Worldwide Church of God,
A World View
The first ever worldwide look at the "Old" and "New" Worldwide Church of God.
A look at the history of the WCG and its splinter groups.
A LOOK BEHIND THE SCENES FROM 1984 TO 2001.
2.. My background
3.. Herbert Armstrong
4.. Spiritual life, fellowshipping, Doctrines of "Old" and "New" Worldwide Church of God
5.. False beliefs, unfulfilled statements, misunderstood beliefs, misinterpretations
Page 2 6.. Influence on life's decisions / styles, Control over life (style)
7.. Personal experiences, various
8.. Ministers and Evangelists
9.. Strange comments of ministers
10.. Spiritual materialism (Health Wealth Gospel)
11.. Economical matters of Worldwide Church of God
12.. Statistics (membership-figures, income, publishing activities, media etc.), Charts
13.. Worldwide Church of God and her splinter groups
14.. Youth in Church
15.. Future, General thoughts
Why did I write this account ?
Because I have something to tell about one of the most fascinating organizations in the world, the WCG. I think the Church deserves an honest look at its past and present situation on a worldwide basis, most of the books and articles that have been published are viewed from an Anglo-American perspective, and thereby are not "worldwide", as the Church claims to be. But there is a worldwide perspective, with input from another than the American mentality, culture, let's say with European outlook.
Why did I choose as subtitle "first ever worldwide look at the WCG" ? Because most probably the Church, which is US-based and US-led, presently evangelical in its outlook, will not gain a big following in the international areas (meaning outside Anglo-American ang Anglo-Saxon areas, including the Philippines). In other words: Outside the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines the Church will not attract significant numbers of followers.
That's why I think no one outside of those areas will make the effort to go into a detailed reporting like this account.
Some people will say: "He made up stories, most of it is gossip, where is his proof ?"
What proof do you expect me to have ? Every time I had a conversation with ministers or members I should have told them: "Please let's go to the public notary, I have to get written proof of what you said". At the public notary's office we got a confirmation: "This is to confirm, that Mr. / Mrs. Soandso has said the following in connection with the WCG etc. He said that in presence of Mr. amonjohn, another member of the WCG".
Or should I break into the offices of the WCG, trying to get all the "confidential files"?
This account is to show, what went on in the WCG-Church members brain cells, while being "called by God into the Church".
It's not just a story of "a Church having changed from its former wrong doctrines to orthodox Christianity", but rather "a Church decides to end control over its members' minds due to the finding of faults in its basic doctrines" or "A Church loosing more than 50 million Dollars a year, because it is daring to be honest with itself and its members".
I don't want to give just an historical overview, but a view which comes from the heart and mind of someone who was deeply convinced about the WCG. It is a multi-facetted view seen from different cultural backgrounds. A view from the bottom, seen from a P & P-member-perspective (P & P standing for pay and pray).
Maybe you are one of the 500.000 who have come and gone through the doors of the WCG during the last few decades. Maybe you are in some splinter group and ask yourself, why splinters still keep chipping off.
Maybe you have relatives in the WCG or one of their splinter groups and would like to know what "motivates" them to be in such a group.
Or you yourself are in a small Church considered a "sect" or even cult by the rest of humanity and are evaluating your situation, doubting certain practices and beliefs.
This is supposed to be a reference book, a historical review of Church, Evangelists, ministers and members alike. It's not supposed to be just a comparison of doctrines WCG vs. splinter groups vs. orthodox Christianity, other Churches etc., which can be quite academical and dry.
Much more a lively report of how beliefs affected 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year of approximately 100.000 WCG-members over the period of 17 years.
Therefore a concise report of
17 (years) x 365 (days) x 100,000 (members) = 620,500.000,human days, not considering those, who were there before the mid 1980/s or those that will still join the WCG after 2002.
The total penetration into brain cells of members.
If you would like to know what happened with 620 million human days, read this book, it will probably take you 10 20 hours of reading.
You will understand more about the WCG and her splinter groups.
I once was a very convinced member of the WCG.
My credentials are almost none, figuring that I was neither an evangelist, nor a minister, nor Church employee. Maybe that's why I have the credentials of the grassroots ? I had the P & P-membership-status (pay and pray). Besides I had a year-long conviction, that might be called fanaticism.
I have a Jewish grandfather, who went to the synagogue throughout his life, even though in his 30's he converted to Catholicism and married a catholic woman. Part of my life I grew up in Israel (from birth to 9), therefore having lived in the Jewish culture with Sabbath-keeping, Holy Day observance. Simultaneously I was raised by my parents as a Catholic, attending Catholic Church in Israel every Sabbath (did the big "false Church" keep the right day of the week after all ?).
Age 15 I started to read the German version of the Plain Truth, the "Klar und Wahr". By age 17 I realized only that a Church was behind the magazine.
My uncle, who in the early seventies lived in South Africa, subscribed to the Plain Truth and thought it was a "communist propaganda magazine". The reason for it being that the magazine carried many articles on political and social matters.
The WCG was the final fulfillment, the culmination of my family background. They were the influences of my Jewish grandfather, the visiting of synagogues, the observance of the Sabbath and Holy Days during my childhood until age 9 in Israel and the attending of Catholic Church on Sabbath days. All that was combined with the search for direction during my adolescent years, in which I met a famous barman, who gave me a cocktail, which brought me to the "only true Church of God". Later on I will tell you about that barman.
When I got to know people of Jewish origin at Headquarters in Pasadena, it was another proof of the true Church.
It was THE most meaningful group / Church for me to be in.
There were three persons in my life, whose death brought me to tears. It was my Jewish grandfather, the former Prime Minister of Israel Itzhak Rabin and Mr. Joseph Tkach.
Start of attending:
The predictions of the world's scientists proved "no future". My belief was therefore strengthened, which was also preached by the Church. Acid rain, woods dying within the next 10 15 years, rivers polluted etc. A Forest-man in the Church (who was also a minister himself) confirmed that: "There is no turning around, it gets worse and worse". Attitudes of "a few years till the end" were expressed by members in sayings like: "just these few more years and we made it" (enter the Kingdom) or "we have to preach for a few years, get into / on the TV-channels (cable etc.) in Europe (which we did from 1986 approx. 1993) preach, then the end comes quickly. United Europe (the last resurrection of the Beast of Revelation), another 2 5 years, then the end.
In the mid 1980/s I started to attend services with the WCG. In 1988 I became baptized, after having had to read "The Incredible Human Potential" for 3 times and after having reached quite a high level of perfection already, at least it felt like "having to be perfect before baptism//
I have Plain Truth magazines from the late seventies (English and German) which were given to my parents by a family's friend. The oldest one I have is from 1961, it was given to me by a longtime Church member from New York City during my visit there in 1990.
I have read Worldwide News issues from the early seventies till the mid eighties (the time before I was a member) that were openly accessible in the Ambassador College Library in Pasadena, during my stays on campus in 1985, my visits in 1986, 1989 and 1990. After I became a member in 1988, I virtually read every line, even the first section, where are all the names of writers *..... for the purpose of creating prayer-lists (rosary-style praying). I did this with the Plain Truth, Worldwide News, Good News magazine etc.).
I participated in a summer program at Ambassador College, during which I took English-courses with Mr. John Beaver in the mid 1980|s and having stayed on campus for a duration of approx. 2 months, just 4 houses left to Mr. Armstrong's home and 3 houses from the right of Mr. Tkach's home then.
In the 1980\s the Church appeared as "Ambassador College" in some countries of Europe. We assembled in a community-center, which was run by the city government, ever since social democratically dominated.
In approx. 1986 we were told, that our rental contract would not be prolonged after the end of the year.
Our minister wrote a long letter to the Directorate, mentioning also, that Mr. Armstrong had visited the President of our country and that the Ambassador Foundation has had good contacts with a famous classic Orchestra.
The problem on the side was, when we started renting the hall, we gave the impression, that we would give public lectures after having sent out invitations to Plain Truth readers. Seminars etc.
Some members distributed Plain Truth advertisements with a personal invitation of Mr. Armstrong to subscribe to the magazine.
After a while the community center realized though, that we held our worship-services in their premises, which was not the purpose of their building to begin with.
The letter of our minister did not get a reply, as far as I remember.
The kickout was final, in the future we would have to wander from one hotel to another feeling like the people of Israel wandering in the desert. At least we had more water in Europe.
