Jack Kessler 1981 Letter
to WCG Board of Directors
Pt. 1 | Pt. 2
How far the Church leaders have backslid during 1981 can only be guessed. I understand that Mr. Armstrong currently is taking increased advantage of his position without any effective restraint, and, sadly, in a way that discloses more, rather than less, personal culpability. Earlier this month he is said to have forced the Church to purchase a residence from his daughter Dorothy for a price that appears to be particularly generous. When the housing market is slow, it is nice to have a rich father, or failing that, a father who controls a rich corporation whose trustees are paid to look the other way. Showing some pangs of conscience (or evidence or men's reasoning), he is also said to have grudgingly exclaimed at the time the orders were given that this transaction may well "wreck the Church" if it is ever uncovered, but he wanted to do it anyway. And as a matter of trifling significance in the larger scheme of things, but one that may not universally be so regarded, the G-II was sent to Tucson earlier this month to deliver a personal letter. Much better service than the post office, and much cheaper than federal express, if you discount the rental value of the G-II and its crew and supplies and fuel. (For a point of reference, you might ask J. B. Netthercutt how much Merle Norman Cosmetics gets for their G-II when it is idle. (Hint: For the price of each hour of usage you could buy a nice car.) You might also consider how the government treated Mr. Nixon's personal use of Air Force One when his personal tax return was audited in the aftermath of Watergate.)
I trust I have given some indication of what I'm complaining about. I cite the few specific instances that I do, not to single them out as being particularly noteworthy, but to help you to comprehend that I am not passing on idle gossip and hearsay. I have been careful to ensure that my factual bases are sound, and you should realize that if God wanted to choose someone to serve as an instrument of reform, few have received better training within the Church than I have. Whether I am adequate to the task may be another question, but I have been prepared as no other could have been.
This is an appropriate to return to the thought that I left in the eleventh paragraph of this letter. You'll recall that I was discussing whether there was a duty for such a one as I to come forward and serve as a sort of modern-day Phinehas. (Cf. Num. 25: 6-13) As I read Ezekiel 33: 8-9 it is not at all clear that any lowly Church member is commanded to serve as a more or less self-appointed "watchman" (as mentioned in verse 7), or that this concept should even applied to the problems now extant within the Church. It is clear, however, that no reading of Ezekiel would forbid it. Turning to James 4: 17, the proper focus because clear. All that is necessary is to ask whether it would be good for the Church to rot from the inside out, while I stand idly by wondering if lightning will strike (not hoping for it, mind you), or whether it would be better for the process outlined in Matthew 18 to be initiated. I believe the record will show that I have reached the stage spoken in the last part of verse 17 of that chapter in Matthew.
There is also the question whether there has been any duty conferred by the laws of man. As I understand it, and as I discussed earlier, even if there is no duty as far as God is concerned, if there is a duty in the eyes of man, and if the exercise of such duty is not in opposition to any of the laws of God, then it should be obeyed. I do not have to look very far to find such a duty; there are at least four reasons why my actions are compelled. First, you of all people on earth should be aware of the S.B. 1493 amendments to the corporations code that snatched you out of the jaws of the attorney general. If you'll recall the course of debate, the reason why it is inappropriate for the government to attempt to regulate the internal affairs of a Church is because individual members (even former members) are empowered to enlist the aid of the legal process, if need be, to ensure that the actions of Church officials are faithfully carried out. The Petris bill made this explicit. Private supervision is a much less intrusive alternative in a constitutional sense, and this is exactly the scenario the Church lobbied for with such vigor in Sacramento.
Second, of all people, I had a contractual duty to the Church (not to its officers) to ferret out and report on precisely these sorts of things. Forgive me for not having been able to complete that which I had been asked to do, but with your indulgence, I will be about it presently.
Third, I feel that there is a professional duty to disclose to the appropriate agencies or courts information clarifying any misrepresentations I may have made in the past. Although I have never made any knowing misrepresentations, and although I remain of the opinion that there was no duty to volunteer the existence of problems that were in the process of being resolved, I now see that unless some action is taken, I will knowingly allow myself to be made a liar. In this regard, it may comfort you to know that I do not feel compelled to go to law enforcement or other regulatory authorities at this point. They have their own ways of becoming involved where they are needed. I would hope to be able to persuade them, should the steps I take attract their attention, that it is better for the self-correcting process to run its course first. For instance, although your recent actions indicate that you are no longer organized and operated exclusively for religious purposes according to the applicable regulations under I. R. C. 501 (cX3), the reforms that shall be made should once again make the Church an organization that is in harmony with the laws. I see no pressing reason why the Treasury Department needs to get involved at this juncture, although they may choose to do so. I also plan not to seek any publicity, though I fear it may attend. (How I wish all this could have been done "in house," but thanks be to Helge, you would have none of it.)
