These informative letters are important for discernment and show the crucial inside story, exposing the deceit and propaganda regarding the Worldwide Church of God doctrinal changes.
Note: Worldwide Church of God changed their name to Grace Communion International in April 2009. (Some local church areas and countries may still carry the former name or a different one.)
Janis Hutchinson originally asked the ESN for information on the WCG. Telephone calls and many earnest, fact-filled, exposé letters were exchanged with Hutchinson, a former Mormon and author of Out of the Cult and into the Churches, by several researchers in the Exit & Support Network™. In spite of the overwhelming crucial information mailed to Janis (and regardless of how she first felt WCG was "worse than Mormonism" and "very sinister") she later accepted an invitation from the Worldwide Church of God to attend their Ministerial Conference in Portland, Oregon (May 1996) where she was wined and dined by the top leaders. Janis was told by the WCG headquarters that "the change will take a long time." Many wondered why? Other testimonies on this site have shown that manipulation, deceit, coercion and blame were heavily used in getting these new changes across, along with using "change agents."*
After Janis attended this conference, she snail-mailed a 10-page letter to "Dear Friends and former members of the Worldwide Church of God." Regarding Joe Tkach's Talk, she mentioned that he "acknowledged how confusing it must be for members to undo the idea that they have the only esoteric truth--that they are the only boat in the ocean carrying the true flag--and change to recognizing that there are other boats in the ocean carrying the same flag--all of whom are allies."
What a condescending thing to say when it was they, the leaders, who programmed these beliefs into the members' minds in the first place. To turn around and blame the members for this is inconceivable--but isn't that what cult leaders have always done?
The last ESN talked with Janis she said she "half-way endorses" the WCG. It appears she succumbed to the propaganda as she eventually ended up endorsing the WCG.
See ESN update on WCG (GCI) at end.
- Letter to Janis from L. A. Stuhlman (ESN founder)
- Letters to Janis from D. M. Williams, ESN
- Letters to Janis from Michael S.
- Letters to Janis from Kelly Marshall, ESN
Note: Pseudonyms have been furnished for some of the writers to protect their identity.
*The term "change-agent" is New Age terminology. The change agent is a person or organization that changes or helps to change the beliefs, attitudes, or behavior of someone without their knowledge or consent, and to replace them with new beliefs and behaviors that will render the person susceptible to manipulation, coercion, and control. Read: WCG Guilty of Sensitivity Training (this also links to a 2001 letter: "WCG Getting Others to Buy Into the Changes" which mentions "change agents."
The following letter contains much exposé regarding the reasons behind the WCG changes and history on Herbert W. Armstrong:
Letter from L. A. Stuhlman, ESN Founder & Editor of OIU Newsletters:
[bolding added for emphasis]
February 16, 1996
Ms. Janis Hutchinson
P.O. Box 374
Everett, WA 98206
My sincere apologies for the delay in contacting you. When learning, during our last phone call, that your meeting with the WCG was not until March, I was relieved, as it provided me more time to complete the Chronology of Change for the Worldwide Church of God. As you may have guessed, it is not completed.
The Exit & Support Network™ may be internationally connected and have the capacity to serve those in need from a distance, but we are greatly understaffed in-house. Our responsibilities are vast and there is never enough time to concentrate on all the priorities pulling our attention. Since November, much emphasis has been given to one of the WCG offshoots, Church of God International. The leader of this group, Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA), is the son of Herbert W. Armstrong. This individual was one of the head leaders of the WCG in the 1970s. He was very involved with financial opulence and sexual improprieties during that time. He was cast out of the WCG in 1978 due to power struggles with Herbert W. Armstrong's chief aid (Stanley Rader, WCG's legal counsel and head accountant at that time all and from the Zionist-Jew faith). Since then, he independently has run his own organization in Tyler, Texas plus continues TV evangelism with "Armstrongism" as his message. In July of 1995 he sexually assaulted a masseuse in the Tyler area. The masseuse reported the incident and received legal assistance. The case was publicly exposed and the past six mouths of activities surrounding this case have placed burdens on the Network activities. Since November 1995, the members of his church (7000) have been in turmoil prompting orally to seek information and assistance from the Network. As the Network is also well in tune with the history of the WCG and its offshoots, the plaintiff's in this case have been dependent on our information and knowledge of the past as well. We have written several reports on this case and have been solely responsible for providing critical information to those caught inside the organization. [Update: Garner Ted Armstrong died of pneumonia at age 73 on September 15, 2003.]
