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Church Auctions Founder's Silver : Finances: Ailing Worldwide Church of God confirms it sold sterling that Herbert W. Armstrong used for formal occasions.

May 12, 1995|LARRY B. STAMMER | TIMES RELIGION WRITER

Faced with a deepening financial crisis, the Worldwide Church of God has quietly auctioned off a trove of sterling silver purchased by its late founder, Herbert W. Armstrong.

The high-quality silver, used by Armstrong during formal dinner parties for heads of state and other luminaries, was sold for an undisclosed price last month by Christie's auction house in New York, the Pasadena-based church confirmed Thursday.

Silver candelabra, wine buckets, platters, creamers, silverware and silver decorative items such as a miniature ship and horse were among the goods sold at the auction, said church spokesman Tom Lapacka.

Lapacka emphasized that the sterling silver was purchased by Armstrong for official dinners. "I think that's important, least someone think Mr. Armstrong was buying this stuff just so he could have his scrambled eggs and toast in the morning," Lapacka said. He added that the church no longer entertains in Armstrong's lavish fashion.

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Lapacka declined to say how much money was raised by the auction, but he said the sale was definitely connected to attempts by the church to shore up its sagging financial condition.

He also said that the church may sell other such assets. It has previously announced that its 54-acre Pasadena campus is for sale, as are the church's private airplane and limousine.

The church reported a dramatic drop in income this year after an estimated 10,000 of its 92,000 members, as well as more than 100 ministers, quit the church in a dispute over theology.

Since Armstrong's death in 1986, the church leadership has moved away from some of his fundamental doctrines, rejecting his emphasis on predictions of the end of the world, Sabbath worship and mandatory triple tithing.

"That's basically why we're suffering financially," Lapacka said.

But he said the church was undeterred from its new course, which moves the church closer to mainstream Protestantism. Lapacka emphasized that most members accept the changes and he added that the new course has been greeted "with great rejoicing" by members of other Christian denominations.

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