How Did We Get Out?
By Jim Baldwin
Got up this morning thinking about the anniversary year ahead. It'll be ten years since we left WCG, the Worldwide Cult of Get. While enjoying the freedom I wonder where the time went. Well, it went while we were free from the cult's mental manipulations, that's for sure.
You'll recall that one of the cult researchers suggested that exiters write down the reasons for leaving any particular abusive regime. Well, I will now in this 10th year of our escape.
I remember you asking one time, "How did we get out?" This will be one man's abbreviated story. Some evidence I'll not be able to place in the exact time frame as I get into cleaning fits every now and then and throw things out. I mainly have kept the reveal-all books and other printed matters.
If you care to share any of your thoughts from ten years ago, please do.
I recall at this time that I was rather intent on studying the whole subject of "Born Again". The cult had decided to adopt the Protestant interpretation. Where had Herbie gone off the track I wondered ten years ago. I restudied the original 1962 booklet I still had. His research was shoddy as he wanted to distance himself from hated Protestantism so he came up with a novel twist on the subject. He was able to because he ignored relevant verses and was bent on teaching as he wanted to. He had found "new truth". What a crock! Now JWT was trying to distance himself from Herb by artfully skirting around the "truth from on high" delivered to the now dead "apostle". Remember how proud we were that we knew the "truth" of being born again?
I was amazed at how I had been taken in in '62. But at the time I was so ignorant I thought the epistles were the wives of the apostles. Well, 25 years of study had certainly enabled me to careful analyze the shoddy research Herb had done. With the findings I had made I began my exit thinking. More was to come.
I remember giving a sermon on the subject to show the "new truth" on the subject of being born again. Bragg was unable or unwilling to adapt to the new understanding. He was still locked into the old way but uncomfortably had to agree with HQ for the sake of his job and pension.
Bob was always after that pension. He used to joke about it from the podium. Well, he finally got his blood money after signing the standard non-disclosure agreement that all retiring WCG ministers have to. Charles Hunting told me of the money offered him to keep his mouth shut. Even Reg (name withheld) is getting hush money.
I recall at the time that I had a helluva go around with Dale Peterson after I had delivered the new teachings to the VT church. He just couldn't accept that Herb had been wrong on the born again subject. It was a central doctrine. I never convinced him. The matter was dropped as I went on to study other doctrines that were likely to be altered by JWT and his thugs. Tithing was next on my list.
I'll send more later on the various anniversary dates as I recall the stuff we were about to get into with the revelations from the Ambassador Report.
January 15, 1992.
I received my first contact with the Ambassador Report so hated and feared by the WCG cult leaders and ministers. I knew of it but had never seen an issue. Probably wouldn't have read any of it anyways as I was such a fanatical, mind-numbed slave. We were always afraid of "demons" getting into our minds.
In 1991 I was on Bill Dankenbring's mailing list for his "Prophecy Flash" newsletter. He was a ministerial wannbe and was trying to make up a competing cult from the fallout members from the WCG. He spent some time trying to distance himself from the corruption at the top of the WCG food chain.
One day he gave a list of helpful addresses including John Trechak's Ambassador Report. I sent for the synopsis sheets.
What I received were four legal-size pages listing reports from June, 1976 through January, 1991-nearly 15 years of information covering many important milestones of the declining fortunes of the cult. I was amazed at the titles but was a little reluctant to spend the money Trechak wanted for back issues.
Remember these AR lead-ins?
Ambassador Review's Introductory Letter
"The Gerringer Letter"
"The 1939 Article"
HWA's Failed Prophecies
WCG's Error-Filled Tithing Doctrine
Profile Of A Cult
Thirty Articles On All Facets Of The WCG (90 pages)
The Modern Moloch
The Kessler Letter
WCG's Parallels With The Catholic Church
Marion McNair's "Armstrongism--Religion Or Rip Off"
In Bed With Garner Ted
Fleecing The Flock
WCG Power Struggle
Garner Ted Armstrong Ousted
The Isolated Tucson Homes Of Herbert W. Armstrong And Rader
Court Records Reveal Church Leaders' Extravagance
Rader Sues Garner Ted Armstrong
Hoeh's Doctored Academic Record
Leona McNair's Defamation Suit
WCG Evangelist's Porno Collection
Al Portune and Others Defect
David Robinson's "Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web"
Herbert W. Armstrong's Salary Raised to $258,000 Per Year
Herbert W. Armstrong Incest Allegations
John Tuit's Book "The Truth Shall Make You Free"
Herbert W. Armstrong's Personal Medical Program
253 Ministers Who Have Resigned
Dibar Apartian's Son Kills Himself
Criminal Charges Against Ramona
Herbert W. Armstrong Confesses To Incest
Ernest Martin Releases "The Tithing Fallacy"
Homosexuality In The WCG's Leadership
These documents were to answer many of the questions I'd had since the first bombshell in 1972 of Ted's suspension for being "in the bonds of Satan" as Herb called it. We were not told that Ted was an adulterer. We knew little of what was going on as cults have to control the flow of information. Dictators hate the free press.
Anyways, it's amazing that all 72 Ambassador Reports up through 1999 are now available online. One can go and read them in the privacy of one's home.
So, at this time in '92 I was deeply involved in an intense study of tithing using other materials outside the WCG's slanted, self-serving, poorly-researched material. I was making frequent rips to the Dartmouth library to use their vast collection of reference works. I also had Doc Martin's study from 1976.
My next anniversary experience is the finding of an amazing book written in 1951 by an outsider.
