Herbert W. Armstrong: Guilty of Incest!

While the multifacted evidence of HWA's incest with Dorothy is getting weighed and sifted again by those in the blogosphere, AR came across a Tangled Web appeal to the Tenth Circuit you may not have yet seen.

The lawsuit was filed against HWA confidant David Robinson by Rader associate Henry Cornwall and WCG minister Sherwin McMichael - not for libel, but to chance an incredible legal long shot: a pre-publication stop of Armstrong's Tangled WebThis action is a result of the WCG trying to bully Robinson trying to make him pay WCG attorney fees and court costs, coming out of litigation that Armstrong tried to suppress the truth about his incest and drunken alcoholism. The WCG was initiating and bankrolling the litigation against Robinson behind the scenes. Armstrong's straw men Cornwall and McMichael stood to lose nothing in attorney's fees for bringing the action against Robinson, to try to prevent the WCG and public from ever finding out about HWA's incest, and alcoholism as documented in Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web. This suit up on appeal was obviously an inital move to try to bankrupt Robinson, in an attempt to legally force him to pay WCG's attorney fees, but not about the truth of the matter.

Judge McKay delivers the panel's decision, reversing the trial court with a finding that losing WCG plaintiff-appellees Cornwall and McMichael are responsible for paying $6,000 in attorney fees - and not Tangled Web's author, former WCG minister and HWA confidant David Robinson!

Of course, Herbert's church corporation tithe-payers were really footing the expensive legal bills for this legal maneuver, to try to suppress and stop the truth from being published in Robinson's book. By far the easiest, and most common legal way to defeat publication of the Tangled Web would be for Armstrong to sue Robinson for damages to his reputation- for libel!

What was the legal basis for Armstrong to win a libel suit against minister Robinson? Ans: The plain truth about the incest! With all his money, Dorothy Armstrong could be paid off and quickly be flown in on the Church jet to testify the incest never happened. But Dorothy Armstrong never denied the incest, nor would she ever sign any statements to that effect. With scores of ministerial character witnesses as to Armstrong's temperance with Dom Perignon and good character, Armstrong should have easily been able to prove Robinson was a liar, that he was fabricating these preposterous claims of HWA drunkenness, molestation and repeated incestual sexual assaults out of thin air, to get a publication injunction and complete retraction, sue Robinson and win big money for damages to Armstrong's character and reputation.

Since Robinson had the truth about Armstrong's incest in his book, the WCG lawyers knew couldn't win with the facts- so they decided not to sue Robinson for libel. Instead, they then resorted to a legally inept, questionable, ineffectual backup legal strategy to try to stop publication - they based their lawsuit on a supposed ministerial breach of WCG confidentiality, meaning that Robinson should have kept the truth about the Apostle's felonious incest with his daughter a secret, only for Pasadena insiders. This weak, unsupportable breach of confidentiality suit by Armstrong was not about challenging the facts or material truth contained in Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web of his incestual sexual assaults with his minor daughter or his alcoholism. His suit was solely about maintaining WCG ministerial confidentiality! The irony is, many WCG ministers are known to have regularly violated rules of ministerial confidentiality, when they revealed private details about members obtained from ministerial counseling on a regular basis, right from their Sabbath pulpits.

CORNWALL, an individual, and Sherwin McMichael, an individual, Plaintiffs-Appellees,


David R. ROBINSON, an individual, Defendant-Appellant. John Hadden Publishers, Inc., an Oklahoma corporation; and Interstate Book Company, a Kansas corporation, Defendants.

No. 81-1007.
United States Court of Appeals,Tenth Circuit.
July 7, 1981.

James M. Sturdivant and John Henry Rule of Gable, Gotwals, Rubin, Fox, Johnson & Baker, Tulsa, Okl., for defendant-appellant.

