Now in Flipping Book format!
OUR VISION FOR AMBASSADOR REPORT
This new presentation of the first three Ambassador Report (AR) magazines began as a desire of AR publisher Bill Hughes, who, many years ago, was gratified to learn that the AR magazines had been uploaded to the web. However, he noted that the original upload did not contain the magazines’ color artwork. Believing that a picture can be worth a thousand words and that without the color artwork a significant impact of the AR was lost, he asked The Painful Truth (PT) to consider adding his new scans of the magazines containing all of the color artwork. We accepted his complete new scans of the three magazines, and our tech management spent much time and effort implementing a new online presentation of the magazines.
The PT asked the publishers of the AR to provide a fresh personal statement of their vision that they hoped to accomplish by publishing the AR. Their May 31, 2016 response follows:
In the 1960s the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) was growing by leaps and bounds. It was the Golden Era of the church. Everything seemed to be going as planned. God seemed to be blessing Herbert Armstrong’s church, and the church’s message about the soon-coming end of the world and the second coming of Christ in the 1970s seemed to us to be on schedule and attracting more and more members. But as the 1970s dawned, suddenly this rosy picture unexpectedly began to dim and fade away.
The AR publishers and staff were comprised mostly of Pasadena AC graduates from the late 1960s to 1974. In the vernacular at the Pasadena campus, most of us were “first generation Christians” who came to Ambassador College to learn the “absolute truth” and become a part of God’s only true church on earth. Being employed in various departments at Ambassador College in Pasadena provided us the opportunity to learn what few others on the outside could. What you knew hinged on WHO you knew and in what department you worked. In 1971-1972, the core AR publishers and staff all knew each other and were becoming close friends for life.
Years 1971-1974 Were Disruptive and Traumatic
By late 1971 several long-time WCG booklets had been quietly retired: Does God Heal Today, 1975 in Prophecy, Who Is the Beast, Mark of the Beast, Divorce & Remarriage, True History of the True Church, and Truth about Makeup. One of the church’s major booklets, Proof of the Bible, was junked due to major errors and unsupportable conclusions. Members heard rumors that the WCG was keeping Pentecost on the wrong day and that the tithing doctrine, which required three tithes, was unsupported by the scriptures. Herbert’s prophecies were failing one by one. We learned that the Apostle’s son, Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA), had been committing adultery for his entire ministry, continuing his philandering that had never ended since his time in the Navy. Members were asking how the church could allow GTA to remain as the WCG’s chief spokesman based on the detailed qualifications for a minister given in I Timothy 3. Then we heard of major errors in the important doctrines of healing and divorce and remarriage (D&R). At the same time the key doctrines of the WCG were being altered or discredited, HWA was continually asking for more money.
In November 1973, Preaching Elder John Mitchell took his Shreveport, Louisiana, church out of the WCG, and Pastor Al Carrozzo in Pasadena resigned after making no progress with HWA over correcting the D&R doctrine. Dr. Ernest Martin, Ambassador College’s Chairman of the Department of Theology, resigned in late 1973 and founded the Foundation for Biblical Research (FBR). Subsequently, leading ministers began leaving the church, claiming major doctrinal errors, corruption, and misuse of church tithes.
Everyone was wondering: “What the hell is going on? This just can’t be happening!!” Increasingly we began to meet often at one another’s homes to discuss the latest news, what was causing the upheavals, and what may happen next. Dr. Ernest Martin and Pastor Al Carrozzo resigned in late 1973 from the WCG and were coming out with new teachings that contradicted WCG theology. What will they say next, we wondered. Will HWA and the WCG hierarchy ever answer the doctrinal issues the ministry has been legitimately raising? We wondered where the tumult would lead. What could we do to stop the decline of the Worldwide Church and Ambassador College? We discussed Ephesians 5:11: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (RSV).
Major Upheavals Overwhelm the WCG in 1974
At the Foundation for Biblical Research (FBR) we received duplicated audio tapes of the following events addressing the turmoil in the church: The February 1974 meeting of ministers in Richmond, Virginia; GTA’s Big Sandy meeting on March 4 when he confronted ministers in a desperate effort to prevent them from defecting.
Tapes, documents, and increasing news came to us from friends residing in many different departments inside Ambassador College. Ministers languished, struggling with their own consciences and with confusion about what was doctrine – and what to teach. Top ministers, including evangelists in Pasadena, avoided preaching or talking about doctrines they personally disagreed with – ultimately becoming flashing neon signs of hypocrisy at the highest levels in Pasadena.
We wondered: If this was God’s ONLY true church in possession of The Absolute Truth about the meaning and purpose of human life on earth, how could it teach such human-damaging doctrines? And why weren’t these doctrines being corrected? We remembered Jesus’ words: “By their fruits you shall know them.” It was crystal clear that HWA would not countenance challenges to how he spent tithe money or governed the church. For years HWA’s obstinance, stubbornness, and repeated failure to address all the ministers’ concerns exacerbated and accelerated the organizational demise of the WCG.
