AR32 June, 1985
The Evolving Worldwide Church of God
For many years, self-proclaimed "Apostle" Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) has claimed that his "Work," as performed through his Worldwide Church of God (WCG) and Ambassador College, is the great end-time ministry warning the world of its sins and heralding "the Wonderful World Tomorrow." HWA has claimed that by following his spiritual lead, his followers would find financial security, good health, happy marriages, obedient children, freedom from mental illness, and complete success. (See Ending Your Financial Worries, Does God Heal Today?, How to Have a Happy Marriage, and The Seven Laws of Success - all published by the WCG.)
Today a great many WCG members who rely exclusively on their local WCG minister's "official line" and on official WCG publications such as the Worldwide News (WN) and the Good News seem genuinely convinced that HWA's promises are being fulfilled. But increasingly, it seems, there are members who are privately expressing disappointment with the results of following their "Apostle." Ever more frequently Ambassador Report is receiving letters from current WCG members and employees (usually writing in confidence or even anonymously) telling us that in spite of their pro-WCG religious beliefs and love for their church, they are alarmed and frustrated by numerous negative trends within the WCG today.
While many of these individuals are not in complete agreement with Ambassador Report editorial opinion, they tell us that they see the Report as the only means available whereby they can vent their frustrations and in some small way perhaps improve their church, without getting themselves fired or disfellowshipped. Some within the Armstrong organization are courageous enough to repeatedly pass on to the Report revealing church documents, internal organizational correspondence, and tape recordings of sermons and meetings to substantiate their assertions. (For this we are most grateful. And to all cooperating in this way, we remind you Ambassador Report NEVER reveals its confidential sources.)
But what are these negative trends some members and ministers find so disturbing? What follows is not the result of a scientific survey. (If the WCG would cooperate, we'd love to do one. But the WCG's self-induced isolation prohibits any such attempt.) Nevertheless, based on hundreds of letters we have received from current members and relatives of current members, as well as inside information passed on to us by current WCG employees, we have been able to isolate the following distinct trends within the evolving Worldwide Church of God.
(1) Increasing Materialism. Many long-time WCG members say the WCG of today is a world apart from the humble Radio Church of God of three decades ago. In years past, they point out, the ministry acknowledged that their church was small and of little power. Today, however, it is not uncommon for WCG ministers at headquarters to openly boast of the WCG's great wealth, power, influence, and big-business characteristics. The Ambassador Auditorium concert series and the many philanthropic projects of the Ambassador Foundation are an increasing source of pride to many ministers and members.
The productions at Ambassador Auditorium are noteworthy. According to the Los Angeles Times (June 9, "Television Times" section, P. 8), a number of television stations in southern California (and probably around the country) recently aired:
"Symphonie Fantastique" - "A Conductor's View." Maestro Riccardo Muti and director Kirk Browning visualize Berlioz' masterpiece for this concert taped at Pasadena's Ambassador Auditorium.
Music lovers may recall that Berlioz' famous "Symphonie Fantastique" depicts the delusions of a man who takes opium. He "imagines he has killed his loved one and is led to execution [movement four]. Finally [in movement five] he dreams that he is present at the witches' sabbath, which includes a parody of the Dies irae [part of the Catholic requiem mass] " (The New College Encyclopedia of Music, 1960, p. 638). Once such music was shunned entirely by the WCG. Today, such productions are broadcast from the "House for God" and are a source of great pride to the WCG.
In March, Queen Sirikit of Thailand was Herbert Armstrong's guest in the United States. With an entourage and security force said to have numbered over forty-five, she toured through New York, Palm Beach, and Los Angeles. In each city she presented a show of Thai art objects said to be valued at over $140 million. The April 1, 1985 Worldwide News featured the Queen's visit and detailed how she stayed at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (where even a small suite for two costs $450 per day); how in the "Church's white Cadillac limousine, the Queen and Mr. Armstrong were driven across West Los Angeles with an official police motorcade escort"; how the Queen was given a formal dinner at the Auditorium with many local politicians attending; how the Queen's visit made all the papers; how the WCG is financing a project in Thailand that "provides training classes in traditional Thai craftsmanship and vocational skills for peasant farmers and people from Thai hilltribes"; and how "church members viewed the ornate [some called it 'pagan'] Thai exhibit on the Sabbath, as the Hall of Administration was opened for a special Church viewing after morning and afternoon Sabbath services."
One topic the article carefully avoided was how much it all cost the WCG. The cost of the Queen's visit - apparently paid for entirely by WCG funds - is rumored to have exceeded $4 million. We wrote church treasurer Leroy Neff inquiring whether this was so, but he has refused to comment.
The increasing materialism of the WCG's leadership is not just a headquarters phenomenon, but is also a growing characteristic of much of the WCG's field ministry. And there are definite reasons for the trend.
Today, "full-time" WCG clergymen in the field (that is, away from headquarters) receive yearly salaries (including housing allowance) of about $15,000-$20,000 at the local elder rank; about $25,000 at the preaching elder rank; about $30,000-$35,000 at the pastor rank; and about $40,000 and up when in regional supervisory positions. Most get the use of a recent-model company car with gas expenses paid by their employer. WCG clergymen don't pay second or third tithes, but receive an additional 10% for personal church-feast expenses, and some have been known to receive third tithe "assistance."
© 1985 Ambassador Report. Published quarterly, as finances allow, as a Christian service. ISSN 0882-2123
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.
Those knowledgeable about the WCG ministry say that this current level of remuneration is clearly higher than what most WCG ministers could achieve if they were to enter the secular job market - an assessment that probably explains why so many are willing to ignore the hypocrisies of their superiors in Pasadena. Many people would find such a level of remuneration quite adequate, especially considering that many WCG ministers work less than twenty hours per week and headquarters supervision of their activities is almost nonexistent compared to that of certain previous church administrations. Yet many WCG ministers today are clearly dissatisfied with their employment compensation package.
The church's insurance coverage for its ministers provides meager protection; and there is no pension plan for the WCG's ministry. Nor are WCG ministers eligible to receive Social Security benefits upon retirement. As the WCG's many over 50-year-old ministers approach retirement age, more and more are concerned about their future. But the biggest cause of WCG ministerial dissatisfaction is the fact that at any moment, with very little or no cause, they can be summarily fired. And getting fired means only two weeks' severance pay and a quick repossession of the company car. Thus, very few are willing to openly complain about anything, let alone reveal how they really feel about Herbert Armstrong or their superiors in Pasadena.
Instead, without informing their superiors or their flocks, quite a few have simply gotten themselves parttime or even full-time second jobs. (And it would probably shock some to discover how many WCG ministers' wives are currently employed secretly outside the home.) Consequently, the average WCG minister today is spending less time visiting or counselling and even less time preparing sermons. More than a few have not had time for serious Bible study in years.
While HWA continues to exhort his followers to "sacrifice as never before," a look at the lifestyles and values of the WCG's leadership reveals a high and increasing level of materialism in the ministry (compare this to Micah 3:11). Of course, considering the affluent standard set by HWA, this should surprise no one.
Nevertheless, HWA claimed in his April 25 letter to the WCG membership that the WCG ministry is "much overworked." Then in his April 30 letter he wrote; "Those ministers are swamped..." To solve the problem HWA wants to add 100 new ministers to the church payroll. (Unmentioned is the fact that Ambassador College graduates unhired by the WCG have great difficulty finding employment. The large number of unemployed or underemployed Ambassador graduates in the Pasadena area is no small embarrassment to college officials.) Naturally, HWA writes that his plan will require an increase in contributions from his followers.
(2) Strange Sermons. WCG members believe that their religion is based on the Bible. Scriptural references are found in almost all WCG magazine articles, and it is rare to hear a WCG sermon or sermonette that is not laden with scriptural quotations. Nevertheless, the WCG is more and more becoming a church that stresses its own manmade traditions rather than biblical revelation. "Don't believe me, believe the Bible!" - often said by HWA on radio in years past, is never said to WCG members today. And members are often warned by their pastors not to discuss the Bible among themselves unless a WCG minister is present to guide them. To encourage such dependence, HWA's ministers resort to scripture bending that often produces sermons that can be described, at the very least, as strange.
For instance, WCG evangelist Dean Blackwell, speaking at Ambassador Auditorium on July 28,1984, attempted to characterize his ideal church member by expounding upon a misquotation of Phil. 2:22, where Paul wrote of Timothy's loyalty:
As a child to a father he has served me in the Gospel. That's the way he is. He's just like a child. He's yielding and pliable and humble. And you can tell him the moon is yellow cheese, you know, and he's just gullible and, uhhh, yielding and humble and pliable and believing.
