AR31 March, 1985
The WCG - a Future After Herbert Armstrong?
Of the many questions regularly put to us by our readers, the most often recurring is: What will become of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) and Ambassador College once founder Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) passes away? Here is the way one of our readers recently put it:
One of the most interesting questions concerning the WCG is will it be able to function after Herbert Armstrong's death. I left the church about a year ago, and up until that time, Mr. Armstrong was still intent on being around for the second coming. From what I've read and heard, HWA seems to be a man so self-possessed and contemptuous of the membership that I wonder if he will ever make provisions for an orderly transferal of power once he passes on.
Will his empire, his church, be left to myrmidon scavengers who will pocket as much loot as possible and scatter the members to the four winds? Has Mr. Armstrong done anything to insure the continuance of his church either through naming a successor or by setting down some sort of legal directives? Are there still warring factions in the hierarchy and who might they be? Is Stanley Rader still lurking in the shadows?
As tenacious as Mr. Armstrong is, I don't see him living much longer and this certainty isn't lost on his underlings who stand to reap a fair portion of the spoils. And there's about a hundred thousand well-conditioned minds out there just eager to pledge their allegiance and their pocketbook to an influential leader.
I wonder if you might comment on the state of affairs in the church right now, as well as present a few scenarios concerning its future.
Of course, none of us can know with certainty exactly what will transpire. And we do not pretend to be prophets. But from having observed the Armstrong organization closely for almost two decades, we think we can put forth a number of often-discussed scenarios, along with some suggestions as to their probability. Remember, we are dealing here with speculation. With that in mind, let us look at some of the possibilities.
Scenario No. 1: Before HWA dies, he names a successor, and at his death (or incapacitation) there is an orderly transfer of power to one man.
This is the scenario preferred by the majority of Armstrong true believers ("the sheep," as HWA refers to them). But while HWA has talked privately of possibly naming a successor, he has not actually done it, nor do we think he will. To do so would be "out of character" for this incredibly egocentric human being. If HWA were to name a successor, would not the younger man be the one looked to for leadership in the organization? And would not the designated successor take over the limelight in which HWA so loves to bask? HWA has refused to let either Stanley Rader, for many years his closest advisor, or Garner Ted Armstrong, his own son, have any chance at inheriting his empire. That being the case, why should we think he'd leave it all to any other individual?
Egocentricity of this magnitude is not as rare as some might think. Among those leaders in history who did not appoint a successor for an orderly transfer of power were Stalin, Lenin, Mussolini, and Idi Amin. Today, Kadafi and Khomeini appear to be following the same path.
For some time after Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA) left the WCG in 1978, we felt there was a good chance he would reach some kind of reconciliation with his father to again become the heir apparent of the WCG. This possibility has become increasingly unlikely, however. Not only did GTA start his own church, but he has spoken out against changes in WCG doctrine (especially the WCG's adoption of the "Primacy of Peter" teaching of the Roman Catholics), has revealed many of his father's most heinous sins, and has become a symbol of anti-WCG "rebellion." We would not expect the WCG Board of Directors to choose a disloyal "renegade" like GTA to be their leader any more than we would expect the Soviet Politburo to choose a Soviet defector to be the Soviet Premier.
Not only that, since leaving the WCG, GTA has done nothing to ingratiate himself with those around HWA, the ones who really run the WCG. As a result (and, of course, because of the damage done to his image by the scandals of the early seventies) GTA has virtually no support among top men in the WCG.
Some have suspected that in spite of all this GTA would still be lured back into the WCG organization by its big bucks. But those close to him say he is much happier now than he ever was in the WCG and that the price HWA has set for his reentry into Worldwide - humiliating public repentance and the renunciation of his new organization and loyal supporters - is too high a price to pay for something he really doesn't value that much anyway.
In our opinion, Scenario No. 1, with GTA or anyone else as successor designee, is not too likely to occur.
Scenario No. 2: HWA does not appoint a successor, but at his death (or incapacitation) a strong leader, in the style of HWA, emerges from among his top executives.
Among some of the ministers in the WCG, this seems to be the great hope. More realistic individuals, however, have serious doubts that this scenario will materialize.
HWA has maintained his dominance in the church's hierarchy not simply through his mastery of Machiavellian methods, but through truly superior skills in such areas as marketing, advertising, self-promotion, organizational structuring, and personal communication. And not only has he had far greater experience in "the world" than his subordinates, he is, after all, the founder of the WCG.
But when we look at those who might be considered within striking distance of the WCG's top spot, what do we find? Essentially, company men - individuals who achieved their positions through loyalty to their benefactor, not through any truly outstanding creativity, innovation, intellectual brilliance, superior formal education, great courage, or particularly great sacrifice. While there are one or two who are superior to the others in some respects (and we'll get to this later), there is not one so clearly ahead of the others in all the important leadership criteria as to make him an inevitable successor who could rule in the same dominating style of HWA.
©1985 Ambassador Report. Published quarterly, as finances allow, as a Christian service.
John Trechak, Editor & Publisher Mary E. Jones, Associate Editor
Founding Publishers: Robert Gerringer, Bill Hughes, Mary E. Jones, John Trechak, Len Zola, and Margaret Zola.
It is important to keep in mind that those in important positions around HWA are there because of HWA. But once HWA is gone, whatever leader might emerge as chairman of the board or president will attain and maintain such a position only through the recognition and support of his peers (who will also be able to quickly withdraw that recognition and support). It is inevitable, therefore, that any successor to HWA will simply not have the same authority HWA has had. While Scenario No. 2 is attractive to some, to us it appears very unlikely.
Scenario No. 3: HWA dies, the WCG member ship is stunned to realize that God is not "preserving Mr. Armstrong until Christ's return," they come to see they have been worshipping a mere mortal, and the WCG disintegrates.
A lot of people outside the WCG, perhaps out of hope, believe this one. We don't. Mormonism survived the death of Brigham Young. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church survived the passing of Ellen G. White. The Christian Scientist religion survived the mortality of Mary Baker Eddy.
A study of the history of American religious movements shows that while charismatic leadership is often an important ingredient in their birth and early development, there are often factors of greater importance to their survival. At least three should be recognized.
(Readers will, we hope, excuse the use of secular business parallels, but the WCG, like other religious organizations, is not only a religion, but also a business. WCG executive Ray Wright, in a sermon, recently emphasized the concept that the WCG is "a business." If anyone doubts that religions are "sold" to a market, see Positioning - the Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout, a marketing textbook published by McGraw-Hill. Note particularly the chapter on marketing the Catholic Church.)
The primary factor in the survival of any religious movement is the existence of the market itself. In the case of the WCG, we have in its members a distinct "market" (a group of people willing to give money in trade for something). What this market wants is to believe (the kind of theology or ideology HWA has provided) and to experience (the kind of affirmation of faith and sense of belonging provided by church membership). When HWA dies, the market he fed will still survive.
A second factor is the product provided. In the case of Worldwide, the product traded is both the unique Armstrong theology and the experience of membership in the WCG. When HWA dies, there may be some modifications of both WCG theology and experience, but the essentials of the product will remain.
A third factor is the existence of well-organized administration and distribution systems. WCG propaganda notwithstanding, HWA has for some years now functioned in little more than a figurehead capacity. While it is true that he retains the power of removing and replacing department heads, with perhaps only one or two exceptions, the actual choices made make little difference to the overall effectiveness of the organization. For instance, it makes little difference overall which WCG personality heads the mail processing department or directs the Ambassador Foundation. The function of those offices and their significance in the WCG structure remain unchanged. At HWA's death, although personnel changes will undoubtedly occur, the administration and distribution systems will still remain intact. (While there is some overlap, administration would include the financial, accounting, legal, data processing, and facilities management functions. Distribution would include the field ministry, the foreign offices and publishing - especially circulation. The "product" that is being distributed includes both goods and services.)
