October 1992 (AR51)
Is Armstrongism Dead?
It used to be called "Armstrongism." Whether it was sermons heard from Worldwide Church of God (WCG) pulpits, articles in the WCG's Plain Truth magazine, telecasts of The World Tomorrow, projects of the Ambassador Foundation, or literature published by Ambassador College, we used to think of it all as one thing: "Armstrongism" - the ideas, personality, and message of Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA). But now, seven years after Armstrong's death, so much of the doctrinal and organizational edifice erected by Armstrong has been transformed by his successor, Joseph W. Tkach, that many are beginning to ask: Hasn't this thing become "Tkachism"?
Audit Shows WCG's New Direction
In July, the WCG released its annual "Worldwide Audited Financial Report" in The Worldwide News (WN, 7/28/92, pp. 5-9). Like the financial reports of any other corporation, the WCG's report naturally attempts to portray its activities in the best possible light. Nevertheless, the report, which covers the years 1990 and 1991, is quite revealing.
First of all, for 1991 the WCG's total revenue was $196,985,000 - down almost seven percent from the $211,243,000 it made in 1990. How much of the drop was due to the ongoing recession and how much was due to the management of the Tkach team is not known. But clearly, the WCG's income is falling.
Second, there are major changes occuring in the way the WCG spends its money. For while overall WCG income declined, the Tkach organization actually spent more for what it calls "nurturing the church" ($71,379,000 - up seven percent from 1990) and for the Ambassador Foundation ($8,566,000 - up 25 percent from 1990). At the same time, however, the WCG spent 25 percent less (only $58,656,000 in 1991 compared to $78,317,000 in 1990) for what it calls "preaching the gospel." Expenditures for electronic media declined by 19 percent and money spent on publishing declined a whopping 36 percent.
A number of the statement's notes are quite revealing. In note 1.A, the WCG states that it has approximately 98,000 baptized members. It would be edifying if we could know how many of that figure are "inactive." Note 1.A also states that "the Church does not publicly appeal for funds, involve itself in politics nor actively seek new members." Semantic arguments aside, it is difficult to see why the WCG feels a need to make such a dishonest claim. Most churches proselytize to one degree or another, and so does the WCG. As for politics, the WCG's top clerics don't just cuddle up to local officials, they unashamedly brown nose all world leaders that make themselves available.
Note 3.B states:
Each third and sixth year in a seven-year cycle, members who are financially able contribute an additional ten percent of their annual income to the Church Assistance Fund. This is commonly referred to as third tithe. Monies contributed to this fund are used to assist the needy in the Church, to cover the costs of administering the Church Assistance Fund, and to pay other expenses of the field ministry, including a portion of ministerial salaries.
A few comments regarding the above note: First, the paying of third tithe only by "members who are financially able" is a new doctrine that has crept into the WCG in the last few years. It's a nice change, but one that does not go far enough. It should have been obvious to church leaders long ago that with government welfare and insurance programs - which church members are encouraged to make use of - there is no justification for a mandatory third tithe in any modern church. Second, nowhere in the Bible can one find that third tithe is a proper way to finance the field ministry. And third, the WCG still refuses to divulge how much money it takes in as third tithe so it remains impossible to calculate from the financial statement how much third tithe has been misappropriated.
Note 6 begins: "The Church, Ambassador College and the Foundation have been named in various lawsuits and actions, some of which involve claims for substantial damages." While the still-delayed McNair case, often reported on in AR, is one of the lawsuits, the other referred-to cases are not identified.
Note 6 admits: "The Church is currently providing assistance to certain former employees of approximately $1,476,000 annually. This discretionary assistance is provided based upon the employee's needs and accordingly, could be discontinued in the future." As recently as in the 1989 statement (WN, 7/16/90, p. 5), the WCG was paying out only about $1,000,000 annually to former employees - about $800,000 of which was "discretionary" and about a half of which one Tkach associate has referred to as "hush money." Who today is receiving the $1,476,000 is not known. But it would appear that the WCG is in the process of retiring many of its old-timers.
Note 7 contains the following: "The Church is undertaking immediate steps to address certain issues raised in a 1989 audit by the Canadian taxing authorities. These issues, if not resolved, could affect the Canadian Church's status as a charitable organization." Exactly what the issues are is not stated in the note.
Finally, while the WCG's published audit does represent a substantial improvement in policy from the days when HWA only gave an oral financial report at the church's fall festival, there is still a significant level of ambiguity in the report. Specifically, nowhere in the report is there an indication of what level of remuneration is received by any of the WCG's executives. Nor is there any indication that the abuses that existed under HWA - of millions being siphoned off yearly via "expenses" - have ever been corrected.
With WCG revenues having declined in 1990 and 1991 and with its U.S. revenues down three percent for 1992 (WN, 6/30/92, p. 3), it is not surprising that the Tkach team has been looking for new ways to market its product. (Incidentally, lest someone think we are being disrespectful in using business terminology - in a letter to Dunn & Bradstreet, the WCG, itself, described what it does as "sales.")
©1992 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
In a May 19 WN editorial (p. 6), Tkach outlined some of the new methods he is instituting:
...we are currently exploring the feasibility of a visiting program in which member couples would be trained to call on Plain Truth subscribers who respond to a letter asking if they'd like a visit from a member couple.... We are also planning to test in some areas a new procedure on the telecast. At the close of the program, the presenters will inform viewers that the sponsor of the program, the Worldwide Church of God, has local congregations in their area, and invite them to write for information about attending.
Long-time WCG members know that such an "open door policy" was not allowed by church founder HWA. Nor did HWA entrust members with the responsibility of personally preaching the gospel or of personally inviting nonmembers to church services. Nevertheless, some insiders say that in those areas where the new procedures have been tested, they have proven very effective. And some insiders feel that by adopting such methods - methods long used by the Jehovah's Witnesses and other cults - the WCG will become more effective than ever before in making "sales."
By encouraging members to become personally more active in WCG operations, the Tkachs, of course, are dipping into a previously untapped church resource. They know that time is money. Note 3.1 of the WCG's latest financial statement says: "The efforts of volunteer workers are not recorded as contributions and expenses, since it is not practical to calculate the monetary value of the benefits received. Such services might constitute a significant factor in the Church's operations."
By getting their followers more personally involved in "spreading the gospel," the Tkachs will be able to further cut back expenditures for print and electronic media. As a result of such cutbacks, they will then theoretically be able to funnel more money into other areas such as the Ambassador Foundation. Indeed, that is already happening. According to a report we received from Dunn & Bradstreet in mid-July, since 1988 the number of WCG employees decreased from 1,890 to 1,325 - a decrease of 30 percent. Yet, according to Dunn & Bradstreet, during that same period the number of Ambassador Foundation employees went from 30 to 200 - an increase of 567 percent!
