October 1995 (AR60)
Tkach Sr. Dies of Cancer
Little Joe Now Rules WCG
The church founded by Herbert W. Armstrong never seems to want for woes. As many will have heard by now, Joseph W. Tkach, the Pastor General of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) and the Chairman of the Board of Ambassador University, passed away at 2:20 p.m. on Saturday, September 23. On May 12 Tkach had surgery to remove his gall bladder; on May 28 he was readmitted to the hospital because of severe intestine and back pain. Surgeons then removed a grapefruit-size tumor from his intestines and discovered he had cancer. The 68-year-old cleric later underwent chemotherapy but, according to insiders, the cancer spread to his bones and elsewhere. While public pronouncements by church spokesmen continued to offer hope for Tkach, sources at the church's Pasadena, California headquarters said privately for weeks that his outlook was not good.
In spite of his physical affliction, Tkach continued to offer encouragement to his followers. According to the Worldwide News (WN, 8/29/95, p. 1), on August 18 Tkach spoke for 25 minutes at a student forum at Ambassador University in Big Sandy, Texas. His speech, delivered while seated, received a wildly-enthusiastic standing ovation. Meanwhile back at church headquarters in Pasadena, Little Joe, as Joe Tkach Jr. is affectionately referred to by headquarters personnel, was officially placed in full charge of all WCG operations. On September 5, Tkach Jr. was named Deputy Pastor General in a private laying-on-of-hands ceremony presided over by the elder Tkach and with the assistance of prominent Council of Elders members.
On September 16, Tkach Sr. briefly addressed the WCG's headquarters congregation in Pasadena. Listeners say that Tkach did not indicate any apprehension that he would soon die. A few days later Tkach experienced persistent nausea and was again admitted to Huntington Memorial Hospital. Physicians soon realized that the Pastor General's condition was rapidly worsening. Pasadena sources say that the actual cause of death was probably a brain hemorrhage caused by the spreading cancer. When Tkach died, his wife Elaine, not his secretary Ellen Escat, was at his side. Obituaries for Tkach appeared in the Los Angeles Times (9/25/95, p. A16), the Pasadena Star-News (9/26/95, p. A1), The New York Times (9/27/95), and The Washington Times (9/30/95, p. C4). Tkach was buried on September 26 at Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena where his grave is not far from that of his predecessor, Herbert W. Armstrong.
Tkach will be remembered for leading Ambassador University to accreditation and for leading the WCG closer to the Christian mainstream. Since taking over from Armstrong in 1986, Tkach was responsible for dismantling many of his predecessor's doctrines (HWA's anti-medical teachings, "Israel Identity," etc.). In the last few years Tkach confounded critics by continuing to alter church teachings even when it meant a major decline in WCG income and prestige. Even more amazing, toward the end of his life Tkach, unlike his egocentric predecessor, disavowed that his "apostleship" equated with the authority of the original Twelve. Some who knew him say that over time he had come to understand that not only are there true Christians in many denominations, but that neither he nor his church are the center of the universe. In that regard, Tkach may be acknowledged by religious historians as almost unique among leaders of religious cults. Even Christianity Today (Oct. 12), in an article written before Tkach's passing, stated that Tkach's WCG has been on a "commendable journey of faith" and encouraged the entire Christian community to extend to them "the right hand of fellowship."
Joseph Tkach Jr. now becomes the third Pastor General of the Worldwide Church of God. Most WCG observers expect him to continue along the doctrinal path blazed by his father. And, say associates, his management style will probably not deviate much from the "my way or the highway" approach of his father. Assisting Little Joe in his new endeavor are his advisors: evangelist-theologian J. Michael Feazell ("Fez"), media manager Greg Albrecht, business manager-lawyer Bernard Schnippert, church administrator Randy Dick, public relations spokesperson Tom Lapacka, and Greek theologian Kyriacos Stavrinides. After Little Joe, those six advisors are now virtually the only men in the WCG with any significant say about church doctrine and administrative policy. With the possible exceptions of ministers Herman Hoeh and Ronald Kelly, none of the "old timers" from the Herbert Armstrong era are left with even minor influence in the new Tkach organization.
Tithing Not Done Away!
With WCG income continuing to sink to new depths, it should perhaps not come as a surprise that the Tkach organization has again modified its position on tithing. It was less than a year ago that Tkach Sr. made headlines nationally when, in a taped sermon later shown around the world on January 7, he said that tithing was not required (see AR57). Now all that has changed. In an official WCG statement printed in the July issue of MacGregor Ministries, News & Views the revised standard Tkach message has become:
The Worldwide Church of God views tithing as voluntary under the new covenant, though it remains the appropriate minimum standard for Christian giving.... Since the Christian's heart will be concerned with the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ, giving to support that effort is a natural response.... Only through the generous financial support of its members and friends is the Church able to fulfill these responsibilities.
So there you have it. The WCG leadership now says that getting out the gospel is important again and so the minimum standard of giving is the tithe.
Changing Ways of Worship
By the time this AR edition is in circulation, the WCG's Feast of Tabernacles, now called the Festival of Faith, will be held around the world. Church leaders are expecting an attendance of only about 54,000 (including unbaptized mates and children). Whether the Festival will be held next year is open to question as church leaders increasingly are saying privately that it is a pointless Old Testament holdover from Armstrong days. According to internal WCG documents we have obtained, this year's Festival is geared toward one thing: "Bringing people (WCG) to Christ - coming entirely into the new covenant."
©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.
According to one WCG Festival Administration memo we have seen, this year's Festival should prove totally unlike any WCG feast of the past. The memo, dated February 1, 1995, indicates that Worldwiders attending the fall Festival will most likely witness a major overhaul in the format of their services. The memo lists the "New Testament elements of worship" as being (and this list is an unedited quote):
2. Scripture reading
4. "Amen" response
7. Giving gifts
10. Lord's supper, baptism (sacraments)
According to the memo, there will be two or three pieces of music "as people flow into the hall." Services will include "intercessory prayer," "a word from our youth," and "testimonies." Sermons are not to be over 35 minutes in length and services will close with a "benediction." The festival pastor "coordinates [the] overall effect."
With amen responses, confessions, and testimonials being planned, will we soon see "holy roller" manifestations at WCG services? Already WCG literature talks positively about "speaking in tongues" and a number of church pastors have indicated that in-service "sacred dancing" is on the way. But headquarters cautions that it's best for pastors not to rush things. As the Feb. 1 memo warns: "How far to go on this at every site? - best to do the revised format at every site but not totally radical yet." Yes, don't get totally radical yet!
Wondering About Hell
Just how far the WCG has come in the past year can be seen in an official March 1995 statement of required WCG ministerial teachings. (Ironically, the one who actually prepared the statement, WCG Pastor Greg Sargent, has since left Worldwide for United.) Here are just a few excerpts:
The Worldwide Church of God is not the only true Christian church. Virtually all churches are true Christian churches, e.g. Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc.... We should leave the fellowship of a church only for legitimate reasons.... we must still admit that Mr. Armstrong (an apostle but not in the same sense as the original apostles) was a minister of God who brought many people to Christ. He was converted and was a Christian.... The observance of the Seventh-day Sabbath or any day is not required of New Covenant Christians.... YOU [Youth Opportunities United] no longer requires members to abstain from organized sports participation on the Sabbath. What teens do in regard to the Sabbath is between them and their parents.... Christmas, Easter and Sunday can be legitimate forms of Christian worship, acceptable to God.... The Worldwide Church of God teaches that the Bible consecrates all meats. Romans 14:20 says all meats are clean.... All food is clean.... It is not necessary to deleaven your properties for the Days of Unleavened Bread nor fast on the Day of Atonement.... Obligations for New Covenant Christians are those listed only in the New Testament. Everything in the Old Testament is abolished in Christ. In order for an Old Covenant command, statute, judgment or ordinance to be valid under the Now Covenant, it must be specifically commanded in the New Testament.
Considering how radical all of this sounds to old-time Worldwiders, are there any more changes that we can expect to see in the near future? One clue was dropped by Joseph W. Tkach when he spoke in Big Sandy on Aug. 18. There, in describing his personal trials of the last year and his love for Ambassador students, he casually commented:
I know what hell is like. I've been there and back several times in the last few months, but I would do it again for your sakes.... Ask, and if it is in your best interest educationally - we're not talking about giving you Porsches here, people in hell want ice water, too - we will try to provide it.
