AR36 August, 1986
The WCG Moves On
It is now over six months since Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) and Ambassador College, passed away, leaving his religious empire in the hands of former top aide Joseph W. Tkach. In the six months he has had at the helm, Tkach has moved quietly to solidify his power base and restructure the WCG hierarchy through the same musical chairs routine so often employed by his predecessor.
Evangelist Roderick Meredith, who, before HWA's death had expressed a strong interest in succeeding to the pastor general position, has been transferred out of Pasadena to head the Big Sandy, Texas campus of Ambassador College. He takes over the position long held by evangelist Leslie McCullough, whom HWA had once seriously considered naming as his successor. McCullough is to be transferred to South Africa to head church operations there. He will replace Dr. Roy McCarthy, who is being "retired."
In "the field," there have been numerous ministerial changes, but they have gone generally unreported in church publications. Said one of our sources, "Mr. Tkach does not want outsiders - or the ministry - to find out what's really going on."
While Meredith has been elated at his new responsibilities, there is some doubt as to the permanence of his position. Only one year ago there were plans to close the Texas campus entirely. But shortly after taking over as pastor general, Tkach announced that the college would seek continued state certification. There is some doubt, however, whether Ambassador (Big Sandy) will be able to meet state requirements and be allowed to continue granting degrees beyond 1988. Even Meredith has expressed serious doubts as to whether the Big Sandy college will survive.
On the proselytizing front, the WCG claims major increases in responses to its religious telecasts - now being done by ministers Richard Ames, David Albert, and David Hulme. But whether that mail increase has translated into financial increase is doubtful. The July 14 issue of The Worldwide News, in a tiny article on page 12, mentioned that the WCG has sold its feast site in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. It is difficult to believe that such valuable properties would be liquidated if the WCG's income was really growing. Actually, some insiders are saying the church is already having trouble paying its bills on time and that more assets will have to be liquidated before long.
As for the church's print media efforts, we can only imagine what HWA would think if he were alive to see what has become of his Plain Truth magazine. Down to a mere 29 pages, the PT has not only shrunk in size, but appears to be having difficulty finding new articles. The May issue, for instance, featured "Why Russia Will Not Attack America!" - a hopelessly naive article written by HWA and reprinted countless times in the last few decades. The PT also continues to serialize HWA's book Mystery of the Ages.
In charge of the WCG's editorial thrust is Dexter Faulkner, a nonordained member whose writing style is as dynamic as "Just one more thing" - the name of his regular Worldwide News column. Faulkner is editor of The Worldwide News, The Good News and Youth 86. He is also executive editor of the Plain Truth. While Herman Hoeh, as PT editor, outranks him, insiders say Hoeh spends little time on the PT and Faulkner is really "the brains" behind that publication as well.
Another writer worth special mention is Paul Kroll, who had an article in the June PT. Kroll, once the arch-liberal editor of the PT, was removed during the purges of the early '70s. But with the WCG badly in need of writing talent, Kroll has been rehired by the editorial department after recently rejoining Worldwide and, apparently, being deemed rehabilitated.
One aspect of the WCG's media-game plan has remained the same. As with his predecessor, the new pastor general is regularly shown in photos with the politically powerful, the rich, and the famous. Recent editions of church publications have had photos of Tkach with Richard Nixon, Warren Burger, Armand Hammer, Robert Dole, the Kirov Ballet, and Abbot Phra Thepsopon of the Wat Thai (Buddhist temple) in Los Angeles. Tkach has been traveling extensively throughout the U.S. speaking before WCG congregations. (Some Pasadena church members have complained that Tkach has only given one or two rather ordinary sermons in Pasadena since HWA's death.) Tkach has also begun taking the kind of foreign tours HWA was so fond of. The planned trip to Russia was cancelled, but he has gone to England, Europe, and Africa. Of course, those tours provide opportunities for the PR photos so dearly loved by WCG members.
Since taking over, Tkach has been careful to give HWA honored treatment in all WCG publications, telecasts, and sermons. There are even plans to put out an "official" biography of HWA. But some insiders are predicting that the attention being given to HWA's memory will soon be reduced and Tkach will be pushed further and further into the limelight. Other likely changes to look out for are a change in the format of "The World Tomorrow" telecast (more news, less prophecy) and a possible phasing-out of the Plain Truth magazine.
Will there be doctrinal changes? So far Tkach has been careful to walk in HWA's footsteps. For instance, in his March 24 Worldwide News editorial, Tkach parroted HWA's old hard line against women wearing makeup. But some insiders are saying they see some doctrinal changes coming in the future. One teaching the WCG may have to alter is its doctrine on the imminence of Christ's return. While HWA told his followers for decades that "the Work" was in the "gun lap," some top WCG ministers have privately stated they believe the end-time work may have thirty or more years to go!
Don't look for too many changes between now and the Feast of Tabernacles in October. But once Tkach has presided over his first fall festival as pastor general, anything can happen.
The New WCG - A Church at the Crossroads
by Brenda Denzler
Almost every individual who has followed the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) through Ambassador Report or through personal contact with member relatives has, at one time or another, asked himself what it is that keeps WCG members fastened to their church with its rigid hierarchical control, administrative abuses, doctrinal ambiguities, and 50-year history of failed prophecies. Not only do many WCG-watchers wonder about how that organization has managed to survive, but many wonder about the future of friends and relatives still clinging to that dystopian church.
©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.
As a former WCG member now majoring in religion at a U.S. university, I have in recent months come across a number of sociological studies that I feel may provide us with significant insights. I suspect it may prove liberating to some to discover that, despite the unique character of the WCG experience, it is in some ways a very predictable experience that clearly fits into the spectrum of known social behavior. By looking at the way belief, commitment, and resolution of contradictory information have all played a part in making Worldwide what it is today, we may be able to gain an insight into what it will be tomorrow.
Defining the WCG Experience
In August 1933, after a long and heated exchange of opinions, Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) made his final break from the Oregon State Conference of the Church of God which had ordained him to the ministry only two years earlier. Armstrong's search for the "one true church" had led him to the little-known Sabbath-keeping group, though he claimed that his association was never more than tentative because the church did not possess all the important characteristics that he believed necessary in the true body of Christ. Apparently two of the more important qualities that the group lacked were extensive public visibility and great power (Armstrong, pp. 308-314).
Within months of the break, and with the support of only about 20 people, Armstrong began The World Tomorrow radio broadcast and The Plain Truth magazine for "the MASS-proclaiming of His Gospel" so that "GOD'S WORK at last could come to life after centuries of sleeping, and go forth in mighty power to all the world" (Armstrong, pp. 450- 451, emphasis his).
From the outset, HWA's exegetical style was to piece together scattered biblical texts in order to proclaim with unblushing certainty the fates of individuals, Western society, and the world in general. In the final analysis, every prediction revolved around the unimaginable horrors that would occur in an imminent Tribulation, with only the few who were faithful and obedient to God's word being protected in a place of safety. Such predictions were not designed simply to inform or warn the public, but rather to fascinate and frighten the unsuspecting person into the waiting arms of the tiny Radio (later to become Worldwide) Church of God, which was fast developing into "God's only true church" under Armstrong's leadership. The literature and broadcasts proved to be very successful in increasing church membership and, not incidentally, the church's financial base.
What was actually occurring in the pages of The Plain Truth and the radio broadcast was a massive effort in the name of God to radically transform the way people see and understand the world - their reality. In varying degrees, mainstream religion provides a similar kind of experience by reinterpreting selected ideas and assumptions of one's subjective reality and building upon that reality. New religious vocabularies help converts to understand the present and to imagine the future in new ways.
