AR48 May, 1991
Tkach: "I'm Born Again!"
Worldwide Church of God (WCG) Pastor General Joseph W. Tkach is continuing to implement his now not-so-secret agenda of transforming the church founded by the late Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA). In the January 28, 1991 issue of the church's newspaper The Worldwide News (WN), one of Tkach's ghostwriters, under Tkach's by-line, wrote how WCG members are already "born again." Summarizing the new doctrine, the WN article stated: "...when the Bible speaks of a person as being 'born again' it is speaking of Christian conversion, not of the ultimate Christian inheritance" (p. 6). While the new WCG position completely contradicts a major HWA teaching, Tkach's ghostwriter explained that HWA simply didn't understand the subtle difference between the Greek words gennao and sullambano. But Tkach does, supposedly.
Just how many HWA teachings have now been changed by the Tkach cabal is difficult to calculate. An article in the Nov./Dec. issue of Gerald Flurry's Philadelphia Trumpet (P.O. Box 1787, Edmond, OK 73083) reported that Tkach had already changed 26 HWA doctrines and policies. But since that article appeared, there have been more changes. For instance, those now requesting the WCG booklet The United States and Britain in Prophecy are being informed that that booklet is no longer in print. And WCG public relations man Michael Snyder has predicted that within a year the doctrine found in that booklet will probably no longer be taught by the WCG.
Another HWA teaching that is being questioned is the WCG's nontrinitarian view of the Godhead. There is now an official "study paper" on that doctrine being circulated among WCG ministers. Official church spokesman Michael Snyder, interviewed on the religious radio program Talk From the Heart (broadcast Dec. 13 on WMUZ, Detroit), stated that all WCG doctrines are now under review. His comments regarding the WCG's God-is-not-a-trinity teaching seem to indicate there may be a change in that WCG doctrine in the near future.
With Tkach Sr., Michael Feazell, and Tkach Jr. making the WCG's public image their top priority, and with WCG public relations man Michael Snyder busily cooperating with mainstream Christian media around the world, it's no wonder so many think the WCG has become a nice organization. The announcer on Talk From the Heart referred to the WCG positively as "moving toward orthodoxy." Even former WCG minister Richard Wiedenheft, now the editor of The Sabbath Sentinel, was made hopeful by Snyder's performance. Wiedenheft ran edited excepts of the Snyder interview in the February 1991 issue of the Sentinel (RD 1, Box 222, Fairview, OK 73737) and also published an editorial that praised the supposedly great courage of Joseph Tkach in bringing change to the WCG.
However, when we listened to a tape of the interview, we noticed Snyder admitted that WCG leaders were "preparing new doctrines on prophecy," but also said that a Christian baptized in a Protestant denomination did not necessarily have to be baptized in the WCG in order to join, denied the WCG was exclusivist, denied HWA was ever guilty of plagarism, and denied Tkach uses ghostwriters. While the WCG has made some changes, one thing hasn't changed. The WCG hierarchy is still not being honest with the general public or even with its own members.
The WCG, the Buddhists, and the Quayles
The WCG's unquenchable hunger for acceptance by the world often puts its ministers into strange relationships. For example, the Feb. 11 issue of the WN reported (p. 8):
Monks in the Wat Thai (Thai Temple) in Los Angeles commemorated the fifth anniversary of the death of Herbert W. Armstrong here Jan. 16.
Attending the ceremony were evangelist Herman Hoeh, Plain Truth editor; Raymond Epperson from the Ambassador Foundation; [and WCG assistant pastor] Leon Sexton....
Isn't it odd that WCG members are forbidden to attend services at any Protestant or Catholic church, yet WCG ministers may openly participate in reincarnation rituals at an idol-filled Buddhist temple?
An important part of the WCG hierarchy's agenda has long been to develop contacts high in government. So when the June 4, 1990 issue of the WN briefly mentioned (p. 12) that WCG evangelist David Hulme met on April 26, 1990 with Marilyn Quayle, the wife of the U.S. Vice President, we didn't suspect there might be any special significance to such a meeting. But then we read Suzanne Nicole's article "Qualye & Armageddon" in The Freedom Writer (Sept./ Oct. 1990, published by Simon, Porteous & Associates, P.O. Box 589, Great Barrington, MA 01230). Nicole reports how Mrs. Quayle, her parents, and quite possibly her husband take a great interest in Bible prophecy and have come under the influence of "a far-right preacher named Colonel Robert B. Thieme, Jr. of Houston, Texas." Nicole wonders if Thieme's views are making inroads into the Bush administration via the Quayles. The theory that the Bush administration may be subject to the influence of certain religionists is not farfetched. The Los Angeles Times (Feb. 7, 1991, pp. E1 and E2) reported that the White House had ordered six copies of fundamentalist preacher John F. Walvoord's book Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis (Zondervan). According to Jonathan Peterson, a spokesman for the book's publisher, the six copies were "for the President and his men." With top government officials taking such a serious interest in Bible prophecy and with WCG evangelists regularly courting those officials, could it be that we will one day have a U.S. President who is influenced by the WCG's leaders?
© 1991 Ambassador Report. Published irregularly (as finances allow) as a Christian Service. ISSN 0882-2123
John Trechak, Editor & Publisher
Founding Publishers: Robert Gerringer, Bill Hughes, Mary E. Jones, John Trechak, Len Zola, and Margaret Zola.
More Evangelists Stifled
We have previously reported how WCG evangelist Roderick C. Meredith is no longer allowed to preach. Now, the Tkach cabal has stifled two more evangelists: Ellis LaRavia and Norman Smith. It is not yet entirely clear what they have done to deserve being banned from WCG pulpits, but we should find out by our next issue.
Ambassador Gets an Alumni
Association - of Sorts
A number of AR readers have asked us what became of the Ambassador College alumni organization founded about five years ago by Bob Boyce (see AR38). We tried to find out. But letters sent to that organization's post office box and to Boyce's home have come back marked "undeliverable as addressed" and phone calls to Boyce's phone answering machine were never returned. Sources in Texas tell us Boyce's alumni association is no more.
