard is not considered to be one of the better speakers in the ACOG movement.  And perhaps most importantly, Richard’s father, George, is on the board of directors of CGI.  This might be viewed as a conflict of interest by those who wish to keep CEM truly independent.

Mardy Cobb.  On one hand, part of the CEM office staff has been actively promoting Mardy to the CEM board because he is a good speaker and writer.  On the other hand, Allie does not want him in that position because she isn’t convinced that Mardy would be enthusiastic about promoting Ron’s works.  She is fearful that any new head of CEM might make modifications (even minor ones) to Ron’s teachings similar to (but not as far-reaching as) what was done by Joe Tkach when he ascended to the leadership of WCG.   Also, Mardy has his own ministry which he would be loath to abandon.

Wesley White.  Wesley and Allie have had lengthy discussions on at least three occasions about his coming on board CEM, but each time one of them had a change of heart and pulled back.  One of the sticking points is Wesley’s being non-political while Allie has stated that, since Ron was a Republican, she wants this new person to be a Republican also.  Wesley and Allie still maintain a personal friendship, but he refuses to get involved in CEM at this time.  He has refused recent requests to preach at their Sabbath services.  Wesley publicly wears his independence from all church organizations to the point where it sounds to some like a badge of vanity.  And like Mardy, Wesley has his own ministry, Dynamic Christian Ministries, which features a weekly internet Facebook/Youtube show.  He shows no eagerness to give it up in order to take on what he calls “the drama of CEM.

Brent Kern.  Brent has a long history with CEM.  He was one of the few featured speakers at the mega CEM feast sites of years past.  During those glory years, CEM’s feast preaching was usually limited to Ron, Larry Watkins, John Reedy, and Brent.  Brent is considered to be a dynamic speaker and is a good vocalist who enjoys entertaining the congregation.  But he seems to have moved too far into Methodism to be an acceptable candidate.  His wife is of the Methodist faith and, over the past several years, Brent has spent more time worshipping in Methodist churches than he has with any of the ACOGs.  It would be an understatement to say he is not known as a doctrinal purist when it comes to traditional ACOG beliefs.

Larry Watkins.  Larry is considered to have a pretty good chance to take over CEM after Allie is out of the picture.  After all, Larry was with Ron since CEM’s inception and departed only after Ron found out that, during the early days of Ron’s incapacitation when it was thought Ron only had days to live, Larry had been negotiating to “cooperate with” other ACOGs.  Larry was then terminated from CEM, so there is some bad blood in this relationship.  Larry is not considered a good speaker, but he has the support of some CEM board members.  Allie recently asked the CEM board to promise in writing that they would not bring Larry on board after she is gone.  The board adamantly refused to put this pledge in writing although Allie was given somewhat of a verbal commitment.  Needless to say, Allie has no faith in any verbal promise from a board she has long ago lost confidence in.   The bottom line is that, if you are a gambler, put your money on Larry if the hiring for this position can be put off until Allie is gone.

Unless…  Yes, there is an “unless.”  Larry is getting up there in years and friends notice he is getting feebler these days.  In that case, in it conceivable that CEM could be headed up by Larry’s close friend, John Reedy.  John is a successful Tyler businessman who, like Larry, was heavily involved in CEM from the beginning.  It is rumored that John is considering retirement from that business.  So we may see John take over CEM using Larry part time.   John’s assuming the helm of CEM would create a closer relationship between CEM and CGI because of the fact that John is on the board of directors of CGI.  If CEM were managed by  Watkins and/or Reedy, it would indeed be a defacto acquisition of CEM by CGI because Watkins and Reedy would both take their direction from CGI.  There is no way that either of these men would operate independently of CGI.

Finally, it is good to be reminded that, just because an idea may look good on paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a truly viable plan.  The ACOG groups, while doctrinally similar, have evolved into some very different corporate cultures.  CEM’s leadership and any potential partner’s leadership would be wise to fully examine and comprehend these differences so they don’t make a serious mistake in this matter.

It is unfortunate that issues like this are decided behind closed doors by our “betters” who feel no need to consult with the lay people.  It is sad because we are the ones who tithe and pay the bills for these organizations.  We pay the salaries of these leaders.

Too many times, the brethren are told of these decisions only after it is fate accompli.  At that point, the only decision we have is whether to stay or go.  In other words, voting with our feet.   And this is why their numbers continue to dwindle.

All of this bears watching.  It will not be dull.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

Dave Pack: "...he truly fears for those who are sitting on assets but just can't quite "pull the trigger and reach into their wallet."

Poor Dave Pack.  It looks like some of this members are not being too respectful to him now that he is demanding all of their assets once again.  Could it possibly be true that some are finally waking up to what a fraud he is?

