AR40 March 1988
Tkach Consolidates Power, Names Successor
When Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA), the founder of Ambassador College and the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), died in early 1986, he left his religious empire in the hands of evangelist and church administrator Joseph W. Tkach. In 1986, some old-timers in the church wondered if Tkach's tenure as head of the WCG would be permanent. After all, they pointed out, Tkach is not a brilliant theologian, a dynamic speaker, or a good writer (he relies heavily on ghost writers). He is not even a college graduate. But Tkach's critics overlooked one thing. Tkach is politically astute - at least when it comes to the inner-workings of the WCG.
A little over two years after HWA's death, Tkach is firmly in charge of the Armstrong empire. So much so, in fact, it is highly unlikely any faction in the church could have him ousted, or would even try. So secure is Tkach that even the trappings of his position are ballooning. No longer, for instance, is he simply the "Publisher" of the Plain Truth. The latest Plain Truth staff box designates Tkach as "Chairman and Editor in Chief." (At the same time, the names of article authors are no longer under the article titles, but are smaller-type, article-end by-lines.) Insiders also say that Tkach hopes to sell off the church's G-III executive jet and replace it with a full-size Boeing 727. Apparently that will allow him to take along an even larger entourage on his world travels.
In recent months, Tkach has demonstrated his control of the WCG organization by consolidating power through the appointment of loyalists to important church posts. Tkach's most significant move has been the raising of his son Joseph Tkach Jr. (AC, Pasadena, 1973) to what is, in effect, the number-two position in the WCG. While many considered him a flunkout from the church's ministerial training program just a few years ago, Tkach Jr. has now been raised to "Pastor rank" and is over the administration of all the WCG's U.S. churches. (Church administrator Larry Salyer now only oversees the WCG's foreign churches.)
Joe Jr., who stands out in church publication photographs because of his distinctive rabbi-like beard, is currently married to the former Tamara Hall (AC, Pasadena, 1978). His earlier marriage to Jill Hockwald (AC, Pasadena, 1973) ended in divorce. Tkach Jr. now lives next door to his father in Pasadena, and insiders say Joe Jr. is the Pastor General's most influential advisor. (This may not be a bad thing. Besides having an Ambassador degree, Joe Jr. also has an accredited M.B.A. He may well turn out to be a positive influence on the WCG. At least we hope that will be the case.)
There is every indication that Joe Sr. is very pleased with Joe Jr.'s performance in his new responsibilities. So, a short time ago, when Tkach Sr. told subordinates that he had already chosen his successor, many began to speculate whether it was his son. Pastor General Tkach apparently refused to disclose the name of the one he has designated. But we are told the name of "Apostle" Tkach's successor is written down in a sealed envelope locked away in a church safe. The contents of the envelope will only be revealed in the event that the current "Apostle" dies or is incapacitated. We, of course, cannot say with certainty what name is in the sealed envelope, but our guess is that it is Joe Tkach Jr.
* * *
Besides putting his son into the church's number-two position in the WCG, Tkach has filled other important positions with loyalists. For instance, evangelist Raymond McNair has been removed as Deputy Chancellor of the Pasadena Ambassador College and is being shunted off to New Zealand where he will run the church's small office there. (Former New Zealand office manager Peter Nathan has a brain tumor, we are told.) Taking over as Deputy Chancellor in Pasadena is Dr. Donald Ward, formerly dean of faculty at the Ambassador College in Big Sandy, Texas.
While Ward appears to be a Tkach supporter, how well the two will work together remains to be seen. One area in which they seem to differ is in their views on the nation of Israel and on Jews in general. Tkach is viewed by many as very pro-Jewish. He continues HWA's policy of maintaining strong WCG ties with the government of Israel, and his affection for the Jewish people is reflected in his peculiar habit of quite regularly beginning sermons with greetings in Hebrew. These, in turn, are followed by loud responses - in Hebrew - from the congregation (The Worldwide News, Aug. 31, 1987, p. 6).
Ward, on the other hand, is described by some long-time friends as highly distrustful of all Jews. Not only has Ward collected anti-Semitic literature, we are told, but on one occasion he referred to Ambassador College professor Mark Kaplan as a Jewish "double agent" simply because of Kaplan's ethnic background. It will be interesting to see if Ward is able to moderate such views in his new position.
* * *
Replacing Dr. Ward as dean of faculty at Big Sandy is Dr. Michael P. Germano. In the 1970s, Dr. Germano served as dean of faculty and then vice president for academic affairs at Ambassador College in Pasadena. In recent years, Germano, a local elder, has been an associate pastor for WCG congregations in Banning and San Bernardino, California. Undoubtedly one of the best educated members of the WCG, Germano holds a theology degree from Ambassador, a B.S. in physics from the University of Illinois, a doctorate in educational administration from the University of Southern California, and a law degree from the University of La Verne. With such outstanding credentials, Dr. Germano is viewed by many as a likely choice to eventually replace Big Sandy Deputy Chancellor Roderick C. Meredith.
HWA Still Dead as Filippello Waits
In our last issue (Sept. 1987), we reported how former WCG minister Martin C. Filippello, had prophesied that the late Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the WCG, would be resurrected in January 1988. January has come and gone and, not surprisingly, HWA is still dead. Filippello had, as recently as December, preached that if his prophecies did not reach fulfillment his listeners would know that he is a "false prophet."
©1988 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.
Considering how dogmatic Filippello had been in his predictions, we wondered what his current position would be. When we phoned him in early March, he readily admitted HWA did not rise as expected. So sure had he been of his prophecy, Filippello said, he had actually waited at the cemetery on January 16 to be on hand for the event. He wasn't alone. A good number of WCG members, we are told, cruised near the cemetery the entire day in anticipation of "something big." But nothing happened.
Now, Filippello says, he's just "trying to hold together." His followers, who once numbered over 150, have now dwindled to under 50. But Filippello, although sounding a bit discouraged, still holds out a glimmer of hope in his prophetic timetable. April 1, he feels, is still going to be the date on which "the great tribulation" will begin.
"But," we asked, "what if it doesn't?" "Then I am a false prophet," he replied. "And I'll send out a letter of apology to those who listened to me... and I'll start looking for a job." If he does that, he'll be a far better man than his hero, Herbert W. Armstrong, ever was.
The California Court of Appeal Reverses the McNair Decision and Orders a New Trial
On Dec. 30,1987, the California Court of Appeal for the state's 2nd Appellate District reversed the $1.26 million defamation verdict won by Leona McNair against the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) in 1984, and ordered a new trial. As reported in past issues of Ambassador Report,1 the McNair v. WCG defamation suit revolved around statements made in 1979 by WCG evangelist Roderick C. Meredith during a ministerial conference and in a church publication.
In ordering the new trial, the court held that the U.S. Constitution's free exercise (of religion) clause takes precedence over a state's interest in promoting a citizen's reputation through defamation laws. With the concurrences of Justices Robert Feinerman and Herbert L. Ashby, retired Justice James Hastings2 (sitting by appointment) wrote in the 15-page opinion:
Our accommodation of the competing interests of our society - one protecting reputation, the other, the free exercise of religion - requires that we hold that in order for a plaintiff to recover damages for defamatory remarks made during the course of a doctrinal explanation by a duly authorized minister, he/she must show, by clear and convincing evidence, that the defamation was made with constitutional malice, that is with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not. Whether a plaintiff is a "public figure" or the method of publication is via a "newspaper" is irrelevant under this holding.3
The Pasadena Superior Court jury that granted Leona the $1.26 million in damages had not been instructed about deciding constitutional malice so the jury could not have determined whether the evidence supported a verdict in her favor, the justice wrote. Consequently, the court ordered that the McNair case be completely retried.4
Antony Stuart,5 Leona McNair's attorney, told the Report:
Of course we're disappointed in the Court of Appeal's decision that the case should be retried, but we are supremely confident about prevailing in a second trial should the California Supreme Court affirm the Court of Appeal's decision. And that is because the only thing the Court of Appeal required be done differently is to ask the jury to determine whether Meredith's remarks were made with "knowing falsity or reckless disregard for the truth" ["constitutional malice"]. We believe the jury did find that and more in the initial trial. They found, first of all, that the statements were false; second, that the defendants made the statements with the intent to cause severe emotional distress to Leona; and third, that the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to defame and injure her.
