Name Changed to Grace Communion International
Starting in the `90s1 WCG launched a PR campaign to the Christian mainstream establishment that they were changing their cult doctrines and becoming a neo-evangelical organization. (Be sure and read our OIU Newsletters) which explains the reasons behind the changes.) They were even accepted into the NAE (The National Association of Evangelicals) in 1997. The Christian ministries and authors that took WCG’s word at face value gave them a clean bill of health and “assumed” that they were teaching Orthodox doctrines. Is this true?
Why did they also receive $3 million from Philadelphia Church of God by selling the copyrights to Herbert W. Armstrong’s literature (heresies)? Is WCG (Grace Communion International) becoming more and more confusing as time goes on? Can they be trusted?
NOTICE: 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.) Church Multiplication Ministries (CMM) is a ministry of GCI. This article also covers GCI today.
- Allowing Herbert Armstrong’s Literature to be Republished
- Sold Copyrights to Philadelphia Church of God
- WCG’s Excuses
- Exiting Member Writes His Pastor About WCG Selling Copyrights
- Minister’s Reply With ESN Comments
- Proclaiming That HWA Was a “Sincere” Christian
- Teaching Evolution
- Teaching a Form of Universalism
- Ambivalent About Heaven and Hell
- Guilt Concerning Tithing and Giving
- Worship on Saturday or Sunday
- Ordaining Women
- Division and Confusion
- Tongues Speaking
- Does True Change Involve a Headquarters in the Picture?
- What Else Are They Doing Today?
- Need For Discernment
Allowing Herbert Armstrong’s Literature to Be Republished:
In 1998 Joseph Tkach, Jr. and Greg Albrecht met with James Walker and John Morehead at an EMNR 1998 Conference on Biblical Discernment in Chicago, Illinois (Roundtable 1&2: Changes in the Worldwide Church of God; tapes on file with ESN). At that conference, Greg Albrecht told how Gerald Flurry was ignoring copyright law and was reprinting and redistributing Herbert W. Armstrong’s literature and WCG was in litigation with Philadelphia Church of God. Albrecht stated, “…that teaching is flawed and leads to all kinds of bad stuff. Therefore, we don’t want it disseminated.” Tkach, Jr. added, “And the only way we would want that literature out there is if it was heavily annotated with big lines pointing to the statements in error.”
Then in the last year of this six-year lawsuit between WCG and the PCG (in which PCG suffered several setbacks), the WCG decided to republish many of Armstrong’s books and booklets, plus his entire Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course–unedited–for “historical and research purposes.”
Ralph Helge and Paul Kroll both stated in an email that this was true:
October 23, 2002
Thank you for your E-mail expressing interest in the Worldwide Church of God material written by Herbert W. Armstrong. We are pleased to advise you that what you heard is true. The church will be publishing the books and booklets he wrote for the church. Certain of the church’s literature is in the publishing process, and will be available for sale in a few months for historical and research purposes. Other literary works of the church will be published in the future as demand for the same dictates.
Please check the Worldwide Church of God website for an announcement as to when any specific piece of literature you are interested in will be available for purchase. …
Thank you for your interest in the literary works of the church.
WCG stated that these works, which were to be for sale, “do not represent the teachings of the Worldwide Church of God.” This is the same as saying, “We’ve changed our doctrines, but we will still publish Herbert Armstrong’s heresies; however, these heretical booklets don’t represent WCG’s teachings.” How’s that for spin jargon?
What would Christians think if, for instance, Christian Science (which is considered a religious cult) changed to mainstream and then re-published all of Mary Baker Eddy’s works for “historical and research purposes”? At least the earlier editions of The Kingdom of the Cults [see Booklist] let others know what WCG taught and why it was considered heretical.
Nevertheless, did this move of WCG’s simply boil down to money? Did it ultimately force the PCG to make a decision to pay WCG their asking price for the copyrights?
Note: Paul Kroll originally exited the WCG sometime shortly after 1973 and was listed among other leading men and women who left their positions because of “frustration, matters of conscience, and disgust over doctrinal and organizational problems” and who “no longer supported AC or the WCG.” (Ambassador Review, June 1976, p. 5) One must ask why he’s back in again? And Ralph Helge (retired since 2005) was referred to as an “unprincipled liar” in Jack Kessler’s 1981 Letter to Worldwide Church of God Board of Directors.
Sold Copyrights to Philadelphia Church of God:
Since Kroll’s above email, WCG sold the copyrights to Philadelphia Church of God (March 7, 2003), for what PCG said was $2 million dollars2 and WCG said was $3 million dollars, in order to supposedly avoid a long drawn out court battle. (See: Pasadena Star News, March 26, 2003, “Closing the book – Settlement reached over texts” and “WCG litigation settled” by Ralph K. Helge, Worldwide News, April 2003.)
[Update: Since PCG immediately told members this was a “victory” for them, read: PCG Did NOT Win a Victory in the WCG vs. PCG Court Case (February 23, 2007 email to ESN from Attorney at Law).]
