October 2005 - Issue 66

Covering developments & advocating accountability in the Worldwide Church of God and related groups. 

email AW at editor@ambassadorwatch.co.nz 

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Friday October 28

There's a provocative but fair-minded new piece on The Painful Truth which asks Is Your Minister Converted? Recommended!

Yup, that's a young Raymond McNair in last weeks trivia question (not GTA, Spanky or James Dean). A  fellow AC graduate suggests:  "Probably typing one of his ads for The Journal -- I'm sure they take a while!"  A new puzzler next week.

More faces disappear from WCG's HQ: "Employee transitions. A couple of weeks ago we said good-bye to Ron Urwiller, the WCG archivist, who moved to Nebraska . On Friday we will be saying good-bye to CIS employees Mike Arguien and Jerry Thornton."

Tuesday October 25

Pam Dewey has a series of FOT reflections available on her site for those who have been unable to attend.

Friday October 21

Hope for all those sick of the "sheeple" metaphor. The Christian Logic blog has been updated (October 19) with a reflection on puppies, wolves, yellow submarines and the WCG. 

Who is L. Ray Smith? With a name like that he could be a Science Fiction writer, but alas not. A former WCG member whose name is sometimes associated with Stanley Rader's, Ray has a website chock full of essays and stuff, if you're in to that sort of thing. Mr. Smith's theological qualifications (if any) are unknown. 

Saturday October 15

Looking for FOT services on the Web? The Journal can help, with a list of providers.

Saturday October 8

NEWSFLASH: Today is the day Dave the Apostle Pack is due to give his inspiring sermon on withholding charity dollars. Dennis Diehl has acquired what may be an advance copy.

UCG has revealed that its new TV program will be called Beyond Today. The associated website (not yet functioning) will be www.beyondtoday.tv 

The Big Sandy evacuees are leaving the delights of the old Ambassador campus behind and moving on to San Antonio. 

Thursday October 6

An update on the situation with hurricane refugees in Big Sandy is available on the Tyler Morning Telegraph site.

What is this COG7 minister doing? Good works and ecumenical goodwill get coverage in the Greensboro News-Record. Nobody tell Dave Pack!

Tuesday October 4

The Journal has made the late Garner Ted Armstrong's 1977 book The Real Jesus available on its website, though you have to wonder why they bothered. Armstrong's creative (i.e. wildly inaccurate) reconstruction of Christ's life was deservedly a flop.

Sunday October 2

LCG's Douglas Winnail has joined the ranks of the "Evangelists" - the elevation being announced in a September 29 letter from Roderick Meredith. 

The Feast of Trumpets is observed in most COGs this Tuesday, October 4. 

Saturday October 1

Back on track, churchianity, get the point? Ah, all those wonderful expressions we used to swim in as members (and some readers still do). The mysterious blogger at Christian Logic has listed 550 (that's five hundred and fifty) of them (!) Even then we suspect a few were missed. Anyone got more to add?

Cruisin' with the Ayatollahs: Greatest Feast EVER! That was the headline in 1962's GN. We can expect an avalanche of Feast reports to surface in the various COG publications, and who knows how many "greatest" headlines. But we've also had a little feedback we can share that wouldn't fit the hype. First though, one correspondent notes that, if the WCG is canning their version of the festival next year, the news hasn't yet affected the company that runs their autumnal cruise operation:

... just today (Oct 27) I received notice of a Caribbean cruise via Princess Cruises (the Love Boat), October 7-15, 2006. It came from Pasadena's Travel Gallery and was postmarked Oct 24.

Ah yes, Pasadena's Travel Gallery. A fine, independent enterprise on which one could never heap sufficient praise. Then there were these comments on one of the news boards:

My parents just returned from a WCG feast cruise through the Panama Canal... I asked my mom how the "church part" of the cruise went, and she said that they only attended services a couple times. But she had heard through the grapevine that Mr. K... (the minister on board) was angry that several people were attending, but had not gone through the "church sanctioned" travel agency. He also wanted all those people (my parents included) to give a donation of at least $200 to the church because they disobeyed!

Huh? The same news board featured another report:

We attended with UCG. Saw some old classmates. Saw some old friends, a few not attending with any cog.

Some people attending Kenya's feast site for UCG contracted malaria and typhoid. It was blown off by the coordinator as "not yet God's kingdom."

A family... was traveling to Wisconsin Dells when they were hit head on. Their vehicle flipped several times. The wife and one year old sustained minor injuries. The husband has had several operations to fix his broken feet, arm, and other parts not protected by God's angels...

One Feast site in particular, Wildwood, NJ, experienced 55mph sustained winds with gusts of up to 70 mph the night before the LGD. But not to worry, I was assured that by obeying God I was blessed, set apart, and protected -- unlike this wicked world. 

Look who's writing on XCG: Something interesting is indeed going down at XCG, as predicted here a few days ago:

In addition to working in RCG’s Personal Correspondence Department, I was a contributing writer for their magazines The Pillar, The Real Truth and Ambassador Youth. I also wrote a few of their booklets that don’t carry a by-line: “And there shall be Famines”; “The Worldwide Crime Wave”; and their original “Trinity” booklet, which was later expanded into a book with several co-authors. I also wrote approximately 100 of their 200+ “Q&A’s.” The value of all of that outside the confines of RCG? Zip. It would probably be counted as dross even among all of the other splinter groups. (Well, perhaps not…but that is another long story.) For me, the value of it is in the writing experience itself.

I can understand that it would seem strange for someone to go from church member/employee/apologist to one who is very much anti-church/bible/god/religion seemingly overnight. Where would I start and stop in explaining it?

Paper Moon & Wild Geese: Dateline Pasadena has confirmed that the film Paper Moon was made with Herbal bucks (many thanks to all those "little folks" who sent in their third tithes). God's Sole End-Time Apostle (with the exception of Gerry, Dave, Uncle Tom Cobbly and All) also financed the 1978 R-rated Wild Geese ("The Dogs of War. The Best D*** Mercenaries in the Business!")

PCG exiter writes: I just wanted to write and let you guys know that I am willing to talk to anyone about my experience in the PCG. I was very conservative at first about sharing too much because I was afraid God would curse me for turning on his "true" church. I only wish the FBI would get involved a little more because the destruction on families is unbelievable. The deaths that happen because of lack of medical care are all unnecessary in a lot of cases. I think where children are concerned, the government ought to step in and not allow it. So you send your kids to school and have them exposed to serious diseases because someone won't allow their children to be immunized because of a twisted scripture? Pardon me but that is NOT showing love to your neighbor. I would love to talk to the FBI if [anyone knows] of an agent that is handling cases in the Western Region where Jeff Greaser or Craig Winters is or was involved. My husband and I have thankfully relocated to another area of the country where we do not have to run into these people in public. We really love and miss a lot of them. But the leaders are purposefully destroying people and lives. Very sad, indeed. Our family have had the happiest three and a half years of our lives [since leaving]. Please feel free to share my email address with anyone who needs help or wants to talk to ex-PCG members. Thank you. 

Catherine Theobald

AW: We'll forward any email people might like to direct to Catherine.

To name or not (1): [Tom asked who A.R. is.] A.R. stands for Alison Raborn. I have used my full name before on this website, but is faster if I just use A.R. I came into the knowledge of WCG (Worldwide Church of God) in 1983, stared attending in Dec. 84, was baptized in April 12, 1986 by John H. Ogwyn. Left the organization in June 1993. Have not been attending any church since that time although I still keep the 7th Day Sabbath (Saturday), keep the bible holy days, and I do not eat "unclean" meat. Born in Texas I have been living in Florida for four years. I am college educated, and not married. I am the youngest of six children. Parents and one sibling are Roman Catholic, another sibling is Mormon, another Southern Baptist, one who is into "praise worship"--short on sermons, but a lot of music and speaking in tongues, and one who is openly gay. I love to read and as you may have guessed I enjoy theology. Right now I am involved in First Fruits of Zion's Torah Club, which is messianic and Exodus, which deals with homosexuality (www.exodus.to) 


To name or not (2): I agree wholeheartedly with Tom Mahon’s recent post about people putting their real name under their comments here in the “mailbag” section of AW. I sincerely do not condemn those who feel it necessary to use initials or a pseudonym, as everybody’s situation is different.

But may I just point out, however, that Jesus of Nazareth unashamedly made his feelings known about the hypocrisy and corrupt leadership of the 1st century Pharisees in a very open and public way—and they all obvious knew who he was. Much later in history Martin Luther did the same when he publicly spoke out against similar hypocrisy and corruption within the leadership of the Catholic Church with his famous “95 Theses” document of 1517, the 16th century equivalent of a public Internet posting if there ever was one. It began “Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.”

