AR43 December 1989
Joseph W. Tkach -
God's New Rep on Planet Earth
by John Trechak
Editor: Because Part III of this serialized article does not repeat certain key information contained in Parts I and II, it is important that the two earlier parts be read first. They were published in ARs 41 and 42 (our March and September issues). In that way, what follows may be understood in proper context.
As explained in Parts I and II, Joseph W. Tkach, the new Pastor General of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), Chancellor of Ambassador College, and "God's Apostle for this age," has created for himself a colorful official biography very much at odds with his true past history. Separating fact from fiction in Tkach's past is often difficult. That is especially so when it comes to the many stories circulating in WCG circles that connect Tkach to criminals and criminal activity.
Those stories include the allegations that in the past Tkach misappropriated for his personal use thousands of dollars of church funds set aside for the poor, that Tkach was once a fence (one who disposes of stolen property), and that he has had dealings with numerous criminals including professional hit men. Such stories are widely believed in WCG circles. But are they true?
Is Tkach a Crook?
Because Tkach and his lawyers refused to be interviewed for this article, the first stop in my search for answers was the central criminal records files for Los Angeles County. I discovered that for the 22 years Tkach has lived in Los Angeles County, no Joseph Tkach has been convicted there of any felonies, or even misdemeanors. But what about in Chicago where he previously resided? Not wanting to spend money on air fare, I phoned a respected private investigator in Chicago and asked him to check the criminal records of Illinois to see if Tkach had ever been convicted in that state. When he phoned back in a few days, he apologized, saying, "I'm sorry, Mr. Trechak. I really am. Criminal files in Illinois often get lost or even destroyed. But I don't think your man was ever convicted up here. There's just no record of him." After all the colorful stories I had been told, I was a bit surprised. Just to be sure, I contacted one more private investigator - one who had been helpful to me in the past. After a few days he phoned me with the results of his investigation. Not only could he find no record of Tkach having ever been convicted of any crime anywhere, he could find no record of Tkach ever having gotten even one traffic ticket!
Convictions make for easy reporting. But truth does not begin and end at a courtroom door.
The allegation that Tkach in the past misappropriated to himself church funds set aside for the poor comes from numerous sources. In our March 1982 issue I published a lengthy letter that had been written by WCG attorney-accountant Jack Kessler to the WCG's board of trustees. The Kessler letter recounted numerous ethics violations by top WCG executives. The letter contained the following statement:
According to Mr. Robin Webber, Mr. Joseph Tkach apparently felt justified in giving himself from a trust fund he controlled a little advance of $5000.00 as a "needy Church member" to take advantage of a special investment in unregistered securities then illegally being peddled (against advice of counsel) by the Dean brothers.
In early 1982 I wrote both Tkach and the WCG's legal department asking if they wished to comment on the Kessler allegation. Neither replied.
Beginning during the early sixties, when he was still in Chicago, Tkach's superiors often gave him responsibility over the "poor fund" or "third tithe" accounts of local congregations.44 Earl Timmons, for a decade a confidant of Tkach, told me that Tkach would often siphon off funds by making loans to needy church members, then labeling the loans on the books as gifts paid out, and finally pocketing the loans when they were repaid. I personally recall how during the early seventies, a number of my WCG friends, unemployed at the time, went to Tkach for assistance. In each case they were granted a few hundred dollars. They were startled, however, when Tkach informed them that the amount they received was only a loan and that the loan had to be repaid to Tkach personally in cash.
I asked one former church secretary, who had known Tkach quite well during the seventies, if she believed Tkach had siphoned off funds meant for the poor during those years. She told me, "Oh sure he did. But so what? In those days a lot of the ministers were doing the same thing." Perhaps that is so.
In defense of Tkach, one of his friends wrote me:
I [once] heard from Tom Justus [a former WCG minister] that Joe Tkach was stealing from Third Tithe. Joe was then living in a rented house, paying little more than $200 per month rent. He tried to buy a house. But, according to Paul Knedel, he could not qualify, as his income was under $18,000 per year. Some secretaries were making more than that. So where's the loot?
The allegation about Tkach having once been a fence was contained in a Feb. 1, 1981 telex from WCG attorney Stanley Rader to church founder Herbert W. Armstrong. As I have quoted in past issues, Rader's exact words were:
With respect to Joe Tkach, I recommended him. Although I did know about his connection with Mr. and Mrs. Timmons (two of the relators in the lawsuit), I did not find out the full details concerning his illegal fencing activities until they surfaced recently when we were preparing our civil rights case.
Rader is not the only one who has made such allegations. It was in January 1979, as I waited to be interviewed for a TV news segment about the WCG receivership, that Earl Timmons first mentioned to me how Tkach had knowingly dealt in stolen property. Whether the item was a refrigerator for a church member or gold rings for his daughter Tanya's wedding, Tkach apparently had no qualms about buying or selling goods that his friends warned him were stolen. According to Timmons' wife, Shirley, Tkach would rationalize such dealings by saying, "If you don't know where it comes from it's not wrong."
©1989 Ambassador Report. Published irregularly (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.
The Mafia Apostle
As I explained in Part I, Tkach likes to be thought of as a tough guy. In his yarns about shooting down kamikazes, beating up Marines, or in telling employees "the way Mr. Armstrong would chew people out was sandbox compared to the way I do it," there is always that "tough as nails" theme. Along that vein, the WCG abounds in stories about Tkach having friends in organized crime-friends that can be called upon when needed.
Such stories have convinced most Worldwiders that Tkach is not just tough, but is one who should be feared. As a result, many - even among those who have left Worldwide - refuse to say anything regarding Tkach for fear of retaliation. Three long-time Tkach acquaintances even warned me that by writing about Tkach I was putting myself in grave physical danger. Nevertheless, is such fear of Tkach really justified? And where did those wild stories about Tkach's gangland connections come from?
In the course of investigating Tkach's background I decided to see if any of Tkach's in-laws could offer an insight into his past. Using the Chicago phone directory, I began phoning people with the name Apostolos - the maiden name of Tkach's wife. I reached a man named Mike Apostolos. When I asked if he knew an Elaine Tkach (Joe's wife), he answered in a low voice, "She's my sistah." Apostolos spoke with a slow gruffness reminiscent of convict characters in 1930s gangster movies. But he was quite open about his life and background. He said he was 77 years old, not married, a WCG member, and was considered by some to be senile ("that's what they tell me"). He explained how both his parents had been of Greek ancestry and how his father had been a strict disciplinarian. He also said he had spent 19 years of his life in Pontiac Prison.45 When I asked for further details, he would only say he didn't like to discuss his past crimes.
Apostolos sounded contrite about his past mistakes, yet there seemed to be a residue of certain old values. At one point he said, "My father was Mafia. He knew Alfons." Naturally, I asked, "Alfons who?" His reply was, "Alfons Capone. My father and Alfons were good friends." Not knowing how to react to such talk, I commented, somewhat awkwardly, how, over the years, I had read a few books about the Mafia's history and was aware of their so-called "code of honor." Apostolos' voice became animated: "Yeah, if you treat the Mafia good, the Mafia treats you good. In prison the Mafia treated me real good."
I then asked him if Joe Tkach had ever been involved in any criminal activities. His reply was: "Who? Joe? Nah. He would never do anything like that. Joe is a good man. When I was in prison he used to always visit me."
Two ex-WCG members who knew Tkach back in the sixties told me they don't recall Tkach as being involved with crime or criminals in those days. But they recalled how, at some juncture, Tkach gained a reputation as one with contacts in organized crime. Said one ex-member, "I seem to recall it was Alan Manteufel who started that rumor." (Manteufel was a WCG minister who died in 1978-from alcoholism, some say.)
