Letters to Cultivate Ministries
Jim Zilonka was implored to question Worldwide Church of God changes and their motives. This was a result of Zilonka (former Mormon) saying that Worldwide Church of God (now known as Grace Communion International) was no longer a cult because there was "so much pressure put on the WCG to get back to the Bible and Biblical salvation that they finally repented from their apostate teachings" and "this is the first time an entire cult organization has come back to the truth." (January 2005 Cultivate Ministries Newsletter, "The Death of a Cult")
On January 10, Jim Zilonka replied to a letter Exit & Support Network™ wrote and stated that he was presently researching everything he could get his hands on (even though ESN had written and phoned him more than once in 1997 about WCG). He also mentioned what would happen if the Mormon Church were to officially change their doctrines on salvation. He said God's Word tells us that in the latter times God would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh (including the cults). While he agreed that true repentance does not involve deceit, cover-up and history revision (such as the Worldwide Church of God had been using), he dismissed such actions by saying "this is part of the old school, which would be expected to see for some time."
Unfortunately, Jim Zilonka failed to be discerning regarding the Worldwide Church of God (who has since changed their name to Grace Communion International in 2009) and instead succumbed to the propaganda in their Video/DVD: "Called To Be Free"--which he sent to us in hopes that it would change our mind about WCG. However, we critiqued it fully on our site on January 30, 2005. Read: Called To Be (Is it Truth or Only More Worldwide Church of God Propaganda?)
For someone who exposes and warns about false religions, cults and the New Age movement this is most regrettable.
In February of 2005, ESN sent Jim Zilonka two additional letters. Both are posted below.
UPDATE: After the following letters were sent, Jim Zilonka's next newsletter (March 2005) was exposing Rick Warren and the church growth movement. However, Worldwide Church of God (now known as Grace Communion International) has endorsed Rick Warren's "40 Days of Purpose" (the church growth movement) and gone on to embrace New Age Teachers and philosophies, so it looks like Zilonka didn't research WCG well enough. (See our article, Grace Communion International - New Age and Ecumenical Connections and Letter to Worldwide Church of God, Philippines (On Apostasy--A Radical Proposal). This letter, which reached close to 350 WCG ministers, including those at Headquarters, includes at end an email reply from author Brian Flynn (Running Against the Wind), concerning how we must be discerning of false teachings coming into the church.)
The Mission America Coalition posted a list of denominations and denominational fellowships in the spring of 2004 that endorsed the 40 Days of Purpose initiative and Worldwide Church of God's name was listed. [Update: That webpage has since been removed, although we saved a copy of the page. They are now listed here as a Mission America Coalition Partner under their new name Grace Communion International on their site.] The Worldwide News, 1999, gave a report on a Mission America meeting in which WCG attended: "Dan Rogers, superintendent of ministers, and his wife, Barbara, represented the WCG Jan. 21 at Mission America's annual meeting in San Francisco." ("Mission America: Sharing Christ by the end of 2000") The 40 Days of Purpose is tied in with Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Church (the church growth movement).
It was noted that Cultivate Ministries has quoted from, and recommended, the website and resources of Hank Hanegraaff of Christian Research Institute. (Cultivate Ministries Newsletter, December 2005) See our section: Letters to Hank Hanegraaff for info on how Hanegraaff's propaganda was actually instrumental in helping the Worldwide Church of God mainstream. This section includes links to corruption exposure in CRI.
In spite of the fact that Jim Zilonka believes the new changes in the Worldwide Church of God mean the "death of a cult," there are now hundreds of offshoots ("cults") from the WCG, the majority of them still holding on to Armstrongism. Religious cults have always used confusion and deceit when making any "new changes" in their organization. If WCG leaders had told the full truth about their founder and about their history, instead of whitewashing it, it would have caused the collapse of the organization.
