Is COGWA a good Christian church? Or does something insidious and deceitful lie behind their seemingly innocent looking website? Find out the truth about them and how they have the potential to draw in the unwary and undiscerning.
Note: If you have a loved one who has recently gone into this group, or is becoming involved, be sure and read: If You Have a Loved One in a Deceptive, Exploitive Group.
COGWA was formed by Richard Thompson on December 23, 2010, due to “fundamental disagreements” with UCG-AIA (an offshoot of Worldwide Church of God (WCG). Several thousand members resigned at this time and dozens of pastors and elders were fired or forced to resign. They were the largest group to come out of UCG-AIA, which also lost a lot of young people to COGWA. Many people who have been hurt by UCG leave to go with COGWA.
On January 11, 2011 COGWA officially adopted their name. They are headquarted in McKinney, TX.
According to a report by their president Jim Franks in 2018, they had a membership of approximately 11,000 worldwide (5,500 in the United States). In June 2021 their website said they had over 10,000 members in more than 200 congregations worldwide. Since 2018 COGWA has adopted an “open attendance” policy in order to recruit more people that are leaving other WCG offshoots. To show how eager they are to increase their numbers they have a page on their site where anyone can do a search to find out where their congregations are located and even provides the phone number of the minister.
Jim Franks is the president of COGWA and “Foundation Outreach International” (FOI). (See below for more on FOI.) One well-known board member of FOI is Doug Horchak, former WCG minister and son-in-law of Joseph Tkach, Sr. (Read about Doug Horchak in the testimony: Still Working Through the Anger and how he is said to be “filled with evil and manipulation.”)
COGWA has a magazine which is ironically called Discern (“A Magazine of Life, Hope & Truth”), published every two months and available on their website by the same name: Life, Hope & Truth. The website LH&T leads visitors from one deceptive article to the next and contains a slew of Herbert Armstrong doctrines and half-truths without mentioning his name. (This site is in addition to their “COGWA Members” site.) Their member news publications are called In Accord, and One Accord.
Deception of COGWA:
In similar manner of many WCG offshoots, COGWA claims to be a “continuation of the Church founded by Jesus Christ and His apostles.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
COGWA’s home page says, “We don’t do “watered down” which is a reference to what they call “watered down Christianity.” What COGWA does do is legalism and putting people back under the Law. There are many catch phrases on this page, and colorful large photos, along with a button for “Make a Donation.”
There are links all over the place on this site, leading from one thing to another. The Life, Hope & Truth website has a box for those who are “searching for life’s questions” and if you aren’t sure where to start, you can scroll down to “Let us help you” and you click on one of their three boxes. Scrolling down further is “Commonly Searched Topics” which covers six subjects and each one has an arrow off to an article or video that will “answer your question.” If not, there are many, many more articles and questions to click on below that. They even have a link that leads to lessons for children (“Encourage, Equip and Inspire”) with more links. A person could spend all day reading what they have posted.
Their site is a mass of confusion leading to feeling overwhelmed. But deceptive and controlling groups (aka cults) are known to use such methods of confusion.
Foundation Outreach International (FOI), located in Allen, TX, was established in 2010 and is spouted as being “dedicated to a world of good”; “managing humanitarian projects in different parts of the world.” The emphasis is on projects that “build character, develop leaders and promote a better quality of life especially for youth and young adult.”
This sounds well and good but is very similar to what HWA was involved with in later years. They even have an archaeological project in Israel (as WCG did) and scholarship programs, Their front page, along with other pages, has many pictures of smiling children and youth in overseas countries to tug at your heart. They ask people to “get involved” and the way to get involved is: supporting them financially, raising funds in their community, or submitting an online volunteer application (they say they are “seeking mostly young adults”). There are several buttons scattered throughout their site to “Donate” or “Get Involved”; the later when clicked on leads to a page which at the top says “Donate.”
While FOI’s Board of Director’s page tells how Jim Franks, David Register and Doug Horchak are part of “Church of God, a Worldwide Association,” nothing is revealed about their doctrines being based on the gospel according to Herbert W. Armstrong–a religious cult leader who taught a gospel of salvation by works. Thus, they are cunningly able to attract people that have a desire to help the less fortunate in third world nations and end up donating money to COGWA who is supposed to use it for that purpose.
No one would suspect that a deceptive, exploitive organization (COGWA) is connected to FOI unless they dug deeper.
COGWA states on their home page: “We’re supported by donations and tithes—everything we offer is available for free.” This is only partially true. Once you become a member, you find out you have to pay tithes (3 of them) and generous offerings, especially on the O. T. Feast days, which they observe. On their “Donate” page they say “we do not solicit funds.” However, once one becomes a member they will be coerced and manipulated into giving much of their money to COGWA. To not do what the leaders say leads to being guilted into feeling they are headed to the Lake of Fire if they don’t repent. Those who donate online are encouraged to “use e-check funds.”
In order to read their booklets on their “Life, Hope & Truth” website, you have to fill in your first and last name, your email address, and then click the download button. Below this button there are the words, “We use the information you provide to us to contact you about relevant content”; however, this means they will notify you of more and more of their booklets in order to suck you into their organization. Some of their Privacy statement (linked from that page) says they will collect your ISP address.
