March 1996 (AR61)
Tkach Jr. Downsizes WCG
With the death of Worldwide Church of God (WCG) Pastor General Joseph Tkach Sr., his son and successor Joseph Tkach Jr. has taken over an organization in doctrinal disarray, with low morale, and with financial problems so severe many wonder if it will make it through the current year. Founded by former advertising man Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA), who died in 1986, the WCG was once thought of as "the Armstrong empire." While spiritual and moral problems abounded, the organization HWA left to his successors nevertheless had doctrinal cohesiveness, financial strength, and a strong media outreach. Now, all of that is gone. The most recent developments in Worldwide suggest that Tkach Jr. (Junior) may not be able to save what looks like a rapidly disintegrating operation. Here are just a few of the most recent WCG developments:
With the passing of Tkach Sr., Junior has started making important personnel changes at headquarters. Apparently the first to go was Mrs. Ellen Escat, once the elder Tkach's "executive assistant." Headquarters sources tell us she was quietly "let go." Where she has gone and how much severance and/or pension she received is not known at this time.
Then in early March the WCG reduced the number of its full-time employees by 287. That major cuts were coming had been publicly announced weeks before (Pasadena Star-News, 2/21/96, p. A1). But until they came no one knew for sure how extensive the cutbacks would be. At headquarters some departments were cut by more than half. Other departments, such as Shipping & Receiving and the Transportation Department, were completely eliminated. Even the corporate jet was finally sold off a few weeks ago. The Legal Department lost 12 of its staff and is now composed of only Ralph Helge and two subordinates. Imperial School will close at the end of the current school year. And the YOU program for the church's young people is being dropped ostensibly because church kids can now go to sporting events on the Sabbath. How many of the church's remaining 239 full-time ministers around the nation were let go in the latest round of cuts is not yet known. As for headquarters, just last year the WCG cut 358 of its 700 headquarters employees. At the beginning of this year there were only 342 full-time headquarters employees left (Los Angeles Times, 2/21/96, p. B4). Some WCG observers say that the WCG administration team may now be down to as few as 125 full-time employees. And still many are saying that there are more cuts on the way. Not surprisingly, WCG income is very, very low. One source told us that the WCG is receiving only about $100,000 in tithes per day. Virtually everyone we talked to with any inside knowledge of the situation has said that WCG income is under $40 million per year now. There are many sabbatarian ministries that operate on considerably less than that, but it remains to be seen if the WCG's leaders, so used to giant financial cash flows, will be able to lead the WCG on such relatively low revenues.
The much lowered church income has resulted in major changes in the way the WCG gets out its gospel. The Plain Truth magazine's editorial content is more Protestant with each issue. Its circulation continues to shrink. The magazine comes out only every other month. Many foreign countries do not even get the PT anymore. Already the WCG says it is willing to accept paid advertising in the PT and some insiders predict that within the year it is quite likely that the PT itself will have a subscription price. The WCG is already charging for some of its materials. One recent advertisement for a video and booklet on evolution asked for $25 "or more." And a new music video by Pat Boone called "Israel, O Blessed Israel" goes for "a gift of $30 or more." As the ad said, "When you order products offered in the Plain Truth magazine, you help us to continue to announce Jesus Christ's gospel of salvation...." We don't condemn the practice of asking a minimum amount for certain items, but it does represent another major deviation from the marketing methods of HWA.
Then there is the Pasadena real estate problem. Just this past fall Junior was telling members two serious offers for the sale of the church's Pasadena, California properties were being considered and that it was likely the WCG would accept one of them. But in December Junior announced that all offers to purchase the properties had fallen through. Few details were made public. But insiders have admitted that sale of the properties that have long been the church's headquarters and were formerly the main campus of Ambassador College and the home of the famous Ambassador Auditorium, was necessary if the WCG was to be able to keep functioning in a normal business manner.
Who is actually selling the Pasadena properties remains unclear. According to the Los Angeles Business Journal (1/15/96) four major commercial brokerage teams have been vying for the account: CB Commercial Real Estate Group Inc. and Beitler Commercial Realty Services, both of Los Angeles, New York-based Cushman & Wakefield Inc., and San Francisco's Grubb & Ellis Co. As we go to press we have been told that Junior is still undecided about who should be representing them and has not even decided how the properties should be listed.
Tkach Jr. is determined to dump the Pasadena properties, but where WCG headquarters will eventually wind up remains to be seen. Virtually every month there is a new location considered as the likely choice. For a time Albuquerque, New Mexico was at the top of Junior's list. Then Colorado was a top consideration with the cities of Boulder and Colorado Springs being specifically mentioned. Then just a few months ago it seemed like Big Sandy, Texas would be the place. Lately, Junior is said to have been talking about Palm Springs. Some are beginning to question his business sense, or lack thereof, and others are suspicious that Palm Springs may be where Junior winds up in comfortable retirement. By then, however, there may be no WCG left. One embittered former headquarters employee said, "Mr. Herbert Armstrong thought big; Little Joe thinks small - very small."
HWA's Billion Dollar Mistake
Editor: One of our Ambassador alumni readers in Pasadena recently made a very astute observation about the decline of the WCG:
Evangelist Les McCullough, who a few months ago left the WCG and is now with United, has told friends a very revealing story about Joe Tkach Sr. Apparently when Tkach first decided to sell off the church's Pasadena headquarters properties he hoped to get $250 million for the entire package. The California properties were put on the market in 1990 and very quickly an unnamed businessman offered to buy the properties for $240 million. So amazed was Tkach that he would get an offer that large so soon, he began thinking that the properties were probably worth much more. The offer was rejected and the properties were then listed at $300 million.
©1996 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.
Tkach's timing could not have been worse. The California economy, in decline since mid-1989, was seeing real estate prices decline and they have continued to do so until today. Additionally, many California institutions such as colleges have been having difficulty just staying afloat; none seem interested in engaging in expansion schemes. No one nibbled at Tkach's $300 million asking price. While a few organizations showed mild curiosity with the properties, no one indicated they would ever be willing to pay anywhere near the kind of money the Tkach administration was expecting.
A few months ago, desperate for cash, the Tkach team recontacted the businessman who years ago had offered the $240 million. If he were now to make an offer on the properties, they wanted to know, how much did he think they would be worth? His answer? "If I were buying now I would pay no more than $95 million. But I am no longer interested in buying."
Tkach's decision to turn down the original $240 million offer cost the church about $150 million. But his incredible financial miscalculations didn't end there. Consider that at the height of its financial power in 1990 the WCG's annual income was over $211 million. Now, we are told, it is going to be under $40 million per year. That's a decline of well over $160 million per year. Multiply that out for just the next six or seven years and you quickly realize that when Herbert Armstrong appointed Joe Tkach as his successor, it was clearly a billion dollar mistake.
Christmas and Easter Take Root
In the New WCG
With Tkach Junior and associates telling WCG members it's okay to keep Christmas, it is not surprising that this past December quite a few WCG members went "whole hog" and got themselves Christmas trees and were out singing Christmas carols. To prod the WCG field ministry into accepting the new view of the holiday once condemned as "totally pagan," Tkach suggested to his field ministers that they read the concise 59-page book Christmas - Reconsidered by Ralph Woodrow, an independent evangelist based in Riverside, California.
Now with Easter off the WCG condemnation list some at WCG headquarters are recommending Woodrow's 64-page book Easter - Is It Pagan? Writes Woodrow in one of his flyers:
There is no Biblical command to observe Easter. This does not make it wrong. In the Old Testament, in addition to the days that were kept by command, a number are mentioned that were kept by custom.
Ralph Woodrow's writings are fairly well known in WCG circles because for many years he held numerous positions that were similar to those of HWA. In recent years, however, not unlike the Tkachs, Woodrow has come to believe that he had been in error on a number of doctrines and he has changed a number of his previous positions. His recent writings on Christmas and Easter show a high level of biblical understanding and many - even those who do not agree with his conclusions - will find much of value in those two books. Those interested can order them for a contribution of $4 for the Christmas subject and $5 for the one on Easter by writing to: Ralph Woodrow, P.O. Box 124, Riverside, CA 92502-0124. For an alternative view on the subject of Christmas, an article worth reading is "The Great Christmas Exchange" by Kenneth Westby. It's available from The Association for Christian Development, 4449 S. Star Rd., Auburn, WA 98001; tel. 206-859-1917.
Incidentally, it should not be assumed that just because Tkach and Co. will not prohibit their followers from observing certain holidays that they condone all pagan practices once observed on those days. For instance, the WCG position now is that although it is okay to use a pagan holiday calendar date to worship Jesus, it would be wrong to engage in child sacrifice on those days (WN, 11/14/95, p. 12). Having come to suspect that the WCG really has made some basic changes in its teachings, a few members have begun to ask if other "pagan" holidays will later be accepted by the WCG's leadership. One clue is found in an e-mail memo Junior sent to certain WCG field ministers back in early 1995. It contained this interesting comment:
Halloween, on the other hand, we do not endorse, and we teach our members that it is best avoided. However, we are not ignorant of the fact that Halloween has become for most people, a merely secular holiday. We don't police what our members choose to do in regard to trick-or-treat with their children.