In Worldwide, however, the process of conversion demands the near-total disintegration of the structure of one's previous "reality" and the complete re-construction of a "reality" which radically re-interprets not only the present and the future, but the past as well. Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, in their ground-breaking book The Social Construction of Reality, call this radical resocialization alternation.
Alternation requires that a person become strongly identified with a significant individual, such as an Armstrong, who can explain the alternative perception of reality and who will encourage complete identification with and activity within the group. As a result,
The alternating individual disaffiliates himself from his previous world and the plausibility structure that sustained it, bodily if possible, mentally if not... and thus is protected from... potential reality-disrupting influence... [O]ne must now be very careful with whom one talks. People and ideas that are discrepant with the new definitions of reality are systematically avoided (Berger and Luckmann, p. 159).
The success of the Worldwide Church of God (as with other groups with utopian expectations) has depended on its ability to sustain this redefinition of reality and the exclusivity of commitment among its members. As Rosabeth Moss Kanter states in her book Commitment and Community: Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective:
...the problem of commitment is crucial... [A community] must vie with the outside for the members' loyalties. It must ensure high member involvement.... It must often contravene the earlier socialization of its members in securing obedience to new demands. It must calm internal dissension.... The essence of such a community is in strong connections and mutual obligations (Kanter, p. 65).
Successful commitment-building in such communities is a process in which a person's "chance to make other choices or pursue other options" (Kanter, p. 70) is decreased by the demands of the community.
The policy of the WCG since its earliest years has been to promote itself as the sole arbiter of truth while at the same time denouncing all other understandings and practices as inferior, if not Satanic. People who accept the Armstrong "reality" often make irrevocable sacrifices. Families and careers may be evaluated by new standards, be found wanting, and be rejected in order to win the acceptance of the church and gain protection from the Tribulation, direction and purpose in this life, and life itself in the hereafter. The magnitude of the sacrifice(s) made tends to determine a person's likelihood of remaining committed to the WCG after upsetting events or information.
All of these factors - belief, alternation, sacrifice, and commitment - are heavily involved when anyone joins Worldwide or when they remain committed to it despite developments that others would consider logical reasons for ending such commitment.
Commitment and Disconfirmation in the WCG
In the 1950s three sociologists from the University of Minnesota investigated continued commitment to belief systems and proselytizing activity in the wake of events that disproved a group's key beliefs - in other words, after disconfirmation. They wrote in When Prophecy Fails:
Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it; finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? This individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before (Festinger, et. al., p. 3).
The dissonance (psychological conflict) that exists in a member of Worldwide when original expectations and final fact do not agree must be reduced or eliminated if he or she is to remain within the group. The more someone has made irrevocable life changes to conform to the expectations of Worldwide, the harder it becomes to reject the disconfirmed belief system. Instead, the person may try to ignore the fact that disconfirmation has occurred. He or she may attempt to reinterpret the disconfirmed belief, to change the behaviors required by the belief, or even to discover "new" information that will increase the overall harmony of the belief system so as to make the point of dissonance relatively less noticeable (Festinger, et. al., pp. 26-27).
But whatever explanation is made it is still by itself not sufficient. The dissonance is too important... the believers still know that the prediction was false.... But there is a way in which the remaining dissonance can be reduced. If more and more people can be persuaded that the system of belief is correct, then clearly it must, after all, be correct (Festinger, et. al., p. 28, emphasis theirs).
Members may also make further predictions in an effort to get one right and finally receive confirming evidence that not even the skeptical can deny (Festinger, et. al., pp. 214-215).
All of these ways of coping with disconfirmation require strong mutual support within the WCG community. At some point, however, the disconfirming evidence may become so overwhelming that belief itself must be rejected, whether on an individual basis or en masse (Festinger, et. al., p. 12).
Armstrong's major failures as a prophet go back to World War II. He had already failed to make accurate predictions about the course and conduct of the war, but those predictions were fairly minor when compared with the overarching prediction of an imminent and horrifying time of global trial (the Tribulation) which was to be followed by the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. During the early 1940s, this scenario was supposedly being played out within the context of World War II.
The undeniable cessation of hostilities in 1945 without benefit of a returned Jesus presented Armstrong and his followers with a dilemma: how to account for this disconfirmation of their most central prophecies - prophecies that made membership in the church an absolute imperative if one wanted to escape the unspeakable terrors to come. Rather than admit church teaching about the Tribulation and the Second Coming to have been in error, the Radio Church of God proclaimed "new" insight that brought the entire system of belief back into the realm of the believable once again.
God had granted the world a reprieve in order to more adequately warn it of the impending Satan-inspired horrors and the subsequent wrath of God against the disobedient. The words of one 1950s saucer cult enthusiast after her failure to be picked up by extraterrestrials might as easily have come from a member of the Radio Church of God in the late 1940s: "All I know is that the plan has never gone astray. We have never had a plan change" (Festinger, et. al., p. 166).
By redefining expectations without acknowledging that redefinition was occurring, disconfirming events could be transformed into amazing evidences of God's continuing plan for "the Work" and the world. In the face of such unexpected yet exciting events, and with the nagging yet unacknowledged fact of the failure of the original predictions, the entire organization could be expected to have embarked upon a renewed effort to "warn the world" and, not incidentally, offer a "way out" for those individuals who were among the "elect" chosen to escape so fearful a Tribulation.
Within less than a decade, the Radio Church of God extended its broadcasting efforts into Europe, where new members were brought into the fold by implanting the same fear of the Tribulation and extending the same assurances of safety in exchange for absolute commitment to the Armstrong organization. The founding of Ambassador College for the training of additional WCG ministers indicates that Armstrong's message was in fact designed to attract as many people as possible to church membership, not just to warn them in a nonproprietary way. Finally, the little Radio Church of God became the Worldwide Church of God, laying claim to the widespread visibility and power that Armstrong had envisioned for the church that "Jesus" was building.
By the 1960s Armstrong's views on the Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ, which had become linchpins of church teaching, had solidified once more into definite, time-linked prophecies. The popular booklet 1975 in Prophecy!, generously illustrated with bleak sketches of the Tribulation, became a basic statement of the church's new timetable for end-time events, and WCG evangelist Gerald Waterhouse became the church's main prophet-of-dire-consequence for slackers and intellectuals who doubted God would heed Armstrong's prophetic timetable.
1972 dawned for the WCG with a breath of expectation followed by a long sign of relief mixed with consternation at the failure of the long-dreaded Tribulation to materialize so that Christ could return in 1975. The phenomenal growth of the organization had begun to slow noticeably since the death of Loma Armstrong (also unpredicted) in 1967. The death of his wife gave Armstrong greater freedom to travel around the world with his message and the slowing growth rate did not seem to dampen his drive to gain recognition and respect for the religious empire he had built.
With son Garner Ted in the U.S. maintaining his strong leadership role in the church, the elder Armstrong bestowed lavish gifts upon the great and near-great as he supposedly "warned" them of the coming intervention of God in human affairs. For this audience, however, Armstrong's message often became merely an admonition about a "strong hand from someplace" instead of the threatening predictions about a Satan-inspired Tribulation and a wrathful Christ that had been so instrumental in building the church. The construction of the Ambassador Auditorium and the founding of the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation as the specifically nonreligious arm of the church presented members with further distractions from the disappointments of the early '70s. Through the church newspaper, co-worker letters, and weekly sermons, members were constantly updated on the momentous developments in "the Work."
