AR42 September 1989
Joseph W. Tkach -
God's New Rep on Planet Earth
by John Trechak
In Part I of this article (in AR 41, our March 1989 issue), I gave an overview of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) and showed how Joseph W. Tkach, the WCG's Pastor General, has promulgated an official biography of himself that is very much different than his real life story. I showed how, contrary to his claims, Tkach was not born in 1926, did not grow up in a violence-plagued neighborhood, never attended the Illinois Institute of Technology, was never an industrial plant manager, did not establish churches throughout the Midwest during the sixties, and is not a World War II U.S. Navy hero.
Since March, the Report has been able to obtain additional information about Tkach from the U.S. Department of the Navy via the Freedom of Information Act. Tkach's permanent Navy record, including his official separation documents, amplify the conclusions reached in Part I of this article.
Tkach's U.S. Navy Record
While Tkach claims to have been a heroic "gunner" who shot down many Japanese kamikazes, Tkach's service record reveals that he did not wear the enlisted specialty insignia of an antiaircraft machine gunner, gun pointer, or gunner's mate. Tkach's rank was "fireman second class," an entry-level rank indicating training only in elementary mechanical maintenance. The only awards or decorations Tkach received were an Asian Pacific Area Ribbon and a World War II Victory Ribbon, which indicate merely that he served in the Pacific during the second world war. He was awarded no medals of any kind.
The Navy's records show that Tkach's period of service was January 17, 1945 to July 22, 1946. After receiving eight weeks of basic training at the Naval Training Center at Great Lakes, Illinois, Tkach served on just two ships: The destroyer escort USS Austin (DE 15) and a converted cargo ship, the USS Jupiter (AVS 8). As I pointed out in our last issue, the Austin was never in a battle where kamikazes were involved, and she only saw limited action at Attu on May 11, 1943 - 16 months before Tkach joined the Navy. So even though he served aboard the Austin briefly at the tail end of the war, the heroics Tkach fantasizes about could not have taken place aboard the Austin.
What about the USS Jupiter? The authoritative Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Volume III (1968), has a lengthy article on the Jupiter's very distinguished wartime record. For almost the entire war, the Jupiter carried supplies and troops into battle, often while in danger from enemy fire, during the campaigns for the Solomon Islands, Guadalcanal, the Gilbert Islands, Tarawa, the Marianas, Saipan, the Palau Islands, and the Philippines (including the Battle of Leyte Gulf). Quite likely, it was from some of the Jupiter's older mates that Tkach first heard the war stories into which he later inserted himself. But one thing is certain, Tkach was not aboard the Jupiter during any of its dangerous World War II missions. The Jupiter's last brush with danger in WWII was at Iwo Jima where she remained until Japanese resistance on that island ceased March 16, 1945. Coincidentally, that was Tkach's eighteenth birthday and, according to the Navy's records, he was just then completing his basic training in Illinois. The Jupiter, for almost the entire war, cargo ship AE 43, returned to San Francisco in late July 1945 and during a four-day period was converted into an aviation supply ship (AVS 8). For the remaining month of the war she sailed on a few routine missions, but none put her in any danger.
Clearly, the U.S. Navy's official records show that Tkach could not possibly be the tried-in-battle warrior he and his associates claim he is. Additionally, the military records offer a number of other insights into Tkach's character. For instance, one of Tkach's top assistants has publicly stated that Tkach wanted so badly to serve in WWII that he falsified his age to Navy recruiters in order to enter the war before all the real fighting was over. But the Navy's records correctly give March 16, 1927 as Tkach's birthdate. And I was told by Tkach's last surviving sister that with the aid of his father's signature, Tkach was able to enlist in the Navy two months short of his eighteenth birthday in order to avoid being drafted into the Army. Obviously, it was only years later that Tkach's phony 1926 birthdate would so conveniently help him pass off his fanciful war stories. Anyone capable of adding 18 years to 1927 would have realized Tkach's service in WWII was too brief to have included all his claimed exploits.
In Part I of this article I wrote how Tkach began his secondary education at Chicago's Gage Park High School in September 1940. After one year Tkach was transferred to Tildon High, where he would have graduated in June 1944 had he remained in school. But as I pointed out in Part I, Tildon officials have been unable to locate any record of Tkach completing even one semester there. Tkach's military records show that from January 1943 to January 1945 he worked as an apprentice tool and die maker for Center Manufacturing Co. of Chicago. Those same records also show, however, that Tkach falsely represented to Navy recruiters that he had completed four years of high school before entering the service.
Finally, the Navy's records show that Tkach was honorably discharged. There is no indiciation that he jumped ship, went AWOL, brawled with Marines, or spent time in the brig. Nor is there any indication in the records that he ever served aboard a Navy tender, a gasoline tanker (an AOG), or an oiler (an AO) that was later blown out of the water. Those Tkach stories, as spread around the world by evangelist Gerald Waterhouse, are apparently nothing more than yarns spun by "the master weaver."
The Education of the Chancellor
There is a funny story told in some circles about when church founder Herbert W. Armstrong put Tkach over the WCG's Church Administration Department. Ambassador College professor Roderick C. Meredith, who preceded Tkach in the top Church Administration post, contacted a fellow elder and vented his feelings about the new appointee. Meredith, absolutely dumbfounded that Tkach would be chosen for such a high position, explained how, during the 1960s, he had personally reviewed all the entrance applications and I.Q. scores of field ministers brought to Ambassador for formal training. Tkach's I.Q., said Meredith, was among the very lowest of those ever admitted and was in fact "even lower than the Blacks!"
While the anecdote probably says more about Meredith's attitude about race than it does about Tkach's intelligence, it does reflect a perception of Tkach that, although privately held, appears to be widespread among WCG executives - namely, that Tkach is just not very bright. Of course, we should not fault someone for what nature has not provided. Most of us do not have a precision of mind, command of language, and store of memory of which we may be proud. But regarding Tkach, there is the perception among many that he has never made a real effort to gain any type of education or to achieve excellence in anything other than WCG rank (if indeed "excellence" and "WCG rank" may properly be used in the same breath).
©1989 Ambassador Report. Published irregularly (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.
Arthur Mokarow, a respected former WCG minister and administrator, who went on to study at Oxford and now runs a successful management consulting firm in Houston, grew up with Tkach in the windy city and attended the same schools. Mokarow told me that he doesn't remember Tkach as excelling in sports, student leadership, social activities, or in academic work. Said Mokarow, "Joe just didn't stand out."
