I wanted to thank you for the last Servantsí News (November issue). Though I was already aware that Herbert Armstrong had plagiarized some of his works, I know that many people werenít. I get so tired of hearing of the people who still worship Herbert Armstrong as if he had been a god. Yes, we learned some truth from him, but he was not always right, and it definitely damages his reputation, in my opinion, that information he claimed was revealed to him by God actually came from other men.
In light of that, I would like to ask you a question. Iím sure it was not entirely easy to print information like that, knowing that many people would probably be offended. However, Mr. Armstrong is dead, and canít defend himself. Would you print information similar to that, and equally as damaging, in my opinion, about someone who is still alive, and who has just recently plagiarized a book? I was very interested to read the exact definition of plagiarism in the article you printed about Herbert Armstrong, because I see that it fits this other case exactly. This person has a lot of followers, and he is quite well liked. He appears at many of the same conferences you do (as a speaker), and may even be a friend of yours. Would you have the courage to expose such a person? I know beyond question that many people look up to this man so much that they will not listen to anything bad about him, yet he is deceiving people by making it appear that the material he is presenting is his own, rather than coming from a Protestant minister.
Please let me know whether or not you would be interested in such information. I have documented it, and anyone else who was interested could do the same, if they happened to come across the book like I did (quite unexpectedly).
Thank you for your time.
What would you do if you received such a letter? Would you take the approach that independent believers are the "good guys" and therefore this letter must be an attack of Satan? Would you just ignore this letter?
I had to answer those questions. I am not anyoneís judge, but I do have to decide what I will and will not print. I remember working for hierarchical organizations that did both of the aboveóeither ignored complaints or called them an "attack of Satan" before they knew the facts. If we have left unjust hierarchical organizations only to make biased judgments in favor of ourselves, than we are worse than those we left. Many of those in big organizations do not seem to know better. But I hope we know better:
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Mic 6:8)
As time was available, I responded to Mindy on February 25, 1999.
Thank you for your letter. Yes, there is a great difference with how one deals with a problem such as plagiarism that is passed off as personal research or revelation from the Eternal. This is offensive and Matthew 18:15-17 gives the formula for how to deal with such offenses. When a person is dead, it is not possible to go to them. If the deceased personís error is not affecting anyone, there is little point in trying to condemn him. But if people are still being adversely affected by a deceased personís teachings, then the error needs to be exposed.
I did not know about most of Herbert Armstrongís plagiarism when he was alive. Others did, and those who tried to bring it to his attention were put out of the WCG. The reasoning was that they were hurting the work. Unfortunately, most corporate church leaders seem to feel that nearly all biblical principles of truth and justice can be ignored when someone is doing something that will "hurt the work." This practice continues till this day in many groups. These people could not take witnesses to Herbert Armstrong, he would no longer hear them. Their only recourse was to write their own literature explaining the problem, and take it to "the Church" in that way. (Unfortunately, neither I nor most others would dare be caught reading any of that "dissident literature".)
In your case, you should go to the person who is doing the plagiarizing and ask him to be honest with his readers on the source of his information. It would be best if the man would set things right himself. As the scripture says, you have gained your brother. If the man will not correct his mistake, take some witnesses with you. In this case, find someone else who has read (or will read) the original work and this manís work. Then, all of you either write, or talk to this man. If he will not hear that, then take it to "the Church". Normally, that would be a local congregation. But in these days of scattered brethren, the brethren of this teacher are probably those on his "mailing list". I would hope that he would publish a letter about this offense (keep it short) in his publication if he has one. But if he will not, then I believe Servantsí News or the Journal would be an appropriate place. After I have seen that you have done your part, and no resolution was forthcoming, I would certainly print a letter about the problem in Servantsí News.
If you are not willing to talk to the person about it, I do not think you should accuse him to others. I am glad that you did not mention his name, but simply asked your question.
May the Eternal help all of us to learn to correct each other when necessary in his love.
