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Issue XXIII - October 4  2002

In this issue: Grand Junction - Feast or Fiasco? Flurry cult dumps television. British PT on the rocks. Firefighter hoses down WCG. Dennis Pelley's plea to backsliders... and more.

Emergency Appeal for British PT: The current issue of the British Plain Truth has a 4 page A4 flier headed EMERGENCY APPEAL -- no, not for the starving millions in wherever, but for donations to keep the magazine going. The UK version is still distributed free - but perhaps not for much longer. 

The accompanying letter states:

Now sadly, we are faced with a major financial challenge. Our chief sponsor [the WCG] has been forced immediately to considerably reduce its financial support by some 60%. As a result, we've had to make some cost saving decisions straight away, including - sadly - cutting the number of issues from six to five a year...

Even with these drastic measures, if we are to keep on publishing The Plain Truth we will need additional funds... Please, if you want to see the Plain Truth magazine continue, this is the time to help us.

Although he has since moved back to the US (see AW5), the letter is signed by John Halford.

Earlier this year an issue of the British Worldwide News was fulsome in its praise of the British PT and its success.

A Very Flurry Feast: The Flurry cult seems to have abandoned its attempt to warn the world with Gerry's golden voice. Cult members were told at Feast services that PCG is getting out of television, with the exception of a single "super channel." It seems Gerry's ratings are in freefall (oh dear, how sad, never mind.) The money saved will supposedly go to finance the cult's glorious quest to win their court case to republish HWA's Mystery of the Ages.

 Grand Junction Part 1 - Comment from “da TOP”: In the last AW we led with a story about rumbling discontent over arrangements for the WCG's Grand Junction festival site. Among those voicing discontent was retired WCG evangelist “Doctor” Herman Hoeh. Hoeh's comments were apparently made after Atonement services in Reseda (which, according to a posting on JLF, "is one of the few places left in CA where you can have services for the WCG traditional days on the exact date. People from other congregations wanting the exact dates go there.") And earlier we'd run a Dateline Pasadena report indicating that the top brass were intending to remove this last vestige of the Tabernacles tradition.

Once again, the issue is legitimacy. A church has the right to exercise control over church functions. But members also have the right to have representation in the decision making structures... These people cannot be voted out (they were never voted in) nor endorsed (for that would create the possibility of non-endorsement.)  

Herman Hoeh

Grand Junction, Colorado attendees were to be “challenged” with the Tkach version of the Gospel. Only hard-line New Covenant advocates would be on the speaking schedule. And the very expression “Feast of Tabernacles” was to be expunged from the WCG lexicon.

Sound like something out of Central Europe during the Cold War? In many ways the current WCG acts much like the Communist regimes of the past. The real decisions are made at the top with little or no regard to the needs and concerns of the lowly members. One could argue that the WCG is actually worse: after all, the Soviet block countries DID allow limited elections that gave theoretical endorsement to their regimes. Joe won’t even allow that.

An AW reader forwarded our item to Pastor General Joe Tkach, who responded.

"Actually, I found this one to be humorous. 

"In this case, the festival in Colorado has become the one place where some of our members and many ex-members can gather and feel like they are experiencing old times. This is the only site where they are actually holding a festival according to the Hebrew calendar [MD comment: who are “they”. This is a WCG festival site, controlled from Pasadena. “They” are simply exercising the right of choice.] I was advised that last year there were as many as a third of the people from the splinter groups (especially the United group) who were in attendance in Colorado [MD comment: any other church would see this as a tremendous opportunity to witness, not a threat.] "There is a group of dissidents who in some cases still attend with us. They have become known as the "Wallenites" and the name comes from one of our ex-pastors, Ron Wallen. He wrote and taught a group of people his own version of prophecy. He prophesied my death on two previous occasions. Ironically, they turned out to be false prophecies and he died recently. His wife and another former initiate of his now lead the group. Many of them were planning to attend the festival in Colorado and I am not surprised to see that they would experience some unrest knowing that the preaching schedule was loaded with people who will be preaching the gospel. 

"This is one that I will have to share with Greg, Gerald and the others because I believe that they will find it to be good laugh."

