April 1999 (AR72)
Tkach Plans Retirement Fund
With the two major properties of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) on their way to being transferred to other corporations, many WCG members have wondered what will become of the monies the WCG acquires from the sale of its Big Sandy, Texas and Pasadena, California properties. In his March 1999 letter to the church, Pastor General Joseph Tkach, Jr. shed some light on the matter:
Because our church has reached a point at which large properties are no longer necessary for our mission, we are very thankful that God has blessed us with potential buyers for the Big Sandy and Pasadena campuses. As you can imagine, however, the sales of these properties involves a complex process, one that takes a good deal of time. We are praying for a successful close of escrow on the Big Sandy property in the next several weeks. However, no transaction of this nature is assured until the day that it is actually final and complete.
The process of selling the Pasadena property is not nearly so far advanced. However, God has blessed us with potential buyer, and we are in negotiations for a purchase and sale agreement. When that agreement is signed, hopefully in the next several weeks, escrow (of probably 12 to 18 months duration) will open. The potential buyer, Legacy Partners, has already begun the detailed technical study, and both we and they are optimistic about the progress of the sale process. Still, the process is complex and time-consuming, and such transactions often hit unexpected snags. Our collective prayers are definitely a vital part of a successful sale.
These assets in Pasadena and Big Sandy have been accumulating over the decades into something that can now help our church move into the future in a responsible way. While only about 6 percent of church income through the years has been spent on property (some 89 percent was spent on media proclamation, congregational and member expenses and the colleges, and the other 5 percent on the Foundation), the total value of the property assets today is significant.
Along with the growing asset we have also had growing obligations through the years to our faithful church employees and ministers who have given their lives in full-time service and are now elderly or disabled. No provision, other than a discretionary assistance taken directly from cash flow, was ever made by past administrations for these faithful employees' declining years. It is now our responsibility to move this moral obligation out of daily cash flow while continuing to meet it, so that it will no longer have to come directly out of donations, and so that it will no longer be so uncertain for these faithful servants.
We will meet that responsibility with the proceeds from the sales. [emphasis added - ed.] But that is not all. We will use the assets God provides to ensure and strengthen the integrity of our future as a denomination....
Underground Church Talks Class Action
While Tkach hopes that the sale of the Pasadena properties will go through without a hitch (but "such transactions often hit unexpected snags"), not all former WCG members wish him success with his plans. A group called the "Underground Church of God" has widely distributed an e-mail announcement indicating that they intend to block the property transfer. Here is what they wrote:
Greetings to the Scattered Brethren of God:
Many of you are aware of the recent announced sale of the Ambassador CoIlege campus and facilities located in Pasadena, California to a real estate development firm for a sale price quoted to be in excess of 100 million dollars.
These facilities were purchased with monies donated and sacrificed by several thousands of hard working individuals like yourselves for the expressed and announced purpose of a college campus, auditorium and grounds dedicated to the "Great God." To use these facilities for any other purpose is tantamount to fraud and misuse of the funds reverently donated and given for this purpose. As is quoted in Malachi: "Will a man rob God? Yet, ye have robbed me. But ye say, wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings."
In response to these events, several have been working privately behind the scenes to either block, or at least delay, this unethical and evil transfer of assets to the indiscriminate use of a select few such as Tkach and his cohorts. These individuals were never involved in the solicitation nor dedicated named use of the offerings of the people of God for the Pasadena facilities. A growing group of brethren known privately as the "Underground Church of God" is composed of non-ordained brethren of nearly every current known Church of God group including Worldwide, United, Global, Philadelphia, Living, Hulme, Great God and other corporate groups, as well as many from the independent and Living Room groups.
A leading Los Angeles area law firm has been hired on retainer, and will soon announce a "Lis Pendens" - a legal maneuver to temporarily block the impending sale by proclaiming a "cloud" on the title of the properties pending future legal outcome. In addition, a class action lawsuit will be initiated against the organization proclaiming that the Worldwide Church of God solicited these funds for the named dedicated use for brethren of the Church of God and not for private commercial real estate development or the private financial benefit of a few corporate officers such as Tkach. All brethren who have donated to the Worldwide Church of God in the past will be invited to be participants of the soon coming class action lawsuit seeking remedy and financial restitution.
In addition a "sit in" similar to that which occurred in January 1979 is being organized. Possibly to coordinate in the year 2000 with the same anniversary as the original "sit in." Brethren by the thousands will attend Pasadena Church services occupying the auditorium and other facilities and continuing in unbroken 24 hour "Religious Services" exempt from criminal trespass laws and legal authority. Several "Underground Church of God" associates have expressed their desire to handcuff themselves to the church facilities and to be removed only by force of law.
In addition to this proposed Pasadena "sit in" all brethren in the Churches of God across the world will be asked to organize and participate by attending peaceably and in mass, as a sign of support, at their local Worldwide Church of God services. This massive flood of attendance of current and past dislocated former members attending their local Worldwide Church of God services in a onetime silent and peaceful gesture will surely send a message to Pasadena and possibly create legal doubt and the withdrawal of any purchase offers for the campus.
© 1999 Ambassador Report. John Trechak, Editor & Publisher, Published as a Christian service almost quarterly - as finances allow.
Opinions expressed in by-lined articles are not necessarily those of the publisher. References to books, ministers, and organizations do not constitute endorsements.
Several local and national news services have been contacted and have assured us of giving full media exposure to these events as they unfold, allowing once again for the excesses and abuses of the financial structure of the Worldwide Church of God to be well known.
You can help currently by forwarding this e-mail to as many as possible on your current Church of God mailing list, and asking them to do the same. In addition, post this e-mail on any Church of God Internet forums and Web sites that you are aware of. This will insure that the leadership of Pasadena will be well aware that the brethren of God are not going to take this fraudulent and thieving action from them without a resistance.
While the Underground Church letter has had wide distribution, it is at this time not exactly clear who the author of the letter really is. Some have even thought the letter might be a hoax. Time will tell whether such ambitious resistance plans by the "Underground Church" will be able to accomplish anything or if time will prove this "resistance" to be just so much hot air.
AU to Be Pacem in Terris University
As we reported in AR70, ownership of Ambassador University at Big Sandy, Texas is about to be transferred to LaRoche College, a Catholic institution based in Pittsburgh and run by the Sisters of Divine Providence. Since then, LaRoche has indicated that it intends to rename Ambassador "Pacem in Terris University." "Pacem in Terris" is Latin for "peace on earth," the title of an encyclical issued by Pope John XXIII in 1963, the year that La Roche College was founded.
While neither the WCG nor LaRoche officials have yet indicated publicly how much the sale price was for the huge Big Sandy campus, sources in the real estate field in Texas have stated that the campus sold for approximately $30 million. If that is indeed the case, LaRoche got an extraordinarily good deal.
Worldwide Minister Assists Pope
The pastor of the WCG's St. Louis congregation recently assisted with Pope John Paul II's visit to that city. According to Bill Stough writing in the January 31 issue of The Journal, Pastor James Lee is a member of The Interfaith Fellowship Partnership of Greater St. Louis which assisted the Catholic Church in the pope's visit to that city in late January. According to the Journal article:
Announcements at WCG church services in St. Louis July 16 gave information on which organizations to contact if WCG members would like to volunteer in the many ways needed to make the pope feel welcome and assist in events the pope would be involved in.
Mr. Lee said before the event that he would like to meet the pope.
"That would be a great honor, but I don't expect to be able to. He is a man of strong character, high principles, and one who has accomplished so much in his life. He has worked to build unity among all Christians and all people of whatever religion they might be. I am very impressed with the wonderful things the pope has done."
Obviously, the WCG's position toward the Roman Catholic Church has changed markedly from the days of HWA when the Roman Church was called the "Great Whore" of Revelation.
Meredith's Living Church
As we reported in our last issue, evangelist Roderick C. Meredith has broken from the Global Church of God. He has now formed a new organization called the Living Church of God (LCG). Meredith was able to draw away approximately 75 percent of the ministry of Global. Among the prominent GCG ministers to go with Meredith's offshoot are Dr. Lynn Torrance, Jonathan McNair, Richard Ames, Dave Hall, David Crockett, and John Ogwyn. The address of the new offshoot is Living Church of God, P.O. Box 501304, San Diego, CA 92150. Ironically, the new Living Church headquarters is housed in the same San Diego building as its parent church, the Global Church of God, which still has the mailing address P.O. Box 501111, San Diego, CA 92150.