Claims about Tkach having attended the Illinois Institute of Technology notwithstanding, I have seen no evidence that Tkach ever took even one class at an accredited college. At unaccredited Ambassador College, where he is now the Chancellor, Tkach supposedly had three years of classes - at least that is what was stated in the Jan. 27, 1986 Worldwide News. But according to many I interviewed, including former WCG administrator Al Carrozzo who was Tkach's superior during the period in question, Tkach really had only one full year at Ambassador and his academic performance was mediocre, at best. Afterward he may have sat in on a few lectures, but he was never matriculated toward a degree, and he definitely never graduated.
But what about self-education? Certainly many men and women, unable to attend a university, are motivated to prepare themselves for successful careers through extensive reading and personal study. Strangely, of the scores of people I have interviewed for this article and who have personally known Tkach, not one could recall Tkach ever reading, collecting, quoting, or even talking about any book,34 with the exception of the Bible. And some who worked with him in the past say he didn't seem all that interested in studying the Bible, either. I wonder if similar observations were made by Plain Truth editor Herman L. Hoeh and church founder Herbert Armstrong. For in the past, Hoeh is said to have derisively refered to Tkach as "that Russian peasant" and some who were close to HWA say that the church founder viewed Tkach as "a virtual illiterate."
As many WCG members in Pasadena are aware, Tkach is not able to read prepared scripts convincingly off a teleprompter, and so, the The World Tomorrow's broadcasting chores have been delegated to ministers David Hulme, Richard Ames, David Albert, and Ronald Kelly. What many Worldwiders don't know, however, is that Tkach must rely on surrogates in other areas, as well. For instance, for articles and editorials bearing his by-line, Tkach is utterly helpless without his team of ghost writers, editors, and secretaries. So poor are Tkach's writing skills, I understand, that without assistance he even has great difficulty answering simple letters.
Tkach has been lucky enough to find ghost writers to do his writing and "hirelings," as Garner Ted Armstrong calls them, to read scripts on The World Tomorrow. Tkach, unfortunately, has yet to find a way to use proxies to permanently replace himself in the pulpit. For while Worldwide News articles invariably describe Tkach's sermons as "inspiring," "moving," and "powerful," most Pasadena Worldwiders know better. As a preacher, Tkach is just not an Armstrong.
One Tkach inadequacy, I am told, is that he just can't seem to come up with interesting new topics. At his prime, HWA would speak on new topics almost every week. Garner Ted Armstrong still does. Insiders say, however, that Tkach has very few subjects with which he is comfortable, "church unity" being a theme he has beaten into the ground for over three years now. Perhaps this inability is one reason Tkach now so often takes his sermons on the road. Out there, before local WCG congregations around the world, it is not necessary to come up with new ideas. The novelty of a visiting "Apostle" is enough to inspire great enthusiasm - the kind required to maintain an apostolic level of ego inflation.
But burning up a fortune in jet fuel35 visiting "the troops" doesn't solve Tkach's second major speaking problem: his grating style. Tkach's sermons are often frantic, high-pitched, monotone deliveries of simplistic ideas described with much repetition and limited vocabulary. But even worse, during moments of special excitement - as when describing prophesied martyrdom - Tkach's pace and pitch can rise to levels that bring listeners shudders like those from flat chalk on blackboard.
All of the above leads to two rather obvious questions: How is Tkach able to run the mammoth WCG organization? And how in the world did Tkach ever get put in charge?
Playing the Role
Considering Tkach's very limited education, how is it that he is able to preside over all the business, legal, personnel, and spiritual facets of the 85,000-member church, Ambassador College, the Ambassador Foundation, and all the other affiliated WCG operations? The answer is that, unlike the WCG in the heyday of autocratic HWA (the 1950s and 60s), the WCG
today is not really run by one man, or two. It's run by an oligarchy - a relatively small group of about 30 or so top elders and department managers. Although Tkach by church doctrine has more than just veto power, Tkach is far more of a team player than egocentric HWA was ever capable of being. As a result, insiders say, the WCG's top managers get their way more often than not.
In return for Tkach's great deference to the church's management team (and in return for his generous use of cash "bonus" payments36), the management team is only too happy to inflate, prop up, and massage Tkach's image before the members. A similar relationship exists between Tkach and his field ministry. Although, as in HWA's era, the ministers "out in the field" (to use WCG headquarters jargon) are frequently transferred to different pastures - lest any develop too devoted a following and become sheep rustlers - Tkach seems to allow his field reps considerable latitude in decision making. Consequently there is more and more variety of doctrine among WCG ministers. One AR reader wrote me:
I am not a Worldwide member but I deliberately go to church social events with my [member] husband in order to meet people in the church. I have found that there is a lot of variation in what members are taught. For instance, the local minister in our area de-emphasizes Petra. But I have heard from a friend in New York that the minister in her area is hot on going to Petra. Worldwide ministers each seem to put their own funny twists on what they were taught. One evidently will not eat food unless it is blessed. I could give many other examples. Aren't the ministers all taught the same thing? It seems to me that the only generalization that can be made about the WCG's ministers is that they are inconsistent.
One striking example of how the Tkach organization now operates may be seen in the WCG's adoption of a new "FiveYear Plan." Not unlike the five-year plans so popular in the centrally managed socialist countries, the WCG's Five-Year Plan was put together by a committee composed of some of the WCG's top executives. According to the April 3, 1989 Worldwide News, the plan (which begins with a general overview, ends in specific details, and will be renewed annually) was put together by: Dexter Faulkner, editor of church publications; Barry Gridley, manager of Publishing Services; David Hulme, manager of Communications and Public Affairs; Joseph Locke, Ambassador Foundation vice president for international affairs; Leroy Neff, church treasurer; Larry Omasta, producer of the The World Tomorrow; Rick Pelt, manager of Facilities Administration; James Peoples, manager of Computer Information Systems, Purchasing and Travel; Richard Rice, manager of the church's Mail Processing Center; Larry Salyer, associate director of Church Administration; Fred Stevens, manager of accounting; Ray Wright, manager of Media Planning and Promotion; and Bernard Schnippert, the director of Media Production Services who was also the one who chaired the committee.
In addition to the above individuals, there are, of course, a number of other important WCG executives who share in the power structure. Tkach's son Joe Jr. has his father's old position over the WCG's U.S. ministry and is heir- designate to his father's throne. Ralph K. Helge, who, like Tkach, came to Pasadena from Chicago during the 1960s, is the WCG's chief legal counsel.37 Finally, there is Dr. Herman L. Hoeh, the editor of the Plain Truth who for decades was HWA's chief doctrinal theoretician and propagandist. During the seventies Hoeh was Tkach's direct superior and mentor. According to certain insiders, Hoeh's spiritual influence over Tkach, although invisible to the unenlightened, is actually significant.