The Founding Fathers of the American Revolution all courageously signed their names to the Declaration of Independence—at the risk of life and limb for what they believed. I’ve seen the actual document, and can assure you that they put their real names to it, not initials or pseudonyms.

Yet, as all the above historical events prove, I know all too well there are indeed consequences to putting your real name to your true sentiments. Last March I was unceremoniously escorted out the back door of a COG splinter group I had been attending, in no small part due to the local pastor having found out about some of my comments made on this site—this after having been a loyal member and wholehearted supporter of the work of the Church since 1975, who never ONCE ever had any past collisions with the ministry in all those years. As a result of my refusing to anonymously hide behind my comments, he obviously did a search of AW, compiled a list of my past postings, and because I actually had the guts to put my real name under my words, was able to use such posts against me in support of his charge that I was “attacking God’s Church.”

I know for a fact there are MANY ministers (both former and current) of the various COG’s who regularly read AW, and further, who are in general agreement with much of what is said on it. But to use someone else’s comment once made on this site, it seems that paychecks, position, perks and pensions are indeed a mighty influence, and, among other things, apparently keeps them from attaching their real names to their actual sentiments.

The late U.S. Air Force Colonel John R. Boyd, one of the greatest if not THE greatest jet fighter pilot of the 20th century, once said that a person can either “DO something” or “BE somebody”—the latter of which he defined as someone who was willing to sacrifice their integrity in order to “get ahead” in the system by not "rocking the boat." Very few career paths permit both.

But somewhere along the line in everybody’s life, the day will come when they will have to stand up and be counted for what they really believe—and pseudonyms or initials no longer will be an option.

Randy Martens

To name or not (3): To "Tom Mahon," if that's your real name, I'm not going to let you bully me into revealing my identity. I make comments for the benefit of those who might come across this site looking to escape the insanity of Armstrongism. To know my name is of no help. And I don't see the correlation with the ministers holding out for financial gain and me who gains nothing by participating here. I also don't see how not wanting to foolishly alienate my friends and family makes me a coward. If I have to be called a coward by a busybody to protect my family then so be it.


AW: Yes, it is his real name. Your point is taken. Letter policy will continue to allow anonymity (and pseudonymity). On the other hand, Tom's position is an ideal we'd like to encourage where possible

To name or not (4): When I was a CBer, no one gave their names. My father worked in the Federal Correction Department. Three dangerous inmates had a dispute with him and threatened him and his family. I don't use my name for safety...

Curious George: Just in case Gary hasn't pointed it out, it's "George's Curious Letter," not "Curious George's Letter." Typos happen...

Re [Homer] Kizer's essay: Light comes from darkness? Life comes from death? Not just "follows" or "is separated from," but actually originates from? A most interesting metaphysics, even if not justified by anything in Holy Scripture, let alone by anything in human experience.

Jared Olar

AW: Curiously, I still prefer my version :-)

Petry: After seeing your reference yesterday to a blogger named Robert Petry, I was trying to figure out why that name seemed familiar. It eventually dawned on me; that was the name of the character Dick Van Dyke played in his 1960's television show. A Web search showed that the fictional character was actually "Robert Petrie."


AW: Nah, forget Dick, I'm still waiting for reruns of the show that featured brother Jerry Van Dyke's excruciatingly awful (but strangely addictive) "My Mother the Car".

"'My Mother The Car' tried combining the U.S. fascination with cars, sex and Mom," a scathing 1965 review in Time magazine went. "But something happened in casting: Mother (who returns to earth from celestial regions, using the car radio as a voice box) is an invisible Ann Sothern; and as for Hero Jerry Van Dyke, he has finally answered the question, what is it that Jerry hasn't got that brother Dick has?"

Truly a mountain-top experience in television entertainment!

The genteel Herr Doktor (1): Dr. Sam may be dismissive, but then so is Dr. Henry. After all, the latter is, in effect, calling the former a flawed exegete and a historical ignoramus. Holy Heilsgeschichte! Sticks and stones may break my bones, but name-calling will put me firmly in my place. Entschuldigen, aber Ich muß buße tun!


AW: Ja, but bitte, how didst du die ß gemachen auf seinem wortenprokßeßer? Ich muß es kutten und pasten...

The genteel Herr Doktor (2): I recently read the letter from the individual concerning Samuele Bacchiocchi and the Endtime Issues Newsletter. I went to the website that offered the newsletter and was pleased to find that it is offered free of charge and you can discontinue the letter at any time. It explains the recent rediscovery of the Sabbath by numerous churches, including three mainline denominations. It is possible to access, free of charge, over 2,000 pages of Biblical research on timely issues. I will look with interest at what this site offers on the Sabbath and numerous other subjects. 


Southern Baptist pontifications: I wonder if they realize how outdated their publication is regarding WCG? Granted it isn’t all it should be but their doctrinal positions no longer match up with the NAMB document. Unless they are like some of the “old timers” out there who believe a leopard can’t change it spots.



25 October

Che hey hey! This report from Dateline Pasadena:

The California Philharmonic Orchestra has a series of concerts being presented in the Ambassador Auditorium. The patrons of the orchestra are getting rather upset with Harvest Rock Church. It seems that Che Ahn, the resident guru of Harvest Rock is coming out on stage before each concert and preaching for 5 minutes. People are really getting turned off him, and some have stopped attending the concerts because of Ahn's preaching.

Even Herb had more class than that.

Southern Baptist advice: The nice folk at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board have produced a document which concerned members of their church can download to help them get a grip on "Armstrongism". Right neighborly of them. 

Soapy Sam spits the dummy: An Australian reader decided, after reading the AW review of Henry Sturcke's Sabbath book, to both order a copy and get a response from Seventh-day Adventist scholar Samuele Bacchiocchi. "I basically wanted to know if he was aware of the new study, particularly as it refers to his own work, and had the impression that he was an affable and gracious kind of person having [once] heard him speak."  He was stunned to receive the following reply within minutes:

From the review it is evident that Sturcke in subtle and deceptive ways tries to negate the validity and value of the Sabbath. I would not waste my time reading the book, because his premise that the acceptance of Christ burst the boundaries of the Sabbath is totally false.

He needs to explain why do the Gospels give so much coverage to the Sabbath teachings, healing, and ministry of Jesus. Obviously because the Sabbath was very important to the Apostolic church.

I am sorry that you wasted your money ordering a deceptive book written with a twisted methodology.

Sweeping statements based on a single review! But what really amazed our Aussie correspondent was that the Sabbath Sage, after lambasting him for having "wasted" his money, attached a 1200 word advertising promotion for his own material (cost $300!) and thanked him for subscribing (which he hadn't) to his "EndTime Issues Newsletter" (the first copy of which arrived immediately)!  

"I can't believe he could be so blatant and unprofessional. It now makes me wonder if his own writings are worth the paper they're printed on."



The final "not-the-FOT"? While Joe Tkach's Worldwide Church of God hasn't held official Feast of Tabernacles celebrations for several years, looser, optional, scaled down forms of the Fall festivals have continued, often organized locally and strictly managed to reflect the current dogma. The word is out however that this year's arrangements may be the last: next year it's "forbidden". At least that's the impression some of this year's attendees have been given, and that has been reported on one of the news forums. 

Forbidden? Liberation of the Worldwide Church of God? Seems more like, in a bizarre inversion of Herbert Armstrong's legalism, the sect's control freaks are hell-bent on depriving people of choice and personal responsibility. Considering that facilities for 2006 had already been booked, this move, if true, comes as a surprise. We'd be interested to hear from anyone who can confirm, deny or clarify this reported change of policy. 

New additions to AW: Dennis Diehl's latest column appears today, inspired by Homer Kizer's October 15 commentary. 

Following up on an interview with Henry Sturcke that appeared some weeks ago, there's a review of his recent study on the Sabbath, Encountering the Rest of God

New stuff on PT: Mike Minton has updated the Painful Truth site with new material. This includes a response by Betty Brogaard to an article by Micah Royal on this site.



A bracing wind blows in from the Tatra mountains... Across at XCG something is stirring. We understand some interesting correspondence is in the offing. We'll be keeping an eye on postings there over the next few days and weeks.

Meantime Gary Scott has a new entry up: Curious George's Letter. The George in question is the Pack cult personal correspondent, George Rogers, who was pressed to justify "the Apostle's" position on shunning good works organizations like the Red Cross. 

