Facts and Commentary by COGwriter
In 2010, the United Church of God (UCG) was approached by its then president, Clyde Kilough, about making certain changes to its governance. Something about this resulted in his resignation and others in the top leadership in UCG. Because UCG has long had problems with unity, this combined with certain apparently festering issues among many in the UCG ministry resulted in at least 174 ministers/elders in UCG leaving in the following ten months. This was perhaps the biggest organization crisis that UCG ever faced as thousands once part of it are now gone and supporting Church of God, a Worldwide Association (COGWA).
Some of those who left UCG at first became part of a group called Church of God, America (COGA), which seems to have gone to the wayside shortly after the formation of Church of God, a Worldwide Association (COGWA).
I believe that the crisis was a wake up call, a “knocking on the door” (cf. Revelation 3:20) if you will, for those in or formerly in UCG. Yet, it seems that most who are or were part of UCG have not truly understood this as a warning as they have tended to be satisfied with a work that was not hot (Revelation 3:14-17). The split that affected UCG/COGWA could be part of a warning to those who have rejected Philadelphia-era governance and gospel proclamation priorities to get them to consider their state (Revelation 3:17-19).
Church of God, a Worldwide Association announced that COGWA is how it prefers to be abbreviated (some had wanted CGWA):
We have also chosen the abbreviation “COGWA” rather than “CGWA” as official for use in all our publications. We could not get the domain name CGWA for our website.
This article will provide some documentation of positions held by individuals that seem to have had at least some authority in COGWA to give an idea about COGWA doctrines, beliefs, and likely practices. In addition, some of my concerns and commentary will also be included.
On December 23, 2010, COGWA made the following announcement:
Church of God, a Worldwide Association
Today we are announcing the formation of a new international congregation of believers, the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. Our church organization incorporated on December 23, 2010 and has members, congregations and ministers around the world.
The formation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, results from several fundamental disagreements within United Church of God, an International Association. After numerous efforts to engage in biblical resolutions and reconciliation, all efforts failed, and a separation became inevitable.
There is a report from COGWA (titled Timeline for the Establishment of Church of God, a Worldwide Association, dated about January 3, 2011) where it basically states that it did not decide to form until after UCG essentially rejected a 12/4/10 letter and that various discussions did not happen until the week of December 13, 2010. It also says that it was not until 12/20/10 that it was proposed that COGWA be formed, and that this was somewhat based on a 12/17/10 letter from Dennis Luker, where he indicated to certain ministers that they resign and have a “peaceful separation”. Apparently, some at COGWA were concerned how UCG was portraying this. UCG, on the other hand, had been indicating that it has information that suggests that those who left it were part of some long running conspiracy.
What is the truth?
Probably a little of both. There probably are some in COGWA who had long hoped to break-away from UCG, while many there probably only recently made a decision to do so. And UCG probably has some information on the former. But in my view, they are likely to be the two sides of the same ditch. There was also controversy about how a Sabbath matter was handled in Latin America. UCG lost most of its Latin American elders in the summer of 2010, because of that and apparently governance concerns.
Although the name Church of God, a Worldwide Association was possibly only going to be temporary, on January 11, 2011, that name was formally adopted to be continued by its voting elders:
January 11, 2011 – The meetings began as Interim Board President Mike Hanisko called upon Kevin Epps for the opening prayer. Mr.Hanisko then announced the result of the ballot for our church name. Of the 118 ballots cast, 78 chose “Church of God, a Worldwide Association.” So our temporary name has now become our official name.
Since essentially all the top ministry of COGWA was originally ordained by the old Worldwide Church of God (WCG), the selection of COGWA seems logical on its surface.
COGWA has been in a state of flux since its beginning, but seems to be trying to define how it will be governed and who will do what.
Here is some of what COGWA has reported:
January 9, 2011 – The organizing conference of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association was opened at 1:00 p.m. by Mike Hanisko, president of the temporary Board of Directors…
Clyde Kilough then gave an opening address...Dave Baker then spoke on interim governance—noting that it was not the intention of this committee to set a precedent for what would be chosen for a long term government, nor how choices would be made, process-wise.
January 10, 2011 – Mike Hanisko, president of the temporary Board of Directors opened the meetings at 8:30 a.m. by asking Tom Diaz to lead the group in prayer.