How He Got There
One of the most frequent questions put to Ambassador Report is: How in the world did Tkach ever become Herbert Armstrong's successor? Interestingly, the question often comes from people who have personally known Tkach. As one long-time church employee explained on the phone: "I always assumed Mr. Ted Armstrong would wind up on top. Let's face it. Not only is he Mr. Herbert Armstrong's only living son - his own flesh and blood - but he can really preach. He's a prolific writer, too. And he's a professional broadcaster who doesn't even need scripts. He graduated from Ambassador College and he's got a Ph.D. He speaks fluent Spanish, he's a singer and musician, he's a sportsman, he's an athlete, and he's a licensed jet pilot. He even has good looks and charisma.38 Mr. Tkach, on the other hand-well, he's just Joe Tkach!"
To understand how Tkach was able to rise to the top of the heep, we need to review a bit of WCG history. Beginning around 1973, Armstrong organization maladies and a series of very public scandals produced an exodus of the WCG's best preachers, teachers, administrators, and thinkers (see our "Executive Exodus" lists in ARs 2 and 24). By mid-1978, even HWA's son Garner Ted Armstrong had left (actually he was thrown out) to form the competing Church of God, International, headquartered in Tyler, Texas. To most observers at that juncture it appeared that upon the death of its founder, Herbert Armstrong's empire would fall into the hands of church attorney-accountant Stanley R. Rader (see "Ex-Jewish Convert May Inherit Church's Wealth," Time magazine, June 19, 1978). But it was not to be.
In January 1979, the attorney general of the state of California launched a major civil suit against the WCG, invaded the Pasadena campus of Ambassador College with a team of investigators, and placed the entire Armstrong organization in receivership (see our 1979-80 issues for details). Rader encouraged Pasadena church members to stage a sit-in demonstration at headquarters, and he then called together hundreds of the WCG's top ministers and administrators for a meeting in Tucson, Arizona, where 87-year-old HWA lived with his 40-year-old wife. Tkach, who was then only an insignificant "preaching elder," was not invited to the meeting. He was left behind in Pasadena.
At the start of the state's action, the man in charge of the WCG's church administration department was evangelist C. Wayne Cole. But when Cole decided to cooperate with the state attorney general, Rader - who was the primary target of the lawsuit - saw to it that Wayne Cole, evangelist David Antion, and a number of other prominent church moderates were fired.39 HWA replaced Cole with evangelist Roderick C. Meredith, an arch-conservative and HWA loyalist who, during the 1960s, had held the same top administrative position.
Although Meredith was put over the field ministry, during 1979 it was really Stanley Rader who ran the WCG. Rader's control was almost total. If decisions were not made by him, they would routinely be made by Virginia Kineston, his domineering executive secretary.40 More significantly, because HWA's wife, Ramona, and HWA's two personal aides, Kevin and Aaron Dean, were all then personally loyal to Rader, Rader really controlled almost all access to HWA. Meredith, aggrieved over the extent of Rader's power, confided to a number of ministers that he wanted to see Rader removed. It wasn't long before Rader learned of Meredith's desire from a number of sources including Tkach. In mid-1979 Rader saw to it that HWA removed Meredith as head of church administration. Rader than chose "loyal" Tkach to take over Meredith's responsibilities. On Sept. 27, 1979, Rader, Tkach, and Ellis LaRavia (then also a Rader loyalist) were all raised to evangelist rank.
It's not difficult to see why Rader chose Tkach. First of all, Tkach pretended to be personally loyal to Rader. Second, because Tkach was not a dynamic speaker, not an Ambassador graduate, and not a theological giant, it was unlikely he could upstage Rader, a virtual Bible illiterate who lacked both an Ambassador degree and adequate pulpit skills. Third, Tkach was clearly no ideologue. His participation in the January sit-in - clearly contrary to long-standing church doctrine - showed Rader that Tkach would not be hindered by church doctrine when ordered to act contrariwise. Finally, Tkach gave the impression of being one who carried out the orders of superiors with mindless gusto. Former WCG administrator Al Carrozzo, who had been Tkach's superior until 1972, recalls about Tkach:
I certainly remember how Joe worked for me. He was a sycophant. I'd ask him to do something, and he would. But he'd do it with such excessive speed and excessive thoroughness it just wasn't balanced. He was also flattering toward me to the point of dishonesty. In sermonettes, for instance, he'd say things about me that were nice, but he'd exaggerate to the point that everyone knew they weren't true. That kind of thing really embarrassed me. But Herbert Armstrong just loved that kind of behavior.
Some oldtimers say that Tkach learned to be unctuous and fawning toward superiors by observing the way Dean Blackwell, his own superior in Chicago, treated HWA on his visits there during the '50s. Many who knew him say HWA loved to be surrounded by sychophants. (Isn't this the true origin of that WCG phenomenon "the Super Deacon"?) And HWA loved flattery. In this regard, many of those in the WCG during the '70s recall how HWA would glowingly bask in the undisguished puffery heaped upon him - in his presence - by Stanley Rader when giving the annual "state of the church treasury" reports at the fall festivals. Yes, HWA loved the kind of behavior described by Carrozzo. And, apparently, so did Rader. But in advancing Tkach, Rader seriously blundered. It was a miscalculation that would lead to Rader's ouster in 1981.
Of the many myths in the WCG concerning Tkach, none is bigger or sillier than the story of Tkach's role in the 1979 church crisis. According to evangelist Gerald Waterhouse, Tkach was the moving force, the "real brains" behind the famous 1979 sit-in demonstration at church headquarters. In his March 1, 1986 sermon in Pasadena, Waterhouse said:
When the attorney general hit, you knew who was instrumental in getting the sit-in to protect the buildings? Mr. Joe Tkach! He kept Mr. Blackwell here, but the rest of us were over in Tucson at the conference. Mr. Blackwell was the senior man here. He kept him up until 3:30 in the morning and said, "I'm not going to let you go to bed until you authorize this sit-in, because, can't you see, the spirit of God is stirring up these people from all over California to protect his properties?"
The demonstration revealed how easy it is for the WCG's membership to be led into activities totally contrary to longstanding church doctrine. For until 1979 the entire ministry had taught that to engage in any type of civil disobedience was a sin. Evangelist Meredith had even referred to demonstrations for political purposes as "demon strations." Nevertheless, the sit-in, perhaps the biggest in Pasadena history, did succeed in keeping state investigators out of church buildings a few days, and the publicity generated did gain the WCG support from numerous mainstream churches that the WCG had previously labeled as "of the Devil." But was Tkach really the moving force behind the sit-in?