Day and Night: Homer Kizer has a new commentary up. For a sample of heroic Homeric prose, here's the first paragraph.

When this year’s autumn harvest moon rises, large, orange, the long spiritual night of watching that began at Calvary will be nearing its midnight hour. A calendar day foreshadows a spiritual day. Night is the twisting or turning away from the light portion of a twenty-four hour period; day is the hot or light portion. In Holy Writ, night precedes day, for life comes from death (John 5:24) as the light portion of a day comes from darkness (Gen 1:3). Thus, a day doesn’t begin at midnight when the full moon that seemed near enough to touch at sunset stands suspended far overhead, a mirror revealing the earth’s—and the Church’s—slow twisting away from the sun, from God.

Bob Petry: And then there's Robert Petry who is keen on publicizing his Code 64 blog. However Bob isn't the sort of fellow to pull any punches just because he wants a link on AW:

The Internet is loaded with critics of the WWCG [sic]. One such critic website is the Ambassador Watch. Loaded with stories that are heresay [sic], personal vendettas and just plain untruths, mixed with a smattering of facts. This site, and the majority of the rest have no idea what the REAL reason was. Nor do they come close to understanding their role in the fall of this organization.

Bob however does, but you'll have to register before Bob will cast his pearls of insight in your direction. 

Trivia & Nostalgia: Last week we asked: When did WCG adopt the lion and the lamb seal, and why? What symbol was used before then?

The answer appeared in the May 1963 Good News: 

This magificent [sic] crest is the new OFFICIAL SEAL of Ambassador Colleges. For years, the colleges utilized the coat of arms of King Edward I, of whom Mr. Armstrong is a direct descendant. Upon returning from England last year, and seeing the fine workmanship the Scandinavian Arts Metals Company of Pasadena had done on a decorative wall crest for the offices of Mr. Garner Ted Armstrong, Mr. Herbert Armstrong felt they should be selected to produce the new college seal.

Picturing the millennium, with a scene of a little child standing between a huge lion and a little lamb, the scroll reads, “The lion shall dwell with the lamb, and a little child shall lead them, in the world tomorrow!” (Isaiah 11 :6). This is the sense of Isaiah’s prophecy, since printing the entire verse would have made the scroll out of proportion.

This week's question: who's the guy in the picture above? 


Names: It is not for me to influence your editorial policy, but if I were you, I won't publish any letters or articles written by people who don't have the courage to say who they are. What does "NCC" stand for, and who is behind" The Ministry of Encouragement?" As for "A.R." and "Xbeliever," who on earth are these nameless people? People who don't have the courage to put their names to the views they express are not worth listening to. These people remind me of how most the ministry behaved in 1995. You may remember that JWT, senior, issued an ultimatum to the ministry. They were given three choices. One, support the doctrinal changes and keep your job; two, speak out against them and be fired, and three, disagree with them, but keep silent and you can leave with a financial package. Guess what? Most of them opted to silently walk away with a financial package. What a bunch of cowards! So come on guys, put your names to the views you express...

Tom Mahon

AW: Named letters are preferred, but I wouldn't want anyone losing a job, or being alienated from family and friends, because they wrote honestly and shared their views online. If letter writers want to use a nom de plume that's fine, but it's a courtesy to also include the real name also (but not for publication) as a sign of good faith. All of the correspondents you mention have, I believe, done this. As has the next writer.

The Auditorium concert costs: Recently a person stated: It always puzzled me that the WCG, under both HWA and Tkach, was never able to get the Ambassador Auditorium on a self-supporting basis. Was this because the WCG gave away so many tickets (and if so, to whom?), or because the venue was too small for ticket sales to meet the costs of maintaining it?

The correct answer is that with only about 1,262 seats (without orchestra-lift seats) in the Auditorium, it is almost impossible to break even, with the exorbitant costs that artists charge. However, it should also be noted that the people running the finances of the Auditorium never had a clue about money or finances. In fact, there was a conscious effort to not run reports on Profits and Losses per concert, especially when David Hulme was running the show. He thought that it would be bad form for anyone to know that certain concerts lost a lot of money versus others. 

The only person who even had a clue was the late Wayne Shilkret, who was never a member. While his background in the performing arts was amazing, his mission never was to break even. He did come pretty close when he booked the Kirov Ballet in the Shrine Auditorium, on behalf of the Ambassador Foundation. The fact is that the Auditorium could have come close to breaking even, with even a little creativity. Of course, it could never make money, as this would have triggered a problem with both the Internal Revenue Service (relative to the tax-exempt status of the WCG) and the County of Los Angeles (with regard to the property tax-exempt status of the real property). The loss of money was not ever due to giving away tickets, as this was almost entirely restricted to unsold tickets. In other words, members could request stand-by tickets if concerts were not fully sold out. It was completely due to non-financial people trying to do things that were outside of their skill sets.

Of course, anyone who wants to see how badly the finances of the WCG were run need look no further than to look at the credentials of the people who were in charge. That goes equally from the inception, through Portune, Brown, Wright, Rader, Neff, and most especially Schnippert, who [I believe] wouldn’t recognize a dollar if it walked across his face and kicked his teeth in...

550 Phrases: Surprisingly, both the 550 phrases and CultSpeak at the Painful Truth site missed a very important term: 1TO (First Tithe or Offering) - a label that was also applied to any money not sent for a specific reason, such as 3T, Building Fund, House for God --- hey, there's another one - House for God - the earlier name for Ambassador Auditorium!


KScribe the movie mogul: Yep, it is nice to take a break from the webslave duties, however this webslave has a new offering at www.herbertwarmstrongvideo.net ... the flick is an cult classic that you may find of interest - if you like zombie movies with a little humor injected! Yes, Herb, Gerald, Pack-ass, and our favorite, "Spanky" are in it also in their TRUE form! Some interesting links also...


ESN: How do I contact ESN. They don't give their address and the button to click to contact them doesn't work. Do you know their address?

AW: Try a-refuge@datawest.net

A poetic interlude: Ode to mainstream churches

Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
We'll compromise everything,
Just to be like you.


AW: More like an ode to whatever the WCG ends up calling itself. 

A hard nut to crack: Thank you for the article which I have just read. I was shocked to find out that GTA's life was so complicated with women and church position. My husband was cleaning a very old house for the past few days and he saw several old books on a dusty shelf which belonged to his cousins [including] "The Real Jesus", and he only read the very first page and already concluded something was not quite right... I've read almost 3/4 of the book and thought I might as well check his name out in the internet. And here, I found it... I quite enjoy it, like a story book... Jesus is my Savior and I read it with interest... there were some verses and quotations from the bible and then the explanation didn't go in depth into the spirit of it... Well, I can't say much for now, as I haven't finished reading the book. Since this discovery of GTA through your articles today, I'm sad to hear that a man who supposedly knows God's word, couldn't even live a life to be free from the bondage of sin, which the very purpose Christ has come to set us free from our bondage to sin. I still can't quite get over this adultery he had with many women. One woman is enough to cause a great problem and giving room for the devil to further destroy the work of God, and with many women...? I don't understand one can repent so many times and yet fall back to the very same sin over and over again. A hard nut to crack! Did he say his last repentance before he died? ... I pray that God will have mercy, and only God knows the very depth of his heart. Or Satan had such a hold on him that he died in his adulterous sin. This is very sad.

Mrs. Crystal Ong (Malaysia)



McFlurry's McProphecy: Stephen points to the McTruth

Madness in Flurrytown: Bob Thiel draws attention to the following remarks by the PCG dauphin Stephen Flurry in the November Trumpet:

In May of 2001, the Trumpet’s editor in chief announced that the world had entered into its last hour before Jesus Christ’s Second Coming (see 1 John 2:18, Revised Standard Version). In September of that year, we referred to that proclamation in the pages of this magazine. And about the same time that issue landed in mailboxes all over the world, 19 Islamic terrorists were putting the finishing touches on their plan to blow up the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Capitol...

Earlier this year, on June 4, our editor in chief announced in a sermon that the world had now entered the last half of the last hour. Less than five months after his 2001 announcement, 9/11 jolted the United States. After the June announcement, in less than three months, Katrina smashed into the Gulf Coast.

So, it seems, we only have four years left. Handy if you want to get the tithe-payers pumped up for the final big push. But what happens when those four years are up?  How 'bout: Oh, we didn't mean a chronological half-point; oh goodness gracious and heavens-to-Betsy no, we never said that, so any speculation was your problem not ours...

