During the sermon of the following week, February 5, the tone changed. Early in February 5th’s sermon, Ron states that he knows there will be a split, no doubt about it. Those who don’t accept Ron should find another pastor. He canceled a trip to Tyler, Texas that weekend to stay in Toledo and deal with this grave crisis.
During the prior week’s sermon Ron had stated that he wasn’t going to hide anything by not sending out cassette tapes as normal. On February 5, Weinland said that he wasn’t sure whether or not he was going to send them out. Ron titled the sermon “For Unity, Nothing Will Remain Hidden.” (Just in case you missed the irony, reread the paragraph.)
Weinland challenged the members by telling them that if they thought they were going to keep everything, they weren’t. He had corrected the board. The board had the gall to push Ron to find his true position, and he had pushed back with strength and authority by disfellowshipping some of them.
He read a letter from one of the board members that was very critical of Ron. After that, a survey was handed out among the congregation, asking whether the member agreed or disagreed with the following statements:
- I have seen your [Weinland’s] fruit for the past few years and believe that you have been following Jesus Christ.
- I do not believe in a congregationalist form of government ….., but believe that those matters are guided by Jesus Christ through His ministry
- The issues before us is whether the congregation or the ministry administer the government …, I believe I need more time to study and pray about the subject in order to come to a definite conviction one way or the other.
(Downloadable PDF copy of the survey) After the surveys were collected, there was an intermission as Ron adjourned for 20 minutes or so to read them. When he returned, he had envelopes addressed to a number of members. Inside the envelope was a letter (downloadable copy). Without computer equipment or adequate time, these were obviously prepared in advance. Weinland spent the remainder of the sermon reading from the letter.
The letter reiterated his position and reasoning and then announced that those receiving the letter were not disfellowshiped but were no longer members in “good standing”. It ended with:
As this letter has been addressed to you, you know whether this probation period is being given because you need more time to prove matters to yourself or whether you have state [sic] opposition to this ministry, either directly or by divisive action on your part. ….. This probation period of seven week [sic], beginning with this Sabbath, means that you are no longer classified as a member in “good standing” until this matter is resolved.
Ron took an aside to point out that as members not in “good standing”, they were not eligible to vote during the corporate meeting the following weekend on whether to replace the bylaws with the Ron-friendly version.
He closed with: “With genuine love for full reconciliation and in the service of Jesus Christ.” One estimate is that about 3/4 of the approximately 20 families in attendance were made members not in “good standing”. That did not end matters, though what transpired after is less clear.
MP3 copies of the sermons are available for playing or downloading (right-click, then save-as to your hard drive).
Weinland “left the building” after the services and serving notices. The members remained for awhile to sort through their reaction to these developments. In a letter dated Feb 7 (PDF download), Ron explained the reasons for the suspension of membership in the third paragraph:
The reason for giving those letters was based on what I believed to be the only option open to me to protect the church. Some people needed more time to pray and study about these matters and this seemed to be the only legal means to insure that they could, while at the same time protecting the best interest of the Church.
So the reason for this ecclesiastical action was not ecclesiastical, it was legal. Ron presumes to determine the best interest of the Church. Never mind that the bylaws set up a board of directors to handle the financial interests of the Church. In the fourth paragraph, Weinland talks about further ecclesiastical actions to seize legal control, talking about how he quelled a movement to have an emergency board meeting to fire Ron:
I had to explain to the individual seeking to call the Board meeting that his efforts were now futile, as I had already started the procedure to disfellowship one Board member and that I would not hesitate to disfellowship any other Board members who continued to threaten the welfare of the Church.
Lawyers were fully involved at this point, with Ron naming his own multi-partnered law firm. He defended his actions as being legal, and that the bylaws gave him great power. But after consultation with his attorneys, he had reached a new understanding of the legal situation and did not need to deal with the members. The only thing needed for him to control the situation was to disfellowship board members of the corporation which hired him. This allowed him to reinstate the members, never mind their spiritual deficiencies.
By this statement, he acknowledged that the letters handed out the prior Saturday were a legal maneuver rather than an ecclesiastical action. He ended this letter with “In Christ’s service and deep love to all”.
Weinland’s legal power was based on precedent, with no mention of any disfellowshipping powers given in the bylaws. Therefore a matter that could be litigated. With litigation threatened, it seems that there was some negotiation that followed. First there appeared to be an agreement that the departing local members would keep their share of the funds or about 1/3 of the corporation assets. Then Weinland changed his mind and said he would let them have a much smaller amount, calling it a gift. It’s unclear as to whether the splitters received anything at all in the end.
Further details on the turmoil from the opposite camp’s view is available in this post on the Weinland Watch blog and the comments of this post on As Bereans Did.
In a letter dated February 14, 2000 (PDF download) Weinland sent out the tapes for the prior two week’s sermons after all. These letterheads on all these letters included the phrase “Preparing for the Kingdom of God” as a slogan under the Church/corporate name “the Church of God”(Inc). (The logo was created by one of Terry Wrozek’s daughters. Terry became one of Weinland’s first “elders”, formerly delivering several sermons each year, but has not delivered one since October, 2007. During all the promotions of 2008, he was bypassed as others were promoted to evangelist and senior elder. Ron rectified this partially in the past week, rewarding his long-time ally and elder with a spot as senior elder.)
In letter, Ron indicated that there was an attempt by “some” to take control of the corporation. Yes, there was an attempt. But it was not an attempt by “some”, it was an attempt by “one”, Ronald Weinland, and was a successfully attempt as he seized control from the board that did already have control.
It seems that the turmoil was not fully under control, as Weinland had to set up yet another new PO box address in Toledo, replacing another recent PO box address in Toledo which had replaced a Temperance, Michigan PO box. In his February 14th letter, Ron claimed the church was reorganizing under that as a full name. While “The Church of God – PKG” was incorporated in New Jersey on February 11, 2000, the legal entity “the Church of God Inc” continues to this day with an address at the same Cincinnati PO Box address as Weinland’s church. There is also a tax exemption registration in effect for “The Church of God, Inc” but not a similar one for “The Church of God — PKG, Inc”. So it seems that “Church of God — PKG” remains as a “doing business as” name.
In this letter, Ron states that the corporation will be reorganized with no members, not even the board. I wonder if this is the actual case. I am not a lawyer, but as I understand it a corporation is a legal entity which must maintain a relationship to actual people. In the case of a for-profit corporation, this is done by ownership of shares. In the case of a non-profit corporation, this is done by membership. So I doubt that the Church of God Inc. is a corporation with zero members, nor could it be a stock corporation as a non-profit.
Ron’s spiritual idol, Herbert Armstrong, set up a separate corporation during the 1979 receivership crisis of WCG. This new corporation was a “corporation sole” with Herbert Armstrong as its only member. I highly suspect this is how the Church of God Inc. was reorganized, with Ronald Weinland as the corporation sole. In which case the Church equals Ron both financially and ecclesiastically in perhaps we should instead call it “The Church of Ron — Prophet Keeping the Gold”.