Similar to certain other groups, Church of God Southern California (COGSC) is basically a one minister operation with a support staff, but without a field ministery. Most of the quotes shown in this article come from its website, with most coming from COGSC's statement of beliefs. Some of the other information came from Dr. and Mrs. (Molly Antion)--who helped clarify some points.
Many of COGSC's official beliefs are similar to those of other COGs. This article will focus primarily on those that differ from Worldwide Church of God (WCG) in January of 1986 or the current Continuing Church of God (CCOG).
"Our pastor, David L. Antion became an ordained minister in 1960. He has been on the faculty of Ambassador College" (COGSC website). He was once close to Garner Ted Armstrong as they married sisters. He left WCG in 1979 and later that year he became associated with Church of God, International (CGI). He did so from 1980 to 1997 and then left (others started to leave CGI around the same time; there was another personal scandel involving its then leader). Dr. Antion founded COGSC in 1998.
Its Description of Itself from Its Website, June 2005
"The congregation through 1997 maintained a nominal affiliation with the Church of God International (CGI) in Tyler, Texas, while handling all of its own financial affairs. This included locally giving a housing allowance to the pastor, who recieved nothing from CGI. In late 1997 the twelve member elected Church Council decided that circumstances warranted becoming totally independent of CGI and requested our Pastor to form a separate Corporate entity for legal purposes. Changes to the Rules and Procedures to give effect to this action were ratified by the entire congregation in February, 1998.
"As a result of the above action the Church of God, Southern California, Inc., was formed. It has a Board of Trustees (all of whom are present members of the congregation). The responsibilities of the Board are limited to the performing of the administrative and oversight duties formerly performed by the CGI Board in Tyler, TX. The Board of Trustees thus technically has the same authority rights over the congregation as formerly did the CGI Board in Tyler. However, operational responsibility of the day to day affairs of the congregation today remains with the elected Church Council, which in turn continues to be governed by the Rules and Procedures document as ratified by the congregation.
"We today hold weekly Sabbath Services in Pasadena, with affiliates holding meetings virtually every week in Bakersfield and Irvine, California. Our services are also available through live telephone hookup. We have a pre-teen Sabbath program twice a month and an active music ministry. We also have a periodic Newsletter, Along the Way, and sponsor the Born to Win radio program with Ron Dart on KBRT in Los Angeles. And of course we are responsible for the COGSC.ORG website.
"We are closely identified with but not formally linked to Guardian Ministries, Inc. Guardian is a paraministry headed by our long-term Church Pastor, Dr. David Antion. It sponsors an annual convocation of the Feast of Tabernacles in which we are involved. Through Guardian and our COGSC.ORG website we distribute tapes of our services. Guardian also distributes summaries of many messages given by Dr. Antion via email each week as Sabbath Thoughts (archived elsewhere on this site). Guardian is responsible for the Your Future Today cable access telecast (whose productionstaff is largely made up of COGSC members) and is affiliated with the Church of God Outreach Ministeries."
Its 'About Us' from Its Website, September 2016
What are the beliefs and goals of our Church?
Ours is a teaching ministry with emphasis on the Holy Bible. We try to understand its teachings in the context as it was originally written. But at the same time we believe God’s Word is living and can be applied to modern life. We seek to live by its principles and to do those things that are pleasing to God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our goal and purpose is to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God with the central message of its King, Jesus Christ our Lord: who He was, what He did, what He taught, as well as who He is today, what He does today in the lives of His people, and His imminent return to the earth to establish that Kingdom.
Our purpose is to provide a basis for assembly in spiritual fellowship of Christians who believe that the Holy Bible is the inspired Word of God and within the assembly provide instruction in biblical and spiritual understanding that will enhance individual growth through belief in and commitment to God.
Our passion is to welcome every newcomer who wishes to participate in Christian fellowship. We delight to reach out to all who need spiritual help.
We welcome you to our fellowship and invite you to come back again soon and as often as you would like.
It is great that COGSC believes its "goal and purpose is to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God." But this does not seem to have been particularly effective in terms of reach.
On October 2, 2016, Its Alexa ranking for its http://cogsc.info website is 25,187,951 which means it is not reaching hardly anyone. This compares to an Alexa ranking the same day of http:www.ccog.org of 1,348,868.
Now, David Antion's personal webpage, daveantion.com does slightly better, yet also on October 2, 2016, daveantion.com had an Alexa ranking of 23,202,398. This compares to an Alexa ranking the same day of cogwriter.com of 267,127.
The lower the number the better. Essentially David Antion is reaching about 1-2% of what cogwriter.com and ccog.org reach. Since David Antion has been doing this longer, if this truly was his church's top goal, it would seem that he would have more positive fruits this way (cf. Matthew 7:16-20; 21:42-43).
Consider also checking out the following:
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 lower level leaders? A related sermon is available titled Priority of the Philadelphia Work.
Preparing for the ‘Short Work’ and The Famine of the Word What is the ‘short work’ of Romans 9:28? Who is preparing for it? Here is a link to a related video sermon titled: The Short Work.