We are comforted by the Court of Appeal's affirmation [of the principle] that Leona, and people like her, who are victimized by the heavy-handed conduct of any church, have a right to sue for their damages. But we are concerned that the Court of Appeal's opinion provides more protection to churches for libel and slander than that which is given to the press, or to anyone else for that matter.
What Stuart was referring to was that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that media defendants obtain the so-called "constitutional malice" standard when sued by public figures in libel actions over speech on matters of public controversy.6 (The reason for granting the press this level. of protection is that in a democratic society the press plays an essential role in the political process.) The California Court of Appeal's new law, however, grants churches even more protection; so that when churches are sued for defamation in the future, "constitutional malice" will have to be proven even by plaintiffs who are private figures and even in cases involving matters of private concern.
A thorough analysis of the McNair case's relation to the modern law of libel and the First Amendment's free speech, free exercise, and establishment clauses would involve discussions of complex legal doctrines more appropriate in a law review article. But suffice it to say, many legal scholars who are aware of the reversal in the McNair case recognize that the California Court of Appeal, by its new law, has completely ignored the establishment clause of the First Amendment and has now given churches speech protections significantly superior to those of the press and vastly superior to those of private citizens.7
The California Court of Appeal, by its broad language in the McNair decision, has also given us many more questions than answers. For instance, what did the court mean by "during the course of doctrinal explanation"? In the WCG, and indeed in most churches, religious doctrine covers the full gamut of human existence. A WCG minister, Catholic priest, or Jewish rabbi can quite logically be viewed as almost always expounding upon religious doctrine when speaking publicly or writing, for these religions' doctrines relate to virtually everything.
And what did the court mean by "a duly authorized minister"? Many religious organizations consider clergypersons "authorized" only if they have been ordained through special rites. Some religionists, however, consider a clergyperson "authorized" if simply "self-dedicated." Others consider a minister "authorized" only if "ordained by God," or if God's special favor is shown through a life of celibacy or by speaking in tongues (glossolalia). Are these the kinds of indicia that courts will henceforth weigh in determining who is "authorized" under the new law?
It is quite apparent that should the California Court of Appeal's new law be allowed to stand, the inevitable consequence will be that future courts will have to define scores of religious terms. In so doing, the government will be declaring which clergypersons are "authorized," which topics are "doctrinal," which organizations are "churches" - and which ones are not. Obviously, such determinations (and they will be necessary under the California Court of Appeal's new law) will lead to increased government entanglements with religion, and, if left unchecked, could eventually stamp an imprimature of state approval upon certain religions.8
Not everyone, of course, is hurt by the Court of Appeal's new rule. For instance, some publishers of newsletters dealing with religion-related topics have obviously been given new far-reaching protections significantly greater than those afforded the general press. But many who believe in "separation of church and state" cannot help but feel uncomfortable with a court decision that augurs increased government meddling with religion. And we should all feel uncomfortable with an activist court creating a law that promises not simply protection for the Billy Grahams and the Archbishop Mahoneys of our society, but that also promises preferential judicial treatment for the Gene Scotts, the Rabbi Kahanes, and the Louis Farrakhans.9
Stuart's appeal to the California State Supreme Court may take months. It is quite possible that the case could then be brought before the U.S. Supreme Court. In the end, there may well be a new jury trial, and after that, quite possibly, more appeals. But while the lawyers, judges, and legal scholars engage in the paper chase, Leona McNair waits for justice, alone in Pasadena. As a result of her lawsuit against the WCG, one WCG-member son speaks to her only briefly if she calls him. Her other son, a WCG employee, refuses all contact with his mother and will not even give her his address. Although Leona earns her way as a nurse, friends say she is unable to afford the therapy psychologists have testified she needs as a result of evangelist Meredith's attack on her and as a result of her traumatic experiences in the WCG.
Sources have indicated that the California Court of Appeal's decision hurt Leona deeply because in its published opinion, the court repeated, as fact, many of evangelist Meredith's statements about her that the unanimous jury had found to be untrue. That the court would do this, friends say, was devastating to her. But, we are told, through prayer and Bible study, and with the encouragement of friends, Leona has since been able to regain the spiritual strength she needs to carry on.
1. See our Oct. 1984. Jan. 1986, and Jan. 1987 issues.
2. Justices Hastings and Ashby were appointed by then governor Ronald Reagan. Justice Feinerman was appointed by former governor Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr.
3. 197 Cal.App.3d 363, 377.
4. Previous to the California Court of Appeal's ruling, of course, no legislative or judicial body had ever set down such a difficult standard for private citizens attempting to prove defamation. The layman can therefore liken this activist panel's reversal to some governing body in the sports world taking away a champion's medal and saying, "Okay, you won under the old rule, but we don't like those rules now. So go back and try to win under these new, more difficult rules we've just created."
Those who've never studied the law, but who've been blessed with old-fashioned common sense, might ask: Why go through all the time, trouble, and expense of a new trial? Even if the Court of Appeal's new rule were correct, wouldn't it make more sense to simply regather the jurors from the first trial (the ones that, after all, sat through almost seven weeks of testimony) and, through a court proceeding with the Court of Appeal's new instruction added to the previous jury instructions, again ask the jury for their verdict?
Those interested in learning why so much of our law is archaic and inefficient will find enlightenment in distinguished attorney Charles Rembar's book The Law of the Land (published by Simon and Schuster). Mr. Rembar's work is an entertaining history of the barbaric origins of our Anglo-American legal system and its numerous anachronisms.
5. Mr. Stuart is with the Los Angeles lawfirm of Greene, O'Reilly, Broillet, Paul, Simon, McMillan, Wheeler, & Rosenberg.
6. The "constitutional malice" standard, as it has come to be called, derives from a line of U.S. Supreme Court decisions beginning with the famous case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964) 376 U.S. 254, and as refined in cases such as Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc. (1974) 418 U.S. 323, and Dun and Bradstreet, Inc. v. Greenmoss Builders (1985) 472 U.S. 749, all of which were cited as authority by the Court of Appeal.
7. The establishment clause requires that "Congress [and the courts, by case law and logical extension] shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion...." We think it is very significant that nowhere in its opinion did the Court of Appeal in any way address the establishment clause implications of its ruling.
8. Perhaps belatedly sensing the inevitable difficulties its broadly worded opinion will create, the court, in a procedure not usually seen, filed an additional footnote to the decision a month after the opinion itself was filed. The footnote (a revised number 13) reads:
Our opinion is based on the unique facts of this case that involve a former well-known and important member of the church (respondent) in a controversy that raises questions concerning church doctrine and teachings. We are not saying that explanation of church doctrine per se can shield the speaker or writer from a negligence action for libel or slander. There certainly must be a nexus between the person allegedly slandered or libeled and the religious activity involved. Accordingly, any determination of the malice required must be decided on a case by case basis.
It is somewhat amusing to see Leona McNair being portrayed as "well-known." In 1979, not one WCG member in 10 probably knew who she was. Among the general public, undoubtedly, not one American in a quarter million would have recognized her name.
It is also amusing that the court should want to make Leona "important." Of course, in one sense, all human beings are important. But in the general sense of "important" meaning influential in society, how could any woman in the WCG be "important"? In the WCG no women are ordained to the ministry, none are allowed to preach, and at the present time none are corporate officers or trustees. WCG women are taught to be completely subservient to men (fathers, then husbands), even to the point of having men decide what makeup, if any, they may put on their faces. That being so, how could any WCG woman be viewed as "important"? Unless, of course, all human beings are "important." But if that egalitarian definition is embraced, then the court's choice of words is meaningless in the context of its opinion.
Transparently, the court was attempting to paint Leona McNair as a "public figure." Yet, the lower court found, as a matter of law, that Leona was not a public figure! What's more, the Court of Appeal, in the body of its own opinion, stated that "[w]hether a plaintiff is a 'public figure'... is irrelevant under this holding."
The court's statement that there must be a nexus, or connection, between the person allegedly defamed and "the religious activity involved" (not defined) is so vague as to make us wonder how any future court could find direction in this attempted limitation. What degree of nexus, and exactly what kind of nexus, does the court have in mind?
Finally, in the last sentence of the note, the Court of Appeal seems to throw up its hands in frustration and feebly admit that it really has not articulated a clear rule to be relied on in deciding future cases involving defamatory statements made during activities relating to religion. Future cases of this type, it writes, will simply have to be decided on a "case by case basis."