The use of such analogies stunned some in the audience because until now no WCG minister has challenged the idea that the dead sleep and those in hell do not possess consciousness. Certainly, until now WCG members assumed that only Catholics believed that a soul could go to, and return from, hell. We asked one of our Pasadena sources if Tkach's Big Sandy comment was a tipoff that the WCG leadership was about to start teaching the immortal soul doctrine and along with it the idea that souls in hell are capable of thought and conversation. His reply: "What's so odd about that? Haven't you ever read Lk. 16:23-24? Don't ridicule something you don't understand!"
Executive Exodus Update
Since our last issue so many ministers and executives have left the WCG it is impossible for us to provide a complete listing. Some names which need to be added to our previous Executive Exodus listings include: John Anderson, Gary Antion, Rick Beam, Bill Bradford, Ted Budge, Bill Butler, Stephen Elliot, Dave Evans, Dan Hall, Don Henson Jr., Fred Kellers, Douglas Johnson, Mark D. Kaplan, Ron Laughlin, Bob League, Graemme Marshall, Marc Masterson, Frank McCrady III, Larry Neff, Steve Nutzman, James O'Brien, Richard Petty, Greg Sargent, Dale Schurter, Gerald Seelig, Steve Sidars, Britton Taylor, Ken Treybig, Mark Welch, and William Winner. Little Joe and his advisors are apparently now in the process of trying to find out just who has stayed and who has left or will soon be leaving. Hopefully, within a few months the smoke will clear enough for the WCG's leaders to provide us with an update on who remains on their team. Special mention, however, should be given to a few WCG luminaries who recently announced their departure.
Church treasurer Steven Andrews has resigned from the WCG. He is now with the United group. His old position as church treasurer has been filled by Bernard Schnippert.
Long-time WCG evangelist Les McCullough, director of the WCG's United Kingdom operations, has resigned over doctrinal differences. The WCG has told its members that this was a "retirement" (WN, 8/29/95, p. 3). Other WCG ministers in Britain who have either resigned or asked for retirement include Ron Bolzem, Jonathan Bowles, George Delap, David House, John Jewel, David Magowan, Peter Shenton, and Alan Tattersall. Now heading what remains of the WCG's British operations is John Halford.
We previously reported that Leon Walker, director of the WCG's Spanish language work left the WCG in April. Since then 11 other WCG ministers representing about 1,500 members in eight Spanish speaking countries have followed him out. Although he has warm feelings toward a number of sabbatarian groups and has met recently with Roderick Meredith, Walker says that for now he and his followers intend to align with United.
In Germany the WCG lost its regional director, Paul Kieffer, a few other ministers, and a fair number of lay members who have all now defected to United.
More WCG defections are sure to be on the way. WCG minister and AU professor David Albert, for instance, has made overtures to join the Global group. He was rejected, however, as not being spiritually qualified.
Ambassador University Limps On
Ambassador University President Donald Ward has left the WCG and, as a result, is no longer with Ambassador. WCG headquarters claimed he left for health and personal reasons. Dr. Russell Duke is now the Interim President at Ambassador and Dr. Michael Germano remains as Academic Dean with Dr. William Stenger still Associate Academic Dean. While five of the University's nine board members have been replaced and while the number of faculty and student enrollment are both down this year, AU somehow continues to function.
Fighting for Truth and Justice
One prominent WCG member to exit in the last few months is John Merritt, M.D., of Laguna Hills, California who had served on Ambassador University's Board of Regents. After going over to the United camp and being removed from AU's board, Merritt brought a lawsuit against AU in a Texas state court, hoping that the court would intervene in AU's internal squabbling and reinstate board members who had been removed after being disfellowshipped. (AU, a private, denomination-sponsored institution, not surprisingly requires its board members to be current WCG members.) The Texas court refused to get involved in what it viewed as essentially a church matter. According to Ralph Helge, again director of the WCG's Legal Services Department, Merritt failed both to understand fundamental legal principles and to pursue his legal cause with diligence; he therefore got what was coming to him (WN, 8/15/95, p. 2). Maybe so, but in the meantime, one of Merritt's lawyers, George Crow of Houston, has refiled the suit in a Federal District Court in Texas and his investigations continue to turn up data on the Tkachs that gets curiouser and curiouser. For instance, Crow has discovered the existence of a Colorado corporation named "Joseph W. Tkach, Pastor General of the Church of God and His Successors, a corporation Sole." Crow says that for some reason this Colorado corporation has shown a lot of activity since the beginning of 1995. Crow also has discovered that the WCG has other "shell" corporations set up including one in California called, "Church of God, an International Association" and another in Utah. (Actually, we have discovered that the one in Utah is not simply a shell, but is one that has had monies flowing through it for the benefit of certain WCG executives.)
Another activity that Merritt has been involved in is the establishment of the Friends of the Sabbath fellowship. This informal network consists of representatives of various sabbatarian and almost-sabbatarian religious groups. In June, the Friends of the Sabbath sponsored Jubilee '95, a symposium on Sabbath keeping held at Dana Point, California. Among the speakers were SDA author Dr. Samuel Bacchiocchi and ASK president Dr. Ernest Martin. Also attending were representatives from the WCG and many WCG spinoff groups including Triumph Publishing's William Dankenbring whose printed materials were particularly interesting to the group.
Those who would like to know more about Friends of the Sabbath or who would like to obtain tapes or transcripts of Jubilee '95 should write to: Friends of the Sabbath, 27068 La Paz No. 500, Laguna Hills, CA 92656 (tel. 714-362- 4444).
Sabbath Summit Coming
Surprisingly, among those who were not invited to the Jubilee '95 symposium were leaders of The Bible Sabbath Association, the nation's foremost pro-Sabbath organization. Former WCG minister Richard Wiedenheft has been active with that group for many years and former WCG member Richard Nickels of Giving and Sharing (P.O. Box 100, Great Neck, MO 64849) is quite likely to be the Association's next president. Perhaps it was just an oversight. Mr. Nickels informs us that the Association plans to hold a "Sabbath Summit Meeting" of leaders of all the major Sabbath-keeping groups in 1996. For information contact the Bible Sabbath Association, Rt. 1 Box 222, Fairview, OK 73737.
Church Chart Now Available
In our last issue we mentioned how one of our Australian readers had produced a remarkable eight-foot-long flow chart which in great detail shows the history of the WCG and its offshoots. A number of readers have expressed a desire to obtain a copy of the chart and we are happy to announce that its creator, John Morgan, is now making copies available. In addition, he informs us that all those requesting a copy will also receive both a cassette tape explaining in his own words how the chart came into being and a most interesting article about Sabbath keepers in Scotland who, decades before HWA began his ministry, were holding to many of the same doctrines HWA later taught. To obtain the chart, tape, and article, send $7 (U.S.) to: Mr. John Morgan, P.O. Box 30, Glenhuntly 3163, Australia.
GTA at It Again!
Ever since 1977 when we first reported on the secret life of evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong, we have received letters from readers who have wondered if the famous televangelist has ever cleaned up his act. While we have heard many rumors that he has not, we have had little interest in following up on those stories. Now, however, it appears that we should.
This past summer while visiting Oklahoma, GTA paid a visit to a local masseuse. He said he wanted a massage but, according to sources with firsthand knowledge, the 65-year-old televangelist obviously expected more. The masseuse, a married woman, soon found herself the victim of unwanted sexual advances. She made it clear that she did not offer illegal services. But on a subsequent visit GTA's long-time problem again reared its ugly head and the woman found herself being groped and fondled. Luckily, with much effort she was able to extricate herself from his clutches, but not before a hidden security camera captured the incident on video tape. The rolling tape then captured the sound of GTA somehow being able to relieve the tension of the moment followed by his greatly relaxed voice singing along as the radio played "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree."
A few weeks later, while visiting Phoenix, Arizona to speak to some of his followers there, "Dr. Armstrong," as he now prefers to be called, was approached by a legal representative of the masseuse. GTA did not deny that the Oklahoma incident had occurred but, he said, it was all the woman's fault. Nevertheless, he generously offered to pay her $10,000 to keep quiet. When that offer proved inadequate, GTA brought his attorney into the act. An offer of $20,000 in hush money was refused. The masseuse then contacted some in the media offering her story - and a copy of the tape. She also began talking about bringing criminal charges against GTA for sexual assault. That was at the end of August. Since then all has been quiet. Apparently the warring parties have somehow been able to quietly resolve their differences.
