Name Changed to Grace Communion International
The following is very important information written by ESN Founder:
[Note: Be sure and read the links to recommended material and letters at the end.]
I will, at this time, give you a brief synopsis of what has been occurring:
The WCG is over sixty years in the making. Its founder, Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) was involved in Ku Klux Klan activities in the 1920s. He moved to Oregon during the time when Oregon was the strength of the Klan. Following the Klan’s demise in the mid twenties, he joined in with Seventh Day offshoots until he was booted out of them for: 1) introducing the racist doctrinal belief of British Israelism and G. G. Rupert’s doctrines, and 2) stealing money from the church till. By 1934 HWA started his own radio church ministry, which purported the popular Aryan racist belief of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel. This is better explained by the terra British-Israelism or Identity Movement. As pointed out in The Encyclopedia of Religions, HWA was the largest proponent of British Israelism in the country. Other fundamentalist ministries were selling it, but HWA sold it best and with the tag that he was given the knowledge straight from God. HWA was successful as he sold a product that was well-received post Klan era. By 1947, he obtained stature in the heart of the wealthy Pasadena millionaire arena. The college was started at that time to train ministers as little HWA’s. From 1947 to 1967, the Radio Church of God, as it was called then, prospered by the millions. The origin of where it got its millions remains to be seen. The 1960s was the hey day for the church. There were no African Americans allowed in the group early on, but as time evolved a few were allowed in as pressure mounted regarding civil rights; however on the whole, it was predominantly an Aryan organization stressing Anglo-Israelism.
The Armstrong teachings were defined in the 1950s. The year 1952 marks the beginning of the massive propaganda booklet publishing. HWA was a dictatorial leader, the government tactics and style of the organization manifested a totalitarian regime with components of other “isms” such as communism and fascism. Once recruited under the unique Armstrong coercion method, the victim/recruit functioned as if in a hypnotic state with life or death allegiance to WCG and its leaders. The members were used like slaves to build and pay as they obeyed every command put forth as if their lives and salvation depended on it–and to them, it did. A gentleman who was in the church for over 35 years described it this way:
“They had me digging the hole for Loma Lake with my bare hands. I worked until my hands were covered with cuts. We thought we were doing it for God.”
Loma Lake is a large man made lake located on the extensive lavish grounds in Big Sandy, Texas. It is adjacent to the sprawling manicured golf course and pristine homes provided solely for the privileged ministers–tax free of course. The leaders currently own the massive property and college setup in this area. Hundreds of others describe their experience under the WCG government as devastating, life impacting, and severely traumatizing as they explain what it is was like to lose everything including their loved ones to a scam that posed as a church.
Exposure of Corruption in late 60’s
All was moving along well for the leaders until its exposure of corruption, which started occurring in the late 1960s. With the exception of a few evangelical ministries during the earlier years, speaking out against Armstrongism and his empire, he was able to dodge being exposed on a grand scale. In 1958 HWA’s first son, Richard Armstrong, died due to neglect of medical assistance after an automobile accident. Richard was slated to assume the leading role within the organization following his father. That same year, Mr. Stanley Rader, formerly employed with a Hollywood accounting firm and as a Zionist Jew, connected with HWA as an accountant. By 1967, this same man was privileged by HWA to receive a law degree at Southern California University, which was paid for by the unknowing members’ tithes. In the late 1960s, Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA) was moving into a very popular position as the head evangelist on the radio and then television. Unfortunately for him, he was gaining equal notoriety for his sex escapades and financial improprieties within the church.
Turbulent 1970 Era Crucial to Understanding
The very turbulent 1970 era is crucial to the understanding of what is occurring today within this organization. Between 1970 and 1974, GTA was exposed by many high level (true believing) ministers within the church. The corruption regarding extreme financial waste, opulence, sex assaults, adulteries, and other very questionable practices in many regards carne to the forefront in 1974. [Read: Jack Kessler’s 1981 Letter to Worldwide Church of God Board of Directors] After much upheaval, seventy ministers exited along with 11,000 members. Along with their discovery about the corruption, many learned that HWA’s teachings were nothing more than a pile of “borrowed” beliefs from other sects and churches such as the Mormons. These individuals who were leaders under HWA/GTA and Stan Rader, were not from the same stock that prevails today. These men were sincere, committed to their understanding of righteousness, and duped. When many of these people learned they were duped, they immediately demanded accountability and stood up to the deceit with professionalism. Many left a legacy by writing their accounts, and the Network has been blessed to receive them through a handing down process. The many tapes, documents, letters and massive amounts of inside church materials have afforded us proofs from various angles, as to what was occurring throughout this decade. Thankfully, many Evangelical ministries started focusing on the WCG as a destructive cult and mounds of literature were written and passed about in the Christian arena exposing the doctrinal ills and apostasy. The WCG held the title as one of the most destructive cults of that era and rightfully so as hundreds of God searching individuals were deceptively snared into the hands of deceit and manipulation only to find their lives ruined in every capacity. Hundreds died due to the LAWS set up by HWA with restrictions on medical care, tens of thousands of families were destroyed by marriage break-ups, poverty prevailed throughout the membership in severe degrees, and note, please, these things alone pale in the significance of the spiritual destruction that was forced upon the unsuspecting. The ministers and leaders controlled the membership by high-level abusive tactics. Fear, phobias, threats, and coercion ran through the heart of the whole church. It was truly a cult from every perspective. The goal of the church was to make it to the Place of Safety during the “pending fiery Great Tribulation” which was to occur with in the “next five to ten years” or often noted, “In YOUR lifetime.” The reality pending was no different than the Jonestown Massacre.
