Friday, December 30, 2011

Charles Hunting 1919-2011


Charles Freeman Hunting (commonly known as “CFH”), a figure well known in Worldwide Church of God (WCG) circles and its offshoots, died at a hospice in Sarasota, Florida, on 11th of November, 2011 – Veterans Day (or Remembrance / Armistice Day). He was just short of his 93rd birthday.

CFH was a strong and colorful personality, handsome in appearance and very persuasive in vocal delivery. Friends and opponents alike considered him a person of charm and warmth, with a mischievous streak. Charles could be insensitive and overly candid in expressing his opinions, although he had a reputation for being honest. He was a gifted speaker who could both inspire and instill fear. At the height of his career in the WCG, he was one of the top five executives, and met dignitaries, presidents and royalty in many countries, including Emperor Haile Selassie, Golda Meir, Yigal Yadin, Gideon Hausner, King Leopold, and the presidents of Lebanon and Egypt. His life can be conveniently segmented into three stages – the roughly 35 years before joining the WCG, the 20 years as part of that organization, and the 35 plus years of a relatively quiet life after separation from the group. 

Charles Hunting was the second and last child of Charles and Esther Hunting, born on 11th January 1919 in Santa Monica, California. He attended Redlands High School, then 3 years at San Bernardino College and one year at UCLA. Shortly thereafter WWII started and he volunteered for the Navy as a trainee pilot, received 6 or so weeks of flight training for combat fighters, and was dispatched on an aircraft carrier to the Pacific theatre. During the battle of Guadalcanal in late 1942 he was shot down by “friendly fire”, wanted to bail out, but his parachute was riddled with machine gun fire and full of blood. The plane crashed into the ocean, he survived and was rescued by locals paddling out on canoes. CFH continued to fly fighter and dive bombing combat missions from carriers till the end of the war, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.

During the war CFH met Miss Veryle Cheney who served in the navy’s Medical Corp. After the war romance blossomed and in 1946 they apparently eloped across the border to Mexico where they were married. The coupled settled in Long Beach, California and had three children. CFH started a business refitting and refurbishing electrical transformers, having learnt the basics for the trade from a relative. It became very successful. Charles remained in the Navy Reserves and was training on jet planes when he abruptly resigned in 1956, just six months before he was to qualify for a Navy pension. He was a Lieutenant Commander when he retired. This unusual action was triggered by Charles’s decision to dedicate his life to the WCG church, which had been founded in the 1930’s by Herbert W Armstrong (HWA), and was a pacifist organization.

The family moved to Pasadena where in 1958, aged 39, CFH enrolled for a BA in liberal arts at the church’s training institution, Ambassador College (AC). His credits from previous tertiary studies reduced the normal time of four years by one, and thus he was never a sophomore. In his freshman year his first part-time job on the campus was on the garbage collection crew, but his progress within the organization thereafter was rather meteoric. His junior year saw him in charge of “the mail reading division” which handled the thousands of inquiries and requests for church literature, and appointed the lead on a two man team visiting church supporters. Charles was also a sportsman of note. In each of his two years at the Pasadena campus, he was the tennis champion and best hand ball player. In his senior year he was the Student Body President, ordained a minister in the WCG and transferred, with his family, to the Bricket Wood (Hertfordshire, UK) campus in March 1961, three months prior to graduation. In June 1961 he received his BA in the first graduation ceremony for the English campus, and was then given a flurry of responsibilities --- appointed as a lecturer at the English campus, made its bursar, appointed to Business Manager of the WCG’s activities in Europe, ordained a minister of the WCG, and designated the pastor of the Bristol WCG church. In 1962 he was raised to the level of “preaching elder”, and later in the same year ordained as a “pastor” rank minister. In January 1964 he was ordained an “evangelist”, bringing the total number of evangelists in the WCG to 12 at that time. In December 1969 he was appointed as one of the nine Vice Presidents of the WCG. He formed an effective team with the Regional Director for Europe, Raymond McNair.

In the mid-1960’s, HWA began to form personal friendships with a number of powerful figures, particularly in Israel, Germany and Asia. These included kings, dictators, high officials, as well as elected presidents. CFH, as one of HWA’s trusted advisers, was a frequent traveling companion (often along with his wife Veryle) on these trips, which took them across the globe. These travels were undertaken while still performing all his other responsibilities. Unfortunately, Charles’s wife Veryle died of cancer in 1973 and was buried on the campus grounds. Apparently in that year HWA indicated to CFH that he would eventually be elevated to the number two position in the organization, and that he would need to move to Pasadena. However there was considerable opposition to this plan and it never eventuated. Instead in 1974 CFH was appointed the regional director of the entire WCG activities in the UK, Europe and the Middle East, whilst the incumbent in that job, Raymond McNair, was transferred to Pasadena. 

During this time the WCG began to experience a series of crises. Various scandals shook the church, and several senior ministers and internal theologians began to question some of the doctrines. CFH was persuaded that some of the core teachings were in error. He spoke out, and his relationship with the WCG ended in late 1975. He resolved not to take a salary again from a religious organization; however, he never lost his faith in God and Christianity.

