May 1994 (AR55)
Editor: Whatever we may think of the late Herbert W. Armstrong, one thing is certain. He was the founder of a small religious empire. That empire included not just the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) and Ambassador College, but the Ambassador Foundation, the Plain Truth magazine, and, of course, The World Tomorrow broadcast and telecast. As we have previously reported, Armstrong's successor, Joseph W. Tkach, has not been so successful. While attempting to modernize and revamp the Armstrong inheritance, Tkach's efforts have resulted in the continuous decline of the organization that was left to him. Ambassador's Pasadena campus was closed and is eventually to be sold, the Plain Truth's circulation has gone from about 10 million down to under 2 million. And still the decline continues.
No More World Tomorrow
To the absolute shock of many long-time WCG observers, Tkach, in his February 24 letter to the church's members, informed his followers that after the current TV season ends there will be no more World Tomorrow telecasts. The announcement is surprising because the WCG's broadcasts and telecasts have played an important part in the WCG's history for fifty years. Not only was the program the key to bringing in new tithe-paying members (and important in replenishing the flock as many left the church), but the broadcasts were seen as an important part of "the Great Commission" of "warning modern Israel." Just last year the entire format of the telecast was changed from a one topic lecture style to a "magazine style." (The WCG's television marketing experts believe that most of the people that are attracted now to the WCG's message have difficulty keeping their minds on only one subject for a whole 20 or 25 minutes.) But even with the change in format, the responses to the telecasts have been in decline.
Current members, who are often completely confused about the direction Tkach is taking in leading the WCG, write us virtually every day asking, "What in the world is going on in this church?"
Of course, trying to figure out what is really going on inside the secretive WCG hierarchy would require the sleuthing skills and intuition of a professional Kremlinologist. But from what we have been able to piece together from sources inside the organization, it appears that Tkach may know what he is doing. To quote Shakespeare in Hamlet, "Though this be madness, there is a method in it."
The current plan appears to be to totally transform, not just the doctrines of the WCG, but its marketing plan, as well. In recent weeks, for instance, television commercials promoting the Plain Truth have been appearing between segments of many different nationally popular programs just like commercials for Scientology's Dianetics have for some time. The PT commercials have even been placed directly after the popular Rush Limbaugh show, giving the impression that they are now a sponsor of that program. (If Judd Kirk and company can't do the job, what better promoter for the WCG than Limbaugh?)
But increased use of TV advertising is only part of the shift in game plan. Tkach favors a much more open church than did his predecessor. He also senses that there is much more that he can get out of the membership than mere tithes. Already many WCG congregations have been holding "open houses" which bring to services the curious who may have only gotten a few issues of the PT. When they attend they are "love bombed" and frequently are indoctrinated into Tkachism quite rapidly. The importance the Tkach administration places on this new technique can be seen in one Worldwide News (WN) subhead: "Open houses created to move congregations toward evangelism" (WN, 7/6/93, p. 10). The new emphasis on "evangelism" is being coordinated by the WCG's new Evangelism Support Services Department headed by Tom Lapacka. And, as we reported in AR54, the WCG with its new "fundraisers" has discovered what many other denominations did years ago with their raffles and bingo nights. With the open church and fundraiser policies seen as successes, there is now talk of transforming each WCG member into a smiling and roving ambassador for the Tkach gospel. While WCG insiders claim the church has no intention yet of having members go house to house, the opening article of the September 14 WN began this way:
"Church members are our best ambassadors," said Tom Lapacka, Evangelism Support Services manager, at the open house conference in Pasadena, Aug. 19 and 20. "If evangelism is going to take place it will take place through them."
Now, if this sounds like the WCG may one day be imitating the Jehovah's Witnesses with their annoying neighborhood "ministers" or the Mormons with their youthful and self-righteous "missionaries," you are probably thinking the way Tkach is. Because the dedicated members of the JWs and the LDS churches have made their denominations among the fastest growing in the U.S., if not the world. And in what better group to attempt such a low-cost marketing plan than in the WCG - in which more than twenty years of journalistic exposis and dozens of splinter groups have not dented the total faith of its genuine true believers? To facilitate the open house marketing method, Tkach believes it would be wise for local congregations to have their own church buildings now. So he has announced a plan whereby some local congregations will build their own local church buildings.
Eventually, what takes place in these buildings may be quite different than what WCG members have experienced in the past. Tkach intends to put the WCG's television studios to work producing more video-taped "training programs" and sermons for local congregations. The plan will obviously accomplish a number of goals: The messages that WCG members will hear will be much more monitored. There will be less chance for local ministers to lead their congregations out of the WCG. There will be less of a need for local pastors. (Indeed, with a flood of video sermons from headquarters, all Tkach would really need in local areas are deacons who can set up and turn on a TV.) And, finally, videos with their editing and special effects are a much more effective method of mind control than traditional sermons and sermonettes.
©1994 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
Another area that Tkach is giving a new emphasis is in the recruitment of young people. This is another major WCG policy shift. For years, the WCG was one of the few cults that primarily aimed its recruitment toward older people. Worldwide stood in stark contrast to most of the other major cults which have traditionally emphasized nabbing the young. All that may now be changing. The Summer Education Program, YES (Youth Education Services - for pre-teens), YOU (Youth Opportunities United - for teens), Youth magazine, and other programs designed to keep young people in the WCG and to attract the young from without are all getting new emphasis.
Finally, look for changes in the very spirit of WCG services - services that are now to be called "Saturday services," not "Sabbath services." Already ministers are being told to keep sermons down to 45 minutes so as not to tire out the newcomers in their midst. Insiders even report that Tkach is seriously entertaining the idea of adding on a testimonial or public confession section to church services wherein men and women can rise and give short testimonies of how they overcame personal problems via "the Church." It is not clear if Tkach got the idea from the Church of God-7th Day or Church of God, International, which have both had the practice, or from Ellen Escat who was once a Pentecostal. Whatever the case, the public confessions should make for some very entertaining moments in Saturday services.
More Defections and Demotions
The WCG's historical proclivity for musical chairs continues unabated. The latest WCG big wig to leave the employ of the organization is World Tomorrow broadcaster Judd Kirk. World Tomorrow broadcaster David Hulme, while still in the WCG, is said to be "in the doghouse." What his future responsibilities, if any, will be are not known. It appears his main interests lie in the area of concert promotions. Others who have left recently include Larry Salyer, who has joined the Meredith organization.
Dennis Van Deventer, once thrown out of Ambassador College for performing a homosexual act, has been removed as head of WCG security. In that position he required WCG security personnel to carry Mace and wear black uniforms with black leather accessories. One of the things that apparently got him fired was getting drunk and loudly badmouthing Tkach while having lunch at the local Elks Club in Pasadena, a popular watering hole for WCG executives. We understand he will be kept on as a WCG minister.
Waterhouse Is Loosed Again
Just when some thought it was safe to go back into WCG services again, Pastor General Tkach has called evangelist Gerald Waterhouse out of retirement and has loosed him upon a number of "problem congregations."
During the last Feast of Tabernacles in the Philippines, Waterhouse gave his new tour sermon. The message was vintage Waterhouse: The WCG is the only true church. To Waterhouse that is a given, a supposition upon which all of his other propositions rest. Thus, to Waterhouse, based on the Roman Catholic interpretation of Matt. 16:19, God backs up any decision made by Pope Tkach "whether it is right or wrong." In the sermon, heavy on references to hell fire, Gerald Flurry ("a snow flurry") and Rod Meredith ("he loves to wield the rod, he loves authority when he is the one who has it") were attacked by name. Waterhouse claimed that Tkach was on the road almost every week speaking before local congregations. According to Waterhouse, one reason for Tkach's travels was to combat homosexuality in the church. And, said Waterhouse, "God is... revealing his nature through... Mr. Tkach." (Compare that statement to Rm. 1:20. - ed.)
To those who doubt that HWA actually appointed Tkach as his successor, Waterhouse offers three "Proofs": (1) In the last sermon he ever gave (at the Fall Festival in 1985), HWA told the members that they should be loyal to whomever is the Pastor General of the WCG. (2) In HWA's last co-worker letter, written six days before his death, HWA announced that he had designated Tkach as his successor. And (3), just days before his death there was a press release that indicated that HWA had appointed Tkach as his successor. No other evidence was offered by Waterhouse that Tkach's appointment is legitimate.
Was HWA's Designation of Tkach Valid?
There are some big problems with Waterhouse's three "proofs," above, that HWA legitimately left the Worldwide organization to Tkach.
