Aaron Dean writes about Rod Meredith and why Herbert Armstrong refused to put him over the church.
You asked about Rod Meredith. I have a little time so I will answer. It may be a bit long…but a short answer is difficult.
RCM always saw things in a vertical line. He set much of the culture of strong control of people lives in the church. Whether he ever got over his need for power or not I don’t know. God is the judge. I never disliked him, and hoped he would come to see all as team players and not as status in a vertical hierarchy. I even sent some people to Global when their individual pastors went over the edge early in the 90’s. After that, when UCG started I would ask people “who in your area still keeps the Sabbath and Holy Days” without regard to the corporation. I wanted them to go to a Pastor I felt would help them rather than a corporation. (After all, we are in the salvation business pointing to God, not the corporate business collecting numbers.)
Anyway, I always enjoyed HWA discussing the early years of the college. Many of the students were like the early disciples, vying for position. When HWA decided to have a church administration director in the ’50s, he told me of a considerable argument between Raymond Cole and RCM who both wanted the positions. HWA said Raymond was more qualified, but he was up in Eugene Oregon pastoring so he put RCM in since he was at the college. (Interesting both these men ended up over their own churches.) RCM was always concerned with position and always would give everyone his history as credentials for why he should be near the top before HWA’s death…or at the top after his death.
Sadly, RCM always did investigation of people who got between him and the top. He smarted when he was made 2nd vice president. (GTA being first) The two main ones he went after were GTA and SRR. He was right on both of them as to the problems, but his way of going about it was wrong. HWA did put him back over Church Admin at the receivership because he said “I know Rod will be loyal to ME.” Interesting the way he said it. It wasn’t “loyal to God”, but “loyal to me.”
He knew RCM was a loyalist and demanded personal loyalty from those under him and gave it upward even when he didn’t like it. Sadly that made him susceptible to flattery. HWA put him back over the ministry because of his vertical nature and personal loyalty since HWA was kept away from Pasadena most of the 70’s – travelling or heart attack – and with the receivership didn’t know where each of the old guard was as information with the ’79 receivership crisis was sketchy and he was in Tucson.
I was steward during these years and helped HWA by reading and helping him with his writing and heard a lot about everything as HWA was quite open to those around him, but sort of like Hogan’s heroes Sergeant Shultz “I heard NOTHING”. 🙂 It wasn’t my place to talk so I treated it all as confidential.
Within six months of the ’79 receivership and being named in the positon, HWA was getting messages from ministers who were being asked by RCM “Who are you going to follow if HWA dies, me or Stan Rader.” HWA asked, “What right does he have to even make himself a candidate let alone ask this question of the ministry”. He saw it would be divisive and also the same problem RCM had always had wanting authority. RCM was sent to Hawaii to hopefuly come to see himself. After receiving letters justifying himself HWA responding, HWA finally wrote a stong letter to RCM and stated in no uncertain terms that he should he never be over the church. This letter in his big type is on the web. While some accused me of putting this on the web, it was the Tkach administration that did this…people only asked me if it was true.
To show what I mean by the vertical thinking, in 1980 when I was made HWA’s aide I was allowed to go to faculty dining. I seldom did as HWA often left late and I had work. One day he left early and I decided to go over. There were 4 or 5 tables of 16 in the room. 15 people were seated with the one end chair open. The other tables were empty. I didn’t know there was any protocol, and I didn’t want to sit by myself so I sat down at the end. A hush fell over the room and everyone looked directly at RCM. I said “is something wrong”. After a long pause RCM finally spoke. “Well, that chair was always reserved for HWA, but he hasn’t been here for over a decade. You have been named HWA’s assistant and Vice President and put on the Council of Elders so I guess that qualifies you to sit in that chair. Now, the ranking person decides who opens with prayer to start the lunch.” I replied, “I’m just here to eat, you can decide who prays.” It was obvious RCM had to somehow justify in his mind how I was qualified to sit in that chair. To me I was having lunch, and always tried to see everyone as a team – not who was over who.
Interesting that later HWA gave RCM another chance as vice chancellor in Big Sandy. Some issues came up concerning RCM decisions and statements that were brought to HWA’s attention and he decided again that RCM should be removed from influencing students, but HWA saw his health was failing and rather than hurt RCM’s feelings he decided to close the Big Sandy campus (which he announced in 1985 but JWT kept it open after HWA’s death on Jan 16, 1986.) There would be no reason to announce RCM’s removal since with the college closing as it would be a moot point. HWA had told me during his illness that after he died “the church would quit keeping the Sabbath, the income would drop, the foundation and college would close, but the church would go on”.