FIRST LETTER TO CULTIVATE MINISTRIES (includes "what if" scenarios in the Mormon Church)
REPLY FROM JIM ZILONKA TO FIRST LETTER (email excerpts)
FINAL LETTER AND REPLY TO CULTIVATE MINISTRIES (a shorter letter bringing out some excellent points regarding the WCG doctrinal changes; covers the "Called to Be" video)
January 25, 2005
P.O. Box 526
Florissant, CO 80816
Dear Mr. Zilonka,
My name is Kelly Marshall. I am a former member of the Worldwide Church of God and have written several research articles for the Exit & Support Network™. I understand that, after viewing the video "Called to Be Free," you are wondering whether or not to endorse the WCG as a mainstream, orthodox group. I, too, since my exit in 1995, had wondered the same. I had questioned if I had prejudged too quickly, and whether I had given them enough of a chance to "change." I truly felt like a "rat jumping ship" when we left shortly after the Feast of Tabernacles that year. I even contemplated returning to help rebuild the "new WCG." Today, after seeing the contradictions and deceit used by the leadership, I can truly say that I am most certainly glad that I did not. I hope you will prayerfully consider your decision as I share with you the areas that I feel are major obstacles that the WCG has refused to challenge, even though it's been 10 years since the "historical changes."
I know you have been contemplating the "what if" scenarios if these very changes had occurred in the Mormon Church. Let's take a closer look at some of these scenarios. I hope you will come to understand why I cannot accept the WCG as a genuine, orthodox church. Let's begin by asking, "If the Mormon Church were to make doctrinal changes, what specific changes would have to be made in order for you to be convinced that they have truly become converted?" Would you expect clear and decisive stands on orthodox doctrines, or would the leadership be given the luxury to "pick and choose" their latest mish-mash of eclectic doctrines? What about their form of church government? Would you expect the "converted" leadership to continue in the top-down structure, or would there be some open form of election or representation? How about accountability? What if the "new" leadership refuses to open themselves to financial scrutiny by never revealing their salaries or disclosing where the proceeds from the sales of their vast wealth have gone? I hope, through examination of some of these issues, you will gain an understanding that there is more to "converting" a cult, than changing to mainstream-sounding doctrines.
Let's pretend for a moment that the headquarters of the Mormon Church announced that there are some "changes in our understanding of biblical doctrines," and that through a long-term study of Scripture, God has revealed "New Truth and deeper understanding of the Scriptures." The current president of the Mormon Church has decided to visit a Mormon church in Atlanta, Georgia--one of the main hotbeds of controversy within the church--to unleash this surprise. The pastor of the Atlanta based church, Pastor Williams, has been stirring up trouble by preaching the doctrine of grace, and the President is going to settle this issue once and for all.
The anticipated "showdown" begins. The President gets up to make his speech. A long list of long-held, cherished beliefs begin to unravel:
Mormons must no longer believe that they are an exclusive church and that there are true Christians found in other denominations. Mormons must no longer judge other Christians outside of the organization.
Mormons are not commanded to tithe under the New Covenant, but if they love Christ, tithing is a form of spiritual worship and shows where their hearts really are. The New Covenant doesn't set a percentage but requires greater sacrifice. Under the New Covenant the tithe is voluntary and you're just as guilty of stealing if you don't give anything voluntarily, as you were under the old covenant where you were commanded to give a tithe. It is mandatory for the headquarters employees to tithe, because they set the example.
Mormons are free to eat and drink according to their conscience. Am I encouraging anyone to eating unclean foods now? I couldn't even if Christ came down and told me like Peter. And I don't think any of you would either. Mormons cannot judge other Christians because of what they eat.
Mormons will no longer be ostracized for holding down a job on Sunday. If he must work on the Sunday to provide food for his family, then he is not in violation of the commandments. But the member must try to have his workday shifted as soon as possible so he can continue to keep Sunday. Humanitarian needs come first, but once that's been resolved that doesn't give you the excuse to keep doing it. Mormons will continue to keep Sunday as their "tradition."
Baptism for the dead or any cherished ordinances and holy day celebrations will continue to be kept as our "tradition."
Joseph Smith is our founder and a minister of Jesus Christ. He led many to find salvation in Christ. He always urged the ministry to be faithful to the Bible. He never claimed that he wrote infallible scripture. He never claimed that he understood all biblical truth. In fact, Joseph Smith was never afraid to change when proven wrong. The sign of God's true church is that it is never afraid to change whenever New Truth is revealed. Other churches will hold on to their traditions, even when it's wrong, but not God's Church.
The belief that the American Indians are descendents of the Mormon Church cannot be substantiated through history, and we will no longer teach it as doctrine. Many things Joseph Smith taught were products of his time. Are we any different today?
Nothing has changed--we will still keep all our traditions. The only thing that has changed is that we have gained a deeper understanding of the New Covenant.