9. That greatly increased entanglement of religion and government could occur in the U.S. in the near future should not be assumed to be far-fetched. In this regard it is interesting that among those candidates now running for the U.S. Presidency, at least four (Gore, Hart, Jackson, and Robertson) are seminary educated. Two (Jackson and Robertson) are ordained ministers. And one (Robertson) claims that God personally talks to him. According to the Los Angeles Times (March 4, 1988), Robertson has stated that only those adhering to certain specific religious beliefs are qualified to run for political office. The same Times article also reported that Robertson has been known to speak in tongues, and he has stated that within 10 years he expects to see "judges speaking in tongues from the bench."
HWA Remembered (Part III)
As was inferred in Parts I and II of "HWA Remembered," even though Herbert W. Armstrong is now gone, new insights into his famous career continue to emerge.
Volume two of the Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong has now been released by the WCG. (Free copies may be obtained by writing the WCG or by calling one of their toll-free numbers listed in the Plain Truth.) This final volume, which is a compilation of many HWA autobiographical articles formerly serialized in the Plain Truth and of some of his co-worker letters, is reported to have been edited by WCG evangelist Herman L. Hoeh.
Many readers who were in the WCG during the last two or three decades will undoubtedly be amazed at Hoeh's editorial chutzpah when they read this 659-page work. Volume two, which covers HWA's life from about 1938 to his death in 1986, tells of his struggles in building Ambassador College, the Worldwide Church of God, the Plain Truth, and of his travels to meet world leaders (many of whom, HWA notes with some astonishment, either died or were removed from office shortly after meeting him). But what is most striking about his book is what is not covered. There is virtually no discussion of Worldwide's many turbulent years of political infighting, doctrinal changes, ministerial defections, and splinter groups. There is no hint of the many articles and books that have appeared in recent years accusing HWA of gross immorality and extreme hypocrisy. The state of California's 1979 investigation of the WCG and the receivership imposed upon the church are given only passing comment.
Even more surprising (because it so blatantly reveals this book to be the duplicitous puffery of HWA that it really is) is the treatment given HWA's son Garner Ted Armstrong. With the exception of a few passing references, Garner Ted is almost nowhere to be found. Yet for over two decades, when the Armstrong empire experienced its greatest growth ever, Garner Ted was the church's leading evangelist and its chief spokesman on both radio and television. Now, however, the official WCG line, evident by volume two of the Autobiography, is that Garner Ted Armstrong has become a "non-person."
The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong is unquestionably propaganda. But amateur sleuths interested in HWA's real past will find that this book does offer occasional insights - if one is capable of "reading between the lines." For instance, beginning at page 48, HWA recounts how from April through July of 1942 he left his wife and sons behind in Eugene, Oregon and moved into a Hollywood, California apartment with his daughter Dorothy, then in her early twenties. The move to Hollywood, we are told, was necessary because the recording facilities there were so much superior to those he'd been using in Oregon, and being in Hollywood provided access to top radio announcers such as Art Gilmore.
However, one professional recording engineer that we talked to, a long-time member of the Audio Engineering Society and a man whose extensive experience in entertainment industry sound engineering dates back to the 1940s, said that HWA's explanation is ludicrous. While Hollywood (and New York City and a number of other entertainment industry centers) did have generally superior facilities for recording large orchestras and movie sound tracks, studios and equipment for doing broadcast-quality recordings of the spoken word were available throughout the United States by 1942 and such equipment could even be purchased then by individuals for home use. Radio announcers, too, were in no short supply. And even if one decided to use a particular Hollywood announcer for a few sentences of opening and closing comments, as were spoken by Art Gilmore, the technology of the era allowed for high-quality, lathe-cut masters for dubbing. Books on the subject of recording-arts history clearly bear this out. In other words, contrary to his Autobiography assertions, there was really no technological reason for HWA to have gone to Hollywood in 1942.
Then there is the excuse given by HWA for Dorothy's company. At page 48 we read that Dorothy "demanded" that she be taken to California in the hope that she might see her Marine fiance. But a careful reading beginning at page 47 shows that her fiance was in Quantico, Virginia and that there was only "some possibility" of him coming through Los Angeles or San Diego or San Francisco on his way to the Pacific theater. Further, it is admitted, such a stop-over, if it were to have happened (and it didn't), would have been "very brief," perhaps only "twenty-four hours - or even less." Yet Dorothy lived with Herbert in Hollywood for close to four full months!
HWA readily admits that during all this time his wife Loma was back in Eugene running the church office while trying to raise their two sons on her own. We then read that in June Loma called Herbert to tell him she was having difficulty maintaining discipline over their son Dick and so she was sending him down by train to be with his father. When the thirteen-year-old arrived, what did Herbert do? Did he talk to his son about Christian values, lecture him about why he should have been more thoughtful toward his mother, or organize his son's summer plans toward productive activity? No! He first takes him on a tour of sin city. Then, the next day he suggests to his son that he go off alone and visit one of his young friends who had recently moved down from Oregon. Dick's friend lived in Hawthorne (in pre-freeway days, probably about two hours out of Hollywood). HWA then tells his thirteen-year-old, "You have to begin right now learning to be self-reliant and finding your own way around.... I'm too busy getting the broadcast ready to tell you [how to get to your friend's home]. Here's car fare. You're on your own. Find your way back. And be here in time for dinner. Goodbye, son."
Apparently Dick made it back without getting mugged or molested because in the days that followed, HWA would regularly give him money and, in effect, tell him to get lost. This, HWA claims, was all done to teach his thirteen-year-old "self-reliance."
While we don't doubt that HWA treated his son the way he describes, we don't believe that his claimed motive for doing so was his real motive. Considering HWA's years of advocating strictness in childrearing, HWA's abandonment of supervision over his son in order to enhance self-confidence in him (and since when did HWA ever encourage people to be independent?) seems completely out of character. The motive that does fit the man and the circumstances, however, is that he didn't want little Dick around during the day to witness what was really going on.
Herbert's almost four-month-long Hollywood odyssey only ended when Loma and some associates - very likely suspecting something was amiss - drove down to Hollywood all the way from Oregon and brought Herbert and the rest of the family back to Eugene. That's not the way HWA worded it. But as you read Herbert's version of what happened, isn't that what really jumps out at you from the printed page?
Recall that since 1980 when David Robinson's book Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web first appeared, there has been wide circulation of the allegation that beginning in 1936 HWA had a very long incestuous relationship with his daughter Dorothy. Considering the significance of those charges, it is remarkable that editor Hoeh would allow Herbert's thinly-disguised Hollywood odyssey to be included in the Autobiography. Was Hoeh attempting to bring HWA's image down to earth? Or did HWA before his death order that his Hollywood odyssey be included in his Autobiography as some sort of cryptic message to the worldly potentates he loved so much more than his humble brethren - a cryptic message that he was able to sin more than all of them and still get away with it?
We may never know the answer to that. But we believe the Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, when read with the skeptical eyes of a careful detective, reveals dark secrets about the man his followers called "the Holy Apostle of God's True Church."
Bobby Fischer Update
Ever since we published our large 1977 issue, which contained an interview with former world chess champion Bobby Fischer, we have regularly received letters from readers asking for updates on the renowned chess genius. Over the years, we have attempted to locate Fischer to ask for another interview and to offer assistance in promoting his once-budding career. Unfortunately, it has proven impossible for us to locate the elusive chess champion. Recently, however, a reader sent us a clipping from the November 13, 1987 edition of The Globe and Mail (of Canada) in which reporter Bill Girdner wrote about Fischer's current lifestyle. The article is informative:
U.S. chess wizard held in check
by his own eccentric fears
Riding an orange public bus that runs between Pasadena and Los Angeles, say chess players, is how the eccentric and enigmatic American chess genius Bobby Fischer now spends his days. "He never gets off," said an international-class player living in Los Angeles who asked that his name not be used. "He just stays on, going round and round."
Mr. Fischer has retained his genius and can still "smash" almost any opponent, said former friends and competitors, but he now applies his mind to memorizing anti-Semitic literature and preaching against the Soviets. "He's not well," the player said. "He's a smart and loveable man, but it's bad. He doesn't have money. He's very poor."
Mr. Fischer became an unlikely American idol in the Icelandic city of Reykjavik in 1972 when he beat Soviet Boris Spassky for the world championship of chess - a game that generally receives almost no attention in the United States. He made the covers of Sports Illustrated, Time, and Life magazines, and North American viewers followed the slow play-by-play of his contest with Mr. Spassky on television. Chess groupies even emerged who worked their way up the ratings chart, according to chess players and teachers, in the hope of eventually seducing Mr. Fischer.