"But," some may ask, " who will do the telecast?" It's an interesting question, but perhaps an irrelevant one. Anyone who has seen any of HWA's recent telecasts cannot doubt that they are already no longer an essential membership growth factor. And indeed, the WCG's marketing strategists have clearly anticipated this problem and effectively countered it by placing ever greater emphasis on their print media distribution methods. The Plain Truth news racks popping up everywhere attest to this new direction.
While it is true a charismatic speaker selling the WCG line over the airwaves would add an important marketing dimension - and such a man would undoubtedly gain stature in the WCG's political structure - such an individual probably does not exist in the WCG, and such a marketing method is really not essential. In other words, the WCG no longer needs a broadcast or a telecast to survive. For evidence, look at the Jehovah's Witnesses. They have neither a charismatic leader at the present time, nor an electronic media outreach. Yet, through their print media and "personal selling" methods, they survive, in spite of many failed prophecies and considerable bad press. Similarly, we suspect the WCG, too, will survive.
Scenario No. 4: HWA dies without naming a successor. Three or more of his lieutenants (very likely evangelists Joe Tkach, Ellis LaRavia, and Rod Meredith) "battle "for control. Some members side with each, many leave the WCG with them or join other groups, and the WCG splits into a few parts.
Not without some justification, this scenario has many believers both in and out of the WCG. At HWA's death there will be some WCG members (perhaps even as many as 20%) who will be shocked into leaving. We believe a fair number of these will drift toward Garner Ted Armstrong's organization because of the Armstrong name. Some current WCG ministers have already indicated an intention to do so. But keep in mind that while Garner Ted Armstrong offers a theology similar to the WCG's, there are important differences. GTA emphasizes freedom over structure, liberalism over conservatism, tolerance over condemnation, efficiency over opulence, participation over exclusion. And his organization, by its smaller size and smaller resources, provides a religious experience markedly different from WCG membership.
Those "escapees" who do not align with GTA will join other groups or none at all. However, based on the basic marketing principles discussed under Scenario No. 3, we believe that on HWA's death, the majority of current WCG members will remain in the WCG. The WCG has not only survived, but has actually grown a little, in spite of the mass defections of 1974, the ouster of Garner Ted Armstrong, the 1979 State of California lawsuit, the removal of Stanley Rader, and the divorce and moral discrediting of its founder. It will take much more than the death of HWA to shake the faith of most WCG members today.
As for Tkach, LaRavia, and Meredith "battling" for control - well, those who know them say they are ambitious. Nevertheless, this is where Scenario No. 4 breaks down.
The WCG is not just a group of individuals. It is a legal entity - the Worldwide Church of God, Incorporated. And that corporation has engendered a number of other corporations, including Ambassador College, which at present retains most of the church's assets. Now the key point is this: Those corporate entities with their assets are legally under the control of the boards of trustees of those corporations. And at HWA's death (if not sooner, should they care to exercise their power) those board members will be in charge.
Who are on those boards? Frankly, we're not completely sure. The WCG has never been too open about that information, and while the makeup of the boards is occasionally made public, board membership can and often does change. Nevertheless, we can venture an educated guess as to who is probably on at this time.
Based on the most recent Ambassador College (Pasadena) catalog, the board of trustees for Ambassador College, California, is composed of WCG ministers HWA, Dr. Herman L. Hoeh, Ellis LaRavia, Raymond McNair, Leroy Neff, and Richard Rice. As best as we can tell, the board of trustees for Ambassador College, Texas, is probably made up of the same individuals (we would appreciate hearing from anyone with information on this). As for the board of trustees of the WCG, over the years HWA has changed its makeup many times, often without informing those removed or added. However, those insiders we talked to seem to believe that the WCG's board is now the equivalent of the WCG's Council of Elders: HWA, Dr. Herman L. Hoeh, Ellis LaRavia, Raymond McNair, Leroy Neff, Richard Rice, Joe Tkach, Dibar Apartian, Leon Walker, Norman Smith, Harold Jackson, Dean Blackwell, Roderick Meredith, and church attorney Ralph Helge (the only nonordained man on the board).
At HWA's death these boards of trustees will have legal control of these corporate entities and assets. Undoubtedly, among these men there will be internal bickering, squabbles, factions, politicking, charges of heresy, accusation of ministerial disqualification, and perhaps even a bit of blackmail. Nevermind. In the end, self-survival will dictate, and in order to keep the source of their power and income intact, there will be enough compromises and deals made to insure that a majority will be formed. It is this majority that will choose their chairmen of the boards, their operating officers and their key policies. It is this majority and their chairmen (likely to be the same man for both church and college corporations) that will be legally in charge.
As for the minority, they will either "knuckle under" - and they should find that easy, as they've all been doing it for many years - or they will just not be there any more. For it is a very easy thing for the majority on a board to remove minority members, find cause to fire them from their executive positions (or transfer them to the Philippines), even disfellowship them from the church, change the locks on their office doors, and, if necessary, ask the local police to escort them off the grounds. In anticipation for the day of "finding cause," a few, we understand, are already keeping dossiers on the others!
But how much chance would these minority members - even if united - have at striking out on their own to take away part of the WCG market? Frankly, not much.
First of all, even if (and this is a very big "if") the minority members were united and coordinated (very unlikely), obtained in advance a copy of the church mailing list of members and donors (absolutely essential), did considerable study on their legal options, propaganda warfare, and possible corporate power plays (again, very unlikely considering the intellectual level of this bunch), and had the good sense to obtain top-flight legal counseling and strategic counseling (the names of Robert Kuhn and George Geis come to mind on the latter), the minority would still lack for adequate financial resources. And that is essential. It takes money - and lots of it - to produce the quantities of literature and broadcasts necessary to draw a large following. And in a propaganda war, all other factors being relatively equal, victory will go to the side best able to monopolize the attention of the market. Any minority group (or groups) breaking off from the WCG's vast resources is just not going to have viable financial strength.
A good example of this is the Church of God, International (CGI). When Garner Ted Armstrong left the WCG to start that organization, he had quite a lot going for him - a dedicated group of co-workers, an established ideology, a fairly good executive assistance team, good broadcasting skills, and the ability to write prodigious quantities of church literature. Yet seven years after its birth, CGI is still very small and scattered and in no major way poses a threat to the WCG. The fact is, CGI never had the financial resources to really take on the WCG. Neither will any newly disenfranchised minority from the WCG board.
This assessment of the need for financial resources may well be one shared by most of the WCG's board members already, because these men have shown themselves to be individuals who, while not astutely knowledgeable of finance, are still acutely cognizant of the importance of money. And this leads us to an important reason why any minority-of-the-board group will very likely not even attempt a serious challenge to the majority's control of the market.
The top men of the WCG (i.e., the board members and top executives) are now receiving yearly remuneration of about $75,000, plus perks. That's a lot of money for a bunch of guys who don't even have accredited BAs. That is a higher annual salary than received by many partners in Wall Street law firms and more than is earned by four-star generals in the U.S. Army. How many of these men would risk losing all that on an attempt at starting another WCG spinoff with little chance of survival?
Scenario No. 4, while having some intelligent elements, will just not fully materialize. We believe the WCG, while in for more turbulence, will survive. But what kind of organization will it be?
Our Projection (Scenario No. 5)
With HWA gone, of course, the WCG will have to be different. HWA is unique, and no one will be able to equal him in either authority or style. Yet once he leaves, don't look for earth-shaking changes in either doctrine or organizational policies - at least not for a while. The goose that lays the golden eggs must keep all her feathers.
