UCG isn’t long for this world.
Sure, there are other much smaller COG groups that still exist in name, but they tend not to have the top-heavy infrastructure of UCG and haven’t really changed much in the last decade.
UCG, by contrast is still essentially an organization with quasi-global reach – without enough money, fewer members than ever in its history and a growing number of disaffected and defecting congregants. Such a large organization cannot possibly sustain itself in the same way that smaller, nimbler COG groups have been able to scrape by in the aftermath of 1995’s WCG schism.
We’ve speculated in-depth about what could become of UCG, that being a dissolution into several smaller, independent religious enterprises.
What happens to UCG and how fast is something only time can tell, and we’ve been chronicling the cult’s rapid decline since the 2010 schism that formed COGWA as events have transpired. Here, for the reference of COG watchers, are the hallmarks of UCG’s continued fall.
Crashing Weekly Attendance
Firstly, as we’ve talked about before, UCG’s average weekly Sabbath service attendance – not just baptized membership, but all butts in seats plus kids on the floor – is now at a reported average of 20-30 people per congregation. That’s an average that accounts for larger congregations of a couple hundred in Texas and at UCG’s Home Office in Cincinnati.
That’s a tremendous mathematical fall considering there are 200 UCG congregations worldwide, most of them very small and without their own local pastor.
Collapsing Feast of Tabernacles Attendance
UCG’s 2015 Feast of Tabernacles Attendance in North America was its smallest ever, which even prompted the cult to abandon meeting halls it can no longer fill in one of the COG’s longest-standing Feast sites.
In keeping with its crashed weekly attendance numbers, UCG during its most well-attended Armstrongite holy days didn’t even reach 8,000 people – and remember that includes children, other unbaptized attendees and those from smaller COG groups that only congregate with UCG on special occasions.
Chronic financial woes
UCG’s dwindling attendance of course translates to less money, which it of course relies on drawing from tithes, offerings and other donations primarily from full-time, regularly present members.
COG groups, following WCG’s model, don’t own much property, rent church halls, charge for everything from camps to special sporting weekends to banquets, and tend to keep overhead relatively low so more money can flow unabated to senior leadership.
That UCG is still having cash flow problems despite following in spirit the evil genius of Herbert W. Armstrong’s church financial structure should be alarming to UCG.
PCG, a much smaller COG splinter, manages to purchase expensive property overseas and build extravagant auditoriums and college campuses. UCG, by contrast has had to rely upon Victor Kubik’s LifeNets to afford cleanup and renovations of its own Home Office, plus the installation of a childrens"playset of all things.
A Series of Failed Public Forums
UCG, in response to fewer people and less money, has been aggressively marketing itself to the broader public through its Kingdom of God seminars and public forums held in various cities across America.
These efforts have all failed spectacularly, because UCG’s problem isn’t marketing, it’s that Armstrongism is rubbish that doesn’t sell.
Last year’s “Why Were You Born” seminar only drew the interest of a single person who toyed with actually joining up with UCG.
This year’s most recent forum in Texas also had negligible turnout.
It’s spent tens of thousands of dollars on ads appearing on television, radio, websites and even Pandora trying to get people to pay attention to the cult. UCG hasn’t managed to draw any notable new blood to counteract the people it’s lost and these efforts are creating a larger sinkhole for the cult’s limited time and money.
Growing discontent over rebranding and other changes
UCG’s desperate attempt to rebrand itself for public consumption, which has included a new website and a fine-tuning of its message, has resulted in the cult attempting to detach itself from its WCG roots.
Besides wiping clean many public-facing mentions of Armstrong and COG history, ministers have been directed to make UCG services more inviting for first-time attendees, which has not gone well at all.
It’s also introduced various proposed changes like controversial testimonials and allowing women to speak in church, which has freaked out the conservatives left in UCG haven’t yet jumped to COGWA.
There’s also a desperate attempt to rejuvenate their ministerial ranks with supposedly younger and more caring pastors, and there’s no telling what direction this will take the church a decade from now and how little it will resemble what came before, further putting a stake through the cult’s Armstrongist heart.
Speaking of COGWA, no analysis of UCG’s decline is complete without talking about how its splinter group is faring, which we will continue in the next article.