What happens when Rod Meredith, against all his vaunted hopes, expectations and prior speculation, goes the way of all flesh? We can only speculate, but there is still a degree of predictabilty involved.
There will be consequences for his Living Church of God of course. But there will also be a flow on effect for the wider COG movement.
Rod is the last of the significant Armstrong-era evangelists, an enduring tie to the life and ministry of Herbert W. Armstrong. When Meredith passes from the scene the last anchor is raised and a formidable link to the past is lost. Just as the Apostle John, according to pious legend, long outlived his peers, so has Rod. Once he is gone the so-called Churches of God are truly in a post-Armstrong age.
Meredith has inspired his imitators, men like Gerald Flurry and David Pack, but none, despite much huffing, puffing, preening and posturing, has been his equal. However many flaws Meredith displays, it is telling that he has, in his own way, gradually achieved a more balanced perspective than his emulators. Age has, mercifully, somewhat moderated his pretensions, even as his message has remained myopically constant.
And that is probably the key; the man who was once Herbert Armstrong's top lieutenant has relentlessly stayed "on message." Meredith's continued presence has served to keep the "old paths" weeded. He has been the "gold standard" in traditional Armstrongism, the unacknowledged reference point for other splinter groups. Competing iterations of Armstrongism have tended to define themselves, even if unconsciously, against the Meredith model.
When he is gone the game changes, and the broad doctrinal consensus that has till now reached across most of the varied sects of Armstrongism, the "Worldwide family", will likely buckle.
As for the Living Church of God, who is there in that body that could possibly replace him? No one waiting in the wings seems to have either his unquenchable drive or his overbearing ego. Certainly not Richard Ames. Meredith is irreplaceable.
This will force change, at the very least in style, and almost certainly in organisation.
With the throne vacant LCG will, one suspects, quite quickly find it necessary to adopt a more collegial structure. That will be problematic given the constant emphasis placed by Rod himself on top down authority and "the government of God."
It's got to be a recipe for division. Despite the travail of recent years it might yet be the United Church of God, or perhaps the departed COGWA malcontents, which will be best placed to scavenge the benefits.
The departure of Bob Thiel throws another factor into the equation. As a shaper of opinion while within LCG, Bob was in a unique position to influence the transition by throwing his weight behind one of the emerging factions as he did in the Global Church of God crisis. But Bob has lost that ability now he has effectively sidelined himself as a bit player on the farthest fringes.
Après Rod, le déluge