The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God
The 1974 Rebellion
By MAM

In 1974, a group of ministers left the Worldwide Church of God and formed a new group known as the Associated Churches of God. The prime mover behind this split was a district manager named Ken Westby. The split was the result of several major controversies that came to a head in the early seventies.

First, there was widespread disillusionment in the Worldwide Church of God caused by the failure of Herbert Armstrong's prediction that the Great Tribulation would begin in January, 1972. At that time, the church was to flee to the place of safety for three and one-half years to await the return of Jesus Christ. The failure of this to materialize, coupled with Herbert's denial that he ever made the prediction, caused many ministers and members to have second thoughts about "God's called and chosen apostle" and his "true Church." Many members, expecting to flee in 1972, did not bother to save or invest money for retirement, nor did they bother to go to college. Rather, they took whatever jobs they could find in order to support "the Work" during the "gun lap." Others sold their homes and property they thought they wouldn't need after 1972 and donated the proceeds to the church. When 1972 came and went, they were poorer and undereducated, which meant they were economically backward compared to others their age. They had nothing to show for their sacrifices except bitter disappointment.

Secondly, it was becoming very clear that Herbert Armstrong's doctrinal system was causing serious problems among the membership. Many members were living in poverty because of Armstrong's triple tithing doctrine. Members were dying because Armstrong forbade members to visit doctors and take medications. This was viewed as a lack of faith in God. The medical profession was viewed as an invention of Satan the devil, and vaccinations were derided as "monkey pus." The church's divorce and remarriage rules were breaking up many happy marriages.

What made this worse was that while Armstrong and the ministry enforced these rules stringently on the membership, he and the ministry were exempt from the most onerous of the requirements. Ministers were exempt from paying second and third tithe, and received a second-tithe allowance at feast time which was a refund of most of their first tithe. While many members lived in poverty in order to meet the tithing requirements, the church leadership lived in luxury in a mansion on the Ambassador College campus, provided by the church rent-free. Church leaders were also exempt from the prohibition against medical treatment. Roderick Meredith was allowed to have surgery to repair a detached retina. Church members would be expected to forego treatment and risk blindness, or be excommunicated. But since Roderick Meredith was so important to the work, he was not forced to exercise faith in God's healing powers. He was permitted to take advantage of modern medicine and was successfully treated.

Herbert Armstrong and his son Garner Ted lived lives great wealth and privilege. Not only did they enjoy luxurious housing provided by the church, they also had a private air force of four church-owned airplanes. The third tithe fund, which should have been allocated to widows and orphans, was raided to fuel these planes for Herbert W. Armstrong's round the world junkets to meet with petty third world dictators.

Finally, there was the issue of Garner Ted Armstrong's infidelities. At the time, Garner Ted was second in command in the church. He also had a long track record of adulterous relationships. If another minister committed adultery, Herbert Armstrong would humiliate him by a public excommunication. However, when Garner Ted was caught in the act, Herbert reacted differently. Except for a brief suspension, Garner Ted was allowed to continue in the ministry and resume his positions of authority.

All these things finally boiled over in early 1974 when members and ministers of good conscience finally had enough. A couple of dozen ministers, backed by hundreds of members, demanded reform. Herbert Armstrong reacted violently to these demands. In a characteristically vituperative letter, addressed to the "Brethren in GOD'S CHURCH," and dated February 25, 1974, Herbert wrote the following about his son's temporary suspension from his position:

"Brethren, you all know well that there are TWO sides to most questions, and you in all probability will now hear only one prejudicial and unfair side. I ask you to hold an open mind until you read what I wish to tell you.

"Some ministers, getting confused between this world's politics in the American 'democratic' system, and THE WAYS OF GOD, accused 'cover-up'! [This occurred during the Watergate scandal. President Richard Nixon resigned August 9, 1974.] What the newspapers refer to as 'cover-up' is based on the contention of CRIMINAL and ILLEGAL obstruction of justice according to man's law. There is no connection whatsoever between that and the case of my son. When that terrible nightmare was brought to my attention -and I did not then myself know of what are now being alleged as prior events -I want to ask you, dear Brethren, how would YOU have felt, had you been in my place? You love your children, don't you? Would you feel hurt -crushed beyond measure had you been in my place? But I had to be conscious of the position the living CHRIST had set me in. I HAD TO ACT! No matter how difficult, no matter how much it hurt, I HAD TO ADMINISTER JUSTICE! And I say to you truthfully, I DID NOT HESITATE.

