Mar 312015

The LCG crisis thread is getting very long but is constantly being updated with new information as it arrives.

Information is being shared by current and former members here and at Banned! and Living Armstrongism, so we’re seeking to collect and streamline as much of it as possible.

If you know anything about what’s transpiring within LCG, you’re encouraged to contact us or leave a comment.

Last update: July 13, 2015 – 5:13 p.m. EST

Jul 302015

Herbert W. Armstrong
The Apostle, the one above all whose memory and legacy must be cherished, preserved and emulated.

He’s okay too.

President/Pastor General
The earthly extension of God’s will, the rightful heir of Herbert W. Armstrong, whose words and decisions are never to be questioned on pain of excommunication. He signs the weekly letters from the Home Office, a place he rules with an iron fist.

They’re charismatic and on TV, Internet videos, radio and write articles in church magazines, so they must be really important.

Regional Pastors
That very important pastor who shows up once a month to give a really long sermon. Afterwards there’s a potluck!

Local Pastors
He’s started mixing things up with split sermons or sometimes just a Bible study, followed by finger foods. He really cares about the youth and likes sports and camping.

They’re ordained and used to be Pastors, or maybe could have been, but are really old now. Is that why they’re called Elders? I think they’re on a council. They’re really nice but know a ton of things the rest of us don’t.

The newly-ordained guys, there’s usually two of them in the congregation, who are in charge of the ushers, counting the offerings and patrol around church taking orders from the Pastor and other Elders. Now they get to give sermons instead of just sermonettes. When they get older they’ll be Elders, probably.

Sermonette Guys
There seem to be more of them all the time. Some are really good and entertaining. Some are pretty boring. It’s clear which of them will become Deacons someday.

Feast Coordinator
We have to tell him where we’re going to the Feast next year and then when we change our mind to go to Wisconsin Dells instead.

Song Leaders
There are like twelve of them and they all take turns and keep a list of recent hymns they’ve done. They often play special music too.

The Sound Guys
The sound guys work at the sound table. Without them we can’t hear the Words of God or the hymns or the special music. They might be wizards or something. I go to them sometimes for computer help because they also do the webcasts.

They’re usually working security, setting up and taking down chairs. They help collect the offerings on Holy Days too.

Pastors’ Wives
They organize the women’s conferences and often coordinate the Sabbath School programs. They don’t get to speak in church.

Elders’ Wives
They’re not ordained usually, though some have been Deaconesses. They are also usually pretty old, but not always. They organize certain events, but don’t do all that much.

The women who organize the finger foods, potlucks and other after church activities! They’re so nice! They get to be ordained for some reason, but not speak in church. There are no Elderesses or Pastoresses or HWAesses.

Sabbath School Teachers
They keep the kinds entertained with exciting Bible stories and life advice while we listen to the Local Pastor. Usually they’re a young married couple. There is no Sabbath school when the Regional Pastor visits.

Special Music Coordinator
Usually a woman, sometimes a Deaconess but not always. She’s always asking anyone with any musical inclination at all if they can sing or play in a couple weeks.

Hymn Accompanists
They know pretty much every hymn by heart on the piano. There are like four of them on a rotating schedule.

Unordained, Unassigned Men
They just have a bunch of kids and don’t really volunteer. They sometimes go to spokesman club and actually have to speak.

Unordained, Unassigned Women
They get together with the Elder’s wives and Deaconesses and discuss homeopathy, child care and knitting. Each year they have their own conference where they’re lots of crying and talk of submission.

They’ve been in the Church forever and are pretty cranky but everyone respects them. They get their own luncheons and the widows and widowers sometimes get married. Why can’t the Singles figure this out?!?

Young Adults
Our vibrant future! Who will marry whom??? How many kids will they have? They’re such great kids, on the straight and narrow path and will totally stick around forever and haven’t ever had extramarital sex at camp with their peers! Thanks for staying the church!

Pastor’s Kid
The dreaded PK. They usually leave the church when they get old enough. I hear rumors of bad behavior but the Local Pastor never talks about it.

They have their own Sabbath school levels and their own camps for older kids. We’re a little worried about their commitment. They have lots of friends outside the church, even though the Sabbath School Teachers tell them not to. One of them showed up with a purple streak in her hair. We had to send another home because her skirt was too short. Maybe sending them to more camps will help them get right with God?

They run in the halls, so the Local Pastor has to keep giving the parents reminders to watch them during announcements each week. Most just color in church until Sabbath School starts again. There are so many of them everywhere! They’re going to have such great church friends growing up!

They’re over 30! When are they going to get married? Why don’t they marry that other single of the opposite sex in church? They seem made for each other by God. What’s wrong with them? They’re starting to get creepier as they get older. Clearly at the bottom of the social strata, unless they’re men and start leading songs or giving sermonettes.

New People
Who on Earth are they? Where did they say they were from? They probably won’t be back next week. One of them wore cowboy boots to church.

