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World Wide Church of God
What is Arianism?
Agape
Sabbath Abrogated?
Prayer-Group Guidelines
The Sabbath and Hospitality
New Wine Skin Vs Old
Expository Style Sermons
We’re Salt & Light
How Should We Keep the Sabbath?
The Great Divide
Ministry of Reconciliation
Family Prayer Groups
Questions About Evangelism
Will He Find Faith?
Eye For An Eye
Unity
How Would You Judge You?
Fruit Filled Living
Crisis In Ukraine
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Introduction
About the Author
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Prayer
the Prophets & Prophecy
OT History

Early Church History
Church History
Sabbatarian Heritage

The Worldwide Church Of God
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The Worldwide Church of God

The Plain Truth about the Worldwide Church of God

 

This is the story of the Worldwide Church of God and what destroyed it

 

 

 

Background information, foundations for our beliefs

 

The central beliefs of the Worldwide Church of God, a Sabbatarian Church of God, were to be found in their adherence to the Seventh Day Sabbath and Holy Days of Leviticus 23, and the food laws found in Leviticus 11.  Other than a few oddball beliefs that didn’t stop them from believing in Jesus as God the Son and being fully Christian, they were a modern-day snapshot of the Jewish-Christians in Rome as well as the early Church of God in Jerusalem, along with the Churches of God in Asia Minor, which were all Sabbath/Holy Day observing Judeo-Christian (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm for historical proof).  Even using the Gentile Sunday-observing Christian’s interpretation of Romans 14:5-6 and Acts 15:19-24, the Worldwide Church of God under Herbert W. Armstrong could not be classified as a cult (even though a lot of Sunday-observing Christians liked to do so).  So what made the Worldwide Church of God look so cult-like, even though technically it wasn’t?  That is one question this article will help answer.

 

A Little History of the Worldwide Church of God

Humble, solid Biblical Beginnings

 

Even though I can’t take the time here to elaborate on this point, the Worldwide Church of God, originally the Radio Church of God, had solid Sabbatarian Church of God beliefs and a very humble Bible-oriented beginning.  This remained so right up through the very beginning of the 1960s.  To come to understand the full import of what was destroyed here by the Tkach’s, you must, on your own, look into the early beginnings of the Worldwide Church of God (the Radio Church of God), and also of the previous Sabbatarian Church of God revivals that preceded this revival of Sabbatarian Churches of God.  Without doing that, you’re only getting half the story. Volume 1 of Herbert Armstrong’s autobiography is contained in a link listed below detailing the early beginnings of the Radio Church of God and Worldwide Church of God.  Also vital links going to the history of Sabbatarian Churches of God from the 1660s onward to the 1920s, as well as early Church history (Judeo-Christian) are listed at the bottom of this paragraph.  Mr. Armstrong’s conversion and original ordination into the Church of God 7th Day, Oregon Conference, and then the start of the Radio Church of God, the World Tomorrow radio broadcast and the Plain Truth Magazine are all contained in his autobiography vol. I.  Then the development and growth of the Radio Church of God, which turned into the Worldwide Church of God is described in detail in vol. II of his autobiography.  All this information can be fully accessed on http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, (log on and click on Enter Here, and then on Reference Material.)  The two volumes of his Autobiography available in pdf format are listed and available there.  This site contains almost all of the Church’s written literature, Plain Truths, radio broadcasts of first the Radio Church of God and then the Worldwide Church of God.  Herbert Armstrong was ordained into the Church of God 7th Day, Oregon Conference in 1931 and served as one of their ordained ministers from 1931-1933.  The first radio broadcast of The World Tomorrow Program took place at 8am Sunday morning, October 9th, 1933 and the first printing of the Plain Truth Magazine, printed on an ancient second-hand neostyle mimeograph, was on February 1, 1934, 250 copies having been printed.  The Plain Truth Magazine was first printed on a real printing press starting May-June 1938, mailing list now 1,050.  On pages 629-630 of volume I, in his Autobiography he states, “In a letter to Co-Workers who were regularly supporting God’s Work with tithes and offerings, dated February 12, 1937, it was estimated that the listening audience had grown to some forty to fifty thousand, every Sunday.  It was growing “toward our goal of 100,000” the letter reported!”  Anyone who wants to say that the Radio Churches of God, or the Worldwide Church of God directly under Mr. Herbert Armstrong while Loma was alive was a nasty “legalistic” church had better read the first volume of the Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong to see both his and the Church’s humble beginnings.  If you, as a self-appointed judge and jury are going to put Herbert Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God on trial, be sure to review all the evidence.  If you, in your “superior wisdom” are doing that, you have to read both volumes of The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, and then the unvarnished evidence which follows in this article about the Worldwide Church of God.  As you finish this article, you will see that God has already judged the Worldwide Church of God, and shown a degree of mercy to Mr. Herbert Armstrong.  (What line of Churches did Mr. Armstrong get his beliefs from?  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/historycog1.htm and http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm).  You must first understand that the Worldwide Church of God was merely a part of a very long line of Sabbatarian Church of God revivals stretching back almost 2 millennia of time.  Reading those two research history articles at those links will prove that beyond the shadow of a doubt.  Some of you Sabbath keepers don’t have a firm grasp of that either, and you should.

In spite of the errors (which this article will show were in the nature of Worldwide’s hierarchal non-Biblical governmental structure), Mr. Herbert Armstrong did do an excellent job of laying a superb doctrinal foundation for Sabbath-keeping Churches of God.  Within all the estimated 375 splinter groups calling themselves Sabbath-keeping Churches of God, we all share in that doctrinal foundation, to an amazing degree.  Then why in the world are we so disunited?  Well, first, let’s look at how far Mr. Armstrong brought all of us in the spiritual construction of God’s holy Temple, composed of us believers.  Mr. Armstrong, like I said, laid an excellent doctrinal foundation.  But after attending twenty years, I sort of found myself asking myself the question “So, I’ve learned all the doctrines of the Church, what’s left?”  Like all foundations, buildings must be built upon them.  Right now that foundation God used Mr. Armstrong to build and complete sits there, with nothing built upon it.  Have you ever seen people (usually ones living out in the country, out in the woods) who don’t have sufficient funds to build their house right away?---so they build the foundation for the house they intend to build, roof it over with a flat roof, and they live in it until they have the funds to build the house.  That is about where we are spiritually within the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God that spun off of the Worldwide Church of God in the mid 1990s.  What is it God would have us build on that foundation we were given by Mr. Armstrong?  And what building materials would God have us avoid?  Check out the upper nav bar buttons on this Worldwide Church of God section for some really good answers to those two questions.  The four-part series on Agape may help show us why we’ve been so disunited.

 

What went wrong, Part I:

 

Early on, as God was forming the parent church of the Worldwide Church of God (the Radio Church of God) under Mr. Armstrong, Mr. Armstrong made a critical choice as to what form of church government this fledgling church denomination would have.  And he was very unwise in his choice.  I will say this, he sincerely thought he was following a Biblical model.  But he was terribly mistaken, he was not following a Biblical model.  He chose the hierarchal Roman Catholic model for church government, centralized from-the-top-down church government.  Careful examination of the Epistles will reveal that all the early Christian Churches of God during Paul’s and John’s day were semi-autonomous, and they did not pay their tithes to the Headquarters Church of God in Jerusalem.  Only during a time of dire famine in Judea did the Churches of God in Asia Minor and Greece put together a special relief offering to be sent in Paul’s hands to Jerusalem.  You see, Mr. Armstrong faced a problem.  God was tremendously blessing his World Tomorrow (Bible) radio program.  Literature and baptism requests were pouring in, first locally, and then as more radio stations were added to their parent station, K.O.R.E., this growth went nation-wide.  Having been a really successful businessman had a lot to do with influencing his choice in the type of church government he chose to put over this fast-growing Sabbatarian Church of God denomination.  In reality, he broke with the true Biblical model in two areas, 1) Church government, choosing the Roman Catholic hierarchal model, and 2) in how he chose to choose out and train the ministers he desperately needed to pastor the local congregations that were springing up all across the nation, and then around the world.  For one thing, the hierarchal form of government exists in all large modern corporate businesses.  In the second area, he chose to set up first one, then two, and then three Bible colleges for the assembly-line-production of ministers.  They’d take in high school graduate-age teens from the local congregations along with any willing qualified high school graduate who applied from the outside.  Then after three or four years these colleges would spit out young, green, inexperienced ministers with a whole lot of Bible head-knowledge and little if any spiritual growth and maturity to match their head-knowledge.  Henry Ford would have been proud of the way these new ministers were being popped out of these three Bible-college assembly-lines, and they were being sent, young, spiritually green and inexperienced to man all the new congregations of the Worldwide Church of God that were forming first nationwide, and then worldwide.  But this is not the way pastors were chosen in the early Church (be sure to read 1st Timothy 3:1-7.  The word “bishop” in the Greek is “overseer”, i.e. a pastor.  “Not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.”)  Nor did the Sabbatarian Churches of God in Rhode Island and New Jersey of the 1660s through 1700s choose young pastors the way Mr. Armstrong set this process up, they followed the Biblical instructions of 1st Timothy 3:1-7.  They were always chosen out of the local congregation they were going to serve in, and they had to be spiritually mature individuals, well grounded in both Scripture and the Faith.  But as long as the Worldwide Church of God remained under the direct gentle loving control and leadership of Herbert Armstrong and his wife Loma, the ministry and Ambassador Colleges remained godly and to a degree uncorrupted.  And God was certainly blessing and calling multiple tens of thousands of people from secular society into being sincere Sabbatarian Church of God believers in Jesus Christ.  A very large percentage of those God called were real believers, positively exhibiting the fruits of the Holy Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22-23).  I know, for God called me in 1969, and most of those I grew to know and love in the New England region exhibited the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit and genuine Christian conversion, and continue to do so.  Mr. Armstrong started out as a humble gentle man, ruling the growing Worldwide Church of God with the aid of his very converted wife, Loma.  He was also a very trusting man, and this was not always a good thing, as it made him a very poor judge of character in others.  He could be hoodwinked by others, could easily have the wool pulled over his eyes, as they say.  So Loma Armstrong was his main lifelong advisor and confidant.  But due to the form of church government he chose for the Church and the method he used to choose and train ministers, a vast and powerful church empire was rapidly forming underneath him as he and the Church headed from the decade of the 1950s and on into the decade of the 1960s.  The Worldwide Church of God was a fundamentalist Sabbatarian Church of God that believed in strict tithing of one’s income (on the gross), so a vast financial church empire was also forming under Herbert and Loma, along with a vast and growing hierarchal structure of ministers, ranked from Evangelist, Senior Pastor, down to Minister (Preaching Elder and Local Elder).  The evangelists were like the top lieutenants in a corporate structure, most all having been the early graduates of Ambassador College in Pasadena, California, the Church’s Headquarters.  Mr. Armstrong, as this church denominational structure grew, had to rely more and more on the command structure that had been (corporately and hierarchally) set up under him for the running of the Church’s congregations, Media Department (which printed the Plain Truth Magazine and all of the church’s literature sent out for free, offered over the air and in the churches), and Radio and Television Departments (for direct media evangelism).  During the 1960s the Worldwide Church of God was growing in numbers of baptized members at a rate of increase of 30 percent per year, a phenomenal growth rate.  By the end of the 1960s, when growth peaked out, they had a whopping 150 congregations with salaried pastors worldwide, and the Church was grossing over $75,000,000 a year in tithes and offerings.  I was baptized (not into the Worldwide Church of God, but as they properly did it, “into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”) in April of 1970, at the tail end of the Worldwide Church of God’s phenomenal growth.  But two and a half to three years prior to then, an event occurred which would, in the end, spell the doom of the Worldwide Church of God as a viable Sabbatarian Church of God denomination.  In 1967 Loma Armstrong died, Herbert’s longtime confidant, advisor and loving wife.  Now let’s take an honest look at what happened, as told through eye-witnesses who were within this hierarchal church government of ministers, as well as through my own experiences. 

