Facts and opinions by COGwriter
Christian Education Ministries (CEM) was founded by Ronald Dart. Like Leon Sexton's Legacy Institute, CEM sees itself more of as a ministry than as a church:
CEM is not a church and directs the affairs of no church (Dart, Ronald. What Does the Church Need Now? http://www.cemnetwork.com/essay/personal/whatdtcnn.htm, 4/12/03).
In the late 1970s, Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA) left the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) and founded the Church of God International (CGI). It is my understanding that the GTA supporters (including Ronald Dart) felt that there were a lot of problems at WCG and that GTA was on the correct side of the argument. Those who remained faithful to WCG felt that GTA had been properly disfellowshiped for problems, including alleged sexual improprieties.
Almost 15 or so years later, GTA was involved in a publicly reported sexually-related scandal, and many left CGI to found the Church of God Outreach Ministries (CGOM); Ron Dart, a high level CGI official, also left about that time and eventually founded CEM (there were many in CGI who felt that GTA may have been falsely accused, and they remained in CGI. However, after reviewing a variety of evidence, including possibly a videotape, CGI's remaining leadership felt it had no choice but to disassociate itself from GTA).
Ronald Dart has long had a reputation as a doctrinal liberal, which he basically defends by indicating he is not exclusionary or not one focused on differentiation. This article mainly includes quotes from Ron Dart and/or CEM's website. It also includes certain teachings that CGI held while Ronald Dart was one of its leading ministers.
However, whether or not CEM is/was a church, was for a while probably the fifth largest group (though a group that is very loosely affiliated) that came out of WCG
CEM stated this about itself:
Christian Educational Ministries was founded in November, 1995, as a service ministry with two major goals in mind. First in the hearts of all Christian people is the imperative to share the Gospel with the world, to evangelize, to make disciples for Jesus Christ. Second, it is our desire to teach those who are disciples of Jesus all that He commanded His disciples to do (Matthew 28:19-20). Paul expanded on this latter objective in his last letter to Timothy: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be proficient and equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 2:17 from KJV and NRSV). To this end, we do what we can to teach the Bible with a view to helping people make their own lives work while they are a positive influence and blessing on those around them. Our primary mission is carried out through the Born to Win Radio Program, literature and essays both in print and on the Internet, and a major effort at youth education through YEA. We also make available tape recorded sermons and Bible studies in our CEM Bookstore. CEM is here to serve the public, individual Christians of every stripe, and community based churches in every tradition. We are an independent, non-denominational ministry. Our Confession of Faith is broadly stated and not intended to be exclusionary (About CEM, http://www.cemnetwork.com/cem/about.htm, 4/12/03).
Against Herbert Armstrong's Differentiation
Ron Dart stated:
Christians may not have recognized their own motives, the WCG may not have either...I dont know how much of a role old habits played in HWAs evangelistic efforts, but I do know he looked for differentiation, and he did so adversarially, as an adman naturally would. What he wanted were wedge issues: issues that could be used to drive a wedge between a person and his old church so the person could be attracted to the WCG. And he wanted exclusive use of the product. He didnt want you coming to church with him this week and going somewhere else next week. The wedge issues are familiar: born again, heaven..., Sabbath and Sunday, pagan holidays, immortal soul, etc. But, in typical adman style, Mr. Armstrong advanced these with hyperbole and often took them too far in the attempt to differentiate. Other products (read denominations or churches) were demonized to complete the sale. The long and the short One of the by-products of this approach was a church that was long on hostility and short on tolerance. (Dart R. Beware the demons of differentiation. The Journal, January 31, 2003, p.10).
Seems to Believe "Armstrongism" is Wrong
Ron Dart stated:
Change is coming slowly, but it is sharply hindered by the need for organizational identity. One wonders how this dynamic played into the Tkach revolution in the WCG. Like the old adman, Joseph Tkach and associates couldnt see any middle ground. It was either Armstrongism or mainstreamism. They knew the former was wrong, so the other must be right (Dart R. Beware the demons of differentiation. The Journal, January 31, 2003, p.10).