Bryce Clark's COG
As we reported in our last issue, minister Bryce Clark has broken from the Church of God the Eternal, which itself was an early breakaway from the WCG. He has now formed a new organization called the Bethel Church of God. Essentially, Clark left CGE because he saw it as straying from the purity of truth that the CGE supposedly began with when it split from the WCG in 1975. He also saw evangelist Raymond Cole as autocratic. But according to one CGE reader:
I understand Mr. Clark had asked to make Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Thanksgiving Day part of church doctrine. Since these are national holidays and not God's Holy Days, there was no agreement. It is up to each individual as to whether they choose to celebrate these days or not. But not as church doctrine. As to what Mr. Cole's teachings are: He is holding to all that was revealed to HWA at the first. The later changes on D&R, Pentecost, and many other minor changes came as a result of doctrinal committees, scholars, and other ministerial judgements. These changes were not revealed to Mr. HWA at the first. Only revealed revelations are accepted by Mr. Cole.
Whether or not doctrinal matters were really at the heart of the split is hard to say. A few months ago, someone in the northwest anonymously mailed us photocopies of what were claimed to be love letters from Raymond Cole to a former secretary. Of course, without being able to interview the claimed recipient, we have no way of knowing their authenticity. But it is interesting that some are on a campaign to discredit Cole.
The address for Clark's new organization is: Bethel Church of God, P.O. Box 25345, Eugene, OR 97402. The Church of God the Eternal remains at P.O. Box 775, Eugene, OR 97440; www.cogte.org.
Clinton in Prophecy?
Among Armstrongites steeped in apocalyptic theories and believing we live in the "end times," it has long been a favorite pastime to prognosticate who in the modem world will turn out to be the Beast of Revelation. In the past Hitler, Tito, and Franz Joseph Strauss were popular targets. Now, along comes William Dankenbring of Triumph Prophetic Ministries and says it might turn out to be President Bill Clinton. In the January/February issue of Dankenbring's Prophecy Flash! magazine the main lead articles focused on "The Devil and William J. Clinton." In his lead article, "Clinton's Family Tree," Dankenbring wrote:
Amazing but true, recent research provides the most astounding evidence of a direct genealogical link between one of history's most wicked and sadistic monsters - Emperor Nero of Rome - and President William Jefferson Clinton. Read here of the most astonishing pedigree, and the "Nero Connection" to America's beleaguered President, impeached in the House and tried in the Senate for "high crimes and misdemeanors."
Dankenbring then went on to quote J. R. Church of Prophecy in the News magazine who wrote:
Bill Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe, but took his stepfather's name as a teenager. Clinton's ancestry can be traced back, on his mother's side, to King Henry III who ruled England from 1227 to 1272. He is descended from King Robert I of France.
Furthermore, he is related to every Scottish monarch to the current British royal family. Clinton's royal roots include several medieval monarchs and Simon de Montford, a statesman and soldier under King Henry III. Through de Montford, Clinton is related to every ancient aristocratic family in Britain today....
Bill Clinton's family goes back to William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison, making him related to Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. His kinship to Ford makes him "near kin" to Richard Nixon and George Bush. Small world isn't it?
Dankenbring then goes on to quote Church who claims to know a boyhood friend of Clinton who is also supposedly a member of the Rothschild banking family. This unnamed source makes the astonishing claim that in his youth, Clinton at times wore a Jewish skullcap and that Clinton attended Rothschild family functions because he supposedly is a Rothschild descendant. But that is not all. Supposedly, according to Church, the Rothschilds are descended from Emperor Nero! As Dankenbring exclaims, "From the villainous Nero to Clinton - what a legacy!"
To put the final nails in Clinton's coffin, Dankenbring points out how using Aramaic numerology the name Nero Caesar has a total numerical value of 666. Dankenbring the goes on to apply Hebrew gamatria and concludes that the name William Jefferson Clinton has a total numerical value of 666. Not only that, writes Dankenbring, so does the name Hillary Rodham!
In a second article, "A New Look at the Devil and Bill Clinton," Dankenbring writes:
History reveals Emperor Nero of Rome to have been a slick, seductive, emotional, popular, much loved Emperor - but a man who craved power, and became one of the greatest tyrants and blood-thirsty demagogues in all human history. What will the record of history have to say about William Jefferson Clinton, America's 42nd President?
Dankenbring then goes on to paint Clinton as a demagogue similar to Nero. The article's subheadings tell the story: "Bimbo Eruptions," "Drugs, Suicides and Murder," "Fundraising Scandals and Treason," "The Clinton Body Count," "Scandals Galore and Prophecy," "Clinton: First Sociopath in the Oval Office?", "Foretold in Biblical Prophecy?", and "The Beast of Revelation."
Dankenbring then concludes with a prophetic interpretation that is increasingly gaining supporters in religious circles both abroad and in the United States, itself:
At this point in history, the United States with its allies IS the end-time "Roman Empire." Our government is patterned after that of ancient Rome. Our constitution is based on many Roman principles. We have a Senate like the ancient Roman Senate. We now speak of "Pax Americana," of the "American Peace," and the "American Age."
Speaking of the "End-Time Babylon," the book of Revelation points out that it will be both a mighty military power and a world commercial empire (Rev. 13 and Rev. 18). The whole world, for a time, will "worship" this end-time amalgam of nations and western powers - who control world trade and who patrol the world's "hot spots." At the head of this amalgam of nations today is the United States of America!
America is the world's last and only remaining "Superpower"!
As the head of this end-time "Babylonian" empire, the United States President could be looked upon as the "king" of Babylon. And, as the end-time "Tyre," the modern counterpart of the ancient world's leading trading commercial metropolis, and nation-state, America be could considered the end-time fulfillment of the "prince Tyre."...
This prophesied end-time world leader [of Ezek. 28:2-5] will sit at the helm of nations - and manage the "New World Order." He is described as "wiser than Daniel." Who can but marvel at the amazing political dexterity cunning and of William "Slick" Clinton, in his ability to conjure up political "witchcraft" to remove himself from political danger? It has been reported that he has an I.Q. of 165 - well into the "genius" level - and he is certainly a "genius" when it comes to politics!
Will Bill Clinton turn out to be the prophesied "Beast" or "Antichrist"? Time will tell! We will know very soon now!
To subscribe to Prophecy Flash!, write to Triumph Prophetic Ministries, P.O. Box 292, Altadena, CA 91003.
The Secret Church of Conspiracy
by John Trechak
In Part II of this series, I covered the Jewish conspiracy theory, but neglected to mention one important point. Just as we might say "the Catholics" or "the French" and thus lump all members of those groups into one homogeneous whole, we often say "the Jews" without giving much thought to what we are talking about. The fact is, just as the Catholics are divided on many issues, and as are the French, the Jews are similarly not a monolithic, homogenous group in many ways. There are Reformed Jews, Conservative Jews, Orthodox Jews (ultra conservative), secular Jews (those that are non-religious, even atheist), and now, Messianic Jews (those that believe Jesus of Nazareth was/is the Messiah). There is even debate among Jews as to who is really a Jew. Some groups emphasize race, others ethnicity, and others religious purity. And all these groups have significant differences of opinion on many philosophical and doctrinal points.
For example, recently, some of the differences between the Orthodox branch (which predominates in Israel) and the Reformed branch (which predominates in the United States) have flared up in Israel to where demonstrations between the two groups have been quite vociferous, almost violent. In a New York Times article last year, one Israeli authority was quoted as saying that the differences between the various factions in Israel was now so great, he would not be surprised to see open violence flare up between the factions at some point in the near future. Indeed, in Prime Minister Rabin's assassination we may have already seen the precursor of such hostilities. So when we talk about "the Jews," let us keep in mind that they are not the homogeneous, united kind of entity that some suppose.
Masons and the WCG
This will be a short section, as there really is virtually no substantial connection between Freemasonry and the WCG. A few years ago there circulated in church circles anonymous letters claiming that all the ministers in the WCG were actually secretly Freemasons. We have investigated this for some time and have found absolutely no evidence that this is the case. We know of only one former WCG executive who is currently a Mason - Marion J. McNair, author of the 1977 exposi book Armstrongism: Religion or Rip-off? McNair is a 32nd degree Mason and proud of it. And in conversations with the Report he denied that the fraternity was in any way behind the WCG and he had nothing but good to say about Masonry.
We asked long-ago WCG minister Paul Royer, now head of the Church of God, Sonoma (4343 Wallace Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95404), if he knew of any connection between Masonry and the founders of Armstrongism and this is what he wrote us:
I heard the matter discussed briefly in the WCG on an occasion or two by Jack Elliot [a WCG executive many years ago] who as I remember was once a Mason [before joining Worldwide]. As I recall Garner Ted and HWA were around when Jack made the comments, all unfavorable. I personally did not see any evidence of Freemasonry in the church.