 

Mr. Armstrong had a lifelong dedication to getting the Gospel out to the entire world

 

Now understand this, from the very beginning of Herbert Armstrong’s ministry over the Radio Church of God until the day he died, he was totally 110 percent dedicated to getting what he believed was the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to the entire world.  His life was dedicated to preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to the entire world and spiritually nourishing those whom God called through those efforts (cf. Matthew 28:18-20).  In that lifelong goal he did not waiver.  Due to that, that was the stated goal of the Worldwide Church of God and most of its spiritually cognizant members (and that continues to be my goal in life, and that of this website, for that matter, I learned it from Herbert Armstrong).  And he sincerely believed he had successfully set up the Worldwide Church of God corporate structure, with its vast and well-funded magazine/media, Radio and Television and Literature departments to accomplish that duel goal found in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-16, as Matthew 24:14 prophecies the whole Body of Christ will yet accomplish.  That essentially is the First Great Commission Jesus gave to the Church, the whole Body of Christ, and it is a right and proper goal for any Christian church and work of God.  But understand, it was the strong goal of Herbert W. Armstrong from the beginning of his ministry to the day of his death.

 

So having the right goal (it was), and what he thought was the right apparatus, what went wrong?

 

1)  Doctrinally, he had fallen into the trap of believing that the Worldwide Church of God was the main and central part of the Body of Christ that Jesus would use to accomplish the goal he had given the Body of Christ to accomplish just before his 2nd coming (cf. Matthew 24:14).  2) When Loma Armstrong died, there was a power-hungry, money-hungry corporate command structure just beneath him and all around him, along with a non-believing Jewish lawyer (Stanley Rader) who had been the General Counsel for the Worldwide Church of God since 1957, who had been slowing working his way into the confidence of Herbert Armstrong.  When Loma died Mr. Armstrong was lost, emotionally devastated, and they all vied to be the one to fill her shoes as his adviser and confidant, gaining the power and control over the Church’s vast financial resources.  Stanley Rader would end up on top until the Church was almost destroyed. 

 

Let’s backtrack a little and take a look at the ministry

 

Let’s take an honest look at the ministry, local pastor level, that came out of the Ambassador Colleges and into the hierarchal ministerial command structure.  For one thing, Herbert Armstrong believed a minister, pastor was worthy of his hire, so he paid them well.  Being a hierarchal structure, there was financial incentive to, as I put it, “climb the corporate ladder, Don Rocco.”  Just because a college with highly qualified academic and Bible teachers trains young ministerial hopefuls with lots of facts, both Biblical and secular, in a college curriculum does not guarantee that these young graduates will have the indwelling Holy Spirit.  (That’s why the Bible cautions church congregations only to ordain spiritually mature believers taken from their own congregations, so that accountability comes into play, and knowledge of the person they’re about to ordain is widely known by everyone in the congregation [cf. 1st Timothy 3:1-7].  In congregations I have attended, there are people I have known for over 40 years whom I would ordain in a heartbeat, a nano-second, and there are also people within those congregations I wouldn’t ordain to take out the trash.  When you’re in a local congregation you get to know the people.  That’s why God said to do it that way.)  So the entire ministry of the Worldwide Church of God was made up of a bunch of young pastors filling its ranks, some, many (as viewed in 20/20 hindsight) of whom were only converted to Bible knowledge, but were about as spiritually converted as a coyote, wolf or cougar (depending on rank achieved).  Many of these converted-in-knowledge-only ministers tended to be highly political and motivated to the maintaining of the security of their paychecks beyond all else.  Now don’t get me wrong, scattered throughout this hireling crowd were quite a few genuinely sincere, Holy Spirit indwelt pastors.  But by the very nature of the structure, some of the good, Holy Spirit indwelt pastors were driven out of the ministry, little by little.   

 

The sheep, the local members

 

Next we have the sheep, the ordinary members within the Worldwide Church of God, those whom God was really calling into his Church and general Body of Believers, and bestowing his Holy Spirit on.  They, for the most part, were and continue to be Holy Spirit indwelt believers in Jesus Christ.  (Sadly, in hindsight, they were later scattered all over the spiritual landscape, but that is getting ahead of the story.)  They are capable of growing spiritually to one degree or another under good pastors or hirelings.  God’s Holy Spirit can call a person through a non-believing hireling just as easily as through another believer, and nurture that same person through a hireling. Their growth may not be as effective, but God’s Spirit can give victory. (Don’t forget, these Ambassador Colleges up until 1970 had excellent Godly staff and highly qualified Bible and secular teachers.  All the ministers had excellent and thorough general Bible knowledge.) Up through 1970 God had called roughly 150,000 members, including children and non-believing spouses (whole family units), with an estimated 89,000 baptized members even up to 1995.

 

What Happened After Loma’s Death in 1967?

 

Now let’s see what happened after 1967 and Loma’s death.  Mr. Armstrong hasn’t changed in one respect, he wants to get the Gospel to the world, and before he dies (right heart, wrong understanding and perception of God’s overall purpose and means for accomplishing Matthew 28:18-20).  Loma is gone, the one who had an eye and knack for spotting skullduggery for Herbert.  Everyone directly under Mr. Armstrong knew that in order to tap into the vast financial resources of the Worldwide Church of God they would have to convince Mr. Armstrong that they had a project or better way of accomplishing the Great Commission Christ gave to the Church (Body of Christ).  Well Stan Rader came up with a good one, and probably coupled to double-expenditure money laundering, siphoned off multiple millions of dollars.  All of the top evangelist leaders “on the 4th floor of Administration” wanted Herbert W. Armstrong removed or in some way sidelined  so that when the cat’s away the mice can play.”  So Stan Rader, knowing a little of the Bible, and probably with some judicious coaching from others, convinces Mr. Armstrong that if you warn the leader of a major country or nation and kind of preach the Gospel to that leader, then, whether he rejects or accepts your message, you have fulfilled your Godly responsibility for reaching that entire nation with the Gospel, and your responsibility is done.  Now that is not what the Bible teaches, it’s a twisting of Scripture, but these guys are good at what they do, they’re real slick operators, and somehow convinced Mr. Armstrong of this.  Then Stan Rader for the sake of helping Herbert Armstrong gain audiences with world leaders had him water-down the Gospel about “Jesus Christ and Salvation only through him” to the “gospel of the Way of Give and Get,” and from “God’s going to send Jesus Christ back to earth to rule the nations with a rod of iron” to “A strong hand from someplace is going to step in and save the world from itself”---both of which are Masonic doctrines.  Simultaneously, Rader had Mr. Armstrong water down the solid Bible and prophetic teaching of the Plain Truth Magazine, so as not to “offend” these world leaders he was going to when he handed them a copy of the Plain Truth Magazine.  This guy Rader was slick, and Mr. Armstrong along with the Worldwide Church of God were sheep going to the shearers and slaughter under the influence of Rader and those “on the 4th floor of Administration.”  For about eight years, more or less, Herbert W. Armstrong was “kept” away from the Worldwide Church of God’s headquarters in Pasadena, California, for the better part of each year, visiting world leaders on this Rader-devised wild-goose-chase.  The Plain Truth, the Church’s banner magazine, the Church’s booklets and literature, Radio Broadcasts, and Telecasts, had all become watered down and gutted out shells of what they had been in their Biblical content and proclamation power.  Corresponding to that, the huge growth in numbers of people God was calling, drawing to himself through the Worldwide Church of God, fell way off as well, went down to a trickle of what it had been.  The Worldwide Church of God was successfully being gutted both doctrinally and financially while Stan Rader and his compatriots kept old Mr. Armstrong airborne on the Church’s leased G-2 corporate jet aircraft, going around the world, sincerely believing he was taking the Gospel to the world---when in fact Rader and his gang where taking Mr. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God to the cleaners.  Stan also helped Mr. Armstrong along with the constructing of a huge edifice of an auditorium building (taking donated cash money away from the Gospel, and this money was then disappearing through more creative double-expenditure laundering), along with creating the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation (another money-pit to accompany and use the Auditorium), and the buying of Quest Magazine (that one was one of Stan’s personal babies).  By the way, Stan Rader, to top off the charade, had Mr. Armstrong baptize him in a Hong Kong hotel bath-tub while they were on one of Mr. Armstrong’s international tours to a see a world leader, and ultimately (later on in the story) had Mr. Armstrong ordain him as an evangelist.  Up to now poor Mr. Armstrong was totally ignorant of what was going on, they were playing him like a Stradivarius.  (When Herbert Armstrong ordained Stan Rader as an evangelist, he also ordained Joseph Tkach Sr. and Ellis LaRavia as evangelists as well.)  Lets take a look at the power structure under Herbert Armstrong, in the Church’s Pasadena, California headquarters.

