The "Plain Truth" About Hawaii.
"How to screw up Pasadena's
favorite junket location."
By John O.
If there's anything we can thank old Herbie for, it's the fact that he disillusioned so many of us and, as a result, many of us went on and found a spiritual awakening. With me, it started in Hawaii. From 1976 to 1979, I pastored the churches there . . . on Oahu, on Maui, Kauai, Lanai, and the Big Island of Hawaii. It was somewhat of a culture shock in going to Hawaii where we were Caucasian minorities, but that didn't worry us as much as the state of the church. It takes only a couple of weeks to get used to the culture difference and to appreciate the spirit of the islands, but it took about a year to try and re-assemble the condition of the church. The previous minister, a Pasadena loyalist, had left the church without any rudder, as he himself, was no real pastor. Only one member in the whole Hawaiian congregation even knew the ten commandments. This resident pastor preached about everything that didn't matter. I heard his tapes. He hadn't even visited some brethren in over five years. In fact, he never knew they even existed. They lived on the island of Lanai.
After a year or so, I started to notice the possible reason to actually have a church in Hawaii. This was a favorite junket place for top ministers and their wives and/or girlfriends. They'd come on a Friday, preach the next day, and stay another two weeks without even making contact with any member of the congregation, including me.
It's pointless to go over what I did there, only to say that at the end of two years, most of the Hawaiian people were now thinking as, I believe, God intended. They studied, they read, and they learned. They asked questions and wanted provable answers. They even challenged me if they didn't understand something, and I approved. All teaching was done within the doctrines of Worldwide Church of God. They were taught to believe the Bible and were taught to defend any doctrine that they believed.
So, in late 1978 to 1979, when Herbie came out with his yelling and screaming about Ted's departure, and then started to form his own theology of "absolute and unswerving loyalty to God's only Apostle," and contradicting Bible teaching, it was not surprising that the Hawaiian brethren started to question this insanity. Since they were taught Biblical logic, what (they now asked) was all this Pasadena ILLOGIC? As many stated to me in that time: "If the church is 'back on the track,' then the engine must be facing the wrong direction."
Isn't it surprising that whenever the simple teachings of Jesus are violated, the end result is always chaos? This happened in Hawaii. Were the Master's teachings of Matthew 18: 15-17 followed with regards to offenses, the departure history would have been a lot different . . . or at least, a lot more peaceful
While the Hawaiian church was prepared to wait out another father and son storm in Pasadena and Tyler, some ultra-loyalists within the congregation were not. They wanted statements of loyalty from everyone, including me, otherwise they would report the church to Rod Meredith at Pasadena. It would seem that, even after instruction, these members had never heard (or wanted to) of the Matthew 18 principle. And, of course, Meredith never bothered to use it with me when he suspected that I might be "disloyal." At that stage, I wasn't.
I finally concluded, in that time, as to what was really happening. This whole thing was turning into a crazy cult, and Herbie was its chief Pope and guru. But, how to tell the brethren? How could they come to see this for themselves? People, in those days, tended to believe anything that Herbie wrote. If I opened up and criticized Herbert W. Armstrong from the pulpit , like so many before me, it would have been a disaster. People would have said I was bitter, jealous, etc. and the congregation would have never received the real truth as to what was going on. No, I concluded, the brethren would have to actually come to understand Herbert W. Armstrong's theological stupidity, let them see this themselves, and let Herbert W. Armstrong bury himself somehow.
In those days, each week, Herbie would write the most hallucinogenic egotistical, propaganda nonsense in the weekly Pastor's Report, and this exact same drivel would appear to the brethren, a week later, as an article in the Good News. This gave me an idea. With each Pastor's Report, I'd sit down and prepare the coming Sabbath sermon debunking Herbie's theological viewpoint. I would expose everything that was said, piece by piece. Of course, the sermon was always given from a "general" standpoint and the principles involved. No one knew that the sermon was provoked by Herbie's articles in the Pastor's Report. The congregation, having now proved what was said in the weekly Sabbath sermon as being totally correct, they then had some very big questions when the next week's Good News arrived.
Within a few weeks of this, Herbie continue to bury himself and his credibility declined . . . except in the eyes of a few loyalists who basically were too lazy (or afraid) to think for themselves. To everyone else, it was obvious. Herbie was now preaching his own doctrines, and those doctrines were contrary to the Bible. Since I wouldn't get involved in the Pasadena insanity and openly condemn GTA and praise Herbert W. Armstrong, some of the loyalists decided to "report" me to Pasadena, and specifically, Rod Meredith. If you remember, Herbert W. Armstrong encouraged this type of behaviour.
