AR26 October 1983
Trial Delayed as Herbert Pays
There is an old Jewish curse that goes something like this: "May your life be filled with lawyers!" Anyone who has had much contact with the legal profession will fully understand the unending conflict, semantical contortions, mental convolutions, exasperations, and almost locust-plague-like devastation evoked by that malediction. The inference of the phrase is a state of existence some would not wish on even their worst enemies. Yet, amazingly, it is a state Herbert W. Armstrong has brought upon himself.
It is now one and a half years since Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA), the 91-year-old founder of the Worldwide Church of God and Ambassador College, filed for divorce from his 44-year-old wife, Ramona. Since then, so many lawyers have been drawn into the case one almost needs a scorecard to keep track of who is representing whom. And the legal expenses are rumored to have already gone over the one million dollar mark.
Numerous trial dates have been set, only to have been later put back further because of continuing legal maneuverings. Presently, the trial is set to begin November 7, but it is quite likely the trial will not get under way before December. Judge Hooker, who currently presides over the case, will be replaced by another judge, as he plans to retire from the bench on October 15.
WCG lawyer Ralph Helge, a witness in the case, has been at the center of a number of delay-producing motions. Since January he repeatedly refused to comply with demands by Ramona's attorneys that he appear for a deposition. He finally did appear, but only after Ramona's lawyers threatened contempt of court proceedings. And even then, he refused to answer a number of important questions. Not surprisingly, Helge, himself a lawyer, has thought it wise to obtain legal advice for himself. He is now personally represented by the law firm of Molloy, Jones, Donahue, Trachta, Childers and Mallamo.
Another individual who has refused to appear is a Mr. Wetzel Wallace ("Wally") McKinney. Court records indicate that he is an unemployed, close friend of Ramona and that she is now living with him and his two children somewhere in Nevada.
The Slippery Eel
No matter what negative impression one may have of the legal profession in general, we really must respect the lawyers who are up against HWA, because getting the truth out of HWA is about as difficult as holding on to a slippery eel. Here is just one example. As in most civil cases, interrogatories were submitted to HWA. Interrogatory No. 1.D asked the question:
Please describe your educational background, including college, trade schools, degrees, and vocational training. If you are in the process of receiving training/education, please explain and give expected date of completion.
Here is Herbert's answer.
Chancellor and President of Ambassador College, Pasadena, California and Big Sandy, Texas, campuses.
Of course HWA does hold those titles. But his response did not answer the question that was asked! An honest answer would have been: "Dropped out of high school in junior year. Received an honorary degree from a Filipino institution after giving an expensive gift to accused political assassin and dictator Ferdinand Marcos."
HWA's answers cannot be trusted. And apparently neither can his promises. In our June 1982 issue we reported on the "Stipulation and Order" of June 24 ordering HWA to provide Ramona with funds for temporary spousal maintenance and various utility payments. Court documents reveal that by October of 1982, Ramona's lawyers were back in court claiming:
That petitioner [HWA] has failed to abide by the signed Stipulation and Order by failing to either pay certain of the expenses on the dates due or failing to pay the expenses at all of such items, including, but not limited to, the water bill, expenses for landscaping, the phone bill, etc.
Surely "God's Apostle" has not forgotten Paul's admonition in I Timothy 5:8 that "if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel." Could it be that HWA does not have the money to pay his bills? Not likely. In with the thousands of pages of court documents now on file in the divorce case are copies of HWA's employment contracts with the Worldwide Church and the Corporation Sole. HWA's 14-page Employment, Disability and Retirement Agreement with the WCG was signed August 1, 1976. Page one contains this modest claim:
Employee [HWA] is the founder, President and Chairman of Employer [WCG]. Since the organization of Employer and its related entities, which include Ambassador College and the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, both of which are headquartered in Pasadena, California, Employee has served as the senior executive of each of them. Employee has unselfishly devoted his lifetime to ensuring the success and good image of Employer throughout the world in its support of worthy humanitarian purposes. Employee's services and contributions to Employer and its related entities have far exceeded anything that Employer expected or had the right to expect.
In return for his services this is what HWA's contract granted him:
Salary. For all his services as Chairman of the Board and President of Employer, Employee shall receive a salary of Two Hundred Thousand Dollars ($200,000) per year. Each year during the Employment Period, Employee's annual salary shall be payable in at least twelve (12) equal consecutive monthly installments.
Expenses: Employer shall pay for all expenses incurred by or on behalf of Employee in performing as the Chairman of the Board and President of Employer, including but not limited to all travel, lodging, entertainment and meal expenses. Recognizing that Employee will be traveling around the world meeting with many dignitaries, including Heads of States, in all cases Employee shall be provided with first-class accommodations at Employer's expense.All out-of-pocket expenses incurred by Employee in the performance of his duties as the Chairman of the Board
©1983 Ambassador Report. Published quarterly, as finances allow.
John Trechak, Editor Mary E. Jones, Associate Editor Connie Gerringer, Circulation Manager
Founding Publishers: Robert Gerringer, Bill Hughes, Mary E. Jones, John Trechak, Lon Zola, and Margaret Zola.
and President of Employer shall be promptly reimbursed by Employer to Employee within thirty (30) days after Employee's incurrence thereof.
Fringe Benefits: Vacations, sick leaves, employee group insurance and other fringe benefits for Employee shall be in accordance with Employer's personnel policies governing its senior executives, and if no such policies have been adopted, as Employer may authorize from time to time, such authorization not to be unreasonably withheld.
Automobile: Each year during the Employment Period, Employer shall provide to Employee, by purchase, lease or otherwise, (at Employer's expense), a limousine with chauffeur to be used in the performance of the Employee's duties as the Chairman of the Board and President of Employer. Said limousine shall be a late model, not older than three (3) years.
The seven-year contract continues on, giving HWA protection against being fired, full compensation for partial disability or total disability, retirement benefits, retention of his titles, use of airplane, attorneys' fees in case of lawsuits, etc. The contract was signed by Herbert W. Armstrong (Employee), and by Garner Ted Armstrong and Stanley R. Rader for Worldwide Church of God (Employer).
Of particular interest in this divorce case is a section on page nine of the contract that provides HWA's spouse $25,000 per year in the event of his death. That is something HWA claims he never promised Ramona. Recall from our last issue (page 7) this question put to HWA under oath:
Did you ever make any promise to Ramona Armstrong either prior to the marriage or during the marriage, that if you were to become disabled or died, you or the church would give her, for the rest of her life, $25,000 a year?
[Answer by HWA]: Definitely not.
Yet HWA's 1976 contract clearly states that on his death his "spouse" would receive $25,000 per year. Not only that, but in an amendment to his contract dated July 1, 1977, that provision is clarified:
In the event that Armstrong's spouse, Ramona Louise Armstrong, survives him, then upon Armstrong's death his spouse shall be entitled to an annual benefit of Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00) during each year that said spouse survives Armstrong, which amount shall be payable in at least twelve (12) equal consecutive monthly installments during each such year. Said annual benefits shall commence on the date of death of Armstrong and terminate on the date of death of Armstrong's spouse.
But that's not all. The amendment then goes on to amplify the provision to include survivors' benefits for "Richard Dale Martin, Armstrong's stepson" and "Zella Crittenden, Armstrong's mother-in-law" (Ramona's mother). The amendment is signed by Herbert, W. Armstrong (Employee) and by Stanley R. Rader and Herbert Armstrong again for Worldwide Church of God (Employer). The amendment also contained one odd - in fact, for HWA, extremely odd - provision. HWA gave himself a cut in salary. It was lowered from $200,000 per year way down to $195,000 per year. No reason was given, but some have pointed out that $200,000 per year divided by 12 installments gave HWA a very "beastly" monthly paycheck of $16,666.66.
Whatever the case, by 1980 HWA was entangled in the State of California suit and decided he wanted a new contract. That Employment Agreement, well-larded with ecclesiastical verbage and filed in, of all places, Wyoming, begins thusly:
THIS AGREEMENT is made and entered into effective April 25,1980, by and between Herbert W. Armstrong The Apostle of the Worldwide Church of God, and his successors, a corporation sole (hereinafter referred to as "Employer"), a Wyoming corporation sole, and Herbert W. Armstrong (hereinafter referred to as "Employee"). This Agreement is made with reference to the following facts:
A. Employee had previously made and entered into on July 30,1976, an Employment, Disability and Retirement Agreement, which Agreement shall be referred to herein as the "1976 Agreement." The 1976 Agreement was made and entered into between Employee and Worldwide Church of God, a California corporation, which entity shall hereinafter be referred to as the "California corporation." The Worldwide Church of God (hereinafter referred to as the "Church") is not a corporation, although it has formed various corporations and other legal entities in many nations around the world. The Church is a worldwide spiritual organism, the Body of Christ. Although Employee has performed valuable services for each of the several entities through which the Church has conducted its temporal affairs. Employee heretofore has been compensated by the California corporation according to the terms and provisions of the 1976 Agreement.