óNorman S. Edwards
As it turned out, Mindy understood the Matthew 18 process and had already gone directly to this Bible teacher about the problem. She tried to go to the second step and take other witnesses (people who listened to this manís tapes), but they did not seem interested. I received this e-mail on March 2óI have boldfaced a few parts for emphasis:
Thank you for responding to my letter. I guess I should have told you that I wrote to the person in question before I wrote to you or anyone else. It was not until after I had his response that I wrote to you. This man admitted that he did indeed "utilize" the book that I believe he plagiarized. He will not, however, admit that he actually plagiarized the book, and he made the excuse that he was just trying to give everyone some messages they needed (in his tape series), but that if he had indicated the source, it would not have been as well received.
After writing to you, I again contacted this man with more questions, and after his second response, I decided not to accuse him publicly. I still knew he was guilty of wrongdoing, but I donít know for sure what his motives were. Normally one plagiarizes someone because it makes himself look good, since it looks like he is the one who came up with these ideas. However, this man insists that was not the case.
Right now I have a dilemma, and maybe you have an opinion to offer about it. I would personally want to know if someone were using another personís material (in some instances taking whole paragraphs, and 2/3 of several chapters, and only changing slight wording here and there) but not giving them credit. To me, it ruined this manís credibility. On one of his tapes, he proclaimed "I have never, in my thirty-some years in the church and in the faith, I donít think I have ever been more taken with a particular subject than this wilderness theme or wilderness analogy that is in the Bible.... I frankly donít recall ever hearing (or reading) anyone put the kind of emphasis that I feel led to at least place on it in my experience. That may be, but Iím not aware of it if there are." How can he stand up there and say that he has never read anything giving this kind of emphasis to the subject, when he then turns around and steals huge portions of the book, which is giving EXACTLY that emphasis to the subject?
For that reason, I felt that people should know about this man whom many so highly respect. However, I did tell a couple of personal friends (who also listen to this manís tapes) about this incident, hoping that they would look into it themselves and go to him with their questions. The response I got from one person was basically denial and an accusation that I was committing lashon hara [Hebrew for "evil speech"]. The other response was that he was sure this man did not mean to plagiarize anything, but that he was glad I did not commit lashon hara and went to the guilty man first.
My dilemma is this: Judging from the response I received, I would like to just drop the whole thing because people apparently donít want the boat rocked. They donít want to have to investigate something (nobody asked for evidence, or wanted to check it out for themselves) and maybe find out that someone they respect has once again let them down. Godís church is full of teachers who are wolves in sheepís clothing, it seems, but people donít seem to care. Also, I am not out to smear this man or deliberately ruin his reputation. Perhaps if I just drop it, God will take care of the whole matter some other way. However, there is one thing that still really bothers me about just keeping my mouth shut about this manís actions. In an article by Dean Wheelock about lashon hara (see Hebrew Roots, Issue 98-1), he said, "Another case in which it is permissible to speak lashon hara is when someone causes another person physical or psychological pain, steals from someone, embarrasses another person, or damages someoneís property. If the offending person does not rectify the problem, it is permissible to speak lashon hara about him in order to warn others of possible danger from him.... If he agrees to make restitution you must not speak lashon hara about him." In the Winter 1999 issue of the Hatikva newsletter, Dean Wheelock also adds, "Lashon hara is only permitted in cases where it serves a truly constructive purpose; i.e. where concealing the matter has the potential of bringing about harm."
The man I have been referring to has stolen from another, and he has no intention of rectifying the problem, unless he changed his mind after our last communication. I suggested to him at that time that the only honorable way to act would be to publicly acknowledge what he had done, and if he was truly not concerned about gathering a following, it wouldnít matter if he lost a few people because he decided to be honest. He never admitted that what he did was really wrong, but rather made excuses for his actions. Would concealing this matter bring about harm to others? That I do not know, and that is the main reason I would still possibly consider having this information made public knowledge. Personally, we have moved on from him, and rarely listen to his tapes anymore, and we bear him no hard feelings. In fact, we pray that he will repent of his actions before God.
