Herbert W. Armstrong - Garner Ted Armstrong - A collection of Facts, Opinions and Comments from survivors of The Worldwide Church of God and its Daughters.

"Poisoned Well"

By Douglas Becker


Poisoned Well

Some Armstrongists believe that they can create a viable religion if only they take the very best of what Herbert Armstrong had to offer and dispense with all the rest. Apparently, they have not read the Gospels where Jesus is quoted as saying that a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit or the Epistle of James where it says, “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.”

Dyslexic Herb

The problem seems to have started very early with Herbert Armstrong. Over at Ambassador Watch with the entry, Rambling Rod – and Herb’s reading problem, Gavin makes the observations based on a YouTube video by Roderick Meredith:

One intriguing comment, made in passing (beginning around 24:00), concerns the role Loma Armstrong played in assisting Herb with reading tasks. Rod states that Herbert was a slow reader and had Loma read him “whole sections of books”. Rod confesses he is a slow reader too, and that Herb would “read slowly and mumble”. Loma was the one who could skim read and then direct him to the important parts. This is decades before the failing eyesight of his latter years when he resorted to a large magnifying glass.

Was the early difficulty visual or what might today be called dyslexia? Richard Nickels recalled, “I wrote an article especially for HWA using an ORATOR giant type size so he could read it with his one weak eye.” Perhaps it was both.

Rod gives no clues, and perhaps the distinction never occurred to him. Could it be that, for whatever reason, written position papers were simply a waste of time when trying to convince the End Time Apostle? Documents like the STP were irrelevant, it was really about who had his ear at the time. Rod gives an unintended example at around 43:00, the change from a Monday to a Sunday Pentecost.

Which gives one pause to wonder at the oft-told tale of all those hours spent all by himself at the Eugene Public Library acquiring “the equivalent of a college-level education”. It might also help explain his aversion to scholarship.

The blind leading the blind? Armstrong’s visual impairment is rarely factored into accounts of his life. It was clearly a limitation on more than one level.

It should also be noted that Aaron Dean was pressed into service in the final months before Herbert Armstrong died to ruin his own eyesight in dimness, reading to Herbert Armstrong.

The proposition that Herbert Armstrong had dyslexia is compelling. He didn’t want to finish high school and didn’t. He wanted action and activity, not study. This aversion to academia is common among those with dyslexia. Herbert Armstrong never went to college (and could not have without an high school education). He was a ‘by the seat of his pants’ kind of guy, not wanting to ‘waste his time’ pursuing research or scholarship. In fact, perhaps the reason he spent so much time in the Central Library in Portland was because of his dyslexia — trying to read stuff and getting the material wrong because letters and words were reversed — and not just because he was an alcoholic and a patient with manic depressive disorder engaged in boozing self-treatment. Some how he glommed on to the writings of G. G. Rupert and without sufficient background to ascertain the validity of the British Israelism, tithing, Feast Days, prophecy and all the other opinions of Rupert, took them all, hook, line and sinker, without ever giving any consideration to any alternative views. It also positioned him well to be anti academic while, at the same time, being a chancellor of a college (or, more like, an adult finishing high school for socially toxic hirelings).

This isn’t the only major problem with Herbert Armstrong. He was an alcoholic. The Ambassador Report has Herbert Armstrong drunk and naked in hotel rooms. Of course, he’s not the only one in the family, since alcoholism is a liver dysfunction passed through the mitochondria. This means that his mother and his siblings were also alcoholics (whether they were practicing or not — a person can be an alcoholic without drinking alcohol, in which case the symptoms are not exhibited). We are certain that Garner Ted Armstrong was an alcoholic. That means that his mother, Loma, was also, along with his siblings. Those who have grown up in homes where one or more parents were alcoholics know the chaos it is, but in the case of the Armstrongs, the situation was worse: They were boozing alcoholics in charge of a cult. Those of us who have worked for alcoholic managers and directors understand how chaotic and dysfunctional a business or agency can be with the arbitrary treatment of those ‘managed’. Those subjected to alcoholics understand that nothing is consistent: What may be a policy and true today, may be completely changed tomorrow. Witness the treatment of the policies and doctrines of makeup. Opinions are raised to doctrine in cults owned and run by boozing alcoholics.

