Around 1980 - 81, I was part of a scandal at Ambassador College in Pasadena. It was called “the Spanish Department Break In” and the top guys in the WCG did pretty good job of hushing it up.
Before I get into this historical recounting, I want to back up a bit and mention a few things about “The Browning of America” which got posted on Banned a few weeks ago. Byker Bob asked me for my thoughts on the comments that were being made and I never responded for a couple of reasons.
First, I can post comments to the Painful Truth site, but I can’t seem to post comments for the Banned site. It may because I’m attempting to perform this function from my phone or because I’m not the most knowledgeable when it comes to social media.
Second, I figure that my chance to talk is when I get something posted. After that, it’s everybody else’s turn to talk. At that point, it doesn’t hurt me to just sit and listen and learn.
I appreciated all the comments – even the ones that took exception to what was in my script. (Yes, what was published was only a script for a “Start Our Sabbath” program. It was never intended to be a finished article.)
I have been asked if it bothers me when people on Banned disagree with what I write. To that, I always respond with, “Of course not. I expect the readers of Banned to disagree with a lot of what I say. Disagreement is part of the exercise. This is healthy. If disagreement bothers me, I have no business sending material to Banned.”
Further, I always point out that, when Banned’s readers have disagreed with me, they have never gotten personal or hateful as I have experienced in the COGs where church leaders and their wives have said things about me like:
n Wes is looks like Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges.n Wes’ long hair makes him look like an ugly old woman.n Wes’ motive is to become the face of our church organization.n Even though Wes is a member of our organization, “he has no standing.”
I have found that any disagreement with me on Banned is always issue-oriented and never gets into personal attacks. Again, I think that issue-oriented discussion is healthy and necessary. When a guy preaches something or writes something, he doesn’t deserve a free pass. No one. Including me.
So again, I am grateful to Banned for allowing me to post material.
Now, for the story of the Spanish department break in.
In either late 1980 or early 1981, I was approached by one of HWA’s aids. He was gunning for Tom Turk, who was the director of the church’s office in Mexico City. This HWA aid wanted to get rid of Tom and replace him with Robert Flores Jr, the aid’s good friend. I have never been given any indication that Robert had anything to do with the events I am about to describe.
HWA’s aid told me that there were “illegal things” going on in the Spanish department and that he needed to get this information to HWA so HWA could fix it. So the aid told me it would be helpful if I were to participate in a late-night break-in of Leon Walker’s office. Leon was the head of the Spanish department.
I was leery of the whole idea and told him, “You don’t need me to break into the Spanish department offices. You can get into any office on campus that you want.” I reminded him of how he and his cohorts had done a midnight raid of the Ambassador Faculty offices a few months prior. They had brought with them a bunch of manila envelopes. Each envelope had the name of a faculty member. The burglars also brought many typewriter ribbons to match the various typewriters in the offices of the faculty. When they entered a faculty member’s office, they took the typewriter ribbon from his typewriter and replaced that used ribbon with a new one. They put the used ribbon in the corresponding envelope for later review. The next morning, the faculty member would have no idea that someone had taken his ribbon. The HWA aid and his cohorts then spent the next few days painstakingly reading what had been typed on the typewriter ribbon. BTW, the only “bad” information they found was that Dave Albert had written a letter to Bell & Howell to apply for a job.
After I expressed my concerns to HWA’s aid, he told me why he wanted me to join him in this expedition. He said he actually needed my Spanish-speaking wife to go on the mission. She was bilingual and an employee of the Spanish department.
At the time, I was married to Linda Hardy White. After 25 years of marriage, she died of ALS in 2003 and I have since remarried. The aid told me that he needed Linda to translate documents for him while going thru Leon’s office. My presence was needed because he felt it was “inappropriate” for him to be in a building alone at night with a woman without her husband there. My next thought was, “Great. I get to be a chaperone for two felons.”
So, in an effort to aid “the apostle” in his work as the “head of the church,” I consented.
I make no excuse for participating in this horrible act. It was illegal and immoral and unethical. I never should have done it.
So, on a Friday evening around 10:00 pm, the aid (with the assistance of a college maintenance employee who disabled the alarm systems) took Linda and me into the Spanish department and we did our “investigation.” HWA’s aid had flashlights, a tiny camera he had bought in Hong Kong, a small tape recorder, and a few other Watergate burglar-type items.
If you know anything about Leon Walker, you will not be surprised to learn that we found nothing incriminating in Leon’s office. Absolutely nothing. I was relieved because I really liked Leon.
By Monday morning, my guilt feelings were kicking into overdrive, so I went to Leon and confessed the whole thing. He recommended I tell HWA.
The next question for me was: “How do I do this?” HWA lived in Tucson. He was afraid to enter California because he might be served with a subpoena.
We didn’t have email back in those days. And, if you wrote to HWA, you had to type your letter on a special typewriter that had extra-large print because his eye sight was so limited. Back then, we had no personal computers with various small-to-large font sizes.
So I went to HWA’s executive offices on the fourth floor of the Administration building and asked if I could type a letter on their big-print typewriter. Stan Rader’s secretary begrudgingly obliged me. After I typed the letter, I gave it to her and asked if she would fax it to HWA in Tucson. There were very few fax machines on campus in 1980. She rolled her eyes and agreed to do this for me.
Several weeks later on President’s Day 1981, my boss (Raymond McNair) showed up at my house, told me to put on a suit, and informed me we were going to Burbank Airport to see the apostle on his private jet.