A new Ambassador Alumni Association, however, was recently formed by Ambassador College. The premiere edition of its new Ambassadors quarterly newsletter ($15 per year for very little information) revealed that the association will be used to assist alumni in getting their employers to make donations to Ambassador. Not all Ambassador alumni, however, will get to join this unique alumni association. Jim Marion, AC-Pasadena's student body vice president in 1983, recently wrote us the following:
Here's a fine example of Ambassador "glasnost." At the home of one of my WCG relatives, I saw in The Worldwide News a short article about the new Ambassador Alumni Association. Thinking that joining this would give me a way to keep up with the accreditation drive, I sent in a letter asking for information. I'm interested in the accreditation drive because I have a faint hope that someday the college from which I graduated might become accredited and add somewhat more respect to my resume. Other than this, I have little desire to associate with WCG members.
The attached letter from Tom Delamater, public relations officer, is what I got in reply. It seems Ambassador has redefined the concept of an "alumnus" from "an Ambassador College graduate" to "an Ambassador College graduate that is a believing, practicing church member." Wouldn't it be a shame if intelligent, educated Ambassador College graduates became exposed to different philosophies of "wayward" alumni? Well, what did I expect?
2305 Knighthood Ln.
Garland, TX 75042
Here is Ambassador's reply:
Thanks for your letter of January 22. We have, indeed, established an alumni association at the college.
In the organization of the alumni association, the college, in cooperation with the Worldwide Church of God, has established the following policy: To be considered for membership in the alumni association, an alum must be in harmony with the philosophies and principles of Ambassador College and its principal sponsor, the Worldwide Church of God. However, alumni shall not be required to adopt such philosophies or principles as their personal religious convictions.
You and Jan are listed in the Church's records as disfellowshipped. Therefore, we ask that you begin the process of applying for membership in the alumni association by contacting the pastor of the Worldwide Church of God congregation nearest you. His name is Allen Bullock, and his phone number is (214) 495-6659.
Thanks, Jim, for your interest. Say hello to Jan.
Thomas R. Delamater
As "the church lady" of "Saturday Night Live" would say, "Now isn't that special?"
Actually, the letter Jim Marion (and many other nonWCG alumni) received was tame compared to what AR's editor got when he wrote to the alumni association. Not only would AC not take his $15 for a subscription to the association's newsletter, but they didn't even suggest he contact a local WCG minister.
Mystery Mailers Ask for $200 Million
During the last quarter of 1990, many Ambassador College alumni and WCG members received an unusual flyer in the mail. It was mailed by a mysterious Kansas City organization called Save the Pasadena Ambassador College Campus Fund (SPACCF). The mailers wrote that they wanted to "raise $200,000,000 as quickly as possible" (wouldn't we all!) supposedly "to buy the [Pasadena] campus from Joe Tkach...."
While saving the Pasadena campus may be a worthwhile goal, SPACCF's promise to open the campus "for all those who would enjoy visiting and possibly rooming on the campus for brief periods throughout the year" sounds a lot like what jailed evangelist Jim Bakker once promised those contributing to his Heritage USA theme park. Furthermore, while SPACCF hopes for individual contributions of $1000 and up, their flyer insists that contributions be made only via U.S. postal money orders.
Even more disturbing is the fact that the persons behind SPACCF refuse to identify themselves. Their flyer states that they cannot reveal their identities "for obvious reasons." SPACCF has no phone listing in the Kansas City metropolitan area and their flyer gives only P.O. Box 413186, Kansas City, MO 64141 as an address. When we wrote directly to SPACCF asking for information, we received no response. When we phoned Kansas City postal officials asking for the name(s) registered for that box, we were informed that Box 413186 was registered to an individual or individuals, not to an organization doing business with the public. Therefore, in conformance with postal regulations, the box holder's name(s) cannot be given out.
Suspecting that something was not "kosher" with SPACCF, we contacted the Post Office's Postal Inspection Service in Kansas City. After more than four months of investigation, the Service has still not been able or willing to provide us with the name(s) of the holder(s) of SPACCF's post office box.
The Office of the Secretary of State for Missouri told the Report that there is no Save the Pasadena College Campus Fund registered in Missouri as required by the fictitious name regulations of that state. The Missouri Attorney General's Office has told AR that anyone who contributed to SPACCF and has a complaint should contact the office of Mr. William L. Webster, Attorney General of Missouri, P.O. Box 899, Jefferson City, MO 65102 (tel. 816-531- 4207).
Plache Released From Prison
Former Ambassador College Dean of Students and WCG minister Richard Plache, convicted in 1988 of 18 counts of mail fraud and SEC violations (see AR41), has been released from the Federal minimum security prison at Lompoc, California. He is currently in a halfway house in the San Diego area. During the Christmas Season, Plache sent his friends and followers a six-page "prison epistle" that began with "....So let me begin by extending 'grace and peace to you from God our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.' This is a gift which I give to you and is priceless in value." The letter ended with, "It is my prayer that you all will have a blessed holiday season and that the new year will truly be 1991-derful! May God richly bless you in all your ways. In His love, Richard."
The FBI Files on the WCG
Have you ever wondered what information on the WCG might be found in the files of the FBI? Kentuckian Gene Bailey has. And his curiosity prompted him to contact FBI offices around the country to request copies of their files on the WCG under provisions of the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA," 5 USCA Sec. 552).
Unfortunately, while the FOIA seems to hold out much promise for investigators, utilizing it can be time consuming. Bailey has had to wait well over a year to receive the first release of documents since his initial request. And utilization of the FOIA is not without financial costs. The FBI has charged Bailey plenty just for photocopying and he has also incurred attorney's fees. Furthermore, the FOIA does not really make all government held information accessible. The FOIA provides numerous loopholes or exceptions whereby the government may withhold information at its own discretion. For example, the government may withhold information when it feels its release would jeopardize an ongoing investigation, national security, or the concealment of a confidential informant. The government may also withhold information which it feels impinges on a living citizen's privacy rights. Where files contain information about a living individual, the government generally will not release that information without the individual's permission. Thus, in order to get the FBI's files on Joseph W. Tkach, one would have to obtain Tkach's written permission. Bailey has written to Tkach requesting such permission, but "The Apostle" never responded or cooperated in any way.
