AE Monthly

Articles - October - 2006 Issue

Huge Auction Stills The Voice Of Once Largest Radio Church

Gta

A youthful Garner Ted, with mother Loma and father Herbert W. Armstrong.


Perhaps the issue was that the doctrines of the Worldwide Church of God were a little strange. They were a combination of standard Christianity, a large dash of Old Testament Judaism, some atypical views on certain Christian doctrines, and some very bizarre prophecies. The most notable of these was that the world would be destroyed after a third world war, one started by a unified Europe under the command of a new Hitler. It was supposed to start around 1972, and one of the lessons to be learned from this, like the end-of-the-world prophesies for the year 2,000, is that when you prophesy, don't specify a date. The prophecies were those of Ted's father, church founder Herbert W. Armstrong. One has the suspicion that if Ted had focused too much on the unique doctrines of his father, they probably would have scared away much of the audience. The result was that he seemed to focus more on how he said it rather than what he said. It sounded impressive even if you couldn't quite grasp his point. It has been said he developed his speaking style from news commentator Paul Harvey, another commanding speaker who ultimately doesn't seem to say very much.

Herbert W. began his broadcast ministry in 1935, when Ted was just five. He was undoubtedly a good speaker, but the ministry would not take off until Ted was made its spokesperson in the mid-1950s. The son was on another plain. The ministry would grow through the next two decades, generating the cash to build three branches of Ambassador College, a popular auditorium in Pasadena, California (Ambassador Auditorium), finance filmmaking, including Tatum O'Neil's Paper Moon, produce a widely-read free newspaper, The Plain Truth, and provide for a pleasant lifestyle for various officers. It would also build the library about to be auctioned. Garner Ted would spread from radio to television, and while I never felt he translated as well to the new medium, he did have movie star looks to go with his radio star voice.

Success corrupts. With wealth and power come opportunities that are hard for anyone, even a preacher man, to resist. In 1972, Herbert W. kicked his son off the air, announcing that he was "in the bonds of Satan." Actually, he was more likely in the bonds of women. Ted apparently had a fondness for the coeds at Ambassador College, among others, and some gambling problems. The move was a disaster. Herbert W., now almost 80-years-old, was no match for his son on the radio. He was forced to bring Ted back for a reprise to keep the contributions flowing.

Not that Herbert W. was free from scandal either. Several of his lieutenants would later resign, amid claims of financial improprieties, recurring rumors of incest at an earlier time, and his remarriage, after his first wife's death, to a woman 50 years his junior. That would eventually end in a messy divorce. However, in 1972, father was still trying to balance his son's soul and his own checkbook, but this was not to be. In 1978, the 85-year-old father once and for all kicked his son out of the ministry. He could do so, for while the son brought in the money, the father controlled the empire.

AE Monthly


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