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Rodney O. Lain, teacher, writer and columnist for The Mac Observer and AppleLinks, passed away last Friday. A former WCG member who stood up against abuse in the church, he went on to establish a website that promoted freedom from the cult mentality. Sadly, he took his own life. During the very early days of this website we linked to Rodney's site using his memorable logo and slogan of that time: Free your mind and your behind will follow!

An article about Rodney entitled "Mac evangelist Rodney O. Lain dies" appeared June 17 in the St Paul Pioneer Press, and tributes have been appearing on many sites. A story has also appeared on Wired News.

Bill Ferguson, a personal friend of Rodney's, posted an announcement to the JBAS and ekklesia lists on Saturday. For his comments and Ed Mentell's see the final item in this edition of AW.

A memorial service was to be held on Thursday. Our sympathy and thoughts go out to Rodney's wife Irma, friends and family.

Ambassador Watch is part of the Missing Dimension web site - www.missingdimension.com . It is published online each Friday.  The contact address is: missingdimension@ihug.co.nz
Dateline Pasadena can be reached at datelinepasadena@yahoo.com
In This Issue: Robidoux conviction, Joe in denial, Combined Kiwi Pentecost, 1975 in Prophecy, Den's Q&A session and remembering Rodney O. Lain.
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Letter of the Week

I have appreciated your site over the past few months, even though I am endeavoring to leave the past , learn what it is that there was to learn, and keep moving ahead with.  I had been associated with the WCG since a young teen and went on to become a pastor in WCG for 26 years.  It felt like the truth at the time but over the years I came to realize there was much in theology that most simply do not want to hear.  Be it how the Bible was really put together and by whom or the origins of Christianity historically and politically , it was not something to be brought out.  I find that
ministers of all persuasions wear many masks and are forced to teach what is
expected rather than what is.  I have learned that sanctified ignorance is still ignorance and that religion can stifle genuine human authenticity and peace.  The price for being an authentic human being is very high and while most think about it, few go there.

All experiences make us who we are and hopefully, nothing is for nothing.  I am thankful to be free from the burden of constant turmoil and reckless religious leadership..  I suppose there is an anger in me towards those responsible and a wish to see them feel the pain of their own reckless disregard for human belief and hope, but it will be what it will be.  I also would hope I could rise above it and just keep moving.  I don't currently have any use for organizations or men flapping their mouths about what God wants or doesn't want.  I think I'll just be quiet for a time....:)

It's true that if you want to make God laugh, just tell him your plans....I imagine he/she has had a good one over the decades!

Again, I appreciate your site because of having experienced so many times being told one thing at "conferences" only to have the opposite occur, and it seems  just about 100% of the time.  What a trip! 

Whether I continue to tune into the soap opera and drama remains to be seen. I personally am not sure it helps me to keep reading about how it really is or was, but I did want to say thanks for exercising your freedom of observation and also the very familiar, to me, trait of passive aggressive humor..:) 

Warm regards

Issue Nine - June 21, 2002

Armstrong-influenced cult leader convicted: The Associated Press carried the story of Jacques Robidoux's conviction far beyond a Massachusetts courtroom this week. Although the case has had major coverage, few realized that The Body, the cult which Robidoux belongs to, is an offshoot of sorts from the Worldwide Church of God, and that sect founder Roland Robidoux, Jacques's father, was once a deacon in the WCG.

Jacques Robidoux (pictured) was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. His infant son, Samuel, died in 1999, within three days of his first birthday. Robidoux claimed his sister had received a vision from God telling the couple to stop feeding the baby solid food.

The Body (also known as the Attleboro Sect), like the WCG of past years, rejects modern medicine and government. Robidoux believed Samuel's misery was a test from Satan, and was expecting a miracle.

Samuel's mother, Karen Robidoux faces trial later in the year on charges of second-degree murder. Jacques' sister faces trial as an accessory.

From the February 6 MD Update:

The Attleboro Sect: The name Robidoux sometimes still surfaces when WCG splinter groups are discussed. Roland Robidoux left the Worldwide Church of God in 1976. Over the years it has transformed into a bizarre mind-control cult.