This means the perpetuation of Herbert Armstrong’s heresies (Mystery of the Ages and 18 other books/booklets by HWA, including The Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course) has now been given to Philadelphia Church of God (known as a totalistic and abusive group) to republish, which will allow Gerald Flurry to continue to deceive and enslave more people into Armstrongism. The message to PCG members in all of this is: “God intervened because He wanted Mr. Armstrong’s ‘truths’ kept alive.” (ESN has critiqued Mystery of the Ages. [available as PDF download])
Before this entire ordeal transpired, several confusing actions had taken place within the WCG which shows their double-mindedness:
On September 27, 1997, Ralph Helge proclaimed to Judge Letts that the WCG had never had any intention or decision not to publish Mystery of the Ages. Yet in Transformed by Truth Joseph Tkach, Jr., stated clearly that WCG felt it was their “Christian duty” to keep Mystery of the Ages out of print because they felt HWA’s “doctrinal errors are best left out of circulation.” (TBT, p.203, chapter 9 notes, #22)
In 1998 after the federal district judge ruled in favor of PCG’s distributing Mystery of the Ages, WCG revealed their plans to republish Mystery of the Ages and print some sort of “annotated version” that could critique the doctrinal errors (which, by the way, they never did go through with).
Then in 2001 WCG said that when Tkach, Jr. expressed what he did in Transformed by Truth (about Mystery of the Ages “best left out of circulation”) that Jr. was not speaking for the WCG, only stating his “personal” views.
In October of 2001 WCG decided to republish certain of HWA’s works on the web, if the PCG would pay for their costs and withdraw their counterclaim. (How many remember that in 1994 WCG told the members that Herbert Armstrong had admitted “before his death” that Mystery of the Ages was “riddled with errors”?)
This scenario went back and forth until Bernard Schnippert stated to the Pasadena Star News that to not accept the $3 million settlement offer from PCG for control of the copyrights would be “financially imprudent.” (See Christianity Today, week of March 24, 2003) [Update: Bernie Schnippert died 9-12-14]
This is nothing but double-talk and confusion. Seemingly what the WCG says one day is never what they might say the next day. One must ask, “Is this what converted evangelicals do?”
One former WCG member wrote ESN and said:
I’m sure Jesus is very proud of these “orthodox Christians” selling this damning heresy to a group who will use it to propel thousands more innocent people into the clutches of a madman who claims he is Christ’s representative. [Read the full lengthy letter: How Does WCG Justify $3 Million From PCG?!!]
I’m sure Jesus is very proud of these “orthodox Christians” selling this damning heresy to a group who will use it to propel thousands more innocent people into the clutches of a madman who claims he is Christ’s representative. [Read the full lengthy letter: How Does WCG Justify $3 Million From PCG?!!]
Another former member of WCG wrote Paul Kroll, telling him that he feels this entire copyright battle was nothing but a sham and that WCG leadership are a bunch of moral cowards. (Read the entire 2003 email.) He received a typical “canned” email response3, which is only more of WCG’s justifications for their actions. For instance, one of Kroll’s excuses is “there’s not much interest in Herbert Armstrong’s literature anyway except for those that already believe his erroneous teachings.” Flurry said he expected to triple or quadruple his growth as a result of this purchase.4 The facts remain that there are hundreds of WCG offshoots and splinter groups today which continue to pull in others who are very much “interested” in Herbert Armstrong’s literature.
Another excuse is “the material is already on the web, TV, radio and in sermons anyway, so we can’t stop it.” So in essence what they are saying is, “What does it matter if we have no ethics and no concern for those we disfellowshipped in mass numbers at the time of the changes, or for those who will be pulled in by this literature? Just let them go their way. We will target the youth.”
The most foolish excuse WCG has used is that “since HWA has been dead for many years, this renders his claims as ridiculous.” This is simply not true. Does the fact that Mary Baker Eddy (founder of Christian Science) and Charles Taze Russell (founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses) have both been dead for many of years stop people from believing her/his claims (heresies)? The WCG leaders and their subordinates often answer in a confusing, duplicitous manner, and some have suggested that this reveals their lack of conscience.
“They encourage themselves in an evil matter” ~Psalm 64:5
If WCG feels the monies they received “just barely covered their legal fees,” then why did they go to court in the first place, or why didn’t they pull out before now? All they had to do was tell Flurry “the copyright is yours.” But, going about it in the manner they did benefits both parties, does it not?
And what was Gerald Flurry’s excuse for buying Herbert Armstrong’s works from the WCG? In the Royal Vision, July/August 2003, p.7 and the Philadelphia Trumpet, March/April 2003, “©Copyright Philadelphia Church of God,” he simply used the verse in Proverbs 23:23, “Buy the truth and sell it not…”
Some former members have wondered whether PCG and WCG communicated with each other beforehand about what would profit both of them the most. One person wrote a letter to ESN, considering the possibility that selling the copyrights was a means to keep Worldwide Church of God afloat. But where did WCG get that kind of money? What Really Occurred With Worldwide Church of God mentioned secret overseas bank accounts, extensive land holdings, etc. that WCG is alleged to have had. WCG also continues to maintain a large and information-packed website, which certainly is not cheap.
Exiting Member Writes His Pastor About WCG Selling Copyrights:
Another member decided to recently exit the WCG due to their incredible actions in selling the Herbert Armstrong copyrights to PCG. He wrote the following letter to his pastor, which is posted below:
[Note: Names have been changed for confidentiality at the request of the author.]
I just read the latest pastors update and was very saddened to hear of [mentions someone that had recently died].
On a totally different note, I was shocked to hear that the WWCG has decided to seek financial gain from the destructive doctrinal teachings of Herbert Armstrong, doctrines it has supposedly rejected. That’s a bit like a former drug dealer who decides to sell just a little more dope for the sake of spreading the “just say no” message. Does the end truly justify the means?