While there is a great deal of information about individuals who are alcoholics and even families of alcoholics, but there is a dearth of information about the sociological impact of alcoholic leaders / managers in groups of people. When those at the top of an organization are alcoholics, the dynamic of the relevant group are badly distorted. Those who are “good ol’ boys” “drinking buddies” have intricate relationships that exclude others. This was certainly true with Garner Ted Armstrong and David Jon Hill. Herbert had his own drinking buddies. Was Roderick Meredith one of them? There was an allusion that Meredith drank with Herbert Armstrong recently. Those excluded from the cliques formed by the boozers are just ‘out’ — having absolutely no influence within the organization. This is largely invisible unless one is particularly alert and has had experience with such environments — but it is bad — really, really bad.

Now in the latest The Journal is featured “CG7 elder and evangelist Kiesz gives church history” where John Kiesz relates his relationship over the years with Herbert Armstrong; he mentions wine related to Passover:

Why wine is incorrect for the Passover

He [Mr. Armstrong] uses fermented wine in place of grape juice at the Lord’s Supper. But the fruit of the vine has gone through a process of fermentation or corruption by the time it is fermented wine. Our Savior’s blood saw no corruption, so the corrupted wine cannot symbolize his uncorrupted blood.

Herbert Armstrong was an alcoholic who ‘needed’ to drink. The Church of God Seventh Day ministers of that era did not countenance drinking alcohol. One of the questions which should be examined is whether or not — along with all the other problems of Herbert Armstrong — Herbert Armstrong sought the freedom by forming his own church because it meant that he could engage in drinking alcohol. It should be noted that it wasn’t just the Passover — it was all the Feast Days (save for the Day of Atonement) which yielded opportunities to indulge.

As a practicing alcoholic, it became the imperative for Herbert Armstrong to ‘convert’ as many people as possible to alcoholism — and did so effectively by transforming those who never drank into boozers as they absorbed the social order of the artificially created Radio Church of God / Worldwide Church of God.

Get Your Fill of the Spirit

That’s still not all the problems. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. The next big one is the narcissism of Herbert Armstrong: He saw himself as the center of the Universe — in the end, he proclaimed that he was going to become God as God is God. If there is a God, that’s pretty cheeky, particularly since Lucifer came before him and wasn’t able to pull that off. Nevertheless, in the small confines of a cult, being Satan as the usurper of God is no trick at all and in the eyes and the minds of the brainwashed great unwashed, Herbert was all but a God, even if he wasn’t really. He stood for God. He was the minister of God. He had the authority of God — at least he claimed it — and he was third in the Universe (undoubtedly waiting for when he could become #1 in the scheme of things). He declared himself an apostle and even announced in a broadcast that he was equal to the Apostle Paul and had a thing or two to say — especially when he outright disagreed with Paul.

Such hubris is an aphrodisiac to the simple naive powerless who need a Nimrod to lead them into a Kingdom where they will be Kings and Priests and even God as God is God. Herbert Armstrong was their hero. No sacrifice was too great — even self-esteem was on the table to be sacrificed. Everything had to go in the personal fire sale: Family, friends, money, time and, most all, the sacrifice of Herbolatry. The hirelings inherited a portion of the god-hero mantle and were allowed to subsume the personalities over whom they held dictatorship. The people could do nothing except they submit it first to the ministry. Ministers could make people do the most silly things, sort of like a stage hypnotist. They wielded power. They abused the power.

In order to commoditize the slavery of the masses, Herbert established a training center for those who would carry on his programs to use the membership as a giant cash machine: Ambassador College!

Ambassador Review captures the sorry state of Ambassador College in 1976 after the non return of Christ

What we have ended up with is Entitlement. Of the many comments of the many posts, here is one at random, expressing the frustration of the entitlement:

Excerpts of a letter written to a minister about their true condition and roles that have caused much of the angst and criticism within the Church of God…..

“What many of you in such vaulted, authoritative positions never seem to understand, is that we’re not leaving the Body of Christ, but rather an imperfect, often misguided, confused or arrogant leader or organization, that have become more “hireling types” or now miss or abuse the point of their perceived calling on some or even many levels.

Quite simply, people are desperately looking for someone whose proper servant’s voice and life they recognize, who is a true, well rounded, serving shepherd, as designed and dedicated as Jesus Christ, revealed and showed through his own exemplary life and the subsequent apostle’s example.

