Art Gilmore: The Ambassador College campus in Pasadena, California has been the headquarters of the Worldwide Church of God for 32 years. During that time, it has grown from one building on a three-quarter acre lot into a complex that is universally regarded as one of the most beautiful campuses in the world.
Here on January 3rd began one of the most dramatic confrontations between church and state in 200 years of American legal history. That morning, with no prior notice given to church officials, a California Deputy Attorney General accompanied by two private attorneys whom he had deputized arrived at the church's hall of administration. They announced to startled employees that by order of a Los Angeles superior court, the church had been placed in a state of receivership. With them was a retired Los Angeles judge, the designated receiver who employees were told was by court mandate. Now in charge of the worldwide Church of God.
Art Gilmore: Mr. Armstrong, do you feel that the church government or church rule is the real issue in this lawsuit?
Mr. Armstrong: Yes, I'm sure that's the main issue. Everything else is merely a trumped-up something, the ridiculousness of saying that Mr. Rader and I had siphoned off millions of dollars every year on a segment of the work that has an appropriation of only $1 million a year. It's the smallest appropriation of any department in our activities. And, actually, that was merely an excuse. They were coming in to take possession without any evidence of any kind, but a statement of six malcontents who were out to get even to do damage. And so, they came crashing in with the idea of getting all records and hoping maybe they could find something to accuse us of. But the real issue has now surfaced. The whole question is, who is the Lord? Is it Caesar or is Christ Lord? And that is going to have to be settled in the United States. And that is the real question at issue, now, who is Lord?
Art Gilmore: The World Tomorrow, the Worldwide Church of God presents the World Tomorrow with Herbert W. Armstrong.
Art Gilmore: This week, in a special interview program, Herbert W. Armstrong discusses the widely publicized lawsuit brought by the California Attorney General against the worldwide Church of God, of which he is founder and Pastor General, and the implications of this historic case for church-state relations.
Art Gilmore: The suit was especially directed toward two men, Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder and spiritual leader of the church, and Herbert Armstrong's chief aide, Stanley R. Rader. The suit charged them with "siphoning off the property and assets of the church and appropriating them to their own personal use," and this on a scale of several million dollars per year to obscure the financial problems caused by such alleged misdealings. It was further charged that church officials were rapidly selling off church real estate at below market prices. The suit portrayed an almost classical scandal of misuse of funds leading to financial crisis, leading to cover-up.
But the most fundamental issues involved were not matters of real estate or finances. The suit contended that California state law requires that the Worldwide Church of God hold membership votes on matters affecting the governing of the church, or in other words, the church must be essentially democratic in structure. By contrast, according to the suit, the church has always been controlled by Herbert W. Armstrong, and church members have never voted on any matter pertaining to the governance of the church. Furthermore, while the structure of the Worldwide Church of God vests all power in one man, the lawsuit implied that this man, Herbert Armstrong, by virtue of his advanced age, was no longer capable of leading the church. It was said he heeded the advice and counsel of virtually no one other than Stanley Rader, who was, in effect, depicted as manipulating the church founder.
This case, officially the State of California versus the Worldwide Church of God, could well become a landmark in the annals of church-state relations.
I'm Art Gilmore. Recently, I went to Mr. Armstrong's office in Tucson to interview the man who founded the worldwide Church of God nearly 50 years ago.
Art Gilmore: Well, what do you mean by church government? And how, how, how can that make any difference?
Mr. Armstrong: Well, I learned that God is ruler, and I know this from my study of the Bible. It makes it very plain. The one thing right now immediately uppermost in the mind of God himself is the restoration of his government on this earth.
Now, I'll tell you why this thing has happened to us, and it isn't just a happenstance. And there are greater powers and greater forces at work behind the scenes, invisible, whether people like to believe it or not. The devil does exist, and he's a very powerful being. And he knows that the one and only place on the face of this earth that the government of God does exist now and has only existed for a very short few years is in the Worldwide Church of God. And he is out to destroy that government.
