October 1994 (AR56)
The religious-educational edifice erected by the late Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) continues to transmogrify. The Worldwide Church of God (WCG), Plain Truth magazine, Ambassador College, and other institutions he built are ever evolving under the direction of Armstrong's heir Joseph W. Tkach, Sr.
Ambassador Finally Accredited
In the June 28 issue of the Worldwide News (WN) Pastor General Joseph W. Tkach announced that Ambassador College (in Big Sandy, Texas) has finally been officially accredited by a recognized accrediting association, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Additionally, Tkach announced that the college will now be officially called Ambassador University. The editor and founding publishers of the Report congratulate Mr. Tkach and his staff for having accomplished a goal that many others failed to achieve in the past. We are sure that the college's new status will be a blessing to all Ambassador alumni.
Some indication of just how much Ambassador has changed under Tkach's leadership can be seen in recent announcements. Examples: The university has now been granted an FCC license to have its own radio station (it will be broadcasting "acoustic, light jazz and classical" music). Three Ambassador executives - Thomas Delamater, William Stenger, and Dyle Koch - now serve on the board of the Big Sandy Chamber of Commerce. In April the university served as host to an invitational semantics symposium. And the university's men's volleyball team finished the season with a 29 and 8 record while both the men's and women's tennis teams were also quite successful this past year (WN, 5/3/94, p. 5).
Incidentally, since Tkach's June announcement regarding accreditation, many Ambassador alumni have asked if the institution's new status is retroactive for those who received their Ambassador degrees in years past. Here is what the university has stated about that:
Technically, accreditation is not retroactive to past graduates. (It is officially retroactive to Jan. 1, 1994.) But with most universities and employers, most graduates will fall under the accreditation umbrella.
Now that we are accredited, Ambassador University will be listed in various directories of higher education. The two most important of these are Transfer Credit Practices, published by the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers, and the Higher Education Directory.
As Ambassador University gains a reputation as an accredited institution, the date of accreditation and the name will cease to be issues. (When graduates apply to graduate schools or for jobs, they should use the name Ambassador University. Accreditation should not be raised unless others raise it. Then merely state that Ambassador University is accredited, not when it was accredited.)
The above statement is found in a helpful article that appeared in the WN dated July 26, 1994 (p. 3). Anyone holding an Ambassador degree and suspecting it may be a factor in future studies or employment would do well to read the entire article. Those with questions about their degrees should write to Ambassador University, Big Sandy, Texas 75755.
Tkach: There Are True
Christians In Other Churches!
During the past year or so, one of the most hotly debated topics in WCG circles has been the question of whether there are "true Christians" in churches other than the WCG. Statements on the issue made by WCG ministers revealed many conflicting views and much double talk. But with increased frequency, Tkach started to reveal where he, himself, was headed on the issue.
While HWA lived the WCG seemed to be united on the "true church" issue. To Armstrong, there was only one true church - his own, and there was only one main representative of God on earth - himself. While there was an occasional ambiguity on the subject of the sabbatarian groups from which HWA had separated years ago, he got around that issue by declaring those sabbatarian organizations part of the "Sardis era" - that is, spiritually dead. As for all other Christian churches, they were not just dead, they were anti-Christ "pagan." Now Tkach has taken a decidedly different position.
For months, a leaked February 9, 1993 letter written by Tkach was making the rounds in WCG circles. Tkach's letter was a response to a letter from church member Colleen Miller of Gardnerville, Nevada. The member had asked why the WCG should be preaching the gospel (as currently defined by Tkach) if other churches are already doing that on a very large scale. Instead of answering the way HWA would have (that the WCG was the only church preaching the true gospel), Tkach readily admitted that other churches besides the WCG were preaching the gospel, that there were converted Christians in churches other than the WCG, that some in the past left those churches for the WCG for reasons that were improper, and that "The criterion for salvation is faith in Jesus Christ, not membership in a particular denomination."
Copies of the Tkach letter began circulating wildly among confused WCG members and ministers. When Colleen Miller allowed her own minister, Randy Schreiber, to read the Tkach dictum, he promptly mailed his own five-page letter to Tkach. Schreiber pointed out to Tkach that if any member of any church could genuinely be converted, would it not follow that members of the WCG spinoff groups could also be converted? Tkach was not amused and, we hear, Schreiber is no longer in the WCG ministry. Those who would like copies of Tkach's letter to Mrs. Miller along with Schreiber's pointed letter to Tkach and Tkach's secretive response to Schreiber should write to WCG historian Bruce Renehan, P.O. Box 1551, Tehachapi, CA 93581-1551 (please include $3 to help cover photocopying and postage).
In the spring, Tkach felt compelled to make his views even more plain in a front page editorial in the church's newspaper (WN, 5/17/94). There he emphasized that there are true Christians in many denominations:
©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
Many of us know people who are indeed dedicated Christians, yet are not of our Church.... It doesn't mean that we aren't the true Church of God. It simply points out the fact that the true Church of God is not limited to any corporate entity nor any human organization.... It is the people in whom God dwells by his Spirit that make up the Church, the Body of Christ.... That means that all who are converted are members of the one and only true Church.... We might know of some, as we come into contact with them and see their fruit. But God has not set us as his watchdogs to try to determine to what extent he has children in other organizations.... So, how are we to regard those who attend "other churches"? With love. Does anyone think God would approve of our ridiculing them? Yet, that is just what many of us have tended to do over the years.... Let's get this vital point: It is the Holy Spirit that identifies and unifies the true Church of God, not any humanly incorporated church organization. That is what the Bible teaches, and that is also what Mr. Armstrong taught. [Emphasis is his - ed.]
Tkach's teaching that there are true Christians in other denominations seems to have been accepted by a good number of his field ministers. One of our readers wrote us: "Apparently [our local WCG minister] has accepted my wife's baptism as being valid even though she was not baptized by a Worldwide Church minister." And in June, Dale Lawson, a minister of the "Sardis" Church of God (Seventh Day), was invited to give a sermon before the combined Atlanta East and Northeast congregations (WN, 7/26/94, p. 8). Yes, the WCG is really changing.
More Trinity Confusion
Recent issues of the Report have covered the WCG's struggle with the trinity doctrine. Some cult monitoring organizations have become convinced the WCG has now fully adopted the orthodox trinity position. But whether the church as a whole has really adopted it remains open to debate. One of our readers in England wrote to WCG regional headquarters there inquiring about what the WCG's teachings on the subject really are at this time. In an April 1994 letter, WCG minister Robert C. Boraker responded:
The word "trinity" is not found in the Bible and we will refrain from using it for that reason. It merely means "threefoldness." In that sense, we do believe in the "threefoldness" of God - being the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - and always have. But we do not accept the traditional teaching about the "Holy Trinity" and never have. We still do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a person and will refrain from using the word "persons" in reference to the Godhead.
A comparison of the above with the WCG's other official, and often conflicting, statements on the subject seems to reveal the utilization of what psychologists refer to as the creation of "cognitive dissonance"- a propagandistic tool used for mind control by many cults. On the other hand, Christian theologians have debated the nature of God issue for hundreds of years and many have admitted their difficulty in understanding the subject. In defense of Tkach's new position, one knowledgeable reader pointed out to us:
Mr. Tkach's views on the trinity may not be as foolish as many make them out to be. The great theologians have always recognized serious problems in the area. If we accept the fact that God is beyond space and time while believing the Bible stories that Yahweh appeared in the form of a burning bush, a cloud, a small voice, a thunderous voice, etc. then we begin to see there is a problem with our finite minds grasping what we must admit is an unfathomable set of paradoxes relating to the infinite.
Granted, the WCG's attempts at articulating a very complex concept have been weak at times. But there is merit to what they are trying to accomplish theologically. If I were explaining the trinity doctrine publicly, I would do it this way: God is a mystery beyond time and space and therefore no human being is capable of truly "seeing" or "hearing" God in God's totality. But to the very limited minds of the human race, God has revealed himself/herself/itself over the centuries in different ways: in the OT as Yahweh, in the gospels as Jesus, and in the NT church as the Holy Spirit. Each of the three is a manifestation (a hypostasis) of God. Yet because God is beyond space and time, in each we do not comprehend the totality of God (what was referred to as "the ousia" or modernly as "the Ground of all being" or as "the Ein Sof" of Kabbala). Trained theologians recognize Mr. Tkach's view of the trinity as differing somewhat from that of the Roman Catholic Church and being somewhat closer to that of the Orthodox Catholic Church and perhaps Kabbala. Let me suggest that those wishing to achieve a better understanding of the subject read Professor Karen Armstrong's book A History of God [Knopf]. Those who do will discover that Mr. Tkach is a lot smarter than many of his critics.