Perhaps one reason some WCG members have wondered about a WCG secret connection to Freemasonry is because the WCG, for many years not wanting to buy church buildings and refusing to rent space from other church denominations, found itself renting space from Masonic temples for use for services. And with more than 2.5 million Masons in the United States alone (according to World Book Encyclopedia), there are many Masonic halls available for rental. One reader wrote us:
Right from the start, HWA's very first office in Eugene was on the second floor of an old Masonic building [we have not verified this - ed.]. And through the years many of the churches rented Masonic halls for their activities.
This latter statement is true, but it is also true that in many communities where there were Masonic halls available, local pastors rented other facilities. Price and other factors seem to have been the main considerations. But some will prefer to believe otherwise. One funny church story in this regard relates to the old Reseda, California WCG congregation. It used to meet in the Masonic lodge in that city and the lodge's number just happened to be 666. You can imagine the rumors that that fact inspired!
Those looking for a seamier side to Masonry can find it easily in numerous books on the market that purport to expose Masonry. Among the popular exposis are: The Brotherhood: The Explosive Exposi of the Secret World of the Freemasons by Stephen Knight (1985), Inside the Brotherhood: Explosive Secrets of the Freemasons by Martin Short (1989), The Temple and the Lodge by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh (1989), and in the Freemason literature published by Religion Analysis Service, P.O. Box 22098, Robbinsdale, MN 55422-0098. Another valuable, and perhaps more balanced, source of esoteric information on Freemasonry is the No. 44 issue of Gnosis magazine (P.O. Box 14217, San Francisco, CA 94114-0217).
It is interesting that someone critical of the symbolic basis of Masonic ritual is Wellesley College Professor Mary Lefkowitz, a respected classics scholar. According to the Los Angeles Times (7/3/96, p. E4):
No myth is more widespread, says Lefkowitz, than the mystical picture of ancient Egypt incorporated in the lore of Freemasonry.... The symbolism and numerology of Freemasonry tends to be looked on as gospel by the strongest adherents of Afrocentrism. But it has little or no foundation, Lefkowitz says, in the vast literature that Egyptologists have uncovered since they began reading hieroglyphics in the last century.
The real source of the Masonic portrait of Egypt, she says, is a three-volume French novel, Sethos, published in 1713 by the Abbe Jean Terrasson, who thought hieroglyphics were mystic symbols. Terrasson's novel was widely read during the 18th century, and was so influential that it became the source for the libretto of Mozart'ss opera, The Magic Flute.
While there are many critics of Masonry with their ideas in print, those wanting to read Masonic defenses to the charges against them will find an excellent source at the pro-Masonry site:www.freemasonry.bcy.ca/anti-masonry/anti-masonry_faq.html , the site of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia.
Again, whatever one thinks of Masonry, we have found no evidence that the ministry of the WCG or any of its offshoots have Masons in their ranks.
WCG and Jesuits
Just as goofy as the theory that the Masons somehow control the WCG and/or its offshoots is the theory that somehow Jesuits have infiltrated the WCG and/or some of its offshoots. This theory has had two major sources.
One source has been claims made by Dr. Alberto Rivera, a mysterious individual who claimed to have once been a Jesuit before finding Christ. (Rivera died in 1997 after supposedly being poisoned by Jesuits, according to his widow's Web site http://members.tripod.com/~zine _ damascus/reflections/alberto). Rivera's adventures have been depicted in comic books published by Jack T. Chick, who for over 25 years has been a major figure in anti-Catholicism in the United States. His small comic book tracts are simultaneously the funniest and the scariest anti-Catholic literature to be found today. And they have been popular with many Worldwiders. Besides selling his comic book tracts, in recent years Chick has expanded his outreach onto the Internet. He is at P.O. Box 3500, Ontario, CA 91761-1100; www.chick.com. (Anti-Chick sites can be found at www.revolting.com/1.2/chick/chick.html and www.his.com/~panda/paulb/chick.html.)
Rivera's allegations are an important part of Chick's anti-Catholic crusade. Rivera makes the claim that the Roman Catholic Church is actively attempting to thwart mainstream Protestant and Evangelical churches by sending in undercover Jesuit agents to sow discord in such churches. The theory is that Jesuit intellectuals infiltrate into the high echelons of such churches, pretending to be true believers, but then introduce heretical teachings to bring about the destruction of the Protestant churches.
In the 1970s Rivera was contacted by a number of members of the WCG who had been reading Chick publications. They asked him if WCG attorney Stanley Rader was such a Jesuit agent. Rivera's reply was that Rader was such an agent. How did he know? Rivera never revealed his sources of information. Apparently, the fact that Rader had advanced degrees was adequate proof to Rivera that Rader was a Jesuit agent.
But how reliable was Rivera? Numerous Christian anti-cult organizations, still anxious to find Rivera truthful, have had to concede that they have been unable to verify many of his central claims. Indeed, there is some doubt that he, himself, was ever really a Jesuit, as he claimed. Watchman Fellowship, the evangelical cult-fighting organization, has specifically warned us not to place trust in Rivera's pronouncements. Another group, an anti-Catholic one, Opus Dei Awareness Network (ODAN), specifically warns against quoting Rivera, as he has repeatedly proven so unreliable as to be self-defeating to ODAN's anti-Catholic mission.
Incidentally, both Opus Dei and ODAN are interesting groups worth being aware of. The Catholic Opus Dei is at 99 Overlook Circle, New Rochelle, NY, 10804; www.opusdei.org. And the Opus Dei Awareness Network, Inc. (ODAN) is at P.O. Box 4333, Pittsfield, MA 01202-4333; www.odan.org.
The second source of rumor that the Armstrongites have been infiltrated by Jesuits is a Seventh Day Adventist-related group that distributes a set of video tapes titled Catholic Charismatic Attack on God's SDA Church. It is put out by its producer Pastor Jan Marcussen, P.O. Box 68, Thompsonville, IL 62890. (It has also been distributed by the WCG spinoff group The Cincinnati Brethren, P.O. Box 75021, Ft. Thomas, KY 41075.) In the series Marcussen adopts Alberto Rivera's premise that the Catholic Church has been sending Jesuit agents into Protestant churches to cause chaos. If that is not enough, Marcussen goes on to make the startling claims that Jesuits are behind all pharmaceutical companies, that communism was a Jesuit-hatched plot, that Hitler was a Jesuit, and that even rock and roll was developed by Jesuits. But where the tape steps on the toes of Armstrongites is in naming Dr. Samuelle Bacchiocchi as a Jesuit infiltrator. Bacchiocchi, in recent years, has been a popular author (From Sabbath to Sunday) and lecturer in Armstrongite circles. Bacchiocchi, a Seventh Day Adventist minister, promotes the seventh-day sabbath, yet because he did some of his education at a Catholic institution in Rome, they are convinced Bacchiocchi is a Jesuit infiltrator. We wrote Dr. Sam about the allegation and his thoughtful reply was:
The "Jesuit Conspiracy" mentality has plagued our SDA church for many years. The truth of the matter is that the Catholic Church has so many problems of its own that it has no time to cause problems in other churches. Please note that less than three percent of Catholics go to church in Italy. They have plenty of work to do to salvage their own church.
Not only is Bacchiocchi a very pro-Sabbath preacher, he is also an astute critical observer of the Vatican. Notice an 8/28/98 comment he made to his Special Sabbath Updates readers:
[My lecture will discuss] Pope John Paul II's Pastoral Letter Dies Domini where he makes a passionate plea for revival of Sunday observance, by urging, among other things, the passing of Sunday Rest legislation to facilitate Sunday worship. This historical document is significant for two major reasons. First, Pope John Paul II grounds Sunday observance in the Sabbath commandment itself, by making Sunday keeping the continuation and embodiment of the theology and practice of the Sabbath. This explanation runs contrary to Catholic tradition that has viewed Sunday observance as an ecclesiastical institution independent of the Sabbath commandment. Second, the Pope appeals to the "providential" origin of the Sunday rest legislation at the time of Constantine, and to its survival through the centuries, to urge Christians "to ensure that civil legislation respects their duty to keep Sunday holy. The November issues of Liberty Ministry and Signs of the Times... carry my analysis of the Pope's Pastoral Letter.
As illogical as it is to see Dr. Bacchiocchi as a Jesuit infiltrator, many, nevertheless, have. A few years ago, an invitation by the Global Church of God for Bacchiocchi to speak led to scores of GCG members leaving the organization in the belief that it had been taken over by Jesuit infiltrators. Some even accused evangelist Roderick Meredith of being a Jesuit. And since then we have heard of many other Armstrongites who have left their denominations because their pastors have looked favorably on Bacchiocchi's work. Is there any evidence that Bacchiocchi is a Jesuit? Of course not. The fact that he so strongly promotes the seventh-day sabbath should be proof enough that such theories are nonsense. Yet, some continue to prefer weird conspiracy theories to what should be self-evident.