After the speech, the current President does not acknowledge the leader of the rebel Atlanta church as a "brother in Christ." He never says, "Thank you, Pastor Williams, for opening my eyes to these errors. Thank you for being brave enough to stand up for Christ, even though it has caused you much adversity. Thanks for setting us straight." Yet, this failure to acknowledge Mr. Williams' for his grace preaching is exactly what happened when Pastor General Joseph Tkach, Sr. went to Atlanta. If Mr. Earl Williams, the pastor of the Atlanta church, was in full agreement with the Pastor General of the Worldwide Church of God, why were William's open proclamations of the grace doctrine ("We are saved by Christ, and not by the Law") not publicly acknowledged by Tkach? Would you find this a little odd, if not disturbing? Earl Williams had been preaching grace since 1991 (if not sooner), and it was he that had caused a major rift in the WCG. Even in JWT Jr.'s 1997 book, Transformed by Truth, this event is glossed over, and Mr. Williams is not mentioned. It is apparent that the new WCG is still engaging in "information control."
Mr. Zilonka, please ask yourself--What would the present "converted" leadership of the Mormon church have to say concerning Joseph Smith for you to believe they are being forthright and coming completely clean with their past? If Joseph Smith made over 500 prophecies that failed, should the present leadership acknowledge this, and inform members that Smith was a false prophet and never a true servant of Christ? How many years after "the changes" would you expect this leadership to be honest with the membership about the true identity of Joseph Smith? Should leaders be honest right away, or should they wait 10 years?
The WCG has never completely owned up to the true character, motives, and deceit perpetuated by this modern-day heretic. The early church fathers (the Apostle John and Polycarp) never hesitated to publicly denounce heretics, even fleeing from their very presence lest someone mistake them as acquaintances. The WCG has never done this. During the "changes of '95" we were repeatedly told from the pulpit that:
- HWA was "the founder of the Worldwide Church of God," and
- His title of "Apostle" merely denoted his position within the Church.
I did not understand the significance of this comment until I exited with some long-time members. They had pointed out to me that the present leadership could not fully tell the truth about HWA being a cult leader because it would put their legitimacy into question. HWA had a very charismatic personality--the very glue that held the church together--the current leadership did not. The only thing the present leadership had was HWA's name to ride on, and they knew this, and would use this for as long as they could. While in the WCG, we heard such things as, "If HWA were alive today, he would submit to the Pastor General (meaning Tkach, Sr.) and adopt all these changes! He believed in the ultimate authority of the church, and he would readily submit to its government!" This put many members in a quandary (myself included). Do we obey HWA's dying words of "Stay with that Apostle (referring to Tkach, Sr.) no matter what! Your eternity depends on it!"? Or do we obey the Bible, which stated that, "God is the same yesterday, today, and forever" and would never change eternal truths? I decided to duck down in the trenches until the smoke cleared. I wouldn't make a decision until I had all the facts. Unfortunately, getting the "facts" was a difficult task as the WCG leadership would say one thing, then turn around and say the complete opposite. During this incredibly stressful time, we could not figure out exactly what we were, or were not, supposed to believe.
Below is a clear example of Joe Tkach, Jr.'s own words (bolding mine):
…I know my readers come from one of at least two vastly different audiences. One group is made up of people who greatly admire Mr. Armstrong and everything he said. They will be watching closely to see if I attack my former mentor and spiritual leader. The other group is at the other end of the spectrum. Its members want me to denounce Mr. Armstrong, to call him a false prophet who led thousands of people into serious spiritual error.
I am afraid that I will disappoint both groups, for I won't be taking either of these two options. I intend neither to canonize Mr. Armstrong as a sinless saint nor to condemn him as a hateful heretic. My goal is to try to come to some understanding of who he was as a man and as a leader, as well as to see how he laid the foundation for where we stand today in the Worldwide Church of God. (Transformed by Truth, 1997, p. 168)
Nobody is asking JWT Jr. to condemn HWA as a "hateful heretic"--what people want to hear is the truth about HWA, so they can understand that he was never God's servant, nor used by God in any way, shape or form. The only gospel he preached was a false gospel that did, indeed, lead thousands into serious spiritual error, but Joe declares that he will never fully acknowledge this. God wants us to tell the truth even when it is difficult to do--even when we may never benefit from it. Acceptance of Christ leads to willingness to count all things worthless. We do not try to salvage what we know is corrupt, but cast all evils aside in order to gain Christ.
