September 1997 (AR66)
Tkach Creates New Center
To Remember Ambassador
After a life of 50 years, on May 19 Ambassador University had its final commencement. The proceedings, viewed by many alumni as akin to a funeral, were held at Big Sandy, Texas, at the last remaining campus of what was once a thriving three campus system. Giving the commencement address was Joseph Tkach Jr., viewed by many alumni as the key instigator of the events that led to Ambassador's demise. The Worldwide News (WN), the official newspaper of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), reported in its June issue, "If the university is not sold as a going institution, it will be closed Aug. 31 and the physical plant sold." Up for grabs will be not only the university's 350-acre campus, but the surrounding 1,900 acres which are also owned by the WCG. The Dallas, Texas real estate firm of Grubb & Ellis will be handling the sale. They are the same folks who are trying to sell off the WCG's 70 acres of Pasadena, California real estate.
To replace Ambassador University, Tkach Junior has now established something called the Ambassador Center at Azusa Pacific University (APU), a self-described nondenominational Christian university located about seventeen miles east of Pasadena, California. The new center will be headed by Dr. Russell K. Duke, Ambassador's last president. From the official WCG version of the story, APU will pick up some of the students left stranded by Ambassador's closing, will house Ambassador's old records, and will "provide the sense of cultural heritage necessary to provide vitality for the WCG." Duke says he will be teaching an APU class on the doctrines of the WCG.
The WCG announcement about the creation of the Ambassador Center brought heated comments from many Ambassador alumni. Typical were those of one angry alumnus who told us:
Tkach has finally revealed himself to be the duplicitous bastard that he really is. The church sent Michael Feazell and him to Azusa Pacific to take classes. No one figured they'd get brainwashed there and that they would be used by the evangelicals to undermine everything that Mr. Herbert Armstrong ever taught. All this happened with the assistance of those they met through APU. And it all happened while Tkach lied to us that it was not happening just as some, like you guys at AR, were telling us it was happening.
Now this lying SOB has the nerve to tell us he is starting the Center as a way to preserve Ambassador's heritage. Hell, if he wanted to do that he should not have participated in the destruction of Ambassador in the first place. Just who do Russell Duke and Tkach think they are fooling? That APU class Duke is going to teach will be nothing more than an attack on everything Mr. Armstrong believed and taught. But what galls me even more is that they are going to be using Worldwide tithe money to give themselves hefty salaries while they attack everything those tithes and offerings were intended to support.
Frankly, there is no way that I would ever get interested in the kind of Christianity that they push at APU. Here is an institution that has undermined the dedicated work of thousands who believed that Mr. Armstrong was doing the very Work of God. APU has helped Tkach destroy a dream. Those evangelicals over there have promoted a fraud in the name of religion. And now they are going to promote this Center - and I'd bet they are getting paid well to do it - that will hurt thousands more. It is all a great tragedy, a great, great tragedy.
Feazell Fading Away?
When church founder Herbert W. Armstrong was at its helm, the Worldwide Church of God could always count on an almost regular stream of ministerial defections or changes of personnel made at the whim of its top leader. While much has changed under the leadership of the late Joseph Tkach Senior and now Joseph Tkach Junior, the musical chairs habit has not been broken and remains a central part of WCG culture. In the WCG's long slide away from the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong, no individual has had more influence upon the Tkachs than J. Michael Feazell. Having grown up in the Tkach household and having been a lifelong friend and confidant of Joseph Tkach Jr., many assumed that he would continue to be a major power in the new WCG. But now, insiders tell us, Feazell's influence is waning.
In the April WN, Feazell announced that "the time has come to eliminate the office of director of Church Administration, a post I have held since September 1995." The responsibilities of that office were taken up by pastors Dan Rogers and Randy Dick. Feazell supposedly remained on as assistant to the president. At that juncture not much more was said officially. Now, however, we have learned that Feazell's power within the WCG hierarchy is almost zero. Evangelist Greg Albrecht has become the WCG's number two man and often its most visible spokesman. The Feazell family has been moved out of the Orange Grove home they occupied next door to the Pastor General's. Feazell's wife Vicki has not been seen at WCG services for some time. And "the Fez," himself, has told friends that he would prefer to be pastoring a church in another denomination, perhaps the famous Lake Avenue Congregational Church in Pasadena where he often attends.
A Visit With Pastor General Tkach
When WCG Pastor General Joseph Tkach Jr. appears in public or in photographs in the church's publications, there is usually a smile on his face. Insiders tell us, however, that the last few years of church infighting and defections have taken a heavy toll on him. A few months ago, one of Tkach's old friends, a former member who has stayed on good terms with certain headquarters personnel, was invited to Pasadena by accountant Jack Kessler, a friend and counselor of Tkach. The old friend said, "Jack Kessler invited me out for some discussion with him and Joe. It was a fairly nonspecific invitation and I didn't know until I got there what it was about.... I had no expectations, I didn't know why I was there." Whatever the real reason for the invitation, the old friend came and saw, and afterward wrote a set of letters to other ex-Worldwiders about his trip to Pasadena.
Whether or not it was his intent that those letters be made public, by posting them on the Internet they have received a fairly wide distribution. What he had to say is quite revealing about Pastor General Tkach and about the state of affairs at WCG headquarters. Here are some of the comments that we found the most revealing:
© 1997 Ambassador Report. John Trechak, Editor & Publisher. Published as a Christian service almost quarterly - as finances allow.
Opinions expressed in by-lined articles are not necessarily those of the publisher. References to books, ministers, and organizations do not constitute endorsements.
Jack [Kessler] is an interesting guy and very, very funny. He's very much a gentleman and a fine host. He made me feel welcome in a very awkward and odd situation. Jack spent a lot bringing me to Los Angeles, and he paid for it with his own money. The WCG didn't buy the trip. When I got to the Los Angeles airport, I walked off the plane and saw this balding gentleman in a sports coat. I wasn't sure it was Jack and he was holding this manila envelope. A couple approached him and he slid a sign out and they just shook their heads in confusion when he gave them a peek at it. I walked up to him, wondering if it was Jack, and he pulled this sign out, it read: U SHAKKA ZULU? That was my Internet moniker during the April 1st joke. I nearly split a gut laughing. For those of you curious to what Jack looks like, he's kind of a cross between "Frasier" and "Winchester" on M.A.S.H.
Jack took me to Redondo Beach. I hadn't been there since 1988 when I worked for Continental Airlines. He bought me dinner at a very nice little restaurant. I had my first taste of crab cakes and they weren't too bad. Funny how I still feel guilty eating things like that. Cult habits die hard I guess. Afterwards we drove to Century City and he took me on a tour of the law office he runs. They have extensive computing facilities, almost better than what we have where I work. Definitely first class installation. From his offices you have a wonderful view of Los Angeles, the Pacific Ocean, and Beverly Hills. We spent an hour or so there, then drove to Pasadena. Joe wasn't home yet (he was speaking at a fund raiser for a troubled kids ministry), so we walked the campus several times. He showed me where Rader lived, and Feazell, and Duke, etc. We ended up at Barney's Pub, ordered a pitcher of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and some chicken wings and killed some time. Then we walked back to Joe's and he was home.... Joe lives in Ellis LaRavia's old house on Orange Grove. It's a barn-shaped building, nice, comfortable, but not ostentatious. It looks like, and is, a family home. Joe broke out three bottles of his home brew Scottish Ale, and it was delightful-tasting beer, with a slightly fruity taste of Lambic beer, although it was not Lambic. Then he showed me this collection of hot sauces from around the world. These sauces come with really wild names: "Sudden Death," "After Death,""Inner Beauty," "Slap Me on the Ass and Call Me Sally," and hundreds more. I recognized none of these brands except for a few Jamaican varieties. Having been raised on Mexican food in Arizona, I didn't want my manhood challenged on account of a chile pepper. I decided to give these things a go. Jack and Joe showed me how to eat this stuff and man oh man, I nearly cried this stuff was so hot. This stuff could blast a hole in the worst head cold. It probably could etch steel or refine uranium too.
Saturday morning I got up before everyone else, went for a walk to "the Ranch" (now Hughes Market) as I forgot to bring some shaving cream and shampoo. And as I had blisters from my new shoes and from all the walking that Jack and I had done, I got some antibiotic cream to keep my feet from getting blood poisoning. I was walking back to his house when Joe caught me and asked me if I'd eat breakfast with him. We ate at a Jewish delicatessen in Pasadena. Joe is on a high fiber diet. He's lost about 25 pounds on this diet so he eats only oatmeal for breakfast. I had eggs and potato pancakes.
As it did throughout the weekend, the conversation turned several times to why I wasn't attending. When I started to explain why, Joe would tell me what a great job other denominations thought the WCG was doing. This was exasperating so I just dropped the subject. I told him, "You aren't ready to hear it yet." Joe told me several times, "We need people like you who are fighters." I told Joe, "But I don't need the WCG anymore nor want the pain anymore of watching what this church does." He insisted that if I knew the true story (and I can't think of anyone who has a bigger picture of the last five years than I have) that I would want to return.