The Final Phase of the Work What is the final phase of the work? Who will lead it? Do you have the courage to support it? Here is a related YouTube video titled The Final Phase of the Work. The written article has been translated into Spanish La Fase Final de la Obra.
Leading the Final Phase of the Work Matthew 24:14 teaches “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 ” will be fulfilled and RCG is not the group doing this. Who is leading the final phase of the work? What did Herbert Armstrong and the old WCG teach about that and about prophets? Does Bob Thiel meet the criteria that the Bible and the old WCG set? What is the proof? What has the Continuing Church of God been doing? This is a sermonette length video.
COGSC claims to have a committee/congregational style of governance:
"We are an independent congregation concerned for the spiritual welfare of God's people. Our outreach goal is to help others better understand the Eternal God by proclaiming the Gospel message he has for us in his Word, the Bible" (COGSC website).
"Some people assert, "God's Government is from the top-down!" They argue that the top person is empowered to pick the people who are ordained and that the people are to have no say. They quote passages from the Bible, including the Book of Acts, where the Apostles ordained the seven deacons. They quote Acts 6 and place heavy emphasis on the words in verse 3, "whom we shall appoint over this duty". However, they put little or no emphasis on the words above, when the Apostle said, "therefore, brothers, look around for seven men among you of good reputation and full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint for this duty..."...In many churches with "authority from the top-down," deacons and elders were selected who served and catered to those above them. These men and women often were not selected because they served the people "below" them. This is just backwards from the way it should be!" (Antion, David. On Church Government?).
"The Kingdom of God is that over which God directly exercises governmental authority. It includes a future world-ruling government to be set up on earth by Christ at His return, with Jesus as King and the resurrected or changed spirit-composed saints in positions of co-rulership with Him. The Kingdom of God--referred to in many Old Testament prophecies --- is also mentioned in the New Testament " (Belief 13. KINGDOM OF GOD).
The fact is that COGSC and many other COGs acknowledges that God's Kingdom operates from the 'top down', but seem to teach that now governance is not supposed to be that way.
I would like to state that although many of the comments David Antion makes in his article On Church Government? are correct, one implication seems to be that a proper hierarchical government cannot not now exist. I disagree with that. (In many respects, his article reminds me of the position of Norman Edwards of Servant's News--here is a link to an article answering N. Edward questions on hierarchical governance).
Perhaps I should add here that someone who identified himself to me, but did not want his name mentioned in this article, contacted me about COGSC's practices. He claims that the reality is that David Antion practices a different form of governance than he preaches. Here are some of his comments about the above:
I was on the Church Council when this CGI congregation went independent and am familiar with what happened. I would describe David as a politically savvy person, who is very smart. He seems to want it to appear like he has hands off governance, while maintaining control.
The bottom line, the following sentence on your web site is inaccurate and I would advise its removal.
"However, operational responsibility of the day to day affairs of the congregation today remains with the elected Church Council, which in turn continues to be governed by the Rules and Procedures document as ratified by the congregation."
The first sentence of the "Governance" section is also out dated:
COGSC seems to have a committee/congregational style of governance.
I'd suggest changing this sentence to the following and leave the rest of the paragraph as is:
David Antion has been entrusted with day to day affairs of the congregation by the Board of Trustees, of which both David and his wife (Molly) are members.
This statement is accurate. David is the administrator and the board is not independent of him. It is important point to know David receives his authority from a board in which he and his wife have considerable voting power. If asked about the council, David will probably state that the board has taken over their responsibility. That might be correct to a very small extent, but probably means, David has more control.
So now you have quotes from David Antion and one who claims to have been with him. Irrespective of the actual details in COGSC, the reality is that many of the smaller COG groups that profess committee governance end up with someone who normally functions in a somewhat hierarchical manner. For more on governance check out The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government.
Unlike the old WCG and the current CCOG, COGSC teaches that its members should vote,
For a different view, please read Should a Christian Vote?
"It is, therefore, proper that we should as individuals be prepared to vote on matters put before us, participate in discussions on public matters affecting us and serve as opportunity presents itself in civil positions" (Belief 14. CIVIL AUTHORITIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES).
I asked COGSC if the previous statement meant that its members are allowed/encouraged to serve on juries. COGSC has not responded, though they said they would many years ago, and thus I suspect they allow this.
CGI, Ron Dart of Christian Educational Ministries, David Antion, and Church of God Outreach Ministries all were once associated with Garner Ted Armstrong and all place no prohibition on COG members serving in the military. However since COGSC's statement of beliefs includes the following statement, "We understand that, like Paul, we enjoy dual citizenship and should therefore act as good and obedient citizens so long as this does not bring us into conflict with obedience to God's laws" (Belief 14. CIVIL AUTHORITIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES), I asked if COGSC teaches that its members are not to participate in military service.
