June 1995 (AR59)
Thousands Flee From Tkach
The people of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) have for decades talked about "fleeing." But few ever thought they would be fleeing from the Pastor General of their own church. Nevertheless, for thousands of irate WCG members, that is exactly what has occurred. In the last few weeks thousands of WCG members have rejected the leadership of Apostle Joseph W. Tkach and have renounced their WCG membership.
As we detailed in past issues, since taking over the leadership of the WCG upon the death of church founder Herbert W. Armstrong, Tkach instituted a never-ending stream of doctrinal changes. So sweeping have the changes become, even the most loyal of Tkach "true believers" have had to admit the WCG is very, very different than it was a decade ago. In fact, on numerous religious issues the WCG today is 180 degrees off of its old course. For example, in recent months WCG members have been told that those who privately keep Christmas and Easter will not be disfellowshipped. We have been told that the Dave Pack list of WCG doctrinal changes (see AR53) has now grown to over 210 changes. The earliest modifications made by Tkach caused some to bolt the WCG. But in recent months, the whispered criticisms of Tkach, particularly among his own ministers, crescendoed to a roar and the numbers of those exiting have increased dramatically.
From the beginning of the year, computer buffs who peruse E-mail and "surf the Internet" began noticing that messages about Worldwide, posted by Worldwiders, were becoming increasingly strident. All too often coming from anonymous sources using such pseudonyms as "Law Keeper," "Pro-obedience," or "True Believer" (obviously oblivious to Eric Hoffer's classic by that title), the messages, while often containing huge quantities of unverifiable data and misinformation, nevertheless revealed that among WCG members and ministers there was a massive amount of distrust, even hatred, of Tkach and company. Some posting E-mail seemed to be on the verge of mental breakdown over the changes in their church's belief system. Others have referred to Tkach as the Antichrist and his organization as "The New Coven Church" or "The Synagogue of Satan." And quite a few voiced outright hostility about "the Gang of Four" - the ones really running the WCG: Tkach Sr., Tkach Jr., Michael Feazell, and Greg Albrecht (or perhaps Ellen Escat).
With dozens of ministers resigning (see AR58), Tkach knew he had a problem months ago. But he did not realize how well organized his opposition really was. Tkach found that out in early April. He finally discovered that well over 100 disgruntled WCG ministers, representing many thousands of members, had been in constant contact with each other and that they did not want to continue participation in what they viewed as Tkach's "slide down the slippery slope."
The Rebels' Demands
"The rebels," as headquarters "New Covenant Christians" refer to them, wanted to make their position clear to the Tkach administration. To represent them, approximately 170 WCG elders chose three men: Dennis Luker, Bob Dick, and Jim Franks who soon became Judas, Brutus, and Cassius to the Tkach loyalists. On April 5, the rebel trio met for three hours with Church Administration director Joe Tkach Jr., assistant director Richard Rice, and Plain Truth editor Greg Albrecht. Tkach Sr. never made it to the meeting. He was rumored to be soaking in his Jacuzzi after a rough day of feeding his pet pigeons.
At the meeting, the three rebels presented individual letters, signed by 10 of the 14 original regional pastors. The letters requested that church members and ministers who could not in good conscience accept the church's dramatic changes in doctrine be allowed to worship separately without recrimination. The representatives of his highness, The Apostle, rejected the "outlandish demands." On April 11, Tkach Sr. (for some odd reason, writing in the sarcastic style of Joe Jr.) sent evangelist Luker a fax:
Regardless of how you wish to sugar-coat your efforts to divide the Church, division is still the name of the game you are playing. What you call so ironically a "peaceful separation without recrimination or disfellowshipping for those who desire to maintain our previous beliefs" is in fact a request for the Church to support your anti-Christian belief that anyone who does not keep the seventh-day Sabbath and the annual holydays is, in fact, not a true Christian. That belief is contrary to Scripture....
I respond to your "request" as did Jesus to Judas the traitor: "What you are about to do, do quickly."
Luker and his friends took Tkach's advice. With irreconcilable differences ending their relationship to Apostle Tkach, the ten regional pastors immediately announced they would meet April 23-26 to begin setting up a new church organization and that a week later all interested elders would have a general meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Tkach: Send Money Quick!
Calling his critics "rebels like Korah," Apostle Tkach responded to the crisis just as his predecessor used to do, by lashing out (with love, of course) in a "Dear Brethren" letter. On April 17, he wrote to his subjects:
I am saddened to have to write you this important emergency letter to let you know that certain disfellowshipped former ministers are now forming their own church organization and have pulled out all stops in trying to disillusion and overthrow the faith of our brethren. I have to warn you that a few of these ministers want to disaffect as many members as they can in order to finance their efforts to divide the Body of Christ....
© 1995 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
Paul wrote.... Christ is the end of the law....We have now been informed that some of these men have been at work for months, secretly laying the ground work for their rebellion. We have also received information that certain ones would like to take control of Ambassador University from faithful University Board members.
Some of them have tried to convince members that headquarters is "doing away with God's law." Nothing could be further from the truth....
Those who want to make merchandise of you tell you that certain teachings of Mr. Armstrong are what you should cling to - specifically the teaching that the Sabbath and Holy Days are required for Christians.... the ministers who are trying to gain your affection want you to believe that the identifying sign of true Christians is Sabbath and Holy Day keeping. They want you to believe that people aren't true Christians unless they are keeping the Sabbath and the Holy Days. But that is not what Jesus and the apostles taught. They taught that the identifying sign of true Christians is faith in Christ (Galatians 2:16)....
How ironic that the letter of Jude condemns those who are dividing the Church, yet some use him as their authority for doing it. Some use every means of discrediting Church headquarters, resorting even to rumor, innuendo and lie to win you over to their side....
In congregations where the pastors have taught faithfully the focus on Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit has led the Church to emphasize over the past nine years, there is little discontent and turmoil. But in congregations where pastors have avoided following headquarters' lead in preaching about the centrality of Jesus Christ to the gospel, the Church and our lives, there is turmoil. In certain cases, they have allowed, if not caused, the problem, and then blame headquarters and me for what amounts to their own failure to follow where Christ leads. We have now been told that a few of these men have been in quiet rebellion for years, and some have been planning to form their own churches for some time.... And now, some have planned a major meeting over the weekend of the last Holy Day of Unleavened Bread and the following weekend for all ministers who disagree with the Church to "make their plans."...
This should be the most exciting and positive time in the history of this Church, and I am saddened that it has to he marred by this rebellion. I know that Satan hates the truth....
Brethren, I must ask you to be especially generous with your offering on the last Holy Day of the Unleavened Bread festival.... I must tell you that we do really need these offerings, and especially at this time, when this rebellion has so negatively affected the Church's income. Please give prayerfully and generously....
The members did not give generously. Insiders say offerings for Unleavened Bread were disastrously low. The WCG's bleak financial status was made quite evident when the Los Angeles Times (5/12/95, p. B8) reported that the WCG had quietly auctioned off a trove of sterling silver purchased by the WCG's late founder. The Times article stated:
The high-quality silver, used by Armstrong during formal dinner parties for heads of state and other luminaries, was sold for an undisclosed price last month by Christie's auction house in New York, the Pasadena-based church confirmed.... Silver candelabra, wine buckets, platters, creamers, silverware and silver decorative items such as a miniature ship and horse were among the goods sold at the auction, said church spokesman Tom Lapacka.... He added that the church no longer entertains in Armstrong's lavish fashion.
Further sales of church assets are on the way. And insiders tell us that the church now has at least two possible buyers for the WCG's Pasadena real estate.
David Hulme Shocked by Changes
While the Tkach team was doing what it could to slow down the WCG's financial hemorrhaging, the over 100 ministers that sent the rebel trio to Pasadena were hard at work. Photocopiers, fax machines, and the Internet all came into high-volume use as the rebels spread the word that they were leaving. Photocopies of ministers' resignation letters started flying about the country like snowflakes in a blizzard.