Driving to Mass in North Attleboro one Sunday morning in the early 1970s, Joseph Roland Robidoux, a door-to-door salesman and lifelong Catholic, turned on his car radio and unknowingly changed his life.

Crackling over the AM band came a message from Herbert W. Armstrong's Radio Church of God, beckoning listeners to worship in his church, the one true religion, where believers actually lived what they preached.

That was the beginning, Robidoux would tell his children years later - a glorious example of how everything happens for a reason. It would take years for the full transformation to take place, before he would isolate his family and followers to the point that they burned photo albums, shunned eyeglasses, stopped cutting their hair, and relied exclusively on prayer for everything from healing the sick to bringing gasoline for empty tanks. It would be decades before the sect he created to reach a higher ground would crash in a tangle of murder charges, before two of his grandsons were dead, including one who allegedly starved to death three days before his first birthday...

Unlike more recent splinter groups, the Attleboro sect (also known as "the Body") makes no effort to attract new members, and has sunk below the "radar level" of most WCG watchers. Despite this the group is still around, and is widely regarded as extremely dangerous. Those interested might like to check out... the material on The Apologetics Index.

Combined Pentecost services: WCG's Pasadena congregation wasn't the only one to break the mold for Pentecost 2002. The Australian WN reports:

Invercargill and Hamilton, New Zealand, brethren joined in combined services with other denominations for Pentecost this year... In Hamilton, all the churches that use the Fairfield Baptist Church (which we use on Saturdays) met together...

MD writer Gavin Rumney is a former member of both congregations, and recollects that Invercargill was (and still is) probably the smallest of the WCG's preaching outposts in New Zealand, having only 6 adult members during his time there (it may also be the most Southerly - there's little but ocean between Invercargill and Antarctica.)

Unlike Pasadena, however, it seems the Kiwi members knew that Pentecost, calculated by either the standard Christian formula or the COG way, falls on a Sunday rather than a Saturday.

Question Time with Den: From the WCG Pasadena church notices:

"Church Meeting on June 15 - We invite everyone to join us for a Question and Answer Congregational Meeting on June 15, at 12:15 p.m. in the Sanctuary. We encourage questions and discussion regarding the vision, mission, ministry opportunities and challenges for our congregation. Please feel free to write your questions down and submit them to your pastor today or throughout the week."

The announcement led to some interesting discussion on the JLF forum.

WRITE DOWN your questions and submit them, eh? I'm torn between two thoughts on this:

1> Better to write down the question and submit it somewhat anonymously, so the Pastor doesn't come to deordain/disfellowship you. Or....

2> Why not have an open forum where people can speak publicly? If lay Catholics could do it in Dallas, without fear of retribution....

(Given WCG history, and what reportedly is happening in Pasadena now, option 1 might be best for all.)

Another contributor wrote:

I have very close friends still in the WCG and their pastor WILL NOT ALLOW anonymous questions, questionnaires and such... I was fully involved with the "new" WCG and knew the way the wind was blowing on that one. Forget hard questions especially in a public forum. That was considered at least stirring the pot and at most divisive.

Despite the fact that some have said it is a NEW, OPEN WCG where you can speak you mind and question things ... guess again.

This isn't second hand information I can speak from first hand experience and the experiencees of the many friends and contacts I have there.

So how did the meeting go?  We'd love to hear from anyone who attended.

A Flurry Testimonial: An ex-member recently posted the following letter to the Flurry Yahoo group.

For 10 years I sat in services hearing about how the PCG was the only way to God and that any rebel that left would go in to the tribulation and possibly the lake of fire.  Our local minister came right over when my husband called saying he needed to speak to him about some things.  The minister had no answers for any of our questions and actually agreed with a lot of our concerns.  At that time my husband told the minister that he just wanted to sit home for awhile so he could figure out what he wanted to do.  He wanted an open door to go back to the PCG.  That is the way we left it.  It has been over 6 months ago and we have not had one call or contact from any PCG members outside of our family (who avoid us as much as possible).   Our family members got sympathy cards from our PCG friends after we left - you would have thought we died.  If they truly believe we are going into the tribulation and the lake of fire and if they truly love us wouldn't they make every effort to help us understand our questions? We had the exact same experience when we quit the WCG.   

