On January 2, 2013, Dixon Cartwright, editor of The Journal: News of the Church of God interviewed Bob Thiel, who, the week prior had formed the Continuing Church of God.
Note there are some issues that are listed here in the order that they occur in the article:
Bob Thiel wishes to state that he left the Living Church of God because of integrity issues, which also included insufficient "love of the truth" as that is not stated clearly enough in the article below (see also Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God). So, much so that unless it changes dramatically, it cannot be the organization that God could possibly use to lead the "final phase of the work" (see also The Final Phase of the Work).
Bob Thiel also believes that any prophecies he makes are because he is being led by the Spirit of God, which the article doe not make clear enough.
One factual issue in the article is that Bob Thiel did not believe that Herbert Armstrong obtained the "mantle" until the 1930s, not the 1920s as the article states (this appears to have been a typographical error in the Journal article). Bob Thiel also told Dixon Cartwright that he believed that LCG had substantially less than 50% of its membership as Philadelphian, but Dixon Cartwright instead chose to word that differently.
The article failed to mention that the late Herbert W. Armstrong used a "corporation sole," and that was a factor in CCOG choosing that organizational form.
As far as reaching people, Bob Thiel predicted that the Continuing Church of God would reach more people in its first 30 days that any non-GTA group with origins in the old Worldwide Church of God (that non-GTA statement was somehow left out of the article--and yes, for the record, that prediction did come to pass, for details, see CCOG met COG proclamation goal). After the article ends, there is a summary of statements and events related to LCG and Bob Thiel's prophetic status.
That being said, here is the article that was published March 13, 2013 (Issue 152) that was emailed on March 15, 2013:
By Dixon Cartwright
The leader of a new Church of God thinks he may be a prophet. The fledgling church, which is part of the founder’s 17-year personal ministry, came into existence on Dec. 28, 2012, when Bob Thiel, Ph.D., announced the founding of the Continuing Church of God.
For many years Dr. Thiel, of Arroyo Grande, Calif., held membership in and actively promoted the Living Church of God, begun by Roderick Meredith and associates in 1998 and headquartered in Charlotte, N.C.
Dr. Thiel recently left the LCG after differences of opinion and approach with that ministry. He said he concluded that the “LCG had insufficient love of the truth and no longer held the Philadelphia mantle.”
After Dr. Thiel, who makes his living as a “clinical scientist,” split with the LCG, THE JOURNAL asked him for an interview.
He consented, and a phone conversation between him and this writer happened on Jan. 2, 2013.
Compelled to leave
Dr. Thiel explained why he felt compelled to leave the LCG and start another Church of God group.
“In a nutshell,” he said, “I’d been consulting with Living for 14 years off and on, and probably more formally for the last seven or eight years.”
During that time he could not “convince the powers that be”—the three headquarters evangelists, Roderick Meredith, Richard Ames and Douglas Winnail—to take actions he believed were necessary and that he says they had agreed to before chang- ing their minds.
The actions had to do with policies including doctrines that Dr. Thiel disagreed with, some specifically about the “falling away” prophesied in the Bible.
“Instead of getting a response to the doctrinal issues I raised,” he said, “I got a letter not dealing with the doctri- nal matters but denying certain statements that they had made to me.”
The statements involved “improper accusations or railings against me, combined with some inaccurate information.”
He decided that further attempts at reconciliation would be “futile.”
Dr. Thiel’s dreams
A reader sent THE JOURNAL a copy of the letter dated Jan. 2 that Dr. Mere- dith had sent LCG ministers about Dr. Thiel’s situation.
Dr. Meredith wrote that Dr. Thiel has “dreams of grandeur” and thinks “he is a ‘prophet.’ ”
In a separate correspondence that Presiding Evangelist Meredith sent to Dr. Thiel (a copy of which the same JOURNAL reader sent this writer), Dr. Meredith focused on Dr. Thiel’s claim that Dr. Meredith had said to him that “God may consider you to be a prophet.”