Evangelist David Hulme's six-page resignation letter of mid-April was especially popular. Hulme, for a time the WCG's chief broadcaster and of late Ambassador Auditorium's entertainment director, rejected Tkach's "New Covenant position," calling the Apostle's "new truths" nothing but "old errors." Hulme now sees Tkach's writings and public statements as filled with overwhelming contradictions and inconsistencies. Hulme quoted from some Tkach sermons in which he distinctly stated that the law must be kept and other sermons in which Tkach stated the law does not need to be kept. Hulme also quoted from Tkach sermons in which the Pastor General attacked and ridiculed "rumormongers" who claimed the WCG was going to water down Armstrongite doctrines eventually - all accusations that have since proven completely true. Wrote Hulme:
This perhaps did not surprise those who know you well, because you have said that many of the recent changes have been in your mind since the 1970s. In fact you used these words to me in your office on February 8, 1995 and again more fully on April 13. On both occasions you said that Joe Tkach Jr. and Mike Feazell have simply picked up on your own longstanding ideas....
Then there is the issue of Sir Anthony Buzzard's publication The Law, the Sabbath and New Testament Christianity which has surfaced among us recently. According to Ron Kelly, its conclusions are fully supported by Mike Feazell and Greg Albrecht. Some of those conclusions include Sunday as the appropriate day of worship, and the observance of the Lord's Supper as frequently as desired. I understand that at the January '95 Regional Directors' Conference the participants were told that soon the Church would observe the New Testament Passover/Lord's Supper more than once a year. Then suddenly the announcement of the change was postponed until next year.
It can therefore be said that most of the rumors mentioned in your sermon of April 30, 1994 did have substance and have been confirmed by your own or your administration's statements. Time will tell whether the remaining rumors will find similar substantiation....
These concerned members and ministers are anxious to preserve the truth and way of life they have learned and to which they are committed. They cannot be categorized fairly as legalists or Judaizers. Furthermore they certainly are not willing to fall under the influence of Azusa Pacific University theologians, one of whom is reported to be writing "a new constitution" for the Worldwide Church of God, while others are said to be helping the church into the "Christian mainstream" by advising on doctrinal matters....
The most disturbing aspect of our recent conversation on the eve of Passover is that with some pride you stated that you had agreed with Richard Plache and Al Carrozzo in the 1970s with regard to the place of the law in the Christian life. You said you agreed with them (and therefore disagreed with Herbert W. Armstrong) but felt that they were ahead of their time, and that nothing could be done. I remind you that Richard Plache was one of the prime movers in a 1975 attempt to overturn Sabbath observance in Britain. As a result he was put out of the church, along with Charles Hunting and David Ord, by Mr. Armstrong. If you agreed with these men as you claim, did you inform Mr. Armstrong of your radically different stance any time before his death? In a conversation with him in September 1985 he told me that he was considering you for the position of Deputy Pastor General. He specifically asked me if you would keep the church intact. I told him I believed you would continue his doctrinal emphasis. His concern was to select a potential successor who would MAINTAIN the church, keep it united, and continue its preparation for Christ's return. He thought "the work" was essentially done. The fact that he chose you on the basis of continuity of doctrine and practice when in fact you believed very differently, in my mind casts serious doubt whether he would have appointed you if he had known your beliefs. That you differed so much from your predecessor explains why almost every doctrinal and administrative change caused me to inform you that something was very wrong. It is only in the light of your comments about Richard Plache and Al Carrozzo, however, that I have put it all together. Apparently you and I were not agreed in the first place. I thought you were upholding Mr. Armstrong, but it now appears you were not. By your own admission you were simply biding your time....
Effective Wednesday, April 19, 1995 I am resigning....
So that there will be no misunderstanding I am sending this document to twelve people known to me for their integrity and honesty. They will serve as witnesses to the content and intent of this memo....
In bidding Tkach adieu, Hulme was in effect acknowledging that he was a little slow in picking up on the fact that Tkach is a duplicitous self-server whose long-time agenda has been to transform the WCG into an ostensibly mainstream Protestant denomination. Had he been reading Ambassador Report he could have figured that out years ago.
Some within the Tkach camp, however, do not view Hulme as so innocent. One told AR, "On, come on! David isn't that dumb. He knew where we were heading all along. It was only after he saw that he would no longer be producing concerts at the Auditorium that he became so principled." Hulme attempts to project the nobility of the Victor Lazlo character in Casablanca. In reality, he is more like Claude Rains' police chief who, when forced to close down Rick's night club, exclaims, "I'm shocked! Shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!" - just as the croupier runs up with the chief's roulette winnings. Hulme's last production at Ambassador Auditorium, once known as "the House for God," took place on May 17. It was a concert by saxophonist Larry Elgart and his Manhattan Swing Orchestra.
Tkach: The Holy Ghost
Made Me Do It!
On April 26, after talking to his lawyers, and only after discovering that Hulme's letter was being widely disseminated, Tkach finally responded to Hulme. But instead of simply walking two doors down to talk privately to Hulme, his old friend and neighbor, Tkach sent Hulme a formal letter:
It is with regret that I accept your resignation, and with sorrow that I read your false accusations and misrepresentations. It is further disappointing that you chose to share your letter of resignation with a dozen people who are, as you put it, known to you "for their integrity and honesty," but at least one of whom (if it was not you), allowed your misleading, if not distorted, perspective to be distributed around the world....
The more the Holy Spirit led us into truth, the more we could see needed to be changed. The Holy Spirit set the agenda, not me. In April of 1994, I had no idea that the Holy Spirit would lead me to see that we had been wrong in our understanding of the old and new covenants and the implications of that fact on our understanding of Sabbath and Holy Day observance, clean and unclean meat and triple tithing....
You have twisted and misrepresented my comment that the recent changes have "been in my mind" since the 1970s to mean that I understood, believed and embraced these things at that time and have kept that fact a secret ever since. That is not what I was conveying to you, and it surprises me that you took it that way....
Your assertion that ministers have been terminated under "questionable circumstances" is another false conclusion, as is your assertion that the Church's doctrinal position is publicly "in tatters."... And your statements about Azusa Pacific University, including the falsehood that an Azusa Pacific University theologian is "writing a new constitution" for the Church, amount to little more than an irresponsible slam against that University and against our ministers and members who have attended there....
Tkach's letter ended with the usual claim of love for its target, even as Hulme's letter and subsequent comments were all supposedly done in the same gentle spirit. It's somehow reassuring to know that no matter how much WCG ministers appear to be beating the hell out of each other - it's all being done "out of love."
Back to the rebels. The so-called ringleaders having met after Unleavened Bread, it was time for the big get-together in Indianapolis. According to the group's press releases which spewed forth via a state-of-the-art "faxback" system, there were approximately 312 individuals in attendance, of which 155 were church elders. The conference of elders went from April 30 through May 2 and produced a large number of important decisions:
It was decided that the new organization would be called The United Church of God-an International Association. A transition plan was adopted by the delegates. It was decided that a more permanent arrangement would be decided upon at another general conference scheduled for early December. The transition plan was approved by 98 percent of the delegates.
Apparently all elders ordained by the WCG were considered valid delegates and each in attendance had a vote. The delegates decided that once the transition period is completed, there would be an annual conference to elect board members, review an annual financial audit, ratify bylaws, and ratify doctrinal changes.
The new church has an interim board composed of nine members. Those elected to the board were Bob Dick, Jim Franks, Roy Holladay, Doug Horchak (Tkach's son-in-law), Denny Luker, Burk McNair, Ray Wooten, Victor Kubik, who will also serve as operational manager for ministerial services, and David Hulme who was also voted interim chairman of the board.
Among those nominated for the board, but not elected, were Wayne Dunlap, Roger Foster, David Havir, Bill Jacobs, Clyde Kilough, Dave Myers, Richard Pinelli, Jim Servidio, Randall Sliver, Guy Swenson, Richard Thompson, Lyle Welty, Dean Wilson, Ellis LaRavia, and Gerald Waterhouse. The vote was certified by Jim McMillion, CPA.
The conference agreed on a brief (actually, very brief) statement of beliefs which include a non-trinitarian view of God, the maintenance of the traditional Bible canon, and the retention of Sabbath and Holy Day keeping. While not mentioned in press releases, one UCG minister has privately informed us that tithing will, of course, be a key doctrine. Proposed festival sites for UCG's Feast of Tabernacles this fall include Asheville, North Carolina; Corpus Christi, Texas; Jekyll Island, Georgia; Redding, California; Tucson, Arizona; and unspecified foreign locations. In their press releases to date there was no mention of Israel Identity ideas, the role of prophecy, the calculations for Passover or Pentecost, divine healing, or divorce and remarriage. So while the new UCG may appear to be following in Herbert Armstrong's footsteps, many suspect there will eventually be digressions from what HWA taught. Certainly, church governance by vote of the church's elders is totally contrary to one of HWA's central tenets. Look for major doctrinal squabbles in the near future.