Nobody explained me "life" until I finally thought to have found the truth (approx. 1984-1985) There was an answer to every question. Suddenly the world was "easy, clear, logic", but then came the next "suddenly" (between 1995 1997). The newfound picture got cracks, almost broke down and tumbled.
The world had unexplained itself, after some simple "black and white" explanations. The answers first received were recalled, withdrawn from circulation, "out of date". They were brought to its former place, to all the splinter-groups that have sprung up since approx. 1989, no new answers provided for the age old questions anymore.
In fact, the new answers offered by the WCG could not be internalized into my mind/soul, they seemed strange to me. (soul used in its new meaning (mind), in old meaning of "our (WCG) former truth" the use of the word soul was only applied to "physical meat", but not to mind/heart, as meant now).
In the beginning the Church fulfilled a deeply felt desire to find meaning in this "variety-filled" world of confusion and restlessness with clashing world views.
From 1995 onwards that need was not fulfilled anymore, due to the (since then) ever-changing doctrines, explanations and goals of the WCG.
Around 1989 I was asked to give opening and closing prayers, the same year they wanted me to do the song leading, which I did not enjoy, therefore I quit.
In 1991 the minister asked me to give a Sermonette, outlying the relationship of Juda and Israel (since I lived there and talked a lot with him privately about the subject). I felt I could not do it and declined. I must say also, that I did not attend spokesman club, after watching it in Big Sandy. I already thought from 1987 onwards, that it was quite an unnatural event, trying to shape people into a certain type. I did not like it.
Once I thought I knew nothing (till 1984),
a little later I felt I knew everything (1985 1995),
Approximately during the same period I knew that I thought it was not allowed to feel too much. Therefore I did not allow myself to pay attention to what I felt.
Since approximately 1997 I started to feel that I was wrong in thinking that feeling was not right.
Between 1997 and 2000 I was led to feel that all I knew or thought I knew was wrong, non-essential. Based upon feeling and analyzing , analyzing openly, I finally knew, that I had known nothing.
1999 and 2000: In fact I knew things that I thought were right, important, essential, which turned to be otherwise. Today I feel much better, even though I know, I wasted a lot of time in thinking the things I thought were right.
2000 onwards: I feel that I don't have to know everything, as I think that paying attention to what I feel is more essential that piling up knowledge in my head, while suppressing what I feel about things.
Why I joined the WCG:
The beginning 1980's were the time of the "no-future"-generation, partly expressing itself in not marrying, not wanting children, smoke a lot, a lot of alcohol, sometimes drugs etc. Many thought so in my school. Even the predictions of the world's scientists proved "no future .....
In this world of confusion I searched for a "safe place", which I did not find in the Catholic Church nor with the Jewish part of my family (grandfather's side) nor with the pure materialism, consumerism and permissive lifestyle (Alcohol, Smoking, premarital Sex) of my peers, friends, colleagues at work.
So I found a place of "obedience to God's law" and people who were willing to obey.
Included in the package was a very charismatic leader, who told us "where the right track" was and a "work" with a big evangelistic effort of preaching the gospel of the kingdom to all nations", which I felt privileged to support. It would be just a few years more, until the formation of the "United States of Europe" (last resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire) and our leaving to the "place of safety" which most probably lay in Jordan just before the start of the Great tribulation, which most probably lay in Jordan. A five star Hotel has already been built in Petra, Jordan. The saying in the Church in some European countries was, that the Hotel was only for the ministers, the normal members would have to build new houses or sleep in tents, that's why God called so many carpenters into the Church.
In "selecting" the right Church, I applied the following logic:
Most of the Churches fell already out in the first round (no Sabbath, no Holy Days, no Tithing, no "right" name), they did not even get to the second round.
The rest: Seventh Day Adventists no, even though they kept the Sabbath, they did not keep the commanded Holy days of the Old and New Testament. Mormons no (did not keep either, even though they were right with the tithing custom and view God as a Family, Catholics, Protestants no, because they supposedly were the two "big" Churches of Revelation, even though they had a history which went farthest back in time from all the Churches. Jehovah's Witness's no, because they did not keep the Sabbath, even though they had the "right" interpretation of the Millennium (which we in the WCG also called "The World Tomorrow").
I have known, seen, personally spoken to, visited countries, regions
Armstrong in May 1985 in Europe as well as July 1985 in Pasadena HQ.
The following evangelists I have seen in person and spoken with: Roderick Meredith, Richard Ames, Ronald Kelly, Leon Walker, Gerald Waterhouse, Herman Hoeh, Harold Jackson, Frank Brown, Kyriacos Stavrinidis
The following persons (faculty of Ambassador College and staff of Church publications, Regional Directors, Church employees) I have known personally:
Dan Taylor, John Siston, Raymond Dick, John Beaver, William Stenger, John Halford, John Karlson, Frank Schnee, Mark Kaplan, Jeffrey Dowd, Bruce Hedges; Larry Omasta, Jay Brothers, Michael Germano, Richard Dick, Steven Andrews, Andre Zick, Russell Duke, Victor Root, Mr. Cato.
The following ministers I have met and spoken personally with:
Tom Lapacka, Wilhelm Mandel, Henry Sturcke, Santiago Lange, Craig Bacheller, Alfred Hellemann, John Karlson, Robert Berendt, Mr. Johnson (Kitchener, Ont., Canada), Roy Holladay, Robert Dick, Robbin Webber, Paul Suckling, Frank Schnee, Pedro Rufian, Bill Sydney, Michael Swaggerty, Gene Hogberg, Ralph Levy, Daniel Zachariah, Mr. Jayesakare (Sri Lanka) sorry if misspelled, Winfried Fritz, Daniel Boesch, Cliff Veal, Clint Zimmermann, Pedro Manzingana, John Kennedy, Mr. Deveaux (Nassau, N.Y.).
They were from the following countries: Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy, Norway, Chile, Austria, Netherlands, United States, Great Britain, Spain, ....
I have been meeting members from the following countries:
Hungary, Slovakia (former Czech Republic), Italy, Greece, France, Netherlands, Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Austria, Germany, Switzerland Spain, Portugal, the United States, Canada, Philippines, Australia, Kenai, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, Jordan, Israel, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Estonia, Belgium, Poland...
Between 1985 and 1999 I have attended Festivals of Tabernacles in the following places:
Pasadena, Calif., Brno Czech Republic, Bonndorf, Germany, Talavera, Spain, Lowell, Massachusetts, Maitencillo, Chile, Zwolle, Netherlands and others
Between 1985 and 1999 I have heard approximately 600 sermons (most of them 1 hour to 75 minutes long), and as many Sermonette during Sabbath services.
In addition to that approx. 170 sermons and 170 sermonettes during Festivals of Tabernacles and annual Holy Days.
I have sermon notes dating from 1984 till the Festivals in the year 2000.
I am in the possession of co-worker and member letters since 1984 as well as having read many from the seventies and early eighties in the Autobiography of Herbie Strongarm.
I have married within the Church a woman, whose mother became a member of the WCG in 1981:
The books I have read include: The Incredible Human Potential, US and Great Britain in Prophecy, Mystery of the Ages, The Missing Dimension in Sex, The "Autobiography of HWA", 1987 edition, both volumes.
Besides this all the booklets published in German from 1982 to 1997 as well as numerous English-speaking booklets published by the Church.
I have been a subscriber of the Plain Truth since November 1981 (The title having been a wedding picture of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, as they where driving in the coach to their wedding ceremony, the title of the story, if I remember well, was "The Royal Family, Glamour and joy for the last time ?")
The wife of the present leader of the "Church of God" (splinter group of "United Church of God") was a good acquaintance of mine, she came to our wedding and served champagne. She is the daughter of a WCG-minister, who left in 1995 with "United Church of God" and in 1997 ?..later with "Church of God" (David Hulme).
Don't expect this account to be an "Herbie Strongman-bashing" or a rundown against the current WCG-leadership.
Yet it is a very open and honest look at the past as well as present situation of the WCG, and its (major) splinter groups since 1989. Even though very personal, I have tried to present opinions of as many Church-members as possible, of which all were once members of the WCG. As time went by, many of them left the Church and joined one of the splinter groups, mainly Philadelphia Church of God, Global Church of God (later Living C.o.G.), United C.o.G. (later "Church of God, leader David Hulme). Some of them are still with the WCG.