Not only have some Armstrongites and former members seen Jewish Conspiracy, Masonic, and Jesuit connections to the WCG and Armstrongite offshoots, there have even been some who have brought into their theories the Illuminate, the Bilderbergers, the Trilateral Commission, Satanists, and even outer space aliens. Most of these theories are too weird even to get into. Suffice it to say, some Armstrongite members and ex-members are prone toward accepting such strange notions, no matter how contrary to common sense.
Of course, there is a positive side to all of this. Many of those fascinated by conspiracy theories realize that many of them contain grains of truth, and to such people there is merit in attempting to coordinate all the theories into some kind of logical framework. Among former Worldwiders who have had this approach are author Des Griffin of Emissary Publications (9205 SE Clackamas Rd., #1776, Clackamas, OR 97015, 503-824-2050; www.midnight-emissary.com) and Ken Nagele, author of The Elegan Files: A Guide to Understanding Life in the End Times (1442 E. Lincoln Ave., Ste. 373, Orange, CA 92865; www. elegan.com).
But can one go too far with conspiracy theory coordination? Can one get to where conspiracy theories become an obsession that leads to an abandonment of reason? That this is indeed possible can be seen in the ministry of former advertising man and former Worldwider David J. Smith who heads The Church of God Evangelistic Association, has a radio program, and puts out Newswatch Magazine (1420 West Ross, Waxahachie, Texas 75165; 972-937-2227). To Smith, it seems, there was never a conspiracy theory that was not 100 percent true. His ministry appears to incorporate all of them: the Jewish Conspiracy, the Illuminate, the Masons, the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderbergers, the Communists, Gorbachev, etc., etc., etc.
Smith has hundreds of tapes available that cover just about every conspiracy theory known to modern man. Unfortunately, many of his ideas are so ludicrous it is difficult to believe people actually pay money to listen to them. On one tape, for instance, Smith makes the astonishing claim that not only are the Russians still planning an attack on the United States, but that tens of thousands of Russian troops have already landed secretly in Louisiana and are in hiding there in caves.
The hysterical tone of Smith's ministry can be seen in most of his utterances. For example on 7/31/98, as the U.S. was in the midst of a heat wave, Smith wrote his followers:
Extremely low frequency magnetic wave generators were working by the Soviet Union and the United Sates [in the 1980s]. Now listen very carefully to TV weather people. They don't know WHY rain is everywhere except in a circle of about 100 miles with Dallas/Waxahachie, Texas as the central focus of this intense heat. If people only knew the spiritual battles going on invisibly, then it would make sense....
In the Bible it is recorded that demons said to some unconverted Jews who were trying to cast them out, "Jesus we know, Paul we know, but who are you?" (paraphrased). In other words Satan knows God is working in the earth through certain human beings and will stop at nothing to thwart their plans and activities. God has called for "an ingathering of saints from a Western state" under my leadership. NO MAGGIE, THERE IS NO CHAPTER AND VERSE PROPHESYING THIS, ONLY GOD'S VISION AND DIRECT THOUGHTS PUT INTO MY MIND AND THOUSANDS OF OTHER PEOPLE WHO HEARD IT STATED ON WORLDWIDE SHORTWAVE RADIO TEN DAYS BEFORE GOD EVER STIRRED ME UP TO GO WHERE THE INGATHERING WOULD BE!!! THEN HE SENT SIX DREAMS AND VISIONS TO OTHER CHURCH MEMBERS UNKNOWN TO EACH OTHER TO CONFIRM THAT I WAS NOT MAKING UP SOMETHING OR HAD SOME BAD PIZZA!
Colorful stuff, but it is in his pronouncements on conspiracies that Smith outdoes just about everyone. In that network of former WCG members who are enthralled with conspiracy theories of every type - those I think of as "The Secret Church of Conspiracy" - there is no more fanatic preacher than David J. Smith. Smith's preoccupation seems to be a Unified Field Grand Conspiracy Theory - one that integrates virtually all conspiracy theories into a unified whole. And perhaps among all his conspiracy lectures there is no more fanatical one than the infamous Tape Number 801.
On this tape - passed around frequently within the conspiracy buff network - Smith purports to explain how it was that the Pope was actually behind the downsizing of the WCG. According to Smith, Stanley Rader is not just a Jew, but a 33rd degree Mason, tied to both the Illuminate and the CIA and in addition is an agent of the Pope. And, according to Smith, it was Rader who supposedly recruited John Trechak (the author of this piece) to Ambassador College in the 1960s specifically to start Ambassador Report in the late 70s as a means of bringing down the WCG. This, according to Smith, was accomplished by a secret Rome meeting in 1968 between Trechak and Rader's boss Pope Paul VI and through secret contacts, at a German opera house no less, between Trechak and West German politician Franz Joseph Strauss in the late sixties. (Needless to say, all these claims are totally hallucinatory.) To Smith, Bible translator Dr. James Tabor is supposedly actually working toward establishing a Masonic Temple in Jerusalem, and former WCG executive turned author Dr. Robert Kuhn is supposedly writing mind-control books for the New World Order. The WCG, the UCG, and Roderick Meredith have supposedly all come under the control of the Vatican through Jesuit agents. The Grand Conspirators supposedly want "the New World Order" (the rule of the Beast) to be in place by the year 2000.
And where does Smith get his information? One source is "Joseph Tkach's right hand man." (Ask yourself: should someone from Tkach be trusted as a reliable source about the UCG, GCG, or Ambassador Report?) This "right hand man" supposedly provided Smith with a Wackenhut Corporation printout that verified much of his allegations (likely a practical joke hoax). An additional source of Smith's inspiration is a strange little visitor named Bill Youngblood who appears at Smith's back door with messages supposedly from God. Smith speculates that Youngblood is an angel. Another source of inspiration are Bibles that magically appear in mid-air in front of him. Additionally the Holy Spirit whispers into his ear when he visits the Fort Worth stock yards. Dreams and visions play an important part in Smith's ministry. And yet, in spite of all the tell-tale signs of mental instability (he even kids on the tape that many think he is certifiable), there are some who look to David J. Smith for guidance in their lives through conspiracy theories. Of such is the Secret Church of Conspiracy.
WCG Gays on the Net
Gay and lesbian members of the WCG and its offshoots now have at least three Web pages dedicated to gay Sabbatarians. One Pasadena, California-based page is titled "Called Out." According to the introduction to the site:
We are a web page dedicated to gay and lesbian members and former members, ordained and lay members, of the various Churches of God (Worldwide Church of God/WCG, United Church of God/UCG, Global Church of God/GCG, Philadelphia Church of God/PCG, and its many other fellowships). We also welcome our Jewish sisters and brothers and gay and lesbian Christians from any other religious organization that are looking for a haven of rest from angry, hateful, religious extremists.
We also want you to know that you are not alone, whether you are still in the church or no longer a member. We want you to know that God HAS NOT forsaken you, rejected you nor abandoned you. YOU ARE NOT LOST! YOU ARE NOT CONDEMNED TO THE LAKE OF FIRE! YOU ARE NOT GOING TO HELL! You are a precious Child of God, who has a loving and merciful Father in heaven. We also want you to know that there are a lot of us out here right along side you, ready to lift you up and help carry the burden you have shouldered too long by yourself!... We may not have all the answers, but we can point you in the right directions!
The site provides numerous articles concerning being gay/lesbian and still being a member of one of the Churches of God. There are also listings of books on the subject of being a gay Christian as well as numerous references to other organizations, complete with addresses and Internet links. The Called Out site is at http://home.pacbell.net/tofr.
A second site is the "Called Out & 7th Day Gay Club." This site is said to be "for 7th Day Sabbatarians, who happen to be gay." It is located at http://clubs.yahoo.com/clubs/calledoutand7thdaygay.
A third site is called the "Rainbow 7th Day Sabbatarians." Among other things, this site promotes a Feast of Tabernacles for gay members in the Dallas, Texas area. The site is at www.geocites.com/Athens/Delphi/2345.
Bobby Fischer's Terrors
Former world chess champion Bobby Fischer is perhaps the most famous person ever to have been a WCG "co-worker." An interview with him was featured in our 1977 issue (AR2). Since then, a number of readers have asked for information about what has become of Fischer. On February 2, All Things Considered on National Public Radio had this update:
ROBERT SIEGEL, host: A book and movie about chess a few years ago was called Searching for Bobby Fischer. Well, the latest sightings of the reclusive chess great would have to make even a die-hard chess fan wonder if the search is worth finding the one-time great prodigy in his current condition. Fischer stays away from the United States, where he's wanted for violating the sanctions against Yugoslavia. He went there to play a match against Boris Spassky in 1992. At age 55, Fischer now lives in Budapest. And over the past two weeks, he has made a series of telephone appearances on radio shows, in which he has ranted against Jews. Fischer, whose own mother was Jewish, screams about a decision to sell off his belongings and memorabilia, which were in storage in Pasadena. He claims that was the work of a Jewish conspiracy.