Tolerance Makes CEM Feast of Tabernacles Possible
Ron Dart stated:
It is the tolerance we at Christian Educational Ministries have learned over many years24 nowthat makes the CEM Feast of Tabernacles and its Internet forum possible. It doesnt require any compromise with right and wrong, merely a humility that comes from being wrong too many times and a willingness to grant others the right to make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons (Dart R. Beware the demons of differentiation. The Journal, January 31, 2003, p.10).
The Journal reported:
The CEM Feast of Tabernacles site met this year, Oct. 11-18, for the first time at the Emerald Coast Conference Center on Floridas Okaloosa Island. This is a new convention center in the states panhandle. Its construction was completed just this year. About 1,200 registered at this site...The CEM site differs from many others in that CEM is not a church and has no congregations or ministers of its own. People from various groups or those who have no church at all attend. Another difference is the exchange of speakers with the nearby Church of God Big Sandys site, in Destin, Fla. The COG Big Sandy (Texas) is pastored by Dave Havir. These two groups choose to cooperate rather than compete. The CEM site is organized by a group of volunteers rather than a home office (Reader's Feast of Tabernacles reports begin. The Journal, October 31, 2003, p. 9).
I should also comment that those attending are mainly independents who send a portion of the income to CEM or pay to sponsor CEM's radio broadcast. They are sort of a loose confederation (so loose, that one who is actually mentioned frequently at CEM's website and who sponsors its radio broadcast told me that his group has no CEM affiliation). CEM is so tolerant that those who believe very few of the unique COG doctrines seem to be comfortable there--yet there is not much in the way of true unity either.
Christ Does Not Put One in the Church?
Ron Dart stated:
One of the demons of differentiation is vanity. We are better than you are. We have the truth and you dont. Arrogance is the bitter fruit of vanity. Another demon is exclusivism. Yet another is authoritarianism, necessary to keep us exclusive: You cant join the church; Christ has to put you into itwhich means we have to approve you and we can blackball you. I dont think we should be driven by the demons of differentiation. Rather, we should be drawn to Christ, where we will find our differences accepted or corrected as need beand where we can find ourselves together in ways unexpected and unanticipated. Some are finding it difficult to relate to other Sabbatarian groups because they lose some of their identity in the process (Dart R. Beware the demons of differentiation. The Journal, January 31, 2003, p.10).
Though I have been unable to locate specific the issue of CEM's Youth Educational Adventures that discussed this, it remains my strong recollection that I read that CEM encourages the celebration of birthdays.An article of related interest may be Did Early Christians Celebrate Birthdays?
CGI believes that there is lack of clarity regarding biblical third tithe, thus it does not teach its members to pay third tithe. Garner Ted Armstrong rejected third tithe by the mid 1980s. (Stinson, Vance. CGI HQ, Telephone interview, 3/27/01).
Ron Dart stated:
The third tithe was, in fact, the welfare, or social security system of ancient Israel. Many ministers in our tradition, while affirming the first and second tithe, decided long ago that the governments of most modern nations have taken over the responsibilities described in the third tithe...A modern equivalent of the third tithe system is the social security and welfare system of the United States. In social security alone, you pay (or your employer pays for you) 15 percent of your 20,000 dollar income. This amounts to a cool 3000 dollars per year--every year, not just one year in seven. The ministry concluded that the third tithe was covered rather throughly by that amount of money. And that is not all you pay. A substantial amount of your federal income tax, your state and local taxes, and the sales taxes you pay from day to day, goes to help the poor in one way or another...The decision of the ministry was, since the government was taking far more than a third tithe from us and spending it on the widows and fatherless children, that there was no need for us to pay another poor tithe to the church...But the third tithe, as such, is not applicable in any society with a tax based program to help the poor. It has not been abolished or repealed, it is just that the government is doing it, however badly (Dart, Ron. Second and Third Tithes. http://www.cemnetwork.com/essay/essay/23tithe.htm, 4/12/03).