HERBERT ARMSTRONG (see also F.A.Q in WCG-homepage):
Why write about Mr. Armstrong in one of the first chapters ? Because he, through his personality and charisma made the Church to what it has become at the time of his death. In "Short History of the WCG" on the WCG-homepage we read: "We acknowledge that the WCG would not exist without those erroneous doctrines...". Mr. Armstrong was the one who brought many of these erroneous doctrines into the Church, having believed, that he "re-instated God's Truth into the Church", after "it had been lost for 1900 years".
Without knowing Mr. Armstrong's history, no one can possibly understand the developments of the last 15 years.
Some rich man has established a foundation, to find out the family roots of Mr. Armstrong, which he finally claimed to having gone back straight to King David of ancient Israel.
In the official portrait of Mr. Armstrong you can see on the manchettes of the shirt's sleeves some golden "Star of David" manchettes, buttons on the shirt sleeves.
He was very conscious of Jews, Judaism and saw it as his roots.
Mr. Josef D., office representative of the Church in Jerusalem in the late 60's told me in 1990, that Israel was the "apple of his eye", he loved the country, had contacts with the leaders from the late 60's till 1985, and through the Ambassador Foundation gave substantial support to the country, especially through the "Jerusalem Dig" program as well as the "I.C.C.Y" (Intern. Culture Centre of Youth), which was located in West Jerusalem.
In the late 60's my family lived in Israel. They had friends from all levels of society, among them also Catholic priests, Jewish teachers, nuns, monks as well as a Lutheran Pastor, who was a certified tour guide as well.
During that time the WCG has had a representative, who lived for some years (... ) in Jerusalem, just before the outbreak out of the Six-Day-War, which happened in June 1967. The Church's representative and his family moved to Cyprus. Mr. D. had gotten to know Mr. S., who was the pastor and official tour guide.
My parents also have kept contact with that man over the years.
It was not before 1986 when Mr. S. came to visit us in Europe and was very surprised, that I was associated with the WCG (at that time not yet having become a member). Nevertheless, he told us the story, how the Church became interested in the Archeological Dig, which went on right on the edge of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
As far as I can remember from conversations with Mr. D.., the representative of the WCG, he got to know Mr. S., the pastor and tour guide and together they visited various holy sites and archeological places of interest in Jerusalem and other parts of Israel.
They came to speak about the archeological program which was in progress at the Temple Mount. Upon hearing about that Mr. D. told someone at Church-Headquarters about that, and when Mr. Armstrong got word about the project, he was very excited. Just a few days /weeks later he boarded his Gulfstream Jet and flew to Israel. Mr. S.. got to know Mr. Armstrong in the late 1960's having shown him around some of the sites in Jerusalem. They arranged a meeting with the Hebrew University's Archeological Department. Every year until around 1980 students from Ambassador College came to work as volunteers on the Digs.
Later on, around 1991 the Church restarted another dig in Hazor, which lay in the north of Israel. That dig was also under the supervision of the Hebrew University.
"The finding of the throne of King David"
According to Mr. Armstrong (as he explained in some Church literature), that Dig was of high importance, because Jesus Christ was returning to a throne, which had to be found before his arrival. It was therefore the main goal of this dig. This is how I understood him explaining it.
In 1992 by some coincidence I met the Director of the I.C.C.Y.-center. On a visit there he gave Mr. Suckling (the minister from Great Britain who visited the Middle East) and me a tour and told us, that monthly support was approx. 7.000 US$ for many years, but in the early nineties it was cut to much less, until it was totally cut.
The irony on the side: The Church and Mr. Armstrong believed, that it was a Centre promoting peace between young Israeli Jews and young Palestinian Arabs. In reality most activities were solely Jewish. Maybe once a year they had a celebration together, as an intercultural event.
Mr. Armstrong's' family:
Mr. Armstrong's' first wife Loma died in 1968, he remarried his second wife Ramona in 1977. I saw an article with many photos in the Worldwide News during one of my visits in Pasadena in the late eighties. Garner Ted Armstrong, Mr. Armstrong's son, performed the wedding ceremony.
In 1981 they divorced. A Church-member, who was married to an American told me, that Mrs. Armstrong had received a payment of 1 Mio. $, because she understood the Church's income to be Mr. Armstrong's personal income, therefore wanted to go to court to get a share of the Church's daily income. The deal was made and she signed not to bring the matter into the courts, which would have been a disastrous publicity as well as a financial loss for the Church. That's how it was related to me "officially".
"Salvation by Works"?
Mr. Armstrong certainly did not "teach" salvation by works. He always emphasized, that salvation is a "free gift from God". Yet he also said, that it is not enough to "give your heart to Jesus", but we would have to keep God's law (the 10 commandments), especially the Sabbath plus the seven annual Holy Days of the year and tithing.
So, in essence though, we believed in the end, that without the works we would not receive eternal life (salvation).
In many articles Mr. Armstrong was saying: "Where is the true Church, every Church in the world claims to be the only true one".
Had we contacted the ministers of those "worldly" Church, we would have found out, that most of them do not claim that they are "the only true Church". One of the very few ones in fact was the WCG.
In effect he used an argument throwing "facts" on others, which in reality were not true. In throwing this argument he actually accused himself, because he was one of the few that thought, the WCG "was the only true Church".
"How it came about, that Mr. Armstrong started to visit World leaders"?
The first contact was a photographer, who was in touch with the Bonn office (Regional headquarters of the German work). This photographer, whose services were used for the Plain Truth magazine by the Church, had contacts with the Royal family of Belgium, namely King Leopold the II ?? That was in the late sixties. After he was received by King Leopold, Mr. Armstrong received "recommendations" for contacts with other Aristocrats and world leaders, having expressed his desire, the Church's desire (the Ambassador Foundation would act as a humanitarian arm of the Church) to support programs around the world. One visit lead to another and the list of contacts continued to grow.
Photos and television recordings were made in order to present the members as well as the "World Tomorrow"-viewers with the results, the fruits of his trips.
The leaders he met include:
President Suharto, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Ferdinand Marcos, Philippines, King Hussein of Jordan, President Saadat and Mubarak (both Egypt), President Herzog and Navon (Israel), Prime Minister Golda Meir, Menahem Begin, Shimon Peres (Israel), Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Queen Sirikit of Thailand, King Bumibool, President Rudolf Kirchschl"ger (Austria), Kenya, Namibia, President ? Botha ? South Africa..., Deng Xiaoping (China), various Japanese leaders from the early seventies till up to the eighties, the last one having been Prime Minister Nakasone.
Some of these leaders had in common, that they were very authoritarian in their style of leadership. Mr. Armstrong had no problem with that style of governing.
In fact, I remember having read in the Plain Truth (early eighties) that he was quoting Winston Churchill as having said: "democracy is not the ideal form of government, but it is the better evil"
When Mr. Armstrong visited Namibia in 1979 or 1980 (see Plain Truth of 1979 or 1980) he addressed the leaders and told them, that they should have the 10 commandments as the basis of their nation's law (their constitution).
He always said, that God's government is not a democracy, but rather it is ruling "from the top down". He practiced that ruling himself in the Church having the top religious authority as well as the administrative and financial authority within the Church.
His line of reasoning was simple, but very Old Testament like: God put these people in authority, every government leader is put in by God, the principle being, "that God's principle of ruling is the principle of authority", therefore these leaders have to be respected, no matter whether they rule justly or not, whether they rule with an iron fist or through democratic means.
Mr. Armstrong to a certain extent even endorsed apartheid, based on the biblical principle that nations live within THEIR given borders, they should not mix with other nations.
A WCG-member in Europe, who has been living in South Africa for many years supported that view as well.
Yet, if you were convinced that Mr. Armstrong was an "Apostle of Christ", you supported the Church, no matter what means it took Mr. Armstrong to fulfill his commission. That included having to possess airplanes like: Gulfstream II, III, THE jet of the aviation industry (it is called the Rolls Royce of the air).
So, while members were earning 10, 20, 30, or 40 thousand Dollars a year (or even less in other parts of the world, I earned 6.000 dollars a year back then, just having come out of school) and paying tithes faithfully, the Church acquired the top jet (Gulfstream Grumman III, which had a value of approx. 12 million Dollars), maintained the plane (hundreds of thousands of Dollars if not millions of Dollars a year), paid the pilots, stewards etc.