The new organization's temporary mailing address is: United Church of God, P.O. Box 661780, Arcadia, CA 91006-1780. Publications that reported on the new church included The Los Angeles Times (5/4/95, p. B1), the Pasadena Star-News (5/5/95, p. A3), and Christianity Today.
The Worldwide Church of Texas
According to an April 24 statement issued by former WCG minister and lawyer George Crow, the new, oxymoronic Worldwide Church of God of Texas (WCGT) held a conference in Houston on April 17-18. The conference was attended by 40 pastors, elders, and lay persons. The WCGT, whose board members are George Crow, son Bill Crow, and Hubert Caudill, has been in contact with the United group, but what the relationship of the two organizations is, or will become, is not yet clear. The original WCG, obviously not too happy over the new group, has brought a legal action in a Los Angeles court, seeking an injunction against the Texas group's use of the church name. The Texas group, which we understand already has congregations in a number of states, may be contacted by writing Worldwide Church of God of Texas, P.O. Box 30, Katy, TX 77492-0030. Its phone number is (713) 260- 9648.
More than five years ago, when we first learned and reported that Tkach was planning to radically transform the WCG, one of his closest associates confided that "Joe means business. Even if it means losing half the members and ministers he is going to straighten out the church's doctrines." The estimate that the changes could cost him half the membership was a rather astute one. Right now, Tkach is saying that about one third of the ministry has left him in just the last few months.
Not surprisingly, Tkach compares the new revolt to the one led by Lucifer in which one third of Heaven's angels turned against God. But the so-called rebels see things quite differently. For instance, in his resignation letter, minister Mario Seiglie wrote:
I have honestly tried to show the brethren both sides of these doctrinal changes, the pros and the cons. They have had access to this material at our office as well as what has been sent to them. I have been going over this material with them so they can see it even-mindedly.
According to the Ministerial Manual and the Lecture for Deacons and Elders Outline #2 on God's Government which you presented us, in p. 7 it says, "God wants to see if we will submit to men (within His law) even though none are perfect." Under your direction that condition "within His law" was placed so that not under any circumstance are we to obey you, just as long as your instructions are "within God's laws." Under your guidance it said in p. 10, section C, "Going above the chain of Command" part 2: "An assistant or elder may go over his pastor's head - a. When the pastor intentionally teaches doctrinal error or heresy. For example, he says the Holy Days are nice but not commanded." So you see, these biblical principles have been clearly violated and its breach consists of heresy. I must be consistent. I cannot teach this heresy against God's laws....
Seiglie then went on to explain how he took a vote of his congregation and found that 98 percent wanted to continue keeping the law (holy days, etc.) as they had been taught and that his people wanted nothing to do with those who taught otherwise. In concluding, Seiglie wrote:
Already many "little ones" have left, never to follow any church. I don't want to be in any of your shoes when all these things come to a head. We love you and have nothing against you despite all the turmoil which has been caused, the sleepless nights, the wives' and children's anguish because of all of this. So now you know my position and can act accordingly.
Of course, Seiglie was disfellowshipped.
In many areas of the country, things have gotten a bit raucous in WCG circles. A few weeks ago, down in Big Sandy pro-Tkach minister Russell Duke was locked out of services on orders from a minister of another faction who had Tkach Jr. cut off a phone hookup and then monopolized the lectern with assistance from deacons who took over the control booth and sound system. From the church upheavals of 1979 many have learned, like guerrilla fighters in third world countries, that in a revolution gaining immediate control of the electronic media is essential for success. (Today, with the proliferation of photocopy, fax, and computer technology, the balance of power over men's minds seems to have shifted away from centralized power. This was something the leaders of Eastern Europe learned a few years ago, and something the Tkach group is in the process of learning now.)
In just the last few days we have heard of some congregations splitting in two with legal threats hurled back and forth by opposing ministers. There have been many instances of whole congregations leaving the Tkach fold en masse.
Executive Exodus Update
Right now it is very difficult to get a completely accurate list of just who has left the WCG, where they have gone, or where they are going. There are still a good number who, although planning to leave shortly, have not yet made the leap. Believe it or not, we have even heard of some ex-WCG ministers, long gone, who are now so keen on the WCG's new teachings, they are seriously considering rejoining the WCG.
Ministers who have left the Tkach WCG within the last six months include: Colin Adair, Dibar Apartian, John Bald, Daniel Barnes, Wilbur Berg, Maurice Benson, Karl Beyersdorfer, Alton Billingsley, Tony Bosserman, Charles Bryce, Steve Buchanan, David Burson, John Cafourek, Todd Carey, Jim Chapman, Herbert Cisneros, Tom Clark, Raymond Clore, Richard Crow, Randy D'Alessandro, Tom Damour, Howard Davis, George Delap, Roy Demarest, Bob Dick, Roy Dove, Richard Duncan, Richard Dunlap, Wayne Dunlap, John Elliot, Rob Elliot, Roger Foster, Jim Franks, Ken Geise, Bruce Gore, Lambert Greer, Larry Greider, Mark Gully, Arnold Hampton, Mike Hanisko, Vernon Hargrove, Dave Havir, Gene Hogberg, Roy Holladay, Doug Horchack, Don Hooser, Noel Hornor, David Hulme, Bill Jacobs, Bill Jahns, Greg Johnson, Bob Jones, Clyde Kilough, Mitch Knapp, Randy Kobernat, Saul Langarica, Steve LeBlanc, Floyd Lochner, Otto Lochner, Paul Luecke, Ken Martin, Burk McNair, Darris McNeely, Mark Mickelson, Rand Millich, David Mills, Steve Moody, Dave Myers, Norm Myers, Steve Myers, Eugene Noel, Brian Orchard, Cliff Parks, Bob Peoples, Gary Petty, Richard Pinelli, Dick Rand, David Register, Camilo Reyes, Harold Rhodes, Melvin Rhodes, Robert Rodzaj, Larry Roybal, Randy Schreiber, Stuart Segal, Mario Seiglie, Jim Servidio, Rex Sexton, Steve Shafer, Steve Sheppherd, Carlton Smith, Gary Smith, Harold Smith, Ron Smith, Randy Stiver, Guy Swenson, Herb Teitgen, Dick Thompson, David Treybig, Jim Tuck, Don Turk, Tom Turk, Cliff Veal, Keith Walden, Larry Walker, Leon Walker, Ron Wallen, Don Waterhouse, Gerald Waterhouse, Robin Webber, Ron Weinland, Lyle Welty, Roger West, Gerald Weston, Glen White, Earl Williams, Jack Williams, Doug Winnail, Ray Wooten, Warren Zehrung, Matt Zenchel, and Chuck Zimmerman.
With the WCG fragmenting, it is not surprising that many WCG offshoots are gaining members fleeing from Tkach.
Roderick Meredith's Global Church of God has picked up a number of WCG luminaries. In a March 24 letter to his co-workers, Meredith announced that new additions to his ministerial roster include Lambert Greer, Rand Millich, Raymond E. Clore, James Taylor, Daniel Barnes, Don Turk, Maurice Benson, and Dr. Floyd Lochner. Meredith also announced that his program The World Ahead will soon be on television. Mark Kellner reported in the April 24 issue of Christianity Today that Global now has 7,000 attending weekly services and took in $3.5 million in 1994. But while Meredith's group is holding its own, we have heard reports that some, unhappy with Meredith's autocratic management style, have recently defected to the new United group. Meredith also seems to have a growing credibility problem. One Wisconsin reader wrote us, "Meredith said that he does not want John Bald or Burk McNair in his group as they stayed in with Tkach which proves that they are preaching for filthy lucre. But what about Meredith and Ray McNair? They stayed in with Tkach until the Leona McNair lawsuit was settled."