What we’ve gotten instead, are many Korah, self-aggrandizing types, who’ve become almost papal like figures that one dares not question anything they say or do, as though God only fully answers their prayers and, anyone who follows them, must recognize they do so, in great trepidation, within God’s full authority.

I never thought I’d see in the aftermath of the demise of WCG such a menagerie of misguided and self-serving individuals, who seem to clamor for so much personal attention, as though they individually (and then collectively) are the cream of the crop, and the absolute apple in God’s eyes.

Yet the focus is to continue to blame the members for their indiscretions and lack of faith, and not a self-serving ministry who treat the people like merchandise, usually for their own personal use or benefit.

In essence, we are seeing naked emperors, pseudo apostles, prophets, witnesses, trainer of witnesses or other “look at me” roles, which must have the fawning few who worship their every word or deed.

Select few seem to fulfill the complete “job descriptions” given in Titus and Timothy; instead they seem to see it as a buffet of sorts, picking and choosing what they best like to do, rather than honoring the “complete and God centered calling”, even going above and beyond it, like a profitable servant should.

But even more sad, is most members can’t for the life of them ever see any of you who are in these prominent authoritative roles who demand our total loyalty, compliance or acceptance of all things taught or believed by you, ever coming under someone else’s human control or influence again, in true humility, because each in your own way have become a pious authority unto your selves.

I’ve often said there are 3 things you hardly ever hear a minister affiliated with the church of God over the year’s state or admit, are “I’m sorry”, “I’m wrong” and “I don’t know”. That mold is certainly still intact.

I know as members we have been taught, almost ad nausea, that we are the weak of this world and might barely make it to God’s Kingdom if we don’t fall in line behind the authority of God (via the ministry). But I’d have to say, the ministry as a whole, has certainly led the pack, backwards.

But I really do wonder how God perceives today’s “ministry”, who can’t seem to find any common spiritual ground with fellow, “well trained???”, extensively experienced men who should be able to rise above it all; especially with the double portion of help that the ministry feels they have, directly given by God?

Maybe the tares aren’t exactly who we have all thought they might be, but those who have done more of a disservice to God’s calling and accountability, because they merely have lost sight of the goal themselves or they have simply been ordained of men, but never of God.

I truly wonder if any of the various COG group’s leaders understand exactly what God does want and expects, not just from the lowly member, but doubly more from those who relish in authority and supreme governance, who have picked up the mantle of a minister or leader of one of these various, fractious groups, that now make up the church of God today?”

When Herbert Armstrong began his ‘ministry’ in the Church of God Seventh Day, he began incest with his daughter. Professionals who deal with this horrible behavior describe role reversal: That is, the child becomes the spouse, supplanting the real spouse and the spouse becomes the child. Herbert Armstrong honed this to a fine art for the congregations following him: He performed a different role reversal — the members became the minister and the minister was the one who was served — exactly backward from what it should be. This became the standard for the entire cult where all the ministry dominated the membership and the membership served and were servant slaves of the ministry. The ministry became the elite in a highly stratified hierarchy. There were rankings of ministers and woe be to the elder who did not attend Ambassador College.

Rick Railston of the Pacific Church of God related the following incident at the Feast of Tabernacles with words to this effect:

I had just been ordained [an elder] [before the Feast] and was to attend a meeting with Garner Ted Armstrong in the Poconos. I talked to the woman across the table from me and told her that I was an ordained elder. She asked me when I attended Ambassador College. I told her that I had not attended Ambassador College.

She turned her hose up into the air and turned away from me and never talked to me again.

Even if you are a minister, you may be subjected to rude behavior by the elite if they sense you are not at their level of the social order.

