Garner Ted Armstrong and his unique gospel have, in recent years, been the subject of articles appearing in numerous publications, including Time, Harper’s, Penthouse, Christianity Today, Coronet, People, Esquire, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. That he should be the subject of so many articles is not surprising. He is an articulate, authoritative-sounding, colorful personality whose dynamic voice is heard daily by millions. What is surprising, however, is that, until now, no publication has ever told the whole Garner Ted Armstrong story.In this issue of Ambassador Report are three articles which deal directly with this well-known radio and television evangelist. What emerges clearly from these three articles is a portrait of a man who is not only strikingly different from his calculated public image but who lives a life which is at total variance with the message he preaches. The dichotomy is so great that one is tempted to believe that here, in Garner Ted, the hypocrisy of Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry is actually surpassed. His portrait would be a burlesque if it were not so pathetically factual. It is when we see in the lives of thousands the tragic consequences of the Armstrong operation that we realize the true character of the portrait.There may be some who will argue that Garner Ted’s sex life is his own business and that we should therefore not expose his immorality. Frankly, we would prefer that Garner Ted’s sex life be his own business. But he has made it our business by setting himself up as God’s personal representative and telling you, me, and the rest of this world how we should live our lives. While taking the public’s money as a “minister of Jesus Christ” and using the public airwaves to preach the Ten Commandments and repentance, he leads a life that is the very antithesis of all Christian virtue. The way he lives his life shows all of us he really doesn’t believe his own message. Our goal is not to decry his humanity but to expose his hypocrisy and by doing so spare others the consequences we and thousands of others have suffered as a result of putting our trust in him.The many letters we have received in the past year testify to the bitter fruit of the Armstrong cult. We have reprinted a number of these in our Letters section. Also, in this issue we are printing a number of articles which expose the real effects of and the true spirit behind the Armstrong organization. Besides a highly informative, exclusive interview with Bobby Fischer are articles which document the Worldwide Church of God’s misuse of charity monies, the Armstrongs’ reluctance to meet the requirements of accreditation, the unethical transfer of corporate funds to the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, the intimidation of contributors through the misuse of computer information, the secret monitoring of college classrooms, and the real story behind the Worldwide Church of God’s many doctrinal changes.We, of course, cannot deny that there is a positive side to Ambassador College and the Worldwide Church of God. A tour of Ambassador’s campus (the last remaining one) will reveal not only beautiful grounds but also some fine, enthusiastic students. A visit to a Worldwide Church of God service will reveal friendly, smiling faces. One can even find
numerous individuals who will attest that in one way or another they have actually profited physically, financially, or spiritually from certain of the Armstrong teachings.We’re thankful that one can find a positive side to the “Ambassador Experience.” We believe this issue will show, however, that that positive side has, over the years, been grossly exaggerated by the Armstrongs and that the vast negative side with its many tragic facets has been swept under the carpet by the Armstrong organization.
We hoped to accomplish more than simply exposing Ambassador College’s negative side. It has been our desire to prod Ambassador’s leadership into making those changes which we believe are vital to its survival. For over fifteen months we attempted to arrange a meeting with President Armstrong to present and discuss several positive affirmative-action proposals. It seems, however, that every time we attempted to contact him, President Armstrong was either “in a meeting” or simply “not in.” Our phone calls to him were never returned. Our numerous letters to him were never answered. On two occasions we contacted the college’s CPA and chief counsel, Stanley Rader, and asked that he relay to Mr. Armstrong our request for a meeting. Mr. Armstrong never responded.
I personally contacted Jim Thornhill, Ted Armstrong’s closest friend, and asked him to relay to Ted our request for a meeting. He assured me he would pass the message on, but Mr. Armstrong never responded. We contacted Ralph Helge, legal counsel for the Worldwide Church of God, and asked him to mention to President Armstrong that we would like to meet with him. He assured us that the message would be delivered. Still Mr. Armstrong did not respond. We called the managing editor of The Plain Truth. He expressed doubt that the meeting we were requesting could be arranged, but he agreed to deliver the message. Again, there was no response.
We had been willing to meet with President Armstrong at any time and under any circumstances. The meeting could have been structured as a formal debate before the Pasadena student body, it could have been a friendly question and answer session before the Pasadena church congregation, or simply an informal chat over lunch. We didn’t care. We simply wanted to present what we feel are some of the solutions to Ambassador’s survival problem. Of course, we also hoped to give Ted Armstrong the opportunity to tell his side of the story regarding the many charges against him of serious personal misconduct. This, he has repeatedly refused to do.
In Ambassador Review (Ambassador Report’s predecessor), the question was asked: Will Ambassador College survive the ’70s? After another year of observing the college’s inability to legitimatize itself, its Board of Trustees’ unwillingness to execute their responsibilities, and its administration’s unresponsiveness to the real needs of the students or the problems of its alumni, our answer to that question is “No, it probably will not survive.” And, if the attitude and character of its President, Garner Ted Armstrong, is indicative of the spirit which permeates it, then we would further add: “Ambassador College should not survive.”
It is our hope that Ambassador Report will awaken many of those who are financially supporting Ambassador College into realizing exactly what it is they are supporting. Those of us who have gone to the Armstrong well and drunk of it know that its waters are not only bitter but poisonous. For us, the production of this report has been mentally and emotionally therapeutic. We only hope and pray that this issue’s contents will spare others the expense, pain, and futility of the “Ambassador Experience.”