I went to the WCG services where I got all kinds of strange looks. From those that know me and my current non-WCG member status, to those like Bernie Schnippert and Ralph Helge who couldn't figure out who this guy with Kessler and Tkach was....
One thing that became quite evident while staying with Joe is the pressure he has been under from the UCG, PCG, and GCG people. Joe said a week doesn't go by where he doesn't get a call, letter, or someone walking up to him telling him that they wish he was dead, or praying that he soon would be. He has also received a good number of direct death threats. He said his house has had six attempted break-ins. Fortunately he has quite a good alarm system.
Joe seems to be in a siege mindset and seems to find great comfort and support from denominational leaders Hank Hanegraaff and others. I think this makes it highly unlikely we will ever see any decentralization in the WCG, as Joe will of course not want to see any assets go to any splits, now or future. Plus those that are new covenant minded have put similar pressures on Joe. That doesn't make him too inclined to listen to them either, although I think the latter are less concerned with assets than with some local freedom.
The IRS has audited him every year of the past five years....
One of the amusing stories he related was the influx of charismatics on campus. He said one week he had a charismatic woman come up to him telling him how she could see the "glow of God around him." The next week he had a charismatic man telling him he was in the "grip of Satan." Even the charismatics can't agree. He also related a story of these people (from Four Square, I think) who go on those prayer walks around the campus and anoint the sidewalks with olive oil. It got so bad they were leaving huge oil stains on all the sidewalks. Joe said, "We finally told them we don't mind you praying, just don't vandalize the property in the process." I suggested he pass out cans of PAM Aerosol Olive Oil spray.
Joe told me he expects to sell the property soon [this was back in the spring - ed.]. He said he expects to lease a property somewhere in California for three years, before deciding to purchase a final property somewhere. He also said that one of the reasons for a hierarchy [church government] versus going to a congregational approach is the way U.S. law treats the two church structures. If a congregational church splits up, the assets are divided among the splits, as it is deemed to be democratic on a local scale. In a hierarchical structure the assets stay with the hierarchy.
One of the more surprisingly controversial moments during my stay at Joe's was [our] conversations with Joe about women preachers. Both Jack [Kessler] and I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with women preachers. God is not a respecter of persons based on race or gender. This got an interesting response from Joe who went into an exhaustive discourse about the "orthodoxy and orthopraxy of the historic Christian faith." I had to ask him what "orthopraxy" meant. Basically, while orthodoxy has to do with a standard of doctrine, orthopraxy has to do with a standard of practice. Walking the acceptable path in the NAE [National Association of Evangelicals] seems to be the guiding rule here. The long and short of it was that since most Christian churches don't ordain women, the WCG won't either. He said it wasn't an "unpardonable sin," but I didn't think to ask him if he thought it was a pardonable sin to ordain women. Sometimes I am not as quick as I am in e-mail.
Joe prays with women preachers in Pasadena on occasions so I am not really clear what he really thinks on the subject. It is clear that women won't be ordained to any speaking role in the WCG.
The whole trip was very odd for me, because I like both Joe and Tammy. They are real people, live normal lives, have kids and a cluttered house just like you and me. To be honest, I think he's the most "REAL" Pastor General the WCG has ever had. There are no pretensions from either Joe or Tammy. But he isn't like you and me. He runs a church that has a sordid history, even if most of that happened prior to his tenure.
Worldwider Charged With Murder
According to Australian police, on June 18, Worldwide Church of God member Gay Elizabeth Lock, 53, was found murdered in her Mudgeeraba, Australia home. Apparently attacked while she slept, Mrs. Lock died from a single blow to the head. Mrs. Lock's husband, Russ Lock, an Ambassador College-Bricket Wood alumnus and computer programmer at the WCG's Australian office in Burleigh Heads, was the one who phoned the police to report the murder. A few days later, however, after burning the blood-soaked mattress on which the victim had last slept, Lock turned himself into the police and confessed to having committed the crime with a hammer. Lock, who remains in custody and has been denied bail, has indicated he intends to plead guilty, but "with diminished capacity." No one we have talked to has been able to point to any factors which may have led to the family tragedy. The couple had one daughter, Sharyn. And according to the WCG, letters and sympathy cards may be mailed to her via the church's Australian office (P.O. Box 2600, Burleigh MDC, Queensland 4220, Australia). No date has yet been set for Russ Lock's trial.
Teddy Bare on TV
Garner Ted Armstrong recently made it onto one of America's top television talk shows, but not in the way he probably would have preferred. On Geraldo Rivera's July 11 telecast, the well-known television journalist devoted a whole program to the subject of how videotape is playing an expanding role in our legal system and in our private lives. The program titled "Sex, Crime, and Videotape," which was aired nationwide on a Friday afternoon, shocked many viewers because of its startling frankness. Here is how one of our readers described the segment about GTA:
I had just gotten home from a trip to my bank. I got some ice tea out of the fridge and just turned on the TV to relax. All of a sudden I saw Mr. Garner Ted Armstrong naked. Totally NAKED! It was him all right. Oh, they put this video dot over most of his private parts so as not to offend anyone supposedly. But I think that only made it worse. After all, when the masseuse put her hands up in the dot area, I'm sure everyone could imagine what she was up to. It was disgusting. Even more so when he later groaned off camera. That was really disgusting.
What surprised me the most, however, was how casual Mr. Armstrong acted. I get embarrassed if I go to the doctor's office and I am asked to take some clothes off. But it seemed to me like Mr. Armstrong does this kind of thing all the time. What is wrong with that man? And, I wondered, why hasn't he gotten rid of all those dirty tatoos of naked women all over his body? I saw a program recently about how you can have tatoos removed. Surely he must know about that. Or does he like having pictures of naked women all over his body? I really feel sorry for his wife having to look at such things on her husband's skin.
And one more thing. I am not too happy with Mr. Rivera either. He could have just interviewed the masseuse and her lawyer without showing us the actual massage parlor encounter. Why did he have to also show us the dirty video tape?
Well, first of all, Geraldo Rivera is not just a newsman; he is also in the entertainment business. Tapes of lurid subject matter get more people to watch, sell more advertising, and make more money for his program. Let's not forget that Geraldo was the fellow who published a book a while back that revealed the names, along with many private details, of a large number of famous women he had supposedly slept with over the years. (Talk about someone violating others' privacy in order to make money!) So, obviously, Geraldo is quite willing to go beyond the limits of good taste. Nevertheless, Garner Ted is a public figure and one who is clearly not living the life he is telling others to live. So maybe the broadcast will have done some good by discouraging others from supporting his ministry or, at least, from going into massage parlors.
Most of the information covered on the Geraldo program has already been reported on in ARs 60-62. (For example, it was explained how GTA had allegedly attempted to sexually attack the masseuse on an earlier visit to her establishment, and then when he called for another appointment she had a video camera set up in order to document his behavior for legal reasons.) However, the Geraldo program concluded with some new information from Suerae Robertson, the masseuse who is suing GTA, and her attorney, John Osborne. As they flashed on the screen, "Suerae Robertson-Videotaped her sexual harassment by an evangelist," here is what was said:
GERALDO: Suerae, do you feel safe now? Do you feel challenged by this organization, this International Church of God?
SUERAE: Well, after several death threats to myself, to my attorney, to his family, indications that they knew where my grandchildren were at, and the research that was done on this man when we found out that I'm just one of many that he has done this to...
SUERAE: Allegedly done this to.
GERALDO: John Osborne, what is the status of this case?
OSBORNE: Right now the case is languishing in the Court of Appeals. The Church of God is trying to get out of the suit. A judge initially ruled in their favor. She later recused herself from sitting in the case, having to do with her husband's relationship, I think, with Garner Ted. But, at any rate, the Court of Appeals is going to rule whether or not the church should be a party to this lawsuit. Once they do, we proceed from there.
GERALDO: The video tape should make the case pretty open and shut - unless they interpret it as Suerae, in some way, inviting that kind of conduct.
OSBORNE: Well, she had a choice. She could either try to persuade a jury pool in a small Texas town where this man is a big fish - her word against his - or she could seek some sort of proof that this man is capable of acting in this fashion. And I think she made the right decision.
As those words were being spoken, a section of the GTA sex tape was played showing the naked evangelist reaching out to put his hands on the hips of the masseuse who was backing away from his advances. It was not a pretty sight.
As we go to press, the Court of Appeals has still not ruled as to whether or not the Church of God International will be joining GTA as a defendant in the lawsuit. The plaintiff claims it should because GTA's promiscuous lifestyle was well known to the church's board members, and they still allowed him to function in a position where his sexually predatory instincts could do harm to others.
In regard to the latter, it is significant what recently transpired in another Texas case involving sex and clergymen of another denomination. On July 25, a Dallas, Texas jury awarded nearly $120 million in damages after finding the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas had ignored evidence that a priest was sexually abusing boys and that it then tried to cover up the scandal. The award is probably the largest judgment for sexual abuse that has ever been made against a church organization. Unless the judgment is overturned on appeal, the damages are to be paid by the Diocese of Dallas and the Rev. Rudolph Kos who was found to have committed the sexually abusive acts. The plaintiffs were 10 men and the family of another who committed suicide. The abuses were committed between 1977 and 1992 while Kos was a seminarian and later a priest. As in the GTA case, the plaintiffs charged that the priest's proclivities for improper sexual contacts were known to the church's hierarchy, but that he was still allowed to function as a cleric in situations were his urges would lead him to sexually abuse altar boys and other church members. Kos now lives in San Diego after being suspended from the church's priesthood. He still faces criminal charges that have been brought by two of the plaintiffs.