Since JWT was over church administration he was in the hat to be in named as successor. Even HWA knew JWT was the least qualified, but the Council was to decide all doctrine issues instead of one man, to hold the church steady. Of course JWT took ownership of all this a bit later (with SRR’s help interestingly – remember SRR made sort of a hero of JWT in his book). He did this after I was removed from the Council and JWT had the men on the Council sign away their control – something I would not have done and others should not have – but we were hierarchical and it happened.
A few months before Global started RCM took my wife and me to dinner. Even though later he said Global just started somewhat spontaneously, he already had members and a budget when we had dinner. Since I had faithfully served HWA, he wanted me to join him (as have others – I felt like David’s last wife whom Adonijah asked Solomon through Bathsheba to be his wife – as a billboard as if my being with them as their aid somehow made them the credible successor to HWA). I told RCM it was premature and that he was pushing to be put out so he could start a church and be in charge. I reminded him of HWA’s letter to him. (Also HWA had made me promise to not follow RCM as he knew Rod would try to get in charge – why he decided to name someone instead of letting the Council of Elders decide. HWA said “Raymond and Dibar and….and named all those who did go with RCM and said “they might vote him in”, and “Rod should never be in charge of the church”. A vocal repetition of his letter 6 years before. So HWA decided to name someone… and that changed several time the last few moths of his life.)
Shortly after Global started WCG did start pushing the heresy but it was not so blatant or public before Global started and many thought JWT might stand up to Joe Jr and Mike Feazel as they were the ones changing things, not JWT.
JWT and RCM had a history and very much disliked each other and RCM could not stand being under JWT who he saw as a nobody. HWA’s naming Tkach fueled what was already a very strained relationship. After Globel started, Jr. and Feazel decided to push the heresy in WCG more directly and pastors got pushed at different times, often depending on their individual regional pastor’s agreeing or disagreeing with heresy. When it became blatant is when UCG formed, and men had already worked under RCM and didn’t want his form of control so they chose to start over since God had not placed one man in control. To me it was a time when God was seeing who had chosen Christ as their king and not a man – although still willing to be under authority – just not absolute authority of a man.
It was sad that Global split when RCM felt he wasn’t in charge. That is another sad commentary (although all groups have some sad events). When Denny Luker took some UCG office staff to visit Living it was interesting that RCM asked each person their job and “you should sit with him, and you with him…” all very much in the hierarchical style of his past.
I do believe RCM may have softened somewhat in the “who is in charge” mentality as he saw he would not be alive till Christ returned – so it would no longer be him. However I found it interesting in a letter in his last year he resold himself as God’s appointed and stated “I knew Mr Armstrong better than any man alive today”. I had people jokingly asked if I was still alive since I was with him most of the last 12 years of his life and on a 365 days a year basis the last 5 years before his death. RCM had very little contact during those 12 years and exaggerated his personal contact as HWA was close to many of the early graduates.
I never disliked RCM (or anyone for that matter as I learned both good and bad from everyone) but I did know his peculiarities and his need for power, and hope he did come to a more humble position before his death. He was not alone in his desire to be in charge. A number have started their own churches and even those who left UCG in the splits wanted power for themselves, and when they lost it, their lack of humility showed and they started their own groups to continue in power.
It is not unusual for men to use their own talent or stories to be in charge. Korah was with “men of renown, 250 princes of Israel” and the next day they accused Moses of killing their friends…they didn’t say “thank you for getting rid of those evil people.” Absalom was well spoke, the most beautiful eloquent man in the kingdom. He stood at the gate and blogged “If I were only king I would give justice…” and stole the hearts of Israel from David – who slew Goliath and was anointed by Samuel. John the Apostle wrote of “Diotrephes who seeks preeminence” and was able to throw out
So this history is 2000 years old as God sorts out who is his. Interesting that HWA said “The next thing is God purifying the bride”. I believe he was right. Everyone has had to choose what they believe and who they will follow. We will each be judged individually by God for our choices of belief of what his word says. May He show mercy on all of us.