Normally, cults crop up and just got creepier. The Worldwide Church of God, on the other hand, took a shocking, dramatic turn.
For the most part, cults crop up and just get creepier.
The Worldwide Church of God, on the other hand, took a shocking, dramatic turn for the better. In just one decade.
You’ll see what I mean in a minute.
1. Oregon, late 1920s. Herbert Armstrong, a newspaper advertising designer, accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.
2. Armstrong launched the Radio Church of God radio program on January 7, 1934, broadcast in Eugene, Oregon. The 30 minute program amounted to a church service…complete with hymns and sermon from Armstrong.
3. Armstrong respected the Bible immensely and must be commended for his zeal to preach from it–no matter how difficult the topic. Yet, he lacked the training or discipline to reconcile the Bible with tradition and experience. Thus his dive into legalism.
4. Armstrong believed that Christians should celebrate Sabbath on Saturday–not Sunday–since the Bible gave no command to move the holy day.
5. Since traditional Christianity was wrong on such a major topic, Armstrong reasoned it was wrong on others, too. He jettisoned orthodoxy.
6. Armstrong claimed that Americans and Britains descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel and that God was a family–Father and Son–not a Trinity.
7. He taught that the Holy Spirit was an impersonal force, much like Jehovah’s Witnesses’ teaching.
8. Armstrong taught salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, but also stressed obedience to keeping the Sabbath holy…a commandment he viewed as a test of the authenticity of a Christian’s salvation.
9. Armstrong prohibited WCG church members from voting, serving in the military, marrying after divorce, visiting doctors, using cosmetics or observing Christmas, Easter and birthdays. This focus on rules eliminated grace from sermons. Members became legalistic and snubbed other Christians.
10. As God’s apostle leading the one true church, Armstrong demanded loyalty to his brand of doctrine and church governance. If anyone objected or rebelled, they were expelled or fired.
11. Central to Armstrong’s teaching was prophetic speculation, namely when the Great Tribulation would occur. Each decade, from the 30s to the 80s, he warned of it’s imminent approach. The good news was that Jesus would appear shortly after the Tribulation.
12. Shortly before Armstrong died in 1986, he appointed Joseph Tkach as successor. Tkach took to tweaking WCG doctrine, emphasizing faith in Christ and not laws, relaxing restrictions and realizing Armstrong’s prophecies couldn’t be back by Scripture. Many hardliners split.
13. Tkach died in 1995. His son Joe became successor and finished the migration into mainstream evangelicalism. In April 2009, the Worldwide Church of God changed their name to Grace Communion International.
Question to ponder: If such a dramatic turnaround could occur with the WCG, could it also happen among the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses? Let me know what you think.
Part of the Quick Facts on Christian Cults series.