I would rather you not publish any of the correspondence regarding this situation unless we both agree that my evidence should be published. I had already done everything you thought I should do, but I am just not sure whether or not it would be best for this to become public knowledge. After all, most people seem to be comfortable just hiding their heads in the sand. The character of the leaders does not seem to matter anymore, even in the church. I do NOT just want to smear someone and print something that is not necessary to print.
I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this dilemma, and whether or not you think it should just be dropped.
To me, these were the words of an honest and sincere personónot all that easy to find these days. There are too many lies being told in big church organizations. There are too many lies being told by people who run governments. They all think they have to lie to protect themselves which protects their governments and organizations which protects the people. Right? Wrong!
The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end? (Jer 5:31).
At this point, I still was not completely sure who Mindy was talking about. But if she was telling the truth, I wanted to help her. If she was telling a lie, I wanted to know. We do not have room to print all of the letters, but in summary, I asked her for the name of the man and the name of the book.
She said, "Jim Rector". Jim Rector? We distributed his literature almost from the very start of Servantsí News. He had given me good advice several times. We shared the Feast with Him in 1995. We sent form letters recommending his tape ministry. But I was still faced with the same questions. Would I be a respecter of persons and expose Herbert Armstrongís plagiarism, but not that of my own friends? Do not church organizations justify all sorts of things because they "keep people in their group" which "keeps them close to God"?
I ordered a copy of Victory in the Wilderness: Growing Stronger in Dry Times by John P. Bevere copyright 1992 (ISBN 0-9633176-0-1). When it arrived, I gave it to Pam Dewey along with two Jim Rector "Wilderness" tapes. She is skillful at scanning and reading things, and felt that she would be able to figure out if there was any plagiarism involved. She was back in ten minutes: Jim Rector was simply reading the book into the tape, changing a word here and there, pausing to add commentary at times. Later research showed that Jim Rector read most of the book throughout his tape series (see box at left).
The first thoughts that came to mind were: Why do it this way? If a book shows understanding from the Bible, a teacher can read the book and preach the same message from the Bible (not from the book). If the message in the book is from God, then why not give credit to the man whom God gave the message to? If the message is not from God, then why copy it? Canít we speak what God gives to us?
People have a right to know whose message they are listening to! On the right middle of the back cover, the wilderness book is recommended by Benny Hinn. In fact, John Bevere was an assistant pastor to Benny Hinn. When you hear someone say we need more of the Holy Spirit in our lives, you probably think of righteous character and ability to do what God wants. But if you watch one of Benny Hinnís television specials, you will find a person that is "full of the Holy Spirit" uncontrollably falls over backwards. This is standard practice for his televised appearances.Some people are injured by their fall. Is that the way that you want to be "full of the Holy Spirit"? John Bevere has not left this movement, he is currently a key speaker at the "Rivers of Fire" conference in the UK.
There is much more that could be saidóboth good and badóabout John Bevereís book. It may have many valid points of encouragement, on the other hand it sets the reader up for some "great move of God", while providing very little of the practical instruction from the Eternal. One statement I did agree with was directed to Bible teachers and found on pages 116-117:
Preacher, donít do something just because someone else did and it was successful. Donít copy anotherís ministry....See and hear what the Lord is doing and saying.
This message is biblically soundóand Jim Rector read it nearly word-for-word
onto his July 11th tape. But there were other parts of the book that
I disagreed with. The real issue is that we all need to know who is
teaching what so we can know what he means and what his agenda is.
Before I even read any significant amount of Bevereís book, I realized my own Matthew 18 process must begin. I was offended that Jim was doing thisóoffended that I had recommended his tapes and sent his literature for so long and did not even know about it. I sent Jim this e-mail on March 23rd:
I received a letter from an SN subscriber commending me on my "exposing" of the plagiarism of Herbert Armstrong. They felt it was wrong for someone to represent their teaching as their own understanding from the Eternal when it came from another writer. The writer went on to ask if I would "expose" a modern-day teacher who was doing the same thing. I explained the process of Matthew 18 to the subscriber, saying that the right thing to do was to go to the person first and give them a chance to fix the problem if there was one. If that failed then, they should take other witnesses, and then finally expose it.