It is obvious how Blackwell read his views into the verse when you read the original King James quote: "But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel."
Blackwell then went on to expound on II Cor. 8:5. Again, notice the twist:
This they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord and unto us - have people ever done that? If you're an independent Christian you only do the first, you give yourself to the Lord. Now those are the people we've lost more of than anybody else - independent Christians who just follow Christ. They don't follow any man! Well that's contrary to the Bible over and over. The Apostle Paul and other ministers said follow us, follow [our] faith, follow [our] example of work.
Actually, what Paul wrote was, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (I Cor. 11:1, RSV). And notice these Bible quotes (again from the RSV): "Cursed is the man who trusts in man" (Jer. 17:5). "You will know them by their fruits" (Matt. 7:16). "Test everything; hold fast what is good" (I Thes. 5:21). "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me" (Hosea 4:6). "In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men" (Mark 7:7).
The Bereans were praised for "examining the scriptures daily to see if these things were so" (Acts 17:11). While, no doubt, the early Christians were exhorted to respect their elders and imitate their righteous conduct, Jesus made it plain that his disciples were not to rule over their brethren as the Gentile despots of that day did (Luke 22:25-26). And when the commands of those in authority conflict with those of God, the early apostles taught, "we must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Today's WCG preachers, it seems, prefer to ignore these once-taught fundamentals.
(3) Widening of the Double Standard. The WCG's double standard has perhaps existed from the very beginning of HWA's career in religion. But the disparity between what HWA preaches and how HWA lives is becoming increasingly wider and more evident to many.
For instance, some are aware how HWA, while teaching strict Sabbath observance, never denied himself the pleasure of watching TV sports on the Sabbath. And some are aware how a few years ago Robert Fahey, then HWA's personal assistant, discovered HWA drinking a cup of coffee on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). When Fahey expressed shock at his boss' blatant disregard of church doctrine, HWA offhandedly said he had never personally taught that it was wrong to drink liquids on that solemn fast day. It was others, he said, who had started that tradition in Worldwide. Some remember, too, how years ago HWA admitted in a Bible Study how at his first dinner engagement with King Leopold of Belgium, he believed the entree served was pork, a food prohibited by WCG doctrine. So, not to offend his host, HWA explained, he simply chewed the meat, but did not swallow - until, that is, he was told that the entree was veal.
Those knowledgeable of the man can recount dozens of such vignettes about HWA's double standard. But now, apparently, some WCG leaders grumble privately about increasingly flagrant disregard for church teachings by HWA and those closest to him. One complaint is that HWA often skips Sabbath services for no reason. So do HWA assistants such as Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Dean and Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Dean. Their critics contend that if they are healthy enough to fly around the world for meetings with oriental despots, they are healthy enough to sit in Sabbath services when in Pasadena.
Another criticism has been voiced regarding this year's "Night to Be Much Observed," an annual church feast, which according to WCG doctrine symbolizes both ancient Israel's deliverance from Egypt and the Christian's separation from the present evil world. This year HWA did not keep this feast (the evening of April 5) with just brethren of the church. Instead, HWA dined with Jehan Sadat, widow of the late president of Egypt. Some of HWA's critics in the WCG say this was a clear violation of his church's teachings (in fact HWA's own teachings) regarding this feast day.
Unfortunately, while some ministers complain privately of HWA's double standard, many others use his hypocrisy as an excuse for their own sins. For instance, a fair number are aware of the fact that on foreign trips HWA has offered certain members of his entourage the services of whores, paid for at church expense. Such standards of morality set by HWA's conduct have not encouraged those around him to "recapture true values."
(4) Sinking Moral Standards. This trend is unmistakably clear in the flow of information coming to Ambassador Report: stories of WCG families cursed by marital infidelity and wife beatings, headquarters administrators philandering with secretaries, field ministers fornicating with women during counselling sessions, WCG executives keeping mistresses, church members suing for divorce with WCG ministerial encouragement, stories of bizarre sex practices and homosexual tendencies among certain church leaders, and even rumors of child molestation at Imperial Schools and at the church's summer camp in Minnesota!
Much of the information we continue to receive on these matters is quite detailed. Apparently, some believe we would revel in publicly detailing every WCG leader's personal life. We would not - even if all concerned were clearly public figures. Nevertheless, this trend is real. Even evangelist Rod Meredith has admitted from the pulpit that this is a growing problem in the church.
But what is the cause? Could it be that this decline in morality within the WCG is somehow related to the fact that the WCG is led by an "Apostle" that has divorced his wife, makes excuses for ten years of incest with his daughter, and refuses to speak to his only son and his son's sons, while all the while claiming he is "turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers"?
What Armstrong and his cohorts are actually accomplishing is quite the opposite. In the last few years we have seen the WCG ministry often actively promoting divorce. When one mate in a marriage is a WCG member and the other is a nonmember, it is not unusual for the WCG ministry to encourage the member mate to divorce. This is quite often the case where the nonmember mate is a man who believes he should be the family leader. If he attempts to dissuade his wife (and children) from full WCG participation, the WCG ministry will often pressure the wife to divorce her husband. We know of some cases where the WCG has even provided such women with legal advice and financial assistance to sustain the legal warfare against their husbands. In one such divorce and child custody suit being fought at the present time, the prolonged legal warfare has actually brought the husband to the point of bankruptcy.
(5) Increasing Fear and Isolation. On March 30, WCG members at Ambassador Auditorium listened as WCG ministerial director Joseph Tkach began a sermon supposedly on "forgiveness." But what that audience was subjected to for the next hour and a quarter was actually a rapid fire, high intensity, apanthrophobic-theophobic caterwaul. According to Tkach:
...they're going to persecute us. And what we went through in 1979 is sandbox by comparison. Are we thinking in terms of suffering? Not only the suffering that Christ went through himself, but the suffering that we ourselves are going to have to go through as we perform the job to which God has called us to accomplish. And believe me, we are going to suffer!
Tkach's paranoid view of the WCG's future is, unfortunately, not unique. Every Sabbath scores of WCG congregations around the world are subjected to similar bone-chilling prophecies of future self-martyrdom.
What confusion! For decades the WCG published an article entitled "There Is a Way of Escape" and taught that it was the "Philadelphia era" of God's Church - the church mentioned in Rev. 3:7-12 - that was to be "spared the hour of temptation" (see Hoeh: A True History of the True Church). Yet now Tkach and others are prophesying that the WCG will undoubtedly be going through terrible trials much like those they have said the end-time Laodicean church would suffer. Ironically, the Worldwide and Laodicean churches share yet another similarity. Their attitude is: "I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing." But God warns them that they are "wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked" and sternly commands them to "repent" (Rev. 3:14-19).
Paul wrote that "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Rom. 8:9). He explained to Timothy that "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (II Tim. 1:7). Yet today, very clearly, the followers of Herbert Armstrong are increasingly filled with fear. That fear takes many forms: fear of persecution, fear of "the world," fear of the government, fear of the news media, fear of other churches, fear of criticism, fear of contact with "dissidents," fear of college accreditation, fear of unapproved books, fear of unapproved thoughts, fear of "intellectualism," fear of thinking, and fear of people who think.
This high level of fear is producing not only a diminished capacity for logical reasoning but a diminished capacity for loving. And it is leading to an intellectual isolation that leaves many WCG members living in an "alternate reality" - a kind of make-believe world. This, in turn, often leads to serious consequences.
(6) Increasing Mental Problems. This should not surprise us. Orwell wrote of "double think," and James wrote of the instability of the double-minded (James 1:8). The dichotomies of increasing materialism in practice alongside the ever present calls for greater sacrifice, the ever widening double standards, the increasing and often blatant disregard of traditional moral values by pastors who regularly exhort their flocks to almost unattainably high standards of conduct, and rampant fears are taking a toll on the minds of a great many in the WCG. These ministers seem to have somehow deluded themselves into believing they can secretly adopt a lifestyle emphasizing what the Bible refers to as "the works of the flesh" (Gal. 5:19-21), but Paul admonishes such people: "Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap" (Gal. 6:7, RSV).
If the Bible is taken as a guide, the solution to the mental problems and fears of many church members would seem to be for them to stop living a lie - stop practicing a double standard - and to put real love back into their lives, because "there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear" (I John 4:18).
