February 1997 (AR64)
Ambassador University Closing
Ambassador University President Russell Duke announced on December 30 that the University's Board of Regents has decided to close Ambassador's Big Sandy, Texas campus, the last remaining campus in what was once a three campus system. Duke explained that the 50-year-old institution would have enough money to finish the current semester, pay off its bills, provide severance pay to departing faculty and staff, and provide some assistance to current students desiring to continue their formal education elsewhere. However, declining enrollment and the University's withering financial base have made it impossible for the institution to remain viable.
Ambassador University, formerly Ambassador College, was started in 1947 by Worldwide Church of God (WCG) founder Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) mainly as a training vehicle for the then growing ministry of the Radio (later Worldwide) Church of God. In recent years, however, the WCG's ministry has itself been withering in size, and sweeping changes in church doctrine by Armstrong's successors, Joseph W. Tkach Senior and Junior, have resulted in the defection of perhaps two thirds of the church's members and a loss of more than $170 million annually from its one-time annual income of over $210 million.
Few WCG observers were surprised by the Duke announcement; most had seen it coming. Nevertheless, the announcement still brought tears to the eyes of alumni who had been students at the Texas campus and at the previously closed California and England campuses. The announcement was particularly upsetting to many who had supported and sacrificed for the institution which had only in the last few years gained accreditation and general public acceptance after more than four decades of significant academic inadequacies.
As for what will become of the Big Sandy, Texas properties no one really knows. Some have suggested that the properties could be utilized as a luxury retirement community for the WCG's, rapidly aging ministry. But that suggestion apparently does not appeal to the Tkach administration, which is strapped for cash and is not eager for new expenditures. President Duke has indicated that the Board of Regents would consider utilizing the property in conjunction with some other Christian educational institution or ministry. Most likely, however, the properties will simply be put up for sale.
A number of interesting suggestions have been made as to how the properties may eventually be used. For example, some have suggested that with just a few modifications AU could easily be transformed into an excellent low-security prison. With the U.S. prison population having tripled in the last 15 years, many states have started looking to corporate America to provide them with efficient, state-of-the-art, privately managed prisons. With the rapid growth of companies such as Corrections Corporation of America, already managing 47 prisons, and The Wackenhut Corporation, currently managing 27, the new industry is in need of more sites than ever before. The Big Sandy properties are not only large enough to accommodate such an operation, but many of the necessary facilities are already built.
Another possible use for the properties could be as a resort of some type. And with more and more states liberalizing their gambling laws, the possibility that AU will one day be a resort and gambling casino is not as outlandish as it may first appear. Although Texas does not currently allow private gambling casinos, there are some Texas businessmen who hope that will change. Some WCG observers feel that the possibility of selling off the properties to a resort developer may be what Tkach actually had in mind when in November the University announced that its formerly private golf course would now be leased to a commercial operator. Already at the new operation, called Ambassador Hills Golf Club, for only five dollars members of the general public can tee off.
Whatever the eventual use of "God's little Eden in Texas," it is still not a certainty that the AU properties in Texas will find a buyer in the near future. Ambassador's old Pasadena, California campus has been up for sale for more than six years now and still no buyer is in sight for that chunk of Eden. The Texas Eden may fare no better.
Finally, there is considerable speculation about one more potential problem. Much of the land on which AU now sits was previously owned by the Hammer family, a once wealthy East Texas clan that became involved with the Herbert Armstrong ministry and in the 1950s deeded the land over to the then Radio Church of God. Typically, when gifts of land are made to churches, the deeds contain clauses that restrict the uses to which the properties may be put. If the Hammer's transfer contained the usual gift-to-church language limiting the use of the land for religious purposes, the campus may not be unencumbered of potential claims by the surviving Hammers once it is no longer used as a Christian college. Some are speculating that should WCG Inc. attempt to sell the land to subdividing land speculators, a resort developer, an agricultural corporation, the state of Texas, or a non-Christian religious sect, the surviving Hammers (who include Tony Hammer, Buck Hammer, Mrs. Garner Ted Armstrong, and others) may be in line for an automatic reversion of title to the property or, at least, may be able to interpose a major legal challenge to any attempt by Worldwide to sell the property. If that happens, closing Ambassador's Texas campus may turn out to be one more Tkach team fiasco.