The Church has requested, and the California corporation and Employee have agreed, that the 1976 Agreement be terminated. Such termination was effected by an Agreement of Termination dated April 25, 1980.
Employee's performance under the 1976 Agreement both to the Church as well as to the California corporation was exemplary in every respect. In addition to the recitals contained in the 1976 Agreement which are incorporated herein by this reference, the following facts are important recitals to this Agreement: Employee has kept God's Word and not denied His Name and has held fast to the teachings which he received of Jesus Christ. He has been faithful in putting God's Work back on the track and preparing the Church to be the Bride of Christ, that it may be presented to Him holy and without blemish, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing. The fruits of Employee's labours confirm that he has been called to be an Apostle, not of man, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead. Employee received the precious truth of the Gospel not of man, neither was he taught it after man, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the foregoing recitals and of the mutual promises, covenants, and agreements contained herein, the parties hereto agree as follows:
The seven-year contract then goes on to give HWA raise:
Employer shall pay Employee a salary of not less than Twenty-One Thousand Five Hundred Thirty-Five and Fffty- Eight Hundredths Dollars ($21,535.58) per month, payable in equal, biweekly installments each and every month during the term thereof.
That brought HWA's salary up to $258,426.96 per year. The contract also gave him the generous expense allowance, car, plane, attorney fees protection, etc. contained in the 1976 contract. There was also the same provision for survivor's benefits for HWA's spouse. The contract was signed by HWA (employee) and by Stanley Rader and HWA (employer). We wonder, though, why a man allegedly so close to God Almighty would put his faith in lawyers and contracts to provide for him, rather than in God. We don't recall Moses, Elijah, Jesus, or any of the apostles demanding an employment contract.
Is HWA in the "Real World"?
It may seem like a strange question at first, but some are beginning to wonder if HWA knows what is going on around him. The following is an excerpt from an "Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment" filed June 8 by Ramona's lawyers:
There is other evidence which casts a serious doubt as to whether the marriage is truly irretrievably broken as the petitioner alleges. Respondent believes that since the separation of the parties Mr. Armstrong has been isolated and shielded from communications with the respondent to such a degree that he does not fully understand or comprehend what has occurred since that separation. It is respondent's belief that the attempts made by her for reconciliation prior to the filing of the petition for dissolution were intercepted and kept from the petitioner to inhibit and prevent any reconciliation.
For this fact the respondent [Ramona] asks the court to review the following testimony taken from the deposition of the petitioner Herbert W. Armstrong on April 25, 1983.
Q [Deckter] My question is following that, that is, in December or January -
A [HWA] Uh-huh.
Q December '81, January '82, were you informed of Ramona's willingness -
A No, I was not.
Q - to accompany you on other trips?
A No, I was not, definitely.
Q Would it surprise you, Sir, that there were written communications intended to be communicated to you -
A It certainly would.
Q - of her willingness to accompany you on trips?
A I saw no such communication.
See also the testimony of Herbert W. Armstrong taken on April 26, 1983.
Q Do you know if between January and March, 1982, Ramona attempted to communicate with you on a direct basis? I'm asking if he knows.
Mr. Brown: But attempted to communicate makes the question vague and ambiguous.
Mr. Deckter: He said he didn't talk to her personally or receive any personal communication.
The Witness: Not to my knowledge.
Mr. Deckter: I asked if he was aware -
The Witness: No communication whatsoever. And I know of no attempt at any communication whatsoever. I tried to contact her. I didn't know what had happened to her, after she wouldn't go on that trip, and that's now more than a year-and-a-half ago. This thing's been dragging ever since. I wish we could get it over with.
Q (By Mr. Deckter): I'm talking about the period January through April, January 1st, 1982 to the time of the filing of your petition for dissolution in this matter. Are you aware of any attempts on Ramona's part to directly communicate with you?
A Let's see, I don't remember the dates. The only thing would have been a telegram that she sent to me telling me to leave her alone, she wouldn't live with me, and she wanted to be alone and didn't want to be with me.
In view of this testimony, the court is asked to review the letter attached as Respondent's Exhibit C. Exhibit C is a letter sent from Respondent's counsel to Petitioner's counsel. The testimony by Petitioner casts doubt as to whether he received the information contained in the correspondence.
The petitioner's isolation from events concerning his possible reconciliation with Ramona Armstrong is not the only evidence that persons close to him have attempted to shield him from the "real world." During questioning at his deposition concerning payment of his attorneys' fees certain statements were made which show how real his isolation is. The court is directed to the following testimony excerpted from Mr. Armstrong's deposition, taken on April 18,1983.
Q Who is paying your attorneys' fees?
A I haven't been billed yet. I have no idea.
Q To no one?
A I don't have the money to pay the kind of attorneys' fees that are mounting up.
Q So no one has come to you and said we will loan you "X" number of dollars to pay your attorneys' fees.
Q You haven't talked to anyone and said -
Q - would you take care of them for me?
Q So if hundreds of thousands of dollars of money have been paid for your personal attorneys' fees in this matter, you don't know anything about it?
Mr. Browne: He's asking if you know.
Mr. Deckter: Let me ask my questions. Confer in private.
Mr. Browne: I don't want to confer in private at this point.
Mr. Deckter: Then -
Mr. Browne: I just - Mr. Armstrong, if you know specifically the information about the attorneys' fees, you can testify to it. If somebody else is taking care of that for you then -
Mr. Deckter: Don't instruct the witness on what to testify.
Mr. Browne: I'm just -
Mr. Deckter: You are.
The Witness: I've not been billed attorneys' fees, and I don't know anything about it. I presume they will be billed to me. That's all. Now, I'm just informing you gentlemen who like attorneys' fees so well, I don't have the money to pay it.
Someone Is Going to Pay
HWA may claim he is too poor to pay for the divorce he initiated, but court documents show that he has made several hundred thousand dollars a year for the past several years, he has many foreign bank accounts, and he owns considerable wealth. On top of that, as we have shown, virtually all his living expenses are paid for by the church. Ironically, not only are HWA's lawyers making money on this case, HWA is paying for Ramona's lawyers as well! Ramona's lawyers recently petitioned the court for more money from Herbert.
That the respondent [Ramona] is without adequate funds with which to compensate her attorneys. That due to the time and expenses necessary to adequately prepare and litigate this action, not less than $300,000.00 will be needed for additional reasonable temporary attorneys' fees, plus an additional sum of $50,000.00 for incurred expenses and projected costs and expenses.
That an additional reasonable sum for temporary attorneys' fees in an amount of not less than $300,000.00 is necessary for the following reasons:
a) Petitioner [HWA] is represented by four (4) separate law firms consisting of in excess of 50 attorneys in Tucson, Arizona alone, as well as the constant presence of another firm, Helge & Associates. In addition thereto, petitioner is represented by several law firms in the State of California;
b) That to date over 361 pleadings have been filed, offered, responded to, etc. herein. In addition, approximately 20 depositions have been taken and are continuing at present;
c) There have been 11 special actions filed and one (1) appeal to the Supreme Court.
Judge Hooker granted them a "finding of fact" of legal fees of $200,000 and an award for partial fees of $100,000. This over the $43,000 HWA was already forced to pay them. Their total bill will undoubtedly go far higher before the case is over. And don't forget, this is just one firm. Ramona has separate firms representing her in her suit against Worldwide in California (and Arizona) and in her criminal case in Tucson.
A Nasty Business
HWA is discovering just how expensive a divorce can be. It can also be a very nasty business. For instance, notice this line of questioning at one HWA deposition:
Q Isn't it true, air, that you required of Ramona Martin that she be sterilized prior to your marriage?
A Definitely not.
Q And that -
A Definitely not.
Q And that in order to obtain her consent to get that operation performed, Ramona wanted you present at the operation?
A Definitely not. I never made any such requirement.
Q Do you remember discussing that particular matter with Mr. David Robinson?
A No, I certainly do not.
Q Do you recall, sir, when we talked about Amy Bowman before? Do you remember we talked about Amy Bowman who was a secretary to your secretary at some time before 19 -
A She was an assistant to my secretary.
Q Do you remember, sir, I asked you if you had a romantic relationship with Amy Bowman?
MR. BROWNE: Object to the question...
According to Ramona, she was sterilized in 1976 at HWA's insistence. (Robinson, in his book Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web, recounts how HWA admitted this very thing to him in 1976.) You will recall, however, that HWA and Ramona did not wed until April of 1977. Yes indeed, HWA's divorce trial may provide some interesting bits of information on "The Apostle."
