Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Those Elusive True Values--- Journey to the Center of the Armstrong World, By Henry Sturcke

Buy it here:  Those Elusive True Values


"The book you hold in your hands continues the story that I began in Fooled into Thinking: Dylan, the Sixties, and the End of the World. 

In that book, I explored how I, a teenage baby boomer, became fascinated by the message of a small church with an over sized public outreach program, the Worldwide Church of God. At the same time, I was gripped by music, especially the songs of Bob Dylan.

 Both obsessions took root in the course of one fateful weekend, the days that followed the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I was fifteen years old, a high school sophomore in the suburbs of the New York metropolitan area, and suddenly the world made no sense. 

The oscillation between the twin poles of Bible and Dylan continued as I went through high school and enrolled in an urban university; it culminated in the paradox 2 

Those Elusive True Values of committing to Worldwide through baptism by immersion and then, four months later, attending the Woodstock music festival.

 In this book, the spiritual journey continues, taking me to the center of the church’s activity, the campus of Ambassador College in Pasadena, Calif. There I met the church’s founder, Herbert Armstrong, and his flamboyant son, Garner Ted, at the time approaching the peak of his influence as a pioneering televangelist. Along with hundreds of fellow students, I soaked up the church’s teachings and strove to prepare to play my own part in the outreach of the church. 

Midway through my time in Pasadena, Worldwide experienced dis-confirmation of its interpretation of Bible prophecy and entered a period of upheaval. Yet I remained a true believer. I thought I had reached my goal and that my search had reached its conclusion. The reality was otherwise as this book shows."

Henry Sturcke 


Henry and I were contemporaries as students in Pasadena and his recollections as presented in this book are so accurate down to both the details of the experience and the emotions that went with them, I found at times I had to put the book down and take a breath for all the memories and emotions it brought back to me as a teen myself going practically sight unseen into Ambassador College and ultimately the Worldwide Church of God and ministry. 

Though he used first names only, I often knew exactly who he was talking about by the accuracy of his experiences with them.  In Chapter One he introduces "Hal", the guy with the camera, and had to chuckle knowing Hal as well as I did back in the day. Always the camera!

Henry easily expresses all the emotions of those first days on campus. He well describes those first days in the dorm and we shared the same ones along the way it seems.  Henry captures the flavor of those first days and impressions very well.  

In chapter 2 we seem also to have shared the loss of the girl back home and cautionary advice from parents about going to AC and  Church. 

From dealing with one's first Feast to what to do about the draft and the Vietnam war, it all comes alive again after all these years having passed in "Those Elusive True Values".

In Chapter 4, Mr. Sturcke well recalls the Rod Meredith of both sermon and First-Year Bible fame as well as the somewhat flamboyant and personable Richard Plache as both teacher and Dean of Students.  Plache taught Second Year Bible which was the class the Master Teacher of Creationism, Apostle Pack, referenced when he claimed to have disproven evolution with intense study 50 years ago in his recent series on the topic. "The Genesis Flood" as text was no way to disprove Evolution then or now.  

"  Meredith’s typical sermon contained a heavy dose of making us, his listeners, feel guilty for our spiritual lethargy. He sought to stir us, to infect us with a spirit of urgency, but often the effect was to make us feel not good enough. I came to feel that his sermons were like cod liver oil or some other purgative. It did one good once a year or so, but one wouldn’t want to make it a steady diet. In personal interaction, however, his sincerity and bashful smile were winning. 

Those of us with previous college experience also joined the sophomores in the same hall for second-year Bible, or “Systematic Theology.” More indoctrination, this time from Richard Plache. Tall, brilliant, witty, charismatic, he was also dean of students. One major aim of the course was to make us into good creationists. 

We read the required text, Whitcomb and Morris’s Genesis Flood. Our assigned term paper was a refutation of a book promoting evolution. I chose The Meaning of Evolution by George Gaylord Simpson, and my research centered on highlighting every instance of the use of the words “presumably,” “perhaps,” “we may suppose,” and other words and phrases I now realize are the sign of a careful scholar. Yet I thought I was refuting the author"

If you came upon the Worldwide Church of God as a teen and went on to Ambassador College, you will enjoy and recognize this highly accurate account of the experience.  

At first, I did question the limited appeal of the title "Those Elusive True Values" as being a phrase understood in total only by those who may have attended and lacking wide appeal. However, it is a book for those who attended at its core and so well done, it may stir up memories you'd rather not poke at times too!  

But if you'd enjoy an accurate record of the Ambassador College experience as a student, this recollection is for you.   Thanks for the memories Henry!

Mr Sturcke went on from graduation to be...
"...Sent by WCG to Switzerland in 1987. Began taking classes at the local university on the side. In 1995, at the time of the big split, named regional pastor for all of German-speaking Europe. 
 Laid myself off in early 1997 to balance the budget, enrolled full-time in degree program, completed in 2003 with dissertation on the Sabbath in the first Christian century (Encountering the Rest of God). 
After a year of training, ministerial credentials accepted by the Reformed church, pastored a congregation until retirement 2013. For the last eight years until retirement a dean (the equivalent of old WCG district superintendant). Adjunct at the Zurich University of the Arts, teaching New Testament to students in the church music program. Involved in the continuing education program of the Reformed church, training pastors and candidates for ministry in how to conduct worship services. 
Married to Bricket Wood grad, Edel. We celebrated 45th-anniversary last year. Five children, seven grandchildren."
....and lives in Klingnau, Switzerland


Anonymous said...