However, prophetic disconfirmations, the widespread and unconcealable moral lapses within all ranks of the ministry, and several long-standing doctrinal disputes combined to create an overwhelming dissonance for many members and ministers that could no longer be dispelled by the rationalizations and glosses of the leaders. Armstrong's high-level meetings and the cultural events in the Ambassador Auditorium could not disguise the essential frailty of the "reality" that Armstrong so boldly proclaimed as the only way of salvation. Forty years after its birth, the Worldwide Church of God began to seriously fragment.
Since 1974 the WCG has had to concentrate more of its energies on holding on to current members. Armstrong presented his near-death in 1977 as a miraculous, Christlike resurrection, possibly in order to reinstate himself as the focus of members' admiration and loyalty, a position that had become the premature inheritance of his evangelist son, the charismatic Garner Ted. The end result of Armstrong's return to center stage was the ouster of his son in 1978. Hundreds of members left the WCG with him.
Perhaps the single greatest impetus for reinforced commitment to the WCG since 1972 was the receivership imposed on the church by the State of California in 1979. Most members rallied quickly and without suspicion to ministers' impassioned claims that the church was under attack by Satan-inspired forces. The church-state issue was largely useless, however, in prompting new efforts toward proselytizing for the Armstrong/WCG way of life.
In the seven years since the lawsuit, Armstrong's declining health and vitality were matched by a decline in effective proselytizing. The entire organization seemed to be waiting for something - anything - to rekindle the sense of urgency that had marked the church's first 40 years. The Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ, though still central to the WCG's reason for existence, had been unmistakably disconfirmed and were by this time becoming mere abstractions in an indefinite future.
The final blow to the original Tribulation-Second Coming scenario came with Armstrong's death this year. By the end of January the venerated founder and his exclusivist doctrines had been seriously disconfirmed and threatened to become ineffectual in maintaining the commitment of many members.
Not one year before HWA's death, evangelist Gerald Waterhouse told a Florida congregation that should God let HWA die, it would be proof that HWA was a false apostle. Waterhouse is a textbook example of renewed commitment following the undeniable disconfirmation that took place upon HWA's death. An analysis of the transcript of a recent Waterhouse sermon (Pasadena, March 1, 1986) provides us with indications of how the WCG leadership can reinterpret old beliefs so as to rationalize Armstrong's death and try to offset the wavering commitment it has caused in numerous WCG members.
God's Deception and Church Momentum
For most members, continued affiliation with the WCG will require transferring their loyalty from Armstrong to the new pastor general, Joseph Tkach. Waterhouse has lost no time in promoting that transfer in his sermons. From relative obscurity, Tkach has emerged as the WCG's sleeping giant of destiny. Waterhouse views Tkach as a type of the biblical Joshua who led the people of Israel into the Promised Land. HWA has become, of course, a type of Moses, who died just short of the goal. Loyalty to Tkach is now equivalent to loyalty to HWA, which of course has always been equivalent to loyalty to God.
Waterhouse attaches cosmic significance to things that seem to "key in" Tkach as virtually predestined to follow in HWA's footsteps. The meaning of Tkach's name, the date of HWA's last co-worker letter naming Tkach as his successor, the ubiquitous time cycles, and Tkach's "right lineage" as a street-wise South Chicagoan are just a few of the abstruse matters that Waterhouse finds profoundly significant.
Of particular interest is the way in which Waterhouse presents Tkach's sterling qualities against a backdrop of HWA's shortcomings - shortcomings that were never mentioned while HWA still lived.
According to Waterhouse, HWA's unfortunate tendency to choose men for the ministry according to their talent, ability and charisma led God to permit Satan to stir up the 1979 confrontation with the State of California so that Armstrong could have clear evidence that "disloyal liberals" and "intellectuals" were on the "team" and had to be removed.
Unlike HWA, who was "always at the top of the Work, not down on the grass-roots levels," Tkach has been at the grass-roots for 20 years, which means that he will not need to rely upon counsel from others, as Waterhouse assures us the autocratic Armstrong did. Nor will Tkach's contribution be frustrated any longer by having to take counsel from HWA. As pastor general he won't "have to go to Mr. Armstrong... and wait the time to get the information there. Mr. Armstrong's time was so divided...." As a result of not having to wait for HWA, God, through Tkach, will be able to "accelerate all... departments in a very rapid manner." Over and over again, Waterhouse emphasizes that under the leadership of Tkach, the Work can now "multiply," "magnify," "mushroom," and "accelerate quickly" in a "phenomenal" way.
Perhaps part of the reason for Waterhouse's projection of growth has to do with the planning that can be done now that HWA's whims no longer dictate the daily operation of the organization. Notice this quote (again, taken directly from the Ambassador Report transcript of the March 1 Waterhouse sermon):
Just like in the television area. Mr. Armstrong used to write his own script out. Mr. Omasta did not know when Mr. Armstrong was coming, so they put even a little TV camera out there to let them know when he drove up. They didn't know what he was going to speak on when he got there, so they couldn't prepare weeks in advance. Now they have three men. They can be assigned subjects weeks in advance... and the television crew has the time to back them up, to get back-up material for the telecast, so that it can be done so professionally!
According to Waterhouse, the ministerial services department under Armstrong was characterized by an atmosphere of suspicion because "the ministerial services had been through several administrations and turned off." Tkach, though initially faced with rejection when put in charge of the department several years ago, "brought them out."
All of these observations, however, are retrospectives for Waterhouse, who had been a major proponent of the belief that HWA's death would never be permitted by God, else HWA would be revealed as a false apostle. In trying to reconcile this major disconfirmation, Waterhouse in effect describes God as a deceitful manipulator of a chosen people who would be incapable of maintaining their momentum and continuing to "do the work" if they were to be told the truth about God's plans.
Jesus Christ could not enlarge my understanding to even think that Mr. Armstrong was going to have to die.... He had to keep my momentum strong in supporting Mr. Armstrong, to be transferred over to Mr. Tkach immediately! Once you lose momentum, it's very difficult to regenerate that.... See, he has to keep piecemealing it until we're there!... God only can show you what he knows is good. He cannot show you the end result.
The Future of the WCG
Belief in the Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ has not died in the WCG. The presentation of Tkach as a type of Joshua leading Israel into the Promised Land would seem to indicate that the immediate millennial hopes of the WCG are not likely to change with Armstrong's passing. Indeed, if the Tkach-Joshua type is taken very seriously, the eschatological expectations of the church can only become more intense, more immediate.
In the original formulation of the Tribulation idea, one purpose of the place of safety was to escape the suffering and death that would overtake 90% of the world's population, especially disloyal members. Suffering and death were clearly undesirable. But suffering has been getting new, though contradictory, attention in the church. A year ago the Ambassador Report reported on a sermon by Tkach in which he alluded to the suffering he feels WCGers will soon have to endure while "perform[ing] the job to which God has called us to accomplish. And believe me," said Tkach, "we are going to suffer!"
While an exaggerated fear of persecution might, to some degree, offset the disconfirming fact of Armstrong's death and help to keep members committed to the organization, it is not impossible that paranoia about persecution could well become a self-fulfilling prophecy, driving the church toward the very suffering Tkach is preparing his followers to face.