First the WWCG builds a lucrative following by spreading FALSE DOCTRINE that appeals to vulnerable, insecure people who are seeking direction and a sense of belonging.
Then, when the organization has been recognized for what it is and its membership is dwindling, it changes it’s tactics and joins the mainstream ecumenical movement, and begins operating on the principle that DOCTRINE DOESN’T REALLY MATTER. Whatever works. The end justifies the means.
Now, in an unparalleled confirmation of WWCG’s devotion to that famous philosophy, they have decided to sell the copyrights to Mr. Armstrong’s original doctrinal devilry. For millions of dollars, of course. To help spread the gospel, of course.
You recently attended the funeral of R. M. Martin. Do you know that the Martins had a son my age who as a toddler was accidentally bashed in the head with a baseball bat by his older brother? Do you know that his brain started swelling but his parents wouldn’t carry him to a doctor because they were afraid of burning in the lake of fire? Do you know that he died? Do you have any idea of the pain, guilt, and uncertainty that Mr. R. M. Martin carried to his grave? Do you think doctrine matters?
Do you realize that despite the church’s massive real estate holdings and other investments, despite the fact that the top leaders were living like kings on Pasadena’s “Millionaire’s Row,” despite the fact that the church was sometimes bringing in over $200,000,000 annually in tax-free income, despite the fact that Mr. Armstrong and his entourage were jet-setting all over the world in style and luxury – despite all this – the church has to this day not offered the Martins an apology in any form, much less physical help or restitution of any kind?
And the Martins are only a few among thousands. But of course we should all forget about doctrine, do what is “financially prudent,” and just try to get along. The end justifies the means.
Mr. Taylor, these observations are not intended as complaints against you personally. Quite the contrary. You have been nothing but kind and loving in your dealings with me and my family, and I appreciate it immensely. I have nothing but respect and admiration for you. I am only seeking to give a brief explanation of why I can no longer support the destructive organization known as the Worldwide Church of God.
Minister’s Reply With ESN Comments
Darrin told ESN that his pastor’s response was classic “headquarters” spin’ (“Admit a little guilt…then put the burden back on the victims by accusing them of bitterness, lack of Christian forgiveness, etc.”) Read Darrin’s full 2003 letter: Appalled that WCG Decided to Profit From HWA’s Writings.
We post only a few words from this minister’s March 24 reply, along with our comments: [bolding ours]
“I have been a part of the WCG for 35 years. … Not everything was bad, however. You will find just as many good experiences as you do bad.”
“I have found in my studies that when it comes to Christian history all denominations have problems. Whether its Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Church of God, you name it, all have made mistakes and all have taught heresy.”
“…acknowledged our heresy and the mistakes we have made.”
“No one deliberately set out to hurt anyone, we thought we were obeying God – plain and simple.”
“But for some it’s hard to continue with our denomination due to it’s past.”
“The Apostle Paul murdered Christians. I can imagine how some of his victims families felt when he became a Christian. No doubt they had to deal with mistrust for him, and anger, knowing what he had done. … I guess they could have a lot to complain about.”
“If we, and I include myself in this, ever allow bitterness and anger to take root in our lives – due to real or imagined wrongs – then the danger is we become agnostics or we become self-styled, isolated, independent Christians.”
“The Holy Spirit works in community.”
Comments from ESN:
Testimonies show that most members have had far more bad experiences–even life shattering– than good–at least in terms of the impact in how it affected the quality of their life, their family’s life, employment opportunities, and relationships with outside family and friends. There are no “good experiences” that can negate being betrayed and lied to in the name of God!
This pastor is either totally ignorant regarding the corrupt history (morally and financially) of the WCG conglomerate, or is only repeating words he has heard from his leaders.
Good churches have “problems,” and “make mistakes,” but they don’t use thought reform on their members, as destructive religious cults are known to do, and neither do they try to intimidate or silence their critics. WCG was never a “church” in the true sense of the word. It was known for decades as a destructive Bible-based cult (i. e., a mind-manipulating or high demand group). However, since their new changes began, WCG has been saying that they were a “denomination.”
The leadership has never owned up to the full truth about their corrupt and evil past, nor even attempted some kind of reimbursement to those they abused and exploited. They have even revised their history and covered up HWA’s background. Does God work through deceit, lies, blame, control and confusion when He begins to change individuals, or are those methods which are used by cults?
How the hierarchy can ever make up for what has been done–not “mistakes,” but evil that destroyed people emotionally, spiritually, and in many cases physically.
We “thought we were obeying God” because we were taught all we believed. Herbert Armstrong knew exactly what he was doing and his goal was to exploit those under him as he reigned supreme.
The analogy about Paul the Apostle is not the same. After Paul’s conversion he was able to confound those who attempted to confront him intellectually (Acts 9:22). The church was afraid of him when he came to Jerusalem because he had never been a part of them (Acts 9:26). The church was already experiencing persecution at this time, but Barnabas became the “sponsor” of Saul and introduced him to the church. Then he was accepted by them. Nothing is said about their having “mistrust and anger.” The witness of Paul was powerful. He began to witness about Christ immediately upon his conversion (Acts 9:21-22), not putting the blame for the past on anyone, neither did he use deceit of any kind. His conversion was genuine and it produced much good fruit.
The Holy Spirit teaches God’s children wherever they are and has promised never to leave them–whether they are able to attend a church or fellowship outside one–and few are after suffering such betrayal and abuse. It is better to be in no church at all than in a bad church.