What happened in ancient Judah when the kings refused to tear down the pagan idols, even though they worshipped the "true God"? In 2 Kings 12:2-3 we read, "Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there." We also see this in 2 Kings 14:4, and 2 Kings 15:4, 35. Judah was never able to completely eradicate idol worship, which reared its ugly head throughout their entire history as an ancient nation. Herbert Armstrong still stands as an idol amongst the present WCG and will remain so because the leadership refuses to completely tear down his image.
They have said things such as, "He was a zealous man who didn't completely understand the Bible and made some mistakes" or "He was a product of the history and events of his time" or other such nonsense. They attempt to justify his actions by telling members that HWA had a "lack of theological education" which led to "wrong interpretations," and that he held "unusual beliefs," "unusual views," and "unorthodox doctrines," yet was a "minister of Jesus Christ." Here is a direct quote from the membership newsletter, The Worldwide News dated March 7, 1995, Vol. XXIII, NO.5, WN, "Becoming prepared to effectively share the gospel message" by Joseph Tkach, Jr., p. 3 (bolding mine):
"Further, some people want to believe that Mr. Armstrong did, indeed, receive new and special instruction or new truth directly from God, even though he said he did not. Because of that belief, they are afraid to recognize his doctrinal mistakes, and change as Christ changes the Church.
"This does not disparage Mr. Armstrong. We believe that he was a minister of Jesus Christ. .... Mr. Armstrong was devoted to Christ1 in spite of his errors, and placed the Bible above his own ideas. But some people become uncomfortable in dealing with the fact that Mr. Armstrong sometimes made a major mistake in his interpretation of Scripture.
"Mr. Armstrong disclaimed special revelation, as well. He never claimed infallibility when it came to preaching and teaching. He only claimed to understand what the revelation of Scripture teaches us. And in some cases, Mr. Armstrong taught us his interpretations, which Christ has, through Scripture, led us to see were in error. This is no disrespect to him. He was always willing to make a change when he could see the error. Of course, while he was still alive, neither he nor any of us saw these errors."
Allow me to quote from HWA's book, Mystery of the Ages--a book that he claimed as "the most important book written since the Bible." (The book was released four months before his death.) Page 9 states (bolding & comments in brackets mine):
But now God's time has come! He now sends a voice to cry out with amplified world-covering power to reveal the way out of this senseless madness, into the world of PEACE and righteousness that soon shall grip the earth!
In the book of Isaiah is a "NOW" prophecy: "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord…lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say…Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him" (Isa. 40:3, 9-10). [Notice the words "arm" and "strong"--members are taught that this is a coded form of Herbert Armstrong's name!]
That voice now cries out!
The prophet Malachi confirmed this: "Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come before his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, said the Lord of Hosts" (Mal. 3:1)
Page 10 continues:
Malachi's prophecy, like Isaiah's….refers to a human messenger preparing the way before Christ's now imminent Second Coming…
But that was a prototype [referring to John the Baptist], or forerunner of a voice "lifted up" (greatly amplified by modern printing, radio, and TV), crying out in the midst of today's spiritual wilderness of religious confusion, announcing the imminency of Christ's Second Coming…
On pages 24-25 of the Mystery of the Ages, concerning himself, HWA writes:
But I had been called specially by the living God…I was taught by Christ what I did not want to believe but what he showed me was TRUE!
He [Jesus Christ] in person, taught the original 12 apostles and the apostle Paul…Thus it was the same Jesus Christ who taught both the original apostles, beginning in A.D. 27 and 1900 years later, beginning in 1927, myself.
And let me add here that my study of God's revelation of truth has never ceased.
This leaves little doubt in anyone's mind that HWA felt he received special instructions from God and he believed it to his death. Notice how Tkach, Jr. tries to blame the members for believing that HWA thought he was more than he was! But it is very plain that HWA made the members believe that he was something he was not, and not the other way around! Members were afraid to admit that HWA committed any doctrinal errors, because they would be put out of the church. Ministers who tried to approach HWA's errors were also put out. This is a well-documented fact.
It was well known that Tkach, Sr. lead the pack in ousting these "disloyal" and "liberal" ministers. Members were repeatedly told that is why HWA chose Tkach as his replacement. Tkach, Sr. and many other present top ministers were well aware of the doctrinal errors of Armstrongism back in the 70's, so it wasn't something that Tkach, Jr., Greg Albrecht, and Mike Feazell brought to Tkach, Sr.'s attention when the 90's rolled around. That's simply another revisionist myth that the leadership wants the members to swallow.