Recently, Ambassador Report received a copy of a startling open letter to HWA and his Council of Elders. The letter is unsigned, but from what our best sources tell us, it is, nevertheless, very accurate. The letter listed over a dozen top WCG officials who either have severe psychological problems personally, or whose wives or children are so afflicted. We have since learned that a number of these individuals have sought the help of psychologists and psychiatrists. Some are now in therapy and a few have even required hospitalization. (We do not feel it is appropriate to give names here, as it is not our intention to embarrass those requiring help.) Unfortunately (as if these individuals did not have enough trouble), some WCG ministers, apparently threatened by the fact that some in their flock would seek "outside" counseling, have made a point of attacking psychologists and psychiatrists from the pulpit. For instance, in a January 19 sermon in Pasadena, WCG evangelist Roderick Meredith attacked mental health professionals, saying that such counsellors liked to "play God." The comment prompted Ambassador Report editor John Trechak - who read a transcript of the sermon - to send Meredith the following letter:
Dear Dr. Meredith:
There was much in your Jan. 19 Sabbath sermon that I found interesting. Specifically, while you made it clear adultery is a widespread problem at headquarters, many church employees write me that, in reality, the ministry is increasingly turning its back on the extra-marital affairs of church employees, especially top ministers. For instance, during the last year I have received many letters... which more than hint that the moral atmosphere at WCG has sunk to a very low level. If this is indeed true, and it seems to be, it is very sad.
Why then the attack on psychologists and psychiatrists? I am regularly contacted by church members desperately in need of help with their emotional problems. Who can they turn to? The WCG ministry? They've lost confidence in the ministry! And the answer why is very simple: How the ministry lives speaks much louder than what the ministry says.
The members who write to me often need professional help. The upstanding, dedicated counsellors I recommend to them do not tell them to turn their backs on God or their church. Virtually always their advice (given in complete confidence, something not offered by the ministry) is to adopt modes of behavior (i.e., rationality, love for others, faithfulness, moderation, etc.) that the ministry itself should be advocating.
I disagree with you. As a whole, these professionals are not "playing God." But can the same be said for you and your colleagues?
What you have done is made some fear to obtain the kind of counselling they desperately need. The terrible tragedies (the murders) that took place this past year in the church areas of Dave Pack and Dennis Luker - ironically, both proteges of yours - reflect, I fear, the kind of fruit your misguided position will continue to bear. Dr. Meredith, is that really what you want?
Meredith is not the only WCG minister who has pressured members not to seek professional help with their psychological problems. Attacks on psychologists and psychiatrists have been a recurring theme in many WCG sermons at church headquarters and elsewhere. Even the WCG's lawyers have gotten into the act.
On May 10, WCG attorney Ralph Helge sent a memorandum to hundreds of WCG employees demanding that they inform him whether or not they, their family, or even anyone they know had ever counselled with a particular Pasadena psychologist. Ostensibly the information was somehow needed in regard to a New York divorce case in which the doctor had testified. But many interpreted the memorandum as a highly offensive intrusion into their private lives, intended only to dissuade them from obtaining help with personal problems.
The bullying, insensitive, intrusive, offensive, deceptive and unsolicited form letter had this legalese stamped on at the head:
This document constitutes a confidential communication between attorney and client and represents an attorney's work papers. It is confidential in nature and should not be duplicated. Disclosure to any third person is prohibited except by obtaining written permission of a duly authorized corporate official by affixing the signature of said official and name of the third party.
How would you feel if Herbert Armstrong's personal lawyer sent you such a letter?
(7) Petra - Again! Petra, an ancient ruined city in the rugged desert of southwest Jordan, has for decades held a special fascination for members of the WCG. By piecing together a number of disparate scriptural quotations (Rev. 3:10, Isa. 16:1-5, Isa. 26:20-21, Isa. 33:15-16, Zeph. 2:3, and Prov. 14:26) the majority of WCG members came to hold the belief that one day they (along with unconverted mates and children) would be miraculously swept off to a "place of safety" - most likely Petra - while the world anguishes in "the Great Tribulation" to take place before the return of Christ.
While the WCG has never published a definitive explanation of this widely held belief, this prophetic theory has been widely promulgated in WCG circles through sermons, Ambassador College lectures, a few Petra-related articles in church publications, and most especially through the sermons of the long-winded, wandering star of the WCG, evangelist Gerald Waterhouse.
In recent years, however, a few statements appearing in WCG publications have led some, including Ambassador Report, to conclude that the WCG was abandoning its Petra teachings. Now, however, it is apparent to us that such statements by the WCG were intended only to deceive some in the general public and that the WCG membership is still encouraged to hold on to the Petra doctrine. Earlier this year we talked to an Ambassador College graduate who had recently spent time assisting a WCG minister in the Pasadena area. We were startled to learn that the idea of fleeing to Petra is more popular than ever in the WCG. He told us:
The Petra teaching is very much alive. Most ministers do not teach it as absolutely certain that Petra will be the "place of safety," but the idea conveyed is that it is 90% certain Petra will be the place. Gerald Waterhouse, of course, teaches it as though it were clearly prophesied in the Bible, and he is more popular among the brethren than ever before. Occasionally he mentions Petra by name but usually he talks about a "place of final training." Nevertheless, everyone in the church seems convinced that that is Petra in Jordan.
How would you like to spend 31/2 years getting your "final training" in this place? This photo of Petra was taken by Morris Burnham and is from the Steven L. Ross collection.
According to the Worldwide News (March 18, p. 12), evangelist Gerald Waterhouse is now on his ninth tour of WCG congregations around the world. Again the "Prophet of Petra" is "going to and fro on the earth."
One can only wonder about the mental state of a people desirous of fleeing to Petra. The hot days and cold nights of its inhospitable desert climate, the meager water resources, the lack of sanitation facilities, and the barren landscape devoid of fuel for heating or cooking should turn away the reasonable. But not only that, the region is said to be occasionally subjected to cloud bursts that can bring nine-foot-high walls of water down the region's narrow canyons in flash floods of awesome power. If thousands of Armstrong followers were camped in this "place of safety" during such a flood, many would undoubtedly perish. One can only wonder, too, how the Arabs of the region would react to thousands of pro-Israeli, Sabbath-keeping, mostly American religious fanatics setting up a little colony in their midst. Would this really be a "place of safety"? It is interesting that at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D., the early Christians fled - but not south to Petra. Instead, they fled north to Pella.
Devil Worship at Petra
One of our readers (Emmett C. Hoctor, 3723 W St., Omaha, NE 68107) has done extensive research on the Petra teaching of the WCG. He wrote us:
Petra has been called the "Red Rose City of the Dead." Petra, or Sela, was a city where every type of devil worship thrived. Child sacrifice was so prevalent that there were altars on what was called "the high place" where conduits six inches wide were needed to carry away the stream of human blood.
I have just finished reading a remarkable book about Petra: The Sarcophagus of an Ancient Civilization (Petra, Edom, and the Edomites) by George L. Robinson. It was published in 1930 by the Macmillan Company, New York. The ancient temples and peoples of Petra are detailed. The place is defensible but not totally. Robinson gives references where the Jews captured and forced 10,000 men to jump to their death off the steep cliffs.
Incidentally, I would like to hear from anyone who knows the citation of the National Geographic article Loma Armstrong used as the basis for the Petra theory.
Those interested in the Petra doctrine or those who may have relatives or friends hooked on the idea will benefit from an article recently published by the Foundation for Biblical Research. It is titled "Where Is Your Place of Safety?" Written by former WCG member Steven L. Ross, the article is one of the best ever done to disprove the WCG's Petra theory. The article is available for free by writing to the FBR, P.O. Box 499, Pasadena, CA 91102. Mr. Ross has informed us that he also has a lecture-slide show presentation available on Petra, as well as a number of Bible research papers. His large work - The Christian and the Feast Days - is also available in bound manuscript form for $10.00 by writing directly to: Steven L. Ross, P. O. Box 434, Beaverton, OR 97075.
Seattle Member Accused of Multiple Murders
On January 9, King County, Washington prosecutors filed two charges of first-degree murder and two charges of first-degree attempted murder against Charles E. Harris, a 35-year-old unemployed Vietnam veteran and WCG member.
According to an affidavit filed by King County prosecutor Al Matthews (as reported in the Seattle Journal-American, Jan. 10, 1985, p. A2), the alleged crimes took place shortly after midnight on Sunday, January 6. That night Seattle attorney John Weston and friends Patricia Tobis and Susan Marie Dietsch returned to Tobis' Eastgate home after dinner. Upon their arrival they found Harris present with his former girlfriend, Brenda James, who had been babysitting Tobis' two children. Home owner Tobis considered asking Harris to leave but decided, instead, to allow them to continue a discussion of their personal "problems" in private. Later, however, upon hearing a gunshot, Tobis went to investigate and, according to prosecutor Matthews, she was shot in the chest. Tobis claims Harris remarked, "two down, one to go" as he proceeded to make his way through the home. Weston was then shot in the chest. And finally Dietsch was shot. Prosecutors claim that Harris was attempting to eliminate all potential witnesses.