Tkachs' London Theatre a Success
Critics of the Tkachs Senior and Junior frequently point to a long list of WCG setbacks as supposed proof of some kind of family curse and imply that somehow everything touched by the Tkachs is doomed to failure. That is not an entirely fair criticism. As an example of how the Tkachs' largesse has been a blessing to some, we need only look at the success of one of the Tkachs' favorite projects, the rebuilding of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London. As reported in AR45 (p. 5) and elsewhere, through its Ambassador Foundation, millions in WCG members' tithes have been channelled to this important cultural project. Now, finally, the theatre is nearing completion and its resident company's premiere production, Two Gentlemen of Verona, recently ended a sellout run in London before heading for New York.
©1997 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.
As some WCG members know, the man most responsible for the resurrection of the original Globe is Sam Wanamaker (1919-1993), the actor-director-producer who in 1991 received the fourth annual Ambassador Award for Excellence (Worldwide News, "WN," 3/11/91, p. 1). At the Wanamaker fete on Feb. 16, 1991, Tkach Sr. said that the WCG's financial support for the project started in 1988 and was part of the WCG's efforts "to build a better world." But while Wanamaker's name is recognized by many in the WCG, few seem to know anything about his remarkable life. A 12/29/96 New York Times editorial by Karl E. Meyer has helped fill in some of the lesser-known facts from Wanamaker's bio that for some reason were omitted from WCG pronouncements about him. Here is an excerpt that we found interesting:
As a teenager in Chicago, Mr. Wanamaker saw a half-scale reconstruction of the Globe at the 1934 World's Fair, and later joined its Shakespeare troupe. He made his Broadway debut in 1942, fought in the Pacific theater in World War II and seemed destined for a successful career as director and classical actor, whose roles included a Stratford-on-Avon Iago opposite Paul Robeson's Othello.
But like Robeson, who was an avowed Communist, and innumerable other Americans who were former Communists or vaguely leftist, Mr. Wanamaker became unemployable in the blacklist decade. Some sought to salvage acting careers by confessing error and informing on colleagues before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Summoned to Washington for such a rite, Mr. Wanamaker chose exile in Britain. As punishment, his passport was revoked in the 1950's.
The Shakespeare project helped Mr. Wanamaker keep his sanity and dignity intact.... Mr. Wanamaker lived to see the Globe's walls rise, this time with safeguards against fire. At his death in 1993, a cavalcade of players filled the memorial service in Southwark Cathedral. What might have pleased Sam Wanamaker more is the throng of students from all comers of the world who crowd the reborn Globe, its fine exhibition hall and its varied menu of readings.
Our unofficial London correspondent, Mr. R. M. Kachere, tells us that at the restored Globe there is a plaque honoring those that contributed toward its reconstruction and listed very prominently among the donors is the Ambassador Foundation. Additionally, Mr. Wanamaker is very properly honored by a plaque in the nave of Southwark Cathedral. It says "In Thanksgiving for Sam Wanamaker, Actor, Director, Producer, 1919-1993, whose vision rebuilt Shakespeare's Theatre on Bankside in this parish."
Now Tkach II Can Say:
"This Is the Life! - real ABUNDANT living!"
One of the all-time-great Herbert Armstrong Plain Truth articles was a 1963 piece titled "This Is the Life! - real ABUNDANT living!" In it, Apostle Armstrong extolled the beauties of the good life - specifically, his own! It was vintage HWA. Life was good for him, he said, because he had found God's way and in return for doing the right thing God had blessed him and blessed him ABUNDANTLY!
It was not just in the Plain Truth magazine that HWA would so unabashedly applaud his own financial good fortune. Many Ambassador alumni can recall how on many a Sabbath he would tell his congregation of how God had blessed him:
Brethren, other than my clothes and a few personal items, I own virtually nothing. Everything I once owned I have given to God's Work. Nevertheless, God has blessed me, and blessed me greatly, God has seen fit to provide me with everything I need. Take, for example, my beautiful home. It is not mine. I don't own it; the church does. But I get to live in it. I don't own the beautiful grounds and gardens you see at our campuses; the church owns them. But I get to walk there and see and smell the beautiful flowers. I don't own the luxurious corporate jet that takes me around the world. The church does. But I get to fly in it...."
Of course, while such statements may have been technically true, they were, nevertheless, intended to deceive. HWA had for many years been guided by a team of astute CPAs and lawyers. He therefore undoubtedly understood something of
which the vast majority of his unsophisticated followers were completely unaware - namely, that possession of great wealth and legal title are not synonymous. As HWA's top advisor, lawyer-accountant Stanley Rader once expounded to a startled Ambassador alumnus visiting his home, "It's not what you own that counts, it's what you control!"