James L. Kincaid, J. David Jorgenson and Keith P. Ellison of Conner, Winters, Ballaine, Barry & McGowen, Tulsa, Okl., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Before DOYLE, McKAY and LOGAN, Circuit Judges.
McKAY, Circuit Judge
After examining the briefs and the appellate record, this three-judge panel has determined unanimously that oral argument would not be of material assistance in the determination of this appeal. See Fed.R.App.P. 34(a); Tenth Cir. R. 10(e). The cause is therefore ordered submitted without oral argument.
Appellants, defendants below, filed a petition to remove this action to the United States District Court on June 5, 1980. A co-defendant, Interstate Book Company, did not join in the petition for removal and the petition was thus procedurally defective. See Tri-Cities Newspapers, Inc. v. Tri-Cities Pressmen Local 349, 427 F.2d 325 (5th Cir. 1970). Five days after filing the petition for removal the removing defendants filed an application and notice for an order remanding the action to the state court. Plaintiffs concurred in the view that the matter had been improperly removed and also urged the trial court to tax attorney's fees and costs to defendants. Plaintiffs seek to avoid the traditional American rule which disfavors the allowance of attorney's fees by invoking the exception to that rule which sanctions an award of attorney's fees when a party's opponent acts " 'in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for oppressive reasons.' " Hall v. Cole, 412 U.S. 1, 5, 93 S.Ct. 1943, 1946, 36 L.Ed.2d 702 (1973) (quoting 6 J. Moore, Federal Practice P 54.77(2), p. 1709 (2d ed. 1972)). See also Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. v. Wilderness Society, 421 U.S. 240, 258-59, 95 S.Ct. 1612, 1622, 44 L.Ed.2d 141 (1975).
The trial court found, with adequate support in the record, that "(t)his case was removed improvidently and frivolously because it was obvious that this Court was fully without removal jurisdiction of this action either on federal question grounds or on diversity grounds." Record, vol. 1, at 146. The court awarded attorney's fees in the amount of $6,000.
We have said that a trial court which awards attorney's fees under the "bad faith, vexatious, wanton, or oppressive" exception to the American rule "will be reversed only in circumstances which do not show a reasonable ground for the conclusion that vexatiousness existed." Ryan v. Hatfield, 578 F.2d 275, 277 (10th Cir. 1978). Yet here we do not even have a finding of vexatiousness. Notwithstanding a request by plaintiffs to find bad faith, the trial court found only that "removal of this action was improvident and frivolous." Record, vol. 1, at 147. Although "a case can be so frivolous as to reflect impermissible conduct," Americana Industries, Inc. v. Wometco de Puerto Rico, Inc., 556 F.2d 625, 628 (1st Cir. 1977), the trial court did not indicate that its interpretation of frivolous was to be equated with the intent-laden terminology of "bad faith, vexatious, wanton, or oppressive." In fact, the trial court seemed to be advocating a negligence standard for the award of attorney's fees when it interpreted "frivolous" at the hearing: "I have come to the conclusion that the commencement of this proceeding in this court was frivolous in that if counsel had carefully reviewed the applicable law counsel would have known that this court would not have jurisdiction." Record, vol. 4, at 31.
An award of attorney's fees under the bad faith exception to the American rule "is punitive, and the penalty can be imposed 'only in exceptional cases and for dominating reasons of justice.' " United States v. Standard Oil Co., 603 F.2d 100, 103 (9th Cir. 1979) (quoting 6 J. Moore, Federal Practice P 54.77(2) pp. 1709-10 (2d ed. 1972)). Further, we agree that "(i)nvocation of the bad faith exception to the normal federal rule that attorney's fees may not be recovered requires more than a showing of a weak or legally inadequate case." Americana Industries, Inc. v. Wometco de Puerto Rico, Inc., 556 F.2d 625, 628 (1st Cir. 1979). These considerations highlight the narrowness of the exception under which the trial court purported to award attorney's fees in this case. The exception is not invoked by findings of negligence, frivolity, or improvidence. The trial court's award of attorney's fees is reversed.
Defendants also challenge the trial court's award of $352 for plaintiffs' costs. We find that 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) allows an award of "just costs" if "it appears that the case was removed improvidently and without jurisdiction." This statutory standard of "improvidence" is clearly less stringent than the "bad faith" standard that must be met in order for a court to award attorney's fees in cases of this nature. The difference between costs and attorney's fees has been noted by other courts. See Bradley v. School Board of City of Richmond, 416 U.S. 696, 706 n.8, 94 S.Ct. 2006, 2013, 40 L.Ed.2d 476 (1974); Demsey & Associates, Inc. v. S.S. Sea Star, 500 F.2d 409, 411 (2d Cir. 1974). We find the trial court's finding of frivolousness to meet § 1447(c)'s "improvidence" standard and affirm the award of costs.
Four ex-WCG members - C. Wayne Cole, Ron Dart, Guy Carnes, and Benny Sharp - testified favorably on Robinson's side at the Tulsa trial. Benny Sharp, for one, was personally aware of the incest, as he was in the room when the legendary "I will destroy you" last meeting took place between HWA and GTA.