Stanley Rader's book Against the Gates of Hell, written and published while Rader still considered Tkach a loyal friend (manifested by a few positive references to Tkach in the book), nowhere credits Tkach as masterminding the sit-in. Even the Worldwide News of Feb. 5, 1979, which covered the church crisis and the sit-in, nowhere reports Tkach as in charge of anything. When the sit-in took place in January 1979, Ambassador Report co-publishers Bob Gerringer, Len Zola, and I spent three days near the scene of the demonstration. It certainly did not appear that Tkach was in charge. As other newsmen noticed, the one who seemed to be in command of the demonstration was Kevin Dean, HWA's aide and then a Rader loyalist. (See the photo on page 5 of our March 1979 issue. Kevin Dean is shown clearly in charge of the group that confronted us near the sit-in.) Most significantly, when A. Sheridan Atkinson, the chief operating officer of receiver Steven Weisman, attempted to enter the church's blockaded administration building with his staff, it was not Tkach who confronted him. It was deacon Wayne Pyle who spoke for the church and blocked the doorway.
Although Tkach was apparently one of those asked to phone members to get them to demonstrate and was one of the ministers who spoke at the sit-in, he was clearly not the mastermind behind the episode. The real mastermind was Stanley Rader. Tkach's role in the sit-in was actually minor.
There is a second reason why Waterhouse's sit-in story is silly. It portrays Tkach as a man whose loyalty to the WCG was undivided. In reality, Tkach's loyalties were once with those who brought the civil suit against the WCG.
The one who initiated the big lawsuit was WCG member John Tuit, then of New Jersey. As the suit was being put together, Tuit's lawyers suggested that it would be helpful if the suit was formally initiated by a group of relators that included a California resident. Tuit, then sympathetic toward Garner Ted Armstrong's organization, asked GTA's son, Mark, if he had any suggestions. Mark mentioned a man by the name of Earl Timmons. No one seemed to know much about Timmons, but Mark recalled that when his father had been put out of the WCG, Timmons showed up one day at GTA's home. He brought an envelope containing a very large amount of money. It was this gift that apparently was the first to Ted's new church organization. As a result of such generosity, it was thought Timmons might enthusiastically cooperate with Tuit. That is how Timmons became a relator in the big 1979 lawsuit.
Unknown to Tuit (and Mark Armstrong probably) was the fact that Timmons, although a WCG member, was extensively involved in criminal activities.41 He was also a long-time, close, personal friend of Tkach. Timmons has told me that well before the state initiated the lawsuit, he informed Tkach completely of what was going to transpire. And C. Wayne Cole has related to friends how before the state served church officials with the complaint, Tkach tiped him off that the action was coming and introduced him to Timmons. Therefore, although Tkach now pretends that he was always 100% loyal to HWA and the church organization, this is clearly not so. Had Tkach warned HWA and Rader of what was about to transpire, church attorneys may very well have headed off the suit and saved the WCG millions of dollars in legal fees. Tkach clearly did not put HWA and the WCG corporation first in his life. He used the confidential information he gained from Timmons only to his own political advantage. Once it became clear that Rader was not going to just lie down and die, Tkach's loyalties switched (at least ostensibly) to the side of Rader.42
By 1981 Rader knew that he had been duped by Tkach. On Feb. 1 of that year he sent HWA a lengthy telex from Japan. It contained the following comment:
With respect to Joe Tkach, I recommended him. Although I did know about his connection with Mr. and Mrs. Timmons (two of the relators in the lawsuit), I did not find out the full details concerning his illegal fencing activities until they surfaced recently when we were preparing our civil rights case. He is obviously not the man I recommended to you and I apologize for my error in judgment.43
By the time Rader sent the above telex it was already too late for him to do anything about Tkach. For by then Tkach had secured his position among HWA's inner circle of aides. Within that small group, Tkach aligned himself with Kevin and Aaron Dean whose loyalties were no longer with Rader. Kevin, the most intelligent and dominant of the three, hatched a plot to destroy HWA's confidence in both Rader and Ramona, HWA's wife. The anti-Rader forces surreptitiously taped Rader and Ramona in private conversations, some of which were not complimentary to HWA (see AR 16 at p. 2). Through the use of such illegally gotten recordings and through rumor, innuendo, and character assassination, the conspirators were able to turn HWA against both his long-time attorney and his very own wife. Almost immediately, HWA moved out of his Tucson home and back to Pasadena, instituted divorce proceedings against Ramona, and fired Rader.
Rader had fallen prey to Tkach in the same way that other superiors of Tkach had in the past. Carrozzo recalled of Tkach in the early '70s: "At some point it became obvious to me that Joe was reporting to those above me on what I said and did - and not always accurately. It's interesting that when I resigned Joe was given most of my old responsibilities." A similar scenario was played out later when Wayne Cole was ousted in early 1979 and when Roderick Meredith was ousted in mid-1979. Then, when Rader was knocked out of power in 1981, Tkach, along with the Deans, inherited much of the influence over HWA that had previously belonged to Rader.
One long-time observor of WCG politics has pointed out that Tkach's personality and modus operandi match perfectly that of Uriah Heep. In Dickens' novel David Copperfield, Uriah Heep - the unctuous, fawning, and scheming clerk - managed by deceit to worm his way into partnership with Mr. Wickfield, after which he proceeded to gain full control of the business.
From mid-1981 WCG publications pictured HWA as firmly in charge of the WCG. But HWA's three top aides, Tkach and the two Deans, were exerting tremendous influence because they were able to monitor HWA's activities and filter most of the information he received. Recall that during this period HWA was in his nineties, was ailing, hard of hearing, and legally blind. During all this time, however, HWA did not name a successor. Suddenly, in early 1986 HWA named Tkach as his successor. Why?
The explanation usually given in church circles is that HWA, then very ill, feared his son Garner Ted Armstrong would somehow take over the WCG upon his death. HWA may have been led to believe this because his hatred of his son was constantly fueled by the rumormongering of aides who had everything to lose should GTA ever have reconciled with his father. But the fact is, GTA no longer had a following among WCG members and he was no longer a WCG minister respected by that church's ministry. GTA, therefore, was really not in a position to take over the WCG.
Furthermore, if there was a need for HWA to name a successor, why didn't he choose a respected evangelist such as Norman Smith, Herman Hoeh, Ellis LaRavia, or Roderick C. Meredith? Certainly, had HWA not designated a successor, upon his death the church's council of elders would have chosen one of these four men.
Some believe that HWA's three closest aides manipulated HWA into making Tkach his successor. That may be a partial answer. But the main reason Tkach was chosen, I believe, is that egocentric Herbert W. Armstrong wanted to guarantee that his successor would not be a man capable of outshining him in any way. One distinguished California psychiatrist, who has followed the WCG very closely for some years, has said privately that in choosing Tkach, Herbert Armstrong very likely was motivated by a subconscious desire to see his successor fail.
That theory makes a lot of sense. As I reported in the January 1986 issue of the Report, just weeks before his death HWA ordered that his corporate jet be put up for sale. Clearly, HWA never anticipated that Tkach would carry on in his own grandiose style. Yet, not only has Tkach carried on in the same way, both his new jet and the gifts he spreads abroad are far larger than Herbert Armstrong's ever were!
