(a critical review of GCI’s booklet)
It has become evident that if one waits long enough, Worldwide Church of God (name changed to Grace Communion International) will continue revising certain booklets, making their founder Herbert W. Armstrong and their history, sound a little less heretical and a little more like they always were a Christian church (or “denomination” as they call it) all along.
Following is a critical review of Transformed by Christ, a Brief History of the Worldwide Church of God, 1998. The 1999 edition is not only shorter, but has several parts changed. By 2011 Grace Communion International had changed the title of this booklet to: A Short History of Grace Communion International – Transformed by Christ. Then in 2019 the title was changed back again to Transformed by Christ: A Brief History of Grace Communion International. (Sometimes the page may have the words “GCI” before the title.)
NOTE: Let the reader be aware that the word “transformed” is a New Age term and that after the changes WCG (now GCI) went on to endorse New Age teachers and philosophies.
Intro to the Critique
When one reads this book, it doesn’t take long to see that the word “unusual” is substituted for the word “heretical.” The word “unusual” in describing the belief system of their founder Herbert Armstrong is used by the WCG as follows: “unusual doctrines”; “unusual conclusions”; “emphasized the unusual”; “unusual views”; “unusual ideas about prophecy,” and “unusual beliefs, though sincere.”
By not admitting in this book that Herbert Armstrong was a false prophet, Worldwide Church of God continues to cover up for him. They do not tell the whole truth about this amazing “transformation,” and they confuse transformation with conversion. They try to parallel themselves to the Apostle Paul in order to give the members a new mission statement. The words “work of Christ” replaces “the Work of God.” This is nothing more than a continuance of extracting “types” from the Bible, a practice that was heavily practiced by Herbert Armstrong.
The story ends with references, some from their own headquarters’ personnel’s books; i. e., J. Michael Feazell, J. Thomas Lapacka and Joseph Tkach; the book, The Kingdom of the Cults (1998), George Mather; Larry Nichol, and Ruth Tucker. They want their members to think they are gaining access to open information, but nothing is mentioned about any counter cult authors such as Margaret Singer, Tobias & Lalich, Michael Langone, etc. [See our Booklist] One can only ask why this new, “mainstream” Worldwide Church of God (CGI) still engages in “milieu control“–a typical tactic of mind-manipulating groups.
In the first part of this book WCG tells how Herbert W. Armstrong began the Worldwide Church of God. They say that he had “many unusual doctrines” instead of truthfully stating they were known as “heretical doctrines.” While the leadership has admitted words to the effect of, “we don’t like to use the word ‘heresies’ because we feel it has too much of a negative connotation,” this wording is simply a typical WCG tactic of sidestepping the issues and using a play on words.
WCG Knew Doctrines Were Unbiblical As Far Back as the 1970’s
The membership figures are blown up to “more than 100,000 people” (all due to HWA’s dynamic preaching). These figures have been shown to be greatly exaggerated.1 They then go on to say that after Armstrong died on January 16, 1986, the leaders started to realize that most of his doctrines were “not biblical” so the church rejected those false doctrines (which HWA said was the truth) and today the WCG is in full agreement with the National Association of Evangelical’s statement of faith. Read: What Really Occurred With Worldwide Church of God to see that the current WCG leadership, as far back as the 1970s, was well aware that their doctrines were unbiblical. Also see Worldwide Church of God History which talks about the ministers who tried to bring reform from within and were slandered and kicked out.
The New Worldwide Church of God (re-titled on their site as: Transformation of a denomination)
The WCG states that this is the story of how God changed the WCG from an “unorthodox church” on the “fringes of Christianity” into an evangelical church that now holds to orthodox doctrines. These were Ruth Tucker’s words in 1996.2 It is evident that the WCG is trying very hard to identify itself as a Christian denomination.
Chapter One: A Brief History of Our Growth
This chapter spends some time talking about and quoting HWA, which can bring the reader to the conclusion that they continue to validate their founder. They start off by telling how HWA in the 1920s accepted Christ. This story is supposed to be true since HWA told about it in his autobiography. HWA’s autobiography was, as were most things he wrote,3 a mixture of truth and lies, and the WCG headquarters is not ignorant of this fact. HWA wrote his autobiography to prove to the members that he was “God’s chosen end time Apostle” and gave several examples, such as the three angels dream by his wife Loma; how God blessed his writings and speaking engagements and not those of Andrew Dugger; divine protection of Garner Ted Armstrong as a baby, etc.
WCG relates how HWA wrote in his autobiography how his life was a “defeated no-good life” and God could have it (even though it wasn’t worth anything), if He could use it as His instrument. However, by those words, Herbert began to plant the idea in the members’ minds of not only his conversion, but his “divine calling.” Though he claimed to belong to Christ, he would shift the focus away from Christ toward his own self-importance.
