Saturday, July 13, 2019

Richard Pinelli (COGWA)

I have been getting several reports over the last few days that Richard Pinelli of Church of God, a Worldwide Association (COGWA) has died.

On several exCOG Facebook pages, Pinelli is NOT getting any words of praise dished out upon him.  Quit the opposite.  Many found him to be a distasteful and arrogant minister who was abusive to them when he was their pastor.

Others said that arrogance is what propelled him over into COGWA when it formed, where he carried on his old ways of mistreating people.

Before long we will see huge amounts of praise dished out for the greatest Christian the church has ever had.  The accolades and the emotional syryp will be thick.

Pinelli was a former Worldwide Church of God minter who left during the changes to help start up United Church of God.  Like most of the other top leaders in UCG, he left once a secure income was guaranteed him.  In UCG, Pinelli served on the Council of Elders, a group of men who are not known for their most ethical and moral standards.

Ever since UCG formed it was rocked by one scandal after another.

The Bluefield and Princeton, West Virginia UCG congregations had to have been two of the most corrupt UCG churches ever created. It had a church member who embezzled huge amounts of money from the bank she was in charge of and who passed that money out freely to UCG members at the Feast time as gifts and built a church building for the UCG congregations.  Then add to that, it had an ordained elderly man who was sexually assaulting young women in the church and UCG covered it up.

Below is that story about how Richard Pinelli covered up for the abusive COG man, forever preserved on SILENCED.
To: "Nathan Albright"
Subject: Re: [unitedchurchofgodia] Notifying authorities, or UCG?
Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 12:13:23 -0400 
Hello Nathan, 
I wanted to answer your email but have been in Council meetings.
Thank you for passing along this information. Where people come up with these terrible charges is a mystery. We are not aware of any cases such as is being described by these gossips. 
There was a recent case where an elder in his late 70s gave public hugs to a young woman in his congregation whose mother let him know that now that her daughter was older she had become uncomfortable with his hugs. Others in the congregation had no problem with his hugs. Upon hearing that his hugs made her uncomfortable he immediately stopped giving them. A follow-up determined that the hugs were innocent expressions of grandfatherly affection and there was nothing illegal and certainly not sexually improper in that case.
Several years ago there was an entire UCG congregation in West Virginia which seceded from the mothership after a local elder molested a young lady in the congregation. The local elder had a history of doing this sort of thing. He had repeatedly been admonished by church leaders to stop, but as is so often the case, he didn't because he knew they would never discipline him. Keep in mind, this was back around 2004 - 2005 when all the leaders of COGWA were still running United. Doug Horchak, Jim Franks, Richard Pinelli, Clyde Kilough, etc., were all aware of what had taken place with this elder and how he had molested a young girl.
Nathan Albright, who is not shy about publicly addressing problems in the COGs, sent Richard Pinelli an email about the problems created by the Council's lack of action to resolve the situation:
Dear Mr. Holladay and Mr. Pinelli The attached message concerns a lively thread about the alleged fondling of a young lady in [...] by a local church elder. The situation has led to a lot of discussion, not all of it friendly, and the situation needs to be dealt with, as some people are threatening to call the police on the situation. Some of us know some (or all) of the parties involved in this particular situation, and I hope that the case is dealt with fairly and faithfully (and, at this point, quickly). Nathan Albright
He received the following response from Richard Pinelli, head of ministerial services:
From: "Richard Pinelli" Add to Address Book
United takes these accusations very seriously and there has been an investigation.
It is our hope that people will not hear a rumor of some sort of impropriety, jump to the worst case conclusion, and spread libelous and untrue embellishments, in a matter about which they really know little or nothing, that could destroy the reputations of innocent and decent people.
Richard Pinelli
This attempt by Pinelli to just shove things under the rug so enraged the family of the victim that her brother-in-law wrote the following response and posted it in a public yahoo group:

I have been an avid reader of this and 3-4 other forums over the last few months but due to the fact that it is now 2:30am and I cannot sleep, I have decided to make my first post. I grew up in the WCG/UCG along with approx 40 extended family members. My experiences in the Church couldn't have been better. Loving your neighbor, obeying God, serving your fellow mankind, a deep belief in Jesus Christ as our Saviour, and seeking first the Kingdom of God were not just subjects I heard in sermons but were the actions I saw practiced in the daily life of my extended family members. Last year, at the age of 24 I decided I wanted to live the way of life I saw work so well and that held out so much promise for an even better future and I was baptized. Like several on this forum I also held out a strong opinion that UCG was guided by wise leaders and that the church was headed in the right direction. I was disappointed to hear of groups or individuals leaving and could not understand why they felt the need to leave the organization. That has all changed in the last year… Because you see… the girl in WV that has been of much discussion on this forum is my wife's little sister, and is to me, the sister I never had.

There are three reasons why I've waited until now to shine some light on this very troublesome situation. First, the church asked all family members to not discuss the case until a decision was reached or else they would drop the appeal. Second, I really believed that the leaders of our church would take at least some just action to resolve the issue of an elder and sexual harassment. Third, after reading Mr. Pinelli's misleading response I felt it necessary to share some relevant facts in this matter.

It is a fact that an elder in WV has sexually harassed my sister-in-law. The "hugs" were accurately described in posts by Lindap, the elder would sneak up from behind, lock his arms directly under the breasts and then squeeze very tightly and lift for an extended period of time. There was indeed touching that could be categorized, at the very least as grossly inappropriate, and more accurately as molestation. I can absolutely guarantee you that such hugs would be grounds for severe discipline or reprimands were they to take place at one of our UCG Youth Camps. This situation involves an ordained official in UCG, are the standards less? This act of touching inappropriate body parts is in and of itself defined as sexual harassment in UCG's own Sexual Misconduct Guidelines (Section N reads: "No lewd touching or other inappropriate contact of a sexual nature is permitted with minors").