"I felt like Abraham, not sparing his son -or God, not sparing Christ, His dear Son, although the circumstances were totally different. But I say that, IF it had been Jesus who sinned, and had to pay the penalty for His OWN sin, instead of YOU and me, and Garner Ted's present accusers, God would not have spared His son. If you say it would have been IMPOSSIBLE for Jesus to have sinned, I remind you that He was TEMPTED IN ALL POINTS even as you and I. He was even TEMPTED by Satan in a far sterner way than you or I. But, of course, because Jesus NEVER sinned -because He was STRONG, where we are WEAK -there is FORGIVENESS upon real repentance for YOU, and for ME, and for even these deceived ministers allowing Satan to use them to try to DESTROY GOD'S CHURCH AND GOD'S WORK!

"So first, let me say, difficult though it was, I did not treat my son ANY DIFFERENTLY than I would have any other minister in the same circumstances. Perhaps you can appreciate it was not easy. I didn't fly into a rage of accusation and denunciation when I heard it. I was just hurt -crushed in spirit. But I had to ACT -I knew that, and I DID!

"But I had to think, first of all, not of my son, but of THOUSANDS OF YOU brethren who had been brought to conversion, and on the way to ETERNAL LIFE in God's KINGDOM as a result of having HEARD HIS VOICE!

"I've not been able to tell you before, but now I tell you truthfully, it was YOU to whom I gave FIRST consideration. I knew I had to put my own son completely out of God's Church. And I DID!

"But FIRST consideration had to go to YOU, Brethren. IF I came out and exposed his sin that just about broke more than one heart, HOW MANY OF YOU, NOW ON THE WAY INTO GOD'S KINGDOM, would become discouraged, lose faith, and just GIVE UP! HOW MANY, I asked myself and others, would I send from God's Kingdom and eternal life into A LAKE OF FIRE! I said, 'The number of lives I might destroy forever, if I expose to the public the details might be as many as ten thousand!'

"I had to banish my son whom I love, possibly above any living now. That was not the big question. The BIG question was, how could I do it, AND NOT SEND THOUSANDS OF BABES IN CHRIST TO A LAKE OF FIRE? HOW?

"I believe the living HEAD of this Church, Jesus Christ, inspired what I DID say -that he was gone because of personal, emotional problems. THAT STATEMENT WAS 100% THE TRUTH. For the sake of thousands of you Brethren, I did not state the specific details of the personal, emotional problems.

"Now a bitter, disfellowshipped former minister has failed to think of any of you, and blasted to the whole world even details I myself did not know at that time. And some shout 'COVER-UP!!' Your Bible says 'LOVE COVERS'! WHY do some want to shout FAR AND WIDE accusations of OTHER person's sins or evils, EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE BEEN TOTALLY REPENTED OF, FORGIVEN AND FORGOTTEN BY THE ETERNAL GOD? Do those who EXPOSE other person's sins, often with exaggeration, live wholly WITHOUT SIN themselves? I say you who throw stones live in glass houses yourselves!

"Garner Ted Armstrong was not allowed back into God's Church until it was positively evident not only to me, but the most influential and highly respected evangelists in God's Church. They urged that he be received back. And ultimately, after the real FRUITS of that repentance had been manifested, he was restored to power and authority, but ONLY after advice and specific urging of those Headquarters' evangelists.

'Now the FRUITS of a year and nine months are there for the whole Church to see. Not only the evangelists and I received him back, on real and thorough repentance, but JESUS CHRIST, THE LIVING HEAD OF THE CHURCH, received him back, and has wonderfully and powerfully USED him these past 21 months!

"Some, apparently dedicated to the destruction of God's Work, were, during this nightmare of Garner Ted's banishment, circulating rumors of a POWER STRUGGLE 'between the two Armstrongs.' That rumor was a LIE!"

"Now let me tell you some more! Garner Ted's sins were minor compared to those of some of his accusers! For a man to blast before the world through the public press details of alleged or exaggerated sins on Garner Ted's part, YEARS after it happened, after complete repentance and Christ's forgiveness, and after Christ has USED HIM SO POWERFULLY for almost two years since his return, is about the LOWEST act, and one of the greatest and most dastardly sins I can imagine!