Weston and Tobis were both hospitalized with severe wounds, but survived; Tobis' two children, in their bedroom during the shootings, were unhurt. Brenda James, 29, and Susan Marie Dietsch, 33, however, both died.
Harris and James were both members of the Worldwide Church of God, according to prosecutor Matthews. They had planned to get married, but James called off the plans because of "religious problems." Harris is black and James was white. The WCG has for decades generally refused to allow interracial marriage. In recent years, however, for public relations reasons the church has avoided making such doctrines clear. Friends of Harris say his regular fellowship with white WCG members made him lose any sense of racial distinction from other members and the sudden realization of the WCG's actual racial teachings may have caused him to "snap."
Nevertheless, this is not the first time Harris has been charged with committing a violent crime. Over a decade ago Harris was charged in the 1970 slaying of his estranged wife. Although he confessed to that crime, he was found innocent by reason of insanity and was committed to a mental hospital for two years. He is now again in a mental hospital undergoing psychiatric observation. His trial is set to begin in July - if he is found mentally competent to stand trial. His defense is being handled by the Public Defender's office of Seattle.
Even though the WCG ministry has distanced itself from Harris since January, friends say Harris still considers himself loyal to the WCG.
Armstrong Follower Held In Murder of Daughter
On Sept. 20, 1984, Armstrong follower Lois Marie Elliott of North Tonawanda, New York was charged with second- degree murder. Police say that before dawn that day, the 36-year-old woman stabbed her four-year-old daughter to death in the child's bed, knifed herself in the chest, in an apparent suicide attempt, and then telephoned police, saying, "I killed her." Officers dispatched to the scene discovered the pajama-clad body of the little girl, Roxanne Elizabeth, in her own bed. She had already died from multiple stab wounds, mostly to the chest. Mrs. Elliott was found nearby bleeding from a wound to her own chest. (The Buffalo News, Sept. 20, 1984, p. 1 and Sept. 21, p. C- 5.)
Elliott was divorced from her WCG-member husband Frederick R. Elliott of Kenmore, New York, and had been living with her widowed mother Olive Baldassara. Mrs. Baldassara was home the night of the tragedy, but was apparently asleep in another room during the attack.
Investigators say that Elliott had telephoned police the previous evening claiming her ex-husband had sexually abused their daughter. But police have since concluded that there are "no facts to support that allegation." After Elliott was treated at a hospital and released into police custody, she told investigators she had "committed a sin that would carry on through her bloodline" and that her daughter had "committed an unpardonable sin and didn't pray enough."
Neighbors described Elliott as a reclusive "religious fanatic" who rarely allowed her daughter outdoors to play. Church acquaintances told us that although Elliott had been disfellowshipped from the WCG, she had remained faithful to church teachings and had desired to be reinstated in the church. Reinstatement was not forthcoming, however, because she had been labeled as having a "demon problem." One of Elliott's church friends said, "I don't think Pack [Dave Pack, a WCG minister in the Buffalo, New York area] ever encouraged her to get psychiatric help. And if he really thought she had demons, why didn't he just cast them out, like in the Bible?"
Another acquaintance said, "We could sense Lois had a problem, but her church experience and her marriage problems didn't help her. Then after she was disfellowshipped she seemed to get worse. She really needed help."
Niagara County First Assistant District Attorney Stephen P. Shierling told the Report he fully intends to prosecute Elliott on the murder charge. But Elliott's attorney, James Perry of North Tonawanda told us that his client has been declared mentally incompetent to assist in her own defense, has been committed to a state mental hospital for treatment, and that there is no way to know if she will ever recover sufficiently to be able to stand trial.
Whatever the legal outcome, the fact remains that a pretty little four-year-old girl is dead. Neighbors told reporters how Roxanne's father had visited the little girl at least twice each week and how happy she always seemed to be when he arrived. The Buffalo News story of Sept. 21 had this ending:
Although neighbors Thursday said that they never saw the little girl playing outside, her father, Mr. Elliott, talked about her energy and her precociousness. She loved to dance and draw and could name all the states, he said.
"She had a mind like you wouldn't believe," he told The News. "She was like a little adult, a little Shirley Temple. She was so vivacious." Mr. Elliott then politely declined any further comment, and broke down in tears.
David Pack's Reign of Terror
On the night of Roxanne Elliott's death, one of the last people - probably the very last one - Lois Elliott phoned before the tragedy was WCG minister David Pack, pastor of the Buffalo (North), New York congregation.. Exactly what was said, we don't know. At least not yet. That information may well come out should Lois Elliott ever recover sufficiently to stand trial. What is remarkable, however, is how often Pack's name seems to appear in conjunction with tragedies in the WCG. For a number of years now, no WCG minister's name has appeared more often in letters written to the Report complaining of ministerial abuse.
Pack, a burly 6-foot, 5-inch Ambassador College graduate known locally for his authoritarian style, has so incensed some in his flock that a group have circulated an open letter detailing his abuses and have called for his removal. The letter describes Pack's ministerial leadership as a "Reign of Terror." On the cover page, addressed to WCG headquarters leaders, they wrote: "David's power-crazed quest to totally dominate the mind, body, and spirit of church members has not been done in a corner and has been done clearly in view of all to see at headquarters in Pasadena."
On the following 13 pages of their letter the allegations about Pack read like a horror story. The authors contend that Pack constantly intimidates members, uses threats and mind-control methods, is given to extreme emotional outbursts, is highly political, believes in winning at all cost, has disfellowshipped members for trivial faults, prescribes diets while "playing M.D.," insists on being addressed as Mr. Pack, enjoys wearing skimpy, skin-tight shorts to sporting events, has actually worn a wolf costume to church socials, enjoys putting down women, and told one married woman with children, "It would be better for you to shack up one night with a man than wear makeup."
The letter quotes Pack as having said, "Everyone who has challenged me has either died, been seriously injured or has been eliminated from the work." And, "God backs me even if I am wrong."
On page 7 the authors made this statement to Pack (emphasis ours):
Doesn't it bother you that while you were in charge of the Rochester and Syracuse area there were three suicides? One can only wonder why they chose to kill themselves while you were their main advisor in the area. Perhaps you suggested to one or more of them that they would in no way make it into the Kingdom of God.... A statement such as, "You are no longer in the body of Christ," could have caused one to give up and kill himself.
The above quote was written well before the Elliott family tragedy. Some who knew little Roxanne and her mother Lois Elliott wonder if it might have been a prophecy.
The Missing Children of the WCG And the $120 Million Lawsuit
On Aug. 24,1984 The Edmonton Journal, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, carried a story about a WCG-related parent- child problem similar in some ways to others we've heard of over the years. What was different about this story, however, was the young age of the child involved. According to the article, a Mrs. Carol Dillingham of Winterburn, Alberta, claims her daughter, Lori Ann, first became interested in the WCG at age 14. By age 16, the mother says her daughter was "talked into quitting school" and "left home to become a member of the church." Mrs. Dillingham alleges that as a result of the stress induced by the situation, her husband suffered a stroke and that when Lori Ann was contacted and informed of this, she told her mother, "That's too bad Mom, that's your problem." The Dillinghams have bluntly accused the WCG of "stealing" their daughter. Nevertheless, they at least know their daughter is alive and have some idea where she is. Other parents who have collided with the WCG over their children have not been as lucky.
In 1979, Ambassador Report was contacted by Dr. Galal Badr, a college professor at George Mason University in Virginia. Badr told us how he had been married to a WCG member, had gone through a divorce, and had been granted custody of their young daughter Abigail. Badr told us, however, that his daughter and his ex-wife, Marianna (a one-time school teacher from Philadelphia, maiden name - Dowhan) had disappeared, and a WCG minister, who hinted he knew of their whereabouts, had told him, "If you don't cooperate, you'll never see your daughter again." Badr refused to "cooperate" and true to the minister's prediction, he has not seen or heard from his daughter (or ex- wife) since then. Abigail would now be 12 years old.
In late 1979, Dr. Badr wrote to WCG headquarters asking their assistance in locating his missing daughter. It was some time before he even received a response. Finally on July 3, 1980, WCG lawyer Ralph Helge wrote Dr. Badr that "the Church" would not intervene in his case because, "Any other position would demand that the Church become an investigator and fact finder in thousands of cases.
Did Helge really mean there were thousands of such cases of missing children related to the WCG? Five years ago we simply assumed his comment was hyperbole. Now we are not so sure. Increasingly, it seems, we are hearing of parents claiming the WCG has come between them and their children and sometimes that they cannot even locate their children.
