AR19 March 31, 1982
NEW ALLEGATIONS HIT ARMSTRONG
More than one year after the California state attorney general discontinued his investigation of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), new evidence has come forth indicating that not only were law enforcement officials then on the right track, but that corruption within the church hierarchy is now greater than ever before.
The allegations are contained in a 14-page letter, dated Dec. 30, 1981, written to the church's board of directors and council of elders by W. Jack Kessler, an ex-auditor for the church. Kessler, who is an Ambassador College graduate, CPA, and lawyer, had his contract to do accounting for the church terminated last summer during a purge of suspected Rader loyalists. He was disfellowshipped on Sept. 9, 1981, for ostensibly - according to Ellis LaRavia - refusing to turn over certain information.
Many of you may have read of the "Kessler letter" in news reports. The Los Angeles Times (March 11, 1982), the Pasadena Star-News (March 12 and 14), and many other news organizations have run articles on the subject because of copies distributed to the press by Ambassador Report and its friends. Even though it means getting "scooped," we have, since our publication's inception in the mid-70s, tried to cooperate extensively with the news media by making all our information and documentation readily available to the press. We think this is one more way we can serve both our readers and those still in the church.
While the coverage by the news media has been excellent, we think you might find it valuable if we excerpt the Kessler letter more extensively. We are not presenting the letter in its entirety, however, because frankly about one-half of it is just plain boring. Almost all of what we are omitting is nothing more than convoluted reasoning and scripturally based justifications for the threat of some unspecified legal action. Nevertheless, much of the letter is of interest. After a four-paragraph introduction Kessler writes:
The human condition is such that it would shock probably only just a few to learn of the moral depravity that is reported commonly among you. Although others, such as Dave Robinson and Floyd Lochner, apparently thought that it might work to their advantage to report Mr. Armstrong's admission (which he's made to several) that he had engaged repeatedly in incestuous intercourse with his daughter during the first 10 years of his ministry, as well as more recent, self-confessed sexual perversity, such attacks have been weathered, and I know that both you and the membership have steeled yourselves against potential adverse publicity, if any, that such revelations could bring. After all, Christ did say that they that are whole don't need a physician, and he came to call not the righteous but the sinners to repentance (Matt. 9:12-13). I mention this to you for a couple of reasons. First, because some have tried to use such information in an illegitimate way in the past, and because some of you assume that anyone in possession of such knowledge may try to do so in the future (perhaps because some of you would like to think that you could use it as some kind of leverage even now), I want to draw at the outset a clear distinction between that and the approach of this letter. Second, even though by mentioning the more notorious of the scandals, some could accuse me of using it nonetheless, I feel that its mention and dismissal as an issue precludes anyone from using it in the future or from construing my actions as being overshadowed by some implied threat of its later disclosure. The particular facts are a matter of fairly wide public dissemination in any event, so their mention here should defuse any remaining power some feel that their disclosure could bring.
The issue of morality takes on its true significance when it is not a mere weakness of the flesh, but when, coupled with blatant
hypocrisy, it is used for political advantage. At the beginning of this year two people responded to a vicious smear campaign that had been launched by Mr. Kevin Dean. Mr. Dean apparently had forsaken Christ to become a disciple of Segretti and Krogh. Showing tremendous energy, if not ingenuity, he (with the assistance of his brother and fellow minister Aaron) purchased an extensive cache of electronic surveillance equipment in Hong Kong and Tokyo, organized a burglary squad, which included the campus locksmith, and set out to discredit any who stood in the way of his rise to power. If he couldn't dig up any dirt he could always invent it. (Aaron admitted to his being especially anxious to go to work on Mr. Rod Meredith's phone lines.) I suppose that such antics are par for the course in large, centrally managed organizations, but it shocked some of their early targets. For those of you who are not as familiar with the mundane details of these covert operations, you might check with fellow board members Tkach, LaRavia, McNair, or Walker. It would not be a good idea to reread the coverup under Mr. Armstrong's signature in the Pastor General's report (ironically referring to Watergate as if that scandal concerned the actual burglaries rather than the web of falsehoods), unless you wish to be disillusioned by fairly clumsy fabrication.
Mr. Dean's activities are instructive not for their intrinsic evil, but for the reaction their disclosure received.This brings us closer to the heart of why I am writing to you. When Mr. John Kineston and Mr. Joseph Kotora approached Mr. Herbert Armstrong and told him of Mr. Dean's activities, and defended themselves against false accusations that Mr. Dean had made against them to Mr. Armstrong, he reacted in a way that is by now probably all too familiar to most of you. First, he told them he knew that everything that they had said in their defense was entirely true and he knew them to be men of truth. Second, he told them that they would be given the chance to face their accusers and that he would "clean up this stinkpot" as soon as he returned to Pasadena. Third, he saw to it that Messrs. Kineston and Kotora were fired and disfellowshipped before such a confrontation could ever take place. (This result, you see, promotes unity and harmony among the evildoers within the Church and only sacrifices a few innocent lives in the process.) And fourth, Mr. Armstrong made sure that you all saw and heard, once again, how futile it is to be a whistle-blower in this church ....
Mr. Armstrong is somewhat of a tragic figure. He is a man to whom a great calling has been given and through whom marvelous insight has been revealed. He is also a man motivated by strong passions, and is perhaps one of the most naturally selfish men to have walked this earth, ever. That he has been able to control his desires and egocentrism to an appreciable degree shows some measure of his tremendous will, and only God can judge to what extent he has overcome more than the rest of us, as well he may have. He is also an uneducated man, though he has proved more than any that this does not have to be a handicap; indeed, in his case it may be to his advantage to stick close to the source of his inspiration without trying to refine his understanding in the light of disparate thoughts. But there is a liability implicit in this background, and that is ignorance of the workings of the world, coupled with a disdain for the regulatory milieu in which the Church must survive. Christ didn't urge his disciples to needlessly insult Caesar, indeed, it is a distinct disadvantage to be neither wise nor harmless (Cf. Matt. 10:16). It will be easy enough to attract persecution simply by being righteous. It makes no sense to invite it for all the wrong reasons.
As long as Mr. Armstrong and the Church receive competent advice on legal matters, however, the potential exposure can be minimized. But Mr. Armstrong's advisors not only have to be knowledgeable, they must also be candid, forthright, and vigorous in curbing any of his untoward desires that run afoul of the laws of the land. Because of the tremendous power that his office has within the hierarchy, and because of the attitude of unquestioning obedience that is preached to all subordinates, and also because of the imbedded notion discussed above that he is accountable only to God, Mr. Armstrong is capable of causing considerable problems both for himself and for the Church. And he will do this damage without the benefit of competent counsel if everyone apprehends that he may be feeling a little too much like the queen of hearts on the day that they venture forth to advise.
There have been only two individuals of any consequence whom God has called to fulfill the role that has now devolved upon you. Loma Armstrong and Stan Rader were the only persistent, loving, voices of restraint. Sadly, both are now silenced. With no effective governor, it is only a matter of time before grave damage is done.
I feel a particularly acute sense of need to see some discipline reimposed. For the past 10 years, in one way or another, I had been used by the Church to help it develop a system of internal controls so that abuses could not overrun the system. Unfortunately, no system of controls, whether they be financial, administrative, or otherwise, can be any more sound than the people who maintain the system. And every control is capable of being overridden by top management, even more so in the Worldwide Church of God. Having seen each of the key financial personnel wrongly fired or banished in the past 12 months, and replaced by people, who have neither the competence, the wisdom, nor the guts to keep the system intact, there appears little hope for the Church to reform its ways.