For whatever reasons, the person did not want to go through all of these steps, but they told me enough that I thought I should personally pursue it. I purchased a copy of John Bevereís "Victory in the Wilderness" and found that your 5/9/98 tape matches chapter 1 of the book and your 6/27/98 tape matches chapter 9. Though you certainly added your own thoughts, you read word for word from this book in many places. Yet, you seem to be characterizing this teaching as your own understanding.
I think Bevere has many good points in this book that would help our former "Church of God" brethren. I am not against him or it. I can see how you would think that they might not accept the teaching if they knew it was coming from a "Charismatic" teacher. But the "CoG" teachers are losing credibility and dying off. It is a much more urgent need that brethren learn to learn from teachers that might not understand the Sabbath or other truth, but understand some things about a relationship with the Eternal.
Today, with electronic communications, it is only a matter of time until people will find out the source of your tape series. When they do, you will probably lose a lot of credibility and bring a bad name to the independent Sabbatarian movement. I think you should be the first one to tell your mailing list the source you used in your teachings. You should probably explain why you did not give the source to begin with, but then explain that it was a mistake and that they need to know that there are non-CoG people that they can learn from. Also, it would be good if you would give them some pointers in how to sort out the good from the bad in "Charismatic" literature.
If I am missing something here, please let me know. If we have faith in the Eternal, we never have to fear doing what is right. Servantsí News lost some subscribers when I wrote about taking bread and wine more than once a year. More are discontinuing as a result of our writings about Herbert Armstrong. If it turns out that I need to look for something else to do to support my family other than Servantsí News, I will do itóbecause that is what the Eternal wants me to do. But at least I know that I told the truth about what I understood.
May the Eternal guide you in what you decide to do about this.
óNorman S. Edwards
I received an apology and statement of repentance from Jim on March 28th, but he gave no specific plan of how he would inform those on his mailing list. I informed four of Jimís friends and supporters of the problem and they went to him privately. I do not have records of all of their letters and phone calls, but everyone contacted him. In this process, some mentioned that they thought others of Jimís works might be plagiarized. I searched on the internet and found a summary of plagiarism law. I found that I could also become legally liable if I continued to distribute literature (even if its free) that I knew might be plagiarized. When I realized this, I discontinued sending Jimís literature and I asked Jim for a list of his works that he knew were not plagiarized. I am still waiting for that list.
After much coaxing by his friends and supporters, Jim sent this to his mailing list on April 11:
Greetings to everyone. I realize that it has been a while since the last tape, but we have been so busy with traveling and speaking, that it has just been impossible to keep up the regular schedule. I do not feel, however, that it is necessary or incumbent upon me to always make a tape every week, as though someoneís life depended on it. In fact, it is very dangerous to fall victim to depending upon one man to supply spiritual food. That being said, I am indeed thankful to be able to send out this current tape to you, with hopes that it will be of value.
I also want to make a public confession and apology. Although most of you would never know about this incident, it has been brought to my attention that I neglected to give proper credit to someone whose material I utilized in some of the wilderness tapes of recent months. His name is John Bevere and the title of his book is Victory in the Wilderness. It was never my intention to palm off the truth as that of my own. I believe that truth comes from God, and that the main task is to get it out to others. Although I expanded greatly on things that I read and gleaned, in doing so, I should have made mention of Mr. Bevereís work and given him the credit he deserves. What I did was wrong, and I take full responsibility for the mistake. I ask forgiveness from any who might be offended by this omission, as indeed I have taken the matter before God and truly repented.
Some of Godís people are afraid to delve into the work of non-Sabbatarian writers, but if one is diligently seeking the truth and not the promoting of his own work or self, and if one is carefully guided by the Spirit, it is altogether possible to glean very true and useful information from sources other than those with a WCG background. I do urge anyone so inclined to be cautious, yet open to the reception of truth, but always ready and willing to immediately discard error. And donít make the mistake I didógive credit where it is due.
