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Ambassador Watch  A weekly E-zine 

Ambassador Watch is part of the Missing Dimension web site - www.missingdimension.com . It is published online each Friday afternoon (US Pacific Time.)  The contact address is: missingdimension@ihug.co.nz 
Issue One is available here. Archives of earlier "Update" items are also available: February - April 2002, November 2001 - January 2002, August - October 2001, and May - July 2001.

Draft copies of many of the items that appear on Ambassador Watch are made available first on the Missing Dimension Yahoo! group.  For the rest of May anyone can view the group online.  Beginning next month (June) it will only be available to subscribers. Registering with Yahoo! and subscribing to the group are free. 

Quotable: comments from the JLF board:

People have been waiting.

They have been waiting for a new government structure ... since mid 1997.

They have been waiting for a new financial model ... What? the last two years.

(Grin) They have been waiting for Mr. Tkach to put a time limit on the office of Pastor General.

Judging by the warning Joe Tkach made to some congregations and what Ron Kelly repeats in the Financial reports about hanging in there ... many people are about at the end of their patience.

What makes this all different now, with the sale to Legacy falling through, is that it will 1) take much longer (Bernie's "no big deal, we can do it" is actually a very big deal) and 2) the congregations themselves are threatened with stagnation for not enough resources to do their mission and 3) may lose their minister and that in itself can leave them open to all sorts of trouble.

Letter of the Week

It's time for the guests to stop partying on, pretending nothing is happening and that "it's only a slight scratch"!. Time to stop believing the captain who says "God himself cannot sink this ship!". It's time to push past the officers and grab a place on a lifeboat and get off that sinking  ship.

It's time to stop believing all the b/s from the self serving hierarchy and get off pronto. Get as much distance between themselves and the sinking hulk before it drags them all down with it. 

It's time for the 'lower classes' to organize their own lifeboats because the incompetent leadership is incapable of saving the masses, only capable of saving themselves. Get into the lifeboats NOW or end up screaming and dying and alone in the freezing water. God have mercy on their souls!

More letters in the Mailbag

Issue Two - May 4, 2002

WN article pre-released by Joe:  Pastor General Joe has sent the draft of a WN article on the sect's plans for Ambassador campus to ministers. He asks for suggestions before it goes to press.

Called "Church Assumes Lead Role in Campus Development Approval", it is described by one recipient as "major spin." Excerpts:

In the meantime, as city decisions were delayed, the church has continued to suffer a considerable financial deficit for more than three years. In order to maintain normal operating expenses for the denomination the church sold various surplus assets such as equipment, furnishings, fine art, the Ambassador University campus in East Texas, and more recently the Summer Education Camp in Orr, Minnesota.

The church has been counting on completion of the campus sale in order to fund the church’s existing Discretionary Assistance program. That program is the fund for elderly, retired loyal employees. In addition to Discretionary Assistance, the church has been maintaining the campus in a way to respect the neighborhood and keep it properly prepared for the development. These two items alone require approximately $675,000 per month above regular church income.

The complete draft is available on the MD Yahoo! board.

Underground E-zine? Barely had the virtual ink dried on our first issue when Pasadena Weekly journalist Erica Zeitlin trumpeted our existence to the wider Pasadena community. The article gets some things right, and some things wrong. Specifically, Pasadena Weekly called us "Ambassador Report" (we're flattered!) and leapt to a few hasty conclusions. Here's the text.

Bailing Out
Legacy Partners pulls out of planned development of Ambassador Campus
By Erica Zeitlin

A surprise announcement that developer Legacy partners withdrew from its contract with the Pasadena-based Worldwide Church of God over the Ambassador project on Monday has not only rocked city officials. It has also spurred a flurry of cyber-intrigue among purported church members disenchanted with the church's current leadership, as reflected in the underground-style e-zine, the Ambassador Report.

Bernard Schnippert, the Pasadena-based church finance and planning director, is quoted in the e-zine under the blaring headline, "Legacy Nukes WCG Hopes." In fact, however, it is the church leaders themselves who are targeted by the attitude-heavy published report, ostensibly written by dissident church faithful who ask things like, "Did WCG Lie Though Its Teeth?"

The church, a global evangelical empire fallen on hard economic times in recent years, had contracted its sprawling, 50-acre Ambassador Campus property to Legacy about three years ago. Since that time, Legacy has been in near-constant discussions with city officials over the project's planned scale and scope. Now the deal has fallen through amid public pressure to reduce the project's density.

Ambassador Report - touted as a weekly publication of insider intelligence about the church - minces no words about its take on the matter. The e-zine is also rife with rumor about alleged growing discontent among some Pasadena faithful because of Legacy's withdrawal. "Several people have told (Pasadena based pastor) Dennis Pelley to shove it and have transferred their church memberships to the Glendora WCG church, " said one unnamed correspondent. Church investments in the now-defunct deal are also criticized. :"WCG has reportedly spent over $90,000 on ads in the Star News," accordingly to one unnamed minister quoted in the e-zine. "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." Schnippert could not be reached for comment by press time.