Mr. Willis J. Bicket, the former assistant secretary-treasurer, was asked by Mr. Armstrong to violate the system "as a test" on the day after Mr. Rader's replacement had been announced. From an outsider's viewpoint he passed the test; that is, he refused to break the established controls without a direct command from Mr. Armstrong after a chance to confront him in a face-to-face meeting wherein he could explain his actions. But Mr. Armstrong was clearly of the opinion that he had failed. Mr. Bicket was immediately removed from his position and sent to be on the faculty of the Church's junior college in Big Sandy, Texas. He was later threatened (in writing) with immediate termination if he did not sign a false representation letter to Arthur Andersen & Co. to show that he was thereby on Mr. Armstrong's "team." In fairness to Mr. Neff, who signed the threat, I hasten to point out that Mr. Neff later claims not to have known that Mr. Bicket considered the representations to be false, and blames his alleged confusion on the resignation of the auditing firm's manager who was to have responded to Mr. Bicket's reservations some months earlier. Mr. Bicket was terminated shortly thereafter.
The specific financial abuses that have plagued the Church in the past were bred in just such a climate of intimidation. What is to prevent the same scheme that Mr. Ray Wright used to embezzle over a quarter of a million dollars from being used again? Who is left in the organization, other than Mr. Wright (who is now back in the financial affairs office, without having repaid the funds), who knows how he pulled it off and who would recognize it again? Who will prevent the Church from getting involved in another $50,000.00 kickback scheme to a Mexican bank when it sells another jet aircraft, other than the same legal office who so poorly monitored the first sale? Who will tell Mr. Dennis Stauffer this time that a scheme is more than just ill-advised whereby corporate officers are able to purchase monetized silver and gold bullion from the Church at its cost through the use of fraudulent book entries to show that the investments were purchased on behalf of the officer (through the extension of free credit) when prices have risen and on behalf of the Church's own account, or that of its employee benefit fund trust, when prices fall?
Each of you should remember the letter I wrote to the entire board exactly four years ago today. (If you were not a board member at the time of the January 1978 meeting when Mr. Rader read it into the record, and when he handed each member a personal copy, you must have reviewed by now the minutes from that meeting. At least I have to assume that none would ever undertake to accept a nomination to board membership without reviewing what had gone before.) On that occasion I found it my duty to forewarn the Church of material weaknesses in its internal controls. (See Statement on Auditing Standards No. 20, Required Communication of Material Weaknesses in Internal Accounting Control, AICPA.) I had approached Mr. Rader with the problems, the roots of which he had been tying valiantly to dig out for years, and he said that there were two things to be done. He reminded me of my professional duty to inform the board in writing, and he felt that because sufficient corrective action was unlikely to be forthcoming, he must resign from the board. It's all in the minutes of that meeting, including a sort of valedictory address by Mr. Rader warning of the consequences of continued misallocation of economic resources.
When Mr. Rader resigned for the last time, in part because he felt ineffective in (or just plain tired of) urging Mr. Armstrong to behave rationally, he received assurances from Mr. Armstrong that the job of cleaning up the Church would proceed apace. Mr. Armstrong told Mr. Rader that I would be asked to become the new treasurer and that "Jack and Jack" (referring to Mr. Bicket and myself, as well as to a famous carriage horse racing team from Mr. Armstrong's childhood) would be given a free hand to continue the job at hand. Mr. Rader even persuaded me to forego other opportunities so that my services would be available in an amount adequate to the task on a "first-call" basis. My offer to Messrs. Neff, Fahey, and Armstrong to inform them of the bases I was covering, after my services were terminated abruptly, has gone unanswered. The abuses that were in the process of being corrected in the aftermath of the attorney general's lawsuit, therefore, remain unreformed. All of them to my knowledge relate to the inurement of the earnings of the Church to Mr. Armstrong, members of his family, and close personal aides. Before its discovery, the use of Church coffers as a sort of personal piggy bank for instant credit (always interest-free) or outright appropriation had grown to outrageous proportions through constant circumvention of the system by Mr. Armstrong and his family. We hoped to reconcile the problem within the Church, and out of the cold light of the U.S. attorney's office, and then to recover the funds and thereby prevent a scandal. I feel particularly motivated in at least one respect to see this corrected because I prepared Mr. Armstrong's tax returns for years without knowing that he was consistently falsifying his expense account, abusing the trust funds of the Church, and misusing Church assets for his own benefit on a relatively large scale. I also represented the Church in its successful defense in 1980-81 of its exempt status before the National Office of the Internal Revenue Service, a status that later facts may prove to have been improvidently granted.
It is ironic that the attorney general, having only part of the story, focused upon a series of highly visible transactions between the Church and Mr. Rader, all of which were in fact proper, and missed the real problem which was Mr. Armstrong. I have never known Mr. Rader to have ever abused his trust. To his and my chagrin, however, neither of us had ever pieced together the entire picture of Mr. Armstrong's abuse, and were on the verge of solving the puzzle with Mr. Bicket's assistance when we were all drummed out of the corps. It is only in my belated abandonment of any hope in realizing a discreet dialogue with the proper Church officials, or in seeing some evidence that the errors would be corrected, that I take the more direct steps implicit in the writing of this letter. Recent activities, discussed four paragraphs hence, also prompt this action.
So that there is no misunderstanding, let me be rather more specific about these particular allegations. I can only skim the surface, but you are sitting on all of the documentation and can research the facts for yourselves if you have the collective competence to know where to look. (Some of you need look no further than the end of your nose.) The ultimate facts are as I stated in the paragraph before last. Some of the specific instances are discussed here and, by way of illustration, in the two attachments to this letter. (I apologize for adding to the length of this letter by including attachments, and I realize that there are many, many other attachments that you may find of even greater interest, but then again, you already have custody of all of the source documents. These particular attachments are not notable, merely illustrative.) Some of you know that Mr. Armstrong takes with him on each trip in his aircraft $10,000 in cash for which he does not account, which is not treated as compensation, and which is used for his personal pleasure or given to his private nurses as "fun money" or else given to his wife. When such funds are insufficient to satisfy each of his desires, he has had additional funds wired under false pretexts from the Church to pay for such things as a $30,000 rental payment for a yacht in Monte Carlo. (Some of you may recall how that he later complained that Mr. Rader - who was not there - either "forced" Mr. Armstrong and his wife to do it or else that Mr. Rader had made the arrangements himself. Competent testimony will prove otherwise. Members of his family use corporate credit cards for personal use on a persistent basis, without any present ability or apparent intention to repay, and he uses actual handwritten checks drawn on the corporate accounts. His household staff includes a full-time cook, who is probably an appropriate perquisite, but she is paid rather handsomely by most standards in that he takes out a corporate check to give her a little bonus every so often. Last year her total cash remuneration from the Church, excluding the value of interest-free loans, a company car, meals, and other perks, was in excess of $50,000.00. Since he requires no approval for the issuance of bonus compensation to himself, he does not hesitate to increase his own pay when the need appears to present itself. Often, he is quite vocal about it: He recently shocked Frank Mariani (President Reagan's tailor) by loudly complaining for all to hear that with taxes so high he was going to have to give himself a bonus of $100,000.00 just to pay for his clothes. Last year Mr. Armstrong's compensation, at least that which went through the payroll system, was in excess of $500,000.00. (I believe it was around $563,000.00, but that figure may include Mrs. Armstrong's salary.) I am informed that he keeps on his person cashier's checks or certificates of deposit in his name in amounts ranging into six figures so that he can, as he once expressed, get out of the country if the attorney general ever comes after him. He had wanted to place $1,000,000.00 in noninterest-bearing cashier's checks payable to him so that he and the Church would be "protected" in such an eventuality. Of course you know that his daughter Beverly has a lifetime contract for "personal services" with the written proviso that she take orders only from her father and is relieved of providing any services at all upon his death In point of fact, she renders no services whatsoever. Her compensation is more generous than that which Cardinal Cody is alleged to have given his friend, and it includes the use of an exquisitely furriished home in La Canada at a guaranteed monthly rental of $250.00 for life. The use of the Grumman Gulfstrearn II jet aircraft for personal pleasure, whether it be a trip to London for the sole purpose of purchasing a specially made prosthetic dildo (which he carries in a Hermes pouch), or just a trip from Tucson to Jurgensen's in Pasadena for groceries, is another area of concern. Speaking in Mr. Armstrong's defense, his actions may have been unthinking, uninformed, or just plain stupid. But I do not understand why you don't seem to think of them as problems.
