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Top advisors, as well as other generally loyal executives and ministers who knew something of Ted’s erupting rebellion, thought a profound loss of membership, ministry and resources almost inevitable. In addition to fearing all the above-described power in the liberals’ hands, they feared the power of, and a number tended to believe, the widespread fallacy that Ted had largely built the Church through his personal appeal and speaking ability; almost all believed that even the disappointing results of the telecast in the seventies would far exceed anything possible with Mr. Armstrong trying to do it himself. Mr. Armstrong actually agreed that all these dire conclusions seemed inescapable if judged solely by “sight” (II Cor. 5:7), without discerning and relying upon God’s Spirit. See Zech. 4:6.
Thus, Mr. Armstrong gave the sermon knowing that an enormous loss of membership, ministry and resources loomed over the Church. He even expressed in the sermon that a number of influential ministers hearing him would strongly disagree with his spiritual correction, and that many members were likely to be greatly offended by it.
After a decade of stagnation, and with all physically discernible circumstances pointing to a huge decline even from those anemic levels in members, resources and the Work’s effectiveness, Herbert Armstrong issued a stunningly confident, unqualified challenge and promise in God’s name. He said God would publicly judge whose doctrine was Truth—his or the liberals’—utilizing a sign neither side could possibly hide the fulfillment or failure of. With every physical reason to believe it impossible, he prophesied that no matter how many members and ministers left as he purged liberal doctrine, judgment and practice from the Church, if the people who stayed with him would try to purge apostate influence from their minds, God would soon bless the Church and its Work to grow greatly larger and more powerful by every measure than ever before. The sermon was sent to the entire Church and printed for the ministry.
It is very telling that the sign of God’s judgment Mr. Armstrong prophesied pleased the liberal apostate ministers. Garner Ted and some others publicly stated that the sign was a perfect one from their vantage point as it would certainly fail, and its failure could not be hidden; objective measures would unmistakably prove it, such as total membership, yearly income, number of literature requests, telecast viewership, Plain Truth circulation, etc.
Indeed, just a few months after the sermon, the apostate ministers thought God had definitively answered against Mr. Armstrong’s doctrine, even sooner than they anticipated, when the Attorney General attacked the Church. Some apostates suggested to the Attorney General that the Church’s membership overwhelmingly yearned for freedom from “dictatorship government,” so they could embrace the more “enlightened” doctrine recently forbidden by Mr. Armstrong. The kind of government the membership wanted, alleged the apostates, was either something essentially identical to that of United and “COGWA” today, or, for the more “moderate,” something quite similar to Meredith’s and Hulme’s today. Again very tellingly, the Attorney General found such apostate forms of government perfectly acceptable, while he outrageously, slanderously attacked God’s government: Mr. Armstrong’s sole ultimate apostolic rule under Christ.