In final settlement of a legally dubious, WCG pre-publication lawsuit against Robinson for exposing Armstrong's Tangled Web, Armstrong, instead of winning the incest case through his straw men, had to write author David Robinson a check for $25,000!

HWA or the WCG never challenged the factual, plain truth about Armstrong's criminal incest itself in court, which would be the preferred legal strategy to stop publication, or get a retraction and money damages from author Robinson, to set the record straight. But in order to get that public retraction, Armstrong had to have the real truth about the guilt of his repeated criminal incest on his side to win, which he didn't.

Dare to inform yourself about the HWA few people really knew, from Chapter XX of Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web:

Chapter XX

How serious is the sin of incest, such as when a father uses his authority to force himself on his own daughter, his own flesh? All generations of the human family have viewed this conduct as an unnatural act. The apostle Paul referred to a somewhat similar relationship in the Corinthian church: "...such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentles, that one should have his father's wife" (I Cor. 5:1). Incest was disgusting beyond measure to Paul, who was led to record his revulsion for posterity in the inspired Bible.

Even during this time of "sexual freedom" the American nation was recently shocked to witness a television program, "The Phil Donahue Show," on which victims of incest discussed their emotional suffering that resulted from such parental abuse. The psychological penalty for such sin continues for generations.

Sometimes perpetrators of such crimes try to justify themselves by citing the case of Lot, the nephew of Abraham, in the book of Genesis. Does the biblical account of the conduct of Lot in any way justify a man taking his own daughter? Let's look at this matter:
  1. Lot was without a wife, as she had been killed on the trip from Sodom.
  2. Lot was not the initiator, his daughters were. They plied him with wine, in preparation for what they wanted, children. They thought all mankind had been destroyed, and they wanted to preserve the race.
  3. Lot performed his part while drunk and never repeated that reprehensible conduct.
Not that there is ever any justification for such acts, but the sin of Lot, bad as it was, is not to be compared with that of a married man who, on a continuing basis, engages in sex with his own daughter!
Many American states legislated the death penalty in such cases in the earlier years of this country. I knew personally of such a case in Texas back in the 1950's. The father was executed in Huntsville for such an act. He was convicted in Live Oak County, Texas. He had seduced his thirteen-year-old daughter and had continued the affair with her until relatives discovered the crime. It was his own people who demanded the death penalty and the State of Texas accommodated them. I don't know for sure, but I suspect the laws of Oregon and California were not all that different during the thirties and forties.

Incest is a terrible and unnatural crime, an extreme perversity. That is why I was shocked beyond measure to hear that Herbert Armstrong was, himself, guilty of this vile sin. I learned of this in the summer of 1979 from members of his own family. The story, sordid beyond imagination, was told in awful detail.

One family source was Garner Ted Armstrong. Last summer, as HWA attacked his own son in such savage fury, his son was in the depths of despair. His emotional mix included anger and deep hurt. In such a state he told family secrets that otherwise would have been locked within him forever. He said he had learned in 1971 of his father's incredible conduct during the '30's and '40s. The story came directly to him in lurid detail, but he kept it sealed in his own consciousness for all those years. But, in the spring of 1978 while in his father's house for the last time, his father had threatened to "destroy him." Ted, in response, replied, "Dad, I will destroy you. I know about you and -----." (He was speaking of the younger of his two sisters.)

