Exit and Support Network

Was God Behind the
Worldwide Church of God Changes?

(Questions to Ask about Grace Communion International)

 

Worldwide Church of God seems to be revising their history so fast that it would behoove all of us to remember the way the new changes took place.

(Before we begin our questions, let the reader be aware that WCG changed their name in April 2009 in the United States and they are now known as Grace Communion International. Church Multiplication Ministries is a ministry of GCI.) 

Why did it take so many years for members of the WCG to understand their new evangelical doctrines? Could all the finagling with doctrines merely have been a smokescreen to cover up the real reasons behind the changes?

WCG reforms were paved by first getting their members to dispose of the earlier booklets. By listening to sermon tapes from the 1990s, it's easy to see that members were being eased into the new changes by a layer of propaganda and deceit. (Read: Rumors [Joe Tkach, Jr. denying changes in 1993] and this footnote regarding Ron Kelly and Herman Hoeh laughing at the teachings.) Then, as the changes were slowly being brought in, they moved out many local ministers and brought in new ones--most who knew nothing about the past, especially about the decade of the `70s when certain so called "rebellious" ministers recognized the same errors in Herbert W. Armstrong's doctrines, but were pushed aside, slandered and disfellowshipped. The new ministers of today have unthinkingly believed the propaganda that headquarters has fed them, that all material written by "dissidents" is a lie and rumors, or else "in the past" and something not to talk about.

Why didn't members know the true history about the Worldwide Church of God? Why didn't they know the truth about the courageous WCG evangelists who took their concerns to headquarters over 30 years ago? These evangelists knew of the financial abuses, corruption and double standards going on at headquarters. They knew about the doctrines that were causing untold misery and suffering. Why did many ministers choose, instead, to stay, keep quiet about these things, and continue receiving three tithes from the members? After all, the tithing doctrine was one of the problems brought up by several WCG evangelists in the 1970s who sought to bring change from within the organization. What was the result of bringing these issues up to the leadership? They were ignored, accused, slandered, kicked out and labeled "rebels" and "influenced by Satan." That was the real reason for the mass exodus of ministers and members during this time, not an "attack from Satan" when HWA told remaining members that he had to "get the church back on track."

How then, in 1995, could Joseph W. Tkach "suddenly" just so happen to get his "new revelation" from God? The long-time ministers still in WCG (many of whom grew up in WCG) would have been aware of exactly what transpired in the past. Could this be the main reason WCG replaced many of these older ministers at this time (whom they said were "too slow" in getting the changes implemented) with newer, naïve ministers who easily accepted the "revised" version of WCG's history that headquarters has furnished? [Read ESN article: Transformed by Christ (a critical review)]

Was it true (as members were taught) that God really didn't reveal the truth about the New Covenant to members until He revealed it to Joseph W. Tkach? If that was true, what was Greg Albrecht, Bernie Schnippert and Mike Feazell, among the church's current inner-circle attending, Azusa Pacific University (known as a theologically liberal institution, Charismatic/Pentecostal, and a member of Willow Creek Association) in 1977? [Read here in Outsider's Inside Update Newsletter #6 and this part in the New Times Los Angeles, December 4, 1997 which shows it was not just Albrecht who began "quietly attending" Azusa, but Bernie Schnippert, Michael Feazell and other ministers in the "inner circle."] Joseph Tkach, Jr. (pastor general of Worldwide Church of God) said the reason was because Ambassador College was pursuing accreditation--yet AC didn't pursue accreditation until 1988! (This is mentioned in Myths in Transformed by Truth - Is the book truth or propaganda?) To make things more confusing, Ambassador Report #34, January 1986, stated that a letter was sent to HWA on March 21, 1985 from the International Accrediting Association giving Ambassador College full accreditation; however, AC students were "not informed at the time."  

An informant who phoned Azusa in 2005 related the following to ESN:

"Dr. Russell Duke (member of WCG and former Ambassador University President) works full time at Azusa in their Theology department. He is responsible for putting together training courses for WCG ministers. He also gave the idea that they like their ministers to receive additional training in WCG doctrines.
"I found it interesting this guy is the head honcho in training ministers at this college that I've never heard of AND also belongs to the WCG." (email with ESN)

Russell Duke was later moved from Azusa Pacific University to full-time work at Ambassador College of Christian Ministry.1

Read the section in our OIU Newsletter, Volume 3: "Was there a Choice?" and how it is important for exiters to do a thorough research on the 1970s era of the Worldwide Church of God in order to see clearly on these "new" changes in order to break free of the false dogma and see clearly on these "new" changes.