Jul 232015

Months after Operation: Wiki Wars wound its engines down, the Wikipedia COG landscape looks pretty peaceful. Mostly gone are overt promotions for COG literature, individual pages for various cult leaders along with lies about their accomplishments and ministries. After the initial call went out, many Wikipedia editors put these articles in their crosshairs and now they’re being more closely scrutinized for fairness and accuracy.

Every so often though, we see some oddities.

One of those oddities is COGWA, which seems to be the only Armstrongist sect to not withdraw from Wikipedia after the edits started. It’s gotten to the point where COGWA reversed so many changes, ignored [citation needed] and added so much superfluous garbage that it’s finally been flagged for neutrality issues. They seem very intent on keeping Jim Franks’ mug on the page, while also claiming to have 10,000 members worldwide, which isn’t even possible much less true, considering how many UCG had prior to the split and how many were left over after.

The other oddity is UCG, which despite recent efforts to scrub its history from public view seem to have abandoned its article, even though it used to be among the most aggressive in policing its page. It’s so bad, in fact, that for months Joakim Noah was listed as UCG’s leader instead of Victor Kubik.

What’s up, UCG? Did your marketing consultants tell you that breaching Wikipedia’s terms was a bad PR move? If so, good on them.

These might seem like minor issues, but considering that when people research anything anymore that Wikipedia is their first stop, ensuring the most accuracy and balance as possible is vital to promoting an informed citizenry.

Jul 212015

On July 10, 2015, Congregation of God, Seventh Day pastor and former WCG minister John Aubrey Pinkston, 78, was found guilty of molesting two young girls who were members of his congregation.

Pinkston was scolded by prosecutors for not taking any responsibility for the crime. He was sentenced to 20 years, with 10 to serve in prison.

The Congregation of God, Seventh Day (COGSD), founded by Pinkston, is one of the 700+ splinter groups to form after the 1995 collapse of WCG. While the church is centered in the Atlanta area, Pinkston appears to have been living in Dallas at the time of his prosecution.

In April 2014, Pinkston was charged with three counts of child molestation spanning between the years 2003 and 2013 and was convicted on two.

Pinkston is the fifth COG member and fourth church employee to be convicted of sexual crimes against children since 2008. A sixth alleged sex offender, Kevin Owen Dean, is currently on the run.

Georgia News Day reports:

Cobb County prosecutors say a former Kennesaw pastor has been sentenced to prison on child molestation charges.

District Attorney’s spokeswoman Kim Isaza says 78-year-old John Aubrey Pinkston of Dallas was sentenced to 20 years with 10 to serve in custody.

Prosecutors say Pinkston, founder of the Congregation of God Seventh Day, fondled two young girls at the church.

Isaza says Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring and Judge Robert Leonard scolded Pinkston for failing to take responsibility for the crime.

Courthouse News Service reports:

MARIETTA (CN) – It took just 33 minutes for a Georgia jury to convict a 78-year-old pastor of molesting two young girls at his church in Cobb County.

During the trial, two young girls testified that they were molested by defendant John Aubrey Pinkston, at the Congregation of God Seventh Day in Kennesaw, a church Pinkston founded and led.

Pinkston, of Dallas, was arrested in 2013 on a total of three counts of child molestation.

The Cobb District Attorney’s Office said later Pinkston confessed to touching one girl when questioned by police, telling them it was a “stupid mistake” that lasted “only 15 seconds.”

After the jury announced its verdict, Judge Robert Leonard II sentenced Pinkston to 10 years behind bars, and another 10 years on probation to be served after his release.

“Mr. Pinkston, you’ve been convicted of the unforgiveable sin of molesting the most vulnerable members of your flock,” Leonard said during the sentencing, “You’ve taken no responsibility whatsoever.”

Assistant District Attorney Chuck Boring, who prosecuted the case, was even more blunt during a press conference following Pinkston’s sentencing, saying not only did he refuse to take responsibility for his acts, but “he spit in everyone’s face with the nonsense that he used to try to manipulate the jury.”

Pinkston did apologize before he was sentenced, but when Judge Leonard question whether his apology was sincere, the disgraced pastor expressed only frustration.

“What more do you want me to do? You’re going to send me to prison anyway,” Pinkston said.


Jul 202015

Let’s speculate about UCG’s possile future.

The cult has problems retaining members. This isn’t different from any other COG group across the shrinking cult landscape, save for the fact that UCG’s brass can’t stop complaining about it and have made patching their member hemorrhage a top priority.

More unrest among African congregations in Malawi isn’t helping UCG scrambles to prevent losing even more of their third-world presence on top of what they already suffered after the COGWA split. And despite the focus on congregational growth at the expense of doctrine, a deceptive new website, pushing testimonials in church services and the continued reliance of irritating blue muppets as evangelists, UCG just can’t figure out how to attract and retain new blood, aka more money.

They’ve even gone so far as to propose a “buddy system” — proposed perhaps due to recent public embarrassments —  where appointed members are made responsible for treating visitors to their services like human beings instead of interlopers.

After 20 years, UCG finally figured out non-COG people just aren’t that into Armstrongism, and similarily, the cult will likely figure out far sooner that their shabby congregational structure and boring services just aren’t good marketing draws to swell their ranks.

So where will that leave UCG over its next 20 years?