With GTA and his associates now making a vigorous effort to lure exiting Worldwiders into their International group, perhaps it is time that we again look into the activities of this nefarious Elmer Gantry. We would appreciate hearing from any readers who may have more information about the secret life of "America's Playboy Preacher."
Flurry Gets Flakier
Gerald Flurry's Philadelphia Church of God continues to grow on the outer fringes of Armstrongism. Most appealing to the Flurryites is the prospect of "fleeing" - not from Flurry, unfortunately, but to Petra in the Jordanian desert. The July issue of Flurry's Philadelphia Trumpet featured a cover article about this locale, Flurry's idea of a sun-filled vacation. Another article, "Elijah Has Come Already - and They Knew Him Not," centered on the life of FIurry's idol, Herbert W. Armstrong. The issue contained four pictures of the deified Apostle. Flurry, who claims to be Elisha and a number of other biblical personalities, continues to gain new followers, but it appears that he is doing so only by becoming ever more fanatical. One of our readers, in close contact with members of Flurry's group, sent us the following information:
Prospective members of Gerald Flurry's church must recite: "I believe that Herbert W. Armstrong is the endtime Elijah." Flurry has now mixed diet and religion: white rice and white bread are a sin. The Philadelphians have also adopted a policy of racial discrimination. It is now a sin for persons of different racial backgrounds to fraternize on all but the most superficial levels. According to Flurry, the wearing of jewelry is sinful. Heart pendants are demonic and will send the wearer to the lake of fire.
Another informant wrote us:
Philadelphian minister Colin Sutcliffe, once a WCG minister in New Zealand, has fallen out of favor with Flurry. Along came the newly formed United Church and a great opportunity for family reunification. But United, now headed by Sutcliffe's son-in-law, Chairman Hulme, declined to accept him as a minister.
So much for brotherly love and unity.
Hulme's UCG Grows
Of the dozens of Armstrongite groups that have come out of the WCG in the last 25 years, the largest is now the United Church of God currently headed by Chairman David Hulme, not to be confused with David Hume, the great Scottish philosopher and historian. Hulme's United Church of God should also not be confused with the United Church of God started in 1974 by ex-WCG minister Richard Wiedenheft or with the United Church of God started by Ray Wooten who has now disassociated his United Church of God from Hulme's United Church of God (UCG).
Hulme's UCG has only been in existence a few months, but already it has almost 15,000 enthusiastic members. While there had been some indication when this group coalesced that it would usher in some level of democracy, some who have already left the group say that under Hulme ("a one-man-show") and church administrator Victor Kubik ("thinks the Czars really knew how to rule") the UCG is rapidly becoming another religious autocracy.
At present the UCG has no television ministry to compete with those of "Elisha" Flurry, Dr. Garner Ted Armstrong, or General Roderick Meredith whose bear-like Karate chops can now be seen on the boob tube. But with already more than $1,000,000 in surplus revenues, a TV show built around Chairman Hulme is probably not too far away. Already the UCG with new offices in Arcadia, California not only has a church periodical called New Beginnings (NB), but it is inaugurating a full-color magazine called The Good News (not to be confused with the old WCG publication of the same name).
Doctrinally, the UCG has openly stated that it intends to follow the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong as stated in the famous "18 Points" (delineated by Joseph W. Tkach in the WN, 8/25/86, p. 5). David Hulme has indicated, however, that some Armstrong doctrines will need to be modified (NB, 6/16/95, p. 2). You can bet that Hulme and company will accept Tkach's modification of HWA's old healing doctrine and a few other Tkach organization discoveries. One doctrinal item that Hulme and company are struggling with, however, is a definition for God. Apparently, after decades of serving in the ministry, this is something the UCG ministers were never able to clarify in their own minds. Hulme assures his followers, however, that no matter what definition they come up with, it will not involve a Trinity (Hulme's letter of 5/17/95, p. 2). With that one prejudgment acknowledged, Hulme does indicate that he and his colleagues are otherwise open to suggestions. Hopefully, within a few months, the UCG will issue a statement as to who or what it is exactly that they are worshipping.
Those desiring to be kept up-to-the-minute about changes in this latest of Armstrongism reincarnations can do so by utilizing UCG's sophisticated "Faxback and Information Service" by calling 317-526-2036 (after Oct. 18 the number changes to 317-839-5002). UCG's mailing address is: P.O. Box 661780, Arcadia, CA 91066.
Organizing Your Church
Former WCG minister Ray Wooten, who has his own United Church of God, apparently feels that it is best for local congregations to maintain a certain level of autonomy even when they affiliate with a national or international organization. Ostensibly, one advantage of doing this is that the local organization is better able to buffer itself from liability in case a government agency wants to investigate the international movement or a disgruntled member decides to sue the umbrella group for abuse, fraud, etc. For those interested in starting their own local church corporation, Wooten has put together an informational church start-up kit. His address is United Church of God, P.O. Box 361334, Birmingham, AL 35236-1334.
Those fascinated with the ways in which the new WCG offshoots are being set up might do well to locate a copy of the book How to Organize and Manage Your Own Religious Cult by Duke McCoy and once distributed by Loompanics Unlimited (P.O. Box 1197, Port Townsend, WA 98368, tel. 360-3852230). When we read it years ago, we were amazed how the WCG and its offshoots were applying its principles very, very precisely. We have been told that the book is now out of print and it is very difficult to locate a copy. If any reader knows how we may obtain copies, please drop us a line.
Another writer presenting similar dark-side information is Anthony Pratkanis in the article "How to Sell a Pseudoscience" which appeared in the July/August issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine ($4.95, published by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, 3965 Rensch R., Amherst, NY 14228-27443). In explaining how one can dupe the unwary into believing just about anything, psychology professor Pratkanis explains "nine effective persuasion tactics for selling all sorts of flimflam." Those who are persuaded that mind control techniques do not exist would do well to study Dr. Pratkanis' article. All nine techniques have been used by the WCG and are now being used (perhaps unconsciously and perhaps not) by all the major WCG spinoffs.
Exiting to the Esoteric
We have reported in past issues how those exiting the WCG very rarely join mainline churches. Over the years we have known of a few who have joined mainstream churches such as the Lutherans or the Baptists. For example Louise Doescher, the former WCG member who ran Help Net in Wisconsin (see AR55, p. 10) and who is currently working on a book about the WCG, is now a Baptist and tells us she has found spiritual peace in that denomination. And here in the Pasadena area a few prominent ex-Worldwiders (and even a few current WCG ministers) frequently attend Sunday services at the popular Lake Avenue Congregational Church. Nevertheless, over the years the vast majority of those who left the WCG either joined one of the WCG offshoots or no church at all. Within the last two years, however, we have begun to notice something new. While they are still in the minority, a growing number of WCG exiters are being attracted to what we might call, for want of a better term, esoteric movements.
Some of these esoteric movements are derided by critics as "New Age." Unfortunately, what "New Age" means exactly is not always clear. To such authors as Russell Chandler in his book Understanding the New Age (Word Publishing, 1988) anything "New Age" is unbiblical and unchristian. But many leaving the WCG do not agree. One former member wrote us:
Frankly, I am just sick of people condemning every spiritual teaching as New Age or occult simply because it does not match the childish nonsense they have been taught in Sunday school or in some seminary. First of all, when they call New Age a movement they don't have any idea what they are talking about. That label is applied to many different ideas. Just as the word Christian can apply to many different groups with many differing ideas, so New Age is an umbrella term that is very imprecise.
People do the same thing with the term "occult" which simply means "hidden or secret knowledge." Paul used the word Mystery which means the same thing. Those who study the occult are simply studying knowledge that the average carnal person is not readily attuned to. I think most people who use that term in a nasty way are getting the occult mixed up with black magic. Not all magic is black magic! Moses and Jesus were adept at magic (the white type), that doesn't mean they were evil! Anyone who reads Jesus the Magician by Morton Smith will quickly see the difference.
As for New Age ideas being unbiblical, well, people who say such things do not really know their Bible. Here are some New Age ideas you find in the Bible: symbology (found from Genesis to Revelation) and dream analysis (Gen. 40, Matt. 2:12), numerology (found throughout the Bible), dowsing (Num. 20:8), reincarnation (Mal. 4:5, Matt. 16:13-14), out-of-body experience (II Cor. 12:2 and possibly Eccl. 7:6), astrology (Gen. 1:14). I wish the Sunday school teachers would start reading their Bibles more thoroughly!