(photo: Stan Rader standing behind Mr. Armstrong)

 

Hostile Power Structure under Herbert Armstrong

 

This knowledge was gained from a non-political pastor who had sufficient opportunity to witness the goings on at their Pasadena HQ (in quotes):  “Al Portune is in this corner of the 4th floor, Rod Meredith is in this corner of the 4th floor, Garner Ted Armstrong is in this corner of the 4th floor, and [poor] Hebert Armstrong is in this corner of the 4th floor, and Stan Rader is here, and all the different lieutenants with their various allegiances are all inbetween.”---obedient sycophant spies---So we can see the end result of setting up the Worldwide Church of God with the hierarchal form of church government, with their Ambassador Colleges turning out green young pastors like off an automotive assembly line.  It allowed these sycophant kiss-butts to work their way up to the top levels of Church Administrative jobs, so that when Mrs. Armstrong died, they stepped right in to fill the huge emotional and advisory support role she had occupied for years---that of aiding her husband in running the Church, protecting both him and the Church from what was now taking place (the power of one good godly woman).  “Rod Meredith hated Ted and Ted hated Rod and were contrary one to another, couldn’t stand each other.  Al Portune had his own agenda, Rader had his own agenda, and poor Hebert Armstrong was all stuck off over here, aside.  And here at God’s headquarters’ where you’d think love and truth would reign, we had hatred and politics and intrigue [while we ordinary members in the local congregations were taught by the ministry that politics was evil, a sin, part of Satan’s governmental systems of the world, which is absolutely true.  But hypocrisy and skullduggery reigned, all due the mistake of adopting the Catholic hierarchal model for our church governmental structure]…”Al Corozo had a meeting every week, all the sycophants would come up, one would come up and sit next to Al Corozo, he was like the “yes man” of the Mafia.  He would always ask those leading questions for brownie points, I call them brownie-point questions.  So I’m always sitting down here clear at the other end because I don’t want any part of it.  Which makes them believe I’m as bad as they really think I am, because I’m not participating in this stuff, because I think it’s stupid and you don’t need it.  What do you need a meeting every week for?---except to come and polish the shoes of Al Corozo.  And I wouldn’t do that, nor the other infamous things you can say in slang about it.  So little did I realize that they were working this case up against me…The upper level administrative ministry ruled by intimidation and fear, Al Corozo being one of these ‘lieutenants’ that would do that over honest non-political ministers.  Two days after Al Corozo tried to intimidate [this pastor] for a 2nd or 3rd time, he resigned and went with Ernest Martin.  That Friday, Rod Meredith was fired.  So there is an example of how God will deliver you.  Whenever anything goes wrong, get your mind on Christ…There was the standard for the peons and the more equal standard for the muckymucks, and of course they didn’t have to suffer from things.”  This pastor got a tour once of some of the evangelist’s homes, was brought into Al Portune’s home, where they were furnishing it, and the guy giving the tour says, “See these drapes?”  “Yeah.”  “$40,000 out of 3rd tithe.”  “I didn’t say a word, but I made up my mind right there, because they gave all the local pastors, ministers, they gave them a checkbook to help the needy [which came out of the Church’s 3rd tithe bank account].  Well I was [pastoring] in Torrance, we had the whole Watts area, so we had plenty of needy.  So I made up my mind, every dollar I write they cannot spend. So I was very generous to those who had need.”  [Third tithe, for the uninformed, those of you who were never a part of the Worldwide Church of God, was a special tithe each member would tithe every third year, and this money would go into the Church’s widows and orphan’s fund, it was for the genuinely needy in the Church.  I won’t go into the Church’s tithing beliefs because it is covered at http://www.unityinchrist.com/gifts4.htm.]  So that was the inside scoop from an honest, genuinely Holy Spirit indwelt ex-pastor of the Worldwide Church of God (I know the man, have met him personally).  So that’s an eye-witness account of the corporate structure of the Worldwide Church of God within their headquarters.

 

Stan Rader Attempts to Hijack the Church

 

Around 1979, with the Church membership smelling a rat over finances and doctrinal changes, Rader decided along with and in cahoots with Robert Kuhn to hatch a plan for having a bunch of the local members to get the California State Attorney-General (a guy named Deukmejian) to launch a lawsuit against the Worldwide Church of God (and Mr. Armstrong).  According to one pastor who learned of this, “Robert Kuhn and Stan Rader spoke every night over the phone to each other for up to two to three hours.  And they were the ones who were bringing about all these personnel changes to put ‘their personnel in place.’”  A Sabbatarian Church of God denomination with an annual budget funded by tithes and offerings in excess of $75,000,000 a year---with a hierarchal form of church government copied from the Catholic Church model---“climb the corporate ladder, Don Rocco.”  So what happens? Deukmejian sends it down to a Superior Court in L.A. to a Jewish judge, with a Jewish prosecuting attorney, and a Jewish Receiver.  All the while poor Mr. Armstrong has been moved, under the guise of the lawsuit and for his ‘legal protection’, to Tucson Arizona, where he was suffering from congestive heart failure and simultaneously being held prisoner in his own “Tucson home” by Stan Rader’s personal secretary Ramona, who had also lured poor Mr. Armstrong into marrying her (he did finally wake up and had the marriage annulled).  Stan Rader was expecting poor old Mr. Armstrong to die of a heart attack, and when that failed to take place, he sicked Ramona on him.  And Rader, in his White Suit came “to the rescue of the Church.”  But Herbert Armstrong must have done some serious repenting and God gave him life, he recovered.  Rader’s defense of the Church, coupled to a massive sit-in of members in the Church Administration Building (led by Joe Tkach Sr.), did finally drive off the State of California’s wolves, but Rader and his wolves remained inside the Church.  Stan Rader had been an untrustworthy snake in the grass, a real python, waiting to choke the financial and spiritual life out of the Worldwide Church of God and consume it for himself. 

 

Mr. Armstrong Did Wake Up, And Did Repent

 

Aaron Dean, who had become Mr. Armstrong’s personal assistant, was trying really hard to show Mr. Armstrong what Stan Rader and Ramona were doing, keeping him captive over in Tucson.  Finally enough ministers (there was still a good number of honest, loyal and Holy Spirit indwelt ministers within the ministerial structure---it wasn’t all black and white, life never is) were able to get together to convince Mr. Armstrong that he ought to get rid of Stan Rader, and were able to, in some degree show him what had been going on.  Of course even the ministry having been brought up, spiritually raised, nurtured and trained in this hierarchal church structure---still believed as they had been taught, that it was God’s Biblical model for church government---couldn’t comprehend the root cause that had brought on all this grief and the ultimate destruction of the Worldwide Church of God.  For many now in the Sabbatarian Churches of God that split off Worldwide in 1995, that lesson still needs to be learned and properly understood, for their own spiritual good and health.  That is the only reason I am bringing all this out into the open.  I am not being vindictive toward any Holy Spirit indwelt Sabbatarian Church of God believer.  As for those who are not Holy Spirit indwelt, if the shoe fits wear it, let the chips fall where they may. 

 

How They Got Rid Of Stan Rader

 

Now let’s describe the psychologically controlling influence which Stan Rader developed and cultured and held over Herbert Armstrong, beginning right after Loma died.  Whenever Stan Rader didn’t get his own way, or his advice (as legal council) was ignored, he would threaten to resign, going as far as to hand Mr. Armstrong his letter of resignation.  Of course it was all an act.  Stan Rader would rant and rave before Mr. Armstrong, hand him this letter of resignation and walk out.  He’d come back in a few days and Mr. Armstrong would give him his letter back.  Well, right after these ministers (with Aaron Dean’s help) arranged and had this well-planned meeting with Mr. Armstrong, Stan had, just previously pulled his resignation tantrum stunt.  Right after the meeting Stan came to Mr. Armstrong, none-the-wiser, and Herbert said to him, “No, I’m going to accept your resignation this time.”  Of course a settlement payment had to be arranged to pay this nasty person off so he’d go away and not make waves.  But multiple millions of dollars of member tithes and offering money given to God, over a period of ten years, at $75,000,000 a year, was squandered and not used on Gospel outreach, while simultaneously during that time the Gospel of Christ had been watered down in the Church’s teaching and literature and banner magazine, the Plain Truth.

 

Just Before Herbert Armstrong’s death, a successor chosen

 

A woman who ended up being the personal confidant of Mr. Armstrong near the end of his life (after Rader was gone, about two years before he died, this would be around 1984 is my guess) related this to a Worldwide Church of God pastor.  She said Mr. Armstrong kept asking:  “Well, when I die, I don’t know whose going to take over?”  She answered:  “Well, what about Dr. Hoeh?”  He’d respond:  “Well, you can’t trust him.”  “Well, what about Raymond McNair?”  “Well, he’s just a, you know…”  “And Rod Meredith is too hard-hearted.”  (the reason Rod Meredith didn’t leave the Worldwide Church of God when Herbert W. Armstrong died, as he is purported to have said to others when asked why he waited so long to leave, was because he was waiting to be assured that there would be 10,000 [tithe-paying] people that would follow him out.  Wasn’t that the end-game within this ministerial/corporate structure at the upper echelon under Mr. Armstrong?  You bet it was.  Rod Meredith wasn’t the only one playing that game though, as three major splinter groups broke off from the Worldwide Church of God around 1995, with most of Worldwide’s ministry going into them, and they all became just as toxic under their own hierarchal governments they set up, what I call goose-stepping Nazi regimes.  But I’m getting ahead of the story.)  Finally when Mr. Armstrong asked again, “Well, whose going to succeed me?”  She said, “Well, Joseph Tkach [Sr.] was always there for you during all this trouble.”  And he said, “Yes, you’re right.”  And that will lead us to the ultimate destruction of the Worldwide Church of God as a Sabbatarian Church of God denomination. 

 

Related links:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Rader

 

http://gavinru.tripod.com/rader.htm

 

Mr. Herbert Armstrong died January 16, 1986, and Joe Tkach Sr. took over the reigns of the Worldwide Church of God as its Pastor-General.  He labored to make the Worldwide Church of God more Christ-centered and Christ-like, not wrong in itself.  Joe Tkach Sr. died in the fall of 1995, shortly after he had published a paper about the Sabbath---teaching members of the Worldwide Church of God the Gentile-Sunday observing Christian interpretation for Romans 14:5-6 and Acts 15:19-24---that the choice in “days of worship” was an “optional choice” for all believers in Jesus Christ.  The span of time from the publication of this paper and his being diagnosed with serious cancer and his subsequent death was very short indeed.  And in my estimation he very unwisely chose his son, Joe Tkach Jr. to succeed him as Pastor-General of the Worldwide Church of God. 

 

The changes made under Joseph Tkach Sr.