One of the funniest of HWA's pulpit ploys was the frequent emphasis he put on the so-called "give versus get" principle. Put simply this was the idea that those in "the world" wanted only "to get," but the truly spiritual wanted very much "to give." What he neglected to explain was that as WCG members would give, HWA was usually the one who would get - their tithes and offerings, that is.
Other "technical truth" techniques used to deceive the sheep as to the magnitude of how much HWA was really getting included: (1) the exclusion of church-paid-for perks when discussing personal income (these perks went into the millions per year with HWA), (2) using only church salary as an income figure when, in reality, HWA had the power to receive separate salaries from his church, college, foundation, etc. (3) telling members he had just given the church a big loan when, in fact, HWA retained and used his corporate offices to repay himself such loans at will. We still don't know if Loma Armstrong or Ramona Armstrong ever got separate salaries, but a number of other family members received separate incomes from the Armstrong organizations for doing very little. There were other little tricks, but you get the idea.
When HWA's successor, Pastor General Joseph W. Tkach I, came along, some hoped that they would see a greater level of fiscal restraint and a higher standard of truthfulness. Those well-wishers were disappointed. Now, with the old Armstrong empire crumbling about them, some WCG members are finally distrustful of their current leader, Pastor General Joseph W. Tkach II. Many believe that he may be using the same deceptive "technical truth" ploys that HWA did to deceive his sheep and many are wondering just how much he really makes. A few months ago, In Transition wrote the WCG and asked for full disclosure as to the salaries and perks paid to all top church officials. The WCG refused to cooperate. Instead, through its field ministry the WCG's leaders have spread the story that no one in the WCG hierarchy receives a salary of more than $100,000 per year from the church. A lot of people, however, don't believe that that is all Tkach II is getting.
Since our last issue, one WCG insider has quietly come forth claiming to have seen an official WCG document stating that Tkach's actual remuneration exceeds $340,000 per year. Although we can't prove that figure is accurate, we suspect it is. Undoubtedly, the Tkach Co. will deny it. However, there is one way for WCG officials to get out the truth. All they have to do is let our auditors look at the books of WCG Inc., the Ambassador Foundation, Ambassador University, Plain Truth Ministries, and the many other corporations now controlled by Tkach. How about it Joe? We'll be waiting for your response (but we won't be holding our breath).
Feazell Calls For Volunteer Pastors
J. Michael Feazell, the Tkach Company's number two man, has seen the future and apparently it does not bode well for the WCG. Admitting that the Company's constantly plunging income was the inspiration for one more paradigm shift, church administrator Feazell has put out a call for volunteers to serve as "lay pastors" of smaller WCG congregations (WN, 9/17/96, p. 1). In the same WN containing the Feazell article, a smaller article accompanying an Application Request form, explained that:
Although lay pastors will not receive a salary, they will receive reimbursement for ministerial expenses, supervision from their regional pastor and continued in-service training and administrative support from headquarters. It's a volunteer commission....
The move was widely seen as another step toward a completely unpaid WCG field ministry. Some paid WCG minsters, sensing that the new volunteers represent a threat to their own employment, have begun derisively referring to the volunteers as "the lays." And some WCG pastors have even speculated that before long the WCG will see female lay pastors. They point out that accompanying the articles calling for volunteer ministers was a large article titled "Every Woman Has a Ministry." Another interesting observation is that Tkach, who has an accredited MBA, seems to be mimicking the current downsizing trends of the corporate World where CEOs continue to make huge salaries and even give themselves bonuses while they downsize their corporations and shove many of their employees into poverty. Yes, the gap between the rich and the poor is getting wider - even in the WCG.
Christian men and women interested in volunteering as WCG lay pastors should keep in mind that once accepted into the lay program you will be required to go through a five-day "intensive training session in Pasadena" and you may also be required to relocate. To request an application form, write to: Lay Pastor Application - CAD, Worldwide Church of God, 300 W. Green Street, Pasadena, CA 91129.
WCG Slouches Toward Sunday
You would think that with all the WCG's financial woes its top honchos would put the brakes on any more doctrinal changes, at least for the time being. But noooooo. Tkach & Co. continue to coax their ever shrinking band into the world of Protestantism. Why the Tkach clique doesn't just tell its members they are already Methodists, Lutherans, or something else, and immediately bring in the few remaining Protestant doctrines they have yet to adopt, we don't know. Nevertheless, the latest little paradigm shift, not unlike the recent slide into Easter worship (see AR62, p. 2) is somewhat subtle only if you are a brain-dead WCG member. If you've been reading the Report for a few years, you probably already knew something like this was coming.
