AR 35 April, 1986
Buddhist monks (left) and dignitaries listened as Herman Hoeh delivered the eulogy for Herbert W. Armstrong. The casket was closed throughout. Joe Tkach, HWA's successor, can be seen peering out from below Hoeh's hands.
Herbert W. Armstrong Goes to His Reward
It was something many Worldwide Church of God (WCG) members really believed would never occur. Nevertheless, it did. On the morning of January 16, Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA), the founder of Ambassador College and the self-appointed Apostle of the Worldwide Church of God, died.
Although he was already 93 years old, many of his followers were actually surprised by the news. For years, Gerald Waterhouse, a leading WCG evangelist, had toured the world teaching Armstrong devotees that God would not allow "Mr. Armstrong" to die before the second coming of Christ. But like so many other Waterhouse prophecies, this one also failed.
Waterhouse notwithstanding, the Armstrong organization for a number of months may have been preparing its members for the inevitable. In a letter to members dated Dec. 23, HWA (if it was indeed him writing) mentioned his weakened state, angina attacks, and "the uselessness of this present evil world." Then on January 10 HWA wrote his followers:
This is my first letter to you in 1986, and could very well be my last. Now in my 94th year I am in a very physically weakened state enduring severe pain and with virtually no strength whatsoever. I briefly described my condition in last month's co-worker letter to you, and now it has worsened. It may be that the Work God has given me to do is complete, but not the Work of God's Church, which will be faithfully doing God's Work till Christ, the True Head of this Church, returns.
After much counsel and prayer over the past months God has led me in announcing a decision last week to appoint Mr. Joseph W. Tkach, director of Church Administration, to the office of Deputy Pastor General, to assist me while I am in a weakened state, and should God choose to take my life, to place himself totally in Christ's hands to lead God's Church under Christ, succeeding me as Pastor General, in the difficult times ahead. Christ will lead in the decision about which men will continue the telecast.
According to The Worldwide News of January 27, HWA told his advisory council of his decision to appoint Tkach on January 7, a date very significant to Waterhouse, an avid numerologist. (Actually, we think the date may be significant too, but for a different reason. As Joe Tkach, of Russian decent knows, January 7 is Russian Christmas!)
Only nine days after naming Tkach his successor, HWA was dead. Tkach (called "Old Joe," "Comrad Joe," and "Mr. T" by some who have difficulty pronouncing Tuh cotch4 ) called an 11:30 a.m. meeting of all church headquarters personnel to announce HWA's death. He told them how "The greatest work lies yet ahead." According to an employee who was there, not one person was seen crying and most behaved as though nothing of great significance had happened. Some supervisors even told their subordinates not to discuss HWA's death, but to go on as though nothing had occurred!
Some WCG observers speculate that before his death, HWA was concerned his funeral might be ignored by the many world leaders to whom he had given so generously over the years. Whatever the case, at HWA's death church officials planned for only a small, private burial service. But grumblings among some WCG members wanting a big funeral seem to have convinced Tkach to change plans. HWA's January 19 funeral was quite public, and as it turned out, HWA would probably have been quite pleased by the large turnout and grandiose style of the event.
©1986 Ambassador Report. Published quarterly, as finances allow, as a Christian service. ISSN 0882-2123
John Trechak, Editor & Publisher Mary E. Jones, Associate Editor
Founding Publishers: Robert Gerringer, Bill Hughes, Mary E. Jones, John Trechak, Len Zola, and Margaret Zola.
According to The Worldwide News (Jan. 27, p. 1):
"The casket was brought to the grave site in a hearse surrounded by an honor guard of Ambassador student leaders, led by Paul Bennett and Anthony Marcinelli, the student body presidents of the Pasadena and Big Sandy colleges, " said Mr. Borek. "We didn't want Mr. Armstrong's body brought to the grave site alone."
"Mr. Armstrong probably had the most dignified funeral service of any of the apostles," Mr. Borek added.
"The entire Advisory Council of Elders were pallbearers", he said. "The lineup was chosen by Mr. Tkach." At 1:58 p.m. the hearse was opened, and the coffin was removed....
The casket was carried to the grave site by Mr. Dean, Mr. Apartian, Mr. La Ravia, Mr. Jackson, Mr. Neff, Mr. Meredith, Mr. McNair and Mr. Smith.
Mr. Armstrong's casket, made of solid mahogany and weighing upwards of 1,500 pounds, "is exactly the same as the one his wife was buried in in 1967," said John Kennedy, Auditorium P.M. assistant pastor....
Mr. Armstrong's burial plot lies between his mother, Eva Wright Armstrong (1866-1961), and his wife, Loma Dillon Armstrong (1891-1967). Mr. Armstrong's son Richard (1928-1958), who died in an auto accident, is buried on the other side of Mrs. Loma Armstrong. None of the burial plots have headstones, only foot stones....
According to news accounts, about 4500 gathered for the funeral at Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena. Among the dignitaries who attended were Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, Pasadena Mayor William Bogaard, consulate representatives of China and Japan, and a contingent of orange-robed Buddhist monks from the Wat Thai temple of Los Angeles. (In recent years HWA gave significant sums of WCG money to a Buddhist temple in Sri Lanka.) Also in attendance, and seated in the front row of the "unconverted section," were HWA's daughters Beverly Gott and Dorothy Mattson, his daughter-in-law Shirley Armstrong, and his son Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA).
Photos by Gary McCarthy
The honor guard of Ambassador student leaders - "We didn't want Mr. Armstrong's body brought to the grave site alone."
Some news accounts reported that GTA "wiped tears from his eyes." Someone also claimed that Gerald Waterhouse appeared to be sobbing. Those two may have been the only ones who shed any tears. One eyewitness said:
It was the strangest funeral. First of all, I never saw so many policemen at a burial. Were they expecting a riot or something? And the atmosphere was really odd. The top ministers looked somber, but everyone where I sat seemed to be having a good time. I really didn't see anyone upset or crying. In fact, Beverly and Dorothy were laughing a bit and afterwards seemed quite happy talking to Aaron Dean. There was also some very uncouth behavior. One Ambassador department head climbed atop a tombstone to get a better view and had to be asked to climb down. It was a strange funeral.