First of all, in the last HWA sermon, Tkach was not named; HWA was just restating the well-known WCG teaching that members should be loyal to the Pastor General. Second, as regards the co-worker letter, there is much reasonable doubt that HWA, in a near-death condition and legally blind, could have knowingly signed the letter, let alone written it. Third, and most important, even if HWA designated Tkach as claimed, was the appointment valid? In the law of wills, a will is not valid if the testator is not mentally competent (for instance, if through physical illness or mental delusion he cannot fully understand what he is doing in making the will), or if he is under undue influence (as when a counsellor or aide exerts psychological persuasion for self profit), or where there is coercion (as where an aide might threaten to reveal the testator's sins after his death), or where there is fraud (as where an advisor knowingly provides the testator with false information - such as "I will never chage a thing after you pass away - and thereby benefits under the provisions of the will).
Every indication that we have is that all of these factors were quite likely in operation when HWA designated Tkach. Why HWA's son, Garner Ted Armstrong, Evangelist Roderick Meredith, or the WCG's board did not take any legal action to remedy the situation remains unanswered to this day. In fact, it remains a mystery why the WCG's current board - many disgruntled with Tkach - does not take legal action against him now.
The Mt. Pocono Mystery
With the WCG in ever increasing financial difficulty, it is not surprising that Tkach has been telling aides that he wants the church's Pasadena properties sold off, even if the WCG has to accept less than the $300 million or so it had hoped for. Such a visionless approach is one that brings shudders to many long-time members who have taken pride in the Pasadena properties that once housed Ambassador College and now are the church's headquarters. Their fears are further compounded by the realization that WCG leaders have made some atrocious land deals in the past.
One example is the WCG's quiet sale of the church's Mt. Pocono (Pennsylvania) festival site in 1987. While such a large sale could not be completely hidden from the church's membership, the lack of details provided the membership regarding the sale prompted more than a few to write us asking if we knew what was behind the transaction. It was not until last year that we at AR were able to make any inquiries about the matter. But the few facts we uncovered did give us reason to feel that members' concerns were justified. What follows is a recent letter written by AR editor John Trechak to the Board of Trustees of the Worldwide Church of God regarding the Pocono property sale:
April 1, 1994
Board of Trustees
Worldwide Church of God
300 West Green Street
Pasadena, CA 91123
A number of my readers have asked me to look into a matter that relates to your responsibilities as trustees for the Worldwide Church of God ("the Church"). Specifically, some have alleged that the board acted improperly in selling off the Church's Mt. Pocono festival site in 1987. When the allegations were first made a few years ago, I was not convinced that there was sufficient evidence to warrant such a claim. In recent months, however, after reviewing a number of legal documents and newspaper articles relating to the sale, I have come to a different view. Before publishing anything about the matter, I wish to give the Church's Board of Trustees the opportunity to answer a few questions, and that is the purpose of this letter.
The Mt. Pocono property, located in beautiful Monroe County, Pennsylvania, consisted of more than 247 acres of land, much of it landscaped, with parking lots, outdoor recreation facilities, and numerous structures including a 7,000-seat auditorium complete with sound system. Much of the property's value, you will recall, resulted from the many thousands of hours of volunteer labor donated by Church members over the years in the belief they were contributing to the long-term effectiveness of the Church. I, myself, worked at the site as a nonpaid volunteer in the summer of 1967. The property was a popular site for Church festivals and other Church activities. Not surprisingly, numerous Worldwide News articles since the sale have indicated that the Church has had some difficulty finding new festival sites that are comparable. Therefore, Question No. 1 is: Why was the property ever sold?
Some have assumed that the Church was strapped for cash in 1987 and that cash flow problems were behind the sale. But if one looks at the deeds on file with the Monroe County Recording Office, one notices that the transfer of the two tracts comprising the 247 acres were each made for "one dollar and other valuable consideration." That phrase is an interesting one. It is normally only seen on deeds where the grantor is making a gift to the grantee. The grantee in this case was a Japanese corporation called the U.S. Senda Group, Inc. This leads to Question No. 2: If the Church was actually making a gift to the Japanese corporation, what was the reason for the gift?
In spite of the "one dollar and other [unspecified] valuable consideration" language, there is evidence that some money did change hands. On the deeds for the two tracts it is stated that a Pennsylvania realty transfer tax was paid. The total amount was $25,500. In Pennsylvania, the property transfer tax rate is two percent. Therefore the required affidavit shown the county tax collector must have stated the sale price as $1,275,000 (or about one third of what WCG members were spending in the Pocono area during each year's fall festival). Now, here is where I have problems understanding this deal. Not only does the tax amount contradict the deed's language of gift, but Pennsylvania State Representative Joseph Battisto says the Senda Group actually paid $3 million for the property (see the Pocono Record 9/25/92, p. Al) which in 1986 had been appraised for $2.2 million (Pocono Record, 10/30/92, p. B2). Furthermore, in spite of the fact that Pennsylvania real estate prices have been dropping for some years now, Senda is in the process of selling the property to the state of Pennsylvania (for the creation of an arts and exhibitions center) for $4 million to $5 million (Pocono Record, 10/30/92, p. B2). These facts lead me to ask the following: Question No. 3: How much did the Senda Group actually pay for the property? And, distinctly separate, Question No. 4: How much did the Church actually receive for the property?
Perhaps the fourth question could be answered if one were to see a copy of the Church's financial statement for 1987. Because the Church regularly published complete, audited financial statements in The Worldwide News before Mr. Armstrong's death in 1986 and has done so in the last few years, one would think that the Church would have published its 1987 financial statement sometime in 1988. However, for some reason, the Church did not make available its complete 1987 financial statement for its members. That leads me to Question No. 5: Was the lack of a published and complete 1987 financial statement connected in any way to the Mt. Pocono land deal?
The suggestion some have made that the Mt. Pocono site was not sold at fair market value is one that troubles me. It is particularly troubling because the Mt. Pocono land deal received such scant coverage in The Worldwide News and other Church publications. Even the ministry was kept in total darkness on the matter. The Pastor General's Report Index for the relevant years shows that no articles mentioned the impending sale. I'm sure you realize that your fiduciary duties as trustees would have made it legally imperative that in selling off the Mt. Pocono site the board would exercise great care in getting a fair return by properly listing the properties, widely advertising its availability, asking the field ministry's help in locating potential buyers, taking bids, etc. I have not heard or read anything regarding the sale that would indicate such care was exercised by the board. In fact, certain board members from that era have stated that it was common for Church officers to routinely make decisions of that magnitude independently and to inform the trustees post hoc. While I know that Pastor General Tkach, his assistant Michael Feazell, and church treasurer Leroy Neff were privy to the sale, I wonder to what degree other board members knew what was actually transpiring. That leads me to Question No. 6: Did the board actually agree to the sale based upon full disclosure of its details and with full discussion of its merits before the decision to sell (as is legally required) - or was there only supposed agreement after the decision to sell by what Herbert Armstrong used to refer to as his "dummy board"?
The Worldwide Church of God is not the only organization that likes to operate in secrecy. Those currently negotiating the sale of the Senda Group's Mt. Pocono property have been criticized similarly. For instance, Charles Sperrazza, Republican candidate for Pennsylvania's 118th state House district, said of the Senda-Pennsylvania negotiations: "This project is being foisted on the taxpayers in virtual secrecy.... We need a full disclosure about the project - facts will show that the beneficiaries will be bureaucrats, with the burden falling on the taxpayers." (Pocono Record, 10/30/92, p. B2.) So secrecy surrounds the property to this day. But not just the property, the Senda Group, too.
In reading a report I received from Dun and Bradstreet, I discovered that U.S. Senda is a corporation formed in California on 2/9/87 - in other words, just weeks before the Mt. Pocono land deal was consummated. The report states that U.S. Senda is primarily involved in "amusement and recreation," but virtually no other information about this corporation is publicly available. Dun and Bradstreet did not even have figures as to any of its revenues or its number of employees. From incorporation papers I received from an investigator in Japan, I discovered that U.S. Senda Group is a subsidiary of Nihon Format, Inc., a corporation whose board is composed of only Senda family members and whose president is Katsuhiko Senda. Now, while U.S. Senda may be involved in only amusement and recreation, Nihon Format is involved in much, much More: Buying, selling, leasing, and administration of real estate; management of hotels, restaurants, and bars; sale of medical equipment; manufacture of telephone devices; sale of furniture and sports equipment; sale of language study equipment; sale of precious metals; consultation regarding the establishment of sites for conventions and trade fairs, etc. In other words, U.S. Senda is a part of a fairly large and diversified parent corporation. Nevertheless, a few weeks ago, while looking over the deeds in the Mt. Pocono land deal, I noticed a very curious thing. In the filed recording papers, the official representative for Senda in California was a gentleman with an office not in San Francisco, downtown Los Angeles, or Century City as one might expect, but in Pasadena, of all places. What a coincidence, I thought. Then when I went to the address listed on the papers, I found that U.S. Senda was no longer there. The building was not an office building, but an indoor baseball batting club. Later I discovered that in 1987 the building was ostensibly only a warehouse. You know the building. It is directly behind Mijares Mexican Restaurant, not more than a few hundred yards from the Church's Hall of Administration. In fact, it is just across the 210 freeway from the section of Waverly Drive where former WCG attorney and chief accountant Stanley Rader lives. Another strange coincidence, I thought. But that's not all. When I discovered where U.S. Senda had moved to (200 E. Del Mar Blvd. in Pasadena), deliverymen told me that the suite at which the Senda Group received mail is also an address where Osamu Gotoh and associates received mail. I'm sure you gentlemen are well aware of the serious and well-documented allegations made against Mr. Gotoh, Mr. Rader's friend, in the 1977 issue of Ambassador Report. With that in mind, Question No. 7 is: Did Mr. Gotoh have anything to do with the Mt. Pocono land deal?