In spite of the numerous exceptions and restrictions built into the law, Bailey has discovered much by utilizing the FOIA. For instance, the FBI's office in Los Angeles has admitted that they have seven main files pertaining to Herbert W. Armstrong and two main files pertaining to the WCG. One of those files originated in and was coordinated by the FBI's Atlanta office. Other filed investigations were reported to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.
So far, the FBI's Los Angeles office has given Bailey 72 pages of information. Most of those pages are heavily censored with blacked-out sections. The Los Angeles office also informed Bailey that they are withholding 164 pages of information in their entirety. The FBI has not even hinted what those 164 pages contain.
In addition to the Los Angeles office, other FBI offices have files on the WCG. The FBI's Washington, D.C. office has informed Bailey that their office has about 500 pages of information about HWA and the WCG. There is an additional 112 pages dealing with Ambassador College, the Plain Truth, the World Tomorrow, and Stanley R. Rader. The government originally told Bailey he should have all the documents he requested by March. But they have now informed him that it will take another three to four months for the government to decide how much, if any, of the remaining files can be released. The government has stated that the large file on HWA is designated as "classified" for national security reasons. Whether or not it will be declassified and released to Bailey remains to be seen.
It is not surprising that the FBI should have taken an interest in HWA. While we were never able to verify the allegation, it was rumored for years that certain members of HWA's entourage were smuggling illegal drugs into the U.S. by concealing the powdery substances in sealed canisters of World Tomorrow video tape and in the bulkheads of the WCG's corporate jet.
But Bailey has learned from the FBI that other federal investigative agencies have had files on the WCG. Those agencies, the FBI said, include the Air Force's Special Investigations Office and the Central Intelligence Agency. Regarding the latter, one CIA employee told Bailey that after each meeting with foreign leaders during the 1970s and early 1980s Herbert Armstrong and his Jewish attorney-accountant Stanley R. Rader had probably been debriefed by the CIA and that there would be files on those debriefings. But now, however - months after being told by the government that the CIA had files on the WCG - Bailey has been told by the CIA that no such files can be found!
In addition to contacting numerous federal agencies, Bailey has written to the secretaries of state for the 50 states in an attempt to ascertain exactly who the corporate agents of record are for the Worldwide Church of God, Inc. and the Church of God, International, Inc. in each of the separate states. As a result, Bailey made some startling discoveries. In a number of states, the agent for both the WCG and the CGI are the same individual - a current WCG minister. In one case the agent listed for the CGI was never in the CGI headed by Garner Ted Armstrong and is now deceased. For Minnesota, there are two agents listed for CGI: an individual who is no longer in either CGI or the WCG, and Ralph Helge who is actually the chief attorney for the WCG. Even more curious is the fact that in some states (Utah, for example, in a state filing dated April 19, 1982) the list of CGI directors includes the names of such WCG luminaries as Ralph Helge, Ellis LaRavia, and Raymond McNair and their addresses are all listed as 300 West Green Street, Pasadena, California. It is difficult to fathom what possible excuse can be given for the maintenance of such legal confusion. Certainly one has to suspect some kind of chicanery is involved. While we reported back in 1978 (AR 6) how the WCG was trying to tie up the name "Church of God, International" so that Garner Ted Armstrong's new church would be inconvenienced, since then GTA's Tyler, Texas organization has clearly become known everywhere as "the Church of God, International." With WCG people in Pasadena still registered as doing business under the same name it is quite conceivable that property left by will to Garner Ted's CGI could eventually wind up in one of Worldwide's CGI shells.
Bailey is continuing his investigations and says he hopes that by mid-September all his requests for documents from the various government agencies he has contacted will be processed. He also says he would be willing to provide a photocopy set of all those documents to anyone who will send him enough to cover his printing and mailing expenses. Ralph Helge has already sent in a check. Those interested should write to: Gene Bailey, P.O. Box 1144, Nicholasville, KY 40340-1144. However, Mr. Bailey emphasizes that at this time he has no way of knowing exactly how much information will be contained in the government files yet to be reviewed. It may turn out that very little will be released.
Hopefully, within four months we will have had a chance to look over those documents ourselves. We hope to provide our readers with a synopsis of their contents in a future issue of Ambassador Report.
HWA Remembered (Part IV)
One of the most intriguing aspects of the life of Herbert W. Armstrong was his frequent visits with the heads of state and/or top leaders of many nations: Israel (very often), Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, India, Nepal, Singapore, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Kenya, Thailand, South Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, Belgium, Spain, Austria, West Germany, Great Britain, Romania, and Communist China.
Because HWA met with such communist leaders as Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania (in October 1971) and Deng Xiaoping of China (on Nov. 7, 1984), some have speculated that HWA was a communist sympathizer. There is not the slightest evidence that HWA was ever sympathetic to communist ideology. But whether he was sympathetic to the way totalitarian communist regimes actually operate is another matter.
HWA never hid the fact that he did not believe democracy to be God's form of government. In this regard, it is interesting to note HWA's long friendship with Leopold III of Belgium. According to the WN (Feb. 10, 1986, p. 2), Leopold was instrumental in arranging many of HWA's meetings with heads of state. But unknown to most Worldwiders is the fact that Leopold, a staunch Roman Catholic, had been forced to abdicate his throne in 1950. The underlying reason was that Leopold had surrendered Belgium to the Nazis in 1940 and had refused to flee the country to set up a Belgian government-in-exile in France or England. He spent most of the war in Germany. One international relations expert told AR, "Deep down Leopold was really a f------- fascist." After Leopold died, his widow presented HWA with the Cross of the Veterans of King Leopold (WN, May 13, 1985, p. 1).