The presiding speaker was Herman Hoeh, Editor of The Plain Truth, who indicated that condolences had been received from government representatives of Israel, Jordan, Great Britain, China, Japan, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. Hoeh's eulogy began:
On this occasion it seemed appropriate to consider the background of the work that Mr. Armstrong had been doing these past decades. We often see only what is present and seldom understand fully the background and the development of the institutions that he founded.
Hoeh proceeded to enumerate HWA's accomplishments (the broadcast, magazine, foundation, college, etc.), and then for the next 20 minutes or so, painted HWA as the most recent in a succession of God-led men beginning with Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and Jesus. He extended that succession right up to modern times with what we must admit was, at times, a most imaginative reconstruction of history. For instance:
And in 1660 they [the Church of God] came to the state, then colony, of Rhode Island. And from there they spread west. And it was in 1927 that Mr. Armstrong came to know and understand the small remnant of this Church.
But before I continue, I must tell you that the Church had already come to the recognition of the government of the United States. The Church of God was here when the American Civil War occurred. The Church of God was the primary instrument in this country to establish the conscientious objector status of those who sought to live in peace on either side in the Civil War.
The Church of God, in the person of Andrew Dugger, presented in the time of the First World War the petition of the Church to remain free of the obligation of killing one's neighbor.
And through Mr. Herbert Armstrong's efforts on behalf of the Church of' God in the Second World War and the Korean War, our membership has never slain or destroyed brethren on either side. We have prayed for the peace of the nations. We have prayed for the safety of the world's leaders.
One can only wonder what went through the minds of McNair, Helge, Ames, Apartian, Waterhouse, Meredith, and the others as they gazed at the casket...
Before concluding, Hoeh reassured his audience that:
It is our purpose in this January of 1986 to continue Mr. Armstrong's work, to assure our representatives who are here from many countries around the world that we will continue in our relationship and offer our services....
Hoeh's eulogy (which, incidentally, contained no mention of any resurrection - a subject usually expounded upon at WCG funerals) was followed by a closing prayer by Joe Tkach, whose eloquence about HWA peaked with:
And now as we close another chapter in the book of Acts and begin a new one, we readily admit and acknowledge that there is no man who can fill his shoes, but, Father, we aim to follow in his footsteps....
The Worldwide News of Feb. 10, devoted entirely to HWA, contained letters of condolence from many leaders including President and Mrs. Reagan, California Attorney General John Van de Kamp, United Nations Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, Peter Tarnoff of the World Affairs Council, Otto von Habsburg, Leopold de Rothschild, Edmund Rothschild, and numerous leaders of the state of Israel. (It appears that HWA's old friends Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos were unable to send their condolences. We suspect they were preoccupied with other problems.) We understand that the special Feb. 10 issue of The Worldwide News is being made available free to the general public. The address to write to is The Worldwide News, P.O. Box 111, Pasadena, CA 91129.
The Press Waves Good-bye
While in most of the U.S. the death of HWA was given relatively little news media attention (and in the rest of the world almost none), in Southern California HWA's demise was big news for almost a week. Most TV stations in the area covered both his death and funeral. Articles appeared in the Pasadena Star-News (Jan. 17, 18, 20), the Los Angeles Times (Jan. 16, 17, 20), the Los Angeles Herald Examiner (,Jan. 17), the Pasadena Weekly (Jan. 23), and many other papers.
The most cynical piece we saw was Harold Hubbard's column in the Jan. 25 Pasadena Star-News. It was titled "Tolerance of the Worldwide Church of God comes easier now." Hubbard simply gave a long list of community and charitable projects financed by WCG money and then closed with: "Tolerance comes easier now."
The most irreverant treatment of HWA's passing that we saw in print was in the Feb. 22-23 issue of The Weekend Australian. Phillip Adams' article was titled "End of the World Here for Two - Thank God!" and began:
It must come as a great shock to both of them, but Herbert W. Armstrong and L. Ron Hubbard are dead. These god-like gurus, who dominated the lives of countless disciples, have carked it, snuffed it and kicked the bucket. And the world is a better place for their passing.
The article succinctly covered the lives of both HWA and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, who also died recently.
The cleverest HWA obituary we came across appeared in the Jan. 18 edition of The Guardian, the respected British paper:
Herbert Armstrong, the 93-year-old head of the Worldwide Church of God, stated recently from California that his tome, Mystery of the Ages, "may be the most important book since the Bible." He has now been called in to account for this statement - he died on Thursday.
The most sensational article appeared in the Globe, Feb. 4. Titled "The Holy Man Who Broke My Heart," it told of Garner Ted's repeated attempts to reconcile with his father. The Globe presented a photo of HWA standing close to a seductive young mini-skirted Oriental woman who was supposed to be "Ramona Martin, a half-breed Cherokee Indian," HWA's second wife. Actually, it wasn't Ramona but, according to some sources, HWA's former Filipino girlfriend. WCG members who sent clippings of the article to church headquarters requesting an explanation were never answered.
Christianity Today (Feb. 21) reviewed many facets of HWA's career, including how some of his followers believed he had been resurrected in 1977. Time magazine (Jan. 27, p. 78) noted how HWA had taught his followers to "shun medical care (though he used it as his own health deteriorated) and that remarried members should divorce their second spouses and rejoin the first (though he repealed that dictum in 1976 and a year later married a divorcee)." Newsweek (Jan. 27, p. 72) recalled how HWA had been accused of "misusing church funds" and how he had excommunicated his own son from Worldwide. The obituary concluded: "The two were never reconciled."