Proclaiming That HWA Was a “Sincere” Christian
GCI has never told the whole truth about their founder and his past. (See: Worldwide Church of God Whitewashes Herbert Armstrong After New Changes) While Greg Albrecht glibly agreed in 2004 that HWA was a “heretic” [Called to Be Free video], he followed it up in the same sentence by saying, “I believe I was a heretic, too.” (Translation: “All you members were heretics, too, for believing Herbert W. Armstrong.”)
WCG (GCI) ministers have even told their members (per instructions from HQs): “God used Herbert Armstrong to bring us into a relationship with God.” HWA brought people into bondage to his “government.” These foolish words serve not only to keep present members from turning against their founder, but from seriously thinking about what really happened during the changes; thereby seeing it all as a hoax and leaving the organization.
The WCG (GCI) leadership has continued all along to revise history and make members and outsiders think that Herbert W. Armstrong was simply a “sincere Christian” who misunderstood the Bible because he had a “lack of theological education” and so taught some “unorthodox beliefs.” They have said HWA was “a very sincere Christian who was dedicated to Christ,” “a minister of Jesus Christ,” “devoted to Christ,” gave us “an example” of how to study the Bible and that, “in spite of errors he taught, had a high view of Scripture.”5
More ludicrous words were said by WCG Regional Minister, Keith Britten, about Herbert Armstrong:
“I believe one reason that God raised up Herbert W. Armstrong and started a new Christian religion from fresh, from scratch, and took it through several experiences from Old Testament to New was to make us a dynamic religion. And that’s one thing about the WCG, it’s been through a lot of things, but like I said last year, one can never say it’s dull. We’ve been through an exciting roller coaster ride. We know better than any other Christians out there brethren, that what has been going on here is special. A lot of people are looking at this denomination and they can recognize it like Dr. James Kennedy, who said on his broadcast, ‘I’m jealous, you are going through the same experience the First Century Church has gone through!’
These are absolutely incredible statements from leaders who claim to be “Christians.” HWA was not only a hypocrite of the greatest magnitude, but he studied Communism [See OIU 5, Pt 3] and had a knowledge of propaganda techniques and sophisticated thought reform methods which enabled him to deceive thousands into his destructive belief system. He didn’t give us an “example” for studying the Bible; he adamantly stated that he alone had been given the “keys” to understanding the Bible. Herbert Armstrong spoke more of the “government of God” (i. e., obeying him) than he ever did of the Lord Jesus Christ and His true saving grace.
One former WCG member made a comment concerning this:
They forget what HWA himself used to say about other Christians who said they were sincere. He would say “they might be sincere but they are sincerely wrong.” HWA taught that we should have no part of the so called “Christians of the world.” We were taught to never read any of the material of the Protestant “false church.” How could Armstrong have been a man of God and a false prophet at the same time? They [WCG] will not admit that Herbert W. Armstrong was leading them away from Christ. [Read the full letter: WCG’s Releasing HWA Material is Like Offering a Glass of Milk That Had a Piece of Dung in it]
GCI is now teaching and endorsing evolution.
They state: [bolding and words in purple italics are ESN’s]
“The WCG [GCI] sees no biblical reason to reject the conclusions of scientists that … life has been on earth for billions of years. Similarly, the church sees no biblical reason to reject evidence that life forms have been changing for billions of years. … The writer [of Genesis] simply used the weekly cycle as a convenient literary ‘peg’ to help make his theological point. … We see, then, that it is not necessary to take the “creation week” as a literal week. … To insist that Genesis 1 mainly tells us “how long” creation took is to utterly trivialize the theological revelation it provides. … It [the Bible] does not tell us the process by which the creation came into existence, or whether it may have developed over the eons.6
“Perhaps the creation story was not meant to be interpreted literally. … Ancient readers, if they thought about it, might conclude that creation was not as simple as Genesis 1 presents it. … God structured the Israelite work week, but we cannot assume that his creative week was the same length as one of ours. His perspective on time is different. … Many of them [commentaries] [speak: “liberal” commentaries] have been convinced on literary and theological grounds that Genesis 1 should probably be read otherwise. … When God asks us to believe something, he gives us evidence. [In Hebrews 11:1 the Word of God says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”] … But God has not given us tangible evidence of a six-day creation. … Belief in God can legitimately be combined with a nonliteral view of Genesis”7
GCI is adopting what is known as the “liberal” viewpoint. Read: Grace Communion International and Their Evolutionary Views, letter written by John Miller, Jr. (former WCG member) and sent to Michael Morrison and Paul Kroll.
In Michael Morrison’s article, “Genesis 1: Evolution vs. Creation Controversy,” some of his quotes are from men that are members of Coalition on Revival8, one of many groups working toward an ecumenical consensus and unity in the church. GCI has shown it covets the acceptance of outside liberals and ecumenicals.
GCI has revealed that they do not take the Bible literally anymore and is interpreting it symbolically. Will this lead members away from believing that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God? Is the next step for GCI to start using modern Bible versions that refer to God as either a “he or she”?
Also read 2011 letters to ESN: Grace Communion International Promoting Evolution and Quotes Proving Grace Communion International is Endorsing Evolution.
