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Investigate with me the answers to these questions and more!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The 1979 Receivership and the Big 3

I was reading through some of the old Pastor's Reports (later, Pastor General's Reports), I had a hunch that it would be interesting, and I wanted to review what I saw there with you.

Reading those reports reminded me of something. Recently, I saw the CEO's of GM, Ford, and Chrysler appear before Congress, begging for Congress to forcefully extract money from the taxpayers and transfer it to them in return for nothing. Generally, this is called "theft". They can't sell us their cars, so they figure rather than build a car that we will buy, they will simply confiscate our money. I very much enjoyed listening to the Senators rip them up one side and down the other for show. Oh, they'll get the money. But the rub is that those three men flew to D.C. on private jets. This is something HWA often did. Cry and cry about cash shortages, but live like a god on earth. And so he was, in his own mind. That's where I'd like to start.

HWA was the 'god on earth' of the Worldwide Church of God.

Mr. Armstrong has been the spiritual and temporal leader of the Church since its inception
-Mike Blackwell, Pastor's Report, p. 3, Jan. 30, 1979

Not just temporal, but spiritual and temporal!

I am the founder, Pastor General , and spiritual and temporal leader of defendant Worldwide Church of God, Inc. (" Worldwide") . In addition, I am chief executive officer, chairman of the board of directors and chairman of the board of trustees of Worldwide and its two related entities, defendants Ambassador College, Inc. ("Ambassador"), and Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, Inc. ("AICF"); together with Worldwide, Ambassador and ASCF will collectively be referred to herein as "the Church".
The Church, which was originally known as the Radio Church of God, was founded by me in the mid-1930's for the purpose of proclaiming "the Gospel throughout the world as a witness of the coming of the Kingdom of God." Matthew 24:14. I am the appointed Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ and, as such, have been both the spiritual and temporal leader of the Church from its inception.
-Herbert Armstrong, Pastor's Report, pp. 28-29, Jan. 8, 1979

JESUS CHRIST chose and appointed me
-Herbert Armstrong, Pastor General's Report, p. 3, Jan. 31, 1980

Of 5 general categories of letters received by Worldwide's Mail Processing Center, number 5 was:

"The writers know that Mr. Armstrong is God's Apostle."
-Richard Rice (Mail Processing Center), p. 4, Feb. 5, 1979

The April 23rd, 1979 Pastor's Report includes some of the most unsettling diatribes on HWA's personal power and authority that I have ever read, and he authored the material himself. He made it perfectly clear, he is the sole head of the church on earth, all plans are planned by him, all decisions are made by him, and there is no number 2.
He was so confident in his authority, he felt he did not have to submit to the authority of the state government.

I will not submit to government's administering the Government of God's Church and Work. 
Herbert Armstrong, Pastor's Report, p. 31, Jan. 8, 1979

When they wanted something (usually money) they could be very liberal in Biblical interpretation, for example changing Deuteronomy 16 from speaking of 3 holy days into speaking of 7 holy days, or for another example changing burnt offerings into money offerings. As such, when they wanted to get away with something, they were equally as fast and loose.

Romans 13: 1 says " Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers." But notice carefully that it doesn't say "obey" every detail of what the higher powers may tell you to do. Be subject to those higher powers, nevertheless. During Nazi Germany there were laws and programs of the state that you as a Christian would have had to refuse to do. Perhaps you in many cases would have quietly, non-violently disobeyed by omission, being subject to the powers that be and any penalties they might impose.
-Rod Merideth, Pasor's Report, p. 8, March 13, 1979

God help you if you so much as question church policy, but rebellion against the state is no big deal. After all, when the state wants HWA's ill-gotten gains, it's tantamount to Hitler's Nazi Germany! And why not? When HWA wanted your hard-earned gains, it was tantamount to the end of God's work on earth!