 

As we were going into the year of 1995 the Worldwide Church of God was coming into a very clear understanding of the relevancy of the new covenant as Sunday-observing Gentile Christians understand it, i.e. that choice in “days of worship” and other Old Testament laws, were an optional choice for believers in Jesus.  And yet those in the Worldwide Church of God had been---up until 1995---following a fundamentalist old covenant application of the Law of Moses, much as the Jewish-Christians did in Jerusalem and even Rome itself, as evidenced by Romans 14, (see also Ray Pritz’s Nazarene Jewish Christianity).  They had been following these old covenant Sabbatarian Church of God practices for over 60 years (since 1934), as the Churches of God Seventh Day had been, going back through 200 years of history, to Rhode Island in the 1660s.  In the late 1980s Mr. Tkach Sr., under God’s inspiration was striving mightily to make members of the Worldwide Church of God far more Christ-centered, which of and by itself was not wrong.  Then under what he thought was God’s inspiration he “discovered” the truth about the Triunity of God, as opposed to the Holy Spirit being merely the power of God.  Up until 1995 most of the 89,000 members of the Worldwide Church of God came through these doctrinal changes, albeit with much grumbling.  Then in 1995 the major ground-shaking doctrinal change came.  Mr. Tkach Sr., upon much research, wrote a paper showing the observance of Old Testament “days of worship” and observance of the Old Testament code of laws (as opposed to the law of Christ found in the New Testament) was an entirely optional choice for believers, as many Sunday observing Christians believe Romans 14 states---and that paper he wrote was solidly based upon the classic Gentile Christian interpretation for Romans 14 and Acts 15---it was nothing new. But this was not the Sabbatarian Church of God interpretation for Romans 14 and Acts 15 which they had held for almost 2 millennia of time.  (For a good explanation of this controversial subject, from both sides of the doctrinal fence, log onto and read http://www.unityinchrist.com/romans/romans12-14_2.htm.)  Let’s see what happened as a result of that paper being sent to all the congregations of the Worldwide Church of God and being published in their member Newspaper, The Worldwide News.  But first I’d like to point something out here:  Joseph Tkach Sr. was not hostile to God’s Old Testament Holy Days or Sabbath, he wanted to keep observing them, he loved them.  His son, Joe Tkach Jr. on the other hand, was most definitely hostile to the Sabbath and Holy Days of Leviticus 23, and had the hidden agenda of wanting to wrench the Worldwide Church of God from their observance.  Let’s see what happened, and I firmly believe, this is how God allowed Joe Tkach Jr. to finish destroying the Worldwide Church of God.  This begins the second half of this article, how God used Joe Tkach Jr. to drive out the remaining Sabbath/Holy Day observing believers, destroying the Worldwide Church of God completely as a Sabbatarian Church of God.  This is the other half of the story.  Why would God allow such a thing?  Because of the manifold sins committed by the ministry within that church denomination.  Joe Tkach Jr. may have had his own agenda, but God used it, and made sure the Worldwide Church of God fell into his hands, just so the Worldwide Church of God would be punished and destroyed for its sins.  It’s members were not destroyed.  They weren’t be blame for any of this hierarchal mess.  They’re out there either in spiritual no-man’s land, or in one of the three or four major Sabbatarian Church of God splinter groups.  My heartfelt hope and prayer is that they learn the lesson God is trying to teach them about the evils of hierarchal church government, and that they might choose a better way.  And that way is not to give up Sabbath or Holy Day observance or your Sabbatarian ways, it is to learn the lesson about proper church government, and that it is not meant to be hierarchal, which leads to politics, power struggles and evil.  Now pay close attention to the numbers of members remaining and/or splitting off, as each doctrinal change is introduced, because it reveals that there are two groups of Sabbatarian Church of God believers that broke off from Worldwide out there, one leaving under Joe Tkach Sr. in 1995, and those who left due to the changes Joe Tkach Jr. forced down the Church’s throat from 1996 to around 2001.

 

What happened in 1995?

 

Joe Tkach Jr. (Pastor General of the Worldwide Church of God) said in the February number of the 1996 Plain Truth Magazine, in the coming to this “new” understanding of the new covenant freedoms…”resulted in our abandoning past requirements that Christians [in the Worldwide Church of God] observe the Seventh Day Sabbath as “Holy time,” that Christians are obligated to observe the annual Festivals commanded to Israel in Leviticus and Deuteronomy, that Christians are required to triple tithe [the OT tithe system given to Israel] and that Christians must not eat foods that were “unclean” under the Old Covenant…Gone is our long-held view of God as a “family” [God the Father and Jesus Christ]… replaced by a Biblically accurate view of one God who exists eternally in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…yet our progress has not been without costs.  Income has plummeted costing us millions of dollars and requiring us to lay off hundreds of long-term employees.  Membership has declined.   Several [three major ones to be exact, as well as many smaller] splinter churches have broken off from us to return to one or the other of our previous doctrinal and cultural positions.  As a result, families have separated and friendships have been abandoned, sometimes with angry, hurt feelings and accusations…”  That was Mr. Joseph Tkach Jr.’s description of what we as a Church just went through up to the time he wrote that article in February of 1996.  The magazine Christianity Today ran an article about the Worldwide Church of God titled, “From the Fringe to the Fold, How the Worldwide Church of God discovered the plain truth of the gospel”, written by Ruth Tucker.  I am going to quote from page 31 of her article here to show just how costly these changes were in 1996.  It is no easy thing to change a Church’s long-held doctrinal beliefs, regardless of whether the change is from error to Biblically accurate and provable truth, or into more error.  There is a cost.  They counted the cost, and they thought they were following  Jesus.  That is just exactly what they did under the leadership of Joseph Tkach Sr.  Here is a further description of that cost.  “By January 1995, there was a clear consensus at the top---and among many pastors and laypeople as well---that there was no turning back.  It was then that Mr. Tkach Sr. issued a document on the “new covenant”: that would enunciate for any still in doubt that the church had departed from Mr. Armstrong’s teachings.  Here, among other things, he focused on the Sabbath:  “There is nothing in the new covenant that says we are required to keep the Sabbath according to the rules of the old covenant…Being Sabbath keepers does not make us more righteous than other Christians.”  [Comment:  At this point in time, even with this change, the Worldwide Church of God was still voluntarily observing the Sabbath and Holy Days as their days of worship.]  1995 became a tumultuous year.  The “new covenant” proclamation unleashed pent-up emotions that had been, in some cases, simmering for years.  Pasadena headquarters was suddenly inundated with protests and resignations, including that of David Hume, television host for The World Tomorrow.  In his letter of resignation, he asserted that the “so called ‘new truths’ were in fact rather old errors,” and accused Joseph Tkach [Sr.] of already believing these new truths when he succeeded [Mr.] Armstrong in 1986.  The trickle out of the church seemed to turn into a flood in 1995.  At a conference in Indianapolis in early May, the United Church of God (UCG) was formed and, unlike previous splinter groups, posed a serious threat to the WCG.  Former WCG directors and pastors were among the 150 “elders” who gathered in Indianapolis to select a board and name David Hume, who had also served the WCG in public relations, as chairman.  By year’s end, the number of those affiliated with the movement [the UCG] was estimated to be 17,000, far exceeding the size of any of the other splinter groups.  They justified the new movement, saying:  “Long-held beliefs members have dearly sacrificed for have been officially negated and replaced by doctrines that are diametrically opposed to the teachings that led members into the church.”  In the end, more than a third of the ministers left the Worldwide Church of God [closer to 50% in the United States!].  The west coast of Florida was one of the hardest hit regions of the country, but other areas experienced similar turbulence.  In Sedona, Arizona, Pastor Rand Holm and his wife, Beth, tell of their wrenching pain they felt when a sizable group of faithful churchgoers left their congregation.  The losses in Florida and Arizona have been reflected in membership losses throughout the country.  U.S. membership in 1986 stood at 89,000.  Today [in 1996 when this was written] the membership is 49,000 [a 45% loss!].  “So that shows,” laments Joseph Tkach Jr., “that 40,000 people no longer attend with us.  It is the price we’ve paid to make these changes.”  The loss of leaders and members resulted in financial loss.  Church income has dropped 50 percent in 1995.  Severance pay arrangements for administrators and local ministers who have left the church combined with the decrease in giving has required painful cutbacks that are as wrenching as were the church ruptures.  Many long-time, faithful employees are no longer on the church payroll.  Adding to the wrenching pain, uncertainty of finances, and fractured friendships and churches, Pastor General Joseph Tkach Sr., himself was experiencing pain and uncertainty as he battled cancer.  At the very time the “changes” were coming to fruition---at the peak of his ministry---it appeared doubtful whether he would live to enjoy the “Golden Age” that he had set into motion.  And on September 23, 1995, he died at age 68.  [Comment: There are many that were within the Worldwide Church of God who sincerely felt, knowing Mr. Tkach Sr., and how he felt about the Sabbath and Holy Days still being a vital part of the Worldwide Church of God’s spiritual culture as “days of worship”, that had he lived, he never would have instituted the changes his son Joseph Tkach Jr. instituted.  More on that later, and the disastrous effects that had on those who remained in the Worldwide Church of God at this point in time, whose number was now at 45,000.]  Greg Albrecht’s prayer at Mr. Tkach’s memorial service sums up the profound influence of this man who rose out of obscurity to change the course of church history:  “We will leave his body behind, but we will take his memory and his legacy with us.  We will, in his words, not only keep the faith, we will share it and we will spread it.  We will proclaim Jesus Christ and the gospel of salvation; the good news that we have in Christ, the new life in him.””  That was quoted from page 31 of Christianity Today from an article written by Ruth Tucker.  Mr. Tkach Sr. sincerely believed he was following Jesus Christ, I have no doubt about that, and that he had brought the changes as far as they Biblically should have been brought. 

 

Important Disclaimer

 

In this following second section I show how God used Joe Tkach Jr. to drive out of the Worldwide Church of God 40,000 people, Sabbath/Holy Day observing believers who had come through the changes of his father, Joe Tkach Sr.  I know, as many of us know, that when a dynamic leader gradually institutes changes (this happened under Joe Tkach Sr. over a period of nine years), you just kind of go along, many of us, without thinking too much, thinking God is inspiring the man (I know, I did that for awhile).  Some do bother to prove things out, but most, like sheep, just follow along.  Many of those 40,000 were those sheep.  Joe Tkach Jr., as seen in hindsight, didn’t want any Sabbath-keeping sheep, so he used a psychological principle found in the Bible and modern psychology to drive them out (“birds of a feather flock together”).  This is what this second section describes.  It is written using proof texts from a Messianic Jewish scholar and a very astute sociologist who writes about Church history.  Decidedly they write from a Sunday-keeping non-Torah observant viewpoint, because that’s their main audience in their books which I have quoted from.  But they perfectly describe the psychology Tkach Jr. used to drive out those remaining Sabbath-keepers from the Worldwide Church of God, so he could make it a totally non-Sabbath/Holy Day observing church---bringing about the total destruction of the Worldwide Church of God as a Sabbatarian Church of God denomination.  So beware, the  doctrinal stance of these two writers I use below is not what many of you Sabbatarian Church of God believers agree with.  I merely used them to explain the process Tkach Jr. used to drive the remaining Sabbath-keepers out because they hit the nail on the head as far as describing the psychological method Tkach Jr. used.  Their quotes ARE IS NOT INTENDED AS A DOCTRINAL STATEMENT FOR SABBATH OBSERVING CHURCH OF GOD MEMBERS (of which I am one).