Maybe so, but most of his followers seem totally bewildered by his new trinity teaching.
More Doctrinal Shifts
If one wants to see what the latest WCG changes are, one only has to read the Plain Truth (PT) magazine. For example, the cover story of the May/June issue was all about the importance of getting help from psychologists when one has emotional problems (a solution frowned upon by most WCG ministers in HWA's time). The issue even included an interview with a Christian therapist.
Evolution versus creationism is another subject that has been covered in the church's magazine of late and is a topic of great interest to many. One of our Arizona readers wrote the Report criticizing us for not putting more emphasis on the matter:
The PT magazine recently revealed a major sellout to the evolution theory after years of quality, devastating articles, booklets, telecasts, and radio broadcasts that exposed evolution as an unrealistic, phoney, fraudulent, combined "science" (so-called) and scam that is inherently an atheistic, de facto state religion. That doctrinal switch is as religiously, momentously fundamental as any could be, but in AR it has only been indirectly reported upon.... Given their inner-circle sabotage capitulation to evolutionary thinking now, in time practically all the other doctrinal switches will be automatic, very predictable, or at least unsurprising.
While many see the WCG as having "sold out" to the evolution theory, a careful reading of the WCG's writings on the subject reveals a certain ambivalence on the subject. Recent PT articles by Neil Earle and John Halford (March and August 1994 issues) show that the WCG's intellectuals do not fully accept Darwin's slow evolution views (neither do many evolution-believing scientists) but neither do they want to discount scientific evidence. At the same time, they do not appear ready to throw out a literal reading of the Genesis account. We have not seen a clear statement as to what the WCG's position really is, or will be. Our sources within the organization indicate that the WCG's top leaders have yet to reach a consensus on the issue. However, there seems to be a new position on at least one point. HWA's teaching that a gap of eons separated Gen. 1:1 and Gen. 1:2 is now only referred to as "a theory" (see the March PT article by Earle, p. 21).
Finally, it should be pointed out that some things in the WCG never change. One Ohio member wrote headquarters about the fact that so much of what headquarters was claiming to be true (as regards doctrine and WCG history) did not square with what she was being taught by her local minister or with what she recalled from her own years of experience in the church. Top church administrator Tkach Jr. wrote her back in an attempt to smooth things over, but in the process he very clearly stated, "Members are not responsible for the teachings of the Church, but only for whether they believe them to be true." In other words, headquarters will determine what is truth and you folks out in "the field" must accept it and submit.
New Questions Raised
About HWA's Death
Almost nine years have now passed since Herbert W. Armstrong passed away in early 1986. Yet, many still wonder about the circumstances surrounding his death so soon after "passing the baton" to Joseph W. Tkach. Now William F. Dankenbring has raised new questions about the end of the WCG's founder. Writing in the August edition of his Prophecy Flash!, Dankenbring made the following shocking statement:
I recently learned that the night Herbert Armstrong died, there was a frightful row - a shouting match - which occurred in his bedroom in his home on South Orange Grove Boulevard, in Pasadena. In the room were just he and Joseph W. Tkach. The security guard on duty in the home, whose name I won't mention, heard Herbert loudly scream, "YOU ARE FIRED!!!" He then heard a sound of scuffling, and then silence. The security guard, shortly after that, saw Mr. Tkach leave Mr. Armstrong's bedroom, straightening his tie, and exiting. The next morning Herbert Armstrong was found dead in his bed - not in his wife's favorite chair, as the Worldwide News incorrectly reported in a subsequent article which was nothing more than a propaganda piece. The apostle was dead. But the mystery deepened. What really happened?
The loud and heated exchange of words in Mr. Armstrong's bedroom that night brings to mind many serious questions. Those around Mr. Armstrong knew that he had heart trouble, and that he had been warned by his physician not to lose his temper or become angry - as it could lead to deadly repercussions, such as another heart attack, or stroke, ending his life. Yet that night there was screaming and a loud and heated explosion from his bedroom. It has been suggested that the thing that ticked Mr. Armstrong off was that Joseph Tkach - after ostensibly getting from Mr. Armstrong a signed statement appointing him as his successor - told him that night in no uncertain words that he was going to CHANGE EVERYTHING, doctrines, policies, etc. As a result, according to this scenario, seeing that he had been totally betrayed, Mr. Armstrong "hit the roof" and exploded in uncontrollable anger, leading to his own death that very night!
Many WCG oldtimers are appalled by the way Tkach has allegedly taken over the WCG. On the other hand, there are some who view Tkach as a genuine hero because, as one put it, "Tkach gave HWA exactly what he deserved and now he's taking care of all of HWA's lackeys!" Those who would like to see Dankenbring's article in its entirety should write to Triumph Prophetic Ministries, Box 292, Altadena, CA 91003.
The Exodus Grows
Pastor General Tkach continues to purge the WCG ministry of those out of step with his leadership. Two WCG ministers "retired" very recently are Dean Wilson and James Friddle. These "retirements" come in addition to the many transfers announced just months ago. In the April 19 WN it was announced that over 80 WCG ministers were being transferred to new areas. The list included Robert Spence, Billy Bryce, and Les McColm who were retired (we assume because of age or health). Since then, others retired because of age, budget reasons, etc. include Ambassador administrator Dr. Lynn Torrance and WCG minister and Ambassador instructor Stan Bass (WN, 6/14/94, p. 8). One important demotion a few months ago was that of Tom Lapacka who had briefly been in charge of the WCG's Evangelism Support Services Dept. (see AR55, p. 1). Replaced by Victor Kubik, Lapacka is now over the less prestigious Church Relations Department, the WCG's de facto PR section.
Besides those demotions, retirements and defections that are reported in WCG publications, there are often those that are given little, if any, publicity. For instance, from sources in South Africa we have learned that minister Frank Nelte was suspended, perhaps permanently, for questioning new doctrine, and that minister Jonathan McNair was disfellowshipped months ago for being in sympathy with his father, evangelist Carl McNair who is now with the competing Global Church of God.
One of our readers wrote us: "Here in Australia a lot of people are going over to the splinter groups. Over 200 to the Philadelphia Church of God, some to Dankenbring's group, some to Garner Ted Armstrong's CGI, and now a large number have gone to the Global Church." Another Australian reader wrote us: "I have just heard that Bruce Tyler, the WCG minister from Canberra, has flown the coop, taking 60 members with him to Meredith's Global Church."
As regarding Australia, one of our Texas readers wrote us: "We have heard that in Australia some ministers and members have initiated a lawsuit against the WCG demanding their tithes back, saying they have paid them to a false church. Headquarters is trying to keep this quiet as they are afraid it will spread to other areas." If any of our readers have information of this alleged lawsuit, AR would appreciate further details.
WCG Revenues in Decline
In June the WCG released its "1993 Audited Financial Report" (WN, 6/28/94, pp. 5-10). The statement, prepared by the respected CPA firm of Coopers and Lybrand, shows that in 1993 the WCG's total revenues were $175.6 million, down almost 10 percent from the WCG's total revenues of $191.3 million in 1992. Recall that the WCG's income for 1992 was down from the $196.9 million received in 1991 and that WCG revenues for 1991 were down substantially from the record WCG revenues of $211.2 million made in 1990 (see AR51, p. 1).
Now, the latest information on WCG income is that for 1994 revenues are still falling. For example, in his August 25 co-worker letter, Tkach stated that WCG income for 1994 is down seven percent from that of 1993. Furthermore, not only is The World Tomorrow telecast off the air completely (the telecast for September 11 was the last), it appears that the WCG is presently not even buying much advertising time on TV. So the slide continues.
More Real Estate Deals
In our last issue we gave some of the details surrounding the WCG's 1987 sale of its Mt. Pocono festival site to a mysterious Japanese corporation. Now, another WCG festival site has been put up for sale. One of our Wisconsin readers tells us that a for-sale sign now sits on the grounds of the WCG's Wisconsin Dells festival site. The realtor is United National Real Estate (tel. 608-297-7123).