We do not have either the space or the inclination to cover all the "New Age" ideas being discussed in WCG and ex-WCG circles. However, as regards the above topics, the books and other sources most often being referred to by WCG exiters are: Carl Jung, et al, Man and his Symbols (Doubleday, 1964); The Companion Bible (theologian Bullinger paid careful attention to numbers in margin comments); Gary Arvidson's 1994 series on the Tetragarnmaton in ACD's The New Millennium (4449 S. Star Lake Road, Auburn, WA 98001); publications of the American Society of Dowsers (Danville, Vermont 05828-0024); Joseph Head and S. L. Cranston, Reincarnation: An East-West Anthology (1961, now published by Quest Books, The Theological Publishing House, Wheaton, IL); Kenneth C. Fleming, God's Voice in the Stars: Zodiac Signs and Bible Truths (Loizeaux Brothers, 1981); and Jon Anthony West and Jan Gerhard Toonder, The Case For Astrology (Penguin Books, 1970). For the orthodox Christian view on such practices contact Watchman Fellowship (P.O. Box 13340, Arlington, TX 76094).
While so-called "New Age" ideas are playing a part in the shifting spirituality of some ex-Worldwiders, much of the change in thinking that is occurring seems to be due to the "tohu and bohu" we now see in both the WCG and most of its offshoots. For example, because of the never-ending doctrinal debates going on in these groups, some have begun to question the very premises upon which their faith has been based. Among the basic questions now being asked are: Do some non-Western religions possibly have insights lacking in Christianity? Does our Christian Bible represent the complete canon of inspired literature? Are some of the books of the Bible less inspired than others? Are there books other than those in the Bible that are inspired?
One organization that is confronting such questions headon is the I Think International group in England which recently changed the name of their publication to Potentia International (Box 1953, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH8 OYQ England). Writing in his August issue, editor Kerin Webb, formerly a WCG member, stated (pp. 1-2):
I, personally, hold the opinion in the light of my own research that the Bible is one of a line of religious philosophies based upon a set of evolving concepts, which date back to antiquity and beyond. And therefore, personally, I believe that the evidence which seems to clearly demonstrate a basis for the proposition that postulates that there's taken place a cross pollenisation of ideology, an ideology which has been borrowed and then molded by Hebrew/Christian writers, is a sound one [sic].
While some ex-Worldwiders, like Mr. Webb, are studying comparative religion, others feel the Bible simply needs updating from other supposedly sacred, writings. In the lattter category are some ex-Worldwiders who have joined the Urantia movement. Urantians (not to be confused with Unitarians or with the Unarians of El Cajon, California) trace their beginnings back to The Urantia Book, a work supposedly revealed solely by celestial beings in order to correct the alleged flaws in the Bible. This celestial message was first published in 1955 by Dr. William Sadler, the founder of the Urantia cult. The Urantia Book is said to be the largest book ever to have been channeled by supernatural beings working through human beings. While there have been other "channeled" books over the centuries, The Urantia Book is unique in that it contains a good deal of modern science and a very-detailed purported biography of Jesus with claimed "facts" not found in the gospels. So dedicated are Urantian followers, many study The Urantia Book assisted by the official Urantia Book Concordance, a reference almost as large as most Bible concordances. The Urantia Foundation (533 Diversey Parkway, Chicago, IL 60614, tel. 312-525-3319) has attracted scientists and intellectuals into its fold and some claim the group has gotten a number of its teachings from the Seventh Day Adventists. This latter fact may be the reason some ex-WCG members find themselves attracted to this movement. Now, however, cult expert Martin Gardener, author of Urantia: The Great Cult Mystery, says the Urantia movement may be splintering. Readers who have family or friends involved in the Urantia movement may want to read his book for an understanding of what they are up against.
One of our readers who feels there are important truths to be found in non-biblical religions is former WCG member Patti Laessig of Merrill, Wisconsin. Ms. Laessig continues to study the Bible, but in addition has found meaning in the natural religions of the American Indians. In particular, she has found Mary Summer Rain's first four books in "The No-Eyes Series" (Spirit Song, Phoenix Rising, Dreamwalker, and Phantoms Afoot) to be spiritually enlightening. In a recent letter to the Report, Ms. Laessig wrote us:
I believe that the Native American spirituality is the truest and purest form of worship I've found. It doesn't require a middleman. It gives access to God/the Great Spirit Creator individually - the same message that Jesus Christ gave us, if only we would pay attention to what the Bible says.... I believe we are each responsible for the deeds we do. I believe each of us is a perfect spiritual being, a "chip off the old Great Spirit" (i.e. made in the image of God) therefore we innately have the Holy Spirit within and the "unpardonable sin" is the sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which would therefore mean to be untrue to the Self - to go against the natural spirit within, to weave a false mask or identity, to take on false doctrines, dogma, and society's superficial ego-identities. If we are true to the Self, doing what comes naturally brings joy, peace, and kindness. We begin living with the LOVE - of God and each other - that Jesus taught.
While some ex-Worldwiders are augmenting the traditional Christian Bible with spiritual teachings derived from other sources, some have lost confidence in parts of the traditional Christian canon. For example, some have confronted the centuries-old debate regarding law versus grace by simply deleting the Pauline parts of the Bible from the canon. One, former WCG member wrote us:
After many years of careful Bible study we have come to see that the New Testament as originally delineated by the Catholic Church at Nicea is really two separate religions - the essentially Jewish religion of Yeshua the Nazarene and the Gentile religion of Paul. Mr. Herbert Armstrong was on the right track when he taught that the law was not done away. But sadly, he didn't realize that the religion of Yeshua [Jesus] and his brother [James] is not compatible with the religion of Paul. Many scholars are coming to see this now.
The writer then went on to quote from The Jesus Conspiracy by Holger Kersten and Elmar R. Gruber (Element Books, 1994, p. 341):
What we today refer to as Christianity is a misinterpretation and twisting by Paul of the true teaching of Jesus. Knowledge about this misinterpretation, and the doctrine of Salvation by the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus which is given a central place in it, has long belonged to the truisms of modem theological and church historical research. Unfortunately until now these truths have been suppressed by all possible means, and therefore have not penetrated to the foundations. Even at the start of the eighteenth century the English philosopher Lord Bolingbrooke (1678-1751) noticed two completely different religions in the New Testament, that of Jesus and that of Paul. Kant, Lessing, Fichte and Schelling also clearly distinguished between the teaching of Jesus and what the "apostles" made of it. A large number of reputed modern theologians have come to acknowledge this fact.
Somewhat similar views can be found in some of Hyam Maccoby's writings, first brought to our attention by former WCG minister Bill Moore. In the last few months we have noticed some of Maccoby's books offered for sale at the bookstore of Fuller Seminary where a number of WCG executives have gone for graduate level studies. Not only are Maccoby's books being read by ex-WCG members, some such as The Myth Maker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity (Harper, San Francisco, 1987) are being studied by some ministers in the WCG offshoots.
While some ex-WCG members have cast off the writings of Paul, a few have gone much further. Students of the writings of Dr. James Tabor, for instance, tell us that Tabor has come to believe that only the Old Testament is truly inspired and that the whole New Testament is merely commentary on the Old. Tabor, who is currently working on a new Bible translation scheduled for completion in late 1998, is active in the B'nai Noah movement and other pro-Jewish activities (see AR56). One of Tabor's disciples wrote us:
What the B'Nai Noah movement is attempting to achieve is a return to the roots established in the first century A.D. by Yeshua the Nazarene and even earlier Judaism. Those in the movement are using this as a starting point to become closer to the LORD God and His (for sure) Holy Word, the O.T. or Tanach. To us now the N.T. is more likely a collection of writings inspired by the "early church fathers" than it is a collection by the LORD God.
While many ex-WCG members continue to look for answers in the Bible, or at least in part of it, it is probably not surprising that some have begun looking outside of religion altogether for answers to the question of how to live. One small movement that is drawing ex-Worldwiders deserves mention because of its odd combination of offbeat wisdom and anti-societal insight. The small movement centers on the writings and ideas of Ernest Mann, never a Worldwider, but once a financially successful businessman who at the age of 42 dropped out of society and began living a very simple and creatively frugal life aimed at minimizing expenses (of both money and time) and maximizing personal freedom.
