Friday 9 October 2015

Winds of Change at CoG7

Jason Overman and Calvin Burrell, current and past BA editors
If anything is a "mother church" to the squabbling sects that remain from the dissolution of the Worldwide Church of God, it has to be CoG7, the Denver-based Church of God (Seventh Day).

CoG7 (or CG7, whichever acronym you prefer) is an enduring remnant of the movement that also produced the Seventh-day Adventist church. The SDAs went forth to become the multi-million member denomination that brought us corn flakes and Ben Carson. CoG7 settled for a more modest trajectory.

CoG7 has had its own issues over the years, but it would be fair to say that they've been settled without a fraction of the melodrama that characterises its bickering daughter churches. Today, just as they did during Herbert Armstrong's early ministry, they still publish The Bible Advocate magazine.

The church is now seeing new leadership emerge. Loren Stacey is the new president of the General Conference following the retirement of Whaid Rose, and Jason Overman has become editor of the BA after Calvin Burrell's many years at the helm. A smooth and peaceful transition? Imagine that!

CoG7 is a fundamentalist Sabbatarian body, it's true, and I expect that would be reason enough for many of us to not take it seriously. But it also demonstrates an openness and accountability that stands in marked contrast to similar and related groups many readers of this blog will be more familiar with. Without an authoritarian top-down structure it provided what could have been a benign and unifying model for the re-structuring of the post-Armstrong WCG. That the Tkach cabal chose to ignore that option and instead pretend to have some kind of "episcopal" form of government is perhaps the most damning indictment of the so-called reforms that eventually led to its re-branding as Grace Communion International.

In his "State of the Church Address" at the recent General Conference, outgoing president Whaid Rose reflected back on the denomination as it was in 1998 (he was appointed in '97).
I assured the membership that there are no plans to throw out the Sabbath and Ten Commandments. There are no plans to bring about organizational ties with the Worldwide Church of God.
Rose's retirement should, one would hope, not go unnoticed by Joe Tkach, who should have stepped aside years ago. One doubts he will take the hint though, and there's little indication that he has put in place a workable transition plan.

There have been times in the past when CoG7 must have felt upstaged by its precocious offspring. In the end however it has demonstrated the staying power that has eluded its desperately troubled daughters and granddaughters.


  1. The internal landscape is radically different from the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia sects, with great personal freedom for the individual, a fair amount of independence among the various regions and a participation of the membership: On the last item, the entire church came to consensus over five years to produce the doctrinal booklet, "This We Believe". The leadership seems devoid of the narcissism and the sociopaths which so mark the CoHAM.

    While the CoG7D may take note of the Worldwide Church of God (or, more accurately, the splinters of it left), they don't pay much attention to it. It is a curiosity amongst some of the ministry at odd moments, particularly for those who have met the celebrities of the WCG. A minister who had met Garner Ted Armstrong didn't realize he was dead until he was told this past year.

    And why should they pay that much attention to the Armstrongists? They are approximately 10 times in number than all the Armstrongist splinters combined, which certainly makes The Journal something of a Minority Report.

    And yes, the CGI is a cult. No matter how much it may posture itself as "mainstream", taking the money and running while pretending to be a more congregationally oriented church is pure hubris. While the eschatology may have changed radically, the 'leadership' is another thing entirely, with power, privilege and money flowing to the top and leaving what's left of the pathetic congregations to fend for themselves. That's not a very Christian thing to do.

    Example? Don't get your hopes up. If the past few decades have taught us anything, it's that the descendants of the Armstrong movement are particularly adept at ignoring good examples and quite capable of ignoring facts and science.

    1. With sufficient involvement with both the WCG and COG7 over the years, I can say that it is hard to believe the one ever derived from the other. Yes, there is within COG7 a spirit that does not object to decreasing while another increases. There is an attitude that God is the centre around which everyone else should revolve.

  2. Sorry -- typo: It should be GCI not CGI (but maybe the movie industry should sue anyway!).