The Obscene Wealth of the Joseph Tkach Family
By The Skeptic
Millionaire Joseph Tkach II and the richly compensated board of the Worldwide Church of God Inc. (Worldwide Church of God) recently made a decision that came as no surprise to long time skeptical observers: upon completion of the sale of the church's massive real estate assets, they have opted to stay in Sin City Los Angeles rather than move to a more sane location (as they had previously intended) and identify more with their mainstream followers.
The choice of Los Angeles makes sense for the wealthy Worldwide Church of God board. No other American city offers such a contrast between the rich and the poor, and no other city panders so well to the obnoxious cravings of the nouveau riche. Consider the needs of Mr. Tkach's youthful, power-dressed second wife, Tammy, whose professional PR portraits often grace the pages of the Worldwide Church of God's internal propaganda organ, The Worldwide News. It's clear from these portraits that she doesn't shop at K-Mart like most of us. Being wealthy and living in Los Angeles, she has her choice of the very best from Tiffany, Cartier, Dior, etc. on Rodeo Drive. There's no doubt that the board members' wives contributed considerable input for the decision to stay in LA !
How Much is Tkach Worth ?
In order to effectively analyze the magnitude of the wealth of the secretive Tkach family, it is necessary to take into account:
1. "Old Money" (money handed down from his father)
2. "Present Income" (all monies from salaries, perks and bonuses from all church divisions including "Plain Truth Ministries" and spousal income the Worldwide Church of God strongly denies the rumors that Tammy Tkach is also on the payroll)
3. Future distribution of proceeds from the sale of massive church real estate assets.
Tkach Senior's rise to the highly paid "Pastor General" job was amazing to behold. A "dark horse" in the race for the top job, he quickly overtook such frontrunners as Roderick Meredith and Herman Hoeh. Probably referring to his working class roots as well as his ethnicity, frontrunner, Herman Hoeh, was said to refer to him as "that Russian peasant". But Mr. Hoeh would have had more respect for his competitor had he known that Russians, though they represent only 1.1% of US households, comprise 6.4% of all millionaire households the most efficient of all wealth accumulators ! (The Millionaire Next Door p. 17). In fact, Russian-American millionaires have cornered an incredible $1.1 trillion 5% of all the personal wealth in America (p.19)!
This raises the question of what is the salary for "Pastor General" in the Worldwide Church of God ? For decades, in Co-Worker letters and an editorial entitled "This is the Life Real Abundant Living", HWA claimed that he had no personal wealth and was not profiting from the Worldwide Church of God's huge income. However, in the late 70's, when the state of California seized the church's books, it was revealed that Herbert W. Armstrong, as well as top executives such as Stanley Rader, were personally paying themselves huge amounts running well into six-figures. Herbert W. Armstrong had, again, been caught out in a big lie! The biggest bombshell was yet to come when in the early 80's his own accountant, Jack Kessler, revealed that Herbert W. Armstrong was taking nearly $600,000 in salary as well as carrying around $100,000+ in cash and near-cash instruments (pocket money). More than any previously leaked document, the so called "Kessler Letter" put paid to the piffle of the prophet's professed penury. These figures revealed by Mr. Kessler give us an important benchmark to bear in mind for future reference.
Given this background of deception, nothing the Tkach's say about their wealth can be trusted. Not that they are saying anything; they are maintaining an Armstrong-like cloak of silence. In the early 90's a friend wrote to Tkach Sr. asking him point blank what his present salary was. Tkach would never condescend to answer these inquiries personally but would leave it to a hack in the church's correspondence department who would issue a form-reply stating that the Worldwide Church of God does not reveal the compensation levels of its top executives but they are paid in line with what people of similar stature would receive in the world of business. Our minds would conjure images of billionaires like Jack Welch of GE and Michael Eisner of Disney! Needless to say, this inquirer deemed it wise to terminate contributions to this less than candid religious organization.