Tkach,Jr. has yet to address the question of April Fool's Day.
Services Reveal Worldwide's New Spirit
Many who have been out of the WCG a few years would be dumbfounded by a trip back to the WCG for a church service. In February a long-time friend, still on the WCG books as a member, was visiting Pasadena and decided to attend sabbath services at WCG headquarters. This was the "Auditorium P.M." service, the WCG's only remaining headquarters congregation (declining membership has obliterated the Auditorium A.M., Imperial A.M., and Imperial P.M. congregations). Upon entering the Auditorium our friend was given an Order of Service handout - the type that is virtually standard in all Protestant churches:
Along with the above Order of Service program were some printed announcements: The extreme changes in the WCG have caused so many members to have emotional problems that the headquarters congregation now has a couple of professional psychologists heading "process group" sessions that will discuss "aspects of adjustment: Loss - Betrayal - Grief - Fear." "The cost will be $10 per person with 8-10 people per group." The "International Festival" applications are now available. The Imperial School Drama Club is doing a production of The Nerd, a comedy by Larry Schure. (Back in December the Ambassador Drama Club at Ambassador University performed Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.) The Imperial Junior High boys' basketball team was set to be playing Benton Middle School at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. "Discipleship classes" (whatever those are) have begun. For "spiritual recharging" WCG employees now attend a Wednesday morning "Chapel Service" at headquarters. There are now WCG "Women's Prayer Groups" and a "Women Helping Women In Crisis" group (members could sign up at "the Women's Ministry table in the Lobby"). The Women's Ministry is also hosting a "Self-Defense course for females 12 years old and up." Finally, The Serendipity New Testament For Groups is being sold by the WCG for only $10 - at the Women's Ministry table.
One final anecdote on this topic. A former WCG member who had been out a few years heard about the changes and was curious as to what was going on. He decided to see for himself and made a trip to Pasadena to attend headquarters services. Afterward, in a state of near disbelief at the magnitude of the changes, he told one of our long-time friends, "Everyone was very happy-happy. It was like being at one of the old Tammy Faye-Jim Bakker TV parties."
Tkach & Co. Align With Cult Fighters
One of the most amazing recent developments in the WCG has been its acceptance among many mainline and evangelical organizations, churches, and theologians. Among those who have sung the WCG's praises in recent months are David Neff, Executive Editor of Christianity Today; Bob Ricker, President of the Baptist General Conference; Richard J. Mouw, President of Fuller Seminary; Rev. George Mather, Pastor of the Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Lutheran Church (Worldwide News, 12/5/95, p. 10); Dr. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries (co-worker letter of 1/29/69), and H. B. London Jr., Vice President of Ministry Outreach for James C. Dobson's Focus on the Family. Mr. London spoke at WCG headquarters on Oct. 27 and his taped message has been distributed to the WCG's field ministry (WN, 11/14/95, p. 11). Then there is well-known Christian theologian and author Ruth Tucker who has gotten so enamored of the WCG, this past Nov. 9 she spoke at Ambassador University.
Even more remarkable is the close relationship that has blossomed between the WCG's top leaders and the Christian Research Institute (CRI), for decades one of the country's leading cult fighting organizations. CRI was founded by the late cult fighter Walter Martin who in his famous book Kingdom of the Cults devoted no small amount of space to attacking HWA and his church. But CRI's current president, Hendrik (Hank) Hanegraaff, over the last few years developed a close and warm working relationship with the Tkachs and with PT editor Greg Albrecht. So close is the relationship that in his office Tkach Jr. has a photo of Hanegraaff and himself hugging each other. And in his October 6 "Dear Co-laborer" letter Hanegraaff makes the claim that CRI played a major role in the WCG's transition into an "orthodox" Christian church. The claim may not be an exaggeration. Hanegraaff has had both Junior and Albrecht on at least three broadcasts of his radio program The Bible Answer Man. The broadcasts were genuine mutual-back-scratching lovefests. Then in the winter 1996 issue of CRI's magazine Christian Research Journal, there appeared an article by Tkach Jr. entitled "A Church Reborn" and, you guessed it, it's all about the born again WCG. Said a member of one of the WCG's breakaway groups, "Who could have ever imagined that one day the head of the WCG would be supporting an organization that is actively persecuting sabbath keepers loyal to the teachings of Mr. Herbert Armstrong? It's mind boggling!" The Hanegraaff letter, the Tkach article, and most especially the three cassette tapes of the radio broadcasts with Tkach Jr. and Albrecht being interviewed and taking calls from both fans and critics are all most enlightening. Although transcripts of the broadcast are circulating in WCG circles, nothing can compare with listening to the melting tones on the tapes. We recommend them for anyone wanting to really understand the new spirit in the WCG. The written materials and the casette tapes (the three tapes are $18) may be ordered by writing The Christian Research Institute, P.O. Box 500, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693-0500; tel. 800-443-9797.
Ron Dart and Texas Whores Reject GTA
- But True Fans Stand by Their Man
In our last issue we reported on evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong's latest sex scandal and our suspicion that GTA was probably going to get away scot-free. In early October all the information we had been given suggested that GTA and his lawyers had been able to do a fairly good job of damage control. Soon after AR60 appeared, we learned from some within Church of God International (CGI) that GTA was telling people that our report was "all lies" and that although something did happen at a massage parlor (!), it was in Tyler, Texas, not Oklahoma. While we had been led to believe that the incident took place in Oklahoma (apparently at the time we were contacted, the woman's representatives were trying to shield her from reporters' inquiries), GTA's explanation struck us as akin to a murder suspect defending himself by arguing, "Lies, all lies! I'm 100% not guilty. It was a nine-inch knife not a seven-inch knife! You can't trust the press."
On October 29, soon after AR60 was mailed, Evangelist Ronald Dart, for many years GTA's right hand man, sent a letter to all his "friends and brethren in the CGI." The letter began:
After much prayer and soul searching, I have come to see that it is God's will for me to make a change in the direction of my ministry. I will try to explain.
A couple of weeks ago, I had another episode of cardiac arrhythmia. I saw my doctor, had an EKG, and discussed a change in medication with him. His conclusion was that the episode had been brought on by stress. This episode made me think very seriously about my future effectiveness to God and the Church. I know that He will sustain me, but He also expects me to use common sense.
At the same time, the church at large (we in the CGI do not believe we are all there is to the church) has suffered shattering blows. I have called this the age of confusion, and the church has lamentably not been immune....
[Dart, giving no details, hinted that he intended to serve in some type of independent ministry, then concluded:] I sincerely hope to maintain a warm and friendly relationship with the CGI in the years to come, but (and I do not use this expression lightly) God has shown me it is time to move on.
In a Nov. 2 letter to his "Fellow Ministers and Hosts" GTA put his own spin on the situation. Giving considerable emphasis to the severity of Dart's heart problems, GTA wrote how Dart still hoped to continue teaching, but that his medical problems required that he be "out from under stress as much as possible."
News of Dart's resignation stunned and angered many in CGI. Some accused him of only wanting a following and increased income. Some saw his wife's thriving business, Academy Books, which distributes books to a number of churches, as part of a less-than-kosher conspiracy. For example, CGI member and insider Darren M. Cary wrote Dart a lengthy letter which contained these statements:
First of all, the incident GTA was involved in is a terrible blow to the church. He knows it, we know it, everybody knows it. But I believe it is not a fatal blow. In fact, I am confident that the situation will blow over without consequences too great to bear.
Nevertheless, it did hurt. But then came the phantom punch: Ronald Dart Resigns From CGI. You of all people know that this is big news. It cannot be played down....
I don't buy the idea that people are less receptive to you because of your involvement with us. You know very well that you are famous among those of the "Armstrong tradition." Your sermon tapes have absolutely flooded the "market" around the world. Global, United, Christian Biblical, etc. members and refugees feed on your preaching. And that's not to omit Christian computer buffs being shaken by your Internet ministry. This was all done while being in the CGI - free of charge.
These people may question your motives if they find that you are charging a price for the same information....
You said you obtained the rights to your tapes and written material, but that we could use them, too. Who's going to ask, "Hmmm, should I pay five bucks - plus shipping and handling - or should I get them from CGI?" I realize that Academy Books has a considerable customer list. That's great....
But there are plenty of support/therapy/outreach ministries trying to help ex-WCGers. We don't need any more....
Such arguments did not prompt Dart to return to the Armstrong fold. With only his wife Allie, former CGI minister Larry S. Watkins, and a few others assisting him, by early December Dart had started his new organization, Christian Educational Ministries (CEM), P.O. Box 560, Whitehouse, Texas 75791; tel. 903-509-2999. Using the already well-established mailing list of Academy Books, by mid-December Dart had out a co-worker style letter that explained his goals. One interesting comment was:
Rather than creating a new centralized church with government and power, we have concluded it is time to leave off the debate about "church government" and turn instead to service and work. What we visualize is a network of small, self governed churches assisted and supported by a service ministry which can provide the things a small church cannot do for itself - things that will enable the church to be more effective in its own community.