The two new marketing techniques discussed above are not the Tkachs' only bright ideas. A third new scheme has been labeled Friends in Deed. This new program aims at giving members the "opportunity" of serving their communities. In explaining how the new "opportunity" will be granted, church director Joseph Tkach Jr. wrote in the June 16 WN (p. 4):
...the pastor of each congregation will follow a three-step procedure: 1) determine assets and talents of the local congregation, 2) determine needs of the community and 3) adopt Church assets and talents to fill community needs.
Here is how the program will work. Let's say that your city government, like so many today, is short of cash. In order to keep expenses and taxes down, the city has to fire a half dozen janitors. Well, that's no problem. Your mayor needs only to phone the WCG's local pastor with his list of WCG "talent" and in almost no time the city will have six WCG volunteers coming over to clean the city's toilets for free. Tkach Jr. writes:
In some cases, several of our congregations are already participating in certain community-service activities that fulfill the purpose of the Friends in Deed program.
For example, some congregations have participated in the Adopt-a-Highway program, in which groups are responsible for keeping a mile of a given highway free of litter.
Obviously, there is a time for volunteer service, and service to one's community can reap spiritual dividends. But aside from becoming one of George Bush's "thousand points of light," of what benefit will the new program be to the WCG itself? Considering the WCG's history of institutional self-centeredness, it is difficult for us not to be more than a little bit suspicious of the motives behind Friends in Deed.
As one of our readers wrote us: "Besides giving the church 30 percent of his paycheck, my husband gives them his Saturdays, his Wednesday evenings, and an hour every morning. Already he has very little money or time left for his family. Now they want him to volunteer away some of his Sundays to clean highways! What next? Living at the airport and handing out booklets?"
Goin' to Guyana
Mention Guyana and most people immediately recall the 1978 Jonestown massacre which took place in that small South American country. That is why we were surprised to read in the WN (5/19/92, p. 8) how the WCG is working to "forge a positive relationship between the Church and the government of Guyana." One way in which the relationship is being developed is through an agricultural testing project run jointly by the Ambassador Foundation and the government of Guyana. The project was initiated by WCG minister Dale Schurter after discussions with Hamilton Green, the country's Prime Minister.
Additionally, since August 1990, a WCG-related corporation called Ambassador Farms Enterprises Limited (AFEL) has operated a farm project and "several miscellaneous ventures" in Guyana. Most recently, the article reported, AFEL opened produce stalls at the Stabroek Market in Georgetown. The government apparently gave AFEL permission to build the stalls even though, according to the article, "30,000 other applicants had already applied for the position."
Ostensibly, the WCG's farming and produce marketing operations in Guyana are aimed at benefiting its poor members in that country. Yet according to the WCG's own official figures (WN, 4/14/92, p.5), the church has only 115 members in the entire country. Even if all 115 were near starvation, one would have thought that the parsimonious Tkachs would have simply sent down a shipment of basic foodstuffs, rather than set up a produce marketing operation, a joint church-government agricultural experiments program, and other "miscellaneous ventures." It would be nice to know what the Tkach poeple are really up to in that part of the world. But Guyana is a little bit out of the way for us to find out.
The Doctrinal Merry-Go-Round
Since AR's inception, we have attempted to keep up with the WCG's ever increasing rate of doctrinal change. Lately, however, the pace at which doctrines have been changing has left us feeling a little dizzy. Even the WCG ministry seems overwhelmed. For example, in 1991 when the WCG issued a booklet entitled Statement of Beliefs of the Worldwide Church of God, many WCG pastors told their congregations that the booklet really did not represent the WCG's doctrines, but was only intended for "the world" as a public relations ploy. One such minister was "conservative" evangelist Herman Hoeh about whom one of our headquarters sources wrote us:
The Trinity doctrine may not be as modified as it appears. On Feb. 8, 1992, Herman Hoeh presented a sermon to the Pasadena East PM congregation concerning the WCG's recently published Statement of Beliefs. He commented specifically on the statement: "The Worldwide Church of God teaches the full divinity of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit..." He cited a dictionary definition of "divinity": "of or related to or proceeding directly from divinity." Since God is divine, so is His Spirit. He went on to indicate that the Statement of Beliefs was a document carefully crafted to make the WCG seem more orthodox to mainstream Christianity and that the position of the church has not essentially changed. The Statement was designed to be capable of being viewed in two ways.
That Hoeh would admit how the WCG was being double tongued is not surprising. Since the late 1980s, Michael Snyder, the WCG's top PR man, has been telling WCG members how Tkach's executives have embarked on a program of actively deceiving the news media into thinking the WCG is changing, but that the WCG had no intention of doing so.
Nevertheless, in spite of what Snyder, Hoeh, and many other WCG leaders have told congregations, in the March 17 WN (p. 4) Tkach Sr. stunned many WCG conservatives with the following, almost offhanded, comment:
By the way, I have heard recently that a few ministers and members may have thought that the Statement of Beliefs is not for members, but is only for use in public relations efforts to people outside the Church.
This is absolutely untrue! This new booklet captures the core beliefs of God's Church and constitutes out official statement on most of our major doctrines such as God, baptism, repentance, salvation, the kingdom of God and other vital teachings.
It most certainly is for members, and is for nonmembers as well! It is part of the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all nations.
Amazingly, since the above statement appeared, some WCG ministers have been telling members Tkach's "clarification" was, itself, only for public relations purposes and should therefore be ignored by members. So who is deceiving whom now? Is Michael Snyder deceiving "conservative" ministers and members when he says the WCG is attempting to trick the media? Is Tkach deceiving "liberal" ministers and members when he says that the new teachings are for everyone? Did Tkach get the ministry's support for the recent changes by deceiving the "conservatives"? Or is Tkach deceiving himself?
Whatever the case, certainly Tkach personally brought on much confusion when he wrote in the WN (12/23/91, p. 1): "the Statement of Beliefs does not constitute a closed creed." In other words, the WCG may change again at any time and, indeed, it will. That is because the WCG, like all other cults, is built on personalities, and not really on law. And it is upon the whims of those personalities that the doctrines of the WCG are based. A good example of the doctrinal confusion extant now in the WCG is its teaching on "apostles." As many readers will recall, HWA started to apply the term "apostle" to himself sometime in the late sixties. Tkach then adopted the title for himself a few months after HWA died (see AR 37). Now, however, in a bit of back tracking Tkach writes (WN, 3/31/92. p. 1):
When referring to Mr. Armstrong or myself, however, the Church uses the term apostle (drawn from the list of ministerial offices in Ephesians 4:11) only as a designation of the highest spiritual and administrative human office in the Church.
The term definitely does not connote an apostolic function in the Church that is equivalent to that of the original apostles. Not since the first century has the Church had that kind of apostolic leadership in person.
Long-time WCG members can recall, however, how HWA claimed that he was the first person in over 18 centuries to preach the true gospel (The Inside Story of the World Tomorrow Broadcast, pp. 9-10). Many also recall how HWA had compared himself to the Apostle Paul (Gal. 1:11-12) by claiming that he, too, had not been taught the true gospel by any man, but had received it "by the revelation of Jesus Christ." Thus Tkach's watering down of the WCG definition of "apostle" is but one more alteration of what HWA had taught.