Because HWA was meeting regularly with powerful world leaders it is not surprising that the CIA would have taken an interest in HWA. During the Cold War years the CIA, not unlike the KGB, made extensive use of members of the clergy as sources for information. A prime example is the CIA's use of many in the Roman Catholic Church's hierarchical priesthood as informants in Western and Eastern Europe. The CIA would have been only too happy to have used HWA in a similar way.
But was HWA being used for more than just information gathering? Over the years, many noticed that in a number of cases, after HWA visited a country, that country's government would fall or there would be a major change of leadership. Examples: Ethiopia after HWA visited Haile Selassie, the Philippines after HWA visited Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, India after HWA visited Indira Gandhi, and Egypt after HWA visited Anwar Sadat. (Some even recall how HWA was to have met with Allende of Chile but Allende was overthrown and killed - with CIA help, many say - shortly before HWA was to go to that country.)
Because of the above coincidences (and perhaps because Rader was reported to have had friends in the White House during Republican administrations beginning with Nixon), some at WCG headquarters kidded that HWA or someone close to him was somehow being used by the CIA to bring down governments. While the idea sounds like something out of a spy novel, such a theory should not be dismissed out of hand.
It will be interesting to see if the CIA ever finds its file on HWA's travels or if the FBI ever releases its large Washington file on the WCG.
McNair Case to be Retried
When Leona McNair filed her defamation lawsuit against the WCG in 1979, few would have thought the case would still be in the courts 12 years later, but that is exactly what has happened. The lawsuit has been a bitterly contested series of legal battles (see ARs 10, 29, 34, 35, 37, 40, and 41). While Leona was awarded $1.26 million by a jury in 1984, the California Court of Appeal reversed the decision in 1988 and ordered a new trial. In 1989, however, trial judge Richard Lavine prevented a jury from hearing the case by granting summary judgment to the WCG. WCG congregations were told the church had finally beaten Mrs. McNair "God's way." Not so. Antony Stuart and Michael L. Goldberg, attorneys for Leona, appealed Judge Lavine's decision and in March 1991 the three judge panel of the California Court of Appeal (second district, fifth division) ordered the Lavine decision reversed and granted Mrs. McNair a new jury trial. Presiding Judge Paul Turner's opinion (filed March 27 with the designation "Not To Be Published," that is, not to be cited as case law - an oddity of the California court system) shows that Judge Lavine had clearly been out of line in granting the WCG summary judgment and had made the Court of Appeal's earlier reversal look like a cruel hoax perpetrated against Mrs. McNair. Turner's opinion even seems to hint that he is not in sympathy with the legal reasoning found in Judge James Hastings' earlier Court of Appeal opinion (see AR 40). Nevertheless, Turner wrote that the court was unable to reinstate the first jury's award because of the so-called "rule of the case" principle. (In layman's terms, the rule means that once an appellate court sets down a rule for a lower court it will not later change the rule for that case.)
At the March 5 oral arguments on the appeal, WCG attorneys Ralph Helge, Bruce Armstrong, Jeffrey Lowerey, Daniel Gonzales, Roy G. Weatherup, and, of course, Allan Browne of Beverly Hills should have realized things were not going well for them when Judge Turner pointedly asked, "How do you know who's telling the truth here?... Could it be that Dr. Meredith is a liar?... Is there any way that we can tell who's telling the truth? I know it's a tough question.... When it comes to finding out who is telling the truth - well, that is why we have juries!"
Helge did not like the court's decision. He told the Pasadena Star-News (April 2, p. A-5), "This is a dumb case." Helge's sour grapes attitude is not surprising. Legal experts say that because the WCG has refused to settle the case out of court, attorneys' fees alone have cost the WCG well over a million dollars. And there will be more bills coming.
More Gay Concerns
Editor: Readers' and editor's comments about homosexuality in the WCG hierarchy run in our January issue drew a flurry of heated letters to AR. As the following excerpts show, there is a wide spectrum of views on the subject.
I just finished reading your January issue of the Ambassador Report and as usual enjoyed it. However, I must comment on the letter from the Pasadena person who thought Joseph Tkach might be homosexual just because he wears his ring on his little finger, or by the way he smiles in his picture, or because he's holding a book of poetry. Those ideas are ridiculous, and something right out of the Salem Witch Hunts!
Don't misunderstand. As a former WCG member I have no admiration for Tkach. But I believe in fairness. And to judge him homosexual based on such silly so-called "evidence" is not only unfair, it is sinful. Is this how that Pasadena person picks out all homosexuals? Does he or she think that all men who do not look or act like John Wayne are homosexual? I happen to know a lot of decent God-fearing men who have at one time or another been unfairly labeled homosexual just because they dressed or acted a little different from the average "macho man"....
Christians should remember that God tells us to only hate the sin of homosexuality, not the persons themselves. We should pray that they will turn from their ways and repent and give thanks to Jesus. They have as much chance as anyone else if they change. That Pasadena person should remember too that there is a sin that God hates worse than homosexuality and that is hurting an innocent person: "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matt. 18:6). Maybe wearing a ring on your little finger is a homosexual signal but I never would have known it if I had not read that Pasadena person's letter. As for all homosexuals looking and acting effeminate, that Pasadena person should remember Rock Hudson. Who would have thought in a million years that manly Rock was a homosexual! Until we know for sure whether or not someone is a homosexual we should always be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Please print my letter in one of your future issues. The problem of innocent people being labeled homosexuals because of silly things like what that Pasadena person mentioned is bigger than you know.
David W. Berryman
I read the correspondence headed "Readers' Gay Concems" in the last AR with a real feeling of sadness. Regardless of the problems of various WCG ministers, the comments offered had far less balance and charity than Dennis Luker's GN article. While I'm all for exposing hypocrisy, the publication of gleeful and flimsy speculation about the sexual orientation of named individuals is another matter.
The issue obviously hits a raw nerve with many people. The homophobic views expressed in AR need, however, to be challenged. I'd heartily recommend John Shelby Spong's Living in Sin? (Harper & Row, 1988) as a powerful corrective. Nor is Spong, an Episcopal bishop, afraid to come to terms with the biblical texts. Those who think that the matter can be neatly summed up with a few trusty proof-texts need to think again.