Dart is a skilled writer and effective preacher. Author David Robinson used to frequently say, for instance, that of all the ministers WCG produced, Dart may have been the best at educating his listeners. Since that introductory mailing, Dart has produced other writings and tapes and has begun a periodical called CEM Network Newsletter. The first issue which appeared in early January was devoted to the subject of how to set up your own church. One CGI insider says GTA is furious about what Dart is doing. No wonder. CEM's mailing list is already past the 2000 mark, CEM has merged with Academy Books, a number of former WCG, CGI, and UCG ministers have expressed support for Dart's ministry, and Dart has even begun doing a weekly radio program called Born To Win. We hope his weak heart holds up.
At about the same time that Dart was setting up CEM, GTA was fully engaged in setting up a defense against the sex scandal's growing notoriety. He concocted a very colorful scenario about how he had a back problem from sports injuries and innocently responded to an ad for therapeutic massage. On the Internet, GTA loyalist Charles Martin of Fort Worth spread this version of what happened:
GTA's mistake was not stopping the woman. No sexual intercourse occurred, as is bared out by the videotape [huh? - ed.]. The massage parlor then attempted to blackmail GTA with the tape and GTA turned over the incident to the FBI. It turns out that the parlor was the cover for an extortion ring that specialized in blackmailing ministers. GTA presented all of this, including the videotape, to the Board of Trustees along with his resignation. The only Board member to accept the resignation was Ron Dart. GTA then turned around and offered to only do the broadcast and leave the administrative duties to someone else, namely Ron Dart. This was refused (uncertain as to who refused, board or Ron Dart or both). Once the article in the Ambassador Report came out, Ron Dart resigned.
We have good reason to believe that the claim that GTA showed the video tape of himself in action to the CGI board is not true. In fact, we do not believe he even had access to the tape back then. And knowledgeable sources have indicated that GTA has refused to even look at the tape since. Nevertheless, many of his followers accepted his version as gospel truth.
On November 23, however, the doo-doo really hit the fan. Beginning on that date many newspapers and television stations around the country ran an AP story that verified that GTA was now being sued in a sex scandal. The best report of the AP data that we saw had the headline, "Sex Suit Names TV Evangelist - Garner Ted Armstrong Denies Nurse's Accusations." The Jim Schultz article appeared in the Houston Chronicle:
DALLAS-A woman filed a lawsuit in Tyler on Wednesday accusing television evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong of sexual assault and demanding money damages from both him and his religious organization, the Church of God, International.
Armstrong denied the allegations in a written statement from his office in Flint, near Tyler. Soon after Armstrong's statement was released Wednesday afternoon, a spokesman for the Church of God, International told Associated Press that Armstrong had severed his official relationship with the church. Church executive Charles Groce gave the date of Armstrong's resignation as Nov. 11.
Suerae Robertson, described in the state district court suit as a licensed vocational nurse in Tyler, accused Armstrong, 64, of making lewd demands and trying to force her to fulfill them during two massage sessions in July. Her attorney, John C. Osborne of Houston, had emphasized in statements to reporters Tuesday, before the suit was formally filed, that Armstrong's religious organization would be a prime target of the suit and the demand for damages. "His church knew or should have known that he was a loose cannon," Osborne said.
Groce told the AP late Wednesday that Armstrong stepped aside Nov. 11 as head of the Church of God, International and his weekly television program, which is carried nationally by cable and about 30 stations. "He has voluntarily removed himself from the ministerial and ecclesiastical activities of this ministry," Groce said, adding that Armstrong could return in the future. No successor was immediately appointed, he said.
Robertson, 48, alleges that Armstrong began to visit her home in March for massage therapy after she ran a newspaper advertisement for her services. According to the suit, Armstrong "insisted that he receive his therapy in complete nudity" and that Robertson "concentrate her therapy on the area of his groin, lower back, inner thighs and buttocks because of stiffness he purportedly felt from his driving."
During a July 4 session, Armstrong's behavior became "increasingly bizarre," the suit says. The lawsuit alleges that Armstrong said he needed some "relief," grabbed Robertson's breasts and genitals and tried to bite her breasts. Then, according to the lawsuit, he put her in a head lock and tried to force her head toward his genitals, but she broke free and fled the room. Armstrong allegedly told Robertson that "his execution of the Lord's work was so vital that any transgression on his part would be overlooked by God." She then secretly videotaped Armstrong's behavior during the next session, on July 15, which led to the lawsuit.
Robertson seeks unspecified damages from Armstrong and his church, claiming she has suffered severe emotional distress and mental anguish because of the evangelist's alleged actions. "She is unable to work," said Osborne. "She is under psychiatric care as a result of his actions."
A statement faxed to the Chronicle and signed by Armstrong said: "The allegations of sexual assault are totally false. The proper forum for proving that these accusations are false is in the courts."
Armstrong's two-paragraph statement also said, "The people making these accusations against me are under investigation by federal, state and local authorities." A spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Beaumont said Wednesday he was unaware of any charges pending against Robertson. A spokesman for the Tyler Police Department said he had no information at all about Robertson and was unfamiliar with her name.
Groce, speaking for Armstrong, declined to elaborate on the charges that Robertson is under investigation. He said Armstrong was traveling Wednesday and was not available for any comment beyond the statement itself.
As horrible as the above description may seem, it is quite mild when compared to the actual complaint. Here is one excerpt:
During these therapy sessions, Plaintiff discovered that Armstrong was actually a minister and a televangelist. At that point, Plaintiff and Armstrong began conversations regarding religion. Further, Armstrong stated that he was the head of Church of God, International, and that Plaintiff should come and join his church. Still further, Armstrong, acting individually and on behalf of Church of God, International, began to minister to the Plaintiff regarding religion and the teachings of his church. Among other things, Armstrong, individually and on behalf of Church of God, International, stated that his church observed the sabbath, Old Testament kosher and dietary laws and that he himself was sent by God to do his work in a similar fashion to that of King David....
During Armstrong's therapy sessions, his behavior would become increasingly bizarre. During the massage therapy/ministering sessions, Armstrong would begin to fondle his genitals and try to place Plaintiffs hands on his genitals while he would minister to Plaintiff. [This is one method of spreading the Gospel we have never heard of before - ed.] Plaintiff would resist and felt extremely apprehensive as Armstrong's masturbatory actions and religious conversation combined with his tatoos, including that of a naked woman on his body would greatly frighten her...
On or about July 4, 1995, Armstrong came in for a scheduled therapy session. Upon his arrival, Armstrong stripped naked and placed himself upon the therapy table. Plaintiff entered the massage room, the parties engaged in general conversation and Plaintiff commenced the therapy session. Immediately, Armstrong's actions were more aggressive than any of his previous therapy sessions. Armstrong began to fondle his own genitals and wanted the Plaintiff to rub massage oil on his penis. Plaintiff declined and became extremely frightened when she discovered the smell of alcohol on defendant Armstrong's breath....
[Editor: I am omitting a section that follows because of its very graphic detailing of GTA's violent behavior. The essence was discreetly covered in the Houston Chronicle article quoted earlier.]
Within a short time of the assault of Plaintiff by Armstrong on July, 4, 1995, Armstrong began to call the Plaintiff and apologize to the Plaintiff profusely. Armstrong stated that the entire incident was a complete misunderstanding and that he hoped that he could continue receiving massage therapy from her and that he could continue ministering to her. Thereafter, Plaintiff set up another appointment between the two for service on July 15, 1995. Armstrong showed up for his scheduled appointment on July 15, 1995 and again apologized for the earlier assault...
Amazingly, right after apologizing GTA stripped naked and within minutes there was an almost identical rerun of the sexual assault of the previous visit! Again, the masseuse was violently and sexually abused, but again through much effort was able to break free:
Plaintiff resisted, left the therapy room and did not return. Thereafter, Armstrong masturbated until ejaculation, dressed and left the premises. Plaintiff has never spoken to Armstrong since and will not schedule Armstrong for any appointment ever again.
The horrible incident of July 15 was the one captured on video tape. We have spoken to some who have seen it and they assure us it most graphically reveals GTA as a genuine "sexual predator." It has recently been rumored that dupes of the tape are now circulating in church circles and are even being sold. We will provide further details in our next issue.
In spite of the seriousness of the charges against GTA, a good number of GTA loyalists are standing by their man. For a very short time GTA ostensibly "stepped down" from his title as President of CGI, but clearly he still remained head of the main Armstrong family business, The Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association. In a Dec. 1 letter from GTA to his "friends and subscribers," written under the Association's name and logo, the televangelist made no mention of the scandal that has made headlines nationwide. Instead, he wrote of the past glories of his and his beloved father's old World Tomorrow and offered his fans a tape of some of that program's decades-old highlights. Then in a co-worker letter sent out Dec. 5 on CGI letterhead GTA reassured his followers that "everything continues as before." He said CGI's work had not been hampered by the recent crisis, that his television program was still going out and that he would soon tape a program on "The Mark of the Beast." But then in the very same letter he stated, "After lengthy consultations with members of the board of directors, and after much thought and prayer, I felt I should resign from all corporate responsibilities during this time of crisis, until this situation has been resolved." A few days later CGI ministers were claiming that GTA resigned on Dec. 7 (was he reinstated after his Nov. 11 resignation?), but that he remained a CGI minister in good standing. CGI spokesmen claimed that its operations were then being directed by an executive committee composed of Charles Groce, Guy Carnes, Ian Hufton, Benny Sharp, and Vance Stinson. All five were viewed as dyed-in-the-wool GTA loyalists.