After gaining control of the WCG, Tkach energetically thrust himself among the rich, the royal, and the powerful. Former WCG minister and author David Robinson told me, "Tkach is a classic example of someone being where he ought not be." Then, quoting Ecclesiastes 10:7, Robinson said, "I have seen servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth." Anyone who has seen Peter Sellers as Chauncy Gardener in the movie Being There will understand.
Former WCG minister Gary Arvidson has called HWA's designation of Tkach as his successor, "Herbert's last big joke on the church." That may be so. But as Tkach dismantles HWA's doctrinal edifice piece by piece, discontinues the publication of most of HWA's writings, and turns the legacy of Herbert W. Armstrong into a faded memory, the biggest victim of that joke may turn out to be Herbert W. Armstrong, himself.
34. Those who made this observation knew Tkach only in his pre-apostolic days. It is quite likely that since then his ghost writers have attempted to cover up this once very obvious idiosyncrasy.
35. Former WCG minister David Robinson, a licensed pilot, says the WCG's BAC 1-11 jet uses about 800 gallons of fuel an hour at almost $2 per gallon. One Worldwider close to Tkach has estimated that when we add to those fuel costs the cost of payments on the jet (or depreciation), pilots' salaries, insurance, hotel bills for Tkach's huge entourage, and the price of the hugely extravagant gifts Tkach gives to the dignitaries he meets, the actual cost of Tkach's ego-maintenance trips approaches $30 million per year. That figure sounds a bit high to me, but refuting the allegation is impossible since the WCG refuses to open its books to any outside investigators.
36. Tkach, unlike HWA before him, knows the value of a buck. He also knows how to use carrots. Bonus checks have become a regular part of life for WCG employees who are loyal to Tkach. Shortly after Part I of this article appeared, I am told, many ministers in the WCG received "bonuses" of up to $10,000. Why, I have no idea.
37. Helge, a long-time church employee and bombastic speaker, has yet to be ordained even a local elder. Yet Helge's assistant, Earl Reese, was recently ordained. This obvious snub of Helge has led some to speculate that Tkach's confidence in Helge is waning and that Reese will eventually be the WCG's chief counsel.
38. Tkach has none of these qualities or qualifications. I have heard some WCG members say that Tkach is both an accomplished guitarist and licensed helicopter pilot. They are mistaken on both counts. Such false notions arose only because of the audacity of Tkach's PR men. The Worldwide News of June 27, 1988 showed Tkach posing with a group of musicians while holding a guitar as though performing. And the Worldwide News of Jan. 18, 1988 showed Tkach sitting in the cockpit of an in-flight helicopter while wearing pilot headgear as though he was piloting the craft. Both shots were staged.
39. The most dramatic and poignant account of what took place at this juncture in WCG history is contained in a tape recording made by evangelist David Antion in early 1979. Copies of the tape, entitled "Firing and Disfellowshipping, January 1979," are probably still available from Mr. Antion, 311 Waverly Drive, Pasadena, CA 91105.
40. As a Newsweek magazine stringer covering the court proceedings in 1979, I vividly recall Kineston's presence on the witness stand. In her shimmering outfit she was self-assured, sharp-tongued, and haughty. She lacked only a whip to have appeared a Madam deSade. As such, she represented the antithesis of idealized WCG femininity. Some are convinced that the way she intimidated and dominated the WCG ministers she interfaced with was a major cause of Stan Rader's eventual downfall.
41. The Los Angeles county court building in Pasadena has a very thick criminal file on Timmons. He has been convicted for drug dealing and felon firearm possession. How Timmons became involved in the lawsuit is explained in John Tuit's book The Truth Shall Make You Free on p. 140.
42. Besides Cole, another individual who was told in advance that the lawsuit was coming was Herman L. Hoeh, Tkach's superior in 1978. The fact that neither Cole nor Hoeh warned Rader of the impending suit in late 1978 is probably the main reason Cole was fired and Hoeh was not allowed to be a church trustee in January 1979. It is noteworthy that although Tkach also knew the suit was coming, he was not disfellowshipped along with Cole. This logically leads to the question: Was Tkach the one that betrayed Cole and others to Rader? I am convinced he was.
43. The entire telex was published in AR 23, our January 1983 issue. Before publishing the telex, I wrote Tkach asking him to respond to the allegations it contained. He never answered my letter.
[Part III of this article will appear in the next issue of Ambassador Report.]
WCG Growth Stalls As Doctrines Shift
According to official WCG publications, under Joseph W. Tkach's leadership, the WCG has achieved a new high in effectiveness and unity. But even in official pronouncements there are hints that all is not well in the Tkach organization. For instance, in his June 26 letters to members and coworkers, Tkach admitted that at that junction the WCG's income for 1989 stood at only 3.7 percent over the same period in 1988. By the end of July that percentage was down to 3.2-almost 3 points less then the low 6 percent growth rate that had been expected! When inflation is taken into account (currently running over 5 percent per annum) a 3.2 percent growth rate represents a loss in purchasing power. This, in an organization that used to boast of an annual growth rate of 30 percent. What has happened?
There are probably many reasons for the slackened growth rate. But one important factor appears to be widespread lack of confidence in WCG teachings. In the WCG, doctrines come and go. The keeping of birthdays, once forbidden in the WCG, is now okay (see the Worldwide News, July 17, 1989, at p. 3), and there is talk in WCG circles that voting in government elections will soon be declared allowable.
Because of the Tkach administration's doctrinal shifts on makeup, healing, birthdays, and voting, some conservatives complain that the WCG is now coming into line with the Systematic Theology Project (STP). The STP was an early 1970s attempt at codifying WCG doctrine into an official statement of belief. Its principal author was Dr. Robert Kuhn, Garner Ted Armstrong's executive assistant. Although the STP had, and still has, many admirers, many church conservatives saw it as a Trojan horse of liberalism, and HWA ultimately rejected it.
Comparing recent WCG doctrinal changes with the STP, one sees numerous parallels. However, Tkach is really going much further than the STP. First of all, Tkach has put forward a new interpretation of Matt. 24:42 that completely contradicts one of HWA's central teachings and puts the WCG in line with mainstream Protestantism. In the July 3, 1989 Worldwide News Tkach's editorial had this explanation:
Jesus did not tell his servants to watch world events in order to figure out what he clearly told them they were not given to know. Rather, he told them to stay continually on alert, to be always ready and ever prepared, so that whenever he returns they will be ready.