In addition to that, I have seen several young women with small children die in the WCG/PCG because they refused medical treatment. Is that loving to leave a child motherless?  I have known several PCG/WCG acquaintances to commit suicide, some of them could have been helped through proper counseling and/or medication.  The PCG/WCG taught if you had problems it was your fault because you were not doing something right.  I heard Flurry say that those people who question him being "That Prophet" just do not know God.  Is that loving for a church to put all that blame and guilt on the church members and not take any responsibility?

I grew up in the WCG having nightmares of the tribulation, feeling I wasn't worthy of God's love, fearful, thinking I would never grow to be an adult, get married, have a family, have a job.  Fearful if I got sick I would die because I didn't have enough faith and I wouldn't be taken to a doctor.  Is it loving to make a child, who has no concept of God, sit through sermons preached to adults about the horrors of the tribulation and that they had better straighten up or they wouldn't make it in to God's Kingdom.  I was one of those children sitting through the HWA years of getting the church back on track.  People who come in to the WCG/PCG as adults already have preconceived ideas about God but it is a different experience for a child who has no ideas about God.  I feel so bad for the children growing up in the PCG because I know that they are suffering the same as I did.

Of course, I can only speak for myself but by talking to others who grew up in the WCG I don't think my experiences are unique.  I find myself, now middle aged, still struggling with the scars of growing up in the WCG and my 10 adult years in the PCG.  There is no love in the PCG and there wasn't any in the WCG.   The reason I know is because I lived through it and after all these years I finally do know what love is and I didn't learn about it at church.

Flurry's Pet Rock, Part 2:  From a posting on The Painful Truth board this week.

Even though June is halfway over, we finally got the Royal Vision May/June issue.

The greetings page from Flurry is about how they found the "prayer rock" that HWA used when he first started his campaigns. It was located on some farm, and the owner let them have it. Flurry is besides himself with excitement over getting this rock and the fact that HWA prayed over it all those years ago. They plan to display the rock at their college to "remind all of us of the power of prayer to our spiritual Rock!"

Flurry - "It is the most inspiring story in this end time."

Get outta here!

Herb's Word of Prophecy:  While George Orwell wrote 1984, it was Herbert W. Armstrong who leapt ahead by 9 years to pen the uncanny prophetic masterpiece 1975 in Prophecy

YOUR own future is laid bare, now, in prophecy! The curtain of the future is drawn back.

Prophecies that were closed and sealed tight now stand REVEALED. This mystifying, neglected third of the Bible now becomes plain. Mysteries of God, never before understood, now become crystal-clear. God's own time for this revealing has come. The KEYS that locked the future have been found.

But what is actually going to happen is not what the world expects!

Maybe so. But it certainly wasn't what Herb was expecting either!  The Great Tribulation didn't arrive in 1972 and Christ didn't return on his mission to break the kneecaps of the recalcitrant ("every knee SHALL bow!") in 1975. But weren't those illustrations (by WCG Elder and Mad magazine artist Basil Wolverton) something else!  The caption to the one above (click on the thumbnail) reads:

During the coming famines and disease epidemics, and during the Great Tribulation, with its fiendish tortures, people will die so rapidly that mass burials will take place. Here you see thousands of bodies being buried in a ravine.

Now those unlucky souls who never got to read this timeless classic can indulge themselves with an online version, the complete 1956 first edition along with Basil's bizarre pictures of doom.