In his recent letter to Dr. Thiel, Dr. Meredith said he can’t remember saying anything like that, and, besides, October 2008 was only a month after he, Dr. Meredith, had suffered a stroke. “That you would take anything that I said in that time period and try to use it is not right,” Dr. Meredith wrote. “I do not ever remember saying anything like that, and I can assure you that I have never thought you might be a prophet!”
Dr. Thiel said an E-mail he received from Dr. Winnail dated Jan. 7, 2013, prominently mentioned “prophet,” as follows:
“When we made comments to you that ‘you may be a prophet’ (and that could include some point in the future) that was to be kind to you.” Dr. Thiel said the LCG leaders’ denials of their speculation that he might be a prophet are inappropriate.
“Their improper denials should be shown to be that as opposed to giving the impression that I dreamed things up.”
On the other hand, Dr. Thiel admits to being a dreamer.
“I did have one dream several years ago that seemed to be from God,” he said, “and events subsequent to it have confirmed at least parts of its validity.”
Grappling with the question
Still, THE JOURNAL asked Dr. Thiel if he really thinks he’s a prophet.
“When Dr. Meredith made repeated comments [about prophets and prophecy] to me throughout the years, this was a question I was grappling with,” he replied.
“So I did some additional research in terms of New Testament prophets and I also learned that most people in the church don’t truly understand the different types of New Testament prophets and their particular roles.”
One of his concerns, just in case God might really have chosen him to proclaim as a prophet, was whether it is necessary for a prophet to have hands laid on him specifically to set him apart for that role.
“I prayed about it,” Dr. Thiel said, “and one of the things I prayed about was that, when I was going to Charlotte [the location of the LCG’s headquarters in North Carolina] in mid- to late December 2011, that if I were to have this type of a role that God would anoint me somehow for this to happen.”
On Dec. 15 of that year an LCG elder from Asheboro, N.C., Gaylyn Bonjour, anointed Dr. Thiel for a minor health concern.
But something unusual happened during the anointing procedure. Unexpectedly to the anointee, the anointer prayed that Dr. Thiel would “be granted a double portion of God’s Spirit.”
That was significant in Dr. Thiel’s mind because, he said, Mr. Bonjour also specifically spoke to him of the significance of the passing of the mantle from Elijah to Elisha. Was God inspiring Mr. Bonjour to divinely set Dr. Thiel apart as a prophet?
This writer wondered if Dr. Thiel could cite examples of predictions he has made that have come to pass.
“Most of what I have written about in terms of predictions or speculations are consistent with general Church of God teachings in terms of prophecy,” he replied.
However, sometimes his prognostications get a little more specific.
“Two come to immediate mind that possibly push the envelope a little bit,” he said. “One, I wrote in my 2012 book that it appeared that the United States was having problems with its GPS [Global Positioning System] system and that it was possible that it may decide it would need to rely at least partially on Europe’s Galileo system.”
When Dr. Thiel wrote that, the U.S. Air Force was denying it would ever rely on the European system, he said. Y et it was soon reported in the news media that America would make use of Galileo.
Sending in marines
“Another was when Julia Gillard was elected prime minister of Australia,” Dr. Thiel continued.
“The day she was elected I posted at cogwriter.com that I felt that she may do something to cause China to take a closer look at Australia for the possibility at some point in time, perhaps taking it over militarily or somehow being part of the removal of the government in Australia.
“And then that happened when President Obama and Prime Minister Gillard made an agreement to put troops in Darwin, Australia. They put marines there.”
For more predictions, most of which Dr. Thiel acknowledges “aren’t nearly as dramatic,” see his book 2012.
How does prophecy work?
THE JOURNAL wondered how Dr. Thiel receives his prophecies. Does he hear things? Do thoughts pop into his head? Does he have visions? Does he do automatic writing? What is his prediction-receiving system?
“Just prayer and study,” he said. “I do not claim that I’ve heard voices, if that’s what you’re asking.”
People who feel inspired to prophesy don’t just hear voices. Sometimes they have profound feelings of intuition that they attribute to God or an angel. Indeed, the Bible talks about the value of visions: Without them, people perish (Proverbs 29:18, KJV).
