The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God
The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God.

"OOPS! He Missed The Mark Again"
"A Tribute to Willy"

By Bob W.
Eugene, Oregon

It was during the summer, somewhere between 1954 and 1956, when Church services for The Radio Church of God, (the name was later changed to The Worldwide Church of God), were still held on the Ambassador College campus. The meetings took place in what was then the Library building. Since the membership for the entire southern California area was small enough, we were all able to comfortably fit inside the small reading room. But as the membership grew it became increasingly more crowded, it seemed as though the library itself was growing smaller. I can remember having to sit on the inside steps that lead upstairs because there were not enough seats in the main area.

I remember, in particular, one Sabbath day message Herbert Armstrong delivered. He rambled on, and on. Then he said something that really caught my attention......what he said that day would impact, and I might add disrupt, the church for decades to come. It set in motion one of the most dramatic negative forces that the church would ever experience, one which it would never really recover from.

For what he said had the overtones of being raciest, volatile and explosive in nature. If his sermon was wrong then it would prove him to be a false prophet and minister. It was years later that I was to discover for myself that if what he taught was right, then the new covenant and what Jesus Christ taught would be null and void. But there was such a strong sense of commitment to him as a leader and to his work that the first conclusion I reached was that I simply did not understand, and that he was more spiritually mature, (which proved to be a gross error on my part). After all he was god's apostle, and I was just a nobody. But none-the-less it bothered me very much. It would later prove to be one of the many catalysts that destroyed his credibility in my mind because it showed him for what he was.

I am not sure I would go as far to say that Herbert was a racist, because that would be judging the mans heart. Even though his character was badly flawed, the judging of his heart is a job for Jesus Christ, and not me. But then again, some of the statements he made definitely place questions in my mind as to his intent and the direction in which he was moving. What he said that day was astounding even to my ears.

He explained his, (badly flawed and pathetically erroneous), view of God's plan of salvation for mankind, and how important it was to keep and observe all of God's laws including all the Holy Days, and dietary requirements. He went on to point out that God's plan for salvation was not for all mankind now, in this age. It was a difficult and complicated process that he called "conversion". (I guess he forgot that when Jesus had children gathering around Him, He explained that the Kingdom was simple enough for a child to understand.) He went on to explain that the plan was so detailed it would require our total unquestioning obedience, prayer, fasting , and Bible study, oops, I forgot to mention, our money, to gain a right understanding of the intricate laws and procedures that he, (HERBERT, not God), would require of us. Should we fail in our unquestioned obedience, we would go into the Great Tribulation, and perhaps even the lake of fire......It was a scary proposition, no one wanted to die a hideous death in a concentration camp, or even worse face eternal death. So he got our attention, through fear we gave him our loyalty and trust, through threats of condemnation and death we gave him our money.

He went on to point out that only a select few, (guess who), could truly understand this plan today, and would became members of the God family in the near future. We needed to be aware, this day and time would be our only opportunity for salvation, if we screwed up we would face the lake of fire! God was only going to call a select few who could understand and grasp the significance as well as the importance of this incredible opportunity.

Sounds all too familiar doesn't it? Then his sermon took a weird and perverted twist, the spiritual bull was about to get really was either sink or swim in the swill..

God's plan was so difficult, so hard to understand, he went on to explain, that even with the help of God's Holy Spirit, he seriously questioned and doubted that any Negro could ever possibly understand or comprehend it. (Interesting that he limited the very power of God's Holy Spirit.)

Why would he make such a hideous statement? He went on to state, that it was because their brains were too small, they were not intellectually capable of understanding or comprehending the complexity and seriousness of it all! They would however, get their chance for salvation during the second resurrection....W-H-A-T?? Was he serious, emphatically YES! Was he right? Emphatically NO, NO!! But it was, none-the-less, what he thought and taught as revealed truth from God. It was this lie right from the pit of hell, and it had an undermining and devastating effect on the membership of his work.

I remember thinking, (I was just a kid at the time, I know now it was shear stupidity), I was sure glad I was able to understand and would not have go into the Great Tribulation like the poor and ignorant Negro's. I had no raciest motives, I simply and stupidly believed what he said was true. I did so without any further investigation or proving on my part. Dumb? You bet it was, for all of us, especially the adults, that swallowed that bilge!

This was Herbert's view. Sincere and honest as it was, it, none-the-less, was like sewage bubbling up and out from a broken cesspool and being spewed upon the membership. His teachings were full of flesh eating maggots and dead men's bones. Now that may seem a little harsh, and even a bit vulgar in description. But in all honesty, what else could be said? Why white wash the truth? Haven't we had enough of that? Either he was a minister of righteousness and truth, or he was an administrator of unrighteousness! To sugar coat what he was would be like putting beautiful and fine furnishings in a hollowed out heap of vile and rotting garbage at the city dumb and calling the structure magnificent and righteous because some of its contents were indeed good.

His statement seemed strange, very strange to me, I could not fully understand it so I shrugged it off and left it alone for the next several years. From time to time it kept nagging at me, like a gnat flying in front of my face, always there but never where I could get your hands on it.

It was not until I met Willy that I actually began to understand and comprehend the fallacy of what Herbert had taught. Willy started me on the road to understanding our humanity from God's eyes. He unknowingly helped me place what I had been taught about blacks in its proper perspective. For Willy was the first black person I ever really talked to, other than to just say hello. What I learned from him and his example made what Herbert said seem, which it was, way off base. His teachings on race were more like an invasion from the outer limits of irrational distortions. I found there were some serious inconsistencies here that I could not reconcile until years later.