That the old preacher and his preacher son never reconciled was a fact that the press repeated again and again in the days following HWA's death. HWA had taught that he was the Elijah prophesied to "turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to the fathers" (Mal. 4:5), but he was not even willing in his final days to say one kind word to his own son Garner Ted. While many newswriters know of HWA's excesses, perversions, false teachings, hypocrisy, and outlandish arrogance, the one fact most often reported on to reveal his true spirit was his completely unnatural and cruel hatred of his very own son.
The Fast Moves of Mr. T
HWA was dead only a short while when Joe Tkach, the WCG's new Pastor General (he has not yet declared himself an Apostle) had armed guards placed around HWA's old residence, the Ambassador College "Social Center," and, it is rumored, spent days personally rummaging through HWA's personal belongings. What he found, we don't know. We do know that at one time HWA had millions of dollars worth of art objects in his basement vault.
Apparently, there has yet been no firm decision as to whether Mr. T will move out of his 280 South Orange Grove parsonage and into HWA's "Social Center" home or whether, as has been discussed, the "Social Center" will be left as is, to function as a church museum or shrine dedicated to the dead "Apostle." Whatever the case, Tkach has already taken over HWA's luxurious old office on the fourth floor of the church's Hall of Administration and is being chauffeured about in HWA's Cadillac limo.
...and as he turned to the camera, what was Garner Ted Armstrong thinking?
Not surprisingly, Tkach has appointed a number of trusted subordinates to key positions. Pastor Larry Salyer is now overseeing the WCG's field ministry, and Doug Horchak, one of the WCG's brighter ministers (and Tkach's son-in-law), is Salyer's top aide and likely successor.
The WCG will continue its World Tomorrow telecast with new personalities: Pastor David Hulme, Pastor David Albert, and Evangelist Richard Ames. Tkach hopes he, himself, will eventually be able to tape programs good enough for airing. Actually, David Hulme's first few telecasts proved quite successful, bringing in over 19,000 calls per program as compared to HWA's average of 16,000. Albert's and Ames' programs had lower numbers of responses, but still, we are told, approximated HWA's old average. It appears the WCG should have no trouble gaining new members via TV.
The Plain Truth staff box has changed a bit with the April issue. Tkach is listed as Publisher, but Herman Hoeh remains as Editor. With his relationship to Tkach considered cordial, we suspect Hoeh's influence as the elder statesman of WCG ideology will continue. Nevertheless, the PT itself appears headed for rough times. The March issue (the last with HWA as Editor-in-Chief) was the smallest in years, having a mere 29 pages, little color, and inferior paper. The April issue is no better.
The Pasadena campus of Ambassador College is, for the time being, still headed by Deputy Chancellor Raymond McNair. But the Big Sandy, Texas campus is set to close this spring. The Texas campus may not be sold, however, as it is being considered for the site of a new badly needed minister-retirement complex. Nevertheless, a Japanese group continues to express a strong interest in buying it.
As for the WCG's executive jet, which HWA wanted sold, it has been taken off the market. Tkach intends to use it to meet important world leaders - something not anticipated by HWA. Present at HWA's funeral was Osamu Gotoh who, for years, was HWA's world tours "advance man." We understand he is available as an addition to Tkach's travel team. We have learned that Tkach is already making plans for a major trip. Destination? The Soviet Union.
The WCG's Advisory Council has as yet seen no real shakeup. Council members are: Herman Hoeh, Roderick Meredith, Raymond McNair, Dean Blackwell, Leroy Neff, Norman Smith, Ellis La Ravia, Leon Walker, Dibar Apartian, Richard Rice, Richard Ames, Harold Jackson, Ralph Helge, and Aaron Dean. All are ordained ministers except Helge who is the church's attorney. The youngest of the group is Aaron Dean who, for a number of years, was Herbert Armstrong's executive assistant. Dean is now apparently in a similar position as executive assistant to Tkach. For that reason, he is considered by many as the number two man in the Worldwide organization.
Kevin Dean, Aaron's brother and until recently head of the church's Imperial Schools and the church's YOU (Youth Opportunities Unlimited) program, has "resigned" for reasons not made public (Pastor General's Report, Jan. 24, p. 2). Kermit Nelson will replace Kevin Dean as director of YOU. Jim Snook, the Dean brothers' stepfather remains as head of Ambassador College security and communications - no insignificant post.
Attorney Stanley Rader, no longer an attending WCG member or minister, wrote letters praising HWA that were published in the Los Angeles Times and the Pasadena Star-News (Jan. 26). In an interview with the Star-News (Jan. 17) Rader said HWA was "one of the finest individuals to walk the face of the earth.... The opportunity to work with him was the most rewarding of my life.... He created lasting and binding friendship wherever he went. He believed that it was better to give than to receive and he practiced that." Rader, who was not seen at HWA's funeral, has no position in the Tkach regime and, his gushy laudation of the Apostle who fired him notwithstanding, no one in Worldwide seems to want him back.
Ralph Helge's position as WCG chief counsel seems secure and his influence in that organization will likely grow. Like Tkach, Helge came to Pasadena from Chicago and was a long-time Armstrong follower. Shortly after HWA passed away, he told the press this about his late spiritual leader: "When you were in his presence, you knew you were in the presence of somebody special. There was a dynamic strength that just emanated! But aside, or next to, that leadership of strength was also an absolutely warm hearted person." Helge probably believes this.
The transition from the Herbert Armstrong era to the Joe Tkach era has not been completely free of stress. There have been shouting matches and a rumored physical altercation on "the fourth floor" - the location of Worldwide's key executive offices. But overall the WCG has seen a remarkably smooth transition of power. Most significant is the fact that there have been no major defections of ministers or members and no major drop in church income since HWA's death. There have been a few who have left Worldwide to join GTA's organization or other groups, and there are also a few so disillusioned that after a period of non-tithing and non-attendance they will drift away, but their numbers are very small.
