Who Owns The
Worldwide Church of God?
Herbert Armstrong structured the Worldwide Church of God corporations so as to minimize his vulnerability to being overthrown. To accomplish this, the Worldwide Church of God, Inc. was and is owned by an Association. This is detailed in the published bylaws of the Worldwide Church of God corporation. With certain limits, the members of the Worldwide Church of God Association "own" the church. Not the members of the church, but the members of the Association, whoever they may be.
It is without question that any organization structure which shields the decisions made by the leadership only permits decisions to be made which cannot stand the light of day. Just as the physician's axiom of "obstruction imparts infection" applies to the human body, so too any obstruction of accountability imparts dysfunction or worse in an organization. It all boils down to how easy it is to avoid being held responsible for poor management decisions.
Joe, Jr. has off and on said that the structure needs to be changed, but has not made any public moves in that direction, except to publish the public bylaws of the Worldwide Church of God corporation.
He has not yet published the membership list of the Association, nor the financial records of any of the newly formed corporate entities such as Plain Truth Ministries. We only know that the Pastor General is a member of the Worldwide Church of God Association and that the Association owns the Worldwide Church of God, Inc.
Joe, Jr. has stated that he does not "own" the church. That, in my opinion is a legalistic answer. True, he cannot sell the church and put the proceeds in his bank account. But as Pastor General (officially: Corporate Governance), he appoints and controls all boards, approves all expenses, all policy, all salaries, all hiring and firing. And in the event of the sale of any Worldwide Church of God assets, any monies above and beyond the Worldwide Church of God's debts can be directed by him to any purpose whatsoever as long as it fits the very loose legal definition of a charity or religious purpose.
He could even direct the funds be entirely dedicated to the establishment of the "Tkach Center for the Study of Pagan Holiday Practices" at Asuza Pacific University, of which he would be the Chairman For Life, and it would all be perfectly legal.
But yes, he correctly states that he doesn't "own" the church! If there is only one member in the Worldwide Church of God Association, his statement is an especially legalistic one.
Since the day he took office, there was no power on earth which forced him to retain this corporate structure, and to keep the details of the Association secret. It would not cost a penny to publish any of these important details or announce them to the church. But because these questions have gone unanswered for years, I am forced to conclude that there "must be" some vital reason for the situation and the secrecy.
There is a pattern of behavior here. Another recent example was the sale of the office building in Pasadena. There was a full page article about it in the WN, replete with all manner of details of the transaction, except "the price"!! I then turned to the financial page. Although it contained news of Bernie's grandkids and the latest daily income figures down to the dollar, nothing was mentioned about what surely must have been multiple millions of dollars in income from the sale of the building. For an organization so starved for cash that they repeatedly tweak doctrines to salvage their sliding income, this is a most striking omission!
After years of this, what is a person supposed to conclude? Only two things, neither of which are very complementary. Either the Worldwide Church of God management are too stupid to remember how important these things are to their supporters or there is something they must continue to hide. This forum is full of his supporters, and I welcome any of their "believable" explanations for these things. Maybe his supporters are suffering the oft-claimed "cognitive dissonance" about the Worldwide Church of God's financial affairs.
It's kinda like Monica's visits to the White House while Hillary was away. How many visits does it take for the Democrats to wake up to the facts?
The next major test of the Worldwide Church of God's management will come when the Worldwide Church of God closes on the sale of a major property. The first obligation they have, in my opinion, is to properly fund the pensions of employees who are near or already in retirement.
The most reliable way to fund a pension to purchase an annuity with joint and survivorship options for the retired person and their spouse. The cost is not trivial, a $1,000 per month retirement payment for the life of the survivor would cost over $100,000. But by choosing a reliable insurance company, the payout is assured.
Assuming a $1,500 per month pension, the one-time costs are around $150k per person. It doesn't take many retired employees to use up all the proceeds from the sale of either campus. I know that Worldwide Church of God management has big plans for the sale proceeds, in order to fund an expansion of PTM. So, the "acid test" will come when they have to choose how much money the PTM gets and how much pension their retired employees get. In some cases, since many opted out of Social Security to save the church money, this pension is the only income they will have in their retirement. In this decision, we will soon know where the hearts are of the people who control the Worldwide Church of God.
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