To add complexity to the picture, since Armstrong's passing, death seems to have gained a special value in Waterhouse's thinking. Waterhouse rationalizes that God had to let HWA die as a means of keeping him safe from the Tribulation. "Now he's already put in some very safe place - the grave. So Mr. Armstrong is safe. He'll never have to go through [the Tribulation]." Will the WCG's legendary "place of safety" dogma soon be modified to include death as a reasonable way of being saved out of the Tribulation? According to Waterhouse:
"Mr. Armstrong knew it was going to be terrifying. And he hoped we'd qualify to escape. If you remain loyal to [this church], you will. Either through death, or in a place of safety.... If you die in the faith, you are protected from the Tribulation...."
Death is now - at least to a degree - a friend of some in the WCG. When combined with the WCG's heavily misanthropic view of human existence, this development could foreshadow a time of real physical danger to WCG members from within rather than from without the organization. Whether this danger will be enough to break the grip of fear that holds many WCGers in the church remains to be seen. If historical precedent is any indicator, there is little hope that this will happen.
Almost since the beginning of the radio broadcast and The Plain Truth magazine, events have disconfirmed WCG pronouncements. Until the last 20 years those disconfirming events were met with renewed - and very successful - efforts to do "the Work." The church gained membership, visibility and power.
In recent years, though, the cumulative effect of the disconfirmations has produced a different response. Proselytizing, though pursued in innovative programs (as in the PT newsstand program), has failed to win the same kind of response from the public, and mounting internal problems and defections have, to a degree, caused the WCG to retreat into itself with a "hold the line" mentality.
Now, with Armstrong's death, the WCG stands at a crossroads. If indeed the new pastor general is able to vigorously warn the world about the horrifying punishments soon to be inflicted on the world for not living according to WCG precepts, the campaign might draw new people into commitment to the church.
If, however, the leadership must concentrate its attention on consolidating its power over a base of increasingly uncertain and fearful members, the WCG may well close in even more upon itself in a putrifying paranoia leading to total isolation or worse.
In large measure the future of the WCG depends on the ability of Pastor General Tkach to reinforce current commitment to the church without overdoing the persecution theme that could make the church appear undesirably paranoid to potential new converts. Furthermore, Tkach's "street-wise" image may have to be refined if he is to truly, as Waterhouse claims, "follow in the footsteps" of HWA by learning to execute the strong-arrn tactics coated with charisma that made Herbert Armstrong an end-time apostle and Worldwide the "one and only true church of God."
Armstrong, Herbert W. The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong. Pasadena, California: Ambassador College Press, 1973.
Berger, Peter L. and Thomas Luckmann. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1967.
"The Evolving Worldwide Church of God." Ambassador Report, June 1985.
Festinger, Leon, Henry W. Riecken, and Stanley Schachter. When Prophecy Fails. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1956.
Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. Commitment and Community: Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1972.
HWA Remembered (Part I)
With Herbert Armstrong dead and buried, some readers might prefer to forget about him entirely. But during the last few months, in reorganizing and cleaning out our old HWA files, we came across a number of items we think deserve attention.
One question that has frequently been put to us by our readers is, "What name does the W stand for in Herbert W. Armstrong?" Actually, it doesn't stand for any name. Many who knew him personally say that HWA didn't have a middle name. He adopted the W at some point (at least as far back as 1915) simply to add dignity, dimension or dressing to what he apparently thought was too ordinary a name. And why the W rather than some other letter? We really don't know. But former WCG minister Gary Arvidson has theorized:
"First of all, as an advertising man HWA must have known that of all the letters in the alphabet W is visually the largest, phonetically the longest, and with its three sharp angles, symbolically assertive. Second, W was the middle initial of Henry Ward Beecher, one of the most famous and influential preachers in American history. I have wondered, frankly, if HWA was not unconsciously or even consciously modeling himself after Beecher."
Henry Ward Beecher was indeed one of the most famous preachers of the last century. He had a large following, was rich and politically influential, traveled widely abroad, claimed to be a friend of U.S. presidents and European royalty, constantly sought the public limelight, has been called an opportunist and hypocrite, and made national headlines when he was put on trial for adultery in 1875. David R. Robinson, a devoted student of British and American history, and the author of a revealing book on HWA, told us:
"Henry Ward Beecher and Herbert Armstrong had much in common. The definitive biography of Beecher is Henry Ward Beecher.- An American Portrait by Paxton Hibben. That biography, which can still be found in many libraries, first appeared in 1927, shortly before Herbert embarked on his career in religion. I really think Herbert read that book, or at least knew of Beecher's life story. There are just so many similarities in their two lives."
One book that offers valuable insights into factors in American history that helped mold HWA's religious outlook is volume one of The Americans trilogy (The Colonial Experience) by renowned historian Daniel Boorstein. Part one on the Puritans and part two on the Quakers left your editor convinced that in many of the doctrines and customs of those two highly influential Anglo-American religious movements one can clearly see the precursors of much of the teaching and spirit of the Worldwide Church of God. Space here does not permit a detailed examination of the many connections. However, readers may wish to, at least, check out p. 52 where Boorstein recounts the history of Benjamin Franklin's "Plain Truth, one of his shrewdest political pamphlets. Neither pro nor anti-Quaker, the pamphlet gave a full, fair and even prophetic picture of the colony...."
Actually, HWA never hid the fact that he had studied Franklin's life (Armstrong Autobiography, p. 29) nor that Franklin's Plain Truth was an inspiration for his own. From reading about Franklin, HWA was surely aware that the American patriot was not only irreligious and sexually promiscuous, but an astute politician who rose to great prominence and power in a state founded by Quakers - the very religion into which HWA had been born, and a people with many of the unbending "be ye separate from the world" characteristics of Worldwide today (cf. Boorstein, pp. 33 -69). One can only wonder to what degree HWA saw in Franklin a pattern for his own future.
There are undoubtedly many other authors that had a profound influence on HWA. (See Robert Gerringer's article "Herbert Armstrong's Religious Roots" in our 1977 issue for some examples of HWA's noncrediting of sources and outright plagarisms.) One author we have wondered about in this regard is the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941). While we have never read or heard of HWA quoting Bergson by name, a number of HWA's "unique" teachings seem to have been anticipated by Bergson. For instance, Bergson's philosophy of static and dynamic religions, his view that the laws of physics and chemistry would never adequately explain life, the sharp distinction he drew between human mind and animal brain, his criticism of intellect and his preference for intuition, and his view that the world is a "machine for the making of gods" all predate HWA's later "discoveries" of virtually idential "new truths." Not only that, Bergson's postulation of two types of morality: closed (rote or instinctive conduct which conforms to prevailing conventions) and open ("a preferred or ideal form of behavior motivated or directed by no one but the free individual," "guided by inspiration and intuition," and "best exemplified in the life of heros and saints" - Sakakian on Bergson) may well have served HWA as an intellectual justification for his own lifelong moral duplicity.
Bergson, considered by some as the most popular living philosopher of the early part of this century, won the 1927 Nobel prize in literature. A librarian at the Portland Public Library, where HWA did so much of his early "research" on evolution and religion (Autobiography, p. 289), told us that, not only would that library have obtained Bergson's works as they were published, but their catalog lists the 1911 and 1920 English editions of Bergson's Creative Evolution as still in their library. And a librarian inspection of the 1920 edition showed that it was acquired in 1921.