Former WCG minister Howard Clark described the situation very well when he said: "Those in the WCG who have had the intelligence and character to leave have already done so. Those that remain are conditioned to a movement that has become institutionalized."
To the WCG's many thousands of true believers, the circumstances surrounding HWA's final weeks and death may appear as neat as ribbon on a bouquet of flowers. But a careful review of the WCG's official version of recent events leaves many questions unanswered. Let's analyze a few WCG statements and see if they make any sense.
The first problem involves the last two member letters attributed to HWA (dated Dec. 23 and Jan. 10). To many, their syntax and style were different from all past HWA letters. Anyone who has read HWA's co-worker letters over the years knows how every one was literally filled with words in ALL CAPS, words underlined, and exclamation points!! The Dec. 23 letter did not contain one word in caps, one word underlined, or one exclamation point. The Jan. 10 letter, which announced Tkach as HWA's successor, had "PLAIN TRUTH" in caps once, two scripture cites underlined (HWA usually put them in parentheses), and only one emphasized word in the entire letter: "It may be that the Work God has given me to do is complete, but not the Work of God's Church...."
Only months ago, HWA was telling some associates "The Work" would end when he died. Of course, the difference in syntax, word emphasis, and style may have been due to a weakened physical state. But some insiders say that almost to the end HWA was able to play the piano, intimidate and harangue subordinates, and be his old cantankerous, mercurial self. What was it that most upset him? Based on inside information, it was the knowledge that someday all that he had created would be left to another man - most likely, he feared, Garner Ted Armstrong. That being the case, who, or what, persuaded him to name a successor? And of all those he could choose from, why Tkach - a man who never graduated from Ambassador College and who, until recently, was so low on the WCG totem pole that Garner Ted Armstrong did not know him by either face or name.
Let's look at the WCG's official explanation of how HWA told his top executives that he had chosen Tkach to succeed him. According to The Worldwide News of Jan. 27 (p. 1):
Jan. 7, Mr. Armstrong called a combined meeting of the Advisory Council of Elders and board members of affiliated (Church) organizations, according to a press release from the Church's Legal Office. Also present was Ralph K. Helge, the Church's legal counsel.
Evangelist Joseph W. Tkach and Aaron Dean, Mr. Armstrong's executive aide, were with Mr. Armstrong in his home during the meeting. To avoid any contagion to Mr. Armstrong, other board members met in the executive boardroom on the fourth floor of the Hall of Administration and communicated by telephone conference hookup, according to Mr. Helge.
"As was customary, Mr. Armstrong opened the meeting with prayer," Mr. Helge said. "The tone of Mr. Armstrong's prayer was deeply moving to all the men as he stated he felt that the time was approaching 'to pass the baton.' "
Mr. Armstrong then designated Mr. Tkach, director of Church Administration, to be his successor to the office and title of pastor general of the Church and to the other offices, titles and authority held by Mr. Armstrong.
Mr. Tkach would assume the various offices and titles in the event of Mr. Armstrong's death.
Mr. Armstrong announced that he was appointing Mr. Tkach to the office and title of deputy pastor general of the Church and its affiliated organizations, said Mr. Helge.
Personally designating a successor, said Mr. Armstrong, would aid in preserving the unity that exists in God's Church and prevent some from falling away.
Mr. Armstrong said his designation was made after "much prayer, reflection and counsel" with many council members. Board members unanimously endorsed Mr. Armstrong's designation, said Mr. Helge.
Here we have the WCG's legal department, in a carefully worded statement, admitting that HWA was isolated from his entire organization, with only Tkach and Dean having full access to Armstrong. According to lawyer Helge, this was necessary "to avoid contagion to Mr. Armstrong." But why is it that all but Tkach and Dean posed a threat? Are we to believe that HWA had acquired some type of immune system deficiency? And that Tkach and Dean, unlike most mortals, are somehow entirely free of germs? If HWA was truly that ill the week before his death, some members ask, why was there no "hot line" call for them to pray and fast? HWA and others made such appeals to the membership in the past.
According to WCG spokesman David Hulme, the cause of HWA's death was "basically just the effects of becoming old, just old age" (Pasadena Star-News, Jan. 17). Tkach's first letter to the church after becoming Pastor General said this:
I am deeply saddened to have to inform you that Herbert W. Armstrong's illness has ended in the manner least expected by all of us. Mr. Armstrong died peacefully in his sleep at 5:59 this morning while resting in the favorite chair of his late wife Mrs. Loma Armstrong.
Does Tkach really expect people to believe that no one suspected HWA was near death, but that when it happened - just days after Tkach had been named successor - someone was right there with watch in hand to record the exact minute when it happened? And who was that someone? Not one WCG statement anywhere, to our knowledge, has ever indicated who was there at the end. Why the secrecy?
In 1984, Ambassador Report interviewed a lady who had been a personal secretary to both Stanley Rader and Herbert Armstrong. When asked who she thought would succeed HWA, she quite emphatically told us:
Joe Tkach. There's no doubt in my mind. Kevin and Aaron [Dean] want power and they want the WCG's top position for themselves. But they know they're still too young, that's why they need Joe Tkach. Keven and Aaron know how to manipulate Mr. Armstrong. At some point they'll see to it that he names Joe as his successor. Mr. Armstrong will die and Joe will be in charge - at least for a while. Eventually though, I'm sure Aaron or Kevin or both will find a way to take over.
In 1984, we didn't take her opinion seriously. Maybe we should have.
It is a well-known fact that in recent years, HWA, according to his own public statements, was legally blind and unable to read. How then could he really have known what was stated in the letters or other documents he was asked to sign? Of course, letters can be dictated. But did he really dictate his last letters? How aware was he of the decisions he was purportedly making? If he really made his own decisions, whose information was he relying on? And what about those drugs so many have said he was taking? Did they affect his judgment or contribute to his end?