"Chess is like war on a board," Mr. Fischer said then. "The object is to crush the other man's mind." Part of what made Mr. Fischer a media star, observers have suggested, was that the match became a symbolic superpower confrontation: Mr. Fischer was the only American to wrest the world title from the Soviets, who have dominated chess since the Second World War.
When, temperamental as always, he threatened to quit play after only a few games, then President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger telephoned to coax him back to the board.
In the world of chess where mastery of the game is all, Mr. Fischer was and remains legendary. "He's as great as everything that everybody said about him," said Max Wilkerson, a chess expert who directs the chess room at the Mechanics Club in San Francisco and has played Mr. Fischer. "But he is completely unforgiving as a person."
Mr. Wilkerson was present when Mr. Fischer made his first appearance in the Manhattan Chess Club, the most famous chess milieu in the United States. At the age of 11=, he played senior master Walter Shipman and lost. Members of the club had heard about the young sensation, and they crowded around Mr. Shipman to ask: "How's the kid?" Mr. Wilkerson says he can remember verbatim the prophetic answer: "Not yet boys, but just wait."
Born in 1943 in Chicago, he won the U.S. championship at 14 and the world championship at 29. But then things began to go wrong. Mr. Fischer refused to defend his world title in 1975. He came under the wing of a fundamentalist church in Pasadena, the Worldwide Church of God, and gave the church much of his royalties and prize money.
Mr. Wilkerson said he turned away from the Worldwide Church of God after a leader of the church predicted the return of Jesus Christ on a particular date. When that event did not materialize, Mr. Fischer rejected the church. Players in the Los Angeles area say that since then, he has been living with friends or in seedy hotel rooms, surrounded by chess books and Hitler memorabilia. He has alienated many of his friends through his "paranoia" and his ability to "eat everything that's not nailed down," they say. They describe Mr. Fischer as a "human vacuum cleaner" sucking up food and egos. Friends say he never lets them know where he is staying, always requesting that he be dropped off and then finishing the route home on foot. One of his principal fears is that he will be killed by Russian agents, they say, and he also believes that all defectors from the Soviet Union are KGB agents still loyal to their Soviet masters.
In the spring of 1981, Mr. Fischer was arrested by Pasadena police [when he was found] wandering along a highway and, when he refused to give his address, [he was] charged with vagrancy. He wrote a small book about the experience called "I Was Tortured in the Pasadena Jailhouse." It became a hot item in chess stores, and employees at a chess store in Los Angeles sold their 200 copies out in two weeks, even though the book said nothing about chess. A number of people including Soviet news reporters have requested copies since then, said the employees, but they are no longer available.
Now, Mr. Fischer lives in Pasadena with another chess player, said chess enthusiasts in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He still studies the game along with a book promoting white supremacy that he has memorized word for word. For example, if a friend gives him a page and line number of the book, he can recite the exact words of that line complete with punctuation.
"He has a terrible illness. He may feel he's going to come back and play in a tournament," the international player said. "But he couldn't handle people watching him, the proximity of people. He would flip out." Mr. Wilkerson, however, said people forget that Mr. Fischer has dropped out before and every time he came back stronger. "Nothing Fischer could ever do would surprise me any more," Mr. Wilkerson said. "If he came back tomorrow, it wouldn't surprise me. If he never came back, it wouldn't surprise me either."
The Coronation Stone Revisited
Editor: As many WCG observers know, the Coronation Stone of Westminster Abbey figures prominently in the WCG's Anglo-Israel teachings. In 1987, after considerable research, writer Bill Moore (AC, Bricket Wood, 1969) sent us the following letter regarding his research on the subject.
I read your January 1987 AR and wanted to respond to the letter on page four regarding "Jacob's Pillar Stone." One of the very first things I did on my October 1986 trip to London was to visit with the head librarian of Westminster Abbey. Very few tourists visit the library since it is reached through an ancient and continuously locked wooden door off a wing of the cloister. The library was converted from a monk's dormitory in the 1600s and houses a rare collection of 17th-century volumes. I asked the librarian, an obliging whisp of a woman in her late 40s or early 50s, if she had any historical background material on the coronation stone. She dug out a dog-eared copy of the abbey's standard tourist guide in the margins of which she had written copious notes similar to the way WCG members mark the margins of their Bibles. She recited the legend of the stone originally having been brought to the British Isles from Israel thousands of years ago. She hastened to add, however, that no reputable historian places any credence in the legend. Unfortunately and ironically, despite the hundreds of ancient volumes in her library, none deals with the history of the coronation stone. For that you have to go to other sources, and I have.
Alfred P. Smyth is recognized as one of the world's preeminent medieval historians. His book, Warlords and Holy Men - Scotland AD 8 - 1000 (published in 1984 by Edward Arnold, London), was recommended to me by Dr. D. H. Caldwell, Assistant Keeper, National Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh, Scotland. I have corresponded with Dr. Smyth regarding the legend that the coronation stone, which was removed to Westminster Abbey in 1296 by Edward I of England from its original location in Scone, Scotland was the Lia Fail of Tara Hill. He kindly took a great deal of his time to find and photocopy two obscure scholarly dissertations relevant to the question of the origin of the coronation stone in Ireland and known as Lia Fail in Irish history. The first was written in 1836 by John O'Donovan, who, in the words of Dr. Smyth, was "the greatest of nineteenth century scholars." O'Donovan's unpublished "Letters Containing information relative to the Antiquities of the County of Meath" contain information I believe your readers will find of interest. Here are a few excerpts:
Keating [a 16th-century Irish historian] says that the Irish Colony who emigrated to Scotland in the beginning of the 6th-century took with them this stone, and he quotes or rather translates from Hector Boece an old rann from which he believes that the Scots would obtain monarchial sway in whatever Country [sic] they could bring (find) this stone. Keating, after giving us a full account of the virtues, history, etc., of this stone, says that the above prophecy was fulfilled in the then reigning Monarch [sic] of Great Britain (Charles I ?) who was of Scotic origin and found the Lia-Fail at Westminster Abbey.
The rann above referred to runs as follows (But his rann is nothing else but a translation of Hector Boece's Latin "Ni fallat fatum" by Keating himself): [I have omitted the Latin version for your readers - W.M.]:
The Scotic tribe, a noble race
Unless the prophecy be false
Wherever they find the Lia-Fail
Are entitled to supremacy.
O'Donovan then quotes Sir Walter Scott's rendition of the poem:
Unless the Fates be faithless found
And Prophets voice be vain
Where e'er this Monument is found
The Scotic race shall reign.
It is said that in the reign of Edward I this stone was removed from the Abbey of Scone in Scotland to Westminster where it is now to be seen but called by the name of "Solomon's Stone."
I could never find an older authority for the removal of this stone to Scotland in the 6th Century than Keating's and I therefore have not believed it since I began to question the divine authority of Irish history. Keating does not quote any authority and as we have the authority of the poem of Cuan O'Lochain in the Dinnseanchus that the Lia Fail was at Tara in the time of the writer (10th century) we must reject Keating's story as a silly fable, or at least as founded upon oral tradition or perhaps drawn from the fabulous writings of Hector Boece and other Scotch historians of the same descriptions.
Regarding the accuracy of Hector Boece's history, the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica says the following, "The composition of [Boece's] history displays much ability; but [his] imagination was, however, stronger than his judgment: of the extent of the historian's credulity, his narrative exhibits many unequivocal proofs; and of deliberate inventions of distortions of facts not a few, though the latter are less flagrant and intentional than early 19th century criticism has assumed."
The second publication which Dr. Smyth sent me is of much more modern vintage. It is a 1971 archaeological review of the monuments at Tara Hill, County Meath, Ireland, written by the late Sean P. O'Riordain, Professor of Archaeology, University College, Dublin. According to Dr. Smyth, Professor O'Riordain was "the greatest archaeologist in Ireland in this century." Your readers will recall that Tara Hill was the site of the throne of the ancient high kings of Ireland. According to Professor O'Riordain, the Lia Fail still stands on Tara Hill today:
Towards the centre of Rath na Riogh are the two earthworks marked the Forradh (or Royal Seat) to the east and Teach Cormaic (Cormac's House) to the west.... Here also we see, beside the modern statue of St. Patrick, an upright granite stone [looking surprisingly like a phallic symbol - W.M.] marked lightly with a cross, the letters R.I.P. and initials - for it marks the grave of some of those killed in the Battle of Tara in 1798. It already stood there in Petrie's time but tradition had it that it formerly lay near the Mound of the Hostages. Now this according to the Dinneshenchas, was the position of [Lia Fail], the inauguration stone which roared under the feet of the king. Hence the stone over the '98 grave is taken to be the Lia Fail - notwithstanding the late story in Keating of its transfer to Scotland.