 

The Worldwide Church of God was cult-like, but not a cult

 

In this section I’m playing devils advocate toward some of the Sunday observing Christian denominations which have called the old Worldwide Church of God a cult [in fact, their current leadership has done so as well, much to the hurt of many members who came through the massive doctrinal changes the Tkach’s brought on].  I think in light of their recent past changes we ought to be very careful of statements and accusations like that (calling the old Worldwide Church of God a cult).  49,000 members out of this 89,000 member Christian denomination thought they were following the lead of the Holy Spirit within them, through a often painful journey from old-covenant Christianity to new covenant Christianity (the way Sunday observers look at it). If the Worldwide Church of God had truly been a cult---and not simply an old covenant Sabbatarian Christian Church---how could the Holy Spirit be dwelling in the members of a good portion of it’s people, and also continue to be in many of the people that broke off from the Worldwide Church of God to form what has come to be called “splinter groups” based on the old Worldwide Church of God’s core teachings?  This is a good question, and it ought to make us extremely cautious in our labeling these other Sabbatarian Churches of God as cults.  (And I am saying that to Sunday observers here.)  Such wrong labeling amounts to spiritual libel.  Funny that there is only one letter difference between the two words, and a wrong label can amount to libel.  Along that line of thinking I have a perfect example of the type of reference other Evangelical Christian leaders often make toward our past while praising the “courage” of the Tkach’s “coming into the new covenant spiritual understandings.”  But they do it in such a way as to paint all our past beliefs in a very dark and negative way (when, mostly, they were a reflection of Judeo-Christianity of the 1st century).  To call the Worldwide Church of God before the “changes” were made a cult hurts many loyal members who have the Holy Spirit, on both sides of this spiritual divide created by the Tkach’s, but it is considered by those same members as accepting a complement which has been embedded in a slanderous lie.  In my opinion, the leaders within the Worldwide Church of God at this time [Mr. Tkach Jr., Greg Albrecht, Dan Rogers, just to name three], should have stopped accepting such tainted compliments, and even call such ones giving them, and demand that they stop.  It never happened though.  That is because their leadership, after the death of Joseph Tkach Sr., obviously had a hidden agenda.  The example I give is a comment written or given by Richard J. Foster, author of “Celebration of Disciple” and “Streams of Living Water”, commenting on Mr. J. Michael Feazell’s new book “The Liberation of the Worldwide Church of God.”  He states: “We believe in the life-changing influence of grace and truth.  Rarely, however, do we see it demonstrated with such explosive power as in the case of the Worldwide Church of God.  [So far, this is highly complimentary for those who had gone along with the changes the Tkach’s were making.]  Told by one of its top leaders, here is the remarkable inside story of what happened when a well-know cult grappled with the truths of the New Testament.  “The Liberation of the Worldwide Church of God” is far more than the fascinating account of a church’s journey from darkness to light and from bondage to grace [now while I’m extremely glad to have the far greater understanding of God’s grace and of the new covenant, I don’t recall being in such darkness and bondage, and I take that as an insult of monumental proportions].  It is a blazing testimony to the gospel’s matchless power---a power able to transform hearts and lives that seem beyond reach…and fully capable of changing us.”  May I say this about that, we all had been previously transformed by the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit within the Worldwide Church of God under Mr. Armstrong. 49,000 of members made the transition or as this author calls it, “the transformation”, into this Sunday-observing Gentile Christian understanding of Romans 14 and Acts 15.  That is as much of his “compliment” as I wish to repeat.  When many of our leaders during that time, as well as those of us normal members who had been a part of the Worldwide Church of God for many years all say the same thing---that we were cult-like, but we were not a cult---it would have been high time for us to have stopped accepting the accolades of those who wanted to label us (or libel us), before the changes were made, as a cult.  Looking back at this period of time, it decidedly wasn’t good for fostering healing within our denomination between those who loved Mr. Armstrong and made the changes nonetheless, and those who didn’t particularly like Mr. Armstrong.  And as hindsight will show, it was a majority of those 49,000 thousand who came into this Sunday-observing  new covenant” understanding that liked Mr. Armstrong.  And many of these people “came along” as unquestioning sheep, I will add.  And I think I have revealed what exactly made Worldwide look like a cult, it was its wrong hierarchal model for church government, which had little to do with Bible doctrine.  Let’s see what happened to 40,000 of those remaining 49,000 believers within the Worldwide Church of God, and this is truly sad.  This group of 49,000 believers now believe “days of worship” are an optional choice for believers in Jesus.  But 40,000 of them, as we will see, do not wish to stop observing the Sabbath or Holy Days.  So Tkach Jr. must find a way to get rid of them, because he wants nothing to do with the Sabbath or Holy Days of Leviticus 23.  That is what this next section is about, the psychology he used to drive them out of the Worldwide Church of God, the psychology of destruction for a church.

 

Part 2, What Went Wrong?--- How Joe Tkach Jr. goes on to totally destroy the Worldwide Church of God---as a Sabbatarian Church of God

 

But was any more change needed?  Were the further changes Mr. Tkach Jr. made actually Biblical?  A denominational leader from another church told the leadership of the Worldwide Church of God that it wasn’t necessary for us to give up voluntary observance of the Sabbath and Holy Days---which were our “days of worship” culturally and of long-standing.  The leaders of the Worldwide Church of God under Joe Tkach Jr. did not heed that wise advice (because they had a hidden agenda).  What follows is what happened to the Worldwide Church of God over the next five to six years.  Their initial loss of 40,000 members would pale when compared to the coming losses.  Currently here in 1996 they still had 49,000 members.

 

In 1995 the Worldwide Church of God, a torah-observant Sabbatarian Church of God that observed Sabbath and the Biblical Holy Days commanded in Leviticus 23, quite astoundingly, came into what Sunday observing Christians call “a good understanding of the new covenant as explained in Romans 14.”  Sabbath and Holy Day observance became optional rather than mandatory, i.e. choice in Days of Worship became an optional choice for believing members.  As a direct result of their Headquarters church in Pasadena coming into this understanding and then publishing a paper on it, distributing it to the entire membership, the Church basically split into three groups, two of which were break-away churches which chose to maintain the former belief system, that Sabbath and Holy Days were commanded observances, and not an optional choice for believers.  That, by the way is the difference between “Torah-observant churches and non-Torah observant churches”.  The terms themselves are Messianic Jewish, and non-derogatory, and that’s why I use them.  The remaining church, still going by the name of the Worldwide Church of God, over the next five years, stopped observing the Sabbath and Holy Days altogether (and they finally gave up that name altogether).  Originally, right after these doctrinal changes and split-up, they had retained about 45% of the 89,000 original members.  But the more they embraced mainstream Protestantism, giving up all their Sabbatarian days of worship heritage, their numbers started to plummet, slipping toward oblivion.  Their Headquarters leadership had thought that they’d found freedom from an oppressive “Bad News Religion”, a legalistic church.  And much of what they termed “bad news religion” in reality had absolutely nothing to do with doctrinal belief, Sabbath vs. Sunday worship, but had everything to do with the corporate hierarchal church government structure, which this article has thoroughly explained.  But Tkach Jr. doesn’t want you to know that.  He wants to label (libel) all Sabbath, Holy Day observers as legalistic “bad news religions.”  If any of them are, it is due to their church government model and has nothing to do with their Sabbath or Holy Day observance.  Tkach doesn’t want you to know that, because he wanted to drive out Sabbath keepers from Worldwide’s midst.  That was his hidden agenda.  But very interestingly, he maintained Worldwide’s old hierarchal structure for the “new, free Worldwide Church of God.”  What hypocrisy!

 

Was Tkach Jr. following God?

 

But the heritage of this Sabbatarian Church of God which was called the Worldwide Church of God goes way back in history, if you honestly compare the beliefs of the pre-1995 Worldwide Church of God (minus a few heretical beliefs) to previous tiny Sabbatarian Church of God revivals that have come halfway across the globe from Asia Minor to the United States (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/revivals.htm).  If it was proper for the Worldwide Church of God to come into the Gentile Christian’s interpretation of what the new covenant was, casting off Tkach Jr.’s definition of “legalism” and embrace the spiritual freedom found in the new covenant teachings of the New Testament, as interpreted by Sunday observing Christians---then why did their numbers so drastically shrink over the past ten years from 1995 to 2005?  The Lord should have been blessing them for courageously casting off “error.”  But apparently the blessings have been going backwards for them.  In the Boston congregation alone, their pre-1995 numbers in that congregation had been 300+ members, but from 1995 to 2005 have gone to around 20 members on a good day.  Their Providence, Rhode Island congregation went through an identical shrinkage from over 300 to a handful.  Other congregations reflect the same downward spiral in numbers.  I know, numbers don’t tell the whole story for any church, there are big apostate churches around the world with very large numbers.  But these numbers, and their radical drop, reveal something else.  One of the splinter groups, the United Church of God, was slowly growing and relatively healthy for awhile, but then again, that doesn’t make it a good church either (we’ve covered that, they maintained a hierarchal model for church government and just recently split in half, right down the middle over a political issue, not over Bible doctrine).  But the United Church of God refused to cast off the observance of Holy Days and Sabbath and other beliefs peculiar to the old WCG.  Is there a reason for this that is Biblical, that goes beyond the Sabbath vs. Sunday controversy?  And was Tkach Jr. following in the direction God has been leading with his Holy Spirit?   As a member of a Messianic Jewish congregation for about two and a half years, I came to realize, by studying the recent history of this Jewish revival, that the Lord had just revived the previously dead Jewish branch of the body of Christ.  It had been essentially dead for 1700 years.  There are an estimated 500,000 or maybe more Jewish believers in Yeshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name, taken from Yahwehshua, “God saves”).  So here we find the Holy Spirit restoring the Jewish branch of the body of Christ, which by the way voluntarily observes both the Sabbath and Holy Days of Leviticus 23, while the Worldwide Church of God was casting off any vestige of “Jewish” worship practices formerly held and practiced by the old Worldwide Church of God.  So, my first discovery or realization was that the current Worldwide Church of God was heading in a direction exactly opposite from where the Holy Spirit was guiding a massive number of Jewish people, guiding them right into becoming believers in Jesus Christ (a very hard step for a Jew to take).  And these Jewish believers all keep the 7th Day Sabbath and Holy Days of Leviticus 23.