Another example of WCG doctrinal confusion concerns, of all things, the Ten Commandments. In his May 27 letter to coworkers, Tkach wrote:
...it is a common mistake to assume, "If everybody would just keep the Ten Commandments, what a nice world we would have." Christians should consider that the Ten Commandments do not require kindness, mercy, compassion, generosity, sacrifice for others, impartiality, patience or love. Nor do the Ten Commandments specifically forbid conceit, envy, hatred, rage or selfish ambition. The Ten Commandments are important, but they are not enough.
Of course, no educated person would claim that the Ten contain every specific moral and legal requirement placed upon mankind by God and society. Nevertheless, throughout history innumerable theologians, philosophers, and legal scholars have marveled at how the Ten (when properly understood with all their implications and in all their fullness) represent an amazingly succinct summary of the ethical duties placed upon all humankind. Indeed, even Herbert Armstrong used to teach that the Ten Commandments were "God's Royal Law" - the first four summarizing man's duty to God and the last six summarizing man's duty to fellow man (love toward God and love toward man being the two great commandments - see Matt. 22:35-40). Why Tkach has now decided to tamper with this long-accepted teaching is a mystery. But insiders predict that the criticism his latest gaffe has drawn will, undoubtedly, require Tkach to backpedal in the coming months.
Perhaps HWA's teaching on the Ten Commandments was what Tkach was referring to when he wrote (WN, 3/31/92, p. 7): "Like all people God has used to do his work, however, Mr. Armstrong also taught some things that were not strictly the Bible message, but were his own interpretations of certain scriptures." If that is the case, then how much authority should members see in Tkach, himself? Obviously, Tkach has only one claim to fame - he sits in Herbert Armstrong's seat.
Finally, in his April 22 letter to coworkers, Tkach wrote: "As we look at today's rapidly changing political world, we must not be deceived into believing that the end of the age is imminent." Insiders say Tkach privately believes Christ's return is very, very far - perhaps 100 years or more - distant.
HWA used to teach that as the Millennium was a type of Sabbath and as "one day is with the Lord as a thousand years" (II Pet.3:8), God had a 7,000-year plan that was rapidly reaching the end of the sixth "day." The HWA era Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course devoted many pages to "God's little-understood 7,000-year plan for mankind" (see Lesson 1, pp. 14-15; Lesson 39, pp. 10-16; Lesson 44, pp. 2-16). In his last years, HWA repeatedly emphasized that the church's commission of heralding the soon-coming Kingdom was well into the "gun lap." Now, with Tkach convinced Christ's return is far off, he has secretly ordered his ministry not to preach the old 7,000-year plan. Even the Plain Truth magazine is being used to attack the old doctrine (see the July issue, p. 22).
WCG insiders say that Tkach is so openly opposed to so many key HWA teachings that he wants no one reading The Mystery of the Ages, the book HWA called his "masterpiece." Some members complain that in order to read their church founder's "masterpiece," they must do so in secret or risk being disfellowshipped.
It remains to be seen how many more doctrines will be altered or dropped within the next few months. Evangelist Michael Feazell, Tkach's closest adviser, is now a graduate divinity student at evangelical Azusa Pacific College near Pasadena. Already, much of the Trinitarian thinking he has received there is finding its way into WCG literature (see, for instance, the new WCG booklet God Is...). Headquarters sources tell us that so many more doctrinal changes have already been decided upon that publication of the new, much-revised Bible Correspondence Course has had to be delayed until some time in 1993.
In the meantime, Feazell has gotten Tkach to begin introducing a more "Protestant" style of writing into church publications. For example, in his August Plain Truth editorial, Tkach (or ghostwriter Feazell) wrote:
It is no sin to feel the anguish of severe suffering. Even from the depths of our pain can come the knowledge that Jesus is there with us, that he too knows this pit of despair, that he too has walked through the valley of the shadow of death. And he will lead us through it, bring us back into the light, restore our hope, and remind us of the eternal love of the God of salvation and of the glory that awaits us.
A nice thought, certainly. But WCG old-timers distinctly remember how HWA used to attack such "Protestant" sentiments as "effeminate, sugar-coated perversions of the true gospel." Yes, the WCG is changing.
Ministerial Exodus Continues
One of the latest ministers to exit the WCG is James E. Baldwin of Charlestown, New Hampshire. His reasons for leaving and the reasoning process he used in deciding to leave are detailed in an open letter he wrote to all his friends. One quote:
I was not opposed to the changes as some were, but I had to ask myself, "If what we now have is the truth, then how shall I account for so much error of the past? How credible was HWA's often-made statement that he was not taught by men but by the living Jesus Christ?"
Those who would like a copy of his entire, well-reasoned letter may write to Mr. Baldwin at P.O. Box 320, Charlestown, NH 03603.
Why Can't We All Get Along?
The October issue of the Plain Truth had a quote all of us in California are only too well aware of: "Why Can't We All Get Along?" Those were the words of Rodney King, the black man whose videotaped beating by a handful of white sheriff's deputies set in motion the events that led to the Los Angeles riots last summer. Putting aside the question of whether Rodney King is really someone the WCG should be quoting as an authority on anything other than what it's like to be physically abused by police officers, the headlined quote is remarkable in that it really does reflect part of the new Tkach game plan.
Very clearly, the Tkach WCG is trying to do everything it can to "love bomb" new members into its fold. For example, in a sermon taped for the benefit of numerous distant congregations, Tom Lapacka, a minister who also works in media purchasing for the WCG's television outreach, told WCG members that it will be all right for visiting men to come to church services with pony tails (even though current WCG members are forbidden to have "long" hair). In other words, the WCG is quite willing now to overlook a few things in order to bring in new members.
Along the same lines, in the September Plain Truth there was an article titled "Accepting Your Child's Friends." In it, author Rick L. Shallenberger literally threw away the kind of advice we used to hear from successful parents and child rearing experts when he argued that parents should not be too critical when their children bring home friends who wear black leather outfits, use heavy makeup, or tatoo their faces. (See the picture of the punker that accompanies the PT article.) The article states:
So what do you do? Should you make a set of rules concerning who your teenager should and should not have as friends?
You can try, but chances are, your rules probably wouldn't work. It's probably too late for that.
Clearly, this kind of wimpy advice on parenting is something new in the WCG. Shallenberger's article may contain some nice ideas on tolerance. But a lot of parents who are concerned about the very real dangers that gang violence, drugs, and venereal diseases pose to their children's survival, are going to find it hard to accept the idea of allowing punkers the opportunity to influence their children as the new PT suggests.
Trying to make the WCG more tolerant of just about anyone who could become a tithepayer is but one of Tkach's policies. Another shift seems to be to imitate "the world" whenever possible. For instance, while the WCG still has not okayed the actual keeping of Christmas, imitating Christmas-type customs seems to be gaining a foothold. For instance, Tkach has given his blessing to the sending of holiday cards. In the May 5 WN, there was a reproduction of Tkach's own Holy Day card for Passover. It showed a painting of a Charlton Hestonish Moses leading his people. (One thing that confused some members, however, were the Roman-legion type standards also visible in the illustration. Some members thought they were "pagan Baal symbols.")