It’s THE JOURNAL’s understanding that many Bible readers misunderstand Proverbs 29:18 and that the New King James Version, unlike the old King James, does a better job translating it from the Hebrew:
“Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.” So the Hebrew wording of Proverbs 29 isn’t talking about people with imagination or foresight as usually thought. It means people who receive direct supernatural revelation from God.
“I wouldn’t say thoughts come into my mind that I didn’t know where they came from,” Dr. Thiel continued. “I would say that I pray daily, and one of the things I pray would be related to Proverbs 3 verses 5 and 6, to trust the Lord with all your heart and not lean on your own under- standing and in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths. “So I pray about what I’m going to write about, and then I write.”
Four more years
Dr. Thiel took the opportunity to crush a rumor he had heard about himself. He said some people are saying he claims to be one of the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11).
“Contrary to certain assertions by people,” he said, “I have not claimed to be one of the Two Witnesses. As a matter of fact, I posted at cogwriter that I do not make that claim. “I’m not saying it’s not possible. But God’s not going to reveal that probably for at least four years.”
Predictions for 2013 THE JOURNAL asked Dr. Thiel for any predictions he’d like to mention for 2013.
“Well,” he said, “other than the Great Tribulation cannot happen [in 2013] and despite the fact that one Church of God–related blogger thinks it might, that would be one off the top of my head.”
THE JOURNAL has heard that Dr. Thiel is offended because Dr. Winnail, an LCG elder and employee who lives near his church’s headquarters in North Carolina, customarily refers in his sermons and writings to non–Church of God people as Christians. Is that a worry of Dr. Thiel’s?
“It was not a significant concern in the sense that I don’t think he meant it the way he said it,” Dr. Thiel replied.
So how does Dr. Thiel define Christian?
“A Christian is one who has God’s Spirit.”
But what if Dr. Winnail is trying to believe the best about everybody? If someone claims to be a Christian, who are we say to he’s not a Christian? W ould that be a reasonable stance for Dr. Winnail?
“You could consult with him on it, but I’m fairly certain that is not his position.”
THE JOURNAL decided to rephrase the question and try again.
Let’s say, Dr. Thiel, that we choose to define someone as a Christian who simply says he’s a Christian; he self- identifies as a Christian. Who are we to say he doesn’t have God’s Spirit? Why isn’t it proper to take people at their word on that sort of thing?
Dr. Thiel: “The Bible says he who knows Him and keeps not His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him.”
THE JOURNAL : But you have already said the definition of a Christian is one in whom is God’ Spirit.
Dr. Thiel: “But this is another portion of Scripture that’s giving additional information.”
THE JOURNAL: In other words, unless that other scripture is fulfilled, it’s not even possible for that person to have God’s Spirit. Is that what you’re saying?
Dr. Thiel: “I’m saying you can read what was written in the scripture.
The whole 100 yards
Some blogger somewhere apparently criticized Dr. Thiel about his criticism of American football, not to be confused with everybody else’s football: soccer.
“That [football] is a complex subject and possibly why some of the negative letters came out about me,” he said.
“I’ve read the Bible. I’ve read the writings of Herbert Armstrong. I’ve read where it says do violence to no man.
“I’ve studied early Christianity. Early Christians would not watch gladiator games, not because they were getting eaten by lions, necessari- ly. They just didn’t feel it was appro- priate.”
Dr. Thiel explained that American football, being a violent sport, is not appropriate for the ministry of a church to encourage.
“But that was not why I left,” he said. “It’s just that it’s an issue I don’t consider consistent with Philadelphia [Revelation 1 and 3] love.”
Mantle on the move
The interview moved on to the subject of mantles. Since the days of Elijah and Elisha, as recounted in 1 Kings 19, a mantle has been a symbol of authority passed from one anointed man of God to his successor.
THE JOURNAL asked Dr. Thiel if he believes only one church group at a time is qualified to wear the mantle of authority from God in the Christian age.
(Some Church of God groups and their members interpret the seven congregations of Revelation 2-3 as prophesied eras of true Christianity that have stretched down through the last 2,000 years or so.)