It’s a good question, and we would love to hear people’s speculations. We have a few of our own.

It’s important to remember that UCG is a business, not a church, hence its overwhelming concern with profits over preaching. Armstrongism has always been a corporate tyranny, but UCG takes that to a whole new level, as COGWA ministers will complain about over and again. UCG leader Victor Kubik essentially operates like a CEO and the cult’s council like a board of directors. They consult marketing firms instead of scripture, watch their bottom line instead of prophetic signs and care more about having lots of people instead of coherence of belief.

In these respects, UCG under Kubik has become utterly divorced from how WCG’s other splinters function, both culturally and organizationally, even while the tinge of Armstrongist legacy can never be completely stamped out. Therefore, it’s likely the decisions UCG makes going forward are going to be the kinds of moves a troubled business makes rather than a church. Their future evolutions and crises will not be rooted in matters of faith and loyalty, but survival as a product for the enrichment of its leaders.

UCG as an overall product is just a nonstarter. No matter how they try to redefine themselves and erase all traces of WCG origins, it’s just a broken, overly complicated concept for the average non-COG churchgoer to full grasp. Here are just a few of UCG’s sub-organizations and projects that somehow are supposed to fit into a coherent whole:

  • Beyond Today – Religious TV program, webcasts and blog that’s really its own brand these days
  • The Good News – A “Christian” living magazine
  • World News and Prophecy – A completely different, “world is doomed” magazine
  • Compass Check (formerly Vertical Thought) – Yet another magazine, one focused on teen/young adult “Christian” living
  • United Youth Camps – A system of religious summer/winter camps for kids, teens and young adults
  • Jelly, that muppet thing – We still barely understand what or why the fuck this is
  • UCG’s hundreds of worldwide congregations – These are supposed to give people a uniform sense of global community but are instead varied regionally when it comes to their culture and the experience one would have attending services, and their day-to-day local operations are completely divorced from the efforts of the Home Office. They run their own Sabbath schools, local events and deal with their own church hall rentals. UCG in Kansas is a completely different creature from UCG in Ohio and is unrecognizable compared to UCG to in Africa.
  • Kingdom of God seminars – A series of public seminars nobody but UCG people actually attend
  • UCG’s annual events – Winter Family Weekend, Families for God Weekend, and its Holy Day celebrations

From a corporate marketing standpoint, this is a promotional nightmare. The advertising world has changed since the days Herbert W. Armstrong was cashing in on his expertise, and selling products anymore has required a type of minimalistic simplicity. A consumer, whether they’re buying shoes, headphones, signing up for an online service or seeking a church to join, should be able to describe what the product or service does in a single short sentence.

It’s hard to do that for UCG without the use of profanity, and therein lies a problem we’re confident the marketing gurus the cult hired to polish their image surely broached. Trying to be all things to all people is a recipe for unruly disaster. Being one thing and doing it well is a far more appealing venture.

So to us, it’s not far-fetched that UCG, which is a big conglomeration of disparate elements, may spin off its various properties into separate, independent nonprofit corporate/religious entities in the coming years. As a whole, UCG is too bloated and damaged to float. As smaller, more direct and agile projects each with different leaders and focuses, it might have a shot at survival existing beneath an umbrella of loose affiliation rather than a single organization.

Beyond Today would be its own multimedia-based ministry, The Good News an independent religious magazine, the youth camps its own network, its Feast sites an ecumenical event planning organization for those who share Armstrongist views (something like this already kind of exists among the COG), and the congregations of UCG being broken up into differently-named and independently-run regions, overseen by their own councils of members and ministers controlling their own destinies. All of them have a shot of growing and being more successful within the Sabbatarian realm where the SDA and COG7 are already thriving. COG7, for instance, is broken into various conferences that are related but operate separately.

Among the most successful and wealthy religious organizations in America are local megachurches that might have loose connection to a larger national or international entity, but are really running their own game and focusing on engaging their local community instead of broadcasting a widespread message beyond their borders. UCG’s congregations in Texas have already somewhat operated like this and the model could be applied broadly.

No other COG cult, since they adhere so strongly to the traditions and culture created by HWA and his lackeys, would ever consider decentralizing power or spinning off its corporations. Organizational splits have always been matters of power struggles, doctrinal spats and animosity rather than beneficial corporate strategy. Roderick Meredith, David C. Pack, Gerald Flurry, David Hulme and others are far too obsessed with their own personal power.

However, Victor Kubik, Robin Webber, Roy Holladay and other UCG titans are far more obsessed with personal wealth and successfully being corporate captains of their religious industry. They actually want UCG to be popular instead of a constantly retracting black hole of cultish nonsense. Along with that worldview comes many harsh realities about Armstrongism’s legacy and the sustainability of its organizational children, ones that may eventually sink in and lead to some radical, unheard of changes for a COG group.

That’s some of our hypothesizing anyway.

We’re very interested to hear what others think about UCG. It’s a cult in serious flux right now, making rapid and radical changes and that’s fertile ground for some serious disruptions to its status quo. As far as COG political dynamics go, it’s a fascinating watch.