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Issue XIV  - July 26  2002

The Shea Way: The Pasadena Star News carried reports of the WCG's latest lurch sideways on the Ambassador Campus sale yesterday (Thursday.)

Developer to rekindle project

By Andy Samuelson
Staff Writer

PASADENA - The Worldwide Church of God on Wednesday hired SheaHomes to rekindle the 48-acre Ambassador College project, which fell apart three months ago when the previous developer quit.

SheaHomes, owned by Pasadena resident John Shea, is a mammoth housing and development company that specializes in tract housing projects in Southern California and is also building housing in the innovative Playa Vista development in West Los Angeles.

"One thing we learned is that it pays to have a developer if you are doing a residential project who has a history doing residential projects," said Bernard Schnippert, the director of finance and planning for the church. The former developer, Legacy Partners, specialized in commercial projects.

SheaHomes will serve as a consultant to help the Ambassador project get approved by the City Council and could possibly be involved in the building process.

The role is different than Legacy's. That company planned to buy the property and then sell parcels to home builders who would construct 1,700 multifamily dwellings.

Legacy spent three years and sank $12 million into the project before abandoning it in April.

With the church's increased role in the project, Schnippert said officials will be more actively engaged with nearby residents. He said the project will be considerably shaped by their input.

The West Pasadena Residents Association, which represents about 4,400 homeowners, was influential in stalling the project because of its objections to traffic plans and the number of units proposed.

Schnippert said the number of housing units has not been set, although the general concept of the former plan will be maintained. The church last month resubmitted an application with the city to build 1,940 units, but Schnippert has said the number will be cut.

"This is the second time around on this for the church and we're pretty much committed to being sensitive to the community," Schnippert said. "We're not interested in jamming this down anyone's throat."

Vince Farhat, the president of the West Pasadena Residents Association, said he's pleased the church will be talking with residents before announcing details of the plan. He said neighbors will meet with the developers in early September.

"The Legacy project is gone and this is a new project with a new developer and we will reserve judgment until the church has a chance to hold its scoping sessions," Farhat said.

But there are already are some points of contention between the two parties.

Farhat said the church should do another traffic study for the west campus development. Also, Farhat said the church should pay for another environmental study.

Schnippert said Wednesday that the final traffic plan Legacy proposed addressed many of the neighbors' concerns. He also said the church will revise its environmental study but will keep some aspects of it.

The 48-acre property is split into two campuses by the Long Beach (710) Freeway stub.

In the Legacy plan, the east campus would have had 894 units as well as retail stores in the property near Old Pasadena.

The former plan called for 833 residential units on about 35 acres on the west campus. The homes would not disrupt the sculptured gardens or the historic homes facing Orange Grove Boulevard.

"It's fair to say that the areas we would develop are the same areas," said Bob Yoder, the vice president of community development for SheaHomes in Southern California. "The gardens are off limits."

Schnippert said he hopes to choose an architect within a few weeks.

The church started Ambassador College in 1947 and closed it in the early 1990s. The church acquired property around the area during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

"The church's history is such that we don't have a use for the property," Schnippert said. "We're down to a fraction of the size we were and it's being wasted."

The story is available on the PSN site

SheaHomes describe themselves as "the Confidence Builder." Will their new association with the WCG prove to be the poisoned chalice it was for Legacy? 

In related news a Pasadena source today advised Ambassador Watch:

The church is looking to begin selling the large private homes on the campus as soon as possible.  Since these will not be torn down, they can be sold separately.  The problem is that all the electrical, sewer lines, water lines, and phone lines are tied into the main campus lines.  So the church will have to spend big bucks to separate these homes from the campus.  With the upcoming demands from the City of Pasadena for new Traffic Studies, Environmental Impact Reports and Tree Studies, WCG is going to be dishing out huge sums of money from their dwindling income base.  By selling the homes as soon as they can it will pump millions of dollars into the church coffers.  There are six large homes on Orange Grove that are worth a million dollars or more each because of the historical relationship of the home or the large lot size.

Scroll to the bottom for three related late breaking postings from Dateline Pasadena

Tough times for CEG: It's been a year since a gaggle of CGCF ministers separated to establish The Church of the Eternal God. The first 12 months have not been kind to the CEGers however. These comments from a recent member letter:

The Church of the Eternal God will soon mark a full year of existence. That short time span has seen many serious obstacles and challenging tests... We have ALL been tested-each of us as God has determined appropriate. Hebrews 12 speaks of the discipline of God, and verse 7 specifically encourages us to “…endure chastening.” ... In the beginning of the Church of the Eternal God, we all were committed to our commission - or so it seemed. But, as time went on, some decided not to walk with us any longer. As we all experienced, this was a very difficult trial.

The solution?

We must continue to ask ourselves, “Is God pleased with my service-is there more that I can do? Do I earnestly pray for the success of this Work? Am I, personally, truly committed to this Work? Do I help enough financially? Or, am I just a drifter, a passive bystander-someone who ‘sits on the fence,’ waiting to see whether this Work will succeed or collapse?”... We all must rally and stand together. Certainly, we all need to encourage and uphold one another! One of the great keys for accomplishing this is to stay engaged-to stand with each other in faithfulness and deep respect for our mutual calling.