We have learned throughout these past few years that many are inspired to review and scrutinize the doctrinal message when their leader is caught in "sinful deception." Step by step, they are able to gain critical thinking and take the steps necessary for the road to freedom in life and in Christ.
I explain this situation so you will realize why there has been a delay in getting pertinent information to you for your viewing. I could have sent you much "information," prior to the report but elected not to, as I know well that a pile of material on your doorstep will only add to the fragmentation of thought regarding the WCG story and not aid you with a clean, understandable outline regarding the positions we discussed on the phone.
The Exit & Support Network™ is dedicated to the truth and rooting out religious deception and exploitation in the name of Christ. In its three years of operation, we have assisted hundreds of individuals from the WCG conglomerate. Our effectiveness is attributed to the extensive education we embraced in the areas of cults, religious abuse, Christianity, Fundamentalism,1 abusive techniques used by these groups, and the history of Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God. I personally have attended over nine major conferences in various states surrounding these topics, including the Evangelical Conference on Cults, held in Pennsylvania in 1994. The costs incurred to gain the knowledge needed for this job are great, but necessary. The research and investigative work has taken me to Washington DC government buildings over four times. I review this with you so you will be assured at this time that the Network is serious about its mission. I personally do not speak swiftly, without understanding of issues involved when it comes to the Worldwide Church of God. This organization has been around for over sixty years. It is a multi-million dollar corporation with many sub corporations. The too few ex-members who have the willingness, faith, and courage to stand against the atrocities and deceptions of this powerhouse, are not armed with the means the leaders of the group leave. Yes, there are many ex-members, but few can devote their lives to assisting those crushed emotionally and spiritually by the hands of the WCG leaders. I'm certain you probably know what I mean. Without doubt I feel we have been blessed and guided by our Lord, and He has lead us through many roads of discernment.
The Network is available full time for phone calls, consulting, and has issued over 180,000 copies of printed materials to those in need. We offer references and referrals to those seeking assistance in spiritual or therapeutic matters. Along with the exiting member newsletter, the Outsider's Inside Update, we continue to catalog all our history archives to make it available for the researcher who must prove all things. With all that said, and I left out much, I hope you will understand why I am delayed in responding to you.
It is apparent that you will be at the meeting with WCG before you have had a chance to really digest other critical information regarding the WCG changes and agenda. While it would have been beneficial to have been more prepared and in tune with the history and events that were not told to you, I am confident that you and others such as Dr. James Kennedy, will not become pressured into endorsing the WCG with a clean sweep, based on the personal meetings you have been invited to by the leaders. As I said on the phone, I am hopeful that you keep your channels open toward continued investigation and allow patience and time to reward you with the much needed information and contact with others who were recently part of the WCG organization. The WCG leaders may be in a rush to convince the Evangelical community (at face value and especially those with publishing clout) of the "historic conversion," but undo haste can create great waste in the name of Jesus Christ. Events of change are occurring, but the reason behind then is the real issue.
