As mentioned here earlier, Bob Thiel, tired of submitting to the Living Church of God mullahs in Charlotte, NC., recently unfurled his sails and set out on his own, paddle gripped firmly in hand, becoming in effect a one-man sect. His new Arroyo Grande-based hobby-church is called the Continuing Church of God.
Not that Bob doesn't have a few followers - I'm assuming though that we're talking the kind of numbers you can still reach on just fingers and toes - but he has adopted the legal strategy of incorporating as a "corporate sole." So much more convenient than all that nasty bother of creating checks and balances in an accountable structure.
Bob's cogwriter website certainly once raked in a lot of visitors. They came because he provided a fairly comprehensive news service about the many and various splinter groups that formed following the self destruction of the Worldwide Church of God, but funnelled through the rose-tinted glasses of a loyal Living Church of God apologist. Trading on the popularity of his news page, Bob diversified into writing long, semi-literate position papers on various doctrines. More recently he moved into self publishing the kind of books that titillate poorly educated prophecy-addicts. Suddenly he was being touted as an 'expert' on the Mayan calendar and a variety of similar topics, and being fed patsy questions by cynical talk radio hosts hoping for a little diversion.
It all seems to have gone to Bob's head. As the break from LCG opened up he was making strange claims about having hands laid on him for a double portion of the Spirit. No matter that the minister who prayed for him had no intention in the world of feeding Bob's delusions, just of stringing some nice, edifying words together.
Now it appears that Bob is dancing around the idea that he is one of the Two Witnesses. Despite never being ordained he now signs himself as "Bob Thiel, Pastor and Overseer."
As Dennis Diehl has frequently noted, candidates for the Two Witnesses are a dime a dozen. The thing that Bob did do reasonably well, pass on the gossip about events in the WCG diaspora, has quietly dropped away. Now that Bob has snatched the mantle of cult leadership he'll have other priorities. Don't expect thousands - or hundreds - or even scores - of LCG members to follow this particular sideshow though; Bob is way out of his depth. The wreckages of other ministries litter this path. At best Bob can probably only become the Willie Dankenbring of a new generation.
One thing is certain. 2013 will bring yet more grief to the remaining true believers, former disciples of Herbert W. Armstrong. Expect further spats and splits. If you, like me, can see the funny side of it - a decades-long free soap opera that provides endless entertainment - then grab the beer and peanuts and settle back for the new season. But if you're disillusioned, disappointed and hurt by it all, maybe it's time to start asking some critical questions and gaining some healthy distance from the drama. There's life beyond the gulag!