There will still be some who will defend this elder's actions as Mr. Pinelli did by describing them as "signs of grandfatherly affection" or by arguing that the elder meant nothing perverse by them. I already believe the prior paragraph alone, would require for UCG leaders to take some kind of action. But to those who are still skeptical let me provide the following evidence that has led me to believe his actions reflected his intent.

1. When confronted by my mother-in-law concerning his hugs, the elder did not apologize or show remorse for his actions. My family has yet to receive any form of apology. Think about this. If someone confronted you and told you something you had done was offensive and crossed the lines, and that was in no way your intent, what would you do? I'd say "I am so sorry, I never, ever meant it to be that way." Why hasn't the elder ever apologized to my sister &mother in-law?

2. Although it is true that the elder stopped the "hugs' with my sister-in-law after that confrontation, he has continued with the same type of perverted "hugs" with at least one other girl who is on record of having found it very offensive. This hits at the core of the issue. Mr. Pinelli makes it sound like all the problems have just gone away because the elder no longer hugs my sister-in-law.
Does he not care that this elder continues to practice this very inappropriate behavior with other young girls in the church????? And what does this say about the elder? Again I ask the question if you were told something you were doing was crossing the lines and you didn't have that intent, would you not stop that behavior immediately?

3. On several occasions the elder made perverse and suggestive verbal statements to my sister-in-law. What I am sure would be defended as "grandfatherly" jesting, clearly shows how he viewed my sister-in-law, a minor. This is just flat out wrong and did as much damage as the touching. I have seen campers kicked out of camp for making similar comments to females. Again, are our standards less for an ordained elder?

4. Mr. Pinelli says that "other girls in the congregation did not have a problem with the hugs." That statement could not be further from the truth. A deacon in that congregation had confronted the elder 4-5 years ago demanding that he immediately desist "hugging" his two teenage daughters. Other women from that congregation have gone on record that the elder had practiced the same behavior on them and that it was offensive. This was all documented and was presented to Mr. Pinelli in the original appeal. In fact, I doubt that there is any female still in the Princeton congregation (see pt 5), who would go on record as saying it was not offensive.

5. Some on this forum have demanded "firsthand evidence." Look no further than the Princeton congregation itself. After my mother- in-law was suspended, 2/3rds of the Princeton congregation quit.
These people had seen for years that what this elder was doing was inappropriate, and when they saw the church try to cover it up, they were so disillusioned as to quit UCG over it. Incidentally, the minister & elders family make up half the approx 10 or so people remaining.

It is likely that many of you will want to hear the other side of the story, and I think that not only prudent, but fair. The only thing I caution you on is, do not let anyone pull the classic defense lawyer maneuver of putting the plaintiff on trial. My mother-in-law is not a perfect person, no one is, and she quite possibly did not even handle this situation as perfectly as she would if she had to do it over again. But she is not the one who sexually harassed anyone, and she in no way deserved to be suspended indefinitely for refusing to meet the elder & minister alone.

In closing some of you are probably wondering what the family will do next since the church is obviously not going to do anything. Quite frankly, we all just want this to be over and get on with life, especially my sister-in-law. We are thankful that there is a just God in heaven who will indeed judge righteously. Our biggest challenge going forward will be to eventually forgive those who wronged my sister & mother-in-law and those who stood by and did nothing. But we must and we will.

I have heard so many times in sermons that we must love each as brothers and sisters in Christ. Academically I thought I always understood that concept, yet as I saw people in church over the years have considerable hurt I always shrugged my shoulders, sighed, and looked the other way. But when it's your own sister, it really is different. When you see someone you love deeply ravaged by emotional distress. Someone who starts blaming themselves with "it was my fault because I didn't say anything the first time he hugged me that way" and "I'm so sorry Mom, it's my fault that you are no longer part of the church", it most certainly excites more emotion than a shrug. When you see a vibrant teenage girl so weighted down with a situation that they fall ill and lay in bed for a summer that is suppose to be the best years of their life it evokes more than a sigh. And when you wonder how someone you care so much about can endure such things and not have a devastating impact on their spiritual life, it has finally turned my head and I will be Silent No More.

Thank you to the brothers and sisters on this forum who have kept my family in your thoughts and prayers. We will not forget it.

And so there you have it, Richard Pinelli doing God's work by trying to brush a sexual assault under the rug. Somewhere I have copies of the emails he sent to the family of the victim, where he threatened them with disfellowshipment if they ever went to the police. After the brother-in-law wrote the above message and publicly posted it, Pinelli crafted an apology that was not an apology (you know, the kind that says "I'm so sorry YOUR feelings were hurt", which is not a real apology where he could have taken responsibility for his actions) and emailed that to the victim....and still never offered to discipline the elder.

Why Are LCG Members Still Not Respecting Authority?

Check out the latest from Doug Winnail on how disrespectful people are to authority anymore.  He starts off with how disrespectful the world is today to those in authority (who usually people who are abusing their power.)  Then he delves into LCG members respecting those who are over them (usually men abusing their power.)  Shame on LCG members not respecting Rod McNair!  Shame!  Or cow-towing to Lil Jimmy Meredith as he wastes tithe money. Or listen to Gerald Weston talk about sex, how to raise your kids properly, sex, and more sex. Even Wyatt Ciesielka is on this bandwagon (see the previous post).

They just can't get no respect!