CFH threw his still considerable energies into making a living, and became involved in, among other ventures, construction in Dubai and golf courses in Spain. In 1980 he married again. His new wife was Barbara Greville-Smith, an English widow whom he had met in Spain, and whose best friend was Mrs. Yolande Farrell of Sarasota. Yolande and her husband Dick Farrell formed a longstanding close friendship with Charles. The Hunting’s moved to Vero Beach, Florida, where they lived in a duplex that CFH built. He resumed studying biblical doctrines privately and with help from Sir Anthony Buzzard was soon convinced of the Christian non-Trinitarian view of God, and co-wrote a book with him on the subject. He became a supporter of Buzzard’s Restoration Fellowship for many years. 

The year 1997 was traumatic as first his mother died, then both his only sister Frances and her husband Jack Bryan also died, and finally his wife Barbara passed away from cancer. Although Charles, now 78, became a man of considerable means due to his brother-in-law and sister’s estate being left to him, he chose to live his remaining years without flare or extravagance. He briefly moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and shortly thereafter in 1998 bought a modest 2 bedroom stucco semi-detached cottage close by his friends the Farrell’s in Sarasota, where he lived happily until his death. He supported humanitarian projects in the Philippines and Africa, making overseas visits on several occasions there and to relatives and friends in Australia until his health made it impractical. As with many hard-driving, successful men, his great regret was that he was not closer to his immediate family members.

About four years ago his health began to decline and he eventually needed kidney dialysis. CFH outlived his close friend Dick Farrell. Mrs. Yolande Farrell helped care for him in the last years of his life as he became increasingly infirm, although she herself was already in her 80’s. Charles was admitted to hospital in early November, and a few days before he died was moved to a hospice. His youngest son, Paul, daughter Sidni and her husband Dennis, together with Mrs. Farrell, were with him in his final days. His eldest son Chris, in Australia, was unable to travel there. CFH died in his sleep, and was buried in the Department of Veterans Affairs Sarasota National Cemetery.

Charles Freeman Hunting is survived by his three children, Chris, Sidni and Paul, as well as nine grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren. Chris Hunting suggests the following should be his epitaph:

“A unique individual who achieved much. Respected and admired by most, 
feared by many; a truly larger than life character, but not without human flaws”

[Obituary prepared by Dr. Garry de Jager, Robert Gerringer and Chris Hunting]


Frank said...

I can only imagine what the Church would have been like if Hunting had actually been elevated to the number 2 spot instead of Buffy McNair. Hunting at least had a desire to question and challenge. Buffoon McNair slobbered all over HWA and did whatever he could to impress HWA. Instead hunting was left in Europe while the idiots McNair, Meredith) took over the asylum.

Douglas Becker said...

Organizations like the WCG cannot tolerate great men of accomplishment, achievement and sophistication.

Such organizations always seem to devolve and degenerate as narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths and nutjobs climb the Church Corporate ladder as they find ways to move the qualified men and women out of the way by tarnishing their reputations with those in power and making them irrelevant.

In this case, it didn't help that Charles Hunting finally woke up to the fact that the core teachings were in error -- and he would have eventually come to that conclusion without the crises because of his level of integrity.

One should ask where people of this caliber are today in the ACoG landscape.

The answer would be that the Armstrongist community cannot tolerate great men of accomplishment, achievement and sophistication.

Homer said...

Several of us seekers of "truth" had the honor of meeting and talking with Charles Hunting at an independent FOT about 5 years ago. During that short but very informative meeting I learned much about the organization I had once thought was "the real deal". I had already begun to realize it wasn't and the meeting with CFH gave me much to consider in helping me be more sure of my new understanding.

Allen C. Dexter said...

I always respected and had a certain admiration for Charles Hunting. He was one of those men whose presence seemed to fill a room.

I didn't have the opportunity to know him well, only basically the time he was in charge of Mail Receiving. I was with Letter Answering most of that time and the two departments were in close proximity.

There is no doubt that he was a sincere man, and for that we can all respect him.

Steve said...

The "ministers" were all assholes, and still are! Why do we always say good things about them when they die??

Anonymous said...

While I do not hold the ex-WCG ministry in any esteem whatsoever, Charles Hunting lived an extraordinary life.

Several months ago, I vaguely recall reading his autobiography. I think one of the ex-WCG websites posted a link to it. Perhaps otagosh, perhaps here, maybe somewhere else? I wish I still had the link. If anyone reading this comment happens to know what it is, would you mind posting it here? As I recall, it was buried in the website for a family business.

Allen C. Dexter said...

"The "ministers" were all assholes, and still are! Why do we always say good things about them when they die??"

I for one don't always say nice things about those who die. I say the truth as I see it, and I saw CFH as a sincere and honest man.

Like me, he bolted from the organization when it became apparent that it was a sham. He never got away from the travesty of christianity as did I and several others.

My own journey was a fitful one, and it's only recently that I've grown to the understanding I have today. I'm not going to stand in judgment of someone who stopped where I was about twenty-some years ago. Each person walks his or her own path and it is hateful, in my opinion, to blanketly condemn them in such a judgmental way.

Margaret Walker said...

NEVER ONCE did the ministry read the LAW OF GOD AT any Feast of Tabernacles in ANY "solemn seventh year", as God had Moses to command in Deut.31. No wonder doctrinal error abounds. They didn't bother to even AGREE amongst themselves what YEAR GOD DID SOLEMNIZE, and because the ministry could not AGREE with God as a whole, the Church of God is divided today, and doesn't keep the "Whole Law of the House". Ezekiel 22 is so correct. Sad.