Journal: The latest Journal is on its way to subscribers. Non-subscribers can get a taste of what they're missing by downloading the front and back pages in PDF format. Among the offerings this month:

A Google search reveals that the multi-talented Dr. Syltie has previously written books called How Soil Works and Millennial Agriculture (along with what seems to be a monograph on bananas!) 

A book that'll get you thinking: While we can't recommend Syltie's book (having only the PR blurbs to go by), Slavery Sabbath War and Women is another matter. If you're looking for something to add a dose of curry to your ponderings on any one or more of these issues, this is a great place to begin. This book by Willard Swartley, a Mennonite scholar, is something of a classic (first published in 1983). The Sabbath section is worth the purchase all by itself. You'll be introduced to the leading Sabbath writers of modern times: Samuele Bacchiocchi, Willy Rordorf, Paul Jewett and D.A. Carson - all of whom set the standard for serious debate on this subject, and the positions they hold (each presented with great fairness). But the other essays are equally fascinating, and the slavery section is simply astonishing as Swartley uncovers the 19th century Christian commentators who took both sides of the slavery debate. There is a lot to be learned from each case study about the way we read and interpret the Bible - or perhaps misinterpret. AW mentions a lot of books in passing, but this is a definite recommendation.

On a related note, Henry Sturcke's dissertation The Rest of God is due to be reviewed here next month. This will be a more detailed review than most of those we publish.



Name change imminent: The wait is almost over and the WCG's rush to obscurity is about to pass a new milestone (or, for those cynics among us, millstone). November 1 is the likely date for the unveiling of the new, hip, name for the sect. Pastor Generalissimo Tkach is scheduled to make the announcement in a member letter.

Whatever happened to Ben Faulkner? The former LCG minister who reportedly ran afoul of Charles Bryce seems to be the driving force behind a new COG, the Church of the Sovereign God.

Trivia & Nostalgia: Beginning today we're introducing a new feature. Each week there'll be a COG trivia question, with the answer appearing in the following week's upload (usually on the same day as the mailbag) along with a new question. Here's the first:

When did WCG adopt the lion and the lamb seal, and why? What symbol was used before then?

Playing chicken: I read Jared's comments about Angela Himsel's article in the NYT with interest. In his comments he said, "In any case, the chicken custom fits into the ancient Jewish doctrine of substitutionary blood sacrifice." With tongue placed firmly in cheek, I would observe that the chicken custom also fits into the Jewish doctrine of chicken soup as a substitute for Herb's healing doctrines.

Bob E. 

Ministry of Gullibility: It is very sad that you have nothing better to do than to post the latest COG gossip on your site. After all that the church has been through in the past generation especially, you would think that God's people would have learned to pursue more positive spiritual enterprises by now, such as teaching new believers and getting ready for the return of Jesus Christ...

Ministry of Encouragement
Kernersville, North Carolina, USA
Serving the One, True God of Israel

AW: Do you actually have a name?

Faust: The book The Heart of Darkness? Try Faust by Johann Goethe!


AW: Not the Azazel Goethe we presume...

Flurry's folly (1): The worldly Rees Associates are under satanic influence. Their design calls for 13 pillars. The upper level is three in one. Perhaps could another reader state whether the Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company easement for a pipeline or for electric poles?

Flurry's folly (2): Copycat or not, the version by Flurry’s architects appeals to me more than the one in Pasadena did; however I’m having trouble imagining Flurry as an impresario. My first thought was that his anti-humanitarian statements and other boners will be serious impediments to any performing artists using his auditorium, but I can’t recall that the Ambassador Auditorium suffered from a lack of artists because of HWA’s wild pronouncements. Flurry may be able to pull it off if he cleans up his image, perhaps by becoming a copycat “Ambassador for World Peace.”

It always puzzled me that the WCG, under both HWA and Tkach, was never able to get the Ambassador Auditorium on a self-supporting basis. Was this because the WCG gave away so many tickets (and if so, to whom?), or because the venue was too small for ticket sales to meet the costs of maintaining it?

Kathleen Kakacek

Flurry's folly (3): In the proposed Imperious Auditorium being built around the 9-foot Hamburg Steinway grand piano and the candelabra, is there going to be a secret room for "That Prophet" to get stinking drunk on the Feast Days, or will he have to resort to getting plastered in the comfort of the parking lot?

Douglas Becker

Flurry's folly (4): Flurry's new auditorium reminds me of something that you would see in Communist China. Big, ostentatious and phallic. It is a cold, oppressive looking building, nothing at all like the Pasadena Auditorium. It is a cold oppressive building just like the cult of Flurryism.


Flurry's folly (5): The PCG is now on the right track, fulfilling the great commission: "Go ye therefore into all the world selling concert tickets" (KJV Foundation Series Edition)


Herbal Bestiality: While checking something at Refdesk.com, I noticed "This Day in History" (October 8) was titled "Spiegel Scandal". I could almost hear GTA's voice echoing "der Spiegel affair" which involved Franz Josef Strauss, who was to become "The Beast". Clicking "More" led to the TheFreeDictionary.com, with a link to a biography of Strauss, that included:

United States of Europe: Strauss was the author a book called The Grand Design in which he set forth his views of the way in which the future unification of Europe should be decided.

Ever since the infamous Der Spiegel affair of the 1960s, he had also become the target of the broadcasting and publishing media blitz that Herbert W. Armstrong unleashed upon Europe through the daily offshore pirate radio station broadcasts by his son Garner Ted Armstrong, his magazine called The Plain Truth and his Ambassador College campus at Bricket Wood in Hertfordshire, England. Strauss was portrayed as being, with great probability, the coming Führer who would lead a United States of Europe into a prophetic and victorious future World War III against the USA and UK at some time between 1972 and 1975. For some strange reason in 1971 Franz Josef Strauss played along with the prophetic interest shown in him as Herbert W. Armstrong recalled in a 1983 letter: "I entertained him at dinner in my home in Pasadena, and he spoke to the faculty and students of Ambassador College. I have maintained contact with him." Strauss also appeared in an interview on The World Tomorrow television program.


550 phrases (1): I want to add to the list of 550 churchspeak expressions "vital information".

550 phrases (2): I enjoyed reading the blogger’s list of 550 Worldwide Church of Godisms (Fraud). Number 32 was particularly laughable. It read: Ask yourself, "Would Herbert Armstrong behave like this?" Given what we know today of Herbert Armstrong’s fraud and his hypocritical lifestyle of not practicing what he preached (for example, seeking help from the medical profession while laymembers were chastised for lacking faith by going to doctors, committing incest while God was allegedly calling him, denying that he ever set dates for the return of Christ when his co-worker letters, Plain Truth articles and sermons say otherwise, etc., etc.), the answer to the question is a loud and resounding yes, Herbert Armstrong WOULD behave like this!

Richard A. Dahms

UCG's elective festivities: The UCG approves of the celebration of the additional Jewish feasts such as... Hanukkah and Purim. Few church members would consider their celebration, but these events are historically significant. With Hanukkah coming up it may be worthwhile considering this festival. The UCG writes in the booklet, Holidays or Holy Days Does it Matter Which Days we Keep?:

What About Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Purim? An important distinction between these holidays and those rooted in paganism is the realization that these celebrations can be kept in addition to God's commanded feast days. Unlike Christmas and Easter, they do not alter, replace or distort the meaning of a festival of God or other biblical truths. These particular days are in harmony with the apostle Paul's admonition for "giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20).


Advice from Mike Feazell: Did you see what Mike Feazell wrote about ministerial counsel in the October "Christian Odyssey"? This is from an article called "God Told Me To":

Some ordained people give poor advice. Don’t think that when a pastor or missionary says, "Hey, I think God is calling you to such-and-such," they necessarily know what they are talking about. "In a multitude of counselors, there is safety," says the proverb. We shouldn’t take one hyped-up person’s opinion as though it were God’s sacred word just because it’s what we wanted to hear.

Your punch line goes here...... !

Richard Burkard

Takeover: That's pretty funny stuff. Bill - you oughta take a load off yer feet, sit back, check out a movie or something. Try "Chill Bill". Tarantino is doing good things these days with the music and dialog, and... Uma Thurman, (but not what you're thinking...) Check out "Sin City". You could use the release, that is, until I finally get around to updating the Painful Truth site. You'll feel good then too, I promise. Better than ever. Love ya!

Mike Minton
Editor, The Painful Truth

AW: Be afraid Bill, be very afraid!