We’re glad Joe got a belly laugh - like the playground bully who snatches a smaller kid’s lunch and then taunts him. But we note that: 

  1. He confirms that the speaking schedule was to be loaded with his honchos. 

  2. He does nothing to disconfirm that he is about to put the boot into the observance as it has been held at Grand Junction. 

  3. There is an edge of contempt in his reply, but little or no trace of pastoral concern.

We also note that he has picked up a very large pasting brush indeed in his attempt to label all dissenters as either UCG members or “Wallenites” (who are a very small group.) Once again, the issue is legitimacy. A church has the right to exercise control over church functions. But members also have the right to have representation in the decision making structures. In the absence of any form of mandate, the cult continues to be run by an unrepresentative group. These people cannot be voted out (they were never voted in) nor endorsed (for that would create the possibility of non-endorsement.) 

These issues were addressed in our first MD editorial, The Apostolic Chair. It seems nothing has changed.

Grand Junction Part 2 - "Best Feast Never": This report from an AW reader.

There were several shouting matches at Grand Junction down in front at the stage.  Schnarrenberger and Albrecht were the primary targets.  Rogers failed to show up.  One involved Greg Albrecht and a guy from Pasadena who thinks he is God's gift to Armstrongism... I do not know what the subject was, but they said Greg finally got fed up with him and turned around and walked away.

The Grand Junction Festival Coordinator received an award from the City of Grand Junction at services.  When they presented it to him at services he got a standing ovation.  What the members did not know was that Gerald Schnarrenberger had kicked him out of the ministry just moments before!

On the last day of the Festival Schnarrenberger gave the sermon.  He did not refer in any manner to the old teachings concerning The Last Great Day and its supposed significance.  This really irritated a lot of the people.  When the speaker came up to give the closing prayer they said he went on for a good five minutes telling about the significance of the LGD in God's plan. Immediately after the Amen was said the crowd broke into another round of applause for the guy.

When they sang songs out of the hymnal (Dwight's music) everyone stood and sang.  When they sang 'Praise Songs' a lot of the people refused to sing and sat down in protest.

These comments, from a different perspective, were posted on Likeminds.

Among the announcements [at Grand Junction] was a notice that no one would be allowed into services after the first day without a WCG badge.  We didn't have badges and didn't want any... Joe Tkach, Jr., had informed the group in Grand Junction that none of the previous years' speakers would be allowed to speak at the feast this year and that he would provide this year's  speakers... When we returned home we found that, as a result of their actions and defiance to Pasadena during the feast, our friends had been marked. (Some of the men who gave prayers gave messages within the prayers that Pasadena disapproved.)  The people who attended at Grand Junction were those who have continued to keep the Sabbath and Holy Days (over 500 from all over the US were in attendance).  Their main problem is that they cannot force themselves to leave the "True Church." ... The entire WCG congregation in Amarillo has continued in the faith and has not accepted the heresy from Pasadena.

Does Joe still find the situation humorous? Won't it be interesting to see the spin HQ gives to this in the next WN!

Former Pastor’s Testimony: The following comments come from another former WCG pastor. The full letter is in this week’s mailbag.

I was very encouraged by Joe Tkach, Sr when he said if it isn't in the Bible, we are not going to teach it. He was sometimes a hard and merciless man, but his courage to change was outstanding. Joe Junior on the other hand has different strengths...

At least now WCG has a few ministers who are able to feed the sheep a healthier theology than that bigoted and uneducated rubbish of Armstrongism. 

The reformation of WCG has been long and difficult. There is serious need to reform the church's polity, because in the long run, an autocratic, top-down, episcopal structure does not foster individual growth. For now, it is probably the only way to keep the church on track for theological reform. However, it must change in time or the church will stagnate even more. At the very minimum, pastors with an advanced degree in theology ought to be given greater freedom. 

I left because I felt no freedom in WCG to use my spiritual gifts. I felt hemmed in on all sides by weak brethren who wanted to stay with Armstrongism, by a culture of weak and insipid evangelism, caused by years of oppression of individual talent and suppression of spiritual gifts. I also felt oppressed by a continuing culture of "control freaks." I could go on, but suffice to say, the reformation is barely half over. There is a long way to go for WCG to become what I believe is a healthy denomination. 