In November, the WCG introduced a new church service time slot in Pasadena. While on Saturdays at WCG headquarters there is still a morning service remaining, now there is also a late afternoon service for those who can't make the earlier one (convenient for those who are on the golf links or working at McDonald's all morning). The Ambassador Auditorium late show begins at 4:30 p.m. every Saturday. If you open an almanac and look at the sunset times for early winter in southern California, you notice an interesting thing. For most of the winter, those late services actually extend well beyond sunset into what WCG clerics used to call the first day of the week. It takes little imagination to see that the late service will eventually become the late, late service (leaving more time on the links) and then within a few years, or sooner, many will find it quite natural when services begin on Sunday morning.
Once the Sunday services arrive, it will be interesting to see what form they take. Last summer, the WCG began experimenting with a "contemporary worship" format at special Friday night meetings that supplemented their regular Saturday services (WN, 8/27/96, p. 13). At these contemporary worship services, members could come in casual dress to sing modern "praise and worship songs" to a rock beat and watch Christian videos. Among those who've participated in the program are Mike Hale, Mike North, Terry Miller, and the Oasis Praise Band. One guest speaker last summer was actor Bruce Marchiano who played Jesus in the movie Matthew. Pasadena members we've talked to say they are not sure if the experiment proved a success.
More Doctrinal "Clarifications"
If The Guiness Book of Records contained such a church category, certainly the WCG would be listed as the world's all-time doctrinal change champ. In November the Tkach administration continued its record run by issuing new doctrinal formulations on abortion and the death penalty. The statements (WN, 11/19/96, p. 9) contained these issue-sidestepping and paradoxical tidbits:
The Worldwide Church of God teaches that under all ordinary circumstances abortion is not a legitimate biblical or ethical choice and constitutes sin. When a mother's life is at stake, however, abortion is considered a legitimate biblical choice by the church. Member's choices about abortion in other extraordinary circumstances, such as rape or incest, are not considered a test of fellowship.
The Worldwide Church of God teaches the biblical mandate that God has placed responsibility for human government and justice into human hands, under his sovereign authority, and that such human government is to be exercised justly, honestly, fairly, ethically and responsibly... [biblical citations]. Therefore capital punishment may or may not be appropriate, depending on its administration.
Finally, the WCG seems to be changing its decades-long teaching on church hierarchy. Since at least the mid-1950s the church had taught that Paul in Eph. 4:11 was setting up a hierarchy of "ministerial rank." But in a lengthy multi-authored article in the 9/17/96 WN, the Tkach Co. reinterpreted that verse to be a description of individual ministerial talents or functions. According to that WN article (p. 11):
Doesn't everybody know what an evangelist is? No. We have used the title as an administrative rank, but Paul was probably not describing a church-government hierarchy in Eph. 4:11.
In Transition Terminated
In October, publisher John Robinson announced that as of January 1997, his religious newspaper In Transition will cease publication. Since early 1995, In Transition has provided those in the sabbatarian Christian community with frequently interesting "News of the Churches of God" of Armstrongism. According to the publisher, among those factors precipitating the publication's demise were "an increasing calcification within the different fellowships.... a growing tendency for ministers and other members to view their group as the only true church or, at least, to view themselves or their group as spiritually superior to others within the Body of Christ" [in much the same way as the sabbatarians running In Transition view nonsabbatarian Christians - ed.] and a realization that the publication was serving as a vehicle "to polarize rather than to unify the different fellowships of the WCG offshoots and the greater Sabbatarian community."
While true as far as it went, we nevertheless discovered that there were other factors at work as well. One knowledgeable source told us:
John meant well. I know he thought if we just got out the facts, truth would prevail, the various "Churches of God" [the WCG breakoffs] would all straighten out their organizations and eventually they would come together in love to perform a great end-time Work, sort of what we all envisioned years ago. But so far it hasn't worked out that way.
As a member of United [Church of God] John was getting a lot of flak from United members who thought he was devoting too much space to other groups like Global. From members of other groups he was getting flak for being too pro-United. From those who like GTA he was getting flak about mentioning Ted's legal problems. From those who didn't like Ted he was getting flak about not providing enough detail about GTA's sexual activities.
