AR45 September 1990
Stressful Times Hit the WCG
Officially, the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) is not in a crisis. And the official portrait of WCG Pastor General Joseph W. Tkach continues to smile on the editorial page of his Plain Truth magazine. But even a fleeting review of the WCG's own publications for the last few months reveals that the WCG is going through stressful times. Not only is the WCG's income and influence in decline, but many members perceive their church as one being transformed into a spiritually limp and lukewarm version of what church founder Herbert W. Armstrong intended.
As reported in the June 4 issue of The Worldwide News (WN, the WCG's official newspaper), Ambassador College in Pasadena saw its fortieth and final commencement ceremony on May 18. Although many, including Dean of Students Greg Albrecht, were saddened to the point of being near tears, Tkach apparently saw the occasion in a more festive light. At the reception following graduation Tkach proposed a toast to the last Ambassador graduates of Pasadena and had 3,000 balloons released into the California sky. Tkach's attempt to make the day a happy experience for the campus' last graduating class was marred, however, when that evening's graduation ball was rudely interrupted. At about 10:30 p.m. a squadron of helicopters from the California Department of Agriculture buzzed the Pasadena campus spraying malathion, the toxic chemical pesticide being used to attack a local infestation of the Mediterranean fruit fly. As a result of the chemical bombardment, all of the food and refreshments being served outdoors at the ball had to be destroyed.
With the Pasadena campus of Ambassador College closed, the last remaining Ambassador campus is the one at Big Sandy, Texas. For most of the summer Ambassador employees were busy stripping the Pasadena campus of its books, desks, pianos, computers, and other moveable property for shipment to Texas. For the time being, Tkach is hoping to move much of the church's operations into the vacated buildings. For instance, the church's 24-member legal team, now renting office space on Lake Avenue in Pasadena, will soon be moving into what used to be the college's Fine Arts Building on Green Street (WN, May 7, p. 8). Nevertheless, such relocations appear to be only temporary.
Pasadena Property to Be Sold
Even though AR reported in March 1989 that Tkach intended to sell off the entire 70-acre Pasadena campus, until very recently WCG spokesmen flatly denied Tkach had any such plan. But then, on May 23, 1990, the Pasadena Star-News ran a front page article entitled "Real estate agent says Ambassador for sale." In it, real estate agent Ted Slaught of the Charles Dunn Co. of Los Angeles was quoted as saying it is "common knowledge" among community realtors that the WCG is going to sell its Pasadena properties. Slaught went on to detail how the property had been submitted to a number of domestic and foreign prospective buyers who had already made preliminary inspections of the campus. Ambassador spokesmen continued to claim that the campus was not being "listed" as for sale. But church spokesman Michael Snyder admitted to the Star-News that if the WCG received a "serious offer" it would be willing to sell all of its Pasadena real estate including Ambassador Auditorium (called the "House for God" years ago when contributions for its construction were being solicited). Finally, with WCG members asking a lot of embarrassing questions, Tkach was forced to admit (WN, June 4, p. 1) that he, indeed, did plan to sell off the entire Pasadena campus.
In actual fact, the WCG has already received a number of serious offers. One, by a group of Japanese businessmen, for $140 million was rejected by Tkach as too low. Tkach apparently is still hoping to get at least $200 million for the property. Most Pasadena-area realtors, however, say such a figure is unrealistic in today's rapidly deflating real estate market. But what a realistic figure would be is difficult to say. As recently as early 1989 an undeveloped three acres of land on the southeast comer of Orange Grove and Colorado boulevards in Pasadena was sold by a Pasadena Elks Lodge to Ramser Development for $11 million. Ramser intends to construct a $200 million luxury resort hotel on the property which is directly across Green Street from Ambassador College (Los Angeles Times, Real Estate section, Feb. 5, 1989). According to knowledgeable sources, Ambassador officials had made an $8 million bid on the same property only to lose out to Ramser.
Big Sandy Woes
With the Pasadena campus closed, Ambassador College educators are seemingly pinning all their hopes on the Big Sandy campus. But here, too, the WCG has run into big problems. As we reported in our last issue, Ambassador officials had hoped to see Big Sandy accredited within about one year. Now, however, Ambassador officials are privately saying that accreditation in the near future is unlikely. A policy change by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has resulted in a rule requiring colleges requesting accreditation to perform an 18-month self study before the association will consider an application for accreditation. The problem AC faces is that the State of Texas is requiring all colleges to be fully accredited by July 1991 (WN, May 21, p. 8). If unaccredited by that date Ambassador College will be closed down by the State of Texas. Moving back to California would not be an option because California's new anti-diploma-mill law is as stringent as that of Texas. Had Ambassador not left Pasadena the State of California would have most likely closed the Pasadena campus by 1991. No wonder some college officials are speculating that AC may eventually have to move to another country (Granada? The Cayman Islands? Sri Lanka?) if it is going to survive at all.
Accreditation is not Ambassador's only problem. AC's administrators have been so disorganized of late they have been unable to complete publication of a college catalogue in time for the new school year. Some recent AC applicants were dissuaded from pursuing an AC education when they were informed that an Ambassador College catalogue would not be available for them until after they were accepted for admission and had arrived on campus.
©1990 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.
Ambassador administrators have also been faced with delays in their construction program. One of our correspondents sent us the following:
Big Sandy, Texas - As construction of additional classroom and dormitory facilities on the Big Sandy campus of Ambassador College continued to fall behind schedule, college officials recently gave approval for the general contractor responsible for construction to begin working on Saturdays to meet the deadline set by the college. Until recently, the Worldwide Church of God, which owns and operates the college, had required construction to cease each Saturday, which the church observes as its Sabbath. The reason for the change in policy was the need to complete the classroom and dormitory buildings in time for the start of the new fall semester beginning in September.
Income: Negative Growth
The future of Ambassador College is but one of the many problems being faced by Tkach. Church income is way down. Church Treasurer Leroy Neff has confided to friends that he is very pessimistic about the WCG's financial future. Neff has reported that contributions to the church's building fund (for Big Sandy) "are low and even less than last year" (WN, March 19, p. 3); that the WCG's spring holy day offerings were down 10.6 percent compared to last year (WN, May 7, p. 3); that offerings at Pentecost were down 7.5 percent (WN, June 18, p. 8); and that overall WCG income for the first half of 1990 was down 0.4 percent. Wrote Neff, "It is probably the first time since the early or mid 1970s that we have completed the first half of the year with such a low figure" (WN, July 16, p. 3).
Not surprisingly, the WCG is having to cut back in many areas. A few examples: There is apparently no more World Tomorrow on radio anywhere (WN, June 18, pp. I and 4). The WCG has been forced to discontinue its telecast's toll- free WATS telephone service, a development Tkach somehow sees as "quite encouraging" (WN, May 7, p. 1). Tkach has taken the WCG's telecast completely off the air in Australia because: "The World Tomorrow is perceived [in Australia] as an American religious show, with accompanying negative attitudes, particularly in light of the American televangelist scandals. Audience levels [for The World Tomorrow] on Sunday morning are so low they are virtually immeasurable.... In addition, airing costs have spiralled to unacceptable levels..." (WN, May 7, p. 1).