Respect for Authority: Today, we live in a global society where respect for authority and anyone in authority is in serious decline. Parents, teachers, police, judges, politicians, heads of churches and heads of state are portrayed and ridiculed as buffoons and liars or worse. While some of the cynicism and disrespect is deserved, much is fostered by an anti-authority attitude promoted by the media—that is unknowingly influenced by the god of this world, Satan the devil, who rebelled against God (2 Corinthians 4:4; Isaiah 14:12-15). The apostle Paul predicted that pride and disrespect for authority would be rampant at the end of the age—and that it would also impact the Church (2 Timothy 3:1-7; 4:1-4). However, this anti-authority attitude is contrary to God’s instructions in His word. Moses told the Israelites, “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people” (Exodus 22:28). Solomon advised, “Do not curse the king, even in your thought” (Ecclesiastes 10:20). James wrote, “Do not speak evil of one another” (James 4:11). The Apostle Paul instructed husbands to love their wives, and wives to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33). Paul also advised the Church, “we urge you, brethren, to recognize [get to know, acknowledge, value, respect, defer to] those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord… and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). The Scriptures indicate that God wants to see a very different attitude towards authority than we see spreading through our society today. Let’s recognize what is happening around us and strive to develop a godly attitude toward authority.
Have a profitable Sabbath,
Douglas S. Winnail
LCG members and those in the other COG's can only respect that which is deserving of respect.

Living Church of God Still Trying To Control What Members Say

Wyatt Ciesielka

For many Living Church of God members, there is no love lost when it comes to Wyatt Ciesielka. He is intensely disliked by many in LCG.

LCG has had a horrendous time keeping their members under control. They are not like those in the old days in the church that when a minister spoke it was as if God was speaking and people submitted. Today, in 2019, that no longer applies and no one cares what some ministers have to say. The internet has changed the way that COG members look at the ministry. People freely share their opinions about church issues, ministers and leaders. People no longer toe the line and LCG is NOT happy!
HWA took the OT pattern and reinvented it as a justification for tight ministerial control over church members. That pattern continues to this day. Just look at LCG's latest online sermon:  The Lips of the Righteous: Conversation Acceptable to God.
If you are a Christian, you have God's Holy Spirit dwelling within you. How arrogant and insulting it is for some minister to dare to tell you whether or not God finds your conversation acceptable. Especially when we know that ministers are some of the ones with the worst conversations tearing each other down behind each other's backs. In an ACOG, it's unacceptable for brethren to warn one another about a wolf-minister in the fold, but it is acceptable for a minister to spread falsehoods about members in order to divide and control them.
Fifty years ago, new members were willing to come under such control, back before HWA's prophecies were proven false. Today, old-timers will listen to these sermons and roll their eyes, knowing from experience that when a minister says "be careful what you talk about" there is indeed something rotten that members need to warn each other about. Prospective new members, however, will move on to a healthier church that doesn't so readily blaspheme the Holy Spirit at work in the hearts of the brethren. 

Holy? In What Universe?

Looking back on my decades in Armstrongism, there is one question that looms louder than any other question: How could we possibly think we were keeping the Sabbath and the Holy Days, well, Holy??

It's not as if I never understood the rationale that the Church and ministry gave us. Obedience, commanded assembly, Church authority, you follow, don't cause division, etc... Yet honestly there were always things that occurred, on the Sabbath, and Holy Days, that always, consistently, week after week or Festival after Festival, that made me question the "holiness" of the Holy Days the way that we observed it. 

Not only were the glaring differentials in the way we "observed" the Holy Days different from How scripture commanded their observances shining out like a spotlight over dark skies - the reality of our version of what makes a holy day holy just didn't add up to the Biblical definition of holiness. Something always seemed completely amiss about our definition of holiness compared to what was defined as holiness in the Holy Scriptures. 

In our worldview, to keep the Sabbath Holy was to obey the Church Polices exactly. To keep the Holy Days was to obey the Church Policies exactly. Yet, at the exact same time that the policies were being kept to the letter of the Law, some of the most carnal, disgusting, and dare I say worldly attitudes were consistently spewing out of members every single week. It was an inconsistency that never made sense to me. I thought to myself, "Why is it that we are calling how we do this holy when there's nothing holy here?"

Never mind the fact of the absolute disrespect we gave God while attempting to worship Him in the most disgusting, cheap, ungodly buildings you could think of. Now I know how you would respond to this. You would probably say that the building is not the church, and you would be right. Yet, when you have awful attitudes and ungodliness smelling the place up like a cow farm, it just made it seem doubly carnal, if you get my drift. 

Sure, we'd stop "working" at sunset on the dot, but the attitudes didn't stop "working". And was "working" on the Sabbath without pay truly not "working", because we were doing it "for the Church and brethren"? It was difficult to work out exactly how it was okay to work your butt off on the Sabbath for fellowship hour, potlucks, or hall set up and take down, but yet you couldn't sit down and watch television because you might get "worldliness" in your head. It was allowed to get suited up and ready for Basketball before Sunset at a district weekend ready to play as soon as the clock hit sundown, but if your mind is on Basketball dressed in the uniform while it's still the Sabbath, aren't you breaking it anyway? These were just a couple of tens of tens of examples that I constantly saw where church leadership, instead of confronting the main issue, used the easy out of "Binding and Loosing" to ease any doubts. "If the Church says it's OK, it's OK, so don't worry about it, it's not your problem."

The problem is, it was our problem. It was all of our "problem". For all of our crowing and pious praises of how great and awesome we were at keeping the Law when everyone else in the world were heathen sinners who did not follow or obey the Law of God, we were breaking it all the time, willingly, and often, knowingly, thinking we were on the right side of the Law when even the slightest breaking of the Law was breaking all of the Law. To say we fell short? That's the biggest understatement ever. We didn't even get past the starting line of law-keeping. And holiness? How many of us truly ever kept the Sabbath holy - in deed, action, and thought? How many of us broke the Sabbath without even knowing we broke the Sabbath - and then used grace as a license for lawbreaking - doing the same thing we always accused protestants of doing - protestants - who we always said never had an understanding of law and grace anyway? How many of us noticed the inconsistencies, just to brush them under the table - afraid to bring it up or talk about if for fear of causing division? How many of us just brushed it under the rug because we believed we didn't have any responsibility in our conduct and behavior once the ministry "bound and loosed"? 

