February 1999 (AR71)
Pasadena Campus to Be Sold
The Worldwide Church of God (WCG) has announced that it has found a buyer for its 48 acres of headquarters property, formerly the flagship campus of Ambassador College, in Pasadena, California. The buyer is Legacy Partners, an Orange County development company which has projects in many parts of the country. According to the Pasadena Star-News (1/16/99, p. A1), neither party would divulge the amount of the purchase price. But according to the Los Angeles Times (1/16/99, p. C2), Legacy has agreed to pay more than $100 million for the property.
According to the Times article:
Legacy hopes to develop a mixed-use "urban village" on the property that would blend upscale apartments, ground-floor retail space, housing for seniors and a hotel and conference center with the handful of historic mansions and large concert hall on the site....
"We want to take what they have done and build upon that heritage," said Legacy partner Bill Shubin. "We'll take the best part of what they have done and then take the buildings that don't have any commercial value and figure out how to redevelop them."
He anticipates razing most of the college buildings, but preserving Ambassador Auditorium; four mansions, including the 28-room Tudor showplace Mayfair, and a handful of other significant structures.
Among the buildings likely to be demolished are the college's gymnasium and maintenance buildings. Because of the size and complexity of the transaction, church officials say escrow could take one or two years. According to church treasurer Bernard Schnippert, quoted in the Star-News, the WCG will eventually no longer have a presence in Pasadena, and it has begun looking for smaller-scale headquarters elsewhere in Southern California.
Christmas Adds to WCG Income
In beginning each issue of Ambassador Report, we usually try to mention Worldwide Church of God (WCG) founder Herbert W. Armstrong in order that newer readers have some perspective as to what they are reading about. However, with the passage of time and all the changes instituted since the founder's death in 1986, Herbert W. Armstrong is becoming more and more irrelevant to the members of the church he founded.
A good case in point is the WCG's total embrace of Christmas. While HWA pointed out accurately that Christ was not born on or near December 25, today's WCG, in its rush to be part of evangelical Christianity, seems hardly to care about that fact anymore. Instead the Christmas holiday, turned holy day, has become one more money maker for the Tkach regime. In his December co-worker letter to the WCG, Tkach wrote:
During this time of year people's minds across America are directed toward the birth of Jesus - in the secular world as well as among Christians. For some people, sadly, the Christmas season is nothing more than a secular holiday, complete with immoral partying and overdrinking, while for others it is a special time of thanksgiving for God's grace through Jesus Christ.
Over the past year, many of our members have told us that they would like to give an offering as an act of worshipping during this time of year. In response to this request, we are making the enclosed offering envelope available....
If you choose to give a special offering during the Christmas season this year, please use the enclosed envelope.
WCG Members Cry Out for Democracy!
Some months ago, when Pastor General Joseph Tkach allowed local congregations to take surveys to determine which days they wished to keep, he probably had no idea where the survey suggestion would lead. Where it has led is that some congregations now wonder why surveys cannot be taken on other matters of doctrine and church administration. One such congregation is the WCG's Greenville, South Carolina congregation. They first wrote Tkach asking that WCG-wide referendums be used to clarify more church positions. When they received an inadequate reply, they responded:
We as members want to work together with HQ in all major areas, not only in finances! Therefore we are sending this second request to have our primary question answered. It was the only point in our [previous] letter which was in caps, in bold, and underlined. We repeat it hem as a direct quote from our previous letter:
"Therefore, for the sake of stability and trust in the church, we strongly request that such major decisions be put to a CHURCH-WIDE REFERENDUM, that is that people be allowed to have a say in it. After all, we the members collectively are the church. If not, we would once again have to conclude that the true feelings of our church do not matter to you."
In your response you did not address this request.
This only underscores our perception of a lack of good stewardship in this area. We are sorry to have to say this; however, we feel that we are not being taken seriously. This is what prompted our original letter in the first place. Therefore
A) The referendums ought to have member-generated questions and be handled by a member committee so that conclusive results may be arrived at.
B) Further, the use of a referendum should become corporate policy, i.e. the means by which all major future issues of church doctrines and practices are resolved.
We admit that what we are posing is a very direct and tough question. But sir, for us members it also has been, and still is, very tough. So, let us indeed go through this "together," strong and united, instead of fractured and dwindled. Fact: in early 1997, there were 81,000 members remaining (WN, 1/97, "History"). We thought then that the worst attrition was over. Yet today, the church's website lists 50,000. That is a drop of 38% since then - and the losses are continuing.
Such terrible and sad attrition needs to be stopped. We plead that now is the time to "reason together."
Signed by 52 members of the WCG's Greenville, SC congregation.
There is still no indication as to how the Tkach administration will deal with this new way of thinking. But certainly this cry for democracy is something new in the WCG!
©1999 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.
It was only in our last issue that we predicted that with the shrinkage of the United Church of God, it was likely that the Global Church of God (GCG), headed by evangelist Roderick C. Meredith, would soon emerge as the world's leading Armstrongite organization. But how quickly the winds of fate change direction! Just weeks after mailing our last issue we learned that the board of the GCG, in effect, downsized evangelist Meredith.
But Meredith had no intention of obeying the orders of the church board. While publicly teaching loyalty to "duly-constituted authority," Meredith has always been one to keep an eye out for his own interests. And so, true to form, he lashed back at GCG board member Larry Salyer and the rest of the board of GCG and is apparently on his way to starting yet one more breakaway Armstrongite group. Here, in a letter dated November 21, is the way Meredith explained and excused his actions to his followers:
Greetings from San Diego! This is a special emergency letter, so read it very carefully. You will want to go over this letter and pray and FAST about it. For SATAN is now striking directly at the Global Church of God and at me personally!
First of all, thank you again for your kind expressions of love and loyalty to me during and since the Feast. The outpouring of enthusiasm for "doing the Work" - and for my leadership - was most encouraging and inspiring. I know that the large majority of you brethren are "Philadelphians" (Rev. 3:7-8). Your heart is in doing a real Work. Your heart is in preserving and teaching the full Truth. And you do believe in God's form of Church Government which was explained to us so carefully by Herbert W. Armstrong.
As most of you know, the Global Church of God was founded - under Christ's leadership - essentially by me and my wife, Sheryl, assisted by Mr. Don Davis. In the last two weeks of December 1992, others began to come with us. We had an informal Sabbath service in my home on December 26, with 19 present, including children. Then, on January 2, 1993, we conducted our first official Sabbath service in the recreation room of a large condominium complex managed by Don Davis. We only had 42 people in attendance. For approximately the first two months no other full time ministers had yet joined us in this effort. So, at age 62, I had to "step out in faith" to start the Global Church of God.
As many of you know, the living Jesus Christ guided circumstances so that I was literally "pushed" to start this Work. After learning of the increasingly apostate movement in our former association, I had been praying fervently and fasting twice a month for God to make it absolutely clear to me what He wanted me to do. Finally, in December 1992, Christ did reveal it very clearly to me. I was told that I was going to be forcibly retired whether I wanted to be or not. And it was made clear that in retirement I was to do "nothing " - not even visit or anoint the sick (which I had requested to do) or write an occasional article.
Brethren, the timing of all this was very significant. Yet it was out of my control, for I was certainly not "trying" to get retired. This assault on my ministry came exactly 40 years after my ordination as an Evangelist in December 1952. And strikingly, the official beginning of Global at our first service was seven years to the month from Mr. Armstrong's death in 1986! Most of you know the significance of those numbers, so I won't elaborate further on that except to say that I am positive that all of this was done with Christ's Divine guidance and blessing.
For about the first three years, Global grew and grew in size and in the impact of the Work. We all rejoiced in God's blessing and guidance. But other ministers came with us and were being added to the Board of the Church and to the Council of Elders. As time went along, some of the Board and Council members began to talk of cutting back on doing the Work of God. As I resisted this, they became more and more presumptuous over the last year. Threats and insinuations made it obvious that if I did not "go along" with them that they would try to remove me from the Board or Council. In fact, in our September Board meeting, they even - over my objections - removed my wife, Sheryl, from the Board and changed the By-Laws so that they can REMOVE ME not only from the Board or Council, but actually disfellowship me from the Church! This makes it VERY CLEAR where they are headed!