A final comment. People, despite (or maybe because of) their many differences, are at the end of the day still people. Like yourself, I have known, and sometimes admired, a number of gay people. These included some within the WCG who crucified themselves with guilt and denial. In this respect they were oppressed not so much by Herbert Armstrong, as by the unthinking antipathy of the rest of us.
Editor: I am not unfamiliar with some of the arguments used to explain away the Bible's many verses dealing harshly with homosexuality. But I generally find such arguments unpersuasive. For example, Marshall Alan Phillips (Los Angeles Times, Dec. 3, 1990, p. B5) argues that the Genesis 19 story of the mob of men surrounding Lot's house and desiring to gang rape Lot's masculine visitors is not really a condemnation of homosexuality, but is merely a condemnation of inhospitality. Is inhospitality the reason God destroyed Sodom? To me, Phillips' argument is ludicrous.
As for Episcopal Bishop Spong's 1988 book, I have not yet been able to find a copy. However, I noticed that in his latest book, Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism (Harper and Row), the Newark, New Jersey bishop speculates that St. Paul was homosexual. To Spong, "Nothing else could account for Paul's self-judging rhetoric, his negative feeling toward his own body, and his sense of being controlled by something he had no power to change." Ironically, such a strained reading of scripture does not help to buttress the main theme of his book. It is one thing to deny fundamentalism by reading scripture in an informed, scholarly, or even critical manner. It is quite another to argue as fact positions completely at variance with the text, when that text is purported to be the very basis of one's religious philosophy and faith.
I should be most interested if you can give me a list of famous homosexual and bisexual men and women in all countries of the world, past and present, particularly among scientists, philosophers, mathematicians, literary figures, artists, composers, statesmen, etc.
I want to know out of genuine interest, and not for sensational reasons. It seems that God created some people homosexuals and their homosexuality is natural for them. Nowhere does Christ condemn it and as regards the passages in the Old Testament, he specifically warned us not to "put new wine into old bottles." Moreover, some Christians, such as Anglican Bishop Hugh Montefiore, even believe that Christ himself may have been homosexual or bisexual.
Editor: Such wild notions about Jesus are certainly not the Anglican Church's official position. And George Carey, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, is clearly opposed to homosexuality (Los Angeles Times, April 20, p. A12). I find it difficult to believe that Rev. Montefiore would engage in such reckless speculation. But if he does, he only echoes that of Christopher Marlowe. Attempts to portray various Bible heroes as homosexual have gone on for centuries and, I am told, continue to go on privately in certain WCG circles. Nevertheless, with the possible exception of the David and Jonathan relationship (some scholars believe that I Sam. 20:30, 41 and II Sam. 1:25, 26 show that Jonathan had a homosexual attraction to David), such speculations often seem to flow more from overactive imaginations than from straightforward readings of scripture. For an excellent rebuttal to the notion that the Bible can somehow be made compatible with the homosexual lifestyle, see "Judaism, Homosexuality, and Civilization " by Dennis Prager in the April/June 1990 edition of Ultimate Issues (6020 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232, $7.50 per copy).
As for famous gays through the ages, many are discussed in Homosexuals in History by A. L. Rowse (MacMillan Publishing Co., 1977). Among those included in Rowse's book are James I and Renaissance humanist Desiderius Erasmus whose version of the Greek New Testament became the progenitor of the Textus Recepticus. (Regarding the latter, see Bruce Manning Metzger, The Text of the New Testament - It's Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, Oxford University Press, 1988, pp. 96-106.)
I agree with your ethical views on what's fit to print. But, to be honest, your truthful and "disgusting" reporting on Herbert and Garner Ted Armstrong in years past was instrumental in my leaving WCG.
When I first heard Herbert and Garner Ted had stumbled, I concluded, "Well they're only human, we all make mistakes. But, the WCG is still God's True Church." However, after finding out that their sins were repeated, continuing, and perverted, I concluded that in no way can the WCG be "the one and only true church of God"!
In general, I agree with your views on homosexuals and the homosexual lifestyle. However, I do not think these views apply to this specific situation. In regard to homosexuality in the WCG hierarchy, I believe you would do a genuine service in publishing any facts you have on the matter. This would not be in the nature of a witch hunt directed against those who choose an alternate lifestyle, but a revelation of hypocrisy of the highest degree.
These people are among the most radically fundamentalist and literalistic when it comes to interpreting Bible scripture - in some cases separating married couples and breaking up families by their teachings - while they themselves often do not conform to their own rigid interpretations.
I say just give the readers the unadorned facts in a non-judgmental way and let the chips fall where they may.
Editor: The above letter seems to be on target regarding what I had thought was a dilemma. Hypocrisy - especially of the magnitude found in the WCGs top leadership - is itself a real evil. And it has been pointed out to me that hypocrisy is an evil about which many gays, themselves, feel strongly. In the last few years there has been a debate raging in the publishing world about the practice of "outing" - that is, publicly revealing certain public figures as being closet homosexuals. Many gay leaders, themselves, actually favor the practice (a lengthy discussion of the issue appeared in the Los Angeles Times, March 22, 1990, p. E1).
Now, just as we are about to go to press, I have discovered that in the April edition of GLAAD/LA Reports (published by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) a short article appeared about our January issue's comments on gays. While they wrote how AR was "conservative " and contained "homophobia," nowhere did they object to us writing about the gays in Worldwide. In fact, GLAAD was quite glad about the way we had described their organization! Yes, it's a strange world.
I will have more to say about this matter next time. However, for now let me just end this section with the following letter which I found very instructive:
A friend passed me your January 1991 issue because of the letter from the City of Industry and your response. The dilemma of dealing compassionately with obviously sinful and self-destructive behaviour is not as deep as you seem to imply. The first error is to assume that homosexual behaviour is not a free choice and therefore an appropriate subject of moral judgment. A quick reading of the science from Kinsey to Masters and Johnson makes it clear that the idea that homosexuality is anything but learned behaviour did not even arise from the science but from theology. We are all capable of sexual release with men, women, animals, and objects. The fact that we don't is [due to] prior knowledge about right and wrong. To quote Kinsey, "It is clear that the human male would be promiscuous in his choice of sexual partners throughout his life if it were not for social sanctions." Orgasm is associated with the release of endorphins that mold the brain to increase the probability of repetition of any behaviour that preceded the release. It is the central mechanism of addiction.
