The formula for the
Worldwide Church of God.
Why tamper with success?
MP =I /S
That's the formula. What does that mean? It's simple:
Ministerial Potential = Image / Substance
The formula is Ministerial Potential equals Image divided by Substance. The interesting thing about this is that as substance approaches zero anything is possible, even the presidency, although we won't say president of what.
The ministry was thoroughly taught by Ambassador College that image was all important. The triumph of image over substance was the product of Herbert Armstrong's philosophy: Always get the best quality you can afford. On the surface, this seems reasonable, but Herbert Armstrong carried this too far. There is a great difference between getting the best quality you can afford for necessities, and procuring high quality luxuries. Herbert Armstrong confused the two: He came to think that the luxuries he wanted WERE necessities.
He was always dressed to the nines in silk suits; he bought the finest Stueben Crystal for Presidents and Royalty; he got himself the finest private jet; hired the most expensive counsel; acquired the reputedly finest of the fine painting collections; rented the very best limousines; bought Dom Perrignon. He taught his minions to appreciate the finest things in life--indoctrinating them thoroughly in the unaccredited Ambassador College.
Ambassador College was an extravagance in the extreme. As a private college begun in Pasadena, California, the campus boasted of winning awards for landscaping, for having the best and greatest auditorium in the world, dubbed the "House for God", and having some of the most unusual accouterments replete with rosewood paneling and onyx fixtures. The faculty row boasted of having some of the most expensive paintings by Rembrant and Picasso. The dinner table at Herbert's house had silver settings overlaid with gold for his formal dinners for a $100,000 table setting.
Ambassador graduates usually were given a ministerial assignment at the end of their senior year, expecting to go out into the field with their trophy wives married from the stables of co-eds in this exclusive royal setting. These graduates learned how to dress in the finest suits they could afford and ride in their leased fleet cars provided by the Worldwide Church of God. They learned how to speak well and present themselves with poise, indoctrinated in the Ambassador Speaking Clubs. Although these clubs were somewhat patterned after Toastmaster's International, Herbert Armstrong considered them far superior to anything "the world" had to offer. In fact, Herbert Armstrong considered that anything he had and everything he did was better than what anyone else had or did--always!
Ministers in the field were extremely image conscious. This produced considerable cognitive dissonance with the members. While the members did want to respond to Herbert Armstrong with a willingness to please their God, they often had limited resources to comply with the perceived requirements of "living as representatives of the Kingdom of God."
The Kingdom was quite real to the membership, with Jesus Christ as the Spiritual King and Herbert Armstrong as God's fleshly King. Eventually, all church people were to become God themselves and hence live as royalty in God's Kingdom, first in the Millennium, then the 100 years of the Great White Throne Judgement where all people who had ever lived would have a chance to learn to be [in the words of Evangelist, Gerald Waterhouse] happy to be at the BOTTOM of the hierarchical heap as "junior Gods".
God's people just had to measure up! They were going to be God, as God is God, in God's Family!
And the minister taught them.
There were weekly Bible Studies--at night, usually a work night. There were Spokesman Clubs--at night, usually a work night. There were Sabbath Services stretching from the usual two hours of instruction on how to improve your image for God, sometimes stretching to three, four, and five hours, depending upon which marathon minister might have services. There were also singles activities which were usually at night, usually a work night. There were also sports activities for the men to keep in shape--often at night, usually on a work night. And the minister dominated all these activities as over all evaluator, or just the evaluator. Often there was a line of people to talk to minister as opportunity presented itself around these activities.
The demands of the people were great, since the minister had to make all major decisions for the members: Should I buy a car? If you permit us to buy a car, what kind and color should it be? [And these were VERY serious questions!] Do you think I have enough money saved now to be able to marry--so I can start dating seriously now? Am I really married to my spouse, since they were married before, and my marriage may be invalid because they were already bound? Where should I buy my raw milk? [Surprisingly, there weren't that many cases of Brucillosis.] And if you did get sick, did the minister think I have enough faith to be healed to be anointed? Should I be examined by a doctor--as long as I don't get treatment? And when do you think that I will be healed, this lump in my breast has been growing for two years now? Where can I buy my raw sugar? Should I take this job, since it subcontracts for a company that may subcontract for either another company that subcontracts military contracts sometimes and / or they might use pork products in their peanut butter? These and other questions were taken very seriously, and the people just didn't have the wisdom to handle them: The minister had to tell them.