In the last few years, numerous articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times regarding the vast amount of U.S. real estate purchased by Japanese corporations in the last decade. Some of those corporations are known to have ties to organized crime. I have no information that the Senda Group is such a corporation. Nevertheless, the manner in which the Mt. Pocono land deal was carried out makes me wonder what was really behind the deal. You should too. Let's not forget how the Senda people were able to renege on a key part of the deal with Worldwide in 1988 when they refused to honor a contract provision allowing WCG to lease the property for the Feast (Worldwide News, 8/8/88, p. 1). That such a major contract breach was possible leads me to Question No. 8: Were the attorneys representing WCG in the deal exclusively interested in protecting the WCG's interests, or were they more interested in facilitating a good deal for Senda?
This leads me to one final query. Question No. 9: Will the Church's Pasadena properties now be disposed of in the same manner?
Gentlemen, I look forward to your timely response.
With warmest regards,
Editor & Publisher
Editor: What follows is the complete and unedited April 11 response of Leroy Neff, Secretary of the WCGs Board:
Dear Mr. Trechak:
This will acknowledge receipt of your letter of April 1, 1994, directed to the Board of Trustees of the Worldwide Church of God.
The other time I wrote you was to ask that you discontinue sending me your unsolicited publication. Thank you for complying with my request.
I do not read your material, but others who do, tell me that the avowed purpose of Ambassador Report is to destroy the Worldwide Church of God. Also, that your writings have been salacious and slanted. Based on what little I read years ago, this evaluation would appear correct.
In view of this kind of a comment, we do not view you as being the appropriate candidate to oversee the Church's finances, or instruct its trustees on their legal responsibilities. We respond to your letter only to impede what we believe is an obvious intent to mislead your readers with misstatements and false innuendos - not because we feel you have any credence or credibility.
Contrary to what you say, the Church has not had difficulty in finding new Feast sites.
We are advised by legal professionals that "one dollar and other valuable consideration," is not normal on deeds of gift. A gift is without consideration.
The property was not gifted to anyone, but rather, sold for a full and valuable consideration.
You asked what was paid for the property and how much the Church received for the property. The price that was paid was the price that was negotiated in an arms length transaction. The price was not, as you have falsely suggested, below fair market value. The property was in fact sold for a price which exceeded the appraised value as determined by two licensed appraisers.
The sale was completely audited by Arthur Andersen and Co. If the complete financial statement for 1987 was not published in the Worldwide News, it had nothing to do with the sale of the Pocono property.
You are incorrect that the fiduciary duties of the Trustees require the specific action you refer to. The Board did act with full disclosure before, not after, the transaction.
You raise a lot of irrelevant and unfounded speculations regarding the "Senda Group." We suggest you refer any such questions to the Senda Group.
The attorneys representing the Church in selling the Pocono property were interested in protecting the Church's interest and they did not represent the "Senda Group."
There are other false and misleading innuendos in your letter and the fact that we do not take time to address them all should not be considered an admission to the truth of any of the matters in your letter.
Secretary of the Board
Dear Mr. Neff:
I want to thank you for your enlightening and entertaining letter. But there are a few points I want to mention. I would have written you a personal note, but as you do not want to receive mail from me I thought this would be the proper forum to address those points.
First off, however, let me just comment that although I have not been made aware of what law firm you are currently relying on for your legal advice, I want to express my admiration for their chutzpa and/or sense of humor. As one who has had a tiny bit of legal training myself, I find those qualities quite admirable, especially in young lawyers. Let me draw your attention to but one example of how that chutzpa/humor manifested itself in your comments. Paragraph six of your letter states: "We are advised by legal professionals that 'one dollar and other valuable consideration' is not normal on deeds of gift. A gift is without consideration." Now I ask: "and other valuable consideration"? Like what? A buck's worth of wampum beads? Marbles? Baseball cards? Well, let's put that question aside just for the moment so we can review some legal fundamentals.
As every law school casebook on contracts points out, consideration does usually distinguish a contract from a mere gift. Furthermore, courts generally will not examine whether the value of the consideration was commensurate to the bargained for exchange in a contract. However, with perhaps a very few exceptions, judges are not idiots and so the courts do recognize the concept of "nominal consideration." Essentially, nominal consideration exists when a donative promise is falsely put by the parties into the form of a bargain. Now, I don't want to bore you with a long list of cases, so let me just quote from a popular legal work you probably have in your own library, Black's Law Dictionary:
Nominal consideration. One bearing no relation to the real value of the contract or article, as where a parcel of land is described in a deed as being sold for "one dollar," no actual consideration passing, or the real consideration being concealed.
Now notice what law professors John D. Calamari and Joseph M. Perillo write in their famous Contracts hornbook (2nd edition, p. 139):
Economic inadequacy, then, except in one unusual situation [Where "Unthinking lawyers have sometimes run afoul of the general rule by drafting such meaningless clauses as 'in consideration of $1.00 by each to the other paid. "' - p.138], does not prevent any bargained for detriment from constituting consideration. On the other hand, economic inadequacy may constitute some circumstantial evidence of fraud, duress, overreaching, undue influence, mistake or that the detriment was not in fact bargained for.
I don't want to turn this note into a legal brief, but let me suggest that your lawyers were either pulling your leg or have simply just not done their homework. I suspect your law firm is a young and impoverished one without access to the Lexis or Westlaw computerized research systems. So let me suggest that your lawyers begin their legal research with the long line of cases beginning with the famous old case of Fischer v. Union Trust Co., 138 Mich. 612, 101 N.W. 852 (1904). They should also read the Restatement of Contracts, Second, Sec. 87, Comment b.
I'll summarize for them. Where consideration is only token, courts will usually conclude that a gift was involved, rather than a bargained for exchange. In such cases, many courts will void such pseudo-contracts. In the case of the Pocono land deal, the use of "in consideration of one dollar and other valuable consideration" on the deeds for the purchase (?) of hundreds of acres of land logically leads to what I asked in Question 2: If the Church was actually making a gift to the Japanese corporation, what was the reason for the gift? You have not answered that yet to my satisfaction. By the way, if you have any doubt what "for one dollar and other valuable consideration" means in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, just do what I did. I called the county register's office and asked the young lady clerk what it meant there. Her pointed answer? "It means a gift was made."
Now, with that preliminary comment out of the way, let me be more to the point. I am truly sorry that you have clouded the issues surrounding the Pocono land deal with vague references to what you believe to be the Report's avowed purposes. (By the way, our actual purposes were clearly stated in our very first letter of 1976 and I will be glad to send you a copy should you ever decide to come out of your hiding ostrich posture.) You admit your opinion of our purposes are based only on hearsay and a brief perusal of perhaps a few of our early issues. Ostensibly based upon such unfounded views of our supposed purposes, you (and I must assume the rest of the board) have refused to clarify why so many dubious coincidences surround this real estate transaction - a transaction for which, in spite of the deeds' language of gift, there is every indication that there were millions of dollars involved.
With so many serious questions raised, I cannot understand why you could not have put aside your prejudiced view of the Report and simply answered our nine little questions. While you and your lawyers were careful to justify your own actions and the actions of the unnamed lawyers who were involved in the 1987 deal, you specifically evaded answering questions 1, 3, 4, 7, and 9. The evasion of answering question 7 regarding Mr. Gotoh is all too obvious. But even more amazing is the evasion of answering questions 3 and 4. The significance is this: If newspaper reports are correct that Senda actually paid $3 million for the property, and if Monroe County tax records, are correct that WCG received only $1,275,000 for the property (in spite of the language of gift on the deed), then what became of the difference - the $1,725,000? Who got that?