Apparently, in spite of all the sexual misconduct we see about us in society today, jurors down in Texas do not think it appropriate for clergymen to engage in sexual debauchery or for church organizations to turn a blind eye to such conduct. If that is the case, Garner Ted and his International Church may not fare too well if their case ever goes before a Texas jury.
Focuses on Three Issues
The United Church of God (UCG), holding even at about 20,000 members, remains the largest of the WCG's Armstrongite offshoots. The new organization is churning out new doctrinal booklets, runs ads in Reader's Digest, and is spending money taping what is supposedly going to be a "prime-time TV special" that will star church president David Hulme. That many WCG personages of old still remain on the UCG payroll is evident by some of the by-lines that appear in the church's magazine New Beginnings: Mark Kaplan, the famous Jewish scholar; Peter Shenton, whose father had once been a leader in the Flat Earth Society; David Register, the sports car and good life enthusiast; and Robin Webber, formerly Joseph Tkach Senior's "right hand man for secret assignments." Nevertheless, the UCG continues to lose important personnel. One such loss came in late spring with the resignation of pastor Ron Weinland. In a May 26, 1997 resignation letter, Weinland startled many when he wrote:
Many of God's faithful are crying out for leadership. Where is it? It has been caught up in committees that seem to go nowhere. It is caught up in debate by differing mindsets that will not come to agreement. It is caught up in a divided council, so that meaningful and decisive actions expected from leadership are in a quagmire. It is caught up in people who resist and work against the very Constitution and Bylaws [of the church] so that they can get their own way. Can God be pleased with such confusion? Does the membership respect a ministry who fail to give strong leadership through a willingness to stand for principle, integrity, open honesty, and ethical values?
On 12/27/96 I wrote a letter to all the Conference of Elders [COE]. It stirred up quite a controversy. In that letter I only hoped to draw attention to some very serious problems that were being smoothed over, justified, minimized, or simply ignored. The most serious issue was that of the disappearance of reserves through mismanagement, careless stewardship, and/or presumptuous assumption of authority above that allowed by the Constitution and Bylaws.
In preparation for that letter, I was horrified by accounting figures that projected we would only have around $1 million in reserves, when there was supposed to be over $5 million by 3/31/97. We didn't even have the monies in reserve for the annual General Conference, as we were supposed to have. My projections were actually off, because we didn't even have $1 million in reserves by that time. Instead, by all practical measures, if we had paid all our bills to that date, instead of holding back ministerial expense checks and church allocation checks, we would have been in the red.
To many, this kind of stewardship and accounting was unconscionable. But where was the outcry? Where was the decisive leadership that should have taken swift action with those who put the church in such a precarious position? Did anyone go to outside legal sources to see how serious these actions were? To my understanding, no one did. Instead, the whole process was whitewashed, justified, and excused. I've wondered what God would have to say about such handling and eventual disappearance of one third of a year's income from the tithes of His people....
In my cc:mail message to the COE on 5/15/97, I gave reasons why I believed the Treasurer [Steven Andrews] and President [David Hulme] should resign or be asked by the COE to step down. The HO [home office in California] leadership has continued to resist the process of governance to which we had all agreed to submit ourselves. The "Code of Ethics" of the ministry makes it clear that we are to uphold the Constitution and Bylaws. That would include the COE taking action against any who do not uphold that process, nor live up to our "Code of Ethics."
I also drew the attention of the COE to the March 28 letter of Bob Dick and David Hulme that was essentially a slap in the face to both the COE and OCE. In addition, I mentioned Edwin Stepp's divisive sermon (4/26/97) message sent out by the HO. Thirdly, attention was drawn to the legal department's audacity to present a laborious document to the COE concerning the overturning of the balloting process in Louisville.
As the result of a continuing barrage of such conduct and presumption by some, I said I could no longer conscientiously support the leadership of the HO. Furthermore, if the COE did not have the will to decisively address these matters, then I would no longer be able to support the COE. To me, failure to act on these matters spelled "approval."
The actions of the council to uphold the balloting and quickly move on to other business were simply typical of the way things work within UCG. Too many people seemed to accept this action as decisive and swift. It had that appearance, but it did not deal with the cause. I highly respect the courage of one elder who sent a letter to the council addressing that very thing.... that "the COE needs to not just treat the symptom, but to also get to the root cause...
What is so sad in all of these events of the past two years is that far too many brethren and too many ministers don't even know about many of these ongoing problems. Too many ministers paint a picture of only positive events and smooth over anything that might be negative. We tend to say "peace, peace," when we really don't have peace. Like a dysfunctional family that tries to protect its image, we cover, smooth over, whitewash, and justify the negative and unethical actions of our family. Read Ezek. 13:8-17 on your knees and honestly ask God if that applies to us....
I am resigning because I can no longer conscientiously support the current practices of this organization. The organization is slowly slipping back into that from which we were jolted loose. It took major doctrinal changes and corrupt government to awaken the church two years ago. We came together at Indianapolis to chart a new course. We only began to address the "effects" of what happened to us in WCG. But what we have yet to address is the "cause." The cause is spiritual and we must learn to righteously judge and discern the difference and act upon those conclusions.
As a result of the inner political turmoil described by Weinland, the UCG is now led by a two-headed executive branch named Dick-Hulme. This two-headed executive, actually Robert Dick (Chairman) and David Hulme (President), now sign letters jointly. That gives some indication of the level of distrust most of the UCG ministry has for its leadership. The UCG's membership, however, is seemingly oblivious to the political infighting that is monopolizing their leadership's attention. Many UCG members are viewing the new two headed executive as a sign that God has shown them the "Two Witnesses" of Revelation. We tried to reach President Hulme for a comment, but he had just taken off for Europe for "cultural events" that included attendance at London's new Shakespeare Center to which he had once helped funnel WCG money. We have since learned that on June 12, Hulme was also "presented to" Queen Elizabeth, undoubtedly as a reward for bringing the bacon, so to speak, back to Britain.
In the meantime, one of our ministerial sources told us: "If you think that those guys are concerned about prophecy or any other biblical teaching you are badly mistaken. In United the ministry is focused on only three things: their salary, their benefits, and their retirement plan."
The Splintered Churches of God
While the UCG holds onto the largest number of ex-WCG Armstrongites, other WCG offshoots continue to fight for the limited number of Armstrongites still available.
Rod Meredith's San Diego-based Global Church of God (GCG) claims it is growing. But sources in that organization tell us that in reality GCO income is up only about six percent over last year, while its television outreach, ad campaigns, and administrative expenses continue to grow. Ex-GCG members have said that the GCG remains mired in rumors that it has been engulfed in a conspiracy led by Jesuit infiltrators bringing in heresies. While not one piece of evidence has ever surfaced to substantiate such a bizarre conspiracy theory, Meredith of late has seemed virtually powerless to stop the spread of the idiotic story which some say has cost him hundreds of members. Another source of problems for Meredith has been the ministry of Myron Martin (Patriots of the Kingdom, P.O. Box 20004 CDO, Concord, Ont. L4K 4T1, Canada). Martin recently put out an open letter to Meredith in which he all but brands Meredith as a false prophet. Some Global executives say privately that the answer to Global's problems would be to put evangelist Dick Ames, formerly the most polished and natural spokesman on the WCG's old World Tomorrow program, on the air as a replacement for Meredith on Global's World Ahead program. But, they say, they are concerned that Meredith's fragile ego could not take the shock of seeing his brother-in-law succeed in such a high profile role.
As always, the writings of Bill Dankenbring are making waves. In the May-June issue of Prophecy Flash! Dankenbring prefaced one of his articles with "New BOMB SHELL Explodes over Passover Controversy!" The article, "A New Look at Jesus' Last Week and the Sufferings of Messiah!" made a number of biblical observations that have thrown some of Dankenbring's critics into a tizzy. But Dankenbring warned them in the article, "Let the reader beware: If you read this material with an open, unprejudiced mind, this article could completely change your life!" And inside the front cover of the Flash! he also prophesied:
This NEW TRUTH will sweep like a TIDAL WAVE over the garbled misunderstandings and errors of the past! It will STAGGER the assumptions and preconceived opinions of men like a SEISMIC JOLT! It will strike the cozy beliefs and false teachings of churches like a MIGHTY EARTHQUAKE - sending "shock waves" around the globe!
Actually, Dankenbring's piece was based to a large extent on the research of Glen W. Myers who wrote and recently updated a paper that points out major flaws in the popular Armstrongite teaching that Jesus was arrested on a Tuesday evening before being crucified on a Wednesday. For a copy of the updated paper write to Myers at: 1047 Iroquois Street, Clearwater, FL 33755.