This highlights one important difference in style between Herbert W. Armstrong and the Tkach dynasty. The Tkach family is very discreet regarding their wealth; this is very characteristic of the 1990's as examined in the popular 1996 book, The Millionaire Next Door. One pointed exception to this rule was a big spending spree Tkach Sr. went on shortly before he died of cancer (this big spree on personal luxury items was detailed in Ambassador Report). On the other hand, Armstrong's style was more representative of the age that produced him, the so called Gilded Age of 1890 1926. This was the age that invented the term "conspicuous consumption" when flaunting one's wealth was refined to an art form. This was the immaturity associated with the first great wealth creation age in America. And Herbert's small mind wanted a part of it as he freely admits in his autobiography even to the extent of being wiped out on his first attempt at becoming rich by a "flash depression" in the early 20's ! Other Gild-Age trimmings that Herbert W. Armstrong would flaunt were: Rolex watches, a stand-by Rolls Royce in England, limos and jets in the States, Steuben glass (Herb must have seen lots of Steuben in the 20's ), a huge property in Pasadena with numerous Gild-Age mansions, private art & collectibles, getting smashed every night on $150 bottles of Dom Perignon, etc, etc.
The Worldwide Church of God Business Model
Herbert W. Armstrong brilliantly used two of the most lucrative business models: a system that motivates by fear, and the monopoly ("one true church"). An example of a business that uses fear would be the insurance industry which also largely feeds the medical and legal businesses and was wealthy enough to afford possibly the world's first skyscraper the Met Life Building. Herb no doubt saw this building go up and knew well the motivation of fear. An obvious example of a quasi-monopoly would be Microsoft which has produced a string of billionaires as well as the world's richest man. Herb could have been ecumenical, but it would never have made him rich.
With the disintegration of Armstrong's theology and eschatology, Tkach can no longer exploit the monopoly paradigm but he still makes effective, if not subtle, use of fear. As an example, consider his current doctrinal statement on tithing: "...TITHING and GIVING reflect the believer's worship, FAITH, and LOVE for GOD, who is the Source of SALVATION..." (emphasis added). Now let's invert the meanings of a few key words to see Tkach's implied message: "non-tithing....faithless...hate for God....damnation" (more clever mind control from the Pasadena millionaires). Of course tithes must filter through Mr. Tkach and his church headquarters where "handling" and "administration" charges will be extracted. Have you ever noticed how those who practice fear religion seem to have no fear themselves: becoming wealthy from church donations (Herbert W. Armstrong & Tkach), incest (HWA), marrying a divorcee (Herbert W. Armstrong), divorcing and remarrying (Tkach). Don't they know what their own bible says about these things ?
The Worldwide Church of God currently has about 40,000 US members who donate an impressive $30 million per year, give or take a few million. This is about the same as an equivalent sized town would receive in local taxes. For their taxes these citizens get roads, schools, utility infrastructure, police, fire dept. and a broad range of services, but what do Worldwide Church of God members get for their $30 million?....not even a church building (just a rented hall), a free monthly magazine, a free monthly tabloid newspaper, a free sermon on Saturday from a pastor who gets paid over $60,000 or if he is a "District Superintendent" over $80,000 and a "Pastor General" who gets paid up to sixty times more than your local Catholic or Protestant priest or minister ! And these fat cats all get a big housing payment to boot ! Why should Worldwide Church of God executives getting six-figure salaries and ministers making over $60,000 need free housing? Tkach calls this the "parsonage" allowance. "Parsonage" originally meant a humble abode for a pastor on very low or no income not a mansion in Pasadena. Tkach's outrageous misuse of this word (for what amounts to a laundered perk) is nothing short of obscene. And I wonder what the discredited "Dr." Herman Hoeh is doing to justify his $130,000 "evangelist" salary, other than keeping his mouth shut ? Needless to say, by the time all these fat cats are paid, not much is left of your $30,000,000. These people live in a world of luxury and style so far removed from the average "working stiff" member that it defies the imagination. Let the contributor beware !
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