Most important today, however, is this question: Is history now about to repeat itself in the sale of the Church's Pasadena properties? That was question 9 and you chose not to answer that one either.
Mr. Neff, is it Ambassador Report, or isn't it really the Worldwide Church of God's Board of Trustees, you included, who are the ones with "an obvious intent to mislead readers with misstatements and false innuendos"?
Incidentally, my recent letter to the Senda Group's president in Japan was returned unopened. We are presently attempting to locate his whereabouts.
WCG Ministers Rake in the Big Bucks
Have you ever wondered what the WCG's ministers and executives make? A highly reliable WCG insider recently disclosed what Tkach pays himself and his underlings. Tkach's salary is $335,000 per year. Evangelist rank ministers get $120,000 to $130,000 per year. Department heads and regional directors get $80,000 to $81,000 per year. Field ministers with 15-25 years experience get $50,000-$55,000. Ministerial assistants receive about $36,000. And ministerial trainees $26,500. These figures do not include numerous perks such as parsonage allowances, health and life insurance, use of company cars, travel allowances, gifts of ample second tithe to spend, etc. Our insider indicates that like HWA before him, Tkach has virtually all of his daily living expenses paid for him by the church in addition to his salary. Tkach is said to give about $80,000 back to the church in tithes and offerings each year. Retirees from the church are paid up to 80 percent of what they earned while in - as long as they keep their mouths shut.
The Puzzling Pogorelich
The World Tomorrow may soon be gone, Ambassador College's old Pasadena campus is on the chopping block, and the WCG may be disintegrating, but the music continues on with the Ambassador Foundation. Subsidized by the WCG's tithepayers to the tune of about $1.5 million per year (necessary because even with the exorbitantly high price of tickets to Ambassador shows and concerts, the Ambassador concert series is not self-supporting), this year's series continues with a line of world-class artists. (One example: the August 7 Brazilian jazz show was a huge success.) But not only does the concert series continue, this year Ambassador added a new event - The Ivo Pogorelich International Piano Competition.
The competition was held at Ambassador Auditorium December 2-16. Beginning with 40 pianists from 13 countries, by the third round the group was whittled down to eight finalists. At the competition's conclusion there was a tie for the silver medal with Evgeny Zarafiants, 34, of Russia and Irina Plotnikova, 39, of Russia each being awarded a silver sculpture and $5,000 in cash. There was also a tie for the gold medal with Michael Kieran Harvey, 32, of Australia and Juilliard student Edith Chen, 23, each receiving a gold sculpture and $75,000 in cash. All eight finalists received recording contracts with the Naxos and Marco Polo labels. Presenting the awards were Carmen Romano Lopez de Portillo, former first lady of Mexico, and Sir Edward Heath, former prime minister of Great Britain.
Those of us who attended the event were impressed not only with the high calibre of piano artistry displayed by all the participants, but also by the overall excellence of the Ambassador Auditorium personnel. Nevertheless, there were some disturbing aspects to the competition.
The first question raised by many who followed the competition was: Was it rigged? While no one would claim that the four medalists were not all very fine musicians and may have won even under different circumstances, many pianophiles in the audience came away unhappy with the results. For instance, listening to the audience's applause at the final awards presentation, one got the impression that the majority of the audience favored the dynamic, yet very poetic, Olivier Cazal of France. Undoubtedly, Cazal felt similar to many of his fans. At the awards ceremony the day after the winners were announced, Cazal's encore consisted of only the funeral march from Chopin's Second Sonata.
Cazal was not the only participant who was disappointed with the way the contest was structured. Pulitzer-prize-winning critic Martin Bernheimer wrote in The Los Angeles Times (12/15/93, p. F1, "More Questions Than Answers"):
Some experts were surprised that the makeup of the international jury was kept a secret until the day before the first round. When the roster was finally announced veterans of both foreign and domestic wars found it oddly constituted at best, lightweight at worst.
A noted artists' manager in attendance, Maxim Gershunoff, charged cronyism. The names of famous teachers and performers were scarce, in any case, and some of the judges' credentials seemed inflated. The 13-member panel includes only three Americans, two of whom find primary employment as radio announcers.
(The competition's jury contained not one famous pianist from the Southern California area in spite of the fact that many make their homes here. There was no Leon Fleisher on the jury. No Daniel Pollack. No Leonard Pennario. - ed.) Bernheimer continued:
More disturbing, however, were recurring worries about nepotism. To serve as president of the jury, Pogorelich appointed his wife, Alice Kezeradze, identified in the puffy program book as a pianist with "a brilliant concert career" and "an outstanding pedagogue." She would function as an active, voting president, and was given veto power over her colleagues.
Troubles began, as always, as soon as the first contestants were eliminated. Several of the instant losers were artists already enjoying distinguished careers, but that happens. One person's Cliburn is another's Votapek.
Among the predictable cries of distress, however, one heard strange accusations regarding Kezeradze. One contestant, speaking on condition of anonymity, claimed that four colleagues in the competition had studied with the jury president, and that one of them was related to her - possibly a niece.
Specific queries about these matters were duly addressed to the Ambassador information officer. After checking the matter out, he said only Pogorelich could answer, and would do so during the first intermission at the finals, Monday. Later he said Pogorelich would be too busy to speak to the press. Meanwhile, Kezeradze said her husband would speak to the press, but she herself could do so only after the contest was over.
After four hours of obfuscation, an angry Pogorelich agreed to an impromptu all-too-public chat when encountered on the steps of the auditorium.
"I'm ashamed to be shaking your hand," he shouted upon being introduced by the information officer. Finally, he and his wife grudgingly answered a few quick questions.
The questions concerning the competition did not end there. When at year's end, Times critic Bernheimer gave the Pogorelich Competition one of his infamous Beckmesser Awards (the "So-who-needs-judges award"), many pianophiles wondered why the WCG was so careless in not avoiding the appearance of evil in a competition supposedly designed to enhance the Foundation's, and the WCG's, image. Many WCG members wondered why the WCG would even be financing such an event when church income has been seriously declining for over two years. Those fearful of the "New World Order" wondered why the WCG asked so many multinational corporations to participate (some, like Occidental Petroleum, PacTel Cellular, and Lufthansa Airlines, donated funds). Many local Christians could not understand why, as one of the special prizes awarded, the Foundation gave a Croatian sculpture of a reclining nude with her breasts high in the air. (The sculpture, titled "Sunbathed Woman," is now on display in the church's Hall of Administration.) And the four winners' sculptured trophies - looking like a burning bush viewed from one side, but a cupped hand containing a piano when viewed from the other side - were suspected by some conspiracy buffs as having overtones of Masonic symbology.
The most intriguing question, however, is why did the Ambassador Foundation decide on Pogorelich as their front man? The Yugoslavian pianist, who records for Deutsche Gramophone , is no amateur. He is often praised for his imaginative Bach, and critics have hailed his recording of Ravel's Gaspard de la nuit (three pieces about the seductions and terrors of demons). Nevertheless, many critics have called Pogorelich's playing uneven and his interpretations frequently eccentric. One critic even referred to one of Pogorelich's performances of the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto as "perverse." Ironically, that performance took place at Ambassador the night Tkach presented Pogorelich with a special award for excellence. In his highly respected work The Art of the Piano (Summit Books, 1989, pp. 203-4), distinguished Juilliard professor David Dubal writes that Pogorelich is a master of publicity and self-promotion, but that:
Pogorelich is not comfortable in Romantic music. He is inhibited in it and relies on an unconventional, often overblown approach. His Scriabin Second Sonata, Poems, and Etudes are straightlaced, stiff, and tasteless, with no sign at all of the music's eroticism. Nor is he a master colorist, and his Chopin, while sometimes refreshing, is stern, even puritanical. It is seldom saturated with youthful verve, and it can be pedantic, as in some etudes or the C-sharp minor Scherzo. His Chopin Polonaises in F-Sharp minor and C minor are gloomy conceptions....
He is not a truly successful concerto player. Pogorelich needs the stage to himself.
Most certainly, Ambassador's claim that Pogorelich is the "No. 1 Piano Superstar of His Time!" is a highly inflated one. Even critic-broadcaster Jim Svjeda, who was one of the competition's judges, has referred to Pogorelich as a "largely self-indulgent punk" (The Record Shelf Guide to the Classical Repertoire, p. 307).
