Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How PCG's Stephen Flurry Remembers WCG History

How HWA sectarians view the events of the 1970s and 1980s may be seen in an article by PCG's Stephen Flurry, The Legacy of Herbert Armstrong, in the February 2002 Philadelphia Trumpet. This article recounts in brief the history of HWA and his Worldwide Church of God.
Let us see what Stephen Flurry has to say.
In 1939, the Good News was established. This bulletin, established mainly for members and co-workers, soon became a full-color magazine and was received monthly by over one million subscribers before Mr. Armstrong’s death. 
 Soon? The first full color Good News came out in November 1963, twenty four years later.

There is also no mention of the fact that after its first issue it was not produced again until April 1951.
In the autumn of 1947, Ambassador College was founded in Pasadena, Calif. Later, colleges were started in Bricket Wood, England, and Big Sandy, Tex. 
 No mention about how Bricket Wood was disbanded under HWA's watch. 
The 1950s proved to be a decade of tremendous advancements in God’s work. In 1953, The World Tomorrow began airing in Europe on Radio Luxembourg. 
Stephen Flurry makes no mention of this but that event helped to precipitate HWA's disastrous prediction that Christ would return in 1975
Two years later, the program appeared on television.
HWA threatened his followers with being cast into the lake of fire unless they gave him extra money to get on television. Also the TV show was soon cancelled. It later returned to TV but HWA's first foray into television failed miserably.
Mr. Armstrong spent much of the 1970s traveling worldwide, meeting kings, presidents and other heads of state, including Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu, Prime Minister Eisaku Sato of Japan, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, President Nguyen Van Thieu of South Vietnam, and King Hussein of Jordan, to name just a few. Mr. Armstrong was fulfilling the commission prophesied in Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
In 1972, Mr. Armstrong broke ground for the construction of Ambassador Auditorium, which would be finished over two years later—constructed with some of the finest materials on Earth. At its grand opening, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra performed. 
Stephen Flurry never mentions that these visits to world leaders and highly expensive acts caused a lot of dissension within WCG among members disgusted that the money they were sending to WCG was being spent in such a frivolous manner. 
Power Struggle
In the 1970s, God’s Church also had its share of rebellion and controversy. Much of the dissension was occurring at Pasadena headquarters because of Mr. Armstrong’s absence. During this controversial time period, he was gone from headquarters close to 300 days a year due to overseas travel.
No mention is made of Garner Ted Armstrong and how it was him who attracted so many followers into WCG during the haydays of the late 1950s and 1960s. An unsuspecting reader would have little idea of how important he was to WCG in 1955-78. 
In 1974, the first major revolt in the WCG occurred. In a massive rebellion, at least 35 ministers rallied around two top men at headquarters, leading astray about 2,000 brethren. 
No mention is made over these members' disillusionment at the great disappointment of 1972, the dissension caused by HWA's acceptance of Garner Ted Armstrong's return to his previous responsibilities despite the shame of scandal surrounding him because of his extra-marital affairs.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Armstrong’s son, Garner Ted, began his attempt to take over the Church. Garner Ted had much control of the work when Mr. Armstrong was overseas—changing many of the core doctrines and pursuing accreditation for Ambassador College, which, according to Mr. Armstrong, caused the watering down of Bible truth and escalating permissiveness on campus. “God Almighty and Jesus Christ were virtually thrown out of the college—and were rapidly being thrown out of the Church!” (Good News, Sept. 1979).
Shortly thereafter, Garner Ted was disfellowshiped from the Church. 
This is total nonsense! Stephen Flurry is merely parroting the self serving propaganda HWA gave to WCG members of the time.