Therefore, as the appointed Apostle of Jesus Christ, I commanded Messrs. Raymond McNair, Roderick Meredith, Ellis LaRavia, Ralph Helge, and Stanley R. Rader, in Christ 's name, to do everything possible to protect the Church's operations under me
Herbert Armstrong, Pastor's Report, p. 31, Jan. 8, 1979

He appointed those men to protect his physical organization, all the while telling the lay members that the physical organization was not important. "The church is spiritual!" he said. This is double-speak, of course. Often one thing was said in one place, and another thing in another place. It depended on what outcome was desired. Take this next statement for example:

Although Armstrong did not advise followers to break the law, he stressed that loyal members of the Worldwide Church would “obey God . . . and fight to protect and honor the very building of God.”
-Russell Chandler, L.A. Times, Jan. 23, 1979

The "very building of God" was Worldwide. HWA fled out of state, to Tucson, Arizona. He left his generals in charge in Pasadena. And when it became convenient, HWA planned to abandon the WCG (the "very building of God") and begin a new organization under the name "Philadelphia Church of God". Not so important after all, I guess. But why abandon it?

When the temporary Receiver (now dismissed) fired me, I was not in California . I continued to RUN THE WORK from Tucson. The Receiver tried for a short time to run the Work, but he was UNABLE! Immediately I had money sent in MY care which was deposited in a corporate account here in Tucson [corporate perhaps, but NOT a WCG account; they were separate. See Pastor's Report, p. 4, April 17, 1979]. He had no control over GOD'S tithes. We funneled funds into Pasadena just in time t o pay God's Church bills and the Receiver was unable to lay his hands on the money--which was his goal.
-Herbert Armstrong, Pastor General's Report, p. 3, Jan. 31, 1980

It is always about the money!! The state of California was interested in taking control of the money. If there's one thing governments love it's money. However, the stated purpose of the receivership was to stop HWA and Stan Rader from stealing it for themselves. It was just as much about the money with HWA as with the state of California. Now HWA put into practice his rebellion against the state; he had his precious tithes diverted to Tucson, and safely out of the hands of the government.

let the brethren know emphatically that Mr. Armstrong has directed (and, for the record, I and all on our P.A.D. team emphatically agree!) that ALL U.S. tithes and offerings be sent to "Herbert W. Armstrong" P. O. Box 431 Tucson, Arizona, 85702"
-Rod Merideth, Pastor General's Report, p. 3, March 5, 1979

As you know, Mr. Armstrong has asked that all donations to the Work be made payable to "Herbert W. Armstrong" and sent to Tucson for processing. However, some are still making their checks out to "Worldwide Church of God" and sending them to Tucson. These "WCG" checks cannot be deposited in Tucson and are forwarded to Pasadena for processing. Any checks of this type will be acknowledged on "Worldwide Church of God" receipts.
All checks should be made payable to "Herbert W. Armstrong" and mailed to Tucson.
-Rod Merideth, Pastor General's Report, p. 4, April 17, 1979

"Headquarters today is in my very small office in Tucson, Arizona.
"Some get the idea that Headquarters is in Pasadena"
-Herbert Armstrong, Pastor's Report, p. 6, April 23, 1979

On Jan. 27, 1979, previous to these announcements, the ministers were forbidden by the state of California to contribute to Herbert Armstrong's new ministry or to allow the diversion of church money to him. Now we see why the loophole to disobey the state had to be created - MONEY!

From the comfort of Tucson, Arizona, outside of California's jurisdiction and in complete safety, HWA said:

‘‘I wonder If people aren’t going to have to go to jail,” he continued, adding: “If we have to suffer the persecution of being thrown in jail, then I’m ready to go. . . if they want to arrest 86-year-old people”
-Russell Chandler, L.A. Times, Jan. 23, 1979

Of course he's going to say that. He was completely safe. He was in utterly no danger of jail. It's easy to talk smack when you know you can't be called out. I could say that I will go to Mars right now and without any helmet, because I'm not afraid! But that's because I know there's absolutely no chance of me being put in that position.
And the beat went on.

I want to ask every one of you to give a sermon within the next couple of weeks encouraging the brethren to do their part in God's Work and to enthusiastically build their zeal toward paying God's tithes to his Work and toward generously and even sacrificially giving the generous offerings that are so needed at this time in the very Work of the Living Christ!
-Rod Merideth, Pastor General's Report, p. 2, March 5, 1979

It wasn't good enough to ask for tithes. A tithe is only 10%. No, HWA needed 3 tithes, a 'tithe of a tithe', 7 holy day offerings, freewill offerings whenever it could be afforded, and still that wasn't enough!