On 4-30-96 and 5-1-96 Tkach, Jr. was interviewed on D. James Kennedy's Christian radio program "Truths that Transform" and said that HWA was a "very sincere Christian who was dedicated to Christ." [Tapes with ESN.] WCG's 1998 booklet Transformed by Christ: a Brief History of the WCG includes such statements (posted on their site). [Read ESN's critical review of this book.]
I only ask that if the Mormon Church said these things about Joseph Smith after becoming "orthodox," would you find this acceptable? As long as Joseph Smith stays legitimate in the eyes of the members, they will remain vulnerable to the belief that Smith did nothing wrong and was used by God. And this is exactly the viewpoint of the members who remain in the WCG. They follow Tkach, Jr. because HWA is still a legitimate Christian in their eyes. The idols of HWA must be completely torn down before one can build on the foundation of Christ. Even HWA understood this very well when he tore down the foundations of true Christianity in order to erect his heretical empire.
What about the writings of Joseph Smith? What if the President of the newly "converted" Mormon Church tells the enamored public that it would no longer publish the Book of Mormon, nor allow it to be published? It would certainly be a bold and welcomed move. But what if a few years down the road, this President changes his mind and sells the copyrights of all the writings of Joseph Smith to a dangerous Mormon splinter group for millions of dollars, knowing full well that these writings would be republished?
In 2003, the WCG sold all the copyrights to HWA's literature to the Philadelphia Church of God for approximately $3 million dollars. The PCG is one of the most dangerous offshoots of the WCG. Gerald Flurry, the leader of the group, is known as a despot and a very unstable man. The present headquarters personnel knew this, but chose to sell the copyrights to Flurry anyway. In Acts 19:18-20, we have a clear example of what happened in Ephesus when the evil, blinded men came to believe in Christ (bolding mine):
And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
In the above paragraph, we see a dramatic example of true conversion: sinful men completely rejecting the evil they had once embraced, and were willing to take a great financial loss to ensure that others would not come in contact with--nor continue to perpetuate--evil doctrines and practices. It seems that the WCG wasn't willing to take such a financial windfall. They had a clear opportunity to abolish the heretical hodge-podge of Armstrongism, but now it finds itself back into production--all thanks to the current leadership of the WCG.
In June 2003 Christianity Today quoted Phil Arnn of Watchman Fellowship (a Christian and apologetic ministry) as saying:
"These are heretical doctrines that are destructive to the eternal life of anyone who comes under their influence," Arnn said. "To have profited from the release of the copyrights is a matter that I would think [would be] very troubling to the conscience."
What if this "new" orthodox Mormon Church refuses to teach about heaven or hell (and takes an ambivalent view towards them)? Do they continue to let their members believe that they will repopulate the universe, or do they tell them the truth? The WCG won't touch these subjects. Why? Because they would have to admit that if HWA is in hell [if he didn't repent], or they would have to lie that HWA is in heaven. Since they don't want to do either, they won't bring it up, lest members get wise. Apparently, adopting this doctrine of hell wasn't important enough for mainstream evangelicals to use as criteria for orthodoxy. Worldwiders continue to believe that there is no eternal punishment of the wicked, everyone will have a chance to be saved, and they will inherit the universe and be a spirit being. Regarding heaven, the WCG says "Scripture is vague on the details of what happens to the righteous at death; the church therefore feels it is not necessary to have an official position on this subject." ("What is 'Heaven?'" 2001, WCG booklet, posted on their site). Herbert Armstrong denied his followers entry into heaven, and the present leadership has not strayed far from his footsteps. There is no heavenly hope for the Worldwider. How can we not feel aghast over this?
Below are excerpts taken from an article written by Ralph Orr and published in the membership newsletter, The Worldwide News.2 This article was written in February 1996 (revised in 1999 on another website), a full year after "the changes" had occurred. (The complete article can be read online.) Although this article appears to be in-depth and well researched, it still avoids telling the complete truth about HWA. This paper will be used as justification that "HWA was a product of his time." Once again, I ask: was Joseph Smith a product of his time, and does that excuse his actions? Does that excuse Joseph Smith from being a false prophet and heretic?