Concerning this 1970s era and beyond, see the following:

Robert Gerringer 1975 Letter to Charles Hunting

Jack Kessler 1981 Letter to WCG Board Members

Worldwide Church of God History (Exposes the double standards of the Armstrongs and the suffering of the members that finally led to the exit of seventy WCG ministers and 11,000 members.)

Did God really reveal to Herbert Armstrong (prior to his death) all the things he was going to change in the Worldwide Church of God (especially in Mystery of the Ages)? Read the following which discusses this: Deception Surrounding Worldwide Church of God Changes.

How many knew that, as far back as the early 1990s, WCG minister Earl Williams acknowledged his wrong teachings and began preaching New Covenant grace to members? Was it announced by headquarters that his sermon tapes were available? If not, why did members have to pass those tapes undercover across the country to help other members to see clearly that New Testament Christians were not under the Mosaic Law? This was years before Joseph Tkach, Sr. (and Joe Tkach, Jr., Greg Albrecht and Michael Feazell) supposedly received their "truth from God" about the New Covenant. Did other members hear about how Joseph W. Tkach told Earl Williams that if he left the WCG he would "lose his salvation" and that if he just stayed, he (Tkach, Sr.) would "make the changes"?2 Does this sound like New Covenant language? Was it simply convenient for the leadership to use Mr. Williams to "pave the way" for the doctrinal reforms and then discard him later? Was Atlanta a "test area"? [Read from those who say it was.]

Why didn't members know about Michael Snyder's radio interview on WMUZ, Detroit, December 13, 1990? Snyder was David Hulme's assistant and strategist for the new doctrine propaganda. This program was taped and shows proof that David Hulme did not reveal all the truth in his resignation letter and was a principal architect with WCG "transformation" behind members' backs. Michael Snyder later left the WCG, calling it a "cult."3  

It has been documented that WCG went to the media as far back as the early 1990s, before members were even aware of any changes taking place.4

Letters from ESN to Watchman Fellowship and Joseph W. Tkach about changes.

When some Christian ministries had concerns with WCG changes, why were they not given satisfactory answers, but experienced an accusative tone and lack of clarity instead?

Why were members told to stay where God had placed them, while WCG was making their changes with one foot in the old covenant and one foot in the New Covenant?

Does God make changes through deception to outside ministries and with doublespeak, confusion and blame on the members for believing what they did? Shouldn't a true minister of God tell the truth at all times? Isn't God a God of truth? Isn't the Holy Spirit the Spirit of truth?

If the changes were a work of the Holy Spirit, why would He seemingly do a "half a job" and take years getting Christ's true message of grace revealed, losing most to offshoots with the same Armstrong doctrines in the process? Why, indeed, would changes made "by God" cause most of the members to exit to these spin-off groups (Global Church of God was the first and United Church of God was one of the major breakoffs)? Why would others remain confused about what they believed, and still others to become agnostic or atheist? Is this how the Holy Spirit works when people are enlightened with the truth of Christ? Or is it more the way people would act if they had never been "deprogrammed" from the mind control that was unknowingly being used on them?

WCG's reason (given in the beginning to certain authors and ministries about why members were taking so long in grasping the truth about grace) was: "Well, it took us time to understand these doctrines in order that we could teach them to the members," and "We were new with all these things and made mistakes." Does this hold water? Many of research and exposé articles on Worldwide Church of God testify otherwise. Also see this note at the end of a letter to author Janis Hutchinson about why this doesn't add up. David Covington (former WCG minister) tried to help the leaders at headquarters understand that the WCG was still functioning as an abusive system, but to no avail. After having his words and motives maligned and twisted by headquarters, he finally ended up leaving. (Read Covington's final letter to Greg Albrecht.)