Perhaps such stories should not surprise us for in recent years the WCG, through its Youth 85 magazine and other programs, has been attempting to proselytize the very young. But just how far can a "church" go in driving a wedge between parent and child - especially when the latter is a minor? It appears that that may well be a question for the courts to decide.
The WCG is among the defendants listed in a lawsuit filed by an ex-WCG, Washington state mother who alleges she has suffered the loss of a normal parental relationship with her child and great emotional distress due to the negligence of the defendants in that suit. Besides the WCG, those defendants include: the State of Washington, the Department of Social and Health Services, two John Doe attorneys, Herbert W. Armstrong (corporation sole of Nevada), and a single man - a WCG member, address unknown - whom we will refer to by the pseudonym "Mr. B." We will refer to the plaintiff mother as "Mrs. P."
In the suit (case number 83 2 02833 2 in the Superior Court of Pierce County), the mother alleges that:
Prior to 1976 the minor child [her son] had exhibited exceptional and outstanding scholastic records at his school and maintained a loving and close relationship with his natural mother [Mrs. P].
In about 1976, when the minor child was eleven years old, defendant [Mr. B] began a relationship of oppression and seduction, all designed to alienate and destroy the affections between mother and child and instead to create an unhealthy, improper and illegal relationship between himself and the minor child.
On or about February, 1982, because the mother and child relationship was worsening, the mother [Mrs. P] sought assistance from Pierce County law enforcement agencies....
Immediately thereafter, the Department of Social and Health Services intervened and through gross negligence allowed the minor child to be transported out of Washington to reside with [Mr. B], never to be seen again.
Through the gross negligence of the Department of Social and Health Services by it agents, officers and employees, the mother [Mrs. P] was unlawfully and improperly and without due process deprived of not only the temporary care, custody and control of her minor child, but also to the permanent relationship and love of her minor child....
Although the minor child and defendant [Mr. B] met through the auspices of defendant Worldwide Church of God, as the relationship became more and more injurious for the young boy, the defendant Worldwide Church of God assisted the natural mother in trying to terminate the relationship, but later the defendant church refused to disclose the whereabouts of defendant [Mr. B] when it was advised that [Mr. B] was harboring illegally the minor child....
The aforementioned acts and omissions of the defendants, jointly and severally, has caused (1) substantial interference with the mother and child relationship; (2) alienation of affections; (3) has gone beyond all possible bounds of decency and should be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community and thus, the tort of outrage should be applied; (4) has been a civil conspiracy; (5) interference and destruction of the mother's civil and constitutional rights as guaranteed by the first, ninth, tenth and fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution....
The above quote is taken from the Amended Complaint filed June 18, 1984. Earlier, in an affidavit filed May 7, 1984, the attorney for the mother clarified the allegation of negligence against the WCG:
Because [Mrs. P] was a member of the church and because now the church is claiming she still is a member of the church, the church owed a duty to [Mrs. P] when she went to the various ministers and asked assistance in counseling between herself, her son and [Mr. B]. The duty owed is reasonable care by a counselor....
In the same document the mother's lawyer states that the WCG was not cooperating in supplying answers to questions at depositions in spite of the seriousness of the allegations. The plaintiff's lawyer wrote:
The law is clear that any entity, whether it is a person or a corporation, is subject to a cause of action for the interference of the parent-child relationship....
At the very least, the deposition of the three [WCG] ministers [Luker, Dahlgren, and Goethals] disclose their knowledge of allegations by [Mrs. P] as follows: (1) of improper conduct between the boy and [Mr. B] who were members; (2) the ministers' agreement to assist [Mrs. P] in separating [Mr. B] from the boy, (3) in fact the ministers' contact with [Mr. B] to curtail the relationship; (4) the ministers' failure to terminate or modify the relationship between the boy and [Mr. B]; (5) the church's knowledge that [Mr. B] had no right to the boy but insisted on encouraging [Mr. B] to keep the boy; and (6) in keeping the boy's whereabouts from everyone, law enforcement authorities as well as [Mrs. P].
On April 22, the Supreme Court of Washington denied a WCG motion for discretionary review of a lower court's denial of a WCG motion for summary judgment against [Mrs. P]. What that means is that the WCG remains a defendant in the case. The court was:
mindful of and sympathetic to the underlying constitutional rights asserted by the Church. The court did not believe those rights to absolutely preclude the existence of any duty, however. It concluded instead that the Constitution might allow recognition of a limited duty to disclose information, particularly in a situation involving a minor.
This case should prove very interesting. The mother is asking $20 million in damages for the severing of the normal parent-child relationship and for emotional distress, another $ 100 million for punitive damages, plus attorneys' fees and costs. The trial should begin around March, 1986. The plaintiffs lawyer is Mr. Terry E. Lumsden of the lawfirm of Billett, Comfort & Rosenow, Tacoma Mall Office Building, Suite 301, Tacoma, WA 98409 (phone 206-473-0725).
The Exodus Continues
The exodus from the WCG ministry and administration is continuing. Those exiting the WCG ministry in recent months have included: Daniel Botha (pastor of the Pretoria and Pietersburg, South Africa congregations), Charles Ranchie (pastor of the Penticton and Kelowna, British Columbia congregations), Dan White (pastor of the Helena, Butte, and Great Falls, Montana congregations), James Lichtenstein (Nashville and Murfreesboro, Tennessee), William Cowan Jr. (Tennessee), Charles Crane (Bluefield, WV), Bill Freeland (Liberal, Kansas), James Wells (Topeka, Kansas), Carlton Greene (Pasadena, California), and George Geis (Pasadena, California).
Geis Ousted Over The Firm Bond
At the end of 1984 there appeared on the shelves of Vroman's bookstore in Pasadena a new book of major interest to some in the WCG hierarchy. The Firm Bond (Linking Meaning and Mission in Business and Religion) by Robert L. Kuhn and George T. Geis, and published by Praeger, explores "the ways in which business could adopt the techniques and outlooks that enable some religious groups to obtain an unparalleled degree of commitment from their adherents." (Quotes are from their book and book jacket.)
The authors analyze the problem of commitment - both corporate and personal - and suggest ways in which commitment is either built or broken. To buttress their arguments they rely heavily on anecdotes. It was these anecdotes, apparently, that caused rumblings at WCG headquarters in Pasadena. For while the book nowhere mentions the WCG by name, both Kuhn and Geis have had a long relationship with the Armstrong organization, and many saw in their pseudonymous examples the WCG with all its corporate and human failings.
Within a few weeks of the book's appearance Geis was forced to resign from his Ambassador College position and the WCG ministry. It was the WCG's loss. Geis was one of the few Ambassador College faculty members possessing truly outstanding academic credentials.
Besides a B.A. in theology from Ambassador College, Geis received a B.S. in mathematics (summa cum laude) from Purdue University, a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Southern California, and an M.B.A. from the Graduate School of Management at UCLA, where he is also a Postdoctoral Scholar. He is currently "Research Coordinator at the Center for Human Research Management, Institute of Industrial Relations, the University of California at Los Angeles."
Kuhn's credentials are equally impressive. Besides a B.A. in theology from Ambassador College, Kuhn holds a B.A. (Phi Beta Kappa) in human biology from Johns Hopkins University; a Ph.D. in neurophysiology from the Department of Anatomy and Brain Research Institute of the University of California at Los Angeles; and an M.S. (Sloan Fellow) in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he was also a research affiliate in psychology. He is the author of a number of books on management and currently holds positions with the University of Texas and New York University. He has been disassociated from the WCG and Ambassador College since the late seventies.
Over the years, the WCG and Ambassador College have been able to draw many men of intellect and talent. Unfortunately, the Armstrong organization has rarely been able to hold on to those same individuals. It would be difficult to find another organization with such a pronounced "brain drain" problem. Those running the Armstrong organization might do well to ponder the lessons found in The Firm Bond.
Dr. Charles Dorothy Out Again
During the State of California versus WCG lawsuit turmoil of 1979, church attorney Stanley Rader produced a loyalty pledge all WCG employees were expected to sign. One who refused to sign the pledge was Dr. Charles V. Dorothy, a respected and popular WCG minister and Ambassador College professor. That defiance did not get him disfellowshipped, but it did cost him his job. (Evangelist David Jon Hill also refused to sign and was similarly cut off.) Since then Dorothy has pursued an accredited Ph.D. in religion at Claremont College in southern California, one of the nation's leading institutions in that field. Then recently, he was able to obtain research work at Ambassador College on a contract-work basis. Again, however, Dorothy ran into problems. Some of his research led to theological conclusions unacceptable to his superiors, and they once more told him good-bye. So the Ambassador College brain drain continues.