I also left because I believed I was wasting my time waiting and waiting for HQ. There is work to do. The gospel is too important to sit in a waiting room for a money-hungry HQ to make changes which would give the gospel-work in each local congregation free course. It was in a bottleneck, and that bottleneck was Pasadena -- gumming up the works, holding up the show...

There is no guarantee that a tree with rotten roots will be resurrected, or even that God wants it to continue beyond a mission of turning some aging cult members towards Jesus. 

I sometimes wonder when the next split will come. I sometimes wonder when WCG will finally die, or disintegrate into thousands of independent congregations... 

If I was still a pastor in WCG, I would seriously consider discussing with my congregation whether or not they wanted to become independent. The gospel is too important to wait. I would seriously consider affiliation with a healthier denomination. 

The repentance of the WCG has been like the Catholic Reformation, incomplete... 

God bless WCG. God grant that WCG dies a good death, the death of those who are to be commended for great courage or at least that WCG would affiliate with another denomination where someone with a long history of grace and compassion is in charge. God grant that the WCG offshoots come to see the error of Armstrongism. God bless those who have been hurt by Armstrongism and have left Christianity for now. Grant them understanding of how great your grace is. God bless those who have moved on to a healthier part of the Church. Grant them ministries full of joy and grace.

Some fascinating comments. We beg, however, to differ if the writer is suggesting that there is some justification in retaining an autocratic, paternalistic, top-down structure in order to “keep the church on track” – shades of HWA’s arrogance. Reform is long, long overdue, and while there are always risks when power is surrendered, keeping people in their “spiritual minority” has never been an acceptable option.

In Brief

Money matters: From Ron Kelly's report in the October WN.

... August contributions came in just over $1.62 million. That’s within about $30,000 of the August 2001 income of $1.65 million. Our July donations were down about eight percent from the previous year...

... we had to reorganize the Pasadena sales project when Legacy Partners withdrew in late April after about three years of planning. Costs are attached that we had not anticipated when we prepared the 2002 budget.

In a pessimistic October member letter (full of allusions to depression) Joseph Tkach observes: As a fellowship we continue to face financial obstacles...

Architect named for Ambassador Campus: In an October 2 press release the WCG has named a "master architect/planner" to design the residential development on the former Ambassador College campus . Full text available on the MD Yahoo Group.

Mystery mystery: Jim Baldwin’s photo feature in the last AW attracted a lot of traffic. Jim also has a couple of recent items on Ed Mentell’s Painful Truth site: a 1994 article on Mystery of the Ages (did Herb really tell Joe Sr. it was riddled with errors?) and a fascinating personal account of his exit from the WCG. 

The Sunday Push: Another Joe-compliant pastor butters up the brethren, this time in the Loudon/Portland WCG.

Friends in Faith: Recently we mentioned Horst and Irene Selent’s experience in the WCG Greenville SC church. Horst has created an online discussion board on delphiforums.

Message of the Week: The Western Australia WCG has the benefit of an innovative webmaster in John Klassek, creator of Message of the Week. Check out the brief (2 ½ minute) video which is available online at the WA regional website.

The Plain Truth About Pericopes: Do you lose sleep at night wondering about pericopes? Could there be a nest of the critters under your house? Could a feral pericope be responsible for the clattering of trash can lids at 3 in the morning? Fear no more. Former PT editor Brian Knowles has come to the rescue with a brief but informative guide to pericopes. You'll even learn how to pronounce the word correctly (it's not "peri-cope").You may not need to call the fumigator after all!

The “A” Word: The WCG began as an apocalyptic sect, and the majority of splinter groups happily continue that tradition. But as Jim Moyers points out, the roots of apocalyptic theology go a long way back. Moyers’ article, The Apocalyptic Background of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, might just as easily be titled “The Apocalyptic Background of the WCG.” The subtitle, Zoroaster to William Miller, says it all (yes folks, Willie Miller is our grandpappy too.) Those who naively assume the COGs have an untainted Biblical view of reality might be surprised by what they find here. 

Which Laws Part 2: The Whistler returns with the concluding part of Canright’s presentation on the Old Testament Law.  

