June 1993 (AR52)
Editor: More than seven years have now passed since the death of Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA), founder of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), Ambassador College, the Ambassador Foundation, the World Tomorrow broadcast, and the Plain Truth magazine. Those years have seen Armstrong's successor, Joseph W. Tkach, make dramatic changes in WCG doctrine and church policies. Not surprisingly, those changes have not been accepted by many in the WCG's ministry. The latest addition to the WCG's executive exodus is none other than long-time WCG evangelist Roderick C. Meredith.
Bruce Renehan, a twenty-three-year veteran of the WCG who recently exited, is writing a book about the history of the WCG. He provided us with the following article.
Rod Meredith Becomes Contender
for Church of God Crown
In December, evangelist Roderick C. Meredith parted company with the Worldwide Church of God. Dr. Meredith, a Joplin State College R.O.T.C. student and Golden Gloves boxing champion who came to Ambassador College in 1949 as one of that institution's earliest students, was also one of the very first evangelists ordained by Herbert W. Armstrong. For most of that church's history, Dr. Meredith was one of the WCG's leading theologians, college professors, and top executives. But now, Meredith has started his own competing church, The Global Church of God, and his own competing religious broadcast, The World Ahead. Here is a round by round description of how it happened:
Round 1. In mid-1992, Tkach decided to put the WCG's oldest shepherds out to pasture by retiring them. Pro-Tkach politicians saw this as a smart move because it helped Tkach save face over past embarrassments [a good example: the WCG's loss in the McNair case], it further distanced the church from HWA, it removed from the Council of Elders voices opposed to change, it helped create straw men to take the blame for the failure of past "paradigms" (a new WCG ministerial cliche meaning "patterns" or "ideals"), and finally, it paid back most of Tkach's past antagonists who, as he has mentioned in numerous sermons, had threatened to destroy him in his early years in Pasadena.
The first old-time evangelist to be forcibly retired was Gerald Waterhouse. In cutting him off, Tkach gave Waterhouse a minor bit of acclamation in a minor article attached to an almost mocking photograph of his grinning face in the Worldwide News (WN, 9/22/92, p. 8). Waterhouse had made an entire career out of promoting Herbert Armstrong adoration on a round-the-world preaching circuit that made him one of WCG's most influential ministers. His sermons included massive doses of his own unique prophecies plus imaginative expositions on the supposed cosmic significance of various numbers, calendar dates, and the names of Herbert Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong, Stanley Rader, Big Sandy, Bricket Wood, and Pasadena. He was the main proponent of the doctrine that WCG members would flee one day to Petra in Jordan. He lionized Herbert Armstrong as fulfilling an end-time role as Moses, Zerubbabel, John the Baptist, John the Revelator, one of the Two Witnesses, Malachi, Ezra and Elijah. He unflinchingly told WCG congregations that they would never see Herbert Armstrong die of old age. Few, if any, of Waterhouse's predictions came true. Once HWA died, the new object of Waterhouse's idolatry became his new boss, Joseph W. Tkach who, in Waterhouse's eyes, began to take on superhuman qualities. But Waterhouse's style did not adjust to the new administration. His sermons (actually, his sermon, singular - his sermon repertoire seems to have included only one real sermon which he repeated thousands of times) continued to be filled with rantings, ravings, and lectern pounding. Significantly, his sermons continued to extend well past the time limits normally allowed to local pastors who were frequently offended by his audacity. Clearly, Waterhouse was a loose cannon that needed to be tied down.
Round 2. A second major WCG figure Tkach decided to retire was Meredith. It should not have come as a surprise. Meredith had been privately saying for some time that he thought Tkach was leading the WCG in the wrong direction. In fact, before HWA had even died, Meredith privately made statements to the effect that he, and not Tkach, should be Armstrong's successor. Not surprisingly, for a number of years, Meredith was not allowed to speak from WCG pulpits (although he continued to receive a generous church paycheck). Then, in October, Meredith was allowed to deliver a closing prayer before thousands gathered at a Feast of Tabernacles service in Palm Springs, California. The prayer was of world-record time length. It was so long that at least one member was seen taking notes.
It was shortly after that faux pas that Meredith was asked by the Tkach administration to retire gracefully. The humiliation [and salary cut - ed.] was more than the evangelist could bear and so he requested a private audience with Pastor General Tkach. The resulting meeting lasted over two hours.
Thousands of WCG members waited with baited breath to discover the outcome of the confrontation. Undoubtedly, many frustrated Worldwiders, hoping the WCG could avoid another schism, were like the crowd in the movie Monty Python's Life of Brian. In that comedy there was a scene in which the crowd asked the Roman governor for the release of a prisoner named Roderick. In a parody of the biblical "give us Barnabas" episode, the throng cried out "release Roderick!" When the Roman emperor, who had a speech impediment, heard this, he commanded his men by shouting "Wewease Wodewick! "As Roderick was summoned for release, the crowd was both joyful at the result and hysterical about the governor's manner. But for Roderick Meredith there would be no such reprieve from the WCG's emperor. Instead of being released from his years of censorship and pulpit denial, he was, instead, fired and disfellowshipped from the very church he had helped to create.
©1993 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
Round 3. Next came a mysterious letter mailed to WCG members around the world from an anonymous group. Signed merely "Friends from Pasadena," the letter accused Tkach and his staff of sabotaging the sanctity of Herbert Armstrong's divine commission by secretly destroying all of Armstrong's doctrinal "revelations." Its style, delivery, and typeface, coupled with the fact that it came from someone with computer access to the WCG's membership list, led most to conclude that it was an inside job. Some at WCG headquarters felt the letter had to have come from the church's editorial department (with purposeful misspellings added in to throw the inquisitive off track). Some in editorial, however, were convinced that the guilty culprits were in the church's television production department. Still others thought that the letter was the combined effort of some in the now de facto defunct Council of Elders. The Council, originally set up by HWA, had for years been sitting on its hands. With every distasteful doctrinal swing toward Protestantism, they have had to contend with the possibility of eventually resigning their positions and getting real jobs at McDonalds or elsewhere. Many thought that old-timers on the Council were the actual "Friends from Pasadena." Naturally, WCG headquarters told the field ministry that any members receiving copies of the letter were to turn them in to their pastors unopened.
Round 4. With the "Friends from Pasadena" letter circulating throughout the church, some were convinced that there would be an internal revolt against the Tkach administration and that Meredith would be restored to power. No such revolt transpired. Indeed, many came to feel that not only was Meredith behind the letter, but that he may have been responsible for other such anonymous letters in the past. Meredith quickly learned the frustration that other WCG members have felt over the years when they have attempted to apply the mandates of Matthew 18:15-17 ("if a brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault..."). Numerous statements Meredith has made in the last few months indicate that he actually expected a number of WCG evangelists to come to his rescue in December. It didn't happen. Even Dr. Herman Hoeh, whom Meredith had considered one of his very closest friends, told Rod in essence, "I never knew you, depart from me you worker of iniquity."
Round 5. With his break from the WCG now complete, Meredith formally announced that he had formed the Global Church of God (GCG). He then declared himself Pastor General. In a December 31, 1992 letter to his "Brethren andCo-Workers," Meredith boasted how he had been "ordained an Evangelist by Jesus Christ through Herbert W. Armstrong forty years ago this month He then went on to outline his differences with the Tkach administration and his goals for the new church. In a flyer distributed widely, Meredith has explained his mission as threefold: "(1) To preach the gospel of the soon-coming Kingdom based on God's Laws. (2) To preach the end-time prophecies and give Ezekiel's warning to our peoples. And, (3) to feed the flock of God through weekly Sabbath Services with inspiring, dynamic preaching."
Round 6. With Meredith's announcement, the WCG rumor mill went into overdrive. Some Tkach associates began calling Meredith "insane." Employees at the church headquarters Meredith had helped to build began referring to Meredith's new ministry as "The Gullible Church of Rod." Yet, while many employees were outwardly laughing at the insulting terms in a benign show of WCG support, they were secretly sending tithes and offerings to Meredith's new ministry. And, like Nicodemus in the night, many close, personal friends of Rod and his wife assured them over the phone that were they not on the WCG's payroll, they would surely join Global openly. In fact, in the first few weeks following Global's establishment, its 800 number was so jammed with calls from those offering moral support, it was difficult to get through because of the almost constant busy signal.
Round 7. One series of comments by Tkach, in particular, only expanded the Meredith problem. Earlier in the year, Tkach had carelessly remarked in a sermon how previous church administrations had been in error on major policies and ideas that "we were dumb to believe in the past." The remarks, actually transmitted via satellite to the entire church during the Feast of Tabernacles, infuriated a fair number who deduced that the statement was actually a veiled attack on church founder Herbert W. Armstrong. In late December, in a clumsy stab at damage control, Tkach attempted an apology for the "dumb to believe" remark in a video-taped sermon sent to all WCG congregations. Unfortunately, in what many perceived as an outrageous display of poor emotional control, the apology quickly degenerated into a tirade against members not in agreement with his new doctrinal and policy positions. Tkach, in effect, said to those who didn't like his changes, "There's the door! Good riddance!" Among those who took Tkach's advice was veteran WCG deacon Bill Brazil. He now oversees Global's printing operations.
Round 8. The tirade that prompted Brazil to leave was not an isolated incident. Although Tkach has long sought to project the persona of a kind and benevolent administrator, many insiders say Tkach ever more frequently is behaving like a wounded lion ready to devour his own young.
Others say Tkach is increasingly paranoid. An example of this is a strange announcement WCG headquarters required all its pastors to make in late December. With the seventh anniversary of HWA's death approaching, pastors were ordered to warn their members against any kind of demonstrations during church services on the anniversary date. The pastors then threatened their flocks that if any member displayed disloyalty to headquarters on that date, the ministry was under strict orders to call the police and have that church member arrested in front of family and friends during services.
One minister from a northwestern state confided in me, "I don't know what we'd do if a problem broke out here. We don't even have a phone in the hall. We'd have to drive down to the 7-Eleven. By the time we got back, everybody probably would be gone."
When the anniversary date came, nothing happened. So what was the point of the announcement? In trying to track down the source of the rumor that a disturbance had been planned by anti-Tkach forces, the first group I thought to ask was the newly formed Global Church of God. My contact in that organization told me, however, that they had absolutely nothing to do with the scare. In fact, further investigation revealed that the actual perpetrator of the scare was on the top floor of the WCG's Hall of Administration. Has Tkach, then, become like Caesar, living in fear of the "Ides of March"? Does he run when there is no one chasing him?
Round 9. In January, Tkach finally got down to serious mud-slinging. In an editorial in the WN (1/26/93, p. 1), Tkach, in essence, called Meredith self-righteous, power hungry, and a liar. He further stated that Meredith wants "to take [his church] back into the bondage of an impossible salvation by works." Tkach claimed that it is he, himself, and not Meredith, who is following in HWA's footsteps. And that HWA, before his death, had privately confided in him that Meredith had been a continual thorn in his side. Unfortunately, like many other statements HWA supposedly made to Tkach before his death (including, supposedly, a plea by HWA that Tkach change many of the WCG's key doctrines), there seem to have been no other witnesses to this HWA to Tkach communication.
Round 10. Meredith has fought back with a series of stinging jabs: Meredith emphasizes how he was one of the first evangelists ordained by HWA and how he knew the Armstrong family personally and intimately. He even assisted HWA in attempting to resurrect Richard Armstrong after his fatal car crash in 1958, and he was one of the few at Loma Armstrong's death bed. Using Waterhouse-like "reasoning," he points out that GCG was born 40 years after he was ordained and that at GCG's very first service there were 19 people in attendance - exactly the same number as at HWA's first service decades ago. Meredith likens Tkach to Diotrephes in III John 9 and also, predictably, to Lucifer in his rebellion against God.
Round 11. Some in the Tkach camp, however, have come up with their own numerological rebuttal to Meredith. Someone has pointed out how there were seven years between the WCG financial crisis of 1965 and the church crisis of 1972 when Garner Ted Armstrong was put out of the WCG [and major WCG prophecies failed]. There were then seven years until the start of the famous State of California versus WCG lawsuit in 1979, another seven years until the death of HWA in 1986, and, finally, another seven years until Meredith's great rebellion of 1993. The theory WCG numerologists are apparently promoting is that God allows Satan to attack the WCG in some major way every seven years. Meredith therefore is supposed to represent but one more Satanic attack the WCG will weather on its way to "the end."