For, in spite of the insanity of his distorted teachings, every once in a while something would happen that would set the record straight. I firmly believe it was God's way of telling us, be still, quiet and listen to My truth as it is expressed in the lives of My children. He would use circumstances and people in a wondrous and marvelous way to express to us His truth. So enters Willy on the scene. He would have an impact, a positive impact upon some of us in church that would not be noticed or recognized until decades later... His impact was different, not in a weird sort of way, but in a way that was very positive.

So what does Herbert's racial overtones have to do with Willy? I am glad you asked...... In 1969, as you are probably aware, at Ambassador College blacks were not welcome. (On the rare occasion one may have become a student, they were not allowed to mix with the white students or attend any of the activities.) It is tragic that Herbert set up such horribly invisible barriers. Somewhere along the line he forgot, I would rather say forgot than deliberately ignored, that we are all one in Christ. It doesn't make any difference who you are, or what family of mankind you are from, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Only He, who lived perfectly, has the right to judge. As He looked down through the corridors of time He found us all guilty and worthy of eternal death. He took upon Himself our sins, all of them, race had nothing to do with it. He took our sins willingly and in turn gave us His righteousness. So when the Father sees us, He doesn't see our color, or height, or weight, whether we are young or old, male or female; the only thing He sees in us is the righteousness of Christ. Either we are alive in Christ or we are dead in Adam! There is nothing in between, absolutely nothing. So if you are concerned about race or gender, intelligence or the lack of it, you, like Herbert, are on the wrong track and are headed for serious and painful derailment.

It was not his height, or demeanor. He was not a powerful or an influential or persuasive individual. He was who he was, Willy, a child of God. He unlike most of us actually allowed Jesus Christ to live in and through him. Somehow he seemed to be untouched by the racial hostility directed toward blacks that was so prevalent all around him, even in the church..

He worked with vigor, and with enthusiasm, he was in every respect an exciting person to be around. His excitement and joy of life was contagious. One could not be around Willy for very long without being affected and infected with his genuine and sincere zest for life. If you were feeling down, and God knows we all had d-a-z-e like that, a short time spent with Willy and you could see the sun shine through the darkest of days.

His personality was not what I would call dynamic or magnetic, He was just Willy a child of God who allowed Christ to live through him... He was a rare jewel in a church filled with hundreds of rhinestone copies. I believe if he thought it would help, he would give you everything he owned, including his life! That is awesome! Something I could never say about any minister I ever knew, and I have known hundreds of the fake gem stones. Oh sure they had lots of glitter and sparkle and could dazzle us with a spectacular array of showmanship. But when it came right down to it, there was nothing more than just showmanship, there was no depth to them. How could there be? They were all imitations of the biggest fake gem of them all. Need I say who that was?

Few people in Worldwide Church of God have ever had the impact on lives that Willy did. I found it particularly interesting, and somewhat awesome that some of the graduating men from Ambassador College requested that they be allowed to work for Willy....No he was not an executive in the work of Herbert, he was not one who held an office of esteem, yet he was esteemed by many. He was not someone you would call Sir or Mr., and I think that was one reason he was such a free spirited individual, because he was just Willy, unobtrusive, open hearted and sincere. He did not command a large number of men or women, and yet, a large number of men and women gave him the respect he earned because of his love for people.

Willy was just a lowly black janitor, and I say that with tongue in cheek. In reality he was a mighty and powerful example of Jesus Christ living his life in an individual. It was how the administration, walking around in their $1000.00 suits, sitting very piously in their fancy offices, and spending our tithe money on their outrageous expense accounts, viewed him.

It is indeed a tribute to him and his kind hearted and gentle spirit that so many men wanted to work for him instead of the higher ranking, rank is a bad odor, members of the Imperial Staff of Herbert's Empire. This was because Willy really and sincerely cared for, and he showed it openly, those that worked for him, no, they actually, as he would put it, they worked with him. WOW! What a concept! Working together as a team, helping, encouraging and uplifting each other while getting the job done. The current administration should try this concept sometime! It is no small wonder why so many wanted to work by his side.

It is amazing he was able to accomplish and maintain this attitude of service and love for all the men and women he came in contact with, regardless of their race. I say its amazing because he had a couple of supervisors that were right out of the pit of hell. It seemed their whole existence was to make as many people miserable in the shortest amount of time possible. So working against those kind of odds and maintaining such a wonderfully positive attitude was incredible. Willy was a man of God who allowed Jesus Christ to live in and through him on a daily basis.

Now I am sure he had bad days like us all, but in seven years I never saw him angry or disrespectful to anyone, nor did I ever hear of any occasions where he was mean or haughty. In contrast, during that same period of time I annoyed several dozen ministers, at least half of the local elders and most of the deacons. I was more of a rebel. Whereas Willy was a rebel but in a Christ like manner, big difference. And the difference is worth recognizing.

On campus, there were some truly beautiful people. Beautiful not because of race or color, but beautiful because they allowed Jesus Christ to live His life through them. Willy was never tainted or uprooted because of extreme prejudice exhibited against him by an ungodly administration. He was an example of faith and courage worthy of our honor and recognition.

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