Monday, June 14, 2010

Raising the Ruins by Stephen Flurry - The Ultimate Review

Raising the Ruins is Stephen Flurry's account of the legal battle between the Worldwide Church of God and the Philadelphia Church of God led by his father, Gerald Flurry. The battle was about the writings of WCG-founder Herbert W. Armstrong who led the church until his death on January 16th 1986.

Around 1989 his father was called into the office of the succeeding Pastor General (official title in that church for the leading minister) Joseph W. Tkach to call Gerald Flurry to order. Gerald Flurry had refused to preach the new doctrines of the church, and refused the changes in that meeting. He was summarily fired and subsequently disfellowshipped. He formed the Philadelphia Church of God with the first meeting having about a dozen members.

The fun thing about this book are the things which are not included in the book. Don Tiger, who originally collected all the materials relating to the decades before Mr. Armstrong's death isn't mentioned with one single word. Likewise, the very fact that I had also supplied dozens of letters with material relating to copyright issues - and their possibility to indeed use Mr. Armstrong's literature under the "Fair Use" clause isn't mentioned either. That material was supplied long before we got e-mail in envelopes costing a fortune in postage to the director of local affairs in Britain at that time, Ron Fraser.

Understand this: I am not writing this review because of any bitterness over not being mentioned. But I do want to make it clear that reading the book, as an ex-member of that particular organization, was somewhat strange given the fact that this very information was instrumental in their winning the court case by settling on a specific amount for taking over the collective copyrights of all materials.

When you read the book, totalling 370 pages with an extra 35 pages of notes might lead some to think it was the complete story. That is not really the case. Although the Philadelphia Church of God later did spend time discrediting Don Tiger when some of the questions relating to much of the other materials - and especially the belief of Mr. Tiger that all materials should be made freely available - were questions they didn't like to answer.

But the book gives a fair example of the money involved in religion, and certainly a situation where the Worldwide Church of God had suffered great drops in tithe-income as a result of about 40% of its membership leaving to splinter groups.

There is some mudthrowing in the book against another leading minister, Roderick C Meredith - who later formed the Global Church of God and later the Living Church of God - and to the uninformed that may seem very credible if people weren't around at that time. There is no need to dive into any of that.

But it might be a good word of caution to remember that this account is colored by Stephen Flurry wanting to defend his father. The story is colorful and entertaining in the sense of illustrating one perspective of the more than twenty years since the death of Herbert Armstrong. Ministers who gladly preach on unity and trying to live at peace with one another are apparently among the worst when it comes to living up to that motto themselves.

Thanks for reading this article. I was involved in the Worldwide Church of God as a reader since may 1986, a prospective member since 1988, baptized in 1990 and subsequently left that organization in 1992. Later, I left the Philadelphia Church of God - and today I have no formal affiliation with any religious organization.

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