Thursday 7 January 2010

From the original AW: Tkach's death grip on the church

Moves are afoot to make 2010 the year Joe Tkach can't ignore the call to accountability, with the initiative coming from the Purple Hymnal blog site. AW supports that unreservedly. Here - in condensed form - is an editorial from way-back-when (2004 actually), and a series of graphics, that appeared on the precursor to this blog. Nope, the call for Joe to finally get a conscience and surrender his sinecure is hardly new, but the old boy apparently has a hide as thick as a rhinoceros: the man apparently has no shame. This year, maybe, the hammering on the door will be loud enough, and insistent enough, to force some movement at last. If that amounts to GCI belatedly signing up to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, it would be a good start.

Americans elect their president every four years, and wisely limit any one incumbent to two terms. The same cautious approach is evident in the constitution of many churches. A church, like a nation, should not become the personal fiefdom of any individual, no matter how sincere or gifted they might be. Yet Pastor General Joe Tkach was appointed, not elected. Moreover he's already served a lengthy term as spiritual leader of the Worldwide Church of God, and apparently has "life tenure". Doesn't that sound more like a fringe cult than an evangelical denomination?

Almost all churches, including related movements like the Church of God (Seventh Day) and the United Church of God, have systems in place that hold their leaders accountable to the membership. Church presidents serve a limited term. Not so the WCG. Joe Jr. (he prefers to be addressed as
Doctor Tkach) holds the very same title and office that Herbert W. Armstrong held. And while Joe is happy to trash any number of church traditions and doctrines from the past, he shows no enthusiasm for seeking endorsement for his position as the church's top dog. No General Conference exists to provide a counterbalance to the Pastor General's authority. The power of the ministry has been shown to be severely limited: stand up to Joe and Co. and you're likely to become a "pastor without portfolio".
The traditional argument that the Pastor General is accountable solely to Christ won't wash. The theology on which that particular bit of self-deception was based has long since been swept away in the flood waters of change. Has Joe heard about "the priesthood of all believers"? His friends in the wider evangelical community certainly have. In practice, "accountable to Christ" means not accountable at all.

But it gets worse. Legally it appears that the Worldwide Church of God is still "privately owned", and Pastor General Tkach is "sole proprietor". Caught off guard in a radio interview, he was asked what would stop him from just taking the money and leaving. The only reply he could come up with was that his
family would stop him.
While Tkach might deny that he "owns" the church, with the current legal structure of the organization the reality seems to be that he can hire and fire all board members at his personal discretion with absolutely no reason given. That's in writing. He can do whatever he wants with the corporation as long as it complies with government rules for a non-profit organization.

Here's what Michael Feazell said back in 1996, speaking to a conference of regional pastors.

"The church needs to be a priesthood of believers... It needs to be doing ministry. Everybody in the church has a stake in that--whether it's women, men, teens or children."

Stakeholders must have a voice. They are not powerless, passive observers.

The simple truth may well be that Joe doesn't trust the church he presumably serves. He won't risk relaxing the reins lest people come up with ideas he doesn't endorse. Perhaps Joe considers himself indispensable. Perhaps he's a control freak. Could it be that he is unwilling to lose his comfortable sinecure?

Pastor General Joe has been chief shepherd of his dwindling flock for far longer than is decent without, at the very least, endorsement from the membership. How long will he remain on his pontifical throne? (even the pope is elected by a college of cardinals). Will he be Pastor General for life - a religious version of Fidel Castro?

Michael Feazell writes in the July 2001
Worldwide News: "If your church is a spiritual detriment to you, then you should consider finding another one... When the leader of a church indicates that he is God’s unique messenger or special representative in comparison with other Christian ministers... then you have another example of a church that is spiritually detrimental to its members."
Wise words. But what about churches where the leaders have safely elevated themselves beyond the influence of the members? A church, for example, that permits only token involvement of it's members in governance at either local or denominational level? How can Feazell justify the office of Pastor General and the hierarchical structure of the church in light of his own statement?

Tkach is on record as saying: "This fellowship has always been Episcopal, which is hierarchical..." Perhaps so. But this fellowship had always been Sabbatarian too, but that wasn't allowed to stand in the way of change. Even if an "Episcopal" model is to be used, there would need to be a long hard look at the parliamentary procedures actually used by the groups like the Episcopal Church; procedures which do indeed involve representative bodies of lay members at all levels. The Worldwide Church of God is out on a limb when it claims "episcopacy" as some kind of precedent for leadership by a clique or self appointed oligarchy. It is no such thing.

Joe has been single-minded in his efforts to inveigle his way into the evangelical mainstream. But despite cuddling up to evangelical leaders, his leadership style arguably has more in common with Louis Farrakhan than Billy Graham.

They used to say in Pasadena that the only thing that would topple Herbert Armstrong from his throne would be the Second Coming.

Apparently some things don't change.


Anonymous said...

For them, from HWA to the present, it has always been about power, money and position. Period. In reality the only thing they changed was positioning so
that by changing doctrine they could be accepted by those in the evangelical community outside the old pecking order while privately getting their jollies from
dismantling old WCG.