July 4, 2017 
I attended RCG services for several months before realizing that David Pack is a total fraud.  
The last few sermons I was able to read online, before I was removed from the member portion of RCG's website, have him practically demanding that his congregants give all their money to "the Work" as the end is very near.  
In the four months I attended I noticed how obsessed he was with "the splinters" all the time stating that any day now the people in the splinters would be flicking to him now that God had given him the knowledge of Daniel's unsealed book. (Which is the basis for the 75 plus sermon series.) 
Then last month he did a complete 180¬ļ and stated that the splinters would not be coming to him and that he would not be expanding his campus--but he still needs all of our money to continue "the Work." He went as far as to say that he truly fears for those who are sitting on assets but just can't quite "pull the trigger and reach into their wallet." He reminded the women (in which I assume there are more of in his "church") that they are entitled to half of the marital assets. Stated several times in a loud voice that he "needs funding now!" 
He also made the statement, in a sort of roundabout way, that some were sort of questioning him or being disrespectful to his authority which is something that didn't used to happen back in the older days where respect was of more importance than it is now. I took that as sort of a warning he was indirectly giving to his congregants--sort of letting them know in advance that he did not like it. He stated that one of his ministers just quit.  
I was truly surprised to see the beautiful Mercedes Don Conard (minister who headed the Iowa/Nebraska/Missouri area) drove. I knew that he lived in Topeka and so just a general Internet search of name, property, etc., I discovered the very expensive house he resides in, on a lake with long dock and boat, that happens to be in his wife's name only. (She does not attend nor believe in what her husband believes in.) Now there's a very convenient reason Don Conard has for not being able to give all he has to "the Work."  
I feel like such a fool, but I wasn't one for very long. I appreciate your work on your website. --Escaped RCG

Dave Pack: "Sell all you have, release your funds to prove to God that you trust Him completely."

Dave Pack continues his downward spiral into madness.  The problem with what you read below is that his members will do exactly what he told them to do.  After all of this time, and with all the things on the Internet about this slug, they deserve everything that will happen to them when he goes belly up or is institutionalized.

From Exit and Support:

July 5, 2017 
This are notes from Dave Pack's last few sermons (end of May 2017 to probably first week in June): 
He states that the "fire" (ultimate testing of God's people) has already started. He talked about not hiring any more ministers and said that we do not need to build any more buildings because the end is just about here. Then he said that the coming "fire" before the Tribulation period (which is right around the corner) means to totally commit to the end-time Work by pulling their wallets out of their pockets to fund the Work. References Luke 12: 32 and 33: "Sell that you have and give alms."  
Talks about how he knows there are millions of dollars that "God's people" are sitting on right now and they're trying to get themselves to release it but it's hard. Family, spouse, kids--they are catching 'heat' from family, but of course, this heat is nothing compared to what is coming on the world. But "God is literally going to cook it out of you with the coming fire." The early birds into the coming kingdom must do this. He said he truly fears for those who do not sell all that they have. He says they can't play games. God will not be able to let people "escape" the coming Tribulation unless they are willing to do everything. They will or won't obey that command. Says that is the fuel for the coming fire (or testing of God's people). Says you can't be saved unless you do this. 
In the next sermon Pack talks about faith. He finally gets to the point of his sermon during the second hour. Sell all you have, release your funds to prove to God that you trust Him completely. Pray for those who have significant funds (implying they won't let go of their money). He reads verses referencing denying God, or denying Christ, by not doing good works. He talks about knowing that we are close [to the end], as his own trials are telling him that. Mentions the verse about selling all you have, references fundraising, saying he never talks about that. Says he truly fears for all those who don't sell all they have and sit on their money. He says he really feels afraid for those people as they won't be saved. Think of the guilt you will have not giving all your money to God. Don't hide money. Don't deny God in this way. --[name removed]

Ignore-ance: Not Just What You Don't Know...But What You Won't Know

COGwriterAt the Christianity Today website, an author (Shawn Graves) asked and provided some answers to the question, Why are there still atheists?

Poster's Note:  Still?  In this age of blossoming scientific inquiry and because "knowledge will be increased" , which to religionists is probably one of the most threatening disasters to their narrow minds they can imagine, there will be more an more people waking up, losing their literalist religion and coming to their senses.

"Spiegel asserts that for many atheists, it’s not “cool, rational inquiry” that led to their atheism. Rather, in many cases it’s complex moral and psychological factors that produce atheism. For example, Spiegel points to research suggesting that some prominent atheists had broken, defective relationships with their fathers. Others live in perpetual disobedience and rebellion—resisting lifestyle changes required upon adopting theism. And still others confess that they just don’t want there to be a God. Spiegel contends that immorality has cognitive consequences—it impedes one’s ability to recognize that theism is true.
No doubt he’s right. Surely some people accept atheism due in part to such powerful motivational  factors."