Those familiar with what HWA taught will immediately recognize that Tkach has completely reversed a major WCG doctrine. For HWA taught the church members that it was imperative that they "watch world news." (See HWA's June 25, 1985 co-worker letter.) Indeed, ministers even taught that this was one reason members should listen to The World Tomorrow broadcasts. Notice also that Tkach downplays the reliability of Bible prophecy, something HWA would never have done.
Second, under Tkach the WCG is putting new emphasis on the person of Jesus, thereby putting the WCG, again, more in harmony with mainline Protestantism. In the January 23, 1989 Worldwide News, Tkach wrote:
I am thrilled to announce that our new booklet, Who Was Jesus?, written by Paul Kroll, is now printed and ready for mailing. Until now, we have not had a booklet devoted entirely and specifically to teaching people about who Jesus was, what He did and is now doing, His purpose, and the supreme importance of what it all means to each human being ....
I believe this will be one of our most important pieces of literature as we continue to do the job of preaching and teaching the full gospel of Jesus Christ - the unparalleled good news about the salvation of mankind through Jesus, and [editor: note the order] His prophesied Second Coming to establish the Kingdom of God.
The new emphasis on the person of Jesus alters what HWA taught concerning the church's purpose for existence. For HWA, the primary purpose of the church was not preaching Jesus. HWA taught that the church's primary function was to publish and broadcast the gospel of the coming Kingdom (or millennial government) of God "as a witness" to "modern Israel" and the world. (See HWA's reprint article "What is the True Gospel?")
A third major shift brought about by Tkach is a new emphasis on racial equality. While HWA's theology placed an emphasis on the special place of "modern Israel" (the English-speaking nations) in this world and in the coming Kingdom, Tkach seems to emphasize the equality of all races before God (see the May 11, 1987 Worldwide News, p. 1). This new concern for minorities is reflected in numerous church policies. For instance, last year's incoming freshmen class at Ambassador College, Pasadena, was composed of approximately 20 percent minorities. As one Ambassador coed told me on the phone, "Mr. Tkach is not living in the past. He is leading us into the twenty-first century."
Although some doctrinal changes, like those on healing and makeup, have been announced formally, many have not. Tkach and his team often allow new doctrines to be slipped into articles in church publications without any fanfare. In the same way, doctrines that Tkach doesn't care for are quietly de-emphasized or ignored altogether.
While HWA was adamantly opposed to the "positive thinking" philosophy of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller, a recent Good News article ("Someday Isle" by Peter Moore, in the July-Aug. 1989 issue) espoused essentially that philosophy. While HWA (often quoting Eccles. 9: 10) emphasized that you should strive for excellence in all things, one recent article in a WCG publication (the Nov.-Dec. issue of Youth 88) suggested that doing things in a slipshod manner is okay - as long as you are having fun. The article was appropriately titled "How to Play the Piano Badly." And, while HWA taught the doctrine of "church eras," many WCG members say that that doctrine has just disappeared. Apparently Tkach has said, "Don't even mention eras to me again." Clearly, Armstrongism is gradually evolving into Tkachism.
Perhaps as a result of the many doctrinal changes in recent history, WCG members, more than ever, are reading publications that are challenging the validity of current WCG doctrines. One small organization whose publications are having a big impact on the WCG is William F. Dankenbring's Triumph Publishing Co. Dankenbring, a former Plain Truth writer who still holds to many WCG doctrines, has written a string of articles that challenge a good number of WCG teachings. In Worldwide many have been reading his articles "Prove All Things - 35 Places Where the Worldwide Church of God Plunged Into Error!", "The Astonishing Prophetic Errors of Herbert W. Armstrong!", and "Who Is 'Shebna' in Bible Prophecy?" (in which Dankenbring sees Tkach fulfilling the role of Shebna in the prophecy of Isaiah 22:15-19). For a price list of Dankenbring's writings or for a free subscription to his Prophecy Flash newsletter write to Triumph Publishing Co., P.O. Box 292, Altadena, CA 91001.
Another publication that has caused a considerable stir in WCG circles is The Faithful Word newsletter. Published and distributed by a group of WCG members (some of whom have now been disfellowshipped), The Faithful Word has challenged the church's new healing doctrine, the use of white flour in Passover bread, the totalitarian nature of the WCG ministry, and other church teachings and practices. The Faithful Word newsletter has been widely disseminated at certain church feast sites and also may be obtained by writing to The Faithful Word, Box F-191, 323 S. Franklin Bldg., Chicago, IL 60606-7094.
The keeping of sabbaths - both the weekly and annual holy days of the Old Testament - are an important part of WCG teaching. Yet even in this area there is much questioning. A number of the WCG's best minds, for instance, are convinced that the church is calculating the dates of its annual holy days incorrectly. One individual in the WCG wrote us:
The Jan.-Feb. 1988 issue of The Good News contained an article on the calendar which provides a continuation of the deceit that originated under Armstrongism. On page 10, Mr. Neff writes, "God entrusted the preservation of the Old Testament Scriptures and the details of the calendar to the Jews. The Jews preserve these Scriptures and the calendar to this day." This is not true! Any Jewish Encyclopedia will admit that the Jews have made unscriptural changes in their calendar. The history of these changes is well known. The present Jewish calendar originated in Babylon no earlier than 359 A.D. All historians refer to it as the Jewish calendar. Books written by AC staff members call it the Hebrew calendar. But to the supposed dumb sheep, it is presented as God's calendar.
Mr. Neff describes details of this calendar, some of which are such "that certain of the feasts God established would fall on appropriate days of the week." Mr. Neff fails to mention that these feasts are Atonement (not really a feast) and Trumpets. Nowhere does scripture specify days of the week for any Feast but Pentecost. For their own convenience and through a process of evolution, the Jewish rabbis, the tradition of whom was condemned by Jesus, decided that Atonement should not fall on Friday or Sunday. This prohibits Trumpets from falling on Wednesday or Friday. Later Sunday was added to the days on which Trumpets was prohibited. Roughly speaking, the new moon in the seventh month occurs on these three unscripturally prohibited days over 40% of the time. This one error alone makes the Jewish calendar wrong over 40% of the time.
There are other unscriptural errors. Scripture requires that the first day of the first month be determined for the spring holy days. Due to the effects of the sun, the various months may vary by several hours from the mean length. So one can not always determine the first day of the first month by counting backwards 177 days from the first day of the seventh month, as the Jewish calendar proscribes [sic]. But it is a simple matter to look in an almanac to find the time of the new moon and convert to Jerusalem time. Then determine which evening it could be first seen.
Christian churches which adhere to the Jewish calendar do so in an attempt to avoid confusion. But to the best of my knowledge, only Armstrongism is deceptive about the history and evolution and name of the Jewish calendar.