Oh dear, oh dear! When all else fails, blame the members! Will the GEGites manage to make it through another 12 months?

A kinder, gentler Den? A little spin from the Pasadena WCG bulletin:

Next Church Meeting - August 17 - Our next church meeting will be on Saturday, August 17 from 12:15 - 1:45 p.m. This will be an open forum. We encourage questions and discussion regarding the vision, mission, ministry opportunities and challenges for our congregation. As a reminder the members of the Pastor’s Advisory Council are listed in the back of the church phonebook. This group was selected by the congregation over the last several years to represent you as we plan the organization and direction of our congregation. Feel free to contact any of our advisors with your suggestions and concerns. Your input is welcomed!

Sounds good. But as we understand it, the PAC is actually a toothless body with no actual power to do anything. So we're left with a token feel-good measure by Dennis Pelley which avoids taking steps toward genuine accountability.

Bernie's Pawn? What do we make of this surprising posting on JLF from someone who knows more than most about the current state of the WCG?

Regarding the manner in which "business" is being conducted at WCG HQ, I'd characterize it as being a couple of clowns short of a three-ring circus.

I have good reason to believe that Mr. (Burn-Me) Schnippert is the REAL owner and corporation sole of the WCG, and that JWT is nothing more than "window dressing" with a title of Pastor General, who is truly not as "powerful" as some may have assumed. It is my best educated guess (since no one says for sure...) that the assets of WCG were entirely turned over to Bernie, what, 3 or 4 years ago (maybe longer than that) whenever it became his responsibility to negotiate a property sale. I think that JWT and Schnippert are at odds with each other, and JWT is at Schnippert's mercy. I believe that Joe (as uncomfortable as he is in his so-called "leadership" position) maintains the "fictitious business name" of WCG only because that is one thing Bernie cannot take from him and be in control of. I have good reason to believe that JWT does (at this moment in time, though maybe not previously....) care to the best of his ability, for the church members and employees who are still there. I can't help but get the feeling that he has deep regrets about having turned all the assets and business dealings over to Bernie.

I'm not sure what I'd do in Joe's position.... I have tried to email Bernie on various occasions, and the guy never responds back. Well, ONE time he did, though it was a few years ago and I can't remember the content, but his words were incredibly defensive. Very telling.

A friend of mine who still works at HQ tells me that one of Bernie's employees "knows too much", and that Bernie feels threatened by what this person could divulge (if they wanted to...) to the public about his Armstrong-like dealings with the corporate funds & assets. Apparently he has tried to get this person fired several times. The problem is, that unless Schnippert asks for this "problem" employee's resignation and pays the person hush-money, the person will no doubt "tell-all" if fired.

Bizarro World: One of the mercies of not being with AOL is being spared some of the more extremist COG postings. Like this one:

It is kind of strange that the women in the churches of God do not cover their head during the Sabbath prayers in the services. We say that we must live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Is it not the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians, vv. 1-15, part of God's word? Any answers?

Yep, it seems that for some at least, the post-Herbal COG is to Christianity what the Taliban is to Islam. We hasten to add that this must represent the farthest fringe of Herb's fragmented spiritual ghetto-empire. Perhaps the writer, the pseudonymous Godstruth777 (we kid you not) should be locked up in a padded cell for forty days and nights with nothing but Dianne McDonnell's article "Women can be pastors in the Churches of God; here's why" for company (The Journal, June 30)

(Note: Dianne McDonnell serves a pastor of the Church of God, Dallas-Ft. Worth. She is, as far as we know, the only woman pastor in the COG tradition. Several articles on the role of women in the church can be found at the COG Dallas-Ft. Worth site.)

Spanky Outspends Everyone: According to Bob Thiel, an inveterate counter of COG media outlets, the LCG's Tomorrow's World program is "now on an astonishing 153 TV and 18 radio stations in 16 countries. This seems to be more TV stations than all the other COGs combined." Bob also notes: "PCG lists 28 unique TV stations and 1 radio station carrying his Key of David broadcast." It seems Spanky has a bigger wad of greenbacks to chuck at television advertising agencies, but we wonder how many people are actually watching his recorded rants?

August Whistler column: The Whistler is back with his column guaranteed to bring a frown to the face of any old-time "think not that I have come to destroy the law"-type Dankenbringer, Flurriite or Spanker. We're delighted to offer this provocative monthly feature to MD readers. Of course the theological opinions expressed by the Whistler are not necessarily those of others associated with this site.

The caption results: The judge's decision is in. The esteemed Seamus, our six figure consultant on cultural affairs and literature, has conveyed the following.

We decided to keep the party proper in choosing winners. 

First, no. 38 "And the Lord spoke to me and said, 'Upon this Rock I will build my cash." [should that be CACHE] 

Second, no. 6 "Wow, Man! Now that I have Herb's prayer rock, my future's so bright I gotta wear shades!" [Hallelujah] 

Third, no 18 "I thought Petra would be bigger than this."