Following the major shakeup in 1974, the church continued to falter throughout the remainder of the decade. HWA and Stan Rader spent 300-350 days a year traveling to communist government countries and the Middle Fast under the pretense of “spreading the Gospel, which was called One World Government.” The fact is, the millions of members’ donations spent on the years of trips was nothing more than political shenanigans which I will not delve into at this time. Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA) was managing the church while HWA and Stan Rader were involved in other more secretive agendas. By the mid 1970s many ministers and evangelists were questioning the doctrines and rebelling against the harsh and cruel punishing system they were forced to pursue on the membership. Considerable documentation is available proving that all the current WCG leaders, and those who are leading the extension groups were very well aware that the doctrines were wrong. Testimonies and reports were written proving the strict tithing system was a control method of gaining power and money to satisfy the leaders’ lavish lifestyles, opulence and power, and not Biblically based as was not the Sabbath and holy Days.
Teachings Exposed by High Ranking Ministers
It is important to emphasize that it was as early as 1970 that the hodgepodge teachings and doctrines were being exposed within the high-ranking ministerial arena. The “ministers” and leaders of today who were involved with the WCG at that time, were well abreast of the controversy over Sabbath, tithing, grace, laws, etc. The very leaders running WCG’s multi-million dollar conglomerate today and who claim to be “reborn” have had decades of first hand knowledge of the rebellion against the deception, lies, and manipulation by those who escaped the WCG control. They also were aware of the many evangelical Christian ministers who tried with all their might to assist the WCG regarding its satanic belief system. I shall expound more on this shortly.
In 1978, Stan Rader and GTA had a power struggle showdown as to who was going to control the multi-millions following HWA, who by this time was 88 years old. GTA was eventually kicked out of the church due to the manipulations of Stan Rader, and the following year several members brought a lawsuit against the church for the massive corruption in the financial area. This resulted in a receivership crisis, which permeated the newspaper headlines across this country. The huge negative exposés impacted the church greatly, as it became notoriously noted as a cult with the sex-escapades and scandals. A group of Ambassador College students started an exposé publication [Ambassador Report (available online) (Note: Read ESN’s comments about the AR] exposing the evils of the church and its leaders. This, along with the massive newspaper exposés , placed HWA, GTA and the rest of the WCG leadership in the spotlight. HWA and his empire were highly publicized for incest with his daughter, for scandalous sex-escapades stories overseas, for the extreme opulence with gold and silver, diamonds, furs, Rolls-Royce cars, air plane fleet, massive real-estate holdings, salaries, Swiss bank accounts and gold mines in Africa, extensive land holdings, multi-million dollar artworks–not to mention his hob-knobbing with very controversial leaders of other countries such as Mao Tse Tung, Fernand Marcos, the Japanese Diet, Arab leaders (affiliated with Buddhism and Moslem beliefs) and Israeli leaders to name a few.
It is vital to know what the membership totaled in the early 1970s as the churches’ membership was far smaller than what had been propagandized for years. The director of data processing 1972-1973 clearly documents that in 1973 the church had no more than 53,000 members at maximum. That was before the 11,000-member fallout in 1974. It is well documented that the church did not grow at all during the 1970s and by 1979 the leadership was very concerned about stagnant recruiting position. Stan Rader, HWA’s first assistant, clearly documented on tape and in writing that the church membership was in trouble and did not grow throughout the 1970s. [Note: Also see OIU Newsletter™ Volume 2, Pt. 2 about “discrepancies with the growth picture starting around 1978.”]
Scare Tactic Belief System Put into High Gear
Many more members left the fold during the receivership and the 1980 decade started with a recession, which impacted income even more. During the first half of the 1980s, the leadership attempted to “put the church back on track” by instituting the very hard-line approach of the 1960 era. Although it did not appeal to new recruiting, it did however seem to hold the remaining church from experiencing a high attrition rate. The scare tactic belief system was put into high gear and remained that way for years following the death of HWA in 1986 at 94 years of age. Newly appointed to the “Pastor General” position was Stan Rader’s assistant, Joseph W. Tkach. Although HWA claimed that Stan Rader was “supposedly” released from active leadership in the church in the early 1980s, it is a fact that he was given a Consultant contract of $200,000 a year until the year 2007 accompanying a lavish expense account. It is strongly felt, however, that Stan Rader may be visually behind the scenes, and much information indicates he is still managing every step this conglomerate makes. [Update: Stan Rader died July 2, 2002, in Pasadena, California, two weeks after having been diagnosed with acute pancreatic cancer.]
Joseph W. Tkach supported and retained the HWA hard-line position upon assuming the top office and continued that same “speak” until about 1993. The recruiting situation remained in severe shape right though the 1980s. The WCG leadership changed their marketing strategy every few months with their main recruiting tool, the Plain Truth magazine and The World Tomorrow television show. Joseph Tkach, Mike Feazell, Joe Jr., Greg Albrecht, David Hulme, and select others, were employing every method possible to recruit into the WCG under Armstrongism. Public magazine racks on corners in every city, mass shipping of the Plain Truth and Youth magazine to thousands of doctor offices, High Schools, Junior High schools, colleges, direct sales marketing, and advertising in Readers Digest and other publications are just a few of the sales stunts used to lure new recruits into Armstrongism. Nothing was working, as the Apocalyptic message wasn’t selling for the desperate WCG leaders. They changed the Plain Truth format from secular to Bible-based faster than any market could digest it. The same held true for the The World Tomorrow telecast.