Standing in the way of any reforms was HWA himself. In the sixties HWA would often say: “Don’t believe me just because I say it, but prove it in your own Bible. Prove all things!” Now his words were harsh, demanding, and authoritarian, promoting his Apostleship: “If you disagree with me you disagree with God.” We noted that HWA was going against the very teachings he wrote in a 1939 Good News article titled “Did Christ Reorganize the Church?”
It became obvious to us that you couldn’t get meaningful changes by working inside the WCG hierarchy. Thus it became clear that our only alternative was to work from without. Our lives, our money, and our souls had been invested in this church. We had little money and no power but could not bear walking away without trying to do something, knowing so many people were being deceived and lied to by HWA and the church. At one of our many gatherings late 1975, someone said: “Are we going to keep meeting like this to discuss the latest intrigue in the palace, or are WE going to DO something?” On Nov. 3, 1975 Bob Gerringer mailed a lengthy letter (i.e., the “Gerringer Letter”) to Evangelist Charles Hunting detailing doctrinal problems and corruption in the WCG. Within weeks, Hunting became the first evangelist to resign from the WCG. A group of us distributed the Gerringer Letter in Pasadena. By the end of December 1975, John Trechak, Tim Nugent, and our group decided the only way we could be heard was to create a magazine exposing the lies and corruption in the WCG. By June 1976 we had published a 54-page magazine named Ambassador Review.
As we planned and researched future articles for our next magazine issue we talked to other like-minded individuals. We found many of the Pasadena headquarters members were just as upset about things as we were, but they didn’t have a clue as to what to do. They did, however, know that if they spoke out about the corruption and lying, they would be fired on the spot, and they had families to feed, so that wasn’t an alternative in most cases. But when we told them about our next publication, Ambassador Report, they realized they could leak us key accounting, doctrinal, and church documents—all of which would support the claims and arguments in our magazine.
And the rest is history. We obtained hundreds of documents showing the church knew its teachings were in error (e.g., the tithing doctrine, divorce & remarriage, healing) but continued teaching the error to avoid embarrassment and fill its bank accounts. We obtained hundreds of invoices documenting misuse of church funds by high-ranking officials, and we were handed boxes of tape cassettes that confirmed that the ministry was told one thing and the members and the press something quite different. We used this material to publish three magazine issues and 69 lengthy newsletters from June 1976 to April 1999. Our magazines/newsletters helped thousands of members to make informed decisions as to whether they wanted to continue as members in a crooked, corrupt organization or whether they wanted to escape and start a new life free of the Armstrongs’ fables, fear religion, and false prophecies. Our publications alerted the general public to the danger of believing and following the Armstrong teachings.
The collective AR mission and purpose is stated in each of the magazines. However each of us had our own personal motivations for our involvement and what we hoped to achieve. Here are our individual statements as requested by the PT:
Bob Gerringer (Publisher):
I had two primary reasons for taking significant financial and career risks and devoting so much time, energy, and emotional capital to the Ambassador Report “cause” from 1975 through the early ’80s:
First, and by far foremost, I wanted us to candidly, accurately, and, when appropriate, shockingly, alert the 60,000 plus WCG members to the many secret, hypocritical, and unethical activities in the WCG that they were emotionally and financially supporting, as well as how they were being taken advantage of and abused. These 60,000, at great sacrifice to themselves, provided me with an opulent AC environment and financed my classes, such as they were, and the many social and travel opportunities afforded to the students. I attended in Pasadena and Bricket Wood, was wined and dined in NYC, traveled extensively through Europe, and really, really enjoyed my time as a student. Connie and I met at AC, married, had two wonderful sons, and now five terrific grandchildren, and I left AC in 1975 with the foundation for a successful 40-year career in IT. I received nothing but good results personally from my tenure in the WCG and AC.
However, the WCG membership paid dearly for my experiences, my happy family, and my satisfying career. The members paid 10% of their gross incomes annually, were forced to save another 10% for the Feast Days, and paid an additional 10% two out of every seven years— and they were by and large lower-middle-class or poverty-level. And in addition to the further eroding of their fragile financial positions, many sacrificed happy marriages to the WCG’s cruel and heartless divorce and remarriage doctrine, and, by far the most insane and unconscionable, many died needlessly because of the WCG’s indefensible healing doctrine, including many innocent children, succumbing to easily cured conditions such as appendicitis and Rh negative/positive blood incompatibility in newborns. So I hoped the facts printed in the AR could/would motivate as many as possible to separate from the WCG as quickly as possible.
Second, though we knew the chances were remote, I hoped we could provoke Ambassador College into making the necessary changes to be truly worthy of and earn accreditation and to likewise somehow gain sufficient endowment from the WCG and/or elsewhere to sustain itself perpetually as a legitimate, respectable liberal arts institution.