Even if Mr. Armstrong is not culpable in the criminal sense, his example is all too readily followed by others who must be said to know better. I am told that the illustrious Mr. Dean aforementioned felt that he too could stock his private larder from Jurgensen's to the tune of between $700.00 to $ 1,000.00 per month until someone questioned why Mr. Armstrong's Pasadena household expenses were so large when only his Pasadena housekeeper was in residence. When your taste regularly runs to wine that costs $80.00 per bottle, it can be expensive. Mr. Dean may learn that it is even more expensive to brag to others about getting it for "free." According to Mr. Robin Webber, Mr. Joseph Tkach apparently felt justified in giving himself from a trust fund he controlled a little advance of $5,000.00 as a "needy Church member" to take advantage of a special investment in unregistered securities then illegally being pedaled (against the advice of counsel) by the Dean brothers. In some cases, Mr. Armstrong encouraged others to join in the fun of having treasure troves from Harrod's of London maintained in their homes so that his own conscience could more easily be assuaged.
Perhaps I should also say a few words in defense of my colleagues at Arthur Andersen & Co., who will be as embarrassed as I am that these things happened under our collective nose. They relied, as they were entitled, on numerous representations both from management and from myself, which now appear to have been based on incomplete information. I did tell them everything I knew at the time, but our collective knowledge proved insufficient in the face of Mr. Armstrong's unreliability. Even the work we did together, cleaning up the festival department, for example, may now be undone. I understand that once again it is becoming routine for people such as Mr. Dwight Viehe to take a two-week trip to a tropical isle (with his wife) to make sure that the hall that the local minister recommends that the Church rent for the Feast of Tabernacles is the right size. One would think that the policy of turning such aspects of festival administration over to local Church pastors has been totally abandoned for a more "workable" policy as was extant in the "good old days." I am somewhat surprised, however, that even in light of the admonitions of SAS No. 16 (particularly the section on integrity of management) the firm would not be more careful in getting appropriate representations. Their last examination was concluded without Mr. Rader's representation letter, even though he had served as the chief financial officer during the year in question and remained an executive vice-president of one of the entities (whose chief financial officer was not even approached for a representation letter). Moreover, Mr. Rader had indicated to the engagement manager that he could not sign a version of the representation letter that was initially forwarded to him because it was inaccurate. In that context, it is all the more curious why they never got back to him. It is also unfortunate that they have allowed the client to backslide on Mr. Rader's promise to the brethren that full financial disclosure would be made annually in the Church newspaper by reprinting the audited financials. Even though in the recent appellate court hearing leading to the notable vindication of our battle with the attorney general Mr. Helge "missated himself" by assuring the justices that the Church did so publish its financial affairs, the candor befitting an officer of the court should have led him to divulge that such assurances were no longer true and that the Church no longer intends to disclose any of its financial affairs to its members. (Since this paragraph is supposed to be in defense of the auditors, I should say that I haven't seen their opinion letter for 1980, and I'm sure that it must contain a scope limitation qualification for not being permitted by Mr. Neff to interview or obtain representations from departed management. They are under no obligation to insist on the lifting of such restrictions, although they undoubtedly notified each of you that management had so encumbered their engagement.)
How far the Church leaders have backslid during 1981 can only be guessed. I understand that Mr. Armstrong currently is taking increased advantage of his position without any effective restraint, and, sadly, in a way that discloses more, rather than less, personal culpability. Earlier this month he is said to have forced the Church to purchase a residence from his daughter Dorothy for a price that appears to be particularly generous. When the housing market is slow, it is nice to have a rich father, or failing that, a father who controls a rich corporation whose trustees are paid to look the other way. Showing some pangs of conscience (or evidence of mens rea), he is also said to have grudgingly exclaimed at the time the orders were given that this transaction may well "wreck the Church" if it is ever uncovered, but he wanted to do it anyway. And as a matter of trifling significance in the larger scheme of things, but one that may not universally be so regarded, the G-II was sent to Tucson earlier this month to deliver a personal letter. Much better service than the post office, and much cheaper than federal express, if you discount the rental value of the G-II and its crew and supplies and fuel. (For a point of reference, you might ask J.B. Netthercutt how much Merle Norman Cosmetics gets for their G-II when it is idle. (Hint: For the price of each hour of usage you could buy a nice car.) You might also consider how the government treated Mr. Nixon's personal use of Air Force One when his personal tax return was audited in the aftermath of Watergate.)
I trust I have given some indication of what I'm complaining about. I cite the few specific instances that I do, not to single them
out as being particularly noteworthy, but to help you to comprehend that I am not passing on idle gossip and hearsay. I have been careful to ensure that my factual bases are sound, and you should realize that if God wanted to choose someone to serve as an instrument of reform, few have received better training within the Church than I have. Whether I am adequate to the task may be another question, but I have been prepared as no other could have been ....
I would also like to return, for just a moment, to that which a court cannot easily correct: the evils I alluded to at the outset of this letter. Truly the real problems in the Church are not just financial. They are just symptomatic of the disease. That is why your collective dereliction of duty as directors and elders is so abominable. The unfortunate state of affairs with Mr. Armstrong and his family could have been prevented. It did not need to rub off on impressionable young men like the Dean boys. When a scatterbrained issue like whether women should be allowed to groom themselves modestly in a way not inconsistent with Biblical teaching is mistakenly presented, you who are strong should not be so cowardly as to not speak up. I have difficulty believing that a man of the supposed stature of a Rod Meredith could allow a Joe Tkach to dissuade him from standing firmly for truth on the issue (not that the issue is that important, and at this point it might as well be left alone). I'm saddened that I cannot take the time to discuss these matters further; just to introduce the subject properly would easily treble the length of this letter. I do not think, however, that it should take much searching of your consciences (I speak to those who have them) to see that if you have never counselled Mr. Armstrong adequately on the mundane affairs of the work because you thought it presumptuous, you have probably done an even worse job of speaking up forcefully on matters of doctrine (especially as applied). For one small morsel of food for thought, why is it that people can be disfellowshipped for no reason that is explained to them, and no effort whatsoever is made to reconcile the lost brother? Does 2 Cor. 2:7 mean anything to you? How about Luke 15? Also, how is it that you allow Mr. Armstrong to approve abortions for "special circumstances" without reconciling this with the Church's public position (not to mention the sacred Word of Truth)? How many more murders shall we encourage before those of you who are supposed to be shepherds realize that there is some duty to protect a flock from wolves, from the type described in the second chapter of 2 Peter, or in Jude?....
