Dec 142011

Talking to members of the shiny new COGWA cult, one would think they’ve experienced a revolution, a spiritual awakening following their split from UCG. Members have claimed they’ve become more “liberal” than even the more “moderate” UCG is compared to COG cults.

They claim they aren’t in it for the money, that COGWA is young, hip and in-tune with our digital social media culture. They claim to understand teens and young adults, and have even appointed some women to some very low-level positions of responsibility.

Is COGWA a 21st century rebirth of Herbert W. Armstrong’s legacy, one bereft of the corruption and bitterness found in UCG and other cults?

A year after its formation, is COGWA on its way to becoming a respectable, sane and rational religious organization?

Absolutely not.

Recapping the crisis

Let’s remember first what led to the UCG Current Crisis.

An anonymous blogger going by the handle “Abigail Cartwright” launched a blog entitled UCG Current Crisis leaking insider information surrounding a spat among UCG leadership that lead to the ouster of then-president Clyde Kilough. This was information being purposely suppressed by the ministry, even by those who disagreed with the official propaganda being distributed to the masses, out of fear of losing their jobs. The blog contended with issues regarding censorship, baseless rumors, and outright lies being perpetrated by ministers, elders and laymembers alike within the church.

Essentially, Abigail Cartwright’s revelations contributed to a massive schism within UCG. The posting of internal GCE and presidential emails and letters revealed the controversy surrounding the cancellation of plans to relocate the church’s home office to Denton, Texas and a disagreement between factions over whether to concentrate media projects on the internet or on cable television. The letters also revealed an increasing paranoia on the part of the newly-elected ‘”interim” UCG president Dennis Luker, who comes off as a vindictive, emotionally unbalanced and untrustworthy leader who fired ministers and staffers based on even the slightest rumor of disloyalty.

Luker, in response to growing unease from most of UCG’s ministry, fired all of the regional pastors and put Roy Holiday and Victor Kubik in charge of all the daily operations of the church.

Those who knew about the corruption and scandal (the reasons why their ministers were losing their jobs left and right) officially split on January 8, 2011 along with 75 percent of UCG’s ministry, taking thousands of  members from their fold into a new organization, Church of God a Worldwide Association, essentially resurrecting WCG in name.

The reasons for the split

The aftermath of the schism quickly revealed the reasons why UCG pushed out so many dissenters and abolished their presence in Latin America, Africa and other third world countries. COGWA is now saddled with funding these poor congregations, had no media projects, and now there are no dissenters against Holiday, Luker and Kubik. By failing to fight for their church, the dissenters in COGWA essentially surrendered the future of UCG, most of whose members still have no concept of what the split was truly about: their tithe money, who gets to spend it and on what.

COGWA ministers have not been forthcoming with information to members, neither before nor after the split.

The motivation for these ministers to leave and form a new group is clear: because they lost their jobs, they no longer had a means of making money. These are men who have zero marketable job skills, especially at their average age, and since Dennis Luker fired them from the UCG payroll, they had no choice other than to forge a new means of funneling tithe and offering money into their pockets.

Most members who left did so based on an emotional response to the posts made on UCG Current Crisis, which were presented sans commentary or context from Abigail Cartwright. This was one of the few occasions when COG members got to think for themselves, however armed with only the partial facts, they made an ill-informed decision that played into the hands of a ministerial cabal bent on ensuring its future financial well-being amid a crisis threatening their wallets.

Who is Abigail Cartwright?

Few know who Abigail Cartwright actually was and is. We can however narrow it down based on what we know to be true.

1. UCG Current Crisis published internal UCG communications as the inside battles reached their most heated.

This means Abigail Cartwright was likely a UCG minister in a position to be receiving these emails and letters.

2. The blog was extraordinarily anti Dennis Luker and against the new UCG administration, and tended to share letters that painted them in the worst light possible, without any commentary or publishing of other information that may have provided context behind various allegations of corruption against Luker, Kubik and others.

This means Abigail Cartwright likely was among the ministers siding against Luker, and perhaps one of those who was fired or forced to resign.

3. The blog’s leaks of internal letters and members slowed to a crawl after the official split in January, and now the only leaks being published are inter-cult communications between COGWA and UCG, and assorted member letters from those disaffected by the split.

This means Abigail Cartwright joined COGWA and because they have access to various ministerial emails, they are likely a current COGWA employee.

We have a lot of guesses. Perhaps the most obvious candidate is Jim Franks (pictured) since he was one of the primary orchestrators of both the WCG and UCG splits, and the expertise with which this was conducted demonstrates experience leading an insurrection and foundation of a new organization.