This WCG article, entitled "How Anglo-Israelism Entered the Churches of God: A history of the doctrine from John Wilson to Joseph W. Tkach" gives a detailed historical account of the Millerite/Adventist/Anglo-Israelism movements. In the excerpts below, notice how Orr contradicts what Tkach had said previously about HWA (bolding; comments in brackets mine)
Whenever the war news appeared favorable, Mr. Armstrong simply discounted it. He saw all news through the lens of his prophetic viewpoint and his belief in his own unique commission. [Put simply, this is called "lying."]
"God has called me to the special mission of WARNING THIS NATION. But I cannot do it alone.... You are one of my co-workers, and I am depending upon you to remain steadfastly back of me, with your earnest believing PRAYERS, as well as the material help you are sending. We must never let up.... This business of SHOUTING and THUNDERING out this warning on which our destiny as a nation depends." (Herbert W. Armstrong, co-worker letter dated – based on its content – to early 1944.) [Notice the emphasis on shouting.]
The success of his work further convinced Mr. Armstrong that his perceptions of himself and his work were correct. How else could you explain his success if God were not behind it? He felt that God backed his prophetic opinions and stood behind him. He believed that he spoke with the authority of God. [Orr contradicts JWT Jr.'s earlier comments that HWA disclaimed special revelation, which Orr covertly calls "prophetic opinions."]
As the war drew to its obvious close, Mr. Armstrong's message changed. [Orr does not say that HWA admitted any errors – he simply "changed his message," nor does Orr quote Deuteronomy 18:20-21 to show how HWA qualified as a false prophet.] He dropped all insistence that the war would lead to America's destruction. Gone was the cry that the Tribulation had already begun. Yet the substance of the message did not change. The Third Angel was present, only transformed. Despite what our senses told us, the Allies had not defeated Germany. The Nazis had gone underground. Next time, Europe would unite under an evil fascist-papal alliance. It would conquer, subjugate and depopulate the United States.
Now let's see on whom Orr places the blame for all the false prophecies of Armstrong:
Following the war, Herbert Armstrong established Ambassador College to provide a trained ministry for the church. These young men went out, visited people on baptizing tours and established congregations. Through their influence, many lives changed for the better. Yet the prophetic speculations continued. The ministry created various blueprints in attempts to figure out the date of Jesus' return. All prophetic schemata failed. [Interestingly, has Orr forgotten that it was HWA that trained these young men to perpetuate his false beliefs, and that it was HWA who engaged in date setting? Remember, it was HWA that wrote the booklet, 1975 in Prophecy and not these young ministers!]
Under the subtitle, "The Worldwide Church of God today" Orr writes:
In 1986 Herbert W. Armstrong died. Shortly before his death he published Mystery of the Ages, a book that summarized his core beliefs up to that moment. In it he wrote that the Bible was a coded book "not intended to be understood until our day in this latter half of the twentieth century." He claimed that he, in writing Mystery of the Ages, was used of God to decode the Bible so that we could understand it.
In an unmistakable reference to himself, he declared that Isaiah's prophecy about "the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness [Isaiah 40:3]" was being fulfilled. The prophesied Elijah was not only John the Baptist, but was also an end-time human messenger. In a clear reference to his many appearances before world leaders, he saw himself fulfilling that role.
Before his death, Herbert Armstrong appointed Joseph W. Tkach as his successor. In June 1988 Mr. Tkach withdrew Mystery of the Ages from circulation. In early 1991 he informed the ministry of his plans to review and perhaps update The United States and Britain in Prophecy. He solicited their comments. [According to Joe Jr., he and his companions, Greg Albrecht and Michael Feazell, were afraid of being disfellowshipped for approaching Tkach, Sr. about the B. I. doctrine. Tkach, Sr. said HWA told him to revise the MOA because it contained "errors." So which story is the true one?]
All mention of Anglo-Israelism disappeared from the church's publications. Then, in July 1995, the church announced in the Pastor General's Report that Anglo-Israelism lacked any credible evidence and that the church would no longer teach it. This was followed by a study paper sent to the ministry giving detailed reasons why this was so. (This study paper was published in the Feb. 13 Worldwide News.) [This date is inaccurate. Orr wrote his article in the December 19, 1995 Worldwide News, Vol. XXIII, NO. 22, p. 3]
The church had come to believe that Anglo-Israelism had distracted it from giving its full attention to its truly God-given commission--the preaching of the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ--and the duty to make disciples of Christ of all nations. [If the WCG is unsure about heaven, then how can they preach about salvation?]
