Our last issue mentioned a web-site for the Ambassador Report Index. That site has now moved to:
Some complete issues are already available on the Internet. The scanning process takes a while—more issues will be available as they are scanned:
As we mentioned in our last issue (Jan/Feb 2000, p. 15), the attitude of Ambassador Report can be quite negative at times, and some of the writing is based on the testimony of one witness. But there are many provable facts and sincere letters from brethren. We know of precious few cases where someone has refuted an Ambassador Report article, showing it to be wrong. The scripture says “Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses” (1Tim 5:19). The combined statements of the 71 Ambassador Report issues record hundreds of witnesses against many “elders” in the Worldwide Church of God. In nearly all cases, no public refutation has been made. (If you know about any refutation of any Ambassador Report article, please contact Servants’ News.)
For those interested in a little more history of Ambassador Report, one has to understand the conditions in the Worldwide Church of God in the mid-1970s. The church once had a book called 1975 in Prophecy and ministers frequently talked about fleeing from the Great Tribulation in 1972 and the return of Christ in 1975. Many members believed this was inspired by God. Even as late as September 1970, Herbert Armstrong was still writing to the co-workers, telling them it was a definite possibility:
I certainly cannot set dates for the much talked of “end of the world”—which means end of the present age, and beginning of the peaceful World Tomorrow. But I have said there are some indications of the possibility of the final world crisis beginning early in January, 1972—just a year and three months from now. Actually events of the last few days could be leading into a chain reaction of events that would threaten immediate world war. Such a war could—except for supernatural intervention by the “unseen Hand from someplace” probably would—blast all human life off the earth.
I must tell you, dear friends and Co-Workers, these are SERIOUS times, and it IS far later than people think! I cannot know what shall have happened between now and the time you will read this letter—about a week from now. I will send it to our Headquarters office in Pasadena, California, and it will be mailed to you from there. Possibly my son, Garner Ted, may add a little to bring events up-to-date before it is mailed from Pasadena.
But here is what COULD happen—as we have been saying for two or three months now. Syria and Iraq could invade Jordan, Syria could take over the northern part of Jordan. The Iraqis take over the central part. King Hussein could be assassinated any hour now. The Israelis would then be compelled to take over the southern portion of Jordan.
A day or two ago, the United States fleet in the Mediterranean moved quickly to the eastern Mediterranean, ready to fly large numbers of Marines, probably parachute troops, into Jordan. The guerrillas threaten to kill all Americans, and destroy all American property in Jordan if the U.S. intervenes. Of course the principal reason the U.S. forces have moved up close to Jordan is to block the U.S.S.R. from moving in, as well as to be poised for any emergency. Meanwhile the Israeli forces are on instant alert as of September 23.
This is a serious world crisis. It could EXPLODE into a world war at any moment.
Many people remained in the WCG, as it promised its members a “place of safety” during the Great Tribulation. But when those events did not take place by the mid-70s, a lot of unrest developed among the WCG ministry and some of the student body at Pasadena Headquarters. Many, many very disturbing doctrinal, policy and organizational problems had been left to fester for years. Reports of sexual improprieties by Garner Ted Armstrong were regularly swept under the carpet—even by Herbert Armstrong himself. Grumblings about financial excesses in the forms of extravagant housing and perks, almost bottomless expense accounts, and many other such issues were also ignored by those with the power to make changes.
Thus, in 1976, a group of current and former Ambassador College students got together and created the first Ambassador Review, an independent full-length magazine full of investigative reports of problems in the church and college. The contents of the first issue, published in June 1976, were hard-hitting and in some cases explosive. While its tone was bitter, it was not just a “scandal sheet” full of rumor and innuendo, but an exposé of many serious problems full of solid documentation. There were immediate repercussions for any thought to be involved. The AC administration literally censored the magazine from being delivered to student mailboxes on campus at first. When some students reported this to the US Postal Service (such censorship was totally illegal) the administration put in place “Plan B” which required students to give written permission for college authorities to censor their mail!
Church members were warned to not even peek at the contents of this “dissident literature” as it was branded. They were told that it was just the lying rantings of evil people inspired by Satan to attempt to destroy the church. (That, in itself, was probably a lie.) On a more truthful note, members were also told that “most people who read Ambassador Review ended up leaving the church” (meaning the WCG). The question most members never asked was: did these people leave the WCG because of the lies they read or because of the truth of what they read?