Fourth, and this is a weaker point, though nonetheless a valid one, I think most citizens would agree that there is a general duty not to allow improprieties to be committed with impunity in our society. Just as misprison of a felony is a crime, tolerance of fraud is a shame. My motivation, to the extent it deserves comment in this apologia, is to help the Church become a better corporate citizen, not to advance my own interests. The result should be beneficial for everyone who is not himself guilty of any indiscretions.
A far more interesting question is that if I find myself constrained to take some affirmative action, how is it that you members of the board feel no compunctions whatsoever? I can understand how some of the chief perpetrators would like to pretend that we should wait for God to deal with the sin, but I am astonished to think of a Rod Meredith or a Herman Hoeh or a Harold Jackson sitting blissfully at ease while the tragedy continues. Don't you know that as directors you have an absolute right to total access to all of the financial records at any time? Cal. Corp. Code S 9513. And that you have a duty to inquire? E.g., S 9210. And that there are some very specific standards of conduct that apply to you? See 436-53-5362 240, etc. Don't you care? I can understand how that some of the weaker members, like a Dibar Apartian5 or a Norman Smith, would mistakenly take Ralph Helge's presense [sic] as some sort of insurance policy for their inaction. But for those of you who should know Ralph for the unprincipled liar that he has allowed himself to become, and who realize that Mr. Armstrong is now rather unbridled in his arrogance, and could see that the membership has been fed a steady diet of half-truths about Mr. Rader or any who have tried to correct the ills within the Church, how could you think that you would escape the sting of Prov. 17: 15? Doesn't the last verse of Romans 12 mean anything to you who rest on the notion that vengeance is the Lord's? Shame will follow you to your reward. (If you somehow think that the incident in Num. 16 remains a bar to all action, then you misread both it and the rest of scripture. Reread the book of Hebrews and its intent so that you can discern both good and evil.)
I would also like to return, for just a moment, to that which a court cannot easily correct: the evils I alluded to at the outset of this letter. Truly the real problems in the Church are not just financial. They are just symptomatic of the disease. That is why your collective dereliction of duty as directors and elders is so abominable. The unfortunate state of affairs with Mr. Armstrong and his family could have been prevented. It did not need to rub off on impressionable young men like the Dean boys. When a scatterbrained issue like whether women should be allowed to groom themselves modestly in a way not inconsistent with Biblical teaching is mistakenly presented, you who are strong should not be so cowardly as to not speak up. I have difficulty believing that a man of the supposed stature of a Rod Meredith could allow a Joe Tkach to dissuade him from standing firmly for truth on the issue (not that the issue is that important, and at this point it might as well be left alone). I'm saddened that I cannot take the time to discuss these matters further; just to introduce the subject properly would easily treble the length of this letter. I do not think, however, that it should take much searching of your consciences (I speak to those who have them) to see that if you have never counseled Mr. Armstrong adequately on the mundane affairs of the work because you thought it presumptuous, you have probably done an even worse job of speaking up forcefully on matters of doctrine (especially as applied). For one small of food for thought, why is it that people can be disfellowshipped for no reason that is explained to them, and no effort whatsoever is made to reconcile the lost brother? Does 2 Cor. 2: 7 mean anything to you? How about Luke 15? Also, how is that you allow Mr. Armstrong to approve abortions for "special circumstances" without reconciling this with the Church's public position (not to mention the sacred Word of Truth)? How many more murders shall we encourage before those of you who are supposed to be shepherds realize that there is some duty to protect a flock from wolves, from the type described in the second chapter of 2 Peter, or in Jude?
I wish so very much that I could have been allowed to talk to some of you. I wish you had been able to counsel me on what to do instead of forbidding me from your presence just for raising the issue. I would like to have talked to my own pastor Abner Washington, but he too must have been afraid to go after one of his sheep for fear of what "those who seemed to be somewhat" in Pasadena would do to him for acting like a normal human being to whose care my father had entrusted me. Would Paul have been afraid to get kicked out of the synagogue for refusing to sow to the flesh so that he would not have to have to reap corruption? He exclaimed his concern for the Galatians in the first part of the third chapter in that notable book. For those of you whose eyes are now too dull to try reading the Bible, perhaps I should quote a secular source, a man for whom it may well be more tolerable in the day of judgment. In another context, in another time, the words were said by such a man as Oliver Cromwell: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."
Perhaps I should give you the complete quotation, without paraphrase (you can supply the analogue), from the page of the book that introduced me to that pleas of Cromwell. A remarkable human being (who died in 1974), a Polish physicist who escaped from Hitler to help create the monstrous weapon that ended the war, and who then spent the rest of his life reflecting on what he had done, visited the ruins of a tragedy and made these observations from his incomplete, but thoughtful, and knowledgeable, and human perspective:
It is said that science will dehumanize people and turn them into numbers. That is false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. and that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.
Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known, we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. In the end the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken."
I owe it as a scientist to my friend Leo Szilard, I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died at Auschwitz, to stand here by the pond as a survivor and a witness. We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.
Jacob Bronowski has studied other great men of science who pondered the consequences of standing up to established evil. For those of you who distrust Stan Rader as an intellectual, or fear him for the supposed power that such intellect brings, you would have also hated Christ if you had ever met him. they all walked down the same road:
What did Sir Thomas More die of? He died because his king thought of him as a wielder of power. And what More wanted to be, what Erasmus wanted to be, what every strong intellect wants to be, is a guardian of integrity.
There is an age-old conflict between intellectual leadership and civil authority. How old, how bitter, came home to me when I came up from Jericho on the road that Jesus took, and saw the first glimpse of Jerusalem on the skyline as he saw it going to his certain death. Death, because Jesus was then the intellectual and moral leader of his people, but he was facing an establishment in which religion was simply an arm of government. J. Bronowski, The Ascent of Man (Little, Brown & Co. 1973) at 374 (previous page) and 429 (supra).
I cannot take the time to outline for you the specific steps that I will be taking as soon as I am able. Suffice it to say that short of a miraculous coming to your senses there remains little that you can now do to rectify the situation other than prepare to cooperate fully. You have set on my letter dated October 26, 1981, to Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher for altogether to long for me to even feel than additional 5 business days would be of any use. (For those of you who haven't been given a copy of even than communication, you may consider such treatment when you make your future plans for retention of the legal services you all require. I cannot believe such a firm as Gibson would not have made sure that each of you received a copy, unless they were given deceitful assurances by Helge that he would take it upon himself to look out after your welfare. For any of you who have placed your trust in that man, may God have mercy on your souls. Such a son of perdition will soon be exposed.)
If you don't feel as I do that you are under some duty to help put the Church on the right course, then you have no business accepting the accolade of board membership. There have been only three board members who have resigned in the past for concerns such as I express here: Albert Portune, David Antion, and Stan Rader. Whatever other faults each of those men may have had or yet has, they did have some inkling of what decency requires. If you are willing neither to act nor to resign, then someone else will see to it that the proper steps are taken. You have personal liability in this matter gentlemen. I suggest that you govern yourselves accordingly.
Very truly yours,
W. Jack Kessler
Pt. 1 | Pt. 2
Note: Herbert W. Armstrong died on January 16, 1986 at the age of 93. There was no coroner's inquest.
Comment from ESN: Is there a difference from an incident of sin and continuing to live in sin? Read our article, "None of God's Servants Were Perfect" (for those who like to use this reasoning).
Robert Gerringer 1975 Letter to Charles Hunting (Reveals how Herbert Armstrong was confronted time and again with doctrinal issues and failed to change. Covers double standards, false prophecies, bad fruit, the lack of intellectual freedom of the members to think for themselves, etc.)
Worldwide Church of God History (Transcription of tape by Kenneth Westby; exposes the double standards of the Armstrongs and the suffering of the members that finally led to the exit of many WCG evangelists, ministers and members in the 70's.)
Hanky-Panky and Revolt in the Worldwide Church of God (Article originally published in True magazine. Covers the 1972 date; misuse of funds by the Armstrongs, how H.W.A. would not listen to charges, and exploitation and suffering of members.)
Footnotes by ESN:
1 Loma Armstrong died April 15, 1967 after failing to receive the medical attention she needed.
2 Stan Rader died on July 2, 2002, at age 71, in Pasadena, California, two weeks after having been diagnosed with acute pancreatic cancer.
3 Beverly Gott was the eldest daughter of Herbert Armstrong. She died of cancer in 1992 at the age of 73. She was never a WCG member or employee, but she was receiving financial support from the WCG for many years. (Ambassador Report #6, 1992, p. 1) (Note: Please be aware that the AR is now posted on an atheist website.)
4 To read more about Arthur Andersen & Co. and how they were the WCG's auditors, see Ambassador Report #33, October 1985. (Note: Please be aware that the AR is now posted on an atheist website.) Arthur Anderson may be researched online; i. e., see: State board imposes reprimands and fines totaling $250,000 on Arthur Andersen LLP for violations of audit standards and Anderson Guilty ("Once grand accounting firm now faces five years probation, $500,000 fine and possibly its own end.").
5 Dibar Apartian, one of more than 160 WCG ministers disfellowshipped in 1996, was formerly the French presenter for The World Tomorrow. He was with Living Church of God (Rod Meredith) when he died on December 8, 2010. Note: His 19-year old son, Phillip, committed suicide in March 1983 in Pasadena, CA (Ambassador Report #24).