Poster's Note:  The idea that those who have come to other conclusions about the origins, inerrancy, and historical reality of the Bible do so so they can break God's laws, be immoral and do what they want is one of the oldest and most stupid and  mistaken notions about why many grow older and wiser about all things Biblical.  Bob Thiel shrinks in knowledge as far as I can tell.  Good science,  good investigation of history, good archaeology, good cosmology, good paleontology and good theology done well is THE REASON.  The Hebrew Concept of God becomes the ever shrinking one in light of our growing understanding of the realities of where everything in the Universe comes from and how it may have arrived without the need for magic. Science informs religion and corrects it's mistaken notions about how the world and life works and where it came from. Men don't really come from mud and women don't really come from spare ribs. Evolution is a fact and only those who either cannot read or have the kind of faith that not only is based on what they don't know, but also what they won't know cling to creationism and the ridiculous notion that real humans are contained in some meager "6000 year plan of God." Humans have roamed America for at least 12,000 years and Europe and the Middle East and Africa for over 200,000 years.

 A good long sit down with "Foundational Falsehoods of Christianity" by Aron Ra, who you'll dismiss because he has long hair and probably likes football, could be enlightening. However since your method of searching out a matters is 1. Assume your conclusion and 2. Assert your conviction (then repeat) you will never grow in either the grace or knowledge you claim to understand.

Religion does not inform science and never has or will. Good science done well has NEVER had to apologize to the church and go backwards into the Biblical explanations of things.

Dr. Bob asserts....

Now, actually one of the reasons that there are evolutionary atheists is, believe it or not, in the 19th century various male “intellectual” were looking for excuses to not have to abide by biblical standards of sexual morality. And back then, some of them even admitted that is why they embraced the concept that life randomly evolved without a creator God.

Posters Note:  Bullshit Bob. No one is looking for excuses, they are searching out a matter, which even the Bible says "it is the glory of a king" to do so, even if it was not encouraged among the rabble,  and this kind of apologetic is a pathetic attempt to skirt real issues. 

The various 19th century "intellectuals" were looking for answers to the questions the growing fields of science were bringing to the table to be explained and understood in reality.  Many of the early critical thinkers were ministers and deeply religious with a love of science and a mind open to the fact the Bible may not need to be taken too literally in it's mythologies about creation, floods and the grand exploits of a rather insignificant cultic people writing up for themselves an amazing pedigree, while in captivity.

"I would also add hypocrisy to the list. The fact that evangelicals, for one example, are more likely to be involved with fornication than the general public, despite biblical admonitions against it, turns people off."

Poster's Note:  Your shallow and childish judgments and explanations from the Bible also turn people off. Majoring in the minors does as well and you are good at it.  I would also add delusional thinking to the list of reasons some men feel the need to mind everyone else's business and pretend to know more than they actually do. Claiming your double portion of the spirit and thus claiming to be a genuine prophet in the Biblical mode, being anointed for a cold, also turns people of faith off and would turn anyone into a scoffer.

"There are also scholars, for example, like Bart Ehrman, who started out as Protestant but when they learned more about church history, realized that Protestantism simply did not fit with much of the Bible...."

Poster's Note: Bart did not just come to feel Protestantism simply did not fit with the Bible. You are misrepresenting his journey and his conclusions.  You obviously have never read one book Bart Ehrman wrote in full. I'd start with "Misquoting Jesus" before you get too sure you have the sure word of anything. 

"But I would like to add that it is illogical to be an atheist. While there may be many reasons that people may doubt the existence of a personal God, such as the one that the Bible teaches about, the reality is that any that conclude that there cannot be a creator/god are being foolish: 
1 The fool has said in his heart,”There is no God.” (Psalms 14:1, NKJV)

Poster's Note: Rather you should say Bob, "In my opinion it is illogical to be an atheist"  To those who have done the hard work of inquiry for their lifetimes as opposed to sitting in their living room chairs pontificating over things they know next to nothing about,  it is completely logical to question the Sunday School version of life. No Bob, the fool has said in his heart, "there is only Bob Thiel's rendition of God and Bob knows the mind of this god better than they all."

 Ignore-ance is clinging to not only what you don't know, it's clinging to what you won't know.

 Bob continues...

"One of the reasons that it is foolish to conclude that there is no God is because humans should realize that we are finite beings. No human has been to ever place in the universe, no human has lived forever, no human has been to every possible dimension that may exist in the universe. Since no human has done that, for any human to conclude that there cannot be a god or any type is illogical. Why? Because no human has enough possible proof that God cannot exist. Doing so with limited “evidence” is foolish."

Poster's Note:  This is the completely invalid argument that you can't know anything unless you know everything.  That is, in order to have any knowledge at all, you have to have infinite knowledge of all and only God has that.  So before you can really know anything for sure, you  either you have to be God himself or you have to have that very special relationship with God that reveals to you real and complete knowledge above all other knowing.  This, of course, is exactly what religion claims to provide. It is also bogus and pure apologetic for pretending to know what don't know in fact. 

"But, despite the fact that some claim to be atheists, God’s existence is logical."

Poster's Note: To YOU you.....

In Non-Compliant Love
"Apostate Former Minister and Scoffer Falsely So Called"