Worldwide Church of God is Now Known as Grace Communion International
Since the Worldwide Church of God has placed its spin on current events regarding said copyrights, I would like to put my own spin on it. I am generally not a “conspiracy nut,” but I will lay it out as succinctly as I know how regarding the sale of the Herbert W. Armstrong heresy copyrights to the Philadelphia Church of God for approximately $3 million dollars.
The sale of the literature, Mystery of the Ages, et al, to the “Philadelphia Church of Gerald” brings a nice neat closure of a conspiracy that began around the time of Herbert Armstrong, if not before then. In fact, perhaps a plan was proposed to Armstrong himself, but by the time it was proposed to him, his megalomania had grown so much that he probably wouldn’t hear of it . (It is interesting to note that there were an inordinate number of likenesses of Saddam Hussein throughout Iraq, just as there were an inordinate number of likenesses of Herbert W. Armstrong throughout Worldwide Church of God and Ambassador College buildings and throughout the literature of the day.) Likely, it could have been started during all of the doctrinal controversies of the seventies, when it was seen that membership and recruiting thereof was in a state of decline.
The leaders that took the Worldwide Church of God through the difficult and trying times of the reform of the nineties were the same men who were present during the doctrinal upheavals of the seventies. Joseph W. Tkach, Sr. personally barred a door (allegedly) against the local constabulary in Pasadena when the state of California attempted to enforce the receivership.1 Joe Tkach, Sr. was truly a company man, and for this reason, the perfect choice to be the figurehead to “lead” the WCG through the difficult times. The scenarios were laid out and discussed probably by a bunch of men looking to wrest the power away from HWA and Stan Rader. Like a bunch of vultures, they waited until HWA died to swoop in and take the remains (a shame it wasn’t road kill).
These men had to see that there was no good way of wresting power away from Herbert W. Armstrong without alienating all the true believers. This is evidenced by the number of splinter groups out there still devoted to Herbert Armstrong’s “teachings.” Had a successful coup ensued it is very likely that WCG at the time would have lost all those who were mind-controlled because it would have been seen as an attack on God’s “END-TIME APOSTLE,” and thus the church had fallen into Satan’s hands. All of the splinter groups would have shown themselves a lot sooner. All of that lost income. That just would not do.
Who originated this plot (if there was one) is purely conjecture. Perhaps it was something like this: All of the big players met for drinks (Bristol Cream Sherry, anyone?) and laid it all there. Joseph Tkach, Sr. and Joe Jr. were there, along with Roderick Meredith, David Hulme, Michael Feazell, Bernie Schnippert and Richard Ames. 2 Probably Gerald Flurry was present, since his flock (Philadelphia Church of God) is one of the more well-known offshoots. And let us not forget Stanley Rader 3, whose stake in all this went way back and continued until the day he died. Besides, Rader had plenty of experience in duplicity and conspiracy. Between him and Herbert W. Armstrong, the plot was hatched to railroad the receivership. Perhaps it was even Rader’s choice to place Roderick Meredith in a key position of power just long enough to rouse the true believers to action and fight the “evil State of California.” These well-intentioned protesters were merely pawns anyway. (I wonder how Meredith feels about being a shill for Armstrong/Rader, assuming he even acknowledges that fact.) For this I refer to Herbert Armstrong’s Tangled Web by the late David Robinson (available as PDF download) and the Ambassador Report, which can be found online. 4
But back to our conspiracy. Much is to be gleaned from the Exit Support Network’s Outsider’s Update Newsletters to see more detail about the schism and the ensuing confusion. All of this concocted to make everyone happy.
First, Armstrong’s very teachings are seemingly denounced from the pulpit by his own successor: Joseph Tkach, Sr. This grabs the attention of the cult-watchers and Christian organizations throughout the country. They continue to watch as well-established WCG dogma is supposedly being turned on its ear. The WCG leadership immediately climbs into bed with assorted Christian cult watchers, New Evangelicals, Christian Research Institute (CRI), etc. This occurred even before the great reform.
The “controversial” sermon in 1995 by Joseph Tkach, Sr. was merely a cue for the splinters-in-waiting to act. This way everyone appeared to be principled in the eyes of their respective followers; e.g., Tkach, Sr. showing he had the “guts” to come out and defy established church doctrine, and David Hulme, Roderick Meredith, et al, having “courage in their convictions” because they are challenging the large, powerful, established Worldwide Church of God and striking out on their own!
It is the perfect solution. Those wanting “reform” would have it. Those who needed a really good excuse to say “to hell with it” would have it. Those who would continue following flawed doctrine, ala Philadelphia Church of God, United Church of God-AIA, Global Church of God (started by Roderick C. Meredith; now defunct), Living Church of God (de facto replacement of GCG), Intercontinental Church of God, COG An International Community (David Hulme), would have it. Not to mention all of the smaller groups started by assorted former elders and ministers. Much was preplanned–otherwise, why the easy transitions to David Hulme’s and Roderick Meredith’s groups? (Be sure and read “Speaking of Global…(Re-inventing the wheel” in OIU 2, Pt 1) for some interesting insight into this.)
Gerald Flurry was preemptive, but the same tactics are applied. Flurry did not entirely go along with the grand conspiracy. Why else would he: a) take his group away from the main body so early? and b) be the only group to engage in a legal battle to gain publishing rights to the old literature? (even though many groups claim very similar doctrine; e.g., The Eighteen “Restored” Truths.) If the WCG even wanted to retain and reprint for the sake of “historical archiving,” they would not have relinquished the publishing rights.
Be the lawsuit legitimate or not, the end result is the same: the Armstrong heresies will be reprinted and available to anyone who wants to write Philadelphia Church of God or Gerald Flurry’s Key of David. Flurry gets what he wants out of this: He gets to be the next Herbert W. Armstrong–although I have viewed his television program, Key of David (what a waste of streaming video)–and he just doesn’t strike me as having nearly the presence or charisma as the senior Armstrong did.
It did distress me a bit when I first read what seemed to be the WCG itself hinting at republishing the works of HWA. That grabbed my attention. This whole situation is even worse than we thought. PCG now has free reign to reproduce the Herbert Armstrong heresies. It works well for WCG in that whether or not they did recoup expenses, to the rest of the world they now look as having “put up a good fight.” A good selling point for recruiting, and a good talking point for the rest of the mainstream leadership. The lawsuit was dragged on just long enough that a settlement, which is exactly what took place, would have dimmed from any media attention. Now anyone who does remember will remember that WCG “put up a good fight in the name of truth, justice–and the American way.”
With current recruiting tactics established, and no collective memory of what Worldwide Church of God was in the past, the settlement of the lawsuit neatly ties up many loose ends, and brings the conspiracy, if there was one, to a close. Given the duplicitous and mind-controlling tactics they have employed in the past, I would not be surprised if it was carefully planned, all the way down to the last detail of the lawsuit settlement.
The conspiracy angle is nothing new. It just seems too convenient. And the parallels between PCG and the old WCG are uncanny.
Exit & Support Network™
UPDATE: Worldwide Church of God changed their name in April 2009 in the United States to Grace Communion International. (Some local church areas and countries may still carry the former name or a different one.) Today they have gone on to embrace New Age Teachers and philosophies. Read: On Apostasy–A Radical Proposal (Letter to WCG, Philippines).
How Did the Worldwide Church of God Get Away With It? (deceit at the time of the changes)
Footnotes by ESN:
3 Stanley R. Rader was to be a paid consultant by the WCG until the year 2007. He died July 2, 2002, at age 71, in Pasadena, California, two weeks after having been diagnosed with acute pancreatic cancer.
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