Round 12. As we go into round twelve, it is very clear the match between Meredith and Tkach will be a long one. In the three months since GCG was formed, Meredith has settled on a mailing address (P.O. Box 5500, Glendora, CA 91740-5500), has a toll-free number (800-959-1641), a monthly newsletter, a number of booklets that imitate HWA's old booklets in content and style, cassette lectures that sound almost as supercharged as HWA was in his early years, a weekly radio broadcast that is already heard in 12 major markets, congregations in 18 U.S. cities and two foreign cities, and plans for a magazine to begin later this year. Besides Bill Brazil, prominent WCG figures who have already aligned themselves with GCG include Edwin Pope (a CPA who is GCG's business manager), Donald E. Davis (GCG's general manager), Norman S. Edwards (heads GCG's computer department), Jim Downes, Eric Myers, Sven Clark (GCG's mailing manager), Ron Nelson, John D. Schroeder, Art Gray, Sidney Hegvold, Charles Knowlton, David Pack (who brought many of his Akron, Ohio congregation with him), Jean Carion (who brought 175 of his Brussels, Belgium congregation with him), Mordakhai Joseph, Gene Scarbrough, and evangelist Raymond McNair, who will head up GCG's editorial efforts. By the time this article goes to press, it is likely that many more will be added to the Meredith camp. On January 2, Meredith told his congregation:
When I grew up in the chat piles of Joplin, Missouri, it was the largest lead and zinc mining city on earth... in the amount of lead mined and so on. I got this scar here on this hand and another on this and several over my head. My mother used to wash the blood off my head over the bathtub. And I got called all kinds of names, so I'm used to being called names. And I
hope you get used to that too! That doesn't bother me. As long as God is with us, it's going to work out!
Meredith, who once punched a "liberal" fellow evangelist in the face in church, is a scrapper. It looks like Tkach is in for a real fight.
Editor: Mr. Renehan tells us his book on WCG history is almost completed. Those interested in finding out more about it should send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to "Daughter of Babylon," P.O. Box 1551, Tehachapi, CA 93581-1551.
GTA's CGI Becoming
Like HWA's WCG?
Of all the churches that have sprung out of the WCG, probably the most prominent is the Church of God, International (CGI). Because it is headed by Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA), the son of WCG founder HWA, for many people this organization represents the true continuation of the Armstrong "commission." CGI currently has more than 3,500 members, annual revenues of more than $3 million, and a weekly telecast that is seen in about 40 markets. Small compared to the WCG, CGI has maintained only a modest annual growth rate since its start in 1978. However, through the issuance of $750,000 in first lien mortgage bonds in 1992, CGI was recently able to complete the construction of a corporate headquarters building on Lake Palestine, south of Tyler, Texas. As part of the complex, there is CGI's "Family Life Center," which was made possible by a bequest from a nonmember lady who was obviously an admirer of GTA. Recently GTA announced that he plans to open a ministerial training school called "Imperial Academy" at the same site in the fall of 1993.
While CGI has its own evangelistic activities, a good percentage of CGI members are former WCG members. Why do folks leave Worldwide to join CGI? Here is what Mr. Lloyd W. Cary of Toledo, Ohio wrote us on that topic:
After 26 years, our family came out of the WCG. And, honestly, once we made up our minds, it was like coming out of slavery in Egypt! It happened like this. We sat and squirmed for years, knowing that all the [doctrinal] changes were not right. But we were caught up in the "paradigm" (the pop psychology term they use to give themselves more credibility) of "God is on His throne," "this is God's one and only true church," and "Christ will work it out." The problem was we didn't know there was anywhere else to go without jeopardizing our eternal life....
I recently had a conversation on the phone with a lady in Worldwide and I said, "Mrs. so-and-so, if I pointed to words in your Bible and they were different from what Worldwide taught, which would you believe? After some hesitation, she said - and I quote - "Well, I'm no scholar. I guess I would believe what the church says."....
I challenge anybody sitting in WCG services to take this test: While taking notes, make a check list in your margin and notice how many times WCG ministers correct your Bible. Some of the phrases to listen for are: "This verse, or word, should be.... The original Hebrew, or Greek, (which no living man has ever seen) is.... The ____ translation reads..." [etc.]. Again, the real issue is: Are they Bible believers or Bible correctors?
Putting aside a host of philosophical questions raised by such views, the above comments, nevertheless, reflect views commonly held by many who leave the WCG to go to CGI (and other church organizations), namely, that the WCG's leadership has intellectualized away too many of what they see as the Bible's fundamental teachings. Ironically, for quite a few years after GTA left his father's organization, the WCG's official position on his departure was that he had been disfellowshipped for having liberalized too many of the WCG's teachings. It is true that upon founding CGI, GTA did adopt a number of doctrinal positions different from the old WCG (for instance, allowing those who were ill to obtain medical treatment - a doctrinal change Tkach later adopted for Worldwide - using softer language regarding tithing, and doing away with the "church eras" and "Petra as a place of safety" doctrines). GTA has even allowed his members to sing a number of traditional hymns that HWA would have considered "too Protestant." Nevertheless, a comparison of the current doctrines of CGI and WCG reveals that CGI is far closer to the original teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong. In fact, it is fair to say that had HWA not been senile during the last decade or so of his life (see AR23), the WCG during the eighties would very likely have evolved into a church very much like CGI is today.
During the eighties, AR frequently received letters from folks who said they were much happier in the CGI than they were in the WCG. Many have told us they found CGI less authoritative and more open. In regard to the latter, it is interesting that GTA, unlike Tkach, has frequently allowed himself to be interviewed by members of the press. Some have also pointed out that CGI has courageously taken a strong stand against the rabidly racist "Seed of Satan" teaching that some former Worldwiders have adopted.
Not only do most CGI members say they believe in CGI's doctrines, there are many who remain GTA admirers. And certainly GTA, himself, recognizes the follow-the-leader phenomenon that pervades many churches. In the January 18, 1986 edition of the Pasadena Star-News, GTA was quoted as saying, "Sooner or later, a church has to identify with a person." Nevertheless, there are some in CGI who are there not because of GTA, but in spite of him. One AR reader recently told us, "Ted doesn't realize how tired some of us are of hearing about his past accomplishments, his hunting expeditions, his knowledge of jet aircraft, or of how he met world leaders years ago." There are other complaints. One of our Orange County readers wrote us:
It's good to know that some things never change. I just received a copy of The International News published by CGI. In the lead article, GTA writes, "I find it difficult to be cutting, sardonic, cynical to people." Say what? Anyone who has ever listened to Ted for over five minutes knows what utter nonsense this is! Typical GTA BS.
Sometimes it is difficult to take GTA seriously. For instance, in his Dec. 17, 1991 letter to his "fellow-laborers," GTA wrote, "I hope you saw Diane Sawyer's 'Primetime Live' expose of three 'televangelists' here in Texas. Some of the blatant hypocrisy used by these men to extract money from their television audiences was absolutely shameful." He then went on to report how his right hand man, evangelist Ronald Dart, has written a forthcoming book that exposes the fund raising gimmicks of televangelists. (We wonder if it includes a chapter on the mandatory triple tithe doctrine.) GTA went on to offer his readers a sermon tape entitled "Avoiding False Christs and False Prophets." In a recent telecast, GTA even lamented how a lot of TV preachers "seem to only want your money - or your daughter."
Back in 1988, when Christian fundamentalist groups around the country protested Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (thereby turning a terribly boring and stupid movie into a box office success), GTA jumped on their bandwagon. About the movie he had only read about, GTA wrote his followers:
I was stunned - sickened, absolutely shocked almost beyond words.... [and regarding some of the language in the movie:] Words nearly fail me to describe my utter OUTRAGE; the anguish of heart, the feeling of literal, physical sickness that came over me at the moment I saw such a blasphemous statement attributed to Jesus Christ.... Surely only a demon-possessed or demon influenced mind could begin to conceive of a scenario so grossly blasphemous as that which is portrayed in this motion picture!
Some of us can remember a Garner Ted in the seventies who, as a former navy man with a naked girl tatoo, would casually tell dirty jokes while guzzling beer and playing cards after basketball games at Ambassador, and who wondered aloud about how a masculine Jesus could ever possibly have had anything other than normal sexual urges. We are supposed to believe now, however, that the new GTA is a much more sensitive individual. GTA now even offers a cassette sermon entitled "How to Have a Happy Marriage." Actually, the lecture many have been waiting to hear is, "How I Screwed Around and Still Kept My Wife, Family, and Ministerial Credentials." (Ted: No kidding. As a book it would be a major best-seller. Think about it.)
There is no need to rehash the extensive coverage we gave to GTA - "the playboy preacher" - in AR2. Those facts remain undisputed. When Larry Flynt announced in June, 1978 that the September issue of his Hustler magazine would make those same sordid facts known nationally, GTA was coincidentally disfellowshipped, this time for good, by HWA within days. While HWA's June 26,1978 disfellowshipment letter to GTA gave other (nonsensical) reasons for the disfellowshipment, the fact is GTA's reputation for womanizing within the church and gambling in Vegas played a major role in his being permanently banished from the WCG. Yet, to this day, GTA has not publicly (or, perhaps, even to himself) acknowledged the part his own sins played in his fall.
In late 1992, GTA finally published a formal explanation of how he left the WCG to start CGI. The 87-page booklet, titled The Origin and History of the Church of God, International, offers many insights into the tortured history of Armstrongism. Not surprisingly, the booklet does have its historical gaps and euphemisms: HWA's daughter, Beverly, was a "hostess," HWA's years-long incest of his daughter Dorothy was merely a "personal, family problem," how GTA really came to know so much about Ramona Armstrong's character before his father married her is not stated, Stanley Rader - who is attacked viciously throughout the booklet - is never actually named, etc. Nevertheless, there are some very forthright sections that help explain the personality of HWA, the reasons for the rift between HWA and GTA, HWA's unstable mental state during the last decade of his life (GTA thought HWA was insane at times, pp. 56 and 65), Stanley Rader's overwhelming influence over HWA, and the corporate chaos that existed in the WCG in the seventies and eighties.
Sadly, the booklet also reveals the incredibly inflated ego of GTA. He leaves the reader with the distinct impression that he sincerely believes that for decades he, alone, was running "the Work" (see p. 31). GTA makes no mention of the fact that for many years it was Al Portune who really ran the business operations of the church, Herman Hoeh who edited the Plain Truth, and Rod Meredith who oversaw the administration of the ministry. The significant contributions of those three men plus many, many others are simply ignored. It is also disturbing to read statements such as the one on page 85: "I believe God has appointed me to be His 'watchman' to His people Israel, and to all the world."
Why does GTA believe such stuff? The answer is found on page 80, where we find this statement from a letter he wrote to his father in April of 1979:
You are a pretty good salesman, Dad. You have told me and tens of thousands of others how I was given the gift of speech by a miracle from God, and how my very life was a miracle. You always felt God had intended me to be born - and intended me to be given that gift and had always intended to use me in His work. You sold me on that fact. And, Dad, I still believe you.
Reading such statements, it is difficult not to conclude that GTA, himself, has been not just a perpetrator, but also a victim of Armstrongism. It is also sad to see the extent of GTA's amnesia about his own past morality problems. No wonder he wrote his followers (Sept. 25, 1992), "It has been a traumatic chore for me to write this very difficult and sometimes traumatic booklet, going back through many of the almost mind-boggling events of 1978 and 79." Since his 1978 ouster from the WCG, GTA has denied his past a number of different ways. In a large front-page article in the Pasadena Star-News of Sept. 4, 1987, there was this statement:
Armstrong flatly denied old stories that he had sexual encounters with Ambassador students and other women. [Said GTA:] "There was never a whisper of anything immoral [!!!-ed.] and hadn't been for years and years."
In 1988, however, he had a different story and came a bit closer to the truth when, in an interview with Watchman Expositor (Vol. 5, No. 5), he was asked about why he had been forced out of the WCG (the first time) in 1971 for conduct "considered to be sin." GTA responded this way:
Not "forced." My father and I both agreed that we needed that (time apart) because I had had some very serious problems in my marriage and family. I have never commented on that nor will I now. Basically I had a mid-life crisis. I experienced a sort of partial nervous breakdown because of the load that was on me.
Although mid-life crises are a well-recognized psychological phenomenon, and GTA's extreme conduct in 1971 can be diagnosed that way, he neglected to mention that much of what got him thrown out of the WCG in 1971 and later was carnal behavior that went on long before his "mid-life crisis" and that also went on afterward.
Another way GTA has handled his past is evidenced in the way he sympathetically mollycoddled Jimmy Swaggart when that televangelist made tabloid headlines in the late eighties. In his May 31, 1988 letter to supporters of his own evangelistic association, GTA wrote:
Recently, Jimmy Swaggart returned to his pulpit, delivering a sermon having to do with repentance, contrition, "forgetting those things which are behind," and citing many scriptures to his audience which had to do with repentance and forgiveness. Of course, the American news media was having none of it. The news article I read was cynical, skeptical, hostile. It portrayed many of the loyal Swaggart followers as dupes, who parroted lines from the Bible concerning "forgiveness," as if all of this forgiveness and pardon really had to do with nothing....