As now, there will be a sharing of executive responsibilities. By virtue of its very size, the WCG organization requires this. Whether or not certain individuals continue to hold the executive positions they now have will be determined by the controlling majority, not by one man's fiat. Yet even now, this is pretty much the case in the WCG. Many of the decisions supposedly made by HWA today are actually arrived at by a consensus of his top administrators, who then sell HWA on their ideas for his royal stamp of approval. The perceptive reader will realize that the WCG has already been moving from a type of tyranny (selfish rule by one man) to a type of oligarchy (selfish rule by a few), and with HWA's death, the transition may well be completed. Yet there will still be someone who will preside over the controlling board(s). Who will that chairman be?
Obviously, no one (including us) can know with certainty. But by process of elimination, we will make our best guess.
We can immediately eliminate from our list of potential chairmen Dean Blackwell, Raymond McNair, Leroy Neff, and Harold Jackson. They are viewed by their peers as intellectual lightweights. We can eliminate Richard Rice and Leon Walker as they are relative newcomers to the higher echelons. Joe Tkach, another lightweight, also bears the onus of being indiscreet about his personal life, as well as overbearing in his administration of the WCG ministry (he is currently the WCG ministry's top administrator). He maintains his current administrative position solely at the pleasure of Aaron Dean, HWA's personal aide. Thus Tkach is not a true contender.
Ralph Helge can immediately be removed from the contender's list, as he is unordained. Dibar Apartian, the French- language evangelist, can be eliminated because of his alien birth and manner (the WCG is, after all, a predominantly American religious group). Roderick Meredith, although ambitious, has little support on the WCG board. His years of harsh rule over the WCG ministry have left him with few important supporters for any major power role. Thus his name can be eliminated. Ellis LaRavia, also ambitious, has a professional style and a successful administrative history in the WCG. However, his contribution to the WCG has been in peripheral areas - physical plant and AICF - not in church administration or in the proselytizing "commission." He lacks any major support and thus can also be eliminated from our list.
Evangelist Norman Smith - tall, likable, moral, masculine (he was even a western U.S. marksmanship champion), and intelligent - in many Christian organizations would be a logical choice for any top leadership position. Not in the WCG, however. He is not only distant from "where the action is" (he is by choice a minister in San Diego), but he lacks both political instinct and the desire to dominate. We can eliminate his name from the list of contenders.
That brings us down to one name.
Herman L. Hoeh
At first glance, Dr. Herman L. Hoeh (pronounced "hay," not "hooee") may be dismissed by some as unlikely to chair any post-Armstrong leadership council. While an interesting speaker, Hoeh is not a dynamic one and has no real broadcasting experience. By no means can he be described as a charismatic leader along the lines of Herbert Armstrong. Nor can he be described as "macho" - a style sought after by some WCG ministers at the time Garner Ted Armstrong was considered the heir-apparent and therefore the one to emulate. Nevertheless, there are at least fourteen reasons why we believe Herman Hoeh will eventually be the chairman of any post-Armstrong, WCG board of trustees:
(1) His loyalty to the WCG is unquestioned.
(2) His WCG tenure is as long as any other WCG leader, with the exception of HWA himself. Hoeh was among the very first Ambassador College graduates and among the very first to be ordained by Herbert Armstrong.
(3) Hoeh does not present a threat to the legacy of Herbert Armstrong. Unlike some of his colleagues, Hoeh would probably not attempt to tear down Armstrong's image after his death. Hoeh played an important part in the development of HWA's image, having been among the first, if not the first, to call HWA "God's Apostle," in the 1950s. HWA, himself, may well already consider Hoeh as the one most likely to be the faithful "keeper of the flame."
(4) He has had wide experience in all major facets of the Armstrong organization - as evangelist, editor of the Plain Truth and Bible Correspondence Course, writer, advisor to HWA, doctrinal committee chairman, college professor, and college administrator.
(5) After HWA, Hoeh is the WCG's leading ideologist. During the 1950s, especially, he played an important role in helping HWA formulate important WCG doctrines. He understands the theology of Armstrong, its strengths and its weaknesses, and has a strong vision of what the WCG should be.
(6) As a propagandist, Hoeh is equalled by none in the organization except HWA himself. He is sensitive to semantics and is a talented editor, having no close rival in the church. In a new era of print media predominance, he would be indispensable to the organization.
(7) Among his WCG peers, he is clearly the most intelligent and the best read.
(8) Hoeh knows how to handle money. As a result, his years in the WCG have left him more than just financially "comfortable." He doesn't go for flashy cars, big parties, booze, or loose women. He is known for his thrift and would probably make a highly efficient corporate money manager.
(9) He is dignified and cultured. As one former Hoeh associate told us, "You'll never see Dr. Hoeh in a honkytonk bar. He is one of the few Worldwide ministers capable of entertaining royalty or heads of state without making a fool of himself."
(10) He has both a shrewd sense of timing and perseverance. Those who have worked with him say these qualities, as much as any others, have helped him to survive the organizational purges that resulted in the departures of Albert Portune, David Antion, Raymond Cole, C. Wayne Cole, Charles Hunting, Stanley Rader, Garner Ted Armstong, and many others.
(11) While having adroitly cultivated the image of an ideological Armstrong "conservative," those who really know him say Hoeh is a flexible pragmatist - a "liberal." He is quite capable of appearing as "all things to all men" - no small trick and a prerequisite for success in WCG politics.
(12) He is discreet. Whatever skeletons there may be in his closet, Hoeh keeps them securely out of sight. As the previously quoted former Hoeh associate put it, "You will never see Dr. Hoeh holding a secretary's hand in public or trying to pick up AC coeds." More importantly, he is highly discreet about the sins of his associates. Whereas some top WCG executives have used privileged information to assault, both privately and publicly, the reputations (and thus political standing) of their colleagues, Hoeh has gained a reputation as one who tolerantly turns his back on the foibles of friend and foe. Consequently,
(13) he has few real enemies (unusual in an organization filled with sharks), and -
(14) he has many friends. It is these friends, perceiving Hoeh as not only the best man available, but also the one most likely to protect their own interests, who, we believe, will choose him to chair any leadership group left when HWA leaves the scene.
So with all of the above in mind, what level of probability would we assign to each of the various scenarios we have discussed? Here are our approximate evaluations of each:
Scenario No. 1 (Before his death, HWA appoints a successor, and at HWA's death, or incapacitation, there is an orderly transfer of power to one man - GTA or someone else.) . . . . . . . . . . . 12% probability.
Scenario No. 2 (HWA does not appoint a successor, but at his death, or incapacitation, a strong leader, in the style of HWA, emerges from among his top executives.) . . . . . . . . . . . 6% probability.
Scenario No. 3 (HWA dies, the WCG membership is stunned to realize that God is not "preserving Mr. Armstrong until Christ's return, " they come to see they have been worshipping a mere mortal, and the WCG
disintegrates.) . . . . . . . . . . . less than 3 % probability.
Scenario No. 4 (HWA dies without naming a successor. Three or more of his lieutenants - very likely evangelists Joe Tkach, Ellis LaRavia, and Rod Meredith - "battle" for control. Some members side with each, many leave the WCG with them or join other groups, and the WCG splits into a few parts.) . . . . . . . . . . . 9% probability.
Our Projection - Scenario No. 5 (HWA dies without naming a successor. No HWA-like strongman emerges after his death, but the organization becomes a type of oligarchy with Herman L. Hoeh being the initial chairman of the ruling group.) . . . . . . . . . . . more than 50% probability.