We’ve all heard this before. Note the treatment of Conscientious Objectors at Big Sandy, Texas at Ambassador College:

If we are speaking about the Love of God amongst Jesus oriented Christians, it really was a failed experiment. In fact, it goes far beyond what anyone might expect in terms of abuse. Ambassador College became something of The Stanford Prison Experiment:


It is Philip Zimbardo’s Lucifer Effect, an apt name for The Ambassador College Prison Experiment, which hearkens back to the ugliness of Milgram’s Experiment. You shouldn’t expect this sort of behavior. Church of God people, and particularly the ministers, should represent the highest standards of Christianity. Given our collective experiences, that is an absurd and naive idealism, totally at variance with the very real disturbing antisocial behavior of the cultmeisters who have been the inheritors of the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia legacy. Did we say, Mafia? Yes, Mafia. The Armstrongist churches of God have become the sociopathic family represented by the worst of the Mafia ideals, mores and ethics — it is a crime family, headed by the Mafia Don. Any objective look at the leader would reveal a person of the worst sort — abusive, unethical, narcissistic, sociopathic, even psychopathic — and yet… and yet… he is supposed to be treated with the utmost respect and honor. Why? Yes, why? Why would someone like Ronald Wienland, insane psychopath false prophet convicted felon be treated with anything but the lowest contempt? Even the United States Justice Department knows better. Why doesn’t the PKG?

It’s because the patterns and form — with image triumphing over substance — predominate, generated long ago by Herbert Armstrong. Those trapped in the rigid belief and behavior structure have distorted perceptions, unable to perceive and accept anything but the very stupid wrong ideas they have been enticed to embrace. British Israelism is just plain wrong, but those trapped within its restrictive boundaries cannot escape: Even if they leave Armstrongism, even years after, when they hear a news report, the illogic will kick in and will be off and running with the person fearing the reprisal of a harsh God punishing lost tribes of Israel. Some of those who think that they are liberated from Armstrongism by taking only the best of the beliefs of Herbert Armstrong and dispensing with all the rest, such as the Church of God Big Sandy still have people who haven’t gotten the message and preach the Armstrongist prophecies.

There are those who believe that the the beliefs of Herbert Armstrong can be rescued by rejecting his errors. They believe that the social group can be rescued by getting rid of all the bad stuff. As more comes out about the CoHAM, there are those who are becoming more militant about ‘reforming’ the evils. Joe Sanchez is one of these people who has recently taken on the Church of God Worldwide Association:

In the 40+ years I have been in the church of God I have seen multiple churches divide and split time after time- for the same reason. I have seen sexual predators given hall passes. I have seen good honest Christians, who are just trying to serve God, kicked to the curb like a piece of trash after decades of loyal service. I have seen decisions being made by the Ministry that greatly affected my family, done haphazardly that have affected me still to this day.

My mother was killed in a car accident with my step father in November of 1989. At the time we were living in Eastern Oregon. She was a mother of 4, solid member of the church, attended regularly and served often in our congregation. There was only one small problem. She was a consistent and frequent adulterer. It wasn’t until later in life that I was able to piece all of the memories together to try and get a count. I estimate she had somewhere between 7-12 affairs that I could put a face to. No doubt there were many more. She was married 3 times and the last marriage took place just a couple months before the accident. And so the question I have is: how is it that someone who was so active in the church, was able to remain a member in good standing and live like she did? My mother definitely had her good qualities but turning a blind eye to her sins didn’t help her at all. I believe it destroyed her.

Later on in life I was able to confront the ministers who gave her the hall passes and asked them why? Of course they didn’t remember anything and repeated some rhetoric about how they had “no tolerance for sexual promiscuity”- and she must have “slipped through the cracks”. How did a woman over a period of time, bring 3 different husbands to the same church congregation that has a very strict divorce and remarriage policy “slip through the cracks”?

I attribute this and may other injustices that took place in church of God to the system where the ministry made these decisions with no transparency. It is very easy to hammer some people and hand out hall passes to others when it is done in secrecy.

The core of the problem began with Herbert Armstrong, but Garner Ted Armstrong illustrates just how corrupt the Worldwide Church of God really was. He committed date rape for some 200 women (his own estimate by 1972), some of whom became the wives of Evangelists. The Evangelists learned of this after it came to light and then… and then… spent years working for GTA as he was their boss, #2 in the Very Work of God! Imagine the anger. And yet… and yet… they managed to suppress the anger, pushing it all the way down — carrying with them rage for years. Imagine the impact this had on congregations subject to the minister hiding the violation. Instead of leaving what was obviously a cult, the ministers stayed with it, trading sanity and freedom for a position and salary. Imagine the conflict of interest and the internal discordance. It was utter insanity. This became an accepted and tolerated evil and wickedness for years.