HWA Came to Believe Christianity Was a Lie
HWA’s words are quoted about how he said he surrendered himself to God in complete repentance and was aware of a fellowship with “Christ and with God the Father.” One must ask: why is there no mention of the receiving of the Holy Spirit, the gift of eternal life, or that he has been saved? HWA continues planting the notion in members’ minds that God was personally contacting him, just as God personally contacted Moses and all His prophets. By HWA telling his readers that God was talking to him when he read and studied his Bible, he continues to enforce this idea. HWA did not consult Orthodox Christianity4 for the things he was supposedly learning because, as he tells in the earlier part of his autobiography (Vol. 1), he came to believe Christianity was a lie, and that one should keep the Sabbath, because it identified “God’s true people.”
As WCG goes on to say that HWA started to write articles about the things he was learning, the focus is now shifted to the beginnings of his Plain Truth magazine/publishing career. Nothing more is said about how his conversion changed his life in a personal way. Did he repent of his incest with his daughter that was going on at this time? Did he become a better husband to Loma, his wife, and a better father? Did he tell how Christ personally changed him and his self-absorbed, selfish nature so that he could proclaim the power of forgiveness and grace? No. HWA saw his conversion in his usual way–that somehow he was “special.”
The WCG affirms that HWA came to a number of “unusual conclusions” while he studied his Bible. Once again, that word “unusual” is used, which is far less truthful than “heretical.” The WCG is not owning up to HWA’s lies, even though the leadership knows that he plagiarized and copied many of his doctrines from others, such as 7th-day Adventists, Church of God (7th Day), Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism.5
HWA’s Doctrines Were Not Unique
They say that HWA led a small congregation of believers in the beginning, but nothing is mentioned about how those were the ones he pulled away from Church of God (7th Day) by his charismatic presentations, and that he was originally a member and minister of this church, receiving his credentials from them in 1934,3 but because his teachings deviated more and more from this church, his ordination was later revoked. He claimed that the “prophecies and mysteries of God, sealed until now, are today revealed to those whom God has chosen to carry his last message to the world as a witness.” He claimed that the Worldwide Church of God was the “one and only true church of God” while all others were counterfeits. His doctrines were not unique as they were copied from others and then pawned off as his own.
When WCG recounts that HWA started The World Tomorrow radio program and The Plain Truth in the 1930s and that he often spoke on issues where he had “unusual conclusions” and different conclusion from traditional doctrines, this creates more questions. If HWA’s conclusions were “different from traditional doctrines,” then his doctrines were “another gospel” and qualify as heresy. (Galatians 1:6: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:”) They inform readers that HWA “emphasized the unusual”–there’s that “unusual” word–so typical of mind control indoctrination. He was said to “teach things that other preachers did not.” Why don’t they say “another gospel”?
They tell how most people did not accept HWA’s “unusual views,” (still using “unusual” in place of heretical) but he was able to persuade a few that traditional churches were wrong. To say that traditional churches were wrong should be another red flag that this was a false gospel. If HWA persuaded a few people that he had the truth, then what does that tell about HWA? There have been many false teachers who have claimed to have “the truth” and are able to persuade others. WCG still does not own up to HWA being a religious cult leader who exclusively claimed to have what became known to members as “the Truth.”
Pulled Members Away From COG 7th Day
A small group that supported The World Tomorrow radio ministry and the Plain Truth is mentioned, but WCG does not tell where this small group came from. HWA pulled members away from the Church of God (7th Day) with his heretical teachings. He was counseled on numerous occasions to stop, but he did not heed. He was eventually dismissed from the group (something he failed to own up to in his autobiography), but he still managed to take a few members with him who supported him.
Move to Pasadena, California
It is told how, in 1947, Herbert Armstrong moved his ministry to southern California, but nothing is mentioned about how he was caught stealing from the till in Church of God (7th Day) as one of the reasons for his move. Finances were said to be very tight; however, HWA’s buying a mansion on Millionaire’s Row on simple folks’ money would make finances tight.
Corruption in 1970’s is Left Out
When they acknowledge that the growth of the WCG began to slow in the 1970s, they hide the fact that in the mid `70s the corruption regarding financial waste, opulence, sexual assaults, adulteries, and other very questionable practices carne to the forefront. Many questioned the doctrines and rebelled against the system. Over 70 ministers, along with 11,000 members, left.6
Blame is shifted to the lay ministry for HWA’s failed 1975 prophecy (when Christ was to return) by stating that it was what “many ministers speculated.” Ministers didn’t speculate; they were told what to preach. HWA wrote the booklet 1975 in Prophecy7 Why isn’t that mentioned here? Why isn’t it also mentioned that the Jehovah’s Witnesses believed the same thing? HWA got the 1975 prophecy teaching from them. Why doesn’t the WCG headquarters not take responsibility for their false prophecy, but instead, put the blame on the ministry? Once again, the present HQ ministry is covering up for HWA.