You might ask how could they do all of this? It all goes back to a serious, though innocent, mistake I made at the founding of Global. We had to have an outside attorney draw up the By-Laws governing the Church so that we could operate legally, receive tithes and offerings, and so that you brethren would be able to deduct your contributions from your taxable income. Those By-Laws contained the expression that "the Board" was to make all decisions regarding hiring, firing and other administrative and business affairs of the corporation. Frankly, brethren, in the midst of hectic day and night telephone calls from many of you who came early on, with the need to get new booklets out, get our radio program going, etc., I was so busy that I didn't realize the danger of the way those By-Laws were worded. And, besides, the original Board consisted of the most trusted individuals I knew at that time - my wife and me and Mr. Davis.
But, other men came on the Board and the Council - men I have now come to realize had a great deal of personal ambition and a completely different view of how we should conduct the Work of God. So trouble began to brew. For over the last year or two, some of these men have tried to "push" me into going completely off WGN - our ONLY major television outlet in the United States! They have directly pushed for a completely different approach to doing the Work - planning to concentrate our efforts on turning inward - NOT striving first of all to go through the "open doors" that Christ shows Philadelphians will do. I can tell you very definitely, brethren, that this approach would DESTROY the Work of God as we have known it, and would slowly but surely turn us into a kind of "social club," thinking only of ourselves.
Now, these misguided, but very political individuals are beginning to follow the pattern of those dissidents who tried to unseat Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong back in 1979. Rather than trusting that the Living Christ would guide the one He is using to do His Work (and NOT one advocating direct heresy!), these men are using the new By-Laws which they have devised to try to pressure me to do their will or to "oust" me if I don't! You would have to experience the atmosphere of profound disrespect, envy, jealousy and open HOSTILITY displayed in some of our Council and Board meetings to really grasp the impact of what I am talking about.
Dear brethren, we are being trained at this time to learn and later to administer GOD'S form of government. And as Herbert W. Armstrong explained clearly over and over again, God has virtually ALWAYS worked primarily through one man in leading or guiding any particular phase of His Work down through the ages. All the way from Moses, Samuel, David to Nehemiah, that pattern is clearly shown in the Old Testament. Then, in the New Testament, the overwhelming weight of evidence shows that Christ used Peter, NOT as a "Pope" - but, as the definite "Leader" of the original 12 apostles. Then after Acts 15, Peter left the scene and apparently went to the "lost 10 tribes" of Israel in Northwest Europe and the British Isles.
Paul became the obvious and primary leader of the Work to the Gentiles. God even inspired Paul to put this into the very Word of God: "But on the contrary, when they saw that the Gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the Gospel to the circumcised was to Peter..." (Gal. 2:7). Notice that Paul does NOT say that the Gospel to the circumcised was committed "equally" to all 12 of the original apostles, but rather to Peter! And, again, Paul did NOT write that the Gospel to the Gentiles was given to him and Barnabas, but rather to Paul himself! Certainly, these dedicated men - Peter and Paul - used and supported the others working with them. But NO TIME did they have a human "board" of men LACKING FAITH in Christ's leadership to constantly "second guess" them, thwart their decision to preach the Gospel and even threaten them with dismissal if they didn't cooperate!
Frankly, brethren, throughout the Bible, whenever you see a man being used of God - whether by appointment or through circumstances - to raise up or lead a phase of God's Work, that man is "God's anointed" in that particular function and must be respected as such. Even King Saul of ancient Israel - unrighteous though he was, even to the point of attempting to murder David (I Sam. 19:10) - was respected as God's "anointed." So even when David had already been anointed by Samuel as the next King of Israel, he DARED NOT try to harm or overthrow Saul! When David had a perfect opportunity to destroy Saul he told his warriors "The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the LORD'S anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD" (I Sam. 24:6).
These men who have made these threatening political moves and comments toward me seem to have NO FAITH in the Living Christ to lead His Church and remove me if that were ever necessary. Rather, they have decided to use human, carnal political means to get their way and to thwart the one Christ guided to raise up and lead the Global Church of God. This attitude and approach, if it is allowed to continue, will spread like a CANCER through the body of Christ! Increasingly, our meetings have become more like a debating society. Each "side" has to divide up their constituents and propagandize them before a "vote" is taken on key issues. That is worldly. That is DAMNABLE! We will NEVER learn to faithfully practice God's form of Government if this continues! Frankly, brethren, since I was "out voted" anyway, I tried for a while to cooperate and go along with this system for the sake of UNITY in God's Church. Now I see that I was WRONG. I should NOT have gone along with this "democratic" approach even for the sake of unity. This "political" approach to government is NEVER advocated in the Bible. It is NOT working because it is not God's way, and it breeds CHAOS and confusion. I have not wanted to fight. But now, I am being FORCED to fight for the Truth - for God's form of Church Government and for us to have the ZEAL to finish the Work! Some of these men on the Board want to "politicize" this Church and make it like the human governments of this world.
Brethren, these carnal practices must CEASE within the body of Christ! Now, even since I started this letter, a Board meeting was hold yesterday, November 20. Although it had been intimated that these men might be willing to put at least one friendly face on the Board, instead they chose to REMOVE Mr. Carl McNair and put in his place a lawyer! I was ASTOUNDED at the effrontery of this most obvious political move! For Carl McNair is one of the most dedicated, balanced and experienced ministers I have ever known.
Next, this small cadre of men on the Board voted to remove me from having any authority over the preaching schedule and who is to speak on our headquarters sermon tapes to the Churches and video groups all around the world. Obviously, if they had their way, you would be hearing less and less from the one Christ has used to raise up and lead the Global Church of God. Next, I was told by Larry Salyer that I would not be speaking the next Sabbath, November 21, even though I was already scheduled to speak.
Then, they began to call in, one by one, a number of leading employees here - known to be loyal to me - and proceeded to lecture, frighten and/or intimidate them. Has another "reign of terror" begun? In addition to the above matter, I have learned - on very good authority - that several "secret" contacts have been made behind my back with another church fellowship. I find that - though I am still Presiding Evangelist of the Church - I have been intentionally left out and even misted about some of these contacts! This is blatant rebellion and even DISLOYALTY against the Founder and President of the Global Church of God!
I could go on with many more details, dear brethren, but I think you get the picture. Therefore, until these disloyal and deceived men back down, or leave, I am asking all of you faithful brethren to send all of your tithes and offerings in care of me to Post Office Box 501394, San Diego, CA 92150-1304. Just put my name "Roderick C. Meredith" on the check....
In closing, I want to assure you that most of the ministry stand fully behind me.... The majority of the Council of Elders backs my leadership. And all of the Regional Pastors save one stand firmly behind me in this effort to "rescue" the Global Church of God from this small band of rebels on the Board. I know that most of you, dear brethren, back my leadership. But in all honesty, we must now stand and FIGHT to preserve the Global Church of God! With the majority of the ministry and of you faithful brethren standing with us, surely this puny band of politicians will not be allowed to prevail....
But prevail they did and the result was -
The board of the GCG was quick to respond to Dr. Meredith's throwing down of the gauntlet. Almost immediately, evangelist Larry Salyer, the director of the GCG's ministry, wrote to the GCG ministry with the approval of board members Raymond F. McNair, J. Edwin Pope, and Norbert Link. A second letter, covering most of the same issues, was written jointly by the four men and directed to the entire GCG membership. In the letter to the GCG ministry, Salyer wrote:
This is a very difficult message to write, and I know that many of you have somehow come to believe such accusations and rumors about me that you may not even care to read what I write. Nevertheless, it is my duty to write, and I will.
This message is from the Board.
