Tuesday, 25 October 2011

By George!

The Handbook of Denominations in the United States has gone through thirteen editions, the latest appearing just last year. Unlike so much fluff available on different religious traditions, the Handbook has always attempted to provide "just the facts, ma'am," an objective look at the incredibly diverse communities of faith that both flourish and feud in modern-day America. 

I picked up a second hand copy of the 9th edition (1990) a couple of years ago, and found it intriguing. When I discovered that the 2010 edition was available on Kindle, it seemed a no-brainer to update.

You might not be too surprised to learn that the first entry I checked out was Grace Communion International. It's a very fair overview, and one I'd definitely recommend for impartiality and accuracy. So far so good.

The only GCI splinters that get a dedicated entry in the Handbook are the Philadelphia Church of God and the United Church of God. From what I can gather, only bodies with in excess of 5,000 members qualify for a listing, so that's tough luck for Pack and the other minor league wannabes, though I'm not sure why Rod Meredith's group didn't qualify.

But let me quote a bit from the UCG entry.
The United Church of God... was founded by several leaders in the Philadelphia Church of God in 1995 who objected to the leadership of George Flurry.
George Flurry? UCG is a PCG schism?

Well, whatayaknow! Live and learn!

The PCG entry just compounds the same errors. Both were clearly written by the same person who, it seems, didn't know much about the subject and wasn't too bothered to check the facts.

In reality, this seems incredibly sloppy research which has been further compromised by poor editing. Craig Atwood, the current editor, needs to pull his act together if the Handbook is to retain its hard earned credibility, certainly before the 14th edition hits the presses. The publisher, Abingdon, also needs to take a long, hard look at its internal processes. In short: not a good look.

But, on the humorous side of things, you'd have to reflect on the power of the old adage: Say what you like, just spell my name right. Or, in Gerry Flurry's case: If you can't spell my name right, at least choose a near approximation. Who knows, based on the influence of this esteemed volume, future generations of researchers into fringe American sects may be convinced that UCG fits under PCG on the family tree, and that the Flurry cult was founded by some otherwise unknown geezer named George.

Poor old Gerry.


  1. Not to worry, Flurry has come to the attention of Dr. Stanley Schmidt who can get the facts straight and spell names right.

  2. It is no surprise when even Walter Martin (publisher of Kingdom of the Cults) could later praise the Tkach boys for modernizing the wcg... The only credible source people have on Armstrongism are the blogs by people who have been there. For many others keeping names, history and backgrounds straight is seemingly too difficult as evidenced by the article

  3. Well, it illustrates precisely how small the Armstrong movement was, as well as how diminutive and non-influential even the larger splinters are. If one were to imagine a group equipped to carry any kind of endtime message to the world, an ACOG splinter wouldn't even attract notice.

    Of course, most probably Gideon is preached regularly as some sort of archetype or model at ACOG sabbath services! Problem is, upon retirement, Gideon led his people back into idolatry. No matter, Armstrong theology is based on cherrypicking anyway, so we'll just skip that part.


  4. Henrik, Most of the blogs on "Armstrongism" are not credible sources...

  5. No matter, Armstrong theology is based on cherrypicking anyway, so we'll just skip that part.

    It's all based on cherry-picking, all of Xianity. It has gone on so long that nearly everything written in the Jewish scriptures refer to Jesus, when none of it does.

    Some people are now even imagining that there are references to Jesus in the Essene writings of the Dead Sea scrolls.

    It's amazing how people can see things that are not there when they want to bad enough. For example, the sign given to Ahaz in Isaiah 7 could not be a reference to Jesus because the sign was to Ahaz and Ahaz had been dead for 700 years when Jesus was born.

  6. >>Most of the blogs on "Armstrongism" are not credible sources...<<

    Eh, I'm ambivalent, Larry. Given that I have been on both sides of the credibility divide, vis a vis blogging about the Church (and I am no longer blogging about the Church -- but do keep your eyes peeled for upcoming issues of The Journal, folks), you do have a point...on the other hand, a lot of what I blogged about as PH was rehashing what had been blogged about before.

    Now. Are the incidents recounted biased, and in some cases, exaggerated (by memory, by time, by fallible humanity)? Absolutely. Are the incidents themselves fundamentally untrue?

    No. The incidents recounted are, indeed, for the most part correct. (And certainly true for those they happened to.) Unfortunately, or fortunately, the abuses of power that happened in the Church had little to nothing to do with the actual doctrines or teachings of the Church, and if it took exile into Babylon for the Church to rid itself of such evils, well then, so be it.

    At least the Evangelicals in the Church (what few may actually be left) no longer demand loyalty oaths to false idols, from the rest of us, anymore. Say what you will about the rest of it (and many do, have, and will, for many years to come), they have finally managed to extirpate the intolerant, fundamentalist, extremism that crept in, in the 1990s.

    Does that mean the Church is "one big happy family"? No. Not big, and not exactly unified, anymore. But, you never know; the Evangelical buddies of the current American leadership of the Church are starting to set their sights on the Holy Days...might be ironic if, after all these years, Junior turns back to the Holy Days, not because the Bible instructs us to keep them, but because his buddies tell him it's OK for him to keep them now...I wish they had decided that, in 1993!

  7. backslider, many of the people currently in the CGI still observe the Holy Days. They are neither praised or condemned for such.

  8. Larry,

    I just came back from the Feast in England, so I can confirm this.

    I can also confirm that members of the congregations I attend at home (Canada) were happy for me that I went, and that I had a good time. They certainly didn't condemn me for attending, and they seemed happy that I went. I enjoyed myself.

    The last Feast I attended prior to this was in 1994, I think, although I only clearly remember the least Feast we attended in Penticton in '93...I hope the Feast organizers have forgiven me for walking around with a loopy grin on my face the first few days, I was so happy (and so jet-lagged -- I went thinking jet-lag was totally psychological, and it wouldn't affect me at all -- and I got flattened).

    Even though it was a very small site (same size as the average congregation would have been, back in the day -- they got about 400 people total), it really, honestly, 100% felt like the Feast, which was awesome, amazing, wonderful, the best experience, and the happiest I've felt, in a long, long, long, long time. I so thoroughly enjoyed myself, I'm already booked to go back next year!

    Sure, there were bits I didn't participate in, and bits that were there only for the Evangelicals' purposes -- but we were told upfront (from the pulpit no less) that those parts were entirely optional, not mandatory. Quite a refreshing change from the days shortly after the changes!

    This Feast was also definitely a time of personal testing and refining, for me, but, then, that is what the Feast always used to be about, anyway. That, and living up to the best examples we can, as servants teaching people by example, in the Kingdom of God.

    Well, that's how I spent my Feast, anyway. Did you go to the US, England, or Denmark, Larry?

  9. Oops, sorry, I just saw you typed "CGI" -- sorry, Larry, I'm talking about WCG / GCI as it's known in North America; did you go to one of the Church of God, International sites?

  10. No, I meant GCI. That was a typo on my part. I did not attend the Feast this year, and have not for some time. But, I may start doing it again.