Finally, there's the debate that is raging in the WCG about the word "liberal." For as long as anyone can remember the WCG has viewed the word "conservative" as gooood. And the word "liberal" as baad baad. (Can't you just hear Dana Carvey reading this?) So ingrained has that set of equations been in the minds of most WCG members that many have thought a liberal arts education was inherently evil because it was "liberal." Well, to change that misimpression (or is there more going on here?), along comes AC President Donald L. Ward with an article (WN, 12/23/91, p. 5) that explains:
The word liberal was derived from the Latin root liberi, which means "free." To be liberal is to be free, to be liberated. So, the word liberal in its most obvious meaning, as applied to education, has a wide connotation.
Liberal education requires methods of learning and knowledge that free one from fear, ignorance, superstition and the dogmas of man. It is dependent upon knowledge, but is much broader and complete...
Therefore, a true "liberal arts education" is in perfect harmony with the biblical injuction: "You shall know the truth, and truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).
Don't misunderstand. We don't disagree with Dr. Ward. But his views seem to be more in line with those of AR than those of the WCG we once knew.
It was not long after the death of HWA that it became very obvious to us how Tkach had a secret agenda for transforming the WCG into a church radically different from the one HWA had built. HWA's last major article, written shortly before the onset of his final illness, was "Recent History of the Philadelphia Era of the Worldwide Church of God" which appeared in a special edition of the WN (6/24/85). In that major article, HWA warned his followers about the "liberals" in the ministry with whom he had crossed swords for over a decade. Incredibly, HWA's body was barely in the grave when his successor, a man HWA had been led to believe was a "conservative," immediately began step by step to institute virtually every doctrine and policy change that HWA had so vehemently opposed. (See the above-referenced HWA article on p. 3, column 2.)
One veteran WCG member who has uncovered evidence of the extent of Tkach's plan to transform the church is Bruce Renehan of Tehachapi, California. Mr. Renehan recently sent us the following letter:
On May 8, my wife and I were visited by the local pastor and his associate (Dave Dobson and Leon Sexton). I had not solicited their visit. But since I knew that they were coming, I decided that I would be completely open with them about all of the errors I have discovered about church doctrines. I was fully willing to let them disfellowship me over the things that I had discovered concerning Worldwide Church history, the Old Covenant being done away, and the New Covenant now being in force. So I spilled my guts to them for about three hours.
The first thing I told them was that the WCG by all definitions falls into the category of a cult. The pastor agreed, but then quickly said that the New Testament church fell into that category also. I disagreed with him on that point and reminded him of how Jesus specifically warned against authoritarian government in his church. That's when his attitude became subdued. Next I talked about how HWA had made over 100 false prophecies in his lifetime and I reminded them of Deuteronomy 28. I recited from the histories of William Jones and Emilio Comba showing all of the deliberate lies by Herman Hoeh who tried to create an apostolic lineage for the WCG. They were without an answer and I started to feel a little sorry for them. Each time they got defensive I offered more information.
After a while, I began to show them what the New Covenant is and how the WCG has been in error on that teaching. I said that the Mosaic Law which was given at Sinai is simply done away. They looked at each other and then at me. Then, to my amazement, they replied, "We both agree with you. You are right. We discuss these things between ourselves all the time. But, of course, until word comes down from on high we cannot preach these things."
Then I began to elaborate to them that if the Ten Commandments are done away then that would include the Sabbath Day and tithing. They didn't even flinch. They agreed that I was absolutely correct. But, they added, "We can't breathe a word of this to the other members because if we did, many people, especially the old-timers, would just get up and walk out of the church."
They told me that I can't be telling others about what I know, but that I could still attend services. I said that, like Paul, I could be all things to all men - even if I didn't think the Sabbath was still binding. They then said that if I was patient and hung in there, in 10 or 15 years I would see the whole church teaching the things that I have come to believe!...
My wife, who has been in the church since she was a little girl, feels she needs the church and wants to continue attending. On the other hand, I feel the church needs men who are not pussyfooting around. Our church leaders' lack of boldness to preach the truth reminds me of when Samuel asked Saul, "What is this bleating sound that I hear?" And Saul answered, "It's the people. I did it because of the people."
Since Mr. Renehan sent us the above, he has continued to research WCG history. Before the end of the year, he intends to publish a book entitled Daughter of Babylon - The True History of the Worldwide Church of God. Renehan says his research reveals that plagiarism, trickery, and even falsification of documents have played a role in the WCG's creation of the fable that it is the "one and only true church." From correspondence with officials of the Church of God (Seventh Day), the Seventh Day Baptist Church, the American Waldensian Society, and other organizations, Renehan has been able to debunk many of the claims now being formulated into dogma by the Tkach organization. Renehan is tentatively planning to make copies of his book available for about $15 each. Those interested in further details should send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to "Daughter of Babylon," P.O. Box 1551, Tehachapi, CA 93581-1551.
New Discoveries on WCG "History"
In addition to the research being done by Bruce Renehan, a number of others have been uncovering the real facts behind many of the WCG's bogus historical claims. One such researcher is Warren J. Carlson of Glen Ridge, New Jersey. He sent us the following letter:
Those who were members of the WCG back in the early 1970s (and I was one of them) will, no doubt, remember a booklet published by the WCG. It was authored by Herman Hoeh and was entitled A True History of the True Church. This bit of dubious "history" purported to reveal the true identity of the seven churches of the book of Revelation - the so-called seven eras of the church.
Most WCG ministers and members embraced the church eras theory with fervor, since the WCG was identified by Hoeh as the Philadelphia era, and it was the Philadelphia era of God's true church which would escape the fiery fate which would be meted out in the last days to an unrepentant world and an apostate Catholic Church. The Philadelphia era would flee to a place of safety, assumed to be Petra in Jordan, under the leadership and guidance of God's one and only Apostle for the ultimate gun lap. Although I understand the Hoeh booklet is no longer in print and is unobtainable from the WCG, a modified and watered down version of this alleged "true history" appeared in serial form in the Good News before it was scrapped, and then recently in the newly religified Plain Truth.
The Waldensians, a twelfth-century heretical sect founded in France by Peter Waldo, was included among those groups which the WCG claimed to be one of the seven churches of Revelation. Hoeh assigned the Waldensians to the Thyatira church, or era. The recent PT article about Waldo and the Waldensians, while diluting any mention of the "church eras," nonetheless made it clear that the WCG still believes the Waldensians to be a group which is its spiritual forefather. Thus, one would believe, it would be expected that the Waldensians cleaved to the same eclectic assortment of Old Testament and New Testament beliefs which the WCG follows today. Not so!
I have researched and written on Peter Waldo and the Waldensians during the course of my studies toward a BA in history. What I found regarding the Waldensians was that, although there are some similarities between their doctrines and those of the WCG (for example, the Waldensians didn't believe in military service or in the taking of oaths), there are some striking dissimilarities between the two. In fact, the Waldensians were closer in beliefs to the Roman Catholic Church than to today's WCG!