Recall that HWA's Autobiography gives the summer of 1925 as the start of his evolution studies (p. 288) and 1926 as the start of his systematic Bible studies. In 1927 the Plain Truth was conceived and a dummy copy produced (p. 506) and in 1928 HWA embarked on his career as a preacher (pp. 346-351) - all during an extended period when he and his family were going through "extreme financial hardship" (p. 351 and p. 506).
Admittedly, the evidence connecting HWA to Beecher and Bergson is still circumstantial. But the connection between HWA and author Bruce Barton is substantiated by HWA having mentioned on numerous occasions that he read Barton's book, The Man Nobody Knows. Here is an excerpt from that best-seller which appeared in 1925:
Jesus as Advertising Man
He would be a national advertiser today, I am sure, as he was the greatest advertiser of his own day. Take any one of the parables, no matter which - you will find that it exemplifies all the principles on which advertising textbooks are written.
1. First of all they are marvellously condensed, as all good advertising must be. Jesus hated prosy dullness.
2. His language was marvellously simple - a second great essential. All the greatest things in human life are one-syllable things - love, joy, hope, child, wife, trust, faith, God.
3. Sincerity glistened like sunshine through every sentence he uttered. The advertisements which persuade people to act are written by men who have an abiding respect for the intelligence of their readers, and a deep sincerity regarding the merits of the goods they have to sell.
4. Finally he knew the necessity for repetition and practiced it. No important truth can be impressed upon the minds of any large number of people by being said only once.
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that HWA's life course, with its self-aggrandizement, distorted self-history, moral debauchery, and manipulation of the lives of thousands was far more a matter of purposeful and knowing choice than many have allowed themselves previously to believe.
(More new discoveries on HWA in a future issue - JT)
GTA Update - The Leopard's Kept His Spots
For a number of years after Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA) started the Church of God, International (CGI), it seemed to us that most WCG members might be better off in CGI. With all its problems, CGI still seems less fanatical, more open about its beliefs, far less (if at all) paranoid about "the world," and has a membership that generally seems more interested in following the Bible than any one man. It has not been unusual for the Report to receive letters such as this:
I would like to point out something, if you don't mind my mentioning this to you. In one issue of the AR, you refer to members of the CGI as Garner Ted Armstrong's "followers." I was a WCG member from 1965 to 1982, and decided to join the CGI in 1982 and am currently a member. I joined the church because it is adhering to sound biblical doctrine unlike the WCG (witness the primacy of Peter doctrine and the 144,000 doctrine currently taught by WCG). I am on the local council of my local church. Believe it or not, about 99% of the members I have spoken to (and there are more than 40 in the church in the local area) do not feel they are in the church to follow GTA. They are there, if you will "in spite of him." As long as GTA is honest enough to preach the Gospel and be true to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who alone is the Chief Apostle (Jesus, not GTA), we will remain in this church. We do not at all feel that we are the "one and only true church" by any means. Not at all. God's church is made up of those who obey God and are led by His Holy Spirit and are helping to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So just a few lines to let you know that we faithfully read your report, and also to let you know that we are not "followers" of GTA.
But not everyone who has joined CGI has found what they are looking for. For instance, one ex-CGI member wrote us a long letter complaining that CGI pays its top brass too much and its field ministers little or nothing, that the organization tends toward nepotism, that CGI's board is too often bypassed by GTA who appears more interested in flying the church airplane here and there to enjoy the physical pleasures of life than in spiritual matters, and the church's financial statements still do not provide members with an adequate representation of who is getting what. The man concluded:
Where did the CGI learn the church business? From Herbert W. Armstrong and the WCG!... GTA once said that people accuse him of going down the same road that his father did. How does he answer them? "Give me 40 years and then make a judgment." We've had no difficulty making a judgment, and it didn't take us 40 years.
Another ex-CGI member wrote us:
While our daughter worked for CGI in Tyler, Texas, God opened her eyes to see GTA and his cult for what they are. When Ron Dart told her not to spend time answering letters that didn't have money in them, she woke up. That helped open our eyes too, thank God!
For a number of years, GTA was very clearly distancing himself from many of his father's doctrinal and administrational errors. (For instance, see his article "Who Is Your Authority?" in the July-August, 1984 issue of The International News.) Not only that, in many public utterances, and especially in private, GTA was quite willing to not only reveal his father's worst side, but made it clear his father had adopted a number of outright heresies.
But with his father's death early this year, GTA abruptly reversed his position. In a series of articles, letters, and sermons, GTA has painted his father as a great Christian who discovered great truths, did great works, and who will undoubtedly be in God's Kingdom. Virtually the entire February-March issue of The International News was dedicated to praising HWA and promoting GTA as his spiritual heir! The church paper reprinted a Jan. 18 Pasadena Star-News article in which GTA was quoted:
Garner Ted Armstrong... said Friday he would be leading his father's church now if the two had met recently before his father died.... "And there would have been a different assignation of a successor" to his father's position.... Garner Ted Armstrong said he considered himself the "spiritual leader" of the church... "sooner or later a church has to identify with a person."
Also reprinted was an AP story that appeared in the January 18 Los Angeles Herald Examiner. It quoted GTA as saying:
"I believe that I am my father's successor, spiritually speaking.... I fully intend to follow in his footsteps...."
Some who know Ted say he was clearly making a play for WCG members, and that when the big membership switch from WCG to CGI didn't materialize, Ted was astonished. But even more astonished were some of the members of CGI who couldn't believe their eyes when they read Ted's new praise of HWA.
One CGI member, Steven Collins (who, because of his outstanding research, writing, and speaking skills was a likely ministerial prospect) sent CGI headquarters a very blunt letter (dated March 5) saying that HWA had been guilty of "Deep, chronic hypocrisy.... Deep, chronic idolatry.... Deep, chronic Phariseeism...." that had caused untold misery, hardship, suffering, and spiritual destruction in the lives of thousands. Collins wrote that HWA had "taken the WCG and molded it into a persecuting, oppressive, autocratic, deceived and Pharisaical body." With numerous scriptural quotations cited as authority, he pleaded that CGI not give "any more favorable memorialization of HWA."
In a curt letter dated March 27, GTA personally answered Collins:
Your letter is positively quixotic. However, instead of accepting your invitation to "tilt at windmills," I will merely respond by saying that I have received your letter, as I am sure all the others to whom you may have addressed it have, and will give it the attention it deserves.
I do not desire to create "straw men" and attack them viciously, nor to engage in "tilting at windmills," so will not dignify your letter with lengthy disclaimer.
GTA then went on to claim the media "misquoted" him. Collins, in a letter dated April 8, responded that had Ted really been misquoted, the newspaper articles should not have been reprinted without a disclaimer.
We think GTA's short letter is very revealing. First of all, it shows that Ted's communication skills are not simply limited to playing out those old roles he does so well - the all-knowing prophet of Yahweh, the jet-set executive, the honky-tonk lush - he can also turn out the kind of prose you'd expect from a foppish Fifth Avenue fairy.
And what chutzpa! (Let's not even comment on his telling an audiance to turn over 40 years of their lives before they could make a judgment on him.) He just wouldn't think of setting up "straw men to attack them viciously." Here is a guy who has built a thirty-year broadcasting career on essentially one rhetorical device - the "straw man." Yet he apparently expected Collins to believe he wrote this thing with a straight face.
But the truly amazing thing is how he - like his father before him - will occasionally throw out a bit of real truth here and there, smugly confident it seems, that his audience is too stupid to catch on. Those who were around HWA for even a few years will recall one of his oddities. He would tell an audience: "I have noticed, brethren, that when men criticize and condemn others for some sin, they themselves are ALWAYS guilty of the SAME SIN!!!"