Whether it was because of Tkach's visits to his imprisoned brother-in-law, or because of an overactive imagination on the part of Manteufel or someone else, the rumor of Tkach's Mafia connections became widely accepted as fact in WCG circles. As for Tkach, not only did he make no effort to dispel the rumor, he encouraged it. Ken Nagele, a former WCG member who once worked for Tkach told me, "Joe Tkach even used to kid about his old Mafia connections." A number of former members also recall how Tkach had a "Mafia Staff Car" sticker on the black sedan in which he used to visit members. While many undoubtedly took the sticker as a joke, others did not. Some have since noticed in the news how one major crime figure apprehended not long ago in Southern California also had such a "humorous" sticker on his car.
To many people the idea of openly claiming to be associated with organized crime is both in poor taste and stupid. After all, if one really is involved with organized crime, why broadcast it? Nevertheless, there are some individuals involved with the underworld who take pride in such connections. I personally recall how, some years ago, certain Mafia leaders in New York City turned a Columbus Day parade into a media event interpreted as pro-Mafia. I was in the New York area at the time and watched a news interview with one of the parade's organizers, a reputed Mafia don, who did everything possible to enhance his gangster image.46
Tkach has often behaved in a similarly childish manner. But is there any real substance behind the image of an "Apostle" with lots of gangland friends? One man who answers unequivocally in the affirmative is Earl Timmons.
Earl Timmons47 is certainly one of the most unusual individuals ever to have gone through the WCG. During the early seventies, he was a successful plumbing contractor in the Pasadena, California area. A WCG member since the early sixties, he was a very close friend and confidant of Tkach from 1969 through 1978. The two were so close they would get together almost daily over coffee. Shirley Timmons was also close to the Tkach family, as she was one of the church women who, for years, took care of Tkach's ailing wife.
Because of his plumbing business, Timmons came in contact with many Los Angeles County businessmen. One was George Pappageorge,48 who owned a service station and U-Haul rental business at Rosemead and Colorado Boulevards in Pasadena. According to Timmons, however, Pappageorge was not just a legitimate businessman, but the central figure in a major crime ring. Timmons alleges that Pappageorge and his associates were involved in burglary, robbery, and interstate trafficking in stolen cars and other merchandise, with the U-Haul business furnishing a convenient cover for the movement of stolen goods and contraband.
Court records show that Timmons' allegations should not be thought of as fantasy. George Pappageorge and two accomplices, Kenneth Casper Moran and Sidney Bartolotta, were convicted in 1974 on multiple counts of kidnapping (at gunpoint), robbery, burglary, and conspiracy.49 One of the kidnapping victims (of the three separate kidnappings listed in the original indictment) was Donovan Hargens, then owner of Don's Market in Pasadena. Pappageorge and Moran were convicted on all - counts with Moran going to Folsom Prison and "Pappy" going to San Quentin.50
Reading through the huge file on the case, one is struck by the large number of individuals that were involved. One of Pappageorge's accomplices was Ron Hayward, described in one affidavit as a volatile, violent, and psychotic51 individual whose main goal in life was to become a successful hit man (a goal Timmons fears Haywood has achieved). At some point during the police investigation of the kidnappings, Hayward turned state's evidence and somehow implicated Timmons. Timmons, in turn, was granted immunity from prosecution when he fingered Pappageorge.
The court records I have seen do not implicate Timmons in any of the more violent activities of the ring. For instance, he was not an accomplice in any of the kidnappings. But, by his own admission under oath, Timmons was involved in one highly unusual escapade with Pappageorge. In 1972, as the police began to move in on the ring, Pappageorge hastily called Timmons to a private meeting. He told Timmons that the police had just searched the home of Moran's wife and he thought his place of business would be searched next. Pappageorge, a demolition expert missing a few fingers because he wasn't expert enough, told Timmons that at his garage there was a carload of contraband explosives that he wanted moved. It is unclear from the records I have seen whether the TNT and dynamite were stolen, intended for safe cracking, or worse. But there was a lot of it - about a quarter ton or enough to blow up a city block. Timmons got the explosives, destroyed some by dilution, and finally dumped the rest in the mountains north of Pasadena.
From reading the court records it becomes obvious that Pappageorge and his many associates were involved in a very wide range of criminal activity. Yet, according to Timmons, George Pappageorge and his associate Kenny Moran were very close friends of Joe Tkach. Timmons is sure of this, he says, because he was the one who introduced Tkach to Pappageorge. From then on, says Timmons, Tkach would often spend time socially with Pappageorge and Moran. Why? According to Timmons, "Joe just liked them. He'd go out to restaurants with them and he liked their company."
The extent of Tkach's dealings with the Pappageorge-Moran gang is speculative. But the statement by WCG attorney Stanley Rader that Tkach once engaged in "illegal fencing activities" raises a number of questions. During the early seventies, the WCG started a local discount store for its members in the Southern California area. Called the Crown City Commissary, the Pasadena store was a pet project of Pastor Al Carrozzo who saw it as a way for the WCG to give something back to its members. But when Carrozzo left the WCG in late 1973, Tkach moved into the vacuum caused by Carrozzo's departure.
Some now wonder if Tkach was fencing through the Commissary. They recall how the Commissary often had on sale, for very low prices, huge lots of some items (sporting goods, for instance) for which there was very little demand among church members. Some also remember how the Commissary was abruptly shut down in mid-1974 amid rumors that "hot stuff" was being sold there. Former WCG minister Howard Clark remembers how in early 1974 Timmons (who had been a contractor for the remodeling of the Commissary building) told him he was providing Tkach's Commissary with "merchandise." Timmons denies he did anything illegal in those days, but he does not make the same denial for Pappageorge and Tkach.
The wild stories about Tkach that WCG evangelist Gerald Waterhouse tells in sermons are apparently believed by most WCG members. There is one story Waterhouse has told around the world, however, that has raised a lot of eyebrows. According to Waterhouse, during the 1979 WCG crisis when the State of California investigated the WCG and installed Judge Steven Wiseman as a receiver over its operations, Tkach was supposedly in contact with two prominent residents of Joliet Prison who offered him the services of hit men.
Although Waterhouse is probably wrong about a detail or two (like the name of the prison), the story may actually be true. At least one man, Earl Timmons, believes Waterhouse. Timmons told me that in 1979, when the State of California versus Worldwide suit was in progress, he was informed by a deputy attorney general that Tkach was using his influence to assist in the release of Kenneth Moran from Folsom Prison and George Pappageorge from San Quentin. Affidavits in the Los Angeles archives reveal that for some time Timmons was convinced Pappageorge had taken a contract out on his life. Finding out in 1979 that Tkach wanted Pappageorge and Moran released only exacerbated those fears. For in 1979, as a relator in the state's action against Worldwide, and as one who knew much about Tkach's past, Timmons feared Tkach would gain much if Pappageorge was successful in getting revenge. Timmons quickly sold his Pasadena home and immediately moved out of the Southern California area. He has made himself very difficult to find ever since.
Having been informed by California authorities since then that both Pappageorge and Moran have been released from prison, Timmons remains frantically concerned about his personal safety. I wonder, however, if by becoming so fearful, Timmons has not reacted exactly the way Tkach had hoped. After all, by Timmons being in hiding for over a decade, much important information about Tkach, that should have come out in 1979, has remained unpublished until now. It could well be that Tkach is actually much more clever than many believe.
Tkach has achieved financial success, power, and influence. His life, however, is not without ongoing personal tragedy. During the mid-sixties Tkach's wife, Elaine, suffered a devastating mental breakdown from which she never fully recovered. Eyewitnesses have told me how for many years she seemed to be in a "trance-like state," behaving "like a zombie," and "not in reality." Some who have known her well say that at times she complained of "atomic bombs going off in her head." Some talk of how she has roamed around Ambassador's Pasadena campus in only a robe and slippers. Others have told stories of incredibly destructive rampages in the Tkach residence that led to her being forcibly confined to her room for months at a time and never left unattended. (Those who recall the insane Bertha Rochester in Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre will have a good idea of what Mrs. Tkach's condition and confinement were like.)
One individual, close to the Tkach family, has written me that since HWA's death Elaine's condition has improved. And a number of people have reported how she is now able to go shopping on her own. (Any appearance of improvement may be due to the powerful drug Haldol, which is used to treat schizophrenic psychosis. Tkach made a positive reference to the drug in his Oct. 14 satellite broadcast to the WCG.) However, when I recently saw Mrs. Tkach wandering about in Pasadena, she still seemed to me to be very disturbed.