The first order of business was to ballot upon two proposals for selecting the Interim Governance Team…
Bruce Gore, Chairman of the long-term governance committee, updated everyone on the work of this committee. He thanked everyone for the input that has been given, including over 60 papers on this subject that have come from members and ministers. He noted that the papers represented the widest possible range of ideas.
He shared with everyone that the committee plans to offer several options for governance to the organization. If possible, we want to avoid mistakes of the past. Answering the question, “Can you guarantee that this won’t happen again?” he said, “No. But we all want to reduce politics and the turnover of administrators. We also want to minimize the amount of balloting.”…
the men who served on the Temporary Leadership Team and those who served on the Temporary Board now become the Interim Governance Team. Those serving on the Interim Leadership Team are Jim Franks, Doug Horchak, Clyde Kilough, David Register and Richard Thompson. Those serving on the Interim Board are George Evans, Ken Giese, Mike Hanisko, Greg Sargent and Roger West.
January 14, 2011...
The most important decision now ahead of us is to determine the church’s long-term governance system. We hope to accomplish that relatively soon, but in the meantime many organizational issues need immediate attention and require having an administration and governance in place. To that end, the pre-conference short-term governance committee proposed two options. By more than two-thirds margin (84 to 37) the elders selected the one that called for the existing temporary board of directors and leadership team to continue serving in their roles until a permanent form of governance is established.
What is now known as the Interim Governance Team consists of Jim Franks, Doug Horchak, Clyde Kilough, David Register and Richard Thompson; the Board of Directors consists of George Evans, Kenneth Giese (secretary), Michael Hanisko, Greg Sargent (treasurer) and Roger West. To legally fulfill the requirements of the elders’ decision, on Monday Mr. Hanisko stepped down as president of the corporation and was reappointed as board chairman. This option also required the Interim Governance Team to select a chief executive officer from among themselves, so later that evening they appointed Clyde Kilough as president. The bulk of the day-to-day work falls on the shoulders of the governance team, but both groups will be working closely together.
After the conference ended on Tuesday, the governance team organized its duties according to the mandate spelled out in the option the elders chose. Jim Franks will manage the areas that pertain to ministerial and congregational care; Richard Thompson will coordinate financial affairs with the treasurer and accounting firm in addition to coordinating our festival planning; Doug Horchak will be the liaison with the international areas; David Register will work with areas of communication and our education program including youth camps; and Clyde Kilough will focus on media efforts pertaining to preaching the gospel…
But as the long-term governance committee chairman, Bruce Gore, noted in his conference presentation, we also know that no structure of governance can guarantee a problem-free future. We all must be governed first and foremost by God’s Holy Spirit working effectively in each one of us…
Until next time, may God be with you all,
Peter Hawkins, former CEO of UCG in the United Kingdom resigned on February 8, 2011, and became listed with COGWA’s London congregation. Les McCullough, the UCG President of UCG prior to Clyde Kilough, also became associated with COGWA.
COGWA has spent what seems to be a lot of time to work on its form of governance.
On 7/13/11, COGWA's secretary wrote:
- In regard to our proposed Governance Plan, Constitution and Bylaws: 138 elders approved and 10 elders disapproved. Therefore, the Governance Plan, Constitution and Bylaws are approved.
- In regard to our two options for selecting leadership: 82 elders chose Option 1 (Balloting) and 66 elders chose Option 2 (Balloting/Impartial Selection). Therefore, we shall select leadership using Option 1 (Balloting).
So, with a choice of balloting vs. another type of balloting, the eldership of COGWA choose balloting. This is not a surprise. Those elders apparently were not interested in the type of governance structure that all of them at least publicly supported when they were part of the old WCG (as nearly all of them once were).
When Jesus returns no one thinks that He will implement the type of balloting governance that COGWA adopted. Jesus would clearly support a hierarchical form of governance. Perhaps that should be the standard today?
The style of governance that COGWA has thus far been operating under is very similar to that which UCG began under. This differs from that of the old WCG and the current Living Church of God (LCG). For some details, please see Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, and Roderick C. Meredith on Church Government.
COGWA seems to be the largest group to come out of UCG (David Hulme's COGaIC had been the largest prior to this).
Notice the following from Jim Franks to COGWA's ministry 3/4/2011:
As of March 1, we have more than 200 congregations holding weekly services with more than 170 elders and 8,000 in attendance around the world.
On May 27, 2011, COGWA reported that it had 9,037 attend the first Day of Unleavened Bread.