Then a few moments later he'd be condeming all of the western world for lawlessness, idolatry, and sexual perversion. Now compare to GTA.
Nowhere in his letter does he even refer to one of the many scriptures cited by Collins. No, such things are "quixotic," foolish "tilting at windmills"! And in such truly honest utterances we see the real Garner Ted Armstrong. Students of literature will immediately see what GTA was not so cryptically saying. The triple reference was to Cervantes' Don Quixote, to many, the world's greatest comedic novel and one that represents (like the word "quixotic" itself) a very precise idea: that those who pursue lofty ideals, who are enthusiastic visionaries, who seek after "the impossible dream" - are FOOLS! This was the message of GTA's letter to Collins, and anyone who has ever really studied GTA's life knows it is also the message of his life. For the brief moment it took GTA to write those lines, he was, whether he intended it or not, being honest and was revealing his true philosophy.
Ted's short letter to Collins ended with a subtle suggestion that Collins not return to CGI - a suggestion Collins has wisely heeded.
The CGI has many members we consider very fine people, and our friends. We hope that at least some of them will take enough interest in their church, and themselves, to check into Collins' allegations. He may be contacted by writing to Steven Collins, 8500 101st Street Circle, Bloomington, MN 55438.
Hoops Plans Feast at Tahoe
Steven Collins is not the only one to recently part company with CGI. Robert Hoops, a former WCG minister affiliated with CGI for a number of years, has, in the last few months, been pushed out of that organization also.
Hoops' difficulties with CGI apparently began when CGI headquarters in Tyler, Texas, in the centralized-government style of HWA, issued a directive to its ministers around the country on how contributions from those at the Feast of Tabernacles are to be handled. Tyler stated that CGI headquarters would get all contributions and would unilaterally decide on how all such monies would be spent. Hoops, who coordinated CGI's feast in northern California last year, felt Tyler's new demands were both unbiblical and high-handed.
He strongly believes (1) that members have a right to designate how their contributions are to be used, (2) that there should be more sharing of "second tithe" between members so that the less affluent are able to enjoy the week more fully, and (3) that the feast should be more of a festive family vacation than a way for church headquarters and some top ministers to expand their income. Hoops also has strong feelings about local ministerial autonomy as regards what should or should not be allowed said from the pulpit. (Keep in mind that, with only a few exceptions, CGI's field ministers are volunteers serving without salary, and who work full-time at regular jobs to support their families.)
There were a few sharp exchanges of views in letters between Hoops and Tyler with Hoops' "credentials" then being pulled by CGI.
Nevertheless, Hoops is still coordinator for a group planning a Feast of Tabernacles convention for this fall at King's Beach at Lake Tahoe, California. Bob tells us that among those who will be featured speakers are Steven Collins, Kenneth Westby, and Dr. Charles Dorothy. He also told us that attendance is not restricted to members of any particular denomination and that former (and current) WCG members are welcome, as are any others who wish to enjoy the beautiful environment of that part of the country and the fellowship of friendly Christian people. For details, write: Robert Hoops, 8642 Highway 128, Healdsburg, CA 95448, or call (707) 433-7369 on weekdays between 6 a.m. and noon (California time).
"Doc" Martin and Joan Marie Split
In our March and October, 1985 issues we reported how ex-WCG minister Ernest "Doc" Martin had left his position as head of the Foundation for Biblical Research, and with his new bride, Joan Marie, had started an organization called Associates for Scriptural Knowledge (A.S.K.). Now it appears that Martin's A.S.K. is in hot water. In April, Joan Marie put out a letter to the students of A.S.K. in which she lamented Martin's on-going battle with the bottle, their marital difficulties, and their squabbles over control of A.S.K.
Not to be outdone, "Doc," who was in England when the letter hit, upon his return put out a rebuttal letter. In it, he claims the union was strained by his loyalty to the name Jesus Christ (Joan Marie, he says, prefers "Yahshua"), and her unwillingness to limit her role to that of housewife. He also intimates that it was not he, but Joan Marie, who was having "blackouts." Thus, he writes, it was necessary "to fire her from A.S.K.," but it was really Satan who caused "my beautiful wife (whom I still love very much) to turn against me." Another Dr. Martin letter, dated June 21, gave even more details concerning their troubled relationship. Not surprisingly, the two are now divorced. Martin is still running A.S.K. and Joan Marie is hoping to go into real estate. Their mud-slinging letters make interesting reading for soap-opera buffs. Those interested may write to Joan Marie at P.O. Box 7014, Hemet, CA 92343 and Ernest Martin at P.O. Box 7777, Hemet, CA 92343.
When Dr. Ernest Martin resigned from the Foundation for Biblical Research (FBR) in February 1984, many who had supported that organization from its start in 1974 wondered if it could survive without Martin. After all, for ten years Martin had so monopolized the pages of that organization's publications, many had come to think of Martin as synonymous with FBR. Nevertheless, one-and-a-half years after Martin's departure, the FBR is both surviving and publishing the work of more and more authors.
While FBR publications regularly feature articles by FBR editor Ken Fischer ("The Biblical Significance of Baptism," "The Lord's Supper," "Just Why Should You: Love Not the World?," "The Olympic Scriptures," etc.), the FBR has increasingly published articles by other authors including Joel Bjorling, Peter M. Leschak, Paulos Karageorgi, David Ord, Lambert Dolphin, Gene Justice, William Barclay, Rudy Dykstra, C. Gary Reid, Bernard Dawson, Al Zaizer, Jim Coram, and others. Some of the articles we have found particularly interesting are Gary Arvidson's "The Tetragrammaton" (Commentator, Sept. and Oct. 1985), Millo Accaus' "Life and Liberty" (about the abortion issue, Commentator, Nov.-Dec. 1985), and "Banquet of the Dispossessed" by Dr. James A. Sanders (Professor of Intertestamental and Biblical Studies, Claremont School of Theology; Commentator, Oct. 1985).
The FBR is both nondenominational and nondogmatic, and we've always found them cordial toward us whether we've agreed or disagreed with their published views. Those interested in biblical studies may wish to be on their mailing list. Their address is: Foundation for Biblical Research, P.O. Box 928, Pasadena, CA 91102.
Editor: Being able to hear from old friends from our Ambassador College days is one of the real blessings we receive from Ambassador Report. In our next issue we'd like to put in an extensive Ambassador Alumni section. If you are an Ambassador Alumnus, drop us a note and tell us a little of what you've been doing since AC. We'd like to hear from you!
Ambassador alumni Bill Moore (Bricket Wood, '69) and his wife Judy (Foster, Bricket Wood, '70) are now living in Omaha, Nebraska where, since earlier this month, Bill has been working as a ticket agent for Continental Airlines and spending most of his free time writing. He recently sent us this letter:
It's enough to make one believe in Fate - or the hand of God. How else does one explain two miracles in one day?
Ever since resigning from the WCG ministry back in 1980, it's been a tough go for us financially. When you're 35 and have virtually no marketable skills, courtesy of Ambassador College's unique educational philosophy, you do what you have to do. In my case, my brother taught me the window cleaning business, so for the next five years I operated a commercial window cleaning business here in Omaha. Call it pride, vanity, ambition, or whatever, but I was determined to not become stuck in the rut of being just another blue-collar worker. But then being just another white-collar worker didn't appeal to me either. What did appeal to me was becoming a professional writer. So, contrary to all the rules, I decided to learn the trade. I read, took classes, did part-time copy writing, and waited patiently for my first big break. Meanwhile....