Another would be Clyde Kilough, whose ouster as UCG’s president in favor of Luker would have given him a lot of motivation.

Joel Meeker is another prime candidate, since Abigail Cartwright seems to like to post a number of Meeker letters, clarifications and rebuttals.

Regardless of which COGWA minister was behind the Abigail Cartwright blog, its effectiveness is not in question. The history of the split is replete with stories about UCG members happening across the site, which started circulating a few months before the split, due likely to a concerted whispering campaign from the dissident ministers.

Good old boys

For six months before the actual split at 2011’s dawn, those ministers who would form COGWA plotted the formation of a new organization where their rule would be absolute and they could be free of the constraints placed upon them by Luker’s reign over UCG.

Their delusional goal was to create a “new and improved” 21st century church that would be more profitable and outwardly sane compared to UCG and other cults.

Instead, COGWA members have been saddled with the some of the same conniving, political backstabbers who presided over the formation of UCG in 1995.

COGWA President
Jim Franks

COGWA Board of Directors 
David Baker
Arnold Hampton
Joel Meeker
Richard Pinelli
Larry Salyer
Richard Thompson
Leon Walker

COGWA Media Head
Clyde Kilough

Editor of COGWA’s One Accord newsletter
Larry Salyer

COGWA Ministerial Services
Doug Horchak

COGWA Doctrine Committee
John Foster
Bruce Gore
Don Henson
David Johnson
Ralph Levy

Morals and Ethics Assessment Committee
Mike Blackwell
Larry Neff
Mike Hanisko
Les McCullough
Paul Suckling

There is no new leadership blood in COGWA. Mike Hanisko, a younger pastor compared to the aging titans who are currently running the show, did not keep the interim reigns of COGWA for very long before it was handed over to Jim Franks, who had since the beginning looked to take command.

All of these men trained under Herbert W. Armstrong and they continue to keep his legacy alive. Despite their pious pronouncements of being some of the most righteous men to ever walk the face of the Earth, they are simply clever con-men who managed to keep their jobs in a flagging economy where they were no longer welcomed in their organization.

Re-branding a failed product

One of the initial points of contention that led to the split was the migration of UCG’s headquarters to Denton, Texas, which Kubik, Luker and others squashed in the name of saving money for themselves.

Since the split, COGWA announced they were moving to Dallas, Texas instead, because UCG refused, out of spite, to sell the vacant Denton property Kilough had acquired a few years previous.

Despite this setback, COGWA’s ministerial mafia has managed to re-brand COGWA as a “new” kind of COG that’s more caring, progressive, compassionate and transparent than UCG.

They’ve done an excellent job of transitioning their members by erasing the memory that they were once integral members of the UCG machine and have convinced them to entirely disdain and disown something they spent 15 years building with their tithe money.

The COGWA website was launched in record time, showing they had been planning this transition for long before the split was officially announced.

Don’t forget also that many COGWA members left because they felt that “doctrinal changes” were on the way in UCG (this hasn’t happened) and they wanted to cling to their fundamentalist, conservative beliefs. This is not a conducive culture for progressive changes within the cult.

While COGWA has some financial challenges ahead of it after taking on the debt of dependent third-world congregations, it has managed to get on its feet far faster than UCG had in the beginning.

Whether it can withstand the harsh light of day once the dust settles and members have some time to reflect upon who their leaders actually are, and the fact that none of them will be giving up power (only shuffling responsibilities among themselves), remains to be seen.

Another split is coming from within COGWA. Whether it will be a migration back to UCG or an entirely new splinter church, any number of simmering issues could lead to another blow-up in three years or less.

In the meantime, don’t fall for the COG’s latest rebirth. This is run by the same crew from the last 20 years, and these leopards have not and cannot change their spots.


  • joel stewart

    Still trying to figure out what the doctinal differences are between UCG and COGWA. Please let me know. Also, if it is possible to determine what the “true” church is, if there is such a thing, pardon me for being incredibly sceptical, what is the litmus test? BTW, I left UCG when I lived in the Phoenix area over eight years ago, primarily because I had absolutely no faith in Chuch Zimmerman or Roger Foster. Both, obviously, would do almost anything to be in the good graces of HQ. I’m sure both were well rewarded for their unwavering “loyalty”.

    It’s much easier to have faith in God rather than any church!

    Too, I recently asked Doug Horchak, long-time brother-in-law of Joe Tkatch Jr., the same question about doctrinal differences, and have yet to receive a reply. Doug and Joe have profited mightily from their “religious” associations.