Here is a link to my article titled Is Third Tithe Still Valid Today? which addresses biblical and historical aspects of third tithe.
Ron Dart has written:
CEM is a service ministry and depends entirely on the generosity of those we serve. If we have ministered to your needs, you can be sure that we are ministering to others as well. If you would like to help us help others with the knowledge of God and his Word, you can do it by remembering to pray for us. If you would like to make a contribution, you can do so by dropping a check in the mail or by using your credit card below (by far the best way to contribute for people in other countries). With love in Christ's service, Ronald L. Dart (How we are funded. http://www.cemnetwork.com/common/gift.htm, 4/12/03).
Ron Dart has written:
A church should not require members to give or tithe to the church either in whole or in part, although normal fund-raising is appropriate. Tithing and giving are acts of personal worship and must not be interfered with by anyone (Dart, Ronald. Why CEM? http://www.cemnetwork.com/church/about.htm, 4/12/03).
Although CEM's Confession of Faith (its short statement of beliefs) does not mention tithing, CEM does encourage tithing for Christians,
It seems clear enough in the Genesis account that, for Abraham, paying the tithe to Melchizedek was an act of worship. It was an individual act of worship without coercion. He simply had to decide whether he was going to obey God or not. It is none of my business if another man prays. Why should it be my affair if he tithes? Tithing is voluntary in the sense that it is done as a matter of personal initiative...However, we Christians are the children of Abraham, not Moses (Galatians 3:7), and Jesus said that if we are the children of Abraham, we might be expected to do the works of Abraham (John 8:39) ...Rich toward God? How rich? Well, a tithe is a place to start (Dart, Ron. Why Did Abraham Tithe? http://www.cemnetwork.com/essay/essay/tithe.htm, 4/12/03).
It should be noted that CEM does not report an income consistent with its number of loosely connected/affiliated groups. Part of that is probably because that many directly sponsor the CEM broadcast by paying the radio stations themselves without sending the support to CEM itself. CEM's tithing and other policies are also significant factors.
An article of possibly related interest may be Tithing Questions and Some Answers
Though many CEM materials are free, it differs from most groups in that it has an on-line bookstore.
Gain insight and inspiration from the latest tapes and books added to CEM's bookstore. These contain the same in-depth teaching you hear each day on the Born to Win program - both current and archived programs. All of these are now available for you to order online (CEM Bookstore. http://www.cemnetwork.com/ShopSite/newitem.html, 4/12/03)
WCG, prior to the apostasy, taught that the prophecies of the Churches in Revelation 2 and 3 regard successive eras of the Church throughout its history. CGI taught against it, and I have seen nothing from CEM that suggests that it does teach Church eras.
CGI taught, when Ron Dart was part of it:
What about the concept of "church eras"? Did God forordain that His church would pass through specific, different, "eras", or "phases" throughout history...There are some grave difficulties with this view...For many years I myself believed this concept...There are only seven churches. Therefore, by written, oral and tacit admission, the "era" theory presupposes that each era supersedes the other...WHY should more than one third of the number be presupposed to extant contemporaneously in the last days? (Armstrong, Garner Ted. Where is Your "Place of Safety". CGI Booklet, 1985, p.3).
I will attempt to answer the last question raised. The reason is that there are only "a few names" (Revelation 3:4) in Sardis, not an entire era of the Church extant at the end. Regarding Philadelphia, only those who "Hold fast what you have" who will be around when Jesus returns (vs. 11). For additional information, you may wish to read What is a True Philadelphian? Here is an article on The Churches (Eras) of Revelation 2 & 3.
Place of Safety
WCG used to teach about going to a place of safety (and the Philadelphia remnant and some others still do. The article titled Laodicean Warning for God's People discusses this subject). CGI taught against that concept and I have seen nothing from CEM that suggests it changed from CGI's position.