If it was all about obedience to the ministry and the Church, then keeping the Sabbath and Holy Days would have been a piece of cake. Simply call or ask the minister, and if he says it's okay, great, and if it's not okay, don't do it. A surely powerful and effective way to grow in maturity and character, isn't it? Just pawn off all the responsibility to the minister while acting, thinking, and behaving like the word "Holy" simply meant "Human". 

Our version of Sabbath and Holy Day Keeping always was a slap in the fact not only to Jesus Christ and the New Covenant example of Rest in Christ but also to the Old Testament importance of the Law and Holy Days before Christ. It was a farce the way we did it, and a farce to this day in the Splinters. A conversation to have the next time you meet at the Buffet for Sabbath Dinner while the people you hire feed and serve you on such a most holy time.

submitted by SHT

Friday, July 12, 2019

Are We Capable of Causing People To Lose Their Faith?

One of the accusations that is frequently lobbed against us, by hit and run comments, is that we destroy peoples faith.  Of course, that was the favorite mantra that the Church of God used to quell anyone who might think differently than the established system was advocating.  Herbert Armstrong and Church Administration regularly threw that accusation out any time there was the slightest hint of turbulence arising in the church.  It was also used as a moneymaking tool to shame members into constantly giving more and more money to fund the system, just like we are witnessing today in almost every group out there.

Fear of losing faith was a strong motivator in keeping people in line.  The threat of an angry god not allowing us into Petra was a scary thing for many people that led them to knee jerk reactions any time someone criticized the church or the leadership.

We were set up in the church to revere our leaders as the personal mouthpiece of Christ on earth.  Whatever they said we were to obey without ceasing and questioning.  To question was to question God himself!  We loved to mock the Catholics for their strict obedience to the Pope, and yet we were just as worshipful and dogmatic when it came to Herbert Armstrong.  We see this evident still in the various splinter groups of the church today.  Look at how Gerald Flurry and Dave Pack are revered by their devotees today.  They are third in command under God and Christ! Dave and Gerald are the end time mouthpiece sent by God!

Church members were given an endless stream of booklets, magazines, form letters, books, TV programs and correspondence courses to indoctrinate them.  Everything was laid out in black and white as to how people were to believe and act. All of that material did nothing to help establish faith in a person.  If you cornered 98% of the members of any given Church of God today and asked them to prove any doctrine of the church, out of the Bible, WITHOUT using any church-related literature in front of them, they could not do it. Having an endless list of doctrines and rules to follow does not establish faith.  It never has and never will.

When you look at the few followers of Jesus that actually got it, they were not worried about being zealous, adhering to innumerable laws and rules, or dependant upon someone to tell them how to act or believe.  Their minds were totally overwhelmed by the love and compassion that was shown them that they totally reveled in the grace.  Look at the thief on the cross.  He did not have to keep any Sabbath, not eat any pork, or be controlled by some religious Pharisaical nut-job. He did nothing but look at Jesus and witness something that he knew he wanted and needed.  That was faith at its purest form.

What we are witnessing in the Church of God today is a group of men who are mentally unstable. Never has the church had such a crop of mentally unbalanced men.  They all could be test cases for the current DSM manual for mental disorders!

Dave Pack and Gerald Flurry top the list, quickly followed by Bob Thiel, James Malm, and Ron Weinland. These top five are psychopaths getting really close to leading their followers down dark roads of despair, which may, unfortunately, lead to the deaths of many.

The fact that Pack and Flurry have surrounded themselves with a small cabal of men who publicly back them in regards to every word they utter shows just how controlling these two are.  Somewhere, deep down in the farthest reaches of the minds of these men who support Flurry and Pack, there has to be some spark that tells them what they are hearing is a load of bullshit.  Either they are too blinded to wake up or they inwardly are just as corrupt and vile as the men they follow.  Being part of the inner circle of the Church of God has always had a strong appeal to so many mentally unbalanced men over the decades.

The same goes for Bob Thiel and James Malm.  Malm is all about control.  Not a single thing he advocates will ever create faith in his few followers.  He demands zealotry from everyone and strict adherence to the rules and yet Jesus broke the rules over and over leading people to want what he had, so-much-so that they knew that just by touching his garment they would be healed.  That is true zealousness!  Not one single law was required to be kept. No snarling and spitting of Old Covenant laws can ever accomplish that.

And then, there is Bob Thiel.  Really? WTF are we witnessing in him?  Never have we witnessed a man who is so full of himself as we are in Thiel.  His self-importance knows no boundaries; just like his thought processes.  A mentally stable mind would be able to articulate one goal, one vision or one topic at a time.  Thiel's mind wanders as incessantly as his hands do.  Who needs to hear a sermon with 40 different topics covered in it?  How in the hell does that build up one's faith?  I truly feel sorry for his African followers. I am sure many of them are sincere in their beliefs and want to do what is right, but Thiel is leading them astray with his narcissistic personality.  It is all about him, his double blessing and his dreams.   His message is never about Jesus.  It is never about real grace.  It is never about what justification is all about.  It is never about simple faith.  A faith that can be summed up on in a simple, 'help!" or "thanks!"

If what I post here, or what Dennis, TLA, SHT or others post here causes someone to lose their faith, then their faith was not faith after all, but wishful thinking.  Reading about evolution, atheism, agnosticism does not destroy faith. Being forced to question one's adherence to certain splinter group leaders does not destroy faith. Reading about the myriad of lives destroyed by the church does not destroy faith.