As far as number of congregations, as of 09/11/2011, COGWA listed 237 congregations with 111 in the USA, 3 in Canada, 50 in Latin America, 4 in Europe, 13 in the Caribbean, 28 in Africa, and 28 in Asia/Pacific. COGWA is likely the third largest COG (UCG may still be the largest, LCG is the third largest, PCG now seems to have dropped to fourth largest).
On November 3, 2011, COGWA's Jim Franks reported:
We also had a very strong international attendance during the Feast this year. You may not be aware of this, but about 40 percent of our total Church attendance resides outside the United States…The Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day capped off an extraordinary year for us…Our highest actual attendance on a holy day in the U.S. this year was 5,002. By including a very conservative estimate of two people per connection for the Webcasts during the Feast of Tabernacles, we calculate that COGWA had a total attendance of around 5,300 in the U.S. and close to 9,500 worldwide.
These figures suggest that UCG was hit hard by the crisis. UCG's income may tumble. UCG itself reported back on February 4, 2011 that it had lost 53% of its paid USA ministers. But UCG has continued until now, not appearing to be overly damaged (other than the fact of the loss itself), but mainly going along similar to how it did prior to the COGWA split (with less expenses to help balance out the lessor income).
In 2012, COGWA reported around 9,200 at its Feast of Tabernacles' sites/
While COGWA claims congregations around the world (mainly in North and South America, with perhaps some in New Zealand, Europe, South Africa, and elsewhere) its main office is currently in Florida. Here is COGWA's Q&A on this:
Will the headquarters remain in Florida?
As was pointed out in the December 24, 2010, announcement regarding the formation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association our temporary headquarters is located in Palm Coast, Florida.
This temporary office was established as a necessary step of incorporating in Florida.
The location of UCG's main office was a factor that has caused controversy for several years. In 2012, COGWA found a location in Allen, Texas (located some miles north of Dallas).
As far as beliefs, COGWA's Jim Franks indicated that COGWA would have the same ones as UCG did:
January 10, 2011 – ...Mr. Franks then shared a document establishing our commitment to doctrinal integrity. This includes the following principles:
- We commit our support for the 20 fundamental beliefs as developed and approved by the elders in 1995.
- We commit to establishing a doctrinal review process for all publications that contain doctrinal material, whether posted on the Internet or printed. This process must involve levels of review and include senior ministers known for their doctrinal integrity.
- We commit to establishing a committee for doctrinal oversight, entrusted with the responsibility of resolving doctrinal conflict and answering doctrinal questions from within the organization, among the elders and among the membership.
- We commit to providing a process by which any elder or member may submit doctrinal questions and/or material for doctrinal review. This process will provide for several levels of review by senior ministers.
Of course, UCG has had doctrinal deviations that not all of its membership seems to have been aware of. Some of these are included in the article Differences between the Living Church of God and United Church of God. COGWA issued a limited statement of beliefs that is available at http://cogwa.org/about/fundamental-beliefs.
COGWA's focus seems to be on rebuilding and starting anew. For one small example, notice the following from its official website:
Starting Something New?
by Joel Meeker - January 21, 201
Are you starting something new?
- Leaving home?
- New school?
- New job?
- New relationship?
- New church?
Certainly, COGWA is new, but in many ways it seems to be trying to take several of the same steps that UCG did when it formed.
In a letter to its membership dated January 20, 2011, the Interim Leadership of COGWA stated:
Following this letter is a proposal outlining our recommendations for financial management. It allows, as we have for the last 15 years, for both central and local collections of tithes and offerings. Some local congregations have already collected a considerable amount of money, which is understandable since we have had a central post office box for only three weeks. However, in order to move forward with making plans to hire employees to be able to preach the gospel and care for the congregations, we need to be able to accurately gauge the income that will be received centrally.
Here is some information from that document, which is called Financial Procedures for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association Collection and Disbursement of Financial Resources During the Interim Start-Up Phase Submitted by the Interim Leadership Team and Board of Directors January 2011:
The Church of God, a Worldwide Association, is in a start-up phase, although certain considerations required at the birth of an organization will change as it matures. The immediate critical success factors are:
1. Prepare forecasts, budgets and plans.
2. Pay for required local congregational needs, such as halls, supplies and sound systems.
3. Provide financial assistance for needy members and retirees.
4. Provide an employed pastor for every congregation.
But we need to be extremely frugal. Spending decisions should always be made with care, and in the start-up phase expenditures must be made only for what is absolutely necessary.