  • Silence

    Still trying to figure out what the doctinal differences are between UCG and COGWA. Please let me know.

    There are none. It’s just a difference in tone and presentation. UCG has chosen a “softer” kind of lunacy by not beating people over the head with some of the stranger tenants of Armstrongism they still adhere to. COGWA likes to be more traditionally straightforward with its insanity.

    Also, if it is possible to determine what the “true” church is, if there is such a thing, pardon me for being incredibly sceptical, what is the litmus test?

    The litmus test is who’s in charge and receiving tithe money. To COG leaders, if it’s not them, it’s not the “true” church, since a “true” church is always the one that grants them wealth and power. Everyone else is a heathen.

    BTW, I left UCG when I lived in the Phoenix area over eight years ago, primarily because I had absolutely no faith in Chuch Zimmerman or Roger Foster. Both, obviously, would do almost anything to be in the good graces of HQ. I’m sure both were well rewarded for their unwavering “loyalty”.

    No doubt vying for that 9% bonus and $120,000 salary they get if they end up on the Council of Elders.

    Doug and Joe have profited mightily from their “religious” associations.

    That they have. Few pay as much attention to Joe anymore. Some seem to think that throwing Armstrong under the bus absolved him of any scrutiny.

  • Rich

    You have included your website and your “half truths” written above to be on the same level as UCG. You don’t know all that happened and publishing it above just shows that. Unless you where in the middle of all of it you don’t know what you are saying. I left UCG because the lies and the ministers (that are stll there) they could not give me a straight answer. Not everybody is perfect, and saying they are in it for the money – shame on you. Don’t publish things if you don’t have 100% correct answers. Only God knows what happened and I will continue to look to him for guidance and direction.

  • Douglas Becker

    @ Rich:
    You are so… uninformed.

    I sat there for decades listening to Dennis Luker whine about his salary and retirement, so don’t even begin to tell me that UCG ministry isn’t in it for the money: They are.

    That is why they left the WCG and struck out on their own — they saw the handwriting on the wall: The WCG was not going to keep them and sure wasn’t going to pay their retirement (and the WCG leaders flat out lied). Many of those same UCG ministers were teaching the New Covenant stuff, even as they were getting ready to bale (using the salaries paid by the WCG to fund their exit). If they were ethical and didn’t really worry about the money to go forth on faith, they would have openly quit in a block and relied on God to provide.

    What struck me recently was going back and reading Bruce Renehan’s “Daughter of Babylon” where he found that the leaders of the WCG absolutely knew that the church history was a lie. They all know it is a lie today — and that includes the UCG.

    Since I was there, and actually provided the Corporate material from Weyerhaeuser for UCG “Governance” and was there in the congregation with Dennis Luker and Robert Dick, I certainly know the best out of 2 of the three behind the founding of United. Franks went off to form the CoGWA, so I guess I’m two for two. I was there.

    Don’t give us scrap about we don’t know because we weren’t there. Some of us were.

  • Douglas Becker

    @ joel stewart:

    The best I can do for you is to say, follow the money.

    Both the UCG and CoGWA are in it for the money (unfortunately for the UCG, while they are still viable and money is coming in, they’ve been doing some belt tightening to keep the ship afloat). The most obvious thing about the CoGWA was that they split off because that poor couple in South America operating child care facilities that remained open into the Sabbath after sunset and the holydays were being “persecuted” by United and CoGWA left because it just wasn’t fair. Just try to reconcile that with the views of both the UCG and the CoGWA today and it just doesn’t make sense.

    As for the “true church”, if you are looking at the cult of Herbert Armstrong, forget it. I would ask the question, do you really think that God ever works through false prophets? How about the false prophets that were trained by the false prophet? British Israelism was said by Herbert Armstrong to be “The Key to Prophecy”. British Israelism is a crock, there are no lost tribes of Israel and all the prophecy based on British Israelism has failed spectacularly.

    Moreover, none of the leaders have repented one whit of their greed and idolatry (and this also applies to GCI). These are definitely the people of whom it is said, “from such turn away”.

    If you feel you absolutely must go to church on the Sabbath, then you might try the Church of God Seventh Day. I’m not really recommending it as “The True Church” or anything like that, I’m just trying to be helpful to ease a seriously debilitating social adjustment, because their approach is totally 180 degrees away from Armstrongism: You and you alone are responsible. Most of the ministers are volunteer and have real day jobs. They aren’t in it for the money. It’s more like a family atmosphere with long term stability.