CGI has taught, when Ron Dart was still part of it:
During many, many years it was supposed that those who are taken to a "place of safety" are those who are WORTHY (Luke 21:36), while those who are left behind are obviously UNWORTHY, and must suffer the pangs of torment, torture and martyrdom in order to cleanse and purify there minds and hearts through physical torture...Is THIS SCENARIO TRUE? First, take a look at what this doctrine presupposes. It assumes that at least THREE of the so-called "eras" are extant now!...Fot years, many ministers have taught FALSELY that the Almighty God will use physical punishment; the GREAT TRIBULATION, martyrdomand torture before death as the final means of expiating guilt; the final manner in which God will cleanse unrighteousness, and bring about brokenhearted REPENTANCE in recalcitrant, unyielding or "Laodicean" (lukewarm) people!...IF God has determined you are one He must supernaturally PROTECT from the terrible times ahead--and He knows your strengths and weaknesses--THEN HE WILL PROTECT YOU! It does NOT MATTER HOW OR WHERE! (Armstrong, Garner Ted. Where is Your "Place of Safety". CGI Booklet, 1985, pp.3,5,11).
Here is an article There is a Place of Safety, Why Petra Might Be the Place.Christians in the Military, plus Jury Duty
Ron Dart wrote:
Paul was surely a citizen of God's Kingdom, but he did not hesitate to demand his rights as a Roman citizen. We don't hesitate to demand our rights as American citizens, but how can we exercise our rights while we avoid our responsibilities? Our country is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. We have, just as God said, judges and officers in all our gates. Why should we, as saints, decline to serve as judges and officers? Who is better able to sit on a jury and judge God's people?..I am persuaded that it is not only permissible for a Christian to serve on a jury if called; it is an obligation. I think God will hold us accountable for responsible government in our communities at least to the extent of doing what we can...We should clean out that rat's nest called the Taliban and avenge the murder of our citizens. For us as individuals to turn the other cheek, we need a government that will take up our cause and defend us. This is not vengeance taken with a spiteful heart. It is justice, and it is right. We should have done it a long time ago ( Dart, Ron. Take a new, hard look at vengeance. The Journal. 10/31/01).
When later specifically asked about this subject, Ron Dart responded,
A Christian could serve in the military (email from Ron Dart to TW 6/5-7/02).
The Journal reported that Ron Dart stated at a conference of "semi-independents" (my term),
I am not a pacifist (Conference of Church Leaders convenes to talk
about the diversity and defense of congregations. The Journal. Jan-Feb 2007).
This should sad. For a different view, please read the article Military Service and the COGs.
Cause of WCG Breakup
Ron Dart stated:
The culture of the Worldwide Church of God was the response of its people to the revelation of God as interpreted by a narrow range of teachers. Much of what these teachers taught was true, but much was not. And over time, the culture built up around these teachings was simply unendurable by a large number of people and it finally provoked the revolution of 1995. What happened is not dissimilar to the way in which the Renaissance Popes provoked the Protestant reformation (Dart, Ronald. What Does the Church Need Now? http://www.cemnetwork.com/essay/personal/whatdtcnn.htm, 4/12/03).
Governance and View of Churches
Ron Dart stated:
In addition to these obligations, we believe a church should also be committed to the following four freedoms: Freedom of Association. A church should not discriminate between members upon whether they associate with other persons, churches or groups, but rather should encourage a spirit of cooperation and communication. Freedom of Giving. A church should not require members to give or tithe to the church either in whole or in part, although normal fund-raising is appropriate. Tithing and giving are acts of personal worship and must not be interfered with by anyone. Freedom of Conscience. A church should not discriminate between members based on their privately held beliefs. They may, however, require certain practices as a condition of full membership or office (such as Sabbath and festival observance.) Freedom of Attendance. A church should not discriminate or sanction a member from attendance except in cases of egregious misconduct (I Corinthians 5:1 ff.) disturbing services, or willfully causing division. For instance, a person will not be barred from church attendance because he or she is still struggling with the Sabbath. CEM is not a church and does not attempt to govern community churches or fellowships in any way. The above are merely what we hope to see in the churches of God, and what we think are important principles when we refer a new brother to a local church. It is our hope that, in the process of time, an informal network will begin to draw all the churches of God together again. We do not believe that a single, monolithic Church of God is in our future, but a voluntary cooperation of brethren may well be. The informal network is already forming, and brethren are learning the lesson of the ant, who without any guide or overseer, does the work God gave her to do. This does not mean that the local church will not have elders and overseersonly that we must learn to work without them when we have to. These are trying times for the churches, but here at CEM, we are playing to win (Dart, Ronald. Why CEM? http://www.cemnetwork.com/church/about.htm, 4/12/03).