Why would massive numbers of ministers need to be disfellowshipped? (See list of names) Yes, we've all heard the reasonings about how these "disobedient" ministers had to be put out because they held to believing that HWA had the truth and it was "too hard for them to give up what they had taught all those years." Why didn't the Holy Spirit transform them, too? Wasn't God merciful enough to do that--if He indeed had stepped in to change the entire WCG? Do we really believe the twisted logic WCG has given to explain all this away? How can it make sense in light of how other members had their blindness completely removed, not having to go through a gradual unfolding of the New Covenant? Why did they see they needed toabout how these "disobedient" ministers had to be put out because they held to believing that HWA had the truth and it was "too hard for them to give up what they had taught all those years." Why didn't the Holy Spirit transform them, too? Wasn't God merciful enough to do that--if He indeed had stepped in to change the entire WCG? Do we really believe the twisted logic WCG has given to explain all this away? How can it make sense in light of how other members had their blindness completely removed, not having to go through a gradual unfolding of the New Covenant? Why did they see they needed to walk away from WCG organization entirely?

Why would the WCG leadership go on to proclaim that HWA was really a "sincere Christian" all those years and just got a little off in his understanding of the Bible and so God decided to pick the WCG to show them how they needed to change? If this was true about HWA, then why did WCG never have a Bible Story book published that covered the New Testament? Why did the volumes of The Bible Story book (that members were to read to their children) only cover the Old Testament? Many members will remember that they were told that Basic Wolverton (author of the Bible Story) just hadn't gotten around to doing the N.T. yet and a few articles would be placed in The Plain Truth until then. We should realize that it is far easier to control members when the belief system of a group is based on the O.T., especially the old covenant, because the end result is that the grace of the New Covenant, which is found through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, will never be brought to light, resulting in liberty. So how could Herbert Armstrong have been "dedicated to Christ"5 as the leadership also proclaimed? If HWA was following the true Jesus Christ in the Word of God, wouldn't the Holy Spirit have revealed these things to him?

Wouldn't true changes cause leaders to admit the full truth about their history, the background of their founder,6 and acknowledge that HWA was a liar and that it was habitual?7 Wouldn't they let their members know that Herbert Armstrong lied about the early church "keeping the Sabbath," and that he also lied about restoring the Church back to the "original truths"? Would they minimize and/or cover up these things because they had determined it was "best" that their members didn't know all the truth? Would they go on to revise their own history8 in order to foster an idea of the group's "special relationship" with God?

If God changed the WCG, why hasn't He done a similar work with other cults like Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons (Latter-day Saints) and other Bible-based, apocalyptic groups? Isn't that what Hank Hanegraaff declared would happen? Did WCG make its members think they were in some type of "special" category? WCG was supposed to "lead the way" for God to change other cults. Mormons, Moonies, Seventh-day Adventists and other cults/cultic groups are starting to follow the WCG's footsteps and are also trying to mainstream.9 Read: Mainstreaming Mormonism. [offsite article]

How could God have changed a "church" from the "fringe of Christianity" to the "fold" as Ruth Tucker stated in Christianity Today, if WCG was alleged to have used "church" as a front in order to deceive and exploit others? Not only was Herbert Armstrong's WCG listed as a Bible-based cult in all the apologetic literature, but some who have researched carefully have questioned if it was nothing more than a mass multi-marketing business organization filled with corruption and immorality at the top? Others have even alleged that WCG was set up as a secret "mind control operation" (since the 1950s) with connections to sinister groups. Religious cults are known to use "church" as a front10 while their members are kept completely unaware of what is really going on at the top. These deceptive groups are known to "transform" after the founder dies, and they also change approximately every ten years. Wouldn't exposure to WCG beginning in `70s be just one reason that would have propelled them to mainstream? Wouldn't they now find it much easier to get into other countries than when they were previously was labeled a "cult"?

Why did WCG quash all criticism and dissent? Why were many of those who disagreed with WCG headquarters' mandated changes treated in a patronizing manner and made to feel they "didn't have all their facts straight"? In several cases sincere and loyal elders were removed, simply because these men didn't endorse harsh measures to get the new changes across.

Why were attempts at healing rushed through and not very effective?11 Why wasn't it made clear to members that the abuser (or abusers) can have no part in the recovery of their victims, and that the abuser must receive help from other qualified professionals, and be well on the road to recovery themselves, before they even attempt to minister to the wounded?