Many could sense that he was trying very ard - perhaps too hard - to give Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong an honored place in the minds and hearts of those who have left Worldwide. But it is pretty hard to ignore all the dirt that has come out about Mr. HWA, especially when you consider it was Mr. David Robinson, John's own father, who blew the whistle on Mr. Armstrong having committed incest with one of his own daughters. Many readers came to suspect that John was struggling with the issue of whether or not his father had been a true Christian. It did not help him when many noticed he did not even give his father's death a mention in In Transition, let alone a proper obituary. That even upset some of his friends. I can only imagine what his relatives thought.
As for Mr. Dixon Cartwright's plans to continue on with another publication, we hope he can succeed. It's possible he will as he has been In Transition's real editor anyway. While he doesn't have John's dynamic leadership, he certainly is a skilled editor and has good intentions. But as John and the rest of us discovered, a publication of this type can be a trial.
Trial or no trial, for thousands of avid readers In Transition has provided some wonderful tidbits of controversy. A good example is the December issue with its lead article by Aaron Dean, a long-time Stanley Rader aide. In that piece, Dean, now based in Gladewater, Texas, not far from where Cartwright's new publication is based, hinted that HWA would never have named Joseph Tkach Sr. as his successor had HWA not been seriously ill (and presumably not in a lucid state of mind) when he did so shortly before his death. (Actually, Dean should know. He was part of the Tkach cabal that pulled off the death bed coup.) Almost as if to suggest that he, himself, should have been named HWA's successor, Dean (and publisher Robinson obviously) included along with the fluff piece a number of photos showing how close Dean had been to HWA. Many did not miss the inference that if Tkach Sr.'s appointment was invalid, then Junior's is invalid as well. (Needless to say, Dean, who has been on the Big Sandy faculty until recently, can kiss his severance pay goodbye.) But even in United the piece has caused some ruffled feathers because some are now saying that if Dean was really meant to have succeeded HWA, then his credentials are superior to those of UCG Chairman David Hulme. (Maybe Dean shouldn't count on ever getting anything from UCG either.)
John Robinson's loyalty to the legacy of Herbert W. Armstrong is now self-evident, but that was not always so. Just weeks before his death, author David Robinson, very aware that his time was near, phoned Report editor John Trechak and told how he had signed over the copyright of his book Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web to his son John with the confidence that after his death his son could be trusted to promote, reprint, and distribute the book. In fact, in what was one of his very last phone calls to Report editor Trechak, David, in a weak and strained voice, quietly said that almost the only thing that had kept him alive the previous two weeks was his determination to complete a short history of how the Tangled Web had come to be written and published despite the vigorous efforts of Herbert Armstrong's lawyers. The history was finally just about completed, he said, and it was to be included along with those copies his son would distribute after his death.
Before his father died, John Robinson purchased almost all of the remaining supplies of the Tangled Web. It was assumed by everyone who knew of the matter that at some point John Robinson would be selling the copies he purchased along with the 44-page history of how the book came to be. Everyone also assumed that later, as holder of the copyright, John Robinson would be reprinting the book and acting as its publisher. But that never happened. He has never publicized the fact that he has copies for sale; what copies he has are rotting in a warehouse somewhere.
Some in Texas are now saying that John Robinson and his associates have become Herbert Armstrong's greatest defenders. Nevertheless, many of us will be sorry to see In Transition out of business. It performed a valuable service in reporting the goings-on in the largest of the Armstrongite groups - a service AR did not have the financial means to perform. As mentioned above, Robinson associate Dixon Cartwright intends to continue putting out a publication somewhat similar to the one terminating. It will be called The Journal: News of the Churches of God (Box 1020, Big Sandy, TX 75755). Cartwright plans to cover even the smaller Armstrongite breakaways, but admittedly will focus on the larger ones: "United, Global, International, and, as much as feasible, Philadelphia." The latter phrase leaves us thinking that most of the 100 or so Armstrongite groups now in existence will not come within the scope of their coverage. And whether or not it will even have the ability to fully monitor the behind-the-scenes activities of the major seven or so Armstongite breakaways remains to be seen.
Global and United - Now Less So
The two biggest WCG breakaways, the United Church of God and the Global Church of God, are reportedly experiencing existence-threatening difficulties. In the fall of 1996 Roderick Meredith's Global Church had to take out a $1.2 million dollar loan to keep up its ministerial outreach. At about the same time seven key administrative personnel were let go. They were administrators Jeffrey Patton, Brian Weeks, Michael Kahlenberg, Brian Hoselton, Eric Myers, Lory Nelson, and Ron Nelson. Still remaining are Larry Salyer, Carl McNair, and Edwin Pope. Some insiders say that because aging evangelist Rod Meredith stubbornly refuses to share power with subordinates clearly more competent than himself, the situation within Global is likely to deteriorate further in the coming months.