Mental illness is always a tragedy for any family. But that is doubly so for families in the fundamentalist WCG. Until recently, the WCG's ministry taught that all illness was the fruit of sin and medical science was a Devil-inspired substitute for God's forgiveness. In 1987 the WCG reversed its position on those two doctrines. However, most WCG members still seem to believe that mental illness is always the same thing as demon possession. And according to some who've known the Tkach family, Tkach is convinced his wife is demon possessed.52 Many other WCG ministers are similarly convinced. Yet neither Tkach nor his subordinates have the ability to cast out the demons in the Apostle's wife.
Mrs. Tkach's problems have caused the WCG ministry no end of embarrassment. Members ask: How can Mr. Tkach live with demons and not be affected? And why would "God's Apostle" tolerate the presence of demons in his wife? To counter such questions, Herman L. Hoeh, the WCG's leading propagandist and authority on demons, has put forward what must be the ultimate in WCG theological oxymorons: the doctrine that one can be filled with the Holy Spirit and be demon possessed at the same time. The folks at WCG headquarters apparently thought Hoeh's ideas on demons so important, a tape of Hoeh's sermon on the subject was required listening for WCG congregations in August of this year. Notice the following excerpt:
So in this life, we resist the devil. We resist demons. And if you don't resist demons it's possible for a converted mind to become temporarily demon possessed. And that demon, or demons, have to be cast out.... Yes, it is possible for a person to have the Holy Spirit. The demon does not displace the Spirit of God. The demon displaces the human will. The Spirit of God does not determine your will. You do! The Spirit of God is simply that spirit force that you, your will, your mind, can call on in addition to your own. A demon does not link up with your mind like the Spirit of God does. It displaces your will from your bodily functions and your mental functions.53
WCG members should ask Herman Hoeh how the above teaching squares with II Tim. 1:7, a rather uncomplicated Bible verse that used to be quoted quite often in WCG sermons. In the King James version it reads: "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
Why Did She Snap?
Among those who've personally known the Tkach family, Elaine's affliction has been attributed to a number of supposed causes. One WCG member, a long-time friend of the Tkach family (and one who views Tkach as a dedicated servant of God), wrote me:
I have never known a woman more outgoing and filled with Christian love and God's Spirit than Elaine. In her quest for the truth, she gained a knowledge of the Scriptures that surpassed that of many of the ministers. And what she learned, she put into practice. Besides serving her husband and children, she helped many families in the Church. During the Feast days she would serve another dozen or so who stayed at their house. The Evangelist in the area [Dean Blackwell] would take her along visiting, as would her husband. Her entire life for about a ten-year period was dedicated fully to the service of God and His people.
After they moved to Pasadena in 1966, it did not take Elaine long to discover the true character of the Armstrongs. In less than two years, she started staying away from services due to headaches. Then she started to proclaim that both Armstrongs were "inhumane." After that she became overly quiet and withdrawn. She is the first Church member I know to have come to the discovery that the Armstrongs were not what they claimed to be. This knowledge was too much for a woman so filled with Christian love and dedication and good works. Part of her died. She is no longer the same person. Her human spirit was crushed. Part of her brain was damaged by this intense emotional realization and disappointment. Another precious life ruined by the lies and hypocrisies of the Armstrongs.
A few, who have personal knowledge of the situation, have speculated that Elaine's condition was exacerbated by Joe's domineering insensitivity and by the intermeddling of church official Roderick C. Meredith in Tkach family matters during the mid-'60s. However, almost all the WCG oldtimers I talked to were convinced that there was a connection between Elaine's condition and a sexual relationship she allegedly had with evangelist Dean Blackwell, her husband's superior in Chicago during the early '60s.
The Tkach administration now wants the Blackwell affair downplayed as having been merely verbal overtures by Blackwell. With only one exception, however, all the WCG oldtimers I talked to said their understanding was that the Blackwell affair was out and out adultery - at the very least. And, significantly, that widespread perception in WCG circles arose as a result of statements made to numerous individuals by Joe Tkach, himself. When I suggested to former WCG pastor Al Carrozzo that Blackwell's romantic relationship with Elaine Tkach was now being portrayed as only verbal, he replied, "That's not the way Joe talked about it years ago. He believed Dean Blackwell had gone to bed with his wife."
Carrozzo is known for his frankness. He is a man that does not mince words. His understanding of the Blackwell affair with Elaine Tkach, however, is very mild compared to what some others have said. For instance, at least one WCG evangelist has described the Blackwell-Elaine trysts as "wife swapping." When I first became aware of this accusation I assumed the evangelist was confusing Dean Blackwell with Blackwell's brother, Lowell, who was put out of the WCG ministry years ago because of alleged wife swapping. That sordid business was actually detailed in a turgid open letter written to the entire WCG ministry by church administrator Roderick C. Meredith in the early '70s. But a similar accusation against Tkach has now come from other sources, as well.
In March, I was contacted by Indiana businessman Robert Skaggs, who had been a WCG member in the Midwest during the early '60s. He had then been involved with the WCG's visiting program and had been very close to both Tkach and Blackwell. Skaggs claims that when he knew him, Tkach was not genuinely interested in religious truth, but was possessed by a lust for power. Skaggs told me that in his quest for power Tkach stooped so low as to allow evangelist Blackwell, then his superior, to sleep with Elaine, his wife. In return for this favor, says Skaggs, Blackwell had Tkach ordained into the WCG ministry.
When I was told this I pointedly asked Mr. Skaggs, "Are you saying that Joe Tkach was ordained in return for participating in some kind of wife-sharing arrangement?" His answer: "Absolutely!" Skaggs went on to state that Blackwell had at least one other man ordained for the same reason.
As shocking as they are, Mr. Skaggs' accusations regarding Blackwell are in step with Blackwell's reputation among many former colleagues. Former church administrator Gary Arvidson told me, "Yes, Dean Blackwell had something of a reputation. Without going into details, let's just say he was known as someone who really knew how to bring relief to the widows." Another former WCG minister recalled how Blackwell repeatedly had to be brought into headquarters for periods of moral rehabilitation. Some such periods culminated in pulpit pronouncements by Blackwell (somewhat akin to those of Jimmy Swaggart) that he had finally repented and learned his lesson.
Another former WCG minister who commented to me about Blackwell's reputation is David Robinson. He recalled how, in the fall of 1971, WCG minister Don Wineinger confessed how he had obtained a quick promotion to the rank of preaching elder. Wineinger said he became aware of Blackwell's double lifestyle and threatened Blackwell with exposure if he wasn't raised up a notch in rank. Within days, Blackwell had Wineinger ordained a preaching elder. I would have liked to have verified this information with Wineinger. Unfortunately, Wineinger committed suicide in 1978 after murdering his wife at a Spokane, Washington divorce lawyer's office. As for Blackwell, my letters to him, asking for an interview, were never answered.
The Women in Tkach's Life
In 1966 Tkach, along with his family, was brought to Pasadena for what was to have been only one year of study at Ambassador College. While in Pasadena, however, his wife's mental condition continued to deteriorate to where she proved an embarrassment to the image-conscious leaders of the WCG. Because of her often bizarre conduct, Tkach's superiors felt he could not be sent back to "the field." And so Tkach became stranded in Pasadena, working only as a local elder, doing nothing but giving sermonettes and visiting members.
Because of his wife's condition, friends say, Tkach was deprived of a normal marital love life. For female companionship he was forced to look elsewhere. He didn't have to look far, however. The WCG has always had its share of ministers' groupies - lonely females romantically attracted to authoritative "men of the Word." And so it was with Tkach. Even in his first year in Pasadena, one passionate young woman followed him from Chicago to enroll at Ambassador College just to be close to him. So inflamed were the young woman's passions, Herbert W. Armstrong became convinced she was demon possessed. One minister recounted to me how Armstrong attempted to cast out the woman's Tkach-love demon, but, alas, no amount of spiritual coercion from HWA could do the job. In the end, the young woman was expelled from the college and sent back to Chicago.
