“We do practice tithing. The first tithe is 10 per cent to carry out God’s work-and no one checks up to see if a person pays. It is between the member and God.” (Excerpt from December 31, 1973 letter from Garner Ted Armstrong to S. E. Anderson).
“Never should the doctrine of tithing or the spirit of giving be used as a CLUB over people’s heads, anymore than the doctrine of baptism, the receiving of God’s Holy Spirit. or the laying on of hands is used as a club.” (MINISTERIAL BULLETIN of the Worldwide Church of God, April 8, 1975, pages 179-180, Garner Ted Armstrong).
“It is not the policy, as stated in the paper, to excommunicate or disfellowship because a minister may find (and there is no way by which he COULD really find information other than the divulging of it voluntarily by the individual member) that a member has been unfaithful in tithing. This should never be grounds for disfellowship.” (MINISTERIAL BULLETIN of the Worldwide Church of God, April 8, 1975, page 180, Garner Ted Armstrong).
The Worldwide Church of God strictly teaches the doctrine of tithing in an Old Testament sense to support its many-faceted activities. Statements have been made that the administration of the Worldwide Church of God and Ambassador College corporations do not check the tithing records of its adherents to determine delinquency. Garner Ted Armstrong, President of Ambassador College and Executive Vice-President of the Worldwide Church of God, has personally decried the use of tithe checks in sermons at the Pasadena headquarters on several occasions. Other leading administrators have claimed ignorance of such activities. However, there are growing numbers of people who have felt the sting of accusation that they have been negligent in tithing, an activity supposedly between the individuals and their God, unmonitored by men. How ws such information determined? Is it true that “there is no way by which he (the minister or administrator) could really find information other than the divulging of it voluntarily by the individual member”? What are the real facts? Are these denials in fact the truth, or are they blatant lies to cover up practices that have gone on for years and are still continuing? If tithe checks are indeed practiced, then it means that ordained ministers, evangelists and even “apostles” have seen fit to LIE about their use of highly personal information to advance the financial and corporate posture of Ambassador College and The Worldwide Church of God.
Interviews have been conducted with several former administrators of the Ambassador College Data Processing Center to determine the truth of the matter.
In 1967 Ambassador College purchased its first computer, an IBM System 360 Model 30. Today Ambassador College owns the latest and most sophisticated IBM System 370 Model 158, a computer facility which in hardware components alone is worth close to three million dollars. Although the budget has been reduced significantly, especially in the last few weeks with the termination of about 30% of the staff, the total data processing budget in 1973 was close to two million dollars. The major computer system developed by Ambassador College called “ACTS” consolidated all campus-wide subscriber files such as those formerly maintained separately by the Letter Answering Department, the extensive donation files of the Co-worker Department, Plain Truth, Co-worker and Good News files, etc. into one major computerized file.
All information on a particular subscriber is available for terminal display or for analysis with other subscribers in computer printouts. Every contribution made by a contributor can be viewed on a computer terminal. The date, amount, and type of contribution (i.e. Holy Day offering, Building Fund, Festival Fund or Poor Fund) can be displayed on a terminal for those who have access to the Donation File. Also, some very personal information giving even reasons for disfellowshipping, marital separations and sexual problems may be present on some subscribers’ files for viewing to give a letter answerer the background necessary to answer their questions or for information to be sent to field pastors. The creators of this computerized system did not envision the uses it would eventually be put to. They did not know that the computer, especially the file of contributors, would be used in gestapo-like thrusts upon ministers, employees and church members at large.
In an interview with Keith M. Hunter, Director of the Ambassador College Data Processing Center from 1965 through 1973, he related how the concept of computer tithe checks all began:
“In early 1968 Roderick C. Meredith, then head of the U.S. Church Ministry for the Radio Church of God, now the Worldwide Church of God, was taking a tour of the new computer facilities at 55 North Vernon. I briefed him on the system that we were developing and showed him printouts of donation information. His eyes seemed to widen as he realized the potentialities of such a system. He asked me to look up the donation records of two men who were about to be ordained as deacons. It turned out that one was tithing and one was not (according to R.C.M.). Mr. Meredith immediately set up a policy to be administered through Dan Porter, then head of the Church Administration Department, that all ordinations and elevations in rank would be done subsequent to a tithe check. It is my feeling that this policy has been carried on down to the present day.”
It is interesting to note that in February 1968 ministers were instructed from Pasadena headquarters that they should check the private tithing records of the members in their churches if they felt some of their members might not be tithing. The February 26, 1968 ministerial letter informed the ministers about the process which was to be cleared through the Church Administration Department. The ministerial letter of January 28, 1969 emphasized once again that the ministers should check with headquarters to determine the disloyalty of suspected brethren under their charge.
Keith Hunter, who is now the Director of Data Processing for the University of Southern California, related some other interesting points concerning activities in the late 1960’s.