I cannot take the time to outline for you the specific steps that I will be taking as soon as I am able. Suffice it to say that short of a miraculous coming to your senses there remains little that you can now do to rectify the situation other than prepare to cooperate fully. You have sat on my letter dated October 26, 1981, to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher for altogether too long for me even to feel that an additional five business days would be of any use. (For those of you who haven't been given a copy of even that communication, you may consider such treatment when you make your future plans for retention of the legal services you all require. I cannot believe that such a firm as Gibson would not have made sure that each of you receied a copy, unless they were given deceitful assurances by Helge that he would take it upon himself to look out after your welfare. For any of you who have placed your trust in that man, may God have mercy on your souls. Such a son of perdition will soon be exposed.)
If you don't feel as I do that you are under some duty to help put the Church on the right course, then you have no business accepting the accolade of board membership. There have been only three board members who have resigned in the past for concerns such as I express here: Albert Portune, David Antion, and Stan Rader. Whatever other faults each of those men may have had or yet has, they did have some inkling of what decency requires. If you are willing neither to act nor to resign, then someone else will see to it that the proper steps are taken. You have personal liability in this matter gentlemen. I suggest that you govern yourselves accordingly.
Very truly yours,
W. Jack Kessler
Exactly what type of action Kessler plans to take remains unclear. The attorney general's office has again stated that, because of the Petris law, it will not reopen its civil case against the WCG's leaders. It has also refused to comment on whether or not any kind of criminal charges will ever be filed. The IRS has shown an interest in the Kessler charges, but the church has successfully warded off that agency's probes before.
While the council of elders has, for months, talked about Kessler's threats, none seem to take them seriously enough to take appropriate action. Herbert, himself, has taken the matter quite seriously, however. He has been privately lambasting Kessler while claiming the letter was masterminded by someone else. Privately on at least one occasion he has stated that GTA is behind it, but most of the time (even from the pulpit) he accuses Stan Rader of being the "mastermind" behind the threat. To accuse Ted is, of course, ridiculous, and while Stan Rader is a long-time associate and friend of Kessler's, we've seen no evidence whatsoever that Stan is the real author or instigator behind Kessler's letter. It is interesting that in commenting to the press about the Kessler charges, Rader has actually been quite defensive of HWA's conduct.
As for official public statements, the WCG has refused to issue any type of point-by-point rebuttal of Kessler's allegations. According to Leroy Neff, the church's lawyers have warned the elders to say as little as possible on the matter. But what is perhaps most interesting is not the advice given but who is giving it. As noted by Kessler in his letter, the law firm now representing the WCG is the powerful firm of Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher. Author David Robinson pointed out to us:
"In my many years of association with Herbert Armstrong and the church, I noticed that a certain modus operandi would always be established by Herbert and then be adhered to in solving all similar problems. When the church was hit with the big lawsuit in 1979, the modus operandi was very clear. It was to hire big law firms and to press for a political solution to their dilemma. The church did not cooperate with the attorney general, nor did it open its books. Instead, through its political contacts, it sought and won a change in the law. [Editor: The Los Angeles Herald Examiner has reported that the church is now a contributor to the campaign fund of state attorney general Deukmejian, who wants to be governor of California.]
"Now what do we see with the Kessler situation? The church has a problem which involves the IRS. It hires a big law firm, but not just any big law firm. It hires Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher - a law firm with strong ties to the White House. They even have an office two blocks away. It is the same firm in which the present U.S. Attorney General William French Smith was a partner. I'm not accusing anyone of any kind of illegal activity. I have no evidence of that. But I wouldn't be surprised if HWA tried to get his new lawyers to use their influence and contacts to bring an end to the new IRS investigation. That kind of thing has happened many, many times in U.S. history."
Concerning Kessler personally, it is, of course, nice that he has came forth with the facts as he sees them. But as the Los Angeles Times intimated, why didn't he came forward with what he knew during the state attorney general's investigation? Why wait so long? Did getting kicked off the gravy train have something to do with his suddenly putting on a white hat?
But more important, how accurate are Kessler's charges? He has told reporters that he stands 100 percent behind what he has written. Our own sources tell us he is pretty much telling the truth. The WCG has refused to refute the allegations point by point. It is interesting, however, that Leroy Neff (in Big Sandy, Texas) did state that while Kessler's letter did contain some errors (two misplaced commas would make this statement accurate), it also contained some truth. We ask Mr. Neff how much of it is true? Ninety-nine percent? Hopefully, in the near future, the church will make public the financial documents that could once and for all clear away the black cloud of distrust that hangs over its worldly dealings. But even more significant than the accusations of financial wrongdoing, Kessler's letter paints a picture of an organization continuing on a moral toboggan slide.
As pointed out in previous issues of Ambassador Report, there has never been a real denial of the now well-known incest allegations. We were aware that before Garner Ted Armstrong was booted out of the WCG, he did, on at least one occasion, personally confront his father about the matter. A third party who overheard the highly charged conversation has reported how Garner Ted, in no uncertain terms, directly charged his father, yelling: "You f----- my sister!!!" Herbert, suddenly aware that his son at last saw him for what he really is, could only softly admit: "Well - there have been times in my life when I've gotten far away from God."
In the almost four years since then, Herbert has made less and less of an attempt to hide this facet of his early ministry. Now, we understand, he has actually confessed this part of his past to many of the church's council of elders. But sadly, he is still unwilling to take any responsibility for his past behavior. He has simply placed the blame on his late wife, Loma.
Ministers such as Leroy Neff are now making a point in sermons to cover up HWA's vile past by alluding to alleged inadequacies in the character of HWA's deceased wife. One part of Neff's approach is to ask the congregation: "Which one of you is willing to cast the first stone?" While a typical WCG audience may find such a misuse of scripture overpowering, we would advise Apostle Armstrong not to adopt that as his only defense. Before some audiences we know of, such a challenge would quickly empty every rock pile in sight.
TIME AGAIN TO FLEE?
With Herbert's sins more and more being accepted by both the WCG's ministry and membership, it should come as no surprise that morality problems are increasing at headquarters. One leading figure in the church is so open about his own affairs that he has been dubbed "the new Garner Ted. " Another top minister was recently found to be committing adultery. He was secretly disfellowshipped - for one day. One young Armstrong aide has seduced two different women in the fourth-floor board room, yet remains on staff. And on and on it goes.
But while the moral slide is depressing, what is perhaps most disturbing about the current climate is an increasing church paranoia and growing fixation on the "flee to Petra" idea. Numerous ministers are now teaching that the WCG will flee the country by 1984. (Recall, however, that similar predictions did not work out too well for 1972, 1975, 1979, 1981, etc.) Gerald Waterhouse, long the Petra heresy's chief proponent, has become increasingly possessed by Petra in recent years, so much so that he recently told a fellow WCG minister that God has already chosen "the Petra teaching team." It will, according to Waterhouse, consist of evangelists Herman Hoeh, Dean Blackwell, Raymond McNair, and of course Gerald Waterhouse, who naturally will be in charge. This type of idiocy would perhaps have been quite amusing some years ago. But in this post-Jonestown era, all talk of the church fleeing to a foreign refuge should not just be taken as a joke.
While both the Bible and tradition mention the torture murders of, not only Jesus, but most of the apostles and many other followers of Christ, and while history tells of millions of Christians murdered throughout the centuries, HWA seems, to know that nothing gets his followers into a giving mood better than talk of saving the flesh. The idea of fleeing to a "place of safety" appeals very strongly to the insecure and fearful.