I am truly sad to say that after a full day of discussion and guts-out "negotiation," Dr. Meredith has separated himself from the Global Church of God, and as a consequence the Board had no choice but to terminate his employment with the Church. In spite of the rancor apparent in the letter Dr. Meredith mailed to all members on Monday [23 Nov.], today's meeting ended amicably, with handshakes and hugs. We bear Dr. Meredith no ill will, and told him we would continue to pray for him. He hoped we could have friendly contact in the future.
We, the remaining Board members, must respectfully but categorically deny the long list of charges and accusations contained in Dr. Meredith's letter. We consider the letter extremely libelous. Particularly alarming is the fact that Dr. Meredith revealed in his letter that he was already setting up a competing corporation and that he was asking members to send all their tithes and offerings to his personal address, while still in the employ of Global and drawing his paycheck from Global. In addition, we consider this to be a breach of his fiduciary duties as an officer of the corporation.
It should be understood by all that the aforementioned letter was written and mailed during an interim period in our discussions, which we had agreed to so we could all pray about these decisions. Let me amplify that. We held 8 hours of Board meetings on last Thursday and Friday [19 and 20 Nov.] without reaching a successful reconciliation. Both "sides" had proposed certain actions and neither was able to bend enough to solve the conflict.
Dr. Meredith had posed the possibility that he would "leave Global," which he had also mentioned during our recent Council meeting. We recessed the meeting until Tuesday [24 Nov.], at Dr. Meredith's request, so that he could have time to pray about it. We asked him directly if he would "try to stir up the Church this weekend." He said "No, I won't do anything this weekend." Nevertheless, during the weekend we heard that he made many phone calls to field ministers asking for ministers to "stand with him."
Then, late Monday afternoon [23 Nov.], in what could have only been miraculous intervention, we learned that more than a quarter of a million dollars had suddenly been drained from Global's bank account, through the use of unauthorized checks, signed by Dr. Meredith and another individual who had no power to sign any checks. Further, one six-figure check was payable to the very person who signed it without authority. Thankfully, this miraculous intervention allowed us to stop payment of those unauthorized checks. But we learned that fully one half million dollars was moved from our investment account to the operating account to cover the checks. The only conclusion we can draw from this even larger unauthorized transfer of funds is that even more unauthorized checks were planned to be written later. A logical conclusion considering that all of this was done in secrecy!
By the way, these actions were justified by saying that the money was being used to pay back loans to individuals. Maybe so, but that process always involves authorization and is done according to strict agreements and payback schedules agreed to by all parties. In this case, the loans were not due and payable, and the checks were hand-written, apparently outside office hours, and not through the person who is responsible for such checks. The immediate effect would have been to put the Global Church of God in financial jeopardy and on the verge of bankruptcy. When pointed out that this action, in our opinion, might potentially constitute criminal activity, Dr. Meredith suggested that we could just tell the bank that the signer was a 68-year-old man who didn't quite know what he was doing.
Meanwhile, rumors of a letter being mailed from outside the office gave us reason to be suspicious of the "prayer" interval. By Tuesday morning [24 Nov.], several of us, including Dr. Meredith, had received phone calls from concerned ministers and others, pleading with us to do everything possible to avoid a "split." We all agreed that this was urgent and important and went into the meeting with that in mind. Dr. Meredith mentioned it right up front, but had concluded that a recommended "third-party" consultant would not understand our problems and that our relationship had deteriorated too far for this to be practical.
Generally speaking, all agreed, though all parties still wanted to reach a settlement. Shortly after the meeting began, Dr. Meredith produced copies of his 4-page letter and told us that he had had it mailed to the members on Monday [23 Nov., the day before]. This, of course, not only contrary to rules regarding the use of the mailing list, but was also done during the previous agreed upon "prayer period."
Reading the letter at the meeting, we were appalled at the distortion of facts, imaginary incidents, and the invective with which they were presented. All four additional men on the Board had been accused of everything from rebellion to conspiracy, and even a cancerous attitude.
We all stated our sincere desire to come to an amicable solution to our problems. But Dr. Meredith's opening suggestion was that we resign, receive generous severance and/or retirement, and go wherever we wanted to.
After meeting from 10:00 am till 2:30 pm, we took a two hour break and reconvened. We insisted that since the well had been poisoned so badly by the unauthorized letter to all members, there would be no way to go forward unless Dr. Meredith would recant what he had written and acknowledge that it was a terribly divisive act to send the letter out.
Eventually, after much discussion, he went so far as to say that he would be willing to write a letter that would mollify what he had said. Nevertheless, Dr. Meredith would not retract the basic, libelous content of the letter.
We asked if he still felt that he would have to leave. He said yes. We then told him that we had to consider his actions over the last few days and the content of the letter as a decision already made by him to leave this organization. Therefore, to fulfill our ministerial and Board responsibilities, we had no choice but to formalize the dismissal of Dr. Meredith.
As stated earlier, the meeting ended on a friendly note. [Huh?] We are fully aware that this tragic situation will make life difficult for you as well as us. We can only ask that you carefully and prayerfully seek God's will. We hope you all choose to get the facts and make a right judgment about how you will serve God's people at this time. We intend to call a ministerial conference of all full-time men within the next few weeks to clear the air on all these accusations and to rebuild the infrastructure of the Church so that we might go forward. It is the full intent of those of us here in San Diego to continue to do the Work of God as He opens doors for us.
We are prepared to work with any of you to sort out concerns about meeting halls, fleet cars and other matters of mutual interest. We do not have any desire to be antagonistic or unreasonable. If the new corporation is interested in purchasing some of our assets, we will certainly consider the request....
One final thought: Please remember the hurts and offenses that occurred among us when we left WCG and when UCG started, etc. Many people said and did things they now regret. Why don't we try to avoid such pitfalls this time around?....
Tacked on to Salyer's letter was a letter he had previously written. Although chronologically the tacked-on portion would have made more sense as a prelude to the main body, it, nonetheless, contained numerous insights into the mind of Meredith and GCG's troubles. Here are a few excerpts from that addendum:
What Dr. Meredith perceives as a power struggle probably began during the November '97 Council of Elders meeting, and really heated up during the February meeting, when we unanimously confirmed that we would practice government by consensus of the Council. It broke into the open during the latest Council meeting a couple of weeks ago. when Dr. Meredith made it abundantly clear that he had no intention of abiding by the unanimous agreements of the council of Elders and the Board of Directors concerning the subject of "Church government," which had been discussed for endless hours over the last 5 meetings.
During and after this most recent Council meeting, Dr. Meredith repeated his previous threat that he might have to "pull a David Hulme." He has since told us in no uncertain terms that he will have to make a decision of whether to leave Global.
Yes, the real issue IS Church govemment!! But, even more than that, it is the integrity of the Church, the ministry, the Council, the Board, and our doctrinal positions and processes that are at stake here. There are many and varied reasons why the Board has recently had to take a stand on principle, and they had nothing whatever to do with "taking over."
Volumes could be written about our discussions and the various writings, sermons, and actions that have flowed from them. Because how we all do our jobs and operate every day is a function of Church government. And this whole "debate" originated with Dr. Meredith's booklet, "When Should You Follow Church Government?" Many of the ministers and members who came to Global in the early years had read and accepted the statements made in that booklet. In fact, it was WHY many came to Global at that time! Our bylaws, the Council, the Board, and our Articles of Incorporation as a non-profit, tax-exempt organization were all based on the concepts and teachings contained in that booklet and in sermons and conversations about this subject. Personally, I had several such conversations with Dr. Meredith at the time I was deciding whether to come to Global. I expect that some of you had similar conversations and concerns. Even when the subject was thoroughly reviewed by the Council in February, Dr. Meredith added his voice to the unanimous decision to continue to preach and proclaim that form of government, based on "multitude of counsel." This government structure also contained a system of checks and balances to prevent one person from leading the Church off course, with provision to correct doctrinal, administrative or personal problems.