The college girl was by no means the last female to be aroused by Tkach's charms. One former church employee of the early '70s wrote me:
My recollections of Joe when I knew him are not favorable to him. I was concerned for his heart because he drank so much coffee every morning, sitting in our CAD [Church Administration Dept.] office talking to Mr. Cole's secretary. One morning I came to work an hour early and discovered Mr. Tkach had left a gigantic bottle of champagne on [Miss X]'s desk. Being a naive individual, I couldn't put it together. [Minister] Fred Coulter later remarked to me: "Didn't you know Mr. Tkach is having an affair with Mr. Cole's secretary?" Then it all made sense. Mr. Tkach had an invalid wife and was very friendly with women, too friendly. I hope he has repented of his problem. According to Mr. Cole, you can never accuse someone of adultery unless you were in bed with them.54 But in this case, there was an appearance of evil, even if they didn't go all the way. I can just imagine how my wife would feel if I gave my secretary a big bottle of champagne!
I was able to locate Miss X; I wrote her and left messages on her phone answering machine. To my requests for an interview I never received an answer. A friend of hers said that although Miss X, in the past, admitted she tried to get Tkach in bed, Miss X claimed Tkach was "too self-righteous to do anything." Earl Timmons says, however, that Tkach's affair with Miss X was "hot and heavy." Timmons told me, "I used to let them use my house in the afternoons so they could be alone together."
Others have talked about Tkach frequenting Pasadena coffee shops and flirting with waitresses. One former church employee wrote me of how Tkach was frequently overly helpful to "church widows." In the last few years I have been told repeatedly of Tkach's relationships with a number of church secretaries. I wrote to three of them asking for an interview and, as usual, received no reply.
One of those women deserves special mention. "Mrs." Ellen Escat, a divorcee, is regularly quoted and shown in church publications.55 When quoted, she is often describing Tkach's sermons in glowing terms. When shown or reported on, it is usually in regard to her accompanying Tkach to some important function. Described by one WCG insider as "a domineering woman prone to temper tantrums," Mrs. Escat is Tkach's top female assistant and, as such, has considerable influence in the WCG power structure.
Exactly how long Mrs. Escat has worked at WCG headquarters is not clear. But she first came to the attention of many headquarters church employees in early 1979 when, according to eyewitnesses, she and Joe Tkach were seen on numerous occasions holding hands in public and appearing romantic toward one another. When I mentioned these reports to one of Tkach's close friends, he tried to explain away such conduct as being due to Tkach having an affectionate nature. "But that's all it is," he said. We are to believe that Tkach, whose marriage is now in name only, has been leading the life of a "eunuch for the Kingdom" (Matt. 19:12).
Regarding Mrs. Escat, the question naturally arises: Where is Mr. Escat? A story told among top headquarters personnel is that in 1980, when Mr. Escat discovered the relationship his wife was having with Tkach, he angrily confronted Tkach and other top WCG leaders about the matter. In return for his pledge of silence, so the story goes, he was granted some type of beneficial arrangement.
As Mrs. Escat never responded to any of my letters, I decided to contact Mr. Escat. Although he was not listed in any phone directory, through a bit of detective work, I discovered Eugene Baptiste Escat Jr. was a retired businessman living alone on Pasadena's wealthy southwest side. I drove over to his home, noticed a for sale sign out front, and found Eugene working in his garage. He was a trim and well-dressed gentleman who appeared to be in his mid-fifties.
Eugene gave me a cordial greeting. But when I explained that I was with Ambassador Report, he became visibly nervous. Hoping to gain his cooperation, I gave him a few back issues of our publication. I then noticed a curious thing. In a nervous reaction, he rolled up the issues, as one would large building plans, and held them at chest height with both hands. As I talked about Tkach, his face contorted into a deep frown and his trembling hands began to squeeze and twist the rolled-up issues almost as though he was strangling the neck of a chicken.
Eugene then blurted out, "I've met Tkach. He's weak! Very weak! I can't believe he's in charge over there." He went on to say how he had also met with and had had business dealings with church attorney Stanley Rader. But when I pursued the matter, Eugene checked himself and said, "I better not say any more." He then hastily retreated into his home and bolted the door.
It's too bad we couldn't have talked further because I would have liked to have asked how it was that he achieved such a favorable divorce settlement with his ex-wife. In looking over the 1981 Escat divorce papers at the Pasadena court building, I noticed that even though the Escats were married for 12 years and even though California is a community property state with "no fault" divorce, Ellen came out of the marriage with little more than her personal belongings. Eugene, on the other hand, did very well indeed. He got their entire house (which he recently sold for $425,000), and he was not required to pay one penny of alimony.
Perhaps that's just as well. As one of the WCG's most important personnel, Ellen receives a generous salary from the WCG. And in 1987 Tkach had Ellen moved into a luxury condo almost directly across the street from his own church residence. Explained Tkach to one volunteer mover, "I want Ellen to be close to her work."
There are many church employees who condone Tkach's personal lifestyle because of his wife's affliction. Some even see a certain righteousness in the fact that, although most top WCG ministers feel it would be okay, Tkach has refused to divorce his wife and remarry. Some who know Tkach, however, are not convinced that his refusal to do so has been motivated by principle. One woman pointed out to me that by refusing to divorce his wife, Tkach has avoided alienating his three children.
Another woman, a former top secretary at church headquarters, told me, "Unfortunately, there are a lot of unfaithful husbands around who stay married just because it's part of their lecherous game plan. They will entice women with sad stories of how their marriages are on the rocks. But once they've had enough of the new woman, they'll say they want to be faithful to their wife again." The former church secretary told me how some years ago, when Tkach had been installed in a bigger office, he told her privately how the new office had a hidden bar. He then flirtatiously asked her if she'd like to see it and have a few drinks with him. She explained to me, "I told him absolutely not. I was married and he was married. But that didn't seem to make much difference to Joe."
It wouldn't have made any difference to most WCG employees, either. After all, virtually all top headquarters personnel privately acknowledge that church founder Herbert W. Armstrong had a ten-year ongoing sexual relationship with his youngest daughter.56 Yet that didn't stop the WCG from revering Armstrong as "God's Apostle." In today's more liberal WCG, any revelations about the real Joseph W. Tkach will probably cause no impact whatsoever. The WCG's members are, after all, true believers.
[Part IV of this article will appear in the next issue of Ambassador Report.]
44. Some of Tkach's more strident critics point out how, during Jesus' earthly ministry, Judas was given an identical responsibility (Jn. 12:4-5, 13:29).
45. I attempted to get this claim verified by prison officials in Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana. They could find no record of Apostolos. Similarly, my private investigator in Chicago could find no mention of him in any Illinois criminal records. Nevertheless, two former WCG members who knew both Apostolos and Tkach in the early sixties say Apostolos was convicted of armed robbery and served a prison sentence in Indiana.
46. He wore a black shirt with white tie, kept his ugly bodyguard close by, and used the kind of self-evident lies and rough talk one would expect from a hood. Within a few weeks he was assassinated - quite probably by brighter Mafia associates who realized that flaunting one's underworld connections only brings greater scrutiny from law enforcement and the press.
47. Correction: In our last issue I wrote that Earl Timmons had been convicted of drug dealing and felon firearm possession. Since September I have discovered that that statement is not quite accurate. Earl Timmons was actually convicted of burglary in 1954. Affidavits in the criminal records archives of Los Angeles also contain allegations by former associates of Pappageorge that in the seventies Timmons illegally purchased and carried a handgun, used various aliases, and attempted to bribe friends into committing perjury. It should be noted, however, that those allegations all come from friends of Pappageorge, a man Timmons helped put in prison. Other than his 1954 burglary conviction, for which he received a five-year suspended sentence, it appears that Timmons has not been convicted of any felony.