Then on Monday, Dec. 11, more doo-doo. The nationally syndicated television news program Inside Edition broadcast a segment on the GTA sex scandal. The program had clips of GTA's television program with the televangelist arguing for the death penalty and quoting Jesus who said, "Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" What followed was an interview with Mrs. Robertson at the scene of the incident. Frequently drying tears from her eyes, and once having to ask for a break to regain her composure, the obviously distraught nurse told how on the morning of the fourth of July, she unexpectedly got a call from GTA who then showed up at her home at nine o'clock "obviously intoxicated." The nurse explained how during his therapy Armstrong unexpectedly sat up on the table and then pushed her up against the wall and began to sexually assault her. After a brief struggle, she ran and hid. In the days that followed she was petrified with fear, she said, because of GTA's local influence and power: She called a lawyer and private investigator who advised her to secretly video tape Armstrong should he show up at her home again. She did so when he showed up a few days later for a repeat performance.
But even more allegations followed, this time from Mary Irby, a local salon owner who said that she once employed two masseuses who had received similar abuse from Armstrong. Said Irby, "It's common knowledge in my industry about this situation."
Apparently, with the sex scandal growing more well known every day, by mid December GTA was facing increased questioning by his own ministry. On Dec. 19, Mr. Tom Justus, a longtime minister, resigned from CGI's ministerial council, saying the CGI's leadership was failing to face the truth of its predicament and that although some thought things would some day quiet down, things would never again be business as usual for the CGI. Mr. Justus continues to pastor his congregation in Springdale, Arkansas but what his future relationship with CGI will be is unclear. His departure from the council followed that of Ron Dart a few weeks previous and that of Desmond Burke earlier.
At about the same time as Justus was resigning, Thalia Hufton, the wife of CGI minister and mail department manager Ian Hufton, was doing her own investigation. She talked to a number of Tyler area masseuses who told her that, yes, indeed, Garner Ted Armstrong had been one of their regulars and that he had a reputation for violent behavior. Mr. Hufton tried to confront GTA with the allegations "brother to brother" but was rebuffed. When Hufton and his wife began circulating a letter to the CGI ministry in an effort to get CGI to repent of its coverup of the GTA scandal, he was fired on Jan. 17. (Note: Hufton's mailing address is Rt. 2, Box 114, Hawkins, TX 75765; tel. 903-769- 3520.) Justus and Hufton then organized a meeting of concerned CGI ministers in Dallas, Texas on Feb. 9-10. By then they had obtained a copy of the video tape showing GTA's performance at the massage parlor. About half of CGI's ministry attended the conference, but only a handful were willing to view the tape. Those that did came away shocked and saddened.
GTA, himself, refused to attend the Dallas meeting. Instead, he sent his son Mark along with myrmidon Vance Stinson. Mark, whose arrogance seems to exceed that of even his father, is not a CGI minister or Sabbath group host. Many claim he is not even baptized, and some of us recall his days in Pasadena when his homosexual tendencies were all too obvious (not too many ministers' sons in those days carried purses and made sexual overtures to male Ambassador students; Mark was a flaming exception). Nevertheless, the overly kind CGI group allowed Mark to speak. He defended his father and since then his attacks on those questioning GTA's character have gotten more strident. Of course, he says Satan is behind this rebellion and, as theologian Mark sees it, Hufton and Justus had no right to question his old man's behavior. What will be the outcome of the Dallas meeting is unclear. CGI spokesman Bronson James has stated that GTA and his loyalists will not listen to their critics.
We have been aware for two decades that many of GTA's closest associates have known of, and condoned, GTA's promiscuous sex life. Former WCG-CGI member John Tuit (980 Dehart Comm. Ctr. Rd., Hays, NC 28635), who in the early 1980s wrote the WCG expose The Truth Shall Make You Free, submitted an affidavit in the current lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiff. His affidavit contains this statement:
I am aware that the Church knew of his [GTA's] reputation of sexual indiscretions but chose to have him as their minister and Chairman regardless. In fact, the Church of God, International condoned his sexual indiscretions by consciously ignoring Armstrong's repeated indiscretions. In fact, I had a conversation with agent for Church of God, International, Benny L. Sharp. Mr. Sharp stated directly to me that "so what if Ted (Garner Ted Armstrong) screwed some girls."
Sharp is GTA's long-time business manager. He admitted to David Robinson years ago that in reality he was an agnostic and that his position with GTA was "just a job." And a profitable job it has been too. Many say that his years with GTA have made him a very wealthy man. Now he has been appointed Chairman of CGI's Ministerial Council! As we are about to go to press, one of our mid-West investigators has just sent us the following report:
Garner Ted Armstrong continues to openly associate himself with the Church of God, International. I have obtained a new booklet authored by GTA. It is titled, "You Can Take It With You!" On the back cover it clearly states "Copyright 1996 The Church of God International, Tyler, Texas." As we were already informed, no functional break ever occurred between Garner Ted and the CGI in re morals charges against him. Mr. Les Pope, a former CGI minister and board member [see AR53, p. 9], told me that some of the CGI ministers did their own field investigations and discovered that many other masseuse establishments in Texas and surrounding states have maintained Garner Ted's name on a list of unwanted clients for a significant number of years.
A confidential source in the Chicago area, a former WCG member who is gay, recently explained to me what is believed to be the origin of Garner Ted's sexual escapades with women and girls. As reported to me, when Garner Ted was a young man, he apparently was living with another young man in a gay relationship. When his father, Herbert, found out about it he yanked GTA out of this gay relationship and commanded him never to participate in such a life-style ever again. So long as Garner Ted remained away from gay involvements, Herbert Armstrong looked the other way in regard to GTA's many heterosexual involvements. This long-established, family-based behavioral programming may account for the constant denial of sexual misconduct by GTA in spite of the extensive documentation of his lifelong problem.
We have also just learned that the CGI has been dropped as a co-defendant by the presiding judge in the Armstrong case. That decision, however, is being appealed. Of course, GTA himself still remains a defendant even though some CGI ministers have led their followers to believe that the entire suit has been dismissed.
A March 1, 1996 "Dear Brethren" letter from GTA indicates that GTA is having increased problems with some in his organization who are starting to distrust him. Some of his ministers, for instance, thought he needed a ten week "Sabbatical Rest" - something GTA adamantly opposed. Nevertheless, that GTA is still running the CGI is obvious from the fact that his letter containing his signature was on CGI letterhead and was mailed out from CGI headquarters. To buttress his position as indispensable to God no matter what his sins, GTA included a letter from Bronson James. Unfortunately, James, the CGI's leading black cleric and now the secretary of CGI's Ministerial Council, has had his own share of scandal in years past. One former CGI member, C.F. Foland (see AR45), has alleged that James for a time kept a white mistress "on the side" while a married CGI minister and that GTA not only knew about it, but took no disciplinary action. Perhaps James is now repaying the favor? Whatever the case, James wrote a note to GTA's readers regarding how the CGI was handling the GTA scandal. One interesting comment:
Mr. Armstrong had previously written you about the most severe trial he has ever had, beginning last summer. Many have since viewed the video-taped message Mr. Armstrong delivered on January 27th, and have seen and felt his deep repentance, and how he asked for forgiveness.
We have not seen this repentance performance and we do not know if GTA was able to duplicate the crying demonstration of televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, whose techniques have been carefully studied by GTA in the last few years. Bronson James went on to describe how a group of selected CGI ministers recently engaged in a session of hand-holding and prayer and how they then laid hands on GTA (but not in the way we would recommend) as a way to cleanse him of his sins and restore him to grace and a re-purified TV ministry. James then quoted extensively from GTA's own notes regarding what GTA said about himself at a board meeting: "FACT: My new television programs are better than ever." One full page of GTA's nauseatingly manipulative self-aggrandizing notes followed. Just as GTA has apparently come up with a new and unique way to preach the gospel, this too is also new and unique. We have never read a fund-raising letter from anyone in which the author quoted a friend who then in turn quoted the author praising himself at such length. But apparently the self-adulation works. Sources in Texas tell us that a recent headquarters sermon by GTA got him a standing ovation from his adoring, and apparently near brain dead, congregation.