“Dr. Herman L. Hoeh, former Dean of Faculty of Ambassador College, used to purchase large numbers of books ostensibly for the Ambassador College Library. The interesting point is that he didn’t buy them through the Business Office as a normal budget expenditure. He purchased them using his tithes. In other words, he did not send his tithes in to the central headquarters to be allocated for college and church activities. Rather, he himself decided how his tithes would be used, something totally forbidden for the average church member. At the end of the year he would come down to Hugh Mauck, then head of the Circulation Department, to request an annual of receipt of tithes and offerings for the books he had purchased. Obviously, the annual receipt he received did not reflect actual tithes given to the organization. During the late 1960’s David Jon Hill assumed responsibility for the Circulation Department and Data Processing. He frequently requested tithe checks through me personally and through Hugh Mauck who at that time had a computer terminal installed in his office.”
We asked Keith Hunter who the administrators were who requested tithe checks front him personally:
“Generally the requests I received were delicate, sensitive and highly political. I received requests from Herbert Armstrong, Ronald Dart, Frank Brown, Jon Hill, Al Portune, Al Carrozzo, Leslie McCullough and Dan Porter. The requests generally involved ministers and headquarters personnel, although Leslie McCullough annually requested information concerning Ambassador College, Big Sandy employees. Other tithe checks or donation problems (i.e. I.R.S. investigations) were handled through the Co-worker Department. Some of the types of requests I received were:
1. Frank Brown requested information on Osamu Gotoh, currently director of Herbert W. Armstrong’s campaign staff, an enigma to many high level administrators in the work. It turned out that he did not tithe during tire particular two year period (1971-72) and had only one $10 contribution on his record. Other tithe checks on the same individual always indicated negligible giving.
2. Herbert Armstrong requested a tithe check on all the airplane pilots after the request for large donations and even borrowing for the Work was made.
3. All U.S. Ministers were selected from the computer files and their contribution records were checked in depth during the years 1972-73. One minister in the Midwest that I know personally was given a great deal of problems by the administration over his donation situation.
4. The Visiting Program frequently requested listings of whole church areas, especially around the Pasadena headquarters. The Reno, Nevada church in particular had some scathing sermons accusing members of not tithing, disloyalty etc., after a cursory analysis was made of the church donation records. Those requesting the listings which were technical in nature did not know how to read them and probably made many unwarranted conclusions. No one ever asked for any information on how to read the reports which were not written for administrative purposes but rather for resolving technical data processing problems.
5. On several occasions when Pasadena employees were to be promoted, a tithe check was made to determine loyalty, devotion, etc.
6. Al Portune, former Vice President of Finance for Ambassador College and the Worldwide Church of God annually requested listings of non-contributing headquarters employees during the years 1971-73.
Interestingly enough, having scanned many of the reports over the years, I’ve noticed that Herbert Armstrong himself did not tithe in the normal way taught by the church. His donation record reflected only four donations, though large, during one particular year. He did not tithe on each individual paycheck he received as the rest of the church was commanded to do.”
How often have Worldwide Church of God members heard of the spiritual perception of their ministry! The discerning of the innermost attitudes of individual Christians was a gift supposedly given in great measure to the ministry. Why then did recourse have to be taken to the computerized donation records of fellow brethren in Christ? Could it have been that the Holy Spirit did not really dwell as fully in some of these self-acclaimed men of God as they led many of us to believe?
Gary Reid, Manager of Systems Development, worked for Keith Hunter for eight years in the Data Processing Center. He is currently Director of Data Processing for Occidental College in Los Angeles. Many of the tithing requests were channelled through him by Keith Hunter.
“One of the earliest experiences I can remember was when I first began to work in Data Processing in 1967, Dr. Herman Hoeh was trying to get an annual tithe and offering receipt for book purchases he had made during the year. The system of tithing which I had been taught and followed, chiefly as a result of Dr. Hoeh’s article on tithing, certainly was at variance with this “liberal” practice. I received many requests from Keith to look into the tithing records of individuals which he had received in turn from Ambassador College and Worldwide Church of God officials. On several occasions we said this would be the last time “they” would get us to do it. This approach was one of the many reasons I left the organization and I know it was for Keith as well.
One request I remember very well came directly to me from Ronald Dart, then the newly appointed Chancellor of the Big Sandy campus. At that time in early 1974, Ben Chapman, who replaced Keith Hunter as head of Data Processing, was out of town. The request included a long list of names of Big Sandy employees. We were asked to determine who was tithing and who was not. I don’t recall how many were not tithing. It is not easy to determine beyond a shadow of a doubt when their annual salary is not known. I do remember, however, that an evangelist, Dean Blackwell, had given no contributions (as far as the computer was concerned) during 1973. Perhaps he, like Dr. Hoeh, purchased books with his tithes or perhaps he gave his contributions anonymously, so as to escape the watchful eye of the computer.”