February 6, 1992.
"Exceptional intelligence, noble character and originality seem neither indispensable nor perhaps desirable. The main requirements seem to be: audacity and a joy in defiance; an iron will; a fanatical conviction that he is in the possession of the one and only truth; faith in his destiny and luck; a capacity for passionate hatred; contempt for the present; a cunning estimate of human nature; a delight in symbols (spectacles and ceremonials); unbounded brazenness which finds expression in a disregard of consistency and fairness; a recognition that the innermost craving of a following is for communion and there never can be too much of it; a capacity for winning and holding the utmost loyalty of a group of able lieutenants. This last faculty is one of the most essential and elusive. The uncanny powers of a leader manifest themselves not so much on the hold he has on the masses as in his ability to dominate and bewitch a small group of able men. These men must be fearless, proud, intelligent and capable of organizing and running large-scale undertakings, and yet they must submit wholly to the will of the leader, draw their inspiration and driving force from him, and glory in this submission."
This fair analysis of Herbert W. Armstrong and his myrmidons is from "The True Believer" by Eric Hoffer.
This amazing book was published in 1951 by Harper. The author wrote it after passing through the 30s and 40s during the rise and fall of the dictators and WW2. He likely didn't know of Herb but had crucial insight in to what makes up such an evil man. After all, did not Herb study Hitler's methods? You bet.
I first heard of the book during the "Great Rebellion" inside the cult during the mid 70s. Dan Rogers said that many questioners and critics of the WCG were reading it. At the time I guess I dismissed the book as probably being one more way "demons" could get into your head. How controlled I was. I, the true believer. I didn't try to find a copy of the book. I waited 16 years more.
Anyways, the insight that Hoffer had into the various facets human nature was simply fascinating. He describes the curse (!) of freedom:
...the burden of freedom is at the root of discontent.
Freedom of choice places the whole blame of failure on the shoulders of the individual.
Unless a man has the talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden.
We join a mass movement to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the ardent young Nazi, "To be free from freedom."
See, we aligned ourselves with Armstrongism and in becoming his slaves, we escaped individual responsibility. Big Daddy would now make all decisions for us and at last give us peace in all the harried decisions of living.
Hoffer saw the offer Armstrong held out:
A rising mass movement attracts and holds a following not by its doctrine and promises but by the refuge it offers from the anxieties, barrenness and meaninglessness of an individual existence.
I thought it was about doctrines. Well, I guess in the light of the dumping of the WCG core doctrines, that certainly wasn't true.
It is futile to judge the viability of a new movement by the truth of its doctrine and the feasibility of its promises. What has to be judged is its corporate organization for quick and total absorption of the frustrated.
Hitler knew that the chief passion of the frustrated is "to belong," and that there cannot be too much cementing and binding to satisfy this passion. [Sabbaths, Feast Days, potlucks, Bible studies, "We Are Family".]
Hoffer explains why we responded to the cult's message:
It is obvious that a proselytizing mass movement must break down all existing group ties if it is to win a considerable following. The ideal potential convert is the individual who stands alone...
Remember how we were told that our friends and relatives were "carnal", that "churchianity" was pagan, and that the whole world was under the rule of Satan. We were told the whole world was deceived but the WCG. Heady stuff to make us feel powerful and not the anxious, ignorant, and naive losers we were.
This little book of 166 pages of text is one of the most important books I have ever read. It is brimming with juicy little tidbits that help explain what led us to the Armstrong Gulag and what made us submit to the numerous indignities for decades. It explains what Armstrong knew about human nature and how he used that knowledge to make us hurt ourselves.
I was learning in '92 that the WCG was purely a human organization, run by evil men appropriating the name of a god to be able to lord it over the poor fools we were and avoid the real work of honest labor. One observer said:
Religion is the story of the clever few ruling over the many foolish.
The next anniversary date concerns a doctrine I'd never heard of.
A booklet arrives in the mail: "What Happened In 70 A.D.?"
Since Joe Tkach had started dumping doctrines shortly after Herb's death, I started on my own research program to study out what had formerly been delivered "from on high." Joe told the ministry to be sure to understand the changes in order to be able to explain them to the members. I wanted to get a jump on studying for the next change.
I knew one of the doctrines that had been under attack from time to time was the doctrine of tithing. So I was going up to Dartmouth College to do independent study. Of course I was finding many studies proving tithing was not incumbent under the New Covenant.
While at Dartmouth I would often go to the periodicals section to see what was the latest from Christianity Today magazine concerning the WCG upheavals. One day I saw in the classifieds a free booklet offered bearing the question at the head of this. I sent for it.
A little refresher: The WCG members were indoctrinated in what is called historical premillenialism. That is, JC was to come before the millennium. He would then set up a kingdom to last a thousand years.
There are three other main ideas as to what the millennium means. There is Dispensational Premillenialism, Postmillennialism, and Amillenialism. I bought a book teaching these views by their respective scholars. Each opposing view is ably defended by many scriptures. Again, the Bible can be made to teach almost anything given the ability of the interpreters' abilities to practice high-flying theological gymnastics.
The booklet introduced me to Preterism. The WCG was futuristic in its approach to prophecies in the NT. Some great thing is about to happen and to happen soon. We were reading the immanency statements in the NT and were always on edge for their completion. Futurism is a convenient approach to the NT for control freaks as it allows the handlers to continue to keep the dumb sheep stirred up and obedient in order to be in on the happening. The problem is that the sheep are reading documents nearly 2000 years old! Futurists have been twisting the NT for years to reconcile Mat. 24:34 with reality.