New Alumni Forums:  The Ambassador Planet Alumni board is apparently to close. Two new boards have been established to fill its shoes. One, Ambassador University Alumni on MSN, seems to have attracted some support. A new Delphi Forum has also been created by the pseudonymous ACUJOE called ambassador.edu

Joe in denial: If Joe Tkach is to be believed, MD's Dateline Pasadena has it all wrong. And not only Dateline; even The Journal. Here's what Joe had to say when a JLF forum member forwarded Dateline's report on the de-ordination of a Pasadena employee:

Just a brief note to say that there is no need to forward these to me. Almost always, the information contains inaccuracies and distortions. I do appreciate that you want to keep me in the loop, so to speak, about such items in circulation. Nevertheless, such speculative musings are of no benefit to me. A few brief examples of inaccuracies in this message: Earl Reese has not been called into my office. Members are not flocking in droves to Glendora. Neil Earle's congregation is not the fastest growing in California. Such statements will appear to be sensational to some people who read them, but they are simply untrue. There are other misstatements, but I just wanted to share that these are extremely speculative and they are woven together based upon a few factual events.

The funny thing is that Dateline Pasadena has an unparalleled track record for accuracy. For example: while Joe's underlings were denying that the Legacy contract had expired (something that is easily to document), DP clearly called the events as they actually were. Later, when the chronology emerged, it was the WCG which had egg on its face. Inaccuracies and distortions were aplently (along with downright lies.) But they weren't coming from Dateline Pasadena.

A question for Joe: 

"Is there ANY church body, other than those like Scientology on the cultic fringe, which does a less satisfactory job by those criteria than Worldwide?"

But wait, there's more. It isn't just MD that publishes "TOTALLY inaccurate" material, according to Joe. The JLF correspondent continues:

Yesterday I received one other email reply from a salaried field minister who... let me know he had a chat with Joe Tkach about the Don Mears sex scandal and Joe assured him that the article by The Journal was TOTALLY inaccurate, and they both had a good laugh over the whole thing.

A good laugh?

Imagine a church where the actions of the administrators are transparent. A church where the leaders are accountable. Imagine a church press that publishes according to ethical standards of journalism, asking the hard questions and dealing with issues honestly. Imagine a church where the members can debate issues without fear, and are actually encouraged to participate. A church where a minister can't simply get rid of people who want answers by disfellowshipping them. Imagine a church that publishes full financial records. A church where loyalty isn't measured by naivete and a hushed mouth. A church where the stakeholders have the same natural rights as their leaders.

Is there ANY church body, other than those like Scientology on the cultic fringe, which does a less satisfactory job by those criteria that Worldwide?

Until WCG moves to become the kind of church described, there will continue to be a desperate need for people like Dateline Pasadena and websites like The Missing Dimension. Occasionally (very occasionally) there might be a wrong call. Hardly surprising given the circumstances. If Joe doesn't like that, then he knows what he must do.

Bernie's Placeholder Plan: The following story comes from Pasadena Weekly. Dateline Pasadena comments: Notice the last few paragraphs. The plan on requiring WCG to redo the Environmental Impact Report and the Tree Report which is going to lead to huge amounts of money being dished out.

Starting Over

Even if it wasn't supposed to be taken seriously, Worldwide Church of God's plan for 1,940 units on the Ambassador College project has some rattled.

Erica Zeitlin

A new Ambassador Project entitlement application from property owner Worldwide Church of God has startled and puzzled some because of its reported plans to build an even denser residential project than was proposed by the now-departed developer Legacy partners.

Church officials last week submitted the application to Pasadena City Hall, including a plan to build 1,940 homes, or 200-plus more than the Legacy firm ultimately dared to propose.  The church almost simultaneously expressed a desire for friendly community relations and dialogue.

"We look forward to a constructive dialogue with residents and city officials to assure the best project for everybody," said Bernard Schnippert, the church's director of finance and planning, in a press release.

But for some who view the notion of 1,940 homes as a negations non-starter at best, the church has a curious strategy for harboring good will.

"I was very surprised," said Vince Farhat, president of the West Pasadena Residents Association.  "I haven't a clue what the church was thinking."

Were that number indeed built, the housing development would be the densest in Pasadena history.  Even Schnippert himself implicitly acknowledged that the number is unrealistic and described the proposal as merely a placeholder for further discussion.  "It has very little practical meaning moving forward," he was quoted as saying in the Star-News.