Even bigger problems are plaguing the 20,000-member United Church of God. The biggest of the WCG splitoffs, United is getting increasingly disunited and appears about ready for a split of its own. Informants leaving the group tell us that besides haggling over such matters as sacred calendar calculation, the really big issue upsetting both its ministers and members is what its Arcadia, California "home office" euphemistically refers to as "the governance problem."
In simple terms what it comes down to is this. The denomination's home office executives feel they should be the ones calling the shots regarding which ministers will serve where, how local congregations will be organized, and how the denomination's money will be spent. However, many UCG field ministers and members have come to believe that the old authoritarian top-down style of leadership inherited from Herbert W. Armstrong is no longer apropos. After all, they say, the Arcadia executives were chosen by the ministers who met in Indianapolis in 1995. It was not the headquarters executives who chose the field ministers. While not all UCG field ministers are ready to apply the same democratic principles to their own flocks, many members think it is time that they do. After all, they say, the local ministers would not be getting a salary if the membership were not financially supporting them.
UCG's home office execs see their church as being organized along standard business textbook lines. The UCG's tripartite structure of home office execs, field ministers, and members is somewhat analogous to the typical business organization structure of corporate officers, middle management, and workers. The big difference with UCG, however, is that the folks on the lower rung are not getting paid by those over them; they are paying the guys above them. Perhaps a better analogy of UCG's tripartite structure might be found in certain kinds of political writings where nations are divided into royalty (or super elites), supporting professional classes, and the general public (often disparagingly referred to as the masses, the great unwashed, or the bewildered herd). UCG's top honchos have assumed that the old authoritarian structure brought over from the WCG would hold, that those at the bottom would remain passive "spectators of action" who only pray and pay. But after their bitter WCG experience, not all UCG members are willing to abide by the old status quo.
At the root of the current "governance problem" in UCG is the classic elite versus egalitarian tension so often encountered in political theory. The big question for UCG has therefore become: Is the breakaway church going to be run by the elites (in this case individuals ordained by the old WCG that has since proven profligate) or is the church's ministry going to derive its earthly authority from an egalitarian legitimization granted by the spirit-filled membership? It will be interesting to see if United can find a solution to the problem.
The fight for control is likely to heat up in the next few months. Already a few outspoken UCG ministers have been disfellowshipped by their fellow ministers. And more than a few UCG congregations are talking about bolting the umbrella group. Many are openly calling the Arcadia home office "tyrants."
One related facet of the overall problem is the question of who is going to pay for the retirement of the many aging ministers that left WCG to find refuge in UCG. But an even more inflammatory issue involves the delaying tactics of the UCG's top executives in fulfilling promises made to relocate the church's so-called home office. At Indianapolis in May 1995, it was decided by the assembled ministers that Arcadia, California was to be only a temporary headquarters location. Many in UCG view the Los Angeles area as an inappropriate headquarters location because of its "worldly" environment, its distance from major centers of UCG membership (the majority of its members live east of the Mississippi), and on recent business studies that have concluded that Los Angeles County, where the home office is located, is currently the very worst U.S. metropolitan area for the start-up of a new business venture.
Clearly the Arcadia bosses have been dragging their feet about moving. And many UCG pastors and members feel that what is really motivating their stubborn refusal to move is not the good of the church, but financial/career/personal self-interests. One UCG member told us:
A lot of us have heard that David Hulme has been working on a Ph.D. at USC. Some of us think he is using the church only to get an income to finish his education and then move on. Some think he wants to got back into the concert productions business, maybe even take over the old Ambassador Auditorium, and that those are his real motivations for staying in L.A. Steven Andrews has more opportunities if he stays in California because of his accounting and law credentials and some of us think he is not too eager to take the bar exam in another state. Did you hear about his crazy argument for wanting to keep headquarters in California? We refer to it as "Cookiegate." We also know that some at the home office own real estate in the L.A. area and don't want to lose money selling now in what is considered a buyers' market there. Furthermore, a lot of us think the home office bunch are just spoiled, stuck-up types who can't see themselves living away from the sun and fun of Hollywood rather than here with us poor folk in America's heartland.
On the other side of the coin, some of the leaders in Arcadia seem to think they are the victims of a conspiracy. One loyalist said:
Mr. Hulme and the others have been very tolerant of dissent. Let's face it, Mr. John Robinson and others are more interested in their own power base and income. They are collaborating with members from other groups to start up their own competing operation. IBLC [the International Bible Learning Center which Robinson helped start in 1995] is not good for United. It is a business competitor and is already taking away members and income from the church. Frankly, if you ask me, Mr. Hulme has been far too liberal in allowing such nonsense in the church.