Starting from 1989 to about 1994, the inside church maintained its hard-line approach, while the leaders initiated a newly devised marketing strategy with a select group of publishing evangelicals. Members that did question the few changes they detected, were disfellowshipped, shunned, and often marked publicly for leaving the fold and going the way of Satan. That continued until 1995.
Change Not Detected Until 1994
By 1988, the most astute members could pick up that there were a few changes; however, “change” was not even detected by the bulk of the members until 1994, and for some, not until 1995. The reason being, is that the leaders, Joe W. Tkach, Sr., his son, Joe Jr., Mike Feazell, Greg Albrecht; David Hulme, etc., were drilling the members that “nothing is changing, but God is giving us new insight to enhance our understanding.” ‘The usual Armstrong theme about the “one true church; obey God as I say or you’ll be thrown into the Lake of fire” was constantly drilled into the membership.” Lie upon lie was placed onto the membership, while the duped believed their leaders. Constant propaganda, contradictions and duplicity were the mainstay for those inside the cult while a major PR campaign was being waged to the outside world. Newly devised PR kits were sent to the cult-watching evangelical ministries with publishing clout around 1989. Slowly, the WCG PR team started recruiting individuals such as Ruth Tucker, Hank Hanegraaff, Azusa Pacific and others with writing clout. The select leaders were financing the way for many pertinent authors to visit at headquarters for chats about how the WCG was changing its HWA doctrines. All the while, within the cult, the same leaders were outright lying to the members about change. As I said, propaganda was flying from every direction. The leaders would say one thing to the Christian Evangelicals and print the opposite in the member publications. The three main front leaders today may claim that they were implementing the changes slowly to prevent damage or loss; the fact is, all steps were taken with the greatest deception and lies to boot.
While the PR team, Joe Jr. Mike Feazell, Greg Albrecht and David Hulme were speaking “doctrine” to the outside world, the only push for change seductively initiated into the hard-line system, was “personal evangelism.” This meant that the members were getting newly trained on how to bring in recruits to the church. During the entire history of the WCG, no member was supposed to bring individuals into the church. Recruiting was the sole responsibility of the leaders. Between the years 1989-1994, any modifications or supposed changes were conditioning patterns in preparation for training the members for a “paradigm” shift. This shift was necessary to train the members on how to recruit. Although the member could not possibly detect the plan or strategy involving recruiting, they could discern that “personal evangelism” was very different than what they were accustomed to.
Gerald Flurry, Philadelphia Church of God, was the first main break-away. He was/is an Armstrong radical and rebelled against the duplicities occurring within the Headquarters. After a year of planning, Rod Meredith, evangelist, and one of the first four students to attend the Pasadena college [Ambassador College] started by HWA in 1947, broke away with another HWA clone group, Global Church of God (GCG). [Update: Roderick Meredith later founded Living Church of God in 1998. Meredith died May 18, 2017 at age 86 and Gerald E. Weston replaced him.] His breakaway was most interesting in that it was well known on Headquarters property that he was forming his own church for a year prior to the final breakaway, which occurred following the WACO disaster in 1993. Literally, until the WACO occurrence in spring of 1993, the entire WCG was managed identically as it had been in previous decades, preventing any possible acknowledgment of change. Ironically, within a month following WACO, the leaders started discussing a different position on the “nature of God.” This was basically the beginning of awareness for most that the church was diverting from the Armstrong teachings, which was actually five years after the leaders started penetrating the evangelical community with blatant misinformation and propaganda.
Members learned about the Global Church group through the constant commercials from Joseph Tkach, Sr., telling members to go over to Global Church (Rod Meredith) if they didn’t like it in the Worldwide Church of God. Some members stated that had it not been for Joseph Tkach’s constant reminders of the Global Church of God, they would have never known about the alternative. The timing of these events was most significant in relationship to what was occurring within the WCG at that time. Also, much consideration must be attributed to the leaders of these breakaways, as their roles were most significant in the WCG.