His father had been on a high-handed autocratic binge. But at that comment he sat down quietly and responded, "Well, Ted, there have been times when I have been very far away from God." (Admittedly, this was a strange turn of events in the relationship of the two whom HWA had likened to God the Father and Jesus Christ!)

Ted has told many people that there was a look in his father's eyes he had never seen before. Ted knew his father was now determined to totally destroy any credibility he might have. It was either him or his son. Self-preservation now demanded such action. It was a matter of give or get, and HWA meant to get!

None who have objectively heard the incest story in its awful detail doubt it. This is a vital chapter left out of HWA's autobiography. This sin occurred over a long span of years, a decade after his ordination to the ministry, according to his own family members. No wonder he was not receptive to David Antion's "qualifications for the ministry" paper back in 1974.

Many of us have wondered why HWA was so forceful in covering up Ted's sins for so many years. Ted then seemed to be an extension of himself in his own mind and was not even a separate entity. It was like covering for himself. But when finally he knew he must cut his son off, he had to go all the way. It was either destroy or be destroyed. and there were still some things he wanted to "get" out of life even if he were nearly ninety.

Such matters should not normally be mentioned, but this is by no means a normal case. The welfare of thousands is at stake, and thousands who look to HWA, idolizing him as if he were God himself, must come to understand how dangerous such a view is. Thousands around the world have been hurt by blindly following this man. Now people must be given enough information to make an intelligent decision on whether this is the man who is going to lead them to safety during the "crisis at the close," or whether he is just going to continue taking their money and calling them "dumb sheep"!

Some may feel I should just cover up this whole sordid affair and forget it. But I find that impossible to do, because the welfare of too many people hinges on the truth about his personality.

Paul wrote to Christians of his day: "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is a shame even to speak of the things that they do in secret" (Eph. 5:11-12, RSV). Earlier in the same chapter, Paul had written: "But immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is fitting among saints" (Eph. 5:3, RSV).
"But," some say, "you shouldn't judge God's apostle." The Bible says otherwise! Jesus Christ himself commended the Ephesian church for trying and testing those who claimed to be apostles. Notice Jesus' words: "Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and has found them liars" (Rev. 2:2).

Can someone preach truth for many years and fail in his own spiritual life? Of course! Lucifer did, Solomon did, and so have many others down through the years. That is why Christ asked, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Christ also said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). The way a man talks in private is the way he is. His public utterances alone aren't enough to judge a man's characterhis trustworthiness. It is especially necessary to know what kind of man you follow when he promises to lead you in the kingdom of God.

In Matthew 7:21-23, we read this warning from Jesus himself:
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
In the 59th chapter of Isaiah, that prophet warns of those who conceive mischief, lie, and bring forth iniquity. Their feet run to do evil. The way of peace they know not. They make themselves crooked paths, and they weave spiders' webs. But Isaiah promises in the name of God that those webs shall not be a covering for their sins in the end!

Herbert Armstrong has become tangled in his own web of lies. And the time has come for him to be revealed for what he really is. May God help his followers to see.

Update: Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web is no longer available from John Hadden Publishers, in Tulsa, OK. However, it may be obtained from another source. An excerpt from a letter to ESN from about a current United Church of God evangelist, related to the Armstrong family and in a position to know,  who confirms HWA's incest:

But I still doubted the incest allegations -- that is until Mr. Gary Antion confirmed that they were entirely true when I talked with him after his sermon on the last day of Unleavened Bread, April 12. I'd asked him if he'd read David Robinson's book. He said he had. I told him that I'd read in another publication that Dorothy Mattson told his brother David Antion (a former WCG evangelist) all about the incest. (They were and are in-laws.) He nodded. I asked him if David ever said anything to him about it. "Yes," he said.
"What did he say?" I responded.
"He told me the story was true," he calmly said.
There is a way to get the book Herbert Armstrong's Tangled Web, right where Herbert W. Armstrong got started, in your local community library. In fact, most of the books about the Worldwide Church of God, now many out of print, may be obtained through interlibrary loan to your local library for free. Just click on the ARs main page and find the entry for Feb 8, 2009 for complete details.


