Some supporters have acknowledged that HWA had committed incest with his daughter but offer the "David defense" to excuse this transgression and say that it has not impact on the role he played. This position need not be examined further as it neither proves non-consensual incest occurred nor would it excuse it.
Lack of Denials
It would be nice if one could find clear denials regarding these claims by HWA personally, by the church when these claims were first put into print (Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web), and/or by the family members that would have known one way or the other regarding these claims.
Unfortunately, none of these denials were made.
One may find this odd but the lack of denials does not prove that the incest took place. Innocent people do not have to defend themselves against false claims.
Evidence (or lack of it) found on the Internet (and/or shared by individuals)
1. A Nov. 19, 1979, letter from David Robinson (former WCG evangelist) to HWA alluded to the incest and other sexual issues and requested that HWA resign for the good of the church.
[Comments: Some have attacked David Robinson's integrity while others have defended him. I had read (likely in The Journal) that he was an honorable man who suffered greatly for making these claims.]
2. 1981 book Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web (An Insider's View of the Worldwide Church of God) by David Robinson
David Robinson, a former WCG minister and employee in varied capacities, wrote from firsthand knowledge with deep disappointment and has come to agree with Solomon who advised against putting their trust in men. Chapter XX covered HWA and the incest story. This book is available in PDF form here.
[Comments: This book may not have been the most well-written account of the church but much of the material was consistent with other sources and confirmed through personal discussions with ministers that had been at headquarters. The portion dealing with the alleged incest was distasteful but there is likely no way for anyone to address this topic it in an acceptable manner to all.]
3. December 30, 1981 letter from Jack Kessler to the Board of WCG
Jack Kessler was WCG's CPA who worked directly with HWA and Rader and his letter detailing a number of corporate irregularities contained the following references to the charge of incest:
“The human condition is such that it would shock probably only just a few to learn of the moral depravity that is reported commonly among you. Although others, such as Dave Robinson* and Floyd Lochner, apparently thought it might work to their advantage to report Mr. Armstrong's admission (which he's made to several) that he had engaged repeatedly in incestuous intercourse with his daughter during the first 10 years of his ministry, as well as more recent, self-confessed sexual perversity..."The entire letter available here.
[Comments: Was this letter credible? In a number of areas, yes, such as the abuse of authority and financial mismanagement. It also brought out a second name related to the accusation of incest: Floyd Lochner, who had allegedly taped HWA hoping to get a denial on record but instead getting a confession. Damning evidence... if true. But where is the tape? Who had heard it personally?]
Lakeland Ledger May 12, 1984 newspaper article about HWA’s divorce with Ramona mentions an “understanding” the couple reached about Armstrong’s “prior incestuous conduct with his daughter for many years.”
*[Comments: The reference within this article was quite significant to me. This is not the type of comment a newspaper would make carelessly.]
5. 1997 letter from GTA in response to an inquiry about the incest
The Church of God International
Post Office Box 2530,
Tyler, Texas, 75710
Garner Ted Armstrong, Founder
Dear Mr. (Name Withheld by Request),
I'm sorry, but I really have no comment about the very lengthy letter from Jack Kessler. The entire situation is completely moot at this time, of course. My father died at age 93 1/2 back in 1986, eleven years ago, and I certainly have no desire to resurrect a lot of ancient ghouls from their graves and engage in a lot of criticism involving the actions of individuals in that organization decades ago.
Nothing my father did, negative or positive, matters to my personal salvation, or to yours.
For the last twenty years, I have continued to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God as a witness and a warning to the world, and I have never engaged in the kind of spiritual "grave robbing" that exhumes ancient sins of fifty or sixty years ago, and attempts to defile and defame the memory of individuals who themselves are long since dead.
Sorry if this proves disappointing to you, but I simply have no further comment.
Sincerely,This letter is available here.
Garner Ted Armstrong
[Comments: This letter came across more as "I do not want to talk about it" than as "It did not happen."]
6. 1999 Letter from Bruce Renehan who had interviewed some members of the Church of God 7th Day who reported they were aware of the incest.
"I'm not exactly sure what constitutes proof to everyone. Before I began to author my book, my wife and I visited the Church of God, Seventh Day, both in Bakersfield and in Fresno. That is the church that Herbert Armstrong started attending in 1927. I first heard of the incest from some of their members, two of whom--Israel Hager and John Keiss [correct spelling Kiesz]--had known Armstrong in the 20s and 30s. Keiss, who was Armstrong's closest friend in the COG7 had actually discussed the incest with Dorothy Armstrong who confessed to him. Not wanting to believe hearsay from just one group, I placed a call to a friend of mine (Bob Mizell) in Pasadena. Bob was a very close friend to Joe Tkach Senior and, if anyone would know if the stories were true or not, he certainly would. Bob told me openly that both he and Joe Tkach had known about Armstrong's incest with his daughter and then he quickly brought up the David was a man after God's heart" ploy. "The full letter is available here.
[Comments: To me, Bruce Renehan came across as sincere and credible but this does not constitute proof that what he said was true.]
7. Statement by Keith Hunt
"Oh indeed, the WCG was going to SUE Ambassador Report a NUMBER of times over the next years, especially over HWA having an affair with one of his daughters way back when, that came to light [and for those who still say it was all slander and lies; I personally heard GTA say he confronted his dad on the matter and HWA admitted it was so, saying, I was not always close to God"]. What was the reply from Ambassador Report to the WCG stating they were going to sue them, it was "Come on do so, will be happy to see you in court." The WCG NEVER did sue Ambassador Report!!"http://www.keithhunt.com/Hwaexp.6.html
[Comments: I spoke with Keith Hunt in April 2015 and found him to be sincere and credible. A direct confirmation by GTA is significant. Also, WCG never following through on their threat to sue Ambassador Report for repeating these claims is telling.]
8. WCG ministerial confirmations (various dates):
- When asked by various church members, David Antion (related to GTA though marriage) has acknowledged that the incest occurred.
allegations. Generally, families do not want to talk about such things openly (and most don't) but they do tend to know what happened. This is compelling evidence. Another member reported that she had come to the Antion home in the late 1970's, when Dorothy was inside crying about this. She is absolutely certain that it happened.]
- Several individuals have reported that Art Mokarow confirmed that HWA committed incest while in a public setting.
- Other ministers have acknowledged the rumor to be true when asked including Gary Antion and at least one of the current UCG Council members.
9. 2014 Interview of HWA’s niece Deborah
In a radio interview, Deborah related that the family had kept quiet about Dorothy to protect her. Deborah’s mother had told her it was true. She was also was told by her grandson. Interestingly, Deborah noted that the only thing HWA had given her was a hand signed copy of his “Missing Dimension in Sex” book.
Start at minute 50:00.
[Comments: For someone that would want to attack her credibility, please explain how Deborah would benefit from lying about this.]
10. 2014 Interview of HWA’s grandson Larry Gott
In a radio interview, Larry Gott said that the incest was an accepted as fact within the family and that it had started when Dorothy was 14 or 15. When asked, what kind of character was HWA, he said, “He was tyrannical… He was a person who craved and used authority over other people. That was sort of the essence of him. Nobody was really close to him – ever – including his wife. He was an authoritarian and I would tell people that he was not completely honest with everybody about himself.”
Start at minute 1:01:20.
[Comments: How would Larry benefit from lying about this?]
Conclusion: At this point, I would be more fearful of God for attacking the credibility Art Mokarow, Keith Hunt, Deborah, David Antion and Larry Gott on this topic than by stating that I feel certain that HWA did commit incest with his daughter.