Now, there is government in God's church, but most people have overlooked that. They want democracy. One of the governments that man, that man has developed, as God said through Adam to go ahead and do, is what we call democracy, which is not a democracy but a Republican form of government. But in the United States, we think that government must come from the bottom up. The ignorant, the uneducated must tell those who are capable how to rule them and whether to rule them. The governments we have in this world are the governments of man, and they're being overthrown, and it's one government against another.
God's government set up in his church is something that is either voluntarily accepted or not accepted at all, because a government has to have a ruling personage. But it must have an area over which he rules. There must be citizens or people or people to be ruled and laws of the government.
Well, the law of God's government is simply the law of God, and it's all summed up in one word: love. And love is outflowing, whereas the opposite way is incoming, selfishness, conceit, vanity, and toward other people. Of course, jealousy, envy, hatred, rebellion, resentment, competition, strife.
But God himself has seen fit to put into the Worldwide Church of God, which is merely a continuation of the church that he started in 31 A.D. in Jerusalem, the government of God. Now, that is a government that is accepted voluntarily or not at all. Its jurisdiction extends only as far as those people who have, of their own will, come into it, extend.
But it is based on the law of God and the ways of living of God, love toward God and love toward your fellow man. And everything in the world is either on that basis or the other. That's what's wrong with the world. The world is on the "I love me" basis. Me 1st, I don't care about the other guy; I'm gonna get in while the getting is good, and that's the trouble; everybody is trying to take away from everybody else. And if we'd all get together and cooperate, there'd be more for all of us. And people can't seem to realize that.
Anyway, this church that has been raised up through my efforts believes in the law of God. It does exist within the church. Now, it doesn't mean that there's a government in the sense that we have a police system or anything of the kind. There are certain laws that we find in the Bible for the New Testament Church, and we try to follow those. But it is not, of all things, it is not a dictatorship. On the other hand, it is not a democracy, and that's what a lot of people would like to make it.
And that's what the state of California had in mind when they came crashing down on the Worldwide Church of God. They wanted to appoint a new board of directors. They wanted it to be a democracy. Now, it isn't a democracy, and God's government is not democracy, and God's government is going to take over all the governments of this world in our lifetime very, very soon, now.
I can't set dates, and I don't know whether it's three or four years or 30 or 40, but I don't think it's any 30 or 40. But God is going to send Jesus Christ back to this earth, and he's coming this time as the supreme ruler because all power in heaven or in earth that exists anywhere in the universe has been given to Jesus Christ, the living Christ.
Art Gilmore: In a moment, I'll be back with Herbert W. Armstrong, the man who built and presides over a $70 million religious empire. But who now has been accused in this dramatic case of siphoning off church funds, of appropriating church assets for his personal use, of capriciously dismantling the very church he worked 50 years to build, and above all, accused of being 86 years old and showing signs of senility.
Art Gilmore: You're invited to learn more about these important issues through the pages of Plain Truth. This international journal of understanding comes along every month with a penetrating analysis of world news in the light of Bible prophecy, Plain Truth. This full-color monthly publication underscores the importance of biblical understanding in modern 20th-century living. Your subscription is free of charge. There is no cost or obligation. Call this toll-free number: 800-423-4444. That's 800-423-4444. The Plain Truth, a magazine of understanding.
Art Gilmore: The activities of the Worldwide Church of God today, international in scope, began in 1934 when Herbert Armstrong was asked to produce a weekly radio broadcast in Eugene, Oregon. The first issue of the Plain Truth magazine, four mimeographed sheets, was published in that year and sent to no more than a few hundred subscribers.
From the beginning, Herbert Armstrong's intent was to preach, not to convert. And indeed, in 1949, after 1 1/2 decades of continuous broadcasting, official church records show there were only 90 members. Having long recognized the need for an educated ministry to serve what few members there were, Herbert Armstrong founded Ambassador College in 1947. When the college opened its doors, it had 10 faculty members and four students.
Over the past 30 years, Ambassador College has been painstakingly built according to a master plan. Today, it is a tourist attraction in and of itself, noted for its well-preserved turn-of-the-century mansions, now dormitories and classrooms, and its manicured grounds. Also on the campus is the Ambassador Auditorium, one of Southern California's leading centers for performing arts. The church is the sponsoring body of the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, which publishes a new magazine, Quest 79, devoted, as the magazine itself explains, Quest was largely founded on the premise that mankind could be enriched by the achievements and accomplishments of others. Quest was launched as a magazine that focuses on the pursuit of excellence and the men and women who aspire to attain it.
