I had originally planned to post a previously written entry here today, but since the topic of 1975 spawned some interest in some of the comments yesterday, here are some of my thoughts and recollections of what conditions were like in Pasadena during that era. It was indeed a pivotal time period for many reasons. Let me preface my remarks by noting that I personally did not leave WCG because of cruelty. I left because it became obvious to me that WCG was a bogus church, did not in any way have the witness of God behind it, and had been propped up and supported by intellectual dishonesty (end justifies the means) in many ways. I think that by the end of this article, we'll plainly see that following the events of 1975, the church took on a decidedly harsher undertone.
Looking back on the latter portions of my childhood and teenage years, I'd have to say that we did not have cruel, authoritarian, snoopy ministers, at least not in our area of the country. If you like Allen Dexter, you probably would have liked most of the people who preceeded him, those with whom he worked on a daily basis, and those who immediately followed him. Frankly, I have never seen any of these gentlemens' names on the lists of abusers here on the PT website, or any of the other ex-WCG sites over the past ten years. Let me list a few of them for you. There was Wayne Cole, Carlton Smith, Guy Englebart, Raymond Cole, Walter Sharp, Reg Platt, and Ivan Sell. While I don't pretend to know everything that went on in our district, I only knew of about 6 to 10 disfellowshipments over about a decade. Some of those were due to out of control alcoholism, and a couple more were due to schizophrenia, which of course was labelled as demon possession. When these people were marked, the minister generally expressed that he hoped they would repent so that they could be welcomed back. It was not as if they were seen as suddenly being enemies of God and country.
From my list above, Wayne Cole eventually got the axe during the receivership era, because he favored cooperating with the state authorities. His brother Raymond started one of the early splinters immediately after HWA modified some of the original church doctrines. Raymond passed away a few years ago. At last report, there had been a Walter Sharp sighting in Pasadena at the former AC campus, as he and his wife were touring the USA on their Harley Davidson. I have not heard any recent news concerning the other gentlemen on my list.
For those of you who came along sometime after 1975, let me just say that during that era it literally appeared that World War III was breaking out at headquarters. On a day to day basis, we did not know which way events were going to turn. For the previous ten years, some in the field ministry had had grave misgivings about the interpretations of certain scriptures and the ways in which this influenced the church's doctrinal approach and in many cases negatively impacted individuals in their congregations. HWA had been approached, had agreed to review the concerns, but had postponed and procrastinated until there was an increasingly open revolt. If memory serves me correctly, the main issues concerned divorce and remarriage, the church's teaching regarding medical care, and some of the details related to tithing. Dr. Ernest Martin, who was one of the primary researchers, and one of the few actual legitimate Biblical and historical scholars apparently became so frustrated with the endless delays that he began openly sharing some of his research. Others in different areas of the world were also doing this on a local basis. As if to add gasoline to this fire, the full depth of GTA's addictive sexual activities became known, churchwide. At one point, he had actually been reinstated to his position within the church and college, only to relapse into what was by this time a pathology.
As HWA, Stanley Rader, and others wrestled to regain control, an alarming percentage of the field ministry left, for reasons of conscience. This mass exodus caused a radical change in the corporate culture of WCG. The fallout from this affected lay members and employees as well. One morning, I showed up for my shift at AC Press, and was ushered into a rather somber meeting. Forms were passed out, and we were told that in order for our employment to continue, we had to sign oaths of loyalty to HWA. Long term deacons, using some of the college's vans and camera equipment, parked surreptitiously in the vicinity of meetings conducted by Dr. Martin, Al Carrozzo, Richard Plache, and others. In this undercover sting, the deacons photographed any WCG members whom they observed entering the meeting halls. The dormitories at Ambassador College were also electronically bugged. The accounting department, in a joint project with the MIS department, was instructed to review the payroll and tithing records of employees in various departments, an early detection of possible mixed loyalties. There were also frantic member letters, exemplifying HWA's most embarrassing overuse of punctuation and variations in type size, telling of Satan pulling out all stops in his war against what he called "God's Church".
There had been persistent rumors for months amongst employees, staff, and local members in Pasadena concerning secret overseas bank accounts, expensive art collections secreted in the basement storage areas of some headquarters buildings, and extravagant overseas junkets involving HWA, Stanley Rader, Osamu Gotoh, and others, some of it allegedly funded by misappropriation of third tithe funds. A cadre of members and former members contracted with a prominent Southern California attorney in an effort to force financial accountability. The courts felt that there was sufficient merit to their allegations to institute receivership proceedings, but over a period of months the church managed to totally obfuscate the effort, and ultimately had enough lobbying power with the state legislature to get a special law passed that essentially quashed the receivership and investigation. While church officials later credited themselves as having helped preserve the civil liberties of churches throughout the USA, and protecting the Constitutional separation of church and state, the end result was that there never was any sort of financial accountability. As if this were not enough, in the background of all of this, a number of prominent ministers' kids were both indulging in and selling various kinds of dope at Imperial Schools and Ambassador College.
It is difficult, in retrospect, to imagine how WCG could possibly have survived this perfect storm.
They were on the front pages of many newspapers, and the lead story on TV news, day after day after day. This fact did not lend itself to the recruitment of new members!
I was not around much after 1975. Having discussed this with those who were, and having read extensively on the subject, I believe that policies and procedures were gradually put into place to prevent even the remotest possibility of a similar revolt ever again. You'd have to guess that the field ministry, after that point, was instructed to be very suspicious of members, and to take a hard line with possible dissenters to the official doctrinal stances, and even to closely monitor the tithing patterns of members. Eventually it was a total lock, the final ones being applied during the "back on track" era. As we look back on all of this today, it is plain to see that all of the additional suffering, confusion, and general misery were for nought. Gamaliel, in the end, was proven right, in living color right before our eyes!
To learn more about the Worldwide Church of God during the mid 1970s, check out Ambassador Reports, archived conveniently right here at The Painful Truth Website.