Tamara's New Video, and Lunch with Jesus

A new video has been posted on the WCG website front page in the WCG Today series, starring WCG box office luminaries Tamara Tkach and Mike Feazell. Tamara deftly and demurely answers Feazell's scripted questions while regally clad in a rich maroon blouse and black pants, hair cascading down to her shoulder line, while adorned in gold jewelry, which suspends a large rock of some import centered beneath her neck.

[The video is now under WCG embargo, but AR has composed an advance review of the video for you: ;) ]

After a brief intro, Feazell begins to interview Tamara with a series of canned questions about her life in the WCG beginning at age 15, when she began listening to the broadcast and getting the PT magazine along with her father. They subsequently qualified themselves and were invited to visit the Denver WCG congregation for the first time, afterward attending their first Feast at the Big Sandy campus. Tamara then voted to attend AC to begin her career.

Viable, long-term career options in the WCG at the time were extremely limited for both men and women. What could Tamara possibly major in at Ambassador? As she laments in the video, AC majors and career options at that time were very limited to AC women - with a choice of home economics, theology, agriculture, or journalism. Tamara takes home ec and theology, graduates from Ambassador class of 1978, and moves to take a supervisory job at Intel in Phoenix.

[Ed.: For background clarification, Tkach Jr. and Mike Feazell, Pasadena Imperial High best buddies, both attended together and graduated from Ambassador in 1973. Tkach Jr. then married AC graduate Jill Hockwald, and began working at the local level as a WCG ministerial trainee for the church between 1973 and 1976, ending at the Phoenix East congregation. He was ordained a local elder in 1976, which due to budget cutting, became an unpaid position as assistant pastor for Phoenix East congregation. He was later removed as the Phoenix assistant pastor in July 1978, two months after getting divorced. At some point in Arizona, newly graduated Tamara meets a temperamental, divorced Joe Tkach Jr., and they wind up getting married two years later in 1980. Tkach Jr. then eked out a living as a social worker for the next four years employed by the government of Arizona, working with the retarded. In 1984, Joe Jr. switches careers to Intel also and takes a job in corporate training services. Things are starting to look up as Tkach Sr. helps put down the 1979 receivership and Armstrong uses Tkach Sr. to replace Roderick Meredith as head of WCG Church Administration. By the end of 1985, a severely weakened, near blind Armstrong, grateful to Tkach Sr. for his undying loyalty, knows he doesn't have much time left. Change was in the air, and the rest is history.

Tamara then glibly mentions how the "inaugurated women's ministry in 1995" began in the WCG. She remarks "when the changes happened the door was opened" to women's ministry. Mentioned are "changes" in doctrine, but exactly how these doctrinal changes came about over the years under the Tkachs is never directly addressed. Joe Junior's chief theological change advisor Feazell and Tammy dance around the issue of when, how, and on whose schedule the "changes" came about. Feazell supportively offers that historically women were the backbone of the church, when men really didn't want to go to church. (Reportedly, Joe Tkach Jr. and Feazell don't bother to attend WCG services locally on a regular basis anywhere anyway.) Feazell remarks about the first 2000 years of a male dominated church hierarchy, who he says depended on women for survival and growth of the church.

In the mid 1990s with the changes, Tamara says the WCG began to realize that women had gifts of value in the church. She remarks that women had always been serving in the WCG, but not in the sense of a designated women's ministry. She recounts the story of a women fully qualified to be a festival choir director, but that opportunity was formerly denied her.

Tamara brings in the influence of women's ministry coordinator Sheila Graham's, whose stint as a writer and PT editor influenced her thinking. A member of the WCG since 1962, Graham wrote PT articles on the role of women, women of the Bible, and the family. She obtained an M.A. from the Azusa Haggard School of Theology in Dec 1997; roughly the same time frame Tkach Sr., and Feazell surreptitiously began to attend Azusa Haggard classes, to complete their mutual Azusa doctoral degree plans.