 

Tkach Jr. (trained in psychology) uses a sociological law to finish destroying the Worldwide Church of God

 

Then I started reading Dr. Michael L. Brown’s book “Our Hands Are Stained With Blood”, a tragic story of the “Church and the Jewish people.”   When Dr. Brown refers to “Church”, capital “C”, he is basically referring to the Catholic Church, and maybe the Lutherans in Europe.  From 1996 onward the Worldwide Church of God’s move toward ‘center of the road Protestantism’ was moving that church into beliefs the Lord finds detestable, according to the facts revealed in this book about how anti-Semitic mainstream Protestantism has been in the past (and even now holding anti-Semitic doctrines such as Replacement Theology and Amillennialism).  But while reading Dr. Brown’s book, I came across one of the most clear reasons why the shrinking numbers has been taking place within the Worldwide Church of God.   And it’s not because they rightly discovered that the Holy Days and Sabbath are now an optional choice for believers, a voluntary and individual choice.  It is because they cast them off entirely, not allowing their members to continue observing them if they so wished.  (If they didn’t wish to, there were plenty of active Sunday observing churches those members could have gone to).  As my first proof of this sociological  principle, I will now give a sizeable quote from Dr. Michael Brown’s book, and you be the judge.  The second proof will be from a Christian historian/sociologist, Rodney Stark.  It has more do with taking away a person’s accustomed practices of worship which had deep Biblical meanings to them, meanings now taught and believed by all Messianic Jewish believers, and replacing them with Gentile Christian substitutes which they viewed at best as inferior.  Is such a move Biblical for a church to make, putting it’s membership through the unnecessary change of giving up their accustomed days of worship and the meanings those days conveyed?  Is it biblically OK to do so?  Let’s see first what Dr. Brown reveals on this subject.  Now granted, his context is Jewish believers in Jesus verses Gentile Christian believers.  But the old Worldwide Church of God was very similar in beliefs and practices as the Messianic Jews are.  What follows, unabridged, are pages 83-87 of “Our Hands Are Stained With Blood.”  Past and present members of the Worldwide Church of God should find this enlightening, taken in context with what they’ve been through.  It may answer many unanswered questions.  It is primarily for them that this article is written, but secondarily, to educate the rest of Gentile Christianity about a couple viable parts of the body of Christ, one just restored, the other having a heritage going back to Asia Minor of the first 300 years AD.  Here goes the first set of quotes.

 

Dr. Michael Brown, Messianic Jewish theologian

 

“Rather than taking the Law away from Israel, God promised to put it in their hearts [Jeremiah 31:31-34, cf. Hebrews 8:6-13].  The New Covenant does not do away with God’s Law.  Instead, it makes it relevant in a new and living way.  This actually should be attractive to other Jews!

          Of course, observance of the Law does not make us more righteous, more loved or more spiritual.  Through the cross our sins are forgiven, and the Spirit leads us in paths of life.  But where is it written that believers, in particular Jewish believers, are forbidden to observe the Law?  Are we free to break the Law but not free to keep the Law?  Where is it written that the Spirit always leads us away from and against the Law? 

          Let’s get more specific:  Where do the Scriptures clearly and decisively make Sunday into the Sabbath?  (Forget about later Church tradition.  What does the Bible say?)  Then why are Jewish believers who set aside Saturday for Sabbath worship considered divisive?

          Where does the Word teach that Jews must become Gentiles to be saved?  We have really forgotten our roots!  [For further exploration of those roots, after reading this article, log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm.]

          Let’s go back to the Book of Acts.  The early Church was exclusively Jewish.  It was almost ten years before a group of Gentiles received the gospel, and this created shock waves in Jerusalem.  Some men began to teach these new believers:

 

Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.  They argued that, the Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses (Acts 15:1,5).

 

Of course, their position was completely wrong.  But there is something important to notice.  The question was not whether the Jews who followed Jesus were allowed to continue obeying the Law.  No one ever dreamed of such a question!  Jesus had kept the Law, and His disciples sought to keep it too.  Instead the question was this:  Were Gentiles who followed Jesus required to keep the Law?

          Look at how much our thinking has changed!  In the Book of Acts they wondered whether Gentiles had to become Jews in order to be saved.  Today the Church wonders whether Jews can be saved without becoming Gentiles!  It’s true!  We’ve made it all Gentile!  We are quick to smell out the Judaizers, and that’s good.  Judaizing is a dangerous tendency that must be avoided.  But are we on the lookout for the Gentilizers? 

          Did you know that many Jewish believers have been served ham sandwiches at church luncheons, to make sure they are “free”?  Thank God, no one is burning us at the stake [anymore].  But it would be nice for us to have a little more understanding.

          All of us affirm Peter’s words:

 

We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we [Jews] are saved, just as they [Gentiles] are (Acts 15:11).

 

The works of the Law cannot save---ever.  But casting off the Law doesn’t save either!  Where is it written that an anti-Law spirit is virtuous?  Where is it written that breaking the food laws is meritorious?  Where is it written that abandoning the commandments brings us closer to God?  Yet this seems to be the position some Christians take.  How did Paul describe Ananias, the disciple who ministered to him after he met the Lord on the road to Damascus?

 

A man named Ananias came to see me.  He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there (Acts 22:12).

 

What a tremendous compliment!  And Paul spoke these words toward the end of his life.  Certainly Paul understood the doctrine of grace!

          James, the Lord’s brother, shared with Paul the exciting news that

 

Many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law (Acts 21:20).

 

No.  He himself was “living obedience to the law” (Acts 21:21-25). 

          In the epistles Paul also taught about this clearly.  In Romans he raised an important question:  “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith?”  This was his categorical answer:  “Not at all!  Rather, we uphold the law” (Romans 3:31). 

 

In fact, according to Paul:

 

the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good…the law is spiritual (Romans 7:12, 14). 

 

In First Corinthians Paul stated in no uncertain terms that

 

Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing.  Keeping God’s commandments is what counts (1 Cor. 7:19). 

 

This is just what he said to the Galatians:

 

Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation…For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love (Gal. 6:15; 5:6). 

 

          As far as salvation and relating to God is concerned, circumcision carries no weight at all.  But Paul also had this to say:

 

Was a man already circumcised when he was called?  He should not become uncircumcised.  Was a man uncircumcised when he was called?  He should not be circumcised…Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him (1 Cor. 7:18,20)…”

 

[Now I have a comment to interject into the passage here.  The changes the Worldwide Church of God made after coming into the Sunday observer’s new covenant understanding of Romans 14 and Acts 15, were changes that cast off voluntary observance of days of worship their members “had been called in”, the spiritual “situation which he was in when God called him”.  Many of WCG’s members had either spiritually, and sometimes even physically grown up in the “spiritual situation” of observing the Old Testament Sabbath and Holy Days.  This forced change against allowing voluntary observance of such days by the membership violated the powerful spiritual principle Paul brought out in 1 Corinthians 7:18,20, and I hold that it is the central Biblical reason behind the constant shrinking of numbers of members in the WCG from 1996 to 2005.  Now back to Dr. Brown’s text.  Past and present members of the WCG will find what remains very interesting.]

 

          “This is pretty clear too!  A Jew who becomes saved should continue to live as a Jew, just as a man who becomes saved continues to live as a man and a woman who becomes saved continues to live as a woman.  The Jew who becomes born from above must cast off death-giving traditions.  He must throw aside all feelings of superiority.  He must put no trust in his heritage.  He must enter into new life in the Spirit.  He must boast in Jesus and the cross alone.  But he should continue to live as a Jew---wherever it does not contradict the Word or hinder the Spirit’s flow.  Paul says plainly that this is right. 

          And what about Jewish believers specifically called to minister to their own people?  Listen again to Paul:

 

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jew I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.  To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law (1 Cor. 9:20).

 

          He took on Jewish customs that he did not have to, and he submitted himself to all kinds of traditional laws that were not binding in order to win his fellow Jews.  Jewish believers can follow this method too, as long as we follow his message, preaching the unadulterated, uncompromised gospel with signs, wonders and the power of God.

          As for the Gentile believers at Corinth, Paul had an exhortation:

 

…Christ, our Passover lamb, has been crucified.  Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:7-8).

 

          Every believer can keep Israel’s feasts!  Jesus has opened the door.

 

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s [Jewish] people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:19-20).

 

          The wild olive branches (Gentiles) have been grafted into the natural (Israelite) tree.  So

 

Do not boast over those [natural] branches.  If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you (Rom. 11:17-18).

 

The Church [body of Christ] must thank God for the root! 

          Let us decisively sever all ties with sinful prejudices of the Inquisition.  It is an inexpressibly disgraceful past.

          The Inquisition would have burned Peter and Paul at the stake.”  [pp. 83-88, “Our Hands Are Stained With Blood”, by Dr. Michael L. Brown, available at http://www.christianbook.com.]

 

A second witness, Rodney Stark

 

Now for the second witness, a very astute sociologist/historian, Rodney Stark, with some comments of my own added.  These are direct quotes from Rodney Stark’s book “The Rise of Christianity”, chapter 3.  Rodney Stark is a sociologist, not a historian per se, but he brings a fresh perspective to church history and how the early Church grew, from a sociologist’s perspective.  He uses historic evidence very carefully to back up his prognosis of early church growth patterns and that the early church was indeed heavily Jewish both ethnically and in worship practices.

 

“Granted, the received wisdom recognizes that Jews made up the bulk of very early converts, as phrases such as “Jewish Christianity” and “the Christian Synagogue” acknowledge.  But it is generally assumed that this pattern ended abruptly in the wake of the revolt of 66-74AD, although some writers will accept a substantial role for Jewish conversion into the second century, regarding the Bar- Kokhba revolt as the “final straw” in Jewish-Christian sympathies. 

          Perhaps only a sociologist would be foolish enough to suggest that, contrary to the received wisdom, Jewish Christianity played a central role until much later in the rise of Christianity—that not only was it the Jews of the diaspora who provided the initial basis for church growth during the first and early second centuries, but that the Jews continued as a significant source of Christian converts until at least as late as the fourth century and that Jewish Christianity was still significant in the fifth century.” [“The Rise of Christianity”, p.49, par. 2-3, Rodney Stark] 

 

Next is a quote where Rodney gives a little social science which put the historic evidence in a new light.  The bottom line of the social science here is “birds of a feather flock together.” 