Last week, he spent an hour on a Filipino radio station spewing anti-Semitic insults, vulgarities, and charges of Jewish persecution. Here's one sanitized excerpt.
(Excerpt from Filipino interview)
PABLO: Bobby - hello, Bob...
Mr. BOBBY FISCHER (Chess Champion): It was all orchestrated by the Jewish world government.
PABLO: OK. Bobby, I'm sorry to say, but we've consumed 30 minutes already with the program. Newscast is about to come in right now.
Mr. FISCHER: Oh, I thought it was, like, five minutes.
PABLO: Yes. No, it's 30 minutes already. And we'll talk with you again one time, alright?
Mr. FISCHER: Sure, sure.
PABLO: We'll call you up again.
Mr. FISCHER: I want to thank you, you know. This is free speech. These Jews - they want to know the most rotten things, but they don't want their enemies to have the opportunity to answer back.
PABLO: Well, this is your opportunity. And we've been giving - we've given you two chances already. We'll call you again.
Mr. FISCHER: Thank you, Pablo.
PABLO: I'll call you again, alright?
Mr. FISCHER: I want to tell you Jews out there this is just the beginning.
PABLO: OK, Bobby. OK.
Mr. FISCHER: This is just the beginning. I'm not afraid of you. You can all drop dead.
PABLO: All right, Bobby. Thank you very much.
(End of excerpt)
SIEGEL: That was actually Fischer's second appearance on the Filipino radio station. Two weeks ago, he gave an interview to that station and also to Radio Calypso in Budapest. His interviewer on the Hungarian station, Daniel Molnar, whose English is limited, had a Hungarian interpreter on hand for what he says began as a straight-forward discussion.
Mr. DANIEL MOLNAR (Radio Calypso): In the first five minutes, it was very interesting and he explained why didn't he return to the United States after the match against Spassky. And after five minutes, he began to cry that his life became destroyed by Jewish people.
SIEGEL: I mean, he was screaming this into the telephone, shouting?
Mr. MOLNAR: Yes.
SIEGEL: You tried to ask him about other things, but he just wanted to shout about...
Mr. MOLNAR: Yeah, I asked how do you remember Boris Spassky in Reykjavik and you met Boris Spassky... (unintelligible) in Yugoslavia and do you have a friendship with Boris Spassky and...
SIEGEL: And did he answer these questions?
Mr. MOLNAR: No, nothing. Nothing. He didn't answer any questions. He only told, "No, no, no. I don't want to answer your questions. I don't want to answer your second question. Don't try to answer your third question." And began to say his original facts.
SIEGEL: Daniel Molnar says that when he asked Fischer to square his anti-Semitism with his own Jewish ancestry, Fischer said, "Let's go to the little boy's room where we'll all see who's Jewish." Molnar said the interpreter toned down Fischer's language when he rendered the chess player's answers into Hungarian. But after several minutes of Fischer refusing to talk about anything but his belief that he's being persecuted by Jews, the station in Budapest cut him off.
Editor: To fill in some of the gaps of this story, we quote an article that appeared in the San Gabriel Valley section of the Los Angeles Times (2/19/99):
Chess Champ Livid at Reported Property Sale
by Jim Walters
PASADENA-It seemed like a simple procedure. The renter at A American Self-Storage hadn't paid his bill in six months so the contents were sold in a lien sale to cover back rent.
It didn't seem the makings of international intrigue. But then it wasn't common knowledge that the man was an apparent friend of former world chess champion Bobby Fischer, and that the unit, which rents for $80 a month, allegedly contained some of Fischer's prized possessions.
While the friend could not be reached for comment at his home or office, another longtime Fischer acquaintance - Olympic coach Harry Sneider - said he was very familiar with the items that Fischer had held in storage since his recluse days in Pasadena, following his 1972 world title win over Russian Boris Spassky.
Sneider, a former physical education teacher and weightlifting coach at Ambassador College in Pasadena and now an Arcadia resident, said he met Fischer in 1972 when the chess champion came looking for conditioning help. The two forged a friendship that has lasted 27 years.
"There was a chess set from that world championship, two file cabinets full of game notes and personal diaries, a letter from Richard Nixon, two 3,000-pound safes," said Sneider describing the items he recalled being stored in the rental unit.
"He (Fischer) said all of the stuff lost is worth $100 million. I think several million is more like it. We've been able to recover some of the things."
Some of the items were consigned for sale to Dreyer's Auction Inc. of Irvine, which publicized the availability of Bobby Fischer memorabilia on the Internet for its Jan. 10 auction.
"There wasn't much. The entire gross was about $8,500," said Dreyer's co-owner, Chuck Dreyer. "There were no chess sets. Just miscellaneous letters, books, correspondence, a bronze bust of Fischer."
It was unclear what might have happened to the other items that Fischer and Sneider claimed were stowed away in the storage unit.
During the past five weeks, Fischer, from his home in Budapest, Hungary, has railed over the sales during broadcasts on Bomba Radyo in the Philippines and over the Internet.
In interviews posted on the Internet, the 56-year-old Fischer said the "confiscated items" - as he described them - included a famous statue of three horses that he won in a 1970 tournament in Yugoslavia, a bronze bust he sat for in 1961, a bag of 50 to 100 rare silver dollars, hundreds of chess books, thousands of racy Mexican comic books, and Japanese posters from a Los Angeles movie theater that gave them to him when it closed down. Other items were 600 to 1,000 unpublished games - from simultaneous games played in exhibitions, following his win over Tigran Petrosian for the right to play Spassky in '72.
A spokesperson for A American, which bought the storage building from Bekins Storage in January 1998, said no one was aware of the contents when the lien sale took place.
"We called someone down from the corporate office, they took pictures of the contents we could see from outside the door," Leatherwood said. "There was no inventory. We had no knowledge of what was in there."
Harry Sneider Sets World Record
Former Ambassador College weightlifting coach Harry Sneider, now a professional weightlifting coach, set a world record in the bench press at the U.S. Powerlifting World Championships in Las Vegas in January. Harry bench pressed 402.5 pounds to set the world record in the 220 to 242 pound class in the age 55-60 category.
How Soon They Forget
A recent article in the Los Angeles Times stated that the founder and long-time president of Ambassador College had been Herbert W. Murphy.
Andrew McCooey's Mission
Andrew McCooey of England graduated from Ambassador, Bricket Wood in 1973. Since then, he has clearly lived one of the most remarkable lives of any Ambassador graduate ever. The following article about him appeared in the 3 May 1997 issue of the British publication The Tablet.
Mr. McCooey's Lifeline
by Sue Gaisford
A number of people have reason to bless the name of Freedom Now. The lawyer who founded it talked to Sue Gaisford about the values which inspire his work. He is a small solicitor with a large mission.
In 1988 Tara Terry telephoned home from the United States to Surrey. Expecting to hear a cheerful holiday report, her father was appalled to learn that his 18-year-old daughter had been arrested and charged with homicide.
Tara had left Camberley to go traveling around America with her boyfriend. In Miami the cheap hotel they were in caught fire: several people were killed in the blaze. Tara was accused of arson: It was alleged that she had started the fire to punish her boyfriend after a row. Now, if found guilty, she faced the electric chair.
Mr. Terry phoned a solicitor he knew from church, Andrew McCooey, and asked for his help. Mr. McCooey practices criminal law from a small office in Sittingbourne, Kent, but he had never encountered a problem like this: he promised to do what he could.
While he was wondering how to tackle it, Clive Uneman, a young motorbiker, turned up at his office. He had read about the case and offered his assistance. McCooey wondered what a Hell's Angel could do against the might of Miami's legal system but, as he now laughs to recall, angels come in many guises. Mr. Uneman had just inherited five properties from his father. He wasn't interested in wealth and handed all the deeds to McCooey, telling him to do as he liked with them.
Thus armed, McCooey set off for Florida. He managed to get bail for Tara, and then hired a forensic scientist from New York, who was able to prove conclusively that the fire had been caused by faulty wiring. It had suited the hotel's owners to blame a young tourist, to avoid the huge claims for damages that eventually followed. Tara was free.
From this incident was born Freedom Now, the organization which McCooey runs. Its purpose is to support deserving people who face serious miscarriage of justice abroad. Tara's case taught him that, without this kind of help, any Briton is on his own if he runs into trouble abroad. McCooey's conversation is punctuated by stories like Tara's. There are dozens of them. A soft-spoken, gentle, respectable man in his forties, he is particularly moved by the plight of imprisoned girls, having three daughters himself. His practice is almost entirely funded by legal aid work. Didn't he have any paying clients? He laughed - well, the best by far has been Myra, whose fees had all been paid by David Astor. It took me a moment to realize he was talking about Myra Hindley, the Moors murderer.