The change in minor doctrines at this time is said to have weakened some of the members’ respect for HWA’s doctrinal authority. This is an absolute falsehood. What weakened HWA’s doctrinal authority was the fact that the 1975 prophecy failed, and people left because of it. To keep the members distracted, the divorce and remarriage doctrine (D&R) was changed and the makeup doctrine was reinstated. This makeup doctrine flip-flopped back and forth for decades. Does God flip-flop on important doctrines or does He get it right the first time? Does God make mistakes or do men make mistakes? If God was leading Herbert Armstrong, then why couldn’t HWA get it right?
Garner Ted Armstrong is said to have been accused of “improprieties.” This word hardly does justice to the truth of his immoralities.
They say that HWA received criticism because he criticized Christianity. That was because he criticized all churches beside his own. He said they were “of Satan,” and their members were only “professing Christians.”
Instead of saying that HWA was a cult leader, they sidestep the issue by saying that he was “considered” to be the leader of a heretical cult.
While they announce that the leaders of WCG have rejected the doctrinal “errors” (they are not accurately called “heresies”) of Armstrong, they leave out how those ministers at the top who didn’t reject them were disfellowshipped and/or left, forming offshoots (there are hundreds of splits today–read a list of some of them) and those at the lower levels were likewise disfellowshipped and replaced with a new, usually younger, minister who had been trained in knowing how to instigate the changes in a quicker, less painful manner.
In saying that their errors were “deep and serious” they apparently were not serious enough to call it what it was–heresy. They want the reader to know, however, that Christ rescued them from all that. Yet if that is true, why do they continue to have a leadership that refuses to relinquish control?
When WCG talks in terms of “we”; i. e., “we” were like Saul who persecuted the Christians, they are now shifting the blame to “we” the membership, not headquarters, not HWA, not Tkach, but “we” the members were like Saul. “We” as it is written here, and in literature aimed at the members, has always referred to members personally. Therefore, this is saying “we persecuted mainstream Christians because HWA made us behave that way.” HWA put himself up as “God’s true Apostle” who called everything outside of the WCG as “satanic.” It is now the members fault that “we” obeyed like we were told to. Members were instructed in sermon after sermon to “obey God’s government.” All cults place the blame for their “mistakes,” “errors,” etc. on the members.
Paralleling Themselves to Biblical Authority Figures
The author gives us an illustration of how Paul was “transformed” and given a new mission, but that his most significant work didn’t come until over ten years later. This is only a play on words to the outsiders versus the insiders. Insiders have been programmed to do “the Work.” The Work was “preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God so that the end will come.” Now members are being promised that the “most significant work” is just down the road; “hang in there, you’ll see” is the clear message that insiders see that outsiders don’t. This is also humorous in that the WCG still parallels itself to Biblical authority figures to give itself legitimacy. HWA was said to be the Elijah (end-time prophet), the Moses (Lawgiver), the Peter (who could loose or bind laws in the church on earth), and any other authority figure he could appropriate to boost his power over the members. So now the new WCG is paralleling itself to Paul–just newly converted with its greatest work still just ahead. They still are trying to rewrite history to give legitimacy to their existence. Paul’s conversion is actually the point in this biblical account, not Paul’s mission as they try to say.
HWA’s doctrines (which he claimed were “restored” from the first century church, and which Orthodox Christianity considers heretical) are merely called “a doctrinal mix“; that which made Armstrongism both “interesting and unorthodox.” This is quite a play on words. Although WCG says the three things which were instrumental in HWA’s conversion were God as Creator, the Bible as true, and Saturday is the Sabbath, it was more like: (1) money; (2) power, and (3) prestige. HWA’s autobiography reveals that he was actually selling mud to make money (used in women’s face cream) before he learned he could make more money selling religion.8
HWA vindictively belittled others with contempt for their beliefs with such phrases as “Exactly what do you mean, ‘you gave your heart to the Lord’? Did you reach into your chest and pull your heart out and hand it to Him?” It was not a case of his “choosing” whether he would follow tradition or the Bible, or that he didn’t have training from a theological seminary, didn’t know church history, the original languages, etc. WCG is not owning up to HWA’s arrogance. All these things didn’t stop him, David Koresh, Gerald Flurry, Jim Jones, Charles Taze Russell, Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White, or any other false prophet/false teacher from reinterpreting the Bible to their own advantage in order to gain a following.
Chose to Ignore Christ as Centerpiece of Scripture
WCG states that HWA reasoned if traditional Christianity could be wrong (about the Sabbath), perhaps they were wrong on other things. This is very characteristic of HWA’s approach. He never failed to discredit any religious authority. This set himself up as the final authority in the eyes of the members. HWA chose to ignore what other Christians said and did, and he chose to ignore that Christ is the centerpiece of Scripture.