Mr. Armstrong needed that "tool" in order to fulfill the commission of preaching the Gospel. We believed it and therefore nobody questioned it. Maybe some questioned it, but did not withhold tithes because of that.
"Mr. Armstrong and Church income"
He wrote in some Church-member letters in the eighties: "Something must be wrong spiritually with some members, if the Church is not blessed with income". Members were in effect told, that they are not O.K., even though they gave between 155 Mio 210 Mio US$ each year between 1985 1990.
He put a lot of emphasis on the income and seriously thought, that income would decline by half or even more after his death.
Mr. Armstrong died in January of 1986 and income did not decline, it even increased.
"Was Mr. Armstrong an Apostle of Christ ?"
Did he preach the Gospel to all nations by visiting heads of state, presidents, kings, prime ministers ?" According to many members' telling Dr. Hermann Hoeh was the one who "came up" with the title "Apostle" for Mr. Armstrong. Many years Mr. Armstrong himself did not want to be considered as such. Yet, when he started to travel around the world and visit world leaders, he finally believed, that he was doing the work of an Apostle.
Yet he was very honest and told Church members: "Don't believe me, blow the dust off your Bible and look it up yourself". So we looked into our Bibles, listened to his additional explanations, read the literature, which mostly was written by him and got the "right picture", not having realized, that we in fact were always looking at the same scriptures that supported the Church's view, but diligently avoided to look at other places in the Bible. In my Bible all the "important" places are marked with different colors and "thickness" of paint. I am really surprised to find many more places that are NOT marked, because they seemingly didn't support our doctrines, therefore they were "unimportant", non-essential ?
He wanted to "wrap up" God's message to humanity in an attractive language, a hooking kind of language. Since he has been in the advertising industry prior to his calling, he continued on in his profession, becoming an evangelist simultaneously.
The problem was, he still held a job as a bar-man, mixing cocktails. It helped him though to find the most interesting ingredients for the perfect religion, which would be re-established in "God's only true Church", after having been lost for 1900 year (from 34 AD to 1934), exactly 1900 !
In the 30's he could quit his job as a bar-man, after having finished mixing the most successful cocktail.
He started to be a radio-evangelist, eventually became TV-evangelist and still worked as an advertising executive, yet only for the WCG, not for other big corporations anymore.
In the sixties he became a world traveler visiting kings and presidents and added the Apostleship to his curriculum.
His marketing empire translated most of the instruction manuals as well as the products in eventually 7 languages simultaneously, reaching people worldwide, therefore .. deciding to change the name from "Radio Church of God" to "Worldwide Church of God", which happened in 1968.
"Did Mr. Armstrong work more than the Apostle Paul ?" (Festival Film 1985)
"in 3 days Mr. Armstrong traveled 2 continents with his airplane. The same distance, if not more than the distance, which Paul traveled during his whole life".
We members where sitting very amazed in our yellow cushion.=?-chairs of the Ambassador Auditorium, while being convinced, that Mr. Armstrong did a greater work than the Apostle Paul.
Mr. Armstrong's relationship with "the Beast of Revelation".
In the early seventies Mr. Armstrong invited Franz Joseph Strauss, then top candidate of Germany's Christian Social Union (or CDU as it was called later) and Prime Minister of the State of Bavaria, the Southernmost and richest province in Germany. Mr. Strauss was very impressed by Ambassador College and he mentioned to Mr. Armstrong, that Germany would need such a College as well (see pictures in Plain Truth approx. 1980).
In 1983 Otto von Hapsburg, the heir to the Austrian Imperial throne, the second possible Beast of the book of Revelation visited Ambassador College and gave a speech in the Ambassador Auditorium in front of the students.
As headline of the next Worldwide News we could read: "Beast of Revelation visits God's Apostle of the only true Church in the Ambassador Auditorium and shakes hand of Mr. Armstrong" (haha).
One of the two men was supposed to become Europe's top man and therefore the "Beast" of revelation.
Mr. Strauss died in the late nineteen eighties (1988 or 1989), Mr. Otto von Hapsburg is still alive in his eighties (year 2001), having given an interview for the Plain Truth magazine recently. He is not a member of the European parliament anymore and has no political function other than as chairman of the "Paneuropa Union", an organization, which promotes European unity.
"Are we in the end time, 1985, the start of the very end ?"
In 1985 the work of the preaching of the gospel to all nations was done. Plain Truth circulation has reached over 7 million, been sent to and subscribed by people from virtually all countries around the world. In 1986 I have heard from a Publishing employee, that "Time" and "Newsweek" were watching us, how the Church could manage the enormous task of publishing a magazine in 7 different languages simultaneously.
The "Ambassador for World Peace", Christ's Apostle (Mr. Armstrong) having traveled to more than 70 nations meeting heads of state. Besides that Mr. Armstrong announced the attendance figures of the Feast of Tabernacles to be approximately 136.000 and added: "By next year we will have reached the 144.000 that are spoken about in Revelation" (meaning 144.000 saints). I still have his words ringing in my ears, having taken everything he said very seriously.
1985 was supposed to be a very significant year, 40 years end of World War II, 40 years of signing the UN-Charta (on which occasion Mr. Armstrong attended a ceremony in San Francisco which he had attended as a reporter for the Plain Truth in 1945).
The number 40 is based on the 40 years that the people of ancient Israel have wandered in the desert before entering the Holy Land.
It happened slightly different, though:
After Mr. Armstrong's death, the saying among some members was: "Now, that the Apostle has died, the work cannot go on for much longer". Other members speculated: Moses / Joshua being a picture for Mr. Armstrong / Mr. Tkach Sr. "As it took Joshua 3 more days after Moses' death to enter the Promised Land, it would be another 3 years, until Mr. Tkach (the modern day Joshua) would lead us into the Kingdom of God" (which was the fulfillment of the land of Israel, or: Israel having been a physical symbol of the spiritual Kingdom of God, which still lay in the future. The principle applied was 1 day for 1 year, as taken from the Bible.
Another proof of the very beginning of the end time: NATO-alliance was already showing cracks, the US-economy was slowing down and showing signs of weakness, the international financial world was built on a very thin ice layer any moment ready to break up and to top it off, we have reached another end of a 50 year cycle of "jubilation" (Erlassjahr), therefore another economic depression was just around the corner, the last one having been in the 1930's, before that 1880's, 1830's, 1780's, 1730's, 1680's and so on maybe going back to the year 300 AD.
Europe was already starting to unite. The currency of the "United States of Europe" was already printed and laid in the secret chambers (or treasure) of the Administration in Brussels.
Pope John Paul II was already in "full swing" to unite the Russian-Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic Church (he already has had several visits with the Patriarch of that Church, the first one in the late 70's, see Plain Truth article). Cardinal Benelli (the Secretary of State of the Vatican) was already preparing the very last resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire. Mr. Armstrong had received that information from special sources, as he told members and co-workers in a letter. (and in a P.T. article ?)
To make everything a little bit more exciting, the Atomic as well as the Hydrogen-Bomb was available worldwide, just waiting to be ignited during World War III.
"That generation would not pass, no flesh would be saved" (Mat....) was understood as: During the generation that was living in the time of the invention of the Atomic and Hydrogen-bomb, Christ would return.
The last, but not insignificant argument for the very end of the age: Mr. Herbert Armstrong was John the Baptist of the modern day, who therefore had to be alive at Christ's Second coming.
"Does Mr. Armstrong support building the Third Temple in Jerusalem ?"
In a member-letter of 1985 Mr. Armstrong describes the visit of Rabbi Meir Kahane to his home in Pasadena. Mr. Kahane was the leader of the most radical, anti-Arab political party in Israel. He was also a promoter of the "Temple Mount Movement", which wanted to build the third temple on the Temple mount in Jerusalem (in fact still wants to build that Temple).
Mr. Kahane and 2 or 3 other Rabbis came "late in the evening", like the Jewish leaders came late at night to Jesus Christ, as Mr. Armstrong explained.
They wanted support for building that Temple (financial support, as Dr. Hoeh, an evangelist told me during the Feast of Tabernacles in Bonndorf, Germany in 1987).