Mann, now almost 70, is severely critical of modem capitalism, the ruling elite, and modem lifestyles. To replace their influence, he advocates something he calls The Priceless Economic System ("PES") by which mankind would supposedly be able to live without setting fixed prices on goods or services and by which society would eventually not be focused on making profits. Mann advocates a very simple ethic based on a few simple principles such as the golden rule and the maxim that "it is more blessed to give than to receive." Among those who have found value in Mann's ideas are survivalists who believe that modem civilization is heading toward a complete breakdown, economic conservatives who believe he offers the ultimate in economic self-reliance, senior citizens on very limited fixed incomes, anti-government activists who see in Mann's philosophy a means of escaping the intrusions of the modem state, libertarians who see his ideas as offering a means to achieve a maximum level of personal freedom, and even some fundamentalist Christians who feel Mann is emphasizing the heart of the Gospel while jettisoning valueless doctrinal debate. For many years Mann has promoted his ideals by putting out his "Little Free Press" newsletter, which, in spite of what might be viewed as excessive idealism, is still quite enlightening and entertaining. Also quite popular among some ex-WCG folks are Mann's book I Was Robot - Utopia Now Possible and a collection of his newsletters published in book form as Free I Got.
Because he eschews business dealings, Mann no longer distributes his two books himself. However, they are available for $7.95 and $8.95 respectively from Jim Wortham, Marathon International Book Co., Box 32, Madison, IN 47250-0032. As for Mann's newsletter, it is still being published occasionally. A recent edition, #116, provides an excellent overview of Mann's unique philosophy. For a copy write to: Ernest Mann, Little Free Press, 301 SE 11th Street, Lot 218, Little Falls, MN 56345. In accordance with his own philosophy the newsletter is free, but Mann does ask that with your request you include some stamps or a little something to cover mailing expenses.
David Whitaker's Mystical Insights
Before leaving the subject of the esoteric, special mention should be made of one former WCG member whose writings are having an impact on a fair number of former WCG members and others who are serious students of the Bible. For some years now David Whitaker of Enid, Oklahoma has corresponded with a number of individuals around the world and many of his letters have proven so interesting a fair number have been photocopied and distributed quite widely. Some of the less controversial ones have even been published by William Dankenbring in Prophecy Flash!
Unlike many ex-Worldwiders who put down their reIigious ideas on paper, Whitaker does not claim to be a minister, prophet, or to have a special mandate from God. Nor does he claim to have all the answers on every theological issue. Nevertheless, he does possess a vast knowledge of religion, psychology, philosophy, ancient history, astronomy, classical music, and many other subjects. He also takes a special interest in the Hebrew language, the Kabbalah, and Jewish mysticism. It is from his study of the latter that Whitaker has developed a number of theories which, although they may at first seem a bit radical, nonetheless, are very plausible in light of the scriptural and historical data he has amassed. In particular, Whitaker is convinced that to understand the New Testament in its fullness, one has to not only understand the Mediterranean culture of the first century and the Hebrew language, but one has to take into account the widespread awareness of the Jewish mysticism of the time. Whitaker views the earliest Christians as embracing what he calls "Apostolic mysticism." To demonstrate this, Whitaker refers to dozens of N.T. verses that to most of us have the feel of well-worn simple truths. Yet, as he so ably demonstrates, when one views those same verses with the eyes of one adept in Jewish mysticism they frequently have an added depth and dimension of meaning quite beyond the simplicity we often assume. In a 1992 letter to AR, Whitaker wrote:
The majority of contemporary clergymen and theological historians believe the New Testament writings present no concrete formulae for mystical practice, and it is for this reason most Christian practitioners reject any attempt to comprehend the Faith of Jesus and the original Apostles within a mystical context.... The entire historical and cultural mysticism underlying the New Testament writings and thought-forms is conveniently neglected by Western European and American scholars and theologians who find it awkward to mentally identify with the intellectual and mystical modalities of ancient Mediterranean peoples and civilizations.... Understanding the paramount influence and involvement of the Jewish Mystic Tradition underlying the New Testament writings is absolutely essential to clearly and correctly comprehending the allusions and nomenclature used by the authors of the New Testament writings! Only when this missing background inherent within the ancient Galilean culture is restored can the modern reader begin to properly and profoundly understand the true Message contained within the colloquial wording of both the Old and New Testament Scriptures!
Readers should not assume that AR endorses each and every one of Whitaker's views. Nevertheless, his writings (in the form of one to four page letters that are really well reasoned essays) are very thought provoking. During the past few years we have been tempted to publish some of them, but have not because: (1) taken out of context they would offend and confuse many readers and (2) we lack the funds to publish them in toto. Nevertheless, because we think some would be interested in reading his letter-essays, we have asked Mr. Whitaker if he would make available photocopies of a set we thought were particularly thought-provoking. Subjects include: Christianity and Judaism, The Types of Judaism, On the Importance of Understanding the Hebrew Language, On the Ten Commandments, Jeremiah in Babylon, What/Where is Babylon Today?, The "Lost Books," On Jewish Mysticism and Early Christianity, The Term "Kabbalah," Is Jesus Metatron?, Jesus and Hanukkah, Will Jesus Return in the Year 2000?, The Real Meaning of "the Thousand Years," Is the Universe an Apparition?, On Evolution, Is God Androgynous?, Does God Have Feminine Aspects? The Feminine Side of Men and God, On Homosexuality, Did David Love Jonathan Sexually?, Are All Abortions Sin?, Philosophy - Greek and Jewish, Was Pythagoras a Student of Kabbalah?, Is Reincarnation in the Bible? Jewish-American Indian Parallels, Jews and Anti-Semitism, Bible Study Levels, Predestination and Fate, and Recommended Books.
Mr. Whitaker informs us that he would be willing to make the above set of letter-essays available to all who would like them. However, he cannot do so without asking for financial assistance because he is on a very limited fixed income (he is living on only government disability assistance due to a number of serious ailments). We therefore would suggest to any who would like to obtain the above set of writings, that along with your written request you include a money order for $10. Write to: David Whitaker, 710 E. Chestnut Ave., Enid, OK 73701.
Back to Waco
Readers continue to express a fascination with the 1993 Branch Davidian tragedy at Waco. Many have already read See No Evil: Blind Devotion and Bloodshed in David Koresh's Holy War (Summit Group, 1993) by Tim Madigan who had extensive first-hand contact with the tragic events as a reporter with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Now James D. Tabor and Eugene V. Gallagher have produced Why Waco? - Cults and the Battle for Religious Freedom in America (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1995).
Decidedly more sympathetic toward Koresh and his followers than previous books on the subject, Tabor and Gallagher present a number of facts that have not received wide attention in the major media. But they also take a number of positions that are sure to raise eyebrows: The authors view the Waco tragedy as having been to a great extent precipitated by the "pervasive influence of those who see 'cults' as dangerous and troubling movements in America today" (p. 146). Desiring to promote religious tolerance (p. xi), the authors condemn the use of the word "cult" because it is used to "demonize" certain groups and, instead, advocate the use of "new religious movements" as the more politically correct term (p. 7; p. 213, n. 2). Cult experts supposedly do not possess the academic qualifications necessary to evaluate such groups and are only "cult bashers" who engage in "uninformed slander" of these new movements (p. 217, n. 40). Similarly, the views of former cult members cannot be trusted as those leaving "new religious groups" are now "defectors" (p. 95). Robert J. Lifton's famous work on brainwashing is glossed over with two sentences (p. 147) and "mind control" is deemed a fallacy (p. 177). In concluding, the authors state that "cults make a signal contribution to American life by raising questions of ultimate value, by offering paradigms of commitment, and by making principled challenges to the status quo" (p. 186). (Question: Could not the same be said about the Communist party, neo-Nazi groups, and many terrorist organizations?)
One cult expert singled out for condemnation by Tabor and Gallagher is exit counsellor Rick Ross of Phoenix. According to the authors, in deprogramming a Davidian named Bill in 1992, "Ross effectively used his broad familiarity with 'cults' and a careful reading of the Bible outside of the compelling setting of Koresh's teaching sessions to raise doubts in Bill's mind" (p. 95). When contacted by the Report, Ross said:
Yes, I do advocate reading the Bible carefully, but much of what Tabor and Gallagher wrote about me is inaccurate and I have written to UC Berkeley complaining about those inaccuracies. Had the authors made an attempt to interview me I could have helped them get their facts straight. But they did not. I suspect that much of what they wrote is similarly flawed by being based too much on secondary sources. I have been reading Tabor's writings for a few years now. And quite honestly, I think his views are getting stranger and stranger.