While WCG would make members believe that Armstrong “had a high respect for Scripture” and was willing to obey what it said no matter what, this is not true! HWA may have said the Bible is “God’s inspired word,” but he taught that one needed “the 7 keys” to understand it–keys which only he had been given. HWA was also a hypocrite who lived a double standard. To give just a few examples, HWA told his members not to go to doctors while he surrounded himself with doctors9; he told them to have compassion and mercy, while he abused his members; he said converted Christians would not be materialist, but he lived a life of opulence and extravagance.
HWA did not have “zeal” in the way the Scriptures portray it. His false message was made believable to those listening to his World Tomorrow program because he used a typical marketing/advertising approach: “If you aren’t excited about the product, your customers won’t be either. If you show that you believe in the product, others will believe, too. This technique is what makes multi-level marketing successful.” HWA, along with other totalitarian leaders, made use of mind manipulation. He understood not only thought reform, but admitted to studying communism. [Go to: Herbert W. Armstrong’s background for proof of this]
HWA Painted in a Positive Light
If someone couldn’t find it in the Bible, then they were to believe HWA instead of their Bible. Once readers began reading more of his literature their mind was slowly manipulated by the fear and guilt which it was saturated with. It is evident that HWA is continued to be painted in a positive light in this book.
HWA did not believe that Jesus was fully God and fully man in His incarnation, nor did he believe that Jesus was always God from eternity past. He believed Jesus was “the second member of the God family,” and he taught that Jesus in His human body “could have sinned,” which completely contradicts his saying “Jesus was God.”
WCG puts forth the idea that HWA saw some churches focusing so much on Jesus that they “offered cheap grace.” WCG fails to mention that it was HWA who belittled Christianity, calling grace “a license to sin.” Yes, HWA emphasized God’s role as “the One to be obeyed,” but then he turned around and emphasized himself as the one who could loosen or bind the laws and made God out to be a tyrant. God’s Government (the WCG) was a hierarchical structure (a pyramid) from the top down. [See: Pyramid Structure of Cults] He taught that God was at the top, then Jesus Christ, then HWA, then the church, which was broken down to the various offices and ministry and members.
For WCG to keep using the excuse that HWA didn’t have “theological training” does not stand up, because HWA could have, at any time in his long life, received it. It’s obvious that this was not his intention. He did not “mistakenly teach” anything, as WCG words it, he intentionally taught with great authority, never flinching that God revealed these “truths” to him. He outright called the Trinity (i. e., that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all fully God–but they are united in the fullness of one God) a satanic doctrine. For WCG to soft-peddle what HWA did doesn’t undo the destruction of the past.
HWA didn’t see “biblical proof” for the personality of the Holy Spirit because he didn’t want to see it. Yet there are about 20 scriptures that reference the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force, but over 100 scriptures that speak of Him as a Divine Personage. How could HWA have overlooked this? Is it possible that HWA only used scriptures to prove his point of view?
HWA Redefined Salvation and Grace
“His teaching was similar to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but there is no evidence that he obtained his doctrine from them.” This is a contradiction because on page 169 in Transformed by Truth Joseph Tkach, Jr. says, “Some cultish and aberrant groups did influence him–the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Adventism for example…” One only needs to read Reasoning from the Scriptures, a printed book from the Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses), to see that HWA plagiarized this very teaching from them.5
WCG minimizes what HWA taught by pointing fingers at other groups; i. e., saying that the anti-Trinitarian view “had circulated in other groups.” It’s almost as if they are having HWA say, “I may be bad but there are others just as bad, if not worse, than I am.” This is a typical ploy that abusers use to re-shift focus away from themselves.
HWA redefined salvation, grace, and faith, which is typical of what religious cult leaders do. Though their phrase that he “preached that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ” sounds doctrinally sound to an outsider, what a member in the WCG would think is, “Salvation is something I will have when Jesus returns. This is when I will possess eternal life at the first resurrection. In the meantime, I must qualify for the Kingdom through keeping of the Sabbath and Holy Days and various ordinances as outlined by God’s Apostle through the true church. Grace is license to sin. Jesus’ sacrifice only covers my past sins, before I knew all about the Law and how to keep it, but it does not give me license to break the Law in the future since I now know all the requirements of keeping the Law and Commandments.”
It was not an “emphasis on law-keeping” which was formed. Law keeping was not “emphasized,” it was required. This is another attempt at whitewashing, along with saying that HWA preached grace through faith, but said that someone would obey God’s commands if they loved Him; i. e., “If a person does not keep the Sabbath, Armstrong concluded that that person must not love God.” No, HWA said that if a person didn’t keep the Sabbath, he was disobeying God’s commands and would end up in the lake of fire because they knew better, but chose to disobey. WCG claims things that HWA never taught in the first place.
Harmful Groups Isolate Members
The reason HWA viewed the Sabbath as the “test commandment” was because it was a method he used to separate the “true believers” from the false ones. A person had to jump through all the hoops before being invited to attend a Sabbath service, something equivalent to an “initiation.” Herbert Armstrong used mind control techniques to keep members in place. By calling everything outside the WCG “satanic,” he successfully isolated members. All harmful groups isolate members in this manner. The Sabbaths and feasts were likewise designed to isolate members from family and friends. Travel to a different location kept members susceptible to further indoctrination. This is typical of religious cult practices.