But what exactly is "the church"? While the Arcadia home office seems to feel that they are "the church" and that the field ministers and members have simply to decide if they will stay with "the church," others out in "the heartland" feel quite the opposite. Many UCG members have the rather democratic view that UCG's membership constitutes "the church" and, as one member put it, "the home office can stay with the church - or they can leave the church!" As John Robinson himself wrote in the December In Transition:
The honeymoon seems to be ending between a significant number of members of the United Church of God, an International Association, and the church's home office as some members, including elders, express concern that the church's leadership is moving away from the "spirit of Indianapolis."
GTA Sex Trial Postponed
Evangelist Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA) has been given a little more time to come up with an explanation as to what he was doing in a Texas massage parlor on Saturday, July 15, 1995. Plaintiff Suerae Robertson, the masseuse who is suing him for sexual assault (see ARs 60-62), requested and was granted a postponement of the trial date. The Clerk of the Smith County Courthouse in Tyler, Texas informs us that a new trial date has not yet been set.
In the meantime, the Church of God International, which GTA founded and which still retains him as a minister and broadcaster, has lost about half its members in the past year. Nevertheless, the GTA radio and television programs remain on the air in many markets.
Herbert Armstrong Resurrected!
Just when some thought it might be safe to go back into the "Churches of God" - HE'S BACK! Yes, Herbert W. Armstrong is up and around. No, not physically - although this past January 16, as they've done on the anniversary of his death each year since he died in 1986, small groups of true believers gathered at the Armstrong grave in Altadena, California to pray for his immediate physical resurrection. Thankfully, at least that hasn't happened. Nevertheless, HWA is back in spirit as his writings and ideas are being rediscovered by thousands around the world.
In most of the Armstrongite groups - the Global Church of God, the Philadelphia Church of God, the United Church of God, and a host of others - HWA's books, articles, and pamphlets are being reprinted, distributed, studied, and analyzed by religious zealots for whom, it seems, the last twenty years just never happened. About the only HWA writing that has not come back into circulation is 1975 in Prophecy. All the others on Israel identity, sabbath and holy days, even divorce and remarriage are again coming into use.
One of the most active in this resurrection process is Richard Nickels, president of the Bible Sabbath Association and founder of Giving and Sharing, a sabbatarian publishing group (P.O. Box 100, Neck City, MO 64849; tel. 888-687-5191). In recent years the latter organization has become one of the best sources for copies of HWA classics. Nickels' collection Early Writings of Herbert W. Armstrong contains many important HWA writings published between 1928 and 1953. While insisting he is not a worshiper of HWA, Nickels nevertheless feels that HWA's teachings, with only a few exceptions, were fundamentally correct.
Finally, for those with net access, there is the Herbert W. Armstrong Memorial Page on the World Wide Web at http://www.golden.net/~mtech/memorial/hwa/hwa.html where you can get a number of HWA writings. At this site you can even get the entire text of HWA's book Mystery of the Ages. Of that book HWA once wrote, "Time may prove this to be the most important book written in almost 1,900 years." The Tkachs disagreed and the book is no longer available from the WCG, but it is available at the Memorial Page.
You are a murder mystery fan and you start reading Ellen Hart's latest, The Oldest Sin. On the opening page you notice that the book has something to do with a Bible college in the Los Angeles area. The year is 1971. A few pages later you notice that the founder of the college is "an Apostle" and, guess what? He has "a Commission." Hmmm. The Apostle has an evangelist son and his wife thinks the Apostle's followers are "spineless wonders." The Apostle's church is "the only true church," it's run along authoritarian lines, and the whole thing is "sinking into a kind of madness." Now you're really hooked. A few more pages and a liberal minister appears. He says makeup is okay, you can eat pork, and he's got some new ideas on tithing. Before you know it the "Church of the First Born" is heading for an annual convention, a week-long sabbath festival they call "Tabernacles Week." But then you panic and blurt out, "Oh no! Don't go! DON'T GO!! The sermons are bad enough, but this is a murder mystery. Someone is bound to get hurt real bad!"
You want to put the book down in terror of what you know will happen at any moment. Instead, to gain some composure, you turn to the dedication page. It reads:
For Gregory Johnson, one of the greatest gifts of my college years and beyond, and also for all those long-ago friends who survived their membership in the Worldwide Church of God.