In an August 1, 1994 letter to his followers, Garner Ted Armstrong (P.O. Box 2530, Tyler, TX 75710) announced that his Twentieth Century WATCH magazine will again be published (it has been in limbo for the last four years). The same letter also contained some remarkable international news: Based on Information from Israel that came via Dr. James Tabor, Armstrong reported that the government of Israel has been quietly negotiating with representatives of the Pope to turn over control of Jerusalem's "Old City" to the Vatican. If true, it puts a feather in the cap of Armstrong as he has been predicting such an event for many years.
The Global Church of God (GCG), under the direction of Pastor General Roderick Meredith, continues to grow. Among those who have gone over to the Meredith camp are WCG minister Bill Swanson and former WCG member Carol Little, daughter of one-time WCG powerhouse Stanley Rader. The GCG recently moved its headquarters to San Diego, California (P.O. Box 501111, San Diego, CA 92150-1111). GCG insiders say that Meredith recently purchased a new San Diego-area residence, the opulence of which has shocked some of his followers. Meredith, however, has defended the propriety of his new home saying, "God expects me to live this way."
Gerald Flurry's Philadelphia Church of God continues to grow. One of our Scottish readers tells us that Flurry is picking off more WCG members in Britain than even Rod Meredith. One of Flurry's new fans in the U.S. is Gwen La Ravia, wife of WCG evangelist Ellis La Ravia.
The Truth of the Matter, edited by Keith Hunt, has a new address. It is 4955 N.W. 47 Ter., Tamarac, FL 33319. The September 1994 issue had a lengthy article on the WCG's new trinity teaching titled "WCG's Nothingness God."
In AR 55 we briefly reported on Midnight Ministries of England. Minister Malcolm Heap, who prefers that we refer to him by his Christian name Malcolm, wrote to us complaining that we did not give him fair coverage. Furthermore, he wrote:
If you want to give us a "fair chance" to prove our validity as an authentic prophetic ministry that God is using, then I would like to submit another prophetic claim. We have made the statement over a year ago - and we still stand by it - that a young
boy aged four who died tragically of cystic fibrosis about eleven years ago, (the son of two former members of the WCG) will soon be raised back to life through our ministry. God has told us He will do this to demonstrate that He has spoken through us, and is using us for a function in the Body of Christ.
We will see if this "prophecy" is fulfilled in our time. Meanwhile - Malcolm now claims that his prophecy that the automobile dealership which would not give him a free BMW would be closed has come true. The dealership is still operating but has been sold to a new owner (The Bucks Herald, 3/17/94). Apparently the sale of the dealership constitutes a fulfilled prophecy. Those who want more details can write to Malcolm at P.O. Box 29, Aylesbury, Bucks. HP17 8TL, United Kingdom.
We continue to learn of new ministries which have ex-WCG members as either leaders or followers: Mystery of the Kingdom, 5202 N. Hwy. 52, Wausau, WI 54401 (headed by Pastor Martin Muzynoski, a former WCG member who now teaches a Sunday sabbath); Church of God Elohim, P.O. Box 111131, Cleveland, OH 44111; The Cincinnati Church of the Savior, c/o Cliff Robinson, 154 Country View Dr., Harrison, OH 45030; The Countdown (Alex Cain, Editor), Church of God, P.O. Box 53, Farnborough, Hants., GU14 OYZ, United Kingdom.
In England, there are a number of groups of former WCG members who meet informally. For details about one such group contact our friends John and Kathleen Peckett, 38 West Bank, Carlton, Nr. Goole DN14 9PZ, United Kingdom.
The Reunion Talkline
In Britain, Reunion News (not to be confused with the Reunion organization in Houston, Texas) continues to assist people who are exiting the WCG. Peter Griffiths, the group's secretary, recently wrote us that, although their publishing operations have slowed down of late, both he and Mac Kachere are operating "Reunion Talkline," a phone-in service for those who would like to share their WCG-related experiences, locate former WCG friends in Britain, gain information about the WCG, etc. Kachere can be reached in London at: 081-200-5527 and Griffiths, in the Birmingham area, can be reached at 021-744-1277. Griffiths does ask, however, that although he and Kachere will be happy to take phone calls from around the world (of course, not collect!), they ask that no calls be made later than 20:00 GMT - in other words, please do not get them out of bed in the middle of the night to talk about the WCG. For those who would prefer to write to them, their mailing address is: Reunion News, 190 Tythe Barn Lane, Whitlocks End, Shirley, Solihull B90 1PF, United Kingdom.
Alan Ruth Updates
His "Splits" Research
In our last issue we mentioned how Alan Ruth, one of our readers, had put together an outstanding listing of the many WCG offshoots. Mr. Ruth now informs us that his paper, "The Worldwide Church of God Splits: Their Triumphs and Troubles," which includes a five-page flow chart of major WCG offshoots and addresses of the many groups is now 69 pages in length. Those who would like a copy of the enlarged paper can obtain one for $5 by writing to Alan Ruth, P.O. Box 4373, Troy, MI 48099.
In the last year we have reported on a number of religious groups that are absorbing former WCG members. The listings we have given are by no means complete. From our mail it is evident that many former members are interested in a very wide array of esoteric religious, spiritual, and philosophical movements. While it is not possible for us to go into much detail on all of these movements and their leaders, we are listing below a number that are increasingly being mentioned in letters to the Report.
Sacred Names groups. This religious movement, which predates Armstrongism, is keenly aware that the words "God," "Lord," and "Jesus" (as found in the English translations of the Bible) are translations of Hebrew and Greek words that are quite different in sound. The groups that comprise this movement put great emphasis on such biblical passages as Exodus 23:13, Joshua 23:7, Acts 4:12, and Revelation 3:8 which seem to emphasize the specific names of the deity as significant for proper worship. Because most of these groups, like the WCG, emphasize a theology that incorporates the keeping of the Old Testament law, many former WCG members have made a smooth transition to these groups. Some of these groups are Yahweh's New Covenant Assembly (P.O. Box 50, Kingdom City, MO 65262) which publishes Light magazine, The Assemblies of Yahweh (Bethel, PA 19507) which publishes The Sacred Name Broadcaster, The House of Yahweh (P.O. Box 2498, Abilene, TX 79604) which publishes The Prophetic Word Magazine, and Yahweh's Assembly in Messiah (401 N. Roby Farm Rd., Rochesport, MO 65279) which publishes The Master Key. (For a more comprehensive list of Sacred Names groups see The Directory of Sabbath-Observing Groups, published by The Bible Sabbath Association, Fairview, Oklahoma 73737.)
One former WCG member who does not claim to be a part of a Sacred Names group, but still seems to have adopted some of their ideas, is Vello Kulbin (31731 Outer Hwy. 10, Redlands, CA 92373). In "What is to Happen Next in Bible Prophecy?", a paper he has been distributing, he wrote (his caps and underlining deleted here): "A Jesus will come! Joshua is our true Savior's name. Jesus will be the Antichrist's name. First, Jesus will come and reign on the earth. Then, our true savior Joshua will come and overthrow the world government established by Jesus."
Sacred Names teachings have become so widespread among former WCG members that former WCG ministers Garner Ted Armstrong, Dr. Ernest Martin, and Fred Coulter have all written papers critical of its premises. Some ministers in the Church of God International, which seems to be filled with Sacred Names adherents, have called the Sacred Names doctrine a major heresy.
Pro-Jewish groups. "The Jews" continue to hold a special fascination for many former WCG members. This fascination runs the full gamut from very anti-Jewish sentiments to very pro-Jewish sentiments. Groups that fall into the latter category include numerous ministries aimed at either bringing Jews to Jesus or bringing Christians to some type of Judaism. Those in the "Messianic Jewish" movement most often keep the seventh day sabbath, the annual Jewish holy days, revere the sacred names, and keep many Jewish customs, yet view Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. Because of their faith in Jesus, the Israeli Supreme Court in 1989 ruled that Messianic Jews are not entitled to automatic Israeli citizenship (Los Angeles Times, 12/27/89). Yet most Messianic Jews are very loyal to Israel. Some of the American groups that fall into the Messianic Jewish category include Zola Levitt Ministries, Box 12268, Dallas, TX 75225-9987; Hatikva Ministries (Joseph Goode, President), P.O. Box 3125, Port Arthur, TX 77643 -3124; Jewish Voice Prophetic Magazine and Jewish Voice Broadcasts (Evangelist Louis Kaplan, President), P.O. Box 6, Phoenix, AZ 85001; Lederer Messianic Ministries (Barry Rubin, Executive Director) 6204 Park Heights Ave., Baltimore, MD 21215; and the umbrella organization Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, P.O. Box 417, Wynnewood, PA 19096 (tel. 1-800-225-MJAA).