It has been pointed out to me that the Earl Timmons convicted of drug dealing in Pasadena is properly James Earl Timmons. Although the Earl Timmons of WCG fame rarely uses his full name, it is properly Alvin Earl Timmons. The two Earl Timmonses should therefore be distinguished. Friends say Alvin Earl has been a respectable businessman for years and now avoids all contact with criminals. I hope that my error has not caused embarrassment to either Alvin Earl, or James Earl, Timmons.
48. Like "Apostolos," "Pappageorge" is a Greek name.
49. The court records are found in People v. Moran, et. al., files A309048 and HC204116 in the archives of Los Angeles County Superior Court.
50. One facet of the case that deserves brief mention is how many of those involved had colorful nicknames. Pappageorge was "Pappy." Three of Timmons' friends were "Tricky Ricky," "Bob the Bikeman," and "Val the Pullman." Timmons, himself, was called "Earl the Plumber" - on the surface an innocent enough designation considering he really was a plumber. Yet, some will recall how during the early seventies when Watergate was continuously in the news, "plumber" for a time took on a special connotation.
51. In one affidavit it is stated that in 1973 Hayward chose as a hold-up victim Walter Pudinski, then the Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol.
52. Tkach's belief that his wife is demon possessed may explain evangelist Waterhouse's comments about Tkach talking to demons and Tkach's own pulpit comments about taking phone calls from demons. ("After all, you never know when God will call.")
53. Thinking people will undoubtedly wonder why the church hierarchy feels compelled to resort to such demonic illogic to explain Mrs. Tkach's affliction. Most experts in the medical field view schizophrenia as essentially a biochemical imbalance of the brain (see N. C. Anderson, The Broken Brain, Harper and Row, 1985). And many types of schizophrenia are treatable with drugs. Some physicians even claim that some afflicted with the disease show marked improvement with megavitamin treatment. In other words, if Tkach simply accepted medical science's understanding of schizophrenia, his wife would be characterized as just ill - not demon possessed.
Openly adopting a scientific view on the matter, however, could cause problems for both Joe Senior and Joe Junior, the church's number two man. Most medical experts view schizophrenia as having a genetic connection. (See "Study Ties Schizophrenia to Genetic Flaw" in the Los Angeles Times, Nov. 10, 1989, p. 44.) In other words, a tendency toward schizophrenia is seen as transferable from parent to child. Should such information become well-known among the WCG's ministry and membership, many would begin to view much of Joe Jr.'s frequently questionable behavior in a new light. Further, many would begin to see Joe Sr.'s designation of Joe Jr. as his successor-to-be as truly the worst possible choice. It takes but little imagination to foresee the bizarre and tragic consequences that could ensue should the myrmidon character of the WCG's membership be left at the whim of a schizophrenic Pastor General.
54. If this indeed was Cole's view, he was wrong. In the centuries preceeding "no fault" divorce, thousands of divorces were granted in common-law jurisdictions around the world on grounds of adultery. In only a very small percentage of those cases were the offending mates ever actually caught in bed with their "corespondents."
Raymond Cole - whose speaking style has always reminded me of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's - is now the head of the Church of God Eternal (P.O. Box 775, Eugene, OR 97401), a church whose members take pride in having retained most of HWA's original teachings. I personally phoned Mr. Cole hoping to pry something out of him about Tkach, but it was quickly obvious I could not. I then very facetiously said how nice it was that Mr. Tkach had remained faithful to his ailing wife all these years. After a slight pause, Cole retorted (again in a tone reminiscent of MacArthur's), "I think you need to go back and do more research!"
55. In church publications Ellen Escat is often referred to as Mrs. Escat. See, for instance, The Worldwide News, Aug. 14, 1989, p. 1, column 5. The fact that Mrs. Escat is a divorced woman has, to my knowledge, never been revealed to the membership, as a whole.
56. See the April 1984 issue of Ambassador Report and Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web by David Robinson (John Hadden Publishers, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1980).
WCG Income Hits $201 Million -
But Audit Raises Serious Questions
Throughout the fifties and sixties the WCG's membership shot up rapidly, while its income grew at roughly 25% per year. But since the media disclosures in the 1970s of financial mismanagement and sexual immorality committed by the WCG's top leaders, the church's income and membership growth have slowed considerably. The church's worldwide audited financial report for 1988, compiled by the prestigious accounting firm of Arthur Andersen & Co., reveals that church membership reached 92,000 baptized members at the end of 1988, which represents an annual increase of 4.1% per year over the last 5 years. (See The Worldwide News issues of Aug. 28, 1989, p. 8, and June 4, 1984, pp. 5-7.)
The recent Arthur Andersen audit reports that the church and its affiliated organizations garnered $201.3 million in support and revenue in 1988, up 4.6% over the 1987 figure, which means church income just about kept up with inflation. But church income had been growing at 8.8% compounded annually since 1983, so the 4.6% increase for 1988 may be indicative of a slowing trend in the church's income. Another barometer of a slowdown in church growth may be the fact that postage and shipping for church publications rose only 3.3%, indicating that requests for church publications are relatively flat. And remember, it's church literature that converts people into tithe-paying members.
Expenses for 1988 shot up to $199.8 million, up 10.9% over the previous year. The biggest contributory factor to this rise in expenses was due to a 12.3% increase in salaries, up from $65.9 million to $74 million. Professional and performing artists' fees for the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation were up a whopping 36% to $4.6 million, while travel expenses were up 14.7% to $6.6 million. Meanwhile, needy members received assistance of only $7.4 million, up a measly 4.9% over the 1987 figure.
But even though Arthur Andersen gives the church a clean bill of health by stating that the audited financial statements present fairly the combined financial position of the church and its affiliated organizations, this pronouncement should absolutely not be taken to mean that the church is spending its money in the manner expected by most of its unsophisticated members.
Let's take, for instance, the issue of how third tithe is spent. Members have been led to believe by numerous sermons and church publications that third tithe goes only to needy members. Yet our investigations over the years have shown that much of it has been diverted to the apostle's travel expenses, jet fuel, decorations for ministerial homes, and ministerial salaries. The financial statements show that $7.4 million was spent to assist needy members in 1988, but strangely the figure showing how much money was donated for third tithe is missing.
We decided to estimate how much third tithe was collected by the church in 1988. To figure out what percentage of the $187 million of contributions received in 1988 came from third tithe, we reasonably assumed a member would typically donate 14% of his income to the church for first tithe and offerings. Assuming a member would have an income of $10,000 a year, this would come to $1,400 per year. Next, we conservatively estimated he would give 15% of his second tithe, or $150 per year. And finally, since third tithe is given only 2 years out of every seven, he would give $1,000 two years out of every seven years or an average of $285.71 a year (2.85% of his income per year) for third tithe. If we take $285.71 given for third tithe and divide it by the total hypothetical yearly contribution of $1,835.71 ($1,400 + $150 + $285.71), we see that about 15.56% of a member's donations should be for third tithe. If we further reasonably assume that only 75% of the church's contribution revenue of $187 million in 1988 came from members, we can deduce that the church took in at least $22 million in third tithe.
But the church paid out only $7.5 million in assistance to needy members in 1988 - not $22 million! Where did the rest of the money go? Did it go for the travel expenses of the top leaders? For partying with the rich and famous? For expensive furnishings in ministers' homes? We frankly don't know.
While the church was skimping on supporting its needy (thereby putting a greater burden on the relatives of members and on government services), it managed to purchase property and equipment of $17.6 million in 1988 and $17 million in 1987. Interestingly, another $725,000 was given to "certain" former employees on a "discretionary basis" in 1988. Why only "certain" former employees? Is hush money involved? Why aren't all employees given retirement, assuming some of this money is for retirement? Is former church attorney Stanley Rader being paid some of this money? These questions, unfortunately, are not addressed by Arthur Andersen's audited financial statements.
It is time that all WCG members ask their ministers these kinds of questions and demand some answers. And if answers aren't forthcoming, perhaps it is time all church members ask themselves: Am I being a faithful steward over what God has given me when I send my tithes and offerings to such an organization?