"...this generation will not pass away till all these things take place."
Thousands of sermonettes and "difficult scripture" articles have been torturing that verse for centuries to make it say other than as it reads.
Well, preterism is just the opposite of futurism. These people take the many immanency statements and accept them for what they say. Some great thing DID happen in the first century. The preterists are much more honest in handling the prophecy statements. They even make sense out of the babblings in Revelation. Preterism is a sub-branch of Postmillennialism.
Well, I'll not spend time on the various views of the millennium as we don't believe in any of them. My studies led me to see that the futurists believe in a physical kingdom on earth but spiritualize the time statements. The Preterists accept the time statements as read but spiritualize the idea of the kingdom and related teachings. Both believe in an inspired Bible and are trying to save JC as being seen as a false prophet like the one condemned under De: 18:22.
The booklet is one more step in my exit process. A major bomb is to arrive soon.
March 3, 1992.
On this day I received the first of many letters explaining why certain members have left the cult over the years. Many of these letters were resignation letters from ministers and faculty. This one was written in 1975 by Bob Gerringer to Charles Hunting. Bob was an AC employee having a friendly relation with Hunting. He felt it necessary to explain to Hunting his leaving the cult. It runs to 22 pages with a covering note.
Here are some of the things Bob wrote about:
Herbert's tinkering with the unclear tithing laws and citing
Herb's false charges against the dissenting ministers.
Herb's lack of respect for the general membership.
The D&R doctrine which destroyed thousands of marriages. (God was the one responsible, not faulty research.)
Bob suspected that the WCG wasn't the only true church.
He thought to follow Herbert W. Armstrong was to show disrespect for God.
Bob critically studied many key doctrines of the WCG to find them wrong--Church government, tithing, old & new covenants, Sabbath, holy days, healing, law and grace, binding & loosing, etc.
Bob saw the clear parallels with the Catholic Church.
Herb's nutty charges of satanic influence on dissenters.
Life as a student in the Hitlerian college.
Bob listed a number of false prophecies Herb and his thugs had made over the decades.
Clear parallel's were drawn between the JW's and the WCG.
Bob had read Hoffer's The true Believer and saw how the WCG was like other controlling secular dictatorships.
If you don't still have this amazing letter you can now read it online along with Al Corrozo's, Richard Plache's, and the 72-page letter Orlin Grabbe wrote to his mother in the 70s explaining his disgust with and departure from the organization.
The other item I received was the premier issue of the Ambassador Review (later Report), of June, 1976. It runs to 50 pages.
Again, the 4-pages of letters are most telling. The first was from Ralph Helge trying to stop the use of the name "Ambassador". The editor cited other local entities also using the name in their titles. Helge shut up. How sweet it is to put one of the thugs back in his box.
Remember these item from that first issue?
was a page of the names of many ministers who had resigned
including five evangelists, three regional directors, and 14
pastors. In reading the list I wondered what they knew that
we didn't. Well, we were to find out in short order.
-There were several pages of false prophecies Herb made going back to the 30s.
-A report on the whole AICF fiasco which wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars sent in by us, the cash cows.
-A study of the workings of Herb's mind as revealed in his writings.
-A satirical study to show that the Catholic Church is the "true" church.
-The article, "Tithe Spy" proving invasion of tithing records.
-An article on a study of the tithing doctrine. The researcher was fired after he found the truth the cult hated.
-The whole hullabaloo about accreditation. Remember the flip-flops?
-An article showing the AC's blocking of student's mail.
-An empty page which Ted had been invited to fill on any subject. He had been offered space for 15,000 words.
-A list of other groups to fellowship with after leaving the main cult.
-An announcement of ex-evangelist Marion McNair's book on Armstrongism.
-A collection of "Tithing Papers" questioning the cult's doctrine.
-A list of the WCG's "Talmud" teachings.
This one mailing would have been enough to cause less fanatical members to leave. But there were to be over 70 other issues up into the 90s.
The next mailing I receive is even more shocking.
Hi Lani Today in 1992 I received the book that took me inside the wacky world of Armstrongism. "Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web" by insider David Robinson just knocked me off my ankles.
Remember these contents?
-Idealism versus reality
-The Cover up
-Religious Hypocrisy-A special vice
-Sex And The Single Apopstle
-Herbert W. Armstrong gets Ted's permission to marry
-Herbert W. Armstrong puts his faith in a contract
-Herbert W. Armstrong's sex problems
-Tales of Masturbation and prostitution
(Remember the "flog log?)
"The bottle of Harvey's [Bristol Cream Herbert was consuming] was by now mostly gone. Herbert got up and went over to the end of the couch where his briefcase was. He extracted a small black book and showed me the last entry, in his own hand. HE HAD KEPT BOOKS ON HIS OWN MASTURBATION! He said when checking over the record, it occurred about every two weeks." p 80.