I for one feel no need to have to "prove" anything when it comes to God, the Bible, truth, or any other subject that Armstrongism demanded of us.  It was a tiresome and unrewarding process. I find it much more rewarding to live in the mystery and uncertainty,   Living in the questions and having to wrestle with things when it comes to religion and faith is much more rewarding.

If one wants to look at real faith, it is tied to a future vision.  An assurance in the future, a future we are so assured of that we know we already possess the inheritance of Christ in our lives.  We know that the kingdom is not here in a physical sense but we are so assured of that kingdom that we live it out today in our lives and want to share it with the world around us.  We still may screw up, often, daily or hourly, but it is ok. We can still stand firm because we know what was, is, and will be accomplished.

Just my 2 cents.

Adult Sabbath School: "The Problem is YOU never understood the Bible or Jesus"

My View is the Correct View
It's just that simple. 

Anonymous said...

"The problem that I see with so many who were once part of the WCG experience is that yes, you all "soaked in it" but you didn't really understand it (The bible, not WCG doctrines)."

"The problem that I see with many who were once part the WCG experience is that yes, you all "soaked" in it but didn't really understand it the way I understand it, the Bible, not WCG doctrines"

I never met anyone in Christianity, whether Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Evangelical or Two Seed in the Spirit, who thought they understood the Bible and Jesus in any other way than the correct way. No one ever said, "Yes, I know I believe the wrong way from what the Bible teaches and I attend the false church, but hey...."

There are hundreds of denominations and thousands of splits and splinters exactly because the Bible lends itself to confusion of belief and every imaginable opinion and view of it and "the meaning" of everything God, Jesus, Life, Death and the hearafter.  All are the true church and all see the Bible correctly or they'd not attend the church of their choice.

That should be obvious

The Apostle Paul made it very clear that HIS view of the Gospel was the correct one. Those that troubled him and the Galatians were none other than the Jerusalem Apostles were the ones who took exception to Paul's view of Jesus, which came before any Gospel was ever written, no matter how cloaked in the NT the "there are some who" were.  

Galatians 1:6-15 6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted,(From me) let them be under God's curse! 10Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. ( Evidently yes. This from the man who said or forgot he said, or failed to mention he said because he was being a Galatian to the Galatians. I Corinthians 9 19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

How could you ever really know what a man given to this approach believed?

Whether on the Damascus Road, In vision carried up to the Third Heaven or taught by Jesus personally in Arabia, Paul's knowing was mystical

Galatians 1: 11I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. 13For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15But when God, who set me apart from my mother's womb (like only Jeremiah and Jesus)and called me by his grace, was pleased.... Paul makes it clear that he cared little for any Gospel input from those held in high esteem and he learned NOTHING from them. (The Jerusalem Apostles) The Paul of Galatians evidently had not heart that Luke portrayed the Paul of Acts as very cooperative of them in Acts 15. Luke's job in Acts was to bridge the gap between the later written Gospels placed before Paul and Paul's calling. The Book of Acts is all about Paul with the Jerusalem Apostles only playing bit parts. Acts was meant to make Paul seem more cooperative and a team player than he actually was as evidenced by Galatians. As for those who were held in high esteemwhatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism—they (Peter, James or John)  added nothing to my message. On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised,[a] just as Peter had been to the circumcised.[b] For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles. James, Cephas[c] and John, those esteemed as pillars,,,, (Or as the KJV says, "who seemed to be pillars")

All this to note that telling others that their problem is that they never really understood the Bible, God, Jesus or "the Gospel" really mean the way THEY understand it.  

Personally, I understand the Bible very well from my own perspectives, study and experience. It can be no other way. Not for me and not for you. 

. At the risk of igniting  a response to one being a "mere Bible reader", not seeing the ever present tensions in the NT between the Jewish Christian Jerusalem Apostles and Paul at least understand  they did not teach the same things, they did not believe the same things, they did not promote each other as "all one body we" and that they reflect the same conflict today in the churches over whose view is the right view as if one could ever come to the truth of that anyway, is a mistake that clouds a more realistic view of scripture 

When we say someone never understood the Bible or Jesus, we really mean "As I do and correctly" It is a myoptic and inaccurate view of the supposed pristine truth of one's beliefs. 

PS  Apologies ahead of time for various text sizes. I could not homogenize it.

UCG Still Struggling To Attract New Members

United Church of God has long been trying to be the most relevant Church of God splinter group out there. And yet, 25 years later they still cannot find their place. Even with having, what they claim is, the 13th most popular religious web site in the world, they still struggle to find new members.  As their present leadership retires and the membership ages, they cannot replace them with new younger members.  Still operating on a 1970/1980's model for television, they struggle to make their three presenters actually present topics that anyone cares about in 2019.  They recently dumped a ton of money on a new television recording studio, and they are hoping this will be their savior.

From Church of God News:

Media Director, Peter Eddington, states that, “ is currently ranked by Alexa as the 13th most popular religious denomination website in the world. Last year, the website received over 10 million unique visitors and 99.8 percent were non-members.”
UCG is by far the highest ranked ex-WCG organization, having an Alexa ranking similar to the SDA, whose membership is over 100 times larger than the WCG at its peak.
UCG’s outreach to new people is thus exceptional – but how many of these become members?
Treasurer Rick Shabi reports that, “The Days of Unleavened Bread and fall Holy Day offerings this [past] year were $100,000 over budget, while general contributions were lower. This is due in part to demographics of the Church; as more people retire, they give offerings but have less titheable income.
The income is steadying out in the $18-19 million range, about equal to estimated expenses this year, as they have steadily risen in the last five years.”
The UCG is failing to gain new, younger members to replace those who are retiring and, if there is no improvement, expenses will have to be cut to match the flattening income. Much then depends on the success of the output from the new TV studio.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

How We Were Manipulated By Herbert Armstrong

Techniques of Cult Figures

1) Connection With a Mass Audience: This was Herbert Armstrong's uncanny personal talent, something no one else in Armstrongism has been able to replicate.