Another former executive in Data Processing, Mike Holman, was asked about his experiences as Manager of Computer Operations. Mike is now Director of Data Processing with a computer service bureau in Texas.
“After Keith Hunter left I continued to receive requests for tithe checks directly from Al Portune, Frank Brown, and the Visiting Program office. One particular incident stands out in my mind. In mid-1974 I found out that one of my employees was attending meetings of the Foundation of Biblical Research. The “policy” at that time was that anyone attending Dr. Martin’s lectures was subject to termination. Ed Campbell, the employee in question, was an excellent employee who was not stirring up any “heresies.” I felt we had no grounds for firing him and took the matter to Frank Brown and Robert Kuhn. I mentioned that Ed worked with the member records and that Dr. Martin and others at the meetings were not disfellowshipped according to the computer files. Frank Brown asked to have a list run off the computer of all graduates of Ambassador College and all employees to see who was disfellowshipped and who was not. However, the listing that was run was a standard profile listing and included indicators as to whether each individual had contributed during 1973 and 1974. Immediately I saw a problem as many people in the Editorial Department, including prominent writers for the Plain Truth magazine, had not donated during those years. I took the listing to Jon Hill. He said to run it so that the donation indicators would not appear. Ben Chapman was present with Mr. Hill at the time I showed him the report. Rather than letting the situation pass he ran to Ted Armstrong and alarmed him concerning the many employees at Pasadena who were not tithing. Ted Armstrong had Ben Chapman install a computer terminal in his office to check out the detailed contributions of employees and ministers. Robert Kuhn, assistant to Ted Armstrong, reviewed the computerized donation listing noting who the non-tithing employees were. I also know that Jon Hill spent an afternoon checking out ministers and others’ donations during the crisis of March 1974 in an office in the Mail Processing Department.”
A meeting was held in late 1974 in the Television Production Department in which Garner Ted Armstrong stated that there were significant layoffs to be made for budgetary reasons. He stated that these layoffs were not made on the basis of analyzing the tithing records of employees in the Television Department. We know, however, that Robert Kuhn was well aware of employee tithing records and at that time had major involvement in Television. Several employees were personally confronted at this time regarding alleged tithing discrepancies. Many suspect, to this day, that their termination was based solely on the tithe checking process and not on job proficiency.
Late in 1974 Ben Chapman, Director of the Circulation Division, stated to Bill Hughes, an administrative assistant in Data Processing, that there were only three people who could authorize a tithe check. The names of those individuals were not revealed. Ben Chapman also stated that he was doing a tithing check on one individual with that individual’s permission. Therefore, as late as 1975 we know that tithe checks were still being performed. However, we do not know who the individuals were who could approve such activity at that time. Could they have been Frank Brown, Wayne Cole and Ted Armstrong himself?
In this article we have presented evidence from the mouths of men who were actually involved that tithe checks were performed with great regularity on the ministry, Pasadena employees, Big Sandy employees, and selected church members throughout the United States. Men at evangelist and “apostolic” rank within the organization authorized these incursions into the private records of individuals of the Worldwide Church of God. A relationship that has been firmly stated from the pulpit of the Worldwide Church of God as being “between God and man” has been subverted repeatedly to determine loyalty to men and to an organization of men. Garner Ted Armstrong has said that he has never requested a tithe check on anyone. This is a blatant lie! He personally authorized Ben Chapman to install a terminal in his office to check out employees and ministers on an individual basis. He may say he personally did not want individual information but he did want overall trends and analyses made and reported.
We ask Ted: “Weren’t you in charge?” You knew what as going on. Why didn’t you stop this practice? Have you stopped it as of May 1976? It is not at all satisfying to hear you say that you personally did not take part in such activities when you know better and when even your own father, as head of the organization, employed such tactics himself and condoned them in others.
One of the purposes of AMBASSADOR REVIEW is to prod the leadership of Ambassador College and of the Worldwide Church of God to change practices and policies that are discrediting these organizations. Certainly the last eight years of tithe checking of Worldwide Church members cannot he said to be God’s will. Rather, such actions are reminiscent of recent Watergate activities illegally perpetrated on private citizens by the government of the United States. It is time for knowledgeable members and former members to stand up against this heinous tactic. Now that Ronald Dart has finally achieved what seems to have been to some, his ambition of leadership over the U.S. ministry, will he continue his practice, begun in Big Sandy, of resorting to the computer for extra spiritual discernment? Will the computer be used to weed out supposedly disloyal ministers? We caution you ministers reading AMBASSADOR REVIEW to be wary of his activities.
Garner Ted, is fear and oppression really a thing of the past in the Worldwide Church of God?