After researching what happened during this tragic schism of the Armstrongs it has become apparent to me that such was not the case. HWA's stated reasons for disfellowshipping his own son were largely fanciful. HWA wanted his son to be completely submissive to him. He appears to have removed him because of a terrible power struggle occurring between Garner Ted Armstrong and Stanley Rader. HWA sided with Rader and cast out his own son in order to make Rader's hold on power within WCG HQ more secure. If any one was trying to take over the church it was Rader, and until 1981 HWA supported him.
Unfortunately for the work, the troubles did not stop there. During the autumn of 1978, six disfellowshiped WCG members began to plot a conspiracy against the Church in the form of a class action lawsuit.
A conspiracy so vicious and cruel that these six ex-members nearly threw it all away hoping that if they just gave Stanley Rader an ultimatum he would quietly leave.
A Fight for God’s Church

Perhaps at no time is the true character of a leader unveiled more than at a time of crisis. The year 1979 was such a time in God’s Church. Those familiar with Herbert Armstrong and the WCG at the time witnessed an unbelievable fight by Mr. Armstrong against not only former members of the Church, but against the entire state of California! 
Would this include the time when HWA decided to cooperate with the receivers and appointed C. Wayne Cole second in command of the church, but suddenly betrayed him and disfellowshipped him? Furthermore Cole was falsely accused of collaborating with the receivers behind HWA's back. C. Wayne Cole was always loyal to HWA and had merely tried to follow HWA's commands. After betraying Cole HWA decided to oppose the receivership in every way in order to please Rader.
The main accusation made by Garner Ted was against his father’s “lavish spending.” The charges (which were later thoroughly disproven)
Nonsense! WCG was never cleared in court. WCG persuaded the State of California to change the law in order to make this sort of law suit impossible. The Arthur Andersen audit did not vindicate WCG and was incapable of finding illegal acts.

Also note how Stephen Flurry insinuates that the "main accusation" causing the receivership came from Garner Ted Armstrong. He did not start the receivership. Stephen Flurry is thoughtlessly parroting HWA's self serving propaganda at the time who often falsely insinuated that the receivership was Garner Ted Armstrong's doing.

Rather the receivership was initiated by six ex-members of WCG who were trying to save the church from corruption within its Headquarters. They had grown disillusioned with the authoritarian rule of HWA. They perceived that WCG had become a vast money making operation dedicated to letting the leaders live in the lap of luxury and fund the personal expenses of church leaders. These six members perceived this financial exploitation of WCG members to be a breach of trust with WCG members and co-workers who funded WCG that needed to be exposed and punished in the court of law.

As far as I can tell all these six members passionately believed most of HWA's doctrines. This was not 'the world' attacking WCG. The lawsuit was initiated by people who continued to passionately believe most of HWA's doctrines who were desperately trying to stop the abuses within WCG under HWA because they loved the people within WCG and its co-workers and they desperately tried to make it clear to everyone that HWA could not be trusted with peoples' money.

Perhaps Stephen Flurry is sincere, but if so, he is dreadfully ill-informed.
Describing Mr. Armstrong’s reaction to these events, Stanley Rader wrote in his book, Against the Gates of Hell, “Problems have never upset Mr. Armstrong, and he reacted even to this serious threat with serenity, courage and confidence.” 
Such talk is nonsense. HWA was mortal and he was upset by problems just as any man is. Actually, as mentioned above, HWA at first decided to co-operate with the authorities, but he soon changed his mind and the unfortunate C. Wayne Cole paid the price for HWA's sudden change of heart.
Meanwhile, Herbert Armstrong was systematically getting the Church “back on track,” while diligently fighting against the state’s unconstitutional attack. In the process, the WCG received the support of dozens of churches that recognized the danger of such an attack—support from churches with different doctrines, but all clinging to one common belief: freedom of religion.
Stephen Flurry once again parrots HWA's and Rader's propaganda of the time. HWA and Rader claimed the receivership violated their Constitutionally protected freedom of religion. This was merely self serving propaganda. 