A look at the list of witnesses Ramona's lawyers hope to have testify hints at the nature of the forthcoming trial. Along with various WCG officials, accountants, and bank officers are these probable witnesses: Jack Kessler, John Kenniston, Henry Cornwall, Rona Martin, Stanley Rader, David Dahlgran, Nikki Rader, Dr. Floyd Lochner, Melvin Olinger, Myrtle Horn, Dorothy Mattson, David Robinson, Jim Johnson, Layla Upton, Amy Bowman, Helen Styles, Ilene McManis, Virginia Kenniston, Jerry Wylie, Ken Hopke, Bill Stacey, Dorothy Moore, Wes White, Hillel Chodos, and Judge Weisman. Some of those listed have already thought it wise to obtain legal representation.
New Criminal Charges Against Ramona
On September 12 Associated Press ran this story on the wire:
A Pima County (Arizona) Superior Court judge has ordered Herbert W. Armstrong, pastor general of the Worldwide Church of God, to make himself available for an interview with the lawyer representing his estranged wife on perjury and theft charges. Judge J. Richard Hannah issued the order Monday at the request of Tucson lawyer Alex Gaynes, who represents Ramona Armstrong, and told the prosecutor to arrange the interview within the next three weeks. The interview may be held in California, where Armstrong resides near the church headquarters in Pasadena.
Gaynes wants to question Armstrong, 91, about what he knows of the handling of gold flatware, the property Mrs. Armstrong, 44, allegedly stole. Chief Deputy County Attorney Victor Wild said after Monday's hearing that he had talked to Armstrong's lawyers and they had offered two possible dates for the interview and were working on a third....
The divorce case is fiercely contested, and community property is estimated by some to be in the millions of dollars. It took months of legal wrangling before Armstrong came to Tucson to give a deposition to his wife's lawyers in the divorce case earlier this year, and Gaynes said "of course" Monday when asked if he expected further problems in setting up an interview with Armstrong.
Mrs. Armstrong was indicted March 29 on single counts of perjury and theft, stemming from her alleged mishandling of the flatware, purportedly belonging to the church's Ambassador College in Pasadena, and statements she made about it at a hearing in the divorce case. The theft charge was ordered dismissed in early summer because of interference by a prosecutor in grand jury deliberations. But the grand jury reindicted her Aug. 17 on a similar theft charge and added a charge of trafficking in stolen property.
Mrs. Armstrong's son by a previous marriage, Richard Dale Martin, who lived with the Armstrongs, also was indicted Aug. 17, according to a court record. But the file on his case remains confidential, usual practice when the person indicted has not been served. In an apparent reference to the son, Wild said in court Monday that Mrs. Armstrong had a "codefendant" who was indicted on similar charges.
Gaynes meanwhile said he will argue for dismissal of the theft and trafficking charges against Mrs. Armstrong on grounds that the prosecution waited too long to refile them. Gaynes has been critical of the prosecution of Mrs. Armstrong, saying that it resulted from information provided by Armstrong's lawyers.
What exactly these missing "gold flatware" are we don't know. But we did notice something interesting in the court record. HWA has had Pinkerton agents guarding his Tucson home around the clock at a cost of over $5,000 per month. In spite of this, Ralph Helge, in November 1982 wrote to an insurance company making a claim on allegedly stolen property. Helge described that property this way:
A pair of sterling silver George III wine coolers by Paul Storr, London, 1796. They were purchased in February 1978 for $21,200.00.
An antique English gilt sterling silver centerpiece, by Paul Storr, London, 1808/09. It is a hemispherical bowl with a banding of Greek-key designs flanked by beadmoldings and three finely detailed masks of the god Bacchus, wearing a sunburst tiara. The bowl rests on three Sphinx supports, each ending on a claw foot, and connected by a decorated stretcher. The whole is mounted on a molded tre-foil base, decorated with winged ornaments, or three shell feet.
Students of ancient history will recall that Bacchus was the Greek god of wine, drunkenness, and sexual excess. He is identified with the god Dionysus, who was worshipped with orgiastic rites. Throughout the Bible (Il Kings 10 for instance) there are numerous admonitions that such graven or molten images be destroyed. One can only wonder then why "God's Apostle" would spend many thousands of dollars of church funds to surround himself with such openly pagan depictions - especially when he forbids his church members from observing Christmas and Easter because of their pagan origins.
HWA Unaware of His Church's Divorce Policy???
One of the last things most WCG members ever remotely expected Herbert to do was to file for divorce from Ramona, the woman who, according to Herbert, was specially selected and provided by God to be his wife (The Plain Truth, July 1977; Member Letter, 4/18/77). After all, as God's "apostle," Herbert (1) had said uncountable times that "marriage is a sacred, God-plane relationship," (2) had authored dozens of PT and GN articles and three booklets (Divorce and Remarriage, Why Marriage! Soon Obsolete?, and Marriage and Divorce) on divorce, the purpose of marriage, and how to achieve marital happiness, (3) had condemned divorce as a "colossal national sin" (Divorce and Remarriage, 1953, p.1), and (4) had for over 40 years cruelly refused to permit church members to remarry if they had been previously divorced.
But if some were shocked that Herbert would file for divorce, many were stunned beyond belief that, when asked by attorney Browne during a Feb. 25, 1983 deposition if he had ever made a promise to Ramona Armstrong that he would never divorce her, Herbert replied: "No. I did not."
What kind of answer is that? Has Herbert totally forgotten his wedding vows? He should remember them well because he wrote them and commanded that his wedding "ceremony should be read 'as is' for all marriages between members in the Western world." One of our supporters, when he asked a church official if he could alter the wording of the WCG's official ceremony for his marriage, was curtly informed that the wording was written by Herbert, inspired by God, and NO, it would be considered heresy to alter it. But evidently Herbert has forgotten one of its key sections:
And you are commanded, on the authority of the Eternal God, not to separate or marry another so long as you both shall live! This marriage, by authority of the Supreme Court of Heaven, is inexorably binding, until broken by death! (Emphasis HWA's throughout.)
So Herbert wrote that not only was a married person not to divorce and remarry, but he/she was not even to separate. Why? Because the marriage was inexorably bound until broken by death. The vows continue:
Since Marriage is a divine institution, and we are asking the living GOD to join you as husband and wife, it is fitting that each of you should faithfully promise before God to accept the sacred Marriage covenant according to the divinely ordained conditions imposed by Almighty God.
Do you, then [his first name] FAITHFULLY PROMISE AND COVENANT WITH God, in the presence of these witnesses, to take [her FULL name] to be your lawful wedded wife, to cleave to her unto death, to love her, cherish her, honor her, and provide for her? [His answer.]
Has Herbert forgotten his sacred marriage vows before Almighty God? If not, how can he truthfully say under oath that he never promised Ramona not to divorce her?
Church's Worldwide Audited Financial Report
The WCG published an audited worldwide financial statement for the first time in its 50-year history (Worldwide News, 6/27/83). The financial report was examined by the internationally respected firm of Arthur Andersen & Co. As Herbert Armstrong correctly pointed out, the church is "not required by law to publish this report."
The report revealed that the WCG and affiliated organizations (including AC and the AICF) took in $120,904,000 in 1982 and spent $116,097,000, leaving $4,807,000 in support and revenue over expenses - a healthy sign. Based on unaudited worldwide figures for 1981 (see WN, 2/15/82), revenue rose 11.6 percent and expenses rose 12.4 percent, which meant the church's income increased faster than inflation.
While the notes to the combined financial statements held some interesting tidbits, evidently church officials closely scrutinized the final wording this time, so there was no mention of Herbert's huge salary and other embarrassing material as there was in Arthur Andersen's 1978-79 audit of church books. It appears Herbert and his entourage spent close to $3 million in 1982, though much of the $22.6 million labeled "Management and general" could have been used for his picture-taking visits with world leaders. Strangely, no note explains this mysterious figure, which equals 19.5 percent of total expenditures.
Note 3 shows the church spent about $4 million for travel expenses and $4 million for professional fees, much of which may represent legal fees. Note 4 lists aircraft owned by the church costing $3.8 million, fine arts (probably art objects) costing $2.1 million, and library books costing only $1.1 million. This gives a rough idea of the importance the WCG attaches to academics. The church's aircraft "is scheduled to be modified in 1986 for an anticipated approximate cost of $3,400,000." Note 7 reveals that the church "is currently providing benefits to certain former employees of approximately $580,000 annually." We suspect some of these former employees are either dissident ministers who have promised not to portray the church in unfavorable light to the news media or Armstrong relatives. Note 8 confirms that the church has dumped Quest magazine and Everest House Publishers, a smart move, as these publications published material at variance with the church's beliefs.