Bill Hughes (Publisher): By the summer of 1974 I had no hope or desire to see the WCG reformed. I no longer believed the WCG was God’s only True Church on earth, or that it exclusively possessed The Absolute Truth, which brought us as students to Ambassador College. Church members were living in the dark. I just wanted them to know as much as we knew, to see the truth disseminated, and allow the chips to fall however they might. With factual knowledge church members could draw their own conclusions and make their own choices as to whether to remain in HWA’s church or leave.
Jim Lea (Copy Editor/Writer) (pseudonym Robert L. Jackson): I worked in the Plain Truth Editorial Department for over 5 years as the Plain Truth copy editor. Being in Editorial, I had the opportunity to interact with the leading ministers in the church, the members of the Good News and Tomorrow’s World staff, and members of the doctrinal committee—most of whom also worked with Editorial. Around 1972 I began to find out from my colleagues and my own research that the church’s key doctrines (e.g., tithing, healing, divorce & remarriage, Pentecost) were unsupported by scripture. Key church booklets, such as Proof of the Bible and 1975 in Prophecy, were discontinued due to major errors. Herbert Armstrong’s prophecies were all failing. But what worried me most of all was that Herbert and Garner Ted Armstrong and the other leading church officials refused to admit the church teachings were fallacious, continued to teach and promote obvious doctrinal error, and were leading secret lives that were contrary to biblical and church teaching.
At this time, I said to myself: “Enough is enough!! I’ve got to either change this or expose it!” I decided I had to warn my friends and the church members they were being deceived and lied to on a daily basis. I wanted to shock the students and members into reality and reform the WCG or encourage leading ministers to force the necessary reforms. I urgently wanted to help those whose lives were being or had been ruined by the church’s false healing, tithing, and divorce & remarriage doctrines. Ephesians 5:11 became my guiding light: “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them (RSV).” Since several of my closest friends had been fired for daring to question church error, I felt an extra obligation to personally take my time to expose the deep corruption, lies, and hypocrisy in the church. So, based on the above, I spent a year of my life writing for and copy editing Ambassador Report. I continued my fervor to expose the Armstrong religion by writing for and editing Ambassador Report for another 22 years hoping to help innocent victims escape the ruinous church teachings. Looking back, I’m very glad I devoted myself to this noble cause!
Gary Reid (Associate Editor/Canadian Circulation Director)
The middle years of the ’70s decade were times of deep concern, reflection, and, for some, upheaval. I came to AC in the mid-60s from Toronto in the Great White North. My high school motto: “Felix Qui Potuit Rerum Cognoscere Causas” was a driving force in my life. The high school I retired from in the early 2000s had the same motto. “Happy is he who knows or understands the reasons or causes of things.”
Church organizations seem to have, as an overriding objective, the control and manipulation of human minds. Other points of view than that of the “mother” organization are discouraged and outright banned. The early 1970s saw the beginning of the AC/WCG schism. I say none of what I am saying as condemnation. I [and we] went through a “breakup of thought.” Some have rejected their experience — some have learned from it and carry on.
The Foundation of Biblical Research was founded in the early 1970s by Ernest Martin. It helped many to deal with alternative points of view. A group of like-minded individuals founded the Ambassador Report – I believe in my living room in South Pasadena – in 1974. I personally wrote some articles for the initial AR – one on the tithe-checking process using the church’s computers – and I served as “circulation manager” for the AR, because of my position as Data Processing Manager at your President’s first college, Occidental College in LA. Afterward, I headed back home with my wife and two children and one on the way in August 1976. I believe John Meeker who worked with me at OC continued with the maintenance of the list.
I live in Stouffville, Ontario, about 40 miles NE of Toronto and am still following my life motto, searching and investigating into any and every nook and cranny that God sheds light upon.
Len Zola (Publisher): My first contact with the WCG was late November 1969, through my long-time trumpet teacher named Jack in the Pittsburgh area. Jack had been given a Plain Truth magazine by his friend, a pianist in a professional jazz band they both “gigged” with. I was also a freshman in Penn State studying engineering , but in a very short time became a True Believer and walked away from it all to come to Pasadena and join “God’s West Point.” That was in August 1970.
After a few years as an AC student I began traveling with GTA on his Personal Appearance Campaigns, a member of his band. That was the beginning of my awakening to the hidden, rotten core of the Armstrong Empire. There were many “shenanigans” on these “Matthew 28:16-20” Great Commission trips that I observed first-hand. They provided the first leaks in the dike. Two other fellow musicians at AC, Charlie Vinson and John Trechak, took me much farther on my painful voyage of enlightenment, providing insider views into the doctrinal and personal corruption rife within the WCG.
Obviously this is a hyper-condensed version of my “snapping-out-of-it” escape from the Armstrong cult. My cathartic involvement with Ambassador Report mirrors my AR colleagues’ experiences. We all were filled with a zeal to EXPOSE these evil charlatans for what they were and to help as many church members (and potential members) as possible to see the whole truth and to assist in their liberation.
Ultimately, our Ambassador Report experience proved to be a life-changing inoculation against almost all future deceptions in our lives, whether political, religious, or cultural. We hope our reader-friends have also shared with us in this life journey of discovery, growth, and fulfillment.
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