Members Detail Doctrinal Changes
Since our last issue, a number of current WCG members and some friends of members have written us stating that the WCG's evolution is proceeding at a much faster pace than even we had reported. Here are a few excerpts from those letters.
Thank you for the September AR. The material on JWT was most interesting. I'd like to comment on a couple of the things you brought up in that issue. First, the changing doctrines. You pointed out several that I had missed. I had noticed the renewed emphasis on Jesus Christ. This is also evidenced in the change in meaning of the Passover bread from symbolic of the sacrifice for physical sin to the symbolic taking into our lives of Jesus, the bread of life. Going along with this there has also been a greater emphasis on the need to be in union with Jesus, having Him live His life in us, although, as I pointed out before, it is unlikely that they will carry this concept to the ultimate (that God rules individuals through His Spirit). This would not be healthy for their concept of church government and power over the people, which I predict will not be changed. A very important change that you did not mention is clarification of the role of works in the Christian life. For years some ministers had said that although one receives eternal life by grace apart from works, one has to qualify for it by good works. An article under the authorship of JWT in the Worldwide News pointed out that this was so much doubletalk, and that qualification for eternal life is by faith. Works come in to determine the reward, or the position in the kingdom. This matter of qualification did not come from HWA, but HWA did contribute to the confusion by saying that works do not determine one's salvation, yet on other occasions he implied that they did. This kind of dichotomy is found in his book Mystery of the Ages. That book as well as all other HWA publications have been withdrawn from circulation for extensive rewriting to bring them into line with current doctrinal changes.
I found the letter about the Hebrew Calendar interesting, although I disagree with its writer that the arbitrary determination by Jewish authorities of some of its starting points and Feasts was unknown to the congregation. Many sermons were devoted to this subject, especially by Herman Hoeh. In addition, he pointed out that the order of the years with the intercalary months within the 19 year cycle was changed by the Jewish authorities in the 300s AD to bring the calendar back in line with the seasons. It is no secret that the calendar is not exact and has to be manipulated from time to time. In my opinion going by the Jewish version of the Hebrew calendar makes sense as it does avoid confusion. Some of the holy-day-observing churches do make these determinations for themselves, resulting in differences of a day or two from one to another congregation.
One more comment. In the WCG there have been several antipsychology sermons, one by Joe Jr. Where they are going with this remains to be seen.
I am quite disappointed at the performance of the new "apostle"! I was naive enough to think that he would finally put the church "back on track." Now I wonder if there is a track. If there is, I don't think he can find it.
The enclosed article is about a local church building. Have you heard about the WCG wanting to build local church buildings? Is this a "Tkachism"?
Editor: Here is the article referred to above. It appeared in The Winnipeg Sun, August 31, 1989, on p. 14.
Church Alters Plans
by Donna Carreiro
Love thy neighbor means a lot to [WCG minister] Ben Hofer, which is why he's not going to build a church on his property after neighbors objected. "Mr. Hofer didn't want his neighbors for enemies," Robert Vandenberghe, who opposed the church, said yesterday.
Vandenberghe told the Sun this week he was angry Hofer planned to build a Worldwide Church of God - with a 170-car parking lot - at St. Anne's Road and Forbes Road. "It would have attracted too much traffic to our area," Vandenberghe said. Although city councillors said there was nothing they could do to him, Hofer gave in to neighborhood pressure.
But Vandenberghe is not accepting his victory with grace. "Mr. Hofer should have consulted us to begin with," Vandenberghe said. "It was only through my fighting it all the way up the hill that he succumbed. I feel I worked for it."
City Coun. Al Golden disagreed. "It was very magnimonious [sic] of Mr. Hofer to change his plans like that," Golden said.
Have you heard about the $100,000 donations Mr. Tkach gave - $100,000 to the victims of Hurricane Hugo and $100,000 to the victims of the recent earthquake in northern California?
According to my mother, who still attends WCG, this announcement was made at the Feast of Tabernacles that she attended. Many folks were shocked and did not agree with the giving of the donations because of the "be apart from the world" doctrine. "Mr. Herbert Armstrong would never have done that," some said. Other folks thought the donations were a good idea: "Letting our light shine."
Another doctrine being allowed to simply peter out is the prohibition against interracial marriage. Long overdue, I'd say. Incidentally, they have to get rid of that old doctrine if they ever want to get Ambassador accredited. My WCG friend is directly involved in the issue, being of mixed race. He mentioned that they apparently allow mixed dating now. He, himself, dated a half Caucasian, half Japanese girl at the college two weeks ago with no flack. That's good, but I can see a lot of racially minded people leaving the church over that one, can't you?
Also, according to...the WCG isn't the only holder of "the Truth" anymore. In fact, "other churches may have truths that haven't been revealed to us yet" is a direct quote of... (as staunch a member as they come). I never heard that when I was in college. I think people still inside the WCG aren't realizing the massive ideological changes the church is undergoing. The deletion of the church eras doctrine in itself would have made old Herbie pop a few veins, don't you think? But if people would notice this, maybe they'd notice it's all a big petty game being played by whoever's in charge and looked to as "the Apostle."
-Recent AC Grad
A lot of members complain that all the doctrinal changes in WCG are making the church just like CGI [Garner Ted Armstrong's group in Tyler, Texas]. But really there is more going on here. You failed to notice how many of the changes have put the church in line with the teachings of Ernest Martin. And I have heard that Mr. Tkach used to study Martin's old Foundation writings, even though we were all taught it was a sin to do so.
Last sabbath our minister (Rod Dean, Elkhart, Ind.) told us to purge our literature from the church. We are to throw away any old articles and booklets. He said we should just read current literature! Interesting. We are to forget the past. I wonder if this will eventually include HWA.
Ernest Martin, ASK, and the
Of the more than 250 ministers who have left the WCG in the last two decades, none has had a greater impact on the WCG, itself, than Dr. Ernest L. Martin. Once the head of the Theology Department at Ambassador College and formerly the President of the Foundation for Biblical Research in Pasadena, California, Martin is now Director of the Academy for Scriptural Knowledge (ASK). Some months ago Martin moved the headquarters of his organization out of Southern California. The new address for Martin and ASK is: P.O. Box 25000, Portland, Oregon 97225-5000.
One of our readers, Bob Ellsworth, has brought to our attention the fact that Martin has rewritten his booklet The Tithing Fallacy and has produced a thought-provoking new study titled The Tithing Dilemma. We've seen a copy, and agree with Bob that The Tithing Dilemma completely debunks the WCG's triple tithe doctrine. Martin makes the assertion that "It is a sin for anyone today to pay a biblical tithe to any preacher, church or denomination and it is equally a sin for any ecclesiastical leader to receive tithes from any person." Many WCG members and friends of members will, undoubtedly, benefit from reading The Tithing Dilemma. We understand copies of the 52-page booklet are available (for a suggested donation of $5.00) by writing to ASK at their new Portland address.
Ministries That Can Help
The ministries listed below offer current or prospective WCG members special help in the form of literature (or cassette tapes) on religious topics relating to WCG teachings and/or have personnel familiar with the WCG. Appearance on the list should not imply that such organizations agree with everything AR publishes or that we agree with all of their teachings. Over the years, however, AR has received favorable comments about all of the following ministries:
Christian Research Institute, P.O. Box 500, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693. This organization publishes Christian Research Journal, a magazine founded by Dr. Walter Martin, who, we are sad to report, recently passed away.
Christian Research Institute - Canada. 114-13th Ave N.W., Calgary, Alberta T2M OE2, Canada.
Apologetic Research Coalition, Box 168, Trenton, MI 48183.
Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association, P. O. Box 124, Riverside, CA 92502.
Robert E. Erickson Ministries, P.O. Box 1830, Indio, CA 92201.
Association for Christian Development (Kenneth Westby, Director), 4449 South Star Lake Road, Auburn, WA 98001 (new address).
Great Joy Publications, 12 Ballynahinch Road, Carryduff, Belfast BT8 8DN, Northern Ireland.
Steven M. Collins (author and publisher), 3901 Crescent Drive, Sioux Falls, SD 57106 (new address).