WCG fails to mention that, along with the tithes sent in to headquarters, the members were also to give generous holy day offerings in addition to three tithes, plus the building fund, the love fund, and S.E.P. (Summer Education Program camps) donations. [Note: Read “Financial Exploitation in WCG” (letter to ESN) for a much longer list] Why this oversight? The headquarters’ leadership doesn’t want to completely own up to how hard they squeezed the membership for money, lest the members get wise as to how much they were really giving. Poor members rarely received third tithe assistance on a consistent basis, and some were even required to pay it back!
WCG would have readers believe that although the financial requirements were high, “they also increased the levels of commitment.” No apologies are given. Trying to justify this as “good” for the members is terrible.
“Where a person’s treasure is, there the heart will be also.” So if members are triple tithing, giving holyday offerings, giving to building funds and S.E.P., but the ministers and headquarters’ leaders aren’t required to do this, one needs to ask, “Where are the ministers’ and headquarters’ hearts? Where did they put their treasure? It is clear that they put burdens on the members that they themselves did not have to bear.
WCG thinks it is admirable that the members had their heart in the Work and the church. No apology is offered to the membership about Herbert Armstrong’s harsh teaching: “If one does not tithe (three tithes and various offerings), it only proves one thing–that you’re a thief!” How did the members become so committed in the first place if not through the indoctrination of WCG headquarters? Exploitive groups typically control the finances of their members through fear and threats. Members were told that breaking the tithing law was sinning against God, and to sin against God, one would not qualify for the kingdom. Many were told “their salvation was in jeopardy” if they didn’t tithe. This is the real reason why members had their hearts in “the Work.”
Placing Blame on Members Again
They say that Armstrong’s teaching of Christianity as a “way of life” focused primarily on prohibitions and therefore grace was rarely mentioned. This is not true, because grace was mentioned, over and over, as “license to sin.” Members were made to hate grace. They didn’t want grace because they equated grace with sin. When the author goes on to say that “many members became legalistic in their own relationship with God, and judgmental of other Christians,” this is still placing blame on the members. Members became legalistic because they were required to be legalistic. They weren’t free to make up the rules. “Legalism” (which members saw as “obedience to the government of God”) is only a fruit born from headquarters’ own requirements foisted upon the membership.
WCG brings out that HWA was legally “under the authority of a board of directors, but they always supported his decisions.” This partial confession fails to go into detail of how detrimentally this affected members.
They relate how HWA’s “unusual” ideas about prophecy may have been the “most attractive” of all his doctrines. But why? Because HWA said that the Great Tribulation was coming, and anyone who read HWA’s literature, especially about the Great Tribulation, was subject to his fear phobia induction. [talked about in OIU 4, Pt 3; OIUs available as PDF download]
They play it down when they say that HWA “saw himself as an end-time fulfillment of prophecy.” Nothing is said about how HWA was a false prophet, along with being the largest proponent of British-Israelism in this country and how he plagiarized. While mentioning each decade that his prophecy of the soon-coming Great Tribulation failed to come to pass, they do not reveal that he actually gave over 200 false prophecies. Instead they try to focus on the positive in saying that the Millennium was “good news.” But the bad news is that HWA was a false prophet. Why doesn’t the present HQ leadership acknowledge all of this? Because they know that they only exist because of Armstrong loyalists. Take away his legitimacy, and you take away their legitimacy to exist. “In fact, the millennium was so important to Armstrong that it became the center of the gospel.” HWA knew that “without a vision the people will perish,”‘ so this was the vision he gave members. It is the same one the Jehovah’s Witnesses use–“Paradise Earth.”
When they talk about how they have “worked hard” to inform their own members about where they went wrong, they fail to admit that they were quick to retract or redefine many of their statements. The blame is again placed on the members as they say “we” have all criticized other Christians as “false, deceived, children of the devil.” Why? Because members were taught by HWA to do so.
Not Telling Whole Truth to Members
While WCG utters the words that they have “much to apologize for,” apologizing is only one step. Telling the whole truth to the members is not being addressed. As they express how they are “profoundly sorry that we persecuted Christians and created dissention and disunity in the body of Christ,” and “We seek forgiveness and reconciliation,” it sounds nice that they apologize to Christians outside of the church, but what about the members inside? What compensation have they received for all the suffering they have caused them?
Chapter Two: A Decade of Painful Change
This chapter would be better entitled, “Worldwide Rewrites History Again, and Again, and Again.”
They inform readers that much of their doctrinal foundation was “faulty,” but then again part of it “was true.” This is still trying to justify their actions; i. e., “Yes, it was bad, but it wasn’t all that bad.”