As should be obvious, the minister was quite superior to the average yokel in the local church. This was reinforced by the fact that the minister had a very good paying job compared with the people asking the questions. The members often had to work for menial jobs at substandard wages. In addition, one tenth--a tithe--had to be given to the Worldwide Church of God calculated on the GROSS income. Another tithe--again on the gross--had to be saved for the little "vacation" of eight days, plus travel, to the Feast of Tabernacles in the Fall time frame. This was probably a plus, since most of the members would never have escaped the daily drudgery of their miserable jobs surrounding the tiring church activities. And, of course, every third year in a cycle of seven years (twice in seven years), the members had to give another tithe on the gross income to support the fatherless, the stranger, and the widows--some of which were also tithing three tithes. Again, the minister was in full control of the funds dispersed to those few fatherless, but mostly widows, who received the third tithe. The ministers themselves did not pay second and third tithes--since they were the spiritual priesthood--but to be fair, they did pay a tithe back to the Worldwide Church of God headquarters.
If this all sounds a bit military, it was. Ministers often dropped by unexpectedly to members apartments usually, [members didn't qualify to have minister tell them they could buy a house] to perform inspections. These inspections were often unpleasant, and ministers were often known to look in the cupboards for white sugar and white flour--indications that something ungodly was appearing here--and they even put on white gloves and ran their fingers over the top of door sills and windows to check for dust--and I'm not making this up!
The ministry was not above checking on young men to make certain they did NOT masturbate--since this would send the wrong image--and thus would be a TERRIBLE sin. Young men would not be baptized until they were able to GIVE UP masturbation. These days, it would either be considered no big deal, or a gross invasion of privacy! And two decades ago THERE WAS NO PRIVACY from the minister!
Other factors abounded: Members had to make certain their personal grooming presented the right image; cars had to be washed and waxed before the Sabbath each week; perish the thought that anyone should be less than trim and fit! Exercise and healthy food was the order of every day! [It was a sin for the members to be fat. Never mind that Herbert was a chubby cherubim!]
All spiritual sins and flaws had to be known by the minister! They not only knew all the dirt they could possibly get on the members, but they kept records of it too! Each time a minister visited a member, the minister would write up a report afterward and send it off to be examined and archived in headquarters in Pasadena. The spying and record keeping would have been the envy of J. Edgar Hoover! These records came in useful later if the member: 1) wanted to go to Ambassador College, 2) was being considered for the position of deacon or elder in the pecking order, 3) wanted to get engaged, 4) wanted to get married, 5) became "a problem" and had to be blackmailed, 6) was ever considered to be employed by Ambassador College or the Worldwide Church of God. Gosh, that was six--there must be some way to make it a perfect seven! The records were kept for years! Oh, I know! 7) was to contribute absolutely all their life's possessions in their wills! Whew! I knew I missed one!
The minister's potential was carefully watched and calculated [by the above formula] to insure that proper candidates could be raised in "rank". The progression for the ministry was quite structured in military fashion based on Ephesians 11: The graduate went into the field to be come a ministerial assistant. Now, some of the local people could become deacons, if they served and were deemed to be righteous enough. But usually, the ministerial assistant skipped deaconhood and went directly to elder. Now just the thought that a 27 year old, wet behind the ears, newly married male was an "elder" should bring paroxysms of laughter to anyone who has more brains than teeth! An elder, indeed! Yes, occasionally, a fifty year old plus deacon made it to be an elder, but this was a rarity! You pretty much had to give up sleep forever to reach that tier!
