WCG History. The Gerringer Letter. Part One

The Gerringer’s 1975 Letter to Charles Hunting.

Bob and Connie Gerringer’s Letter to Charles Hunting. This letter was instrumental in causing Mr. Hunting to open his Bible and see what it really said. The point of posting this letter is that it shows that these issues were taken to the top men over and over and they refused to change when shown they were wrong. Read it and weep.


4/19/75

Dear Mr. Hunting,
Thank you very much for your letter. Connie and I really appreciate you thinking about us and taking the time to write us. I must apologize for taking so long to answer your letter. When it arrived we were gone. I arranged it so my new job would begin three weeks after I finished at Ambassador, since I would not be eligible for a vacation until working there for one year.
Actually, the three weeks weren’t a vacation — we traveled north to Modesto to visit my folks; then, to Seattle to see my brother and his wife; then to Spokane to see Connie’s sister, husband, and their two kids; then to Colorado to visit my maternal grandmother, aunts, uncles, etc.; then to Lebanon, Missouri to visit Connie’s folks and two sisters; then we came straight home., except for a quick look at the Grand Canyon. We traveled 5700 miles which I think is nearly as many miles as it is from LA to London by air (about 6000). We drove through blizzards in WY, CO, and MO. And Teddy came down with the roseola (a mild type of measles) just before we headed home from Mo. So, it was quite a strenuous trip, but, now that it’s over, we’re glad we took it. For an eight-month-old baby, Teddy traveled quite well, and our l0 year old car with 98,000 miles gave us virtually no trouble.

Because of the cold weather, etc., etc., we all had colds when we returned to Pasadena. But I had to start to work, and I had accrued no sick leave, so I had to go every day. But, we have all recovered now.

I am a systems analyst at Kaiser Foundation Medical Care Program. They have hospitals, doctors, clinics, and a group medical coverage plan. They have 28,000 employees in Calif., and over 10% of the population of Southern California. are enrolled in their Health Plan — 1.2 million. The work I’m doing is very similar to my job at Ambassador, and there seem to be very good growth opportunities there. It is located on East Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, and is only 17 miles from our home in Altadena — it takes 30 minutes to drive there.
Even though it has taken a number of weeks to start this letter to you, I’ve thought about it nearly every day. I’ve been jotting down notes to myself whenever I had a thought as to what to say to you, or how to say it.

Connie and I began very intensive and serious study this past July or August (1974). By the time the Feast came, we were reaching a number of conclusions. A number of times since the Feast I’ve thought about talking with you. (I’m not sure how many times you’ve been in Pasadena since then.)

I wanted to talk to you and I didn’t want to talk with you; let me explain. I felt closer to you than anyone else on the faculty. Connie and I have always respected you (and Mrs. Hunting) very much. I was extremely pleased when you said you would perform our marriage ceremony — there was no one else did rather have had do it. And, Mr. Hunting, next to my Dad and Mom, there is no one I less wanted to disappoint than you. Yet, I knew that if we talked the questions I would ask and the statements I’d make would probably upset and disappoint you. On the other hand, in my enthusiasm and zeal, I really wanted to inform you of what I had learned and concluded, and why — the spiritual, emotional, and mental process we have gone through. So, I’ll try to give you a brief synopsis of the things we’ve recently come to see, and how we came to see them.

Let me first say that my actions have been based solely on theology, and not individual personalities, “rumors , real or imagined sins, etc., etc. You mentioned looking at the fruits of those who’ve left the church, And I’ll mention this subject later, but the fruits of either those in or out of the church did not influence my conclusions. Over a year ago I became aware of some of the “personal problems or sins of certain individuals high up in the Worldwide Church of God , and yet clear through last July (1974) I would firmly and emphatically defend the Worldwide Church of God and its leader-ship, though I was aware of certain “problems”. Anyway, please don’t think we found out about a sin, heard a rumor, believed a slanderous tale, etc., and this caused us to leave Ambassador College, because that just isn’t true.

The first time I can remember having a question was in November, 1972. At a Bible Study Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong announced changes in the tithing doctrine — Ambassador College and Worldwide Church of God employees no longer had to pay third tithe, and ministers had to pay second tithe. What alarmed me was that he didn’t quote one scripture or explain, biblically, the reasons we had been wrong and why we were changing. He only referenced certain budgetary reasons such as insufficient excess 2nd Tithe, etc. Something I had been taught as being truth from His Word which wasn’t to be taken lightly, was casually changed without so much as a verse being read. Interestingly, a couple of months later the decision regarding 2nd Tithe being paid by ministers was quietly reversed because of a deluge of complaints from the ministry. I only pondered this event for a short time, then dismissed it, but it did make a small impression I would recall later.