2) Hope: The hook within all cultic messages is a promise of hope.

3) Mysticism: HWA sowed his own personal brand of mysticism, in which he claimed to be a latter-day Paul/John-the-baptist, the recipient of personal revelation direct from Jesus Christ and "a voice crying out in the wilderness," the chosen vessel to prepare the way for the coming of the messiah.

4) Confidence: That he was able to muster the appearance of utter certainty was a crucial part of HWA 's seductive power. We had confidence in his confidence. It is the same effect that all confidence men have on their victims.

5) The Myth of Infallibility: Through his mystical connection with Jesus Christ, HWA crowned himself with a halo of infallibility.

6) The "Father Knows Best" Myth: We were always told not to lean to our own understanding, but to trust in the Hebrew God. But that was the same as saying to trust in Herbert Armstrong and his ministers over and above any trust you should have in your own faculties.

7) The “Special People" Myth: We who had responded were sleepers who had been predestined by god to trigger on HWA’s message, receive supernatural esoteric knowledge, and then go on to reach our mystical "human potential" as kings and priests in a soon-coming utopian society.

8) The "If Only He Knew" Myth: HWA was a distant, godlike figure, above the squabbles of everyday life, so it became possible for us to dislike particular ministers we dealt with, and yet still respect Herbert Armstrong. I don't know how many times I heard, "Yes, if Mr. Armstrong could do everything himself, some things would be different, but he can't keep a watch on everything." This myth allowed us to gloss over the abusive aspects of the WCG and acted as a safety valve in the system, protecting HWA's image. 

9) No Rational Justification: HWA’s message made us feel like we were special, so we pinned our hopes upon it. But when disconfirming evidence arose providing rational reasons to disbelieve, like in 1972, instead we insulated ourselves from reality with irrational justifications like, "He's still right, but his timing is 'a little off.'"

10) Sense of Entitlement: HWA’s co-worker letters from the 30's always implied that his "work" should be more important that you, than your marriage, your children, your solvency, or anything else. He felt entitled to tell people what clothes to wear, whether they can wear makeup or not, when to divorce their spouses, etc.

Herbert Armstrong set himself up as a cult figure in order to abuse people for his own financial and narcisstic purposes, and took advantage of the same myths that benefitted other cults. "If only Mr. Armstrong knew, things would be different," shielded him from the responsibility for the abuses he was actively perpetrating.

The fact is, if Mr. Armstrong did not know about a particular abusive episode perpetrated by his church upon you or your family, then thank your lucky stars, because if he had known, and could have changed things, he wouldn't have righted any wrongs, he would have done an even better job, and it would have been even worse!

From When the Sabbath Was Fun comment

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

COG Sex Therapist Slams Bob Thiel And Other COG's While Begging Church Members For Money

One of the main reasons so many of the splinter groups formed was to ensure money continued to flow into ministers pockets.  It was not so much about doctrine than it was about money.  Money still reigns supreme in all of the COG's today. But, not so much so for some of the small splinter personalty cults started by self-appointed men who imagine themselves as the sole voice of God to the church today.

The Chief Pharisee and self appointed sex-therapist to the Church of God is begging for money to keep his zealotry alive.  It is vitally important that the lives of his followers are just as miserable as his and thus he needs their money to do it. No other ministry on the face of the earth today is spreading the "truth" as he  imagines he is. Of course, like all of the other self-appointed fools running splinter groups today, the Pharisaical sex therapist is also revealing NEW knowledge to the church.  Since most of these upstart COG's do not acknowledge Jesus it is important to have constant new knowledge flowing forth.
On 8 July 2007 the first issue of TheShiningLight was published with an article explaining that a Middle East peace deal must be achieved just before the onset of the tribulation (1 Thess 5:3).   The article then explained that a regional war would be necessary to reset regional realities in order to establish the conditions far a Middle East peace agreement. 
The purpose of TheShiningLight is to help relieve the present famine of the Word in the various COG organizations, to restore that which has been forgotten and to reveal new understandings as promised by God in Daniel 12 so as to turn as many as possible to a wholehearted enthusiastic zeal to learn, to believe and to live by every Word of God.  To accomplish this your prayers and financial support are urgently needed. 
Like Bwana Bob Thiel, sex therapist Malm imagines that all of the COG's out there today are too stupid to understand the Bible and prophecy like he does.  Only Malm has the correct interpretation.  Only Malm is zealous! SHAME on all of the rest of you backsliding heathen Laodiceans!
Today, after twelve years of warnings including personal correspondence, UCG, LCG, COGWA, PCG and Bob Thiel still reject any zeal for God’s Holy Sabbath, the truth about the Holy Days and the Biblical Calendar; and they still teach the exact OPPOSITE of Holy Scripture in their prophetic presentations. 
These organizations teach that the various Middle East Islamic nations will unite together to form the King of the South [with PCG saying that Iran will head that confederation] which is the precise opposite of the scriptures.  Why do they have no understanding of prophecy?  It is because they exalt their treasured false traditions above the Word of God in all of the above mentioned subjects!
The various COG's have no understanding of prophecy because they, like James Malm. have based their entire story upon the false prophecies of Herbert Armstrong, Waterhouse and other COG leaders.  Every single prophecy Armstrong, Waterhouse and others predicted in the Worldwide Church of God have all ultimately failed. Not one single thing has ever come true. Nor, will any of the lies of sex therapist James Malm!