As we stabilize and can forecast income with greater confidence, the next steps will include finalizing long-term governance, selecting leaders and administrators, developing strategies for doing the work of the Church including spreading the gospel, and allocating resources based on those decisions.
Barely a month into its organization, the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, has funds both in a central account and (of unknown amounts) in many local church accounts. This makes it impossible to forecast, budget and allocate responsibly.
Our first step is to decide how we are going to approach the initial critical success factors listed above. We suggest the following:
Both the central office and each congregation should prepare a budget.
Each local congregation should be responsible for paying for its immediate needs. If sufficient funds are not available locally, a subsidy will be sent from the central office.
Providing financial assistance to either congregations or needy members should be primarily handled centrally, in coordination with the local pastor. Local congregations should keep enough money in reserves to handle unforeseen emergency needs.
As funds permit, the hiring of pastors should be managed centrally and not attempted locally.
These matters require centralized forecasting, budgeting and planningthat can only be accomplished with a coordinated pooling of resources. If individual congregations desire to continue collecting funds locally, the costs involved in the financial management of the local congregation should be considered. Costs not readily seen are those related to pastoral care and providing for those in need, including widows and retirees. Without some system of sharing resources, we may find that our widows and retirees will be without support. We believe this is unacceptable for the Church of God based on the scriptures that insist we care for these individuals. A laborer is worthy of his hire, and pure religion is to visit the fatherless and widows in their need (1 Timothy 5:18; James 1:27).
Local Start-Up Considerations
Anyone should feel free to send their tithes and offerings to the local congregation, the central account or both.
This is fairly similar, though not quite the same, as how UCG began. It is similar because it is giving members a choice about where to tithe. It is not the same, however, as it seems clear that COGWA wants people to realize that it truly intends a centralized budget for the USA and is suggesting that the local situation will be dealt with centrally after it is ready. At least that is my read of this.
COGWA has made a couple of pronouncements which suggest that it should proclaim the gospel:
(December 23, 2010) Our mission is to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God to all nations and make disciples from among those whom God calls. Our doctrines are based in the first century teachings of Jesus Christ as practiced by the apostles. Our values are grounded in the biblical record. We will strive to humbly follow this example.
January 10, 2011 – ...Ken Treybig then gave a presentation on preaching the gospel. We want to assure everyone that we are committed to doing this he said. Continuing, he noted that we must fulfill the commission Christ gave the Church. How we can do this with a smaller group? Perhaps it will have to be done in a measured way, most likely with an Internet focus, but also with print…
There are several concerns I have about the above.
One, is that the leadership of COGWA never really seemed to make gospel proclamation a top priority when they were part of UCG.
The second is that by indicating that this will be done in a measured way and mainly on the internet, this suggests that COGWA's financial priorities will not be in the direction of public proclamation. Remember that Jesus taught:
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21, NKJV)
Notice the following from Jim Franks to COGWA's ministry 3/4/2011:
Starting over is not easy, but within a matter of 10 weeks a new organization is up and running—not quite on all cylinders just yet—but up and running. On Feb. 7, sixty employees began work for COGWA. As of March 1, we began providing financial support for international areas (Latin America, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Ghana, the Philippines, Caribbean, French regions of Africa, France and New Zealand—with more to come). This will be a large financial undertaking, to the tune of $900,000 on an annual basis. Outside of the employment of 60 people, this will be the largest expenditure to date for the new organization.
The above is consistent with what I expected (as well as what I have written about COGWA). COGWA's main financial priorities will be to provide employment for ministers as well as to provide other financial support for their congregations. Gospel proclamation will likely to continue to take a lower priority.
So, far, as of June 2, 2012, I have not heard of a radio or television program intended for the public being produced and aired by COGWA (for point of reference, LCG did this within 8 weeks of its formation, and GCG did this in about the same time when it originally formed; UCG did not do anything like that for quite some time after it formed in 1995).
But there is more. Several leaders in COGWA were affiliated with the now probably defunct COGA. Why is this a concern?