Old McPack he had a farm (1): I listened to Dave (the Apostle) Pack's sermon on "true" Christian charity. And I have to say that he is preaching what his god, the misanthropic Herbert W. Armstrong said - that giving to charity is putting band-aids on the world. All those who believe in Armstrong, those in LCG, UCG, et. al., should leave those groups and join with Pack who is preaching pure Armstrongism. I guess I'm one of the dumb cows that Pack referred to (you can preach to me all day but I just don't understand spiritual things). Ah,... dumb cow, dumb sheep,...what's the difference?


Old McPack he had a farm: (2): You may have already noticed, but just in case... I diligently listened to all 2 hours, 3 minutes and 4 seconds. Interesting. I am still too stunned to comment rationally.


Texas exile? So I see that Charles Bryce has been sent to - ahhh TEXAS. Is that not a death sentence to him? Texas where Living ministers are dropping like flies with staph infections and all sorts of evils. Were they not gonna send Lambert Greer...

Flaming Flamingo

No updates? No updates since October 8 on AW?

AW: No, and it's been marvelous! You've no idea how many things I've got done with a break in the schedule. 



Gerry - Mr. Originality: Over in Edmond the One True Pastor General is planning a new palace of the arts. PCG members are giving till it hurts and the vision is starting to take shape. Only thing is, isn't it just a little reminiscent of somewhere else - the Taj Mahal perhaps? (It does look a bit like a mausoleum.) No. No, wait, don't tell us, we'll think of it eventually...

World-Class Auditorium Planned for Imperial Campus

On August 24, 2004, a month after Imperial College acquired a 9-foot Hamburg Steinway grand piano and a pair of Persian candelabra, officials began talks with architects to begin planning of a new auditorium on the IC campus. In the summer of 2005, Foundation officials finalized the plans—designed by the Oklahoma City-based firm Rees Associates, Inc., also responsible for designing the Rose State Performing Arts Center in Midwest City. The planned 850-seat auditorium, inspired by the incomparable Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, Calif., will be a true gem in central Oklahoma and will house the piano and candelabra. The auditorium will sit on the southeast corner of the campus—near the Bryant Road entrance to the campus.

For an aerial overview of Flurry's folly, click here.

Dave gets an "F" and resubmit: What about "The Ten Commandments" AND "The Golden Rule"? Both of these can be found in "The Holy Bible". Please read these scriptures [Mr. Flurry] and send in a corrected version of your letter and how we need to respond to and help victims of tragedy. 


Herb "over the (paper) moon": Is this correct? From Wikipedia: "In 1974, Tatum O'Neal became the youngest person ever to receive the Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Paper Moon. This controversial movie which also featured her real-life father as a con-man, portrayed young Tatum as a child in the company of a crook who was being further tutored in a life of crime and corruption. The motion picture was financed by Herbert W. Armstrong's Ambassador International Cultural Foundation."

FOT online request: Would you know if any of the Churches of God will have phone hook up services during the Feast of Tabernacles, if so could you provide me with the [details]?

Angie Prefontaine

AW: We'll publish any responses so those interested have the option of participating.

Bath water: It is disgusting and nauseating that the World Wide [sic] Church of God and others like it trash the truth with their end of the world doom and half truths, but the 7th day Sabbath is truth and the bible holy days are not just Jewish but belong to God who gave them to all his people. Lets not "throw the baby out with the bath water." People who got burned by idiot misguided so-called ministers have the right to be angry and speak out, but please be careful and not trash what is truth. 


Stoned: I read the [item] about the Coronation Stone. As far as I can remember Mr. Armstrong never actually taught that it had any such meaning. You seem to have got your wires crossed, and confused yourself with what other Anglo-Israel writers might have said... The identity of the English speaking peoples as Mr. Armstrong taught it was different from those outside the church.

AW: Not that different. Check out the 1967 edition of The United States & British Commonwealth in Prophecy (p.120) and note the picture caption: "This is the same stone, brought to Ireland by Jeremiah..." Check out the October 1969 Tomorrow's World, the December 1965 GN ("David's throne is pictured on this month's cover!... When Christ returns He will move this stone to Jerusalem - where it will never be moved again.") or the 1995 PCG booklet The Key of David.

Angela Himsel (1): Angela Himsel's article was fascinating to read, especially how close she remains to Armstrongist teaching and practice even though she's left Armstrongism far behind. I've heard of several former Armstrongists who've converted to Judaism. In one way, converting to Judaism might be a natural progression from Armstrongism's harsh critique of Christianity and encouragement of some aspects of Jewish custom and tradition. (I thought I was reasonably familiar with many if not most Jewish traditions, but I hadn't heard that Jews sacrificed chickens on Yom Kippur -- cheaper and more
feasible than having the high priest offer a goat in Jerusalem, I suppose. In any case, the chicken custom fits into the ancient Jewish doctrine of substitutionary blood sacrifice. 

I didn't really find her article difficult to read, even though I was a child born and raised in the WCG. I've noticed before how people my age and younger generally had a very different experience growing up in the WCG than Himsel and her generation did. After the 1975 debacle, the WCG began to change, to become ever so slightly less an intense and harsh place, and it was not longer as inhospitable for children as it was before. (It still wasn't the best or most enjoyable place for children, but the formation of youth-oriented programs in the 1970s and 1980s did help to ameliorate things.)

Himsel doesn't seem to be aware of the major changes in the WCG that took place in the 1990s -- she barely, barely hints at them, in her remarks about her parents, but those remarks give no indication about how much has changed in the WCG. As a result, she gives a better picture of the WCG of her childhood than she does of the current WCG. Himsel [also] doesn't mention how strenuously the WCG attacked and derided "the Secret Rapture," even though the WCG believed in something not entirely unlike it. She also doesn't mention that the WCG claimed the beginning of the Great Tribulation would not be "the end of the world."

This might seem like nitpicking, but I bring these things up because her comments would lead most readers to get the wrong idea about the WCG, and mistakenly conclude it was just another fundamentalist Protestant sect that for some peculiar reason observed Jewish holy days and avoided unclean meat.

Jared Olar

AW: Conveying the impressions she had of the WCG in her childhood was the point of the article, not a detailed study of the pros and cons of WCG dogma.

Angela Himsel (2): What a thought-provoking essay Angela Himsel wrote in the New York Times. And yet in a way, how sad it is. For all the mocking Garner Ted Armstrong did about "fear religion," the Church of God practiced it in its preaching so often that some people fled it -- and in the process, a few ran away from Jesus and the salvation He provides. May all Church of God ministers learn, as UCG President Clyde Kilough has said recently, to "keep the main thing the main thing." And that main thing is NOT to watch for The Beast and think about all the evil he/it will bring. May it be the real "Good News" -- and may that news not be an afterthought in the last five minutes of a scary sermon, or the last two paragraphs of a two-page single-spaced article.

Happy Holy Days

Richard Burkard

Angela Himsel (3): The New York Times is really on a downturn in quality if it can print rubbish such as this, without any fact checking... In 1968 the media orientated WCG (supported by members) was dedicated to warning the world of what would happen between 1972 and 1975 (as the WCG saw the future.) There was no internal talk of members eating each other or anything of equal note - just the opposite. In the WCG of 1968 the members were to have "fled" to a "place of safety" while the world went to hell in a handbasket. The recent record of genocide and natural disasters in this world shows that on a limited scale Wolverton was not far off base with his lurid drawings.

The WCG of 1968 was attracting intelligent and well educated people as well as the run of the mill church going type. Why the WCG survived after 1972 when the jig was up I do not know. What I do know is that this woman has written a load of bunk which has been published by the NYT. So what did this jewel of a human being do after growing up in the WCG? She flocked to Judaism! Give us all a break, please. We now have radical Islam as a result of Judaism propping up a radical Israel in the Middle East. What Wolverton merely illustrated and HWA/GTA mouthed over the airwaves was one thing, but I don't know of a single example of where the WCG as a movement declared war on a population (like Israel on the Palestinians), or spread disease or caused famine. Like it or not as a matter of sincerity, but the WCG preached peace, cleanliness and good dietary habits. Now that is a fact and I write with the authority of being there and knowing the situation first hand. Sure there is a place to rip HWA and Company apart, but this NYT article was not it, because it was untrue and it is an example of poor journalism by the NYT whose articles are now printed without editorial control.

An Ambassadorite from the 60s

AW: The distinction is between the doctrine of the Great Trib wiping out the bad guys while the righteous Philadelphians cowered safely at Petra, and the impressions on a young child's mind. Himsel wasn't trying to document WCG's doctrines, but tell a personal story. To assume kids hear the same things as adults is usually a mistake. BTW can one person be said to "flock"?

