Such assertions of an intimate friendship with HWA reminds me of what happened when Lenin died. The "great genius" neglected to leave instructions on how a successor should be chosen or appointed a successor, a vital instruction that he should have given. So after his incapacitation a vicious power struggle erupted within the Communist Party. As misfortune would have it was Stalin who emerged victorious.
One of the ways Stalin legitimized his power was to portray himself as being intimately associated with Lenin, similar to what Meredith and Pack have done. He perceived that the Communist movement idolized Lenin and he cunningly decided to place himself between the Communist believer and Lenin. That was how someone in Anna Larina's This I Cannot Forget put it. He portrayed himself as being Lenin's close friend, that he was there when Lenin made his triumphant return to Petrograd (actually he was not there). At Lenin's funeral he famous made a speech that contained a vow to Lenin, pledging that the Communist Party would continue his work. Others who were closer to Lenin, who threatened Stalin legitimacy, were demonized as traitors, such as Trotsky, or marginalized into submission and then demonized, such as Zinoviev and Kamenski. They were rendered illegitimate. Thus only Stalin was left as the legitimate continuation of Lenin.
Similar attempts to place one self close to a revered leader have also occurred in the world of Armstrongism. Two notable instances are those associations HWA is alleged to have had with Roderick C. Meredith and Dave Pack.
Let us analyze Meredith first.
This Cult of association may be found in how various facts of Meredith's life are emphasized as may be seen in these examples.
Meredith emphasize that he was one of the first Evangelists ordained into the ministry (as may be seen in their "About Us" page).
In his May 15, 2002 semi-annual letter (which is sent to magazine subscribers who have not yet donated), on page 2, paragraph 6 he relates that he was the one who informed HWA of the possibility to buy the Merritt Estate in 1956 as HWA related in Chapter 68 of his Autobiography under the heading "A Fabulous Property Offered".
Their church history booklet God's Church Through the Ages cites Ivor Fletcher's citation of a flattering advertisement for Meredith's speaking engagements in Britain in 1960 in Chapter 14 of his COG book. There Meredith is portrayed by HWA as "fully consecrated, utterly sincere and in earnest, stirringly dynamic."
(The sources cited above teach the Armstrongite doctrine of church history. Alternative explanations which test this theory may be seen here, here and here.)
The emphasis placed upon these details obscure the disagreements HWA and Meredith had and the strains that existed in their relations.
Five men were ordained as Evangelists with Meredith. If being one of the first ministers ordained by HWA is a fitting and proper manner to determine who should succeed him then what has become of the others with him? Are they not any less senior than him? Richard David Armstrong and C. Paul Meredith died within the old Radio Church of God. Raymond Cole left because of the 1974 Changes and founded the Church of God the Eternal which he led till his death. Herman Hoeh went along with the Changes and remained with WCG until his death. Using that reasoning we should follow either the Church of God the Eternal or the Tkachite WCG.
HWA effectively dismissed Meredith as a possible successor in a letter he wrote in 1980. In that letter HWA wrote "But as time went on I began to realize very deeply that God has not prepared ANYONE to take my place. You, Rod, could never take it. I know that is 100% contrary to your own estimate of yourself. You have a WILL to lead, but not the qualifications." So much for being "fully consecrated" and "utterly sincere" as HWA described him back in 1960. Even if Meredith was "lied on", as LCG apologist Bob Theil claims, it seems that HWA never revised this opinion of his. Otherwise why did he choose Tkach instead of Meredith?
Also Meredith disagreed with HWA's revival of the makeup ban. His sect, the Living Church of God, does not enforce that cruel prohibition. Clearly there was disagreement on this issue.
Also there exist evidences that HWA specifically did not want Meredith to succeed as leader after him. According to Tkach Jr. HWA specifically excluded Meredith from leadership according to Chapter 6 of Transformed by Truth. Also Stephen Flurry in Chapter 3 of Raising the Ruins, based on a telephone interview with Aaron Dean, asserts that HWA appointed Tkach partly in order to insure that Meredith could not take over.
This is a remarkable correspondence of testimonies. Here are two witnesses on this matter, who belong to two different organizations, WCG and UCG. These evidences seem rather convincing to me.
Now it must be frankly admitted that these sources belong to rival churches who have every motive to discredit Meredith. Also, as I have shown previously, Raising the Ruins is a profoundly misleading book. But nevertheless I am still inclined to believe them because of one simple fact: HWA, indeed, did not choose Meredith but Tkach.