Legacy's pull-out was publicly announced on Monday, just hours before Pasadena City Council was set to formally ask the developer to pay $125,000 for a supplemental environmental impact report on the project. Legacy already had spent about $12 million on the project, according to officials, and ultimately withdrew amid spiraling costs and public pressure over the project's tentatively proposed size and scale.

The big question now, of course, is what will happen next, and the e-zine apparently also wants to know. "Bernie now is boasting that he will be the real estate agent for the WCG and that he plans to go forward with the same plans that Legacy formed and paid for," it says. "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? Is WCG going to be able to afford it?"

For the record poor Dennis hasn't lost members over the Legacy issue, but over his style of "pastoral enforcement" (now there's an oxymoron), and we have never suggested, confirmed or denied that Dateline Pasadena is a minister (past or present.) The MD/AW webmaster is not a "purported church member" but an ex-member with 20 years recovery under his belt, and our "blaring headline" was actually the same 10 point Arial font as the rest of the publication. And while the sale of the Ambassador property is obviously big news at the moment, our focus on the WCG and its splinter groups goes beyond this one issue.

Dateline Pasadena comments: "They seek him here, they seek him there..."

At the employee meeting earlier this week Bernie got up and said that there were numerous UNTRUE stories floating around in the newspapers, gossip and the internet. None of them were true. He said: "If you want the TRUTH, please listen to what I have to say, what Joe, Dale and Mat have to say. We WILL tell you the TRUTH!" "I am honest!" "We want what is best for the church and for you." Now that Bernie has declared Sainthood, we feel a new name is appropriate - Saint Bern-a-debt perhaps?

Various Real Estate agents here in Pasadena are taking exception to Bernie's comments in the Pasadena Star News where he says that he is receiving numerous phone inquiries about the property and that all the people Legacy had lined up are sticking by the project. According to the Corporate Real Estate agent that I talked to, they see people wanting to steer clear of the project...

Comments are floating around the Pasadena business community that there are growing hints that Legacy partners may sue the City of Pasadena and/or WCG to recoup the 12 million dollars that have been spent in the last three years during the escrow process. Because Legacy had met all the stipulations that were set forth in the Specific Gateway Plan, they feel that the City stonewalled them trying to milk more money of them.

Bernie, Mat and crew are moving into Ambassador Hall (renamed Merritt House by Legacy Partners) where they will be occupying the Legacy offices. Questions are being asked. Is WCG going to buy from Legacy all the plans and drawings for the property? Is WCG going to pay the City of Pasadena over 7 million dollars for the traffic mitigation that Legacy promised. Is WCG going to pay the Pasadena Unified School District 4.7 million dollars that Legacy promised? If WCG commits to the same ideas that Legacy developed the WCG will be paying out between 15-20 million dollars to the City for promises that legacy made.

Some are taking exception to Bernie's comment that "... if you want the truth listen to me, Joe, Mat, and Dale." Given WCG's horrendous track record of telling the 'truth' why should anyone believe the WCG executives now? Just by using the latest example of the recent public denials by various WCG executives that Legacy's contract had not expired (when they apparently knew that it had) shows that the WCG is still operating by using 'justified lying'. Justified lying was a sore point raised by some anti-cult ministries as WCG was trying to shed the teachings of Armstrongism. All staff would have had to do was admit that the Legacy contract 'had expired, but that they were in negotiations to renew it.' People would have accepted that and not thought much more about it. But no, they appear to have blatantly lied about it by publicly denying over and over that Legacy's contract had not expired. People that attended the latest WCG conference said that the WCG staffers that were there were all denying that Legacy's contract had expired. (This was a week or so ago)

WCG executives are also quite concerned that there may be potential lawsuits from members and former members who may have been abused by ministers and faculty of the three campuses. The current situation in the Catholic Church has WCG on edge right now in light of the recent out of court settlement concerning the sexual harassment suit brought by a member in Texas (reported in The Journal). Numerous abuses are believed to have have occurred over the years.

Den's letter bomb: From Dateline Pasadena

On Wednesday Dennis Pelley mailed out a Certified Letter to a WCG member here in town. (Certified letters require a signature to show that it was received.) The person it was sent to signed for it, opened the letter and found out that Dennis Pelley had sent him a letter telling him that he [along with his wife] was disfellowshipped from WCG and that they were no longer to attend services or any Church function.

This is the same tactic that Meredith used towards people when he was on a disfellowshipment spree around the Court Receivership time. Just like Meredith, Pelley seems unwilling to confront someone face to face.

Those who've heard about it think this is a low and sneaky strategy, and are plainly disgusted that Pelley has to resort to this kind of nonsense. For a church that claims to 'love' and be filled with the New Covenant, something is out of balance. 