Teaching a Form of Universalism
Articles have been written in The Plain Truth speaking against any doctrine or denomination that teaches that a person is lost if he dies without salvation. They say, “the God of the Bible wouldn’t do that.” They are still teaching that everyone who “never had a chance to hear the gospel” will hear it at the “Great White Throne Judgment” (Rev.20:11-15). While GCI is not known to be preaching a “100-year period after the Millennium” (as Armstrong taught), they are speculating and teaching that salvation is possible on the other side of the grave for those who were not converted to Christ in this lifetime.9
This is proclaiming that people will be given a “second chance,” which is very similar to what HWA taught. It is also causing GCI to become more and more like Universalism.
Read: Grace Communion International and Their Universalism Views (letter from former member John Miller, Jr. to Worldwide Church of God and Steve Brown of KeyLife Network)
Read the following letter from 2019 which says they are Soft Universalists and believe in universal reconciliation: Grace Communion International and Their Heretical Beliefs.
Doesn’t the Word of God show that the only way anyone will be found not guilty of sin at the White Throne Judgment is to be judged on the works of Jesus Christ, whose works were finished on the cross of Calvary?
Ambivalent About Heaven and Hell
GCI will not say that they believe in hell (or lake of fire), and they teach that the Scriptures are “not clear” on whether the dead are conscious. Yet the leadership told D. James Kennedy10 on his radio program in 1996 that they did indeed believe in heaven and hell.5 Of course, what they have said to outsiders and what is actually meant (or taught to members) is usually two different things–or even a combination of “take your pick” of which hell you want.
As of December 11, 2019 GCI is still promoting a “second chance” after death:
“Therefore we can believe that one way or another, he [God] urges every person who ever lived, or who ever will live, to trust in him for salvation. That might be before they die, at the point of death, or even after they die. At the last judgment, if some people turn to Christ in faith when they at last learn what he has done for them, then he will not turn them away. (By Joseph Tkach, “The Message of Jesus: Is Jesus the Only Way of Salvation?”) ...all humans are, in spite of themselves, loved, forgiven, and included in Jesus Christ, who is their Lord and Savior (“The GCI Statement of Beliefs/ The Judgment”)
WCG (GCI) is known to say one thing in their articles and magazines and another in sermons. One example is the Video Sermon by Joseph W. Tkach to WCG Members, January 1995.) Their duplicity sent all kinds of mixed messages to the members who were put in a state of confusion and trauma.
Our correspondence with exiters and pastors has revealed that WCG (GCI) allows members, even ministers, to believe just about any alternate view they want. This is usually a liberal (or neo-evangelical) viewpoint, plus a potpourri blend of some HWA doctrine. Some former members have suggested that perhaps GCI needs two doctrinal statements, one for what they say is Orthodoxy and one showing the HWA doctrines that still remain within their organization. (This is discussed further below under Division and Confusion.)
“A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” ~James 1:8
Guilt Concerning Tithing and Giving
During their changes, WCG told their membership “the tithing laws are not commanded, but now you are “free” to give 10%, 20%, 30%, even 40%.”
GCI’s Statement of Financial Stewardship says that while tithing isn’t mandated, “it is encouraged.” Since members have been programmed for years to tithe, these subtle words will make them feel guilty if they don’t give at least 10%. WCG also implanted the thought in members’ minds that anyone who is not giving to the church “just maybe, is not saved.” If a member wants to tithe their income, they are free to do so, but the Bible makes it clear that Christians today are not under any O.T. “tithing law.”
The WCG (GCI) has changed little in their mind-control tactics. It is just harder for some to recognize how they are still using them today.
In spite of the above statements for members, their pastors are expected to tithe. In “WCG Administrative Manual,” section 6375, June 2007, they state, “Pastors should teach that financial giving is an aspect of worship. As teachers, pastors should be generous stewards (it is the policy of the WCG that all employed pastors tithe their income; bivocational pastors are expected to be generous donors in accordance with their income levels).”
Do pastors, including members, know where every last dime of their money is going when they send it to HQ? Can members even ask?
Today they have an plethora of articles on their site on “Money and Generosity.” In their “sample budget” they list a place for “contributions” and it shows 10-15%. There is much talk about “being generous” and “God rewards generosity,” “self-examination is needed,” etc. At the end of these articles, it says: “Help us provide more content like this by giving today” and then there is a Donate button. On their home page, there is a box that says “Donate Now” (another pages may say “Online Giving”) and a box for “Become a Member.” It is not easy to find your way back to where you were; in fact in some cases, it is impossible.
In GCI’s article by Joseph Tkach, “Money: Three Reasons to Give,” they start by saying “God’s old covenant people…” [emp mine] This is to direct reader’s minds back to Israel and how we were taught that we are modern-day Israel. That facts are that God made a covenant with Israel and it was called the Mosaic Covenant, but in the N. T. Christ made a New Covenant that is superior to the old. The old is now obsolete (Hebrews 8). This New Covenant is not for a nation but for all who believe on Him. God has a specific plan for Israel in the future but they are not his “old covenant people” today.
The rest of the sentence is, “…had to give at least 10 percent of their income, plus offerings on other occasions.” It goes on to say how humans ought to “return some of the blessings’ God has given them.” They give three reasons for doing so and here is my interpretation and comments on what they are really saying:
The first reason is: “God blesses those who give.” In other words, if you give money, you will be blessed financially. It is the old covenant that talked about financial blessings, it is the New Covenant talks about spiritual blessings.
The second reason is: “God commands his people to give.” God does not command N.T. believers to give. His command was to love others and to believe on Him. (John 13:34; I John 3:23)
The third reason is: “The church needs money to serve the members.” In other words, GCI needs your money to tell the members what to do.