Oh, that explains it. You read on and the parts about dorm life at the Bible college bring back a lot of memories of your own years at Ambassador. You vaguely remember a Greg C. Johnson, "yeah, he was that talented, well-dressed guy who hung out with the arty set." But who is Ellen Hart? You dig out all your old Envoys and you can't find an Ellen Hart. But that picture of her inside the back cover looks familiar. And then you remember. Ellen Hart is none other than Pat Boehnhardt, AC/AU (or whatever) Pasadena, 1971.
Those of us who had the pleasure of being at Ambassador in the days when she was there recall her as one of the absolutely most fun-loving, witty, and creative people who ever passed through that institution, or any other for that matter. She wrote prose, poetry, songs. She sang and played guitar and piano. And a lot of us still remember those lunch-time Student Center organ ducts she played with PT writer Charlie Vinson. After Ambassador, Pat returned to the Minneapolis area where she had twelve years of experience as a professional chef. She then began a professional writing career and became a two-time winner of the Minnesota Book Award for mystery/detective fiction. The Oldest Sin, her tenth book, is published by Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, and is available at most major bookstores.
Whodunit? We can't tell you. But if you were ever in the WCG or a church like it, you will find The Oldest Sin a wonderfully entertaining reading experience.
Some time ago we were told that when the church's Pasadena properties are sold the money would be used to allow local Worldwide congregations to build their own church buildings. Now we have heard that the money will just be given to some of the church's top ministers. Which story is true?
Editor: There is no telling what the latest plan is. But in the September WN (p. 7) Bernie Schnippert, WCGs treasurer, stated that the first priority would be "to fund a retirement plan for faithful full-time ministers and employees who meet the criteria of age, years of service, loyalty, membership status and other requirements not delineated here." After that, if there is anything left over, the plan is to perhaps use some for other, not as yet determined, purposes. So, no need to worry. Tkach and friends will be well provided for.
We left the WCG in 1995 and went into United. Now we are out of that organization too. About three months ago we started reading the Tangled Web, The Truth Shall Make You Free, and Armstrongism, Religion or Ripoff? Needless to say we were shocked. But we know these things are true because we read much and talked to many people.
We heard so many rumors about WCG and they came true. Now we are hearing rumors about United. One is that Bob Dick was at one time receiving two paychecks, one from WCG (before he officially resigned) and the other from United. We also heard that United was two years in the making before they emerged. They tried to tell us they just went to Indianapolis and it was just born, almost spontaneously. Do you realize that these same ministers were therefore the very ones who were once aligned with the "great falling away"?
We also heard that some evangelists in GCG are wanting to align with United, but they are doing it secretly. They know Meredith would never step aside and share the spotlight with anyone else. GCG is hurting for money, so what to do? What to do?
-Mr. & Mrs Clyde E. Brown
To obey blindly for the sake of a command is not a virtue in itself, but a slavish submission from fear of punishment. Religious knowledge is much more profound and complex than historical knowledge. Most religious beliefs are confirmed through experiences rather than from texts and man-made traditions.
The Case of the Missing ARs
Did you receive our last issue, AR63? Apparently a lot of our regular subscribers did not. AR63, which began with an article titled "Tkach Goes Ecumenical," was mailed out at the very beginning of October. Normally, within three weeks of mailing out an edition we start hearing from readers. But by mid-November we had heard from only a handful. Then a number of long-time friends wrote or phoned and said they still had not received their issue.
By mid-December it was obvious that something was very wrong. For instance, the amount of contributions received after the October mailing were so low we wondered if we would be able to continue publishing. In fact, this issue only gets out through a small bank loan. From the number of complaint letters that we received and from the fact that we had very few address correction updates from the post office it appears now that perhaps two thirds or more of our last mailing just disappeared.
What happened? Frankly, we still don't know. At first we suspected that the record number of bulk mailings that politicians made before last November's U.S. elections somehow interfered with our own bulk mailing. But, why then did so many foreign mailings, including many air-mailed to Canada, also somehow get lost? We haven't a clue. We have talked to postal officials and they too cannot figure it out. Whatever the cause, it has set us back a little bit.
If you are one of our regular subscribers and did not get a copy of AR63 (October 1996) please be sure to mention that in a letter. We still have a few copies left over from our last printing and we will try to get one out to you ASAP.
My apology for this issue having to be so short. But it's all that we can afford at this time. With a bit of luck we will be able to get out a larger issue next time - hopefully in a couple of months. My thanks to all for your patience and support.
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