The Worldwide Church of God services are now held weekly in cities in the United States, cities in Canada, in Great Britain, and in other countries. Considering the scope, diversity, and sophistication of the church's activities, it is little wonder that in its recent notoriety, many members were irritated to find themselves so often characterized as a cult.
Mr. Armstrong: We are certainly not a cult. We are a church that has been going since 31 A.D., and through all generations, and we have the history of the church for more than the last 100 years, and for 45 years in my own lifetime. And it's something different altogether, but people look at that as a religious movement. Now so far as I know, I don't know that a cult leader ever preached from the Bible. I don't know that he knew anything about a Bible. I've never heard of anything of the kind, and I think that it was more of a help-the-poor sort of something than it was a religious movement. But it's just as, well, we're as far away from that as any church could be.
Art Gilmore: Does the state have any right to define the purposes of the church?
Mr. Armstrong: No, the purpose of the church is to get the gospel to the world.
Now, for example, an apostle is merely one sent forth with that message, and the message is the coming kingdom of God. I have a book coming out, "A Voice Cries Out Amid the Wilderness of Modern-Day Religious Confusion." Of all of the churches and all of the religions, all of the sects and denominations of Christianity, not one knows who and what God is. I think that's a stunner for anybody.
Well, I'll go a little further. Of all of the religions around this earth and all of the denominations of Christianity, not one but the Worldwide Church of God knows what and why man is, what he is, why he is, why he was put on the earth. What is the real purpose? Where are we going? What's it all about? What's the difference between right and wrong? In this world, we say that a test of insanity is a test of whether you know right from wrong, that if you're sane, you know right from wrong. Well, I there are not very many sane people. That's the truth because very few people do. One person thinks that cigarette smoking is right, and another thinks it's wrong. What one person thinks is right, another thinks is not. We're all mixed up and don't realize it.
We find the first description of God in the Bible in the first chapter of John in the New Testament (John 1:1): "In the beginning was the Word." That word, WORD is translated from the Greek language in which it was originally written from the word "Logos," and it means "word" or it means "spokesman," "revealer, spokesman," and "the Word was with God." Now, the Word is a personage, and the Word was with another personage who is God. And "the Word was God." But Christ's message was about the Kingdom of God.
Now, first of all, the Kingdom of God is the family of God into which human beings may be born. So, we find, as Jesus was speaking in Nicodemus, saying that you must be born again, and people get all mixed up. So, we have what we call born-again Christians who, it's just too bad, they don't really understand it, and they're sincere, they really believe that. But Jesus himself said, "That which is born of the spirit is spirit; they no longer matter. That which is born of the flesh is flesh." He's made of matter and flesh. "That which is born of the spirit is spirit," and our so-called born-again Christians today, I think, are still flesh and blood according to the Bible, according to Jesus. And again in the 15th chapter of the book of I Corinthians (I Corinthians 15:1), written by the Apostle Paul, "Flesh and blood cannot enter into the Kingdom of God."
Now, people get mixed up about what is the church and what is the Kingdom of God? They get thinking that the church is the Kingdom. No, the church is not the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is the family of God. God formed man of the dust of the ground, but he formed God in his own image. Someone will say, "Well, if you could see God, what does he look like?" No man has ever seen God the Father. But others have seen Christ, and Christ's disciples came and asked him, "What does the Father look like? Tell us about God. We want to know about Him."
Well, Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father because he looks like I do."
Art Gilmore: The Worldwide Church of God believes that the primary duty of the modern Christian church is to actively preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Yet the church does not solicit members or try to convert people. To outsiders, this is perhaps the most confusing aspect of this unusual organization for the public generally equates any evangelical effort with an attempt to gain members.