The next time I can recall having certain questions and doubts was almost one year later, right after the Feast in 1973. The Pentecost question was a large issue among some at that time. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was speaking at services, strongly defending a Monday Pentecost, when he said that the day on which Pentecost was to be kept was not a decision for us to consider or make, but “it is the church’s responsibility”. Of course, he meant the church hierarchy and, more specifically, himself. I immediately thought, the members are the church. The church is not a building, and neither is it the top ministers, nor is it Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong — it is all of us. So here was an issue we were being told didn’t concern us — we should simply do it the way “the church” (Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong) told us. We were told God will not judge us on this matter, but that those who make the decision are responsible. The simple inference was, don’t look into it, because if you reach a different conclusion than “the church”, you still must do as “the church” says.

Mr. Hunting, Jesus Christ worked awfully hard to remove the need for a physical priesthood; the “veil was rent,” and so each Christian has direct access to God. But the approach I’ve related in the above paragraph re-invents the priesthood and inserts it between God and the Christian.
Both Paul and Herbert W. Armstrong have said “Follow me as I follow Christ,” or in other words “as I follow the Bible.” Yet these words are rendered empty and meaningless when we are told we must leave certain decisions up to “the church,” and that if we don’t think a decision constitutes “following Christ,” we must abide by it anyway, since “it is ‘the church’s’ responsibility.”
These statements regarding Pentecost I also dismissed after a short while; although they, too, made a lasting impression.

Next in my recollection was “the split” which occurred in Feb. and March of 1974. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s letter to all the members, dated Feb. 25, 1974, contained a number of statements which bothered me.

On page two of this letter, he accused the dissenting ministers of one overall thing — greedily trying to get the tithes into their own pockets. I knew this accusation wasn’t true. These ministers were willing to give up their job security, salaries, fleet cars, and in some cases their church-owned homes because of their firm convictions and their unwillingness to compromise with God’s Word as they saw it. I’m not discussing at this point the truth or error of what they believed, but simply the point that they didn’t have greed and theft in their hearts. (Perhaps one or two out of 40 or 50 were guilty, but Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong said this was the primary motivation for all the dissidents.) Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong’s accusation was a serious one, and he told 50,000+ people. I, of course, assume he honestly felt the accusation to be a correct one. I have never heard him publicly before the membership apologize for making the accusation. It is interesting that the very next sentence in his letter said that the “one who accuses… is always guilty of the very thing of which he falsely accuses another.”

On page 4 Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong explains why he “did not state the specific details of the personal, emotional problems” of Garner Ted Armstrong which led to his 1972 “leave of absence.” He said he was afraid that the specifics would “SEND THOUSANDS OF BABES IN CHRIST TO A LAKE OF FIRE.” Mr. Hunting, this attitude is a large part of what is wrong with the Worldwide Church of God. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong (and, I think, much of the ministry) looks at the members as poor, dumb sheep; innocent, helpless, babes who must be sheltered, spoon-fed, kept in the dark, told nothing, never consulted, and guarded strictly lest they fall helplessly away or are defenselessly led. astray. This is the way the Catholic Church looked at and treated its laity during the Dark Ages. Though perhaps the motive is good, this modus operandi keeps the masses ignorant and blinded. What happened to God’s Holy Spirit? Many of these “babes” are spiritually mature adults, and they should all be begotten with God’s “Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” When people are treated like children and animals (sheep), they will act the part, and their minds and God’s Spirit will be stifled and smothered. Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong said on that same page, “The number of lives I might destroy forever … might be as many as ten thousand.'” As long as the Worldwide Church of God ministry looks at the members as a gullible, vulnerable mass of people, the members won’t learn to stand on their own two Christian feet, and use the Holy Spirit to grow and mature spiritually.

Before an individual becomes a member of the Worldwide Church of God, he is encouraged “to prove all things, hold fast that which is true.” The ministry tells him, “Don’t believe what we say — check it out.” “If we teach contrary to God’s Word, do not follow us.” Etc.

Unfortunately, the opposite process begins once one is in the Worldwide Church of God. The member is told that “Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong is closer to God and has more of His Holy Spirit than anyone else, which is the reason he is the leader of the Church” or “Since Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong is the leader of God’s Church, he must be closer to God and have more of His Holy Spirit than anyone else ” Therefore his opinions (re: scriptural or non-scriptural matters) are more godly than anyone else’s can be, so to do as he says must be the course of action which most pleases God.

This type of circular reasoning is taught to the members, and is applied to a lesser degree to Mr. Garner Ted Armstrong, then the evangelists, then the pastors, then the preaching elders, etc., etc. By the time you get to the lowly lay member, his opinion is worthless, when compared with the hundreds of those who must be closer to God since they have higher positions, or who have higher positions since they are closer to God.

In this way the member is stripped of any confidence in himself or God’s Spirit in him. He places Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the rest of the ministry in the position of defining what he must believe — in place of Jesus Christ and the Bible. The ministry carefully shows the lay members how to prove the beliefs of the Worldwide Church of God from the Bible. The member thinks his belief is firmly grounded in the Bible, but for him to prove it he must rely heavily on the proof-texts and the explanations he has been given. I don’t necessarily mean all these beliefs or explanations are incorrect, but the member is being groomed into a spiritually dependent person, and his primary dependency isn’t on Christ or the Holy Spirit, but on Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and the ministry of the Worldwide Church of God.

To be continued…