While a number of former WCG members have been attracted to the Messianic Jewish groups, a few have begun attending regular Jewish synagogue services. One such individual told the Report, "I feel very much at home there. I just never mention my faith in Jesus."
One individual who is quite at home with both Messianic Jewish and Rabbinical Jewish groups is Dr. James Tabor (see AR41). Tabor, a prolific writer who once taught at Ambassador and who now teaches at the University of North Carolina, recently announced that he was closing down his Genesis 2000 publication so that he could devote more time to his work with United Israel World Union of New York (UIWU) and United Israel of Jerusalem (UIJ). The two organizations publish, respectively, the United Israel Bulletin (1123 Broadway, New York, NY 10010) and Jezreel's Call (P.O. Box 33078, 91033 Jerusalem, Israel and in the U.S.: P.O. Box 345, Lenoir, NC 28645). UIWU was founded in 1943 by David Horowitz, a journalist who maintains an office at the United Nations headquarters in New York. According to Tabor, now a vice-president of UIWU, the main purpose of UIWU is:
....to foster Torah faith for all nations, or as David Horowitz expresses it: "Mosaic Law for One World," based on the vision of Isaiah 2 and 11 and other related texts. An integral part of that vision is the UNION of all twelve tribes of Israel - not only the Jews (Judah), but the so-called "lost tribes" of Israel as well. [From Tabor's August 8 letter to his Genesis 2000 subscribers.]
UIJ is a separate organization founded in 1993 by Tabor, Dennis Jones (who has completed a Nazirite vow), and John Hulley (who graduated magnum cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in international economics and then was a senior economist for ten years at the headquarters of the World Bank in Washington, D.C.). The purpose of UIJ is to publish both biblical research and historical material based on Hulley's research dealing with the identity of those portions of the so-called "lost tribes" of Israel which they believe once migrated into northwestern Europe. Those who would like to know more about UIJ or UIWU may write personally to Tabor at P.O. Box 561476, Charlotte, NC 28256. Those who would like to know more about Dr. Tabor's views about the Bible and the B'Nai Noah movement in which he is active, may obtain some of his writings from Emmanuel, P.O. Box 442, Athens, TN 37371-0442.
Anti-Jewish groups. While many former WCG members seem enamored of all things Jewish, many others have gone to the opposite extreme and have become affiliated with organizations that are quite anti-Jewish. Some of the groups are clearly neo-Nazi. For instance, there is the German American National Political Action Committee (P.O. Box 1137, Santa Monica, CA 90406) led by Hans Schmidt who claims the Holocaust was a myth created "to obscure the fact that Hitler was right" and Thatcher Thunders! (A.C.C. Services, P.O. Box 509, Anderson, TX 77830) run by R. G. Thatcher who claims that the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 are none other than Zerubbabel and Eliakim of the Old Testament who were supposedly resurrected already in this century as Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels! Other anti-Jewish groups believe in various varieties of the Israel Identity theory and sometimes even keep the seventh day sabbath, the OT holy days, and other OT laws, while being at the same time anti-Jewish.
Conspiracy theory groups. Very popular with both former and current WCG members are "conspiracy" views of the world - world views that emphasize the idea that the course of history is being directed by secretive, self-advancing groups, often seen as the super rich, leading bankers, the Masons, the Jesuits, "the Jews," nationalists, internationalists, leftists, rightists, Marxists, fascists, the Illuminati, the Trilateral Commission, etc., etc. Space does not permit us to cover this fascinating area in any detail. An overview of some of the more prevalent - and outrageous - theories can be found in New World Order - the Ancient Plan of Secret Societies by William T. Still (Huntington House Publishers and available for $10 from Religion Analysis Service, P.O. Box 22098, Robbinsdale, MN 55422-0098-note new address).
Of all the publishers that specialize in the area of conspiracies and secret orders, the most popular among ex-Worldwiders is Emissary Publications run by author Des Griffin and his wife Karen. The Griffins publish Midnight Messenger, a controversial, yet thought-provoking, newspaper. For a sample copy and catalog of their many intriguing publications, send $3 to Emissary Publications, 9205 S.E. Clackamas Rd., #1776, Clackamas, OR 97015 (tel. 503-824-2050).
Another ex-Worldwider (and ex-CGI minister) whose current ministry emphasizes conspiracy theories is Jim Rector, Cornerstone Publications, 3802 Olive Street, Texarkana, TX 75503; tel. 903-792-1352. His 1994 series of taped lectures on "The Specter of Globalism" is very popular among many ex-Worldwiders. In his November 1993 letter Rector wrote:
For a number of years now, many events have been transpiring behind the scenes on the world stage - events that all will ultimately contribute to the most diabolical, demonic and deceptive plan for complete world domination ever attempted or foisted off on an unsuspecting and unprepared mankind. The Beast of Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 is in the wings now. It is only a matter of time before this hideous monster is unveiled.
Rector sees Satan as the mastermind behind the emergence of the "The New World Order" and in his complex Bible prophecy theory Rector brings in almost every possible factor of fundamentalist demonology: New Agers, occultists, channelers, UFOs, Benjamin Creme and Lord Maitreya, the Federal Reserve Bank, the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers, the Bilderburgers, the Trilateral Commission, the Club of Rome, virtually all international bankers, the Priory of Zion, the Knights of Malta, the National Council of Women, the Pro-choice groups, the Sierra Club, the World Council of Churches and many leading religious figures, virtually all of the great philanthropic foundations of America, Henry Kissinger, George Bush, President Clinton, and even Stanley Rader (who Rector claims is a 33rd degree Mason, the group's highest honor, he says). All of these individuals and groups are seen as in league with the Devil and are supposedly working toward "globalism" (Jan. 10 and Jan. 17, 1994 letters to his subscribers).
Survivalist groups. A number of former WCG members are involved with groups that are often called "survivalist." These are usually composed of individuals who see Armageddon in the near future and, having little confidence in the ability of modern government to stem the downward slide of Western civilization, feel they will have to go it alone. One organization that seems to fit into this category is Center For Action, 1106 N. Gilbert Rd. #2114, Mesa, AZ 85203 (tel. 602-969-9260). This organization is headed by former Vietnam war hero and U.S. Presidential candidate Bo Gritz. Additionally, one publication that is popular with survivalists is American Survival Guide, P.O. Box 70015, Anaheim, CA 92825-0015.
Deprogramming Yourself -
The Editor's View
As editor of the Report, I want to share with all of you some thoughts I have on the Worldwide experience and on exiting it, in particular. One of the more positive aspects of putting out a publication such as this one is getting letters from readers who share with us their many many insights, life experiences, and problems. But there is a down side to this, as well. All too frequently readers tell us of their problems and ask for help we are not in a position to give. Unlike the ministry of the WCG, which seems all too willing to give advice on virtually every facet of life, we have never thought ourselves qualified to do so. There is, however, one very frequently asked question for which we may be able to offer at least a few suggestions.
The question is often put like this: "I have been a member of the WCG but suspect that it is a destructive cult. What should I do now?" Readers who ask such questions are often looking for a quick and easy solution to their spiritual problems. Frankly, I doubt that there is such a solution. My own observations convince me that each of us must work out our own solutions to our own problems. That does not mean, however, that I cannot offer a few suggestions. (And they are just that - mere suggestions. They may not apply to many, or even most, readers). To those exiting the WCG, I have two initial suggestions: First, don't be too quick to join another group. All too often people burned by the WCG jump into some other group that is just as harmful as the WCG. Many cult experts suggest that those leaving a destructive cult allow at least one year before joining a new group. If religious fellowship is sorely missed, then why not make a point of visiting - without joining - a different denomination's services each time you want to fellowship?
Second, with the increase in time that comes from not being a regular WCG member, devote a good portion of that new-found time to studying those topics that underlie the WCG's doctrines. I can't stress the importance of this too much. So often I have noticed that some will leave the WCG over one or two doctrinal matters or because of some corruption problem, all the while assuming that most of what they have come to believe is still correct. (When I left the WCG in 1973 I was in this category.) Unfortunately, many go on to discover after years of negative, and often painful, experiences that a very large amount of what they had come to believe was true is really fallacious. Most of those who leave the WCG could benefit from going back to college. Obviously, very few have the time or money to do that. However, through a systematic program of independent reading one can gain a considerable amount of valuable insight and information. What follows is a list of books I frequently recommend to those who not only want to deprogram themselves from the WCG's propaganda, but also want to gain a better understanding of many of the topics the WCG stressed.