I would like to devote the remainder of this two-page letter to this yearís Feast of Tabernacles....
While humble in nature, this statement did not begin to tell the truth. Unless those on his mailing list bought Victory in the Wilderness, they would have no idea that Jim read most of the book on his tapes. It said nothing about possible other plagiarized works. It was not until his friends and supporters spent hours telling him it was not enough, and until Pam Dewey wrote him and told him that if he would not tell the whole story that others would, that Jim finally sent this to his mailing list on April 20, 1999:
This is a difficult, but necessary, letter to write. As you will recall from our previous correspondence, I made a public confession of utilizing outside material in making some of the wilderness tapes without giving due credit. I must tell you candidly that what I did went far beyond mere reliance. I often read directly from the source, word-for-word. This can only be described as a form of deception on my part, and I will be contacting the publisher and author of the book with regard to this incident.
I cannot blame anyone for concluding that my motive was for selfish purposes. I suppose that none of us really knows his or her heart at every moment in time. I have searched my own heart in this matter and am forced to conclude that the constant pressure to keep putting out tapes, combined with personal faults and weaknesses, especially the desire to be perceived by others as more than I really amómore spiritual, more knowledgeableóhave resulted in allowing people to have an elevated opinion of me. I was dead wrong in what I did, and I am absolutely resolved that it never happen again.
I hope that this incident will be a learning experience, not only for me, but for anyone who embarks upon a public ministry. Do not do as I did, and always remember that God is the originator, possessor, and distributor of truth. Seek it out therefore, wherever it may be found, but make certain not to elevate or worship the human source.
This episode has been a bitter pill to swallow, but I have to learn my own hard lessons just like everyone else. I realize that my integrity has been damaged. Accordingly, therefore, I am going to step back for an indeterminate period of time to give myself the space to focus upon drawing closer to God, coming to the deepest possible repentance, and seeking further His will in my life. That means that there will be no more new tapes going out until further notice. I regret so much the disappointment that I may have caused, but I know that God is merciful, forgiving, and fully able to continue the molding process. I ask for your forgiveness and your prayers.
As for the Feast of Tabernacles, we will go ahead with our plans to hold it in Branson, MO at the Pointe Royale Resort. You should already have the letter with all the details. I cannot thank God enough for the privilege of being involved in this outreach effort for the last 8 years. There is good and bad in such undertakings. Even at their best, tape ministries are subject to some of the same problems that occur quite frequently in the corporate churches, and indeed at some point, all public ministries must give way to the movement of Godís Spirit in the individual believer, a day whose coming I pray is near! Please remember that your salvation does not in any way depend upon me or any man. Always seek God and His will for you personally. You must keep pressing on, growing up to the full stature of Christ. In whatever way we can help or be of service under the present circumstances, we stand ready to do so. Thank you so much for your devotion to God and the freedom He has achieved through our Lord and Savior. Hold fast!
This statement was much more truthful. It is probably best that he step back from his ministry over this issue.
But I continued to wonder why Jim Rector, a man with a successful ministry for years, would suddenly decide to read someoneís book and pretend that it was his own. He had produced enough material on his own in the past. Neither I nor his friends could get a satisfactory answer. Again, I asked for a list of Jimís works which he knew were not plagiarized. Meanwhile, my wife began to read some of Jimís publications. She felt that his first Cornerstone issue, The Heart of the Matter, went back and forth between two different writers. Pam Dewey asked the Eternal to show her if this writing was somehow plagiarized. She vaguely recognized a story in it that compared the Holy Spirit to a tea bag in a teacup (a Christian). By searching these words on the internet, she found Jim Rectorís Heart of the Matter and an excerpt from Spiritual Burnout: When Doing All You Can Isnít Enough by Malcolm Smith (ISBN 0-89274-517-7, copyright 1988).
We found several editions of the book available with different copyright dates, but most were identical. When they arrived, it was soon clear that The Heart of the Matter was largely taken from this book. Words are changed, sections are added and of course, much is left out. But there are a number of places that are word for word the same. The following list consists of The Heart of the Matter page numbers, followed by the corresponding Spiritual Burnout page numbers: (7:27, 8:28, 11:35-36, 19:67, 22:72, 23:92) There are more smaller sections that correspond.