They also say, “Those who are generous from the heart are becoming more like Christ, putting treasures in heaven for eternity.” Are they becoming more like Christ just by giving? Where does the Bible say this? It doesn’t. They have mixed up several different thoughts in this sentence.
They have a section, “Paul asks for generosity.” They summarize it by saying Christians have a “spiritual need” to give; and we have a “duty” to support the preaching of the gospel and “give financial support to their leaders.” I.e. GCI leaders. [italics mine]
Under “Self-examination needed ” they say, “The old covenant required 10 percent; the new covenant commands us to give as we are able.” Notice how they say “commands” which the N. T. doesn’t say, and then they add “as we are able” which is contradictory.
The same with their saying “the new covenant does not specify a percentage for giving,” then turning around and saying “it does not tell us to give less. Instead, it tells us to give what we can.” Then they go on to add these words: “The new covenant requires more soul-searching, more training for the conscience, more selfless love for others, more faith, more voluntary sacrifice and less compulsion.” “…we will respond with greater generosity to support the church…” [bolding ours, but italics theirs]
This whole article reminds one of the way Joseph Tkach Sr. talked in his Video Sermon on January 1995.
Worship on Saturday or Sunday
After the new changes WCG (GCI) started teaching members that it was no longer necessary to keep any particular day of the week to meet and to worship on and those that didn’t agree were said to be “causing division.” We received reports of those who talked with elders who were unjustly “removed” from their positions in WCG when they didn’t want to go along with the controlling methods being used to instigate the new doctrinal changes.
New ministers were sent to replace long time WCG ministers that didn’t want to accept this idea of changing to Sunday. The new minister then preached to his congregation that if they “want to grow they will start keeping Sunday.” In some areas members were first introduced to the idea of Saturday and Sunday services and were told such things as, “such and such minister had a long ways to travel to the next congregation, so it was more convenient for him to have Sunday services in his town and then Saturday services at yours.” In other places the minister simply said they are “combining services” instead of saying they ceased worshipping on the Sabbath. This was a clear case of manipulation.
Members are no longer supposed to refer to Saturday as “the Sabbath day.” Sunday has slowly been slipped in. This seems to have been WCG’s way of “weaning” off its members from meeting on the Sabbath (i. e., Saturday). This entire subject created division and confusion in many congregations and many more decided to leave.
In June 2018, Greg Williams (the new President of GCI) was attempting to shift members from Saturday to Sunday. Some of his words were: (bolding ours)
“If you are holding your primary worship service on Saturday, that puts you out of step with most of GCI and the rest of the Christian world. Doing so sends a misleading signal about who GCI is.” …. “In my far and wide GCI travels, I have rarely experienced a strong, vibrant and growing GCI church that is meeting on Saturday.” ….. “If you are gathering in a hall that is difficult to locate and is out of the flow of normal activity, … If you are renting space in a church building that is owned by another congregation/denomination, consider the problems you face with identity. …. If your weekly worship service is structured in accordance with GCI’s past tradition, and hasn’t been examined in a long time, now is the time for a “come to Jesus” meeting!“
While Williams has said there is room to be “flexible,” as of 2020 there are still members meeting on Saturdays in rented buildings, hotels, homes, or various church buildings. This can entail having ministers speaking on Sunday in one place and then driving to another nearby city on Saturday to meet and teach a smaller group of members (called a “fellowship” not a church)–but Williams plans to get rid of this.
Their new President has also begun making changes to their worship. He wants the pattern of worship to be organized around a weekly celebration of certain days from Advent, Christmas, Maudy Thursday, Pentecost Sunday, Trinity Sunday, All Saints Sunday, etc. etc. The whole list is way too long to post here but can be found on their website in the article, “Worship in GCI congregations.”
Division and Confusion
The “new” WCG (GCI) has allowed members (and pastors) to believe just about anything they like (including many different kinds of theological beliefs11), as long as it “doesn’t cause division.” But what they are teaching is nothing but division and confusion. (A search on the net revealed that there remain congregations in other parts of the world; i. e., Canada or overseas, that still observe HWA’s teachings, such as feast days, dietary laws and soul sleep. The truth is that there are even congregations in the United States that hold on to some part of HWA’s teachings and HQs lets them. We found one congregation in the U. S. that still carries the name “Worldwide Church of God.” If there are only about 15 people attending, they are called a “fellowship group” and not a church. Some of these meet in homes.
In regard to theology, they present all types of views, giving the impression that presenting all sides will enable the reader/member to “make up their own mind.” These views can cover preterist, historical, liberal, amillennialism, reformed, Dominionist, Charismatic–you name it–and others are now becoming concerned that they are apostate in their doctrines.
It’s evident that they aren’t clear on many of their doctrinal beliefs (which one only discovers by carefully reading through their many online articles), but when someone takes the time to inquire into exactly what they do believe on this or that, they only offer more spin and confusion. Are they saying whatever appeals to the greatest number of people for the sake of financial support?
Confusion is part of mind control:
One thing is clear, confusion is a part of mind control, and all of this ambivalence and changing, and overload of material, creates confusion and a “zoning out” in members’ minds.
Few members would ever admit they were victimized on purpose unless they researched the history of the organization. Those that have come to realize this fact have exited. More changes and confusion continue as time goes on. In November 2004 the WCG moved their headquarters from Pasadena to Glendora, California12 (see UPDATE in Footnote #12) and in January 2006 they were considering changing their name to Grace International Communion.13 Joseph Tkach (who has now dropped the Jr.) said their present name was “poisoned.”14 Finally in April 2009, they settled on the name Grace Communion International in the U.S.
