The Scattered Church: What it Means for ex-WCG Family Members
For those family members still in Church of God splinters, or those who have exited Armstrongism completely, March 18th – April 17th may be the last chance you will have, to get your loved ones out of the CoG-PKG.
Weinland’s “live” Mar. 1 sermon, ripe with anti-Semitism and milieu control, did let slip some important information during the “announcements”, from which we can draw critical information about the cult and its members’ activities, leading up to and immediately following March 18th. Particularly for those who have exited from Armstrongism completely, or who are members of one of the 650+ Church of God splinters that currently exist.
Weinland’s sect views members of the other splinters as “orphans”, and has prophesied (according to members’ comments online) that part of the fulfillment of the opening of the seventh seal will be that these members will again be “called to god’s one true church (Weinland’s) and brought out of the world”.
Weinland did “prophesy” the deaths of splinter leaders (Three of these prophecies were in hindsight, and the remaining one, of Rod Meredith, is undated, and likely due to Meredith’s chronic health problems. Weinland is clearly playing the odds with that prediction.), but apparently now that has been revised (the passages in the book and on the website notwithstanding).
Members are now telling people that leaders of various splinters, the LCG in particular, will not die (as Weinland had stated in the book), but this prophecy means that they will be spiritually “dead” to the first resurrection, and will be forced, with the rest of the “unconverted trillions” to be born again in the second resurrection, whereupon members of Weinland’s cult get to be the rulers of us all.
When the WCG changed its doctrines outwardly, to avoid persecution and prosecution by the protestant cult-watch organizations that had their eye on the church after Armstrong died, there was a splintering of the organization. Many members remain unaware of the fact that there is long-standing precedent, in church history, for these kinds of splits. Armstrong himself, split off from the Church of God, Seventh Day in the 1930s. In the 1970s, during the time of the receivership scandal and “1975 in Prophecy” not coming to pass, Armstrong’s son split off his own church.
In the mid-80s, Bill Dankenbring started a “tabloid ministry”, under the pretext that the church didn’t really “get back on track”, as it had relaxed most of the more troublesome doctrines that were starting to get clergy and membership eyed by local authorities and counter-cult groups. Thus, the “Prophecy Flash!” newspaper was born, and circulated to the same mailing list that received the Worldwide News. (One assumes that Dankenbring had inside help in the publications department at Ambassador College at this time.)
(This small splinter still exists. Dankenbring now uses the tithes he lines his pockets with to finance all-expenses-paid trips for himself and his family to Jerusalem each year, allegedly so he can “predict” the appropriate timing of the holy days. He then sells the resulting calendars to various splinters, regardless of denomination or belief.)
All of these splits were nothing, compared to the complete fracturing of the church that occurred after 1994.
The Restored Church of God, under theocrat David Pack, while holding its members fast to a superficially Pleasantville-like community, has become more extremist since Pack’s mental breakdown over his wife’s death. The RCG did produce one useful document, amidst the reams of Armstrongist literature it chose to reproduce.
(The RCG does not accept as “correct” doctrine, anything that was published by Armstrong following 1956, thus neatly side-stepping the 1975 problem.)
The document which is RCG’s “hallmark” on the world of Armstrongism is the work titled “There Came a Falling Away”. The book can be found in its entirety online, and demonstrates, albeit from a slanted perspective, the differences between the “old” WCG under Armstrong, and the “new” WCG the Tkaches were hoping would keep the counter-cult groups out of their business venture, and would keep at least a portion of the tithes still rolling in.
The reason this backgrounder is given, is so those watching from the sidelines may understand exactly what is going to happen after March 18th, when Weinland has instructed his members to begin “talking about the book” to their families. They will also be given cards to hand out to the public, to “warn the world”.
More worrisome than the recruiting tactics the cards represent, is the fact that Weinland believes “the scattered church” (i.e., members of the various splinters) will come together as part of the fulfillment of his prophecy, into the fold of the CoG-PKG. The problem with this “prophecy” is how accurate it might actually prove, to the detriment of people who have already had their entire lives ruined, by the faint spectre of Armstrongism that still exists.