Meanwhile, Dankenbring's colorful style is being mimicked in another publication. Garner Ted Armstrong has started his own Prophetic Newsflash! newsletter. And some in Texas say his writing is improving as he continues to study Dankenbring's original Prophecy Flash! for more ideas.
While GTA is trying to bring his new prophecy newsletter up to speed, many of the ministers and congregations that have left his fold in the last two years have been hard at work putting together a new church organization. Formerly called just The Churches of God, approximately 28 elders of the fellowship met in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the end of May and came up with a new organizational structure and a new name: Church of God Outreach Ministries (COGOM). Its main mailing address will now be P.O. Box 5462, Tulsa, OK 74155. One prominent ex-CGI minister who did not attend the conference was Tom Justus of the Church of God Sabbath Day (P.O. Box 1645, Springdale, AK 72765). He has indicated he has reservations about COGOM's new organizational structure. Another problem the new group faces is a budding, but very real, debate over the so-called sacred names issue, a doctrine that HWA in decades past had rejected as being excessively divisive.
WCG No Longer Welcome in Russia
While the WCG as a whole has been on the wane for the last few years, one WCG foreign project has persisted - Worldwide's missionary outreach to Russia. Now, however, a public backlash against Western culture and Western religions entering Russia may put an end to that program.
In an insightful article in the July 14, 1997 issue of Alberta Report, Chris Champion wrote:
Mark and Glenda Berg, schoolteachers from Winnipeg, gave up their lives for a year in 1994 to take the Gospel to a faith-famished land. They worked on the edge of Siberia, in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk east of the Urals, dispatched as missionaries from the Worldwide Church of God to the former Soviet Union. "We taught Bible to public school teachers," reports Mrs. Berg. "But while we were there, the laws regarding what we could and couldn't do changed quite frequently," she says. "And the farther east you go, the more regional politicians there are who want to have control." By the time the Bergs left Chelyabinsk, even the local Russian Orthodox priests, who had initially been friendly, were bristling at their evangelical methods. "There was some pressure by then" to get out, she recalls.
Since the Bergs left Russia, government pressure on missionaries from the WCG and other Christian denominations has increased dramatically. And what is happening in regard to religion in Russia hints at where that country as a whole may be heading.
First a bit of historical background. Not unlike many other nations, since the official establishment of Eastern Orthodox Catholicism in Russia in the 10th century, there developed a very close working relationship between the state and its official church. Unlike its Western European counterparts, however, in Russia the church was not always the submissive member of the church-state marriage. Prof. Serhil Plokhy, director of church studies at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta, points out that for 400 years, except for the 18th century period of state control under Peter the Great known as "Caesaro-papism," the church actually dominated the partnership.
With the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, the church's special privileges were eliminated and under the militant atheism of the Soviets, most practicing Christians were persecuted unless they registered with the government as official churches. While large numbers rejected the state's intrusion into their spiritual lives and still worshipped in "catacomb" groups, without government sponsorship and with government persecution that saw many thousands of Christians sent to labor camps, Christianity did not thrive under communism. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, interest in all things Western accelerated throughout the Russian sphere for a few years. Sensing that the time was right to proselytize in the East, many Western denominations, including the WCG, began sending missionaries into Russia.
Missionaries say that for a few years their presence seemed welcome. However, when it started to become obvious that the fall of communism was not going to bring about a new prosperity in Russia very soon, but instead was bringing ever greater privation to the Russian masses, a resentment toward much of Western culture began growing. Now, with the Russian economy not able to provide millions with even a subsistence-level existence, with the Russian military in a state of nearly complete dilapidation (its budget is now only one tenth that of the U.S. military budget), and with huge increases in the crime rate and other social problems, many Russians are becoming militantly anti-Western. And with Roman Catholics, American evangelicals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, and Eastern cults making major inroads into Russia, the reinvigorated Russian Orthodox Church has begun to use its formidable influence to halt what it sees as sheep rustling by missionaries from the West.
Earlier this year a bill was introduced into the Russian Parliament to protect the Russian Orthodox Church from competition from the newer religions. The bill's purpose was to severely limit the property rights and proselytizing rights of any religious group that had not been registered by the old Soviet state 15 years ago. So harsh was the bill that even many older denominations saw it as effectively restoring the Russian Orthodox Church, with its 60 million believers, to its old position as the official state religion of Russia.
In pushing for the bill's passage, Russian patriarch Alexy II likened the "eastward expansion of foreign sects and missionaries in Russia" to the eastward expansion of NATO. And in a sign of growing tension with the Vatican, on June 11 the Holy Synod, the forum that brings together the Russian Church's top clergy, announced that the Russian Orthodox Church had called off a proposed meeting between Patriarch Alexy II and Pope John Paul II that was to have taken place in Vienna on June 21 ahead of a European Ecumenical Council. In a "historical note," the Synod restated its opposition to Roman Catholic missionaries encroaching on Russian territory.
In response to the anti-religious-freedom foment in Russia, Pope John Paul II, the U. S. State Department, and many churches and human rights organizations in the West publicly denounced the Russian Parliament's religion bill. The United States Senate even passed an amendment to a foreign aid bill in July to cut off all aid to Russia if Yeltsin signed the religion bill into law. But all this bullying by the West only infuriated the Russian public which viewed such tactics as foreign meddling in the internal affairs of their country.
Yeltsin, who earlier had vetoed milder versions of the bill, was clearly put into a difficult political position. Nevertheless, in the end, he vetoed the new bill. However, knowledgeable observers in Moscow have told us that the Parliament's votes were so overwhelmingly in favor of the bill (300 votes to eight), it is quite possible that the legislature will vote to override the veto in the near future. Not only that, many local Russian legislatures have already passed laws restricting the activities of newer religious groups in their regions.
Obviously, Russia is no longer going to be a very hospitable place for missionaries from the WCG or from many other Western religious organizations. Already there are reports that Armstrongites and other sabbatarians in some of the more remote former Soviet Republics have decided to flee those regions. And there have even been reports of the murders of a number of Sabbath-keeping Christians in former Soviet regions that now have large Islamic populations.
In light of all these developments, we should ask ourselves what will be the future of democracy in Russia. Many international affairs experts have pointed out that the chaotic political situation in Russia today is remarkably similar to the Weimar Republic period in Germany which ushered in Hitler and the Nazis. Today, with many Russians clamoring for a strongman to replace Yeltsin, and with Russian nationalism and especially Russian Orthodox religious fervor on the rise, we should not be too surprised if Russia, for most of the twentieth century the world's leading atheistic communist power, were to become the twenty-first century's leading fascist power.
The Godfather of
the United States of Europe
One of the central tenets of Herbert W. Armstrong's teachings on prophecy was his prediction that before the soon-to-happen return of Christ there would be a United States of Europe led by a great political-military strongman who would be given the blessing of a great European religious leader.
The idea of a politically united Europe is not new. After all, Europe had already been largely united in the days of the Holy Roman Empire. And of course, despots such as Napoleon and Hitler had their own visions and plans for a united Europe. Nevertheless, it was not until after World War II that the idea of a politically united Europe really started being seriously advanced by important European leaders.
Today, such an idea is no longer thought of as merely a theoretical possibility. It is a subject heatedly discussed and reported upon in the world's leading newspapers virtually every day. In the last fifty years, the nations of Europe have achieved ever increasing levels of economic, legal, and military integration. And many of Europe's most influential and powerful leaders are openly working to bring about a fully political European Union within the next decade. In recent months, the most important developments in Europe have centered on attempts at establishing an all-Europe currency to be called the Euro. While it is by no means certain that this attempt will succeed, leading the charge has been German Prime Minister Helmut Kohl who seems to have made the creation of the Euro the hoped-for capstone of his entire political career. Should Kohl succeed, many experts say it is quite possible we will see the creation of a United States of Europe in just a few years.
Armstrongite church leaders are naturally quite excited about such a prospect and evangelists such as Roderick Meredith, Garner Ted Armstrong, and Gerald Flurry are filling the airwaves and the pages of their magazines with warnings that such a coming European Union will be the beginning of the end of Great Britain and the United States. Nevertheless, putting aside for the moment questions of whether a politically united Europe is really prophesied in the Bible or whether such a union would really mean the end of the Anglo-American economic and military hegemony, some will find it more than a little interesting to learn of the origins of the modern movement to unite all of Europe.
It will probably come as a surprise to many, but there is actually a historical figure who among European scholars is quietly referred to as "the Godfather of the United States of Europe." He was very influential in world affairs before, during, and right after the second world war. And it was this individual who, in a series of speeches in the late forties, coined the term "the United States of Europe" and sketched out in considerable detail what the nature of that future union should be like. In doing research on the history of the plan for uniting Europe, we recently came upon some rare old books containing the key United Europe speeches of that great historical figure.