Australia may not be the last area to be deprived of the WCG's telecasts. Tkach has stated: "I'm not saying we're thinking of doing away with television. But somewhere along the line - five or ten years from now - as television rates continue to escalate, we may be forced to" (WN, June 18, p. 1). Some insiders feel it will be a lot sooner than five years before Tkach takes the telecast completely off the air. Whether or not David Hulme, the WCG's leading broadcaster and media expert, will then decide to start his own television ministry remains unclear.
Plain Truth Cut Back
The Plain Truth (PT) magazine is another medium being cut back by Tkach (WN, June 18, p. 1). Actually, unknown to most WCG members, the PT's circulation has been quietly diminished a number of times in the last few years. One reason has been the ongoing campaign waged by many Christian groups and former WCG members to continually empty PT magazine racks of their contents thereby making the WCG's magazine rack campaign very expensive. We have heard of some regional groups which have repeatedly removed and destroyed thousands of PTs every week. We know of a number of Canadian groups who each claim to have removed over 25,000 PTs per year in a number of Canadian cities. And some anti-cult groups have even resorted to removing entire PT magazine racks.
We've heard of one ex-WCG member back east, for instance, who was so distraught over his many wasted years in Worldwide that he frequently suffered from insomnia. On such nights he would get into his pickup and drive about town looking for PT magazine racks emblazoned with the words "FREE-TAKE ONE." So he would-the whole rack, that is. He would repeat the process throughout the night until his pickup was completely filled with PT-loaded magazine racks. He would then head for the city dump. Only afterward was he able to go home and sleep peacefully.
No wonder the WCG now frequently bolts its magazine racks to the sidewalk without even asking permission from nearby store owners or city officials (Philadelphia Enquirer; May 6, 1987; p. 2-BJ). And in Britain, at least, the WCG is adding a threatening message to its racks:
Warning: The magazines on this stand are provided free of charge to all having a genuine wish to read them. Any persons removing the same for other than genuine reasons may commit an offence rendering themselves liable to prosecution.
We have even heard that the WCG's lawyers have sent threatening letters to individuals they have suspected of removing PTs for reasons they did not consider "genuine."
Incidentally, while we at AR can fully appreciate the strong feelings of many anti-WCG activists and while successful defenses might be raised in litigation over the kinds of anticult activities described above, we do not recommend or advocate such activities. The WCG has First Amendment rights like the rest of us; those rights should be respected. More important, we don't want to see well-meaning zealots embroiled in costly legal battles even if they eventually "win." Nevertheless, with all of that said, we have been told by sources privy to Plain Truth planning that the activities of many anti-cult activists are the main reason Tkach has decided to cut back the church's magazine rack program and the circulation of the Plain Truth magazine.
The Shifting Sands of WCG Doctrine
As reported in past issues of AR, since 1986 Tkach has changed numerous WCG doctrines. He has done flip-flops on healing and medicine, makeup, birthdays, church eras, and the nature of the true gospel. Many WCG members had hoped that the rate of WCG doctrinal change would have slowed by now. Nevertheless, Tkach has made it clear that many more changes are on the way.
In a bitter editorial in the WN (May 21, p. 1), Tkach, displaying the bullheadedness for which he is becoming famous, was emphatic that he is going full steam ahead with his (and his inner group's) agenda for changing the WCG. Without naming names, Tkach lashed out at "predatory prophets" who continue to criticize his deviations from the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong. Openly stating that HWA was wrong about many things, "especially having to do with prophecy" (p. 6), Tkach attacked his critics with statements such as:
I am sorry to have to say it, but certain ones who were once among us have now set themselves up as special "prophets," or "watchmen" of the Church or the nation, using fiery language to proclaim that "This is the end!"... But these would-be prophets want to change God's love into a yoke of bondage. They want to lead the unsuspecting right back into the very errors that Jesus warned the ministry about in Matthew 20:25-28. They lust to be lords over God's people. They want to lure people into their web of power, authority and fear in order to exercise dominion over them, all promising bigger and better spiritual rewards.
The ministries that have openly criticized Tkach for deviating from HWA's teachings and then lying about it include: Triumph Prophetic Ministries (William F. Dankenbring, whose powerful writing in Prophecy Flash! newsletter continues to dismantle the Tkach facade brick by brick), Box 292, Altadena, CA 91003; The Church of God International (Garner Ted Armstrong, son of the WCG's founder), P.O. Box 2530, Tyler, TX 75710; The Faithful Word newsletter (which has caught Tkach in scores of lies), Box F-141, 323 S. Franklin Bldg., Chicago, IL 60606-7094; and The Philadelphia Trumpet (Gerald R. Flurry and John R. Amos, two ministers who recently exited the WCG and distribute Flurry's 83-page book Malachi's Message, a scripturally based critique of corruption at WCG headquarters), P.O. Box 1787, Edmond, OK 73083-1787. Ironically, while none of these four ministries seem to subject their followers to fear tactics, claims of extravagant spiritual rewards, or totalitarian yokes of bondage, such descriptions do perfectly fit the WCG!
Some current WCG members are not happy with the way Tkach is changing many of the doctrines taught by HWA. One couple, Mr. and Mrs. Jules Dervaes (P. O. Box 92322, Pasadena, CA 91109), have parked their sign-laden van near Ambassador College in Pasadena every Saturday for the last two years. Tkach saw to it that they were disfellowshipped.
Even more deplorable than Tkach's repeated mischaracterizations of competing ministries is his increasing willingness to legally harass those critical of the direction his new WCG is taking. Notice this excerpt from a recent letter put out by The Faithful Word group:
We took this issue to our mailing service, only to be told by a PRIVATE mailing service that they could not mail the FW any longer. It seems they had been traced down and harassed by attorneys from California and Chicago who represented a large church. They were apparently told the FW held "conflicting beliefs with a major religious organization" (whatever that is) and possibly even [committed] mail fraud!....
We are apparently just one more in a long line of "dissidents" who are finding that MONEY ANSWERS ALL THINGS! To those who can afford to retain large "litigation teams" in most of the major cities of the United States, reaching up to swat down "flies" like us (who still care about the TRUTH) is no more than a minor irritation!
Truth is not even an issue to these people! Money - income - is the ONLY issue! Income has become their only means to measure their righteousness. "Gain" has become their "Godliness." They glory in their (faithless) shame.
Other religious groups have similarly been harassed. For instance, Richard C. Nickels of "Giving and Sharing" (see below) was warned in a letter from WCG attorneys that he should no longer distribute copies of Herbert W. Armstrong's famous booklet 1975 in Prophecy. What possible legal basis the WCG could have for such a demand is unclear because in the 1960s many thousands of copies of the booklet were distributed without the copyright notice required by Sections 10 and 19 of the Copyright Act of 1909. The booklet should therefore be properly viewed as in the public domain. Nevertheless, Tkach clearly does not want it distributed.
Most WCG members are oblivious to the full extent of change Tkach intends for the WCG. But some idea of how extensive that change will be can be seen in a comment made by WCG PR man Michael A. Snyder in a February 1, 1989 letter to author Dr. Ruth Tuker. He wrote:
...Three years ago Joseph W. Tkach, the minister who succeeded Mr. Armstrong, instituted a wide-ranging review of all published literature, which is still underway (there are more than 100 published titles). Herbert Armstrong's book, Mystery of the Ages, has been pulled from circulation pending a doctrinal review and the book The United States and Britain in Prophecy has been reissued in a new revised edition.