As for the remaining 20% (of the total 100%), let's just say that with the WCG, anything is possible. The WCG has enough naive, duplicitous, fanatical, and irrational individuals in its hierarchy that during the stress of a transition period, we might well see a truly unexpected - even bizarre - sequence of events. Time will tell.
Any rational individual who follows the WCG for a time cannot help but wonder about what goes on in the heads of those still enamored of Herbert Armstrong. Even Herman Hoeh is reputed to have once said, "In the Bible, God calls the church 'a peculiar people.' Actually, sometimes they're very peculiar." Here are a few brief news items on the WCG which reveal a little of that organization's current climate:
At the end of January, the WCG held its third international regional directors' conference. With Joe Tkach, director of the Ministerial Services department, moderating, the WCG's twelve regional directors presented their reports to the conference. The twelve regional directors are Colin Adair, Canada; Guy Ames, Philippines; Dibar Apartian, French Department; Stan Bass, Caribbean; Peter Nathan, New Zealand and the South Pacific; Carn Catherwood, Italian Department; Bram de Bree, Netherlands; Roy McCarthy, South Africa; Robert Morton, Australia and Asia; Frank Brown, Britain, Scandinavia, East Africa, West Africa, the Middle East; Frank Schnee, West Germany; and Leon Walker, Spanish Department.
The directors were apparently hoping for some major announcement about who would succeed HWA. Instead, HWA only spoke very briefly on how the WCG's regional offices are like the spokes of a wheel attacted to a hub - WCG headquarters (HWA) - but that this wheel has no rim! The point intended was that regional directors should look only to headquarters, not to each other. (We wonder if it ever dawned on these "regional directors" that a rimless "wheel" - one having only a hub and spokes - will never roll anywhere or function in any normal way. Indeed, is not such a circleless "wheel" really a self-contradiction?) Some complained that HWA spent most of the conference sleeping in the front row as the directors gave their reports. (Actually, can we blame him?)
* * *
Over the years HWA has chosen a number of individuals as most likely to become his "Beast of Revelation": Mussolini, Hitler, Tito, F. J. Strauss, Otto von Hapsburg, etc. Now, believe it or not, HWA is pointing at someone else. This time it's a mysterious Jewish Rabbi-politician. In his January 14 letter to his followers, HWA wrote:
"A recent incident occurred which could presage critical world-shaping events for this year 1985, Late one night less than two weeks ago, three Jewish rabbis from Jerusalem called on me. They professed to be on a mission of grave importance that could trigger crucial events leading quickly to the coming of Christ and the end of the world.
"One of these rabbis is a member of the Israeli Knesset, Israel's national Congress. They explained the divided condition politically in the Knesset, and although the ultraorthodox Jews which these men represent are in the minority, they do hold the balance of power. One of them, who seemed to be their leader, hopes to maneuver things to make himself Prime Minister. He claims to be a physicist of distinction and showed photographs of himself with President Ronald Reagan, Konstantin Chernenko of the Soviet Union, and Deng Xiaoping, leader of China. He explained plans to build the third Temple at Jerusalem. He said his group of ultraorthodox Jews had been studying the New Testament. He said (and I have since verified the truth of this) that these Jews expected a pre-Messiah to come almost immediately prior to the coming of the Messiah or Christ, and that he himself is that pre-Messiah or 'ante-Christ' as he termed it. He insisted it is necessary that I help him politically become the Israeli Prime Minister. They seemed to know all about me personally.
"I kept trying to pry out of him how and where they proposed to build the temple prior to Christ's Second Coming. I think it best not now to divulge his astonishing answer.
"At 2 a.m. they left. I gave them my very definite answer. I cannot in any manner join him in politics. The rabbis left rather downhearted. I have checked and this man is in fact who he claims to be. My real appraisal I will not now state."
* * *
HWA's February 25 letter to his church and co-workers opened with this Jean Dixon-like prophecy:
"A drastic, world shaking turn of events may occur unexpectedly this year. This is the 'Fortieth Year' and historically the 40th year has been the year of a drastic turn in national and world events."
HWA goes on to explain that WWII ended forty years ago and that he still expects a U.S. of Europe to materialize, but -
"For some reason God has been holding back the fulfillment of this prophecy - BUT IT IS CERTAIN TO OCCUR! [Emphasis is his, of course.] Could this 40th year be the year that will bring it about?"
Dwight Leslie Armstrong, 80, the official hymn composer of the Worldwide Church of God and brother of church founder Herbert Armstrong, died of cancer on November 17 (Pastor General's Report, 11-21-84). His Sequim, Washington funeral was attended by his wife Karen, his twin sister Mary Lucile Edmonson of Portland, many WCG ministers, and his nephew Garner Ted Armstrong. HWA did not attend - apparently because he had heard, in advance, that his son Ted would be there.
Martin Leaves FBR, Heads ASK
Of the dozens of WCG spinoff groups, few, if any, have had the impact of the Foundation for Biblical Research (FBR). Begun in 1974, the FBR has played an important part in helping thousands of former WCG members see through many WCG fallacies and gain a better understanding of the Bible. It has never been Ambassador Report's position that the FBR possessed all knowledge or has been beyond error. Nevertheless, the FBR has clearly helped many gain insight into the theological literature central to Christianity.
Perhaps because we mentioned the FBR so often in years past, many have written us lately asking for the "inside scoop" on what has been transpiring in that organization in the last few months. In late December Ernest L. Martin, who had been the FBR's president for ten years, sent a letter to the top contributors of the FBR (most noncontributors were apparently ignored) stating that he had been "fired" by the FBR board and was starting a new organization. Almost simultaneously, the FBR sent out a letter stating that Martin had been removed as FBR president, but remained on the board and would continue researching and writing for the FBR. Then the FBR came out with a rebuttal to Martin's letter and Martin came out with a second letter and cassette tape on the situation. Needless to say, many FBR supporters have been more than a little dismayed by the obvious discord.
Over the years, Martin's writings have so monopolized the pages of FBR publications that some have apparently assumed that the FBR was both founded and run by Martin alone. Actually, for some years now, Ken Fischer, as office manager, has been responsible for most of the day-to-day management of the FBR. And as for the organization's beginning, it was actually ex-WCG minister Gary Arvidson and ex-Ambassador College administrator Ken Storey who conceived the idea of starting an organization that could serve as an open forum for discussing and publishing theological research papers. It was Ken Storey's donation of his personal savings that provided the required start-up captial. Arvidson and Storey asked Martin to join them, and in 1974 those three men were the FBR's first board of trustees.
Perhaps due to his former prominence in the WCG, Martin was elected the FBR's first president. By 1976, the FBR board had expanded to seven, with the addition of Vic Orn, Ken Fischer, Gary Reid, and John Cheetham. But disagreements over FBR goals saw Ken Storey, then office manager and secretary-treasurer of the FBR, at odds with Martin. In a 4 to 3 vote engineered by Martin (with Martin, Orn, Cheetham, and Fischer voting against Storey, Arvidson, and Reid), Storey was removed from the board. In 1978, Arvidson, feeling out of step with Martin and not desiring to stand in the way of harmony, resigned from the board. In 1979, Cheetham, unhappy over the way Martin approached the ideas of others, also resigned from the board. Martin was left firmly in control. So much so that in 1980, Vic Orn, a long-time friend of Martin - perhaps believing Fischer to be unquestioningly loyal to Martin and Canadian Gary Reid to be living too far away to make a difference - resigned from the board (with his wife remaining as bookkeeper until last December), stating in a letter to Martin that he was confident Martin's leadership position was secure. And so it was - until 1983, when Fischer and Reid began to have serious second thoughts about Martin.