Focus on Truth (Richard A. Wiedenheft, Editor), P. Box 45, Lake Winola, PA 18625.
Sentinel Publications and The Southern Sentinel (Christopher J. Patton, Editor), P.O. Box 6241, Lakeland, FL 33807.
MacGregor Ministries, Box 73, Balfour, B.C. VOG 1CO, Canada.
World Insight magazine (Kenneth Storey, Editor), P.O. Box 35, Pasadena, CA 91102.
Concordant Publishing Concern (Jim Coram, Office Manager), 15570 W. Knochaven Dr., Canyon Country, CA 91351.
Reunion News (R. M. Kachere, Editor), 190, Tythe Barn Lane, Whitlocks End, Shirley, Solihull, West Midlands B90 1PF, England.
Watchman Fellowship (Phillip Arnn, Director of Reserch), P.O. Box 13251, Arlington, TX 76013. Their Watchman Expositor (Vol. 5, No. 5 for 1988) had a revealing interview with Garner Ted Armstrong, who had much to say about his father, HWA.
Kenneth Fischer, 1930-1989
We are very saddened to report that Kenneth Fischer, the President of the Foundation for Biblical Research (FBR) has passed away. A student at Ambassador College, Pasadena, during the late fifties, Ken worked for the Worldwide Church of God until 1974, when he joined with the newly formed FBR. Shortly afterward, Ken became the FBR's office manager, and in 1984 the Foundation's President.
Perhaps because of a serious hearing difficulty, Ken was not a charismatic speaker. But during the early eighties his research and writing skills developed to where he was turning out a major study almost every month. During the mid-seventies, when the FBR lost its previous director (Ernest L. Martin who went on to form the Academy for Scriptural Knowledge), the FBR's income dropped to where just keeping the Foundation in existence was an arduous task. Yet, almost single-handedly, Ken was able to put out an issue of the FBR Commentator every month and to personally answer the many letters he received from Bible students around the world.
About two years ago, Ken's health began to go steadily downhill. Then this past spring he was diagnosed as having "pulmonary interstitial fibrosis" - a scarred lung condition apparently caused 35 years ago when he regularly inhaled fiberglass dust while working in a paper factory. During the last few months of his life he was emaciated, bedridden, and weakened to where just reading or speaking a few sentences was exhausting. Yet, his faith in God remained strong. He died Nov. 4, only a few hours after telling his family he knew his time had come.
Ken was buried Nov. 7 at Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena. (His grave is only a short walk from Herbert Armstrong's.) The grave-side service, led by Gary Arvidson, Ken Storey, and Mike Fischer, was attended by family and close friends. Also attending were a few WCG employees and, in a gesture appreciated by the Fischer family, Herman L. Hoeh who brought condolences from the WCG's Pastor General.
Ken leaves behind his wife, Clara, five children, and many friends. All who knew him will remember his enthusiasm for the Bible. But we will all remember also his warm Christian outlook. Mary E. Jones, who worked for the FBR during the early eighties, said, "Ken was a good employer and a kind man. He loved life and he loved people. He had a genuine concern for everyone, no matter what their economic status or their level of faith. He will be missed by all of us."
* * * * *
As for the future of the FBR, its new president, C. Gary Reid, told us, "Ken's death is a real loss for all who've had a part in the FBR. We've now got to ask ourselves - where do we go from here?" Gary Reid says he will be in Pasadena in late December to meet with the rest of the FBR board to determine the FBR's future plans. Friends of the FBR who would like to offer their suggestions may write to Gary Reid (c/o General Delivery, Sandford, Ont. LOC IEO, Canada) or to board members Gary Arvidson, Howard Clark, and Gary Schultz (c/o Foundation for Biblical Research, P.O. Box 928, Pasadena, CA 91102). Those who would like to send condolences to the Fischer family may write to them in care of the FBR address.
My sincere thanks for your latest revelations about the current WCG chieftain, Joe Tkach. The Sept. 1989 AR is really more than that. It is a gripping study of the degeneration of human character and mass deception.
-Axel Hart, Australia
Thanks for the latest AR. I have read it with underlining pen in hand, and enjoyed all your observations. However, there is one problem. I have trouble reconciling a "not too bright" Tkach with the man who has managed to worm his way into the position of influence and power that he now holds. Perhaps Tkach isn't "book smart," but there must be little doubt that he is cagey - a survivor, indeed, an "overcomer" in the most crass sense of the word.
-Brenda Denzler, North Carolina
My husband and I love Ambassador Report! More importantly, we need it. When we were WCG members, we used to throw it out when it was sent to us, I suppose at someone's request. Being typically suspicious, we trashed them - what an incredible waste! How we wish we had those ARs back, but now we've gotten past editions through some ex-Worldwiders in the area.
The WCG has always lacked something and we knew it. Just prior to my baptism, the older minister [a close friend of the Tkachs] who'd counseled me threatened to spank me if I didn't get baptized. Then some months later, during individual marriage counseling, he made a pass at me, claiming to be conducting a "project," which was to be kept confidential. Then he took me in his arms and kissed me on the lips hard. Then he had me picture a lewd scene (a nude woman tied to a tree - the rest is too embarrassing to mention).
He tried to get me to admit to something in regards to sexual behavior which I believe he admitted he himself was guilty of. By the way, he was particularly fascinated by pantyhose and had a few sexual theories regarding it. He was just a filthy old man! But I, at the time, did not think to question his weird behavior, being so "new in the faith."
The WCG almost destroyed our lives. I can't believe we allowed this organization to come in and swallow us up. The funny thing is, we're not alone, just one of many tragic, but now triumphant, cases that seem to follow a very similar format. Even the ministers are a lot alike in how they deal with their congregations.
-Ex-members from Wisconsin
Editor: Over the years we've been alarmed to learn how many top WCG ministers and officials have been unable to resist the temptation to experiment with adultery, homosexuality, incest, and/or other sexual perversions. For those WCG leaders who are unable, or unwilling, to tap the Almighty's help in overcoming their sexual obsessions, there is an organization that they might seek help from: Sexaholics Anonymous. This group has chapters all over the U.S. and Canada. Write to S.A., Box 300, Simi Valley, Calif. 93060 and enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope. All correspondence is strictly confidential.
Incidentally, aside from the spiritual and psychological reasons why the above "minister" should seek help, there is also a very practical reason why he should. Wisconsin is one of four states in the U.S. that makes it a felony for clergymen to sexually seduce or abuse church people who come to them for counselling.
My "ex" is at the Feast this week and showering my kids with gifts and good times while his child support is late and he owes me $500 for taxes which the government took out of my return (I don't think he even files). What a farce! Let me know if I can help anyone who is going through the agony of a mate joining the cult. Unfortunately, my situation ended in divorce mostly over many of the policies which have now been changed. Again, a joke! What a bunch of absent-minded hypocrites. I appreciate your efforts at exposing them and hope those efforts might prevent (or at least console) the crisis families go through because of "God's True Church."
I praise the Lord I found an address to those who have come out of the Worldwide Church of God and know the truth of God.
My reason for writing, my brothers and sisters in the Lord, is we have a cult problem at [Sing Sing,] the prison that I am in. Many of the believers in Christ read Armstrong's The Plain Truth. I ask, do you have any tracks exposing Armstrongism and/or the WCG?.... Anything I could pass around would help. Please help, but pray first. Thank you for your time and cooperation.
-David Maynard #85B2434
354 Hunter Street
Ossining, NY 10562-5442
According to the local minister, Pasadena is sending Mr. Vic Kubik [a WCG minister] to Russia four days after the feast. Pasadena has briefed him on how to talk to the Russians about the World Tomorrow and how to get it aired in Moscow. He is going to say that adults and teens need help with problems such as drugs and alcohol. Apparently it could mean a big jump in church literature going to the Russian people because their broadcasting stations cover large areas.