This from a preacher who, for many years, has been touting the strict Law of Moses, and who, with ever increasing frequency lately, has been touting the death penalty as the great answer to America's crime problem. Later in his letter, in the subliminal-suggestion-threat style so common to cult leaders, GTA included the following warning:
I think all of us understand that it was a grave mistake for Jimmy Swaggart to "judge" Jim Bakker. But I am sure that no human being on the face of the earth knows that any better than Jimmy Swaggart!
GTA's followers by and large seem to have confidence in him. And those followers include many folks who are quite aware of GTA's past. For instance, one follower is Ian Boyne of Jamaica. Mr. Boyne is a talk show host and columnist in that country and has one of the world's most extensive collections of writings about Armstrongism. Yet he describes himself as a true CGI "Armstongite."
Another CGI church member who was long willing to overlook GTA's past was John Tuit, author of The Truth Shall Make You Free, an expose about the WCG that came out in 1981. After a mysterious fire destroyed his upstate New York lumber business a few years ago, Tuit moved to Hays, North Carolina (he is currently on disability due to a serious back injury sustained at work). Feeling a need to fellowship with Sabbath keepers, he started attending CGI services again in Statesville. He recently told us that until this past year he felt comfortable being a part of CGI. But recent developments have resulted in his distancing himself from the GTA administration, although he still feels a loyalty to his local pastor and congregation. Tuit says that with Tyler's new plans to credential its ministers on a yearly basis, prohibit CGI pastors from preaching more than one hundred miles from their congregations, and other gimmicks designed to centralize power and control in Tyler, he fears that GTA is going the way of his father.
CGI has its share of critics, even within its own ranks. While GTA seems to believe that his persona is essential to the survival of CGI, not all of his ministers or members believe that that is the case. Some complain that GTA's TV program, for instance, reveals too much of his own faults. They have a point.
In early April, a GTA broadcast that touched on the Koresh standoff saw GTA poopooing the government's supposedly excessive concern with the Davidians. (He has since thought it wise to be more critical of Koresh and now even uses the Waco tragedy to promote a booklet expounding his own adventist views of "Armageddon.") On the early April telecast GTA, apparently oblivious to the fact that Koresh's followers had already killed four federal officers and wounded 15, and apparently believing that Koresh was being picked on simply because of a few minor violations, and apparently oblivious to the fact that federal regulations about assault rifles are essentially based on their ease of convertibility to fully automatic weapons (thus giving those who have them a significant firepower advantage over local police officers with their standard-issue weapons), GTA launched into a cynical and embarrassingly lengthy discussion of how the calibers of banned assault weapons are much smaller than those of the scoped Weatherbys in his own hunting rifle collection. (Who in the world cares if Ted's is bigger than Koresh's?) He further commented that in serving their warrant, the federal government should simply have sent one agent to the door to ask if there really was child abuse going on. Child abuse, of course, was not a part of the federal case (although it should have been part of a state case). But his comment, nevertheless, left the distinct impression that to GTA child sexual abuse is no big thing (not surprising, perhaps, considering that GTA grew up in a family where father-daughter incest was tolerated). With such an obvious insensitivity to the feelings of average viewers, such an abysmal lack of understanding of current affairs, and a superficial approach to Bible teaching that is frequently all too evident, it is not surprising that the GTA TV ministry has been able to recapture only a tiny portion of the huge audience it had in the mid-seventies.
A further criticism one hears from those within the CGI organization is that while GTA has given himself a fine salary (making it possible for him to live at the exclusive Emerald Bay subdivision near Bullard, Texas with its private security force and mandatory country club membership), and has even provided church employment for his sons Mark and Matthew, most CGI ministers are expected to serve without pay.
Some CGI ministers also complain about other church policies. For example, some point out how GTA likes to claim his church board is "independent" (able to fire him should he go astray, see his church history booklet, pp. 86-7), and as having women (plural) and laypeople in its makeup. Yet, they point out that the board's eight members (in late 1992) actually included GTA, his wife Shirley (the sole woman), CGI employee Guy Carnes (Shirley's brother-in-law), CGI employee Ron Dart, and CGI employee Benny Sharp. The only members not openly on CGI's payroll, and who therefore might be called "independent," were CGI minster Lesley Pope, advertising man Larry Brookreson, and Pocahontas Savings and Loan President Skip Martin. Even if Brookreson's advertising business and Martin's savings and loan received no business opportunities from CGI (doubtful), GTA could still be assured of having a majority of votes from those whose livelihood are dependent on the continuation of cash flow into CGI. This is not to suggest that such a structure is illegal, nor is it uncommon for "family-controlled" Christian ministries. But the fact is CGI's board is not the truly independent entity painted by GTA. Furthermore, while church finances are under the board's authority, actual church policy on ordinations and doctrine - the real gut issues in any church - are not under their purview, but are under the purview of a separate ministerial council which, itself, is made up of a majority that is either on CGI's payroll or who have a financial interest in CGI. By temperament and training, all council members are GTA yes men.
While it is unlikely to happen, given the makeup of his board, GTA is very aware of the fact that his board still has the legal power to remove him from CGI's top position. Should that ever happen, however, GTA has a backup plan. Early on, GTA set up an independent "Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association." As the name implies, that legal entity is built around GTA, himself. Presumably, he is able to receive a separate income from that operation and would continue to do so if ever cast out of CGI.
Increasingly there are critics convinced that CGI is well on its way to becoming the kind of cult the WCG was in its heyday. As evidence of this some point to the soon-to-open Imperial Academy. Dubbed "Imperious Academy" by some, this new ministerial school is seen by more than a few as GTA's attempt at training a young and impressionable ministry that will eventually take over local CGI congregations from elders who GTA views as too independent. That such a scheme is exactly what GTA has in mind is evident in a statement he made in his church history booklet (p. 21):
[My father] would hold a successful evangelistic campaign, visit in people's homes, baptize new believers, and then leave the newly-organized local church in the hands of another minister with whom he was cooperating.
Soon, he would return to the region, only to find the church had dwindled down to virtually nothing, or that the formerly cooperative minister, eyeing the flock as something to be fleeced, not fed, had decided to go independent.
Years and years of painful experience taught him that the only way he was going to see his labors bear fruit in a really large and powerful way was to educate a ministry for the church himself!
Translation: GTA will soon follow in his father's footsteps. At Imperial Academy he will train young and easily moldable young men to be his obedient field ministry. And they will in due time replace most of the problematic elders that have known GTA - and his limitations - since their WCG days. Prediction: In ten years CGI will be another WCG in the old HWA style. And without the moderating influence, the "balance of power" - both political and spiritual - that comes from truly independent and mature elders and associates, GTA will eventually become the kind of major nut case he describes his father as being during the last decade or so of his life.
Not surprisingly, CGI already has its own offshoots. One formed in 1985 is the Church of God, Denton Congregation (Austin Newell, Pastor); P.O. Box 1893; Denton; TX 76201. More recently there has been created The Congregation of God, Seventh Day; P.O. Box 2345; Kennesaw; GA 30144. John Pinkston, who formerly pastored CGI's Atlanta congregation is leading that organization. We understand he left CGI after GTA prohibited him from preaching the gospel via his own radio program. (True to the usual pattern of Armstrongite churches, Pinkston's organization has since had its own internal "rebellion," complete with a near brawl during one of their services, as detailed in his 8/13/93 "Open Letter" tape.) Among those ministers who have recently left CGI are Lesley Pope of Midwest City, Oklahoma and David Owen of Chattanooga (who split with Pinkston since splitting with GTA). If one looks at the current roster of CGI ministers, one notices that with the exception of Ron Dart and David Antion, GTA's brother-in-law, there are no other former WCG evangelists, regional directors, department heads, or Plain Truth editors who have gone with, and stayed with, GTA. Other than Antion and Dart, the best-known WCG celebrity to go with CGI is GTA's old drinking buddy and general "sidekick," Jim Thornhill, who now leads CGI's Salt Lake City flock.
Some critics within CGI have written to us that although CGI for a number of years had attempted to be, or at least claimed to be, nonauthoritarian, some CGI ministers are now beginning to revert back to their authoritarian WCG ways. At least one CGI minister is telling his congregation that CGI is the one and only "true church." Others are quite willing to use strong-arm methods to maintain their "authority." Cosden A. Foland, a security guard who was recently in the news for his heroics in foiling a store robbery (see The Indianapolis Star, 8/18/92), was a loyal CGI member who discovered that by entering into an interracial marriage he was no longer welcome in CGI (see AR45, p. 4). As a result, Foland (223 N. Lynn St., Indianapolis, IN 46222) formed his own small fellowship group. He, nevertheless, still wanted to consider the CGI brethren his friends and hoped to occasionally fellowship with them as he and his family did with other groups. Here is what happened to him:
My family and I were sitting in CGI services listening to the sermon when four men came up and asked us to leave. I said, "Why?" They then said that if we didn't leave they would call the police. I said, "Call the police!" But the police never came. A few days later, however, the police did come to my place of work and served papers on me.
We were all on the TV stations. And in court my lawyer made them look sick. They are sick, but I continue to pray for them. Anyway, the judge said that I could visit or go to the church if I wanted. I no longer want to, however.
Ironically, GTA claims his church is nonracist, intimates that dual church affiliation is okay (see history booklet, p. 82), and condemns the WCG's excommunication policies (history booklet, p. 86). While there are those who are happy with their membership in CGI, our mail indicates that many who leave the WCG for CGI do not remain there for long. For many, CGI is a half-way house, only a stepping stone to other things. As one of our readers wrote us, "GTA's church is in a time warp. They are essentially just holding onto the few truths they had ten or twenty years ago. Those who really want to grow spiritually find themselves moving on."
Such people apparently feel toward CGI a lot like GTA felt toward WCG in 1988 when he told Watchman Expositor:
I don't know if I could have survived in that organization [the WCG]. It would have been like asking a certain kind of flower to thrive in a certain kind of weed bed. I only wanted to fulfill what I feel is a personal destiny. If I am wrong about that, it will take God to show me, not some human, political or religious force.
Those who may want to receive GTA's Twentieth Century Watch magazine ("The Germans are coming! The Germans are coming!") or who may want to check out CGI for themselves can write to: The Church of God, International; P.O. Box 2530; Tyler; TX 75710. Good luck.
You Can Fool All the People
Some of the Time, But...
As we have been reporting since at least AR41, for some years now Joseph Tkach has been hard at work changing WCG doctrines and policies in a frantic effort to give the WCG a new image as a noncultish, mainstream church. What the WCG has been doing is not unlike what the Seventh Day Adventists did for many years. When exposed by famous cult watcher Walter Martin (the late founder of Christian Research Institute and Christian Research Journal), the SDA's went on the offensive. They began a twenty-year dialog with Martin and instituted a number of changes in the wording of their public positions. By doing so they were able to convince a number of cult watchers that they had evolved into a mainstream Christian church. Nevertheless, they still retained many points of doctrine that mainstream believers see as cultish. (There is an excellent discussion of this history in the April-June issue of The Discerner, P.O. Box 806, Brainerd, MN 56401.)
That the Tkach team's PR offensive has been successful in some quarters can be seen by a remarkable statement that recently appeared in a new book published by Baker Book House. On page 11 of Why We Left a Cult by Latayne C. Scott, there was this statement:
I selected four groups I believed would be most relevant to readers: Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, New Age believers, and Worldwide Church of God (Herbert W. Armstrong's movement). However, after many conversations with ex-members of the Armstrong group, I find I must agree with the assessment of the Christian Research Journal that such astounding changes have taken place in both the doctrines and practices of that group (accompanied by a significant decline in membership) that they can no longer be accurately viewed as a cult. While, of course, many cultic groups (most notably and overtly the Mormon church) have tried vigorously through an image-changing campaign in the media to be accepted as "another Christian church," the Worldwide Church of God seems to be doing it through repenting and changing instead of publicity and advertising. Only time will prove the group's sincerity. Meanwhile, I am fascinated with the prospect that a cult, as a group, can turn to God.
Who the ex-WCG members were that Scott talked to, we don't know. She certainly did not talk to any of us at AR. Nevertheless, her comments do show how effective the WCG's image-changing campaign has been. And it really should come as no surprise. First of all, many cult fighting organizations have a simplistic view of what a "cult" really is. While AR has used a four-point test to characterize an organization as a "destructive cult" (encouragement of isolation from family and friends, non-critical thinking regarding the group's teachings, absolute obedience to the group's government, and excessive giving of time and money - see AR1 and AR44), many Christian anti-cult groups define a "cult" simply as a group that falls outside the doctrinal parameters of what they view as Christian orthodoxy. Very aware of the latter, Tkach has changed a number of WCG doctrines and policies that have given it its "cult" reputation in the eyes of mainstream Christian groups.