Because the WCG's doctrines are expounded upon through its official publications and because each publication clarifies at least one or two major doctrines, the fact that "more than 100 published titles" are being reviewed would logically infer that at least 100 WCG doctrines are up for grabs. One WCG insider, however, has confided to AR that the number of WCG doctrines that need to be revised is closer to 300!
While some doctrines have been openly changed, many have been secretly modified. This has been accomplished by rewriting older articles by HWA and others while leaving their by-lines on the revised articles. A look at the copyright notices on many newly printed WCG books and articles is quite revealing. For instance, on the WCG reprint "How to Be an Overcomer" there now appears the following odd copyright notice: "Original text by Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986) © 1953 Worldwide Church of God" - not the standard form of notice. Obviously, many old articles - and doctrines - are being doctored.
Of the scores of doctrinal topics now in flux, prophecy seems to be particularly foggy to Tkach. While The World Tomorrow still devotes time to the subject and while letters by Tkach to his Plain Truth readers tout the WCG's understanding of Bible prophecy (see his May 1990 letter, for example), in private Tkach seems to be convinced the church is no longer in HWA's "gun lap." He has told friends Germany may not unite shortly, that a United States of Europe may be further off than anticipated, that a temple may not be built in Jerusalem, and that Christ's return may be far in the future (on the latter, see WN, April 23, p. 1). Other ministers at church headquarters seem similarly confused. Note what one recent Ambassador graduate wrote to AR:
I heard a tape by evangelist Ron Kelly a while back in which he made jokes about prophecy, and essentially (almost directly) admitted that "we" (students of Bible prophecy) know so very little about prophecy that it is almost useless to study it. You just wait until it happens, I guess, and then you find it in some obscure passage in Ruth or Obadiah or somewhere. If that's the case then what is the point of Gene Hogberg's "Worldwatch" in the WN? To state each month that which is obvious - that Europe is going to unite? Only an idiot would say it is not. My church friends in California are mesmerized by events in Europe, as if that is proof of Bible prophecy [being fulfilled]. My goodness, where does it say in the Bible that 12 nations (plus maybe three, four, or five more from the east) are supposed to form a new mega-market in which the U.S. (supposedly Manasseh) is irretractably intertwined, and four of whose members (Britain, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands) are "Israelite"?
The significance (or lack thereof) of race and the way in which the world's races should interact is another doctrinal area undergoing sweeping changes in the WCG. Whereas HWA saw the Anglo-Saxon "race" as having a special past and future historical role, Tkach increasingly emphasizes the complete equality of all races. Whereas HWA was known to have refused to marry interracial couples, Tkach has stated that while his church is not trying to encourage interracial marriage, he now strictly prohibits ministers from refusing to marry a man and a woman because they are of different races (WN, July 30, p. 1).
As Tkach himself acknowledged (p. 5), the topic of interracial marriage is an emotionally charged one in WCG circles. Even in the Church of God International, once thought to be more "liberal" than the WCG, interracial couples have had difficulties being accepted by fellow church members and have even been denied marriage by some ministers. For instance in 1986 when CGI ministers refused to marry one CGI couple because he was white and she was black, the couple was forced to go to a Baptist minister to have their wedding performed.
The couple, now Mr. and Mrs. (C. A. and Doreen) Foland, left CGI to help found the Sabbath-keeping Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is pastored by former WCG minister Ross May. The Folands have appeared on a number of talk shows and their personal trials have been documented in newspapers. Those interested in knowing more about their story or in hearing a tape they distribute called "Grace and Race," which deals with the difficulties inherent in interracial marriages, should write to Mr. C. A. Foland at 223 N. Lynn St., Indianapolis, IN 46222.
More Oxen, More Ditches
Some WCG members suspect that Tkach is in the process of watering down the WCG's Sabbath doctrine. Help Net (see AR44, p. 8) has speculated that the WCG's new emphasis on the "wave sheaf" and on Christ having risen to heaven on a Sunday (see WN, March 6, 1989, p. 5 and The Good News, May/June 1988) may be a precursor of greater tolerance for Sunday worship. Tkach's recent decision for construction to be done at Big Sandy on Sabbath days has further upset some members who feel working on the Sabbath is a direct violation of the fourth commandment and that this is another sign that their church is becoming lukewarm. The following letter from a Big Sandy WCG member is typical of a number we have received:
In July, Mr. Tkach flew in to give a sermon, right before leaving for Kenya. His sermon started with a question: "It's the Sabbath, it's winter, and your furnace just broke. Would God want you to fix it, or have your family be cold and suffer? No, he'd want you to fix it. It would be considered an ox in the ditch. Well, we here at the college also have an ox in the ditch. We will not be able to open classes this fall on schedule and that may cause problems with the accreditation program. It may be that we will have to ask the outside crews to start working on the Sabbath."
The very next Friday night after sundown men laying carpet were still at work. The following morning a local contractor, Scott Zhorne, and another builder, both WCG members, had full crews at work pouring concrete and doing other labor. Then just this week a subcontractor contacted a local independent contractor who is in Worldwide and asked if he would help on a big job that needed to be finished. When asked where and for how many days, the member was told it was for AC and it required working seven days a week until the job was completed. The member declined.
The first thing many at Big Sandy say about this is, "So what? They did it with the House for God [in Pasadena]. What's the big deal?" So I asked evangelist Ron Dart about this. He said [Sabbath work on the House for God] caused a great problem within the ministry. The conclusion reached was that DMJM [the firm building the House for God] had been given a contract with complete control from architect to the finished product. The church was not involved in any decisions such as hiring or firing of employees, deciding how the job was to be done, etc. The difference now is that the church and college are the contractors. They do the hiring and are working side by side with outside crews. Church personnel have been brought here to oversee projects (Jem Wendt, for instance, for air conditioning) and to supervise the crews who are really the "stranger that is within thy gates" [Ex. 20: 10, Deut. 5:14].
Since they announced in the Pastor General's Report last fall that you could own a McDonald's - just so long as you yourself don't work on the Sabbath - what does the Sabbath now mean?
Here at Big Sandy the church does have the control over hiring workers and deciding when work can be performed. They could have worked two consecutive shifts per day by stringing lights. There are plenty available from the oil field suppliers that can turn night into day. Working on seven Sabbaths will not help the college that much. But they have just relaxed one more of the fundamental doctrines of the church.
Recovering Gays Welcomed
Church teaching about homosexuality is another doctrinal area feeling Tkach's liberal touch. In the past, the WCG put out articles and booklets that not only condemned the "gay lifestyle," but did so in very blunt terms. Now, some claim, Tkach wants the WCG to avoid being abrasive on the topic. Some who have written the WCG's headquarters in the last six months asking what the church's position is on homosexuality say the church never even answered their letters. Apparently, the subject of homosexuality is undergoing doctrinal review.