Even if that is so, in a number of ways Why Waco? does make an important contribution toward our understanding of what took place at Waco and toward reducing the risk of such tragedies occurring in the future. Perhaps the most important lesson that can be learned, especially by law enforcement, is that when dealing with destructive cults - sorry, "new religious movements" - it should not be assumed that the usual negotiation tactics employed in terrorist or hostage situations will suffice. As Tabor and Gallagher advocate, to protect the members of such groups from themselves it may indeed be necessary to bring in a team of religion scholars to make some sense of their inner world. It may even be necessary to talk only in "Bible babble" because, as was apparently the case with Koresh, that may be the only language discernable to the group and its leaders.
While the Tabor-Gallagher book will prove of great interest to many fascinated by the Davidians, one other information resource should not be overlooked. In July the House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee and Oversight Committee jointly held hearings on the Waco tragedy. Many who watched those hearings on C-Span were amazed at the amount of information (and frequently contradictory views) aired in those hearings. A spokesman for the Judiciary Committee has informed us that transcripts of those hearings will soon be published. For information, contact the United States Government Printing Office. As for Why Waco?, if copies cannot be had from your local bookstore, you may order copies by calling the publisher's toll-free number: 800-822-6657.
Religion in the News
The official and public "repentance" that the WCG has undergone during the past year strikes some as a unique event in modern religion. That a denomination should acknowledge its cultish ways and go almost "mainstream" in the course of only a few months is not common, yet the phenomenon of a sect or denomination openly admitting to past wrongs is apparently not that rare.
Religion writer John Dart of the Los Angeles Times (6/19/95, p. A1) has reported that, "A wave of confession and repentance for past sins, some of them the racist evils of decades or centuries ago, is sweeping Christianity worldwide." According to Dart, Christians openly repenting and publicly admitting their denominations' past sins include the Pope apologizing for Catholic complicity in the African slave trade of centuries past, for the Church's role in the exploitation of Latin American Indians during that continent's colonial period, for Catholic brutality toward Protestants during the 15th to 17th centuries, and for the Church's condemnation of Galileo for saying the earth revolved around the sun. In mass ceremonies German Christians have repented for German atrocities during the Nazi era and for the German invasion of Holland in WW II. French Christians have openly lamented atrocities committed against Muslims during the Crusades. The Lutheran Church in America has confessed to the anti-Jewish diatribes of Martin Luther during the 16th century. New Zealand Christians have gathered by the thousands to confess their forebears' sins against the native Maoris. Japanese Christians have publicly repented for the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Hawaiian Christians have publicly repented for their forebears' treatment of native Hawaiians. And, in what has been billed as the largest mass apology in American history, the Southern Baptists recently acknowledged and lamented the fact that their denomination was formed 150 years ago as a pro-slavery denomination. Dart suggests a number of possible reasons for the mass repentance phenomenon including the approach of the new millennium. But one interesting factor is Healing America's Wounds, a book by John Dawson, a mission director for Youth With a Mission of Colorado Springs. For an interesting discussion of the merits and criticisms of the new mass repentance phenomenon, see Dart's excellent article.
The WCG is not the only Pasadena-based religious organization trying to polish up a tarnished image. According to the Pasadena Star-News (8/11/95, p. A1): "The state Attorney General's Office is investigating the Fuller Evangelistic Association after a former executive filed a complaint questioning how the money was handled by the association." In recent years the association has gained a national reputation for its programs directed at showing churches how to grow. A separate Pasadena entity, Fuller Theological Seminary, gained notoriety in 1992 when it was reported that John Geoffrey Finch, a famous practitioner of "Christian psychology" and for whom Fuller's Graduate School of Psychology had named a building, had his license to practice revoked after a Washington state board found him guilty of sexually abusing three patients (Pasadena Star-News, 8/13/92, p. A1).
According to a recent article that appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Canadian communications company Spar Aerospace has completed installation of a transmitter and satellite dish at the Vatican as part of a plan to provide the Pope with a highly sophisticated satellite communications system. The manufacturer, a world leader in satellite communications, says that by using the new system the Pope will be able to broadcast his daily messages live to over 800,000 churches in all parts of the world and by doing so maintain constant communication with the world's one billion Roman Catholics.
According to Episcopal Life (July/Aug. 1995):
The Diocese of Pittsburgh is leading the Roman Catholic Church and the Internet community into new territory with an "electronic confessional" that allows people to admit their sins and receive penance online. The ground-breaking service has been approved for a 180-day trial period by the Vatican as a bona fide alternative to in-person administration of the sacrament of reconciliation. The 24-hour interactive service, hosted at Carnegie-Mellon University, is reachable at the home page http://mea.culpa.cmu.edu on the World Wide Web.
As we reported in AR51, Assyrians and Caldeans are still distinct ethnic groups in the Middle East and the United States is now home to many from both groups who have emigrated here. For over 1,500 years the Assyrians have been thought of as Orthodox Catholic because of doctrinal schisms with Rome. Now, however, those differences have been resolved. In a ceremony at the Vatican on Nov. 9, 1994 Pope John Paul and Mar Dinka IV, patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East signed a "Common Christological Declaration" which sets the stage for a reconciliation of the two groups. For his church headquarters, patriarch Mar Dinka IV has chosen Chicago and so now that American city is the center of Assyrian worship and the headquarters of one of the world's oldest Christian denominations (Chicago Tribune, 9/8/95).
In August, residents of the eastern United States fearfully listened to weather reports as Hurricane Felix in the Atlantic moved toward the nation's eastern coastline. As the hurricane stalled off of Virgina and finally petered out, one individual claimed credit for "the miracle" - televangelist and sometime presidential candidate Pat Robertson. Robertson told his 700 Club followers that it was his prayers that were responsible for the storm's diversion. Robertson made a similar claim in the 1980s regarding Hurricane Gloria.
On September 7 the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut bestowed an honorary doctorate upon the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church and a religious empire which finances the conservative Washington Times. Moon, who takes personal credit for the fall of communism, and whose followers claim he is the end-time Messiah, said in his acceptance speech that he is working to bring about a united world (New York Times, 9/8/95). Since 1991 Moon has given the financially ailing University of Bridgeport over $98 million. Some in the WCG have suggested he would be an ideal candidate to purchase the WCG's properties in Pasadena.
Former U.S. President George Bush recently completed a tour of Vietnam, China, and Japan where he gave speeches. For speeches in Vietnam he received a six figure fee from Citibank. Bush also spent nearly a week speaking at meetings sponsored by the Women's Federation for World Peace, an organization connected with the Unification Church of Rev. Moon who not long ago was serving time in a federal prison for tax evasion. On Sept. 14 Bush spoke at the "Global Family Festival" in Tokyo where he and Mrs. Bush were the warm-up speakers for Unification Church followers who had come mainly to hear the wife of Rev. Moon speak about and praise the virtues of her husband and his religion. Moonies revere Mrs. Moon as "The True Mother." Neither Mr. Bush nor his aides would disclose how much the former President was paid for the appearance (New York Times, 9/4/95 and 9/15/95). Only days before, Bush ridiculed the U.N.-sponsored Fourth World Conference on Women in China with remarks that made some editorial writers question his understanding of China's anti-democratic policies (New York Times, editorial of 9/13/95).
George Bush is not the only one critical of the international women's meeting that was held in Beijing. Among American evangelical groups Charles Dobson's Focus on the Family has been most strident in attacking the conference it saw as "the most radical, atheistic and anti-family crusade in the history of the world." Seeing the conference as part of a giant conspiracy to do away with all distinctions between the sexes, Dobson wrote "events about to unfold on the world scene are almost beyond comprehension" (Dobson's Dear Friends letter of August 1995). At its conclusion the Women's Conference issued an official statement of its adopted positions which included an affirmation that the family is the basic unit of society and should be strengthened. Other provisions included: the condemnation of forced sterilizations and forced abortions (as is common in China), the condemnation of systematic rape in wartime (as in Bosnia), the condemnation of female genital mutilation (common in African and Muslim countries), the condemnation of domestic violence and sexual harassment, the advocacy of rights of inheritance for females (although not necessarily to the same extent as for males), and the advocacy of banking services for low-income women (New York Times, 9/15/95). Apparently, to some such proposals are really scary.