"I want you to think a moment! Can you IMAGINE how much DAMAGE Garner Ted could have done to this Work if HE had set out, in revenge, to hurt it WHILE HE WAS AWAY? What if he had gone to the press and alleged that the power-struggle was true (which it was NOT) and that I had put him out to destroy him and take over myself. But he KNEW my fear of DISCOURAGING thousands of you. And he didn't want that any more than I. AT NO TIME was Garner Ted disloyal to God, to the Church, to the Work, to me. His sins were NOT REBELLION, which God says is as the sin of witchcraft. Rebellion against God and HIS WORK is a MAJOR SIN by comparison. His conduct at all times, when outside the Church, was exemplary, and totally LOYAL. Not once was there any rebellion against God, or Christ, or the Work, the Church, or me. Instead he drew closer to GOD in real repentance, closer to his family, closer to the Church in his mind and heart. As a result, he accepted his punishment without a whimper, he repented and he PRAYED, and PRAYED and PRAYED -and he emerged a stronger, more dedicated, more USEFUL vessel for God's Work, and the BEST AND MOST RESULTFUL WORK OF HIS LIFE has been these past 21 months!

"Shall we now condemn and throw stones -we who live in glass houses and have sinned ourselves -at him whom God has forgiven, and is now using so powerfully? Or shall we look at the FRUITS Christ is producing through him, and have forgiveness in our own hearts. If we forgive not, neither will Christ forgive us OUR SINS, which are MANY!"

Once again, I have to marvel at the old man's incredible ability to "spin" events. Only Bill Clinton did it better.

First, notice how Armstrong characterizes all those who were challenging him:

"...in all probability will now hear only one prejudicial and unfair side..." "...these deceived ministers allowing Satan to use them to try to DESTROY GOD'S CHURCH AND GOD'S WORK!" "Now a bitter, disfellowshipped former minister has failed to think of any of you..." "Some, apparently dedicated to the destruction of God's Work..." "For a man to blast before the world through the public press details of alleged or exaggerated sins on Garner Ted's part, YEARS after it happened, after complete repentance and Christ's forgiveness, and after Christ has USED HIM SO POWERFULLY for almost two years since his return, is about the LOWEST act, and one of the greatest and most dastardly sins I can imagine!"

HWA does not allow for the possibility of legitimate grievances. If anyone complained about Garner Ted's infidelity, it was because he had an ulterior motive. As Herbert W. Armstrong said elsewhere in that letter, "I want to explain to you the four primary accusations of these ministers -but it comes ultimately to the BIG point -THEIR GREED TO TRY TO GET GOD'S TITHES MIS-APPROPRIATED SO THAT IT MIGHT GO INTO THEIR OWN POCKETS!"

Herbert said that the attack on Garner Ted Armstrong was a scheme to redirect tithe monies into the pockets of his accusers. But the truth was quite different. As stated earlier, this so-called rebellion, lead by Ken Westby, led to the founding of the Associated Churches of God (now known as the Association for Christian Development). One of the grievances Westby and his colleagues tried to bring to the attention of the Armstrongs was that the triple tithing system was hard on the membership. Many members were living in poverty as a result of trying to meet the onerous burdens of triple tithing. At the same time, the leaders of the church were living in mansions on the luxurious Ambassador College campus, and the Armstrongs had four airplanes at their disposal. Westby and the others believed that the New Covenant did not require the membership to tithe, and the Associated Churches never claimed the tithe (although they do observe the seventh day sabbath and holy days). To this day, the Association for Christian Develpment struggles financially because it relies on the freewill offerings of its membership. Westby works for a living, and donates his time to the ACD to keep it going.

Secondly, Armstrong turns the tables on his accusers by using a tried and true church of God ministerial technique. The fact that the rebel ministers accused the Armstrongs of misconduct was proof of serious sin in the accusers. Elsewhere in the same letter, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, "Did you ever observe that one who ACCUSES (and it is SATAN who is the ACCUSER of the Brethren -Revelation 12:10) is always guilty of the very thing of which he falsely accuses another?" The "accusers" are equated with Satan. And there are other instances in the long section I quoted that illustrates his use of the technique. Armstrong counterattacked, accusing his accusers of sin because only an evil, wicked sinner would bring accusations, legitimate or not, against the leaders of "GOD'S CHURCH."

Third, Armstrong demonstrates a condescending attitude toward the membership. In private conversation Herbert W. Armstrong referred to the membership as "dumb sheep." And the reason he gives for covering up his son's adultery is that the "dumb sheep," wouldn't be able to handle the news!

"But FIRST consideration had to go to YOU, Brethren. IF I came out and exposed his sin that just about broke more than one heart, HOW MANY OF YOU, NOW ON THE WAY INTO GOD'S KINGDOM, would become discouraged, lose faith, and just GIVE UP! HOW MANY, I asked myself and others, would I send from God's Kingdom and eternal life into A LAKE OF FIRE! I said, 'The number of lives I might destroy forever, if I expose to the public the details might be as many as ten thousand!'

"I had to banish my son whom I love, possibly above any living now. That was not the big question. The BIG question was, how could I do it, AND NOT SEND THOUSANDS OF BABES IN CHRIST TO A LAKE OF FIRE? HOW?"