HWA's death certificate was signed by Dr. Ralph Martin (of Pasadena), who had treated HWA since 1984. The certificate states that HWA's death was caused by ventricular fibrillation (an uncoordinated twitching of the muscle fibers of the ventricles of the heart for which CPR is normally administered). Other contributing factors were renal (kidney) insufficiency and chronic anemia. According to the certificate, the death was not reported to the coroner. There was no biopsy. There was no autopsy. There was no inquest.
And what of HWA's wealth? He certainly was no pauper. The following appeared on page 2 of the Jan. 26 Los Angeles Times:
In a will made out four days before his death, Herbert W. Armstrong left all of his real and personal property to the Pasadena-based Worldwide Church of God which he founded. The 93-year-old pioneer radio preacher stated in the will that he intentionally omitted his son, Garner Ted Armstrong, who lives in Texas, and daughters Beverly Gott of La Canada and Dorothy Matson of San Luis Obispo, not because of any ill will but because he thought they were adequately situated and that the distribution of the estate through the church would benefit more people. The document contained no estimate of the worth of his estate. Armstrong died Jan. 16 at his Pasadena home.
HWA's lawyers have seen to it that the public never learns how much he had, where it was, or where it went. Leroy Neff, executor and WCG treasurer, is tight-lipped. The Armstrong daughters, apparently satisfied with what was given them inter vivos, have not contested the will. Neither has GTA, who is said to be terrified by the mere thought of courtrooms and lawyers. Nevertheless, in his own way, GTA is fighting back.
GTA: I Was Robbed!
Early morning on Jan. 16 Garner Ted Armstrong received a phone call from HWA aide Aaron Dean who informed Ted that his father had just died. (Dean, it seems, was one of the very last people to see HWA alive.) GTA immediately headed for California, and ever since has been making it very clear he believes that he - not Tkach - is the one who should be heading the WCG. At a lengthy January 17 news conference held at the Sheraton-Universal Hotel in Universal City, California, GTA told the gathered newsmen he considered himself the "spiritual leader" of the church.
GTA is convinced that HWA's closest aides thwarted his efforts to talk to his father, that they deliberately encouraged HWA's "paranoia" of his returning to take control of the WCG, and that the circumstances in which HWA found himself paralleled the "Howard Hughes saga." Ted said his attempts to contact his father for six months were based on comments from friends inside the WCG who were convinced HWA wanted to see him. (Ambassador Report has reason to believe GTA is telling the truth on this!) However, Ted's phone calls never went through to his father and his letters went unanswered. Said GTA, "I was never told by my father that he did not want to see me." The refusals, Ted said, always came through intermediaries. GTA revealed much about his religion management philosophy when he said:
Sooner or later, a church has to identify with a person. And if it's not the same person [as leader and speaker], there could be confusion.... Who does Billy Graham's preaching? Billy Graham" (Pasadena Star-News, Jan. 18, p. A- 1).
Then, in an interview with the Globe (Feb. 4, p. 23), GTA stated:
I'm surprised that my father would pass over his own son as church leader.... I was the logical and natural choice. My roots go very deep, clear back to the church organization that ordained my father when I was a baby boy. From the standpoint of experience, training, education, and as my father's spiritual heir, I am the most qualified to head the church.
GTA has taken off his gloves and has turned out a number of articles and cassette tapes telling his side of the story. It will be interesting to see how many are willing to listen. His address is: Garner Ted Armstrong, P.O. Box 2530, Tyler, Texas 75710.
Reader Comments on HWA's Passing
Editor: The news of HWA's death inspired a flood of comments from our readers. Here are excerpts from but a few of the letters we received:
Your little green note [that HWA died] was like a winning lottery ticket. I leave it to you to find out who the next despot is.
May HWA Rest in Peace. He sure as hell didn't give us poor dumb sheep any peace while he was alive. Every dog has its day, and I knew his would come.
I really feel that HWA should be given the "Lenin treatment" now in existence in Moscow. Herbie could be stuffed, placed in a crystal glass showcase, and set up in the lobby of his cathedral building for all his devotees to adore. I'm sure he would like that.
So "the Wicked Witch of the West" is dead. The Apostle of the "Only True Church" has come to the end of his gold-bricked road. The Great Consumer with his wolfish appetite is no more. Now, I ask you, who could possibly qualify to don his noble toga and step into his custom-made sandals? Quite an undertaking to follow someone with such lofty connections and who kneweth all things and could not err. Too bad his whole corpus of ideas, which has left such an infection, could not have been laid to rest with him.
It is not the love of money that is the cause of most of our evils, but letting ourselves come under the spell of some of these modern day prophets' delusions and visions. They play on our fears and desires, and like children loving to hear fables, we who are naive or overly imaginative enjoy listening to things that are not true. We are spared the effort of thinking for ourselves. In order to remain safely in the flock they can induce us to swallow many terrible and hard ideas - because out in the darkness awaits the Big Bad Wolf.
In that cult I was suckered into, the preacher had to be a chameleon in disguise. Some Saturdays in one hour his ideas on infallible doctrine could change dramatically. We, the members, were like little chameleons too, changing easily from red-hot to cool-blue. No problem - and if there was one, better not let anyone know - remember the Wolf and the Lake of Fire!
We live in an age of marvelous accomplishments in many fields, and yet a great many of us are not educated enough to spot a charlatan. Too many of us still believe in fairy tales.
It's time Dorothy got out of Oz and went back to Kansas.
-Reader, West Virginia
Living in the vicinity of Los Angeles and reading local news coverage about Herbert W. Armstrong's death provides cause for reflection upon the true nature of his life work. In summarizing his life, the press quoted one of the more sizeable claims of this self-styled apostle. "'I have traveled over the four quarters of this globe we call Earth.' Armstrong wrote in the introduction to his latest book, 'Mystery of the Ages,' published in 1985" (Pasadena Star- News January 17, 1986).