Dr. Dorothy is currently writing for the newsletter of the Association for Christian Development (P.O. Box 445, Rolling Bay, WA 98061). He is also engaged to be married to Camilla Terhune, sister of Ken Westby, the Association's president. Incidentally, we found Dr. Dorothy's recent series of articles on "the law" of the Bible most enlightening and we recommend them to those interested in biblical studies.
On June 7, the "news" spread like wildfire through the offices and corridors of WCG headquarters in Pasadena. At least one major department head called a meeting of his employees to make the announcement. Within minutes WCG members were being phoned across the nation to relay the "news." Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA) had just been "killed in a plane crash!" By mid-day the story had reached WCG members from coast to coast. Hundreds waited near their radios and TVs for a news bulletin. It never came.
There was no plane crash; GTA was alive and well in Tyler, Texas. Who started the rumor? No one knows. But more than a few suspect the story germinated from the wishful thinking of some of GTA's old "friends" in the WCG.
Allan Browne Makes His Move
Since 1979, high-priced Beverly Hills attorney Allan Browne has been the WCG's most prominent trial lawyer. How much WCG money Browne has already put into his lawfirms' coffers is not yet known, but it is undoubtedly many millions. Browne's continued representation of Worldwide caused more than one lawyer to wonder how long it would be before Browne left Ervin, Cohen and Jessup, the firm in which he had been a partner for many years. After all, with the WCG as a regular client, Browne is a "rainmaker." Why share all that WCG loot with so many partners?
Now Browne may not have to. He has formed his own lawfirm: Browne and Woods, with offices at 2040 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067 (telephone: 213-274-7100). While Browne is not yet a member of the WCG (he is Jewish), he has been able to provide Worldwide with the kind of lawyering Herbert Armstrong likes. Good luck Allan.
Ambassador Students Respond
Being Ambassador College alumni ourselves, we always enjoy reading letters from current AC students. In recent months, it seems, more and more Ambassador students in Pasadena have been reading the Report. Here are three letters, each with a different viewpoint, from Ambassador students who read our March issue and were inspired to write to us.
Your speculations about Mr. Armstrong's successor show great insight, but they are incomplete in excluding the college area. You don't honestly believe that Dr. Hoeh would tolerate the frantic appeals of Mr. McNair, do you? Incident after incident, no matter how trivial, has been an excuse for Mr. McNair to run to Mr. Armstrong for help to cover himself. Your scenarios should have foreseen that Mr. McNair has already purchased his ticket to some "small but important church" that needs his help in getting truly behind Mr. Armstrong.
Surely you knew that his right hand club, Mr. Albrecht, loves to be let loose on the students to put into effect drastic measures that make Mr. McNair's scare tactics very pleasant by comparison. Mr. Albrecht wants to prove that he deserves a higher position, and he will get it too. You see, this has to take place because there are too many new leaders at all levels. Mr. Ames is too much of a politician not to use his silent, pushy loyalty and an influential brother-in-law to raise himself to the office of Deputy Chancellor. You should have added one more scenario: Mr. Albrecht will become Mean on [Dean of?] the Faculty under Deputy Chancellor Ames and his present job will be executed by Dr. "let's not go for outside degrees" Albert, who recently completed his own outside degrees with Mr. Armstrong's approval, and in psychology no less.
In this way we will have an administration made up of a man without kids over other people's kids, a divorced man doing marriage counselling, and an ascending Dean who is an outright opportunist and a very poor actor.
I, therefore, have two questions for you. Do you think we will be any worse off than we are now if we don't graduate in the meantime? And, at the rate at which the College is becoming ultra conservative, will a balance ever be achieved between the rank liberalism of the late '70s and the ever increasing conservatism that Mr. McNair is resurrecting from his notorious old Bricket Wood days? At least we can be thankful that such extremes have, to an extent, been eliminated in both the individual faculty members and in the Church administration.
Editor: We weren't aware that the problem of extremism had been eliminated anywhere in the Armstrong organization. If it has, that's nice. However, your scenario on the college, which seems quite plausible, would indicate little has changed at the college.
Regarding your question on graduating, as Ambassador alumni who have gone on to pursue accredited degrees, we cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone apply to Ambassador at this time. The institution simply has too many deficiencies in personnel and policy, and we don't believe significant improvement is likely to occur within the next few years. Even Dr. Hoeh encouraged his own children to go elsewhere for their college educations.
Should you leave? A degree from AC is perhaps better than no degree at all. But will your time and expense worth the results? Only you can answer that.
It's high time you received a real Ambassador Report from a student who is proud to study at God's own College and respects "intellectual lightweights" with "unaccredited B.A. degrees" earning "$75,000 plus perks."
In evaluating a speech, the speaker's use of logic is very important. The same with your last issue. But it has a long way to go before it reaches an acceptable stage.
Mr. Armstrong enunciated the Primacy of Peter not because he wanted us to think of him as the highest authority on the face of the earth, but because the doctrine is correct in the first place. If the correctness of this doctrine strengthens his unique position under the Father and the Son no amount of human reasoning will undermine his calling and mission. Obviously, you have no objections to the doctrine itself otherwise you would have mentioned them. But since you accept it you are reasoning against God himself.
You come down on top executives as "company men" with unaccredited degrees, lacking creativity, innovativeness, brilliance and education, yet receiving $75,000 plus perks. I will not argue with your figures because you seem to have access to the facts. But you fail to see that these men have simply been spared the exposure to this world's educational system started by the pagan Greek philosopher Plato. They've missed the garbage of philosophy, the immortality of the soul, and sexual perversions which God condemns outright.
Because these men were anchored in the Word of God they were tested and proven in the fire of persecution. Mr. McNair did not allow marital problems to stand in his way and Mr. Meredith willingly accepted exile to Hawaii knowing that God was able to bring him back at the right time. If Mr. Meredith had filled his head with accredited nonsense he would have been blown totally off course and we would have been deprived of his wonderful example of dogged determination and his unrelenting sense of duty that make him a foremost leader here at Headquarters and a virtual powerhouse. Can these men's qualifications be measured by accreditation or by a few thousand dollars a year?
It's about time you understood that only Ambassador lays the foundations of true education. No paganism, drugs, smoking, drunkenness, fornication or adultery, vain philosophies, evolution or human reasoning, but a piece of heaven in the midst of a sick and perverted world.
Here God is very active in our lives. The constant and watchful eye of Mr. Albrecht reminds us students that God is watching us in exactly the same way. And sitting at the feet of "intellectual lightweights" who have not been polluted by the world inspires us too to nip intellectualism in the bud for true spirituality. It may sound strange to the world that students are willing to pay ten percent of their student income toward the salaries of executives making $75,000 plus perks. But this teaches us to trust God and not temporary material goods. But physical blessings can later be poured on us too after we have proved ourselves faithful in little things as these men have done.
Nothing would please me more than signing this letter. But I am prevented by two things. Firstly, I cannot take the credit for pointing up your faulty reasoning. The credit goes to the men who gave us students a solid foundation in Fundamentals and Doctrines and valuable guidance in correct reasoning in speech after speech. Secondly, I would not like to encourage lower classmen to be in touch with you since they would lack the necessary discernment. The College would disapprove of it anyway.
You must not think that I'm controlled by others. I believe that the decisions of those over us are right and for our good, but I also believe that I had to say this for your own good and to exonerate men I deeply love, respect, and owe so much to.
A Concerned Student
Editor: Your assertions regarding Plato raise a number questions, not the least of which is: Have you ever really read Plato - at least The Republic, The Apology of Socrates, Crito, Phaedo, and The Symposium? Sure, Plato had more than a few erroneous ideas. No one has ever claimed that Plato's dialogues are the "Word of God." But within their pages one can find much that is thought provoking and enlightening - especially to the serious Bible student. Hellenic thought, especially Platonic, had literally saturated the world in which Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples lived. Plato's works offer us an invaluable insight into that world. That being the case, why would a college (especially one emphasizing theology) ever discourage students from gaining such knowledge? The fact is, at Ambassador, Plato is used as a convenient "straw man." Carefully compare what Plato actually wrote to what some AC professors claim he wrote and you may be in for a surprise.
As for the "Primacy of Peter" doctrine - we don't believe it! And neither did the WCG ministry until around 1978 when church attorney Stan Rader, a long-time student of Roman Catholic history, encouraged HWA to adopt that Catholic doctrine. The "Primacy of Peter" was clearly disproven years before in Ambassador College Personal Correspondence Department reprint number 980, copyrighted in 1970. That reprint expounded sound theology the WCG has since discarded. If you can locate a copy of that article, read it. You may discover that your time at Ambassador has so far given you as little understanding of the Bible as it has of Plato.