“If you accept hierarchical governance the way it’s discussed in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians,” Dr. Thiel said, “the mantle, if you will, would reside with the highest ecclesiastical authority.
“And, since prophets are above evangelists, etc., then that would say that, unless a different type of prophet rose up or someone who was truly an apostle rose up, then the mantle would be with the highest non-self-appointed legitimate Church of God leader.”
Who’s on second?
He explained that, in line with Ephesians 4:11, prophets come in second in the hierarchy, after apostles and just above evangelists.
Dr. Thiel believes the Philadelphia mantle fell in the 1920s onto the shoulders of Worldwide Church of God founder Herbert Armstrong, who died in 1986.
But who wore it before Mr. Armstrong?
Dr. Thiel explained that he had researched the matter and discussed it on multiple occasions with former Denver Church of God (Seventh Day) president Robert Coulter.
“There is a possibility that [CG7 elder] A.N. Dugger had it,” Dr. Thiel said, “and he claimed to have apostolic succession, by the way.” Whoever possessed the mantle, “I believe that somewhere within the old CG7 [in which Mr. Armstrong served as an elder in the 1930s] there was somebody who was the [anointed] leader.”
So Dr. Thiel is saying the mantle goes with a person, not with a church organization, just like in the days of Elijah and Elisha. So do you mean, Dr. Thiel, that you think it’s possible that you have the mantle or are receiving the mantle?
“Yes,” Dr. Thiel replied.
However, he believes the LCG still has more Philadelphian members than any other COG group. He doesn’t believe any of the groups, including the LCG, are made up of a majority of Philadelphians. The LCG has a sizable plurality of Philadelphians, but apparently not more than 50 percent.
Is there a time for division?
How important does Dr. Thiel think it is not to “cause division” among Church of God brethren (1 Corinthians 3:3)? Maybe what he’s doing is for good reasons, yet he is certainly caus- ing division, is he not? Is it a problem, Dr. Thiel, that you’re causing division?
“I strove to work with the eldership of the Living Church of God for 14 years and made numerous multiple attempts to assist in areas they wanted assistance in and to help correct things,” he said. “Division was not on my list.”
Further, he said, “I didn’t ask any- one to lay hands upon me so I would be anointed with a double portion of God’s Spirit. It just happened.
“We always tell people they’re supposed to trust God and not man. Yet we have people out there who think one could not possibly be a prophet, let’s say, unless a particular corporation agrees.
“Yet this overlooks Jesus’ absolute clear words on this in Matthew 10 verse 41, which if you don’t mind I’ll read:
“He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who re- ceives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.
“If Jesus is saying you’re supposed to rely on some man’s interpretation of something else, etc., perhaps He would have said that.
“But that’s not what the Jesus of the Bible said.”
So you, Dr. Thiel, are saying there is a time that is appropriate to cause division?
“I’ve not tried to cause any division,” he said.
“I believe I was forced out, that God allowed this to happen, because the mantle was no longer there.”
THE JOURNAL was not trying to accuse Dr. Thiel of anything, but division happened. Therefore division was caused. Who caused it, Dr. Thiel?
“I believe that the division occurred by one or more people in Charlotte.”
THE JOURNAL had another question for Dr. Thiel, this one concerning God’s view of doctrine and other matters pertinent to the beliefs held by leaders and other members of the Churches of God.
Do you think, Dr. Thiel, that God could be as interested as obviously you and the Living Church of God and most of the other COG groups are about the minutiae of the Bible, even apart from the COGs’ traditional set of beliefs?
THE JOURNAL asked that because it seems reasonable to this writer to posit that God surely cannot be as picky as we are when it comes to many of the sayings and doctrines in the Bible. Is it possible that God isn’t as fussy as we are about the things that tend to divide us, namely doctrine and governance?
“I’m not sure that I ever said that God was particularly picky,” Dr. Thiel replied. “So you’re putting me in a slot that I haven’t put myself in.
“If you look at the first sermon I did with the Continuing Church of God, I said it’s all about love . . . The most important thing is love.