After elderhood, the young man might get his own church or church circuit and graduate to preaching elder, which is better than just an ordinary elder because they could not only give full sermons, but marry and bury people--that is perform weddings and funerals! After this, the preaching elder might "graduate" to Pastor. It isn't clear here why the pastor was above a preaching elder, but usually, the pastor had more than one church and he had a bunch of preaching elders report to him. He was also paid a larger stipend.
The Pastor might become a regional pastor, or regional superintendent. This was never an official position as far as true rank was concerned. The next rank from pastor was evangelist. This was reserved for someone special--someone whose image was really good. Highly visible people were made evangelists, and usually these men reported mostly to Herbert Armstrong directly.
That should give almost anyone a pretty good picture of the Worldwide Church of God pecking order. You could logically conclude that, indeed, image contributed heavily to a minister's positioning in the hierarchy. Herbert Armstrong was Apostle, one step up from Evangelist, albeit a huge step--since there was only one apostle, and that's all there could be until Christ returned. Herbert was fully in control.
One thing got lost in all of this: Christ said that whosoever would be greatest among you would be servant of all. Concerning service, most of the ministers did not have a clue!
Religion may have its place, and it may provide a need. People should be able to rely on religion for their spiritual needs: Correction [I'd rather be corrected, than wrong!]; comforting--especially during times of loss of loved ones; and control--people made to feel empowerment by having self-control and sufficient control over their environment [Loving your enemy gives ultimate control over him for he can no longer make you hate, be angry, obsess, or fear.]
Unfortunately, control has come to mean an indentured hierarchical structure of dominance to force submission of the masses. This became firmly entrenched by the power of the Catholic Church some time in the fourth century where the Church had the force of government. This later took the form of feudal fiefdoms replete with the divine right of kings. This tiered structure was forced upon the Worldwide Church of God by the selfishness of a privileged class which has led to an "us (the ministers) versus them (those ordinary, dumb sheep members who have never been to Ambassador College and don't know one bloody thing that's important!)". Believe that a monarchy WAS possible and the Worldwide Church of God was headed that way: Herbert Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong, Mark Armstrong.... It was slated to be a closed family thing, sort of like the Trinity.
The ministry of the Worldwide Church of God was indoctrinated to take care of their image. Any member who caused image problems immediately invoked damage control. All problems had to be kept under wraps and never become public, because one member could damage the reputation of the entire church! The ministry was taught mp=i/s at Ambassador College. What they did not learn was how to genuinely care for people!
The Worldwide Church of God became a giant propaganda machine, churning out The Plain Truth Magazine, presenting The World Tomorrow Broadcast on radio and later on television. Worldwide Church of God produced The Good News mostly for the members and there was a whole host of booklets on eclectic subjects. Many of these "tools" for the work were a masterpiece of image with colorful publication covers and advertising techniques perfected over decades. Since much of the materials were offered free of charge, the imagery attracted a growing clientele. Somewhere in the early 1970's, the Worldwide Church of God became a victim of it's own success.
Around 1972, several things began to occur. With the outbreak of Watergate, leadership became highly suspect and this later came to haunt the Worldwide Church of God. There was a decided tipping of the balance from the United States moving from an agrarian based society to an industrial one, with the shift in the mores of the constituency. While information was still manageable for the most part, it was becoming more and more difficult to hide the truth of what was going on behind scurrilous facts. The prophecies pronounced by the Worldwide Church of God and Herbert Armstrong began to fail as the brain dead seventies slouched on. Herbert went travelling abroad for photo opportunities with the nearly great and the soon to be deposed. Most of all, though, the Worldwide Church of God had grown in the number of membership. And that was the beginning of the undoing!
When the Worldwide Church of God was relatively small, image control was fairly straightforward: If a member caused image problems, just send out an intimidation team and straighten them out, or solve the problem by disfellowshipping them and allow yourself the luxury of believing "out of sight, out of mind" by discarding them. Out of sight, out of mind could mean that once the member disappeared, you might go crazy! Loose cannons were easy to discharge. Until 1972. That was when a large number of ministers rebelled when they found that the substance of what was covered up was beginning to stink through the image!