Transformed by truth? Hardly, deformed is more like it because the greatest miracle that occurred in all of this, and they aren't patting themselves on the back about this one either, was the release of tens of thousands who were now free to move to mature Christian fellowships.

The arrogant, haughty insolent attitudes the inner circle at the top still exhibit,despite having to periodically eat beans (oh the agony), will be cleaned out,
or should I say blasted out, in due time. It won't be pretty either when it happens but they will be without excuse having had plenty of time and warning to repent.

But, that's not in my department and its best left to God who will masterfully perform the task on his time table.

Dennis said...

I have no idea what is in the mind of a man like Joe Jr. I thought I knew him at one time. I have wondered how he sleeps at night surely knowing all the heartache caused has far outweighed any "Jesus saved us" recognitions.

The reason we are here on AW is due to the sense that we know they got "away with it." Whatever that means. Paid Ministers have been successfully jettisoned. Local wannabe's have been rewarded and do what they are told without pay. Women get a bit of a bone as well for their trouble and the few at the top keep all the gold. Perfect.....

It's been more than ten years since realizing I made a very bad mistake and career choice thinking somehow that a god was involved with calling me into the ministry of an organization that made sense to me a long time ago and used the whole bible to teach what the story really was. We were all young. We had to be there I guess.

I know full well what I no longer believe because of this experience.

My mantra is "I don't know." and it's ok not to know. Buddhism says, "He who says, does not know. He who knows, does not say." Seem more righ to me.

Spiritually is an inside job and to think it is given by an organization or by some man giving the same sermons over and over badly is a terrible way to think of personal growth.

I gave chunks, bits and pieces of my soul to all these various people, ideas, teachings and hopes along the way and now find myself in the process of recalling and retrieveing those pieces of my soul and restoring myself for a change. No one else is going to do it and grasping, clinging and being attached to people, places and things is a formula for suffering . Nothing lasts....

Baywolfe said...

Well, I'm not exactly sure how the Baptist church I attended as a kid was structured but I'm pretty sure it was a case of a somewhat privately held organization, as the pastor started with a storefront.

I'm assuming that Joe no longer believes in, or fears god and, therefore, any divine retribution. As I feel the same way, I can't blame him for his death-grip on all that money. Why not see if you can't kick up the Armstrong life-style another notch?

The fact that some of it is/was my money? Ahhh, I've gotten over that a long time ago. I consider it tuition in the school of reality.

Mary B. said...


Almost everyone at GCI is very, very pleased with our leadership. Kindly refrain from your arbitrary assessments of the "proper" form of church government. Or at least recognize that it is our right to organize in the way we feel most appropriate.

Gavin said...

Well Mary, that's the point. You didn't exercise any "right to organize in the way we feel most appropriate." The organization model was inherited from Herbert W. Armstrong.

The funny thing is that Armstrong maintained the fiction that some sort of representative structure existed right through till the receivership. We know that because of references in legal documents to member meetings and votes that were never held - they were pure fiction. Hence the "episcopal" model which was hastily introduced - a "corporate sole" based on the Roman Catholic model - for purely legal reasons: to evade accountability.

Are you really happy with a "president for life"? Are you really satisfied with the lack of financial accountability? Are you truly OK with the reality that Glendora can do what it likes without having a robust system of checks and balances?

If you are, well, I guess you deserve what you've got.

Anonymous said...

This brings back all my memories from the 60's, when I attended SEP in Minnesota. There was always the "class" system, the Pasadena, Ambassador/Imperial Schools students and then there was the rest of us, all from around the country. Only the best and beautiful from Pasadena got to be speed boat drivers, or swimming instructors. The kitchen crew was divided up as well, the Imperial School bunch on one side of the worker dorm, the "commoner" kids on the other. We were constantly bombarded with their priviledges, and the rules bent in their favor. So it stands to reason that when you're raised in this manner,as Joe Jr. did, you indeed become arrogant and insolent. Like so many politicians in Washington, the heirarchy in California have never had to do without, and have never had to see how we all have to live. Just like America will never have an "Everyman" for President, the GCI will never ever care about it's members, as long as the $ keeps them in the lifestyle that they've come to expect.

larry said...

Anon 02:58 said,
"But, that's not in my department and its best left to God who will masterfully perform the task on his time table."

What a novel idea! Wish I had thought of that.

Ned Flanders said...

Yes, just leave it up to God. Sit on your hands, hum a little hymn tune. So what if there's suffering now - can't do nuthin' - leave it up to God.

Injustice? Whataya want ME to do, leave it up to God. Hungry people, persecuted people? Very sad, "thy kingdom come," just pass me the TV Guide.

Some jerk takes over the church as a prize from his daddy? Leave it up to God. God will take care of it. Maybe not now, maybe next Tuesday, or next year. Not my problem. He won't open up the books to scrutiny? Leave it up to God.

Now go away and quit bothering me. Where IS that TV Guide?!

May God Strike Me Dead... said...