Just since our last issue, Tkach has been publicizing a number of doctrinal changes. For example, while HWA adopted the title "Apostle" without any reservations, and Tkach later also adopted the same title, now Tkach is backtracking as to what the WCG means by "Apostle." In the January, 1993 Plain Truth (page 19), there was the following statement at the end of a short article explaining what is meant by the title "Apostle."
Today, some Christian denominations use the title apostle for the person who holds the chief spiritual office in their church.
These churches generally do not mean the term in the broadest, biblical sense - as eyewitnesses of the resurrection - but rather in the administrative sense.
Of course, even the wording used gives the impression that WCG somehow considers that there are multiple "denominations" of the true body of Christ. But, as we shall document below, that is not what WCG teaches. Published statements such as the above do, however, get the WCG points with some Christian cult watchers.
The same issue of the PT gave us an article by Terry D. Warren entitled "God's Amazing Grace." It was about John Newton (1725-1807), the slave trader who went on to become a Christian minister and the composer of the popular hymn "Amazing Grace." The article by Mr. Warren is excellent. And certainly, to most of us, the Newton hymn is a classic, beautiful of both sound and sentiment. Yet, the article's author neglected to mention a very interesting point. "Amazing Grace" was one hymn that was never sung in the WCG during the days of HWA because HWA absolutely hated that hymn. With its emphasis on grace and a melody that HWA apparently found too sentimental, he simply would not allow it to be sung in his church. Now, under Tkach things are different. More points for Tkach with the Christian cult watchers.
Another recent WCG image change aimed at the cult-watching crowd, is the new WCG position on "the cross." For HWA, the cross was an offense. Many can recall how the WCG used to teach that the cross symbol predated Christianity as a phallic symbol in pagan religions. So in the HWA era many WCG ministers preferred the translation "stake" to "cross." Now, that teaching is no longer WCG dogma. The doctrinal change was heralded to WCG members in a Paul Kroll WN article appropriately titled "Should we use the word cross?" (WN, 2/9/93, p. 4). Now, Tkach increasingly likes to use the word "cross." In the May/ June PT, Tkach devoted his entire editorial to the cross, writing:
For the Christian "army," however, there is only one battle cry, one fundamental reference point providing the courage, strength, and morale to endure to the end in the good faith. That battle cry is: Remember the cross!....
The cross of Christ, therefore, becomes the central reference point for every Christian....
In simple terms, if you're having trouble forgiving your spouse, remember the cross. If you're struggling with sexual sins, remember the cross. If you're involved with dishonest business tactics, remember the cross!
Today, if one reads only the WCG publications intended for the general public, one can easily be lead to believe that the WCG is just one more Protestant denomination. (Of Tkachism, former Worldwider Bob Ellsworth likes to say, "It's really Herb Lite - tastes great, less filling.") But carefully read those WCG writings aimed at only the baptized members of the WCG and one can clearly see that the WCG still retains all the key traits of a "destructive cult." For example, the February 25, 1992 Tkach letter to his members and co-workers contained no hint of ecumenicalism. Instead, Tkach was very plain:
Tkach is now claiming a type of clairvoyance with the dead HWA, much like Luke Skywalker had with Yoda in Star Wars. Doctrinal changes just come to him now as if Armstrong's voice whispers to him out of the grave: "Use the force Joe." Tkach brought this out in his December videotaped "apology" to the church. He repeatedly emphasized that HWA privately told him to change the church's doctrines once he died. But Dr. Meredith, recalling HWA's stubbornness, says that to believe such a story, one would have to be crazy.
As I write this month, I pray that God's people truly understand what it means to be a member of the body of Christ, and why it is that the Worldwide Church of God holds certain distinctive teachings and practices not followed by most other Churches....
[Tkach discusses the seventh-day sabbath, the Old Testament holy days, and then:] That is why this Church stresses obedience to God as necessary to Christianity....
What makes us the true Church of God? We are God's Church because God works in us by his Spirit to worship him and serve him. It is what God does that makes us his Church....
Does this mean it makes no difference what Church you belong to? Far from it! It makes every difference, for you need to be part of Christ's body....
In other words, to his followers Tkach still claims that the WCG is the "one and only true church," and thus continues to psychologically and spiritually isolate members from their families and rest of the Christian world. The mandatory triple tithe system of HWA remains in effect. So does the oppressive church government system HWA modelled after the Catholic Church's hierarchy (which, like the hierarchy of the Sicilian Mafia, was modeled after the hierarchial system of the ancient Roman empire). So, even though there have been many changes under Tkach, spiritually speaking nothing has really changed.
To give you a better idea of what a massive subterfuge the Tkach organization has been engaged in, we quote below a May 6, 1992 letter written by then-WCG-member Bruce Renehan to Dr. Ruth Tucker, an Illinois theologian and the author of Another Gospel, who has naively endorsed the WCG's supposed conversion.
Dear Dr. Tucker:
I appreciate the time you took to talk with me on the phone concerning recent "doctrinal changes" within the confines of the Worldwide Church of God. I do realize now, as an afterthought, that you and I were not on the same wavelength. It seemed as though you were trying to impress me with the fact that the church that I have been a member of for over 23 years is becoming more and more "Christian" in its teachings. I must have come across sounding very paranoid. For that I apologize. But I would like to explain.
You and I are both in the dark on certain issues. And part of the problem is purely semantic. When I first began to realize this about myself, I found that I had to learn what other Christians meant by terms like "born again," "grace," "repentance," "salvation," etc., etc., because they differ from Worldwide terminology.
Let me explain what these and other terms mean to a Worldwider. The term "born again" used to mean becoming a God. Now it means being conceived to become a God at baptism. Baptism is a requirement to "salvation." "Salvation" means being changed into a God at the return of Christ. Baptism is by full immersion. Sometimes baptisms are considered invalid because the member displays "carnal tendencies." "Carnal tendencies" are equated to rebellion against "God's government," that is the ministry of the Worldwide Church of God. One must always be completely obedient to ministers in the Worldwide.
"Grace" is God's free gift. But, it is earned by obedience to "God's ministers" (Worldwide ministers only are true ministers) and by keeping the "Commandments of God." The "Commandments of God" are the laws given to Moses in the Pentateuch (the WHOLE Pentateuch). Christ is considered an elder brother who kept the Pentateuch perfectly. This shows us that we must do likewise to become a God.
Protestants are the harlot daughters of the Great Whore of Revelation 17. The Great Whore is the Catholic Church. The pope is the false prophet. Protestant churches are Satan's churches and Protestant ministers are ministers of Satan. Worldwiders would rather slit their wrists than become "Protestant." So you can understand that when Bernie Schnippert (leading Worldwide minister) explained to all Worldwiders in a taped sermon, that they were "born again," he was emphatic that he was "NOT SPEAKING OF BEING BORN AGAIN LIKE PROTESTANTS ARE BORN AGAIN!"
There is only One True Church, the Worldwide Church of God. Worldwiders, on the inside, refer to themselves as the Philadelphia era of God's True Church (although the published stance has been changed to please outsiders). This strongly held belief means that God will divinely protect them in a "place of safety" during WW III (or the Great Tribulation). Anyone who leaves the Worldwide Church of God is a heretic and cannot be associated with and will not be divinely protected with the Philadelphians.
(There was some confusion in our conversation about the Philadelphians. This is not the church that Gerald Flurry started. I'm talking purely about the teachings of the Worldwide Church of God and not other distinct churches.)
It is understandable that you feel the way you do (since being approached by Messrs. Hulme and Snyder). The Worldwide has taken a very deliberate stance in the area of public relations in the past decade. I heard Michael Snyder myself, in the late 80's tell church members that church teachings would be disguised to the media in an effort to stop the Worldwide from getting bad press reviews. Had you been circumspect enough to ask the members (or ex-members) of the Worldwide Church of God if they themselves felt the doctrinal stances were leading them closer to Christ, you would have learned differently. Maybe I'm wrong, but your being led to believe the new and improved Worldwide stance under Joseph Tkach seems a bit like a police officer asking the parents if they are abusing their child and not noticing the bruises all over the child itself.
As far as old Worldwide tactics NOT changing under Tkach, I have just spent the weekend with two of my best friends in Fresno, Byron and Linda Sanders. Byron has been in the Worldwide all of his life. He was disfellowshipped just two weeks ago. Why? Because he would not acknowledge Herbert Armstrong's and Joseph Tkach's apostleship and obey the local Church leaders above the scriptures. Linda was disfellowshipped on the grounds that she attended church services in another church. I am bound by Church doctrines to turn my back on them and not associate with them ever again. But I refuse to do that on threat of being disfellowshipped myself when I am caught....
This is far from an isolated case. Almost all disfellowshipping is related to Church "government." This is to cause remaining members to fear going against the administration. I can assure you that the Worldwide is still a cult in every sense of the word. I don't know of any member who shares in this imagined bliss that the Church's public relations people are feeding the media.
And those editorials in the Plain Truth are purely window dressing for outsiders. Worldwiders rarely read the Plain Truth because it is pablum compared to inside doctrines.
I found your statement on page 216 of Another Gospel most interesting: "...it is impossible to assess how significant any changes in church doctrine will be. Will they, in fact, be more cosmetic than real?" This is exactly why I have decided to leave the Worldwide Church of God. It just doesn't offer the way to Christ and has made no real effort, aside from semantics, to do so.
That the WCG is still a cult in every sense of the word is obvious in almost every letter we receive from those leaving it these days. For instance, just a few weeks ago we received the following:
I have recently left the WCG due to reading your AR and the publications of Dr. Ernest L. Martin, Tony Badillo and others. When the ministry of the WCG found out what I had been reading and trying to share with others, they then, with a letter and an official announcement from the podium, disfellowshipped me. I wish to thank you for rescuing me from that deceitful and burdensome church and for your reports. I am now a much happier widow.
-Mrs. Dorothy Stankovsky
Space does not permit us to run the hundreds of letters we have received in the past year attesting to the fact that the WCG is still a cult whose leaders still actively use the mind control techniques we have reported on for years. While there is no doubt that along with the doctrines that have remained the same but have only had cosmetic changes made to their descriptions, many WCG doctrines and policies have changed (and some for the better). Nevertheless, the WCG is still a cult steeped in deception and oppression.
While some cult watchers have been fooled, not all of them have been so naive as to take the WCG at its word. For example, in Britain, the anti-cult Conservative Family Campaign (26 Farm Ave., London SW16 2UT) has recently been able to get The World Tomorrow removed from a number of stations in Europe. One executive of that Christian organization knows what it is like to be involved with the WCG. He wrote us:
I have a great personal interest in this matter. My mother and father were reluctant to go to hospital in spite of complications at my birth in 1965. It was only through the intervention of my grandmother that they consented. I wonder if their involvement in the [WCG] was responsible for this.... Anything you send will be greatly appreciated. I was brought up in the cult and almost committed suicide before becoming a Christian.
-Mr. Paul Geddes
The editors of Christianity Today have not been fooled either. In the November 9, 1992 issue (pp. 57-8), they reported on the WCG's apparent shift toward orthodoxy, but were quick to make a number of astute observations:
Many of the changes of the past six years are reflected in materials furnished to Christianity Today by WCOG's communications office....
Despite the changes, even a cursory examination of WCOG's official Statement of Beliefs is likely to raise eyebrows among trained theologians. CT provided several with a copy of WCOG's official statement without disclosing WCOG's identity.
Said Eastern College's (Philadelphia) Chris Hall, "In several places the wording is such that the door is left open to distorted beliefs and unhealthful emphases." He added that the section on the Trinity is unorthodox and that the inclusion in the doctrinal statement of such peripherals as the angelic realm, tithing, and the millennium "makes me suspect a group that majors in the minors. This is one characteristic of a cult."
WCOG's position on the Trinity appears to be the major concern raised by ministries devoted to watching cults and aberrant groups....
In addition to the issue of the Trinity, according to [James Walker of Watchman Fellowship], there are lingering concems about WCOG teachings on the sufficiency of grace. He said that while the church has at points articulated an orthodox position on the doctrine of grace, it has not reconciled this view with other writings suggesting that salvation is something that must be earned.
Walker and others who have monitored WCOG from an evangelical perspective applaud the changes they have seen, even as they hope for more. As of now, WCOG appears still to be a long way from the mainstream church's standards of orthodoxy.
Finally, we can't help but chuckle as we report one of the funniest twists in this long-running episode of PR deception by "God's Church." For years, the front man in the WCG's PR campaign has been Michael Snyder, A.P.R. (an Accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America) who, right down to his signature, seemed to revel in being a true propagandist.