Nothing can rival the evil of depraved indifference, the product of a wrong-headed belief system about faith where it was a sin to seek ‘healing’ from a doctor for serious life-threatening situations. Yes, the girl in Seattle who had appendicitis actually did survive. She was anointed and was not healed. She has spent a lifetime of diminished health as a result. Many others were not so fortunate. Many died while the minister placidly looked on hoping that he wouldn’t be found out as the family faced legal problems as well as the death of the loved one. The church issued an internal bulletin advising the ministers to evade any questions put to them about putting people at risk over the healing issue so that the church would not be held legally accountable. So what we had was an entire ministry complicit in depraved indifference, warping and searing their own conscience, burning out love and care for individuals for the sake of preserving their precious church cult corporate. It is this compromise along with so many others which transformed those in authority in the church into the evil people they became. The process was to cover up, cover up the cover up and make the whole thing undiscussible.


Given the evil mindset cultivated at Ambassador College, it is not surprising that as the splinters dispersed, they took with them distorted ‘morals’ and expanded them into scenarios much more horrific. These days in the Philadelphia Church of God, vile old bachelors rebuffed by attractive late teen and early twenty girls need only to complain to their local Mafia chieftain and considerable pressure will be exerted to insure that the girls and young women are properly submissive. Stalkers also live and prosper in the other cult sects, even in the supposedly benign Church of God an International Association.

Perhaps some of the most shocking situations develop from the ‘no contact rule’ wherein people within one sect of the church cult corporate may not have any contact with others who are in another sect of the church cult corporate, even family members — and even teen family members living at home. Teens have been thrown out of their own homes with no place to go and no one to take care of them, just because they cannot bring themselves to believe the nonsense of the cult. They are declared by the ministry as rebellious (it could be as simple as the teen rejecting British Israelism and we can sort of go from there). It never occurs to anyone that this practice is patently illegal, subject to prosecution. Just don’t mention that the minister ‘forced’ you to do it. If you get into problems — especially legal problems — when you obey the commands and demands of your minister, you are on your own.

The minister who told a member of a disabled child to just leave it in a shopping mall because someone was bound to find it and take care of it is sort of in a class by itself. No one within the cult seems to sense that it is utterly outrageous for anyone to suggest that, let alone a ‘minister’ of Jesus Christ. What sort of monsters are these people? What sort of conscience could they possibly have? You can safely bet that their perversions are rooted in the Cult of Herbert Armstrong Mafia.

Most of us know the minister in the Worldwide Church of God who had relations with 16 teenaged girls and 8 of their mothers. When John Cafourek brought this to the administration in Pasadena, they responded, “But he gives such great sermons”. Eventually, the man went with Global. Rex Sexton knew what the man was all about but it’s clear Roderick Meredith wouldn’t do anything about it (he was in the administration of the WCG — get it??!), so he bought a box of the first printing of “Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of Psychopaths” by Dr. Robert Hare and handed them out to the other ministers and leaders. After Global, the man went on to the Church of the Great God, where had a comfortable position for many years without coming to the attention of John Rittenbaugh, apparently.

It’s a real wonder isn’t it? Armstrongist leaders veritably shout how the United States [and British Commonwealth] are going to be judged for their sins — to be horribly punished — because they don’t keep the Ten Commandments. But when it comes to their keeping the Ten Commandments, well… they are less than satisfactory. What sort of punishment shall they receive, seeing as how judgment is supposed to begin with the church of God?

With that background, just how can anyone expect any responsibility from any of the ministry trained at the cesspool of Ambassador College? Lives so transformed to evil, so comfortable with it, there’s no self-recognition. It’s like spending time doing laps in a nice warm cesspool and not noticing the toxic stench. The violation of religious and even civil precepts are so pervasive that the people steeped in Armstrongism are totally warped. No one anywhere should trust them to find the way after all this time.

It is all a poisoned well.

Grace Communion International is laughing at all you Armstrongists: It represents Armstrongism without Herbert Armstrong. You can see what the ultimate result is from their worship services video:


It’s just more Chri$tian Mu$ic (the video was a follow on of a link provided by GCI).

That’s what you get when you try to take the poison out of the water from the poisoned well: Nothing at all.

It’s just not worth the effort.



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