More than a few WCG members have expressed surprise over a recent article that appeared in an official WCG publication with Tkach's full approval. "Hope for Homosexuals" by WCG minister Dennis Luker (The Good News, May/June 1990) reveals the WCG ministry's changing attitude toward gays. While still labeling homosexuality as a sin, gone is the kind of authoritative language that once described homosexuality as particularly loathsome. Luker quotes I Cor. 6:9-11 to show that homosexuality is no worse than other sins. He then writes (on p. 25):
God in past ages has called homosexuals into his Church, and he is doing so today!
The big question is, Will you as a member of God's Church have the love, compassion and understanding to accept these brethren and help them grow spiritually?
Some may feel that homosexuality is the worst of sins. But notice what Christ said in Matthew 11:23-24....
Luker goes on to explain how he has counselled many gays and how "Not all fit the description of Romans 1...." Most gays he's known, says Luker, were just "victims." They just didn't get enough love from their parents, he says. (It's interesting that while the WCG is ostensibly critical of modem psychology, Luker relies on behavioralist and Freudian concepts to explain away why gays are gay.) Luker then goes on to explain why those with AIDS are welcome at WCG services and quotes Tkach: "Let's not be so unduly terrified about this disease [AIDS] that we lose our Christian perspective about extending the right hand of fellowship to our own brethren."
Are homosexuality and AIDS really as widespread in WCG congregations around the country as Luker's article implies? "I don't think so," said one former WCG minister and Ambassador College instructor. "At least I don't think it's been that big a problem among the general membership. But I wonder now about Headquarters. Dennis' article reminds me of the kind that used to come out in church publications before scandals broke in the press - the kind of article that was used to prepare the members for the upcoming shock of revelations from the news media. Now they've got me wondering what is really going on down there in Pasadena."
Yes, a lot of us are wondering.
Ambassador Foundation Continues to Entertain the World's Wealthy
Ambassador College in Pasadena is gone, and The World Tomorrow may not have a tomorrow, but the Ambassador Foundation's 1990-91 concert-opera-ballet-entertainment season is in full swing. The Ambassador concert schedule, which is heavily subsidized by the WCG and provides thousands of free tickets to some of California's wealthiest music lovers, has become a mainstay of the Southern California cultural scene. The Foundation's 1990-91 season lineup includes:
At least five different symphony orchestras, including the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields with Sir Neville Marriner (recently honored with an award from Tkach); numerous opera stars, including June Anderson and Mirella Freni; more than a dozen great pianists, including Andre Watts and Ivo Pogorelich; violinists Pinchas Zukerman and Nidja Salerno-Sonnenberg; cellist Mstislav Rostropovich; flutist James Galway; the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra in 17 different programs; numerous chamber ensembles, including the Juilliard String Quartet; guitarists Julian Bream, Christopher Parkening, Manuel Barrueco, and The Romeros; numerous ensembles specializing in pre-Baroque music; the Koslov Youth Dance Ensemble of Moscow; actor William Windom (as Ernie Pyle); the Jose Greco (Spanish music and dance) Company; Opera A La Carte doing "The Pirates of Penzance"; the Vienna Choir Boys; the Pirin Bulgarian National Folk Ensemble; the New England Ragtime Ensemble; The Shanghai Acrobats and Imperial Warriors of the Peking Opera; Keith Brion and his Peerless Sousa Band; Ballet Folklorico Nacional de Chile; The Soviet Acrobatic Revue; The Canadian Brass; Cab Calloway, the Nocholas Brothers, and the Rhythm Kings; Jim and Jesse and the Virginia Boys; Chet Atkins; the David Grisman Quintet; jazz great Billy Taylor; singers Tony Martin and Barbara McNair; The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra; Mel Torme and the McGuire Sisters; Larry Elgart and his Manhattan Swing Orchestra, the Modem Jazz Quartet; jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour; jazz saxaphonist Scott Hamilton; and many, many more.
One Southern California music afficionado has called the Foundation's cultural program "an absolute delight, a veritable orgy of entertainment pleasure." Leading Southern California music critics have not always been as enthusiastic. For instance, see Martin Bernheimer's "Beckmesser Awards of 1988" (Los Angeles Times, Calendar section, Jan. 1, 1989) where the Foundation received his "Stretch-the-truth-in-advertising award," and Robert D. Thomas' column in the June 25, 1989 Pasadena Star-News in which the Foundation was accused of being "heavy on hyperbole." Nevertheless, Ambassador Auditorium is recognized as an acoustical gem (see "A Fabulous Hall" in the Los Angeles Times, San Gabriel section, Feb. 4, 1990), and many of the artists who perform there are unquestionably first rate. Those who would like a free color brochure describing the Foundation's 1990-91 season can obtain one by calling the Ambassador ticket office's toll-free number (which remains operational): 1-800-CONCERT.
The above photo of Tkach paying his respects at an idol-filled Buddhist temple appeared in The Worldwide News, May 5, 1986. We know of not even one WCG member who questioned why Tkach would ever be at such a place.
While the Ambassador concert series remains very popular with Southern California's wealthiest music lovers, the Foundation has WCG-subsidized projects to assist the wealthy in other parts of the world, as well. A two-page Ambassador Foundation advertisement that appeared in the Los Angeles Times (Calendar section, Feb. 28, 1988) stated:
The Foundation has also provided major funding for: renovation of the Royal Opera House, Covent Gardens [London, England]; restoration of buildings of The Royal College of Music [London] and the construction of a new opera theatre; The Variety Club of Great Britain; [and] commissioning Sir Michael Tippett to compose a work for guitarist Julian Bream which received its world premiere at Ambassador Auditorium.
The WCG's income is dropping, but the Ambassador Foundation continues to spend vast sums on Tkach's whims. According to one of our journalist friends at the Times of London, one project in England, helping to build a replica of Shakespeare's Globe theatre, has received a Foundation commitment of one half million dollars. And that is but one
overseas Foundation project.
Back in California, the Foundation has chosen a new spokesman for its television commercials. He is actor Patrick Stewart who plays the Captain of the Starship Enterprise on the new television show Star Trek: The Next Generation. In one of his commercials, the TV spaceman tells viewers to come to Ambassador Auditorium to "celebrate the greatness of the human experience." Patrick Stewart is a very fine actor, but what his Ambassador Foundation commercial has to do with what the Worldwide Church of God claims is its purpose - the spreading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ - is anybody's guess.
Is the WCG Becoming "New Age"?
AR frequently receives letters from readers who wonder if the WCG is becoming a "New Age" religion. A number of religious writers suspect that it is. Texe Marrs in his book Ravaged By the New Age - Satan's Plan to Destroy Our Kids (Living Truth Publishers, 1989) unequivocally classifies the WCG as a New Age cult. The Help Net group (P.O. Box 811, Merrill, WI 54452) points out how the WCG habitually uses New Age terminology such as "new world order," "human potential," etc. Phillip Arnn of the Watchman Expositor (P.O. Box 7681, Columbus, GA 31908) frequently writes about New Age movements and, while not actually calling the WCG a New Age group, has written that the WCG's "God Family" doctrine derives from Hinduism. Finally, Richard C. Nickels of Giving and Sharing indicates in his March, 1990 newsletter that the WCG now has many of the characteristics of a New Age organization.