For ten years, Martin dominated the FBR, but not without criticism. While recognized as having a creative theological mind, knowledge of history, strong writing and speaking skills, and, of late, the attention of certain scholars around the world, there are many Bible students who have complained that Martin's theology unwisely downplays the importance of Christian fellowship and New Testament ritual, overemphasizes the doctrine of "imputation" (that the Christian gains righteousness simply through belief in Christ), has yet to adequately mesh the doctrine of divine judgment with his confidence in "universal reconciliation," and virtually ignores the problems of applied Christian ethics. His interpretations of biblical prophecy have not gained wide support, and there are those who say Martin is not always consistent. For instance, Martin's January tape contained this statement:
"Most people have a misconception of the Worldwide Church of God, in my view. I don't think it's a dictatorship at all. Some people say it is, but I don't think it is. The thing is - you are free, or anyone is free, to leave that organization at any time."
Yet Martin for many years openly bristled at Herbert Armstrong's unilateral style, calling him "that little Napoleon," and even put out a booklet (Church Government and Church Organization) that condemned autocratic church government in no uncertain terms.
Then there was this statement on his tape:
"The Holy Spirit can be taken from people. I'm not saying that anyone that I know has had the Holy Spirit taken from him or her. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying it's possible."
Yet there are those who recall that not long ago Martin was teaching that scripturally it was not possible. Here's another interesting quote from the January tape:
"Christ Jesus came from the Father and he was changed from spirit into flesh.... He became flesh and, I'll tell you, that flesh wasn't wicked. That flesh was holy."
But some of Martin's readers recall how, in 1982, Martin wrote an article entitled "Was Jesus Ever Sick?" in which he stated (p. 4), "Isaiah 53 definitely indicates that Christ was prophesied to be sickly while he was in the flesh. The New Testament certainly backs up this conclusion." Some have asked, "How does Martin's picture of a physically imperfect Jesus square with this new 'holy flesh' idea?"
An even bigger problem concerns Martin's privately stated views that there is no adequate evidence for a universal Noachian Flood and that early Bible chronology is "idealized" and not to be taken as literal historical fact. Many reputable scholars would, of course, agree with him. But some who've read his articles over the years feel that such views are completely inconsistent with the key premise that underlies all of Martin's writings - the same premise which supposedly underlies most Christian fundamentalist religions, namely that the Christian Bible is the revealed "Word of God," and as such is inerrant and to be taken literally.
It is noteworthy that during the last two years, some of Martin's harshest critics have been his own FBR associates. One Foundation employee, who preferred not to be named, told us, "I'm not saying that Doc's writings are all bad. Most of his early FBR work was really good. In fact, we plan to still distribute most of those expositions and booklets. But in my opinion, for the last year or two, Doc [Martin] has been more interested in sensationalism and the acclaim of so-called scholars than in careful research."
There is virtually no past or present FBR researcher that we know of that does not have theological differences with Martin. Some believe Martin is now often overreaching in attempts at buttressing untenable positions. As an example of this, Leona McNair points to Martin's new theory that Jesus and the two thieves were crucified on an almond tree.
Some who've worked with Martin during the last two years say that he had become completely unwilling to allow the FBR to publish any theological material that did not support his own views. For instance, for some time, Ken Fischer, Gary Arvidson, and others have felt that certain biblical passages (Rom. 8:35-39, 11 Cor. 5:1-8, Phil. 1:23, Ps. 139:7-8, etc.) seem to indicate that the "mortality of the soul" doctrine held by Martin, the WCG, and other groups is possibly flawed and should be reexamined. But Martin adamantly refused to allow his view on the subject to be questioned in any FBR publication.
Ironically, it was Martin's own teachings on "universal reconciliation" that led Fischer and Arvidson into such areas of inquiry now labeled by Martin as "anti-Christian." Neither Arvidson nor Fischer believe in any type of eastern reincarnation (where the dead are reborn as animals in repeated future lives), yet both seem to feel that some divine system of resurrection and spiritual growth may be the answer to the problem of harmonizing the doctrines of judgment and universal reconciliation. It is interesting that theologian, A. E. Knoch, whose writings influenced Martin, was able to produce an answer to the apparent dilemma (see Knoch, The Problem of Evil and the Judgments of God), and Origen, the third-century Christian writer often referred to by Martin in years past, taught universal reconciliation and the immortality of the soul (see Sahakian, History of Philosophy, pp. 86-88).
Regarding his book The Original Bible Restored, Martin's opinion that New Testament canonization was completed by the Apostle John has been challenged by writer Gene Justice, who, in a paper submitted to the FBR, presented evidence that canonization may very well have been completed by Peter. Under Martin, the FBR never published the Gene Justice paper. Nor would Martin allow other papers - often well-researched and well-written - to be published if they didn't support his own teachings.
Gary Arvidson told us, "The Foundation had become a one-man show. It just wasn't living up to its stated purpose, which is research without dogmatism. 'Dogmatism' - people need to look that word up and see what it really means. Unfortunately, Ernest seemed to think the Foundation was meant solely as a platform for his own ideas."
One Foundation employee said, "Ever since Ernest started getting attention from certain scholars, he seemed to demand more and more respect from those around him. When he didn't get the type of unquestioning adoration he desired, we were subjected to hours-long self-aggrandizing lectures on the importance and greatness of his work. When he was on a roll, we couldn't even answer the phone without him being insulted. Frankly, I wondered about the man's balance."
Martin finally got to where he was requiring FBR employees to pledge their loyalty to him. To back up this requirement, he told of how, during his years in Worldwide, he knew much of what HWA taught was in error, but that out of loyalty to his employer he did not openly teach what he knew to be true. In the same way, he wanted them to keep their ideas to themselves. Needless to say, such reasoning did little to impress employees who had long ago turned their backs on Herbert Armstrong.
Complaints of runaway egotism were aired by every FBR employee and associate we talked to. Further, many complained that Martin rarely, if ever, gave adequate recognition to those who contributed significantly to many of his "discoveries." This criticism gains plausibility from the fact that Martin's writings contain short or nonexistent bibliographies, few footnote citations, and no real acknowledgments.
But FBR writer Rudy Dykstra is even harsher in his criticism of Martin's methods. Dykstra claims that in a number of articles Martin authored, he actually added words to biblical quotations to produce evidence for positions otherwise unjustifiable.
Martin's editorial policies were clearly a major factor in his departure. But another factor may have been money management. Board members Fischer and Reid admit privately that they were unhappy with the way the FBR's financial resources were being managed. Both seem to feel Martin spent too much, took too many perks (we understand Martin even demanded the FBR pay his cable TV bills and his wife's Cosmo subscription), and gave himself unjustified and unauthorized "loans" and "bonuses." Fischer and Reid were also unhappy over the fact that Martin copyrighted - under his own name - certain books written while on FBR salary and then demanded royalties on their publication. Then, at one point, Martin even started requiring that FBR donors pay an extra $12 if they wanted his autograph on requested books!
Since the FBR shake-up in December, there have been many wild rumors about Martin and the FBR. Not surprising, many of these rumors are untrue. For instance, some have believed that Martin was removed because of a drinking problem. Not so. While Martin has openly discussed his having had an alcohol addiction problem for many years, at the urging of family and friends, he committed himself for over two weeks to Raleigh Hills Hospital in 1984. Since then he has strictly abstained. Not only did his associates at the FBR encourage him in his battle, the FBR and its insurance company paid the $10,000 Raleigh Hills bill. So drinking was not a factor.
Nor was Martin's local "ladies' man" reputation a factor - at least not officially. Board members Fischer and Reid say the subject never came up at the December board meeting. Nonetheless, it is a fact that in recent years a string of female FBR supporters and employees (some married) have complained of sexual harassment and of "being used" by Martin. It's difficult to believe this did not contribute to his decline in stature as a Christian leader within the group.