When Raymond and I arrived at the airport, he told me that HWA would not be getting off the plane. Process servers, remember? So we boarded and sat down with HWA and Leon Walker and Greg Albrecht. I believe Bill Stenger and Leroy Neff were there.
Right off the bat, HWA thundered his first question to me, “Who made you write this letter?!?” I was insulted. I stiffened and told him that no one made me write the letter. He told me that, if I lied to him, I would be struck dead in the same way that Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead after they had lied to Peter. He again tried to get me to say that I was forced to write the letter. I wouldn’t budge. We were at a stalemate.
Then he started insisting that Stan Rader made me write the letter. I really denied that one. After a few minutes of this badgering, Leon Walker (bless his heart) came to my rescue. He informed HWA that it was he (Leon) who had recommended I tell HWA about the break in.
So the apostle shifted gears. He then started berating me because he said I had no business involving Rader’s secretary in the matter. (He didn’t want Rader to know about the break in.) I told HWA that the Executive office was the only place on campus I knew of that had a big print typewriter and fax machine. Then Leon intervened again. Bless his heart. He told HWA that he shouldn’t fault me for working with Rader’s secretary on this because (he reminded HWA) he (HWA) had only recently written a front page article in the Pastor General’s Report that heaped high praise on Rader’s secretary.
I will never forget HWA’s response. He said plaintively, “I had to write those nice things about her because she threatened to go to the press about me!” I thought he was about to cry.
This was a bombshell. First, what information could this woman have on him that scared him so much? And second, he was admitting to several of us that he wrote things in the Pastor General’s Report that were false!
I already had my doubts about his leadership before I got on that plane. I mean, I had already figured out that his teachings on interracial marriage were totally off base. And I had already figured out that his practice of marking and disfellowship was the antithesis of Christian love. His admission regarding lying about Rader’s secretary was the coup de grace for me. From that moment forward, he had lost all credibility in my eyes.
But my story doesn’t end here. My punishment was that I was temporarily banned from being in California. Linda and I would be sent anywhere outside of California where we wanted to go and live for six months (on probation) so that I could “think about things.” I gladly complied with leaving because I reasoned I would soon be exonerated and that, when I returned to Pasadena, I would find that things had been cleaned up at headquarters. After all, I had given HWA the smoking gun which clearly showed the corruption that was right there in his executive office.
Was I naïve or what? I would have been better off trying to buy some bridge in Brooklyn.
Needless to say, things did NOT get cleaned up. They only got worse. A month or two later, HWA wrote in the Pastor General’s Report that “there was no Spanish department break in.” Not true. There was a break in. I was part of it.
Then, about six months into my banishment, I received a call from another of HWA’s aids. He asked me to recant of my claim of a Spanish department break in. I stood firm that there had been one.
Finally, I received a call from Raymond McNair, asking me to return to Pasadena. I refused. By that time, the gig was up. I saw what these guys were all about. Shortly thereafter, I resigned.
This is not a story of how Wes got screwed. I brought this situation onto myself. I ask for no pity and deserve none.
Rather, this is a story of how Wes got delivered from the jaws of men who were doing evil things. God blessed me with an escape from that loony bin. I left Ambassador and got a job in the real world where I learned real-world skills. I was able to have a career until I retired in 2014.
Many of those poor guys who worked in Pasadena or in the field ministry have not been so blessed. Today, many of them have no career skills. They have no pension – no 401K -- no Social Security. They’re stuck working for one of the Armstrong offshoot organizations because they have no other prospects for real employment. Many of them don’t agree with what’s being preached by their churches. They don’t agree with the way things are run. Yet they stay because they have nowhere else to go.
Further, they are scared because they have no other options when it comes to putting food on the table for their families. I understand that some people reading this will gleefully say these guys deserve every bit of the misery under which they suffer. They may indeed deserve it. That’s not a judgment for me to make.
The point is that I have sympathy for anyone who suffers – even those who have brought their misery on themselves. To be sure, I would sympathize with them more if they would admit their guilt and repent of it. So many of them have done so much damage.
Let’s conclude this story.
I praise God that He got me out of that viper’s nest! My escape had nothing to do with my own goodness. It has everything to do with God’s mercy.
People who I know in the COGs get upset with me when they see my posts on Banned and on the Painful Truth. They demand to know why I am in communication with these blog sites. Long ago, I gave up trying to explain to them that I view the blog sites as watchdogs against the tyranny of the Armstrong movement. Usually, these blog sites are the only place people can go to hear the other side of the story.
So I am relating this break in incident as accurately as I humanly can for the purpose of making sure that we retain as much of our church history as we can. Warts and all. Even bad stuff done by me. I mean, isn’t the Bible full of accounts that show the sins of so many people?
Also, we’ve got to learn from our past. The WCG was so dysfunctional in so many ways. (Understatement of the year?) One of the organization’s dysfunctionalities was that they were so deficient in showing Christian love for one another. No matter how you try to spin it, breaking into someone’s office was not an act of love. It was a horrible thing to do. I confess my sin so that others can learn from my mistake.
Again, my thanks to Banned for this opportunity to relate history and to discuss the current state of affairs in the COGs. There is so much that needs to be fixed in so many of these offshoots. I don’t criticize their behavior and teachings out of malice. I criticize them in the hope they will change and learn to exercise more of Matthew 5, 6, and 7 in their dealings with those they serve.