Garner Ted Armstrong's Church of God, International continues to experience modest growth. Not long ago, GTA was in Australia where he had an evangelistic campaign. One of our Australian readers wrote:
GTA spoke in Brisbane last Saturday to about 375 people in the City Hall. As a former long-time WCG member it is hard to say what impression a member of the general public would have gained from the lecture. I went purely for the social occasion of seeing many people I had not seen for years, and I was not disappointed in the number of ex-members I saw there. I suspect GTA's purpose was to attract disaffected and confused WCG members to CGI. The time and place of CGI services were announced and everyone invited.
GTA ranged over the ten commandments, the Berlin Wall, the United States of Europe, his 42 years of broadcasting (repeatedly), his family, and only at the end took a slight swipe at church organizations that don't hold fast to the sabbath and unclean meats doctrines. One hour of him was quite enough for me.
Besides the major WCG offshoots (the ones headed by David Hulme, Garner Ted Armstrong, Roderick Meredith, Gerald Flurry, and William Dankenbring), we continue to hear of many congregations fleeing the Tkach church who are remaining independent of any national organization.
Packing For Petra
With the WCG and its spinoffs in extreme disarray, it is not surprising that some believe they are well into "the last days." What is surprising is how many still believe that when "the end" comes, they should be in "the place of safety" - Petra, in the desert of Jordan. In the March issue of his Countdown magazine, former Worldwider Alex Cain of England wrote:
Now is the time to start saving cash for Petra. We suggest that people make sure they have sufficient money to at least take a one way journey there. From the human viewpoint we suggest at least both ways so that if you decide you don't like it for any strange reason then you can at least opt out. Remember though it will be a different world that you come back to. We still believe it is Petra as this is the only spot that we know at present that would accommodate the last bit of hell on earth. By this we meant that in the last few minutes before Christ actually returns Satan will pelt the earth with the stars of heaven, rocks, etc. so that if it were possible no flesh would be saved. If people are in the deep holes of Petra they would clearly be safe.
MacGregor Dissects Worldwide
MacGregor Ministries is a Canada-based organization that monitors religious cults. Their April 1995 News & Views magazine contained an interview-format article about the WCG's latest changes. Although perhaps a bit naively pro-WCG, the article was generally fair and, at times, revealing. Notice these official statements from WCG spokesmen Joe Tkach Jr., Michael Feazell, and Greg Albrecht:
We have more than 741 ordained ministers who are in the full time ministry, [and] 1,035 other lay elders.... The church has no objections to our members fellowshipping with other Christians.... the Worldwide Church of God views tithing as a principle for Christians. It is not a law.... We believe that Jesus Christ rose from the grave in the same physical body in which he died [although glorified].... Because we have recognized past errors from the pulpit and in print, we fail to understand requests to "expose" Herbert W. Armstrong. We see no biblical mandate for Christians to "expose"... When Herbert W. Armstrong left the Church of God (Seventh Day) he established a ministry independent of his past associations. He did not actively evangelize members from the parent organization, but instead began to preach Christ to the world at large. While he made mistakes, he did not attempt to establish his ministry at the expense of the ministry that had trained and nurtured him.... It is not the tradition of the Worldwide Church of God to keep Christmas, but members may make up their own minds whether to participate or not....
MacGregor expressed some disappointment that Worldwide is not yet willing to label HWA a false prophet and may never do so. Most revealing, however, was the following exchange:
MM Question 17: Will the WCG offer medical and psychological help for members who were damaged by the doctrine/beliefs and regime in the past? Will there be counselling for broken families due to practices from the past?
WCG Reply: While the Worldwide Church of God sincerely regrets any and all erroneous teaching or administrative practice of the past, it cannot accept allegations that church teachings and practices are inherently responsible for personal dysfunctions. It is our belief that Christians should come to Christ for healing, rather than blaming other human beings as being the source and cause of their sin.
Translation: "We told you we were God's ministers. You believed and trusted us. We led you by the nose and you got burned for it. You gave us your money, you threw away years of your life, you may have lost friends, a career, a mate, or even a child as a result. But that was your sin. Don't come to us asking for anything. We defrauded you fair and square. Now, just believe in Jesus."
Is it any wonder that Tkach now wants everyone to believe in merciful grace, not vengeful law? And is it any wonder why so many ex-WCG members say they have lost confidence in all churches?
A copy of the April issue of MacGregor's News & Views may be had for $2.50 by writing to MacGregor Ministries, Box 294, Nelson, B.C. V1L 5P9, Canada; or in the U.S. at Box 591, Point Roberts, WA 98281.
Support Groups and Literature
We continue to get letters from WCG exiters requesting addresses of sabbatarian groups around the world. While many addresses can be found in back issues of AR, we do not maintain a comprehensive list of all sabbatarian churches. After all, there are hundreds of them. The best source of information on that subject is the new, updated edition of the Directory of Sabbath-Observing Groups published by the Bible Sabbath Association, Fairview, OK 73737; tel. (405) 227-3200.
John Robinson, the first editor of the WCG's Worldwide News, a former journalism instructor, and now a successful magazine publisher, has started a newspaper called In Transition. Robinson, who now worships with a United congregation, indicates that his newspaper is intended for those "who believe the Sabbath is different from other days of the week and who believe that the Holy Days are to be observed." In addition to articles about the new UCG, Robinson's first edition contained articles about Global, CGI, and the new WCGT. Interviewed by the Pasadena Star-News (5/19/95, p. 3), Robinson stated that in future issues he hopes to even include news about the Tkach WCG, which Robinson now designates as Worldwide Church of God of California. Tom Lapacka, a spokesman for that group, however, says there are no WCG plans to cooperate with the new venture. (So much for Tkach's ecumenical spirit.) As for other non-UCG church leaders, already some are saying their followers should not be reading the new publication. (Sounds familiar.) For subscription information, write to: In Transition, P.O. Box 450, Monroe, Indiana 46772.
I Think International, P.O. Box 1953, Bournemouth, BH8 OYQ, United Kingdom. Headed by Kerin P. Webb, this is a cult awareness organization with considerable knowledge of the WCG. Their "Issue No. 4" came out in April and is available in the U.K. for two British pounds (checks made payable to Kerin Webb) or "four U.S. dollar bills."
On a related matter: We regularly get asked whether any former WCG members are in the process of taking legal action against Worldwide. We are often hesitant to encourage trust in the legal system, at least as regards getting justice for abuse by the WCG. Nevertheless, even with all its lawyers and money, the WCG is not an impregnable fortress. Two who believe they can make a difference against the WCG legally are Peter and Annie Hovey of Lymington, Hampshire in England. They have had extensive exchanges of pointed correspondence with the Charities Commission of that country, Members of Parliament, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the media, lawyers, and stonewalling executives of the WCG. Any attempt to publish all their animated correspondence would, unfortunately, require a large book. Nevertheless, anyone who is contemplating a similar campaign might do well to write them for their advice. The Hoveys may be contacted by writing c/o I Think International.
Another support group for former members of the WCG and its spinoffs is run by Trevor Smith, P.O. Box 7357, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland KA32 LF.
In Australia, former WCG member Thelma Smith is now part of a Sabbath Association that publishes a fortnightly newsletter on the Bible and world events. Her address is 35 Didsbury St., East Brisbane, Qld., Australia.
A small group of former cult members have started a new organization called Spiritual Progressions Advancement Network (SPAN). In their December 1994 "Monograph # A1" they published an article titled "How I Recuperated From 21 Years in the WCG." The article by former WCG member P. E. Nelson is unique in that the author discusses esoteric psychological techniques such as hypnosis and dowsing which played a part in her recuperation. The six-page article is available for $3. A longer, 28-page paper by Ms. Nelson titled "Religion versus Spirituality: Playing the God-Game" is available for $8 from SPAN, Box 137, Ceres, New York 14721-0137.
The April issue of The New Millennium had two articles relevant to the current WCG situation. One asked, "Where is the true church?" and the other asked, "Is it law or is it grace?" Write to Association for Christian Development, 4449 S. Star Lake Rd., Auburn, WA 98001.
With the "law versus grace" topic so heated in WCG circles, and with so much confusion over the subject, let us recommend two articles many, including AR's editor, found helpful in the past: "The Address on the Envelope" and "When Did the Church Begin?" by the late A. E. Knoch. The two articles are contained in a booklet available for only $2 from: Concordant Publishing Co., 15570 Knochaven Rd., Santa Clarita, CA 91350; (805) 252-2112.