There is no documentary evidence to substantiate that the Waldensians observed either the seventh day sabbath or the holy days, observed Levitical dietary laws, or tithed. In fact, according to documentary evidence from the thirteenth century, the Waldensians strongly opposed both the practice of tithing and the possession of material wealth by the clergy. Here's what one document revealed on both subjects:
On tithing: "They [the Waldensians] say that tithes are not to be paid, because the early church did not pay them. They say that if tithes ought to be paid, then the Church, too, should pay them. If you say that the Jews paid tithes, they respond that we should then observe all the other legalia of the Old Testament.... They say that those who pay tithes are damned, as are laymen who receive tithes, since they spend them wickedly."
On possessions: "They say that clerics ought to have no possessions or property."
Source: Peters, Edward, ed. Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1980.
How interesting! So who has deviated from the truth? Was Waldo in error on tithing (a subject which one could certainly say is at the core of WCG doctrine)? And if so, what does that say about the WCG's teaching regarding church "eras" and Waldo's place in them? Or is it the WCG which has deviated from the truth by proclaiming that anyone who does not tithe (and three times over!) is "cursed with a curse"? Who has got the curse right - the WCG or its claimed historical antecedent, the Waldensians?
If Tkach would read what the Waldensians had to say about possessions, would he give up his chauffeur-driven limo, his Jacuzzi, and his jet? Anyone who is careful in handling the pure Biblical truth knows that the Waldensians were closer in spirit to the church of Jesus Christ than the WCG ever has been or ever will be.
Warren J. Carlson
Readers interested in uncovering the facts about the origin of many WCG doctrines may find one additional source of help. In their Jan.-March 1991 issue, The Discerner published an excellent research paper by Dwayne Krogstad of Northwestern College in Minnesota. Mr. Krogstad's paper, titled "Early Leaders of Seventh-Day Adventism," does not mention the WCG directly. However, he does show the origins of a number of Adventist doctrines HWA, himself, later adopted. The Discerner is published by Religion Analysis Service, 821 Washington St., Brainerd, MN 56401.
Assyrians and Chaldeans
The interpretation of Bible prophecy has played an important role in the WCG's growth since the 1930s. One of the key elements in the WCG's prophetic scheme has been the theory, developed by HWA, that as a result of migrations over the centuries, the nations in many Bible prophecies are today known by different names. For example, HWA taught a type of British Israelism. That is, HWA saw the House of Judah (the Jews) as distinct from the House of Israel which he saw as the white English-speaking nations (the U.S. and British Commonwealth, essentially).
Among the Bible nations HWA claimed to have "identified" were the ancient Chaldeans, whom he saw as the modern Italians, and the ancient Assyrians, whom he saw as the modern Germans.
Unbeknownst to HWA or his followers, apparently, was the fact that there are peoples on earth today who can, and do, trace their origins to the ancient Chaldeans and Assyrians and those peoples are not the Germans or Italians.
According to the Los Angeles Times (3/16/91, p. D 1), the descendants of the ancient Chaldeans by and large still live in the Middle East with the bulk of the modern Chaldeans forming a Roman Catholic minority in modern Iraq. They have a distinct identity, language, and culture. Some modern day Chaldeans have emigrated out of Iraq and about 60,000 now live in Detroit, Michigan where about 600 independent grocery and liquor stores are owned by Chaldeans. For more information about the real Chaldeans, see the short research paper "Who Are the Chaldeans?" by Rev. Michael J. Bazzi, distributed by the Chaldean American Association, 115 South Mollison Ave., El Cajon, CA 92020 (tel. 619-588-9669).
As for the modern Assyrians, about 1.5 million people living today in Iraq claim to be their descendants. Like the Chaldeans, they are a Christian (in this case Orthodox Catholic) minority with a distinct identity, language, and culture. Like the Chaldeans, the Assyrians tend to view themselves as foes of Arab Saddam Hussein. About 300,000 Assyrians have emigrated to the United States and about 68,000 now live in Chicago (Los Angeles Times, 2/21/91, p. A9).
Mr. Homer Ashurian, a spokesman for the Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation told the Report, "Many people are surprised to learn that there are still Assyrians in the world today. No, we have not disappeared. We are still here." For more information about the real Assyrians, contact the Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation, 7055 N. Clark, Chicago, IL 60626 (tel. 312-274-9262).
One of the absolutely key doctrines of Armstrongism was HWA's version of British Israelism. It was a "version of" because it was never exactly the same teaching as that put forth by such groups as the British Israel World Federation. Nor was it exactly the same as those theories put forth now by many "Identity Movement" groups. Nevertheless, insiders say that none of the "Identity" theories - including HWA's as expounded in his book The United States and Britain in Prophecy - hold any appeal for Tkach. It seems likely, therefore, that the Armstrong version of British Israelism is headed for the doctrinal scrap heap. Nevertheless, we continue to receive letters from readers who find the Armstrong theory fascinating.
Among those who have studied British Israelism, few have done as much serious research as has William Moore of Papillion, Nebraska. In AR40 we ran a letter from Moore concerning some of his research. Shortly thereafter, an article critical of Moore's views appeared in The Truth of the Matter published by the Biblical Church of God (Canada). In respose to that article, Moore wrote us the following:
As you suggested, I wrote the group in Canada for a copy of their August, 1988 issue. In it they pretty much castigated me for what I had written about British Israelism. Much of their argument focused on the physical composition of the Coronation Stone of Westminster Abbey. They took exception to my calling it "red sandstone" and my saying that it was probably quarried near Scone in Scotland where the ancient Pictish kings had their royal seat. [Many British Israelism believers prefer to think of the Stone as literally "Jacob's Pillar Stone" of Gen 28:11- ed.] As evidence to support their contention that the Stone housed in Westminster Abbey was not quarried in Scotland, or anywhere else in the British Isles for that matter, they cite an alleged physical examinaion of the Coronation Stone by a Professor Odlum about the year 1926 or '27. Supposedly, Odlum's examination refutes William Skene's nineteenth century observations that the Stone came from the red sandstone formations near Scone in Scotland.
According to Keith Hunt, editor of The Truth of the Matter, Odlum and an unnamed geologist were permitted to examine the Coronation Stone. To quote Hunt, "They worked under a tremendously powerful arclight. They had the finest microscopic instruments it was possible to get [sic] they made a perfect microscopic examination of that stone and they compared what they found with Scotch granite, granite from Aberdeen, stone from Scone and from Iona, and so on, and they were absolutely satisfied and so wrote and stated, that the stone under the Coronation Chair was not the same texture, was not red sandstone, and that there was no stone in the British Isles, anywhere, that compared with it." In an effort to determine the veracity of Odlum's claims, I wrote The Reverend Canon A. E. Harvey, Librarian of Westminster Abbey. His assistant, a Mrs. E. Nixon, kindly replied to my inquiry... As her letter indicates, Westminster Abbey officials claim they have no record of any geological examination of the Coronation Stone conducted during the 1920s. Dr. C. F. Davidson, Senior Principal Geologist, Her Majesty's Geological Survey, did examine microscopic sections taken from the Stone when it was cleaned in 1892. Although Davidson does not give the exact year of the examination itself, he does say it was "some years" prior to 1951 when he wrote his article on the Coronation Stone for the Illustrated London News. (Mrs. Nixon sent me a copy of the short article.)