We don't see HWA's lifestyle fitting in too well atop the waterless crags of Jordan's Petra region, so we prefer to think he tolerates such talk because it brings in the dollars from his hysterical sheep. With the threat of nuclear war increasingly on the minds of people and in the news, it was no surprise for us to see in the December 1981 Plain Truth an HWA editorial entitled "There Is a Way of Escape."
But while we would prefer to think HWA is simply using the Petra fixation as a money-making tool (and church income is indeed way up) , we have very little confidence in the mental stability of HWA or those around him. In his Feb. 25, 1982, letter to members and co-workers, HWA writes:
"I hope to arrange for the use of Petra as a possible refuge or place of safety during the Great Tribulation, when I see King Hussein. Pray about this, please."
We can only hope that Herbert does not really take such statements too seriously. The Middle East, being what it is, should be the last place on earth where one would want to be in time of war.
NEW MAKEUP INFO
In our last issue we reported how the Worldwide Church of God has adopted a new anti-makeup doctrine. Since then, Garner Ted Armstrong has published an exceptional rebuttal to Herbert Armstrong's new doctrinal stance. The article, found on pages 6 and 7 of the March 1982 issue of The International News (Box 2525, Tyler, TX 75710) shows conclusively that HWA's recent accusations against Garner Ted Armstrong and Wayne Cole are totally without foundation and that HWA personally did indeed knowingly authorize the WCG's 1974 makeup liberalization. Ted is enraged at his dad's hypocrisy in the whole affair, saying that HWA's wife Loma (Ted's mother) wore makeup on special occasions and that she was not a whore by any means!
It is interesting that not only did the WCG allow makeup for eight years but through its Everest House publishing firm actually promoted makeup use. Listed in the 1981 Everest House catalog are such books as Peter Shen's Make-up for Success and Plastic Surgery for Men. Incidentally, along with numerous books by Herbert Armstrong, that same catalog listed these titles by other authors: Mario Badescu's Skin Care Program for Men, To Elvis With Love, Zen Running, Living Jewish, The Surrogate Mother, My Savage Muse, Alien Intelligence, How to Make Your Own Knives, Guns and How They Work, They Call Me Assassin, Inside Russian Medicine, In Search Of, Dark Dimensions, How Many Things Can You Do in the Nude?, and of course Stan Rader's Against the Gates of Hell. (Everest House's catalog-address is: P.O. Box 978, Edison, NJ 08817.)
Returning to the subject of makeup, we understand that HWA's wife Ramona has, for now, decided not to sue for divorce. In fact, she is being an obedient wife and has, to Herbert's surprise, discontinued the use of makeup. But Herbert, still unhappy with her, has been loudly complaining to friends that he is "unequally yoked" to Ramona.
MYSTERY RELIGION CONNECTIONS?
We keep getting letters from students of comparative religion who see parallels between aspects of Armstrongism and the pagan mysteries. For instance, former Armstrong church member Robert Erickson (452 E. Harris Ave., Raymondville, TX 78580) put out a newsletter recently containing this observation (p. 22):
"The next time you're in the WCG auditorium, go down to the bottom lobby floor where the public restrooms are. You'll find the rug is a rich kingly royal purple color; and in the exact center of the lobby is a very huge PAGAN SUNBURST woven right into the rug and having large pointed spears of light, representing TRUTH, radiating out in every direction. Now look close and you'll very clearly see that circling around each and every shaft of light (TRUTH) is a large spiraling serpent.... There are many more symbolic mystery things built into the campus, like the large reflecting sunburst pool of water with an OBELISK directly centered out front and cleverly disguised as a support for four... egrets. Egrets, say some Bible dictionaries, denote presence. Don't forget the large cement walkway pagan 'CROSS' made by the sidewalks and the lake. It is interesting to note that years ago we first learned about Babylon symbology from the WCG's copied work of Hislop's Two Babylons!! There is a new work out now called Babylon Mystery Religion, Ancient and Modern, by Ralph Woodrow. If you have one handy, open it to page 41 and compare the striking similarities. Be sure to read the whole chapter. It is time to ask yourself now just who's house and for which god is it anyway? It's a fair question, especially since scripture says that now the Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands, as said the prophet (Acts 7:48). And the second witness of scripture says, 'God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands' (Acts 17:24)."
CHURCH INCOME SKYROCKETS
Between 1972 and Dec. 31, 1979, the Armstrong organization lost about 30 percent of its purchasing power (adjusted for inflation), and its income was stagnating. But now things are different. The Feb. 15, 1982, issue of The Worldwide News revealed that the WCG, Ambassador College in Pasadena and Big Sandy, and the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation took in a record-breaking $108,358,000 in 1981, up 19.98 percent over the $90,312,000 figure quoted for 1980. These figures, however, were listed in a disappointingly brief and incomplete income statement, which was unaudited. According to church treasurer Leroy Neff, the figures were unaudited (1) because "the 1981 audit, which is in process, will not be completed for several months" and (2) because these figures represent worldwide totals that make it "necessary for one auditing firm to audit all offices" - which, of course, hasn't been done.
The Armstrong organization reported income receipts of $66,397,000 for 1979 and $63,467,000 for 1978, according to the audit by Arthur Andersen & Co., but these figures did not include any revenue from the church's foreign offices as do the 1980-81 figures, making a comparison between the 1978-79 and 1980-81 figures impossible. Nevertheless, it appears that HWA's decision to drop Quest magazine and the secular approach of The Plain Truth and the "World Tomorrow" broadcast and to return to a hard-sell, preachy, doomsday emphasis with a generous sprinkling of misused biblical quotes is paying rich dividends. We hear the church's mailing offices are swamped with requests for Who Is the Beast? and The United States & British Commonwealth in Prophecy - two booklets that really grab a new reader's attention but that are chocked full of biblical and historical inaccuracies.
FROM THE GRAPEVINE
*Some employees at Ambassador College are getting uptight about the increased fanaticism at the church's headquarters. An emotional prayer for "God's Apostle" was even offered before a recent Ambassador College basketball game.
*Since the removal of Bob Fahey as executive assistant to Herbert Armstrong, most of the executive assistant responsibilities have been taken over by Aaron Dean, although he did not inherit Fahey's title. However, insiders report that the main influence over Aaron is not Herbert but his brother Kevin Dean. (That influence even extends somewhat to evangelists Joe Tkach and Ellis LaRavia.) Some have now begun referring to the Dean brothers as "The Two Witnesses."
*Herbert Armstrong's writings are finally getting the attention they deserve. In the March 1982 issue of Playboy ("The Family Jewels," p. 188), Herbert was quoted as an authority on testicles.
*Don't be surprised if Garner Ted Armstrong winds up suing his father in the near future. GTA is still miffed that the WCG refused to honor the contract he had with that church. GTA claim they owe him back pay.
*Jeff Calkins, former PT writer, and Lester Grabbe, former member of the theology department and Greek instructor at Ambassador College, are no longer employed by the Armstrong organization. They were two of the last "intellectuals" left in the organization, which has been taken over by the right wing of the church.
Over the years, many Bible scholars and religious experts have asserted that Armstrongism is essentially an eclectic religion whose doctrines came from a combination of sources including British-Israel organizations, the Seventh-day Adventists, and the Jehovah's Witnesses. Some individuals, for instance, believe that HWA got his own "disfellowship" (the term is not found in the Bible) doctrine, not from scripture, but from the Jehovah's Witnesses. Because of the many JW-WCG similarities revealed, we believe you will find the following article quite remarkable. It is by religion writer John Dart and appeared in the Jan. 30, 1982, Los Angeles Times, Part II, page 4:
Defectors Feel 'Witness' Wrath
Critics Say Baptism Rise Gives False Picture of Growth
My Avon lady just became a Jehovah's Witness. That may not mean much to you, but it saves me one more trip to the door.