The social consequences of permitting those who have become addicted to deviant sexual activity to recruit others into similar activity is painfully obvious. The gay movement is energized by the need to increase opportunity. We have found the moral courage to oppose drug pushing but have not found the courage to even mention in public the obvious fact that teaching deviant sexual activity is the moral and neurochemical equivalent of pushing drugs. God's condemnation of such activity is not a divine whim. It is a fundamental necessity of our human condition.
Yours in Christ,
Peter M. Webster, MD, FRCPC
University of Toronto Clinic
Is the Temple Almost Here?
Many WCG members can remember a time when WCG ministers taught that before the return of Christ, the Jews of Israel would rebuild the sacred edifice that once stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In recent years, however, official WCG statements on the subject have been very equivocal. Oddly, this WCG ambiguity on Bible prophecy occurs at a time when it appears very likely that the Temple will actually be rebuilt in the near future.
Professor James Tabor, editor of Genesis 2000 (P.O. Box 561476, Charlotte, NC 28256), has sent us clippings of a number of articles about the possible rebuilding that have appeared in the last two years: "Speedily in Our Time" in The Jerusalem Post Magazine (Dec. 22, 1989, p. 6), "Rebuild Herod's Temple? A Few Israelis Hope" in The New York Times (April 9, 1989, p. 17), and "Time for a New Temple?" in Time magazine (October 16, 1989, p. 64).
The idea of building the Temple is not just talk. Time magazine reported:
Two Talmudic schools located near the Western (Wailing) Wall are teaching nearly 200 students the elaborate details of Temple service. Other groups are researching the family lines of Jewish priests who alone may conduct sacrifices. Next year an organizing convention will be held for those who believe themselves to be of priestly descent....
No group is more zealous than the Temple Institute, whose spiritual leader, 50-year-old Rabbi Israel Ariel, was one of the first Israeli paratroopers to reach the Mount in 1967. "Our task," states the institute's American-born director, Zev Golan, "is to advance the cause of the Temple and to prepare for its establishment, not just talk about it."
During six years of research, the institute has reconstructed 38 of the ritual implements that will be required when Temple sacrifices are restored; it will complete the other 65 items as funds permit. A museum of the completed pieces has drawn 10,000 visitors during the current holy days. In addition to such items as trumpets, lyres and lots, the institute is preparing vestments for the priests-in-waiting. According to Scripture, the clothing must be painstakingly made with flax spun by hand into six-stranded threads.
One difficulty is the requirement (as in Numbers 19:1-10) that priests purify their bodies with the cremated ashes of an unblemished red heifer before they enter the Temple. Following a go-ahead from the Chief Rabbinate, institute operatives spent two weeks in August scouting Europe for heifer embryos that will shortly be implanted into cows at an Israeli cattle ranch.
It is not just Jews who would like to see the Temple rebuilt in Jerusalem. Many fundamentalist Christian groups, believing a rebuilt Temple must precede the return of Jesus Christ, are actively promoting the idea of rebuilding the center of the ancient Israelite religion. One such group, The House of Yahweh (P.O. Box 2442, Abilene, TX 79604), headed by one-time WCG member "Wild Bill" (now "Elder Yisrayl") Hawkins, publishes a 14-page tract entitled "A Peaceful Solution to Building the Next Temple in Yerusalem" which even gives diagrams of how the job should be done.
Another church that is less equivocal than the WCG regarding the Temple is Garner Ted Armstrong's Church of God, International (P.O. Box 2525, Tyler, TX 75710-2525). They are now offering a free booklet entitled "Will a Temple Soon Be Built in Jerusalem?" From GTA's March 28 letter to his magazine subscribers, it appears that he believes a Temple in Jerusalem is not far off.
should a Ministry Incorporate?
In a provocative pair of articles appearing in the Jan./ Feb. and March/April issues of Midnight Messenger, author Donald Bergeron argues quite eloquently that there is no valid law requiring a church or ministry to incorporate in order to have tax exempt status. Many budding ministries will find Mr. Bergeron's views fascinating and perhaps even helpful. (We should stress the "perhaps" because whether the IRS is always sufficiently cognizant of constitutional law is seriously questioned by some legal scholars.) Copies of Midnight Messenger are available for $2.00 each by writing to Midnight Messenger, 9205 S.E. Clackamas Rd., Clackamas, OR 97015.
FBR Slows to a Halt
A number of readers have asked what has become of the Foundation for Biblical Research (FBR). At the death of FBR president Kenneth Fischer in 1989, FBR board members had hoped that the organization could continue. But with C. Gary Reid in Toronto, Gary Schultz in southern California, Howard Clark in northern California, and Gary Arvidson now in North Carolina, the group has found itself too dispersed for a continuing publishing operation. Since his 1984 heart attack, Howard Clark has been in frail health. Nevertheless, he has been trying to answer as much FBR mail as possible. Clark's FBR mailing address is P.O. Box 279, Gasquet, CA 95543.
Helping Those in WCG: Important
New Studies from Concordant
Over the years, we have repeatedly pointed out four major characteristics of the destructive cults: (1) isolation, (2) nonthinking, (3) absolute obedience, and (4) giving excessively (see our June 1990 issue, p. 6, for details). As regarding point four, we continue to recommend the Ernest L. Martin booklet published by the Academy for Scriptural Knowledge, (P.O. Box 25000, Portland, OR 97225) and the Tony Badillo book published by Xavier Press (3122 Jerome, Dallas, TX 75223). As regarding "nonthinking" and "obedience," we can now recommend a really outstanding work recently published by Concordant Publishing Concern.