    Of course, the CoG7D has just come off of a year of their own disruptions at the top with a few ministers finally being ousted. And some of the congregations have been hijacked, Tkach style in a few areas, the most notable being the Tacoma area where the Pretty Boy minister made off with the money and most of the congregation and created a new worship group called “Wellspring Fellowship”. He even attended classes on congregation money that Tkach, Junior went to after he severed ties with CoG7D and decimated the congregation.

    So youze pays your money and makes your choices.

    Or not.

    The problem is that people get trapped in this cult mind set and can’t get out. The best resource I can recommend is “Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships” by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias. It’s a complete comprehensive source and you will likely be amazed at their insight.

  • Rich

    @ Douglas Becker:
    If you read my original statement before you spewed out of your mouth you would see I am no longer with UCG because of some of what you mentioned. So get off your soap box and and actually listen instead of promoting strife and inflicting your ideas and thoughts to everyone else!

  • Douglas Becker

    @ Rich:

    Apparently you didn’t notice I was responding to your statement, ” You don’t know all that happened and publishing it above just shows that. Unless you where in the middle of all of it you don’t know what you are saying.”

    I read your postings and just explained I was in the middle of it — from the start.

    So get off your soap box and actually listen instead of promoting strife and inflicting your ideas and thoughts to everyone else!

  • Brandon

    hello. My girlfriend is part of the united church of god and i go to a normal NG church. We have been dating for two years and I really love her so much, but I do not think she will ever change her religion. I have been too church and things like that with them and I am really getting confuzed in what to believe. How much truth is there in how they believe and should I consider changing? Lots of the things that they believe isversuses in the bible so ja I would really appreciate some help?

  • Silence

    @ Brandon:

    Thanks for reaching out. The United Church of God, and all similar splinters from the Worldwide Church of God, is a cult. It’s teachings are a mutation of the teachings of the Church of God (Seventh Day). They don’t prescribe to many traditional Christian beliefs and tend to focus on preparing for the end of the world. They demand 10-20 percent of your income as a requirement of being part of the church. Like the Church of Scientology, you essentially have to pay for your membership in a COG group like UCG, in order to be in good standing.

    UCG can be a damaging church, its ministers are irresponsible, its leadership is corrupt and many of its members are brainwashed into believing they’re the only true Christians on Earth. As far as how much of what they believe is true, that’s not something we try to comment on. But we will point out its concept of British-Israelism (basically the belief that most Western white people are Israelites) is scientifically disproved, yet they believe it anyway. So they don’t have a lot of respect for the truth.

    Unfortunately Brandon, unless you convert, UCG won’t view you as a true Christian. We can’t speak as to what your girlfriend believes or what her views are, but there’s a lot of pressure, especially on young people, stay in the church. Her family, friends and ministers will likely lean on her to stay. And in many cases, dating outside the church is very frowned upon, and if you don’t convert to her religion, they may eventually pressure her to break up with you. But we’re primarily speaking from previous experience.

  • Douglas Becker

    @ Brandon:

    As one who was with the original Radio Church of God, created by the lying false prophet, Herbert Armstrong, was there through the Worldwide Church of God, which was a mere name change and the United Church of God, an International Association, who worked with the Armstrongist Church of God people and worked with them and worked with them, I can tell you that they are liars, frauds and crooks. Their practices do not square with the Bible and United is only one of those who lie to you and take your money.

    As was mentioned, they all have at their core British Israelism, the stupid hypothesis that the United States and British Commonwealth are lost tribes of Israel. More important, they all follow the model that British Israelism is the Key to Prophecy, which has led to every last one of the leaders of the various competing warring groups to be false prophets. The failed prophecies are major huge embarrassments — such as Herbert Armstrong prophesying in 1943 that the United States would lose World War II (and was taken off the air for it). If you have attended Sabbath services, you may have noticed the tendency to view the United States as a tribe of Israel bound by the Laws of Moses, but not obeying them, therefore subject to the wrath and punishment of God. You are aware at this point that Americans are basically Gentiles except for the Jews among us.

    The concentration on what we jokingly call “Old Testament Christianity” focuses on the physical, replete with Feasts and Holydays kept by the ancient Israelites.