As evidenced by the letters sections of The Journal’s “underground” newspaper published in the 1990s, “In Transition”, there were, and no doubt still are, a great many members of “the scattered church” who still sincerely hold to Armstrongism, and are floundering for “the one true church” where “god has placed his government”. Often this is marked by a family or individual splinter-hopping, going from one Church of God sect to the next, until they find one they can settle in with, or they end up exiting Armstrongism completely. Those in the former group are far more in the majority than those of us in the latter.
Even today on ex-member boards, when one goes through a listing of their family members, it is often by recounting which splinter(s) each family member has gone to. Depending the particular Church of God group, the family division this results in can run the gamut anywhere from mild to toxic.
Weinland’s sect is not only offering a “true prophet” (through reactivation of old cult programming that was instigated under the WCG), it is offering a chance for families that may have been divided, to come back together, after a decade or more of separation. This will be a very powerful incentive for Weinland to use members to recruit relations and former CoG friends of members into the CoG-PKG. There may be an increase in membership between March 18th and April 17th, but that will be solely through the use of this recruiting tactic.
As it stands, the CoG-PKG itself may have around a thousand members (if that) worldwide. This is based on the listing of congregations that Weinland gave in the announcements of the March 1 sermon, who will be keeping Passover in their areas of the US. (Weinland also urges overseas members to gather in the US.)
Members have stated in public forums that Weinland and his ministers have instructed them that approximately three thousand members of “the scattered church” will return to Armstrongism (Weinland’s brand specifically) between March 18th and April 17th. This number was likely extrapolated from the number of members currently in Weinland’s sect, assuming each member could recruit one or two family members back in.
The splinter churches, with the exception of the over-reactionary and inflammatory Living Church of God, seem not to be taking any notice of Weinland’s sect. This is because all other sects (besides the member’s own) are considered “apostate”. This has resulted in a blind-sidedness that I believe could have a small but negative impact on the membership of various Church of God splinters in the days ahead.
The United Church of God is divorcing itself completely from any connection with Weinland’s sect (indeed, Weinland may have instructed his own members in the Cincinnati area not to have any contact with members from UCG), because Weinland and both of his “evangelists”, Wayne Matthews and Johnny Harrell (allegedly in Harrell’s case), came out of the UCG: Weinland exited after the particularly nasty parting shot, that he made public knowledge, of the $4.5M USD misappropriated by UCG’s Council of Elders in 1996.
This head-in-the-sand approach is, in my opinion, a grave mistake on United’s part. Members who originally joined Weinland’s sect in 1996 were drawn primarily from the United Church of God congregations that operated under Weinland in Ohio at the time. A fairly-recent funeral of one long-time member was said to have been attended by many members of United, and other splinters. (Until Weinland or the members themselves brought an end to this, by declaring no funerals would be held, in the case of two deaths following the one that brought many splinter members together.) Many of Weinland’s members’ families are still with the United Church of God.
UCG is said by most CoG members to be “the party church”. Like the WCG in the 1980s, it is more lax in some of the doctrines that made the church stand out before that time. Many exiting members in Canada transitioned quite smoothly to the UCG in the mid-90s, although the church’s congregations outside of large urban centres, remains extremely small.
United still holds to Anglo-Israelism, despite its recent superficial efforts to “reach out” against hate speech, through the church’s television vehicle, “Beyond Today”. Efforts which are undertaken solely to whitewash the fact that UCG still holds to this extremist racist doctrine that Weinland himself still preaches.
Family members with loved ones in the CoG-PKG can expect, between March 18th and April 17th, that their loved ones will step up the “pressure” to recruit them into Weinland’s organization. If they are currently members of a CoG splinter, their loved ones may or may not be successful in this.
For those of us who have exited Armstrongism completely, March 18th to April 17th may be a golden window of opportunity to get our loved ones out of this potentially dangerous Armstrongist sect, and away from Armstrongism completely, for once and for all.