How Snyder was able to maintain his sanity while working for the likes of Joseph Tkach, David Hulme, and company, we don't know. But apparently he was able to do it. WCG informs us that Snyder is no longer working for them. While Snyder is now in hiding and we therefore have not been able to locate him, insiders say he has left the church. And friends report that Snyder is now saying privately that he is convinced the WCG really is "a cult" after all.
We told you so, Michael.
Dismantling of HWA's Empire
Continues Under Tkach
In recent months it has become clearer and clearer what Joseph Tkach's true feelings have been toward HWA. Tkach has told numerous individuals that the worst seven years of his own life were the last seven years that HWA lived. Considering what an SOB his old boss was, such an admission is not surprising. And considering the way Tkach feels about HWA, it is also not surprising that he would want to completely demolish HWA's monuments.
Of course, there is no bigger monument to HWA than the original Ambassador College campus in Pasadena, and the Tkach team continues to look for a buyer. (Actually, such a sale would only be the latest step in Tkach's de facto policy of selling off most of the WCG's real property, something Tkach has been quietly doing since becoming Apostle in 1986.) While some at WCG headquarters claim that the WCG's Pasadena properties have been appraised at $175 million and that the asking price is about $200 million, we have also been told by others that the property has been appraised at about $275 million and that Tkach wants at least $300 million for the property. Upon the sale, we are told, Tkach intends to spend $100 million to build a new WCG headquarters complex somewhere in Oregon, New Mexico, Arizona, or Nevada. With the remaining monies, Tkach supposedly intends to set up a retirement fund for the WCG's elderly elders. While real estate experts say the current southern California real estate market is soft, others say that Tkach has already had nibbles from certain unnamed Arabs and a Chinese group that is hoping to start a college. With the British about to abandon Hong Kong to the Communist Chinese, many in that rich colony are fleeing to southern California. Already, the millionaire community of San Marino near Pasadena boasts a very substantial population of wealthy families from Hong Kong. An exclusive college to accommodate the needs of such families would make many in that community very pleased. In the mean time, the old Pasadena campus is used as the world headquarters of the WCG, with old dormitories such as Manor Del Mar and classroom buildings now housing church administration and editorial operations.
With the WCG trying hard to appear more Protestant, it is not surprising that many WCG leaders are getting their theological training at seminaries and colleges other than Ambassador. Russell Duke, the chairman of Ambassador's theology department, recently completed his doctorate in practical theology at The Union Institute in Cincinnati (WN, 4/13/93, p. 5). Union Institute is a small, private, "nontraditional university," established in 1964. Its 500 graduate students can choose from among 108 different majors offered in its Ph.D. programs. Michael Feazell, assistant to Apostle Tkach, and Tkach's chief ghost writer, recently got his Master of Divinity degree from the Methodist-founded Azusa Pacific College. And Hugh Mauck, a 73-year-old WCG local elder and former WCG executive, recently received a Ph.D. in exegetical theology from Christian Bible College and Seminary in Independence, Missouri (WN, 2/9/93, p. 8).
With some WCG ministers getting their educations from non-Ambassador sources, it is not surprising that many new ideas are making their way into the WCG. For example, WCG members who used to be told that they would one day enter into God's Kingdom, are now being told by Tkach that they are already in God's Kingdom (WN, 12/1/92, p. 1 and letter to members, 9/24/92).
In a March Plain Truth side bar (p. 11) entitled "Did Gospel Writers Change Jesus Words?", Senior Editor Paul Kroll (once the editor of Black Belt, the karate magazine) explained how some of the Gospel authors had "divine license" to fictionalize some of Jesus' sayings:
It may come as a surprise to learn that writers of New Testament books adapted Jesus' sayings and stories to new situations. The fact is, they did so in a number of cases....
Such examples - and there are many - show that the Gospel writers had divine license to adjust Jesus Christ's original wording. This allowed readers to understand the narratives more clearly....
That is why we shouldn't insist on harmonizing every detail in the Gospels.
Then there is that small question regarding the nature of Jesus' resurrection. Eric Pement, whose organization publishes the excellent Directory of Cult Research Organizations, sent us the following note:
You should know that I was present at the 1991 Tanner Annual Lectureship (the "cults" portion of the title was omitted that year), held at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. I was present for the plenary session and the workshop led by David Hulme and Mike Snyder. I believe videotapes of those sessions may be available from TEDS. Some of the changes seemed striking: they indicated a willingness to consider dropping British Israelism and closed communion - or at least think about it. On the other hand, David Hulme openly denied the physical resurrection of Christ from the dead in favor of an invisible, spiritual resurrection.
-Eric Pernent, Senior Editor
939 W. Wilson
Chicago, IL 60640
Some insiders are saying that the next major area of WCG doctrinal change will probably come in the area of prophecy. To prepare members for those changes, Tkach recently had his good friend Dean Blackwell make a taped sermon (3/20/93) on the subject of prophecy. Titled "Prediction Addiction," the sermon made light of many preachers' attempts at understanding that facet of the Bible. While never ridiculing HWA by name, some of the examples he used seemed to have come right out of old HWA sermons. Here is one interesting quote that shows where the WCG may be heading:
So we need to correct errors in our thinking. The Bible is not one third prophecy. And 90 percent of what is, is not for our day!....
When I look back over some of the things we have in print, some of the things we've preached, that's highly embarrassing to me. And I can't believe we actually didn't see through the things we printed. Whether it's Leviticus 26 or Daniel 12 or other areas.
Getting the WCG's membership to adjust to the constant changing of doctrines has been a major challenge for the WCG's leaders. To help members psychologically adjust to the changes, last year Tkach ran a propaganda campaign in the WCG built on the theme of "Changing Paradigms." He even had a commercially produced video tape shown in local churches to persuade members that constant change is a good thing. As part of the campaign, Tkach sold the notion that there are five paradigms [the word actually means patterns, models, or ideals] that the WCG should discard: (1) "Anything the pagans did, we must avoid." (2) "Anything the Protestants say or do, we must avoid." (3) "Our commission [is] to prophesy and condemn." (4) "All truth was revealed through Herbert W. Armstrong." And (5) "doctrinal change equals watering down the truth." (Quotes are from WCG minster David Register's 1992 sermon explaining Apostle Tkach's condemnation of "the five paradigms." It was reported on in the Vol. 9, No. 10 issue of Watchman Expositor.)
Critics of Tkach point out that when he took over after HWA's death, he authorized a published list of "18 essential, basic truths that God restored to His people through our late Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong." (WN, 8/25/86, p. 5.) The critics point out that of those 18 "basic truths," fully half (numbers 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 17) have already been rejected by Tkach. And that total does not include many other new doctrines that HWA would never have accepted or the changes that are still coming.
The rapid changes have, at times, been even a bit rapid for Tkach, himself, and he has had to backtrack a number of times to cool off. For instance, when his recent comments about the inadequacy of the Ten Commandments (see AR51, p. 3) brought an avalanche of criticism, Tkach found it necessary to give his followers a lengthy "explanation" of what he really meant (WN, 9/22/92. p. 1). The new policy of giving members commemorative plaques for contributions to Jackson Hall (see AR51, p. 8) has been reversed by Tkach, who now says "the whole idea ... was a mistake" (WN, 11/6/91, p. 1). Tkach's comments at the fall festival regarding certain old policies being "dumb" has now been "explained" by Tkach as a statement not really about HWA (WN, 11/17/92, p. 1). Some of our readers north of the border report that Canadian WCG members are again being required to pay third tithe even though Tkach had previously exempted them because of the high income taxes of that country. And a legalistic article in the WN (12/1/92, p. 3) regarding the meticulous keeping of the Sabbath has been interpreted by many as a reversal of years of lax Sabbath rules in the WCG. One example of the latter was given to us by a reader who explained that in many congregations it has become commonplace for WCG weddings to be rehearsed on Friday nights and for the weddings and their receptions to be held on Saturday afternoons. Some WCG watchers feel that Tkach may want to tighten up the Sabbath rules to show that he has not yet gone completely "pagan."
Besides "remember the cross!", another big slogan that Tkach is now pushing is "Upward, inward and outward" (letter to members, 11/24/92). (Somehow it doesn't quite have the ring of an HWA slogan, does it.)
The WCG is changing so rapidly that some ministers have even commented that the WCG should become a member of the World Council of Churches. Such comments, however, appear to be mere trial balloons (attempts to see if the membership would balk at the idea). We contacted both the World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches and found that the WCG has not made an application to join either.
Nevertheless, changes are taking place at every level of the WCG. You may have noticed that beginning with the February issue, the Plain Truth has had a new modernized format designed by Randall Cole and other professional artists. The church will also soon have a new hymnal. While retaining most of the old Dwight Armstrong hymns, 43 percent of the new hymnal will be made up of contemporary or traditional Protestant hymns. The collection is slated to appear later this year (WN, 8/11/92, p. 1).
The WCG, always big on computers, recently updated its computers to include the new IBM AS/400 Worldwide Circulation and Support System. And many WCG field ministers now have their own interconnectible PCs. The WCG has also started using advanced bar-coding technology to keep track of its members and magazine subscribers. The WCG will even be bar coding its Holy Day offering envelopes from now on (WN, 12/29/92, p. 6). Through the use of such technology the WCG is now able to immediately ascertain from any returned envelope exactly who the envelope was originally sent to, how much money the parties have been contributing, what church literature they have ordered, plus much more, and much more personal, data.
In Britain, there was recently some confusion among former WCG members who received a letter on WCG letterhead and with the official signature of Joseph Tkach. One who received the letter said he could not understand how the WCG even knew how to find him because he had moved many times since leaving the WCG more than a decade ago. The letter caused genuine shock among some because it stated that many former WCG members had been disfellowshipped improperly and without cause by WCG ministers who had acted contrary to church policy. The "WCG" letter asked that the former members assist Tkach in ferreting out the problem ministers. The letter also claimed that a full one half of the WCG's ministry is secretly active in freemasonry. While the letter appeared to have been mailed by someone with much inside knowledge of the WCG, sources within the church claim that the letter is not authentic and that Tkach was not its author. We have yet to discover who is behind the mailings.
In December, many Ambassador College alumni received a mailing from the Ambassador Alumni Association (P.O. Box 111, Big Sandy, TX 75755) promoting membership in that organization. Benefits of membership include discounts on "selected Ambassador College merchandise available by mail." Yearly membership dues are $15, but "now you can use your Visa or Mastercard to join." One catch though: "It is understood that members of the Ambassador Alumni Association are in harmony with the goals, purposes and philosophies of Ambassador College and its principal sponsor, the Worldwide Church of God."
The WCG's television program, The World Tomorrow, continues to become more sophisticated. Viewers are now treated to occasional "dramatizations" that make the WCG's message more attractive to viewers. In order to ensure quality acting, the producers frequently employ professional Hollywood actors, with auditions of 20 or 30 actors from a Hollywood casting company not unusual (WN, 8/25/92, p. 6). With such attention to detail, it is not surprising that The World Tomorrow is ranked by Nielsen and Arbitron as being second among all network religious programs. Only Robert Schuller's Hour of Power has more network viewers (WN 9/22/92, p. 3).
Joseph Tkach's plan to get his church more actively involved in charity work is moving ahead. Recent projects have included church members raising money for children in war-torn Croatia and the participation of Ambassador students in the Jerry Lewis MS telethon (WN, 11/17/92, pp. 1, 12).
Because the WCG loses so many of its "church kids" to other denominations or atheism, Tkach has been particularly interested in developing programs to keep young people in the WCG. The WCG recently started ARROWS in Flight, a magazine for the WCG's teenagers (WN, 2/9/93. p. 1). And one WCG minister, Curtis May, recently had a "Youth Day" for Sabbath services: church youngsters were allowed to perform ushering duties, lead songs, take attendance, and deliver opening and closing prayers. Tkach is encouraging other pastors to try out the church-promotion idea in their own congregations (WN, 12/15/92, p. 1).
The WCG's ongoing concerts at Ambassador Auditorium (formerly "The House for God") continue to draw sophisticated crowds and critical acclaim. An August jazz festival at "The Ambassador" received high praise from jazz critic Leonard Feather of The Los Angeles Times, who wrote, "Anyone looking for a primer in the art of running a jazz festival would have been wise to have studied what happened... Sunday at Pasadena's Ambassador Auditorium." The Ambassador Foundation recently published a brochure detailing the concert season lineup for 1993- 4. The season features scores of the very finest opera and concert world stars, plus dozens of stars from the pop, jazz, and country music fields. Those interested in getting a free copy of the brochure can call the auditorium's toll-free number: 1-800-CONCERT.