Although COGSC did respond to my questions on its history, it did not respond to my questions about jury duty or military service, thus I suspect it prohibits neither. Here is an article Military Service and the COGs which quotes what the COGs taught historically, what some teach currently, and biblical quotes on the matter.
One of COGSC's projects was to somehow support the troops of the US military:
" TREATS FOR THE TROOPS"
On July 10th, COGSC is supporting a new outreach brought
to us by John, Lorraine, and Jerry Norris. The Norris' will
bring materials for us to assemble for those serving in
the Military. We will assemble them every other month. (http://cogsc.info/News%20%26%20Events2009.htm viewed July 10. 2010)
It would seem that there are more appropriate projects for a group claiming to be COG than to provide "treats" for the military, but this is apparently a COGSC priority.
"The Church of God Southern California holds that there is no plain definition in scripture of how the giving of freewill offerings and tithing is to be practiced in the present era nor a biblical equivalent of the temple at Jerusalem. We do, however, hold that tithing and giving provide the means by which the Church may herald the gospel of Jesus Christ and proclaim it to the world, as well as carry on programs on behalf of the congregation and community.
In accordance with the forgoing we do not "enforce" or "police" giving or tithing, but simply teaches those of oye (sic) fellowship their responsibility befopre (sic) God. The present definition of increase and appropriate recipient(s) thereof is deemed to be a private matter between the individual and God...Each individual has the responsibility to, in some way, "honor the Lord with his substance and with the firstfruits of all his increase" " (Belief 24. TITHING AND GIVING).
This seems somewhat unusual given that the preamble to this belief is
"Giving money, either in freewill offerings or in tithing a tenth of ones income or increase, to support the church's programs and furtherance of the gospel is an act of worship. It is part of a pattern which is illustrated in the lives of the Patriarchs, was codified civilly in the days of physical Israel, and continues in principle today. It will also be a part of the Kingdom of God" (Belief 24. TITHING AND GIVING).
I agree with this portion of COGSC's statement and believe that tithing certainly helps the COG get the gospel out. It also helps fund attendance at the annual Holy Days (which COGSC does believe, see its statement 23) and supports the needy.
For a biblical perspective which supports tithing, please see the articles, Tithing Questions and Some Answers and Is Third Tithe Still Valid Today?
Against Annointed Cloths
"None of the letters of Paul contain any mention of 'anointed cloths.' There is no reference to such a thing in any passage in the Bible referring to healing or prayers for the sick. Then how did this practice come into the Churches of God? The truth is that it was adopted from Pentecostal sects who misinterpreted Acts 19:11-12. Because they placed great emphasis on the miracles of healing, they had a need to read things into the Bible and to try to replicate these 'special miracles.' Using the old English and not looking into the passage further, Church of God leaders went right along with the Pentecostals. Only a superficial reading of Acts 19:11-12 will lead a church to come up with the practice of sending out anointed cloths. ...If we in the Church of God pride ourselves on following the practices of the Bible as closely as possible, we ought to give up this long-standing but unscriptural practice that our forebears in the Church of God adopted from Pentecostal churches that were ignorant of God's Word" (Antion, David. Editorial: Anointed cloths are a scriptural stretch. The Journal, April 15, 2002).
We in the Continuing Church of God disagree and do send out anointed cloths along with a letter explaining there appropriateness to those who request them.Other COGs
"We recognize both that there are multiple fellowships extant operating in His name and also that not all fellowships will necessarily hold understanding identical to, or in some cases even similar to, our own" (Belief 30.THE CHURCH OF GOD ).
In these last days, I also believe the Bible allows for multiple fellowships (see Revelation 3). However, I feel that most will be part of the Laodicean or Philadelphian eras of the Church. Two related articles of possible interest may be What is a True Philadelphian? and Are the Laodiceans the Moderns Sadducees and Pharisees?
COGSC itself has cooperated with various groups. Most of those groups are led by people who were once in CGI or UCG like Jim O'Brien (ex-UCG), Bill Jacobs (ex-UCG), Wendy Pack, Guy Swenson (ex-UCG), Ronald Dart (ex-CGI), Pam Dewey (ex-CGI), David Antion (ex-CGI), the Church of God Big Sandy (ex-UCG), Herberth Cisneros (ex-UCG), Lenny Cacchio (a CEM connection) and Bill and Scarlett Stough. Faith Networks basically seems to involve many of the same people who have some involvement with Ron Dart's CEM. Norman Edwards (ex-GCG) also seems to have some involvement as on 2007.
There are probably a lot of relatively minor doctrinal points where COGSC differs from the old WCG. But since I do not listen to its sermons and its available literature is limited, it is difficult to document many of those differences. But its priorities and lack of significant gospel proclaiming successes tell me that it is not a "hot" group as far as that aspect of the work of God is concerned.
Although it has been reported that "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 does not believe that one can examine the teachings of groups, such as COGSC, and come to that conclusion (nor apparently would Herbert Armstrong, for proof please check out some quotes from HWA on holding fast to doctrine).
Laodicean Warning for God's People If 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.
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