MD Comment. Could it ever be appropriate to carry out this kind of serious action (which Dennis elsewhere concedes is a "last resort") without the minimal courtesy of meeting with the people concerned? Especially so seeing the members in this case, we understand, have also been "marked." 

As far as we know there is no appeal process available for the victims of a disfellowshipment in the WCG. This contrasts with the UCG, where such processes do exist and are currently being used by a British member.

With Apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan "I am the very model of a modern Pastor General". Comic opera somehow seems appropriate.

More Press Stories: From the Pasadena Star News, May 1.

Church has options for developing Ambassador College site

Elizabeth Lee

City Manager Cynthia Kurtz is once again able to take part in discussions regarding the Ambassador College development, now that Legacy Partners has decided to abandon the project, according to the mayor.

Kurtz announced three weeks ago she would recuse herself from participating in city review of the proposal because her husband, Jim McDermott, is employed by Marathon Communications, a firm Legacy partners hired to work the project. The decision meant the city's top unelected official couldn't take part in what Mayor Bill Bogaard called "the biggest project that I have know of, ever, in the city."

But the church announced Monday that Legacy Partners has withdrawn from the development project. In a Tuesday meeting with Kurtz, Bogaard and Planning and Development Director Richard Bruckner, church officials told the city Marathon will not now be part of the project, Bogaard said.

Legacy was in escrow for more than three years to buy the church's property but the church announced Monday that Legacy had let its purchase option expire and had withdrawn from the project for financial reasons.

Kurtz said she would wait until Legacy formally notifies the city before she participates in negotiations and further discussions. "This is an incredibly important set of decisions for the city to make,' Kurtz said of the Ambassador project. "Certainly if it is a project... I'm able to participate I, I will get my self fully briefed and will get back involved as soon as possible."

Legacy had planned to buy the church owned property, which is split into two campuses flanking the Long Beach (710) Freeway stub, and build more than 1,700 housing units.

The church plans to proceed with the Legacy plan, with some "fine tuning,' according to church Finance and Planning Director Bernard Schnippert.

Assistant City Manager Enrique Martinez said he thought the church will be able to pick up where Legacy left off in the city's entitlement review process. Bogaard estimated Monday that the project is at least four to five months from coming to the City Council for approval or rejection. "As far as it stands right now everything can proceed the way it is," Martinez said.

But the city doesn't yet know what changes the church could make. And one council member questioned whether the church may take a different rout altogether with the property. Councilman Chris Holden questioned whether the church - as it once threatened to do - could decide to sell off the 49 acre property in more than 100 separate parcels with no master plan.

Schnippert said Monday the church was still holding that option in reserve. The church also has said it may sell the property to another religious or higher educational institution, which Schnippert has said would be exempt from various land use laws. "If you're referring to a single-end purchaser or parcelization, we have all the discretion in the world to do that, but those are our backup options," Schnippert said.

Meanwhile, Legacy Vice President Bill Shubin confirmed Tuesday that the Irvine based developer had been looking for a financial partner to proceed with the development, but Monday's announcement put a chill on those efforts. "Is it (still) a possibility? Yeah. IS it a probability? No. We haven't really pursued it since the termination of the agreement," Shubin said. "The principals of Legacy need to get together and decide where to go from here," he said. "It seems remote right now."

Whether or not the church goes forward alone, the size of a proposed special tax district, called a Community Facilities District (CFD), will be an issue with the city. The proposed CFD would pay to acquire the church's Ambassador Auditorium, with ownership transferred to the city, and some other public improvements in the project. Homeowners there would pay a special tax through the CFD to fund those items.

But the City Council has disagreed with Legacy and the church on the dollar amount of the CFD, which the council would have to authorize. Schnippert said he's confident the city and church can resolve their differences.

Also in Star News on May 1, a mention in the Charles Cherniss column:

Legacy partners decided throwing $12 million into the frustrating winds of Pasadena street fighting was enough.

Legacy decided to not renew its contract with Worldwide Church of God to create a truly upscale housing development in a park on the old Ambassador College campus, figuring there has to be a better use for future $12 million investments.

The Legacy bail out also hit the business pages of the April 30 LA Times. An excerpt:

Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison, who represents the Ambassador College area, said that he and other city officials were notified of the developer's decision Monday afternoon.

He said the main reason for Legacy decision was that the developer and the church were unable to finalize terms. "There were contractual obligations that were not satisfied," he said.

The project, one of the largest ever proposed for Pasadena, has undergone major changes since Legacy first announced its intention to develop the property about three years ago when the economy and commercial real estate markets were booming.

It was first envisioned as a mixed-use development with a hotel, a million square feet of office space and housing. But, as the market for office space and hotel rooms weakened, Legacy shifted gears and focused on housing as home prices and rents continue to rise across the area.

The article also noted that "Legacy executives could not be reached for comment."

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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