Friday, June 28, 2013

The Plain Truth About the 1979 Receivership

When the State of California imposed a forcible receivership upon the Worldwide Church of God in January 1979 Herbert W. Armstrong told WCG members that it was a wicked, Satan inspired attempt to destroy "God's Church" and overthrow HWA.

Notice what he wrote in Mystery of the Ages, Chapter 6:
The office of the attorney general of America's most populous state--California--had made a sudden, unexpected massive armed assault on the headquarters of the Worldwide Church of God at Pasadena, California. They claimed, in violation of the U.S. Constitution, that all church property and assets belong to the State, and a court had secretly appointed a receiver to TAKE OVER, RUN AND OPERATE the Church of the living GOD!...

The receiver, an ex-judge of a non-Christian faith, resigned. The civil lawsuit went on "the back burner." And the OPERATION OF THE CHURCH CONTINUED! The higher appellate court later ruled that this lawsuit was without foundation and never should have been started.

Also note how HWA presented this event in his booklet, Recent History of the Philadelphian Era of the Worldwide Church of God:
At the time of the Feast of Tabernacles that fall, 1978, at a Festival held by one of these split-off liberals and a few who followed, in their own Feast of Tabernacles, a conspiracy was hatched to attack and destroy the Church by the legal process of a class action lawsuit. Some six or seven liberals, former members, signed the suit against the Church. This resulted in a ex parte order by a judge. Secretly without prior notice, deputies on order of the Attorney General’s office swooped down on the Church on the morning of Jan. 3, 1979. The ex parte order had been signed by a judge late the day before.

A very severe struggle for the existence and life of the Church ensued. Some months later the State dropped the case, and still later an appellate court judge issued a declaration from the bench that the lawsuit was groundless and should never have been filed. Even to this day some newspaper comments mention the false charges accusing me of misuse of millions of dollars of Church funds, but they never mention our vindication of these false charges.

However, this class action State of California lawsuit brought on by dissident members and former members did, virtually, result in housecleaning of the liberals, malcontents and troublemakers, who were causing division in the Church of the living God. And the Church has enjoyed a most healthy development and growth in these past five years since.

What HWA said is in fact highly distorted.

HWA insinuates that WCG would be unable to operate because of the receivership or even dissolved (a court had secretly appointed a receiver to TAKE OVER, RUN AND OPERATE [WCG], a conspiracy was hatched to attack and destroy the Church, A very severe struggle for the existence and life of the Church ensued.).

This is a shameless lie.

The receivers made it absolutely clear that the ecclesiastical functions of the church would continue. WCG's constitutionally protected right to gather together in worship would not be disrupted.

This is John Tuit, one of the initiators of the receivership outlining why he felt this move was necessary as he recounted it in Chapter 14 of his book, The Truth Shall Set You Free.
I outlined the entire reason for the suit and emphasized the fact that this was an attempt to save the Church and that the receiver was being placed in charge in order to protect the assets of the Church. I told them that the Attorney General's office has no right to interfere with the ecclesiastical affairs of the Church and in fact has no interest in those areas.

This is from Chapter 15 of The Truth Shall Set You Free
At a meeting on January 4th for all the Church employees, Judge Weisman explained Herbert Armstrong's appointment of Wayne Cole. He then said, "This is not an adversary proceeding, I'm for you, I'm here to protect the assets of the Church. I'm here to assure that the money you send in for the Church, goes to the purpose for which you sent it." Weisman then explained how he had been appointed by the State as the one in authority over all secular matters of the Church, with the authority to hire and fire. He went on to explain further that he had no authority over the ecclesiastical matters of the Church and could not and would not interfere in any way in those areas.

This is from Chapter 16 of The Truth Shall Set You Free
Judge Title made it quite clear that the receivership was only to concern itself with the business and financial affairs of the Church and not ecclesiastical matters. He stated, "Now it is not the purpose of this court nor the intention of this court to allow the receiver to interfere in any way with ecclesiastical functions of the Church as distinguished from the college or the foundation, and the receiver is ordered not to do so."

The receivership was an attempt to stop WCG leaders from enriching themselves by frivolously using tithe money for personal expenses instead of feeding the flock.

So when HWA says, "the OPERATION OF THE CHURCH CONTINUED!" as though the operation of WCG was in danger of being stopped because of the receivership, he is lying.

Tuit shows clearly that the ecclesiastical affairs of WCG were not to be disturbed by the receivership. The receivership was about financial matters. WCG was never in danger of being unable to operate.

HWA also said "They claimed ... that all church property and assets belong to the State". HWA is lying again.