-The mysterious Mr. Gotoh
-The Lochner tapes
"Those who have heard portions of the tapes say they not only verify my own saddening experience but reveal Herbert W. Armstrong to be both extremely debaucherous and a total and calculating religious hypocrite." p. 86
-Garner Ted's ouster
-Herbert W. Armstrong adopts the Primacy Of Peter doctrine
-The Jewish connection and Stanly Rader
-Conversations and Confrontations with Stanley Rader
-Conspiracy and chaos
-Stabbed in the back
-Roderick Meredith: The broken reed
-Raymond McNair: Loyal "Buffie"
"According to the accounts, Herbert W. Armstrong, who was far from impressed by either Raymond's intelligence or his education, was responsible for the name. Apparently he had likened Raymond to a buffoon!" p. 212
-Gerald Waterhouse: The Long-Winded Prophet of Petra
-Face to face with Herbert Armstrong
"Incest is a terrible and unnatural crime, an extreme perversity. That is why I was shocked beyond measure to hear that Herbert Armstrong was, himself, guilty of this vile sin. I learned of this in 1979 from members of his own family. The story, sordid beyond imagination, was told in awful detail." p. 266
Luckily the WCG failed in its attempt to block publication of this book of shocking revelations. Herbert The Pervert had to live for some five years when anyone who cared to could read about his terrible character. But I doubt that the capability of feeling shame was a part of this evil man's makeup. Look at the rotten character of his son, Ted. The old saying is that the seed doesn't fall far from the tree.
I'd have to say that this book pretty well put the cap on my resolve to do something. But what? I had to face the usual stress of preparation for my Passover/Holy Days responsibilities. I was to share The Passover Service with Bragg and then deliver a sermon on the two Holy Days. I also was scheduled to speak on Pentecost. But my mind was in a terrible turmoil. I was facing what I later came to see was "cognitive dissonance." I believed one thing about the purity of "God's True Church" but had major disconfirmation about those beliefs from the things I was reading. That plus the doctrines were changing every two weeks.
Well, I just took the advice I had given other troubled people--put it on the shelf. Usually this was just a dodge we ministers used to avoid facing the problem presented. I had to dodge the things I was learning.
My next stressful time came in a face off with Bob Bragg with Tony Limanni, Bob's goon, in attendance. I had to make the first of a number of difficult decisions to keep myself from going mad as my carefully-built world was starting to crumble.
I guess you'll remember what a stressful time the pre-Passover period was. All that self-examination--what a pain. I remember that from time to time some would want to be re-baptized after a particularly moving sermon on the subject.
At this time in '92 I was struggling with many things concerning what I had been learning about the cult. One particularly troublesome thing was the fact of my participation in the disfellowshipments of the past. I was called to be a witness--a silent witness. Now I learned that the whole business was cruel, not Bible-based and only served to keep our handlers in power. The people I saw cast out were all people having questions about changes. None were "moral lepers" as others thought.
Now here was something I could do about my part in hurting people.
Anyways, here is a letter I wrote to the Bearses:
Dear Elliott and Polly,
As you may know, The WCG has been reviewing and changing many doctrines and policies since the death of Mr. Armstrong. According to a statement from the Public Affairs department of the Church, everything is under review.
Well, I decided it would be well and good for me to also examine why I believe the things I do.
One of the teachings I now believe to have been wrongly administered if not wrong in itself is the doctrine of disfellowshipment. Many people have been hurt by this teaching.
I believe that you folks were treated in an uncaring, unfair, and Un-Christian manner by the Church. And I was wrong to have avoided any contact with you. You folks were always kind to me and never did me any wrong.
I cannot apologize for Mr. Williams or the Church But I can and do apologize for my part in that unpleasant time. I am sorry and hope you both can forgive me.
I wrote a number of letters to people I had addresses for. I remember how awful I felt each time I was called on to witness one of these events.
I recall one fellow I visited with Ken Williams. He made the claim that the WCG was no different than the Catholic Church. It had a St. Peters (the House for God), a Pope (Herb), a Vatican (Pasadena), a College of Cardinals (the Evangelists), a claim to being the only true church, and other parallels including false doctrines.
I was shocked at his boldness in throwing these observations into Ken's face. Now I wish I knew that guy's name now so I could buy him a dinner.
Well, this day ten years ago, I gave my last sermon in Concord [NH].
(As I continue my exit history I will be giving in brackets more info to help a growing list of readers relate to the events).
We were over at an alternate hall because of the conflict with a schoolday [at our usual middle school venue]. I was up to speak in the afternoon as Bob [Bragg, the pastor] liked to cool it after the lunch break on holy days.
I had a carefully-planned message and I was looking forward to be able to explain our increasing knowledge in the church since Herb's passing. Joe Sr. had been busily dumping Armstrong theology and I was in favor of the changes. The church was growing I thought. That is good I thought. When Joe sent a major letter to the ministry in the spring of 1990 I sent a letter to him praising his honest approach. He admitted Armstrong taught salvation by works, not by faith. [I know, I know, the bible teaches both but I was not into accepting the Bible as being filled with contradictions in those days.]
As an attempt to broaden my knowledge of Christian theology, I had been reading the journals of one Robert Brinsmead for 14 years. He was/is an ex-Seventh-Day Adventist writer whose teachings had a great influence on changing the doctrines of the WCG. Pasadena had been reading him also but, of course, wouldn't admit that. Brinsmead was an advocate of "faith only" as the true teaching. He focused on the Reformation teachings of Martin Luther and wrote beautifully of the freedom in abandoning fear religion as taught by the legalists like the WCG and the SDA's.
I also had been reading the "Doorway Papers" by Arthur Custance, a Canadian intellectual who defended the Bible and "True" Christianity as he saw it. He showed me many things I had not seen in the Bible, things HQ didn't know about. But now maybe teachings were to change as it seemed Joe Sr. was turning his back on Armstrongism.
I don't actually recall what I spoke about but I do recall that Tony [a hard-liner deacon] was very unhappy as he was scowling and shaking his head in disagreement all through my sermon. Obviously he didn't approve of my discussing growing in knowledge and freedom.