We discovered that on 19 September 1946, at Zurich University in Switzerland, that statesman gave a speech in which he explained for the first time his vision of a united Europe. Here is how he began:
I wish to speak to you today about the tragedy of Europe. This noble continent, comprising on the whole the fairest and the most cultivated regions of the earth, enjoying a temperate and equable climate, is the home of all the great parent races of the Western world. It is the fountain of Christian faith and Christian ethics. It is the origin of most of the culture, arts, philosophy and science both of ancient and modern times. If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance, there would be no limit to the happiness, to the prosperity and glory which its three or four hundred million people would enjoy. Yet it is from Europe that have sprung that series of frightful nationalistic quarrels, originated by the Teutonic nations, which we have seen even in this twentieth century and in our own lifetime, wreck the peace and mar the prospects of all mankind.
And what is the plight to which Europe has been reduced? Some of the smaller States have indeed made a good recovery, but over wide areas a vast quivering mass of tormented, hungry, care-worn and bewildered human beings gape at the ruins of their cities and homes, and scan the dark horizons for the approach of some new peril, tyranny or terror. Among the victors there is a babel of jarring voices; among the vanquished the sullen silence of despair. That is all that Europeans, grouped in so many ancient States and nations, that is all that the Germanic Powers have got by tearing each other to pieces and spreading havoc far and wide. Indeed, but for the fact that the great Republic across the Atlantic Ocean has at length realized that the ruin or enslavement of Europe would involve their own fate as well, and has stretched out hands of succor and guidance, the Dark Ages would have returned in all their cruelty and squalor. They may still return.
Yet all the while there is a remedy which, if it were generally and spontaneously adopted, would as if by a miracle transform the whole scene, and would in a few years make all Europe, or the greater part of it, as free and as happy as Switzerland is today. What is this sovereign remedy? It is to re-create the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe. In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living. The process is simple. All that is needed is the resolve of hundreds of millions of men and women to do right instead of wrong and gain as their toward blessing instead of cursing.... [Here the great orator praised the Pan-European Union, Count Coudenhove-Kalergi, Aristide Briand, and the work done by the old League of Nations.]
I was very glad to read in the newspapers two days ago that my friend President Truman had expressed his interest and sympathy with this great design. There is no reason why a regional organization of Europe should in any way conflict with the world organization of the United Nations. On the contrary, I believe that the larger synthesis will only survive if it is founded upon coherent natural groupings.... [He referred here to the Pan-American League and the British Commonwealth of Nations.] These do not weaken, on the contrary they strengthen, the world organization. They are in fact its main support. And why should there not be a European group which could give a sense of enlarged patriotism and common citizenship to the distracted peoples of this turbulent and mighty continent and why should it not take its rightful place with other great groupings in shaping the destinies of men? In order that this should be accomplished there must be an act of faith in which millions of families speaking many languages must consciously take part....
I am now going to say something that will astonish you. The first stop in the re-creation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany. In this way only can France recover the moral leadership of Europe. There can be no revival of Europe without a spiritually great France and a spiritually great Germany. The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important. Small nations will count as much as large ones and gain their honor by their contribution to a common cause. The ancient states and principalities of Germany, freely joined together for mutual convenience in a federal system, might each take their individual place among the United States of Europe....
In all this urgent work, France and Germany must take the lead together. Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America, and I trust Soviet Russia - for then indeed all would be well - must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live and shine.
By 1948, the great statesman's dream that there be a Congress of Europe had become a reality. And on 7 May 1948 before the distinguished gathering of the Congress of Europe, meeting at The Hague, he rose up to speak. Beginning with a reference to his 1946 speech in Zurich, he said, "events have carried our affairs beyond our expectations And then:
We need not waste our time in disputes about who originated this idea of United Europe. There are many valid modern patents. There are many famous names associated with the revival and presentation of this idea, but we may all, I think, yield our pretensions to Henry of Navarre, King of France, who, with his great Minister Sully, between the years 1600 and 1607, labored to set up a permanent committee representing the fifteen - now we are sixteen - leading Christian States of Europe. This body was to act as an arbitrator on all questions concerning religious conflict, national frontiers, internal disturbance, and common action against any danger from the East, which in those days meant the Turks. This he called "The Grand Design." After this long passage of time we are the servants of the Grand Design.
This Congress has brought together leaders of thought and action from all the free countries of Europe. Statesmen of all political parties, leading figures from all the Churches, eminent writers, leaders of the professions, lawyers, chiefs of industry and prominent trade-unionists are gathered here. In fact a representative grouping of the most essential elements in the political, industrial, cultural and spiritual life of Europe is now assembled in this ancient hall. And although everyone has been invited in his individual capacity, nevertheless this Congress, and any conclusions it may reach, may fairly claim to be the voice of Europe....
It is necessary for the executive governments of the sixteen countries, associated for purposes of the Marshall Plan, to make precise arrangements. These can apply at present only to what is called Western Europe. In this we wish them well and will give them all loyal support; but our aim is not confined to Western Europe. We seek nothing less than all Europe. Distinguished exiles from Czechoslovakia, and almost all the Eastern European nations, and also from Spain, are present among us. We aim at the eventual participation of all European peoples whose society and way of life, making all allowances for the different points of view in various countries, are not in disaccord with a Charter of Human Rights and with the sincere expression of free democracy....
I was anxious at first lest the United States of America should view with hostility the idea of a United States of Europe. But I rejoice that the great Republic in its era of world-leadership has risen far above such moods. We must all be thankful as we sit here that the nation called to the summit of the world by its mass, its energies and its power, has not been found lacking in those qualities of greatness and nobility upon which the record of famous States depends. Far from resenting the creation of United Europe, the American people welcome and ardently sustain the resurrection of what was called the Old World, now found in full partnership with the New.
Nothing that we do or plan here conflicts with the paramount authority of a world organization of the United Nations. On the contrary I have always believed, as I declared in the war, that a Council of Europe was a subordinate but necessary part of the world organization. I thought at that time, when I had great responsibility, that there should be several regional councils, august but subordinate, that these should form the massive pillars upon which the world organization would be founded in majesty and calm. This was the direction in which my hopes and thought lay three or four years ago. To take an example from the military sphere, with which our hard experiences have made us all familiar, the design for world government might have followed the system of three or more groups of armies - in this case armies of peace - under one supreme headquarters. Thus I saw the vast Soviet Union forming one of these great groups. The Council of Europe, including Great Britain linked with her Empire and Commonwealth, would be another. Thirdly, there was the United States and her sister republics in the Western Hemisphere with all their great spheres of interest and influence....
As great orators are wont to do, this statesman ended his speech with a plea for the putting aside of petty disputes and a call to action:
A high and a solemn responsibility rests upon us here this afternoon in this Congress of a Europe striving to be reborn. If we allow ourselves to be rent and disordered by pettiness and small disputes, if we fail in clarity of view or courage of action, a priceless occasion may be cast away for ever. But if we all pull together and pool the luck and the comradeship - and we shall need all the comradeship and not a little luck if we are to move together in this way - and firmly grasp the larger hopes of humanity, then it may be that we shall move into a happier sunlit age, when all the little children who are now growing up in this tormented world may find themselves not the victors nor the vanquished in the fleeting triumphs of one country over another in the bloody turmoil of destructive war, but heirs of all the treasures of the past and the masters of all the science, the abundance and glories of the future.
We have quoted goodly portions of these two brilliant and stirring speeches for a reason. By now, many will have noticed that in 1948 the statesman's vision of a future united Europe was very close to what it now appears Europe is on the verge of becoming. Who was the statesman who gave these speeches? Who was this great servant of "The Grand Design," this Godfather of the United States of Europe?
Believe it or not, it was none other than Sir Winston S. Churchill! That fact will come as a surprise to many Armstrongites just as it did to us. That is because for so many years Churchill was not only portrayed by WCG ministers as the greatest of all twentieth century British leaders (which he probably was), but one who represented, not liberal Internationalist ideas, but the kind of British spirit that stood for God, country, empire - "Anglo-Israel" values to Worldwiders. Yet, it seems, the real Churchill was a far more complex man and a far greater visionary than he has been portrayed by the likes of Herbert W. Armstrong, Raymond McNair, or Gerald Flurry. For example, it is interesting that even today Flurry regularly warns of the supposedly prophesied destruction of Britain by a united Europe and in almost the same breath will quote Churchill as though he had warned of the dangers of such a European political alliance.
Those who would like to read the two Churchill speeches in their entirety will find them in The Sinews of Peace (Houghton Mifflin, 1949) and Europe Unite (Houghton Mifflin, 1950). Unfortunately, those two collections of speeches by Churchill are out of print and are not easy to locate, but university libraries or public libraries in larger metropolitan areas may have copies.
Finally, for those interested in studying this subject in more depth, we recommend the article, "Churchill's United Europe" (History Today, June 1992) by Roland Quinault, Senior Lecturer in History at the Polytechnic of North London. The author writes that Churchill had been a longtime and enthusiastic supporter of a united Europe, had for a number of years led the European unity movement both in Britain and on the Continent, and was the one mainly responsible for the creation of the Council of Europe and its Strasbourg Assembly in 1949. Quinault writes:
Churchill would have welcomed the creation of a single European market in 1992 since he was, by preference, if not always by practice, a free trader.... He believed that true European unity could not be imposed by a powerful leader, but only achieved by the free union of peoples, based on self-interest and genuine sentiment. Consequently he emphasized the need for popular support towards this end....