-George Carlin, comedian
By JOHN DART
Times Religion Writer
From a doorway perspective, Jehovah's Witnesses appear to be solidly convinced of their organization's distinctive Bible interpretations and of the looming horror of Armageddon.
Substantial numbers of Witnesses do develop doubts and leave, however.
Although the numbers of baptisms and door-to-door proselytizers are on a steady climb, critics contend that the active membership should be much higher than it is. The critics estimate that as many as 1 million Witnesses have become inactive or disaffected in the last decade.
Enough defectors have criticized the Witnesses' Watchtower Society publicly in the last year to prompt the Brooklyn-based leaders to try, in effect, to clasp hands over the ears of its active 2.2 million members.
Silent Treatment Urged
The Sept. 15 Watchtower magazine told members that anyone who has written a letter of resignation should be shunned as if he had been "disfellowshiped," or expelled.
Previously, only those who entered military service or politics (both forbidden by Witness teachings) were put in the same clan as those formally disfellowshiped by local Kingdom Hall committees and given the silent treatment.
Watchtower officials say most disfellowship actions have been prompted by immoral behavior and are in keeping with the Apostle Paul's admonitions in I Corinthians 5:11-13.
"This Is a hardening, a tightening, of our policy," confirmed William Van De Wall, a headquarters spokesman for the Watchtower Society. Denying any great membership losses, Van De Wall said the new directive was to counteract "disgruntled" ex- members.
The new policy was given as cause for the disciplining late last year of one of the best-known Witnesses to leave the Watchtower Society in recent years - Raymond Franz, co-author of a standard Witness reference book, "Aid to Bible Understanding."
Resigned Under Pressure
Franz, nephew of the Watchtower Society's 88-year-old president, Frederick Franz, was asked to end his nine years on the organization's Governing Body in May, 1980. Several sources said his resignation under pressure followed tensions over Raymond Franz's questioning of the Witnesses' alleged "legalistic" attention to numerous personal beus personal behavior rules and over his private, but less-than-orthodox, discussions of Witness theology.
Raymond Franz declined news media interviews in the interim and shared his changing biblical views with but a few close friends, sources close to Franz said.
After 40 year's service as a Witness, Franz, now 59, was given part-time work and a place to park his trailer home by another Witness, Peter Gregerson of Gadsden, Ala., board chairman of Warehouse Groceries.
Gregerson resigned, reportedly under pressure, from the organization early last year, however. Disfellowshiping proceedings were started last fall against Franz, because he was seen eating with his employer-landlord in a restaurant.
Copies of correspondence between Franz and the Gadsden elders, obtained by The Times, show that Franz protested to no avail that he was seen associating with a resigned ex-member before the new rule was announced in mid-September. Franz's first "accuser" was Dan Gregerson, brother of Peter.
"Unless one believes in ex-post-facto laws," Franz wrote in December, "his testimony would hardly seem relevant.
Bible Reference Asked
"I assure you that if you will help me to see from the Scriptures that the act of eating with Peter Gregerson is a sin, I will humbly repent of such sin before God," he wrote.
Both Franz and Gregerson were said to have re-evaluated certain Witness teachings after they had chances to research or study the Bible on their own.
The failure of a predicted Armageddon to usher in a 1,000-year new era in 1975 took its toll on many members, as indicated by the meticulously kept figures in the Watchtower Society's yearbooks.
Witnesses baptized a record 297,872 new members worldwide in the year ending Aug. 31, 1974. Nearly the same number were baptized in the next 12 months. But by the winter of 1974-75, Witness officials were already backing down on their calculations that 6,000 years of human history would be reached in the fall of 1975 and presumably usher in Christ's kingdom.
Baptisms hit a low mark in 1978 with 95,062 worldwide and 20,491 in the United States. That was also the low mark for active members. 2,086,697 worldwide and 513,673 in the United States.
Charges by disaffected members of immorality gone unpunished and cover-ups by some congregational elders arise occasionally from the rather insular world of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Effect of '75 Studied
But, as Peter Gregerson observed, most Witnesses are less likely to become disturbed over such charges as they are about the possibility that Watchtower leaders could justifiably be called "false prophets."
Gregerson was one of nearly 50 selected elders brought to the Brooklyn headquarters, called Bethel ("House of God"), in 1976 to discuss the fallout from the erroneous 1975 prediction. He indicated that the leadership was more prone to blame members jumping to conclusions rather than any mistake or miscalculation on its part.
Ex-member critics point to another prophecy problem. The year 1914, once thought to be the end of the ordinary world, was later designated as the beginning of the end. Applying Jesus' words as reported in Matthew's 24th chapter, the Witnesses are saying that the generation living in 1914 would not pass away before the last day's tribulations would beset the Earth.
Increasing numbers of people who were old enough to be aware of world events in 1914 (the start of World War 1) are dying off - though the last of them may live into the 21st Century.
"This (prediction) does not panic us," Van De Wall said in defending the Watchtower Society position. "This talk attracts people more than it repels them."
NEW GROUPS AND GROUPS NEW TO US
P. O. Box 20023
Phoenix, AZ 85036
Published by a small group of former WCG members, this new newsletter "is intended to expose the errors of Herbert W. Armstrong & Co." It is essentially a doctrinal publication which attempts to deal with the biblical errors taught by Armstrong.
"I came out of the WCG in 1976. Many friends still remain in there who will not hear. We stil love and pray for them in the faith assurance that God's purpose will prevail.
"A small group here in St. Louis meets each week continuing in service to out Lord. We'd be pleased to hear from anyone who would like to contact us."
-Donald W. Langley
Concordant Scripture Ministries
2304 Wesford Drive
Maryland Heights, MD 63043
Sabbath Church of God
907 Clanton Avenue
Tampa, FL 33603
This group meets on Saturdays from 2 to 3:30 p.m. The current pastor is Dr. Don E . Ward (not the Dr. Ward of Big Sandy, TX).
Of the many Sabbath-keeping church groups that have been mentioned in the Report over the years (and there have been scores), we have noticed that very few have maintained any kind of a significant growth rate. This observation is not intended to slight anyone. We are not disparaging the sincerity of these churches or the accuracy of what these groups teach. We are simply pointing out that of the church groups that have formed from WCG ex-members, very few have had real membership growth over the years.
Even GTA's Church of God, International seems to be only holding even in size. While we noticed in a recent CGI publication that Garner Ted's organization is building a fine new headquarters building, our sources in Tyler say that actual church growth has been somewhat disappointing.
There is, however, one church that has had almost spectacular growth in the last few years. That is the Biblical Church of God, coordinated by former WCG minister Fred R. Coulter. We suspect that much of that growth is a direct result of the enthusiasm of its director and the openness the organization has as a whole.
Mr. Coulter called us a number of times recently to tell us about his organization. He also sent us a large package of doctrinal booklets that very clearly explain their position on all major doctrines and on church organization. Essentially, this church seems to maintain most of the doctrinal positions of the WCG with a few modifications. It does, however, have a significantly different church administration and organizational structure, having dropped the hierarchical despotism of the Armstrongs.