Amazingly, even after sending a letter to the entire membership confirming this structure, on June 11, 1998, Dr. Meredith continued to contradict the decisions of the Council of Elders, both in private conversations and in sermons and in meetings. Additionally, he has said several times, including in the initial Council meetings on the subject, something like this: "Well, I wrote the booklet on government to help people come out of WCG, but I never believed it was the way the Church should be governed." What?
In fact, when Mr. Raymond McNair recently asked Dr. Meredith whether he believed God had guided the Council, after we had opened the meetings with prayer and fervently requested God's inspiration and blessing, the reply shocked us all. He said, "Well those are just words. Don't you think the Catholics pray before their meetings?"
I use these examples only to give you the tiniest bit of flavor of what we have been dealing with for some time. We did not share these things with you because we honestly believed they could be worked out and that Dr. Meredith would come to see where he was wrong.
A lot of members, and perhaps a lot of you, don't care much about government structure. However, the more obvious spiritual problem we are dealing with arises out of this conflict. The way Dr. Meredith began to deal with this issue was to say that some of the men at headquarters were trying to tie his hands, and take over the Church. These "accusations" began to surface in the field, and the rumor mill took over. Frankly, it was some time before those of us on the Board knew where they were originating. Nevertheless, a lot of discord was sown. This is ugly and I know it, but I must put this in a little more context for you.
While most of you don't give a hang about how the Board works, or why, let me tell you that it is the focal point of all business and legal liability of the Church. In addition, the Board members can in some cases be held individually and collectively liable for debts of, or judgments against the corporation. We are also responsible to state and federal governments for the way the Church conducts its affairs. The fact that some of you know about this is clear from the immediate call today for repayment of large loans some ministers and brethren have made to the Church during our financial crisis a couple of years ago. They are being used as leverage to pressure the Board to yield to Dr. Meredith's persistent claim to be in sole authority and make unilateral decisions, while the Board bears the liability. This of course could possibly bankrupt the Church, which would serve no one's purpose. I have to liken it to a "scorched earth" policy in battle.
Dr. Meredith has previously threatened that he would "take it over your heads to the lay members of the Church." (Doesn't this sound like democracy?) What is the Church saying now? Don't I recall that you were angry with senior ministers in WCG who never stood up to repeated wrongdoing, even chiding me personally for not having done more? And now am I to understand that the ministry and members are saying, "We are comfortable and happy. Tell us smooth things"? Men who believe they have a duty to God and His people to stand up for the Truth cannot do that. There is much more detail and many different aspects to the current situation, but I see no need to cover it now.
Fellow ministers and brethren, we are in a colossal crisis in the Church.... Let us as members of the Body of Christ set aside the Sabbath of December 5, 1998, to fast together and draw close to God.... I will greatly appreciate your prayers, because praying is the most valuable thing any of us can do.
Thanks for listening.
In the seventies Pastor General Herbert Armstrong at one point removed Meredith from the active ministry and forbade him to preach (that time has been called Meredith's "Hawaiian imprisonment" because during that time he was sent to live in Hawaii). Then in the eighties Pastor General Joe Tkach Sr. at one point found it necessary to ban Meredith from the WCG's pulpits, as well. So now, with the GCG Board's banishment of Meredith from the pulpits of Global, Meredith has gotten his third strike, and some are saying he should be permanently banned from preaching - anywhere.
Has Meredith Lost It?
Oddly, it was just weeks before the Meredith crisis, that in a letter to the Sabbatarian Journal, Meredith wrote:
The bylaws of the Global Church of God, which govern our administrative processes, clearly state that the council of elders has final authority in the church in all major doctrinal as well as administrative matters. The board of directors is charged with conducting the business of the church, including hiring or terminating personnel, establishing their duties and setting their compensation. While both the board and the council have confirmed my leading role in the church, all final decisions are made by consensus - usually after much discussion and prayers.
In spite of such expressed "collegiality," on November 27, the entire GCG Board (Raymond McNair, Larry Salyer, Edwin Pope, and Norbert Link) sent out a letter explaining the leadership crisis to the church's lay members. Space does not permit us to quote more than a portion of it, but in addition to much of the information contained in Salyer's letter to the ministry, the Board's letter contained these interesting tidbits:
This letter is very difficult to write because we are forced to acknowledge that Satan has struck another master blow to the unity of God's people. The small flock of which we all have been a part is once again being scattered.... the Board of Directors formalized [Dr. Meredith's] departure by terminating his employment following his refusal to resign. Some of his reasons are known only to him and to God, but it is apparent to us that the primary reason is a compelling need to be preeminent in every way above the brethren and the rest of the ministry....
Certainly, both the members and the ministry have looked to Dr. Meredith for leadership, and have given him the benefit of the doubt whenever he fell short. And during the first few years of Global, when he was little in his own eyes, Dr. Meredith was able to receive and use the counsel - and even gentle correction - given by his follow ministers as well as some of the brethren he knew well (cf. I Sam. 15:17). But in the last two years or so there has been an increasing pride and unwillingness to acknowledge transgressions pointed out to him by his fellow ministers and employees. Perhaps it was this resistance to guidance and exhortation that caused him to talk more and more about who is "in charge," of the "human leader," and use other such phrases and words of self-aggrandizement. He prided himself on God having used him to start Global because he had been pushed out of the Worldwide Church of God - whereas, in fact, he only left that Church after his request to at least work as a writer, local older or a youth coordinator was rejected. Dr. Meredith, then, would presumably have stayed in Worldwide while the Work collapsed if he had been allowed to work with young people in one local congregation. Thus, there might never have been a Global Church of God!
Such self-promotion was not even challenged too much at first. But when the fruits of that kind of thinking became obvious in the form of hardheaded, unilateral decisions - often against the counsel of the other experienced ministers - many of us began to be concerned and told him so. Finally, the subject of Church government was addressed by the Council of Elders.
We went back and studied the booklet on the subject written by Dr. Meredith himself when Global was founded (originally titled Church Government and Church Unity and later slightly expanded and retitled When Should You Follow Church Government?).
We reexamined the scriptures he used and found that he had rightly presented the case against one-man, autocratic rule. This was obvious since there is no longer an apostle on the scene!
Further, our bylaws had been written to provide for some separation of powers to guarantee certain checks and balances in our governmental structure. Many members had come to Global comforted that we had not installed a "dictatorship." We had represented this more "collegial" form of government to various individuals who had asked. Yet, during these past few years we have strayed from our stated structure.
Dr. Meredith assumed authority and preeminence that was contradictory to what we all had believed, taught and directly stated to the general public. This also represented a danger to the Church, in that we were saying one thing in our writings and doing quite another. We were not even abiding by our bylaws.
Some pointed out that this could even jeopardize our tax-exempt status and, if this status were to be forfeited, could make our faithful donors and tithe payers potentially liable for back taxes on their donations.
Also, an increased willingness on Dr. Meredith's part to speak derogatorily about others was observed, opening ourselves up to defamation lawsuits. In the past, the Worldwide Church of God was sued and found liable for 1.26 million dollars because of, in part, defamatory comments made by Dr. Meredith....
Repeated misstatements and contradictions were frequently brought to Dr. Meredith's attention, yet he refused to recognize and correct the problems. Faced with what he saw as undue criticism from his associates and staff, Dr. Meredith's attention became increasingly defensive and suspicious. He wanted us to show him "more respect," and defer to him even when we felt that doing so would compromise our integrity. The record now shows that he began to seek sympathetic ears among the field ministry and the brethren and to engage in character assassination of the most appalling nature. Headquarters ministers were painted as power-hungry. No one could be trusted. People were part of a conspiracy to investigate his every action and to remove him from his office....
In reality, of course, he was receiving a great deal of support behind the scenes. Several of his major booklets were at most only half-written by him - receiving their depth and substance from other editors and writers. In fact, it became increasingly difficult for the Editorial Department staff to "rework" his material....
Rumor and gossip became commonplace. The Director of Church Administration was referred to as "Absalom," who through political actions, would try to steal the Church....