Quinault writes that Churchill "hoped to create a Europe which was united, but not uniform" - in other words a Europe where the individual characteristics and traditions of Europe's many ethnic groups would be preserved. In that regard, Quinault sees Churchill as desiring that Britain remain somewhat culturally detached from the Continent and quotes the statesman as saying:
We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked, but not comprised. We are interested and associated, but not absorbed....
Some Armstrongites might suspect that Churchill's position was merely aimed at thwarting the expansionist plans of the Soviets and that Churchill still envisioned a rather imperialistic Britain for the future. However, Quinault writes:
Churchill regarded Russia as part of the European state system and he did not want a United Europe to be inherently anti-Russian.... Unlike [Margaret Thatcher], Churchill was prepared to surrender some national sovereignty and to strengthen the authority of the Council of Europe and its Assembly. In those respects, his views were closer to Heath, than to Thatcher. But he wanted the Council of Europe to be subordinate to the United Nations and he was never as exclusively Eurocentric as Heath.
While a more enthusiastic campaigner for European union than John Major, Churchill never called for Britain to be at the heart of Europe. At Maastricht, Major echoed Churchill's policy, by refusing to commit Britain to a federal Europe within a set timetable. He also followed Churchill in supporting the enlargement of the European Community and the retention of defence links with the USA and NATO. There can be little doubt that Churchill would have endorsed the Maastricht settlement as a sensible compromise between present reality and future dreams. He desired European union, but he wanted it to be effected by mutual consent, not imposed dictat.
Churchill's views on European union have been largely forgotten, but they are still as relevant today as they were after the war. The British should remember that the man who personified the bulldog spirit was also the godfather of European unity, while Europeans should recall that this patriotic British premier had a surer vision of European development than many Continentals. It would be most unwise to ignore Churchill's thinking on Europe for he had a knack of getting things right.
Reading through Churchill's European unity speeches, one is amazed at how much his vision of a united Europe seems to be what is actually in the process of being created right now. However, it is also important to see how different his vision was from that prophesied by the Armstrongites. Furthermore, it is important to be aware of the fact that the dream of a politically united Europe still faces hurdles that are not just very real, but very possibly insurmountable.
Is European Unity Certain?
In the last fifty years, those wanting a more economically integrated Europe have made amazing progress in their quest. There is now an astonishing degree of cooperation between all the nations of Europe on matters of trade, transportation, communication, finance, and in the war against international terrorism and crime. In many areas of the law, European law is taking precedence over national law. At the same time, American influence in Europe is not as strong as it was in the sixties and seventies (see "U.S. Boasts It's the Only Superpower, but Winds of Change Are Blowing" by Jim Mann in the Los Angeles Times, 6/10/96, p. A5).
Nevertheless, many reports indicate that whatever greater levels of unity Europe will achieve in the near future, it will at best be only a greater economic one or, if political, only a fragile political one. Tyler Marshal, writing in the Los Angeles Times (5/20/96, p. 1) stated, "Cultural differences, myths and rivalries are stymieing the quest for a continental union. Diversity - Latin verve! British pragmatism! - once was seen as strength. But now it is proving divisive." Not even highlighting the obvious differences in language, religion, and ethnicity, Marshall discussed how the nations of Europe are still divided by history, differing educational methods, and especially by cultural values: "Many argue that, with Europe's cultural differences so deeply ingrained, the best that advocates of greater unity can hope for is broader understanding of what they face."
Just how powerful those cultural differences are can be seen in the fact that not only are European countries not readily merging politically into one another, some European countries seem to be splitting up! There is no need to point out the recent Balkanization of, well, the Balkans with Yugoslavia's division. And we all know that just five years ago the Czechs and Slovaks divorced each other. Now, the Scots are talking about greater independence from Britain, the Basques are crying out louder than ever for complete independence from Spain, and the Corsicans are increasingly demanding total independence from France - there has even been bloodshed from armed Corsicans over the issue (New York Times, 6/2/96).
Now, in Italy, where the Italian Communist Party only last year made big gains, the northern part of the country is moving toward separation from the southern part in an independence movement led by demagogue Umberto Bossi of the Northern League (New York Times, 5/12/96 and 6/11/96). Bossi, whose style reminds many of that of Benito Mussolini, has already declared a portion of northern Italy to be independent. Calling the new nation Padania, Bossi has even designed green costumes and medieval heraldry for the military officers of the as yet unrecognized country. And, in what many Italians viewed as an outrageous display of near-Napoleonic arrogance, Bossi in August even attacked the pope saying:
We're a long way from the times of Pope John XXII, the great Lombard, who said the church's interest in politics was finished and it was time for people to busy themselves with their consciences. Since then, the Polish pope has arrived, has taken the church and invested it much more with secular powers than spiritual powers (New York Times, 8/21/97).
Obviously, the forces of European division are just as real as the forces of European unity. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that not only are there an infinite number of different treaty arrangements possible between nations, but many different types of political union are also possible. For example, before the thirteen American colonies came together under the United States Constitution (signed 1789), they were federated more loosely for eight years under the Articles of Confederation (signed 1781). It may very well turn out that Europe will go through a similar type of intermediate step on its way to a more complete union. Or in the next few years Europe may actually achieve some type of political union, but because of unbridgeable cultural differences, it could turn out to be a political union that lasts only a very short time - just like HWA predicted. We'll see.
Tabor on "Mystery Mountain"
It was about a year ago that we first learned that on a mountain near Las Lunas, New Mexico there exists a rock on which has been carved an abbreviated Hebrew inscription of the Ten Commandments. When we also discovered that a handful of scholars believed the inscription to have been made by ancient Israelites, we were a bit skeptical. We thought it more likely that the inscription was the work of pranksters, perhaps Mormon zealots bent on promoting that religion's Lost Tribes theories through an outright hoax. Now, however, new research by Professor James Tabor has given us second thoughts.
Writing in the Summer, 1997 edition of the United Israel Bulletin (1123 Broadway, New York, NY 10010), Tabor points out that the inscription is in an ancient form of Hebrew that scholars have only known about in the last 100 years and that there is evidence that the inscription was seen on the mountain back in the 1880s. Furthermore, there is evidence that other stone markings at the site are in actuality a sky map that astronomically dates a particular eclipse. Amazingly, one scholar puts the date of that eclipse at Sept. 15 of 107 B,C. Tabor points out that that date on the sacred Hebrew calendar was actually 1st Tishri (Rosh Hashannah) in that year. Could it be that the inscription was made on or about that time? Tabor is not the first scholar to have written on the subject of the mysterious stone. Barry Fell in his major study America B.C. (New York: Pocket Books, 1989) discusses the inscription on "Mystery Mountain." But Tabor, who is now planning to do archaeological excavations at the site, has shed important light on the subject. Those interested in the travels of the ancient Israelites will find his article of interest.
Gary Alexander Enters Politics
Gary Alexander (AC Pasadena, 1967) the writer, editor, musician, disc jockey, music critic, financier, and tax revolt advocate recently turned 52 and announced that his resumi would contain a new credit - politician. Gary is currently running for a seat in the Virginia State House of Delegates under the Libertarian Party banner. He tells us:
Despite the awesome legalistic hurdles put up by the Demopublican duopoly, I keep telling myself that the original American idea was for part-time volunteer legislators, like you and me, to take a year or two out of their busy life, for public service, like the Swiss do. Putting a finger in the dike of the floodtide of spending by the Leviathan state seems like a noble cause.
Gary brings to the political arena not only outstanding communication skills, but considerable business experience, dynamic energy, and an uncompromising idealism that is rather rare in politics today. One thing he does not bring is a hefty financial base, and so he informs us that he welcomes any and all contributions to his campaign. Those who respond will be added to a mailing list for official position papers. The one we read recently was both unique in its political views and quite colorful. Write to: Alexander For Delegate, 11230 Leatherwood Drive, Reston, Virginia 20191.
Incidentally, Alexander recently did a movie review of the new documentary on the 1993 Branch Davidian tragedy. The movie Waco: The Rules of Engagement was produced and directed by William Gazecki and contains new data that again raises troubling questions about many facets of that government operation. Alexander told AR, "My main point is that in 1979, WCG headquarters almost got similar treatment from the state of California. What if the Ambassador campus in Pasadena had been armed and paranoid back then? As I point out in my review, we Americans root for freedom in China, but we root for the SWAT team back home. We want law and order against all oddballs, not realizing that someday the so-called oddballs might be us." The review appears in the September issue of Liberty magazine.
Armstrong Brewery Expands
Most WCG members are vaguely aware that besides evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong, WCG founder Herbert W. Armstrong had one other son, Richard David Armstrong, who died in a car crash near San Luis Obispo, California in 1958. Old timers say Richard was the Armstrong son who was more gifted in both matters of the head and heart and for that reason was probably HWA's favorite son. Most Worldwiders are not aware, however, that Richard Armstrong and his young wife Lois (nee Lemon, who later married WCG minister Ben Chapman) had a son, Richard David Armstrong II.