The lawsuit against GTA is filed with the 114th District Court of Texas located in Smith County. Those interested in obtaining copies of court documents in the case should contact the court clerk at the Smith County court building. (Copies cost $1.00 per page.) The mailing address is County Clerk's Office, P.O. Box 1018, Tyler, Texas 75710; tel. 903-535-0636. The official name of the suit is Suerae Robertson v. Garner Ted Armstrong and Church of God, International, case number 95-2850-B. We will continue to monitor this case as there are new developments and, undoubtedly, more sordid revelations.
FBI Arrests "Prophet" Lampley
in Alleged Bomb Plot
On Saturday, November 11, the FBI raided the Vernon, Oklahoma home of Ray Willie Lampley and arrested Lampley, 65; his wife Cecilia, 47; and John Dare Baird, 53, on charges of conspiracy to manufacture and possess a bomb. Lampley is a former WCG member and self-proclaimed "Prophet of the Most High" who in recent years toured the U.S. issuing prophecies and not-too-veiled threats against government officials (see AR54, p. 12).
According to reports from AP, Reuters (11/14/95), the Los Angeles Times (11/14/95), and the Enid [OK] News & Eagle (11/13/95) and based on statements made by FBI spokesmen and McIntosh County Sheriff Bobby Gray, Lampley allegedly obtained a bomb manufacturing handbook from a Larry Wayne Crow of New Mexico in October and then proceeded to obtain the materials necessary to construct ammonium nitrate bombs. We have been told that the trio's plans were probably made known to the FBI by leaks from within the burgeoning militia movement. Sheriff Gray told the Enid News that it was his belief that the bomb about to be assembled was intended for a "test run" near the white separatist community of Elohim City. Said Gray, "From what I'm thinking they probably would do some bombing there and try to lay it on the federal government." Although the FBI has stressed that they do not believe Lampley had anything to do with last June's Oklahoma City bombing, the Elohim City group had been discussed in news reports about that tragedy because phone records revealed Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh had been in contact with that group.
According to the complaint, after the "test run," the Lampleys would likely have gone on to other targets. The complaint alleges that among the targets they had discussed were government welfare offices, abortion clinics, gay bars, civil rights groups, the Anti-Defamation League of B'Nai B'rith in Houston, and the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. Lampley had allegedly started assembling the first bomb the day before the Saturday, November 11 arrests. Assistant U.S. Attorney Doug Horn informs us that the arrests may have averted a major act of violence.
Grapevine No Longer Foolproof
There was a time in WCG history when WCG members frequently talked about a church "grapevine" with a certain amount of pride. Back when AR first started, and for a number of years thereafter, we would receive information informally over the phone or by mail and almost invariably if it came from a member of the WCG or its offshoots, it would be proven later to be true. Sadly, in the last few years all that has changed. The once vaunted WCG grapevine all too frequently produces not just unfounded rumors, but frequently misinformation and purposely created disinformation. In turn, all of this makes putting out a publication like AR very expensive. Because it has become necessary to carefully check out even the most innocuous pieces of information, our investigative expenses have skyrocketed. Perhaps the WCG and its offshoots have just gone through too much stress, or maybe it's that the world as a whole is undergoing so much change at such a fast pace that some are getting a bit jumpy, even hysterical. But in the last five to ten years we have really noticed a marked increase in provably false stories being accepted as truth and being heatedly circulated in church circles particularly via the Internet. Some of these stories are so colorful that perhaps we should devote some space to them in future issues and give them the debunking they deserve. But for now let us just give a few examples.
The recent death of Pastor General Tkach produced a flood of wild and hateful stories. First there was the one about how Tkach really died of AIDS. We read this on the Internet and we received numerous letters claiming this story was factual. No one making the claim produced any evidence whatsoever. We looked into the matter as best we could through sources in Pasadena and we talked to some medical experts about it. Folks, the story is just not true. Tkach did not exhibit any of the telltale signs of AIDS, nor is there any medical record indicating that to be the case. Every piece of evidence that we have seen indicates that Tkach died just as reported in the press - from cancer and its complications.
The Tkach funeral also generated some wild ideas. Those who attended, and those reading the WN, noticed that the Tkach funeral had certain military trappings including a U.S. Navy honor guard. Now this apparently perplexed some who thought that the Tkach family was trying to revive the old fabricated stories about how Tkach had been a WW Il hero. Others insisted this indicated that Tkach had been, in reality, a military spy within the WCG. Nonsense! If we could verify something like that, that is exactly the kind of story we would love to print. But folks, again, using all the resources and sources at our disposal, we could find not one shred of evidence for either theory. One former WCG executive told us, "Once AR exposed Mr. Tkach's background around 1989 he knew the jig was up. He knew that a lot of people were reading AR and I don't think he later tried to revive those false stories spread by [evangelist Gerald] Waterhouse."
As for the spy stuff, we have seen no evidence of that and the story seems extremist on its face. According to a Veterans Administration spokesperson we talked to, anyone who has served in the U.S. military is entitled to an honor guard at their interment. The services of a U.S. Navy honor guard are free of charge and can be arranged for through the officiating funeral home. When we talked to one long-time friend of the Tkach family he told us what we believe to be true: "Joe served in the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1946. And he was both proud of that service and proud to be an American. What is so unusual about that?"
Finally, some noticed in the WN (10/3/95) that at Tkach's death and later at his funeral those present included his daughter Tanya, now a member of the competing UCG, and Douglas Horchak, one of the founding ministers and executives of United. This caused some to conclude that United and WCG were planning a merger or that the two churches are secretly in league somehow. Again, we found no evidence of these strange theories. According to sources in the UCG and WCG, the Horchaks' presence was one of purely familial love. As one individual pointed out, "Remember how even as HWA neared death he was so filled with pride and hatred for his son GTA he refused even to talk to him before he died. But when HWA died, Mr. Tkach did not do anything to prevent GTA being at his father's funeral. The Tkachs, for all their problems, have been able to rise above some of the pettiness we have seen so much of over the years."
Tkach Sr. did indeed have his character flaws. You can read about them in many past issues of AR. None of what we revealed in those articles was ever challenged by the Tkach administration. There was never ever a demand for a retraction, let alone any kind of legal threat. The fact is, even though Tkach Sr. had a lot of skeletons in his closet, he also had some strengths, good qualities, and some devoted friends and family. Let's not make him out to be worse than he was. Creating demonizing falsehoods does not serve journalism, let alone Christianity.
Editor: The following article was submitted in response to a letter that appeared in issue AR59. The author, besides having an Ambassador degree, has studied communications at the University of Cambridge and the London School of Music and Dramatic Arts, has a Masters Degree in political science, has done post-graduate studies at Heidelberg, has a Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, and is currently a manager with a major California corporation. He monitors the European political scene and his writings on international relations and political philosophy have appeared in scholarly journals and books.
On Paranoia and Its Influence
by Ernest Zimmermann
In the letter section of AR59, Steven Collins of Sioux Falls depicts a neat and numerically charming prophetic picture of the United Nations, with Germany and Japan as major players in it. While emotionally appealing, such prophetic mathematics usually are devoid of concrete and relevant contextual and historical details. I am taking a moment to add some thoughts and facts that may balance these prophetic calculations, projections, and speculations.
Mr. Collins mentions the reunification of Germany in 1991 and misses the point that Germany was split in three parts after WW II. The eastern-most third including Prussia was not reunited with the western and middle parts of Germany in 1991. Poland absorbed the third German part as spoils of World War II in 1945 while Russia took over part of eastern Poland. The Germans in 1991 had to formally relinquish their claim to that territory which went to Poland. For years after the war, out of that eastern-most region Germans were herded into the largest forced displacement of human population since the westward migration of the Germanic tribes after the dissolution of the Roman Empire in the 4th century A.D.
Germany also did not "unite suddenly and unexpectedly" as Mr. Collins states. Secretary Gorbachev in 1985 realized, along with others in the West, that the Soviet Empire was unable to sustain its satellites in eastern Europe, Africa, and Cuba. In an attempt to shore up his empire, he actually managed to destroy the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. In turn, this weakened the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe to the point of their having to seek an arrangement with the resurgent U.S. and NATO. To compound the problems for the Soviets in the 1980s, the West embarked on a technological revolution by way of the mass distribution of the microcomputer and the military development of SDI. The double threat of a world-wide distribution of electronic information spilling into a society where photocopy machines were under lock and key and a space-based military threat developed by the U.S. further eroded Soviet power, confidence, and influence. Financially bankrupt and militarily rapidly falling behind, the Empire could not survive the 1980s without an accommodation with the West.
By the time Gorbachev agreed to the merger of East and West Germany under NATO, every Communist government in the Eastern European satellite orbit had been overthrown and the Warsaw Pact had collapsed. Gorbachev made no attempt at stopping the East Germans' drive toward self-determination. He voiced no conditions. In contrast, Stalin in 1952 had offered the Germans reunification of all three parts provided the Germans would not join NATO. West German Chancellor Adenauer rejected that offer and in 1991 the Germans surrendered one third of the territory Germany had within its borders in 1937 in exchange for a peace treaty with its WW II enemies. To students closely monitoring political developments in east central Europe, there were indeed real-political reasons for the events of 1991 in Germany; they were hardly "unexpected or sudden."
