Explanation of my talk at the A Present Love Conference in New York City, April 19, 2015.
May 18, 2015

Rev. Tony Ponticello Responds To

"A Vital Message" by Gary Renard


Dear A Course In Miracles Students Everywhere,
Rev. Tony Uses The Original Edition by CIMS
On May 14th best selling author Gary Renard sent out a 1,866 word email expressing his adamant objection to ideas expressed by me during my talk at the A Present Love ACIM conference in New York City on April 19. I have taken some time to ask Holy Spirit's help in writing an appropriate response. I have been guided that my response should not be longer than Gary's original email. It should be exactly the same length.

I am glad Gary expressed himself and see nothing at all wrong with that. I thought Gary's tone was respectful and I will keep mine the same. I believe discussions like this are healthy dialogue for the ACIM community. Nothing has gone wrong. Gary and I are NOT promoting controversy. We are having a public discussion about important ACIM topics that are of interest to many ACIM students. There is no reason to project attack and defense on any of this. Please don't.

Many have made comments about my lecture without ever hearing it. I have put an audio of my talk up on the internet. You can listen to it by clicking on this link. It's 21 minutes long:

In the first paragraph of his email Gary said that I use the Urtext ACIM. This is not true. I held up the book I use during my lecture, The Original Edition ACIM published by Course In Miracles Society. I have a great deal of respect for the Urtext but it is not the version I use. Gary also said that I wish to turn ACIM into a religion. This is not true either. In my view ACIM is ALREADY a religion. It was a religion before I even started studying it in 1980, 35 years ago. 

Many sincere ACIM teachers and students are fond of definitively saying ACIM is NOT a religion. However we are communicating in the English language which uses standard definitions for words. My dictionary defines "religion" as "noun -- the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods * a particular system of faith and worship: * a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance." Do all these ACIM students, and Gary, believe that ACIM somehow does NOT fall into this definition? It certainly does so for me and for many other ACIM students. It did so before I ever even heard of the book. ACIM has ALWAYS been a religion. Rev. Tony is not trying to turn it into one. 

CMC Logo
Rev. Tony did co-found a church based on ACIM in 1987. That church is currently named Community Miracles Center (CMC). The State of California and the United States federal government have determined that the CMC is a fully functioning, legal church with the right to ordain ministers. If CMC's church status is good enough for the State of California and the United States government why is it not good enough for many ACIM students? ACIM is MY religion. Perhaps many would NEVER say that. That's fine. However, I have the right to say what my religion is for me. If ACIM is MY religion then ACIM is A religion. All the railing against this idea is rather futile, in my opinion.

In Gary's second paragraph is an idea that really stopped me in my tracks. "Two thousand years ago, the world took Jesus' message, severely distorted it, and turned it into a religion ... I don't want to see that happen again." Don't all of us ACIM students know that the world is an illusion and that it has no power to do ANYTHING? Isn't this one of Ken Wapnick's primary teachings? Isn't Gary supposed to be a very dedicated believer in Ken Wapnick's understanding of ACIM? There is no world! The world does nothing. The world never distorted Jesus' teaching. 

Gary does not like that I said the early ACIM was edited by beginner students. However, it was. That's just the truth. Ken Wapnick had most likely not even done the Workbook before he convinced Helen Schucman that ACIM needed another edit. Also, since I have been studying ACIM for 35 years I can honestly say that for my first 10 to 12 years I was a beginning student. It took a long time for this thought system to sink in.

Urtext Manuscripts
The Urtext Manuscripts
I did say in my talk that we ACIM students were lied to for many years about the origins and 
editing of ACIM. I firmly believe that this is true. For many years we were told tha t the printed Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) version of ACIM was virtually, word for word, what Helen Schucman heard in her mind. We were told in the movie The Story of ACIM (produced by FIP) that the FIP ACIM book was practically unc hanged from the original dictation. We were told that all that were added were chapter and section headings. This wasn't true. Why were we told that if it wasn't true? 

Gary says that the only substantial editing that was done was in the first five chapters and why do us earlier edition people "harp so much" about that? Why? Because it's the first five chapters! It sets the tone for the rest of the work. It's incredibly important. In Chapter 1 we would have leaned that the "Great Crusade" that we were on to correct error had a slogan, "Listen, learn and DO." The next statement ALMOS T survives in the FIP version, "Listen to my voice, learn to undo error, and DO something to correct it." The FIP version substitutes "act" instead of "DO something" with no emphasis.