Without the iron fisted control of the members through the image conscious ministry, members began to wander off and make decisions by themselves. After all, the ministry was too busy with all the internal struggles of the church administration to visit them unless they made major waves by being reported in the newspapers. As the internal struggles of the Worldwide Church of God began to escalate, the ministry had less and less incentive to control the image of the membership. There were too many young men to check. There weren't enough ministers to visit young single females to check their apartments. Too many people were figuring out they could get married without turning over their bank statements to the minister. Worse, people had decided they could buy their own houses and cars, and even pick the color for themselves. The twin abuses of assault and neglect were seriously weakened.
This not to say that the ministry did not try to gain ascendancy again. They still had plenty of clout to their image. More than that, the Worldwide Church of God was a billion dollar industry, so there was some teeth in the threats and blackmail that the church could bring to bear. Even so, with the lawsuit by the State Attorney General of the State of California, the exposure of Garner Ted Armstrong for what he is, and the problems of Herbert Armstrong had taken their toll by the early 1980's. The new openness of people admitting that they had problems and not caring particularly who knew it didn't help either. The truth really does set you free, especially if you open up and make yourself invulnerable to shame and blackmail. The leverage of image was greatly diminished.
There were other problems with image control. People began to think that they actually had some warts--even though the pompous ministers made it APPEAR that they were perfect ministers of light! The years of ministers treating members with contempt had had its impact, yes, but members were moving out of their low paying menial jobs, getting an education, and joining the industrial work force. The church members began to be highly competent effective professionals in the work place.
With their co-workers--and we are talking about the job, not the church here--treating them with more respect than they had ever had in their life, it became harder and harder to accept a reality of the minister being superior to the member, especially when it began to come to light that many members were making more than the minister. Some became managers and supervisors, had training in handling personal and professional relationships, becoming more knowledgeable and cognitive in handling sensitive politically correct environments than the ministry could ever hope to navigate. [This was countered temporarily by the ministry becoming "marriage councilors."]
The final blow to the image makers was the development of the Internet. The truth--along with lots of lies, but we've always had to navigate between the two--became readily available. Those things done in secret were now being shouted from the house tops [not to mention TV and Hard Copy!]
There are so many true horror stories of ministers caring more for their image and the image of the Worldwide Church of God than for the membership: People died, many were left sick, many were impoverished, many disillusioned, many left dissatisfied. Ministers never learned how to treat people "righteously." They were often self-righteous judges. They were hypocrites--doing the things they judged members of doing--and worse! The ministers learned to be dictators.
The best illustration of the attitude of the ministry can be summed up by a recent statement by one of the Church of God ministers: "I have members call me to tell me their problems, and I tell them not to call me because I'm not God!" Sure, solve your own damned problems! This gentle caring attitude proceeds from the arrogant who are devoid of compassion, but are full of concern over image. Generally, ministers can't care for others when they haven't been taught, and sure enough, Herbert Armstrong was never equipped to teach compassion.
The Worldwide Church of God always had the image to attract people. But like an inflated balloon, there is no substance--it's all air, and most of it is hot. Look carefully at the store fronts on main street on this western movie set! It's all a faŘade! There's nothing behind those saloon doors but empty desert!
A church can attract people, but if they do not have the caring effective support structure in place to provide their spiritual and emotional needs, they will fail to keep them. The church will be an empty shell! People might as well read books by Steven Covey and Dr. Scott M. Peck for all the good the church does them! And why pay a church for that?
So there it is:
That's the formula. It's simple:
Ministerial Potential = Image / Substance
The formula is Ministerial Potential equals Image divided by Substance.
Works every time, suckers! (At least for a while: Image makers would be wise to note Abraham Lincoln's statement about fooling the people....)
If you have anything you would like to
submit to this site, or any comments,
email me at:
CLICK HERE FOR EMAIL ADDRESS.
The content of this site, including but not limited to the text and images herein and their arrangement, are copyright © 1997-2002 by The Painful Truth All rights reserved.
Do not duplicate, copy or redistribute in any form without the prior written consent.