The WCG is over sixty years in the making. Its founder, Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) was involved in Ku Klux Klan activities in the 1920s. He moved to Oregon during the time when Oregon was the strength of the Klan. Following the Klan's demise in the mid twenties, he joined in with Seventh Day offshoots until he was booted out of them for: 1) introducing the racist doctrinal belief of British Israelism and G. G. Rupert's doctrines, and 2) stealing money from the church till. By 1934 HWA started his own radio church ministry, which purported the popular Aryan racist belief of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. This is better explained by the terra British-Israelism or Identity Movement. As pointed out in The Encyclopedia of Religions, HWA was the largest proponent of British Israelism in the country. Other fundamentalist ministries were selling it, but HWA sold it best and with the tag that HE was given the knowledge straight from God. HWA was successful as he sold a product that was well-received post Klan era. By 1947, he obtained stature in the heart of the wealthy Pasadena millionaire arena. The college was started at that time to train ministers as little HWA's. From 1947 to 1967, the Radio Church of God, as it was called then, prospered by the millions. The origin of where it got its millions remains to be seen. The 1960s was the hey day for the church. There were no African Americans allowed in the group early on, but as time evolved a few were allowed in as pressure mounted regarding civil rights; however on the whole, it was predominantly an Aryan organization stressing Anglo-Israelism. [Read: Herbert Armstrong's Racial Views]
The Armstrong teachings were defined in the 1950s. The year 1952 marks the beginning of the massive propaganda booklet publishing. HWA was a dictatorial leader, the government tactics and style of the organization manifested a totalitarian regime with components of other "isms" such as communism and fascism. [Note: HWA studied Hitler's book Mein Kampf.] Once recruited under the unique Armstrong coercion method, the victim/recruit functioned as if in a hypnotic state with life or death allegiance to WCG and its leaders. The members were used like slaves to build and pay as they obeyed every command put forth as if their lives and salvation depended on it--and to them, it did. A gentleman who was in the church for over 35 years described it this way:
"They had me digging the hole for Loma Lake with my bare hands. I worked until my hands were covered with cuts. We thought we were doing it for God."
Loma Lake is a large man made lake located on the extensive lavish grounds in Big Sandy, Texas. It is adjacent to the sprawling manicured golf course and pristine homes provided solely for the privileged ministers--tax free of course. The leaders currently own the massive property and college setup in this area. Hundreds of others describe their experience under the WCG government as devastating, life impacting, and severely traumatizing as they explain what it is was like to lose everything including their loved ones to a scam that posed as a church.
All was moving along well for the leaders until its exposure of corruption, which started occurring in the late 1960s. With the exception of a few evangelical ministries during the earlier years, speaking out against Armstrongism and his empire, he was able to dodge being exposed on a grand scale. In 1958 HWA's first son, Richard Armstrong, died due to neglect of medical assistance after an automobile accident. Richard was slated to assume the leading role within the organization following his father. That same year, Mr. Stanley Rader, formerly employed with a Hollywood accounting firm and as a Zionist Jew, connected with HWA as an accountant. By 1967, this same man was privileged by HWA to receive a law degree at Southern California University, which was paid for by the unknowing members' tithes. In the late 1960s, GTA was moving into a very popular position as the head evangelist on the radio and then television. Unfortunately for him, he was gaining equal notoriety for his sex escapades and financial improprieties within the church.
The very turbulent 1970 era is crucial to the understanding of what is occurring today within this organization. Between 1970 and 1974, GTA was exposed by many high level (true believing) ministers within the church. The corruption regarding extreme financial waste, opulence, sex assaults, adulteries, and other very questionable practices in many regards carne to the forefront in 1974. [Read: Jack Kessler's 1981 Letter to Worldwide Church of God Board of Directors] After much upheaval, seventy ministers exited along with 11,000 members. Along with their discovery about the corruption, many learned that HWA's teachings were nothing more than a pile of "borrowed" beliefs from other sects and churches such as the Mormons. These individuals who were leaders under HWA/GTA and Stan Rader, were not from the same stock that prevails today. These men were sincere, committed to their understanding of righteousness, and duped. When many of these people learned they were duped, they immediately demanded accountability and stood up to the deceit with professionalism. Many left a legacy by writing their accounts, and the Network has been blessed to receive them through a handing down process. The many tapes, documents, letters and massive amounts of inside church materials have afforded us proofs from various angles, as to what was occurring throughout this decade. Thankfully, many Evangelical ministries started focusing on the WCG as a destructive cult and mounds of literature were written and passed about in the Christian arena exposing the doctrinal ills and apostasy. The WCG held the title as one of the most destructive cults of that era and rightfully so as hundreds of God searching individuals were deceptively snared into the hands of deceit and manipulation only to find their lives ruined in every capacity. Hundreds died due to the LAWS set up by HWA with restrictions on medical care, tens of thousands of families were destroyed by marriage break-ups, poverty prevailed throughout the membership in severe degrees, and note, please, these things alone pale in the significance of the spiritual destruction that was forced upon the unsuspecting. The ministers and leaders controlled the membership by high-level abusive tactics. Fear, phobias, threats, and coercion ran through the heart of the whole church. It was truly a cult from every perspective. The goal of the church was to make it to the Place of Safety during the "pending fiery Great Tribulation" which was to occur with in the "next five to ten years" or often noted, "In YOUR lifetime." The reality pending was no different than the Jonestown Massacre.