After the service I spoke to Bob to get his reaction. He said my sermon was good except for the "Tony factor."
That year we had a regular Sabbath immediately following the LDUB. I phoned up Tony in the morning to get his views on the "Tony factor". He told me I had no right to speak of teachings not approved by HQ. We went back and forth a few times on the matter. Since I knew him to be one who wouldn't brush his teeth without Pasadena's approval, I broke off the conversation.
We had a potluck meal that evening after services. During the meal Bob asked me to meet him in one of the classrooms we regularly used for YOU and such. When I walked in there was only Bob and Tony in the room. Bob said he was looking for Jim [another hard-liner deacon] to join us. Jim couldn't be found. Bob made no mention of Mel, Gary, or Dan [other deacons friendly to me]. So Bob started in.
He asked me what gave me the right to upset people in the VT church. I had indeed been discussing with some VT friends that the concept of a true christian was much more inclusive than Armstrong had taught. Well, they took this "good news" to their pastor who in turn complained to Bob. I told him that the things I spoke of to friends were speculation based on what the Bible taught, but that was the direction Joe was heading in.
Bob went on to say that he could no longer feel comfortable in leaving the Concord church in my keep as he traveled. That hurt. He was saying I was untrustworthy--after 25 years of toeing the line.
He then wanted me to assure him I would teach as I've been taught. I asked him if he wanted a loyalty oath. He said I could call it what I wanted but I had to promise him not to deviate from what HQ wanted. I asked him to tell me what they wanted as they were changing doctrines every two weeks. He countered with "you know what I mean."
Our first confrontation ended.
I went home and on Wednesday I wrote this
Please remove my name from the speakers roster.
Thank you for the past opportunities.
That was very hard to do as speaking gave me a sense of self-esteem and direction. I had worked hard to be a good speaker through years of Spokesman clubs and sermonettes. I studied books on public speaking and I knew the Bible. I did my homework. Now I was tossing it all down the drain. But this was the first time that a minister had treated me with disrespect in the 16 years since I was ordained. And this treatment from an old "friend."
I have to admit that there had been a tension between Bragg and I since his arrival back the area in '89 [replacing Ken Williams]. He wasn't the happy guy I knew 20 years earlier. He and Shelby [Bob's wife] had changed dramatically. Remember how friendly and helpful they were back in the 60's? Now they were cold and looked like hollowed-out shells of their former selves. I realized later that they had likely learned many troubling things about the Armstrong cult over the years and had kept silent to keep the paychecks flowing. In getting along by going along, their silence had destroyed their humanity. As it has been wisely observed
All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men remain silent.
They were simply two more victims of Herbert without the courage to call evil for what it was. Many WCG pastors operate similarly--remaining silent in the face of the destruction of thousands of lives so that the checks keep coming. Well, Bob got his reward--his pension.
Well, this was only the first face-off with Bob. Another was to come on Pentecost as I was again on the speakers list for that day.
Well, May was a busy month ten years ago.
Pentecost was a bit odd with Bob giving both sermons. I was on the speaking list as Bob hadn't revised the schedule, hoping he could get me to change my mind about my requested removal.
Several said that they had enjoyed my LDUB sermon and were looking forward to more of the same. There was a strange tension in the room when Bob was announced for the PM sermon. Many wondered what was up.
After the service he indicated he wanted to speak with me before I went home. I waited around until after he had finished counseling some others.
He asked me if I was ready to change my mind about my withdrawal from the speakers list. I told him I would not speak again as he had no trust in me. He told me I had to obey HQ. It wasn't my church to teach to as I wished. I pointed to his Bible and said, "Just let me teach what is in that book." He said he couldn't allow that. I smiled and said I understood. Our talk ended but he said he would speak to me again on the subject. It was not to happen as my time was running out.
During May I also received two more publications that finally sealed my decision to leave the Armstrong cult.
The first was "Armstrongism: Religion or Rip-Off" by Marion McNair. Although I never heard of him, he was described as a former evangelist by the Ambassador Report. McNair covered Armstrong's early career in the Northwest among the COG7thDay members. There were many discrepancies among what the COG people said and what Armstrong wrote in his autobiography. Later, of course, even Ted said that his dad's book was mainly fiction. Herbert was simply a liar.
One part of the book details in depth the decades of false prophecies Herbert and his toadies made in the member letters and Plain Truth. (I was later to obtain a 13-page WCG internal memo outlining the many false prophecies the church had made over the years.) Herb had to move to southern California after the embarrassment of all his false prophecies through the 40s. He had to rebuild his church with new fools who didn't know of his prophetic failures.
McNair made an interesting observation back in 1977. He wrote on page 291 that in the future, "sufficient doctrinal changes may be affected so as to eventually bring them into line with accepted Protestant concepts." Amazing insight into what happened! A "prophecy" much more accurate than those Herb fabricated.
The second item was the second publication from the Ambassador Report people. On the cover there were two teaser headlines next to the photos of the principles: "Bobby Fischer Speaks Out! Exclusive Interview. His 15 Years In Armstrongism." And "In Bed With Garner Ted, America's Playboy Preacher."
In addition to these, remember these other articles?
