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Ambassador Watch  A weekly E-zine 

Email: missingdimension@ihug.co.nz 
Ambassador Watch replaces the Update section on the Missing Dimension. It is published online each Friday afternoon (US Pacific Time.) Update pages are still available: February - April 2002, November 2001 - January 2002, August - October 2001, and May - July 2001.
Links in this issue:  Servants News, Worldwide News, JLF (Delphiforums registration required)

Is a week too long to wait?  Draft copies of most articles and letters that will appear on this page (and some that won't) will be available on the Missing Dimension Yahoo! group.  They'll be posted throughout the week. For the rest of this month anyone can view these postings online.  Beginning next month (June) this group will only be available to subscribers. Registering with Yahoo! and subscribing to the Missing Dimension group are free.  More details next issue. Meantime why not check the group out.

Letter of the Week

The Strumpet Call

"Woe to Ephraim, cake half-turned"
Loud is the clarion call.
Pay your "tithes" or get all burned,
They want your shirt and all.

Let him who thunders in God's name
Sell land and house and car.
And then some credence might he claim
To preach Christ's name afar.

The prophets of old went round as poor
With riches not their goal.
And Bible-bangers today will roar
For funds to keep them whole.

Read you the book whose faith is small,
Relying not on God.
For God has promised your needs all,
And on the poor your feet have trod.

For truly, O man, you have no claim
To others' daily bread.
And yet you steal in Christ's name,
The poor are shamefully bled.

To those whose funds are ever low,
Check those to whom you give,
While you have hardship they will grow
And on YOUR cash will live.

So if ripped off you want to be,
Part with your hard earned bread.
The gospel of man won't set you free,
It binds your spirit instead.

Withhold the "tithe", give as you can
To those in genuine need.
And thoroughly now these fakirs scan
For their motives stem from greed.

And let their bank account be thin,
They lie and thieve and cheat.
And though they preach hellfire herein
They dine on stolen meat.


More letters in the Mailbag

Issue One -  April 30  2002

Note: Due to today's developments on the Legacy project we've brought forward publication of this first issue - originally scheduled for Friday.  The next issue is due this Saturday PM, and thereafter each Friday PM.

Legacy Nukes WCG Hopes:  For anyone who hasn't yet read it, here is the press release that rocked the Tkach sect this week:

Following is a press release concerning the Ambassador Campus sale.  We wanted you to be among the first to know about this development.  Questions from the press or other outside sources should be directed to Bernie Schnippert, Director of Finance and Planning, at 626-304-4011.



Contact:  Bernard Schnippert

Worldwide Church of God

(626) 304-4011

Legacy Partners Withdraw From Ambassador Campus Sale

Church To Press On With Planned Residential Development


Pasadena, Calif. (April 29, 2002) – The Worldwide Church of God, owner of the Ambassador Campus in west Pasadena, today announced that Legacy Partners, which had been under contract with the Church to purchase the property and develop it into a luxury residential development, allowed their contract to expire and withdrew from any participation in the project. 

“In the end, Legacy found the twin pressures of time and financial investment just too much to make the deal work for their bottom line,” according to Bernard Schnippert, Director of Finance and Planning for the Church. “This is too bad,” he added, “since the plan is a good one, well within the guidelines of the West Gateway Specific Plan, using fully qualified design, environmental, and traffic consultants and engineers, and replete with numerous public benefits such as gardens, open spaces, historic properties, and of course, the unequaled Ambassador Auditorium.” 

The Church intends to move forward with the plan without Legacy, although it does not intend to abandon its other options, which it calls “strictly backup plans for now.” Schnippert adds, “We have stated publicly that the Ambassador Plan as put forth is really the best for the community, and thus our first option,” Schnippert remarked, “and we are thus pressing forward with the plan, even without Legacy.” 

The development plan, which was put forth by the Church and Legacy over three years ago, called for a residential project spanning both sides of the 710 freeway, and included retention of numerous historical properties, acclaimed gardens, and the preservation and reactivation of the renowned Ambassador Auditorium. 

Schnippert believes that most of the city and the neighborhood will be saddened to learn about the loss of Legacy, since it received broad community support, “with the exception of some,” he added, “who hadn’t yet come to fully understand the benefits of the project and the economic realities of its development.” 

The Church believes that proceeding with the existing plan is very practical since the Church intends to “slip into Legacy’s shoes” and move forward with the same Environmental Impact Report, the same development agreement framework, the same Community Facilities District financing for the Auditorium plan, the same excellent traffic mitigation approach, and the same commitment to save the gardens and historic structures. “Despite Legacy’s withdrawal, we believe that there is a basis for cooperation between the City, the Community, and the Church to bring about the planned development we have previously put forward, although, with perhaps some fine tuning in an area or two of neighborhood concern.” 