AR has mentioned the writings of Dr. Ernest Martin many times over the years and we continue to receive letters from WCG exiters saying they are being greatly helped by his writings. Martin recently published a 185-page textbook titled: The Biblical Manual "for members and ex-members of the Worldwide Church of God, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Church of God International, Philadelphia Church of God, Global Church of God, and all other 'true' or 'remnant' Churches of God." Some of Martin's ideas are controversial, but he does offer many valuable theological insights. Furthermore, as a former Chairman of the Department of Theology at Ambassador College, he has extensive knowledge of Armstrongism and Tkachism. We understand his new manual is available for $19.95 (plus shipping: $3 U.S., $6 foreign). The manual is available from: Associates for Scriptural Knowledge, P.O. Box 24000, Portland, OR 97225; tel. (503) 292-4352.
Finally, one of our Australian readers asked that we mention two addresses for the Christian Biblical Church of God in that part of the world: P.O. Box 30, Glenhuntly 3163, Australia; and P.O. Box 305, Albany 1331, New Zealand. We wish we had permission to identify the reader because he has created something we found rather amazing: a year by year history of the Worldwide Church of God, in considerable fine-print detail precisely listing, as in a horizontal flow chart, all important events, all predecessor groups, and all major and many minor WCG offshoots from 1900 to the present. It's all there on one long piece of drafting paper-over eight feet long! Hopefully, one day it will be available commercially. It would make a great conversation piece for a prayer closet or some other small room.
"Mr. Pasadena" Passes Away
Lathrop (Lay) Leishman passed away on April 27. Affectionately referred to by Pasadena-area residents as "Mr. Pasadena" and "Mr. Rose Bowl," Leishman was for decades one of Pasadena's most influential businessmen and civic boosters. Leishman was a past president of the Tournament of Roses and was credited with persuading the Wrigley chewing gum family to donate their Orange Grove mansion to the Tournament organization half a century ago.
In an obituary that appeared April 29, the Los Angeles Times stated:
Born on Terminal Island, he moved with his family to Pasadena as an infant. He was educated at Oregon State University. Leishman operated the Crown City Lumber and Mill Co., founded by his father, until it was sold to Ambassador College in the 1960s. Afterward, he and his sons created the Leishman Management Co., dealing in real estate. Leishman served as president of the Pasadena Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Pasadena Rotary Club and the Southern California Retail Lumber Dealers Assn. He was a director of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, a trustee of the Pasadena Presbyterian Church and on the board of the local Salvation Army. He was also a member of Al Malaikai Shrine Temple and was a 32nd-degree Mason who held York and Scottish Rite degrees.
The Leishman Management Co. has its main office across the street from the WCG's Imperial School. And the old "Leishman Building," where Joseph Tkach had his office in the early seventies, is directly across from the WCG Hall of Administration on Green Street. Not surprisingly, many Worldwide executives recall Lay Leishman with a certain fondness. As one Ambassador alumnus said, "Mr. Leishman was always a great friend of Worldwide. He will be missed by the church."
Editor: Let me remind everyone that letters excerpted in this section do not necessarily reflect my own views. In fact, a very large number do not. In deciding which letters to include, I usually select better-written or more colorful letters that reflect a cross section of readers' viewpoints. And today, most certainly, there are many viewpoints about virtually every subject. As for attribution, I prefer to run comments with the writer's byline. However, that is not always possible because writers often explicitly or implicitly (as when the writer is a current WCG member) indicate they want anonymity.
I have been reading my father's Ambassador Report and find that I must have been in the wrong church. I am a member of what used to be called the Worldwide Church of God. I just think Joseph W. Tkach has gone too far this time.
I left the WCG cult in 1992 after four years of tithing and observance to the old covenant as commanded by the ministry. Mr. Tkach now proposes that such observances were the result of "ignorance and stupidity." OK, I fully accept the charge. But what must also be taken into consideration is the fact that if I had not been a victim of my own "ignorance and stupidity," I would not have been influenced by the Plain Truth magazine into joining the WCG in the first place.
Furthermore, had not my "ignorance and stupidity" been sustained and prolonged by the teachings of his ministers, I would have departed the church much sooner than I did. Also, had not my fellow brethren been suffering from "ignorance and stupidity," they too would have thrown in the towel.
So where would that leave Joseph W. Tkach? The only reason that there was a sizable congregation when he took over is that the members held fast to the doctrines which he now believes to be the result of "ignorance and stupidity." Doctrines, I might add, which he himself was paid very handsomely to teach.
It is also worth asking, how many members would Tkach have been prepared to disfellowship during his earlier ministry had they not been fully conforming to the doctrines to which he now ascribes two strongly pronounced and deeply insulting words?
West Yorkshire, England
On his video Tkach said he had argued many times with HWA over the church's "new truths." I find that very hard to believe. Years ago, when Ernest Martin merely mentioned some of the same ideas to HWA, HWA disfellowshipped him immediately. And HWA would summarily disfellowship anyone who entertained such thoughts, much less argued with him.
My husband who was in the WCG for over twenty years has left and gone to Global. As far as I'm concerned he left because he wants to be under the law and have Mr. Meredith tell him what to do. In other words, work for his salvation.
The changes are great. At least Jesus Christ is mentioned. Instead of legalism we have freedom and a lot of love.... Under HWA the New Covenant was never mentioned. All that has changed. It's in the Bible. Read Galatians. I hear Global already has an offshoot. It's all for Power and brainwashing the people. Mr. Tkach is not the only one to be criticized. Let's show some love for our fellow humans.
The states will now be flooded with churches and all believing what they want to. God, help them all. Members that have left in Vancouver have been attending the Four Square Church in their area.
Some up here have left to join a group called "The Children of Yahu." Do you know anything about them?
Editor: All we know is that "The Children of Yahu" is a sacred name group based in Albany, Minnesota.
Here in Puerto Rico the church split when minister Pablo Gonzalez was put out. The majority went with him. Of 150 people, only 36 stayed with Tkach.
My WCG husband just heard about the United Church men revolting against Mr. Tkach. It didn't phase him one bit. He said "the great falling away was prophesied in the Bible." I don't think it ever occurred to him that it might be Mr. Tkach who has fallen away.
Editor: Not all the mail we receive is negative regarding Tkach and the new direction taken by the WCG. A fair number of people believe that Tkach has improved the WCG and we know that some who left years ago have recently returned to the WCG.
We understand how some cannot understand what the Holy Spirit is doing in the church, but He is there! Once the spirit-filled learn of Mr. Tkach's spirit-filled ministry to the oppressed, many shall return and rejoice. We left in the 70s to join the Assemblies of God. Now with all the positive changes made by Mr. Tkach, we have decided to again fellowship with our old WCG friends. Praise the Lord!
Stop sending my parents your reports. Us teenagers like the way the church is now. Did you know that the new Miss Bahamas and the new Arizona Miss TEEN are both in the church?!! It was in the Worldwide News. I think it's way cool. But you are not.
In saying that world news is unimportant, Tkach is denying that prophesied end-time events are in process of occurring now! Why would he do this? I suspect he doesn't want his sheep to realize that we are in what HWA called the "gun lap" to the concluding World Scenario of Geopolitical Events. Why does he want to hide this information? I think he wants to get out with the Church's money while he can before the collapse of America and the world financial system.... I suspect he is creating for himself the funding for his own personal Place of Safety....
For your information, John, there are a number of people channeling messages from extraterrestrials from the Pleiades and from Sirius who are providing information on what the near future will bring us in the remainder of 1995 and 1996. The picture does not look bright for the continuance of America as a nation. The earth changes that are predicted to occur in America as a result of Earth's moving into the Photon Belt will take down the insurance industry and our communications systems and then the federal government. Europe will not escape unscathed either.
A local psychic with whom I have been in contact says that the volcanic eruptions will be so bad that so much ash will fall, beginning in late 1995 and 1996, that vehicular transportation will be next to impossible. The ash will clog all air filter systems in cars, trains, and planes, etc. Gordon-Michael Scallion is predicting from his visions that states will secede from the Union because they will refuse to send their funds to pay for the earthquake, storm, and volcanic damage in other areas of the country; they will seek to preserve their own territories and financial base. State governments will also ultimately collapse and people will be left in survival communities. This is the scenario for the remainder of the decade.