Books About Cults and Mind Control
Every so often I receive a letter from someone who has read a number of our past issues, suspects the WCG is a cult, but somehow has lingering doubts about it. For those in this category I would suggest reading one or more from the following group:
Steven Hassan, Combatting Cult Mind Control (Park Street Press, 1989). I thoroughly reviewed this book in AR44 and still think it is one of the finest books available on the subject. The paperback edition sells for $12.95 and a new audio cassette version sells for $17.95. You may order directly from the publisher (there is a $3 charge for shipping): Park Street Press, P.O. Box 388, Rochester, VT 05767 (tel. 1-800-488-2665).
Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton, Toxic Faith: Understanding and Overcoming Religious Addiction (Oliver Nelson, 1991). The relevance of this book to WCG members is apparent from the fact that Joseph Tkach Jr. is highly critical of it. I highly recommend it.
Ronald M. Enroth, Churches That Abuse (Zondervan, 1992). In this book Enroth, a professor of sociology at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, offers "help for those hurt by legalism, authoritarian leadership, manipulation, excessive discipline, and spiritual intimidation." After reading the Enroth book, Bruce Renehan wrote, "This is a book that could help many Worldwiders. Professor Enroth has done a wonderful job of exposing the world of abusive religion."
Father Leo Booth, When God Becomes a Drug: Breaking the Chains of Religious Addiction and Abuse (Tarcher/ Perigree, 1991). In reviewing this book psychologist John Bradshaw, himself a former monk, pointedly wrote, "No addiction is more toxically shaming and soul-murdering than the religious abuse that flows from the actions of religious addicts." Rev. Booth views religious addiction as a disease that can be treated by application of a modified version of AA's twelve steps. (Incidentally, many psychologists see religious addiction as similar to drug addiction. See, for example, Milkman and Sunderworth, Craving for Ecstasy: The Consciousness and Chemistry of Escape, chapter four, Lexington Books, 1987.)
Marlene Winell, Ph.D., Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion (New Harbinger, 1994). Dr. Winell, a psychologist, offers almost 300 pages of guidance and resources for those who have become convinced that they are in a destructive cult or abusive denomination.
Robert Jay Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism (Norton, 1961 and University of North Carolina Press, 1989). While subtitled "A Study of Brainwashing in China," this famous work has become the most often-quoted by experts in deprogramming and exit counselling. Those who may find it too technical or long should skip over to chapter 23 where the author outlines the "eight psychological themes which are predominant within the social field of the thought reform mileau." Former Worldwiders who have read this chapter have often commented how Lifton has succinctly captured the essence of the Armstrongism experience.
Books About Learning to Think
Over time it has become all to obvious to us at AR that one reason why some leave the WCG, only to become engrossed by some movement even more unbalanced, is that many have never had any formal or systematic training in how to think clearly. If one were to go to college specifically to learn how to think more clearly, one would take a number of courses in the area of philosophy. Such courses would include logic, the study of fallacies, semantics, epistemology (which includes the study of what justifies belief), metaphysics (including ontology and cosmology), ethics, aesthetics, politics, and the history of philosophy. In some Christian denominations, seminarians are expected to master the essentials of each of these areas before beginning graduate-level studies in theology. A young person desiring to eventually be a scholar would do well to read college-level textbooks about all of these subjects. Unfortunately, many do not have the time or the energy to invest in such a program of self help. For such individuals I would recommend the following books (in fact, they would be just as helpful to the budding scholar):
Jerry Mander, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television (Quill, 1977). Some will think it odd that I would rank this book so highly - that is, until they read it. More than any book I know, this one will make you suspicious of information and ways of thinking absorbed from the mass media. It should encourage you to want to spend less time watching the boob tube. Additionally, it contains valuable insights into the conspiratorial nature of modern society. If you read only one of the books I suggest, this should be it.
Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren, How to Read a Book (Touchstone, 1940, 1972). This work will not simply make everything you read more understandable, it will greatly expand your view of the world of the intellect. One Ph.D. candidate who read the book told me, "Why didn't they make this required reading when we were just starting college? It would have made our college years so much easier." One caveat, however. I personally disagree with one small section of the book - the section on canonical writing (assuming the authors were not writing with tongue in cheek). I think canonical writing should be read with the same critical care that the authors advocate for other types of writing.
Rudolph Flesch, The Art of Clear Thinking (Barnes and Noble, 1951). Like some other books on this list, locating a copy of this one may take some time. Nevertheless, doing so will be worth the effort as it is easy to read and teaches important skills that will make all of your studies more productive.
V.A. Howard and J.H. Barton, Thinking on Paper (Quill, 1986). While this very short book is mainly about writing (and for that it is very good), its opening chapter offers such a major insight into how to think more effectively that it alone makes this book very valuable.
S.I. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1939, 1978). While Hayakawa perhaps slightly overstates his key premise, this book still remains a classic introduction to the study of semantics. In particular, it is invaluable for the study of religious and philosophical literature.
Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy (Washington Square Press, 1926, 1961). Durant's book, one of the best-loved of our time, presents a concise overview of the lives and opinions of some of the greatest thinkers of Western civilization. While this is not a college textbook on the history of philosophy, it is, nevertheless, a very readable introduction to the subject.
Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Crowell Collier and MacMillan, 1967), Vol. 3 article on "Fallacies." I know of few subjects that can prove as valuable to Worldwiders (or to just about anyone else, for that matter) as the study of fallacies - erroneous ways of reasoning that have the appearance of soundness. Although it does not cover formal fallacies, a helpful and concise work is With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies by S. Morris Engel (St. Martin's Press, 1976). When I first studied the subject of fallacies two decades ago, it was via Irving M. Copi's excellent college textbook Introduction to Logic (MacMillan, 1972). It's very good, and because there is a new 1994 edition out, you may be able to locate a copy without too much trouble. Nevertheless, most will find the above encyclopedia article (available in many libraries) quite adequate. Additionally, I would recommend Arthur Schopenhauer's short work 38 Ways to Win an Argument to anyone who wants to be able to spot fallacious reasoning in action. Whether one wants to see through the specious arguments of politicians, lawyers, advertisers, clerics, or just about anyone else, this short work - frankly, about how the cleverly devious do their devilish persuading - is invaluable. Unfortunately, locating a copy of this nineteenth century treatise may prove difficult. I found a short translation of it in Five Rings, Six Crises... by Boswell and Starter (Viking, 1990).
Books About the "Real World"
After this section, I list a number of works I believe offer significant help in understanding the Bible. But I am here giving a few books higher priority for a reason. One may know how to think clearly, but if one just dives into biblical study what usually happens is that the student goes down a lot of dead ends and wastes a lot of time. The reason? The biblical literature was not written in a vacuum. It relates to the real world - both spiritual and physical. And if the student does not have an adequate understanding of that world, then much of what is in the Bible will not be understood or will be misunderstood. An obvious example of this relates to historical context. If one has no grasp of ancient history then one will have a very difficult time in both the Old and the New Testaments. But there are many other areas of knowledge that are also very relevant. Here are a few books that provide important information on a number of those areas:
Thomas R. Malthus, Essay on the Principle of Population. Malthus, considered one of history's earliest economists, was a young cleric in 1798 when he brought out the first edition of what was to become one of the most influential writings of all time. Not only is the work acknowledged as a classic of political economy, its profound influence has extended to the areas of biology, theory of history, sociology, moral philosophy, and even theology. Although Malthus was later to do a number of significantly enlarged editions of the original work, the concise first edition makes its arguments most cogently. In 1959, The University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor Paperbacks) republished the first edition as Population: The First Essay. This work provides an important introduction to the books that follow in this section.
Gordon Rattray Taylor, The Great Evolution Mystery (Harper & Row, 1983). While this is not the most current work on the theory of evolution, it is one of the most readable and interesting. The author is no theist and he has faith in the general evolutionary theory. Yet he sees problems with Darwin's version of it. While the author does not admit to teleology (the concept that the future draws us into it or that there is a cosmic plan), virtually all that he writes seems to point in the direction of physical life having come about from a supernatural, guiding mind.
Robert Ardrey, The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations (Dell, 1966). Don't let the intellectual-sounding title throw you. Newsweek very aptly called this book, "One of the most exciting books about the nature of man that has ever been presented." Unlike the great personages of the Bible, most of us have grown up estranged from earth, sea, animals, and the rest of creation. Ardrey helps us get back in touch with the reality of the biological world. One warning, however. If you start this book, finish it. I know one individual who read only a third of it and came away with conclusions diametrically the opposite of what the author intended and clarified by book's end.