He was Hindley's solicitor for seven years. In the end, she was moved from Maidstone to Durham at about the time he was running out of strength to deal with her case. But that had not been Hindley's fault. He is the first to insist that her crimes were heinous, but he feels that she had been enslaved by Ian Brady, that she is now a completely reformed character and that she has been punished enough.
In her time, she has seen several people who had murdered children come into gaol [jail], serve their time and leave, but her notoriety is such that the media interest in her will probably keep her in forever. She has been informed, indeed, that she will never be released. McCooey remarks, bitterly, that the chief crime reporter of the Sun had told him that Myra Hindley's name sold more copies than the Princess of Wales's. Any story, however absurd, was fair game. Seven days a week he was pestered by reporters: once, he was telephoned at midnight to be asked his opinion of her forthcoming marriage. Oh yes, he had agreed with weary irony, sure she was getting married: after all, she had so many suitable husbands to choose from, locked inside a women's prison.
When asked to take on Hindley as a client, he consulted his wife, Margaret, who immediately responded that if he thought he should do it she would agree. Mrs. McCooey is a legal executive, and the only other practitioner in the firm. She mainly deals with cases of domestic violence and child protection. She is a pretty, competent Scots woman, to whom he has been married for more than 20 years. They met during an extraordinary episode in their lives that has clearly had a considerable influence on them both.
As a little boy, the son of Irish Catholic immigrants, McCooey had wanted to be a priest. By the time he was 16 he had decided to train as a lawyer. His career was interrupted by an encounter with Herbert Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God. Looking back on it now, he describes this organization as a cult, but at the time it seemed important. It took him to the Ambassador College in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, where he spent four years gaining a degree in theology - "for what it's worth." And what was it worth? Well, in the United States it might count as a degree but not in Britain, and he wouldn't claim much for it.
Herbert Armstrong was the father of Garner Ted Armstrong, who used Radio Luxembourg to advertise church activities. Their "Church" was strong on the Old Testament, not a conspicuous feature of a conventional Catholic education. At Ambassador College the rules were very strict. Students observed all the laws of Leviticus, avoiding unclean meat and shellfish, for example, and being careful never even to kiss a member of the opposite sex on pain of immediate expulsion.
Andrew McCooey was selected to become a minister. He met Margaret on the course and, when it finished, they married. It was while they were on their honeymoon that he received the news that his job (and therefore his house) was no longer available. The college had been closed and the Church was reeling under a succession of scandals. The slogan "In bed with Garner Ted" described the son's activities but the father was worse. In his eighties, he had decided to marry a divorcee in her thirties and was publicly raving about the glories of sex. "It was just as if someone told you your mother was a prostitute," says McCooey now.
Yet he doesn't regret those years. For a start, he would never have met Margaret without the Armstrongs - and he speaks of her with much admiration and affection. And then, he learned so much. Having survived a cult, he has a wary wisdom of any organization that claims an exclusive right to the truth, along with a certainty that people - "anybody, including me" - can be seduced into doing or believing almost anything by bogus security offered by such groups.
He is a Catholic again now thanks partly to the benign influence of Lord Longford, whose grandson by marriage, Edward Fitzgerald QC, is a valuable asset to Freedom Now. He speaks quietly of the colossal power of prayer. In Greece, facing a hostile court, he prayed desperately for Lucy, a girl about to be convicted of smuggling the largest load of pure heroin ever captured. He was certain that she was innocent, but never had anyone been acquitted in the face of such evidence. She was acquitted.
While the jury was out on the case of Stephen Owen, a Kent man accused of murder, he did the same. Owen had shot the hit-and-run lorry-driver who had killed his son: there was no doubt about it. And the jury, driven by compassion, pronounced him innocent. "I know now," McCooey says, that there is a real living God who comes to people in their hour of need."
At the moment he is helping several prisoners in Belize, who have the right of appeal to English courts thanks to their colonial history. Last time he was there, he was shown the hangman's rope: so far, he has saved seven innocent lives from its embrace.
He relies on several benefactors to fund these trips, but he worries about it: "I'd like to put Freedom Now on a proper footing: it's pretty amateurish - and I'm hopeless at raising money." He has never taken a penny out of it for himself, but it makes heavy demands on his time and energy and, of course, he has a duty to work at his home practice, not least to provide for his growing family. He did apply for charitable status but, incredibly, was refused. It seems an odd system that allows, say, Glyndebourne [opera festival] to be a registered charity and not this remarkable and courageous endeavor.
Yet in spite of it all, Andrew McCooey is a happy man. He clearly dotes on his children and loves such jaunts as taking the little one to funfairs. And the work, whilst demanding, is immensely worthwhile. "There is nothing more rewarding," he says, "than to take a person whom you genuinely believe to be innocent, to bring them away from a foreign gaol and to deliver them home."
Editor: In a letter to Ambassador Report, Margaret McCooey (nee Bond, AC-BW 1970) wrote us the following:
Andrew should really tell you all his adventures in the WCG himself so I will not go into that, save that on ministerial visits as "second man" (alias Invisible Man) he was so bored that he unconsciously untied then tied together minister Mark Elliott's shoe laces whilst deep spiritual advice was being given to some unhappy soul by the master himself!
On our honeymoon, as you probably know, Andrew was "made redundant," i.e. we were told there would be no job, house, or car in Bristol for us and we moved into the Page's spare room at Working Surrey for the alarming start to married life. Not what we planned. But God was kind, and several months later, Andrew returned to law, and became a law student at Guildford College of Law (he had left a job in law to come to college). Instead of marrying a "rich" minister, I had a poor law student on my hands - but we did say "for better or worse" and actually it was the best thing that could have happened to us and put us on a much better path. We hung on in the church, looked on as black sheep by the Godalming Church under David House, for six more years unfortunately - Andrew would have left much sooner, but I was a "true believer" and kept thinking things would change and get better.
Since going into law it took five years for Andrew to qualify - I also did some studies and am what you would call in the USA a paralegal. We managed to start our own law firm in our livingroom in 1987 and have now been going some 10 years. (We now have offices, by the way.)...
I do family law and have come to specialize in helping women who suffer from domestic violence. It gives endless scope to help and encourage women who have no voice and no power. I also do childcare cases, helping parents with care proceedings and adoption. I run a Survivors Group for women who have been sexually or physically abused in childhood and we have been running for three years. It is not something I am trained for, save having a diploma from London University in Child Protection, but I get the women together and they help themselves. I also organize trips for them to do things they have never done, e.g. go to Albert Hall to hear a classical concert, start driving lessons, get counselling. I find many women come to us through the work our law firm does.
Andrew is 50 and I am 51 and just now, I am trying to rest more. We have a little daughter Christabel of eight. Our others, Juliet and Caroline, are 17 and 20. We have kept and strengthened our Christian faith. Andrew attends the local Catholic Church (his childhood faith) and I attend a United Reformed Church (mixture of Presbyterian and Methodist). God is more real and more important than ever and faith is simple, not complicated now. Because of our experiences in the WCG we have been able to help neighbors not become Jehovah's Witnesses and brought them to Christ instead, and I have attended Mormon missionary meetings and piped up with all the arguments people need to hear why joining a cult is a bad idea. The biblical knowledge we got from the WCG has been invaluable, of course.
We were rebaptized in 1983 by a wonderful Baptist minister Arthur Neil when we lived in Devon, and he knew much about spiritual warfare and helped us turn "right side up" again.
We have had masses of obstacles and battles in life, but we are still fighting on - wounded but not wiped out. We keep in touch with those who left who were our friends, but those still in the church are still too wary of us to return our friendship.
Another thing we do is visit people in prison, as our legal work has taken us into most prisons in Britain. It is good for the soul. Andrew specially speaks on TV and radio against the death penalty, particularly in the USA. He is currently campaigning for Kenny Ritchie, a Scotsman facing the executioner in Ohio, I think, but we lost the media battle to prevent Nick Ingram being executed in Georgia....
It is particularly ironic that Andrew has found such a field of activity as a lawyer, as he was told at Ambassador College that he could never be a lawyer and didn't have what it takes! His friend and classmate, Adrian Smith, was told the same story, but after a very successful career in selling, he has just graduated from London University with a law degree, which he studied for by distance learning from his farm in Canada. So much for all the labelling and typecasting Ambassador College loved to do.
3 London Road
Kent ME10 1NQ
Did Sunday Worship Come From Paganism?