By December 1984, board members Fischer and Reid had lost all confidence in Martin. The editorial policy disagreements, the financial management problems, and perhaps other factors all contributed to his removal from the FBR presidency. It may not have come as the total surprise Martin now claims it was. For weeks before the board meeting's scheduled date, Martin had consulted with a lawyer specializing in nonprofit corporate law. And (WCG Apostleship contenders pay attention!) two weeks before the scheduled December 13 board meeting, Martin secretly removed the mailing list files from the FBR's Pasadena office, and not until well after that meeting, by which time he had copied the needed information, did he respond to office manager Ken Fischer's demand that he return the files to the office. Thus after his removal from the FBR presidency, he was able to use the stealthily gained information to set up his new organization.
At the December 13 meeting, Reid and Fischer had indicated to Martin that they hoped he would continue with the FBR, on salary, researching and writing at his pleasure. However, Martin's December 24 letter to the FBR's top donors changed everything. Fischer and Reid were stunned by what they felt were Martin's gross inaccuracies and bad faith. Martin refused their demand that he publish a retraction and apology. On February 2, the FBR "accepted Martin's resignation" from the board, and Howard Clark was added to the board and made vice-president (Reid preferred not to continue as vice-president because of residing so far from California. Also, at the earlier December 13 meeting, Fischer and Reid voted to add Arvidson and Dykstra to the board, so there are now five members.)
Just as Martin probably anticipated his break with the FBR, Ken Fischer and others had anticipated that Martin would start a new organization. For over a year, Martin had been indicating that he was tired of writing for the ex-WCG set and wanted to start his own publishing venture, perhaps to be named Elmhurst (after his initials ELM). So while much of what Martin wrote in his December 24 letter irritated his fellow board members, his new business plan did not come as a total surprise. In fact, at the December 13 meeting Fischer and Reid, attempting to show Christian generosity, had actually indicated to Martin their willingness to help him start his own publishing firm. It was the way Martin later went about it that actually upset them.
Martin's new organization is called Associates for Scriptural Knowledge, or ASK. From the articles of incorporation filed with the State of California, it appears that ASK has only one board member - Ernest L. Martin. Perhaps that is why, on his taped message, he exults, "I am not subjecting myself to man in any way! And that's one of the reasons why I am grateful that I am no longer a part of FBR."
His ASK articles of incorporation state:
"The specific purposes of this corporation are to operate a church; to research and establish doctrine and prophecies as revealed in the Holy Scriptures; and to disseminate this information by publications, seminars, and meetings."
On his taped message, Martin says:
"I don't have a commission like [the apostles and prophets] did. But I am on a mission of my own - a mission to see the gospel restored as best as it can be at the end of this age.... We are not interested in raising up fellowship groups around the world. I do not have time for that."
In his second letter to his followers, Martin explained that a major part of his new "mission" would be to produce a new version of the Bible, to be called "the Manuscript Version of the Scriptures." He writes, "This is the 'Elijahan task' that this world needs at this time."
To begin work on his new mission, Martin has set up his headquarters in Hemet, California, the home of Joan Marie, his new wife (his first wife Helen divorced him in 1981). Hemet is more than 80 miles from Fuller Seminary's library and over 100 miles from UCLA's library where Martin supposedly does much of his research. Yet, apparently Joan Marie prefers to remain in Hemet. So it is in Hemet that Martin, with his son Sam, his new wife, and his mother-in-law, will begin the great "Elijahan task." Incidentally, they have already produced their first booklet. Its subject is the "sacred names." Joan Marie was once involved with Jacob Meyer's sacred names movement, which may have something to do with Martin's new interest in the subject. Their address is: ASK, P.O. Box 1863, Hemet, CA 92343.
And what of the FBR? Can it last?
Howard Clark, the FBR's new vice-president, said, "I'm going to do what I can to help it survive. The Foundation can continue to help a lot of people learn important lessons, mature, and become Christians better able to stand on their own two feet."
But will good intentions alone keep the FBR alive? Fischer, the FBR's new president, realizing many will not support an organization lacking a central hero figure, has retained a new Christian accounting firm and has cut back FBR expenditures to the bare bone. He anticipated correctly; FBR contributions have plummeted. Nevertheless, he is not only determined to keep the Foundation going - even working out of his garage if need be - but he has already accomplished something Martin never could, or perhaps, never would.
In the last six weeks, Fischer has been able to rally virtually every thinker rebuffed during the Martin years and gain their support. Some of those who have indicated a renewed interest in the FBR are David Ord (now pursuing a master's degree in theology), former Plain Truth editor Brian Knowles, Sir. Antony Buzzard, writers Gene Justice, Leona McNair, Gary Arvidson, Ken Storey, and broadcaster Tom Hall. Fischer has also been able to line up a number of never-WCG-associated scholars, who could provide a vital new dimension to FBR research.
But will all this save the FBR? After all, a lot of people have become very attached to Martin's style. One of our own readers wrote us, "The Foundation without Ernest Martin is like the New Testament without Jesus Christ." But in February, Gary Reid told us:
"I don't think a Christian educational organization should be run as one man's personal business or ego trip. There are enough Herbert Armstrongs in the world already. When Ken Fischer and I realized Doc could no longer remain as Foundation president we knew it wouldn't be easy. And we knew that removing him might mean the end of the Foundation. But we take our responsibilities as Foundation trustees very seriously, as do our three new board members. Those FBR purposes that we have in print are exactly what we are upholding.
"Maybe if we had acted earlier, the situation would not have gotten so out of hand, but it did. Whether or not the Foundation lasts - well, we'll just have to see. I guess it will all depend on what our readers really want."
After his February 2 "resignation," Martin retained control of his company car, two FBR computers and other property, and demanded $10,000 cash as "royalties," from the FBR. He threatened to sue if his demands were not met, refused arbitration, and lawyers for both sides were unable to reach an agreement. Now, just as we are about to go to press, we have learned that Martin and the FBR, without the assistance of their lawyers, have signed an agreement As severance, Martin has gotten about $18,000 in FBR assets, including his company car, two computers, his desk and chair, a printer, a typewriter, and a large stock of books. This is somewhat less than the $25,000 in severance Martin got from the WCG in 1973 (in return for a promise not to openly criticize them for five years), but with his new settlement, his ASK is on its way. According to Ken Fischer, "We didn't want to fight with Doc. We just wanted to do the Christian thing."
Tom Williams Found Guilty
In our March, 1980 issue (p. 6) we reported how former WCG minister Tom Williams had started Liberty Ministries International (LMI), an organization that offered those willing to pay $3,000 an opportunity to start their own local church. (And we pointed out how the IRS frowned on individuals starting churches solely for tax-benefit purposes.)
On October 19, 1984, a Richmond, Virginia jury found Tom Williams and his wife Linda each guilty of one count of conspiring to defraud the federal government and 30 counts of tax and postal violations. Robert M. Jacobs, an associate of theirs, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy and four counts of tax violations.
The government charged that LMI, started in 1979, was a pyramid-type scheme that sold in-home ministries to people around the country for purposes of gaining tax exemptions and deductions to which they were not entitled. Testifying on behalf of the government were William M. Morris, Douglas B. Taylor, Gary L. Alexander, Thomas J. Boody, and Keith Hunter, all of whom had been involved with LMI, and all of whom - with the exception of Hunter - have now served short prison sentences. The three defendants did not testify.