Angela Himsel (4): Angela Himsel's article in the New York Times, 10/2/05, "Pondering the Great Tribulation," (10/4/05 issue of AW), reflects accurately the atmosphere in the church in 1970 when I first attended. Because of her effort many will be made aware of the damaging psychological effects that cults cause in children.


Angela Himsel (5): I don't mean any disrespect, but Angela Himsel hoists a live chicken above her head, twirling it around, and believes that a HEN will help her attain "goodness". What else can I say? She certainly does need attention, articles appearing everywhere as if her experience was important in some way, and using ludicrous constructs to attract attention (although the story about exposing her breasts to Philip may be truthful despite its adolescent sensationalism) . The whole "which child would my parents eat first" is a totally fictional construct - does anyone in any COG anywhere ever remember a teaching about members having to consider eating their own children? I am sure it WAS a genuine thought in her then child-like mind, but she should admit that she is generating the bizarre, and not her church.

AW: But then children do tend to have child-like minds...

Angela Himsel (6): I enjoyed Angela Himsel's piece in the NY Times. The big thing that seems to stick in her mind is the reference to parents eating their children in sermons on Trumpets. What she fails to mention, and this is understandable given her present affiliation, is that this was based on accounts of the siege of Jerusalem in Josephus.


Angela Himsel (7): Did the Worldwide Church of God ever tell members that they would be eating their children in the predicted return of the Messiah in 1975? From articles which I have personally read and sermons heard, references to people eating their own kind seemed only to refer to the outside world (i.e. non members) caught up in the tribulation. The members of the WCG were never affected by these issues. Does this make the position right? Of course not! These things should never have been said. At the time leading up to 1975 there was a great expectation that Christ would return. Two major religious groups predicted Christ would return in that year. They were the Jehovah Witnesses and the Worldwide Church of God... Many people left both organizations when the Messiah failed to appear...

The 1970s were a time of much upheaval in the Worldwide Church of God. The failed prophecy of 1975 was followed by the disfellowshipping of Garner Ted Armstrong... People began to loose hope in the organization... Most of us with roots in the Worldwide Church of God can understand Angela's frustrations, hopes and fears. We have all been part of that system at one time or another. Few, of us would want to go back to such a rigid, authoritarian structure. The current off-shoots of the Worldwide Church of God simply do not attract large numbers of people. It is not the doctrines of the church which is at fault, but the structure of the church. It must be remembered in its height of popularity the Worldwide Church of God had in excess of 200,000 people attending the church. This was during the early days of its reforms under Joseph Tkach Snr. Typically called the golden years of the church...

In the past, the Worldwide Church of God was successful because information was suppressed. People could not find out easily what was happening in the church. People were kept in the dark so they stayed with status quo. Even the most uninformed person today is very well informed thanks to the internet. This transforms peoples minds and attitudes... The days of searching for the one true church and staying with it are long gone... The change in the doctrine from the one true church to any group with certain parameters popularized by Tkach Snr has caused this lack of fear.

The offshoots of the WCG need to modernize the church if they wish to be successful... A successful church will have outreach programs, community welfare programs, have open platforms for members to share their views, encourage business activities of its members. The most important thing is to invest in the youth of the church--without the youth the church does not have a future. We only need to examine the business model of the Seventh Day Adventist church to see how the church can be successful. The President of the Seventh Day Adventist church has a website where the youth in the church can ask questions, raise points or ideas which go directly to the President himself. An almost unheard of approach in the dying breed of Armstrongite groups. Perhaps this is the problem. The leadership are out of touch with its own membership.

In defense of the Worldwide Church of God... they have popularized the observance of the Seventh day Sabbath. They revealed that the Sunday is not the seventh of the week, but it is the first day of the week... The church inspired within me a desire to study the Bible to find out what it says. We may disagree with things the WCG taught but the solid foundation of studying the Bible was one of the healthy aspects of my life that the church made...

Robert Taylor

AW: This letter has been condensed to bring it under the 700 word maximum.

Chicken Little: I understood "Chicken Little" as an individual misinterpretation of an event leading to a false proclamation of imminent demise. Does any alert about bird flu really cause people to panic? So far there is very little reaction. Perhaps we will see people wearing (Mikulicz's) surgical face masks or even respirators again. If some national leader announced that nations in southeast Asia were an Axis of Evil with biological weapons that they are using on their own people, and later said that there are reports of chickens of brobdingnagian destruction, I see how that could cause some people to panic.

I thank RK for directing my attention to the obvious antonym for lilliputian.

Ben Faulkner come in please: I appreciate the posting and email address you sent me for Ben Faulkner [at Yahoo], however, I think the email address provided is not current since I have not heard from him for a week. Can you please post again for his current email address?

George Thomas

Relief concerns (1): According to the website for the new "Tom Kerry Church," or The Church of God Worldwide Ministries, you can send your donations to... Florida. Then Kerry and crew will "feed hungry New Orleans hurricane victims," at a location undisclosed... Since there are no hungry New Orleans people about the area to feed, where are the donations going? I was in New Orleans recently. FEMA, State of Louisiana, and local Parish authorities are doing all of the "feeding" required. 

Relief concerns (2): As of October 6th, 2005 Honest Joe says he hustled up $213,000 extra dollars carte blanche for the hurricane victims or for any "future disasters" that may occur (such as the Great Tribulation). "The "Disaster Relief Fund" may be used for WCG victims of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, or future disasters"

I shortly expect to see Junior with his sleeves rolled up in steamy Louisiana hammering up some new church shelters for our destitute membership. And cool quarter million should buy a lot of bologny sandwiches and milk!! But, I also wonder if his definition of a "disaster" might include having eggs and bacon served on stainless steel platter, or having to fly coach with the hoi polloi? Is it really too much trouble for impecunious Joe to tell us exactly how he spent our hard earned hurricane money? 

AW: Interesting that on September 21 Joe was simply calling it the WCG Katrina Fund, while a few days later it seems to have morphed into a fully fledged "Disaster Relief Fund" (those disturbing quote marks are supplied by Joe, leaving us all to wonder just how legitimate it really is). The obvious question is what kind of rules (if any) this "fund" operates under, and who makes the decisions. 

Takeover? Has the editor of The Painful Truth taken over this site? It certainly seems identical of late.

Bill S

AW: Nope, but any six figure offers will definitely be entertained :-) 

Siding with C.S. Lewis: Anyone who has exited Armstrongism, as I have, should read Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and watch Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Herbert Armstrong taught that fiction was a waste of time and reading fiction was like filling your mind with someone else's daydreams. C.S. Lewis taught that good literature magnifies reality and clarifies important concepts about life. I side with C.S. Lewis. If you read Conrad's novellete or watch Apocalypse Now you will awaken to this understanding. Because both these works will present something that you know in a most personal way as an exiter -- something you had to think through carefully and then abandon with some pain. The fantastic imagery that Captain Willard saw from the river patrol boat in Viet Nam is an dreamy, flowing allegory for the experience of being an Armstrongite. Reading the Ambassador Watch blog has the same effect -- a drifting phantasm of diabolical, Armstrongite imagery that at one time made sense to you but no longer does. The points of comparison are many and it is a fun game to find them, but at the conclusion, Captain Willard's renegade and horrific Kurtz is our Herbert, muttering: "The horror, the horror."

As I read Conrad's Heart of Darkness again at the beginning of the summer, I was struck by a passage that was a discussion of evil. As the steamboat that Marlow was on approached the dense jungle, a malignant turmoil of vines and trees, Marlow detected the presence of a great Malevolence waiting patiently, almost as if it were watching him. This seemed chillingly familiar to me. I remember dim autumn evenings in Big Sandy, Texas as the setting sun was occluded by the dense forest in the west. There was a sense of something terrifying and evil in the thick, humid, cool air that settled over the AC campus and surrounding country like a heavy blanket. If I were busy I might not notice it. But at other times, I would stop and consider it and wonder why this place was so unique, why it was immersed in such a profound and dark melancholy. I have lived in the South, Southwest an Midwest and have experienced no other place like this. But this experience in Big Sandy made it possible for me to know precisely what Conrad was describing. 

Armstrongites promote a "gospel" of predictive prophecy. They wave their arms and point to eschatological destruction as the great Malevolence in the world watches and orchestrates silently. But for some reason they do not seem to be able to focus on the central figure in the painting, they miss the lines of perspective, and so they do not grasp that for them the apocalypse is now.