As you know, the Report is not a Sabbatarian religious group. We do, however, receive marry letters from individuals who, while fed up with Herbert Armstrong, still believe many or all of his church's doctrines to be correct. Those individuals may find Mr. Coulter's magazine and other literature of interest. Also, of interest is his radio broadcast, "Bible Answers, " aired daily on a number of stations around the nation. The address to write to for information is:
The Biblical Church of God
Box 744, Monterey, CA 93940
Speaking of radio broadcasts, we were very happy to learn that Dr. Ernest L. Martin is now on radio with a program called "Biblical Commentary." On a recent visit to the Foundation for Biblical Research, we listened to a tape of one of his new broadcasts and were very impressed by what we heard. A number of individuals with training in the broadcasting field have commented that, even content aside, Martin's tapes are already not only as professional as Garner Ted Armstrong's but even rival the very best done by Herbert Armstrong in his prime. The Foundation has placed the program on only one station (WNDA in Huntsville, Alabama, at 7 a.m. Sundays) as an experiment, but we suspect the program will be a success and will later expand to other stations. In anticipation of that growth and because the FBR is expanding into book publishing, Gary Arvidson is back on the Foundation's staff. We hope he'll be doing some writing in the future as some of the research he has done in the last few years is quite remarkable.
Another project that the Foundation is engaged in will, we believe, be of great value to thousands, regardless of their denominational affiliations. Dr. Martin is currently writing a book on a subject he has researched for many years. The book, titled The Original Bible-Its Design and Development, will be available in about three months. Those of us who had the privilege of studying under Dr. Martin at Ambassador College can attest to what an incredibly interesting subject this is. For those who do not already have the Foundation's address, it is: Foundation for Biblical Research, P.O. Box 928, Pasadena, CA 91102.
I thoroughly enjoyed the rundown on makeup. (I'd been about to ask if you could fill me in on why so many church women suddenly looked pale and splotchy, but you'd anticipated me.) I don't, however, agree with you that the question of makeup "may be considered inconsequential to most normal people." That's certainly not true for women, especially younger ones. Even applied lightly, makeup can make a profound difference in the way a woman looks and feels about herself. The WCG females I've seen lately look awful, especially on dress occasions when all those drab, blemished faces look so horribly out of sync with attractive outfits and hairstyles. It seems to me this latest edict of Herbie Strongarm is of tremendous significance; it's such a frightening example of Jonestownism" - unquestioning obedience, especially since it involves such an intensely sensitive issue as personal appearance. I can't even fathom the mentality of someone who'd cave in to a crazy old man's whim to the extent that she'd be willing to go about looking like death warmed over. Let's hope this latest piece of crackpotism interferes with recruitment!
In your last issue you commented on HWA's continued meetings with world leaders and in particular a banquet hosted by Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek. You went on to say, "One can only ask: What is it that HWA is giving in return for such honors?" I would guess what he is giving is oodles of WCG money. HWA is a businessman from way back and I believe he knows the meaning of a good investment. What he is investing in is his own credibility.
The "Power of Positive Thinking " is hardly the WCG religious angle. Bible prophecy is. In a world of future shock with coups, counter-coups, revolutions and assorted upheavals on nightly TV, HWA claims to have the answers as well as a "place of safety" for those concerned with saving their hides, physically (and perhaps spiritually too, but especially physically). "Watch world events" to see how right he is, HWA tells his followers. And what greater way to boost his credibility in the eyes of his followers than for the latter to see him "right in there" with major political leaders? Why it would be like seeing Howard Cosell in uniform and playing right tackle on the LA Rams' line.
Generally, HWA meets with dictators, who are not as accountable to their people and less subject to media scrutiny. (Birds of a feather, no doubt) Considering the Israel-orientation of so much of Bible prophecy, a special effort is obviously made as regards this country. Wittingly or unwittingly, Israeli leaders who consent to meet with him are bolstering his image at the expense of the poor dupes (Jew and non-Jew alike) who will take the whole thing seriously enough to bow before the image.
As for Teddy Kollek, who seems to figure so prominently in these affairs, I can only conclude the character of some people doesn't change very much over the years. In the 1940s, when the Jewish people emerged from the horrors of the holocaust determined to create a state of their own, Teddy Kollek served as a paid informant for the British, whose job it was to rat on the underground fighters struggling for the freedom of their own people. In the end one can indeed tell people by the company they keep.
One interesting thing about Herbert is that he always compares himself to the original apostles. However, he is just the diametrical opposite. Take for instance the early apostles who approached the temple at the gate called Beautiful where they met a man begging for alms. The Apostles said, "Silver and gold have we none, but we have something better." Herbert, however, would have said "Silver and gold have I plenty, but you're under a curse for not tithing to me. That's why you're here begging. I get, you give - thats my principle."
-John W. Halbert
1003 E. Harry St
Tempe, AZ 85281
The other day I spied The Plain Truth in an Omaha library branch and was told by a naive librarian that it was "donated " She didn't seem to care about my many objections. Another librarian finally told me there was a committee that had the job of overseeing materials that the library displayed. As it turned out one brief call is all it took to do the job. A gentleman was surprised and a bit angry that the PT was even in the library. He said many people had tried different approaches at getting the magazine in the library, but they were always told an emphatic no! It seems that that branch and every other one in the area, have been subjected to a well-organized campaign at getting the PT before the unwary public. He told me he is going to look into the matter citywide.
If your readers are the least "fired up" about this, all they have to do is visit their local libraries and check the periodical index. If they find the PT they should talk to the people in charge of selecting material. There is usually a committee for that purpose. If words aren't enough, parade a copy of Tuit's and/or Robinson's book before the librarians. Also if someone could afford it donating a copy of the above books to their local library would be a good idea and might supply the public with information they didn't have a chance to see.
I would like to obtain the names and addresses of as many AR readers as possible here in Michigan, especially those who are former WCG members. The purpose is to compile a list which I will make available to all whose names are on it so that all AR readers and former WCG members that are interested can contact each other here in Michigan for the purposes of discussions, fellowship, renewing old acquaintances, etc. There are probably a lot of readers who were former friends or acquaintances in WCG that would now enjoy contacting each other. Therefore, I invite all AR readers here in Michigan who are interested to send me their name and address and a starnped, self-addressed envelope so I can send them a copy of the list as soon as it's ready. Please write in right away so the list can be compiled and mailed out as quickly as possible. Perhaps other AR readers in other states could do something similar.
8460 Marsh Road
Algonac, MI 48001
Thank you for the last two reports. Sorry to be so long with my thanks and small contribution. This Report helps me to keep up with what's going on and helps me to maintain a sense of balance and to keep a 40-year marriage going. Your writings and information on cults is helpful. When one is married to a person in WCG you can see the sapping of the individual, you can see them fading in their personality and awareness of what is going on around them and one can only try to do right by them as with any sickness. The strain is great and I have to keep my wits about me all the time and it's knowing folks like yourselves, who really care, that makes it just a little easier.
Reading some of your letters the other day I found I have similar problems to many others in the states. I am divorced. I have three children and I am not yet remarried as I want to wait for God to provide the right one in due time, or open my ex-husband's eyes and get him out of the WCG. Which, given this, I think we have a chance to make a go of it. I will not describe all the problerns their (WCG) teachings cause to someone of a rather unstable mind. I'm sure you can imagine.
My ex-husband is a great believer in authority, especially when it comes to HWA. When HWA gives the word to go to big P [Petra], he will up and go. Now in order for a quiet, peaceful life to ensue, I let him take our kids to the Feast of Tabernacles every year. If I did not do that, I think he would run off with them (to save diem from the tribulation).