Although the Church is disappointed by the loss of Legacy, it is nonetheless still upbeat about its chances of success. “We believe the public statements by the neighbors saying they didn’t want to kill the plan,” Schnippert added, “and also believe we are refining a plan that a consensus of responsible parties will eventually come to understand and embrace.” 

When asked about any concerns the Church might have regarding various neighbors who have spoken publicly about the project, Schnippert remarked “We expect the interested parties will move closer together as the plan moves along, not farther apart. At least, this is our goal.” 

“Legacy is gone,” said Schnippert, “but the Plan is still alive for now, albeit under new stewardship. The Church believes this project should and will succeed.

Did WCG Lie Through Its Teeth?  Confronted with news of Legacy's expired contract, the sect apparently decided to bluff its way through with little regard for the facts - at least up to the inevitable announcement. Pressing WCG spokesman Paul Kroll on the issue, one member received this testy response:

I have no further information other than what I gave you previously. To state the obvious again, the church and Legacy partners are in escrow for the sale of the Pasadena church headquarters property. When the Pasadena City Council gives the approval for the Legacy project, the escrow can close and the sale will be complete. That's it. Thanks for your interest. Paul Kroll 

Which leads us to ask, if the WCG is happy to tell "porkies" on this matter, can they be trusted to tell the "plain truth" on anything else?

PSN Reports on Legacy Bail Out:  The following story appears in today's (Tuesday) Pasadena Star News.

Legacy bails on housing project
Church officials vow to work alone
By Elizabeth Lee Staff Writer

PASADENA - Legacy Partners has abandoned its plans to buy the former Ambassador College campus and convert it into a 1,700-unit housing development, ending its involvement in the complex project. The Irvine-based firm spent more than $12 million on the deal before bailing out.

Legacy and the current owner of the property, the Worldwide Church of God, ended negotiations on Monday to renew an expired sale contract.

"Legacy did not renew their contract," said Bernard Schnippert, director of finance and planning for the church. But the church said it will move forward on its own with the proposal to develop the west Pasadena campus, the biggest residential project in Pasadena in decades.

"We're saddened by Legacy's loss, but we're optimistic at the end of the day we have a winner here," Schnippert said. "We're going to move forward with the best of the Legacy plan. We're going to fine-tune, perhaps, in some ways which will be amenable to the neighbors and other staff people."

The church hopes to keep a key provision of the project transferring ownership of the Ambassador Auditorium to the city, most likely establishing a special tax district to pay for the transfer. But the church could change one significant aspect of the project by reducing the density of housing units, Schnippert said.

A handful of neighborhood activists and city officials claimed to be caught off-guard by Monday's announcement.

"My understanding was that they were renegotiating the (sale) option; however, every indication was that Legacy would stay at the table," said Vince Farhat, president of the West Pasadena Residents Association and an opponent of the current proposal. "So I am a little surprised. I didn't expect Legacy to walk away."

The withdrawal of Legacy which entered unfamiliar territory when it embarked on the Ambassador development, as its usual work is in commercial and simpler apartment projects ends a more than three-year escrow period with the church. Legacy proposed building more than 1,700 housing units on the 49-acre property, which was split into two campuses flanking the Long Beach (710) Freeway stub.

"We did not enter the agreement expecting it to take three years nowhere near that," said Legacy Vice President Bill Shubin.

But as the project went through several variations including a proposal to create an office technology campus for Idealab Corp., a plan that foundered in 2000 the escrow period dragged on and on. The sale contract underwent four extensions, according to Schnippert. The latest extension expired at the end of March, and the two parties had been negotiating since then to renew the contract. "We couldn't reach an agreement on the terms of the extension," Shubin said. "It's hugely disappointing. But we did what we could, and couldn't reach common ground."

Although Legacy started out on a good footing with neighbors, holding numerous community meetings to solicit opinions, opposition to the plan coalesced and strengthened as the developer moved closer to obtaining project entitlements from the city.

One opponent said he was happy Legacy was out of the picture. He expected the deal between Legacy and the church could fizzle after the contract expired in March.

"I don't think (Legacy) would have ever met our expectations for that piece of real estate," said Gordon Odell, co-founder of Save South Orange Grove, a neighborhood group opposing the project. "I think they've sunk a lot of money into it, and that plus the (sale) price ... forced them to have very high density."