Mr. Armstrong declined his (the Church's) support, having understood, that Jesus Christ the Messiah would come to a spiritual temple.
During the course of the meeting Mr. Kahane said that he would try to become Prime Minister of Israel with the help of some other party in the parliament. In the end he never succeeded becoming Prime Minister. But he would have built the Third Temple, if he had succeeded.
Mr. Kahane was shot dead outside a New York Hotel in December 1990. His son, a Jewish leader living in the occupied West Bank, was shot together with his wife on December 31, 2000.
For many years the discussion in the Church was, whether Jesus Christ would return to a physical temple, later on in the eighties the opinion was formed, that prior to Christ's return only the sacrifice must have been reintroduced in Jerusalem, not necessarily a New Temple erected.
"When will Christ return?"
On the side: During that same Feast (1987) members went up to Evangelist Dr. Hoeh after the sermon he gave and asked him "how long a generation would be", inquiring about the probable return of Christ, after the "work has been done". He replied with a smile on his face, that in Mr. Armstrong's case a generation was 90 something years (92 to be exact). Most of us members were disappointed by that answer, having thought, that the preaching of the gospel has already been going since the 1930's and having to arrive at a conclusion sometime in the 1980's...From that day on we knew, that the preaching might go on another 30 years or so. We were disappointed.
Mr. Armstrong said in articles, people in India "don't have the true Religion, because one can see that they are not well off, don't live well". He was talking about the third world countries in Asia, having Hinduism and Buddhism as their religion. Incredibly as it sounds, economical measure was taken, whether the religion was "right or not". Even though certainly he also listed "theological reasons".
During the Feast of Trumpets 1985 Mr. Armstrong said: "It's the most important event in whole of history", meaning the return of Christ. "It's the restoration of God's government on earth".
Another religious leader would have said, the birth of Christ was the most important event, yet another, his crucifixion, his resurrection etc.. from what angle do you see the life of Jesus Christ ?
Sensationally, as Mr. Armstrong tended to be with his "end of the age expectation", certainly the return was the "most important event".
HWA was not totally right, when he said, that in the very end time knowledge would explode, which should have been in the nineteen sixties, seventies or eighties.
Today we are in the 10's of the 21st century (or: we are in the first years of the 21st century) and it seems, that we are just beginning to scratch the real knowledge explosion.
Look at medical science and biology, which are starting to crack the genetic code of humans, look at all the illnesses which have not yet been eradicated from the face of the earth, new illnesses coming up. Look at space exploration, which at earliest will begin manned trips to other planets in 15 to 20 years.
Mr. Armstrong visits Munich, Germany (1985)
Hotel "Vier Jahreszeiten" (Four Seasons), one of the "Leading Hotels in the World" (a group of 100 top Hotels).
I was desperately trying to touch his suit, but because it was a business suit, not like Jesus' long dress I did not succeed, even though I was sitting on the isle, as he was entering the "Cherubin-Saal" ("Hall of Cherubini", the composer), the hall in which of the big events were held in this Hotel.
In Munich he met Otto von Habsburg, then a member of the European Parliament for the conservative party in Bavaria. He brought Mr. Armstrong up to date on the "unification process in Europe", in the European Union.
Later that year during the Feast of Tabernacles we heard excerpts of a few minutes from that conversation. I spent the Feast 1985 in Pasadena, California, the headquarters of the WCG.
"Preaching to the leaders, thereby to all of their people ?"
The erroneous thinking of that line of reasoning:
He figured, that when he preached "the true gospel" to the leaders of the nations, automatically it was a preaching to their people, because the leaders were the representatives and they would give that message to their people.
In a member letter of the early eighties Mr. Armstrong describes how he addressed a group of political and business leaders in Japan, mentioning also that Ambassadors from various countries have been present for the dinner. He gives a long list of approx. 15 nations, where the Ambassadors were from and says: "The Ambassadors heard the message, which they will carry home to their countries and tell their people".
Example: On the side: I was once invited to attend a reception of the mayor of a European capital, whom I personally talked to. The president of that country happened to drop in unannounced as well as well and everyone invited could change a few words with him.
It seems, that Herbie Strongarm also met leaders "that way" and had good photos shot during handshaking sessions, which later were attractively placed in the Plain Truth.
Mr. Armstrong, a Nobel peace prize nominee ? in the Seventies ? One of four, but finally not having received it, as we were told in the Festival films. I have correspondence with the Nobel peace price committee which says, that the list of the nominees has been kept secret for more than 50 years and everything out there is rumors ........ But we members seriously believed that !!
He was viewed as a philanthropist, being willing to give financial support and manpower for various charitable purposes (education, teaching in schools, archeological excavations etc.). His reasoning was very honest, based on "the way of giving", which was one of the two ways of live (the other one being "the way of getting").
These contacts would in due course maybe open doors for the purpose of "preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God to all nations". He figured, when we have preached the Gospel to all nations, the end would come shortly thereafter.
Garner Ted Armstrong:
On the video of Mr. Armstrongs funeral one could see how Roderick Meredith hugged Garner Ted Armstrong (expressing condolences). Members who attended the funeral (attendance having been 4000) told me, that he did not even give a look to the successor, who was Mr. Tkach Sr.
He thought of himself to be the rightful "heir" of the WCG (as he said in an Interview with a local Pasadena newspaper in January 1986). Quite Old Testament view.
"Stanley Rader": (The Church's accountant and lawyer in the end nineteen fifties, sixties and seventies):
He saw Mr. Armstrong as a father-figure and mentor (even though he had one of the top jobs in the WCG, being paid the highest salary).
In 1981 he was put out of the Church by Mr. Armstrong, discontinuing his legal services to the Church and as well as a member. Some members said that in the nineties he still lived in Pasadena a disappointed man.
In the early 70's his daughter walked out of the Ambassador Auditorium, while a leading evangelist made some statements, that were considered anti-Semitic.
Mr. Rader was Jewish by origin.
The same evangelist also succeeded in giving sermons, during which Afro-Americans walked out of the Auditorium.
JOSEPH W. TKACH VS. HERBERT ARMSTRONG:
In some regards Mr. Tkach was more courageous, more mature than Mr. Armstrong. For the sake of truth, correction, Mr. Tkach was willing to loose Church-income in the mid 90's, when Church-members came to him and told him, that they withheld tithes, which they would give to the Church, if he would take back some of the changes. He certainly did not do it and those members eventually went off with some of the splinter groups.
Mr. Armstrong always spoke of the money and worried, that after his death income would go down dramatic (which it did not, in fact it continued to go up from 1986 till 1989, the first big split after Mr. Armstrong's death). He was quite a "spiritual materialist".
"Spiritual life in the WCG, Doctrines and Beliefs"
To spiritual life:
We were praying for the fruits of the Holy spirit, people did exemplify the fruits, members made efforts to become better humans. We had good friends and relationships within the Church. It didn't seem, that we were "cultish", we were not like a bunch of fanatics.
Family members of Church members who were not in the Church, people at the workplace did notice the different attitude of WCG-members.
But: We were also constantly busy finding arguments against the pagan world, which was always attacking us and trying to bring us "off the track". We were fighting not only on one front, but three, namely: The World, Satan and our own wicked Self. For example, we always had to keep the arguments against Christmas in evidence, for quick referral, in case people were asking us why we would not keep it. Also did we keep in evidence the arguments FOR the weekly Sabbath, as well as the Feast of Tabernacles, because we had to be a "witness".
It occupied a lot of my time, my mind as well as other Church members' time and energy.
In fact I became a doubter of the very existence of God, after having read so many articles in the Church's magazines and booklets on the subject of creation vs. evolution with arguments that were brought by the "doubters".
Having come to the Church I did not doubt God's existence at all (it was an integral part of life, since the creation was the evidence of it), but after a while I found, that I could not refer quickly to the scientific arguments for "God's existence", thereby thought of being "not good enough" a witness for the Church.
It must be noted, that there were varying degrees of conversion, or let's better say of how serious members took the Church's teachings.
Holy Days, Sabbath, Tithing. Certainly, there were those who did not take everything seriously, therefore did not feel the "pressure" of striving to adhere perfectly to all rules of conduct, keeping of all commandments by the letter and spirit.