Those who counsel others to "leave it up to God" or say that "God will hold them responsible," are really saying, "Aw come on, we like it this way and don't want any changes..." They know full well there is little chance that any kind of correction is coming from the Deity.

"If I am wrong...GOD will correct me." That's another way of saying, "Don't question me, I am not killing this Golden Goose."

Anonymous said...


Joe's hide is not the only part of his anatomy that is apparently thick,oops insensitive.

But let's have a "be kind to Joe day" though he hardly deserves it.

He is possibly deceived as we see in Matt 24:5.But he is also smart.He knows a money winner when he sees it,though one makes a distinction between cunning and native IQ.

Mary B needs the scales removed from her is her ilk that keep Joe in power.Take away Joe's funding and then let him scramble.Unfortunately,this will not likely happen,as there are always any number of suckers willing to contribute to Joe's cause.Some people are like the prize bull at the county fair...led around by a nose ring.


Mary B. said...

Gavis said... Well Mary, that's the point. You didn't exercise any "right to organize in the way we feel most appropriate." The organization model was inherited from Herbert W. Armstrong.

Gavin, every week we exercise our right to organize in the way we feel most appropriate by continuing to actively support GCI. If we are not pleased, we CAN vote with our feet and our wallets. But we are highly pleased with our leadership. The arguments you state here are so yesterday.

Gavin said...

Sorry Mary, sounds like "Joe's way or the highway" to me. Passive participation. You've handed responsibility over. Worse, you've given Joe a blank cheque; carte blanche.

Maybe it's as someone has observed before: all those with get-up-and-go have got up and gone...

Unknown said...

Mary B.

I don't see the criticisms as "so yesterday".

Financial accountability isn't that hard to do, look at how many other churches do it.

The criticism can be stopped so easily. Open the books Joe. Tear down that wall.


Anonymous said...

I think one of the problems is that at GCI, no one is clamoring to take over Joe's position.

I've heard from several would-be candidates (in our minds) that none of them want to be the President. I realize that is different than most of the other COGs.

So until there seems to be a someone who is gifted, talented and wants to assume the leadership role, I suspect not much will change.

Anonymous said...

To Mary B,

Mary, I was once a member of Worldwide..penal servitude.But I saw the light.

I have 2 cousins who are professors of theology at a Scandinavian university.Another professor of theology died in 2003.

I descend from the Rudbeck family of Uppsala who provided four bishops to Sweden and two professors of theology.

The Hillestroms,another branch of the family provided another bishop.

An uncle,however many greats,Petrus Kenicius, was an archbishop of Sweden.

Their theology contradicts Joe's.

It surprises me that you are willing to follow the beggarly elements of theology instead of wiseing up and choosing something a bit more upmarket.

Joe is a fraud: why don't you wake up to this fact?

Yes,Mary,Joe is only in it for the money and his theology is most suspect.

Your acuity in many departments needs enhancing,otherwise you wouldn't be following that charlatan Jo Tkach.

Oh, incidentally,the Russain meaning of his name is quite apt.


Anonymous said...

"So until there seems to be a someone who is gifted, talented and wants to assume the leadership role, I suspect not much will change."

Or until God puts someone in the position to really get the church back on track.

Anonymous said...

Joe is the husband of GCI…he gave her the new name….proclaimed before the alter to cherish her….and now it’s until death they do part……who’s death comes first….we have to wait and see.

Just like many a modern husband…’s promises….. promises…..promises ….. until the honeymoon is over and the Champagne has lost it’s bubbles.


Anonymous said...

Mary B.,

Not everyone is deliriously happy with GCI leadership as you disingenuously suggest.

They are not happy with secret finances or your president for life if you like it or not.

"I've heard from several would-be candidates (in our minds) that none of them want to be the President. "

If they did openly admit to wanting his job, how long would it take Tkach to eliminate those rivals?

M. T Hall said...

"I've heard from several would-be candidates (in our minds) that none of them want to be the President."

And that's exactly right! There is NO ONE in their right mind, who would want the position. (Not that someone out of their mind won't want it.)

It's like the husband who announced to his wife that she was NOTHING and He was the "King around here"

To which she responded, "Then you are the KING of nothing."

Anonymous said...

I am confused after all these years; what does "get the church back on track" precisely mean?

Tkach's $wiss Banker said...

Criticism does work; while still living very lavish lifestyles, GCI executive pay is falling:

HWA: $750k/y

Purple Hymnal said...

"Not everyone is deliriously happy with GCI leadership as you disingenuously suggest."

2010 - the year the Wallenites strike back?

Purple Hymnal said...

"I am confused after all these years; what does "get the church back on track" precisely mean?"

"Let me beat you poor and starving foolish things up about how broken and evil and guilty you are, as a diversion from Garner Ted threatening to reveal my incest problem, and from the receivership scandal at the same time! Two birds with one stone, the Des Moines ad-man hasn't lost his (bad)touch yet!"

Read the letters. Particularly the June 24, 1979 letter. Also search "back on track", or start reading from about '73 onwards. (There's a lot of "We never set dates, brethren!" backpedaling from that point forward as well.)