Friday, January 23, 2015

Social Media Pays: COGWA Calculated Split with "Likes" and Tithes

Abigail Cartwright. Gideon's 300. William T. Sackett. If these names are familiar to you, you just might have gone through the 2010 split between the United Church of God (UCG) and the Church of God, a Worldwide Association (COGWA).

During the split, it was easy to see how hard UCG was working to spin its membership against the ministers who would later form COGWA. The late Dennis Luker called for a split during his first public address as the head of UCG. Later letters to the membership referred to the would-be COGWA leaders as "spiritual wolves." This kind of attitude turned many members against UCG before they even knew what hit them. I was one of them.

Now, almost five years later, we learn the COGWA leaders may have been spinning just as hard, possibly going to even greater lengths to manipulate the membership.

This week, James Malm posted inside information he was given by John Kilough and other COGWA leaders. John Kilough is the father of Clyde Kilough, the embattled former UCG president who currently serves as COGWA's Media Operations Manager. Malm has previously written about the senior Kilough's attempts to recruit him to support the dissenters during the 2010 split. While we at As Bereans Did do not endorse the doctrinal positions Malm advocates, he is usually "in-the-know" about drama within the Churches of God.

Many have claimed that social media was used as a tool to foment the 2010 UCG/COGWA split so that the junior Kilough and Jim Franks wouldn't have to get their hands dirty. Malm's allegations seem to support that conclusion.

To gauge support for a potential split, would-be COGWA leaders created a Facebook site named "UCG United We Stand" in May 2010, Malm says. Cecil Maranville, a long-time WCG/UCG higher-up who manages COGWA's Personal Correspondence Department, created the site, according to Malm.

The purpose of the UCG United We Stand page was to feel out how many brethren were unhappy with UCG and would support a split, Malm says. People were "carefully tracked" according to their "likes" on posts and the comments. Later, the UCG dissenters used these figures to determine when a split was financially feasible for them, according to Malm.

"The average income that could be expected from the brethren was calculated according to the numbers expected to support the action; and when a sufficient income was calculated as achievable for their expected needs; the split become a sure thing," he said.

Maranville was simultaneously trying to gauge support for a split among the UCG elders, Malm claims. He created a secret Facebook group called "Gideon's 300," then asked trusted elders to report other elders, wives and other significant members to the group. Once Maranville vetted them, they were invited to join.

To spur discussion on these forums, the soon-to-be COGWA leadership created a fictitious profile of a woman named Abigail Cartwright to disseminate anti-UCG information and official statements. During that time period, Maranville had access to internal UCG information and letters, which regularly appeared on the Abigail Cartwright page. Malm says that the information was written by a number of people, then compiled by Doug Horchak, so that no one could be pinned down on who wrote the articles. Abigail Cartwright was operated by Gloria Dilberto, the wife of Cecil Maranville's step son, Frank Diliberto. Frank played a role in the other Facebook groups.

And in the event that even more pot-stirring was needed, Maranville would comment on the UCG United We Stand forum under the pseudonym William T. Sackett, a character from a series of Louis L'Amour novels, according to Malm. Once it had served its purpose, the forum name was changed to COGWA United We Stand, and later abandoned.

Just in case anyone thinks I'm picking on COGWA, I know that UCG's political machine was working overtime in social media during the same time period. They just weren't as good at it. And now we hear reports that the Living Church of God is cracking down on its membership over Facebook likes and comments. The sister splinters of the Worldwide Church of God all learned their tactics from the same place.

It saddens me to realize I was probably used as a pawn in a chess match between ambitious men. It's sobering to realize that my "likes" and my words of support were probably not used to encourage, but instead to calculate whether a political faction would have enough money to survive.

Still, it doesn't shock me. I recall reading an email Malm posted, the December 17, 2010 message Jim Franks sent to his "supporters" just before the split was made official. It found its way into my inbox a handful of days after Franks sent it. Even then, as a COGWA supporter, I was taken aback by its flippant tone.
"Hello, I simply can't imagine how things could get any more interesting! Each day now brings a new twist."
Families and lifelong friends being torn apart is interesting? A new twist? No remorse that a fellowship was being ripped apart? No gauging and probing whether or not Jesus was being magnified? In that moment, I knew what my gut had told me all along was true. Something was wrong. These were words I would expect from a politician, not a pastor. This was not a shepherd who lamented the division of his flock. But that was the answer then, wasn't it? Oh, I was a sheep, all right. A tithe-sheep. And you are, too. Perhaps you will come to realize this before COG history repeats itself, as it always does. You are a beloved child of God; a human being for whom your Savior willingly died a brutal death. You, your loved ones, your friends and your children deserve better than to be treated like chattel.
"'Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture,' says the Lord. Therefore this says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: 'You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings, says the Lord'." - Jeremiah 23:1-2
The UCG/COGWA split and the months that followed were some of the darkest, most depressing times of my life. But I'm glad it happened, because it helped me see the cracks in the foundation of the Churches of God and question why things were as they were. It helped me to surrender to Jesus Christ because I had reached the end of myself. He in turn helped me to see that the end of myself is the beginning of Himself. That's not something to fear. Jesus isn't like the example I got from the ministry. He is the True Shepherd who gives Himself for His flock. God is working all things out for His good, for His purpose, to His glory. In looking back what was once darkness is now joy. I write this in thankfulness that a system being torn apart has led some, including me, to the New Covenant. And in hopes that you, too, will escape this dysfunctional Armstrongist system and step into the blessings of an abundant life in a truly Christ-centered, New Covenant community.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11


xHWA said...