Davidson writes, "The Stone has been examined by successive generations of geologists, including John Macculloch, who made the first geological survey of Scotland, and Sir A. C. Ramsey, Sir Archibald Geikie [Prof. Skene refers to both Ramsey and Geike in his 1869 work, The Coronation Stone - Moore] and Sir J. J. H. Teall, three of the most distinguished Directors of H. M. Geological Survey." As you will have noticed, there is no reference to a Professor Odlum. Regarding the most likely geological and geographic origin of the Coronation Stone, Dr. Davidson observed the following in his 1951 article:
"From these investigations, it has long been known that the Stone is almost certainly of Scottish origin; but its lithological character is such that it has always been found a difficult matter to trace it with any certainty to the locality whence it was derived.
"Some years ago, the writer had an opportunity of examining microscopic preparations of minute fragments obtained from the Stone while it was being cleaned in 1892. These were compared with similar preparations of rocks from various localities and geological horizons, and from this study the Coronation Stone was found to agree most closely in lithology with sandstones of Lower Old Red Sandstone age from Scotland. Several examples of sandstone petrographically indistinguishable from the Stone of Destiny were collected from the neighborhood of Scone itself.
"A microscopic section of a pebble from the Coronation Stone has been examined, and it was found that this rock could be matched exactly with pebbles from the sandstones of Perthshire and Angus. [We] can thus assume with reasonable certainty that the Stone was quarried somewhere in eastern Perthshire, probably not far from the ancient seat of the Pictish monarchy."
All this leads me to conclude one of two possibilities. Either the official records of Westminster Abbey are incomplete and Her Majesty's Geological Surveyors are in error or the Professor Odlum story is pure fiction created from whole cloth. Neither Mr. Hunt nor his British Israel associates furnish any substantiating evidence of Odlum's examination; they cite not one reference from which one could verify Odlum's claim. The geologist who participated in Odlum's examination is also unnamed.
In the words of Mrs. Nixon, "I cannot believe that any proper geological examination could have taken place without the express consent of the Dean and Chapter and there is no indication of that having been either asked for or given."
If Professor Odlum examinined the Coronation Stone in 1926 or '27, he apparently did so without the permission or knowledge of the authorities responsible for the care and protection of the Stone. Logically, the good professor would have wanted their support for his investigation, not only to gain access to the Stone but also to help corroborate that he had, indeed, examined authorized samples from the Coronation Stone. Without that endorsement, no matter what the conclusions might have been, we would have no guarantee that the samples he examined actually came from the Stone of Scone, defeating the whole purpose of his investigation.
I am interested in reviewing any evidence AR readers might have of Odlum's 1920s examination, if it exists. In the meantime, I propose to write Her Majesty's Geological Survey to obtain whatever information they might have regarding the geographic history and physical composition of the English Coronation Stone. I'll keep you posted on developments.
Readers familiar with only the HWA version of British Israelism may be surprised to discover that there are many other varieties of the theory. Those just beginning to study the subject may benefit from reading J. Gordon Melton's chapter on "The Identity Movement" in his Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America (Garland Publishing, 1986).
Another helpful work is Anglo-Israelism: Divine Master Plan or Satanic Deception? published by TSL Publishing House, P.O. Box 18122, Cleveland Heights, OH 44118. While AR does not endorse all the views in this book (nor in most other books we mention), TSL's 77-page book is, nevertheless, helpful in understanding Armstrong's prophecy theories and the racial theories of many he seems to have influenced: Anglo-Israelism and Euro-Israelism groups, the Posse Commitatus, the Order, the CSA, neo-Nazi Skinheads, the Aryan Nations, proponents of the "Serpent's Seed" doctrine, etc., etc.
As is obvious from TSL's book, there are varieties of "Identity" theory to fit the needs of just about any racist group. Some readers are aware that the Mormons view the native American Indians as "the Lost Ten Tribes" of Israel. Many will be surprised to discover, however, that "the Lost Ten Tribes" at one time or another have been thought to be the Japanese people and even some of the Maori of New Zealand. For an excellent insight into the latter, see Peter Farb's Man's Rise to Civilization (As Shown By the Indians of North America From Primeval Times to the Coming of the Industrial State) (Avon, 1968, pp. 235, 328-9, 367).
Today, there are even a significant number of blacks who believe they are the "true Israelites." Notice what one of our New York readers wrote to us:
I am writing you for two reasons. First, in Bitter Harvest: Gordon Kahl and the Posse Commitatus Murder in the Heartland by James Corcoran (Viking Books, 1990), the "Christian Identity" movement is mentioned on p. 38 along with its connection to British Israelism and Herbert Armstrong. You may find the book of interest.
Second, I'd like to mention the Black Muslim/Black Hebrews movement. I don't know if these people are active on the west coast, but in Manhattan they have been out in growing force for about four years now. (Let me tell you right here that I am white and of northwestern European heritage.)
The most militant followers dress in garb that can only be described as ancient Israelitish with Shakespearean touches. On weekend nights, they lay siege to a streetcorner and pump out over loudspeakers what can only be described as AFRO-Israelism! Basically, they claim Adam was black, all of the Hebrews were black (and the Egyptians too), all of the prophets were black, Christ was black, God is black, and whites are either (depending on the source) a genetic mutation (ala albinism) or the spawn of a person whose line God cursed with perpetual leprosy. Either way, the basic idea is that all whites are of Satan and when blacks wake up to their true Israelitish heritage, they will rise up and destroy all evil, Devil-loving whites around the world.
When I first came across these people four years ago, I laughed about them to myself because their claims seemed so outlandish. Yet I have seen them grow in influence, power, and in number of adherents. Most, if not all, of them eschew Christianity and have taken up Islam. Louis Farrakhan is apparently one of their leaders. And, like the Anglo-Israelites, they identify the Japanese as the children of Ammon. Surely this stuff must have some roots in Anglo- Israelism. Or is it the reverse, as they assert (that the whites have stolen, wholesale, their beliefs - and identity - in order to suppress all non-whites)?...
I'm not sure if you find any of this interesting or just plain ridiculous. I discounted it four years ago. But these people aren't going away and I think we are going to hear more about them as time goes on.
It is probable that in the near future a number of authors will be publishing new books involving HWA's British Israel theory. We understand one such author is Steven M. Collins (3901 Crescent Drive, Sioux Falls, SD 47106). While he acknowledges that some of HWA's historical data was flawed, Collins seems to feel HWA's general views on British Israelism were correct.