The "Sparkly" Edition
However, the next INCREDIBLY important statement does NOT appear in the FIP version. "The first two [listen, learn] are not enough. The real members of MY party are ACTIVE workers." If students had read this on page 5 don't you think many would have said, "Hey, I want to be a REAL member of Jesus' team so I will become an ACTIVE (emphasized) worker." (OrEd.Tx.1.31) This is also why people who study the earlier edits tend to be more involved in using the world as a feedback mechanism for the healing of the mind. The purpose of my talk at the conference was not to disparage the FIP version or the people who brought it to us. I said I loved those people. The purpose of my talk was to fire up Conference attendees to become "ACTIVE WORKERS!" Why? Because as ACIM says, (and this survived all edits) "There is much to do, and we have been long delayed. Accept the holy instant as this year is born and take your place, so long left unfulfilled, in the Great Awakening." (OrEd.Tx.15.112) This Great Awakening is the Great Crusade mentioned in Chapter 1. The Great Crusade that had an easy to remember slogan which if you only read the FIP book you wouldn't know about, "Listen, learn and DO." Slogans, or mottos, are important. What's the Boy Scout motto. Everybody knows it, "Be prepared." What's the ACIM slogan for the Great Crusade which ACIM is supposed to fire us up to be on? Very few know it. Why, because beginner students decided to edit it out of a book. 

Gary talks about is how the Urtext was "stolen" out of Library of Congress and how the early edit that became The Original Edition and The Sparkly book was "stolen" from the Association of Research and Enlightenment (ARE) library. My information repeatedly tells me this isn't true. The Urtext was originally given to Endeavor Academy during the copyright trial because it was part of the evidence of the case FIP was using and the evidence has to get revealed, or "discovered," by the other side. Endeavor was literally given the Urtext by FIP. I am told that later a copy was made from the Library of Congress because ... that's why you put books in a "Library." So that they can be looked at and maybe copied. If FIP and Ken Wapnick truly wanted the Urtext never to be discovered they should have burned it, not made sure it was in a library! The same is true for the version found at the ARE library. 

The Original Edition
Another bit of misinformation Gary's article contains is that Robert Perry prefers the FIP edition. If this was so, why did he give The Original Edition this endorsement in 2007, "When I'm asked about [The Original Edition] of ACIM, I always recommend it." The main reason many ACIM teachers continue to teach from the FIP version is that this is the version that more students have, and these teachers want to reach the greatest number of students. Frankly, it's a business reason based on a perception of lack. At one point I had to make a moral decision and not a business one. 

Towards the email's end Gary implies that he might not be invited to present at the Las Vegas 2016 ACIM Conference, but Gary knows that he and Cindy have already been invited. I wouldn't pull that away just because of his email.

The FIP perpetuated a myth about the early channeling, typing, editing, and printing of ACIM. They made that myth into the movie, "The Story of ACIM." It was a good myth! It created a Divine mystique around ACIM. The problem was much of it wasn't true. Judy Skutch-Whitson on the witness stand during the copyright trial admitted how she made much of the story up because it sounded good. She called it "hyperbole." She testified she told exciting stories to help promote ACIM. You could all read her testimony. "Hyperbole - exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally." The trouble was no one told us it was hyperbole. We thought it was the truth! 

Gary thinks that because I spoke last he should have had a chance to refute my statements. However many teachers had their time at the podium and many said things very different from what I said. On Saturday morning Gary said distinctly that ACIM was NOT a religion. There were more people listening to him than listening to me because some people always leave Sunday morning BEFORE the finale. Jon Mundy also had a big crowd on Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning is not a very good time to speak if you want big numbers.
Jon went on for 90 minutes about how wonderful, and close to God, Ken Wapnick, Bill Thetford, and Helen Schucman were. Jon even said he thought that Ken was so close to God that God "sucked" him up quickly right into Heaven like the Gecko in the Geico commercials getting sucked up by a vacuum cleaner. I didn't object. Jon had the podium and the right to say what he wanted to say. That is why these Conferences are so TERRIFIC! Different teachers get to come together and express different ideas. The participants can make up their own minds. It's healthy dialogue in the ACIM community.

I hope to see you all in Las Vegas.

(1,866 words)

Rev. Tony Ponticello | Executive Minister Community Miracles Center