The Dobson group, once based in Pasadena, is now based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a city some have mentioned as a possible relocation sight for WCG headquarters. (Recall Tkach's Colorado corporation, discussed above.) In the early '90s Colorado liberalized its tax code to accommodate religious groups (just as California and some other states were tightening their tax laws) and the Economic Development Council of Colorado Springs began to actively recruit evangelical nonprofits to relocate in that area. Colorado Springs has since lured so many Christian fundamentalist organizations to its environs it has become the nation's "capital of the Christian right." The evangelical influx even includes two thousand members of private militias who regularly go on maneuvers in the Colorado Springs area (see "God and Man in Colorado Springs" by Marc Cooper, Utne Reader, May-June 1995, reprinted from The Nation, Jan. 2, 1995).
Speaking of private armies -
For a sense of the continuity of the terrorist tradition in America, consider this actual sequence of events: The FBI smashes a dead-serious plot to overthrow the federal government and reveals that for more than a year the rightwing militias involved were undergoing army-style training, fired up by inflammatory talk radio. They planned to use their bombs, rifles, and machine guns to wage guerrilla warfare on American cities, and they claimed friends and allies in government and the military. They aimed, in one reporter's words, to "bomb selected buildings, seize public utilities, blast bridges, terrorize Jews, appropriate Federal Reserve gold, assassinate fourteen Congressmen, and set up a dictatorship." The goal: to remove all liberal and anti-Christian forces from government, not least the liberal President and his active wife.
This happened in January 1940.
So begins one of the year's most eye-opening articles. An outstanding historical study showing how some things never change, "Home-Grown Terrorism" by Philip Jenkins appears in the Sept. 1995 issue of American Heritage. Those interested in the so-called milita movement will find it a revealing study of the American psyche.
[A WCG member I know] was so proud of his three grown children when he explained the "new understanding" to them. (The WCG is never wrong, you know. They just have "new understanding.") All three just accepted it without question and immediately put the changes into practice in their lives. I find it scary to see how someone could reverse their thinking just like that. "Oh, this is what we are to believe now. Okay." A bunch of robots with their power of thinking, the free will that God gave them, destroyed....
I am writing to a very depressed ex-member in Colorado. She is having a very hard time coping with what she views as totally wasted years. Because of tithing and the constant pressure to help "the Work" members often did not, and could not, save for retirement or to buy a home. Often they were so limited in career choices. And for what? Now they are told all the sacrifices were not necessary.
Many are baffled by the changes, wondering what to do. I've seen some jump from the frying pan into the fire. One believes Jesus is really the Antichrist. Others are so wrapped up in prophecy they can't cope with life today. I feel sorry for those who will never taste the freedom of having the right to choose, the freedom to make friends with people of all creeds, the freedom to serve God as best as they can without some minister having to give his blessing, or interfering, or making decisions about their life-decisions the minister is often totally unqualified to make.
Followers of Chairman Hulme allege that we will soon be keeping Sunday in Worldwide. As proof of this they mention a certain booklet that is being widely studied by the ministry. I was told this was not yet official teaching, but may soon be. I'm getting tired of learning of official doctrines a year or two after they have already been decided upon. How can I get a copy of the booklet?
Editor: The booklet is The Law, the Sabbath and New Testament Christianity by Sir Anthony Buzzard, an Ambassador alumnus and former Ambassador lecturer. It is available for $3 from Restoration Fellowship, 185 Summerville Dr., Brooks, GA 30205.
What ever became of Mr. Michael Snyder, the head of WCG's Public Relations Department and the oft-quoted spokesman for Mr. Tkach? I wrote to headquarters asking about him and they sent a very suspicious answer saying, in effect, they could not answer me. Has he joined one of the Armstrongite offshoots?
Editor: Sources close to Snyder tell us that some time ago he fell in love with a fellow employee's wife who then divorced her husband as Snyder divorced his own mate. The two lovers then married and took off for parts unknown. We have written to Snyder at his old address and sent messages to him via mutual acquaintances, but he has not responded. WCG insiders say he is no longer a member of the WCG and considers them a cult. We do not know if he has joined one of the WCG offshoots.
AR59 was very informative. I have been seeing some of the same things here in my area. My WCG-member ex-wife and others are running around eating shrimp every chance they get now and are probably hoping to get increased support payments from me to pay for it! Now she and her new husband are trying to ADOPT my youngest daughter. Seems the new hubby is shooting blanks and they cannot have any of their own so now they want one of mine! Amazing! More legal fees, like always. I had hoped that eventually this would all end, but there is no end in sight for these divorce problems.
Like you, I noticed in their releases that the United group makes no mention of the divorce and remarriage doctrine, a doctrine that once caused considerable turmoil in WCG circles. Can you tell me if any of the new groups have information on that subject?
Editor: I am not sure which groups are still writing on "D & R, " as it used to be called. While the issue seems to have faded from the spotlight in recent years, one of our readers has done considerable study on it and would be able to tell you who is still writing on that subject. Contact: Glen W. Myers, 1047 Iroquois St., Clearwater, FL 34615.
I thought your little comment linking the WCG to Sardis was meant in jest. But after giving Rev. 3 some thought, I wonder if you are not on to something.
Editor: Actually, my allusion to Sardis was only half in jest. While I don't promote the church eras teaching, I think it's obvious that Rev. 1-3 is at least referring to the fact that different churches, whether individual congregations or whole denominations, have different group characteristics. While the WCG has long considered itself Philadelphian (partly because of its "open door" via the electronic media), I find that label preposterous because I don't know of any church group that has been more lacking in genuine love. For years, the Laodicean label seemed to fit - as long as the WCG was wealthy and arrogantly convinced it had all "the truth." But now, with the WCG no longer that wealthy, with so much repudiation of its founding doctrines, and with its members so lacking in confidence in who they are and what they are about, it seems to be a dead church. David Whitaker recently sent us a portion of the book Letters to the Seven Churches by William Barclay (Abingdon Press, 1957). Two of the book's chapters - "Sardis: The Peace of Death." and "Sardis: The Church of the Living Dead" - seem to describe many of the characteristics of today's WCG.
The letter [in AR59] about the U.N. being "the Beast" left me in stitches. I'm sure the writer is a fine fellow, but the idea that the U.N. is "the Beast" is absurd. Yes, I know, many ex-Worldwiders believe such nonsense. But the U.N. is so ineffectual it can't even stop the fighting in Bosnian. Let me quote from an article by right-wing commentator Tom Bethell: "Consider the imagined U.N. plot to take over the United States. In reality the United Nations is a waning institution, and in the years ahead will probably have to struggle to survive at all.... Militia types would be closer to the truth if they saw the United Nations as a tool of the United States, increasingly used to disguise essentially unilateral U.S. actions (in the Gulf War and Haiti, for example)."
Editor: Mr. Bethell's comment that the U.N. may one day have to struggle to survive was more prophetic than he may have realized. According to The New York Times (9/12/95), U.N. General Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali says the U.N. is already so broke that "its development funds are drying up, and its field personnel are at risk. " In regard to the latter point, recall that to date about 200 U.N. peacekeepers have been killed in what used to be Yugoslavia. According to the same article, the reason the U.N. is nearing financial ruin is that many member nations are in arrears in their membership payments. "The United States is the worst delinquent, according to U.N. figures, with arrears of nearly $1.8 billion."
The Armstrongism "church wars" have left me turned off with religion, but I still read Mr. Dankenbring's writings because he publishes articles found nowhere else. In his April-May Prophecy Flash! he published an article that shows: "the post-War Nazi Underground had an additional objective: to infiltrate the American Federal Government and use the GOP (Republican Party) as a 'Trojan Horse' to obtain political dominance over the United States of America, and achieve through political channels the conquests envisioned by the Third Reich."
Another article shows how the WCG leadership uses hypnosis to control the minds of its members. The author's very scientific evidence is overwhelming. I think, however, that the Bible itself hypnotizes people with the same methods. That is why I am no longer a Bible thumper.
Editor: I agree with you that the psychology article was very informative. However, let me make two comments. First, while I am sure you are correct that many are misreading and misapplying the Bible to their own detriment, I don't feel, and I am sure the article's author was not suggesting, that one has to be hypnotized by the Bible to learn from it. Second, although I think the author of the article made some astute observations, I think both he (and you) should distinguish hypnosis from mind control. The two are not synonymous and not all hypnosis is used for evil purposes. For pointing this out to me, my thanks to P.E. Nelson of SPAN, P.O. Box 137, Ceres, NY 14721-0137.