WCG likes others to believe that “many people came to Christ” under HWA’s teachings. One must ask how people could come to Christ when they were being taught a false Christ and a false gospel; i. e., “doctrines of devils”?
WCG tries to tell readers that there was “a germ of life inside the crust of erroneous doctrines” that grew after HWA died and it broke off the crust. How could there ever be a true gospel inside a false gospel?
HWA Was Never Ambiguous
Joseph Tkach, Sr.
This part conveys the falsehood that HWA came to realize that many of his “prophetic speculations” couldn’t be proven from the Bible. Notice how the word “speculations” is used instead of the more truthful “false prophecies.” HWA was never ambiguous about anything he taught, including his prophecies; in fact, he did not hesitate to set dates. WCG puts forth the idea that questions arose from the members about what HWA had written; therefore, some of his booklets were removed from circulation “until further study could resolve the questions.” The reason the books–almost all of them–were withdrawn was because headquarters was revising them as part of their goal of mainstreaming. The doctrinal changes were first done in a slow, methodical way: two steps forward, and one step backwards, without alerting the members as to exactly what was going on. Members were instructed to throw out all older literature. Today you will most likely find only two sets of books which cover their beliefs–the recent WCG ones and the original HWA ones. This prevents others (including members) from noticing the conflicting manner in which the transformation took place.
Members Knew Nothing About the Changes at First
The leaders reached out to the media and Christian ministries first, claiming major doctrinal changes were taking place; i. e., “we are not the one true church anymore; baptism is not required for salvation; we are born again before the resurrection; we have accepted the divinity of the Holy Spirit,” etc. In 1993 one apologetic ministry announced, “the church [WCG] accepted the doctrine of the Trinity.”10 At the same time headquarters was telling the members “no real doctrinal changes are taking place, just a change in how the doctrines of the church are expressed.”11 Members, therefore, knew nothing about these changes that WCG was announcing to outsiders through their PR campaign.
WCG says that after struggling to understand the changes, “many members” “began to experience a new sense of peace and joy through a renewed faith in Jesus Christ.” This is quite a stretch, as most were suffering confusion and pain, many ministers were being disfellowshipped, and others were fleeing to Armstrong splinter groups. As mentioned previously the changes were instigated with blame and confusion.
While WCG calls attention to the fact that a few other doctrines were changed later in 1995, including the British-Israelism one, what is not mentioned is that Tkach, Jr., in 1992 told the WCG regional pastor that The United States and Britain in Prophecy did not originate with HWA, but earlier editions plagiarized vast portions from “Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright” [1917 book by Rev. J. H. Allen]. Tkach, Jr. admitted that he could see where HWA “copied it from, including the historical errors.”12
Joseph Tkach, Jr.
Leaders Secretly Attending Azusa in 1977
WCG speaks about how one of the friendliest groups toward them was “the Haggard School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University.” Would the reason be because Greg Albrecht, Mike Feazell, Bernie Schnippert and others at headquarters were secretly attending there in 1977?13 Tkach, Jr. said that it was because Ambassador College was pursuing accreditation–yet AC didn’t pursue accreditation until 1988.14
Azusa Pacific University is a member of Willow Creek Association and considered a theologically liberal institution. (Read: Church Growth Movement – Rick Warren – Willow Creek and Saddleback. [November 16, letter to ESN])
Christian Research Institute15 is mentioned as one who “complimented the church when it accepted the doctrine of the Trinity.” However, members were totally unaware that WCG had “accepted the doctrine of the Trinity” when Hank Hanegraaff announced it on his “Bible Answer Program” on May 5, 1994.
Chapter Three: At a Crossroads
At this juncture they emphasize the story of the Apostle Paul and how there are “many similarities between the story of Paul and the story of the Worldwide Church of God.” This is trying again to put Herbert Armstrong in a good light and refusing to tell the truth about what he really was–a false prophet and false teacher and one who could never be compared with the Apostle Paul.
Why do we exist?
WCG wants others to think that it was those who were “angry and bitter” who felt WCG should close their doors and have members go to “authentic Christian churches” because they [WCG] “had no right to exist.” They correlate the words “angry and bitter” (which are disparaging words cults use to invalidate those they have abused and exploited) with closing their doors and members heading off toward other traditional Christian churches. There is a big question, however, as to why headquarters doesn’t disband. Local congregations are supposedly free now to grow in Christ. What would be the purpose of a headquarters staying in the picture–if not to continue to control the minds of those connected with them?
Power and Money Not Easy to Give Up
WCG tries to bring in that Christ “bought and paid for” the WCG. This gives the impression that WCG was Christ’s church all along. What is left out is that HWA ridiculed the true Jesus Christ and His true gospel of salvation. Their reasoning for holding onto a headquarters is that they (the members) have things to learn “as a group,” and they won’t learn them as well if they disband. The truth is not told that many local congregations are independent, self-supporting churches without a global headquarters. Will the leaders (who are skilled in coercive tactics of mind control) ever disband their headquarters, step down and start attending just a local congregation? It is highly doubtful, as power and money are not that easy to give up.