This also permitted him to shade the truth, to make it more palatable to the dumb sheep, and more favorable toward his son: "I believe the living HEAD of this Church, Jesus Christ, inspired what I DID say -that he was gone because of personal, emotional problems. THAT STATEMENT WAS 100% THE TRUTH. For the sake of thousands of you Brethren, I did not state the specific details of the personal, emotional problems."

He did it to save the dumb sheep from the "LAKE OF FIRE!" Meanwhile, "a bitter, disfellowshipped former minister" was wrong in pointing out adultery in the highest echelons in "GOD'S CHURCH" because he put the eternal life of the members at risk. How's that for convoluted reasoning? But truth wasn't Armstrong's goal. "Spin" was.

Fourth, notice how Herbert W. Armstrong tries to deflect criticism from his son. "WHY do some want to shout FAR AND WIDE accusations of OTHER person's sins or evils, EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE BEEN TOTALLY REPENTED OF, FORGIVEN AND FORGOTTEN BY THE ETERNAL GOD?"

Does that sound familiar? It should. This was the same reasoning Garner Ted used as he fought to remain within the Church of God, International. If it worked once, couldn't it work again? Garner Ted thought so. And to a certain extent, he was right because he still has a following. After he was thrown out of the CGI, he founded the Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association, and published a booklet entitled "Forgiveness, Buried Sins, and Spiritual Graves Robbers." In the introduction, GTA writes, "One of the most ghoulish, detestable sins of all is the sin of trafficking in other's sins. Satan the devil is the 'accuser of the brethren.' It is time those who deal in spiritual graves robbing understand that their fate is a lake of fire; that they are robbing themselves of eternal life in God's Kingdom!" In other words, those who used his videotaped antics in front of a Texas masseuse as grounds for his dismissal from CGI are in big trouble! After all, he did repent publicly, and therefore his sins are forgiven, and everybody should just drop the whole thing.

Fifth, notice how Herbert W. Armstrong never mentions what the sin was. He implies it strongly enough. But just in case there was somebody out there who didn't know of GTA's transgression, he did not want his letter to be the vehicle by which they found out. Those who knew would know what Herbert W. Armstrong was talking about. Those who were ignorant did not need to know.

Finally, adultery was no big deal to Herbert W. Armstrong, at least where his son was concerned. What really concerned Herbert W. Armstrong was the attack on his power. Once again, let me quote the following passage: "Now let me tell you some more! Garner Ted's sins were minor compared to those of some of his accusers! For a man to blast before the world through the public press details of alleged or exaggerated sins on Garner Ted's part, YEARS after it happened, after complete repentance and Christ's forgiveness, and after Christ has USED HIM SO POWERFULLY for almost two years since his return, is about the LOWEST act, and one of the greatest and most dastardly sins I can imagine!

"Rebellion against God and HIS WORK is a MAJOR SIN by comparison. His [Garner Ted's] conduct at all times, when outside the Church, was exemplary, and totally LOYAL. Not once was there any rebellion against God, or Christ, or the Work, the Church, or me. Instead he drew closer to GOD in real repentance, closer to his family, closer to the Church in his mind and heart. As a result, he accepted his punishment without a whimper, he repented and he PRAYED, and PRAYED and PRAYED -and he emerged a stronger, more dedicated, more USEFUL vessel for God's Work, and the BEST AND MOST RESULTFUL WORK OF HIS LIFE has been these past 21 months!"

Herbert eventually excommunicated Garner Ted in 1979, but not because of sexual misconduct. Garner Ted's swordsmanship was well known among the upper levels of the ministry since the late 1960's, and by 1979 the knowledge his dalliances had filtered down through the grapevine so that many members were aware of his naughty behavior. Yet, except for a brief suspension, Garner Ted continued in the ministry, second in command to his father. It was only when Herbert W. Armstrong was convinced his son was a threat to his power, and he feared his son would take the church away from him, that he excommunicated him. When that happened, Herbert found it convenient to dredge up all of the sins that he covered up for over a decade in order to discredit his son and justify the excommunication.

History repeats itself. Like most dysfunctional families, the aberrant behavior is passed on from generation to generation. Alcoholics tend to be born of alcoholics. Sexual abusers were most likely abused themselves. The Worldwide Church of God was a dysfunctional family, with dysfunctional leaders who pass on their dysfunctional ministerial methods from generation to generation. Sexual misconduct in the ministry, and the subsequent cover-ups, are nothing new. It has been routine in the church of God ministry since Herbert W. Armstrong pioneered it, six decades ago.


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