According to some who have known him for over 40 years, Dr. Herman L. Hoeh, the WCG's most influential theologian, has been a lifelong student of Eastern religions. He apparently invited a Buddhist to speak at the WCG's Feast of Tabernacles two years ago and has traveled to the Orient to partake of Eastern philosophy. That may be so, but does that make the WCG a New Age church?
The term "New Age" does not really apply to any one well-defined movement, but to many movements, religions, and cults that often espouse doctrines that are incompatible with one another. Generally speaking, "New Age" is an umbrella term used to describe a large number of religious philosophies having their origins outside of the traditional Western Judeo-Christian heritage. New Age philosophies often include elements of Buddhism, Hinduism, Gnosticism, reincarnation, astrology, the human potential movement, the belief that man will become God, and the belief that an enlightened mankind will soon experience a new world order or "new age" of love, peace, and prosperity.
An analysis of what the New Age phenomenon is all about and a discussion of whether the WCG is really a part of it is beyond what we can cover in a newsletter. But for those who really are interested in the subject, we recommend the book Understanding the New Age by Russell Chandler (Word Publishing, 1988). According to the book's publishers, "The New Age is probably the most widespread and powerful phenomenon affecting our culture today.... Its pervasive philosophy influences sociology, theology, the physical sciences, medicine, anthropology, history, sports, and literature. In fact [Chandler] concludes, nothing is exempt - not even churches and synagogues. New Age ideas have percolated into major corporations, political action groups, schools, health clinics, and the military. With careful research and clear analysis the author explains the New Age perception of the human mind - crucial to understanding this 'hybrid mix of spiritual, social and political forces.'"
The WCG's New Spirit and Style
Many of the changes taking place within the WCG are quite substantive - doctrinal changes relating to prophecy, race, and sex, for instance. But there are also many smaller changes that of themselves may not appear to mean much, yet when taken as a whole indicate the WCG's new spirit and style.
Take, for instance, the Plain Truth's new ad campaign. In Harper's we recently saw the following headline in a PT ad:
"All men by nature desire to know."
"As we acquire more knowledge, things do not
become more comprehensible but more mysterious."
-Albert Schweitzer, Philosopher-
What is going on here? Certainly Aristotle is worth reading (especially the Ethics and the Politics), but since when has the WCG become one of his fans? HWA used to condemn Aristotle's writings as constituting one of the underpinnings of Roman Catholicism.
As for Albert Schweitzer, the famous humanitarian, missionary, physician, organist, musicologist, and Christian theologian, his works are also worth reading. But since when has the theology of Schweitzer had much in common with that of HWA? Not surprisingly, a number of WCG old timers have expressed surprise over the Plain Truth's new ad campaign.
Some members have also been expressing surprise over some of the political alliances the WCG has been making of late. One example: On April 17, the United States Supreme Court decided one of the most important religious freedom cases heard by the Court in recent years. In Employment Division of Oregon vs. Smith, 494 US___, 108 L Ed 2d 876, 110 S Ct ___, the Court held that the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not bar a state from prohibiting the use of the drug peyote in religious rites, nor does the clause bar a state from denying unemployment benefits to persons discharged for such drug use. The Court's decision drew harsh criticism not only from American Indian tribes who use the drug, but from many large religious denominations, as well. Nevertheless, on June 4, the Supreme Court, issued a one-line order denying a petition for a rehearing of the case. Among the many organizations that supported the petition for rehearing were the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the National Council of Churches, and the Worldwide Church of God (Los Angeles Times, Religion Section, June 9, p. F 13).
There was a time when the WCG was viewed as a fairly pacifistic organization. Some now wonder, however, if that is changing. In the last few years the security force at Ambassador-Pasadena has been beefed up considerably. It is difficult to drive near the Pasadena campus now, even on Saturdays, without seeing the church's hefty, black-uniformed officers circling the campus or patrolling blocks away in their squad cars complete with roof-mounted police search lights. No mere security men, these; all nine are either "sergeants," "lieutenants," or "captains" (according to the WN, March 5, p. 5).
Some Pasadena-area residents have complained how, while strolling near the campus, they have been stopped by Ambassador patrols and asked to identify themselves. Is that legal? From what the Pasadena Police Department tells us, apparently it is. Maintaining good relations with local police departments is, for Worldwide, probably a very smart thing to do. And in Big Sandy such is clearly the policy. The college there recently gave the Big Sandy Police Department a free car (WN, July 16, p. 8). Money can buy you security. (Is that what the Bible teaches?)
One of the things that money can clearly buy is state of the art technology. Ambassador College was recently nominated for a Computerworld Smithsonian Award for developing a computer system called "Swiftnet," which uses a personal computer-controlled telecommunication switch that allows people who work at home to communicate, via touch-tone telephone, with supervisors thousands of miles away (Los Angeles Times, San Gabriel section, June 17, p. 9 and Computerworld, June 4). A number of computer experts we talked to said they were uninformed about the full capabilities of the new technology. But one speculated that such a system could be utilized by Worldwide to put members to work at personal computers in their homes or to more closely monitor local church members' or ministers' activities.
Are You In a Cult?
Media Spotlight is a California-based Christian organization and newsletter that monitors the media from a Christian perspective and reports on what the media is pumping into the minds of Americans. In 1980 they published an outstanding special report by Albert James Dager on the traits most often found in aberrational Christian cults. The article asked 26 questions (listed below) to which an affirmative answer indicates a potential cult characteristic. Of the 26 characteristics often found in aberrational Christian cults, an astonishing 25 clearly apply to the WCG!
DOES THE CHURCH YOU BELONG TO:
(1) Have, at its head, a single person or group of persons who claim exclusive apostleship from God? (2) Believe itself to be the only true church? (3) Teach that all other Christian churches are part of the world system and are under the influence of Satan? (4) Operate in a secret or semi-secret manner, shunning outsiders except as they are invited by members? (Many times such organizations will seclude themselves in rural areas or, if in the city, will enclose their grounds with high walls, hedges, or iron fences and gates.) (5) Teach that no other church has the special revelation of God's purpose or working that they have? (6) Teach that you should not use your mind in an attempt to understand the deep spiritual truths that they impart, but you should learn to experience the "reality" of God or Jesus through techniques such as repetitious use of His name or some other procedure? (7) Tell you that you should not question what your leaders are telling you, but that you must trust them because they have been given a special position of authority or ministry from God? (8) Require or at least urge you with firmness to get into the flow of things through constant contact with your fellowship to the exclusion of all others with the exception of using only necessary contact with outsiders for the purpose of witnessing? (9) Teach you that should you leave their fellowship you will backslide, fall into Satan's hands, become ill, get divorced, or have some other calamity befall you as part of God's judgment against you? (10) Teach that you must love each other but that you must hate God's enemies - defined as your enemies because only you are on God's side? (11) Teach that there are other true believers in the world but since they are not part of your fellowship, they are in "darkness," "confusion," "Babylon," etc.? (12) Have its own teaching aids and/or Bibles and require that you shun all others as containing error, using primarily theirs as being the only ones having the whole truth? (13) Teach that if you are faithful to this true church you will find special favor with God so as to be delivered from the great tribulation while He pours out His judgmental wrath upon all others? (14) Teach that if you remain faithful you will one day be like God and will possess His nature - that you will be exactly the same as He? (15) Teach that you should discard your own opinions and assume the opinions of the elders because they are in your best interest? (16) Require that you give a substantial portion of your income to it or to its leaders? (17) Require that you donate your time and talent as free labor for the needs of the body in order to be considered a member in good standing? (18) Teach that you must cease thinking as an individual and begin thinking corporately, assigning your will to the will of God as defined by your elders? (19) Teach that everyone is "out to get you" and that you must be willing to sacrifice all you have including your life, if that is necessary, for the sake of the group? (20) Shun those who have left the fellowship for whatever reason and teach that they are "reprobate," "dogs," "heathen," "publicans," or some other derogatory term? (21) Cover up or ignore the sins of its leaders or its leaders' families while coming down hard on its members for their indiscretions? (22) Have a reporting system that suggests you reveal the faults or discontentment of others in order that they may be "protected" from error and kept on the right path? (23) Engage in public fights against its enemies and employ non-Christians to fight its battles for it through harassment or litigation such as lawsuits? (24) Teach that its leader is the revelator of God's truth for today - that the true Church has not functioned since the first century but has been restored by your leader? (25) Maintain such an identity with its leader's ministry so as to make the two indistinquishable? (26) Claim that its leader is the second coming of Jesus Christ and that he will usher in the Kingdom of God for all those who follow him?