So if the Lia Fail - "stone of destiny" is still standing at Tara Hill, then what is the origin of the red sandstone block housed under the graffiti-riddled oak throne chair in Westminster Abbey?
The question of the origin of the British coronation stone was thoroughly investigated in 1869 by William F. Skene in his 44-page treatise, "The Coronation Stone." After recounting the purely legendary movement of the Irish coronation stone from Egypt [not Israel, notice] through Spain to Ireland, he states the following:
It is somewhat remarkable that while Scotch legend brings the stone at Scone from Ireland, the Irish legend brings the stone at Tara from Scotland. The two legends, at all events, are quite antagonistic to each other, and there is one historic fact certain as to each. First, the Lia Fail, or Irish stone, did not leave Tara, but was still there in the eleventh century; and secondly, the Scotch stone was not in Argyll during the existence of the Irish colony of Dalriada, nor was it used in the inauguration of their kings. The first appears from this, that the Irish translation of Nennius, made in the eleventh century, has appended to it a list of the Mirabilia or wonders of Erin, among which are the three wonders of Teamar or Tara; and the third is "the Lia Fail, or stone which sounded under every king whom it recognized in the sovereignty of Teamar." Another version says "there is a stone at Temhar, viz. the Lia Fail, which used to sound under the feet of every one that assumed the kingdom of Erin." Petrie, in his Antiquities of Tara Hill, quotes other older documents to show that the stone still remained there. The second fact is shown by the account given by the biographers of St. Columba [the 6th-century founder of Christianity in Scotland] of the inauguration of Aidan as King of the Scots of Argyll. The account is given by two of the successors of St. Columba - Cumine the White, who was abbot [of Iona] from 657 to 669, and Adomnan, who was abbot from 679 to 704. St. Columba had obtained at the Council of Dumceat the independence of Scotch Dalriada; and if ever there was an occasion on which the Stone of Destiny might be expected to play a prominent part, it was in the solemn rite by which St. Columba constituted Aidan king, in obedience to a divine command declared in a vision, and accompanied by a prophecy regarding his successors. He ordains him by placing his hands upon his head, blessing him, using what Adomnan calls "verba ordinationis"; but, throughout the whole description, there is not a single allusion to the Fatal Stone.
After quoting Professor Ramsay who physically examined the coronation stone and concluded that it was, in all probability, cut from the sandstone bedrock found in the region of Scone, Skene concludes that:
[T]here was no connection between the stone at Scone and the Lia Fail at Tara, and that the legends of their wanderings, like the tribes with whom they are associated, are nothing but myth and fable.
It was the custom of Celtic tribes to inaugurate their kings upon a sacred stone supposed to symbolise the monarchy. The Irish kings were inaugurated on the Lia Fail which was never anywhere but at Tara, the "sedes principalis" of Ireland; and the kings of Scotland, first of the Pictish monarchy, and afterwards of the Scottish kingdoms which succeeded it, were inaugurated on this stone, which never was anywhere but at Scone, the "sedes principalis" both of the Pictish and of the Scottish kingdoms.
In conclusion, Irish and English historians, as well as Irish tradition (with the exception of Keating in the 16th-century), reaffirm the fact that the Lia. Fail - or fabled "Stone of Destiny" - never left Tara Hill in County Meath, Ireland. It still stands as part of a memorial to Ireland's fight for independence from England. As for the English Coronation Stone in Westminster Abbey, it was removed - more militant Scottish nationals will say "stolen" - from the royal seat in Scone, Scotland in 1296 A.D. by Britain's King Edward I. It is this stone that later was mistakenly called "Jacob's Pillar Stone" in a transparent attempt to biblically justify the growth of British imperialism from the 16th to the 19th century. Neither the large phallic stone at Tara Hill nor the sandstone block at Westminster are "Jacob's Stone" regardless of what Anglo-Israelism or Worldwide Church of God dogma may teach. This is an incontrovertible fact of history.
- Bill Moore, Papillion, Nebraska
More on Anglo-Israelism
Ambassador Report continues to receive letters regularly on Anglo-Israelism or British-Israelism - the teaching that the English-speaking "white" nations are the so-called lost ten tribes of Israel. The doctrine is not unique to the WCG, and more and more groups seem to be adopting it, although with variations. For instance, Time magazine (Oct. 20, 1986, p. 74) reported how the militant Aryan Nations and other new racist groups in the U.S. make "Identity," as they call the teaching, a central part of their belief system.
It is interesting to note some of the variations of the doctrine now being promulgated. For instance, one group (The Pathfinder, P.O. Box 291, Spokane, WA 99210) puts out a flyer on the supposed migrations of the "lost tribes," and equates them with "the Caucasians" or "Western Christian nations." It is unclear from the flyer whether or not Catholic Spain and Italy are considered Christian by the author, but he is somehow convinced that "among the peoples of Anglo-Saxondom, you will always find Bible and worship of Jesus Christ, just as the Bible states that Israel would do."
Then there was the AR reader who wrote us: "All white Christians are true twelve tribe Israel. Russians and all Slovanics are [the] tribe of Issachar." Perhaps Joe Tkach will appreciate learning this. Whatever the case, it is remarkable to us just how far some will extend the boundaries of their "modern Israel."
One of the best papers we've ever seen on Anglo-Israelism is titled Truth Line (dated August, 1981) and is published by TSL Publishing House, P.O. Box 18122, Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118. Besides giving a biblical critique of the doctrine, the paper provides an interesting history of the belief and lists a good number of groups that adhere to it. We know very little about the TSL group, but they appear to be former WCG members who put out a number of free publications aimed at helping Worldwiders.
The Bricket Wood Sale - What Really Happened
Editor: Ambassador College currently has two campuses: one in Pasadena, California and the other in Big Sandy, Texas. But until 1976, the WCG also operated a beautiful and developing college campus at Bricket Wood, England in London's green belt. In 1976, when the Armstrongs sold off that campus, it was claimed that financial difficulties had forced the sale. Many of us, however, who had spent time at the college in England and who knew the stated goals of the church, suspected that there was more to the sale than the official line. For surely, if the WCG really was in financial difficulty, other assets could have been liquidated at less cost to the effectiveness of "the Work." For instance, we wondered, why not sell off one of the jets, or cut back on the concert series or cut back on the amount of land owned for keeping the fall festival? Why sell off a whole college campus - one that eventually could have developed into a respected academic institution? We recently asked Charles Hunting, for many years the WCGs business manager in England, what he knew of the Bricket Wood sale. He sent us the following account of what really transpired:
The story of HWA and the Bricket Wood meltdown is, I think, an uncomplicated story of HWA faced with a decision brought about by one of the periodic supposed "financial crises" and his own personal desires to live a different pattern of existence after the death of Loma [Armstrong, HWA's first wife].
A decision was made largely, I think, between HWA, church attorney Stan Rader, and Ted [Garner Ted Armstrong, HWA's son, and then a church V.P.] that one of the colleges had to be closed because of the financial problem. Ted had then come back into power and the job was left to him as to which one was to go. There was no question probably in Ted's mind as to which way the decision would eventually go, but there had to be a selling job on the demise of Bricket Wood. It became Ted's job to push the decision, and as it turned out, a huge struggle ensued between Ted and myself as to which one would go, Texas or England. I was just a bit naive still at this stage of the game, but should have realized, even then, that it was all show.
I was called to Pasadena for a conference chaired by Ted, with Ron Dart, Bob Kuhn, David Antion, and about five others whose names escape me for the moment. HWA and Rader were out going to and fro, India or most likely Thailand, keeping in close touch with the proceeding by lengthy telexes. The final recommendation was to be arrived at by the august body of advisers at the above mentioned conference and was to be referred to HWA and Rader for the final inspired decision from on high.
The conference raged on all morning, with Ted presenting his reasons for Cactus Alley and I as the lone exponent for England. I sighted the whole international scope of the work, the huge printing facility in England, etc., etc., as valid reasons for the continuation of the English college. There was scarcely a word out of the mouths of the other members of the "advisory" team.