Shamelessly, Seamus

Dateline Pasadena: Postings from HQ 

Bernie called an employee meeting in Pasadena yesterday to announce the new developer for the Pasadena property.  Surprisingly not all the employees decided to show up.  Bernie noticed this and commented that those that did were obviously the 'loyal' employees.  Several people were heard snickering at the comment.  Bernie  was very pleased that Shea Homes had signed on to develop the property.  Bernie said that Shea Homes has a good reputation and that since one of the Shea Family members is a resident in Pasadena it would be an added plus for negotiations with the City,  He said that he only has the best interests of the Church and employees (more snickers from employees) at heart and that when he made the decision and that when he goes to bed he is 100% confident that he has done the proper 'Christian' thing in all his actions.  One employee sitting next to me said under their breath "LIAR!", when he made that comment.


Today Bernie showed the employees what a wonderful Christian he truly is!  He had a reception in the Hall of Administration Lobby around noontime today with different food items.  Only his staff and a few select employees were invited.  Mind you that this was in full view of the entire building and any visitors coming into the building.  Those employees that were not invited had to walk by it all as they left the building for lunch.  Needless to say he did not score any brownie points with most employees today.  He and his staff all act like they are God's gift to the Worldwide Church of God right now and treat people like dirt.  But then, that always seems to be how people who end up working in the Hall of Ad in jobs of prominence act towards others.  I guess some things never change!


And finally, a little spin from the Master:

July 25, 2002                                    Contact: Bernard W. Schnippert
Worldwide Church of God
(626) 304-4011

Shea Homes Named Master Development Consultant for Ambassador Campus Site Pasadena developer and philanthropist John Shea to helm Pasadena treasure

Pasadena, CA. The Worldwide Church of God announced Wednesday its selection of Shea Homes as its Master Development Consultant to complete its plans for a residential development on the 48-acre former Ambassador College site in West Pasadena.

"We were overwhelmed with the number of prominent developers that wanted to be part of our vision for this unique community," said Bernie Schnippert, director of finance and planning for the Church. The Church narrowed the candidates from over 100 initial inquiries to 50 serious responses to one finalist.

The Worldwide Church of God?s vision for the future of the Ambassador Campus is to create a residential development that would be a transit-oriented community on the East Campus and a garden residential community on the West Campus.  The vision also calls for the preservation of the gardens and historic homes on the site and the reactivation of the renowned Ambassador Auditorium. 

"As a Pasadena resident, I am excited to be part of such a prestigious development," said John Shea, principal of Shea Homes.  "I see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to create homeownership opportunities in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and on one of the most beautiful properties in Pasadena."

John Shea, whose family began the J. F. Shea Company in 1881, is a prominent philanthropist and supporter of education in Southern California.  The John and Dorothy Shea Foundation is a major supporter of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and is one of the founding benefactors of the Invest in Children program of the Catholic Education Foundation. The Sheas are long-time supporters of the Salesian High School East Los Angeles and Verbum Dei High School in Watts.  John and Dorothy have raised their eight children in Pasadena. 

"I was extremely impressed with the Worldwide Church of God's insistence on convening numerous small community meetings before we even put pen to paper.  The Church has been a loyal neighbor for the last 50 years and we want to help them create a new community that will be a source of pride for Pasadena," added Les Thomas, president of Shea Homes.

"What sets Shea Homes apart is John Shea's strong Pasadena roots, and his commitment to the Pasadena community, not just to building a project in Pasadena.  Shea Homes' philosophy is "integrity, commitment, and quality" and focus on the homebuyer as community stakeholder.  These are exactly the traits that we have been searching for to fulfill the Worldwide Church of God's vision for our new development," Schnippert added.  "Shea Homes is also committed to ensuring that each of its sub-developers take the same approach to community building."

Shea Homes is the largest privately held building firm in the nation, and is known nationwide for its commitment to homeowner services. Shea Homes is also a leading developer of energy-efficient homes, and a leader in creating communities that are harmonious with their surrounding environment.  Shea Homes' most prestigious awards include the National Housing Quality Gold Award, the California Golden State Quality Award, and the 2000 Energy Leadership Award.  

Shea Homes was also the co-sponsor of the 2001 Tournament of Roses President's Trophy winning National Association of Homebuilder (NAHB)'s float, "The Family Tree."  This float kicked off the NAHB 2001 Home Builders Care campaign to strengthen communities through community-service projects that support families, revitalize communities and provide services for neighbors in need.  The float was powered by a natural gas engine supplied by float co-sponsor, the Southern California Gas Company. 

The Worldwide Church of God's property consists of 48 acres on both the west and east side of the end of the 710 freeway, known as the West Campus and the East Campus.  For over 50 years, the Worldwide Church of God amassed 138 separate lots into one of the most lovely campus environments in Southern California - Ambassador College.  The Ambassador Campus grounds include acclaimed gardens, historic homes, and the Ambassador Auditorium, which has been compared to Carnegie Hall in its grandeur and acoustic quality. 

Ambassador Watch is part of the Missing Dimension website - 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
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