COGA, perhaps realizing that it may have tight finances, but definitely realizing that its heart is not into public proclamation of the gospel, listed the following at its website:
Having chosen to associate in a supportive way, we commit to the following:
1. To put Matthew 6:33 as the first priority.
2. To participate in a Daily Bible Reading program
3. To implement the Ephesians 4:12-16 model.
4. To practice Matthew 18:15-18 and 1 Timothy 5:19-20.
5. To manage finances responsibly.
6. To preach the gospel.
So gospel proclamation is admitted to be its lowest priority on public commitment. It seems to have governance as third. When the above came out, Leon Walker, Larry Salyer, and Ken Giese were directors of COGA (formed in the fall of 2010) and/or affiliated with IAO (International Ambassador Outreach, which seemed to have formed in the summer of 2010). And Ken Giese is on one of COGWA's governing boards. I believe that the COGA position will tend to reflect more about what COGWA will actually do, hence this is a major concern.
In what I consider to be an attempt to rationalize its low priority on gospel proclamation, it wrote the following its commitments:
What does this mean in practical terms?
1. To put Matthew 6:33 as the first priority.
It is always good to put first the things God and Christ say to put first—loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness.
If we fail to put these first, we can justify unrighteous actions–if they support something important to us such as doing a work. If we fail to reinforce the top priorities, we will fill those places with what seems right to us at the time.
At times the success of a church or of a minister has been measured on how much enthusiasm we have for preaching the gospel. Preaching the gospel is important, but it must not take precedence over the two things Christ said to put first: seeking the Kingdom and seeking God’s righteousness. Part of seeking the Kingdom is to preach it in preparation for Christ’s return. We will do this collectively as we have funds and manpower to do so…
6. To preach the gospel.
As part of preaching the gospel, we will build stable congregations to receive the people God calls. We will witness personally by being able to answer questions about our faith with confidence and accuracy. We will promote congregations sharing an Internet presence to preach the gospel. (Acts 1:8)
I consider that COGA’s approach is at best Laodicean as it certainly is not "hot." Since Ken Giese held/holds the position of “Director: Advisory Board” for International Ambassador Outreach, is apparently a founding member of COGWA, and apparently concurred with IAO’s funding of projects related to COGA, there is a link. And this may be disturbing for those in COGWA because it claims its “mission is to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God to all nations and make disciples from among those whom God calls.”
Yet, COGA’s priorities show that it had no real intention to fulfill Matthew 24:14, or the order of priorities in Matthew 28:19-20. And that gives me more reasons to wonder about COGWA.
And while placing Matthew 6:33 as its first commitment may help some rationalize against placing proper priority on public proclamation, I believe that listing that actually shows significant carnality on COGA’s part. Let’s quote and look at the context of that scripture:
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:25-34, NKJV)
Notice that Jesus was telling His followers not to be worried about carnal matters like what they would eat, but instead be oriented towards the kingdom of God in their personal lives. Yet, COGA suggests that this gets them out of gospel preaching commitments like Matthew 24:14; 28:19.
Notice what Matthew 24:14 states:
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
COGA did not seem to feel that it needs to preach that gospel much to the world as a witness as long as it declares that simply seeking God’s kingdom is a top commitment. This seems a bit on the selfish side. In my view, COGA really was off track in its rationalization of its commitments.
Larry Salyer who is/was a director at COGA is/was also a director of International Ambassador Outreach (IAO). IAO’s 12/01/10 press release began with:
International Ambassador Outreach (IAO) was formed in 2010 to help support the financial needs of congregations and care for members of the Church of God…
(For more details, please see the article UCG, IAOM, LCG, and Other UCG Options and IAO Reports Finances.) Larry Salyer is listed as having a COGWA congregation in Ruston, Louisiana. Both Larry Salyer and Leon Walker (both once of COGA) were nominated to be on the Ministerial Board of Directors for COGWA (COGWA Letter, July 31, 2011).
Earlier, Dixon Cartwright in his publication The Journal reported:
The conservatives, including those who are in the process of separating themselves from the UCG, are the diehard Herbert Armstrong fans. They include Leon Walker, Larry Salyer, Mike Hanisko, Ken Treybig, Mike Blackwell, Tom Kirkpatrick, Jim Franks, Dick Thompson and others who in recent days no longer sit on the council or occupy other positions because they have left the UCG. These folks are among the founders of the new Church of God a Worldwide Association.
It has been, and remains, my view that the first purpose of COGA (and now COGWA) is to keep ministers employed, and that pretty much everything else is a lower priority. And this opinion is not only based upon its publicly admitted (as viewed on 12/23/10) list of commitments, but also on the fact that International Ambassador Outreach originally formed essentially to fund the Latin American ministers and then was expanded to include funding of other UCG ministers who might leave that organization.