The receivership had nothing to do with freedom of religion. The receivership was an attempt to stamp out corruption within WCG HQ initiated by ex-members who continued to believe most of HWA's doctrines. WCG was never in danger of being shut down, as HWA deceptively insinuated. The receivers had no interest in interfering in WCG's ecclesiastical affairs. No one was punished for being a member of WCG, rather the receivership was an attempt to stop corruption among its leaders. No one's freedom of religion was ever threatened by the receivership, as HWA and Rader falsely claimed. 
On October 14, 1980, the state dropped the case against the WCG when the legislature passed a law barring the attorney general from investigating religious organizations the way they had with the WCG.
At least Stephen Flurry mentions this is how the case actually ended. HWA tended to mention one decision that went well for WCG and implies that was the end of it. But Stephen Flurry glosses over how WCG never proved that they were innocent of the charges.
Stanley Rader said, about Mr. Armstrong during this time, “Over the years of my close association with this remarkable man, I have noted abundant evidence that he is the embodiment of his own message of hope and trust that the living God will provide man with the wisdom to prevail over obstacles” (ibid.). 
It also helped that Rader had access to tapes to blackmail HWA, the infamous Lochner tapes.

One cannot help but note that an unsuspecting reader would never know just how powerful Rader was within WCG reading this article. Through most of the 1970s until late 1981 Rader strode like a colossus within WCG: he helped HWA find another wife, Ramona Martin (nee Crittenden), he had helped kick out HWA's own son, he cast Roderick C. Meredith out to Hawai'i, even HWA did not dare to remove Rader even though he chafed under Rader's hand, as he revealed to C. Wayne Cole.
The WCG had its greatest spurt of growth during 1980 to 1986—right after a tremendous amount of turmoil both inside and outside the Church, at a time when many ex-members of the WCG were claiming Mr. Armstrong was incompetent and senile. The surge forward by the WCG in the last years of Herbert Armstrong’s life proves, without refutation, just how powerfully he was being used by God. 
 Does it really? All this growth would soon be irretrievably lost.
Contrast the Church in the late 1970s to the year Mr. Armstrong died: the annual income went from $75 million to $200 million; Plain Truth circulation went from 1 million to peak at over 8 million;
I shall quote from a previous post:
John Ogwyn parrots HWA's claim that the Plain Truth had eight million issues in circulation in the 1980s. Actually, according to WCG now, it was never higher then "slightly over six million." (Larry Nichols and George Mather, Discovering the Plain Truth, p. 39) 
HWA was not telling the truth when he said the Plain Truth had eight million copies in circulation. What else is he wrong about?
 In 1981, Mr. Armstrong established Youth magazine for young people. 
HWA used this magazine to tell children that Christ would soon return, bringing them unnecessary fear and distress. What sort of golden age is this?

Stephen Flurry then talks about HWA writing Mystery of the Ages. This is hailed as the great consummation of all that HWA tried to do.

It should also be noted that HWA's Mystery of the Ages proclaimed that Christ would soon return, before 2000. (PCG has removed those words from Mystery of the Ages so you will not find those words in PCG's editions.)

HWA also forbids interracial marriage in Mystery of the Ages.

What sort of golden age is this that Stephen Flurry is promoting? A place where children are falsely told that Christ will soon return so they cannot plan for their lives. A place where oppressive Jim Crow laws forbidding interracial marriage are still in force. That does not sound very appealing at all. 

Afterwards Stephen Flurry mentions HWA's death and cites the testimonies of seven different people saying that HWA was a great man worthy of being followed, none of whom are in PCG. Odd how Stephen Flurry did not mention the son who was disfellowshipped by HWA.

In this entire article no mention is made of HWA's deadly anti-medicine superstition which he took from the Jehovah's Witnesses, or of how, until 1974, he had a cruel divorce and remarriage policy which forcibly separated families. The terrible sufferings these people endured are callously, but not surprisingly, ignored and made to disappear in his article.

So all in all Stephen Flurry has not produced an account that clearly reveals what happened within HWA's church. Many important events are left unstated in the hope that potential new members will not be put off by the failed prophesies, the broken hearts left in ex-members and other matters. It is not a trustworthy account. However such accounts are fairly typical of many HWA sectarians. These people often simply refuse to admit how bad things really were within HWA's authoritarian church.

Perhaps he is sincere, but if so, he is badly informed.

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