By the way, I agree that Dankenbring publishes articles that can be found nowhere else. In the same April-May issue of "The Flash" there was a piece titled "A Letter From the Future" in which Dankenbring vividly describes the utter horror he expects will be experienced by unrepentant Worldwide members when, in the near future, the government will supposedly start rounding up Sabbath keepers and executing their ministers. The address for "The Flash" is: P.O. Box 292, Altadena, CA 91003.
I have been reading materials put out by many of the WCG spinoff groups. I have noticed that in the last year many of the writers have gotten weird beyond anything I could have imagined. All this talk of black helicopters coming to take away Christians is a bit much for me.
There is a pattern to all these nutty new groups - a pattern, I might add, that was the key to Herbert Armstrong's success. First, they interpret the news in the most extreme way. This leads to their readers becoming very fearful, even paranoid. Second, they offer their readers a simple solution to their fears - pray and, naturally, pay. Third, they emphasize the uniqueness of their own ministry so they can have a monopoly over their followers' minds and tithes. Finally, by barraging their followers with tons of "literature" and through the use of mind control techniques they encourage their followers to be dependent on them. What we are witnessing in many of these groups is purposely created dependency or co-dependency. Didn't someone once liken this world's religions to a drug?
Editor: I believe you are referring to the famous statement of Karl Marx that "religion is the opiate of the people. " However, that analogy was not his creation. See, for example, Rev. 17:2.
No [WCG] minister is saying we can't ever read the book of Revelation. But we are not to make that the center of our life anymore. The Gospel is not centered on "heads and horns." Some who have left us could not understand that. The church is much better off now than when Mr. Armstrong was emphasizing the wrong things. Please give Mr. Tkach and his loyal ministers some credit.
As for those who are calling Mr. Tkach the Antichrist, I think they are coming very close to blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
As the late Herbert W. Armstrong did, I appreciate great music. For that reason, I was appalled to read what Mr. Hulme programmed for the last Ambassador concert. Jazz is fine for many occasions, but that was certainly not the kind of music befitting such auspicious and calamitous times in God's very own church. More appropriate for the final concert would have perhaps been Andre Watts performing Olivier Messiaen's entire Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jesus. At the end of the Third Reich, as the Allied armies encircled Berlin and cannon fire could be heard in the distance, the great German maestro Wilhelm Furtwangler led the Berlin Philharmonic it its last Nazi-era concert. The final piece? Wagner's Prelude to Die Gotterdammerung ("The Twilight of the Gods"). That choice revealed a profound awareness of historical moment and a courageous theatrical flair on the part of Furtwangler. Producer Hulme, on the other hand, revealed a personality that is truly dull, dull, dull.
Editor: I've heard that story about Furtwangler before, but I believe it's apocryphal. Nevertheless, you are probably right that a more imaginative program could have been concocted for Ambassador's swan song. For instance, the last concert at Ambassador could have included Prometheus, the Poem of Fire by the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (d. 1915) who, while preoccupied with the purifying aspects of fire, promoted an artistic philosophy he called "the Mystery" and waited for what he called "The New World Order." The concert could have included Jubilee Games, the last major composition by Leonard Bernstein, the late, brilliant, bi-sexual, conductor-composer. In that piece Bernstein took as his literary theme the Jubilee Year of the Old Testament. Building on Gematria concepts centered on the number seven, Bernstein created a piece where, Jazz-like, the members of the orchestra are given spaces of time in which each can play whatever comes into his/her mind The results of this Jubilee "freedom'' are, of course, quite cacophonous. While already dated in these "postmodern" times, the piece is, nonetheless, quite entertaining - just like the new WCG.
Here's another idea. As its going-away gala, Ambassador could have sponsored a performance of Meyerbeer's opera Les Huguenots. Set in 16th Century France when Catholics and Protestants were busy slaughtering each other in the name of God, the action centers on the "ethnic cleansing" of the infamous St. Bartholomew Day Massacre of 1572. On that day in Paris the conservative (or were they liberal?) Catholics slaughtered 2,000 liberal (or were they conservative?) Huguenots. Composer Meyerbeer captured the essence of that family-splitting, nation-rending era in an opera of grand spectacle and excess. Had Ambassador staged it, the final production would have been reflective of both the excesses of Herbert W. Armstrong and the religious schisms that have destroyed the Ambassador concerts themselves.
By the way, after the Ambassador concert series came to an end, the WCG produced and distributed a lavish, full- olor brochure about how great their twenty-year concert series had been. Many leading Pasadena-area residents could not understand why, if the series had run out of finances, its managers would waste so much money in praising themselves to a public all too familiar with their past glories. Strange.
Come to think of it, maybe the last concert should have just been a few songs by the new rock group Elijah's Mantle.
I've been a WCG member since 1960.... At the present time we are down from 250 to 150 in our congregation. But I do like the fuller understanding we are receiving of the new covenant.
I recently visited the Concord, New Hampshire WCG congregation after having left two and a half years ago. I just wanted to see some old friends and find out what they thought about all of the recent doctrinal changes. To my surprise, nobody there seemed to realize that the doctrines had changed to any great extent. I quoted several recent Worldwide News articles about various changes but all they did was smile. A deacon told me he doesn't always read the Worldwide News. He and everyone I spoke to seemed as brainwashed as they were the day I left. The sermon was a taped message from Greg Albrecht who clearly indicated that sabbath observance was not required for Christians today. Nobody I spoke with afterwards seemed to have heard or understood this. All they wanted to talk about was how wonderful the church and its leaders in Pasadena are. When I commented that there seemed to be many fewer people in attendance (weekly attendance was about 275 when I left; now it's about 100) I was told that many people were traveling due to the Memorial Day holiday. I guess the old saying is true-ignorance is bliss!
-George W. Reich
Years ago, Mr. Armstrong put out a booklet on tithing. The basic idea was that if one tithed God would "open up the windows of Heaven" and shower down prosperity and well being. Well, when I became a WCG member I soon saw that many of the members were very poor. Now I look back on those times and realize that the entire WCG and most of its members, instead of being blessed by God, were actually cursed.
We should ask ourselves why that is so. Here are four possibilities. (1) Mr. Tkach has admitted that under Mr. Armstrong the WCG was "Judaizing." In Galatians 1:8 it clearly states that those who do so are under a curse. So that is one possibility. (2) In Jer. 48:10 it says, "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully...." Can you think of a group that has been involved in more spiritual deceit than the WCG? (3) It is now well known that many top WCG ministers, including Mr. Armstrong, were guilty of terrible sex sins. Yet, the people [of the church] continued to give them tithes and thus ignored Jesus' warning of Matt. 7:6 (and recall that in the Bible "dogs" often refers to homosexuals). The people [of the WCG] gave "God's tithes" to those they should have seen were not exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit. The people were actually supporting an anti-Christ church and anti-Christ ministers. How could God bless them? Finally, (4) even though there have been so many terrible sins within the ministry, there continue to be coverups of the problems. The Tkachs, Flurry, GTA, Meredith, and Hulme have all been guilty of this type of lying to the people which is completely contrary to scripture. On this last point, you may be interested in an article that appeared in the Jan.-Feb. 1989 issue of YNCA Light: "What to Do When a Minister Is No Longer Blameless." The address is Yahweh's New Covenant Assembly, P.O. Box 50, Kingdom City, MO 65262. Incidentally, that article showed right out of the Bible that, contrary to what Tkach Jr. and others say, you folks at the Report were biblically correct all along in exposing the sins of the WCG ministry. Keep up the good - and scripturally commanded - work!
We go to press only days after the burial of Joseph W. Tkach. Yet, already there is an escalating craziness in the WCG. Insiders say that at headquarters there is now a flood of suspicion and rumor. Questions being whispered in the hallways include: Will Little Joe and Fez soon be writing a comprehensive exposi of the life of Herbert W. Armstrong? With most of the WCG offshoots claiming they are heirs to HWA's legacy, that seems quite possible. Will Dorothy Mattson finally reveal publicly the details of her sexual abuse by her father Herbert W. Armstrong? If Worldwide decides to discontinue what benefits she receives from her father's old organization, she may find there is no longer any reason to keep still about the past. Will Ellen Escat be writing her own exposi about the Tkachs, both Senior and Junior? Neither Senior's widow nor Little Joe are all that keen about sweet Ellen. Insiders say it's likely they will cut off her special benefits. If that happens, who knows? Ellen may embark on a writing career.
The next few months should prove interesting. We will do our best to keep you informed - as our finances allow. Our thanks to all of you who are supporting our efforts. Without that support Ambassador Report would not be possible.
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