This is not to say that the COGA/COGWA ministers did not have any legitimate grievances against UCG (or UCG towards them, for that matter), but I see at best a Laodicean work was the goal for COGA. If there were any Philadelphians who considered COGA, they need to reconsider as COGA’s foundations seem to be highly Laodicean.
Remember, it was Jesus who condemned the Laodiceans for their work (Revelation 3:14-19), but He praised the Philadelphians for theirs (Revelation 3:7-10). Not only were COGA’s commitments at best lukewarm, they definitely are different than that of the Philadelphian church. I do not see COGWA as necessarily different (although at least in writing they indicated that they would be).
I believe that going for the UCG side of the ditch to the COGWA side of the same ditch will not result in a more effective proclamation of the gospel and will not do much to support Matthew 24:14. Of course, since the "gospel of the kingdom" involves government and COGWA apparently does not intend to install the type of governance that Christ will establish during His kingdom, this whole area of Matthew 24:14 is a major concern to me about COGWA.
Actions (fruits, cf. Matthew 7:15-20) speak louder than mission statements.
Since its beginning, I have questioned the committment of those running COGWA to fulfill Matthew 24:14 and to have gospel proclamation priorities consistent with Matthew 28:19-20.
In a letter to COGWA's membership dated 3/15/2011, Clyde Kilough wrote:
The obvious affordable vehicle we have for immediate use to launch gospel proclamation efforts is the Internet, and what a tool it is—the tool that reaches literally the entire world! We’ve never come close to tapping its full potential, but we certainly can begin carving out our niche. It doesn’t matter that we may be a small flock; with the power of the Internet, the gospel message has the very real capability of reaching farther, and with greater impact, than ever before. Furthermore, this is the media device that offers the greatest opportunity for broad-based ministerial and member participation. We should note that by no means does this exclude other formats of media presentation—print, radio, television, etc.
He also wrote:
…this is something we are delighted to announce—we are dedicating the first holy day offering of the Feast of Unleavened Bread entirely to preaching the gospel. This will provide the “seed money” for sowing our future efforts. In a time when we don’t have an annual budget in place and there are many hungry mouths, it will also assure that the gospel is guaranteed its seat at the resources table and that its share isn’t gobbled up before it even has a chance to get started.
Some will consider that the above is a good first step. Those who compare that to the gospel proclaiming financial priorities of the old WCG under Herbert W. Armstrong, what was done at the start of the old GCG, or the start of the Living Church of God (LCG) will realize that COGWA obviously is relegating gospel proclamation a relatively low financial priority. COGWA does not want to be so cold as to not do it, but neither so hot that it is a top priority (cf. Revelation 3).
In a member letter dated 8/19/11, COGWA's new Board stated the following:
Of the three major steps needed to establish a permanent governance and administrative system, two are now complete—we have selected our form of governance, and the Ministerial Board of Directors has now been named. A remaining major step is for the MBOD to name a president and to approve the management team he selects…If we are right in God’s sight, then He will bless us in what we do. If we are not right then we will struggle and eventually fail…
We commit to you that our greatest priority will be the spiritual strength and spiritual growth of the Church…
We are committed to preaching that gospel to this world and teaching God’s way of life. We may be small, but there are ways to harness the powers of technology to proclaim a witness to the truth of God with a bigger and more effective voice. We are committed to getting this done!
We are committed to preserving and defending the doctrinal integrity of the Church of God and to helping the Church become stronger through being grounded in the true doctrines of Christ.
The above appears to be COGWA’s four priorities and in the order of importance to the Board. It has spent its first 8 months of official existence mainly on trying to work out its governance (COGWA is a split from the United Church of God and all of its board members were once affiliated with Herbert W. Armstrong). This amount of time and focus suggests that COGWA still is likely to have problems with governance/administration and perhaps will have future splits.
As far as “feeding the flock” this seems to be the second listed priority, followed by its hope to do public proclamation, followed by its commitment to doctrinal integrity. These priorities seem neither hot nor cold (cf. Revelation 3). Jesus seemed to list priorities in a different order than COGWA in Matthew 28:19-20.
Of course, COGWA said that it would use the internet as its primary means of preaching the gospel to the world.