A lot of people will be seriously shaken when the WCG closes down and Tkach & Co. mysteriously disappear.
In Mr. Tkach's January 7 video sermon he said, "If someone can eat lobster, God bless 'em.'' Some of my friends in the church are now eating all the shrimp and pork they can get their hands on. I thought the laws about unclean meats were really health laws. What is your advice?
Editor: Please don't ask us to turn AR into a dietary journal. We have seen articles by respected scholars who have stated that the biblical kosher laws were not originally thought of as health related. Apparently, the argument that those laws were based on health considerations was first made by Rabbi Maimonides (1135-1204). Nevertheless, whatever the actual basis for the laws, there are many who, while not feeling constrained by Old Covenant considerations, still believe they are better off avoiding pork and shell fish.
You are very right that the WCG has been disintegrating severely. But I think you have not noticed how the people themselves, including a large number who have left, are disintegrating mentally. We left about two years ago and we have stayed in contact with many who we knew in the church. However, my wife and I are disturbed about something we have noticed about those who are leaving the WCG now. Too many are getting caught up in movements that are even crazier than the WCG.
We know some who have gotten involved in the occult. Others, it seems, art rabid racists. Some have become anti-government fanatics. We know a few who are almost anarchists. They get funny ideas about the Constitution, like only their own interpretation counts or that it doesn't apply to them. Some have started quoting neo-Nazi literature as though it was the gospel truth. One told us he has gotten rid of his driver's license because it is a symbol of "the beast." One who believes in the seed teaching [the serpent seed doctrine - ed.] keeps a fifty caliber machine gun in his attic. A few are so paranoid they have joined paramilitary groups, the kind of thing you'd expect in Northern Ireland. One of our friends used to go on militia "maneuvers" every other weekend - until his wife said once more and she'd leave. Another hands out booklets urging readers not to pay taxes, all the while being a member of "The Patriots." I didn't think too much about it until the recent bombing in Oklahoma City. Some newspapers reported that the suspects they arrested were connected to private militia groups and one article I saw even mentioned "The Patriots" by name. Do you know if any of the suspects arrested in connection with the Oklahoma bombing were ever members of the WCG?
Thank you for turning me on to "the Flush" - Prophecy Flash!, that is. You seem to go for it. I do too, but only because it is the most radical of all the wacky ex-WCG stuff around. I love reading the letters people send in to Dankenbring.
In the March issue someone from Malaysia gave the proof we were all waiting for as to why Dank is Elijah. You see, Dank's zip code and his post office box number each add up to 13. And 13, according to Dank, is a good number. Mr. Armstrong, of course, taught that 13 was the number of rebellion and associated it with the rebellious 13 colonies of Manasseh. But not Dank. He thinks its "Ephraim's lucky number" and he is Ephraim's lucky prophet. Wild stuff!
One letter, however, scared me when I went back and read it. I first read it about a week before the terrible tragedy in Oklahoma. Then when that awful event took place I remembered it and it made me concerned. Here is what one of his readers from Oklahoma wrote:
Well, things are being seen here in this area that should wake us up some. The TV news here have shown and talked about the Oklahoma Militia getting started here (already has formed). Also on Sunday, Feb. 5 I was near Muskogee, Oklahoma, and for the first time, I have seen some of the black, unmarked helicopters I have read about and heard of for the past few months. I saw two. But people just scoff and say they are only National Guard copiers.
Considering what happened in that writer's state only a few weeks after his letter was published, I found this comment somehow disquieting. Can you give me some idea what all of this is about? I must have missed some new truth about militiamen or helicopters or something.
Editor: According to the Los Angles Times (4/22/95, in a very interesting front-page article titled "Facing the Fear of an Enemy Within"), there are a significant number of Americans who are convinced that the U.S. government has black, unmarked helicopters monitoring Bible-believing Christians in preparation for their roundup and internment in concentration camps. Apparently this fear has spurred many to arm themselves with assault weapons and to join paramilitary groups.
Undoubtedly, the Waco and Ruby Ridge tragedies have played a part in making this fear rather widespread. But with the year 2000 approaching and the return of Christ being anticipated by millions, there are also widespread fears that "the beast" of Revelation is right around the corner. As we have reported in past issues, there are some former and current Worldwiders who believe that the United States is "the beast power. " When Ronald Wilson Reagan was president, we knew some who were convinced that he was "the beast " because each of his three names has six letters. Later, some thought that George Bush was "the beast" because one of his speech writers came up with the catchy phrase "New World Order." Now, some - including a fair number of current and former Worldwiders - are convinced that President Clinton is "the beast" and that black helicopters are coming to take them away.
In AR57 and AR58 you published seven options for the fulfillment of the endtime "Beast" of Revelation. I would like to suggest an additional scenario for the fulfillment of this prophecy. Rev. 13:1-7 states this final beast will have "seven heads and ten horns," one of its seven heads will recover from a "deadly wound" which will attract worldwide "wonder," and it will have authority "over all kindreds, tongues and nations."
The United Nations is a worldwide organization which is on the verge of satisfying all the above criteria. In an article in the Los Angeles Times (reprinted 11/10/94 in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune) Stanley Meisler reported that the U.N. Security Council will soon have seven "permanent members" and ten "temporary members." When Germany and Japan are added as permanent members," there will be "seven heads" who possess the most power in the United Nations. Only the "seven heads" (USA, UK, France, China, Russia, Germany, and Japan) will possess veto power on the Security Council. The "ten horns" will be the ten seats which rotate among various nations within the U.N. These "ten horns" do have a vote on all important U.N. matters, but no veto power. The seven heads and ten horns of Revelation's prophecy constitute a total of seventeen entities working together in a global power structure. The seven permanent and ten temporary nations on the U.N. Security Council constitute a group of seventeen nations heading a global power structure in our modern world.
Together, these seventeen nations can implement the war-making power of the U.N., and Rev. 13:4 prophesies the "seven heads and ten horns" will control a war-making entity. Both the Korean and the Persian Gulf Wars were technically U.N.-authorized wars, although the USA provided the majority of the armed forces in both wars. The increased subordination of the NATO command structure to the U.N. in Bosnia, and the willingness of the Bush and Clinton administrations to subordinate U.S. troops to U.N. commanders in Haiti, Somalia, etc. also fulfills this prophecy.
What about the "head with the deadly wound which was healed"? If Germany joins the Security Council, it would fulfill this part of the prophecy. Germany was truly "severed in two" at the end of WWII, and being "cut in half" is generally fatal for any kind of entity. When Germany was suddenly and unexpectedly reunited as a nation in 1991, the "world wondered" as TV cameras riveted their attention on East and West Germans celebrating atop the Berlin Wall and the German reunification dominated world news for months. Germany is reasserting itself economically and politically in the world as it has now almost completely recovered from its "deadly wound."
The membership of the U.N. is indeed from "all kindreds, tongues and nations," and its host of global agencies (UNESCO, WHO, World Court, etc.) are asserting more and more political control over the nations. The GATT treaty will complement the U.N.'s globalist mission as it has created a new and powerful "World Trade Organization" which will accelerate the economic integration of the world's nations.
Current efforts also exist to give the U.N. its own standing army, spy satellites, and the authority to levy a tax on all nations. If such efforts are successful, and Germany and Japan join the Security Council, I believe the identity of "the Beast" of Revelation will be clear for all to see.
-Steven M. Collins
3901 Crescent Drive
Sioux Falls, SD 57106
Editor: Mr. Collins recently resigned as a board member of the Association for Christian Development. He is the author of a book on Israel Identity theory.
For your consideration: Look at the GATT Shield.... It looks like 10 toes up - the 10 regions, the 10 NATIONS of Revelation that will turn on the "Whore Religion" and destroy her.
-Don Samples, Louisiana
WCG minister (resigned 1977)
Be "the beast" whom he will. What about "the image of the beast"? May I suggest that television is an excellent candidate? Television meets every qualification listed in Rev. 13:15. Television has electronic life image, it projects an image, it speaks, and it commands worship (addiction) from its viewers.
I am really worried about my [relative]. All the years he was in Worldwide he was a fanatic about law and order. Once Tkach started changing doctrines he started reading Gerald Flurry's literature and then told me he thought Tkach was the Antichrist. Now he is into something else. He has become a follower of some fat lady who has called for an armed march on Washington to arrest all the members of Congress. I wonder if that nut Flurry is behind it.