In March 1985, my son Ari, then 13-years-old, developed endstage renal disease, commonly called kidney disease. He had been a promising young gymnast and a good student. Suddenly all that changed and for the next fifteen months, his life would be tied to a dialysis machine, an unbelieveably restricted diet, and much frustation. Well, living with a teenage boy who is going through not only all the changes of adolescence, but living from one blood transfusion to the next (many end-stage renal disease victims require transfusions every several weeks because their own bodies have stopped manufacturing red blood cells) can be a maddening and emotionally exhausting experience for the entire family. If it hadn't been for humor and being able to laugh together, I shudder to think what the last fifteen months might have been like.
Then it happened, all in one day!
June 4, 1986 will be forever etched into our memories. At 4:15 a. m. we received a completely unexpected call from our hospital's organ transplant co-ordinator. I will never forget her words, "Mr. Moore, I believe we have a kidney for Ari. Can you bring him into the hospital right away." It was - pardon the analogy - like waking up Christmas morning to find there really was a Santa and he'd left all the presents you'd hoped for. Ari was instantly awake and eager for the operation - as long as he could take his skateboard with him! (He actually rode it down the hospital corridors just before his operation and his doctor rode it later that afternoon.) Ari had been on the transplant list only 16 days and we were not told who the donor was, but we suspect it was a local 17-year-old girl who was declared brain dead after an automobile accident the day before. The operation, which began about 8:30 a. m. (after Ari's blood was tissue typed and cross matched with the donor kidney) lasted until a little after noon. Although the operation took a little longer than usual, everything went very well. Miracle number one for the day.
Miracle number two came about 1:30 p.m. just after returning home for a change of clothing. The telephone rang and it was Peter Carry, the executive editor of Time-Life's Discover magazine, calling to say they had decided to buy an article I had submitted to them several weeks earlier. I cried. Judy cried. My article ["The Secrets of the Black Boxes"] will be in the August, 1986 issue of the magazine. This was my first major freelance magazine article and to have it published in such a prestigious publication is a thrill.
In all candor, both miracles came at the best time possible. We were all being drained emotionally and financially to the point of exhaustion. As I write this almost four weeks after Ari's operation, he is doing fabulous. He has all the vigor and life of a growing 15 year-old and now he wants me to teach him to drive! He can eat anything he wants (and he's eating us out of house and home). Of course, he will have to take immunosuppressant drugs like cyclosporine for the rest of his life, or until someone comes up with a means to "Specific immunosuppression." And no kidney transplant is forever... Nevertheless, life for us has definitely taken on new meaning and promise. I even have a chance of getting a story produced for the Disney Sunday Night Movie, but more on that if and when it happens. In the meantime, we are enjoying every minute of our lives, grateful for its miracles. Sometimes things really are the gloomiest just before the dawn.
Thanks for the April issue of Ambassador Report. As I read of the elaborate funeral of Herbert Armstrong, this scripture came to mind.- "I have thought deeply about all that goes on here in the world, where people have the power of injuring each other. I have seen wicked men buried and as their friends returned from the cemetery, having forgotten all the dead man 's evil deeds, these men were praised in the very city where they had committed their many crimes! How odd!" (Eccl. 8:9-10, The Living Bible.)
Editor: Thanks for pointing that out to us. And, incidentally, that passage on through verse 11 in both the King James and Moffatt translations is also quite relevant.
In Vancouver. HWA's passing was almost a non-event. This left my friend's husband (he's in, she's out) bewildered and even miffed. He expected more. When asked about who and what is next, his remark was. ''I don't know. You and your friends seem to know more about what's going on than we do."....
Here 's a typical event in the everyday annals of the WCG that might amuse you: I have a feisty 92-year-old pal who is the only person in the WCG who has not rejected me since I departed the organization. She has a chronic bladder infection which is very tiring. Her mind is sharp, but she's drained physically by this problem. Anyway, she can't endure sitting through church services so she doesn't go. As it happened, she was not able to appear for Passover in the spring of 1985. They informed her of the "Second Passover" for those who were not at the first. By evening, she's pretty much a rag. She didn't make the second Passover, either. Consider her age and her infection, which is not classified information. She does send money.
As the months rolled by, she noticed that mail had stopped coming from the WCG - no epistles, no PT, nothing. At last she phoned to inquire. She was told she had been disfellowshipped and the reason was: "Refusal to keep the Passover." There was no inquiry or follow up and no notification. Just swift, decisive, and of course appropriate action. She is not taking it sitting down, though. She told me she is having the minister over to take him to task over this.
This may also interest you. I have associations with some Christians who are active in deliverance ministry. They tell me of a case where a demon being cast out of an individual was commanded to name himself His answer: "Herbert W. Armstrong." There is actually a demon (or demons) going around named Herbert W. Armstrong.
Editor: We've heard such demon stories before and, frankly, don't know what to make of them.
You would think Herbert W. Armstrong never existed from the news in the Pittsburgh, PA area. The only thing that has changed here is that the church got an order from headquarters to combine all the churches into one service on the Sabbath. Four areas will become one now, all in Pittsburgh. This will mean a long haul for some now, but who would voice their disapproval?
The report from headquarters is that money matters were not good and all will have to sacrifice. Of course, the sacrifices will come from the ones who can afford it the least.
Also, the ministers here in Pittsburgh are again telling the people not to go to doctors. They must be anointed instead.
My husband joined the WCG in Feb. 1985 and since then my entire life has been in turmoil. I have three children who are 11, 8, and 15... My husband has not worked a day in 11 months, but he has so far managed to "donate" over $700 in five months. Figure that one out!
As my husband has been involved with this cult since last summer, our life has changed much for the worse and I am trying to make him see how wrong this cult is. He has been unemployed for almost four months now because in this area jobs are scarce and as he wants to conform with rules of the cult. I do not think he has much chance of getting a job. Fortunately, I am working full-time, but most of my income is used for all the household expenses, and we also have a baby who is now 20 months old... As far as I am aware, he is tithing over 10% out of his unemployment benefits in order to attend the Feast of Tabernacles at Brighton in October, something he can ill afford to do.
I've heard of your Report in years past, but never needed it or had your address, until my minister in Atlanta allowed me to come to North Carolina to take a job, and then the minister in North Carolina disfellowshipped me for taking the job. That's when a friend told me of your whereabouts and so I wrote to you.
...By the way, the only person in the WCG who helped me during my recent trials was the associate pastor of the Atlanta church, Mr. Gordon Harry, who has since also been disfellowshipped!
I really appreciate getting the Report, but nothing surprises me anymore.... I know you wonder why I stay in the church. I have some very dear friends in there that have not gotten wise yet and it would hurt them so very, had. So I will stay in until I get thrown out.
...I will say, "Let's talk about the Bible," but no one will. All they want to talk about is going to Petra.... It is comical to hear what they really do believe. I heard one say that they are expecting to leave for Petra in Feb. 1986. Mr. Waterhouse told them they would not have to go through any temptation or tribulations. But [his minister] said they would. They are all confused, but still they believe everything they hear.
As you know this church is a secret one. We are not allowed to ask questions. They tell us if there is anything we need to know we will he told...
I know of seven people that the local WCG minister threw out of the Baltimore church and more that quit. And one young man shot his head off because he could not take it any more. He had only been baptized a few months before.