Authority, Instruction and Service by Jim Coram is a concise, yet highly thoughtful, biblical study that we feel sheds much light on two important issues: (1) how should the believer relate to scripture, i.e., how should a Christian intelligently read the Bible, and (2) how should the believer relate to ecclesiastical organizations, i.e., what role should human authority play in the believer's spiritual life (or how and with whom should we fellowship).
Mr. Coram writes:
The clearer our grasp of the evangel of true grace and of the intrinsic authority of the Scriptures themselves, the more clearly we will see the absurdity of human authority and the harmfulness of any posture which entails practical lordships over the faith of other believers. God is able to establish His people, and He does so, according as He is intending. The truth does not need the assistance of human dominion. "Success" is no proof of faithfulness. To the contrary, it is usually a strong indication of the opposite.
Mr. Coram's paper is not an attack on any denomination, but it is, nevertheless, a study particularly relevant for those in the WCG or for those with loved ones in the WCG. We wholeheartedly recommend it to our readers.
We similarly recommend Mr. Coram's article "Christmas and Easter" which was published by Concordant this past December. Worldwiders are well aware of the fact that many of the concepts and traditions associated with the two great Christian holidays derive not from scripture, but from ancient heathen customs. Unfortunately, while the WCG's teachings on the origins of the two holidays are fairly accurate, a misunderstanding of certain basic New Testament principles leads many Worldwiders to apply the historical information about the two holidays in such a way as to cause themselves and their loved ones much needless family stress and hurt feelings. Many divorces regularly result from such situations. (Recall that isolation - the encouragement of separation from family and friends - is one of the four main characteristics of destructive cults.) Mr. Coram's brief "Christmas and Easter" article can be of great help to many WCG members and friends of members.
Concordant tells us they will send the "Christmas and Easter" article and the "Authority, Instruction and Service" paper free of charge to any AR reader requesting them. (We should point out, however, that Concordant, like AR, relies on the financial support of its readers for continued publishing.) Those interested in obtaining copies of the two Jim Coram articles or in further information about Concordant's many excellent publications should write to: Concordant Publishing Concern, 15570 Knochaven Road, Santa Clarita, CA 91350 (tel. 805-252-2112).
How about a "Winners and Losers" section in AR? Right now you could make a case regarding the Gulf War. Example: a clear loser is William Dankenbring for saying U.S. losses would be in the thousands, that there would be no decisive victory for the U.S. and its allies, and that the war would be long and would lead to a depression. At least Worldwide was cautious [on the Gulf War] and GTA said this war would not lead to Armageddon. But GTA, HWA, Dankenbring, and a lot of others have taught for many years that the U.S. and Britain won their last war in WWII and that the pride of our power has been broken ever since (in language that was definite, dogmatic, to the Millennium, end of story). Well, look what's happened. The U.S. has just won three consecutive wars! First against Grenada and its Cuban friends, then Panama, and now Iraq. [And let's not forget the British victory over Argentina.] Pride in our military power has never been higher! Are the "prophets" eating crow now and apologizing for being wrong?
Editor: Although the military performance of the U.S. and its allies was, indeed, very impressive, one has to wonder what kind of political victory was achieved with the Gulf region still in turmoil and Hussein still ruling Iraq. In the March issue of Prophecy Flash! (P.O. Box 292, Altadena, CA 91001) William Dankenbring offers an explanation for his past predictions about Iraq. Nevertheless, trying to predict the future is always risky business, no matter how well intentioned the prognosticator may be.
For example, in the March 1991 issue of The Philadelphia Trumpet ex-WCG minister Gerald Flurry wrote that California's five year drought would continue to get worse because it is a curse from God. Quoting passages from the "sacred" writings of HWA, Flurry wrote that God has put the curse on California because in 1979 the state's attorney general brought the famous lawsuit against the WCG. (Frankly, while the sins of California might make such a punishment well deserved, it is difficult to fathom why God would curse the entire state for a lawsuit that was aimed primarily at WCG lawyer-accountant-evangelist Stanley R. Rader.) In the weeks immediately following Flurry's curse-by-drought prophecy, California had weeks of heavy rain. Although the drought is still officially on, a large area of the state (the entire central coast region), which previously had emergency conditions, now reports numerous reservoirs at 100% of capacity (Los Angeles Times, April 4, pp. A1, A3). It seems Flurry's prophetic schedule is a bit off.
Another ex-WCG minister who has had prophecy problems is Martin Filippello. In 1988, when HWA was not resurrected from the grave as Filippello had predicted (see AR40), many thought Filippello would dissolve his ministry. But he has kept right on preaching, believing that only his timing was a little off. Friends say Filippello now believes that HWA will be resurrected some time this spring.
As someone who has worked at church headquarters many years now, I must take exception to your comments [in the January issue] about Mr. Steve Andrews, our new director of finance and planning. Yes, it is true some of the "oldtimers" seemed to look down their noses at him. But for them to call him "inexperienced" just because he has not been ordained very long is really not fair. Even though Mr. Andrews is only a local elder, he is a CPA, a lawyer (who graduated from Loyola of Los Angeles, by the way), and a former USC lecturer. He is also someone who has the respect of Mr. Stanley Rader, under whom he worked for six-and-a-half years. So you see, even though Mr. Andrews is not an evangelist yet, he is certainly not "inexperienced."
Editor: Thank you for the clarification regarding Mr. Andrews being a very bright and well-educated individual. After checking out the information in your letter, I wrote Mr. Andrews an apology for my poor choice of words. I also pointed out how I was looking forward to seeing whether his organization's annual financial statements will contain data on how much third tithe revenue is collected each year and what level of remuneration is now being given the WCGs top executives. Finally, I asked him what his relationship with Stan Rader was in years past and what it is now. I am looking forward to his reply.
Could you please send the Ambassador Report to my sister, a former WCG member, who was told not to come back until she could tithe. She only worked part time - two weeks out of the month - and had a daughter in high school and a son in college in need of help.
Editor: Her WCG minister was right. If you can't afford to give away 10% to 30% of your gross income (50% to 100% of your disposable income), you have no business indulging in the WCG.