Herbert's Tithes Come Up Short
It's been some time since HWA could lay claim to being the WCG's biggest financial contributor. But just how small a contributor he is has shocked WCG members in Pasadena who obtained copies of HWA's 1980 income tax returns. Those documents show that in 1980 HWA gave himself and his wife an income of $387,755, paid federal taxes of $147,545, and deducted only $37,427 (or just over 9.5 percent) as church contributions. That from the man who teaches that Christians must pay first tithe, second tithe, third tithe, building fund offerings, holy day offerings, and regularly exhorts his followers to "sacrifice as never before!" Also we note that Ramona listed her occupation as "secretary" and was given a salary of $38,308.08 from the WCG - quite a nice salary for secretarial services.
USC Responds to Robinson Letter
In our last issue we reported how the University of Southern California had established a professorship in constitutional law in the name of Herbert W. Armstrong. We also ran an open letter to the President and Trustees of USC written by author David Robinson protesting the honor given HWA. Scott H. Bice, the dean of USC's Law Center, answered Robinson with a letter which later became the standard reply to others who also wrote, protesting the USC-HWA collaboration. We thought you might find Dean Bice's letter of interest:
Dear Mr. Robinson:
President Zumberge has asked me to respond to your letter of June 13, 1983, concerning the Armstrong Professorship.
As you know, the professorship was established by a grant from the Ambassador Foundation to the Law Center. At the Foundation's request, the professorship was named for the Chairman and Founder of the Foundation. It is customary to name professorships for the institution or persons who provide the funds to establish the professorship's endowment.
Mr. Armstrong's career, like the careers of many other noteworthy persons, has of course not been free from controversy. We take the occasion of the establishment of a professorship to mark the undeniable contributions of the person for whom the chair is named. Mr. Armstrong is a recognized religious leader and philanthropist.
Scott H. Bice
Will the Real Beast Please Stand Up?
For quite a few years HWA was placing his bets on German politician Franz Josef Strauss to become "the Beast" dictator of Herbert's prophesied United Europe. With Strauss having failed repeatedly to become even Chancellor of West Germany, HWA is apparently searching about for a new person who could be the "future European dictator" to embellish his prophetical theories. And he has apparently found him.
He is Dr. Otto von Habsburg, head of the 700-year-old House of Habsburg, which ruled the Holy Roman Empire in the dynasty prior to Napoleon, and one of the most prestigious royal families in Europe.
So writes Herbert in his July 24 letter to the brethren. He described Habsburg this way:
He very probably has a more clear grasp of international affairs than any man today. He is author of the famous book The Social Order of Tomorrow, giving a design for reunification of Europe startlingly close to the biblical description of this prophesied resurrected Europe to occur just prior to the Second Coming of Christ. I had long wanted to meet Otto von Habsburg personally.
And meet him he did. HWA invited him to speak at Ambassador College in July and then flew him to Washington, D.C., in the church's G-Il jet.
GTA Hits the Petra Fallacy
Of all the beliefs held by the WCG there is probably none that worries relatives and friends of WCG members more than the "flee to Petra" idea. (Petra is in the Jordanian desert east of Israel.) We regularly receive letters from concerned individuals who know someone who has adopted this belief. Many are concerned that their WCG friend or relative may be led into another Jonestown situation or into some similar tragedy.
The "Petra escape" is still believed strongly by many in WCG circles in spite of the fact-that there have been numerous articles and sermons debunking the whole idea. The latest article to appear that debunks the fallacy is by none other than Garner Ted Armstrong. Titled "Where Is Your 'Place of Safety'?", it appeared in the June-July issue of The International News (P.O. Box 2525, Tyler, TX 75710). We actually found the article quite good in many respects and in particular found the following excerpts noteworthy:
For years, many ministers have taught FALSELY that Almighty God will use physical punishment; the GREAT TRIBULATION, martyrdom and torture before death as the final means of expiating guilt, the final manner in which God will cleanse unrighteousness, and bring about brokenhearted REPENTANCE in recalcitrant, unyielding or "Laodicean" (lukewarm) people!
Ask yourself the following question: "Is that why Stephen died?"...
Should a rational, sane, humble minister of Jesus Christ be encouraging people to think about a physical, geographical location on this earth; telling them, laughingly, that, since hundreds died in a fiery crash of a DC-10, and the fleet of DC-10s was subsequently grounded, God will very likely provide that grounded fleet of DC-10s to take them to faraway PETRA? Is God amused by references to the failed "10-inch bolt" being replaced by a "10-inch angel"?
No, the Eternal God in heaven above is not amused by irresponsible blatherings or sick humor...
The point which should finally occur to anyone is that, while Petra, or any other wilderness place featuring sheer rock walls and caves is completely obsolete as a "place of safety" in the face of modern weapons and methods of warfare, God's protection will NEVER be obsolete!
Worldwide Church of God members are as preoccupied as ever, it seems, with the idea of fleeing into the Jordanian desert to await the end of the world. But such ideas have not deterred the church-sponsored AICF from scheduling a spectacular 1983-84 concert season at Ambassador Auditorium (formerly referred to as "The House for God"). Their lineup of stars includes: The Vienna Philharmonic with Leonard Bernstein, Mirella Freni, James Galway, the Amadeus Quartet, Horacio Gutierrez, the National Symphony Orchestra with Mstislav Rostropovich, Nathan Milstein, Kiri Te Kanawa, Ravi Shankar, Bella Davidovich, Jessye Norman, the Beaux Arts Trio, Oscar Shumsky, the Guarneri String Quartet, Lucia Popp, Hermann Prey, Jorge Bolet, the Ballet Nacional Espanol, Mel Torme, the New England Ragtim Ensemble, the Canadian Brass, Richard Stoltzman, Nathaniel Rosen, Christopher Hogwood, the Danish National Orchestra, Sixten Ehrling, the Polish Chamber Orchestra, Claude Bollig, Herbie Mann, the Lucnica Czechoslovak Folk Ballet, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Gerard Schwarz, Julian Bream, Benny Goodman, I Musici, the Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company, Zamfir, Kathleen Battle, I Solisti di Zagreb, the Juilliard String Quartet, Martti Talvela, Jakob Gimpel, George Shearing, Montserrat Caballe, Andres Segovia, and many more.
We wondered if the WCG was paying taxes on the money they made from the concert series, but, after investigation we found that the concerts were losing money. That means that the church is subsidizing concerts for the rich under the guise of giving to charity.
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Author John Tuit (The Truth Shall Make You Free) is apparently not the only writer in his family. His wife, Paula, is now a reporter with The New Transcript, a Freehold, New Jersey newspaper. Incidentally, John tells us he still has copies of his book available for $8.00 each. His address is: The Truth Foundation, 11 Laurel Court, Freehold Township, NJ 07728.
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The WCG recently disfellowshipped its number one tithe payer, Jerry Gentry of Big Sandy, Texas (see our January '83 issue). Gentry apparently became too interested in the ministry of former WCG minister Cecil Battles (P.O. Box 867, Grants Pass, OR 97526). We have heard that Battles has developed quite a following among current WCG members, many of whom regard him as some type of special prophet or shaman. We contacted Mr. Battles to ask a few questions about his ministry, but for some strange reason he was extremely reluctant to give any information whatsoever about his activities.
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Ellis LaRavia, the vice-president of the Ambassador Foundation and the man many feel will head the WCG on HWA's demise, has been making important inroads for himself in the Pasadena community. He is currently vicepresident of the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce and likely to become its next president. He has even been mentioned as a possible candidate for Mayor of Pasadena.
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Herbert Armstrong may consider himself the most important religious figure-in the world today, but there are those who would not even rank him close to such an honor. The World Christian Encyclopedia, a 1,010-page comprehensive survey of contemporary Christianity published in 1982, lists 490 of the world's most important Christian leaders in its Who's Who section. The name Herbert W. Armstrong does not appear.
Armstrongism Bibliography Completed
We are very pleased to announce that after considerable time and effort, John Buchner has completed his "Armstrongism Bibliography," and it is now available to the public. Although others have attempted and completed similar bibliographies in the past, Buchner's is by far the most extensive, thorough, and useful. Even we at Ambassador Report, after thumbing through this work, were amazed at the vast amount of material that has been published about Armstrongism.