Those who would like to obtain a complete copy of the Media Spotlight article referred to above or who would like to learn more about this fine organization should write to: Media Spotlight, P.O. Box 1288, Costa Mesa, CA 92628.
Joseph W. Tkach...
Editor: Since beginning this serialized article on the WCGs current Pastor General, AR has continued to receive letters from readers offering insights into Tkach's background and personality. For this issue, I am interrupting my narrative in order to publish a few interesting comments from some of those letters.
Dear Mr. Trechak:
In your March 1989 issue I read how Mr. Tkach's official birth certificate shows that he was born on March 16, 1927, but how in church publications he claims he was born on March 16, 1926. As soon as I read that in your newsletter I looked up those dates in my copy of Arthur Spier's The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar [Behrman House, New York, 1953]. I think I may have come across the reason Tkach is lying about his birth date. On the Hebrew calendar, March 16, 1927 was the twelfth day of Adar II. That day is not a special day. But March 16, 1926 was the first day of Nissan, the first day of the first month of the sacred year!
Editor: My thanks for your keen observations and interesting theory. One comment about Tkach's real birth date. There are a number of biblical scholars, including a few in Worldwide, who see great mystical significance in numbers associated with names and dates. One Bible numerologist I know claims the number 12 is associated with "organized beginnings" and the number 13 with "rebellion." The month Adar II is, of course, a 13th lunar month of the Hebrew sacred year. That being the case, some numerologists read Tkach's true birth date as foreboding some type of "organized beginning of rebellion." I am not a numerologist. Nor do I know the considerations that went into Tkach's choice of a fictitious birth date. I have heard, however, that Tkach is superstitious and know that he is aware of the supposed mystical significance of certain numbers.
I recall that back in the late '60s, when Tkach was acting as overall evaluator in the Pasadena Spokesmen's Club I was attending, it was widely rumored that his wife was suffering from a brain tumor and that it was the cause of her very abnormal behavior. At one particular meeting, when it was reported that his wife was missing from their home, Tkach related how his wife had to be locked inside her home to prevent her from wandering away. However, many in the church at the time said that Mrs. Tkach disagreed with how her husband was acting in the church and that she knew something that would embarrass her husband and the church. So Tkach started the rumor about her having a brain tumor and he kept her confined to her room. I understand that at some point she eventually left him and went back to Chicago for a while.
In your December issue, you quoted a Robert Skaggs about how Mr. Tkach supposedly did some pretty horrible things to his wife years ago. I asked one of the ministers about this and he said you made it all up, that there was never a real Robert Skaggs. Is that true?
Editor: Why don't you ask Mr. Skaggs yourself? He is the editor of Bible Truth Research, R.R. 1, Box 140, Underwood, IN 47177.
The gas station at Colorado and Rosemead Boulevards [tied to the Pappageorge crime ring, see AR43] is where Tkach would always send me to rent trailers to move widows when I was head of the church moving team. No wonder!
-Ken Nagele, California
At a recent [evangelistic] campaign, Garner Ted Armstrong privately told a man that Joseph Tkach makes $500,000 per year. Do you have any knowledge of Mr. Tkach's annual salary?
Editor: No, I don't, nor do I know where GTA got his information. Even if it's only an estimate, however, it may be accurate - even conservative. Back in the days when the WCG was grossing less than $80 million per year, HWA got a yearly salary of over $200,000. Stanley Rader, the church's attorney and CPA, would justify such remuneration by pointing to a number of California corporations with revenues less than Worldwide's and top executives whose salaries were greater than HWA's. Tkach, today, can argue that Worldwide's yearly revenues exceed $200 million. He can also point to the fact that in 1989, while the average California worker received a pay increase of 5% (barely enough to keep even with inflation), the state's top 100 corporate executives received pay increases averaging 46.5% (Los Angeles Times, Business Section, May 27, 1990). The Times wrote of those top executives: "That 46.5% pay hike means the average California executive earns. $1,711 an hour.... Five years ago, seven-digit pay packages were relatively rare. Now, any chief executive of a large corporation seems to get one" (Ibid., p. D7). If Tkach really is making $500,000 per year (and I would be surprised if he did not), he would just be going along with the rest of society. And that is what the WCG is all about today. Isn't it?
Chris and Denise Patton in Prison
It is with much sadness that we report Ambassador alumni Christopher J. Patton and Denise Morrow Patton are now serving prison sentences in North Carolina.
Many Ambassador alumni of the early '70s will recall how the Pattons briefly served the WCG in Jerusalem and how Chris also taught archaeology for a time at AC. In the '70s Denise and Chris went into real estate and later also into securities. By the mid-80s, the two were no longer in Worldwide, but became connected with Garner Ted Armstorng's Church of God, International, from which Chris obtained ministerial credentials. Unfortunately, the Pattons used their many contacts among WCG and CGI members to entice dozens of trusting people into giving them huge sums of money and real estate to be "managed" by them. They then embezzled funds, sold bogus government bonds, forged mortgages using imposters' names, and persuaded two dozen clients to invest $600,000 in an imaginary shopping center and a fictitious housing development.
For a time the Pattons seemed to have it all. They had a beautiful home, money, investments. He drove a Mercedes, she a Maserati. But in early 1988 Chris discovered Denise was having an affair with Joseph Warren Hertzler, the son of a local church family. Not only was Denise having an affair with Hertzler, 13 years her junior, she made him vice president of her mortgage company and lavished him with expensive gifts. In September 1988, out of jealousy, Chris went to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and confessed that he and his wife had been embezzling from their clients. Then, this year, after pleading guilty to 26 counts of conspiracy and obtaining profits by false pretenses, Chris was sentenced to 5 years in prison, Hertzler to 10, and Denise to 15 (which in North Carolina's system of justice means they could all be out by 1992).