Militarily, Germany cannot realistically be viewed now or in the near future as a major world power. In the 1991 treaty with their WW II enemies, the Germans renounced all aspects of developing and possessing nuclear weapons. Germany as a "world power" always implies economic strength, not military might. (Similarly, Japan functions as an economic giant and a political and military midget on the world scene.) As a case in point of Germany's military dwarfism, the Germans have been most hesitant to become involved in the Balkans, and only under heavy pressure from its European allies did the Germans contribute a non-combat military unit to the current conflict. The Germans were there 50 years ago and have firm intentions not to entangle themselves in that theater again even as part of NATO.
In economic terms, Germany since the joining of the two parts in 1991 has acquired a much greater public debt in percentage of GNP. The German financial markets now absorb a larger amount of domestic savings that used to be available for borrowing by the U.S. government and others. The rapid growth of public debt is also a result of the Germans' underestimating the cost of the joining of the two parts, now projected to reach a trillion Deutsche marks. The long-term consequences of that large debt have not yet been fully felt in the international monetary market.
Mr. Collins also paints with the "internationalist" brush with ease but again scant consideration is given to political reality. It seems that interdependence is confused with internationalism. In 1991, the bi-polar system of the Cold War was replaced with a multi-polar, interdependent one. Mr. Collins shares in the common mistake of overestimating the internationalization of given societies and nation-states. Marx in the last century and Lenin at the beginning of the current century failed to recognize that nationalism is far more resilient than internationalism. Hitler, Mao, and Stalin in correcting that mistake were successful in molding nationalist movements that climaxed in dictatorial powers and war. In a more recent example, the U.S. made a similar mistake in Vietnam by underestimating North Vietnamese national resolve as a driving force. A nebulous concept of "international anti-Communism" could not compete as a key motivating idea for the South Vietnamese to fight their nationals to the North. The North Vietnamese operated from a nationalistic premise and perceived the U.S. as the latest iteration of a thousand year history of invaders. Robert McNamara with his statistical projections devoid of historical and political reality as much as Lyndon Johnson with his perception of "yellow dwarfs with pocket knives" had no concept of the strength of nationalism as a politically motivating, and essentially spiritual, force.
Internationalism as applied by Mr. Collins is refuted by the political reality in Germany. Germany today faces a considerable problem in terms of xenophobia as that country last year witnessed a number of xenophobic riots. Multiculturalism may be in vogue with the intelligentsia and ruling elite. The populace at large, on the other hand, perceives these trends differently. The German xenophobia of today is perhaps the outward manifestation of the frustration over the unadjudicated and uncompensated wrongs endured by millions of displaced and expelled Germans in the far eastern part of Germany after WW II. For many of today's Germans it does not make political, social, and economic sense to accept migratory nationals from the very countries that not long ago expelled Germans forcefully from areas that had belonged to Germany for hundreds of years.
The U.N.-led internationalism projected by Mr. Collins does not bear out in the political context of the real U.N. and its current operations. The U.N. has turned 50 this year and now has a major mid-life crisis. For one thing, the organization is near bankruptcy since the U.S. and other members are delinquent in paying their dues. About three dozen U.N. members have even defaulted on their payments to their landlords in New York. The U.N.'s peace-keeping missions worldwide continue to drain its coffers and the IMF controlled by the U.S. is in no mood to act as the U.N.'s bank. It should be difficult for the U.N. to attract venture capital considering that entrepreneurs invest in institutions and companies in the firm expectation of making profits, and not for humanitarian reasons or philanthropic dreams.
Concerning the addition of permanent members to the U.N. Security Council, a U.N. proposal for a possible expansion includes not only Japan and Germany, but also Brazil, India, possibly Argentina, and others. This would bring the number to more than seven, voiding the implied significance of "seven heads" in Mr. Collins' prophetic number scheme. Adding Germany and Japan to the Security Council would further complicate an already vexing U.N. problem. Articles 51 and 107 grant the Charter members certain bellicose rights against "enemy" states - Germany and Japan of WW II. With the peace treaty of 1991 between Germany and its WW II enemies, this knotty problem may not have been alleviated. Changing these charter articles adopted in 1945 requires a vote by the U.N. General Assembly. However, the Assembly is controlled by Third World countries and their allies and such a vote could yield an unpredictable outcome possibly contrary to the interests of the Charter members. Most telling, Japan is quite reluctant, if not unwilling, to become a member of the Security Council. This position would require that Japan greatly increase its military expenditures, currently held artificially low because of the U.S., by treaty, shouldering much of the burden of Japan's defense. Am increase of Japan's military might would at once create nervousness among Japan's neighbors who have not yet forgotten Japan's role in WW II.
GATT probably will not complement "the UN's globalist mission" as Mr. Collins states. The GATT treaty is composed of very concrete, ironclad, and hard-nosed national trade interests haggled over by all participants. More than any other treaty, GATT currently reflects the commercial interdependence of nations in the 1990s. Again, this interdependence seems to be mistaken for "internationalism." In addition, economic "internationalism" does not represent the implied economic danger to the U.S. so often accepted as fact within "prophetic" analyses. The myth of the U.S. becoming an economic "also-ran" is born out in alarmist headlines, not in economic reality. The U.S. is not being taken over by the "internationalist" economy and may not face an economic meltdown and fade into the international economic field for these reasons. While foreign investment in the U.S. has risen dramatically, foreigners owned only about 6% of U.S. stock and about 14% of U.S. corporate bonds in 1993. In 1994 and 1995 the Japanese began a sell-off and liquidation of real estate and other holdings in the U.S. The U.S. trade gap between 1980 and 1994 was virtually the same, with our trade equaling about 20% of our production, while in Germany, for example, their trade was about 40% of their production. While Americans invest overseas, 95% of all stocks and 97% of all bonds owned by Americans are domestic stocks and bonds as of the end of 1993. Actually, the size of the U.S. economy has a much greater effect on the "internationalist" economy than the other way around.
The key to the American economy is an increase in the efficiency of economic production, which has increased exceptionally over the last five years, and it currently means that nearly 90% of what Americans consume is produced domestically. Foreign trade and investment have helped U.S. companies to do better: In 1993 the U.S. exported 77% of its commercial aircraft and 37% of its electronic gears while the U.S. imported 55% of its tableware and 77% of its cameras. Trade does not set U.S. wage rates because trade is not large enough as measured against the entire economy. Trade primarily affects manufacturing which is about one sixth of the U.S. economy.
Moreover, domestic competition plays a greater role in the U.S. economy than does foreign competition. There seems a greater significance attached to Toyota running in competition with Ford than if Sears were to absorb J.C. Penney or the other way around, although the latter scenario would have a much greater impact on the economy in terms of layoffs. In related fashion, only about 7% of production by American companies is outsourced to overseas producers. The implied "danger" in international economic agreements such as GATT may be their success. A Lehman Brothers economist states that currently 46 of 49 major economies are growing. The expansion of so many countries is without precedent in economic history. Within this context, a perceived threat to the U.S., as a result of "internationalist" economic activities such as GATT, seems to exist only in some people's heads.
Another key feature of prophetic and conspiracy theories is the failure to recognize national interest as the governing principle of international politics and economics. Specifically, Mr. Collins alleges that "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." This is said without a shred of supporting evidence. Which nation is handing over spy satellites? The French have made available non-military reconnaissance photos to news agencies, for hard cash. U.S. low-end reconnaissance photographs may soon be commercially available to news agencies as well. However, it is inconceivable that the U.S. military establishment would yield top-level information-gathering capabilities via spy satellite and other means to the U.N. when the same establishment goes to extraordinary lengths to protect and conceal its methods and results from its own citizens. Would Mr. Collins cite a single example of a nation, anywhere on this planet, voting to fork over tax money or relinquish national sovereignty over its armed forces to the U.N.? Is it not because of the nations' refusal to yield sovereignty, the dwindling national contributions, and the U.N.'s inability to raise funds through national money markets that the agency is broke? Where is this monolithic U.N. attempting to control nations? The U.N. cannot exist without financial and political support from national governments. At this time it still is in the national interest of the members of the U.N. to keep the organization alive. It is quite doubtful that nation-states would voluntarily relinquish sovereignty and assign it to a body that was created by the victors of WW II. After all, Stalin and Roosevelt traded: dominance over Eastern Europe for the establishment of the U.N. on American shores.
Mr. Collins' ideas, like those of televangelist Pat Robertson and many other fundamentalists, share in the common shortcomings of broad prophetic pronouncements, futuristic "visions," and conspiracy theories of religion, politics, philosophy, and history. Therein lies a peculiar feature that paranoid and fear-driven groups and individuals have in common. Researchers have shown that such individuals and groups motivated by fear and paranoia often duplicate and mimic the very characteristics they fear. For example, the John Birch Society, which perceived a Communist behind every bush, organized itself into cells, a structure attributed to Lenin who developed the concept for Communist movements in the 20th century. The hatred of the KKK encompassed not only blacks and Jews, but also Catholics. Yet the Klan dressed in vestments resembling priestly Catholic robes, followed a popish Grand Dragon, persecuted others in the name of Christ, and shunned those outside the group. In similar fashion, current militias perceive their main enemy in federal authority. However, the same militias take their pronounced organizational form from that hated symbol of federal authority - the army.