In the WCG the level of excitedness was constantly kept up quite high. For example, did we have pre-Feast sermons, after-Feast-sermons, Christmas and Easter-bashing sermons, preparing ourselves with munitions against "the pagan Holy Days", as if we were the lawyers of the WCG who constantly had to refute other peoples' believes.
We had lots of visitors coming through the Churches from Headquarters as well as other parts of the world, The World Tomorrow telecast, news about responses to direct mail efforts undertaken, numbers of people hooked (on some weekends 30, 40, yes even 80 thousand people would call in during a single weekend after the telecast in 1985), Church-trips, WATS-in home-call program (viewers' calls would directly be rooted to members' homes who took the literature-orders).
I myself was very excited with the Plain Truth Newsstand program, which ran in 1987 and 88. Every time I refilled the boxes, which we built ourselves, I thought of the many people who might eventually be called by God ("get hooked by the Church"), start to support the Church with tithes, therefore enable the Church to grow, preach more effectively, so that finally the end would be just around the corner. We were on a constant high, just quickly doing God's Work before the end of the age. Almost like on drugs.
Once the level of excitement was gone, I felt burned out.
The Church gave us the total recipe of "un-simplicity", total involvement, activity, meetings, holy day-conferences and having to work on our "materialistic successes", all at the same time.
Put God first: The calendar was our God. The watch also. We excused that with the verse "God is a God of order, not disorder".
Often times we heard in sermons: "Be a witness", "How do others see you", "always pay attention to that", "in the future they will remember everything about you".
Joe R. (a member friend from the US) said in 1995 to me: "If you read everything the Church publishes, you don't have time for reading anything else, because it's so much".
The activities were meant to "keep us busy", to force us to "work together" as a team, because in the Millennium we would constitute the Government of God.
Doctrines of the WCG:
It might be mentioned, that the "Davidian Branch" of David Koresh, which was engulfed by a fire in Waco, Texas in 1993 or 94 ? (whether self-inflicted fire or FBI's doing has not yet been determined.) kept similar doctrines as the WCG, especially regarding the Sabbath and the Holy Days.
WCG-members were not obliged to pay 3 tithes" as it is sometimes stated.
The 1st tithe was paid to the Church, the 2nd tithe was for Festival expenses. A "tithe of a tithe", 10 % of that sum was requested by the Church to be put into the Festival fund for covering Festival expenses like hall rentals etc.
If we had "excess 2nd tithe", we were asked to send it in or to give it at the "offering-collection" during the Festival of Tabernacles.
At one Feast, Pasadena 1985, I remember Mr. Tkach (who six months later became the Pastor General) to have asked the members on the first day to give the excess 2nd tithe, in case they made their calculation and already knew whether they would have access 2nd tithe at the end of the Feast.
The 3rd tithe was paid to the Church every 3rd, 7th and 10th year. In some cases it was allowed to give that money for "social purposes", like within ones' own family, if there was need. I gave it during one year to my sister, who was a single mother.
(Editor's note: I have to disagree with the writer when he says we were "not" obliged to pay 3 tithes. We were obliged to pay them under threat of eternal damnation. And the years for the 3rd tithe were the 3rd and the 6th. These years got a little confused as the third-tithe-payer was allowed to spread the pain over a number of years rather than just pay in these specific years. Later on you were allowed to give the third tithe to a relative that was in need. There were a lot of qualifications to this, as I remember. The ministry did not like having you make these decisions on your own since it would affect the income that was needed for remodeling their homes and buying fuel for Herbie's jet.)
Press as much as possible into the Festival of Tabernacles during 8 days, because there will be many nice things in the Millennium. Fill your days from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m, 8 times in a row. If you are a Choir member, don't forget to be present three times at 7.45 a.m. for Choir practice.
If you attend the Feast Dance, please help with setup and bringing down the stage, it will only take till 4 a.m. Don't worry, there is still enough time to take a shower, have breakfast and go straight to the Choir practice at 7.45 a.m. Don't forget to look fresh and happy, remember: It's Feast time. The Millennium is a time of happiness and activity, you are supposed to radiate that NOW, so that the "deceived world" sees, how happy humanity could be, if they just kept the Feast.
Most of the splinter groups are still in that frame of mind (activity driven, "productivity-driven).
Many times I was amazed by the commitment of the members, by the (material) success of a relative big number of members. I was a witness of a 10.000,$ anonymous donation in spring 1985 (my first attendance of the Spring Festival). For me it was somehow a "proof" of commitment to the "only true Church".
In the states I often remember the announcements of 50.000,to 150.000,Dollar donations, that were picked up during a single day in one Feast site (85, 89 and 1990, 1992) when I attended festivals in the U.S. Most of those years there were between 10 and 20 feast sites at least some of them being "mega-feast-sites" I cannot remember anymore the exact number.
Attendance was between 3000 to 8000 people, almost like St. Peter's Square in Rome, just that the WCG-minister did not wear a fish-like "cap" as the pope and cardinals wore.
Mid 1980's Pasadena, California:
We are standing right on the St. Andreas fault, Pasadena, Southern California. The truck pulls up on the parking lot adjacent to the Ambassador Auditorium. The unloading of the "most important book ever written since the Bible" begins. It still smelled like print color just off from the press, when we received it. I can call myself a proud owner of one of the first copies. The colour of the cover having been "Royal purple", as we have learned in the Festival film, which' only subject was the writing and the production of "Mystery of the Ages".
Feast in Brno, Czechoslovakia:
I would complain to my roommate and tell the minister about a small cupboard, where I could not fit in my clothes. The answer / reaction would be part of a Sermon in which he said, we should not "complain" like the Israelites, but rather think about the privilege of being in this communist country as a witness. Things would not always be as at home.
From that moment I felt like an Israelite, a disobedient rebel with bad attitudes.
Honesty is so tricky, it does not allow you to think the truth, therefore one has to violate her in order to have her become fulfilled, achieved.
That is why I will tell the story of the Feast of Tabernacles. 1985 having been the only one that I did not want to come to an end to, in fact I was sad that it did. After that followed Festivals of Tabernacles, that were driven by the calendar, hourly schedules, watch, activities, service attending, setting up chairs, building stage, rehearsals of choir, worrying about the next fresh suit, tie and shirt, meeting, talking, eating out, listening etc.
Many times, also due to very meat-rich food many others and myself would get a cold during the 8 day feast.
Afterwards I was literally exhausted physically, but spiritually "build up", at least according to what we were told. Yes, according to the incredible close end of the world I was really excited, having known, that I would need only "a few more years" (probably that's why I did not mind saving my energy for the all too near future).
Almost at every Feast I caught a cold, probably due to the intensity of conversation, picking up viruses, the rich food, the weather and the much higher "social stress" level, than during the rest of the year.
The Feast of Tabernacles was a picture of "The World Tomorrow". For 8 days, people would go to a hotel, most eat in restaurants, have cloths with them for the whole 8 days, planning meetings, no work, therefore no day to day school and work problems, everybody tries to be friendly, then we said: "We are a perfectly working team".
The Church actually furthered the Pedant or perfectionist way, towards which I was already inclined to culturally, educationally, mentality wise and family-wise. Schedules, days, plans, goals, money, time for God (tithe of time for God, as once mentioned in a sermon. Sometimes I got a bad conscience, in case I missed paying a tithe of my time through prayer or study).
WCG was a mixture of perfect Christianity, which was coupled with elements of Methodism and perfectionism.
We certainly did not see ourselves as a cult.
Having been prepared by the Catholic "don't ask, obey" kind of style, later on it was combined with the mixture of Anglo-American Health-Wealth-Gospel and legalism.
One fascinating and wonderful feature of the WCG has been its variety of backgrounds. You could find people who were black, white, brown, yellow and if they were members visiting from Mars having taken the very long Sabbath trip even green. I have met people from all these ethnic backgrounds, as well as people from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Kenya, Iran, Lebanon, Australia, Greece, Canada, Mexico, Israel etc. during my stays in Pasadena and in other congregations in the US and Europe.
Certainly the variety of backgrounds had to do with the multi-cultural/multi-ethnic American society, but for me it was also a proof, that God called people from all of these ethnic groups.
The feeling of interaction with different members, ministers, the writers of the magazines, Church employees made us feel being a part of a big organization, doing a very important job around the world. There was this constant interaction and flow of exciting information concerning the Church's activities, growth and progress.
It somehow held people together.