Ho-hum. Another bitter ex-church member with an ax to grind. More proof that he was never converted just as those of you that post here.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Ho-hum. Another bitter ex-church member with an ax to grind. More proof that he was never converted just as those of you that post here.

Ho hum, another church member unable to read or comprehend the topic of the book or the posting about it.

Miller Jones said...

Anonymous 3/31 @ 5:38,

I know most Armstongites aren't curious by nature, but I would think that one would be interested in understanding why so many ex-church members are so "bitter."

And, if folks that you used to fellowship with as brethren, were never really converted - what does that say about your powers of spiritual discernment and judgment?

But maybe my curiosity about such things stems from the fact that I'm an ex-church member - hmmmm, could be!

Anonymous said...

Ho-hum, another ACOG church member blindly believing what his minister tells him. Pay and pray sit for an hour and a half or longer and listen to the same thing over and over. Then go home and smugly believe your church has the “truth.” And of course your converted.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't mind knowing what Mr Sturches religious beliefs are now.

Blindly believing what a minister says is a house built on sand. Which is why so many readily followed Joe T or Whacky Dave. The Bible instructs to 'prove all things' for good reason.

Byker Bob said...

We've seen this before numerous times. We learn of someone's success in recovering from the negativity and repression of Armstrongism, and for most of us it is trmendously inspiring. But someone (5:38) who is either still stuck or more likely is just a troll pretending to be a current Armstrongite, can't stand it and attempts to drag them right back down.

I had never known or heard of Henry Sturcke, but it brings a certain amount of joy to know that he was able to recover and have a good life. If that can happen for one of us, it can happen for all of us.


Anonymous said...

I would say Ho humm is a troll stiring trouble.

DennisCDiehl said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"I wouldn't mind knowing what Mr Sturcke's religious beliefs are now."

I would suspect from his bio at the end of the posting he adhere's to mainstream Christianity with a Swiss Reformed perspective. Perhaps he'll comment here on it if he sees this.

There is NOTHING in this book on a young man's experience into, through and out of Ambassador College, the ministry and on to other things of personal interest and talents about bitterness. It's a simple and accurate account of one young man's actual experience. I know Henry Sturcke. Intelligent, properly educated,(Now), gentle, grounded and a heart for ministry no matter where it took him.

DennisCDiehl said...

I don't think Henry would mind my sharing a few exchanges

Me: You obviously have the heart of a pastor and you did good in switching into the mainstream as many others did attending or in some cases pastoring as well. I simply could not. I was burned out on the drama and stress of it all and didn't sign up for all that came along. My Dutch Reformed background did not prepare me for the Armstrongs or the Tkaches. Too gentle of a soul I guess. I cared about the people, not the higher ups most of the entire time. My passion was paleontology and cosmology . Too soon old...to late schmart and all that lol

Henry: Yes, it's interesting how things turned out for each of us. I was one of those who long believed the WCG could do a better job. It was a blessing that I was so far from HQ at the time and had already begun to dabble in "real" theology. My hope was to put that in the service of the church, but our classmates at the top had other things on their mind, I guess. Second blessing was when I was responsible for the German work and saw that the only way I could submit a balanced budget for the year that had already begun was to lay myself off.

Thanks very much Dennis for the post on Banned!

I had to smile that the first comment beneath it was so totally predictable. Some people don't know that it's perfectly acceptable not to have an opinion about something they haven't read.

There are many mixed feelings inside me about my involvement with the WCG. Every time I check, bitter isn't one of them.

Your fascination with the vast universe is so understandable. My dad wanted to study astronomy, but there was no money to study unless he won a scholarship, so he won a chemistry scholarship sponsored by the infamous I. G. Farben. But then his brothers insisted he follow them to the US instead, so he sliced bologna the rest of his life."

Henry is actually retired now. I am pretend retired now waiting on unemployment for the present distress. Here comes 70 in a few days! Made it! :) Well, I mean if I stay home,don't run into the wrong people and wash my hands. I believe I will pass on claiming divine protection.

Lake of Fire Church of God said...

A name from my WCG past. I remember hearing Henry Sturcke give a sermonette while visiting WCG Washington, D.C. congregation. I don't have access to my Sabbath Services notebooks at the moment which I have kept all these many years to give date and topic, but it must have been before the East Coast Rebellion of 1974.


Anonymous said...

I looked it up. The reformed Church is a Sunday keeping, Protestant church which believes in the doctrine of universal salvation. This is very different to the WCG theology.

Anonymous said...

10:47pm No, not that different. They have a payroll and a paid clergy class. What more does a hireling need?