They express that as a group they are enjoying “a new interest in worship,” “discovering spiritual gifts” and “lay ministry” and functioning in “new ways.” Some of these new ways have turned out to be: endorsing the ecumenical movement, speaking in tongues, supporting the goals of the Promise Keepers movement, and recruiting the youth.
Saying They are a Denomination
They now call themselves a “denomination” and say they have a high regard for Scripture and a willingness to “do what it says.” To members this would mean they are to obey what their leaders and headquarters tells them. Heavy discipleship methods are used (with an emphasis on submission and conduct) and subtle blame is still being used to manipulate the members into doing what headquarters wants them to do.16 For instance, tithing is still being encouraged for the members with typical spin control. For example, they will say that it is only in the old covenant where a percentage of one’s income is required, but they go on to state that a person “wants to give as much as possible to support the gospel and to support needy members.”17 On their Worldwide Church of God website for Europe, Africa and Asia it is stated, “Members practice tithing and giving of offerings as a form of Christian stewardship and worship.”18 (By the way, this particular online article used the word “Christian” twenty times. Was WCG trying to tell their readers something?) Members are still manipulated in various ways to give to WCG’s causes. For example, Journey–Meeting Life’s Challenges is WCG’s new “free” magazine. (Update: Journey is no longer available) However, headquarters has made it clear that its success “will depend on donations from PTM Partners,” and those who are “committed to the ongoing work of this media ministry [PTM].”19
As usual they mention the word “legalism” and how they have an awareness for it now. Nothing is said about an awareness of thought reform or mind manipulation methods which were heavily used by the WCG leadership.
Saying God Used HWA
They end by saying that “Jesus is not done with us yet.” The question is, did the true Jesus ever have anything to do with the WCG in the first place, and did He have anything to do with their doctrinal reforms? (Some members, after exiting, have confessed that they were genuine Christians before they ever joined WCG–in spite of HWA declaring they never could have been.)
In 1996 WCG said, “We are thankful that God used Mr. Armstrong in the way that he did; we are also willing to admit that Mr. Armstrong made some significant errors along the way. Although we respect him for his virtues…”20 Notice that they claim “God used” Herbert Armstrong, but make no mention that he had been known by experts in the field for decades as a religious cult leader of a destructive, mind-manipulating organization. [See our section: Worldwide Church of God Expose`] They say he had “errors” instead of “heresies” and they say they “respect him for his virtues.” Herbert Armstrong was known to have been anything but virtuous.21
Why would the WCG headquarters want to revise their history? What are they trying to hide? Could it be the truth of what they really were, what Herbert Armstrong really taught, and how much destruction of human lives really took place? Do they find it more successful to get members to accept the new changes by making them think that HWA believed and taught certain things that he didn’t? This is covering up and distorting the truth–especially about HWA’s heresies and how much destruction of human life was spawned as a result–plus it is dodging full responsibility. Today the Worldwide Church of God wants others to believe that they have been “Christian” all along and utters the following: “The Worldwide Church of God, a Christian ministry established in Eugene, Oregon, in 1933…”22 This is nothing less than a pretense.
Kingdom of God and BI Influenced the Way HWA Interpreted Scripture
Their 1998 booklet Transformed by Christ has now been replaced and revised with a 1999 version. This last rendition has been greatly shortened and only has the word “unusual” in it once. It has no references at the end. Under the section “unusual doctrines” they mention how the Millennium was so important to HWA that it became the “center of the gospel.” This is still not accurate. It was the “Kingdom of God” that was the center of the gospel for HWA, and it was his British-Israelism views which influenced the way he interpreted Scripture. Today WCG still talks about “advancing the Kingdom of God.”
The 1999 version calls attention to how “We have worked hard to inform our own members about where we went wrong.” This is a distortion because what they have worked hard at is revising their history in order for members to believe the story they have put forth. Then they go on to make the reader think that “we” refers to the current leadership. Unbeknown to outsiders, the members always knew that the word “we” referred to them.
One of WCG’s most amazing proclamations in their 1998 Transformed by Christ is: “We do not hide our past.” It shouldn’t surprise anyone that these words are not found in the 1999 revised edition–nor are they found in their 2020 edition online.
By K. Marshall and D. Williams (former WCG members)
Exit & Support Network™
Updated February 8, 2020
UPDATE: Worldwide Church of God changed their name in April 2009 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 On Apostasy–a Radical Proposal (Letter to Worldwide Church of God, Philippines) (this letter reached close to 350 WCG ministers, including those at Headquarters; includes a 2007 email reply from author Brian Flynn regarding false teachings coming into the church).
Worldwide Church of God Whitewashes Herbert Armstrong After New Changes
Includes quotes from GCI’s 2019 booklet.