On April 29, I sent this e-mail:
How are you doing? I hope you have a grasp of where God wants you to be going. I hope you received my last e-mail.
Have you come up with a list of your books and tapes that you are sure are not copied from somewhere else? Recently, other people have come to me with concerns that some of your other works might have been partially copied. I have not had time to check this all out. I am not sending any of your things out until I get a list from you of what you are sure is your own material. Even if your ministry ends permanently, it would be good to have such a list as others may still copy your tapes and literature for quite a while. That way, anybody who was concerned about copying plagiarized material would have a way to know which is O.K.
I have a few days before the next SN goes to press. Is there a plan for the feast you were organizing? Is someone else going to run it?
May the Eternal strengthen you in this time of needed recovery.
óNorman S. Edwards
On May 4, I received this response:
I trust that things are going well for you and your family. Thanks so much for your recent post, to which I shall briefly respond in this letter.
First of all, from my best recollection, the articles that you have from me should be fine for distribution, with the exception of "The Heart of the Matter." I still need to look into it to determine if it can be sent out intact as is. I donít know if you ever sent out any tapes. If so, I am not aware of it. If so, please do not continue until we have searched them out for any problems they might contain. [Feast info followed]
I responded on May 7 with this letter:
The reason I asked for a list of your articles and tapes that are not copied from something is because I am becoming more and more convinced that many, maybe most, of your articles and tapes are taken from some other book or sermon. Several others have come to me with things that you have clearly copied. Is your plan to "repent" of each one as someone points it out?óAnd forget about the ones where nobody can find the original source material?
Jim, have you repented of all copying of others works, or just the ones that people have found out about?
Do you really expect me to believe that you typed numerous paragraphs from a book and put it into an article and now no longer remember doing it? Do you expect me to believer that you read large portions of a book into a tape recorder and no longer remember from what book you read from?
How can you honestly let people continue to duplicate Jim Rector tapes and literature knowing that they are not really Jim Rector? How can people make an honest decision on whether to continue listening to you or not when they don't know what is Jim Rector and what is some other Christian author?
óNorman S. Edwards
As of May 19th, Jim had not responded to this letter. Meanwhile, my wife was reading over other Jim Rector notes. We had hoped to report on his informative presentation at the December 1998 "In The Footsteps of the Messiah" seminar in Wagoner, Oklahoma. Jimís message, A Radical Departure, showed the many practices and traditions of the modern Christian churches are not from Scripture but from Catholic tradition and ultimately Pagan religion. These things included pastors, pulpits, pews, sermons, choir robes, seminaries, etc. At the end of the message, Jim said, "But these are 10 or 11 things that just came to my mind that indicate that we all need a radical departure from what we have been accustomed". He further elaborated that we all need to totally rely on God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit to "move forward to where the church used to be".
This presentation was taped and distributed to hundreds of people. Jimís statements lead us to believe that Jim came up with the message on his own. However, in the book, Beyond Radical by Gene Edwards, we read the very same message, with much identical wording taken from pages 9 through 19. Jim never mentioned any sourcesóespecially Gene Edwards, a popular Christian writer with many books to his name.
I and the others who went to Jim Rector tried to show him that his whole concept is terribly wrong. The end does not justify the means. It is not all right to steal another manís teaching just because the teaching will do others some good. It is not OK to pretend you do not know where your material came from when you do. (It is not right to call yourself a Bible teacher if you have no idea where your material came from.) Jim would admit the things that we proved to him, but he would never reveal any other plagiarism on his own. Hence, we have "taken it to the church."
We recommend that no one duplicate Jimís material until he does produce a list of his material that is not plagiarized. We will not reveal other plagiarized items we know of until he does. The scriptures show that there is a need for Bible teachers. If you find a good book, tell others about it. But if you believe that the Eternal is leading you to teach, do not copy somebody else, but speak what God gives you! &