Following the major shakeup in 1974, the church continued to falter throughout the remainder of the decade. HWA and Stan Rader spent 300-350 days a year traveling to communist government countries and the Middle Fast under the pretense of "spreading the Gospel, which was called One World Government." The fact is, the millions of members' donations spent on the years of trips was nothing more than political shenanigans which I will not delve into at this time. Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA) was managing the church while HWA and Stan Rader were involved in other more secretive agendas. By the mid 1970s many ministers and evangelists were questioning the doctrines and rebelling against the harsh and cruel punishing system they were forced to pursue on the membership. Considerable documentation is available proving that all the current WCG leaders, and those who are leading the extension groups were very well aware that the doctrines were wrong. Testimonies and reports were written proving the strict tithing system was a control method of gaining power and money to satisfy the leaders' lavish lifestyles, opulence and power, and not Biblically based as was not the Sabbath and holy Days.
It is important to emphasize that it was as early as 1970 that the hodgepodge teachings and doctrines were being exposed within the high-ranking ministerial arena. The "ministers" and leaders of today who were involved with the WCG at that time, were well abreast of the controversy over Sabbath, tithing, grace, laws, etc. The very leaders running WCG's multi-million dollar conglomerate today and who claim to be "reborn" have had decades of first hand knowledge of the rebellion against the deception, lies, and manipulation by those who escaped the WCG control. They also were aware of the many evangelical Christian ministers who tried with all their might to assist the WCG regarding its satanic belief system. I shall expound more on this shortly.
In 1978, Stan Rader and GTA had a power struggle showdown as to who was going to control the multi-millions following HWA, who by this time was 88 years old. GTA was eventually kicked out of the church due to the manipulations of Stan Rader, and the following year several members brought a lawsuit against the church for the massive corruption in the financial area. This resulted in a receivership crisis, which permeated the newspaper headlines across this country. The huge negative exposés impacted the church greatly, as it became notoriously noted as a cult with the sex-escapades and scandals. A group of Ambassador University students started an exposé publication [Ambassador Report] exposing the evils of the church and its leaders. This, along with the massive newspaper exposés , placed HWA, GTA and the rest of the WCG leadership in the spotlight. HWA and his empire were highly publicized for incest with his daughter, for scandalous sex-escapades stories overseas, for the extreme opulence with gold and silver, diamonds, furs, Rolls-Royce cars, air plane fleet, massive real-estate holdings, salaries, Swiss bank accounts and gold mines in Africa, extensive land holdings, multi-million dollar artworks--not to mention his hob-knobbing with very controversial leaders of other countries such as Mao Tse Tung, Fernand Marcos, the Japanese Diet, Arab leaders (affiliated with Buddhism and Moslem beliefs) and Israeli leaders to name a few.
It is vital to know what the membership totaled in the early 1970s as the churches' membership was far smaller than what had been propagandized for years. The director of data processing 1972-1973 clearly documents that in 1973 the church had no more than 53,000 members at maximum. That was before the 11,000-member fallout in 1974. It is well documented that the church did not grow at all during the 1970s and by 1979 the leadership was very concerned about stagnant recruiting position. Stan Rader, HWA's first assistant, clearly documented on tape and in writing that the church membership was in trouble and did not grow throughout the 1970s. [Note: Also see this part in OIU 2, Pt. 2 about "discrepancies with the growth picture starting around 1978."]