Herbert Armstrong always urged the ministry to be faithful to the Bible. [No, HWA urged the ministry and his followers to be faithful to the "Government of God." (i. e., the WCG and HQ3)] He never claimed that he wrote infallible scripture. [Nobody said that HWA claimed to write scripture – he claimed to have the only correct interpretation of scripture.] He never claimed that he understood all biblical truth. [Yes, he most certainly did. He restored "18 Truths" and JWT Sr. stated "How Thankful Are You For Them?" (August 25, 1986 issue of The Worldwide News)]. Yet he did claim to have a special understanding of prophecy, and if he was not a prophet, that he at least functioned as one. [No, HWA claimed much more than that, and Orr evades the whole issue].
To many, he appeared to view his ministry more in terms of the Old Testament prophets than the New Testament apostles. [This is how he kept his followers bound to the OT laws.] He referred to himself as the watchman of Ezekiel. He said he was the Elijah to come. And if he were the Elijah, how was this different from being a prophet? For those who still believe this claim, his failed predictions pose a dilemma. [Of what exact dilemma is Orr speaking? Notice how he half-way admits that HWA had "failed predictions" but did not bring it to its full and logical conclusion: HWA has qualified himself as a false prophet, and a true church cannot be founded by a false prophet.]
Today we know that many and varied influences shaped Herbert Armstrong's prophetic teachings. Despite what he believed, not everything he taught came from the Bible. [Once again, Orr does not carry this out to its logical conclusion: if everything HWA taught didn't come from the Bible, then why did HWA claim that it did?] Many things he taught were the products of his life and times. [Orr does not mention J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988), or other mainstream preachers that were around "during HWA's time." HWA chose to believe in false doctrines and to perpetuate the belief that he was God's chosen end time Apostle.].
Are we any different today? [This kind of "justification" for HWA's evil actions is perverse.]
The ministry of the Church of God, to remain credible, must use Scripture correctly. Understanding our denominational history, tied as it is to Herbert Armstrong, can help us do that, especially as it gives insight into what has shaped our thinking. With insight should come wisdom.
We must say, as Paul did: "Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: `So that you may be proved right in your words and prevail in your judging' " (Romans 3:4, NIV). Further, we must remember what Peter wrote: "No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20). [Irony of ironies: HWA quoted this scripture often as proof that HE ONLY had the correct interpretation of scripture!] If we do that, we will remain faithful and true to the God who saved us.
What if the Senior Editor of the LDS Church's major magazine publication publishes the following psychoanalysis concerning Joseph Smith:
By the grace of God, Joseph Smith had evidenced by many life accomplishments and by the people he had positively influenced that, in spite of overwhelming sectarianism, reactionary exclusivism, and definite tendencies toward narcissistic compensation for depression, that the Holy Spirit had helped center him in the face of undoubted detours and false trails pursued. He had reached Fowler's Stage 6 of faith. He possessed a clear, if simplistic, worldview summarized in Matthew 24:14. He consistently proclaimed a bright vision of a Wonderful World Tomorrow ushered in by the millennial rule of Jesus Christ. That above all; that to the end. He had skillfully packaged premilliennialism for a secular audience (in this current era). Even this bright sustaining vision, of course, was undercut with typical Smith hyperbole and speculation. However, Smith's basic core identity in the public eye had remained remarkably stable across the decades and was part of his appeal. Yet one still has to ask: How much more effective would have been his achievements if he had turned his ministry and his formidable media skills in a more orthodox direction? What would have happened if the Whining Schoolboy, the New York dandy, the Utah pastor and the institution builder would have engaged his theological peers in open and frank doctrinal discussions? Or if he had listened—really listened—to the competent educators with whom he was being surrounded? Yet to pose the question is to appreciate its futility. Living legends do not change easily.
The implications for ministry are easy to summarize. For a church leader making the claims Joseph Smith made it was imperative to make sure one really had the truth before setting out to make it plain. Identity diffusion and narcissistic compensation are potent handicaps. In spite of many positive and unprecedented achievements, the fascinating popular phenomenon known as Joseph Smith needed help to make a success out of each stage of life's transformations. We all do.