David Anderson



Eagle's wings and folding chairs: Angela Himsel ("Pondering the Great Tribulation") has more published comments about her upbringing in WCG in a journal called Zeek:

I was raised in a small, fundamentalist Christian faith, the Worldwide Church of God, which observed Saturday as the Sabbath, eschewed Christmas and Easter as ‘pagan,’ and instead celebrated the Jewish holidays – Passover, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, and Pentecost. We didn't eat pork or unclean meat or fish. We believed that Jesus came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it.

This church also taught that the world was soon to come to an end. Saturday after Saturday, I sat on hard, folding chairs in a rented hall, and through innumerable two-hour sermons listened to the minister explain God’s Divine Plan. The minister’s voice rose to a shout then dropped to an ominous whisper, “Many are called but few are chosen and these are the end times we are living in. We will not see this millennium out! Probably not this decade! The devil has a hold of this world,” he hit the pulpit with his fist for emphasis, “and brethren, we had better WAKE UP! Look at it: Drugs! Pornography! Women’s lib, which is one of Satan’s very sly ways of getting at the American family. Women are the most susceptible and that old devil knows it. Jesus is soon to return, like a thief in the night, and we cannot slumber, we cannot sleep! God has chosen us, brethren, many are called but few are chosen. But we need your tithes to preach the gospel. Your money is not yours! It is God’s just as the Sabbath belongs to God. These are the end times we are living in and as the bride of Christ, we must be prepared to accept the Bridegroom when He returns to earth.”

When the world ended, we were told, we would be spirited up in the sky and transported ‘on wings of eagles,’ according to the Book of Revelations, to a place in the “wilderness.” That place was believed by the church founder, Herbert Armstrong, to be Petra in Jordan. Those who were not chosen would remain behind and undergo the Great Tribulation.

We were also told that the Bible was the literal word of God, and that only the ministers and those with a ‘converted mind’ could truly understand it. It was their interpretation of Biblical text that I grew up with, and the fact that I had a problem with the women’s role in the world (She was to be a helpmeet to her husband, a man is the head of the woman just as Jesus is the head of the church) indicated that I had not received God’s Holy Spirit. When I asked my father why my sisters and I had to do the dishes and mop the floors and do all of the "girls’ work," he replied, “When God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, did he ask why? No, he didn’t, and I think we could all learn from his example.”

Several readers have commented on the NYT article, and we'll run those in the next mailbag.

Librarian "makes amends": Neil Godfrey is a former WCG member of 22 years standing who has "sought to make amends for this misspent youth" by "tracking down the original culprits for Christianity, especially the origins of the Bible..." 

As a fundamentalist WCG believer I believed I had all the big answers to the big questions of life. I simply shut my mind to any idea that questioned those answers. Today I feel much more comfortable with questions without final answers. Living with questions rather than answers has made me more open to all that life has to offer. The only authority I accept as my guide to life comes from within me, and I have been surprised at how 'moral', 'compassionate', and 'complete' we can be when we finally learn to listen to ourselves and be truly free. (From a bio on Robert McNally's site)

Now working as a librarian at the University of Southern Queensland (Toowoomba) he has a number of articles online including Mark as parable fiction and In search of Ancient Israel.



Pondering the Great Tribulation: As today is the Feast of Trumpets, a festival foreshadowing the End of the Age (at least in Armstrong theology) the following item might be particularly relevant. The New York Times has just published the personal reminisces of a women who grew up in the WCG. The article makes daunting reading, especially for those who raised children in the church.

For years, the question nagged at me: If my parents had to choose one of us 10 kids to eat, who would it be? It was 1968, and I was 7. According to the Worldwide Church of God, the small evangelical church my family attended in Evansville, Ind., every Saturday, the world was going to end in 1975. In the end times, the ministers shouted from the pulpit, "there will be mass murder, corpses will litter the streets, and the world will reek of the stench of dead bodies!" 

Passing by with Levite Dave: Among those in the dankest corners of unreconstructed Armstrongism few can compete with David Pack's group, the Restored Church of God. XCG's Gary Scott notes that Pack is preparing the flock for a new sermon on the evils of charity and compassion. The following comments are Big Dave's in RCG News: 

On October 8th we will post a sermon, “Do Christians Give to Relief Organizations?—What Jesus Actually Taught!” Many in the splinters have dramatically changed their view of this subject—but seem not to recognize they have. Mass amnesia has set in. Entire organizations have forgotten what Mr. Armstrong taught—and the Bible’s plain teaching. Be careful of “answering a matter before you ‘remember’ it” (Prov. 18:13). Much—MUCH—more is at stake here than meets the eye. You cannot afford to miss this sermon!

A bargain!  Veteran correspondent Dateline Pasadena (DP) has been tracking down cult memorabilia. How about a signed photograph of (gasp!) Garner Ted Armstrong on History for Sale: The Autograph and Manuscript Leader. And yes, it can be yours for a mere $199! DP wryly observes that this item is "for those that are really desperate!" 

But wait, there's more! If your idea of better value involves silverware, check out this platter with the church seal. It's yours for only $4,600. A bargain at twice the price and just perfect for serving bacon and eggs!


02 October

Big Sandy situation: Further information on the recent difficulties with refugee services at the Big Sandy ALERT campus (formerly Ambassador College) comes from TV station KLTV 7, the ABC affiliate in Tyler, Texas (September 29).

Many new evacuees at the Alert Academy in Big Sandy say they are angry and frustrated. Before arriving last night, many had lived in three different shelters in the past week. Evacuees say they don't understand why they were brought to Big Sandy... "We are very angry because I feel like we are treated like animals," said Mayra Taylor, Port Arthur Evacuee. "I don't feel like we are being treated like human beings."

A local correspondent notes: "For nostalgia buffs, this story also has a link to the video clip it transcribes. The clip shows the convention center and part of the piney woods festival camping area. It also shows the strong emotions some of the evacuees feel about being stuck in Big Sandy!"

Throwing some further historical light on the situation, RK notes: "I remember sweating it out in September during double services on Festival days. Even with several giant fans going full blast that convention center was like a brobdingnagian convection oven! Imagine a couple thousand people in there. WCG finally took it out of commission over 10 years ago because of a massive problem with mold, we were told."

Local journalist and longtime church member Mac Overton, who edits the newspaper of record for the county, also comments: As many have probably guessed, the warehouse building where hurricane evacuees were placed is the "Tabernacle" site where Feast services were held for decades at Big Sandy. Up to 11,000 were at services there at one time in the late 60s or early 70s, I've heard. Someone allegedly took a temperature reading in the middle of the congregation at one Feast in the early 70s, and it was reportedly about 120 degrees. What some may not know is that there was air-conducting and heating ducts under the podium, keeping the speaker comfortable. There was an air conditioning unit outside the west wall of the building which provided the comfort factor. 

In the defense of ALERT, they told those who wanted to ship hundreds more evacuees there that they only had the big un-air conditioned warehouse to put them up. Those in Lufkin told the ones they were wanting to move that they would be given private lodging with showers when they got there. All the private lodging (mainly the dorms) had been taken up by hundreds of refugees that arrived earlier. The problem was unrealistic expectations caused by the officials or aid workers further south that wanted to move the evacuees on so schools in the Lufkin area, which had been used as evacuee centers, could reopen. By Thursday (Sept. 29), order was returning and the situation was much better.



Big Sandy campus not coping: Conditions have been grim for families seeking refuge from hurricane devastation at the Red Cross facility on the former Ambassador College campus in Big Sandy, according to a report in the Tyler Morning Telegraph. Excerpts:

"We can't stay here," said Joseph Tibbs Sr., surveying a humid, stark, 100,000-square-foot metal warehouse at the ALERT Academy three miles east of Big Sandy at 3 p.m. Wednesday. "My wife is ill, and she can't take this heat. It must over a hundred degrees in here...

Scott Turner, 30, a construction worker from Orange, held his crying 1-year-old son Bryston, who is suffering from an ear infection picked up at the last shelter, he said.

"There were no showers there," an exhausted looking Turner said, "and they told us to use a cold-water hose to clean Bryston. We did that, and now he's got the ear infection."

Promised medications for the infection never arrived, his wife, Jamie, said. "There was a doctor there and we got a prescription," she said, "but days later, we never received any medications. They said they would meet us up here with the meds, but they're not here. We haven't done laundry for a week, and we have three kids. We were just told there are no laundry facilities here, either. They told us this place would be better than going elsewhere. How can we trust them?" ...