The meeting broke up for lunch. After the close of the morning session and before its resumption in the afternoon, virtually everyone of the "team" came to me and told me that I was right in my arguments; there was no need for two American colleges, and the one in Bricket Wood should remain open or both should be closed. We resumed after lunch in Ted's office, this time with just a few of the elite - Garner Ted, Kuhn, Antion, Dart, and Ted's Court Jester (I've forgotten his name for the moment). Although all of these fellows had told me Ted's best little you-know-what-house in Texas should close, not one, nil, zilch would make even the slightest protest in that short, informal, afternoon session when Ted guessed that it was the consensus of opinion that [the college in] England was to go down the tubes. So the sham morning meeting was merely the, window dressing for Ted's previously made decision.
I will never forget the scene that followed. I looked at each one of the "consensus" who had thirty minutes before told me Ted was wrong. Not one would look at me and not one raised even a whisper of protest. I will never forget it. One looked at the floor. Most kept their eyes fixed on their bread and butter. When no one disagreed with Ted, Bob Kuhn spoke up and said, "Let's telex HWA and tell him that it is the unanimous recommendation of the group that Texas will remain open." I told Bob, "Don't you dare put my name to that telex!" Ted was furious that I would oppose his august highness in the presence of the group, but he cooled off and the telex sans my name was sent.
It is my studied opinion that nothing was done in any major action by Ted, or anyone else, in which HWA did not totally concur or else didn't really care. In the case of closing the college, Herbert, now free of Loma, would be happy to be free of Bricket Wood. Free, free, free to pursue the life of a wealthy jetsetter. So closing Bricket Wood was what he really wanted, but he had to make some kind of a show and he could always blame Ted as the Simon Legree in the act. If the Texas college stayed open, it didn't tie him down. That was Ted's problem. And after all, Ted was now the voice of the last, great, end-time work and it was no small gesture on HWA's part to keep "the Vice," sorry, "Voice" happy. HWA did the same thing when Teddy wanted to start his [Plain Truth] newspaper. We in England screamed to high heaven that it would do nothing in England but create a litter problem. But HWA didn't even really care about his beloved Plain Truth and let Ted put out his miserable failure to supplant the [magazine format] PT. It did create a litter problem, too.
HWA was getting what he wanted out of life. To pursue those aims, he wanted to separate himself as far as possible from the agony of day to day decisions and from contact with students and/or people in the church with whom he had so little in common. It is a well-known fact that TV religionists all hate to meet up with their followers. They do have much to hide. And it was to the advantage of all of us in the top echelons [of the WCG] to provide a cover and cater to the Armstrongs.
One final comment about HWA. I am sure you are as aware as I am of the total selfishness of the man and his complete lack of sentimentality about anything that was in the slightest degree remote from his own personal desires. People who had served him well were immediately removed from the scene at the slightest hint of a threat, whether they constituted a real threat or not. Take my case. I was not taken in, or even involved in, any of the meetings in which HWA participated that ended with my removal from England. HWA didn't even call me, or talk to me, until after he had made his final decision. And even this was to only yell at me something about kicking him in the stomach. This was just before he began speaking to the church in England. The man had no personal loyalty or sentiment toward England, the Bricket Wood college, or anyone there after Loma's death. It was an encumbrance to his new lifestyle. And it was a continuous thorn in Ted's side because of my [past] close contact with HWA (but that had really virtually ended by this time as I was no longer included in the flying entourage).
This might fill in part of the picture for you. But they are only my own personal opinions, and I have never discussed them before with anyone.
- Charles Hunting, New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Charles Hunting on Radio
Many who were in the WCG during the sixties and seventies remember how church executive and evangelist Charles F. Hunting was then one of the church's most captivating speakers. And those of us who were privileged to have Mr. Hunting as a theology and speech professor at Ambassador College, Bricket Wood, also recall that he was a man of warmth, humor, integrity, and compassion.
When your editor left the WCG in 1974 he sent letters to dozens of WCG friends (he thought) explaining his reasons for leaving. Only two wrote back to express any concern - one was Charles Hunting. In 1975, when Bob and Connie Gerringer left the WCG, only one WCG minister cared enough to write them and express his feelings of concern on the matter - Charles Hunting. (Bob's 22-page response is the so-called "Gerringer letter" which has been widely circulated in WCG circles ever since.)
By the late '70s Hunting could no longer tolerate the situation in Worldwide, and for reasons of conscience felt compelled to resign from the organization he had served wholeheartedly for two full decades. For doing so, he was ostracized by virtually all his Worldwide associates. (And he has a son and a daughter who are still members.)
In the eleven years since leaving Worldwide, Hunting has apparently been involved in a number of business ventures, and has spent much time in theological study (he is currently working on a book about the trinity doctrine). Until recently, however, he had not really spoken out publicly about the WCG. Now, that may change. On August 5, Hunting was interviewed for over two hours on the Clyde Thomas WHIS radio talkshow in Florida. There was no bitterness in Hunting's voice. But he was very frank and revealed a great deal about his experiences with the Armstrongs and about how the WCG operates. (Hunting's comments about HWA's meetings with world leaders and about HWA's spending habits were particularly interesting.)
Will Hunting be doing more interviews in the future? Perhaps. He wrote us: "Maybe I am just now coming out of a mental shell. And with a little practice at this sort of thing I might be more effective in the future. Who knows? I do know that there is a tremendous interest in these matters on the part of the public."
Those who are interested in the WCG will be pleased to learn that Mr. Hunting's interview on WHIS was recorded, and cassette tape copies are available for $1.50 each (to cover duplicating and postage costs only) by writing to Charles Hunting, 314 Columbus Ave., New Smyrna Beach, FL 32069.
Materials of Interest
Among current WCG members, there is probably no church doctrine more frequently questioned than the anti-makeup doctrine. Apostle Tkach reiterated HWA's dogma on the subject in a Worldwide News article that appeared in June. Now Keith Hunt of the Biblical Church of God (Canada) has challenged Tkach's makeup position in an article entitled "Makeup - Our Answer to Joseph W. Tkach" which appeared in Hunt's newsletter The Truth of the Matter. We found this article educational and believe many involved with the WCG will benefit from it. Free copies may be obtained by writing The Biblical Church of God (Canda), Box 36, Station A, Kelowna, B.C. Canada V1Y 7N3.
Another author who addresses the makeup issue is Ralph Woodrow. His book Women's Adornment - What Does the Bible Really Say? contains much Bible teaching and much common sense. Women in the WCG will find this a very helpful study. We understand the book is priced at $4.00 and is available by writing to Ralph Woodrow, Box 124, Riverside, California 92502.
* * *
It is certainly not the purpose of Ambassador Report to promote atheism or to campaign against religious faith. Intellectuals who wonder why that is so may find something of an answer in the works of Carl Jung and in Peter Shaffer's play Equus. Nevertheless, we readily acknowledge that some of the most insightful writing on religion today is being done by individuals some Christians would call agnostics or atheists. In the past year, unsolicited copies of three generally anti-religion publications made their way into our mailbox. We think they should be mentioned because some of our readers will, at least, want to be aware of their existence.
Free Inquiry is a large, well-written, scholarly, and often entertaining quarterly published by the Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism. Free Inquiry publishes articles on the nature of religious experience, the history of religions, provocative letters, editorials, book reviews, and advertisements. Their exposes of many religious organizations are particularly interesting. Many of their articles are by world-renowned scholars and the writing is usually first-rate. Free Inquiry is not free. Sample copies are $3.75 each, available by writing Free Inquiry, Box 5, Buffalo, NY 14215-0005.
The American Rationalist is a small magazine (or newsletter) published six times per year by the Rationalist Association. The American Rationalist bills itself as "The Alternative to Religious Superstition" and appears to promote a philosophy similar to that of Free Inquiry. Sample copies are $1.00 each and may be had by writing The American Rationalist, 2001 St. Clair Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63144.
HUMSIG is a newsletter of the humanist special interest group in Mensa, the high IQ society. This small, but well-written, newsletter is edited by former WCG member Larry Taylor who, after earning a theology degree at Ambassador, went on to earn accredited Master's degrees in both history and computer science. Sample copies of his newsletter are $1.00 each and may be obtained by writing HUMSIG, P.O. Box 5456, Whittier, CA 90607. The one issue we saw contained an article by Taylor questioning the accuracy of the Gospel account of Jesus' life. (We suspect that that article will generate a rebuttal or two from Christian scholars and we'd like to see any that may be published.)