The WCG continues to operate around the world to propagate its message. One area of the world in which the WCG is taking an increased interest is Eastern Europe. During the past year, the WCG was excited to discover that there are scattered Sabbatarian groups throughout the region, including the western Ukraine, close to the part of Czechoslovakia where Tkach's parents originated (WN, 10/6/92, p. 1 and 12/29/92, p. 1). WCG insiders say that Tkach had hoped to lure many of "the Ukrainian brethren" into the WCG but that most balked at the idea when they learned of the WCG's tithing policies.
Another area of the world where the WCG takes a special interest is Thailand, whose nothern area is part of the "Golden Triangle" (where most of the world's heroin actually comes from) and whose capitol of Bangkok is the world's premier city for child prostitution. Tkach recently sent his close friend and advisor Ellen Escat to that country as his personal representative to meet with Queen Sirkit. Escat says she likes Thailand because " there is so much mutual love and respect between those ruling and those being ruled. In Thailand, it's a way of life" (WN, 12/1/92, pp. 4-5). Included with the WN article reporting on her trip, there was a picture of AC student Jonathan Reedy teaching English to a class of Buddhist monks - a project sponsored by the Ambassador Foundation. Other pictures in that issue included one of idols at the Thai palace, more shots of Buddhist monks, and one of Escat touring a Thai agricultural research project.
Readers keep asking us for an update on Stanley Rader. According to GTA's church history booklet (p. 58) and many rumors, Rader is supposedly still involved with the WCG in some capacity. But we have seen no hard evidence of that. We have learned, however, from a reliable source that Rader has been busy researching the life of New York attorney, author, and art collector Myron Orlofsky who was a victim of art fraud years ago. Rader has told some that he is doing research for a book about Orlofsky.
Tkach continues the practice begun under HWA of inviting famous people to speak at Ambassador College. The latest celebrity to do so was former Speaker of the House, Jim Wright (WN, 3/23/93, p. 3). A few years ago, the WCG was able to lure Senator Strom Thurmond to Ambassador. It is interesting that Wright was booted out of government for alleged ethical improprieties and that Thurmond, according to the Los Angeles Times (5/20/89, p. 23), openly admits that he is regularly deluged with gifts ranging from free hotel rooms to free plane rides and that even his eyeglasses were paid for by a political contributor.
Joseph Tkach Jr. continues to gain power within the WCG hierarchy. In mid-1992 Jr.'s assistant for overseas church administration, Larry Salyer (once Jr.'s boss), supposedly asked to be relieved of his position so that he could be sent to pastor a church in St. Louis. Replacing him is Randall ("Randy") Dick (WN 7/28/92, p. 1). The move further enhances the now-pervasive influence of the Baby Boom generation within the hierarchy of the WCG.
"Criticizing Mr. Tkach is tantamount to committing the unpardonable sin!" - Gerald Waterhouse, speaking at the WCG's Feast of Tabernacles in Australia in 1990. The quote is from the manuscript of a 518-page book of essays about the WCG. The book's author, Murray S. Thompson (P.O. Box 276, Richmond, NSW 2753, Australia) is currently looking for a publisher.
How would you like to listen in on the behind-the-scenes chatter, wireless mike comments, and two-way transmissions that go on at WCG headquarters? Believe it or not, you can do just that if you have a scanner and a copy of the December, 1992 issue of Popular Communications (76 N. Broadway, Hicksville, NY 11801; tel. 516-681- 2922). In an article titled "Scanning Televangelists," that publication showed how to listen in to many of the private electronic communications of religious groups. Within the article was a list of the communication frequencies used by various organizations including WCG headquarters in Pasadena and Ambassador College in Texas.
McNair v. Worldwide Finally Ends
Mrs. Leona McNair's libel lawsuit against the Worldwide Church of God, Roderick C. Meredith, and her ex-husband Raymond McNair, was finally ended in December when the suit was settled out of court for $750,000 (Pasadena Star-News, 11/21/92). Mrs. McNair has finally gotten her check, paid off her substantial legal fees and expenses, and is trying to get back to a normal life. The lawsuit which began in 1979 has been one of our longest running AR stories (see ARs 10, 29, 34, 35, 37, 40, 41, 48, and 50). In settling with Leona, the WCG still refused to admit any wrongdoing, but claimed that the settlement amount represented what the church's insurers would have had to spend had the case been retried.
The victory by Leona was no small accomplishment While over the years a few have been able to sue the WCG and win, most plaintiffs have discovered it is almost impossible to win against an organization that is quite willing to spend virtually any amount necessary to stop those who have grievances against the WCG. Whereas Leona prevailed, many others in the past have not. For example, Mr. and Mrs. Gilman Anderson of Minnesota who sued the WCG back in the mid-eighties (see AR33) were unsuccessful in their lawsuit. More recently, the attempt by Richard Stambler (see AR46) to put together a class-action suit against Worldwide fell apart. While a couple dozen former members indicated their willingness to participate in such a suit, Stambler discovered that just preparing for such a legal battle requires far more time and money than he ever anticipated. (Nevertheless, Stambler - Rt. 1, Box 92, Walton, NE 68461 - says he would be willing to turn over his legal research to anyone interested in carrying on the project.) Stambler is currently taking out some of his frustration by distributing anti-cult flyers.
Leona McNair says she intends to get back to her career in nursing very soon. In the meantime, she is working on a book about tithing which she believes is a false doctrine that has cursed many Christians. Whether or not the book ever gets done, she has already written a short, but thought provoking, paper on the subject and she is distributing it to friends.
The best thing about her lawsuit coming to an end seems to be that, because she is no longer perceived as fighting against "God's Work," her two WCG-member sons are once again able to talk to their mother. Ironically, because Leona's ex-husband, Raymond McNair, recently left the WCG for Rod Meredith's Global Church of God, Leona's two sons are not supposed to talk to their father now because he has become "an enemy of God's Church."
Comments on Koresh
Editor: The Waco tragedy involving the government siege of David Koresh and his Branch Davidians prompted many to write AR asking questions about what transpired and for our opinions on various facets of the story. Space does not permit a thorough review of the entire story. For an overview of what happened, see the articles that appeared in the major news magazines. Particularly insightful are the articles that appeared in Newsweek (3/15, 5/3, and 5/17). But because so many have written, I will very briefly make a few personal observations:
Because Koresh had previously lived in both Tyler, Texas and in southern California, and because two AC alumni, Dr. James Tabor of the University of North Carolina and Dr. Phillip Arnold of Reunion Institute of Houston, were involved with the Waco tragedy (as consultants to the government and by going on the radio trying to persuade Koresh to give himself up), some have wondered if Koresh had a connection to the WCG. The answer is that even though Koresh had a number of doctrines that were identical to those of the WCG, he was never a WCG member. However, if you look at the history of his movement and the history of his predecessors, you will find that the Branch Davidians had in their religious roots some of the same antecedents that HWA had. An excellent explanation of this fact, along with a related family tree of Sabbatarian and adventist churches, is found in the Vol. 10, No. 4 edition of The Watchman Expositor (P.O. Box 13340, Arlington, TX 76094-0340; tel. 817-277-0023).
Some have asked my legal opinion as to whether the government had actual "probable cause" to obtain the search warrant that sparked the initial Feb. 28 shootout. The answer is very simple. "Probable cause" can be as little as an anonymous letter to police coupled with conduct that, although legal, could be interpreted as typical of a certain class of criminals (just behaving outwardly like a drug seller, for instance). See Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213 (1983). In the case of David Koresh, he had made it known locally that he was in the market for explosives and hand-held rocket launchers, had already purchased almost $200,000 worth of assault rifles, hand grenades, and at least one tripod-mounted M-60 machine gun, and had made statements that he was planning some type of show of force. And, in fact, Koresh had previously solidified his control of the movement through a shootout in 1987 with George Roden, a former contender for the Davidians' leadership. Futhermore, dissidents from the group who had moved to Australia had been warning since 1990 of the danger of the Koresh movement and had provided numerous affidavits to law enforcement officials. There was more than adequate information for probable cause and a search warrant.
Did the government botch the initial raid? Obviously they did. While one can be sympathetic to a government agency that cannot comprehend the extreme nature of a violent cult, the BATF should have known better. Cult expert Rick Ross of Phoenix, one of the country's leading deprogrammers and a personal friend, recently told me how, because he had helped exit two Branch Davidians in the past, he had warned of Koresh's potential for violence. And, according to Time magazine (May 3, p. 33), the government had an informant in the Koresh compound before the shootout who overheard Koresh say that the agents were on their way and that he would not be taken alive. According to the magazine, the informant was able to get away in time to have been able to tip off the government agents that the Koreshites were armed to the teeth and were waiting for them. Unfortunately, it seems that the macho BATF (with leaders who were apparently hoping to get publicity for themselves by allowing the press to be present for the initial raid) simply could not comprehend that a religious group was capable of outgunning them.
Once the siege began should the government have used different methods to get Koresh to surrender? Being critical with all the hindsight of a Monday morning quarterback is, of course, much easier than making wise decisions under pressure when one is in charge of anything. But, it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that the government needs to do some homework about cults. Of course, once Koresh decided to openly challenge the authority of the federal government through violence, there was no way that he, personally, was going to come out a winner. (Those who doubt this should read a good history of the Civil War beginning with the John Brown insurrection and a history of the bombing of Nagasaki.) Nevertheless, it is a tragedy that a way was not found to extricate more of his followers - and especially their children - from his control.
Rick Ross is highly critical of the BATF and, to a lesser extent, the FBI for not listening to his advice that once the siege began the main focus of their persuasion should have been on the followers, not Koresh, who Ross believed was mentally too far gone to be reasoned with. Given the paranoia that infects most cult groups, it is difficult to see how the techniques used by the government could have accomplished anything other than increase their paranoia and dependence on "Yahweh Koresh." After all, how many of us would not get a little crazy (or be made more crazy) if we were subjected night after night to the psychological tactics the government employed: blinding searchlights shining into the compound; roaring helicopters flying overhead; and recordings of Nancy Sinatra, chanting Tibetan monks, and the sounds of rabbits being slaughtered. Ross suggested, instead, that they use loudspeaker messages from loving relatives who, obviously, would want their loved ones in the compound to cooperate with the government. Certainly anything that would have gotten the Davidians closer to reality would have made more sense than the creation of an "end-time" environment that paralleled the apocalyptic scenario that Koresh had been predicting all along. As pointed out in Newsweek (5/3, p. 29), at both the Feb. 28 shootout and the last day of the siege, the government played right into the hands of Koresh's prophetic scenario.
What was the nature of Koresh's psychological state? A number of experts such as Dr. Louis J. West of UCLA have labeled Koresh as a psychopath, obviously an intelligent diagnosis. Syracuse University psycholinguist Murray Miron saw Koresh as a delusional paranoiac, another logical diagnosis. But, at least one psychologist diagnosed Koresh as a multiple personality because he did not seem to know from one day to the next what deals he had just struck with the government negotiators, and he designated himself through a series of changing names, titles, and symbols. In Biblical times he would have been called "demon possessed." While the news media seems to flinch at such a term, a lot of psychologists of the analytical school would describe Koresh exactly the same way.
Did Koresh want his followers to die in the agony of a fire that he, himself, lit or ordered to be lit? The final government investigation may provide an answer. But a number of observations can be made at this time. Rick Ross points out that the compound had a total of 65 doors and windows plus numerous tank-made breaches out of which the Davidians could have escaped. Only seven or eight chose to do so. According to Time (p.31), two cult members who got out alive were spared only because of the heroics of agents. In one case agents even had to forcefully restrain one cult member from going back into the burning building. The logical inference is that most of the followers of David Koresh knowingly allowed themselves to perish in the flames. And according to the detailed sequence of events of the final day as reported in Newsweek, it would appear that the fire was set from within at three different locations simultaneously, and that most of those inside could have escaped the flames had they made an attempt to do so.
That someone would choose such an end is difficult for most balanced, rational minds to comprehend. But let us not forget that David Koresh - and his followers - did not have rational, balanced minds. The astute editors of Newsweek pretty much foresaw how Koresh was going to end his life (see their 3/15 issue and note particularly p. 58). One could even make the argument that Koresh's end was the fulfillment of an old plan - conscious, unconscious, or demonic. To provide a few insights into Koresh's mind set, let me quote a most insightful letter from one of our readers. David Whitaker is not only an avid Bible student ("scholar" would perhaps be more accurate), but he is also someone who has had professional experience in the mental health field. Here is what he wrote to us about Koresh:
As an epitaph to the unfortunate incident near Waco, Texas, involving the Branch Davidian cult, it is interesting to note how Vernon Howell managed to literally fulfill the meaning of his appropriated name "David Koresh."