Part one of the 124-page bibliography includes a listing of all known books on Armstrongism (eleven!), related book reviews, books with sections or chapters on Armstrong (33), booklets and tracts, academic theses and papers, audio-visual materials, papers written by insiders, papers written by others, documents, letters, magazine articles, newspaper articles, reference materials, and spin-off organizations. Part two lists materials produced by the WCG, part three materials produced by 13 "related organizations" (i.e., Foundation for Biblical Research, Biblical Church of God, Church of God International, The Shofar, etc.). Part four lists a huge amount of additional materials (including all issues of Ambassador Report to April 1983).
For anyone doing serious research on the Worldwide Church of God or related organizations, the Buchner bibliography will prove absolutely invaluable. Mr. Buchner has informed us that sometime in the distant future he may update this work. So if any omissions are noted, he would appreciate being informed. However, we suspect there will be very few. This is a very thorough bibliography and a major contribution to the study of the Armstrongism phenomenon. Those interested in obtaining a copy of this bibliography should send their requests along with $10.00 (U.S.) to: J.L.F. Buchner, P.O. Box 170, Gordon, N.S.W. 2072, Australia.
It gave me considerable pleasure to read several of your recent reports. It was not until about a year ago, after serving as a Local Elder for seven years, that l finally realized what a total liar HWA had become. With that revelation I walked out of Sabbath services and flushed it behind me. Hope you and your family are well, I still retain fond memories of our college experience.
-Lawson O. Price
Editor. And the best to you Lawson; I too retain some very fond memories of our Ambassador College days.
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In the July issue you quoted Mr Durrel Brown as a defected minister. Mr. Brown is [a relative]. He is very much with WCG. He did not leave the ministry. He just hasn't been reassigned for personal reasons that have nothing to do with his standing in the church. I'd appreciate it if you would print this correction.
Editor: Our apologies to Mr. Brown.
Bobby Fischer - Where Are You?
Long-time readers of Ambassador Report will recall that in our large 1977 edition we ran an interview with world chess champion Bobby Fischer. While never actually a baptized member of the WCG, Fischer had been an Armstrong follower for some years. The interview centered on his involvement with the WCG and helped thousands of readers to better understand the "Ambassador Experience."
Since then many have written to us asking what has become of the chess champion. But until recently, we've had little idea. For over five years now Fischer has shunned, not only the press, but most of his old friends. Nevertheless, the Los Angeles Times has been able to uncover a good deal of information on the chess champ. In an article by Bella Stumbo, the Times on August 4 reported on Fischer in considerable detail. Here are a few excerpts:
It is the sort of yarn, complete with lurid rumors and wild clues, to rival the tale of Howard Hughes. Turning his back on fame and a multimillion-dollar fortune, former world chess champion Bobby Fischer dropped out of sight nearly 10 years ago. Reporters, attorneys, bill collectors, fans and other assorted sleuths have been on his trail ever since. In vain. Fischer left almost no trace.
But, in chess circles, the legend of Bobby Fischer, generally considered the greatest chess mind of all time, remains passionately alive. Wherever two or more serious chess players are gathered, the latest Fischer gossip will be routinely exchanged, his greatest moves reverently replayed - and, inevitably, the wistful, wishful question will arise: Will Fischer... ever play chess in public again?
Generally speaking, nobody thinks so....
According to former friends and others in a position to know, his current lifestyle is unorthodox, not to say bizarre: He uses an alias, he doesn't drive, he has no phone, almost no money and only one remaining friend, a Pasadena matron, who allegedly censors his mail, pays his rent and is the only person who always knows where he lives. He reportedly has spent the last decade living in the basement of her comfortable hillside home, in assorted cheap Pasadena apartments and, occasionally, in fleabag hotels in downtown Los Angeles.
Secretive to the point of paranoia, Fischer, a bachelor, does not date for fear of treachery, and he has angrily cut off his handful of former chess friends, one by one, because, they say, they made the mistake of discussing him, however superficially, with the press. Fischer reportedly still suspects that he may be under Soviet surveillance and possibly the object of a KGB assassination attempt. It is a concern that he has nursed ever since his triumph over Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union in 1972....
According to Cerritos Junior High School history teacher Ron Gross, 47, the last of Fischer's old friends to see him (on a fishing trip to Mexico more than a year ago this summer), Fischer's day is (or was) most recently divided among three obsessions: physical fitness, chess and a political philosophy which holds that the world is run by a secret world government controlled by Jews and centered in Moscow.
He goes to bed at dawn, sleeps until noon, then works out, either in a gym or in his apartment, according to Gross. His apartment is littered with chess books, bags of fresh oranges, vitamin jars and a wide array of Indian herbal medicines. Fischer carries a stash of these health aides (and sometimes a juice squeezer too) with him wherever he goes. He distrusts doctors and, consequently, refuses to have three large, hairy moles on his face removed....
Fischer's political theories now apparently fascinate him even more than chess. According to published reports, he has been spotted, in his trench coat disguise, skulking through a public parking lot in Pasadena at night, distributing leaflets he wrote, warning against the "Hidden Hand of a Satanic Secret World Government." "Bobby's so right-wing he's fascist," Gross said. Fischer's political Bible is an anti-semitic tome called "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," he has a prized selection of Hitler pictures, regularly refers to Jews as "kikes" and "Jew-bastards," and has an only slightly higher opinion of blacks, according to Gross.
But Fischer, whose mother is Jewish, accepts Jews on an individual basis, adds Gross, Jewish himself: "Bobby says we're all victims of the conspiracy." Seemingly torn between embarrassment and pride, Gross said he chauffeured Fischer to Nazi-oriented bookstores....
The article goes on to report that Fischer's closest friend (some would say business manager) is Claudia Mokarow, wife of former WCG minister Art Mokarow. Fischer is apparently aiming on a writing career now. He is learning to type and is planning both a novel and a book on his political theories. In fact, Fischer's writing career is already under way. He has written and published a 14-page pamphlet about his 1981 arrest by the Pasadena police. The unusual (and fairly well written) work is titled: "I was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse!" It is available for $1.50 (including postage) by writing to Bobby Fischer (the World Chess Champion), P.O. Box 50307, Pasadena, CA 91105-0307.
Literature of Interest
Editor" The October 1983 issue of The Plain Truth magazine has a "Personal From Herbert W. Armstrong" entitled "Here's Your Best Assurance of Holding a Job." Long-time HWA followers and WCG employees will not be surprised to learn that the method advocated is tithing to HWA. With that in mind, we thought you'd find the following letter of interest:
I recently read a good book put out by Le Tourneau Christian College of Longview, Texas. It is the biography of its founder R. G. Le Tourneau. I highly recommend it to 4R readers.... it should enlighten some of those inside that cult who read AR. Le Tourneau was a manufacturer of heavy earth-moving equipment and oil-drilling platforms sometime around the '30s to the late '60s in Longview, Texas. He was a self-made multi-millionaire who owed all his good fortune to God. The best part is not only did he tithe his income, but made an about face.- 10 percent to himself 90 percent to the Lord (mostly to a local church and foreign missions). The theology mentioned in the book is quite different from HWA's. It mentions such "worldly" ideas as Sunday church meetings, Sunday school, Christmas, etc. Great book, very inspirational. The title is Mover of Men & Mountains and is available by mail (paperback) from Le Tourneau College Bookstore, P.O. Box 7001, Longview, Texas 75607 (postage paid: $3.75).
Also there is another good book that might still he available entitled A Bucket of Finger Lickins. It is the story of Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame and how at the age of 65 years he promised to tithe to God's work if God would give him success in his chicken business. He gave his tithe to his local church in Kentucky (named Angel Tabernacle) and again it mentions those "worldy" ideas such as Sunday church going, Sunday schools and Christmas. If still available, the address is Starburst Co., P. O. Box 4123, Lancaster, PA 17604.
These two books lead me to believe that HWA followers might be tithing to the wrong church. I haven't heard of any millionaires coming out of WCG. They may as well he giving it to the local laundromat, for all the good it has done any of them.
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When I wrote to an address mentioned in your Report some time ago, I received a huge packet (postage was $2.00) of literature - most all of it from Jehovah's Witnesses. I had only wanted more information on the 7th-Day Church of God - that is what the AR had mentioned. Now wasn't this a sneaky way for the Jehovah's Witnesses to get their literature to others? There was only one small pamphlet about the 7th-Day Church and that was all critical. Then to kind of smooth things over, I guess, there was one sentence in the packet that said "keep reading the Ambassador Report" or something to that effect Have you received any other complaints?
Editor. Yes. We had no idea JW literature was going to be involved. For your information, the JW church is in the midst of considerable controversy. A number of JW "dissidents" have formed a group that puts out a newsletter called Notes for Bible Students (658 Highline Drive, E. Wenatchee, WA 98801). We got a kick out of their number 24 issue that told of the chaos in the JW sect. It so, closely parallels the WCG's recent history.