“Are there doctrinal differences I have with Living? Certainly, and I’ve posted about those.
“But it wasn’t because I was focused on one or another minute-issue area of doctrine.”
Dr. Thiel believes reasonable people don’t always have to agree with each other.
“Reasonable people can disagree on certain points, and I’m not challenging that,” he said.
On his Web site Dr. Thiel posts a list of 24 “doctrinal differences” between the LCG and the Continuing Church of God. He says, for example, that his church, unlike the LCG, believes the following:
Dr. Thiel talked about the way the new church is legally organized: as a corporation sole. Such a corporation can be recognized as a church by the State of California but, unlike a church that is an unincor- porated association or falls under the typical 501(c)3 IRS setup, it does not require a governing board.
Only one official is required, and in this case that’s Dr. Thiel. It’s set up that way, he said, to prevent something happening to the new Continuing Church of God like what hap- pened to the Global Church of God before 1998. That church, he said, was taken over by a runaway board that resulted in Dr. Meredith having to start another church, the Living Church of God.
Onward and upward
Dr. Thiel’s plans for preching the gospel will do it faster and more efficiently, he hopes, than other groups when they were start-ups.
“Concretely, within the first 30 days of the existence of the Continuing Church of God,” he said, “we are determined to reach more people with the message than other groups did in their first 30 days since they formed.” So far “it’s been the Internet almost exclusively, but I’ve got a couple of radio interviews coming up.”
Dr. Thiel explained his scholarly and church credentials. He holds a Ph.D. from the Ohio-based Union Institute and University, which, he noted, is where Russell Duke of Grace Communion International and Ralph Levy of the Church of God a Worldwide Association got theirs.
Dr. Thiel was baptized on April 1, 1977. He lives in Arroyo Grande with his wife, Joyce. The Thiels have three children.
One last question for Dr. Thiel: Has the LCG disfellowshipped him or marked him?
“Not to my knowledge,” he said.
Questions for the LCG THE JOURNAL invited the Living Church of God to comment for this article.
A spokesman for the church, Dexter Wakefield, summarized the Thiel situation from the LCG’s point of view.
“Briefly stated,” Mr. Wakefield wrote in an E-mail, “it boils down to a difference of opinion. Bob believes he’s a prophet, and we don’t. “He believes that he was made a prophet ‘inadvertently’ and ‘accidentally’ (his description) during an anointing for illness by one of our Charlotte ministers. We hope he will change his mind about this.”
THE JOURNAL asked Mr. Wakefield if Dr. Thiel is disfellowshipped or marked. “Bob is currently listed as a former member and has not been disfellow- shipped,” he said. “He wasn’t asked to leave and left our fellowship on his own accord.
“As to the future, we sincerely hope that if Bob feels he must go his own way he will do so in peace.”
Book and contact info
Purchase Kindle versions of Dr. Thiel’s books Barack Obama, Prophecy, and the Destruction of the United States and 2012 and the Rise of the Secret Sect at Amazon.com.
Write Dr. Thiel at cogwriter@aol. com or Continuing Church of God, 1248 E. Grand, No. A, Arroyo Grande, CA 93420.
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As indicated prior to the article, here is some specific information related to LCG and the prophet matter:
Of course, it is God who appoints prophets (1 Corinthians 12:28), but the reality is that the Charlotte-based evangelists supported telling me that God may consider me to be a prophet. Thus, those who suggest otherwise should ask themselves how many others in the history of the Radio/Worldwide/Global/Living Church of God have the top leaders told that God may consider them to be a prophet? I would suggest that the only one to be told this, at least multiple times over the course of years, was me, Bob Thiel.
Since it is God who appoints prophets (1 Corinthians 12:28), it seems that perhaps because Dr. Meredith or another evangelist did not personally anoint me, God took steps to get that anointing done by a properly ordained member of the eldership. And this happened.
To learn more about what the Bible teaches about prophets in New Testament times, please check out the article How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God.
To learn more about the Continuing Church of God, please go to http://www.ccog.org