Tkach Sr. Makes Special Announcement in January 1995
Notice, I said many did not detect changes until 1995. In January of 1995, Joseph Tkach, Sr. made a special announcement regarding New Covenant teaching. Even though the launching of this new position in “understanding” was filled with duplicity and contradiction, many members became enlightened that something was going on, leading them to upset and frustration. People were caught off guard and some were angry. Because many knew nothing of any real changes happening before this time, the church members were in a flux and traumatized as to what was going on and why would God trick them. For many it was analogous to being hit with a freight train. Suddenly, fast and furiously a new doctrinal position was dropped in their lap. That in itself was not as problematic as the stress and trauma stemming from the fact that the leaders who were supposedly “God’s only anointed” (that was still being taught) were saying something that was historically taught (to the WCG members) to be satanically inspired. This traumatic event caused stress, cognitive dissonance (see OIU Newsletter™ Volume 4, Pt. 2) and dissociation. For most it was received without any preparation. Ironically, within six weeks the United Church of God (UCG) was formed and within two months, over one half of the WCG ministers (200 ministers) and 17,000 members (half of the total WCG population to our calculations) changed corporations from the WCG to the UCG. Few are aware that significant corporate ministers, while in the WCG, were fully involved in setting up the new corporation in preparation for a sudden split. It is imperative to note that those running these extension groups, as I prefer to call them, are headed by the same WCG leaders that held very high positions for the prior decade or two. The UCG leaders claimed they, too, knew nothing of the changes that were occurring with the Tkach regime. The fact is, every one of the UCG leaders were very instrumental in the PR market strategy campaign implemented around 1988-1989. Many outright lied to the UCG members and left their lies on paper. David Hulme, head of the UCG, was one such evangelist. He spearheaded the PR department in WCG and also ran the AICF (Ambassador International Cultural Foundation) affairs. No other man was more entrenched into the inner workings of the WCG organization than Hulme. Upon departure from WCG, Hulme states on a resignation letter that he had no awareness of the changes that were occurring and felt the leader was being dishonest. Hulme left a paper trail of his PR work with WCG that indicates that his excuse for leaving is an outright falsehood.
The PR Ploy in 1995
1995 proved to be the pivotal year for the Tkach Co. new business strategy. Within two weeks of the New Covenant announcement, the leaders contacted the LA Times to place an article about how financially destitute the WCG had become due to their new doctrinal changes. The members were being blamed for the supposed financial stress due to holding back their tithes. More deception permeated the media that the members were rebelling from the changes and the income was desperate. The next PR ploy given to the LA Times was that UCG was breaking away in rebellion to the Church turning to Christ. Once again, it proved to be ultra propaganda and timed to the strategy of the Tkach leaders. I spoke with Larry Stammer of the LA Times and he told me that the leaders contacted him and basically told him what to write. He said he had no other way of confirming things and no documented materials to substantiate the leaders claim of change. He stated that it was impossible to get any financial accountability from the church and that he could not investigate their allegations. The propaganda that the church was losing members and money started within two weeks of the breaking news to the members that the church was moving into “some” new teachings. Meanwhile, HWA was highly esteemed and it was even stated that these were the teachings that HWA requested before he died. Lie after lie was piped toward the members.
The Tkach leaders wanted it publicly known that the church was doing fine until they bravely embraced Christ’s lead and made the necessary changes despite what the outcome might be. Once the sudden news of change was finally delivered to the members, the leaders capitalized on this event to blame the members on the church’s financial decline, when in fact, it was declining for years.” Fortunately for them, those following the turn of events had no critical information or way of discerning the strategy while it played out within the cult. Because of the secrecy and withholding of information by the cult leaders, it is near to impossible to counter the propaganda pouring from the church’s headquarters. The dual messages piped into the evangelical cult-watching arena for the first quarter of 1995 was, “Look, we are no longer a cult, but now we are moving into true Christianity and look what we are sacrificing because of our obedience to Christ.” In reality, the WCG corporation wasn’t losing any more money or people than they lost on a routine basis. While that may have seemed impressive to some in the evangelical arena who had no other facts, the truth is, the WCG leaders were liquidating the assets and doing God only knows what with the millions of dollars for years prior to this event. The many foreign bank accounts received millions ongoing while the leaders lived like KINGS in all their power and glory. Equally important to note is that leaders have always inflated the number of members in the Worldwide Church of God (see OIU Newsletter™ Volume 6, Pt. 1). Careful calculations based on the factual data available from the head of Data Processing in 1973, Mike Hollman [“Armstrongism: An Insider’s View”], along with lack of recruiting from that point on to 1995, and consideration regarding the massive attrition rate in 1974, 1978-79, and again following the death of the beloved leader, HWA, calculations indicate that there could not have been more than 40,000 members prior to the UCG split and that is a liberal estimate. The UCG started with approx. 17,000 members, which in turn, left the WCG with a possible 20,000 members remaining.
Leaders Continue to Blame and Exploit Members
The hasty blame on the members regarding the “sudden” financial problem in the WCG was another tactic that helped the leaders look as if they were sacrificing deeply for their quest for truth. The newly generated PR from the WCG leaders was also indicating that they had to sell assets such as the jet airplane, the ministers fleet cars, eliminate programs, cut back jobs etc. What the outsider’s didn’t know, is that the leaders were planning for an entire business and marketing restructure for the past several years in hopes to recover from the past two and one half decades of massive decline.
But what about the multi-millions of dollars in income? In plain English, your guess is as good as ours, although be assured we are working on the truth behind who and what has been supporting this organization all these years. You may be aware that the pounding law of triple tier tithing was commanded without exceptions. Despite the fact that the current leaders were approached for years by outside Christians and ex-members who learned the New Testament understanding regarding the faulty tithing system and the burden it placed on the members, the leaders continued to exploit the members through guilt and fear tactics to give, pay and pray. Even though the members would strive to obey each rule (as their salvation depended on it), it would have been impossible for the church to accumulate wealth to the stint of $225,000,000 in income as it did in 1989 and 1990. Even if the members totaled 50,000 in number, which would again be a very liberal conclusion and considering the average income per capita, the most the church would have generated would be $100,000,000 each year. When we consider that Billy Graham’s income is more in line with the latter figure and Focus on the Family with all its product development grosses approximately the same, we can see that scrutiny and question is in order as to how the WCG is masking such great wealth and better yet, what in the world are they doing with it?