That the supposedly Christian Ambassador Foundation would settle upon Pogorelich as a front man is even more surprising when you consider his personal image. Aloof and notoriously arrogant, frequently seen smoking in public, and with an eastern European accent reminiscent of Bela Lugosi's Count Dracula, no less, many find him inaccessible. (Rather like David Hulme - a kindred spirit perhaps?) Pogorelich's wife, Alice Kezeradze, is many years Ivo's senior - she was teenage Ivo's piano teacher, in fact. (She has been described as a female tyrant not unlike Tkach's female mistress Ellen Escat - another coincidence?) And then there are those persistent rumors in classical music circles that baby-faced Ivo is HIVpositive. (As we go to press, Pogorelich has yet to respond to our letter to him about the matter.) Could it be that the Tkach organization chose Pogorelich to represent them out of sympathy? Far more important, however, are two questions. One is frequently asked by leading authorities in the classical music field: Are not great music and the spirit of competition completely incompatible? The second is frequently asked by religious thinkers: Is the way of competition to be God's way in the World Tomorrow?
Questions, questions. But as Martin Bernheimer, the Times' famous music critic wrote, the Ambassador Foundation gives us few answers.
Flurry Again Praises Flurry
It's embarrassing to have to report a story like this. But Gerald Flurry is at it again. In the February 1994 issue of his Philadelphia Trumpet he again blew his own horn - loudly. The cover story was a piece by Flurry in which he extolled his own prophetic powers in supposedly having predicted the January Northridge earthquake. Flurry began his editorial: "I made some astounding statements about the California earthquake - BEFORE IT STRUCK! Let me quote myself from a sermon given to our Church on December 21, 1991..." He then went on to give a quote from his sermon which contained this "prophecy":
What if there is another massive earthquake on this earth - maybe from two years by the time this booklet [about the book of Amos] goes out? I'm not saying that's going to happen. I don't know. But I KNOW THAT THE LION HAS ROARED, BRETHREN!
Later in the article he quoted from his own work, Malachi's Message: "You are going to see THE DATE OF MR. ARMSTRONG'S DEATH TAKES ON MORE SIGNIFICANCE AS TIME GOES ON. Mr. John Amos and I were disfellowshipped on December 7, 1989 - 40 days before the anniversary of Mr. Armstrong's death. The number 40 is significant in the Bible."
The fact that the Northridge quake (actually centered in nearby Reseda) happened on January 17, not on January 16 (the anniversary of HWA's death), didn't phase Flurry. After all, he was just a few hours off in his prophecy. So, he said, that didn't matter.
Herbert Armstrong did not see it that way. He used to say that a true prophet could predict totally unexpected events to the exact time of their happening (see his booklet The Proof of the Bible - that is, if you can locate a copy). That reasoning actually made some sense. To illustrate, what if the editor of this publication suddenly thought he was a prophet and made the following pronouncements:
I don't know what his name will be, but I prophesy that the next President of the United States will be accused of having had an affair and he will also be accused of financial improprieties sometime in his past. This will show that he has human faults.
I don't know exactly when it will occur, but I prophesy that within the next two years, there will be tornadoes in the state of Oklahoma. This will show that God is not pleased with the Philadelphia Church of God headquartered there.
I don't know the exact date of the article, but I prophesy that next year there will be a newspaper article about a major natural disaster involving snow and in that article the author will use the word flurry. This will be proof positive that Gerald Flurry is a curse upon the earth and that I am a prophet.
Now, aside from the fact that making such prophecies would bring in much income (because there are SO MANY foolish people out there who love such nonsense), those statements are not worth anything. That is because, as they are phrased, they only express the normally expected, and anyone who thinks about it for a few minutes could make the same "Prophecies." (Actually, if someone regularly made statements to the opposite of the above, and they all came true, he might have a better claim to the title of prophet.)
All of this seems lost on Flurry. In his editorial he humbly writes: "We must understand that my stunning statements are not based on human reasoning [true - ed.] or on human prediction [not true - ed.]. They are based on God's word and His Work."
The Northridge quake was certainly no picnic - especially for those who lost loved ones or property in the ordeal. Nevertheless, it may not have been the total disaster that Flurry has envisioned.
Aside from the fact that the quake helped wake up California to the dangers inherent in some of its building code miscalculations and has spurred industry to switch to "telecommuting," something badly needed in the crowded area, it may have helped Southern California in other unexpected ways. Notice this quote from the Los Angeles Times (3/7/94, p. A1, "Quake Seen Speeding Recovery of Economy"):
... seven weeks after the Northridge earthquake sparked fears of regional paralysis, the surprise is that Southern California's economy is not faring worse.
Sky-high estimates of up to $30 billion in damage have been slashed to $13.5 billion in a UCLA study. Freeway repairs in Los Angeles are preceding much more rapidly than in the Bay Area after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. Federal money is coursing through the pipeline from Washington.
"The irony of it is that this bad event that created a lot of hardship is going to start economic expansion about a year before it would have happened otherwise," said private economist Mark Zandi, who expects a recovery this summer, based on his analysis of Hurricane Andrew and other natural disasters on their regions.
Flurry is just not getting the respect he thinks he deserves. In England, when the Daily Express ran one of his ads (with a photo of HWA) on Feb. 12, the editors fittingly put it next to a wristwatch ad that had in large print the headline, "Watch out - there's a fake about." Then, on Sunday, Feb. 20, the Edmond Evening Sun (pp. 1A and 6A) ran a front-page exposi on Flurry titled "Is It A Cult Or 'God's Church'?" (those who would like a photocopy of that article by Curtis Killman may obtain one for $2.50 by writing to the Edmond Evening Sun, Circulation Department, P.O. Box 2470, Edmond, OK 73083. Be sure to give the name of the article, date of issue, and the pages.)
One final comment on Flurry. In our last issue we reported how in October, Flurry had been arrested when found drunk behind the steering wheel of a car parked in a university parking lot. To his followers, Flurry explained away this episode by saying the law was unfair and should be changed and by claiming that the officer who arrested him, Brandon C. Berryhill, was a WCG member (the WCG denies this). On February 23, Flurry pleaded nolo contendere to the main charge of "APC" - being in actual physical control of an automobile while intoxicated (like DUI - Driving Under the Influence) and was fined $400 plus $200 in victim's compensation plus court costs. In addition, he may face a term of incarceration. His date of sentencing has been suspended to Feb. 23, 1995. But Flurry apparently doesn't feel he will ever have to show up. He has been telling followers he expects to flee to Petra in Jordan sometime this year and perhaps as soon as June. We here at the Report wish him a pleasant journey.
Petra in the News
Flurry and thousands of others in the WCG and its spinoffs who have a hankering to spend a few years living in a dry, dusty cave in the Near East will be interested to know that an absolutely fascinating article on Petra recently appeared in The New York Times (1/4/94, p. B9). Titled "Ancient City of Petra Is Yielding Its Secrets," the article contained a wealth of information many Petra buffs will find mesmerizing.
For example, while most of us know of Petra's caves and cliff dwellings where Lawrence of Arabia and 500 of his men briefly lived during WWI, few know that under Petra's sand dunes lies an ancient city that once housed perhaps 30,000 people. Archaeologists are now attempting to remove the sand. The ancient metropolis, located in an area the Bible calls the Valley of Moses, was an important city from the third century B.C. until the second century A.D. During the Augustin Age, the Nabatean kingdom which contained Petra was responsible for 25 percent of the gross economic output of Rome. It was even a center for artists and scholars. Most significant today, however, is that the new excavations at Petra are turning up scores of papyrus scrolls, some dating from biblical times, that may eventually prove as revealing to historians as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Petra buffs who want to read the lengthy article should first check with their local libraries. If they do not have it, a photocopy of the article may be obtained by calling the Times' clipping service at 1-800-543-6867. Petra buffs may also want to see our article on devil worship at Petra in AR32.
In our last issue we mentioned numerous WCG offshoots that we view as "Armstrongite." The list was by no means complete. Since that issue went to press we have learned of the existence of more such offshoots. Although we have few details about what they teach, here are some we learned about in just the last few weeks: Biblical Church of God, P.O. Box 612440, San Jose, CA 95161. Bible Study Association, 28877 Sumerville, Eugene, OR 97405. Family of God, 7119 Western Trail, San Antonio, TX 78244. United Biblical Church of God, P.O. Box 547, Crystal River, FL 32623. Bible Education Services (Donald L. Hudgel, Executive Director), P.O. Box 736, Troy, OH 45373. The Church of the Great God (John Rittenbaugh, Pastor), P.O. Box 471846, Charlotte, NC 28247-1846. The Fellowship Church of God (Les Pope, Pastor and Editor of The Fellowship Newsletter), P.O. Box 300143, Midwest City, OK 73140-0143. And Church of God (of Peace), P.O. Box 53, Farnborough, Hants. GU14OYZ, United Kingdom.