Bible Correspondence Course:
Instead of having a Bible Correspondence Course mailed out like WCG did [Refer to: How Did Herbert W. Armstrong Recruit People?], on their Life, Hope & Truth site they have an Online Bible Course consisting of 11 lessons patterned after WCG’s Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course with question and answer, true and false format, and a quiz at the end. The reader is to look up the verse, and then fill in the blanks, so that they come to the conclusion COGWA wants, which is: you need to be repent of your sins, be baptized by immersion by COGWA ministers, and receive the Holy Spirit after COGWA ministers lay hands on you.
Every so often in the lessons they interject “Deeper Insight” which is filled with nothing but lies. We cover many of these lies in our section Grace & Law. At the end of the course they give a list to “supplemental reading” which is all from COGWA’s booklets.
Therefore, their “biblical instruction” turns out to be the false gospel of Herbert Armstrong.
In the “Learning Center” which is linked from Life, Hope & Truth you find out FOI has a nine-month academic program Bible course at the Center for Biblical Education in McKinney, TX, which “answers the big questions of life.” It consists of 14 Bible lessons and 15 courses. The tuition is $1,500 plus personal living experiences. After you send in your money, you will be interviewed in person or by phone. They accept applications yearly to enroll in this “dynamic in-depth study of the Holy Bible, coupled with discussion of how to incorporate its many truths into daily life.”
One ends up being not only indoctrinated in Herbert Armstrong’s false dogma and false gospel but will find out that COGWA has a distaste for mainstream Christians that don’t hold to their (HWA) views.
Note: A much better option than COGWA’s Online Bible Course (or any of their Bible courses) for studying the Bible is Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee or Bob George Ministries with Bob George. A description of both are listed on our Links.
COGWA’s doctrines and philosophy of life (which is the same as Herbert Armstrong’s) is thoroughly covered and refuted in our chapter to chapter critiques of Mystery of the Ages. (PDF)
One of the false doctrines they hold to that HWA taught is a 100-year period (called the “second resurrection”) after the Millennium. Read letter which shows this: COGWA Last Great Day Sermon Answered Questions About the 2nd Resurrection.
Following are some of the “Fundamental Beliefs” of COGWA from their website (and which are the same doctrines that Herbert Armstrong plagiarized / copied from other cultic religious groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, 7th-Day Adventists and Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints):
Belief in a “God family” currently consisting of only the Father and the Son. They say, “God is an eternal family currently consisting of the Father and the Son. Both the Father and Son are involved in the creative work of expanding this family by bringing many children (sons and daughters) to glory.” (i.e., bringing them into this “God family.”) [emp. mine]
They say: “God’s purpose for human beings is to add them as children to His eternal family.” They use the words “family” over and over.
Yet, we never find any “God family” mentioned in the Scriptures, only what COGWA tries to come up with.
In Mystery of the Ages (a 2nd critical review) William Hohman says: “God cannot change. Christians will not, and cannot, be born into a ‘God family.'” (emp. mine)
For one of their “proofs” of this Godhead, they use Ephesians 3:15: “Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,”
However, Compelling Truth states: “In theological studies, the term Godhead is used to refer to the concept of the Triune God, or one God in three Persons that include God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.” (Taken from The Godhead – What is it?) [emp. mine]
While they say Jesus “has eternally existed” they do not say that Jesus is the eternal Son of God. They say the Word “became” Jesus Christ; therefore, they deny the eternal sonship of Jesus. [For a thorough study on this read: The Eternal Sonship of Christ by George W. Zeller and Renald E. Showers.]
They say, “The Holy Spirit is the power of God and the Spirit of life eternal, not a separate entity or being.” This is clearly heretical. [Read: Is the Holy Spirit Only the Power of God?]
Can COGWA say that Jesus was fully God and fully man? [See above article on the Holy Spirit which covers the two natures of Jesus.]
“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” (Colossians 2:9)
We won’t go over every one of their false doctrines and false gospel as much is covered on Grace & Law, Q&A / Law, Works, or Salvation and our Mystery of the Ages critiques, but we will mention a few that they teach:
Humans do not have an immortal soul; belief in a spiritual resurrection instead of a bodily resurrection; if we are seeking eternal life, we must “strive to obey the Ten Commandments“; baptism by immersion and laying on of hands to receive the Holy Spirit (for “repentant believers”) makes us part of the spiritual body of Christ, the true Church of God; we must keep the 7th day Sabbath (the “identifying sign” and “perpetual covenant between God and His people”); “true Christians” will observe the seventh day Sabbath; we must keep the annual O.T. festivals or holy days (which “reveal God’s plan of salvation for mankind“); observance of clean and unclean meats; tithing (includes the festival tithe); not to serve in the military (it would “create problems keeping the Sabbath and holy days”); the biblical name of the church is the Church of God; belief in three resurrections; the first resurrection at the return of Jesus Christ, a second resurrection to physical life after the thousand years, and a third resurrection to the Lake of Fire (annihilation). The three resurrections as taught by COGWA are thoroughly explained in: Mystery of the Ages (a critical review) by Kelly Marshall (PDF).
Church of God, a Worldwide Association is undeniably a group to avoid like the plague.
By D. M. Williams
Exit & Support Network™
August 1, 2020
Updated June 25, 2021
Recommended Letters Received:
Confession and Freedom From Specific Cult/Occult Strongholds (includes WCG, PCG & all offshoots)