After reading Tuit's book it is clear to me that the State of California did not argue that. Rather it argued that WCG had a responsibility to insure that the money was used as they promised to members and co-workers. WCG HQ appeared to have been violating this trust by using tithe money for personal expenses and the State of California tried to correct that.

It appears to me that John Tuit was particularly grieved that money was being spent frivolously because he felt it should be used to spread Armstrongism to other people.

HWA said "a conspiracy was hatched to attack and destroy the Church". HWA is lying again.

As shown above WCG was never in danger of being destroyed during the receivership crisis.

HWA said, "A very severe struggle for the existence and life of the Church ensued." HWA is lying again.

As shown above WCG was never in danger of being destroyed during the receivership crisis.

Also HWA never mentions how the receivership was stopped because the State of California changed the law making it impossible for the receivership to continue.
While the legal battles continued, Rader succeeded in enlisting the support of many California politicians to his cause. Seeing the level of corruption in politics, it is easy to see how Rader could gain the support of many politicians. Their game is the same. They just play in different arenas.

With the added support of many church leaders of various denominations, some deceived by him, and others fearful of themselves being exposed, a bill was introduced to the California legislature by Senator Nicholas Petris. The bill states. "Except as the Attorney General is empowered to act in the enforcement of the criminal laws of this state . . . (he) . . . shall have no power with respect to religious corporations."

In effect, the bill, if it becomes law, will prohibit the Attorney General from acting on behalf of a church in an action against leaders who are suspected of misappropriating funds. The Attorney General would no longer be able to seek recovery of monies for a church. The only avenue would be criminal prosecution, a much more difficult task.

In May, the Senate passed the bill and in August it was passed by the Assembly. If Governor Brown does not veto the bill, it will become law in June 1981. While it would not be retroactive to a time prior to the current action, it would in effect, many feel, neutralize any further attempts by the Attorney General to continue in his actions against WCG leaders. (Epilogue.)
ON OCTOBER 14, 1980, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL GEORGE Deukmejian announced that he was dropping any further action against the leaders of the WCG. His announcement was a result of the signing of the Petris bill by Governor Edmund G. Brown on September 30. ...

Rader had done a masterful job of creating a church-state confrontation and the final outcome would make him appear victorious. But, did we really lose? Did Armstrong and Rader really win?

I don't think that we lost. The entire operation of the Church was brought into the open. During the year and a half of legal battling, Rader had time to bring the Church into compliance with the letter of the law, if not the spirit of the law. The Church issued its first detailed financial statement in the Autumn of 1980. Salaries, fringes, and other unchristian excesses were all footnoted. As a result, the burden of sound Christian stewardship is now even heavier on the members, as they now have the information available to determine if those they support are truly servants of Jesus Christ. (Postscript.)

Well, Rader certainly did not really win. In late 1981 HWA ousted Rader and had him retired, though he made sure to pay him a big retirement fund which WCG faithfully paid until his death in 2002.

After reading John Tuit's book I came away with great admiration for the man and those who initiated the receivership.

I feel sorry for ever believing the demonizing lies HWA said about them.

They were not trying destroy the church but to save it from corruption and financial mismanagement.

As far as I could tell all the initiators of the lawsuit were devout believers in much of what HWA taught.

They did it in a desperate attempt to insure that WCG members were treated better and that their tithes money were spent in ways profitable for the membership and for spreading Armstrongism.

I think the initiators of the lawsuit are heroes. I greatly admire them for trying to put a stop to the terrible abuses that appears to have been happening at that time within WCG HQ.

No doubt the troubles over the receivership caused HWA to later get rid of Stanley Rader. It appears to me that the initiators of the receivership were highly motivated in their course of action due to their fear that Rader was trying to seize control of WCG.

It is a terrible shame that to this many in the COGs continue to demonize and hate them without understanding the true circumstances of why the receivership began.


  1. Rod Meredith learned from the master. After he bankrupted Global and then took most of the members and started fresh with LCG and left the remainder of Global holding the bag, Meredith made a point of paying off his friends in LCG that had loaned money to Global. This is highly questionable both legally and ethically, which is probably why Rod never made any announcement concerning this to the church. Imagine me coming into LCG in 2000, expecting my tithes to be going toward the stated missions of the church when instead they are going to pay a debt incurred by an entirely different organization, a debt that LCG has no obligation to pay, a debt incurred due to mismanagement in that other organization 3-5 years earlier, and is only repaid out of a personal obligation felt by Rod Meredith. Does he have the authority to give my tithe money (or, more accurately, God’s tithe money) to anyone as he sees fit? Even his own personal friends? Apparently so.

  2. Hubris linked to your entry.

    Just thought you'd like to know.

    You've been doing a great job documenting all this.

    Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Douglas Becker. I did see the link. Your thanks are most appreciated.