* * *
As to religious orientation, what happens to WCG members who leave the WCG? We've noticed, over the years, that some rejoin mainstream churches. But a very large percentage lose all interest in religion, and a very significant percentage move on to religions just as nontraditional as Worldwide.
Lois E. Murphy (nee Holman, AC, Big Sandy, 1968-69) is a former WCG member who is now an active member of a mainline church. For Lois, the transition out of Worldwide and into the Christian mainstream was not easy. There were many disappointments along the way. Yet, she says, it was all worth it. Her experiences are contained in her article "Why the Prodigal Doesn't Return" which appeared in the November issue of Moody Monthly. Those who would like a free copy of her very fine article can obtain one by writing to Lois E. Murphy, 541 Oak Park Drive, Choctaw, OK 73020. As a courtesy to her, however, please be sure to include a stamped, self-addressed envelope with your request.
* * *
Long-time readers of Ambassador Report will recall that in our December 1981 issue we published portions of a series of newspaper articles about the cult phenomenon written by Dan'l C. Markham. Rev. Markham, an editor, church pastor, and county commissioner, has continued to study the cults and recently expanded the original series of articles into a 120-page book entitled The Cultic Phenomenon. It is available in bookstores in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. In North America, however, it may only be obtained (for $8 per copy) by writing: Dan'l Markham/Book, P.O. Box 1, Ilivaco, WA 98624.
* * *
Finally, one of our readers sent us the following thought-provoking letter:
Dear AR Friends:
I obtain your wonderful AR from a friend and have been a regular reader for the past seven or so years. It is well-written, informative, and appealing. I especially find the letter section and the segment detailing new publications and groups to be valuable. I have passed on your address to many persons and will continue to do so.
I want to relate a few things that I think you and your readers will find of interest or use. My strongly held opinion is that the greatest obstacle to members of the WCG and other Christian sects experiencing the liberating power of real Christianity is the fundamentalist mind-set engripping such ones! I can testify to this myself having been associated with a Christian sect similar to the WCG for almost 15 years. What freed me from the totalitarianism pervading my own sect was purging myself of the above-described "mind-set" through some well-chosen literature, discussion with friends of intellectual bent on a free level (unsupervised by sectarian authorities or literature), and some good, hard, honest thinking. As regards literature, I particularly want to mention James Barr's tome Beyond Fundamentalism which I believe is simply one of the "books of the century." Barr demonstrates how fundamentalist-minded groups structure the thinking of their laity so that they view the Scriptures through colored glasses, not as they are actually meant to be viewed. Sectarian groups use the Bible and the concocted verbal-plenary doctrine of inspiration merely as a political tool or lever with reference to the members. Barr's research goes to prove that the Bible can be assessed honestly and straightforwardly as it was meant to be so that a vibrant and productive Christian faith can be anchored. It is an eye-opener in the true sense of the word, and yet so sensitive and pastoral - a really fine work from all vantage points. It can be ordered for only $9.95 from the Verdict people (P.O. Box 1311, Fallbrook, CA 92028). 1 have also found useful some of the literature of Fundamentalists Anonymous, P.O. Box 20324, Greenley Square Sta., NY NY 10001. 1 would also like to mention that a perusal of sociological studies by people such as Bryan Wilson, James Beckford, Joseph Zygmunt and others specializing in sectarianism and authoritarianism has proven most helpful and informative. (Sociological journals can be found at most college libraries.)
It is enlightening to see one's sect in the light of and in comparison with, the teachings and practices of other sects with similar bents, etc. I've found helpful here works of comparative religion, among which I'd like to mention Alfs' Concepts of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (available from O. T. B.H., P. O. Box 11337, Minneapolis, MN 55417) and the multi-volume works by Melton and Piepkorn. I would like to add that the least helpful works were those done by "anti-cultists" like Walter Martin and other evangelical preachers who merely substitute a so-called "orthodox" brand of fundamentalist thinking for a so-called "Unorthodox" brand. The review in the 2/9/86 issue of Christian Century of Martin's Kingdom of the Cults was appropriate in this regard when it remarked that such a work "is a conservative Protestant, normative-minded book of reference and judgment," containing, to be sure, some good information in the form of quotations, but which is "very, very difficult to dredge up and use, given its ideological wrapping." The review concluded with the observation that the author "seems to have little faith that one can report what a group stands for and let it be judged by people of various vantages. He helps - over-helps - them along."
In conclusion, I would like to say that the joy of asking the questions is just as great as the joy of receiving the sectarian "answers"; the joy of uncertainty is just as great as the joy of certainty; the joy of groping for God each day is just as great a joy as having "found" Him (all wrapped up in a neat, man-made package) in the sect. There need be no abyss to fall into beyond the perimeters of the sect's controlling influence: one may simply find there (as I believe I have) a springboard into a better life!
- An AR reader from the Midwest
Beg Your Pardon: Two of our readers have pointed out to us that in our January 1987 issue we gave an incorrect address for Reality Report. Their correct address is 2442 (not 4224) N.W. Market Street, Seattle, WA 98107. Besides their newsletter, this organization publishes the book American and British Israelism Debunked by Richard A. Marson. We hope our error has not inconvenienced too many readers.
I have heard ministers say that Herbert W. Armstrong was greater than any of the original apostles. Then, after the death of Herbert W. Armstrong they were saying that he was disorganized and a hindrance to "the Work." Now Joseph W. Tkach is an "apostle" in the office of Elisha - with twice the spirit as HWA. Or is he now in the office of Joshua? Now "the Work" will leap forward greatly since HWA. is out of the way....
I stopped attending the WCG shortly after returning from Red China around the first of the year. I saw WCG government in
action in Red China, where I worked for two months. I attended WCG [services] for 26 years. What a waste! But that was my fault.
- Jon Johnson
(AC, Pasadena, 1965)
I want to ask you people at AR something. Around 1982 there came out a book called Holy Blood, Holy Grail written by three men. It was about the history of a very old secret society of some of the most famous men in history. According to this book, this society is still around and they are working toward a United States of Europe to be headed by an imposter-Christ. The three authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail have now put out a sequel called The Messianic Legacy. It is published by a Henry Holt. I saw a copy the other day in a bookstore and noticed in the back that Mr. Herbert Armstrong is mentioned and that headquarters had somehow read the first hook and had investigated the authors. I also noticed that the end of the book predicts what Mr. Armstrong preached for years about Europe.
So I asked a friend in the Church if he knew about any of this and he said he had heard from a friend in CGI that Mr. Dart was up on this. He also heard from a friend that a lot of the ministers had read these hooks. So I asked our local minister about it. He was very silent. Then after a long pause he said, "You are not to read those books or discuss them with anyone. Is that clear?" I asked him why, and all he yelled was "Is that clear?!"
When I mentioned this to my friend he said that he was told something similar by his church pastor. What I want to know is why are we not to read or discuss these books, especially considering the Church's prophecies are the same?
Editor: Sorry, we don't know. Perhaps it's because authors Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln do not ascribe to a fundamentalist view of the Bible or because they delve into the history of Anglo-Israel doctrines. Whatever the reason, we find their writings most interesting, even if a number of their conclusions are unconvincing. You'll notice, for instance, if you read their second book carefully, that it appears that they may well have been duped by the "secret society" and that the society may well be fictitious.
Long after I left the WCG a friend of mine, a long-standing member of that cult, became afflicted with cancer. Not only did the church not offer any kind of help or encouragement, but when he was no longer able to attend services, not one of the members came to visit him. Instead, at the Feast of Tabernacles in Rapid City, South Dakota, some minister stated that cancer was due to sexual sins, which, in my friend's case, was the farthest from the truth.
Also, to add insult to insult, when my friend was at his lowest ebb, a local elder from the Watertown church came around and asked his mother (not a member) if there were any "envelopes" for them. Meaning, of course, containing tithes and offerings. This shows what a coldblooded congregation of evildoers they are while operating under the deceptive guise of "God's Church."
- North Dakota
I am generally not in the habit of buying "skin magazines," but I bought the November and December issues of Playboy to read the two-part series by Jessica Hahn. They are very revealing to say the least, and some of the things she describes are very familiar. In many ways the PTL is much like the WCG. Did PTL learn from HWA or did HWA learn from PTL? It is amazing how so-called Christians can use and abuse people and then fling them aside like mere garbage! lt is also of interest how Jessica Hahn came to adore and worship the ministers and leaders of the church instead of God, and how the same thing takes place in the WCG. Another interesting point is that PTL spent millions of dollars on buildings that are built in the competition for money and to make them look big and powerful. This reminded me of the articles "Edifice Complex" and "Fleecing the Flock" (Ambassador Report, 1977). I hope that the Playboy article will cause many more people to wake up and think for themselves instead of letting ministers and church leaders do their thinking for them.