He dropped casual comments that so-and-so "should be fired." He referred to them by disparaging names. Again discord was sown and people's lives were terribly damaged.... Things came to a head during the Council of Elders meeting of November 10, 1998. He conducted an "inquisition" against a field pastor and Council member in a manner that could only be described as "malicious." Dr. Meredith came in prepared to take a stand as "sole leader" of the Church. He boldly demanded that the Board members, all of whom are on the Council, immediately assure him that we would appoint some of his men (he actually called them "my men") to the Board. When we declined to do so, he recessed the meeting for 15 minutes, saying, "I've got a big decision to make. I am going to take 'my men' into my office and counsel with my friends and advisors." This move was especially significant, since earlier that week Dr. Meredith had told a group of five men meeting in his office that if the Board continued to tie his hands, he would have to leave Global and that he thought the great majority of the brethren would go with him.... a meeting was called for Thursday, November 19, When Dr. Meredith came into the meeting, he started with a lecture and told us we needed to repent of out attitudes toward him. He said, "I am going to play hardball."....
The Global Church of God was in jeopardy. When the meeting reconvened on Friday morning - with reason to believe that Dr. Meredith and certain other staff members were prepared to jump ship - the Board approved a motion stating that all membership lists, mailing lists and files were declared to be the sole property of the Global Church of God and that use of these lists by any individual, without written consent of the Executive Committee, was strictly prohibited. (The Executive Committee, of which Dr. Meredith was Chairman, acts on behalf of the Board to take care of daily routine business.)
Dr. Meredith had objected to the motion and, to our dismay, so had Carl McNair. Dr. Meredith argued, "This is MY Church! These are MY people!" (But isn't it GOD'S Church? Aren't these GOD'S people?) Still, the motion to protect our files was adopted by the Board. It was pointed out to those present that unauthorized use of our private subscriber files would constitute illegal behavior. Next we moved to secure the bank accounts, removing the signature of one man, not on the Board, and whose position on these matters was unknown.... To bring the Board back to five ministers as required in the bylaws, and to strengthen the protection of the corporation, Norbert Link, who is both an ordained minister and an attorney who had already been fully involved in Board meetings and business, was then added to the Board....
In Christian love,
Members of the Board of Directors,
Raymond F. McNair, Larry R. Salyer, J. Edwin Pope, Norbert Link
The quotes from the Meredith letter and the GCG Board's response were rather long, but we have included lengthy excerpts because we think they very clearly reveal what kind of a spirit motivates Roderick Meredith. We'll leave it to our readers to ponder whether finding the magical numbers 2, 3, 7, 12, 19, 40, 42 (7X6), or 62 somewhere in one's past really constitutes ample proof of one's divine calling. We will not get into an argument as to whether Peter, and not James (Acts 15:13-19), was the leading apostle or whether, in fact, all twelve apostles were of equal "rank" (Matt. 20:25-27). We will also not belabor the point that Dr. Meredith has distorted somewhat what Paul actually said in Galatians (see Gal. 2:9 where Paul mentions the gospel being preached, not just by himself, but also by James, Cephas, and Barnabas, among others who Paul mentions elsewhere).
As to Meredith's recollections of the founding of Global, those who are concerned about such issues may wish to get an opinion from one who was there at the start - Norman Edwards of Servant's News, P.O. Box 220, Charlotte, Mich, 48813-0220. Those who would like to read in their entirety Larry Salyer's November letter or the GCG Board's excellent letter to its membership explaining the GCG crisis should write to the Global Church of God in San Diego.
Where all of this will lead for the people of Global is anyone's guess. There have been discussions between the leaders of Global and the leaders of the United Church of God. One has to wonder if at some point Global will not melt into United.
Sadly, Meredith, who in the early years of the WCG considered himself "Number Five" in the universe after God, the Father and Son, and the Armstrongs, father and son, now appears to rank himself as Number Three in the universe and Number One on this planet. While Meredith has many admirers, there have been many over the years who have questioned Meredith's mental balance. And many recall that he was actually head of the WCG's Church Administration Department during the days when the WCG ministry was its most authoritarian and abusive. Now, however, some of those same critics of Meredith fear that 68-year-old's personality problems are being worsened by age. Undoubtedly, Meredith will draw a following. As for us, however, we will not be too quick in sending our tithes to Dr. Meredith.
As we go to press, we have learned that with the smoke clearing somewhat with the Meredith scandal, it appears that approximately 60 percent of the membership of Global has gone to the Meredith camp with the remaining 40 percent staying with the Raymond McNair-Larry Salyer leadership. The Global Church of God remains at P.O. Box 501111, San Diego, CA, 92150-1111.
Split in Church of God the Eternal
One of the earliest splitoffs from the WCG was that of prominent ministers Raymond Cole and Bryce Clark leaving in 1975 to form the Church of God the Eternal. Now, Clark has disassociated himself from the CGE and plans to start yet one more Church of God organization. The reasons behind the latest split are still not clear.
Exotic New Churches
Whatever else one might think of Herbert Armstrong, we have to admit he understood religion as a business. And one of the principles of the religion business that he understood and practiced was to have a unique product and therefore a kind of monopoly. Not so with most of the WCG breakoffs. Most cling to the basic Armstrongite teachings and to the name "Church of God" and therefore they each market themselves as just one more of the many "churches of God." Recently, however, we discovered that at least two of the breakoffs have deviated from that copycat formula.
One is former WCG minister Dallas James who has started "The Mountain Club" subtitled "Founding Chapter of the Association for Biblical Christianity." His address is 2442 NW Market St., #40, Seattle, WA 98107-4177. He offers online books, breaking news, new biblical research, a first century Christian forum, and links. His web site URL reveals a little about what he thinks of himself. It is www.bibleprophet.com. There, you can enter "The Tabernacle" and you can read "Elijah News" and about "Dallas James - House of Aaron" and the "Renewed Levitical Priesthood."
The second former WCG minister who has started what we think is an exotic ministry is Robert J. Petry who after his name tacks on the letters "C.L." (we have no idea what they stand for). Petry has not started a church. Instead, he runs "The Embassy of YHWH." His web site explains it this way:
The EMBASSY of YHWH is commissioned by its government as an Embassy to present information and aid to the Citizens of YHWH's Government/Kingdom/Empire. The Embassy is to help prepare Citizens for events to happen in the next 30-32 years. If you consider yourself one of the Citizens of the Kingdom of YHWH mentioned in the ancient Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, then you should visit this site often for up-to-date information. The Final Countdown is about to begin!
The Embassy's site is at:
Scandals in Other Denominations
If one were to read only Ambassador Report (we hope no one would be so short-sighted), one might get the impression that the Armstrongite group of churches is the most scandalplagued in the country. This, however, is not so. A perusal of just a few of the nation's newspapers often reveals church scandals far worse than those of the WCG and its offspring. Note the following two excerpts from the Los Angeles Times (11/16/98 and 11/19/98):
PITTSBURGH - Father Benz was sick in bed, his brain infected by a lethal virus, his body washed by leukemia, his soul tainted by sin. A pastor at two parishes for 26 years, Benz had just confessed to something unholy: skimming the collection plate of $1.35 million.
That wasn't all. Parishioners learned that the Roman Catholic priest had been living lavishly with a lady friend and amassing six-figure gambling losses at Atlantic City. He had rooms at the rectory, of course, but also a house in the suburbs, a condo in Florida, a cache of precious coins and a Cadillac. He had a collection of 27 handguns, most still in the box. He had stylish Japanese furniture and a statue of Buddha.
Now he was trapped in a purgatory of catastrophic illness and impending criminal prosecution. The more the law closed in, the more his health seemed to fade. By the time he began admitting his transgressions, viral fever had addled his brain to the point where he was showering with his clothes on and forgetting how to feed himself. And on the day authorities showed up at his sickbed to arraign him, Father Benz slipped deep into a coma.