Editor: The above question is the intriguing title of the February newsletter of evangelist Ralph Woodrow. Many readers will probably find the following excerpt as eye opening as we did:
There are many Christians - not only those who meet on Saturday, but many who attend church on Sunday - who assume that Sunday observance originally came from paganism. The basic idea is this: Sunday was the established day of rest, the weekly holiday in the pagan world. On this day each week, the Romans, Greeks, and other pagans gathered in temples to worship their pagan gods, particularly the Sun-god - hence the term Sun-day. Later, when these pagans professed Christianity, they gradually brought the overwhelming popular practice of meeting on Sunday into the "Church."
The teaching that Sunday worship "came from paganism" has been so often repeated, it may come as a surprise when I tell you this teaching has no basis in fact. It is misinformation. If I can show you - and I believe I can - that Sunday was not a day of rest and worship among pagans, then it should be quite clear that the practice of Christians meeting on Sunday, the first day of the week, did not come from this source.
In the New Testament, "the first day of the week" is mentioned eight times. These references do not give any information about whether or not the first day of the week - Sunday - was a day of rest and worship among pagans. For this we will need to look into history. In doing so, suppose we were to contact highly qualified historians - at great centers of learning like the British Museum, the Smithsonian Institute, and Harvard University - and ask them if Sunday was a weekly holiday in the pagan world. Surely their answers would be weighty.
Well, this has already been done - by D. M. Canright, a Seventh-Day minister. He sincerely believed Sunday worship came from paganism - this teaching had been passed on to him by equally sincere people. But when he began to look into the subject more fully, he came to a different conclusion. It was at this time - back in 1913-1914 - that he contacted these great centers of learning we have mentioned. He carefully avoided giving any idea of his own views or purpose in writing, so as not to influence answers in any way. The responses he received (which I have abridged slightly because of space limitations) are as follows:
From the world renowned British Museum in London, England, Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities:
I am commanded by the Assistant Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities to reply as follows to your questions on the ancient week:
Question 1: Did the pagan Romans and Greeks ever have any regular weekly day of rest from secular work?
Question 2: Did they have any regular weekly festival day?
Question 3: Did they have any regular weekly day when they assembled for pagan worship?
Question 4: Did they have any special day of the week when individuals went to the temples to pray or make offerings?
Answer: No; both for Greeks and Romans the month was the unit and not the week. The Greek calendar varied in different states but the month was generally divided into three periods of ten days. The Romans reckoned from three fixed points in the month, the Kaleend or first, the Nones fifth or seventh, the Ides thirteenth or fifteenth. These subdivisions in themselves had no religious significance. Also in the Roman calendars were nundinal, or market days, at periods of eight days. On these days farm work, etc., stopped and citizens flocked into the town markets. To some extent this may be a regular stoppage of secular work, but it had no religious significance.
Question 5: As Sunday was sacred to the Sun, Monday to the Moon, Saturday to Saturn, etc., were those supposed deities worshipped on their own particular days more than on any other days?
Answer: No; the old worship of the gods was disappearing when the seven-day week came about. The significance of the deities' names was astrological, not religious, e.g., if a person were born on Monday, the moon would influence his horoscope, but the moon was never an object of common worship.
Question 6: When was our week of seven days first introduced into the Roman calendar?
Answer: There are traces in the literature of the late republic (first century B.C.) that the Romans used the week of seven days for astrological purposes, in connecting with the many Eastern superstitions of the period. It was probably the third century, A.D. before the seven dayweek came into common use.
Question 7: From whom did the Romans learn the week of seven days?
Answer: From the Jews, alternately the Assyrians and Babylonians; the names were probably fixed by Hellenistic Greeks.
Question 8: Did the pagan Greeks ever adopt in common life, or in their calendar, the week of seven days?
Question 9: Did Apollo, the Sun-god, either among the Romans or Greeks, have any special day on which he was worshipped with prayers or offerings more than on any other day?
Answer: There were certain set festivals at various temples; these were annual, not weekly.
Question 10: Did the pagan reverence for Sunday have anything to do in influencing Christians to select that day as their rest day?
Answer: No; it can hardly be said that there was any special reverence for Sunday in pagan times (see answer to Number 5).
- I am, sir, Your obedient servant, F.N Pryce.
Editor: Those who would like a free copy of the entire Ralph Woodrow newsletter for February, should write to Ralph Woodrow, P.O. Box 21, Palm Springs, CA 92263-0021.
James Tabor Professor
Our congratulations to Dr. James Tabor on his recent promotion to full professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Dr. Tabor is the chief translator for the Original Bible Project. For information, contact The Original Bible Project, 408 South Pasadena Ave., Suite 1, Pasadena, CA 91105, tel. 626-799-2000.
Since both campuses of AC have now been sold, wouldn't it be great if all students who attended or graduated from AC received a refund of our college tuition and fees. After all, we were all lied to about accreditation and have worthless degrees. I would love to be a part of a class action lawsuit against AC and WCG. Now that they are multimillionaires and have had true conversion they should finally do the right thing for once. Wishful thinking on my part?
-Randall G. Shelby
You can't help but wonder if that bozo Tkach Jr. is just parting the church and college out - just like professional thieves do to an ultra-expensive Mercedes Benz or Jaguar automobile. The parts do add up to more money than the whole in these cases. It would be interesting to see how much of the church funds end up in secret Swiss or Cayman Island bank accounts. The sheep will never know about these transactions!
-Marc D. Tollefson
It's finally settling into my mind, as bizarre as it all was/ is, that "The Church" was/is run by people who would be classed as white-collar criminals in non-religious business. They stole my youth, that of my wife, and, in a curiously toxic fashion, set up my family for deeply felt stresses!
I hear that for all the big, fancy buildings that are being sold the money is to be put into a fund for the ministers' retirement. I can't believe how much gall these people have.
Editor: The setting up of a retirement plan for the WCG ministers that remain is a top priority of the Tkach administration. You can be sure that those near the top of the church hierarchy will be well provided for. But how much of the proceeds from the sale of the Texas and Pasadena campuses will be used for that purpose we do not know.
My reading of I Cor. 12 is this: Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same mailing address for money. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Pastor General. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same guilt-trip which works all in all. But the manifestation of the guilt given to every man is to profit WCG Inc.
I noticed in the book store that Mr. Tkach's book Transformed by Truth sells for $19.99. And I recalled how among Satanists symbols are often read upside down. Applying that to the price of the book we get the "666 one." Just a coincidence, I suppose.
A while ago you wrote me in response to a letter I sent you. In that letter you asked me what my profession was and what I had found that convinced me that early Gentile Christians did not keep the Sabbath. My apologies for taking so long to get back to you. In this letter I will explain why it has taken so long. To answer your first question, I am a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Illinois where I do research on corn genetics. My Ph.D. is in plant pathology (study of plant diseases), but I consider myself a plant pathologist/plant breeder. The reason it took so long to write you, aside from the fact that I have limited time to do research on the Sabbath/Sunday controversy, is the tremendous amount of material that has been written on the subject. Needless to say, I have not read all of it, but what I have read so far has not changed my view of things after I became aware that under the New Covenant Sabbath keeping is probably not required. That view is that Sabbath observation was not considered a requirement by early Christians, but that Jewish Christians continued to observe it. And that Sabbath keeping by Jewish Christians was considered OK by the Church. When I first began to think about this letter my thoughts automatically led me to think about a complete explanation of my position on the Sabbath. I started to formulate and accumulate thoughts that would be put together in this letter. I was researching various ideas on the Sabbath mainly through the Internet. As I read more and more, I realized that to do justice to this issue would take years of research and a book. I don't have time to do this, so I'll answer your question with a few thoughts.
As I explained in my first letter, I had followed the teachings of the WCG for some time with the intention of joining it when I had completed my degree. My crisis of faith, if you could call it that, occurred when I first saw Gerald Flurry on TV and realized that there had been a split in the church. (This seems comical in retrospect since church splits seem to be one of the main facets of WCG history, but I didn't know that then.) The question at that point was not only who to follow but whether either church had it right. To make a long story short, I ended up researching the Sabbath question (and of course this led to the Mosaic law question) because more than any thing this was the crucial issue to me. It became plain that if the Sabbath (and the rest of the Mosaic law) were replaced by the law of love then neither church had a monopoly on truth. I read through all of the epistles in the Bible hoping I would find something there. This leads me to my first point: There is no Sabbath epistle. Despite all of the numerous articles, booklets, etc. written by the WCG on the subject, it didn't warrant any specific discussions or teachings on the subject in the letters of the apostles. Given the centrality of the Sabbath to Jewish and early Jewish Christian life one would think that the apostles would have seen the need to address the meaning of the Sabbath and its benefits to the Gentile converts and how it was meant for them and not just the Jews. Also, one would expect a discussion of how to celebrate the Sabbath in light of Christ's example and point out how not to get trapped in the rut that the Pharisees were stuck in. Instead, we get an explanation of how the Sabbath foreshadows the rest of God ['s plan] in Hebrews chapter four and admonition to strive to enter the rest and that if Joshua had given them rest he would not speak of another day. The point I'm trying to make is this, despite all of the praise given to the Sabbath in both its meaning and its practice in WCG literature and that of other Sabbath-keeping churches, we don't have that in the epistles. This opened my mind to the possibility that Sabbath observance may not be required.