Tamara began to write and speak to encourage WCG women to use their gifts, and the WCG women's ministry began to evolve. She acknowledges there was some early opposition, including those who she believes wrongly charged a "feminist" takeover of the WCG. Rather, she focused her elder wives newsletter on the needs of the wives of the ordained ministry. She believes the wives need ministry: they can feel isolated in a fishbowl, with a limited peer group to commiserate; critiqued under the spotlight, with their WCG pastor's kids held up to an impossibly high standard.

Feazell next asks Tamara out of the blue about her bowling ministry, when amusingly, they competitively exchange average bowling scores.

Finally, what is the future of the WCG women's ministry, if any? Tamara says that women's ministry is taken care of at a local level. Women's ministry coordinators provide support recommendations which can be implemented on a localized basis as desired.

To conclude the interview, Tamara says she thinks the church may have the wrong ideas about God. She says she wants to better know Jesus, but the church may have put "God in a box", and wants the church to think of God, outside of any limitations.


Tamara's Lunch with Jesus

Tammy recently had lunch with Jesus. Read about it here.


Give Tamara A Raise?: Female Solo Pastors Earn More Than Male Solo Pastors

Okay, so there aren't many female solo pastors in American churches. A recent salary survey had six percent of solo pastors responding were women. Yet female solo pastors reported 10.4 percent higher total compensation. Their average salary was 8.6 percent higher than men's ($49,219 compared to $45,259), and better housing and retirement benefits made up the rest of the difference. Why do female solo pastors earn $62,472 in total compensation (including health insurance, retirement, and continuing education) when their male counterparts earn only $56,558?

One hypothesis is that women stay in solo pastorates longer, and their longevity leads to higher pay. But that hypothesis doesn't hold up. Research shows that for solo pastors the number of years served makes next to no difference in pay.

The more-likely explanation is regional. We know that solo pastors receive the highest pay in the New England areas and west coast, with the higher cost of living in those regions. And these areas probably have the greatest cultural acceptance of women serving as solo pastors. Thus, women solo pastors tend to find work in regions with a high cost of living, and consequently, get a higher salary.

And before we assume that the church runs counter to the still-prevalent cultural practice of paying women less than men for comparable work, women were paid less than men in every other church position surveyed except church secretary. On average, females earned approximately 80 percent of the compensation of males. Or, in other words, males earned about 25 percent more than females.

Give Tamara a raise? At least Tammy is willing to give out her denominational email address to the worldwide membership, while the Pastor General of her WCG Association isn't. Nor is he willing to open his accounting books and secret funds for the slightest inspection by the congregations sending in more tithes to the WCG's bottomless pit.


Video update: The video is now up and streaming at the wcg.org webpage.


Armstrong Indicted On Financial Fraud

Police made the raid as part of an ongoing criminal investigation and seized financial records and computers. In a raid evoking shades of the 1979 receivership, more than 20 officers sealed off the block-long church complex at 601 N. Tejon St., evicting the senior controversial pastor, who strode the sidewalk, a copy of the warrant clenched in his fist.

Police raided the landmark Grace Church and St. Stephen’s in downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado in a criminal investigation into whether controversial Pastor Don Armstrong embezzled millions of dollars from Grace Church.

Armstrong and his followers had split away form the Episcopal Church and joined the Episcopalian Diocese of Nigeria, whose archbishop once supported a law imposing five-year prison terms for gays and their supporters. Since then, Armstrong and his sect have kept physical possession of the $17 million dollar historic, architecturally inspiring Grace Church and St. Stephen’s.

In a ballot taken, 93 percent voted to align themselves with the conservative Convocation of Anglicans of North America (CANA). That group is aligned with the Anglican Province of Nigeria.

The members also overwhelmingly voted 348 to 22 to retain the real and personal property of Grace Church, church officials said. “I’m delighted. It doesn’t get much better than that,” said the ecstatic Armstrong, who has been at the helm of the Grace Church for the last 20 years.

Regardless of any voting, valid or not, the hierarchical governance of the Episcopal Church of Colorado wants the property and intends to fight Armstrong through the courts, if necessary, to keep what it claims is denominational property.