Peter Farb, Man's Rise To Civilization: The Cultural Ascent of the Indians of North America (Penguin, 1991). This very readable book makes an excellent introduction to cultural anthropology. Many Bible students will be surprised to learn how much a study of anthropology and American Indians can add to their appreciation of the Bible and life in general.
Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough. The first edition of this work appeared in 1890. Generally regarded as one of the great classics in anthropology, it offers many profound insights into the history and nature of Western religion. While the complete version of this work is quite lengthy (13 volumes), many will find one of the condensed, and sometimes illustrated, versions adequate.
Books Specifically About the Bible
There are so many interesting and valuable books available about the Bible that it is impossible to provide any kind of comprehensive list. However, based on personal experience and the experiences of hundreds of our readers, I can suggest a number that will dramatically help many gain a better understanding of history's most important collection of writings:
Hershel Shanks, editor (in collaboration with a team of scholars), Ancient Israel: A Short History from Abraham to the Destruction of the Temple (Prentice Hall, 1988). Based on the most authoritative and up-to-date scholarship, this book is one of the finest short histories of ancient Israel available today. Hershel Shanks is founder, editor, and publisher of Biblical Archaeology Review and Bible Review magazines. Incidentally, the latter may very well be the most informative Bible-related publication available today for the non-academic public. Those who would like more information about it, or the Ancient Israel book, should contact: The Bible Archaeology Society, 4710 41st Street NW, Washington, DC 20016; tel. 1-800-221-4644.
Richard Elliot Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible? (Summit Books, 1987). I wish the catchy title of this book had actually been something like, "How Did the Old Testament Come to Be?" It would have more accurately described the content of this most interesting book. While many in the general public might have some difficulty understanding this work, those with WCG experience should grasp its central ideas with no difficulty. While, admittedly, Professor Friedman is presenting a theory, it is a very plausible one which recognizes, among other things, the significance of there having been a House of Judah that was distinct - even as to religious particulars - from the House of Israel.
Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (Oxford University Press, 1968). This is a scholarly work and many will find portions of it difficult reading. Nevertheless, the average reader can skim or even skip some of the more technical portions and still read this work to great benefit. I am always amazed how the vast majority of Christians claim faith in the New Testament, yet have so little idea of how it came to be. Dr. Metzger's book answers many basic questions. By the way, while some bookstores charge $30-$40 for a copy of this outstanding work, copies can be obtained for only $19.95 from Watchman Fellowship, P.O. Box 13340, Arlington, TX 76094-0340.
Ian Wilson, Jesus: The Evidence (Harper & Row, 1984). Who was the historical Jesus? That extremely important question is addressed in quite a number of books that have appeared in recent years. Journalist Wilson presents a fairly objective overview of the evidence. Both believers and non-believers can find valuable information in his work. A more reverential and apologetic work is James D. G. Dunn's The Evidence for Jesus (The Westminster Press, 1985), a thoughtful book that apparently was written in response to Wilson's. A third book about the historical Jesus is John Dominic Crossan's Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (Harper Collins, 1994). While Professor Crossan does not view Jesus in supernatural terms (he discounts the possibility of a resurrection), he is, nonetheless, quite sympathetic to his subject. It is difficult to see how even the most coldly analytical non-believer could come away from Crossan's work without recognizing Jesus as the most significant individual in human history. While fundamentalists may find some of his conclusions disquieting, Professor Crossan's book contains many valuable insights about the life of Jesus.
Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (Vintage Books, 1979). This outstanding piece of historical scholarship won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award in 1980. And very justifiably so. This easy-to-read book not only concisely offers a vast amount of information about the earliest years of Christianity, but to the thoughtful Worldwider (or recent exiter) it shows the amazing parallels between Christianity of the late first to early third centuries and the recent history of the WCG. Those who find Dr. Pagels' ideas thought-provoking may wish to follow up this book with two important writings by early Christian leaders: "The Letters of Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch" and "The Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians." Both are found in The Apostolic Fathers, Second Edition, translated by J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer and edited by Michael W. Holmes (Baker Book House, 1989).
Morton Smith and R. Joseph Hoffman, editors (with a team of scholars that included the almost ubiquitous James Tabor), What the Bible Really Says (Prometheus, 1989, Harper Collins paperback, 1993). In this book's conclusion co-editor Hoffman states, "It can be taken for granted that 75 percent of what the average Christian or Jew 'thinks' about the Bible is interpretation and not scriptural at all." Worldwiders who understand that the sabbath is the seventh day of the week, who know the difference between the House of Judah and the House of Israel, who know how the Saturnalia was incorporated into Christianity, etc. will not find Hoffman's comment too surprising. Nevertheless, this work contains enough startling information to educate - or offend - just about everyone.
A few final comments. The above list is structured so that the more general and basic books usually precede the more advanced and specialized. For that reason many who do not have a college education will still find it manageable. It should be pointed out, however, that the list is not an exhaustive one. There are many more books that could be recommended to those trying to "deprogram" themselves from the WCG experience. Nevertheless, the above will provide a good start to those who have sufficient intellectual curiosity coupled with the time and energy to pursue a program of self-education - especially in those areas where the WCG laid down dogmatic, and frequently erroneous, "answers" to many of life's biggest questions.
We at the Report were very saddened to learn of the recent death of our one-time classmate Richard Paige, 51, from cancer. In addition to an M.A. in history from New York University, Richard had a B.A. from Ambassador College (Pasadena class of 1970) and a bachelor's degree in medical technology. In recent years the former Ambassador professor of history and archaeology worked as a medical technician at Mother Francis Hospital in Tyler, Texas. He is survived by his wife Deanne and children Michael and Shoshan (WN, 8/9/94, p. 11).
Sometimes the Report is not as timely as it should be. A few weeks ago one of our readers asked us what had become of writer and Ambassador alumnus (Texas, 1970) Gene Justice of Alabama. When we made inquiries we were shocked to learn that Gene, an old friend, had been killed in 1990 in a head-on collision with a drunk driver who had crossed over into his lane. In the '80s, Gene's biblical research and writings helped many of our readers who, like us, will be saddened to learn of his passing.
I left the WCG four years ago. Two weeks ago I saw a lady who is still in the church. I told her, "They sure made a lot of changes in the church, haven't they?" She said, "No, they haven't changed anything. Everything is still just the same as always."
I've been told by friends still in the WCG that they have a different Passover service, but it won't be implemented until next year; that outsiders may come and observe Passover services, but not partake; and that Passover will no longer be considered a solemn service, but rather a time of fellowship. Boy, I wish that had been the case when I was in - then the hall was always as quiet as a tomb.
If the WCG finally becomes almost like orthodox Christianity how long will it take - years? Sure, they're starting to talk more about Jesus Christ now, but how much do they really know about the freedom of being in Him and not under the law? Hardly any of the songs in the new hymnal are really about Christ. In looking through the new hymnal I discovered that only about 23 out of 234 mention Christ or Jesus and most of those only had His name mentioned once!
Recently I was taken aback to discover that Joe Tkach Jr. had actually excused church members from sabbath services in early July so they might attend a church-recommended therapy seminar costing participants $500 each. (Isn't the 10 percent of one's salary, paid to "spirit led" church counsellors, enough anymore?) The members who doled out the small fortune were taught the pop psychology theory called "synergism." What's that? Actually, it is not a psychological term. It is really a sixteenth-century theological concept. It is the belief that if enough people believe in the same thing simultaneously - love, wealth, or success, for example - then an energy force is created that will actually bring about the desired effect. Some pop psychologists refer to synergism by the term "critical mass theory."
This type of experimental psychology is not really supported by true scientists any more than blood-letting is by reputable modern doctors. Such charlatanism is not new in the field of psychology. In the eighteenth century, Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer created the rage in Paris by advocating bathing with magnetic copper rods to correct physical and mental maladies. A few years later Franz Joseph Gall developed phrenology, the theory that a person's character can be ascertained by feeling the bumps on his head. The theories of both Mesmer and Gall have since been thoroughly debunked, just as those of the synergists have. Maybe Joe Jr. should stop dabbling in pop psychology. It's no better than his pop theology.
We still attend services (tongue in cheek) as it is a good social club and we are waiting for Tkach's announcement that the commandments are done away with and therefore are obsolete. We no longer pay tithes but have many friendships which we have made over the years.