Ronald Dart's rejection of proper church governance has apparently clouded how he views certain scriptures related to it based upon my reading of an announcement he made on February 1, 2009 (see CEM’s Ron Dart on Governance).
Those interested in the truth about church governance should read the article Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, and Roderick C. Meredith on Church Government
Objects to the Church Teaching Doctrine
The Journal reported about a conference of "semi-independent leaders" (my term) that Ron Dart spoke at:
Mr. Dart criticized the concept of “one man” as leader of a church. “Now, maybe he’ll be a good guy, a benign despot,” he said, “but the fact of the matter is that, when you leave the task of protecting the church to one man, you are taking a risk on autocracy and authoritarianism”...
“Doctrine has been kicked around this church for too long,” he said. “I don’t know why it’s such a big problem. We tend to use the word in a sense of the word dogma. Now, does a church have the right to establish what we teach?” (Conference of Church Leaders convenes to talk about the diversity and defense of congregations. The Journal. Jan-Feb 2007).
On his last point, please look at some of what the Apostle Paul wrote about the church:
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Having watched DVD presentations previously by at least two the leaders at this conference, I will simply state that "the semi-independents" do have a real problem with doctrine, getting the Gospel message out, and remaining a coherent body (these type of confederations have never seemed ideal in meeting the mission of the Church of God as far as HWA and others have been concerned).
Book of Genesis
Ron Dart opined:
A more common approach is simply to recognize that Genesis 1 is not intended to be read as history or taken literally. This theory takes it as an ancient song, poem or hymn that expresses the truth of creation without trying to give us a historical account of it. There is an interesting sidebar to the creation hymn of Genesis 1. If indeed it is a poetic expression of the creation rather than a literal one, what is the point of constructing the poem the way it is constructed? It is obvious when you think about it. It is to establish the Sabbath as the sign of the Creator...It will not damage my faith if science can prove that Noahs flood was 10,000 years ago. It might damage my confidence in my understanding of biblical chronology and send me back to the books. But it doesnt change the truth of Noahs flood...I consider biblical chronology of value only in the most general way for getting a feeling for the passage of time. After all, if it had been of vital importance to us, God could easily have seen to it that we had the data we need. The fact that he didnt should tell us something (Dart R. In My Opinion. April 29, 2003; http://www.rondart.com/, 5/5/03).
Born to Win
Born to Win is a radio program featuring Ron Dart. It is on dozens of radio stations daily (5 days per week) and normally is sponsored by local, non-aligned ('independent' COG) groups. CEM appears to have the largest radio presence of any COG or COG ministry.
However, it does not seem to be as effective in reaching people as I once thought. In January 2008, I received the following (which I am including in the entirety as I received it) from a CEM supporter who extracted this from a CEM letter explaining its reach/effectiveness in 2007:
"We mailed out approximately 70,000 CDs/DVDs/Tapes in 2007. ... We added 2249 new families to our mailing list in 2007, and received 32,000 pieces of mail (not including junk mail). ... We get quite a lot done with out small staff of nine people."