I heard yesterday that a minister, David Stirk, had told people recently frorn the pulpit that they will probably be told to go to big P from the Feast of Tabernacles and should accordingly take enough money to Tabernacles to cover the transportation costs to big P. Of course, my ex-husband would have an ideal chance here to take the kids to big P to save them from the big T [tribulation]! He could be out of Great Britain before I knew it! So you can help me by keeping tabs on what goes on within the WCG. Could you possibly let me know as soon as the slightest hint of HWA giving the word for big P comes?....
The WCG press over here is changing hands soon. The WCG leadership will be moving into offices in Boreham Wood (from Bricket [bright light] Wood to Bore 'em, Wood). A friend of mine in the Luton WCG committed suicide about a year ago while still attending. I know the WCG was putting pressure on her over a domestic situation at the time. But I left before then so I don't know exact details. It's so tragic. They are so heartless.
Editor. Thank you for the information on the church in Britain. As for the big Petra exodus, if such a tragedy was clearly imminent, you can be sure we would not only alert our readers immediately, but we would make the situation known to all our contacts in the news media. We really do not believe, however, that such an exodus will take place in the near future, no matter what David Stirk, Gerald Waterhouse, or any other clown says. If there is any fleeing to be done, it will probably be by Herbert Armstrong and his closest aides because of a subpoena or arrest warrant. The "place of safety" would probably be a hacienda in Costa Rica or Argentina or a yacht in Monte Carlo bay. As for the rest of the church joining him, that's very unlikely as HWA's lifestyle requires the members to be hard at work, sending in their tithes, not huddled in desert caves.
I thank you for sending me your Report. Please continue to do so. I have been in the WCG for almost five years and it alrnost cost me my life! Last year I confessed to the minister that I smoked and couldn't overcome this "sin," "and he told me I would be put out of the church. I took it for granted that he meant right away so I tried suicide. Thank God I didn't succeed, and still I didn't stop going. I was so sure that if I wasn't in the church I would lose salvation. I still haven't stopped going, but I'm willing to examine the other side. I have come to believe my eternal life depends on God and not the WCG. If there are any other women who have come out of the church that you could give my address to, you have my permission. I know I will need all the support I can get! Thank you again.
I thank God daily I'm out of that cult. I left in 1978. I went from an attempted suicide to an unbelievable peace I had never known before. I was in WCG for 20 years, but "I'm free at last."
Editor: During the last three months, we have received numerous reports of suicides and attempted suicides by WCG members. Unfortunately, WCG ministers seem generally unqualified to properly counsel individuals suffering from severe depression and other disorders. We strongly urge all suffering from such problems to seek competent professional help.
Until recently I was a member of the WCG. I inadvertently stumbled onto a copy of David Robinson's book Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web and read it. It answered a lot of questions my wife and I have had for several years. When I questioned the local minister about it, he really got mad, and before I knew what was happening, he told my wife and I that unless we both had absolute trust, faith, and loyalty to HWA and accepted everything he said without question and not listen or repeat anything bad about HWA that we could not come back to church. I told him, I would follow HWA as I could see he was following Christ; but I just couldn't have blind faith in anyone who was hurnan because humans can make mistakes. That wasn't good enough so we are out.
We had just recently moved here to Kentucky and didn't know anyone hardly at all. All we had heard in sermons for the last year was "obedience to the government of God in the church." The ministers even came out and said everyone should try to find out what other church members were doing and what they thought about things and then come tell the ministers! All this really sounds like something from Nazi Germany or Communist Russia, and I am worried for the people that are still "inside the church." I know a few other people who are also scared that something bad is about to happen.
Regarding the cultish aspects of the WCG, one ex-minister said that the people who are affected least in an adverse way are those who never bought the entire package, having had some reservations. I guess I was in that category because I haven't been affected except in category number four, the "we vs. they" mentality. And I grew out of that gradually. I used to think there was something wrong with me because I wasn't like the other WCG members in many ways. Actually, for many reasons, I still hold membership in the organization, one reason being that I can reach people on the inside where outsiders cannot. I am attempting to turn people on to Jesus Christ and not to try to get them to change organizations. When one starts looking to the right source, the rest takes care of itself. Peripheral doctrines and organizational boundaries pale into insignificance when one has put on the new man created in the likeness of Jesus.
The most likely prospects for accepting help are those who are having real crises in their lives, who have not been provided by the WCG with the tools to deal with them. You might find the enclosed letters... interesting in this regard. It shows that the concept of living joined to Jesus is the real key to contact with God and everything else, including overcoming trials. You probably can guess who the evangelist mentioned is. The top minister mentioned in the letter to... is Mr. Armstrong. The ministers and writers mean well, but because they do not understand this basic key, their approach to problem solving is 90 percent carnal, or worldly. It is no wonder so many are unable to overcome sin.
Editor: While we are convinced the WCG is a true "cult" built around Herbert Armstrong, there are, nevertheless, quite a few WCG members who still maintain their individuality, being unwilling to simply accept "the party line" on everything. We are very pleased that many such individuals not only read Ambassador Report, but readily share their observations and viewpoints with us.
I have been unable to locate a copy of Mr. Marion McNair's book entitled Armstrongism-Religion or Ripoff. If you can help me locate a copy of this book I will be most appreciative and grateful.
Editor: Marion McNair's book, which came out about five or six years ago, is still a valuable work for those researching the history of Armstrongism. Unfortunately, it is almost out of print. We are told that Mr. McNair has only a few copies available at $6.00 each, including postage. His mailing address is: Marion McNair, P.O. Box 398, Mt. Dora, FL 32757.
I am writing to you to say I enjoy very much receiving your newsletters and definitely your publications are not only helpful in removing the veil from the eyes of members of the WCG, but is also a continuing source of information to them once they leave the organization. Also, in some cases, a psychological tranquilizer for those mentally upset by the experience.
It is extremely difficult for me to understand why more members have not left the WCG when one considers all that has been revealed about the corruption of its leadership over the past several years. But in spite of that I deeply feel that those of us that have left the psychological prison of HWA should take every opportunity to continue to expose the "master of deceit" not only to his members but also to the general public.
My family and I were members of the WCG for 12 years. Eight of those years I served (labored on the Sabbath) as a deacon. The veil over our eyes was removed in lightening-like fashion. In a two week period after an intense study of the "Law" in the Bible, we attended our last sabbath service on April 1st (April Fools' Day), 1978. Since leaving I, along with a former minister and a deacon of the Pittsburgh church, have taken advantage of opportunities to reveal the truth about HWA to the public. In early 1979, we were interviewed by a local newspaper which has a significant coverage of five counties in the Pittsburgh area. It was a front page story which included pictures of us and the ministers of the Pittsburgh church who were also interviewed (separate from us). Many of us have written "Letters to the Editor" on many occasions to local Pittsburgh newspapers.
About a year ago Stanley Rader was interviewed on a local radio talkshow. Three weeks later two of us were interviewed on the same station in rebuttal to Rader. The interview included phone calls by listeners, lasted two hours, and was very successful.
I urge former members of the WCG to take every opportunity to reveal the real plain truth about HWA and the WCG as we have done in our area.
-George Kuhns, Pennsylvania
Thank you for the material I've already received. We have sent in a lot of money to HWA since 1932, but no more.
We'll have to end this newsletter here. This issue has already gotten far too long considering our finances this quarter. We'll do our best to get out a bigger issue in late June or July. Our thanks to all of you who are still helping us.
Ambassador Report is published quarterly as finances allow. Publishers are: Robert Gerringer, Bill Hughes, Mary E. Jones, John Trechak, Leonard Zola and Margaret Zola.
Editor: John Trechak.
Next Issue (AR20)
Back to Index