- Manitoba, Canada
You might he interested to know that I was recently made a "non-member" (but not disfellowshipped). Apparently, [my minister] and the church administration in Pasadena are especially upset that I never paid off my college bill... I never planned to renege on the bill, but unfortunate circumstances have prevented me from making payments.... Currently I am wondering if the church will take me to court over the bill or release me from the debt after seven years (Deut. 15:7).
- AC Alumnus
Editor: If the tithing laws of Deut. 14 are still valid (and the WCG teaches that they are), then, logically, the debtor release laws of Deut. 15 should also be valid. Right?
I left the WCG in 1974, and, with the exception of one couple who met us "on the sneak" once a year, have had virtually no contact with anyone in the WCG organization. Imagine my shock then when out of the blue, two friends from the WCG, who are still members in good standing, phoned me and asked if they could come over for coffee. I was so curious, of course I said yes. The visit was pleasant enough. However, I wondered if they were buttering me up for a future kill. They said their minister preached a sermon saying that, if members left on their own and were not disfellowshipped publicly from the pulpit, and were not trying to spread any of their [own] ideas, it was okay for a WCG member to keep in touch on occasion! Is this a "new truth"? I certainly never heard of it before. A ex-member friend of mine, whose member sister lives in Texas, told me that her sister heard the same sermon preached in her congregation.
- New York
Editor: We don't know if there is such a new policy, but if there is, it certainly would be an interesting change from the many years of "the Dracula complex" (to be explained in a future issue).
I thank you so much for the Report I love to read it and can't wait for the next one. You are doing a good thing so keep up the good work.
I haven't been to church in... weeks.... I'm sure there is nothing new as we hear the same old sermons over and over. All that goes on is for the young teenagers who [WCG ministers] say will be our leaders in times to come. So pity us if it's true.
- West Virginia
My wife's brother, former PT editor... is just as smug, superior and close-minded as ever. My wife, who had been a WCG member for 22 years, loaned him our copy of David Robinson's Tangled Web some time back. He later told her he "did not want to read it." My wife, who was as brainwashed as they come for 20 years (I lived with it!) replied, "...you can't read it because the church won't let you! You aren't allowed to even think for yourself. Why can't you realize that?" She may as well have talked to a wall, and that sad situation persists to this very day.
You people and your work are all that keep up the sanity of a lot of folks like myself. Just when I feel like I'm on a desert island, I get a new AR or I spy an old one and reread it. Please don't ever stop what you're doing - the world needs to know.
As I have many friends in the Amish community where I live, I am aware that no one is safe from the WCG. A few people who were members of the Amish church have left it to become Worldwiders. I talked to one man who did so, though I realized it was too late to do any good. I did so simply because his father asked me to do so. It is heartrending to see how such a move on this man's part has upset his mom and dad. I gave his father a copy of one of your older magazines and he had several copies made for some of his friends. So your magazine is at least known by a few people in this area.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for this publication. I had doubts of my own about the WCG, but I also believed in - and never really questioned - its doctrines, practices, and authority. My method of "proving all things" consisted of reading Herbert's "ideas" and then looking up the prescribed scriptures and that proved it.
The AR is truly an eyeopener. With your help, I - and, thankfully, my mother too - am beginning to see the light. Its not easy, but I don't think I ever would even have seriously considered leaving "the Church " if I had not seen the evidence presented in the Report. I have you to thank for my newfound freedom.
I have now left the church of GTA. I had been put out of the WCG in 1979 so I believed GTA but now I know I made another mistake. I no longer go to any church as I don't know who or what to believe. So I read my Bible and try to do the best that I know how. God has been with me and has kept me on the right track so goodbye to the phonies.
I wish all your letter writers would sign their letters because I am so eager to hear of the many I knew from AC. It really hit home to me how much hurt and pain has been inflicted on every person who has stepped into the trap of WCG. The most dangerous part can he a root of bitterness if we're not careful.
My indoctrination in the WCG began when I was 11 years old. I left in 1980 and so WCG had 21 years of my life to form and shape. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford to go back for four more years of college to learn a new career, etc. The hardest thing to change in my thinking pattern is [the idea that] there is no future and so no need for goals or planning for the future. That idea has been there so subtly for so long. Thank God I now see it and it's changing.
Each time I hear of someone else leaving, I'm thrilled. To all of you who have left or are on their way, I wish you the best. I've wondered about everyone I used to know at one time or another. I'm glad we have the AR to connect with each other. I know for me, 21 years of my life are closed to me as if I had no past except through the AR.
- Marilyn (Haupt) Howald
(AC, Pasadena, 1970)
My husband divorced me because of leaving the WCG and now can freely come and go as he pleases. I think the WCG [made a fraud of] our marriage as I chose to live with him, and he put me away. He now puts church activities over our three children also. I am going through deprogramming with my two girls, and it is hard. My son is still going [to WCG services] with his dad. I still love my ex-husband but know it will never work unless he gives up the WCG and comes back to me. I think he tries to avoid and hurt me because of this. I pray daily about it and have gone back to the Methodist church where I now feel comfortable. This domination thing is big to him also. He thinks he needs to be "the man in charge'' and in control of every situation.
I would appreciate your prayers. I won't wait forever for him, but it would be nice if we could be back together as a family again some day. I am getting my life back together slowly and surely. It feels good to be free again and out of bondage.
- AR Reader
I left my husband last November when things got to he more than I could stand. We were divorced in April. I just learned that he's all set up to marry a woman - you guessed it - in "God's true church. " I guess I was still entertaining notions of a reconciliation, but now I realize that will never happen. I know there were things I did wrong in our marriage, but the WCG was always the seat of our difficulties. We became so alien to each other, and it still makes me sad to think of the shell he's become.
I know enough about his personality to be able to predict the outcome of this union; it will only be a matter of time. And to think that he was constantly accusing me of being unfaithful. I still can't even seem to dredge up enough interest to even date.
Well, life goes on and we learn, etc. It's a new day tomorrow and I'm different than I was yesterday. I want you to know I send all my love out to you people with this letter. I hope you can always carry on. I don't think my belief system now is exactly compatible with yours, but I think we will arrive at the same destination one day, just different paths. You perform more of a service to "outies" than "innies." I think sometimes because we all do what we really want in our lives anyway. There is a reason the WCG exists and a reason why "they" are in. They have to live and learn too.
As I watch the constant parade of TV ministers forced to admit their sex sins on the news, I can't help but feel that the AR opened the way for this type of information to come out in public. If you think about it, your 1977 issue started the ball rolling. Ever since then it seems that the press has been more forthcoming with information about sex sins by ministers and politicians. Unlike some people, I feel that this information should be told and am proud to be able to give some support to a group of people who had enough courage to tell the truth about these matters.
I feel that it is important for a minister to set a good example to his congregation. If he is not setting that fine example and has sexual or other profound problems that he cannot control he should get out of that profession and get some help.
At any rate, it's interesting that the AR was really the first publication to report these types of problems. People who give their lives and money to an organization need to know just what they're supporting. The AR is giving people the kind of information they need about the WCG and its many offshoots. Keep up the good work.
Many of you have written me in the last few months asking for more information on the background of "Apostle" Tkach. Unfortunately, it has proven incredibly difficult to get most who've known Tkach over the years to tell what they know about him. For some odd reason, those who seem to know the most are also the most tightlipped. I am still working on that story, however, and one of these days it should be in print.
Our last issue was dated September 1987. I had hoped to get out an issue in December. But a lengthy illness coupled with two powerful earthquakes breaking up my Los Angeles-area apartment (plus my being in graduate school and trying to earn a living) made a December AR impossible. It's been a long time between issues, but I hope you'll notice that this edition is longer than most and is really filled with valuable information.
My thanks to all of you who write to the Report telling a little about your lives. I read each of your letters carefully and really value your comments and suggestions.
Finally, my special thanks to those who are financially assisting the Report. I hope that those who are able will continue to support our efforts. The letters we receive from hundreds and hundreds of readers tell us that Ambassador Report is not just informative, it really is accomplishing a great deal of good. But if we are to continue publishing, we need your help.
My warmest wishes go out to each of you.
John Trechak, Editor
Next Issue (AR41)
Back to Index