Your comment about no "fornication or adultery" at Ambassador drew a chuckle here. Ten years of Ambassador Report documenting the opposite indicates a little naivete on your part.
As for "powerhouse" Meredith, thank you for reminding us of his terrible "persecution." Being sent to Hawaii at church expense and while on church salary must have been horrible. Surely one day his Hawaiian "exile" will be included in an appendix to Fox's Book of Martyrs.
I am grateful to Ambassador Report for forcing me to examine the myth I have been living as a student at Ambassador College. The truth is difficult to swallow at times, yet we should be glad to have it.
I was shocked out of my boots to discover that the reports from students reading your publication were in fact true. I mean the reports that Joe McNair had actually stood up in court and testified against his own mother. I used to insist that this had to be a foul rumor started by you to discredit an evangelist, leader of the faculty, and an evangelist's son, leader of the students.
Now there are no ifs and buts about this matter. He did actually do that even though the Bible pronounces the death penalty for showing disrespect to parents. So it dawned on me for the first time through the Ambassador Report that at Ambassador College the Bible and true values are tools to be used on others. However, when the going gets tough personally, even the evangelists put away their wives, marry new ones, and have their sons testify against their parents.
Even though I sought counsel on this, I quickly sensed it was a mistake on my part and talked about other matters instead. You just don't go to the dean of students with big questions such as this and expect to be understood. Might makes right and one must soon come to terms with this fact.
The second event that shook my confidence concerns Mr. McNair Sr. In my college experience I have had the misfortune to be under two McNairs - as if God wanted to insure that I got the point. Mr. McNair Sr. made a sudden midstream change in our senior Bible class this year. The first semester in that class was tying together everything we had learned and was leading us to believe that there was still some value to the Ambassador experience. The semester ended with a climatic expounding of the doctrine of faith in the clearest and most encouraging way that impressed on us the conviction that all major doctrines were worth studying in depth. The next thing we knew the professor was removed and a new one appointed for the second semester. No comment or explanation was offered about the swift and mysterious change, only a forum in which Mr. McNair said that it was not our place to question administrative decisions.
So the class is being "taught" by a man who knows nothing about the subject and is honest enough to admit it. In fact any one of us in the class is more qualified to teach it since we had one semester under a lecturer who knew his stuff and answered our questions with clarity and patience. Now we are back to memorizing scriptures, learning names of world leaders and virtually going back to where we were in our first year. We are also using a textbook which even the new professor admits is hopelessly wrong in many places. He was told to use it and he has to in spite of the comments he made in class against it. Here then, as in the case of Mr. McNair's forum, the policy of Ambassador College is: "It's for us to decide, and for you to listen and obey. Don't question. Don't even ask. Just do what we tell you and if you take it all in a good attitude you will be used by God."
This is exactly what I'm doing now. Having come this far it is better to finish Ambassador College with a piece of
paper in my hand than without one. After graduation I would like to ask if I can join your staff so that others can hear about the Ambassador experience.
I am sure your readers would value a firsthand account of the methods implemented from the top down in what is more and more coming to resemble a fully developed police state. I have been here only four years. The strides in this direction, however, have become unmistakably clearer with each passing year.
I pity those who kneel down on a daily basis and give thanks to God for an atrocity such as this. So keep up the good work.
[signed] "Awaiting Justice in Jerusalem"
Worldwide at Kent State
Dale Hartshorn of Kent, Ohio was never a WCG member. He's just a Christian who studies the Bible and feels very strongly that the WCG does not represent true Christianity. So when he discovered last year that a minister of the Armstrong church was coming to speak at the campus of Kent State University, where his wife is a student, he felt compelled to take action. At his own expense he put together an advertisement (shown below) expressing his views and had it published in the campus newspaper.
When Armstrong representative William Jahns arrived on campus to speak, Hartshorn was waiting. Jahns presented a ten minute film on the greatness of Herbert W. Armstrong. He then spoke on a number of subjects: Bible prophecy, the "end times," the "lost tribes," our modern holidays, etc. When he was done, Hartshorn - who had researched the WCG - stood up and said he wanted Jahns to answer a few questions about the misuse of church funds, sexual immorality, excommunications, and false prophecies of the WCG. Jahns then said he would not be taking any questions and quickly left.
WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD
The PLAIN TRUTH
TAKE A CLOSE LOOK
AT WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF!! DON'T BE DECEIVED
Herbert W. Armstrong Their Founder and Editor-In-Chief Says:
1) "You are setting out on a training to become creator - to become God!" - Herbert W. Armstrong, WHY WERE YOU BORN. "The ultimate creation of man - to become GOD - necessitated the development of godly CHARACTER within him." (The PLAIN TRUTH, Feb. 1984.)
2) "Salvation, then, is a process! But how 'the god of this world' would blind your eyes to that! He tries to deceive you into
thinking all there is to it is just 'accepting Christ'- with 'no works' - and presto-change, you're pronounced 'saved.'" - Herbert W. Armstrong, WHY WERE YOU BORN.
3) In 1967 Armstrong wrote, "...we are to have soon such drought and famine, that disease epidemics will follow, taking millions of lives.... that condition is coming! And I do not mean in 400 years - nor in 40 years - but in the very next FOUR or FIVE! (1972)" H. W. Armstrong, The United States and British Commonwealth In Prophecy (not in new edition).
The Bible* Says:
*New American Standard
1) "'You are my witnesses,' declares the Lord, 'and my servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after me.'" (Isaiah 43:10)
2) "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;" (Romans 10:9)
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
3) "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1)
"'But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.'" (Deuteronomy 18:20)
Look For These and Other Books at Your Bookstore:
The Kingdom of the Cults - Waiter Martin, Bethany House
Understanding the Cults - Josh McDowell/Don Stewart, Here's Life Publishers
Larson's Book of Cults - Bob Larson, Tyndale
For more information write: D. Hartshorn, 825 Allerton, Kent Ohio 44240
Wolverton Has Returned
Monte Wolverton (AC Pasadena 1970), after a long absence from Pasadena and WCG employment, has returned to WCG headquarters to take over as Art Director of the Plain Truth. Wolverton, one of the most creative individuals ever to have graduated from Ambassador, will undoubtedly have an effect on that publication's circulation. Some have already noticed that the photography, illustrations, and graphics of recent editions of the Plain Truth have had a distinctly more focused and energetic quality.
Long-time Armstrong observers will recognize the Wolverton name. Monte's father was the late Basil Wolverton, one of the very first men ordained by HWA and, interestingly, a world-famous cartoonist. It was Basil Wolverton's terrifying illustrations in HWA's 1975 in Prophecy that played a major part in prodding thousands into joining HWA's church in the sixties. The World Encyclopedia of Comics (Vol. 2, p. 705) has an excellent write-up on Basil Wolverton. Here is an excerpt:
Although Wolverton had no formal art training, he soon became one of the most respected and innovative creators in the comic book field. His work was so off-beat, intricate and personalized, Life magazine's editors once called his material work from "the spagetti and meatball school of design"; many undergound cartoonists cite Wolverton as a profound influence on their style.... His early scripts were violent and brutal; retribution being substituted for justice. Spacehawk, an interplanetary crimefighter, was more likely to kill a captured criminal rather than bind him over for proper punishment. Artistically, the feature showcased Wolverton's creative genius. Although some of the work was crude and cramped, it showed brilliant flashes of Wolverton's unequalled effective story-telling....
Brenda Denzler (nee Reser, AC Big Sandy 1971-74) is now an undergraduate majoring in religion at Wichita State University. Ms. Denzler was recently awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship to participate in the Religion in a Democratic Society program at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She was also recently granted a scholarship from the Department of Religion and was named a 1985 Emory Linquist Scholar at WSU. We talked to Brenda in June and were told that although her book on the experiences of former WCG members is progressing slowly, she still plans to complete the project within the next few years.
* * *
We have been saddened to learn of the death of ex-WCG minister Bruce Vance (AC Bricket Wood 1968), who was killed in a car crash on January 6. In recent years, Bruce was owner and manager of a drug store in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is survived by his wife Amy, two sons, and a daughter.
* * *
Editor: On May 18,1985, Ted Gerringer, 69, passed away at his home in Modesto. With his wife Ruth at his side, Mr. Gerringer, the father of Ambassador Report co-founder Bob Gerringer, succumbed to fast-moving stomach cancer, first detected less than three months ago. In memory of his father, Bob Gerringer has written the following remembrance.