Conspiratorial depictions of internationalism, globalism, and presumed U.N.-directed takeover of nations, with nations abolishing sovereignty, travel along the same path. These speculations are usually derived from a profound fear of national and international economic and political anarchy. Fear of political anarchy on such a grand scale leads those groups and individuals to take refuge in a parallel form of personal and collective intellectual anarchy. Paranoid and intellectually adrift, they spawn sweeping and bombastic conjectures and projections, wild speculations, and sinister conspiracies. Such concoctions are attractively packaged sales items displayed in the pseudo-religious market. Such "godly prophecies" of "certain'' coming events are appealing, comforting, and soothing to the consumer, and often quite profitable to the manufacturer.
In summary, the primary motivating force behind such prophetic schemes and events seems to be fear. Such "prophecy" falls under the category of pious deception. It is not knowledge that inspires these godly schemes because they consistently fail over one critical factor - the devil sits in the details.
Your latest on GTA [in AR60] is a lot of bull!
San Pablo, California
As I write this letter, I have become very disturbed about the way the ministry conducts itself and ministers to the church. My respect for the ministry has become so low that not even an ant could crawl under it.
Church of God in South Africa
P.O. Box 3421, Capetown, 8000
Rep. of South Africa
Editor: We are sorry we do not have space to run all of Mr. Daniels' long letter which documents an incredible amount of abuse heaped upon him during his previous associations with WCG, CGE, and CGI.
First, let me thank you for the service you provide. I've been a member of the Church since 1975, CGI since 1982. Some of the members are the most wonderful Christians you could ever meet. But I'm coming to see Ted Armstrong and his father before him as truly evil men. If there was ever a man who needed to be brought to his knees - in fact to grovel on his face in the dirt - it is Garner Ted Armstrong. The hurt he has caused to a lot of fine, sincere people is unforgivable!
-Mrs. Okemah Epperson
Editor: I completely agree with you that the WCG, CGI, and other groups have within them some very fine people who are very sincere and loving. But I personally think we all need to have more than just sincerity and love. We also need to grow in wisdom. While I do not doubt that an all-loving God is capable of forgiving any sin, no matter how horrible, Paul made it abundantly clear that some men, because of their personal habits, emotional makeup, and personal history, should simply not be serving in the ministry (I Tim. 3). That is a lesson many in CGI and other groups have apparently not yet learned We wish them well in their ongoing learning experience.
My brother-in-law, who is an elder in the WCG, went with us to our Evangelical Free Church last week and is now asking for copies of our pastor's sermons. Praise God!
Thank God this local elder escaped the Worldwide Church over 20 years ago.
Jennings Real Estate, Greenbrier, Arkansas
For 33 years I have been searching for the Philadelphian Church and have not found it as yet. I did not give up and will continue to search....
Editor: Please drop us a note if you have any luck.
After more than two decades with the WCG, the changes of the last few years left me so depressed and disoriented I started seeing a psychologist for therapy. In one session I showed him a copy of your publication given to me by a concerned friend. My therapist said that maybe I should start to really confront the things that were bothering me. My sessions were costing me $100 per hour already so I didn't think it was too much to send in $200 for a complete set of ARs. It took me three months to read through all of them from AR1 and the Gerringer letter to AR60. At the end of the three months it turned out that I really didn't need much therapy anymore. I now only see my therapist once a month or so. But confronting the issues head on and doing my own studies proved to be the biggest help. I think I am beginning to understand what Paul meant in Phil. 2:12 where he wrote, "Work out your own salvation...." Thank you for all the help you have provided.
Editor: Our limited space usually prevents us from doing the kind of obituaries we wish we could. Often, we find out about someone's passing long after they are gone. For instance, a few months ago we learned that former WCG minister Roger Malone died March 20, 1995 of cancer. He was pastor of a Community Church in Vera, Oklahoma at the time of his death and is survived by his wife who now lives in Ramona, Oklahoma. He had many friends in both the WCG and his last congregation.
The following obituaries are most difficult for me to write for obvious reasons, and the personal comments are entirely my own.
David R. Robinson 1922-1995
It is with much sadness that I must report that our good friend David R. Robinson passed away on November 29. As many long-time readers know, David was a former WCG minister who went on to become an author whose writings and informal ministry had a considerable impact on many people who had been associated with the WCG and Armstrongism. Before making a few personal comments, let me quote a succinct obituary that appeared in the Dec. 1 edition of the Tulsa World:
David Robinson, Tulsa Author Dies
Author, businessman and former minister David Rex Robinson died Wednesday. He was 73. Services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Moore Funeral Home Southlawn Chapel [Ronald Dart officiated and interment was at Rose Hill Cemetery in Tyler, Texas - ed.].
Born in Frederick, Robinson became a pilot in the Army Air Corps at the beginning of World War II and flew DC-3 transport planes in Europe. He and his wife, whom he met in Scotland, came to Tulsa after the war ended.
He was the author of two books. The first, Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web, is a book that is critical of the Worldwide Church of God for which he was a minister. The book was a landmark case of First Amendment rights in Tulsa in 1980, and the lawsuit against its publication was dropped one year later.
The second book is titled A Little Corner of Texas and is a chronicle of life in Live Oak County and surrounding areas of south Texas [where David lived during the prewar years - ed.].
He is survived by his wife, Margaret Gray Robinson; two daughters, Felicity Reedy of Tyler, Texas, and Mary Ann Perrin of Tulsa; three sons, John Stephen Robinson of Berne, Ind., Mark Edward Robinson of Plano, Texas, and Robert Gray Robinson of Bullard, Texas; a brother, Douglas Robinson of Springfield, Va.; a sister, Mabel Hurley of Payson, Ariz.; nine grandchildren; and 2 great grandchildren.
In the 1969-70 school year David Robinson, then respected church elder, spent a sabbatical year taking course at Ambassador College in Pasadena. During that school year I was at the same AC campus in my senior year. (My three previous AC years were spent at the old British campus. Oddly I cannot recall ever having met him during that year in Pasadena.) After their sojourn in Pasadena, the Robinsons were sent to Florida where David was a field minister. About a year later the Robinsons were transferred to Big Sandy where among his many church duties David taught classes in history and other subjects. Undoubtedly because of his knowledge of both the Bible and history and because of his flying skills he was also a frequent guest speaker at many WCG churches throughout Texas and much of the south central United States.
In mid-1979 I received from one of our readers a photocopy of a typed manuscript by a David Robinson. (I must confess that even then I did not know who he was.) It was an early draft of a few chapters from the book that was to become The Tangled Web. When I finally got around to reading those few chapters, I was utterly shocked. Of course, by 1979 all of us with AR already knew that HWA was a very flawed human being. However, at that juncture we had no idea of the extent of his hypocrisy and personal sins. Robinson, who had known HWA for decades, in the late 1970s became privy to much of HWA's secret life. Those sad revelations left him indignant at what he correctly saw as a totally intolerable level of corruption at the highest level of the WCG. Robinson was obviously a man that had the guts to tell it like it really was and he was prepared to let the chips fall where they may.
In those days, having been so often ignored, rebuffed, and insulted by both current and former WCG ministers, I did not often try to contact them for information or interviews. Nevertheless, after much deliberation, I finally obtained Mr. Robinson's phone number and on October 23 of that year I called him. Much to my surprise, he was very much the cordial gentleman. He said he had read AR and found it both enlightening and helpful. He was frank about his beliefs about the Law, the sabbath, about race, British Israelism, and everything else. He essentially believed most of the things that HWA had taught for years. But he was also quite blunt about the fact that he could not in good conscience support in any way a church whose leaders were condoning the most horrendous of sins among themselves and yet were so brutal to the little ones who were faithfully sending in their tithes and sacrificing for "The Work." It was during that phone conversation that David first told me about HWA's history of incest with his younger daughter and how he had come to learn of it.
Over the next few months many other phone conversations followed and a genuine friendship developed. By early 1980 Robinson, having been prodded by friends to write it, had finished most of his book. But in mid-March he called me and said he really felt he needed an editor or two to help polish up his writing. I was extremely flattered when he asked if one of my AR associates and I would be willing to read through his entire manuscript and offer suggestions as to how it might be improved. It was a pleasure to work with David. He was a natural writer who was also uncompromising on matters of truth and accuracy. Yet he was always willing to listen to criticism and was remarkably open minded regarding matters of wording, style, grammar, etc.
Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web was printed and ready for shipment in June, 1980 when Robinson was hit by a lawsuit from two WCG employees who were surrogates for HWA, Rader, and company. Before long, however, the judge dropped the temporary restraining order preventing distribution and the book was finally released at the end of July. Many of the details of that legal battle were reported in ARs 12 and 13 so I won't retell that story here. However, a few points should be made.
