Sunday, May 24, 2009

Was the Founding of Ambassador College a Unique Experience?

Before I start this post I would like to comment that Dr. Rolf K. McPherson has died. I would like to send my condolences to his loved ones. I would also wish to send my condolences to those affected by the passing away of Dr. Ralph Winter.

Dr. Rolf K. McPherson was the son of Aimee Semple McPherson. Herbert W. Armstrong alleged in his Autobiography that he attended at least one of her evangelistic meetings, and that at one of these he met a man that he (allegedly) healed, but ever so conveniently he disappeared from his life. Bill Hohmann presents some intriguing information that suggest that HWA's story could not have happened.

And now onto the main post.

Remember how Herbert Armstrong constantly boasted about how unique his situation was when he founded Ambassador College?

Here are just some examples. This is from Chapter 58 of his Autobiography: "And that autumn [1949], for the first time, we had a real student residence on the campus. Yes, the college was growing up! To officials of any other college or university it would have seemed still to be smaller than almost any college had ever been. But to us, with only four the first year, and only an even dozen students the third year, the twenty-two -- with, at last, six girl students -- seemed like we were becoming a real college! "

This is from Chapter 60 (Emphasis mine): "Was I crazy to start a liberal arts coeducational college? There was no fund of several million dollars for such a project. There was no fund of even several hundred dollars. For this purpose, there was no fund -- period! At all!...
"There was no endowment. There was no sponsoring philanthropist. There was opposition. There were obstacles. They piled up mountain high. There were problems, seemingly unsolvable.... [John Kiesz, a COG7 minister who was close to HWA till 1945, commented that HWA had a persecution complex, and we are seeing some of that here. As though he had any right to feel persecuted.]
"Here we had no visible source of income. [What about the co-workers and the tithe payers?] No one owed us anything. We had no accounts receivable. We were on the giving end, with no assurance except faith there would be anything to give.
"You might try this experiment. Go interview one hundred college or university presidents. Briefly state the circumstances given above. Ask each what he would think of any man who would attempt to found a new college -- especially a man who was devoid of any experience whatsoever as an educator -- under those conditions. I'm quite sure every appraisal -- if each college president did not call you a fool for even asking such a question -- would be that such a man would be either an idiot, a fool, or insane."
Note that part about HWA having no funding.

Sounds very impressive, doesn't it? This sounds like a remarkable account of perseverance against adversity. HWA gives the impression that this was a uniquely difficult adversity that he ever so heroically overcame.

However this tale sounds a whole lot less impressive once we realize that very similar things occur eksewhere. Look at this story which is quite similar to HWA's story.

"In 1976, Dr. [Ralph] Winter walked away from a tenured position at Fuller Seminary to found the [United States Center for World Mission] and William Carey International University. He and his wife, Roberta, and their four daughters knew it was a step of faith. “They had no funding or backing to begin a ministry and purchase a college campus three miles away,” Parsons notes." (Mark Ellis, ASSIST NEWS, May 21, 2009, Prominent Missiologist Dr. Ralph Winter is with Jesus. Emphasis mine.)

In Dr. Ralph Winter's autobiography he writes the following: "Suffice it to say we started without backers, no denomination, not even a single congregation, no mailing list, and only
about $100 in cash. It would seem that if we went from that to a $40 million dollar set of properties that are free and clear this would be a fascinating, almost unbelievable story."

Today that college is still with us today. This sounds just like what HWA said. So now we see that HWA's adversity is not unique.

Actually there was nothing miraculous about HWA's founding of Ambassador College. HWA did have a fund, the tithes of his followers and the donations of his co-workers. Also, as Pam Dewey details here, HWA bullied his followers through his co-worker letters, into giving up as much of their money as they could, in order to solve his ever present alleged (and ever so convenient) financial crises that never ended.

Also unlike HWA I am unaware of Dr. Ralph Winter having a fear inducing radio/TV program to draw in followers. Also he was a missionary in Guatemala for ten years (1956-66). This is a far braver deed than any that HWA, who lived in the lap of stolen luxury, ever did.

So the question must be asked what is so special about HWA and his Ambassador College?

Once again HWA is shown to be merely hyping up what really happened and shamelessly applying his own self serving spin on what actually happened.

There is nothing remarkable about the founding of Ambassador College. It was not a unique experience. It is simply a foundation myth.

1 comment:

  1. Redfox, what you penned "Once again HWA is shown to be merely hyping up what really happened and shamelessly applying his own self serving spin on what actually happened."

    Think of when Loma died or even Herbert's own son when Bill Billingsley crashed the car they were traveling in. What did Herbert pen? A letter to make all the Kings slaves feel guilt. And why would Herbert do that?

    A quote: "Hungry destructive narcissists use the childish tactics of pouting and sulking when dissatisfied or when they are thwarted from getting their own way. This is a form of revenge, whereby you are supposed to understand that they have withdrawn their love and approval from you and will continue to hold out until you come around and become more satisfying and accommodating."

    Loving the Self-Absorbed, Nina W. Brown,