Another writer who seems to feel that HWA's theory has merit is Gary Arvidson. Formerly with the Foundation for Biblical Research and now living in Cherryville, North Carolina, Arvidson has been working on a large book dealing with Bible prophecy and the Identity theory. For a number of years now, Arvidson has correlated a substantial amount of data dealing with the Bible record, secular history, geography, astrology, and the mystical teachings of Manly P. Hall and others. One major part of his planned tome is already complete. But it remains to be seen if Arvidson will ever find the means to publish all of his research.
Finally, many will be as surprised as we were to discover that Identity theories based on the idea of a twelve-tribe nation are not found only among Bible-believing groups. In their new book Twelve-Tribe Nations and the Science of Enchanting the Landscape, authors John Michell and Christine Rhone write that many ancient civilizations were divided into twelve tribes with each tribe corresponding to one of the signs of the Zodiac. While Israel is the most famous of the twelve-tribe nations, there are many others. The authors claim that examples of twelvetribe nations can be found "in all times and places, from remote antiquity to the nineteenth century, from Iceland to Madagascar, from Europe through the ancient East to America." The beautifully illustrated Twelve-Tribe Nations ($14.95 plus $3.50 postage) is available through many bookstores or by writing to: Phanes Press, P.O. Box 6114, Grand Rapids, MI 49516 (tel. 800-963-0892).
FBI Releases Stripped WCG Files
As we reported in AR48, Gene Bailey is an AR reader who has been using the Freedom of Information Act in an attempt to get the FBI's files on the WCG. After being put on hold for two years, the government finally sent Bailey the hundreds of pages of information he requested - well, sort of. Bailey tells us that the government's censors blacked out so much of the information for "national security" and other reasons that what he received is virtually worthless.
Ambassador Granted Accreditation
In June, Ambassador College received word that the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges had granted it "candidacy status" in its most recent drive for full accreditation. Writing in the July 14 WN (pp. 3, 6), Ambassador College President Donald L. Ward explained:
The next step for Ambassador College is to prepare a progress report in the spring of 1993 and, we hope, receive another creditation visit in the fall of 1993 with the expectation of receiving full accreditation in June of 1994.
In the meantime, the achievement of candidacy status provides the constituents of the College with all the practical benefits of accreditation.
All those who are Ambassador alumni certainly wish AC the best of luck in its accreditation drive. But as Ward, himself, pointed out in his article, Herbert Armstrong, writing in the college's 1947 Bulletin had promised that Ambassador would be accredited before its first senior class graduated. Forty-five years later, Ambassador's last remaining campus is still unaccredited. If one looks care-fully at the Southern Association's list of recommendations and suggestions reprinted in the Dec. 23, 1991 WN (p.3), one will see that most parallel the suggestions made by AR in our large 1977 edition (pp. 4-8). Our suggestions in 1977 were ignored and Ambassador-Pasadena's candidacy status ended in 1978.
With the state of Texas threatening to close the Big Sandy campus if it doesn't become accredited, Ambassador's current accreditation drive may be forced to succeed. Those recently visiting the Big Sandy campus report numerous changes. For example, there is now an intercollegiate sports program. There seem to be more foreign students on campus (in 1991 there were 39 countries represented). And the student body is quite noticeably racially diversified. In fact, last year's student body president was Kevin Epps, a black student. The results of Tkach's multimillion dollar building program are evident everywhere. And construction of the new Harold L. Jackson Hall of Humanities was begun in May.
Incidentally, Tkach has adopted one more policy common at virtually all other colleges of "the world." Contributions made toward the construction of various buildings, when generous enough, get special recognition. According to the June 2 WN (p. 1):
Those who donate from $200 to $999 will be considered Silver Circle members; $1,000 to $4,999 will be listed in the Golden Circle; $5,000 to $9,999, the Platinum Circle, and $10,000 or more, the Ambassador Circle. Alternatively, if a congregation, group of congregations or individuals donate $50,000, a plaque will be placed on a classroom acknowledging the group's or individual's contribution.
Because the WCG contributes about $13,000 per year toward each student's enrollment, each Ambassador student is spending only about $4,500 per year (tuition and living expenses) to attend Ambassador (WN, 6/10/91, p. 10). If the cost of attending Ambassador can continue to be kept that low, it may turn out that for many church families an Ambassador education for their kids will one day be a good deal.
World Tomorrow Too Erotic?
Some WCG members complain that the only way they can get The World Tomorrow is if they can afford cable TV. But if you are one of those still lucky enough to get the church's telecast in your area, you may have noticed an occasional slickness in the production. Many Worldwiders are pleased by their telecast's sophistication. But the telecast does have its critics, even among church members. For example, WCG headquarters recently received the following colorful comment from a viewer:
Mr. Tkach, Christ's gospel should be of a clean and respectable nature fitten to be presented to young children and Christian adults. I noticed as recently as a few Sundays ago the telecast presenting a group of practically nude, shapely prostitutes parading and displaying their beautiful bodies before a pack of long-haired, beardy, filthy street men who appeared to be dying of AIDS or syphilis. Those prostitutes were wearing nothing at all except very, very scanty bathing outfits.
Back when the Apostles were recording the gospels, you never read about them going into such groups and taking pictures of whores and whoremongers (doing everything but the very act itself - which creates a lust in those taking such photographs) and then presenting such worldly idolatry and filth.
I admit, however, that as the gospel of the kingdom, sexual relations should be gradually taught to children, but only as they become old enough to learn of such. But not by displaying nude, shapely, female bodies twisting and wiggling in front of a pile of sickly, nasty, dying, lustful men who would not make buzzard bait.
Kinsey, Sex and Fraud
Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, author of the famous studies Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953) has been called "one of the 100 most important Americans of the twentieth century" (Life, fall 1990). Kinsey, whose work is said to have set in motion "the first wave of the sexual revolution," has been called by Esquire magazine, our age's "Patron Saint of Sex." In the years since Kinsey's writings first appeared, his research has become so accepted by the media that his conclusions are almost always given the status of accepted scientific "truth." And today, when representatives from the sex institute that bears his name appear on TV talk shows, they are frequently accorded almost unquestioned deference.
It is difficult to underestimate the impact Kinsey has had on sexual values in the late twentieth century. According to U.S. News (1/9/89), Kinsey's work provided society with "the cornerstone of almost everything known about human sexuality." Indeed, Kinsey's research is often said to form the very foundation of modern sex education. In the last two years, however, a number of researchers have been questioning the very foundation of Kinsey's work.
In Kinsey, Sex and Fraud: The Indoctrination of a People, authors Dr. Judith A. Reisman, psychotherapist Edward W. Eichel and editors Dr. John H. Court and Dr. J. Gordon Muir make the startling claim that Kinsey's research is the "most egregious example of science fraud in this century." The authors document the Kinsey team's research chicanery so devastatingly that a reviewer for the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet (3/2/91, p. 547) wrote that Reisman, et. al. "demolish the foundations of the two [Kinsey] reports."