Susan Campbell of the Tyler Chapter of the American Red Cross verified on Wednesday evening that she had no contact or prior knowledge of the operation in Big Sandy. "I have no idea what they're doing up there," she said. "My concern is that this does not give the Red Cross a black eye. Donations are down for Rita, than they were for Katrina," she said. "People are not responding the same way they did just a few weeks ago."

Hopefully in the days since (the report was dated September 28) the situation has improved.


Crosses (1): In response to Libro about no one in the room at the Sheraton Hotel disdaining the crosses placed there by well intentioned folks is true, However the LCG ministry going to help the surviving brethren such as the one Minister from Minneapolis and the CAD from LCG HQ in Charlotte were very vocal in their opposition to the crosses. Thus the problem was with the "Old guard" from HWA days, that do not tolerate anything or anyone despite good intentions.

Rod 2

Crosses (2): It is hard to react with a protest when we see people doing or appearing to do a good thing. In the case of putting crosses up by non-COG people, we have to look at Mormons. Is it "OK" for them to go around to graves, baptizing the dead into their church? Or baptizing infants without the parent's permission" I was born in a catholic hospital and my parents specifically said no baptizm. Yet when my parents came to visit me before I was to go home, they caught the priests and nuns taking me to the chapel to be baptized. Did they "mean well"? Is that acceptable? When people of one denomination are killed, is it OK for another denomination to put their symbols of Christianity up as a memorial? I think it was right that mention was made that we do not use crosses, that was the least protest anyone could make, a protest that should have been made. 


Stoned & Rocked (1): So mystery still surrounds the stone! Who knows what legends await HWA's Prayer Rock, now safely in the hands of the PCG? We have the technology, I think it should be analysed and documented, to test any future extrabiblical claims that await. Possession his end-time relic may one day be used as a proof of a new theoretical core doctrine! Of course, I am assuming the PCG does have the true Rock, and not a Satanic counterfeit...

Regarding "helping the world" I can't forget a scathing PT article by John Halford, directed against the Band Aid concert to help Ethiopia. Perhaps the hidden reason for this attack was because the government of Ethiopia had toppled HWA's pal and fellow descendent of Solomon, Haile Selassie, or for the concert's hit song, Don't they know it's Christmas. Regarding HWA's pronouncements from the pulpit, I recall a recorded sermon in which he mentioned giving wheelchairs to the Israeli Army. He then made some remark against any opposition to his giving a gift using our tithe money. We were told we might not like what he did, "but God was pleased."


Stoned & Rocked (2): I hope that you are doing well. I just wanted to send an e-mail your way to thank you for the service you provide in making all of this information and commentary available on "Ambassador Watch." It helped me in escaping Armstrongism once I began having questions of my own. I also would like to comment in response to "Stoned" (1), "If we can't have relics, how can we be expected to have faith??!!": Well said! Is it not indeed written that "Faith without relics is dead"?

I have often wondered why it is that the bible depicts the ancients (who didn't have "the holy spirit") as having been granted so much personal attention from, and contact with, "god," and, yet, believers today must take everything "on faith." The question has been raised before, of course, but I have yet to read an answer that doesn't resort to some form of circular logic. Perhaps it is indeed one of the stumpers for the bible thumpers... Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you, and keep up the good work!


Joe in Edmonton: On Sept 24/05 Dr. Joe Tkach Jr. preached a sermon in the Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, World Wide Church of God congregation, entitled, "Let's Travel Together". In making one of his stronger points, he quoted from Philippians 3:8 "I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them as dung". He then went on a tirade in reference to the word "dung" and noted that "dung" was translated from the Greek word SKUBALON which meant, "what is thrown to the dogs", "that is refuse" and "dung". (From Strong's Concordance). He overlooked these definitions and instead suggested that the better translation would be the acronym from the words: "Shipped High In Transit". Essentially his point was that the 10 commandments, the Holy Days and the doctrine of clean and unclean meats were, "SKUBALON". Based on his sermon I am suggesting that the following name be considered for the WWCG... The Congregation of SKUBALON

Mocking: I am simply chagrined at xbeliever's response. Here I flatter him by acknowledging that he has the expertise to judge (mock) ministers and ask him to be more specific in his evaluation and he begins his response by stating that I am mocking him. Sir you are taking this too lightly. Some of these ministers have PhDs', Masters and at minimum BA degrees. Many have spent decades studying the Bible and preaching. Based on their qualifications and experience, more details should be provided in their critiques. Oh I know that you would prefer that we just except your conclusions on this matter, but if your evaluations are to be credible, may I suggest that you include some pertinent details that will add authenticity to your evaluation. As a qualified critic, you should really include details in your critiques such as, are the minister's hand gestures appropriate or do they preach with their hands in their pockets, do their ties match their suits and shirts, have they used humor to keep the brethren awake, are their flies zipped up, have they inadvertently passed gas, or do their hands play with change in their pockets or with their private parts when they are preaching? This will go a long way in helping us determine whether they are qualified or unqualified or just simply buffoons? This criteria has been selected as it is assumed that it is rather unlikely that you listen to sermons and it would be helpful if you used some rationale for judging (mocking) the ministry.

No Longer Shocked, or dismayed, but wishing to be helpful

AW: Okay guys, break it up. Back to your corners. This correspondence is now cauterized.

Brian Knowles: Your musings reminded me of a class I once took from Brian (when he was editor of the PT or some-such in the late '70s). One time he talked to us of different religious magazines. When he got to Moody Monthly , he told us it was known as "the magazine for women everywhere." Whether that's a liberal or a conservative observation, I know not. At the time, it seemed funny. And when I'm not being politically correct, it still does.


P.S. Brian could be mordantly funny, in a British sort of way (he is Canadian, after all!), but he always seemed moody himself in the class he taught, perhaps fearful of getting the chop from HWA at any time. Which I guess he did, soon thereafter. 

Email request: I am trying to send an email to Ben Faulkner to wish him support after his disfellowship from LCG... he [once] showed me much kindness and help...

George C. Thomas

AW: If anyone can help we'll pass on the email address to George.

3 day week: Interesting to read in Joe Jr. Jr.’s Blog that Joe Jr. only goes into the Office 3 days a week.

Jonathan Higbed

AW: Pastor General's perks! Isn't it good to see the offerings being used so well.

Welcome to our facility - oh, hang on, push off! Thanks the work you do on this site. Its a valuable service that I appreciate.

I did want to draw your attention to one thing I noticed that I believe is a misrepresentation. I have friends of various COG backgrounds in the Big Sandy area and this is what I learned. The COG-Big Sandy has frequently allowed the local schools to use their building for many functions. The members help to prepare food and serve the teachers/students at banquets and ceremonies. If fact, the Big Sandy teachers had just met at the church's building a month before for a teacher's award ceremony. The ONLY reason No Teacher Left Behind meeting was cancelled was because it was a political meeting. I believe that particular COG is registered as a non-profit org and therefore can not get involved in politics. There is no other reason for them to have cancelled the meeting. Notice the writer of the article did not bother to interview anyone from that church or to get another opinion. 

Perhaps you might consider getting another opinion before casting aspersions on a group, that from what I can tell, is being open and reaching out to their local community, as well as doing a pretty good job (albeit slow) of coming out of Armstrongism at its own pace, without being beat over the head by some domineering minister.

Lee Varner

AW: No aspersions were cast, we simply drew attention to a published press report (forwarded to AW by a Big Sandy reader). If there is a lesson to be learned it's simply that accepting a booking and then reneging isn't exactly a good look.

GET OUT! OUT!! OUT!!! Yep, that's Gerald Flurry alright -- still doing the same terrible things to people that used to get him into trouble with his bosses in the WCG, and finally disfellowshipped from the WCG. Years ago my pastor in the WCG told me some things about Gerald Flurry's actions as a WCG "minister" -- I'll just say that they're exactly like the things that are described here. I'll say again that I believe Gerald Flurry is mentally ill -- and I'm not saying that as an insult; I really mean mentally ill in a clinical sense. Not that I have any qualifications to make such a diagnosis, but that's my opinion based on all I've heard and read about him and from him.

Jared Olar

Bird Flu: I'm not clear about why you pooh-pooh H5N1 as one scrawny chicken when perhaps 100000 have died. It might be easier to guess why you wrote "it's neck". Real people are dying from avian flu and it is spreading. As a citizen of the USA, I agree that my country is not prepared for the inevitable.

AW: What country is? But (with no particular reference to Ian's article) what's to be gained by panicking people without at least offering some practical advice?

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