Officials with Legacy and the church declined to name the sale price, but according to Schnippert, Legacy had already managed to reduce the sale price from the original agreement, and was asking for another reduction in its negotiations to renew the contract.

"Every time we amended the agreement, the church made concessions of time or sale price or both. This last amendment requested both," Schnippert said. "This one was dramatic in terms of the concessions it requested. "The church has been holding this property for sale at great expense," he said. "We could not hold it by continuing to lower the price again and again."

One reason Legacy wanted to cut the sale price could be that the city balked at letting Legacy finance a large portion of the deal through a Community Facilities District (CFD).

The CFD was intended to pay for the acquisition of the church-owned auditorium, which would then become the property of the city. Future property owners in the Ambassador development would pay for the acquisition of the facility through a special tax, through the adoption of a CFD encompassing the project boundaries.

Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison, who represents District 6 where the project would be located, hinted at the possibility the two sides although they've reached a stalemate may not have truly parted ways and could renew contract negotiations in the near future. "Certainly you never say never," Madison said. "What we're hearing is an outgrowth of contract negotiations."

But Schnippert said the church's announcement is not a bluff. "It is over as over can be," Schnippert said. "It's just a matter of mopping up. We're moving on, our separate ways."

The church plans to partner with a new developer, but the developer would act only as a consultant, advising the church. "We will most likely find another master developer, but one that will serve as a consultant to us, not in between us," Schnippert said. "The relationship will be slightly different."

-- Elizabeth Lee can be reached at (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4461, or by e-mail at elizabeth.lee@sgvn.com .

Dateline Pasadena comments: From the outset, MD correspondent Dateline Pasadena has had his/her finger on the pulse of the developments that blew up this week at sect HQ.  Here are the latest DP observations.

"Several people have told Dennis Pelley to shove it and have transferred their church memberships to the Glendora WCG church.  People are calling Pelley up and telling him that they are leaving his congregation. As they start attending there, that means their money will go along with them. The more members you have  in a congregation more money you will bring in once the new Financial Model is in place.  

"WCG has reportedly spent over $90,000.00 on ads in the Star News (according to a minister in the Hall of Ad).  Employees want to know why that money could not have been used as a bonus to make up for the numerous years that they have not received raises or cost of living increases.  

"Bernie now is boasting that he will be the real estate agent for WCG and they he plans to go forward with the same plans that Legacy formed and paid for.  Does he honestly think that Legacy is going to turn over all of the plans that they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement?  Legacy is going to charge he WCG a huge sum of money for that info.  Is WCG going to be able to afford it?

"Bernie is out right now to discredit several employees because he thinks they are DATELINE PASADENA.  His staff and others are treating several people like dirt right now and are looking for any way they can to get those people fired.  But Dateline is not who they think it is!"

We believe Dateline Pasadena is performing an invaluable service for all members and past members of the WCG. One courageous individual who dares to throw open a window on the sect while those who should be accountable insist on nailing down every available hatch.  We're delighted to be able to publish these items on MD.

Out of Oz: Rod King, a foundation Australian UCG minister, has hopped the fence to join up with the Meredith sect. King has been associated with UCG since 1995 when he was a member of the Australian Transitional Planning Team, along with Graemme Marshall, Bruce Dean, Reg Wright, Rod McQueen and Roy Hickford. This committee established the UCG Down Under. KIng will now pastor the Melbourne and Adelaide congregations of the Living Church of God.

Trouble also in the British UCG. These comments on JLF following an article in The Journal.

The UK incident is over the CEO of UCG in Britain disfellowshipped the church treasurer because she deemed some of his actions improper. When she refused to apologize - he disfellowshipped her - then fired her because a non-member can't work for the church. Then disfellowshipped her husband - the minister of a UCG congregation because he wouldn't make his wife apologize to him. There is a letter from Elaine Jolly in the letter section [of The Journal] that you can read on-line.

Spanky's latest:  Rod Meredith is about to release his latest doctrinal pot-boiler, God's People Tithe! After reading the title, why bother to read the booklet?

Legacy before the bomb: This item was posted on JLF before the news that Legacy was walking away from the Ambassador Campus redevelopment.:

One of the reasons the Ambassador Campus sale is still dragging its feet is the incomplete Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Legacy will be dishing out some big bucks this coming week or so to fund a supplemental EIR requested by the Pasadena City Council. In a memo from the Assistant City Manager to the City Council it authorizes $125,000 to the company doing additional EIR analysis.

"Due to the complex and controversial nature of the EIR, additional services are now needed to complete the project. These services are primarily due to the length of the public review process and the additional information needed for increase traffic analysis, additional review of tree studies, preparation of study documents and attending additional public meetings. Additional costs will be $125,000 with the final cost of the contract not to exceed $422,050.00."