The Booklets Nobody Wants To Talk About [Withdrawals]
Twisted Teachings On Tithing
Financing The Church--An Insider's View
Intimidation At A.C.--An Insiders View
Excerpts From The Tithing Papers [Finally the truth]
The Manpower Papers [Weirdos are rooted out]
Southern Exposure [Ted gives away thousands]
Garner Ted--Son Of A Legend
Herbert Armstrong "Disproves" the Bible
Home-Breaking--Armstrong Style [The D&R fiasco]
The Prophecy Game [The many failures]
Fleecing The Flock
Spying In The Name Of God
Herbert Armstrong's Religious Roots
Modern Moloch--Human Sacrifice in The Armstrong Church
The Ten Commandments Revised At A.C.
At the end of reading all 92 pages I snapped out of the stupor I had been in for 25 years. "I've been had!" I said to my shocked self. Armstrongism was nothing but a self-serving rip-off organization run by highly unprincipled men. The evidence was overwhelming. The reports were not made up. They had the "ring of truth". The many letters that were published in the two issues I received were just heart-breaking as other poor fools wrote in to tell of their experiences with the evil organization. My whole world which had been tottering for some time came crashing down in an instant! I was a fool of the first magnitude! And I was numbed with the reality of the hypocrisy in the leader ship.
What to do next was now my main concern. But other events were already in motion. HQ's Victor Kubik was coming to Concord to deal with Bob Bragg's ineptness and Ken Williams had invited me and the Nelsons to visit his new church area. We were to share in celebrating David's high school graduation. Ken invited me to give the Sabbath sermon. But before going to Ken's I was to obtain another book helpful in untangling Herb's web of deceits..
At this time I recall that you, Mel and I were discussing my findings in the publications which I had loaned to you. In fact, you were the first to use the word "cult." It was a time of nervous laughter as we headed for our traumatic exits from Armstrongism after putting in some 85 years!
Today in '92 I received my copy of John Tuit's book, "The Truth Shall Set You Free." This book gave the inside information on the Receivership Crisis that the cult didn't want us to know. What an amazing story!
Since the blinders were now off of my eyes I was free to read anything I wanted to. I no longer had to practice self censorship because I was now free from any fear of my handlers. There was nothing they could do to me now. I knew my tenure with the cult was coming to an end. I then read and studied these things:
The 1939 Good News article, "Did Christ Reorganize The Church?" by Herbert. Herein was Armstrong's attack on any organizational efforts. He wrote
All authority and power to rule is limited solely to each LOCAL congregation. But there is NO BIBLE AUTHORITY for any super government, or organization with authority over local congregations!
...there is no super-organization over and above local congregation IN THE NEW TESTAMENT!
...let us drop all effort to BUILD UP A MOVEMENT or AN ORGANIZATION!
[Emphasis was Herb's]
This was when he had little power. But after he gained more power he switched his stance and became a Pope and even used the same scriptures the Popes do. Remember all of those power flow charts in the WN? God---Christ---Herb. Crap!!
Actually, the so-called Petrine doctrine Herb embraced led Gary and Mary Brown to see the light leading to their exit 13 years before us.
I had received a copy of Bill Hinson's "The Broadway To Armageddon" written in 1977. Hinson was an LCE who got out 15 years before us. He published a number of letters of disillusioned members as well as his own story. Al Corrozzo's resignation letter is there. Transcripts of a 1974 meeting with Al Portune present are included. Al spoke of the misuse of the hard-earned tithes.
An interesting transcript is from a tape from Ken Westby to Ted Armstrong where Ken was pretty upset about the gossip Ted was spreading about some of the ministers leaving the WCG back during the "Great Rebellion" of the mid-70s. Westby wanted to have a meeting videotaped for the entire church. He challenged Ted:
You present what you want and we'll present what we have. Then we can let the membership decide which pile of dirt is bigger and stinks the most.
Then Westby threatened to release
A list of names of prominent ministers and HQ personnel and Big Sandy personnel who have commited adultery and various sexual sins recently and in the past. The list includes John Hill, Dean Blackwell, Gerald Waterhouse, Les McCullough, Bill McDowell, Dale Hampton, Art Craig, Stan Rader, Jim Thornhill, Buck Hammer, Guy carnes, Lynn Torrence, Dale Henson, Ralph Helge, Bob Hammer, Ron Kelley, Osahma Gotoh, and several others, including field personnel. In many cases names of women participants can be added and with Guy Carnes, several names.
There is no shortage of information that can be presented with full documentation in many cases. I obtained a transcript of Wayne Cole's phone discussion with Herb during the '79 crisis. Herb was afraid of Stan Rader's power. Herb went ahead and gave him $250,000 after the crisis was over. Stan is still getting big bucks from WCG. to keep his mouth shut.
I studied Doc Martin's booklet on tithing. He totally demolishes the Church's teaching. And they knew the truth for 20 years!
In my study of the origins of the WCG I finally arrived at a book written in 1924, "Days Of Delusion" by C.E. Sears. She was a university instructor who wanted to understand the Millerite movement of the 1840s. This took place right in our backyard in New England. Ms. Sears acquired diaries and letters of the period. William Miller was a Baptist lay preacher who went nuts over the Book of Revelation and went around preaching like Windbag Waterhouse. Only Miller had these awesome charts to scare the hell out of the faithful. He gathered quite a following looking for the return of Christ. After three failed dates passed he finally settled on October 22, 1844. Guess what... This date was no more accurate than the others! Surprise!! duh.
Anyways, Miller's movement eventually broke up to spin off the Seventh-Day Adventists and later, The Jehovah's Witnesses. These two cults have destroyed many lives as has the WCG. This Sunday-keeping fool of the 1840s had started a movement that over a century later ensnared us and others. A rotten tree had indeed produced bitter fruit. And the bitter fruit is still forth coming.