The question is, will the Worldwide Church of God, then file yet another amicus brief on behalf of the Episcopal Church, in favor of that denominational hierarchy, helping to wrestle away the $17 million dollar Colorado property away from church membership? WCG has already intervened in the Virginia Episcopal church property dispute, joining in an amicus filing in favor of the denominational hierarchy against the members, so Tkach has already elected to join the fight in Virginia. Judge Bellows ruled in late December in favor of the local congregations keeping their church property. The cases are now being appealed by the denomination up to the Virginia supreme court. (For more on Tkach's maneuvers, see "Religious Property Wars: Tkach Joins The Fight!)

Armstrong once led the largest Episcopal church in Colorado. But accusations arose Armstrong misappropriated hundreds of thousands in church funds. He was then placed under ecclesiastical indictment, and found guilty by the church of misappropriation of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Armstrong was found to have committed crimes, including theft of $392,409.93 from Grace Church; tax fraud, causing Grace Church to issue false W-2s and under report Armstrong's income and benefits by $548,097.27; receiving illegal loans totaling $122,479.16 in violation of church law and policy; improperty taking nearly $400,000 in church funds to pay for college tuition, or spending for personal uses; misappropriation of church funds for another $259,999; taking and alienating the church's real property without authorization; violating a temporary inhibition placed on him; using clergy discretionary funds improperly; and failing to maintain proper books of account.

Police confirm Armstrong took the some of the funds to pay for college tuition. Police found no documents signed approving the money for Armstrong's use, but a church auditor defended Armstrong's innocence.

An affidavit affirms that Armstrong misused $392,000 and that he wrote monthly checks for six years. Those were the years Armstrong's children were in college. "There are hundreds upon thousands of pages of information that need to be looked at," a police spokesman said of the lengthy investigation, "as well as computer records."

They took files of church financial documents and computers. "It has to be done that way," the police spokesman stated, "when you have those kinds of disposable evidence that someone could get rid of if they new we were coming."

"It's not clear to us that he's the only suspect," the spokesman also said, "certainly he's named in the warrant as being someone questioned about what happened to some of the monies there." The criminal investigation is ongoing, with police expected to hand damning evidence of guilt to prosecutors.

Throughout this biblical drama, criminal charges have yet to be filed against Armstrong — and who, like his namesake Herbert Armstrong (could he possibly be any relation?) maintains his innocence.

Armstrong and a few hundred of his seemingly embattled followers are refusing to leave the physical church, an attractive landmark of downtown Colorado Springs. They are now in association with the Episcopal Diocese of Nigeria. The rest of the disenchanted congregation is temporarily meeting in the building of another church nearby.

Events have become a bit humorous at times. One wag attempted to throw a throw a cream pie right in Armstrong’s face, while in the middle of one of his sermons! (the elderly Armstrong managed to hide behind the pulpit when he saw the cream pie coming). The pie-thrower was captured by members of the congregation, arrested and later claimed he was making some sort of political statement.

Also, Armstrong was photographed by the press, illegally parking his vehicle at least twice to get into the Starbucks.

There’s also the Nigerian aspect to all of this, and the Episcopal denomination's evolving position on homosexuality. Faced with the Episcopal Church ordaining more gay clergy after the controversial election of V. Gene Robinson, a gay New Hampshire bishop in 2003, and backing same-gender unions (not to mention the accusations of his misappropriation of funds), Armstrong and his followers split with the church earlier this year, and have joined forces with the Church of Nigeria, whose archbishop is Peter Akinola -- who has written:

“Homosexuality or lesbianism or bestiality is to us a form of slavery, and redemption from it is readily available through repentance and faith in the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus the Christ,” Akinola wrote in an essay.

As there have been so many statements and counter-statements flung by Armstrong supporters and the Episcopal diocese it's difficult to know the real truth about the evolving controversy. It's sure to become more interesting when Armstrong's upcoming trial Feb. 10 begins over who really owns Grace Church: The heirarchical governance of the Episcopal Church, or the breakaway group led by Armstrong.