In the meantime, Chris has lost his SEC license and is on a leave of absence from his editorship at the Southern Sentinel (now the Jerusalem Sentinel, a publication of the United Biblical Churches of God with whom he joined after having his ministerial credentials revoked by CGI). In May, Chris married a 17-year old woman after he and Denise divorced. Denise says, however, that she still loves Chris, even though he has tricked the State Bureau of Investigation, framed her, and opened a Swiss bank account. Authorities say about $3 million is missing and may never be recovered. Those who would like to know more about this sordid mess (and of the dozens of naive church people who lost their life savings to these charlatans) can read the details on page one of the Feb. 4, 1990 edition of The News and Observor (215 South McDowell St., Raleigh, NC 27602).
More Researchers Writing About WCG
The number of scholars, theologians, and writers researching the WCG continues to grow. We've recently heard of two that our readers may wish to know about.
Dr. John M. Lubinda. (The University of Zambia, School of Education, P.O. Box 32379, Lusaka, Zambia) is a former WCG member who is writing about his experiences in Worldwide. We have not yet been informed when, or if, his manuscript will be published.
Mr. Neil O'Connor (Castle Treasure, Douglas, Cork, Ireland) is studying at St. David's College, University of Wales, which is Britain's oldest theological university apart from the divinity schools at Oxford and Cambridge. The title of his doctorate thesis is: A Comprehensive Analysis of the History and Doctrines of the Worldwide Church of God, Together with a Critique of the Latter from the Viewpoint of Early and Modern Orthodox Christian Thought. He stresses that his thesis will not be an expose of the WCG in the potboiler sense, but a reasoned presentation of all available evidence.
Mr. O'Connor writes that he is having some difficulty in obtaining all the research materials he needs. He wonders if any AR readers would be able to loan him material such as early member and co-worker letters by HWA, pre-1970 Plain Truth and Good News magazines, and copies of The Worldwide News (all years). If any readers are able to assist Mr. O'Connor in any way, please write to him at his Ireland address given above.
Genesis 2000 Update
In the March 1989 issue of AR we reported on and recommended Genesis 2000, an outstanding new theological journal edited by Prof. James D. Tabor. Because only one issue was ever produced and because we know how difficult it is to keep any periodical alive, we recently asked Prof. Tabor if he would update us on his plans for the journal. Here is his response:
Several hundred readers wrote in response to the March 1989 Ambassador Report article and copies of the original pilot issue of our publication were sent out. Unfortunately, supplies were quickly exhausted. No further issues of the journal have yet been published. However, during 1989 there were a number of significant developments and there are some exciting plans in the works for 1990 and beyond.
First, the nonprofit organization, Genesis 2000, Inc., which publishes the journal, Genesis 2000, received tax exempt status from the Federal Internal Revenue Service. In this day of corporate fraud and religious rip-offs, getting such status is no easy matter. It involves literally hundreds of pages of documentation and a lengthy review process. However, as of May 1989, all gifts to Genesis 2000, Inc. are fully tax deductible. The editors and board of the corporation are prohibited in the by-laws from ever receiving salaries or any personal gain from any aspect of the operations, and the corporation remains committed to distributing all publications free of charge. In terms of "business sense," this policy does not make much sense. But I feel sure that many Ambassador Report readers will agree with me, given our past experiences in various religious organizations, that this is a refreshing policy.
Second, the corporation, Genesis 2000, with the help of gifts from the Kuhn Foundation and the Reunion, Inc., sponsored the 1989 Biblical Theology Symposium held in Pasadena, California, as reported in the September 1989 Ambassador Report. This meeting brought together former top leaders of the WCG for a weekend of intense discussions and dialogue. This summer, through various private gifts, as well as another generous gift from the Kuhn Foundation, Genesis 2000, Inc. will sponsor archaeological and historical research in the Dead Sea Cave area in Israel, including in-depth reports on what various orthodox Jewish groups are doing with reference to rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. Those on the mailing list will receive a full update on these efforts.
Finally, 1989 brought some important physical changes and adjustments in upcoming plans, forcing a delay of some projects and all publications. I took a new teaching job as professor in the Department of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I had previously been at the College of William and Mary. That necessitated all the changes, both legally and physically, required by such a relocation from Williamsburg to Charlotte, NC. These matters are almost settled as of this date. The move has put us terribly behind with publication plans, but by October 1990, things should be in full operation again.
Plans are to publish a quarterly newsletter, detailing various news and projects of Genesis 2000, Inc. Then, rather than a formal journal like the sample issue sent out in 1989, we will publish a series of in-depth biblical and philosophical articles which will be mailed to all on our list as they come out. The first, titled, "Neither Jew, Christian, Nor Moslem: Restoring Abrahamic Faith," will be mailed out in late October, funds permitting. Others which are already planned and mostly written, but not yet printed are: "The Holy Scriptures: Which Bible? Whose Canon?"; "The Five Fundamental Flaws of Evangelical Christianity"; "The Jesus of History and the Christ of Christianity"; "Faith, Reason, and Revelation in the Modem World"; "Jesus and the One God of Israel"; and a dozen or so others. Every year or so these articles will be gathered together and published in book form.
As explained in the pilot issue of the journal, Genesis 2000 is dedicated to exploring the implications of biblical faith, as primarily reflected in the foundational Hebrew scriptures, in the late 20th century. It is the position of the editor that the so-called "New Testament" is a kind of extended Rabbinic pesher or midrash on the foundational "Holy Scriptures," or Tankh (Hebrew Canon) - intended primarily for the Greek/Gentile world. The editor is dedicated to bringing the best of historical research to bear on the study of ancient Jewish and Christian origins, cast in the framework of the modem world and our essential questions.
So, there is my answer. Genesis 2000 is alive and well, but adjusting temporarily to its move to the Carolinas and its initial startup tasks. Interested parties can still write using the P.O. Box 754, Williamsburg, VA 23187 address (we still get mail there) or to me directly: Prof. James Tabor, Dept. of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, NC 28223. We will have a Charlotte box number later in the year. Those who have previously written to Genesis 2000 in response to the Report's original article are on our mailing list and will automatically receive publications beginning in October of this year.
-James D. Tabor
Richard C. Nickels: Giving & Sharing
Richard C. Nickels is a former WCG member who, after a short time with Raymond Cole's Church of God, The Eternal, began his Giving and Sharing ministry around 1978. Readers may find his services of value because, besides offering Bibles and Bible-related books at discount prices and publishing a newsletter dealing with topics of interest to Sabbath and Holy Day-keeping people, Mr. Nickels publishes "family trees" for the Worldwide Church of God, the Sacred Names groups, and the Church of God Seventh Day showing their historical roots and their offshoots. For those who would like more information about Mr. Nickels' publications, write to Giving and Sharing, 4673 Onondaga Trail, St. Charles, MO 63303-7328.
Strickland on "The World's Greatest Hoax"
In our September 1989 issue we mentioned Dave C. Strickland's 89-page book Hope for the Dead - All the Dead. A number have since written us expressing how that book helped them to understand and overcome the effects of the WCG's fear-inducing teachings on hell fire and the unforgivable sin. Now Mr. Strickland has written another book which he believes will be beneficial to those WCG members who live in fear of the so-called "Great Tribulation." The intriguing title of his new 56-page book is The World's Greatest Hoax! (Why the Christian and non-Christian world is on line to fall for the greatest deception of all time). Those who would like to receive a free copy should write to the author: Dave C. Strickland, 20 Mutual Street, Hexthorpe, Doncaster DN4 OEF, England.