I have just been made aware of your organization and would like to know how accurate your information is on the WCG. My husband has turned our house upside down in his new "religion" of HWA. Two of our three children are very bitter now on religion since his change. He seems out of control, irrational and brainwashed. This has been going on for three to four years now and two weeks ago he announced God leading him to HWA as a follower. He won't accept the fact it is a cult.
It has been a struggle since I left the WCG, but it has been worth it. I know now I made HWA and "the Church" my god and not God and the Lord. But we all make mistakes. I still write to one former member that you put me in touch with and she is a God-send. We need a lot of support when we leave and I got it from family and friends, but not from any of the supposed "loving" members of the WCG.
I've been very ill for nearly two years. I have a muscle disease, much pain and weakness. I'm hardly able to do what has to be done - cook, clean, etc. But does my pain stop my husband from going to the Feast or anything else they do? No! Now, my blood pressure and pulse are so faint, it's hard to find.
My wife has had Alzheimer's for about seven years and it's developing into the advanced stage, at age 59. We have Catholic friends who are more concerned about her health than two of her sisters who are presently with the WCG. To me this church is like a cult - only interested in what's going on in their own little circle. They must feel loving your neighbor doesn't apply if you aren't in their organization.
I have been a student of the Concordant Publishing Concern for the past eight years (since leaving WCG) and am very happy to be free from the bondage of the dictatorship of that [WCG] organization. But my wife is still a faithful member and unable to study or even talk about the Holy Scriptures with me. I miss having her fellowship in the Scriptures. We were together in the WCG 17 years. I am hoping and praying that sometime she will also see the truth about that so-called church and stop attending. But, I know only God can make it happen and I believe He has a purpose in its existence and that all things are out of Him.
Thank you very much for exposing the monstrous evil covered up by Herbert Armstrong. Keep it up. I have been away from the WCG since 1986 and am just now realizing what it is that I had been a part of for 18 years.
My wife is in Worldwide and is divorcing me (apparently with the sanction of her minister). I was "put out" for questioning the competence of the church ministry in helping people with marital problems. For nine years I struggled to keep my marriage alive. After constantly going to them with my problems and being told to avoid "outside" professional help, I told them finally what I thought of their capabilities.
I'm fighting for my children against a woman who insists on staying on welfare yet refuses to allow me to take care of, or even visit, my own children....
While church members struggle to observe the [Mosaic] laws, stand up to threats to their economic life for obeying God, and struggle to make ends meet, Tkach and his ministers live in luxury and don't even pay tithes. They verbally abuse, berate and tell their flocks not to think. They have made it a sin to use the mind that God gave every one of us.
The last thing I was told before I left was that I had to obey everything, without question, whatever [our minister] spoke from the pulpit which was to be taken along with the Bible as unquestionable truth. And Mr. Armstrong's book Mystery of the Ages was to be as if it was part of the Bible - in spite of its racist and unbiblical ideas on "Israel."
Only late this year have I begun active deprogramming of my mind. I have read The Tangled Web and it has helped. People need the facts to truly evalute someone's alleged "Work."
I am very interested in continuing to receive your report. Having spent 25 years in WCG as a D&R case, I feel they have had a little something to do with my life being wasted. But I still want to hear what goes on with them.
Editor: Previous to the mid-70s, the WCG taught that once a person married (in any church), no divorce was possible in God's eyes. Therefore any marriage after a divorce was considered void. In those days, one who joined Worldwide as a divorced and remarried person (a "D&R case") was required to separate from his or her mate (and children, if necessary) and live celibate. See Al Carrozzo's article "Home Breaking - Armstrong Style" in our 1977 issue. Since the 1970s the WCG has dropped its "D&R doctrine," but, unbelievably, has come up with new family destroying doctrines. More on that in a future issue.
We left the church in 1979, and not like others who were bitter and some we knew who took their own lives, it made us stronger Christians. How simple God's truth is when no one is between you and God.... Our only son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter are still in WCG and have turned away from us. We never hear from them. We have written many times with no response so I don't write anymore. I just pray for them and hope that before it's too late, and we are gone, they will wake up to the truth.
I just wish someone could find a way to open the eyes of those yet in this cult. I have several dear family members and other friends who will starve their families in order to be faithful and good tithe payers.
Editor: Tragically, there really are people who would allow their families to starve rather than disobey their church's dictates. The following Associated Press article appeared in many papers on Sept. 9, 1989:
Pair Convicted in Starvation Death of Son
A jury convicted an unemployed couple of third-degree murder Friday for starving their 14-year-old son during a six-week fast that the family endured while leaving nearly $4,000 for God and waiting for his help.
Larry and Leona Cottam, who are Seventh-day Adventists, held hands and showed no emotion as jury foreman Maria Uitti read the guilty verdicts before the packed Luzerne County [Pennsylvania] courtroom.
Eric Cottam died Jan. 3 after the family had not eaten since Nov. 22. The Cottams' 12-year-old daughter, Laura, recovered from malnourishment and is in foster care.
Besides third-degree murder, which required a jury finding of malice on the part of Cottam, 39, and his wife, 38, the couple were found guilty of reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of children. The Cottams remained free on $50,000 bail each posted by an anonymous benefactor. No sentencing date has been set. The Cottams face a maximum of 28 years in prison.
Thank you for your dedication to making the truth known. It is truth that sets men free and I am sure that many WCG members have you to thank for helping them out of the bondage of false teachings. Keep up the good work.
-Alfred E. Sauer
I was a WCG member for five years, left for a year, recently returned last fall. But, after receiving a copy of the AR and reading the AR of 1977, I've stopped attending. I never believed in the apostleship of HWA and when Mr. Joseph T. was made leader and proclaimed an apostle, this was about all I could take. I left shortly after seeing the members revere and worship the newly appointed "apostle," the church news boasting his every move, and Mr. Waterhouse preaching the Tkach gospel. I thank God for your report and look forward to any more issues or information you can send me.
I was a member of the WCG for years up until this past summer when I finally quit checking my brain at the door and checked out a few things. My daughter still attends Worldwide, but will tell me nothing. I have heard the church is in turmoil and I would like to keep abreast of what goes on.
Thanks again for the Report. As usual it was filled with information and very thought provoking. Time after time I intended to drop you a line and express my appreciation for all your effort and that of your staff, but for some reason never got around to it. Perhaps I didn't because dwelling on the WCG is painful. Having experienced AC at Bricket Wood and later having served in the [WCG] ministry, I am left with a deep appreciation of what might have been. Unfortunately, that ideal is positioned alongside the dismal failure we see today.
Your description of the "thug" mentality used to subjugate the members during Tkach's ascension to power was sickening. Where is the concern, love, if you will, of these pretenders in the ministry? You know many of them personally, just as I do. How can they even mention the word faith in a sermon without waves of remorse coming over them? Apparently there was a lot less there than met the eye when we knew them.
Gerald Waterhouse and his ability to find significance in the acts of those who pay him would be humorous if they were not such an affront to reality. I also am a Naval veteran and they would do well to get their facts straight, especially about the "apostle's" pugilistic encounters with the Marines. If this sounds a little indignant just let me mention that other ministers express the same disgust with seeing the flock pillaged and perverted.
It has come to my attention that considerable effort is being devoted to bring the "lost sheep" back into the fold. There is an old saying in the marketing world that "there's gold in them thar inactive accounts." Herbert W. would have understood that perfectly. They know where the money is! I proved, as did many others, that the root, the foundation, the bedrock, bottom line of the WCG in HWA's later years was money, period! Faith had long ago fled to higher ground.
In the AR you have a potent vehicle to help others - most of us are frustrated but have little leverage to change the situation. I will be looking forward to the next issue. Keep the cutting torch burning.
-Lawson O. Price
Johnson City, New York
From the Editor
My sincerest thanks to all those who have made this issue possible. We usually don't run pages of letters from readers who have been helped by the Report. Nevertheless, our mail clearly shows thousands continue to benefit from our work.
Finally, with the holiday season approaching, I wish to extend to all of the Report's readers my warmest season's greetings and my prayerful hope that all of you will have a prosperous, healthy, and spiritually fulfilling New Year.
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