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Thank you for your interest concerning my book on personal development. As yet the book is not published but the manuscript is complete, and of the 22 chapters I am waiting for the final three chapters to come back from the editor.
The book will be entitled Living and Winning or Making Life Work. In manuscript form it is about 270 pages with 22 chapters.
The book's purpose is to show people how to build a stable identity and realistic self-esteem with the realities of the ups and downs of life. I do not know as yet what the book will sell for but hope to have it out by fall or winter.
If anyone would like me to put them on a list to he notified when it is out, please have them write me.
P.O. Box 50171
Pasadena, CA 91705
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Where does one get Paul Haecker's book Ten Years in the Religion of Herbert W. Armstrong. I have looked several places with no luck. Can you help on that one?
Editor. Sorry, the last we heard Mr. Haecker has moved to parts unknown.
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I would be interested to know if you have ever heard of an organization called "HALT" (Suite 319, 201 Massachusetts Ave., N.E., Washington, D.C. 20002)? lt's an organization of Americans for Legal Reform.
Editor. Not only have we heard of them, we fully support their goals. The American legal system is very, very badly in need of reform. And by the way, HALT publishes a number of excellent legal self-help pamphlets for its members. They are worth many times over the organization's membership fee. The organization is worth looking into.
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I do not consider myself a devoted "follower" of Ernest Martin (or of any other man, for that matter), but his Foundation for Biblical Research puts out some very fine research papers. The July issue of the FBR's Commentator had an article entitled "The Abuse of Fellowship. " I wish every individual in the WCG, CGI, BCG, etc. would read that article. There is far too much needless division in Christianity today. Thank you for mentioning that organization in the Report.
Editor. We feel just as you do. We have no desire to ever again be blind followers of any religious group or individual. However, we have learned much from Dr. Martin and his associates. We are particularly looking forward to his new book on The Original Bible Restored. So many millions look to the Bible as "the Work of God" for guidance and inspiration; yet so very few have even the slightest idea of how it came to be. We understand his new book, to be published this winter, will shed much light on that important subject. And if their new Commentator "The Place of the Crucifixion" is a foretaste of what's to come in this new book then it should be quite remarkable. For those who don't already have the Foundation's address, it is: P.O. Box 928, Pasadena, CA 91102.
The Wacky World of "We"-ligion
We live in a crazy world. No matter what area of human endeavor we look at we can find some pretty ludicrous goings on. Look at politics, law, medicine, finance, the arts, or any other field and it is very easy to find numerous examples of almost unbelievable obsurdities. But for sheer wackiness nothing can even come close to the world of religion.
About a year ago we had Reverend Moon marrying 4,150 of his followers in a ceremony in New York's Madison Square Garden. Of that occasion Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times (July 2, 1982) wrote:
Members of the church believe that God speaks through Moon, and when the 62-year-old evangelist arranges a marriage between two of his followers, his selection is viewed as an act of divine inspiration.
Moon also requires a couple to remain celibate for 3= years after their engagement, whether they are married or not. A few of the 4,150 Moonies wed Thursday had been engaged for the minimum 3= years, but most had not, church officials said; they will live apart until the church decides it is time for their marriages to be consummated.
Then there's Jerry Falwell of the Moral Majority. He was big in the news for a while but has now fallen on hard times. He has asked all those on his computer list for $100 to help him out of his current crisis. He says his church will be conducting a round-the-clock prayer vigil until the end of the fiscal year. This writer recently saw Falwell on a late-night news talkshow declaring himself unequivocally to be a "Zionist." Perhaps that has turned off some of his supporters.
Falwell isn't the only TV preacher having money problems. Oral Roberts has apparently been having financial woes too. Not long ago he wrote a letter to his followers quoting "the Lord" whom Roberts claimed had given him a lengthy message to be passed on to his followers. The key part of the message from "the Lord" was that they were to send Roberts $20 per month for 12 months. Roberts' letter began:
"It is later than you think."
"When are you and your partners going to obey Me?"
That is the statement and the question I heard the Lord speak to me late one afternoon several weeks ago. It was only the beginning of a conversation between the Lord and me that lasted for seven hours ... and is still continuing.
It was only about two years ago that Roberts claimed he had a vision of "a 900-foot-tall Jesus" standing over his university's medical complex. That story apparently generated millions of dollars in contributions. The latest one should do just as well.
It is interesting that Roberts' letter to his contributors is very similar to the co-worker letters of HWA even in such details as extensive use of words in large capital letters and underlining. In fact, some have claimed that Roberts got his idea for starting a college from following HWA's successful career and that his "seed faith" contribution system was modeled after HWA's tithing doctrine.
Whatever the case, funding is not Roberts' only problem. Recall Patti Roberts, Oral's daughter-in-law, who used to sing on his telecasts? Well, the May 1983 issue of Contemporary Christian Music contained an article about Patti with this interesting information:
Patti describes her life as a television personality for one of the most powerful and influential evangelists in modern Christianity. "We all lived together in the compound," she says. "Richard and I were the all-American couple, tied to a glamorous image that we did our best to live up to. That shining couple that millions of people knew was built at the expense of our home and marriage. The ministry was everything and came before the family, the children, our own relationship.
In the end, the dream simply fell apart, exposing the decade-long nightmare that Patti Roberts was living. "I had deep problems with Oral's teaching," she says with unflinching directness. "That made me a misfit." It was Roberts' controversial fund raising doctrine of Seed Faith that Patti questioned, eventually confronting both her husband and father-in-law with her doubts about its scriptural and moral basis. The rest was swift expulsion from the Roberts organization, divorce, and the shattering end to her sheltered and privileged life. "Richard went to his father to ask permission for the divorce," she reveals. "Then he came to me....
"A lot of people loved Richard and Patti," she explains, "and those people never got an explanation of what happened. One day I was there, the next day I just ceased to exist. They even destroyed all the film footage with me in it. They just erased Patti Roberts. I felt I owed something to the people who had known and loved me."
She has now written a book on her experiences. It is titled From Ashes to Gold.
Patti's story of banishment reminds us of what HWA did to his own son, Garner Ted, and to his daughters and relatives - and all this in the name of "Christian love." Another religious leader recently in the news is Tony Alamo. The June 13 issue of People carried an eye-opening article on his group. Alamo, it seems, is not just the head of a religion (many would say "cult"), but he "fancies himself a country-gospel star and records on his own label." He hobnobs with many famous names in the country music world and has made a fortune, not only in religion, but through many businesses owned by his "Alamo Foundation." To quote the People article (June 13, 1983, pp. 29-34):
Tony's big secret: All these businesses are staffed by free labor - Alamo followers, who consider themselves "volunteers," doing God's work. There are several hundred hard-core Alamoites around the country, who devote their lives to enriching the foundation with their labor and to nonstop "witnessing" - that is, handing out Tony's paranoid screeds and trying to convert nonbelievers. Tony claims he saves "tens of thousands of souls a month." His message is an old one: His is the only true church and his followers the only true believers. He talks to God but not to this magazine.
His followers subsist on a diet of grim sermons and hard work, while Tony travels by Cadillac limo from his mansion (with heart-shaped pool) in the Arkansas compound to luxurious homes in Saugus, Calif. and Nashville.
But Tony Alamo is also having his problems. First of all there are those who have left his organization that claim they were "brainwashed by several well-known methods: sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, constant ranting about foundation enemies, isolation from society, and forced labor." And there are allegations that the Alamo Foundation has been involved in an unethical child adoption scheme. Here in the Pasadena area Alamoites have been distributing flyers urging unwed pregnant women not to have an abortion, but instead to turn over their children to the Alamo Foundation. Many are wondering what has become of the infants Alamo has obtained in this way.
Just as strange are the prayer shifts for Susan Alamo, Tony's deceased wife and co-founder of the Alamo organization. Her embalmed body rests inside a darkened prayer room in a "mansion atop a remote, guarded ridge in rural Arkansas.... patiently awaiting resurrection. The cult leader has been dead more than a year. Encouraged by Susan's husband, Tony, her followers kneel by the coffin in two-hour shifts, 24-hours a day, every day, to pray for Susan's return." They may have a long wait.
Well, we could go on, but you get the idea. There are a lot of strange happenings going on in the world of religion. So much so that one could well do a regular magazine devoted just to that subject. And, in fact, it appears that someone has. A group of very clever Christian writers put out a bimonthly magazine called The Wittenburg Door. This is not your typical Christian magazine, but a very witty, hardhitting, often tongue-in-cheek, thought-provoking publication that dishes out the kind of treatment a lot of religionists deserve. Copies are $2.00 each; yearly subscriptions $12.00. The address is: Wittenburg Door, 1224 Greenfield Dr., El Cajon, CA 92021. One warning thought: If you think Ambassador Report is cynical, then The Wittenburg Door is definitely not for you.