First, I have always found it more than a little irritating when people have asked me, "Is the incest story really true, or did Robinson just make that up?" The question is most irritating because a little bit of thinking would provide the answer. When WCG through its surrogates sued Robinson, they never sued under a libel theory. That is, they never said that the book was a lie. They sued under an invasion of privacy theory! In other words, they were claiming that Robinson had revealed church hierarchy secrets! Then in AR27 I showed how HWA had admitted privately that the incest allegations were true. I learned this directly from HWA's wife Ramona with whom I was in regular contact during the time she and HWA were divorcing. The fact is Robinson was one of the most honest human beings I have ever known. Nonetheless, even though he had no doubts as to the accuracy of the incest data, he thought the truth of the matter was so unseemly he actually vacillated a bit about publishing it. I have often wondered if my arguments to him that he had a duty to tell the whole of it may have been what tipped the scales in favor of publication. Whatever the case, the appearance of The Tangled Web was an important event in WCG history.
One other point should be made about the book. Few people realize what tremendous sacrifices Robinson and his devoted wife made in coming out with that book. They not only found that many long-time friends were no longer friends, the legal bills they incurred were very, very large - about $86,000, in fact. Those bills literally ate up almost every penny that David made from the sale of his book. Many also do not realize the price the Robinsons paid for standing up to HWA in the late seventies. When David confronted HWA, he was not just disfellowshipped, he left his WCG position with only two weeks of accrued vacation pay. At age 57, David found himself with few savings, no pension, no accrued social security, no severance pay, nothing. HWA even tried to take Robinson's only car from him. To survive, Mrs. Robinson took odd jobs and David eventually got a position managing commercial real estate. To make ends meet he even painted houses. And yet, in all the years I knew him, I never heard David complain about that or say that he regretted writing the book.
David had so many fine qualities and we had so many memorable conversations over the years it would take a book to recount all of them. I recall how on one visit to Pasadena in the early 80s he asked me along on an afternoon tour of Huntington Museum. He had a great love of American and British paintings, and particularly portraits of our founding fathers and the many great men of American and British history. As we walked through the galleries, David, who would often humbly and humorously refer to himself as "just an old country boy," regaled me with colorful stories from a lifetime of reading biographies and histories. It was a very educational and entertaining experience.
David also had a remarkable capacity for observing and understanding human traits. He could talk for hours about the psychological makeup of hundreds of people he had known in Worldwide, and the insights he provided me over the last 16 years were not just enlightening, they were of tremendous value in putting out the Report.
But David had one trait that deserves special mention. Ever since our first conversation in 1979, both David and I knew that although there were many things we held in common (our dislike of hypocritical religious tyrants and our mutual love of history, for instance) we were from very different generations, very different backgrounds, we were both independent types who held independent views, and we did not agree on many doctrinal and philosophical points. And yet, somehow we could always have civilized, warm, and stimulating talks. I think that was mainly due to one quality David had which so many today have lost. He never feared people who were different than himself and he could disagree without being disagreeable. He really was a gentleman.
This past summer David learned that he had cancer of the esophagus and that he did not have many months to live. On the evening of October 17, he phoned me. He sounded extremely weak and somewhat emotional, but he wanted to talk at some length. He told me how he had been preparing for the inevitable and had signed over the copyright to The Tangled Web to his son John, the publisher of In Transition. With much effort he had also written a paper about the history of the book and the lawsuit that followed. He hoped that after he was gone his son would reprint the book and distribute it along with the paper. He told me he had just finished the paper that very day and that now he did not plan to get any more hospital treatments, but just planned on dying at home. As he became too tired to continue talking and as we said goodbye I was very saddened by the fact that I would soon be losing a very dear friend. A few days later I unexpectedly had one more call from David. It was very short. He had read AR60 and wanted a few details about the latest GTA scandal. Very weak then and obviously saddened by what he had read and by what I told him, he could only say he was very sorry for GTA, very sorry that Ted could not overcome his problems. But, he said, he was not surprised it had come to this. "No," he said, "it's not surprising when you consider the kind of father he had."
That was the last time I was ever able to talk to David. But it was not his last message. On the evening of November 29, I got a call from David's loving wife. She sounded subdued, but said she was okay, "Just all cried out." David, she explained, had died quietly that morning without too much pain. She then said that before he died he had asked her to relay a message to me after he passed on. He wanted me to know that he felt it had been a great privilege to have been associated with the Report all these years. As I hung up the phone and with a few tears in my eyes, I thought, "No, we at AR, all our readers, and all those in Worldwide, whether they knew it or not, were the ones who were privileged to have had such a great friend."
Andrew Trechak Sr. 1922-1995
As AR editor, I don't often use these pages to discuss personal matters. Nevertheless, as difficult as it is for me to write about, I want to mention the recent passing of my father, Andrew Trechak Sr. He was 73. In mid-November, as David Robinson battled cancer and just two weeks before he passed away, my mother called me from New Jersey and told me that my own dad had had a stroke, paralyzing the right side of his body. At that time we held out hope that he could recover and with therapy return to an almost normal life. Tragically, during the month that followed in the hospital he developed single pneumonia, then double pneumonia, and had a second stroke. After much agony he died on December 14.
My father did not have an easy life. He was the son of immigrants and an immigrant himself who came to the U.S. at the age of seven in 1929 at the start of the Great Depression. For many years his father was a coal miner in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. During those hard times the family was constantly on the move and my dad was never settled in one place long enough to get the education he needed. He also had health problems most of his life. As a WW II veteran who left the service quite weakened, a few years after the war he lost a kidney to TB resulting from a service-related injury. He then suffered a lifetime with tinnitus due to improper treatment he received in a VA hospital where he battled for his life for six months in 1948. Yet in spite of all his problems, Dad carried on. He was always a hard worker, quite often in less than esirable jobs, was a faithful husband, raised two sons, never smoked or drank, and was one of the most religious individuals I have ever known. His great love, however, was always music and I think the "In Memoriam" published on the first page of the December issue of Quarter Note, an American Musicians Union publication would have pleased him:
We are very sorry to report the death of Andrew Trechak Sr. from Garfield, New Jersey. Andy was an accordion player and orchestra leader. Some of our members will remember him as a member who participated in AMU membership meetings, often expressing worthwhile comments to the discussion. Others will remember him as the orchestra leader for our last AMU Christmas Party, about ten years ago. Andy played dance music with a Guy Lombardo style, and was proficient in Polish, German, and Hungarian music.
Andy was an honorary member of AMU, and had joined us in 1981. We feel deep sympathy for his family and friends. He was a fine musician and gentleman. Andy was also an accordion teacher, and a member of the American Accordion Association.
My father was never a member of the WCG. Until his death he remained a loyal member of the Russian Orthodox Catholic Church. But throughout his life he was fascinated by various evangelists. Around 1962 the radio evangelists that he admired the most were HWA and even more so GTA, whom he came to view as the world's greatest preacher. So often did he praise the Armstrongs that I decided to subscribe to the Plain Truth and to order all available Armstrong publications just to prove to my dad that he was mistaken as to their prophetic claims. Well, my dad never studied the Armstrong literature, but I did and I got hooked on the Armstrong message. By 1966 I was a music student at the Juilliard School in New York City, but by then I had also become so indoctrinated with the Armstrongs' ideas I foolishly decided I just had to go to Ambassador. It was a decision that shocked and angered my father who had always hoped that I would have a career in music.
In the decades that followed I sensed that my father came to regret even more that he had played a part in my having gotten on a life course so heavily influenced by the Armstrongs. Perhaps that is the reason why, although he was never a WCG member or co-worker himself, he was still a great supporter of AR. In fact, it was only after he died that I realized that for quite a number of years he was actually our biggest financial contributor. Even in retirement and while on a fixed income, there was never an AR issue that went out that did not result in a very generous contribution from my dad. That financial help played a major part in our publication's survival and no doubt was responsible for many hundreds, if not thousands, of people getting the help they needed to escape from Armstrongism. I can't help but feel sad that I never took the time to thank my dad on behalf of all our readers for the help he provided all of us, and, I'm sure, without ever realizing how much good he was doing.
Besides myself, my dad is survived by my mother Helen; my brother Andrew Jr., a concert pianist who teaches at Wichita State University; my brother's wife Anne and their three children; my dad's sister Mary and her husband George, who along with their grown children Eileen and George Jr. and their families were all very dear to my father; and many other relatives and admirers both in the U.S. and in Europe. My thanks to all my AR friends, who having learned of my grief in this family matter, were so kind as to send cards and notes of encouragement. Those notes and your prayers were very much appreciated.
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My apologies to all of you for the long delay between issues. But a host of family, financial, and health problems simply made it impossible for me to work on AR for a few months. The amount of information that has accumulated in that time has been very large and, unfortunately, much of what needs to be reported will not fit into our limited space. What I have done in this issue is to report on the stories I felt were the most timely and urgent. Hopefully, if I can raise the necessary funds in the next few weeks, I may be able to put the rest of the accumulated data in the next issue and get it into the press fairly soon. Again, my thanks to all of you for your patience and support.
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