The curious thing about this claim is how similar it is to the one, and only one, verse in the Bible that speaks of an individual who goes to the "four quarters of the earth." Rev. 20:7 tells about the time when Satan is "loosed out of his prison" and "...shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth" (vs. 8). And why does he go? Notice those words: "to deceive."
Quite a comparison! But then, it would not be that shocking to those who know the real situation that existed since (and as a result of) the death of Herbert's first wife, Loma, back in 1967. Before that time, he was greatly restricted in travel as the oldtimers know. But with Loma's death, HWA was given the freedom and impetus to travel widely. Some that were close to HWA even perceived in him an underlying "sense of relief" that this, restriction was removed by her death. It was as if he were "loosed" to travel throughout the four quarters of the earth - and to do the things he desired. (Since the travels of HWA really began "in earnest" back in 1967, and ended with his death in 1986, one could even surmise that we have just witnessed one more completion of a 19-year time cycle.)
It would appear to have been through ignorance (or oversight) that Herbert Armstrong used the expression from this scripture to apply to his work when it has such obvious connections with Satan's activities. But, as a former minister of his church, I find that things like this are not all that amusing - especially when one considers the many things which have been done to others because of what the scriptures supposedly say.
Of course, I would not presume to judge another by saying that his intent was to deceive - as in the case of the Devil. Therefore, the comparison is only to he "circumstantially discerned." But, as the church taught so forcibly: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked..." (Jer.17:9).
I cannot understand how some people can say they could not stand HWA's personal life, but insist he had good doctrines.
We could look on the appointment of Joe [Tkach] as Herbert's final snub of the "intellectuals" or possibly his final joke upon the church. More likely in his senile state he simply chose his nursemaid, the one that was the closest to him in his last days. Anyone prophesying in the late 1950s that Joe would one day replace Herbert would have brought on a giant belly laugh from all of us (including Joe himself). I feel nearly the same at this point in time. Yet on the other hand, he is a better choice than Garner Stud. But then who wouldn't be?...
No doubt there will be further division and problems as all of these men come under the double curse of Paul as stated in Galatians 1:8-9 (a most profound statement - amazing really for Paul who tried to be all things to all men that he might gain them for Christ). Yet when referring to the preachers of Herbert's Galatian Gospel he states (and again repeats the statement), "Let them be accursed...." We can be sure that, no matter what the outcome of all this, they will be.
Recent issues of the AR have given the impression that you have somehow gone "soft" on GTA. While I admit GTA is a little less objectionable than HWA was, I hope it is not your policy to encourage people to follow him. GTA's recent public comments to the press in Los Angeles revealed him for what he is. This man is still duped by his father's many theological errors, still thinks "the Armstrongs " were given a "commission" and are therefore special, still is out to increase his following, and still doesn't admit nearly enough responsibility for the absolute devastation he brought on thousands of us.
I know many feel sorrow for him for the ill-treatment he received from HWA. Obviously, HWA was wrong in that. But let's be honest with ourselves. Family member alienation is what Armstrongism is all about! Where could you find another religion that on a per capita basis has caused as much family strife and sorrow as this one?
Ted has a lot of nerve to boo-hoo about his father not wanting to see him, because that's exactly the kind of hurt thousands of us have had to endure daily. While he may not want to face it, the fact is GTA for over two decades, played a major role in creating the monster that is Armstrongism. GTA may be a little better than his old man was, but I, for one, will not he shedding any tears over his problems.
I'm hoping to be an eyewitness to the falling apart of Herb's empire. There is not a minute of my life that the WCG does not effect because of my husband's blind dedication. Many, many, more hours a week go into his church activities than his home and family activities. I'm sticking with my husband because I know that the person I married is still there and the person he is trying to be hopefully will crumble as the WCG does.
-Wife of WCG Member
[The day I found out HWA died] I took a bottle of champagne home and celebrated. She [WCG member wife], of course, wasn't too thrilled. She had been crying all day, but told our son not to worry because they have a new leader.
I just read your latest [January] issue, and, as usual, I have now been filled in on all of the "otherside" that my husband doesn't seem to see. Your newsletter is like a small island to me. I'm swimming around in a sea of turmoil. My husband keeps knocking me off the edge of the boat, then your "island" arrives and I know I'm not alone.
For about a week after HWA's death, my husband was rather subdued, and really a bit closer to normal. He studied less, slept more, and we actually spent some time working crossword puzzles together (frivolous thing for a member of God's church to do!). But now, he's back to his usual belligerent, chauvinistic un-self. I guess they came down pretty hard on them at the last Sabbath service. He's such a good robot.
I feel like this will never end, like there's no use in struggling with this marriage any more. But I'm so afraid that leaving him will only cause him to cling tighter to them. He gives them the best of himself his very essence, and I just get "leftovers" It seems like the harder I try, the more demands he makes. But, of course, all of our marital problems stem from "my attitude." All our attempts at communication go in circles: I don't love him, or I would look at what he believes and why. I cannot argue scripture. I don't know enough to. Besides, others have tried and failed.
So tell me, how does God really feel about this mockery of a marriage? I'm not claiming to be a Christian, but I do know right from wrong. Is it wrong for me to leave this man? I don't really expect an answer, but I just wanted to try to express the desperation I feel. How can anyone stand to spend their life like this?
I really feel sorry for HWA. Whether it's now or later, he will have to account for all the unhappiness he has caused. I wish I could be there to add my two cents worth.... Thanks for being on the receiving end of my letter. People around me don't really understand.
-Wife of WCG Member
I just finished watching The World Tomorrow. It was a review of Herbert Armstrong's life work. It occurred to me that ... Armstrong's strength was more in the exterior of the Gospel rather than the interior. The meaning of the Gospel for the interior life seemed to be hidden from his eyes. All the broken relationships that occurred between him and his colleagues and his family as well testify to the lack of understanding of the nature of God. What seemed to have escaped him was all that Jesus and the apostles taught in regard to meekness, humility, purity, and love. The major part of Jesus' teachings and also the apostles' concerns itself with the development of the interior life - the rest with the coming Kingdom. In closing let me quote from The Living Bible (Rom. 12:76), "Work happily together. Don't try to act big. Don't try to get into the good graces of important people, but enjoy the company of ordinary folks. And don't think you know it all."