Nine days later, somebody crept into his room at a Catholic nursing home and plucked the oxygen tube catheter from his hose and the IV needle from his arm. The Rev. Walter J. Benz, 72, died two hours later, moving on to a judgment day in the hereafter, while avoiding one here in suburban Pittsburgh.
He left behind a confession that implicated his female companion, a former church secretary, and a series of riddles. Who did it? Why kill a dying man? Vengeance? Or mercy? Dr. Cyril Wecht, the Allegheny County coroner, thinks the latter motive is the more logical.
Or, how about this story:
ARCATA, Calif - Andy Lowery thought he had seen the type before when Wayne Adam Ford first walked into his Christian book and music shop a couple of years ago. "People who have problems come to see the Christian people," Lowery says.
Ford said his marriage had busted up, he was losing touch with the toddler son he adored, his life was adrift. Lowery tried to help, selling Ford evangelical tracts and a Bible on tape to listen to on his trucking routes. He even took Ford to the men's Bible study group.
Through it all, only one thing made Ford seem different from other lost souls who dropped by the store. "He said he was concerned," Lowery says, "that he didn't have a conscience."
On Nov. 3, Ford has told investigators, he found his conscience. After a night of heavy drinking and a tearful session with his brother in a threadbare hotel room, the two paid an early-morning visit to the sheriffs station in Eureka. Ford carried his Bible and a woman's severed breast stuffed into a plastic bag. He confessed, investigators say, to strangling four women and dumping their sometimes dismembered bodies in different parts of the state.
Those interested in reading the two stories in their entirety, may purchase them online from the archives section of the Los Angeles Times at latimes.com.
The Rev. Moon-George Bush Connection
On Sunday, September 20, Mike Wallace and his Sixty Minutes team again exposed one more crazy cult to the glare of his cameras. While it is no secret that Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church is the leader of one of the world's largest and most outlandish cults, the full extent of his hypocrisy was quite evident on that recent Sixty Minutes which put special emphasis on Moon's own family problems. Specially highlighted were the cocaine tantrums of Moon's son, who seems to be the heir-apparent to Moon's religious empire.
Surprisingly, however, the Sixty Minutes program, while very good, failed to mention one of the most interesting aspects of the Moon story - the connection between Moon and former U.S. President George Bush.
For a number of years now Bush has been the featured guest speaker at conventions sponsored by Moon. (Gerald Ford has also been a guest speaker.) While the conventions have ostensibly been aimed at fostering "family values," critics of Bush have pointed out that by speaking at such events, Bush has been in a way giving his endorsement to Moon. The critics further point out that Moon "calls himself the Messiah and claims he is the second coming of Christ, with a special calling to unite all people, all nations and all religions to create a world centered on God and true love." (Los Angeles Times, 9/10/96, p. E1.) It is difficult to believe that Bush is not aware of the outrageous and blasphemous claims made by Moon, claims believed by thousands of Moon's fanatical and brainwashed followers.
But Bush has not just been speaking at Moon conventions espousing family values. Notice this excerpt from The New York Times (8/11/97):
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Long before the first copies of Tiempos del Mundo ever hit the newsstand last year, the flashy, Spanish-language newspaper that is linked to the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church was making headlines of its own.
At the newspaper's gala inauguration, former President George Bush called Moon a "visionary" for creating Tiempos del Mundo, or Times of the World, an 80-page tabloid that its backers said would be distributed by satellite to almost every country in North and South America.
But critics strongly denounced Tiempos del Mundo as just another vehicle for the Unification Church to proselytize Latin America where the Korean-based sect has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate, hotels, banks and other businesses....
"Tiempos del Mundo is insignificant as far as the newspaper market is concerned here in Buenos Aires," said Pepe Eliaschev, one of Argentina's most respected journalists. "It's very clear to everyone that this paper is a Moony outlet, and no one here has forgotten that in the name of anti-Communism, his church supported the military dictatorships of 1980s.".... critics have expressed concern that the church's connection with big business will give the church undue influence in Latin America.
Concerned critics might point to the success of the Moon-backed Washington Times, a paper now respected and popular with many conservative Christians.
Why Bush has decided to support Moon so openly is anyone's guess. Some point out that he has already received more than one million dollars in speaking fees from Moon and that only a small portion of this amount has gone to charity as claimed. But there is another intriguing angle to this story. In their book The 60 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time, authors Jonathan Vankin and John Whalen (at p. 397) point out that the "Moonie" Unification Church is by some accounts an arm of the South Korean CIA and that the KCIA was founded-in large part by the U.S.'s CIA back in 1961. One has to wonder if George Bush, a former director of the CIA, is not through Moon in a sense getting paid back for the CIA's assistance to the KCIA over the years.
Among Armstrongites, one of the most prevalent obsessions is with the city of Jerusalem. Because so many believe that the return of Christ will take place, if not around the year 2000, then at least in our lifetime, many are caught up in watching events in the nation of Israel. Others still believe that their ultimate physical salvation will include a flight to the Middle East, if not to Petra in Jordan, then to some other location nearby.
It may come as a surprise to some, but such obsessions are not unique to Armstrongites. Notice this excerpt from a James Brooke article that appeared in the November 22 edition of The New York Times:
DENVER - Denver did not disappear in an apocalyptic earthquake on Oct. 10, as predicted by a Christian sect leader. But now he has disappeared with about 75 followers and their children.
Leading up to Denver's date with destiny, members of the sect, Concerned Christians, sold their cars, furniture and houses. They told relatives of vague plans to travel abroad, probably to Israel, with their leader, Monte Kim Miller.
About 10 of the followers were found this week in Israel, said Brig. Gen Hezi Leder, the police attache at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, on Friday evening. The list of located Americans did not include Miller, who has prophesied that he will be killed in the streets of Jerusalem in December 1999, setting off an apocalyptic end to the millennium.
"We are very concerned about people worried about the end of the millennium coming to Israel and trying to do something," Leder said. "If there is any evidence that they intend to commit a crime, we intend to prevent them from coming into Israel."
Already about 100 American Christians, none of them related to Miller's group, have moved this year to the Mount of Olives section of Jerusalem to await the end of the millennium, said one expert on the phenomenon, Brenda Brasher, a religion professor at Mount Union College in Ohio.
Referring to the Concerned Christian group, she said, "I would be very surprised if this is the only one that takes such an act - dropping out, severing all ties and heading to Israel."
Religious people who become obsessed with Jerusalem to the point that they actually feel compelled to move there are so common that there is actually a whole mental hospital in Jerusalem that is dedicated to treating those afflicted with the syndrome. Many of the inmates imagine themselves to be the reincarnation of Elijah or some other famous Bible personage. The Jerusalem syndrome and the special hospital are discussed in Robert Stone's new book Damascus Gate.
Germany in Transition
The following is an excerpt from "Schroeder's Germany Grows Bolder, Irritating Allies" by Roger Cohen which appeared in the 12/11/98 edition of The New York Times. Those who recall HWA's prophecies of a reborn Germany will find it of interest.
BERLIN - After assuring its allies that it represents continuity, the new government of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder is using a bold, often challenging directness that is a radical departure from other postwar German administrations.
Gone are the unquestioning solidarity with a European Union seen as at he guarantor of German stability, the reluctance to challenge NATO on basic points of doctrine and the deference to the United States that reflected both a historic debt and an enduring sense of vulnerability.
In their place Schroeder has bitterly attacked what he called Germany's unfairly high contributions to a wasteful European Union budget. Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has suggested that NATO change its nuclear policies. And Finance Minister Oskar Lafontaine has made clear that American-style global capitalism is not to his taste.
"Strange sounds can be heard from Germany these days," the influential Munich newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung said on its editorial page this week. "Where is Fischer's humility toward our big American ally? Where are Schroeder and Lafontaine's consideration and sensitivity toward their European partners? Where, in fact, is the feeling for history?"
The answer, perhaps, is that Germany's feeling for history has shifted with the arrival in power of a new generation that, as Schroeder has said, believes that the country should show "the self-confidence of a nation that has come of age."