The fact that we lack any specific teachings on the observance of the Sabbath in the epistles is probably the main reason why this question continues. However, we face another issue, the epistles and their treatment of the law. The law has clearly been changed as stated in the book of Hebrews. Yet if only part of it has been changed, as is argued by Sabbatarians, rather than supplanted by the law of love, then we inevitably end up in arguments over which parts are required and which parts are not. Which brings me to my second point, if we discount the idea that the law of Moses has been supplanted by the law of love, we have no code of Christian law. What I mean is this, the old covenant had fairly specific instructions on what was required of the Israelites. Christians, however, have no such list of instructions. If the law has been changed, but not superseded by the law of love, one would expect reasonably specific instructions on which parts of the law were still binding, which parts were fulfilled in Christ's sacrifice and therefore no longer required, the ways in which Christians were expected to obey the remaining laws in light of the fact that Christ extended the meanings of some beyond the letter of the Mosaic law (i.e., if you are angry with your brother then you are guilty of murder, lust equals adultery, etc.), and any appropriate modifications to the observation of the Sabbaths, Holy Days, and other laws in light of Christ's fulfillment of the law. Not only do we lack this, but amazingly we don't even have any detailed instructions on how to conduct the communion service, the only ceremonial addition made by Christ. This situation combined with Paul's treatment of the law, discussion of Christian liberty, and statements made by the other apostles concerning the law, increased my doubts that the observance of the Sabbath is required by Christians.
This brings us to the next place to look, which is the early Church writings made by others besides the apostles. Part of the problem here is there aren't very many of them (what we would call in statistics a sampling problem) so we don't necessarily know how widespread the practices described in them were. I don't want to get into a detailed discussion of them here as I have not read enough on them to satisfy myself that I have looked at them from all angles. I have not read Samuele Bacchiocchi's book From Sabbath to Sunday, but from what I have read at his Web site I don't think it would change my view point. I find his idea that there were one hundred years of universal Sabbath keeping in Christianity, followed by a decision to change the Sabbath to Sunday by the Roman church, and then everybody else just went along with it, very difficult to believe. But I would like to read it before I would discuss the Sabbath issue too deeply. Although, I will say that two early church documents that challenge this idea are the Didache and the letter of Ignatious of Antioch to the Magnesians. Both of these letters are available on the Internet at various sites and both of these are estimated to predate Bacchiocchi's time period of the Sabbath to Sunday change. I want to see how he handles these two documents in his book before I would want to discuss them any further. For your readers, one interesting paper I have read is Gordon Shigley's The Sabbath Option. The view of this paper is that Sunday was never observed as a Sabbath until around the eighth century. Up until this point, Sunday was a day of worship and Sabbath keeping was simply not required of Christians, although Jewish Christians continued to observe it. Consequently his view is that Sabbath observation is optional. This paper is available at Mark Tabladillo's website [www.quango.net/Tabladillo/wcgweb3.html]....
I also would like to make a few comments on past issues of the AR. In your Dec. 1997 issue you mention the writings of Darrell Conder [who discounts virtually the entire New Testament]. I have not yet accessed his Web site, but your description of his ideas makes me wonder if legalism and striving for purity in one's life through actions is really one very slippery slope. But it is his conspiracy theory about the Catholic Church that really makes me wonder. It seems from past ARs that WCGers and exWCGers really go for conspiracy theories, and your House of Yahweh article seems to indicate that some will believe just about anything if it is packaged right. It seems to me that WCGers and exWCGers need a healthy dose of skepticism. Recently I began receiving the Skeptical Inquirer magazine. I don't recall if you have mentioned it in the AR or not. It is published by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal [Box 703, Amherst, NY 14226; tel. 716-636-1425]. They subject claims of the paranormal to the rigors of the scientific method. Not surprisingly, such claims usually come up short. I have enclosed the most recent issue for you in case you are unfamiliar with them. This issue has an interesting article titled "200% Probability and Beyond" that shows that an idea is more believable to people when alternative explanations are absent.
And finally, I'd like to say thank you for all your effort. The AR has been very helpful to me in understanding the phenomenon of the WCG.
As you might expect, a number of books have been helpful in my recovery. Particularly in this regard have been the writings of Ayn Rand and her supporters. Another exiter suggested I read Rand's novelette Anthem (1946). It reminded me of Huxley's Brave New World and Orwell's 1984. I think all of these should be read by those who have been in captivity as we were. Much could be said on this. Another great book is The True Believer by Eric Hoffer.
Anyway, shortly after reading Anthem, and learning of the philosophy of Objectivism from the publisher's blurb, I came upon an interesting 20-volume LP set of lectures on Objectivism by Nathaniel Branden published in the 60s. I was able to save this set from being trashed. I eventually listened to the lectures which I found fascinating.
I was telling another exiter friend about the Branden lecture. She had been actively involved in the Objectivist movement in the 60s before being sucked into the cult. She loaned me her copy of the Rand biography entitled, The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden, Nathaniel's exwife. This book is absolutely captivating! The personality of Ayn is just stunning to me.
From Barbara's book I then went on to acquire Nathaniel's side of the story of his life in the Objectivist movement from his book Judgment Day. Again, wonderful! Since then I've been buying the collections of Rand's essays. She has given me so much to think about. Her essay "Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World" is most enlightening. One of her students, Harry Binswanger, published a most helpful guide to Objectivism with his release of The Ayn Rand Lexicon.
Of course, Objectivism doesn't answer all the questions of life but I am glad I have found a graspable philosophy which works personally for me as far as I understand it. As I write I am wondering what you think of Rand's philosophy. Care to comment?
(former WCG elder)
I have read Rand's Atlas Shrugged and a number of Rand essays. I am not a big fan of her "radical individualism." However, I do think her essay "The Virtue of Selfishness" is worth reading and is particularly valuable for cult members who have the courage to read it. Rand is virtually never mentioned by the WCG, but her writings have played a big part in helping many to extricate themselves from the cult mentality. Back in the sixties and seventies her writings were very popular among Ambassador students disillusioned with AC and on their way out of the WCG.
As you mentioned, many people are expecting Christ to return around the coming year 2000 A.D. Apparently, they have totally failed to learn the lesson we were taught back in 1975, when the prediction of Herbert W. Armstrong about Christ's return completely flopped. Some ranchers here in Oklahoma, such as the Woodbury family in western Oklahoma, sold their ranch[es] and other possessions and gave the entire proceeds from the sale to headquarters in Pasadena to help with the final thrust of God's Work so the Church could have the Work finished by 1975 when, according to HWA, Christ was scheduled to return!
Occasionally people paraphrase William Shakespeare with their ideas and actions: people are like idiots, making a lot of noise - signifying nothing! Will these people never learn: To out-predict the Father about when He decides to send back Christ into the world would totally destroy a person. Such a person would by nature boast for all eternity about having known in advance when the most important event in human history was to occur. Compare this thought to I Corinthians 1:29.
I am trying to locate a copy of Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web by David Robinson, but am having no luck. Do you know of any distributor who may still have copies available?
Editor: We understand that the original publisher still has a few copies available for sale at $20 per copy, including update notes. Write to John Hadden Publisher, P.O. Box 35982, Tulsa, OK 74135.
I would like to help you keep AR going. AR is the only sanity that ever came out of WCG for me. I see it as a virtual "ministry." ...somehow I feel I have a connection with other AR readers who have come to their senses and given up WCG and all the other crazy offshoots and religions. Christ said many would be deceived by false prophets. How true.
I may have a scar but am healed and would like to communicate with others who can identify and relate to that. I am age 41 and attended services in Springfield and Kansas City, MO regularly from 1961 to 1974.
121 S. Julia
Olathe, KS 66061
You and I corresponded in the mid to late 80s when I was pulling out of the WCG. Since I last wrote to you - perhaps nine to 10 years now - I have earned both a BA and an MA. (I just received my MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.) Anyway, life outside the WCG has been far more rewarding, productive, and sane than life inside "the Church." I have accomplished so much spiritually, emotionally, and professionally in the more than 10 years I've been away from the control and deceit. My only regret is that I didn't leave earlier.
Ambassador Report remains a valuable and unique source of information for thousands trying to understand the "Armstrongism experience." We hope that readers will remember to support our efforts as we continue to report on the many developments in the WCG and its offshoots. Contributions to AR in the past year have fallen to an all-time low. So my thanks to all of you who are still continuing in that support.
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