On November 29, Judge D. Dortch Warriner sentenced Tom Williams, 39, to five years in prison and fined him $20,000. Linda Williams, the mother of two, was sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined $10,000. Jacobs was sentenced to three months and fined $10,000. In addition, all three will be required to pay the $46,107 the government says it spent in prosecuting the case, and after prison, each will face three years of probation. The sentences could have been far higher. Judge Warriner declined to sentence Tom Williams on 29 of the counts on which he was convicted and declined to sentence Linda Williams on 30 counts. Had he done so, they could have faced more than 100 years in prison and $200,000 in fines.
Attorneys for the defendants said they planned to appeal. And with good reason. At a November 15 hearing, Judge Warriner, while convinced the defendants' rights had not been violated, stated quite emphatically that the government prosecutors had handled much of the case in a highly improper manner. While refusing to throw out the case, he invited the defense attorneys to take his ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In spite of the prosecution's faults, however, at the November 29 sentencing, Warriner made it plain that he believed the defendants were, indeed, guilty. (The Richmond News Leader, Oct. 20, Nov. 16, Nov. 30.) It should be interesting to see how the 4th U.S. Circuit Court rules on the case.
We seem to be living in the age of bumper stickers. Now Herbert Armstrong has had one dedicated to him, and it succinctly captures his unique message! The peel-and-stick decal (at left) is now appearing on car bumpers (and Plain Truth news racks) around the country. The decals are available for FREE by writing to: Newsgrams, P.O. Box 11074, Dallas, TX 75223.
My sympathies to the woman from Minnesota who wrote (AR, July 1984, p. 12) concerning the pain of living with a hardcore WCG husband. I have one of those too, and, like her, I feel like screaming at people who admonish me to get off the back of this "good, nice person" who "isn't hurting anything or anyone."
Isn't he? How do you explain the hundreds - perhaps thousands - of divorces directly attributable to a mate's membership in the WCG? Is that why "The Church" has actually had to hold classes on dealing with the violently unhappy reactions of "unconverted" spouses?
What uninformed observers don't realize is that the WCG is not simply a belief system, but an alarmingly rigid cult whose strange practices and excessive demands - temporal, monetary, and cultural - can leave a marriage in shambles when one partner buys into it.
If you happen to be unlucky enough to have a husband in Armstrongism, it's as if a third party - who from now on calls all the shots - has suddenly been introduced into the marriage. Life becomes thoroughly abnormalized, with hardly any aspect left unaffected.
For starters, you find yourself alone a good deal as your husband begins to put in long hours on sabbaths, services, "feasts, " "holy days, " Bible studies, potlucks, meetings, special events, rehearsals, whatnot. (You can kiss weekends and vacations goodbye for the same reasons unless you agree to attend services with him and "vacation" only at feast sites.)
Your social life begins to disappear. He won't attend traditional holiday parties, and hostesses are put off by his dietary taboos on other occasions as well. Your best friends gradually slip away, and invitations dwindle to nothing. His time is too limited, his practices too restrictive, the marital tension too evident. Eventually (as the woman from Minnesota noted) only WCG members remain friends - which for the nonmember spouse amounts to being forced to fraternize with the enemy or have no social life at all. Many WCGers are pleasant enough personally, but there's still pain in associating with them; no matter how you slice it, they're still my husband's compatriots and supporters in a pursuit that brings me great grief. On top of this, I'm just plain uncomfortable in their presence because I can't understand them. What kind of people are these that they can't see through that unsavory old man [HWA] and his ripoff cult?
Add to all of this your worry about being widowed because of the WCGs anti-medicine stance. If you have children, you stew over their welfare as well: What if he refuses THEM needed treatment in your absence? Your pre-WCG family observances - birthdays and holidays - become empty and depressing, exactly as if you had divorced. The joy goes out of celebrating when the husband and father is absent, even if the absence is in attitude rather than physical presence. Family relationships suffer irreparably - little remains to share and discuss when his time is so limited and so many activities are prescribed. After awhile a cloud of resentment permeates every thing. On top of all this, there is the tremendous financial drain - something the woman from Minnesota didn't even mention, surprisingly. There is also the matter of having to cope with the pinchpenny attitudes engendered by these huge donations. Is it "not hurting anyone" to give away thousands while your family does without? Is it being a "good Christian" to let your home become ramshackle and tumbledown because you're too busy with church activities to maintain it?
Probably worst of all is the sheer FRUSTRATION of watching an otherwise intelligent man check his fine mind at the door and embrace an organization run by someone as totally despicable as HWA. Virginia Kineston (AR, July 1984, p. 7) put it well when she referred to him as "a liar, a thief and a pervert. "Are the members utterly blind that they go on swallowing his incestuous past, his hypocrisies, his failed prophecies? What about his constant tacky money-grubbing, his egomania, his lavish living, his changing of the rules to suit himself? How can they remain unmoved at the sight of all the suicides, broken homes, and custody cases that trail after him? Why don't they question his pose as an expert on child rearing when he abused his daughter for years and his grown children despise him? What do all the broken families that were "D & R" victims have to say about his marrying and then divorcing a divorcee himself? The sickening list goes on and on.
Not hurting anything or anyone? I think of my own years of loneliness, alienation, grief, pain, worry, and financial loss and my customary compassion deserts me. I'll be out celebrating on the day Herbert Armstrong dies.
You have my permission to print this, but PLEASE sign it:
-"Name and state withheld by request."
When I married I knew nothing of the [WCG] cult. We had religious discussions before marriage, but everything about the WCG was kept secret from me by my husband and his parents. All I knew was that he used to be Baptist. After a month or two of marriage these strange magazines and booklets started appearing everywhere, in his mom's house especially. I started hearing lectures on pork at first, but I still did not realize the magnitude of involvement there. Then our first Christmas together - normally a very special one for couples - I found this correspondence to Ambassador College....
My husband finally admitted in a heated discussion that their beliefs were kept from me (or I should say their rules and regulations). That Christmas he did not want a Christmas tree and he informed me he was getting back to his religion. My first married Christmas away from home and family only to find this out! I wanted an All-American family and the whole nine yards. But the WCG has put a strain on every relationship in my life.
However, I've never been one to take anything lying down so I've done what I can to help the situation. That means trying to show him a Christian has the fruits of the spirit in life: joy, love, etc. There is no joy in his.
I have written the Plain Truth and let them know my disfavor. I would do almost anything short of doing bodily harm to Mr. Armstrong to erase this mess out of our lives. I have found you can't be too nice dealing with these people. In the last two years I have done a fair amount of study. Let me make a few observations: (1) I feel the WCG attracts people with a low self-esteem in certain areas such as relationships with the opposite sex. (2) It draws people that need a lot of structure in their lives, and they become robot-like. (3) I believe it perpetuates a desire to control others - especially women.
Mr. Armstrong definitely has a hang up on women. He appears to draw women with little self-esteem and perhaps those that view other women in threatening ways. I believe WCG men are taught that women are to be viewed in a very limited capacity - almost as if they should not be liked for their unique personalities and character but only as a means to an end (objects).
WCG people become hostile at the slightest question or remark. It sickens me and hurts me in the deepest sense to see the older people, with so little left in life, taken advantage of and then made to feel so bad about themselves.
I don't want to loose my husband. Through it all I love him and want his mind to become unclouded. However, I would fight against this at all odds. I only hope that God will help him where no one else can.
My husband joined the WCG in 1972. It grossly affected our previously happy marriage and caused termination of same in 1982. 1 felt that after the October Report I just had to respond. I could identify so well with Leona McNair and her plight. The antics mentioned in that story are identical to what my ex-husband did. They must have had the same advice. I also took a nursing refresher course and am supporting myself and my children in this way. My ex-husband pays no support - despite a court settlement that agreed to same. He has just returned from keeping the feast in China.