Editor: No, I don't think Flurry is involved in that. I believe your relative is a devotee of attorney Linda Thompson, an outspoken critic of the federal government. She was mentioned in Newsweek (5/1/95), in "Beyond the Fringe," a sidebar to the article "The View From the Far Right." That magazine claims that Ms. Thompson is one of those worried about government helicopters.
By the way, does anybody really believe Tkach is smart enough to be the Antichrist?
A Michigan friend told me about the Philadelphia Church of God's internal problems. He said he learned about ministers disfellowshipping ministers and Mr. Flurry getting rid of rebels. Can you fill me in on this?
Editor: We've heard the same thing. But Flurry's Oklahoma organization is secretive to the point of paranoia and getting the details from them is virtually impossible. However, a couple of interesting bits of data about the former WCG minister: Flurry apparently likes some of the ideas of Dr. Ernest Martin. In the April issue of his Trumpet, he ran an article which plagiarizes many of the discoveries made by Martin regarding the Bible. And, for reasons we cannot fathom, Flurry seems to be trying to recruit U.S. military people. He has been running ads in Stars and Stripes, the armed services newspaper.
I've come across a few in my travels who feel the USA is the end-time Babylon. One former Worldwider... of Washington feels we are to go out to meet the Bridegroom at a certain location: along the Zambezi River in South Africa!
In your last "Letters" section you gave the address for the anti-Limbaugh newsletter Flush Rush Quarterly. In the interest of fairness, how about printing the address of The Limbaugh Letter (P.O. Box 420093, Palm Coast, FL 32144-0093)? On the subject of politics, I disagree with your [sic] definition of "conservative" in AR56. If conservatives only cared about people with "privilege and power," why would anyone in the middle class be a conservative? I feel the conservative movement is about freedom because economic freedom is just as important as social or political freedom. Anyone who has read Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations understands that the most fair economic system mankind can devise is capitalism, not the watered down socialism that most modern liberals advocate....
On a different subject, why do you give so much space to conspiracy theories? I've found most of those conspiracy theories to be borderline racist (i.e., anti-Jewish). I believe these racist theories to be a slippery slope to Nazism.
Finally, way back in AR51, one of your readers mentioned Afro-Israelism. First, let me state that I am a white male. Yet, after reading The Black Biblical Heritage by John Johnson and a similar article in Ebony magazine, I find this viewpoint to be quite logical. Perhaps my marriage to a black woman influences my opinion. But The Black Biblical Heritage has an extensive bibliography and seems to be well documented. Do you know of any books opposed to this viewpoint?
Editor: Yes, virtually every other book we have ever seen on the subject.
On April 19, 1993, I happened to be in a barbershop in Potomac, Maryland when the Waco compound was burning on live TV in front of us. I said out loud, "This is a sad day for America." The barber said, "They're a bunch of kooks who asked for it!" The rest of the barbershop patrons agreed with him, not me.
Knowing the man's razor was near my throat at the time, all I managed to mutter in response was, "What about the children? Did they deserve it too?" He said, "They're probably all Koresh bastards. He shouldn't have whored around with so many women." Another said, "They just had the bad luck to be born into the wrong families. It happens all the time." So I seethed in silence.
Can you imagine being in a barbershop on April 19, 1995, and hearing folks say, "They're just a bunch of federal employees. They deserve it." Or, "The kids were just born into the wrong family"? In the case of Waco, the few survivors of that holocaust were put on trial and sentenced to 10-40 years....
Every story of a family broken up in Oklahoma City reminds me: Where were the stories of families broken up in Waco? Who interviewed the grieving parents there? Were religious "cultists" somehow less than human, deserving of nerve gas, asphyxiation in underground bunkers, or long prison sentences afterward?
My point is that tyranny is possible because we the people (the barbershop patrons) let it pass, and then we the people want to avenge the avengers later on.
The first horseman of the Book of Revelation does not have to mean international warfare. To me it now seems to describe statism, or "localized tyranny." He "conquers and goes forth to conquer" can be localized aggression by a domestic police state.
Having written the Four Horsemen doctrinal book for the WCG (in late 1972), I have entertained several theories on the identity of the riders. Based on history and reality in this century, I have come to the tentative conclusion that the allegory links natural cause-and-effect factors, leading naturally from one to the other. The second horseman is the nexus, "taking peace from the earth." That, obviously, is war. But then what is "going forth to conquer" (the first Horse)? In this century alone, several despotic governments have taken the lives of more than 100 million of their own citizens, not in war, but in Stalin's purges, Mao's Cultural Revolution, Hitler's Third Reich, Pol Pot's Killing Fields, etc. Former Christians love to mock the Dark Ages or the Inquisition, but they were picnics (10,000 dead here and there) compared to the true Darker Ages under this century's atheist killers.
National police states (Horse #1) often lead to foreign wars (#2), leading very often to famines (#3), causing malnutrition, hence disease (#4). There is a natural link from one to the next. This doesn't involve biblical exegesis as much as common sense.
P.O. Box 161
Vienna, VA 22183-0161
I was a WCG member for many years. Looking back, I think what bothers me the most about that experience is a set of basic attitudes it instilled that are still a part of me. Somewhat frightening is the fact that until recently I hardly realized those attitudes came from the WCG. Those attitudes include an unconscious disrespect for authority and for law - what boils down to an almost criminal attitude toward the government. I realize now that the WCG subtly planted these beliefs into all of us because they wanted no competition for loyalty. Somehow patriotism was viewed as a threat to the WCG, maybe because it threatened the minister.' complete power over their people. After all, it was us, "The Church," against them, "The World." At any rate, I still see this attitude in many WCG members and ex-members and I am sure they don't even realize where the attitude originated. I also think it's the reason so many are attracted to fringe groups.
The Oklahoma bombing has shown what a hideous turn this type of thinking can take. As a result of this incident, I hope Worldwiders and ex-Worldwiders will look more closely at why they are so often anti-government and what being anti-government means to them. After all, we Americans all live in this country. This is our home. Do we want it to be more of an armed camp than it already is? Another Beirut? Another Bosnia? Or do we want to try to make changes in ways that make sense - through free speech, through petitioning our elected representatives, and through voting? Perhaps it is time that ex-Worldwiders become a part of this country and realize that the roads we drive on, the bridges we cross, the many health and safety services we have, the parks where our children play, the libraries where we study, and the relative peace we enjoy in this country come about because of our government and because of our laws.
Editor: I'm not sure we should tie HWA to everything that is going on in America today. After all, there were the Whiskey Insurrection rebels, John Brown's militiamen, militant secessionists, vigilantes, and anarchist bombers long before HWA began preaching. But you may be right that many former Worldwiders have a distrust of government so intense that they get labeled as societal fringers. Could it be that some are overreacting to the old "government from the top down" WCG? I'm not sure. It has been pointed out that those leaving Worldwide more often than not either join no group or join churches and political movements that are outside of the "mainstream." Some are by nature independent and refuse to be slavish followers of the herd. For others it may be that the more fringe the group, the more its members can claim that they are not part of this world," but are part of a special "elect." In fact, this phenomenon may have been a major reason why the number of members leaving the WCG has continued to increase the more Tkach has brought the WCG into "orthodox Christianity."
I gave your last AR to my wife to read while she had a $95 check already made out to WCG for tithes. I said, "You should read this before you mail that letter." She didn't say anything, but read the entire report. She still didn't say anything. Her tithes check will be mailed today. Nothing seems to phase a person who is brain-washed.
From my viewpoint, the changes in the WCG are God-ordained and He is ruling mercifully and sovereignly over all. In time to come, I believe there will be many testimonials from grateful members about this time and the overflow of God's grace to them.
There is one minister who told us that he was on retirement and getting his retirement pay from WCG. He said he knew that if he would make the decision to stay with the [old] truths he could not live with the new teachings, but to leave [the WCG] would cost him his retirement pay. He did leave and his retirement pay stopped. Being honest with the word of God and seeking to continue in the faith once delivered to the saints, he is now getting pay from Global at less than what his retirement was. But he is content now because he has the liberty to preach the doctrines he was taught and came to believe.