 

“The second proposition is that People are more willing to adopt a new religion to the extent that it retains cultural continuity with conventional religion(s) with which they already are familiar…As Noch so aptly put it: “The receptivity of most people for that which is wholly new (if anything is) is small…” [ibid. p. 55, par 2&3]

 

And who did the apostle Paul evangelize to, Gentiles?  Or was it to the Jews of the Diaspora, and the God-fearers within the same synagogues?  If so, what religious customs of worship would have provided this continuity?  It wouldn’t be the Gentilized Christianity of today we’re so familiar with.  The continuity would have been found in early Nazarene Jewish Christianity.  Stark further postulates:

 

“The principle of cultural continuity captures the human tendency to maximize—to get the most for the least cost.  In the case of adopting a new religious outlook, cost can be measured in terms of how much of what one already knows and more or less accepts one must discard in order to make the shift.  To the extent that potential converts can retain much of their original cultural heritage and merely add to it, cost is minimized (Stark and Bainbridge 1987)” [ibid. p.55, par. 4]

 

And here is an interesting modern proof of this principle.  The Worldwide Church of God, prior to coming into the Gentile Sunday-observer’s understanding of the New Testament freedoms which allow for freedom of choice in “days of worship” (cf. Romans 14), was a Sabbath/Holy Day observing Sabbatarian Church of God.  They were a true reflection of the early Judeo-Christian Churches of God in their worship practices.  Their members were spiritually brought up in these “Jewish” days of worship, including Levitical dietary practices.  A few years after they accepted this Gentile Sunday-observing New Testament understanding of freedom in the area of days of worship, the headquarters leadership started gradually forcing the denomination, congregation by congregation, over to Sunday/Christmas/Easter observance for their days of worship.  From the period between 1995 and 2005 they lost a very large number of their members, merely because the cost of accepting this new religion which went against their spiritual cultural background was far too great.  Where that church had 89,000 members, it now numbers in the mere few thousands, whereas the three major splinter churches which broke off from them are relatively healthy in numbers, although I term them as “toxic churches”, because they continue to retain the evil hierarchal form of church government which led to the real downfall of the Worldwide Church of God.  These Sabbatarian Church of God break-away denominations have gone through politically motivated splits and divisions having nothing to do with doctrinal beliefs, one just recently.  But concerning the final demise of Worldwide, I am just making a sociological observation that fits this “social law” Rodney Stark brings out here.  The apostle Paul said the same thing when he said “Were you born a Jew?  Remain a Jew.  Were you born a Gentile?  Remain a Gentile.”  Paul in no way meant that one should not accept Yeshua, Jesus, only that if your background was Jewish, be a part of Jewish-Christianity, not Gentile—don’t go against your cultural-spiritual upbringing.  Messianic Judeo-Christianity did not go against Jewish cultural upbringing, it only enhanced it.  If Paul’s major evangelism was within the Jewish synagogues of the Diaspora, then the Judeo-Christian churches he was founding observed Hebrew Old Testament Holy Days and Sabbath as days of worship.  Gentile Christian denominations believe where his converts were strictly Gentile (as a very few were), he encouraged them to chose days of worship conducive to their cultural upbringing, as Romans 14 indicates.  But in my study on the early Christian Church it is seen that Paul’s evangelism was primarily within the Jewish synagogues of the Diaspora, and very seldom to straight Gentile pagans, and the Churches of God he founded were then all Judeo-Christian in worship practices (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm).  So Dr. Michael Brown gave us the biblical/spiritual reasons why the Headquarters administration of the Worldwide Church of God, now under Joe Tkach Jr. made a huge mistake in forcing their membership to cast off the “Days of Worship” they had been spiritually brought up in (and this “mistake” was by design).  Then Rodney Stark just gave us the sociological reasons why that was a serious mistake.  In my estimation, Joseph Tkach Jr. was used by God to virtually destroy the Worldwide Church of God, for the corruption that had existed directly below the level of Herbert W. Armstrong.  Joe Tkach Jr. hates the Sabbath and Holy Days, as does everyone left in their current church governmental structure, which by the way, is still hierarchal (you think they’d learn).  God ultimately held Herbert Armstrong responsible for that corruption that was beneath him, even though he was never willingly or knowingly a part of it.  Thus we see the psychology of destruction Joe Tkach Jr. used to destroy the Worldwide Church of God, driving out well over 95 percent of its membership. 

 

How many of us are there?

 

I don’t honestly now how many members were slowly forced out of the Worldwide Church of God when they started quietly shifting from Sabbath and Holy Days to Sunday/Christmas/Easter observance, but my guess is that it was in the multiple tens of thousands, close to 42,000.  Now those of us who came through all the changes under Joe Tkach Sr. into the Sunday observing Christian’s “new covenant understanding of Romans 14 and Acts 15”---that “days of worship” are an optional choice for the believer---but still preferred Sabbath and Holy Days as their voluntary choice---are scattered all over the spiritual landscape, to the four corners of the Body of Christ (many of these sheep, just going along with the changes of Joe Tkach Sr. more than likely unthinkingly).  Some very few, at this point, are still attending within the very small congregations of the Worldwide Church of God, most aren’t, they’re gone, into other parts of the Body of Christ, or even more sadly, attending nowhere at all now.  My guess, because they left because of Joe Tkach Jr.’s forbidding Sabbath observance, they’re attending non-where now.  So now that we know what happened within and to the Worldwide Church of God, what do we need to do to repent of the sins, and correct the problems that caused the demise of the Worldwide Church of God as Sabbatarian Churches of God?   In order for a person to repent of a sin or sins, he has to squarely look at himself in the mirror (2nd Corinthians 13:5).  So must all those in the Sabbatarian Churches of God do, analyzing what happened to the Worldwide Church of God, and then making the necessary corrections.  Then, I guarantee you, God will respond, and God will bless.

           

How might the early Church government model work?

 

Well, it is already working, in a huge Sunday-observing denomination, (and please don’t be offended that I use them as an example, but if the shoe fits, as they say).  This denomination teaches expositorily out of the whole Word of God, and all their congregations are semi-autonomous, where all the tithes from each congregation stay right within that congregation.  They have grown in leaps and bounds, because straight Bible teaching reigns, and politics and hierarchal structure are absent.  How might it work in a Sabbatarian Church of God, say where they wanted to have a Headquarters work and HQ congregation responsible for media, magazine and booklet literature production and a centralized Gospel outreach (which they are used to, and isn’t wrong)?  Simply have each congregation’s pastor send in to their HQ congregation “a tithe of their congregation’s tithe” for the running of the HQ church and its media/Gospel outreach programs.  (i.e. it would amount to a pastor taking ten percent of the gross tithes collected in the local congregation and sending them on to the headquarters congregation.)  This is Biblical, because all the Levitical priests who lived locally throughout Judea and Israel could collect tithes for their ministry services where they lived.  But each one of them had to pay “a tithe of their tithe” to the high priest, who was responsible for running the Temple and it’s maintenance.  It’s in the Torah Law of God, look it up if you’re interested.  As for the choosing of pastors, all pastors, preaching elders and local elders should be chosen by the local congregation, based upon the merits of the person they’re selecting, and that person’s spiritual maturity and knowledge in the Word, “apt to teach” as 1st Timothy 3:1-7 says.  (It’s ok to have a school for those chosen, at the headquarters church, to train those chosen by the local congregation, and then they’d be sent back to be a pastor in that congregation.)  A central HQ church has no business strong-arming a local congregation’s or house-church’s selection of a pastor, elder, deacon or deaconess, those choices Biblically should come from within the individual congregation or house-church.  Making these simple Biblical governmental structural changes would bring God’s blessings.  Those three tiny Sabbatarian Church of God denominations I mentioned, each very grace oriented, but Torah-observant Sabbatarian Church of God nonetheless, all function more or less on that Biblical model, doing things God’s way.  That Sunday observing denomination  used as an example has been wonderfully blessed for observing God’s model for church government, and has avoided a world of hurt.  Their connective expository sermons going through the Gospels and Epistles (transcribed by permission) are on this website.  I myself attend one of the non-hierarchal Sabbatarian Church of God denomination’s tiny semi-autonomous house-churches in North Central Massachusetts.

 

What Can We Learn From All Of This?

 

1.  For one thing, I think we can see by mere cause and effect how evil the hierarchal form of church government is.  It is not Biblical.  The Biblical model from the apostolic times during the lifetimes of Peter and Paul was having individual congregations which were closer to being very semi-autonomous from the Headquarters Church, which would have been Jerusalem in Peter and Paul’s day.  

 

2. Pastors, elders and deacons are to be chosen from the membership of the local congregation they are to serve, and they are to be spiritually mature, having been known by the other members of their congregation over a good long period of time.  The requirements of such being spelled out by Paul in 1st Timothy 3:1-7 for elders and pastors and 1st Timothy 3:8-13 for the selection of deacons.  The creation of a “denominational Bible college” for the training of young, spiritually inexperienced “pastors” is to be avoided at all costs, it is not God’s way, not Biblical.

 

3. You’re not the “one and only Work  of God” or “the one true church of God.”  Jesus Christ gave the Church, the Body of Christ, the major job, work of preaching the Gospel around the world throughout each and every age, right up to the period of time just before the Tribulation, and even prophecied that this Gospel proclamation would be successfully preached around the entire world just before the Tribulation starts (cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15 and Matthew 24:14).  But no one denomination or church should ever start to think or believe it is the sole agency or “Work” Jesus is working through to accomplish that Great Commission.  For one thing, it leads to a prideful attitude of “we’re the one and only Work of God which God is working through.”  God hates pride.  For another, as we saw with Mr. Armstrong, this belief led to the placing of an unreasonable mental load on the poor old man, of ‘having to get it all done’, and then others were able to take advantage of his overwhelming desire to “get the Gospel out to the world.”  His focus on that goal was right, and I honestly think he set us all a good example of the zeal and focus all of us in the Body of Christ need to develop for the proclamation of the Gospel.  But never, ever, think you’re the only work God is doing to accomplish the Great Commission Jesus gave us.  Jesus can raise up stones if no one wants to get out the Gospel, he doesn’t need us, we need him.

 

4. Preach the whole Gospel message.  Mr. Armstrong’s and the Worldwide Church of God’s major proclamation “of the Gospel” was wrapped up in the message about the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ and his subsequent reign over the world during the Millennial Kingdom of God, almost to the exclusion of the rest of the Gospel of Salvation message.  Now don’t get me wrong, Mr. Armstrong covered the other four points of the Gospel message in the other booklets the Worldwide Church of God published.  But let’s preach the whole Gospel message, and not just part of it.  What is the complete Gospel of Christ, or Gospel of Salvation?  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/misc/WhatIsTheGospel%20.htm.

 

 

Death of Stanley Rader

 

“By the time that Stanley Rader died on July 2, 2002, just two weeks after being diagnosed with acute pancreatic cancer, the Worldwide Church of God had terminated its former broadcasts and created a separate ministry for its magazine, which had renounced its previous editorial purpose.  Rader was buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, California (the same cemetery in which the Armstrong family is buried).  His funeral was presided over by Joseph Tkach Jr.  (quoted from the Wikipedia article on Stanley Rader, emphasis mine.)  So it comes full circle, one of the two men who helped gut and destroy the Worldwide Church of God buries the other and presides over his funeral.  Hmmm, gotta love the irony.  God does have a sense of humour. 

 

Related links:

 

Was the Worldwide Church of God a aberration that showed up on the church landscape all on it’s own, out of nowhere?  Or do they have Sabbatarian roots going deep into past church history?  For a complete history (as much as it can be made complete at this time) of the Sabbatarian Churches of God from the 1660s in Rhode Island up until the time of the founding of the Radio Church of God in 1934, log onto:  http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/historycog1.htm and

http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/revivals.htm

 

History of the Early Christian Church:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm

 

Stanley Rader:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Rader

http://gavinru.tripod.com/rader.htm

Basic Biblical tithing laws followed by the Worldwide Church of God:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/gifts4.htm

 

(pre-1986) Literature of the Worldwide Church of God, Plain Truth Magazines, Autobiography vol. 1 & 2 available at:  http://www.herbert-armstrong.org

 

What is the Gospel?  See:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/misc/WhatIsTheGospel%20.htm

 

Presently, there are about 375 different Sabbath-observing Church of God denominations which came out of the Worldwide Church of God.  All are pretty much in doctrinal agreement.  Is it Jesus Christ’s desire that they remain so divided up?  
For the answer, see:  http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophets/Zephaniah/Zephaniah1.htm

 

What Have We Learned?

and

Where Do We Go From Here?