ACD Has Moved
The Association for Christian Development (ACD), one of the more balanced groups to have come out of the Worldwide experience, has a new address. It is: P.O. Box 8058, Federal Way, WA 98003-0058; phone: 253-852-3269.
We were very saddened to learn of the January death from cancer of Robin Hulme (nee Sutcliff, Ambassador-BW 1971), wife of David Hulme, head of the Church of God (Monrovia).
We were saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Louis J. West in early January, from cancer. He was 74. A member of the faculty of UCLA, Dr. Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West was an internationally known psychiatrist, civil rights activist, and expert on drug abuse. He was also one of the world's leading authorities on cults and the psychological dynamics of cult programming. Among the many awards he received in his lifetime was the Leo J. Ryan Award from the National Cult Awareness Network.
This year  for the first time in the WCG Christmas services will be held in the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, and no doubt in other congregations. In the December '98 Worldwide News Joe Tkach Jr. discusses guidelines concerning Christmas observance ("A Call to Unity," p. 9). He states that "Every pastor must provide meaningful worship opportunities during the Advent season for members who desire to celebrate the Incarnation of the Son of God." Is there to be reciprocity in requiring that pastors also provide meaningful worship opportunities for those desiring to observe the feast days? A directive from Joe Tkach Jr. in the September 1998 Worldwide News (p. 7) indicates that pastors are to "support and encourage those who wish to meet on any of those days (biblical and extra biblical), and will lead in such a way that Christ is honored, preached and taught." The box at the bottom of the above cited article also indicates that this is WCG policy: "Our goal with festivals as a denomination is to provide spiritual leadership while allowing members to observe festivals from two traditions.... However, these statements do not necessarily mandate meaningful worship opportunities in the sense that meat in due season is provided to feastgoers. For several years now appropriate feast days messages have not been provided in some locations notably at WCG headquarters in Pasadena. Other than Pentecost, worship services in these locations on feast days and festival seasons has been very general with little or no recognition of the biblical or traditional meanings of these days! The fact that Christ is to be honored, preached and taught is as it should be, but this should be a part of every message. Inasmuch as these general non-feast-specific messages are routinely preached at WCG headquarters, it is evident that it is official WCG policy that the significance of the biblical feast days be omitted or at least severely minimized.
Dale Ratzlaff, former SDA pastor (4th generation SDA married to a 4th generation SDA) has a book titled Sabbath in Crisis. Many of you may be familiar with it. On pages 307-308 he states that after first leaving the SDA church and studying the sabbath in relation to the covenants, he, too, believed Sabbatarians and non-Sabbatarians could co-exist, but quickly realized... this can not be. I quote from his book (he is speaking directly to SDAs here):
Many years ago when I conducted a seven-month study of the Sabbath I felt no compulsion to persuade any of you to change your beliefs concerning the Sabbath. Nor did I feel that way when I started to write this book. However, as I have studied this subject in greater depth, especially in light of the covenants, and have, in the intervening years, received hundreds of phone calls and letters from current and former Sabbath keepers, I now feel I must share with you my deep concern. Prayerfully consider the following....
He goes on to quote many New Testament verses which show, for example, Paul's frustration with the Galatians who were seemingly trying to put themselves back under the Law rather than Grace.
In theory I suppose that if a person, fellowship, or denomination could observe the 7th-day Sabbath in a nonlegalistic way (not feeling superior to all other Christians, not making it a salvation issue, etc.) then the Sabbath might bless that person and help them grow in their relationship with the Lord. IN PRACTICE, however, you will be hard pressed to find an example of this actually happening. Instead all the Sabbatarian groups always seem to revert back to legalism and teaching they alone are true Christians, etc. The Lord has not blessed 7th-day Sabbath observance in any tangible way since the cross. In Christ,
-Bill. Thompson (former SDA)
I attended the Feast of Tabernacles at WCG headquarters in Pasadena, California this year. The location was secondary to the principal feast site for the area at Palm Springs, and all observances except for the Eighth Day were on a weekend, making it more suitable for those unable to take the entire time off from work. The correct time period was observed, with a service on the eve of the First Day on Sunday night, Oct. 4. All services were held in the larger of the two lecture halls in the Science Building. More than 400 feastgoers quickly filled the hall with the overflow hearing the messages in the smaller lecture hall (S112). I don't know how many in WCG attended part-time festivals like this one, but Ronald Kelley reported that the total attendance for the eight-day festival sites was over 10,000.
Gone were most trappings suggestive of the Feast of Tabernacles. No large banner welcoming feastgoers, and the booth of palm fronds that once was erected in the walkway west of the Auditorium was absent. The Feast was barely suggested by the brochure that was distributed. "Come Celebrate Christ!" appeared in big letters on the cover with "Festival 98" in smaller letters below. I did not attend all the services, but there was little I could disagree with in the sermons I did hear. In fact they were quite good even though they were very general with no mention of the Feast of Tabernacles nor its symbolism. The four speakers and their topics were: "Come Celebrate Christ" by Bermie Dizon; "True Celebration" by Dee Bulante; "Jesus the Lamb of God" by a guest speaker from the Jews for Jesus Ministry, Rob Wertheim; and "Let the Living Waters Flow" by Michael Morrison. Lively renditions of gospel music were presented at each service by a choir in spite of very limited space in the lecture hall. Concurrent Spanish language services were held in the Recital Hall. "Love" offerings were taken up on the Holy Days although there was no appeal from the Old Testament concerning not coming before the Lord empty during the three festival seasons.
On October 4, there was but one reference made to the feast, and that was after services were over. It was a sad climax to this first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. After the "amen" following the closing prayer the speaker furtively uttered under his breath, "Have a good Feast." From the back row I yelled back at him, "You have a good Feast too!"
On sabbath afternoon on October 10, five workshops plus a festival video message by Joseph Tkach were scheduled in two different time slots. As far as I was concerned these were the high point of the Feast. The video message, though having little if any content pertaining directly to the Feast, was actually very good. Mr. Tkach surveyed some of the different worship styles used by various congregations in the WCG today. Worship styles can differ, but unity is based on the fact that we worship the one Creator, and that same Creator resides in each one of us through the Spirit of God. Reflecting on the old days when there was a stifling uniformity of sometimes boring worship in Worldwide I noted that we should take some lessons on praise and worship from some of those congregations, especially those from third world nations! In the second time slot I attended a workshop by Michael Morrison called "Shadow of Christ in the Festivals." A brief review by Mr. Morrison on his research on the meanings of the feast days was followed by a lively discussion of the feast days by the participants. Possible solutions concerning some perplexing aspects of the meanings of the feast days for Christians today emerged from the discussion. This workshop was the only event of which I am aware at the Feast in Pasadena which could be called "meat in due season."
Other workshops presented included: "Spiritual Restoration" by Larry Omasta; "Communication, Key to Your Marriage" by Dexter and Shirley Faulkner; and "Diversity: The Beauty of God's Creation" by Leigh Sniffen.
I talked with a number of Feast participants. Many of the "old timers" I knew in the 60s and 70s had reservations about the new direction of the WCG, though most agreed with the correction of some past abuses. Some were very dissatisfied, while a few were reluctant to express how they felt about the church. On the other hand some old timers were very pleased with the church's new direction. I chatted with one couple I had known as Ambassador students in the 60s. I left them with the perhaps overused wish "Have a good Feast! " The lady answered very coldly, "Thank you." I was reminded of the dozens of times I had answered in the same manner someone wishing me a "merry Christmas"! I reflected that I should have at least replied to those well-intentioned folks in a friendlier way.
For 20 years I had seen the need for many of the changes we now see in the WCG. To no avail I tried to point out some of these shortcomings. But amidst the changes for the good it is distressing that many things of value are being discarded. From the ignoring of the feast days to the active promotion of the "traditional" Christian days, it looks like the values we saw in feast day observance are among those things being relegated by the WCG to the trash heap.
