In 1999 I was trying to stay awhile in the Worldwide Church of God because I thought I could help things change. I came to realize that, even though WCG stated a change in their beliefs, some more important things were “changing.”
- The leadership kept acting like things could only change through the Pastor General, Joseph Tkach, Jr. (Why would we need the Pastor General’s permission to come to Christ in the first place?)
- Some congregations were against the changes, so instead of leaving the WCG, the ministers have stayed and play nothing but old tape messages from Herbert Armstrong and other abusive evangelists.
- The only reason many ministers have their members tithe to the WCG is so they can collect their salaries or retirements. Headquarters knows this and allows it so they can continue to receive tithes.
Imagine if people coming into Worldwide for the first time were told of their current beliefs and then ended up going to one of these congregations? Wouldn’t they feel confused? There is still a lot of emotional abuse in certain church areas.
Even though a few ministers have stayed to help preach Christ, others stay to bring back the old Worldwide Church of God. Very, very few really stayed in the WCG to help people. Most stayed because they either couldn’t get a job elsewhere, or they didn’t want to be under Roderick Meredith of Living Church of God (who started Global Church of God at the time of the changes. Many ministers have unpleasant memories of Meredith.) Some also don’t want to succumb to anyone else if they leave. They decide they will have power of their own where they are.
However, some ministers know they were lied to and really don’t know what to do about it. When the WCG first started to change (especially the Sabbath) I was worried and bothered, along with many others. The reason is, we were led to believe that the Sabbath, tithing, Holy Days, and Church Government, etc. were more important than brotherly love. Most people don’t consciously realize this. When I pointed the abuse out to some, they admitted it was wrong, but were more concerned with not keeping the Sabbath. Some said people just couldn’t obey the “government of God.”
A former elder told me many ministers really tried to change things during the seventies. They tried to expose the Worldwide Church of God’s abusive doctrines and teach grace, but were kicked out and branded as “Satan’s ministers.” [More about this is in: Worldwide Church of God History]
Herbert Armstrong told us to “prove it for ourselves” but what he really wanted was for us to prove him right. And if you loved him first, and tithed to him and kept his commands, you were “showing you loved God first.” It was more important than loving others, which came second. I know for a fact that many people left because they think Worldwide Church of God is rejecting Herbert Armstrong. They care more about what Herbert Armstrong would think than what Jesus Christ thought about the group all along.
Herbert Armstrong attracted many people who weren’t interested in religion or church. Many people, like my mother, came in because of the prophecy.
I hold two theories about Herbert Armstrong.
- He really was a Communist atheist who never believed in God so he didn’t worry about having to give account to God.
- He thought he was so important, so special, so unique (remember the “19-year time cycles”) in God’s sight that God had special understanding of his weaknesses. After all, he was Herbert W. Armstrong (“strong arm”); he was Elijah (“Ezekiel’s Watchman”), or anyone else he thought would make him important. He believed that God understood or gave special permission for his behavior.
Herbert Armstrong seems more like Judas Iscariot because he stole money from the flock (tithes and offerings). If I had to give an award to someone who twisted the Bible, well, I think it would go to Herbert Armstrong. I think he twisted the Bible better than any other cult leader I have read about (except David Koresh might be a tie).
I know many people began their journey out of the WCG by proving them scripturally wrong. That isn’t how I started mine. Right before I left the WCG in 1999, that was when I decided for myself that before God revealed anything else to me I was going to ask Him to lead me to the love of Jesus Christ, and then to be able to show that love. I knew that any form of Christianity without the love of Christ is useless. This is why there are many abusive churches (even Sunday-keeping ones). They have built their whole religion on doctrine, without the love of Christ. They seem to think the more they know the more they are assured of their salvation. This helped me understand a lot more about grace. The love of Christ is very healing. Sometimes, when I get down emotionally, the only thing I can do for myself is to go ask Christ in private to take this burden from me, and He does. Also listening to Christian hymns helps a lot too.
NOTICE: In April 2009 Worldwide Church of God 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.) They have since gone on to embrace New Age teachers and philosophies.