As was publicized in the news media, Vernon Howell claimed that the name "Koresh" is the Hebrew form of the name "Cyrus" - referring to the ancient Persian monarch who reigned 538-529 B.C. It should be observed that, although Cyrus was a Gentile monarch who was friendly toward the Jewish people, there exists no historical indication Cyrus ever followed or practiced the Jewish religion or converted to the God of Israel. The prophet Isaiah twice emphasized the words, "though thou hast not known Me," clearly describing Cyrus as a Gentile monarch who did not personally know God, although God used him as a human "messiah" ("anointed") to liberate the Jewish people from captivity at that time in history (Isa. 45: 4-5). Allowing the Jewish people to return to rebuild Jerusalem was only one of many acts which Cyrus preformed during his lifetime.
The Hellenized form of the name "Cyrus" translates into English as "Miserable." "Cyrus" is the Anglicized form of the Hellenized "Kyros," with the original Persian being "Kurush," and the Hebrew nameform used by Isaiah being "KRSH" in the ancient consonantal Hebrew, the Persian pronunciation being acknowledged by the Jewish people. The modern pronunciation as "Koresh" is based on modern - not ancient - Hebrew. If the modern Hebrew method is used, "kor" means "furnace," and "esh" means "fire." (Compare Strong's Concordance, Hebrew Dictionary nos. 3564-3565, 3566, and 784 [and as a Bible student, it is very likely that David Koresh would have had access to a copy of the ubiquitous Strong's - ed.].) Therefore, the name "Koresh" translates literally as "Furnace (of) Fire," which is an apt description of the ultimate destiny to which David Koresh and his followers offered themselves and their children.
The first name which Vernon Howell took for himself was "David" - a Hebrew name meaning "Beloved." When the two names "David" and "Koresh" are applied to one individual, the translated meaning is "Beloved Furnace of Fire" - a name filled with opposite and disassociated meanings, which provides an excellent description of Vernon Howell's divided personality, i.e., a man who said one thing and did another, a man who couldn't keep his word to law enforcement officials, and a man whose moral conduct was filled with inconsistencies in relation to his claim to be Jesus Christ, the Lamb, and the true interpreter of the Seven Seals of Revelation. The living of a lie in committing uncounted acts of adultery, child molestation, and only God knows what else, certainly fulfills the disassociative meanings inherent within the combined names "David Koresh."
In Holy Scripture, a "furnace of fire" is always associated with either the murder of God's servants by unregenerate unbelievers or as Divine Judgment from God upon the ungodly and incorrigible sinner. From the viewpoint of Holy Scripture, the destiny sought and achieved by David Koresh for himself and his followers was neither Scriptural nor necessary.
Finally, a few very brief comments on something many of us need to think about. As a publication read by many Sabbatarians, AR frequently receives letters and submissions from sincere individuals who hold to the notion that seventh-day Sabbath keeping is "a sign" of the true people of God and that to be one of the "true" churches of God a church must have that "sign." Yet, David Koresh and his followers all kept the seventh-day Sabbath. In fact, the Branch Davidians are the very first group listed in the 1986 Directory of Sabbath-Observing Groups published by The Bible Sabbath Association (Fairview, OK 73737). Not only that, Koresh kept the annual Holy Days, eschewed unclean meats, loved to study prophecy, and indeed, from the age of 12 could recite the entire New Testament from memory. Yet, look at his end.
What happened in Waco was a terrible, terrible tragedy. But, hopefully, it is one from which many of us will learn some very important lessons.
We are sorry to report the passing of a number of individuals who will have been known to many of our readers.
Keith F. Thomas died on January 9, 1992. Mr. Thomas was a member of the WCG from 1954 and a minister until 1986 when he resigned from the WCG ministry. The WCG refused to print his obituary since he had been disfellowshipped for not attending services. Actually, the minister who took over the local church after he resigned asked him not to attend locally, but to attend with another congregation over 100 miles away. The new minister admitted that he feared the local congregation would still look to Mr. Thomas as a minister and would not respect his replacement. The deceased is survived by his wife, four children, and nine grandchildren.
Although he passed away more than two years ago, we failed to report that Mr. Jim Doak died in January of 1991. No longer a member of WCG, his death was not reported by the WCG in which he had been a minister for many years. He is survived by his wife, Bobby, who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
All of us at AR were very saddened to learn of the recent death from melanoma of Robert N. Justus, 44, of Springdale, Arkansas. Bob, a member of CGI at his passing, was co-owner of a printing company and an avid pilot. The editor of AR fondly remembers Bob as the fellow Bricket-Wooder who introduced him to the music of many great British big bands in the late sixties and as the fun-loving friend with whom he used to sneak off campus for ice-skating sessions at a London rink. His survivors include his wife, Paula Ann, two daughters, a stepdaughter, and a stepson.
Finally, we are saddened to report the death of Los Angeles TV news reporter Wayne Satz, 47, from a heart attack in December. Satz, a lawyer-journalist most famous as the reporter who broke the McMartin story, had been off the air since 1987 when he reported on his own station's unethical attempts at manipulating the Nielsen ratings. Ironically, his wrongful termination suit against the station was settled in late 1992 and he had been back on the air only a short while when he died unexpectedly. He will be missed by all of us at AR, not just because of the high quality of his reporting, but because by giving air time to publishers Trechak, Nugent, and Gerringer in the mid-seventies, he was the first Los Angeles television journalist to cover the Ambassador Report story.
Wow! Unbelievable! On Sunday morning I turned on my radio to get the latest racing results on KIEV, our local pony station, and who did I hear but Mr. Herbert Armstrong! Preaching just like he did many years ago! But then at the end of the broadcast I heard him say his name was Rod - "like a fishing rod" - Meredith. I remembered an evangelist by that name from my days in the WCG. But this still freaked me out. Because I had heard from friends still involved with the WCG that on January 16, exactly seven years from the day he died, Mr. Herbert Armstrong was scheduled to come out of the grave and begin preaching again. I didn't believe them, but when I heard that broadcaster's voice it shook me up. Now I'm thinking that maybe Mr. Armstrong's spirit or powers or something came out of the grave and went into Mr. Meredith. I'm feeling really freaked out by this. What do you think?
Editor: I agree. You do sound "freaked out. " We at AR had also heard the story that HWA was supposed to be resurrected on January 16. And we heard that some were planning a prayer vigil at his grave that day in anticipation. Finding it difficult to fathom that there are people who would believe such a thing, we drove up to the cemetery. As crazy as it sounds, however, for a good part of the day there were groups praying over HWA's grave in the rain. There were also bouquets of flowers and two notes from Joseph Tkach. Who the notes were meant for, we don't know. HWA is dead and after January 16 he still remains in his grave.
Mr. Trechak, something I heard last Sabbath (Jan 30) really got me upset. At around 1:30 p.m. I turned on KUSC, one of our local classical music stations. I had hoped to listen to some beautiful classical music while studying my Bible. But instead of beautiful music, what I heard was some of the most bizarre stuff I have ever experienced. It was apiece called "Polyrhythms - Chants for the Priestess." The announcer said it was based on African tribal music. I'm sure that was correct because it was all drums and voodoo-like chants. What upset me, however, was that just as I reached over to turn the program off, the announcer said the program was being sponsored by the Ambassador Foundation. So I continued listening. The next piece was a piece of modernistic cacophony by some Jewish intellectual. I could hardly stand listening. But then I really got a shock. The announcer on this program sponsored by the Ambassador Foundation said he was in the process of planning his special April Fool's program. He explained how his special Halloween broadcast had been a great success.
It bothers me that my tithes are being used to support such programs. What is your opinion of this?
Editor: I don't think I would have cared much for the music you describe. But KUSC is a great classical music station and I'm glad your tithes are helping to support its music broadcasts.
On Sunday, April 4, I watched the church's World Tomorrow telecast. The speaker was Richard Ames, Dr. Meredith's brother-in-law. The broadcast, which was about the Crucifixion, was in many ways very fine. But I found one production detail very confusing. In portraying the last Passover meal that Jesus had with his disciples, the program used Da Vinci's painting "The Last Supper." It is the one that shows Judas having accidentally spilled salt and Jesus eating fully leavened bread. I found the use of that Catholic painting confusing for a number of reasons. First, the WCG used to teach that it was a violation of the second commandment to portray the Deity via physical representations. Second, the WCG used to teach that the traditional representation of Jesus as having shoulder-length hair was effeminate and historically inaccurate. Third, the WCG used to teach that only unleavened bread was proper at Passover. And, forth, the story about Judas and the spilled salt was never a part of WCG teaching and is found nowhere in the Bible. So are we seeing the quiet introduction of new doctrines "under our very noses" via the broadcast?
Editor: Apparently so. What other explanation could there be?
The day before the Feast of Trumpets, 1992, there was a suicide in the Fresno church. A 17-year-old girl, whose parents are dear friends of mine, shot herself with a .45 automatic right in front of her parents. Her mother told me later that the girl always became depressed during the holy days because she didn't feel she was "good enough." She felt unworthy by church standards, although she was a sweet, normal woman. This is the second suicide in the Fresno WCG in nine years. The other suicide was a minister's son, age 23.
Over the years that you have investigated the WCG and read thousands of letters from your readers, in addition to those who have died from lack of medical care or by being murdered, how many suicides have there been? And do you see any kind of a trend?
Editor: We have no way of knowing how many there have been, but we have heard of dozens of WCG-related suicides over the years. Back in mid-January, Glenn Troike, the son of WCG minister Paul Troike, committed suicide. Recently, former WCG member Elilu Neitsch - who never seemed to recover fully from the WCG experience or her husband's suicide some years ago - herself committed suicide in Pasadena. She left behind a sixteen-year-old daughter. A few months ago we heard of a WCG member committing suicide up in Wyoming. We don't know if there is a trend. Nor can we know for sure which suicides were caused by membership in Worldwide. After all, some may well have been caused by factors having nothing to do with church membership. However, from the mere fact that some members and children of members have committed suicide, we can logically deduce that WCG membership does not automatically protect one or one's family from that kind of tragedy.
Similarly, one has only to read the obituary section of the Worldwide News to see that Worldwiders die just as frequently as others (maybe more frequently) from cancer and other diseases (often at an early age), from violence, or in accidents. For example, in the obituarty section of the 12/2/92 WN, there were among the deceased one 47-year- old man who died from injuries suffered in an industrial accident, one 50-year-old man who died from an accidental fall at a construction site, and one 23-year-old man who died in a swimming accident. Their affiliation with WCG doesn't seem to have given them much protection from accidents. But the same can be said about CGI and other groups. For instance, last October six CGI members were killed in a fiery car crash in Mississippi while traveling to their church's Feast of Tabernacles in Florida (Jonesboro Sun, 10/23/92).
My little brother has been fighting cancer and was anointed by a very compassionate minister from the Church of God, International. As my in-laws still attend with Worldwide, it was brought to my attention that members of the WCG are saying my brother cannot be healed as he was anointed by a "false minister."
Editor: In Mk. 5:25-34, we read of the woman healed by touching Jesus' garment. Verse 34 relates how Jesus told her afterwards, "thy faith hath made thee whole." He didn't say "you have been healed because you are in the right denomination." The fact is there are cases of miraculous healings in many denominations. And we have heard of many cases of people being healed after they left Worldwide. We even know of cases of dramatic healings of individuals who were not in any denomination or who were not even Christians. Almost always, however, there seems to be present some element of living faith.
In a taped sermon given on May 30, 1992, Mr. Joseph Tkach Jr. told a story about Harold Jackson, the black WCG elder who passed away last year. Here is what Joe Jr. said:
I had heard many stories about him [Mr. Jackson] and I had heard that he had visited Malcolm X. So I asked him about it and he told me, "Yes, that's true." He went to visit Malcolm X when he was in jail. This is before Malcolm X was known as Malcolm X, before he was known as anybody on a notoriety level. And while he was in jail he found a copy of the Plain Truth and a booklet and he also had the writings of Muhammad Elijah. And Mr. Jackson said as he visited him in jail he encouraged him not to read any more of Muhammad Elijah's writings but to continue reading the Plain Truth. And he told me how he told him how one set of literature will take you through the right door. The other will take you through the wrong door.
Interesting that Mr. Jackson had that experience visiting Malcolm X in jail, because it was years later he had the opportunity to hear Malcolm X speak in a big public setting and he and one of the deacons from Chicago went to hear him speak and they walked in and sat down and as Malcolm X was speaking he recognized him as the guy who had visited him in jail and [he] said, "Well, look what we have here. We have some representatives from the Worldwide Church of God sitting amongst us."
Mr. Jackson was the same race as everybody else in that room. But, he told me, he felt as if he was a different color.