I have never before experienced the death of a close family member. It may be that only time can bring acceptance of the fact that my father is gone. In the meantime, while mourning and grieving his death, I celebrate his life and the special way it inspired his family and friends.
Dad was born in Colorado on Feb. 28, 1916. During and after his high school years he farmed with his dad, and, in 1942, married Ruth Canterbury, my mother. He saw active duty during World War II as a bombardier in Europe, after which he returned to farming. With the outbreak of the Korean War, however, he returned to active duty to serve his country. After that conflict ended, he remained in the Air Force Reserve and our family moved to San Diego, California.
His parents began listening to HWA on the radio in the early forties and joined HWA's church in the early fifties. Dad and Mom, however, did not join the WCG until 1962. Soon after joining the WCG, Dad requested a discharge from the Air Force because the church prohibited its members from being in the military. He had served over 19 years, had risen to the rank of Lieutentant Colonel, and lacked only about ten monthly reserve meetings of reaching the required 20 years for retirement. Dad's integrity would not allow him to compromise his faith in the teachings of the WCG, and thus he lost all the retirement benefits for which he had worked so hard.
It was only two years earlier, in 1960, that Dad made a career change from small business owner to salesman. He became a "lubricants advisor" for Texas Refinery Corp. (TRC), and we moved to Modesto, Ca., situated in the middle of his company-assigned territory. He then began selling TRC's heavy-duty lubricants, oils, greases, and industrial cleaners to farmers, truckers, loggers, etc. At the start, he had no established customers, no experience, six mouths to feed, and, by 1964, three tithes to pay. For many years, things were financially tight, but Dad had an abundance of courage and tenacity.
In 1975, life changed dramatically for Dad and Mom. That year, they left the WCG. Ironically, this occurred only one month after he was ordained a local elder. Dad was very disappointed to learn that much of the WCG leadership did not exercise the same integrity it demanded of the laity. Nevertheless, he did not leave because of their immoral and unethical behavior. It was doctrinal reexamination that convinced both Mom and Dad that they had to leave the Armstrong church.
There were a few years of transition, but during the last eight years of his life, Dad was totally at peace with himself and God. He developed a strong belief that the plan of salvation was universal in scope and that all humankind would eventually be reconciled to God. Dad's approach to the Bible was basically as taught by the Concordant Publishing Concern. His belief in the resurrection was a source of strength for both him and his family at the end.
By 1985, Dad had been with TRC a quarter of a century and was one of their most experienced and successful professionals. He was loved and respected by both coworker and client (many of whom he had served for over 20 years). Dad had said he was going to start "slowing down" in 1986 when he turned 70, but he never planned on retiring.
Over 150 people paid their respects to my father at the funeral where my brothers, sister and I (Chuck, 34; Steve, 28; Diane, 24; and myself, 36) each said a few words. Diane told of Dad's strong religious convictions and his fine example of faith. Steve told of Dad's active and vibrant lifestyle, including his passion for tennis, which he played until the last few months, and square dancing, which Dad and Mom last did on Valentine's Day. Chuck told of Dad's uncompromising integrity. I told of the courage and tenacity which were so much a part of his personal and professional successes.
Dad and Mom were still very much in love after nearly 43 years of marriage. They raised a very close and tight-knit family. In addition to Mom and the four kids, Dad is survived by his mother Lillian, 92, two brothers, one sister, and four grandchildren.
My brothers, sister, and I are thankful to our Mom for marrying the man she did and for being his loving partner all these years. We will miss him unendingly, but we are thankful and proud, very proud, to be the children of Ted Gerringer.
I have read with fascination of the continuing saga of the WCG and noted the interest of so many in its rather aberrant history. I wondered if some post-WCG experiences would be of any help to your readers. Realizing there is probably nothing as discredited as an ex-WCG evangelist, maybe the following information would still help atone for some of the horrendous mistakes of the past.
Most of us were intrigued by the WCG message - we were searching for truth and a purpose to this complex existence in a veritable minefield of competing theologies. Many became disillusioned at the WCG leadership. Some, like myself at the obvious error in its inconsistent semi-Mosaic approach to God. In spite of having spent 25 years in a futile pursuit of truth, I determined never to close my mind nor to reject or accept a concept until it could be proved or disproved. The search has proven most rewarding. Once you start checking up on some of these self-appointed gurus, the results are startling.
The error in HWA's theology is now obvious - attractive alternatives were sometimes very inviting but careful checking showed just a different set of flaws. The idea that it didn't make much difference what you believed as long as you loved God and your fellow man seemed to place too high a value on ignorance and error. It also was a concept that flew directly in the face of the admonition to return to the faith once delivered to the Church and the very explicit statement of Christ himself when He said that God seeks for those who worship Him in spirit and in truth. If we agree on the spirit, why not on the truth?
In the interest of brevity - a long continuing search and a renewed acquaintanceship with Sir Anthony Buzzard, ex- Ambassador College lecturer in languages, has led to some invaluable theological insights. A number of men have been researching the writings of some of the world's outstanding biblical scholars who are both historians and linguists. Their primary interest was to discover what Christ and the early biblical writers really meant in the context of the setting and language of their day. Much of what they discovered contradicted their own previously held ideas and are in opposition to much of what is being taught today.
The compilation of this research is available to any of us and we can evaluate the information ourselves. I have, and I strongly recommend, yes urge, all your readers to avail themselves of this careful research to get a side of the story that very few have had the opportunity of hearing. I am confident an openminded approach to this research will prove most rewarding. For information write Anthony Buzzard, P. O. Box 100, Oregon, IL 61061.
-Charles F. Hunting
Vero Beach, FL
I have given upon the hope that things would come to a head when HWA passes away - now I figure he's never going to die as even the devil won't have him!
A "Special Edition" of The Worldwide News, dated June 24, 1985, has just appeared. It is devoted entirely to one lengthy article entitled "Recent History of the Philadelphia Era of the Worldwide Church of God." The author credited is Herbert W. Armstrong, but the prevailing supposition of insiders (and based on internal evidence, well-founded) is that the article was ghost-written by Herman L. Hoeh with assistance from Armstrong aide Aaron Dean. The article, which is generally an attack on the church's "liberals" of the '70s (a popular "straw man" of today's WCG), contains a number of interesting statements:
From that time [1981, when HWA returned to Pasadena from Tucson] the TV program has produced steady growth, until today we are the second in the world in the religious category, with over 300 TV stations worldwide.
Not true. "The World Tomorrow" is not even in the top ten.
In 1978, after my "resurrection" from total heart failure, I had to completely close Ambassador College at Pasadena, starting all over again, as in 1947, with one freshman class.
At least they put "resurrection" in quotes. Finally, the end of the lengthy piece had these statements, obviously, the real message of this "Special Edition":
A final personal word. In a few days I will be 93 years of age. For some years now, there have been some, like vultures, waiting for me to die. They would like to come back and take over the leadership of the Church in my stead. I have been deeply concerned about this, but in no sense worried. This is the Church of God, not of any man. Jesus Christ is the living Head of this Church. I am not.
And Jesus Christ will never receive any of those who have gone out to draw a following after themselves to come back and lead God's Church into Satan's liberalism. It would be no longer God's Church, even as Ambassador College was no longer God's college, and Christ had to start it all over again through me with one freshman class.
When I have, even rarely, mentioned my concern in this category, the response of members has always been the belief that God will keep me alive. I hope that He will, and I do try to take every care of my health and physical condition, but whether God keeps me alive 10 more years, or only 10 more minutes is entirely in God's hands. Brethren, put your faith in Christ and the living God and not in me. If Christ should remove me, He will direct the Advisory Council of Elders to select one of them to continue leading you until the coming of Jesus Christ in power and in glory....
As we indicated in our March issue, HWA will not allow his son Garner Ted to return to leadership in the WCG, he has not chosen a successor, and at his death the WCG's Council of Elders will be in charge of that organization.
On May 17, commencement was held at Ambassador College in Pasadena. College founder Herbert W. Armstrong was unable to give the commencement address. The man chosen for that honor was "Mr." (as he now prefers to be called) Herman L. Hoeh.
Please Remember Us!
This issue of Ambassador Report represents less than half of what we had hoped to publish. Frankly, we are being overwhelmed by the amount of information - especially from lawsuits - coming out on the WCG. We just don't have the financial resources to do the kind of extensive reporting we wish we could. We hope all of you will remember that you are an important part of Ambassador Report. Without your help we could not continue publishing. Our thanks to all of you who are supporting our efforts.
Next Issue (AR33)
Back to Index