So it can be shown that the emphasis placed on the seniority of Meredith is used to obscure various problems for his legitimacy. When these various moments of his life are recited they form an incomplete picture of Meredith as a man closely in tune with HWA, when in fact they had some doctrinal disagreements and by the end of HWA's life it appears that they were not on good terms with each other.
Now let us examine Dave Pack.
This cult of association is also imitated by Dave Pack. His wife happened to be a secretary of HWA. Thus he was able to gain some acquaintance with the Glorious Leader himself. In his Authorized Biography he uses this fact to the best of his advantage. The intention is to make HWA an intimate friend of Dave Pack thus giving him a direct line of continuation from him.
His attempt to bask in HWA's glory may be seen in the Preface of his Authorized Biography:
David C. Pack was personally trained by Mr. Armstrong during the last 15 years of his life. (This was in addition to four years of Ambassador College.) In part because of this unusual training, Mr. Pack was in a position that God could use him to restore again, as did Mr. Armstrong, everything that had been lost. Today his ministry is a continuation of the same Work.Notice how his relations with HWA is described: "personally trained" and "unusual training". He wants to be seen as someone special, as one worthy to embark on the (not a) "continuation of the same Work". Dave Pack's sect seems to be particularly determined to disassociate themselves from their COG siblings.
Again, later in the preface, he also tries to portray himself as being in a more advantageous position than HWA himself:
God called Mr. Armstrong when he was already 34 years old and married for 10 years with two children. He first opened Mr. Pack’s eyes to the truth when he was half as old—a teenager of just 17. Then, Mr. Armstrong had very little time to prepare for the role of leading the Church, while Mr. Pack was blessed with many years of comprehensive—and intensive!—preparation before coming to the same position.Observe how this book tries to portray Dave Pack as having advantages compared to HWA himself.
Again his past achievements are praised further creating his cult of personality.
This biography reveals the life of the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of The Real Truth, The Pillar and Ambassador Youth magazines, and the author of many books, booklets and articles also published free of charge on The Restored Church of God’s websites.And that is just what can be found in the Preface.
Clearly Dave Pack is trying to portray himself as having a special relationship with HWA. He is trying to bask in his glory and using this to legitimize his authority.
These writings from Meredith and Pack show that both are seeking to legitimize themselves by claiming a special relationship with HWA.
If one believes that the leader of "God's Church" should be decided based on which minister had the most close relationship with HWA I propose that there are really only two options. It cannot be Meredith, indications seem to be that HWA had disqualified him as a potential successor. Yes he placed him back into an important role but it seems clear that HWA never quite got over it with Meredith. Thus HWA rejected Meredith as a potential successor and chose another man. It cannot be Dave Pack. Why will be explained later.
If this is the method to decide upon a successor I feel that there are only two realistic alternatives.
1) Aaron Dean: During the last years of HWA's life he was the personal secretary of HWA. In Mystery of the Ages HWA thanked him for his extensive help in producing the book. If HWA progressively grows into truth then he was at his most enlightened in his later days. So that means Aaron Dean with close with him at his greatest moment of spiritual maturity.
2) Joseph Tkach: I know many followers of HWA will completely reject this proposal for rather obvious reasons. But it must be admitted that out of all the persons HWA could have chosen he chose Tkach.
In his last co-worker letter he wrote the following:
After much counsel and prayer over the past months God has led me in announcing a decision last week to appoint Mr. Joseph W. Tkach, Director of Church Administration, to the office of Deputy Pastor General, to assist me while I am in a weakened state, and should God choose to take my life, to place himself totally in Christ's hands to lead God's Church under Christ, succeeding me as Pastor General, in the difficult times ahead.But of course there are severe problems with both of these options. Tkach renounced HWA's doctrines so to place oneself under his authority means to be followed by a non-Armstrongite. If we choose to follow Aaron Dean we must join UCG, but they did choose their leader based on how close so-and-so was to HWA, and Aaron Dean acknowledges their authority, so it is impossible to follow Aaron Dean himself.
Therefore claiming a special relationship with HWA is not a legitimate way to decide who should be the successor as leader of "God's Church". Meredith and Pack's attempts to portray themselves as having a special relationship with HWA are thus severely flawed and are based on a supposition that should not be considered in choosing a successor. The fact that these two have to use such a flimsy method to establish their legitimacy only shows the severe problems of legitimacy they have.
This method of choosing a "faithful" successor to HWA has failed. It is illegitimate.
Why are they relying on an illegitimate method of succession?