Whatever a Man Sows, That Shall He Reap
We have maintained contact with thousands of ex-Worldwiders over the last seven years, and we can say quite a few of them would like to see Herbert Armstrong punished for his sins against his church and mankind. One person, though, has actually made Herbert pay a thousand times over for his contempt of God and mankind. One person has all but destroyed Herbert's life, image, peace of mind, and "infallibility." That person is none other than Herbert Armstrong himself. Herbert apparently thinks he is somehow above God's laws - that somehow, by being "God's Apostle," he can flout the basic laws of human decency without paying the consequences. He apparently thinks he can preach one set of morals for his congregation and practice another in private. But no matter how clever he is in cultivating the image of being a wise spiritual patriarch, he still pays the penalty for wrongdoing just like the rest of us mortals. As the Apostle Paul wrote:
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption (Gal. 6:7-8, RSV quoted throughout).
And, sure enough, as we look back over the last several years, Herbert has been reaping exactly what he sowed though unseen to most. If you read the Beatitudes in Matthew, chapters 5-7, which contain the basic teachings of Christianity, you will see how cause and effect is at work in Herbert's life. Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers" and "blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matt. 5:9, 7). But Herbert's pride and stubbornness led to several unnecessary splits in the WCG, and he has okayed the ruthless expulsion of thousands of members and some 260 ministers, including many loyal, longtime friends such as Raymond and Wayne Cole, Albert Portune, Dave Antion, Charles Hunting, David Robinson, Ron Dart, and even his own son Garner Ted. Now we hear report after report from insiders who say Herbert has hardly a single trusted close friend left in the church and is surrounded by parasitic sycophants on all sides plotting to divide up his empire the minute his coffin lid slams shut. Due to his own actions he is hounded by the press and surrounded by bodyguards to keep disgruntled ex-members from serving him with more lawsuits. The lawyers are eating away at his vitals. Is it any wonder why?
While Herbert spends millions of dollars on lawyers' fees, right there in his own Bible is the legal advice he really needs. That advice comes from none other than Jesus Christ:
Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny (Matt. 5:25-26).
If anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well (Matt. 5:40).
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt. 5:44).
Somehow, Herbert has assumed these verses wouldn't apply to him if he built up a huge church legal department and spent millions of dollars on lawyers to prevent those whom he had wronged from obtaining justice. Settle with his brother? "Absolutely not! It's a sign of weakness." Love his enemies? "No, sue the bastards!" Listen to their grievances and settle peaceably with them? "No, blackball them and cut them to pieces! I'm God's Apostle!" Result? Herbert, just like Jesus said would happen, is now trapped like a helpless little fly in a giant web of endless lawsuits. The judges and his 50 lawyers tell him when to come and go, and the lawyers on both sides are cleaning out his pockets, while certain trusted "friends" plot to have him declared insane.
Further on in Matt. 6:19, Jesus stated:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth... but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.... For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Anybody who knows Herbert knows he lives in luxury. We remember being invited over to his mansion one evening as seniors at Ambassador College. His house resembled a showroom, with every room filled with art treasures. We remember him bragging after dinner how we were eating dessert from solid gold bowls with solid gold spoons once owned by the Czar of Russia. All this seemed a bit incongruous for one claiming to be a humble servant of Jesus Christ, but little did we know such gold plates would one day ensnare him. And sure enough, recently we noticed in the Pasadena Star-News (9/14/83) that Herbert claims Ramona has stolen "gold flatware" from him and he has turned to the courts to recover them. So instead of spending his time serving the church, his time is occupied plotting strategy with his unconverted lawyers - for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
In Matt. 7:12, Jesus advised:
So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.
In 1968 a lower-ranking WCG minister was discovered to have committed adultery. When Herbert discovered this, he showed no mercy. Instead, he not only fired the man, he called an assembly of all college students and employees and reiterated all the details. At many times other people who fell out of his favor were similarly blackballed and slandered in ministerial letters and publications. But later, Matt. 7:12 came back to haunt Herbert. For Time and many other respected publications worldwide revealed what his hypocritical lifestyle is really like. Some publications have revealed how he committed incest with his daughter and have dragged his name through the mud and exposed him as a crooked old fool. So instead of being respected in the world as an ambassador for world peace (an image he spent millions cultivating) he's ridiculed in the press as a bizarre old cult leader who lives high on the hog.
For decades he practically forbade church members from going to doctors for medical treatment, telling them they should trust God for healing. Drugs, he said, were of the Devil. Vaccines were "monkey pus" and should be avoided. In private, however, he put his faith in medical science, seeking out the doctors and secretly taking their drugs. Now he's totally dependent on them. He preached to others that drunkenness was a sin, but indulged himself anyway. His own son and many others have reported seeing him drunk on many occasions. Now we hear Herbert has liver problems caused by alcohol. For years Herbert has decried sabbath-breaking as a grievous sin. Yet he partied and traveled on the sabbath thousands of miles, entertaining world leaders. Today, however, none of those leaders are converted and none have offered to help him fight off his lawsuits. Now on the sabbath he's afraid to even stay and fellowship with his congregation, and he has to leave services early via the backdoor with his bodyguards, hoping to avoid being shot at or served with yet another legal summons.
Luke wrote: "For the measure you give will be the measure you get back" (Luke 6:38). If only Herbert had heeded that verse, his life and the lives of thousands of his members would have been much more joyous. But Herbert is reaping just what he sowed.
We hope our readers will take the above, not as an occasion to rejoice, but as a lesson that no matter who we are, wrongdoing, injustice, hypocrisy, and stubborn pride pay bitter dividends in the long run. It is our sincere hope Herbert will yet see the error of his ways before he dies, repent, and seek to right at least some of the wrongs and heartaches he has caused for many thousands of innocent people. Even now, if he would but humble himself, he would be exalted - perhaps not in the eyes of this world's dictators, bankers, lawyers and such - but certainly in the eyes of his own family, and in the eyes of those who have sincerely loved him and wished that he could have indeed been a true "man of God."
WCG people in this church area are being told directly in sermons that "the church will tell you only what you need to know. " That is a direct quote. The people here are propagandized to an almost unbelievable degree.
-Los Angeles, California
After being a member of the WCG for 15 years, my husband and I were told by the minister in Birmingham, Alabama, not to return to church because we wouldn't tell him how we found out about the Armstrong divorce. It seems we found out about it before he did in January 1982. He had informed us that headquarters ordered him to hush up "the rumor because it just wasn't true." A few weeks later the letter from HWA arrived telling us how he had (again) been deceived by Satan.
Money, money, money, it seems, is all the church is all about any more. I could not help but continually think about Paul's statement in I Tim. 6:10 while reading the Report - "for the love of money is the root of all evil...." The second part is equally interesting: "which while some coveted after they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." This statement "says it all" for the WCG these days.
Thank you for your continuing work in publishing the Report. I would like to make a comment about your December 1982 letter and the fact that "most of the readers do not keep Christmas."
It is a sad thing that HWA has robbed people of one of the most joyous occasions of the year by instilling in them the false concept of Christmas being pagan. Sure, Christmas is overcommercialized; however, don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. December 25 or not, Christmas depicts the coming to earth of our Saviour - something we should be thankful for. As far as origins go, educated people know it was Martin Luther who first brought a fir tree indoors and decorated it - not Nimrod, Baal, or whoever. Santa Claus goes back to the Bishop of Smyrna in the 4th Century A. D. - not some sorcerer or devil worshipper. Seriously, folks, let's discard the Scrooge in us and break the mental bondage to HWA and his insidious teachings. Christ came to liberate us from sin, from ourselves, and from men who would lead us astray. Can we not honor and rejoice in the fact that He did so?
-(Former WCG minister) Richard Forkun
Markham, Ontario, Canada
I recently got a temporary job as a hospital orderly, and a lady there told me she is a member of the WCG. The strange thing is she is allowed to work on the Sabbath and Holy Days. She smokes and said her minister told her it was a sin if in her mind she thought it was a sin. Sounds like Pauline theology from an Armstrongite! She wears makeup and although she believes in divine healing she goes to doctors. I wonder if "headquarters" doesn't know what is going on, or is this a new liberal WCG?
- AR Reader
Editor: WCG doctrines in practice now vary considerably from congregation to congregation. It all seems to depend on the minister in charge. Some are quick to disfellowship members for as little as having a certain kind of haircut, while others seem to literally tolerate just about anything. However, there is one doctrine they all unite behind. Members must "bend the knee" to Ol' Herbert.