1 It can be documented that the WCG’s highest number was about 53,000 in 1973. Discern by listening to: “Armstrongism: An Insider’s View” by Mike Hollman, available from Watchman Fellowship. (Hollman was director of data processing in WCG from 1972-1973.) Read: Myth 1 and 2 – the greatest of them all in OIU 6, Pt. 1 to learn about the myth of WCG’s membership numbers. (Also see OIU 2, Pt. 2 beginning with “We find some discrepancies) about the growth picture starting around 1978. (OIUs available as PDF download)
2 “From the Fringe to the Fold, How the WCG Discovered the Plain Truth About the Gospel,” Christianity Today, July 15, 1996, by Ruth Tucker. [Read: lengthy exposé on Christianity Today and also how Christianity Today has turned to promoting contemplative spirituality and the New Age.]
4 HWA said he asked questions about baptism from the following: a Baptist minister in Portland, a Seventh-day Adventist minister, and a minister of the Friends Church (Quakers), Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, p. 315.
5 For evidence of HWA’s copying from the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, read chapter three, pt. 2 and chapter six of Mystery of the Ages (a critical review) by Kelly Marshall (search for the word “Watchtower”) and for his copying from Mormonism, see chapter two of the same review (search for the phrase “Latter Day Saints). [This MOA critique is available as PDF download. Also read: Herbert W. Armstrong’s Religious Roots.
6 Robert Gerringer 1975 Letter to Charles Hunting; Worldwide Church of God History by Kenneth Westby; and the very turbulent 1970 era talked about in What Really Occurred With Worldwide Church of God (GCI).
7 Basil Wolverton (a comic artist and WCG elder) was behind the grotesque and horrifying pictures in 1975 in Prophecy and other WCG literature. He had a stroke in 1974 and died December 31, 1978.
8 See: MORE INFO on HWA (Note at the end of “Herbert Armstrong’s Religious Roots.”)
9 Charles Hunting, former Worldwide Church of God evangelist, told how HWA “had doctors around him all the time.” (The Clyde Thomas Show, WKIS, Orlando, FL, 1988 (transcript is here on offsite link). Also, “Honey I Shrunk the Church” (New Times Los Angeles, December 4, 1997) tells how HWA would “slip away to doctors for treatment.” Read this part in “History of the Worldwide Church of God” which tells how HWA and other evangelists were seeing doctors and taking medicine while forbidding members to do so and see: “Herbert Armstrong Received a Bag of Medicine and Had a Parade of Doctors” (2015 Letter to ESN from an area sales manager who worked for a pharmaceutical company at the time)
10 Michael Snyder and Ruth Tucker radio interview, December 13, 1990, WMUZ, Detroit; “Doctrinal Changes at the Worldwide Church of God,” Watchman Expositor, Vol. 8, No. 5, 1991; “Special Report: Worldwide Church of God in Transition,” News Watch, January 1992, by Kurt Van Gorden and Alan W. Gomes; “Unprecedented Changes Affect Worldwide Church of God,” Christian Research Journal, News Watch, Spring 1991; “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; et al.
12 Statements from Joseph Tkach, Jr. written to WCG regional pastor Mike Swagerty on August 10, 1992 regarding the U.S. & B.C. booklet. In a letter dated August 9, 1991, President Hubbell responds to a letter regarding the WCG’s involvement with the Canadian British Israel Association. He wrote, “Mr. Armstrong did use the book, ‘Judah’s Sceptre and Joseph’s Birthright’ as the basis for his identity information and he spent some time at our London headquarters with Mr. Harold Stough the then secretary…The Tkach people have very recently been at London headquarters again but I was told [the London group] were quite reticent and cautious about dealing with them…” “Leaked WCG Memo Questions British Israelism,” The Watchman Expositor, Vol. 10, No. 7, 1993.
13 Outsider’s Inside Update Newsletter #6, Pt. 2 (at Gregory R. Albrecht) (OIUs available as PDF download), and article in the New Times Los Angeles, December 4, 1997 (…”quietly began attending classes at the independent evangelical Azusa Pacific University and, former insiders say, became enamored of ideas that were anathema to Armstrong’s teachings, many of which challenged mainstream religious beliefs.”)
18 “WCG 2000 & Beyond – Vision 2000: WCG looks to next century with hope and vision.” The Worldwide News, January 2000 edition. This was stated to have been sent out electronically to WCG pastors; however it doesn’t appear in the Jan. 2000 Worldwide News in WCG’s WN archives. [Note: Archives of the WN before September 1995 are no longer available on WCG’s website; however, quotes from the original WN’s have been compiled and posted by ESN. In Feb. 2005 The Worldwide News in the United States changed its name to WCG Today. In May 2006 it was changed to Together. A few years later Together was no longer available. Then from 2005 to 2015 they had Christian Odyssey. Today it is Equipper (a monthly e-magazine).
Herbert W. Armstrong (many articles)
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