Not only are the calculations of the annual holy days being questioned, some are questioning the way the weekly sabbath should be figured! Behind this line of thinking is former WCG minister Martin C. Filippello who, convinced that Tkach is the end-time "man of sin," had hoped and prophesied that Herbert W. Armstrong would be resurrected in January 1988 (see our Sept. 1987 and March 1988 issues). On March 8, 1989 Filippello ran a large ad in the Pasadena Star News in which he stated: "Is Saturday really God's Sabbath? Can you prove Saturday is God's Sabbath from the Bible? God's Sabbath (Gen. 2:1-3) must be the 7th day counted from the new moon (new month)." Filippello's theory apparently revolves around lunar cycle calculations. At least that is the impression we got from the free tape he offers via the Church of God Philadelphia Era, 1800 S. Robertson Blvd., #49, Los Angeles, CA 90035.
Finally, there is a doctrinal debate brewing concerning Herbert Armstrong's place in church history. Some are aware that during his early ministry (the 1930s and 40s) and later (during the 1970s and 80s) HWA displayed few, if any, signs of conversion. This observation seems to haunt a few who now rationalize that observation with the church's doctrine that HWA was the first person to preach the true gospel in 1900 years. To see God's hand in HWA's life - despite all his flaws - there is now the 18-year time cycle theory.
The theory goes like this: During the first 18 years of HWA's ministry (1931-49) HWA was not really converted. It was during this "cycle" that HWA had a long-term incestuous relationship with his younger daughter (see ARs 27 and 40). As a result, God did not bless his ministry. But, so the theory goes, when HWA stopped having sex with his daughter in the 40s, God began to work through him and, beginning in 1949, God blessed "the Work" with tremendous wealth. Then in 1967 when HWA's wife Loma died, HWA again reverted to seeking after young flesh, drunkenness and debauchery. Again, so the theory goes, God withdrew his power from HWA for 18 years. Beginning in 1967, however, God gave his spiritual power to none other than Joseph W. Tkach.
The 18-year time cycle theory raises a number of questions. First of all, if God is working through some alternating evil-good-evil time-cycle plan in the WCG, does that mean Tkach - now in his second time-cycle - is in a non-converted phase? Second, who was the originator of this theory? Could it have been Plain Truth editor Herman L. Hoeh, the man who originated the 19-year time cycle theory back in the 1950s? And if so, where did Hoeh get the idea? Certainly nowhere in the Bible do we find an 18-year or 19-year time cycle doctrine (although "time cycle" doctrines are central to certain eastern religions). Nevertheless, Tkach is said to be aware of the new time-cycle doctrine and has not criticized it. In fact, it appears that he may be convinced that in HWA's last cycle HWA was not converted. And some speculate it will be only a few years before Tkach turns HWA into a "non-person." Already, Tkach has ordered that HWA's magnum opus Mystery of the Ages no longer be distributed and, reportedly believing the book to be an evil influence, has ordered all remaining copies in storage to be destroyed.
Hope for the Dead
Ambassador Report frequently receives letters from WCG members who say they are unhappy in Worldwide, but fear leaving because of the church's doctrines on hell fire and the unforgivable sin. Not unlike certain other denominations, the WCG's teachings on hell fire instill in many a deep fear of disobeying the church's ministry.
Former WCG member David C. Strickland of Doncaster, England says that much of the fear experienced by WCG members is caused by a misunderstanding of a number of scriptural passages. Mr. Strickland did two years of research on the doctrines of salvation and hell fire and that research has resulted in a thought-provoking 89-page booklet. Entitled Hope for the Dead - All the Dead, Mr. Strickland's booklet should prove of assistance to many who wish to exit the WCG but feel doctrinally constrained from doing so.
Those interested in obtaining a copy should write the author at 20 Mutual Street, Hexthorpe, Doncaster DN4 OEF, England. Mr. Strickland has indicated that as long as his limited supply lasts he will provide a free copy to any AR reader who requests his booklet.
Greg Doudna's Showdown at Big Sandy
Greg Doudna, an alumnus of Ambassador College (Big Sandy 1972-75, Pasadena 1976), has written a remarkable 600-page book about the WCG and his personal experiences while a member. The title is Showdown at Big Sandy (Youthful Creativity Confronts Bureaucratic Inertia At an Unconventional Bible College in East Texas) and it is published by University Microfilms International, 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106. When ordered from the publisher the cost per copy for universities or their students (including postage and handling) is $30.25 paperback or $37.25 hard cover. For individuals not associated with a university the cost is $51.75 paperback or $61.75 hard cover.
Doudna's book is well-researched, very readable, and contains both a helpful bibliography and a very large "index of persons." Because of the high cost, those doing research on the WCG would probably find a complete set of AR more helpful (because our back issues cover more thoroughly the historical events covered in the Doudna book). However, those who were students at Big Sandy in the early 1970s will find this book very entertaining; those writing about the WCG will find this a useful reference work; and anyone with a friend or relative studying at Ambassador will find this book most helpful in that it shows what it is like to be a student at Ambassador College (and surprisingly, the atmosphere at both AC campuses has changed very little in the 13 years since Mr. Doudna was a student).
Those wanting copies of Mr. Doudna's book may obtain them by writing University Microfilms International (see above). However, Mr. Doudna has informed us that he has a very limited supply of paperback copies which he will sell at cost ($22 each) as long as his supply lasts. For information write to Mr. Greg Doudna, 973 W. Exchange St., Akron, Ohio 44302.
1989 Biblical Theology Symposium
A very unusual gathering took place in Pasadena, California the weekend of June 23-25. Sixteen individuals, from several states and as far away as England, met for two days of intensive study and discussion as part of what was called a 1989 Biblical Theology Symposium. The list of participants reads like a Who's Who roster of former WCG/AC evangelists, pastors, faculty members and administrative leaders: David Antion, Phillip Arnold, Anthony Buzzard, Al Carrozzo, Wayne Cole, Ronald Dart, Olin Degge, Charles Dorothy, Lester Grabbe, David Jon Hill, Charles Hunting, Brian Knowles, Robert Kuhn, Ernest Martin, Jack Martin, and James Tabor.
The Symposium was planned and sponsored by James Tabor and Robert Kuhn, and had no connection to any organization. The theme of the Symposium was "Twenty Years After." Kuhn and Tabor found it fascinating that all participants would have been in fundamental agreement on all basic biblical doctrines back in 1969, during the heyday of the WCG. But, they wondered, what about today, twenty years later? The only stipulation in making up their somewhat arbitrary and selective list of individuals to be invited was that each one have some kind of ongoing interest in biblical areas. Tabor explained, "We were not interested in current church affiliation or personal matters, nor in trying to hammer out some kind of agreement or harmony. We knew that many very different attitudes, approaches, methods, and conclusions would be represented by such a group. That was what we wanted and expected."