Those who are fascinated by the WCG offshoots and their histories will find the research of one of our readers very helpful. Mr. Alan Ruth has put together an amazing flow chart of the WCG's offshoots, complete with the names of their leaders and their dates of creation. He has also written a 15-page paper on the subject. Those who would like a copy of the flow chart and the paper should send $2 to Mr. Alan Ruth, 30290 W. 12 Mile Rd., Apt. 204E, Farmington Hills, MI 48334.
Where Do They Go?
One of the questions we get asked quite frequently is: When members of the WCG leave, where do they go? There is no way for us to provide anything other than a very general answer to that question. We have never had a means of doing a survey or careful study of the question. But based on almost twenty years of doing AR and receiving many thousands of letters, we have a rough idea of what a survey would reveal.
A very large percentage of those who leave Worldwide gravitate to other churches that are Armstrongite (we reported on the major ones in our last issue). Very, very few join mainstream, orthodox denominations. In fact, we at AR have personally known only about two or three dozen individuals over the years who have done so. One who did is Ambassador graduate and former WCG employee Bob Gentet (211 Probasco St., Lawrenceburg, IN 47025) who now pastors a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church congregation in Indiana.
A few former WCG members attend Unitarian-Universalist Church services as a way of giving their children church-attending experience without strong indoctrination. (See our letters section for one example.) A Pasadena Unitarian minister once told AR that his denomination was ideal for people who were no longer religious but who still wanted to attend church services.
Many who leave the WCG are so disillusioned with organized religion that they almost never attend any church services and want nothing to do with any church organization. One California reader recently wrote us:
I am grateful to Herbert Armstrong for two things: First he showed me by scripture that all other churches are wrong. Then by fourteen years of example he showed me that his church was also wrong. Now I know I will never need some man or group to tell me about God.
Nevertheless, while many who have been in the WCG leave with the attitude that they would prefer to keep all other religious groups at arm's length, many in this category still retain a strong interest in spiritual matters and the Bible. What follows is a summary of what such non-Armstrongite ex-WCG members frequently find interesting and often comment upon in letters to AR. As in past issues we are giving various addresses. However, we must again emphasize: this is done only so that readers can do their own research. By mentioning a group or publication, we are not endorsing all their ideas. Nor are we implying that they endorse all of ours.
Associates for Scriptural Knowledge (ASK), P.O. Box 2500, Portland, OR 97225. While some would call this organization "Armstrongite" because its director is Dr. Ernest L. Martin, once the head of Ambassador College's Theology Department (and later president of the Foundation for Biblical Research), Martin's theological and historical views often differ so much from those of both Herbert Armstrong and Joseph Tkach, we don't believe it best to classify ASK as a WCG offshoot. However, we do believe that of all the ministers and college professors that have left the WCG over the years, no one has had more of an impact on the WCG, and beyond, than Martin.
Although most of Martin's theology can be described as Pauline, some of his ideas are quite original, even controversial, and have produced a good number of critics. Nevertheless, Martin also has had some important publishing successes. The scholarship in his book The Star That Astonished the World has been used as the basis for Christmas and Nativity programs in over 600 planetariums around the world. Many astronomers now consider this book the authoritative work on the subject (see the 12/93 issue of Imprimis). His book Secrets of Golgotha, in which he argues that Jesus was actually crucified on a tree on the Mount of Olives, has received a number of favorable reviews. A number of scholars have stated that in his book The Original Bible Restored, Martin has actually discovered the correct ordering of the books of the Bible. Martin's book 101 Bible Secrets and The Tithing Dilemma are very popular among those new to Bible study. And many ex-Worldwiders have said that his booklet The ABC's of the Gospel is the best work they ever read concerning a modern Christian's legal position in Christ.
Over the years Martin has written and spoken on numerous topics that continue to be debated in WCG circles: the nature of the New Covenant, the Jewish Calendar (he has studied its problems for more than thirty years), "counting" Pentecost, the Trinity (he has articles and tapes on the subject which seems to echo some of the views of Anthony Buzzard), universal reconciliation (some of his views are similar to those of the Concordant organization), and progressive revelation (among his many writings on that subject, his March, 1994 article is highly recommended).
Martins's latest book is titled The Place of the New Third Temple. In it he puts forth the astonishing theory that not only will there soon be a new Temple built in Jerusalem, but that Christians will have a part in building it and that "the Jewish authorities will actually devote the building to Christ Jesus and to the basics of his Gospel message."
In addition to his books, papers, and lecture tapes, Martin publishes a newsletter, The ASK Communicator, in which he discusses the Bible, ancient history, and Bible prophecy with its possible applications to modern times. Many of his insights on the Near East are undoubtedly based on his many years of doing archaeological work in that region. Those who would like more information about ASK should write to their Portland address and request a price list for their publications.
Dr. Gene Scott, Box 1, Los Angeles, CA 90053. W. Eugene Scott, Ph.D. is someone a number ex-Worldwiders have turned to for answers. Scott has written 20 books and publishes Truth magazine for his contributors. His Festivals of Faith program is usually taped at his University Cathedral, a restored United Artists theater in downtown Los Angeles. His telecasts can be seen 24 hours a day in many markets and his shortwave broadcasts can be heard 24 hours a day around the world. He broadcasts live over Radio Moscow in Russia and from Mt. Hermon in Israel.
Those who have never seen one of Scott's programs have missed one of the great entertainers of our time. Tune in to one of his telecasts and you will see Scott, bearded and with long silver hair, probably wearing a cowboy hat, a jockey's cap, or the tricorn of an eighteenth century admiral. Or, if he's in the mood, he might be in black wearing a clergyman's collar. He also frequently wears two pairs of glasses simultaneously and often puffs on a large cigar while doing Bible studies. Nevertheless, while being one of TV's most colorful characters, Scott is no dummy. He earned his Ph.D. in philosophies of education at Stanford. In addition, Scott is an artist and occasionally he will take bids on some of his paintings during his telecasts. He's also not poor. He lives in one of Pasadena's largest mansions. Some say he now has two.
Scott's theology is mostly Pauline. On a recent broadcast he stated that the "judaizers" of Galatians were probably none other than the followers of James, the brother of Jesus (see Acts 15). Scott frequently teaches about demonology, pyramids, Atlantis, and a number of other exotic subjects. But over the years, he seems to have also picked up a good number of ideas from Herbert Armstrong. During the WCG's legal battles in 1979, Scott, who was then having his own legal problems with the government, sided with the WCG, and Stanley Rader appeared on Scott's TV program as an adoring guest. It was soon after that Scott began teaching his own brand of Israel Identity. Today he also teaches that Jesus had the last supper on a Tuesday night Passover, was crucified on the afternoon of the next day, a Wednesday, and was resurrected late Saturday, not Sunday. HWA, of course, taught the same thing.
Naturally, Scott is big on the tithing doctrine. To those that promise to listen to "the teaching" at least once per week, contribute weekly, and call in to the station at least once per week Scott grants the privilege of becoming a "King's House" and those so privileged are given a "King's House number" when they make their initial pledge. Those that promise to tithe are given a "King's Tither" number. Scott is very serious about this. If he gets the feeling that of his 50,000 King's Houses not enough are sending in their money, or if not enough are calling the hot line of his program when it is on the air (and in many places that is 24 hours per day), then Scott simply yells at his viewers and refuses to preach until enough phones are busy. In the meantime, he puts on slides of Los Angeles with jazz or rock and roll music or videos of his race horses, with his pledge phone number superimposed. Before too long, the Cathedral's phones start to ring and then Scott starts preaching again.
Yes, some ex-Worldwiders now follow this guy. And some even speculate that he will be the one to eventually acquire the WCG's Pasadena properties.
Concordant Publishing Concern, 15570 W. Knochaven Rd., Santa Clarita, CA 91350, tel. 805-252-2112. The Concordant organization puts out books and papers on biblical theology that many ex-Worldwiders praise for their thoroughness and insights. To some, Concordant is an organization for intellectual Bible fundamentalists, in that while holding to the Bible as inspired by God and attempting to allow the Bible to interpret itself, they, nevertheless, are quite adept at tackling some of the Bible's biggest mysteries. Jim Coram, who directs this group's California office, is a former WCG member who is always sympathetic to WCG members in search of biblical understanding. Concordant puts out an introductory package for those who write to them for the first time. Their booklet Eonian or Everlasting? is a good introduction to the doctrine of universal reconciliation. Their book The Problem of Evil and the Judgements of God by A. E. Knoch is a more lengthy discussion of that topic. The group's newsletter for 1/2/92 contained a very outstanding explanation of various views on the nature of God ("Notes on Trinitarianism, Modalism, and Arianism") which many WCG members could read to their benefit. One final comment about Concordant. This is a very non-authoritarian group. Those who enjoy being beaten over the head by an obsessive pastor will probably not find this group to their liking.
Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association, P.O. Box 124, Riverside, CA 92502-0124. Over the years we have received many letters from ex-WCG members who have stated that Ralph Woodrow's ministry has been of great benefit to them. Indeed, even among current members, his book Babylon Mystery Religion has been very popular.
Last year, Woodrow published a carefully researched, 64-page book titled "Three Days & Three Nights" - Reconsidered in Light of Scripture ($4, including postage). The booklet may cause a stir in WCG circles because Woodrow now believes he was in error in teaching, as HWA once did, that Jesus was in the grave for a full 72 hours from a Wednesday to a Saturday. He recently wrote us:
My change on this doctrine has upset several people who have written letters of irritation. I guess I had not realized that some apparently feel the time factor is such an essential point of doctrine! I would think the fact of the resurrection itself would be the big thing.
Some incidental remarks in your paper have prompted me to reconsider also some teachings from Armstrong regarding Babylon mystery religion. As I have re-read Hislop after many years, I see that some of his conclusions are not consistent. When I hear people make statements like "Nimrod was the first Santa Claus," I realize how wild things can get.
Other publications by Mr. Woodrow that we have found interesting are his booklet Does the Bible Teach a Jewish-Type Millennium? and his papers "Reckless Rumors" and "The Lost Books." His article on the twenty-third psalm is one of the finest commentaries we have ever seen on the subject.
Original Language Text Unfolding, 130 W. Main St., P.O. Box 1, Little Chute, WI 54140. John J. Purvins, who describes himself as "one of the elders in God's Church in the Appleton area" is the coordinator of this ongoing Bible research program. He writes, "If you harbor anti-Jewish sentiments, the Text Unfolding is not for you.... Most of the errors in the King James and other English translations began with the anti-Jewish and anti-law mind set of the translators."
Finally, let us mention three groups that are doing very substantial biblical research. Each deserves a full AR article, and we apologize that our limited resources must curtail our comments this issue. Genesis 2000, P.O. Box 561476, Charlotte, NC 28256. Headed by Dr. James Tabor (see AR41), this group is involved in many projects that are of great interest to ex-WCG members. Perhaps most important of these is The Original Bible Project, 408 So. Pasadena Ave., Suite 4, Pasadena, CA 91105. Another group producing biblical materials is the Great Lakes Society for Biblical Research, P.O. Box 63, Jenison, MI 49429-0063. Headed by former WCG minister John Cheetham, this group has been doing much writing on the subject of angels, a subject oddly absent from much modern Christian literature. Lastly, we must mention Reunion, P.O. Box 981111, Houston, TX 77098, tel. 713-523-1861 (J. Phillip Arnold, Ph.D., Executive Director), a teaching fellowship that is regularly turning out some of the most intelligent and thought-provoking biblical studies we have ever come across.
In our last issue we mentioned The WCG Exiting and Support Network (generally speaking, a secular, non-sectarian organization). Its founder, Mrs. Stuhlman, recently wrote us the following:
Many past and current exiters and questioners have found their way to The WCG Exit and Support Network through the Ambassador Report, others via the Cult Awareness Organizations, or by word of mouth. These individuals have expressed much gratitude for the help we have offered them in a variety of ways. WCG abuse is a rampant problem. The healing process begins when the WCG-abused victims make a personal decision to take back their power and control by reporting the emotional, psychological, physical, spiritual, financial, and, all too often, sexual abuse inflicted on them. This is easier said than done, but very possible to accomplish.
No WCG victim escapes abuse completely. All survivors of cultic abuse are left isolated to work through the destructive effects and ramifications. If you have been victimized by disfellowshipping or abuse in any way, it is time to do something about it! Don't keep the pain to yourself. You are not alone. More and more people are sharing their experiences with others through the NETWORK. Let others who understand help you. Victims do not have to succumb to the control and fear tactics that once permeated their life. Exiters, you are now free - to think, question, make decisions, and speak up. You have a personal story; please share it with us. Get connected to people who have been there and can relate to your situation. Don't put off until tomorrow what can heal you today. Something can be done about the abuse by working together.
Contact: The WCG Exit and Support Network, P.O. Box 6104, Hamden, CT 06517; tel. 203/281-7182.
A related group is The WCG Exit Resource Link of Canada. Headed by Brent Leeson and Steve Richard, this support group can be reached at Transcona RPO, P.O. Box 62075, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R2C 5G2; tel. 204/222-0002.
In the north-central part of the U.S., one group that is helping WCG exiters is Help Net. Mainly the concerned Christian work of former WCG member Louise Doescher, she can be reached at N2954, Hwy. 107, Merril, WI 54452; tel. 715/536-3094.
Another support group for those exiting the WCG is: I Think - International. The Founders are Kerin Webb in the U.K. and Mark and Collette Stallard in Canada. Besides providing support for current and past WCG members, they are active in making the truth about the WCG and other cults better known to the media and to church and government leaders. Whereas a few of the ex-WCG support groups we know of are secular or semi-secular in approach, the U.K-Canadian group is evangelical. Mr. Webb and the Stallards tell us they would very much like to hear from ex-WCG members who would like to occasionally be of assistance (through letters, phone calls, or personal contact) to those who are in the process of exiting Worldwide and other cults. Their address in Britain is: I Think-International, P.O. Box 1953, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH8 OYQ, United Kingdom. In Canada their address is: I Think-International, P.O. Box 2921, Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3C 4B5, Canada.
One final comment on the support groups. They provide an important service in giving those exiting WCG a chance to have contact with some who have gone before them. While readers should avail themselves of such services, please remember that those providing such services are often making a real sacrifice in time and money to help others. Whenever possible, please make an effort to help them recoup losses for printing, postage, phone time, etc.
Jesus said that in the last times there would be many false teachers. Well there certainly are and in your last issue you listed some.
I think all of your readers owe you their thanks for one of your unique policies - that of giving the addresses of competing organizations and others. I'm sure you realize that by doing so you must lose considerable income as many probably contribute to the groups you mention and ignore AR. But by giving those addresses many of us are learning a great deal. So keep up the good work.
One final comment. I wrote to Mr. Glen Myers regarding Gerald Flurry and he sent me a great paper he has written. I wish to point out, however, that even though my letter got through to him, the address you gave for him contained a typo. The correct address is Glen Myers, 1047 (not 1074) Iroquois St., Clearwater, FL 34615.
Most of the changes [in the WCG] are for the good. But how long will it be before they tell us the Old Covenant is done away and we no longer have to keep certain days or tithe? (My husband stopped tithing long ago.) And when will they tell the people that we are not the "one true church"?
-Current WCG Member
Since WCG is now talking "freedom from the law," let us test them. Paul wrote: "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free." (Gal. 4:28-31, King James Version.)
So if the leaders of WCG are sincere they will let go of all the Old Covenant law from Sabbaths to tithes - if not, they are going to be rejected by Christ. There is nothing "hatched in the hot place" more anti-Christ than what the WCG has done with the law. Is it any wonder that this nation is experiencing a turn to the faith that goes with the bondwoman? The law-oriented ministries have circled the earth with the law and what we see coming to pass on the earth are the curses for breaking their law. They have really hung a trip on this nation and on the body of Christ. May God deliver us from them. Jesus said, "According to your faith be it unto you." They bought it - now they've got it.
-Former WCG member
Astounding, the new directions of my former alma mater and former church. In the past, many left the WCG because of oppression. Now it seems more are leaving to maintain their hold on what they believe to be the truth. I guess the only ones left are those who never took any of it very seriously!
Two items in AR53 stood out: (1) the new "follow us... not because we have the truth... but follow us because of the loving feelings you get..." and (2) members can now "privately believe anything." If this organization keeps heading in those directions, they might as well affiliate with the Unitarian-Universalist Church and be done with all the hype!
I take my six-year-old son to one, at his request for church attendance, because I feel it will do the least damage to his belief system of all the religious organizations (I would not be in any for my own benefit). Wouldn't it be amazing if the WCG evolved to the point I would be comfortable taking my child to WCG services? What goes around, comes around.
(AC '67, left WCG '70)
Editor: I'm not sure you would be comfortable there. But the WCG is already encouraging non-critical former members to attend their services. We have even heard of cases where WCG ministers, upon instructions from Tkach, have contacted ex-members and apologized for the way they had been treated in the past. As for children attending, the WCG is now especially interested in attracting children, teenagers, and those of college age into their ranks.