Legacy's less dense proposal was essentially shot down by an influential neighborhood association that felt even 1,727 homes was too much for city traffic flow and manageability.  Legacy withdrew from the project in April and the whole deal immediately fell apart.

So now why risk provoking - rather than appeasing - critical partners as the city starts over again?

"I really don't know." Answered Farhat.  "But I will say that I don't think the church has done itself any favors.  The 1,900 figure is clearly outside of the bounds of what is acceptable for neighbors."

Farhat, whose residents group claims 4,400 households, would "just have to assume" Schnippert views the application as a placeholder. He added, "The WPRA is committed to working with the church in developing the property and we're not rushing to judgment until we see a specific plan,"

The church has not yet chosen a replacement developer or architect for the 48-acre project.

Councilman Steve Madison, who represents the affluent West Pasadena area in which the property is located, noted that the new application would be just one piece of an overall deal requiring eventual City Council approval.

Other big pieces: A separate developer agreement and memorandum of understanding to save the beloved Ambassador Auditorium through a public financing plan and so-called "Community Facilities District."

"I have no reason to disbelieve Dr. Schnippert when he said that this is just a placeholder," Madison said, "and that frankly it doesn't have any bearing on what the ultimate proposal would be."

But despite everyone's apparent desire to a cooperative new start, signs of trouble are already surfacing.

Farhat wants the city not "merely to prepare an addendum" to the existing environmental impact report - a holdover from Legacy plans - "but to prepare a whole new environmental study, and a new tree study."

The official city status of Legacy's plans is "application withdrawn." Therefore, he said, traffic and all other possible environmental impacts need to be studied over from the beginning.  And that, presumably, would cost the church big bucks.

Farhat said that the existing studies "fail to account for intersections south of California Boulevard, " when "clearly, any new development is going to have traffic impacts all the way to city limits."

Schnippert's own assumptions are quite different.  The church "will build upon the supplemental environmental impact report that was created for the project before Legacy left the project team," he said

Dart in Oz: CEM founder Ron Dart is heading Down Under in August. He will be speaking in Brisbane on the weekend of August 2 - 4 at what is described as a Christian Renewal Conference. Also speaking will be Michael Linacre and David Hill (not to be confused with onetime evangelist David Jon Hill, this gentleman is an Australian Seventh Day Baptist leader.) Details are available on the CESA site.

CESA is also co-sponsoring a Feast of Tabernacles site in Queensland this year.

Rodney Lain - A tribute from Bill Ferguson:

It is with deep sorrow that I must tell you that Rodney O. Lain took his own life yesterday.  Irma called my wife this afternoon and informed her of the news. 

Rodney struggled for several years with depression.

Rodney was the brightest, most creative man I have ever met.  He was more than just a black guy who taught me what racism does to people. He was my friend.  He was my brother.  He was such a good friend I never even thought of him in terms of race, but as a great and gifted human being.

Now he is gone to where there will be no more pain.   No more worries about seratonin levels. No more fears from being abandoned as a child.  No more racism.  No more pain from having his faith violated by his former religion.  

Dammit Rodney why didn't you take your pills??

Pray for Irma.  She's got a rough week ahead.  A funeral date has not yet been set.

Bill Ferguson

PS:  A special thanks to all his fans in the Apple Computer world. There was nothing Rodney loved more than Mac Computers and writing about them.  He always wanted to be the black Guy Kawasaki, he idolized Steve Jobs, he made it as far as working in the Apple Store in the Mall of America, and writing for several web-zines.   One thing is for certain, writing and Mac's were his love in life. 

William Ferguson, ferguson@quango.net on 15/06/2002

Ed Mentell posted the following item shortly after on the Painful Truth forum.

Rodney was a member of Ekklesia for all the time that I was on it. I got to know him pretty well. He was persecuted by a couple of ministers... because he wouldn't bow and scrape before them. They lied about him and persecuted him. Finally in 1997 they even disfellowshipped him with absolutely no mention of why they were doing it. All loyal members were to shun him with absolutely no proof at all as to his guilt in any matter.