Legacy Partners was directed to deposit a check for $125,000 having already paid $297,050 so far.

There are no public meetings for the Ambassador Project on the calendar that runs up to and including mid June. This goes a long way to explaining why WCG has gone from saying in three months or more to saying best case ... end of 2002 or next year.

Ron's dollar count: from the May WN, these comments from Ron Kelly.

Our regular mail and local church donation income for March was just over $1.9 million—and that’s an increase over March of last year. However, because donations for January were down more than we hoped, the totals for the first quarter show a seven percent decrease. The donation income for January through March 2001 was $4.86 million, while the same period this year was $4.53 million...

In early 2001 we had a rather extensive auction of furnishings and equipment as well as a tax refund from the Big Sandy campus after all bills were settled there. This year we had neither of those sources of revenue, so the "other income" picture is obviously less when compared to last year.

Adding both income sources shows a total first quarter income right at $5.1 million. That’s a decrease of almost 12 percent compared to $5.8 million in total income last year.

UCG closing fast: Richard Burkard has been doing some number crunching on the relative financial situations in WCG and UCG. He posted this on JLF.

Based on Mr. Kelly's first-quarter $$ figures in the May Worldwide News, WCG is on a pace for $20.5 million in income this year. United Church of God had income last "fiscal year" (for lack of a better term) of $16.6 million (United News, September 2001) -- and budgeted this year for $17-18 million. Is it possible that if the trend lines continue, in a couple of years UCG will have a bigger income than WCG? I would have scoffed at that about five years ago -- but now it doesn't seem that far-fetched.

UCG is holding a ministerial conference this week in Cincinatti during which the church's new offices will be dedicated.

PT hard sell: Plain Truth Ministries wants WCG members to shell out additional bucks - on top of regular contributions - for the sect's flagship magazine The Plain Truth. According to the WN:

... as of January 2003, the WCG will no longer pay for members’ Plain Truth subscriptions. But don’t worry—Plain Truth Ministries is offering members a great deal!

The "great deal" predictably involves shelling out money to PTM not only for a subscription, but also as a "PTM partner."

Mikey feels ill: Poor Mike Feazell, glued to a Rod Meredith telecast at 2 in the morning!

One night recently I couldn’t sleep, and after an hour or so of tossing and turning I got up and went to the kitchen. I stared into the fridge for a minute or so, then stared into the freezer for a while, and finally into the food cupboard, and then started over. At last, sometime during the third or fourth survey of the fridge, I pulled some leftover meatloaf from behind the milk and made myself a sandwich, and went to see if anything good might be on TV at 2 o’clock in the morning.

Flipping through the channels I ran past a Star Trek rerun, an old M.A.S.H. episode, and a Steam Buggy infomercial. Then I came upon a bespectacled, white-haired preacher who, with furled brow, was pointing threateningly and warning his listeners with an air of authority that they had better "wake up" and start "keeping God’s law," including, he emphasized, "God’s holy Sabbath day," or they would not be in God’s kingdom.

He was scary. He had a string of verses lined up, right out of the Bible, that sounded like God was mad at just about everybody, and that the only way out of the horrible mess we’ve gotten ourselves into is to "repent" and "start keeping God’s law."

"Oh, you’ve heard that it’s just by faith, but that is not true," he said. "All those preachers are just preaching an empty faith, without meaning. God will not save you if you are not keeping his law."  ...

To be fair, he finally admitted that nobody can keep God’s law perfectly, "at least not on our own," but with Christ in us keeping the law, he said, we can. I felt sick.

Feazell, writing in the latest WN, goes on to characterize the preacher (who sounds remarkably like Rod Meredith) as "This finger-waving professing prophet" and "the sober-faced, stone-jawed preacher."

For once, we have to agree with Feazell. Rod is a very scary chap. Recently in Australia and New Zealand, we gather his negativity was a major turn off for some of those attending services where he spoke. Having said that, we have to confess that, for us, Greg Albrecht's super-caffeinated sincerity is scarier still.

Servants News about to enter 2002: Norman Edward's Servants News has produced a November-December 2001 issue which has just become available online. SN is an independent COG publication.

email MD: editor@ambassadorwatch.co.nz email Dateline Pasadena: dp@ambassadorwatch.co.nz 


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 Update 1 (Apr-Jul 2001) Update 2 (Aug-Oct 2001)  Update 3 (Nov 2001-Jan 2002)  Update 4 (Feb-Apr 2002)

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