Many groups have claimed that they would utilize the internet as their main form of media to have an impact on the world. FWIW, as of 12/05/2012, the Alexa (an independent ranking source) popularity rank of COGWA’s website was 575,417, while the rank for COGwriter.com was 225,722. Essentially what this means is that even though COGWA has claimed about 9,000 members and 170+ ministers/elders, its now preferred gospel proclamation vehicle is considerably less popular than the this (www.cogwriter.com) website.
COGWA also put out a public proclamation website, Life, Hope, & Truth. As of 12/05/2012, it had an Alexa ranking of 1,394,007. So, nearly two years after it officially formed, COGwriter seems to have 2-10 times the effectiveness of COGWA in public proclamation. And this does not count the radio interviews that I have done (COGWA does not seem to do radio interviews, at least not often).
Notice what COGWA reported the following about how it would handle its initial Holy Day offering:
On the first holy day you gave some $370,000 in the offering, and I cannot help but conclude that this outstanding outpouring was because your hearts are in the very cause for which this offering was dedicated—preaching the gospel! (Kilough C. Member Letter, April 29, 2011)
And while that seems to be a fine offering to get started with, FWIW, UCG reported $544,408 for the same Holy Day (with an expectation of 560,000 when all receipts are in). But what did it do with it?
Its first official announcement (posted by 12/9/11 but dated 12/10/11) of a regular periodical (called One Accord) stated that it was directed towards members and would be an online publication that would begin in January 2012.
Sadly, thousands associated with COGWA seem to be satisfied with that type of work. While I do not doubt that pouring a Holy Day offering into the internet will not widen COGWA’s reach, the approach espoused so far by COGWA is consistent with the concerns I have had about that group from its formation.
Of course, if gospel proclamation was truly the priority for people in COGWA, they would not have fragmented and formed COGWA in the first place.
COGWA supporter Michael Hanisko posted:
Several members have asked recently how COGWA is doing financially. I thought you would appreciate reading this encouraging financial update from Steve McNeely, one of our accountants: “We were blessed with a generous Pentecost offering and steady deposits during the month of June. Total income for the month was just over $800,000, and for the year it stands at approximately $3,880,000. Expenses continue to be well managed and held to a minimum, and we are very grateful for everyone operating on a frugal budget as we become more established in the early organizational stages. As of June 30, 2011, we have approximately $1,430,000 in the bank, of which just under $400,000 has been restricted to use for preaching the gospel. We also have set aside temporarily restricted income that will be used during the year for specific purposes, such as assistance and Feast expenses. The low point for cash flow is historically right before the Fall Feast Days so we are trying to build our operating reserves. We currently have about one month’s worth of expenses in reserves, which is not a lot, but it is significant considering we started with nothing.”
“We are continuing to work on entering detail for contribution receipts. The mail detail is processed through May, and we are working on the holy day offerings. It is a big job. Our goal is to provide a combined first and second quarter contribution receipt in the next two or three weeks.”
“While the money in the bank gives us only a relatively small margin for needs and reserves, given the amount of time we have been in operation, we are very grateful for God’s blessings and the continued, generous financial support from the brethren. This is a very important part of building an organizational foundation upon which we can do the work God has commissioned to us.”
In its last audited financial statements, UCG had reported an income of USD$23,870,107. If COGWA would have gotten about 1/2, it would have been expected to have an income for the first six months of 2011 much closer to USD$6,000,000 than 4,000,000.
In its announcement dated 02/09/12, COGWA had the following from its President Jim Franks:
On Jan. 1, 2011, we had only a week of existence and approximately $135,000 in the bank. On Jan. 1, 2012, after the completion of our first fiscal year, we showed an unrestricted cash balance of $1.3 million. Yes, indeed, it was a remarkable year!…
In addition to the good news on the financial front, we have now concluded the lengthy process of locating an office. I am happy to announce the location of our new headquarters office in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. We will be leasing an office suite consisting of 5,590 square feet of space on the first floor of the building located at 1301 Central Expressway South, Allen, Texas. Allen is a suburb of Dallas and is located just a few miles north of the city along the Central Expressway (also U.S. Highway 75). The name of the building complex is “The Office Campus at Allen,” and it is in a beautiful setting with easy access to the freeway…
While the location decision was left to the administration, I wanted to make sure everyone agreed with the final selection. Joel Meeker, Leon Walker, Larry Salyer, David Baker, Fort Worth pastor Britton Taylor and I were involved in this review. Jason Lovelady and Clyde Kilough were not present for this final review, but both had seen the properties on a previous trip. Dallas pastor Doug Horchak was out of the country but had also seen the properties at an earlier time. At the end of the day, all present agreed that the Allen property was superior to the others and offered everything we desired at an affordable price (below our budget)…
I hope you are as encouraged as I am by our progress
There was no mention of gospel proclamation in the above letter, though the internet was mentioned, which so far has not been highly effective.