Never forget that no man on earth today knows more about prophecy than our newly appointed COG sex therapist does.
None of these things are understood by the leaders in UCG, LCG, COGWA, PCG and Bob Thiel because they reject any zeal for God’s Holy Sabbath, the truth about the Holy Days and the Biblical Calendar; and they still teach the exact OPPOSITE of Holy Scripture in their prophetic presentations. 
Also never forget that there is only one topic that Church of God members ever need to worry about, and that is Jesus.  Oh wait, sorry.  Jesus is not part of the picture. Something else is though:
Brethren prophecy is important but the most important thing is doctrine, doctrine, doctrine and a passionate zeal to exalt and to live by every Word of God above all else, including our own cherished false traditions! 
Doctrine and zeal!  

It is still amazing to witness the continued embarrassment COG upstarts have with Jesus, the things he accomplished and what he did.  Salvation still only comes through correct doctrine and zealousness and not from the grace and mercy of Jesus. That is just too inconvenient!


A "Clarion Call" :: The Pitfalls of Ministry and the Voices in Their Heads

Note Since I can see It Coming:
"Why as an atheist would you care about people attending a healthy church?"
Answer:  Because, having been a naïve kid who went to what I thought was the most healthy church there could be , that knew "the truth", that practiced right Biblical "Holy" days, that understood prophecy, (It was the 60's for Pete's sake!), the Second Coming (Which made sense to me at that age and time) and the healing qualities the Wonderful World Tomorrow would bring, (My blind, deaf and speechless brother was my FIRST "and the sick shall be made well" anointing after being ordained an Elder at 23 ,  I had to be there. And he is still blind, deaf and speechless to this day btw. Greater works than these shall I not do evidently :)

As a kid I looked up a lot
 I went specifically to AC seeing the College Prospectus and turning down another Seminary because I intended to be in ministry . I just wanted to be in the right one. WCG was the right one in my young and naïve mind.
At first, I equated the authority HWA, GTA and others of "rank" exhibited to being "just like the New Testament Apostles"  There were plenty of NT scriptures and OT examples to back this kind of thinking up nicely and without doubt or suspicion.  HWA had the position of "wise theologian" and GTA the charisma of NT Bible Apostle going to all the world with the truth. 
It took a few years for me in ministry to begin to see that there were differences between the kind of Biblical authority I saw and the kind the ministers and ordained members around me were exhibiting.  Call me all the names and apply all the motives to me you wish, but I deeply cared about my church congregations. I treated them as one who came from a very normal and peaceful home setting with stable parents and siblings. I treated them NOT as WCG taught me because WCG taught me nothing of such things but more as I grew up seeing the examples in a much more stable and calm Presbyterian setting. 
By nature, I also am a caretaker, encourager and very practical when it comes to helping people through shortcomings as then defined by the Bible. I put no one out of the church who did not walk out on their own. I kept no one from church who wanted to be there no matter the struggle they might be having.  (Well I did one who had severe schizophrenia and needed more help than church could give and carried a 38 in his pocket with finger on trigger when I was asking him to get help before coming to church because the members were afraid of him. Two deacons who knew him kept him corralled while ignorantly asked them to back off and be kind to Johnny. Later they told me they could see what I could not.)  I'd not be in therapeutic massage if I did not have the nature for caretaking and no fear of meeting people where they are and not where others might expect or demand them to be. 
One scandal after the next for two and half decades, with me thinking it was NOT the leadership, but "Satan" and all the associated denial that goes with having to admit, sooner or later, I made a huge mistake in both choosing the True Church, a calling and mistaking abusive men with Biblical injunctions.  
My journey out of religion was IN PART due to the WCG "I thought I was supposed to be in ministry" and the rest because of my midlife  recognition that , by nature, I am not faith based but evidence based in my core way of seeing the world and the sciences of my lifetime informed me of other realities that collided head on with the Biblical narratives. 
All this to say, I still care about the bullshit congregants accept from their pastors without question and will lead to their ultimate harm for generations to come if they don't see it.  I don't care if or where anyone goes to church. I care about the health of their minds, thinking, families and kids living quality lives based on reality and not fairytales manipulated by the crazy middlemen of religion. 
The Churches of God have their share of delusional ministry who completely don't get what "to minister" means or the sarcasm in scripture behind "he who is 'greatest' among you, let him be your servant"  The Church of God ministry can't possible be a "helper of their joy" since there is no joy in present living as they all wait for the imminent never coming Kingdom of God where, THEN , they can enjoy life. 