Later on, when Mr. Tkach took over leadership in January 1986, the Church continued to grow with an additional perspective:
"We are family" was the motto, which pulled people together even more, having made us "belong to each other", helping and serving one another, doing the Work as a family, the family of God. In our understanding we were the family of God in embryonic status. To "help first the household of God" (....) was a commandment which led to often neglecting the rest of the world.
Yet, even though we were a worldwide Church, we were quite narrow in our worldview and attitudes towards other human beings and other Churches "of the world", as we called them.
You had the incredible paradoxes:
On the side we were thinking, that we "knew it all" and were quite proud of it. On the other side we were totally loyal and believing the Church-leadership, whatever they said concerning theological, political, social matters, yes even nutritional matters, education, career-planning, leisure-time planning etc. In that way everything "we" knew was what we were told by them, we were accepting from "them".
On one side Christianity was portrayed as very simple: Just keep the 7th Day Sabbath, attend Sabbath services, keep the other 7 holy days of the year and pay your tithes, that's it.
In reality it was not that simple, some members had to fight for a free Sabbath day, even lost their jobs.
My experience of working in Israel between 1990 and 1995 with Sabbath and the Holy Days:
On the other side the Christianity we built up was a complicated system with additional interpretations of above-mentioned "simple" rules.
What makes a person do these things ?
Now I think it was the 100 % belief, the total surrender under the Church's authority, God's authority within his Church, but not my desire.
But once the card-house fell, the belief in the absoluteness of doctrines, conviction in the leadership, end-time thinking, I was not willing to go on, there was no motive to go on with it. I simply did not belief many things said and written in the past.
Suddenly life looked wider than the tight black and white thinking.
"Fellowshipping with other Churches ?"
Once "outsiders" did not keep the Sabbath and Holy days, they were not of God. That's why the question of fellowship with others did not even come up. "We can not learn anything from them" or "they are deceived by Satan", was our reasoning.
Today we will find WCG-congregations with different styles of worship. some have stopped using the Church's hymnals, others...
The WCG certainly was not as bad as many people from the outside made it. Most of the members and ministers were honest in their teaching of doctrine and their understanding.
Interpretation of Sabbath:
Watching TV generally no, but nature films or News were acceptable.
Swimming: yes, but not in a pool, only in a quiet lake for relaxation.
Driving: Yes, but only to services or to visit members or to do good (even if it was 1000 km = 700 miles Round Trip, killing trip).
Eating: whole wheat bread, brown sugar
The permanent/continuous "having to have an answer to all of life's questions" was in the past a stress factor in my life. Why should I therefore not say: "I did not yet think about that, I do not have an opinion about that matter". In the fanatic believe of "having to have all the answers" we stressed ourselves in thinking we have to know everything.
I was supposed to know the answers from the Bible, the Church, the ministers. If not, I was not attentive enough, I did not study enough, I did not pray enough, I did not meditate enough etc. It lead to the feeling of inadequacy and total inferiority, but at the same time I was conscious, that "I have to be perfect".
Somehow there was a "need", desire, wish, pressure to answer all kind of life's questions. We seemed to have been "over smart", understanding all.
Today I would not adapt (in the sense of fit in, go along) in such kind of group/fellowship, which is artificial, build on false presumptions, which are. again build on misinterpreted and wrong doctrines, beliefs, which are mixed with certain worldly (materialistic) concepts.
The teachings appealed so to say to our inner instinct, human desire, to be in control over cities, people, material possessions.
Already back in 1985-95 it did actually not appeal to me to become "Kings and Priests", I did not know what it meant to be a mayor or politician. Anyway, in the "new world" everything was going to be perfect, therefore, maybe it will be a "nice job". Approx. 1986 a minister said in a Feast of trumpets sermon: "You are the designated world government", an argument that was supposed to "turn people on".
I found the fellowship of the WCG, was convinced, that it was the "only Church", according to what I proved to myself, but in fact it was a "test", according to the Church's interpretation of various Bible verses, which naturally led to prove the WCG as the "only true Church".
One of the paradoxes was, that the "Godly" would be more important that the "Human", therefore the "human" was subjected to the "Godly". For example, brothers and sisters in the Church were the TRUE brothers, therefore as also put in the Bible, you were supposed to be with "them" more than your own family I admit, that in some cases it was easier, nicer, because WCG-members were often nicer than my own family, but in many cases it was artificial, having to deal with people you would never choose as your personal friends, if you had gotten to know them at work, school, your neighbors or someone you met during a vacation. Nevertheless, there was this "conviction" instilled, that told me "You ought to (you should) like them, because they are your brothers and sisters, your "Godly family".
If you would not like them, could not get along with them, the following formula was applicable as told us by ministers in countless sermons:
"We have to learn to deal with each other, it is part of "Character building", we have to make an effort to cooperate, even if we think we do not like this person or think we do not get along with him / her.
So it came with "the package" of being the "elite", the chosen ones, to swallow that pill.
Another paradox of that was, that the variety of levels of society was given to us as a proof, that God calls different people of different levels for specific purposes and jobs within the Church.
In reality the calling was the result of very aggressive advertisement in Reader's Digest, other big circulation magazines in Germany and other countries, later Newsstand programes, telecasts on Super Channel, Sky Channel and RTL both in French and German, as well as a big Italian TV-station.
So, the very aggressive marketing effort was responsible for people "being called from various places and all walks of life".
The result of these "callings" was shown later on, after the old doctrines were changed. It came to light, whether the people belonged together. It seemed suddenly, that every "human" basis was missing with the members. The paradox being:
The "godly" basis was given, we, the members all were "God's children" or "God's family" as often said, therefore belonging together.
The "human holding together", the feeling of being a group was not strong enough, to hold together the "fallen down godly relationships" in "God's family". It was not possible to continue on in form of a "human relationship". For many the time of pulling back has begun, many more left.
Unfortunately, or naturally one does not keep up with the human contacts on a human level, once the "godly level" (the religious motive, "having to be together because we are God's family"), is gone.
In the artificiality /unnaturalness of "being a family" which relationships really stayed at the end ? The ones that have had a human basis, yes, but unfortunately they were a few compared to the big number of people who had interacted with each other over the years.
It was the paradox, that we thought we had to because we needed to because God wanted us to, because the Church said so, because we had to learn to deal with each other..
The perfect illusion was built up. The coming members were psychologically, socially totally unfit towards each other / with each other. Background wise and generation wise as well they were not compatible.
This gave the impression and also confirmed the doctrine of the Church, that "God calls the people from all walks of life, all levels of society".
It was therefore natural, that many people from different walks of life would be called. At the time I believed 100 % that it was "God's decision", those that were in the WCG. Today I cannot believe that anymore.
Mid to late 1980-s:
Personal "tightening of belt" in daily life for the sake of the WCG:
"What do secondhand shirts have to do with 1st class plane tickets and 5-star hotels ?
While I was buying secondhand shirts for 80 cents, trousers for 1,50 $, Stereos for 48,$, an old suit for 46,$, an Auto focus camera for 45,$, the leadership and Ministers of the WCG traveled around the world, many of them in first class or business class and staying in 4 or 5-star hotels (travel expenses totaled approx. 7 Mio. US$ in 1987, see financial report Worldwide News). I want to note though, that not all traveled top class. They were either to preach at Churches or, if working for the "Work" in the frame of "The World Tomorrow"-telecast, they were filming for the TV-program (in , Irak, Israel, Greece, Germany, Turkey and other countries).
Due to the "callings" of different people from different geographical places (today I would rather call it joining of people from different places) it naturally laid in the Church's "Character", that people were spread out, so "feeding the flock" (establishing, maintaining congregations) was not an easy task..
Either the ministers had to travel far, or the members had to. In some cases both parties had to make an effort, meeting somewhere in the middle.
So ministers and members alike had the Holy Days and for approximately 1 1/2 years (once a month Sabbath-Days) as travel-days, between approximately 100 and 350 km (70 and 210 miles) one way to services, in order to listen to sermons, which would prepare them to be better Christians, rulers in The World Tomorrow, the coming Millennium, which was just "around the corner".
The Holy Days and many Sabbath days were therefore becoming Sabbath "marathon" days. But still most of us were convinced, that we "kept" the Sabbath correctly, either because the minister told us so or because we ourselves were sure. The line of reasoning was: The Sabbath pictures the World Tomorrow. Must keep, make effort, because the "called ones" will rule in the World Tomorrow. Therefore travel no matter how far to attend "learning sessions" on how to rule in the Millennium.