[I stress at this point that the tithing money and offerings were being coerced from the membership through fear, guilt, and threat all while it was a known fact that the system was false. In many cases the money was used for despicable, sinful means under the false pretenses that a Gospel was being spread to the world. In legal terms, it is called fraud. Every trick in the book was used to squeeze the last dime out of the unsuspecting members. Thousands, to this very day, live in poverty, as they are unable to recover what was knowingly stolen from them through deception. Every member was expected to contribute what amounted to approximately 27% of their gross income to support: first tithe, second tithe, third tithe, offering, building funds, SEP camps, special collection, and anything else that could generate money.]
Watching the WCG events unfold from the inside out and vice versa allows one to assemble the fragmented pieces together regarding the WCG agenda or plan. One cannot step into the current events and critically weigh the reason behind the events. The history of the WCG, its leaders, its doctrinal origin, its past endeavors with foreign country leaders, international dealings, its multitude of business adventures–many of which were quite “unchristian”–and other aspects of consideration are necessary to scrutinize before one hastily accepts the current leaders’ words (which we strongly consider propaganda laced with verbal flavorings of “Christ!”
Doctrinal Changes & Contradictions Continue in 1995
The pivotal year of 1995 continued with more pronounced doctrinal changes, again with total contradictions in church writings, blame on the membership, duplicity and spin control at every level. One month the publications would state one thing; the same month the opposite might be stated in a sermon. I cannot stress the negative impact toward healthy [critical] thinking these techniques caused on the remaining members at large. Until this very day, newly exiting members report to me that they are told by insiders, “nothing really changed.” The best description for the very thought out approach to the leaders’ strategy is called spin control.
Throughout the 1995 summer months, the members were being told many conflicting stories about the illness of Joe Tkach, Sr. The manner in which everything is told to the obedient members is with conflict, which in turn leaves one unbalanced, indecisive, in fear arid traumatized. Joe Tkach, Sr. died in September (9-22-95) supposedly from cancer complications I say supposedly because of the many conflicting stories that surrounded his death and generated from the Headquarters church. This event also marked the beginning of the real “coming out of the closet” as Hank Hanegraaff and Joe Tkach, Jr., the newly appointed Pastor General, embraced each other at the cult leader’s funeral. [This picture is displayed in the October 3, 1995 Worldwide News1on page 8.
The Christian Research Institute
At this time, allow me to back up and give you an overview of some of the PR maneuvers that transpired these past few years. As I mentioned earlier, 1989 marked the beginning of the WCG reach out to the counter cult community. The initial evangelicals recruited were Ruth Tucker, Alan Gomes, Kurt VanGorden, Josh McDowell, among others. David Hulme, head PR man, was attending Tanner Lectures and writing notices often with polite threats to all who were placing WCG as a cult in their publications. Verbiage such as, “We don’t teach Armstrong doctrines anymore,” would be told to whomever. Mark Kelner, writer for Christianity Today (and ex-member of the WCG), stated that he believed the leaders at face value and that was all the proof he needed to know that they were changing.
I personally spoke at length with Alan Gomes and Eric Pement from Jesus People USA who also claimed they were watching and scrutinizing the change. Time and again, these people claiming to be cult experts had nothing to substantiate their allegiance to the WCG leaders, other than the cult leader’s word. These same people flatly ignored ex-members and their personal testimonies. While so many wonderful Christ seeking exiting members reached out to the counter-cult services for help, they were turned away and labeled “bitter” or “angry,” which is the exact same brain-washing dogma that is used within the cult to keep the members obedient to the controllers while they shun and discredit those who speak out.
While certain supposed counter cult watchers were feeling assured that the WCG was going to embrace Christian Orthodoxy, the members were being told repeatedly that the “law was not done away with” or “the Sabbath is here to stay,” etc., etc. [Note: Read: Rumors (Tkach Jr. denying changes] No counter-cult ministry was more damaging to the thousands who were highly victimized and exploited from such a corruptive group, than Christian Research Institute. [Update:Christian Research Institute re-located to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2005, with an affiliate (CRI Canada) in Calgary, Alberta.] In April of 1994, the Network was called by Paul Carden of CRI. He was scheduled to meet with the WCG leaders that morning. He was very rushed and diligently trying to obtain questions to ask the WCG leaders. I was quite surprised, actually shocked to learn how unprepared and uninformed the CRI had been regarding the Worldwide Church of God. Paul Carden clearly stated that the CRI didn’t have any inside publications on hand other than a few older booklets and they did not receive regular mailings of the publications aimed at “members only.” I relayed that careful scrutiny regarding the WCG was of the utmost importance as many lives were at stake. Paul Carden promised to return my call, but never did. Hank Hanegraaff never responded to the Network letters of pleas for assistance nor did he return any other answers to many who flagged his help. All were rudely ignored. His rudeness left many discouraged as they could not understand why they would be ignored especially if his ministry was honestly researching the reasons behind the events.
On May 5th, about one week after the meeting with Joe Jr., Mike Feazell; and Greg Albrecht; Paul Carden stated on the Bible Answer Man that the WCG embraced the Trinity. What a shocker to those who knew better as most members would not even remember how to spell the word after being in the Worldwide Church of God. The word “Trinity” was not once stated in any church area or any publication other than it being Satan’s deception, and here CRI was promoting a cult on the airway and passing unfounded misinformation. What could have been their motive, we pondered.