Now, on May 31, 2012, COGWA announced:
From Clyde Kilough: We are making excellent progress in getting our new public-proclamation website, lifehopeandtruth.com, ready for launching at the ministerial conference...
Last week you received the announcement about changes in the distribution of our monthly church newspaper, One Accord. For the first four issues we sent copies of One Accord in bulk to each congregation to distribute to the members who don’t have Internet access or don’t have the ability to download or print it. We have made it a priority to make sure everyone is kept up-to-date with the events and happenings in the Church.
So, getting information to its members has been a high priority and that soon it will have a website devoted more towards public proclamation.
Officially, COGWA formed in December 2010. Its main seven accomplishments since that time seem to have been:
Although COGWA has claimed that public gospel proclamation was to be its top priority, it still has not been particularly effective with that. Perhaps it will start to do more.
I have seen nothing from COGWA that convinces me that it will adopt a biblically-appropriate form of governance nor have its priorities align better with those of the Bible.
Others, obviously, may disagree. But the lack of gospel proclamation success in UCG when many of the COGWA leaders helped run it, combined with the statements that COGA put out (with Leon Walker, Larry Salyer, and Ken Giese being somewhat involved with it) makes me extremely concerned that COGWA will simply spend the vast majority of its income on its ministry with a relatively insignificant percentage going to proclaim the gospel in an attempt to fulfill Matthew 24:14. So far, COGWA has not suggested that its spending priorities match its mission statement as far as gospel proclamation goes. (Note: I wrote all of this section prior to the March 1, 2011 letter from Jim Franks, the March 15, 2011 letter from Clyde Kilough, or the Board's letter of August 19, 2011 or Jim Franks' February 9, 2012 letter or the May 31, 2012 announcements, all of which have thus far confirmed what I have been warning about. As has its Alexa rankings in December 2012.)
Thus far, COGWA has not demonstrated that its top priority is truly the proclamation of the gospel--its financial priorities have been mainly internal. Does anyone with COGWA believe that its approach to public proclamation really has been hot and not lukewarm?
I truly believe that the crisis was a wake up call, a “knocking on the door” (cf. Revelation 3:20) if you will, for those in or formerly in UCG. This crisis affecting UCG could be part of the final warning to those who have rejected Philadelphia-era governance and gospel proclamation priorities to get them to consider their state (Revelation 3:17-19).
If you are or were part of UCG/COGWA and are confused about what to do, please pray, fast, and study the Bible about this. Decide if you wish to follow the lukewarm or those that Jesus Christ has truly been using to do the work–those who have had the same basic governing principles for over 40 years.
For a while, it’s been decision time for those who have been affiliated with UCG. Most of those part of the COGWA and UCG leadership have already demonstrated, to me at least, that neither group intends to be Philadelphian. But that choice still remains for all individuals called by God.
Some articles of possibly related interest may include:
Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, and Roderick C. Meredith on Church Government What form of governance did the early church have? Was it hierarchical? Which form of governance would one expect to have in the Philadelphia remnant? The people decide and/or committee forms, odd dictatorships, or the same type that the Philadelphia era itself had?
Unity: Which COG for You? Why so many groups? Why is there lack of unity in the Churches of God? Has it always been this way? What can/should be done about it?
Differences between the Living Church of God and United Church of God This article provides quotes information from the two largest groups which had their origins in WCG as well as commentary.
There are Many COGs: What About the Living Church of God? This is an article for those who wish to more easily sort out the different COGs and LCG. It also explains a lot of what the COGs are all about.
Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert W. Armstrong Change that Priority for the Work? Some say the Church should mainly feed the flock now as that is what Herbert W. Armstrong reportedly said. Is that what he said? Is that what the Bible says? What did Paul and Herbert W. Armstrong expect from evangelists?
The Laodicean Church Era has been predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present. These are non-Philadelphians who mainly descended from the old WCG.
COGwriter 2011/2012 1205
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