To me the festivals mark important milestones in how God has dealt with his people and illustrate the elegance and majesty of how God will carry out His plan in the future. I grieve that the knowledge of these days which point to the redemptive role of Jesus Christ may be lost to many. In spite of this major deficiency in the current mode of observance of the Feast of Tabernacles by the WCG, there was much that was good: the praise and worship of our Lord Jesus Christ in word and song, the prayer service, the fellowship, the catered meal, the potluck, the picnic, the family night, and at times the experience of unity in Christ!
I recently went to the Feast of Tabernacles in Llandudno, Wales. I visited both the Hulmite faction of the UCG(UK) and the Jewellite faction of the UCG(UK). The latter is led by minister John Jewell and is still affiliated with the UCGIA. The two UCG(UK) groups met within four miles of each other. Up to a few months ago they had been "all brethren together." Now, because of the ministers' egos, 420 "brethren" of the Hulmite faction are no longer speaking to 120 "brethren" of the Jewellite faction except for one or two isolated cases. And this even includes members of families who have split to different factions. So the same old human carnal process continues.
It is very hard to get to the mentality of the people bound in these captive organizations. They really think they are "free," and that you are on the "outside," and probably spiritually "inferior." It is very sad. No doubt, these factions will split further, as I don't believe God is much interested in these organizations anymore and is probably working more through individuals scattered hither and thither. Meanwhile, the people in the groups go on paying and occasionally praying. It's the jam for the ministers: Nice work if you can get it. But the pie is shrinking and shrinking and shrinking.
With sadness I want to tell you that Jay and Jan Mayfield got a divorce. Jay, we believe, now lives in Houston.
The August issue of The Journal quotes Rod Meredith as stating that the GCG Council and Board members can remove him only by a 90% or more vote should he be found to have committed gross immorality or advocated heresy.
Rod added: "Not one slip, but continuing in gross immorality. You know, commit adultery a number of times or get drunk over and over or rob banks...." Millions of American men never commit adultery once, never get drunk once, and never robbed one dollar from anyone. It is a shame that a person who has so little confidence in his ability to not do any of those acts once, still thinks he has been commissioned to administer "God's government."
I have been pondering all the storms and changes in the weather that have happened recently across the world. And I wonder if it is a warning like those sent by God to ancient Egypt?
Editor: There are still those who ridicule the notion of "global warming. " But the evidence keeps piling up that it is real. The New York Times (12/10/98) reported how the gradual heating up of the earth has been going on since at least 1949. This has led not just to warmer winters and summers, but to many climactic changes, some of them severe (more hurricanes and tornados, for example). You are not just imagining the changing weather conditions.
Our daughter and family now belong to the United Church of God.... I, myself, am Catholic and I get a chuckle whenever there is a mention of our faith in your newsletter by you or anyone else. I am not offended in any way. Our faith has been around for a long time and can withstand any comments made about it. Especially after all the errors we have made ourselves. What I cannot understand is someone believing in a religion begun in the 1930s. I still remember HWA writing about God coming to him in a dream (with fireworks no less) and telling him he was chosen. Give me a break!
In AR you incorrectly gave the web address for the exWCG atheists as: www.infidels.com. That address does not work. The correct web address is: www.infidels.org.
I found the comments of newspaper columnist Eric Margolis very eye-opening. Armstrongites just love to think of our country as "modern Israel" when, in fact, we are modern Rome. Margolis made that very clear. But, I hope you noticed his foolish self-righteousness in holding up Roman consul Regulus as an example to be followed. What I got out of his preachy lesson was this: Regulus was a self-righteous fool who got himself tortured to death. Clinton, on the other hand, may be flawed, but he is no fool and, as a result, he lives - physically and politically, at least for now. I wonder if you and columnist Margolis noticed that fact.
This is why Ambasador College did not work. Students were the called and chosen of HWA, not God. Ambassador was a work for God, but it was not a work of God. We set out to show God what we could do for Him. And he "scattered" us (Isa. 42:24, Psa. 68:1).
It is interesting that while HWA shunned 20th century conspiracy theories, he actually promoted the idea of a first century conspiracy - that of Simon Magus!
I can't wait to read your analysis of the false prophets of the Church of God in your next issues. I know you won't spare them because they deserve no mercy.
I expect no mercy, either. I am the source of the "Gorbachev is the Beast" belief. Since my belief was directly referred to in the last letter of the last Ambassador Report, I believe I have a right to present it for your readers in its authentic form. It will be very entertaining for your readers and it will give both you and me an opportunity to shame plagiarists - those who lifted my research without giving credit to me.
Evidently, there are wolves in the Church who, not having a close relationship with God and not having the gift of prophecy, have stolen my material to make a name for themselves and make money on sales of the material. Please let me be vindicated.
In the articles I published in 1991 regarding Gorbachev and the events of the end-time, I claimed to be doing the work of the Two Witnesses. It's shameful that some in the Church of God believe everything in my articles except the part about the Two Witnesses. They want the information but not the prophets. No one contacted me. I guess they figured what they had was sufficient for their shameful purposes.
Fortunately, I saved plenty of copies of the papers my articles appeared in. No one can produce an authentic publication with the Gorbachev belief that predates my original articles. My claim is very important because to a great extent the messenger is the message. If people acknowledge my identity as a Witness, they will trust further prophecies that require important decisions in their lives.
Not only did I write the articles concerning prophecies of Gorbachev, I prophesied in church concerning short-term events about political figures - and people were astonished that unlikely prophecies came to pass. When Clinton was an unknown contender in the Democratic primary, I stated in full confidence that he would be the next President. The congregation was stunned when my prophecy came to pass. The minister insisted I only "predicted" successfully. He suffers from the same affliction as those who are not looking for the Two Witnesses or Jesus Christ....
People have been deeply offended by my unerring prophecies.... I don't claim to have been spoken to by God or angels. However, I can understand what the prophets have written. They prophesy through my body....
448 W. Allstar Ave.
Tulare, CA 93274
Editor: Another individual who has written extensively on Gorbachev being the Beast is Gary Arvidson of Prophecy Report, P.O. Box 442, Dallas, NC 28034.
It was in Sept. 1998 that I began listening to AM Christian radio. I heard Sir Anthony Buzzard's Focus on the Kingdom and immediately called for the booklet information. After a few weeks, I wrote to Sir Anthony and thanked him for the radio program and the literature. I also just happened to mention we had been WCG members and about the frustrations we were facing.
Soon Anthony called us to explain he had been a member also!.... Sir Anthony mentioned your publication, Ambassador Report. He gave us your address to ask to be on your mailing list.
-Julie & Bob Gilbert
Editor: For information about the ministry of Sir Anthony Buzzard, write Focus on the Kingdom, 185 Summerville Dr., Brooks, GA 30205.
In light of the ongoing crisis in the Global Church, I believe it would be very helpful to read the October, 1984 issue of Ambassador Report (AR29) which covers Leona McNair's successful lawsuit against Roderick Meredith and Raymond McNair for libel.... I have never heard a rebuttal by Rod Meredith or Raymond McNair of the shocking evidence presented in the AR article. It has continually amazed me that sometimes, the only source of complete information on activities of the Church comes from those who oppose the doctrinal teachings of the Church. John Trechak and I are on opposite poles on many Bible teachings. However, I respect his integrity and his desire to report the whole Truth, even if it hurts. In the Church today, I am looking most of all, not just for a minister preaching the Truth, but for one telling the Truth.
Giving & Sharing, Bible Sabbath Assn.
3316 Alberta Drive
Gillette, WY 82718
I'm sure the WCG story would make a very entertaining mini-series for the tube. But no one would take it to be the truth - most of it is totally unbelievable!
If there is one thing that I have learned thoroughly in publishing the Report all these years, it is that truth is indeed often stranger than fiction.
My thanks to all of you who continue to support our efforts. And my special thanks to those of you who wrote encouraging notes to me about my recent health problems. I am doing better, but it will be several weeks before I am fully able to use my foot.
Your thoughts and prayers were much appreciated.
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