Many more members left the fold during the receivership and the 1980 decade started with a recession, which impacted income even more. During the first half of the 1980s, the leadership attempted to "put the church back on track" by instituting the very hard-line approach of the 1960 era. Although it did not appeal to new recruiting, it did however seem to hold the remaining church from experiencing a high attrition rate. The scare tactic belief system was put into high gear and remained that way for years following the death of HWA in 1986 at 94 years of age. Newly appointed to the "Pastor General" position was Stan Rader's assistant, Joseph W. Tkach. Although HWA claimed that Stan Rader was "supposedly" released from active leadership in the church in the early 1980s, it is a fact that he was given a Consultant contract of $200,000 a year until the year 2007 accompanying a lavish expense account. It is strongly felt, however, that Stan Rader may be visually behind the scenes, and much information indicates he is still managing every step this conglomerate makes. [Update: Stan Rader died July 2, 2002, in Pasadena, California, two weeks after having been diagnosed with acute pancreatic cancer. He was 71.]
Joseph W. Tkach supported and retained the HWA hard-line position upon assuming the top office and continued that same "speak" until about 1993. The recruiting situation remained in severe shape right though the 1980s. The WCG leadership changed their marketing strategy every few months with their main recruiting tool, The Plain Truth magazine and "The World Tomorrow" television show. Joseph Tkach, Mike Feazell, Joe Jr., Greg Albrecht, David Hulme, and select others, were employing every method possible to recruit into the WCG under Armstrongism. Public magazine racks on corners in every city, mass shipping of The Plain Truth and Youth magazine to thousands of doctor offices, High Schools, Junior High schools, colleges, direct sales marketing, and advertising in Readers Digest and other publications are just a few of the sales stunts used to lure new recruits into Armstrongism. Nothing was working, as the Apocalyptic message wasn't selling for the desperate WCG leaders. They changed The Plain Truth format from secular to Bible-based faster than any market could digest it. The same held true for the "The World Tomorrow" telecast.
Starting from 1989 to about 1994, the inside church maintained its hard-line approach, while the leaders initiated a newly devised marketing strategy with a select group of publishing evangelicals. Members that did question the few changes they detected, were disfellowshipped, shunned, and often marked publicly for leaving the fold and going the way of Satan. That continued until 1995.
By 1988, the most astute members could pick up that there were a few changes; however, "change" was not even detected by the bulk of the members until 1994, and for some, not until 1995. The reason being, is that the leaders, Joe W. Tkach, Sr., his son, Joe Jr., Mike Feazell, Greg Albrecht; David Hulme, etc., were drilling the members that "nothing is changing, but God is giving us new insight to enhance our understanding." 'The usual Armstrong theme about the "one true church; obey God as I say or you'll be thrown into the Lake of fire" was constantly drilled into the membership." Lie upon lie was placed onto the membership, while the duped believed their leaders. Constant propaganda, contradictions and duplicity were the mainstay for those inside the cult while a major PR campaign was being waged to the outside world. Newly devised PR kits were sent to the cult-watching evangelical ministries with publishing clout around 1989. Slowly, the WCG PR team started recruiting individuals such as Ruth Tucker, Hank Hanegraaff, Azusa Pacific and others with writing clout. The select leaders were financing the way for many pertinent authors to visit at headquarters for chats about how the WCG was changing its HWA doctrines. All the while, within the cult, the same leaders were outright lying to the members about change. As I said, propaganda was flying from every direction. The leaders would say one thing to the Christian Evangelicals and print the opposite in the member publications. The three main front leaders today may claim that they were implementing the changes slowly to prevent damage or loss; the fact is, all steps were taken with the greatest deception and lies to boot.
While the PR team, Joe Jr. Mike Feazell, Greg Albrecht and David Hulme were speaking "doctrine" to the outside world, the only push for change seductively initiated into the hard-line system, was "personal evangelism." This meant that the members were getting newly trained on how to bring in recruits to the church. During the entire history of the WCG, no member was supposed to bring individuals into the church. Recruiting was the sole responsibility of the leaders. Between the years 1989-1994, any modifications or supposed changes were conditioning patterns in preparation for training the members for a "paradigm" shift. This shift was necessary to train the members on how to recruit. Although the member could not possibly detect the plan or strategy involving recruiting, they could discern that "personal evangelism" was very different than what they were accustomed to.