In February 2005 they changed the name of their member newspaper in the United States from Worldwide News 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).
Those who left a few years later, and who tried to help the WCG leadership and ministers to recognize that they were continuing to teach error, even pointing out to them scriptures which refuted what they were teaching, only experienced the WCG minister telling them they were “attacking God’s church”15 and/or “going against what Mr. Tkach is saying.” See October 20, 2006 letter to ESN: I Tried to Speak Out About the WCG Duplicity and Paternalism.
Many GCI church plantings across the country have now given their churches a new name; e.g., incorporating the words: “Community,” “Christian,” “Grace,” “Congregation,” “New Life,” or “Fellowship” in their title, while remaining connected to Grace Communion International. In other words, these churches still receive literature, headquarters’ reports, etc. from the “top man.” A number of these branches (e. g., overseas and in Canada) still get together yearly for a “Fall Festival,” pay tithes, and generally hold to a twisted view of salvation and the New Covenant.
Most members have no comprehension of the damaging thought reform that was used on them for years. Instead, they are told they were under “legalism.” They do not understand the true history of the WCG (GCI), especially the 1970s era. Headquarters is making sure that members don’t find out about any of this through their history cleansing and cover-up. Few members have time or inclination to read “dissident” websites. If members do stumble across exposé articles and/or testimonies on the WCG on the Internet, they are told it is by ex-members that are posting “wild rumors and accusations.”
GCI allows tongues speaking in their services. (all emp. ours)
“Members may worship as the Spirit leads them. However, they should keep in mind that the Spirit does not lead to confusion, nor to division. Speaking in tongues should not be done in a situation in which others will be offended, frightened or made uncomfortable, such as in a regular worship service. … We do not forbid tongues speaking. We forbid it only during worship services. Members are welcome to speak in tongues as a private prayer language or in small groups composed of people who know that tongues-speaking is allowed in that particular small group. … We welcome tongues-speakers into our fellowship … If a member has that gift, we would see it primarily as a “prayer language.”” (Q&A, “Are GCI Members Allowed to Speak in Tongues?”)
A member wrote ESN in the past about tongues and it is in OIU 6, Pt. 4. We are copying and pasting it here:
I just finished reading June 24, 1997 Worldwide News. I’m shocked! Tkach’s “Personal” prepares us for more tongues-speaking in the WCG. He says it just “may be” an “authentic gift of the Holy Spirit,” and some have even started doing it “in private.” But he does admit that people can be (“like hypnotized people”)”psychologically susceptible to such suggestions.” (pg. 6)
Tkach, Jr. goes back and forth in his DOUBLESPEAK. First, saying things like, speaking in tongues occurs in a”pleasant” psychological state and is “liberating for those who practice this to get rid of inhibitions”; and it”encourages to put oneself in a responsive states,” and it “encourages people in their walk with the Lord.”Then he goes on to say (in a different vein) “tongues causes the most problems, and needs the most caution.”But still “affirms” it as a legitimate gift and it is “therefore good.” He tells them that they are “spiritually worthless” if they don’t have love.
He says his “friend” Jack Hayford (who has spoken at Promise Keepers, by the way) says “he speaks in tongues in his prayers every day.”
He says in one Pasadena church that he knows of people can speak in tongues, but only in “their own small group meeting if two or more interpreters are present.” The interpreters have to write down the interpretation,and then see “if the interpretations match.” (pg.14)
He mentions how he loves “our Pentecostal brothers,” especially “The Four Square denomination in particular.””Pentecostal churches are the fastest-growing part of Christianity.” “Pentecostal churches encourage people to express their emotions…”
In this article, one is left wondering whether Tkach is for or against tongues. First, he says it can be good for those who are “spiritually yearning,” and an “enormous spiritual boost,” and “has happened in the WCG,” but then he turns around and says it “doesn’t mean it is true,” or that everyone “should have the same experience.”
He emphasizes that, “We are not slowly turning Pentecostal.” In the closing, he calls Jesus not only our Redeemer, but “our Owner.”
Ever since their changes, GCI has been fitting in wherever they can.This is all part of the ecumenical bandwagon they are on.
Also read: Why I Didn’t Like the New Music in WCG
Does True Change Involve a Headquarters in the Picture?
In order to justify still having a headquarters, ministers and members have told outsiders that the Bible allows for “different forms of church government.” But how many spiritually healthy (non-authoritative) churches today have a HQ off somewhere, dispensing massive amounts of (confusing) information to all its members? Why aren’t the top leaders and other ministers each in charge of their own local congregations without a HQ in the picture? Instead, the top leadership has not stepped down and disassociated themselves from anything to do with a “headquarters,” or a position of authority, or teaching. Headquarters (although no longer termed that) is alive and well, and continuing to instruct the membership in what to do–along with bombarding them with so many confusing and varied articles on “some believe this” and “some believe that.”
Ministers who have decided to start new churches are “encouraged” by headquarters to remain connected to GCI (their “parent” church), which means they still can receive the church’s newspaper, videos, sermon tapes and magazines, which in turn influences them to continue to believe and follow the top leaders’ views. (Of course, headquarters will be there to receive any money members want to send them. In fact, while congregations are using offerings received from members for local expenses such as renting their building or hall, they are still sending an unknown portion of it to HQs.) After having been manipulated for years by thought reform, most inside GCI have not learned to cultivate independent thinking capabilities of their own. Dependency on a “headquarters” is very hard for members and pastors alike to break and it doesn’t seem to be anything that the GCI is in any hurry to do anything about.