Your Report has confirmed the views some of us have formulated over the past year or two. We have no quarrel with the maintenance of spiritual discipline - in Christ. However, it was, we believe a sine qua non that those who presume to act on behalf of God and his law must themselves also be bound by ethics and governed by laws which should be commensurate in every respect to the dignity of the great cause they serve.
We did not find this concomitancy between personal behaviour and administration practices of the lofty ones in the WCG hierarchy locally or abroad We stood up for principle and found ourselves the despised ecclesiastical dispossessed fighting against the inflexible ethos of a fear-induced unity that achieved a gigantic, but dubious, if not sinister, goal.
That fear-induced unity bred a myopic obedience, an intolerance, and an absolute refusal to believe that truth can also be disseminated to and through others, and an acceptance [of the fallacy] that leaders know best and are never to he questioned. That unity, God forbid, may ultimately lead to the unquestioning lifting of the poisoned cup.
The ugly story is the same from America to Africa, from Pasadena to Perth, from New York to New Zealand. For the great spirit that moves within the WCG - the spirit of bondage promising freedom, the spirit of corruption promising purity, the spirit of oppression promising safety, is the common opiate - nay the universal message broadcasted over the airwaves from that master broadcaster of intrigue, double-dealing and misinformatia, presiding over that ecclesiastical cacophony in 300 West Green Street. We shudder as we agonise over our loved ones! Keep up the informative Report. The saga may soon reach its pre- rchestrated but unexpected dissonant cadenza and final death rumble.
-Gordon R. Terblanche, Public Speaking Institute of South Africa
P.O. Box 20321, Alkantrant, 0005, Rep. of South Africa
I am an ex-WCG member, but often meet with and work with current WCG members. Recently I was asked this question: "Why don't you come back to the true church? All you have to do is say you're sorry!" My reaction was to ask, "Sorry for what? And to whom? God or a Chief Apostle?" And then I remembered my last phone conversation with WCG minister Larry Grider.
At the end of a long and tiring debate, he asked me whether I could accept Herbert Armstrong as God's Chief Apostle "without question now." Of course my sane answer had to be "NO!" Then when he disfellowshipped and marked both my wife and me, I asked him, "What do you think we are Larry? Christians?" To which he replied, "Yes, I personally think both you and your wife are Christians and you have God's Holy Spirit. But I have a job to do, and I must do it." No more need be said!
A few weeks ago I met a member of the church and she greeted me with a hug even though she had been told not to associate with exmembers. She talked freely about HWA and then asked if I knew about Ambassador Report. She gets your publication but can't let anyone at church know about it. She commented, "You know everything if you read Ambassador Report." She doesn't tithe anymore, but she is still ready to flee to Petra.
After three years I finally got the nerve to give all my back issues of your publication to my daughter, a WCG member for twelve years. I just got word she has resigned from the church. I guess maybe Ambassador Report did the trick. Keep up the good work.
I always feel bad when I send off my small contribution because for this small amount I receive back so much help from your Report. I pray you can continue sending it out.
I left the WCG in 1978. and as you know, doctors were "a no no." I became very ill in the sixties and was told by the minister that I could only have a physical exam. This I did and was informed by the physician that I needed immediate surgery. I did not have the surgery, and through the years my condition became worse. My husband had to retire in 1978 because of his heart, but as a veteran he gets medical assistance plus Medicare. However, I'm left out in the cold as far as Medicare goes; I have ten years to go before I will be eligible for help.
If I had the money, I would honestly be tempted to sue the WCG for what they have done to me. My condition has become such that I have had to quit my job, and I must spend several hours per day lying on a heating pad Believe me, I'm trying very hard to overcome my resentments and turn my life completely over to Almighty God. I wonder how many more "dumb sheep" have permanent body ailments because of the Armstrong church.
-Mrs. Mary White
Editor. Quite a few. And many have died prematurely from following the fanatical advice of WCG ministers. We are not saying there have not been documented cases of healing through faith. Nor are we saying that the medical profession should be worshipped. Like the legal profession, it too has its serious problems. Indeed, if one reads books such as Confessions of a Medical Heretic by Robert Mendelsohn M.D., one can easily see the importance of being vigilant in dealing with doctors. Nevertheless, too many WCG ministers have, through their own ignorance, or through the infliction of guilt, and spiritual intimidation, encouraged members to shun various proven medical techniques that could have been of immense value in alleviating pain and improving the quality of life.
* * *
If Herbert Armstrong really believed it is more blessed to give than to receive, the above situation would give him the golden opportunity to prove it He could simply contact Mrs. White and offer her whatever assistance she needs. But Herbert and his church use the lame excuse that she is no longer a WCG member to write her off and forget she ever existed. The tithes she gave and the charitable acts she performed while in the church are quickly forgotten. The conduct of Herbert and his church in heart-rending cases like these stinks to high heaven! It shouldn't matter what doctrines Mrs. White may or may not believe. She was hurt by church advice, and the church ought to willingly help right that wrong.
Remember the story of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37? A traveler was robbed and beaten and left to die. Along came a "righteous" Levite and a priest. Both glanced at the wounded traveler and quickly passed by, probably thinking: "This man is not a fellow priest (or Levite) or someone important. It would neither increase my fame or fortune - no one would even notice - so why waste my time helping." But along came a lowly Samaritan. When he saw the man bleeding and dying, he didn't first inquire which doctrines he believed, if he tithed regularly, if he was in good standing with his synagogue (or church), if his wife wore makeup, etc. - major considerations before the WCG will help you - but he simply opened his heart and pocketbook, took pity on the man, and gave him medical treatment.
In most civilized countries, if you purchase a product and are injured using it due to a defective design, the company owes you monetary restitution. Any legitimate church likewise ought to willingly restore you to your former condition if you are injured due to following its advice. That's only basic Christian love. But the WCG has for so long helped only its own members, and even then, begrudgingly. The thousands of WCG members who left because of conscience or were booted out over such picky doctrines as hair length, wearing makeup, not giving enough money to the church, asking questions the minister didn't like, etc. are left in the gutter to bleed and die - just as the priest and Levite left the traveler to die. Words cannot express the anger, sorrow, and frustration we at the Report feel when we receive letters like the above. Herbert can spare $200,000 for London's Royal Opera or $10,000 for a gift to an Asian dictator like President Marcos, but evidently he can't spare even 50 cents for a sympathy card for the many Mrs. Whites out there.
Oh sure, the WCG gives to "charity." While many former members live in pain and poverty, the church opens wide its hand in front of the cameras to subsidize string quartets, famous entertainers, Red Chinese economists, the USC Law Center, archaeological digs, Asian dictators, pet projects, plays, etc. Funny, but we never noticed the New Testament apostles supporting these types of activities with church funds. We don't remember Paul presenting Nero with silver busts of the Caesars, sponsoring "cultural" events for the Roman upper class, or supporting Roman entertainers with church tithes. We never read of the apostles sponsoring banquets to honor the Roman emperors or senators. They instead preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to them and urged them to repent of their wicked ways. But wine and dine them on the contributions of the poor faithful? Never!
Sadly, Mrs. White is not some unusual case. Over the years we have received many hundreds of such letters. They continue to pour in every week. Some we publish, but most do not wish their story to be made public. Yet for every letter we receive there are dozens or even hundreds more in similar circumstances. The sad fact is Herbert and his band of myrmidons have destroyed the health, careers, marriages, and lives of thousands.
Ambassador Report has attempted to warn all who will listen of the bitter fruit of "the Ambassador experience." We wish we could do more, but we are only a small group of individuals with very little power. Not only are we very limited financially, we are limited in time.
Most AR readers have little idea of the huge amount of time we must spend weekly in answering mail, assisting the news media, and counselling and encouraging those who have no one else to turn to for help. In what can only be described as a personal Christian ministry, the Gerringers, the Zolas, and other Ambassador College graduates affiliated with the Report spend untold hours helping those hurt by, and cut off from, the WCG. They have so regularly opened up their homes to those in need of shelter and help that we have often kidded the Gerringers and the Zolas that they should have been in the hotel business.
Because of the principle found in Matthew 6:1-4, there are those who would prefer that their good deeds not be made public. But the fact remains, there are Ambassador graduates who have implimented many of the Christian virtues learned while obtaining their theology degrees. Nevertheless, no matter how much we try to help those burned and burned out by the "Ambassador experience," the real responsibility for the many tragedies rests with the Armstrong organization. With an income of $10,000,000 per month, you would think they could set aside just one percent of that amount - say $ 100,000 a month - to help the many Mrs. Whites out there.
Perhaps the best suggestion we could offer is that we all pray the WCG finally gets a repentant change of heart and begins to do something to help the many "little people" around the world whom they have so callously used, abused, and discarded.
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