With the exception of a few articles in the Journal and in Christianity Today (a very good friend of CRI), Hank kept a low profile for the following year with the WCG, until his “rekindled” relationship at the funeral of Joseph Tkach, Sr. [Published in January 2, 1996 Worldwide News] At least this was the first public indication that there were dealings between Hank and Joe Jr.
The radio event served as a catalyst, which inspired the Network to research Hank Hanegraaff and CRI. To our shocking dismay, we learned many allegations waged in his direction surrounding abuse, corruption and financial improprieties. Hank Hanegraaff had a lawsuit brought to him by his ex-employees with many major allegations waged toward him. One of which was a possible layoff from another known cult to claim them free of cult status. The Hank Hanegraaff demise started in 1994, around the same time that the three leaders met with CRI, and the legal rage continued through 1995. This could very well be the reason why Hank kept a lower profile during this time. There are many details regarding this lawsuit and what transpired between the impoverished plaintiffs and the defendant’s multi-thousand dollar defense. The lawsuit may have settled for reasons beyond control, but the continued allegations toward Hank Hanegraaff’s behavior and practice has not stopped. The Network joins many true Christians who stand with courage and demand accountability from Hank Hanegraaff as his actions with the WCG have negatively impacted thousands of victims and he has demonstrated what many allege.
CRI and Hank Hanegraaff Were Damaging
I mention that no other counter cult ministry was as damaging as CRI and Hank Hanegraaff for several reasons:
- He was/ and remains the loudest proponent of the WCG propaganda. He acted as the main PR spokesman for their position.
- The smaller ministries when interviewed repeatedly state they take whatever CRI says at face value and figures it has done research. I spoke with the Home Mission’s Board and was told that WCG has changed its doctrines and is changing. I asked the gentleman how he knew this for certain, and his response was, “We follow the research of CRI.” The fact is, CRI doesn’t research! The deals Hank makes with cult leaders have nothing to do with research!
Hank may sound the trumpet that his relationship with the cult leaders is about doctrine, but the evidence is showing that it is more likely about personal wealth and gain.
On a recent radio show [4-14-94 and 5-5-94] Hank had Joe Jr. and Greg Albrecht as guests. Included in the dialog filled with distortions of truth, Joe Jr. states he looks forward to working on future projects together. Update 2017: Hank Hanegraaff converted to Eastern Orthodoxy.]
Worldwide Church of God Known as a Very Destructive Cult
The WCG rightly deserved its well-documented title of a very destructive cult. In over sixty years of existence, it has caused nothing but destruction and has left a mass of ruination of lives of thousands in its wake in every capacity imaginable. The WCG corporate empire afforded the leaders the power to continue in the face of opposition time and again. The string of lawsuits and court cases, the suicides, the investigations, the receivership, the double lives of the leaders, the allegations of homosexuality and sexual deviance, and the financial opulence and waste under a deception and shield of Christ, may have played into the hands of the leaders for several decades but it caught up with the corporate empire and led to the demise of a smoke screen church.
The unique Armstrong message of Apocalypticism, British-Israelism, and One World Government ran dry as a product for the money men. It was dying on a continuing slide downward since the late 1960s. Doctrinally, the cult was always in flux as to accuracy of doctrines, which caused ongoing rebellions and steady attrition. While Apocalyptic churches espousing the Volumes of Fundamentalism will always be a part of the “religion” circuit, they will never attract a major following. It will hold a pinhead size share of the major Christian market. That pinhead share has not in the past, and will not in the future, pave the way for a $200,000,000 yearly income.
How did the WCG gain the financial backing to obtain some of the wealthiest land holdings in Southern California; to erect multi-million dollar lavishly designed buildings laced with Crystal and gold leafing; many jet airplanes customized as if for the King of Kings; multi-million dollars in Artwork investments; sprawling ranches and scattered real estate holdings; huge arenas owned by the WCG corporations such as the Wisconsin Dells; hundreds of acres of manicured land in Texas; along with scattered parcels unrelated to the college; maintenance of a beautiful pristine golf course; building upon building holding college related activities (enrollment averaging 700 per year); the beautiful Bricket Wood estate owned and used as a college in England (which was sold several years ago ); the funding of offices in other countries; the lavish ministerial salaries ranging from $60,000 per year to $350,000 per year (the reported salary of the Tkach leaders); millions of dollars in payments to corporate employees who have left the WCG with a signed contract indicating silence; opulent cars such as Jaguars, Limousines, Rolls Royce, housing allowances and perks to boot for ministers, and on and on and on?
The above doesn’t detail the cost of managing all the land holdings and investments. It does not describe the additional corporations and businesses that are attached to the TAX-EXEMPT organization. There is so much behind the soft-spoken words that ring sounds of “Christ” that Joe Jr., Mike or Greg Albrecht do not mention. The WCG is a corporate empire! The leaders in the forefront today are the same leaders who have been running the show for the past ten years, very possibly under a higher layer of management such as Stanley Rader. Joseph W. Tkach, Sr. did not meet with the counter-cult groups or evangelicals. Often, he was not aware of what was going on. He had a ghostwriter and did a few sermons yearly, which he read from paper. The Sr. Tkach functioned more like a PR man, as do the three men who have replaced him.