I've been a member of the WCG since '69 so I've seen a lot of coming and going.... You know, as well as I, we have in this outfit the same format as the "Iron Curtain." We dare not speak freely even to friends. We cannot question. We must be careful that we use the right word and have a certain tone of voice. I do not care to play the "dump sheep" role any more. So may I be put on your mailing list to receive the Ambassador Report?
Since I am a widow living on my late husband's social security and have a visual handicap, plus an adult retarded son, I am unable to contribute as fully as my heart would like to do, but I pray more and more WCG members will wake up as to what really is going on in that cult of deception, lies and gross errors - including my own children!
One of the problems for you, I know, is the fact that those of us who get your newsletter pass it around to others who like to read it for free and refuse to contribute a cent for their own copies. I have stopped doing that and told them to write to you themselves if they are truly interested in what is going on behind the scenes in that marriage-destroying, child-brainwashing, con-artist cult. I saw so much of that going on in my local church, especially the marriage-breakups which were blessed by the ministers to promote unions inside the church (so-called). Leave the mate of your youth and marry someone within the True (ha ha) church seems to be the name of the game these days and seems to be gaining ground steadily every year. God does not break up marriages, but almighty HWA and WCG dictators certainly seem to delight in such practices.
Thank God the husband of my youth did not desert me when I was in that mind-control organization, although I gave him a bad time once in a while (trying to convert him) in my stupidity. He hung in there with me because he believed in the vows we said, "till death do us part." At least death took him from me, not Herbert the pervert!
Received Ambassador Report yesterday and I find that I am not alone in my thoughts about the Worldwide Church of God. I have been married for 47 years and now my husband is wanting a divorce. I have never been in the church, but he has for the last 16 years and has now met a woman that is a member. He feels that they have something in common and so he wants to call off all the years of our marriage. I can't help but put all the blame of this separation on the church. I'm hoping someday my husband will come to his senses.
The Plain Truth newsstand program is now quite interesting. They may as well cut it back by 50% or 100%! Here in Winnipeg a lot of PTs are being picked up and destroyed. On the streets and in public parks I have seen large numbers of PTs blowing around in the wind. I even saw a bus-shelter floor literally covered with ripped-up PT's - The Plain Trash reduced to its simplest form.
The article "Soviet Economic Crisis" in the Jan. PT is indeed plain trash! It states that the USSR can no longer afford maintaining the East European satellite countries and that eventually the Kremlin would let them go on their own, thus paving the way for a 10-nation United Europe. What ridiculous plain crap! The PT made a 360 degree flip-flop. A few years ago they said, "The Russian Bear moves slowly and ponderously, always ahead, never backwards!"
Years ago, I, too, had been interested in joining the Armstrong church. I wanted to attend Ambassador College, "the happiest place on earth," as well. I contacted ministers in 1977 with the intention of becoming a member, having listened to The World Tomorrow radio broadcasts and having read The Plain Truth magazine and other free literature for nearly six years by then.
However, upon meeting the ministers, I instantly developed a very uneasy feeling, as though they were TOO eager to have me join. They repeatedly asked me if I listened to Garner Ted Armstrong every day, and wasn't he wonderful, wasn't he great - which was odd because aren't we supposed to praise and worship God, not people? Now it's plain that the church was undergoing its schism at that time. Maybe the ministers wanted me to side with them against Herbert W. Armstrong. They had an overly familiar "you're one of us now" attitude toward me which I also found offensive. After all, I didn't really know them. And from the conversation, I felt better versed in their own doctrine than they were, which was not the most reassuring sensation in the world for a prospective "believer." Suspicion awakened, I couldn't join.
Of all the off-beat sects I could have been interested in, why the one that was to face national scandal less than a year after my attempt to join? Served me right. I liked their slick, contemporary style, their "relevance to today 's world," their attacks on both Roman Catholic doctrinal error and "sentimental churchianity" so much that I didn't bother to do my homework on the Armstrongs themselves. I was too eager to accept everything they said without investigation and that's precisely what folks like the Armstrongs seem to count on to gain converts.
Now I know that my relatives are in serious trouble from "Strong-Arm-ism." They're under the Armstrong spell so deeply that it may require the spiritual equivalent of "The A- Team" to rescue them at this point. I do fear for them greatly, but I'm not sure I can help. As you indicated in your newsletters, people caught in HWA's devious trap are not even talking about it, so there's a brick wall to deal with first.
Thank you for your kind response to my last note and for supplying [former WCG pastor] Keith Thomas' address. After trying to compose a letter to him during spare moments over the past week, I picked up the telephone last night and gave him a call. And. I'm very glad I did.
We talked for over an hour and I was pleased to know that he is doing relatively well with good future prospects in business. I was struck by the commonsense approach he had taken to the WCG, eschewing the idea of adding to HWA's fan club and by not encouraging his parishoners to read Mystery of the Ages.
I was struck, too, by his description of the church he left behind. I knew there were enough problems back in '78 when I pulled out, but to hear the word on the WCG today is astonishing. The cultism surrounding HWA is incredible, only slightly less so than the seeming approval it is garnering among the ministry. When I was in, there was some effort to disguise WCG theology as "biblical truth'" as opposed to just the sage sayings of "God's apostle." How my heart aches at the thought of thousands deceived into believing that this man - or any man - virtually held the keys of the Kingdom in his hands, and that he was to be honored as a great prophet.
But even more than this, Mr. Thomas and I both lamented the many talented and bright people - Jack Martin, Gordon Muir, Brian Knowles, Bob Kuhn, Art Mokarow, to name a few "at the top" - drawn into the WCG only to be chewed up and spat out as they become less useful, i. e., less likely to say "Yes, Mr. Armstrong," to every whim of the king of the hill. Added to the talented members of what you so aptly call the "Executive Exodus" are the thousands of people who are church members and who come from rich, varied backgrounds. It's just so very sad.
The bright spot among all this is that recovery - and even renewal - is possible. Mr. Thomas - one of the more energetic and self-motivated people I've met (he went back to college and earned an accredited Bachelor's degree in his late 40's) - is but one example; Brenda Denzler is another. From reading Ambasador Report and from contacts with people like Keith Thomas, my own desire to help others caught in HWA's traps intensifies.
Equally important, I have come to realize that those who are or were involved in the WCG are people, important to God and important to their fellow men and women. While I've been at times angry at HWA and the WCG for their insidious teachings, I now understand that such anger should and must stop at the people who, like myself have only been pawns in the game to one degree or another. I can only hope that, in some way, my future efforts will be constructive and helpful to the people involved, not just an attack an WCG doctrine.
And, John, I owe this understanding - which is part of a continuing process as I seek to evaluate six years in the WCG and its ramifications in my life - to the work you and your colleagues have done. I'm grateful for that work and want you to know you have my personal support and shall have my financial help as I am able. Let me know if I may assist in any other way. Meanwhile, thanks again and God bless.
Mark A. Kellner
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One of the really sad things about the "Ambassador Experience" is not simply how many people were abused, but how many really fine people were simply used and discarded. It's a pity Mark Kellner's letter will not be pondered over by the WCG's new leadership.
As we are about to go to press, we have just heard that the WCG's income has taken a significant drop and that Tkach has decided to deactivate a large number of ministers he considers too old, too sickly, or too uncooperative. But as we are out of time and room in this issue, the details will have to wait until next time.
Our thanks for your letters of encouragement and for your kind support of Ambassador Report.
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