It is the church's belief that the gospel is essentially educational, and the church further believes that its duty is to inform people that the knowledge of the gospel is available should they want it. What the Worldwide Church of God explicitly and emphatically does not believe is that it should try to sway or convince people to adopt its message. This is the spirit behind the church's multimillion-dollar media effort, and it is the spirit behind the personal work of Herbert Armstrong.
Since 1973, Herbert Armstrong has been traveling worldwide, meeting with government officials, including heads of state, as well as with civic, business, and academic groups. He has been abroad an average of 200 days a year. The church believes that its message, the gospel it preaches, must validate itself not only with words but with substance.
And so, while the gospel preached by Herbert Armstrong could hardly be called popular, it has resulted over the last decade in an impressive series of tangible international achievements, including a clinic for the underprivileged in Cairo, an archaeological expedition in Jerusalem, educational programs for mountain tribes in Nepal and Thailand, an Institute for Political Research in Tokyo, oceanographic research in Belgium, and more. Although sidelined by a recent illness, Herbert Armstrong has again resumed his work in full stride. He writes regularly for the church newspaper, the official church magazine, The Good News, and the church's international magazine, The Plain Truth. He has completed over 30 half-hour television programs. He recently published a book, "The Incredible Human Potential," all royalties of which go to the church, and he is working on several other books. In mid-January, he actively led a conference for the entire church ministry. Last December, he resumed traveling with a trip to England and Israel. In Israel, he once again met with top government officials, including Moshe Dayan and Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Over the years, detailed accounts of Herbert Armstrong's trips have appeared in church publications on several occasions, the extra expense of film or video coverage has been incurred to keep church members abreast of his activities. It is probably accurate to say that most members of the Worldwide Church of God view Herbert Armstrong's travels as the most important and essential activity presently being conducted by the church.
Art Gilmore: They claim that you and Mr. Rader have so-called fleeced the flock as they put it.
Mr. Armstrong: It's a little difficult to know where they got that idea. I know this, that some ministers that have gone out of the church in disloyalty have felt that the commission of Christ says, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel," should not be done. Now, there's a prophecy about it in our time. It's not in itself a commission, it's a prophecy (Matthew 24:14). This gospel of the Kingdom, which is not the gospel that is generally preached in the world at all, shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations. Then shall the end of this present civilization and era of time, and then Christ will come and set up the Kingdom of God. It doesn't mean the end of the earth or anything of that kind, of course, that's what God wants done, and it's going to get done, and man can't stop it. But in the courts, we are concerned with the laws of man, and we never even mentioned the laws of God because they would only laugh at it. They don't believe it.
And now it's going into the world. You cannot travel all over this world as I do, and you can't get the gospel into many nations that are close to a religious message. You can't unless the door is open to the top of the government. And God has been opening the doors to me, to Emperors and Kings, and Presidents, and Prime Ministers all over this world.
And then I began to hold meetings of maybe their lawmaking body and then top people in the government and in business. And then pretty soon we get campaigns going into the grassroots of their country and getting the gospel in there. That's all. And we have no ax to grind or anything.
Now, how would I look where I have received the highest honor that the government of Japan has ever conferred on a unofficial non-Japanese? How would it look if I went over there and got into some third-rate hotel back on an alley somewhere and wore past overalls and came in looking like a hippie that hadn't had a bath or a shave in about two months? We have to travel first class, and we do. And some of them would think that's wrong. Our people do not think that. The people would send the money, want us to go just the way we do.
Now, we're not trying to get people "saved." God has not sent us to do that. I like the word "announcement." It's not used in the Bible, but that's what it is. In other words, we're not proselytizers. We're not trying to get or take members away from someone else. I wouldn't turn a finger to take someone from another church. But if he wants to know a little more truth than he knows, I'd be glad to help him.
Art Gilmore: I hope by these few questions that our friends out there who are watching today have been able to have a better understanding of what this is all about with the state and the church.
Art Gilmore: For the free literature offered on this program, write Herbert W Armstrong Pasadena, California 91123 in Canada Box 44, Vancouver BC or in the Continental United States. You may call this toll-free number 800-423-4444. That's 800-423-4444 in California dial direct 213-577-5225. The preceding program and all literature were produced by the Worldwide Church of God.
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