Rodney was an English teacher at a major college down south. He felt so persecuted by these "ministers" that he quit his job before the school year was even over and moved to Minnesota. He stayed for a couple of nights at my house, on the way to Minnesota.

Rodney had his own website for a number of years, where he described exactly what happened to him, to not only drive him out of the church but also from the warm south to the cold north. Unfortunately, I don't have any of that material. If anyone does, I would like to post it for all to see.

Rodney was a bright, intelligent, caring young man. He wanted to contribute to the good of the human race. This, in contrast to those tares in the Worldwide Church of God who only want to use people and make money and they will step on you and destroy you, if you get in their way.

A postscript: The former pastor of the Macon, Georgia WCG, sent an email to Bill Ferguson following news of Rodney's death. He wrote:

Hi Bill.  Rodney and Irma were in the WCG congregation in Macon, GA when I was pastor there; I'd like to convey my condolences to Irma. Does she have an address or email?  Thank you. Mark Flynn

He probably wasn't expecting the reaction he got. In part, Bill's reply reads:

YOU SIR, are in large part RESPONSIBLE for his death.  BECAUSE OF YOU, I spent two years of  my life walking him out of depression, getting him to seek medical help to stabilize him.  YOU SIR, betrayed his faith and confidence. YOU BROKE RODNEY. AND AFTER YOU DID IT, you claimed to be supporting the CHURCH!  YOU SIR ARE A CONSUMING WOLF WHO EATS HIS FLOCK.

If there is such at thing as having blood on ones head in heaven, YOU SIR HAVE HIS.  But I suspect the God I know forgives EVEN YOU.  But your still gonna have to answer for what you did!!!

Mark Tabladillo, moderator of the JLF discussion board, also emailed Flynn. Some of his comments:

Bill Ferguson decided to share with me his recent response to you, and like him, given the history you have had with Rodney Lain, I don't feel it appropriate to share with you the details about Irma's whereabouts, and I feel it would be extremely offensive to the Lain family to have you contact them or any of their close friends.

You and I probably have not spoken since you were in the Atlanta NW congregation, where we were on several teams to recast vision. I used that opportunity to observe you closely, for I did not want to see Macon repeated in Atlanta.

I want to take this sad opportunity to give you a comparatively longer, more measured response which will give you some context as to why we are arriving at this conclusion.

I had the chance yesterday to dig out old email and found I had several folders of personal email from Rodney, who first wrote to me on 10 December 1995. As you remember from that time, UCG-AIA had just launched, but even inside WCG, the loyalties were not clear, and some pastors left even after that time for Sabbatarian centered congregations.

In December 1995, Rodney shared with me his passion over racial reconciliation issues. Being of a Latino/Filipino background, I had some stories of my own, and WCG looks somewhat different through the eyes of a cultural or ethnic minority.

In 1996, Rodney shared with at least a few dozen people the specific problems he was having with you in Macon, and also shared with us some specific stories... If you're asking yourself in your mind, do they really know all about that, the answer is yes. And if you're asking did Rodney really share all that with dozens of people, and the answer is yes.

You sinned in Macon, you know it and we know it too, and now our response is part of the consequences you have to bear. Now, I sin every day, but the difference is whether what I present as being in the name of Jesus Christ, or as an authority of the church. Sin done by a pastor to a member of the congregation is biblically considered to be very serious in nature. I still have my original copy of Rodney's resignation letter sent to you in July 1996. But of course, what we know is not stated in that letter.

Beyond the Internet, I both met Rodney in person and spoke with him several times on the phone. Bill knows Rodney better, and their families were often frequent guests in each other's homes, and Bill knows more personal information than I do.
After all this connection, Rodney was disfellowshipped from WCG in 1997...

My recommendation is that you spend some time in prayer and fasting with your wife examining again the specific impact you both have had over many people. Because I have been ministering to many spiritual abuse victims, I am concerned that there are other Rodney Lains out there, other people who have been negatively impacted by you in the past, and who may similarly be going through other depressive episodes. Right now, I recommend that you do what you can to avert another tragedy. The way out is through confession, repentance and reconciliation...

Both letters have been published in full on The Painful Truth.

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


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