Among the author's charges are that Kinsey's data was obtained from a sample of interviewees that was grossly unrepresentative of society (containing a high percentage of prisoners, sex offenders, etc.), that Kinsey's research was skewed to reflect his own biases toward bi-sexuality and against traditional Judeo-Christian values, and that some of Kinsey's data was obtained from highly detailed sex experimentation done on children illegally and without informed consent. In reporting on the new book, the Times of London (12/29/90, p.8) wrote, "The Kinsey Institute founded by the pioneer denies the authors' claims, ignoring the book's call for a full investigation. The institute's attempt to stifle the allegations, by asking a local radio station not to broadcast a talk programme on the subject, has only added to the controversy."
When we realize how long it has been that Kinsey's research has been accepted as scientifically valid, the evidence presented in Kinsey, Sex and Fraud is, indeed, shocking. For those who wonder about conspiracies in the mass media, or about how it has come to be that pedophiles can openly march in parades and how major denominations can openly ordain avowed homosexuals, this book will provide unsettling insights.
Kinsey, Sex and Fraud ($19.95 plus $2.00 shipping) may be ordered at bookstores or directly from the distributor: Huntington House Publishers, P.O. Box 53788, Lafayette, Louisiana 70505 (tel. 800-749-4009).
Editor: Our AR50 article about Pastor General Tkach's traveling style brought a number of colorful letters from our readers, including the following:
I wonder if that pseudo Pope would actually notice if his limo's tires were overinflated by only two pounds or if they were underinflated by a few pounds. If I had anything to do with it, I would underinflate one of his rear tires by about ten pounds so that the car would start to vibrate when it built up speed. That so-called "Apostle" would undoubtedly get so upset that he would heave his fruit and vegetable platters left and right! You know, soft drinks like 7Up and Coca-Cola are hard to get anymore in glass bottles up here. If Tkach were to come to Winnipeg, he would have to drink out of plastic! And, as if all his requirements are not enough, he still wants a touring bus? He should be stuffed in a rickshaw pulled around the city by the local WCG pastor!
Editor: Security experts tell us that the reason for overinflating limo tires the way Tkach requires is to increase the vehicle's maneuverability in the event of a terrorist attack.
I found the leaked instructions about how field ministers were to prepare for, and cater to, the desires of Joe Tkach and his entourage remarkable.
I personally took care of arrangements for Herbert Armstrong at the Feast of Tabernacles sites where I was festival coordinator for seven years. While I certainly don't want to become an apologist for HWA, I do feel the need to point out that HWA was never as demanding or as hard to please as Tkach. Herbert Armstrong always brought his own driver, Mel Olinger, because his eyesight was failing due to old age. It is true that he preferred black Cadillacs. But if for some reason, as happened in 1978, a Cadillac wasn't available, another car would do without complaint from Armstrong.
At all feast sites other than Big Sandy he stayed in the hotel or motel where the other ministers were staying. We customarily reserved only two rooms for him - a bedroom and a sitting room. The bed was standard for the motel, though we moved in furniture for the sitting room if the motel didn't already have such a suite. He did want a small refrigerator for his wine and champagne, Bristol Cream Sherry and Dom Perignon, respectively. Mel took care of his luggage and helped him in other ways, and Dr. Lochner gave him the rubdowns he wanted as he advanced in age.
While Loma still lived, his requirements were much more moderate than that because of her conserving nature. For example, there was no jet airplane then. Personally, I believe the Falcon and the G-2 were corrupting influences in a manner not different from what we see in Washington today.
I have little doubt that had Herbert Armstrong been younger, he might also have gone as far as your piece shows Worldwide's current leadership has gone (especially if Loma had not been around to curb the slide down the slippery slope). But, the fact is HWA did not do so before he died, even though he was the church's founder.
David R. Robinson
Editor: Former WCG minister David R. Robinson is the author of Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web which first appeared in 1980. Since then, besides being active in the commercial real estate field, Robinson has written a number of papers ("The Russian Empire, " "Our Noble Language," "The Devil and His Power," etc.). He has also written and recently published A Little Corner of Texas, a 222-page history of Live Oak County, Texas where he grew up. While the new book has nothing to do with the WCG, the years of research that went into its production and its charming stories will be appreciated by many - especially those with connections to South Texas. A Little Corner of Texas was favorably reviewed by Dan Kilgore, past president of the Texas State Historical Society, and has also gotten Robinson back on TV and into the newspapers (see the Alice Echo-News, 8/24/91, p. 1). Those interested in ordering a copy of Robinson's latest book ($18.95 including postage) or in obtaining information about his papers should write to: John Hadden Publishers, P.O. Box 35982, Tulsa, OK 74153.
I am a disabled veteran. My wife, who is a WCG member, has taken control of our finances and I have to sneak away any monies that I can after my wife pillages my veteran's allocation and sends a big chunk to the memory of Herbert. Meanwhile, I have only one change of clothes, what I wear is dilapidated, and there are holes in my shoes.
I have heard that the WCG is now asking its members to send in 2.8 percent out of every pay check if they find it too hard to pay the whole 10 percent of third tithe every three years. I don't think this is Biblical at all.
After spending more than twenty years in the Armstrong (now Tkach) church, I finally decided to order all your back issues. What a revelation! They really helped me to feel better about my life.
So much of what I had previously suspected (but only vaguely) now turns out to have been true. All along "a little voice" (maybe my subconscious - or was it the Holy Spirit?) was telling me something was very, very wrong in the church. Now I wish I could have read every one of your publications long ago. What a difference it would have made in my life. And how much money I would not have wasted on that "church."
I have only one criticism of your efforts. It is no wonder you are short of funds for publishing. You are giving too much free publicity to groups who are, no doubt, draining funds away from AR. I suspect many of your readers order all kinds of reading materials because of your mentioning other publishers. And then they have nothing left for the Report. Just a suggestion. I want to see you keep publishing.
I have relatives in widely separated congregations, and it appears that each local congregation may have a rather large difference as to emphasis and even doctrine.
Editor: The new WCG seems to be somewhat similar to its new Trinity doctrine - really three churches in one. There's the WCG that is hypnotized by Tkach: they will believe anything he says. A second WCG thinks Tkach is not moving fast enough: this group can't wait to start keeping Sunday and Christmas. A third WCG is loyal to the bones of HWA: these folks are members of "The Dead Apostle's Society. " What your local WCG congregation hears from the pulpit depends on which WCG the local pastor belongs to. In one sense, of course, it doesn't really matter. It's all still the same WCG!
As you may suspect, because of the long time it has been between AR50 and this issue, we have been struggling, like many of you, to get through the current recession. It has never been easy publishing the Report, but this past year it has been very close to impossible. In order to keep publishing, we have had to cut back our mailing list considerably. We just can't afford to send out issues to those who don't contribute. So if you want to continue receiving AR, we occasionally need to hear from you.
If we can pay off the debts we have incurred for this issue, our next should prove highly informative. In addition to our regular reporting on the WCG, we hope to give an update on the major WCG splinter groups. We also hope to provide more insights into the possessive psychology of cults and on the newest methods of combatting their influence.
Our thanks to all of you who are helping to make this publication possible.
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