No Tithes to Be Paid This Year?
As most Bible students are aware, the Jubilee Year (Lev. 25) is an important Old Testament teaching. The WCG, however, really makes no effort to apply the Jubilee Year doctrine. Perhaps that is because a logical inference of the teaching is that no tithes should be paid or collected during Jubilee Years. Now, one zealous Bible student has put out a small, but interesting, paper which calculates the 69th Jubilee Year as being from the end of the Feast of Tabernacles, 1990 to the end of the Feast of Tabernacles, 1991. Those who would like copies of his research on this topic should write: David Rydholm, 1512 Lebanon St. SE, Lacey, WA 98503.
I have just finished reading Tkach's "Personal" column [in the May 21 WN]. When I read "change is a hallmark of growth and one of the important elements of God's true church," I began to get a queasy feeling. While we all know some changes are necessary at times (usually very minor), it is what is being changed, and how drastically, and for what purpose that can become alarming, very alarming.
When those changes bring a spiritual organization into lockstep with the spirit of our time, one no longer need wonder about the source. This course in other institutions in our country has been almost universally followed, and you see what we have.
When Tkach quotes HWA as saying no large denomination has publicly admitted error and changed their teaching, and uses this statement to back up his desire to make as yet unspecified changes of doctrine in Worldwide, then they both are wrong. Many, if not all, of the large denominations have done so in this very century. And, perhaps the largest of all denominations, Communism, has just done so on a colossal scale (HWA did properly include Communism as an organized religion). The historic truth is that among most of what used to be fundamentalist denominations, change has been so drastic and so public that only a few of those denominations still even claim to be fundamentalist, and there is a real question about them. Many, even of those who used to be Calvinist, are ordaining women, and even homosexuals, all in the name of change. If inching change moves in the direction of humanistic liberalism, and most does, then it becomes dangerous. Architects of such change are not ministers of God, but rather represent the god of this world, who is very powerful and very persuasive. (It should be much more difficult to change basic doctrine than to change the United States Constitution.) In fact, men can't change God's law at all. They can only say they have such power!
It is distressing to hear these apostles of change suggesting understanding of the identity of modem nations, with emphasis on Israel, is not a fundamental teaching and perhaps not of much importance. The book of fundamentals (foundational truths) is the book of Genesis, which lays down the foundations of all humans, with a strong emphasis on "the fathers," Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their offspring. Paul wrote that one of the purposes of Christ's first coming was to "confirm the promises made to the fathers" (Romans 15:8), those fathers being Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
One should not let a personal bias blind one to this vital truth, without which one cannot understand the full meaning of "judgment, mercy and faith." While salvation is certainly individual, it happens within the framework of nationhood or "the promises made to the fathers" - themselves national promises. The context of Matthew 23 is national, fully as much as it is individual.
Was there a "lack of judgment, mercy and faith" in Worldwide during the days of Herbert Armstrong? Absolutely. But such lack in no way neutralizes the doctrine under discussion here.
Of repentence mentioned by Tkach, one can only wish there were such among Worldwide's leadership - repentance of major violations of the real basics - the ten commandments! But I suppose that would be asking too much. We shall see what God thinks in due course.
For someone in the business of religion to play down current happenings in Europe is to court disaster. To ridicule the "watchman" responsibility or the "Ezekiel message" must be placed in the same category.
P. O. Box 35982
Tulsa, OK 74135
In the August 1989 PT there is a letter from an A. Lange, Doncaster. This being my own town, I managed to locate the writer, a teenage girl named Alison. She told me the PT is disgusting. When I expressed surprise at her comment, she explained how the PT editors had added a sentence to what she had written and that it was contrary to what she would have said. I wonder how many other letters to the PT are similarly doctored.
I recently read a church brochure containing all the names and pictures of the WCG ministry. I was curious to see who had remained "loyal" to the church among those I've known.
It struck me that if you eliminated the black and Spanish ministers and looked at the surnames of the remainder, then you notice how a large percentage of the remaining "loyal" ministers have Germanic surnames! (There are also quite a few Irish surnames!) I hope this doesn't sound racist. But there are racial characteristics or traits, and the Germanic personality is known to be very orderly and likes society to be run in a strict legalistic fashion. Could this be the reason so many are determined to be in the WCG to the bitter, bitter end?
What is finally causing me to write is a comment concernign the Cottam family [AR43, p. 10] who let their son starve to death. You noted that this was because they did not want to "disobey their church's dictates." As a Seventh-Day Adventist I can tell you that was not the case. The media always likes to make stories sensational. You can find the true story by writing to the SDA office in Reading, Pennsylvania. The facts are that the family was no longer connected with the SDA church. Cottam had once been a pastor and either resigned or was let go. The family became introverted and would not accept visitors or help from the church or anyone else. It was obviously a dysfunctional family with deep psychological problems, but no one knew how bad it was. It is not known how they planned to "give their money to God." Of course, the media have reported they were on a religious fast. Frankly, I have never known a Seventh-Day Adventist to go on a religious fast. (Some need one!) It would be nice to think that Seventh-Day Adventists are dedicated tithepayers, but only about 50 percent or less are and they do not become fanatical about it.
Editor: Thank you for the clarification. I ran the story on the Cottam family exactly as it came off the AP wire. Nevertheless, considering that I have known many SDAs over the years and have found those I've know to be fine Christians, and certainly not fanatics, I should have questioned the exact wording of the AP story. Nevertheless, my main point was not to criticize that denomination, but to simply show that some people will put fanatical devotion to a religious teaching above the safety and well-being of their own children.
John, you may not have heard this one. St. Peter was conducting a tour of newly welcomed entrants at the Pearly Gates. There were spirit people in groups and St. Peter was asked who the various groups were. He explained that one group was Catholic, one Baptist, another Lutheran, etc. Then they came to a high wall where people could be heard talking on the other side. Someone then asked St. Peter who those people were and he replied, "Oh, not so loud. Those are the Worldwide Church of God people. They think they are the only ones up here."
Thank you for the Report. It is good to know what the WCG is up to. I was there about 34 years. I learned a lot - some good, some not so good.
Between my wife and I there remains the usual problem, she being a blind Worldwide follower and I trying to show the truth of the matter. To her nothing is true unless WCG says so. We are both on Social Security and she has doctor's bills over her head, but WCG comes first.
Maybe my daugther and son-in-law would have come out of that cult if the truth had been brought to light on that con operation. They've belonged to WCG since 1975 and show no sign whatsoever of coming to their senses. I've got all kinds of literature, books, and tapes disproving the false teachings they've swallowed but, of course, they refuse to either read or heed. You might as well talk to a brick wall than to a member of the Worldwide Church of God.
I am enclosing a small gift as thanks for your work. You saved me from possibly joining the WCG. If not for your reports, I just might have done it, with disastrous consequences.
I am seventy years old and put in 25 years in Worldwide, but I am free now.
We'll have to close this issue at this point as it's all we can afford for this quarter. Hopefully we'll have another issue out by around the middle of December. My thanks to those readers who are still interested in, and supporting, our publishing efforts.
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