I got kicked out of Armstrong's church many years ago for not sending enough money in. Lucky me.
It is true that the WCG rips off the old people of their money. I know so many cases of that. I was disgusted at the way they treated that poor blind man [see AR41] after he gave them so much. One lady I know left everything she had in a will to WCG and they promised to look after her until she died. They only visited her a few times to clean her place and that was it. She died and the church got it all. Her relatives were very angry about it.
I have an older friend, 89 years old, in a hospital (part of an old folks home) and WCG wanted to know how much she had and what she was going to do with it. She wouldn't tell them so they put her out of the church. She changed her will and left them out altogether. I am the only one that visits her, they just cast her off. They did the same to another friend in her 70s. They tried to pry it out of her how much she had and what she would do with it. She wouldn't tell them so they put her out because "she couldn't go to the Feast." All they were interested in was the money. I also am the only one that visits her.
During my wife's almost three weeks in the hospital, the pastor [from her WCG congregation] made one visit to see her and told her the best thing she could do would be to finish dying and be ready for the world tomorrow. Then after she came home there were only two lady members who visited her, but no financial assistance was offered by anyone.
Only a few years ago I wrote a tract titled The Christological Controversy: The Supreme Being Oneness - or Trinity? I hope you will find time to study my views on the subject. I also have a copy of Herbert's Fundamentals of Belief, which has no date on it, but it seems to me he [HWA] gave it to me in the late 1930s. As you may recall, Herbert and I were very close friends from 1935 to 1945 when he dropped me like "a hot potato." It was some time after that that he came up with the idea that the Jehovah of the Old Testament is the Jesus of the New. When that came up I was reminded that back in about the middle 1930s Brother Snow showed me a magazine published by the "Jesus Only" people who then claimed the Jehovah of the Old Testament was the Jesus of the New Testament. So when Herbert came up with the same idea I felt he was setting a trap for himself.
820 Woodlawn Ave.
Canon City, CO 81212
Editor: Mr. Kiesz is an elder in the Church of God, Seventh Day. Copies of his Christology tract may be obtained for a donation of $1.50 by writing directly to him.
It seems from reading the October AR that the WCG under Tkach may be gradually moving towards the same doctrinal watershed which the Jehovah's Witnesses (then millennial Dawnists) reached after the death of Charles Taze Russell and the takeover by Judge Rutherford. Your photograph of the "picketing van" may perhaps suggest that the time is now ripe for official HWA breakaway sects to emerge and operate independently of the WCG, as for example the Laymen's Home Missionary Movement and the Dawn Bible Students Association did after Russell's death. (Both look to Russell only as their leader and mentor and consider the official "Witnesses" as apostates who have changed the truth once delivered by Russell. It looks as if I shall have to keep my discs [of research for a thesis on WCG] on standby for revision right up to the date of presentation.
I hope you can keep the excellent Report on the road and I wish you every success. Every issue chronicles the sad irony of the disintegration of HWA's world. How much longer before his system can no longer be labelled "Armstrongism"?
Castle Treasure, Douglas
Ambassador College and the Worldwide Church of God seem to be functioning true to form as I observed from my seven-and-one-half years experience as an employee at Big Sandy in transportation, also as head of maintenance in aviation. I was designated the Federal Aviation Agent for the Big Sandy airfield by the FAA and was fired by the college when I called them to task for flight safety infractions. They have a great deal of difficulty preaching and following Christian principles and doctrine. They just bend them to their needs!
Walter L. Prigmore
I've been thinking about something for quite some time. It's virtually impossible to keep the Sabbath perfectly in our present day society. People in the WCG do not turn off their utilities on Saturday, but somebody has to be on the job so that they can have water, heat, lights, etc.
It's a custom in our area that the majority of our young people get married on Saturday afternoon at about 3 p.m. The wedding ceremony starts in a local church, followed by a social hour, a dinner, and then a dance in the evening. Among the guests at times are some of the local WCG people who arrive way before sundown "seeking their own pleasure." Occasionally they have to travel farther than a "Sabbath day's journey" for such an event....
How hypocritical they are and the situation gets worse as time goes on.
Editor: AR does not promote or denigrate either Sunday observance or Sabbath keeping, but you make an interesting point. Along a similar line regarding the keeping of "the law, " have you ever known a WCG member who adhered literally to the actual "unclean meats" law of Lev. 11 by avoiding all restaurants that ever serve pork products or by destroying cooking implements (v. 35) that have even touched pork? For that matter, how many WCG husbands literally put their wives out of the house during their periods (Lev. 15:19-33)? And how many WCG members have blue ribbon fringes on all their clothes (Num. 15:37-39)? We are not advocating such practices, but we point those out to show that some who claim to be keeping all of "the law " are really doing a bit of picking and choosing.
Regarding the WCGs continuing watering-down of the Sabbath doctrine, it is interesting that Tkach has changed the beginning of the WCG Sabbath from sunset to the beginning of darkness. This change has some HWA loyalists seeing Tkach as the one who would "wear out the saints of the most High and think to change times and laws" (Dan. 7:25). Yet some who believe Tkach is the prophesied "son of perdition " (II Thess. 2:1-12) still remain in the WCG. Try to figure that out.
In response to my March 25 letter (AR47) dealing with AR's financial problems, I received a number of remarkably insightful letters. Hopefully, in a future issue I can share them with all our readers. For now I will just mention that many of those for whom my March 25 letter was intended never responded in any way. We now have a much smaller mailing list. Surprisingly (or maybe I should not have been surprised), many of those for whom my letter was not really intended (because they regularly contribute to AR) sent the Report a contribution anyway. Because of such folks this issue was made possible.
I had hoped to include Part VI of the Tkach series in this issue. However, it became necessary to postpone it in order to give a number of WCG executives to whom I've written a little more time to answer certain questions I have put to them. With a little bit of luck the next issue of the Report should be mailed out by September.
My sincerest thanks to those of you who are continuing to support our publishing efforts.
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