The younger Richard Armstrong was, of course, raised in Worldwide and in the mid-eighties he even spent time at Ambassador-Pasadena. Eventually, however, he drifted away from the church. Today Richard Armstrong, 38, is a successful businessman in Grants Pass, Oregon where he is co-owner of the Blue Pine Brew Pub, a small brewery with an attached family-style restaurant and pub.
After undergoing a recent expansion, the brewery is now producing up to 300 gallons of ale a week. Some of their popular items are Pearsoll Peak Pale, an American pale ale; Rip Roaring Red, an amber ale; Big Barley Brown, a British-style brown ale; and Midnight Stout, a dark, full-flavored beer. The restaurant seats almost 90 and regulars recommend the salmon and crab cakes. Besides providing gastronomical delights, the establishment promotes local artists, musicians, and organic gardeners. Eventually every wall in the dining room will be covered by murals painted by local artists. Already the ceiling is painted with a mural reminiscent of the Greek gods Zeus and Aphrodite. As in the pub, the blue pine tables in the restaurant were milled from his own property by Richard himself. And on the outside of the building, rainbows and stars in brilliant colors adorn a facade that is becoming a local landmark.
Besides regular dining, part of the establishment may be rented out for private parties. And, the owners say, they are already planning a gala Octoberfest. The Blue Pine Brew Pub is located at 422 S.W. Fifth Street in Grants Pass, just a nine hour drive north of San Francisco.
Where Are They Now?
The WCG has announced that Canadian regional director Frank Brown, 59, has been retired. Replacing him in Canada is Gary Moore, 45 (Ambassador-Pasadena 1974).
The June WN announced that "Shorty Fuessel, pastor of the Amarillo, Texas, and Liberal and Scott City, Kansas, churches, resigned from the full-time ministry." No other details were given.
Former Ambassador University President Dr. Donald Ward has been the head of the International Bible Learning Center (IBLC) for over a year. He recently announced, however, that because of funding problems he would be leaving IBLC to start his own Bible education service, the Center for Bible Education (CBE). Ward's new group is at Box 452, Hawkins, TX 75765. Shortly after Ward's announcement, IBLC announced it was leaving Hawkins, Texas where it had been based and was moving to California. Their new address is not yet official but their new phone number is (818) 951-4252. Active in the latter group are such former WCG luminaries as Mark Kaplan, David Antion, Dr. John Merrit, Judd Kirk, Leon Walker, and Leslie McCullough, in addition to SDA pastor Samuele Bacchiocchi.
More and more, current and former Worldwiders are turning to Web sites for information. Some sites valued by ex-Worldwiders are:
In Transition - it may no longer be going out in newsprint, but editor John Robinson has maintained a Web site that still has updates on Armstrongite offshoots. Also quite valuable at the site are back issues of In Transition. Robinson's two-part article on the history of WCG church government doctrine which appeared in the last two issues of IT is especially worth reading. The site is at: <http://www.io.com/~robinson/>.
Ex-WCG cleric David Covington puts out his Crossroads publication but, unfortunately, only via the net. This summer's Crossroads #4 is now available and contains a commentary on the mechanics of mind control which asks, "Why did we do all those crazy things?" The issue also puts a major focus on relationships after the WCG: making friends, dating and marriage/divorce. There is a doctrinal section, a book review, and don't miss the anecdote about the twilight zone. The Covington site is at: <http ://members.aol.com/coving1d>.
Former Worldwider Ed Mentell Sr. has a web site that many will find helpful, even entertaining at times. Particularly valuable is an easy-to-access complete text of Daughter of Babylon, Bruce Renehan's history of the WCG. Mentell Sr.'s site is at: <www.hwarmstrong.com >.
Much of what is reported accurately about the WCG and its offshoots can make you cry. So anyone who can find a bit of humor in it all is providing a service. One ex-member who works hard at being a satirist is Douglas D. Becker. Formerly the creator and publisher of the Tkach-22 newsletter, Becker is now turning his talents on the WCG via his web site. And, not all of his material is completely tongue-in-cheek. He wrote us:
You need to look at my web site under the item "Learn about seeking the truth from reversed speech." This will link you to the site of Australian researcher David John Oats with some samples of what he has discovered. He is a clinical psychologist who discovered the reversed speech phenomenon about seven years ago and now has a couple of books on it.
In my own research, I started with the early 90s Dean Blackwell sermon called "Prediction Addiction" where near the end of the tape he says: "Prophecy is of no private interpretation." When that phrase is played backwards he says quite clearly (except for the last word): "We should follow the devout one instead of the usurper." In other, more modern, sermons there have been similar kinds of statements, particularly when the minister was especially emotional.... This is real stuff, it just hasn't come to light until recently.
Douglas Becker's unusual web site is at: <http://www.all2true.com>.
Is Bill Gates the Beast?
Among Christians interested in Bible prophecy, the identity of the Antichrist has for many centuries been a topic of great interest. Among Armstrongites, however, there was a traditional view that the Antichrist of the Bible was none other than the pope. While the WCG no longer promulgates that teaching, many of the larger Armstrongite offshoots still do. One ministry that retains the old Armstrong doctrine is Alex Cain's Church of God which publishes a small magazine called The Countdown (Church of God, P.O. Box 53, Farnborough, Hants. GU140YZ, U.K.). Their May and June issues contained articles on the papacy as Antichrist, and in the June issue there was an appendix which listed nine famous Protestant churchmen who in centuries past also believed the same thing.
In coming up with an identity for the Antichrist, many Christians have found ways of interpreting the number 666 (of Rev. 3:18) and Mr. Cain's article does the same thing. Today, however, we are seeing a plethora of new theories about "666," and some of them are, well, colorful to say the least. For example, one of our readers recently sent us a page from the May 1997 newsletter of televangelist Zola Levitt. It contained this intriguing statement regarding the "number of the beast":
I noticed something interesting about the Internet. It is referred to as the Worldwide Web and Net addresses begin with www. In Hebrew, "w" corresponds to the latter vav which has a numerical value of six. So, www in Hebrew is 666. That correlation would only be understood by those who speak both Hebrew and English and who have also studied biblical prophecy. The people most familiar with Revelation are non-Jewish Christians. Of them, those who know Hebrew usually focus on the Old Testament. It is an interesting connection since the Internet is playing a role in unifying the world.
Then, a few weeks ago, we received the following e-mail message dealing with the same subject:
The real name of the billionaire CEO of Microsoft, the world's leading computer software company which created the DOS and WINDOWS programs, is William Henry Gates III. Nevertheless, nowadays he is known as just Bill Gates. By converting the letters of his current name to the ASCII-values and adding his "III", you get the following:
Total = 666!
Some might ask, "How did Bill Gates get so powerful?" Coincidence? Or just the beginning of mankind's ultimate and total enslavement? Before you decide, consider the following:
M S - D O S 6 . 2 1
77+83+45+68+79+83+32+54+46+50+49 = 666
W I N D O W S 9 5
87+73+78+68+79+87+83+57+53+1 = 666
Coincidence? You decide.
-Wally <[email protected]>
We don't think any of the above theories make much sense, but if anyone feels otherwise, please let us know why.
It's almost too much for me, this chameleon Church of God. Yesterday, May 18, while switching channels I just happened to see WCG evangelist Greg Albrecht talking about his born-again church. He was on evangelist James Robison's television show on the Trinity Network. I remembered how you had reported way back in AR18 about the Menge murder and Robison's diabolical scheme to buy the Big Sandy campus years ago. Well, as I watched the program I thought, I don't think I have ever heard the name Jesus said more often in so short a time. First Albrecht kept emphasizing the name, Jesus, Jesus. Robinson could not be outdone. So he started in, Jesus, Jesus. That's all you need. Just Jesus.
Frankly, you can write what you want about Mr. Herbert Armstrong, but at least he was not a total fool. He knew that the person of Jesus was less important than Christ's own message that there was something for us TO DO!
For Robison and Albrecht, next to saying the name Jesus hundreds of times an hour, about the only thing that seems to be important is to convince everyone how bad they had once been. Albrecht kept saying how terrible a person he had been before discovering Jesus just a few years ago. Yikes! A few years ago? Where was his head when he was at Ambassador? Nevertheless, there was Albrecht telling everyone, including a few dozen happy, smiling, WCG members in the audience, that even as a WCG minister he did not know Jesus. Not only that, what he did know as far back as the mid-eighties was that many of the WCG's central doctrines were in error! Well, if that is what he felt back then, why in the world didn't he just leave? And if he did not have any character then, why should anyone believe that he has any character now?
As for Albrecht claiming that just a few years ago he had been a very bad person, well, he personally convinced me. But, as it was Robison's show, Robison was not about to be outdone. He started a lengthy confession of his own about how just a few years ago in his ministry he had not known Jesus either! And his vanity had been (?) so great that he had considered running for President of the United States and had even considered putting out a magazine to be called The Last Word! Albrecht then said that the WCG would have done that too if only they had thought of the idea first.