Dennis Luker was Meredith's offsider in those years. So, I phoned Denny to try and put to rest the scuttlebutt that was precipitated by two members, both of which I knew to have foul spiritual attitudes. Both of these members, it turned out, wanted recognition and a position in the congregation. Both, as it was, were totally unqualified to handle any responsibility of any sort. This was the spirit and the people that Meredith and Luker used to report on all activities and what was said in all the sermons.
My call to Denny didn't go all that well, and even though we were NOT chasing the likes of Garner Ted Armstrong and his Tyler group, Denny apparently thought we were. Dennis Luker, it was therefore determined by Meredith, would now come to Hawaii at Passover time to put the church "back on the track." We were ready.
Denny never knew what hit him We'd all done our homework, and when he tried to convince the Hawaiian congregation (at a Bible study without my presence) that all was well at Pasadena, and that I was "disloyal," the brethren took Luker to pieces. I later heard the tape. I'd heard that he always considered the Hawaiian brethren to be "dumb and stupid," but in this Bible study, he met his match. This congregation was Biblically informed, and knew their theology. In the Bible study's general Q&A, they quoted actual Biblical Greek words at Luker, cross referencing them to various verses. They made their points to decimate Herbie's arguments, and "evangelist" Luker had no defense. The Hawaiian congregation made him look foolish, and eventually tired and exasperated, he finally closed the study and told everyone to get in line with his and Herbert W. Armstrong's thinking or "don't come back." The congregation got the message. The next Sabbath, only a few loyalist attendees showed for Luker's sermon. The rest of the church met across the island in another location. Now Luker got the message. There was no "Luker" service. In a few days, he left for Pasadena (as was reported to us) with his tail between his legs. He came with arrogance, and we all saw it, but he left humiliated. I understand he incurred the wrath of headquarters and especially Stan Rader. Stanley, it seems, didn't want to lose the Hawaiian location as a "junket" church post.
When informed of the situation, Herbie decided to keep the location as a church, even if it meant catering to only a handful of loyal members. To lose the "church" there might jeopardize the tax deductible status for the upper echelon's vacations.
For a while, we all joined the Seventh Day Church of God out of Denver, Colorado, but so many of us were growing so fast by this time, that we literally outpaced the archaic teachings of the Seventh Day group. We found them to be gentle people with loving dispositions, but many were very closed minded when it came to learning anything different than their standard doctrines.
Meanwhile, the verbal and written attacks about me went all over the world. I was disfellowshipped, marked, and even branded as "dog vomit" from a pulpit in Sydney, Australia.
Soon after Denny left the Islands, Pasadena sent in Wilbur Berg. Will was known as the "automaton of Pasadena," and renowned for his "dead fish" handshake. He settled in for a month of luxurious living in a lavish apartment in Kailua, and drove a large luxury sedan wherever he went. His job was also to get the church "back on the track."
After a wasted month, Will sent a libelous letter about me to all present and past members, explaining how they'd all been deceived, how I was a liar and thief, and how I was the instrument of Satan, etc. etc. It did no good. Everyone knew that Berg was lying. He too, went back to Pasadena, and as they said: " . . . with his tail between his legs." Pasadena, Meredith, Luker, Berg, and old Herbie had all lost. The integrity and courage of the Hawaiians had prevailed.
Eventually, we left the fellowship of the Seventh Day group. Soon after, I was offered and accepted a job in Los Angeles.
The group didn't stay together in Hawaii anymore. They knew now that they were free and had no manacles of any cult to hold them. They stood on their own feet and thought for themselves. Many followed their own paths, worked with other groups, and others continued seeking. None of those people, to my knowledge, have any more contact with any cultic type religions. I still correspond and phone talk to some after all these years. They are still my dear friends. We left the islands in 1981.
Certainly, my family was shaken with the experience, our security and home were lost in the shuffle, and the future looked bleak. But, we were free . . . and that's the greatest gift of all. We continue to seek more truth, even today. And each day, I learn something new. There's no end to God's input, IF we keep an open mind. I can only hope that others (ministers also) in the United, Philadelphia, and Global cults could have what we have . . . a freedom now in Christ and that blessing that passes all understanding. It's taken us a long time, but it's been worth it to break from that demonic stranglehold.
But, from what I see, most of the Church of God ministers that are still locked into these cults are more lovers of mammon rather than God. They'll stay loyal to their supposed security, despite the ample evidence of their wrongdoing, and they will (like so many that I personally knew) continue to prostitute themselves to the system for their paycheck.
Herbie taught them well.
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