EDMOND—As the Armstrong International Cultural Foundation completes its second decade of work, founder Gerald Flurry anticipates expanding its operations in Edmond, Israel and beyond.
Mr. Flurry established the Philadelphia Church of God’s humanitarian department on Feb. 22, 1996, as the Philadelphia Foundation. Since then, he has supervised two decades of work: supporting the Al-Hussein Society in its rehabilitation and education of physically and mentally challenged Jordanians; supporting the Petra National Trust’s preservation of Petra, a unesco World Heritage Site; and contributing to the maintenance of Liberty Bell Park, a play place for Jewish and Palestinian children in Jerusalem.
Since 2006, Mr. Flurry and the foundation have worked with Dr. Eilat Mazar, an Israeli archaeologist who has discovered King David’s palace in Jerusalem (2006), a wall attributed to Nehemiah (2007), two clay seals belonging to princes who persecuted the Prophet Jeremiah (2008), a secret tunnel dating to David’s era (2008), a wall built during King Solomon’s reign (2010), and the official seal of King Hezekiah (2015).
“We have helped Dr. Mazar uncover the palace of David, where the throne of David was,” Mr. Flurry said. “That throne is about to be given to the Son of God by His Father (Luke 1:30-33). Christ and His Bride—the firstfruits—shall rule from that throne to bring peace and joy to this Earth for 1,000 years. After that, the rule will extend to the entire universe. Archaeology helps mightily in making that magnificent vision more real.”
Working with Mazar and the Israel Antiquities Authority, the foundation brought the two bullae and dozens of other First Temple Period artifacts to Armstrong Auditorium in Edmond for the “Seals of Jeremiah’s Captors Discovered” archaeology exhibit. Between its opening in January 2012 and its closing in October 2015, the exhibit hosted more than 4,000 non-Philadelphia Church of God visitors.
“It helps to build people’s faith and has enhanced their view of Armstrong College and the pcg,” Mr. Flurry said. “It’s a witness to the world and proof of the Bible. That witness is the biggest part of the Work.”
The foundation has sent Mazar financial support as well as dozens of Herbert W. Armstrong College students who have labored at and managed areas of her excavations in the City of David and the Ophel. Students and graduates have also helped Dr. Mazar publish her work.
Mr. Flurry has expressed eagerness for the foundation to get back into excavation mode, especially in the City of David. “I personally feel like it’s critical since we know the prophecy of the tombs of the kings,” he said. “I would love for our students to be a part of that.”
Even as it awaits its next open door in Jerusalem, the foundation’s 17th concert series in Edmond is in full swing. Since 1998, thousands of concertgoers have attended series performances by notable artists, including StepCrew, the King’s Singers, the Russian National Ballet Theatre, Kelli O’Hara, the Canadian Brass, the Eroica Trio, The 5 Browns and dozens of others.
Since 2010, the foundation has hosted its musicians and guests at Armstrong Auditorium on the campus of Herbert W. Armstrong College and the headquarters of the pcg. The 44,000-square-foot hall offers a setting of crystal fixtures; cherry, marble and onyx finishes; and precision acoustics.
“We strive to bring the best of the human spirit to one of the most beautiful auditoriums in the world,” Mr. Flurry said. “And at times, we bring performers here when we know they will not draw the biggest audience. We strive to bring some of the most inspiring performers in this world. The size of the audience is not our main concern.”
In 2006, Mr. Flurry renamed the foundation after the late Herbert W. Armstrong, who founded the Worldwide Church of God and the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation. Until his death in 1986, Mr. Armstrong visited more world leaders than any head of state and supported projects including overseas agricultural research, the building of hospitals and children’s parks, and the filming of nationally televised music specials. He produced Quest Magazine for royalty and high-ranking government officials, hosted cultural programs and archaeological exhibits, and constructed the “Carnegie Hall of the West”—Ambassador Auditorium on the Ambassador College campus in Pasadena, California. In 20 seasons and hundreds of concerts and recitals, Ambassador Auditorium hosted some of the best-known performers of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s: Luciano Pavarotti, Arthur Rubenstein, Yo-Yo Ma, Bing Crosby and others.
After Mr. Armstrong’s successors terminated the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, Mr. Flurry decided to continue Mr. Armstrong’s disrupted legacy—the charitable work in Jordan that became the Philadelphia Foundation’s first humanitarian project was actually a project that had been abandoned by the Ambassador Foundation.
“[Mr. Armstrong’s] lasting legacy is, we not only teach the world God’s love, but we demonstrate and show it as well,” Mr. Flurry said. “We can’t just be about words.”
The Armstrong International Cultural Foundation describes its mission as dual: “1) that man is a unique being, possessing vast mental, physical and spiritual potentials—the development of which should be aided and encouraged, and 2) that it is the responsibility of all men to attend to and care for the needs of their fellow men, a precept professed by the vast majority of religions of the world—appropriately summed up in three biblical words: ‘Love thy neighbor.’”
Mr. Flurry said the foundation “has kept God’s Work from being overwhelmed by persecution and criticism. We show the best of the human spirit. Should some get more interested in the Church, they will see we have the best of the Holy Spirit as well.”