THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE
Herbert Armstrong's Empire Exposed
The Great Commission
IN EARLY 1976, CHURCH MEMBERS RECEIVED A REHEARSAL ISSUE OF
a magazine called Human Potential, published by the newly formed
Ambassador International Cultural Foundation (AICF). According to
the magazine, "the AICF was dedicated to the expansion of
mankind's collective knowledge and appreciation of itself, to the
realization of the individual man's full human potential, and to
the building of bridges among all peoples everywhere. The
Foundation sponsors or jointly supports charitable, humanitarian,
educational and cultural institutions, organizations and projects
around the world, and publishes the bi-monthly journal Human
Herbert Armstrong stated in the same issue, "Man does not
understand what he is! He does not understand why he is! He
doesn't understand his incredible human potential. This is why
Ambassador International Cultural Foundation embodies, among its
goals, a desire to promote a greater international understanding
of man himself. This is why our publication bears the title ...
This first issue was a very slick, high-quality magazine,
obviously pitched to the same market served by publications such
as National Geographic and Scientific American. As we were told
by the ministry, AICF and this new secular magazine was to give
the Church a whole new image for important people throughout the
world. Through the various charitable activities conducted in
conjunction with AICF, the Church was to gain great recognition
among prominent people. What the general membership did not
realize was that on June 2, 1975, Herbert Armstrong sent a letter
to all ministers and key supervisory personnel. In that letter he
announced the formation of AICF and the new magazine, made
necessary by what he called "this new phase of the Work." He said
further, "Beginning in 1968, God had been opening doors for
personal meetings with heads of many of these governments -
kings, presidents, prime ministers, emperors. At first I didn't
know WHY, but I knew that it was of God, because God is giving me
UNUSUAL favor, even in cases to the point of affection in their
eyes." He went on to say, "But in these past two or three years
we have had to learn many lessons. We've had to learn HOW to do
it. Two subjects stir up controversy and opposition - politics
and religion. I had to learn how to present Christ's Message as
completely outside the realm of religion or politics. The REAL
GOSPEL is concerned with world conditions, their CAUSE, and how
the problem will be solved, and the evils cured by the KINGDOM OF
GOD, based on God's Law, as a WAY OF LIFE. I do not CALL it
"God's Law." I call it the way of "GIVE," of serve, help, share,
cooperate as opposed to the self-centered way of vanity, lust,
and greed, envy, jealousy, competition, strife and war. That does
not sound 'religious.' It doesn't sound like what the world
supposes is the 'Gospel'."
Armstrong said further, "One thing has been a serious
handicap, and caused me and my touring team no little
embarrassment. We have had to say that we represent either
Ambassador College or Worldwide Church of God. I am regarded as
an Ambassador for WORLD PEACE. But if I represent a CHURCH,
immediately that shouts to them RELIGION."
Somehow in Herbert Armstrong's convoluted way of thinking,
he was convincing Church leaders that he could deliver the
Gospel, a religious message, by not sounding religious and hiding
behind a secular organization. Most ministers kept this to
themselves. When it was mentioned to their congregations, it was
put forth in such a way that the people swallowed the whole story
without even realizing what was going on.
Armstrong's trips continued, with his world travels becoming
The Great Commission such an important part of his activity that
a pamphlet was produced by the Church, entitled "Herbert W.
Armstrong, Ambassador for World Peace." On the front cover is a
photo of Armstrong and Rader descending the steps from the
Gulfstream 11 jet owned by the Church. The inside cover shows a
picture of Herbert Armstrong and the legend "HERBERT W.
ARMSTRONG, A BUILDER OF BRIDGES BETWEEN ALL PEOPLES EVERYWHERE".
On the facing page is a photograph of a watch mounted in a
glass display case. Next to the case is a cannonball. The text on
the page reads:
"World War I was the war supposed to 'make the world safe for
democracy' - the war to END ALL WARS."
After the armistice, King Albert of Belgium visited one of
the battlefields. He was appalled and emotionally sick at heart
at the realization of the human slaughter that had occurred
there. It moved him deeply. He had one of the iron cannonballs
remaining on the field melted and cast into four watch cases -
pocket watch size - to encase four fine watches. It was his
intention to present these to the four men whom he felt had made
the most significant contribution toward world peace.