I also obtained a copy of the 1948 by-laws of the incorporation of the WCG. Therein were many things we never knew including the instructions for dealing with disfellowshipping of members. The cult never implemented the policy outlined. It couldn't, or wouldn't even follow its own teachings on the subject. Apparently, the procedure outlined in the papers was just a lie to lead the civil powers to think well of the cult in its formative years and issue the required documents to permit an air of legitimacy.
Ten years ago I was headed for a solution to my dilemma as to what to do about my position. I had wasted my life, fortune, and future in a terribly destructive cult. I had been an accomplice in dispensing poison to my fellow fools in captivity.
At the end of the month I was to visit Ken Williams and have a face-off with him and learn that his seemingly friendly facade was just an act.
Well, this Sabbath ten years ago I spent the weekend with Ken Williams [pastor] and his family. I, Al Nelson [deacon] and his wife went over to Rochester, NY to celebrate the graduation of Ken's eldest son from high school.
I delivered a non-controversial sermon (my last speaking opportunity in the WCG) and we had a nice day.
As we were preparing to sit down to dinner, Ken asked me to come into his office. He said he'd gotten a call from Victor Kubik [Headquarters goon] saying he, Kubik, had learned from the Feketes [German Elder & wife] that I was having some problems with WCG changes. That was putting it mildly. I told Ken that first, I had no fight to make while visiting him but, two, I was willing to tell him of my reasons for being upset. He suggested we talk after dinner.
At about nine PM we went to his office again and I told him of all my findings of the last six months. We talked for about six hours! I don't recall everything I said as I took no notes and was unprepared to list my grievances. I guess I just spoke from the heart. I had plenty to say as the earlier memoirs I've sent you would indicate.
Williams refuted nothing. As I talked his look got harder and harder and at the end he asked, "What are you going to do with what you've found out?" I told him I guessed I would tell the things I've found to anyone who would ask me. All he said was, "You've got to resign." There was no concern for me, the injured "friend." No empathy, no let's-look-into-the-Bible-to-see-what God-says. Simply no desire to help. Just, get out! I had looked into the eyes of evil. The man I had worked with for eight years, traveling together, preaching together, dining together was nothing but a religious hireling--a sycophant. I was a threat to his job. Get out! So much for Christian "compassion."
I returned home Sunday and spent Monday mowing the lawn and catching up on my sleep.
In the afternoon I got a call from Ken. He had Lyle Welty [another WCG Pastor] there from Ohio. They wanted to come to see me. I at first suggested we meet halfway in Saratoga Springs, NY. But then I decided against that as I was afraid they would gang up on me at a time of great emotional stress. My whole world was crashing down and I was on the point of a nervous breakdown. I also spoke with Dave Caswell that day. You'll recall he was dying of cancer down in Florida. He had heard of my WCG problems and was trying to help me. Help me! While he was at death's door. It was more than I could take. I wept. I didn't tell Dave of all my findings as I didn't want to add to his suffering. I told him I guessed all would just take its course.
My days with the WCG were certainly numbered. Kubik was on the way to visit Concord [NH] the following Sabbath. We leaders were to have dinner that evening at Bob's house [Bragg, the local Pastor]. I wondered about Kubik's visit. As I was such a low-ranking dude, why would HQ send one of their top goons? Well, as I found out later, he was sent to deal with Bob Bragg. I was just another unpleasent fact he had to deal with. More later.
It's interesting that Kubik and Welty are also out of the WCG now. They aligned themselves with one of the many other branches of the Church Of God business. After all, they were well-trained by Herbie. No sense going to find honest work when there are so many fools who'll help support you.
Events were drawing to a conclusion ten years ago on July 4. I was soon asked to declare my Day Of Independence or shut up about what I knew and get in line.
Victor Kubik was stopping in at Concord on the way from Europe after checking out some Sabbath-keepers in the old Soviet Union. (Come to find out they were Pentecostals. Not "our kind of people" at all).
Kubik was ordered by HQ to stop by Concord to deal with Bob Bragg's ineptness as a minister. He was obviously uncaring about the flock as his sermons were nothing but boring retreads and he couldn't even drive to the hospital to see an afflicted member. He sent one of those "anointed cloths". I guess there were other examples of his shoddy ministerial work as Gary Ellison (deacon) and his wife Jane had written to a friend in Joe's office. So Bragg was to be called on the carpet. And Kubik had to see me because my German "friends" had reported my earlier disloyal remarks made in the fall of '91.
Bragg had set up to have a dinner with Kubik to include the local church leaders and wives. Mel [Lani's husband and deacon] and I had been left out of the invitation but were included on Friday night after a last minute phone call. Evidently Kubik had wondered allowed to Bragg why I, the only Elder, had not been invited. Of course, Bragg didn't want Mel and me there. I was thinking inde pendently and Mel was a friend with open ears.
I almost felt sorry for Bragg after services. Kubik was seated down front of the auditorium and the Ellisons were on either side of him spilling their guts about Bragg's evident lack of concern for the local church.
Luckily you had resigned a couple of weeks earlier so you were not there.
After dinner, Kubik and I went to the living room alone and he got right to business. He wanted to know why I was troubled. Again, I didn't take any notes so I guess I just spoke from the heart as I had to Ken Williams the week before. And, like Williams, Kubik denied nothing. He attempted no refutation of anything nor did he seemed surprised at my findings. He, like Williams of course had known this stuff for years. I do recall that he told me that HQ was making no study of the tithing questions I raised. Yeah, why question the life blood of the organization.