The Land of Fish

From the pen of MD's poet laureate, Seamus (who may have had his Feasts confused this year)

Come take a trip to the land of fish
Where the squid and the stingray dwell,
For these can make a tasty dish
If you eat them I won't tell.

Battered or breaded, you have a choice,
The shark is nice tonight.
And when deep fried you can rejoice
That lobster and crabs don't bite.

Shellfish most raw with a vinegar sauce
Slip down the throat with ease.
Bluff oysters make a good entree course
And do their best to please.

Prawns quickly braised with chili and cream
Are the king of taste they say.
A squeeze of lemon makes them a dream,
On the side they go well with cray.

Steaks of the eel in a jelly of mint
Assists the digestion no end.
A rich source of protein: need we hint,
And for seconds you surely send.

Snapper and gurnard with groper and bream,
What are these with scale and fin?
Of the cream of the ocean can we dream,
And are KOSHER prawns real sin?.



Ghosts of the Fireground is part  personal journey out of the WCG and part history of a Wisconsin wildfire in 1871 that killed more than 1200 people. Relying on the account of a Catholic priest who survived the fire, and drawing on his own experiences as a firefighter, Leschak brings to life the horror of being trapped in the logging town of Peshtigo as it burned.

Den's lament: The October WN features an "open letter" to former WCG members "missing in action" by none other than Pasadena's own Dennis Pelley. It can be read online. Not an apology, but a definite call for lost sheep to return to the fold.

Pelley lays it on thick. "Dear friends in the Lord, we miss you. We love you. There is a hole that only you can fill... We'll welcome you home with open arms."  

Crocodile tears?

Could this be the same man who reportedly went into a disfellowshipping frenzy earlier this year? Mark Tabladillo, JLF moderator, contacted Pelley. According to Mark: "He does want certain people to come back, and at the end of the day, I believe he's got specific people in mind when he wrote the letter."  

Begging the prodigals to come "home" can be seen as a cheap trick. The people Den addresses have, in many cases, fled from an intolerable climate of abuse, as Pastor Pelley well knows. 

Although Den mentions "checks and balances" in his appeal, he clearly means something the church (i.e. the leaders like himself) must impose on the "troops." Pelley seems incapable of realizing that "checks and balances" flow both ways. His primary concern should be the appalling lack of checks and balances on the sect's oligarchy, and the complete lack of a voice for the grassroots membership. Exactly why anyone who has put their WCG experience behind them would choose to return to the Tkach gulag is a mystery, especially when there are other churches that operate in more inclusive and open ways.

Missing from Pelley's letter is any note of contrition for the ongoing dysfunctionality in the WCG. In his mind it is simply, it seems, a matter of backsliding by those who no longer attend.

A JLF correspondent notes: "with the attitude of "seven years are up" going around, a call to come back is another mixed message and salt in the wounds of those like myself and my friends who have been harmed by the church."

Fighting fire and Armstrongism: Peter Leschak is a former WCG member and Ambassador alumni. His recent book, Ghosts of the Fireground, has a WCG undercurrent. Here are excerpts from recent reviews.

The book's subtitle refers to wildfire fighting as a "calling," and the author recounts how becoming a firefighter was a salvation--from, well, salvation.

As a teenager in northern Minnesota, Leschak renounced his parents' Catholicism in favor of the more conservative, fundamentalist brand of Christianity he encountered listening to apocalyptic sermons on a Duluth radio station. He enrolled in seminary in Texas and earned a theology degree, but he left the school an agnostic, disillusioned by his teachers' and peers' unwillingness to entertain challenges to dogma. (Baltimore City Paper)

Peter Leschak

Leschak also shares the unusual path he took to become a wildland firefighter. Training for the ministry of a fundamentalist sect, he became disillusioned by the authoritarian demands and spent some years adrift. One day as he hiked from a fire, he realized "I was enamored of everything around me -- the aroma of smoke, the heft of the saw, the sensation of fatigue spiced with fear, the sound of the helicopters, the sight of flame . . . But most of all I loved the 19 firefighters behind me. Not necessarily as individuals but as an idea, as a living system of comradeship." Rejecting the notion of a "personal, manipulative god," he found his church in the fire service and became a member of the "congregation" of firefighters. (Star Tribune, Minneapolis) 

As a teenager in the 60's, taken with a radio preacher's view of the world, Leschak threw off his family's Catholicism and embraced a rigid fundamentalist sect, the Worldwide Church of God, attending its college in anticipation of joining the ministry. How he comes to repudiate that mind-set and find his own way is at the heart of the book... (New York Times)

Exit Issues: Steven Hassan is a well known author on exiting abusive religious groups. Sects like PCG, LCG and others have a lot in common with several non-COG groups. His material has been recommended by many who have found it helpful in dealing with their WCG background, including the late John Trechak. 