During the new changes, why weren't the members told about (and helped to understand) the methods of thought reform that HWA and top leaders had used, and which enabled them to recruited innocent others into a destructive religious group? Could members recognize it today if these methods were still being used? Do they recognize the mind control methods (i. e., confusion, guilt, blame and double messages) that were used in order to instigate the changes?12

Read a few paragraphs that testify to how manipulative tactics were used on the members by new WCG ministers in order to get the changes across.

Do legitimate Christian churches use mind manipulating methods; e.g., Neuro-Linguistic Programming,13 on their members without their awareness?

Why is WCG membership down to so few members in many congregations if the doctrinal changes were "of God?" Why are some of the congregations moving to a new location and the majority changing their name? Are they beginning to want the spotlight taken off of them?14

Why did WCG (in March 2003) decide to allow Philadelphia Church of God (a destructive splinter group of the WCG) to republish HWA's material by selling PCG the copyrights for $3 million dollars? Would a "Christian church" allow Herbert W. Armstrong's literature (considered heresies) to be given to another group labeled a "destructive religious cult," to republish and to distribute? Is this what "true changed evangelicals" do? Is this ethical? One must ask if such behavior can have a part in the life of those who claim to have changed from cult to preaching the gospel of Christ?

Why are there still ministers in WCG holding on to some of Herbert Armstrong's teachings,15 and others who remain confused, or ambivalent, about what they really should believe or teach? Why has WCG (Grace Communion International) joined the ecumenical movement and is mingling with neo-evangelicals?16 Why are they now endorsing New Age teachings and philosophies and becoming part of the church growth movement and the Emerging Church?

Why didn't they disband headquarters and, after they sold their massive real estate holdings, return monies to those they had exploited and needlessly abused financially, emotionally, physically and even in some cases, sexually? Does a lame "apology"17 and a "we have changed" stance make up for the deaths, exploitation, and devastation of thousands of adults and helpless children?18

Is it possible to put new wine in old wine skins?

Does a rotten tree ever bring forth good fruit? Or should it, instead, be chopped completely down to the ground and the captives set free?

May Christians be discerning in these days of deception and apostasy.

By D. M. Williams
Exit & Support Network™
February 11, 2003
Last updated September 30, 2011

Note: Joseph W. Tkach died September 22, 1995 of cancer at the age of 68.

Also read: OIU Newsletters which covers Worldwide Church of God (CGI) and their New Age agenda.

Related Article: Worldwide Church of God's Faulty Orthodoxy (Dr. Robert Sumner gives strong reasons to be skeptical in accepting the new WCG as now Orthodox)

Footnotes:

1 May-June Together ("Worldwide Church of God News") Update: Russell Duke is President of Grace Communion Seminary and Vice-President of Grace Communion International.

2 Testimony of WCG member (now exited) who was in contact with Joseph W. Tkach during the time Earl Williams' tapes were being passed around to different congregations.

3 The Watchman Expositor, "Former Minister's Parting Comment" by Robert Collins, p. 8., Vol. 10, No. 7, 1993

4 "But during an October 22, 1990 'Truths that Transform" radio program (produced by D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida), portions of a private WCG working paper on the Trinity were discussed, along with speculation that the longstanding WCG view of the God-head might be revised." ("Unprecedented Changes Affect Worldwide Church of God," Christian Research Journal, "News Watch," Spring 1991); "For over a year the leadership of the Worldwide Church of God has been in contact with Watchman Fellowship and other counter-cult ministries concerning doctrinal changes..." ("Doctrinal Changes at the Worldwide Church of God," Watchman Expositor, Vol. 8, No. 5, 1991); "...we represented the publishers in a January 13, 1992 meeting with WCG leaders to discuss doctrinal changes they claim have been taking place with the church. Representing the WCG were [Michael] Snyder, David Hulme.. and J. Michael Feazell.. Armstrong taught, in effect, that the WCG is the only true church--a claim the present leadership no longer makes. ... When asked specifically whether baptism is a prerequisite to salvation, they said no." ("Special Report: Worldwide Church of God in Transition," Christian Research Journal, "News Watch," January 1992, by Kurt Van Gorden and Alan W. Gomes); "Worldwide Church of God Accepts Trinity Doctrine," The Watchman Expositor, Vol. 10, No. 7, 1993; "The Worldwide Church of God Acknowledging the 'Plain Truth' about the Trinity?" Christian Research Journal, Spring/Summer 1994; Michael Snyder and Ruth Tucker radio interview, December 13, 1990 WMUZ, Detroit; et al.  