Only seven months before, in the December 23, 1991 WN, the official Jackson obituary gave data that shows Tkach Jr.'s story to be doubtful at best. According to the obituary, Jackson first heard the World Tomorrow broadcast in 1951 in San Diego where he lived. Malcolm X (then Malcolm Little) was incarcerated on a burglary conviction in Charlestown Prison in Massachusetts from February 1946 to early August 1952. The obituary further stated that, "Mr. Jackson was ordained a deacon in November 1957 and a local elder in 1959. That year he moved from Southern California to Chicago, where he served for 12 years."
It seems unlikely that a first year lay member would travel over 3000 miles to visit a convict. I might add that Malcolm was a Muslim convert by 1947.
Now that Malcolm X has become a black folk hero among the nation's black youth, it's interesting to hear for the, first time in 40 years that he almost left the Nation of Islam to become a WCG member. I'm sure the young blacks listening to the tape were astounded. I wasn't.
Editor: It appears that Tkach Jr. is a chip off the old block.
We've been corresponding with a few ex-Worldwiders, whose names were passed on to us. One of them mentioned how some Ambassador students had been taught to admire some of Hitler's traits. Examples: He had the leadership ability to sway the masses, he never let his hair cover his forehead (supposedly the seat of human will), and he was willing to be brutal when he believed his goal was righteous (thus suggesting that "God's ministers" have permission to do the same toward their congregations). I guess we should not have been surprised considering that HWA, himself, is widely reported to have been a student of Hitler's psychological methods.
Editor: I'm not surprised either. But, the WCG ministry's fetish for non-covered foreheads has always seemed nonbiblical and odd to me. What is the basis of the taboo? Is there some tie-in to the parapsychological phenomenon of chakras? I don't know. But it seems particularly odd to equate the ability to sway "the masses" with a fetish for hair-bare foreheads. The latter, however, does sound like the kind of fetish that Hitler, who had a great interest in the occult, might have had.
You've published a few letters questioning whether or not the WaIdensians were part of the "true church."
In tracing their beliefs to the Waldensians, Herbert Armstrong and Herman Hoeh were merely buying into a view that had been around for several centuries. No doubt they had been influenced by Dugger and Dodd's book, A History of the True Church, which describes the history of the Waldensians in chapters 8-16. This work quotes extensively from Hugh Smith's Church History, Jones' Church History, Wylie's History of the Waldensians, Ernesto Comba's History of the Waldensians (originally published in Italian), and a number of other works.
Ellen G. White also discussed the Waldensians in chapter four of The Great Controversy, published in 1888. She may have based her understanding on a four-volume history by A. Muston, titled Israel in the Alps and first published in 1851. Muston asserted that the Waldensians were keeping some of the Old Testament practices, including the Holy Days.
The Waldensians, themselves, claimed to be the uncorrupted remnant of the apostolic church, a view which was supported by Theodore Beza, the founder of the Swiss Calvinist church, and Olivetan, another Calvinist who from 1532 to 1535 preached Protestant doctrines to the Waldensians. Both Beza and Olivetan believed Paul had established the Waldensian church on his journey to Spain. A Catholic inquisitor of the fourteenth century, Reinerius Saccho, even admitted that the Waldensians had existed long before Peter Waldo came on the scene.
If you took an English literature course in college, you might remember John Milton's poem about the persecutions faced by the Waldensians. Cromwell had sent S. Morland as an emissary to the little church and in 1658 Morland wrote The History of the Evangelical Churches of the Piedmont. Apparently, the Waldensian church was quite well known among Protestant circles in England and perhaps served in some way as justification or validation for their rejection of Catholic doctrines.
Apostolicity has always been an important issue within Christianity, and Herbert Armstrong was no different than other churchmen in trying to establish an apostolic succession and continuity of doctrine for the Worldwide Church of God.
Linda Hardy White
Editor: Mrs. White and her husband Wes are former WCG members who now fellowship with the Church of God (Seventh Day). "CG7" is the group from which HWA, himself, exited to begin his own religious organization. Many individuals, disillusioned with the WCG, have found CG7 more to their liking. There are a number of branches, with the largest headquartered in Colorado (330 West 152nd Ave., Broomfield, CO 80020). Their magazine is The Bible Advocate, P.O. Box 33677, Denver, CO 80233-0677. Another branch is the Church of God, 7th Day; 79 Water St.; Salem; WV 26426 (a branch from which HWA once had credentials). Both the Colorado and West Virginia branches have published some revealing information about HWA's association with CG7. A third branch is The Church of God, Jerusalem (World Headquarters), P.O. Box 10184, Jerusalem 91101, Israel. This organization, with more than 40,000 members, publishes The Mount Zion Reporter, founded by the late A. N. Dugger who was once a senior associate of HWA. This group is now headed by Mr. Gordon Fauth.
My husband and I left the WCG in October 1992 and thank God every day that we have been freed from that bondage. We can't figure out how we could have allowed them to control us for 12 years. Doubt about the WCG had been building over the last few years, but when we "discovered" in September that the New Covenant released us from having to keep the Holy Days, that was the last straw.
To our surprise, we were not alone in our studies. Other members up here independently came to the same conclusions as we did. And many of them wrote to Vancouver (Canadian HQ) and Pasadena with their new found truth, naively believing that the church would correct their teaching when they saw the truth. Of course, they refused it. (We later learned that Tkach has known for at least five years that the church does not have to keep the Feast Days and yet he has made no attempt to correct the error in teaching.)
I've attached out exit letter to Frank Brown for your information. It pretty much sums up the major reasons for our departure.
Over the last six months 32 people (23 adults) up here have left the WCG and more are still studying. Most of us have started attending the Church of God (Seventh Day). (Another 10 people left the WCG three years ago and attend there also.) Some of those who left were longtime members of 20, 25, and 28 years. As well, some have joined a support group for people who have left cults; we all need a lot of healing after years of being victimized. The group advertises in the local paper and gets more calls from WCG members all the time....
We continue to pray that more of our dear friends will get out of that abusive and destructive cult and that you please pray with us. The WCG may be attempting to look more Christian, but in reality the fear tactics and manipulative treatment of members exists as much today as it did when HWA was alive.
Editor: After a short correspondence with the Supruniuks, Lorie sent us the following:
We've been pouring over the ARs. One of the first things we read was "the Gerringer letter." It was super. One of the things that really struck us was that the process and the feelings Bob went through were so similar to our own, yet our experience was twenty years later! I firmly believe that God's Spirit was slowly working with us, chipping away at the errors the WCG taught us. When we allow His Spirit to lead us, we all end up being led out of the WCG!
That reminds me of a call we received from Bob Scott, an assistant pastor in Edmonton on illness leave. When Mr. Scott heard of our decision to leave the WCG he called and I had a long, tiresome conversation with him. He pleaded with me, using all the familiar arguments. Then he asked what we had been reading and where we got our information. I told him we've been reading Galatians. "Don't read Galatians!" he said. "You should never read Galatians without a minister present. In fact, even Dr. Stavrinides has trouble understanding it. If you read Galatians you will study yourself right out of the church!" He was right about one thing.
I've also been in shock at the amount of proof there is against New Testament tithing and (it shouldn't surprise me, but it does) that the church knows that it is wrong to burden the people this way. Tithing never was one of the things that we questioned when we left, we thought they had that right, although over the last few months we've been wondering about that too (just like the Sabbath). The Church of God (7th Day) teaches tithing as a Biblical principle but not as a law. The tithes and offerings stay in the local area and are used for the local minister's salary and local expenses. Very little is sent to Denver headquarters and the books are always available for anyone to look at. This seems to be a better system, but really should we be calling it "tithing" or would "free-will offering" be less legalistic?
I appreciated your private comments about the Sabbath. Dave and I have been leaning to the same conclusions about it being a principle rather than a legalistic rule. Fortunately the pastor of the Church of God (7th Day) congregation we're fellowshipping with is very strong on grace and is allowing us to work this out for ourselves. He hasn't pushed us on it at all. In fact, one of the men from our group just experienced a shift change and now has to work on Saturday. No one from the church has told him to quit his job or anything. Yet we know what would have happened if he was still in the WCG.
Some very interesting history about our pastor: His name is David Kauer (ring a bell?). He's about 58 years old and his dad and HWA were contemporaries in Oregon. David is a corporate accountant (the church encourages men to have "real" careers before entering the ministry) and from 1964 to 1980 David worked at the church's Denver HQ as the secretary-treasurer. He then became a pastor for the churches in Seattle/Tacoma, Washington and in 1986 he moved to Edmonton to pastor the church here.
When GTA left the WCG for the last time (three is a number of completion isn't it?), he went to visit David Kauer in Denver to search out his father's roots. He looked over old copies of the Bible Advocate that HWA had written for. Even GTA was surprised to find out just how involved his father had been with the Church of God (7th Day) and for how long. It seems HWA didn't even tell his own son the truth.
So did the name David Kauer ring a bell? You mention him on page 69 of the 1977 AR in "Herbert Armstrong's Religious Roots." Neat huh? I've enclosed a copy of the documentation that shows HWA's involvement and membership in the Church of God (7th Day) until 1938. [Readers can write to CG7 to get a copy - ed.] Do you get Gerald Flurry's Philadelphia Trumpet? The issue I received today has an article showing the "true" history of HWA's foundling church. Same old lies....
Regarding our letter to Frank Brown, by all means let your readers know they can have a copy from us. It would be helpful if they could send a self-addressed business envelope, just to save me some time. But because it would be impossible for Americans to buy Canadian stamps, we'll take care of that. If there is anything we can do further to expose the WCG, please let us know.
Editor: The six-page letter the Supruniuks wrote to Frank Brown contains many valuable insights about the WCG's current problems. Those who would like a copy may write to: David & Lorie Supruniuk, 12947 - 102 Street, Edmonton, Alberta T5E 4J4, Canada.
My wife Gail and I have left the WCG and are now Methodists. We recently started a support group called Help-Net, a Christian organization that helps people who are in, or are coming out of, cults.
P.O. Box 771233
Wichita, KS 67277
Having read all 51 issues of Ambassador Report published to date and several of the books you have often mentioned, I have decided to resign from the Worldwide Church of God after nearly three decades as a member (copies of resignation letters as deacon and member enclosed).
Melvin W. Kangas
I want to thank you very much for sending me all the back issues I requested some time ago.... You must realize that having all this hard data at our fingertips has made the difference between remaining totally messed up mentally, and having the peace of mind that the truth brings. We are still searching for clarifications on various doctrines, but at least we are absolutely clear on the Worldwide Church of God and its corrupt ministry.
I do hope that you are preserving all this information in some sort of permanent storage medium. This information must never be lost. It would be wonderful if the entire history of the WCG could be written up in a form that would be available both to scholars and the public.
Thelma M. Demers, B. Ed.
I have been a member of the Worldwide Church of God for thirty years. My negative experiences are too numerous to write about. You can imagine how sick I feel about all that I have read so far. Mind control is a terrible thing to break away from.
I hope some day you can report on the utter, total collapse of the corruption known as the WCG. But people love to be deceived. HWA taught that. I heard him say so on a Bible study tape. And as long as they love to be deceived, the WCG won't collapse. I have no illusions about it. HWA taught that they love to be deceived and no one understood it better than he did. He was speaking to about 70,000 that he had deceived and I humbly acknowledge that at that time I was one of them. I paid a terrible price for allowing myself to be deceived.
Harry R. Williams
I am glad that you have not given up the good fight against the WCG. It's been a long and difficult struggle for me to exit this cult. The mind still plays tricks on me even though I feel that I'm getting more normal each and every day. Reading your publication is a reentry into the real world again. I look forward to your reports.
Greg J. Pokorny
A Few Comments From the Editor
As time passes there seems to be more and more WCG related information that needs to be reported. With the constant upheaval in WCG doctrines, policies, and personnel, plus the ever increasing number of WCG spinoff groups, it is becoming ever more time consuming to keep track of what is happening both in the WCG and in its daughter churches.
Many who have never been journalists will perhaps be surprised (but those who have, will not) that this issue represents over two solid months of full-time research. Yet, I still have about 1,000 pages of research materials already filed for the next two issues. I had hoped to report on the Flurry group and about a dozen other groups in this edition. But it looks like all of that will have to wait for the summer and fall ARs.
My apologies for not being able to get issues out on a more timely and predictable schedule. But, because AR does not provide anyone on its dwindling "staff' with a salary, AR projects sometimes have to be put on the shelf for weeks, or even months, at a time.
I hope all of you will continue on our mailing list. We do need to hear from you occasionally. Not just because we need contributions to continue, but because, with so many people changing addresses every year, we do need to know that you are still there - literally.
My thanks to all who contributed toward this issue.
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