Nevertheless, the WCG was quick to warn people: “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first…” (2Thes 2:3). If members would have only kept reading, they would have seen: “and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2Thes 2:3-4). John Trechak clearly never claimed to be God—never even started a “church”. He was not the “man of sin” and this verse clearly did not apply.
The editorial staff of the first Ambassador Review had made it clear that their goal was not to destroy the institution, but to call for much-needed reforms. They were, as you can imagine, totally ignored. It was “business as usual” at Pasadena.
So in 1977, the magazine was renamed Ambassador Report, and an even harder-hitting issue was published. This time around, it became more and more obvious that no meaningful institutional change was to be forthcoming. Publication, in newsletter format rather than magazine style, continued from that time up to the death of the founder, John Trechak, in 1999. As time went on, the emphasis shifted from attempting to reform from the inside, to exposing the continued folly. Although there is no question that the content continued to be, at times, cynical and sarcastic, most of the issues were real and fairly well researched. The WCG leaders continually implied that it was, indeed, just a National Enquirer-style publication that dealt in lies and half-truths, and used that as their excuse for never refuting anything in its pages. The several attempts made by Servants’ News staff to verify Ambassador Report facts have shown them to be correct. During the most crucial times of distress in the WCG, including the departure of GTA in 1978, the Receivership in 1979 and HWA’s lingering divorce proceedings starting in 1982, much of what they printed was actual documentation from official sources such as newspaper reports, trial transcripts, intra-organization memos, and so on.
Thus the Ambassador Report became for many the “Underground Free Press” of those who had roots in the WCG. And the archival copies are still the most useful source for “on the spot” reports about what it was like for those who were disfellowshipped from the WCG during its “good old days”. If you had been a WCG member for many years, you probably know of some member(s) who were diligent to serve, then one day were quietly disfellowshipped. The old Ambassador Report issues explain why so many were disfellowshipped, not for sin, but simply for asking the “wrong questions” or knowing the “wrong things”.
Many who left the WCG only in the “apostasy” days of 1990-95 have had no clue that there were big problems in the organization for decades before that. The problems, in their own way, were just as serious as those created by the Tkaches. Both were perpetuated by the erroneous teaching that “God corrects the leaders from the top” (Revelation 2:2). There are many other verses showing that God expects people to reject bad leaders). The very first issue of Ambassador Review in June 1976 included a list of 5 evangelists, 3 regional directors, 14 pastors, 28 preaching elders, 31 local elders, 17 AC faculty members, 11 television staff employees, 38 editorial department employees and 20 more assorted personnel who had left the organization in disgust just since 1973. The exodus picked up steam from there, and eventually included many thousands of regular church members, too. (George and Pam Dewey left in late 1978—officially marked and disfellowshipped in January 1979, two days before the Receivership was imposed.)
The exodus did not slow down until several years later, in the early 1980s. By then, most of the people who both 1) had access to disturbing information and 2) were willing to do something about it, had already been purged. The “grape vine” of information had been mostly cut off at the root. Many new folks were coming along from the media efforts who just had no idea of the troubled past.
On the Ambassador Report site (http://homepage.altavista.com/AmbassadorReport/files/Home.html) you can read the nine page introductory letter that was sent out in early 1976, a few months before the publication of the first issue, including an open letter to GTA, who was vice-chairman of AC at the time. It outlines the avowed purposes of the group of people initially involved in producing the AR. After that, you can see the full text and pictures of the first two magazine-style issues from 76 and 77. And then move forward over the years.
It is not a pretty picture that you will see, so we are not specifically “recommending” that anyone read it. It can be a bit overwhelming to suddenly take in so many unpleasant revelations at once if one has been mostly shielded from any such facts about the folly that went on for so long. However, it may have value for those who honestly want to understand the past so they can avoid repeating it and help others who may be attempting to repeat it. And there are many who have not publicly acknowledged and repented of those sins of the past, but seem to still be trying to identify their “work” with the former WCG—truth, error, sin and all.
— Pam Dewey and Norman Edwards