Very Loosely Affiliated
Even though CEM often has articles by Lenny Cacchio on its main page, he (Lenny Cacchio) objected when I stated that his group was affiliated with CEM. He sent me an email stating that his group, though it donated to CEM was not CEM-related but independent. That is why on my COGlinks page I worded my listing of Lenny's church as follows:
Church of God Kansas City Lenny Cacchio (has sponsored CEM radio, but has no CEM affiliation)
Because of Lenny Cacchio's attitude, Ron Dart's writings, and comments I have received from other small groups that donate sometimes to CEM, I have concluded that what I will call the "CEM group" is very loosely affiliated.
Ron Dart's Health Led to Problems
Ronald Dart has had health problems which has really affected CEM.
This is what Allie Dart wrote on the CEM Forum in response to several resignations of Board Members and Festival Assocation members below:
Dear CEM forum members,
Under other circumstances, the resignation of board members would not be any cause for comment at all. CEM’s board members are selected and elected by the existing board members, and it is not unusual for a board member to resign. But at this time, CEM faces circumstances which it has not since Ron Dart started this organization in 1995. That is, Ron Dart is not able to personally direct the organization, or to provide his wisdom and insight to the board. All of you are aware of this important fact, and it makes these recent resignations seem more significant than perhaps they really are.
Let me reassure everyone o f one th y and intimately aware of Ron’s vision for CEM and his plans to fulfill CEM’s goals into the future. Ron’s vision for CEM will continue to guide our policies, and his plans for CEM’s future goals will be our blueprint going forward. I have never been one to seek the limelight. My name is not on the founding documents for CEM. I never wanted my name to be there. Do not let that fool you into believing that the concept for CEM was not a development of Ron and me prayerfully seeking God’s will for our lives and his will for our service to him.
We are working now to plan a glorious and uplifting Feast of Tabernacles in Sevierville, TN for 2011. The beautiful Smokey Mountains will be an inspiring setting in October. And the area offers many family-oriented attractions, from National Parks to amusement parks to museums and shows. We are developing a new format for the weekly Sabbath service that was being live-streamed from the headqu arters b e. We will not permit such a vital service to be abandoned, so we will go back to live streaming as soon as we have everything in place. Our radio programs continue uninterrupted, inspiring the lives of unknown numbers of people who have never attended a Sabbath church service, as well as many veterans of our tradition. The calls to our call center have not slowed down a bit, as people continue to order free CDs of the radio program, or place their orders for Born to Win series.
So, you see, nothing has changed at all. I am committed to keeping Ron’s vision alive. Everything you can do to help will be much appreciated.
There are probably many, many other areas where CEM does not teach what WCG used to teach under HWA. But, other than the discussion of radio (which is not really a difference), this article has focused on some of the main areas.
I should probably add that some have suggested that Ron Dart does not believe that Christians need to keep the Ten Commandments (or specifically the Sabbath) but CEM's own official statements,
We believe in the observance of the Ten Commandments including the celebration of the seventh day Sabbath. The Sabbath is a gift from God and should be celebrated with prayer, study, and fellowship. It is a day of rest (Confession of Faith. http://www.cemnetwork.com/cem/sofaith.htm, 4/12/03) suggest otherwise.
It is my understanding that Ron Dart was one of the 'liberals' HWA used to be highly concerned about.
CEM itself is somewhat winding down.
Ron Dart has said,
The doctrinal differences among the Churches of God are miniscule. You can't get a knifes edge between us on doctrines (Dart, Ron. CEM Founder Talks About Bickering, Bridges, the Future. The Journal. July 31, 1999. p.6)
This author disagrees. How can anyone examine the teachings of groups, such as CEM, and come to that conclusion (nor apparently would Herbert Armstrong, for proof please check out some quotes from HWA on holding fast to doctrine)?
I should add that a defender of Ron Dart told me that she felt that The Journal quoted him out-of-context as he meant it as a joke. However after reading Ron Dart's other similar statements, it appears to me that he probably did intend to make that statement.
Laodicean Warning to God's People you have read this far you are probably a current or former member of one of the Churches of God and may be interested in reading this warning article which was published in The Journal.
Back to home page
B. Thiel 2003/2006/2007/2008/2009/2011/2012 0804