 

What is one of the major evils, sins most of the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God denominations have “inherited” from their parent church, the Worldwide Church of God?  Ron Dart, a former evangelist in the Worldwide Church of God, sums it up quite well when he says “Christians may not have recognized their own motives, the WCG may not either…I don’t know how much of a role old habits played in HWA’s evangelistic efforts, but I do know he looked for differentiation, and he did so adversarially, as an adman naturally would.  What he wanted were wedge issues:  issues that could be used to drive a wedge between a person and his old church so the person could be attracted to the WCG.  And he wanted exclusive use of the product.  He didn’t want you coming to church with him this week and going somewhere else next week.  The wedge issues are familiar: born again, heaven…, Sabbath and Sunday, pagan holidays, immortal soul, etc.  But, in typical adman style, Mr. Armstrong advanced these with hyperbole and often took them too far in the attempt to differentiate.  [i.e. to draw people from their churches into the WCG.]  Other products (read denominations or churches) were demonized to complete the sale.  The long and the short [of this was], one of the by-products of this [evangelistic] approach was a church that was long on hostility and short on tolerance.” Ron Dart continues under the heading of “Christ Does Not Put One in the Church?” where he says, “One of the demons of differentiation is vanity.  ‘We are better than you are.’  ‘We have the truth and you don’t.’  Arrogance is the bitter fruit of vanity.  Another demon is exclusivism.  Yet another is authoritarianism, necessary to keep us exclusive:  “You can’t join the church; Christ has to put you into it”---which means we have to approve you and we can blackball you.  I don’t think we should be driven by the demons of differentiation.  Rather, we should be drawn to Christ, where we will find our differences accepted or corrected as need be---and where we can find ourselves together in ways unexpected and unanticipated.  Some are finding it difficult to relate to other Sabbatarian groups because they lose some of their identity in the process…”  (Dart R. Beware of the demons of differentiation.  The Journal, January 31, 2003, p.10)  What Ron Dart describes here, these demons of exclusivism, authoritarianism, vanity and arrogance are exactly opposite of God’s agape-love he’s told us to be growing in (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/Agape/Agape%20I.htm.  If you want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, be sure to log onto and study that awesome series on what Agape is.  

 

Tithing , A Healthy Perspective

 

These are Ron Dart’s views on tithing, but I am placing them here, because they are healthy views.  Many who are in authority within the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God are overly concerned with maintaining to strong tithe-base for their “ministry” or “work of God”, and this has led to the continuance of the hierarchal system of church government many of these denominations continue to promote and enforce upon their membership.  It is this very form of church government which led to the evils experienced within, and perpetrated by the Worldwide Church of God.  Personally, I believe in the semi-autonomous form of church government, where 90 percent of the tithes collect should remain within the local congregation you attend to pay for your own pastor and support local works of that congregation, and 10 percent of the tithes they collect should go to the Headquarters of that denomination. But the spirit of Ron’s views are healthy, so I give them here.  Understand, though, I do believe the pastor of the local congregation you regularly attend should get a good portion of your regular tithes.  But what Ron says allows for us to support a wide variety of Godly works being carried out by believers, especially non-denominational international evangelistic organizations, such as Samaritan’s Purse, the JESUS Film Project, Mission Aviation Fellowship, which are all worthy of support.  So here is what Ron has to say: “A church should not require members to give or tithe to the church either in whole or in part, although normal fund-raising is appropriate.  Tithing and giving are acts of personal worship and must not be interfered with by anyone…It seems clear enough in the Genesis account that, for Abraham, paying a tithe to Melchizedek was an act of worship.  It was an individual act of worship without coercion.  He simply had to decide whether he was going to obey God or not.  It is none of my business if another man prays.  Why should it be my affair if he tithes?  Tithing is voluntary in the sense that it is done as a matter of personal initiative [and I might add, personal faith]…However, we Christians are children of Abraham, not Moses (Galatians 3:7), and Jesus said that as we are the children of Abraham, we might be expected to do the works of Abraham (John 8:39)…Rich toward God?  How rich?  Well, a tithe is a place to start…” (Dart, Ron.  Why Did Abraham Tithe?)

 

Abusive Hierarchal Government Structure of the old Worldwide Church of God led to its demise.

 

This is something both Ron Dart and Fred Coulter are in 100 percent agreement on.  Over half of the preceding article about the Worldwide Church of God was based upon Fred Coulter’s personal experiences as a pastor within the Worldwide Church of God.  Ron says, and I quote, “The culture of the Worldwide Church of God was the response of its people to the revelation of God as interpreted by a narrow range of teachers.  Much of what these teachers taught was true, but much was not.  And over time, the culture built up around those teachings was simply unendurable by a large number of people and it finally provoked the revolution of 1995.  What happened is not dissimilar to the way in which the Renaissance Popes provoked the Protestant reformation.” (Dart, Ronald.  What Does the Church Need Now? 4/12/03).

 

The Four Freedoms of the Believer

 

The four basic freedoms of the believer are succinctly listed by Ron Dart here.  I found myself, looking back into my WCG experience, quietly living by these freedoms, although I didn’t fully realize it.  Did that make me a rebel, an independent, or did I just internally realize within my heart what my God-given spiritual rights were as a believer in Jesus Christ?  Let’s take a good look at these four freedoms, as so well expressed again by Ron Dart:  “…we believe a church should be committed to the following four freedoms:  1) Freedom of Association.  A church should not discriminate between members upon whether they associate with other persons, churches or groups, but rather should encourage a spirit of cooperation and communication.  2) Freedom of Giving.  A church should not require members to give or tithe to the church either in whole or in part, although normal fund-raising is appropriate.  Tithing and giving are acts of personal worship and must not be interfered with by anyone.  [And I might add, if your church or denomination is acting as it should, really nurturing you spiritually, and doing a superior job in evangelizing the world as Christ calls for, then you should be properly motivated by that fact to give most or all your tithes to the church and/or denomination you attend.]  3) Freedom of Conscience.  A church should not discriminate between members based on their privately held beliefs.  They may, however, require certain practices as a condition of full membership or office (such as Sabbath and festival attendance.) [Boy, have I recently discovered what it feels like to come under that “discrimination.”]  4) Freedom of Attendance.  A church should not discriminate or sanction member attendance except in cases of egregious misconduct (I Corinthians 5:1 ff.) disturbing services, or willfully causing division.  For instance, a person will not be barred from church attendance because he or she is still struggling with the Sabbath…”  Ron Dart goes on to say, “We do not believe that a single, monolithic Church of God is in our future [unless Jesus brings this about forcefully, I might add, never leave Jesus---the head of the Church---out of the equation], but a voluntary cooperation of brethren may well be.  The informal network is already forming, and brethren are learning the lesson of the ant, who without any guide or overseer [except for God’s internal guidance, I might add], does the work God gave her to do.  This does not mean that the local church will not have elders and overseers---only that we must learn to work without them when we have to…” (Dart, Ronald, Why CEM?...4/12/03). 

 

The Need for Unity Balanced Against the Dangers of Unity

 

There is a very real Biblical reason and need for unity within the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God.  But we must come to fully realize the strengths, pitfalls and dangers of organizational unity.  I will quote both Ron Dart here and then quote what the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:11-16 about unity within the Body of Christ.  Based upon your entire experience both within the Worldwide Church of God and afterwards, you are going to have to make up your own mind on these matters.  But base your choice, no matter what, on solid Biblical Scriptures, as the Lord leads you to understand them, not influenced by any man or church governmental leader.  Remember your inalienable Four Freedoms that you possess within the Body of Christ.  “Mr. Dart criticized the concept of “one man” as leader of a church.  “Now, maybe he’ll be a good guy, a benign despot,” he said, “but the fact of the matter is that, when you leave the task of protecting the church to one man, you are taking a risk on autocracy and authoritarianism”… “Doctrine has been kicked around this church for too long,” he said.  “I don’t know why it’s such a big problem.  We tend to use the word in a sense of the word dogma.  Now, does a church have the right to establish what we teach?”  (Conference of Church Leaders convenes to talk about the diversity and defense of congregations.  The Journal.  Jan-Feb 2007).  Now let’s meditate on all we’ve been through.  On the one hand, we have all seen and experienced what the Worldwide Church of God became under a hierarchal form of church government.  On the other hand, we must all be honest with ourselves and see that at the same time, as a unified body of Sabbath-keeping believers, that church’s evangelistic efforts, although carried out in HWA’s adman adversarial manner, was extremely powerful and effective in reaching out to the world.  That is what unity has the ability of accomplishing.  I think, if we are all honest with ourselves, and we take a hard look at what all the various tiny, Sabbath-keeping Church of God denominations have been able to do in regards to worldwide evangelism, it has been puny by comparison.  We’re just not accomplishing the job Jesus gave us to do, as he defined it in Matthew 24:14 and 28:18-20.  So we’re each sort of left with a ‘damned if we do unite, and damned if we don’t unite’ decision to make.  Think, meditate on that, as you read what Paul had to say here, and then as you read the following related links below.

 

Ephesians 4:11-16, “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:  till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:  that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and the cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:  from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”  Careful analysis of these verses show that this unity helps bring about the Great Commission Jesus gave us in Matthew 28:18-20, “increase of the body” via evangelism, and “edification of the Body of Christ” by “teaching of all things I have commanded you”, via having apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.  Needless to say, that all takes structure and church organization.  In building this organization, if that be Jesus’ will for us, we must build carefully and cautiously, avoiding past mistakes, and wrong forms of church government.  Now I’m giving some related links for you to log onto and read, which should be read keeping what you’ve just read in mind.  Personally, based on Scripture, I believe Jesus is going to unify us all.  But I believe we also have to understand how he may do that, and be fully cognizant of the pitfalls we must avoid as he leads us through the process toward unity.

 

Related links:

 

Jesus Christ’s command for us to unify, it’s Scriptural:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophets/Zephaniah/Zephaniah1.htm (and scroll to Zephaniah 2:1-3 and read from there to the end.)

 

Healing and overcoming the sins of differentiation and exclusivism:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/Agape/Agape%20I.htm

(and read through all four files.)

 

What to look for if and when Jesus starts to unify us:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/corinthians/1st%20Corinthians.htm

(and scroll to paragraph title “Divisions Within the Body of Christ”, and read down through the next two paragraphs.  If Jesus is going to unify us, it’s going to be through the guidance of the Holy Spirit coupled to good leadership.)

 

A powerful correction for us, and not just the Sunday-observers:

http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/Has%20the%20Sabbath%20Been%20Abrogated.htm

 

 

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