In the meantime, we may never know what HQ has done with all the millions they received from the selling off of all their assets. The salaries of Joseph Tkach (rumored to be in the six figures) and other leaders is still not revealed.
What Else Are They Doing Today?
Today they are branching out and expanding more and more with an ever increasing array of projects, letters, updates, articles, seminaries, colleges, blogs, ministries, ministry coaching, discipleship resources–it is enough to boggle (and confuse) the mind. Their website is jam-packed with so much that one doesn’t know where to start. They are not only involved in “church planting” and “church multiplication ministries,”16 but have embraced New Age teachers and philosophies (although in their ambivalence they will deny it).
They are targeting their youth. They talk about having a “youth-friendly fellowship” and mentoring the youth “who will become pastors and other key ministry leaders in our congregations.” They say this youth ministry will “worship together–without a program, without an adult organizing it or telling them what to do.” These young people will be “reaching out to unchurched friends” and “inviting them to join our happy throng.”
Their “We Believe” page has 4 PDF editions to cover the subject. One is a “Workbook,” another is an “Adult Edition, “another is a Youth Edition, and lastly a “Portuguese Edition.” The page itself is extremely long and ends up being nothing but absolute, mass confusion.
This holds true for their other pages. Their search box will bring up so many articles that you are overwhelmed with what to read.Their site does not leave one feeling peaceful and rested.
Need For Discernment
Many since the changes have already exited the Worldwide Church of God (now known as Grace Communion International) after coming to see that headquarters is more interested in themselves and money than in the individual members and seeing the heretical direction they are headed.
May all our readers turn to the true Lord Jesus Christ and His inerrant Word, asking for spiritual discernment and wisdom in understanding what is going on in much of the Christian arena today and choose to have no part with it.
By D. M. Williams
Exit & Support Network™
March 22, 2012
Last updated: August 28, 2020
“Come out of her, my people…” ~Revelation 18:4
Grace Communion International MUST Be Clear About Themselves and Their Past (2013) [offsite link]
Grace Communion International and Their Heretical Beliefs (letter to ESN in November 2019)
3 One of the things Kroll said was: “We understand your concern, but it is based on a misperception. The church came to the conclusion that it’s a moot point as to whether or not the Philadelphia Church of God has the rights to publish the Herbert Armstrong material in question.” (April 4, 2003 email from Paul Kroll, Personal Correspondence)
4 As soon as we build up our finances again (in a few months), we will have a message three to four times more powerful. And we fully expect growth to triple or quadruple!” The Philadelphia Trumpet, March/April 2003, “Personal: Miracle Victory! And What It Means” by Gerald Flurry
5 On 4-30-96 and 5-1-96 Joseph Tkach, Jr. was interviewed on D. James Kennedy’s Christian radio program Truths that Transform. Tkach, Jr. said that Herbert W. Armstrong was a “very sincere Christian who was dedicated to Christ.” (Tapes with ESN) In the March 7, 1995 Worldwide News, p. 3, “Becoming prepared to effectively share the gospel message,” Joseph W. Tkach stated that they believe Herbert Armstrong “was a minister of Jesus Christ.” For more quotes see: Worldwide Church of God Whitewashes Herbert Armstrong After New Changes. Herbert W. Armstrong stated, “Christ is not the gospel. Believing on Christ is not believing the gospel.” (Voice clip of HWA giving a 1978 Bible Study and marking Buck Taylor; heard on pt. 2 of “My Story” by C. Wayne Cole; CD/audio tape with ESN)
6 “A Brief List of Doctrines of the Worldwide Church of God,” p. 2. Update: Read 2019 letter to ESN: Grace Communion International and Their Heretical Beliefs.
8 COR shares Dominionist beliefs with many leaders in the signs and wonders movement and has openly welcomed “signs and wonders” Charismatics into positions of leadership. Christian Conscience, May 1997 reported, “COR has adopted the very non-scriptural principle that ‘the ends justify the means’ by expanding their political consensus to include obvious cults, and by building ecumenical bridges with highly controversial, charismatic-fringe Christian groups.” COR is also considered a “religious right” Reconstructionist-type organization.
10 D. James Kennedy died September 5, 2007 at the age of 76. Few are aware that Kennedy was a member of the CNP (Council for National Policy). Much more on the Council for National Policy (founded in 1981), plus a list of members, can be found in this offsite report and in the exposé Let’s Focus in on “Focus on the Family” by former FOTF employee Randy Shafer which documents the unscriptural and New Age direction that Focus on the Family is moving the Christian church toward. Also see: Focus on the Family Ties to The Theosophical Society.
12 Pasadena Star-News, October 25, 2004. By May 2006 all their offices were moved to Glendora. (Together, May-June 2006). UPDATE: In April 2018, GCI relocated its headquarters to Charlotte, North Carolina. Joseph Tkach, Jr. retired at the end of 2018 and Greg Williams replaced him as GCI’s President. (GCI Update, March 14, 2018)
16 Together, July-August 2007, “New Church Leadership Training Conference” In GCI’s Church Multiplication Ministries “General Resources” list, they have a link to Emerging Church’s Rick Warren under “Pastor’s Toolbox.” They are also listed on: Church Planting Leadership Fellowship Today.
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