Warning Signs of Spiritual Abuse
There is certainly a place for biblical teaching on spiritual authority. But if a pastor preaches on this subject every Sunday, constantly reminding everyone that he is in charge, you can be sure that trouble is around the corner.
In an unhealthy church, the pastor actually begins to take the place of Jesus in people's lives. Commonly, people are told they cannot leave the church with God's blessing unless the pastor approves the decision. The implication is that unless they receive pastoral permission, not only will God not bless them, but they will also be cursed in some way, resulting in sure failure. Controlling spiritual leaders use this kind of reasoning to manipulate people.
We must understand the process a church goes through to reach this point of deception. Because many pastors measure their success through church attendance, they may become disappointed if people leave their church. If they are insecure, they may actually develop a doctrine in order to stop people from leaving. They may preach sermons about unconditional loyalty, using the biblical stories of David and Jonathan, or Elisha and Elijah.
By using examples like these, the leader can actually gain "biblical" grounds to control even the personal areas of his parishioners. A controlling leader may also attempt to instill a sense of obligation by reminding his congregation of everything he has done for them.
This kind of preaching causes church members to seek a position of favor with the pastor rather than a proper desire to "please God and not man." Jesus also condemned such man-pleasing when He told the Pharisees, "I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?" (John 5:43-44).
When we pursue the honor of men, we do so at the expense of our relationship with God. If we continue to do so, gradually men will take the place of God in our lives. An unhealthy soul tie is created, and our sense of confidence is determined by our standing with those in leadership. This kind of control will destroy people spiritually!
A healthy church will not allow genuine pastoral concern to cross the line into manipulation or control. A true shepherd will use his influence to draw church members into a close relationship with Jesus, who is the only "head of the church" (Eph. 5:23). A true shepherd realizes that the people in his congregation don't belong to him -- they are God's flock.
Unquestioned Authority
In an unhealthy church, it is considered rebellion when someone questions decisions that are made or statements that are said from the pulpit. Granted, there are those who constantly question the leadership in any church -- but often such constant questioning comes from an individual's critical attitude. Pastors must learn to deal with such questioning in a compassionate, positive manner. However, in an unhealthy church, any and all questions are considered threats to the pastor's "God-ordained" authority. Members who do dare to question their leaders or who do not follow their directives often are confronted with severe consequences.
A man from one church told me, "We were told that it is more important to obey leaders than to question what they are doing." He went on to say, "It was unthinkable to question the motives of the pastor."
For example, one couple, members of a church on the West Coast, decided to take a family vacation. This couple purchased their airline tickets and finalized the rest of their plans. They were looking forward to their long-needed time off. Once the pastor discovered their plans, he rebuked them for not getting his permission first and warned them not to go on the trip. They went anyway. Shortly after they returned, they were visited by some of the church's leadership. They were informed that by going on vacation against the pastor's wishes, they were in rebellion. To enforce the pastor's authority, there had to be some form of punishment applied. This couple was then informed that no one from the church was permitted to speak to them or have any contact them for a time determined by the pastor. Even their children were not permitted to play with any of the other children from the church.
Pastors operating under a spirit of control are often convinced that they are the only ones who can accurately hear from God. Under the constant exposure to this spirit, members often become convinced that they indeed need their pastor to think for them. In essence, their personal fellowship with the Lord has been abdicated for a relationship with a man. As a result, they lose their confidence in being able to discern the will of God for their lives.
An Atmosphere of Secrecy
Once a church member surrenders to a system of control, the leader gives limited information to each individual, carefully monitoring each relationship. As a result, each member is only able to relate to other members based on the information he receives from the leader.
In this way, if the church staff or pastor determines that one of the members has become a "threat," they have a strategy in place to maintain the control they believe is required. Consequently the church can sever relationships when necessary and keep this process cloaked behind a veil of secrecy.
This is not limited to members of the congregation. I know a pastor who did this with his staff. In casual conversations he would make a comment that would result in one staff member becoming suspicious of another. Or he would say something to cause one staff member to feel superior.
This atmosphere fueled selfish ambition and competition among the staff. It became the pastor's way of maintaining control and ensuring that his staff could never challenge his authority. In time, the assistant pastors discovered what was happening, and eventually they all left.
Secrecy may also cloak the area of finances. Pastors may make brazen appeals for money, yet offer no assurance that the finances of the church are handled with accountability and integrity.
I have actually heard pastors tell their congregations that the financial decisions of the church do not become a public matter because "the congregation doesn't have the spiritual insight or maturity to understand the dynamics of church finances." Have you heard this line of reasoning?
Some pastors actually preach, "It doesn’t matter what we do with your money. Your responsibility is simply to give." However, the Bible commands us to be good stewards -- and part of good stewardship is making sure that proper systems of accountability are established to handle tithes and offerings. (See 1 Peter 4:10.)
It is very simple -- money represents power. Ultimately, control comes down to issues of power. Therefore, it should be no surprise that controlling leaders will use unbiblical means to manipulate people into giving.
As good stewards, when we become aware of financial mismanagement, we are responsible for where we sow our financial seed. I can't imagine anyone choosing to continue to give money after becoming aware of the misuse of funds. However, if the approval of those in leadership is more important to a person than financial integrity, that person might still feel compelled to give -- even if misuse of funds was involved.
An Elitist Attitude
The deadly trait of elitism produces an "us and them" mentality. A church with an elitist attitude believes "no one else is really preaching the gospel" except that church. Or at least, no one is preaching it as effectively as they are!
An elitist spirit discourages church members from visiting other churches or receiving counsel from anyone who doesn't attend their church. If anyone visits another church, he is viewed as a dissident.
"Everything you need can be found within the framework of our group," this spirit says, adding, "Everything you need to know, you will receive from the pastor and his teachings." Consequently, there is little respect, if any, for other denominations or church groups.
One individual, in speaking about the elitist attitude within his church, said, "Although we didn't come right out and say it, in our innermost hearts we really felt there was no place like our assembly. We thought the rest of Christianity was out to lunch."
Another man from the same church said, "When a well-known evangelical speaker was preaching in another church in the area, the leaders would discourage us from attending. Also, if the leaders found out that members were considering visiting another church for any reason, they were called in and chastised. 'You don't need to be going to those other churches,' they would tell us. 'The ministry here is rich enough. Isn't the Lord feeding you here?'"
A healthy church respects and celebrates the other expressions of Christ's many-membered body. A Jesus-centered church realizes that no one denomination or local church can win a city, regardless of how large it is. Christ-centered leaders who are clothed with humility recognize that the small church is as significant as the large church, the Baptists are as vital as the Charismatics, and every racial group has a place at the Lord's table.
A healthy church will promote other churches in the city, rather than simply promoting its own events and agendas all the time. A healthy church will promote spiritual renewal in all churches rather than further the idea that it has some kind of doctrinal superiority. A healthy church will exude the attitude described in Philippians 2:3-4:"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also the interests of others."
© 2001 Mike Fehlauer. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Mike Fehlauer's book, Exposing Spiritual Abuse.