The Articles of Corporation indicate the assets are under the Tkach men. Only randomly is any financial statement posted and it is, as Larry Stammer, L.A. Times indicated, impossible to find out what they are doing with the millions, impossible for those who do not have the financial means to hire the necessary investigators and full-time researchers. The WCG has an FBI file2,quite thick I understand, as we continue to pursue obtaining it. Stanley Rader is quoted by many sources as being a 33º Mason.3 It is fact that some of the WCG’s closest friends, such as King Hussein, is also.
The WCG lost its product and had nothing to fall back on. That does indicate that it was financially dying. They set out years ago to downsize and change the non-income producing structure. The church, set up as it were, did not generate ANY additional income. When the leaders, current leaders included, squeezed every last dime out of the remainder membership, they set out to join the “religious market” that happens to be the fastest growing belief system in this country (SIRS survey: Is God Alive?). The WCG system did not allow for any means of growth other than the television show and Plain Truth magazine. [Update: GCI no longer publishes the Plain Truth. They formed Plain Truth Ministries (PTM) (discussed in OIU Newsletter™ Volume 4, Pt. 3 and which still exists as of 2019] When that stopped working, so did recruiting. No recruits, “no commanded tithes.” Many do not realize that the church entity of the mega-million corporation is but a very small part of the whole conglomerate. However, the “church” with its few members, provides a shield of armor that allows the business moguls to grow with self certainty analogous to the “Gilded Age” before taxation chewed the wealthy alive.
Duel Messages Given
You may now understand why the term “propaganda” is appropriate to describe the duel messages given to outsiders and the insiders. Yes, there is a reason behind the event, but how would any true Christian in Christ have the means or ability to obtain critical information, pertinent to the understanding of the whole agenda?
When the PR team set out to befriend the select few in the Evangelical counter cult arena, they appealed to vanity and ego. I say that sensitively, knowing how skilled these individuals, with their minimal degrees in psychology, are in the art of persuasion. They have made millions on duping the most skilled, most intelligent, most sincere people imaginable. After years of evangelical dissent toward the WCG, here come the “innocent leaders” claiming they too were victims of bad old Mr. Armstrong and now want to turn their life over to Christ. How can one not believe someone when they look one the eye, sound so sincere, and say all the right things? Thousands upon thousands who have been ripped off and destroyed by the same people, only with a different message at that time, have asked the same question, after the fact.
The ministers from WCG and its extension groups are dependent on the salaries provided by these organizations. Take away their current career and they have nothing. We have witnessed more than half of the WCG membership, move snugly into the UCG or Global organization without missing a week’s pay. The whole process was smoother than words could describe. I do not contend that every minister on the local level was deceptively maneuvering a conspiratorial play; however, we cannot look at Rod Meredith and David Hulme, knowing much about their history with the WCG, without scrutinizing the possibility of deception. The Tkaches were quoted often that they didn’t care if they ended up with 5,000 left in the Worldwide Church or God. I believe that was a fair statement. As over one half of the WCG membership was quickly positioned into an organization much like “home” if you will, those remaining in the WCG would continue to fall out, with the smallest percentage hanging onto the current leader’s every move. As the saying goes, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” the actions of the leaders certainly demonstrated that their focus is on new young blood. Tom Lapacka, one of the current leaders once stated to several thousand in a sermon, “The WCG train is on the move and those hanging onto the caboose will be cut away.”
Honesty Would Have Raised Questions
If the leaders were to be honest about the actual membership, it would raise immediate questions as to how they are maintaining such an empire. If the evangelicals were to pose scrutinizing questions, it might be easier to obtain a factual read on the organization and cut through any whitewash or smoke screens. I have asked several individuals such as Dr. D. James Kennedy4, to request copies of all current booklets and literature, all Worldwide News copies for the past two to three years, all Pastor General letters sent to the members, any and all study materials given to the members over these “eight years of change.” I especially recommend to those being currently “wined and dined” about the new WCG, request copies of all financial statements and income statements over the past fifteen years. Certainly, this is a small request for such a massive empire. I would also think that the leaders who profess to be true blue in Christ would be more than thrilled to show that there are no skeletons in the closet. There is much in the line of question or documentation that could be posed to the current leaders (who now claim that they too were victims), but what I listed above would be a great place to start for solid research. “The Articles of Corporation” also demonstrate questionable behavior.
New Market Strategy Today
The leaders of the WCG have implemented a new market strategy and have beefed up their business tactics to match the 1990s and are preparing for the next century. Personal evangelism will be the main recruiting tool, under the guise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It will provide a non-threatening approach to sign up new energetic, unsuspecting, Christ oriented people. Slowly, a discipling method will be introduced that will manage the obedience in the church.
[Update 2019: “Discipleship: Grace and Discipline–a Small Group Study” (offered online by GCI). GCI has numerous Evangelism Brochures online. One is called “The Message of Jesus: Marketing the Gospel” (authored by Joseph Tkach)]
The management setup will exemplify that of a multi-level marketing company. The sad difference here is that “Christ” will be used as the product of choice.
The leaders will continue to manipulate double messages, as they are not ready to embrace the full orthodox understanding. They continue the Sabbath meetings with the excuse that to change it would also be legalism. They will continue the “Holy Days” schedule as it brings in a chunk of income from the seven commanded offerings.
