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Ambassador College to Move but Auditorium to Remain

December 15, 1989|JOHN DART | TIMES RELIGION WRITER

Ambassador College, a small Pasadena school run by the sectarian Worldwide Church of God and best known for its Ambassador Auditorium, announced Thursday it will shut down after the spring semester and consolidate its student body at its Texas campus.

The headquarters of the church, which has more than 94,000 members worldwide and a $200-million annual budget, as well as the Ambassador Auditorium and its cultural programs will remain on the 40-acre complex located along the Tournament of Roses Parade route, said Michael Snyder, a church spokesman.

But city-imposed limits on growth and the costs of seeking full accreditation for both campuses prompted the move, Snyder said. Currently, 637 students are enrolled in Pasadena and 500 at the Big Sandy, Tex., campus, he said.

The Worldwide Church of God is distinctive for observing many Jewish traditions, including a Saturday Sabbath, and rejecting Christmas and other Christian holidays as pagan in origin. The college was started in 1947 by radio evangelist Herbert W. Armstrong, who moved his church base from Oregon to Pasadena that year.

The college was embroiled in turmoil in May, 1978, when Armstrong and his son, Garner Ted Armstrong, the heir apparent, had a falling out amid a church power struggle. The Texas campus had closed the year before and the senior Armstrong sharply scaled back the Pasadena curriculum to a ministerial training program.

But the 1,600-acre Big Sandy campus was reopened as a junior college in 1981 and Texas officials granted approval this year for it to begin a four-year liberal arts program.

Joseph W. Tkach, successor to the senior Armstrong, who died in 1986, said the Pasadena campus will offer extension courses after the consolidation.

"We regret that we will lose even a small part of Ambassador," said Pasadena Mayor William Thomson, who added that he recognized the college's limitations on expansion.

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