Because of the very tight financial situation we will be in for the next few months, we want to start immediately to implement a fine idea Mr. Richard Rice has submitted. It involves church fund raising projects. We will send you a complete packet on this within a few days, but I would like to ask all of you personally to start NOW to begin planning and perhaps even preliminary organization of fund raising projects in your area as a special emergency crusade to raise monies to be sent to Tucson at the earliest possible date. Get your leading members together, and begin to organize different groups to engage in painting houses, cleaning houses, ironing, mending, etc., washing cars, selling farm produce, artwork, baby sitting, conducting paper drives, yard and garage sales, bake sales, quilting bees, collecting scrap iron, delivering sales papers or advertisements for local firms, etc.
This is one way the members can directly have "a piece of the action" in SERVING God's Work at this time, and yet it will involve very little of their own personal money -- merely time, effort and elbow grease. So please try to catch the vision, fellows, and get your churches enthusiastically involved in these projects as soon as possible.
-Rod Merideth, Pastor's Report, p.1, March 27, 1979

Never mind how having "a piece of the action" in serving God involves living a Godly life, loving one another, and confessing that Jesus is Lord. Never mind that. They didn't understand it. These men were so confused that they thought raising money of all things is the responsibility of every Christian.
At the very same time they were asking ministers and local churches to go without pay (see Pastor's Report, p. 10., March 13, 1979). Yet, exactly like the now infamous CEO's of the "Big Three", they didn't bother to stop their own wastefulness:

God willing, a number of us will be flying out from headquarters to visit many of your areas during the Passover season!
I will be going to Cincinnati for the Passover and then to New York for the last part of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Denny Luker will be going to Seattle-Tacoma for the Passover and then to Portland for the last half. Burk McNair will be going to Washington, D.C. for the Passover and then to Charlotte and later Richmond for the last part of the Feast. Gerald Waterhouse will be going to St. Louis for the Passover and then to Nashville for the last half. And Sherwin McMichael will be going to Minneapolis for Passover and then to Kansas City for the last half of the Feast.
-Rod Merideth, Pastor's Report, pp. 2-3, March 27, 1979

Yes. While the church sacrifices and the ministers go without pay, the elite are jet-setting. And if you didn't like all this, should you somehow cut through the layers of secrecy and find out about what was really going on, you would be under strict command to shut up and do as you are told or be disfellowshipped and "marked".

So you listen carefully , and all of you, as you know, are forbidden to associate with, and to eat with, or fellowship with, and if you're really loyal, you're not going out and commiserate with people and say: "Oh well, let's all be the underdog and yak it up and try to judge God's apostle."
-Rod Merideth, Pastor's Report, p. 10, Jan. 8, 1979

This from the same man who wiggled his way out of responsibility to obey the state of California. I say, the same logic applies here.

I will continue to climb into the way-back machine and read these Pastor's Reports. I don't know why. I must be a masochist or something. Maybe I think it's relevant for today since these same games go on as they always had.
Anyway, the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. come to mind, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, [I am] free at last!" ...and I would like those people who are still trapped in Armstrongism to be free with me.


Purple Hymnal said...

I remember a year, shortly before Armstrong died, in which no less than two "special offerings" were called, within the space of a couple of months. ISTR this was also a "third tithe" year for my family.

You will want to look for two letters from the 80s (I can be more specific by email), one begging for either the building or emergency fund, and a second plea almost immediately afterwards for "the work" with lots of guilt-tripping about how poorly our pontiff without portfolio's health was doing.

I look back on it now, and I think, "He KNEW he was on his way out, and that he couldn't take it with him --- exactly what was all that money FOR?"

xHWA said...

oh, I would be most interested in those letters indeed. Please send!

Purple Hymnal said...

Actually I'm not giving away too much, it was either late 1985, or early '86, shortly before he finally kicked the bucket. LOL I don't particularly want to wade through the letters myself! :-) If I run across them in my travels, I'll let you know.

It was 1985, ISTR one got called in the summer, between May and July sometime, and then there was another called, either August or September.

If my memory is failing me in my old age, and it was '86, then it would have been in the early part of the year, before he kicked the bucket.

I remember thinking at the time that the two "special offerings" seemed awfully close together, but I dismissed that cognitive dissonance as soon as it came to mind. "Thought-stopping" and all that, had to "pay, pray, and obey god's apostle" after all. :-(

Anyway enough depressing talk. Merry Christmas! :-)