The sessions focused on three subject areas: Christology and Salvation, Prophetic Scenarios, and the Biblical Covenants. Three to four hours of discussion were allotted to each. Many participants prepared formal papers, most of which had been predistributed.
According to Tabor, the atmosphere was relaxed and enjoyable, with a good mixture of humor and earnest debate. Many of the participants had not seen one another for a decade or more and this personal aspect of renewed friendship turned out to be as valuable as any substantive exchange of views. "As it turns out," he said, "one could have hardly assembled a more diverse group in terms of the biblical areas we discussed."
Though the group represented various directions and achievements over the past twenty years, it is interesting that of the sixteen, six had gone on to earn accredited Ph.D. degrees from major universities. None of the participants are current members of the WCG. Although several WCG leaders were invited they declined to participate. Tabor and Kuhn hope that some of the papers presented can be edited and published in a small volume. They also stated that similar meetings might be planned for the future.
Tuit Leaves Worldwide - Again
In our last issue, we reported how John Tuit, the author of The Truth Shall Make You Free, had returned to the WCG. Shortly after that issue appeared, Tuit called us to say he had again left the WCG. He explained how he had hoped that under Tkach the WCG would be different. It didn't turn out that way. Said Tuit, "The package is different, but underneath there are the same spiritual problems." It's been months since Tuit stopped attending, but, he recently told us, "The local minister still hasn't called me to find out why."
This Joe Tkach can't be too bright! I've been an ex-WCG local elder now for several years - thanks a great deal to you people. But I can't help but think that if I had ever met this man and he started to tell me of his Navy experiences during WWII, I could tell that he was lying as soon as he started talking. To begin with, a DE is not a destroyer, but a destroyer escort. (Not to diminish the record of WWII DE's.) I served on a destroyer from 11/43 to 11/45 (USS Aulick DD569 Pacific). Anyone who served on a "can" during this time can cut his story to ribbons. Is he too dumb to even have realized this? He is a disgrace to the men who died aboard those gallant ships.
- Walt Scull, New Jersey
I think you misread your notes. On page 3, you state that I view Joe as a humble Christian who "sincerely believes he sits in Moses' seat." Joe never believed that he sat in Moses' seat. He used to sincerely believe that HWA sat in Moses' seat. I would appreciate your printing a correction in the next issue. I view Mr. Tkach as a humble Christian who "sincerely believed that HWA sat in Moses' seat." He no longer believes this.
- Robert Romagnoli, California
I'm really liking your article on Mr. Tkach. I don't like the title of your article, however. You should have added a question mark.
- Karen Griffin, Oregon
As you mentioned in your article, Slavic individuals often did not have middle names. That was so in my case as well. But after repeatedly being asked for my middle name in elementary school, I assumed my father's [Christian] name as my middle name. My middle initial E stands for "Efrem-ovich," i.e., "the son of Efrem." Perhaps Tkach, believing William to be equivalent or similar to Vasili, his father's [Christian] name, may have done the same thing.
- John K. Karenko, Illinois
Editor: The church's letter answering department has recently begun explaining Tkach's acquisition of the W in just that way.
I must tell you how close I was to "joining" WCG, to the point where I received an initial visit by two ministers (Mike Swagerty and Ron Dick - perhaps you know them). I mentioned before that since 1959 I was "hooked" on the literature, radio broadcast (less frequently) and tithing (when I was able). It was only four months ago that I contacted Pasadena and asked to see a minister! (Almost 30 years later, but I was ready.)
So what changed my mind? Well, one thing was the way I was received by Messrs. Swagerty and Dick. I mean to say that after 30 years of expectation, I was excited about finally meeting someone from the "true church." I received them as a child would - thrilled, happy, rejoicing, etc. But all they had to say was "read the literature again, look up every quote (Bible passage), call us back." Well, that was exactly what I'd been doing for 29 years, reading and re-reading every piece of WCG literature I could get my hands on!
Those two fellows were so remote, while I laid my heart open to them. They asked if I would trim my beard (which probably looked about as shabby as that of one of the sojourners to Canaan after 40 years in the desert). I said yes, I'll trim it, shave it, you name it, because I know the WCG's men are mostly clean shaven. I said I really wouldn't care to insult anyone, "just get me to the church on time!"
Ha! After they left, my wife expressed her shock and anger at these two from WCG. They did not speak with her at all, though she was in the room while they directed questions at me. Now, she asked, "Did either one of them grab you and hug you and say hello or God bless you? No!" (I, in my excitement, started to hug them when they arrived, but immediately got a cold signal.) Their visit and how it left me cold nearly shattered me. I mean, after nearly 30 years of waiting to meet another Christian?! And they just said call us again after you get all the answers down pat. Well, within days of their visit, I was led mysteriously to questioning the WCG. Almost magically a copy of Kingdom of the Cults was handed to me in a second-hand store - the price was 25 cents! I read it and boy was I surprised. I don't agree with the author so much, but it sure started me to questioning my idol HWA. Well no, actually I said, maybe he was in error about this or that but basically HWA is a good fellow. Hmm.... Next I discovered the AR. Just a couple of weeks ago, and whew! Now I am one of the thankful ones who never quite walked through that door. I have a 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter and a wife of six years - what would have become of them? My wife definitely would have balked at, or challenged, the HWA line. Somehow I was led here. Thanks for your help and work. I hope if we ever meet it will be a joyful experience, unlike the cold Swagerty and Dick meeting, which hurt me inside.
- Fred Burkhart, Chicago, Illinois
We lost our daughter to the WCG nine years ago now and haven't seen or heard from her in four years.
I have found your report very helpful. I will give the copies to my boyfriend, a WCG member. I am having a very hard time standing up and watching him change from a good, honest, patient, loving person into a cold, distant, critical person. He has been a member for six years, left about a year ago and went back after the Feast of Tabernacles came up. Since then, our life has been a living hell. He constantly stated he was determined daily to go back to the church, and I knew there was trouble when he snuck behind my back to speak to the minister to ask permission to get back into the church, after we had agreed to talk it over first. When asked if he really wanted to go back to the church, he replied, "No, but I don't know if I can stay away." I pray he will see the light. I am currently doing a complete study on the WCG and will give him the completed project. Hopefully it will open his eyes. I think your report is well worth it.... I am at the end of my rope. I almost can't take anymore, but I love him way too much to see this happening to him.
The WCG has ruined my wife's mind. She sleeps most of the day. I don't know what to do about it.
Editor: Your wife may be suffering from chronic depression. You may need to seek the advice of a doctor.
Please send a copy of Ambassador Report and any information that may help us. Our son has been taken in by this Worldwide Church of God. And we are very concerned that it is going to end his marriage.
That's it for AR42. Our next issue is almost ready. Hopefully we can get it out in six to eight weeks. We need your continued support, however, so please keep us in mind.
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