I read with a great deal of interest the report of Leona McNair's experience with WCG. As a former "true believer," I can identify with her anguish and rejoice in her triumph. It impresses me that her first action was to seek her own healing, then, presumably, fight a legal battle not only for her own vindication but for the good of others who might suffer as she had.
There seems to be a message here for women. Regardless of a woman's state of faith when she leaves WCG (or any cult), she needs to acknowledge the special suffering of a woman and at the same time recognize that bitterness will get her nowhere. Open-eyed forgiveness, psychological and/or spiritual healing, and great wisdom in charting her course are needed.
Many of your female readers have no doubt experienced some of these problems: how to deal with a woman's supposedly weak and super-emotional nature; how to determine that one is or is not demon-possessed (this seems funny now, but when one's self-confidence is at an all time low the accusation can be traumatizing); how to compensate for over-zealous child discipline; when to obey and when not to obey; when and how to pursue a career; when to speak up and when to be silent; when to stay and when to leave, and how to deal with divorce. All of these issues are related to the universal problems of loneliness, defining one's concept of God, sorting through one's faith (if indeed, any faith is salvageable), and finding one's own strengths as well as help from God and others.
These topics have been of much concern to me through the years since I left WCG. Women's advocates seem polarized. A woman must either submit totally or repudiate God, men and family and fight militantly. There has got to be a middle ground. I believe Leona McNair found it.
I would like to hear from women who have dealt with these and other particularly female-oriented cult problems, especially from those who feel, as I do, that through it all, God has come closer.
10111 North Ashley Street
Tampa, FL 33612
Some old proverbial cliches run through your mind when you are finally delivered from Herbert's "planned truth"! You know the sort: "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread," "If you don't use your mind someone (or something) else will," and "A fool and his money are soon parted."...
Through the "cloudy dust" in the days of yesteryear, one repeatedly failed to notice the spiritual vortex in which we were drowning. It was "service, service, service." Keep 'em so busy that they don't have time to think for themselves. Yes, all we had time to do, as we kept sinking into this "slime" up to our mouths, was to quietly urge others, "Don't make waves, don't make waves."
Yep! Just like "lambs to slaughter" we prostrated ourselves before the "Golden Altar of Mammon." We just sat there, very obediently and dull-wittedly, while from "the top-down" we were being butchered with the sharply honed knife of "psychological menticide" (brainwashing). The most heinous type of "work" was being performed - spiritual lobotomy. Think about it. It was mind control, mass obedience. Oh, the pharisees did a "work" all right, and unfortunately still do!...
Matthew 24:24 never had so much meaning for me as it does today after realizing that I had been "letting" someone else use my mind. I've got it back now and I'm trying to catch up on 20 years of time that didn't stand still while I did. A lot has happened. There's lots to read and my eyes are 20 years older. What's that saying? Oh, yeah, "We get too soon old and too late smart. " Well, still, better late than never!
I walked out of Herbert's church in October 1978. I have never been back. My two sons and a daughter are still in Herbert's church and they will not let me talk to them about Herbert or even about a death in our family. My mother died in 1981 at the age of 91 and they would not even let me talk to them about it. They just said, "Do not call us anymore!"
My wife has been a member of the Armstrong cult for over 15 years and with each passing year the strain has gone from bad to worse. I have four children and it is their future I am deeply worried about. My wife may be divorcing me within the next few months and has already stated that she will demand full and total custody and control of our children. My wife has already informed me that after divorcing me she hopes to remarry within six months. I am told that this is quite normal and is [now] part of the active support given [by the WCG] in such cases.
Thanks for your concern and the copious material you sent. I've contacted [the people you recommended] and I'm sure they will be able to help. It's hard to imagine the utter despair one goes through in my position, but I'm now convinced that I'm not walking this path alone. The thought of losing my children [through divorce] to a woman (my wife) who has been so indoctrinated by the WCG as to be nothing more than an automaton has produced such an anger and a will to persevere that I'm confident we will win.
Adults who are lead away into the hallucinations of HWA are sad enough, but at least they had the will and mind to make their own decisions. The children are the ultimate losers. They never had the chance to decide for themselves and are often doomed by the terrible mistakes of others.
Whatever the outcome of my own legal case (judges have been known to rule contrary to evidence before) you can be assured that the fight against the tyrannical WCG has gained a lifelong compatriot.
Dear Mr. Trechak:
Our names seem to indicate some ethnic relationship. Although I was born in the USA my parents were from overseas (Russian and Ukrainian by background). Most of my 40 years as a Christian minister has been in Baptist churches (although I've also pastored Presbyterian and Methodist churches). I was also president of Czechoslovak Baptist Convention (USA & Canada) for several years as well as editor of the English magazine of the Russian-Ukrainian Baptists in the USA.
It seems to me that former WCGers are in three groups: (1) Those disillusioned and offended and are now atheists: (2) the various splinter groups off the WCG who still hold most of the teachings of HWA (GTA and Battles would be examples of this); (3) those who have come out completely and are now with Christian groups like Baptist, Assembly of God, Methodist, etc.
I know your "policy" is not to present theology, but I thought your closing comment (paragraph) on page 9 of the July issue on Robert Williams was terrific and hits the nail square on the head. In my opinion all cults are soft on salvation and the doctrine of Christ (these two in particular and often the doctrine of the holy spirit).
Yours is excellent work. I have contacted some of the former WCG groups for their literature because you give full addresses. I commend you for doing thorough work. Thank you again.
-John E. Karenko, Minister
First United Baptist Church
604 North Franklin
Staunton, IL 62088
Editor: You're very perceptive. The editor's parents are from Czechoslovakia. And yes, your analysis of what becomes of former WCG members is also accurate.
On December 2, I tuned in to HWA's program an "The Plain Truth about Christmas." He was talking about the money that people spend on Christmas gifts. (This, of course, is the money that he wants.) The program was copyrighted 1981. I only watch the HWA shows to catch copyright dates at the end. They all seem to be old tapes made in Tucson even if there is a 1984 copyright date on them. Many of them have 1982 or 1983 copyright dates, but the current issue of The Plain Truth is dubbed in at the end. This is trickery and deceit. I have also noticed the head wobbling you mentioned. If this man needs help in locating even the food on his dinner plate, he could hardly be making new TV programs. So I am convinced that it is only a matter of time before the TV program will be off the air. The faithful church members will probably think that it is "the famine of the Word."
Thanks for your continuing efforts to clear the air with true information. I would like to bring another subject to your attention. I recently spoke to Dee and Carl O'Beirn and I commented that they at least got out of WCG with their money. In 1970, Carl (a former WCG minister) was called to Pasadena before the board and expunged from the organization. The meeting concerned doctrinal questions he had raised about the calendar and law based on lunar timing. After this episode there came forth from the WCG ministers a "story" that Carl was leaving the WCG because he had inherited about $80,000 from his family. False! Now what possesses those WCG ministers to say things like that? As usual, a smoke screen to cover the real issue. All Carl got was a humble taken severance check and a quick pick-up of the company car!
Editor: We don't know what possesses them.
You have made a good move in creating a flyer on Armstrong. I also feel that it is good to ask those who believe in what you are doing to support the work financially. People need to he exhorted in a proper way, and this includes giving. Please continue to be creative in getting the facts out.
You are keeping us well informed on what's going on with Armstrong and his lost tribe. I hope they wake up before its too late. If they are still going to Petra, look out.
Hope you will he able to afford more advertising in the most effective areas. Christ stated that we should take heed in the end time that no man deceive us and that many would be doing so. Seems the AR is one group that has taken heed.
Thank you again for making this information available. It is like a lifeline to the drowning person.
That's it for this issue. We're not only over budget, we're out of space. Our thanks to all of you who are with us. - JT
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