Today I would call this quite a violent interpretation of the scripture, or a very farfetched idea of keeping the Sabbath and being a good Christian.
Needless to say, members got very tired and needed the pagan Sunday, the day of the "false Churches" to rest from the exhausting learning-lessons of "How to rule in The World Tomorrow".
Thanks God the pagan days were still around. Even though if it was "sinful" to keep them they were a welcome relaxation of the 7th day Sabbath (marathon).
No study has yet been undertaken to find out, how many trees died caused by the exhaust fumes of the ministers' and members' cars. Therefore it could not be determined safely, whether some of us where "those who destroy the earth, God will destroy them".
The perfect/efficient thinking "American way" of success and spirit of time created almost unbearable pressure of "being successful on all sides".
Always thinking: be an example, be a light, what will others think about you, what will they think about the example you gave, later on in the resurrection ? Chose your words.
Mr. K.,. a minister told me in 1986, that if I do not eat pork, I am a light to my family.
The problem with perfection: It gives a permanent feeling of inadequacy. You are never good enough, fast enough, efficient enough, friendly enough, strong enough, balanced enough, fit enough, positive enough, patient enough etc.
Therefore it is either inhuman or unhuman.
"Disfellowshipment in past and presently":
Once the WCG disfellowshipped members, if they didn't behave according to the Church's rules. It was almost like the equivalent of "you'll burn in hell", almost the unpardonable sin, that you must have committed.
Once I thought to have found the truth. Later the found truth has been determined as non-essential, partly untrue, partly interpreted incorrectly, until it became the "untruth". This caused me to be sad and further down the road it caused the disintegration and almost collapse of the once "strong" organization of the Worldwide Church of God (in spirit, numbers, effectiveness, scope, conviction and economically).
Not to mention, how much time-consuming, energy-consuming and in the end confusing the religious analyzing was and is.
We were supposed to "put God as first priority in our lives", sounds very correct and noble, doesn't it ?
The will of God was revealed to the Church through his Apostle. It included "living by every word of God", keeping most if not all of Old Testament laws, attending Services, give tithe to the Church, partake in activities, being excited, watch world News, so that we knew when to pack our bags and take off to the place of safety (in some central European countries we already where considering finding out about chartering jets and details like from which airport it would be best to leave, had the moment arrived !).
In the end we had the following equation: "Put God first priority in your life = be a slave to the Church and its leader".
With all the activities, those people who took it serious, no time, or virtually no time was left for your own needs. The Church's' needs were supposed to be internalized by you and therefore become your own needs.
The significance of the therm "quality" was lifted to the level of religion.
In fact we were obliged, required and it was justified to be successful materially:
If you were poor and unsuccessful, something was wrong with you. Either you did not pay tithes and God therefore did not bless you, or you were lazy.
If you were successful, other members would say: "Well, he is blessed, I am sure he gives tithes and even more, besides that he is very diligent".
Yet one minister said: "All the people who have gotten rich after having come into the Church, have left". Thereby warning of the dangers of money. At the same time he explained, that people, who had joined the Church already being well off, were not in danger.
He told the story of how he was invited by poor Church members who could not even afford furniture. They all sat on the floor and had a wonderful dinner together, prepared with love. He said he had never felt better with Church people before, as he did in the house of those poor members, sitting on the floor with plates and glasses all over the floor, not even having a cloth to put under.
He has been a minister of the WCG from 1966 to 1995, after that he joined "United".
He warned against the dangers of riches, something I never heard from other ministers. In fact when they were citing the scripture with the story "of a camel rather entering through the narrow gate, than the rich man entering the Kingdom of God" (Mat.....) they would emphasize, that it was not IMPOSSIBLE for a rich man to enter it. "In fact, the Bible shows, that there were many examples of rich men who were godly", they said.
It certainly gave them a justification for their own lifestyle, which was not exactly one of poverty or even modesty.
When they explained another verse in the New Testament, mentioning "the love of money is the root of all evil" (......) , they would say, that not the money itself is bad, but the fact that people LOVE it. So in effect Church members didn't really love the money anymore, they just liked it and needed it for survival as well as for the noble purpose of supporting "the only true Church of God on the face of the earth".
TV-stations were waiting for their cheques of last Sunday's "World Tomorrow" telecast, the airplane needed some more maintenance, Hotel bills were waiting to be paid and another three year-term of Church-fleet cars had come to an end, needing replacement.
Money was therefore just liked, but not loved, because LOVE would have been the root of evil, whereas LIKING would not have had enough root to grow into evil.
We always were told, we are the Church spiritually speaking, but the tithes were God's tithes sent to Headquarters, decided by a few men, how they would be spent. God's Church was spread out, members in the U.S. were sending the tithes into a central office.
People might be surprised and say to me: "Why are you upset, your tithes stay in Europe ?" Yes, but if I would live in the US now or would have lived there in the past I would pay / would have paid my tithes there, as a matter of principle. Therefore I dare to think about its use".
"Church's beliefs, false teachings" (not necessarily teachings, but concepts, which were swallowed by members, misunderstood etc.)
Prophecies made by P.T.
1986: "Trade wars are looming on the horizon". History has shown, that trade wars preceded real wars". Since 10 years or so we have had trade wars between Europe and the United States, no real war has resulted from that yet. I hope, that in the future no real wars will result from banana or cheese wars either.
One Regional Director of a European part of the "work" said in 1986:
"The Church is like a big building not yet built, now the foundation has been laid (shortly after HWA's death) and we are going to build it high, for everyone to see". He was wrong in his "prophecy".
An almost exaggerated honouring of the Aristocracy and Royalty was practiced. For example ministers read books of Churchill, the Rothshilds, world leaders were given as "examples" in Youth magazine, from Charles, Diana to Thatcher, Ronald Reagan.
As if it had been a special "good character" accomplishment to have gained a lot of control over land, people, military etc. hundreds of years ago, while at the same time doing it at the expense of the poor people who worked for "food and shelter".
I mean, in the Church we "officially" had this view of "honoring" all the leaders, and their offspring., based on "God gives Authority to men", not being critical at all.
"Think big, think worldwide", was an often said phrase, intuitively, it was wrong, as I feel now. We desperately tried to create a world, which was neither geographically, nor culturally, nor language-wise ours. With the help of the "whole package" the acceptance of the absoluteness of the Church, we forcefully accepted the situation.
Doctrinally two groups of humans existed in our mind: We were the "called out ones" versus the uncalled ones. Versus in the literal sense, because socially the consequence was: Tendency of having private contacts almost only WITH Church members, because we were FOR them but AGAINST the uncalled.
It really first made me think, actually I was shocked, when one of my best friends then in the Church looked at my "Good News" and "Plain Truth magazine" in 1988. He saw my marks which I made on "important parts of articles" and said: "I don't understand why you make the marks where they are, I would make them totally elsewhere". I responded: "But these are the important parts of the article". He said: "For me they are not important". Back then I did not pay attention to that, but considering it now, I am really amazed. It proves, that everyone has other "viewpoints", emphasizes.
Told what to feel: We SHOULD FEEL uplifted, motivated, privileged etc. was an often said phrase.
Years cut short (comment of north American minister in 1988. 1996 would be 2000 years after the year 4 B.C. If the years were "cut short" (brought forward so to say), then the end of the age might happen in 1991 or 1992. That concept perfectly fit with the EU-unification process, which became a big issue in the late nineteen eighties.
Meditation: Scoffed upon by ministers in WCG in past as being wrong, to "lose" yourself etc.
It was therefore wrong, to try to get your mind to a quiet state of "non activity". Why ? Because then you would be less receptive for the ever excited news of the Work (TV, circulation, income, Feasts) the whole cycle, that kept us running. You might have found rest in your mind and would have concluded: "Do I need all these bubbles around me ? All the artificial excitedness ?
Page 1 Page 2 Page 3
If you have anything you would like to
submit to this site, or any comments,
email me at:
Email The Painful Truth
The content of this site, including but not limited to the text and images herein and their arrangement, are copyright (c) 1997-2003 by The Painful Truth. All rights reserved.
Do not duplicate, copy or redistribute in any form without prior written consent.