Gerald Flurry, Philadelphia Church of God, was the first main break-away. He was/is an Armstrong radical and rebelled against the duplicities occurring within the Headquarters. After a year of planning, Rod Meredith, evangelist, and one of the first four students to attend the Pasadena College started by HWA in 1947, broke away with another HWA clone group, Global Church of God (GCG). [Update: Roderick Meredith later founded Living Church of God in 1998.] His breakaway was most interesting in that it was well known on Headquarters property that he was forming his own church for a year prior to the final breakaway, which occurred following the WACO disaster in 1993. Literally, until the WACO occurrence in spring of 1993, the entire WCG was managed identically as it had been in previous decades, preventing any possible acknowledgment of change. Ironically, within a month following WACO, the leaders started discussing a different position on the "nature of God." This was basically the beginning of awareness for most that the church was diverting from the Armstrong teachings, which was actually five years after the leaders started penetrating the evangelical community with blatant misinformation and propaganda.
Members learned about the Global Church group through the constant commercials from Joseph Tkach, Sr., telling members to go over to Global Church (Rod Meredith) if they didn't like it in the Worldwide Church of God. Some members stated that had it not been for Joseph Tkach's constant reminders of the Global Church of God, they would have never known about the alternative. The timing of these events was most significant in relationship to what was occurring within the WCG at that time. Also, much consideration must be attributed to the leaders of these breakaways, as their roles were most significant in the WCG.
Notice, I said many did not detect changes until 1995. In January of 1995, Joseph Tkach, Sr. made a special announcement regarding New Covenant teaching. Even though the launching of this new position in "understanding" was filled with duplicity and contradiction, many members became enlightened that something was going on, leading them to upset and frustration. People were caught off guard and some were angry. Because many knew nothing of any real changes happening before this time, the church members were in a flux and traumatized as to what was going on and why would God trick them. For many it was analogous to being hit with a freight train. Suddenly, fast and furiously a new doctrinal position was dropped in their lap. That in itself was not as problematic as the stress and trauma stemming from the fact that the leaders who were supposedly "God's only anointed" (that was still being taught) were saying something that was historically taught (to the WCG members) to be satanically inspired. This traumatic event caused stress, cognitive dissonance and dissociation. For most it was received without any preparation. Ironically, within six weeks the United Church of God (UCG) was formed and within two months, over one half of the WCG ministers (200 ministers) and 17,000 members (half of the total WCG population to our calculations) changed corporations from the WCG to the UCG. Few are aware that significant corporate ministers, while in the WCG, were fully involved in setting up the new corporation in preparation for a sudden split. It is imperative to note that those running these extension groups, as I prefer to call them, are headed by the same WCG leaders that held very high positions for the prior decade or two. The UCG leaders claimed they, too, knew nothing of the changes that were occurring with the Tkach regime. The fact is, every one of the UCG leaders were very instrumental in the PR market strategy campaign implemented around 1988-1989. Many outright lied to the UCG members and left their lies on paper. David Hulme, head of the UCG, was one such evangelist. He spearheaded the PR department in WCG and also ran the AICF (Ambassador International Cultural Foundation) affairs. No other man was more entrenched into the inner workings of the WCG organization than Hulme. Upon departure from WCG, Hulme states on a resignation letter that he had no awareness of the changes that were occurring and felt the leader was being dishonest. Hulme left a paper trail of his PR work with WCG that indicates that his excuse for leaving is an outright falsehood.
Pt. 1 | Pt. 2
UPDATE on WCG:
In November 2004 the Worldwide Church of God moved its headquarters from Pasadena to Glendora, California. In April 2009, they changed their name in the United States to Grace Communion International. (Some local church areas and countries may still carry the former name or a different one.) Today they have gone on to embrace New Age Teachers and philosophies. Read: Grace Communion International - New Age and Ecumenical Connections and Letter to Worldwide Church of God, Philippines (On Apostasy--A Radical Proposal).
Discernment & Research (covers apostasy and error in Christendom; the church growth movement, etc.)