Aussie Bishop Slams PT
Australian researcher John Buchner recently discussed the WCG with leading Anglican theologians, including John Stott and the Archbishop of Sydney, and commented on HWA's death on prime-time TV news. Bruce Wilson, Bishop of Canberra, offended at what is clearly a misuse of his work by The Plain Truth (PT), wrote Buchner of his disappointment. Bishop Wilson has apparently concluded what many others have over the years - the Armstrong organization simply cannot be trusted. Here is Bishop Wilson's revealing letter:
22nd January, 1986
Dear Mr. Buchner:
Thank you for your letter dated 2nd January, 1986. I only returned from four weeks' leave yesterday so I was not able to reply until today.
Thank you for the photocopy of the article "Can GOD Survive in Australia?" from The Plain Truth magazine. I had not seen the article and in fact was unaware of its existence. Thank you also for your booklet "Armstrongism in Australia." I remember in my teens listening to Armstrong on Radio 2KY in Sydney. I can't say that I was ever tempted to join. I usually listened as an exercise in comic relief, but I can understand the serious issues lying behind the sort of thing you write about in your booklet.
I am very happy to give you a comment which you may like to include in your thesis. It is as follows:
In 1983 I published a book entitled Can God Survive in Australia? which examined the place and significance of Christianity in the lives of contemporary Australians. The thesis of the book, which is of course open to debate and further exploration, was solidly based in statistical material, the social sciences, Australian history and biography. The book quickly became a best seller. I have seen many, many reviews, a few of which were critical of the book but engaged it with integrity and respect.
The only scurrilous use of the book which I have seen in any kind of review or article on it appeared in an article with the same title as the book, "Can GOD Survive in Australia?", published by the Armstrong sect in their magazine The Plain Truth in January 1985.
The article in The Plain Truth magazine does not attempt to debate one single matter of fact or substance in the book, but with a sweeping assertion dismisses the enormously complicated socio-historical background to the current state of the Christian Church in Australia under the carpet of "religion is in decline in Australia because the institutional churches are corrupt" The Plain Truth article does not itself offer a single piece of factual evidence other than mere assertion for this crudely simplistic explanation of the decline of religious influence in Australia.
The Plain Truth article is not a review of my book. What it does is to take part of its evidence and arguments in order to support what can only be called sectarian propaganda. For example, The Plain Truth article makes no mention at all of my own suggestions for a solution to the declining influence of Christianity; it merely uses the analytical part of my thesis for its own propaganda purposes. Nor does the Plain Truth article mention the fact that I, the author, am myself a senior minister in a mainstream institutional Christian Church in Australia.
As always with publications by the Armstrong sect, the article is attractively written, interesting, provocative and aimed at a very general readership. One wonders whether that readership is capable of discerning the seductive illogicality in the seeming plausibility of the article's argument.
Bishop Bruce Wilson
Sedliacik is Drawn into the McNair Fray
In our last issue we reported on the continuing Leona McNair versus Worldwide Church lawsuit - now in its seventh year. With HWA dead, WCG lawyers can be relieved that he, at least, will not be deposed. Nevertheless, the WCG's legal bills continue to mount as the McNair lawsuit remains unresolved.
The latest rounds in that battle have revolved around WCG writer Richard H. Sedliacik, a long-time church member and employee. Sedliacik, we have learned, worked on the June 25, 1979 issue of the Pastor's Report which contained the Rod Meredith comments that became the early basis of the McNair lawsuit. As that publication's actual editor (under HWA), Sedliacik was in a position to know almost all the key facts surrounding the publication of the offending article. Ironically, however, Sedliacik never testified during the McNair v. Worldwide trial.
Before that trial Sedliacik was grilled for hours by Armstrong's lawyers. But, no doubt, the answers he gave to their questions were not the answers they wanted to hear. Sedliacik refused to bend the facts to conform to the WCG's contrived defense and the church's attorneys decided it was best not to call him to the witness stand. However, Antony Stuart, Leona McNair's attorney, subpoenaed Sedliacik and hoped to see him testify. Surprisingly, at the court house at the last minute, Stuart decided against calling him to the stand. Why, we don't know. But some in the court building hallway observed and overheard (because of their loud tone of voice) how WCG lawyers were pressuring Sedliacik to get him "into line" and how, at one point, one ordered him to flee the court building.
Nevertheless, Leona McNair won at the 1984 trial and since then the WCG has been on its appellate quest to find a sympathetic judge. Tony Stuart, in the meantime, must have wondered what Sedliacik's testimony would have yielded. With the WCG unwilling to settle out of court and the possibility existing that some judge down the line could order a retrial, it is not surprising that Stuart decided to find out what Sedliacik really knew. A few weeks ago, Stuart subpoenaed Sedliacik to appear for a deposition.
Clearly, this was something the church lawyers feared. After a delay, the deposition was scheduled for March 18. Sedliacik again found himself under pressure to bend the facts. Every human being can only take so much. And Sedliacik - described by many former colleagues as a sensitive, sincere, and religious man - was being pushed to the brink. He may have also feared (and with good reason) that WCG leaders were quite capable of setting him up to be the "fall guy." Whatever his motivation, he took decisive action. Without the aid, assistance, prodding, coaxing, or cajoling of lawyers, Sedliacik put in writing everything of relevance that he knew about the June 25, 1979 Pastor's Report. He then had the 18-page statement notorized and sent copies of the declaration, along with copies of supporting documentation, to church lawyers Bruce Armstrong (no relation to HWA), Ralph Helge, Allan Browne, and - Tony Stuart, Leona McNair's attorney.
When Stuart arrived at his office on the morning of March 17, there was a message waiting for him:
Do not open package from Sedliacik. Call me first.