[Update 2019: A present member of GCI told us that GCI still allows certain congregations to observe the Feast of Tabernacles but not everyone knows this. GCI has churches overseas that still call themselves Worldwide Church of God and still keep the holy days.]
No doubt the future will see a slow change away from the many old practices that continue, but only after they have recruited enough YOUTH and new members to where is does not make a difference.
[Update 2019: GCI cancelled all future SEP regional camps as it doesn’t appear that they are bringing in very many young people.]
If the Transition Had Been True
Had the WCG “transition” been true, and for the right reasons, the conversion process would never have manifested such levels of lies and deceit. Christ would not have allowed the bulk of WCG members to be shuffled over under another Armstrong type corporation (or WCG entity) espousing legalism to boot. The leaders would have had true compassion for those they abused, rather than having placed blame and fault on the members for what was taught in the past. The Tkach Co. would have come clean regarding Herbert W. Armstrong as a false prophet and Apostle right from the beginning. They would have given a clean account of the doctrinal history, which they are fully aware, but still incorporate to some degrees. The multi-million dollar empire would have made financial restitution with those who were victims of theft in the name Christ, instead of blowing them off as dissidents, or bitter individuals without God’s Holy Spirit. They would never have covered up the sordid true history of the WCG, nor would they have continued to employ some of the most abusive controlling men that have reigned and lorded over the deceived for years. Furthermore, every step implemented toward this multi-level marketing change that occurred these past few years, fostered trauma-inducing conflict, not Christ centered orientation. What transpired was not coincidence or by happenstance. It was engineered! They give the excuse they were trying to spare the church from undo loss, so the changes were made slowly; the fact is, the changes made are self-serving and intended to rebuild the new WCG empire.
I could write pages of examples that show clearly, this “transition” had everything to do with the multimillion-dollar empire and not “true conversion to Christ.” The current leaders are the same abusers of yesterday. They are still not accountable to anyone. ‘They have now embraced the religion market of evangelicalism (a bit of a hodgepodge at that) and will use evangelism as their main recruiting tool.The massive mufti-million dollar WCG computers and printing offices in Pasadena won’t go to waste, no matter where the headquarters will be moved. The WCG is in the merchandising business now, and it has a new and viable product!
By L. A. Stuhlman, Founder of Exit & Support Network / author of OIU Newsletters™
February 16, 1996
Updates 2019 inserted by ESN
UPDATES on WCG:
In November 2004 the Worldwide Church of God moved its headquarters from Pasadena to Glendora, California. In April 2009, they changed their name in the United States to Grace Communion International. (Some local church areas and countries may still carry the former name or a different one.) Today they have gone on to embrace New Age Teachers and philosophies. 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. Read more about Greg Williams and his ongoing revision of GCI history in this article.
An Open Letter to Joseph Tkach, Jr.
Forthright letter which boldly confronted Tkach about the way the changes were made; covers double messages, half-truths and guilt placed on members during the changes; abuses of members; mentions Earl Williams.
How I Know Every Word in Open Letter to Joseph Tkach, Jr. is True
Excellent letter that tells exactly what went on during the changes. (10-26-07)
OIU Newsletters (available as PDF download)
Looks behind the scenes at the real activities and associations pertaining to the “transformation” of the WCG (CGI) and their New Age agenda. (OIU FIVE and SIX are detailed reports surrounding the Ecumenical Movement and their current strategy involving the WCG (GCI) conglomerate.)
What in the World is Grace Communion International Doing Now?
Includes Worldwide Church of God (their original name) selling the copyrights to HWA’s literature to Philadelphia Church of God for $3 million; excuses for selling the copyrights; whitewashing HWA; what else are they are doing today? etc. (Formerly entitled “What in the World is Worldwide Church of God Doing Now?”)
1 As of February 2005 The Worldwide News in the United States changed to a new format and its name was changed to WCG Today (news of the Worldwide Church of God). In May 2006 it was changed to Together (Worldwide Church of God News). As of 2019 they have an online e-magazine called Equipper. Other online courses are found mentioned on their website.
2 Ambassador Report #48, May 1991, has a section entitled, “The FBI’s Files on the WCG.” A follow-up AR revealed that these files were later released with much blacked out. (Ambassador Report #51, October 1992) However, a researcher in contact with ESN viewed the original files. We were told, “However, I obtained and viewed the files from the early 1970s that weren’t blacked out. I had written the Un-American Activities Commission in 1972 and received information that HWA and WWCG were under surveillance and suspected of UnAmerican activities. I also received a letter from the Congressional Library.” The FBI files are also mentioned in this offsite report: The Conspiracy Was Strong – The Discernment Ministries. (search for the words “Worldwide Church of God”)
3 While some may say that Jews cannot become Masons; therefore Stan Rader, a Jew, couldn’t have been a Mason, this offsite article Freemasonry and Judaism are Compatible by Rt. Wor. Bro. Rabbi Dr Raymond Applesays otherwise. Excerpts: “Jews have not found freemasonry to be incompatible with their Judaism”; “Especially in English-speaking countries, the movement has always had a high proportion of eminent Jewish members, including leading rabbis”; “To Jews, the right to join freemasonry became a touchstone of religious liberty, an agent of emancipation and social integration.”
4 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.
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