Now that's the proper way to do a church split in 21st century Armstrongism - with a little demographic study on social media to guarantee your fleecing will be sufficient before you damage the lives, families, and emotions of the flock.

Not like in the old days.

Redfox712 said...

How terrible it is to think that so many people were manipulated in the way you have described. How terrible.

Anonymous said...

This disgusts me to be honest. These "churches" are little more than political factions assuming a religious front. I think the tithe-paying sheeple would be aghast if they knew the whole truth about the inner corruption and manipulation behind the beguiling smiles and warm handshakes of these persons of influence who have been held up in esteem when behind the scenes they're working only to advance their own selfish ambitions!
Also can I suggest a link to be posted under your "Recommended Reading" re tithing? It's the best book I've read on tithing that demolishes every argument proposed by pro-tithing advocates! It's by Russell Earl Kelly and it's called "Should the Church Teach Tithing?" It's free at

Byker Bob said...

I believe that there are a number of believers in the basic tenets and premises of Armstrongism who are waiting for the emergence of a specially blessed group that has got everything right, and will have the witness of God behind them. For them, this is but another disappointment.

I've been away from that scene since the Disappointment of 1972-75 myself. That is 40 years of life that I never thought I would get to experience. However, these must be very confusing times for ACOG members. Supposedly the Laodicean era is now in full bloom, yet it appears that those splinter groups who consider themselves Philadelphia remnants are the ones who are being figuratively "spewed" on a continuing basis, even as they label one another with the "L" word.

Disingenuous is probably the most appropriate word to describe the tactics used to engineer and craft this split. It takes things way beyond the normal "secret meetings" level. If anyone ever doubted that the entire movement is "of men", this would seem to be prima facia evidence. And, I suspect that this example serves very well as a microcosm as the ACOGs continue to experience the Gamaliel Syndrome.


Anonymous said...

It saddens me that anyone would believe what Malm posts. He uses spin and half truths to tell tall tales. So sad but as he will not allow dissenting posts unless he feels he can discredit them with more lies who can tell the real story?

Martha said...

We here at ABD are not huge fans of James Malm and agree that his blog generally needs to be taken with a grain of salt. There's no denying, however, that he frequently gets inside information from many disgruntled people in the COGs.

Further, Malm made specific allegations about specific people. He didn't just smear COGWA using vagueries. Someone who is as pharisaical as Malm is not likely to take "bearing false witness" lightly. None of his allegations have been publicly refuted, even months later. If they were outright lies, COGWA would have been prudent to take action against Malm for defaming the organization. Or at least defend themselves in some manner. This has not happened.

In fact, aside from you, only one person who has publicly taken issue with these claims. Even that person hasn't said they were lies, he just tried to cast doubt. The sole protest came from someone using a pseudonym from another Louis L'Amour novel, which leads many to suspect it is Cecil Maranville himself. And Malm did not delete those posts, at least on this thread. And don't say that any lack of action is because COGWA always takes the high road and wouldn't pursue legal action against a brother. The situation with UCG and the African cows proved that.

We have first-hand knowledge that the ministers who started COGWA had their financial ducks in a row when planning the split FAR in advance. They obviously had figures. The only real question up for debate is how they arrived at them. Malm's claims are plausible to say the least.

Anonymous said...

What is "the situation with UCG and the African cows"? I'm not familiar with it.

Martha said...

As I understand it, after the split, there was a debate over some cows purchased by Victor Kubik's LifeNets organization and given to African families who beloved to UCG at the time of purchase. I believe the cows ended up with some folks who sided with COGWA in the split and there was angst about whose property the cows were. It is my understanding that it resulted in legal action between the organizations. I guess technically neither was bringing a brother to court, since the leaders all disavowed one another as brethren, but it definitely revealed their true colors and the fruit of Armstrongism in general.

These links give some information. As usual, we don't endorse all the content on these sites. Interestingly, I just discovered that the search results included links to Kubik's personal web page, which have since been removed.

Anonymous said...

Just came across this after you linked it on Banned; thanks for the background info. I always enjoy reading your material (particularly Martha and xHWA) as it is more thought-provoking that most of what comes my way.
Having left UCG well before the COGWA split, I found it interesting to read your perspective of events.
Thanks for all your hard work!