Unknown to Armstrong when he left that message was the fact that the package had already been opened. And Stuart, believing Armstrong had no right to order him not to read his own mail, went ahead and read the Sedliacik material.
The next morning, Richard Sedliacik and his wife Elva appeared at Stuart's office for the scheduled deposition. But before Stuart could begin the questioning, Bruce Armstrong and Marcy Burns (lawyers hired by the WCG) insisted on a private conference with the Sedliaciks. It lasted well over an hour. Armstrong then announced an objection to the deposition because of a possible conflict of interest on his part in representing both the WCG corporation and the Sedliaciks. (Isn't that something he should have considered earlier?) He then accused Stuart of "bad faith" in opening the package sent to him by Sedliacik and threatened that he would attempt to get Stuart and his firm disqualified from representing Leona McNair any further. To that threat Stuart angrily responded: "I'm sure you would love that to happen, but it will be a cold day in hell when it does!"
After a short exchange between the lawyers, the Sedliaciks were subjected to another "conference" with the church's lawyers. After two hours, Richard and Elva emerged. Richard commented that the situtation had left him confused. He stated his name, and spelled it, for the record. No questions were asked or answered and the deposition was "recessed." Why didn't Sedliacik stay to answer questions? Rumor has it that during the last two-hour "conference" with the WCG lawyers, Sedliacik received a phone call. It was from WCG chief counsel Ralph Helge who ordered Sedliacik to leave.
Just dealing with lawyers can be a taxing experience for anyone. We understand Richard Sedliacik was so exhausted by the ordeal he felt it necessary to leave the state for an extended rest. The WCG's lawyers have not been able to locate him since. Nevertheless, they have been on the prowl.
On March 26, church lawyers went before Commissioner Christine B. Hickman and asked for, and got, a stay of plaintiff's discovery pending the bringing of a motion for disqualification. The WCG desperately wants Stuart and his firm thrown off the case. In pursuit of that, they intend to despose Stuart on April 8 - a date obviously chosen for its harassment value. Stuart is scheduled to present his oral argument on the WCG appeal before the Ninth Circuit Court on April 9!
Richard Sedliacik's deposition is scheduled to resume on April 15. Will he appear and answer truthfully?
At the March 26 hearing before Commissioner Hickman, Stuart presented copies of letters written on March 20 by Sedliacik to lawyers Armstrong, Browne, and Helge. The letters to Browne and Armstrong were essentially identical to the letter to Helge which read:
Dear Mr. Helge:
This letter is to inform you that I do not desire to have Mr. Bruce Armstrong represent me at any upcoming deposition. Neither do I want you or anyone from your office to represent me, or any other lawyer for that matter. I will be representing myself. I have no intention of leaving another deposition until it is complete.
Jesus said "the truth would make us free" (John 8:32). My conscience tells me I must truthfully answer all questions asked of me. This, as you know, is God's will for anyone who claims to be a Christian (Exodus 20:16, Romans 13:8-10).
Richard H. Sedliacik
I have been out of the WCG for over two years now and it is like a giant burden has been taken away. My marriage is again "on track" - as a matter of fact today is our 37th wedding anniversary.
We both enjoy the Ambassador Report.
We want to thank you and your staff for the work that you are doing. We were loyal members in the Worldwide Church of God for 23 years. We both served as Deacon and Deaconess. The time came when we could no longer put up with the hypocrisy, and then we began to question many of the teachings. We finally had to face the fact that we were merely following a man. We left WCG over 5 years ago. We appreciate the inside information we receive through your publication as our son and his family have remained in Worldwide.
Thank you for continuing to send out the AR. I have been a member of WCG for 33 years, but for about the last eight or ten years I have known something was rotten in "the Work." So [I] have been working at proving all things, and you have really been a great help to me. I hope you can and will continue to send out the Report as more and more people are going to need it. I pass mine on to all who will read it.
Thank you for helping me. For two years I have been trying to leave "the Church" but just didn't seem to be able to quit. Last month on Dec. 6 I left. After 21 years I just became so frustrated and nervous. I thought I was the only one until I read your Report and learned of so many others just like me. Thank you for your good work.
Several weeks ago I wrote my first letter to you which was kindly answered with several recent ARs. Although deeply stunned by these appalling revelations, my wife and I are very grateful to your organization for this release from the deceptions and bondage of the WCG....
Your publications have transformed our lives for the good. Although the discovery of truth can be painful, it does grant freedom. This is true. We hope the AR continues - that more families may be released from the slavery of the WCG as we have been.
After I received your ARs several years ago, I took them in to my local minister and asked a few questions. He was not too pleased with me and promptly kicked me out of the church. At first I was heartbroken. None of my "friends" would speak to me and I felt lost without the organizational comfort I had received from the WCG. It didn't take long for me to discover other compensations. My relationship with my husband (who'd never been in the WCG) improved dramatically. And I believe that I'm now much closer to God. I've also found new friends and new activities and no longer miss the WCG.
I feel very sorry for those members who are just staying in because they are afraid to leave the security of the organization. I hope that everyone in that situation can get their hands on a copy of the AR and find the courage to leave. I'm sure that many of these people would leave if they only knew how many of us have already left and found rewarding lives. If only one person in the WCG reads the AR and gets out then you've done a great job. That's why I continue to support the AR even though I've been out for several years. And that's why I hope you can continue to publish.
In an Upcoming Issue...
Joe Tkach - who is he? And what kind of man is he? Is he a man of proven character, or another Herbert Armstrong? What is he like as a minister, as a family man, as an administrator? And what kind of people are his closest associates? A lot of our readers want to know the answers to those questions and so do we.
In a future issue we will be taking a look at the real Joe Tkach. In the mean time, if any of you can help provide us with information on the WCG's new hero, please let us know.
Until next time - our thanks for your continued support.
Next Issue (AR36)
Back to Index