Before ending his show with five minutes of sales pitches for his new book, The Face of the Father, Robison got Albrecht to admit that the new Tkach team has changed virtually every single doctrine that Mr. Armstrong ever taught. Then Robison asked Albrecht if he thought Mr. Herbert Armstrong had ever been converted. Albrecht said he just did not know and pretended that he "could not judge the man." Obviously, the implication was that Albrecht had just not seen any sign of conversion in the life of Mr. Herbert Armstrong. But as he spoke he just shook his head sending a body language message to everyone that "no, I really don't think he was ever converted." You would have thought that the audience of Worldwiders would have jumped out of their chairs and run screaming out of the studio in protest. But they just sat there like dumb sheep and kept on smiling for the cameras.
While I am sure that those Worldwiders are now as brainwashed as can be, I am still not sure which of those two evangelists is the more self-righteous or idiotic. Honestly, I wish that Mr. Armstrong could have come up out of the grave and been sitting right there during that television talk show. No doubt the two evangelists' foolish talk would have made him so filled with righteous indignation and so sick to his stomach he would have been tempted to leap out of his chair and puke all over them!
John, I just got back from a trip to Langley, Virginia where I was on company business. In large writing in the lobby of one of our government buildings there I saw this inscription: "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free - John 8:32." What government department claims this scripture as its own? The inscription was in the main lobby of the headquarters building of the C.I.A. So now it is not just churches that misappropriate the Word of God.
Incidentally, everyone at C.I.A. headquarters casually refers to the head of the C.I.A. as "the D.O.'' That stands for Director of Operations, but it is pronounced by everyone there as "Deeo." That made me very uncomfortable. John, I recall that in your Ambassador days you were an opera buff, just as I am today. I'm sure you know how frequently that phonetic word occurs in the climaxes of the great operatic masterpieces. Of course, in Italian and other Romance languages "Dio" means God. Unfortunately, at Langley I couldn't help but suspect that some C.I.A. employees are getting the two meanings mixed up. As you may already know, it's a strange bunch back there at Langley.
-"No name please"
Some say that AR is very anti-WCG. But you were honest enough to report quite accurately about how valuable Mike Feazell's April WN article was. I wrote for a copy of the original paper from RENO-VARE and I found it to be just about the most helpful article I ever read about the Millennium teachings of the Bible. Thank you for telling us about the good in Worldwide, as well as the bad.
Last February, African-American History Month, the Ambassador Chorale combined with the Jarvis Christian College Choir in several performances. For many years, relations between the two schools were strained. But happily, things have been more positive the past couple of years. Then, on its last out-of-state trip, the Ambassador Chorale performed at the bombing site in Oklahoma City.
Dr. John McKenna, AU's last theology department chairman, was a Baptist. Some always feared bringing in theology professors of other denominations. However, Dr. McKenna's contributions here have been quite positive. He helped AU's last batch of theology majors in many ways.
A historical magazine was published and distributed on AU's last Graduation Day. It contains a year in review section as well as photos, a time line, and information on AU's presidents. It contained several photos of Garner Ted Armstrong, something which might not have happened in years past.
-1997 AU grad
Big Sandy, Texas
I was disappointed in some of the misleading material on the Catholic Church in AR65. It is the Beast, or at least an important part of it. You need to read Foxe's Book of Martyrs, To call Protestant churches "daughters" of Catholicism misses important facts. Those "daughters" fought and died to remove themselves from "Mother" Rome which has always been the false church.
Editor: By using the mother-daughter analogy I was not trying to denigrate either the Protestants or the Roman Church. The analogy was Herbert Armstrong's and is one that is still frequently used by Armstrongites. Personally, when one studies the incredible atrocities done by both Catholics and Protestants to each other during hundreds of years of European religious wars, I am not so certain that Herbert Armstrong's analogy was such a bad one.
I left the WCG the year after graduating from Big Sandy in 1978. I have many happy memories of all the wonderful people I met and became friends with while in Worldwide. But after many long years of study and reflection, I entered the Roman Catholic Church this year. Eight years ago I took classes at a local parish to learn what Catholics had to say about themselves and their faith. Most of what I had previously believed about Catholicism proved to be false. I had believed what the WCG said about the Catholic Church without checking for myself. What I found was a very spiritual and Bible-centered faith.
The issues that most non-Catholics get upset over (Mary, the pope, purgatory, confession to a priest, etc.), when examined closely, become easily understood and logical. Many of the practices of the WCG have similarities in the Catholic Church. Herbert Armstrong was "the Pope" of the WCG. The extensive counseling that many members received was no different than the spiritual guidance Catholics receive in the confessional. HWA's second chance theory corresponds with purgatory.
If any of your readers are still confused about what theology to embrace, I would recommend that they give Catholicism an honest look. I now see why the Roman Catholic Church has endured for two thousand years. I will be happy to correspond with anyone who would like to learn more about the Catholic Church. It would be great to hear from any of my former classmates.
-Randall G. Shelby
3855 Cleary Drive
Paducah, KY 42001
We left Global last year when we discovered the pervasive Jesuit influence. We then went United, but we are having doubts. Some members say that some at the top are members of something called "the League." It is a secret group of Ambassador graduates who are in most of the Churches of God. Now we have learned that some of them are part of "the Brotherhood" - a secret group of Masons and. Internationalists who are higher than even the Jesuits. Do you have any information about whether there is a group behind '"the Brotherhood"?
Editor: Sorry, you kind of lost me there.
I think your work is good therapy for those traumatized by experiences in the Worldwide Church of Armstrong. But as far as changing an organization that "does good" by preying on God's children, it isn't a reasonable aspiration. Only lawsuits and public exposure will bring such beasts to "repentance."
Concerning secrecy in the Church or any other religious organization, it's just the nature of such beasts to be dictatorial and necessarily secretive about their corrupt acts.
Much was said by Armstrong concerning church government, implying that his corporation was the government of God on earth. The truth is, most churches have no legitimate governments. They are simply dictatorships called corporations. Like tobacco corporations, church corporations are havens for foul spirits and all manner of corruption. The dictator at the top tells everyone else on the payroll what to think and do. Hireling ministers become idol worshippers. It seems to me that most ministers will do almost anything to get their paychecks. A successful minister cannot have a close relationship with God as a truly righteous minister will follow God instead of a church corporation (Matt. 6:24).
It is ludicrous to think Christ will come to put a dictatorship over the world. Dictatorships are the enemies of God and all mankind. If anything, God will force church corporations to become more democratic. All men who have led or served dictatorships have proven themselves incapable of governing others as God would have them. In Worldwide, it was said that God's government would be a benevolent dictatorship. But dictators are not benevolent, and the benevolent are not dictators.
The more I comprehend the mind and heart of God, the more I realize Armstrong and the other dictators in his corporation were tragically out of touch with their members and with God. Of course, it paid for them to be out of touch.
A Special Thanks
We have been a little long between issues because of a shortage of both time and money. Besides covering latebreaking news next time, some of the stories we are now working on for AR67 relate to: the very serious social aberrations and mental problems that are increasingly common in the WCG and its offshoots, Judaism in transition, the so-called Coder heresy that is penetrating the Armstrongite offshoots, some new bizarre cults to which ex-Worldwiders are going, the new Millennium hysteria, the conspiracy theory craze, and some new sources of information to help with the question of what in the world is going to be happening next. We will be going to press with that issue as soon as we pay off the bills for this one, hopefully within six to eight weeks.
We don't make a habit of running too much material in praise of ourselves. But we are human like everyone else, and when AR is praised or we get warmly thanked for our efforts, it is very much appreciated. In the June-July 1997 issue of Small Magazine Review, writer-reviewer Nick DiSpoldo did a short piece about Ambassador Report and in his review had these kind words for us:
Robert O. Ingersoll, the "Great Agnostic" of the 19th Century, would applaud Trechak, although Trechak is a Christian. Nevertheless, he has vigorously investigated religious rip-offs and scams....
Trechak practices what he preaches: he gives away the Newsletter and asks for a donation, if possible. AR has been consistently published and Trechak is relentless in his pursuit to rid organized religion of its rogues and bogus biblical brainwashers.
I thank Mr. DiSpoldo for his kudos. But I should point out that even though I personally take on most of the editorial burdens of putting out the Report, I do rely heavily on the creative input, criticism, advice, and thorough work done by a half dozen volunteer editors. Hence the "we" in my editorial comments is not just an "editorial we," but an actual group of individuals who have a say about what finally goes into each issue. While most of them, for one reason or another, prefer not to be credited publicly, this publication would not be as readable as it is were it not for their professional, yet unpaid-for, assistance.
Another group that deserves special mention is our information providers: those readers who provide us with news clippings, printed data, and important tips from literally around the world. Those tips are almost always what initiate our investigations and are therefore indispensable for making AR as informative as it is.
Finally, I should point out that even though we do distribute many copies of our newsletter for free, there are limits to how many we can just give away. This publication would not be possible if it were not for the special generosity of a minority of our readers who are really carrying far more than their share of the financial burden of our publishing work. On behalf of the majority of our readers, who are not able to contribute more than an occasional mite (even though we appreciate and indeed really need those "mites"), I want especially to thank that hard-core group of regular contributors for making possible the continued publication of Ambassador Report.
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