    Now it is the case that you may love a woman in the UCG, but giving up your will and humanity to fully engage to give your life over to a hierarchical mind-controlling cult which has no real spiritual values is probably more than you can bare for the rest of your life. It’s a double-edged sword to be unequally yoked: Either you become a mindless drone to join your life so that you can engage in marriage in an artificially constructed psychotic delusional community of sociopaths who have adjusted their minds to adapt to the end justifies the means ethic so that they can lie to you and take your money or look forward to never having an in depth relationship with your “mate” who will forever be unavailable to you in full as she goes off with her objectively crazy ideas of the end being some time in the next five to seven years and constantly wanting life to be over so she can be a god. It is mental disorders, depression and delusion waiting to happen, and I can assure you from personal experience and observation that you will not be happy with the results.

    You only have two viable options: Influence her to see and accept the truth (your truth being redemption through Jesus and continual renewal growing in grace and knowledge) with the caveat that if her family is in any of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong nanocults, even in the unlikely event you influence her to come to Jesus, there will be endless conflict with her family and friends in the CoHA; or you can, as painful as it is, just walk away and refuse to be unequally yoked.

    You can try to reconcile all of the internally inconsistent self-contradicting craziness of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong, but it will drive you mad. Somewhere you will recognize it is simply unscientific and not just anti science. The stuff they teach does not work in the real world. You can’t “tithe” on your wages to pay the church corporation and also save a “tithe” to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. It isn’t commanded in the Bible for Christians and in fact the Feast keeping has weak to absolutely no support in the New Testament.

    You may also begin to find the really seamy side to life in the UCG. There are a lot of stalkers. One woman stalker was after a young man and even after he married and returned from his honeymoon, this woman stalker kept stalking him, telling him, “You are mine, you belong to me!”. As you have children, you may find your local elder or even minister making advances on them secretly, such as the protected elder in United who fondled girl teens or the man who had to be watched by leading ladies in the church so he would not ply his lusts for young boys. If you find leading members or ministers committing crimes, you will be hard pressed to get the church to admit them. You will have to call in the civil authorities yourself and face the consequences. For one married woman in the church, she had to go to a hearing and get a restraining court order from the judge to stop the unwelcome and more than uncomfortable advances of a stalker. United refused to help the woman and supported the stalker. You need to consider if you want to face such an eventuality. I helped the couple and paid their lawyer’s fees and I can tell you, it was painful.

    Hypocrisy is everywhere, of course — you’d probably find it in Scientology. In fact, you can view the UCG as a Sabbath Keeping Scientology — replete with crazy ideas about an alternative earth history which never happened, based on the writings of their original leader. Know that they will never admit they are wrong and they will never change. You have to change and compromise yourself to adapt to them and you will be utterly alone in doing so.

    It’s all up to you, of course. You have to decide whether the feelings and emotional content you feel today will outweigh any science, reason and logic you have later. If you make the wrong choice, it will be a long term wrong choice and recovery will be a long difficult journey. You should consider carefully the Scripture which says “be not unequally yoked” and ponder all the ramifications of that in your own life.

    The bottom line: Do you want to live with lies for the rest of your life?

  • Brandon

    thanks for the comments. Its just that the fact that they do believe in Jesus and that He died for us and so many of the things they say is said in the bible and like my girlfriend and her family live such innocent lives. Like they always do their best not to sin and it looks like they all have such good knowledge about the bible. And we celebrate Easter and Christmas even though it comes from Pagan beliefs, but they don’t and in a way it makes sense that we shouldn’t because nowhere in the bible does it say that we must celebrate it. Douglas, how did you get out of the cult? I don’t know if you know what the UCOG is like here in South Africa and if it is any different than in America or where ever you guys are?

  • Douglas Becker

    @ Brandon:

    For me, it was mainly proving British Israelism wrong and finally realizing that they are all false prophets upon whom the Scripture pronounces a death penalty. It also didn’t help to learn the depth of corruption that the ministers lied to me and about me as I helped the married woman who was being stalked by a member of the church.

    Beyond that, most of the ministers have been and are flat out alcoholics. Many are and have been adulterers.

    See now, they may “prove” other churches are wrong. Whether you believe that or not, consider that just because (maybe) they can “prove” others wrong doesn’t mean they aren’t wrong — they are. I’m sure Scientologists can prove Armstrongism wrong. Does that make Scientology the true church? That’s a real logic flaw.

    The main reason I stayed in so long is because of a family member.

    That is the very reason you should just walk away because once you become engaged with this hideous idiocy, it’s really tough to become disentangled and it doesn’t matter how nice and simple and appealing the people you meet in the cult are, it’s all bad and you would be surprised just how much It can take over your WHOLE life.

    My advice: Stay free. Nothing can make the slavery worth it.

  • Brandon

    thanks for the advice