After I had free reign to speak for a few minutes, Kubik stated something like it was clear I was of no further use to the ministry. He asked for my resignation. I told him I had been there for twenty-five years and I would expect the courtesy of 30 days to render my response. He paused for a moment, evidently not used to back talk. He agreed to my point and said he expected me to make a timely response and to not misrepresent our meeting in any manner. I have to say there were no harsh or loud words. I simply told him why I was no longer able to be a docile slave and he invited me to leave. It was simple as that. Another long-serving, poor, blind fool wakes up and is invited to get out. I was at the door of freedom for the first time in a quarter of a century. I had gotten my mind back.
Odd as it was, I wanted the 30 days so I could make the annual church picnic to follow in a couple of weeks. It was always fun and I knew it would be the last one. But I also was able to exercise a little power at the end by not yielding to an immediate order to hand in my resignation. I made Kubik yield to me. It's a man thing.
Makes me wonder now if Kubik himself had a similar face-off when it came time for him to "shape up or ship out". Anyways, he was out about three years later. He's probably the hit man now for one of the spin-offs.
My last attendance at services was coming up the first weekend of August.
I have to say that August has been a fateful month in my WCG experience. I had my first visit from Reg Platt, was baptized, met my first members (the Bearses) and attended my first service at the Oddfellow's Hall in Manchester in August. Just nine days short of twenty five years later in August I attended my last service, resigned, and had an announcement read by Bragg that I was disfellowshipped. (Funny thing, Bragg was one of the first greeters I met at my first service back in '67).
On the way to my last service I mailed this letter to Victor Kubik:
As a result of my doctrinal concerns and your counsel, it seems that my usefulness as a minister in the Worldwide Church of God has come to an end.
Since I am unable, in good conscience, to teach as I have been taught in all things, or continue in the required attitude of unquestioning obedience, I ask that you please accept this letter as my resignation from the ministry and membership of the organization.
Enclosed is my ordination certificate.
Two weeks later Bragg spoke these words among others during the announcement period at services:
Because of his decision, Mr. Baldwin has, in effect, disfellowshipped himself. So, Mr. Baldwin is disfellowshipped. We do not bear any ill-will towards Mr. Baldwin but ask that you pray for his repentance.
Note how the burden of the distasteful chore of disfellowshipping is placed on my shoulders. Remember? Whenever there was anything wrong or unpleasant in the cult it was always the fault of the members. You didn't pray enough, fast enough, study enough, give enough, love enough. It was always the burden of the members, never the handlers. So, I disfellowshipped myself. What a crock!
And then he had to throw in this kicker:
...there are certain areas within God's church and certain doctrines that are truth as headquarters perceives them, or sees them, or understands them. And they are the ones that are to be taught and not certain ideas and concepts of individuals beginning with the pastor and ending with those who are given opportunities to teach God's people.
So, the prime mover is HQ, not what the Bible says. There is a form of idolatry if I ever saw one. But all totalitarian regimes follow that dictum--HQ is to be obeyed regardless the injuries imposed.
In closing he spoke of "truth":
...we, as God's people, must continue in the truth as we see it, as we understand it and we must continue to live within that truth as a body, as a group, as the family of God.
Two weeks later I received my last official contact with the WCG. Bragg called my number on a weekday, in the afternoon, knowing I was likely to be working and left this on my answering machine:
Hi, Jim--Bob Bragg.
Uh--I just thought I'd call you to let you know the step I have taken because of your decision--uh, which I am very sorry, that you made the decision to resign from the church also as far as the ministry. But I did read a statement that Mr. Kubik wanted me to read and, uh, it did state in there because you were resigning from the church, that you were in a disfellowshipment status. And, again, I'm very sorry about this. But, uh, we have our... policies, so...
Well, I hope to talk to you sometime if you ever want to chat. I'd be glad to hear from you.
Thanks a lot, Jim.
How sweet it must have been for Bob to use my own answering machine to officially kick me out. He didn't even have the courtesy to advise me of my status in a short letter bearing a WCG letterhead. What a coward! But he is a hireling--doing what he'd been ordered to do. Well, he got his reward. He's drawing his pension at HQ's discretion. That pension is what the WCG ministerial hirelings are hoping for--treasure on earth! The members, those "cash cows" are to get their reward later. Pie in the sky. Yeah, right.
For the next three years WCG "truths" were happily being abandoned left and right. Pilate had a good question: What is truth? In the WCG and similar cults, the truth is what the cult handlers say it is and nothing else. And woe be to the thinking person that would question it. And if it changes? Well, that can be attributed to "growing".
Well, these little memoirs have outlined one man's exit process. They give the lie to the charge that I left because of a "bad attitude" or alleged "personality conflicts". I left because I learned that the WCG never had any spiritually legitimate foundation. Herbert Armstrong was a defrocked minister from an insignificant group of dissidents. They had descended from the mad ravings of the Baptist, William Miller who had destroyed the lives of many back in the 1840s with his false prophetic interpretations. Armstrong went ahead with his own brand of cultism and later his profligate son joined him to operate a nice little business stealing millions from poor, deceived people who willingly gave up their freedom and wages in exchange for empty promises. And the game goes on in the main body as well as in the hundreds of spin-offs that have spread like metastasizing cancerous lumps.
Someone once observed that religion is the clever few ruling over the many foolish. Now that is a truth I learned at great cost.
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