Dr. Hassan's book, Releasing the Bonds, is available through Amazon, and a Real Video interview is available online. Although the interview questions are geared to ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses, there’s much here than WCG survivors may find extremely helpful. 

For those with a 56k connection and for those with DSL+ connection

Brinsmead on Breaking Free: Worth repeating from a recent posting by Australian theologian Bob Brinsmead to the JBAS list.

Coming out of a cult is a bit like coming out of the army - or even a concentration camp… one hands over his life to be programmed and controlled by others. In religion this is passed off as God-control… and the only existential reality in that is to let a religious system run your life. People coming out of the army can have a terrible period of adjustment in civil life. In the Army you are told when to go to bed and when to get up - and the whole life is structured. I have read how inmates in the German prisons during the war committed suicide after being freed. They could not adjust to freedom. Some people are known to deliberately commit crime so that they can back to jail. 

The whole religious idea of giving your life over to God so that he controls everything you do is absolute nonsense. There cannot be any true human relating in a vertical dimension. There is no true human relating where one party is totally dominant, or where one relates to the other from a position of power. In the very nature of the case, it seems that God has to be hidden, non-intrusive and the human agent has to be totally free. Living in any hierarchical system is like living in a zoo or some other kind of animal order where there is pecking order of superiors and inferiors… 

Life is like playing pool - or snooker. Often it seems that we have only one kind of shot left to make, or no real options. That is not true, because at any time in the game, if you reflect on the situation sufficiently, you will see that there are always other options not apparent at first. The only option that you don't have, however, is taking back your previous shots. The game cannot go back, only forward.

Acronyms Unlimited: In a lighter vein, here at AW (which is part of MD) we’ve continued the fine COG tradition of using acronyms. They’re a kind of “insider language” that those in-the-know immediately recognize, but often puzzle those from beyond the COG universe. It’s not that we’re trying to be difficult, it’s just that it’s part and parcel of the, um, cult culture. It comes then as something of a shock to realize that those familiar acronyms have better known meanings out there in “the world.” And here some of them are… 

WCG: Workstation, Computer Graphics 

UCG: Underground Coal Gasification 

And then there are some that seem particularly apt: 

LCG: Laughter Control Group (used to grade Spanky’s sermons?) 


GTA: Grand Theft Auto (something Ted has actually NOT been accused of, to our knowledge.) 

HWA: Horror Writer’s Association (The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last!

RCM: Regimental Court Martial (a.k.a. Raymond McNair's "repentance"?) 

PTM: Part Time Manager (don’t say we didn’t warn you Greg.) 

A little play around with the excellent Acronym Finder (http://www.acronymfinder.com/ ) revealed only one COG group identified, the Church of God, International (CGI.) Even then, it was ranked below “Can’t Get In.”

Flashback: Those old enough to remember the WCG booklet Hippies - Hypocrisy and Happiness might get a buzz out of these comments, posted on a site for Beatles memorabilia.

Hippies - Hypocrisy and Happiness 
Ambassador College Press
1968 Published by Ambassador College Press of Pasadena, California. This 37 page booklet (about the size of an oversize paperback) tries to explain the Hippie phenomenon because, as page one exclaims: "You need to know WHY the Hippies are the BAROMETER of a SICK, SICK SOCIETY!". The text, divided into sections such as "The CURSE of Flower Power" and "Morals of an Alley Cat" does include one reference to that "long-haired British Rock'n' Roll group the Beatles" and specifically to Paul for his admission of taking LSD. The book also contains several color photographs of the Hippie scene...

And how much would you expect to pay for this literary classic? $8.00 will secure it for your personal collection. Now, don't you just wish you hadn't chucked out all that "lit" years ago?

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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