The above excerpt was taken from an article written by current Senior Plain Truth Editor, Neil Earle, who is also the pastor of the Glendora, California church [New Covenant Fellowship]. The article is entitled, "A Developmental Study" By Neil Earle, Presented to Dr. James Loder for: CN 531 Faith and Human Development, Fuller Theological Seminary4, 2001; 2004. I had substituted Joseph Smith's name in place of Herbert Armstrong's and changed a couple of minor details (New York for Chicago, Utah for Oregon, and added "in the current era"). The complete article can be read online at Founder's Bio by Neil Earle. Like Orr's article, the authors want us to look away from HWA's sins and point at ourselves. A false prophet that taught a false gospel clear to his death does not have to be psychoanalyzed and justified. This "repackaging" of HWA isn't the fruits of converted men, and we should be more than mildly alarmed.
I have concluded that although they may "talk the talk," there are still too many disturbing things throughout their 10-year history since "the changes" that have convinced me that they still function as a cultic group, employing lying and deception in order to keep their well-paid positions over their converts.
I, too, believe that God will pour out His Spirit on all men, but I do not believe that this is occurring at this present time. I personally believe that when it happens, it will be a supernatural event, and nobody will have any doubts that God exists. Since I do not see men and women in the WCG prophesying or dreaming dreams, or any such supernatural episodes, I have concluded that this is not happening in this organization since there is still so much deception going on. I believe the only thing occurring in the WCG is the typical "history revision" that cults engage in from time to time.
After we left the WCG, we started attending mainstream churches. We are presently long time members of an independent Baptist church. Through these orthodox organizations, we have learned so much about Jesus and salvation being a free gift with no strings attached. We understand about our reward in heaven, and for the unbeliever - eternal punishment in hell. We know there is no "second chance" for salvation after death. We sing the doxology every week to the Holy Trinity, and we speak freely of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit [manifested as one God]; we understand that we are under the New Covenant, and under grace, and the OT Law has been fulfilled in Christ; our money supports our local church, and none is sent to a "headquarters" clear across the country. Regular and open meetings are held to review the financial statements of the church, and pastoral raises must be approved by a majority vote of the membership. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. None of this I learned while in the WCG, even after "the changes."
When taking all this information into consideration, this is the reason why I believe that the video contains little more than shallow confessions and a twisted story concerning how the changes took place. I hope you understand my concerns and I pray that you will see beyond the religious veneer of those who will appear as "ministers of light" for their ultimate financial gain.
Sincerely in Christ,
Exit & Support Network™
Footnotes by ESN:
1 "Christ is not the gospel. Believing on Christ is not believing the gospel." (Voice clip of Herbert W. Armstrong giving a Bible Study and marking Buck Taylor; heard on pt. 2 of: "My Story" by C. Wayne Cole, 5-19-79; CD/audio tape with ESN)
2 In February 2005 The Worldwide News in the United States changed to a new format. At that time it was entitled WCG Today (news of the Worldwide Church of God). There was a caterpillar crawling up the first letter ("T") and a butterfly taking off from the last letter ("y"). No doubt to show they had "metamorphosed." In May 2006 it was changed again and is now known as Together (Worldwide Church of God News).
3 "Obey the government of God" is always intended to connect with the group's top leadership that members were to unquestionably obey. Read: Why do members emphasize the government of God? (from the Q&A)
Thanks so much for your well drawn up letter. Very informative! And also thank you for all the dates listed. ... What took place in 1995 was a beginning of things. At least there was a beginning. Tradition dies hard and there will be continued problems for some time to come. A couple years after the beginning of changes, things got a little better. A couple more years later, a little better yet and so on. In 2005 it's a little better than in 1999. But I believe there is a bigger picture here you might have missed. ... As I watched the Called To Be Free video the first time, I put myself back into the mindset of being a Mormon again. I saw it through the eyes of a Mormon. Did it again through the eyes of a JW and again through the eyes of a SDA. And as doing, this I found myself being forced to think. Something cult members don't do all that often as you know. The film was made to show to these other cult groups. And it forces them to think. Perhaps for the very first time.
...Again, the film was made to show to these other cult groups. And who knows? 10 years from now, if the Lord tarries WCG might be a little better than they are today. They probably will be since there's people like you who can work with them to make things better.
Next to "Final Letter and Reply to Cultivate Ministries" (covers the "Called to Be Free" video)
Pt. 1 | Pt. 2