He gave one to Field Marshall Foch, Supreme Commander-in-
Chief over all Allied armies. The second watch was given to
General Pershing, Commander-in-Chief of all United States forces.
The third watch to Georges Clemenceau, Premier of France during
World War I. King Albert apparently found no one he felt
qualified for the fourth watch. It was passed on to his son King
Leopold to give.
In solemn and subdued voice in November of 1970, King
Leopold said he felt the fourth watch should go to Mr.Herbert W.
"I felt it was the very highest honor the King could have paid
anyone. Whatever contribution to world peace I may be making is
not through war, but through EDUCATION, teaching millions
worldwide THE WAY TO PEACE."
The balance of the thirty-two-page full-color brochure
showed Armstrong and Rader meeting with leaders such as Prime
Minister Sato of Japan, Emperor Hirohito, Prince Mikasa, Prime
Minister Tanaka, and several members of the Japanese Diet, who
Armstrong frequently referred to as his Japanese sons. A large
photo shows Armstrong and Rader being received by Prime Minister
Miki, calling attention to the fact that they were the first
foreign visitors to be received by the Prime Minister after his
taking office. Going on further there are photographs of
Armstrong and Rader with President Manfred Lachs and Doctor
Nagendra Singh of the World Court at Peace Palace Headquarters in
The Hague, also known as the International Court of Justice.
Armstrong and Rader are also shown with Mrs.Bandaranaike, Prime
Minister of Sri Lanka, President Giri of India, President
Ferdinand Marcos and other officials of the Philippines, and
President Anwar Sadat and other Egyptian officials. The
following, taken from Armstrong's address to Egyptian officials,
is of more than passing significance:
"Sometimes I think I could do a little more as a private
individual than I could if I were in an official capacity. Quite
often I cross paths with Secretary of State Kissinger, but he
works in an official capacity, I work in an unofficial capacity.
For example, when just a couple of months ago I met President
Sadat, I had a message for him from Prince Mikasa of Japan. The
Prince wanted to visit Egypt but, of course, in his official
position he needed an invitation. So I told President Sadat about
it and he very smilingly said, 'I will issue an invitation
immediately.' I believe the invitation was issued the next day
and Mr.Gotoh, who is Japanese and part of my team, carried it in
person. I'm glad you're going to see a little something of Prince
Mikasa. He's a very close friend of mine."
Reading at the time I first saw it, I thought as did so many
Church members, "Isn't it wonderful the way God is using Mr.
Again, little did I or anyone else see the real
significance. The Mr.Gotoh referred to is Osamu Gotoh, who had
been part of the Armstrong entourage for some time. Little was
known about him, and it appeared that he was very instrumental in
arranging most of Armstrong's visits. While the mystery of Gotoh
may never be known, much was to come out in later months.
As one goes further through the brochure, there are
photographs of visits with Moshe Kol, Minister of Tourism of
Israel, Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel and President
Ephraim Katzir of Israel. Armstrong appeared to be one of the few
people who could jump back and forth between Israel and the Arab
countries. He is also shown meeting with King Hussein of Jordan,
and there is a photograph of an award given to him by the King.
Progressing to Southeast Asia, Armstrong and Rader are shown
meeting with President Suharto of Indonesia, Prime Minister Sanya
Dharmasakti of Thailand, President Thieu of the Republic of
Vietnam, or as we knew it, South Vietnam.
And the letters continued to come, always reminding the
members that Herbert Armstrong was fulfilling a great commission
by conducting his campaign of visits to world leaders.
In a letter dated October 29, 1976, Armstrong writes, "Can
you see, then, the ONE THING UPPERMOST IN GOD'S MIND IS RESTORING
THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD ON EARTH!! The END - the PURPOSE - is first
to RESTORE THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD as it will be in the KINGDOM OF
GOD. The time is now VERY NEAR in OUR GENERATION. God wants His
Kingdom announced. It is SOON COMING. He commissioned me 43 years
ago to carry that announcement - that Gospel to the world. Will
you stand 100% back of me in this commission? I need your
sacrifice, your prayers, your financial sacrifice now as NEVER
BEFORE. Show me, by your prayers, your financial sacrifice and
large offerings that you are really back of the Work the living
God has commissioned to me. Many of you ARE and have been doing
so for a long time. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU!! And God's
greatest blessing upon you."