I ask you, how much bargaining power, as you suggest, does Worldwide have to keep its ministers when people are not tithing anymore as they did before? After all, isn't Mr. Tkach trying to sell off church property just to stay afloat, while all the while telling his constituents that they don't have to tithe? Mr. Tkach had to be very naive to think that his new teaching wouldn't adversely affect his income.
Editor: You are very correct that because WCG income has plummeted in the last few months, much of the bargaining power Tkach once possessed has evaporated. As for whether or not he was as naive as it seems, time will tell.
I had been a member of the WCG for about ten years but quit in 1975 for personal reasons. I had always had an emptiness and decided to go back. But after reading their publication God Is... I realized what they are teaching is not what I had learned from the Bible. Now I hear all sorts of strange doctrines are being followed. Actually they aren't so strange. I heard them before in the Lutheran Church.
Editor: One of our readers, a former WCG minister, gives the following advice:
Regarding religious organizations. Beware. There may be one or two around that will help rather than do you harm. A few things to look for: 1. Do the "leaders" have real jobs where they earn their own income as Paul did? (Read carefully Acts 20:17-38, especially verses 30-35.) 2. Never allow yourself to fall into a position in which you do not have full authority to. place your "leaders" on trial for things like arrogance and corruption. The church at Ephesus was praised for doing just that (Rev. 2:2). 3. Be like the Bereans who searched the scriptures daily (Acts 17:10,11). 4. Take Paul's admonition to "prove all things, hold fast to that which is good" (I Thes. 5:21). There is much more, but the above should give an idea how to remain stable and how to endure to the end. Above all, do not place your salvation in the hands of ANYONE ELSE beside yourself. It is your responsibility to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).
8642 Highway 128
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Becoming involved with the WCG was the worst mistake I ever made. I sent a letter to Joe Tkach Jr. in October, 1993 asking that my name be removed from membership and that my tithes be returned. After not hearing from them for two months, I contacted the Louisiana Department of Justice. Ralph Helge quickly responded to them. Mr. Helge said that it was not true that the church ignored my letter to Joe Jr. He sent them a copy of the letter which. he had supposedly sent me a month after my letter to Joe Jr. The Louisiana Department of Justice then provided me with a copy of that letter which, by the way, was addressed to the apartment I lived in nine years ago while a college student. If Mr. Helge really had sent that letter, the Post Office would have informed him that the letter was undeliverable: first, because I had moved, and second, because my old apartment building was closed and vacant!
-Raife Smith II
It recently occurred to me that I've given the WCG thousands of dollars and only about thirty to AR in the last two years. Yet you folks have done more with the little you've been given than the WCG did with the billions they've spent over the past five or six decades....
I owe you and the other AR contributors a large debt of gratitude. By late 1992 I'd developed several doctrinal disagreements with the WCG but still wanted to remain a member. About that time a friend lent me copies of every issue of AR which I finally had the courage to read. I was left shocked, enraged, and liberated from my blindness. Especially infuriating was the information on HWA's sexual abuse of his daughter Dorothy between 1933 and 1943 (AR27). Initially I doubted it, but an inquiry of Mr. Gary Antion confirmed the awful truth and it prompted me to send a letter to 35-40 members who I knew personally. They received them on April 19, 1993 as the Branch Davidian compound burned on TV. But few of them were ever opened because the local ministry (Ray Meyer and Warren Heaton) ordered an emergency hotline message to all members saying I was disfellowshipped and commanding them not to open any mail from me. Most of the letters were returned unopened.
The following Saturday I was "marked" from the pulpit and called a liar (even though Meyer, days before, had admitted he knew about Armstrong and his daughter). My old church friends and acquaintances were gone. The few who read the letter reacted with a "so what?" response and couldn't believe I would consider this significant in any way. A decade of incest and hypocrisy had no impact on HWA's credibility or his "apostleship." One of those people was Victor Kubik who said he was amazed that I would be concerned about this "blip of history," as he put it.
Like you, I endured accusations of slander and malicious gossip. The truth isn't for everyone. But for those of us who appreciate it, it is a gift from God. Thank you for helping me end my idolatry and grow closer than ever to God and His truth.
Do you remember how not many years ago Worldwiders were warned not to study the book of Galatians without a Worldwide minister present? Now, my wife tells me, in Worldwide the book of Galatians is the most often quoted and most studied book of the Bible. However, members here are now being told not to read the book of Revelation!
You folks do a pretty good job reporting, but you missed a few stories that appeared in the Worldwide News: It's now okay to call ministers "reverend" (12/27/94, p. 5). In Australia, some WCG ministers are teaching the Tkach religion in public schools; their government allows this (5/31/94, p. 4). Finally, way back in 1993 the WN stated, "We cannot adopt the extreme neo-Creationist position - that everything came into existence 6,000 years ago" (5/11/93, p. 7). Less than one year later they wrote that on the evolution theory the church was taking the "middle path" (2/1/94, p. 4). Now the church does not publish articles attacking evolutionists at all.
I heard that the WCG was getting a new name so I went to the library and read all the Los Angeles business newspapers looking for an announcement. All I could find was a legal notice in the March 1 Daily Commerce. A new California corporation was formed called "Gangsters for Christ." Is that the new name?
Editor: No, that is a separate organization.
A friend of mine who works at HQ Pasadena recently told me of some very strange goings on. He and a co-worker were walking on campus when they were overwhelmed by a very strong incense-like odor that seemed to pervade the whole WCG property. Because of certain pre-conversion experiences, my friend at first thought the smell was from giant quantities of marijuana being burned. Out of curiosity the two men sniffed the air and followed their noses. They finally came to a garage located near the old Grove Terrace gardeners' offices, not far from Tkach's new residence. There they noticed some people removing a large quantity of ashes from the area.
They wondered what was going on. Was someone sacrificing pigeons perhaps? No. It was just Dr. Ha. (That's how it's pronounced, but I think it's spelled "Hog," and he is not Dr. Hoeh, by the way.) It seems the latest health guru Tkach has brought on board is an Oriental, non-member "healer" who, although not a licensed M.D., is at HQ performing what he calls "Aromatherapy."
Editor: What a relief. For a moment I thought something weird might be going on there.
Incidentally, speaking of health gurus around Tkach. The last one we heard about was Dr. Phil Fowler, a chiropractor reputed to be an expert in "Chinese medicine" and other "alternative medicine" therapies which the Pastor General finds indispensable. For some time Fowler, who often travelled with Tkach and had an office near Tkach's Hall of Administration penthouse, was so influential in Tkach's life some WCG executives feared he was practicing some type of "mind control" over the Apostle. Well, the latest is that Dr. Fowler, unhappy with the doctrinal changes in the church, is no longer seen at headquarters but has gone back to the Modesto area. That may explain the presence of the new health guru.
I don't like to sound critical, but I wish AR would concern itself with more important topics about the WCG. I mean, who cares if some of the ministers are queer? It's still God's church isn't it? And so what if 1975 in Prophecy wasn't worth the paper it was printed on? And so what if Armstrong proclaimed himself an Apostle. So a few prophecies didn't pan out. So what? And if headquarters wants to skim a little off third tithe, what of it? And maybe some evangelists are playing around on their wives. Who are we to judge? Remember Korah!
All I really want to know is: What ever happened to "Lukewarm Luke"? Or was it "Laodicean Luke"? Remember him? He was a cartoon character that appeared in The Good News magazine back in the '60s. I hope he wasn't disfellowshipped. He'd fit into the WCG real well these days.
Editor: Sorry it's taken so long to respond. But we think we may have found him in one of our old Ambassador Review files. While it's pretty difficult to tell from this angle, we're pretty sure he's the same character. Frankly, we don't think the shot we found should be published because it's not a pretty picture. It appears that his having been frozen in a contorted posture for so many years resulted in a diminished oxygen supply, and now he is no longer "Laodicean Luke," but "Sardis Sam." And yes, you were right, he is still a loyal WCG member.
I'd better end this issue right here before I get daffy. A short comment, however.
Some, suspecting that the WCG's end is in sight, have asked me if I intend to continue putting out the Report. The short answer is yes. First of all, for all that has happened, the WCG is still far from extinct. Second, there will be many major developments in the story of the WCG and its offshoots in the coming months. I think they will be worth reporting.
My thanks to all of you for your continued support of our publication.
Next Issue (AR60)
Back to Index