5 On 4-30-96 and 5-1-96 Joseph Tkach, Jr. was interviewed on D. James Kennedy's Christian radio program "Truths that Transform." In that interview, Tkach, Jr. stated that Herbert W. Armstrong was a "very sincere Christian who was dedicated to Christ." (Tapes with ESN) [Note: D. James Kennedy died 9-5-07 at the age of 76.] In The Worldwide News, March 7, 1995, p. 3, Joseph W. Tkach stated that they believe Herbert Armstrong "was a minister of Jesus Christ." For more quotes see: Has WCG (GCI) whitewashed Herbert W. Armstrong? from our Q&A's. Herbert W. Armstrong stated, "Christ is not the gospel. Believing on Christ is not believing the gospel." (Voice clip of HWA giving a Bible Study and marking Buck Taylor; heard on pt. 2, pt. 2 of "My Story" by C. Wayne Cole, 5-19-79)

6 See articles under Questioning HWA's background.

7 See articles under Questioning if HWA told the truth.

8 Transformed by Christ (a critical review) (shows WCG's history revision and whitewashing of their founder) and Grace Communion International History Revision.

9 "From Cult to Church: The Quest for Acceptance," audio by Dr. Ron Enroth, 1994.  

10 It is alleged that many groups known as "cults" have a hidden agenda and work together to create a passive people. They have similar methods of deception and abuse, and are often fronts for intelligence activity. Read more about this and WCG / HWA activities from OIU Newsletter #6.

11 One of the "healing sessions" that WCG brought in (during the changes) to try and deal with members' healing concerns was called "Pathways for Peace and Healing." This was in the form of seminars for local congregations. A search on this group shows that it is based on Shamanism, which is tied in with Reiki healing, a New Age practice. (Read: Reiki a universal energy technique to heal.) The founder of Reiki was Dr. Mikao Usui a Japanese theologian who claims that Reiki came to him in a vision. Read: letter sent to author Janis Hutchinson, which mentions these early healing attempts.

12 Video Sermon by Joseph W. Tkach to Worldwide Church of God Members, January 1995.

13 Neuro-Linguistic Programming involves subliminal messages; i. e., the act of tapping into the unconscious mind apart from the person's conscious knowledge. Read: Clues to Application of Mind Control (detailed letter to ESN)

14 In November 2004 the WCG moved its headquarters from Pasadena to Glendora, California. (Pasadena Star-News, October 25, 2004) In April 2009 the Worldwide Church of God 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.)

15 Read: Is Grace Communion International Still Holding to Some of Herbert Armstrong's Doctrines?

16 Grace Communion International - New Age and Ecumenical Connections

17 Joseph Tkach, Jr. "apologized" to the evangelical Christian world in The Plain Truth, yet no apology was given at this time to the membership or those raised within for abuses inflicted. (This appears to be normal for WCG headquarters. Kenneth Westby testified that no apology was ever given by Herbert Armstrong to the brethren admitting that he had led them astray.) A November 1995 Worldwide News "apology" to the membership was partially quoted by Kelly Marshall in her letter to author Janis Hutchinson concerning WCG changes and shows how the apology deviated. In 2002 former member John Miller, Jr. testified that there never was an apology except a "generic" one from the pulpit. While certain ministers have apologized for "wrong doctrines" and an "apology" was put forth in the Festival Issue, Fall 1995, the issue of mind control, plus taking responsibility for ruining innumerable lives, was never addressed. The latest was Greg Albrecht's "apology" in 2004 in the Called to be Free video/DVD. "Apology" is never the same as repentance. (Read the book: Damaged Disciples: Casualties of Authoritarian Churches and the Shepherding Movement by Ron Burks for an explanation of how this is true. [no longer in print; check interlibrary loans, e-bay; used book stores]).

18 See: Did Herbert W. Armstrong Abuse His Flock?


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