Herbert W. Armstrong, who built his Worldwide Church of God (WCG) into an $80 million religious empire, saw his power crumble last month under the weight of alleged financial mismanagement. In a suit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the California state attorney general’s office accused Armstrong and top aide Stanley Rader of “pilfering” millions of WCG dollars and of selling church property at prices below market value. Then the court placed the church in receivership—in effect, giving all control of church financial matters to a retired California judge, Steven Weisman.

There had been other charges of financial misdoings within the WCG during its thirty-two years in Pasadena. Son Garner Ted, at one time the heir apparent to WCG leadership, was excommunicated after making such allegations. But the most recent charges may prove to be the most damaging to the 100,000-member church. Superior Court Judge Julius M. Title already has denied one motion to remove the temporary receiver (January 10), and in court proceedings last month he was to decide whether to make that receivership permanent.

Even if the court finds the claims invalid and returns financial control to the WCG hierarchy, the future of the church probably has been affected in permanent, and certainly damaging, ways. In the wake of the suit, the WCG was shaken by threats of defections, an internal power struggle, and revelations of extravagant spending by WCG leaders.

Coplaintiffs in the suit (which also named as defendants the WCG Ambassador College and its cultural center) were six former members of the WCG. What particularly upset them was the sale of church holdings at prices far below their actual value. The sale of the Texas branch ...

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