Editor: In recent months we have been amazed at how many WCG members have written saying they no longer are in harmony with official WCG teaching but they still attend services because the church functions as a "social club."
Your AR54 issue was just great. But there was one letter and editor's comment that left me a bit confused. Mr. Wagner's letter and the editor's comment is one that I can't understand. How can anyone in, their right mind think that our news and entertainment media are "ultrac-onservative." Just watching TV should tell all of us that the media are "ultra-liberal." Could you explain how you came up with your opinion?
Editor: In our culture we use the words "conservative" and "liberal" in a variety of ways and nor always with great precision. In addition to common media parlance, which uses the terms to designate political alliances, religionists and political scientists use the words quite differently.
If you are talking about scriptural exegesis, "conservative" generally refers to views that favor a more literal interpretation of scripture and "liberal" to a more allegorical interpretation of scripture. If you are talking about Christian ethics, then "conservative" most often refers to traditional viewpoints on morality issues. Examples include viewpoints that are in favor of traditional family structures and against promiscuity, divorce, premarital sex, and homosexuality. If you use the words conservative and liberal in that way, then you are most certainly correct. The media are not just liberal, but ultra-liberal. As an example, ten years ago who would have ever thought that we would see a pop music concert (in this case Michael Jackson on TV doing an hours-long show before thousands of screaming fans) during which the star stroked his crotch throughout the entire show? Yet one cable TV station literally broadcast such a concert from eastern Europe last year. Is that "liberal"? If you are talking, Christian ethics, you bet it is.
But there is another way that the terms "liberal" and "conservative" are used. In the areas of political science economics and sometimes history, the terms more frequently refer to one's viewpoint about the control-of-power status quo. In layman's language, we could define those terms this way: "Conservatives" want to conserve the status quo-that is, they want those who now have privilege and power (whether political, economic, or social) to be able to hold onto it, and conversely, for those who do not have it not to be able to gain it. "Liberals," on the other hand, can be viewed as those who do not have the power they feel they are entitled to, and therefore they generally feel that we, as a people, should be more liberal or generous in how our society's power is distributed. In watching Congressional debates, I have noticed that liberals usually tend to be quite generous with other people's money (and power), whereas conservatives, the ones who seem to perceive themselves as having the money (and power), are more restrained regarding other's taking it from them.
As an aside, let me point out another interesting facet of this subject. Some years ago I had the privilege of hearing a lecture by law professor Daniel L. Stewart, one of the country's leading experts in the fields of property law and Constitutional law. He very adroitly commented that if one looks at the political positions of American liberals and conservatives (a prime example would be written opinions of the liberal and conservative justices of the U.S. Supreme Court), one would very consistently find some glaring inconsistencies of logic. He pointed out, for instance, that liberals, while frequently more liberal or generous or tolerant on matters regarded as social (free speech, for instance) are frequently more intolerant or pro-government restrictive regarding economics (corporation regulation, for instance). Conservatives, on the other hand, while often backing or upholding ever more legislation that may impede social freedoms, are generally quite tolerant or anti-law-and-order in regard to laws that impede large corporations and the wealthy. One can look back on a number of self-described conservatives in our recent political past to see that some "law and order" candidates were also the ones calling for "deregulation." If you think about it, this is logically a self-contradiction. Regulations, in a practical sense, are laws. Of course, the term "regulations" is usually used in general discourse to refer to rules that impede corporations, businesses, and the wealthy - not those that impede shoplifters, burglars, and other so-called "common" criminals. So what you are left with from those politicians is the message that they want to be tougher toward the poorer, less empowered segments of society, but less demanding (more liberal) toward those who are empowered by privilege, wealth (often inherited or gotten by sophisticated. manipulation of our legal system), or resultant political strength.
Columnists Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon in their article "Asking twenty questions about the 'liberal media'" were obviously using the terms liberal and conservative in the political-economic sense. (Incidentally, you can still get a free copy of their article by writing to Cohen and Solomon at P.O. Box 13193, Oakland, CA 94661. Please be sure to include a stamped, self-addressed envelope.)
For an example of the press being criticized from another point of view you might want to see a copy of a new study called "Faith in a Box: Network News on Religion" put out by an affiliate of Pat Robertson's 700 Club: Media Research Center, 113 S. West Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 (it sells for $2). Both papers contain valuable insights about the press and for many, a comparison of the two papers will prove very educational.
I think the Tkachs may be the ones who finally blow the WCG apart. In many ways the WCG is already starting to look like the Jehovah's Witnesses! They could dump the trinity doctrine just as fast as they adopted it, get rid of the word "Church" in their name, and accept the doctrine of the 144,000. Then the members could be duped into local Kingdom Halls! There they would be duped into going from door to door doing their "personal evangelizing." A friend of mine is a JW and he talks just like a WCG member.
My sister and brother-in-law are still staunch WCG members. I also have a lot of good friends who are still in the WCG and I see them quite often. They now have the "TKACH FRIENDLINESS" and have invited me to services many times. I still consider many people in the WCG my friends. Many of them are sincere and well meaning and it would not be right for me to insult them. But I do not want to go back to that dog vomit! The scripture states that Jesus Christ is "the same, yesterday, today and forever." If the WCG was the one and only true church, its members would not be buffeted to and fro by every wind of the continuously changing doctrines they are creating! They are being careless with the scriptures! I suspect many will wake up soon and leave. Those that remain will probably be convinced that this is the great falling away.
Last week I went to my second church service in the Worldwide Church [in recent years]. Each time I went they made me feel very welcome. I have not had to repent or humble myself in any way to the ministers. In fact it was Mr. Dennis Luker who called me and said we were all welcome to come back! It all started when I kept hearing that Joseph Tkach had said that many members of the church had been disfellowshipped unjustly. So I thought I would see if he really meant it. I wrote him an honest, open letter last September and told him of our family's case and sent him copies of our disfellowship letters. In just a few weeks we all got a call from Mr. Luker who said our disfellowshipments had been made null and void and that our memberships had been restored! Mr. Luker said that the ministers who put us out would also be disciplined. They were Richard Rice and Lawson James Tuck. While we may never support the church 100% again, I can't tell you how wonderful it is to get to fellowship with my old friends in the church again without them being afraid to speak to us.
Whatever his reasons, I commend Mr. Tkach for at long last taking the club away.... John, it has now come full circle. Those who really loved the church and wanted to reform it are being welcomed back, and the hardliners like Roderick Meredith are being thrown out! God's justice may seem to move slowly to us but it gets here!
-David W. Berryman
Muscle Shoals, Alabama
There is a WCG breakaway group nearby that publishes that Winston Churchill was the King of the South and that Christ died to abolish the Book of Exodus and bring into force the Book of Deuteronomy and, of course, that HWA was the Elijah. The bizarre and painful thing is that the leader of this group is very intelligent and sincere. You probably get reports of thousands of such groups.
Editor: Not thousands, but it does seem like hundreds. There are so many, in fact, we just can't keep up with all of them any more.
Needless to say, I am still suffering emotionally from the jackasses [of the WCG ministry]. Everything I built by their teachings has been taken apart twig by twig until there is only a barren stump.... I just feel like a pile of worthless manure. The gigantic stress and coercion by the WCG over the years with fear and terror has damaged my health, nervous system, and brain, I think.... In my wildest dreams I never, never could have believed that religion could deceive anyone like it has, nor the damage afterward. I have been out three years and I am constantly getting flashbacks of all sorts concerning how I was so cleverly tricked and I'm emotional about it. I would have to be dead not to feel many things.
Editor: Anyone who is having ongoing, serious emotional problems as a result of their WCG experiences should consider talking to a therapist knowledgeable about cults. Unfortunately, many therapists are not really qualified in the area. One organization that specializes in the rehabilitation of former cultists is Wellspring Retreat and Resource Center, P.O. Box 67, Albany, Ohio 45710; tel. 614-698-6277. Contact them for a brochure and copy of their newsletter.
John, as you may remember, back in January I sent AR a check for a complete set of all your past issues. After reading through all of them, I realized what a smart investment I had made. I have been greatly helped psychologically, spiritually, and even financially by reading about my church's history as documented in AR. I have also been amazed at how many of your predictions about the WCG have come true. You really have a handle on what is going on. You know, I just got the July 12 issue of The Worldwide News and Mr. Tkach's front-page editorial is titled, "Being constantly vigilant to stay biblical." Seems our Pastor General has just discovered that his church is drifting into unbiblical waters. Had he been reading the Report, he would have discovered the problem way back in February when your publication's lead story about the church was "The Bible is Being Deemphasized."