The continual outpouring of propaganda from Pasadena served
to keep the members ever mindful of their great calling, which,
as interpreted by Herbert Armstrong, was to support him in what
he called "the great commission." I did believe, as did so many
others, that God was miraculously opening doors to these nations
so that Armstrong could go in with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In a September 1976 issue of The Plain Truth, one of the
more notable projects of the AICF was featured. The AICF was a
sponsor of Liberty Bell Park in Jerusalem, where a replica of the
Liberty Bell, a gift from the city of Philadelphia, was to be
placed. Armstrong and Rader were to have taken part in the
dedication of this Park, which had to be postponed due to the
famous skyjacking and subsequent rescue of hostages by Israeli
commandos from the airport at Entebbe, Uganda.
The October 1976 issue of The Plain Truth had a feature
article about the city of Jerusalem with several photographs of
Armstrong with various dignitaries, including Mayor Teddy Kollek.
One significant photograph showed Armstrong, Rader, Mrs.Rader and
Kollek standing by a sign on which it said, "Under Construction
Here Childrens' Playground, A gift of the Ambassador
International Cultural Foundation, H.W.Armstrong, President."
This playground was part of the Liberty Bell Garden.
I wonder now how I could have been so impressed by that when as I
think back, I should have seen that the name of the Worldwide
Church of God was missing. It should have been apparent that
Church money, while being used supposedly to preach the Gospel,
was being used for other purposes. However noble these purposes
might have been, hiding the Church behind the Foundation hardly
seemed to be the way to preach the Gospel.
(What Tuit did not know, because he was not in the church at the
time, was the fact that back in the late 1960s the WCG published
the Plain Truth magazine for a few years, completely "secular" -
the word "God" or "Jesus Christ" could not be found in it, nor
any Scriptures. I well remember Dr.Hoeh getting up at one Feast
of Tabernacles, and saying, "If you have any doubts about the way
we are writing the Plain Truth magazine, then you are DISAGREEING
with God's Apostle, and so you are disagreeing with God." I
remember saying to myself, "No, that is not the way God wishes or
wants His Gospel to be preached to the world." Oh, a year or so
later, God changed His mind [I say with tongue in cheek] and His
Gospel with His name and Scriptures were back in the Plain Truth
magazine. That was probably the start of my questioning if this
was REALLY the true church of God - Keith Hunt)
When I had been in the Church about a year, I began to feel
a very strong desire to be actively involved in Church
activities. I had joined the Spokesman's Club, a public speaking
club patterned after the Toastmasters. But that didn't seem to be
enough. Paula and I often discussed it. We sensed that something
was lacking. The local congregations met each week for Sabbath
services, they had their various social activities, and that was
about it. All of the evangelistic efforts of the Work were
basically being conducted by two people, Herbert Armstrong on his
around-the-world tours and Garner Ted Armstrong with his radio
and television programs and occasional public appearances. We
compared ourselves to the local Protestant churches, especially
the Evangelical-type churches. While we felt that much was
lacking in their doctrine, they had a zeal and a real desire to
preach their message. It seemed as though many of these
Evangelical Protestant churches had a real grassroots effort
going with heavy involvement of their members.
In contrast, our way of serving was to be one of supporting
the Armstrongs, or as some came to call it, "Pray and pay"!
Only later did I come to realize that that was not the complete
statement. More accurately it was, "Pray and pay while the
Armstrongs play." Herbert Armstrong was jetting around the world
in the Gulfstream II visiting foreign dignitaries, while Garner
Ted Armstrong was jetting across the country in his Falcon jet,
on his way to another hunting or fishing trip. Still oblivious to
so much of this, I said to Maceo Hampton one day, "How can I
serve? I want to serve. I feel like just going to Church every
Sabbath and being a member isn't enough. What can I do?" To which
Paula added, "What about me? It seems that all the women do is
have their ladies club. If the Church were to have a Sabbath
school for the kids, the women could certainly be much more
effective and helpful." Hampton responded, "You two are really
something! You always want to help. Don't worry, just be patient.
Your time will come. I know that you will get your opportunity to
serve, I can assure you of that."
Little did any of us realize how significant his statement
was to be.
To be continued with "Crack in the False Facade"