Recently my wife and I were invited back to the WCG by the senior minister of the local WCG congregation. Because of colds, flu, rainy weather, and disinterest, we still haven't visited with them. In the meantime, last month we both received three-page letters from Joe Tkach welcoming us back as reinstated members! It amused me but upset my wife and it is one of the reasons for our three-month delay in not attending. Rich Nichels says we should go just to set the record straight. Bill Dankenbring said, "Go - if you're a glutton for punishment." Some friends agreed with me when they said, "Go out of curiosity." We will go, but probably just this one time, because we really have very little in common with them. When they take the centuries-old stand that "God is one" and, therefore, "Jesus was essentially praying to himself," as one 25-year member admitted to me a few weeks ago, then we are definitely on different wave lengths.
Please help me! I think I am losing my mind! Last summer Mr. Tkach ran a series of articles in The Worldwide News concerning God's nature and number. I have read those articles over and over and over. The more I read them, the more I get confused.
Let me explain. In the August 16 issue, Mr. Tkach wrote that "the Bible reveals that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are distinct, that is they are not the same - but neither are they separate Beings." I just can't understand that, no matter how hard I try. Then he wrote: "A popular misconception of the nature of God is to think of three God Beings in one Godhead, with the Holy Spirit as a third separate Being. To us, such a concept, that the Holy Spirit is a third, separate Being, is, and has always been, entirely foreign to our thinking. The Bible teaches that there is one God, and any concept that makes the Holy Spirit a separate Being is not biblical."
But then someone showed me a copy of The Watchman Expositor [Vol. 11, No. 1; P.O. Box 13340, Arlington, TX 76094-0340] and in it I saw an official statement on WCG letterhead from headquarters, written by Mr. David Hunsberger. In it, he said: "Yes, the Church teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are co-equal, co-eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, indivisible, of one essence, and immanent.... The Apostles' and Nicean Creeds are universally accepted in Christendom and we have no objection to their statements." In the official letter Mr. Hunsberger also wrote: "The Worldwide Church of God does teach a form of the Trinity..." Yet, Mr. Tkach has said we do not teach the Trinity! Mr. Hunsberger then wrote: "We do not mind using the word 'Person' in reference to the Holy Spirit.... But since the common usage of the word creates confusion, we prefer the term hypostasis." So now everyone in the church is using the word hypostasis. But when I looked it up in my dictionary, the religious definition was "a person of the Trinity."
Can you see why I am confused? God is one, but God is three. The three are "co-equal," but the Holy Spirit is not a person. He/it is a hypostasis. Yet the dictionary says a hypostasis is a person! Furthermore, if he/it is not a person, then what does that make the Father and the Son? The Father is a hypostasis also and so is the Son. So if they are "co-equal" with the non-person Holy Spirit then that would make them also non-persons. But I think the Bible says they are persons. I can't find any place where Jesus prayed to the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is co-equal with the Father, why didn't Jesus also pray to him? And when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he didn't start out, "Our hypostasis which art in heaven." I also can't figure out now how, if the Jesus hypostasis was God and omnipotent, like Mr. Hunsberger says, how could he have died on the cross? I guess only his body did. But it seems to me that such a doctrine means we also have to believe in the eternal soul doctrine (which Mr. Armstrong condemned) and the doctrine that Jesus' soul preached for three days in Hell while his body was in the tomb. Maybe I'm just stupid, but I'm beginning to think that this hypostasis stuff is hocus pocus. Please add me to your mailing list.
Editor: You are not the only one having problems with the new doctrine. So many WCG ministers have shown that they can't understand it that WCG headquarters sent each pastor a 16-video-tape lecture series by Kyriacos Stavrinides who attempts to explain the new doctrine. The 35 hours of lectures did little to convince some ministers that the new doctrine was sound Some have privately indicated they are very opposed to the new teaching.
I feel that you have constructed an erroneous conclusion in your example on page two [of AR54] regarding tradition. When Joe Tkach refers to the tradition of Jesus and the apostles, he is still referring to Scripture. Observance of the Lord's Supper and Pentecost are biblical traditions. Observance of Christmas is an extrabiblical tradition. There is a difference.
-Robert J. Romagnoli, Ph.D.
Editor: Thank you for your criticism, but I suspect you may have missed one article that appeared in Tkach's Worldwide News. In the September 14 issue (p. 4), there was a Neil Earle article titled "The role of theology: What it is and why we need it today." In it, Earle wrote:
...some issues ...are not directly addressed in the Bible. These, and many other such questions, belong to the discipline of theology.... Theology is simply humanity's reasonings and conclusions about God arranged in a systematic and formal way.
Earle then goes on to praise Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus, the "first theologian, " and St. Thomas Aquinas, the thirteenth century Roman Catholic theologian. While Earle does say that the Bible still retains a special, superior place in the WCG's belief system, his article in the official church newspaper makes it very clear that nonbiblical or extra-biblical theology is creeping into his religious organization. Whether that is necessarily a bad thing is not the issue. But it is a development that Herbert Armstrong would never have tolerated.
Thank you for the latest issue of AR. Your insightful comments that the WCG is deemphasizing the Bible hit the nail on the head. If you were Rush Limbaugh, you would be praising yourself for your great wisdom.
We have moved from Washington to Wyoming due to a job transfer. The Giving & Sharing book service is now being conducted by Earl Lewis. The new address is: Giving & Sharing, P.O. Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849. I am concentrating on doing more writing.
-Richard C. Nickels
I knew early-on the WCG was wrong, but it took me years to become normalized again.
Their subtleties are always grabbing the unindoctrinated and putting them in bondage. Just tonight, during the evening news, they had a very good Bible come-on for the upcoming telecast. II Pet. 2:3 tells of those who make merchandise of sincere seekers through feigned words. Verse 19 continues, "while they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption."
Our local pastor recently said the wildest thing. That top leaders in the Worldwide actually talk to, and receive messages from, demons. Then, he said, "the Ambassador Report has all the facts in a file and it will probably all come out later in the year." Is there any truth to what he said?
I had to leave my family to get into the WCG in 1965. So I've been away from my children ever since. Boy have I been done wrong by. And I'm very weary of being stepped on by others. I guess I'll never be liked much by this world's society being I'm not in any of their lodges or clubs. Neither was Christ and they hated him too.
What news to learn that Judd Kirk, the GTA clone, was not a Hollywood actor, as I presumed, but a WCG minister. I figured that Tkach had held a casting call for a GTA look-alike and dug up Mr. Kirk at Warner Brothers or Universal. One can only wonder what dark Freudian impulse drove Tkach to seek out a GTA double in the first place....
By the way, what ever happened to the Bible?.... A careful reading of recent Plain Truth issues and a comparison with issues of, say, even two or three years back, would show that the Bible is being quoted less and less in its pages. Love and grace pour forth out of the PT in abundant and flowing quantities. And it seems as if repentance, overcoming, and achieving a certain standard of righteousness have been relegated to the WCG basement to gather dust alongside the other multitude of doctrinal castaways notated by minister Pack in a previous issue. Tkach and his sidekicks seem to be living in an Alice in Wonderland world deep in their Pasadena bunker: What was "truth" yesterday becomes "untruth" today. And tomorrow? Who knows?
Meanwhile, such eminent personages as the inspirational Protestant writer C. S. Lewis and the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer are being quoted in the PT with increasing frequency, and the content of the magazine itself is now reminiscent of the publications produced by the Billy Graham organization. A lot of easily digested spiritual pabulum signifying nothing. Can it be that the "strong meat" which HWA touted is no longer being served in WCG Sabbath services either? I can only guess....
As one of your letter writers said, Worldwide is destined to become just one more Protestant steeple on the horizon. So Worldwiders had better get used to hearing more about C. S. Lewis, W. B. Yeats, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and company, and less and less about what the Bible has to say about repentance, righteousness, and overcoming. Just one more Protestant steeple.
As for the assortment of crackpots, looneytunes, goofballs, practitioners of quack religion, barmy souls, conspiracy theorists, and so forth and so on, who claim lineal descent from Prophet Armstrong (he is spinning so rapidly in his grave these days that one can only wonder if his underground activity was the actual cause of the recent L.A. earthquake), what can one say? ....To cry or laugh? That is the question. For lost souls who have succumbed to their song, I weep. For those who assume greatness in the guise of a servant of God, I can only laugh. Didn't both Ezekiel and Jeremiah have harsh words to say about false prophets who lead the sheep astray?
Well, as the ancient Chinese curse goes (or was it something Yogi Berra is reputed to have said?): May you live in interesting times. Interesting, indeed. I look forward with anticipation to the next AR.
A Note From the Editor
In all the years that I have had a part in putting out the Report, there have been few issues that have taken more out of me than this one. Not only did it require more than three full months of my time, with considerable stress, but it also has taken thousands of dollars of my own funds. I think most of you will agree, however, that AR55 is one of the most important that we have ever produced. I hope all of you will contribute to the Report as you are able.
My thanks to all of you who are helping in this effort.
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