Thanks for the latest AR. Your coverage leaves me with a sense of "wonder" at the extent of charade in "The World of Church." This leads to incredulity that finally breaks over into a paroxysm of laughter. That is the best medicine.
At times it is hard to believe all this can be happening. There are so many diverse bacterial strains that have mutated out of the mother virus WCG. This issue of AR was enough to convince me that all this infected behavior indicates the source must be a retrovirus with unlimited potential for diversification. How bizarre. The WCG fountainhead may even have "one leg up" on AIDS in its speed and capacity for proliferating in different forms.
We contribute financially only to AR since it is the single effort that identifies the sickness (religious addiction) and attempts to inoculate the required antibodies. Unfortuantely, some still experience that occasional malaria-like attack. Is there any hope? Is the final solution only the final event?
This is a follow-up to your Ambassador Report issue of February and the reference to the questions surrounding the Boston Church's activity fund and just where all the money is going.
In early April, the minister gave a scathing sermon about gossip and took the opportunity to bring up the matter of the "gossip" that was circulating in the Boston and Worchester WCG congregations about what he was doing with the money from the fundraisers. Speaking in his own defense, he said that he would post a listing of where the money was spent. That was in April. It is now September and the list still has not been posted. Tells you something, doesn't it!
-Boston Church member
My late husband Len and I were the chief fundraisers in the Brisbane North congregation. We thought the thousands of dollars we raised were being put towards making the Y.O.U. camp at Lake Moogerah the best in Australia. It was some time before we realized that such was not the case. Even though the signs on our continuing street stalls and our police permits read, "Proceeds to Lake Moogerah Youth Camp," little of the money was going there and the camp is now defunct. The crunch came a few months before my husband died of cancer. We always handed currency and checks into the ministry, but suddenly we were not being issued with receipts for same. When we protested and asked why, we were told we had a bad attitude in not trusting the ministry.
As we were both pensioners and many checks were our personal ones, we had to answer to the government's Social Security and Taxation Department as to what these monies were that were going in and out of our bank account. They said receipts were necessary. That fact didn't phase the money-crazed ministers one iota. So we dug our heels in and continued fund raising, but for the Queensland Cancer Fund and the Children's Hospital. (We knew they would issue receipts and we didn't wish to just throw away the fundraising expertise we had gained.) In the WCG this made us about as popular as pork in Jerusalem. To make a long story short, Len died after an eleven week illness. I carried on the fundraising with help from friends....
In hindsight, I could write a book about our experiences in Worldwide. Len, who was my second husband (we had both lost earlier partners to cancer) was the first man baptized into the church in Queensland. That was in the late '50s by windbag Waterhouse. I came into the church in 1970 in Bill Bradford's time. After departing the church, I attended with CGI for a short time, but soon found out that money and mind control were also the name of their game. Now I am associating with a small group of Worldwide escapees. We fellowship regularly at my home and have Bible studies.... We are a happy group.
Editor: After I wrote to the above reader for permission to run her name along with her letter, she responded with a few more details of the story:
Certainly use my name and address if it will help. With God on my side, I will not be losing any sleep over upsetting those my letter will expose or offend. I still retain documentation of our letters going to and fro to Worldwide headquarters at Burleigh Heads asking - almost begging - for receipts for the money we forwarded to them. I also have all the receipts that were promptly forwarded to us by the charities I mentioned, along with glowing letters of appreciation from them.
In my last letter I don't think I mentioned all the things that occurred just prior to my late husband's death.... As soon as Len was diagnosed with cancer and admitted to hospital, I informed the ministry and prayers were asked for him in the local churches. He received quite a few visits from members, but the ministry was quite conspicuous by its absence. Len was responding to radium and chemotherapy but then they discovered that the cancer had spread to the bile duct. The surgeons decided to operate immediately to reduce his pain. The operation was quite a major one and the prognosis was that Len had only a few more weeks to live. Now, you are not going to believe this. (Or are you?) Three days went by after the operation and although Len had visits from Catholic priests, Anglican and United Church ministers, and Salvation Army personnel - all offering their kind services - not one minister from Worldwide bothered to call. Here was this wonderful, decent Christian man who had served the church and the community so well, lying there, knowing that his life was ebbing away and not one so-called minister of the church he had served wanted to know about it! [It was only after this woman made an angry call to a WCG minister that her husband finally got some attention from the ministry in whose church he had been a longstanding member - ed.]
Len died with dignity and one member of the medical staff told me his attitude touched all their lives. The doctors said that even though Len must have suffered excruciating pain, he never asked for morphine, but calmly accepted death. They just shook their heads and admitted that they had never witnessed such faith. I know that God was with Len....
I continued in the church for almost another year.... It was over another fundraising incident that I finally blew my stack and resigned. Even though I had sent a letter of resignation to headquarters at Burleigh Heads, our local apology for a minister announced to the congregation that he had been forced to "stand me down" for a few weeks until I repented of my bad attitude....
It was not until some few weeks after my exit from the WCG that I was given some copies of AR by friends who had already departed the church. They were a wonderful help and comfort to me. I can truly thank God daily that He released me from bondage and gave me the truth that really does set us free.
-Mrs. Thelma Smith
East Brisband, Qld.
A Christian Hero Passes Away
In May, Ambassador Report lost a good friend. He was Mr. John Weidner, the owner of a chain of local health food stores, who, although never a WCG member, had a keen interest in our publication and the people of the WCG. For quite a few years now there was never an AR issue that went out that did not receive a very prompt contribution from Mr. Weidner, often accompanied by much appreciated words of encouragement. Because of limited space, what few obituaries we run are usually short. But, in this case we believe that many of our readers would appreciate reading the following excerpt from a Myrna Oliver article about Mr. Weidner that appeared in the Los Angeles Times (5/23/94, p. 3):
John Henry Weidner, the Dutch-born hero decorated by many nations for rescuing more than 1,000 Jews and Allied airmen from the Nazis during World War II, has died at his home in Monterey Park. He was 81.
Weidner, who moved to the United States in the mid-1950s to escape memories of the war, died Saturday of heart failure, the Southern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists announced Sunday.
The pacifist son of a Seventh-day Adventist minister, Weidner [whose sister, Gabrielle, died in a Nazi concentration camp] was a leader of the Dutch-Paris underground, which operated escape routes from war-torn Holland, Belgium and France into neutral Switzerland.
He was captured repeatedly, interrogated by Klaus Barbie, the infamous "Butcher of Lyon," and tortured by the Gestapo and France's Milice secret police. He always escaped, jumping off trains, swimming the Rhine under Nazi fire, and once diving out a third-floor prison window just prior to his scheduled execution.
For his efforts, Weidner earned the Order of the British Empire, the Dutch Order of Orange-Nassau and Medal of Resistance, the French Croix de Guerre and the Medaille de la Resistance, Belgium's Order of King Leopold II and the U.S. Medal of Freedom with Gold Palms. He was also designated an officer of the French Foreign Legion of Honor.
Israel, recognizing him as a "Righteous Gentile," entered his name as a hero in the Golden Book of Jerusalem and planted a tree with his name on the Hill of Remembrance at Yad Vashem. Also recognized by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Weidner was one of seven people chosen to light candies at last year's opening of the Holocaust Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Weidner's wartime exploits were chronicled in the 1966 book by Herbert Ford titled Flee the Captor.
Atlantic Union College last year established the John Henry Weidner Center for the Cultivation of the Altruistic Spirit, which will sponsor lectures, concerts, classes, exhibits and social programs promoting altruism.
"During my father's lifetime," Weidner said in a speech in Pasadena honoring Holocaust victims in 1989, "he taught me, my family, his parishioners and the community that the most important quality in a human being was to love, respect and treat our fellow man as we wished to be loved, respected and treated."
"I was a witness to the barbaric treatment of the Jews by the Nazis. I personally observed the crushing of the skull of a Jewish infant who was torn out of the arms of its mother," he said. "I was determined to heed the teachings and example of my father and I did everything that I could to save as many lives as possible."....
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With the above thoughts we bring this issue to a close. My apologies for the long delay between issues, but like many of you, I have been burdened of late by my own set of personal problems. I thank all of you for your patience. And, as always, my special thanks to those of you who are helping to make our publication possible.
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